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UCLA Football: Ranking the 4 Best Moments for the Bruins in 2014

There were some prominent moments within the 2014 season for Jim Mora and the UCLA football team. In fact, four specific moments in particular stand out. This piece will rank the four best moments this year for the Bruins...

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Nebraska Football: Many Husker Fans' Complaints About Mike Riley Hire Misguided

Nebraska football fans were floored by the announcement that athletic director Shawn Eichorst had hired Oregon State’s Mike Riley to be NU’s new head coach.

Riley, who had coached the Beavers for 12 of the last 14 years (with an unsuccessful stint as head coach of the San Diego Chargers in the interim) was a surprise to everyone, and that surprise did not sit well with some Nebraska fans (as recounted by Hail Varsity).

Of course, fans are emotional, and some of those fans reacted without putting a lot of thought into their criticism. Here's why some of the most common complaints were off-base.

 

We shoulda hired Scott Frost!

Of all the negative reactions to Riley’s hiring, this was probably the most common. And sure, the story is compelling.

A championship-winning Nebraska quarterback, coming home to take the program back to its glory days. He’s one of us! He gets what it means at Nebraska!

Stop. I mean really, just stop. Frost, in his second year as offensive coordinator at Oregon, is a promising young coach with what looks to be a bright future ahead of him.

Does that sound at all familiar? Nebraska hires a young coach—a talented coordinator with no head coaching experience—to take over one of the most storied programs in college football.

Haven’t we seen this movie and know how it ends?

That’s not to say Frost isn’t a good coach and won’t perhaps someday be a great head coach. But Nebraska just went through seven years of giving an untested rookie on-the-job training on the sidelines in Lincoln.

Plus, how many other programs were looking to hire Frost as a head coach this season? If your answer was “none,” then you win the prize.

It’s understandable for Nebraska fans worried about an uncertain future to reach out for something familiar. But with all the risk involved with making a coaching change, allowing sentiment to drive the decision would be a dreadful mistake.

 

His record is worse than Pelini’s!

In Bo Pelini’s seven years at Nebraska, his teams went 66-27. Under Riley during the same time period, his teams went 46-42. Overall, Riley is 96-80 as a collegiate head coach.

See! Pelini’s way better than Riley! Pelini’s never won fewer than nine games, something Riley’s only done once since 2009. Why did we fire Pelini to get this guy?

Yes, Pelini has never won fewer than nine games (or lost fewer than four games) in his career—at Nebraska. And Riley has done what he’s done at Oregon State.

Put simply, Oregon State isn’t Nebraska. Before Riley arrived in Corvallis, the Beavers had won nine games in a season twice—once in 1939 and again in 1962. Oregon State hadn’t had a winning record since 1970 and had only won a total of 14 games in the seven years before Riley took the job.

Oregon State is a tiny college town in northern Oregon, dwarfed in stature and resources by the school in Eugene that is funded to the hilt by Phil Knight, CEO of Nike. And yet Riley has consistently won there at a level far exceeding what the school’s size, prestige and resource level would dictate.

Want an analogy that is a little more familiar, Husker fans? Oregon State is a lot like Iowa State—if Iowa had a blank check with a swoosh on it to build facilities. If a coach was able to do in Ames what Riley did in Corvallis, wouldn’t you be intrigued by the prospect of what he could do in Lincoln?

It’s time to get over the "nine-win" thing, Husker fans.

 

He’s never won anything!

OK, fine, you say. Winning nine games isn’t a big deal if it doesn’t come with a championship at the end. And as a I previously observed, Eichorst made a bold statement that playing for championships is the standard for NU, nothing less.

I thought Eichorst said championships were the standard! How can we hire a coach that hasn’t won anything more than Pelini has?

Riley has never won a conference title at Oregon State. He’s been close, and Dennis Erickson took Riley’s players (including Chad later-to-be-Ochocinco Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh—you may have heard of them) to an 11-1 season and a Fiesta Bowl win in 2000.

So yes, Riley hasn’t won a championship at Oregon State. We’ve discussed already how winning titles at Oregon State is a much harder task than winning them at Nebraska.

