Articles By Braden Gall

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Florida State and Auburn will do battle in the 15th and final BCS National Championship Game on Monday, Jan. 6, in Pasadena, Calif.

It marks the second trip to the BCS national title game for Auburn, both coming in the past four years. The berth for the Seminoles is their fourth trip to the championship game since the BCS’ inception in 1998, but just their first since losing to Oklahoma in 2000.

Florida State boasts Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston and an elite, explosive balanced offense. Auburn enters with “Team of Destiny” headlines and a middle of the pack junior college quarterback recruit who has resurrected his career on The Plains. This bout has all the makings of an instant classic  — despite what those in Las Vegas think — with star power both in the huddle and on the sidelines.

Can Auburn’s secondary hold up against that Noles' passing game? Can Florida State find a way to contain Gus Malzahn’s zone-read attack? All will be answered on Monday evening. But before that day comes, here are the facts and figures you need to know before the final BCS National Championship Game kicks off.

14: Florida State’s closest margin of victory
The Seminoles crushed teams in 2013 by an average margin of victory of 42.3 points per game. Only once did the Noles allow more than 17 points in a game and only once did the opponent finish with 27 points against Florida State — both of those coming in a 48-34 win at Boston College. The closest second-half game FSU played all season was when those same Eagles kicked a field goal a few minutes into the second half to cut the lead to 24-20. Florida State then scored back-to-back touchdowns to push the lead to 38-20 with three minutes to go in the third quarter. The point is, Jameis Winston and this team haven’t face one critical fourth-quarter play, series or situation all season long. This has to help Auburn.

335.7: Auburn’s rushing yards per game
In 2012, the Auburn Tigers ranked 118th nationally in total offense at 305.0 yards per game and were 80th nationally in rushing at 148.4 yards per game. In 2013, Gus Malzahn’s team averages more yards rushing (335.7) per game than it did in total offense last season. The Tigers led the nation in rushing and are third nationally in both yards per carry (6.5) and rushing touchdowns (46). Tre Mason led the SEC with 1,621 yards and quarterback Nick Marshall was eighth with 1,023 yards — more than Johnny Manziel or Todd Gurley. Florida State finished the year ranked 13th in rushing defense at 116.5 yards per game and led the nation with just five rushing touchdowns allowed all year. Mason and Marshall combined for 33.

103rd: National ranking for Auburn’s passing defense
Jameis Winston is deadly accurate and has a host of elite weapons to target — wide receivers Rashad Greene and Kelvin Benjamin, tight end Nick O’Leary and running back Devonta Freeman out of the backfield. Auburn’s secondary has had major issues in 2013, allowing an SEC-worst 259.3 yards per game, which ranks 103rd nationally. The Tigers allowed 344 yards passing to Washington State, 272 to Arkansas State, 340 to Ole Miss, 469 to Texas A&M, 415 to Georgia, 277 to Alabama and 303 to Missouri. Good luck stopping the nation’s most efficient passing attack (178.28).

222.7: Average weight of Florida State’s linebackers
Alabama’s four starting linebackers — Adrian Hubbard (252), Trey DePriest (245), C.J. Mosley (238) and Xzavier Dickson (265) — combine to weigh 1,000 pounds at 250.0 pounds per player. Mosley is the smallest at 6-foot-2 and 238 pounds. Florida State’s starting trio is dramatically smaller and will be asked to stop Malzahn’s relentless zone-read. Christian Jones (6-4, 235), Terrance Smith (6-4, 215) and Telvin Smith (6-3, 218) combine to average nearly 30 pounds less per player (222.7 pounds) than Alabama's linebacking corps. And the Noles' defensive line isn’t one of the bigger units either with Nile Lawrence-Stample the largest at 6-foot-1 and 305 pounds. How this unit holds up against Auburn’s rushing attack remains to be seen.

29.0: Sacks allowed this year by Florida State
The Seminoles have allowed 29.0 sacks this season, ranking 87th nationally and 10th in the ACC. Auburn was third in the SEC in getting after the quarterback with 28.0 QB takedowns. The Tigers got to Missouri 3.0 times in the SEC title game but failed to get to AJ McCarron (1.0) or Aaron Murray (1.0) in their two previous games that, frankly, Auburn was very lucky to win. Comparatively, Auburn ranked 18th nationally and third in the SEC with just 16.0 sacks allowed. Some of that are the two totally different offensive styles each team plays, but if Auburn can pressure Jameis Winston into a few mistakes, it could be the difference in the game.

1.31: Florida State’s No. 2-ranked turnover margin
The Noles finished third nationally with 34 turnovers created while only giving the ball away 17 times this fall. The Tigers, who ranked 114th nationally in 2012 with just 13 takeaways, didn’t fare much better this fall, ranking 95th nationally with just 18 turnovers forced all season. Auburn finished dead even in the turnover battle this season with 18 giveaways and 18 takeaways. Florida State has a distinct advantage in the turnover game heading into this bout with Auburn and few stats in the box score indicate victory more so than turnovers.

7.81 and 7.03: Florida State and Auburn yards per play on offense
Florida State led the nation with 7.81 yards per play on 881 offensive snaps. Auburn was seventh nationally and one of only seven teams to average over 7.0 yards per play with 7.03 yards per snap on 934 offensive plays. Florida State (2012 and '13) is the only ACC team to reach the 7.0 level of efficiency since 2007. During that same span, only six SEC teams had reached the 7.0 yards per play benchmark before this season and two of those — Florida in 2008 and Auburn in '10 — went on to win the national title. When both offenses get rolling they can be impossible to stop, so common logic would indicate high-scoring and big numbers.

6: Nation’s longest active bowl winning streak
It is fitting that either Auburn or Florida State will tie Ole Miss for the nation's longest active bowl winning streak on Monday night. The Rebels topped Georgia Tech in the Music City Bowl on Dec. 30, moving their streak to six — their lost postseason loss coming in the 2000 Music City Bowl. The winner of the final BCS National Championship Game will likewise push their bowl winning streak to six straight postseason wins. A fitting footnote for a game of this magnitude and intrigue.

7: Consecutive times the SEC has covered the spread in BCS title games
Yes, we all know about the seven straight national titles by the SEC. But did you know that the SEC has covered the spread in all seven of those games as well? Alabama was the biggest favorite of the bunch as a 10-point pick to beat Notre Dame last year and handled that feat with ease. Auburn is an 8-point underdog, joining only Florida in 2006 (+7) and Auburn in '10 (+1) as SEC underdogs to another conference in the national title game (LSU was a slight underdog to Alabama).

Jan. 6: Jameis Winston's birthday
Yes, every one knows that the final BCS national title game is on Monday, Jan. 6. But did you know that the youngest Heisman Trophy winner in history will turn 20 on the very same day? Winston was born Jan. 6, 1994 (yeah, how old do you feel now?). Emotion is such a huge part of the college game but will it help or hurt Winston that he is trying to win a national championship on his birthday?

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Auburn and Florida State: BCS Championship Stats You Need To Know
Post date: Friday, January 3, 2014 - 07:15
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The 14th annual U.S. Army All-American Bowl will take place Saturday at 1 p.m. ET on NBC live from the Alamodome in San Antonio. This game has been around twice as long as the Under Armour event in Florida and has an excellent track record of luring the nation’s top talent to the heart of Texas every January.

Former MVPs of the Bowl include Vince Young, Chris Leak, DeSean Jackson — despite his hilarious and embarrassing touchdown gaffe — Beanie Wells, Terrelle Pryor, Tajh Boyd and Dorial Green-Beckham. Potential NCAA (and maybe even NFL) Hall of Famers like Haloti Ngata, Adrian Peterson, Joe Thomas, Reggie Bush, Ndamukong Suh and Tim Tebow have graced the Alamodome with their presence — before they became the collegiate superstars.

Which team wins or loses is irrelevant. Getting to study these players in head-to-head situations all week in practice is critical to the evaluation process. Fans get a chance to get to know some of these unknown personalities. And, most importantly, live announcements impact future depth charts from across the nation. Jalen Ramsey (pictured above) played in this game a year ago and is now starting for Florida State at safety in the BCS National Championship game.

What about your favorite team?

Ohio State and Georgia fans will have the most to watch this weekend as both Urban Meyer and Mark Richt boast six prospects respectively. Florida, Tennessee, South Carolina, LSU, Oregon, Texas and North Carolina each have commitments from four prospects in San Antonio. Clemson, UCLA, Stanford and Alabama have three each verbally committed. In all, there are 108 prospects on display this weekend — 54 on each team — and 23 have yet to make an announcement on where they will play their college football. There are 37 different college football teams with at least one future prospect to watch, including Western Michigan, Iowa State, Kentucky, Minnesota and Cal.

Who is under center?

While the Under Armour event featured 10 different highly-touted quarterback prospects, the U.S. Army All-American Bowl is much more exclusive when it comes to signal callers. Each team has just three quarterbacks on the roster and all six should get plenty of playing time. Four of the top six pro-style quarterback prospects in the nation will be in attendance and two of the top four dual-threat quarterback prospects. Overall, five of the top eight QB recruits — and six of the top 11 — will showcase their talents this weekend.

The West Team will feature Kentucky’s Drew Barker, Texas A&M’s Kyle Allen and Texas’ Jerrod Heard. Allen is widely regarded as he No. 1 quarterback recruit in the nation and his 6-foot-4, 200-pound frame should be fun to watch on Saturday. Barker is the No. 11 overall QB prospect in the land and Heard is the No. 8-rated QB talent.

The East Team boasts the No. 3 overall signal caller in Florida’s Will Grier. The dual-threat talent is undersized but has tremendous ability and also should be fun to watch. North Carolina’s Caleb Henderson is the sixth-best QB prospect in America and Georgia’s Jacob Park is No. 7.

This is an excellent group of elite level quarterbacks, and all six will face the most talented defense they have ever seen in their careers to date on Saturday.

Announcement Watch:

A big part of every U.S. Army event each year is the live announcements. Message boards buzz all morning with who will pick which hat throughout the event. Here is a list of who might be making their selection tomorrow during the 14th U.S. Army All-American Bowl.

Note: Rankings by 247Sports

Joe Mixon, RB (6-2, 195)
Oakley (Calif.) Freedom
Ranks: No. 18, No. 1 APB
Schools: Oklahoma, UCLA, Wisconsin

Marshon Lattimore, CB (6-0, 175)
Cleveland (Ohio) Glenville
Ranks: No. 36, No. 5 CB
Schools: Ohio State, Alabama

Nyles Morgan, LB (6-1, 225)
Crete (Ill.) Crete-Monee
Ranks: No. 54, No. 3 ILB
Schools: Notre Dame, Vanderbilt, Ole Miss, Florida

Frank Iheanacho, WR (6-6, 220)
Houston (Texas) Westside
Ranks: No. 86, No. 11 WR
Schools: Arkansas, LSU, Texas A&M, Oregon and Missouri

Bryce Dixon, TE (6-4, 220)
Ventura (Calif.) St. Bonaventure
Ranks: No. 116, No. 2 TE
Schools: UCLA, USC, Texas, Miami

Brian Wallace, OL (6-6, 305)
St. Louis (Mo.) Christian Brothers
Ranks: No. 118, No. 14 OT
Schools: Alabama, Arkansas

Jamil Kamara, WR (6-2, 210)
Virginia Beach (Va.) Bishop Sullivan
Ranks: No. 125, No. 10 ATH
Schools: Virginia, Wisconsin Pitt

Matt Elam, DT (6-5, 350)
Elizabethtown (Ky.) John Hardin
Ranks: No. 166, No. 16 DT
Schools: Kentucky, Alabama

Elisha Shaw, DL (6-4, 295)
Tucker (Ga.) High
Ranks: No. 216 overall, No. 19 DT
Schools: Georgia, Ole Miss, Alabama, Auburn

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2014 U.S. Army All-American Bowl Preview
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The seventh annual Under Armour All-American game will take place Thursday afternoon at 4 p.m. ET on ESPN in Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. Names like A.J. Green, Julio Jones, Manti Te’o, Matt Barkley, Trent Richardson, Jameis Winston, Jadeveon Clowney, Andrus Peat and Christian Hackenberg have made their first big college splash at the Under Armour All-American game.

The All-Star event is a showcase for college football’s next generation of gridiron stars. Frankly, who wins or loses the game means very little to anyone — the players, fans, coaches or family members in the crowd. But the week of practice is a great chance for scouts and evaluators to see the best face the best. And the recruiting announcements carry monumental importance for the future of the sport as a whole, shaping future depth charts for years to come.

The 2014 version of the Under Armour All-American game won’t be any different.

Who has the most players to watch?

Alabama and Nick Saban lead all teams with 11 committed players playing in The Trop on Thursday. Notre Dame and Michigan are second with seven prospects apiece participating. Miami and Auburn each have six prospects involved while Penn State, Florida State and Florida boast four recruits to watch on Thursday. In all, 30 different college teams — including Virginia, Mississippi State, Kansas, Arkansas, Maryland — will have someone to watch in the seventh edition of the all-star game. There are over 100 talented recruits involved in this game and 22 of them are still undecided. Bringing us too…

Who is under center?

Quarterback is the most important position on the field and this game has featured some big-time names of late. Landry Jones starred in 2008, Matt Barkley in '09 and Blake Bell and Devin Gardner played in the '10 event. Braxton Miller and Brett Hundley gave the world a taste of what was to come in 2011, while Jameis Winston starred in the '12 game. Chrisitian Hackenberg was the big name to watch in last year’s showcase.

Ten future college quarterbacks will be on display this Thursday with all 10 already committed to 10 different teams. SEC schools LSU, Arkansas, Auburn and Alabama will have their future signal-caller playing in Brandon Harris, Rafe Peavey, Sean White and David Cornwell. There are many who believe Cornwell, the No. 4-rated pro-style passer by 247Sports, could be the starter for Nick Saban as early as next fall.

Penn State’s Michael O’Connor, Stanford’s Keller Chryst, Oklahoma’s Justice Hansen, Oregon’s Morgan Mahalak, Clemson’s Deshaun Watson and Michigan’s Wilton Speight will all be featured as well. Chryst is the No. 3-rated QB prospect in the nation while Watson is the No. 1-rated dual-threat prospect and No. 4-rated overall QB in the nation.

Who will be announcing?

According to 247Sports, eight different players are set to announce during the game. The group features the No. 1 player in the nation, six of the top 25 players in the nation and two more ranked in the top 70. Here are those players who could be revealing their choice, where they rank and the list of schools they are believed to be choosing from:

Leonard Fournette, RB (6-1, 226)
New Orleans (La.) St. Augustine
Rank: No. 1 overall, No. 1 RB
Schools: Alabama, LSU, Florida

Tony Brown, CB (6-0, 188)
Beaumont (Texas) Ozen
Rank: No. 9, No. 3 CB
Schools: Alabama, LSU, Ohio State, Texas, USC

Speedy Noil, WR (5-10, 175)
New Orleans (La.) Edna Karr
Rank: No. 11, No. 1 WR
Schools: LSU, Texas A&M

Dalvin Cook, RB (5-11, 190)
Miami (Fla.) Central
Rank: No. 12, No. 2 RB
Schools: Florida, Florida State (switched commitment from Florida to FSU on Tuesday)

Gerald Willis, DT (6-3, 275)
New Orleans (La.) Edna Carr
Rank: No. 21, No. 2 DT
Schools: LSU, Florida

Jalen Tabor, CB (6-1, 182)
Washington (D.C.) Friendship Academy
Rank: No. 24, No. 4 CB
Schools: Alabama, Arizona

Jamal Adams, S (6-0, 199)
Carrollton (Texas) Hebron
Rank: No. 27. No. 2 S
Schools: Florida, LSU, Ole Miss

Travis Rudolph, WR (6-1, 185)
West Palm Beach (Fla.) Cardinal Newman
Rank: No. 69, No. 7 WR
Schools: Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Florida State, Miami

Other names to watch:

The No. 1-rated defensive tackle in the nation, Andrew Brown, is committed to Virginia and has played well in practice. Could he save Mike London’s job? Keep an eye on the big fella from famed Oscar Smith High School in Chesapeake, Va.

Michigan has a future star in do-everything athlete Jabrill Peppers out of Paramus (N.J.) Catholic. The 6-foot-1, 205-pounder is as talented a defensive prospect as scouts have seen in years so his No. 2 overall ranking in the nation should be warranted. Be sure to find Peppers on Thursday afternoon.

The No. 100-rated player in the nation is future Alabama wide receiver Cameron Sims. The Mike Evans-clone has been excellent in practice and could be a productive target for whomever is under center in Tuscaloosa. The 6-foot-4, 200-pounder simply makes plays and the Under Armour game should be no different.

Dillon Bates is the son of NFL All-Pro tackler Bill Bates and his football IQ and development is befitting an NFL offspring. He needs to gain some poundage to play quickly for Tennessee but his ability to make plays and be in the right position is uncanny for a player of his age. Watch for Bates to be all over the field on Thursday.

Jacory Washington may get lost among a long list of elite wide receivers in attendance this year. But the No. 6-rated tight end prospect in the nation from Westlake (La.) High has been a bright spot in practice and could find himself moving up rankings following the All-American game.

Under Armour 2014 All-American Game Rosters

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What To Watch: Under Armour All-American Game 2014 Preview
Post date: Thursday, January 2, 2014 - 07:15
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Numbers and statistics are unquestionably a huge part of the game. Any game, for that matter.

Some like to keep it simple and use the ol' eyeball test, while others fall on the sabermetric side of things. In the football world, that means total offense, total defense and points scored versus points per play and defensive efficiency ratings. Rational and logical arguments can be made for the legitimacy and relevance of both sides of the stats spectrum.

With that in mind, Athlon Sports brings the most intriguing, important, historic and bizarre stats from another stellar season of Pac-12 college football:

353: Marcus Mariota's Pac-12 record consecutive attempts without an INT
Oregon star quarterback Marcus Mariota set a Pac-12 record by not throwing an interception for over a year. From Nov. 17, 2012 to Nov. 23, 2013, Mariota threw 353 passes without an interception. However, in the season’s most critical game with the Pac-12 North crown hanging in the balance, Mariota tossed two interceptions on the road in an ugly 42-16 loss to Arizona. The loss ended the Ducks' shot at a Pac-12 title and snapped the four-year BCS bowl streak.

2006: The last time Oregon didn’t lead the Pac-12 in scoring
The Oregon Ducks finished fourth nationally and led the Pac-12 in scoring at 45.5 points per game this season. It marks the seventh consecutive season that the Ducks have led the league in scoring offense. Oregon has finished outside of the top 10 nationally in scoring only once over that span, a 12th-place finish in 2007. The Cal Bears led the league in scoring in 2006 at 32.9 points per game while the Ducks finished third at 29.5 points per game.

89: Connor Halliday's NCAA single-game record for pass attempts
Purdue's Drew Brees threw the ball an NCAA-record 83 times against Wisconsin in 1998. Against an Oregon team with a big lead for most of the night, Washington State's Connor Halliday threw the ball 89 times in Week 8. Halliday also tied the NCAA mark for completions with 58 (Andy Schmitt, Eastern Michigan) and set the Pac-12 single-game passing benchmark with 557 yards (Andrew Walter, 536). And much like Brees that night back in '98, Wazzu lost in part because of multiple interceptions. Halliday threw four interceptions to go with his four touchdowns in the 62-38 loss to the Ducks.

16: Consecutive 100-yard games for Ka’Deem Carey
Carey led the nation in rushing and set all types of records as a sophomore in 2012. All he did as an encore this fall was build upon his incredible Pac-12 resume. He rushed for at least 119 yards in every game he played, finishing No. 2 in the nation in rushing at 157.1 yards per game. In the last two seasons, the Zona star tailback has carried 652 times for 3,814 yards and 42 rushing touchdowns. He was named Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year this year by the coaches.

2: Number of players to win two Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year Awards
Only two players in conference history have ever won a second league Defensive Player of the Year award and Arizona State’s Will Sutton is one of them. The senior defensive lineman won back-to-back D.P.O.Y. awards this season after helping lead Arizona State to a Pac-12 South title. He finished with 48 tackles, 13.5 tackles for a loss and 4.0 sacks for the season. Washington’s Steve Emtman split the award in 1990 with Arizona’s Darryl Lewis and won the award outright in '91.  Sutton is technically the only two-time outright Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year winner.

