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Ohio State Football: Buckeyes Looking for Validation with Victory over Clemson

A bowl ban kept Ohio State from playing on a pivotal postseason stage in 2012. Michigan State and its vaunted defense kept the Buckeyes from playing in the national championship this season.

Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes have won 24 of their last 25 games, but none of those victories came against an opponent ranked in the Top 15. On Friday, in the Discover Orange Bowl, No. 7 Ohio State will have the opportunity to validate its historic run against the No. 12 Clemson Tigers.

The Buckeyes (12-1) are approaching the Orange Bowl as a chance to not only get back to their winning ways, but to also prove that they're the championship-caliber team that winning 24 consecutive games would suggest.

Ohio State senior center Corey Linsley wants the Buckeyes to show their true colors, according to Tony Gerdeman of The-Ozone.

Obviously by validating it in our eyes, it will validate in the eyes of others. The thing we're worried about is just showing our character, showing who we are as people by working hard and working towards a win.

That win will need to come against a team that's perfectly equipped to exploit Ohio State's biggest weakness.

Led by senior quarterback Tajh Boyd, the Tigers boast one of the most dynamic passing attacks in the country. Junior receivers Sammy Watkins and Martavis Bryant, who average 169 receiving yards per game, present matchup nightmares on the perimeter.

That dynamic trio lifted Clemson all year as the Tigers rank 11th in the country with 329.3 passing yards per game.

Ohio State, of course, has struggled tremendously defending the pass. The Buckeyes have given up an average of 260 passing yards this season, good for 103rd nationally. Over its last two games against Michigan and Michigan State, Ohio State surrendered more than 750 yards and seven touchdowns through the air.

On top of that, the Buckeyes will be without two of their impact defenders. Sophomore defensive end Noah Spence, who leads the team with eight sacks, was suspended for three games for violating an unspecified "Big Ten Conference rule." Junior cornerback Bradley Roby, Ohio State's best pass defender, is expected to miss the game because of a bruised knee he suffered against Michigan State.

That's a fitting parallel for the Buckeyes as they get ready for Clemson. Can Ohio State shake off the bruises left by Michigan State and earn the validation it's looking for. According to Kyle Rowland of Eleven Warriors, Buckeyes running back Carlos Hyde is confident.

“This is a BCS bowl. This is still a huge game,” Hyde said. “You don’t really need too much motivation. This is still a huge game, just got to get past that last game. I’m sure we are past that."

 

All stats via NCAA.com

David Regimbal is the Ohio State Football Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. 
Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.

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Leonard Fournette's Commitment Is Major Step Forward for LSU Tigers

Leonard Fournette is the hero that Baton Rouge both needs and deserves.

The No. 1 recruit in 247Sports' composite rankings announced his commitment to the LSU Tigers during the Under Armour All-America Game.

Fournette said that the idea of playing close to home was trumped everything, via Jerit Roser of The Times-Picayune:

The coaches, and overall, Louisiana, they kept pushing me to stay home...It wasn't too much pressure, and I really enjoyed the atmosphere that I was getting from the whole state, so I decided to stay home.

The process was still Alabama and LSU, so overall, I had to put in the odds and evens of which school I would go to was best, and I just think LSU is the best place for me.

Needless to say, it's a decision that's sent shock waves through the college football landscape.

Fournette is already being described as the next Adrian Peterson, which may be premature, but is a strong indicator of how highly he's regarded by recruiting experts.

For LSU, this commitment helped to boost what had previously been a lackluster recruiting class. Les Miles had watched as many of his targets signed elsewhere, which left the Tigers in the lurch and looking up at their biggest rivals.

It got to the point where you were wondering if Miles might have to answer for whatever problems he was having on the recruiting trail. Then Fournette came along and made everything better.

Alex Scarborough of ESPN.com put it best:

This will no doubt buy Miles a little more time and rebuild some of the faith he may have lost among Tigers fans who have been upset at the school's inability to match Alabama's success.

LSU laid down a major marker with Fournette. No longer will it be the bridesmaid of the SEC. It has national title aspirations and won't stop until it reaches the summit again. In addition, the Tigers showed that they can still lure the best prospects in the country.

The rest of the SEC is on notice.

