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Cold Hard Fact for Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Fact: Florida State became the first team to ever win a BCS National Championship while trailing at halftime. They were down 21-10 and went on to win 34-31. 

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

Source: BCSFootball.org

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Where Does Jimbo Fisher Rank Among Head Coaches with a BCS Title Win?

The BCS exited stage left from the college football theater Monday night in glorious fashion. Florida State, in a thrilling come-from-behind effort, edged Auburn 34-31 in the final seconds of the game. 

The win gives Jimbo Fisher his first BCS title as a head coach and Florida State's first since the 2000 Sugar Bowl when it beat Virginia Tech 46-29. 

The Seminoles' victory over the Tigers was one for the ages, up there with the 2006 Rose Bowl (Texas vs. USC) and 2003 Fiesta Bowl (Miami vs. Ohio State) as one of the great BCS title games. So where does the game leave Fisher among head coaches with a BCS National Championship win?

There have been 17 different coaches who have participated in a BCS title and 12 different winners, so the pool is large. Most coaches, including Phillip Fulmer (formerly of Tennessee) Mack Brown (formerly of Texas) and Jim Tressel (formerly of Ohio State), have one ring. Even former 'Noles coach Bobby Bowden was only able to win one BCS title during his time in Tallahassee.  

Only two coaches, Urban Meyer and Nick Saban, have won multiple BCS titles. Meyer won two with Florida in 2007 and '09; Saban won three with Alabama ('10, '12 and '13) and one with LSU ('04.) 

It goes to show just how hard it is to win a single national championship, let alone lead a dynasty. Therefore, Saban and Meyer have to be considered the best coaches of the BCS era. 

Of course, coaches like Bowden transcend a single postseason era; it would be wrong to measure Bowden's impact on football solely on his single BCS title. His 377 Division I wins are most all-time due to Joe Paterno's vacated wins and he led Florida State to another national title in 1993. Virginia Tech's Frank Beamer, who lost to Bowden in the 2000 Sugar Bowl, leads all active coaches with 266 victories. 

Fisher's victory puts him in an elite fraternity, but he's far from the best coach to ever win a BCS title. When you start listing off the names of BCS title winners—Bowden, Fulmer, Pete Carroll (formerly of USC), Meyer, Saban and so on—there's a long way to go before Fisher surpasses them. 

That doesn't mean he can't in time. Fisher just completed his fourth season as the Seminoles' head coach.

As the College Football Playoff ushers in a new postseason format, Fisher will have the opportunity to become one of the great college football coaches of his time. It doesn't mean he'll have to win a handful of playoff championships, either. Oklahoma's Bob Stoops only has one BCS title, for example, but he has four total appearances. Tressel and Bowden are each 1-2 in BCS title games. 

The important thing for Fisher will be getting to the four-team playoff often. With the recruiting success he's been having—Florida State has the fourth-best incoming class, according to 247Sports—there's no reason to think the machine Fisher is building in Tallahassee won't be around for a long time. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Cold Hard Fact for Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Fact: Florida State's Jameis Winston is the third quarterback since 1950 to go undefeated with a national title and Heisman Trophy all in same season. Cam Newton (2010) and Matt Leinart (2004) are the only other two. 

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

Source: ESPN Stats and Info

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

NCAA Football Rankings: Hits and Misses from Final AP Top 25 Poll

The final Associated Press Poll of the season was released on Tuesday morning, mere hours after Florida State beat Auburn 34-31 in one of the greatest college football games ever played.

The Seminoles were the only undefeated team in the country, and they predictably checked in as the unanimous No. 1 team. Behind them, Auburn, Michigan State, South Carolina and Missouri filled out the rest of the final top five.

Click through for some winners and losers from the poll, and check out the complete final rankings below:

  1. Florida State (60)
  2. Auburn
  3. Michigan State
  4. South Carolina
  5. Missouri
  6. Oklahoma
  7. Alabama
  8. Clemson
  9. Oregon
  10. Central Florida
  11. Stanford
  12. Ohio State
  13. Baylor
  14. LSU
  15. Louisville
  16. UCLA
  17. Oklahoma State
  18. Texas A&M
  19. USC
  20. Notre Dame
  21. Arizona State
  22. Wisconsin
  23. Duke
  24. Vanderbilt
  25. Washington

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Denny's Twitter Encourages Sad Auburn Fans to Stop in on Their Way Home

No. 1 Florida State defeated No. 2 Auburn 34-31 Monday night in the BCS National Championship Game after a wild, back-and-forth game. Many Auburn fans left Pasadena with a heavy heart when their national championship dreams were crushed in the final minute. 

Denny's Twitter account had a great consolation prize for all of the Tigers fans, encouraging them to take out their sorrows at any one of its 47 restaurants on the road back to Alabama. 

Anyone up for a grand slam? 

Thanks to Dan Lyons of College Spun for the find. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Auburn vs. FSU: Prospects Who Bolstered 2014 NFL Draft Stock in BCS Title Game

The Florida State Seminoles capped off an undefeated 2013 campaign on Monday night with a 34-31 BCS Championship victory over the Auburn Tigers.

Now that the game is in the rear view, it is time to focus on how some of the performances by stars in that contest will impact their stock ahead of the upcoming 2014 NFL draft.

Let’s take a look at two prospects who improved their standing in the eyes of scouts and general managers with a standout title game showing.

 

Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State

Benjamin had a decent national title game, but he will be best remembered for his spectacular, go-ahead touchdown grab with 13 seconds left in regulation to seal a victory for the Seminoles.

That catch alone showcased his immense skill set, which includes the ability to use his 6’5”, 234-pound frame to shield the ball from opponents, an incredible vertical leap that allows him to go up and grab the rock at its highest point and a knack for scoring in the red zone.

Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller noted that the sky is the limit in regard to this redshirt sophomore standout:

Benjamin finished the 2013 campaign with 54 receptions for 1,011 yards and a ridiculous 15 touchdowns. His score on Monday gave him six consecutive games with at least one touchdown and ensured that he found paydirt in 10 of 14 contests.

Prior to the BCS Championship, he had back-to-back games that put him squarely on the radar of draft scouts everywhere.

His ACC title game showing against Duke was phenomenal, as the Belle Glade, Florida native rose to the occasion and hauled in five passes for 119 yards and two scores. However, his outing in the regular-season finale against Florida was even better.

The 22-year-old obliterated the Gators secondary for 212 yards and three touchdowns on just nine receptions. It was by far the best performance of an outstanding season and one that GMs will likely find themselves viewing over and over again when discussing the merits of drafting this potential star.

 

Tre Mason, RB, Auburn

Mason was arguably the best player on the field—for either team—during the national championship tilt. The bruising running back put the Tigers on his shoulders and nearly carried them to an improbable title.

The star junior racked up 195 yards rushing, snapping Bo Jackson’s longstanding single-season rushing record in the process, per Scott Rabalais of The Advocate:

This is no small feat, especially considering Jackson won the 1985 Heisman Award and is still considered one of the best collegiate players ever. He finished that season with 1,786 yards on the ground, while Mason ended his 2013 campaign with 1,816 yards.

Mason took a page from Bo’s book, using elite footwork, shiftiness and power to rip off a 37-yard scamper that put Auburn ahead with 1:19 left in the game.

It looked as if it might be the deciding score, but Jameis Winston orchestrated an 80-yard drive that culminated in the winning touchdown about a minute later.

Mason was apologetic after the game for failing to deliver a championship, per Jeremy Fowler of CBS Sports: “We wanted to have the biggest turnaround in college football. I want to apologize for not fulfilling that. I tried to do everything to give us the best chance to win the national championship and I failed.”

