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Marcus Mariota, Melvin Gordon Headline 2014 AP All-America Team

You can add "First-Team All-American" to the growing list of postseason awards and honors for Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota.

The 2014 Heisman Trophy winner highlights the group of players selected by The Associated Press as the very best in college football this season. You can find the full team below.

Mariota was brilliant for the Ducks this year, accounting for 4,452 yards from scrimmage and 53 total touchdowns while leading Oregon to the inaugural College Football Playoff. His former coach and current Philadelphia Eagles coach, Chip Kelly, gushed about him on radio station 94WIP in Philadelphia on Monday, per Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk:

I think Marcus will be successful whether he's an NFL player, a banker, a teacher, a fireman, a policeman. I've said it before about some other players, but if you can buy stock in a human being, you buy stock in that kid because he'll always be successful in anything he does....

I felt lucky that I had an opportunity to coach a young man like that. When you listen to his [Heisman Trophy] acceptance speech, I think it's maybe a sliver of what we got the chance to experience every day to be around him. He's a special young man. I know I'm a better person for being associated with him.

Mariota seems likely to be a top-five pick in this year's NFL draft if he decides to bypass his senior season at Oregon. There are several teams near the bottom of the standings in need of a franchise signal-caller, including the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Tennessee Titans and New York Jets.

Heisman runners-up Amari Cooper of Alabama (115 receptions for 1,656 yards and 14 touchdowns) and Melvin Gordon of Wisconsin (2,336 rushing yards, 29 total touchdowns) joined Mariota on the first team.

While Mariota has been collecting postseason awards left and right, Barrett Sallee of Bleacher Report noted that Alabama would have been in trouble without Cooper this year, per B/R Radio on Twitter:

Other notable selections include Shaq Thompson (first-team all-purpose), who played both linebacker and running back for Washington this season, and J.T. Barrett (third-team quarterback), who took over for Braxton Miller at quarterback for Ohio State this season and accounted for 3,772 yards from scrimmage and 45 touchdowns.

Just a redshirt freshman this year, Barrett will likely head into next season as a Heisman favorite and a candidate to move up a few teams in the 2015 All-America selections.

 

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SEC Football Q&A: What to Make of Geoff Collins' Move from MSU to Florida

The coaching silly season is upon us, and the wheels just keep on spinning.

Late Friday night, former Florida head coach Will Muschamp officially made the move to Auburn to become the new defensive coordinator on the Plains. Meanwhile, at his old employer, there was a possibility that new Florida head coach Jim McElwain would retain defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin to keep some continuity in Gainesville.

Apparently, that's not happening.

Thayer Evans of Sports Illustrated reported Tuesday that Mississippi State defensive coordinator Geoff Collins will join McElwain's Florida staff in the same role.

What does the move mean for Florida and Mississippi State? That question and more are answered in this week's SEC Q&A.

 

I love the hire for Florida and McElwain.

Sure, Collins' defenses haven't been stellar in Starkville. In fact, only one—2011—has finished in the top 50 nationally in yards per play. But they are lights out in the red zone, finishing in the top two in the SEC in red-zone touchdown percentage twice over the last four seasons (2011 and 2014).

He's more set in his 4-3 ways than Florida's previous regime, led by Muschamp and Durkin, but the Gators have the talent and experience to be able to pick it up without missing much of a beat.

What's really interesting is that it all but assures that Durkin will be gone and could be what sends defensive backs coach and ace recruiter Travaris Robinson packing (perhaps to his alma mater Auburn to join Muschamp). The latter would hurt recruiting, but it would also serve as a sign that McElwain is making the program his own and creating its own identity.

That's a good thing for Florida even if there are some speed bumps along the way.

For Mississippi State, the $64,000 question becomes, "Is Collins' lateral move a sign that head coach Dan Mullen could be moving on?"

I'm not so sure that's the case. Sure, there have been reports that Mullen is high on Michigan's list, but as of now, there has been no official contact, according to Michael Bonner of The Clarion-Ledger.

If it's related to anything, it's likely more related to the way the season ended.

According to Bonner, Mullen ripped his defensive staff following the 31-17 Egg Bowl loss to Ole Miss that saw the Bulldogs give up 537 yards.

"That's just absolutely pathetic," Mullen said. "That's a terrible job by our defensive coaching staff."

Could Collins' move be related to his head coach throwing him under the bus? Maybe and maybe not although Mullen didn't seem to be too much of a fan of it, according to Brandon Walker of The Commercial Dispatch.

Before everybody freaks out, yes, it is a lateral move by definition. Plus, following a 10-2 season and two years of Florida struggles, Mullen should have a high opinion of his program.

Whatever the reason for Collins' move, though, there are plenty of coaches available who could come in and take over in Starkville (Ed Orgeron and Manny Diaz, I'm looking in your direction).

 

The combination of head coach Gus Malzahn and defensive coordinator Will Muschamp will keep Auburn in the thick of the SEC West race on an annual basis and will raise the floor of a program that hasn't had back-to-back double-digit-win seasons since 1988 and 1989.

A 10-win season and a SEC West title are not out of the question. In fact, they both should be expected.

Auburn gets Alabama and Georgia at home, draws Kentucky as its rotating SEC East opponent and worked that game into a Thursday night showdown, which adds a semi-bye week into a schedule that only includes one true bye week for SEC schools.

