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After struggling to find success under Tyrone Willingham, Bob Davie and Charlie Weis, Brian Kelly has led Notre Dame back to promience. The Fighting Irish are playing in their first BCS bowl since the 2006 season and have not won a national title since 1988. Notre Dame faces a tall task trying to win the BCS title on Jan. 7, as it has to knock off Alabama and end the SEC's recent run of dominance in national championships. 

5 Reasons Why Notre Dame Will Win the National Title

1. It’s time for the SEC’s run to end
All good things must come to an end. Even though the SEC has claimed six consecutive national championships, a team from one of the other power conferences or Notre Dame will end its run in the next few seasons. So why not 2012? The Fighting Irish defeated nine bowl teams this year and beat another squad (Miami) that finished 7-5. Notre Dame proved its mettle on the road, beating Oklahoma 30-13 and at USC 22-13 in its regular season finale. There’s no question the SEC is the nation’s best conference and plays at the highest level of college football. However, at some point, the SEC’s success in the national championship will end, even if it’s just for one season.

2. The defense might be the best in the nation
Picking the nation’s best defense is no easy task. Florida, Florida State, LSU and Alabama all have a legitimate case for the No. 1 honor, but let’s not overlook Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish rank first nationally in scoring defense, holding opponents to 10.3 points a game. Notre Dame is fourth nationally in rush defense, sixth in total defense and is allowing only 194.4 passing yards per game. Led by senior linebacker Manti Te’o, the Fighting Irish have allowed just 10 touchdowns this season, which is the fewest allowed in college football.

3. Experience on the offensive line
Alabama’s 3-4 defense has been consistently one of the best in college football since Nick Saban arrived in Tuscaloosa. The Crimson Tide lost a bevy of key players to the NFL Draft, yet finished 2012 ranked No. 1 in total defense and averaged 2.5 sacks a game. Although it’s not a glamorous matchup, the battle between the Notre Dame offensive line and Alabama’s front seven will have a huge impact on who hoists the national title. The Crimson Tide has an athletic front seven, but the Fighting Irish can counter with an experienced offensive line. Zack Martin is a standout performer at left tackle, starting 38 consecutive games. Center Braxston Cave has 34 career starts, while left guard Chris Watt, right tackle Christian Lombard and right guard Mike Golic Jr. have a combined 53 career starts. Winning starts in the trenches, and Notre Dame’s front five is more than capable of holding its own against Alabama’s defense.

4. Quarterback Everett Golson was playing his best ball at the end of the season
Even though Notre Dame led with its defense this year, the offense started to come alive at the end of the year. Redshirt freshman quarterback Everett Golson threw for at least 200 yards in each of his final four games, including a 346-yard effort against Wake Forest. Golson has tossed only five picks this season and turned in a key performance in a road win over Oklahoma (13 of 25, 177 yards). Although the redshirt freshman is making strides as a passer, his ability to make plays outside of the pocket is what makes him dangerous. Golson rushed for 305 yards and five touchdowns this year and considering Alabama struggled to stop Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel, another dual-threat quarterback is not what Nick Saban and coordinator Kirby Smart wanted to see.

5. Don’t underestimate Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly
Alabama’s Nick Saban is widely regarded as the best coach in the nation, but Kelly has to rank in the top five of any best coaching list. The Massachusetts native has been a winner at each stop in his career, recording a 118-35-2 mark and two national championships in 13 years at Grand Valley State. Kelly went 19-16 with a MAC Championship in three seasons at Central Michigan, followed by a 34-6 mark in three full years with Cincinnati. While it took Kelly two years to surpass the eight-win mark at Notre Dame, the Fighting Irish are on the right track and are poised to emerge once again as an annual top-10 team. While Kelly isn’t as proven as Saban on a national championship stage, his background and playcalling on offense shows Notre Dame will have an excellent chance to end the SEC’s national title streak.  

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Post-Week 14 BCS Analysis

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Alabama is back in the national championship for the third time in four seasons. The Crimson Tide survived an early November loss to Texas A&M to wind up No. 2 in the BCS rankings and has a shot to continue the SEC's recent dominance. 

5 Reasons Why Alabama Will Win the National Title:

1. The SEC’s recent success in national title games
It’s no coincidence the SEC has won six consecutive national championships. For a conference that has the most rabid fanbases and support in FBS play, along with recruiting the nation’s top high school prospects, the SEC has established a blueprint on how to dominate college football. Alabama can add to the SEC’s run of dominance with a win over Notre Dame on Jan. 7, and it’s no surprise the Crimson Tide are already listed by some places as a touchdown favorite. Winning a national title requires luck, but considering the SEC is on the doorstep of its seventh consecutive title, it’s all about talent and owning the top programs in the nation. Notre Dame is worthy challenger, but the SEC is the best of the best and that will show on Jan. 7 in Miami.

2. The continued improvement of quarterback AJ McCarron
Quarterback AJ McCarron was a key reason why Alabama knocked off LSU in last season’s title game. He completed 23 of 34 throws for 234 yards and no interceptions in New Orleans, which significantly relieved the pressure on running back Trent Richardson and the defense. McCarron has taken another step in his development this year, throwing for 2,669 yards and 26 touchdowns, while tossing just three picks. The junior is also completing 66.8 percent of his throws and ranks first nationally in passing efficiency. Moving the ball against Notre Dame’s defense won’t be easy, but McCarron is getting better with every snap and has progressed significantly since last year’s national title victory over LSU. Considering the junior quarterback scored a road win over LSU and led Alabama to a victory over Georgia in the SEC Championship, the national stage against a stout Notre Dame defense won’t be too big for McCarron.

3. Alabama has the best defense Notre Dame has played this year
Although Notre Dame’s schedule features nine teams playing in a bowl game this year, it hasn’t played a defense quite like the one it will see in Miami on Jan. 7. Alabama has more team speed and depth than anyone the Fighting Irish have played this season and rank first nationally in yards allowed and are second in scoring defense. The secondary had some lapses during the regular season but no opponent threw for more than 296 yards this year. With a month to gameplan for Notre Dame, coach Nick Saban and coordinator Kirby Smart should have a few new wrinkles to throw at quarterback Everett Golson. The Crimson Tide’s pass rush (2.5 sacks per game) will challenge an experienced Fighting Irish offensive line.

4. Emerging playmakers on offense
Despite losing running back Trent Richardson and receiver Marquis Maze, Alabama’s offense was statistically better in 2012. The Crimson Tide averaged 439.1 yards and 38.5 points per game, slightly increased from 34.9 points and 429.6 yards a game in 2011. The development of quarterback AJ McCarron as played a key role in the increased production, but the Crimson Tide also have a group of emerging playmakers to also thank for the success. Running backs Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon each topped 1,000 yards this year, while freshman receiver Amari Cooper emerged as the go-to threat for McCarron, catching 53 passes for 895 yards and nine scores. With another set of practices to work with the coaching staff, expect Yeldon, Cooper and receiver Christion Jones to be even more comfortable in the offense by Jan. 7, which only adds to an offense that features McCarron and one of the best offensive lines in the nation.

5. Nick Saban in national title games
Even though Nick Saban has routinely had some of college football’s best rosters at Alabama and LSU, winning a national championship requires more than talent. And when ranking the best coaches in the nation, Saban should be No. 1 by a wide margin. In 11 years in the SEC, he has a 67-21 conference record and has only one season of fewer than eight victories. Saban has been simply unstoppable since coming to Alabama, as the Crimson Tide has won at least 10 games in each of the last five seasons. That record looks even more impressive when you consider the three national championships on Saban’s resume. He won the 2003 title at LSU by beating Oklahoma and claimed the 2009 and 2011 championships with the Crimson Tide. Saban is 3-0 in national title appearances and 4-1 in bowl games during his career at Alabama. Needless to say, Saban is at his best when everything is on the line. 

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Post-Week 14 BCS Analysis

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After starting his career at South Florida with a solid 8-5 season, Skip Holtz appeared to have the Bulls in position to contend for Big East championships. However, the program never managed to take the next step under Holtz's watch. The Bulls went 5-7 in 2011 and continued the downward spiral with a 3-9 record in 2012. Holtz was fired on Sunday, which means South Florida will be looking for just its third coach in program history.  

10 Replacements for Skip Holtz at South Florida

Dave Clawson, head coach, Bowling Green – Clawson took a lot of heat for Tennessee’s struggles on offense in 2008, but he is a proven head coach at three different stops. The New York native went 29-29 in five seasons at Fordham (1999-2003), which also included a trip to the FCS playoffs in 2002. Clawson jumped to Richmond in 2004 and led the Spiders to two playoff appearances, including an 11-3 mark in 2007. After the failed season at Tennessee, Clawson landed at Bowling Green and went 7-6 in his debut year and 8-4 in 2012.
 

Mario Cristobal, head coach, FIU – Considering Cristobal has spent most of his career in Florida, he would be a logical target for South Florida. However, Cristobal could have a hard time leaving the Miami area, especially with FIU making the jump from the Sun Belt to Conference USA. Cristobal has a 27-47 record in six years with the Golden Panthers but helped to resurrect a program that was in awful shape when he became head coach in 2007. 
 

Eddie Gran, RB coach, Florida State – Gran has been an assistant in the college ranks since 1987, making stops at Miami, Cincinnati, Ole Miss, Auburn, Tennessee and Florida State. The California native has never been a coordinator but is a relentless recruiter and has been a key addition to the Seminoles’ staff over the last three seasons. Not having head coaching experience has to be a drawback for Gran’s chances of landing at South Florida.
 

Tom Herman, offensive coordinator, Ohio State – Herman is a longshot in this coaching search but a rising star to watch over the next couple of seasons. The Ohio native started his coaching career at Texas Lutheran in 1998, before working his way through the ranks at Texas, Sam Houston State and then as an offensive coordinator at Texas State from 2005-06. After two years with the Bobcats, Herman worked at Rice as the offensive coordinator, then jumped to Iowa State in 2009 and came to Columbus to work with Urban Meyer. 
 

June Jones, head coach, SMU – Jones wanted to leave SMU last season, so it’s a bit of a surprise his name hasn’t popped up for more jobs this year. Although the Mustangs haven’t made dramatic improvements under his watch, SMU is making its fourth consecutive bowl appearance. Jones is 30-34 in six seasons with the Mustangs and was 76-41 in nine years with Hawaii. Considering South Florida needs to build some excitement in the fanbase, hiring a coach that runs a pass-first offense would be ideal. 
 

Kliff Kingsbury, offensive coordinator, Texas A&M – If South Florida really wants to make a splash with its hire, Kingsbury should be one of its top targets. The Texas native has been coaching in college since 2008, beginning his career under Kevin Sumlin at Houston. Kingsbury helped to orchestrate one of the nation’s best offenses with the Cougars in 2011 and played a key role in the development of Johnny Manziel at Texas A&M this season. Kingsbury has no head coaching experience but runs an exciting offense and has worked under some successful coaches – Kevin Sumlin and Dana Holgorsen. 
 

Dan McCarney, head coach, North Texas – Just like Houston Nutt, McCarney’s name has been mentioned as an early candidate for the vacancy at South Florida. McCarney has a career record of 65-100 but spent 12 years coaching at a difficult place to win (Iowa State). He also has one season of experience at South Florida (2007) and coached at Florida from 2008-2010. McCarney is 9-15 in two years at North Texas. 
 

Todd Monken, offensive coordinator, Oklahoma State – Monken is another coach with a background on offense and is also due for his shot to run a program. The Illinois native has no head coaching experience but has built a solid resume with stops as an assistant at Eastern Michigan, Louisiana Tech, LSU, Oklahoma State and in the NFL with the Jaguars. Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy has helped to build a foundation for offensive success in Stillwater, but Monken has done a tremendous job this season, starting three quarterbacks and dealing with a revamped offensive line to rank No. 3 nationally in scoring offense.
 

Brent Pease, offensive coordinator, Florida – Pease has been an assistant in the college ranks since 1991, which included a stop as Boise State’s offensive coordinator in 2011. The Idaho native also worked at Kentucky, Baylor and helped to improve Florida’s offense in 2012. Pease doesn’t have head coaching experience but he has a solid resume from his time as an assistant and would help South Florida spark a struggling offense. 
 

Willie Taggart, head coach, Western Kentucky – Taggart is one of the rising stars in the non-BCS ranks and is ready for a promotion to a bigger program. He is 16-20 in three years with Western Kentucky, including back-to-back seven-win seasons in 2011-12. Taggart is from Palmetto, Fla., which is just under 50 miles to Raymond James Stadium. In addition to his time as a head coach at Western Kentucky, Taggart worked as an assistant under Jim Harbaugh for three seasons at Stanford.  

 

A few wildcards to watch
 

Mark Hudspeth, head coach, Louisiana-Lafayette – Hudspeth is 17-8 in two seasons at Louisiana-Lafayette and has SEC experience from a two-year stint at Mississippi State. Although Hudspeth would be a great hire, he may be holding out for a chance to land in the SEC.
 

Houston Nutt, former Ole Miss head coach – The early rumor mill has suggested Nutt could be in the mix for the opening at South Florida, which would certainly be an interesting fit for both parties. Nutt recorded a 75-48 mark during his tenure at Arkansas, including at least a share of three SEC West titles. Nutt started 18-8 at Ole Miss but went 6-18 during the next two seasons.  

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Which bowls should you tune into? Athlon ranks and previews all of the matchups from the must-see to the ones you can avoid. Although Alabama and Notre Dame is clearly the biggest bowl game, with 34 other contests, there are plenty of other quality pairings to watch this postseason.

Ranking the 35 Bowl Games: Must-Watch to Must-Miss

1. BCS National Title – Alabama (12-1) vs. Notre Dame (12-0) – Jan. 7 at 8:30 p.m. ET
With the history and tradition between Alabama and Notre Dame, this season's national title matchup is the most-anticipated championship game of the BCS era. With a Crimson Tide victory, the SEC will claim its seventh consecutive national championship, while  Alabama is looking for its third BCS title in four seasons. This is the Fighting Irish’s first BCS bowl appearance under coach Brian Kelly and their first overall since 2007. Both teams rank among the best in defense, but the Crimson Tide have a slight edge on offense, largely due to the continued improvement of quarterback AJ McCarron. These two teams have met six times, with Notre Dame owning a 5-1 edge in the series. Interestingly enough, Alabama and the Fighting Irish are tied with eight Associated Press national titles apiece.  

2. Fiesta Bowl – Oregon (11-1) vs. Kansas State (11-1) – Jan. 3 at 8:30 p.m. ET
If you like offense, the Fiesta Bowl should be the game to watch. The Ducks rank second nationally in scoring offense with an average of 50.8 points per game, while Kansas State is 10th nationally at 40.7 points per game. Oregon is loaded with playmakers, starting with redshirt freshman quarterback Marcus Mariota and running back Kenjon Barner. Although Kansas State’s offense is averaging over 400 yards per game, its success is largely due to the play of one man — quarterback Collin Klein. The senior carried the offense with 3,380 total yards and 37 touchdowns. These two teams were scheduled to meet in the regular season, but the series was canceled in 2010. One key question surrounding this one: Will Chip Kelly still be Oregon’s coach when this game kicks off?

