Articles By Steven Lassan

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The last of ’s pre-Christmas bowl games kicks off on Thursday, Dec. 24, as and make the trek to Honolulu for an intriguing matchup in the Hawaii Bowl. The Aztecs are making their sixth consecutive postseason appearance, which is more than the program had combined from 1969-2009. The Bearcats have been a frequent visitor to the postseason since 2000, earning 13 trips to bowl games in that span.

 

Cincinnati was picked as one of the frontrunners to win the American Athletic Conference this preseason, but the Bearcats stumbled to 7-5, snapping a streak of four consecutive seasons with at least nine wins. Turnovers were a huge problem for coach Tommy Tuberville’s team, as Cincinnati recorded a minus-16 margin in 12 games. The defense was a concern entering the year, and the Bearcats surrendered 5.8 yards per play and 30.3 points per game. Despite the problems on defense and in the turnover department, Cincinnati wasn’t far from winning a few of its biggest games this season. The Bearcats lost by eight to Temple, by seven to Memphis and by three to Houston.

 

With a win over Cincinnati on Dec. 24, San Diego State would tie a school record for the most victories in a season (11). The Aztecs started 1-3 but finished 2015 by winning nine consecutive games, including the Mountain West Championship over Air Force. The victory over the Falcons secured San Diego State’s first outright conference championship since 1986 and the program’s first double-digit win season since 1977.

 

San Diego State and Cincinnati have only one previous matchup in program history. The Bearcats defeated the Aztecs 52-23 in 2007. This is the first time either team has played in a postseason bowl game in Hawaii.

 

Hawaii Bowl: Cincinnati vs. San Diego State

Honolulu, Hawaii – Aloha Stadium

 

Kickoff: Thursday, Dec. 24 at 8 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPN

Spread: San Diego State -1.5

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. San Diego State RB Donnel Pumphrey

San Diego State running back Donnel Pumphrey might be one of the nation’s most underrated players. The 5-foot-9, 180-pound junior rushed for 1,554 yards and 16 scores this season and is the focal point for the Aztecs’ offense. Pumphrey also leads the team with 27 catches and tied for first among Mountain West running backs with four runs of 50 yards or more this year. The junior isn’t the only option at running back for this offense, as Chase Price (940 yards) and Rashaad Penny (351 yards) are capable of spelling Pumphrey when he needs a break. Also, fullback Dakota Gordon is a 5-foot-10 power blocker and a key cog in a rushing attack that also boasts two all-conference linemen in guard Nico Siragusa and tackle Pearce Slater. Establishing the run is critical for San Diego State, as this offense isn’t built to come from behind. The Aztecs average 48 rushing attempts per game, compared to just 19 pass attempts. Starting quarterback Maxwell Smith suffered an ACL tear against Nevada on Nov. 28 and did not play in the win over Air Force on Dec. 5. Smith is delaying surgery in an attempt to play in the bowl, but all signs point to freshman Christian Chapman (9 of 14, 203 yards against Air Force) making his second start. Smith’s injury only adds to the pressure on Pumphrey and the San Diego State ground attack. Stopping the run has been an issue for Cincinnati this season, as the Bearcats ranked ninth in the American Athletic Conference, surrendering 190.8 yards per game. Additionally, this defense gave up at least 200 yards on the ground in four of the last five games.

 

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2. Cincinnati QB Hayden Moore

Cincinnati’s quarterback position has experienced its share of twists and turns in the 2015 season. Gunner Kiel opened the season as the starter, but Hayden Moore received more playing time after Kiel was injured against Memphis and finished the regular season with two starts. Kiel was the better quarterback in 2015, throwing for 2,777 yards and 19 touchdowns. However, Kiel won’t make the trip to due a personal matter, leaving Moore as Cincinnati’s starter on Thursday night. The freshman had his bright spots (4 TDs against Memphis) but also tossed eight picks on 195 attempts. Moore has a tough assignment against San Diego State’s 3-3-5 defense, which wreaked havoc on Mountain West quarterbacks in 2015. The Aztecs allowed only 4.68 yards per play, gave up 17.2 points per game, generated 33 sacks and forced 31 takeaways. The Bearcats have a deep receiving corps, but San Diego State’s secondary is anchored by the Mountain West’s Defensive Player of the Year Damontae Kazee and all-conference selection J.J. Whittaker. Can Moore avoid turnovers and connect on a few big plays against the stingy Aztec secondary?

 

3. Turnovers

San Diego State doesn’t have a huge margin for error in this game. The Aztecs should be able to establish the run against Cincinnati, but coach Rocky Long’s offense cannot afford to fall behind the chains or on the scoreboard. San Diego State’s passing game is not built to rally from a large deficit. On the other sideline, Cincinnati is capable of putting up points in a hurry. Of course, scoring points and establishing drives also depends on holding onto the ball. The Bearcats ranked No. 124 nationally with a minus-16 in turnover margin this season. San Diego State finished the regular season ranked first nationally in turnover margin, losing only 12 turnovers all year. If the turnover margin totals hold true on Thursday night, Cincinnati is going to have a tough time earning the victory over the Aztecs.

 

Final Analysis

 

This is a classic matchup of a high-powered offense (Cincinnati) versus a stingy defense (San Diego State). Which style of play will establish control of this game early in the first half? If the Aztecs get the ground game on track, win the time of possession battle and force a few turnovers, coach Rocky Long’s team should earn its 11th win of the season. The Bearcats have the edge in offensive firepower and need to push the tempo early to get San Diego State out of its comfort zone. The Mountain West has lost its last eight trips to this bowl. That losing streak ends on Christmas Eve, as the Aztecs cap one of the best seasons in school history with a close victory over the Bearcats.

 

Prediction: San Diego State 27, Cincinnati 24

 

(Credit to  for top photo of RB Donnel Pumphrey)

Teaser:
Hawaii Bowl Preview and Prediction: Cincinnati vs. San Diego State
Post date: Tuesday, December 22, 2015 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: ACC, College Football, Duke Blue Devils, News
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College football’s bowl season always seems to be a good spot for teams to unveil a new alternate helmet or uniform.

 

Duke is one of the first teams to unveil a new design for the postseason, as the Blue Devils will wear a white helmet and alternate logo for their matchup against Indiana in the Pinstripe Bowl.

 

The alternate logo features a Blue Devil mascot and is a design from the 1966-69 seasons.

 

Check out Duke’s awesome alternate helmet for the Pinstripe Bowl:

Teaser:
Duke Unveils Alternate Devil-Themed Helmet for Pinstripe Bowl Matchup Against Indiana
Post date: Monday, December 21, 2015 - 12:37
Path: /college-football/godaddy-bowl-preview-and-prediction-bowling-green-vs-georgia-southern
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The 2015 GoDaddy Bowl matchup between Bowling Green and Georgia Southern features contrasting, yet exciting styles of play and two teams looking to finish the season on a high note with an interim coach on the sidelines. Last year’s GoDaddy Bowl featured 107 points between Toledo and Arkansas State, and another high-scoring game should be anticipated on Wednesday night when the Falcons and Eagles meet in Mobile, Ala.

 

The Falcons used an explosive passing attack to finish the regular season with a 10-3 record, a MAC Championship and wins over Purdue and Maryland in non-conference action. However, coach Dino Babers left for Syracuse after the MAC title game, leaving defensive coordinator Brian Ward as the team’s interim coach. Ward is joining Babers’ staff at Syracuse following Wednesday night’s game. Texas Tech assistant Mike Jinks was tapped to replace Babers and will take over full-time control of the team following the GoDaddy Bowl.

 

Led by a prolific rushing attack, Georgia Southern has been on a fast track through the FBS ranks. Willie Fritz guided Georgia Southern to a 17-7 record over the last two seasons, but he accepted the head coaching job at Tulane in early December. Wednesday night’s appearance in the GoDaddy Bowl is the program’s first postseason contest at this level, and running backs coach Dell McGee will call the shots as the interim coach against the Falcons.

 

This is the first matchup between Georgia Southern and Bowling Green. The Falcons have made two previous appearances in the GoDaddy Bowl, including a 52-35 victory over Memphis in 2004.

 

GoDaddy Bowl: Georgia Southern (8-4) vs. Bowling Green (10-3)

Mobile, Ala.

 

Kickoff: Wednesday, Dec. 23 at 8 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPN

Spread: Bowling Green -7.5

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Bowling Green’s Passing Attack

Even though Babers left for Syracuse, the Falcons won’t abandon their plan of attack on offense. Quarterback Matt Johnson is the catalyst behind a passing attack that ranks third nationally, averaging 376.1 yards per game through the air. Johnson threw for 43 scores and 4,700 yards this year and tossed only eight interceptions. The senior is surrounded by a deep group of skill players, including receivers Roger Lewis (82 catches), Gehrig Dieter, Ryan Burbrink and Ronnie Moore. Running back Travis Greene is a key piece of the passing attack (27 receptions), and the shifty and explosive senior rusher also has 1,220 rushing yards and 14 scores this season. Johnson is an effective distributor on short passes in this offense, but the Falcons aren’t afraid to take shots downfield. Bowling Green ranked fourth nationally by recording 47 plays of 30 or more yards. Can Georgia Southern’s pass defense find a way to contain Johnson and Bowling Green’s skill players? The Eagles allowed 19 passing touchdowns this season and 70th nationally in pass efficiency defense. In the regular season finale against Georgia State, Georgia Southern’s secondary surrendered 346 yards and three passing scores. With a pass rush that’s only generated 21 sacks in 2015, the Eagles’ defensive backfield may not have much help from its front four. Even if Georgia Southern gives up yardage to Johnson, it has to limit the big plays allowed. Simply, 10-yard completions can't become 50-yard touchdowns.

 

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2. Georgia Southern’s Ground Game

The clear strength of Georgia Southern’s offense is its ground attack. Anchored by quarterback Kevin Ellison and running back Matt Breida, the Eagles average 355.6 rushing yards per game and 6.5 yards per carry. And to further illustrate how much this offense leans with its ground game, Georgia Southern averages 55 rushing plays per game, compared to just 11 passes. Fritz and his staff maintained the triple-option attack used under former coach Jeff Monken and implemented some spread-option principles over the last two seasons. Running back Matt Breida (1,540 yards and 16 scores) is the team’s leading rusher, but L.A. Ramsby (772 yards), Wesley Fields (607) and quarterbacks Kevin Ellison (642) and Favian Upshaw (384) also contribute to the ground game. Bowling Green ranked fifth in the MAC this season by limiting opponents to 161.6 yards per game. However, this unit won’t have nose tackle Mike Minns for this game, as the junior was suspended in December after an off-field incident. Considering the firepower on Bowling Green’s sideline, Georgia Southern’s best defense might be its offense and a ball-control approach. Breida and Ellison should have their share of success, but the Falcons want to force this offense into third-and-long situations. 

 

3. Turnover Margin and Third-Down Conversions

It’s no secret what both teams want to do. Georgia Southern wants to utilize its ground attack, limit the possessions by Bowling Green’s offense and keep third downs in manageable short-yardage situations. Quarterback Kevin Ellison wasn’t prolific as a passer this season and completed only 44 percent of his throws. It’s critical for the Falcons to force Georgia Southern into third-and-long situations and make Ellison and his receivers win one-on-one battles downfield. Also, turnover margin is critical for both teams. With both offenses expected to have their way against the defenses, stealing a possession or two with a turnover could be enough for one team to swing this game in its favor. Bowling Green excelled on third downs this season, converting 51.02 percent of its attempts and ranked as one of the best nationally in turnover margin (+14). Georgia Southern was plus-four in turnover margin and connected on 40.24 percent of third-down attempts. Close games usually come down to one or two small areas in the stat sheet. Keep an eye on how both teams perform on third-down attempts and the yardage needed to convert. Additionally, the turnover margin is critical. The Falcons can’t afford to allow the Eagles several long-scoring drives, while the offense has to avoid three-and-out situations.

 

Final Analysis

 

If you like offense and contrasting styles of play, then the GoDaddy Bowl matchup is a must-see matchup. While Bowling Green and Georgia Southern are opposite in terms of approach, both teams are effective in lighting up the scoreboard. The Falcons want to push the tempo, score quickly and keep Georgia Southern in third-and-long situations on offense. The keys to victory for the Eagles are simple – establish the run, keep Bowling Green’s explosive offense on the sidelines, limit the big plays of Johnson and his receivers, while staying out of third-and-long situations. Which style of play will win out? If Georgia Southern gets its ground game on track, wins the battle up front and in time of possession, it’s a bad sign for the Falcons. If Bowling Green jumps to an early lead and forces the Eagles out of their comfort zone, that’s a huge edge in the favor of the Falcons. The guess here is both teams have their moments controlling the tempo and land a few big plays on offense. The difference should be Johnson and the explosive Bowling Green receivers, as the Falcons take to the air to score the game-winning touchdown late in the fourth quarter.

 

Prediction: Bowling Green 38, Georgia Southern 34

 

(Credit to for top photo of QB Matt Johnson)

Teaser:
GoDaddy Bowl Preview and Prediction: Bowling Green vs. Georgia Southern
Post date: Monday, December 21, 2015 - 10:00
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The Miami Beach Bowl features two of the nation’s top Group of 5 programs from 2015, and this Dec. 21 matchup between South Florida and WKU should be one of the better pre-Christmas bowls this season. This game also features a reunion between South Florida coach Willie Taggart and his old program. Taggart was a quarterback at WKU from 1994-98 and later worked as the program’s head coach from 2010-12.

 

After a 6-18 record and a spot on the hot seat after his first two seasons at South Florida, Taggart rebounded with an 8-4 campaign in 2015 and clearly has the program trending in the right direction. The Bulls have ranked near the top of the American Athletic Conference in recruiting since Taggart arrived and return most of their core for 2016. With the young talent in place, combined with wins in seven out of their last eight games, South Florida could use the Miami Beach Bowl as a springboard to an even better 2016 campaign.

 

While Taggart established the foundation for WKU’s success at the FBS level, second-year coach Jeff Brohm has elevated the program and emerged as one of the rising stars in the Group of 5 ranks. Brohm is 19-7 in two seasons with the Hilltoppers and guided WKU to its first season of double-digit (11) wins on the FBS level. The Hilltoppers also faired well against Power 5 competition, scoring a victory over Vanderbilt in the season opener, while holding their own against Indiana and LSU.

 

South Florida and WKU have met only six times on the gridiron. The Bulls own a 4-2 series edge, with the last matchup between these two programs taking place in 2010.

 

Miami Beach Bowl: WKU (11-2) vs. South Florida (8-4)
 

Kickoff: Monday, Dec. 21 at 3:30 p.m. ET (Miami, Fla.)

TV Channel: ESPN

Spread: WKU -2.5

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. WKU QB Brandon Doughty

WKU’s offense was one of the best in college football this season, averaging 44.2 points a game and a robust 7.19 yards per play. The success of the offense starts with quarterback Brandon Doughty – . The senior passed for 45 touchdowns and 4,594 yards this season and led the nation by completing 71.8 percent of his passes. Not only is Doughty efficient and careful with the ball, he’s also capable of attacking defenses downfield and producing big plays. In 13 games this season, Doughty connected on 37 passing plays of 30 yards or more. And Doughty has plenty of help in his supporting cast, as receivers Jared Dangerfield, Antwane Grant, Taywan Taylor and Nicholas Norris each caught over 45 passes this season. WKU was held under 30 points only twice this season. Can the Hilltoppers continue their high-scoring ways against a talented and athletic South Florida defense? The Bulls limited opponents to 21.1 points per game this season, forced 23 turnovers and generated 32 sacks. This defense is opportunistic and does a good job of limiting big plays. Coordinator Tom Allen was an underrated addition for Taggart’s staff in the offseason, and his defense will have its hands full trying to slow Doughty and an explosive WKU offense.  

 

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2. South Florida’s Rushing Attack

South Florida’s best defense against WKU’s high-powered offense could be its ground attack and running back Marlon Mack. The sophomore has recorded back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons and rushed for 1,273 yards and eight touchdowns in 11 games this year. Mack enters the Miami Beach Bowl with four consecutive 100-yard performances and at least 100 yards in seven out of his last eight games. But Mack isn’t a one-man show on the ground. Backup running backs Darius Tice (448 yards) and D’Ernest Johnson (290) have been effective in limited action, while quarterback Quinton Flowers has chipped in 883 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns on 175 carries this season. WKU’s run defense ranked fourth in Conference USA, surrendering 156 yards per game and 4.23 yards per carry. Led by first-team All-Conference USA linebacker Nick Holt, the Hilltoppers held their last five opponents under 200 rushing yards. Will South Florida establish control of the line of scrimmage and utilize the run to keep WKU’s offense on the sidelines?

 

3. Style of Play and Tempo

These two teams aren’t drastically different in terms of pace of play, but the tempo and overall flow of the game will be critical on Monday afternoon. WKU wants to push the tempo, as Brohm’s team is averaging 72.3 plays a game. South Florida used more hurry-up or no-huddle approaches in Taggart’s third season, with the emergence of quarterback Quinton Flowers helping to ease the transition in scheme. However, Flowers isn’t just a threat on the ground, as the sophomore threw for 21 touchdowns and 2,017 yards this season. With the ability to control the clock and utilize the ground attack, South Florida can slow down the overall pace and keep WKU’s offense on the sidelines. However, the Hilltoppers want to do exactly the opposite. With Doughty and the talented skill players in place, Brohm wants his offense to go fast and jump on South Florida early, forcing the Bulls to abandon their ground game. Which team will control the overall pace of the game from the opening snap?

 

Final Analysis

 

Last year’s Miami Beach Bowl between Memphis and BYU was an exciting back-and-forth matchup that also featured plenty of postgame fireworks. And in its second season, this bowl landed another intriguing matchup that should be one of the better postseason games outside of the New Year’s Six or playoff slate. South Florida ended the season on a tear and has a few advantages in its favor. The Bulls should be able to establish the run, limiting the overall possessions for Doughty and his receivers. Additionally, South Florida’s opportunistic defense could create headaches for Doughty and keep the Hilltoppers behind the chains and in third-and-long situations. However, with Doughty playing his last game at WKU, the Hilltoppers will be motivated to send their prolific senior quarterback out with a victory. This game should be high in entertainment value, and the guess here is WKU scores late to edge the Bulls in Miami.

 

Prediction: WKU 34, South Florida 31
Teaser:
Miami Beach Bowl Preview and Prediction: WKU vs. South Florida
Post date: Friday, December 18, 2015 - 12:00
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The Cure Bowl in Orlando, Fla. is one of two bowls making its debut in ’s 41-game postseason slate, and the inaugural matchup features two teams – Georgia State and San Jose State – hungry to end the season on a high note. The Panthers made a surprising run to bowl eligibility with four consecutive wins to close the regular season, while the Spartans at 5-7 were able to reach the postseason thanks to their high APR.

 

Georgia State’s bowl appearance and a 6-6 record in 2015 cap a quick rise to the FBS ranks for this program. The Panthers transitioned to the FBS level in 2013 and finished 1-23 in their first two years. However, coach Trent Miles inherited a massive rebuilding project and has steadily upgraded the team’s depth and overall talent level, allowing Georgia State to finish 6-6 and earn the program’s first bowl trip. San Jose State is making its first postseason trip since 2012, and this game is an opportunity for coach Ron Caragher to build momentum for a critical 2016 season. The Spartans are 14-22 under Caragher’s direction but improved from 3-9 in 2014 to 5-7 in 2015. Caragher’s team was just a few plays away from a winning record, as San Jose State lost by one to BYU and by three at Nevada. 

 

This is the first meeting between Georgia State and San Jose State.

 

Cure Bowl: Georgia State (6-6) vs. San Jose State (5-7)
(Orlando, Fla.)

 

Kickoff: Saturday, Dec. 19 at 7 p.m. ET

TV Channel: CBS Sports Network

Spread: San Jose State -3

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Georgia State’s Passing Attack

Georgia State quarterback Nick Arbuckle was underrated on the national scene, but the senior earned first-team All-Sun Belt honors and was named the conference’s student-athlete of the year. In 12 games this season, Arbuckle threw for 4,160 yards and 26 touchdowns and tossed only 11 picks on 457 pass attempts. The senior also has plenty of help at his disposal. Four players caught more than 35 passes, including freshman standout Penny Hart (70 catches), Robert Davis (60) and tight end Keith Rucker (13.4 ypc). The Panthers average only 103.1 rushing yards per game but showed better balance in the second half of the season. Coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski won’t be afraid to put the ball in the air, as Arbuckle has averaged 38 pass attempts a game this season and has eclipsed 300 or more yards in seven consecutive games. San Jose State’s secondary was projected to be one of the better groups in the Mountain West this season and ranked 38th nationally in pass efficiency defense. No opponent threw for more than 293 yards against this defense, with Jimmy Pruitt and Cleveland Wallace III anchoring the corner positions. Will Arbuckle pick up where he left off at the end of the regular season? San Jose State isn’t adept at getting to the quarterback (13 sacks in 2015), so there’s a lot of pressure on the cornerbacks to hold their coverage against a deadly passing attack.

 

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2. San Jose State RB Tyler Ervin

Ervin was one of the nation’s top all-purpose threats this season, averaging 200.8 total yards per game. The senior did most of his damage on the ground (1,469 yards) but was second on the team with 44 catches and averaged 23.9 yards per kickoff return. Can Georgia State find a way to slow down Ervin? The Panthers ranked fourth in the Sun Belt against the run, allowing 179.8 yards per game. This unit played better in the second half of the season and limited Georgia Southern (No. 1 nationally in rush offense) to 135 rushing yards in the season finale. Linebacker Joseph Peterson anchors the front seven for coordinator Jesse Minter and was active around the line of scrimmage (106 tackles and 7.5 tackles for a loss). Keep an eye on the 100-yard mark. In five out of San Jose State’s seven losses, Ervin was held under 100 yards and did not reach 100 yards in three out of the last four games.