Regardless of the final score, scouts had one last chance to see Mason shine on the brightest stage and nearly will his team to victory. Miller called the young man a “starter” in the NFL if he elects to declare:

Michael Felder, Bleacher Report’s National College Football Lead Writer, believes the Tigers star will be a second-round pick in May, if he makes the leap to the pros.

After such a magical season, it’s hard to picture Mason depriving the NFL of his talents. He’s too good and has too much to accomplish at the next level. He will always be remembered as one of the greatest running backs in Tigers history, and he seems to have a solid pro career ahead of him.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Penn State Football: Why Mike Munchak Is Not the Right Answer in Happy Valley

Penn State's search for its next head coach is dragging on a little longer than most fans expected. It wasn't that expectations were unreasonable. According to Dustin Hockensmith of PennLive.com, athletic director Dave Joyner said in a press conference that he anticipated that the search would take "a matter of days, not weeks."

That was five days ago, so technically he is still right, but "days" is quickly approaching that "week" mark.

For those of you who remember the last search, you know that Joyner is capable of stretching "week" into "weeks." The search for Joe Paterno's replacement in 2011 and 2012 lasted nearly two months.

Despite that, and the lingering effect that not having a coach may have on recruiting, it's important that Joyner and his search committee take their time and make the right hire.

The right hire is not Mike Munchak.

Over the last few days, Penn State has interviewed the members on its short list of candidates. According to David Jones of PennLive.com, the recently fired coach of the Tennessee Titans got his shot on Sunday and impressed the committee.

Fortunately, the search committee wasn't blown away enough to make a snap judgement and offer him the job. Yet.

While Munchak's track record is respectable enough and he is a Penn State alum, he is not the right guy to be handed the keys to Penn State's football program.

The Scranton, PA, native has been in coaching since he retired in 1993. According to Pro-Football-Reference.com, he first served as an offensive assistant in Houston, then took over the offensive line coaching for 14 years (1997-2010) before becoming the head coach for the same organization in 2011.

As the head coach of the Titans, Munchak compiled a record of 22-26 while playing in what can be considered a poor division. The other three teams in the AFC South were a combined 59-85 in that span. The Titans' average rank in scoring offense was 24th during that time.

Aside from his struggles as a head coach, Munchak has never been a coordinator or coached a single season—not even as a graduate assistant—at the college level.

While football is football, recruiting is an art form learned only from years of experience. Munchak has none.

There is something to be said about the impact an NFL Hall of Famer could have at the head coaching position, but let's be honest, not all Hall of Famers are seen in the same light. There's a difference between Steve Young, Deion Sanders, Emmitt Smith and Mike Munchak.

If I have trouble sleeping tonight, I'll just imagine Mike Munchak as Penn State's coach. Zzzzzzz...

— JoePa's Doghouse (@RowlffDogg) January 6, 2014

Munchak played offensive guard. He retired 20 years ago. Outside of Penn State fans and diehard NFL fans, how many people recognize the name and associate it with the Hall of Fame?

Billy Shaw, John Hannah and Joe Delamielleure are a few of the other offensive guards recently inducted into the Hall of Fame

With all due respect to Munchak and his accomplishments, if his name was Tom Jones and he went to Wake Forest, he wouldn't be a candidate for this job.

Why should his Penn State ties make such a difference?

Penn State fans, recently scolded by the perceived betrayal of Bill O'Brien, are afraid of becoming a "stepping stone job" that has to replace a head coach every few years. The idea of bringing in a "Penn State guy" would theoretically prevent that from happening.

There's no reason to think Munchak would move on for another job, that's for sure. Unless he was fired.

If Munchak wasn't a Penn State legend, would he be a top candidate given his 22-26 NFL record and no college coaching/recruiting experience?

— Phil Gianficaro (@philgianficaro) January 7, 2014

There's an argument to be made, though, that a coach moving on to take a better job is a positive in some ways. 

Whether it be O'Brien going to Houston, Charlie Strong going to Texas from Louisville or Steve Sarkisian leaving Washington for USC, one factor remains consistent: success.

When coaches move on to a better job, it's a direct product of success. O'Brien undeniably left Penn State in better shape than it was in when he arrived. The same can be said for Strong and Sarkisian at their former jobs.

As a fan, isn't that all you can ask for? A head coach who comes in and improves the program?

Dave Joyner and his process were successful the last time a coaching hire was made. O'Brien was not a household name, but was without a doubt the right man for the job.

If the next coach that comes in has similar success and then leaves for the NFL, you could make a case that Joyner actually knows what he's doing. 

That should give fans enough confidence to not worry about tenure. Coaching changes happen. The days of Bobby Bowden and Joe Paterno are gone. Coaching changes are a part of the game.

Fear of a different coach leaving after a couple of years is not a good reason to hire Munchak. Neither is his resume.

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Nebraska Football Recruiting: Bo Pelini Needs to Find Next Terry Joseph Fast

It's official. Nebraska will now be seeking its fourth defensive backs coach in just five years.

The Lincoln Journal Star has confirmed that Huskers defensive backs coach Terry Joseph will accept the offer to be Texas A&M's secondary coach.

Current Nebraska players expressed their disappointment in Joseph leaving through Twitter.

However, head coach Bo Pelini now has to think beyond just the current players on his roster. In fact, he needs to move quickly to replace Joseph for the sake of recruiting, as current Nebraska commits have started to react.

With roots in the South, Joseph was a big key in Nebraska's recruiting plan. He joined the Huskers in 2012 after two seasons with Tennessee, where he was the defensive backs coach and recruiting coordinator.

Joseph also coached under Derek Dooley at Louisiana Tech.

A native of Louisiana, Joseph has strong ties to the state football programs in the South. He's known as a strong recruiter, something Nebraska definitely benefited from.

He was also the factor in five of Nebraska's 19 commitments.

Due to this, Pelini will likely want to wait to fill the vacant position. In fact, the head coach has had time to start putting some thought into possible outcomes.

Prior to interviewing, Joseph did tell Pelini he would talk with him before accepting any position. That means Pelini has had some idea of what could possibly come.

So what will Pelini do?

There is a lot of message board fodder discussing the potential of Pelini taking over the defensive backs. This would then free up a spot to hire former Nebraska quarterback Joe Ganz as an assistant.

While many fans would like to see Ganz stick around, he unfortunately does not offer Nebraska what it needs after losing Joseph.

Plus, many fans worry about Pelini spreading himself too thin by taking on the responsibilities of overseeing the defensive backs. While the head coach has been actively involved in this area, many feel his role shouldn't require him doing too much himself.

Pelini would also still be missing the help that's needed for recruiting in the South.

That means he will likely look to hire someone to replace Joseph. The question then becomes who that will be.

Pelini probably has a long list to consider. However, there are three names that are likely on his shortlist. Those names are former Nebraska defensive backs coach Marvin Sanders, UNI defensive backs coach Daniel Bullocks and Ole Miss defensive line coach/defense recruiting coordinator Chris Kiffin.

Each of those three names offers something unique to Nebraska.

For Sanders, it's the familiarity with the program. He was the defensive backs coach in 2003 and from 2008-2011. He then followed Carl Pelini to FAU to be the defensive coordinator. After two months on the job, he left to be the defensive backs coach at USC.

However, Sanders was later relieved of his duties by the Trojans once Clancy Pendergast was hired as defensive coordinator. After a turbulent couple of years, Sanders settled in as the head coach at Loyola High School in Los Angeles, Calif. on February 25, 2013.

If Sanders were to be hired back by Nebraska, he would bring his ties from his time in North Carolina with him. He was also a successful coach for the Huskers, and fans seem to be open to his return.

Another candidate familiar with the program is Bullocks. In his second season with NIU, Bullocks is a Nebraska alum. He played safety for the Huskers and was a co-captain his senior year.

