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Jameis Winston Walks into Rose Bowl with Serious Swag

Florida State's Jameis Winston arrived to the Rose Bowl ready for the BCS National Championship game. As he made his way from the bus to the stadium, the 2013 Heisman Trophy winner walked with some serious swag.

Monday, Jan. 6, is also Winston's 20th birthday, so the Seminoles quarterback is feeling pretty good entering the game.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Tennessee Football Recruiting: 7 Early Enrollees Who Will Contribute Immediately

The Tennessee Volunteers are looking for immediate-impact players, and the early enrollees who are trickling onto campus this week have a golden opportunity to capitalize on earning major playing time.

Head coach Butch Jones will welcome at least 13 mid-term signees into school for the spring semester, and UT can enroll up to 14. The Vols will reach that number if just one of a couple more potential candidates meet academic requirements.

Those new Vols hold a significant advantage over their classmates because they will have eight months with UT strength coach Dave Lawson, an opportunity to participate in individual workouts and—most importantly—a spring practice under their belts.

The major benefit for UT is some of its most talented commitments in a loaded 2014 recruiting class are coming in early. With those guys at the very least providing depth right away, the stars of the future will quickly become the names of the present.

If they come in and get to work early, they'll be instrumental in helping the Vols get to a bowl game next season. Let's take a look at the early arrivals who will work their way into the playing time rotation in 2014.

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Breion Allen: Pictures of Florida State QB Jameis Winston's Girlfriend

Jameis Winston is preparing to cap off a stirring season on the field in Pasadena while his girlfriend, Breion Allen, is left to merely hold her breath and try to enjoy the ride. 

As Bleacher Report's Matt Fitzgerald spotted recently, Allen was all nerves over the weekend.

I can't watch ESPN til Monday, they are getting me to anxious for this game right now.

— Breion A. (@_LifeIsBreezi_) January 4, 2014

 

We hate to imagine how she is doing at the moment, so close to kickoff of the 2014 BCS Championship Game. We also don't know with any certainty whether Allen will be in the stands rooting on her man at the Rose Bowl. 

If you recall, Allen, a basketball player at Rice, is quick to run the smack talk, leaving Winston to do his job on the field. 

Fox Sports reported on a subsequently deleted tweet from Allen she posted in the wake of Winston's mammoth outing against Pittsburgh to start the season. She stated simply, "Y'all didn't believe me huh?"

Well, if you didn't believe her then, perhaps you believe her now. 

The freshman quarterback went on to garner 3,820 passing yards along with 38 touchdowns, also winning the Heisman this past December. 

Fox Sports' Andre Vergara reported at the time that Allen was in tow to watch Winston claim the award. TMZ went a step further and reported the two shared a Coke and a water at New York City's Saloon after the ceremony. 

How quaint. 

Thankfully, Allen chronicled the win on Instagram

And here is another of the two enjoying time with one another. 

Perhaps Winston's girlfriend has the opportunity to snap off another image of a far greater prize, a national championship for the Florida State Seminoles. 

For Allen, she could very well land on live TV during the festivities, something that we think might help her gain just a few Twitter followers.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Arizona Football: Wildcats' Biggest Concerns Heading into the Offseason

With its dominant 42-19 win over Boston College in the AdvoCare V100 Bowl still fresh on the memory, the Arizona Wildcats head into the offseason full of confidence and belief that the program will continue on the upswing.

But there's no rest for the weary, not in today's ever-changing college football landscape. There are holes to fill, deficiencies to address and many other concerns that will keep head coach Rich Rodriguez and his staff from enjoying too much of a break before getting right back at it to prepare for 2014.

Here's our look at the things Arizona should be most concerned with this offseason.

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Arizona Football: Wildcats' Biggest Concerns Heading into the Offseason

With its dominant 42-19 win over Boston College in the AdvoCare V100 Bowl still fresh on the memory, the Arizona Wildcats head into the offseason full of confidence and belief that the program will continue on the upswing...

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Auburn Campus Tagged with FSU Graffiti Leading Up to BCS Championship Game

The BCS National Championship game between the Auburn Tigers and the Florida State Seminoles is Monday night. Before the day of the game even arrived, fans were already taking shots at their opponent.

Auburn's campus was vandalized on Sunday, which should get the Tigers riled up. Judging by the pictures, it's not tough to guess who the vandals are rooting for.

Take a look at some of the graffiti:

Shots fired.

If the Tigers are able to win the title, Tallahassee should probably keep an eye on its trees. After what these vandals did to Auburn's campus, it's a pretty good guess that Tigers fans would want to seek revenge while celebrating.

Hat tip to The War Eaglevia LostLettermen.com, for the find.

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Auburn vs. FSU: Most Exciting NFL Draft Prospects to Watch for

The BCS National Championship Game between the Florida State Seminoles and Auburn Tigers is bound to be an exciting one, and with two top-tier teams going head-to-head, there are a number of NFL prospects to keep an eye out for.

The Tigers come into the game with the top rushing attack in the country, averaging an incredible 335.7 yards per game on the ground.  But the Seminoles have Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston on their side, along with a team that led the country in both points for and against with an averaging margin of victory of 42.3 points.

With the two top teams in the country playing, NFL scouts will be keeping a close eye on a few key names, so let's take a look at a couple of players from each team to watch for in the national championship.

 

Auburn

Greg Robinson, OT

This will be the second consecutive draft filled with a ton of talent at the offensive tackle position.  While many have been projected to be first-round selections for most of the season, Auburn's Greg Robinson has been quickly shooting up draft boards with his play in 2013.

The hype on him has been real as of late.  According to Bob McGinn from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, one NFL scout had this to say about Robinson:

He's a stud left tackle. You're talking about a ton of athleticism, size, strength. He's not getting a lot of attention because people don't realize he's a redshirt. Not quite sure why (Gene) Chizik redshirted him. I think that was a big mistake. He's in the top 10, 15 easy if he comes out.

When watching Robinson play, it's hard to argue with the scout.  At 6'5'' and 305 pounds, he's a monster on the offensive line.  He's been a valuable asset in the running game, but his quick feet and aggressiveness have also helped him out quite well in pass protection.

With all of the hype on him right now, it's hard not to see Robinson taken in the first round in May.

 

Tre Mason, RB

When you're the starting running back for the nation's top rushing team, NFL scouts are going to start to take notice.

As a Heisman finalist, Mason finished the year with 1,621 rushing yards and 22 touchdowns on 283 carries, averaging an impressive 5.7 yards per attempt.  While the offensive game plan the Tigers use gives Mason plenty of opportunities to make big plays, he's still been a very solid player to watch.

