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TaxSlayer Bowl Betting: Iowa Hawkeyes vs. Tennessee Volunteers Odds, Analysis

The Iowa Hawkeyes are 3-3 straight up but 5-1 against the spread in their last six bowl appearances. The Tennessee Volunteers are just 3-7 both SU and ATS in their last 10 bowls. So the trends are with the 7-5 Hawkeyes when they take on the 6-6 Vols in the TaxSlayer Bowl on January 2 in Jacksonville.

TaxSlayer Bowl point spread: Volunteers opened as three-point favorites; the total was 51.

Odds Shark computer prediction: 27.9-27.4 Hawkeyes.

 

Why the Hawkeyes can cover the spread

The Hawkeyes started 5-1 this season, and while they faltered a bit down the stretch—losing their last two games to Wisconsin and Nebraska by a combined five points—they are playing in a bowl for the 12th time in the last 14 seasons.

Iowa lost five games this season; just one came by more than one score. The Hawkeyes run a bit pedestrian on offense, but quarterback Jake Rudock hit on 63 percent of his throws this season, compiling a 16/5 touchdown-to-interceptions ratio. Also, running back Mark Weisman can be tough to stop, especially in short yardage.

Also, the Iowa defense ranks 19th in the country overall, allowing just 335 yards and 24 points per game.

 

Why the Volunteers can cover the spread

The Vols sat at just 3-5 heading into November but won three of their last four games, including the clincher at rival Vanderbilt in the regular-season finale, to become bowl-eligible for the first time since 2010.

Tennessee rallied from two touchdowns down with five minutes to go at South Carolina, winning in overtime. Then, they kicked Kentucky 50-16. Then, following a 29-21 loss to eventual SEC East champion Missouri, the Vols held off the Commodores 24-17 for that crucial sixth victory.

Like its bowl opponent, Tennessee can struggle on offense, but the Vols defense ranks 35th in the country, allowing 360 yards per game and holding six of 12 opponents to 19 points or fewer.

 

Smart Pick

Iowa holds slim advantages on both sides of the ball, although Tennessee did play a tougher schedule—one of the toughest in the country. But for what might turn into a tough, low-scoring affair, it might be handy to have a field goal in the pocket. So the smart choice here is with the Hawkeyes, plus the points.

 

Trends

  • Iowa is 6-3 ATS in its last nine games.
  • The total has gone over in four of Tennessee's last five games.

 

Note: All spread and odds data powered by Odds Shark. Follow us on Twitter for injury updates and line move updates.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Virginia Tech Football: Ranking 10 Best Hokies from 2014 Regular Season

Another college football season has come and gone. For the Virginia Tech Hokies, it was another disappointing season. 

Sure, the Hokies are going bowling for the 22nd consecutive season, but it's not a trip to the College Football Playoff. Instead, Tech will head a few hours north to Annapolis to play the Cincinnati Bearcats in the Military Bowl on Saturday, December 27.

Injuries played a big part in VT's downfall in 2014. Two of the team's top offensive linemen had to give up football altogether just before the season began due to injuries. And the Hokies lost their top three tailbacks for the season.

On defense, standout defensive tackle Luther Maddy and cornerback Brandon Facyson missed most of the season. 

While it was a tough season overall for the Hokies, it wasn't without several players having solid to outstanding individual performances.

Here is a look at Virginia Tech's top 10 players from the 2014 season. 

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Michigan Football: Who Will Be Wolverines' Leaders on the Field in 2015?

Michigan’s cream must rise to the top—either that, or it'll have another laughable football season in 2015.

With a new coach and new direction, the Wolverines' only choice is to start over. There aren’t many other options.

The 2015 season was supposed to be the real year of title contention under former coach Brady Hoke—instead, it’ll be Year 1 of another rebuild for the once-proud former pinnacle of the Big Ten.

Whomever adopts Team 136 won’t be short on talent—recruits, maybe, but not talent. The Wolverines have loaded classes stocked by Hoke, so finding guys to assume the role in between the lines shouldn’t be an issue for Jim Harbaugh or Guy No. 2.

The problem was never about the level of talent under Hoke; it was always about the lack of widespread development. Under the right tutelage, Michigan's roster will one day compete for conference championships and playoff bids.  

But that won't happen until the program finds firm, reliable leadership from within. Some of the following players could be of assistance. 

 

Leaders by Design

Shane Morris, Wilton Speight and Alex Malzone were all praised for the leadership abilities in high school, and it’s doubtful that they’d make it this far had they been lacking in that department. Quarterbacks, especially at the Division I level, are usually the backbone of a team.

Defense wins championships. Great coaching does wonders. Wins come in the trenches…so on and so forth.

All of that is true. But without a real quarterback, a team is doomed. Ask Michigan, which hasn’t known what to do under center since Chad Henne left in 2008.

A junior this fall, Morris is an obvious choice for Michigan’s next starter. The 6’3”, 204-pound lefty has been around long enough and certainly realizes expectations—especially now, given the circumstances. He’s the most experienced signal-caller Michigan has, so he’ll always have that in his corner.

