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ESPN to Release 5-Part 'Snoop & Son' Series About Rapper & His CFB Prospect Son

2015 wide receiver prospect Cordell Broadus is a 4-star recruit, per 247Sports, and has offers from over a dozen Division I programs, including USC, Notre Dame, UCLA and Nebraska.

He's also the son of Snoop Dogg.

ESPN has released the trailer seen above, revealing an upcoming five-part series that will focus on the relationship between the recruit and his famous father. 

Snoop & Son: A Dad's Dream premieres Jan. 14 at 7 p.m. ET.

[ESPN]


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Bold Predictions for Big Ten Football's Bowl Season

The Big Ten started the season rough—so rough that eulogies were written after Week 2—but finished with Ohio State University in the College Football Playoff and nine other teams in bowl games.

The league is still regarded as the worst of the Power Five conferences—and, to be honest, it probably is—but it has a chance to win some fans and reform some critics with a solid postseason.

The following bold predictions were made with an effort to avoid shock value. They are all things that could realistically happen, even though the odds are not strong. They aren't wild predictions.

Just bold ones.

Sound off below with your own bold predictions for the B1G.

 

All lines courtesy of Odds Shark, unless cited otherwise.

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A Scout's Take on New Wisconsin Badgers Head Football Coach Paul Chryst

This past Wednesday, athletic director Barry Alvarez welcomed former Pitt head coach Paul Chryst home and introduced him as the new head coach of the Wisconsin Badgers.

Chryst was indeed coming home, as he said in his press conference.

"I remember being a paperboy and delivering six papers to the stadium," Chryst said. "I had one of my worst wipeouts on my bike on the railroad tracks. I went down and went to heal myself at the doughnut shop right down the road.

"I remember as a kid sneaking in and playing on the field.

"This is a pretty special day."

Before Chryst became the head coach at Pitt for three years and had gotten the football program back on track (19-19 record), the Madison native had lettered for the Badgers for three years at quarterback and had been an assistant coach for seven years, including six as offensive coordinator from 2005-2011.

I believed that Chryst was a natural fit for the Badgers as their new head coach and wrote about that last week when there was rampant speculation about him coming back to the Badgers.

On Friday, I had an opportunity to talk with scout Chris Landry on 620 WDAE's Steve Duemig Show.

I wanted to get Landry's take on Chryst coming back to Wisconsin to be their new head coach. He said:

"Paul Chryst was the worst-kept secret around. He was the guy that Barry [Alvarez] strongly considered, if you remember, when Bret [Bielema] left. But he had only one year at Pitt, and Paul wasn't going to do that if after just getting there at Pitt.

"Timing is everything. But there is no doubt that is a dream job for him. As you mentioned, he played at Wisconsin and he understands the landscape there. I think it's not only a good fit, but a really good coach who did a good job trying to turn around the problems that they have at Pitt."

Landry then talked about some of the obstacles that head football coaches at Wisconsin face when they take on that job.

"Overall, just a thought, it's been an issue, and we addressed it when Bret left. Here's the thing about Wisconsin, it's a great job and it's a great program. A couple of things that people ought to know that maybe they do not know, and I'm sure Bob is aware of this," he continued.

"Illinois, Northwestern, Wisconsin and Purdue are a little bit different in terms of recruiting. They have some restrictions academically that go above and beyond the NCAA. It's very difficult to compete in that area. And it's very difficult when you are not getting paid from an assistant [coach] standpoint at a competitive level.

"Barry will tell you that they pay competitively, but Wisconsin is in the bottom 10 percent of the Big Five schools in terms of their pay to the assistants. That's a fact. I would submit to you that Wisconsin is much better than a bottom 10 percent Big Five school.

"So, I think a lot of it has been we are going to try and do it our way, and we're going to be cost-cutting, and that's fine, that's their business. But I think the program has produced a great deal. Gary [Andersen] was very classy when he said he wanted to get back to the West Coast, but the realities are that those two things had a huge factor.

"Yes, Oregon State, Corvallis, is part of the country where Gary is from, and that's convenient, but trust me when I tell you, even though it's not admitted, that the salaries for assistants and the academic requirements are two stumbling blocks, hurdles, that you have to overcome.

"Paul is willing to embrace that. I think the last two coaches got frustrated with it, Gary in a big hurry got frustrated with it."

Time will tell if Wisconsin will pay their assistant football coaches at a higher level in the future. It's difficult to see the academic standards getting lowered.

Still, if one looks at the football program over the past 20-plus years, the success has been outstanding.

From 1990-2005, Alvarez was 118-73-4 and won three Big Ten championships and also three Rose Bowls. Overall, Barry was 8-4 in bowls, including the Rose Bowl he coached in after Bielema left for Arkansas shortly after the Badgers won the 2012 Big Ten title.

Bielema was 68-24 in seven years and the Badgers won three more Big Ten titles under him. Bielema was just 2-4 in bowl games, however.

Andersen was 19-7 in two years with the Badgers and won the Big Ten West Division this year. Andersen and the Badgers lost in the one and only bowl game he coached in. 

After Andersen left for Oregon State, it means that Alvarez will once again handle the head-coaching duties for the team as they face Auburn in the Outback Bowl on New Year's Day.

Bottom line, even with the obstacles that the football program at Wisconsin faces, the success overall in the past 20-plus years has been very good. As Landry said, Chryst is embracing those impediments.

And Paul should know, having been both a player and a coach at Wisconsin previously. I see Chryst getting similar, if not better results than his two predecessors as a head coach of the Badgers over the next several years.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Playoff 2014-15: Odds, Schedule and Predictions for Semifinals

The anticipation of bowl season never fails, but it might be at an all-time high with the inaugural College Football Playoff on the horizon.

And what a first year for college football's new system. There were neck-and-neck battles for final spots, and what felt like endless controversy has been washed away by the prospect of two mouth-watering semifinals.

You'd have a tough time hand-picking a more prestigious group of four programs, especially in terms of where each program stands today. But a loss can be the beginning to the end of said prestige, and that won't be lost along with the obvious immediate implications for these teams.

Now that we've set the table, let's sit down and take a closer look at what's to come in the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl.

Note: Game odds courtesy of Odds Shark, last updated December 19.

 

Sugar Bowl: No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Ohio State

It's only fitting that in the first year of the CFP, Nick Saban and Urban Meyer rekindle a familiar pastime for both—competing against one another in games that decide who will play for a national championship.

Alas, it's not Florida that Meyer represents but Ohio State, and instead of facing off in an SEC title game, this one is an official game for a ticket to Arlington, Texas, and the national championship.

The first thing that jumps off the page is the simple name recognition and branding of the matchup, pegging two of college football's biggest programs against one another. SEC Network compared the two programs' prestige:

But it's not about the past; rather, this matchup is about the present, and both teams are well taken care of there. 

Alabama's defense isn't the unstoppable force it has been in recent years, but the unit is still impossible to run through up front. A revitalized offense behind Blake Sims has seen him break an Alabama single-season passing record, largely due to wide receiver Amari Cooper's dominance as a Heisman Trophy finalist.

That susceptible Crimson Tide secondary could be tested, however, by third-string quarterback Cardale Jones. He has a big arm that could take the top off Alabama's secondary like Auburn and Missouri have done in recent outings. And he'll need to with the Tide likely to bottle up star rusher Ezekiel Elliott.

It's hard to imagine the Buckeyes defense holding up, even if Jones can carry the offense. Even with a dangerous passing attack, Alabama can still run over opponents with T.J. Yeldon, Derrick Henry and an improving offense line.

Ohio State will keep it closer than the oddsmakers expect, but it won't keep the Buckeyes' title hopes alive.