133.1: Brandin Cooks' nation-leading yards receiving per game
Oregon State is one of two teams in the nation to ever boast two different Biletnikoff Award winners for the nation’s top receiver. Oregon State’s Brandin Cooks joined Mike Hass (2005) to make the Beavers one of just two teams to claim more than one such winner. Pittsburgh (Antonio Bryant and Larry Fitzgerald) is the only other team with two different winners. Oklahoma State and Texas Tech have won two Biletnikoff Awards but both were won by the same player — Justin Blackmon and Michael Crabtree respectively. Cooks led the nation with 1,730 yards, was second with 128 catches and second with 16 touchdowns. He broke the Pac-12 single-season record for receptions and yards this fall.

57-14: Stanford's combined first-half score over Arizona State
Back in September, Stanford jumped out to a 29-0 halftime lead over the Sun Devils in Palo Alto. The Cardinal eventually pushed the lead to 39-7 before letting off the pedal and winning 42-28. Two months later, nothing changed as Stanford blitzed ASU in the first half of the Pac-12 Championship Game. Kevin Hogan and Tyler Gaffney posted a 28-7 second-quarter lead and a 28-14 halftime margin. David Shaw's bunch never looked back, crushing the Sun Devils 38-14 for its second consecutive Pac-12 championship — the first time the school has done that since 1970-71. 

529.6: Cal’s total yards allowed per game
Sonny Dykes is a well-respected coach but probably didn’t realize what he was getting himself into when he took the Cal job this season. In his first year, his defense was historically bad. Cal allowed a Pac-12 worst 529.6 yards per game, ranking 124th nationally — out of 125 teams. The Bears had the worst defense of any of the “Big 6” conferences and was better than only New Mexico State’s 549.5 yards per game allowed. Cal’s 45.9 points allowed per game were also dead last in the Pac-12 and among all “Big 6” teams, finishing 124th ahead of only Idaho and their pathetic 46.8 points allowed per game.

7-2: USC’s record without Lane Kiffin
Lane Kiffin was fired on the LAX tarmac in the wee morning hours of the final Sunday in September. USC had been pounded 62-41 in Tempe by Arizona State, dropping their record to 3-2 — and 10-8 since the beginning of the 2012 season. Ed Orgeron, and later Clay Helton for the bowl game, was elevated to an interim position and he proceeded to lead USC to six straight Pac-12 wins. Coach O and Helton combined to finish 7-2 on the year, giving USC 10 wins in the process and clinching its first bowl win since the 2009 Emerald Bowl. Only 18 “Big 6” teams won at least 10 games this year and the USC Trojans were one of them.

Teaser:
The Best Pac-12 College Football Stats of 2013
Post date: Thursday, January 2, 2014 - 07:15
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The game of football is won and lost with a complete team effort. Are quarterbacks more important than backup guards? Of course. But the outcome is celebrated and opined by an entire roster of players big and small. 

That doesn't mean that games within the game don't take place each and every time the ball is kicked off. This year's BCS National Championship showdown between Auburn and Florida State is no exception, as two excellent coaches lead two quality rosters into battle in Pasadena for the final crystal football of the BCS era.

Can Florida State stop the Auburn running game? Can Auburn cover Florida State's receivers? How will Jameis Winston handle a month of Heisman pressure? These are all important big picture questions that will be answered on Jan. 6.

But a narrow look at individual player matchups might be able to help predict what may happen in the Rose Bowl. The unit that wins the most individual matchups will likely be the squad to win the BCS' final national championship game.

Kelvin Benjamin, WR vs. Chris Davis, CB
Benjamin is a monster matchup nightmare for pretty much every defensive back in the nation. His 6-foot-5, 235-pound frame is impossible to stop — even for the most famous defensive back in Auburn history. Davis, who ran the Kick Six back to beat Alabama, may be the one charged with stopping Benjamin. He led the Seminoles with 14 touchdown catches and 19.1 yards per catch. And if it's not Benjamin that is the matchup problem for Davis and the Tigers' secondary, it will be Rashad Greene and his team-high 67 receptions and 981 yards who will be tough to stop.

Cam Erving, OT vs. Dee Ford, DE
Florida State was 87th nationally in sacks allowed at 29.0 while Auburn finished third in the SEC in getting after the quarterback with 28.0 takedowns. Both Erving and Ford have high NFL potential and they could be matched up on a number of occasions in the national title game. If the Seminoles can protect Jameis Winston, the odds Auburn's 103rd-rated pass defense will get smoked by the FSU passing attack is pretty high. If Ford and company can get after the QB, the Tigers may have a significant advantage.

Tre Mason, RB vs. Telvin Smith, LB
Christian Jones came into the season with all of the hype and preseason pomp for Florida State but Smith has been the star of the show. The weakside tackler is asked to flow sideline to sideline to make plays and he will be faced with his tallest order of the season thus far. Smith led the team in tackles with 75 stops but tackling Mason is easier said than done. The Auburn workhorse led the SEC in carries (283), yards (1,621) and touchdowns (22). If Mason hits his season average of 5.7 yards per carry, Auburn will be tough to beat.

Reese Dismukes, C vs. Timmy Jernigan, DT
A junior, Dismukes is the longtime starter at center for Auburn. The 6-foot-3, 300-pound Alabama native is charged with stopping as nasty a duo at defensive tackle as there is in the nation. Jernigan is a future NFL star and is the team's No. 4 tackler and is second on the team in sacks (4.5). Dismukes is charged with keeping the middle of the line clean, so handling Jernigan and his counterparts Nile Lawrence-Stample and Jacobbi McDaniel will be critical for Auburn's success.

Nick Marshall, QB vs. Jalen Ramsey, S
Everyone on the Noles defense has to be concerned with Marshall's dual-threat ability. But the guy Auburn may target could be FSU's true freshman safety. The five-star prospect from Nashville, Ramsey stepped right in and started every game for the No. 1 team in the nation. But reading run-pass against Gus Malzahn is downright impossible, so if Ramsey is out of place at all, Marshall will capitalize.

Jameis Winston, QB vs. Ryan Smith, S
Winston is virtually impossible to stop — the bronze Heisman Trophy on his mantle is proof enough of that. So the challenge is even greater for a defensive backfield that has been abused at times this season. Smith and fellow safety Jermaine Whitehead will be in charge of reading the play and aligning the secondary against what is arguably the best passing attack in the nation. If either safety is out of place by even just a few steps, Winston will make them pay with deadly accuracy.

Devonta Freeman and James Widler, LB vs. Cassanova McKinzy, LB
Freeman and Wilder form a tremendous speed-power combination that few teams in the nation can boast. Freeman is explosive and dangerous in space with the ability to score from anywhere on the field. Wilder is a beast between the tackles. This means star sophomore tackler McKinzy will have to be disciplined and tough all game long. The 6-foot-3, 250-pound linebacker will be a focus of the Seminoles' front line for much of the game.

Greg Robinson, OT vs. Mario Edwards, DE
Whoever lines up against Robinson will have his hands full and that could be Edwards, the former No. 1 recruit in the nation. Robinson has elite athletic ability and will work to the second level and out in space with amazing ease. So the goal for FSU's ends isn't necessarily to get pressure on quarterback Nick Marshall but rather to occupy Greg Robinson and other blockers. If the Noles can create space for their athletic back seven to move in space and make tackles, Jeremy Pruitt's bunch could have a significant edge most teams don't get against Auburn.

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BCS National Championship: Key Individual Players Matchups Between Auburn and Florida State
Post date: Tuesday, December 31, 2013 - 09:00
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For the first time in four years, Wisconsin won’t be playing in the Rose Bowl. After three straight losses in the Granddaddy of Them All, the Badgers will have to face a 10-win SEC powerhouse coached by a Hall of Famer.

In his first season at the helm in Madison, Gary Andersen led his squad to a respectable 9-3 record that many fans likely feel should have been better. A controversial loss to Arizona State early in the year and inexplicable defeat at the hands of Penn State at home in the season finale relegated UW to the Capital One Bowl.

South Carolina, too, had higher expectations this fall. Wins over Missouri, Clemson and others validate this team as one of the nation’s best, but a critical loss to 5-7 Tennessee cost the Gamecocks a trip to the SEC Championship game.

Neither ended the season where they expected to finish so both teams are better than their record indicates, making this one of the most intriguing matchups of the bowl season. The Badgers and Gamecocks have never faced one another and it should provide an entertaining matching of strengths — Wisconsin’s power rushing game against South Carolina’s NFL defensive line.

Wisconsin vs. South Carolina

Kickoff: Wednesday, Jan. 1. at 1 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ABC
Spread: Pick 'em

Three Things to Watch

Chris Borland vs. Connor Shaw
Chris Borland was the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year for a unit that was surprisingly stingy all season long. He is a tackling machine and has showed a major knack for making big plays — i.e., forcing fumbles, blocking kicks and playing in the opponent’s backfield. Connor Shaw, on the other hand, matches his toughness, grit and leadership for South Carolina. The mobile quarterback is the winningest in school history and is one of the top, if not the No. 1, most underrated quarterback in SEC history. Both are winners and both love to compete. Watching the chess match between these two star athletes when South Carolina’s offense is on the field should be a joy for any football fan.

South Carolina's defensive line
Wisconsin likes to run the ball. This isn’t a shock to anyone. But the Gamecocks defensive line will likely be the toughest the Badgers have faced all season. The Big Red finished eighth nationally at 283 yards on the ground per game this season with a trio of dynamic backs. Jadeveon Clowney made himself quite a name with his play in the bowl game last season, and packaged with Kelcy Quarles, create the most formidable defensive wall for the Badgers O-Line to face. Clowney’s effort and commitment has been questioned at times, but he has one game left in college to prove himself, and there is no better task than facing this type of running game. Melvin Gordon and James White better have their chinstraps buttoned up tight in this one. 

The 'Ol Ball Coach
Steve Spurrier has been on an absolute roll this season. The original troll is the most entertaining and witty coaches in all of college football and he has been at his best lately. Quips towards the Florida Gators, Jadeveon Clowney’s car and the Redskins soap opera have been vintage Ball Coach in the last few weeks. But what does he know about the Wisconsin Badgers? What will his game week, pregame, halftime and postgame interviews be like against an opponent he has no deep ties or experiences to cull for material? Big, fat offensive lineman? Cows and cheese curds? Slow Big Ten football? His counterpart Gary Andersen couldn’t be a nicer guy, so Spurrier’s opponent offers little in the way of bulletin board copy. And this is a bowl game, after all, so fans should expect some trick plays, bizarre play calls and more than a few dramatic fourth downs to go along with what should be the most entertaining interviews of the bowl season.

Key Player: James White, RB, Wisconsin
Melvin Gordon is the most talented running back for Wisconsin — maybe the most talented to ever play in Madison (which is saying a lot). He has elite breakaway speed and power. However, senior James White has quietly completed one of the best careers for a Big Ten running back in history, predominately as a backup. This is his final game in college and he is playing his best football right now. He finished the season with 1,629 yards from scrimmage and 15 total touchdowns and brings a versatile skill set. He is an excellent receiver, and more importantly in this game, will be asked to pick up the blitz against a brutally tough Carolina defensive front. If not one, but two Wisconsin running backs can find success, it means Wisconsin could walk away from a bowl game victorious for the first time since beating Miami in the 2009 Champs Sports Bowl.

Final Analysis

The unstoppable force versus the immovable option. Wisconsin has one of the best backfields and offensive lines in the nation while South Carolina boasts arguably the most talented defensive line in the country. Both would rather be playing in a BCS bowl but will have to settle for what should be one of the more physical games of the bowl season. On the other side of the ball, Connor Shaw and Mike Davis are a formidable duo in their own right, while Wisconsin boasts one of the most underrated defensive units in the nation at 4.5 yards per play allowed. Shaw is the difference maker and will likely make more plays than Wisconsin’s Joel Stave. Expect a close, physical battle against two teams that are better than their five combined losses indicates. 

Prediction: South Carolina 27, Wisconsin 21

Teaser:
Capital One Bowl Preview and Prediction: Wisconsin vs. South Carolina
Post date: Tuesday, December 31, 2013 - 07:15
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This Rose Bowl should be played without facemasks or the forward pass. And it would make Bear Bryant proud.

Michigan State and Stanford are two of the most physical, old school teams in the nation and they will square off in the greatest bowl there has ever been. The Granddaddy of Them All will remind old football fans of the days of yore when the four horsemen and student body right ruled the field.

The Spartans are making their first Rose Bowl appearance since the 1987 upset of Rodney Peete and USC, while Stanford is returning to Pasadena to defend its crown as Rose Bowl champions after toppling Wisconsin in last year’s edition.

Both teams play disciplined physical defense and love to run the football. And both teams were one brutally close loss away from playing for the national championship. This game has history, tradition, pageantry, talent, physicality and the I-formation. It will be a throwback for the ages and could be the most physical game fans have seen all season.

These two programs have met five times with Michigan State holding a narrow 3-2 edge. They played four times between 1955 and 1962 but only once since then — a 38-0 Stanford win in the 1996 Sun Bowl.

Michigan State vs. Stanford

Kickoff: Wednesday, Jan. 1. at 5:10 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN
Spread: Stanford -5.5

Three Things to Watch

Michigan State's senior defenders
Mark Dantonio’s defense is headlined by a senior class that is one of the best assembled in Big Ten history. But they will be down one critical performer as senior captain middle linebacker Max Bullough has been suspended for the game. Denicos Allen, Isaiah Lewis, Darqueze Dennard, Micajah Reynolds and Tyler Hoover have worked their entire college careers to reach this game, and the emotion of the moment could play a huge role for the Spartans even without their leader in the middle. This group is disciplined and physical and could be the first Rose Bowl champs in East Lansing in over 25 years, making the Bullough suspension that much more difficult to swallow. To a player like Bullough, whose family is entrenched in MSU lore, this situation is as painful — and pivotal — as any suspension in any bowl game. Dantonio said senior Kyler Elsworth and sophomore Darien Harris are splitting first-team reps at middle linebacker in practice and there is still no word as to why Bullough won't play. This game is business as usual for Stanford while the gravity of the situation may help the Spartans — if they can overcome the loss of their captain and calm the early game jitters that are likely to abound on the Michigan State sideline.

Stanford's balance on offense
Tyler Gaffney was a Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year candidate after carrying his team to huge wins over Oregon, Arizona State (twice), Notre Dame, Washington and UCLA. But Kevin Hogan and the passing game will have to be effective and productive, especially on key third downs in the second half. Ty Montgomery can make big plays and Devon Cajuste is a gritty pass catcher, and both will be called upon to help create offensive balance against a defense geared up to stop the run. As Ohio State learned in the Big Ten title game, Michigan State will force your quarterback to make plays down the field so Kevin Hogan will have to be good for Stanford to win. 

Big plays on special teams
Special teams will play a huge role in what could be a low-scoring tightly played affair. Mark Dantonio isn’t opposed to some fake punts and trick plays on special teams and won’t be afraid to take risks to win MSU’s first Rose Bowl since ’87. He also has a freshman kicker who has only missed once in his career (15-of-16). David Shaw has a senior place kicker in Jordan Williamson but he’s only attempted three kicks in the final four games. This is where Ty Montgomery could become a game-changer. The speedy wide receiver makes big plays on offense but can also flip a game’s momentum on special teams as well. The oft-forgotten third phase of the game is likely to be a deciding factor.

Key Player: Connor Cook, QB, Michigan State
Many view Dantonio’s team as a ground and pound type of offense. And to some extent that is true, as Jeremy Langford was one of the most critical running backs in the Big Ten this fall. However, when games where on the line, quarterback Connor Cook proved he was no game-manager. With deft touch and underrated athletic ability, Cook delivered the best game of his career against Ohio State as the MVP of the Big Ten title game. He threw for 304 yards and three critical touchdowns in the win. Cook finished the year with 2,423 yards and 20 touchdowns with just five interceptions in 344 attempts. He could be the difference maker in a historic season for Michigan State, and he didn’t even begin the season as the starter in East Lansing.

Final Analysis

This is a throwback game that old school fans dream about getting to see on a stage like this. These teams are identical with elite senior leaders on defense, a fantastic physical running back on offense, the potential for big plays on special teams, two hard-nosed discipline coaches and a conference championship under their belts for 2013. Get the ice baths and saunas ready in Pasadena because both teams will need them after this battle. Stanford has the experience edge while Michigan State carries the motivation/hunger edge. One fake punt for Michigan State or big return for Stanford will be the difference.

Prediction: Stanford 24, Michigan State 23

Teaser:
Rose Bowl Preview and Prediction: Stanford vs. Michigan State
Post date: Tuesday, December 31, 2013 - 07:15
All taxonomy terms: NFL, News
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Numbers and statistics are unquestionably a huge part of the game. Any game, for that matter.

Some fall on the sabermetric side of things, while others like to keep it simple and use the ol' eyeball test. In the football world, that means total offense, total defense and points scored versus points per play and defensive efficiency ratings. Rational and logical arguments can be made for the legitimacy and relevance of both sides of the stats spectrum.

With that in mind, Athlon Sports brings the most intriguing, important, historic and bizarre stats from Week 17 of the NFL season:

5,477: Peyton Manning's NFL single-season passing record
Peyton Manning finished what might be the greatest regular season for a quarterback in NFL history in style. He threw for 266 yards and four touchdowns in the first half in the home-field-clinching win over lowly Oakland. Manning threw for one more yard this year (5,477) than Drew Brees' record-setting season of 2011 (5,476). Manning now owns the NFL's top single-season benchmark for both passing yards and passing touchdowns (55). Manning's previous career high was 4,700 set with the Colts in 2010. The 34-14 win gives the Broncos the best record in the AFC and tied with Seattle for best record overall (13-3). Denver will sit at home during Wild Card Weekend and wait to see who it will play in two weeks. Manning enters what could be his final postseason with a 9-11 career playoff record, including eight one-and-dones.

1-9: Jay Cutler's record against Green Bay
Jay Cutler played well against the rival Packers in a winner-take-all season finale in wintery Soldier Field. But he still could not get his team over the hump against the dreaded Packers. Cutler fell to 1-9 all-time against Green Bay — 1-8 in the regular season — as he watched his defense give up three fourth downs on the Packers' game-winning, final-minute drive. The win sent Green Bay to the playoffs for the fifth straight season and gave the Pack its third consecutive NFC North division title. In 10 games against his division rival Cutler, who threw for 226 yards, two touchdowns and one interception in the loss, has completed 55 percent of his passes with 11 TDs and 18 INTs. Aaron Rodgers is 7-1 head-to-head against Cutler now.

1,607: LeSean McCoy's Eagles single-season rushing record
LeSean McCoy rushed 27 times for 131 yards and scored on a three-yard Nick Foles touchdown pass in the NFC East-clinching win over Dallas in AT&T Stadium Sunday night. McCoy led the NFL in rushing and set a Philadelphia single-season rushing record with 1,607 yards while also leading the NFL in carries (314). He is the first Eagles player to win the rushing title since Steve Van Buren in 1949. McCoy, who helped lead the Eagles to the playoffs in Chip Kelly's first season as the head coach, set a new franchise record for yards from scrimmage as well with 2,146 total yards (539 receiving). The Cowboys finish 8-8 for the third consecutive season after losing with a chance to make the playoffs on the final weekend against NFC East foes for a third straight season.

14: Houston Texans' current losing streak
Houston began the year 2-0 with wins over San Diego and Tennessee. However, the Texans lost every game the rest of the season, giving the franchise 14 consecutive losses heading into a critical offseason. According to ESPN, only five teams in NFL history have ended a season with at least 14 consecutive losses. A new coach needs to be hired and Houston will have the No. 1 overall pick in the upcoming 2014 NFL Draft. This team was technically the worst in the NFL after back-to-back division championships, a 22-8 record and two seasons with at least one playoff win. If rumors of Bill O'Brien being the next head man in Houston prove to be true, Texan fans should be ecstatic about being able to rejoin the playoff fray in 2014.

7,965: Career rushing yards for Chris Johnson
Lorenzo White played 95 games for the Oilers franchise from 1988 to 1994. He rushed for 42.9 yards per game and is fourth all-time in team history with 4,079 yards. That's because the top three backs in Houston/Tennessee history are in a class by themselves. Chris Johnson rushed 27 times for 127 yards and a touchdown in the season finale win over Houston in what was likely his final game in a Titans uniform. He is second all-time in team history with 83.8 yards rushing per game, third all-time in rushing yards, rushing touchdowns and carries. But he is second all-time with 9,968 yards from scrimmage and is No. 1 all-time among running backs with 272 career receptions. Here is exactly how the top three backs in Oilers/Titans history stack up against each other:

 NameGPAtt.YardsTDYPCYPGBestFumRecYardsTDYFS
1.Eddie George1282,73310,009643.778.21,509342682,2271012,236
2.Chris Johnson951,7427,965504.683.82,006182722,00389,968
3.Earl Campbell911,9798,574734.394.21,9343911571809,292

Case for Johnson: He's owns the team's single-season rushing record and is one of seven players to ever rush for 2,000 yards. He is No. 1 as a pass catcher, No. 1 in terms of yards per carry, has displayed considerably better ball security, and is No. 2 in terms of overall production. He is easily the most explosive, as he has six touchdown runs of at least 80 yards and 14 touchdowns of at least 50 yards or more. Earl Campbell was likely the most talented but didn't last very long and finished his career in New Orleans. Eddie George was the most productive, the least efficient, won the most and led his team to a Super Bowl. So who is the best back in Houston/Tennessee history?