3. Chick-fil-A Bowl – LSU (10-2) vs. Clemson (10-2) – Dec. 31 at 7:30 p.m. ET
The Chick-fil-A Bowl is usually one of the best matchups outside of the BCS and 2012 certainly lives up to that hype. LSU was one defensive stop against Alabama from playing for the SEC Championship and won at least 10 games for the sixth time in eight seasons. Clemson is 1-1 against SEC opponents this year, beating Auburn in the season opener and losing to South Carolina on Nov. 24. The Tigers own one of college football’s top offenses, averaging 42.3 points a game. The chess match between Clemson’s offense against LSU’s defense should be one of the top O's vs. X's battles this bowl season.

4. Rose Bowl – Stanford (11-2) vs. Wisconsin (8-5) – Jan. 1 at 5 p.m. ET
After watching Oregon and Wisconsin trade scores in last season’s Rose Bowl, points could be a premium in the 2013 edition. Stanford and Wisconsin will be a war in the trenches, as the Cardinal hope to hold the Badgers’ powerful rushing attack in check. Stanford’s offense improved in the second half of the season, largely due to the emergence of quarterback Kevin Hogan. Considering both teams are strong on defense and on the ground, a key play by Hogan or Wisconsin’s Curt Phillips could be just enough to win. The Badgers have lost back-to-back Rose Bowl games.

5. Cotton Bowl – Oklahoma (10-2) vs. Texas A&M (10-2) – Jan. 4 at 8 p.m. ET
Even though the Cotton Bowl was pressured not to setup a Texas-Texas A&M matchup, it ended up with a solid game between two former Big 12 rivals. Oklahoma also just missed out on a BCS bowl, even though its only losses came against Kansas State (Fiesta Bowl) and Notre Dame (BCS title). The Sooners’ defense allowed at least 30 points in three out of their final four games, which has to be a concern against Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel. The redshirt freshman is one of the frontrunners to win the Heisman and ranks second nationally with 383.3 yards of total offense per game. Oklahoma has won eight out of the last nine matchups against Texas A&M, including a 41-25 game last season.  

6. Capital One Bowl – Nebraska (10-3) vs. Georgia (11-2) – Jan. 1 at 1 p.m. ET
Considering how the conference championship games turned out for both teams, there certainly has to be a feeling of disappointment by having to play in Orlando. However, if Nebraska and Georgia are motivated, this should be one of the best bowl matchups outside of the BCS. After the Cornhuskers were shredded for 539 rushing yards against Wisconsin, the Bulldogs have to be licking their chops. Freshmen backs Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall combined for 1,983 yards and 24 touchdowns this year. This matchup also features an exciting quarterback duel between Georgia’s Aaron Murray (34 TDs) and Nebraska’s Taylor Martinez (31 TDs).

7. Sugar Bowl – Louisville (10-2) vs. Florida (11-1) – Jan. 2 at 8:30 p.m. ET
Florida has one of the nation’s best resumes but also has some puzzling results, including close victories over Louisiana-Lafayette and Missouri. The Gators knocked off Texas A&M, LSU, South Carolina and Florida State, but a loss to Georgia prevented Will Muschamp’s team from having a chance to play for the national title. Louisville won the Big East title with a 20-17 win over Rutgers, which featured a gutsy performance from quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, playing with a broken wrist and sprained ankle. With over a month to heal, Bridgewater should be close to 100 percent, which should give the Cardinals a chance to hang around in this matchup. There’s also an underlying coaching theme, as Louisville’s Charlie Strong worked at Florida from 2002-09.

8. Holiday Bowl – Baylor (7-5) vs. UCLA (9-4) – Dec. 27 at 9:45 p.m. ET
The Holiday Bowl seems to bring out the best in offense, so expect plenty of fireworks when Baylor and UCLA meet on Dec. 27. The Bears were one of the hottest teams in the Big 12 to finish 2012, winning four out of their final five games, with the only loss coming to Oklahoma. Baylor leads the nation in total offense, while quarterback Nick Florence kept the passing attack going without Robert Griffin, throwing for 4,121 yards and 31 scores. UCLA won the Pac-12 South in coach Jim Mora’s first season and fell just short of a trip to the Rose Bowl. The Bruins have a dynamic offense and the combination of quarterback Brett Hundley and running back Johnathan Franklin should test a shaky Baylor defense. 

9. Outback Bowl – South Carolina (10-2) vs. Michigan (8-4) – Jan. 1 at 1 p.m. ET
Even though both teams had its sights set on a bigger bowl game this year, the Outback Bowl should be another entertaining Big Ten-SEC matchup. The time off from the season finale is good news for both teams, as South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw missed the game against Clemson with a foot injury and defensive end Jadeveon Clowney is also banged up. Michigan could use the month off to find a fix for its rushing attack, which sputtered when Fitzgerald Toussaint was lost for the year with a leg injury. Expect Florida native Denard Robinson to play a quarterback/running back hybrid role for Michigan in his final game in a Wolverine uniform.

10. Orange Bowl – Florida State (11-2) vs. Northern Illinois (12-1) – Jan. 1
For the first time in the BCS era, a MAC team will make an appearance in a BCS bowl. The Huskies aren’t the strongest non-BCS squad to play in a big-time bowl, as they lost to Iowa in Week 1 and scored a one-point victory over a 2-9 Army team in Week 3. Also, coach Dave Doeren left for NC State after the MAC Championship victory over Kent State. However, Northern Illinois features one of the nation’s most exciting players in quarterback Jordan Lynch and an offense that averages 40.8 points per game. The Huskies’ high-powered attack will be tested by a Florida State defense that ranks second nationally in yards allowed and is giving up just 15.1 points per game. The Seminoles will be without coordinator Mark Stoops in this game, who left to take the head coaching job at Kentucky. If Florida State is motivated, the Seminoles should overwhelm Northern Illinois with its speed and depth. 

11. Alamo Bowl – Texas (8-4) vs. Oregon State (9-3) – Dec. 29 at 6:45 p.m. ET
Last season’s Alamo Bowl was the highest-scoring game in bowl history. Although Texas and Oregon State are each averaging over 30 points a game, it’s unlikely these two teams will match last year’s ridiculous totals set by Baylor and Washington. The Longhorns are dealing with more quarterback uncertainty, as David Ash was banged up in the loss to TCU and Case McCoy tossed two picks in a 42-24 defeat to Kansas State on Dec. 1. While the passing attack has been inconsistent, Texas has a talented trio of backs, which will test an Oregon State defense ranked 28th against the run. The Beavers have also dealt with some quarterback issues, but Sean Mannion and Cody Vaz have each had their moments. Both quarterbacks have plenty of targets to choose from, as Markus Wheaton and Brandin Cooks each topped 1,000 receiving yards. This is the first meeting between these two teams since 1987, with Texas owning a 2-0 edge in the series.

12. Gator Bowl – Northwestern (9-3) vs. Mississippi State (8-4) – Jan. 1 at 12 p.m. ET
It may not mean much to the players, but this game is a crucial one in the ongoing Big Ten-SEC battle for bragging rights. And this matchup features teams headed in the opposite direction at the end of the year. Northwestern won three out of its final four games, while Mississippi State closed out 2012 by losing four out its last five contests. The Wildcats have not won a bowl game since 1949 but have lost two out of their last three postseason contests by seven points or less. Mississippi State’s defense struggled late in the year and drew a tough matchup against Northwestern, which features running back Venric Mark (109.2 ypg) and dynamic dual-threat quarterback Kain Colter.

13. Buffalo Wild Wings – TCU (7-5) vs. Michigan State (6-6) – Dec. 29 at 10:15 p.m. ET
With both teams returning a solid core of talent next season, this bowl could be a springboard to a big 2013. Despite losing quarterback Casey Pachall and moving to the Big 12, the Horned Frogs finished with a 7-5 record and are making their eighth consecutive bowl game. Michigan State was expected to be one of the frontrunners for the Big Ten title this year but needed a victory over Minnesota in the regular season finale just to get bowl eligible. This could be the final game for Spartans running back Le’Veon Bell, who could be entering the NFL Draft. Points could be at a premium with both teams ranked in the top 20 of total defense.

14. New Mexico Bowl – Nevada (7-5) vs. Arizona (7-5) – Dec. 15 at 1 p.m. ET
The 2012-13 bowl season kicks off in Albuquerque, N.M., featuring an exciting matchup between the Wolf Pack and Wildcats. There should be no shortage of points between these two teams, as both teams averaged over 500 yards a game during the regular season. Arizona running back Ka’Deem Carey led the nation with an average of 146.4 yards per game, while Nevada’s Stefphon Jefferson was second at 141.9 yards per contest. A matchup of 7-5 teams is usually a game to miss, but this one has all of the makings for an entertaining shootout.

15. Famous Idaho Potato – Utah State (10-2) vs. Toledo (9-3) – Dec. 15 at 4:30 p.m. ET
Utah State makes its second consecutive appearance in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, and it hopes for a different result after losing a heartbreaker to Ohio in 2011. The Aggies had a 6-0 record in conference games and lost by two points to Big Ten champion Wisconsin. Utah State’s offense is led by dynamic quarterback Chuckie Keeton, but the defense allowed just 15.4 points a game. All three of Toledo’s losses were by a touchdown or less and one of its nine victories came against Cincinnati. The Rockets allowed 464.1 yards per game but countered that with an offense that averaged 32.9 points a contest. Running back David Fluellen missed the season finale with a sprained ankle but should be close to 100 percent for the bowl. 

16. Las Vegas Bowl – Boise State (10-2) vs. Washington (7-5) – Dec. 22 at 3:30 p.m. ET
Boise State is making its third consecutive trip to the Las Vegas Bowl and interestingly enough, these two teams will meet in the season opener next year. Despite heavy personnel losses on both sides of the ball, the Broncos won 10 games for the seventh consecutive season and their two losses were by four points or less. Washington is making progress under coach Steve Sarkisian, winning four out of its final five games. The Huskies showed improvement on defense but took a step back on offense this year. A young offensive line is to blame for some of the offensive woes, but quarterback Keith Price also took a step back in performance.

17. Music City Bowl – Vanderbilt (8-4) vs. NC State (7-5) – Dec. 31 at 12 p.m. ET
After winning eight games for the first time since 1982, Vanderbilt probably deserves to be headed to a bigger bowl game. However, the Commodores will be making the short trip to LP Field with a chance to earn their first bowl victory under coach James Franklin. And Franklin has some history with NC State, as its athletic director (Debbie Yow) picked him to be the head-coach-in-waiting at Maryland. Motivation is a concern for the Wolfpack, especially after coach Tom O’Brien was released after the season finale against Boston College. Although new coach Dave Doeren won’t be on the sideline for this game, the NC State players want to make a good impression. Wolfpack quarterback Mike Glennon is one of the ACC’s top signal-callers and will test a Vanderbilt secondary that ranks 10th nationally against the pass. 

18. GoDaddy.com Bowl – Arkansas State (9-3) vs. Kent State (11-2) – Jan. 6 at 9 p.m. ET
Arkansas State is making its second consecutive trip to Mobile, while Kent State is in a bowl game for the first time since 1972. The Red Wolves closed out the regular season by winning seven consecutive games and seemed to find their offensive rhythm late in the year under first-year coach Gus Malzahn. Kent State will counter Arkansas State’s offense with a defense that forced 38 turnovers and averaged 2.5 sacks per game. The Golden Flashes have struggled to establish a passing attack this year but are led on offense by a dangerous one-two punch at running back with Trayion Durham and Dri Archer.

19. Poinsettia Bowl – BYU (7-5) vs. San Diego State (9-3) – Dec. 20 at 8 p.m. ET
The first mid-week bowl game of the season is an intriguing battle between two former WAC and Mountain West rivals. Despite having to replace quarterback Ryan Lindley and running back Ronnie Hillman, the Aztecs topped last season’s victory total and enter the bowl game on a seven-game winning streak. BYU lost four of its five games by six points or less, but closed out the year by scoring 50 points in two out of its final three games. The Cougars have dominated San Diego State in the series history, owning a 27-7-1 record. The Aztecs last win against BYU occurred in 2005 and have lost nine out of the last 10 matchups in this series.  

20. Pinstripe Bowl – West Virginia (7-5) vs. Syracuse (7-5) – Dec. 29 at 3:15 p.m. ET
Two old Big East rivals will meet in Yankee Stadium for what should be a high-scoring affair. The Mountaineers rank sixth nationally in passing offense, led by senior quarterback Geno Smith and two of the nation’s best receivers – Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey. The Orange closed out the year on a high note, winning five out of their last six games, including a victory against eventual Big East champion Louisville. Quarterback Ryan Nassib ranked 13th nationally in total offense at 312.3 yards per game but an improved rushing attack was critical during the second half of the season. Syracuse leads the overall series 32-27 between these two teams and won the last two meetings as Big East conference foes.

21. Military Bowl – Bowling Green (8-4) vs. San Jose State (10-2) - Dec. 27 at 3 p.m. ET
This will be the first meeting between the Falcons and the Spartans, two teams separated by over 2,000 miles. Led by an offense averaging 35.3 points per game, San Jose State recorded its first season of double-digit wins since 1987. Coach Mike MacIntyre is also one of the rising stars in the non-BCS ranks, providing a quick turnaround for one of the nation’s worst teams just a few seasons ago. Bowling Green is making its first bowl appearance since 2009 and finished 2012 by winning seven out of its last eight games. San Jose State’s firepower on offense will be tested by a Falcons’ defense allowing just 15.8 points per game.

22. BBVA Compass Bowl – Pittsburgh (6-6) vs. Ole Miss (6-6) – Jan. 5 at 1 p.m. ET
Pittsburgh will be making its third consecutive trip to Birmingham, while the Rebels return to the postseason after a two-year absence. New Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze engineered a quick turnaround, taking the Rebels from 2-10 last season to 6-6 overall and 3-5 in the SEC. In Pittsburgh’s last two BBVA Compass Bowl appearances, it was forced to play with an interim coach. Don’t expect that to happen this time around, as Paul Chryst isn’t leaving the Steel City this year. This game features an intriguing quarterback matchup, as Pittsburgh’s Tino Sunseri had a much-improved season, while Bo Wallace threw for 2,843 yards in his first year at Ole Miss.  

23. Liberty Bowl – Tulsa (10-3) vs. Iowa State (6-6) – Dec. 31 at 3:30 p.m. ET
The only rematch from the regular season features Conference USA’s champ (Tulsa) and an Iowa State team that played much better than its 6-6 record indicates. The Cyclones won the first matchup 38-23, but the Golden Hurricane is a much-improved team since the season opener. Tulsa’s offense is led by three players with at least 700 rushing yards, while quarterback Cody Green has 2,499 passing yards and 17 touchdowns this season. Iowa State found a spark on offense late in the year, as quarterback Sam Richardson threw for seven touchdowns over the final two contests. This is the Cyclones’ first trip to the Liberty Bowl since 1972. 

24. Russell Athletic Bowl – Rutgers (9-3) vs. Virginia Tech (6-6) – Dec. 28 at 5:30 p.m. ET
Two old Big East foes meet for the first time since 2003. The Scarlet Knights have not defeated Virginia Tech since 1992 and trail 11-3 in the overall series. The Hokies had high expectations in the preseason but slumped to a 6-6 record. Quarterback Logan Thomas did not take the next step in his development, but the offense also dealt with inconsistency on the offensive line and in the rushing attack. Rutgers was just a couple of plays away from a BCS bowl and its top-10 defense drew a favorable matchup against the Hokies. 

25. Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl – (Navy 8-4) vs. Arizona State (7-5) – Dec. 29 at 4 p.m. ET
Navy is back in the postseason after a one-year absence and drew a tough matchup against Arizona State. The Sun Devils closed out the regular season with a key 41-34 win over rival Arizona, which gave it more than six victories for the first time since 2007. Arizona State’s offense is loaded with playmakers, and quarterback Taylor Kelly finished the season with 25 touchdown tosses to nine interceptions. The Midshipmen are always a difficult opponent due to their style of play and should have a homefield advantage in San Francisco. Navy’s last win over a Pac-12 team came in 2006 against Stanford.

26. Independence Bowl – Ohio (8-4) vs. Louisiana-Monroe (8-4) – Dec. 28 at 2 p.m. ET
With not enough ACC or SEC teams bowl eligible, the Independence Bowl landed an intriguing matchup between two non-BCS teams. Ohio started the year with a bang, winning on the road at Penn State and opened 7-0 before a loss to Miami (Ohio). The Bobcats suffered a handful of season-ending injuries, which played a key role in the team’s struggles in the second half of the year. Louisiana-Monroe is making its first bowl appearance in program history and it also started the year off with a huge upset, beating Arkansas 34-31 in Week 2. Warhawks’ quarterback Kolton Browning had an outstanding season, throwing for 2,830 yards and 27 touchdowns on 389 attempts. Both teams average over 30 points a game, so expect plenty of fireworks on Dec. 28 in Shreveport, La. 

27. New Orleans – Louisiana-Lafayette (8-4) vs. East Carolina (8-4) – Dec. 22 at 12 p.m. ET
There should be no shortage of points when the Pirates and Ragin’ Cajuns meet in New Orleans on Dec. 22. Both teams are averaging over 30 points a game and each finished the year with a three-game winning streak. Louisiana-Lafayette won a 32-30 thriller over San Diego State in last season’s New Orleans Bowl and with its campus less than 200 miles away from the Superdome, should have a significant homefield advantage over East Carolina. Pirates quarterback Shane Carden finished the year by throwing nine touchdowns over his last three games and should be able to take advantage of a Ragin’ Cajuns’ secondary that ranked near the bottom of the Sun Belt.

28. Belk Bowl – Cincinnati (9-3) vs. Duke (6-6) – Dec. 27 at 6:30 p.m. ET
The last three matchups in the Belk Bowl have each been decided by seven points or less. And this season’s game should be just as competitive, especially after Cincinnati found its rhythm on offense with the switch to Brendon Kay at quarterback. Kay replaced Munchie Legaux as the team’s No. 1 passer and finished with six touchdowns over the final four games. The Bearcats allow 373.8 yards per game on defense but are holding opponents to 17.2 points a contest. Duke is making its first bowl appearance since 1994 but closed out the year by losing its final four games. The Blue Devils have made solid progress under coach David Cutcliffe and will test Cincinnati’s secondary with quarterback Sean Renfree and record-setting receiver Conner Vernon.

29. Sun Bowl – USC (7-5) vs. Georgia Tech (6-7) – Dec. 31 at 2 p.m. ET
From preseason No. 1 to the Sun Bowl. That’s the kind of year it has been for USC. The Trojans lost four out of their final five games to slip out of contention in the Pac-12 South, while quarterback Matt Barkley suffered a shoulder injury in the loss to UCLA. The good news for USC is Barkley is expected to play against Georgia Tech, who limps into the bowl season as the only team with a losing record. The Yellow Jackets lost in the Sun Bowl against Utah last season and will give the Trojans’ defense a challenge with its option attack. If Barkley and a deep USC receiving corps get on track early, it could be an uphill battle for Georgia Tech to keep this one close. 

30. Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl – UCF (9-4) vs. Ball State (9-3) - Dec. 21 at 7:30 p.m. ET
Looking for something to do on the Friday before Christmas? How about this MAC vs. C-USA matchup? These two teams have met three times, with Ball State owning a 2-1 edge. The Cardinals finished the regular season with six consecutive victories but head into the bowl game with some uncertainty surrounding their quarterback Keith Wenning, who suffered an Achilles injury against Ohio. UCF fell just short of a Conference USA title and three of its losses came by five points or less, with its only other loss coming to Ohio State in Week 2. Ball State’s rush defense has struggled this year, which is bad news against a UCF team with running backs Latavius Murray and Miami transfer Storm Johnson. 

31. Heart of Dallas Bowl – Oklahoma State (7-5) vs. Purdue (6-6) – Jan. 1 at 12 p.m. ET
In a bit of a surprise, Oklahoma State ended up in the final allotted Big 12 bowl. The Cowboys were 7-5 but lost three games by a touchdown or less and were forced to start three quarterbacks due to injuries this year. Despite making back-to-back bowl games, Purdue fired coach Danny Hope after the season finale. The Boilermakers found a spark on offense from quarterback Robert Marve late in the year but will have a tough time keeping pace with the Cowboys on Jan. 1.

32. Meineke Car Care – Minnesota (6-6) vs. Texas Tech (7-5) – Dec. 28 at 9 p.m. ET
Considering Minnesota lost six out of its last eight games, this game has potential to be a blowout victory by Texas Tech. The Red Raiders didn’t exactly close out the year on a high note either, losing four out of their final five games. However, the Golden Gophers will need a huge effort on defense to stop Texas Tech’s passing attack (No. 2 nationally). Minnesota’s offense never managed more than 17 points in each of its final four contests, which won’t be good enough against the high-scoring Red Raider attack. 

33. Hawaii Bowl – SMU (6-6) vs. Fresno State (9-3) – Dec. 24 at 8 p.m. ET
Former Hawaii coach June Jones makes his first appearance in Aloha Stadium since a 35-28 victory over Washington in Dec. 1, 2007. Despite leaving Hawaii after the 2007 season, Jones is still a popular figure and should help build the local interest in this game. SMU has made four consecutive bowl games but needed a victory over Tulsa in its final game just to get eligible this year. Former Texas quarterback Garrett Gilbert threw for 2,720 yards and 14 touchdowns in his first season with the Mustangs. New coach Tim DeRuyter led the Bulldogs to a share of the Mountain West title in his first season and brings a high-powered offense to Hawaii. Quarterback Derek Carr threw for 3,742 yards and 36 touchdowns this year, while running back Robbie Rouse topped 1,000 yards for the third consecutive season. These two teams were once conference mates in the WAC, and Fresno State holds a 5-1 edge over SMU in the all-time series.

34. Little Caesars – W. Kentucky (7-5) vs. Central Michigan (6-6) - Dec. 26 at 7:30 p.m. ET
This matchup in Detroit might not be one of the most intriguing games, but there are some interesting aspects surrounding both teams. After getting passed in the bowl selection process last year, Western Kentucky is making its first trip to a postseason game. The Hilltoppers have one of the nation’s top up-and-coming coaches in Willie Taggart, along with running back Antonio Andrews, who leads the nation with 248.1 all-purpose yards per game. Central Michigan returns to the postseason after a two-year absence and had a road win over Iowa this year but failed to beat a team with a winning record. 

35. Armed Forces Bowl – Air Force (6-6) vs. Rice (6-6) – Dec. 29 at 11:45 a.m. ET
The Armed Forces Bowl is just one of two of postseason games with both teams sporting a 6-6 record. Air Force is making its fifth consecutive bowl trip under coach Troy Calhoun and its third game in the Armed Force Bowl in the last five years. Rice was picked by most to finish near the bottom of Conference USA’s West Division but won its final four games to get bowl eligible. The Owls are playing in a postseason game for the first time since 2008 but will have their hands full trying to stop Air Force’s offense, which averages 328.8 rushing yards per game.

Teaser:
<p> Ranking All 35 College Football Bowls for 2012: From Must-See to Must-Miss</p>
Post date: Monday, December 3, 2012 - 05:40
Path: /news/georgias-aaron-murray-gets-rocked-alabama-defender
Body:

The SEC Championship matchup between Alabama and Georgia might have been the best played game in 2012. The Bulldogs had a chance to win late, but the Crimson Tide defense held on the final drive to clinch a spot in the national title. 

And considering this game matched two of the best defenses in the nation, it was no surprise there were plenty of hard hits. At the end of the first half, Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray tossed an interception and was leveled by Alabama defensive lineman Quinton Dial. Considering how important protecting the quarterback is, it's a surprise there wasn't a penalty called on Alabama. 

 

Teaser:
<p> Georgia's Aaron Murray Gets Rocked By Alabama Defender</p>
Post date: Sunday, December 2, 2012 - 16:47
All taxonomy terms: Nebraska Cornhuskers, Big Ten, News
Path: /news/nebraska-wr-kenny-bell-destroys-wisconsin-defender
Body:

Nebraska didn't have many highlights from Saturday night's loss to Wisconsin, but there were a few noteable plays for the Cornhuskers. 

In addition to Taylor Martinez's ridiculous touchdown run, receiver Kenny Bell destroyed Wisconsin defensive back Devin Smith on a third-quarter pass, which was called back due to a penalty. However, the block on Smith might be one of the most vicious hits in college football this season.

Teaser:
<p> Nebraska WR Kenny Bell Destroys Wisconsin Defender&nbsp;</p>
Post date: Sunday, December 2, 2012 - 15:31
All taxonomy terms: Nebraska Cornhuskers, Big Ten, News
Path: /news/nebraskas-taylor-martinez-escapes-wisconsin-defense-touchdown-run
Body:

Nebraska had a horrible showing in Saturday's Big Ten Championship, but quarterback Taylor Martinez had a ridiculous touchdown dash in the first half, which might be one of the best runs in recent memory.

Wisconsin was able to bring a rusher that was virtually untouched by Nebraska's offensive line, which forced Martinez to retreat back to the eight-yard line. From there, it was a series of moves and then nothing but pure speed to give Martinez the 76-yard touchdown run.

Teaser:
<p> Nebraska's Taylor Martinez Escapes Wisconsin Defense on Touchdown Run</p>
Post date: Sunday, December 2, 2012 - 13:12
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-top-10-worst-bcs-teams
Body:

At the end of college football’s regular season, the focus always shifts to the BCS title and debating the best teams in the nation. However, there’s also the other side of the coin, as the end of the year is a chance to reflect on the worst teams. And when examining the BCS era (1998-2012), there's no shortage of "quality" candidates for this ranking. 

Unfortunately for Colorado fans, the Buffaloes have to rank among the top 10 worst BCS teams since 1998. Although Colorado managed to steal a road win at Washington State, it lost to FCS opponent Sacramento State and only one loss in Pac-12 play was by a touchdown. The Buffaloes’ dismal season cost coach Jon Embree his job and adds even more uncertainty to a program that is just 25-61 over the last seven years.  

Top 10 Worst BCS Teams Since 1998

1. 2008 Washington State
Final Record: 
2-11
Don’t be fooled by the two wins on the resume: Washington State was awful in 2008. The Cougars were outscored by an average of 48-14 each game and its only victories came against a bad FCS team (Portland State) and a Washington team that was without quarterback Jake Locker and finished with a 0-12 record. The Cougars were shutout in three Pac-10 games and scored only a field goal against California and UCLA. 

2. 2006 Duke
Final Record: 
0-12
One year after posting a 1-10 record, Duke’s struggles on the gridiron continued with an 0-12 season. The Blue Devils lost 13-0 in the opener against Richmond and were outscored 73-0 by Virginia and Virginia Tech. There were signs of progress from 2005, as Ted Roof’s team lost by one to North Carolina and Wake Forest and was defeated by five points to Miami in mid-October.

3. 2003 Temple
Final Record:
 1-11
Temple was largely uncompetitive from the moment it joined the Big East in 1991. The Owls won just 15 overall games from 1991-99 and went winless in conference play in 1996. The 2003 season included a loss to FCS opponent Villanova, with the only victory coming on the road at MTSU. Temple did have a close call in Big East play, losing 24-23 to Virginia Tech in mid-November. The Owls were booted from the Big East due to their struggles on the field and low attendance after the 2004 season but returned to the conference in 2012. 

4. 2000 Duke
Final Record:
 0-11
Finding success on the gridiron hasn’t been easy for Duke. However, the 2000-01 seasons were possibly the worst in school history. The Blue Devils were not only winless but largely uncompetitive. Duke was shutout in the opener against East Carolina and lost by at least 30 points five times. The Blue Devils also managed only 155 points, their lowest offensive output in the BCS era. 

5. 2008 Washington
Final Record:
 0-12
Tyrone Willingham failed to record a winning record during his four-year tenure at Washington, and 2008 was a rock-bottom point for this program. The Huskies went 0-12, which included a 16-13 loss to rival Washington State in Pullman. Washington was largely uncompetitive in Pac-10 play, with only two games decided by a touchdown or less. Losing quarterback Jake Locker certainly didn’t help Washington’s chances, but the Huskies’ leading rusher had just 338 yards, and the defense allowed 38.6 points a game. 

6. 1999 Baylor
Final Record: 
1-10
Kevin Steele was brought in to replace Dave Roberts after back-to-back two-win seasons, but his tenure was a major disappointment. The Bears went 1-11 in 1999 and was defeated by an average score of 38-13. Baylor’s only win that season came against North Texas, but the lowlight of the year came in a loss against UNLV. Baylor led 24-21 with less than 20 seconds left and just had to take a knee to seal the victory. Instead of lining up in the victory formation, the Bears ran the ball and fumbled, which was returned 99 yards for a touchdown. Although Steele was trying to set an attitude or mindset for the team, it was a huge error on his part. Baylor won only one Big 12 game during Steele’s four years in Waco.

7. 2001 Duke
Final Record:
 0-11
After a disastrous 2000 season, the Carl Franks tenure at Duke didn’t get much better in 2001. The Blue Devils failed to record a win for the second season in a row and suffered blowout losses at the hands of Northwestern, Vanderbilt, Clemson, Florida State, Georgia Tech and North Carolina. Franks’ 2001 team was a little better but still one of the worst in BCS history. 

8. 1999 Rutgers
Final Record: 
1-10
After going 0-11 in 1997, Rutgers showed some signs of life with a 5-6 record in 1998. However, the Scarlet Knights regressed to a dismal 1-10 record in 1999. The only win of the season was a surprise 24-21 upset over Syracuse, but Rutgers lost 56-28 to a 2-9 Temple in late October. Outside of the victory against the Orangemen, the Scarlet Knights had only two losses decided by 14 points or less and was defeated by an average score of 39-14.

9. 2012 Colorado
Final Record: 1-11
After closing out 2011 with victories in two out of their final three games, even though Colorado had a young team coming back in 2012, there was some hope Colorado could at least match its win total. However, the Buffaloes took a step in the wrong direction, opening the year with bad losses to Colorado State and FCS opponent Sacramento State. Colorado also had a point differential of -338 and scored 17 or fewer points in six Pac-12 games. 

10. 2005 Duke
Final Record:
 1-10
After four miserable seasons under Carl Franks, Duke turned to Ted Roof to help turn the program back in the right direction. Roof had some initial momentum, but things quickly went downhill. The Blue Devils went 1-10 in 2005, with the one win coming over a VMI team that finished 3-8. Duke had a point differential of -231 and had only one ACC loss was decided by less than 25 points. 