Prediction: Alabama 31, Ohio State 24

 

Rose Bowl: No. 2 Oregon vs. No. 3 FSU

Jimbo Fisher's Florida State Seminoles enter the first CFP having not lost a game in more than two seasons, and yet they have to travel across the country to face Oregon in the Rose Bowl.

There won't be much to gripe about for the defending champs, however. Not only should they be gracious to even be here after so many close calls this season, but they'll be returning to the same stage upon which they won a national championship a little more than 11 month ago.

Unlike that game, though, the best quarterback on the field might not be on their sidelines. And considering how dominant Marcus Mariota's Heisman voting was in the annals of the trophy's history, he'll be a handful, per ESPN Stats and Information:

Mariota will frustrate Florida State's opportunistic but susceptible defense with his mixture of run and pass, but it's his security more than anything that stands out. He's thrown 38 touchdowns to just two interceptions on the season, while Winston has less scoring tosses and 15 (15!) more interceptions just this year.

Florida State has been able to roll with some considerable punches and pull out victories in 2014, but that will be impossible to re-enact against the Ducks. Once Mariota gets Oregon up a few scores early, the Seminoles run game will be abandoned and Winston will be pushed to force throws.

The Seminoles defense has been masterful at bending but not breaking. The problem? These Ducks might as well have a master's degree in breaking defenses, and the best professor the program has ever had is ready to lay out some knowledge.

Prediction: Oregon 41, Florida State 31

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Bowl Games 2014-15: TV Schedule and Predictions for Every Postseason Battle

The long, two-week break without college football couldn't end soon enough, as Saturday marks the start of bowl season with a handful of early matchups.

Games like the Miami Beach Bowl and the New Mexico Bowl may only be appetizers for what's to come on New Year's, but nothing beats postseason action in the bowl subdivision. Having one last chance to leave a mark for their team on national television often amps up the action, especially when teams used to winning most of their games are invited. 

Every couple of days brings a different spectacle to watch this time of year, and they often increase in entertainment value by the day—with some obvious exceptions. If you don't end up catching the first couple of bowl games on the slate, it's imperative to catch up before the big boys do battle.

Let's take a look at every game in order, breaking down how to catch the action and make a prediction for each one.

Note: Predicted winners marked by (*). Bowl TV schedule courtesy ESPN.com.

 

Biggest Games to Watch

Cotton Bowl: Michigan State vs. Baylor

While one team looks toward building momentum for a 2015 run and another is simply looking to put a fitting ending on this year's campaign, the spotlight and stakes of the Cotton Bowl will bring plenty to play for as far as Michigan State and Baylor are concerned.

Next season's biggest question mark was answered for the Spartans when quarterback Connor Cook announced his intention to stay for his senior season. Behind a nasty defense and an offensive line that will return three of five pieces, Mark Dantonio's squad will be among the biggest College Football Playoff contenders in 2015.

Before that comes, the Spartans will face a team that is intent on writing another chapter to this season's book. After just barely missing out on the CFP in controversial fashion, the Bears—behind star quarterback Bryce Petty, playing in his last game—would like nothing more than to help silence their doubters.

Beating a proven commodity in Michigan State would certainly do that. The Spartans' only losses this year were to Oregon and Ohio State—not too shabby. 

Baylor will have to deal with some coaching turnover, though. After offensive coordinator Philip Montgomery bolted for the Tulsa head job, Waco Tribune-Herald's John Werner noted a change in play-calling:

It shouldn't matter much. Petty has been consistently one of the most dangerous quarterbacks in the nation, and that won't change against a Michigan State team that has struggled to contain elite quarterbacks. 

You won't find many bowl matchups with two better offenses, but Baylor's is more accustomed to shootouts—which is what this game will inevitably become. The Bears' underrated front seven will keep running back Jeremy Langford bottled up, and Cook won't be able to match Petty's aerial dominance.

Prediction: Baylor 34, Michigan State 26

 

Rose Bowl: Oregon vs. Florida State

Two teams that many expected to be here will face off in the Rose Bowl for a spot in the national championship game, but it's safe to say each took unfamiliar roads to make it.

If I told you back in September that Florida State barreled through almost all of its competition convincingly and Oregon just barely got by in most of its games, that would fit the narrative for what both programs accomplished a year ago. But instead, it's been the exact opposite—the Ducks are rolling over opponents (albeit with one slip-up), and the Seminoles can't beat anybody by more than a few points.

Of course, recent trends matter little come kickoff on New Year's Day in the Rose Bowl. What will matter is the security that fellow Heisman Trophy-winning quarterbacks Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota show with the football.

In his encore performance from last year's Heisman, Winston has been far from careful with the ball while Mariota has been magnificent, as ESPN SportsCenter showed:

Winston may try to take advantage of Oregon's loss of cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, but the Ducks will be ready to swarm on anything the redshirt sophomore hangs up there. As for Mariota, he's shown no willingness to give opposing defenses that sort of chance—and Oregon's offensive system rarely puts him in position to do so.

Neither defense has been spectacular this season, but if there's one unit that has shown its grit in big-time games, it's Oregon—which has allowed more than 19 points just once since November. The Seminoles have made the plays when it counts, but that won't continue with Mariota executing the offense to perfection.

Prediction: Oregon 41, Florida State 30

 

Peach Bowl: Ole Miss vs. TCU

The TCU Horned Frogs didn't get their chance to prove themselves in the CFP. But for a team that finished 4-8 a season ago, facing the SEC's second-best team in a statement game isn't all that bad.

Gary Patterson's TCU squad will face No. 9 Ole Miss in the Peach Bowl on New Year's Eve, and a win would serve as the biggest bragging rights a Big 12 supporter tired of the SEC's reign could possibly imagine.

The opportunity at stake isn't lost on the Rebels, either, who are in somewhat of unchartered territory at 9-3 and in the national spotlight. With a still-youthful roster and head coach Hugh Freeze around for the long term, Ole Miss will want nothing more than a resounding win to assert its status as a contender in 2015 and beyond.

ESPN's Tim Tebow summed up perfectly what's at stake, per SEC Network:

Picking a winner almost feels disrespectful to the potential of this bowl game, which should be one of the best of the year. With an elite TCU offense against a top-of-the-line Rebel defense and such huge implications in the lasting outlook of this season altogether, it should be a back-and-forth thriller that goes down to the wire.

Both teams will come ready to play, but Ole Miss will find it much easier to execute its biggest keys to success. The Rebels are much more complete as an overall team, boasting a formidable offense behind quarterback Bo Wallace and running back Jaylen Walton that should counter TCU's biggest punches.

It will go down to the last possession, but expect the Rebels to pull through.

Prediction: Ole Miss 34, TCU 30

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Bowl Games 2014-15: Schedule and Predictions for Top Matchups on Slate

The college football bowl season is set to begin with five games on Saturday. The biggest games won't occur until closer to New Year's Day, but college football fans will simply be thrilled to see the sport return after an almost month-long break from a full schedule.

Things will get underway early with an 11 a.m. start for the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl. The Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns will have a substantial home-field advantage at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome against the Nevada Wolf Pack.

Here's a look at the full slate of bowl games. Just below the table is a closer look at the two national semifinals in the College Football Playoff.