While he's not the tallest running back at 5'10'', Mason has a strong lower body that helps him push forward for extra yards.  He's a smart runner that explodes through open holes when he sees them. While Mason isn't the fastest running back in the country, he's a strong one-cut runner that could be drafted somewhere in the third or fourth round.

 

Florida State

Christian Jones, ILB

It seemed like all of the defensive talent at Florida State already went to the NFL last year after players like Bjoern Werner, Tank Carradine and Xavier Rhodes decided to go pro.  But there are still a few intriguing prospects on that side of the ball for the Seminoles, including inside linebacker Christian Jones.

Jones finished with 49 total tackles, including 7.5 for loss and two sacks on the year.  The numbers may not seem that impressive, but his impact on the top defense in the league went beyond the box score.

When watching Jones, you quickly notice how athletic of a linebacker he is.  He does a surprisingly good job in pass coverage while possessing the speed to chase down ball-carriers.  

Jones has good length and can take the proper angle on tackles, and while sometimes he plays too high, it appears that the senior linebacker is ready to play at the next level, and a team should pick him up somewhere in the second or third round.

 

Kelvin Benjamin, WR

There are a ton of talented wide receivers entering the NFL draft this year, but one that has a chance to help his draft stock in a big way is Kelvin Benjamin.

With 50 receptions for 957 yards and 14 touchdowns, Benjamin has been one of Winston's favorite targets this year, especially near the goal line.  He's completely exploded recently, putting up 392 yards and seven touchdowns over the past three games while scoring in each of the last five.

At 6'5'' and 234 pounds, Benjamin is a tough and physical receiver, using his size to position himself to make catches in traffic.  With some long arms, he's capable of reaching up to snatch jump balls out of the air.  He'll have to work on being a more consistent pass-catcher, but Benjamin's size and athleticism will make him an appealing target for teams looking for a red-zone threat on the second day of the draft.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Now Is Not the Time for Oklahoma Head Coach Bob Stoops to Make Jump to NFL

If he doesn’t play his cards right, Oklahoma Sooners head coach Bob Stoops will walk away from a BCS game as a loser yet again.

However, this time around, it’ll be for his performance off the field, not on it.

Following their surprising upset of the two-time, defending BCS national champion Alabama Crimson Tide, 45-31, in the 2014 Sugar Bowl, Stoops and his Sooners captured the attention of the college football world. Even the NFL took notice.

According to Sports Illustrated’s Pete Thamel, both the Cleveland Browns and Detroit Lions are taking a long, hard look at Stoops to fill their head coaching vacancies:

To make matters worse, Stoops didn’t do much to derail the speculation. When approached about the rumors, he stated, “You never know,” via Yahoo! Sports’ Aaron Wilson.

And although his name has recently been taken out of the hat for the Browns’ position, per The Associated Press, nobody but Stoops knows where his heart truly lies.

But if it’s with chasing a career as an NFL head coach, then he is jumping the gun. 

That’s because the 53-year-old is coming off arguably his best coaching job since leading Oklahoma to the 2001 BCS title.

Entering the 2013 season, a cloud of doubt hung over the team.

It didn’t take long for disappointment to strike, as the Sooners dropped the annual Red River Rivalry game to the Texas Longhorns, 36-20, as two-touchdown favorites. A month later, the team received a thrashing from the longtime Big 12 cellar-dwelling Baylor Bears, 41-12.

Paired with inconsistencies at the quarterback position—a situation that was left unfixed until Trevor Knight’s recent performance in the Sugar Bowl—Oklahoma seemed headed toward one of its worst finishes in recent years.

But like a magician who pulls a rabbit out of his hat, Stoops reached deep into the pockets of his trademark khakis and delivered yet another 10-win season and appearance in a BCS bowl. 

However, with the Sooners as low as 16-point underdogs, their magical ride was expected to come to a screeching halt against the mighty Tide.

Except it didn’t.

Instead, the team everyone loved to poke fun at was now being considered a dark-horse contender for the 2014 national title. Suddenly, after nearly a decade on hiatus, “Big Game Bob” was back in the saddle.

Those BCS woes of seasons past? Forget about ‘em.

All that mattered now was that Oklahoma had just toppled college football’s iron-fisted ruler handily on the national stage. There were no ifs, ands or buts about it.

The Sooners lined up opposite of Alabama and outplayed the Tide for 60 minutes.

So why should Stoops leave now of all times?

Sure, some may see it as riding off into the sunset. However, I see 2013 as just the tip of the iceberg.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s no head coach in college football that is more deserving of a shot at the NFL than Stoops.

For 15 years, he has been the definition of consistency. He has racked up more wins (160) than any other head coach in Oklahoma history, recorded 12 10-win seasons, captured eight Big 12 titles and made an appearance in nine BCS bowl games, including four for the BCS title.

But at a football program that measures success by championships won, Stoops still has some unfinished business. He’s just 1-3 in those four BCS title games.

For someone with as much pride as Stoops, returning next season has to be the answer. 

Maybe the Sooners will win the national title in 2014. Or maybe they won’t. 

Either way, one thing is clear: Oklahoma is a much better football team with Stoops at the helm.

And if the feeling is mutual, that elusive championship No. 8 will be making its way to Norman a lot sooner than we think.

 

All stats and rankings used in this article are courtesy of CFBstats.com.

For complete coverage and everything college football, you can reach Sebastian on Facebook, on Twitter and via email at Sebastian.LenaBR@gmail.com.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

BCS National Championship 2014: Key Storylines to Watch in Auburn vs. FSU

The final act of the BCS is set, as the No. 2 Auburn Tigers (12-1, 7-1 SEC) and the No. 1 Florida State Seminoles (13-0, 8-0 ACC) will do battle at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., on Monday, Jan. 6, at 8:30 p.m. ET to determine college football's top team.

Like any good battle for a title, this matchup between powerhouses will be decided by which side can answer the key questions about the matchup.

Both teams tout impressive defenses, but arguably neither have faced opposition quite like each other—yet.

As this epic battle unfolds, here are a few storylines to watch. How they play out will ultimately decide the game.

 

How Will Auburn Match Up With Florida State WRs?

Florida State freshman quarterback Jameis Winston gets a ton of credit after his Heisman-winning season, but his weapons will also be thrust into the spotlight against the Tigers.

Winston is fortunate enough to play with three special talents at wide receiver. All three tallied more than 900 receiving yards in 2013:

While Rashad Greene is the best of the bunch statistically, the star of the show is sophomore Kelvin Benjamin, who stands at 6'5" and 234 pounds. Benjamin looks, plays and even acts like a clone of Detroit Lions receiver Calvin Johnson, as ESPN's Joe Schad illustrates:

An ability to put pressure on Winston or shut down the run is one thing, but it is another beast entirely to ask the Auburn defense to properly match up with all three star receivers.