9.0: Carolina's single-game sack record
With a shot at a bye in the NFC playoffs, Carolina's defense came through in a big way against the Falcons in the Georgia Dome. The 21-20 win clinched the NFC South division crown and makes the Panthers the No. 2 seed in the NFC after finishing 13-19 over the last two seasons. Cam Newton has been excellent but his defense is the real reason for the turnaround. The Panthers registered a team-record 9.0 sacks against Matt Ryan. Greg Hardy had a career-high and team-record 4.0 sacks after recording 3.0 last week. The nine takedowns were the most in Ryan's career as well.

15-1: Russell Wilson's career record at home
The lone loss came two weeks ago in bizarre fashion to the Arizona Cardinals. That loss is the only time Russell Wilson has lost at home in two seasons as a NFL starter in Seattle. After a very easy 27-9 win over the Rams in the season finale, no quarterback in history has won more home games than Wilson has in his first two seasons. The win over St. Louis clinched the NFC West and home-field advantage for Seattle throughout the playoffs. The path to the Super Bowl could end up going through CenturyLink Field — which looks like bad news for the rest of the NFC.

3: NFL defensive tackles who led their team in sacks
The Cowboys nearly won the de facto NFC East title game with the Eagles because the defensive line got pressure on Nick Foles. Defensive tackle Jason Hatcher had 4.0 tackles, 2.0 sacks and a forced fumble, giving him the NFL lead in sacks (11.0) by a defensive tackle. He led the Cowboys in sacks and is one of just three interior D-linemen in the NFL this year to lead their respective team in sacks. The Jets Muhammad Wilkerson and the Titans Jurrell Casey both tied for 16th in the NFL with 10.5 sacks and led their respective teams in QB takedowns.

1: Browns players to lead the NFL in receiving
Brandon Marshall and Andre Johnson both caught more than 100 passes this season. Calvin Johnson, Demaryius Thomas and A.J. Green all finished in the top five in receiving yards this fall. But Cleveland's Josh Gordon is the guy who led the NFL in receiving in 2013 and he did it by a comfortable margin. His 1,646 yards and 117.6 per game was significantly ahead of No. 2 in both categories — Antonio Brown's 1,499 and Megatron's 106.6 (Julio Jones was at 116.0, but he only played five games). Gordon became the first Browns player ever to lead the league in receiving, however, it wasn't good enough to keep head coach Rob Chudzinski employed as the Browns fired their head coach after just one year on the job.

6: Number of players any team can have on one side of the ball
The NFL rulebook states that no team can have more than six players lined up on the line of scrimmage on the same side of the ball. Kansas City's Ryan Succop missed a 41-yard field goal as timed expired that would have given the Chiefs a win and would have knocked the Chargers out of the playoffs. Except San Diego had seven men lined up on the right side of the defensive line — which is illegal according to NFL rules this season and should have been a five-yard penalty. Succop would have then had a chance to kick a 36-yard field goal to beat the Bolts. Had he made the normally automatic kick, the Steelers would be going to Cincinnati to play the Bengals on Sunday instead of the Chargers. And it wasn't the only questionable call in the game — see Eric Weddle.

Looks like seven to me...

 

Teaser:
Amazing Stats from the NFL's Week 17
Post date: Tuesday, December 31, 2013 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/best-big-12-college-football-stats-2013
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Numbers and statistics are unquestionably a huge part of the game. Any game, for that matter.

Some like to keep it simple and use the ol' eyeball test, while others fall on the sabermetric side of things. In the football world, that means total offense, total defense and points scored versus points per play and defensive efficiency ratings. Rational and logical arguments can be made for the legitimacy and relevance of both sides of the stats spectrum.

With that in mind, Athlon Sports brings the most intriguing, important, historic and bizarre stats from another stellar season of Big 12 college football:

872: Baylor's Big 12 single-game record for total offense
The list of superlatives the Bears’ offense piled up in 2013 is astounding. Art Briles' bunch posted 476 yards rushing and 396 yards passing for a Big 12-record 872 yards of total offense in Week 5 alone. That would be a record in every other conference in the nation except the Pac-12. Baylor has scored at least 70 points four times in 2013 and topped 59 points in three others. The Bears led the nation with 623.8 yards per game, including three of the top five single-game yardage totals of the season.

1980: Baylor's last outright conference championship
Technically, the Bears earned a share of the 1994 Southwest Conference championship. However, Texas A&M had the best record in the league (10-0-1) but was ineligible as Baylor tied with Texas, TCU, Texas Tech and Rice at 4-3 for a five-way split championship. But the last time the Bears won an outright conference championship was the 10-2 squad of 1980 coached by Grant Teaff. Only twice prior to 2013 had Baylor won 10 games in a season (1980, 2011) and had never won 11 games in school history. In fact, the last time Baylor finished a season with just one loss was a 5-1-2 Frank Bridges-coached team in 1923. The Bears will play in their first BCS game in program history when it meets UCF in the Fiesta Bowl. And the icy cold 30-10 drubbing of Texas in a de facto Big 12 title game was a perfect way to put an end to Floyd Casey Stadium.

48.6: Points allowed per game by Texas Tech in its last five games
Kliff Kingsbury began his career as the Red Raiders head coach with seven consecutive wins. But turnovers cost his team in Norman when Oklahoma topped Tech 38-30 in the final weekend of October. It was the beginning of the end of the honeymoon for Kingsbury. His team lost five straight games and allowed nearly 50 points per game along the way. Oklahoma State scored 52, Kansas State scored 49, Baylor scored 63 and Texas posted 41 against the reeling Raiders defense. 'Ol Skinny Jeans has a lot of work to do on his defense in his first full offseason in Lubbock after allowing 48.6 points per game over the final five games of '13.

159: Bob Stoops' school record for wins at Oklahoma
Stoops passed the legendary Barry Switzer as the Sooners’ all-time winningest coach with an underrated 10-2 campaign. Before yet another BCS bowl, Stoops sits at 159 wins while at Oklahoma — two ahead of Switzer’s long-standing record. He has seven outright Big 12 championships and a share of an eighth title with four BCS national championship game appearance during his 15 seasons in Norman. 

1-8: Mike Gundy's record against Oklahoma
Over the last four years, Oklahoma State is 41-10 overall with three seasons of at least 10 wins. But Mike Gundy just can't seem to solve the Bedlam riddle. The Sooners, led by starter-turned-backup quarterback Blake Bell, drove 66 yards on eight plays to score the game-winning touchdown with 19 seconds left in the regular-season finale. The loss wasn't just a bitter defeat at the hands of an in-state archival. Oklahoma State was a double-digit favorite at home needing a win to clinch a BCS bowl and win the Big 12 championship. Moreover, Oklahoma State had the lead with less than two minutes to play. The loss knocked Oklahoma State out of the Fiesta Bowl and pushed Gundy's record against Oklahoma and Bob Stoops to 1-8.

440.5: Oklahoma State's total offense per game
The Pokes rolled up over 440 yards per game on offense under first-year coordinator Mike Yurcich. Mike Gundy hired his new offensive coordinator on somewhat of a whim as Yurcich was a highly successful OC for littleknown D-II Shippensburg University. Most teams would take 440.5 yards and 5.93 yards per play — OSU's offense ranked 40th nationally this fall — but that is well below average for a Gundy-coached team. The Pokes averaged 547.0 ypg, 549.8 ypg and 520.2 yards per game over the last three seasons and were over the 7.0 yards per play in each of the last two seasons. The '09 season was the last time the Cowboys were under 500 yards or 6.8 yards per play for an entire season.

2: Big 12 titles for Mack Brown at Texas
Brown is Mr. Football. At least, according to Steve Spurrier. He won 157 games during his 16 seasons at Texas, including the 2005 BCS National Championship. He finished just shy of Royal for No. 1 all-time in Longhorns history. Brown had one losing season in 16 years and missed a bowl game only once that same year (2010). That said, with 13 seasons with at least nine wins, claiming just two conference championships feels like a major disappointment. Brown was 18-17 in the Big 12 since his appearance in the 2009 BCS title game and wrapped up his long coaching career in the Alamo Bowl on Monday night against Oregon. Farewell, Mr. Football.

550: Rushing yards allowed by Texas to BYU
BYU was upset in Week 1 by Virginia but bounced back in big way in its home opener in Week 2 by embarrassing Texas. The Cougars ran the ball 72 times for a school-record 550 yards and four touchdowns, which also established a new record for rushing yards allowed by Texas in the process. BYU quarterback Taysom Hill led the way with 259 yards and three scores on 17 attempts, nearly breaking the five-decade-old single-game BYU rushing record of 272 yards set by Eldon Fortie in 1962. Texas went on to get rolled by Ole Miss in Week 3 and fired defensive coordinator Manny Diaz shortly thereafter. Only Wisconsin’s 554 yards rushing against Indiana were better this year than the 550 BYU put up against the Longhorns.

27: Consecutive Big 12 games Kansas lost before Week 12
The Jayhawks defeated a Big 12 team on Nov. 6, 2010 when Kansas topped Colorado in come-from-behind fashion 52-45. Kansas had lost 27 straight conference games since that date and had failed to be competitive in 2013 until a 31-19 win over West Virginia in Week 12. It was a huge win for embattled coach Charlie Weis — who went on to lose the final two games of the year to finish 3-9. On the flip side, Mountaineers coach Dana Holgorsen may be haunted by his team's performance in Lawrence. West Virginia is 6-12 in Big 12 play since joining the league, one year after winning the Big East and hanging 70 on Clemson in the Orange Bowl.

8: Losses for West Virginia and TCU
With a 41-38 loss to Baylor in the season finale, TCU wrapped up a 4-8 season. That’s the most losses for the Horned Frogs since 1997, a 1-10 season in Pat Sullivan’s last year. The following year, TCU hired Dennis Franchione. TCU’s 14 losses in two seasons in the Big 12 is one more than TCU had in seven seasons as a Mountain West member. TCU’s partner in expansion, West Virginia, fared no better with a 52-44 loss to Iowa State in triple overtime to cap its own disappointing campaign. The back-to-back defeats to Iowa State and Kansas to finish the year gave WVU eight losses, the most since the Mountaineers went 3-8 in their first season under Rich Rodriguez. 

Teaser:
The Best Big 12 College Football Stats of 2013
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Rice is playing in back-to-back bowl games for the first time since 1960-61. Mississippi State is playing in its fourth consecutive bowl game for the first time in school history.

Needless to say, this is a bigger game for both teams than the average postseason bowl matchup. Dan Mullen has to win to avoid State's first losing season since 2009, and Rice would reach 11 wins for the first time in school history should it leave Memphis victorious.

Both teams enter the final game of the year surging with energy. The Bulldogs capped the regular season with a dramatic overtime victory over Ole Miss in the Egg Bowl to earn bowl eligibility. Meanwhile, the Owls won its first conference title since 1957 when it handled Marshall with surprising ease in the C-USA championship game.

The crowd in the Liberty Bowl will be an intriguing storyline to track because the Bulldogs should have a decided fan advantage. Starkville is just 180 miles from Memphis and the State fans will travel well. 

These two programs have met only once when Mississippi State won 28-14 in 1975 in Houston. However, MSU later forfeited the win.

Rice vs. Mississippi State

Kickoff: Tuesday, Dec. 31 at 4:00 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN
Spread: Mississippi State -7

Rice’s Key to Victory: Get Charles Ross going
Rice's senior running back Charles Ross has quietly had an excellent season for the Owls. He led C-USA in rushing with 113.8 yards per game and led the league with 14 rushing touchdowns. Obviously, getting Ross rolling early is the Owls only hope for hanging with the more talented SEC opponent. As the entire college football world has learned this season, the zone-read is the great equalizer and could give the C-USA champs a chance to pull the upset against the Bulldogs. 

Mississippi State’s Key to Victory: A disciplined D-Line
During Rice's four-game winning streak, the Owls have averaged 58.3 attempts for 278.8 yards and 3.3 touchdowns rushing per game. The Rice zone-read attack will be tricky for the Bulldogs defensive front that played well against Ole Miss, Alabama and South Carolina but was gashed for big chunks of yards by Arkansas, Texas A&M and LSU. State should have a significant talent edge in the trenches (on both sides of the ball) and if this group plays sound fundamental football against Rice, the physicality of the SEC roster should be able to wear down the smaller Owls frontline.

Key Player: Dak Prescott, QB, Mississippi State
After missing both the Alabama and Arkansas games, Prescott came off the bench to lead MSU to a critical victory over archrival Ole Miss in The Egg Bowl. He brings excellent athleticism to Mullen's offense with his ability to make plays on the ground. However, prior to injury, Prescott was beginning to develop as a passer as well. He posted career-passing highs in back-to-back weeks against Kentucky and South Carolina before getting hurt. Should Prescott create balance on offense for Mississippi State, Rice will have a tough time stopping this team.

Final Analysis
Rice is a great story this fall. David Bailiff is easy to root for. And Rice had success running the ball against an SEC team early in the year when it rolled up 306 yards against Texas A&M in the season opener. That said, given a month to prepare, Mullen's squad should be capable of handling a team that barely beat FAU, Tulsa, UTSA, UAB and Tulane by a combined 20 total points.

Prediction: Mississippi State 31, Rice 20

Teaser:
Liberty Bowl Preview and Prediction: Rice vs. Mississippi State
Post date: Monday, December 30, 2013 - 14:00
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The storyline writes itself. Especially, for those who like watching great running backs.

Arizona's Ka'Deem Carey, the nation's second-leading rusher, will square off with Boston College's Andre Williams, the nation's leading rusher, in Shreveport, La.

Williams, who averaged 175.2 yards per game this season, is a big part of the quick turn around at Boston College under first-year head coach Steve Addazio. After 12 straight bowl games, the Eagles fell out of the postseason with a combined 6-18 record in 2011-12 before Addazio showed up. By leaning on Williams, he has returned BC to its winning ways, and with a win over the Wildcats, would give Eagles fans its first eight-win campaign since 2009.

Out in the desert, Rich Rodriguez is 2-for-2 in getting Arizona to the postseason after back-to-back 7-5 regular seasons behind his signature zone-read option offense. RichRod is 7-0 against non-conference opponents since showing up in Tucson.

Both teams lost their season finale and the bi-coastal battle in the bayou will be the first time Arizona and Boston College have ever faced one another.

Arizona vs. Boston College

Kickoff: Tuesday, Dec. 31 at 12:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN
Spread: Arizona -7.5

Arizona's Key to Victory: Ka'Deem Carey
It isn't normally this simple but for Arizona to win, its best player has to be great. Carey has topped the 100-yard mark in all 11 games this year and has 15 straight 100-yard efforts entering this bowl game. His signature performance of the season came in the season's penultimate game against Oregon, in which he rushed 48 times for 206 yards and four touchdowns in the upset win over the Ducks. RichRod's zone-read offense starts and ends with Carey's ability to carry the football and he will be looked to for another heavy workload. Carey carried the ball 80 times in his final two games of the season against two of the best three teams in the Pac-12.

Boston College's Key to Victory: Andre Williams
Much like Arizona with Carey, Williams is Boston College's best player, and he has to be great for BC to win. Williams wasn't nearly as consistent as his Wildcats counterpart. He rushed for just 38 yards on 17 carries against USC, 70 yards on 24 carries against Clemson and an injury kept Williams to just 29 yards on nine carries against Syracuse. The Eagles lost all three games. The Doak Walker Award winner should be at full strength and should find room against a Wildcats defense that ranks 71st nationally in stopping the run at 169.8 yards per game. 

Key Player: B.J. Denker, QB, Arizona
This game is appointment viewing based solely on the two players mentioned above. But the outcome could come down to which quarterback plays better. Chase Rettig is a better passer for Boston College but hasn't been asked to do much under the new regime. Denker, meanwhile, has the ability to change a game in a hurry... for either team. He has excellent athletic ability — see his 898 yards and 12 touchdowns rushing this season — but will make ill-advised throws at times — see his three interceptions and no touchdowns against Arizona State in the season finale. If Denker is efficient and protects the football while moving the ball with his legs, he gives Arizona a complimentary piece and balance that Boston College lacks.

Final Analysis

The first meeting between the Wildcats and Eagles should be a entertaining back-and-forth affair between two great rushing attacks. Arizona has faced a dramatically tougher schedule and may have the edge at the quarterback position. Both defenses struggle to stop the run so the nation's leading rusher in the last two seasons (Carey in 2012, Williams in '13) should find plenty of room to operate. Whichever defense can get a critical stop on third down in the fourth quarter will likely walk away with a win. Otherwise, the last team with the ball may win. Carey and Williams combined for 3,818 yards rushing and 34 rushing touchdowns this season so buckle up.

Prediction: Arizona 34, Boston College 31

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AdvoCare V100 Bowl Preview and Prediction: Arizona vs. Boston College
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This game might has well be titled The Zoloft Consolation Prize Bowl.

Texas comes into San Antonio after losing the season finale with a chance to win the Big 12 title outright. Oregon — who probably deserved to be playing Alabama in the Sugar Bowl instead of Oklahoma — was one win away from the Pac-12 North championship before crumbling under the pressure (twice).

This game will be Mack Brown’s much talked about (and much anticipated by some) swan song as the Texas head coach. He is familiar with the Alamodome as his Horns’ topped Oregon State in dramatic fashion in last year’s edition. On the flip side, Mark Helfrich is coaching in his first career bowl game as a headman. And with Marcus Mariota already announcing his return for 2014, the first-year coach needs a critical win to build momentum and expectations for next season. A third disappointing upset in his final five games of this season would leave a bitter and unusual taste in the mouths of Ducks everywhere.

These two powerhouses have played only five times previously. Oregon topped Texas 35-30 in the 2000 Holiday Bowl in the only game between the two since 1971. Texas won the first four meetings between 1941 and 1971.

Oregon vs. Texas

Kickoff: Monday, Dec. 30. at 6:45 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN
Spread: Oregon -13

Three Things to Watch

Texas' emotional goodbye to Mack
Mack Brown is 18-17 in the Big 12 in the last four seasons at Texas, so his time had come in Austin. But he has coached for 16 years at Texas with class and dignity, gaining respect for his persona along the way. Will his players rally around him in his final time to stalk the sideline in the Burnt Orange? Motivation is a huge determining factor for most bowl games as it is nearly impossible to pinpoint what the attitude is like in either team’s locker room — or on the practice field for the last month. Especially, for two teams that are likely disappointed to be in this bowl game. Can his counterpart Mark Helfrich get his team up emotionally to play in a game that largely means nothing for the Ducks? Who holds the focus and motivational edge in this game will go a long way in determining a winner.

The Ducks relentless running game
Texas’ struggles stopping the run has been a major issue for the past few seasons and it reached a low point earlier this season when BYU totaled 554 yards rushing against the Horns. They finished 81st nationally in rushing defense and are now charged with stopping one of the most powerful ground games in the land. Oregon can throw Byron Marshall, De’Anthony Thomas, Thomas Tyner and Marcus Mariota at a defense in endless formations and play calls. And it all happens at a tempo matched by few teams in the country. Has Texas improved under “new” defensive coordinator Greg Robinson? Yes. Are they capable of stopping the Oregon Ducks rushing game that averages nearly 300 yards per game?

The Horns' depleted roster
The Longhorns are a two-touchdown underdog in this game for a variety of reasons and Texas’ depleted roster is one of the big reasons why. Starting backfield David Ash and Johnathan Gray have been out for most of the last few months, as defensive stars Jordan Hicks and Chris Whaley were lost for the season a month ago as well. To literally add insult to injury, Texas had to suspend Kennedy Estelle, Daje Johnson and Jalen Overstreet due to academic issues for this game as well. This depth chart has taken major hits over the last few weeks and only continues to crumble. Can the backups — most of whom are big-time recruits in their own right — step in against an elite opponent and answer the bell for Bevo? 