Bullocks went on to play for the Detroit Lions for five years.

While young, Bullocks does provide a lot of potential for Nebraska. A native of Chattanooga, Tenn., Bullocks possesses the ability to connect with young recruits in the South. With his experience on and off the field, he would be able to bring a lot to the table.

As for Kiffin, he has the least amount of exposure to Nebraska, but he is still very familiar with the program. He spent two years in charge of offensive quality control from Feb. 2008 to Feb. 2010. This means he has also worked directly with Pelini.

Kiffin has since spent time as Arkansas State's defensive line coach. There is no denying Kiffin's ties in the South. Those could prove to be very beneficial in replacing Joseph.

Additionally, Kiffin is good at what he coaches. In his first year in Oxford, he helped Old Miss rank first in the SEC and fourth nationally in tackles for loss (7.9 per game), per OleMissSports.com.

The list likely doesn't end there for Pelini, but Sanders, Bullocks and Kiffin are likely near the top.

Replacing Joseph won't be easy. However, the Huskers have had to make replacements at the defensive backs coaching position before.

Building stability will be key, so Pelini will want to seek a candidate that will wish to stick around a while. That will be crucial for both recruiting and developing players once at Nebraska.

Junior Corey Cooper valued the two years with Joseph.

"It meant a lot to me," Cooper told the Lincoln Journal Star. "I finally had the same DB coach for two years straight for the first time, so that helped me a lot with improvement in my game."

Younger players will be hoping for a more permanent coach. While good assistants have a tendency to get snatched away, Pelini needs to focus on someone who will want to stay at Nebraska for a decent amount of time.

Whether it's one of the three candidates listed above or someone else entirely, Pelini needs to move quick.

Recruiting and the 2014 season will rely on it.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Jameis Winston Has Nothing Left to Prove in College but He's Stuck There in 2014

Jameis Winston had a household nickname before he ever took a snap in college.

As the 2013 college football season rolled along and Florida State was outscoring every team it faced by an average of nearly 40 points, the legend of "Famous Jameis" grew and grew, nearly as big as Johnny Football; bigger, still, than RGIII.

The difference between Winston and the two most recent Heisman Trophy winners before him, however, is that Famous Jameis won a much more important trophy to end his season, both for his own legacy and his school.

"Jameis grew up unbelievably tonight," an emotional Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher told ESPN's Heather Cox after Florida State came from behind to beat Auburn, 34-31, in the BCS National Championship on Monday. "Tonight's probably the best football game he's ever played, because he struggled early and that's what big-time players do. When the money is on the line, they can suck it up in the fourth quarter and do what they have to do."

When what is on the line? The money? There was money on the line?

THERE WAS MONEY ON THE LINE?!?!

No, there was not money on the line. At least not for Winston. At least not yet.

The common idiom Fisher used in his post-game interview was nothing more than sportswriter fodder, an aptly-put yet perhaps ill-timed reminder that Winston not only didn't get paid for his involvement in one of the great comebacks in college football history, NCAA rules preclude him from making any money off the moment as long as he remains a student-athlete at Florida State. For Winston, that could be quite a while.

Woe is the redshirt freshman.

On Monday, however, there was no woe. Not for Seminole fans. Not for Winston.

When asked by ESPN's Tom Rinaldi after the game how big the moment was, Winston calmly stated, "It's the biggest. Happy Birthday…We're doing it big all over the country. All over the world. And I'm proud."

He should be proud. He did something no player has ever done before.

Winston is just the third freshman quarterback to start a BCS National Championship Game, and the only one to win it. Of the eight who have had the opportunity to try, Winston is just the third Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback to hoist the BCS crystal in the same year.

He is the only freshman, ever, to win the Heisman Trophy and a national championship in the same year.

So what next? What is there left to do in college football? Win another national title? Win another Heisman Trophy and another Walter Camp Award and another Davey O'Brien Award?

That's nice. That would all be…nice.

Johnny Manziel probably thought a lot of that might happen to him too after winning the Heisman Trophy as a redshirt freshman last season. Manziel was a finalist for the award this year, but his season was mired more in scandal and unfulfilled expectations than hardware and college football glory.

Johnny Football will certainly be in the NFL next year, waiting the customary three years (or two with a redshirt season) before declaring for the professional ranks. Famous Jameis has to wait another year.

Winston will have to spend at least one more season in college before he can cash in on being the best quarterback on the planet who can't legally buy a drink. Heck, even if he was old enough to get into a Tallahassee bar—Winston turned 20 on Monday—he can't even accept a drink if someone offers to buy one for him, not without violating a number of school and NCAA rules (and a state ordinance or two).

Winston, by the way, isn't complaining about this one bit. At least not yet, anyway. Winston had a chance to play professional baseball while still playing football at Florida State and opted to remain part of the Seminoles baseball team instead. By all accounts, the kid is having as much fun as a second-year college athlete could possibly have, scandal notwithstanding.

"We are champions together," Winston told Rinaldi before being ushered to the dais to collect his MVP award and kiss the BCS trophy. "And through everything that we went through—through all the haters, through every single thing—we came out victorious."

They haters aren't going away. Just ask Manziel what that's like, and he didn't even win a national title on top of his Heisman award. If Florida State is going to come out victorious next year, there will be a lot—a lot—more haters now.

Florida State should be favored to win the reshuffled ACC next season, even with the addition of Notre Dame and Louisville to the schedule. Two of the Seminoles' ranked opponents—Clemson and Louisville—are losing their first-round caliber quarterbacks to the NFL, and while other ACC teams could provide a tough out next year—FSU plays Miami, N.C. State, Louisville and Syracuse on the road—the neutral-site game against Oklahoma State to open the season may be what ultimately decides whether Winston and the Seminoles are back in the title hunt again next year.

So that's what Famous Jameis has to look forward to in 2014. To be honest, after accomplishing all he did this year, Oklahoma State is probably not the Cowboys team he wishes he were facing next season.

Look, I'm really not trying to make this a pound the desk, clench the fist "hot sports take" about the perils of being a college athlete. Winning the national championship and the Heisman Trophy in the same year is an incredible college accomplishment, and it really shouldn't have anything to do with the NFL, or a player's potential earnings therein.

Having said that—here comes the fist clenching and light desk pounding—college athletes, at least the ones as good as Winston who bring in billions of dollars for the NCAA member institutions and the rights holders that broadcast games, should get a cut of the prize. Give the kids something and put the money in escrow until each player graduates college. Do something. You can't honestly look at the spectacle of this year's BCS title game and think the players don't deserve more than they're getting.

ESPN showed the game on FOUR different networks Monday night! ESPN had the main telecast, ESPNews had a football nerdgasm looking at the All-22 and other coaching angles, ESPN2 had some sort of cocktail party where we could watch an array of ESPN talent mingle with celebrities while watching the game together, and ESPN Classic, which I didn't even know still existed, had the game without any sound from ESPN talking heads at all.

In addition, the Worldwide Leader added multiple streams on its WatchESPN app, including both teams' radio broadcast synced to the video and a camera that just panned the crowd all game.

Was ESPN just there for the journalism of it all? The payout for televising events like the BCS—and next year's playoff structure—is huge for ESPN.

Now think about this: Every single person on every single one of those telecasts made more money to be at that game Monday night than Winston will make this year and next, combined.

If players aren't going to get paid for playing in the regular season, let the bowl coalitions throw in some extra scratch as a bonus for making the game. Forget about iPads and luggage for a bowl gift, give each kid a few grand in cash for making a bowl game, and increase that payout based on the prestige of the bowl.

On top of that, include some sort of monetary bonus for winning a national award as well. Should the Heisman come with a $1 million prize? Of course it should.