Plus he’s a local kid out of Warren De La Salle, and Michigan seems to be big on hometown heroes lately, just take a look at the courtship of San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh—who, according to NFL.com's Ian Rapoport, is a candidate for the open job at Michigan. He also starred in Ann Arbor under the legendary Bo Schembechler.

Harbaugh and Morris could be a dream scenario come true, a match made in maize and blue heaven.

Speight is a high-character student-athlete, and there probably isn’t a coach in America who wouldn’t want the 6’6”, 234-pound freshman in his school’s uniform. Evident by a past interview, Speight is all about family and togetherness.

Those are nice qualities to have. People tend to like them in leaders.

That said, he’s also in possession of a right arm that’s capable of lighting up the field. Considering him as a go-to in 2015 isn’t too far of a stretch at all.

Michigan’s situation has to be rough on the players, both old and new.

Just think about it: Juniors and seniors who were once close to Hoke now must either accept the new guy or rebel against him, causing the formation of factions or a split among the team. Now imagine walking into that as a true freshman; that’d be difficult for a veteran transfer to digest, let alone a kid who in high school just months prior.

As a rule, first-year quarterbacks aren’t always looked upon for leadership. But Malzone is a local; the 6’1.5”, 200-pound 4-star prospect is coming off a spectacular and well-publicized career at Birmingham Brother Rice, one of the state’s top powerhouse prep mills.

Michigan’s offense needs an injection of something fresh, energetic and new. Malzone could help quench the fanbase’s thirst for more—the offense certainly could use him, as it’s been nothing short of painfully ineffective the past three seasons.

 

They Showed Glimpses in 2014

Some would argue that the O-line was better in 2014 than it was in 2013. Back in early fall, De’Veon Smith, a junior running back and soon-to-be leader by proxy, said as much when asked about the line’s development this past season.

However, some would argue against that idea because Devin Gardner, to a lesser extent than he was in 2013, was still rag-dolled by opposing defenses. He was sacked 26 times (No. 28 overall) compared to 34 in 2013 (No. 3 overall). 

However, every now and then, the line showed some signs of progression but not quite enough to celebrate. That’ll have to change in 2015, and it’ll start with left tackle Mason Cole and center Jack Miller, two of the best the Wolverines have to offer.

As a true frosh, Cole demonstrated the ability to learn on the fly and hold his position. He made a lot of mistakes, but that goes with the territory when you're tasked with replacing a former All-American. He wasn't horrible, though. 

Miller helped at least solidify the once-pillow-soft interior. He always displayed a great deal of pride during press conferences this past season. He was always thoughtful, honest and accountable. 

Look no further than Mr. Jack Miller, Michigan fan. The 6'4", 299-pounder is certain to be a shining example on the field next fall. 

Video: Remember last time it hit the fan? Miller stood tall then, just like he should in 2015.

 

Upperclassman Honor

The lack of experienced upperclassmen was the calling card of Hoke’s tenure. He’d often encourage spectators, fans and the like to be patient because, well, that was the only choice. Hoke often suggested that the Wolverines would be better led on and off the field once underclassmen mature.

Well, they have—and it’s their time.

Blake Countess, a corner, will be a senior. His counterpart in the backfield, Jarrod Wilson, will be a senior. The rest, such as Dymonte Thomas, Channing Stribling and Jeremy Clark will be juniors. Again, the secondary has enough manpower to make do.

Linebacker Joe Bolden will be a senior. His running mate, Ben Gedeon, will be a junior. Desmond Morgan will return for another senior year. The Wolverines will return some experience at the position, with Morgan’s 31 starts and Bolden’s 17 headlining the depth chart.

There are others. Dozens of them. Some have already been mentioned. Some have not. 

But to be fair, from behind a keyboard, it’s easy to say Player A could do “this” because he's been in tough spots before and has experience. It's easy to say that Player B could help save a sinking ship.

But really, the only guys who really know the deal are in the huddles. They’re at practices. They’re the ones who are enduring the dramatics of the post-Hoke era with their teammates.

And they’re the ones with the real answers.

 

Follow Bleacher Report’s Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes and references were obtained firsthand by the writer. Recruiting information via 247Sports.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Tennessee Football: Final 2014 Position Grades for the Vols

The Tennessee Volunteers' 2014 regular season is in the books, and now the team is preparing for a matchup with the Iowa Hawkeyes in the TaxSlayer Bowl on Jan. 2.

The Vols did well to achieve a 6-6 record in 2014, and considering how many freshmen head coach Butch Jones played throughout the season, it took some serious overachievement from a few position groups for the team to break even on the year.

Of course, those overachieving groups were also paired with units that simply didn't live up to expectations, whether it was because of youth, inexperience or injuries—or in some cases, all three.

No matter how it happened or how good or bad certain aspects of the team were this season, the fact remains that Tennessee reached its goal of getting to a bowl game and will get all the rewards, including 15 extra practices the players and coaches so desperately need. 