 

3. San Jose State QB Kenny Potter

San Jose State quarterback Kenny Potter didn’t garner the postseason recognition that Arbuckle accumulated, but the junior college transfer was solid in his first year on campus. Potter threw for 1,895 yards and 14 touchdowns and finished the season with 346 rushing yards and six scores. Additionally, the junior ended the regular season with back-to-back 300-yard passing games. The San Jose State passing attack suffered a setback with receiver Tyler Winston suffering a season-ending injury in late October. Tight end Billy Freeman (47 catches) has been Potter’s go-to weapon, but receivers Hansell Wilson and Tim Crawley will test a Georgia State secondary that allowed 18 passing scores in the regular season. Avoiding turnovers will be critical for Potter after San Jose State finished with a minus-five ratio. The Panthers played better on defense in the second half of the year and only allowed 10 plays of 40 yards or more after giving up 18 in 2014. The extra practice time should be beneficial to Potter, but the Spartans also need a mistake-free game in a contest that’s expected to be close.

 

Final Analysis

 

This is a tough game to get a read on. Both teams average around 30 points a game and feature talented weapons on offense, so a low-scoring contest would be a surprise. Georgia State ended the year playing at its highest level of the season and the short layoff shouldn’t do too much to slow coach Trent Miles’ team. San Jose State’s balance on offense will be tough for the Panthers to contain, especially if running back Tyler Ervin gets on track in the first half. The good folks in Vegas like San Jose State as a slight favorite, but the guess here is Georgia State’s offense finds just enough room against the Spartans’ secondary to notch the wining score late in the fourth quarter.

 

Prediction: Georgia State 34, San Jose State 31
Teaser:
Cure Bowl Preview and Prediction: Georgia State vs. San Jose State
Post date: Thursday, December 17, 2015 - 12:00
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’s regular season concluded with Navy’s win over Army on Dec. 12, leaving 41 postseason games as all that’s left of the 2015 campaign. This year produced plenty of memorable endings and clutch performances, including Miami’s return for a game-winning score against Duke, Georgia Tech’s blocked field goal for a touchdown to beat Florida State, Michigan State’s fumble return as time expired to beat Notre Dame, and Arkansas’ fourth-and-25 conversion against Ole Miss.

 

While the bowl season is just days away, it’s time to take a look back at the regular season and a small peek at what’s ahead in 2016.

 

Athlon Sports concludes its slate of regular season honors with the 2015 national awards, as well as a look ahead at some of the rising stars, top coordinator hires, best freshmen and programs to watch in 2016:

 

2015 Awards and All-Conference Teams

 

College Football’s 2015 National Awards

 

Offensive Player of the Year: Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama

Henry was the catalyst behind Alabama’s offense in 2015, rushing for 1,986 yards and 23 scores in 13 regular season games. The junior recorded at least 200 yards in four out of his final seven matchups, including 271 in a 29-13 victory over rival Auburn. Henry averaged a healthy 5.86 yards per carry and led the SEC with nine rushing plays of 30 yards or more.

 

2. Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford

3. Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson

4. Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma

5. Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State

 

Defensive Player of the Year: Jaylon Smith, LB, Notre Dame

It’s a close call between Smith and Nassib for the defensive player of the year honor. The edge goes to Smith, as the junior recorded 113 tackles (nine for a loss), one sack, five pass breakups and one forced fumble. In addition to his lightning-quick athletic ability, Smith is instinctive and disruptive at the line of scrimmage.    

 

2. Carl Nassib, DE, Penn State

3. Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State

4. Reggie Ragland, LB, Alabama

5. Shaq Lawson, DE, Clemson

 

National Coach of the Year: Kirk Ferentz, Iowa

Kirk Ferentz version 3.0 was a huge hit in Iowa City. After a 19-19 record from 2012-14, Ferentz made a few tweaks and rallied the Hawkeyes to a 12-1 record and a Big Ten West Division title in 2015. Ferentz didn’t drastically alter his approach or make huge changes, but inserting C.J. Beathard as the full-time quarterback and being more aggressive with on-field calls were two changes that paid big dividends for Iowa. As a result, the Hawkeyes finished No. 5 in the final College Football Playoff rankings and are making their first Rose Bowl appearance since 1991.

 

2. Dabo Swinney, Clemson

3. Mark Dantonio, Michigan State

4. Tom Herman, Houston

5. Brian Kelly, Notre Dame

 

Coordinator of the Year: Lincoln Riley, Offensive Coordinator, Oklahoma

Riley was the perfect hire for an Oklahoma offense looking for a spark and a return to an Air Raid-style of attack. After a successful stint at East Carolina, Riley was hired by Bob Stoops after the 2014 season and guided the Sooners to an average of 47.2 points in Big 12-only matchups in 2015. Oklahoma averaged 6.95 yards per play and led the conference with nine plays of 60 yards or more.

 

2. Gene Chizik, Defensive Coordinator, North Carolina

3. Kirby Smart, Defensive Coordinator, Alabama

4. Don Brown, Defensive Coordinator, Boston College

5. Brent Venables, Defensive Coordinator, Clemson

 

Best All-Around in 2015: Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford

McCaffrey was the nation’s best all-purpose player in 2015. The sophomore led the Pac-12 with 1,847 rushing yards and recorded eight scores and caught 41 passes for 540 yards and four touchdowns. McCaffrey showcased his big-play ability on special teams, averaging 28.9 yards per kickoff return and completed two of three pass attempts for 39 yards and two touchdowns this season. McCaffrey's 3,496 all-purpose yards set a new FBS single-season record.

 

2. Jabrill Peppers, DB/AP, Michigan

3. Adoree’ Jackson, DB/WR, USC

4. Charles Nelson, DB/WR, Oregon

5. Tanner McEvoy, DB/WR, Wisconsin

 

Best Freshman in 2015: Jabrill Peppers, DB, Michigan

Not only was Peppers a standout performer for Michigan’s defense, but the redshirt freshman also emerged as an all-purpose threat by the end of the season. Peppers recorded 45 tackles (5.5 for a loss) and finished second on the team with 10 pass breakups. He also accumulated 417 return yards, eight receptions for 79 yards and 72 rush yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries. Peppers will be an even bigger part of the gameplan for coach Jim Harbaugh in 2016.

 

2. Malik Jefferson, LB, Texas

3. Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State

4. Mitch Hyatt, OT, Clemson

5. Jordan Whitehead, S, Pittsburgh

6. Derwin James, S, Florida State

7. Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M

8. Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA

 

Best New Coach Hire for 2015: Tom Herman, Houston

Houston’s H-Town takeover is just beginning under Herman’s watch. The Cougars finished 12-1 with an American Athletic Conference title and earned the Group of 5 spot in the New Year’s Six bowl pairings. Additionally, Herman is putting the finishing touches on an outstanding recruiting class. Houston is a program on the rise and a team that should receive plenty of consideration to start 2016 in the preseason top 25.

 

2. Jim Harbaugh, Michigan

3. Jim McElwain, Florida

4. Pat Narduzzi, Pittsburgh

5. Philip Montgomery, Tulsa

 

Best Coordinator Hire for 2015: Gene Chizik, Defensive Coordinator, North Carolina

Since Oklahoma's Lincoln Riley is our coordinator of the year, let's spread the wealth and give this honor to Chizik. The former Auburn head coach brought immediate improvement to a defense that ranked near the bottom of the ACC in points and yards per play allowed in 2014. The Tar Heels limited opponents to just 22.6 points a contest and 5.3 yards per play this season. Additionally, this defense surrendered only 23 plays of 30 yards or more after giving up 41 in 2014.

 

2. Lincoln Riley, Offensive Coordinator, Oklahoma

3. Barry Odom, Defensive Coordinator, Missouri

4. Dan Enos, Offensive Coordinator, Arkansas

5. Geoff Collins, Defensive Coordinator, Florida

6. John Chavis, Defensive Coordinator, Texas A&M

7. Kendal Briles, Offensive Coordinator, Baylor

8. Alex Grinch, Defensive Coordinator, Washington State

9. Tom Allen, Defensive Coordinator, USF

10. Jeff Scott/Tony Elliott, Co-Offensive Coordinators, Clemson 

 

Five Coaches on the Rise

 

1. Tom Herman, Houston

Herman was one of the nation’s best assistant coaches during his tenure at Ohio State (2012-14) and is arguably the top coach in the Group of 5 ranks after just one season at Houston. The Cougars went 12-1 in 2015 and claimed the American Athletic Conference title and a trip to the Peach Bowl.

 

2. Matt Rhule, Temple

Rhule generated plenty of interest from Power 5 programs this offseason, but the former Penn State linebacker will return to Temple in 2016. The Owls have won 18 games over the last three seasons, including a 10-3 mark in 2015 with an American Athletic Conference East Division title.

 

3. Willie Fritz, Tulane

Tulane’s hire of Willie Fritz is one of the best coaching moves of the 2015-16 carousel. Fritz has a track record of success, including a 40-15 record at Sam Houston State and a 17-7 mark at Georgia Southern.

 

4. Jeff Brohm, WKU

Brohm is one of the top offensive-minded coaches in the Group of 5 ranks and led WKU to its best record (11-2 in 2015) since joining the FBS level. The Hilltoppers claimed the Conference USA title this season and ranked fourth nationally in scoring offense (44.2 ppg).

 

5. P.J. Fleck, Western Michigan

Fleck has guided Western Michigan to a 15-10 mark over the last two seasons and back-to-back bowl games for the first time in program history.

 

Five Players on the Rise for 2016

 

1. Derwin James, S, Florida State

James saw an increased role as the season progressed for Florida State’s defense and should be one of the top defensive backs in the ACC next season. In 12 games as a true freshman, James recorded 77 tackles, 3.5 sacks and two forced fumbles.

 

2. Sam Hubbard, DE, Ohio State

With Joey Bosa expected to leave for the NFL, the Buckeyes will be looking to reload on the edges. Hubbard recorded 5.5 sacks and seven tackles for a loss in his redshirt freshman campaign.

 

3. LJ Scott, RB, Michigan State

The Spartans won’t have Connor Cook at quarterback next season, but the rushing attack is capable of carrying the offense for coach Mark Dantonio. Scott led the team with 691 yards and 11 touchdowns as a true freshman this season and scored the pivotal touchdown against Iowa to give Michigan State the Big Ten Championship and a spot in the College Football Playoff.

 

4. Ronald Jones II, RB, USC

Talented true freshman led USC with 940 yards and eight rushing touchdowns in 2015. New coach Clay Helton wants to utilize the ground game more next season. Jones should benefit from Helton's tweaks on offense with a 1,000-yard season.

 

5. Blake Barnett, QB, Alabama

Barnett will have to win the job, but all signs point to this redshirt freshman as the next star for coach Nick Saban.

 

Three Programs on the Rise for 2016

 

1. Washington

Coach Chris Petersen has the Huskies trending up in 2016, as the offense should take a step forward with the sophomore duo of quarterback Jake Browning and running back Myles Gaskin. The defense returns largely intact after holding opponents to just 17.8 points per game in 2015.

 

2. Michigan

The Wolverines have to play Ohio State and Michigan State on the road, but coach Jim Harbaugh’s team can challenge for the Big Ten East title and a New Year’s Six bowl if it can find a quarterback.

 

3. Miami

The Hurricanes upgraded with the hire of Mark Richt, and the former Georgia coach will have an opportunity to work with quarterback Brad Kaaya in 2016. The defense needs work, but there’s enough talent for Miami to take a step forward in Richt’s first season. 

Teaser:
College Football's Postseason Awards for 2015
Post date: Thursday, December 17, 2015 - 10:00
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Path: /college-football/college-footballs-2015-postseason-all-america-team
Body:

With the completion of ’s regular season, it’s time to take a look back and honor the best of the best and top performers from 2015. Whether it was on offense, defense or special teams, there was no shortage of clutch performances by players at every position.

 

The bowl season kicks off on Dec. 19 and continues until the national championship on Jan. 11 in Glendale, Ariz. While the teams are preparing for their final contests of the season, it’s time to unveil Athlon Sports’ first-, second- and third-team All-Americans.

 

As usual, it’s never easy assembling three All-America teams. There are plenty of standout performers that won’t make the cut, but we tried to blend talent, production and consistency to form the top three teams.

 

2015 Conference Awards

 |  |  |  |

 

Athlon Sports 2015 All-America Team
 

First

Team

Second

Team

Third

Team

QB

Deshaun Watson

Clemson 

QB Baker Mayfield

Oklahoma 

QB Brandon Doughty

WKU 

RB

Derrick Henry

Alabama 

RB Leonard Fournette

LSU 

RB Royce Freeman

Oregon 

RB

Dalvin Cook

Florida State 

RB Ezekiel Elliott

Ohio State 

RB Alex Collins

Arkansas 

AP

Christian McCaffrey

Stanford 

AP Tyler Ervin

San Jose State 

AP Jaylen Samuels

NC State 

WR

Corey Coleman

Baylor 

WR Will Fuller

Notre Dame 

WR Laquon Treadwell

Ole Miss 

WR

Josh Doctson

TCU 

WR JuJu Smith-Schuster

USC 

WR Sterling Shepard

Oklahoma 

TE

Hunter Henry

Arkansas 

TE Jake Butt

Michigan 

TE Jordan Leggett

Clemson 

CRyan Kelly
Alabama 

C Jack Allen

Michigan State 

C Austin Blythe

Iowa 

OG

Joshua Garnett

Stanford 

OG Sebastian Tretola

Arkansas 

OG Jordan Walsh

Iowa 

OG

Landon Turner

North Carolina 

OG Dan Feeney

Indiana 

OG Pat Elflein

Ohio State 

OT

Spencer Drango

Baylor 

OT Ronnie Stanley

Notre Dame 

OT Vadal Alexander

LSU 

OT

Jack Conklin

Michigan State 

OT Taylor Decker

Ohio State 

OT Kyle Murphy

Stanford 

    
DE

Joey Bosa

Ohio State 

DE Shaq Lawson

Clemson 

DE Emmanuel Ogbah

Oklahoma State 

DE

Carl Nassib

Penn State 

DE DeForest Buckner

Oregon 

DE Myles Garrett

Texas A&M 

DT

A'Shawn Robinson

Alabama 

DT Sheldon Day

Notre Dame 

DT Robert Nkemdiche

Ole Miss 

DT

Andrew Billings

Baylor 

DT Kenny Clark

UCLA 

DT Jon Bullard

Florida 

LB

Jaylon Smith

Notre Dame 

LB Tyler Matakevich

Temple 

LB Gionni Paul

Utah 

LB

Kentrell Brothers

Missouri 

LB Joe Schobert

Wisconsin 

LB Eric Striker

Oklahoma 

LB

Reggie Ragland

Alabama 

LB Su'a Cravens

USC 

LB Anthony Walker

Northwestern 

CB

Jalen Ramsey

Florida State 

CB Jourdan Lewis

Michigan 

CB Vernon Hargreaves III

Florida 

CB

Desmond King

Iowa 

CB Mackensie Alexander

Clemson 

CB Zack Sanchez

Oklahoma 

S

Jeremy Cash

Duke 

S Quin Blanding

Virginia 

CB Shawun Lurry

Northern Illinois 

S

Vonn Bell

Ohio State 

S Jayron Kearse

Clemson 

S Trae Elston

Ole Miss 

    
K

Ka'imi Fairbairn

UCLA 

K Jake Elliott

Memphis 

K Daniel Carlson

Auburn 

P

Tom Hackett

Utah 

P Drew Kaser

Texas A&M

P Hayden Hunt

Colorado State 

KR

Morgan Burns

Kansas State 

KR Evan Berry

Tennessee 

KR Jakeem Grant

Texas Tech 

PR

Christian Kirk

Texas A&M 

PR William Likely

Maryland 

PR Cameron Sutton

Tennessee 

 

Teaser:
College Football's 2015 Postseason All-America Team
Post date: Wednesday, December 16, 2015 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/pac-12-2015-season-awards-and-all-conference-team
Body:

The won’t have a team in the Playoff, but this league is the deepest in the nation, featuring 10 teams with a .500 record or better. Four teams from the Pac-12 finished in the top 25 of the playoff committee rankings, with Stanford the highest at No. 6, followed by Oregon at No. 15.

 

Stanford claimed the conference title with a victory over USC, giving the Cardinal at least 11 wins in four out of coach David Shaw’s five seasons. Oregon started 3-3 after an injury limited quarterback Vernon Adams in the first half of the year. However, the Ducks finished fast and ended the regular season with six consecutive victories. The North Division also featured two improving teams – Washington State and California – and a team on the rise in Washington. The South Division featured a crowded race at the top, but the Trojans claimed the division title after a win over UCLA on Nov. 28. Utah recorded with its best mark in conference play (6-3) since joining the Pac-12, while UCLA finished 8-4 behind true freshman quarterback Josh Rosen.

 

With the regular season completed and bowl season starting on Dec. 19, it’s time to recap and look back at the 2015 campaign. Athlon Sports offers its awards and honors the best players in the league with the first and second all-conference teams for the Pac-12:

 

Pac-12 2015 Season Awards

 

Offensive Player of the Year: Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford

McCaffrey was the nation’s best all-purpose player in 2015. The sophomore led the Pac-12 with 1,847 rushing yards and recorded eight scores and caught 41 passes for 540 yards and four touchdowns. McCaffrey showcased his big-play ability on special teams, averaging 28.9 yards per kickoff return and completed two of three pass attempts for 39 yards and two touchdowns this season. McCaffrey's 3,496 all-purpose yards set a new FBS single-season record.

Runner Up: Luke Falk, QB, Washington State/Royce Freeman, RB, Oregon

 

Defensive Player of the Year: DeForest Buckner, DL, Oregon

It’s a close call between Buckner and Utah linebacker Gionni Paul for the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year. The edge goes to Buckner, as the senior dominated the line of scrimmage for the Ducks this season. Buckner recorded 9.5 sacks (second in the Pac-12), 16 tackles for a loss and 76 overall stops.

Runner Up: Gionni Paul, LB, Utah

 

Coach of the Year: Mike Leach, Washington State

Leach is the easy pick for coach of the year honors after Washington State made a five-game improvement in the win column this season. The Cougars finished 3-9 last year but made significant progress behind new quarterback Luke Falk and an improved defense under new first-year coordinator Alex Grinch. Leach guided the program to road wins at UCLA, Oregon and Arizona and fell just short of an upset (30-28) against Stanford.

Runner Up: David Shaw, Stanford

 

Freshman of the Year (Offensive): Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA

UCLA’s offense has a promising outlook for the future with Rosen at the helm. The true freshman started all 12 games, threw for 3,350 yards and 20 touchdowns and averaged 279.2 yards per game. Rosen tossed only two picks over the last six games and passed for 399 yards in UCLA 40-24 victory over California on Oct. 22.

Runner Up: Myles Gaskin, RB, Washington

 

Freshman of the Year (Defensive): Cameron Smith, LB, USC

Smith was a standout performer for coach Clay Helton in 2015, and the true freshman is a building block for USC’s defense in 2016. Despite a season-ending knee injury on Nov. 13 against Colorado, the California native tied Su’a Cravens for the team lead in tackles (78) and registered three pass breakups and one sack. Smith turned in one of the top individual performances on defense for the Trojans in 2015, intercepting three passes and returning one for a touchdown against Utah on Oct. 24.

Runner Up: Kareem Orr, CB, Arizona State

 

Coordinator of the Year: Pete Kwiatkowski, Defensive Coordinator, Washington

Kwiatkowski is one of the Pac-12’s underrated coaches, as he’s developed one of the league’s top defenses in just two seasons in Seattle. The Huskies led the Pac-12 by limiting opponents to just 4.86 yards per play and 17.8 points per game in 2015. Washington’s defense improved in both statistical categories despite losing three standouts – Shaq Thompson, Danny Shelton and Hau’oli Kikaha – off last year’s group. Under Kwiatkowski’s direction, the Huskies have developed the top secondary in the Pac-12, as this unit allowed only nine passing scores all season.

Runner Up: Mike Bloomgren, OC, Stanford

 

Newcomer of the Year: Vernon Adams, QB, Oregon

Oregon’s 2015 season might have looked a little different if Adams managed to stay healthy all season. The Eastern Washington transfer was a dynamic addition to the Ducks’ high-powered attack, throwing for 2,446 yards and 25 touchdowns. The senior has a knack for producing big plays and connected on 20 passing plays of 30 yards or more this season. A finger injury limited Adams early in the year, but he returned at full strength by mid-October and guided Oregon’s offense to an average of 48.6 points per game over the final five contests.

Runner Up: Matt Hegarty, C, Oregon/Shalom Luani, DB, Washington State

 

Breakout Player: Luke Falk, QB, Washington State

Falk’s four-game audition for the starting job at the end of the 2014 season showed the former walk-on was capable of handling the controls of Washington State’s high-powered offense. It’s probably safe to say Falk exceeded most of those preseason expectations, as he earned first-team Athlon Sports All-Pac-12 honors at quarterback and threw for 4,266 yards and 36 touchdowns. Falk’s emergence is a big reason why Washington State improved its win total by five games from 2014 to 2015.

Runner Up: Sidney Jones, CB, Washington

 

Pac-12 2015 Postseason All-Conference Team
 

First

Team

Second

Team

QB

Luke Falk

Washington State 

QB Jared Goff

California 

RB

Royce Freeman

Oregon 

RB Paul Perkins

UCLA 

RB

Devontae Booker

Utah 

RB Myles Gaskin

Washington 

AP

Christian McCaffrey

Stanford 

AP Charles Nelson

Oregon 

WR

Gabe Marks

Washington State 

WR Jordan Payton

UCLA 

WR

JuJu Smith-Schuster

USC 

WR Nelson Spruce

Colorado 

TE

Austin Hooper

Stanford 

TE Thomas Duarte

UCLA 

C

Jake Brendel

UCLA 

C Josh Mitchell

Oregon State 

OG

Joshua Garnett

Stanford 

OG Isaac Seumalo

Oregon State  

OT

Zach Banner 

USC 

OG Isaac Asiata

Utah 

OT

Joe Dahl

Washington State 

OT Conor McDermott

UCLA 

OT

Kyle Murphy

Stanford 

OT J.J. Dielman

Utah 

   
DE

DeForest Buckner 

Oregon 

DL Antwaun Woods

USC 

DT

Lowell Lotulelei

Utah 

DL Aziz Shittu

Stanford 

DT

Kenny Clark

UCLA 

DL Darryl Paulo

Washington State 

LB

Antonio Longino

Arizona State 

DL Destiny Vaeao

Washington State 

LB

Gionni Paul

Utah 

LB Salamo Fiso

Arizona State 

LB

Su'a Cravens

USC 

LB Jared Norris

Utah 

LB

Blake Martinez

Stanford 

LB Travis Feeney

Washington 

CB

Sidney Jones

Washington 

CB Chidobe Awuzie

Colorado 

CB

Adoree' Jackson

USC 

CB Ronnie Harris

Stanford 

S

Marcus Williams

Utah 

S William Parks

Arizona 

S

Budda Baker

Washington 

S Randall Goforth

UCLA 

   
K

Ka'imi Fairbairn

UCLA 

K Andy Phillips

Utah 

P

Tom Hackett

Utah 

P Drew Riggleman

Arizona 

KR

Christian McCaffrey

Stanford 

KR Tim White

Arizona State 

PR

Adoree' Jackson

USC 

PR Dante Pettis

Washington 

 

Teaser:
Pac-12 2015 Season Awards and All-Conference Team
Post date: Tuesday, December 15, 2015 - 14:20
Path: /college-football/big-12-2015-season-awards-and-all-conference-team
Body:

The got exactly what it needed in 2015 – a playoff team. After missing out on the College Football Playoff last season, the conference had an offseason filled with more discussion about a conference championship game and whether or not expansion was needed. But as many have suggested, patience was the right course of action. Oklahoma emerged as the league’s best team, while Baylor was in the mix for a playoff spot before injuries to its quarterbacks took a toll. Additionally, Oklahoma State and TCU finished with 10 victories and are matched in some of college football’s top bowl games this season.