Again, all of this money could be held in escrow—with the schools collecting the interest—until the player graduates from that school or, in the event of a transfer, any four-year institution. Failure to graduate, even after leaving early to go to the NFL, and the player forfeits the money to be either donated to charity on his behalf or given to the school's athletics fund.

Either that, or if paying the players is totally out of the question, allow them to declare for the NFL draft sooner.

The logic of waiting three years used to make sense when the NFL players were so much bigger and stronger than those in college. Is there any NFL quarterback bigger and stronger than Winston? Maybe two or three, tops, but the idea that he isn't physically ready for the NFL at 20 years old is preposterous.

Johnny Manziel may not have been physically ready for the rigors of the NFL after one season in college, but a second season hasn't really changed his physique at all. Hell, RGIII won the Heisman in his fourth year in college before being drafted second overall, and his body still isn't ready for those professional rigors.

The rules for draft eligibility protect the schools from losing kids like in college basketball and protect the NFL from being inundated with talented "projects" who are worth drafting but not ready to help a team right away like the NBA.

The only thing the rule doesn't protect is the talent. Winston will have to spend another year in college, hoping to repeat what he did in 2013 while navigating the landmines of injury that come with every snap of the football. Ask Jadeveon Clowney what he thinks of the draft eligibility process after the year he had in college.

For now, until the draft rules change or the demand to pay players reaches a more definitive resolution, the system will remain what it is. Winston gets to be big man on campus for another year. The fans are happy to have the best player in the sport come back for a second season. The schools and media partners line their pockets off his presence in the game, and the NFL has another great star draped in hardware one year down the pipeline.

With a star like Winston, everybody wins. Especially when the money is on the line.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Top Plays from 2014 BCS National Championship Game

The 2014 BCS National Championship Game delivered on Monday night.

In a back-and-forth contest, the No. 1 Florida State Seminoles put away the No. 2 Auburn Tigers, 34-31, in one of the most exciting BCS national title games in recent memory. Some even called it the best ever.

Like any other great game, Monday’s contest was filled with amazing plays from both sides of the ball. Most of which occurred within the final five minutes of play.

Needless to say, this will be one of those games that will have sports fans talking for quite some time.

Luckily, B/R put together a list of the top 10 plays from the 16th and final BCS National Championship Game so you can relive the moments whenever you’d like.

 

Begin Slideshow

Winners and Losers of College Football Bowl Season

On Monday evening, Florida State and Auburn put a tidy bow on the season and the BCS era, playing what should become an iconic game in college football history. The Seminoles scored the game-winning touchdown with 13 seconds left to come back and beat the Tigers, 34-31.

With the completion of that game, the 2013 season is officially part of the past. We can now look forward to a new chapter of college football history, starting with the four-team College Football Playoff in 2014.

Before we do, however, let's take a moment to pause and reflect on the last non-playoff bowl season. Right from the opening game between Washington State and Colorado State, it was clear that this could be a special slate of games—and it didn't disappoint.

Here are some winners and losers from the past month.

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AJ McCarron's Mom Wasn't a Big Fan of Jameis Winston's Postgame Speech

In the emotion and excitement of winning the final BCS National Championship Game, Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston made one grievous error: He forgot his cue cards for the postgame speech.

Fresh off a dramatic, 34-31 victory Monday night over the Auburn Tigers, the Heisman Trophy winner joined ESPN's Tom Rinaldi for a quick interview.

Winston’s answers to Rinaldi’s questions bubbled over into an overwhelmed monologue—as postgame interviews tend to do in such emotionally charged moments. 

Get your own valid XHTML YouTube embed code

The speech (video via SportsCenterZone on YouTube) wasn’t exactly a sterling example of proper grammar, and the people of the Internet began to pick the oration to pieces.

Notable among the detractors of Winston’s speech appeared to be Dee Dee Bonner, mother of Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron. Bonner tweeted out a message ostensibly aimed at the FSU quarterback and his grammar in the postgame interview.

Bonner quickly deleted the tweet, but not before Twitter user @PichieRalmer could screenshot the message. 

This tweet got deleted fast by Aj McCarron's mommy. pic.twitter.com/GjygWLs3ue

— Richie (@PichieRalmer) January 7, 2014

Other Twitter users chimed in on Winston’s speech, lobbing criticism at the freshman quarterback. 

This sums up Jameis Winston's post game speech in a nutshell pic.twitter.com/1vildlslYJ

— Dustin Poynter (@dustinpoynter) January 7, 2014

Tebow never would have gotten away w/the speech Jameis Winston made. But it's easy 2 demonize White Christians. #BCSNationalChampionship

— Andrew Parra (@AParra210) January 7, 2014

According to Tyler Moorehead of CollegeSpun.com, Katherine Webb—McCarron’s girlfriend—also enjoyed the criticism of Winston’s speech.

Stop doing this, people associated with AJ McCarron pic.twitter.com/0OwnxiaORW

— Tony Manfred (@tonymanfred) January 7, 2014

Call it sour grapes. Call it a lament for the modern education system. Paint the reaction to Winston’s speech however you like, but answer this question: What do we expect of our leading athletes?

Perhaps we’ve grown accustomed to quarterbacks aspiring to prove their chops as future ESPN analysts. Maybe we need the flash on the field and the polish in the aftermath. Maybe we're spoiled.

Bonner has since apologized for her tweet, saying she never meant to offend anyone with her words.

Any1 that knows our family knows we r far from racist. My tweet was not in anyway meant that way. I sincerely apologize if it offended any1

— Dee Dee McCarron (@DeeDeeBonner) January 7, 2014

Regardless of his speech or the criticism thereof, the victory and the hardware were Winston’s Monday night. Perhaps sometime in the future he’ll be speaking the King’s and gobbling pulled pork sliders in the booth as another young star carves out his name on the field.

Until then, he’ll be dining on crystal.

 

Winston: Strong by any pronunciation.

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National Signing Day 2014: Programs with the Most to Gain

For many programs across the nation, college football's national signing day can be a turning point that leads to success on the field or one that leaves coaches that put in months of hard work with an empty feeling.

In the past few months, however, the college football landscape has shifted. With Charlie Strong officially taking over for the Texas Longhorns and Steve Sarkisian leaving the Washington Huskies for greener pastures with the USC Trojans, several questions remain for the new head coaches and the programs they left behind.

With national signing day less than a month away on Feb. 5, here are three programs that can potentially lock up great recruits who will change their team over the next few seasons.

 

USC Trojans

Steve Sarkisian has been considered a recruiting guru for years whether it was as an assistant coach at USC or the head coach at Washington. With his ties already strong in Southern California, Sarkisian is expected by Trojan fans to pick up right where he left off.

Thanks to a recent commitment from tight end Bryce Dixon, Sarkisian seems to be on the right path. During the live broadcast of the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, Dixon committed and said, "USC has a good tradition of tight ends. They're bringing coach Sark(isian) in. It'll be a great addition and I think I can keep the tradition going of good tight ends."

After the Dixon commitment, the Trojans still have multiple high-caliber recruits who are considering signing with the program. USC currently ranks as 247Sports' No. 25 recruiting class, but signing day could be a game changer.

With 5-star players like Adoree' Jackson, John Smith and Damien Mama all leaning toward attending USC, according to 247Sports, the Trojans might come out of signing day with a recruiting class that could quickly change the outlook under Sarkisian.

 

Georgia Bulldogs

Over the last few seasons, Georgia has been on the cusp of making a BCS bowl game but has simply fallen short against other SEC opponents. But with the addition of two more 5-star running backs in Sony Michel and Nick Chubb to add to the stable of Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall, the Bulldogs look like they are already in good hands on offense.