Bowl Location Date/Time Network R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl
Nevada vs. Louisiana-Lafayette New Orleans
Mercedes-Benz Superdome Dec. 20
11 a.m. ESPN Gildan New Mexico Bowl
Utah State vs. UTEP Albuquerque, N.M.
University Stadium Dec. 20
2:20 p.m. ESPN Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl
Utah vs. Colorado State Las Vegas
Sam Boyd Stadium Dec. 20
3:30 p.m. ABC Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
Western Michigan vs. Air Force Boise, Idaho
Albertsons Stadium Dec. 20
5:45 p.m. ESPN Raycom Media Camellia Bowl
South Alabama vs. Bowling Green Montgomery, Ala.
Cramton Bowl Dec. 20
9:15 p.m. ESPN Miami Beach Bowl
BYU vs. Memphis Miami
Marlins Park Dec. 22
2 p.m. ESPN Boca Raton Bowl
Marshall vs. Northern Illinois Boca Raton, Fla.
FAU Stadium Dec. 23
6 p.m. ESPN San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl
Navy vs. San Diego State San Diego
Qualcomm Stadium Dec. 23
9:30 p.m. ESPN Popeyes Bahamas Bowl
Central Michigan vs. Western Kentucky Nassau, Bahamas
Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium Dec. 24
Noon ESPN Hawai'i Bowl
Fresno State vs. Rice Honolulu
Aloha Stadium Dec. 24
8 p.m. ESPN Zaxby's Heart of Dallas Bowl
Illinois vs. Louisiana Tech Dallas
Cotton Bowl Dec. 26
1 p.m. ESPN Quick Lane Bowl
Rutgers vs. North Carolina Detroit
Ford Field Dec. 26
4:30 p.m. ESPN Bitcoin St. Petersburg Bowl
NC State vs. UCF St. Petersburg, Fla.
Tropicana Field Dec. 26
8 p.m. ESPN Military Bowl presented By Northrop Grumman
Cincinnati vs. Virginia Tech Annapolis, Md.
Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium Dec. 27
1 p.m. ESPN Hyundai Sun Bowl
Arizona State vs. Duke El Paso, Texas
Sun Bowl Dec. 27
2 p.m. CBS Duck Commander Independence Bowl
Miami vs. South Carolina Shreveport, La.
Independence Stadium Dec. 27
3:30 p.m. ABC New Era Pinstripe Bowl
Boston College vs. Penn State Bronx, N.Y.
Yankee Stadium Dec. 27
4:30 p.m. ESPN National University Holiday Bowl
Nebraska vs. USC San Diego
Qualcomm Stadium Dec. 27
8 p.m. ESPN AutoZone Liberty Bowl
Texas A&M vs. West Virginia Memphis, Tenn.
Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium Dec. 29
2 p.m. ESPN Russell Athletic Bowl
Oklahoma vs. Clemson Orlando, Fla.
Florida Citrus Bowl Dec. 29
5:30 p.m. ESPN AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl
Arkansas vs. Texas Houston
NRG Stadium Dec. 29
9 p.m. ESPN Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl
Notre Dame vs. LSU Nashville, Tenn.
LP Field Dec. 30
3 p.m. ESPN Belk Bowl
Georgia vs. Louisville Charlotte, N.C.
Bank of America Stadium Dec. 30
6:30 p.m. ESPN Foster Farms Bowl
Maryland vs. Stanford Santa Clara, Calif.
Levi's Stadium Dec. 30
10 p.m. ESPN Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl
No. 9 Ole Miss vs. No. 6 TCU Atlanta
Georgia Dome Dec. 31
12:30 p.m. ESPN VIZIO Fiesta Bowl
No. 20 Boise State vs. No. 10 Arizona Glendale, Ariz.
University of Phoenix Stadium Dec. 31
4 p.m. ESPN Capital One Orange Bowl
No. 7 Mississippi State vs. No. 12 Georgia Tech Miami Gardens, Fla.
Sun Life Stadium Dec. 31
8 p.m. ESPN Outback Bowl
Auburn vs. Wisconsin Tampa, Fla.
Raymond James Stadium Jan. 1
Noon ESPN2 Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic
No. 8 Michigan State vs. No. 5 Baylor Arlington, Texas
AT&T Stadium Jan. 1
12:30 p.m. ESPN Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl
Missouri vs. Minnesota Orlando, Fla.
Florida Citrus Bowl Jan. 1
1 p.m. ABC Rose Bowl Game Presented By Northwestern Mutual
College Football Playoff Semifinal

No. 2 Oregon vs. No. 3 Florida State Pasadena, Calif.
Rose Bowl Jan. 1
5 p.m. ESPN Allstate Sugar Bowl
College Football Playoff Semifinal

No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Ohio State New Orleans
Mercedes-Benz Superdome Jan. 1
8:30 p.m. ESPN Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl
Houston vs. Pittsburgh Fort Worth, Texas
Amon G. Carter Stadium Jan. 2
Noon ESPN TaxSlayer Bowl
Iowa vs. Tennessee Jacksonville, Fla.
EverBank Field Jan. 2
3:20 p.m. ESPN Valero Alamo Bowl
Kansas State vs. UCLA San Antonio
Alamodome Jan. 2
6:45 p.m. ESPN TicketCity Cactus Bowl
Washington vs. Oklahoma State Tempe, Ariz.
Sun Devil Stadium Jan. 2
10:15 p.m. ESPN Birmingham Bowl
East Carolina vs. Florida Birmingham, Ala.
Legion Field Jan. 3
Noon ESPN GoDaddy Bowl
Toledo vs. Arkansas State Mobile, Ala.
Ladd-Peebles Stadium Jan. 4
9 p.m. ESPN College Football Playoff National Championship Presented By AT&T
TBD vs. TBD Arlington, Texas
AT&T Stadium Jan. 12
8:30 p.m. ESPN

 

Florida State Will Outlast Oregon

All year long, the defending champions have been finding ways to win close games. It's hard to find a game in which you could say Jameis Winston and Co. have actually played well as a team.

For some reason, it feels as if this is the game the Noles play like defending champions for close to—or a full—60 minutes. Winston won the 2013 Heisman Trophy, and he is going up against this year's winner in the Oregon Ducks' Marcus Mariota.

There's no disputing Mariota's worthiness of the sport's top individual honor, but Winston wouldn't be a competitor if he didn't want to outperform this year's winner. College Football 24/7 calls Mariota vs. Winston the best matchup of bowl season.

Because of the way Winston's teammates respect him, there's no question they want to help him get the best of the matchup—not to mention defend the school's national championship.

The key here is Florida State's ability to run the ball against the Oregon defense. Dalvin Cook has been a constant for Florida State all season. Even when Winston has struggled, Cook has given the Noles a stabilizing presence.

The freshman leads the Noles in rushing and undoubtedly has a bright future in Tallahassee. Oregon's run defense has been far from stout this season.

The Ducks rank just 50th in rushing yards allowed per game. Look for Florida State to pound the ball on the ground and set up play-action opportunities for Winston. The Noles' defense represents the most athletic and explosive defense Mariota has seen all season.

The result will be a surprisingly easy win for Florida State.

 

Alabama is Too Fast For Ohio State

Ohio State Buckeyes fans will hate to hear this, but it's still true. The Alabama Crimson Tide are too fast as a team.

From the linebackers to secondary and pass-rushers, the Tide can get after the Bucks' receivers and quarterback Cardale Jones like no team Ohio State has faced.

The only prayer Ohio State has is to establish a strong run game early and somehow force Alabama into turnovers. The first is obviously easier said than done.

Bama's run defense is ranked No. 2 in the nation. Led by linebacker Trey DePriest, Alabama fills its gaps and swarms to the ball. If the Bucks can't run the ball, too much pressure will fall on the shoulders of Jones to lead his team to victory.

Jones played great—as did the Bucks defense—in the Big Ten title game against the Wisconsin Badgers; he didn't turn the ball over and Ohio State restricted the nation's leading rusher, Melvin Gordon, to under 80 yards in the 59-0 rout.

Wisconsin definitely isn't on Alabama's level on either side of the ball. 