 

While the league still needs help from its second tier in the standings this season – Texas, West Virginia and Texas Tech – to take a step forward on the national scene, a playoff team was a victory for the Big 12. And with plenty of talent returning at Baylor, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and TCU next season, the conference should be poised to take another step forward in 2016.

 

With the regular season completed and bowl season starting on Dec. 19, it’s time to recap and look back at the 2015 campaign. Athlon Sports offers its awards and honors the best players in the league with the first and second all-conference teams for the Big 12:

 

Big 12 2015 Season Awards

 

Offensive Player of the Year: Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma

From walk-on quarterback at Texas Tech to Heisman contender at Oklahoma. Mayfield’s career path is one of the most interesting storylines of the 2015 season, as the Texas native – along with coordinator Lincoln Riley – was the catalyst behind an improved Oklahoma offense. Mayfield threw for 3,389 yards and 35 touchdowns and rushed for 420 yards and seven scores. The junior’s ability to escape the pocket was also a huge asset in keeping plays alive downfield for an Oklahoma offense that averaged 45.8 points per game.

Runner Up: Corey Coleman, WR, Baylor

 

Defensive Player of the Year: Andrew Billings, DT, Baylor

Billings suffered an ankle injury against West Virginia in late October, but the junior continued to dominate the line of scrimmage. In 11 games, Billings recorded 14 tackles for a loss, including five over Baylor’s final three contests. Additionally, Billings finished the year with 5.5 sacks, one forced fumble and three quarterback hurries. The junior’s ability to dominate the interior of the line is a big reason why Baylor’s defensive front was one of the best in the Big 12 this year.

Runner Up: Emmanuel Ogbah, DE, Oklahoma State

 

Coach of the Year: Bob Stoops, Oklahoma

A strong case could be made for TCU’s Gary Patterson after all of the injuries and roster turnover the Horned Frogs had to overcome in 2015. However, Stoops earns the nod as Athlon Sports’ Big 12 Coach of the Year. Stoops pushed all of the right buttons with staff and personnel changes after an 8-5 record last season, guiding the Sooners to an 11-1 mark in 2015 and a Big 12 title. 

Runner Up: Gary Patterson, TCU

 

Freshman of the Year (Offensive): Mike Warren, RB, Iowa State

Warren is a building block for new coach Matt Campbell to look forward to in 2016. The redshirt freshman was one of six Big 12 players to eclipse 1,000 rushing yards in 2015, finishing with 1,339 yards and five scores on 227 carries. Warren also ranked third in the league by averaging 111.6 yards per contest posted one 200-yard game (Texas Tech).

Runner Up: Connor Williams, OL, Texas/Joe Mixon, RB, Oklahoma

 

Freshman of the Year (Defensive): Malik Jefferson, LB, Texas

Coach Charlie Strong is searching for the right mix and players on offense, but some of the pieces are starting to fall into place on defense for the Longhorns. Jefferson is a rising star in Austin and should push for All-America honors next season. As a true freshman in 2015, Jefferson played in 11 games and recorded 61 stops. Seven of Jefferson’s tackles went for a loss, while forcing one fumble and three pass breakups.

Runner Up: Ty Summers, LB, TCU

 

Coordinator of the Year: Lincoln Riley, Offensive Coordinator, Oklahoma

Riley was the perfect hire for an Oklahoma offense looking for a spark and a return to an Air Raid-style of attack. After a successful stint at East Carolina, Riley was hired by Bob Stoops after the 2014 season and guided the Sooners to an average of 47.2 points in Big 12-only matchups in 2015. Oklahoma averaged 6.95 yards per play and led the conference with nine plays of 60 yards or more.

Runner Up: Kendal Briles, OC, Baylor/Tony Gibson, DC, West Virginia

 

Newcomer of the Year: Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma

In addition to offensive player of the year honors, Mayfield takes home the Athlon Sports Big 12 Newcomer of the Year award. The Texas Tech transfer finished third among Big 12 quarterbacks by averaging 317.4 total yards per game and led the conference with a quarterback rating of 178.86.

Runner Up: Dede Westbrook, WR, Oklahoma/Demond Tucker, DL, Iowa State

 

Breakout Player: Patrick Mahomes II, QB, Texas Tech

Mahomes finished 2014 by throwing 14 touchdown passes over Texas Tech’s final three games. The sophomore picked up where he left off this season, throwing for 4,283 yards and 32 scores. He also rushed for 484 yards and 10 touchdowns and led the Big 12 by averaging 356.9 passing yards per game.

Runner Up: Wendell Smallwood, RB, West Virginia

 

Big 12 2015 Postseason All-Conference Team
 

First

Team

Second

Team

QB

Baker Mayfield

Oklahoma 

QB Trevone Boykin

TCU 

RB

DeAndre Washington

Texas Tech 

RB Mike Warren

Iowa State 

RB

Samaje Perine

Oklahoma 

RB Shock Linwood

Baylor 

WR

Corey Coleman

Baylor 

WR James Washington

Oklahoma State 

WR

Josh Doctson

TCU 

WR Jakeem Grant

Texas Tech 

WR

Sterling Shepard

Oklahoma 

WR Allen Lazard

Iowa State 

AP

Wendell Smallwood (RB)

West Virginia 

AP Winston Dimel (FB)

Kansas State 

C

Tyler Orlosky

West Virginia 

C Ty Darlington

Oklahoma 

OT

Spencer Drango

Baylor 

OT Joseph Noteboom

TCU 

OT

Cody Whitehair

Kansas State 

OT Le'Raven Clark

Texas Tech 

OG

Nila Kasitati

Oklahoma 

OL Joey Hunt (C)

TCU 

OG

Jarell Broxton

Baylor 

OG Boston Stiverson

Kansas State 

   
DE

Emmanuel Ogbah

Oklahoma State 

DE Jordan Willis

Kansas State 

DE

Charles Tapper

Oklahoma 

DE Jamal Palmer

Baylor 

DT

Andrew Billings

Baylor 

DT Davion Pierson

TCU 

DT

Hassan Ridgeway

Texas 

DL Josh Carraway

TCU 

LB

Eric Striker

Oklahoma 

LB Malik Jefferson

Texas 

LB

Dominique Alexander

Oklahoma 

LB Jordan Burton

Oklahoma State 

LB

Nick Kwiatkoski

West Virginia 

LB Peter Jinkens

Texas 

CB

Zack Sanchez

Oklahoma 

CB Xavien Howard

Baylor 

CB

Daryl Worley

West Virginia 

CB Kevin Peterson

Oklahoma State 

S

Derrick Kindred

TCU 

DB Jordan Thomas (CB)

Oklahoma 

S

Denzel Johnson

TCU 

S Jordan Sterns

Oklahoma State 

   
K

Jaden Oberkrom

TCU 

K Clayton Hatfield

Texas Tech 

P

Nick O'Toole

West Virginia 

P Austin Seibert

Oklahoma 

KR

Morgan Burns

Kansas State 

KR Jakeem Grant

Texas Tech 

PR

KaVontae Turpin

TCU 

PR Daje Johnson

Texas 

 

Teaser:
Big 12 2015 Season Awards and All-Conference Team
Post date: Tuesday, December 15, 2015 - 12:20
Path: /college-football/big-ten-2015-season-awards-and-all-conference-team
Body:

Most offseason predictions hinted January 2015 could be a turning point for the . Ohio State’s national championship victory over Oregon and the arrival of Jim Harbaugh at Michigan signaled the Big Ten was ready to take a step forward and push the SEC and Pac-12 for the best conference in college football. Fast forward almost one year and it’s safe to say those offseason predictions held true.

 

Ohio State fell just short of preseason expectations, but Michigan State ensured the Big Ten had a playoff representative, while Iowa was one of the nation’s biggest surprises. The Hawkeyes finished 12-1 and clinched a Rose Bowl appearance after a close loss against the Spartans in the Big Ten Championship. As expected, Michigan showed immediate improvement under new coach Jim Harbaugh, while Northwestern and Wisconsin combined for a 19-5 record this season. The bowl season is still ahead, but 2015 was a good year for the Big Ten – and the future looks even more promising. 

 

With the regular season completed and bowl season starting on Dec. 19, it’s time to recap and look back at the 2015 campaign. Athlon Sports offers its awards and honors the best players in the league with the first and second all-conference teams for the Big Ten:

 

Big Ten 2015 Season Awards

 

Offensive Player of the Year: Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State

Elliott’s strong 2015 season was lost on the national scene with a deep pool of Heisman contenders at running back, but the junior was consistent and the best offensive weapon for coach Urban Meyer. Elliott rushed for 1,672 yards and 19 scores, which included 214 yards in the season finale at Michigan. He also caught 26 passes for 176 yards and was regarded for his blocking ability in pass protection.

Runner Up: Michigan State QB Connor Cook

 

Defensive Player of the Year: Carl Nassib, DE, Penn State

Nassib joined Penn State as a walk-on in 2011 and finished his career as one of the top defensive players in the Big Ten and in the nation in 2015. That’s quite a career for the Pennsylvania native, as he finished 2015 with 15.5 sacks (the most in the Big Ten), 19.5 tackles for a loss (tied for first) and forced six fumbles.

Runner Up: Ohio State DE Joey Bosa

 

Related:

 

Coach of the Year: Kirk Ferentz, Iowa

Kirk Ferentz version 3.0 was a huge hit in Iowa City. After a 19-19 record from 2012-14, Ferentz made a few tweaks and rallied the Hawkeyes to a 12-1 record and a Big Ten West Division title in 2015. Ferentz didn’t drastically alter his approach or make huge changes, but inserting C.J. Beathard as the full-time quarterback and being more aggressive with on-field calls were two changes that paid big dividends for Iowa. As a result, the Hawkeyes finished No. 5 in the final College Football Playoff rankings and are making their first Rose Bowl appearance since 1991.

Runner Up: Mark Dantonio, Michigan State

 

Freshman of the Year (Offense): Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State

Barkley provided a spark to Penn State’s ground attack, rushing for 1,007 yards and seven touchdowns on 165 attempts. He also added 15 catches for 148 yards and one score, while his 6.1 yards per carry ranked sixth among Big Ten rushers. Barkley finished the regular season with two 100-yard games over his last three contests.

Runner Up: Clayton Thorson, QB, Northwestern/LJ Scott, RB, Michigan State

 

Freshman of the Year (Defense): Jabrill Peppers, DB, Michigan

Not only was Peppers a standout performer for Michigan’s defense, but the redshirt freshman also emerged as an all-purpose threat by the end of the season. Peppers recorded 45 tackles (5.5 for a loss) and finished second on the team with 10 pass breakups. He also accumulated 417 return yards, eight receptions for 79 yards and 72 rush yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries. Peppers will be an even bigger part of the gameplan for coach Jim Harbaugh in 2016.

Runner Up: T.J. Edwards, LB, Wisconsin

 

Coordinator of the Year: Dave Aranda, Defensive Coordinator, Wisconsin

Aranda returned seven starters and a solid core to build around in 2015, but this unit featured a few preseason question marks on the defensive line and at linebacker. However, Aranda quickly found the right answers and proved once again why he is one of the top defensive coaches in the nation. Wisconsin surrendered only 4.39 yards per play (tied for Ohio State with first in the Big Ten), held opponents to 13.1 points per game and ranked second in the conference in third-down defense.

Runner Up: D.J. Durkin, DC, Michigan/Greg Davis, OC, Iowa

 

Newcomer of the Year: Jordan Howard, RB, Indiana

Tevin Coleman’s early departure to the NFL was a huge loss for Indiana, but the rushing attack for coach Kevin Wilson never missed a beat with Howard as the go-to running back. The UAB transfer rushed for 1,213 yards and nine touchdowns in nine games and caught 11 passes for 106 yards and one score. A knee injury limited Howard late in the year, as he recorded only three carries against Maryland did not play in the regular season finale against Purdue.

Runner Up: Jake Rudock, QB, Michigan

 

Breakout Player: C.J. Beathard, QB, Iowa

Choosing Beathard over Jake Rudock was just one of the many decisions coach Kirk Ferentz got right this season. In his first year as the Hawkeyes’ full-time starter, Beathard passed for 2,570 yards and 15 touchdowns and added 270 yards and six scores on the ground. Most importantly, Beathard tossed only four interceptions and completed 61.4 percent of his passes.

Runner Up: Clayton Fejedelem, S, Illinois

 

Big Ten 2015 Postseason All-Conference Team
 

First

Team

Second

Team

QB

Connor Cook

Michigan State 

QB Nate Sudfeld

Indiana 

RB

Ezekiel Elliott

Ohio State 

RB Justin Jackson

Northwestern 

RB

Jordan Howard

Indiana 

RB Saquon Barkley

Penn State 

WR

Aaron Burbridge

Michigan State 

WR Michael Thomas

Ohio State 

WR

Leonte Carroo

Rutgers 

WR Alex Erickson

Wisconsin 

WR

Jehu Chesson

Michigan 

WR Jordan Westerkamp

Nebraska 

TE

Jake Butt

Michigan 

TE Dan Vitale

Northwestern 

C

Jack Allen

Michigan State 

C Austin Blythe

Iowa 

OGDan Feeney
Indiana 

OG Jordan Walsh

Iowa 

OG

Pat Elflein

Ohio State 

OG Brian Allen

Michigan State 

OT

Taylor Decker

Ohio State 

OT Jason Spriggs

Indiana 

OT

Jack Conklin

Michigan State 

OT Alex Lewis

Nebraska 

   
DE

Carl Nassib

Penn State 

DT Adolphus Washington

Ohio State 

DE

Joey Bosa

Ohio State 

DE Yannick Ngakoue

Maryland 

DE

Shilique Calhoun

Michigan State 

DT Maliek Collins

Nebraska 

DT

Austin Johnson

Penn State 

DT Malik McDowell

Michigan State 

LB

Anthony Walker

Northwestern 

LB Darron Lee

Ohio State 

LB

Joe Schobert

Wisconsin 

LB Raekwon McMillan

Ohio State 

LB

Joshua Perry

Ohio State 

LB Josey Jewell

Iowa 

CB

Desmond King

Iowa 

CB Nick VanHoose

Northwestern 

CB

Jourdan Lewis

Michigan 

CB Eli Apple

Ohio State 

S

Vonn Bell

Ohio State 

CB William Likely

Maryland 

S

Michael Caputo

Wisconsin 

S Jabrill Peppers

Michigan 

   
K

Griffin Oakes

Indiana 

K Drew Brown

Nebraska 

P

Sam Foltz

Nebraska 

P Peter Mortell

Minnesota 

KR

Janarion Grant

Rutgers 

KR Solomon Vault

Northwestern 

PR

William Likely

Maryland 

PR Jalin Marshall

Ohio State 

 

Teaser:
Big Ten 2015 Season Awards and All-Conference Team
Post date: Tuesday, December 15, 2015 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: ACC, Air Force Falcons, Akron Zips, Alabama Crimson Tide, Appalachian State Mountaineers, Arizona State Sun Devils, Arizona Wildcats, Arkansas Razorbacks, Arkansas State Red Wolves, Army Black Knights, Army West Point Black Knights, Auburn Tigers, Ball State Cardinals, Baylor Bears, Boise State Broncos, Boston College Eagles, Bowling Green Falcons, Buffalo Bulls, BYU Cougars, California Golden Bears, Central Michigan Chippewas, Charlotte 49ers, Cincinnati Bearcats, Clemson Tigers, College Football, Colorado Buffaloes, Colorado State Rams, Connecticut Huskies, Duke Blue Devils, East Carolina Pirates, Eastern Michigan Eagles, FAU Owls, FIU Panthers, Florida Gators, Florida State Seminoles, Fresno State Bulldogs, Georgia Bulldogs, Georgia Southern Eagles, Georgia State Panthers, Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, Hawaii Warriors, Houston Cougars, Idaho Vandals, Illinois Fighting Illini, Indiana Hoosiers, Iowa Hawkeyes, Iowa State Cyclones, Kansas Jayhawks, Kansas State Wildcats, Kent State Golden Flashes, Kentucky Wildcats, Louisiana Tech Bulldogs, Louisville Cardinals, LSU Tigers, Marshall Thundering Herd, Maryland Terrapins, Memphis Tigers, Miami Hurricanes, Miami Ohio RedHawks, Michigan State Spartans, Michigan Wolverines, Minnesota Golden Gophers, Mississippi State Bulldogs, Missouri Tigers, MTSU Blue Raiders, Navy Midshipmen, NC State Wolfpack, Nebraska Cornhuskers, Nevada Wolf Pack, New Mexico Lobos, New Mexico State Aggies, North Carolina Tar Heels, North Texas Mean Green, Northern Illinois Huskies, Northwestern Wildcats, Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Ohio Bobcats, Ohio State Buckeyes, Oklahoma Sooners, Oklahoma State Cowboys, Old Dominion Monarchs, Ole Miss Rebels, Oregon Ducks, Oregon State Beavers, Penn State Nittany Lions, Pittsburgh Panthers, Purdue Boilermakers, Rice Owls, Rutgers Scarlet Knights, San Diego State Aztecs, San Jose State Spartans, SMU Mustangs, South Alabama Jaguars, South Carolina Gamecocks, South Florida Bulls, Southern Miss Golden Eagles, Stanford Cardinal, Syracuse Orange, TCU Horned Frogs, Temple Owls, Tennessee Volunteers, Texas A&M Aggies, Texas Longhorns, Texas State Bobcats, Texas Tech Red Raiders, Toledo Rockets, Troy Trojans, Tulane Green Wave, Tulsa Golden Hurricane, UAB Blazers, UCF Knights, UCLA Bruins, UConn Huskies, UL Lafayette Ragin Cajuns, UL Monroe Warhawks, UMass Minutemen, UNLV Rebels, USC Trojans, Utah State Aggies, Utah Utes, UTEP Miners, UTSA Roadrunners, Vanderbilt Commodores, Virginia Cavaliers, Virginia Tech Hokies, Wake Forest Demon Deacons, Washington Huskies, Washington State Cougars, West Virginia Mountaineers, Western Kentucky Hilltoppers, Western Michigan Broncos, Wisconsin Badgers, Wyoming Cowboys, American Athletic, Big 12, Big Ten, Conference USA, Independents, MAC, Mountain West, Pac 12, SEC, Sun Belt, News
Path: /college-football/predictions-every-college-football-2015-2016-bowl-game
Body:

’s bowl season is bigger and better than ever with 41 postseason matchups. With the bowl lineup set and confidence pools and pick’em contests set to start on Dec. 19, Athlon’s editors are here with predictions for every bowl.

 

The action begins on Saturday, Dec. 19 with five games, including the inaugural Cure Bowl and the Las Vegas Bowl between rivals Utah and BYU. The action picks up on Monday, Dec. 21 and continues with seven bowls before Christmas. The post-Christmas slate starts with six games on Dec. 26 and continues the following week on Dec. 28 with matchups every day until Jan. 3. The College Football Playoff takes center stage on Dec. 31 with Clemson-Oklahoma at 4 p.m. ET on Dec. 31, followed by Michigan State-Alabama at 8 p.m. ET. The Jan. 1 slate is loaded with intriguing matchups, including the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl. The postseason slate concludes in Glendale, Ariz. on Jan. 11 with the national championship. 

 

Note: Number in parentheses indicates confidence in prediction. A No. 40 ranking indicates more confidence in the prediction, while a lower number indicates less confidence in a pick.

 

College Football's 2015-16 Bowl Predictions and Picks
Bowl

Steven

Lassan

Mitch

Light

David

Fox

Braden

Gall

Mark

Ross

Cure (1) (7) (1) (16) (4)
New Mexico (28) (30) (35) (36) (36)
Las Vegas (21) (28) (25) (23) (15)
Camellia (20) (3) (6) (8) (9)
New Orleans (5) (10) (21) (15) (14)
Miami Beach(17) (11) (26) (27) (32)

Famous Idaho

Potato

 (23) (34) (17) (22) (26)
Boca Raton (26) (29)(15) (21) (16)
Poinsettia (31) (15) (5) (9) (3)
GoDaddy(16) (38)(3) (4)(5)
Bahamas(15) (14)(11) (3)(8)
Hawaii(3)(1)(4)(2)(2)
St. Petersburg (9) (20)(31) (28)(31)
Sun (24) (12)(32) (29)(33)
Heart of Dallas (29) (25)(23) (20)(20)
Pinstripe(10) (19)(19) (24)(17)
Independence (33) (21)(12) (19)(23)
Foster Farms (37) (40)(40) (34)(34)
Military (7) (13)(18) (14)(7)
Quick Lane(18) (27)(8) (7) (18)
Armed Forces (4) (26)(20) (13)(21)
Russell Athletic (22) (31)(27) (17)(19)
Arizona(13) (2)(7) (6)(12)
Texas (35) (32)(36) (35)(38)
Birmingham(11) (8)(15) (10)(27)
Belk (34) (37)(33) (38)(30)
Music City (6) (9)(9) (5)(22)
Holiday(19) (35)(13)(26)(13)
Peach (25) (16) (37) (1)(1)
Orange(14) (17)(14) (12)(24)
Cotton (38) (39)(38) (37)(39)
Outback (39) (36)(39) (40) (40)

Buffalo Wild

Wings Citrus

 (36) (33) (34) (25) (10)
Fiesta (27) (4)(24) (33) (25)
Rose (32) (24)(30) (32)(29)
Sugar (30) (23)(10) (31) (28)
TaxSlayer (2) (18) (2) (11) (6)
Liberty (40) (22) (21) (39) (37)
Alamo (8) (6) (29) (30)(35)
Cactus(12) (5)(28) (18)(11)
National Title

over

over

over

over

over

 

Teaser:
Predictions for Every College Football 2015-2016 Bowl Game
Post date: Monday, December 14, 2015 - 17:15
Path: /college-football/sec-2015-season-awards-and-all-conference-team
Body:

While 2015 wasn’t the ’s best or deepest season in terms of overall team strength, the league still ended the year with eight teams with eight wins or more, including Alabama at 12-1 and No. 2 overall in the final College Football Playoff rankings. The Crimson Tide rallied from an early loss against Ole Miss to win the SEC title and finish with their eighth consecutive season of at least 10 victories.