Few cornerbacks on the Auburn depth chart are taller than 6'0", so the Tigers defense must get creative in coverages and assignments to keep the receivers in check. If not, this one will get ugly.

 

Can Florida State Slow Auburn's Roll?

Auburn can counter the explosive Florida State offense with a potent attack of its own, although the Tigers prefer to mostly keep things on the ground.

The Tigers rank No. 1 in the nation with an average of 335.7 rushing yards per game. But do not think for a moment the Seminoles are not equipped to compete with that—the Seminoles rank No. 1 with just 10.7 points surrendered per game.

Yes, this game is about to be that good.

The Tigers are led by junior running back Tre Mason. He gashed any and all competition in 2013 with 283 carries for 1,621 yards and 22 scores. He is flanked by fellow junior and dual-threat quarterback Nick Marshall, who threw for 1,759 yards and 12 touchdowns to five interceptions and was team's second-leading rusher with 156 carries for 1,023 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Above all, expect Mason to be at his best against the Seminoles. As ESPN3 illustrates, he does his most damage against the best competition:

If the versatile attack Mason and Marshall bring to the table can find success once more, Auburn may be able to keep Winston off the field.

 

Is There Any Stopping Jameis Winston?

Speaking of the Heisman winner, what does the Auburn defense have to do to slow Winston—and can it?

Doubtful, but there is a trend to zero in on—don't blitz him. Before shouting in protest, check out this nugget from ESPN's Sharon Katz:

When opponents send five or more pass rushers, Winston leads all players from automatic-qualifier (AQ) conferences in completion percentage (70.1 percent), touchdowns (20) and yards per attempt (12.4). Against standard pressure, Winston is completing 66 percent of his passes and has thrown seven of his 10 interceptions.

Translation—drop more bodies into coverage and generate a rush with down linemen.

Easier said than done. Winston threw for 3,820 yards with 38 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, leads the nation's No. 1 offense that averages 53 points per game and allows his unit to gain a minimum of at least 20 yards every 8.6 snaps, per Katz's numbers.

Tony Barnhart of CBS Sports put it best concerning an Auburn defense that allows an average of 24 points per game:

If Auburn can somehow pull it together defensively and apply pressure without additional help, the Tigers might just be able to pull off another upset for the ages.

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

FSU vs. Auburn: Last-Minute Predictions and Fan Guide for 2014 BCS Championship

Coverage of championship events has turned from mere broadcast of the game to an all-you-can-eat buffet that one could drown in. The 2014 BCS Championship game is no exception, and ESPN has pulled out all the stops for their coverage of the clash between Florida State and Auburn. Here are some of the more notable highlights from ESPN's "BCS Megacast."

  • ESPN2 will have a segment during the game called "BCS Title Talk," where fans can eavesdrop on the conversations of the network's college football analysts and its guests. On-screen graphics will display game statistics. In addition, a "social stripe" will provide live social media reaction.
  • ESPNEWS will host college football experts in a segment called "BCS Film Room." Coaches and analysts will provide an X's-and-O's breakdown of the game as it happens, utilizing touchscreens and multiple camera angles.
  • ESPN Goal Line will broadcast "BCS Command Center," which will provide a split screen with both a live broadcast and replays of the previous play.
  • "Sounds of the BCS" will be aired on ESPN Classic. The segment will air only the sounds of the game, with no broadcast or commentary. 

As for the game itself, here are a few last-minute predictions for what will happen in the final college football game of the season.

 

Jameis Winston Will Set a Season-High in Rushing Yardage

Heisman winner Jameis Winston is certainly a mobile quarterback, but he uses that athleticism more to escape pressure than to create plays with his legs. Indeed, Winston has rushed for over 50 yards just twice this season, which are also the only two games in which he carried the ball more than 10 times.

However, given Auburn's propensity to concede the big play defensively, the Tigers are likely to sit back in a soft zone to prevent Florida State's explosive receivers from getting past the secondary. Consequently, while Winston's reads might be covered, there should be plenty of open green pastures to scramble. As Bud Elliott of SB Nation notes, Auburn's preferred zones will leave them vulnerable to Winston's legs early:

FSU has certain looks against which we believe it has an auto-check to a quarterback sweep play, and I would not be surprised to see some quarterback draw or quarterback power.

Scramble opportunities will also be there. This is particularly true against Cover-2 man, in which two defenders are in deep zones, and five defenders match up in man coverage. With four pass rushers, that leaves nobody on the quarterback. When Winston gets this look, he needs to scramble and take the free yards, then get down without getting hit.

Auburn will not concede big plays to the Seminoles offense easily, so it's up to Winston and the ground game to stretch the Tigers defense until it snaps. Florida State's prolific offense might be a bit more methodical at first, but expect that to pay dividends by game's end.

 

Nick Marshall Will Pass For Two TDs and Over 200 Yards

Like Winston, Marshall will need to play a bit out of his comfort zone for the Tigers to overcome a stingy Florida State defense. The converted cornerback has accomplished the aforementioned combination just once this year, a mid-September romp over Mississippi State.

But while Auburn will surely get their yards on the ground tonight, Marshall's arm will need to come through in critical situations. The Seminoles are too fast and athletic to get gashed on an every-down basis by the read-option, meaning Marshall will have to convert a few third downs to keep drives alive, as he did against Alabama. 

The Tigers quarterback will also likely need a big chunk play or two to loosen up the box. If the Auburn offense is in need of a jumpstart at some point, look for Gus Malzahn to dial up a deep play-action pass to take advantage of Marshall's tremendous arm strength. As Brandon Marcello of AllAlabama.com notes, that attribute in particular has caught the attention of 'Noles' defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt:

"The thing that I think is overlooked is his arm talent," Florida State defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt said. "Nick Marshall has as good of arm talent as anybody in the country."

"I mean, that goes back to being a point guard," Pruitt said. "He's kinda attacked the line of scrimmage, sees a guy open and, bam, throws him the ball. That's something that we've had to stress with our defenders every day."

Marshall and the Auburn offense might be in trouble if he has to throw more than 15 passes, as this is still a game the Tigers must win with the legs of Tre Mason Jr. and Marshall. Nevertheless, expect Marshall to get his money's worth when he does drop back.

 

Final Score

In their run of seven consecutive BCS national championships, the SEC has almost always fielded the more talented team. With a combination of a stifling defense, superb coaching and a key offensive star or two, most opposing teams have not been able to match the sheer talent from the Southeastern Conference.

But Florida State has flipped those circumstances, and the Seminoles are at a clear advantage on a man-to-man basis. That's not to say that Auburn cannot win tonight for the Tigers' ground game and excellent situational defense are winning ingredients. If the Seminoles do not bring their A-game, or falter in a few critical situations, the game is Auburn's for the taking.