Heisman finalist Amari Cooper changes the way teams have to defend Alabama. He stretches defenses, which opens up the Bama running game. Ohio State doesn't have one cornerback capable of handling Cooper, and that means safety help will be required constantly.

Bama will win the battle at the line of scrimmage and maul Ohio State in a rout.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

New Orleans Bowl 2014: Live Score, Highlights for Nevada vs. Louisiana-Lafayette

The Bowl season has officially begun and there really isn’t a better place to kick things off than in New Orleans as the Nevada Wolf Pack and the Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns square off in the New Orleans Bowl at the Superdome. The game will kickoff at 11 a.m. EST and it will be televised on ESPN.

Nevada finished the regular season with a 7-5 record, and 4-4 in the Mountain West. They are led by quarterback Cody Fajardo who has rushed for 997 yards and 13 touchdowns, and he has also thrown for 2,374 yards and 18 touchdowns.

Louisiana-Lafayette compiled an 8-4 regular-season record and finished second in the Sun Belt Conference.  One of the reasons they finished second in the Sun Belt is the running back duo of Elijah McGuire and Alonzo Harris, who have combined for over 1,800 yards and 26 touchdowns.

Be sure to come back to this live blog when the game begins for the latest scoring updates, highlights and analysis.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Bold Predictions for Every SEC Football Bowl Game

With 12 of its 14 teams playing in bowl games this year, the SEC has carried over its distinction as the best conference in the country into the postseason. Nine of those qualifiers are favored to win their matchups, according to Odds Shark, making it very likely the SEC will dominate the bowl season like it did throughout the regular season.

Bowl games tend to bring out the crazy, with the extra preparation time making it possible for teams to break out some new wrinkles to their game plans and unveil breakout players who might not have had much of an impact before then. Anything goes during bowl season, and it's often hard to predict how things will pan out.

We're going to give it a try, though. Here are our bold predictions for what will happen in each bowl game the SEC is involved in over the next two weeks.

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Stagg Bowl 2014: Wisconsin-Whitewater vs. Mount Union Score, Recap and More

In what has become an annual event, Wisconsin-Whitewater and Mount Union put on one of the most memorable Stagg Bowl contests ever with the Warhawks capturing their second consecutive Division III national championship in a 43-34 win. 

This is the ninth time since 2005 these two teams have played for the national title. In the previous eight meetings, Wisconsin-Whitewater came out on top five times, including last year's 52-14 thrashing. This year was more competitive, though the final result ended up being the same. 

If there was going to be a loss for Wisconsin-Whitewater, it was going to happen in this game, as the ESPN Stats & Info department pointed out:

Offense was expected to be prevalent throughout the game, as these were two of the highest scoring teams in the country.

Per NCAA.com, Mount Union led the nation with 60.3 points per game, which makes Wisconsin-Whitewater's 39.9 mark look pedestrian. The two teams combined for 1,069 yards and 54 first downs on Friday. 

Warhawks head coach Lance Leipold manned the sidelines for the final time, as he's set to take over at Buffalo after the season. The 50-year-old talked about his emotions coming into this game during a press conference, via Art Kabelowsky of The Wisconsin State Journal:

“It’s like I joined the senior class,” Leipold said. “It’s been very emotional, and it will continue to be. This is where I grew up. … This place will always be special.”

...

“It’s not about my last game. It’s about my guys, and the chance they have to play a 15th game. I hope you had a chance to see it doesn’t just happen.”

It's safe to say Leipold couldn't have picked a better way to go out, ending his eight-year run at Wisconsin-Whitewater with five undefeated seasons and six national championships. He already made history coming into the game, reaching 100 wins faster than any coach in NCAA history, per ESPN College Football:

As exciting and thrilling as the matchup was, it was also ugly in spots. The two teams combined for seven turnovers, including five by Mount Union. 

Purple Raiders quarterback Kevin Burke was hurt by four interceptions, including a pick-six in the second quarter that gave Wisconsin-Whitewater a 20-7 lead. 

Travis Wilson of WisconsinSports.net noted that Mount Union's halftime deficit was largely due to the inept play by Burke:

Another area of the game that will have Mount Union looking back wondering "what if" is penalties. Kabelowsky noted on Twitter the Purple Raiders had two touchdowns taken away due to holding penalties:

Mount Union had to settle for a field goal on that particular drive, which made the score 40-34 with 9.5 minutes to play. That meant a defensive stop was needed to give the offense a chance, but it never came. 

Wisconsin-Whitewater put together its best drive of the game after getting the ball back, holding the ball for more than six minutes to take a 43-34 lead thanks to a a Lake Bachar field goal. 

Dennis Moore was the hero for the Warhawks, recording 120 receiving yards on just three catches. The biggest play of the game was a 75-yard touchdown on a screen pass from Matt Behrendt that gave them a 37-31 lead, via the Mount Union Twitter:

The dagger came when Burke threw his fourth interception as Mount Union was driving with under two minutes to play, hoping to give the team a chance to take the lead with an onside kick. Wisconsin-Whitewater was able to run out the clock to complete a 15-0 season. 

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Alamo Bowl Betting: UCLA Bruins vs. Kansas State Wildcats Odds, Pick

Kansas State is back in a bowl for the sixth straight season, but the Wildcats have been bad bowl bets lately, going just 1-5 both straight up and against the spread in those last six bowls. Kansas State hopes to reverse that trend when it takes on UCLA in the 22nd edition of the Alamo Bowl Friday, January 2 at the Alamodome in San Antonio.

 

Alamo Bowl point spread: Wildcats opened as 2.5-point favorites; the total was 59.5. (Line updates and matchup report).

 

Odds Shark computer prediction: 40.3-32.3 Wildcats

 

Why the Bruins can cover the spread

The Bruins started 4-0 this season, including a 62-27 victory at Arizona State. UCLA then lost back-to-back games to Utah and Oregon but then won five in a row, including a 17-7 victory over eventual Pac-12 South champion Arizona and a third straight win over rival USC.

The Bruins then fell in their regular-season finale to Stanford, but they are playing in a bowl for the fourth straight season. UCLA ranks 23rd in total offense, averaging 269 yards per game through the air and 199 yards per game on the ground, so the Bruins have the ability to simply outscore almost any opponent, as they did against Memphis (42-35), Cal (36-34) and Colorado 40-37).

UCLA played against some tough expectations earlier this season and some big spreads, and it consequently went 1-7 ATS through its first eight games. But the Bruins then covered the spread in three of their last four contests.

 

Why the Wildcats can cover the spread

The Wildcats only lost three games this season—to Auburn by a touchdown, at TCU and at Baylor. Those three teams combined to go 30-6 this season, and both the Frogs and Bears had good cases in support of a College Football Playoff berth.

Kansas State also went 8-2 ATS over its last 10 games, with wins and covers against Oklahoma, Texas, Oklahoma State and West Virginia. On the season, the 'Cats rank 50th in the country in total offense, as quarterback Jake Waters has accounted for 3,600 yards and 28 touchdowns, and wide receiver Tyler Lockett has caught 93 balls for almost 1,400 yards and nine scores.

And the Kansas State defense ranks 36th overall and has held seven opponents to 20 points or less.

 

Smart Pick

UCLA holds an edge on offense, while Kansas State holds an edge on defense. And in close calls like this, it's usually wiser to go with the better defense. On top of that, Wildcats head coach Bill Snyder is a handy guy to have on your side when trying to win a bet; his teams are 34-16 ATS over the last four seasons. So the smart money in this spot resides with Kansas State.

 

Trends

  • UCLA is 5-1 SU in its last six games.
  • Kansas State is 8-2 ATS in its last 10 games.

 

Note: All spread and odds data powered by Odds Shark - follow us on Twitter for injury updates and line move updates.