There isn't a surefire loss on the schedule. I'll toss Alabama, Ole Miss, Georgia and LSU into the "toss-up" category, and Auburn gets all but LSU at home.

I'll say 10-2, with losses to Alabama and either Ole Miss or LSU, and on the outside looking in of the SEC Championship Game. 

It would not surprise me in the least bit, though, if the Tigers make a run to the second annual College Football Playoff.

 

It's rather simple—defensive consistency.

It was something that plagued Georgia under former defensive coordinator Todd Grantham and something that, while improved, still jumped up and bit the Bulldogs in Jeremy Pruitt's first year as defensive coordinator.

It would have been tough for Florida to gain 445 yards against air this year, but it managed to pull that off against a Georgia defense despite only running six passing plays. Florida was one-dimensional by necessity, and it didn't matter. That was a game Georgia needed to win to get to Atlanta, and it fell flat on its face.

The Bulldogs closed the season by getting lit up by Georgia Tech to the tune of 463 yards, marking the first loss to the intra-state rival Yellow Jackets since 2008 and second of head coach Mark Richt's 14-year Georgia career.

Another year in the system will help Georgia's talented roster become more comfortable with what Pruitt wants to do, but significant roster turnover, including cornerback Damian Swann and linebackers Amarlo Herrera and Ramik Wilson, could prevent that defense from being as consistent as it needs to be in order to make a run in 2015. 

 

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and video analyst for Bleacher Report as well as a co-host of the CFB Hangover on Bleacher Report Radio (Sundays, 9-11 a.m. ET) on Sirius 93, XM 208.

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of cfbstats.com, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

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Urban Meyer Under Immense Pressure to Hire Great Replacement for Tom Herman

COLUMBUS, Ohio — When he first arrived at Ohio State in late 2011, Urban Meyer knew the question was coming. So when he was asked to explain the health problems that led to his downfall at Florida, it wasn't a surprise that Meyer had an answer that was both plausible and logical.

Given the success Meyer found in Gainesville—including a run of two national championships in three years—programs from around the country came calling to claim their branches of Meyer's coaching tree. But rather than trust his replacements for the likes of Dan Mullen and Charlie Strong, Meyer tried to overcompensate, overextending himself and wearing himself out in the process.

"If you hire quality people, they will be head coaches someday; you can’t stand in the way," Meyer told The Columbus Dispatch in 2012. "The key is when you lose someone, how you replace him."

For the first time since coming to Columbus, Meyer's ability to do just that will truly be put to the test.

With the news that Buckeyes offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Tom Herman will be announced Houston's head coach on Tuesday came the realization that Ohio State will need to replace its most valuable assistant. The 2014 recipient of the Broyles Award, presented annually to college football's top assistant, Herman made a name for himself this season by transforming redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett into a Heisman Trophy candidate and one-time third-string quarterback Cardale Jones into the Big Ten Championship MVP.

But Herman's value to Meyer's staff extended beyond his work with the OSU quarterbacks, as he's also proven to be one of the Buckeyes' most decorated recruiters. In the matter of just two recruiting cycles, Herman used his Texas ties to singlehandedly build a pipeline to the Lone Star State, helping OSU land Barrett, 4-star linebacker Mike Mitchell, 4-star running back Dontre Wilson and 4-star offensive guard Demetrius Knox from 2013-2014.

In the 11 years prior to Herman's arrival, the Buckeyes had netted a total of four scholarship players from the talent-rich state.

"Tom Herman did an excellent job down in Texas, an area that traditionally has not been strong for Ohio State," Meyer said on national signing day in 2013. "I knew very well Tom had a background in Texas and I knew he's a good recruiter because I did the homework before we hired him. Very good recruiter."

That's also shown up in the recruiting of other states as well, particularly at the quarterback position. Herman played a key role in the recruitment of 2013 junior college wide receiver Corey Smith and Ohio State's last three quarterback commitments in 2014: 3-star prospect Stephen Collier, 2015 4-star signal-caller Torrance Gibson and 3-star quarterback Joe Burrow.

The loss of Herman may have even already hurt the Buckeyes on the recruiting trail, as 3-star wide receiver Lawrence Cager told Ari Wasserman of Cleveland.com that he was no longer considering Ohio State, due in large part to the departure of the offensive coordinator.

"Mainly because of the coaching change," Cager said of his decision to not include the Buckeyes in his most recent top five. "Coach Herman leaving was big."

While it remains unclear how much of a priority landing Cager was for OSU—the Buckeyes have gone receiver-heavy in their last two recruiting classes and some recruiting insiders have questioned the legitimacy of Cager's Ohio State offer—it's worth pointing out that recruits have taken note of Herman's new gig. Gibson, one of the most highly touted commits to the Buckeyes' 2015 class, initially voiced concern with Herman's departure before congratulating the Cougars' new head coach.

Throw in the value that Herman added coaching X's and O's—the development of Barrett and Jones, as well as Braxton Miller and Kenny Guiton in the past three seasons, speaks for itself—and it's clear Meyer will need to nail the hiring of Herman's replacement. While Meyer may be one of the fathers of the spread offense, Herman managed to put his own spin on it at OSU, implementing a no-huddle scheme that only enhanced the Buckeyes' talent advantage in the Big Ten.

