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Auburn vs. FSU: Keys to Victory in BCS National Championship Game

The final BCS National Championship Game represents a fascinating matchup between the Auburn Tigers and Florida State Seminoles, and the final result will likely come down to just the slimmest of margins.

Each team boasts an imposing offense, but neither one lacks for talent on defense either. 

It’ll be a real test for the Seminoles to go up against an SEC defense, while the Tigers will be struggling to prove that their last-second wins against Alabama and Georgia weren’t flukes.

While Florida State is favored, either team could easily come away with a win in this one. It all just depends on a few key elements.

 

Auburn’s Offensive Line

Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall and running back Tre Mason have been dominant when running the ball, and Auburn’s dominant offensive line has been a huge part of its success.

Marshall and Mason have each amassed more than 1,000 yards this season behind this deep offensive line. How the unit matches up with Florida State’s imposing defensive line will be absolutely critical to the outcome of this game. 

The unit is led by center Reese Dismukes, a vocal, physical player that anchors the line.

But the rest of the line isn’t too shabby either, as ESPN’s Greg Ostendorf and David M. Hale explain

Dismukes, a three-year starter, is the anchor of the group. He was a finalist for the Rimington Trophy, awarded to the top center in college football, and although it’s not an official stat, he leads the team in knockdowns. The matchup between he and Florida State nose tackle Timmy Jernigan won’t just be a battle in the trenches -- it will be a war.

From a pure talent standpoint, sophomore left tackle Greg Robinson has emerged as the best player on this Auburn offensive line. He started last year but was still relatively unknown heading into this season. He’s quickly become a star in the SEC, and he continues to improve his draft stock with every game. 

Junior Chad Slade doesn’t get the notoriety, but he’s been as solid as it gets for the Tigers. He moved from right tackle to right guard and hasn’t missed a beat. The other two spots are taken by a pair of redshirt freshman, Alex Kozan and Avery Young. Kozan was named to the freshmen All-SEC team for his play at left guard.

If Auburn wants to knock off No. 1 Florida State, this is the matchup it has to win. The Tigers have rushed for an average of 402 yards over the last four games, and it’s in no small part due to the play of the offensive line.

As good as this group is, however, the Seminoles might be able to get the better of them.

Jernigan is a monster on the inside, while defensive ends Mario Edwards Jr. and Eddie Goldman are also dominant. 

But it’s Jernigan in particular who should worry the Tigers. He leads the Seminoles with 4.5 sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss, and he’ll be battling with Dismukes all night.

“(Jernigan) doesn’t have any weaknesses – he plays the run and the pass very well ... it should be fun,” Dismukes told The Montgomery Advertiser.

If the offensive line can pave the way for Mason and Marshall, the Tigers will be able to set the pace of the game. However, if they can’t, they might find it hard to keep up with Florida State.

 

Florida State’s Passing Game 

Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston gets a lot of hype, and deservedly so, but he’s not the only part of the Seminoles’ passing game that deserves to be feared.

The Seminoles have one of the best receiving groups in the nation, with receivers Rashad Greene, Kenny Shaw and Kelvin Benjamin each recording at least 50 catches and 900 receiving yards this season. 

Winston’s ability to move in the pocket and make insane throws are well documented, but he’s greatly helped out by his receivers making spectacular catches on those throws, like this one. 

All of that makes for a passing game that’s incredibly difficult to defend, as SB Nation’s Ian Boyd explains.

Florida State's greatest strength is its passing game, which likewise finished second in S&P's rankings.

That tall FSU offensive line is a difficult group to beat with a pass rush. The receiving group is arguably the best in the nation. Rashad Greene, 6'5 Kelvin Benjamin, and Kenny Shaw are all over 900 receiving yards and are joined by dual-threat tight end (Nick) O'Leary.

Winston's comfort with the Noles' passing game and tremendous accuracy to all areas of the field, when paired with phenomenal wideouts who are dangerous as acrobatic receivers and runners after the catch, makes their passing game nearly impossible to scheme against. Defenses have been proving this all year long. Winston's only game so far with a passer rating below 152.8 came in a 56-point win at Wake Forest, whose defense is keyed around a 250-pound nose tackle, so there's not a whole lot we can glean about what teams have tried against him so far.

It certainly doesn’t help Auburn’s case that the secondary is allowing 259.3 passing yards per game, the 103rd-worst rate in the nation.

The Tigers’ best hope is to pressure Winston, something they’ve been considerably more successful at this season. They’re 46th in the country with 28 sacks this year.

However, Winston has had little trouble warding off pressure over the course of the season. He might be the best at taking off and running, but his elusiveness in the pocket combined with his size make him truly tough to bring down, as he’s only been sacked 29 times all year.

If the Tigers let Winston sit back and throw, he’ll be able to pick apart the Tigers and force them to throw to keep up.

However, if Auburn’s dominant offensive line can dictate the pace with the running game and the defense picks up some stops, the Tigers can pull off the upset.

No matter what, there’s little doubt that the title game will be a thrilling one to watch.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Army All-American Bowl Roster 2014: Highlighting Top Must-See Talents

Just as it has for the past decade-plus, the 2014 Army All-American Bowl will feature some of the nation's top high school football prospects. 

While some have already announced where they will begin their college careers, others are still up in the air ahead of Saturday, Jan. 4's East vs. West showcase (1 p.m. ET, NBC). 

Below we'll breakdown the rosters for both sides and highlight a trio of must-see talents that will be on display on Saturday afternoon.

*Roster information courtesy of USArmyAllAmericanBowl.com.

 

Jacob Park, QB, East

East quarterback Jacob Park is rated as the second-best prospect from the state of South Carolina among the Class of 2014 and committed to Georgia in June 2013, according to 247Sports.com.

The 6'3", 200-pound signal-caller had also received offers from other SEC powerhouses like Alabama and Auburn. As ESPN recruiting reporter Damon Sayles points out, Park will be a player to keep an eye out for on Saturday afternoon as he looks to lead the East to a second consecutive victory. 

In addition to boasting a strong and accurate arm, the Goose Creek, S.C. native is mobile and a very tough runner with the potential to develop into a dual-threat quarterback down the road. 

For now, though, pay close attention to Park's accuracy. Although he has room for improvement, he possesses the rare ability to hit receivers in stride despite being off balance or under duress. 

 

Jamil Kamara, WR/ATH, East

Bishop Sullivan Catholic High School star Jamil Kamara is listed as an athlete heading into Saturday's Army All-American Bowl, but he will likely star as a dynamic wide receiver for the East squad. 