Honorable Mention:

1999 South Carolina (0-11)
2000 Baylor (2-9)
2002 Rutgers (1-11)
2002 Kansas (2-10)
2003 Iowa State (2-10)
2005 Syracuse (1-10)
2006 Stanford (1-11)
2007 Syracuse (2-10)
2007 Baylor (3-9)
2007 Minnesota (1-11)
2009 Washington State (1-11)
2011 Indiana (1-11)
2011 Kansas (2-10)


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Teaser:
<p> College Football's Top 10 Worst BCS Teams</p>
Post date: Friday, November 30, 2012 - 05:40
Path: /college-football/acc-championship-preview-and-prediction-florida-state-seminoles-vs-georgia-tech-yel
Body:

For the first time in the history of the ACC Championship, Florida State and Georgia Tech will meet for the conference title. Despite being separated by less than 300 miles, these two teams are in opposite divisions in the ACC and have not played since a 49-44 shootout in 2009.

These two teams arrived in Charlotte by taking completely different paths. Georgia Tech closed out the year by winning its last four ACC games to get to 5-3 in conference play, which placed it in a three-way tie with North Carolina and Miami at the top of the Coastal. However, with the Tar Heels and Hurricanes ineligible to play in the postseason, the Yellow Jackets get the nod to represent the Coastal in Charlotte.

On the other side, Florida State went 7-1 in ACC play and finished with a 10-2 overall mark. The Seminoles’ only conference loss was a last-minute 17-16 defeat to NC State. Florida State dominated most of its ACC opponents this season, with only one victory decided by 10 points or less.

Florida State holds a 12-9-1 edge in the overall series, but Georgia Tech has claimed the last two in this series. Yellow Jackets’ coach Paul Johnson is 2-0 in his career against the Seminoles. And this will be the first matchup for Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher against Georgia Tech.

Other Championship Game Previews
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When the Florida State Seminoles have the ball:

Perhaps the biggest mismatch in this game is the Seminoles’ offense against the Georgia Tech defense. The Yellow Jackets have been struggling to get stops all season and fired coordinator Al Groh after a 47-31 loss to Clemson. Removing Groh didn’t help the defense much, as Georgia Tech has allowed at least 40 points in three out of its last six games. The Yellow Jackets rank sixth or worse in the ACC in total, scoring, sacks per game and pass defense.

Although Florida State’s offense struggled in last week’s loss to Florida, it should be able to have its way against Georgia Tech. The Seminoles are relatively balanced on offense, ranking 26th nationally in rushing (203.8 ypg) and 34th in passing offense (273.7 ypg). If there’s a concern for Florida State’s offense, it has to be turnovers (23 so far this year).

Quarterback EJ Manuel was banged up in last week’s loss to Florida but is not expected to be limited in the ACC Championship. Manuel ranks eighth nationally in pass efficiency and tossed only five interceptions in conference games this season. The senior has no shortage of playmakers around him, headlined by receiver Rashad Greene. The sophomore leads Florida State with 43 receptions for 614 yards and five scores. Kelvin Benjamin ranks second on the team in receiving yards, while Rodney Smith and Kenny Shaw each have 471 yards this season.

Despite losing Chris Thompson to an ACL injury against Miami earlier this year, Florida State still ranks second in the ACC in rushing offense. Sophomores Devonta Freeman and James Wilder have picked up the slack, combining for 1,085 yards and 16 scores this year. Freeman provides the speed, while Wilder adds some power and leads the team with nine rushing scores.

Considering Florida State is averaging 39.8 points per game in conference play, Georgia Tech will have its hands full trying to slow down the Seminoles’ offense. Although the Yellow Jackets can rely on their offense to chew up the clock, the defense could help swing some early momentum by generating a few turnovers. If Georgia Tech fails to get pressure on EJ Manuel and doesn’t win the turnover battle, it’s hard to see the defense being able to slow down the Florida State attack.

When the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets have the ball:

Not only are the Yellow Jackets a difficult opponent to prepare for in one week, the Seminoles’ defense must also deal with the news of coordinator Mark Stoops being named as the head coach at Kentucky. Stoops will coach in this game, but it’s fair to wonder if that has distracted from the gameplanning from Florida State.

With a defense that has struggled to get stops this year, Georgia Tech’s offense has had to win plenty of shootouts. The Yellow Jackets have scored at least 30 points in seven out of their eight conference games, including 68 in a win over North Carolina on Nov. 10.

Vad Lee and Tevin Washington have shared the quarterback duties over the second half of the season and that should continue into Saturday’s game. Lee is a better playmaker on the ground (6.0 ypc), but Washington has more experience as a passer and has more experience within the offense.

There’s really no secret or much disguise for what Georgia Tech wants to do on offense. Coach Paul Johnson is committed to an option attack, which is averaging 323.3 rushing yards per game this season. The Yellow Jackets rank near the bottom of the nation in passing and has struggled to develop any go-to receivers. 

Orwin Smith leads the team with 673 yards and five touchdowns, but an ankle injury has clouded his status for Saturday’s game. In addition to leading the team in rushing yards, Smith is also the team’s top big-play threats (9.0 ypc) and ranks first on the team with 17 receptions. Even if Smith can play, he’s likely to be limited.

Outside of Smith, the Yellow Jackets can lean on Zach Laskey, David Sims and Robert Godhigh as key contributors in the backfield. Laskey is a hard-nosed runner and averages a solid 5.2 yards per carry this season. Sims has been limited due to injuries this year but has 351 yards and three scores on 85 attempts.

Considering Florida State has not played a team that runs the option this season, it may take a quarter for Stoops’ defense to settle into the matchup. However, another problem that is developing for the Seminoles is depth on the defensive line. Starter Cornellius Carradine suffered a torn ACL in the loss against Florida, which leaves redshirt freshman Giorgio Newberry or true freshman Mario Edwards, Jr. as the starter.

Final Analysis:

Everything on the stat sheet for this matchup suggests it should be an easy win for Florida State. However, six out of the last seven matchups in this series have been decided by eight points or less, so even though the Yellow Jackets are 6-6, history indicates this matchup will be close on Saturday night. Despite the close matchups in recent years, unless Georgia Tech’s defense plays its best game of the season, Florida State will pull away in the second half for a double-digit victory. The Seminoles simply have too many weapons on offense and despite the loss of Carradine on the defensive line, will prevent any big plays to the Yellow Jackets.

Predictions

Athlon Editor Championship Prediction YTD ACC Record
David Fox Florida State 42-14 76-20
Braden Gall Florida State 30-17 74-22
Steven Lassan Florida State 34-24 71-25
Mitch Light Florida State 30-20 79-17


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Teaser:
<p> ACC Championship Preview and Prediction: Florida State Seminoles vs. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets</p>
Post date: Thursday, November 29, 2012 - 05:09
Path: /college-football/louisville-cardinals-vs-rutgers-scarlet-knights-preview-and-prediction
Body:

When the Big East released its 2012 schedule, many circled the Nov. 29 date between Rutgers and Louisville as a matchup that could decide the conference title. And after 11 games and several twists and turns this season, it’s no surprise the Cardinals and Scarlet Knights meet with a trip to a BCS bowl on the line.

After opening this season 9-0, Louisville has been headed in the wrong direction with back-to-back losses. The Cardinals dropped a 45-26 matchup at Syracuse on Nov. 10 and lost 23-20 to Connecticut in three overtimes last Saturday. Rutgers relinquished full control of the Big East title after a 27-6 road loss at Pittsburgh last week, which was also its first defeat in conference play this year. The Scarlet Knights also lost to Kent State 35-23 in late October.

These two teams have played 11 times, with Rutgers holding a 7-4 edge in the series. Louisville has won the last two matchups but has lost four out of the five contests at Rutgers.

And a game preview about Rutgers-Louisville wouldn’t be complete without a mention about conference realignment. With both teams slated to leave the Big East in 2014, after next season’s matchup, who knows when these programs will meet again on the gridiron.

When the Louisville Cardinals have the ball:

The health of quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is the biggest wildcard for Thursday night’s game. The sophomore suffered a broken wrist on his non-throwing hand and a sprained ankle in last week’s loss to Connecticut. Bridgewater is expected to play but is obviously less than 100 percent. The Cardinals will have to make some changes on offense, as Bridgewater will be unable to take snaps from center.

With Bridgewater battling injuries, Louisville’s supporting cast needs to step up. With Senorise Perry sidelined for the rest of the year with a torn ACL, Jeremy Wright will be the No. 1 back. However, Wright managed only 43 yards in last week’s loss to Connecticut and faces a Rutgers defense allowing just 110.7 rushing yards per game.

In addition to jumpstarting the rushing attack, Louisville’s offensive line can’t afford to allow many hits on Bridgewater. The Scarlet Knights are averaging just 1.6 sacks per game, but the Cardinals’ front five ranks sixth in the Big East in sacks allowed this year. 

If Bridgewater gets time to throw, he should have opportunities to make some plays against Rutgers’ secondary. The Scarlet Knights allowed 419 passing yards against Arkansas and 356 to Syracuse, which happened to be the best offenses this defense has faced this year.

With a receiving corps that features solid options like DeVante Parker, Eli Rogers, Damian Copeland and Andrell Smith, the Cardinals have a chance to throw for over 300 yards on Thursday night.

When the Rutgers Scarlet Knights have the ball

After scoring at least 20 points in seven out of its first nine games this year, Rutgers’ offense has been stuck in neutral the last two weeks. The Scarlet Knights managed just 10 points against Cincinnati and recorded only six points against Pittsburgh.

Despite the recent struggles, a matchup against Louisville’s defense could be what Rutgers’ offense needs to get back on track. The Cardinals rank seventh in the Big East in rush defense and fifth in total yards allowed. The Scarlet Knights are averaging only 341.4 yards per game, but the matchups favor opportunities for success.

Running backs Jawan Jamison and Savon Huggins have been a solid one-two punch this season, with Jamison leading the team with 1,004 yards. Considering Louisville’s struggles against the run, Jamison and Huggins should be able to find plenty of room on Thursday night.

Louisville leads the Big East in pass defense but has allowed 19 passing scores and opposing quarterbacks are completing nearly 60 percent of their passes (58.5 percent). Rutgers quarterback Gary Nova has not topped more than 186 passing yards over the last three weeks and has tossed at least one interception in each of his last five games. Although Nova hasn’t played well in recent weeks, the playmakers are in place for a bounce back performance. Brandon Coleman is a big-play target, averaging 15.2 yards per catch and scoring nine times this year. Mark Harrison, Tim Wright and tight end D.C. Jefferson are also reliable options in the passing game for Nova.

Final Analysis

With a Big East title on the line, expect both teams to have a little extra motivation for Thursday night’s game. Louisville has to prevent Bridgewater from taking too many hits, while finding ways to establish a ground attack that has been missing the last two weeks. Rutgers has the better defense, while its offense should be able to move the ball on the ground against the Cardinals’ front seven. The stats say Rutgers but here's a hunch Louisville snaps its two-game losing streak with a huge road victory.

Prediction: Louisville 24, Rutgers 20


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Post date: Thursday, November 29, 2012 - 04:49
All taxonomy terms: Kentucky Wildcats, College Football, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/grading-kentucky-footballs-hire-coach-mark-stoops
Body:

Kentucky was the first BCS program to make a coaching change this year, and the Wildcats are the first team to hire a replacement. Florida State defensive coordinator Mark Stoops landed his first head coaching gig, as he was hired as the replacement for Joker Phillips in Lexington.

Winning at Kentucky is no easy task. Although the Wildcats have an elite basketball program, the football team is just 101-146 since 1991. Kentucky has made five bowl games since 2006 but has never won more than eight games since a 9-3 season in 1985.

Needless to say, Kentucky is arguably one of the toughest BCS jobs in college football and ranks 13th out of 14 teams in the SEC in terms of desirability. Considering how tough it is to win big at Kentucky and the Wildcats' 2-10 record in 2012, Stoops has his work cut out for him over the next couple of seasons.
 

Positives

Strong defensive background
Considering Kentucky has never finished higher than 40th in total defense over the last five years, this is one area Stoops should be able to make an immediate impact. The Wildcats finished 13th in the SEC in scoring defense in 2012 and ranked 11th in yards allowed. This unit had a lot of youth stepping into key roles but also needs an infusion of talent. When Stoops arrived in Tallahassee in 2010, the Seminoles were coming off a horrendous season on defense. Florida State ranked 108th nationally in yards allowed and was giving up 30 points a game. However, the Seminoles made significant progress in Stoops’ first season, finishing 43rd in total defense and 30th in points allowed. And in 2011 and 2012, Florida State ranked in the top 10 in scoring and total defense. The competition is tougher in the SEC, but Stoops should be able to bring some immediate improvement to this unit.

Coaching history
With a brother (Bob) that has a national championship at Oklahoma and another brother (Mike) who served as a head coach for eight years at Arizona, Mark Stoops has plenty of good bloodlines in his family. In addition to being surrounded by two brothers with head coaching experience, Stoops has coached at South Florida, Wyoming, Houston, Miami, Arizona and Florida State, so he has plenty of experience from various parts of the country and has paid his dues on each stop on the coaching ladder.

Recruiting ties
For Kentucky to be successful in football, it has to be able to pull some talent from Ohio. And this is a big advantage for Stoops, as he was born in Youngstown and is still well-connected within the state. Also, after spending three years at Florida State and time with Miami and South Florida, Stoops should have developed plenty of recruiting connections within the state of Florida. If Kentucky is going to be successful, it needs a relentless recruiter and someone who can spark some interest in the program. Mission accomplished.
 

Negatives

Head coaching experience
Whether or not it’s overrated when it comes to hiring a replacement, a lack of head coaching experience has to be a concern. In other SEC hires, James Franklin and Dan Mullen had no previous head coaching experience but have turned out to be solid hires. However, there’s also the other side of the coin, which includes Kentucky’s last hire of Phillips and Ron Zook at Florida.

What offense will he run?
Although Stoops should be able to bolster Kentucky’s defense, it remains uncertain what time of offense he will run. Although the Wildcats should recruit well under Stoops, they need to do something unique on offense to compete in the SEC. Before a season-ending leg injury sidelined quarterback Maxwell Smith, Kentucky was on the right track with its pass-first offense. Whether it’s a pass-first approach or a spread offense, the Wildcats need to try something different and forget about a pro-style attack.

Building a coaching staff
In addition to finding the right fit as offensive coordinator, Stoops has to fill out a coaching staff for the first time in his career. If Kentucky makes the financial commitment to hiring good assistants, Stoops won’t have a problem building a solid staff of proven options. However, it’s never easy for a coach at his first job to piece together a staff, especially since he doesn’t have any ties to the SEC. It’s not a huge negative but something to watch as Stoops builds his coaching staff.
 

Final Analysis and Grade

Make no mistake: Kentucky isn’t an easy job. However, it seems the Wildcats made the right hire in picking up Stoops. The 45-year-old Ohio native is inheriting a roster that has some promising pieces on offense but needs a lot of work on the defensive side. Stoops is a high energy guy, which should help spark some interest in the fanbase and on the recruiting trail for Kentucky. The biggest question for the Wildcats will be picking an offensive scheme that’s a little outside of the box and not a pro-style approach. Although that type of offense could work at Kentucky, Stoops needs pick a coordinator that can build a run or pass-first approach. Don’t expect Stoops to be a miracle worker, but he should turn the Wildcats into a consistent bowl team.  

Grade: B-
 

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Teaser:
<p> Grading Kentucky Football's Hire of Coach Mark Stoops</p>
Post date: Wednesday, November 28, 2012 - 05:47
All taxonomy terms: ACC, NC State Wolfpack, College Football, News
Path: /college-football/11-coaches-replace-fired-tom-obrien-nc-state
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Even though Tom O'Brien went 24-14 in his last three seasons at NC State, the school decided to make a change after Saturday's win against Boston College. O'Brien was a steady coach but couldn't elevate the program to the next level. NC State wants to compete with Florida State and Clemson more frequently, which means a coaching change had to be made to raise the level of the program.