What lies ahead is a handful of defensive recruits that are strongly considering the Bulldogs, headlined by 5-star defensive end Lorenzo Carter. The No. 2 weak-side defensive end (according to 247Sports) from Norcross, Ga., told Tom VanHaaren of ESPN about a tradition that he plans to uphold:

While that may seem like a silly statement to bring up in a recruiting story, when considering that the distance between Norcross and Athens is just over an hour by car, according to MapQuest, Carter would be able to drive back home to enjoy time with his family.

Along with Carter, the Bulldogs are also waiting to hear from 4-star defenders Rashaan Evans and Elisha Shaw. If just two of the three dynamic defensive players commit, the Bulldogs could boost their recruiting rankings and provide a huge boost to their front seven for years to come.

 

Texas Longhorns

Welcome to the big leagues, Charlie Strong.

The same man who brought Teddy Bridgewater to Louisville will be expected to immediately turn around the Texas program and get the job done on the recruiting trail as well.

Luckily, Strong might have brought in one of the nation's best dual-threat quarterbacks without speaking a word to the young man. Following the hire of Strong, Jerrod Heard, a 4-star quarterback from Denton Guyer High School told The Dallas Morning News that he will stick with the Longhorns:

Strong will also have to continue to woo players who strongly considered joining Mack Brown's old team to come to Texas. Heavily-recruited players like Solomon Thomas and Edwin Freeman, both defensive players, are still considering the Longhorns, but are still holding out.

According to The Dallas Morning News, Heard wasn't the only player who liked the hire of Strong:

With much still to be decided in the recruitment of several of Texas' top targets, Strong still has his hands full with this year's recruiting class. If he can convince players to sign with him the same way that he did with Louisville, Strong's first recruiting class with the Longhorns could be a memorable one.

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AP College Football Poll 2014: Post-BCS Championship Rankings Released

The Associated Press has released its Top 25 poll for Week 20. It should come as little surprise that the organization unanimously declared Florida State its national champion. 

While crowning the undefeated Seminoles is far from controversial, fans may take umbrage with how the AP ranked the remainder of the teams at the conclusion of bowl season.

Let’s take a look at the updated standings, compare those results to Bleacher Report’s final Top 25 poll and recap the most impactful games that shaped this season-ending list.

FSU clearly deserves the No. 1 spot in the AP Top 25 poll and every other sort of college football ranking system under the sun. The team dominated throughout the 2013 campaign and capped off its run with a thrilling victory in the BCS Championship Game against No. 2 Auburn.

Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston deserves much of the credit for taking his team this far. He delivered a coup de grace in the form of a two-yard touchdown strike with 13 seconds left on the game clock.

Rob Carlin of CSNWashington.com was excited about Kelvin Benjamin’s catch:

The Tigers put up a strong fight before submitting. Star running back Tre Mason bullied his way to a 195 yards rushing and two total touchdowns, including a 37-yard run to put his team ahead with just over a minute left to play.

Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn heaped praise on his players after the contest, as per Seminoles.com: "I told them in the locker room, we put together the biggest turnaround in the history of college football. We were on the brink of making it one of those magical seasons.”

Unfortunately for the Tigers and their fans, they will have to settle for the No. 2 spot in the final AP poll.

Following the two championship-game teams is No. 3 Michigan State, which narrowly edged No. 11 Stanford in a 24-20 thriller that fittingly took place during the 100th edition of the Rose Bowl. The Spartans finished the year 13-1 and delivered the Cardinal their third loss of the 2013 campaign.

South Carolina comes in at No. 4 in the latest rankings, vaulting up four spots after a convincing win over No. 22 Wisconsin in the Capital One Bowl. The Gamecocks' second-half rally allowed them to beat the Badgers by double digits in Orlando.

Missouri rounds out the Top Five, as the SEC runner-up won a shootout against No. 17 Oklahoma State in the Cotton Bowl. The Tigers had a better-than-expected season and will have much to build on heading into 2014.

Oklahoma jumped up to No. 6, just ahead of the No. 7 Alabama team it beat in the Sugar Bowl. The Sooners took care of business against a sluggish Crimson Tide team, even though they were a major underdog at kickoff.

Clemson takes the No. 8 spot after dispatching a slumping Ohio State squad in the Orange Bowl. The Buckeyes fell to No. 12 and ended their season on a two-game losing streak.

Oregon and UCF round out the Top 10, with the No. 9 Ducks capitalizing on an Alamo Bowl blowout over Texas and the No. 10 Knights proving they belong with a convincing BCS win over Baylor. The Bears dropped to No. 13 after the 10-point loss in the Fiesta Bowl.

It was a thrilling college football campaign and featured outcomes that almost no one would have predicted at the start of the season. 2014 promises to be even more exciting, but first fans must get through the long offseason.

At least they will have something to debate in the form of this final, Week 20 Associated Press Top 25 poll.

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FSU vs. Auburn: NFL Draft Prospects That Helped Their Stock in BCS Title Game

The Florida State Seminoles won the BCS National Championship, but there were players on both teams who helped boost their NFL draft stock heading into May.

Despite a 21-3 lead in the second quarter, the Auburn Tigers were unable to pull out the win, losing 34-31 to the Seminoles.  Jameis Winston led Florida State down the field for a game-winning touchdown with just 13 seconds remaining, helping him earn MVP honors for the game.

But Winston won't be able to declare for the NFL draft this year, so let's take a look at a few players who can and who had great games that helped move them up draft boards across the country.

 

Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn

One of the fastest-rising prospects in the country, Auburn's Greg Robinson helped himself even more in this game, making solid plays in both the running and passing game. 

Robinson was solid throughout and was rarely beat.  But his best play of the game came on a screen pass from Nick Marshall to Tre Mason.  If you watch the play below, you see Robinson (No. 73) make a critical block in the second level to help Mason get into the end zone.

At 6'5'' and 320 pounds, Robinson is a big boy on the offensive line.  While that size helps him in the trenches, it's his footwork that makes him a top-tier prospect, as he's capable of sticking to his man regardless of the play called.

With another big game, Robinson is quickly looking like an early first-round pick.

 

Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State

He may have been worn down by the end of the night, but Timmy Jernigan showed just how disruptive he can be against elite competition, and that will go a long way in the eyes of NFL scouts.

Bleacher Report's own Matt Miller gave his thoughts on Jernigan during the game, and he had a lot of positive things to say about the junior defensive tackle.

For as big as he is, Jernigan is a surprisingly quick player on the line.  He does a good job using his hands and feet to create separation and clog up rushing lanes while also using his size and strength to push offensive linemen back on their heels.  He's not the most explosive player off the snap, but his range makes up for it, at least at the college level.

A big game like this bodes well for Jernigan, as now teams will likely be looking at him early in the second round.

 

Tre Mason, RB, Auburn

After scoring the go-ahead 37-yard touchdown with just 1:19 remaining in the game, it looked like Mason had given the Tigers the national title.  But it wasn't to be after the Seminoles were able to drive down the field and grab the game-winning score.

That shouldn't take away from an incredible game form Mason.  He finished with 195 rushing yards on 34 carries along with two total touchdowns.  He was able to finish the season with 1,816 rushing yards and 24 total touchdowns while averaging an impressive 5.7 yards per carry.

He's only 5'10'', but Mason is arguably one of the best running back prospects available.  Mason makes up for his lack of size with some very impressive lower-body strength, which he uses to keep his legs turning and keep going for extra yards.  

Mason's vision and explosiveness at the line of scrimmage reminds me a lot of how Eddie Lacy runs for the Green Bay Packers, although he's clearly not as big.  Still, that's a big compliment for the young running back.  He's not the fastest guy on the field, but he can find a hole and use his legs to pick up yards in bunches.

