Feed aggregator

Oregon's Defensive Coordinator Nick Aliotti to Retire After Alamo Bowl

Expect the Oregon Ducks defense to give its 110 percent against the Texas Longhorns when the two face off in the 2013 Alamo Bowl on Dec. 30 (6:45 p.m. ET on ESPN)...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Oregon's Defensive Coordinator Nick Aliotti to Retire After Alamo Bowl

Expect the Oregon Ducks defense to give its 110 percent against the Texas Longhorns when the two face off in the 2013 Alamo Bowl on Dec. 30 (6:45 p.m. ET on ESPN).

That’s because Oregon defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti will be coaching the final game of his career, via CBS Sports’ Bruce Feldman:

Nick Aliotti will announce that he is retiring and that the Alamo Bowl game against Texas will be his last game as Oregon's defensive coordinator, a source told CBS on Friday. An official announcement is expected later in the day.

The Ducks soon after confirmed the report, via GoDucks.com.

Following team practice, Aliotti made sure the team knew where his loyalties lie:

The 59-year-old has spent the last 36 years prowling the sidelines as an assistant coach.

Aside from Oregon, Aliotti has coached with Oregon State (running backs), Chico State (offensive coordinator), UCLA (defensive coordinator) and even spent three seasons in the NFL with the St. Louis Rams (special teams).

But the Walnut Creek, Calif. native has spent the majority of his career in Eugene. He was a graduate assistant from 1978-79, the outside linebackers’ coach from 1988-92, the defensive coordinator from 1993-94 and again as defensive coordinator from 1999 onward.

Although the Ducks are most prominently known for their flashy uniforms and high-powered offense, Aliotti’s defense has been instrumental to the team putting together six consecutive 10-win seasons. Oregon has ranked inside the top 50 in total defense in four of the last five years.

Furthermore, the team has finished in the top 25 in turnover margin in each of the last four seasons, including No. 1 in 2012.

The job Aliotti has done this season has been commendable. He has taken a defense ravaged by the loss of players and a staff shakeup following Chip Kelly’s departure to the NFL, and turned them into a formidable unit.

Aliotti will present the Ducks next defensive coordinator with some pretty large shoes to fill.

 

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

USC Football: Trojans' Marcus Martin Declares for 2014 NFL Draft

As the USC Trojans transition into the Steve Sarkisian era, they'll have to do so with a new man at the center of their offense.

Junior center Marcus Martin announced on Twitter Friday that he will forego his senior season for the NFL draft.

The Los Angeles native was the only Trojan to be named to the All-Pac-12 first team on offense, an honor he received earlier this month.

Martin joined USC in the class of 2011 as a 247Sports composite 3-star and was named Freshman All-American after starting 10 games at guard in his first season in Troy. He remained at guard the following year, starting 10 games and appearing in 12.

He then moved to center as a junior, where he replaced All-Pac-12 center Khaled Holmes, who was taken in the fourth round by the Indianapolis Colts in last year's draft.

The 6'3", 310-pound Martin started 13 games for the Trojans this year but left the regular-season finale against UCLA with a knee injury, as detailed by Gary Klein of the Los Angeles Times. He was also held out of USC's 45-20 Las Vegas Bowl victory over Fresno State.

The kneecap injury, according to Scott Wolf of the Los Angeles Daily Newswill not require surgery.

While it wasn't indicated by Martin, risk of future injury certainly could have weighed on his choice not to return to college.

Martin's decision leaves USC's new staff with the task of replacing three starters along the offensive line, while also grooming the team's third center in three years.

Senior Abe Markowitz took Martin's place in the Las Vegas Bowl, while sophomore Cyrus Hobbi was listed as his backup.

Looking forward, USC should have plenty of help on its way along the offensive front. In the Trojans' 2014 class, their top three verbal commits are all composite 4-star guards: Viane Talamaivao, Toa Lobendahn and Chris Brown.

Depth will likely still be an issue for a few seasons for the Trojans as they come off of NCAA sanctions, so they could end up relying on another upperclassman to take over at center, just as Martin did last offseason.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

USC Football: Trojans' Marcus Martin Declares for 2014 NFL Draft

As the USC Trojans transition into the Steve Sarkisian era, they'll have to do so with a new man at the center of their offense. Junior center Marcus Martin announced on Twitter Friday that he will forego his senior season for the NFL draft...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

If a Position Change Means More Playing Time for KSU QB Daniel Sams, so Be It

Two-quarterback systems aren't always successful, but Kansas State made it work with Jake Waters and Daniel Sams. 

Anyone who has watched K-State this year knows a big reason why Waters and Sams can co-exist is because they're selfless players. Sams is usually the first one to congratulate or console Waters when he comes off the field and vice versa. 

K-State coach Bill Snyder tends to stick with Waters because of his passing ability, but Waters and Sams are effective in their own way. Sams is easily one of the most gifted runners in the Big 12, and had 784 yards on the ground along with 11 rushing touchdowns in 2013. 

Because Sams is so good with the ball in his hand, it's possible a position switch is in his future. Or, at the very least, he could be given additional responsibilities within the offense. 

But don't bank on Sams moving around too much in time for Saturday's Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl against Michigan. 

"I haven’t discussed that with any of the coaches. Our focus is on Michigan at this point," Sams said via the Kansas City Star. "But I will talk to Coach Snyder about it. I just want him to know I want to be on the field. … When that time comes we will see how it goes."

2014 will be an interesting year for Sams, who will be a junior. Does he stay at quarterback, likely backing up Waters again, or does he move to another position—say, wide receiver? Former quarterback Collin Klein, whom Sams sat behind in 2012, was a former receiver for the Wildcats. 

Trevone Boykin, who started 13 games at quarterback for TCU while Casey Pachall sat out with personal and injury issues, recently moved to receiver. It's a move that already looks like it will benefit him, as Boykin finished tied for fourth on the team in receptions with 26. 

Kansas State will definitely lose receiver senior Tramaine Thompson, and junior Tyler Lockett could depart early for the NFL draft. Point being, receiver is going to be an area of need for the Wildcats. So, too, will running back, since John Hubert is a senior as well.  