From an on-field aspect, Fournette is the running threat LSU will need next year.

Getting a steady presence on the ground will be a huge boost to LSU's offense. There's no telling how the passing game will perform in Zach Mettenberger's absence, so it will be nice to have a running back take some of the pressure off the signal-caller next year.

Jeremy Hill looks like he's headed for the pros, and his departure would mean Terrence Magee and Kenny Hilliard were the best threats to take the starting job in 2014.

That was before Fournette announced his decision.

He should be able to come right into the team and start from Day 1. There's no doubt about his talent, and at 6'1" and 226 pounds, he's got the body to handle the rigors of college football.

Maybe Miles could bed him into the role in the first few nonconference games, but by the time the SEC games roll around, the soon-to-be freshman should get the lion's share of snaps in the backfield.

Fournette has everything you look for in a blue-chip running back. He's got enough speed to get out on the edge and break out for big runs, yet he's capable of going in between the tackles for positive yardage. There's very little not to like about his game.

It's a bridge too far to call LSU title contenders immediately off the basis of the Tigers signing one player. After all, the Oklahoma Sooners couldn't win a BCS bowl during Adrian Peterson's three seasons in Norman.

But Leonard Fournette is the kind of player the LSU Tigers will need if they want to climb back into national championship contention.

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Oklahoma vs. Alabama: Score, Grades and Analysis from 2014 Sugar Bowl

The BCS No. 11 Oklahoma Sooners lit up the venerated defense of the third-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide and won the 2014 Sugar Bowl, 45-31, on Thursday, Jan. 2 at New Orleans' Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

Sooners quarterback Trevor Knight experienced one of the most interesting breakout performances in recent memory en route to being named the game's MVP.

Knight began the season as the starter but was benched until the middle of the year and proved to be a more effective runner than a passer. That changed against the two-time reigning national champions, as the freshman threw for 348 yards and four touchdowns, displaying decisiveness and accuracy previously unseen.

The number of points given up by the Tide defense was also unprecedented for head coach Nick Saban:

ESPN's Trent Dilfer liked what he saw from Knight, who looks to have a bright future after this showing:

This was also a milestone of sorts for Sooners head coach Bob Stoops, who was vindicated for his faith in Knight and made significant history from an individual standpoint, per ESPN Stats & Info:

The play of the evening came when Knight, who helped his team overcome a 1st-and-30 earlier in the drive, improvised and found Sterling Shepard for a key nine-yard touchdown that gave the underdogs some insurance:

Yes, that play was being compared to the Joe Montana-Dwight Clark "The Catch" connection, and given the collegiate equivalent of the stakes, it was rather appropriate.

What made Knight's eruption more impressive was not only the quality of the Tide's No. 2 scoring defense but also that he upstaged Alabama senior signal-caller AJ McCarron, who threw two interceptions in the first half that led to 14 Oklahoma points.

In fact, the typically disciplined Tide gave the ball away three times in the opening half, leading to three Sooner touchdowns.

The costliest one wasn't McCarron's fault, though. Running back T.J. Yeldon was the culprit, as he fumbled the ball away when the Tide were in position for a critical score. Not long after that, Knight dropped it in the bucket to Jalen Saunders for a beautiful 43-yard touchdown bomb:

Just about everything imaginable went the Sooners' way before the intermission. That continued when a Christion Jones' 70-yard punt return that would have cut the deficit to seven in the third quarter was called back.

Bleacher Report expert Matt Miller observed how the Sooners defensive front was devastating Alabama up front early on, as it consistently got pressure on McCarron—something he isn't used to:

That didn't necessarily apply to the running game, which Miller noted the Tide are geared for.

Much to the surprise of many, it wasn't Yeldon who kept Alabama in this game, but another Tide running back, Derrick Henry.

The 6'3", 238-pound freshman had carried the ball 28 times all season entering this contest. In adding substantially to that total, Henry proved in his increased opportunities that he has an eye-popping combination of size and speed.

Following the punt-return TD taken away due to a block in the back, the Tide forced a three-and-out and handed the rock to Henry, who bowled his way through the Oklahoma defense en route to the end zone with 8:49 left in the third quarter:

Knight responded later on with his outstanding touchdown march, which then set up Henry for further heroics on a swing pass:

Unfortunately for the Tide, another protection breakdown caused McCarron to fumble after he was hit on his blindside by Eric Striker. Geneo Grissom then picked up the loose ball and went nine yards to sco the game-clinching touchdown.