 

The West Division was expected to be the best in college football this season, but Auburn finished 6-6, LSU’s offense sputtered down the stretch in a three-game losing streak, while Texas A&M was unable to build off the momentum from a 5-0 start. Arkansas and Tennessee took a step forward under third-year coaches, Ole Miss qualified for back-to-back New Year’s Six bowl games, and Florida surprised by winning the SEC East in coach Jim McElwain’s first season. 

 

With the regular season completed and bowl season starting on Dec. 19, it’s time to recap and look back at the 2015 campaign. Athlon Sports offers its awards and honors the best players in the league with the first and second all-conference teams for the SEC:

 

SEC 2015 Season Awards

 

Offensive Player of the Year: Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama

Henry was the catalyst behind Alabama’s offense in 2015, rushing for 1,986 yards and 23 scores in 13 regular season games. The junior recorded at least 200 yards in four out of his final seven matchups, including 271 in a 29-13 victory over rival Auburn. Henry averaged a healthy 5.86 yards per carry and led the SEC with nine rushing plays of 30 yards or more.

Runner Up: Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU

 

Defensive Player of the Year: Reggie Ragland, LB, Alabama

Alabama’s front seven was the best in college football this season, and Ragland was a key cog in a rush defense that held opponents to 2.4 yards per carry and generated 46 sacks. The senior recorded 90 stops (6.5 for a loss), 2.5 sacks, six pass breakups and two forced fumbles, while his ability to cover the field from sideline-to-sideline was a huge asset for coordinator Kirby Smart and coach Nick Saban.

Runner Up: Kentrell Brothers, LB, Missouri

 

Coach of the Year: Jim McElwain, Florida

McElwain made an immediate impact in his first season in Gainesville, guiding Florida to its first trip to the SEC Championship since 2009. The Gators finished the regular season at 10-3, which included a 27-3 victory over rival Georgia, a 38-10 win over Ole Miss and a last-minute 28-27 escape against Tennessee. McElwain still has work to do on offense, but the Gators were strong on defense, and the overall direction of this program is trending up headed into the bowl season.

Runner Up: Nick Saban, Alabama

 

Freshman of the Year (Offense): Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M

Alabama’s Calvin Ridley made a late push for this award, but Kirk was the SEC’s best all-around freshman in 2015. The true freshman led Texas A&M with 70 catches for 925 yards and six receiving touchdowns, scored on two punt returns and was the team’s top kickoff returner.

Runner Up: Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama

 

Freshman of the Year (Defense): Dre Greenlaw, LB, Arkansas

It’s a tight battle for the SEC’s top defensive freshman of the year, but a slight edge goes to Greenlaw over Missouri linemen Walter Brady and Terry Beckner, along with Alabama cornerback Minkah Fitzpatrick. Greenlaw ranked second among Arkansas defenders with 93 tackles (3.5 for a loss), one sack and two forced fumbles.

Runner Up: Walter Brady/Terry Beckner, DL, Missouri, Minkah Fitzpatrick, CB, Alabama

 

Coordinator of the Year: Kirby Smart, Defensive Coordinator, Alabama

Smart has helped coach Nick Saban build some of the nation’s top defenses in recent seasons and is leaving Alabama at the end of this year to be the head coach at Georgia. Under Smart’s direction, the Crimson Tide held opponents to 4.2 yards per play and 14.4 points per game in 2015. Additionally, Alabama led the nation with 46 sacks and ranked sixth in third-down defense.

Runner Up: Barry Odom, Defensive Coordinator, Missouri/Dan Enos, Offensive Coordinator, Arkansas 

 

Newcomer of the Year: Chad Kelly, QB, Ole Miss

Kelly quickly emerged as one of the SEC’s top quarterbacks in his first season in Oxford. The junior college transfer (and former Clemson quarterback) threw for 3,740 yards and 27 scores and rushed for 427 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Runner Up: Jake Ganus, LB, Georgia

 

Breakout Player: Zach Cunningham, LB, Vanderbilt

After watching Vanderbilt’s defense surrender 33.3 points a game in 2014, coach Derek Mason decided to take over play-calling duties in 2015. The result was a much-improved defense for the Commodores, as Mason’s group limited opponents to 21 points a game and 5.2 yards per play. Cunningham’s emergence was a big reason why this defense improved, as the sophomore recorded 103 stops (16.5 for a loss), 4.5 sacks and four forced fumbles.

Runner Up: Drew Morgan, WR, Arkansas

 

SEC 2015 Postseason All-Conference Team
 

First

Team

Second

Team

QB

Dak Prescott

Miss. State 

QB Brandon Allen

Arkansas 

RB

Derrick Henry

Alabama 

RB Alex Collins

Arkansas 

RB

Leonard Fournette

LSU 

RB Jalen Hurd

Tennessee 

WR

Laquon Treadwell

Ole Miss 

WR Calvin Ridley

Alabama 

WR

Pharoh Cooper

South Carolina 

WR Fred Ross

Miss. State 

AP

Christian Kirk

Texas A&M 

WR Drew Morgan

Arkansas 

TE

Hunter Henry

Arkansas 

TE Evan Engram

Ole Miss 

C

Ryan Kelly

Alabama 

C Mike Matthews

Texas A&M 

OG

Sebastian Tretola

Arkansas 

OT Dan Skipper

Arkansas 

OT

Laremy Tunsil

Ole Miss 

OT Dominick Jackson

Alabama 

OT

Cam Robinson

Alabama 

OT Shon Coleman

Auburn 

OT

Vadal Alexander

LSU 

OT Kyler Kerbyson

Tennessee 

   
DE

Myles Garrett

Texas A&M 

DE Derek Barnett

Tennessee 

DL

 

Jon Bullard

Florida 

DE Jarran Reed

Alabama 

DT

A'Shawn Robinson

Alabama 

DL Charles Harris (DE)

Missouri 

DT

Robert Nkemdiche

Ole Miss 

DL Jonathan Allen (DE)

Alabama 

LB

Kentrell Brothers

Missouri 

LB Skai Moore

South Carolina 

LB

Reggie Ragland

Alabama 

LB Zach Cunningham

Vanderbilt 

LB

Antonio Morrison

Florida 

LB Jalen Reeves-Maybin

Tennessee 

CB

Vernon Hargreaves III

Florida 

CB De'Vante Harris

Texas A&M 

CB

Jalen Tabor

Florida 

CB Tre'Davious White

LSU 

S

Trae Elston

Ole Miss 

S Marcus Maye

Florida  

S

Eddie Jackson

Alabama 

S Jamal Adams

LSU 

   
K

Daniel Carlson

Auburn 

K Taylor Bertolet

Texas A&M 

P

Drew Kaser

Texas A&M 

P Johnny Townsend

Florida 

KR

Evan Berry

Tennessee 

KR Brandon Holloway

Miss. State 

PR

Christian Kirk

Texas A&M  

PR Cameron Sutton

Tennessee 

 

Teaser:
SEC 2015 Season Awards and All-Conference Team
Post date: Monday, December 14, 2015 - 11:45
Path: /college-football/acc-2015-season-awards-and-all-conference-team
Body:

For the second year in a row, a team from the earned a spot in the College Football Playoff. Clemson matched Florida State’s run from 2014, finishing the regular season with a 13-0 mark, an ACC Championship and a spot among the top four in the playoff. Coach Dabo Swinney’s team returned only five starters in the preseason but quickly emerged as the team to beat in the ACC. Quarterback Deshaun Watson guided an explosive offense, while the defense reloaded behind ace coordinator Brent Venables.

 

Clemson garnered most of the national attention from the ACC, but it’s notable the league had two other teams hitting double-digit wins. North Carolina was one of the nation’s most improved programs in 2015, while Florida State finished 10-2 in a rebuilding year. Pittsburgh also had a solid season in coach Pat Narduzzi’s debut, while Miami finished strong under interim coach Larry Scott.

 

With the regular season completed and bowl season starting on Dec. 19, it’s time to recap and look back at the 2015 campaign. Athlon Sports offers its awards and honors the best players in the league with the first and second all-conference teams for the ACC:

 

ACC 2015 Season Awards

 

Offensive Player of the Year: Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson

Florida State running back Dalvin Cook deserves consideration for this honor, but the nod goes to Watson. The sophomore was the catalyst behind Clemson’s run to the No. 1 overall seed in the College Football Playoff, passing for 3,512 yards and 30 touchdowns. The sophomore also added 887 yards and 11 scores on the ground and recorded four 100-yard rushing games over the Tigers’ last five matchups.

Runner Up: Florida State RB Dalvin Cook

 

Defensive Player of the Year: Shaq Lawson, DE, Clemson

It’s a close call between Lawson and Duke safety Jeremy Cash, but a slight edge goes to the Clemson defensive end. Lawson recorded 9.5 sacks, led the ACC with 22.5 tackles for a loss, registered 55 tackles and one forced fumble. The junior was expected to have a breakout season and delivered for a defensive line that had to replace all four starters from last year’s standout group.

Runner Up: Jeremy Cash, S, Duke

 

Coach of the Year: Dabo Swinney, Clemson

Swinney guided Clemson to its fifth straight year of at least 10 victories with a perfect 13-0 mark in the regular season. Despite returning only five starters, the Tigers cruised to their first ACC title since 2011 and finished as the No. 1 team in the College Football Playoff rankings.

Runner Up: Larry Fedora, North Carolina

 

Freshman of the Year (Offense): Mitch Hyatt, OT, Clemson

Hyatt was tossed into the fire as a true freshman and aced every test with high marks. The true freshman played the most snaps by any true freshman offensive lineman in school history and started all 13 games. Hyatt’s presence was a big reason why Clemson allowed only 14 sacks in 2015.

Runner Up: Qadree Ollison, RB, Pittsburgh

 

Co-Freshman of the Year (Defense): Derwin James, S, Florida State/Jordan Whitehead, S, Pittsburgh

Whitehead and James are two of the nation’s rising stars in the secondary and share Athlon Sports’ defensive co-freshman of the year award. Whitehead led Pittsburgh’s defense with 98 tackles and also accumulated 89 yards on offense. James played more as the season progressed and finished with 77 stops (7.5 for a loss), two forced fumbles and three pass breakups.

Runner Up: Christian Wilkins, DT, Clemson

 

Coordinator of the Year: Gene Chizik, Defensive Coordinator, North Carolina

North Carolina coach Larry Fedora’s hire of Chizik was the top coordinator hire for 2015. Chizik brought immediate improvement to a defense that ranked near the bottom of the ACC in points and yards per play allowed in 2014. The Tar Heels limited opponents to just 22.6 points a contest and 5.3 yards per play this season. Additionally, this defense surrendered only 23 plays of 30 yards or more after giving up 41 in 2014.

Runner Up: Don Brown, Defensive Coordinator, Boston College

 

Newcomer of the Year: Devonte Fields, LB, Louisville

Fields was a key piece of Louisville’s defense, which limited ACC opponents to 25 points a game despite returning only four starters in 2015. Fields finished second on the team with eight sacks, led the defense with 19.5 tackles for a loss and recorded two forced fumbles.

Runner Up: Nathan Peterman, QB, Pittsburgh 

 

Breakout Player: Ejuan Price, DE, Pittsburgh

Price had a solid debut for Pittsburgh back in 2011, but injuries robbed the Pennsylvania native of two full seasons (2012 and 2014) and limited him to six games in 2013. The senior returned to the field and made a huge impact for new coach Pat Narduzzi, recording 11.5 sacks and 19.5 tackles for a loss. Price also forced one fumble and one pass breakup.

Runner Up: Jaylen Samuels, FB/H-Back, NC State

 

ACC 2015 Postseason All-Conference Team
 First TeamSecond Team
QB

Deshaun Watson

Clemson 

QB Marquise Williams

North Carolina 

RB

Dalvin Cook

Florida State 

RB Wayne Gallman

Clemson 

RB

Elijah Hood

North Carolina 

RB Qadree Ollison

Pittsburgh 

AP

Jaylen Samuels

NC State 

AP Taquan Mizzell

Virginia 

WR

Tyler Boyd

Pittsburgh 

WR Artavis Scott

Clemson 

WR

Isaiah Ford

Virginia Tech 

WR Canaan Severin

Virginia 

TE

Jordan Leggett

Clemson 

TE Bucky Hodges

Virginia Tech 

C

Matt Skura

Duke 

C Jay Guillermo

Clemson 

OG

Landon Turner

North Carolina 

OG Dorian Johnson

Pittsburgh 

OG

Eric Mac Lain

Clemson 

OG Caleb Peterson

North Carolina 

OT

Roderick Johnson

Florida State 

OT Adam Bisnowaty

Pittsburgh 

OT

Joe Thuney

NC State 

OT Jon Heck

North Carolina 

   
DE

Shaq Lawson

Clemson 

DE Sheldon Rankins

Louisville 

DE

Ejuan Price

Pittsburgh 

DE DeMarcus Walker

Florida State 

DT

N. Lawrence-Stample

Florida State 

DT Luther Maddy

Virginia Tech 

DT

Connor Wujciak

Boston College 

DT Carlos Watkins

Clemson 

LB

Steven Daniels

Boston College 

LB Micah Kiser

Virginia 

LB

Keith Kelsey

Louisville 

LB B.J. Goodson

Clemson 

LB

Brandon Chubb

Wake Forest 

LB Ben Boulware

Clemson 

CB

Jalen Ramsey

Florida State 

CB M.J. Stewart

North Carolina 

CB

Mackensie Alexander

Clemson 

CB Artie Burns

Miami 

S

Jeremy Cash

Duke 

S Jayron Kearse

Clemson 

S

Quin Blanding

Virginia 

S Jordan Whitehead

Pittsburgh 

   
K

Roberto Aguayo

Florida State 

K Ross Martin

Duke 

P

Riley Dixon

Syracuse 

P Alex Kinal

Wake Forest 

KR

DeVon Edwards

Duke 

KR Nyheim Hines

NC State 

PR

Ryan Switzer

North Carolina 

PR Brisly Estime

Syracuse 

 

Teaser:
ACC 2015 Season Awards and All-Conference Team
Post date: Monday, December 14, 2015 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/alabama-rb-derrick-henry-wins-2015-heisman-trophy
Body:

Alabama running back Derrick Henry claimed the 2015 Heisman Trophy on Saturday night as college football’s most outstanding player, edging Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey and Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson for the No. 1 spot.

 

Henry is the second Alabama player to win the Heisman Trophy over the last seven seasons. Additionally, the junior is only the second Crimson Tide player to claim the Heisman, joining Mark Ingram (2009) in the exclusive club.

 

Henry recorded 1,832 total points in voting, followed by Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey at No. 2 (1,539) and Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson (1,165). Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield finished fourth, while Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds was fifth in the voting. 

 

Henry is also the first running back since Ingram to claim the Heisman Trophy. The last five Heisman winners after Ingram in 2009 were quarterbacks, including Oregon’s Marcus Mariota, Florida State’s Jameis Winston and Auburn’s Cam Newton.

 

Henry led the nation with 1,986 rushing yards this season and finished first among all players with 23 rushing scores. The junior recorded a whopping 339 carries and rushed for at least 200 yards in four out of his last seven games.

 

Henry will lead Alabama into the College Football Playoff on Dec. 31 against Michigan State.  

Teaser:
Alabama RB Derrick Henry Wins 2015 Heisman Trophy
Post date: Saturday, December 12, 2015 - 20:16
All taxonomy terms: ACC, Air Force Falcons, Akron Zips, Alabama Crimson Tide, Appalachian State Mountaineers, Arizona State Sun Devils, Arizona Wildcats, Arkansas Razorbacks, Arkansas State Red Wolves, Army Black Knights, Army West Point Black Knights, Auburn Tigers, Ball State Cardinals, Baylor Bears, Boise State Broncos, Boston College Eagles, Bowling Green Falcons, Buffalo Bulls, BYU Cougars, California Golden Bears, Central Michigan Chippewas, Charlotte 49ers, Cincinnati Bearcats, Clemson Tigers, College Football, Colorado Buffaloes, Colorado State Rams, Connecticut Huskies, Duke Blue Devils, East Carolina Pirates, Eastern Michigan Eagles, FAU Owls, FIU Panthers, Florida Gators, Florida State Seminoles, Fresno State Bulldogs, Georgia Bulldogs, Georgia Southern Eagles, Georgia State Panthers, Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, Hawaii Warriors, Houston Cougars, Idaho Vandals, Illinois Fighting Illini, Indiana Hoosiers, Iowa Hawkeyes, Iowa State Cyclones, Kansas Jayhawks, Kansas State Wildcats, Kent State Golden Flashes, Kentucky Wildcats, Louisiana Tech Bulldogs, Louisville Cardinals, LSU Tigers, Marshall Thundering Herd, Maryland Terrapins, Memphis Tigers, Miami Hurricanes, Miami Ohio RedHawks, Michigan State Spartans, Michigan Wolverines, Minnesota Golden Gophers, Mississippi State Bulldogs, Missouri Tigers, MTSU Blue Raiders, Navy Midshipmen, NC State Wolfpack, Nebraska Cornhuskers, Nevada Wolf Pack, New Mexico Lobos, New Mexico State Aggies, North Carolina Tar Heels, North Texas Mean Green, Northern Illinois Huskies, Northwestern Wildcats, Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Ohio Bobcats, Ohio State Buckeyes, Oklahoma Sooners, Oklahoma State Cowboys, Old Dominion Monarchs, Ole Miss Rebels, Oregon Ducks, Oregon State Beavers, Penn State Nittany Lions, Pittsburgh Panthers, Purdue Boilermakers, Rice Owls, Rutgers Scarlet Knights, San Diego State Aztecs, San Jose State Spartans, SMU Mustangs, South Alabama Jaguars, South Carolina Gamecocks, South Florida Bulls, Southern Miss Golden Eagles, Stanford Cardinal, Syracuse Orange, TCU Horned Frogs, Temple Owls, Tennessee Volunteers, Texas A&M Aggies, Texas Longhorns, Texas State Bobcats, Texas Tech Red Raiders, Toledo Rockets, Troy Trojans, Tulane Green Wave, Tulsa Golden Hurricane, UAB Blazers, UCF Knights, UCLA Bruins, UConn Huskies, UL Lafayette Ragin Cajuns, UL Monroe Warhawks, UMass Minutemen, UNLV Rebels, USC Trojans, Utah State Aggies, Utah Utes, UTEP Miners, UTSA Roadrunners, Vanderbilt Commodores, Virginia Cavaliers, Virginia Tech Hokies, Wake Forest Demon Deacons, Washington Huskies, Washington State Cougars, West Virginia Mountaineers, Western Kentucky Hilltoppers, Western Michigan Broncos, Wisconsin Badgers, Wyoming Cowboys, American Athletic, Big 12, Big Ten, Conference USA, Independents, MAC, Mountain West, Pac 12, SEC, Sun Belt, News
Path: /college-football/what-if-college-football-had-march-madness-68-team-tournament
Body:

’s four-team playoff and bowl system is the perfect blend of adding importance to the regular season and allowing teams to sort it out on the field in the postseason. While we wouldn’t advocate for college football to change from this current format anytime soon, there’s no harm in having some fun with a hypothetical 68-team playoff field. March Madness and college basketball’s postseason tournament is one of the most exciting moments of the year for any sports fan, as upsets knock out top seeds and the action is spread out over the course of three weekends.

 

What if college football decided to emulate college basketball and implement a 68-team tournament with four play-in games? To help answer that question, we used the College Football Playoff Committee’s . For 26-68, we averaged the rankings from six sources: , , Bill Connelly of Football Outsiders and SB Nation’s and , Ed Feng’s and Brian Fremeau’s .

 

After establishing the rankings, we seeded the teams by region and made a few tweaks to each bracket to eliminate having too many teams from the same conference in that region.