Sams has played multiple positions before.

Maybe Sams plays a little running back—he already does, to an extent—or a little wide receiver. If that means he's on the field more often, so be it. He's too athletic to leave on the sidelines. 

That doesn't mean Sams has to abandon the quarterback spot, but his ceiling is too high to only be a backup. The only thing Snyder would have to be careful about is not asking too much of Sams. 

"When he prepares himself well, he does pretty well underneath center," Snyder said of Sams via the Star. "We will dissect it when the season is over, but I don’t see any foreseeable change. Maybe we could give him some additional responsibilities.”

That would behoove Snyder, and it would benefit Kansas State's offense. 

 

Ben Kercheval is the lead writer for Big 12 football. All quotes obtained firsthand unless cited elsewhere. 

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Michigan Football: What to Expect from Shane Morris in Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl

Quarterback Shane Morris will be instrumental to the Michigan Wolverines’ chances of victory when they take on the Kansas State Wildcats in the 2013 Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl on Dec. 28 (10:15 p.m. ET on ESPN).

But more than that, the true freshman will be just a kid living out his childhood dream.

“It’s been my dream since I was a little kid to start at quarterback for the University of Michigan,” Morris said, via The Detroit Free Press’ Mark Snyder. “I grew up in Michigan. I have baby pictures of me in Michigan jerseys. It’s really cool.”

The Warren, Mich., native was thrust into the spotlight when it was announced that starting quarterback Devin Gardner was ruled out after breaking his foot against Ohio State in the season finale, via CBS Sports’ Bruce Feldman (h/t Tom Fornelli).

Now, Morris is set to become the first true freshman to start for Michigan since Tate Forcier in 2009.

But unlike Forcier—6-9 career record as a starter—there are much higher expectations for Morris.

A 4-star prospect out of De La Salle Collegiate High, Morris was ranked No. 4 at his position by 247Sports. Other outlets, including Scout, even had him listed as a 5-star prospect.

Regardless, Morris has already showcased the qualities of a true leader.

Even before stepping on campus, he was a vocal leader for the Wolverines, helping the team draw in top recruits via social media. One of those players successfully brought in by Morris was 4-star running back/safety Dymonte Thomas.

Now, expect Morris to bring that leadership to the field, where he will be playing with a group of players whose experience trumps that of his.

One of those veteran players—fifth-year senior tackle Taylor Lewan—has already noticed some maturation in Morris.

“It’s almost been day and night,” Lewan said, via Mlive.com’s Nick Baumgardner. “(It feels like) he’s been committed to the university (since I was a freshman). I’ve gotten the opportunity to be around him (a lot), and (watched him change from) this guy that’s worried about Twitter followers, to a guy who could truly care less.”

Furthermore, Morris has shown the potential to back up the hype on the field.

Don’t be fooled by his stats in limited playing time during the 2013 season—65 yards and one interception on 5-of-9 passing. Morris can definitely play.

During 2012’s Elite 11 summer camp, Morris shined. He earned the gold jersey for winning the accuracy contest with his pinpoint precision passing and showcased his arm strength. Rivals’ Mike Farrell was so impressed with Morris that he ranked him No. 1 among the 11 quarterbacks participating.

It all adds up to give him a great shot at topping the performances of some of the former Michigan quarterbacks in their first-ever starts:

Interestingly enough, six of the last seven quarterbacks led the Wolverines to victory in their first start. However, only Gardner played away from home and none made their debut amidst the pressure of a college football bowl game.

Fortunately for Morris, if he ever falls on tough times he’ll have top-tier talent to bail him out.

Look for All-Big Ten wide receiver Jeremy Gallon to be the go-to-guy. The senior has caught 80 passes for 1,284 yards and nine touchdowns and has the ability to tack on yards after the catch to help make Morris’ job easier.

You can also expect Michigan head coach Brady Hoke to rely on running backs Fitzgerald Toussaint and Derrick Green to take some of the pressure off the passing attack. The pass-blocking experience of Toussaint will especially come in handy when Morris drops back to throw.

All in all, it will definitely be a challenge going up against a Kansas State secondary that has been pretty solid all year—No. 47 against the pass (221.8 YPG). 

However, Morris believes he is more than up to the task.

“I prepared for 12 weeks like I would be the starter,” Morris said, via Snyder. “They always say you’re one play away. Well, it’s true.”

Fittingly, Morris now stands just a game away from transforming his childhood dream into a permanent reality.

No pressure, kid.


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

Oregon Football: Ducks Must Avoid an Alamo Bowl Letdown

A month of bowl game preparation can be a blessing or curse for Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich, as his team readies for an Alamo Bowl date against Texas.

Blessings are evident. Quarterback Marcus Mariota, hampered by a left knee injury in the regular season’s final month, practiced without a brace on Thursday. A healthy Mariota is obviously paramount to the Ducks’ offensive game plan, but especially so given Texas’ deficiencies.

Helfrich and coordinator Scott Frost have had ample time to study the Texas defense, a unit that struggled mightily against up-tempo, spread offenses similar to that which Oregon runs. In particular, the Longhorns struggled against mobile quarterbacks like Brigham Young’s Taysom Hill and Ole Miss’ Bo Wallace.

The Longhorns haven’t struggled quite as mightily since Greg Robinson settled back in as defensive coordinator of head coach Mack Brown’s staff, but this hasn't exactly been the 2005 Texas defense, either.

With Byron Marshall healthy again, Oregon has the leader of its multifaceted run game spearheading the attack. Add Mariota at full strength and the dynamic ball-carrying his knee injury limited last month, and the Ducks present Texas with one of the most difficult-to-contain looks in college football.

Conversely, the inherent curse is in the additional preparation time that Texas has been afforded to examine and replicate the issues that vexed Oregon late in the season.

The season’s final month erased the unbeatable air surrounding Oregon as it blasted one opponent after another through its 8-0 start, dominating on both sides of the ball.