Some may argue the Tide had an inevitable letdown after losing to Auburn in the Iron Bowl, but ESPN's Desmond Howard didn't want to hear any of that:

The truth is, the Sooners came to play and Alabama was not as prepared and sharp as usual, costing the Tide another landmark victory for their powerhouse program.

Stoops has critiqued the celebrated SEC in the past. After the game, he professed his respect for Alabama—but still spun it in a positive way and drove home the point that his Sooners were among the nation's best, per the USA Today's George Schroeder:

Below is a letter-grade evaluation of some of the key performers who defined this offensive shootout.

 

Grades

Trevor Knight, QB, Oklahoma: A

Few could have expected anything resembling the display Knight put on for all college football fans to enjoy.

Stoops took heat for playing Knight early on over Blake Bell, and nothing suggested the strategy was sound until Thursday, when the freshman took flight.

NBC Sports' Josh Norris felt like he was watching a different player:

It might as well have been, because Knight capitalized on his promise after a season of struggles. The payoff was a big win in a big game—something Knight and Stoops both needed.

 

AJ McCarron, QB, Alabama: B

This wasn't McCarron's best game by any stretch. Still, he battled back from two early mistakes and was still making plays in that stretch, keeping his team in the game while the defense didn't help him.

McCarron may catch a lot of flack for being a game manager, yet he made some big throws and set the stage for Henry's emergence. The last sack—and most of them on the evening—also can't go on the seasoned QB.

 

Jalen Saunders, WR, Oklahoma: A

The scrappy senior may be diminutive, but he makes up for it with quickness and route-running precision. That was evident on his hitch-and-go route on the 43-yard touchdown in the first half.

Saunders also made an excellent catch on his first TD grab—an eight-yard reception that saw him barely get in the front corner of the pylon. His awareness characterized the focus the Sooners displayed and the experience he had to close his collegiate career in style.

 

Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama: A

Why should we not be surprised? Another Alabama running back tearing it up, seemingly out of nowhere. Saban can sure recruit depth to that backfield, which begs the question: How would some who opt to take their talents to Tuscaloosa fare elsewhere?

Henry's patience paid off, because he was the driving force that kept the Tide afloat.

The early turnovers turned out to be too much to overcome, ending Alabama's season on a rare two-game losing streak under Saban.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Oklahoma Wins Sugar Bowl on a Sack, Katherine Webb and Adrian Peterson React

The Oklahoma Sooners stunned the Alabama Crimson Tide in the 2014 Sugar Bowl, 45-31, and this strip-sack and score by Oklahoma's Geneo Grissom sealed it. 

Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron's girlfriend Katherine Webb and mom Dee Dee Bonner were shocked.

Minnesota Vikings running back and Sooners alum Adrian Peterson, meanwhile, was fired up. 

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Bill O'Brien's Departure Completes Penn State's Descent into Bleak Anonymity

It took Joe Paterno decades to build Penn State football into a national powerhouse. It took a terrible scandal a couple of years to deconstruct what Paterno had built.

Nobody thought Bill O'Brien would spend decades coaching the Nittany Lions. That said, even the most jaded and world-weary observers probably thought he'd stay long enough to see the rising sophomores he inherited graduate.

He didn't. And the circumstances surrounding O'Brien's departure are almost certainly more troubling to Penn State's legion of followers than the fact that he is actually gone.

For starters, look where O'Brien is going, per Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com.

Yes, O'Brien got a National Football League job. Just about.

The Houston Texans just finished a 2-14 season following two straight AFC South titles. Sure, the overall No. 1 pick in the 2014 NFL draft is a real asset.

But most 2-14 teams are not one player or even one healthy draft away from playoff contention. Plus, Matt Schaub's implosion means Houston probably has to take a quarterback (Teddy Bridgewater?) at No. 1.

Those are the circumstances O'Brien looked at and affirmatively preferred to staying in Happy Valley for even one more season. Based on recent reporting from David Jones of the Patriot-News, it is pretty hard to blame O'Brien.