But Eichorst also talked about the importance of Nebraska competing in the "games that matter," which Nebraska was notoriously bad at under Pelini. How do Pelini and Riley compare in that category?

Well, let’s take a look at games against top-15 opponents, which is a fair estimation of Eichorst’s "championship-caliber" teams.

In the last seven years, Pelini has notched wins over No. 7 Missouri (2010) and No. 9 Michigan State (2011). In that same time period, Riley has wins over No. 1 USC (2008), No. 2 Cal (2007), No. 9 Arizona (2010), No. 13 Wisconsin (2012, the same year the Badgers beat Nebraska 70-31) and No. 6 Arizona State (2014).

None of Pelini’s wins come close to Riley’s teams knocking off the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the country. Heck, a pretty good argument could be made that none of Pelini’s wins are better than Riley’s squad this year taking No. 6 Arizona State out of playoff contention.

 

So are you saying Nebraska’s a lock for the playoff next year?

Of course not. Riley is far from a guaranteed success in Lincoln. With Nebraska opening against BYU, its toughest lid-lifter in a decade, it’s possible Riley could start his scarlet-and-cream career at 0-1.

Next season, Pelini’s defenders and those inclined to snark will be quick to pounce if Nebraska wins fewer than nine games. Is that expectation fair? Probably not, but it’s what Riley will have to deal with as he starts his career in Lincoln.

But the ultimate question is this: Does Nebraska have a better chance at winning a conference title in the near future by making a change and hiring Riley or by keeping Pelini and maintaining the status quo?

Eichorst made it crystal clear on which side of that question he came down.

And while there will be many doubts raised about the move in the coming months, as the inevitable challenges hit Riley and his new staff in Lincoln, hopefully calmer and more rational minds can set aside those challenges that are less well thought-out.

 

For a different look at Nebraska football, check out The Double Extra Point.

Or you can use the Twitter machine to follow @DblExtraPoint.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Without J.T. Barrett, Ohio State's Championship Hopes Rest with the Defense

After J.T. Barrett suffered a season-ending ankle injury against Michigan, Ohio State's national championship hopes were ripped from the steady hands of the its budding quarterback and placed squarely on a defense that has slumped in recent weeks.

With No. 13 Wisconsin and its powerful rushing attack looming, the fifth-ranked Buckeyes will need that unit to step up in a big way to earn their first Big Ten title since 2009.

That development would have been hard to fathom at the beginning of the season.

When Ohio State lost its first option at quarterback after Braxton Miller re-injured his shoulder in fall camp, head coach Urban Meyer expected his defense to rally—fueled by what USA Today (h/t 247Sports) thought was the best defensive line in the country.

In fact, Meyer went as far as comparing this Buckeyes defensive front to one of the all-time greats—his former outfit at Florida that guided the Gators to a national title in 2006.

"2006 was our best defensive line at Florida. This line, if they all stay healthy and perform, could be on that level," Meyer told reporters. "We have some game-changers up front."

The Buckeyes certainly have game-changers.

Defensive end Joey Bosa has grown into one of the most disruptive pass-rushers in the country, leading the Big Ten and ranking fourth nationally with 13.5 sacks. The true sophomore was named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year and is a finalist for the Lombardi and Bednarik Awards.

Ohio State has also gotten solid play out of defensive tackles Michael Bennett, who was named to the All-Big Ten Football second team, and Adolphus Washington, who earned an honorable mention from the media.

But the Buckeyes have greatly missed Noah Spence—their star junior defensive end who was supposed to balance the line opposite Bosa. Spence didn't play a snap all season thanks to a second failed drug test that resulted in a permanent ban from the Big Ten.

That, combined with a surprising lack of depth, has Ohio State's defensive line falling incredibly short of its preseason potential.

Over the last four weeks, opposing running backs have taken advantage.

It started on the road against Michigan State, when Jeremy Langford ripped Ohio State for 137 yards and three touchdowns on just 18 carries.

That triggered a bad trend for the Buckeyes, who have given up a combined 584 yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground to the last four running backs they've faced.