After all, the 4-star recruit has caught more than 100 passes over the past two seasons in high school, racking up more than 2,100 yards and 33 touchdowns, according to 247Sports.com.

Kamara will likely be catching passes from Park on Saturday. And what will stand out above all else when watching the Virginia Beach, Va. native is his physicality. Kamara isn't a speedster who's going to break away from many defenders, but his combination of size and strength make him a special player. 

The coveted athlete, who is expected to commit to either Virginia, Wisconsin or Pittsburgh this weekend, also possesses an exceptional pair of hands that allow him to bring down nearly every ball in his vicinity. 

 

Nyles Morgan, ILB, West

If you're not familiar with West linebacker Nyles Morgan, you'll want to tune into Saturday's Army All-American Bowl. Arguably one of the top inside linebackers nationally among the Class of 2014, the Crete, Ill. native is a stud defender with virtually endless potential at the next level.

At 6'1", 225 pounds, Morgan can play sideline to sideline as well as hold his own in coverage.

Morgan also displays excellent instincts and does a tremendous job of recognizing the play, wrapping up ball-carriers and bringing them down quickly.

Morgan is still uncommitted ahead of Saturday's showcase, but he has narrowed his list and is expected to choose between Vanderbilt and Notre Dame this weekend.  

 

Follow Bleacher Report Featured Columnist Patrick Clarke on Twitter. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Army All-American Game 2014: Top Undeclared Prospects to Watch in Showcase

The U.S. Army All-American Bowl comes at a perfect time. Just as the college football season winds toward its conclusion and fans around the country start looking toward next season, the showcase puts some of the top prospects on display.

Furthermore, the game gives players one last chance to shine while they are still considered high school players before making the leap to the collegiate level. Some will even announce which schools they have chosen during the game.

Let's check out some of the top undeclared prospects to watch before they start the next phase of their football careers.

 

Joe Mixon — RB

Mixon is exactly the type of running back that's taking over football. The days of one-dimensional power backs are slowly fading away. Instead, teams are looking for playmakers who are just as capable helping the passing game as they are on the ground.

The California product certainly fits the bill. 247Sports' composite rankings list him as the No. 1 all-purpose running back and inside the top 20 players overall. The site also lists Oklahoma and UCLA among the front-runners for him, with Wisconsin also in the mix.

These type of All-Star games tend to have a much more open, free-flowing style of play, which will benefit Mixon. When he gets out in open space he's as dangerous as any player who will be on the field in the game for either side.

 

Marshon Lattimore — CB

Above all else, Lattimore is a tremendous athlete. There are players who excel in one area but if asked to step outside their comfort zone struggle mightily. That's why versatility is such a great asset, and the Ohio native has shown it on both sides of the ball.

He'll eventually settle at cornerback, at least at the outset. 247Sports' composite rankings rate him as the No. 5 player at the position and a 4-star prospect overall. Ohio State is listed as the favorite to land him ahead of his decision.

A combination of quickness and ball skills should allow him to make a pretty quick impact at the collegiate level. And if for whatever reason things don't end up working out as a defensive back, he can always switch back to offense and try to fill a void there.

 

Bryce Dixon — TE

Dixon is one of the most intriguing players in the class. He ranks outside the top 100 overall, according to 247Sports' composite rankings, and still has to fill out his frame to stand out as a tight end, but there's a reason he's generated so much interest, with UCLA listed as the leaders.

That's because he has all the tools to succeed. He has speed, size and playmaking ability, which are increasingly important traits for modern players at the position. Eric Sondheimer of the Los Angeles Times passed along comments in August from Dixon and a former coach that highlight that talent:

"It's mismatch everywhere," a giddy Dixon says.

Taller, bigger and faster than most of those trying to contain him, Dixon is an offensive weapon waiting to be unleashed.

"Athletically, he's a freak," former St. Bonaventure coach Todd Therrien said during the summer.

Yes, there's work to do before he becomes a star. Right now, he's a raw talent with sky-high potential and no guarantee he'll realize all of it. But starting in the Army All-American Bowl and moving forward, it wouldn't be a surprise to see him steadily develop into a major weapon.

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Penn State Football: Why James Franklin Is the Perfect Fit to Replace O'Brien

Bill O'Brien has taken his talents to Houston and has left behind a solid foundation at Penn State for the next head coach in Happy Valley.

The obvious question is: "Who will that be?"

A list of candidates has leaked out, including former Penn Staters Al Golden and Mike Munchak, according to a tweet from ESPN's Brett McMurphy. Friday evening, there were even some rumblings that Golden had been offered the job, but that appears to have been a false alarm, according to David Jones of PennLive.

Truth is, the best candidate has no ties to Dear Old State.

Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin is reportedly on the list of candidates, and according to Pete Roussel of CoachingSearch.com, Franklin is scheduled to interview with Penn State on Sunday, following Vandy's bowl game.

Franklin has a strong mix of offensive coaching experience in the college ranks and spent a year coaching wide receivers in the NFL with the Packers. He has spent time in the Pac 12, the ACC, the SEC and the Big 12, giving him a wide array of recruiting experience across the country.

That array of experience, combined with the success he has had at Vanderbilt, makes him an ideal candidate to coach football at a big-time program with big-time facilities.

A program like Penn State.

It's not that he has necessarily set the world on fire at Vandy, winning conference championships and the like, but he has turned around a program that was a perennial bottom-feeder country-wide.

In his three years a head coach, Vanderbilt has won 23 games—more than it won in the previous five years before his hire. His SEC win total of 11 matches the total conference wins from the six years prior to his arrival in Nashville, according to Wikipedia.

In a conference where there's a need to pony up big (see: huge) bucks for recruiting budgets, Vandy has managed to compete with much lesser resources.

According to BusinessofCollegeSports.com, in 2011, six of the eight highest recruiting budgets were in the SEC. While Vanderbilt is a private university and doesn't have to reveal its numbers, it was likely spending about half of what the big boys doled out.

In 2013, Vanderbilt beat three of those six big spenders in Georgia, Tennessee and Florida.

While Penn State has the largest alumni association in the country and a stadium that holds upward of 108,000 fans, Vanderbilt Stadium has a capacity of around 40,000, and the Commodores are set to play in just the seventh bowl game in their history.

They're second-fiddle in their own state to the Volunteers.

Vanderbilt's elite academic standards don't make things any easier for a head football coach, making Franklin's accomplishments even more astounding. In 2013, only 12.7 percent of applicants were accepted to Vandy.