However, Florida State has crushed every test they have faced this season. Sure, an ACC schedule is nothing in comparison to what Auburn has faced. But the Seminoles have been men among boys this season. The Tigers will give them they're toughest test of the season, but expect Winston and company to finish the storybook season.

Prediction: Florida State 41, Auburn 35

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Auburn vs. FSU 2014: Last-Minute Predictions for BCS National Championship

If you're looking for any defense during Monday night's game between Florida State and Auburn, good luck finding it. The BCS National Championship promises to be a shootout.

That's just one of the many predictions you can make heading into the finale for the 2013-14 college football season. Both the Tigers and Seminoles have Heisman finalists on offense and boast no shortage of stars capable of turning the game on its head with one play.

Beyond that not-so-bold forecast, it's difficult to make any major guesses for how the night will shake out. Auburn's entire season has been one big fairy tale, and with the results of the previous four BCS games, who knows whether Florida State—the favorite—will come good.

As Rowdy Roddy Piper famously said, "Just when they think they got the answers, I change the questions."

Against my better judgment, here are three predictions heading into the game.

 

Florida State's Running Backs Will Steal the Show

Everybody's focusing on Jameis Winston, Nick Marshall and Tre Mason. Flying under the radar is Florida State's three-headed monster at running back—Devonta Freeman, Karlos Williams and James Wilder Jr. The trio combined for 2,190 yards and 32 touchdowns on the ground. None of them averaged fewer than 5.8 yards per carry.

Gus Malzahn and Ellis Johnson have had a month to devise a plan to stop Winston. While it likely won't be entirely successful, it could thwart the Heisman winner just enough to make the Seminoles look elsewhere for yards.

That's where Freeman, Williams and Wilder come in.

Of the three, Freeman is most likely to take some of the spotlight away from Winston. The junior running back has been very good all season, and like many of Florida State's offensive stars, his numbers (943 yards, 13 TDs) were hindered by the fact that many of the team's games were over at halftime.

Although Freeman's on the precipice of eclipsing 1,000 yards, which would make him the first Seminoles back to do so since Warrick Dunn in 1996, he is more focused on winning, per Brendan Sonnone of the Orlando Sentinel:

"I think we could, but 1,000 yards for me is just an individual goal, and a championship for us is a team goal. I put that aside for the team goal,” Freeman said. “I just want to win. It's something that hasn't been done in a long time."

Maybe Freeman can have his cake and eat it too.

 

Nick Marshall and Tre Mason Will Have Big Games on the Ground

No matter what Jimbo Fisher and Jeremy Pruitt have drawn up between Dec. 7 and now, there's almost no chance they'll prevent Marshall and Mason from getting a combined 250-300 yards rushing.

Auburn have become scarily good at running the football. The way the Tigers decimated Missouri in the SEC Championship served as a stern warning to Florida State. The SEC runner-up had a strong run defense coming into the game, and still surrendered 545 yards.

Malzahn's offense isn't intricate in that you see tons of different plays every game. But he knows what his team does well and plays to those strengths.

There should be little doubt as to the success of the Tigers' running game on Monday. It's the passing game they have to worry about. Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee wondered how much having a month-long layoff would help Marshall's passing skills:

Head coach Jimbo Fisher's crew has a solid secondary led by cornerback Lamarcus Joyner and safety Terrence Brooks, and those guys are going to be counted on in run support at times. If Marshall can develop as a passer during the layoff just enough to keep that secondary honest, it could spark even more life into that punishing Auburn offense.

Florida State needs this time to prepare for Auburn, but Marshall needs this time to improve.

An improved Marshall could be the difference between the crystal football taking up real estate in Auburn or Tallahassee.

Selling out against the run could open up some space in the secondary, but Florida State is first in both interceptions (25) and passing efficiency defense. The Seminoles should have enough defensive strength to defend the pass and limit the running game, just enough to secure the victory.

 

Auburn's Magic Will Run Out

Auburn has lived a charmed life this season, with the "Prayer at Jordan Hare" and the "Kick Six." Of course, it's helped that the Tigers have such a good running game and tough pass rush, but there's no doubt that a lot of luck has played into their success.

The problem with riding your luck so much is that sooner or later, it's going to run out.

On Monday night, pure talent and personnel advantages will be the difference.

The Seminoles are the favorites for a reason. They have one of the best defenses in the country and their offenses offers impressive balance. It's a testament to the quality of this team that it hasn't truly been challenged this season.

The ACC may not be the SEC, but it isn't that easy. Those lopsided wins over Clemson and Duke are looking better following the Tigers' and Blue Devils' respective performances in bowl season.

FSU should be able to exploit Auburn's defensive deficiencies and hold out enough defensively to see itself through on Monday.

Final Prediction: Florida State 37, Auburn 28

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College Football Teams Happy to See the BCS Era End

The 2014 BCS National Championship Game between the Florida State Seminoles and Auburn Tigers will mark the final chapter of the BCS era.

Since 1998, the BCS has provided college football with drama, controversy and at times, complete and utter chaos. But throughout that span there have been several teams that just never quite seemed to get it right in the BCS bowls.

These teams are most likely happier than most that the BCS will be no more following the conclusion of Monday night’s game.

Join B/R as we take a closer look at five of these teams.

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Auburn vs. FSU: Lesser-Known Stars Who Will Break Out in Title Game

The focus in Monday night's BCS National Championship Game will fall primarily on Heisman Trophy-winner Jameis Winston, as well as Auburn's dynamic rushing duo of quarterback Nick Marshall and running back Tre Mason.

But those aren't the only players who will make an impact in the game. Let's look at a couple of players from each team who could make a contribution, despite flying under the radar a bit during the season.

 

LaDarius Owens, DE, Auburn

With Auburn's offensive dominance (40.2 points per game, ninth in the FBS) and their defensive struggles (38th in points against), not too many of its defensive players get recognized for their performances this year.

But Owens has played exceptionally well, with 11 quarterback hurries, 4.5 tackles for a loss and a pair of sacks.

After redshirting and then serving as a backup, Owens finally settled in at defensive end this year. He'll also be facing Winston for the third time in his life. According to Alabama Crimson Tide Sports, Owens and Winston faced each other twice during their times in high school, and their teams split the matchups.

"It's for old-times sake," Owens said of Monday's BCS Championship Game, via al.com. "He texted me and said y'all got some ugly buses. I told him y'all can have the cute buses, our hands will be looking better than yours on Monday."

If Owens can back up his talk and put some pressure on Winston on Monday, Auburn could be in line for the championship.

 

Corey Grant, RB, Auburn

Mason and Marshall should rack up the majority of Auburn's yards on the ground on Monday, but don't forget about Grant.