Key Player: Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
If the Ducks quarterback is fully healthy and firing on all cylinders, this Ducks team could roll up a big number on the Longhorns. Mariota’s ability to run and pass is second to none in the nation when he is operating at full speed and Texas won’t have an answer for him. However, if his knee isn’t 100-percent (which is likely) then he will become a one-dimensional passer (albeit a very talented one) that is easier to gameplan for defensively. Mariota holds the keys to victory for both teams.

Final Analysis

The Ducks are a better team. They have a healthy, more talented roster, a better quarterback, a better defense and boast a significantly better winning percentage this year and over the past few seasons. But the Longhorns have a clear edge in the motivation department as they attempt to send their head coach out as a winner. Expect the Horns to play much better than anticipated (i.e., the Vegas point spread) but simply don’t have the horses (or steers) to keep up with the mighty Ducks. Oregon pulls away in the end and catapults itself into a critical offseason for a team eyeing a preseason top 5 ranking in 2014.

Prediction: Oregon 38, Texas 28

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Two of college football powerhouses meet in the Gator Bowl to end what has been a bizarre season for both Georgia and Nebraska.

Both teams entered the season with major conference championship aspirations, but critical injuries riddled both rosters, eventually leading to eight combined losses between the two. Nebraska was without Taylor Martinez for much of the season, while Georgia lost key playmakers on offense — Todd Gurley, Keith Marshall, Malcolm Mitchell — for various lengths of time. Both teams were left wondering what could have been in 2013 had their teams stayed healthy.

And when both teams take the field this bowl season, neither team will have what many call the best QB (statistically) in each team’s history. Martinez - the Huskers all-time total offense record holder - won’t play in the Gator Bowl, and Georgia lost franchise quarterback Aaron Murray to a torn ACL against Kentucky last month.

Both coaches need a win for momentum heading into a critical 2014 campaign, and 9-4 looks a lot better than 8-5. These two staffs know each other well as the Bulldogs topped the Cornhuskers in the 45-31 in the Capital One Bowl last year. It was only the second meeting between these two proud programs as Nebraska won the first meeting 45-6 in the 1969 Sun Bowl.

The rubber match should give fans of both teams a glimpse of the future as Hutson Mason will make his second career start for Mark Richt, while Tommy Armstrong starts in place of Martinez.

Nebraska vs. Georgia

Kickoff: Wednesday, Jan. 1. at Noon ET
TV Channel: ESPN2
Spread: Georgia -9

Three Things to Watch

Which star running back is more effective
While all eyes will be on the signal callers under center, the most pivotal players for both offenses will be the running backs. And Georgia's Todd Gurley and Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah are two of the best in the nation. Gurley is a workhorse that physically imposes his will inside and outside of the tackles with power, speed and quickness. Despite missing three full games and big chunks of others, he finished with 903 yards rushing on 6.3 yards per carry and scored 15 total touchdowns. Abdullah led the Big Ten in rushing with 1,466 yards, including a string of eight consecutive 100-yard games, and 10 total touchdowns. Both players made critical plays in key spots for his team and each will be leaned on a big way in this old school SEC-Big Ten showdown.

Which quarterback makes the fewest mistakes
When it comes to quarterback play, much is unknown about what to expect from both. Tommy Armstrong has played more football this season (seven career starts) than his Georgia counterpart Hutson Mason (one career start). Mason, however, is a more talented passer and has three years in the system as opposed to the Nebraska freshman. He struggled mightily out of the gate against Georgia Tech but bounced back to lead an improbable comeback against the rival Jackets. Mason is a more polished passer but Armstrong is more athletic, so whichever team gets more efficient and mistake-free play from its quarterback will likely win the game.

Bo Pelini's sideline behavior
Bowl matchups feature risk taking and trick plays like no other football games, and Pelini has had some interesting and tension-filled moments on the sidelines during his up-and-down tenure in Nebraska. While he has settled down as his time at Nebraska has gone along, he has had some tenuous moments with his fan base, administration and players in 2013. His facial expression following the Hail Mary against Northwestern is absolutely priceless. In a critical bowl game in front of a restless fan base, will Pelini maintain his cool or will the emotion of the game get the better of him? Either way, anytime Pelini and the Huskers take the field in a big game, it’s appointment viewing. Especially, if the Huskers lose the fourth quarter 14-0 like they did against the Dawgs in last year’s bowl game.

Key Player: Leonard Floyd, LB, Georgia
Jordan Jenkins was supposed to be the break out star for Todd Grantham’s aggressive 3-4 defense this year, but Floyd has been the freshman surprise this season. He finished seventh on the team in tackles (47), posted 8.5 tackles for loss and led the team in sacks (6.5) and forced fumbles (2). Stopping Abdullah from reaching the edge and getting pressure on a freshman quarterback will be the primary objective of the 6-foot-4, 230-pound star freshman playmaker for Georgia. Keep an eye on No. 84 in the Black and Red. 

Final Analysis

Georgia busted open a close game in last year’s Capital One Bowl with two touchdowns in the final quarter to top Nebraska 45-31 behind a huge game from Aaron Murray. It’s safe to say neither quarterback will play the type of game Murray posted last year (427 yards, 5 TD), so both running backs will be on full display. Both defenses have had their share of issues this fall but both have shown flashes of better days ahead. The Bulldogs have the clear edge in terms of overall talent and their quarterback is better suited to create balance on offense. Look for a similarly close game through three quarters before Todd Gurley takes over in the final frame to the Dawgs.


Prediction: Georgia 34, Nebraska 27

Teaser:
Gator Bowl Preview and Prediction: Georgia vs. Nebraska
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Numbers and statistics are unquestionably a huge part of the game. Any game, for that matter.

Some like to keep it simple and use the ol' eyeball test, while others fall on the sabermetric side of things. In the football world, that means total offense, total defense and points scored versus points per play and defensive efficiency ratings. Rational and logical arguments can be made for the legitimacy and relevance of both sides of the stats spectrum.

With that in mind, Athlon Sports brings the most intriguing, important, historic and bizarre stats from another stellar season of SEC college football:

3: SEC coaches to win the league in their first season
Gus Malzahn became the third head coach in SEC history, and the first in the championship game era, to win a conference crown in his first trip through the league, thanks to an impressive showing against Mizzou. Malzahn joined Bernie Moore, who led LSU to a 9-2 record in 1935, and John Vaught, who led Ole Miss to a 9-2 record in '47, as first-year coaches to win SEC titles. Malzahn took a winless SEC team that averaged 305.0 yards per game on offense — 118th in the nation — and turned them into SEC champions in one offseason, and now the Tigers will play for the BCS National Championship in Pasadena against Florida State.

0: Completions, passing yards for Georgia Southern in a win over Florida
No lower-division team has ever beaten Florida, and the 26-20 loss to Georgia Southern in Week 13 guaranteed Will Muschamp would suffer the school's first losing season since 1979. What's more painful, the Eagles didn't even complete a pass. Georgia Southern didn't connect on any of their three total passing attempts, but the option team was able to run the ball at will. The 429 yards allowed on the ground were the most by a Florida team since Tommie Frazier and Nebraska rolled up 524 in the national championship showdown of 1995. Florida missed a bowl game for the first time since 1990.

3-11: Aaron Murray’s record against Top 15 ranked teams
Aaron Murray was a great player who will go down in history as one of the SEC’s best. But he struggled to win big games against big-time competition, winning just three times in 14 chances against Top 15 teams. He lost to Arkansas (No. 12) and Auburn (No. 2) in 2010 as a freshman and Boise State (No. 5), South Carolina (No. 12), LSU (No. 1) and Michigan State (No. 12) as a sophomore in '11. He lost to South Carolina (No. 6) and Alabama (No. 1) a year ago in '12. And this fall, Murray lost to Clemson (No. 8) as well as Auburn (No. 7), both with varying degrees of heart break. His three wins were over Florida (No. 3) as a junior and South Carolina (No. 6) and LSU (No. 6) this fall. Murray had an extraordinary career at Georgia, starting all but his final game due to a torn ACL and becoming just the third QB in school history to beat Florida three years in a row. No one in SEC history has more completions (921), passing yards (13,166), passing touchdowns (121) and total offense (13,554) than Murray. Yet, the championship eluded the Dawgs' great signal-caller.

257 and 3,616: Jordan Matthews' SEC records for receptions and yards
Vanderbilt’s Jordan Matthews is the most productive wide receiver in SEC history and it’s not really close. He caught an SEC single-season record 107 passes this season for 1,334 yards. No SEC player in history has caught more passes or more yards than Matthews' 257 career receptions and 3,616 career yards. He finished with 22 career receiving touchdowns — nine behind Chris Doering’s SEC record of 31. More importantly, the list of what this Commodores team accomplished is long and distinguished. The Dores beat Florida in the Swamp for the first time since 1945, beat Florida and Georgia in the same season for the first time in program history and won eight games in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1927-28.

4: School-record consecutive bowl games for Mississippi State
In the bigger SEC picture, fans in Starkville would like to see their Bulldogs compete at a higher level. Alabama, Auburn and LSU have national titles, Texas A&M has a Heisman Trophy and Ole Miss appears poised for big things under Hugh Freeze. But Hail Staters need to be careful what they wish for. With a fourth win in the critical Egg Bowl, Dan Mullen led Mississippi State to a fourth consecutive bowl game for the first time in school history. The Bulldogs may not be competing for national titles but Mullen has done things in Starkville no other coach in school history has accomplished.

4: SEC teams to average more than 7.0 yards per play
Four also is the number of SEC teams to average more than 7.0 yards per play in 2013. Texas A&M led the league at 7.29 yards per play with LSU (7.19), Alabama (7.08) and Auburn (7.03) nipping at their heels. Only eight teams nationally accomplished the feat as only Florida State, Oregon, Baylor and Ohio State also picking up more than seven yards per play. Additionally, only 13 teams nationally averaged more than 6.7 yards per play this fall and the SEC had six of those. Georgia (6.81) and Missouri (6.74) gave the SEC six of the top 13 teams in offensive efficiency. Auburn, who was eighth nationally this fall in yards per play was 90th a year ago at 5.27 ypp.

9: SEC teams that allowed more than 400 yards of offense in conference play
Over a five-year span between 2008-12, only 10 SEC teams allowed at least 400 yards of offense in conference play for a season. In 2013, nine SEC teams accomplished this unflattering statistic and a tenth, LSU, allowed 399.4 yards per game. Alabama (306.9), Florida (308.6) and South Carolina (346.8) were the only three teams to allow fewer than 350 yards per game in SEC play. Between 2008-12, 29 SEC teams allowed less than 350 yards per game in conference. This is a function of excellent coaching and elite quarterbacks. With Aaron Murray, Johnny Manziel, James Franklin, Connor Shaw, AJ McCarron and Zach Mettenberger moving on this season, fans can expect a return to normalcy in 2014.

3: SEC receiver tandems to top 1,000 yards in the same year
Only three times in SEC history has a team had two 1,000-yard pass-catchers on the same team. LSU's Odell Beckham Jr. (1,117 yards) and Jarvis Landry (1,172 yards) became just the third set of wideouts to reach the milestone this fall. In fact, the Tigers became just the second SEC team to boast such a duo as only Florida had accomplished the feat prior to 2013. Steve Spurrier did it with Chris Doering and Ike Hilliard in 1995 and again in 2001 with Jabar Gaffney and Reche Caldwell. What's more impressive is how much of the load these two Bayou Bengals have carried this fall. These two have accounted for 132 of LSU's 198 completions, 2,289 of the 3,181 yards and 18 of the Tigers' 23 receiving touchdowns.

101: SEC championship game record for total points
The mighty SEC saw little to no defense in Atlanta on Dec. 7. Auburn (28) and Mizzou (27) set an SEC Championship Game record with 55 first-half points. The game ended with a record 101 total points scored — 26 more than the previous mark (75) set in 1996 by Florida and Alabama. Auburn also set an SEC title game record with 676 yards of offense, 544 yards rushing and 59 points. Tre Mason carried the load with an SEC title game-record 46 carries, an SEC championship-record 304 yards and, you guessed it, an SEC title game-record four touchdowns in the win. The previous record for yards was set by Auburn with 589 in 2010. Missouri entered this game ranked No. 2 in the SEC in rushing defense (119.1 ypg) but saw that mark rise to 151.8 after the carnage in the Georgia Dome. All in all, Auburn set 16 SEC title game records on Saturday. Gus Malzahn was relentless in his play calling as he rode his zone-read triple option to an SEC championship in just his first season as a head coach in the nation's toughest league.

1-6: Johnny Manziel’s record against ranked SEC teams
Assuming Manziel enters the 2014 NFL Draft, Manziel finished his career with an 18-6 overall record as a starter. Manziel was a perfect 8-0 in non-conference play and just 10-6 in SEC play. He was just 4-4 at home at Kyle Field in two seasons in the SEC, losing to Florida and LSU in 2012 and Alabama and Auburn in '13. The four home wins came against Arkansas, Missouri, Vanderbilt and Mississippi State — of which, only Vandy had a winning overall record. Most importantly, Manziel was 1-6 against SEC teams that finished the year ranked. He went 0-4 against four ranked teams this fall and was 1-2 in his Heisman campaign of 2012 with his lone win over a ranked SEC foe coming in Tuscaloosa over Alabama.

235: Total combined tackles for Ramik Wilson and Amarlo Herrera
Georgia boasted the No. 8-rated total defense in the SEC at 381.3 yards per game and the No. 11-rated scoring defense at 29.4 points per game. This might be why it claims the SEC’s top two tacklers in 2013. While Leonard Floyd and Jordan Jenkins get most of the acclaim, Ramik Wilson quietly led the SEC in tackles with 128 stops and 10.7 per game. Teammate Amarlo Herrera was second in the league with 107 total stops and 8.9 per game. All four linebackers could be back for Todd Grantham and what should be an improved Dawgs defense in 2014.

9: Consecutive losses by Arkansas
Bret Bielema took over in Fayetteville and likely didn’t realize exactly how dire the situation he was stepping into actually was. In Week 10, Arkansas lost six straight games for the first time since 1990 and then proceeded to finish the season on a program-record nine-game losing streak. The 0-8 SEC record was the first winless SEC record since joining the league in 1992 and the Hogs finished with nine losses for the first time in program history. Only five times have the Razorbacks lost eight or more games and two of them have come in the last two seasons.

Teaser:
The Best SEC College Football Stats of 2013
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Like it or not, Las Vegas rarely gets it wrong, so tracking betting lines should always be a big part of each football weekend — even if there are no bets on the line. I finished the regular season 43-34-1 and that is where — if it were up to me — I would end my college football betting. Because betting on bowl games is a fool's errand.

Motivation, focus, talent differentials all play huge roles in determining the outcome and, most of the time, this cannot be pinpointed for "exhibition" games. So my advice is stay away from every game not named the "BCS National Championship Game." One look at my picks below and you'll understand the difference between bowl picks and regular season picks. I would put a second mortgage on Alabama covering 16 points over Oklahoma in a "real" game but am not touching it in the bowls.

2013 Record Against the Spread: 43-34-1

BCS Bowl Picks:

Stanford (-6.5) vs. Michigan State
This is business as usual for Stanford, which is playing in its second consecutive Rose Bowl after topping Wisconsin last season. Michigan State will be without Spartans legacy and defensive captain Max Bullough in its first trip to the Granddaddy of them all since 1987. These two teams mirror each other in personnel and style, so special teams and mistakes will make the difference. Stanford was 7-6 against the number this season and Michigan State was 8-4-1. Prediction: Stanford -6.5

UCF (+16.5) vs. Baylor
There are some big numbers in the bowl season this winter and the Fiesta Bowl is one of them. UCF has won seven times by one score or less and has played up to its competition (Louisville, Penn State, South Carolina). Baylor, however, has crushed folks week in and week out (other than Oklahoma State). Both teams are playing in their first BCS bowl, meaning motivation should be less of a factor here. So pick this game like you would a regular season tilt. The number simply feels way too big for a UCF team that has played well in big spots. The Bears were 9-3 against the number and the Knights were 7-5 this year. Prediction: UCF +16.5

Oklahoma (+16) vs. Alabama
Alabama has little to play for and we’ve seen the Crimson Tide tank a Sugar Bowl after being knocked out of the national championship game in the final game of the regular season (SEE: 2008). Oklahoma could be a preseason favorite next fall in the Big 12 and a good showing against Bama would go a long way to entrenching the Sooners as the frontrunner. Both Bama and Oklahoma were 7-5 against the spread this season. Take the motivated team. Prediction: Oklahoma +16

Clemson (+2.5) vs. Ohio State
Which team wants to be here less? Both had eyes on the national title game but both came up just short — and neither won their conference. But there is some history between these two despite only playing once before. Woody Hayes got fired after punching a Clemson player in the 1978 Gator Bowl. Ohio State is the more complete team and has plenty to play as a potential preseason top five team should they win. The Bucknuts were 6-6-1 ATS this year while Clemson was 6-6. Prediction: Ohio State -2.5

Florida State (-8) vs. Auburn
The Noles are the significantly more complete and talented team. But only one has been playing playoff games since October. Auburn has won every possible way imaginable and it appears they have the “team of destiny” moniker stitched into their shoulder pads. If you are going to give Gus Malzahn a month to prepare and more than a touchdown’s worth of points, I am taking Auburn. Don’t bet against fate, even if FSU is that much better. Both the Noles and Tigers finished the year 11-2 against the spread. Prediction: Auburn +8 

Bowl Picks Against the Spread, Part 2:

Top 25 GamesMitch LightBraden GallSteven LassanDavid Fox
Nebraska (+9) vs. Georgia
UNLV (+7) vs. North Texas

Iowa (+8) vs. LSU

Wisconsin (pk) vs. South Carolina
Stanford (-6.5) vs. Michigan St
UCF (+16.5) vs. Baylor
Oklahoma (+16) vs. Alabama
Oklahoma St (+2.5) vs. Missouri
Clemson (+2.5) vs. Ohio State
Vanderbilt (-3) vs. Houston
Arkansas St (+9) vs. Ball St
Florida St (-8) vs. Auburn
Year-To-Date:112-118-4115-115-4114-116-4119-111-4

 

Teaser:
Betting Against the Spread: College Football BCS Bowl Picks
Post date: Monday, December 30, 2013 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/best-acc-college-football-stats-2013
Body:

Numbers and statistics are unquestionably a huge part of the game. Any game, for that matter.

Some like to keep it simple and use the ol' eyeball test, while others fall on the sabermetric side of things. In the football world, that means total offense, total defense and points scored versus points per play and defensive efficiency ratings. Rational and logical arguments can be made for the legitimacy and relevance of both sides of the stats spectrum.

 

With that in mind, Athlon Sports brings the most intriguing, important, historic and bizarre stats from another stellar season of ACC college football:

 

6: Cities in which Duke has defeated Virginia Tech

The 13-10 road win for Duke over the Hokies in Week 9 featured a plethora of interesting stats. It was the first road win over a ranked opponent for Duke in 42 years. The Blue Devils' sixth win made Duke bowl-eligible in back-to-back seasons for the first time in school history. The two starting quarterbacks, Anthony Boone and Logan Thomas, combined for eight interceptions and zero passing touchdowns. In fact, Duke didn't complete a pass in the second half and was 0-for-11 on third downs for the game. Lastly, it was Duke's first ever win in Blacksburg, giving the Blue Devils a win over the Hokies in six different cities. Duke has beaten Tech in Greensboro, Durham, Winston-Salem, all in North Carolina, as well as Norfolk, Roanoke and, now, Blacksburg, in Virginia. The win was one of 10 for David Cutcliffe’s squad this year — the first such 10-win season in school history.

 

42.3: Average margin of victory for Florida State in 2013
After topping Duke 45-7 in the ACC title game, Florida State won all 13 games it played this fall and earned a spot in the BCS National Championship Game against Auburn. But the Noles didn't slip into the title game like the Tigers did. Florida State didn't need any help from Michigan State, Oklahoma State or Utah. The Seminoles crushed the opposition all season. Jimbo Fisher's squad outscored its 13 opponents 689-139 for an average margin of victory of more than six touchdowns per game. Again, that's more than six touchdowns per game. There is a reason they are the clear-cut No. 1 team in the polls — even if they are facing the "Team of Destiny" in Pasadena.

 

38: Jameis Winston's NCAA freshman passing TDs record
He won the Heisman Trophy for a reason. Jameis Winston led the Seminoles to a perfect 13-0 record, an ACC championship and a berth in the BCS National Championship Game against Auburn. He is the nation's most efficient passer (190.06) and has thrown more touchdown passes than any freshman in NCAA history. With three scoring strikes in the easy win over Duke in the ACC title game, Winston passed Sam Bradford's NCAA freshman record of 36. The Noles' signal-caller finished the year with 3,820 yards, 38 touchdowns, 10 interceptions on 67.9 percent passing to go with 193 yards rushing and four more touchdowns on the ground.