On Saturday in Indianapolis, with a Big Ten title hanging in the balance, Ohio State will have to stop the nation's most dangerous running back. Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon, who leads the country in both rushing yards (2,260) and rushing touchdowns (26), has a blend of speed and toughness that could hurt the Buckeyes where they're the weakest.

Ohio State is hoping its recent run against elite ball-carriers can serve as preparation for what lies ahead.

“I mean we’ve seen a lot of good backs this year,” Buckeyes linebacker Joshua Perry told Austin Ward of ESPN.com. “Obviously [Gordon] is a Heisman front-runner, so he’s on a level of his own. But you can’t say that we haven’t been tested already with some of the running backs, some of the offensive lines we’ve seen this year."

The Buckeyes' improved secondary won't be tested much—the Badgers average just 147.8 passing yards per game, which ranks 117th out of 125 teams in the country.

But with Gordon in the opposing backfield, Bill Rabinowitz of the Columbus Dispatch reports Meyer is wary of the potential opportunities for play action:

Will the Buckeyes be able to stop Gordon and Wisconsin's ground attack?

Without its star quarterback as a safety net, Ohio State's Big Ten title hopes—and by extension, its playoff aspirations—will depend on it.

 

All stats via NCAA.com.

David Regimbal covers Ohio State football for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.

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UCF Beats East Carolina on Game-Winning Hail Mary

The UCF Knights were down, 30-26, against the East Carolina Pirates with one final play remaining, so Justin Holman threw up a prayer.

Despite a number of Pirates players around the goal line, Holman's pass somehow floated over them, landing in Breshad Perriman's hands for the game-winning 51-yard touchdown.

Here's another angle of the touchdown:

The Knights got the miracle 32-30 win to finish the regular season at 9-3, so they'll now have to wait and see which bowl game they'll be invited to. The win also helped them clinch a share of the AAC 

[Vine]

 

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College Football Rankings 2014: Teams Positioned to Crack Top 4 in Final Week

It's a shame that the four-team playoff has devalued the FBS regular season so much.

Looking back, it's amazing to think that anybody tried to argue that swapping out the Bowl Championship Series for the playoff would've meant irreparably harming what is the best regular season in American sports.

The advent of the playoff has merely opened the door for more teams to have a legitimate shot at the national championship, thus lending importance to games that might have been overlooked in previous seasons.

College football fans can't ask any more of a regular season in which the drama hangs until the final week. So many questions remain unanswered.

 

Not Going Anywhere

Florida State, Oregon and Alabama

Florida State, Oregon and Alabama would all make the top four as long as they win their respective conferences.

Although the Seminoles are in fourth—behind three one-loss teams—there's no way the selection committee would overlook an unbeaten Power Five team, no matter how questionable its resume is in some fans' minds.

With victories in championship week, Oregon and Alabama would almost certainly position themselves as the top two seeds in the bracket, in whatever order, with FSU probably coming in third.

This much is known. Outside these three teams, it's all up for grabs.

 

Prospects Looking Good

Baylor

One of the bigger top-four debates surrounds whether Baylor or TCU would be a better Big 12 representative. The Bears beat the Horned Frogs, but the Horned Frogs arguably have the better overall resume.

Baylor's not messing around, with ESPN.com's Jake Trotter reporting that the school hired a public relations firm in order to strengthen its standing in the eyes of the media and general public:

Yahoo Sports' Dan Wetzel gave the Bears their best case for the top four:

CBSSports.com's Tom Fornelli also believes that a head-to-head victory trumps any other argument in this situation:

Baylor has good reason to remain confident that it will make the top four in Week 16. While the Bears obviously benefit from the win over TCU, they could also be hugely helped by recency bias.

It's almost impossible to not value a team's most current games more heavily than its earlier ones. Baylor plays No. 9 Kansas State on Saturday, while TCU will take on two-win Iowa State. A win over the Wildcats should be enough to put the Bears over the top.

 

Sitting on Shaky Ground

TCU

As mentioned above, TCU may have the high ground now, but that could change by next week. Beating the Cyclones won't do much to strengthen their top-four credentials.