This game only proved to me further that Mason is the real deal, and he should be one of the first running backs taken, going somewhere in the third round.

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Auburn Football Recruiting: Incoming Freshmen with Chance to Make Impact in 2014

Out of miracles, Auburn came up just short of the national title with a gut-wrenching 34-31 loss to Florida State in the Jan. 6 BCS title game. Now, the Tigers and their fans will quickly fix their gaze to the future with the hopes this program can sustain the success it found this year. 

The way recruiting is going early, Auburn stands a good chance to do just that: 

These next three players, in particular, appear poised to make an impact not just down the road, but next season. 

 

Tre' Williams, LB, 6'2", 230 lbs. 

Tre Williams is almost a certain lock to make an impact at Auburn next year. He is an exceptional prospect, and linebacker is a position of need for Auburn. 

He is listed by 247 Sports' composite rankings as the second-best inside linebacker of his class and the 33rd overall recruit.

The 2014 commit appears to be best suited for the inside linebacker position. He has an excellent first step and a natural ability to read and react to the offensive play. 

He also has the strength and attitude to handle blockers in the run game.

If he is going to struggle, it will come in space. Although he has a good initial burst, he does not have a great top speed, and he is stiff while trying to change directions.  

 

D'haquille Williams, WR, 6'3", 213 lbs. 

D'haquille Williams is ranked by 247 Sports' composite rankings as the No. 1 junior college player in this class. His addition will help the Tigers find a more balanced attack on offense. 

Just his commitment to Auburn is a boost to the program. Auburn didn't land Williams until he decommitted from LSU in May. I'm sure Auburn won't be shy about pointing out this recruiting win over a conference foe as they push on in the recruiting trail. 

Williams has the talent and production to justify the recruiting battle for his services. According to NOLA.com, Williams produced 67 catches for 18 touchdowns and nearly 1,300 yards this past season. 

Williams is a rare combination of physicality and speed. 247 Sports lists him with 4.4 time in the 40 and watching film, it quickly becomes evident he is eager to attack defensive backs. 

 

Racean Thomas, RB, 5'11", 196 lbs. 

The potential impact Racean Thomas can make next year is largely out of his control. Incumbent running back and Heisman Trophy finalist Tre Mason is still undecided about his future. Mason has filed paperwork to the NFL Draft Advisory Committee to find out his perceived draft value in the upcoming draft.

If Mason doesn't come back, Thomas will still have to fight for playing time with the returning Cameron Artis-Payne and Corey Grant. No matter what happens, however, head coach Gus Malzahn should find playing time for this talented youngster.

Thomas was named the Gatorade Player of the Year for a season where he rushed for 2,211 yards and 32 touchdowns. 

In 247 Sports' composite rankings, Thomas is ranked as the third-best back in this class and the 17th-best recruit overall. 

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2014 Preseason College Football Rankings: Early Look at Top 25 Teams

After a thrilling final BCS National Championship Game capped off college football's magnificent 2013-14 campaign, there's nothing else to do but look ahead to the top teams of the upcoming season. 

There's going to be a lot of news made between January and August, but it's never too early to take a look at how the toughest programs stack up on paper. 

Without further ado, here's a sneak peek at the teams that'll open up the 2014 season.

 

1. Florida State

Jameis Winston will spend at least one more year under Jimbo Fisher's tutelage at Florida State after winning the national championship against Auburn. Even though guys like Kelvin Benjamin, Devonta Freeman and Cameron Erving could leave for the 2014 NFL draft, FSU's roster is stacked with elite talent from top to bottom.

 

2. Alabama

The biggest question facing Alabama in 2014 is simple: How will Nick Saban account for the loss of A.J. McCarron?

Interestingly enough, McCarron was quick to dismiss any notion that his Crimson Tide will suffer without him, as reported by Andrew Gribble of AL.com:

Everybody was worried when Greg (McElroy) was leaving. I heard people say Alabama was going to fall off. I'm sure one of these guys will step up and do an unbelievable job and make a lot of Alabama fans proud and the rest of our coaching staff proud.

Whoever lines up behind center for 'Bama in 2014, you can be sure he'll have plenty of help from T.J. Yeldon and the rest of the team's talented running backs. 

 

3. Auburn

Nick Marshall will be back, and one more year under Gus Malzahn could make him a Heisman hopeful by the time 2014 is over and done with. Additionally, he'll be playing with most of the same teammates, as running back Tre Mason and left tackle Greg Robinson are the only significant expected losses via the NFL draft. 

 

4. Ohio State

Braxton Miller is reportedly staying at Ohio State for the 2014 season, as first reported by Pete Thamel of Sports Illustrated and then confirmed by Joe Schad of ESPN: 

Given the exceptional young talent coming back on offense, Miller should have a huge season. If the Buckeyes can learn how to play defense, then this team could go all the way. 

 

5. Stanford

The Cardinal have a tall task ahead of them replacing stalwarts like running back Tyler Gaffney and linebackers Shayne Skov and Trent Murphy—all of whom will be headed to the NFL. But head coach David Shaw has impressively built on Jim Harbaugh's excellent recruiting. This program won't have any issues replacing its stars. 

 

6. Oregon

Marcus Mariota made the right decision to stay in school after finishing off his 2013 campaign with a whimper. Losing big games will only help him become more formidable for the Ducks in 2014, however, and if this team can figure out a way to beat Stanford, then it could finally go undefeated.  

 

7. Oklahoma

Trevor Knight put a huge target on his back for media praise and relentless scrutiny by having the game of his young life against Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.  The freshman phenom passed for 348 yards with four touchdowns and just one interception, leading Oklahoma over 'Bama, 45-31.

No wonder Bob Stoops is pumped about his team's ability to play with any team in the nation. Speaking on ESPN Radio's "The Herd with Colin Cowherd," via ESPN.com:

Hey, I've got total respect for Alabama, but you can't deny what we did last night. Obviously, we can play with anybody, whether it's the SEC or anyone else. And to say we can't … well, Alabama's been rolling the SEC for the last three years and we didn't seem to be overwhelmed last night. I'm done with that talk.

Oklahoma is on the rise, and if Knight continues to progress in 2014 like he did this past year, then the Sooners will be tough to stop.  

 

8. UCLA

Brett Hundley is coming back to school, according to Edward Lewis of Rivals.com, and he gives UCLA a shot to take down Stanford and Oregon in the Pac-12 this upcoming season:

Jim Mora has been brilliant on the recruiting trail, and he's got talent coming into the program from all across the nation. 

 

9. Baylor

Baylor will be in stiff competition with Oklahoma in the Big 12, but Bryce Petty gives this team a chance to win every game. This team will need to overcome the loss of key starters on the offensive line—including Cyril Richardson—but points haven't been hard to come by for the Bears the past few years. 

 

10. Michigan State

Losing cornerback Darqueze Dennard (if he declares) and senior linebacker Max Bullough will be tough for the Spartans. These two players were arguably the best at their positions in 2013.

But the stellar play of quarterback Connor Cook toward the end of the season gives fans hope that Michigan State's offense will carry more of the load in 2014. 

 

11. LSU

It'll be interesting to see what LSU's offense looks like next season without Zach Mettenberger and likely without top receivers Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry. All five offensive linemen should be back in place, meaning Les Miles could resort to a run-heavy approach once again. 

But nobody should expect anything less than another 10-win season for the Tigers—a mark Miles has hit four years running. 

 

12. South Carolina

Losing Connor Shaw and Jadeveon Clowney is tough, but the Gamecocks will return many starters on both sides of the ball. Dylan Thompson is coming into the season with three starts under his belt already, and he should be able to run Steve Spurrier's offense smoothly from the get-go. 