Jones published the following quote from O'Brien only after the coach revealed that he was leaving Penn State, out of respect to O'Brien and because, well, it would have triggered shock waves in State College and beyond:

You can print this: You can print that I don’t really give a ---- what the ‘Paterno people’ think about what I do with this program. I’ve done everything I can to show respect to Coach Paterno. Everything in my power. For any ‘Paterno person’ to have any objection to what I’m doing, it makes me wanna put my fist through this windshield right now.

Yeah, that does not sound like a happy employee. O'Brien went on: "I’m trying to field the most competitive football team I can with near-death penalty ----ing sanctions. Every time I say something like that and somebody prints it, it’s skewed as an excuse. And I’m not an excuse-maker."

So, to recap: O'Brien came to Penn State at the school's lowest point—not the football program's nadir, mind you, the lowest point in the history of the university—and did whatever the NCAA would permit him to do (after they took scholarships and bowl bids away) to keep Penn State competitive.

In gratitude, at least some portion of Penn State's football backers did not think O'Brien was doing enough, or doing it the right way.

That was Jones' own read of it in his column: "As perfect as Bill O’Brien was to lead Penn State’s football program at the time of his arrival, it’s now clear to me that it’s time for him to move on."

Cilches are a pox, but in this case there really is no other way to get this point across: Hey, Penn State, be careful what you wish for.

Because O'Brien's departure is the last shovel of dirt on the coffin that holds the Grand Experiment.

Bill O'Brien left Penn State for a nondescript NFL job. O'Brien is now likely to be replaced by some relatively anonymous guy, and then in a few years that guy will leave and some other guy will come, and so on until college football ceases to be.

Which makes Penn State football no more or less notable than, say, Arkansas football. Bret Bielema's hiring was a big story. Then it wasn't.

As long as O'Brien was head coach at Penn State, there was still a story to be told—the story of the man painstakingly rebuilding Penn State's football program brick by stubborn brick.

That story is over now. With the end of that story comes the new world order in State College where Penn State football is just another veneer-less program trying to win enough games to sneak into a bowl game.

So they are still Penn State. But they are not special.

Not anymore.

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Notre Dame Football: Why Irish's 2013 Season Was a Success

You would have questioned my sanity had I told you Notre Dame finishing 9-4 would be the mark of a successful 2013 campaign for the Irish one year ago at this time.

It never ceases to amaze how rapidly and significantly things change in the course of a calendar year, though.

Once fourth-year head coach Brian Kelly and his team capped a 29-16 victory against Rutgers in the Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium in New York City on Dec. 28, the final page was turned on what was an incredibly bumpy, tumultuous ride for the Irish that began with a 42-14 drubbing in last season's BCS National Championship at the hands of Alabama.

Despite that ugly result, Notre Dame's sole aspiration never wavered in the immediate aftermath.

"National title or bust" was the rallying cry of the program, and rightfully so, as quarterback Everett Golson and eight starters from a legendary defense were slated to return for the 2013 season.

While Kelly's brief flirtation with the Philadelphia Eagles and Manti Te'o's catfishing debacle created what felt like a endless vortex of negative sentiments, spirits remained high but were shredded and mashed like fruit in a blender when Golson was expelled from the university in May for what was later revealed to be cheating.

Without a mobile athlete at the quarterback position, it's tough sledding against quality competition, of which there is a tremendous amount year in and year out on Notre Dame schedules.

It's not a knock on former quarterback Tommy Rees; he did everything asked of him throughout his career, and the Irish would have found themselves in dire straits without his services this season (see the second half of this season's USC game).

Adding in the tempered expectations for the season following Golson's expulsion—national championship dreams transformed to last ditch efforts to simply qualify for a BCS bowl game—it's no secret that the quarterback position is the most influential of all organized sports.

Despite the overwhelming amount of criticism launched in Rees' general direction, the Lake Forest, Ill., native guided a Notre Dame offense that averaged approximately two more points per game than it did during last season's national championship run.

Sure, the offense wasn't as dynamic due to the inability to implement the zone read, but it was as productive as it possibly could have been given the circumstances.

But for all the talk regarding Rees' effect on the offense and 2013 season as a whole, he was far from the lone factor.