BCS chaos shaking out as it often does, a one-loss Oregon team could have factored into the BCS Championship equation. A single blemish suffered at Stanford may not have necessarily eliminated Oregon for the title game bid Auburn earned, but a two-loss Oregon squad had no shot at a BCS bowl game, let alone the crystal ball.

Opponents rushed with confidence on the Ducks defense in the final month. Stanford and Arizona went with an approach of quantity over quality, nickel-and-diming at fewer than five yards per carry.

However, the ability of each offensive line to dominate in the trenches and turn those medium-length rushes into sustained drives kept the ball away from the explosive offense and ultimately became Oregon’s undoing—and is an area for Texas to potentially exploit.

To give up big yards on more than 40 carries from Pac-12 pace-setters Tyler Gaffney and Ka’Deem Carey is one thing. Allowing Oregon State, the conference’s No. 11-ranked rushing offense, to go for 231 yards on the ground is much more disconcerting.

Stopping the Texas rush isn't just necessary for an Oregon win, it’s about making a statement for a defense that’s still maligned for its ability to stop high quality competition.

The Ducks’ motivation—or lack thereof—is an often cited factor in their late-season woes. With Texas playing in its home state and with the opportunity to give Brown a victorious sendoff, the Longhorns would seemingly have a monopoly on motivation.

 “If you want to try and find a reason for motivation, you can nitpick on anything. You can say our motivation for wanting to win is just because it’s our coach’s first season,” senior safety Brian Jackson told The Oregonian.

And indeed, notching Helfrich win No. 11 is of particular significance because of what that number means in recent program history.

With records of 12-1 in 2010, 12-2 in 2011 and 12-1 last season, Oregon is a benchmark for consistency in college football. Only Alabama and Pac-12 North rival Stanford have been as consistent in that same period.

A loss sends Oregon to its worst final record since going 10-3 in 2009, Chip Kelly’s first season as head coach.

Surely there is no shame in first-year Coach Helfrich finishing 10-3. However, the expectations Helfrich inherited from Kelly differ from those Kelly took on after Mike Bellotti.

Where Kelly’s first season was a step forward—the program’s first BCS bowl in eight years and first Rose Bowl in 15—this season has shown a slight regression. The Alamo Bowl is an opportunity to take a step back in the right direction and for the Ducks to earn their national championship contender status heading into 2014.

 

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Oregon Football: Ducks Must Avoid an Alamo Bowl Letdown

A month of bowl game preparation can be a blessing or curse for Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich , as his team readies for an Alamo Bowl date against Texas. Blessings are evident...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Minnesota Winning a Bowl Game Could Shake Final Cobwebs out of Dormant Program

Minnesota football claims seven national titles to its credit, but most people alive today have never witnessed a truly great Gophers team. However, with a win in the Texas Bowl, Minnesota could be on its way to clearing the last cobwebs out of a dormant program and heading toward greater things.

Just how dormant has the program been? Minnesota last won the Big Ten in 1967, a season in which it went 8-2 and split the title with Indiana and Purdue (my, how times have changed). 

Since then, the Gophers have managed to win eight games just one time (1999) and more than eight once—going 10-3 in 2003 and winning the Sun Bowl. 

The next season Minnesota would go and win the Music City Bowl, 20-16, over Alabama. It would be the last time a Gopher team won a bowl game. 

Breaking that streak would just be another hurdle overcome this season under Jerry Kill and his coaching staff. 

Kill and his longtime assistants have had a pattern of historic third seasons everywhere they've been, and this season is no different.

His teams have gone a combined 27-47 in the first two years of play at Southern Illinois, Northern Illinois and Minnesota, but the third year has been a breakout year—with Kill coached teams going a combined 28-9 (to date) in year three. 

The history-making at Minnesota this year began with a 4-0 start and a win over Nebraska for the first time in school history. Minnesota has already won eight games for just the third time since 1967 as well.

Now, the next hurdle in the way—winning a bowl game for the first time since 2004—is a streak that stands at five games currently.

Doing that would not only break another barrier for the program but put Minnesota on the cusp of doing something great. It would mean just the eighth time in school history that a team has won nine games. 

It's all just a stepping stone to what Kill wants this program to be, but the significance of a win in the Texas Bowl isn't lost on Kill. 

"We have a great opportunity to compete and continue to make history as a team," Kill said to the Associated Press via Fox Sports North. "Nine games, winning nine games is important to us, winning a bowl game is important to us."

One of the key parts to that building process has been the emergence of junior running back David Cobb. He came virtually out of nowhere, playing almost exclusively on special teams before this season (just 11 carries entering this year). 

In 2013, Cobb has run for 1,111 yards and seven touchdowns while averaging 5.1 yards per carry. 

He's been the catalyst to one of the Big Ten's best rushing attacks, helping the team average 200.9 yards per game—which was the fifth-best total in the B1G and 32nd nationally.

Cobb will be key to the Gophers' chances against Syracuse in the Texas Bowl for sure, but this has always been a team effort, and Minnesota's defense will play just as big of a role. 

The defense has been very solid against the pass, ranking fifth in the Big Ten this year—giving up just over 200 yards and only 16 passing touchdowns during the regular season. 

Defenders Ra'Shede Hageman and Brock Vereen earned first-team All-Big Ten honors for their efforts individually, becoming the first duo of Gophers to earn first-team honors together since 2008.

Hageman finished with 34 tackles, a team-high 11 tackles for loss, two sacks, an interception, eight passes defensed and one fumble recovery—just to name a few of his statistics this season. 

Vereen had 56 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and one interception as a defensive back this year. 

For Hageman and Vereen, it is their last game in the maroon and gold and a chance to leave a lasting legacy for the program with a win.

However, for 12 players from the state of Texas it is also a chance to erase the bad memories of coming home and losing last season. 

"We enjoyed our experience last year and wish we could have come away with a victory," Kill told Fox Sports North. "I know our players, especially the 12 from Texas, welcome the opportunity to represent the University of Minnesota in a state that has great football tradition."

Minnesota is just a few short steps away from being taken seriously by not only the hardcore football fan but the casual one too, and a win in the Texas Bowl will go a long way toward building that credibility. 