To break down which groups were the biggest helps or hindrances to the Vols' postseason goal, here are position grades for each unit on Tennessee's 2014 team. 

 

 

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Oregon Football: Ranking 10 Best Ducks from 2014 Regular Season

After thoroughly destroying everyone in their path from Oct. 2 on, the second-ranked Oregon Ducks are now tasked with knocking off the defending national champions in the Rose Bowl in order to reach the College Football Playoff National Championship.

Before the Ducks get to play Florida State on Jan. 1, it’s worth our time to go back and look at one of the best football seasons in school history.

Not only did the Ducks wrap up their fourth Pac-10/Pac-12 title in the past six seasons, but they also were led by the first Heisman Trophy winner in school history. Regardless of whether or not the Ducks win the national championship this season, the 2014 season is one for the record books.

Here are the top 10 Ducks from the 2014 season.

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Oregon Football: Ranking 10 Best Ducks from 2014 Regular Season

After thoroughly destroying everyone in their path from Oct. 2 on, the second-ranked Oregon Ducks are now tasked with knocking off the defending national champions in the Rose Bowl in order to reach the College Football Playoff National Championship...

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John Houston Tweets Top 5 Schools: Which Program Is Best Fit for 4-Star?

Southern California linebacker John Houston continues to command attention from college programs across the country. He elected to narrow down his list of options Friday, sharing five favorites:

The 6'3", 211-pound Junipero Serra High School standout is focused on an eclectic mix of schools, spanning from South Florida to the Northwest. Less than seven weeks separate us from national signing day so USC, Oregon, Miami, Oklahoma and Arizona State will spend the duration jockeying for position in this pursuit.

Houston, an Under Armour All-America Game selection, posted prolific production during his high school career. He tallied 413 total tackles during the past three seasons, per MaxPreps.

Rated third nationally among linebackers in 247Sports' composite rankings, plenty of eyes will be on Houston as he works his way toward a decision. Here's a closer look at his preferred destinations.

 

Arizona State

The Sun Devils continue to gain increased respect under the direction of head coach Todd Graham and on-field success has translated into the recruiting spectrum. Houston, who spent an official visit at Arizona State in November, would further enhance a class that already possesses potential program-changing pieces.

He fits into the "Devil backer" mold, able to lend pass-rush support off the edge. Houston is at his best ranging sideline to sideline in run coverage and is fully capable of covering tight ends at the intermediate level.

Arizona State currently holds commitments from a trio of linebacker prospects, including fellow 4-star California defender Khaylan Thomas and top-rated junior college linebacker Davon Durant.

"I like (ASU's) coaching staff," Houston told Doug Haller of AZCentral.com. "I've heard great things about how they develop their players to be better men and better players on the field."

 

Miami

The only East Coast team in Houston's top five clearly made a positive impression during his cross-country visit to campus in November. Miami hosted both him and teammate Rasheem Green, a 5-star defensive tackle.

Long gone are the days of Miami being viewed as a "Linebacker U" program, but a presence like Houston sure would give the defense a boost. The Hurricanes are in search of a disruptive force off the edge and he fits the bill.

Miami doesn't possess substantial defensive depth in the 2015 recruiting cycle, so there's an opportunity for Houston to arrive on campus with a shot at early reps. However, he would need to set aside any ambitions of being near home.

 

Oklahoma 

The Sooners landed a pivotal pledge Friday morning shortly before Houston unveiled his top five. Oklahoma secured a commitment from 4-star linebacker Ricky DeBerry, who considered offers from Virginia Tech, Penn State and Texas A&M, among others. 

Oklahoma has put together a class with serious defensive potential. DeBerry joins a group that already includes top playmakers at cornerback (PJ Mbanasor) and defensive tackle (Marquise Overton). 

Houston would team up with DeBerry at the intermediate level. That potential duo could redefine the Oklahoma defensive attack in coming years, making it one of the best in Big-12 competition. 

 

Oregon

The Ducks have been in the mix for several elite defenders during this recruiting cycle and Houston ranks among the best. Oregon was a finalist for top-rated defensive end Josh Sweat and remains on the radar for fellow 5-star pass-rushers Byron Cowart and Terry Beckner.

Houston's official visit to Oregon in October was another tandem trip with Green. If the Ducks can secure a package deal, it would drastically alter the image of a team typically viewed as offense-based. 

Oregon is still searching for its first linebacker pledge of this cycle. Houston could compete for a pivotal defensive role in 2015 and perhaps log stars as a true freshman. 

 

USC

The Trojans have a well-established pipeline with Junipero Serra High School, strengthened by past top prospects like Marqise Lee, Robert Woods and Adoree' Jackson. USC is viewed as the favorite to land Houston, holding 96 percent of expert predictions in 247Sports' composite rankings. 

Steve Sarkisian secured a commitment from 4-star linebacker Cameron Smith in May. The run-stuffing defender is a disruptive downhill force along the interior and an edge player like Houston presents a perfect complement.