Franklin is a fiery, young, offensive-minded coach who has managed to win under vastly limited circumstances. Despite coaching at a university that views athletics simply as extracurricular activities, Franklin has went toe-to-toe with the big boys. 

It's time he gets a shot at running a big-time program with big-time facilities. 

It's time for Franklin to become the head coach of the Penn State Nittany Lions.

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football: Predictions for Final 3 Bowl Games

It will be a heavyweight showdown in the Rose Bowl on Monday night as Florida State and Auburn will battle it out in the final BCS National Championship Game.

While the nation waits to see if Florida State can finally end the SEC’s streak of seven consecutive national titles, there will be two more bowl games this weekend as well. 

Vanderbilt will play Houston in the BBVA Compass Bowl and Ball State will look to win its first bowl game in school history against Arkansas State in the GoDaddy Bowl. 

With the 2013-14 college football season coming to an end, here are predictions for the final three bowl games: 

 

 

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Orange Bowl 2014: 10 Things We Learned from Clemson vs. Ohio State

The No. 12 Clemson Tigers bounced back from their season-ending loss to South Carolina in the Discover Orange Bowl, beating the No. 7 Ohio State Buckeyes in a 40-35 shootout Friday night.

The Tigers handed the Buckeyes their second loss in as many games, capping the worst possible ending for Urban Meyer's squad after Ohio State set a school record with 24 consecutive wins over the past two seasons.

Fueled by a lethal offense, Dabo Swinney's team could not be stopped as the Clemson Tigers claimed their first victory in a BCS bowl game.

Here's 10 things we learned from Clemson's five-point victory over the Buckeyes.

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Bleacher Report's Expert Predictions for the 2014 BCS National Championship

It's finally here, you guys. After thousands of games over nearly five months we are left with two teams and one game for all the marbles. The last BCS National Championship game will pit college football's most dominant force, Florida State, against its Cinderella story, Auburn, in the Rose Bowl with the last ever BCS Championship on the line.  

Read on as Bleacher Report's crack team of experts tell you who will take home the crystal football. 

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Dabo Swinney, Clemson Get Orange Bowl Revenge, but What's Next?

As the final seconds ticked away in No. 12 Clemson’s 40-35 Orange Bowl win over No. 7 Ohio State Friday night, Dabo Swinney ran amok on the floor of Sun Life Stadium, looking for people to hug.

Clemson’s excitable head coach was especially animated on this night, and with good reason: His team had secured a victory that exorcised demons that had haunted his program on a number of levels.

The Tigers’ first-ever Bowl Championship Series win served as a huge boost into the offseason. It clinched back-to-back 11-win seasons for the first time in program history. And it means that maybe, just maybe, people will stop talking about the 2012 Orange Bowl.

A 70-33 whipping at West Virginia’s hands (the Mountaineers piled up the most points in college bowl history) turned Clemson into a national punchline, one that was revisited repeatedly over the last month, to the Tigers’ chagrin.

No more. The shame of losing to the Mountaineers (who are 11-14 since that fateful night) was replaced with a program-enhancing win over Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes, who entered 24-1 over the last two seasons.

“Two years ago, we got our butts whipped all over this field,” Swinney told ESPN sideline reporter Maria Taylor afterward. “We’re 22-4 since that night. I can’t tell you how proud I am of our team and our staff. We found a way to win tonight.”

They overcame a pair of Tajh Boyd interceptions. Fifteen penalties for 144 yards, including multiple infractions that extended Ohio State drives. It was the kind of night where a missed point-after try by super-reliable senior kicker Chandler Catanzaro fit right in.

“We tried to find some ways to lose this,” Swinney said. “But we’ve got a lot of heart on this team.”

Clemson likely secured a top-10 finish when the final polls come out Tuesday morning, which will serve as a special achievement given 2013’s roller-coaster nature. The Tigers rose as high as No. 3 before absorbing a 51-14 home whipping at the hands of BCS national title game participant Florida State, and climbed back into the top 10 before ending the season with a 31-17 loss at South Carolina, their fifth consecutive loss to their archrivals.

When the Orange Bowl matchup with Ohio State was announced, ESPN’s Rece Davis called the Tigers’ 10-win season “hollow.”

A win over the Buckeyes, who were ticketed for a matchup with FSU before losing the Big Ten title game to Michigan State, was crucial in changing that perception.

It is Clemson’s third top-10 win in its last 14 games, joining the 2012 Chick-fil-A Bowl win over LSU and the season-opening win over then-No. 5 Georgia.

Plus, it doesn’t hurt when Swinney gets to take an extra swipe in his ongoing war of words with South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier.

“We just became the first team in the state of South Carolina to win a BCS bowl game,” Swinney said on the Orange Bowl trophy podium, an obvious callback to Spurrier’s comments about “winning the state championship” following the Gamecocks’ Capital One Bowl win over Wisconsin.

All night long, Clemson showed heart and resilience. The Tigers grabbed an early 20-9 lead, but despite dominating the first half, they trailed 22-20 at halftime. Ohio State built that lead to 29-20 midway through the third quarter, and the Tigers looked to be in trouble as they punted the ball away.

But OSU senior wideout Philly Brown muffed the punt at his own 33, with linebacker Spencer Shuey recovering.

Three plays later, star junior wideout Sammy Watkins high-pointed a 30-yard touchdown catch that cut the lead to 29-27.

On the ensuing drive, freshman safety Jayron Kearse picked off OSU junior quarterback Braxton Miller at the Buckeyes’ 38. Clemson responded with the go-ahead touchdown, with Boyd finishing the drive with a three-yard touchdown to junior Martavis Bryant, who made a juggling grab that gave the Tigers a 34-29 lead.

Ohio State responded with a 10-play, 75-yard touchdown drive capped by Miller’s fade pass to senior tailback Carlos Hyde, but they had nothing for Boyd and the Tigers’ offense.

Clemson put together a 75-yard drive of its own that covered every inch of offensive coordinator Chad Morris’ playbook, including a 3rd-and-goal throwback to tight end Stanton Seckinger for the eventual winning touchdown.

Boyd threw a silly interception to Ohio State’s C.J. Barnett with 1:17 to play, but it was sandwiched around a pair of turnovers that Clemson forced from Miller’s hands.

Clemson forced four Ohio State turnovers on the night, which made up for the two interceptions that Boyd threw in his final collegiate game.

Boyd was electric, completing 30 of 39 passes for 370 yards with five touchdowns. He added 127 rushing yards, including a 48-yard touchdown run.