 

The hypothetical and potentially entertaining postseason tournament looks like this:  

 

College Football's 68-Team Playoff Bracket for 2015

 

East Region

 

 

 

South Region

 

 

Midwest Region

 

 

West Region

 

Teaser:
What if College Football Had a March Madness 68-Team Tournament?
Post date: Wednesday, December 9, 2015 - 11:40
All taxonomy terms: ACC, Air Force Falcons, Akron Zips, Alabama Crimson Tide, Appalachian State Mountaineers, Arizona State Sun Devils, Arizona Wildcats, Arkansas Razorbacks, Arkansas State Red Wolves, Army Black Knights, Army West Point Black Knights, Auburn Tigers, Ball State Cardinals, Baylor Bears, Boise State Broncos, Boston College Eagles, Bowling Green Falcons, Buffalo Bulls, BYU Cougars, California Golden Bears, Central Michigan Chippewas, Charlotte 49ers, Cincinnati Bearcats, Clemson Tigers, College Football, Colorado Buffaloes, Colorado State Rams, Connecticut Huskies, Duke Blue Devils, East Carolina Pirates, Eastern Michigan Eagles, FAU Owls, FIU Panthers, Florida Gators, Florida State Seminoles, Fresno State Bulldogs, Georgia Bulldogs, Georgia Southern Eagles, Georgia State Panthers, Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, Hawaii Warriors, Houston Cougars, Idaho Vandals, Illinois Fighting Illini, Indiana Hoosiers, Iowa Hawkeyes, Iowa State Cyclones, Kansas Jayhawks, Kansas State Wildcats, Kent State Golden Flashes, Kentucky Wildcats, Louisiana Tech Bulldogs, Louisville Cardinals, LSU Tigers, Marshall Thundering Herd, Maryland Terrapins, Memphis Tigers, Miami Hurricanes, Miami Ohio RedHawks, Michigan State Spartans, Michigan Wolverines, Minnesota Golden Gophers, Mississippi State Bulldogs, Missouri Tigers, MTSU Blue Raiders, Navy Midshipmen, NC State Wolfpack, Nebraska Cornhuskers, Nevada Wolf Pack, New Mexico Lobos, New Mexico State Aggies, North Carolina Tar Heels, North Texas Mean Green, Northern Illinois Huskies, Northwestern Wildcats, Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Ohio Bobcats, Ohio State Buckeyes, Oklahoma Sooners, Oklahoma State Cowboys, Old Dominion Monarchs, Ole Miss Rebels, Oregon Ducks, Oregon State Beavers, Penn State Nittany Lions, Pittsburgh Panthers, Purdue Boilermakers, Rice Owls, Rutgers Scarlet Knights, San Diego State Aztecs, San Jose State Spartans, SMU Mustangs, South Alabama Jaguars, South Carolina Gamecocks, South Florida Bulls, Southern Miss Golden Eagles, Stanford Cardinal, Syracuse Orange, TCU Horned Frogs, Temple Owls, Tennessee Volunteers, Texas A&M Aggies, Texas Longhorns, Texas State Bobcats, Texas Tech Red Raiders, Toledo Rockets, Troy Trojans, Tulane Green Wave, Tulsa Golden Hurricane, UAB Blazers, UCF Knights, UCLA Bruins, UConn Huskies, UL Lafayette Ragin Cajuns, UL Monroe Warhawks, UMass Minutemen, UNLV Rebels, USC Trojans, Utah State Aggies, Utah Utes, UTEP Miners, UTSA Roadrunners, Vanderbilt Commodores, Virginia Cavaliers, Virginia Tech Hokies, Wake Forest Demon Deacons, Washington Huskies, Washington State Cougars, West Virginia Mountaineers, Western Kentucky Hilltoppers, Western Michigan Broncos, Wisconsin Badgers, Wyoming Cowboys, American Athletic, Big 12, Big Ten, Conference USA, Independents, MAC, Mountain West, Pac 12, SEC, Sun Belt, News
Path: /college-football/college-football-bowl-schedule-matchups-tv-times-locations-all-games
Body:

The schedule for ’s 2015-16 bowl season is finalized. The postseason is bigger and better than ever with 41 overall games, including the two playoff matchups – Orange and Cotton on Dec. 31 – with the national championship slated for Jan. 11 in Glendale, Ariz. The bowl season kicks off with five games on Dec. 19 and continues with 12 matchups before Christmas. The post-Christmas slate features six contests on Dec. 26 and continues with several intriguing matchups until Dec. 31 when the New Year’s Six games take over. The Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl between Florida State and Houston is the first game on Dec. 31, followed by the two playoff games and then the usual Jan. 1 slate. 

 

Here are the dates, start times, matchups and television channels for all 41 bowl games. 

 

College Football's 2015-16 Bowl Schedule
BowlDateTime/TV ChannelMatchup

AutoNation Cure

(Orlando, Fla.)

Dec. 19

Noon ET

CBSSN

Georgia State vs.

San Jose State 

Gildan New Mexico

(Albuquerque, N.M.)

Dec. 19

2 p.m. ET

ESPN

 Arizona vs.

New Mexico  

Royal Purple
Las Vegas

(Las Vegas, Nev.)

Dec. 19

3:30 p.m. ET

ABC

BYU vs.

Utah 

Raycom Media
Camellia

(Montgomery, Ala.)

Dec. 19

5:30 p.m. ET

ESPN

 Appalachian State vs.

Ohio 

R+L Carriers
New Orleans

(New Orleans, La.)

Dec. 19

9 p.m. ET

ESPN

 Arkansas State vs.

Louisiana Tech 

Miami Beach

(Miami, Fla.)

Dec. 21

2:30 p.m. ET

ESPN

WKU vs. 

South Florida 

Famous Idaho Potato

(Boise, Idaho)

Dec. 22

3:30 p.m. ET

ESPN

Utah State vs.

Akron 

Marmot Boca Raton

(Boca Raton, Fla.)

Dec. 22

7 p.m. ET

ESPN

Temple vs.

Toledo  

SDCCU Poinsettia

(San Diego, Calif.)

Dec. 23

4:30 p.m. ET

ESPN

 Boise State vs.

Northern Illinois 

GoDaddy

(Mobile, Ala.)

Dec. 23

8 p.m. ET

ESPN

 Georgia Southern vs.

Bowling Green  

Popeyes Bahamas

(Nassau, Bahamas)

Dec. 24

Noon ET

ESPN

 Western Michigan vs.

MTSU 

Hawaii

(Honolulu, Hawaii)

Dec. 24

8 p.m. ET

ESPN

San Diego State vs.

Cincinnati 

St. Petersburg

(St. Petersburg, Fla.)

Dec. 26

11 a.m. ET

ESPN

 UConn vs.

Marshall  

Hyundai Sun

(El Paso, Texas)

Dec. 26

2 p.m. ET

CBS

 Miami vs.

Washington State 

Zaxby's Heart of
Dallas

(Dallas, Texas)

Dec. 26

2:20 p.m. ET

ESPN

 Washington vs.

Southern Miss 

New Era Pinstripe

(Bronx, N.Y.)

Dec. 26

3:30 p.m. ET

ABC

Indiana vs.

Duke  

Independence

(Shreveport, La.)

Dec. 26

5:45 p.m. ET

ESPN

 Tulsa vs. 

Virginia Tech 

Foster Farms

(Santa Clara, Calif.)

Dec. 26

9:15 p.m. ET

ESPN

 UCLA vs. 

Nebraska 

Military

(Annapolis, Md.)

Dec. 28

2:30 p.m. ET

ESPN

Navy vs.

Pittsburgh 

Quick Lane

(Detroit, Mich.)

Dec. 28

5 p.m. ET

ESPN2

Central Michigan vs.

Minnesota 

Lockheed Martin
Armed Forces

(Fort Worth, Texas)

Dec. 29

2 p.m. ET

ESPN

California vs.

Air Force  

Russell Athletic

(Orlando, Fla.)

Dec. 29

5:30 p.m. ET

ESPN

 North Carolina vs. 

Baylor 

NOVA Home 

Loans Arizona

(Tucson, Ariz.)

Dec. 29

7:30 p.m. ET

Campus Insiders

Nevada vs.

Colorado State 

AdvoCare V100
Texas

(Houston, Texas)

Dec. 29

9 p.m. ET

ESPN

LSU vs.

Texas Tech   

Birmingham

(Birmingham, Ala.)

Dec. 30

Noon ET

ESPN

 Memphis vs.

Auburn 

Belk

(Charlotte, N.C.)

Dec. 30

3:30 p.m. ET

ESPN

 NC State vs.

Mississippi State 

Franklin American
Music City

(Nashville, Tenn.)

Dec. 30

7 p.m. ET

ESPN

 Texas A&M vs.

Louisville 

National University
Holiday

(San Diego, Calif.)

Dec. 30

10:30 p.m. ET

ESPN

USC vs.

Wisconsin 

Outback

(Tampa, Fla.)

Jan. 1

Noon ET

ESPN2

 Northwestern vs.

Tennessee  

Buffalo Wild Wings
Citrus

(Orlando, Fla.)

Jan. 1

1 p.m. ET

ABC

 Michigan vs.

Florida  

TaxSlayer

(Jacksonville, Fla.)

Jan. 2

Noon ET

ESPN

 Penn State vs.

Georgia 

AutoZone Liberty

(Memphis, Tenn.)

Jan. 2

3:20 p.m. ET

ESPN

Kansas State vs.

Arkansas 

Valero Alamo

(San Antonio, Texas)

Jan. 2

6:45 p.m. ET

ESPN

Oregon vs.

TCU 

Cactus

(Phoenix, Ariz.)

Jan. 2

10:15 p.m. ET

ESPN

Arizona State vs.

West Virginia 

    

Chick-fil-A Peach

(Atlanta, Ga.)

Dec. 31

Noon ET

ESPN

 Florida State vs.

Houston 

Fiesta

(Glendale, Ariz.)

Jan. 1

1 p.m. ET

ESPN

 Notre Dame vs.

Ohio State 

Rose

(Pasadena, Calif.)

Jan. 1

5 p.m. ET

ESPN

Stanford vs. 

Iowa 

Sugar

(New Orleans, La.)

Jan. 1

8:30 p.m. ET

ESPN

Oklahoma State vs.

Ole Miss 

    

Cotton

(Arlington, Texas)

Dec. 31

4 p.m. ET

ESPN

 Clemson vs.

Oklahoma 

Orange

(Miami Gardens, Fla.)

Dec. 31

8 p.m. ET

ESPN

Michigan State vs.

Alabama 

National Championship

(Glendale, Ariz.)

Jan. 11

8:30 p.m. ET

ESPN

Clemson/Oklahoma vs.

Alabama/Mich. State

Teaser:
College Football Bowl Schedule: Matchups, TV Times, Locations for all Games
Post date: Tuesday, December 8, 2015 - 13:45
All taxonomy terms: ACC, Air Force Falcons, Akron Zips, Alabama Crimson Tide, Appalachian State Mountaineers, Arizona State Sun Devils, Arizona Wildcats, Arkansas Razorbacks, Arkansas State Red Wolves, Army Black Knights, Army West Point Black Knights, Auburn Tigers, Ball State Cardinals, Baylor Bears, Boise State Broncos, Boston College Eagles, Bowling Green Falcons, Buffalo Bulls, BYU Cougars, California Golden Bears, Central Michigan Chippewas, Charlotte 49ers, Cincinnati Bearcats, Clemson Tigers, College Football, Colorado Buffaloes, Colorado State Rams, Connecticut Huskies, Duke Blue Devils, East Carolina Pirates, Eastern Michigan Eagles, FAU Owls, FIU Panthers, Florida Gators, Florida State Seminoles, Fresno State Bulldogs, Georgia Bulldogs, Georgia Southern Eagles, Georgia State Panthers, Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, Hawaii Warriors, Houston Cougars, Idaho Vandals, Illinois Fighting Illini, Indiana Hoosiers, Iowa Hawkeyes, Iowa State Cyclones, Kansas Jayhawks, Kansas State Wildcats, Kent State Golden Flashes, Kentucky Wildcats, Louisiana Tech Bulldogs, Louisville Cardinals, LSU Tigers, Marshall Thundering Herd, Maryland Terrapins, Memphis Tigers, Miami Hurricanes, Miami Ohio RedHawks, Michigan State Spartans, Michigan Wolverines, Minnesota Golden Gophers, Mississippi State Bulldogs, Missouri Tigers, MTSU Blue Raiders, Navy Midshipmen, NC State Wolfpack, Nebraska Cornhuskers, Nevada Wolf Pack, New Mexico Lobos, New Mexico State Aggies, North Carolina Tar Heels, North Texas Mean Green, Northern Illinois Huskies, Northwestern Wildcats, Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Ohio Bobcats, Ohio State Buckeyes, Oklahoma Sooners, Oklahoma State Cowboys, Old Dominion Monarchs, Ole Miss Rebels, Oregon Ducks, Oregon State Beavers, Penn State Nittany Lions, Pittsburgh Panthers, Purdue Boilermakers, Rice Owls, Rutgers Scarlet Knights, San Diego State Aztecs, San Jose State Spartans, SMU Mustangs, South Alabama Jaguars, South Carolina Gamecocks, South Florida Bulls, Southern Miss Golden Eagles, Stanford Cardinal, Syracuse Orange, TCU Horned Frogs, Temple Owls, Tennessee Volunteers, Texas A&M Aggies, Texas Longhorns, Texas State Bobcats, Texas Tech Red Raiders, Toledo Rockets, Troy Trojans, Tulane Green Wave, Tulsa Golden Hurricane, UAB Blazers, UCF Knights, UCLA Bruins, UConn Huskies, UL Lafayette Ragin Cajuns, UL Monroe Warhawks, UMass Minutemen, UNLV Rebels, USC Trojans, Utah State Aggies, Utah Utes, UTEP Miners, UTSA Roadrunners, Vanderbilt Commodores, Virginia Cavaliers, Virginia Tech Hokies, Wake Forest Demon Deacons, Washington Huskies, Washington State Cougars, West Virginia Mountaineers, Western Kentucky Hilltoppers, Western Michigan Broncos, Wisconsin Badgers, Wyoming Cowboys, American Athletic, Big 12, Big Ten, Conference USA, Independents, MAC, Mountain West, Pac 12, SEC, Sun Belt, News
Path: /college-football/10-college-football-coaching-hires-shocked-fans
Body:

It’s rare to see a college football coach hire catch the media by surprise. In most coaching searches, the names and interest level between the candidates and the programs are known and rumored about until the job is filled.

 

However, every coaching cycle seems to have a hire or two that catches the media or a program's fanbase by surprise. Regardless of whether the hire is good or bad, some hires seem to come out of nowhere or register as ones that no one saw coming when the job opened.

 

The 2015 cycle is no different, as South Carolina hired former Florida coach Will Muschamp, while Virginia was able to pull Bronco Mendenhall away from BYU. With the Mendenhall and Muschamp hires in mind, here are 10 coaching hires since 2000 that no one saw coming when the job opened: 

 

10 College Football Coaching Hires That Shocked Fans Since 2000

 

Bill Callahan, Nebraska from the Oakland Raiders (2004)

Callahan is regarded as an excellent assistant but probably isn’t built to be a head coach. Even though he led the Raiders to the Super Bowl in the 2002 season, Oakland slumped to an awful 4-12 mark the next year, which resulted in Callahan’s firing. After the terrible 2003 season with the Raiders, Callahan somehow managed to land at Nebraska. Yes, there’s something appealing about a coach with NFL experience, but Callahan rode the coattails of former Raider head coach Jon Gruden to get Oakland to a Super Bowl and lost the team the next year. Callahan led Nebraska to a 27-22 mark during his four seasons, which included a Big 12 North division title in 2006. However, the Cornhuskers were just 15-17 overall in Big 12 play under Callahan’s watch and recorded two seasons with just five victories.

 

Related:

 

Ron Zook, Illinois from Florida (2004)

With an elite recruiting base and the success of Florida under Steve Spurrier, Zook’s 23-14 record was a major disappointment in Gainesville. The Gators never won more than eight games in a season under Zook’s watch and he was fired with two games remaining in 2004. Considering his mediocre record at one of the nation’s top programs, Illinois’ decision to hire Zook didn’t make a lot of sense. Zook did lead Illinois to a Rose Bowl appearance but had four losing seasons. The Ohio native was always regarded as an excellent recruiter but was never able to mesh the talent with results on the field. 

 

Paul Pasqualoni, Connecticut from the Dallas Cowboys (2010)

Even though Pasqualoni is a Connecticut native and recorded a 107-59-1 mark during his tenure at Syracuse, this hire made little sense at the time and did not work out for the Huskies. Pasqualoni was out of college football for six seasons, spending all of that time in the NFL. Considering the last three years of his Syracuse tenure resulted in a 16-20 record, coupled with his time away from the college game, Connecticut’s hire of Pasqualoni made little sense. The Huskies finished Pasqualoni's tenure with a 10-18 record and zero bowl trips.

 

Related:

 

Charlie Weis, Kansas from Florida offensive coordinator (2011)

Weis started off his career at Notre Dame with a solid 19-6 mark, which included back-to-back appearances in BCS bowls. Despite the early success, Weis was never able to elevate the program into national title contention and never won more than seven games in each of his final three years in South Bend. After getting fired from Notre Dame, he spent one year with the Chiefs and then one season with Florida as its offensive coordinator. Although Weis is a highly regarded assistant, he’s done little to suggest he can lead a program as its head coach. The Jayhawks went 1-11 in his first season, 3-9 in 2013 and 2-2 before he was fired in 2014. 

 

Jim Mora, UCLA from Fox (2011)

The Bruins had an extensive coaching search to find Rick Neuheisel’s replacement at the end of the 2011 regular season. Some big candidates (Chris Petersen) weren’t interested in leaving for Los Angeles, and when the pool of candidates began to get thin, UCLA decided to go with Mora as its next head coach. Considering he had no collegiate coaching experience since 1984 and was just 31-33 in four seasons as a NFL head coach, Mora’s hire came as a big surprise. However, Mora has been a good fit so far, recording a 37-15 record in four seasons with the Bruins and one Pac-12 Championship game appearance. 

 

Related:

  

Bret Bielema, Arkansas from Wisconsin (2012)

With the rise of social media, keeping a coaching search under wraps for any program is nearly impossible. Somehow, Arkansas kept its courtship of Bielema off the radar and was able to hire him away from Wisconsin just after winning the Big Ten Championship. Considering Bielema’s background as a player in the Big Ten and his successful stint at Wisconsin (68-24 and three consecutive Rose Bowls), it was a surprise to see him make the move to Arkansas. However, Bielema’s move to Fayetteville has worked out well, as he’s 17-20 in three years, including consecutive seven-win seasons after a 3-9 debut. Bielema has Arkansas moving in the right direction.  

 

Tommy Tuberville, Cincinnati from Texas Tech (2012)

The marriage between Tuberville and Texas Tech always seemed a little odd from the start. However, no one could have expected Tuberville to jump from Texas Tech to Cincinnati, especially considering the uncertainty surrounding the Big East/American Athletic Conference at that time. The Arkansas native has left each of his three stops with a winning record and led Texas Tech to a 20-17 mark in three years. As a program, Cincinnati has upside. And the Bearcats are making a commitment to facility upgrades, which should help the program become more attractive for future conference realignment. Tuberville is 25-13 in three seasons at Cincinnati.

 

Mike Riley, Nebraska from Oregon State (2014)

Nebraska was one of the highest-profile jobs in the 2014 coaching carousel, and athletic director Shawn Eichorst was looking for a coach to take the Cornhuskers back into Big Ten title contention on a consistent basis. Bo Pelini won at least nine games in each of his seven seasons in Lincoln but never won a conference title. Eichorst picked Riley to replace Pelini, which was a surprise after Oregon State went 12-13 in his final two years in Corvallis. Oregon State is not an easy job, and Riley guided the program to 93 wins during his tenure with the Beavers. Although Riley had success at a tough job, most expected Nebraska would hire a bigger name. 

 

Bronco Mendenhall, Virginia from BYU (2015)

Mendenhall’s move from BYU to Virginia seemed to catch everyone by surprise when it was announced on Dec. 4. The Utah native wasn’t on candidate lists after Mike London was fired and it’s probably not a stretch to consider BYU a better overall job than Virginia. In 11 seasons with the Cougars, Mendenhall went 99-42 and will coach his final game with the program in the Las Vegas Bowl against Utah. BYU is a good job, but the program also has its share of challenges as an independent. Mendenhall is inheriting some similar challenges at Virginia with its strong academic reputation. 

 

Will Muschamp, South Carolina from South Carolina defensive coordinator (2015)

Despite a 28-21 record in four seasons at Florida, Muschamp got a second chance to be a head coach in the SEC. Although Muschamp didn’t inherit a roster full of talent and depth with the Gators, a 28-21 record at one of the best jobs in college football doesn’t inspire much confidence for his ability to lead South Carolina back into SEC East title contention. Muschamp is an excellent defensive coach, but he struggled to hire the right coaches and develop an offensive system at Florida. Will the second time around in the SEC be any different?

Teaser:
10 College Football Coaching Hires That Shocked Fans
Post date: Monday, December 7, 2015 - 16:21
Path: /college-football/south-carolinas-hire-will-muschamp-leaves-plenty-be-desired
Body:

’s lengthy coaching search to replace Steve Spurrier ended on Sunday with the announcement of Will Muschamp as the program’s next head coach. Muschamp went 28-21 at Florida from 2011-14 and heads to Columbia after a one-year stint as Auburn’s defensive coordinator in 2015.

 

Despite having nearly two months to nail this hire, the Gamecocks were unable to land any bigger names and instead settled for Muschamp – a retread coach fired from one of the best jobs in the nation.

 

Perhaps Muschamp has learned and changed his coaching style since he was fired at Florida. However, this hire isn’t exactly an inspiring one for athletic director Ray Tanner.

 

There’s no question Muschamp knows how to coordinate a defense. Under Muschamp’s watch, Florida’s defenses had only one season (2013) of allowing more than 4.6 yards per play. Additionally, the Gators limited opponents to less than 22 points a game in all four years.

 

However, Muschamp’s offenses were a mess. Florida cycled through three play-callers (Charlie Weis, Brent Pease and Kurt Roper) from 2011-14 and only finished one season with an average of more than 25 points per game in SEC contests.

 

It’s unfair to blame Muschamp for all of the issues at Florida, as he didn’t inherit a full cupboard of talent. However, in a state full of talent – and a program that is one of the best jobs in college football – Muschamp had only one season of more than seven wins (2012). The South Carolina job is one of the top 25-30 in the nation, but it’s tougher to win in Columbia, S.C. than it is at Florida.

 

So if Muschamp couldn’t only muster one season of more than seven wins at Florida, why is he a good fit at South Carolina? Sure, the defense was a problem for the Gamecocks over the last two seasons, and Muschamp and his staff should alleviate some of the concerns on that side of the ball. Muschamp is also regarded as a good recruiter and should hire a standout staff.

 

That’s not enough for Muschamp to be the right pick in Columbia.

 

One of Muschamp’s biggest problems at Florida was finding an offensive style and developing that side of the ball. Can Muschamp hire the right coaches this time around and let the offensive staff open up the offense? In Gainesville, Muschamp’s offenses were often criticized for being too conservative. Will that change at South Carolina? Muschamp reportedly has interest in hiring Roper again to coordinate his offense in Columbia.