USC is assembling an impressive defensive unit with recent recruiting classes and early playing time is still widely available with the Trojans due to past scholarship sanctions. A combination of tradition, familiarity and immediate-impact potential, makes USC the place to be for Houston.

 

All ratings and recruit links courtesy of 247Sports.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Oregon Early Enrollee QB Travis Waller on Ducks' Biggest Impact 2015 Recruits

4-Star commit Travis Waller announced via his Twitter account on Thursday that he would be enrolling early at Oregon. This is huge for Waller as he gets an extra few months to learn the program and compete to be Marcus Mariota's replacement. 

Which other recruits is Waller most excited about joining him at Oregon? Check out Waller break down the highlights of Oregon's recruiting class. 

 

Highlights courtesy Hudl

Recruit Information from 247 Sports

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Oregon Early Enrollee QB Travis Waller on Ducks' Biggest Impact 2015 Recruits

4-Star commit Travis Waller announced via his Twitter account on Thursday that he would be enrolling early at Oregon. This is huge for Waller as he gets an extra few months to learn the program and compete to be Marcus Mariota's replacement...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Newest Baylor Commit, 5-Star QB Jarrett Stidham, Has Serious Heisman Potential

Dual-threat quarterback Jarrett Stidham has committed to the Baylor Bears, according to Chuck Carlton of TheDallas Morning News. The 5-star QB shocked the recruiting world when he decommitted from Texas Tech earlier this month. 

This is a huge get for the Bears, who are looking for Bryce Petty's replacement in the 2015 class. 

Check out Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder break down just how big Stidham's impact will be at Baylor. 

 

Recruiting information from 247Sports.

Highlights courtesy of Hudl.

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Notre Dame Football: Can the Irish Really Beat LSU?

Most Notre Dame fans don't need the reminder. But the last time the Irish took on LSU, one of the most talented Irish rosters of the last decade got run out of the Sugar Bowl. 

And Charlie Weis' team didn't lose to Northwestern. 

Sure, Les Miles' 8-4 team isn't the same juggernaut that steamrolled the Irish and turned JaMarcus Russell into the No. 1 overall pick. But they're a lot closer to an elite outfit than the team Brian Kelly trotted out in November. 

The Irish need a victory. Desperately.

Can they get one? Not without using a handful of December practices to transform back into the squad we saw in September. 

Injuries make that next to impossible. Sheldon Day doesn't look like he's going to be able to answer the bell, meaning Notre Dame's two best defensive linemen will be in warm-up suits when the Tigers start running the football. They'll join team MVP Joe Schmidt on the sidelines hoping the "next man in" (A Kelly credo on roster development) isn't run over by LSU's ground game. 

But the struggles defensively don't even begin to explain what happened to this team down the stretch. Quarterback Everett Golson embodied this team's descent, giving away a promising season through self-inflicted mistakes that turned a 6-0 start into a 7-5 finish.

Golson's 22 turnovers in the season's final nine games turned Notre Dame's highest-flying offense since Charlie Weis was on the sidelines into its own worst enemy. It's also forced Brian Kelly to bring in sophomore Malik Zaire against USC, putting the quarterback job up for grabs heading into a long and unsettling offseason. 

After a 6-0 start, the failures have been widespread. Throw in special teams for good measure, too. Kyle Brindza is ending a record-setting career with a field-goal unit that at best looks like a 50-50 proposition every time it trots onto the field.

Sprinkle in a confounding head-coaching decision (a failed two-point try against Northwestern kept the Wildcats in the game), and perhaps the best thing that can be said about the Music City Bowl is that it's the last game this group has to play before getting a chance to recover both mentally and physically. 

Las Vegas sees the Tigers as a 7.5-point underdog, the fifth-widest margin of the non-playoff games. Only four games with Power Five conference matchups predict a scoring total lower than the 52 expected in the Music City Bowl. (The Irish alone have given up more than 30 in seven-consecutive games.)

On paper—and after watching the Irish play recently—the odds don't look good for the Irish. But after watching Les Miles' team sleepwalk through some recent bowl performances, Kelly and his team have a chance to pull off an incredible salvage job if they can find a way to beat LSU. 

It's a leap of faith. Finding a way for the Irish to stop LSU's ground game with a front seven built of underclassmen and leftovers doesn't look good. And getting a convincing performance from an Irish offense that has only outscored Navy since early October doesn't bode well for a matchup with the SEC's best statistical unit. 

Kelly talked about the challenges his team faces on both sides of the ball earlier this week. 

"They want to win. I think defensively, they know they’re a little short-handed and they’ve gotta find ways to come up with some plays," Kelly said. "They clearly know that from their standpoint that they’ve got to find a way to slow down LSU. I think our offense knows that they’ve have to play better. And probably understand how important it is to control the flow of the game."

But Kelly also pointed to the fact that this football team needs to get out of its own way. A young roster that's put in the work needs to stop making critical mistakes on game day. 

"I told them this. They’ve practiced well all year. We just haven’t translated that consistently," Kelly said. "That’s through a number of different things. Primarily, they’ve got to trust their technique, they’ve got to trust themselves. If they do that, they’ll find a way to beat LSU."