Consider it just par for the course for a third-year team under Jerry Kill, though.

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Pros and Cons of Teddy Bridgewater Entering NFL Draft

Louisville Cardinals quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has a problem.

Should he return to school, where he'll be a local and national star, a Heisman Trophy candidate and in the race for the national title? Or should he head off to the NFL draft, where he'll almost surely be a top-five pick?

That's a pretty nice problem to have, huh?

It is a debate that the Louisville junior has been considering all season long, but one he'll wait to make until after Louisville's Russell Athletic Bowl tilt with Miami (Fla.), as he told The Courier-Journal's Jeff Greer:

At the beginning of this season, I knew I had a decision to make. I wanted to make it through this season first and then take care of what’s down the road.

When you have your priorities in order and you know what you want to accomplish, it’s not difficult at all.

But I still have one more game to play this season.

While the answer to that parley might already be made, no decision has been announced one way or another by Bridgewater and won't be until after the Cardinals close out their 2013 campaign.

Until then, we'll take a look at some of the reasons why he should go pro, as well as a few reasons why coming back to Louisville would be beneficial.

 

Pros

Will Probably Be a Top-5 Pick

Bridgewater is almost as close to a lock to be a top-five pick as possible.

Even if he returns and has an incredible senior season, his stock can't improve all that much.

Bleacher Report's Matt Miller recently projected the Louisville signal-caller to be the first quarterback off the board at pick No. 4. Other draft pundits see him going even higher.

With plenty of talk swirling around the star junior, it appears as though he might be taking notice at just how high his stock is for this draft. He pressed the enter key on a cryptic tweet last Friday, which could be taken to indicate that he'll be heading toward the personal glory of being a top pick in May.

It's a tough decision that Bridgewater is mulling: Return to the school he loves, or head to the NFL. But a sure top-five landing spot makes the decision easier.

 

No Risk of Injury or Poor Season

One of the chief concerns for any highly touted NFL prospect is injury. Whenever a player decides to return to college, he runs the risk of suffering an injury that will jeopardize his professional career.

The Miami native has some history with injury in the past, including a broken wrist and sprained ankle in 2012. At 6'3", 205 pounds, Bridgewater isn't exactly a towering, durable quarterback, making the risk of injury apparent.

While the perils of that kind of injury are always present, Tim Sullivan of USA Today recently broke down the dangers of a serious head injury that could cost Bridgewater his promising career:

Bridgewater might still be the country's most coveted quarterback prospect a year from now were he to return for his senior season at Louisville. But with his diploma already in hand, with his draft stock screaming "sell," and with career-ending concussions becoming increasingly common in football, Bridgewater would be almost foolish to tempt fate.

Today, Bridgewater has a good head on his shoulders. The problem with playing quarterback is that you can't always count on tomorrow.

The tomorrow is the biggest concern for all prospects in Teddy's shoes, but might be even more for the UL field general. As the Cardinals head to the ACC, Bridgewater will no longer take on soft AAC foes and runs the risk of actually regressing next year.

While his stock really has no room to rise, it has plenty of room to fall, whether that happens due to injury or a new environment.

 

Could Find Success on a Talented Texans Team

With the Houston Texans heading into their final game with an NFL-worst record of 2-13, they'll likely take the No. 1 overall pick and at least consider drafting Bridgewater.

Recently, Greer quoted ESPN NFL draft analyst Todd McShay projecting the Texans to take Bridgewater with that top pick:

ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay, in his first “mock draft” for 2014, projects Bridgewater as the top pick in the 2014 draft, selected by the Texans.

“The question for the Texans is going to be this: Do you have a player at another position who grades out considerably higher?” McShay wrote. “If not, given their need at QB and the importance of that position, my guess is that they’d talk themselves into taking Bridgewater.”

While this season was a nightmare for Houston, that doesn't make the franchise a total loss. The Texans won two straight AFC South titles before this injury-riddled disaster of a season.

Even through this rough season, the Texans boasted a top-10 defense. They lost star running back Arian Foster for the season and the offense struggled through poor quarterback play by Matt Schaub.

With a little health and help and the quarterback position, they could be right back in the playoff hunt next year. Bridgewater would be throwing to a potential Hall of Fame receiver in Andre Johnson, as well as speedy former first-round pick DeAndre Hopkins, who will be in his second year in the league.

It would also help that Bridgewater would enter a weak AFC South division that features just one team above .500. As far as No. 1 overall selections go, the situation couldn't be much better for Bridgewater, if that is his fate.

 

Might Not be No. 1 Pick Next Year

While Bridgewater is nearly a lock to be the top pick this year, he might not be in the same position a year from now.

Even if he returns, has another solid season and does nothing to hurt his draft stock, he could be passed up in the draft pecking order.

Florida State's Jameis Winston will be eligible for the NFL draft next season and many believe he'll be the No. 1 overall pick.

While Winston's draft value is likely to eclipse that of Bridgewater, the UL quarterback could also be passed up by Oregon's Marcus Mariota. With Mariota returning, he also stands to raise his stock above Bridgewater's.

Bridgewater will almost assuredly be the top quarterback taken this year, but he could fall to third or worse next time around.

 

Cons

Will Miss out on ACC Exposure

Louisville's move to the ACC is a big question mark for next season. As previously mentioned, the move could bring struggle, as it has for several other programs through the recent conference realignment.

On the other hand, it could also bring immense prosperity to Bridgewater and the Cardinals. Against more respectable competition, if Bridgewater continues to find success, he could have NFL squads fighting over him in next year's draft.

The Cards will have an early taste of what they can expect in the ACC in this year's Russell Athletic Bowl, where they will take on Miami (Fla.). Recently, UL head coach Charlie Strong pointed to that contest as a measuring stick going forward, per Ken Hornack of Fox Sports:

We're playing a quality opponent. We're playing an opponent who will be on our schedule next year with us going into the ACC. And that's big. It's a program that has a lot of tradition. We're trying to get there. And we're going to use this as a measuring stick to see how far we need to come.

