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Blake Bortles and Girlfriend Lindsey Duke Are Sports' Hottest Couple in 2014

Push past the Tannehills, slip on by Katherine Webb and A.J. McCarron, and you'll find the year already belongs to Duke and Bortles. 

We are of course referring to Lindsey Duke, the young woman who continues to garner a great deal of attention while her University of Central Florida quarterback boyfriend, Blake Bortles, continues to wade in relative obscurity. 

Now, "obscurity" may be too harsh of a term, but you would struggle to find those outside of ardent football fan circles who would quickly recognize his name, which is remarkable considering what many seem to think about his prospects outside of college. 

The junior quarterback helped the Knights down Baylor in the Fiesta Bowl, 52-42, garnering 301 yards and three touchdowns by air and 93 yards and a TD on the ground. 

CBS Sports' Rob Rang seems to think Bortles has a lot to think about before committing for one more season with UCF, offering that he is, "a young quarterback with intriguing traits but whose technique might require a bit more polish before heading to the NFL."

Bleacher Report's Ben Kercheval is far more positive in highlighting a kid who was once, "an unheralded 3-star recruit." Now he's someone who The Orlando Sentinel's Mike Bianchi considers as better than Daunte Culpepper was while playing for UCF. 

So people are talking, they just aren't clicking. That's what we glean from the funny video that follows tipping fans off to the amazing manner in which Duke surpasses her QB beau in popularity. 

The New York Daily News, and many others, picked up on that video featuring ESPN's Gene Wojciechowski asking Bortles and head coach George O'Leary about the immense popularity surrounding Duke. 

O'Leary certainly wins in the quote department, "I would hope as a head coach that the numbers would be reversed, but obviously you haven’t seen his girlfriend. She deserves six million Googles."

Here is a pic of the couple from Duke's Instagram feed, followed by some more of the Internet sensation and her boyfriend. 

They deserve all of the Googles. 

The obvious notion, regardless of Bortles' decision, is that we have our winner for sports couple of the year. 

Lauren Tannehill was all the rage when her husband, Ryan Tannehill, was drafted by the Miami Dolphins in 2012, and she made a splash after being featured on HBO's Hard Knocks later that year

In 2013, it was all Katherine Webb, the model who overshadowed her star quarterback boyfriend, Alabama QB A.J. McCarron, during the 2013 BCS championship game

In 2014, it's all Bortles and Duke—a couple who doesn't need Brent Musburger or draft night to dominate the Googles. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

UCLA Football: Would Asiantii Woulard Be Ready to Take the Reins in 2014?

It's not known what Brett Hundley's decision will be. 

UCLA's star quarterback is a redshirt sophomore. As such, he has the choice of potentially leaving school early in favor of the NFL.

Hundley ended this season in great fashion, throwing for 226 yards and rushing for 161 yards in a 42-12 victory over Virginia Tech. 

During his career at Westwood, the signal-caller from Chandler, Ariz. has broken numerous UCLA records. Hundley established marks in single-season completions, single-season passing yardage and single-season total offense. 

Based on physical ability, Hundley would likely be a first or second-round draft choice in the 2014 NFL Draft.

It could behoove Hundley to stay an extra year in college. The quarterback position in the NFL is at such a premium. Quarterbacks entering the professional ranks are expected to compete right away and perform. If one is a high draft pick, the pressure is intensified even further. 

Hundley, while a great athlete, isn't completely polished. His vision from within the pocket could stand to improve. His accuracy on deeper routes hasn't been great, and overall consistency is an aspect of Hundley's game that he could improve. 

Regardless of the nitpicking, he stands to be a hot commodity, should he enter the draft. 

In the event that Hundley does leave, it'll likely be up to redshirt Asiantii Woulard to take the reins of the UCLA offense. 

Woulard came to UCLA under interesting circumstances. He was a long-time commitment to South Florida. The Palm Bay, Fla. native ended up changing his mind and opened up his recruiting process. 

UCLA was very fortunate in signing the 4-star prospect. As per Jack Wang of the Los Angeles Daily News, Jim Mora even mentioned on signing day in 2013 that, "[The Bruins], quite frankly, got lucky that he was out there and available when he was. The stars kind of aligned for us."

Woulard was an unheralded prospect until bursting onto the scene in the prestigious Elite 11 quarterback camp. Prior to his junior year, Woulard was a wide receiver. His junior season was the first in which Woulard even played as a quarterback. 

At the Elite 11, Woulard won MVP honors. According to Bryan Fischer of CBSSports.com, camp counselor and former NFL quarterback, Trent Dilfer spoke about Woulard in an extremely positive manner. When asked why Woulard won the event, Dilfer said: "Greatness is making the highly difficult look very easy and that's what Asiantii did."

As a result of his rapid development, ESPN had Woulard as its No. 1 dual-threat quarterback for 2013.

Woulard redshirted this past season. In the same article (as above) by the Los Angeles Daily News' Jack Wang, it was reported how incredibly impressive Woulard looked in fall camp. He flashed a big-time arm and nice mobility.

He isn't a finished prospect by any stretch. Woulard is still very new to the quarterback position, and he will have to work on learning the nuances and intricacies of the position. 

A potential departure by Hundley will likely thrust Woulard into the limelight. Based on his interviews, he's an intelligent and calm individual with confidence. He doesn't appear as if he'd get rattled very easily. 