 

2,102: Andre Williams' ACC single-season rushing record

With a late flurry of big games, Boston College’s Andre Williams has set himself atop the ACC record book in more than one way. He broke Virginia running back Thomas Jones’ single-season ACC rushing record (1,798) by a wide margin by becoming just the 16th player in NCAA history to reach 2,000 yards. He broke Wake Forest back John Leach’s single-game rushing record (329) with 339 yards against NC State in Week 12. Williams is just five carries (329) shy of breaking the single-season ACC rushing attempts record (334) set by both Jones in 1999 and Maryland’s Charlie Wysocki in 1980. Williams carried BC to an impressive 7-5 bowl season one year after going 2-10.

30: Brandon Connette's Duke all-time touchdown record

Not many backup quarterbacks play in 38 career games. Not many backup quarterbacks rush for 30 career touchdowns. Not many backup quarterbacks hold a school record for touchdowns scored. But then again, there aren't many players like Duke second stringer Brandon Connette. The 6-5, 225-pounder from Corona, Calif., rushed 78 times for 321 yards and eight TDs in 2010 as a freshman before carrying just eight times for minus-14 yards and one score in 2011. Connette bounced back to rush 41 times for 91 yards and eight TDs last season, before a breakout '13 that featured a career-high 99 carries, 333 yards and 13 rushing TDs. No Duke player in school history has scored as many times as Connette. Not bad for a guy with one career start under his belt before the start of the season. Tom Davis owned the previous benchmark of 25 set back in 1945.


11: NCAA-record bowl teams for the ACC in 2013
When the dust settles on the 2013 bowl season, the ACC could be staring at an ugly record despite setting a prestigious record. Pitt pulled an upset over Bowling Green in the Little Caesars Bowl, but the rest of the season doesn't look promising despite setting an NCAA record by sending 11 teams bowling. Duke, Virginia Tech and Boston College are heavy underdogs to Texas A&M, UCLA and Arizona, respectively. Clemson, Miami, Georgia Tech and Syracuse aren't favored to defeat Ohio State, Louisville, Ole Miss and Minnesota. Maryland and North Carolina are slight favorites over Marshall and Cincinnati while Florida State boasts the biggest advantage as a 7.5-point favorite over Auburn.


34: Fewest touchdowns scored by any bowl team

That dubious honor belongs to the embattled Virginia Tech Hokies. Running backs Trey Edmunds (12), Joel Caleb (1) and Chris Mangus (1) scored 14 times. Wide receivers D.J. Coles (6), Demitri Knowles (3), Willie Byrn (2) and Joshua Stanford (1) combined to score 12 times. Tight end Kalvin Cline scored twice and quarterback Logan Thomas rushed for four touchdowns. And the Hokies scored two defensive touchdowns thanks to Derek DiNardo and Detrick Bonner. The Hokies were 96th nationally in scoring offense at 23.4 points per game.

 

127: Tajh Boyd's ACC total TDs record

No player in ACC history has thrown more touchdown passes or accounted for more total scores than Boyd. In just three full seasons as the starter for Clemson, Boyd threw for 11,526 yards and 102 touchdowns through the air while rushing for 25 more on the ground. His 102 passing scores and 127 total touchdowns are both all-time ACC records. Boyd passed NC State’s Philip Rivers for both benchmarks.


8: Anthony Harris' nation's leading interceptions
The Cavaliers didn't have too many bright spots as they lost their final nine games and finished 2-10 on the season. The lone bright spot was the junior defensive back from Chesterfield, Va. Anthony Harris led the nation in interceptions with eight picks in seven different games. It was the most interceptions by a Wahoo since Ronde Barber led the ACC in 1994.

3-5: ACC's record against the SEC
In the first game of the year, South Carolina quickly jumped out to a lead over North Carolina and held on for a relatively easy win over the Tar Heels. That same weekend, Alabama — well, all but one play — completely stifled Virginia Tech in Atlanta while Clemson outlasted Georgia in a Death Valley shootout for the ages. On the final weekend of the regular season, the SEC won the rivalry games 3-1 with wins from Georgia over Georgia Tech, South Carolina over Clemson and Vanderbilt over Wake Forest. Florida State was the lone ACC winner on rivalry weekend. Between those two weekends, the Hurricanes topped No. 12 Florida in Miami. So while the season had some high moments, the league is still playing second fiddle in a big way to the SEC. Duke will face Texas A&M, Georgia Tech will face Ole Miss and, of course, Florida State will see Auburn in the BCS National Championship. In theory, the ACC could post a winning record against the SEC this year.

32: Florida State’s bowl streak, the longest active one in the nation
The Seminoles kept their nation’s best bowl streak alive in style by landing in the BCS National Championship Game. It marks 32 consecutive seasons that the Noles have been playing in the postseason. Boise State (12 straight) owns the longest active bowl streak by a team not in an automatic-qualifying (AQ) conference.

1978: Woody Hayes punched a Clemson player in the Gator Bowl
There are a lot of great stats concerning the Ohio State-Clemson Orange Bowl matchup this winter. The game marks the 10th BCS bowl for the Buckeyes, the most by any team in the nation. The trip to the Orange Bowl is the first for Ohio State since 1976. But more importantly, it will be the first meeting between Ohio State and Clemson since Woody Hayes famously punched Clemson’s Charlie Bauman at the end of the 1978 Gator Bowl. Clemson won the only meeting between these two that day 17-15 and Hayes was fired the next day.

Teaser:
The Best ACC College Football Stats of 2013
Post date: Friday, December 27, 2013 - 07:15
All taxonomy terms: NFL, News
Path: /nfl/amazing-stats-nfls-week-16
Body:

Numbers and statistics are unquestionably a huge part of the game. Any game, for that matter.

Some fall on the sabermetric side of things, while others like to keep it simple and use the ol' eyeball test. In the football world, that means total offense, total defense and points scored versus points per play and defensive efficiency ratings. Rational and logical arguments can be made for the legitimacy and relevance of both sides of the stats spectrum.

With that in mind, Athlon Sports brings the most intriguing, important, historic and bizarre stats from Week 16 of the NFL season:

51: Peyton Manning’s single-season passing TD record
Dan Marino set a bunch of NFL passing records well ahead of his time in 1984. One of which was the prestigious single-season passing touchdown record he set in 1984 with 48 scoring strikes. It stood for 20 years until Peyton Manning broke the record with 49 TD passing in 2004. Tom Brady came along during his perfect 2007 campaign to top Manning with 50 scoring tosses. Until Week 16 of the 2013 season, Brady had been the only player in NFL history with 50 touchdown passes. Manning threw for 400 yards and four touchdowns in a blowout win over Houston this weekend and it gives Manning an NFL record 51 touchdown passes. He should be able to extend that record in the season finale — should he play more than one series.

5: Different NFL players to throw for 5,000 yards in a season
In the Manning edition of Amazing Stats, another superlative for what many consider the greatest regular season quarterback in NFL history. Manning’s huge game against the lowly Texans pushed his already record-setting season even further into the annals of time. With one game to play, Manning sits at 5,211 yards passing, making him just the fifth player in NFL history to top 5,000 yards in a single season. Manning joins Tom Brady in 2011 (5,235), Dan Marino in 1984 (5,084), Matthew Stafford in 2011 (5,038) and Drew Brees, who did it three times in 2008, 2011 and 2012. Manning needs (if he plays enough) just 266 yards to break Brees’ single-season record of 5,476 set in 2011. Brees needs 219 in his final game to reach 5,000 for the fourth time in his career this season.

11: NFL-record division titles by Tom Brady
When the Dolphins in explicably lost 19-0 to the Buffalo Bills (but before the Patriots destroyed the Ravens), Tom Brady and New England clinched the AFC East championship outright. It marks the NFL record 11th division championship for Brady and the Pats. New England has finished in first or tied for first in the AFC East every single season since 2001 — Brady’s first full season as the starter. The only two seasons the Patriots did not win the division outright were in 2008 when Brady was lost for the entire season with a torn ACL and 2002. In both of those years, the Patriots tied for the division crown but lost out on a tiebreaker. Only the 2001 season did the Patriots win the division via tiebreaker. That is 10 outright AFC East titles in the last 11 years — and this one might be the most impressive. Manning won the AFC West with Denver this season, giving him 10 division titles as a starter. He is the only other NFL player in history with at least 10 division crowns and is second only to Brady.

7: Yards Andrew Luck needs to set a two-year NFL passing record
To start a career, Cam Newton owns the NFL record with 7,920 yards passing in his first two seasons. Peyton Manning was second with 7,874 until Andrew Luck passed him with his 241 yards in the impressive road win over Kansas City this Sunday. Luck, who owns the NFL rookie passing record with 4,374 yards last season, sits at 7,914 yards and is just seven yards away from setting a new NFL passing record for a player in his first two seasons. Luck’s 21 victories are also tied for third all-time with Dan Marino for the most wins by a starting quarterback in his first two seasons. Russell Wilson owns the record with 23 (and could build on that next week). Ben Roethlisberger is No. 2 all-time with 22.

24: Single-game NFL tackles record tied by Luke Kuechly
Speaking of Cam Newton, the Panthers toppled the Saints 17-13 on Sunday to clinch an NFC playoff spot for the first time since 2008 and just the fifth time in the franchises’ 19-year history. Newton has been excellent but it’s the defense that deserves much of the credit for the amazing turnover in Carolina. First-round pick Luke Kuechly led the NFL tackles last season as a rookie and he posted 24 total tackles against the mighty Saints on Sunday. Since the stat began being tracked in 1994, no player in the game has made more tackles than Kuechly’s 24. He tied the NFL record set by the Jets David Harris on November 4, 2007.

0: NFC divisions that have been clinched with one week to play
What a season it has been in the NFC. The Saints, who entered Week 16 in first place in the NFC South, are in danger of missing the playoffs all together should they lose in Week 17 and Arizona wins. The NFC East and NFC North are winner take all situations between the Eagles and Cowboys and Packers and Bears respectively. The 49ers and Saints, however, could also still win their respective divisions should they both win and their division leaders Seattle and Carolina lose in the season finale. In the AFC, four different teams are battling for the final wildcard sport. Miami, Baltimore, San Diego and Pittsburgh could all win the final Wildcard next weekend.

 

Oct. 31, 2010: The last time Tony Romo missed a game
After leading the Cowboys to a dramatic win over the Redskins to set up a winner-take-all finale against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 17, Adam Schefter reported that quarterback Tony Romo will miss the rest of the 2013 season with a back injury. Romo takes a lot of flack — most of which is poorly timed and unwarranted commentary from his ridiculous owner Jerry Jones — but his numbers speak for themselves. He is tied with Tom Brady as the NFL’s all-time fifth-rated quarterback (95.8) and he hasn’t missed a game since Oct. 31, 2010. He has started every game since the start of the 2011 season behind one of the worst offensive lines and most ineffective running games. Now that Romo is out for the final game of the season, Chip Kelly is poised to win the NFC East and take the last place Eagles to the postseason in just his first season.

Teaser:
Amazing Stats from the NFL's Week 16
Post date: Tuesday, December 24, 2013 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/college-football-top-25-games-2013
Body:

The 2013 college football regular season had distinct and unique character. The No. 2 team in the nation didn’t lose every weekend like in 2007. And one player didn’t captivate the nation like Cam Newton in 2010 or Johnny Manziel last season.

Every major conference race — and some of the smaller ones as well — came down to the final weekend, and, in some cases, the final moments of the final game. It was a season to remember for college football fans.

So that is what Athlon Sports is going to do.  For some, this will be a stroll down memory lane while others may develop reoccurring nightmares. Here are college football's most entertaining and pivotal games of the 2013 season.


1. Auburn 34, Alabama 28 (Nov. 30)

What else can be said about this game that hasn’t already been written? The ending is second only to the famed 1982 Stanford-Cal “Band is out on the field” game in terms of being the most bizarre finish in NCAA history. But when it comes to the gravity, importance, passion and history of the “Kick-6,” no game may ever compare to the 2013 Iron Bowl. The SEC West title, a spot in the SEC championship game and claim to a spot in the BCS title game, as well as in-state bragging rights, were all hanging in the balance and Auburn returned a missed field goal 109 yards on the final play of the game to beat the two-time undefeated defending national champions? Nothing may ever come close to matching that type of resume.


2. Alabama 49, Texas A&M 42 (Sept. 14)

The most anticipated game of the offseason didn’t disappoint. A revenge-minded Nick Saban versus the tawdry, reigning Heisman Trophy winner in one of the best venues in the nation? The Aggies jumped out early 14-0 before Alabama answered with 35 straight points and appeared to have ended the game midway through the third quarter. That was until a big Bama fumble allowed Manziel to get his team back into the game. In the end, the Tide was too much for the Aggies' poor defense as AJ McCarron (334 yards, 4 TDs, 0 INTs) matched Manziel (464 yards, 5 TDs, 2 INTs) pass for pass and eventually the national champs held on for a narrow victory.


3. Auburn 43, Georgia 38 (Nov. 16)

In the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry, Auburn dominates Georgia for three quarters before the Dawgs come storming back in the final period. Aaron Murray leads his team to three touchdowns, including a gusty fourth-down touchdown run to take the lead with less than two minutes to play. On the next possession, Auburn could muster only five yards on six plays in a minute and a half of time. It left the Tigers with a 4th and 18 with 25 seconds left and needing a miracle to survive. Then Nick Marshall heaved a prayer into the Auburn night air that was tipped into infamy by two Georgia defenders. The ball landed gingerly into Ricardo Louis’ waiting arms and he strolled into the SEC history books with one of the most dramatic finishes in conference history.


4. Ohio State 42, Michigan 41 (Nov. 30)

Most years, The Game is the most important and most anticipated matchup in the Big Ten season. This fall was no exception despite the Michigan Wolverines having very little to play for when these two met in Week 14. The two archrivals went back and forth for 60 minutes delivering body blows with big plays and long drives. From start to finish, this appeared to be an even match — much more so than anticipated. In the fourth quarter, Braxton Miller and Carlos Hyde delivered on a long touchdown drive that gave the Buckeyes a touchdown lead with only minutes to play. Not to be outdone, Devin Gardner and the Michigan offense — playing its best game of the season — drove right down the field to score what appeared to be the game-tying touchdown with 32 seconds to play. With nothing really to lose, Brady Hoke went for two in dramatic fashion but was thwarted when Gardner’s pass was intercepted at the goal line. The 110th meeting between these college football powerhouses was arguably the most dramatic.


5. Auburn 45, Texas A&M 41 (Oct. 19)

Trailing 41-38 with five minutes to go on the road against the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, Auburn turned to tailback Tre Mason to save the day. The Tigers put together a 13-play, 75-yard drive that took 3:46 off the clock and culminated in a five-yard, game-winning Mason touchdown run. Auburn ran the ball 10 times, including six Mason carries, on a drive that defines head coach Gus Malzahn’s relentless offensive system. On the ensuing possession, Dee Ford sacked Johnny Manziel twice on the final series with No. 7 Texas A&M knocking on the door of the red zone, including a fourth down play that ended the game. The national stage welcomed Auburn to the party following this performance.


6. Auburn 59, Missouri 42 (Dec. 7)

Auburn set 16 SEC Championship Game records by rolling through a highly regarded and equally effective Missouri Tigers defensive line. Tre Mason rushes 46 times for 304 yards and four touchdowns — all SEC title game records — in the win. The performance sent Mason to New York as a Heisman finalist. Malzahn becomes just the third head coach in SEC history to win a conference title in his first season in the league and it won him the Home Depot National Coach of the Year award.


7. Oklahoma 33, Oklahoma State 24 (Dec. 7)

One of the most heated rivalries in all of college football had some extra juice in 2013. The Big 12 title and a trip to the Fiesta Bowl was on the line for the Pokes while the Sooners had a shot at a BCS bowl and 10-win season in their sights (not to mention ruining the Cowboys' season). Bob Stoops had to turn to his backup quarterbacks at halftime, so he leaned on his defense all game. Holding Okie State in check most of the game, the Sooners finally lost the lead when Oklahoma State went up 24-20 with 2:30 to go. Mike Gundy had to give the ball back to the Crimson and Cream with less than two minutes to play. Blake Bell contructed a drive to remember when he moved the Sooners down the field for the game-winning touchdown with 19 seconds to play. Stoops moved to 8-1 all-time against Gundy as he dashed OSU’s Big 12 title hopes on the final drive of the season.


8. Georgia 44, LSU 41 (Sept. 28)

McCarron-Manziel might have been the best SEC QB duel this fall but Zach Mettenberger and Aaron Murray put on a show in Athens late in September. The duo combined for 670 yards and seven touchdowns in the see-saw affair. No team ever held a lead of more than seven points, no team scored twice in a row after the 8:16 mark of the second quarter and both teams scored at least 10 points in every quarter except LSU in the second. It was probably the best game of Mettenberger’s career and his team came up just short between the hedges in dramatic fashion when Murray led the Bulldogs on a long 75-yard scoring drive with less than three minutes to play.


9. Michigan State 34, Ohio State 24 (Dec. 7)

With the Big Ten Championship and a Rose Bowl berth on the line for the Spartans and a BCS National Championship berth hanging in the balance for Ohio State, these two locked horns in Lucas Oil Stadium in the Big Ten title game. The Spartans jumped out to a quick 17-0 lead only to watch the Buckeyes come storming back with 24 unanswered points to take the lead late in the third quarter. But Sparty responded in a big way, scoring the game’s final 17 points to snap Ohio State’s 24-game winning streak, knock OSU out of the BCS title game and earn a trip to the Rose Bowl for the first time since 1987. It was probably the best-played conference championship game of the season.

10. UCF 38, Louisville 35 (Oct. 18)
It was biggest and most dramatic game of the inaugural season in the American Athletic Conference. Louisville led 28-7 midway through the third quarter when the Knights' offense came to life with three touchdowns in the final five minutes of the frame. In the fourth quarter, UCF took their first lead of the game with just under eight minutes to play. Louisville bounced back with what appeared to be a game-winning 15-yard touchdown run from Dominique Brown. However, Blake Bortles tossed a two-yard touchdown pass to Jeff Godfrey with just 23 seconds remaining. The win eventually led to a conference championship and BCS bowl berth for UCF.


11. South Carolina 27, Missouri 24 (2OT, Oct. 26)
The first three quarters were rather tame as Missouri commanded the score board and the line of scrimmage 17-0 when the fourth quarter began. But then Connor Shaw did his best Willis Reed impersonation, limping around Faurot Field to give South Carolina one of the most historic and improbable wins in SEC history. Shaw led the Cocks to 17 unanswered points, including a game-tying TD with 42 seconds left and a 4th-and-15 game-tying TD pass in overtime. When Missouri missed a short field goal in double-overtime, Carolina stormed the field and Shaw supplanted his legacy in Gamecocks lore.


12. Oregon 36, Oregon State 35 (Nov. 29)

From a pure enjoyment standpoint, few games in the nation can match the drama of the Beavers-Ducks Civil War rivalry. The 117th edition of the in-state rivalry featured a huge performance from Biletnikoff winner Brandin Cooks for Oregon State and an even better one from Marcus Mariota. The Ducks jumped out to a quick lead, owning the first quarter while Oregon State stormed back to tie it at 17 at halftime. It all set up an incredible fourth quarter that saw four lead-changing touchdowns — and four failed two-point conversions — over the final 11 minutes of play. The game ended when Mariota connected with Josh Huff from 12 yards out and just 29 seconds left on the clock. It will be one of the most memorable Civil War battles of all-time. It had history, tradition, excitement, drama and, unfortunately, two teams with a combined seven losses.


13. Texas A&M 41, Ole Miss 38 (Oct. 12)
Johnny Manziel forced some throws and made a bad decision or two, but Johnny Football bailed him out. He threw for 346 yards and rushed for 124 and provided three critical, late drives to keep his Aggies alive in Oxford. These two teams combined for 41 fourth-quarter points and Manziel overcame what appeared to be a bad knee injury to lead Texas A&M to the game-winning field goal with no time remaining on the clock.


14. Clemson 38, Georgia 35 (Aug. 31)

It was hyped all summer long and the two top 10 teams delivered in a big way. Tajh Boyd and Aaron Murray teamed with Sammy Watkins and Todd Gurley to give fans in rabid Death Valley big play after big play. This anticipated non-conference season-opener was either tied or within one score for all but six minutes and ended with Tigers fans chanting “A-C-C” deep into the night in South Carolina.