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GoDaddy Bowl Betting: Toledo Rockets vs. Arkansas State Red Wolves Odds, Pick

Arkansas State has won and covered each of the last two GoDaddy Bowl games. The Red Wolves get a chance to run that string to three in a row when they return to familiar territory to take on the Toledo Rockets in the GoDaddy Bowl Sunday, January 4 in Mobile, Alabama.

 

GoDaddy Bowl point spread: Rockets opened as one-point favorites; the total was 67. (Line updates and matchup report).

 

Odds Shark computer prediction: 37.2-34.2 Red Wolves

 

Why the Rockets can cover the spread

The Rockets survived an early-season change at quarterback to claim a share of the MAC West championship and return to a bowl after a one-year absence. Toledo started 1-2 this season, with losses to eventual SEC East champion Missouri and Cincinnati.

But it won seven of its last nine games, with the only losses coming by a touchdown to the Big 12's Iowa State and by a field goal to eventual MAC champion Northern Illinois.

For the season, the Rockets rank 19th in the country in total offense, 18th in rushing at 247 yards per game, and 19th against the run, giving up just 121 yards per game on the ground. And outrushing foes by 125 yards per game is a good way to win games and cover spreads.

 

Why the Red Wolves can cover the spread

The Wolves started 1-2 this season, with losses at Tennessee and at Miami. ASU then won five of its next six games, covering the spread as a double-digit favorite three times. The Wolves then lost back-to-back outings but finished the regular season on a high note, bombing New Mexico State, 68-35.

So Arkansas State is playing in the GoDaddy Bowl for the fourth year in a row. The offensive-minded Red Wolves rank 21st in the country in total offense, 25th in rushing at 230 yards per game, and while the defense has its shortcomings, it also held five opponents this season to 14 points or less.

 

Smart Pick

This looks like a even matchup; Arkansas State owns a short edge on offense, while Toledo holds a short edge on defense. But the Rockets have outgained their last five opponents and outrushed their last 10. So the smart choice in this spot is with Toledo, minus the points.

 

Trends

  • Toledo is 4-1 straight up in its last five games.
  • Arkansas State is 13-5 against the spread in its last 18 games.

 

Note: All spread and odds data powered by Odds Shark - follow us on Twitter for injury updates and line move updates.

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Cactus Bowl Betting: Oklahoma State Cowboys vs. Washington Huskies Odds, Pick

Washington finished the regular season by covering the spread in each of its last three games. Oklahoma State struggled through a five-game against the spread losing streak, then covered its last two contests. Two teams that showed hope late this season meet when the 8-5 Huskies and 6-6 Cowboys play in the Cactus Bowl Friday, January 2 at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe.

 

Cactus Bowl point spread: Huskies opened as five-point favorites; the total was 56.5. (Line updates and matchup report).

 

Odds Shark computer prediction: 32.5-22.3 Huskies

 

Why the Cowboys can cover the spread

The Cowboys knew they were headed for a rebuilding season this year, but they started off by winning five of their first six games—and the only loss in that span was a 37-31 decision against eventual NCAA playoff qualifier Florida State.

But as the schedule got a little tougher, OSU lost five games in a row—to the likes of TCU, Kansas State and Baylor. But then, in need of a victory in the season finale against rival Oklahoma to become bowl eligible, the Cowboys showed a great flair for the dramatic, returning a punt 92 yards with less than a minute to go to tie the game, then winning in overtime, 38-35.

So Oklahoma State is playing in a bowl for the ninth straight season.

 

Why the Huskies can cover the spread

The Huskies started 4-0 this season, their first under new head coach Chris Petersen, then lost five of their next seven games. But one of those losses came on a touchdown with four minutes to go against Stanford, another came in a game against Arizona State that was tied with five minutes to go and another came against Pac-12 South champion Arizona on a field goal at the buzzer.

Washington then won its last two games, over Oregon State and Washington State, by a combined score of 68-26, to make a bowl for the fifth straight season. On the year, the Huskies are averaging 195 yards per game rushing, while holding opponents to just 122 yards per game on the ground. And outrushing opponents by 70 yards per game can be a good way to cover spreads.

 

Smart Pick

Washington holds advantages in the comparisons of the offenses and the running games, and it's better against the run. And realistically, Oklahoma State probably doesn't even deserve to be in a bowl game. So the smart choice in this spot is with the Huskies, minus the points.

 

Trends

  • Oklahoma State is 1-5 straight up in its last six games.
  • Washington is 11-5 SU in its last 16 games.

 

Note: All spread and odds data powered by Odds Shark - follow us on Twitter for injury updates and line move updates.

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Birmingham Bowl Betting: East Carolina Pirates vs. Florida Gators Odds, Pick

Florida just went through another miserable season, and it lost its head coach. But the Gators also made some money down the stretch, going 4-1 against the spread over their last five games.

East Carolina, meanwhile, made some noise earlier this season, but then word got out and the Pirates finished 1-7 ATS over their last eight games. So two teams riding opposing betting trends meet when 6-5 Florida takes on 8-4 East Carolina in the newly named Birmingham Bowl Saturday, January 3 at Legion Field in (where else?) Birmingham.

 

Birmingham Bowl point spread: Gators opened as seven-point favorites; the total was 57 (line updates and matchup report).

 

Odds Shark computer prediction: 37.1-35.0 Pirates

 

Why the Pirates can cover the spread

The Pirates opened this season 6-1 with victories over Virginia Tech and North Carolina (70-41), the only loss a tough 33-23 decision at South Carolina. East Carolina then lost back-to-back games at Temple and at Cincinnati, then beat Tulane and Tulsa.

And the Pirates had Central Florida beat in the regular-season finale but gave up a Hail Mary on the last play of the game to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. On the season, East Carolina, powered by a potent passing attack, ranks fifth in total offense at 533 yards per game and 44th in total defense.

Finally, the Pirates were lined as underdogs three times this season; they won two of those games outright and went 3-0 ATS.

 

Why the Gators can cover the spread

The Gators lost their head coach along the way this season but actually finished with three wins in their last five games and covered four of their last five.

Earlier this year, Florida played Alabama to a 21-21 tie well into the third quarter, then lost on a field goal with three seconds left against LSU. The Gators followed that up by having both a punt and a field goal blocked in the fourth quarter in an eventual overtime loss to South Carolina and then gave up a 9-0 lead and lost to NCAA playoff qualifier Florida State 24-19.

A play or three here and there, and Will Muschamp might still have his job. The Gators are averaging 190 yards per game on the ground this season, and their defense ranks ninth in the country overall and 12th against the run.

 

Smart pick

East Carolina owns some nice numbers, but it played a weak schedule this season. Florida, on the other hand, played a Top 10 schedule. And the Gators own an advantage in overall talent. So the smart choice in this spot, despite the struggles, is probably with Florida, minus the points.

 

Trends

  • East Carolina is 1-7 ATS in its last eight games.
  • The total has gone over in eight of Florida's last 11 games.

 

All spread and odds data powered by Odds Shark. Follow us on Twitter for injury updates and line move updates.

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Outback Bowl Betting: Wisconsin Badgers vs. Auburn Tigers Odds, Pick

The Auburn Tigers may not be playing for the national championship this season, but they will get the opportunity to become the first team to kick off the New Year with a victory when they face the Wisconsin Badgers in the Outback Bowl.

The Tigers have dropped three of their last four games and failed to cover all of them during that stretch, while Wisconsin is looking to recover from an embarrassing 59-0 loss to the Ohio State Buckeyes as a four-point favorite in the Big Ten Championship Game.

 

Outback Bowl point spread: Tigers opened as 6.5-point favorites; the total was 62. (Line updates and matchup report).