As for his physical traits, he should be able to be a nice fit in Noel Mazzone's offense. Growing pains would likely come in his redshirt freshman campaign. There would be an adjustment period in terms of getting actual time in a college game. 

From a pure talent standpoint, Woulard's upside is infinite. Best case scenario would have Hundley man the position for one more year. Woulard would take over as a redshirt sophomore with two years of polishing under his proverbial belt. 

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

UCLA Football: Would Asiantii Woulard Be Ready to Take the Reins in 2014?

It's not known what Brett Hundley's decision will be. UCLA's star quarterback is a redshirt sophomore. As such, he has the choice of potentially leaving school early in favor of the NFL...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Orange Bowl 2014 Clemson vs. Ohio State: Live Game Grades, Analysis for Tigers

The season started off with such high hopes for both teams, but for the Clemson Tigers and Ohio State Buckeyes, disappointment is the best way to describe their current feelings.

However, both teams still have a lot of pride and want to show they're still among the best teams in the country as they square off in the Orange Bowl (8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN).

Both have a lot on the line for their conferences, as the ACC is currently 3-6 in bowl games while the Big Ten is 2-4.

So, who will come out on top?

For full stats, check out NCAA.com.

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Texas Needs a Quick Coaching Decision Regarding Charlie Strong or James Franklin

The Texas Longhorns football program needs decide quickly whether Charlie Strong or James Franklin should be the next head coach. This means that a coach must be in place before the Jan. 15 deadline set made by athletic director Steve Patterson.

If not, things could get messy.

As the new year begins to age, a couple of coaches have withdrawn their names from consideration for the Longhorns job. This includes Baylor's Art Briles, via BaylorBears.com, and UCLA's Jim Mora, via Bruce Feldman of CBS Sports.

With both Briles and Mora out of the picture, whom does that leave available for the Texas job? Nick Saban? He's also personally denied rumors. Yet, only speculation revolves around the idea of Saban actually coming to Texas. Maybe Florida State's Jimbo Fisher would be interested in listening to an offer from the Longhorns? Or maybe his quarterback, Jameis Winston, is just mocking the situation and Fisher would never leave, via @AP_Top25.

A wish list by Texas appears to have only been made by fans and donors. Jon Gruden, a rumored candidate, said, per Will Brinson of CBS Sports in a December 2013 article, "I don't want to be considered for any of these jobs." That was in reference to NFL job openings, but he went on to say, "I don't want to be considered for anything."

Nonetheless, there's still support for the current Monday Night Football announcer and even for Saban even after both denied leaving their current jobs. Chip Brown of Orangebloods.com joined KRLD-FM in Dallas Fort-Worth on Jan. 2 to discuss how the man in charge of the coaching hire, Patterson, isn't giving the same support that others are, via SportsDay DFW.

I think there's support for Jon Gruden, but I don't think Steve Patterson (Texas AD) is one of them. When you talk about Jon Gruden, I think that will fizzle. Saban, I just think there's too much that's already happened. There's no question Mack Brown did not want Nick Saban to succeed him.

Who is Patterson considering now? Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly laughed off rumors, per Brinson, and San Francisco head coach Jim Harbaugh made a humorous response to coaching rumors, per Josh Katzowitz of CBS Sports. Bob Labriola of Steelers.com reported that Mike Tomlin had no interest in going back to college. And Baltimore Sun columnist Mike Preston reported on Twitter that Ravens head coach John Harbaugh is not interested in Texas.

So while message board and Twitter users still might believe that one of the above mentioned coaches is coming to Texas, they've all denied. Currently, Louisville's Charlie Strong and Vanderbilt's James Franklin are solid candidates for the Longhorns. Per Orangeblood.com's Chip Brown on Twitter, both are among finalists for the job.

Strong's season is wrapped up while Franklin's Commodores play in the BBVA Compass Bowl on Saturday. So why must Texas make a decision regarding the pair sooner rather than later?

Penn State is the key after former head coach Bill O'Brien left for the Houston Texans. The Nittany Lions are in the same search as the Longhorns and have made an offer to Miami's Al Golden, per BlueWhiteOnline.com via @Tim_OwenBWI.

And Pete Roussel of CoachingSearch.com reports via Twitter that Franklin will interview for the Penn State job on Sunday. So, about that mess? Well, if Franklin takes the Nittany Lions job then the Longhorns lose him as a coaching hire. Still, he's awaiting that interview.

However, if Miami's Golden accepts the Penn State job, Strong could be considered for the 'Canes job. Jon Madani, program director and host for Sportstalk AM 1300 The Zone in Austin, believes Strong would go to Miami in this instance, via Twitter.

Strong recruits the Miami area very well and went back and forth between jobs with the Florida Gators throughout his coaching career. Fifteen players on his current Louisville roster are from Miami and several others are from the nearby areas. Despite the money that Texas has, Strong could build the Hurricanes program back to up to "The U", especially with his Florida recruiting pipelines.

The longer Texas waits, the worse the potential situations could get. And instead of the Longhorns getting to pick the next coach, they could very easily be left with Franklin picking the Longhorns. Not that he isn't capable of the job, but is he the right fit? Or, maybe there's another name besides Strong and Franklin that Patterson's fond of.