The junior running back accounted for 650 rushing yards and six touchdowns in 2013, including 65 yards and a touchdown in the SEC title game against Missouri. In total, Grant has a pair of touchdowns in his last three games while averaging 9.73 yards per carry during that span.

That's actually a step below what he's accomplished this year, however, as he's averaging an even 10.0 YPC this season. His ability to consistently rack up big gains, combined with his breakaway potential (75-yard TD run in Week 1) means Grant could have more of an impact than one might expect on Monday night.

 

James Wilder Jr., RB, Florida State

Like Grant, Wilder Jr. plays a backup role on his team. In fact, he's third on the Seminoles in carries. But Wilder also has potential to contribute in Monday's matchup.

For one, he's excellent at finding the end zone when given the opportunity. During the four-game span from FSU's Nov. 2 game against Miami to their matchup against Idaho on Nov. 23, Wilder Jr. averaged an incredible 10.36 YPC while scoring six touchdowns.

Look for Wilder Jr. to find the end zone again on Monday.

 

Florida State's Offensive Line

Florida State's offensive line doesn't get enough credit for how much of a role it played in Jameis Winston's success (and FSU's success as a whole) this year. For one, Winston was sacked only 23 times, just the 40th-highest total in the FBS.

Also, as the San Diego Union-Tribune notes, Florida State's offensive line is giant. In fact, they average 317 pounds per lineman, while Auburn's defensive front stands at only 263 pounds per player.

Assuming Auburn focuses much of their defensive attention on stopping Winston's passing attack, the success of FSU's running backs (Devonta Freeman, Karlos Williams and Wilder Jr.) will be key. If FSU can beat Auburn at the line of scrimmage, it will be a long day for the Tigers.

 

All statistics courtesy of ESPN.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Lache Seastrunk Officially Announces He Will Enter 2014 NFL Draft

Baylor Bears star Lache Seastrunk said goodbye to Waco on Jan. 6, when he officially announced he's entering the 2014 NFL draft. 

The junior running back released a statement, per Yahoo! Sports' Rand Getlin:

Playing in the NFL has been a lifelong dream of mine, and I'm fully prepared to take the next step toward realizing that goal. I'm excited for the opportunity to compete in the NFL draft process. I look forward to giving teams every ounce of energy I've got and proving to them that I'm a good person, a relentless competitor, and a great player, too.

Despite Bryce Petty and Antwan Goodley getting much of the attention this past year, Seastrunk played a huge role in the Bears' success. He led the team in rushing with 1,177 yards and 11 touchdowns on 158 carries. In Baylor's 52-42 loss to the UCF Knights in the Fiesta Bowl, the junior had 117 yards rushing on 17 carries.

Seastrunk is listed at 5'10" and 210 pounds on Baylor's site. Despite being a bit undersized, he should have no problem succeeding in the NFL.

Before the season began, CBS Sports' Bruce Feldman placed Seastrunk on his list of "The 20 craziest athletes in college football." Feldman wrote:

Seastrunk's vertical, which was an impressive 42.5 inches last winter, is now 44.2 inches. He also broad jumped 11-4 — five inches more than in 2012. His 40 time: 4.36.

It's quite an improve from Seastrunk's days at Oregon when he ran a 4.63 electronic 40 and had a 34.5” vertical two winters ago.

In what is presumed to be a weak overall running back class, Seastrunk should get selected in the first few rounds. In his most recent mock draft, Bleacher Report's draft guru Matt Miller had the Baylor star going with the seventh pick of the third round to the Cleveland Browns.

Seastrunk has the upcoming NFL combine and Baylor's pro day to wow scouts and coaches with his supreme physical gifts. Between that and his improvement with the Bears, he could easily sneak into the second round.

No matter where he is selected in the draft, Seastrunk could be one of the most electrifying offensive players to come out of this year's class.

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Nebraska Football: Meet Bo Pelini's Favorite Graduate Assistant, Joe Ganz

Joe Ganz doesn't need an introduction. Nebraska fans know exactly who he is. They're also big fans of his.

After five seasons as a Nebraska football player and two seasons as a graduate assistant for the Huskers, head coach Bo Pelini likely is too.

However, Pelini was only able to work with Ganz for his senior season as Nebraska's quarterback.

On the heels of former head coach Bill Callahan's firing, Pelini took over Nebraska in 2008. Ganz had only snagged the starting position late in the 2007 season.

So for both the head coach and quarterback, 2008 was really their first year.

By the end of the 2008 regular season, the Huskers were 8-4. Pelini and his team were Gator Bowl bound and set to face the Clemson Tigers.

After a four-game winning streak to end the regular season, Ganz had a lot of momentum following him to Jacksonville, Florida.

That momentum was quickly killed when Ganz fumbled late in the first half, allowing the Tigers to return the ball 28 yards for a touchdown. Then just prior to halftime, he threw an interception that was returned for 63 yards.

Ganz and the Huskers faced a 14-3 deficit that seemed unlikely to come back from.

Despite all odds, that's exactly what Ganz did.

The quarterback rallied, despite a scary moment in the second half that left him sprawled out on the ground. With trainers hovering over him, it was unclear what would happen. In hindsight, the quarterback sustained a concussion.

But Ganz fought through it.

After shaking it off on the sidelines, Ganz returned to the game. He led the Huskers to a 26-20 comeback win over Clemson, earning him the game's MVP title.

Five years later, Ganz is still proving just how tough he is.

In his second year as a graduate assistant for the Huskers, Ganz has been tasked with tutoring the quarterbacks. It all began for him when Pelini called the year after he graduated to offer him an intern position. That position evolved to where he is today.

He has worked with senior quarterback Taylor Martinez, redshirt freshman Tommy Armstrong and countless others. His knowledge has been invaluable on the sidelines.

He's also been a big motivator for Nebraska's quarterbacks. During many tough games, Ganz was often on the sidelines building the players up, especially Armstrong. When the young quarterback took over for Martinez, mistakes happened.

But Ganz kept working with him. By the 2014 Gator Bowl, Armstrong had matured greatly. A lot of that can be credited to Ganz's leadership.

However, the time has come for Ganz to leave his graduate position. He must now look for a full-time coaching position. According to the Omaha World Herald, Ganz has an open mind. He's considering offensive coordinator, quarterback coach or possibly a high school head coach.

"I've talked with Tim [Beck] about his time as a high school coach in Texas," Ganz told the Omaha World Herald. "He said I can't be afraid to try something like that. I just want to coach."

Ron Kellogg III, a quarterback he helped tutor, will take the open GA position.

When Ganz was handed the MVP trophy at the Gator Bowl in 2009, he didn't head to the locker room too fast. Instead, he stuck around on the field for awhile.