 

Odds Shark computer prediction: 40.5-36.0 Badgers

 

Why the Badgers can cover the spread

Wisconsin not only lost the Big Ten title to the Buckeyes, the school also saw head coach Gary Andersen leave to take the same job for the Oregon State Beavers. Instead, the Badgers will have Athletic Director Barry Alvarez on the sideline coaching the team for the first time since taking over for Bret Bielema in the 2013 Rose Bowl, which the team lost, 20-14, to the Stanford Cardinal.

Alvarez is the perfect person to help the players forget about such a lousy performance against Ohio State and make them remember how good they were before that game, led by Heisman Trophy finalist Melvin Gordon, the nation’s leading rusher, who totaled 2,336 yards and 26 touchdowns.

 

Why the Tigers can cover the spread

Auburn may have lost three of four down the stretch, but all three losses came against bowl teams from the SEC. There’s no shame in losing, 55-44, to the Alabama Crimson Tide, the top-seeded team in the College Football Playoff, especially since the Tigers were leading, 26-21, at halftime.

There’s no doubt they can put points up on the scoreboard; the problem is slowing down their opponent at the end of the game. While that was also an issue against the Florida State Seminoles in losing last year’s BCS National Championship Game, it should not be one versus the Badgers, who simply run the ball.

 

Smart Pick

There may not be a bowl game that is a bigger mismatch from a conference perspective despite one of the SEC’s top teams taking on one of the Big Ten’s best. The SEC was a far superior conference during the season and could have had two teams in the College Football Playoff had Auburn, the Ole Miss Rebels or Mississippi State Bulldogs just played a little better this year.

Wisconsin winning the Big Ten West was not nearly as impressive as the competition the Tigers played in the SEC West, which should have them more than ready to win this game. Auburn is used to competing against much tougher defenses and more well-balanced offenses. The key to stopping the Badgers is slowing Gordon, so expect the Tigers to focus on him defensively.

Wisconsin has failed to cover three straight games and went 5-8 against the spread overall, so look for those negative trends to continue as Auburn wins the Outback Bowl by more than a touchdown.

 

Trends

  • Wisconsin is 5-11 ATS in its last 16 games.
  • Auburn is 1-6 ATS in its last seven games.

 

Note: All spread and odds data powered by Odds Shark - follow us on Twitter for injury updates and line move updates.

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Armed Forces Bowl Betting: Pittsburgh Panthers vs. Houston Cougars Odds, Pick

The Houston Cougars are 8-1-1 against the spread the last 10 times they've played as underdogs. On the other end of the spectrum, the Pittsburgh Panthers are just 2-4 straight up and 1-5 ATS the last six times they've played as favorites. The 6-6 Panthers will be short favorites over the 7-5 Cougars when the teams meet in the 12th edition of the Armed Forces Bowl Friday, January 2 in Fort Worth.

 

Armed Forces Bowl point spread: Panthers opened as two-point favorites; the total was 53.5. (Line updates and matchup report).

 

Odds Shark computer prediction: 33.6-30.2 Cougars

 

Why the Panthers can cover the spread

The Panthers started 3-0 this season, with a win over Boston College, but then they lost six of their next seven games. However, one of those losses came in overtime to Duke, and four of them came by a total of 17 points.

Then, with a six-year bowl streak on the line, Pitt won its last two games, beating Syracuse, 30-7, and Miami, 35-23, to become bowl eligible. The Panthers rank 44th in total offense, 16th in rushing at 251 yards per game and 27th in total defense.

And while Pitt is just a .500 team in the win-loss column, it has outscored opponents this year by a 380-307 margin.

 

Why the Cougars can cover the spread

The Cougars started just 2-3 this season but won five of their last seven games SU, going 4-2-1 ATS, to make a bowl for the second straight year. And in the two games Houston lost during its recent run—against Tulane and Cincinnati—it outgained both foes.

On the season, the Cougars are averaging 226 yards per game through the air and 183 yards per game on the ground, and they have scored 104 points over their last three games. Also, the Houston defense ranks 20th in the country overall, 31st against the run and 11th in points allowed at just 19.5 per game.

 

Smart Pick

Both these teams will be playing under interim head coaches, because Pitt's Paul Chryst left to take over at Wisconsin and Houston fired Tony Levine. How those situations might affect the outcome of this game is up for debate.

Ultimately, while these teams put up similar numbers this season, the Panthers might be a little more battle-tested, having played a much tougher schedule. So the smart choice in this spot is Pitt, minus the points.

 

Trends

  • Pittsburgh is 3-6 SU in its last nine games.
  • The total has gone under in 12 of Houston's last 17 games.

 

Note: All spread and odds data powered by Odds Shark - follow us on Twitter for injury updates and line move updates.

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Citrus Bowl Betting: Minnesota Golden Gophers vs. Missouri Tigers Odds, Pick

The Minnesota Golden Gophers will try to earn their first postseason win since 2004 when they meet the Missouri Tigers in the Citrus Bowl on January 1 at 1 p.m. The Golden Gophers defeated the Alabama Crimson Tide as three-point underdogs in the 2004 Music City Bowl, and they have gone 0-6 since then straight up and 2-4 against the spread.

Citrus Bowl point spread: Tigers opened as 6.5-point favorites; the total was 48.

Odds Shark computer prediction: 29.0-28.9 Tigers.

 

Why the Golden Gophers can cover the spread

Minnesota has covered its last four games and went 8-4 versus the line overall this season. The Golden Gophers narrowly missed out on playing in the Big Ten Championship Game, falling to the Wisconsin Badgers 34-24 as 16-point road underdogs in a matchup that decided the Big Ten West winner.

Five of their past six covers overall have come as underdogs, with three of them resulting in wins, and they are 10-1 ATS in their previous 11 as a dog. Minnesota also has one of the best coaches in the country in Jerry Kill, who has overcome some health problems to lead the school to consecutive eight-win campaigns.

 

Why the Tigers can cover the spread

The Tigers have played in the SEC Championship Game two years in a row, and while they have not won it either time, that experience should pay off against a Minnesota team without a bowl victory in more than a decade.

They won six in a row before falling 42-13 to the Alabama Crimson Tide for the SEC title, also going 5-1 ATS during the winning streak. Missouri beat the Oklahoma State Cowboys 41-31 last year in the Cotton Bowl as a three-point underdog, and the team has gone 14-3 SU and 12-5 ATS in its past 17 games as a favorite.

 

Smart Pick

Unlike the Outback Bowl where the Auburn Tigers play the Wisconsin Badgers in another SEC versus Big Ten battle, these Tigers and Golden Gophers are two fairly similar teams that should play a competitive game.

Mizzou is not your prototypical SEC team either, joining the conference in 2012 and playing in the weaker of the two divisions. Minnesota did not play in a particularly strong Big Ten division either, but Kill has a coaching edge here and will have his players motivated to defeat an SEC team.

Last year, the Golden Gophers may have underestimated a Syracuse Orange squad that upset them 21-17 as 3.5-point favorites in the Texas Bowl. That will not be the case this time around, as Minnesota upsets Missouri to win the Citrus Bowl.

 

Trends

  • The total has gone over in four of Minnesota's last six games.
  • Missouri is 4-1 ATS in its last five games.

 

Note: All spread and odds data powered by Odds Shark. Follow us on Twitter for injury updates and line move updates.

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Bowl Game Schedule 2014-15: Full Odds and Predictions for Marquee Matchups

Saturday is the official start of the 2014-15 bowl season. It consists of 39 games over 23 days, culminating with the first-ever College Football Championship Game at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, on January 12. While there's a long wait between now and then, at least the football gods have provided plenty of intriguing matchups in the interim. 