Whatever the case is, it's time for the Longhorns to make a hire a before the carousel gets out of hand.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Cotton Bowl 2014 Oklahoma State vs. Missouri: Live Score and Highlights

Missouri (11-2) gets a chance to face an old foe when it meets Oklahoma State (10-2) in the Cotton Bowl at 7:30 p.m. ET on Friday at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

The Tigers and Cowboys were regulars on each other's schedules from the 1960s until 2011 as members of the Big 12 (previously Big Eight) Conference, but in 2012, Missouri left to join the SEC. Oklahoma State has won the previous three meetings in the series, taking the last one 45-24 in October 2011.

Both teams missed out on playing in a BCS bowl game by losing their last contest. Missouri was beaten 58-42 by Auburn in the SEC title game, while Oklahoma State fell 33-24 at home to rival Oklahoma in its regular-season finale.

The game is being shown live on Fox, but stick around here for real-time updates, analysis, tweets, pics, GIFs and other nuggets of knowledge from this renewal of an old rivalry.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Alabama Football Recruiting: Top Remaining Targets for the Crimson Tide

Nick Saban has already helped the Alabama Crimson Tide assemble an imposing recruiting class for 2014, but the Tide have the potential to land a few more stellar young athletes to truly make this group one to remember. 

Alabama has already secured pledges from top-flight recruits, such as Cameron Robinson, Da’Shawn Hand and Tony Brown, but Saban isn’t done quite yet. 

Instead, the Tide are waiting on three more big recruits to announce their decisions to fill out the remainder of what most recruiting services consider the top class in the nation.

Only time will tell if Alabama can land each one, but it’s hard to doubt the staff’s recruiting mastery.

 

Matt Elam

Elam may be on the Kentucky Wildcats’ home turf, but the Tide are still considered strong contenders for the 4-star defensive tackle’s services.

It’s no surprise why Alabama is interested; a quick glimpse of his highlight video shows that he could be a force in the middle. 

Mark Stoops and the Wildcats have wooed the Elizabethtown, Ky., native, but it’s impossible to ignore the influence of the Tide. 

"There's a lot to like about Alabama—the defending national champions, the coaching staff, it's just one of the best in the country,” Elam told Wescott Eberts of SB Nation. “And then to get to play on the biggest stages against the best competition, you can't really get that against Kentucky, so there are some pros and cons with that."

Elam, however, might be unable to resist the appeal of his hometown team: 247Sports’ Crystal Ball predictions give Elam a 61 percent chance of choosing Kentucky.

"When Stoops and his staff came in, I feel like they changed the program," Elam told Eberts. "I talked to (Kentucky commit) Drew (Barker) and he was like, 'Man, I wasn't considering them at first, but when Stoops came, I put them to the top of my list.' I feel like that's definitely the case with me, they made such a jump because of what he did at FSU and especially with the defensive line."

Elam plans to announce his decision at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl on Jan. 4, so Saban and company won’t know for sure until then.

 

Brian Wallace 

The Tide might’ve already nabbed a stellar offensive tackle in Robinson, but they might able to land another if they can sign Wallace.

The 4-star tackle is a physical beast at 6’6” and 305 pounds, and given his impressive technique, it’s no surprise that Saban has his eye on him.

Wallace is also being pursued by the Arkansas Razorbacks, but it seems increasingly likely that he’ll go with Alabama instead. He’s visited both schools, but he seemed particularly taken with Tuscaloosa. 

"Everyone was telling me how impressive Alabama was, and I actually got a chance to see it for myself," Wallace told 247Sports (subscription required). 

The Crystal Ball prediction for Wallace heavily favors the Tide, giving Alabama a whopping 82 percent chance of landing the tackle. 

Wallace will also wait to announce his decision at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, but it seems like Tide fans can feel pretty confident about his commitment.

 

Marlon Humphrey

The Crimson Tide are surely happy to have landed Brown, widely considered one of the best cornerbacks in the 2014 class; however, Saban isn’t willing to settle for just “one of the best.” Not when Marlon Humphrey, the nation’s top cornerback and the son of former All-American Alabama running back Bobby Humphrey, is still available.

Humphrey may be just 6’1” and 175 pounds, but his speed and technique are both superb, as his highlights suggest. 

While the Tide are largely considered heavy favorites to land Humphrey, one team could swoop in and steal him away, as SB Nation’s Bud Elliott explains

Humphrey's dad Bobby was a star for the Crimson Tide, and son Marlon lives just down the road from Tuscaloosa. If there is a school that can sign Humphrey away from the Tide (it) is Florida State, as Humphrey has a great relationship with Florida State defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt, who coached defensive backs at Alabama for several years previous to joining FSU's staff in 2013. This one will come down to official visits, but (it) is very difficult to pick against the Tide and a chance to be coached by Nick Saban when a five-star Alabama legacy is concerned.

Humphrey has yet to make official visits to either school, but he is set to head to Tallahassee, Fla., on Jan. 17 and Tuscaloosa, Ala., on Jan. 24.

He plans on making his official decision on Feb. 1, but with the Crystal Ball predicting that he has a 95 percent chance to sign with the Tide, the announcement may be a mere formality.

 

Conclusion

Alabama certainly doesn’t need to sign any of these recruits to still have assembled the best class in college football, but on the heels of a disappointing season (by Saban’s crazy standards) and a loss in the Sugar Bowl, it’d be huge for the Tide to prove that they’re still the premier program in college football by completely dominating in the recruiting arena.

The last time Alabama landed a loaded class like this was back in 2009, with a group that included stars such as Trent Richardson, A.J. McCarron, Chance Warmack, Eddie Lacy and Dre Kirkpatrick.