Watkins, who is a likely top-10 pick in April’s NFL draft, put on a virtuoso effort in what was likely his final collegiate game; he will announce a decision Tuesday. He caught 16 passes for 227 yards and two touchdowns, setting an Orange Bowl record for receiving yardage and winning game MVP honors.

“We persevered through a lot of situations,” Boyd told ESPN as Watkins sat beside him. “This is his last game in a Tiger uniform as well.”

Watkins’ decision to forgo his final college season wouldn’t be surprising: Swinney said multiple times this season that he believes the star receiver is a top-10 draft pick.

Other decisions will be more intriguing. Junior defensive end Vic Beasley was among the top 10 nationally in both sacks and tackles for loss and has received a second-round NFL draft evaluation. He said in December that he was “leaning towards” leaving if he received a first-round grade.

Bryant, who had two athletic touchdown grabs Friday, is also considering leaving. He told the Charleston Post and Courier that he’d announce his decision Saturday.

If Watkins and Bryant leave, the Tigers would lose their top two receivers from 2013, leaving rising senior Adam Humphries, junior Charone Peake (recovering from a torn ACL) and rising sophomores Germone Hopper, Mike Williams and T.J. Green on the roster, as well as a trio of highly regarded freshmen in Demarre Kitt, Artavis Scott and Kyrin Priester.

And who will throw to them? Boyd leaves huge shoes for his successor to fill: Fifty-eight Clemson and ACC single-game, single-season and career passing records, including the ACC’s all-time passing yardage mark.

Highly touted freshman DeShaun Watson will enroll later this month and compete with steadily rising senior Cole Stoudt and rising sophomore Chad Kelly for the job in spring practice, but it will be difficult for the eventual victor, whoever he is, to match Boyd’s presence, poise and resilience in the pocket.

And with the coaching carousel revving back to life as Texas and Penn State fill their openings, offensive coordinator Chad Morris’ name is certain to be bandied about as a top candidate. He makes $1.3 million annually as the nation’s highest-paid assistant and has said repeatedly that he’s willing to wait for the right situation, but that just might come his way in the next month.

An offseason of change and uncertainty lies ahead for Swinney and Clemson.

And while Friday night was another step toward solidifying the Tigers’ status as one of the nation’s elite teams, keeping that status and improving it will be even tougher.

Connect with Greg on Twitter @gc_wallace

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Under Armour All-American Game: 6 Things We Learned from Contest

It's never good to jump to football conclusions based on one game, but the Under Armour All-American Game offers a unique opportunity to see high school's best recruits all take the field at once.

Most of the BCS' major programs were represented at the game, with participants committed to teams ranging from Alabama to Arizona.

When the dust settled, we were left with a few takeaways from an interesting showcase.

Watch out for the following players, among others, over the next few years in the NCAA.

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Cotton Bowl 2014: Clint Chelf Falters Again on Big Stage, Costs Cowboys Game

If success was somehow awarded in gut punches, Oklahoma State would be the undisputed king of college football and quarterback Clint Chelf would be the Heisman Trophy winner. 

For having 10 wins, perhaps no team lost more heartbreakers in 2013 than the Cowboys. The Pokes were 19 seconds away from playing in a BCS bowl when Oklahoma connected on a game-winning touchdown in the Bedlam rivalry to end the season. An end-of-game fumble returned for a touchdown resulted in the Sooners winning 33-24, but the damage was done. 

Oklahoma would go to the Sugar Bowl with an at-large berth, stunning Alabama 45-31; Oklahoma State watched its conference title hopes slip away. 

The Cowboys also dropped a head-scratcher of a game to West Virginia, 30-21, in September. A mixture of turnovers and special teams blunders for Oklahoma State contributed to the loss, and the Mountaineers (4-8) won just one game the rest of the season. 

Similarly, a series of mistakes cost the Pokes in a 41-31 loss to Missouri on Friday night in the Cotton Bowl. 

Chelf threw two picks and lost a fumble with under a minute remaining, which was returned 73 yards by Mizzou's Shane Ray for the game-sealing touchdown. Chelf played well in the second half of the regular season, highlighted by the 49-17 win over Baylor in November, but he's had his share of turnover issues as well. 

Against the Tigers, one Chelf interception came on an ill-advised throw on the run when he could have scrambled for positive yards. He also missed a few wide open receivers, including Josh Stewart on a fake bubble screen. 

Though the Cowboys finished with 548 yards, things didn't really pick up until the fourth quarter. That's when Chelf and running back Desmond Roland found success in the ground game. As has been the case in the past couple of months, when OSU's offense was able to run the ball, the rest of the offense opened up and the points followed. 

For the majority of the game, though, the Pokes were stagnant on offense. Roland had a hard time getting going—head coach Mike Gundy briefly switched to Jeremy Smith and Rennie Childs to try to find a spark—and Chelf couldn't find open receivers. 

Then, there was 34-yard field goal that kicker Ben Grogan missed as the kick bounced squarely off the top of the right goal post. Though the placement of the ball is actually quite impressive in retrospect and probably could never be duplicated on another try, the fact remains it counted for nothing. 

For what it's worth, Oklahoma State committed a delay of game penalty which moved the attempt to 34 yards from 29. 

The Cowboys, who rank tied for 90th in the country in penalties per game, also racked up 100 penalties yards on 10 infractions. Fifteen of those yards came on a defensive pass interference call that wiped out a pick-six by Tyler Patmon for the Pokes. 

"I felt as if both guys were competing for the ball,” head coach Mike Gundy said via The Oklahoman. “I didn't really see the pass interference.” 

It's hard to point to just a few things that decided the game, but the combination of Grogan's missed field goal, the negated pick-six and Chelf's fumble inside the Mizzou 30-yard line are three events that really hurt the Cowboys. 

The miscues certainly weren't limited to Oklahoma State, however. The Tigers had three turnovers of their own. It wasn't a particularly clean game. But, in that vein, the Cowboys have been one of the best teams in college football in forcing turnovers, ranking fourth in turnover margin.

Known for offense and big plays, Oklahoma State actually relied on its defense in 2013. First-year defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer has coached up one of the best defensive groups in Stillwater, if not the best, in recent memory. The Pokes were especially good at two things: swarming to the ball and taking it away. 

Highlighted by cornerback and Thorpe finalist Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State's defense, especially its secondary, could play with anyone, anytime, anywhere. 

Friday night, Oklahoma State's defense played well enough to win despite giving up 34 points. It's definitely odd that, in a year when Oklahoma State's defense consistently played at an elite level, its offense didn't. 