 

There’s a reason why Muschamp was hired to be the head-coach-in-waiting at Texas and was picked as Urban Meyer’s replacement at Florida. Athletic directors see something in Muschamp. But considering Muschamp’s record at Florida, South Carolina is taking a big gamble by choosing him as its next head coach.

 

The positives are clear: Defense, recruiting and hiring a great staff. But there’s also a less-than-stellar track record from one of the best programs in the nation. Muschamp isn’t inheriting a ton of talent at South Carolina, so there’s a lot of work to be done this offseason.

 

Maybe Muschamp will prove everyone wrong and show why he was regarded as one of the top assistant coaches and hot names among athletic directors just a few seasons ago. However, the first impression for this hire is a big swing and miss by South Carolina. 

Teaser:
South Carolina's Hire of Will Muschamp Leaves Plenty to Be Desired
Post date: Monday, December 7, 2015 - 13:57
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’s 2015 regular season is over and all 41 bowl and playoff matchups are set. The bowl season kicks off in Orlando with the inaugural Cure Bowl on Dec. 19 and concludes with the national championship in Glendale, Ariz. on Jan. 11. College football's postseason is bigger than ever with 41 overall games, including the national championship. Due a lack of teams with a winning record to fulfill all of the necessary bowl slots, three programs - Nebraska, Minnesota and San Jose State - with a 5-7 mark will play in a bowl this year.

 

Watching all 41 bowl games isn’t impossible, but it can be difficult prioritizing which matchups are must-see television around the holidays. 

 

Athlon ranks and previews all of the matchups from the must-see to the ones you can avoid. From No. 1 to No. 41, here’s a look at the bowl matchups in terms of watchability and quality of game.
 

Ranking All 41 Bowl Games: Must-Watch to Must-See

 

1. College Football National Championship

Clemson (13-0)/Oklahoma (11-1) vs. Alabama (12-1)/Michigan State (12-1)

Jan. 11 – 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

 

The matchup for the national championship won’t be set until late on Dec. 31, but this year’s title game won’t be short on intrigue. The Michigan State-Alabama matchup should be a defensive slugfest, while the Oklahoma-Clemson contest could feature plenty of offensive fireworks. Regardless of which teams emerge victorious, an interesting contrast in style of play is set to play out on Jan. 11 in Glendale, Ariz. In the first lines released from Vegas, Oklahoma is a slight favorite over Clemson, and Alabama is favored by nine points over Michigan State. 

 

2. Orange Bowl – Clemson (13-0) vs. Oklahoma (11-1)

Dec. 31 – 4 p.m. ET, ESPN

 

It’s a rematch of last year’s Russell Athletic Bowl, but the stakes are significantly higher for Clemson and Oklahoma in the 2015 Orange Bowl. The Tigers are the nation's lone unbeaten team and finished the regular season as the College Football Playoff committee’s No. 1 seed. Coach Dabo Swinney has elevated Clemson as a program in recent years, recording at least 10 wins in each of the last five seasons. Quarterback Deshaun Watson leads an explosive offense, as the sophomore averaged 338.4 total yards per game in 2015. However, Watson isn’t a one-man show. The Tigers are loaded with speed and talent at receiver, feature an improving offensive line and the steady Wayne Gallman at running back. Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops didn’t sit idle after last year’s 8-5 record. The staff changes made by Stoops paid big dividends on both sides of the ball, including an offense that has thrived behind quarterback Baker Mayfield. Considering the firepower on both sidelines, it’s hard to imagine this game as a low-scoring affair. Can Watson or Mayfield simply carry their team into the national championship? Or will one of the defenses make a play in the clutch to seal the victory?

 

3. Cotton Bowl – Alabama (12-1) vs. Michigan State (12-1)

Dec. 31 – 8 p.m. ET, ESPN

 

Similar to the Orange Bowl, the Cotton Bowl is a matchup of similar styles. Michigan State and Alabama aren’t afraid to spread the field and let their quarterbacks attack, but both teams prefer to lean on their ground attack and defense. Having nearly a month off should be a huge benefit for the Spartans and the health of quarterback Connor Cook. The senior appeared to be less than full strength in the Big Ten Championship and should return to 100 percent by Dec. 31. Cook’s health is critical, as the Crimson Tide’s secondary has been vulnerable at times. Keeping Cook upright against Alabama’s aggressive defensive front is the biggest key to victory for Michigan State. Crimson Tide quarterback Jake Coker improved throughout the year but the success of this offense rests with running back Derrick Henry and the offensive line. Expect a physical, 60-minute slugfest in Dallas on Dec. 31. That’s quite a contrast to the other playoff matchup in Miami. 

 

4. BattleFrog Fiesta Bowl – Notre Dame (10-2) vs. Ohio State (11-1)

Jan. 1 – 1 p.m. ET, ESPN

 

The Fiesta Bowl is easily one of the biggest winners of bowl season. If a few scenarios played out differently, Notre Dame and Ohio State could be preparing for a playoff matchup. Instead, the Fighting Irish and Buckeyes are poised to meet in Glendale, Ariz. in their first meeting since 2006. Notre Dame was forced to overcome a handful of key injuries this season, including season-ending ailments to quarterback Malik Zaire, running back Tarean Folston and cornerback KeiVarae Russell. Backup DeShone Kizer filled in admirably for Zaire, and C.J. Prosise picked up the slack on the ground. The matchup of Kizer, Prosise and receiver Will Fuller against Ohio State’s defense (14 ppg) is one of the must-see matchups of bowl season. The Buckeyes had their share of inconsistency on offense in 2015 but finished on a high note (6.99 ypp) in a 42-13 win over Michigan. Will the extra time to practice help coach Urban Meyer find some of the right answers for his offense?

 

5. Rose Bowl – Stanford (11-2) vs. Iowa (12-1)

Jan. 1 – 5 p.m. ET, ESPN

 

Even though Stanford and Iowa were both on the cusp of making the College Football Playoff, a trip to Pasadena and the Rose Bowl is a nice consolation price. This will be the Cardinal’s third trip to the Rose Bowl in four years, while the Hawkeyes are returning to Pasadena for the first time since 1991. The battle in the trenches and the ground game will be two points of emphasis for both coaches. Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey leads the nation with an average of 268.9 all-purpose yards per game, but Iowa has been stingy (114.9 ypg) against the run. The Cardinal aren’t as dominant on defense as they were last season, yet still manage to hold opponents to 23.1 points a game. Assuming both teams land their share of body blows in the trenches, this game could come down to whichever quarterback – Stanford’s Kevin Hogan or Iowa’s C.J. Beathard – connect on a few timely throws in the second half. 

 

6. Alamo Bowl – Oregon (9-3) vs. TCU (10-2)

Jan. 2 – 6:45 p.m. ET, ESPN

 

The Alamo Bowl should be the most intriguing bowl matchup outside of the playoff and New Year’s Six games. Needless to say, there should be no shortage of points in the Alamodome on Jan. 2, as Oregon and TCU are two of the nation’s highest-scoring offenses. The Ducks took flight once quarterback Vernon Adams returned from a broken finger and finished the regular season by scoring at least 44 points in four out of the last five games. The Horned Frogs’ hopes of getting into the College Football Playoff was derailed by injuries, including one to quarterback Trevone Boykin in November. Boykin played against Baylor and is expected to be at full strength by Jan. 2. Will either defense find a way to slow down the skill players or dynamic quarterbacks in this game?

 

7. Russell Athletic Bowl – Baylor (9-3) vs. North Carolina (11-2)

Dec. 29 – 5:30 p.m., ESPN

 

The scoreboard operator at the Citrus Bowl should have a busy night when Baylor takes on North Carolina. The Bears and Tar Heels are the top two teams in the nation in average yards per play, with both teams eclipsing the 7.2 mark. Injuries derailed Baylor’s season, but coach Art Briles has indicated there’s a chance freshman quarterback Jarrett Stidham returns for the bowl. With Stidham or Chris Johnson healthy and back under center, the Bears’ offense should be operating at a high level against an improved North Carolina defense. When the Tar Heels have the ball, quarterback Marquise Williams and running back Elijah Hood will give Baylor’s defense all it can handle. Both teams could easily eclipse 40 points in this Dec. 29 matchup. 

 

8. Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl – Houston (12-1) vs. Florida State (10-2)

Dec. 31 – Noon ET, ESPN

 

The Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl kicks off the New Year’s Six slate for the second year in a row. New coach Tom Herman guided Houston to an American Athletic Conference title in his first season, and despite interest from a handful of Power 5 programs, signed an extension to remain with the Cougars in 2016. Herman’s specialty is on offense, and Houston is led by dynamic quarterback Greg Ward Jr. The junior’s mobility is a huge asset with an offensive line that was hit hard by injuries in the regular season. The Cougars’ explosive offense will be tested by Florida State’s defense, which is the best unit Ward has faced in 2015. The Seminoles limit opponents to 4.7 yards per play, and the secondary allowed only 10 plays of 30 or more yards. Like Herman, Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher is one of the best offensive minds in the nation. And it’s a credit to Fisher’s coaching ability the Seminoles finished 10-2 with the amount of roster turnover this team experienced after last season. Houston’s rush defense has been stingy all season, but Florida State running back Dalvin Cook will be tough to keep in check. 

 

9. Sugar Bowl – Ole Miss (9-3) vs. Oklahoma State (10-2)

Jan. 1 – 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

 

It’s been a while since Ole Miss or Oklahoma State has played in the Sugar Bowl. The last trip for the Rebels took place 1969, and the Cowboys last played in this game in 1945. And interestingly enough, the only meetings between these two teams in program history both took place in the Cotton Bowl. Ole Miss has played in back-to-back New Year’s Six games, but coach Hugh Freeze is looking for a better result than last year’s 42-3 loss against TCU. Oklahoma State rebounded from last season’s 7-6 record with a 10-2 mark in 2015 – the program’s fourth double-digit win total over the last six years. Quarterback play will be under the microscope for the Cowboys, as starter Mason Rudolph had foot surgery after the loss to Oklahoma. Rudolph is expected to play, but J.W. Walsh will also see his share of snaps. An intriguing matchup to watch will be Ole Miss’ passing game (quarterback Chad Kelly and receiver Laquon Treadwell) against Oklahoma State’s secondary. The Cowboys will bend on defense, but coordinator Glenn Spencer’s group will create havoc around the line of scrimmage and with takeaways.

 

10. Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl – BYU (9-3) vs. Utah (9-3)

Dec. 19 – 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC

 

The Holy War. Bitter rivals BYU and Utah did not meet in the regular season for the first time since 1945. In addition to the rivalry storyline, this is the final game at BYU for coach Bronco Mendenhall. After 11 seasons with the Cougars, Mendenhall is leaving to be the coach at Virginia. BYU has lost four in a row to the Utes, but four out of the last five meetings in this series were decided by a touchdown or less. Utah’s offense managed only 29 points over its last two games and won’t have star running back Devontae Booker due to a knee injury suffered against Arizona on Nov. 14. The absence of Booker puts more pressure on backup Joe Williams and quarterback Travis Wilson against a tough BYU defense. When the Cougars have the ball, quarterback Tanner Mangum (21 TDs, 7 INTs) is the player to watch. However, this won’t be an easy matchup for Mangum, as Utah has forced 29 turnovers and held opponents to 5.2 yards per play. This should be the best game on the opening Saturday of bowl action.

 

11. Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl – Michigan (9-3) vs. Florida (10-3)

Jan. 1 – 1 p.m. ET, ABC

 

A defensive slugfest should be expected when Michigan and Florida meet on Jan. 1 in the Citrus Bowl. The Wolverines were one of the nation’s most improved teams under new coach Jim Harbaugh and two of this team’s three losses – including the insane last-second loss to Michigan State – came by a touchdown or less. Harbaugh helped the Michigan offense show signs of life, and this unit is expected to have quarterback Jake Rudock under center for this game after suffering a shoulder injury against Ohio State. The Wolverines are still a work in progress up front, which is a huge problem against Florida’s defensive line. The Gators held opponents to 16.5 points a game this season and need another shutdown performance from this group. Florida quarterback Treon Harris struggled over the final three games and faces another tough assignment against Michigan’s defense (4.4 yards per play allowed).

 

12. AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl – Texas Tech (7-5) vs. LSU (8-3)

Dec. 29 – 9 p.m. ET, ESPN

 

After ending the season with turmoil and uncertainty surrounding coach Les Miles, the Tigers head into the bowl with a few answers. Miles will return to Baton Rouge but changes could be coming on offense. However, don’t expect much to change in time for the bowl. LSU running back Leonard Fournette (158.3 ypg) and the offensive line has to be licking their chops for an opportunity to take on Texas Tech. The Red Raiders struggled mightily against the run, allowing a whopping 271.8 yards per game. Stopping Fournette is going to be a monumental task for coordinator David Gibbs’ defense, but Texas Tech can counter with an offense averaging 46.6 points per game. LSU’s secondary has experienced its share of issues in stopping the pass, which is problematic against a Red Raider offense led by quarterback Patrick Mahomes, running back DeAndre Washington and receiver Jakeem Grant.

 

13. Holiday Bowl – USC (8-5) vs. Wisconsin (9-3)

Dec. 30 – 10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

 

The Holiday Bowl is known for its high-scoring, entertaining bowl matchups. However, this year’s version could feature more defense and a lower-scoring game. Wisconsin’s defense led the nation by holding opponents to just 13.1 points per game and ranks third in yards per play (4.39 yards) allowed. Dave Aranda is one of the nation’s rising stars in the coordinator ranks, and it’s only a matter of time before he gets an opportunity to be a head coach at the FBS level. The challenge for Aranda and the Wisconsin defense is to stop a dangerous and athletic USC attack. The Trojans are led by quarterback Cody Kessler and receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, but new coach Clay Helton also wants to emphasize the ground attack. The Badgers lead the Big Ten in time of possession and their physical style of play is going to challenge a USC defense ranked fifth in the Pac-12 against the run. Coach Paul Chryst’s team may have reinforcements on the way, as running back Corey Clement is expected to play after missing most of 2015. Can the Badgers establish their style of play and prevent the Trojans’ explosive offense from getting on track?

 

14. GoDaddy Bowl – Georgia Southern (8-4) vs. Bowling Green (10-3)

Dec. 23 – 8 p.m. ET, ESPN

 

The GoDaddy Bowl features an intriguing mix of styles. Bowling Green’s “Falcon Fast” offense averaged 43.4 points per game this season, and quarterback Matt Johnson finished second nationally with 43 touchdown tosses. However, the Falcons will be under the direction of interim coach Brian Ward after Dino Babers took the head coaching job at Syracuse following the MAC Championship. Georgia Southern’s rushing offense led the nation (355.6 ypg) and will look to control the line of scrimmage and time of possession to keep the Falcons on the sideline. The Eagles had four players rushing for 600 or more yards in 2015, including explosive running back Matt Breida (8.2 ypc). 

 

15. Marmot Boca Raton Bowl – Toledo (9-2) vs. Temple (10-3)

Dec. 22 – 7 p.m. ET, ESPN

 

Just like it was last season, the Boca Raton Bowl should be one of the better pre-Christmas matchups on the postseason slate. The Rockets have won nine games in three out of the last four years and will be looking for their first double-digit win total since 2001. With Matt Campbell leaving for Iowa State, this program will be under the direction of former offensive coordinator and new head coach Jason Candle. Running back Kareem Hunt (894 yards) is the best player on an explosive Toledo offense, but the strength of Temple’s team is its defense. The Owls ranked second in the American Athletic Conference against the run and first in fewest yards allowed per play. If Temple wins, it will be the first time in program history to record 11 victories in a season. 

 

16. Miami Beach Bowl – WKU (11-2) vs. South Florida (8-4)

Dec. 21 – 2:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

 

Last season’s Miami Beach Bowl was one of the better postseason games and produced plenty of storylines from the BYU-Memphis postgame fight. This year’s game also has its share of storylines, as this South Florida coach Willie Taggart’s first opportunity to take on his alma mater. Taggart guided the Hilltoppers to a 16-20 record in three years and helped the Bulls improve from 4-8 in 2014 to 8-4 in 2015. WKU owns one of the nation’s top offenses behind quarterback Brandon Doughty and a loaded group of receivers. However, South Florida’s defense has been stingy (5.01 yards per play allowed) and finished fourth in the American Athletic Conference in points allowed (21.1 ppg). While stopping Doughty will be a challenge, the Bulls can use their rushing attack (243.4 ypg) to keep WKU’s high-powered attack on the sidelines. 

 

17. Outback Bowl – Northwestern (10-2) vs. Tennessee (8-4)

Jan. 1 – Noon ET, ESPN2

 

Northwestern recorded one of the nation’s quietest 10-win campaigns this year, but the Wildcats are going to have their hands full against Tennessee. The Volunteers finished the regular season with five consecutive victories and all four of their defeats came by a touchdown or less. Northwestern’s strength rests with its defense, holding offenses to 4.48 yards per play and 3.45 yards per carry. Can the Wildcats find a way to slow down Tennessee’s backfield duo of Jalen Hurd and Alvin Kamara? If the Volunteers jump out to an early lead, it’s hard to envision Northwestern possessing the necessary firepower in its passing attack to keep this one close. 

 

18. TaxSlayer Bowl – Georgia (9-3) vs. Penn State (7-5)

Jan. 2 – Noon ET, ESPN

 

In terms of name value, it’s hard to beat the TaxSlayer’s Penn State-Georgia matchup. However, the on-field play may not live up to that billing. For different reasons, both programs struggled to find the right answers on offense in 2015. Georgia lost star running back Nick Chubb to a season-ending knee injury against Tennessee and never developed a consistent passing attack under first-year coordinator Brian Schottenheimer. Penn State’s offensive line took its share of criticism over the last two years, while quarterback Christian Hackenberg struggled to get comfortable in coach James Franklin's scheme. However, changes are coming to both teams. John Donovan was fired as the Nittany Lions’ play-caller, and Mark Richt was fired as the Bulldogs’ coach after the win over Georgia Tech. Receivers coach Bryan McClendon will serve as the team’s interim coach for the bowl. Points will be at a premium. 

 

19. Hyundai Sun Bowl – Miami (8-4) vs. Washington State (8-4)

Dec. 26 – 2 p.m. ET, CBS

 

The offenses should be on display in this Dec. 26 matchup. Miami is still under the direction of interim coach Larry Scott, but it’s safe to assume new coach Mark Richt will be keeping a close watch on this game. Scott went 4-1 after Al Golden was fired, but the Hurricanes will have their hands full in El Paso against a Washington State offense averaging 32.4 points a game. Quarterback Luke Falk is expected to play after missing the season finale against Washington due to a concussion. The sophomore tossed 36 scores and is surrounded by a deep group of receivers that will test Miami’s pass defense. Assuming this one turns into a shootout, the Hurricanes can keep pace behind quarterback Brad Kaaya and running back Joseph Yearby. Washington State coach Mike Leach should be a popular draw in the Sun Bowl after coaching at Texas Tech from 2000-09.

 

20. Belk Bowl – NC State (7-5) vs. Mississippi State (8-4)

Dec. 30 – 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

 

The Belk Bowl features an underrated quarterback battle between NC State’s Jacoby Brissett and Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott. This is the final collegiate game for both quarterbacks, and it’s also an opportunity for both programs to end the year on a high note after losses to their biggest rival in Week 13. The Wolfpack allowed 20 passing scores this season and will have their hands full against Prescott and Mississippi State’s solid group of receivers. When NC State has the ball, keep an eye on fullback Jaylen Samuels (315 rushing yards and a team-leading 64 catches). This could be a high-scoring affair.   

 

21. Music City Bowl – Louisville (7-5) vs. Texas A&M (8-4)

Dec. 30 – 7 p.m. ET, ESPN

 

It’s tough to put too much stock into bowl games, but as we have mentioned a couple of times in this article, the postseason game is an opportunity to build momentum and develop some younger players through pre-bowl workouts. Both teams in the Music City Bowl fall into this category. Louisville closed out its regular season with a huge win over rival Kentucky, and freshman Lamar Jackson should have a strong grip on the starting job. The extra practices should be a huge help for Jackson, but the Cardinals also have to find more help on the offensive line. That’s especially critical against an aggressive Texas A&M defensive line headlined by end Myles Garrett and true freshman tackle Daylon Mack. Similar to Louisville, the Aggies head into the postseason looking for answers on offense. Kyle Allen and Kyler Murray each made starts at quarterback, but neither played well enough to claim a clear hold on the top spot. However, Allen announced his intention to transfer on Dec. 10, which leaves Murray as the starter for the Dec. 30 matchup against Louisville. Will coach Kevin Sumlin find a spark for his struggling offense? And will this offense benefit from a clear No. 1 at quarterback?

 

22. Birmingham Bowl – Memphis (9-3) vs. Auburn (6-6)

Dec. 30 – Noon ET, ESPN

 

The motivation level for both teams in this bowl will be an interesting storyline. Memphis lost coach Justin Fuente to Virginia Tech and Darrell Dickey will work as the team’s interim coach for the bowl. Coaching uncertainty also surrounds Auburn after defensive coordinator Will Muschamp left to be the head coach at Auburn. Additionally, the Tigers were one of the nation’s biggest disappointments after beginning the season with playoff and SEC title hopes. Auburn ranked near the bottom of the SEC in pass defense and drew a tough assignment against Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch. This is also Auburn’s first game in Birmingham since 1998. 

 

23. Cactus Bowl – West Virginia (7-5) vs. Arizona State (6-6)

Jan. 2 – 10:15 p.m. ET, ESPN

 

Arizona State had high expectations entering 2015, but coach Todd Graham’s team needed a win over rival Arizona in late November just to get bowl eligible. The Sun Devils regressed on offense behind a shaky offensive line and surrendered 6.07 yards per play on defense. West Virginia navigated one of the nation’s toughest schedules in October to win four out of its final five games. Coach Dana Holgorsen is known for his prolific passing attacks, but he was forced to tweak his offense to utilize the Mountaineers’ strength at running back this season. Arizona State won’t have to travel far for this matchup, as the Sun Devils can make the short trip from campus to Chase Field in less than 20 minutes. This game is the final postseason matchup before the national championship. Could we have one more “Pac-12 After Dark” moment?