"I thought I might get a couple of looks in the NFL, but I kind of knew that would be my last game," Ganz told the Omaha World Herald. "So I hung around there for a long time, running around, talking to people. I didn't want to leave."

Five years later, standing on that same field at the Gator Bowl, Ganz is once again at the end of one road. However, much like it was then, there are a lot of opportunities out in front of him.

One of those opportunities just might keep him at Nebraska.

As reported by Brian Christopherson of the Lincoln Journal Star, defensive backs coach Terry Joseph has been offered a position at Texas A&M. While Joseph has yet to accept the position, Husker fans have begun to speculate what might happen if he leaves.

Hail Varsity pointed out that the vacancy could make room for Ganz as an assistant. Pelini, with help from graduate assistant Austin Cassidy (a former Nebraska safety), could manage the defensive backs. It's not clear how likely the situation is but it's one that could keep Ganz around.

Pelini has always been a fan of Ganz, too. He was a quarterback that helped make Pelini's first season a positive one. He also worked very hard as a graduate assistant for the head coach.

If Joseph leaves, Pelini will likely consider the possibility of keeping Ganz. Many fans have asked for a more dedicated quarterback resource for the Huskers. That person could be Ganz.

It's purely speculation at this point but message boards are filled with discussions on the topic. Regardless of what happens, Ganz has been a big benefit to the Huskers, and Pelini, over the years.

If he leaves, Husker fans and the staff that got to know him will be sad to see him go. However, there will never be any denying the impact he made as a Husker.

Nebraska fans won't be forgetting him any time soon.

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Louisville CB Andrew Johnson Rips Charlie Strong on Twitter

Count Louisville Cardinals cornerback Andrew Johnson as one of the few not laughing, joking and smiling when Charlie Strong was officially introduced as the next head coach of the Texas Longhorns football program on Monday.

Instead, the junior let his feelings be known about his former coach on Twitter:

It’s not the decision alone that got Johnson so riled up. According to him, Strong initially informed the players that he would be returning for the 2014 season:

Given some of Strong’s previous statements to the media, one can see the anger and betrayal Johnson must be feeling.

In December, Strong told Jeff Greer of The Courier-Journal that he wasn't considering the possibility of taking the Texas job. 

I don’t even think about it. I have a really good job here. There’s a lot of work to be done here. The only thing I can control is what’s happening right here.

Less than one month later, Strong was named the 29th head coach in Texas history, per Texassports.com.

All in all, it’s another disappointing loss for the Cardinals, who just lost starting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to the NFL on New Year's Day, via ESPN’s Brett McMurphy.

Still, a lot of talent remains for a Louisville squad that finished 2013 at 12-1. More specifically, Johnson will look to help strengthen a defensive unit that finished No. 1 in total defense and No. 2 in scoring defense.

This is just the latest episode of players feeling scorned, betrayed and disappointed after the departure of a head coach.

Ask the Washington Huskies players how they felt after head coach Steve Sarkisian bolted to USC.

Strong was 37-15 in four seasons at Louisville.

 

All stats and rankings used in this article are courtesy of CFBstats.com.

For complete coverage and everything college football, you can reach Sebastian on Facebook, on Twitter and via email at Sebastian.LenaBR@gmail.com.

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In 2014, Will Notre Dame Win More Games or Fewer Than 2013 Season?

Notre Dame took a big-but-expected step backward in 2013, one year removed from running the table in the regular season and making the BCS National Championship Game against Alabama.

Manti Te'o, the heart and soul of that defense, graduated and left for the NFL, while starting quarterback Everett Golson was suspended for academic reasons, leaving the offense in the rarely capable hands of Tommy Rees.

A 9-4 record wasn't great, but wins over Michigan State—which beat every other team on its schedule—Arizona State and USC still provided cause for optimism moving forward, as did the development of future stars like linebacker Jaylon Smith. Which begs a legitimate question:

Does this team win more or less games in 2014?

The obvious answer is "more," since Golson has been re-admitted to the university and appears to be a much improved quarterback. He's been working with quarterback guru George Whitfield—a man who's helped refine Ben Roethlisberger, Cam Newton, Andrew Luck and Johnny Manziel, among others—and should be a better player because of it.

According to B/R's Keith Arnold, who spoke with Whitfield, the teacher has seen a transformation in his pupil. "He just absorbs everything," Whitfield declared. "That’s the longest I’ve ever spent with a quarterback in a one-on-one setting. We just came through a 10-week run. And he just absorbed everything."

If Golson comes back better than ever in 2014, Notre Dame will have fixed its biggest, most glaring problem from this past season—uneven player under center. Ipso facto, it should be able to improve upon its 9-4 record...right?

It's not quite that simple. In its first season of partial-ACC membership, Notre Dame gets to avoid potential pitfalls like Michigan State, but it still has one of the hardest projected schedules in college football:

If Notre Dame finishes with two or less losses, unlike recent seasons, nobody will be able to complain about its strength of schedule. It might not make the national semifinals with a 10-2 record, but something like the Peach Bowl, which is part of the College Football Playoff, would still be in play.

That's the good news. 

The bad news is that going 10-2 will be difficult. That schedule includes five of the 20 best teams in college football this past season, according to Football Outsiders' F/+ ratings. Some, like Louisville, are poised for regression after losing a quarterback and head coach. But others, like USC, only stand to improve with another year of experience and some stability on the sidelines.

Elsewhere, teams like Michigan and Northwestern should return to the form of previous years in 2014, making neither the pushover it was this season. UNC was one of the hottest teams in football toward the end of 2013, and Navy plays the Irish tough every single year. Same goes for Purdue, the only true pushover on the schedule, and Rice just won Conference-USA.

Where are the guaranteed wins?

In order to improve on last year's record, Notre Dame would need to (a) beat at least one team out of Stanford, Florida State, Arizona State and USC, and (b) take care of business against every other team on the schedule. No matter how much they improve, doing so would be a very difficult task, especially with guys like Stephon Tuitt, Louis Nix III and Prince Shembo leaving the defense.

My prediction? Notre Dame will improve on the field but not in the standings. It will finish with a better body of work but not a better record. Instead, I think another 9-4 season is on the horizon, only this one will be more impressive:

Despite the ever-lofty expectations in South Bend, a season like that would be something to build on. And that's just a conservative estimate. The 2013 season has only just ended; so much can change between now and each of those games.

If I had to pick between "more wins" and "less wins," despite the difficult schedule, my gut would lean toward the former. I have faith in Everett Golson to catalyze this offense, and I have faith in Brian Kelly to ease the transition at both coordinator spots.