"That's a big part of why [he was] hired," Meyer said of Herman in September. "I wanted to do it, and he's an expert at it.”

The most likely scenario for Ohio State appears to be promoting offensive line coach and co-offensive coordinator Ed Warinner to the position of primary offensive coordinator and bringing in an up-and-coming quarterbacks coach to fill Herman's role. Warinner gained experience as a play-caller as the OC at Kansas from 2007-09, helping lead the Jayhawks to a top-10 offense and Orange Bowl victory in 2007.

But making the right hire to replace Herman's work on the recruiting trail and with the Buckeyes quarterbacks will remain critical, especially considering that Warinner has been rumored for the head coaching vacancies at Army and Kansas in the past two years. Meyer will likely look for a quarterbacks coach/co-offensive coordinator with experience in the spread system, with the ability to call plays and recruit Texas being major bonuses.

Tony Gerdeman of theOzone.net has compiled the most comprehensive list of potential replacements for Herman, which includes Boise State's Mike Sanford, East Carolina's Lincoln Riley and Mississippi State's Brian Johnson. As we learned a year ago, Meyer will certainly look to swing for a home run hire, as he did when he replaced defensive line coach Mike Vrabel with Penn State's Larry Johnson.

Replacing a position coach, however, differs from the challenge of hiring a new coordinator, as Meyer learned at Florida. There will be no shortage of qualified candidates lining up to become the next member of Meyer's storied coaching tree, but it will be up to the two-time national champion head coach to make the right hire and keep his offense—and perhaps his program—on track.

 

Ben Axelrod is Bleacher Report's Ohio State Lead Writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BenAxelrod. Unless noted otherwise, all quotes obtained firsthand. All statistics courtesy of cfbstats.com, and recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

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Reliving the Biggest Upsets of the 2014 College Football Season

There wasn't an "Appalachian State over Michigan" or a "Georgia Southern over Florida," but the 2014 college football season was not without its upsets.

They were of the milder variety, sure, but an upset is an upset—and many of this year's surprising results proved important on a national scale. Seven of the eight games on this list had College Football Playoff implications as recently as championship weekend.

The upsets on the following slides have withstood the test of time. Boston College beating USC, for example, was a major surprise in the moment but doesn't seem all that weird in hindsight. The Eagles were slightly better than expected and finished 7-5; USC was slightly worse and finished 8-4.

But instead of in-the-moment upsets, let's relive the games that seem just as curious now as they did when they happened. They are the upsets that defined the regular season.

Sound off below and let us know which game you'll remember best.

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Michigan Gives Mullen Best Chance for Long-Term Success

According to Michael Bonner of The Clarion-Ledger, Dan Mullen has not had any contact with the University of Michigan. However, with Mullen yet to sign an extension with Mississippi State and Michigan's head coaching position remaining vacant, the rumors continue to rage.

Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Barrett Sallee and Adam Kramer discuss the Mullen rumors.

Should Mullen bolt for Ann Arbor? Check out the video and let us know!

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Marcus Mariota Cracks Jokes on David Letterman's 'Top 10'

Now that he's won a Heisman Trophy, it's safe to call Oregon Ducks quarterback Marcus Mariota a household name.

Following the traditional path of celebrity, we knew it would only be a matter of time before Mariota ended up on the Late Show with David Letterman

Mariota took his comedy chops to the Ed Sullivan Theater on Monday night, listing the top 10 thoughts that went through his head after he won the 2014 Heisman Trophy. The 21-year-old held his own on stage, drawing a huge laugh with this jab at New York's underachieving football teams:

Appearing on Letterman has become a rite of passage for Heisman winners. Jameis Winston, Johnny Manziel and Robert Griffin III have all appeared on the program.

Mariota is probably too young to get the Don Ho reference, but he makes a good point about not spiking the trophy. The Calgary Stampeders of the Canadian Football League showed us what can happen when you don't take care of your hardware, via SB Nation's Rodger Sherman.

Next up for Mariota's Ducks are the undefeated Florida State Seminoles. Bleacher Report's Tom Weir is calling this Rose Bowl matchup "a battle for the soul of college football."

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Bo Pelini to Youngstown State: Latest Contract Details, Comments, Reaction

Days after it was denied that Bo Pelini would be the next head football coach at Youngstown State, the former Nebraska coach will reportedly take the job with the Penguins. 

WKBN 27 in Ohio had the news:

Pelini will be the seventh head football coach in Penguins’ program history.

Pelini replaces Eric Wolford, who was fired after five seasons, posting a record of 31-26 and going without a playoff appearance.

Pelini is a 1986 graduate of Cardinal Mooney High School, and a 1990 graduate of Ohio State University, having played safety for the Buckeyes.

Thayer Evans of Sports Illustrated also reported Pelini's hiring on Twitter:

According to Joe Scalzo of the Youngstown Vindicator, Pelini was enticed by what Youngstown State had to offer on and off the field:

Pelini will join former Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel at Youngstown State, who currently serves as university president.

Matt Hayes of the Sporting News weighed in on Pelini's move:

Pelini spent seven seasons as head coach of Nebraska, winning at least nine games every year and compiling a 67-27 record before being fired on November 30. The Cornhuskers will take on USC in the Holiday Bowl with interim coach Barney Cotton leading the way. 