15. Stanford 31, Washington 28 (Oct. 5)

Only three teams managed to top 400 yards of offense against Stanford and Washington was the best of the group, totaling 28 points and 489 yards. But timely stops, a few interesting calls by the refs and an all-time performance by the Cardinal's all-purpose dynamo gave Stanford the narrow three-point win. Ty Montgomery totaled 290 all-purpose yards and two long touchdowns to earn the game's MVP. From the 1:03 mark in the second quarter, these two traded touchdowns seven different times, alternating scores for more than 30 minutes of football. It was physical, dramatic and season-defining for two teams who were unbeaten at the time.


16. Georgia 41, South Carolina 30 (Sept. 7)

A week after losing to Clemson (more on that in a second), the Dawgs returned home to open their 2013 home campaign against SEC East rival South Carolina. Aaron Murray was brilliant and running back Todd Gurley was unstoppable for most of the day. Murray made the play of the day in the critical win with an 85-yard touchdown pass on a third-and-long early in the fourth quarter. His defense did the rest and Georgia threw the season’s first big SEC punch in a game that saw momentum swing back and forth all afternoon.

 

17. Ohio State 40, Northwestern 30 (Oct. 5)
The peak of the Wildcats' season came when they were 4-0 and ranked No. 16 in the nation — and unbeaten Ohio State was coming to town. Northwestern held a lead for most of the first and second quarters and all of the third quarter. But the Buckeyes never went away and the two traded touchdowns in dramatic fashion in the final period. Carlos Hyde’s breakout performance featured 26 carries, 168 yards and three touchdowns in the final 19 minutes of play. The Buckeyes survived what many pointed to in the preseason as the pivotal upset alert of the season. Ohio State would stay unbeaten until the conference championship game while Northwestern wouldn’t win another game until its finale.


18. Georgia 41, Georgia Tech 34 (2OT, Nov. 30)

The Dawgs, playing without Aaron Murray for the first time since 2009, trailed 20-0 to begin the game. But slowly new quarterback Hutson Mason settled in and led the offense to 10 unanswered points to send the game into overtime. Vad Lee set a career high in passing yards but it wasn't enough to overcome a late-game performance from Todd Gurley — who scored three touchdowns in the fourth quarter and overtime to win one of the best-named rivalry games in the nation. 


19. USC 20, Stanford 17 (Nov. 16)

Coming off a huge win over Oregon, Stanford was in a clear letdown alert situation against a surging USC team late in the year. With the leadership of interim head coach Ed Orgeron and a depth chart featuring less than 50 scholarship players, the Trojans kicked a 47-yard field goal with 19 seconds left to win a physical and historic battle. The loss knocked No. 4 Stanford out of the BCS title race and would have cost the Cardinal a Pac-12 title had Oregon not laid an egg the following week in Arizona. USC held Stanford to a season-low 17 points and its second-lowest yardage total of the year (337 yards).


20. Nebraska 27, Northwestern 24 (Nov. 2)

It may not have been the best or most important game of the Big Ten season but it certainly had the most exciting finish. The Ron Kellogg III to Jordan Westerkamp Hail Mary will go down in Big Ten lore as one of the most famous plays in conference history. The Wildcats jumped out to a 21-7 lead halfway through the third quarter but the Huskers came storming back to tie the game entering the fourth quarter. With 1:20 to go, the Cats took a lead on a field goal and then stopped Nebraska at midfield with one play to go. Bo Pelini’s prayers were answered when Westerkamp snatched the tipped heave out of the air to score his first career touchdown — and keep Nebraska’s Big Ten title hopes alive for one more week.


21. Oklahoma State 33, Kansas State 29 (Oct. 5)

The Cowboys' offense struggled for much of the game but Oklahoma State carried a three-point lead into halftime at home against KSU. The Wildcats retook the lead early in the third quarter before two OSU field goals gave the Pokes a 23-21 advantage heading into the fourth. With 6:09 left, however, Daniel Sams announced himself to the Big 12 when he scored his third touchdown of the game to give the Wildcats the lead. But when needed, J.W. Walsh delivered by leading two scoring drives in the final five minutes of play, including the game-winning TD pass to Charlie Moore with 4:13 left.


22. Arizona State 38, UCLA 33 (Nov. 23)

Late in the year with the Pac-12 South championship hanging in the balance, the Sun Devils won a wild affair on the road in Los Angeles to clinch the division. Taylor Kelly led the Sun Devils to a huge 35-point first half, taking a 35-13 halftime advantage. But the Bruins defense held ASU to three points in the second half, allowing the Bruins to get back into the contest. With 11:25 minutes to go in the game, Brett Hundley got UCLA back to within five points. From there, it was a defensive struggle for both teams. The Bruins had two long possessions with a chance to win in the final quarter but Todd Graham's defensive line kept the Bruins off the scoreboard.


23. Utah 27, Stanford 21 (Oct. 12)

The Utes didn't win many Pac-12 games this year (two), but they played in a lot of close and exciting games. The signature performance of the season for Utah — and possibly the Pac-12 — came when Utah held Stanford out of the end zone on a final minute goal-line stand that likely knocked the Cardinal out of the national championship game. Kevin Hogan drove Stanford to the Utah six-yard line and failed on two plays to score, giving Utah its first win over a top-five team in program history when his fourth-down pass sailed just out of Devon Cajuste's reach with 47 seconds left. Rice-Eccles rejoiced while the loss will likely haunt Cardinal fans for years to come.


24. Ole Miss 39, Vanderbilt 35 (Aug. 29)

On the season’s opening night, the Rebs and Dores delivered on a national stage in dramatic fashion. Ole Miss won the first quarter 10-0 while Vandy took the second 21-0. The frantic back-and-forth game ended when Jeff Scott rumbled 75 yards for the eventual game-winning touchdown with 1:07 to play. The lead changed hands three times over the final nine minutes in one of the best games of the season.

25. Fresno State 41, Boise State 40 (Sept. 20)

It was supposed to be the first of two meetings between what was supposed to be the best two teams in the Mountain West. But even though Boise State went on to lose three more games and finished behind Utah State in the Mountain Division, this early season bout lived up to the hype. After the Broncos scored three straight touchdowns to take the lead late in the fourth, Derek Carr led a game-winning drive to retake the lead with two minutes to play. Carr finished with 460 yards and four touchdowns in the thrilling win over Boise. 

Best of the Rest:


Ohio State 31, Wisconsin 24 (Sept. 28)

A game between the top two rushing teams in the Big Ten doesn’t normally feature quarterback play but that is what happened when these two rivals met early in the season. Braxton Miller returned after missing two games to throw a career-high four touchdown passes while Wisconsin’s Joel Stave threw for a career-high 295 yards (since broken) to keep his team in contention. Both running games were held in check as both teams posted season lows in rushing yards. In the end, Ohio State was too much and the Buckeyes outlasted the Badgers in the most critical Leaders Division game of the season.

 

Missouri 28, Texas A&M 21 (Nov. 30)
It was a non-descript but critical regular-season finale and Henry Josey rushed into Mizzou history in dramatic fashion. Josey, a fan favorite in Columbia, broke free for a game-winning 57-yard TD run with three minutes to play to send the Tigers to Atlanta as SEC East champs.


Ole Miss 27, LSU 24 (Oct. 19)

The first half wasn’t pretty for LSU as Ole Miss led 10-0 at the break. But an exciting second half eventually led to a tie game when LSU scored 10 straight points to start the fourth quarter. But Bo Wallace led his team into field-goal range and Andrew Ritter drilled a 41-yarder with two seconds left to pull off one of the biggest upsets in Vaught-Hemmingway Stadium history.


Missouri 41, Georgia 26 (Oct. 12)
The final score isn’t nearly as indicative as to how entertaining and important this game was in the SEC. James Franklin got hurt late in the action but backup Maty Mauk and some unique play-calling gave Mizzou one of its biggest wins in program history. The Tigers led big most of the way but UGA stormed back and nearly took the lead in the final period before a critical fumble ended the comeback. This win set Gary Pinkel’s bunch up on their magical run to Atlanta.


Duke 27, North Carolina 25 (Nov. 30)

With an outright Coastal Division championship on the line, Duke battled its arch in-state rival to the bitter end of the regular season. The red-hot Tar Heels had won five straight games and gave Duke all they could handle, going back-and-forth with the Devils and eventually taking a late fourth-quarter lead. But like it had all season, Duke found a way to win when Ross Martin hit a 27-yard field goal with 2:22 left to play. The win gave David Cutcliffe an outright division championship and Duke its first 10-win season in school history.


Georgia 34, Tennessee 31 (OT, Sept. 5)

The battered and bruised Bulldogs escaped Knoxville in dramatic overtime fashion when Aaron Murray scored the game-tying TD with five seconds left. Then, in overtime, the Vols' heart-break continued when Pig Howard appeared to score the game-winning TD but instead fumbled the ball out of the end zone just inches before crossing the goal line.

 

Baylor 30, Texas 10 (Dec. 7)
There was no better way for Baylor to end the season. The Bedlam Game upset earlier in the day turned this season finale into an outright Big 12 championship game for both teams. Texas played well for the first 30 minutes, taking a 3-3 tie into the break. But Baylor did what Baylor had done all season long by making halftime adjustments and scoring quickly to start the second half. A 17-point third quarter put the game out of reach and gave Art Briles and the Bears fans a championship to celebrate. Floyd Casey Stadium was closed for the final time with the program’s first Big 12 title and first BCS bowl bid secured.


Baylor 35, Kansas State 25 (Oct. 12)

The Bears couldn’t run the ball like they were accustomed to in Manhattan, but Bryce Petty delivered a critical fourth-quarter performance that eventually helped Baylor win the Big 12. In the closest win of the season, Petty and the Bears entered the final frame trailing by four. As KSU geared up to stop the run, Petty made them pay with two long touchdown passes — 54 and 21 yards — in the final quarter to give Baylor a win in what was one of only three tough games it played all season.


Penn State 43, Michigan 40 (4OT, Oct. 12)

The Legend of Christian Hackenberg, should he continue on his meteoric career path, began with this four-overtime thriller in Happy Valley. He led his team down the field with two long improbable completions in the final 30 seconds to tie the game at 34 at the end of regulation. In four overtime periods, both teams had multiple chances to win but couldn’t capitalize on numerous field goal tries. Eventually, Bill Belton scored on a two-yard touchdown run to end the longest game in Penn State history with a win over then-No. 18 Michigan.

Alabama 38, LSU 17 (Nov. 9)

Alabama and LSU is always one of the most anticipated and physical games of the season regardless of conference affiliation. The Tigers fought hard and were tied at 17 late in the third quarter. However, the Crimson Tide proved its mettle by pounding the rock to 21 unanswered points over the final 20 minutes to stake a claim atop the SEC West (well, for the time being).

 

Teaser:
College Football: The Top 25 Games of 2013
Post date: Monday, December 23, 2013 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/betting-against-spread-college-football-bowls-picks-part-1
Body:

Like it or not, Las Vegas rarely gets it wrong, so tracking betting lines should always be a big part of each football weekend — even if there are no bets on the line. I finished the regular season 43-34-1 and that is where — if it were up to me — I would end my college football betting. Because betting on bowl games is a fool's errand. Motivation, focus, talent differentials all play huge roles in determining the outcome and, most of the time, this cannot be pinpointed for "exhibition" games. So my advice is stay away from every game not named the "BCS National Championship Game." But if you must, here are my top picks for games happening before the New Year (I will have the BCS bowls and other games taking place in 2014 coming soon).

2013 Record Against the Spread: 43-34-1 (4-2 last week)

Bowl Picks, Part 1:

Fresno State (+6.5) vs. USC
The Bulldogs normally get up for bowl opponents from big conferences as they have won four straight postseason games against “BCS” conference teams. USC has lost four straight bowl games and are on their second interim head coach of the season. Even if Fresno loses, it’s hard to see a team with Derek Carr throwing passes getting blown out. I will take the points. Prediction: Fresno State +6.5

Ole Miss (-3.5) vs. Georgia Tech
Generally speaking, teams with plenty of time to prepare for the triple option fair well against Paul Johnson. The Tech head coach is 3-7 in bowl games overall and Ole Miss is simply a significantly better team on both sides of the ball. Look for a large contingent of Rebel fans in Nashville and for Ole Miss to build momentum for what could be a big 2014 season. Prediction: Ole Miss -3.5

Rutgers (+14.5) vs. Notre Dame
Rutgers is just bad. How is that for analysis? The Knights have won two of their last seven games and those wins came against South Florida and Temple — a combined 4-20 on the season. Notre Dame is significantly better on both sides of the ball and especially on defense, where Rutgers will struggle to find much space. Look for the Irish to roll big in this one with eyes on a potentially exciting 2014 campaign. Prediction: Notre Dame -14.5

BYU (+3) vs. Washington
Washington has lost its head coach and has a lot of players eyeing a jump to the NFL — Bishop Sankey, Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Keith Price. BYU has a steely-eyed coach in Bronco Mendenhall and a dynamic quarterback in Taysom Hill. Look for the long preparation time to help the established coaching staff more than the inexperienced interim staff. Chris Peteresen isn’t on campus just yet, Huskies fans. Prediction: BYU +3

Miami (-3.5) vs. Louisville
Fans in Louisville have seen what a motivated Cardinals team can do in a bowl game when they trounced a superior Florida team in the Sugar Bowl last season. Yes, the game is being played in Orlando but a good chunk of the Louisville roster calls Florida home, including their star quarterback. Look for the Hurricanes — without Duke Johnson — to be looking ahead to next season while Teddy Bridgewater will have his squad focused in what should be his final college football game. Prediction: Louisville -3.5

Bowl Picks Against the Spread, Part 1:

Top 25 GamesMitch LightBraden GallSteven LassanDavid Fox
Washington St (-5) vs. Colorado St
Fresno St (+6.5) vs. USC

Buffalo (+2) vs. San Diego St

Tulane (-2.5) vs. UL Lafayette
East Carolina (-13.5) vs. Ohio
Boise St (+3) vs. Oregon St
Pitt (+5) vs. Bowling Green
Marshall (-2.5) vs. Maryland
Syracuse (+5) vs. Minnesota
BYU (+3) vs. Washington
Rutgers (+14.5) vs. Notre Dame
Cincinnati (+3) vs. North Carolina
N. Illinois (-1.5) Utah St
Miami (+3.5) vs. Louisville
Michigan (+3.5) vs. Kansas St
MTSU (+6) vs. Navy
Ole Miss (-3) vs. Georgia Tech
Oregon (-13.5) vs. Texas
Arizona St (-14) vs. Texas Tech
Arizona (-7.5) vs. Boston College
Virginia Tech (+7.5) vs. UCLA
Rice (+7) vs. Mississippi St
Duke (+12) vs. Texas A&M
Last Week:4-55-45-43-6
Year-To-Date:112-118-4115-115-4114-116-4119-111-4

 

Teaser:
Betting Against the Spread: College Football Bowls Picks, Part 1
Post date: Friday, December 20, 2013 - 10:15
Path: /college-football/10-best-big-12-games-2013
Body:

The 2013 college football regular season had distinct and unique character. The No. 2 team in the nation didn’t lose every weekend like in 2007. And one player didn’t captivate the nation like Cam Newton in 2010 or Johnny Manziel last fall.

Every major conference race — and some of the smaller ones as well — came down to the final weekend, and, in some cases, the final moments of the final game. It was a season to remember for college football fans. Four teams battled until the final whistle in the Big 12 to determine who would be heading to Tempe but there was a long and exciting list of great finishes in the Big 12.

So that is what Athlon Sports is going to do. For some, this will be a stroll down memory lane while others may develop reoccurring nightmares. Here are the Big 12’s most entertaining and pivotal games of the 2013 season.

1. Oklahoma 33, Oklahoma State 24 (Dec. 7)
One of the most heated rivalries in all of college football had some extra juice in 2013. The Big 12 title and a trip to the Fiesta Bowl was on the line for the Pokes while the Sooners had a shot at a BCS bowl and 10-win season in their sights (not to mention ruining the Cowboys' season). Bob Stoops had to turn to his backup quarterbacks at halftime, so he leaned on his defense all game. Holding Okie State in check most of the game, the Sooners finally lost the lead when Oklahoma State went up 24-20 with 2:30 to go. Mike Gundy had to give the ball back to the Crimson and Cream with less than two minutes to play. Blake Bell contructed a drive to remember when he moved the Sooners down the field for the game-winning touchdown with 19 seconds to play. Stoops moved to 8-1 all-time against Gundy as he dashed OSU’s Big 12 title hopes on the final drive of the season.

2. Oklahoma State 33, Kansas State 29 (Oct. 5)
The Cowboys' offense struggled for much of the game but Oklahoma State carried a three-point lead into halftime at home against KSU. The Wildcats retook the lead early in the third quarter before two OSU field goals gave the Pokes a 23-21 advantage heading into the fourth. With 6:09 left, however, Daniel Sams announced himself to the Big 12 when he scored his third touchdown of the game to give the Wildcats the lead. But when needed, J.W. Walsh delivered by leading two scoring drives in the final five minutes of play, including the game-winning TD pass to Charlie Moore with 4:13 left.

3. Baylor 30, Texas 10 (Dec. 7)
There was no better way for Baylor to end the season. The Bedlam Game upset earlier in the day turned this season finale into an outright Big 12 championship game for both teams. Texas played well for the first 30 minutes, taking a 3-3 tie into the break. But Baylor did what Baylor had done all season long by making halftime adjustments and scoring quickly to start the second half. A 17-point third quarter put the game out of reach and gave Art Briles and the Bears fans a championship to celebrate. Floyd Casey Stadium was closed for the final time with the program’s first Big 12 title and first BCS bowl bid secured.

4. Baylor 35, Kansas State 25 (Oct. 12)
The Bears couldn’t run the ball like they were accustomed to in Manhattan, but Bryce Petty delivered a critical fourth-quarter performance that eventually helped Baylor win the Big 12. In the closest win of the season, Petty and the Bears entered the final frame trailing by four. As KSU geared up to stop the run, Petty made them pay with two long touchdown passes — 54 and 21 yards — in the final quarter to give Baylor a win in what was one of only three tough games it played all season.

5. West Virginia 30, Oklahoma State 21 (Sept. 28)
Neither team could run the ball, they combined for five turnovers and a variety of miscues highlighted a sloppy early season affair in Morgantown. Hometown hero Clint Trickett got his first career start for WVU, throwing for 309 yards and a touchdown in the huge upset over Big 12 frontrunner Okie State. The Cowboys were within three for most of the third and fourth quarters and had multiple opportunities to tie or take the lead. Yet, the Mountaineers persevered and nailed two field goals in the final period to win by nine.

6. Texas 47, West Virginia 40 in OT (Nov. 9)
This was an epic back-and-forth affair that featured a resilient Texas team and a motivated Mountaineers squad. The Longhorns played from behind for most of the game, and as soon as they took a lead, WVU would come right back down the field to retake the lead. The lead changed hands three times in the fourth quarter and Texas needed a 24-yard field goal with 13 seconds left to send it to overtime. From there, Case McCoy tossed a touchdown pass, and Texas linebacker Steve Edmond snagged a Paul Millard pass on fourth down in the endzone to seal the improbable and thrilling comeback. The win moved Texas to 6-0 in the Big 12 at the time.

7. Oklahoma 38, Texas Tech 30 (Oct. 26)
Oklahoma limped home after getting whipped by Texas and sleep-walking through Kansas while Texas Tech surged into Norman with a 7-0 record. And until the final minute of the third quarter, it looked like Texas Tech was going to leave with an unblemished record. However, the running game and Blake Bell matched the high-powered offense of the Red Raiders in the final frame. Over the last 15:33, Oklahoma would score 17 points to give Kliff Kingsbury his first loss as a head coach. The three Tech turnovers would prove to be costly as the Red Raiders didn’t win a game the rest of the season.

8. Texas 36, Oklahoma 20 (Oct. 12)
The biggest game of the season every year featured one of the most unlikely outcomes of the season. Oklahoma entered play a heavy favorite over archrival Texas in the Cotton Bowl. But the Horns rallied around embattled coach Mack Brown to pounce on the Sooners early and often. Texas went up 20-3 late in the second quarter and never looked back. The win propelled Texas to a 6-0 start in the Big 12 and a near Big 12 title. It wasn't as close or dramatic as the rest of the best Big 12 games, but it holds special meaning as the final meeting between Bob Stoops and Mack Brown in Dallas.