It's that backwards narrative which could make 2013, a season of what-ifs, even more gut-wrenching for Oklahoma State. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Oh What a Night, Cotton Bowl, Orange Bowl Give Us Best Night of Bowl Season

Friday night was an evening built for multiple televisions, a full fridge and an extra set of eyeballs. And if you were functioning with only one screen at your disposal, hopefully your remote-control skills was up to par.

This was, without question, the most exciting, most exhausting night of the college football bowl season. There were 147 points in 120 minutes and 2,013 combined yards, a strange, gargantuan and fitting tribute to the year that was. 

The action at the Cotton Bowl and the Orange Bowl was relentless, chaotic and a pleasurable conundrum to have in terms of viewing options. Starting these two prestigious bowls at nearly the exact same time didn’t seem like the brightest idea as the night fired up.

In the end, however, it worked out brilliantly. 

The Cotton Bowl was the first game to kick off, but it was also the last to finish. This was a product of a rough start, as early returns were not for the faint of heart for either Missouri or Oklahoma State.

Offensively, both teams struggled. It got better, though, much better.

After sputtering through the better part of three quarters, the fourth quarter morphed into a touchdown buffet. The two teams combined to score 41 points in the final 15 minutes, although the last seven proved to be the most significant.

With Oklahoma State down just three and driving with a little more than a minute left in the game, the Cowboys looked poised to tie up the game or take the lead, but linebacker Michael Sam knocked the ball out of quarterback Clint Chelf’s hands. 

Missouri defensive lineman Shane Ray grabbed the ball and took it 73 yards the other way.

This play locked up a thrilling 41-31 win for the Tigers, capping off an unexpected season for a team that was nowhere near the radar of most college football fans before the season began. This, of course, called for a little celebratory dancing from the team's head coach.

While it would have been enough in and of itself, the Cotton Bowl finish was just a nightcap. Getting there included the Orange Bowl conclusion, a game that reached emotional swing capacity.

Like the Cotton Bowl, it didn't come with the best of starts. The night felt like it would be over early, as Clemson jumped out of the gates fast and showed no signs of slowing down. Ohio State battled, however, and two second-quarter Braxton Miller touchdowns gave the Buckeyes the lead at half.

From there, Clemson wideout Sammy Watkins went to work, playing in what was likely his final collegiate game. Watkins finished with 16 catches for 227 yards and two scores, one of which was a pretty 30-yard score late in the third quarter.

Despite Watkins' incredible evening, the Buckeyes were able to respond time and again. Running back Carlos Hyde caught a touchdown to put Ohio State ahead in the fourth. Clemson then regained the lead five minutes later on a Tajh Boyd touchdown pass.

After Miller fumbled on a tough hit—a theme throughout the evening—Ohio State gave the ball back to Clemson with only a few minutes remaining. Only then, Boyd gave the ball back to the Buckeyes with his second interception of the game, giving OSU a chance to win with less than two minutes on the clock.

Only Miller gave it back to Clemson one final time, throwing his second interception of the night and thus ending the shootout. When it was all said and done, and the final bit of momentum was swung in the Tigers direction, Clemson bested Ohio State 40-35.

The "Clemsoning" alarm was silenced.

Head coach Dabo Swinney celebrated the victory slightly different from Gary Pinkle, although the results were equally as impressive. Swinney, often times a verbal jab partner with South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier, unleashed this trolling fury with his postgame remarks:

Dabo says during #OrangeBowl trophy presentation "we're the only team from South Carolina to win a BCS game."

— ESPN ACC (@ESPN_ACC) January 4, 2014

All of the action: the fantastic plays, the fantastic players, the mistakes, the points, the destruction and the trolling occurred during one brilliant evening of football.

This is why you watch, hoping to see the game’s best players perform on the biggest stages imaginable and maybe something unexpected along the way. Rarely, however, do these performances coincide with tight games, and rarely are we treated to multiple showings at once. 

The bowl season can be a mixed bag, often times delivering blowouts and a lack of competitive moments. That has not been the case in recent days, although Friday night’s action somehow topped it all. 

Perhaps the final BCS National Championship will top this remote workout, although it certainly has its work cut out for it.

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Kony Ealy Officially Announces He Will Enter 2014 NFL Draft

Kony Ealy is striking while the iron is hot. He declared for the 2014 NFL draft on Friday, Jan. 3, following the Missouri Tigers' 41-31 Cotton Bowl win over the Oklahoma State Cowboys, per Matthew Fairburn of the Missourian:

The junior defensive end felt the time was right, per Dave Matter of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

It's hard to blame Ealy too much, as he was a force for Missouri on Friday night in Arlington, displaying a strong variety of moves to shed blocks and finding himself in the Oklahoma State backfield on most downs.

Bleacher Report's draft guru Matt Miller couldn't stop raving about the player during the game:

In his most recent mock draft, Miller had Ealy going at No. 11 to the Tennessee Titans. He wrote:

Missouri's Kony Ealy will draw comparisons to Aldon Smith, and they aren't far off. Ealy is long but has strength on his 275-pound frame to attack blockers, runners and passers. He's also versatile enough to play outside the tackle, head-up or even inside as a three-technique on passing downs. That type of do-it-all pass-rusher is what the Titans desperately need next to Jurrell Casey.

The sky appears to be the limit for Ealy, and now that he's declared, he can focus all of his attention on boosting his draft stock.

While he's never going to supplant Jadeveon Clowney as the top defensive end on the board, he can at least work his way into the top 10 and maybe even better than that. The Cotton Bowl has positioned him perfectly heading into the NFL Scouting Combine and Missouri's pro day.

If you haven't watched much film of Ealy before Friday night, make sure to check out some of his highlights because you're going to hear his name a lot in the coming months. This is a player who will likely make an immediate impact when he reaches the NFL.

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Cotton Bowl 2014: 10 Things We Learned from Oklahoma State vs. Missouri

It wasn't a BCS bowl game, but you couldn't tell that from the massive crowd and the on-field intensity seen during Friday night's Cotton Bowl between Missouri and Oklahoma State.

After nearly three quarters of defense controlling the tempo, the offense exploded for both sides, with Missouri coming out on top, 41-31. More than 72,000 people attended the game at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, as the old Big 12 rivals made up for lost time with a classic battle.

So much happened in this game we could write about it forever (please don't make us do that!), but here's what we think are the 10 most important things we learned from the 2014 Cotton Bowl.

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Orange Bowl 2014: Has Urban Meyer Lost Big-Game Edge?

Everything was going Urban Meyer's way to start his career at Ohio State. He was 24-0, and it appeared that no one could beat his Buckeyes from the Big Ten. 