That class produced a bevy of first-round draft picks and a trio of national titles for Saban, and there’s no reason that the Tide won’t aim to accomplish the same things this time around.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Marqise Lee vs. Nelson Agholor: Who Will Graduate USC with Better Career?

The inclusion of USC's Marqise Lee in the Jadeveon Clowney-Teddy Bridgewater conversation was not too far-fetched just a year ago.

He was perennially projected as a top-10 NFL draft pick come 2014, and guys like David Moulton of naplesnews.com wished he could be granted eligibility sooner. Such head inflation was premature, as Lee witnessed his stock fall throughout the season due to early drops, nagging injuries and the stigma of Lane Kiffin-influenced origins.

While his most recent performance in the Las Vegas Bowl helped save himself from possible draft-board disappointment, unlike Matt Barkley and Robert Woods, the void left behind in its wake may have allowed Nelson Agholor to surpass him in the ranks of USC lore.

Southern California officially appointed itself "Wide Receiver U" this past June, and the names on its admissions list boast a quantitative argument at least. Transitory success to the professional level this century has been short-lived (Steve Smith), marginal (Keary Colbert; Mike Williams; Damian Williams) or non-existent (Dwayne Jarrett; Patrick Turner; Ronald Johnson). Nonetheless, USC's capability to continuously spit out Biletnikoff candidates and stars in the confines of the Coliseum is indicative of its mainstay offensive prowess.

In order to fit among the lineage, of course, every snap lined up as the flanker or in the slot is invaluable. Lee possesses the edge, having played first, but is there enough time for Agholor to catch up?

As the nation awaits the junior's decision on whether or not to forgo his senior campaign, do Lee's numbers and accolades stack up to be insurmountable? Has Agholor already capitalized on Lee's absence and subsequent head start in leading the Trojans offense as Cody Kessler's primary target? Do scouting reports and box scores outweigh highlights and off-field factors? Who will ultimately be remembered as the superior cardinal n' gold receiver?

It's time for another decathlon presented by the Italian Trojan.

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Marqise Lee vs. Nelson Agholor: Who Will Graduate USC with Better Career?

The inclusion of USC's Marqise Lee in the Jadeveon Clowney -Teddy Bridgewater conversation was not too far-fetched just a year ago...

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Power Ranking the Best College Football Players to Declare Early for NFL Draft

With time winding down to the Jan. 15 deadline for college football players to declare themselves eligible for the NFL draft, it's the perfect time for a history lesson on the best student-athletes to depart school early to head to the pros.

Texas A&M great and 2012 Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel still hasn't made his announcement, though a spot on this list will likely be made if he leaves College Station early.

Until then, click on for the list of the 10 best players to leave school early for the NFL draft.

The primary judging factor is the player's collegiate career, seconded by his time in the NFL. Other factors, such as program and historical impact, also play a role in the rankings.

 

Note: Stats via Sports-Reference.com, unless otherwise noted.

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Oklahoma State Fan Makes 'I'm a Man, I'm 40' Jersey Based on Mike Gundy's Speech

In 2007, Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy defended one of his quarterbacks from a newspaper article that prompted one of the most memorable tirades in college football history. 

Now, thanks to Darren Rovell of ESPN Sports, we see a fan has made a custom jersey to represent the "I'm a man, I'm 40" quote.

In case you'd like to hear the classic speech again, you can watch below. 

Hat tip to Mike Foss of USA Today's For The Win for bringing this to our attention.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Jameis Winston Wants to Play for Yankees or Braves While Playing in NFL

There's no denying that Florida State quarterback and reigning Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston has a bright future ahead of him on the gridiron. However, the dynamic signal-caller appears to be leaving all of his options open. 

According to AL.com's Jon Solomon, Winston believes he can succeed while playing both football and baseball professionally someday, singling out the Atlanta Braves and New York Yankees as potential destinations. 

During a BCS National Championship Game media session on Friday, Jan. 3, Winston had the following response when probed about the possibility of excelling as a dual-sport professional athlete:

You can do anything you put your mind to. A lot of people are going to say, no way, he's a quarterback, Bo Jackson was a running back. But if I put my mind to it -- and the one thing I always seem to do is gain the trust of my teammates -- if I can convince those guys I can be your quarterback and still go play baseball for the Atlanta Braves or New York Yankees...

Keep in mind that the 19-year-old Winston is a talented baseball player and was selected in the 15th round of the 2012 MLB draft by the Texas Rangers. He played pitcher and outfielder for the Seminoles' baseball team in 2013.

Winston added that former two-sport athletes like Bo Jackson serve as inspiration:

No one can be Bo Jackson. I mean, the guy if he wouldn't have gotten hurt probably would have been in the Hall of Fame in both baseball and football. So that's something that's unrealistic. But I'm not going to tell myself I can't do that.

Still, it's difficult to imagine Winston following in Jackson's footsteps. Even if the Hueytown, Ala. native has the physical and mental makeup to dominate as a professional football and baseball player, it's unlikely that a professional sports franchise investing in him would be comfortable with the obvious risk involved with such a scenario.

ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit told Solomon that he loves the idea of Winston starring in the NFL and MLB, but feels it's an unrealistic desire given his position:

I love seeing guys play multiple sports, but he plays quarterback. It's very different than Deion Sanders and Bo Jackson. As much as he wants to play both, because he plays quarterback, eventually I think he's going to have to make a decision. Talk to John Elway about it. There are a lot of quarterbacks who thought about playing both and eventually had to make a decision.