11 Coaching Candidates to Replace Tom O'Brien at NC State

Dave Clawson, head coach, Bowling Green – Clawson took a lot of heat for Tennessee’s struggles on offense in 2008, but he is a proven head coach at three different stops. The New York native went 29-29 in five seasons at Fordham (1999-2003), which also included a trip to the FCS playoffs in 2002. Clawson jumped to Richmond in 2004 and led the Spiders to two playoff appearances, including an 11-3 mark in 2007. After the failed season at Tennessee, Clawson landed at Bowling Green and went 7-6 in his debut year and 8-4 in 2012.

 

Dave Doeren, head coach, Northern Illinois – Even though Doeren has spent his career coaching defense, his Northern Illinois’ teams the last two years have ranked among the nation’s best. Doeren is only 40 years old, so he doesn’t have a ton of experience from other coaching stops. He spent two seasons at Montana (2000-01), before moving to Kansas in 2002. After a couple of seasons in Lawrence, Doeren took over as Wisconsin’s defensive coordinator in 2006 and held that position until 2010, when he became Northern Illinois’ head coach. Doeren inherited a good situation in DeKalb, but he’s also done a good job of putting his own stamp on the program. And despite his defensive background, Doeren would likely run an uptempo, spread offense at his next stop.

 

Darrell Hazell, head coach, Kent State – Just like Northern Illinois’ Dave Doeren, Hazell has done a terrific job in a short amount of time at Kent State and is due for a promotion to a BCS program. Hazell inherited a program that had not won more than five games in the four seasons prior to his arrival and has quickly turned Kent State into a MAC title contender. Hazell is 16-8 in two seasons with the Golden Flashes, which includes a huge road win over Rutgers in 2012. Although this is his first head coaching gig, Hazell has an impressive resume from stops at Western Michigan, Army, West Virginia, Rutgers and Ohio State.

 

Mark Hudspeth, head coach, Louisiana-Lafayette – Hudspeth has quietly led Louisiana-Lafayette to back-to-back bowl games and has a 16-8 mark in two seasons with the Ragin’ Cajuns. Before his current job, Hudspeth was 66-21 in seven years as the head coach at North Alabama. The Mississippi native has some SEC experience, working for two seasons under Dan Mullen at Mississippi State. Although Hudspeth isn’t a big-name hire and doesn’t have experience in the ACC, he’s a high-energy guy and has proven to be a successful coach in two years with the Ragin’ Cajuns.

 

Butch Jones, head coach, Cincinnati – Jones has been in the rumor mill quite a bit over the last few weeks, especially with the open vacancy at Kentucky. Considering the uncertainty over Cincinnati’s future conference and long-term stability in the Big East, it’s no surprise Jones could be looking to leave for the Big Ten or SEC. Jones followed up Brian Kelly at Central Michigan and Cincinnati, recording a 27-13 mark in three seasons with the Chippewas and a 22-14 record with the Bearcats. Another reason for Jones to be targeted by NC State? His background on offense, which includes a stint as Central Michigan’s offensive coordinator and at West Virginia as a wide receivers coach.

 

Pete Lembo, head coach, Ball State – Lembo isn’t a big name but has been a successful head coach at three different stops. In five seasons with Lehigh, he recorded a 44-14 record and made two appearances in the FCS playoffs. Lembo spent the next five years at Elon and compiled a 35-22 mark and one trip to the FCS playoffs. In two seasons at Ball State, Lembo is 14-9 and has the Cardinals poised to make their first bowl appearance since the 2008 season. Lembo doesn't have any experience in the ACC but is track record suggests he can win anywhere in college football.

 

Gus Malzahn, head coach, Arkansas State – Although Malzahn has spent most of his coaching career in Arkansas, his up-tempo, high-scoring offense would work anywhere in the nation. Malzahn has only been a head coach on the collegiate level for one season and is 8-3 with a chance to win the Sun Belt title on Saturday for Arkansas State. Considering the lack of head coaching experience on the FBS level, there’s certainly some risk with Malzahn. However, his exciting offense would ignite the fanbase, as well as help to recruit elite quarterbacks and receiving talent to Raleigh.

 

Chad Morris, offensive coordinator, Clemson – After O’Brien’s departure, Morris was one of the first names to circulate through the rumor mill in Raleigh. Although the Texas native has no collegiate head coaching experience, he has run some of the nation’s best offenses at Tulsa and Clemson. Morris also has strong recruiting ties to Texas, especially after spending over 10 years as a head coach on the high school level. Morris is an unknown commodity when it comes to being a head coach but there’s also a lot to like on his resume.

 

Bobby Petrino, former Arkansas head coach – If NC State really wants to make a splash, how about making a run at Petrino? Although the messy end to his tenure at Arkansas is a huge negative, he’s ready to work and can probably come at a discounted price. Petrino was 34-17 in four seasons at Arkansas and recorded a 41-9 mark in four years at Louisville. Although the off-the-field incident in Fayetteville is a concern, Petrino is an instant impact hire and would help NC State ignite its fanbase, especially with an offense that averaged over 35 points a game last season.

 

Mark Stoops, defensive coordinator, Florida State – Stoops’ name has popped up in connection with the Kentucky job, and it’s only a matter of time before he takes over a BCS program. Stoops does not have any head coaching experience but has stops as an assistant at Wyoming, South Florida, Houston, Miami and Arizona. Stoops has quickly resurrected Florida State’s defense back among the best in the ACC over the last three years.

 

Willie Taggart, head coach, Western Kentucky – Taggart’s stock has been on the rise over the last few seasons and is due for a shot to run a BCS program. In three seasons with the Hilltoppers, Taggart is 16-20 and has back-to-back winning records. In addition to his solid run as Western Kentucky’s head coach, Taggart spent three seasons as an assistant under Jim Harbaugh at Stanford. Taggart is young, energetic and has strong recruiting ties to Florida, which seems to describe what NC State needs in its next head coach.  

Teaser:
<p> 11 Coaches to Replace Fired Tom O'Brien at NC State</p>
Post date: Tuesday, November 27, 2012 - 05:40
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Chalk up 2012 as a year to forget for fans of the ACC. Florida State and Clemson were easily the class of the conference, but in-state SEC rivals handled both teams last Saturday. The Coastal had three teams finish at 5-3 in conference play, with Georgia Tech representing the division in Charlotte. With Miami and North Carolina banned from postseason play, the Yellow Jackets at 6-6 are just one win away from a BCS bowl. Maryland showed signs of progress in Randy Edsall’s second year, but quarterback injuries doomed its season. Virginia Tech was one of college football’s top disappointments, finishing 6-6 after having preseason top-15 expectations.

ACC Offensive Player of the Year Standings

1. Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson – It’s a close call between Boyd and Giovani Bernard for the No. 1 spot. However, a slight edge goes to Boyd, despite closing out the season with a lackluster performance against South Carolina. The junior quarterback threw for 34 touchdowns and 3,550 yards this year and added 492 yards and nine scores on the ground.
 

2. Giovani Bernard, RB, North Carolina – Despite dealing with a knee injury earlier this year, Bernard rushed for 1,228 yards and 12 touchdowns, along with catching 47 passes for 490 yards and five scores. Bernard rushed for 262 yards and one touchdown in a 48-34 win over Virginia Tech.
 

3. EJ Manuel, QB, Florida State – While Boyd and Bernard are clearly the No. 1 and No. 2 players in this category, it’s really anyone’s guess for the third spot. Even though Manuel was inconsistent at times and struggled against Florida, the senior gets the nod over Clemson receiver DeAndre Hopkins.
 

ACC Defensive Player of the Year Standings

1. Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State – It’s really a tossup between Werner and Carradine for the top spot. We’ll give a slight edge to Werner, who finished with 13 sacks, 18 tackles for a loss and one forced fumble.
 

2. Tank Carradine, DE, Florida State – If Werner is the No. 1 player at this spot, Carradine is really 1b. The senior led the team with 80 tackles and finished just behind Bjoern Werner with 13 tackles for a loss and 11 sacks this year. Unfortunately for Carradine, he suffered a torn ACL in Saturday’s loss to Florida.


3. Joe Vellano, DT, Maryland – Vellano battled injuries late in the season but still finished with 61 tackles, 14 tackles for a loss and six sacks.


ACC Coach of the Year Standings

1. Al Golden, Miami – There’s really not a clear No. 1 coach of the year candidate, but we will give a slight edge to Golden. Despite pending NCAA sanctions hanging over the program, Miami finished 7-5 with a host of young players receiving significant snaps. The Hurricanes could be a top 25-team in 2013.


2. David Cutcliffe, Duke – Even though the Blue Devils tailed off at the end of 2012, Cutcliffe has this program back in a bowl for the first time since 1994.


3. Larry Fedora, North Carolina – Just like Al Golden, Fedora did a good job of keeping his team on track with NCAA issues circulating over the program. Fedora went 8-4 overall and should have the Tar Heels in the thick of the Coastal race in 2013.


10 Things We Learned/What's Next in the ACC

1. Clemson is the ACC’s frontrunner in 2013
Yes, it’s a little early to talk about 2013, but Clemson should be the ACC’s No. 1 team next season. The Tigers lost only one game in conference play this year, which happened to be a 49-37 shootout defeat to the ACC’s No. 1 team – Florida State. Quarterback Tajh Boyd and receiver DeAndre Hopkins are considering an early entry into the NFL Draft but most expect Boyd will return to Clemson next season. Even if Hopkins leaves, the Tigers have plenty of depth and talent at receiver. The defense should be more comfortable in the second year under coordinator Brent Venables but needs to replace the production from departing seniors Malliciah Goodman, Xavier Brewer and Rashard Hall.

2. Miami is getting better…but awaits NCAA sanctions
Winning 13 games over the last two years certainly isn’t going to invoke memories of Miami’s national title seasons, but the Hurricanes are moving back in the right direction under Al Golden. With pending NCAA sanctions, Miami decided to self-impose a bowl ban for the second consecutive season. However, the Hurricanes return nearly everyone on the two-deep for next season and despite any scholarship limitations, should be the favorite to win the Coastal in 2013. Miami’s defense was a huge liability but has to be better with another offseason to jell and work under coordinator Mark D’Onofrio. Al Golden has Miami moving in the right direction and with the uncertainty surrounding the program, his name will pop up with open jobs across the nation. Assuming Golden returns next year, the Hurricanes should take another step forward in 2013.

3. Virginia Tech needs a spark on offense
Considering the expectations that surrounded this team in the preseason, the Hokies have to be one of college football’s top 10 disappointments this season. A variety of reasons are to blame, but an offense that failed to show progress from 2011 is the primary culprit. Quarterback Logan Thomas had to deal with a revamped offensive line and receiving corps and tossed four more interceptions on fewer passing attempts than last season. The junior completed only 52.6 percent of his throws and was forced to led the team in rushing without a running back emerging as a clear No. 1 option. Coordinator Bryan Stinespring and quarterback coach Mike O’Cain deserve their share of criticism, and both coaches have to find some answers this offseason. An offense doesn’t have to have flash to be effective, but it seems Virginia Tech’s attack needs some spice. Whether it’s the scheme, offensive line, receiving corps, running backs or Thomas, every unit needs to be thoroughly evaluated before spring practice.

4. David Cutcliffe has Duke on the right track
It’s hard for the Blue Devils to be a yearly contender for the Coastal Division crown, but there’s no reason why Duke can’t get to 6-6 or 7-5 most seasons. Credit David Cutcliffe and his staff for getting the Blue Devils over the hump this year, as Duke will make its first bowl appearance since 1994. Although the Blue Devils tailed off at the end of the year, they knocked off in-state rivals North Carolina and Wake Forest, along with a huge blowout victory over Virginia. The rest of the Coastal Division should be better next year, and Duke must replace quarterback Sean Renfree and record-setting receiver Conner Vernon. However, it seems Cutcliffe has developed some depth in the program, which should keep the Blue Devils right in the mix for a bowl bid in 2013.

5. Paul Johnson’s No. 1 offseason priority is the defense
The Yellow Jackets have no reason to apologize for making the ACC Championship with a 6-6 record. Although the Coastal Division was down this season and Miami and North Carolina’s self-imposed bowl ban helped, the Yellow Jackets won their last four ACC games to make it to Charlotte. While the late-season surge was good enough to represent the Coastal in the title game, this team has a lot of work to do to repeat this feat in 2013. After firing defensive coordinator Al Groh earlier this season, Georgia Tech didn’t make much progress on that side of the ball the rest of the year. The Yellow Jackets gave up at least 40 points in three out of their final five games. With an offense that returns nearly everyone next season, Georgia Tech has to fix its defense to push for seven or eight wins in 2013. Luckily for Johnson, there’s some good talent returning in the linebacking corps, but the defensive line will need some work. Along with finding the right coordinator, Georgia Tech needs to decide if the 3-4 scheme needs to stay, or a move back to the 4-3 is the better solution.

6. Maryland should be a bowl team in 2013
Just as we did with the Clemson projection above, it’s important to caution this is a very early pick and a lot could change before 2013. However, after a disastrous 2011 season, the Terrapins showed some signs of life in 2012. Despite losing four quarterbacks to season-ending injuries, Maryland doubled its win total from last season and had three conference losses by a touchdown or less. With C.J. Brown or Perry Hills back under center next season, along the return of standout sophomore receiver Stefon Diggs, the Terrapins should easily improve on offense next year. The defense will miss tackle Joe Vellano but most of the unit will return intact for 2013.

7. 7-5 won’t get it done at NC State
Even though Tom O’Brien led NC State to three consecutive bowl games, it wasn’t enough to save his job. The veteran coach’s dismissal came as a surprise to some, but it’s clear NC State wants to find a coach that can elevate the program to the next level. While O’Brien did a lot of good things in Raleigh, the school wants to push Clemson and Florida State for the Atlantic title on a consistent basis. Although it won’t be easy to knock off the Seminoles every year, this program has the resources to compete for the division title. And that’s the message athletic director Debbie Yow sent when she decided to part ways with O’Brien. Yes, O’Brien had turned NC State into a consistent winner but going 7-5 and 8-4 wasn’t good enough. It’s a risky move to fire a coach that went 24-14 over the last three years. However, Yow’s message is clear: Mediocrity won’t be tolerated at NC State.

8. The ACC needs an image boost
There’s really no way to positively spin the 2012 season for the ACC. Florida State held early national championship hopes but was knocked off by a NC State team that finished 7-5 and was dominated by Florida in the season finale. Virginia Tech – a team picked by most to win the Coastal and finish in the top 25 – went 6-6 and was 0-2 against teams from the Big East. Need more bad news? Georgia Tech (representing the Coastal Division in the title game) lost to MTSU and was clobbered 41-17 by BYU. Unless there’s a change after the bowl games, the ACC will have just two teams finish in the top 25. The conference will also struggle to fill out its bowl allotment, largely due to Miami and North Carolina’s postseason sanctions. However, six teams will qualify for bowl games and at least two will have just six wins. With Florida State losing some key pieces, it’s up to Clemson to give the ACC a national title contender in 2013.