Even with those aforementioned returning starters from a defense that was one of the best in the country last season, the unit experienced a rather surprising regression, particularly against the run.

After resembling a steel curtain a year ago, the Irish defense was anything but during 2013, finishing 70th nationally in rushing defense while allowing 168 yards per game on the ground. Though it likely won't ever be verified, the losses of Te'o, safety Zeke Motta and defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore, three outstandingly influential leaders, seemed to have a negative effect on the 2013 defense.

When also considering the injuries the defense suffered this season, the Irish's 9-4 final record is even more impressive.

From a macro-perspective, that final result takes on an added significance.

Notre Dame played three BCS bowl teams: Stanford (Rose Bowl), Michigan State (Rose Bowl) and Oklahoma (Sugar Bowl). The Irish were 1-2 against that trio, with the lone victory arriving against the Spartans, who won the Big Ten Conference Championship Game, as well as Big Ten Conference's first Rose Bowl since the 2009 season.

Also worth noting are the Irish's victories against Arizona State and USC, two teams that finished ranked 14th and 25th, respectively, in the final BCS standings.

Fans and anyone else associated with the program can wonder "what if" as much as they'd like, but it won't change how the 2013 season played out. Either way you view it, the season was a success, even if 9-4 isn't your cup of tea.

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What Does Gator Bowl Victory Mean for Nebraska's Bo Pelini?

On New Year’s Day, Nebraska won the Gator Bowl, beating Georgia 24-19. In doing so, Nebraska ended a bowl drought that stretched back to the 2009 Holiday Bowl and gave this year’s senior class its first and only bowl victory. The win was an upset, as Nebraska was a nine-point underdog to Georgia.

Bo Pelini, Nebraska’s head coach, came into the Gator Bowl after surviving what many thought could have been his last game against Iowa. After a turbulent year that included Deadspin’s release of a profanity-laced audio tape where Pelini called Nebraska fans “fair-weather,” a series of ugly and mostly self-inflicted losses and a bizarre postgame press conference after the Iowa loss, few would have been surprised if athletic director Shawn Eichorst had taken Pelini up on his offer of “if they want to fire me, go ahead” (as reported by USA Today).

But Eichorst stuck with Pelini, a decision for which Pelini was clearly grateful in his postgame comments. And as Pelini stood in the Jacksonville rain, holding a trophy aloft and looking forward to “championships to come,” the question on the minds of many Nebraska fans was what exactly the bowl win meant for Pelini and for the Nebraska program as a whole.

What didn’t happen in the game stood out as much as what did. Against Michigan State and Iowa, Nebraska lost in large part because it turned the ball over. Against Georgia, Nebraska only had one turnover to the Bulldogs’ two. As a result—much like what Nebraska saw in reverse against the Spartans and the Hawkeyes—Nebraska was able to win the game despite being outgained by Georgia, 416-307.

But it was more than just turnovers. Despite the sloppy conditions, Nebraska had a relatively penalty-free game (six penalties for 50 yards). More importantly, Nebraska’s tackling was as good as it has been in recent memory. Because of this, the Blackshirts were able to contain Georgia tailback Todd Gurley to 86 yards on 21 carries. In comparison to Nebraska’s defense of other backs at the end of the season, the performance against Gurley—easily the most talented back Nebraska faced all year—is even more impressive:

 

Carries

Yards

Yards/Carry

Cobb (Minn.)

31

138

4.45

Langford (Mich. St.)

32

151

4.71

Zwinak (Penn St.)

35

149

4.26

Weisman (Iowa)

24

72

3.00

Gurley (UGA)

21

86

4.10

It’s one game, to be certain. But it does prove a point that a certain smart and particularly handsome analyst has made before: Nebraska is ready to win if Nebraska gets out of Nebraska’s way.

Winning the turnover battle. Winning (or, in this case, not losing) the special teams battle. Limiting penalties. Tackling well. The fundamentals of football that, at least for one soggy morning in Florida, Nebraska executed. As a result, the Big Ten notched a win over the vaunted SEC, and Nebraska won a game in which it was a nine-point underdog.

Is that what we will see in 2014? Has one good performance in a second-tier bowl righted the problems that have lingered in Lincoln for the last six years?