Herbstreit, a former college quarterback himself, raises an excellent point.

For at least the next few days, Winston will have more than enough on his plate, as he and his teammates prepare for their BCS National Championship Game matchup with Auburn, which is set to kick off on Monday, Jan. 6 from the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif. 

It's been an unforgettable and record-breaking season for the redshirt freshman to this point, but unless he and the Seminoles can finish the job against Auburn, Winston will have bigger concerns heading into the offseason than his future as a dual-sport star.

 

Follow Bleacher Report Featured Columnist Patrick Clarke on Twitter. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Under Armour All-America Game 2014: Top 5 Underclassman Combine Performers

Before the brightest stars in the 2014 recruiting class got on stage for the Under Armour All-America Game, the Underclassman Combine took place.

This event featured the many of the nation's best prospects from the 2015 class, as it gave the recruiting world a sneak peek into next year's group. Although it's early in the evaluation process for juniors, some used this event to stand out from their peers.

A talented offensive lineman displayed great upside, while a pair of defensive ends showcased their ability to be monsters on the edges. Also, a linebacker known for his pass-rushing ability impressed with his cover skills. 

 

Player evaluations are based on review of tape at Scout.comRivals and 247Sports. 

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Orange Bowl 2014: Top Players to Watch in Clemson vs. Ohio State

While the BCS National Championship Game is the only bowl that actually matters and the Stanford-Michigan State game was the most intriguing from a traditional, smashmouth football sense, there isn't a BCS bowl capable of providing more fireworks than the Orange Bowl between Clemson and Ohio State.

There are stars, explosive offenses, smart coaches, proud programs, oranges! Okay, so the last bit doesn't really mean anything, but you can bet this game will be memorable. Or at least it looks like it should be memorable on paper.

But which players will rise above the rest? Who are the stars you should be focusing on? Are these rhetorical questions getting you excited to read this article?

If you answered "Yes," enjoy!

 

Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson

If you had to pick a handful of the most entertaining college players to watch this season, Watkins would most definitely make the cut. 

Watkins was excellent again in 2013, finishing the season with 85 receptions for 1,237 yards and 10 touchdowns. He can stretch defenses vertically, burn defenders after the catch and was a huge reason why Clemson had the No. 11 pass attack in the country this season. 

As Brian Bennett of ESPN.com notes, Ohio State's pass defense isn't exactly stingy:

Ohio State's pass defense was in tatters by the end of the season, giving up 451 yards through the air to Michigan and allowing Michigan State's Connor Cook to throw for 300 yards in the Big Ten title game loss. Add to that the uncertain status of top cornerback Bradley Roby(bone bruise on his knee) and top pass-rusher Noah Spence (personal reasons) and there could be issues.

Defensive coordinator Luke Fickell is putting true freshman Vonn Bell into the lineup at nickelback and moving Tyvis Powell to starting safety in an attempt to shore up the pass defense. But if Ohio State doesn't show major improvement in the secondary and make up for the possible loss of Roby and Spence, it could mean a huge night for the Clemson stars. 

A surefire first-round pick, Watkins will have the chance to showcase why he is deserving of top-10 selection. Expect him to take advantage of that opportunity.

 

Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State

Half quarterback, half running back, Braxton Miller is just fun to watch. For the second straight year, he's eclipsed 1,000 rushing yards (1,033 yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground) while also passing for 1,860 yards, 22 touchdowns and just five interceptions. 

Clemson allowed just 351.2 yards (23rd in the nation) and 21.1 points per contest (17th), but Miller is going to present the Tigers with a stiff test.

Few players in college football are as dangerous as Miller, and if Ohio State is going to win this game, it will be behind a huge performance from its star quarterback.

 

Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson

Another dual-threat quarterback, Boyd does the majority of the damage with his arm. He threw for 3,473 yards and 29 touchdowns to just nine interceptions, completing 67.6 percent of his passes, but also rushed for 273 yards and nine touchdowns.

Ohio State is going to struggle to slow down Watkins and Martavis Bryant, which means that Boyd could be in line for a mammoth game through the air. Of course, if the Buckeyes focus too much on solidifying the secondary or go all out with pressure, Boyd will make them pay with his legs.

In other words, good luck, Ohio State defense.

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Why Shane Morris and Derrick Green Weren't Michigan's Top Freshmen in 2013

Contrary to popular belief, Michigan’s 2013 recruiting class was comprised of more than quarterback Shane Morris and running back Derrick Green.

While certainly noteworthy, Morris and Green merely headlined a haul that, today, seems to have some not-so hidden talent.

Showing composure and promise under fire, Morris held tight by completing 63 percent of his passes for 196 yards during Team 134’s 31-14 Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl loss to K-State.

Green contributed a five-yard carry that resulted in a first down—that was it. He received 43 of 83 touches during the final four games and finished the season with 270 yards and two touchdowns.

Brimming with potential, Morris and Green were two of Brady Hoke’s top youngsters. But they weren’t the best.

Nope. Not even close.

 

No. 1: Take Jake

He’s getting bigger, stronger and faster—Jake Butt will soon be a star complement to Devin Funchess.

With three catches for 33 yards against K-State, the freshman supplied some sort of offensive highlights when none were to be found.

Michigan scored six points during the first half and rushed for 10 yards. Butt’s average of 11 yards per catch was the high point of the evening for coordinator Al Borges, whose play-calling churned out 261 yards of nothingness.