Two games later and two Top 15 teams have now come out victorious over his Buckeyes, as Clemson beat OSU, 40-35, in the Orange Bowl on Friday night.

Meyer is now on a two-game losing streak after seemingly doing no wrong during the Buckeyes' 24-game win streak. 

How the last two losses have happened—questionable play-calling on offense and a lack of taking advantage of opportunities—have some questioning if the magic of Meyer in big games is gone. 

For as much as the past two games matter, it's not just those losses that give us clues that Meyer's big-game edge may have slipped. 

If you go in the way-back machine and enter 2010, you see the big-game edge crumbling in his final season at the University of Florida. That team went 8-5 on the year and just 4-4 in SEC play.

More importantly, Meyer's Gators went 0-4 against Top 25 teams that season, and a negative trend was being set.

Perhaps that was the beginning of the end for the legend of Meyer as nearly invincible, especially coming off a loss in the 2009 SEC Championship Game.

Yet, there was no questioning Meyer's Buckeyes during the 24-game win streak, as they went 5-0 against Top 25 teams. 

However, those were just regular-season games, and when championships and BCS games were on the line for the first time, the Buckeyes let every opportunity slip through their fingers.

In the Big Ten title game it was scoring 24 unanswered points to take a 24-17 lead, only to see Miller and the offense sputter out in the fourth quarter and the defense get gashed for 17 unanswered points for the 34-24 loss to Michigan State. 

On Friday night in the Orange Bowl, it was a lack of an ability to score when Clemson made mistakes that cost them dearly. 

It started early on, after getting a safety and pulling the game to 14-9, the Buckeyes went three-and-out on the following possession. Opportunity No. 1 missed. 

Early in the second quarter, Clemson was knocking on the door for a touchdown to make the game 21-9. Then Ohio State freshman safety Vonn Bell made a great pick at the 1-yard line. What happened next? 

You guessed it—another Ohio State three-and-out and a chance to take the lead gone. Opportunity No. 2 missed. 

Fast forward to the last two minutes of the game and Ohio State is down 40-35, needing a defensive stop like yesterday. They got just that courtesy of a C.J. Barnett interception of Tajh Boyd and a return inside Clemson territory with 1:27 left in the game. 

Two plays later and Braxton Miller badly misses a receiver in the post and it winds up in the hands of Clemson's Stephone Anthony. Opportunity No. 3 missed, and game over.

In both of the losses, Ohio State was given every opportunity it needed or hoped for, and nearly every time it couldn't come through in the clutch. 

That's unlike the Meyer teams of the past. Heading into this year, Meyer had lost just one conference championship game his teams played in and was 7-1 in bowl/national championship games. 

Even the conference championship game situation suggests that Meyer's big-game edge is slipping. He's currently on a two-game losing streak in that department, losing to Alabama in 2009 and Michigan State this season. 

It all leads to Meyer being just 5-6 against ranked opponents in the past three years.

Panicking over two games, however important they are, may seem a bit crazy—but when you're Meyer and expectations are Big Ten titles at a minimum and national titles preferably, losing the first two cracks at big games doesn't cut it. 

Meyer will have plenty of time to correct the current trend, but losing a few more big games on the national stage will certainly make the folks in Columbus more than unhappy. 

 

*Andy Coppens is Bleacher Report's lead writer for the Big Ten. You can follow him on Twitter: @ andycoppens.

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Cotton Bowl 2014: Who Would Have Thought Missouri Would Carry the Torch for SEC?

Missouri just put the cherry on top of a delicious treat that was the 2013 season with a 41-31 win over Oklahoma State in the Cotton Bowl.

Not only did the win give the program 12 wins for the first time since 2007, but it showed folks that the Tigers are legit. The victory also comes just one day after Alabama fell apart in the BCS Sugar Bowl. 

Only two seasons in the conference, Missouri is keeping the SEC winning tradition alive and doing its part in silencing those critics who can't wait to scream how overrated the conference is every chance they get. 

Who would have thought?

The same team that was treated like a red-headed stepchild last season and often looked down upon for even thinking it could play in the big-boy conference, is now truly one of the big boys and doing a lot of the conference's dirty work. 

The SEC really took a hit after the Crimson Tide lost in upset, embarrassing fashion to the Sooners. Fans from other conferences finally witnessed the giant fall and were out in the streets beating their chest like King Kong. It was finally a glimpse of hope that maybe parity in college football actually does exist. And after the season the SEC had, it's tough to blame those rabid fans.

Georgia and Florida both took a major step back this season. With a combination of freak injuries, poor execution and just bizarre losses, two teams that were expected to compete for an SEC East title finished the season with a combined record of 12-13.

Texas A&M proved it has serious flaws defensively, ranking 96th in the country in points allowed. The Aggies lost four regular-season games, including losing the last two, and nearly lost to Duke in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. A 9-4 season in the SEC West is still nothing to sneeze at, but this year should still be considered a letdown given the expectations heading into the season.

LSU lost to Ole Miss, was destroyed by Alabama and needed all four quarters to put away Iowa in the Outback Bowl. With Alabama losing back-to-back games and a BCS bowl for only the second time in Nick Saban's career, the SEC titans were finally showing some weaknesses. Even with an overall 6-2 record in bowl games, the conference didn't have the same feel as it usually does.

If Missouri had lost to Oklahoma State, the Internet may have crashed. And crazy enough, the offense tried everything it could to give that game away by turning the ball over three times. Supporters of other conferences would have really been doing back flips and trolling on Twitter. But like much of the season, Missouri held its own and had the SEC's back.

It's time the rest of the conference returns the favor. After all, Missouri has quickly adopted the conference's winning tradition, while the fans have done their part as well:

It's crazy to think that a couple of years ago a matchup between Missouri and Oklahoma State would have been a typical conference meeting in the Big 12. Friday night, it was a statement game for Missouri, as well as the conference as a whole. 

Auburn will have a chance to do the same Monday night against Florida State in the national championship. But for now, the Missouri Tigers continue to earn their stripes as they are carrying the torch and doing their part in keeping the SEC alive and well. 

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Orange Bowl 2014: Sammy Watkins Reminds NFL Scouts How Special He Is

Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd turned in an impressive performance against Ohio State in the Tigers' 40-35 Orange Bowl victory, throwing for 378 yards and five touchdowns. However, it was his go-to receiver, Sammy Watkins, who stole the show and reminded the nation why he is one of the best wide receivers in the game.