Youngstown State didn't contend for an FCS national title under previous head coach Eric Wolford. The Penguins' last playoff appearance was in 2006. Pelini brings instant credibility to this program, though he has a tough task ahead of him to rebuild it. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

5 College Football Bowl Games That We Could Do Without

Whether you're of the mindset that there are too many bowl games, not enough or just enough, one thing is certain: Not all bowls are created equally.

The yearly ranking of bowl games from an interest standpoint can show just how wide the gap is between the top of the slate and the bottom. From the two playoff semifinals to traditions like the Cotton Bowl, the top of the bowl slate is stacked. 

Get down to the bottom of it, however, and there are some real snoozers. 

Which bowl games could college football easily do without? The answers are in the following slides. 

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Florida Gators' Defense Will Continue to Roll Under New DC Geoff Collins

According to Thayer Evans of SI.com, Mississippi State defensive coordinator Geoff Collins will become the Florida Gators' new DC for the 2015 season.

Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Barrett Sallee and Michael Felder discuss the impact that Collins can make on the already stellar Florida defense.

Was this a good hire for the Gators?

Watch the video and let us know! 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Why Georgia Could Be in for a Long Season in 2014

"Next year" is seemingly always the year for Georgia—a program that has been ranked No. 1 in the country, played in two SEC Championship Games and been within five yards of a national title berth since its last conference championship in 2005.

Next year won't be the year.

Even in a down SEC East, it is going to take a lot for the 2015 Georgia Bulldogs to break through that glass ceiling, win the division and contend for a spot in the second annual College Football Playoff.

The roster turnover is just going to be too much for head coach Mark Richt's crew to overcome.

No, it's not the expected loss of running back Todd Gurley. True freshman running back Nick Chubb proved that he's more than capable of picking up the slack by in Gurley's stead in 2014, gaining 1,281 yards and 12 touchdowns. He'll have insurance behind him in the form of Sony Michel and Keith Marshall.

They might have to be the offense, though.

Unlike last offseason, when rising redshirt senior Hutson Mason slid into the top spot of the quarterback depth chart after Aaron Murray moved on, there are no experienced quarterbacks that have total trust of the coaching staff on the roster.

Rising sophomore Brice Ramsey, junior Faton Bauta and freshman Jacob Park are all talented, and Ramsey and Bauta both earned mop-up snaps in 2014. That's a far cry from Mason, who served as Murray's primary backup and learned the system for nearly four years before making his first start late last year.

Ramsey will likely be the favorite. The former 4-star prospect, per 247 Sports, from Kingsland, Georgia, came to Georgia in the class of 2013 and has had some time to learn the offense after running primarily a "Wing-T" at Camden County High School. 

Is it enough time to get comfortable, though?

Sure, draft-eligible junior Malcolm Mitchell will be back, according to Tanya Sichynsky of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, but Chris Conley and Michael Bennett—Georgia's top two receivers from 2014—will both be gone. Ramsey, or whoever wins the quarterback job, better develop the chemistry that Murray and Mason had built for years with that receiving corps, because Georgia is at its best when there's a consistent connection to move the chains.

On top of that, linebackers Amarlo Herrera and Ramik Wilson will exhaust their eligibility after the bowl game, as will cornerback Damian Swann—who came on strong with 62 tackles and three picks after a rather lackluster 2013 season. Richt announced that linebackers Leonard Floyd and Jordan Jenkins will be back, per Sichynsky, although Jenkins' return might not be entirely set in stone, according to Marc Weiszer of the Athens Banner-Herald.

There's a ton of roster turnover in Athens, and that's not good for a team that couldn't find a way to stay consistent even with veterans all over the field.

Is there anything to suggest that 2015 will be different?

Nope.

If anything, the East will be better than it has been over the last two seasons. Florida turned over a new leaf and is rebuilding the program with offensive-minded head coach Jim McElwain. Tennessee's rebuilding effort is entering Year 3 and includes a small village of talented skill players on offense and a defensive line that includes Derek Barnett and incoming monsters Khalil McKenzie and Shy Tuttle.

Georgia has a great class coming in 2015, but with Alabama in Athens and Auburn on the Plains, the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party in Jacksonville and a road trip to Tennessee on the schedule, next year won't be Georgia's year.

 

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and video analyst for Bleacher Report as well as a co-host of the CFB Hangover on Bleacher Report Radio (Sundays, 9-11 a.m. ET) on Sirius 93, XM 208.

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of cfbstats.com, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Tom Herman to Houston: Latest Contract Details, Comments and Reaction

Ohio State offensive coordinator  Tom Herman has been a popular head-coaching candidate since the end of the regular season. He has now reportedly been hired as the head coach of the Houston Cougars.

Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports reported the news:





Brett McMurphy of ESPN confirmed Feldman's report, and reported that the coach would remain with the Buckeyes through the College football playoffs: 

Herman, 39, was hired in December of 2011 by Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer and has been a big part of the team’s success since. He also earned the Broyles Award as the top assistant coach in the nation earlier this month.

Feldman provided his reaction to the move:

This will be Herman’s first shot at being a head coach at the collegiate level. He is taking over for the fired Tony Levine, who went 21-17 over his three years as coach. The Houston program is coming off a 7-5 season and will play Pittsburgh in the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl.