The interesting thing about this year's slate of bowl games is how many marquee matchups there are outside of the College Football Playoff. No one will deny the allure of Alabama-Ohio State and Oregon-Florida State, but the Cotton Bowl features a battle between two top-10 teams in Michigan State and Baylor. 

It's a testament to the depth in college football this season that you can build a list of matchups worth watching without including the College Football Playoff, though everyone will be focused on those games because the stakes are significantly higher. 

Whatever game you have your eye on, here is a look at the full schedule for this bowl season and a closer look at the top matchups. 

 

Rose Bowl: Oregon (-9.5) vs. Florida State

The first of the two College Football Playoff games is hard to forecast simply because of the way Florida State plays. Oregon looks like a clear favorite and the oddsmakers feel that way, as evidenced by the spread, but the Seminoles have knocked down every obstacle in their path thus far. 

It's easy to say that Florida State doesn't win pretty. Seven of its 13 wins have come by six points or fewer, including each of the last four. The Seminoles have given the opposition plenty of chances to win, yet it never happens. 

Why will this time be different?

As Jared Shanker of ESPN.com pointed out, Florida State has the talent on the defensive line to contain Marcus Mariota:

Defensive backs Ronald Darby, Jalen Ramsey and P.J. Williams are all first-day NFL talents in the traditional sense, and up front Mario Edwards Jr. and Eddie Goldman are among the country's most athletic 300-pound linemen. The linebacking corps is suspect, but there are more than enough pieces to contain Mariota.

However, it's one thing to have NFL talent. It's another thing entirely when talking about execution. Remember that this Florida State defense allowed Everett Golson to throw for 313 yards, Will Gardner dropped 330 and Brad Kaaya had 316 yards. 

None of those quarterbacks is in the same ballpark as Mariota in terms of talent or performance. The 2014 Heisman Trophy winner had a historic season, which ESPN Stats & Info tried to put in perspective with this note:

While Oregon's offense is always the focal point, don't forget about Mark Helfrich's defense. The Ducks held an Arizona offense that averages nearly 35 points per game to 13 in the Pac-12 Championship Game. 

At some point Florida State has to rely on Jameis Winston to win a game, which has led to mixed results this season. The controversial quarterback has thrown 17 interceptions this year, tied for the fourth most by an FBS player. 

Winston has stepped up when Florida State needs him most, notably in the ACC Championship Game against Georgia Tech, but Oregon is easily the best team he will face this year. Those mistakes are going to cost him eventually. 

The Seminoles have walked a tightrope all year, but that luck will run out against a superior Oregon team in the Rose Bowl. 

Oregon 41, Florida State 27

 

Sugar Bowl: Alabama (-9) vs. Ohio State

It's strange the way betting odds work, because most people would assume that Ohio State is a bigger underdog against Alabama than Florida State is against Oregon. After all, the Buckeyes are on their third quarterback who only has one career start. 

You can spin Cardale Jones' performance against Wisconsin however you want, though it's going to be positive because of his results (257 passing yards, three touchdowns). He's going up against an entirely different beast when Alabama takes the field. 

The Crimson Tide are fourth in the nation in scoring defense (16.6 points per game). Jones will have to make plays with his arm because you can't run on Nick Saban's defense. They finished second in rushing yards allowed per game (96.4) and yards per attempt (2.9), per TeamRankings.com.

Jones only had to throw the ball 17 times against Wisconsin. It would be shocking if the Buckeyes got away with that again. 

Ohio State is also going up against an offense that's more diverse than Wisconsin. The Badgers are easy to game-plan for because Melvin Gordon is their only playmaker, as evidenced by the team averaging 150.8 pass yards per game. 

Alabama is 22nd in passing and 36th in rushing, which doesn't even tell you that Amari Cooper is a matchup nightmare for everyone. While opposing coaches know the Heisman finalist is going to be a focal point, no one has been able to stop him, as these numbers from the SEC Network illustrate:

There's no denying that this has been one of Urban Meyer's best seasons as a coach, but there's only so much one can do with a third-string quarterback in his second start. 

Alabama 34, Ohio State 14

 

Cotton Bowl: Michigan State vs. Baylor (-2.5)

In terms of pure fun, there might not be a better bowl matchup than Michigan State against Baylor. The Bears were on the cusp of a playoff spot, but some last-minute trickery from the selection committee left them on the outside looking in. 

Meanwhile, Michigan State has quietly been chugging along in the top 10 for the second consecutive season. Say what you want about the Spartans not being able to win "big" games this year, but Mark Dantonio has built one of the best programs in the country. 

What's more, the Spartans are more complete this year than the team that won the Rose Bowl last year. Connor Cook has grown into a tremendous quarterback with 2,900 yards, 22 touchdowns and six interceptions.

The rushing attack is among the best in the country thanks to the two-headed monster of Jeremy Langford (1,360 yards, 19 touchdowns) and Nick Hill (596 yards, nine touchdowns). A lot of that success comes from playing behind one of the best offensive lines in the country, as Penn State's James Franklin told Joe Rexrode of The Detroit Free Press:

While Michigan State's defense still rates among the best in the country overall, don't expect many punts in this game. The Spartans did struggle in their two biggest games of the year, allowing 95 total points to Oregon and Ohio State. 

Now, they are going against a Baylor offense that leads the nation in scoring with 48.8 points per game. One thing to note about the Spartans' defensive woes in big games is they were against versatile quarterbacks like Mariota and J.T. Barrett. 

Bryce Petty isn't that kind of quarterback. He stands in the pocket and fires the ball all over the field, which could play into the hands of Michigan State's defense. One thing the Baylor star has going for him is a short memory, via Max Olson of ESPN,com:

“Obviously I’d want it different,” Petty told ESPN.com. “Shoot, I’d love to be No. 1 on the Heisman list. I’d love to be the No. 1 pick coming out. I’d love to have 40 touchdowns, no picks.” 

Being able to get over the letdown of not being in the playoff is going to be critical for Baylor. This team has been unstoppable virtually all year, save for one hiccup against West Virginia. Art Briles' offense has been tremendous, making its opponents one-dimensional. 

The Spartans will keep it close, but Petty and co. will be too much to handle down the stretch. 

Baylor 45, Michigan State 35

Odds via OddsShark.com

 

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TaxSlayer Bowl Betting: Iowa Hawkeyes vs. Tennessee Volunteers Odds, Analysis

The Iowa Hawkeyes are 3-3 straight up but 5-1 against the spread in their last six bowl appearances. The Tennessee Volunteers are just 3-7 both SU and ATS in their last 10 bowls. So the trends are with the 7-5 Hawkeyes when they take on the 6-6 Vols in the TaxSlayer Bowl on January 2 in Jacksonville.

TaxSlayer Bowl point spread: Volunteers opened as three-point favorites; the total was 51.

Odds Shark computer prediction: 27.9-27.4 Hawkeyes.

 

Why the Hawkeyes can cover the spread

The Hawkeyes started 5-1 this season, and while they faltered a bit down the stretch—losing their last two games to Wisconsin and Nebraska by a combined five points—they are playing in a bowl for the 12th time in the last 14 seasons.

Iowa lost five games this season; just one came by more than one score. The Hawkeyes run a bit pedestrian on offense, but quarterback Jake Rudock hit on 63 percent of his throws this season, compiling a 16/5 touchdown-to-interceptions ratio. Also, running back Mark Weisman can be tough to stop, especially in short yardage.

Also, the Iowa defense ranks 19th in the country overall, allowing just 335 yards and 24 points per game.

 

Why the Volunteers can cover the spread

The Vols sat at just 3-5 heading into November but won three of their last four games, including the clincher at rival Vanderbilt in the regular-season finale, to become bowl-eligible for the first time since 2010.