The biggest reason for TCU to remain confident as to its playoff standing—aside from its strength of schedule—is the fact that the Big 12 won't determine a sole conference champion in the event both the Horned Frogs and Bears finish with the same record.

Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby explained how he and the conference's members are taking a hands-off approach when it comes to the playoff, per CBSSports.com's Jon Solomon:

We don't have any province to say to the playoff committee, 'Baylor won head to head so they need to be our representative.'

The process is about selecting what they consider to be the four best teams. Four best is different than the four most deserving. The most deserving is mostly an objective process in which you might have computer rankings and a bunch of different polls.

Baylor being considered outright champions would've been the final nail in TCU's coffin. Instead, the Horned Frogs being a co-champion could provide the committee one more out so as to put them ahead of the Bears.

Of course, if Baylor loses and TCU wins, then the Horned Frogs are all but assured of a top-four spot, and this discussion becomes irrelevant.

 

Ohio State

The J.T. Barrett injury has cast a lot of doubt on whether the playoff committee would consider sending Ohio State into the playoff. Without Barrett, the Buckeyes are obviously worse, thus their standing as one of the best teams in the country could come under question.

But should that outweigh everything else they've done this year? You can't exactly punish a team for a player getting injured.

Head coach Urban Meyer thinks that injuries to both Barrett and Braxton Miller have proved the overall strength of his team, per Doug Lesmerises of the Northeast Ohio Media Group:

You're the champion of the Big Ten Conference, you lose one Heisman Trophy candidate before the season and another one in (game 12) that is also a Heisman candidate. I think that's almost a positive, that your team can still go function, and it tells you about the players and talent on your team.

Of course, this leaves aside the issues with Ohio State's body of work. The loss to Virginia Tech got worse and worse by the week, while the Buckeyes don't have a ton of worthwhile victories with which to counter.

Ohio State doesn't have much of a chance to get into the top four if Baylor wins, but in the event the Bears lose, the Buckeyes might be able to sneak in ahead of the Horned Frogs based on winning a conference championship game.

Beating somebody as good as Wisconsin might also help to silence any doubt about the team in the eyes of the committee after Barrett's injury.

 

Don't Count Them Out

Arizona

They still need a lot of help, but the Arizona Wildcats could still manage to make the top four with a win over Oregon and losses by some combination of Florida State, Alabama, Ohio State, Baylor and TCU.

Now, we're talking Skyfall-type levels of confluence in terms of all the moving pieces ending up exactly right. It's still possible, though.

Arizona will have beaten the No. 2 team in the country on two occasions, while the Wildcats' losses came to No. 25 USC and No. 15 UCLA. The first of those came by two points, and the second was on the road. Neither is embarrassing.

It's always fun to envision doomsday scenarios at the end of the college football regular season. Who doesn't love a little anarchy?

Also, seeing the Wildcats in the top four would add a fresh new face to the scene. Rich Rodriguez has done some impressive things in Tucson, and it would be fun to see if he can help get the program to the next level.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Adam McLean to Maryland: Terrapins Land 4-Star DT Prospect

Adam McLean is on his way to College Park, Maryland.

The 4-star defensive tackle announced on Twitter Thursday night that he will become a member of the Maryland Terrapins:

According to 247Sports' composite rankings, the prep star is the 13th-best defensive tackle and 121st-best recruit overall in the 2015 class. In general, the Big Ten had a pretty good Thursday, as ESPN.com's Tom VanHaaren pointed out:

McLean had already committed to another Big Ten school, Penn State, before decommitting from the Nittany Lions in the middle of November. He confirmed the news on Twitter:

Rivals' Adam Friedman praised the work of head coach Randy Edsall:

This is a coup for the Terps, who have the eighth-best recruiting class in the Big Ten and 47th-best in the country, according to 247Sports. Edsall had a bit of an up-and-down season with Maryland in 2014, so securing McLean's commitment is a nice boost for the program heading into bowl season.

At 6'2" and 290 pounds, McLean's not the kind of space-eater defensive tackle who is a force of nature by sheer size alone. He's athletic for somebody as big as he is, which helps to make up for that. He can serve a variety of purposes on the defensive line because he's not a one-dimensional run-stuffer.