 

24. Military Bowl – Navy (9-2) vs. Pittsburgh (8-4)

Dec. 28 – 2:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

 

If Navy wins its rivalry game against Army on Dec. 12, this matchup against Pittsburgh will be an opportunity to set a school record in the most victories in a season (11). The time to prepare should benefit the Panthers against the Midshipmen’s option attack. Of course, stopping Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds (25 total scores in 2015) is easier said than done. Pittsburgh ranked third in the ACC against the run but tied for ninth in the conference after giving up 10 runs of 30 yards or more. The Panthers lost running back James Conner to a season-ending knee injury in the first game of the year and changed starting quarterbacks (Chad Voytik to Nathan Peterman) in September. Pittsburgh’s offense isn’t particularly explosive (11 plays of 40 yards or more), but receiver Tyler Boyd and running back Qadree Ollison will be a tough matchup for the Midshipmen.

 

25. Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl – Washington (6-6) vs. Southern Miss (9-4)

Dec. 26 – 2:20 p.m. ET, ESPN

 

Washington and Southern Miss are two programs on the rise and this bowl is a good opportunity to build momentum for 2016. The Huskies needed a win over rival Washington State to clinch a trip to the postseason, and the extra bowl practices will be a boost for a team with a lot of promising young talent. Coach Chris Petersen’s team is led by the talented freshman duo of quarterback Jake Browning and running back Myles Gaskin, along with a defense that led the Pac-12 by holding opponents to 17.8 points per game. Southern Miss averages 40.6 points per game but failed to top more than 28 points in two matchups against Power 5 opponents this year. Fun matchup to watch: Golden Eagles’ quarterback Nick Mullens (36 TDs) against Washington’s secondary. 

 

26. Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl – California (7-5) vs. Air Force (8-5)

Dec. 29 – 2 p.m. ET, ESPN

 

If you enjoy contrasting styles of play on offense, then this is the game for you. California’s Bear Raid attack is fifth nationally in passing offense (368.8 ypg), guided by quarterback Jared Goff and a receiving corps with six players with 36 or more catches. On the other sideline, it’s the ground attack leading the way for Air Force. The Falcons rank third nationally in rushing offense (322.1 ypg), with Jacobi Owens and quarterback Karson Roberts the team’s leading rushers. Which defense will get enough stops? Can Air Force grind out the clock and keep Goff on the sidelines? Or will California’s offense force the Falcons to get out of their comfort zone and throw more to keep up?

 

27. Hawaii Bowl – San Diego State (10-3) vs. Cincinnati (7-5)

Dec. 24 – 8 p.m. ET, ESPN

 

The final pre-Christmas bowl features the Mountain West’s top defense (San Diego State) against a high-powered Cincinnati offense (36.1 ppg). The Aztecs won their first outright conference title since 1986 with a win over Air Force in the conference championship game and a win over the Bearcats would tie the program record for most victories in a season (11). San Diego State quarterback Maxwell Smith missed the Mountain West title game due to a knee injury, but the senior could return for this game. But if he can’t, the offense will be in good hands with Christian Chapman. Regardless of who starts under center, the Aztecs will lean heavily on running back Donnel Pumphrey (1,544 yards, 16 TDs). Cincinnati’s offense averages 36.1 points per game but also struggled with giveaways (30 turnovers lost) in 2015. Can quarterback Gunner Kiel hold onto the ball and put pressure on San Diego State’s run-first attack on offense?

  

28. R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl – Arkansas State (9-3) vs. Louisiana Tech (8-4)

Dec. 19 – 9 p.m. ET, ESPN

 

For the first time since 2010, a Sun Belt team other than UL Lafayette will make an appearance in the New Orleans Bowl. After four consecutive trips to this bowl by the Ragin’ Cajuns, Arkansas State is back in New Orleans for the first time since 2005. The Red Wolves lost three out of their first four games but finished with eight consecutive wins. Quarterback Fredi Knighten guides an offense that averages 41 points per game and has plenty of help at the skill positions, including running back Michael Gordon (6.4 yards per carry). Louisiana Tech is making the short five-hour trip to the Big Easy, and coach Skip Holtz is looking for consecutive nine-win seasons. Florida transfer Jeff Driskel finished his only season in Ruston with 24 touchdown tosses, while running back Kenneth Dixon will challenge an Arkansas State defense ranked third in the Sun Belt against the run. 

 

29. Poinsettia Bowl – Boise State (8-4) vs. Northern Illinois (8-5)

Dec. 23 – 4:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

 

Boise State and Northern Illinois have been two of the top Group of 5 programs and meet for the first time on the gridiron on Dec. 23 in San Diego. Additionally, both teams were hit hard by the injury bug this season. The Huskies lost starting quarterback Drew Hare in early November and backup Ryan Graham missed the MAC Championship due to an ankle injury. It’s uncertain if Graham will return in time for this game or if Tommy Fielder will make his second start. Regardless of which quarterback starts, Northern Illinois will rely on its ground attack and running back Joel Bouagnon. Boise State’s offense led the Mountain West by averaging 37.8 points per game but also lost 20 turnovers. Even though the Huskies have been solid on defense (25.5 ppg), the Broncos – led by quarterback Brett Rypien and running back Jeremy McNichols – have too much firepower. Full disclosure - this game would be higher if we knew who was starting at quarterback for Northern Illinois.

 

30. Liberty Bowl – Arkansas (7-5) vs. Kansas State (6-6)

Jan. 2 – 3:20 p.m. ET, ESPN

 

Arkansas and Kansas State haven’t met in a regular season game since 1967 and have only one matchup since (2012 Cotton Bowl), but there’s a lot of familiarity between these two programs. Bret Bielema worked as a co-defensive coordinator at Kansas State under Bill Snyder from 2002-03. Bielema has Arkansas trending in the right direction after a 7-5 regular season, as the Hogs rebounded from a 1-3 start to win five out of their last six games. A big reason for the late-season improvement was the play of quarterback Brandon Allen, and the 1,392-yard season from running back Alex Collins. Kansas State was hit hard by injuries on offense this year and average only 4.94 yards per play. If the Razorbacks are motivated, the Wildcats will have a tough time keeping this one close.

 

31. Gildan New Mexico Bowl – New Mexico (7-5) vs. Arizona (6-6)

Dec. 19 – 2 p.m. ET, ESPN

 

New Mexico is staying home for the bowl season. However, the Lobos probably won’t complain too much about another contest in Albuquerque, as this is the program’s first bowl trip since 2007. Coach Bob Davie has made steady progress in his tenure at New Mexico, and the program scored victories over Air Force, Boise State and Utah State this year. The Lobos rank second in the Mountain West in rushing offense, while the defense improved from 11th in the conference in points allowed to a tie for fourth this season. However, Arizona’s offense figures to test New Mexico’s improved defense. The Wildcats battled a handful of injuries this year, yet still averaged 36.8 points per game. This is the fourth consecutive postseason trip for Arizona under coach Rich Rodriguez and the second appearance in the New Mexico Bowl over the last four years.

 

32. Foster Farms Bowl – UCLA (8-4) vs. Nebraska (5-7)

Dec. 26 – 9:15 p.m. ET, ESPN

 

It’s safe to say both UCLA and Nebraska had higher preseason expectations than meeting in the Foster Farms Bowl. However, this game is an opportunity to finish the year on a high note and build momentum for spring practice. True freshman quarterback Josh Rosen had a solid debut for the Bruins, throwing for 20 touchdowns and only nine picks in 2015. Nebraska’s defense had its share of issues this season and gave up 27.8 points per game. That’s not ideal with Rosen and standout running back Paul Perkins up next. In addition to the defensive issues, the Cornhuskers have to find a way to hold onto the ball. Coach Mike Riley’s team finished the regular season with a minus-13 in turnover margin, with 16 of those turnovers coming on interceptions by quarterback Tommy Armstrong. 

 

33. New Era Pinstripe Bowl – Indiana (6-6) vs. Duke (7-5)

Dec. 26 – 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC

 

A matchup between Indiana and Duke in New York would normally mean a contest on the hardwood. But make no mistake – the bowl in Yankee Stadium between the Hoosiers and Blue Devils could see its share of points. Indiana led the Big Ten by averaging 36.2 points per game, and quarterback Nate Sudfeld (24 TDs, 5 INTs) is a good matchup for a Duke secondary that features likely All-American safety Jeremy Cash. While scoring points hasn’t been a problem for Indiana, the defense has struggled mightily. The Hoosiers rank last in the Big Ten by surrendering 37.1 points per game. Stopping dual-threat quarterback Thomas Sirk is a must for Indiana defensive coordinator Brian Knorr. 

 

34. Bahamas Bowl – Western Michigan (7-5) vs. MTSU (7-5)

Dec. 24 – Noon ET, ESPN

 

Last season’s Bahamas Bowl matchup between WKU and Central Michigan was one of the most entertaining bowl games of the 2014-15 postseason schedule. The game featured 97 points, 1,254 total yards and one crazy ending. Could we see some similar fireworks in the Bahamas this season? It’s possible. Coach P.J. Fleck has guided Western Michigan to consecutive bowl trips for the first time in program history. The Broncos are led by a dynamic offense (35.3 ppg), with quarterback Zach Terrell and receiver Daniel Braverman forming a potent combination to test a MTSU defense giving up 25.1 points per game this year. The Blue Raiders also have their own dangerous connection on offense. Freshman quarterback Brent Stockstill threw for 3,678 yards and 27 scores this year, with receiver Richie James grabbing 100 receptions for 1,220 yards. This is MTSU’s fifth bowl appearance under coach Rick Stockstill since 2006.

 

35. Camping World Independence Bowl – Tulsa (6-6) vs. Virginia Tech (6-6)

Dec. 26 – 5:45 p.m. ET, ESPN

 

The swan song for Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer ends in the same place his career started to take off for the Hokies – Shreveport, La. The Hokies’ first bowl under Beamer was in Shreveport in 1993 – a 45-20 victory over Indiana. Can Virginia Tech send Beamer out on top? For the Hokies to end the Beamer era on a high note, defensive coordinaor Bud Foster has to find a way to slow down Tulsa’s high-powered offense. New coach Philip Montgomery is a former assistant at Baylor and brought a similar system to Tulsa. The Golden Hurricane average 35.9 points per game, while quarterback Dane Evans has helped this offense connect on 42 plays of 30 yards or more in 2015. Evans and receiver Keyarris Garrett will test a secondary that limited opposing quarterbacks to a 47.9 completion percentage. However, Tulsa’s opportunities on offense could be limited if its defense (238.5 rushing yards per game allowed) can’t find a way to slow down the Hokies.  

 

36. Raycom Media Camellia Bowl – Appalachian State (10-2) vs. Ohio (8-4)

Dec. 19 – 5:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

 

Appalachian State finishes its second year at the FBS level with a trip to Montgomery, Ala. and a date against an Ohio team making its sixth trip to a bowl in seven years. The Mountaineers are led by their ground attack, which features three running backs over 430 yards, including standout Marcus Cox (1,261 yards). But this offense will be tested by an Ohio defense limiting opponents to 24.8 points per game and held two of its last three opponents to 80 or less rushing yards. Injuries hit the Bobcats hard on offense, but this unit still averaged 5.76 yards per play in 2015.  

 

37. Quick Lane Bowl – Central Michigan (7-5) vs. Minnesota (5-7)

Dec. 28 – 5 p.m. ET, ESPN2

 

The ACC failed to have enough bowl-eligible teams, opening the door for Central Michigan to make the short trip from Mount Pleasant to Detroit for its postseason destination. The Chippewas – led by new coach John Bonamego and prolific quarterback Cooper Rush – are trying to win more than seven games for the first time since 2009. Tracy Claeys was promoted from interim to full-time coach after Jerry Kill retired during the regular season. Claeys was unable to guide Minnesota to a winning record, but the Golden Gophers are still making their fourth consecutive bowl trip. Minnesota’s secondary has allowed only 13 passing scores this season, and this group will be tested by Rush and top receiver Jesse Kroll.

 

38. St. Petersburg Bowl – Marshall (9-3) vs. UConn (6-6)

Dec. 26 – 11 a.m. ET, ESPN

 

The St. Petersburg Bowl is the first post-Christmas matchup, and there’s plenty of motivation for both teams in this unique stadium setup (home of the Tampa Bay Rays). With a victory, Marshall will earn its third consecutive season of 10 or more wins, while UConn is looking for its first winning season since 2010. Second-year coach Bob Diaco guided the Huskies to a four-game jump in victories this year. UConn’s offense is a work in progress, but the defense is limiting opponents to 19.8 points per game. Marshall’s offense isn’t as explosive as the 2014 version, as quarterback Rakeem Cato left big shoes to fill. However, freshman quarterback Chase Litton is promising and finished the regular season by throwing eight touchdowns over the final three games.

 

39. Famous Idaho Potato Bowl – Akron (7-5) vs. Utah State (6-6)

Dec. 22 – 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

 

Points could be at a premium on the blue turf when the Zips and Aggies meet on Dec. 22. Akron’s defense ranked second in the MAC by holding opponents to 21.5 points per game, and this unit features a handful of Power 5 transfers, including Rodney Coe (Iowa State), Se’Von Pittman (Ohio State) and Darryl Monroe (Washington State). This unit will be a tough matchup for a Utah State offense averaging 5.49 yards per play and has uncertainty at quarterback with Chuckie Keeton and Kent Myers both receiving significant playing time in 2015. Running back Devante Mays (842 yards) emerged as a solid option for coach Matt Wells in his first year from the junior college ranks. This is Akron’s second bowl appearance in program history, while Utah State is making its fifth consecutive postseason trip.  

 

40. NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl – Colorado State (7-5) vs. Nevada (6-6)

Dec. 29 – 7:30 p.m. ET, Campus Insiders

 

Considering the long offseason, it’s tough to complain about having more bowl games in December. However, considering the need for 5-7 teams and this matchup in the Arizona Bowl, it’s safe to say college football’s postseason has reached its limit on adding more bowls. Colorado State and Nevada are Mountain West rivals but did not play in 2015 and are not slated to match up in conference action until 2017. Mike Bobo guided the Rams to a 7-5 mark in his first season, while the Wolf Pack are back in the postseason for the second year in a row under coach Brian Polian. 

 

41. Cure Bowl – Georgia State (6-6) vs. San Jose State (5-7)

Dec. 19 – Noon ET, CBS Sports Network

 

The bowl season starts in Orlando, Fla. with the inaugural Cure Bowl. This is the third game played at the Orlando Citrus Bowl (Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus and Russell Athletic Bowl) during the postseason. Continuing with the new theme with this bowl, Georgia State is making its postseason debut after a huge win over Georgia Southern improved coach Trent Miles’ team to 6-6. The Panthers just moved to the FBS level in 2013 and showed steady improvement with Miles guiding the program. Georgia State quarterback Nick Arbuckle is one of the nation’s most underrated passers at the Group of 5 level, while the defense showed marked improvement in 2015 (43.3 points allowed in 2014 to 28.4 in 2015). San Jose State is back in the postseason for the first time since 2012 and is one of three teams with a 5-7 record in a bowl this year. Running back Tyler Ervin finished second in the Mountain West by averaging 122.4 rushing yards per game, while quarterback Kenny Potter stabilized the offense by throwing at least three touchdowns in each of the team’s last three games.

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Ranking All 41 College Football Bowls for 2015: From Must-See to Must-Miss
Post date: Monday, December 7, 2015 - 09:00
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is back in the College Football Playoff for the second year in a row, and coach Nick Saban’s team enters the postseason riding a 10-game winning streak, with nine of those victories coming by 13 points or more. The Crimson Tide own one of the nation’s top defenses, while the offense leans heavily on running back Derrick Henry. The junior is one of the frontrunners to win the Heisman Trophy in 2015 after recording 1,986 yards and 23 touchdowns. The passing game has showed improvement throughout the season for coordinator Lane Kiffin, and quarterback Jake Coker now has nearly a month to prepare and develop a better rapport with receiver Calvin Ridley.

 

The College Football Playoff rankings placed Alabama at No. 2 in the final release, with a matchup against Michigan State in the Cotton Bowl. If the Crimson Tide defeat the Spartans, a matchup against the winner of Oklahoma-Clemson awaits in the national championship in Glendale, Ariz.

 

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Playoff Teams: No. 1  I No. 2  I No. 3  I No. 4

 

Five Reasons Why Alabama Will Win the College Football Playoff

 

1. Alabama’s Defense is the Best in the Nation

Defense wins championships. That’s the old cliché used when describing teams in the playoff hunt in any league, but there’s plenty of truth in that statement. The long layoff between games can disrupt the timing for offenses, which plays into the hands of a dominant defense. Behind a deep front seven and the defensive acumen of coach Nick Saban and coordinator Kirby Smart, the Crimson Tide have arguably the nation’s best defense. Alabama limited opponents to just 14.4 points a game and 4.1 yards per play this season, generated 46 sacks (best in the nation), forced 24 turnovers and limited offenses to just 27.9 percent on successful third-down conversions.

 

2. Derrick Henry

It’s a deep year for talent at running back this season, but there’s a compelling case that Henry is the best of the bunch. The junior is a workhorse (339 carries), rushing for 1,986 yards and 23 touchdowns this season. Henry recorded four 200-yard efforts over his last seven games, including 271 against rival Auburn in the Iron Bowl. The junior possesses a unique blend of speed and elusiveness, along with the pure physical strength to run over or plow through defenders. Only one Power 5 team (Arkansas) was able to hold Henry under 100 yards this season. Needless to say, it’s not an easy task stopping Henry behind one of the nation’s top offensive lines. The junior can carry the Crimson Tide offense on his back during the playoffs.

 

3. Lines of Scrimmage

The offensive and defensive lines are often an underappreciated part of any team’s championship hopes. Out of the four teams in the playoff, Alabama might have the best – Michigan State is a close second – combination of offensive and defensive lines. The Crimson Tide’s offensive line played better over the course of the season, leading the way for rushers to average 4.8 yards per carry. Additionally, this unit cleared the way for Alabama rushers to generate four rushing plays of 50 yards or more and 28 overall scores on the ground. The pass protection was also steady, as Alabama quarterbacks were sacked only 19 times in 13 games. While the offensive line is a standout group, the defensive front is even better. The Crimson Tide seemingly has an endless wave of talented players up front. This unit led the nation in rush defense (74 yards per game), allowed only six rushing scores and limited opposing rushers to 2.4 yards per rush. This group is headlined by A’Shawn Robinson – a versatile player who can line up on the inside or outside – as well as end Jonathan Allen (10 sacks), Jarran Reed and Darren Lake. Linebacker Tim Williams (9.5 sacks) is one of the team’s best at getting to the quarterback. Alabama has the depth, talent and experience to dominate teams in the trenches on both sides of the ball.

 

4. The Passing Game is Improving

Alabama’s biggest preseason question mark was easily its passing game. Finding a replacement for quarterback Blake Sims and receiver Amari Cooper took a couple of games, but the Crimson Tide’s passing game is starting to find its stride. Quarterback Jake Coker finished the year with 17 touchdowns to eight interceptions, completed 65.7 percent of his passes for 2,489 yards. The senior has tossed only one pick over his last five games and posted a completion percentage of at least 60 percent in each contest during that span. Coker threw for 204 yards in Alabama’s SEC Championship victory over Florida (arguably one of the top defensive backfields in the nation), made clutch throws against Tennessee late in the fourth quarter to secure a win and tossed a key 34-yard strike to ArDarius Stewart for a score against Auburn. Not only is Coker improving, but the Crimson Tide’s receiving corps showed promise as the season progressed. Freshman Calvin Ridley (75 catches for 893 yards and five scores) is the top target for Coker, while ArDarius Stewart caught at least four passes in each of the final four games, and tight end O.J. Howard and receiver Richard Mullaney each finished the regular season with 30 or more catches. Running back Kenyan Drake is also a factor in the passing game. By no means is Alabama a juggernaut with its passing attack. However, the Crimson Tide have made progress in this department throughout the year.

 

5. Nick Saban and Special Teams

We will cheat a little and list two reasons here. The College Football Playoff features four outstanding coaches, but Alabama’s Nick Saban is the best of the bunch. The Crimson Tide are 103-18 under Saban’s direction and have won three national championships. Needless to say, Saban and this staff will have Alabama prepared for this game, especially after the disappointment of last year’s playoff matchup. And in one more on-field element, keep an eye on the special teams. Alabama kicker Adam Griffith has worked through some early-season struggles and ended the year with 21 connected field goals on 29 attempts. Punter JK Scott is one of the best in college football, averaging a healthy 44.2 yards per punt. Returns are in good shape with Kenyan Drake on kickoffs and Cyrus Jones (12.2 average this year and three scores) on punts.

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The matchups for the 2015-16 College Football Playoff are set. Clemson ranked as the No. 1 team in the committee’s rankings in each release, and the Tigers held on for the top overall seed for the playoff. Coach Dabo Swinney’s team will take on Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl, which is a rematch of last season’s Russell Athletic Bowl. In the other matchup, Alabama hosts Michigan State in the Cotton Bowl. The Crimson Tide rebounded from an early loss to Ole Miss to win the SEC title and easily handled Florida in the SEC Championship. The Spartans used a late touchdown over Iowa to win the Big Ten title and earned the No. 3 seed over Oklahoma.

 

College Football Playoff Matchups

 

Capital One Orange Bowl

1. Clemson (13-0) vs. 4. Oklahoma (11-1)

Date: Dec. 31 - ESPN

Early Line: Oklahoma -2.5

 

First Impression: Expect plenty of offensive fireworks in this one. Two of the nation’s top quarterbacks – Clemson’s Deshaun Watson and Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield – led the way for two outstanding offenses. The Tigers average 38.5 points per game, while the Sooners posted 45.8 points per game. This game also features an intriguing coordinator matchup between rising star Lincoln Riley (Oklahoma offensive coordinator) against Clemson defensive signal-caller Brent Venables. Last year’s Russell Athletic Bowl was a convincing 40-6 victory for the Tigers. Expect a much closer game this time around.

 

Key Question: Which defense steps up to the task of slowing down the high-powered offenses?