Houston reportedly interviewed former Florida head coach Will Muschamp in the process, but Herman is an intriguing candidate with plenty of upside. He has helped shape Ohio State's offense into a top-tier unit and has direct experience working with quarterbacks, so it will be interesting to see what he can do with the Cougars.

 

*Stats via ESPN.com.

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College Football Playoff 2014-15: Schedule, Odds and Projections for Final 4

The inaugural College Football Playoff has something for everyone.

Of course, fans of Alabama, Oregon, Florida State and Ohio State will be extremely interested, but it doesn't stop there. This playoff features a Sugar Bowl that will be contested between two of college football's most iconic head coaches, Nick Saban and Urban Meyer. It also boasts a battle between Heisman-winning quarterbacks Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota in the Rose Bowl.

These semifinal contests are undoubtedly must-see TV.

Unfortunately, New Year's Day is still a couple of weeks away, so we're still in for a sizable wait before these four elite squads return to the amateur gridiron. For now, let's take another look at the playoff's schedule to ingrain the essential information in our minds in an effort to ensure we don't miss a moment of action. If you plan on doing some wagering, don't fret. We'll take a look at some updated odds and predictions as well.

 

Sugar Bowl

Who: Alabama vs. Ohio State

When: Thursday, January 1, 2015

Where: Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana

Time: 8:30 p.m. EST

Channel: ESPN

Live Stream: WatchESPN

Betting Info (via Odds Shark):

  • Over/Under: 58.5
  • Spread: Alabama -9.5

 

Prediction

Generally when a third-string quarterback—of any team—is slated to face the stingy defense of the Alabama Crimson Tide, many of us begin bracing ourselves for a nightmarish showing. However, that's not quite the case when it comes to Ohio State's Cardale Jones.

The sophomore was thrown into the fire to make his first-career start in the Big Ten Championship Game following a season-ending injury to J.T. Barrett. Making matters worse, he was set to take on a very good Wisconsin defense. Well, as it turned out, he torched the Badgers for 257 yards and three touchdowns in a brilliant performance.

After the game, Jones spoke about his team's role in his confidence during an interview with Sean Merriman of BTN.com,"There's no doubt, I was confident coming into this game. But my teammates and my coaches took my confidence to a whole new level that I've never felt before."

Not only does he have a contingent of very solid players backing him—along with a great head coach—but his showing against Wisconsin has him flying extremely high entering this semifinal clash.

Helping Jones' case, the Crimson Tide hasn't been able to thoroughly prepare for the quarterback due to a lack of film, according to Bill Rabinowitz of The Columbus Dispatch:

So, should Alabama's defense be scared?

Let's not go that far. After all, this is the same defense that held five of the six ranked teams it faced this season to 23 points or fewer. Coming into the Sugar Bowl, the Crimson Tide is ranked fourth in the nation, allowing just 16.6 points per game, but that isn't the team's most important statistic.

Alabama is ranked 17th in the nation in first downs allowed, giving up a total of 211 during the year. That's extremely valuable for the Crimson Tide against an Ohio State team that didn't sustain a scoring drive longer than seven plays with Jones at the helm against Wisconsin. Making the Buckeyes work for first downs and methodically move the ball down the field isn't something they've had to do with their current quarterback.

Accumulating big plays against Alabama isn't exactly easy to do for any quarterback—not matter his confidence level. Expect Jones to find success against the Crimson Tide, but not enough to put Ohio State through to the championship game.

Prediction: Alabama 30, Ohio State 24

 

Rose Bowl

Who: Oregon vs. Florida State

When: Thursday, January 1, 2015

Where: Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California

Time: 5 p.m. EST

Channel: ESPN

Live Stream: WatchESPN

Betting Info (via Odds Shark):

  • Over/Under: 71
  • Spread: Oregon -9.5

 

Prediction

Marcus Mariota turned out to be the heir apparent to Jameis Winston, earning this year's Heisman Trophy. Now, the quarterbacks are set to duel in the Rose Bowl.

While Mariota certainly had his share of attention—and rightfully so—winning the Maxwell, Davey O'Brien and Heisman, he focused on his upcoming task against the Seminoles during a press conference, via ESPN.com, "I'm just looking forward to getting back on the field and playing again. We do have a team goal."

Here's what the quarterback had to say during his acceptance speech, via SportsCenter:

A focused Mariota is an enormous threat to Florida State. He won the Heisman for a reason, passing for 3,783 yards and 38 touchdowns against just two interceptions, adding 669 rush yards and another 14 scores. Considering the Seminoles currently hold the nation's 51st-ranked total defense that allows 378.3 yards per game, this signal-caller could be in for another big day.

Oregon has been putting up some massive points all season long. The Ducks are averaging 46.3 points per game, ranking third in the nation in that category and are coming off a 51-point performance against Arizona in the Pac-12 Championship Game. Winston has his work cut out for him.

Unfortunately, Florida State's signal-caller saw a massive drop-off in production from his Heisman-winning 2013 season to this year. Here's a look at the comparison:

Those aren't the kind of numbers that will allow Florida State to earn another national championship. After all, the Seminoles struggled down the final stretch of the season, winning their last four games by five points or fewer against unranked opponents. Still, Winston will get his chances to produce against an Oregon pass defense that ranks 100th in the nation, allowing an average of 259.5 yards per game through the air.