9. Oklahoma State 49, Baylor 17 (Nov. 23)
With the Big 12 title hanging in the balance and an unbeaten Baylor team coming to town, Oklahoma State played its best game of the season when it jumped all over the Bears in Stillwater. Clint Chelf was red hot out of the gate and finished with 370 yards and three touchdowns as his offense had no issues carving up the Bears' respected defense. The win was one of the most important in the Big 12 season and gave Oklahoma State control of its own destiny in the conference race with only The Bedlam Game left on the schedule.

10. Texas 31, Iowa State 30 (Oct. 3)
An early season Thursday night trip to Ames gave fans a bizarre and wild shootout. Every time Iowa State scored to take the lead, the Longhorns would answer, be it a final play touchdown pass at the end of the first half or a long touchdown drive at the end of the third quarter. The Cyclones came back once again, turning two Texas fumbles into 10 points to start the final period. But Texas had an answer. With the help of some questionable officiating, the Burnt Orange took the lead with 51 seconds to play to win. Paul Rhoads voiced his displeasure after the game.

Just missed the cut

11. Baylor 41, TCU 38 (Nov. 30)
Coaching animosity, defensive TDs and lots of scoring made this one to remember.

12. Baylor 41, Oklahoma 12 (Nov. 7)
The Bears announced their national title presence with this primetime Thursday night beatdown.

13. Oklahoma 20, TCU 17 (Oct. 5)
Oklahoma was able to run the ball when needed late in this physical battle in Norman.

14. Oklahoma State 38, Texas 13 (Nov. 16)
The Pokes went into Austin and dominated for the third straight time.

15. Oklahoma 35, Notre Dame 21 (Sept. 28)
A signature win for a signature program with 10 wins and a BCS bowl bid.

Best of the rest:

16. Oklahoma 41, Kansas State 31 (Nov. 23)

17. Baylor 63, Texas Tech 34 (Nov. 16)
18. Texas 31, Kansas State 21 (Sept. 21)
19. Iowa State 52, West Virginia 44 (OT, Nov. 30)
20. West Virginia 30, TCU 27 (OT, Nov. 2)
21. Kansas State 33, TCU 31 (Nov. 16)
22. Oklahoma 16, West Virginia 7 (Sept. 7)
23. Oklahoma State 21, Mississippi State 3
24. North Dakota State 24, Kansas State 21 (Aug. 30)
25. Kansas 31, West Virginia 19 (Nov. 16)

Teaser:
10 Best Big 12 Games of 2013
Post date: Friday, December 20, 2013 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/10-best-acc-games-2013
Body:

The 2013 college football regular season had distinct and unique character. The No. 2 team in the nation didn’t lose every weekend like in 2007. And one player didn’t captivate the nation like Cam Newton in 2010 or Johnny Manziel last fall.

Every major conference race — and some of the smaller ones as well — came down to the final weekend, and, in some cases, the final moments of the final game. It was a season to remember for college football fans. Especially, for those in Durham or Tallahassee.

So that is what Athlon Sports is going to do. For some, this will be a stroll down memory lane while others may develop reoccurring nightmares. Here are the ACC’s most entertaining and pivotal games of the 2013 season.

1. Clemson 38, Georgia 35 (Aug. 31)
It was hyped all summer long and the two top 10 teams delivered in a big way. Tajh Boyd and Aaron Murray teamed with Sammy Watkins and Todd Gurley to give fans in rabid Death Valley big play after big play. This anticipated non-conference season-opener was either tied or within one score for all but six minutes and ended with Tigers fans chanting “A-C-C” deep into the night in South Carolina.

2. Duke 27, North Carolina 25 (Nov. 30)
With an outright Coastal Division championship on the line, Duke battled its arch in-state rival to the bitter end of the regular season. The red-hot Tar Heels had won five straight games and gave Duke all they could handle, going back-and-forth with the Devils and eventually taking a late fourth-quarter lead. But like it had all season, Duke found a way to win when Ross Martin hit a 27-yard field goal with 2:22 left to play. The win gave David Cutcliffe an outright division championship and Duke its first 10-win season in school history.

3. Georgia 41, Georgia Tech 34 (2OT, Nov. 30)
The Dawgs, playing without Aaron Murray for the first time since 2009, trailed 20-0 to begin the game. But slowly new quarterback Hutson Mason settled in and led the offense to 10 unanswered points to send the game into overtime. Vad Lee set a career high in passing yards but it wasn't enough to overcome a late-game performance from Todd Gurley — who scored three touchdowns in the fourth quarter and overtime to win one of the best-named rivalry games in the nation. 

4. Florida State 51, Clemson 14 (Oct. 19)
The most high-profile conference game in the ACC turned out to be quite a dud. But the performance by Jameis Winston in Death Valley won’t be soon forgotten. The 2013 Heisman Trophy winner completed 22-of-34 passes for 444 yards and three touchdowns in the impressive statement victory. The win set the Seminoles soaring towards the national championship and put Winston directly into the heart of the Heisman race.

5. Miami 21, Florida 16 (Sept. 7)
At the time it took place, few games meant more to the ACC’s bruised reputation than Miami’s physical win over then-No. 12 Florida. The Sunshine State conversation had been dominated by the SEC for years until the Canes broke through early in the season with a win in a game that had been talked about all summer. Miami’s defense made big plays all game long, indicating development and growth from the year before.

6. Miami 27, North Carolina 23 (Oct. 17)
On a Thursday night on the road, unbeaten Miami won a dramatic and thrilling divisional tilt that vaulted the Canes well into the AP poll's top 10. Trailing 23-13 and without Duke Johnson, Miami turned to Dallas Crawford and the power running game to score two touchdowns in the final 12 minutes, including the game-winner with 16 seconds left. Tar Heels tight end Eric Ebron had a historic night catching eight passes for 199 yards and a touchdown. It wasn’t enough, however, as Miami moved to 6-0 for the first time in a decade.

7. Florida State 48, Boston College 34 (Sept. 28)
Boston College did something that Clemson, Duke, Florida State or Maryland didn’t even come close to doing. The Eagles kept the game with Noles close for much of the contest. In fact, Florida State needed a Hail Mary at the end of the half to take its first lead. Eventually, the Seminoles wore down BC and took a 48-27 lead midway through the fourth on a P.J. Williams interception return for a touchdown. No other team scored more than 17 on FSU and the 14-point margin was by far the smallest for Jimbo Fisher’s bunch.

8. Duke 13, Virginia Tech 10 (Oct. 26)
It was an ugly affair wrought with turnovers and inefficiency. Duke was outgained 387 to 198, didn’t convert on any of its 11 third-down chances, didn’t complete a pass in the second half and lost the possession battle by 19 minutes (39:27 to 20:33). But the opportunistic defense forced four turnovers, including a late, game-clinching play, and broke through against a ranked team on the road for the first time in 42 years. The win catapulted Duke into the ACC title talk and it happened in typically dramatic fashion.

9. Duke 48, Miami 30 (Nov. 16)
Two teams battling for Coastal Division supremacy went toe-to-toe for the first 50 minutes or so in what was an electric shootout. Miami held the lead with three minutes left in the third quarter when Duke went on a dramatic 20-point run. A 33-yard Shaquille Powell run with 6:50 to go in the game ended the see-saw affair and gave Duke control of its own destiny in the divisional race.

10. Miami 24, Wake Forest 21 (Oct. 26)
The Demon Deacons came into play against the unbeaten Canes a heavy underdog and played arguably the best game of their season in defeat. An evenly played and tough first half gave way to a back-and-forth affair that saw momentum swing three separate times in the final five minutes. Duke Johnson twice scored go-ahead touchdowns in the final few minutes with the last one coming with just 53 seconds left. It sealed the Miami win and kept the Hurricanes unblemished on the season.

Just missed the cut:

11. Georgia Tech 28, North Carolina 20 (Sept. 21)
An early-season tilt featured a big Tech comeback in the rain in Atlanta.

12. Maryland 27, Virginia Tech 24 (OT, Nov. 16)
C.J. Brown led his team to victory with 122 yards rushing and the game-winning touchdown in overtime.

13. Florida State 37, Florida 7 (Nov. 30)
The Noles capped the season with a celebratory whipping of its SEC counterpart.

14. Florida State 45, Duke 7 (Dec. 7)
Hugely important but largely uneventful after a pesky first quarter.

15. Virginia Tech 29, Marshall 21 (3OT, Sept. 21)
A thriller Tech was lucky to win featured three OTs and plenty of big plays.

Best of the Rest:

16. Pitt 58, Duke 55 (Sept. 21)
17. Syracuse 34, Boston College 31 (Nov. 30)
18. Clemson 24, Boston College 14 (Oct. 12)
19. Boston College 34, Virginia Tech 27 (Nov. 2)
20. Duke 28, Wake Forest 21 (Nov. 23)
21. Virginia Tech 17, Georgia Tech 10 (Sept. 26)
22. Boston College 29, Maryland 26 (Nov. 23)
23. Florida State 41, Miami 14 (Nov. 2)
24. Virginia Tech 27, North Carolina 17 (Oct. 5)
25. Clemson 40, Maryland 27 (Oct. 26)

Teaser:
10 Best ACC Games of 2013
Post date: Thursday, December 19, 2013 - 07:15
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/college-football-12-bowl-stats-you-need-know
Body:

Numbers and statistics are unquestionably a huge part of the game. Some like to keep it simple and use the ol' eyeball test, while others fall on the sabermetric side of things. In the football world, that means total offense, total defense and points scored versus points per play and defensive efficiency ratings. Rational and logical arguments can be made for the legitimacy and relevance of both sides of the stats spectrum.

With that in mind, Athlon Sports brings you the most intriguing, important, historic and bizarre bowl stats so that fans are fully prepared for the 2013 college football postseason:

34: Fewest touchdowns scored by any bowl team
That dubious honor belongs to the embattled Virginia Tech Hokies. Running backs Trey Edmunds (12), Joel Caleb (1) and Chris Mangus (1) scored 14 times. Wide receivers D.J. Coles (6), Demitri Knowles (3), Willie Byrn (2) and Joshua Stanford (1) combined to score 12 times. Tight end Kalvin Cline scored twice and quarterback Logan Thomas rushed for four touchdowns. And the Hokies scored two defensive touchdowns thanks to Derek DiNardo and Detrick Bonner. The Hokies were 96th nationally in scoring offense at 23.4 points per game.

Jan. 1, 1963: First time No. 1 and No. 2 played on New Year’s Day
The first time the No. 1 team in the nation played the No. 2 team in the nation on New Year’s Day was back in 1963 (ending the 1962 season). Top-ranked USC beat second-ranked Wisconsin 42-37 in the Rose Bowl, giving the Trojans the ’62 national championship. The Badgers finished 8-2 while the Men of Troy finished 11-0.

9: Bowl-eligible teams that didn’t get a berth
Western Kentucky (8-4), Toledo (7-5), Florida Atlantic (6-6), Central Michigan (6-6), San Jose State (6-6), South Alabama (6-6), Texas State (6-6), Troy (6-6), and Louisiana-Monroe (6-6) are the nine bowl-eligible teams that did not get a postseason invitation. The Hilltoppers have a particular gripe having the Sun Belt Player of the Year (Antonio Andrews), Offensive POY (Andrews) and Defensive POY (Xavius Boyd). Additionally, Penn State, Old Dominion and UTSA won enough games to be eligible but were not allowed to go to a bowl for various reasons.

4: Teams Tommy Tuberville has taken to a bowl game
Tuberville got his first head coaching job in 1995 with the Ole Miss Rebels. It took him three seasons but he got the Rebels to the postseason in 1997 with a trip to the Motor City Bowl. He’s been leading his team to bowls ever since. He led Ole Miss to two bowls in four seasons before leading Auburn to eight bowls in 10 seasons and then Texas Tech to two bowls in three years. And in his first season in Cincinnati, Tuberville led the Bearcats to the Belk Bowl against North Carolina. That’s four different “BCS conference” teams that he has led to the postseason.

331.2: Combined rushing yards per game for Ka’Deem Carey and Andre Williams
The AdvoCare 100 Bowl in Shreveport, La., will feature the top two rushers in the nation. Boston College’s Andre Williams led the country with 175.2 yards per game while Arizona’s Ka’Deem Carey finished with 156.0 yards per game. The duo combined for 3,818 yards rushing and 34 rushing touchdowns — 17 each. The Eagles were 50th nationally with 152.1 rushing yards allowed per game and the Wildcats were 71st at 169.8 yards per game, so there should be plenty of fireworks in the bayou.

0: Times Duke and Texas A&M have ever played
Throw out the records when the Chick-Fil-A, err, Peach Bowl kicks off this winter. That’s because Texas A&M and Duke have never faced each other. But Johnny Manziel getting to face the veteran and stingy Blue Devils defense should be fun to watch. The Aggies boast the worst defense (106th) of any of the 70 bowl teams. Nothing harkens back to the history and tradition of a game like the Peach Bowl like a matchup between Duke and Texas A&M.

0-5: USC and Fresno State's combined record in last five bowl games
USC hasn’t won a bowl game since the Emerald Bowl following the 2009 season. Fresno State hasn’t won a bowl game since the Humanitarian Bowl following the 2007 season. So collectively, the two teams that will match up in the Las Vegas Bowl have combined to lose five straight bowl games (Fresno State 4, USC 1). With quarterback Derek Carr facing USC's defense, there is plenty of star power to watch. And guess what? One of these teams will get to win a bowl game this year.

2000: The last time UNLV was in a bowl game
The longest bowl drought that was broken this season was from the Runnin’ Rebs of UNLV. They won the Las Vegas Bowl in 2000 under John Robinson. The other long bowl-less streaks broken this postseason come from Tulane (2002), Washington State (2003) and North Texas (2004). UNLV is playing in a bowl game outside of its home stadium for the first time since the 1984 California Bowl. 

32: Florida State’s bowl streak, the longest active one in the nation
The Seminoles kept their nation’s best bowl streak alive in style by landing in the BCS National Championship Game. It marks 32 consecutive seasons that the Noles have been playing in the postseason. Boise State (12 straight) owns the longest active bowl streak by a team not in an automatic-qualifying (AQ) conference.

1978: Woody Hayes punched a Clemson player in the Gator Bowl
There are a lot of great stats concerning the Ohio State-Clemson Orange Bowl matchup this winter. The game marks the 10th BCS bowl for the Buckeyes, the most by any team in the nation. The trip to the Orange Bowl is the first for Ohio State since 1976. But more importantly, it will be the first meeting between Ohio State and Clemson since Woody Hayes famously punched Clemson’s Charlie Bauman at the end of the 1978 Gator Bowl. Clemson won the only meeting between these two that day 17-15 and Hayes was fired the next day.

2,600: Miles between San Diego State and Buffalo
The Aztecs and Bulls will meet in Boise, Idaho, in the 16th annual Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. If one were to drive from one campus to the other, it would be a trek of roughly 2,600 miles across the country. These two will meet on the blue turf of Boise State's Bronco Stadium. This bowl has been named the Humanitarian Bowl, the Crucial.com Humanitarian Bowl, the MPC Computers Bowl, the Roady’s Humanitarian Bowl and the U Drove Humanitarian Bowl.

45-31: Score of last year’s Capital One Bowl
Georgia topped Nebraska 45-31 in last season’s Capital One Bowl. These two will rematch this season on New Year’s Day in Jacksonville in the Gator Bowl. The meeting this bowl season will be just the third all-time between the two historic programs with the only other battle coming on Dec. 20, 1969 in the Sun Bowl. Nebraska won 45-6 in El Paso.

Bonus Stat - 22: Florida's bowl streak, which comes to an end
Will Muschamp's Gators went 4-8 this fall, meaning Florida won't be playing in a bowl game for the first time since the end of the 1991 season (Sugar Bowl, lost to Notre Dame 39-28). Other notable bowl streaks that came to an end this year include West Virginia (11 in a row), TCU (8), Air Force (6), and Northwestern (5).

 

Teaser:
College Football: The 12 Bowl Stats You Need To Know
Post date: Thursday, December 19, 2013 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/top-25-sec-games-2013
Body:

The 2013 college football regular season had distinct and unique character. The No. 2 team in the nation didn’t lose every weekend like in 2007. And one player didn’t captivate the nation like Cam Newton in 2010 or Johnny Manziel last fall.

Every major conference race — and some of the smaller ones as well — came down to the final weekend, and, in some cases, the final moments of the final game. It was a season to remember for college football fans. Especially, for those in the nation’s best conference.

So that is what Athlon Sports is going to do. For some, this will be a stroll down memory lane while others may develop reoccurring nightmares. The Iron Bowl and The Prayer on the Plains stole the headlines nationally but there were a litany of other great moments to remember in the SEC this season. Here are the SEC's most entertaining and pivotal games of the 2013 season.

1. Auburn 34, Alabama 28 (Nov. 30)
What else can be said about this game that hasn’t already been written? The ending is second only to the famed 1982 Stanford-Cal “Band is out on the field” game in terms of being the most bizarre finish in NCAA history. But when it comes to the gravity, importance, passion and history of the “Kick-6,” no game may ever compare to the 2013 Iron Bowl. The SEC West title, a spot in the SEC championship game and claim to a spot in the BCS title game, as well as in-state bragging rights, were all hanging in the balance and Auburn returned a missed field goal 109 yards on the final play of the game to beat the two-time undefeated defending national champions? Nothing may ever come close to matching that type of resume.

2. Alabama 49, Texas A&M 42 (Sept. 14)
The most anticipated game of the offseason didn’t disappoint. A revenge-minded Nick Saban versus the tawdry, reigning Heisman Trophy winner in one of the best venues in the nation? The Aggies jumped out early 14-0 before Alabama answered with 35 straight points and appeared to have ended the game midway through the third quarter. That was until a big Bama fumble allowed Manziel to get his team back into the game. In the end, the Tide was too much for the Aggies' poor defense as AJ McCarron (334 yards, 4 TDs, 0 INTs) matched Manziel (464 yards, 5 TDs, 2 INTs) pass for pass and eventually the national champs held on for a narrow victory.

3. Auburn 43, Georgia 38 (Nov. 16)
In the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry, Auburn dominates Georgia for three quarters before the Dawgs come storming back in the final period. Aaron Murray leads his team to three touchdowns, including a gusty fourth-down touchdown run to take the lead with less than two minutes to play. On the next possession, Auburn could muster only five yards on six plays in a minute and a half of time. It left the Tigers with a 4th and 18 with 25 seconds left and needing a miracle to survive. Then Nick Marshall heaved a prayer into the Auburn night air that was tipped into infamy by two Georgia defenders. The ball landed gingerly into Ricardo Louis’ waiting arms and he strolled into the SEC history books with one of the most dramatic finishes in conference history.

4. Auburn 45, Texas A&M 41 (Oct. 19)
Trailing 41-38 with five minutes to go on the road against the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, Auburn turned to tailback Tre Mason to save the day. The Tigers put together a 13-play, 75-yard drive that took 3:46 off the clock and culminated in a five-yard, game-winning Mason touchdown run. Auburn ran the ball 10 times, including six Mason carries, on a drive that defines head coach Gus Malzahn’s relentless offensive system. On the ensuing possession, Dee Ford sacked Johnny Manziel twice on the final series with No. 7 Texas A&M knocking on the door of the red zone, including a fourth down play that ended the game. The national stage welcomed Auburn to the party following this performance.

5. Auburn 59, Missouri 42 (Dec. 7)
Auburn set 16 SEC Championship Game records by rolling through a highly regarded and equally effective Missouri Tigers defensive line. Tre Mason rushes 46 times for 304 yards and four touchdowns — all SEC title game records — in the win. The performance sent Mason to New York as a Heisman finalist. Malzahn becomes just the third head coach in SEC history to win a conference title in his first season in the league and it won him the Home Depot National Coach of the Year award.

6. Georgia 44, LSU 41 (Sept. 28)
McCarron-Manziel might have been the best SEC QB duel this fall but Zach Mettenberger and Aaron Murray put on a show in Athens late in September. The duo combined for 670 yards and seven touchdowns in the see-saw affair. No team ever held a lead of more than seven points, no team scored twice in a row after the 8:16 mark of the second quarter and both teams scored at least 10 points in every quarter except LSU in the second. It was probably the best game of Mettenberger’s career and his team came up just short between the hedges in dramatic fashion when Murray led the Bulldogs on a long 75-yard scoring drive with less than three minutes to play.