If Louisville comes out with a strong performance against an ACC contender in Miami, it could be a preview of success next year.

And success in the ACC would take Bridgewater much further than success from his days in the Big East and AAC.

 

Will Be a Heisman Favorite Upon Return

With that ACC exposure would also come a new Heisman Trophy campaign for Bridgewater.

He began 2013 on the short list of Heisman favorites but saw his run for the award derail in an early-season loss to Central Florida.

If he returns, he'll be right back in the conversation, though it will be crowded with Winston and Mariota returning. However, Bridgewater is no stranger to making Heisman-caliber plays and will be in great position to win the award in the ACC.

If he can best Winston and win the conference, he'll have an outstanding chance at taking the Heisman. 

 

Could be in National Title Hunt

Louisville had an outside shot at the national title this season, though its weak schedule would've made the run a challenge.

Next year, that won't be the case. Florida State proved as much this season by winning the ACC and earning a berth in the national title game.

While the Cardinals would have likely been passed up by one-loss SEC champion Auburn this season, they won't miss out on the first College Football Playoff if they take care of business next season.

With Bridgewater linking up with top receiver DeVante Parker once again, the UL offense will be dangerous. Additionally, the Cardinals finished the regular season No. 2 in total defense, though several key players will be gone off that unit.

Regardless, Bridgewater and Strong have been the key cogs for the Cardinals—and if both return, they'll be national contenders.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Military Bowl 2013 Marshall vs. Maryland: Live Score and Highlights

The local Maryland Terrapins (7-5) are informally "hosting" the Marshall Thundering Herd (9-4) in Annapolis, Md., on Friday in the 2013 Northrop Grumman Military Bowl.

Keep it locked here for updates throughout the game.

Current Score: Marshall 7, Maryland 0 — First Quarter

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Miami vs. Louisville: Key Players in Russell Athletic Bowl Clash

It might not be the sexiest bowl game on the college football schedule, but it might end up being the most entertaining, as two very good offenses meet when Louisville takes on Miami in the Russell Athletic Bowl.

Miami is 26th in the nation with 25.9 points per game, while Louisville is just behind them at 29th with 35.1 points per contest. Can you say shootout?

So in a game between two very prolific offenses, which players will be key for either side? Who must step up for either team to ensure a win to close the year?

Let's find out.

 

Allen Hurns and Stacy Coley, WR, Miami

Hurns is arguably Miami's best offensive player, finishing the year with a team-leading 60 receptions, 1,138 receiving yards, 19.0 yards per catch and finishing second on the team with six touchdown catches. 

Coley might just be the team's most explosive weapon, however. Despite making just six starts this year, he caught 30 passes for 559 yards and seven touchdowns. He also added a rushing, punt return and kick return touchdown on the season, making him a very, very dangerous player every time he touches the ball.

In a game likely to become a shootout, these two weapons on the outside will need to come up big.

 

Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville

Well, duh.

The unflappable Bridgewater is undoubtedly Louisville's key player, throwing for 3,523 yards, 28 touchdowns, just four interceptions and an impressive 70.2 completion percentage. He led the Cardinals to an 11-1 record behind an 18th-ranked pass offense that averaged 302.9 yards per game. 

Quite possibly the top pick in next year's NFL draft, Bridgewater will want to complete an excellent college career with a win. And he should have little problem carving up a Miami defense that ranked 71st in pass defense, allowing 233.4 yards through the air per game.

It's pretty simple for Louisville—if Bridgewater plays poorly, they lose. Of course, it's also very unlikely that Bridgewater will play poorly.

 

Miami's Front Seven 

The only way Miami is likely to disrupt Bridgewater is by generating pressure, thus making the play of the front seven very vital in this contest.

Miami did register 28 sacks on the season, a respectable mark, and players like Tyriq McCord (four sacks, one fumble recovery and three forced fumbles) will have to step up. Of course, getting after Bridgewater is easier said than done, as safety A.J. Highsmith told Susan Miller Degnan of the Miami Herald:

You have to give him difficult looks, things that are hard for them to pick up. And when you get to Teddy, you have to do a good job of tackling him, because he makes a lot of guys miss when the pressure does get there.

He’s very elusive in the pocket.

Miami's only chance on defense is to keep Bridgewater out of a rhythm. If he's given time to sit in the pocket and dissect the defense, well, it will be a long afternoon for the Canes.

And Louisville is pretty solid on defense—12th in the nation in points allowed per game, 12.4—so simply assuming Miami's offense can save the day and outscore Louisville is a risky game to play. The Canes absolutely must slow down Bridgewater, and that starts and ends with the team's front seven on defense.

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Cancel Your NYE Plans to Watch the Johnny Manziel Experience Just One Last Time

Don’t go downtown. Don’t go to dinner. Don’t spend $75 on that wristband that doesn’t include top-shelf goodness and does include obscenely long lines. Don’t even leave your house. And if you do, ensure the viewing options are in order well in advance.

Celebrate New Year’s Eve with Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, the closest thing to a video game cheat code that we have in real life. Ensure you're by a television by 8:00 p.m. EST, a few hours before the ball will begin to work its way downward, and enjoy the Chick-fil-A Bowl.

It’s not just a special night and showcase—although it has the makings to be that and more—but it will also likely serve as Manziel’s final game at the college ranks.

Maybe this isn’t it. Maybe Johnny Manziel will grab ahold of the microphone following a Chick-fil-A Bowl win, freshly fallen confetti glued to his face and parachuting cows falling from the sky, and he’ll bellow out, “I love Texas A&M, and I can’t wait to do it again next season!”

We’ll cheer, trying not to spill on any of the nice furniture or that new carpet that was just put in, and we’ll embrace the prospects of more Johnny Football.

Heck, maybe we’ll get two more years of Manziel doing absurd things to college defenses, making future NFL stars and SEC defenders look helpless in their efforts to corral him. 

Maybe he’ll choose to exhaust his eligibility that already feels exhausted in its short lifespan. Maybe, just maybe, Manziel will hang around a while longer, choosing to entertain the masses for free for one (or possibly two) more seasons. 