This game will be a shootout, and while Winston has flourished under center at Florida State in the past, he hasn't been able to duplicate that prowess of late. That's not exactly a comforting fact when he's set to face off against one of the nation's most dangerous signal-callers and reigning Heisman winner.

Prediction: Oregon 42, Florida State 31

 

All team statistics and rankings courtesy of NCAA.com and current as of December 15.

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10 College Football QBs Poised to Break Out in 2015

Who is next season’s version of this year’s TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin?

Boykin went from averaging 150 yards per game last season to 309 this year, No. 7 in the FBS.  His passer rating improved from 122.01 to 146.63, and his record as the starter skyrocketed from 3-4 to 11-1.

If that weren’t enough, he came out of nowhere to finish No. 4 in the Heisman vote, ahead of Florida State’s Jameis Winston, Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott and Baylor’s Bryce Petty.

Though the possibilities are endless, and many of these guys still need to win the starting job, here are a handful of quarterbacks who could make a similar run in 2015. 

Keep in mind that it will take more than 5-stars to get it done.  Potential candidates will also need solid pass-blockers and talented receivers who can consistently catch the ball.

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Bowl Games 2014-15: Full Schedule and Predictions for Every Matchup

The 2014-15 college football season has been one of the wildest in recent memory, but the excitement is far from over, as the packed schedule of bowl games is just a few days from kicking off.

Add in the fact that this season will feature the inaugural College Football Playoff bracket, and fans of the sport will be treated to one of the most unique postseasons imaginable. If the bowl games are as exciting as the regular-season action, college football fans will have their expectations met.

Here is all the vital viewing information and predicted winner for every bowl game of 2014-15.

 

*All games can be live streamed via WatchESPN.com.

 

Team to Watch: Oregon Ducks

There are many teams with the ability to steal the show during bowl season, but few have the offensive firepower that the No. 2-ranked Oregon Ducks possess.

Oregon will square off against the Florida State Seminoles in the Rose Bowl on January 1.

Most football fans know the Ducks for their high-powered offensive unit. The third-ranked offense is 11th in the nation in passing yards per game with 308.9 and 22nd in rushing yards with 237.3 per game.

It’s clear that the 30th-ranked defense of Florida State (allowing 23 points per game) will have trouble slowing down Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Marcus Mariota and the fast-paced Ducks’ offensive attack.

Oregon players are not taking the matchup lightly, though, and Ducks cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu heaped praise on the Seminoles, via Andrew Greif of OregonLive.com:

I think in college football they focus too much on what the score was. Win's a win, I always think. With Florida State this year a lot of teams have been able to keep up with them and play them tough but you see at the end of the game when it really comes down to it, they've been able to dominate at the end of the game.

While there is no denying the firepower of the Oregon offense, the defensive unit has flown under the radar all season. The Ducks have only allowed 22.5 points per game and have managed to stifle elite programs such as Michigan State, UCLA, Stanford, Utah and Arizona in the Pac-12 Championship Game.

Florida State has struggled with consistency this season. The Seminoles may have the 14th-ranked pass attack (299.8 yards per game), but the run attack is a lowly 104th in the nation. With Oregon possessing a tough secondary, FSU quarterback Jameis Winston could be in for a long night.

Both teams deserve an immense amount of credit for making it to this portion of the season, but Oregon has the depth and talent on both sides of the ball to be a viable national-championship threat and move past the Seminoles.

The Ducks will earn the victory and advance to likely play the Alabama Crimson Tide for the inaugural College Football Playoff trophy.

Predicted Winner: Oregon 34, Florida State 30

 

*Stats via ESPN.com.

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Georgia Football: Ranking the 10 Best Bulldogs from 2014 Regular Season

The 9-3 record is not the record the Georgia Bulldogs envisioned when the 2014 season began. But that is where they are and they will look to go 10-3 when they play Louisville in the Belk Bowl.

A lot of players that have made the Bulldogs a contender in the conference this season. Some are seniors who have come on strong in their final year and some are true freshmen who will only get better as they progress in the system.

Here are the top 10 Bulldogs from the 2014 regular season.

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Season-Defining Moment for Every Pac-12 Football Bowl Team

The Pac-12 Conference is sending eight teams into bowl season in 2014, and for every one of them, the season can be split up into a series of defining moments...

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Notre Dame Football: Top Recruits on Irish's Wish List

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — With 21 members already pledged to Notre Dame football’s recruiting class of 2015, the Irish have zeroed in on the final crop of prospects to round out the class:

The holiday season is upon, so let's narrow down that group even further and project Notre Dame's wish list. The Irish hosted a slew of current commitments and other top targets on campus this weekend for their year-end awards banquet:

For our purposes , we'll consider the elite prospects the Irish would love to land. Higher-ranked recruits will take precedence, and only those with legitimate reported interest in Notre Dame will be considered.

 

Iman Marshall

USC seems like the odds-on favorite for the services of 5-star cornerback Iman Marshall, the No. 3 overall player in the country. But Notre Dame got the Long Beach, California, native on campus last weekend for an official visit:

Marshall is slotted as the top-ranked cornerback in the country, and although Notre Dame is well-stocked in the secondary in its 2015 class, the 6'1" 190-pounder is the type of talent who has a spot in any recruiting class at any point in the process.