Plus, getting games like Michigan, UNC, Northwestern and Louisville at home is deceptively important. Those teams might be roughly equal to the Irish next season, so the crowd at Notre Dame Stadium could make all the difference.

Still, at the end of the day, this schedule doesn't appear conducive to a run at the first College Football Playoff. It's not the news Irish fans want to hear, but it's the hard-to-face reality.

Maybe in 2015?

 

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Virginia Tech Football: 3 Biggest Concerns Heading into the Offseason

After another season full of missed opportunities, the Virginia Tech football team is searching for offseason answers once more.

This year’s 8-5 finish surely isn’t as disastrous as 2012’s 7-6 campaign, but the program is still in a very transitional period headed into 2014. 

The new offensive coaching staff had its ups and downs this season, but with a promising recruiting class bound for Blacksburg, there is some reason to be hopeful about the team’s future prospects.

It will be a big challenge indeed for Frank Beamer and company to replace some of the stellar players that will be gone next season.

This coming offseason might not be a program-altering one like last year, but there are still a few concerns that will undoubtedly keep coaches up at night.

 

Restocking the Front Seven 

In 2013, the defensive line and linebackers might have been the two deepest and most talented positions on the whole football team.

Now, the Hokies will have to lean on that depth and hope they can develop the next great batch of Virginia Tech legends to replace their departing stars.

With defensive tackle Derrick Hopkins, defensive ends J.R. Collins and James Gayle and linebackers Jack Tyler and Tariq Edwards all graduating, there are going to be some gaping holes in the front seven in 2014.

This particular group tallied a total of 923 tackles, 154 tackles for loss, 68 sacks, five interceptions and seven forced fumbles in their careers at Tech; saying that production will be difficult to replace seems like a bit of an understatement.

There is hope for the future, though.

If there’s one thing Bud Foster knows how to do, it’s develop front-seven players for his system, and it does seem like he’s got some tools to work with in the offseason.

Defensive end Dadi Nicolas got a fair bit of playing time this season, even starting one game, and he revealed both his abilities and limitations as a player. 

When Foster deployed him as a blitzing outside linebacker against the Pittsburgh Panthers, he wreaked havoc. When he was forced to play more of a traditional end position, though, he struggled to shed the blocks of offensive linemen.

He could easily be the next Collins. It’s all a matter of how he develops this offseason.

Nicolas will benefit from the return of redshirt junior Corey Marshall on the other side. Marshall struggled when he was moved to tackle in 2012, but he has serious athleticism when playing at end.

Just watch the way he can pursue on the outside. 

Similarly, Foster has to hope that tackles Woody Baron and Nigel Williams develop into dependable players. Each looked promising in their limited time this season, but they have big shoes to fill.

The Hokies are fortunate in that it seems like star defensive tackle Luther Maddy will return. He filed his papers for consideration for the NFL draft, but he doesn’t seem particularly set on leaving.

The team will also bring in some talented recruits on the line; 3-star Ricky Walker has already committed, and most services consider the Hokies the leader in the clubhouse for 4-star Derrick Nnadi.

Linebacker is a different story entirely. The team will benefit in a big way if outside linebacker Ronny Vandyke can come back from shoulder surgery healthy.

Vandyke played really well as 2012 wore on, and his absence forced Foster to rarely utilize his “whip” linebacker position since backup Josh Trimble didn’t seem up to the task.

The real problems will come in the middle; Tyler and Edwards each had years of playing experience, leaving their backups on the bench. Redshirt junior Chase Williams seems like a good bet to take over for Tyler given his time in the system, but the other position is up in the air. 

With the Hokies’ remaining talent in the front seven and the excellence of the secondary, Tech should have no trouble reassembling a competent defense. It’s just a matter of whether or not Foster can help the unit even approach the heights it reached this year to carry the team once more.

 

Quarterback Controversy?

Now that Logan Thomas is gone, the Hokies have to think long and hard about who will start under center in 2014.

Redshirt junior Mark Leal seems like the team’s preferred option, given his experience, but his performance in relief of Thomas in the Sun Bowl didn’t exactly inspire confidence. 

He was certainly thrown into a tough situation against a good UCLA Bruins defense, but he still really struggled, as The Roanoke Times’ Andy Bitter details.

Leal performed adequately at times, completing all three of his passes on his first full drive and getting the Hokies to the UCLA 25 before a holding penalty and a sack forced a punt.

Late in the third quarter, he threw a good ball on a fade pattern into the end zone after UCLA muffed a punt near its goal line. D.J. Coles couldn’t haul it in over the Bruins defender and Tech settled for a field goal that cut UCLA’s lead to 14-10.

Things snowballed in the fourth quarter, however. The Bruins took a 21-10 lead, then went all out after Leal in obvious passing situations. While trying to avoid a sack, he flipped the ball out at the last second, right into the arms of UCLA linebacker Myles Jack, who returned it 29 yards for a touchdown.

Later in the fourth, Leal underthrew a pass that Zumwalt intercepted and returned 43 yards to the Hokies’ 10, setting up another Bruins touchdown as the rout was on. 

“I’m disappointed that Mark didn’t play better,” Beamer said. “I’ve got a lot of confidence in him. I think there’s a lesson in there: Be ready to play each and every week. And he did a couple things really nice and really good and made a couple throws that weren’t so good. But you’ve got to be ready to step up.”

Despite these issues, Leal will almost certainly receive reps with the first team headed into spring practice. That doesn’t mean he won’t have plenty of competition, though.

Redshirt freshman and third stringer Brenden Motley is regarded as an athletic option, while incoming recruits Andrew Ford and Chris Durkin were recruited by offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler himself.

Leal might have the experience, but Loeffler might be anxious to install a guy who better fits the kind of offense he wants to run. 

Loeffler certainly adjusted his offense to fit Thomas’ style in 2013, but that yielded mixed results. Will he be willing to do the same with Leal, or will he roll the dice with a freshman?

No matter which player the team picks, the Hokies will have to make the decision carefully. Thomas was the linchpin of last year’s offense, and his production will be truly difficult to replace.

 

Running Back Depth

Running back Trey Edmunds had a rocky season as a freshman, but he seemed to finally start figuring things out by the back half of the season—just in time to break his leg and go out for a few months.

In his absence in the Sun Bowl, the running game had to rely on option plays with Jerome Wright and jet sweeps with receiver Carlis Parker to generate a ground game.

Loeffler deserves credit for his creativity, but he has to focus on finding answers beyond Edmunds at running back.

Sophomore J.C. Coleman has plenty of ability, but he has rarely translated it into success on the field. He has good speed, but his vision and indecisiveness certainly need some work.

Far too many plays ended like this one, with Coleman falling flat at the line while failing to make a good cut.