Tennessee rallied from two touchdowns down with five minutes to go at South Carolina, winning in overtime. Then, they kicked Kentucky 50-16. Then, following a 29-21 loss to eventual SEC East champion Missouri, the Vols held off the Commodores 24-17 for that crucial sixth victory.

Like its bowl opponent, Tennessee can struggle on offense, but the Vols defense ranks 35th in the country, allowing 360 yards per game and holding six of 12 opponents to 19 points or fewer.

 

Smart Pick

Iowa holds slim advantages on both sides of the ball, although Tennessee did play a tougher schedule—one of the toughest in the country. But for what might turn into a tough, low-scoring affair, it might be handy to have a field goal in the pocket. So the smart choice here is with the Hawkeyes, plus the points.

 

Trends

  • Iowa is 6-3 ATS in its last nine games.
  • The total has gone over in four of Tennessee's last five games.

 

Note: All spread and odds data powered by Odds Shark. Follow us on Twitter for injury updates and line move updates.

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Virginia Tech Football: Ranking 10 Best Hokies from 2014 Regular Season

Another college football season has come and gone. For the Virginia Tech Hokies, it was another disappointing season. 

Sure, the Hokies are going bowling for the 22nd consecutive season, but it's not a trip to the College Football Playoff. Instead, Tech will head a few hours north to Annapolis to play the Cincinnati Bearcats in the Military Bowl on Saturday, December 27.

Injuries played a big part in VT's downfall in 2014. Two of the team's top offensive linemen had to give up football altogether just before the season began due to injuries. And the Hokies lost their top three tailbacks for the season.

On defense, standout defensive tackle Luther Maddy and cornerback Brandon Facyson missed most of the season. 

While it was a tough season overall for the Hokies, it wasn't without several players having solid to outstanding individual performances.

Here is a look at Virginia Tech's top 10 players from the 2014 season. 

Begin Slideshow

Michigan Football: Who Will Be Wolverines' Leaders on the Field in 2015?

Michigan’s cream must rise to the top—either that, or it'll have another laughable football season in 2015.

With a new coach and new direction, the Wolverines' only choice is to start over. There aren’t many other options.

The 2015 season was supposed to be the real year of title contention under former coach Brady Hoke—instead, it’ll be Year 1 of another rebuild for the once-proud former pinnacle of the Big Ten.

Whomever adopts Team 136 won’t be short on talent—recruits, maybe, but not talent. The Wolverines have loaded classes stocked by Hoke, so finding guys to assume the role in between the lines shouldn’t be an issue for Jim Harbaugh or Guy No. 2.

The problem was never about the level of talent under Hoke; it was always about the lack of widespread development. Under the right tutelage, Michigan's roster will one day compete for conference championships and playoff bids.  

But that won't happen until the program finds firm, reliable leadership from within. Some of the following players could be of assistance. 

 

Leaders by Design

Shane Morris, Wilton Speight and Alex Malzone were all praised for the leadership abilities in high school, and it’s doubtful that they’d make it this far had they been lacking in that department. Quarterbacks, especially at the Division I level, are usually the backbone of a team.

Defense wins championships. Great coaching does wonders. Wins come in the trenches…so on and so forth.

All of that is true. But without a real quarterback, a team is doomed. Ask Michigan, which hasn’t known what to do under center since Chad Henne left in 2008.

A junior this fall, Morris is an obvious choice for Michigan’s next starter. The 6’3”, 204-pound lefty has been around long enough and certainly realizes expectations—especially now, given the circumstances. He’s the most experienced signal-caller Michigan has, so he’ll always have that in his corner.

Plus he’s a local kid out of Warren De La Salle, and Michigan seems to be big on hometown heroes lately, just take a look at the courtship of San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh—who, according to NFL.com's Ian Rapoport, is a candidate for the open job at Michigan. He also starred in Ann Arbor under the legendary Bo Schembechler.

Harbaugh and Morris could be a dream scenario come true, a match made in maize and blue heaven.

Speight is a high-character student-athlete, and there probably isn’t a coach in America who wouldn’t want the 6’6”, 234-pound freshman in his school’s uniform. Evident by a past interview, Speight is all about family and togetherness.

Those are nice qualities to have. People tend to like them in leaders.

That said, he’s also in possession of a right arm that’s capable of lighting up the field. Considering him as a go-to in 2015 isn’t too far of a stretch at all.

Michigan’s situation has to be rough on the players, both old and new.

Just think about it: Juniors and seniors who were once close to Hoke now must either accept the new guy or rebel against him, causing the formation of factions or a split among the team. Now imagine walking into that as a true freshman; that’d be difficult for a veteran transfer to digest, let alone a kid who in high school just months prior.

As a rule, first-year quarterbacks aren’t always looked upon for leadership. But Malzone is a local; the 6’1.5”, 200-pound 4-star prospect is coming off a spectacular and well-publicized career at Birmingham Brother Rice, one of the state’s top powerhouse prep mills.

Michigan’s offense needs an injection of something fresh, energetic and new. Malzone could help quench the fanbase’s thirst for more—the offense certainly could use him, as it’s been nothing short of painfully ineffective the past three seasons.

 

They Showed Glimpses in 2014

Some would argue that the O-line was better in 2014 than it was in 2013. Back in early fall, De’Veon Smith, a junior running back and soon-to-be leader by proxy, said as much when asked about the line’s development this past season.

However, some would argue against that idea because Devin Gardner, to a lesser extent than he was in 2013, was still rag-dolled by opposing defenses. He was sacked 26 times (No. 28 overall) compared to 34 in 2013 (No. 3 overall). 

However, every now and then, the line showed some signs of progression but not quite enough to celebrate. That’ll have to change in 2015, and it’ll start with left tackle Mason Cole and center Jack Miller, two of the best the Wolverines have to offer.

As a true frosh, Cole demonstrated the ability to learn on the fly and hold his position. He made a lot of mistakes, but that goes with the territory when you're tasked with replacing a former All-American. He wasn't horrible, though. 

Miller helped at least solidify the once-pillow-soft interior. He always displayed a great deal of pride during press conferences this past season. He was always thoughtful, honest and accountable. 

Look no further than Mr. Jack Miller, Michigan fan. The 6'4", 299-pounder is certain to be a shining example on the field next fall. 

Video: Remember last time it hit the fan? Miller stood tall then, just like he should in 2015.

 

Upperclassman Honor

The lack of experienced upperclassmen was the calling card of Hoke’s tenure. He’d often encourage spectators, fans and the like to be patient because, well, that was the only choice. Hoke often suggested that the Wolverines would be better led on and off the field once underclassmen mature.

Well, they have—and it’s their time.

Blake Countess, a corner, will be a senior. His counterpart in the backfield, Jarrod Wilson, will be a senior. The rest, such as Dymonte Thomas, Channing Stribling and Jeremy Clark will be juniors. Again, the secondary has enough manpower to make do.

Linebacker Joe Bolden will be a senior. His running mate, Ben Gedeon, will be a junior. Desmond Morgan will return for another senior year. The Wolverines will return some experience at the position, with Morgan’s 31 starts and Bolden’s 17 headlining the depth chart.

There are others. Dozens of them. Some have already been mentioned. Some have not. 

But to be fair, from behind a keyboard, it’s easy to say Player A could do “this” because he's been in tough spots before and has experience. It's easy to say that Player B could help save a sinking ship.

But really, the only guys who really know the deal are in the huddles. They’re at practices. They’re the ones who are enduring the dramatics of the post-Hoke era with their teammates.

And they’re the ones with the real answers.

 

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

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes and references were obtained firsthand by the writer. Recruiting information via 247Sports.

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