A victory could change everything. While there will be no parade for an 8-5 season, a win over a quality SEC opponent gives the Irish momentum as they hope to finish out recruiting strong.

It'll also put back on track the high hopes for 2015. Nearly 20 starters will return, with suspended KeiVarae Russell and Ishaq Williams back as well. A victory over Les Miles' Tigers would help Kelly bury the embarrassing blowout defeat to USC by sending a message both in and out of the program that November's slide was personnel related—not personality. 

Brian Kelly ended up in South Bend by showing an uncanny knack to win football games. He's going to need to rediscover that talent—and fix a team that sure looks broken—if the Irish have any hope to leave Nashville victorious. 

 

*Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand. 

 

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What Versatile 4-Star Nyheim Hines Brings to N.C. State

Dave Doeren and the North Carolina State Wolfpack scored a huge win on the recruiting trail by landing a commitment from 4-star all-purpose back Nyheim Hines on Friday, according to Steve Wiltfong of 247Sports.

The 5’9”, 187-pounder committed to the Wolfpack over offers from Duke, Florida, Virginia Tech and West Virginia among others.

Landing a pledge from Hines—who is rated as the No. 2 all-purpose back in the 2015 class and the No. 123 player overall—gives N.C. State their highest-ranked offensive commitment in their 2015 class.

But what will Hines bring to the Wolfpack’s offense?

For starters, he’s also a track standout who ranks as one of the fastest players in the country for the 2015 class.

His listed time in the 40-yard dash is 4.34 seconds.

According to Evan Watkins of VTScoop (subscription required), Hines has a twin sister who is also a budding track star.

Hines admits he grew up a fan of the Wolfpack, and the fact that they offered his sister likely played a role in his decision to head to Raleigh for college.

“I think [NC State] is a great school and they are one of my top favorites. I grew up a fan there so I am happy about my offer and they offered my sister,” Hines told Watkins.

As a junior, Hines racked up absurd totals of 3,137 rushing yards and 49 touchdowns while averaging more than 10 yards per carry.

Per MaxPreps, he rushed for 2,118 yards as a senior.

Given that Hines is also an excellent receiver out of the backfield, Doeren can also utilize his talents in the passing game in an effort to create mismatches against linebackers and safeties in space.

The Wolfpack also have a commitment from 3-star running back Reggie Gallaspy—who, at 205 pounds, is a bigger back that is the perfect complement to a back such as Hines.

Just as big as his commitment was for the Wolfpack’s on-field efforts, it’s also huge from a momentum standpoint in helping rebuild the program as a potential ACC contender.

In keeping Hines close to home, Doeren and his staff’s push to keep the state of North Carolina’s top talent within state borders is gaining steam.

Hines is the third in-state pledge to be ranked among North Carolina’s Top 10 prospects—which is the first time the Wolfpack have landed as many top homegrown prospects since the 2010 class.

Considering that Hines is one of the most explosive playmakers in the 2015 class, he now becomes a candidate to step in and give the Wolfpack’s offense an immediate boost next fall.

 

Sanjay Kirpalani is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

 

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Nyheim Hines to N.C. State: Wolfpack Land 4-Star RB Prospect

The 2015 recruiting class is down one key member after 4-star running back Nyheim Hines has reportedly made his college intentions known. 

According to Ryan Bartow of 247 Sports, Hines will attend N.C. State: 

Hines, who is the second-ranked all-purpose running back in this year's class and a track star according to 247Sports.com, has true impact potential. His 40-yard dash time, per the recruiting site, is 4.34 seconds. 

According to D. Clay Best of The News Observer, Hines had 2,261 rushing yards, 250 receiving yards and 40 total touchdowns before the playoffs were finished. 

Considering all the hype around him as a senior, Hines talked about how he stays sharp in all facets of his life with Best in a separate post for The News Observer:

It’s important for me to take some time out for myself and relax. I know the work that’s there for school, football and recruiting, but I have to take some time away. It needs to be done.

...

Anything I can get done during the school day, when I have a few minutes, I’d try to get it done before I get home.

Coming from North Carolina, it's no surprise Hines attracted a lot of attention from ACC schools. He had offers from North Carolina State, Wake Forest and Duke, among others.

There are so few difference-makers available every year, so Hines can make an entire recruiting class. He's got game-changing speed and a knack for finding the end zone. There's still room for the running back to fill out his 187-pound frame, but the starting package is something coaches dream about. 

Hines also comes with the ability to play multiple positions if necessary. He can be a lesser version of Reggie Bush, moving from running back to wide receiver to special teams. That versatility is what made him such a sought-after commodity. 

 

If you want to talk sports, hit me up on Twitter. 


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10 College Football Rosters That Will Look Completely Different in 2015

As if you needed another reason to devote the next two weeks to bowl games, here's this sobering reality: Many of the teams you'll be watching won't look anything like this next season.

The combination of outgoing seniors and standout juniors (who either have declared or are projected to declare for the NFL draft) means that the rosters of several top teams will have a very different look when the 2015 campaign begins next September.