9. Florida State’s QB battle will be one of the most intriguing ones to watch this spring
The Seminoles will suffer some key departures on defense but has a solid offensive line and playmakers at receiver and running back returning for 2013. However, for Florida State to contend for a top-10 finish next season, the quarterback battle has to get sorted out in a hurry this spring. Sophomore Clint Trickett will be the early frontrunner to replace EJ Manuel, but the job is far from settled. Top recruit Jameis Winston and Jacob Coker are expected to push Trickett in the spring but this is a battle that could wage into fall practice. If Florida State can get steady production from whichever quarterback wins the job, the Seminoles should easily push for 10 victories once again in 2013.

10. A new direction at Boston College
With a 6-18 mark in his last two years in Chestnut Hill, it’s clear it was time for Boston College and coach Frank Spaziani to part ways. Spaziani led the program to back-to-back bowl games in 2009 and 2010, but he wasn’t the right coach to lead Boston College in 2013 and beyond. This is a key hire for new athletic director Brad Bates, as the Eagles can’t afford to fall far behind in the 14-team ACC. There should be plenty of interest in this job, and the right coach should be able to turn Boston College back into a consistent bowl team. After two awful seasons, Bates needs to get someone who can make an instant impact in 2013, as well as build a successful program for the long haul.  

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Teaser:
<p> ACC 2012 Season Recap and Awards</p>
Post date: Tuesday, November 27, 2012 - 05:19
Path: /college-football/10-coaches-replace-fired-danny-hope-purdue
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Even though Purdue will make its second consecutive bowl trip under Danny Hope, the school decided to end his tenure on Sunday. Hope went 22-27 in four seasons at Purdue and never had a conference record over .500 during that stretch. Although Hope had a couple of close calls this year against Ohio State and Notre Dame, it wasn't enough for the school to bring him back for a fifth season.

10 Coaches to Replace Danny Hope at Purdue

Jim Chaney, offensive coordinator, Tennessee – Although Chaney does not have any head coaching experience, he fits what Purdue is looking for in its next coach. The Missouri native is a bright offensive mind and worked under Joe Tiller at Purdue from 1997-2005, which included helping to mold Drew Brees into one of the nation’s top quarterbacks. Even though Tennessee struggled to win games this year, the offense certainly wasn’t the problem. The Volunteers ranked 15th nationally in passing offense and 20th with 475.9 yards per game.
 

Dave Clawson, head coach, Bowling Green – Clawson took a lot of heat for Tennessee’s struggles on offense in 2008, but he is a proven head coach at three different stops. The New York native went 29-29 in five seasons at Fordham (1999-2003), which also included a trip to the FCS playoffs in 2002. Clawson jumped to Richmond in 2004 and led the Spiders to two playoff appearances, including an 11-3 mark in 2007. After the failed season at Tennessee, Clawson landed at Bowling Green and went 7-6 in his debut year and 8-4 in 2012.

 

Bob Diaco, defensive coordinator, Notre Dame – Although Purdue has indicated it wants to hire an offensive-minded coach, Diaco should be a candidate that draws some interest. Diaco played at Iowa, so he’s certainly no stranger to life in the Big Ten. And he’s made stops as an assistant at Central Michigan, Western Michigan, Virginia and Cincinnati before coming to Notre Dame. Diaco has been one of the top coordinators in college football this season, leading the Irish defense to rank No. 2 nationally in points allowed and No. 6 in yards allowed. Diaco has no head coaching experience but has a strong resume from his time as an assistant and as a player at Iowa during the 1990s.
 

Dave Doeren, head coach, Northern Illinois – Even though Doeren has spent his career coaching defense, his Northern Illinois’ teams the last two years have ranked among the nation’s best. Doeren is only 40 years old, so he doesn’t have a ton of experience from other coaching stops. He spent two seasons at Montana (2000-01), before moving to Kansas in 2002. After a couple of seasons in Lawrence, Doeren took over as Wisconsin’s defensive coordinator in 2006 and held that position until 2010, when he became Northern Illinois’ head coach. Doeren inherited a good situation in DeKalb, but he’s also done a good job of putting his own stamp on the program. And despite his defensive background, Doeren would likely run an uptempo, spread offense at his next stop.
 

Darrell Hazell, head coach, Kent State – Just like Northern Illinois’ Dave Doeren, Hazell has done a terrific job in a short amount of time at Kent State and is due for a promotion to a BCS program. Hazell inherited a program that had not won more than five games in the four seasons prior to his arrival and has quickly turned Kent State into a MAC title contender. Hazell is 16-8 in two seasons with the Golden Flashes, which includes a huge road win over Rutgers in 2012. Although this is his first head coaching gig, Hazell has an impressive resume from stops at Western Michigan, Army, West Virginia, Rutgers and Ohio State.
 

Butch Jones, head coach, Cincinnati – Jones has been in the rumor mill quite a bit over the last few weeks, especially with the open vacancy at Kentucky. Considering the uncertainty over Cincinnati’s future conference and long-term stability in the Big East, it’s no surprise Jones could be looking to leave for the Big Ten or SEC. Jones followed up Brian Kelly at Central Michigan and Cincinnati, recording a 27-13 mark in three seasons with the Chippewas and a 22-14 record with the Bearcats. Another reason for Jones to be targeted by Purdue? His background on offense, which includes a stint as Central Michigan’s offensive coordinator and at West Virginia as a wide receivers coach. 
 

Kliff Kingsbury, offensive coordinator, Texas A&M – If Purdue is wiling to take a risk and wants to hit a home run with this hire, Kingsbury is the perfect candidate to target. Although he has no prior head coaching experience, the former Texas Tech quarterback is clearly one of the nation’s top assistant coaches. Kingsbury played a key role in developing Houston’s offense into one of the nation’s best and helped to mold Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel into a top quarterback this season. And how’s this for an interesting connection: Kingsbury’s current boss (Kevin Sumlin) played at Purdue.
 

Chuck Martin, offensive coordinator, Notre Dame – Although Brian Kelly plays a large role in calling the plays each week for Notre Dame, Martin should get his chance to be a head coach on the FBS level in the next few seasons. He succeeded Kelly at Grand Valley State and recorded a 74-7 mark in six seasons, including back-to-back national titles in 2005-06. Martin came to South Bend in 2010 and spent two years on defense, before moving to offensive coordinator in 2012. With his background on offense and successful stint at Grand Valley State, Martin fits the mold of what Purdue is looking for on in its next head coach.
 

Todd Monken, offensive coordinator, Oklahoma State – Monken is another coach with a background on offense and is also due for his shot to run a program. The Illinois native has no head coaching experience but has built a solid resume with stops as an assistant at Eastern Michigan, Louisiana Tech, LSU, Oklahoma State and in the NFL with the Jaguars. Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy has helped to build a foundation for offensive success in Stillwater, but Monken has done a tremendous job this season, starting three quarterbacks and dealing with a revamped offensive line to rank No. 3 nationally in scoring offense.
 

Pat Narduzzi, defensive coordinator, Michigan State – Narduzzi isn’t an offense-first coach, as he has spent his entire career on defense. However, Narduzzi has helped to mold Michigan State’s defense into one of the nation’s best and has been rumored to be in the mix for a couple of head coaching jobs over the last few seasons. Although Purdue seems to be targeting coaches with a strong background on offense, Narduzzi is a good coach that’s ready for a promotion. 

Teaser:
<p> 10 Coaches to Replace Fired Danny Hope at Purdue</p>
Post date: Monday, November 26, 2012 - 14:15
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In a bit of a surprise, Colorado decided to end Jon Embree’s tenure after just two years in Boulder. Although Embree didn’t show much progress, he also didn’t inherit a full cupboard and needed some time to build the team through recruiting. However, the Buffaloes were one of the worst BCS teams in recent memory, and it’s clear the administration didn’t have faith in Embree to turn things around in 2013.

10 Coaches to Replace Jon Embree at Colorado

Tim DeRuyter, head coach, Fresno State – DeRuyter had a successful debut season at Fresno State, leading the Bulldogs to a 9-3 record and a share of the Mountain West title. DeRuyter has a solid resume as an assistant, working as a defensive coordinator at Air Force and Texas A&M. Although he’s only been a head coach for one year, it’s very easy to be impressed with DeRuyter. Fresno State struggled to get over the hump with Pat Hill on the sidelines, but DeRuyter brought quick improvement after the Bulldogs went 4-9 last season.
 

Pep Hamilton, offensive coordinator, Stanford – Hamilton is considered a rising star in the coaching ranks and it’s only a matter of time before he lands a head coaching gig. Hamilton played quarterback at Howard from 1993-96 and coached there from 1997-2001. After a couple of seasons in the NFL with the Jets, 49ers and Bears, Hamilton joined Stanford’s staff in 2010. Although David Shaw plays a key role in the offensive gameplan and play-calling, Hamilton is heavily involved. Hamilton is a bright offensive mind but has no head coaching experience.
 

Mark Helfrich, offensive coordinator, Oregon – Although Chip Kelly is the mastermind behind Oregon’s offense, Helfrich has played a key role in fine-tuning the Ducks’ attack. Helfrich was previously at Colorado from 2006-08 and also made stops as an assistant at Boise State and Arizona State. The 39-year-old coach is expected to be in high demand but may want to wait and see if Kelly leaves for the NFL before taking another job.

 

Mike MacIntyre, head coach, San Jose State – MacIntyre’s name has popped up with virtually every job this offseason. And once you look at MacIntyre’s resume, it’s pretty easy to see why he’s one of the hottest names in coaching searches. In three years at San Jose State, he has transformed the Spartans from one of the worst programs in the nation to a 10-2 team in 2012. MacIntyre also has stops as an assistant at Temple, Ole Miss, Duke and in the NFL with the Jets and Cowboys.
 

Derek Mason, defensive coordinator, Stanford – Mason has never been a head coach on the FCS or FBS level, so he would be another risky hire for Colorado. However, the Arizona native has a wealth of experience as an assistant and has helped Stanford to rank as the No. 1 defense in the Pac-12. Mason has stops as an assistant at Utah, New Mexico State, Ohio and in the NFL with the Vikings.
 

Noel Mazzone, offensive coordinator, UCLA – Considering how much Colorado struggled to develop any consistency on offense this year, a name like Mazzone has to be intriguing. The Washington native has bounced around throughout his career, making stops at TCU, Minnesota, Ole Miss, Auburn, Oregon State, NC State, Arizona State and in the NFL with the Jets. The biggest knock on Mazzone? No head coaching experience.
 

Bob Stitt, head coach, Colorado School of Mines – Stitt is a name that has popped up in Boulder over the last couple of months and is a wildcard to watch in this coaching search. The Nebraska native is highly regarded for his work on offense and has a 90-57 mark during his 13 years as the head coach at the Colorado School of Mines. It would be a big jump for Stitt to take this job, but he’s a rising star that’s due for a promotion in the next few years.
 

Todd Monken, offensive coordinator, Oklahoma State – If Colorado wants to go with a young, offensive-minded coach, Monken is another guy to keep on the radar. The Illinois native has no head coaching experience but made stops as an assistant at Notre Dame, Eastern Michigan, Louisiana Tech, LSU and Oklahoma State. Monken also spent two years in the NFL with the Jaguars.
 

Jeff Tedford, former head coach at California – Tedford had a solid tenure at California, finishing with an 82-57 mark in 11 seasons. His 82 wins are the most in school history and led the program to eight bowl appearances. Although Tedford’s tenure at California has to be considered a success, he may have grown stale at the end of his run. The Golden Bears were just 10-15 over his last two seasons and failed to make a bowl game in two out of the last three years. Tedford clearly knows his way around the Pac-12 and would be a good hire at Colorado. However, considering he is receiving a buyout from California, he may not be in any hurry to take another head coaching gig.
 

Justin Wilcox, defensive coordinator, Washington – Wilcox made an instant impact on Washington’s defense this season. After ranking among the nation’s worst last year, the Huskies finished 30th in yards allowed and 39th in scoring defense. The Oregon native has paid his dues as an assistant, spending time at California, Boise State and Tennessee. Although Wilcox is ready to be a head coach, he might be waiting to see if Chip Kelly leaves Oregon or Chris Petersen departs Boise State.
 

Longshots

Gary Andersen, head coach, Utah State – Andersen signed an extension at Utah State earlier this season and all signs point to a return to Logan for 2013.

Ron Caragher, head coach, San Diego – Caragher is 43-22 in six seasons with San Diego and has some FBS experience with stints as an assistant at Kentucky and UCLA.

Sonny Dykes, head coach, Louisiana Tech – Dykes is 22-15 in three seasons at Louisiana Tech but probably wanting to aim a little higher if he wants to move into a BCS job.

Teaser:
<p> 10 Coaches to Replace Fired Jon Embree at Colorado</p>
Post date: Monday, November 26, 2012 - 09:24
All taxonomy terms: Arkansas Razorbacks, College Football, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/20-coaches-replace-john-l-smith-arkansas
Body:

John L. Smith inherited a difficult situation when he was named Arkansas' head coach in April. After Bobby Petrino was fired, the Razorbacks had an uphill battle to reach preseason expectations. Smith finished his only season at Arkansas' head coach with a 4-8 mark and as expected, the school announced he would not return for 2013. 

20 Coaching Candidates to Replace John L. Smith at Arkansas

Art Briles, head coach, Baylor – Briles is a good example of why records are overrated when judging coaches. In five years at Baylor, his record is just 31-30. However, considering the lack of success before he arrived in Waco, it’s clear Briles is one of the Big 12’s top coaches. Before his five-year stint at Baylor, Briles went 34-28 at Houston. The Texas native has elevated Baylor to three consecutive bowls and has paved the way for a new stadium to open in Waco in 2014. Briles has plenty of recruiting connections in Texas, which is certainly appealing to Arkansas.
 

Butch Davis, former North Carolina head coach – Despite the messy end to his tenure at North Carolina, Davis’ name has popped up in the Arkansas coaching search. Davis graduated from Arkansas and has experience in the NFL with stops with the Cowboys and Browns. The Oklahoma native went 51-20 in six seasons as a head coach at Miami and went 28-23 in four years with North Carolina. Davis’ ties to the area and ability to recruit have to be intriguing but NCAA sanctions from his last stop have to give Arkansas plenty of concern.
 

Dave Doeren, head coach, Northern Illinois – Doeren doesn’t have any SEC coaching experience but has been a successful hire in just two years at Northern Illinois. The Kansas native is 22-4 seasons with the Huskies and has experience from prior stops at Montana, Kansas and Wisconsin. Doeren would be an odd fit at Arkansas but certainly knows how to coach.
 

Sonny Dykes, head coach, Louisiana Tech – Considering how important it is for Arkansas to recruit the state of Texas, Dykes has to be high on the list for athletic director Jeff Long. Dykes graduated from Texas Tech and worked as an assistant there from 2000-06. He also served as Mike Stoops’ offensive coordinator at Arizona from 2007-09, before taking over at Louisiana Tech in 2010. In three years with the Bulldogs, Dykes has a 22-15 record and has played a role in helping to coordinate the nation’s No. 1 scoring offense.
 

Bryan Harsin, offensive coordinator, Texas – Harsin is a rising star in the coaching ranks and figures to make a jump for a head coaching vacancy soon. The former Boise State quarterback worked with the Broncos from 2001-2010 as an assistant, before leaving to take over as Texas’ offensive coordinator in 2011. Harsin doesn’t have head coaching experience but ran one of the nation’s top offenses at Boise State and has brought improvement to the Longhorns’ attack.
 