Wright’s success may indicate that he’s destined for more carries in 2014, while Chris Mangus can provide some help on passing downs or outside runs. 

Loeffler and Shane Beamer, the Hokies' associate head coach and running backs coach, will really need to work on finding a more consistent answer behind Edmunds, especially if his injury holds him back initially. 

The team has plenty of incoming talented running back recruits, particularly 4-star Shai McKenzie and 3-star Marshawn Williams, who could see the field immediately.

The backfield will be crowded, so some players will ultimately end up redshirting, but if the coaches can get some talented freshmen to complement the veterans at the position, the offense will be much better off. 

With a new quarterback, the offense will need to lean on the running game and the defense to be successful.

The days of depending on Thomas and his veteran leadership or the consistent play of guys like Tyler and Hopkins are gone; the team is going to have to make some big adjustments for 2014.

It may be difficult at times, but this team has the depth to make next season more memorable than its last two.

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Arkansas DE Trey Flowers Announces He Will Return for Senior Season

Thanks to defensive end Trey Flowers, 2014 is already looking up for the Arkansas Razorbacks.

Speaking at a press conference on Monday afternoon, the junior pass-rusher decided to return to school for his senior season, via Sportinglifearkansas.com:

Arkansas defensive end Trey Flowers announced Monday he was returning to the Razorbacks for his senior season after considering early entry into the NFL Draft.

“I have made the decision to stay at Arkansas for my senior season,” Flowers said. “Coach Bielema was very supportive throughout the process and helped me and my family navigate this decision. I still have goals on and off the field I want to accomplish at Arkansas, beginning with graduating, and want to continue pursuing those. On the field, I am excited about the program being built and wanted to help the Razorbacks back in 2014. Even though my draft grade was good, I believe another year with Coach Bielema will help improve my draft status. I am looking forward to another season at Arkansas, where we have support from our administration, some of the best fans in the nation and a bright future for the football program.”

That’s great news for an Arkansas football program trying to regroup from a disappointing 2013 campaign. One that saw the team follow up a 3-0 start by losing each of its final nine games.

But believe it or not, expectations are higher for the Razorbacks in 2014.

Flowers’ presence on defense is surely a large factor in that.

In 11 games this past season, the Huntsville, Ala., native recorded 44 tackles (13.5 for loss), 5.0 sacks, forced three fumbles and intercepted a pass. That came a year after Flowers broke onto the scene in 2012 with 6.0 sacks and 13.0 tackles for loss.

All in all, Flowers was a leader on this team and will be looked on to anchor the Arkansas defensive line with seniors Chris Smith (8.5 sacks) and Robert Thomas (3.5 sacks) set to graduate.


All stats and rankings used in this article are courtesy of CFBstats.com.

For complete coverage and everything college football, you can reach Sebastian on Facebook, on Twitter and via email at Sebastian.LenaBR@gmail.com.

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Auburn vs. FSU Predictions: Projecting Top Performers in 2014 BCS Championship

The wild bowl season is in the books, which means it is time for the nation's top two teams to clash in the 2014 BCS Championship. The No. 2 Auburn Tigers (12-1, 7-1 SEC) and the No. 1 Florida State Seminoles (13-0, 8-0 ACC) will collide at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., on Monday, Jan. 6, at 8:30 p.m. ET.

Such a matchup only seems fitting for the final iteration of the BCS. Auburn pulled off a miracle victory over then-No. 1 Alabama and proceeded to trounce then-No. 5 Missouri in the SEC Championship to make it to this point.

On the flip side is Florida State, which dominated not only the ACC, but college football in general behind the arm of Jameis Winston, the second freshman Heisman winner in as many years.

Like all championship gridiron bouts, a few names will rise above the rest.

 

Projected Top Performers

Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State

It is difficult not to love what Winston brings to the table despite his youth. The freshman threw for 3,820 yards with 38 touchdowns and 10 interceptions on the year.

The leader of the nation's No. 1 offense, that averages 53 points per game, Winston is in for a colossal performance on the biggest stage of them all against an Auburn defense that allows an average of 24 points per game.

That Auburn defense is led by coordinator Ellis Johnson, who is also impressed with Winston, per ESPN's Travis Haney:

Perhaps most impressive of all, Winston takes care of the football. He completed 67.9 percent of his passes on the season and recorded a completion percentage north of 70 in five games.

Against a strong Auburn offense that will surely put points on the board, Winston's ability to match and not turn the ball over will make him the star of the game.

 

Nick Marshall, QB, Auburn

Much of the attention when one looks at the Auburn offense should go to running back Tre Mason, who will surely have a big impact on the game after a season in which he carried the ball 283 times for 1,621 yards and 22 scores.

But fans would be wise to not overlook junior quarterback Nick Marshall. The dual-threat weapon threw for 1,759 yards and 12 touchdowns to five interceptions in 2013, but also served as the team's second-leading rusher with 156 carries for 1,023 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Marshall is tasked with taking down the nation's No. 1 defense that allows an average of 10.7 points per game. He is clearly focused on doing so, as Brandon Marcello of AL.com provides this gem that occurred leading up to the big game:

"I saw that his teammates were taking pictures of everything and posting them on Facebook and Instagram," said Shalena Cliett, Marshall's mother. "I said, 'Nick, why are you not taking pictures?' He says, 'Mom, I came out here for one reason and one reason only, and that's to bring home the crystal.'"

Despite the attention and distractions of a national stage, fans can expect Marshall to have a major game thanks to his versatile traits. 

 

Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State

Coming in at 6'5" and 234 pounds, and possessing jaw-dropping speed for his size, it is all too obvious that Seminoles sophomore receiver Kelvin Benjamin will have a major impact on the outcome of the title game.

If Benjamin sounds a bit like the Detroit Lions Calvin Johnson, that is because he is. Benjamin even admits he watches Megatron in order to be a better player, per ESPN's Joe Schad:

After a season in which he caught 50 passes for 957 yards and 14 touchdowns, Benjamin may be taking his talents to the next level in the wake of the destruction he is about to cause in the title game.

Auburn has plenty of talented defensive backs, but like most teams in the country, the Tigers simply will not have an answer for Benjamin.

 

Game Prediction

Again, this is a matchup that is ultimately fitting in the BCS' final act, but it will not be as close as it appears on paper. 

Florida State is simply a powerhouse that has laughed any and all competition out of the building this season. The Seminoles defeated four ranked opponents by a combined score of 200-35 in 2013.

Winston is an elite player in his own right. He is also backed by the nation's best defense, two running backs with more than 700 rushing yards and three receivers with more than 900 receiving yards.

Kudos to Auburn for a season that seems destined to end in the glory of a title win, but the Tigers will simply not be able to score enough to pull out a victory.

Prediction: Seminoles 49, Tigers 34

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