With that in mind, these bowl games will serve as a going-away party for many of the best players in the country, and where that talent is lumped together, it also may mean the end of an era of prosperity for their teams.

Here's a look at 10 schools whose 2015 rosters figure to have the biggest shakeup.

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4-Star Donte Jackson Reveals Top 3, Decision Date: Where Does He Fit Best?

New Orleans standout Donte Jackson is ready to work his way toward a collegiate commitment. The 4-star recruit revealed his intentions to announce a decision on January 21, sharing those plans on Twitter:

Jackson, rated seventh nationally among "athletes" in 247Sports' composite rankings, is projected to play cornerback at the next level. Georgia, LSU and USC are all in the mix five weeks away from a decision.

The 5'11", 175-pound Riverside High School senior is among the most coveted prospects in another talent-laden Louisiana class. He was one of 16 players nominated for U.S. Army All-American National Player of the Year honors and is expected to compete in the All-American Bowl on January 3 in San Antonio.

Aside from his strong play in the defensive secondary, Jackson served as an explosive offensive weapon at Riverside. He rushed for more than 1,000 yards and scored 18 touchdowns this fall, per Amos Morale III of 247Sports.

Now that Jackson has shared his final three, let's explore each option.

 

Georgia

Jackson joined the Bulldogs on campus multiple times this summer, and a return trip to Athens now appears likely. Georgia certainly has a need at cornerback, especially since Rico McGraw flipped his commitment to Alabama in July.

Mark Richt narrowly missed on 5-star target Tarvarus McFadden earlier this season. The coveted defender decided to head to Florida State following serious flirtations with Georgia.

The Bulldogs helped address the issue this season by beating out several suitors for in-state defensive back Rashad Roundtree, but he's likely to land at safety in college. Deandre Baker, a 3-star Miami product, is currently the only Georgia commit listed as a cornerback by 247Sports.

Jackson would be a clear-cut top player at the position for Georgia in this class. A redshirt season seems unlikely anywhere, given his ability to at least make an impact on special teams, but an immediate role within the defense may be easiest to earn in Athens.

If Georgia fails to find a top-tier cornerback in this class, it may force Richt's hand when deciding whether 5-star athlete Terry Godwin belongs on offense or defense next season. A player like Jackson would likely allow Godwin to wreak havoc at receiver.

 

LSU

The Tigers have done an excellent job taking care of business on home turf when it comes to recruiting. Jackson is the latest in-state star to land on Les Miles' radar.

His most recent LSU visit occurred earlier this month. Jackson journeyed to Baton Rouge alongside fellow New Orleans prospect Tyron Johnson, a 5-star receiver who also lists the Tigers in his top three.

The duo are friends who've remained close throughout the recruiting process, so there's certainly a chance they could influence each other's decision. Johnson is expected to announce his collegiate intentions January 2 at the Under Armour All-America Game, setting the stage for Jackson to keep that choice in mind during the final stretch of his recruitment.

LSU already holds a commitment from 5-star Jacksonville cornerback Kevin Toliver, who rates second nationally among players at the position in 247Sports' composite rankings. The Tigers are prepared to pair him in the backfield with 4-star Louisiana native Xavier Lewis.

Jackson could become yet another dynamic element of the LSU secondary, which may still potentially add 5-star cornerbacks Iman Marshall (California) or Kendall Sheffield (Texas). There's a chance this becomes a rather crowded situation, which is a great problem to have for Miles.

 

USC

This is an obvious outlier among Jackson's final group, given the Trojans' proximity to his home region. Still, we've seen USC snag premier prospects from every part of the country in years past, and a return to that success is key in Steve Sarkisian's efforts to return the program to prominence.

The Trojans, also a main contender for Marshall, already reached into Georgia this spring for 5-star offensive tackle Chuma Edoga, and a pledge from Jackson would provide further evidence that USC is on the rise after several years of scholarship sanctions.

Cornerback Isaiah Langley is among the headliners in a class that currently sits atop Pac-12 recruiting rankings. Sarkisian also secured a commitment from underrated Los Angeles County cornerback Taeon Mason.

USC has shown plenty of willingness to play freshman this year, due in large part to previous roster limitations. Adoree' Jackson, a top 2014 signee who possesses similar physical attributes to Donte Jackson, saw substantial playing time throughout his first season.

A commitment to USC would require Jackson to sacrifice his ability to frequently see family and friends on campus, but that thought is actually refreshing to young athletes sometimes. How he handles the idea of relocating across the country is at least as big a factor as what USC can provide him on the football field.

 

The Verdict

It's always tough to envision a heavily pursued prospect departing SEC territory, so USC is a definite underdog in this group. Most onlookers, including us, expect the recruitment to center on Georgia and LSU.

Miles and the Tigers have made Baton Rouge a welcoming destination for local recruits. Jackson would join a secondary that consistently sends talent to the NFL under the direction of defensive coordinator John Chavis.