Darrell Hazell, head coach, Kent State – Just like Dave Doeren, Hazell has no experience in the SEC or any ties to Texas. However, that shouldn’t prevent Hazell from getting into the mix at Arkansas. In two years with Kent State, the New Jersey native is 16-8 and led the Golden Flashes to a MAC East title in 2012. Hazell also has a solid resume from stops as an assistant at Western Michigan, Army, West Virginia, Rutgers and Ohio State.
 

Mark Hudspeth, head coach, Louisiana-Lafayette – Hudspeth has quietly led Louisiana-Lafayette to back-to-back bowl games and has a 16-8 mark in two seasons with the Ragin’ Cajuns. Before his current job, Hudspeth was 66-21 in seven years as the head coach at North Alabama. The Mississippi native has some SEC experience, working for two seasons under Dan Mullen at Mississippi State. Although Hudspeth isn’t a big-name hire, he has what it takes to lead a SEC program.
 

Mike MacIntyre, head coach, San Jose State – MacIntyre has done a terrific job in just three years at San Jose State. Under his watch, the Spartans improved from 1-12 in 2010 to 10-2 and a likely bowl appearance in 2012. San Jose State is MacIntyre’s first head coaching gig, but he has experience as an assistant at Temple, Ole Miss, Duke and in the NFL with the Jets and Cowboys.
 

Gus Malzahn, head coach, Arkansas State – Malzahn is a name familiar around the state of Arkansas and is due for a shot at a BCS program. However, is it too early for him to take over in Fayetteville? Malzahn coached at Shiloh Christian and Springdale High Schools and spent 2006 as the offensive coordinator at Arkansas. After leaving Fayetteville after one season, the Texas native made stops at Tulsa and Auburn. Malzahn is 8-3 in his first season at Arkansas State and has helped the Red Wolves record one of the Sun Belt’s top offenses.
 

Garrick McGee, head coach, UAB – Had McGee not left for UAB, it’s likely he would have been named head coach after Bobby Petrino’s departure. Would Arkansas be interested in McGee now or should the school get a clean break from the Petrino era? McGee went 3-9 in his first season at UAB, which was no surprise considering the Blazers were picked near the bottom of Conference USA. Despite the lackluster season, McGee is still considered a rising star in the non-BCS ranks.
 

Todd Monken, offensive coordinator, Oklahoma State – Monken has no head coaching experience but has helped to coordinate one of the nation’s best offenses. Before coming to Oklahoma State, the Illinois native made stops as an assistant at Eastern Michigan, Louisiana Tech and LSU. Monken is a longshot but his work with Oklahoma State suggests he is ready to become a head coach.
 

Chad Morris, offensive coordinator, Clemson – Morris has no head coaching experience but is one of the hottest names for open vacancies this offseason. Considering Arkansas needs to heavily recruit Texas, Morris’ ties from high school stops at Eustace Independent, Elysian Field, Bay City, Stephenville and Lake Travis have to be appealing. While a lack of head coaching experience is a negative, the Texas native is one of the brightest offensive minds in college football.
 

Bo Pelini, head coach, Nebraska – Pelini has a good job at Nebraska, but his name has popped up in the rumor mill for Arkansas over the last few weeks. The Ohio native is 49-18 in five seasons in Lincoln, including a Legends Division title in 2012. Pelini has experience in the SEC, coaching at LSU as the defensive coordinator from 2005-07. It may be a minor factor, but Pelini is no longer working under the same athletic director that hired him at Nebraska. 
 

Paul Rhoads, head coach, Iowa State – As an Iowa native, Rhoads is really in no hurry to leave Iowa State. However, he is someone that Arkansas should at least inquire about. Rhoads has a solid resume from his stops as an assistant, working as a defensive coordinator at Pittsburgh from 2000-07 and Auburn in 2008. Iowa State is a difficult job, but Rhoads has led the Cyclones to three bowl games in four seasons.
 

Greg Roman, offensive coordinator, San Francisco 49ers – Considering the success of David Shaw at Stanford and Willie Taggart at Western Kentucky, Roman is the next Jim Harbaugh assistant to land a head coaching gig. The New Jersey native has no head coaching experience but has stops as an NFL assistant with the Panthers, Ravens and Texans. Roman also worked with Harbaugh at Stanford and helped to coordinate one of the nation’s best offenses.
 

Kirby Smart, defensive coordinator, Alabama – Smart is regarded as one of the nation’s top assistants, working with Nick Saban to coordinate the Alabama defense. Smart is no stranger to life in the SEC, as he played at Georgia and served as an assistant at LSU and Georgia. Just like some other names on this list, the Alabama native has no head coaching experience.
 

Mark Stoops, defensive coordinator, Florida State – Stoops is a rising star in the assistant ranks and is rumored to be in the mix for the Kentucky vacancy. The Ohio native has stops as an assistant at South Florida, Wyoming, Houston, Miami and Arizona. In three seasons at Florida State’s coordinator, he has helped to resurrect the Seminoles’ defense back into one of the nation’s best. The only knock on Stoops is a lack of head coaching experience.
 

Charlie Strong, head coach, Louisville – Although geographical ties are sometimes overrated in coaching searches, Strong is an Arkansas native and played at Central Arkansas. In addition to his ties to the state, Strong has SEC experience from stops at Florida, Ole Miss and South Carolina. After going 4-8 in the year prior to his arrival, Louisville went 14-12 from 2010-11 and is on the cusp of a Big East title in 2012. Strong also has strong recruiting ties to Florida.
 

Willie Taggart, head coach, Western Kentucky – Taggart’s stock cooled some after the Hilltoppers lost three consecutive games in November. However, Western Kentucky rebounded to win the season finale against North Texas to finish 7-5, which gives the Hilltoppers back-to-back winning records for the first time since 2006-07. Although Western Kentucky struggled at the end of the year, Taggart is ready for a shot to lead a BCS program.
 

Tommy Tuberville, head coach, Texas Tech – Tuberville is a name familiar with many around the SEC. He went 25-20 in four seasons at Ole Miss from 1995-98 and 85-40 from 1999-2008 at Auburn. Tuberville is 20-17 in three seasons at Texas Tech and has the Red Raiders back in a bowl after a disappointing 2010 campaign. Tuberville is also an Arkansas native and his time in Lubbock should have helped to build high school connections in Texas – a key state for Arkansas in recruiting.

Longshots

Mario Cristobal, head coach, FIU – Cristobal led FIU to back-to-back bowl games from 2010-11 but the Golden Panthers slipped to a 3-9 mark in 2012. Cristobal also prefers to stay in Florida.

Jon Gruden, former NFL head coach – Gruden’s name has popped up in a couple of coaching searches but has a pretty good job as a Monday Night Football analyst on ESPN. However, if Gruden is interested in coaching again, he seems more likely to land in the NFL or with the Tennessee Volunteers.

Mike Gundy, head coach, Oklahoma State – The rumor mill has placed Gundy’s name in coaching searches at Arkansas and Tennessee in recent weeks. However, would he really leave Stillwater? As a former quarterback at Oklahoma State, it would take a lot for Gundy to jump at another job.

Pat Narduzzi, defensive coordinator, Michigan State – Narduzzi is an excellent defensive coordinator but would be an odd fit at Arkansas. He has no ties to the SEC and could be more interested in any open vacancies around the Big Ten.

Gary Patterson, head coach, TCU – Just like Chris Petersen, Patterson’s name always comes up with SEC or Big 12 jobs. However, Patterson has elevated TCU from a non-BCS conference to the Big 12 and has a newly renovated stadium in Fort Worth. Bottom line: Patterson isn’t leaving TCU.

Chris Petersen, head coach, Boise State – Petersen’s name is always tossed around with any BCS opening. However, it would take a perfect situation for him to leave Boise State and that’s likely to be a job on the West Coast.  

Related College Football Content

15 Coaches to Replace Derek Dooley at Tennessee
College Football's Post-Week 13 Bowl Projections

Week 13 College Football Recap

Teaser:
<p> 20 Coaches to Replace John L. Smith at Arkansas</p>
Post date: Monday, November 26, 2012 - 05:30
All taxonomy terms: Auburn Tigers, College Football, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/10-coaches-replace-fired-gene-chizik-auburn
Body:

Auburn has experienced quite the roller coaster ride over the last four years. After going 8-5 in Gene Chizik’s first season, the Tigers completed a 14-0 season and won the 2010 national championship. However, it was all downhill after the BCS title. Auburn went 11-14 over the last two seasons, which included a horrendous 0-8 record in SEC play in 2012. Chizik was a curious hire from the start and outside of the national championship season, proved to be a very mediocre head coach.

10 Candidates to Replace Gene Chizik at Auburn

Bryan Harsin, offensive coordinator, Texas – Harsin is a rising star in the coaching ranks and figures to make a jump for a head coaching vacancy soon. The former Boise State quarterback worked with the Broncos from 2001-2010 as an assistant, before leaving to take over as Texas’ offensive coordinator in 2011. Harsin doesn’t have head coaching experience but ran one of the nation’s top offenses at Boise State and has brought improvement to the Longhorns’ attack. After watching Auburn struggle on offense in 2012, Harsin’s background on offense has to be appealing.
 

Mark Hudspeth, head coach, Louisiana-Lafayette – Hudspeth has quietly led Louisiana-Lafayette to back-to-back bowl games and has a 16-8 mark in two seasons with the Ragin’ Cajuns. Before his current job, Hudspeth was 66-21 in seven years as the head coach at North Alabama. The Mississippi native has some SEC experience, working for two seasons under Dan Mullen at Mississippi State. Although Hudspeth isn’t a big-name hire, he has what it takes to lead a SEC program.
 

Gus Malzahn, head coach, Arkansas State – Malzahn is a name familiar with many at Auburn and was a huge loss for Chizik when he departed after the 2011 season. Although Malzahn is certainly capable of thriving at Auburn, is it too early for him to come back? Malzahn coached at Shiloh Christian and Springdale High Schools and spent 2006 as the offensive coordinator at Arkansas. After leaving Fayetteville after one season, the Texas native made stops as the offensive coordinator at Tulsa and Auburn. Malzahn is 8-3 in his first season at Arkansas State and has helped the Red Wolves record one of the Sun Belt’s top offenses.

 

Chad Morris, offensive coordinator, Clemson – Morris has no head coaching experience but is one of the hottest names for open vacancies this offseason. Most of Morris’ experience has come on the high school level, making stops at Eustace Independent, Elysian Field, Bay City, Stephenville and Lake Travis. However, in short stints at Tulsa and Clemson, he has proven to be one of the nation’s top offensive minds. Morris commands a hefty salary as an offensive coordinator, so Auburn needs to pay big to pull him away from Clemson.

 

Bobby Petrino, former Arkansas head coach – Considering the disastrous Jetgate saga that surrounded Auburn and Petrino in 2003, there may be some hesitation on the Tigers’ part to go back in Petrino’s direction. However, if Auburn wants to compete with Alabama and LSU, the former Arkansas coach is the right man for the job. Considering what transpired at Arkansas, Petrino is probably available at a discount price and won’t make the same mistakes that contributed to his departure in Fayetteville.

 

Brent Pease, offensive coordinator, Florida – Considering the uncertainty surrounding the NCAA investigation, Auburn could struggle to attract elite candidates. If that’s the case, Pease is a name to watch. The Idaho native has spent time as an offensive coordinator at Kentucky, Baylor and Boise State, before coming to Florida in 2012. Pease has no head coaching experience but is a bright offensive mind and is due for a chance to run is own program.

 

Kirby Smart, defensive coordinator, Alabama – Smart is regarded as one of the nation’s top assistants, working with Nick Saban to coordinate the Alabama defense. Smart is no stranger to life in the SEC, as he played at Georgia and served as an assistant at LSU and Georgia. Just like some other names on this list, the Alabama native has no head coaching experience.

 

Mark Stoops, defensive coordinator, Florida State – Stoops is a rising star in the assistant ranks and is rumored to be in the mix for the Kentucky vacancy. The Ohio native has stops as an assistant at South Florida, Wyoming, Houston, Miami and Arizona. In three seasons at Florida State’s coordinator, he has helped to resurrect the Seminoles’ defense back into one of the nation’s best. The only knock on Stoops is a lack of head coaching experience.

 

Charlie Strong, head coach, Louisville – Although geographical ties are sometimes overrated in coaching searches, Strong is an Arkansas native and played at Central Arkansas. In addition to his ties to the state, Strong has SEC experience from stops at Florida, Ole Miss and South Carolina. After going 4-8 in the year prior to his arrival, Louisville went 14-12 from 2010-11 and is on the cusp of a Big East title in 2012. Strong also has strong recruiting ties to Florida.

 

Willie Taggart, head coach, Western Kentucky – Taggart’s stock cooled some after the Hilltoppers lost three consecutive games in November. However, Western Kentucky rebounded to win the season finale against North Texas to finish 7-5, which gives the Hilltoppers back-to-back winning records for the first time since 2006-07. Although Western Kentucky struggled at the end of the year, Taggart is ready for a shot to lead a BCS program.

 

Longshots

Sonny Dykes, head coach, Louisiana Tech – Although Dykes is due for a promotion, his name has come up more in connection with the Arkansas and Kentucky jobs. The ongoing NCAA investigation may not be much but it could scare a candidate like Dykes away from interviewing.
 

Jimbo Fisher, head coach, Florida State – Fisher’s name has circulated in the rumor mill but don’t bet on him leaving Florida State. Even though he played at Samford and coached at Auburn in the past, Fisher has a better job at Florida State. And it’s also much easier to win in Tallahassee than it is in the shadow of Alabama and LSU right now.

 

Kliff Kingsbury, offensive coordinator, Texas A&M – Kingsbury has quickly emerged as one of college football’s top offensive coordinators. After playing under Mike Leach at Texas Tech, Kingsbury bounced around the NFL for a couple of seasons and landed on the Houston coaching staff under Kevin Sumlin in 2008. The Texas native led Houston to rank among the nation’s best offenses last year and has played a key role in developing Johnny Manziel at Texas A&M. Kingsbury is young (33) and has no head coaching experience. However, it won’t be long before he picks up his first head coaching offer. 

Teaser:
<p> 10 Coaches to Replace Fired Gene Chizik at Auburn</p>
Post date: Monday, November 26, 2012 - 05:30
Path: /news/oklahoma-wr-kenny-stills-makes-crazy-catch-against-oklahoma-state
Body:

The annual matchup between Oklahoma and Oklahoma State is simply titled Bedlam. It's a rivalry that always produces plenty of highlight-reel plays and crazy moments each year.

This season, Oklahoma rallied from an early deficit to score an overtime win, largely due to the performance of quarterback Landry Jones. The senior was steady in the second half to give his team a chance to win, which included a ridiculous touchdown toss to receiver Kenny Stills. With a blitz coming in his face, Jones fired a pass to Stills, but an Oklahoma State defender nearly pulled off the interception. However, Stills tipped it back to himself and gained control of the pass just before hitting the out of bounds mark.

Teaser:
<p> Oklahoma WR Kenny Stills Makes Crazy Catch Against Oklahoma State</p>
Post date: Monday, November 26, 2012 - 00:18
Path: /news/tennessee-mascot-attacks-kentucky-kicker
Body:

With Tennessee and Kentucky both having lame-duck coaches on the sidelines, there was very little excitement for Saturday's game. The Volunteers pulled away for a 37-17 victory, but the highlight of the day didn't come between the two teams or a play on the field. 

Instead, it was Smokey - Tennessee's mascot - that stole the show. Smokey broke loose from his handler, which caused him to go after a Kentucky kicker. 