Watkins has put up big numbers for the bulk of 2013, there's a reason the junior was a Biletnikoff Award finalist in December. He entered the game with 85 catches, 1,237 yards and 10 touchdowns on the season. Then, in the Orange Bowl, things came together for Watkins against a depleted and hapless Ohio State secondary.

Clemson's star receiver posted 16 catches for 227 yards and two touchdowns on the way to breaking and then setting a new Orange Bowl receiving record.

Watkins' effort was tremendous against the Buckeyes, but there were some who doubted him after lackluster performances in the Tigers' two losses this season. He totaled 15 catches for 161 yards and just a single touchdown in those games. But on Friday—playing in the Orange Bowl and on the big stage—he got a chance to put any worries about him to bed, and did just that.

Yet for Watkins and his Clemson teammates, this game was about more than just capping off the 2013 campaign. In the Orange Bowl following the 2011 season, Clemson was boat-raced by West Virginia, 70-33, with Watkins posting five catches to the tune of 66 yards and one touchdown. Against Ohio State, the junior redeemed himself for the shortcomings of his freshman bowl appearance.

As expected, the speedy Watkins showed that there are few better than him when it comes to getting vertical down the field and taking the top off the defense. No. 2 can fly, and he showed that against a the Ohio State defense.

In addition to the speed, Watkins' steady diet of bubble screens allowed him to display the shifty, stop-and-start quality that makes him so dangerous in the open field. Watkins also showed an ability that he rarely is forced to display: he's capable of making tough catches in traffic. Ordinarily, Watkins blows the top off the defense and is so open, he makes clean catches without worry. Here, against Ohio State, he shows he too can climb the ladder and make the clutch grab.

Watkins is still working on becoming a complete receiver. His success in the Orange Bowl—and at Clemson in general—came from working out of the slot, using motion and being stacked with other receivers to help him avoid press coverage. At the next level, he'll have to prove that more physical coverage does not limit him from making plays. However, as it stands now, B/R's top draft analyst, Matt Miller, views Watkins as one of the top instant impact players in the 2014 draft.

The junior had a big game in his home state of Florida and his showing in the Orange Bowl served as a true reminder that he'll be a hot commodity at the next level. With Watkins expected to declare for the NFL Draft, the productive outing in Miami Gardens will not be lost upon scouts.

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Oklahoma State vs. Missouri: Score, Grades and Analysis from 2014 Cotton Bowl

The eighth-ranked Missouri Tigers concluded one of the best seasons in program history with a 41-31 victory over the Oklahoma State Cowboys in the 2014 AT&T Cotton Bowl on Friday, Jan. 3, per USA Today Sports:

The thrilling back-and-forth matchup was highlighted by a fourth-quarter explosion that saw a combined 41 points scored between the two former Big 12 rivals.

Surprisingly, both offenses started slow in the opening quarter, as a James Franklin interception on Mizzou's opening drive gave way to three consecutive punts, per Fox Sports columnist David Ubben.

Following a turnover on downs for the Tigers, Oklahoma State returned the favor with a Clint Chelf interception on the very next play, setting the tone for what would ultimately be a first-half defensive struggle.

Much to the delight of Mizzou head coach Gary Pinkel, the Tigers would capitalize on the excellent field position created by E.J. Gaines' turnover, marching 50 yards in 11 plays to take a 7-0 lead.

The game's first scoring drive was capped off by a three-yard touchdown run by Henry Josey. 

However, the Cowboys would answer immediately, covering 75 yards in just over 70 seconds to even things up. The big play on the crucial drive was Chelf's 40-yard touchdown pass to Josh Stewart, who ran uncovered down the middle of the field. 

After more struggles from Franklin and a missed field-goal attempt by Oklahoma State's Ben Grogan, Pinkel would roll out Maty Mauk at quarterback to help spark the Tigers' offense. The bold move would pay off right away for Mizzou as the freshman reeled off a pair of big runs, per The Columbia Daily Tribune's David Morrison, and found Marcus Lucas for the go-ahead touchdown from 24 yards out in the second quarter.

Following a pair of stalled drives for the Cowboys, Mizzou would engineer a successful two-minute drill resulting in a successful Andrew Baggett field goal at the halftime horn.

Although the Tigers led 17-7 at the break, the halftime numbers for Mizzou's offense were head-scratching to say the least, per Morrison:

Both defenses would continue to steal the show in the third quarter until a poor exchange between Franklin and Josey resulted in a key turnover. The Cowboys, who began the third quarter with three straight punts and an interception, would take over at Mizzou's 33-yard line before finally showing signs of life on a 21-yard touchdown pass from Chelf to Jhajuan Seales that would make it 17-14, Tigers.

In response to the pivotal error, Pinkel would send Mauk back out for the following drive. But a quick three-and-out saw Franklin back on the field to start the fourth quarter.

A few plays later, Franklin made another costly error, pitching the ball to a covered teammate on an option play that resulted in another fumble. The Cowboys would recover just 11 yards away from the go-ahead touchdown.

Mizzou's defense would deliver a massive stop, but Grogan's chip-shot field goal was enough to tie things up at 17 points apiece. 

Both offenses decided to wake up at that point.

Sensing the game was starting to slip away, Franklin and the Tigers offense responded on their ensuing possession, driving 60 yards in six plays to take the lead on an explosive 25-yard touchdown run from Josey, per Morrison: 

But Chelf and company would go 75 yards in less than two minutes to tie the game for a third time. The senior quarterback showed off his jets on the game-tying 23-yard touchdown run.

Tragedy struck just moments later for Oklahoma State, though, as a controversial defensive pass interference penalty would negate a pick-six for the Cowboys, per Stillwater NewsPress' Jason Elmquist: 

As a result of the blown call, Mizzou's drive continued before Baggett put the Tigers ahead 27-24 with a career-long 46-yard field goal. 

After the two teams traded touchdowns yet again, a Shane Ray 73-yard fumble return touchdown would seal the deal for the Tigers, who closed the game on a 14-0 run. Michael Sam made the play on Chelf and Ray had the presence of mind to scoop up the ball and run it all the way back.

While the Cowboys end the season having lost two in a row, the win is Missouri's 12th on the season and ties 2013 for the Tigers' best season in program history. Pinkel led them to a 12-2 mark back in 2007 in a season that also concluded with a win in the Cotton Bowl.

Pinkel celebrated the win with his team in excellent fashion:

Dave Matter of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch provides these quotes from Pinkel:

Key Player Grades

James Franklin, QB, Missouri: C-

Although Franklin didn't get a ton of help from his receivers on Friday, his struggles (15 of 40 for 174 yards and an interception) were awfully surprising given his impressive play in recent matchups with Auburn and Texas A&M.