However, if Jackson is looking for the right fit strictly from a football standpoint, it's hard to top Georgia. The Bulldogs have made defensive backs a priority during this cycle, and results have been mixed.

Jackson would join the class as its top cornerback commit, viewed as an immediate asset in Athens. It may not be his ultimate destination, but Georgia is an ideal place for Jackson to embark on his college career.

 

Recruit ratings courtesy of 247Sports.

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Predicting the 10 Biggest Performances in College Football Bowl Season

It is hard but not impossible to predict where the biggest performances of college football bowl season will come from.

Some of the biggest names in the country stole the show in 2013, chief among them Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (427 passing yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions against Miami) and Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins (16 catches, 227 yards, two touchdowns against Ohio State).

But bowl season isn't just about the big boys. It's also about the little guys. It was just as fun to watch Adam Muema rush for 229 yards and three touchdowns against Buffalo as it was to watch Bridgewater, Watkins and the other All-America candidates go to work.

But who will post the biggest numbers this season?

To answer that, we have taken a look at the players and matchups of every game on the schedule. We did not dock points for strength of opponent—e.g., 400 passing yards against Rice would be considered a "bigger performance" than 398 passing yards against Alabama—and ended up with a solid mix of big and small bowls.

Sound off below and let us know whom you would add.

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LSU Football: How Tigers Should Prepare to Face 2 Notre Dame QBs

Les Miles and Brian Kelly will both be stuck in the quarterback blues leading up to the Music City Bowl on December 30. 

LSU had a rough close to 2014. The Tigers' November losses included two games of under 100 yards passing from Anthony Jennings. Fans badly want to see Miles give true freshman Brandon Harris another chance under center.

But at least the Tigers have had inept quarterback play all season. The free fall of Notre Dame's Everett Golson has put Kelly in a rut.  

The Fighting Irish dropped five of their last six games after starting the season 6-0. Their last loss was a brutal 49-14 beatdown at the hands of USC.  

Notre Dame's inept offense has been the biggest concern for Irish fans. Golson was once considered one of college football's elite signal-callers, but his seven interceptions in the final four games has caused Kelly to rethink the direction of the position. 

Sophomore backup Malik Zaire saw his first meaningful action of 2014 against the Trojans. Zaire looked promising, going 9-of-20 through the air for 170 yards. 

Kelly said earlier this week he will use both Goslon and Zaire against the Tigers, per Keith Arnold of NBC Sports: “I think both of them can help us win...I want to play them both because I think both of them have different traits and we need to find a way to win the game. I think both of them can help us win.”

Arnold, who also writes for B/R, said via email that Zaire's legs add an extra dimension to Notre Dame's offense. 

"Zaire's an upgrade as a runner, not as a passer," said Arnold. "He's genuinely smooth in the read-option game, and is a better athlete than Golson, who is no slouch either. He is just not fast enough to run his way out of certain situations." 

Though Notre Dame's offense is struggling, here are three things the Tigers must do to prepare for Kelly's two-quarterback system. 

 

Keep Contain

LSU's outside rushers must keep contain. If they don't, Notre Dame will have major success offensively. 

Golson and Zaire are both mobile, with Zaire, as Arnold said, being the faster of the two. They can inflict significant damage with their legs. LSU defensive ends Jermauria Rasco and Danielle Hunter must keep lane discipline. 

LSU's blitzers must do the same. Linebacker Kwon Alexander and safety Jalen Mills allowed Alabama's Blake Sims to get outside the pocket late in the fourth quarter, and it cost the Tigers the game.

LSU's secondary will be the best Notre Dame has faced all season. But if Kelly's quarterbacks can extend plays with their legs, receivers William Fuller and Corey Robinson are talented enough to eventually get open. The key to stopping that is by keeping them in the pocket. 

Do not be surprised if LSU's defensive ends approach this game the same way they faced former Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel. They will be cautious with their rush in an effort to keep contain. 

 

Stop the Run

Notre Dame's running game has been good but not great.

Running back Tarean Folston leads the charge with 816 rushing yards and five touchdowns. The numbers sound fine, but Folston and the rest of Irish backs lack some explosiveness. None of them have registered a run of 30 yards or more. 

Defensive coordinator John Chavis is at his best when his defense stops the run on early downs. This forces offenses into passing situations, which allows him to insert his 3-2-6 "Mustang" package. The defense can be confusing for quarterbacks, as they are not accustomed to seeing six defensive backs on the field at once.

The Tigers must also be prepared for the zone read. They were eviscerated by Auburn and Mississippi State on designed quarterback options. 

Kelly said, per Arnold, the zone read will be in play for Zaire. It could provide the success he needs on the ground against LSU. 

 

Mix Up Coverages

Chavis loves to trust his defensive backs in man coverage, as he should. Cornerbacks Tre'Davious White and Jalen Collins have had terrific seasons. 

Chavis gave himself more freedom when middle linebacker Kendell Beckwith and safety Jamal Adams were inserted into the starting lineup at the midway point of the season. Beckwith and Adams' tackling in the open field and blitzing ability has transformed the defense.