 

Cotton Bowl

2. Alabama (12-1) vs. 3. Michigan State (12-1)

Date: Dec. 31 - ESPN

Early Line: Alabama -9

 

First Impression: A defensive slugfest is set to unfold in the Cotton Bowl between the Crimson Tide and Spartans. Alabama ranks No. 3 nationally in fewest points allowed (14.4 ppg), while the Spartans limit opponents to 20.5 a game. However, both teams have offensive firepower. Crimson Tide running back Derrick Henry recorded one of the top individual performances from 2015, rushing for 1,986 yards and 23 scores. The Spartans bring a similar style of play to the table with a strong ground attack, but coach Mark Dantonio’s team has an edge at quarterback with Connor Cook. There’s also an interesting backstory between these two programs. Alabama coach Nick Saban was Michigan State’s head coach from 1995-99.

 

Key Question: Quarterback play. These two teams are very similar. Both want to use their defense and ground attack to carry their team. However, both offenses will need plays from their quarterback. Will Cook be at full strength after suffering a shoulder injury in late November? Will Alabama quarterback Coker continue to progress during the bowl preparation? 

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College Football 2015 Playoff Matchups and Very Early Preview
Post date: Sunday, December 6, 2015 - 13:05
All taxonomy terms: ACC, Air Force Falcons, Akron Zips, Alabama Crimson Tide, Appalachian State Mountaineers, Arizona State Sun Devils, Arizona Wildcats, Arkansas Razorbacks, Arkansas State Red Wolves, Army Black Knights, Army West Point Black Knights, Auburn Tigers, Ball State Cardinals, Baylor Bears, Boise State Broncos, Boston College Eagles, Bowling Green Falcons, Buffalo Bulls, BYU Cougars, California Golden Bears, Central Michigan Chippewas, Charlotte 49ers, Cincinnati Bearcats, Clemson Tigers, College Football, Colorado Buffaloes, Colorado State Rams, Connecticut Huskies, Duke Blue Devils, East Carolina Pirates, Eastern Michigan Eagles, FAU Owls, FIU Panthers, Florida Gators, Florida State Seminoles, Fresno State Bulldogs, Georgia Bulldogs, Georgia Southern Eagles, Georgia State Panthers, Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, Hawaii Warriors, Houston Cougars, Idaho Vandals, Illinois Fighting Illini, Indiana Hoosiers, Iowa Hawkeyes, Iowa State Cyclones, Kansas Jayhawks, Kansas State Wildcats, Kent State Golden Flashes, Kentucky Wildcats, Louisiana Tech Bulldogs, Louisville Cardinals, LSU Tigers, Marshall Thundering Herd, Maryland Terrapins, Memphis Tigers, Miami Hurricanes, Miami Ohio RedHawks, Michigan State Spartans, Michigan Wolverines, Minnesota Golden Gophers, Mississippi State Bulldogs, Missouri Tigers, MTSU Blue Raiders, Navy Midshipmen, NC State Wolfpack, Nebraska Cornhuskers, Nevada Wolf Pack, New Mexico Lobos, New Mexico State Aggies, North Carolina Tar Heels, North Texas Mean Green, Northern Illinois Huskies, Northwestern Wildcats, Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Ohio Bobcats, Ohio State Buckeyes, Oklahoma Sooners, Oklahoma State Cowboys, Old Dominion Monarchs, Ole Miss Rebels, Oregon Ducks, Oregon State Beavers, Penn State Nittany Lions, Pittsburgh Panthers, Purdue Boilermakers, Rice Owls, Rutgers Scarlet Knights, San Diego State Aztecs, San Jose State Spartans, SMU Mustangs, South Alabama Jaguars, South Carolina Gamecocks, South Florida Bulls, Southern Miss Golden Eagles, Stanford Cardinal, Syracuse Orange, TCU Horned Frogs, Temple Owls, Tennessee Volunteers, Texas A&M Aggies, Texas Longhorns, Texas State Bobcats, Texas Tech Red Raiders, Toledo Rockets, Troy Trojans, Tulane Green Wave, Tulsa Golden Hurricane, UAB Blazers, UCF Knights, UCLA Bruins, UConn Huskies, UL Lafayette Ragin Cajuns, UL Monroe Warhawks, UMass Minutemen, UNLV Rebels, USC Trojans, Utah State Aggies, Utah Utes, UTEP Miners, UTSA Roadrunners, Vanderbilt Commodores, Virginia Cavaliers, Virginia Tech Hokies, Wake Forest Demon Deacons, Washington Huskies, Washington State Cougars, West Virginia Mountaineers, Western Kentucky Hilltoppers, Western Michigan Broncos, Wisconsin Badgers, Wyoming Cowboys, American Athletic, Big 12, Big Ten, Conference USA, Independents, MAC, Mountain West, Pac 12, SEC, Sun Belt, News
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Week 14 of the  season is in the books. The weekend slate provided plenty of highlights, big plays, standout performances and surprises. 

 

With another weekend of action in the books, it’s time to hand out the hardware to honor the best of the best from Week 14. Here’s a look at Athlon Sports’ picks for the offensive, defensive, coordinator, freshman and unsung hero from Week 14:

 

College Football Week 14 Awards

 

Offensive Player of the Week: Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford

McCaffrey closed out the regular season with one of the top individual performances of 2015 in Stanford’s 41-22 victory over USC in the Pac-12 Championship. The sophomore rushed for 207 yards and one score, threw an 11-yard touchdown pass, caught four passes for 105 yards and one touchdown and added 149 overall yards on returns. McCaffrey now owns the NCAA record for most all-purpose yards in a season. Additionally, the 461 all-purpose yards against the Trojans were the most by any player in Stanford single-game history.

 

Defensive Player of the Week: Shilique Calhoun, DE, Michigan State

Michigan State’s play in the trenches was a key cog in Saturday night’s 16-13 win over Iowa in the Big Ten Championship. Calhoun led a strong performance from the defensive line, as the senior recorded six tackles (three for a loss), two sacks, one quarterback hurry and one forced fumble. He was also a big reason why Iowa managed only 52 rushing yards on 24 attempts.

 

Coordinator of the Week: Brent Venables, Defensive Coordinator, Clemson

The final stat sheet showed Clemson surrendered 382 yards and 37 points to North Carolina, but Venables’ defense played much better than what the statistics showed on Saturday night. The Tigers made life difficult for quarterback Marquise Williams all night long, as the senior only completed 11 of 33 passes for 224 yards. Additionally, Williams was sacked twice and lost two turnovers against this defense. Clemson also forced six three-and-outs on the Tar Heels’ explosive offense and generated eight quarterback hurries. 

 

Freshman of the Week: LJ Scott, RB, Michigan State

Scott hard running and determination on Michigan State’s final drive clinched the Big Ten Championship and a spot in the College Football Playoff for the Spartans. The true freshman finished the game with 73 yards on 22 carries, including a one-yard score with less than 30 seconds left to give the Spartans a 16-13 edge over Iowa. Scott was initially stopped by the Hawkeyes’ defense, but the freshman running back pushed his way into the end zone for the touchdown.

 

Unsung Offensive Hero of the Week: Nick Arbuckle, QB, Georgia State

Georgia State picked up one of the program’s biggest wins on Saturday, defeating Georgia Southern 34-7 to earn its sixth victory and first bowl trip in program history. Arbuckle’s play was a big reason why the Panthers finished with six wins, and the senior delivered with solid performance against Georgia Southern (20 of 32 for 346 yards and three touchdowns) to propel coach Trent Miles’ team into the postseason.

 

Unsung Defensive Hero of the Week: William Jackson III, DB, Houston

Jackson III delivered a handful of clutch plays in Saturday’s win over Temple in the American Athletic Conference Championship. The senior posted five tackles (one for a loss) and recorded seven pass breakups – a single-game school record – against the Owls. Wilson’s seven pass breakups gave him 20 for the season, which is the most by any defender in program history.

Teaser:
College Football Week 14 Awards
Post date: Sunday, December 6, 2015 - 09:20
All taxonomy terms: ACC, Air Force Falcons, Akron Zips, Alabama Crimson Tide, Appalachian State Mountaineers, Arizona State Sun Devils, Arizona Wildcats, Arkansas Razorbacks, Arkansas State Red Wolves, Army Black Knights, Army West Point Black Knights, Auburn Tigers, Ball State Cardinals, Baylor Bears, Boise State Broncos, Boston College Eagles, Bowling Green Falcons, Buffalo Bulls, BYU Cougars, California Golden Bears, Central Michigan Chippewas, Charlotte 49ers, Cincinnati Bearcats, Clemson Tigers, College Football, Colorado Buffaloes, Colorado State Rams, Connecticut Huskies, Duke Blue Devils, East Carolina Pirates, Eastern Michigan Eagles, FAU Owls, FIU Panthers, Florida Gators, Florida State Seminoles, Fresno State Bulldogs, Georgia Bulldogs, Georgia Southern Eagles, Georgia State Panthers, Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, Hawaii Warriors, Houston Cougars, Idaho Vandals, Illinois Fighting Illini, Indiana Hoosiers, Iowa Hawkeyes, Iowa State Cyclones, Kansas Jayhawks, Kansas State Wildcats, Kent State Golden Flashes, Kentucky Wildcats, Louisiana Tech Bulldogs, Louisville Cardinals, LSU Tigers, Marshall Thundering Herd, Maryland Terrapins, Memphis Tigers, Miami Hurricanes, Miami Ohio RedHawks, Michigan State Spartans, Michigan Wolverines, Minnesota Golden Gophers, Mississippi State Bulldogs, Missouri Tigers, MTSU Blue Raiders, Navy Midshipmen, NC State Wolfpack, Nebraska Cornhuskers, Nevada Wolf Pack, New Mexico Lobos, New Mexico State Aggies, North Carolina Tar Heels, North Texas Mean Green, Northern Illinois Huskies, Northwestern Wildcats, Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Ohio Bobcats, Ohio State Buckeyes, Oklahoma Sooners, Oklahoma State Cowboys, Old Dominion Monarchs, Ole Miss Rebels, Oregon Ducks, Oregon State Beavers, Penn State Nittany Lions, Pittsburgh Panthers, Purdue Boilermakers, Rice Owls, Rutgers Scarlet Knights, San Diego State Aztecs, San Jose State Spartans, SMU Mustangs, South Alabama Jaguars, South Carolina Gamecocks, South Florida Bulls, Southern Miss Golden Eagles, Stanford Cardinal, Syracuse Orange, TCU Horned Frogs, Temple Owls, Tennessee Volunteers, Texas A&M Aggies, Texas Longhorns, Texas State Bobcats, Texas Tech Red Raiders, Toledo Rockets, Troy Trojans, Tulane Green Wave, Tulsa Golden Hurricane, UAB Blazers, UCF Knights, UCLA Bruins, UConn Huskies, UL Lafayette Ragin Cajuns, UL Monroe Warhawks, UMass Minutemen, UNLV Rebels, USC Trojans, Utah State Aggies, Utah Utes, UTEP Miners, UTSA Roadrunners, Vanderbilt Commodores, Virginia Cavaliers, Virginia Tech Hokies, Wake Forest Demon Deacons, Washington Huskies, Washington State Cougars, West Virginia Mountaineers, Western Kentucky Hilltoppers, Western Michigan Broncos, Wisconsin Badgers, Wyoming Cowboys, American Athletic, Big 12, Big Ten, Conference USA, Independents, MAC, Mountain West, Pac 12, SEC, Sun Belt, News
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Week 14 of the  season is officially in the books. With the playoff and bowl picture coming into focus, there were no shortage of critical games or must-see matchups on Saturday. And the weekend slate produced its share of crazy moments, wild finishes and big plays.  

 

Miss anything from Week 14? Here are 20 must-see plays, moments or post-game celebrations from the weekend of action:

 

20 Must-See Moments from College Football's Week 14 Games

 

1. Michigan State clinches Big Ten Championship with LJ Scott's touchdown run with less than a minute remaining:

 

2. The Spartans also had some help in the form of this crazy interception in the first half:

3. Alabama wins SEC Championship thanks to big plays by Derrick Henry, Calvin Ridley and ArDarius Stewart:

Calvin Ridley also had this nifty block against the Gators:

 

4. However, Nick Saban wasn't very happy with some of his players (at times):

 

5. Clemson coach Dabo Swinney was also really unhappy with one of his players:

 

6. However, the botched punt didn't hurt Clemson too much, as the Tigers defeated North Carolina for the ACC title:

And as promised, coach Dabo Swinney is hosting a pizza party in Death Valley on Sunday:

 

7. Stanford RB Christian McCaffrey breaks NCAA's single-season all-purpose record in win over USC:

 

8. Things got a little heated between Texas and Baylor:

 

9. The ACC's awful officiating shows up again to rob North Carolina of a recovered onside kick:

 

10. Houston coach Tom Herman gets a double Gatorade bath after beating Temple:

 

11. Georgia State celebrates reaching bowl eligibility with bowling:

 

12. North Carolina receiver Ryan Switzer shows support for Pittsburgh running back James Conner:

 

13. Some embarrassing behavior by a security team after Houston's win:

 

14. It came in a losing effort, but Baylor's 410-pound tight end LaQuan McGowan took a handoff against Texas:

 

15. Southern Miss receiver Mike Thomas wasn't feeling too well during the loss to WKU:

 

16. Iowa fans striped the stadium for the Big Ten Championship:

 

17. Iowa Senator Joni Ernst incorrectly tweeted the outcome of the Big Ten Championship:

 

18. Bowling Green QB Matt Johnson and WR Gehrig Dieter shared a unique celebration in the win over Northern Illinois:

 

19. Temple receiver Robby Anderson made this awesome one-handed catch against Houston:

 

20. And finally...here's an awkward photo of the College Football Playoff committee watching games today:

 

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20 Must-See Moments from College Football's Week 14 Games
Post date: Sunday, December 6, 2015 - 09:10
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Path: /college-football/ranking-watchability-college-footballs-2015-conference-championship-games
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Conference championship games are a key part of every college football season. It’s the last chance for Heisman candidates to make an impression, there’s playoff implications among the Power 5 leagues, and these games also play a role in determining how the top 10-15 rank on Sunday for New Year’s Six bowl matchups.

 

Eight conference championship matchups are slated for Week 14, including two games directly impacting the playoff seeding. Clemson has ranked as the No. 1 team in the committee’s rankings since the first release in November. However, the Tigers must defeat an improving North Carolina team to secure their spot in the top four. Additionally, the showdown between Michigan State and Iowa is an elimination game for a spot in the College Football Playoff.

 

With eight championship games on tap for Week 14, it can be a little overwhelming deciding which games to watch and their impact on the national scene. To help with your weekend viewing and channel surfing, we ranked the conference championship games in terms of must-see value.

 

Ranking the Watchability and Importance of Conference Championship Games in 2015

 

1. Big Ten Championship: Iowa vs. Michigan State (Indianapolis)

Kickoff: Saturday, Dec. 5 at 8 p.m. ET

TV Channel: FOX

Spread: Michigan State -3.5


This is essentially a play-in game for the College Football Playoff. The winner of this game is going to the four-team playoff, while the loser is off to the Rose, Fiesta or Chick-fil-A Peach Bowls. The Hawkeyes are college football’s biggest surprise this season. Behind a strong ground attack, the efficient play of quarterback C.J. Beathard and a solid defense, Iowa is off to its first 12-0 start in program history. But the Hawkeyes are facing their toughest obstacle of the season on Saturday. Michigan State lost on a questionable call to Nebraska and struggled to put away teams early in the season. However, coach Mark Dantonio’s team is finding his rhythm at the right time. The Spartans won 17-14 at Ohio State and defeated Penn State 55-16 last Saturday to clinch the Big Ten East title. Both teams have excelled in turnover margin this year (+14). In a tight game, one or two mistakes might be all that decides this playoff elimination game.

 

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2. ACC Championship: North Carolina vs. Clemson (Charlotte)

Kickoff: Saturday, Dec. 5 at 8 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ABC

Spread: Clemson -5

 

The stakes are high for both teams on Saturday night. With a win over North Carolina, Clemson would clinch a playoff spot. The Tigers would also earn their first conference championship since 2011, and this game is potentially a good showcase for quarterback Deshaun Watson and his Heisman resume. Clemson’s offense will be tested by an improved North Carolina defense under the direction of new play-caller Gene Chizik. Stopping Watson and the rest of the Tigers’ skill players won’t be easy, but the Tar Heels have allowed only 19 plays of 30 yards or more this season. A similar theme is set to play out when North Carolina has the ball. Quarterback Marquise Williams and running back Elijah Hood headline an explosive offense for coach Larry Fedora, while the Tigers quickly reloaded on defense after the departure of several key starters last season. If North Carolina pulls off the upset, how high will this team climb in the polls next week? 

 

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3. Pac-12 Conference Championship: USC vs. Stanford (Santa Clara)

Kickoff: Saturday, Dec. 5 at 7:45 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPN

Spread: Stanford -4.5

 

Saturday night’s matchup in Santa Clara, Calif. is the second meeting between these two programs in 2015. Stanford and USC met during the regular season, with the Cardinal winning 41-31 in Los Angeles. Will get the Trojans get revenge and earn their first victory in the Pac-12 Championship Game? This is a huge opportunity for USC coach Clay Helton – promoted to the full-time gig this week – to make a statement on Saturday night. Both teams want to establish the run and control the battle in the trenches. The Cardinal have an edge on offense in that department, as well as one of the nation’s top all-around players in Christian McCaffrey.

 

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4. American Athletic Conference Championship: Temple at Houston

Kickoff: Saturday, Dec. 5 at Noon ET

TV Channel: ABC

Spread: Houston -6

 

The inaugural American Athletic Conference Championship features one of the league’s best offenses (Houston) against one of the conference’s top defenses (Temple). The Owls have allowed only three opponents to manage more than 25 points this season and limit opponents to just 4.85 yards per play. This defense will be challenged by Houston’s dynamic offense, which is led by quarterback Greg Ward (33 total touchdowns this year). Ward’s mobility is critical with a makeshift offensive line for the Cougars going against a Temple defensive front that generated 32 sacks in 2015. This game also features two of college football’s rising stars in the coaching ranks – Houston’s Tom Herman and Temple’s Matt Rhule. 

 

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5. Conference USA Championship: Southern Miss at WKU

Kickoff: Saturday, Dec. 5 at Noon ET

TV Channel: ESPN2

Spread: WKU -7.5

 

If you like offense, this game is the one to check out on Saturday. The over/under of 74 in Vegas for this matchup is the highest of any Week 14 contest. WKU’s high-scoring offense is led by senior quarterback Brandon Doughty and ranks fourth nationally with an average of 44.2 points per game. The Golden Eagles aren’t far behind, averaging 41.7 per contest. Southern Miss is one of the most improved teams in the nation, increasing its win total by six games from 2014-15. Quarterback Nick Mullens is an underrated quarterback (35 TDs, 9 INTs), but the defense also made marked improvement (second in C-USA in points allowed). This one should be high in entertainment value.

 

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6. SEC Championship: Florida vs. Alabama (Atlanta)

Kickoff: Saturday, Dec. 5 at 4 p.m. ET

TV Channel: CBS

Spread: Alabama -18

 

It may seem odd to list the SEC this low, but Alabama is nearly a three-touchdown favorite over Florida and there’s little to suggest this game will be close. The Gators have scored over 20 points just once in their last four games and have struggled to play with consistency on the offensive line. That’s a huge concern for coach Jim McElwain, as Alabama’s defensive line is the best in the nation and is adept at stopping the run, as well as getting to the quarterback on passing downs. A low-scoring affair would benefit Florida, and it’s not out of the question this team can hang around in the first half thanks to its defense. However, the combination of Alabama running back Derrick Henry, as well as the talent on the Crimson Tide roster is too much to overcome.

 

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7. MAC Championship: Northern Illinois vs. Bowling Green (Detroit)

Kickoff: Friday, Dec. 4 at 8 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPN2

Spread: Bowling Green -12

 

There’s a lot of mystery sounding this game. Northern Illinois’ lost starting quarterback Drew Hare in early November to a ruptured Achilles, and backup Ryan Graham left last week’s game against Ohio with a leg injury. Freshman Tommy Fielder is poised to make his first career start on Friday night, which means the Huskies are going to lean on a heavy dose of running back Joel Bouagnon and one of the MAC’s top defenses (4.98 yards per play allowed). Bowling Green’s Dino Babers is reportedly the favorite to be Syracuse’s next coach, so this could be his final game with the Falcons. Babers’ offense is among the best in the nation, averaging 44.2 points per game behind quarterback Matt Johnson and a talented group of skill players. If Bowling Green jumps out to an early lead, it’s tough to see the Northern Illinois’ offense keeping up, especially with a quarterback making his first start. The Huskies want a low-scoring game. This is also the third-straight season these two teams have played in the MAC title game.

 

8. Mountain West Championship: Air Force at San Diego State

Kickoff: Saturday, Dec. 5 at 7:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPN2

Spread: San Diego State -6.5

 

This game features one of the nation’s most underrated players in San Diego State running back Donnel Pumphrey. The junior averages 122 yards per game and has rushed for 100 yards in eight consecutive games. Pumphrey will be asked to carry the offense for San Diego State, especially with starting quarterback Maxwell Smith out with a knee injury. The formula for success isn’t going to change for the Aztecs in this game. Coach Rocky Long is one of the nation’s top defensive masterminds, and this team will lean on its defense and a strong ground game to win on Saturday night. Air Force will counter with an offense averaging 34.4 points per game and a unit that ranks first in the Mountain West by generating 38 plays of 30 yards or more. Can the Falcons stuff the run and force San Diego State to take to the air? Or will the Aztecs’ stout defense and ground attack win this one?

 

Teaser:
Ranking the Watchability of College Football's 2015 Conference Championship Games
Post date: Friday, December 4, 2015 - 09:15
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Missouri Tigers, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/missouri-players-go-crazy-after-learning-barry-odom-their-new-coach
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Missouri’s coaching search to replace Gary Pinkel ended with a familiar face. Defensive coordinator and former player Barry Odom was hired as Pinkel’s replacement on Thursday night. Odom is considered one of the rising stars in the assistant ranks and should be a good hire for athletic director Mack Rhoades.

 

And in a short video released by the school on Thursday night, it’s safe to say Missouri’s players are really excited about Odom’s promotion.

 

Check out the reaction by Missouri’s team when it learns who the new coach is:

Teaser:
Missouri Players Go Crazy After Learning Barry Odom is Their New Coach
Post date: Friday, December 4, 2015 - 08:00

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