7. South Carolina 27, Missouri 24 (2OT, Oct. 26)
The first three quarters were rather tame as Missouri commanded the score board and the line of scrimmage 17-0 when the fourth quarter began. But then Connor Shaw did his best Willis Reed impersonation, limping around Faurot Field to give South Carolina one of the most historic and improbable wins in SEC history. Shaw led the Cocks to 17 unanswered points, including a game-tying TD with 42 seconds left and a 4th-and-15 game-tying TD pass in overtime. When Missouri missed a short field goal in double-overtime, Carolina stormed the field and Shaw supplanted his legacy in Gamecocks lore.

8. Texas A&M 41, Ole Miss 38 (Oct. 12)
Johnny Manziel forced some throws and made a bad decision or two, but Johnny Football bailed him out. He threw for 346 yards and rushed for 124 and provided three critical, late drives to keep his Aggies alive in Oxford. These two teams combined for 41 fourth-quarter points and Manziel overcame what appeared to be a bad knee injury to lead Texas A&M to the game-winning field goal with no time remaining on the clock.

9. Georgia 41, South Carolina 30 (Sept. 7)
A week after losing to Clemson (more on that in a second), the Dawgs returned home to open their 2013 home campaign against SEC East rival South Carolina. Aaron Murray was brilliant and running back Todd Gurley was unstoppable for most of the day. Murray made the play of the day in the critical win with an 85-yard touchdown pass on a third-and-long early in the fourth quarter. His defense did the rest and Georgia threw the season’s first big SEC punch in a game that saw momentum swing back and forth all afternoon.

10. Clemson 38, Georgia 35 (Aug. 31)
It was hyped all summer long and the two top 10 teams delivered in a big way. Tajh Boyd and Aaron Murray teamed with Sammy Watkins and Todd Gurley to give fans in rabid Death Valley big play after big play. This anticipated non-conference season-opener was either tied or within one score for all but six minutes and ended with Tigers fans chanting “A-C-C” deep into the night in South Carolina.

11. Ole Miss 39, Vanderbilt 35 (Aug. 29)
On the season’s opening night, the Rebs and Dores delivered on a national stage in dramatic fashion. Ole Miss won the first quarter 10-0 while Vandy took the second 21-0. The frantic back-and-forth game ended when Jeff Scott rumbled 75 yards for the eventual game-winning touchdown with 1:07 to play. The lead changed hands three times over the final nine minutes in one of the best games of the season.

12. Missouri 28, Texas A&M 21 (Nov. 30)
It was a non-descript but critical regular-season finale and Henry Josey rushed into Mizzou history in dramatic fashion. Josey, a fan favorite in Columbia, broke free for a game-winning 57-yard TD run with three minutes to play to send the Tigers to Atlanta as SEC East champs.

13. Ole Miss 27, LSU 24 (Oct. 19)
The first half wasn’t pretty for LSU as Ole Miss led 10-0 at the break. But an exciting second half eventually led to a tie game when LSU scored 10 straight points to start the fourth quarter. But Bo Wallace led his team into field-goal range and Andrew Ritter drilled a 41-yarder with two seconds left to pull off one of the biggest upsets in Vaught-Hemmingway Stadium history.

14. Missouri 41, Georgia 26 (Oct. 12)
The final score isn’t nearly as indicative as to how entertaining and important this game was in the SEC. James Franklin got hurt late in the action but backup Maty Mauk and some unique play-calling gave Mizzou one of its biggest wins in program history. The Tigers led big most of the way but UGA stormed back and nearly took the lead in the final period before a critical fumble ended the comeback. This win set Gary Pinkel’s bunch up on their magical run to Atlanta.

15. Georgia 34, Tennessee 31 (OT, Sept. 5)
The battered and bruised Bulldogs escaped Knoxville in dramatic overtime fashion when Aaron Murray scored the game-tying TD with five seconds left. Then, in overtime, the Vols' heart-break continued when Pig Howard appeared to score the game-winning TD but instead fumbled the ball out of the end zone just inches before crossing the goal line.

16. Alabama 38, LSU 17 (Nov. 9)
Alabama and LSU is always one of the most anticipated and physical games of the season regardless of conference affiliation. The Tigers fought hard and were tied at 17 late in the third quarter. However, the Crimson Tide proved its mettle by pounding the rock to 21 unanswered points over the final 20 minutes to stake a claim atop the SEC West (well, for the time being).

17. Tennessee 23, South Carolina 21 (Oct. 19)
It wasn’t pretty and it wasn’t well played but it was dramatic, important and exciting. Michael Palardy kicked a short game-winner with no time remaining to cap a physical and defensive struggle in Neyland Stadium. The win was the Vols' first over a ranked team in five years.

18. Vanderbilt 31, Georgia 27 (Oct. 19)
A historic upset for the Dores — its first over a ranked opponent in six years — was marred by bad officiating. Vanderbilt took advantage of Georgia miscues to score 17 unanswered points in the final quarter to pull off the improbable upset

19. Georgia 41, Georgia Tech 34 (2OT, Nov. 30)
The Dawgs, playing without Aaron Murray for the first time since 2009, trailed 20-0 to begin the game. But Hutson Mason settled in and stormed back to win one of the best-named rivalry games in the nation.

20. LSU 31, Arkansas 27 (Nov. 29)
The Battle for the Golden Boot wasn’t very pretty but it sure was dramatic. Without Zach Mettenberger, who got hurt in the fourth quarter, LSU rallied behind Anthony Jennings to top the winless Hogs. The 10-point final period was capped with a game-winning 49-yard TD pass to Travin Dural with 1:15 to play.

21. Mississippi State 17, Ole Miss 10 (OT, Nov. 28)
It was slow and boring but tightly played and MSU won the critical rivalry game in overtime on a Dak Prescott TD run.

22. Auburn 30, Ole Miss 22 (Oct. 5)
Both teams tried to give the game away but Auburn’s Nick Marshall made his first big statement of the year.

23. Auburn 24, Mississippi State 20 (Sept. 14)
The other game on Sept. 14 featured a Nick Marshall TD pass with less than 10 seconds to play to give the Tigers the win.

24. Vanderbilt 14, Tennessee 10 (Nov. 23)
The Dores claimed eight wins and beat their in-state rival with a last-second touchdown that also knocked the Vols out of a bowl game.

25. LSU 34, Texas A&M 10 (Nov. 23)
Les Miles proved again that he has Johnny Football figured out by shutting down the reigning Heisman winner for a second straight season.

Best of the Rest:

South Carolina 19, Florida 14 (Nov. 16)
Vanderbilt 34, Florida 17 (Nov. 9)
South Carolina 28, UCF 25 (Sept. 28)
LSU 35, Auburn 21 (Sept. 21)
Georgia 23, Florida 20 (Nov. 2)
Ole Miss 44, Texas 23 (Sept. 14)
South Carolina 31, Clemson 17 (Nov. 30)
Mississippi State 24, Arkansas 17 (OT, Nov. 23)
Alabama 35, Virginia Tech 10 (Aug. 31)
Rutgers 28, Arkansas 24 (Sept. 21)

Teaser:
The Top 25 SEC Games of 2013
Post date: Wednesday, December 18, 2013 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/10-best-pac-12-games-2013
Body:

The 2013 college football regular season had distinct and unique character. The No. 2 team in the nation didn’t lose every weekend like in 2007. And one player didn’t captivate the nation like Cam Newton in 2010 or Johnny Manziel last fall.

Every major conference race — and some of the smaller ones as well — came down to the final weekend, and, in some cases, the final moments of the final game. It was a season to remember for college football fans. There wasn't a defining singular moment in the Pac-12 that stood above the rest, but there is a long list of amazing games the fans out West were given this season.

So that is what Athlon Sports is going to do. For some, this will be a stroll down memory lane while others may develop reoccurring nightmares.  Here are the Pac-12's most entertaining and pivotal games of the 2013 season.

1. Oregon 36, Oregon State 35 (Nov. 29)
From a pure enjoyment standpoint, few games in the nation can match the drama of the Beavers-Ducks Civil War rivalry. The 117th edition of the in-state rivalry featured a huge performance from Biletnikoff winner Brandin Cooks for Oregon State and an even better one from Marcus Mariota. The Ducks jumped out to a quick lead, owning the first quarter while Oregon State stormed back to tie it at 17 at halftime. It all set up an incredible fourth quarter that saw four lead-changing touchdowns — and four failed two-point conversions — over the final 11 minutes of play. The game ended when Mariota connected with Josh Huff from 12 yards out and just 29 seconds left on the clock. It will be one of the most memorable Civil War battles of all-time. It had history, tradition, excitement, drama and, unfortunately, two teams with a combined seven losses.

2. Stanford 31, Washington 28 (Oct. 5)
Only three teams managed to top 400 yards of offense against Stanford and Washington was the best of the group, totaling 28 points and 489 yards. But timely stops, a few interesting calls by the refs and an all-time performance by the Cardinal's all-purpose dynamo gave Stanford the narrow three-point win. Ty Montgomery totaled 290 all-purpose yards and two long touchdowns to earn the game's MVP. From the 1:03 mark in the second quarter, these two traded touchdowns seven different times, alternating scores for more than 30 minutes of football. It was physical, dramatic and season-defining for two teams who were unbeaten at the time.

3. Arizona State 38, UCLA 33 (Nov. 23)
Late in the year with the Pac-12 South championship hanging in the balance, the Sun Devils won a wild affair on the road in Los Angeles to clinch the division. Taylor Kelly led the Sun Devils to a huge 35-point first half, taking a 35-13 halftime advantage. But the Bruins defense held ASU to three points in the second half, allowing the Bruins to get back into the contest. With 11:25 minutes to go in the game, Brett Hundley got UCLA back to within five points. From there, it was a defensive struggle for both teams. The Bruins had two long possessions with a chance to win in the final quarter but Todd Graham's defensive line kept the Bruins off the scoreboard.

4. USC 20, Stanford 17 (Nov. 16)
Coming off a huge win over Oregon, Stanford was in a clear letdown alert situation against a surging USC team late in the year. With the leadership of interim head coach Ed Orgeron and a depth chart featuring less than 50 scholarship players, the Trojans kicked a 47-yard field goal with 19 seconds left to win a physical and historic battle. The loss knocked No. 4 Stanford out of the BCS title race and would have cost the Cardinal a Pac-12 title had Oregon not laid an egg the following week in Arizona. USC held Stanford to a season-low 17 points and its second-lowest yardage total of the year (337 yards).

5. Utah 27, Stanford 21 (Oct. 12)
The Utes didn't win many Pac-12 games this year (two), but they played in a lot of close and exciting games. The signature performance of the season for Utah — and possibly the Pac-12 — came when Utah held Stanford out of the end zone on a final minute goal-line stand that likely knocked the Cardinal out of the national championship game. Kevin Hogan drove Stanford to the Utah six-yard line and failed on two plays to score, giving Utah its first win over a top-five team in program history when his fourth-down pass sailed just out of Devon Cajuste's reach with 47 seconds left. Rice-Eccles rejoiced while the loss will likely haunt Cardinal fans for years to come.

6. Stanford 26, Oregon 20 (Nov. 7)
It wasn't the most dramatic or exciting game of the year, despite an intense rally from the Ducks in the final 10 minutes. But it was the game the entire nation point to as the most important and, as it turned out, it decided the Pac-12 title as expected. Stanford's defense stifled the powerful Ducks attack, holding Oregon scoreless for the first 50 minutes of play. Tyler Gaffney became a household name nationally by setting a school record with 45 carries in the impressive and physical win over the rival Ducks. It wasn't the most dramatic performance of the year but it certainly was one of the most important games in the nation this fall.

7. Arizona State 20, Utah 19 (Nov. 9)
Another one of the heart-breaking losses for Utah this fall came at the hands of Arizona State quarterback Taylor Kelly. An exhausting and physical game came to an end when Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year Will Sutton snagged an improbable interception with a minute left in the game. Trailing most of the game and lacking the ability to make plays, Kelly finally got the ball moving and led the Sun Devils on two fourth-quarter touchdown drives to take the lead with 2:37 left. The win kept the Sun Devils alive in the South race and embodied the perseverance of a team that would eventually finish with the league's best record.

8. Arizona State 32, Wisconsin 30 (Sept. 14)
In one of the most bizarre endings to a game in any conference this year, Arizona State walked away winners while Gary Andersen’s Badgers stood stunned on the field in Sun Devil Stadium. The refs mishandled a game-ending situation that would have given Wisconsin a short game-winning field goal attempt. Instead the clock inexplicably ran out on the Badgers, giving Arizona State a big non-conference win and the Big Ten one of the most memorable and infamous losses in league history.

9. Notre Dame 37, Arizona State 34 (Oct. 5)
Arizona State couldn't pick up a marquee non-conference win for the Pac-12, but it was still a thrilling, back-and-forth battle in the Cathedral for Football against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Taylor Kelly and Tommy Rees both giveth and both tooketh away, throwing big touchdowns and big interceptions all game long. A low-scoring first half (14-13) gave way to a 34-point fourth quarter that featured three scores in the final three minutes. Rees and the Irish held on for a tight victory in what would be one of only two regular-season losses for the Sun Devils.

10. Stanford 27, Notre Dame 20 (Nov. 30)
Lost in the shuffle of a wild Saturday that featured the Iron Bowl and Ohio State-Michigan, two long-standing archrivals played an excellent game in Palo Alto. With revenge on the mind following last year's infamous goal-line stand. Wayne Lyons' two late interceptions and Tyler Gaffney's 189 yards allowed Stanford to hold off a second-half Notre Dame rally. David Shaw's bunch got revenge and won its tenth game of the season as it got warmed up for what turned out to be their best performance of the season the following week in the Pac-12 title game win over Arizona State.

Just missed the cut:

11. Stanford 38, Arizona State 14 (Dec. 7)
It wasn't a close game but it decided the championship so it lands on the list by default.

12. Oregon State 51, Utah 48 (OT, Sept. 14)
One of the few overtime games in the league featured 60 second-half points and over 1,000 yards of offense.

13. UCLA 41, Nebraska 21 (Sept. 14)
An emotional weekend for the UCLA family featured a 21-point comeback.

14. USC 38, Arizona 31 (Oct. 10)
A furious late rally from B.J. Denker and Ka'Deem Carey came up short and gave Coach O a win in his debut.

15. UCLA 31, Arizona 26 (Nov. 9)
Myles Jack made his offensive debut and carried UCLA to victory in a tight road affair.

Best of the Rest:

16. UCLA 34, Utah 27 (Oct. 3)
17. Washington State 10, USC 7 (Sept. 7)
18. Arizona State 62, USC 41 (Sept. 28)
19. Stanford 42, Arizona State 28 (Sept. 21)
20. Oregon 45, Washington 24 (Oct. 12)
21. Stanford 20, Oregon State 12 (Oct. 26)
22. Notre Dame 14, USC 10 (Oct. 19)
23. Washington State 24, Arizona 17 (Nov. 16
24. Auburn 31, Washington State 24 (Aug. 31)
25. Eastern Washington 49, Oregon State 46 (Aug. 31)

Teaser:
10 Best Pac-12 Games of 2013
Post date: Tuesday, December 17, 2013 - 07:15
All taxonomy terms: NFL, News
Path: /nfl/amazing-stats-nfls-week-15
Body:

Numbers and statistics are unquestionably a huge part of the game. Any game, for that matter.

Some fall on the sabermetric side of things, while others like to keep it simple and use the ol' eyeball test. In the football world, that means total offense, total defense and points scored versus points per play and defensive efficiency ratings. Rational and logical arguments can be made for the legitimacy and relevance of both sides of the stats spectrum.

With that in mind, Athlon Sports brings the most intriguing, important, historic and bizarre stats from Week 15 of the NFL season:

23: Russell Wilson's record wins by a QB in his first two seasons
During the Super Bowl era, no quarterback has ever won more games in his first two seasons as a starter than Seattle's Russell Wilson. Wilson's Seahawks handled the Giants with ease in East Rutherford on Sunday 23-0, moving their NFC-best record to 12-2. After an 11-5 record in 2012, Wilson now boasts a 23-7 record as a starter in just under two full seasons as the starting quarterback in Seattle. The Seahawks are the only team in the NFC to have clinched a playoff spot. Ben Roethlisberger owned the previous NFL record with 22 wins.

9: Miami's league-leading TDs in the final two minutes of a half
In a critical win over division foe New England, Ryan Tannehill did his best Tom Brady impersonation by leading the Dolphins down the field to take the lead 24-20 with just over a minute to play. The Dolphins beat the Patriots for the first time since 2009 when Tannehill connected with Marcus Thigpen with 1:15 left in the fourth quarter. He did the same thing at the end of the first half when he found Mike Wallace for a 39-yard touchdown strike with only 32 seconds remaining in the second quarter. Miami now leads the NFL with nine touchdowns scored in the final two minutes of a half — of six of which are Tannehill touchdown passes. He also has a league-leading 17 scoring drives that began with less than five minutes left to play in a half. The win not only puts Miami in great wild card position but actually keeps it alive in the AFC East race as well.

1: Players who've scored four receiving TDs and a rushing TD in a game
Jamaal Charles and Alex Smith rolled through the Oakland Raiders 56-31 on Sunday to clinch a playoff spot in the AFC. Charles rushed just eight times for 20 yards but accomplished something no player in the NFL has ever done. He is the first player in history to catch four touchdown passes and score a rushing touchdown in the same game. His five touchdowns are tied for fourth-most in NFL history because three players — Ernie Nevers (1929), Dub Jones (1951) and Gale Sayers (1965) — own the NFL record with six touchdowns in a game.

2: Saints takeaways in the last seven games
In the first seven games of the season, the Saints had 15 takeaways and boasted a 6-1 record. After losing to the Rams 27-17 without forcing a turnover or generating a sack, the Saints dropped to 4-3 over their last seven games. New Orleans has forced just two turnovers during that span. In those three losses, the Saints have turned the ball over six times without creating a single turnover on defense. They are now tied with the Panthers at 10-4 for the NFC South lead with two games to play — including a trip to Carolina next weekend.

34-10: Green Bay outscored Dallas in the second half
The Cowboys entered halftime of a pivotal showdown with an Aaron Rodgers-less Packers in complete control up 26-3. The Packers came storming back behind the running of Eddie Lacy (141 yards) and two Tony Romo interceptions in the final five minutes to outscore the Cowboys 34-10 in the second half. Dallas ran the ball six times in the second half, allowing the Packers to make the improbable 23-point comeback. The Pack now sits a half of a game behind in the NFC North race while the Cowboys missed a chance to tie the Eagles for first place in the East.

45,873: Lowest attendance at Heinz Field
The Steelers jumped out to a 21-0 first-quarter lead over the division-leading Bengals at Heinz Field on Sunday. Pittsburgh held on to win 30-20 despite only 290 yards of offense and going 2-of-10 on third down conversions. No one seemed to notice, however, as the 45,873 in attendance was the smallest in the 13-year history of Heinz Field. Ironically, James Harrison's first game back in the building where he built a reputation as a physical force on defense ended when he left in the first quarter with a concussion.

16.5 and 108: Robert Mathis' Colts single-season and career sack records
The Colts got back on track with an impressive 25-3 home win over division foe Houston. Robert Mathis, a front-runner for the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award, posted 4.0 total tackles, 1.0 sacks and forced a safety in the win. The sack gave him an NFL-best 16.5 sacks on the season, breaking former teammate and friend Dwight Freeney's Colts franchise single-season and career records. Mathis now has 108 career sacks. Freeney's records were 16 and 107.5 respectively.

93: Rushing yards allowed by Chicago
The Bears welcomed back Jay Cutler and won a huge road game over the Browns by scoring 21 unanswered points in the fourth quarter. More importantly, however, the embattled Bears' rushing defense played much better by holding Cleveland to just 93 yards rushing. It was the lowest total by any Bears opponent since Week 5 (New Orleans, 64) and it snapped an NFL record six-game streak of allowing a 100-yard rusher. This unit had allowed 234 yards rushing per game over the last three and had allowed 204.1 yards on the ground over the last seven contests.

4-0: Arizona's record against the AFC South, Chicago's record against the AFC North
The Cardinals topped the reeling Titans 37-34 in overtime in Nashville, moving their record to a perfect 4-0 against the AFC South. Earlier on Sunday, Chicago overcame a slow start from quarterback Jay Cutler to come from behind and beat Cleveland 38-31 on the road to finish undefeated (4-0) against the AFC North. Arizona is nipping at the wild card heels of teams like Carolina, San Francisco and New Orleans (one game back), while the Bears (8-6) control their own destiny in a crowded NFC North. If either team ends up in the postseason, their fans can thank their crossover AFC schedule. This marks the first sweep by an NFC team of an AFC division since realignment in 2002.

Teaser:
Amazing Stats from the NFL's Week 15
Post date: Tuesday, December 17, 2013 - 07:15

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