The door isn’t completely shut on this scenario, one most Texas A&M fans would hug and never let go. In all likelihood, however, the Chick-fil-A Bowl will serve as Manziel’s final college showcase. He will then take his talents—and goodness the plural feels necessary here—to the NFL.

Before we enter an offseason jam-packed with debate over his NFL worth at the position he plays—debate that will be tired before it even begins—there’s still a showcase against a Duke team that many will refuse to take seriously.

Not Manziel, though. It will be up to him to push the offense as he had all year, ensuring that A&M’s point total is enough for a defense that has, well, had its issues all season.

Texas A&M can score. Duke can certainly score as well. What better to celebrate the end of the year by taking a scoreboard and lighting it on fire?

The term “must see” is often overused, but it's certainly warranted here. We tend to lean on this phrase in sports for just about every athlete that we have deemed worth. In truth, however, few athletes require your utmost attention always.

For Manziel, it applies. It always applies, but it feels slightly more important knowing this is it. What makes Manziel “must see,” however, is you never quite know what you’re going to see.

From the exceptional, to the insane, to the plays that don’t work out but are still spectacular in failure, Manziel provides a bit of everything on nearly every snap.

And in 2013, he again delivered quality weekly entertainment yet again.

Like his jump ball against Alabama earlier in the year in a losing effort, a play so off-script that it had to be planned. It wasn’t, of course, and it was laced with luck, but there was something believable about this unbelievable moment. Mainly because who was involved.

Or his double spin move against Mississippi State that resulted in a 26-yard completion once every button on the controller had been pressed. 

Were both spin moves necessary? I’m sorry, are you turning away free spin moves? Of course, they were necessary.

These are just a handful of the highlights that Manziel delivered in a small window, but the full Manziel experience comes by watching the entire 60 minutes.

It’s his fidgety lower body settling in on a blueprint for that particular play, deciding whether to take off or wait just long enough for his wideout to get open. It’s his underrated and often overlooked accuracy with his passes, dropping the ball in a bucket at a regular clip. And yes, it’s even the bad that surfaces every now and then—the occasional sack from prolonged scrambling or the interception from overconfidence.

It all comes together in one strangely wrapped package, the gift of all gifts. Unfortunately, for all of us, the era is approaching darkness.

You don’t need to be told to watch the most exciting player in the sport on one of the most exciting nights of the year, a time where we can throw out the calendars, hit the “refresh” button and start over. 

In the instance of Manziel, we don’t want to start over. We don't want it to stop. We want more.

Unless something drastically changes, however, we won’t get it. New Year’s Eve will serve as our final college serving of Johnny Football, which means you best shuffle your plans accordingly and enjoy every last second.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Bowl Schedule 2013-14: Full Listing of Remaining Games

Bowl season is alive and kicking, and like always, it features a fantastic slate of games. Starting with the New Mexico Bowl, which featured a dazzling comeback by Colorado State, each game has had exciting teams and close matchups.

Going forward, the games are only going to get better, and there are a few games that are simply can't-miss. 

Below is a full listing of all the remaining games. After that, we'll preview some of the most scintillating matchups of bowl season.

 

Russell Athletic Bowl: Miami (FL) vs. Louisville

Date: Dec. 28

Time: 6:45 p.m. ET

TV: ESPN

This will be Teddy Bridgewater's final chance to impress NFL scouts in his bid to be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft.

It's been a fantastic season for Bridgewater, who has thrown for 3,523 yards, 28 touchdowns and only four picks. 

He'll face a decent Miami pass defense, as the 'Canes only give up 233.4 yards through the air per game.

The 'Canes know that the only way to beat Louisville is to stop Bridgewater. Defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio told Susan Miller Degnan of the Miami Herald:

He definitely does a great job of making decisions, that’s the first thing.Does a good job of getting the football where it’s supposed to go, does a good job of being patient as far as taking a checkdown or being able to escape — and he throws extremely well on the run.

It would be surprising if Miami blitzes Bridgewater all game. The team does have an impressive 28 sacks on the season.

The key will be getting back to what has worked. The 'Canes have not really beaten a good team all year—they were dominated by Florida State. Their only good win was against Florida when the Gators were ranked 12th. Stephen Morris needs to have a big game, as does Dallas Crawford.

Louisville is undeniably the favorite here, and it would be a bit of a shock if they lost. That said, Miami does have talent and should be able to make this game interesting. 

 

Chick-fil-A Bowl: Duke vs. Texas A&M

Date: Dec. 31

Time: 8 p.m. ET

TV: ESPN

This is likely Johnny Manziel's final game for the Aggies, capping off a fantastic career.

Duke coach David Cutcliffe gushed over Manziel, telling Laura Keeley of the Charlotte Observer:

As I’ve said, they should be excited. As I said, he truly is one of the more dynamic, if not the most dynamic player, over a long period of time in college football. So if you are a competitor, we know it’s a challenge, but you’ve got to be excited about that, and we are excited about that challenge.

Despite not winning the Heisman again, Manziel had a typically fantastic season. He threw for 3,723 yards and 33 touchdowns, while rushing for 686 yards and eight touchdowns.

It's going to be tough for Duke to stop Manziel. The Blue Devils have the 46th-ranked defense, giving up 24.7 points and 409.3 yards per game. They were torn up by Jameis Winston and Florida State, with the Seminoles notching 569 yards of total offense.

The Blue Devils will probably have a tough time stopping Manziel and Mike Evans. But we can't count them out. For one, they have the Maxwell Coach of the Year in David Cutcliffe:

For another, they did beat good teams in Miami (FL) and Virginia Tech. They also had arguably the best season in school history.

The Aggies are the favorites, but counting out the Blue Devils is unwise. This game should be very exciting. 

 

Capital One Bowl: South Carolina vs. Wisconsin

Date: Jan. 1

Time:  1 p.m. ET

TV: ABC

It's likely the final chance to see Jadeveon Clowney in a college uniform, and it was during last year's Capital One Bowl that the stud defensive end made himself known to the country:

Even though Clowney is undoubtedly the game's biggest star, the real action will take place with the running backs. Wisconsin features a two-headed monster of Melvin Gordon and James White, who have combined for 2,803 yards and 25 touchdowns.