Emerging as an effective and reliable target, Butt reeled in 15 of his 20 catches during the final four games of the season. Continuously showing progress each week, he proved that he was the most college-ready prospect from Hoke’s 2013 collection.

Butt wasn’t just a solid contributor “for a freshman;” he was the team’s third-leading receiver (235 yards, 2 TDs). At this point, it doesn’t matter who plays quarterback—Butt can work with either Gardner or Morris.

That being said, Butt looked extraordinarily comfortable—when compared to others who dropped passes—catching bullets from Morris. Michigan has depth at receiver and tight end. More physical than Funchess, it’s likely that Butt could take on more of a blocking role while Funchess remains the favored option.

That’s fine. That’ll create more opportunities for Butt, who seemed to surprise defenders with his athleticism. A simple recollection of the season reveals an interesting observation: Teams didn’t seem concerned with Butt most of the time.

That’s a nice recipe for success, but it’s doubtful that defensive backs will sleep on Butt next fall. He’s been exposed for what he is: a true threat.

 

No. 2: Ben in Blue

Remember Ben Gedeon?

Not really?

It’s OK, he got lost in the fold. Everyone was talking “Morris this, Green that” and neglected to mention one of the Wolverines’ best young special teamers.

Appearing in 13 games, Gedeon gave a frosh-best 19 tackles (10 solo) to Team 134, which ended the year at 7-6.

His sack of Daniel Sams in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl was perhaps the highlight of the season. His play on kickoffs is noteworthy, too. 

While defending returns, Gedeon hawked the ball. That's the way to do it, especially for a player who could end up seeing more snaps in the 4-3 than on STs. A climb up the depth chart may be in the 6'3", 236-pounder's immediate future. 

No. 3: Secondary Freshies?

They're defensive backs, but they're primary components. 

Contributions from Jourdan Lewis, Dymonte Thomas and Channing Stribling were arguably more important than what Green and Morris added, at least during the dog days of fall. 

Sure, the deep ball was a problem in 2013—and Lewis fell victim to a couple—but that can be corrected through coaching. Pace dictates play, and Michigan’s defensive backs were often forced to linger on the border between solid coverage and the land of taking too many chances.

Gambles pay off big, but they’re also costly. Lesson learned. Lewis should be a serviceable corner as a sophomore. With 13 games of experience, he’ll be asked to either step up or move out of the way.

Stribling and Thomas look to be Michigan's next-gen rock-'em, sock-'em safeties/nickels. Curt Mallory, the secondary coach, certainly has enough pieces to rebound from what was a lukewarm finish by his players.

MGoBlue slightly disagrees with this assessment of the freshmen. However, it's important to note that perspective comes into play.

For those looking for the upside, a positive review and forecast is necessary. For those leaning toward the more critical side, perhaps the idea of redshirting one or more of the players mentioned seemed warranted.

Both are fair looks at the topic. Considering the overall struggles, perhaps a sunnier approach serves best. Stribling and Thomas are hard hitters. Throw in Jabrill Peppers, just imagine that...

And remember, Thomas made an immediate impact. It was one of Michigan's top plays. Sadly, it came during a 59-9 Week 1 beating of Central Michigan, not during a Week 14 win over the Buckeyes. 

 

No. 4: Don't Run Past De'Veon

Nineteen of 26 carries came within the final three games for De’Veon Smith, who had four carries for seven yards against K-State.

It’s completely logical to criticize Borges for the lack of Smith Time this season. There were instances in which he appeared superior to Green, who had moments of good and bad. Why Borges waited until Doomsday to play his top backs is a head-scratcher.

Smith had seven carries for 57 yards during the 42-41 loss to Ohio State. However, 38 of those yards came at once. But as the season drew to a close, he demonstrated forward progress in every sense of the word.

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

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Army All-American Game Roster 2014: Sleepers to Watch in Recruiting Showcase

The U.S. Army All-American Bowl features some of the best high school football players in the country, although not all of them are well-known just yet.

This week's Under Armour All-America Game has become the top destination for elite talent among recruits; however, big names, such as running back Sony Michel and offensive tackle David Sharpe, represent a deep class of prospects that will be at the Alamodome for this showcase.

Additionally, this is a chance for some of the less-heralded players to prove that they should be rated higher on recruiting boards.

Here are some of the biggest sleepers that will be on display at the Army All-American Bowl on Jan. 4, along with full rosters of each team.

 

Frank Iheanacho, WR, Undecided

A lot of aspects of being a receiver can be taught; however, you cannot teach someone how to be 6'7".

Frank Iheanacho has incredible size, but he still has enough speed to stick at the position throughout his career. Greg Powers of Scout.com provides a look at the possibilities:

Iheanacho is obviously a huge target that will automatically be a safety net for whichever quarterback gets the pleasure of throwing him the football. Additionally, the Texas native will be a big-time red-zone target who could easily score double-digit touchdowns in a season at the next level.

While he is still relatively raw in this sport, he has the size and athletic ability to transform into one of the top receivers in the nation. 

Iheanacho will likely decide between Texas A&M, Oregon and LSU during the game.

 

Jesse Aniebonam, DE, Maryland

It is always hard to predict how young players will turn potential into production, but Jesse Aniebonam is built to succeed at the next level.

The 6'4", 230-pound defensive end/outside linebacker has the speed and athleticism to be a dominant pass-rusher off the edge. While he needs to add more weight, he has a big enough frame that will allow him to add plenty of muscle once he gets into a college strength program.