McLean doesn't project as anything other than a defensive tackle at this stage, even if he's a tad undersized for the position.

He isn't the kind of recruit who can single-handedly turn Maryland's fortunes around as the team tries to establish itself in the Big Ten. But McLean will certainly help the Terrapins climb the food chain.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

What Has to Happen for Baylor, TCU or Kansas State to Make Playoff?

It's possible that two teams from the Big 12 could make the College Football Playoff. It's also possible that none will. 

Currently, the TCU Horned Frogs are No. 3, the Baylor Bears are No. 6 and the Kansas State Wildcats are No. 9 in the latest playoff rankings

That means the road should be easy for TCU, which squares off against Iowa State (2-9) this week. A win over the Cyclones, and the Horned Frogs are in. 

The road isn't as easy for Baylor or K-State. For starters, they play each other this week, and the loser will likely be knocked out of the playoff hunt. On the flip side, one of those two teams will get a win over a Top 10 team to finish the season. 

Since college football is a "what have you done for me lately?" world, the de facto Big 12 Championship Game in Waco couldn't come at a better time for either squad. 

Nevertheless, there are plenty of scenarios across the board for all three teams. 

Let's take a look at what needs to happen for TCU, Baylor and K-State to get to the playoff. 

 

TCU Horned Frogs

STEP ONE: Beat Iowa State

This is the only step TCU needs to take to make the playoff, and it's nonnegotiable. A win over the Cyclones, and the Horned Frogs are in. A loss and there's virtually no scenario where they'd be in. Either Ohio State, Baylor, K-State or Arizona would be almost guaranteed to take their spot. 

There'd be no forgiving a loss to a two-win team, especially without the absolution of a conference title to back it up, which TCU would lose out on if it falls to the Cyclones. 

The big thing to consider is—assuming the Horned Frogs win—how they win and, more importantly, how Oregon and Florida State fare. These games will be instrumental to their seeding and where they'll go. 

If the Top Four in the playoff rankings—Alabama, Oregon, TCU and Florida State—all win easily, then TCU will likely stay at third and travel to the Rose Bowl to face Oregon. That'll give the Ducks a West Coast advantage. 

If Alabama or Oregon loses but TCU and Florida State win, that will open the door for either Ohio State or Baylor to get into the playoff. TCU would move up to the second seed and still travel to the Rose Bowl but face Florida State instead. 

In a perfect world in Fort Worth, Alabama, Oregon and Florida State will all lose. That'll give TCU the No. 1 spot in the rankings, meaning it'll head south for the Sugar Bowl, where it'd likely face either Baylor or Michigan State. 

 

Baylor Bears

STEP ONE: Beat K-State

Again, this step is nonnegotiable. The Bears are already on the outside looking in and in need of help, so a loss will burst the Bears' bubble altogether. The beauty of playing No. 9 Kansas State at home is that a win over a Top 10 team is the perfect eye test for the committee, especially on the last week of the season. 

A win will also give Baylor at least a share of the Big 12 title—and the committee openly favors conference champions. 

 

STEP TWO: Ohio State loss to Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game

The obvious thing about this step is that Ohio State, at No. 5, is one step ahead of the Bears in the playoff rankings. That means, in the committee's mind, a win for the Buckeyes means they'll be the first ones to get in should anybody in the top four falter. 

Also, the Pac-12 Championship Game may very well be meaningless. Oregon is No. 2, but more importantly, Arizona is No. 7. Let's say Arizona knocks off the Ducks—it's likely that the Wildcats will pass over the Bears regardless of their result over K-State. But the Ducks will also fall behind Baylor if they beat K-State. 

If Oregon wins, then Arizona will fall off. And Oregon will stay in the playoff, effectively taking a spot away from Baylor. Either way, the Pac-12 champion will probably take precedence over the Bears. 

 

STEP THREE: Florida State loss to Georgia Tech in the ACC Championship Game OR Alabama loss to Missouri in SEC Championship Game OR TCU loss to Iowa State

Assuming steps one and two happen, Florida State, TCU or Alabama losing will be the last door that needs to open for Baylor to get into the playoff. 