For the Gamecocks, Mike Davis handles the load and does so brilliantly. He's rushed for 1,134 yards and 11 touchdowns.

The Badgers have the sixth-ranked rush defense in the country, giving up just 101.3 yards per game. South Carolina, on the other hand, gives up a healthy 142.3 yards per game on the ground.

In this matchup, it's going to come down to who can run the ball better. And even though the Badgers lost in their last game to Penn State, they have the better running game. 

However, if Clowney can play at his best, then it's hard to see the Badgers running wild. Steve Spurrier gushed over Clowney's impact on the program, telling Scott Hood of the Times and Democrat:

We have 31 wins right now in the three years he’s been here. Hopefully, we can get some more. He has helped us win a bunch of games. Clearly, the profile we had this summer was national. His hit against the Michigan running back was shown worldwide from January through August.

Clowney is the wild card here and may play his best game with every NFL evaluator watching.

It will be a fun matchup, featuring a number of star players. Don't miss this one.

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Mack Brown Has Every Right to Aim for a Higher Buyout from Texas

Mack Brown's resignation as Texas' head coach was a convoluted process, if not downright messy. Based on one report, it would appear his post-resignation relationship with Texas may not be all smooth sailing either. 

Kirk Bohls and Brian Davis of the Austin American-Statesman report that Brown is angling for a larger buyout package than the one he previously agreed to. 

Specifically, the Statesman claims Brown, with the help of his attorney, Joe Jamail, is "seeking as much as $1.3 million annually for the next seven years—the duration of his existing contract—under the title of special assistant to Texas president Bill Powers," a source with knowledge of the talks told the paper. 

By resigning, Brown is set to receive at least $500,000 annually under that title. His buyout is a one-time payment of $2.75 million if the school terminates him before Dec. 31, 2014, according to both the Statesman and ESPN's Darren Rovell. 

What are the chances Texas pays Brown the new amount he wants? According to one official who spoke with the Statesman, they're not particularly good. 

The UT System Board of Regents must approve any final agreement. A high-ranking UT source said that $1.3 million figure would not be approved.

“They haven’t approved it yet,” Jamail said. “That price has not been agreed on.”

At $5,453,750 in total pay, according to the USA Today, Brown was the second-highest paid coach in college football in 2013. Broken down, Brown received around $681,000 per victory. That's stealing money. Eight or nine wins a season with no conference or BCS titles isn't going to get it done at Texas, especially not with that kind of dollar amount being dished out.  

But in January, 2012, Texas' board of regents unanimously approved Brown's four-year extension to keep him through 2020. That came on the recommendation of former athletic director DeLoss Dodds and university president Bill Powers. 

The same Bill Powers who, according to Pat Forde of Yahoo! Sports, recently had a change of heart on Brown's future—and sent new AD Steve Patterson to deliver the news. 

The source told Yahoo! Sports that Patterson arrived at the football building with a jarring change of heart for Brown: You need to resign. That was the decision of University of Texas president Bill Powers, and Patterson was the apologetic messenger. The source said Powers, a longtime friend and supporter of the football coach, abruptly yanked the rug out from beneath Brown after supporting his continued tenure the previous two days.

Thus, the 16-year Mack Brown Era at Texas was terminated, not by the coach himself, but at the insistence of an embattled school president. Although the school's official release and every public statement has said Brown decided on his own to step down, he was pushed—after being told the decision was his.

Whether the reported change of heart was on Powers or the regents, who control Powers' job status, is unclear. Either way, it would be an about-face from two years ago. Yet, Brown insisted in his resignation press conference that the decision was a mutual one.  

Other than the immediate parties, no one knows for sure how the whole series of events went down. However, if there's even an iota of truth to Forde's report, it makes sense that Brown would ask for more money. 

If the decision was essentially made for Brown but was spun for public consumption, then Brown isn't really resigning. Why, then, should he be compensated like he is? That doesn't mean Brown will get more money from Texas, but there's absolutely no risk in shooting for it. 

Texas' mediocrity over the past four years is Brown's fault; Texas' previous decision to reward that mediocrity isn't. As Sean Adams of ESPN Austin notes, how many people would leave their current job for a bare minimum salary?

The amount of confusion and conflicting reports in the week leading up to Brown's resignation would indicate few people were on the same page. Those tea leaves suggest this was not a completely harmonious situation. 

In the end, Texas did what is best for the program—as it should. Brown shouldn't need the extra money, but he's reportedly doing what he feels is best for himself—as he should. The marriage between Brown and Texas, as it used to exist, is over. There's no need to put up an agreeable face anymore. 

 

Ben Kercheval is the Lead Writer for Big 12 football. Follow him on Twitter @BenKercheval

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

What Is the Chick-fil-A Bowl Mascot Doing to Johnny Manziel?

The Texas A&M Aggies had their official Chick-fil-A Bowl welcome party at Dave & Buster's, and it seems the bowl mascot was on hand to provide awkward photo ops like this one. 

Check out more photos from the party at Good Bull Hunting

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Big Ten Football: Predicting Each Team's Bowl Game

Welcome to bowl season, Big Ten football fans! It really is the most wonderful time of the year.

You know who's enjoying this season? None other than Michael Bolton in these hilarious Honda commercials. I've heard some people complain about them and wonder why the former hit pop singer is doing commercials now, but I just love them. He has accepted his place in (or out of) music quite well, and his comic timing and facial expressions certainly are humorous.

Somebody who probably wishes fans would think about Michael Bolton commercials and not him is Michigan State All-Big Ten linebacker Max Bullough. Per Kirkland Crawford of USA Today, Bullough was suspended for the Rose Bowl matchup with Stanford for an unspecified violation of team rules.

Two of the conference's most mobile quarterbacks, Nebraska's Taylor Martinez and Michigan's Devin Gardner, will miss their team's bowl game because of injury. Martinez hasn't played since Nebraska's loss to Minnesota in October, while Gardner will miss the the final game of the season because of a broken foot sustained in Michigan's loss to Ohio State.