 

13. Georgia

Georgia's defense was atrocious in 2013, allowing 29 points per game. Mark Richt must fix this ailing unit, especially in light of Aaron Murray's departure on the offensive side.

He'll have a couple of young pass-rushers to build around, however, in Jordan Jenkins and Leonard Floyd, and the young players in the defensive secondary should be much-improved with another year together.  

 

14. Missouri

The Missouri Tigers are in good hands offensively with Maty Mauk, who'll be starting at quarterback with James Franklin leaving. Mauk threw 11 touchdowns and just two interceptions in backup duty in 2013, and that experience will serve him well in the season to come. 

On defense, losing key starters Michael Sam, Kony Ealy, Andrew Wilson and E.J. Gaines will be a huge challenge to overcome. Young players must step up for Missouri to repeat as SEC East champs. 

 

15. USC

Steve Sarkisian brings a fresh vibe to Southern California, which finished off a tumultuous 2013 season in style with a 45-20 blowout win over Fresno State.

It will be fascinating to see if Cody Kessler can keep redshirt freshman Max Brown from taking over the starting quarterback duties. But whoever starts behind center, you can bet the Trojans will lean heavily on their many talented running backs early in the year. 

 

16. Wisconsin

Running back Melvin Gordon is an intriguing early favorite to win the Heisman Trophy in 2014. Wisconsin will lose James White, which means Gordon will likely receive a heavier workload next season. This young man is capable of carrying the Badgers to a Big Ten Championship.

 

17. Clemson

Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins will both be playing for NFL teams next season, meaning Clemson's offense must find a new identity. However, the Tigers will be returning many defensive starters and key offensive linemen, so not all hope is lost.

That said, it'll be shocking if Clemson wins 10 games.  

 

18. Ole Miss

Look out, SEC offenses, when Ole Miss comes your way.

With returning defensive starters like Robert Nkemdiche, Tony Conner, Denzel Nkemdiche and Cody Prewitt, the Runnin' Rebels will be formidable on the defensive side of the ball. 

Whether or not the offense can win games is a question that has yet to be answered, but this program is certainly headed in the right direction under head coach Hugh Freeze. 

 

19. Arizona State

Arizona State's offense should be explosive with returning starters quarterback Taylor Kelly and receiver Jaelen Strong, who were key members of last year's team that averaged 41 points per game. However, as pointed out by Dave Bartoo, only five returning starters are coming back on the defensive side:

In particular, losing defensive tackle Will Sutton will be a huge blow for this defense.

 

20. Washington

Losing Sarkisian was brutal, but Washington rebounded nicely by signing Chris Petersen away from Boise State. It was a perfect marriage for both parties, as Petersen needed to move on.

Look for the Huskies to be formidable on defense, but the biggest key for this team's success will be whether or not running back Bishop Sankey and quarterback Keith Price can be adequately replaced.  

 

21. Notre Dame

With the return of Everett Golson, Notre Dame's offense should be much-improved in 2014. However, this team is losing some huge pieces on defense, as Stephon Tuitt and Louis Nix III will both be entering the NFL next season. 

And the schedule for 2014 looks brutal.

With 10 opponents that went to bowl games this past season, Brian Kelly will do well to lead his team to eight wins.

 

22. Oklahoma State

The Cowboys are losing a lot of key starters on both sides of the ball, including quarterback Clint Chelf, defensive tackles Calvin Barnett, cornerback Justin Gilbert and linebackers Shaun Lewis and Caleb Lavey.

It's hard to imagine Oklahoma State will be able to match its 2013 total of 10 wins.

 

23. UCF

Blake Bortles ditched his senior season in favor of the NFL draft, and UCF will have its work cut out to duplicate last year's success. That said, given the way this team's defense clamped down on opposing offenses this past year, the Knights will be a tough out every week no matter who they're playing. 

 

24. Texas A&M

Without Johnny Manziel, Jake Matthews and Mike Evans, the Aggies will be hard-pressed to score 44-plus points a game on offense. But the real issues facing Kevin Sumlin lie on the defensive side of the ball. Texas A&M was horrible defensively in 2013, and he's got his work cut out for him to improve. 

 

25. Michigan

Michigan should get better in 2014.

With Devin Gardner starting for his second straight year and running back Derrick Green coming on strong, the Wolverines should be able to move the ball consistently on offense.

Michigan's defense was young and raw last season, but many starters are returning, and they should play better together with another season under their belts.

 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReed78 

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Auburn vs FSU: Highlighting Top Prospects from Epic BCS Title Game

After winning the national championship with the aid of the largest comeback in the history of the BCS title game, the Florida State Seminoles are the stars of the college football bowl season. When it comes to evaluating players for the NFL, however, there is no room to lump individuals in with their team. 

With all the talent on the field during Florida State's 34-31 win over Auburn on Monday, some time has to be spent reviewing the performances of some of the players who appear headed toward long NFL careers. 

 

Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn

Heading into the title game, third-year sophomore Greg Robinson was headed for the first round of the 2014 NFL draft if he decided to turn pro. He should be a candidate to be the first tackle off the board if he goes pro now.

Robinson proved to be the most physically dominating player on the field on Monday. The 6'5", 320-pound beast moves with a quickness and fluidity that shouldn't be possible for a man his size. 

He is punishing in the run game and can get to the second level and make blocks on screen passes. Just watch him motor downfield to make a key block on Tre Mason's touchdown catch in the first quarter. Robinson is No. 78 and picks up Terrence Brooks at the 5-yard line: 

Still, these abilities have not been questioned by scouts. Playing in the run-dominated attack at Auburn, Robinson remains raw in pass-blocking. In the title game, however, quarterback Nick Marshall threw the ball 27 times, and Robinson had little difficulty holding his own. 

 

Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State

Kelvin Benjamin is awaiting his grade from the draft evaluation board before deciding if he will turn pro. He will likely be projected to go in the second half of the first round. For instance, this mock draft by Walter Football has him going No. 26 to the Cleveland Browns. 

Benjamin didn't do anything to change that status on Monday. 

The third-year sophomore, who finished the regular season with 957 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns, finished the game with four catches for 54 yards.

He didn't do anything worth mentioning until Florida State's final offensive play. 

Of course, it was on that two-yard touchdown pass where Benjamin displayed why he is such an exciting prospect:

At 6'5" and 234 pounds, Benjamin is a beast in the red zone. On that touchdown pass, the close coverage by Chris Davis didn't matter due to Benjamin's ability to go up and get the pass. Then, Benjamin's big hands allowed him to hold onto the ball despite Davis' attempt to jar it loose.

Benjamin isn't just a red-zone threat, either. He has solid speed for his size, and he has the ability to get downfield for deep passes.

  

Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State 

Redshirt freshman Jameis Winston is not eligible for the NFL draft, which is a shame. If he had the opportunity and desire, the Heisman Trophy winner would undoubtedly be the first overall selection. 

Statistically, Winston did not have his best game on Monday. In fact, in terms of quarterback rating, it was his second-worst outing of the season. 

Still, his performance drew this comment from head coach Jimbo Fisher, via Mike Anthony of WTRF: 

For much of the night, it was Winston's worst game of the year. He was unusually inaccurate and was struggling with his reads. He was, however, nearly flawless in crunch time. 

Winston, who finished the game by going 20-of-35 for 237 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions, went 6-of-7 passing for 77 yards on the game's final drive. 

That ability to handle the pressure, even when struggling for most of the game, is invaluable for a quarterback, and it was the one thing Winston had left to prove was part of his arsenal. 

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Miami Football: Al Golden "Walks the Walk" with Decision to Stay

Four days of flirtation, endless speculation, unanswered questions and in the end, a long journey back to where things were a week ago.