LSU should run mostly man coverage and blitz aggressively. But in man coverage, defensive backs have their backs turned to the quarterback. This opens up massive running lanes for quarterbacks to run through. Also, Fuller and Robinson are a fantastic receiving tandem that would be tough to guard for the entirety of a game. 

LSU prefers not to play zone coverage, but some of that must be mixed in Chavis' game plan. Kelly is too good of an offensive mind to see the same defensive schemes over and over.

Chavis understands that. Expect him to throw a variety of looks at Notre Dame to keep Zaire and Golson guessing. 

 

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

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

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2015 5-Star DT Daylon Mack Decommits from Texas A&M

Daylon Mack, one of the top recruits in the Class of 2015, announced he's no longer committed to Texas A&M. The defensive tackle plans to provide an update on his future this weekend.

The coveted prospect passed along word of the decision on Twitter:

Mack is a 5-star prospect who rates inside the nation's top 20 incoming players for the 2015 season, according to 247Sports' composite rankings. The Gladewater High School (Texas) star also ranks inside the top five at his position and among Texas recruits.

He was expected to provide an instant boost to the Aggies defense. Instead, 247Sports lists LSU, TCU and Texas as the likely leading contenders following his choice to reconsider his options. All three of those programs received a "warm" distinction for the level of interest.

Earlier in the day, Max Olson of ESPN passed along comments from fellow recruit DeAndre McNeal, who committed to the Longhorns:

Dan Wolken of USA Today noted the trend toward Texas:

Mack is a highly impressive athlete with a rare combination of power and short-area quickness. His athleticism is outstanding for a player of his size. He should be able to make a pretty smooth transition to the collegiate level, making a rotational impact early before developing into a high-impact lineman.

Now, the only question is where he'll play after spurning Texas A&M. The outlook should become more clear after he provides the top two Saturday.

 

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​Can Alabama O-Line Contain Terrifying Ohio State All​-American Joey Bosa?

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — This type of game plan has helped Alabama in the past this season.

"We're going to do what we do," Mississippi State cornerbacks coach Deshea Townsend told reporters when asked how the Bulldogs were going to contain Amari Cooper. "This week, it's just another guy. (Cooper is a) really great player, has a lot of catches, and the challenge always comes to us on the back end.”

Cooper caught eight passes for 88 yards and a touchdown.

Two weeks later, Cooper torched Auburn to the tune of 13 catches for 224 yards and three touchdowns. After the game, Auburn safety Johnathan Ford told reporters, "We just play him as any other person.”

Auburn defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson was fired shortly following the Iron Bowl.

The just-another-player line sounds good, but actually going through with it can have serious consequences, as several defenses that faced Amari Cooper this year found out.

So it’s somewhat curious when Crimson Tide players say they’ll employ a similar strategy in the Sugar Bowl.

When Alabama takes the field with Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl on January 1, it will face an almost identical situation on the other side of the ball.

Ohio State defensive end Joey Bosa has been a one-man wrecking ball this season. He ranks fourth in the country in sacks (13.5) and fifth in tackles for loss (20). Plays like this have defined his season, where he can take over a game on his own:

But Alabama players say they aren’t changing a game plan for one player.

“We don’t change our scheme around nobody,” said quarterback Blake Sims, who could be forced to use his feet a little bit more if Bosa can run free. “We play the way we play. He’s an awesome guy. We know he’s going to make plays. All we’ve got to do is erase it and try to make the next play very explosive.”

Senior right tackle Austin Shepherd will be shouldering a lot of the load against Bosa, who primarily plays on the left side of the defensive line.

He didn’t seem phased when asked about playing across from Bosa.

“I don’t really think about who I’m playing against,” Shepherd said. “I kinda approach everybody the same way, so I’m really thinking about the accolades. I’m just trying to look at how I can beat him every play.”

Will this sort of approach work in Alabama’s favor? If its past offensive line play this year is any indication, it very well could.

The Crimson Tide have only allowed 13 sacks this season, tied for first in the SEC this season with Arkansas, which has played one fewer game.

Individually, Alabama has faced seven of the SEC’s top eight sack leaders (the Crimson Tide’s Xzavier Dickson ranks No. 7). Those seven rushers combined for just 2.5 sacks against Alabama.

Here’s a full breakdown:

Alabama has more or less slowed down top individual performers as well. 

Nationally, though, none of those rushers are getting to the quarterback more than Bosa is this season. And only Ray has more tackles for loss than Bosa.

So while Alabama has had success protecting its quarterback this year, it hasn’t seen a force like Bosa up front yet.

That may require a little extra attention.

 

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

Follow on Twitter @marctorrence.

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Tennessee Continues to Land Top Talent, 2015 Class Will Finish in Top 10

Butch Jones and his Tennessee Volunteers have hit the recruiting trail hard thus far, scooping up top-tier talent to address some of their pressing needs.

Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Michael Felder and Adam Kramer break down the class and what type of impact these recruits will have on the Tennessee program.

Which recruit should Tennessee be pushing for the hardest?

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