Needless to say, it was an entertaining moment between two teams staying home for the postseason.

Teaser:
<p> Tennessee Mascot Attacks Kentucky Kicker</p>
Post date: Monday, November 26, 2012 - 00:12
All taxonomy terms: Penn State Nittany Lions, Big Ten, News
Path: /news/penn-state-coach-bill-obrien-drops-f-bomb-post-game-interview
Body:

Considering what has transpired at Penn State since last season, it was no surprise Penn State coach Bill O'Brien was quite excited after an overtime win over Wisconsin. 

And O'Brien was so excited, it appears he dropped an f-bomb right at the beginning of the interview. Isn't live television awesome?

Teaser:
<p> Penn State Coach BIll O'Brien Drops F-Bomb In Post-Game Interview</p>
Post date: Monday, November 26, 2012 - 00:03
All taxonomy terms: LSU Tigers, SEC, News
Path: /news/lsu-wr-jarvis-landry-makes-ridiculous-one-handed-catch-against-arkansas
Body:

It wasn't pretty, but LSU improved its record to 10-2 with a 20-13 win over Arkansas. The highlight of the victory wasn't a late defensive stand but came from receiver Jarvis Landry in the first half. 

Quarterback Zach Mettenberger threw a pass just behind Landry, but the sophomore made a good adjustment on the ball and reeled in the ridiculous one-handed grab. 

 

Teaser:
<p> LSU WR Jarvis Landry Makes a Ridiculous One-Handed Catch Against Arkansas</p>
Post date: Sunday, November 25, 2012 - 23:57
All taxonomy terms: Illinois Fighting Illini, Big Ten, News
Path: /news/illinois-coach-tim-beckman-gets-clobbered-official-against-northwestern
Body:

2012 has been an awful season for Illinois. New coach Tim Beckman had a disastrous debut, with the Fighting Illini failing to win a Big Ten game in 2012. 

And the bad year only got worse on Saturday, as Beckman was clobbered by an official during the first half. Beckman apparently didn't see the official coming his way and was knocked down just as the play was coming in his direction. Beckman quickly scooted out of the way but it was another bad moment for his first season at Illinois.

Teaser:
<p> Illinois' Coach Tim Beckman Gets Clobbered By Official Against Northwestern</p>
Post date: Sunday, November 25, 2012 - 23:51
Path: /college-football/college-football-post-week-13-bowl-projections
Body:

College football's bowl season is inching closer, and it's never too early to take a look at what the matchups might look like. With 13 weeks of results in the books, the bowl picture for nearly every team is starting to clear. 

The post-Week 13 bowl projections are a mixture between how things would look if the season ended today, projection of Week 14, and considering the results so far this year. 

2012-2013 Post-Week 13 College Football Bowl Projections

Bowl Date Tie-In Projected Matchup
New Mexico Dec. 15 MWC vs. Pac-12 Arizona vs. Nevada
Famous Idaho Potato Dec. 15 MAC vs. WAC Utah State vs. N. Illinois
Poinsettia Dec. 20 BYU vs. MWC BYU vs. San Diego State
Beef 'O'Brady's Dec. 21 Big East vs. C-USA UCF vs. Pittsburgh
New Orleans Dec. 22 Sun Belt vs. C-USA UL Lafayette vs. East Carolina
Las Vegas Dec. 22 MWC vs. Pac-12 Washington vs. Boise State
Hawaii Dec. 24 C-USA vs. MWC Fresno State vs. SMU
Little Caesars Dec. 26 Big Ten vs. MAC W. Kentucky* vs. Toledo
Military Dec. 27 ACC vs. Army Ohio* vs. SJSU*
Belk Dec. 27 ACC vs. Big East Duke vs. Cincinnati
Holiday Dec. 27 Big 12 vs. Pac-12 West Virginia vs. Oregon State
Independence Dec. 28 ACC vs. SEC Louisiana-Monroe* vs. La. Tech*
Russell Athletic Dec. 28 ACC vs. Big East Virginia Tech vs. Rutgers
Meineke Car Care Dec. 28 Big Ten vs. Big 12 Texas Tech vs. Minnesota
Armed Forces Dec. 29 C-USA vs. MWC Rice vs. Air Force
Kraft Fight Hunger Dec. 29 Pac-12 vs. Navy Navy vs. Arizona State
Pinstripe Dec. 29 Big East vs. Big 12 Syracuse vs. Baylor
Alamo Dec. 29 Big 12 vs. Pac-12 UCLA vs. TCU
Buffalo Wild Wings Dec. 29 Big Ten vs. Big 12 Mich. State vs. Okla. State
Music City Dec. 31 SEC vs. ACC Vanderbilt vs. NC State
Sun Dec. 31 ACC vs. Pac-12 USC vs. Ga. Tech
Liberty Dec. 31 SEC vs. C-USA Tulsa vs. Arkansas State*
Chick-fil-A Dec. 31 ACC vs. SEC Clemson vs. LSU
Heart of Dallas Jan. 1 Big Ten vs. Big 12 Iowa State vs. Purdue
TaxSlayer.com Gator Jan. 1 SEC vs. Big Ten Wisconsin vs. Miss. State
Capital One Jan. 1 SEC vs. Big Ten Michigan vs. Texas A&M
Outback Jan. 1 SEC vs. Big Ten Northwestern vs. S. Carolina
Cotton Jan. 4 Big 12 vs. SEC Texas vs. Georgia
BBVA Compass Jan. 5 SEC vs. Big East Ole Miss vs. Ball State*
GoDaddy.com Jan. 6 MAC vs. Sun Belt MTSU vs. Kent State
       
BCS Bowls      
Rose Jan. 1 BCS vs. BCS Nebraska vs. Stanford
Orange Jan. 1 BCS vs. BCS Florida State vs. Louisville
Sugar Jan. 2 BCS vs. BCS Florida vs. Oklahoma
Fiesta Jan. 3 BCS vs. BCS Kansas State vs. Oregon
National Title Jan. 7 BCS vs. BCS Notre Dame vs. Alabama


* Indicates an at-large team due to a conference unable to fill bowl slots according to Athlon's projections.

** UCF is appealing a postseason ban and for now, is eligible to compete in the 2012 postseason.

Bold indicates a team has accepted bowl bid.

by Steven Lassan

@athlonsteven

(updated Dec. 1, 2012)

Teaser:
Post date: Sunday, November 25, 2012 - 17:46
Path: /college-football/notre-dame-fighting-irish-vs-usc-trojans-preview-and-prediction
Body:

The mission for Notre Dame on Saturday night is very simple. The Fighting Irish are 60 minutes away from playing for a national championship in early January. With a win, Notre Dame can go ahead and book a trip to Miami. The Irish are virtually locked into a BCS bowl, but there’s no question this team wants to be 12-0 and playing for the national title, rather than 11-1 and making a trip to the Sugar or Fiesta Bowl.

Most expected USC to challenge for the national championship this season, but the Trojans have been one of college football’s biggest disappointments. USC has four losses and won’t represent the Pac-12 South in the conference title game. Although the Trojans are still a dangerous team, quarterback Matt Barkley is out for Saturday’s game due to a shoulder injury suffered against UCLA.

USC has dominated this series recently, winning nine out of the last 10 games. The Trojans won 31-17 in South Bend last season, which helped to spark their 4-1 finish to the end of 2011. Notre Dame’s last win in this series was in 2010, knocking off USC 20-16 in Los Angeles.

When the Notre Dame Fighting Irish have the ball:

Although the Fighting Irish’s defense has led the way this year, the offense has shown steady improvement over the second half of the season. Redshirt freshman quarterback Everett Golson has thrown seven touchdowns and just two interceptions over the last three games. The redshirt freshman is also a dangerous threat with his legs, rushing for 258 yards and five scores.

The Fighting Irish don’t have a standout No. 1 wide receiver, but tight end Tyler Eifert is one of the nation’s best. Eifert has 40 catches for 555 yards and four scores this year. TJ Jones is the team’s leading wide receiver, nabbing 40 receptions so far this year. Robby Toma, John Goodman and running back Theo Riddick will be Golson’s other key targets on Saturday night.

With Golson in his first year as the starter, it was important for the Fighting Irish to establish their ground game this season. Mission accomplished. Riddick leads the team with 734 yards, while Cierre Wood is a close second with 720. George Atkinson III has also chipped in 346 yards. Combine these three backs with Golson’s mobility, and it’s easy to see why Notre Dame ranks 33rd nationally in rushing offense.

USC’s defense has suffered its fair share of criticism this year, especially after allowing 51 points to Oregon on Nov. 3. The Trojans have struggled to stop spread offenses and will have their hands full with Notre Dame on Saturday night.

The Trojans are averaging 3.8 sacks per game and generating pressure on Golson will be one of the keys pulling off the upset. If USC can force the redshirt freshman into a couple of bad throws, it will be a huge opportunity to give its offense a short field and a chance for easy points. The Trojans also need to limit Notre Dame’s rushing attack on early downs, forcing Golson to beat them on third and long situations.

When the USC Trojans have the ball:

Beating Notre Dame was going to be difficult enough with Barkley under center. And with the preseason Heisman favorite sidelined, the Trojans have to turn to redshirt freshman Max Wittek. He has completed 8 of 9 passes for 95 yards and one touchdown this season, but Saturday night will be his first taste of extended action at USC.

With Wittek making his first start, the Trojans need a strong effort from his supporting cast. Receiver Marqise Lee is one of the best in the nation and needs to have around 15 touches in this game. Wittek’s inexperience probably won’t allow USC to air it out against Notre Dame, but Lee needs to get the ball on short screens and reverses.

In addition to finding ways to get Lee and Robert Woods the ball, running backs Silas Redd and Curtis McNeal should expect to see more carries. McNeal rushed for 161 yards against UCLA last Saturday, while Redd leads the team with 740 yards and nine touchdowns.

Although USC needs to have a big day from its running game, that’s easier said than done against Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish rank fifth nationally against the run and have allowed just two touchdowns on the ground all year.

Wittek has a lot of talent, but he has to be careful not to do too much. If USC can simplify the gameplan and give him some easy throws early on, the Trojans will have a chance to hang around until the fourth quarter.

Final Analysis:

The recent history in this series heavily favors USC, but it’s tough to ask Max Wittek to knock off Notre Dame in his first start. The Trojans will hang around until the fourth quarter and that’s when the Fighting Irish defense will take control. Expect Manti Te’o and the rest of the Notre Dame defense to put the clamps on the USC attack in the second half, which is enough to send the Fighting Irish to the national championship.

Prediction: Notre Dame 27, USC 17


Related College Football Content

Pac-12 Week 13 Preview and Predictions
College Football Week 13 Upset Predictions

Post-Week 12 Heisman Contenders

Teaser:
<p> Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. USC Trojans Preview and Prediction</p>
Post date: Saturday, November 24, 2012 - 07:02
Path: /college-football/has-ucla-surpassed-usc-pac-12s-top-team-los-angeles
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Has the torched in the Pac-12 South passed from USC to UCLA? Before the win over the Trojans on Saturday, the Bruins had won only one out of the last 13 matchups in the annual battle for bragging rights in Los Angeles. However, UCLA's victory, combined with the ongoing sanctions at USC could signal a shift in the series. 

Has UCLA Surpassed USC as the Pac-12's Top Team in Los Angeles?

Coach Terry Donahue, former head coach of the UCLA Bruins, and current voting member of the Legends Poll:
First thing, the UCLA quarterback, Brett Hundley, is really a fine player.  He’s very mobile.  He’s a lot like a lot of these quarterbacks that are doing so well around the country.  He’s big, about 6’3”, maybe a little taller, and has really good pocket presence.  He can buy you a second chance against the pass rush.  He’s very mobile, he’s very calm in the pocket and just doesn't make a whole lot of mistakes.  He outplayed Barkley the other day and he is only a freshman. I think he is going to be a difference maker for UCLA as long as he stays healthy.  The other thing I think the sanctions are starting to hurt USC.  Like this recruiting class they've got signed up to come in this next year, a lot of people have them ranked No. 1 or No. 2 in the country, but there’s only 15 players. Over the four years of eligibility players can get disenchanted with football, the kids can get hurt, or the players may not make it academically. USC depth is going to be impacted for several years and it looked like that played a part in UCLA winning the game this year.

David Fox (@DavidFox615): 
UCLA is perfectly positioned to take over the top spot in Los Angeles over the coming years. I don’t think we can overestimate the the promise redshirt freshman Brett Hundley has shown all season, essentially outplaying the preseason Heisman favorite in a head-to-head matchup. USC is about to lose Matt Barkley, the scholarship limitations are about to cut into the Trojans depth and now the program has a question of leadership in Lane Kiffin. If UCLA can’t take over in Los Angeles in the next three or four years, then I don’t know when the Bruins will be able to do so. However, this is a program that has underachieved for more than two decades. Just because UCLA has taken the lead in L.A. this season, that doesn’t mean it’s going to continue. For example, UCLA went 10-2 back in 2005, but that evaporated in short order. Considering that, next season might be more telling than anything we’ve seen from UCLA this year.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall):
No. That will never happen until UCLA wins multiple Pac-12 championships in a short span and is competing for National Championships. The Bruins have all the necessary pieces to develop into a college football power, but have a long way to go to accomplish the type of dominance the Trojans claimed for the last decade. And until the powers that be in Westwood put their full financial support to developing the program, UCLA football will always be a basketball school. This weekend's win was a great statement, but to say they UCLA brand has surpassed the USC brand in SoCal and on the recruiting trail is foolish.

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven): 
Last Saturday’s win over USC could be an important milestone for UCLA’s program for the next five years. With the Trojans still dealing with the effects of NCAA sanctions and reduced scholarships once again in this recruiting class, it’s going to be difficult to have another shot at the national championship in 2013 or 2014. The Bruins aren’t going to be a national title contender next year, but they will be picked ahead of USC and the pieces are in place to win the Pac-12. At least for the next couple of years, I think the torch has been passed to UCLA. New coach Jim Mora is off to a good start and has the Bruins poised to land another solid recruiting class. The Trojans will always be the No. 1 brand in Los Angeles, but scholarship reductions and the loss of Matt Barkley will make it difficult to surpass UCLA in the Pac-12 South next season. In terms of long-term projection, I’d still take USC as the top program in Los Angeles. However, I think UCLA will edge the Trojans for the next few seasons.

Mark Ross: 
UCLA certainly has bragging rights this season after defeating USC 38-28 on Saturday. And it's the Bruins, not the Trojans, who will be playing in the Pac-12 title game for a potential Rose Bowl berth, while Lane Kiffin's team will most likely have to settle for a bowl in mid- to late December at best. Still after just one season, it's hard to anoint UCLA as THE team in L.A., although it appears the Bruins' immediate future is a little more promising. Not only does Jim Mora have redshirt freshman quarterback Brett Hundley to build around next year and beyond, but he will enter 2013 with more job security than his counterpart Kiffin. Who saw that coming entering this season? Kiffin not only has to pick up the pieces from what many thought was going to be a championship season, he will have to do so next season without quarterback Matt Barkley and several other key players who will either graduate or leave early for the NFL Draft. UCLA may not have surpassed USC just yet, but the Bruins are certainly gaining on their Trojan brethren and the gap seems to be narrowing with each passing week.

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<p> Has UCLA Surpassed USC as the Pac-12's Top Team in Los Angeles?</p>
Post date: Friday, November 23, 2012 - 05:57

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