By the way, how great was that game?

Don't worry, though. It's not all about suspensions and injuries. There is plenty to enjoy for the conference in this, the greatest of seasons. Even Indiana, Northwestern, Purdue and Illinois, who aren't bowl eligible, are all celebrating, as their coaches will all be back next year. Oh, and you know they're going to enjoy the shared bank from both Michigan State and Ohio State in BCS bowls. 

Of course, I can imagine Penn State being a little leery with Bill O'Brien interviewing with the Houston Texans, according to the NFL Network's Ian Rapoport (h/t Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com). Who knows, maybe he'll chum it up with the Texans brass during the Texas Bowl on December 28. Hopefully he can explain why his Nittany Lions lost at Minnesota in November and alternated wins and losses from the second to the final game of the season.

By the way, how come Capital One Bowl Week is, like, two weeks long? They've got to think of a better name.

On to the bowls!

Begin Slideshow

Taylor Lewan Is Michigan's Most Important Player in Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl

Weeks of speculation ended on Thursday as Michigan Wolverines head coach Brady Hoke named freshman Shane Morris the starter for the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl

Instantly, one player became more important than anyone else to Michigan's chances of success—left tackle Taylor Lewan. 

Michigan's star senior and first-team All-Big Ten selection will be tasked with protecting the front side of a left-handed quarterback making his first ever start. 

Protecting a blindside for 12 games and having to reconfigure your footwork in a month's time can be a challenge, even for the best of linemen. 

"Just because he's a left-handed quarterback, we might run things a little bit different about how he feels it," said Lewan during Thursday's media day at the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. "Other than that, we're confident in him running the same offense that Devin ran, try to put him into a position to be successful."

Lewan and the Wolverines will be going up against a defense that has continuously gotten better as the season has gone on, and it shows in where it ranks nationally.

Kansas State enters the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl giving up just 23.7 points per game (35th nationally) and recoding 27 sacks as a team (47th nationally).

Michigan's offensive line has come under fire this season, thanks to poor rushing results (ranking 100th nationally in rushing yards per game) and giving up 35 sacks on the year.

Only Northwestern (36) and Purdue (38) gave up more sacks than the Wolverines in the Big Ten. 

That's an issue considering Lewan will be going head-to-head with Big 12 Defensive Lineman of the Year Ryan Mueller—who ended the regular season with 61 tackles, 18.5 tackles for loss and, most worrisome for Michigan, 11.5 sacks. 

Lewan's presence and NFL-caliber ability will be put to the test big time against Mueller, and he will need to be on point from the very get-go to help Morris ease into his first career start. Yet, it's a matchup Lewan is looking forward to. 

"If I get the opportunity to go up against him a bunch, I'd love that," said Lewan. "I'm sure he'll have a good game, but my job is to make sure he doesn't have a good game."

It shouldn't be a problem according to Hoke, who says Lewan has had his best season of football in his career. 

"He's (Lewan) had a better year in football than he's ever had," said Hoke. "He's played his best football. He took on a lot of responsibility as a captain and as a guy who felt entitled to help young offensive linemen grow. I think he did that in a very positive way. I think his maturity, all those things that go along with being a year older, really has helped."

Lewan and the rest of the offensive line will also help to take the pressure off of Morris by opening up holes in the run game—another area of consternation all season long for the Wolverines. 

Michigan finished 11th in the Big Ten, rushing for just 130.8 yards per game as a team. With Morris at quarterback, the Wolverines may be a bit more committed to the power run game they've wanted to run. 

It appears that it will be running back by committee for Michigan on Saturday night: 

Just don't expect the offense to change all that much with Morris in for Devin Gardner. 

"Everything has been the same," wide receiver Jeremy Gallon said. "Just because he's (Shane Morris) a younger quarterback doesn't mean he doesn't know his material. I feel like he's on point with his material. He knows what he has to do. He's good at reading the defense, checking out of things if he has to. He's a smart kid. So, I don't feel like anything has changed."

Morris may be the focal point of the game on Saturday night, but it is Lewan who will set the tone for the success or failure of the Wolverines offense, and that makes him the most important player Michigan has.

 

*Andy Coppens is Bleacher Report's lead writer for the Big Ten. All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. You can follow Andy on Twitter: @ andycoppens.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

SEC Football: 2013 End of the Season Accountability

The 2013-14 season is in the books, and the holiday season is upon us. As is the case every year, it's time to reach under the tree and hand out gifts in the form of some end of the season accountability.

Florida wasn't really going to struggle this year, right? Is Dan Mullen really on the hot seat at Mississippi State? Zach Mettenberger as a Heisman candidate? Say what?

Did you think that something that was written or said in the offseason was crazy and demanded answers when the season was over? Well, this slide show is for you.

Here's a look back at some good, bad and ugly predictions from the 2013-14 SEC football season.

 

Begin Slideshow

Texas Longhorns Football Recruiting: Updates on 2014 Commits and Targets

After the inevitable resignation of Mack Brown on Dec. 14, the Texas Longhorns find themselves in a weird sort of purgatory state, entering the meat of recruiting season with a new athletic director, Steve Patterson, and no long-term vision at head coach, despite being linked to seemingly every potential candidate—pro or college; realistic or utterly absurd—who's ever roamed a sideline in his career.

Heading into post-Christmas bowl season, Texas has the No. 12 overall class in the 247Sports team rankings, though it's unclear how (or if) Brown's resignation will affect the status of those who have already committed to UT. Still, until something changes, the Longhorns have the best incoming class in the Big 12...by a lot.

Things can still get better, too. The Longhorns have a realistic shot to land a couple of undeclared 5-star prospects, which could help them weather the storm of this coaching change and dull the roars from their (rightfully) apprehensive fanbase.

Here's a live, updating primer of the entire class.

 

Note: All measurements, grades and rankings, unless otherwise noted, courtesy of the 247Sports composite.

Begin Slideshow

Pages