 

Soso Jamabo

Notre Dame has continued its search for a second running back in the 2015 class, and its plans centered around 5-star Soso Jamabo for a while. The No. 33 overall player in the nation and the No. 2 running back, Jamabo is an impressive talent.

Things have seemingly quieted in Jamabo's recruiting of late, but Notre Dame and UCLA are among the schools reportedly in the mix. According to 247Sports National Recruiting Director Steve Wiltfong, the Bruins "may have the edge over Notre Dame, but the nation's No. 2 running back keeps things close to the vest."

Jamabo is an elite back the Irish would love to pair with current running back commitment Josh Adams.

Jamabo took his official visit to Notre Dame for the Michigan game in early September.

 

Aliz'e Jones

Notre Dame will also battle UCLA for top prospect Aliz'e Jones, the No. 1 tight end in the country and the No. 53 player overall. Jones has been committed to the Bruins since last November, but the Irish hosted the athletic 6'4", 222-pound tight end on campus last weekend:

As it stands right now, Notre Dame does not have a tight end pledge in the current class. With senior tight end Ben Koyack out of eligibility following this season, the Irish are scheduled to return current redshirt freshmen Durham Smythe and Mike Heuerman as well as true freshmen Tyler Luatua and Nic Weishar.

Still, Jones is the type of high-end target Notre Dame would be thrilled to land.

 

Equanimeous St. Brown

With a long name to match his long frame, 4-star wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown is pegged as the No. 10 wideout in the country and the No. 124 player overall.

An Anaheim, California, native, St. Brown is reportedly also considering Stanford and Utah, among other schools, and he took an official visit to South Bend in early October.

Brown’s solid blend of size (6'5", 205 pounds) and athleticism is unparalleled in Notre Dame's current crop of wide receiver commitments—C.J. Sanders, Jalen Guyton and Miles Boykin—none of whom is ranked higher than 22nd at the position.

Adding St. Brown would give the Irish a variety of pass-catchers in its incoming freshman class.

 

Ronald Jones II

Jamabo is regarded as one of the top two or three running backs in the country, but 4-star back Ronald Jones II is no slouch either. The No. 86 overall player in the 2015 class, Jones took his official visit to Notre Dame over the weekend and decommitted from Oklahoma State on Sunday night:

Notre Dame and USC appear to be the leaders to ink Jones at this stage:

Again, Notre Dame has continually widened its reach in the search for a second running back. Jones and Jamabo figure to be atop the wish list.

 

Ykili Ross

An official visitor for Notre Dame’s home finale against Louisville on Nov. 22, 4-star defensive back Ykili Ross remains a target for the Irish. Listed as the No. 131 overall player in the country, Ross offers a lean frame at 6'2", 185 pounds.

Ross, who hails from Riverside, California, took an official visit to USC last weekend:

Like the other names here, Ross is an athlete the Irish would welcome into one of the final spots of their 2015 class.

These six players headline a projected Notre Dame wish list, but other recruits who could be in play down the stretch for the Irish include defensive back Frank Buncom IV, safety Tyree Kinnel, athlete Gary Jennings, safety Ben Edwards and running backs Jordan Cronkite and Nick Brossette.

 

Unless otherwise noted, all recruiting stats and information courtesy of 247Sports, and all quotes obtained firsthand. Star ratings reflect 247Sports' composite rankings.

Mike Monaco is a lead Notre Dame writer for Bleacher Report. Follow @MikeMonaco_ on Twitter.

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Quick Lane Bowl Betting: Rutgers vs. North Carolina Odds, Pick

Rutgers is 6-1-1 against the spread over its last eight bowl appearances; North Carolina is 6-3-1 ATS over its last 10 bowls. Two good recent bowl bets meet when the 7-5 Scarlet Knights and the 6-6 Tar Heels play in the first-ever Quick Lane Bowl on Friday, December 26, at Ford Field in Detroit.

 

Quick Lane Bowl point spread: Tar Heels opened as three-point favorites; the total was 66. (Line updates and matchup report)

 

Odds Shark computer prediction: 25.7-25.1 Tar Heels

 

Why the Scarlet Knights can cover the spread

The Knights started 5-1 this season. They scored a cross-country upset at Washington State and a victory at Navy. The only loss in that span came in a tough 13-10 decision at Penn State. Rutgers also picked up its first-ever Big Ten victory, a 26-24 win over Michigan, before losing three straight to some of the bigger boys of the conference.

But the Knights won two of their last three games, beating Indiana and Maryland to become bowl-eligible for the fourth straight season. Rutgers trailed the Terrapins 35-10 late in the second quarter but rallied back behind quarterback Gary Nova, who threw four touchdown passes to up his season total to 20.

 

Why the Tar Heels can cover the spread

The Tar Heels started just 2-4 this season, with losses at East Carolina, at Clemson and at Notre Dame. But Carolina then won four of its next five, knocking off eventual Coastal Division champion Georgia Tech 48-43 and bowl-bound Pitt and Duke.

The Heels then got upset by North Carolina State in their season finale, but they're still playing in a bowl for the sixth time in the last seven seasons. North Carolina is powered by quarterback Marquise Williams, who completed 63 percent of his passes this season for almost 2,900 yards and 20 scores and led the team in rushing with 700 yards and 12 more scores.

The Heels hit the 40-point mark six times this season, so they can move the ball.