Head coach Al Golden will return for a fourth year with the Miami Hurricanes, having taken himself out of the running for the Penn State opening. Silent on the matter since last Thursday, Golden responded Sunday afternoon in the form of a university-released statement.

Golden chose Coral Gables over Happy Valley, which should stand as a testament to the future of the Miami program. Past coaches departed for what were deemed bigger and better opportunities, and even if Golden mulled over a "dream job" opportunity and chance to go "home," the result was staying put—for now, at least.

Whether Miami or Penn State is the more-desirable job all depends on one's perspective. "Better" is always relative; circumstance and intangibles all play into the equation.

As it stands, the Hurricanes are closer to turning the corner than the Nittany Lions—finally out of the NCAA's crosshairs and ready to resume the rebuilding process. Bowl bans are a thing of the past, and Miami was hit with minimal scholarship reductions, leaving the program on the brink of signing the program's most well-rounded class in a decade.

In Happy Valley, "Blue & White" faithful continue riding the NCAA storm out.

Scholarship reductions have been slightly restored, but smaller numbers and missed postseasons will remain the case for two more years. There's also the Joe Paterno effect as the legacy of a legend—both good and bad—still permeates throughout Happy Valley, ready to hang over whoever paces that sideline the next several seasons.

While a Golden return to Penn State can never be counted out, fertile South Florida recruiting soil, an effort to make inroads with local high school coaches and the difference between time served and hovering sanctions, all give Miami the current edge—even for a one-time Nittany Lions team captain.

 

Full Speed Ahead: No Longer Just a 'Canes Mantra

Fair or unfair, Golden is going to pay a price locally for his recent Penn State-related courting, much of which is unrelated to this much-debated stay-or-go moment. The bulk of the frustration stems from a disappointing 35-29 record over Miami's five-year run prior to the former Temple coach's arrival.

While Golden can't be blamed for his predecessors' results, the clock is starting to tick regarding his turnaround timetable. Miami reached 7-0 in late October—days after the NCAA investigation wrapped—but the 'Canes dropped four of the next six, playing themselves out of a Coastal Division title and ACC Championship Game berth.

Golden spent the past three years as sympathetic figure to Miami fans, as well as college football enthusiasts nationwide, many of whom felt he was blindsided by the scandal. While many coaches would've cut and run, the Hurricanes leader dug in his heels and rolled up his sleeves.

Other programs inquired, but Golden tuned them out. This first-season setback, though no fault of his own, was a lesson in character and seeing a task through. There would be no shortcuts or bailing out. As recently as late December, Golden vowed that he was in it for the long haul, intent on getting Miami's mess solved.

"I made a commitment to get it done and we're going to fight our asses off until we get it done," Golden pledged hours after the bowl loss to Louisville, as reported by The Miami Herald.

While a contingent of Miami's fanbase wants to stay marred in the who, what, when, where and why of this weekend's events, Golden is moving forward with no desire to dwell.

The head coach plowed through his scheduled local-radio appearance Monday morning, while using an afternoon press conference to deflect questions, spout off statistics and deliver the news that no staff changes were being made anytime soon.

 

It's Officially "Win or Bust" over the Next Few Seasons

One of two scenarios is setting up for Golden, provided he remains at Miami long enough for either to play out: ultimate success, or colossal failure.

Golden's contract runs through the 2019 season—should he see it through—giving him ample time to turn things around, which is the ultimate cure-all.

While the natives are currently restless, the sentiment is status quo at "The U." Golden is hardly the first Miami coach to feel the wrath of a demanding fanbase, but the two-step blueprint has been laid for getting back in good graces with the Hurricane faithful:

Stockpile talent and get back to winning ways.

Folks wanted to run Jimmy Johnson out of town early on, writing him off as a mid-level Big Eight coach who couldn't beat the likes of Nebraska and Oklahoma. When Dennis Erickson arrived, he was chastised for running a one-back offense, as Miami had proven success with two backs.

Still, nothing tops the turbulent ride Butch Davis took over six seasons at the helm of the Hurricanes.

From his career-opening loss in 1995 to his fourth-ranked squad getting upset at No. 15 Washington in 2000, Davis was consistently put through the ringer.

The worst came in September 1997 when Davis was publicly shamed on game day by the Miami fans at the Orange Bowl after a 1-2 start to his third season.

Fans ponied up money to fly a banner over the stadium which read, "From National Champs to National Chumps...Thanks, Butch!" They blamed the third-year coach working to fix the mess left by his predecessors, who turned a blind eye to improper conduct. (Sound familiar?)

Davis went on to rebuild the program in due time, stockpiling talent and turning Miami into a national championship-caliber program by the end of the 2000 season. The soon-to-be NFL head coach departed after a No. 2 finish, a convincing Sugar Bowl victory and 11-1 campaign, before lying his way out the door to Cleveland. 

Despite all of that, many would still again welcome the 62-year-old, currently unemployed Davis—a desperate attempt to reclaim rare lighting-in-a-bottle success a second time around.

Golden's battle remains uphill, but there's solace in knowing forgiveness is just around the corner.

But after this past weekend, winning has to precede it.

 

Follow Chris Bello on Twitter @allCanesBlog.

 

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Why Auburn vs. Florida State Was a Better BCS Title Game Than USC vs. Texas

Before Monday night, memories of Vince Young scampering into the end zone to seal up Texas' national title in 2006 were considered the best in BCS Championship history. 

Now, those memories will be replaced by Jameis Winston dropping back in play action and throwing a perfect strike over the middle to Kelvin Benjamin for the game-winning score.  

The BCS could not have asked for a better send-off to its tumultuous tenure as the keeper of college football's holy grail. Florida State overcame an 18-point deficit to end the SEC's seven-year stranglehold on the title. And the Seminoles did it against Auburn, a team that seemingly never ran out of miracles until Tre Mason was tackled on the game's final play. 

In the contest's final five minutes on Monday night, there were three lead changes. There was a kickoff return for a touchdown, followed by two epic drives. Winston's touchdown pass to Benjamin with just 13 seconds left put the exclamation point on what will go down as the best BCS Championship game in history. 

Before the Seminoles' victory, many saw the Texas Longhorns' win over USC in the 2006 Rose Bowl as the best BCS title game in history. On Jan. 2, Sebastian Lena of B/R ranked Vince Young's performance in that game as the best in BCS history. 

It's hard not to compare the 2006 Rose Bowl and Monday's BCS Championship. Winston's and Young's game-winning touchdowns came in the same end zone. Even former Texas head coach Mack Brown took to Twitter to address the similarities:

While Young outworked two Heisman Trophy winners in Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush on that thrilling night, it doesn't match Winston's efforts to save the Seminoles from the brink of what would've been FSU's first loss of the year. 

What made Florida State's win over Auburn better than Texas' victory over USC was that last drive.

For Young, he had over two minutes to take his team 56 yards for the game-winning touchdown, which of course ended with the Texas quarterback's eight-yard touchdown run on 4th-and-5. The drive ended up being 10 plays long and took up 1:50. 

As for Winston, he had to take the Seminoles 80 yards down the field in just 79 seconds. FSU was able to complete the drive in seven plays, which included a huge 49-yard completion from Winston to Rashad Greene on the second play of the possession. 

Also, Young was a chiseled veteran of the college ranks as a junior against USC. He was used to the bright lights by then. 

Winston is a freshman who put a team that hadn't trailed in a game since the month of September on his back and carried it to college football's most sought-after prize.

Nothing at all should be taken away from Texas and its win over USC. Probably the only fair way to rank both these games is by listing them as 1a and 1b, and everything else third or worse.

But Florida State overcame more adversity to beat the 2013-14 team of destiny on Monday night, and a freshman is the main reason why. That's more than Young and Co. could have said eight years ago.  

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