Obviously, such a sea change from one game would be far-fetched. But it is not unreasonable to think that the Gator Bowl performance could at least provide a model for Nebraska as it heads into the offseason.

Nebraska’s front seven on defense look imposing for next year. Quarterback Tommy Armstrong cushioned his lead for the upcoming quarterback battle with Johnny Stanton this spring. If I-back Ameer Abdullah decides to return for his senior season (which may be less of a sure thing after his Gator Bowl performance), he should be the backbone of an offense that possesses a number of exciting weapons.

There will be work to do in the offseason, of course. Nebraska will be replacing most of its offensive line, as well as key pieces of its secondary. While Nebraska’s return game didn’t hurt NU against Georgia, it certainly wasn’t a source of strength.

But the bigger question will be, mentally, how the coach and team handle adversity next season. The pressure of Pelini’s job status clearly wore on everybody, and it’s hard not to draw the conclusion that said pressure affected performance on the field. Particularly against Iowa, between the hat swipe 15-yard penalty on Pelini and the mind-boggling fake punt call that helped turn the game, actions taken under pressure by Pelini and company helped dig a hole from which Nebraska could not emerge.

Those difficulties and challenges will arise again in 2014. If Pelini reverts to form and some version of “Coach Chickenbleep” makes an appearance, then a repeat of previous seasons—four losses, struggling to win a division and no conference title—is a reasonable expectation.

But the Gator Bowl performance provides a model for something different. And if Pelini, now in year seven at the helm in Lincoln, is able to build off that performance and capture some of that long-awaited consistency and stability, 2014 may very well be something special for Nebraska fans.

If you'd like to contact Patrick, send an email to patrickrunge@gmail.com.

Or, you could always use the Twitter machine to follow @patrickrunge

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AJ McCarron's Interception Results in a Katherine Webb Struggle Face

Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback AJ McCarron tied a career high by throwing his second interception in the first half of the 2014 Sugar Bowl against Oklahoma, and his girlfriend Katherine Webb did not look pleased.

She wasn't the only person who was stunned by Alabama's performance. These girls look pretty upset. 

No one looks happy here. 

He's just hanging his head in disgust. 

 

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Texas Football: 4 Culture Changes the Next Head Coach Must Prioritize

As the Texas Longhorns narrow their list of head coaching candidates, the changes that Mack Brown's successor must prioritize have become apparent.

The 'Horns need a culture change. They have gone from a perennial contender on the national scene to a them that has lost its edge and become accustomed to mediocrity. An uncompetitive 30-7 loss to Oregon serves as the latest example of this regression.

The Longhorns can be labeled as soft and complacent. They can be accused of paying more attention to the country's perception of them than what they actually do on the field.

The next man up, whoever he may be, has to change all of that. 

 

The Perception That Texas is Soft

Between last season's rash of missed tackles and getting pushed around in five losses this season, Texas has earned a reputation for being soft. That is not a quality shared amongst winning programs.

The notion that the Longhorns lack toughness may not be new, as B/R's Lisa Horne points out, but it's undeniable at this point. The 'Horns lost all five of their games this season by 19 or more points, including the infamous 40-21 drubbing in which BYU ran up 550 rushing yards.

Sports Illustrated's Pete Thamel wrote a scathing profile of the program's ignominious label. In it, he cites NFL scouts that have stated they perceive a "spoiled mentality" from Texas' athletes as well as a "'country club atmosphere." 

If that's the case, it is little surprise that Texas will finish outside the Top 25 for the third time in four years. It is even less surprising that the Longhorns have not had an offensive lineman, a position that requires true toughness, go in the first round since 2002.

The next Texas coach has to work on changing this perception from his first day on the job. If the Longhorns are going to make a return to the top, they have to bring the same edge that teams have brought against them on a weekly basis.

 

The Head Coach Being a CEO

Mack Brown has been called a CEO throughout his tenure at Texas, troubling himself more with the off-field product than his team's Saturday showings. The next guy has to be all about the game.

Between the Longhorn Network and other significant media obligations, Brown came off as more of a manager than an Xs and Os football coach. It was all fine and dandy when he was reeling off nine 10-win seasons in row, but hard to justify when you're 30-21 over your last four seasons.