At this point, his biggest problem is inconsistency; however, Josh Helmholdt of Rivals.com points out that Aniebonam can come back strong from bad showings:

As he gets experience, he will learn how to make plays more often until he becomes a complete defensive player.

After deciding to stay at home to play at Maryland, Aniebonam will likely see the field relatively quickly. 

 

Drew Barker, QB, Kentucky

Since Kentucky is not known as a football school, not many top prospects from the area choose to stick around; however, Drew Barker is making a real difference for the Wildcats.

The pro-style quarterback has good size and the arm strength that any team would love from the position. His accuracy is not elite yet, but it has been steadily improving and could be a plus by the time he is an upperclassman. 

Of course, quarterbacks want to play with talented players. The good news is that he is taking matters into his own hands, according to Matt Jones of Kentucky Sports Radio:

Top players are already believing in what Barker has to say, which points to his leadership ability.

It will be an uphill battle for Kentucky to be relevant in the SEC, but this quarterback has a chance to be a legend in Lexington.

 

Follow Rob Goldberg on Twitter for the latest breaking news and analysis.

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Jadeveon Clowney Meets His No. 1 Fan, an Older Woman Who Says She Loves Him

"Aren't we having fun, darling? I love you."

Future NFL player Jadeveon Clowney posted a video to his Instagram of his interaction with an older woman who sounds like his No. 1 fan, and it's absolutely precious.

She's is so thrilled to see him that she hollers to her husband, Alvin, so he can meet him too. Then she declares her love for Clowney and makes all of our days. 

 

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Bowl Game Schedule 2014: TV Info, Predictions and More for Rest of Bowl Season

The final rendition of the BCS bowl system is winding down, with just four more days and five more games left. As bowl season reaches its climax with the final bowls and the BCS National Championship Game, here is all the TV info you need to catch the end of college football season, as well as predictions for the remaining games:

The three big bowls obviously stand out and warrant further analysis. Below are reasons why the Orange Bowl, Cotton Bowl and BCS National Championship will unfold as predicted.

 

Cotton Bowl

The Missouri vs. Oklahoma State game is probably the toughest to call. Both teams feature powerful offenses that are reeling from disappointing finishes to the regular season.

The Tigers and Cowboys share a common regret at missing out on a BCS bowl and have similar keys to salvage a Cotton Bowl consolation. Both possess front sevens capable of disrupting the opposition's timing-based offense, as well as balanced attacks that can keep the other defense off balance.

However, Missouri has so many playmakers on the front seven that it is not hard to envision the Tigers generating a couple of game-changing sacks or turnovers. Besides unanimous All-American Michael Sam, the Tigers also have received huge contributions from Markus Golden, Shane Ray and Kony Ealy. The quartet has combined for 52.5 tackles for loss and 29 sacks.

Oklahoma State is also a bit undersized up front, and while All-American cornerback Justin Gilbert leads a stifling Cowboys pass defense, Missouri should have enough success on the ground to pull out a victory in a closely contested game.

 

Orange Bowl

Ohio State was on the national championship radar for the entire season, and Buckeyes Nation is disappointed not to be in Pasadena. Meanwhile, Clemson had one of the least-visible seasons of any 10-2 team, partially because of an early-season beatdown at the hands of Florida State.

Both offenses possess big advantages over the other defense—Clemson through the air, Ohio State on the ground. The Buckeyes' third-ranked run game and the Tigers' 11th-ranked air raid should turn the Orange Bowl into a high-scoring affair.

But Ohio State's ability to dominate on the ground also allows it to control the clock and pace of the game. If the Buckeyes are burning off chunks of clock on each drive, not only will it rest their own defense, but it will also wear down the Tigers D. Moreover, running by its nature is inherently a lower-variance option, meaning that Ohio State is going to be less prone to debilitating mistakes.

Ultimately, expect Ohio State to get to Tajh Boyd at least a couple of times, as the Buckeyes finished with the fourth-most sacks in the country. That should create a few short fields for Braxton Miller and Carlos Hyde and provide Ohio State with some consolation for its near-miss at the national championship.

 

National Championship

The SEC has generally been the favorite during its remarkable run of seven consecutive championships, but the conference representative has never faced longer odds than it does right now. As ESPN's Brad Edwards notes in an Insider article (subscription required), the Seminoles offense should hit plenty of huge plays on Monday night:

It is rare to have a huge statistical mismatch between two major units in a national championship game, but there's no way to deny the gap between the Florida State offense and the Auburn defense. Big plays are a part of this. The Seminoles are tied for the national lead with 103 gains of 20 yards or more, while the Tigers entered the bowl season having allowed 70 such plays, which ranks 109th in the FBS.

And there's more to the story. One in every 8.5 offensive plays for FSU has gained at least 20 yards, the second-best ratio in the last 10 years (behind 2006 Hawaii). On the flip side, Auburn's 5.96 yards per play allowed is the worst by any of the 144 teams to have participated in a BCS game.

Auburn does have a chance if it can control the clock with its running game. Florida State ranked fifth in the nation in conceding just 3.1 yards per carry, but apart from Boston College, the Seminoles did not face a team in the Top 40 in the country in yards per carry.

The Tigers possess the hottest ground game of any team, having compiled at least 200 yards rushing in every game since Week 3 and more than 300 yards in six of the past eight contests. If Auburn can establish a rhythm on the ground early and keep Jameis Winston off the field, it can overcome the odds.