Whether it was Oklahoma State's defensive pressure, jitters playing in his final game close to home or a combination of both, Franklin was a shell of himself on Friday night. Fortunately, he still closed out his college career with a win in the Cotton Bowl.

 

Clint Chelf, QB, Oklahoma State: B

Cowboys signal-caller Clint Chelf certainly made his fair share of mistakes on Friday, but he did account for three of Oklahoma State's touchdowns and managed to outshine Franklin throughout the night. Not to mention he played fearless down the stretch, taking shots and putting his body on the line.

Unfortunately, his late fumble in game-tying field-goal range is the play he'll remember most.

 

Henry Josey, RB, Missouri: A

Henry Josey will likely be wondering why he didn't get more than 13 touches on Friday. Nonetheless, the dynamic rusher made the most of his limited opportunities against the Cowboys, racking up 102 total yards and scoring three touchdowns on a night when the Tigers' aerial attack was almost nonexistent.

 

Follow Bleacher Report Featured Columnist Patrick Clarke on Twitter. 

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Oregon Ducks Football Recruiting: Updates on 2014 Commits and Targets

When Mark Helfrich took over for Chip Kelly after last season's Fiesta Bowl, he did a fabulous job of not only keeping the Ducks' 2013 recruiting class together but adding even more talent to it...

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Clemson vs. Ohio State: Score, Grades and Analysis from 2014 Orange Bowl

Urban Meyer is going to need a lot of pizza.

In an up-and-down game that had both sides' fanbases on the edge of their seats throughout, the No. 7 Ohio State Buckeyes (12-2) fell, 40-35, to the No. 12 Clemson Tigers (11-2) in the 2014 Discover Orange Bowl.

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney made sure to make a not-so-subtle dig at South Carolina after the game.

With the superb quality of both offenses and a plethora of deficiencies on the defensive side of the ball for Clemson and OSU, it was no surprise that this game turned into a shootout. The purists may not have liked it, but watching the Tigers and Buckeyes score one touchdown after another made for a thrilling affair.

It was a fitting end to the collegiate career of Tigers quarterback Tajh Boyd. Boyd, who is graduating, accounted for six total touchdowns in the game, five coming the way of the pass. Boyd's favorite target on Friday and this season, Sammy Watkins, is also expected to leave Clemson by making himself eligible for the 2014 NFL draft.

Watkins, in particular, was fantastic all game. Swinney and offensive coordinator Chad Morris did a great job of running a lot of screens that allowed Watkins to get the ball quickly and turn upfield.

Watkins had 16 receptions for 227 yards and two touchdowns. Even Larry Fitzgerald was compelled to praise the wideout's performance.

This win was even bigger for Boyd, who struggled in big games against Florida State and South Carolina earlier this season. Despite some poor decision-making at the end of the game, the senior quarterback managed to have a strong performance, finishing 31-of-40 passing for 378 yards and two interceptions. He also had 127 yards on the ground.

Boyd had the first score of the game with this 48-yard touchdown run, which set the tone for what was to come.

That run helped Clemson jump out to a 20-9 lead in the second quarter.

Then the Tigers were nearly undone by their porous defense.

For example, look at Jeff Heuerman's 57-yard touchdown reception that got the Buckeyes back into the game and cut the deficit to five points, 20-15.

There wasn't a Tigers defender within 10 yards of him when he caught the ball, and from there, it was a rather easy path to the end zone.

Matt Hinton of Football Outsiders saw where there could've been some miscommunication.

There would be a similar defensive breakdown on Carlos Hyde's 14-yard touchdown pass that put Ohio State back on top, 35-34 in the fourth quarter.

Ironically, it was a defensive play that would ultimately seal the game for the Tigers.

Clemson was clinging to a 40-35 lead with a little over three minutes left in the game, and the Buckeyes were in Tigers territory. Then OSU QB Braxton Miller fumbled, giving the Tigers offense a chance to ice the game away.

Unfortunately, Boyd threw an interception to hand Ohio State one more chance to find the go-ahead score.

Yet, the Clemson defense answered the call once again, with Stephone Anthony picking off Miller to put the final nail in Ohio State's coffin.

 

Key Player Grades

Sammy Watkins, Clemson: A+

Sammy Watkins is going to the NFL, right? After a performance like this, he can't possibly feel staying in school for another year is going to help his draft stock.

Bleacher Report's draft guru Matt Miller has Watkins as the No. 1 wide receiver on his board.

It's not hard to see why, as the junior wideout was the best player on the field on Friday night. He was a beast in the receiving game. Anytime Watkins touched the ball, it seemed like he had a chance to score.

And seriously, how do you defend this?

Tajh Boyd deserves plenty of credit, but it was Watkins who won the game for Clemson.

 

Tajh Boyd, Clemson: B+

Boyd very nearly threw this game away and cemented whatever negative narratives he's built during his time at Clemson. His interception in the fourth quarter could have been disastrous for the Tigers and his legacy at Clemson.

But the defense came through and saved Boyd's bacon.

 

Braxton Miller, Ohio State: B

Braxton Miller deserved better.

Time and again he was getting harassed in the pocket and hammered after the pass. By the end of the game, it was a shock he was able to walk.

Robert Flores of ESPN put it best.

Meyer praised his QB after the game, per Dieter Kurtenbach of the Sun Sentinel.

That interception at the end of the game was pretty bad, though. There was no excuse for making that pass.

But by that point in the game, though, Miller wasn't 100 percent, and it would be tough to lay blame for the entire game on him after he accounted for 269 total yards and combined for four touchdowns via the pass and on the ground.

 

What's Next?

Clemson is losing a lot of bodies to the NFL next season. It will be interesting to see how Swinney is able to rebound in 2014.

Miller is a junior and if he returns, expect the Buckeyes to be highly ranked entering the 2014 season as they look to rebound from this disappointing loss.

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Missouri Seals Cotton Bowl Win over Oklahoma State with Fumble Recovery TD

The Cotton Bowl ended with a wild finish, as the Missouri Tigers were able to come away with a huge win over the Oklahoma State Cowboys.

Up 34-31 with just over a minute left, Mizzou lineman Michael Sam was able to sack Oklahoma State quarterback Clint Chelf and knock the ball loose. Defensive lineman Shane Ray picked up the loose ball and returned it 73 yards to seal the victory for the Tigers.  

You can watch the the sideline celebrate at the end of the game below.

Perhaps the best part of the play was Gus Johnson's reaction, as it was the perfect ending to what was a great game.

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