 

Smart Pick

North Carolina holds an edge on offense, and while its defense leaves a lot to be desired, the Heels still probably have the Knights outclassed. The smart choice in this spot is with North Carolina, the favorite at the short spread.

 

Trends

  • Rutgers is 2-4 straight up in its last six games
  • The total has gone under in four of North Carolina'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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Pinstripe Bowl Betting: Penn State Nittany Lions vs. Boston College Eagles Pick

The Boston College Eagles will look to beat the Penn State Nittany Lions for the fourth straight time when they meet in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl. The Eagles will face the Nittany Lions for the first time since 2004 and have won the last three meetings as underdogs but find themselves as favorites this time around.

 

Pinstripe Bowl point spread: Eagles opened as 2.5-point favorites; the total was 40. (Line updates and matchup report)

 

Odds Shark computer prediction: 23.7-18.1 Eagles

 

Why the Nittany Lions can cover the spread

It's safe to say Penn State underachieved this year, especially after getting off to a strong 4-0 start and covering the spread in three of those games. But that does not mean that the Nittany Lions are not capable of pulling off the victory here.

They may have dropped six of eight games down the stretch, but four of the losses were decided by seven points or less. Penn State was 4-0 straight-up and against the spread in nonconference games, which is certainly a positive for bettors to consider when handicapping this game.

The Nittany Lions simply struggled in Big Ten play but thrived against everyone else.

 

Why the Eagles can cover the spread

Boston College exceeded expectations this season with an 8-4 record against the spread to go along with a 7-5 mark straight-up. The Eagles may have played the defending national champion Florida State Seminoles tougher than any team so far this year, sitting in a 17-17 stalemate for more than a full quarter before losing by a field goal with three seconds remaining.

They still easily covered the 16.5-point spread against Florida State and earlier in the season upset the USC Trojans 37-31 as 17-point underdogs. Boston College may have overachieved a bit this season, but winning three games outright as a dog has helped this team build plenty of confidence along the way.

 

Smart Pick

Truth be told, the Big Ten did not have a good season overall outside of the Ohio State Buckeyes going unbeaten against conference opponents and sneaking into the College Football Playoff. Penn State should have performed better than a 2-6 record in the Big Ten while BC's 4-4 mark in ACC play is at least respectable.

The Eagles lost only one game this year by more than 10 points compared to two for the Nittany Lions, who were routed 29-6 by the Northwestern Wildcats as 10-point road favorites. That loss at Northwestern ended Penn State's four-game winning streak to start the season and seemed to change the team's fortunes the rest of the way.

The Nittany Lions are 0-3-1 ATS in their past four bowl games and will see that trend continue in another loss.

 

Trends

  • Penn State is 1-4 ATS in its last five games
  • The total has gone under in six of Boston College's last eight games

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Holiday Bowl Betting: Nebraska Cornhuskers vs. USC Trojans Odds, Pick

The Nebraska Cornhuskers will have to deal with the loss of head coach Bo Pelini and a potential home-field advantage for the USC Trojans as they try to pull off an upset in the Holiday Bowl. Pelini was fired and replaced by Mike Riley, but interim coach Barney Cotton will lead Nebraska. USC’s Steve Sarkisian will try to win his first bowl game there as the head man and help his Trojans beat the Cornhuskers and cover the spread for the third time in as many meetings.

 

Holiday Bowl point spread: The Trojans opened as four-point favorites; the total was 62 (line updates and matchup report).

 

Odds Shark computer prediction: 39.6-38.5 Cornhuskers

 

Why the Cornhuskers can cover the spread

Even though Nebraska did not finish the season well, dropping two of its last three games and going 1-3-1 against the spread in its past five, knowing Riley is on board for next year can only help. The Cornhuskers got off to an 8-1 start in 2014, going 6-2-1 versus the line before losing consecutive games to the Wisconsin Badgers and the Minnesota Golden Gophers.

They probably should have won the Big Ten West, which is one of the main reasons Pelini was let go. With Cotton on the sideline, the Nebraska players will not need to worry about the future like they would have if Pelini were still there.

 

Why the Trojans can cover the spread

San Diego is just two hours away from Los Angeles, making this an easy commute for USC. In fact, the only game closer for the Trojans would be the Rose Bowl in Pasadena.

The shorter trip should give them more time to prepare for the Cornhuskers. Sarkisian was USC’s quarterback coach and offensive coordinator for the wins against Nebraska in 2006 and 2007, so he is somewhat familiar with his opponent, although Pelini became the head coach there in 2008.

Starting with the 1996 Rose Bowl, the Trojans are 9-3 ATS against Big Ten opponents.

 

Smart pick

The Cornhuskers may feel some sort of relief with Pelini out of the picture, but it is also difficult to find leadership from an interim coach. The first year as head coach at USC did not go perfectly for Sarkisian, but he has a lot more experience in big games than Cotton, including his playing days as quarterback for the BYU Cougars.

The Trojans have won eight of their past 10 bowl games straight up and ATS, including last year's 45-20 rout of the Fresno State Bulldogs as five-point favorites in the Las Vegas Bowl. If Wisconsin and Minnesota can both beat Nebraska and cover the spread, USC should have no problem doing the same thing in the Holiday Bowl.

 

Trends

  • The total has gone over in five of Nebraska's last six games.
  • Southern Cal is 14-5 SU in its last 19 games.

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

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