But Florida State is the more talented team, which is a rarity when facing an SEC opponent. The Tigers are not built to pass their way back from a deficit, so expect the Seminoles to pull away late.

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Army All-American Bowl 2014: 10 Best Recruits to Watch

The 2014 U.S. Army All-American Bowl brings several of the nation's star high school seniors to San Antonio on Saturday, Jan. 4. The action begins at 1 p.m. EST on NBC and promises to provide a peek at dozens of premier prospects.

Representatives of Team East and Team West step into the spotlight, ready to show off their skills against the worthiest of peers. Here's our rundown of the top 10 college recruits to keep an eye on during the game.

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Clemson vs. Ohio State: Factors That Will Decide the Orange Bowl

Clemson and Ohio State are a pair of teams with a lot to prove in this year’s Orange Bowl after falling short of their national championship dreams, and the relatively even matchup will likely be decided by just a few key factors. 

Each team boasts an electric passing game, with quarterbacks Tajh Boyd and Braxton Miller among the best in the country at the position. 

However, each team has some glaring weaknesses on defense that could spell trouble when they take on these high-powered offenses.

How the Buckeyes defend the pass and how the Tigers defend the run could very well end up determining which team earns the BCS win.

 

Tajh Boyd vs. Ohio State’s Pass Defense

Boyd has been phenomenal all year long for the Tigers, completing 67.6 percent of his passes for 29 touchdowns and nine interceptions.

He’s what defines Clemson’s 11th ranked passing offense, and he could cause major headaches for the Buckeyes’ maligned secondary.

Ohio State is allowing 259.5 yards per game through the air, good for 105th in the nation, and is letting opposing quarterbacks complete 60.5 percent of their passes on average. 

The Buckeyes’ pass defense has been in shambles for a while now, and things might only get worse in the Orange Bowl, as ESPN’s Brian Bennett explains.

Ohio State's pass defense was in tatters by the end of the season, giving up 451 yards through the air to Michigan and allowing Michigan State's Connor Cook to throw for 300 yards in the Big Ten title game loss.

Add to that the uncertain status of top cornerback Bradley Roby (bone bruise on his knee) and top pass-rusher Noah Spence (personal reasons) and there could be issues. 

Defensive coordinator Luke Fickell is putting true freshman Vonn Bell into the lineup at nickelback and moving Tyvis Powell to starting safety in an attempt to shore up the pass defense. But if Ohio State doesn't show major improvement in the secondary and make up for the possible loss of Roby and Spence, it could mean a huge night for the Clemson stars.

The one area that the Buckeyes might be able to exploit is Clemson’s penchant for turning the ball over in big games.

The Tigers gave the ball away six times to the South Carolina Gamecocks in their 31-17 loss and four times to the Florida State Seminoles in their 51-14 drubbing.

The Gamecocks and Seminoles were able to score six touchdowns off those turnovers, and if Ohio State can replicate that success, the Buckeyes have a chance.

Ohio State has picked off 14 passes this year, 39th in the country. So, they have some hope of intercepting Boyd, and need to do it frequently.

 

Carlos Hyde and Braxton Miller vs. Clemson’s Run Defense

By contrast, the Achilles’ heel of the Clemson defense appears to be defending the run.

The Tigers are allowing 152.8 rushing yards per game, and the Buckeyes are in pretty good position to take advantage of this deficiency, as ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit notes. 

Running back Carlos Hyde has been huge for Ohio State’s offense since he returned from his three game absence at the start of the season, running for 1,408 yards and 14 touchdowns in just 10 games.

He’s been the perfect compliment to Miller, who has had accuracy issues, but has managed to run for 1,033 yards and 10 scores of his own.

The pair should tax Clemson’s subpar run defense, and Hyde has grand designs on even breaking Ahman Green’s Orange Bowl record for rushing yards.

"Perfect ending for me would be beating 206," Hyde told Cleveland.com. "And a win. That would be the perfect way to go out." 

However, it’s not totally inconceivable that the Tigers could slow Ohio State’s running game. 

In fact, Michigan State just offered a pretty good game plan of how to do so according to ESPN’s Todd McShay

When the Spartans got the Buckeyes behind schedule on down-and-distance, it enabled them to get creative with their blitz/spy combinations. In doing so they were able to bring extra pressure in an effort to sack Miller without leaving them vulnerable to him escaping contain and ripping off a long run.

There was a second-quarter, third-and-6 play that perfectly illustrated this strategy, and the Spartans' overall defensive approach. MSU brought a blitzing outside linebacker and a blitzing corner, but also left two defensive backs sitting back in a zone, watching Miller in case he eluded the rushers and broke free. It was a clear sign of MSU's intentions: It was willing to give up a 6- or 7-yard gain and a first down on a short pass, but it was not willing to give Miller room to tuck the ball and break a long run. And since Miller failed to hit his hot read -- tight end Jeff Heuerman, which would have given them a first down -- the gamble to bring pressure paid off, as OSU failed to convert the third-down play.

The Tigers’ defense is surely a long way off from the talented Spartans, but the Big Ten title game proved that Miller and Hyde could be contained effectively.

Both of these teams have incredible talent offensively; the key will be who can make stops on defense.

Each defense has its strengths and weaknesses. It will just be a matter of whether Urban Meyer or Dabo Swinney does the better job of exploiting his opponents’ issues.

If neither defense can adjust, this game could quickly turn into a shootout, creating a real Orange Bowl to remember.

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