Despite being undefeated, the Seminoles are on the cusp of the playoff at No. 4. A loss to No. 11 Georgia Tech will surely eliminate Jameis Winston and Co. from playoff contention. With Ohio State having theoretically lost, that'll open the door for Baylor to walk into the No. 4 seed. 

Now if Alabama or TCU loses but Florida State wins, the same thing will happen, and Baylor will be playoff-bound. 

Simply put, the Bears need Ohio State and a Top Four team to lose to get into the playoff. 

Now if two or more Top Four teams fall, Baylor could get in that way as well. But with TCU facing off against a two-win team, Oregon looking like the nation's best team and Alabama playing a team outside of the Top 10, it's tough to imagine more than one of those teams falling. 

 

Kansas State Wildcats

STEP ONE: Beat Baylor

This one's easy. K-State is already a long shot for the playoff—the only reason they're in the conversation is thanks largely in part to both UCLA and Mississippi State losing in the same week the Wildcats played lowly Kansas. If the Wildcats want in, they'll need a win over No. 6 Baylor.

Just like the Bears though, the Wildcats get a chance to beat a Top 10 team right before the committee convenes to make its final decisions. 

 

STEP TWO: Oregon beats Arizona in Pac-12 Championship Game

I know what you're thinking—"Kansas State needs all the chaos in the world to get into the playoff; how does No. 2 beating No. 7 help?" 

Well, the Wildcats are No. 9 in the playoff standings—meaning they need to catch up five spots to get into the playoff. 

If they beat Baylor, they'll likely pass No. 8 Michigan State, who is off this week. That's two spots right there, as the Wildcats will probably pass the Bears in the final standings. 

No. 7 is Arizona. Let's say Arizona upsets Oregon. Would the Ducks, who will have just two losses to the same team—a Top 10 team now—fall behind K-State, which also has two losses to Auburn and TCU? 

It's debatable but unlikely. K-State needs the easiest road to making up five spots, and No. 7 losing falls into that category. Bill Snyder and Co. want to be in the playoff with the Ducks. 

 

STEP THREE: Ohio State loss to Wisconsin in Big Ten Championship Game

The same reason Baylor needs Ohio State to lose is why K-State needs the Buckeyes to slip up. Ohio State is next in line for a spot should someone in the Top Four falter. The Wildcats don't want the Buckeyes in their way for one of the last spots should one become available. 

So if all the steps come true up to this point, K-State will have made up four of the five spots it needs to get in. 

 

STEP FOUR: Florida State loss to Georgia Tech in the ACC Championship Game OR Alabama loss to Missouri in SEC Championship Game OR TCU loss to Iowa State

The final step for K-State to get in is the same one for Baylor—it needs a Top Four team to lose. 

This is true for basically any playoff hopeful. If all four teams in the Top Four win this week, they'll all be conference champions, and it'll be unlikely the committee punishes them on the last week. 

Kansas State can't worry about any seeding advantages—climbing five spots is hard enough in one week. 

But crazier things have happened in the world. 

The Wildcats may need a ton of help this week, but a win over Baylor should guarantee the Wildcats a top-tier bowl game. 

If just a few more games go their way, who knows? 

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5 Must-See Players at the Under Armour All-America Game

The Under Armour All-America Game brings many of America's premier prospects to Tropicana Field in St. Petersbug, Florida, on Jan. 2. The talent-packed showdown is broadcast on national television and has previously featured future NFL playmakers like Julio Jones and Trent Richardson.

The latest version isn't lacking for stars, as several top-tier recruits are expected to suit up. It will be the final tuneup before college football for marquee members of the 2015 class.

Here's a look at elite players to keep an eye on when the action kicks off.

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Jim Harbaugh to Michigan Would 'Redefine Grand Slam Hires in College Ranks'

The Michigan Wolverines are in search of their next head coach. With a hungry fanbase and a legacy to protect, many are asking for a big-name hire.

Steve Lorenz247Sports Michigan Insider, joined Stephen Nelson to discuss who could potentially be the next head coach in Ann Arbor. 

Who should Michigan hire?

Watch the video and let us know. 

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