This is an area in which the entire athletic department has to bend. In the arms race that is modern college football, the head coach's first and foremost priority must be producing wins. Patterson and the rest of the university have to make it clear that football will come first, second and third before the media.

Being the most popular guy in the game is nice, but never at the expense of valuable preparation time.

 

The Expectation That Texas Will Win No Matter What

Fans expect Texas to win, and players at Texas should expect to win every game they play. That confidence is appropriate until it becomes entitlement, which the Longhorns have displayed in recent years.

How else do you describe a team that was down 7-0 to New Mexico State, which has not played in a bowl since 1960, at home? What else would explain the lack of urgency in the aforementioned BYU game?

The answer is that the Longhorns felt they just had to show up. Instead of coming out swinging, they trusted their overall superior talent to carry them.

Those expectations and misguided self-perceptions need to be squashed. Texas' next head coach has to have his guys playing their hardest on every snap, even if it means bullying a lesser program. Playing at half-speed does nobody any favors.

 

The Continued Failure to Take Advantage of Talent

According to Rivals.com, the Texas Longhorns produced a top-five recruiting class every year between 2009 and 2012. However, Texas is just 30-21 with only two first-round picks since 2010.

Is the discrepancy between wins and recruited talent the result of bringing in the wrong players? Former safety Kenny Vaccaro thinks so, telling the New Orleans Times-Picayune, "I think the mentality at Texas isn't where it needs to right now."

Perhaps Vaccaro is right, as Texas has failed to mine its considerable, nationwide talent base. Mack Brown wanted Johnny Manziel and Robert Griffin III to play defensive back, and he never returned Jameis Winston's calls. As you know, all three are now Heisman Trophy winners for other programs.

The problem could also be that recruits aren't seeing results. Former 5-star quarterback Garrett Gilbert regressed at Texas, and the lack of high draft picks has not acquitted the program of any fault.

The Longhorns' next head coach has to turn talent into both wins and first-round picks. Doing less with more is not acceptable at Texas.

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Vad Lee Reportedly Will Transfer from Georgia Tech

It's one and done for Vad Lee. After what was his first season as Georgia Tech's starting quarterback, the sophomore reportedly plans to transfer.

According to Ken Sugiura of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

After one season as a starter, Georgia Tech quarterback will transfer, according to a person close to the team who is familiar with Lee’s decision.

Lee, a redshirt sophomore, will have two years of eligibility remaining. Tech completed its season Monday at the Music City Bowl, where the Yellow Jackets lost 25-17 to Ole Miss. Rivals website first reported Lee’s planning to transfer earlier Thursday.

Back when Lee committed to the Yellow Jackets out of high school, it seemed a great fit. He's an athletic quarterback—the exact kind of player Paul Johnson would need for his triple-option offense.

Unfortunately, it hasn't worked out, and the triple option has become the main reason why Lee is transferring, per ESPN's Joe Schad.

GT QB Vad Lee said he will transfer. "The triple option was never really my thing," Lee said.

— Joe Schad (@schadjoe) January 3, 2014

According to Pack Pride, this decision could have stemmed from Georgia Tech's inability to adapt the offense more to his style.

Wish Vad Lee the best at his next school. Remember during his recruiment he commented that GT said they were changing the offense.

— Pack Pride (@PackPride) January 3, 2014

During his only season as the starting QB, Lee threw for 1,561 yards, 11 touchdowns and 10 interceptions on 45.6 percent passing. He also ran for 513 yards and eight touchdowns.

It will be interesting to see where Lee lands next. If he moves to another FBS school, he'll have to sit out another season, which means he'll be a senior the next time he steps on the field. He may not want to burn a year of eligibility, so perhaps an FCS school is the better option for the former Yellow Jacket.

Depending on your opinion of Lee, this could be good news. The Yellow Jackets have a plethora of young quarterbacks who will be vying for the starting job in 2014. Kelly Quinlan of JacketsOnline.com noted which players have a shot.

Expecting a wide open #GaTech QB competition this spring with Lee out of the mix. Justin Thomas, Tim Byerly, Ty Griffin and Matt Jordan.

— Kelly Quinlan (@Kelly_Quinlan) January 3, 2014

Only time will tell if Lee made the right decision and whether or not Georgia Tech will be better off without him.

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