Sneak Peek: 2014 BCS Championship Game

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WHO: 13-0 Florida State (ACC) vs. 12-1 Auburn (SEC)

WHAT: BCS Championship Game (16th year)

WHERE: The Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif.

WHEN: Jan. 6 at 8 p.m. ET

WHY: It’s the end of the an era as the final BCS championship game takes place on Monday night in Pasadena between No. 1 Florida State and No. 2 Auburn.

The SEC will be going for its eighth-straight championship (and fifth-consecutive from the state of Alabama), while the Seminoles are hoping for their first title since 2000.

These two teams took wildly different paths to get here.

FSU put up one of the most dominant seasons in the history of college football, defeating its 13 opponents by an average score of 53 to 11. The balanced offense is led by quarterback Jameis Winston, who threw for 3,820 yards and 38 touchdowns on his way to becoming the second freshman (and third Seminole) to win the Heisman Trophy. A trio of talented skill players form the nation’s best receiving corps, with Rashad Greene, Kelvin Benjamin and Kenny Shaw all within striking distance of 1,000 yards. Tailback Devonta Freeman rushed for 943 yards and 13 touchdowns while converted safety Karlos Williams had 705 yards, 11 scores and averaged over 8 yards per carry. Tight end Nick O’Leary (did yo know he’s the grandson of legendary golfer Jack Nicklaus?) is also a big weapon, with 33 catches for 557 yards and seven touchdowns.

This is an offense without many weaknesses, but there might be a couple for Auburn to exploit. The Seminoles offensive line allowed Winston to be sacked 29 times, for instance. And this is a team and a quarterback that has not had to play in a tight game under pressure. If the Tigers can keep this one close, will FSU stay calm or will it begin to press? We’ll see.

If worse comes to worse and the Seminoles struggle on offense, there is always the FSU defense to rely on. This dominant unit led the nation in points allowed, interceptions, passing defense and passing efficiency defense. It’s a playmaking unit led by All-American defensive back Lamarcus Joyner, linebacker Telvin Smith and defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan. But again, this is not a defense that has been stressed by too many dynamic offenses. They’ll be going up against one of the great offensive masterminds in college football on Monday night.

That would be Gus Malzahn, who took over a 3-9 Auburn team and executed one of the great turnaround jobs in the history of the sport. The Tigers were like a mix between the 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team and the 1969 New York Mets, winning games in unlikely and dramatic fashion on their way to the SEC title.

Malzahn’s offense developed slowly but, as the year went on, it was transformed into a dynamic and deadly ground attack, averaging a nation-best 335 yards per game. Quarterback Nick Marshall, a junior college transfer and former defensive back at Georgia, threw for 1,759 yards and 12 touchdowns and rushed for 1,023 and 11 scores. Tailback Tre Mason rushed for 1,622 yards and scored 22 touchdowns on his way to being named a Heisman finalist. The Tigers averaged 47 points per game over their last eight games as no defense — not even Alabama — could find a way to stop them.

Auburn will probably need to score as many points as possible because its defense, while opportunistic and active, is not exactly as stingy as FSU’s. The Tigers gave up 24 points per game and were particularly vulnerable in the secondary, finishing 102nd nationally in passing yards allowed. They will be hard-pressed to stop Winston and Co.

There could be no better venue for the final game of the BCS era and, arguably, no better teams to send the system off into the sunset. FSU, which appeared in the first three BCS title games, will complete its long-sought-for Return to Glory if it can get a win over Auburn. If the Tigers claim a victory, it’ll be their second title in four years and cement the SEC as the sport’s premier league — plus confirm that the state of Alabama is the indeed the center of the college football universe.

Who are we to argue with destiny?

PREDICTION: Auburn 35, Florida State 34

Georgia’s Latavious Brini arrested on felony forgery charge

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For the third time since winning the SEC championship nearly two weeks ago, a member of the Georgia football program has found himself on the wrong side of the law.

The Macon Telegraph and Rivals.com are both reporting Tuesday night that Latavious Brini has been arrested on a first-degree felony charge of forgery.  Brini was arrested shortly after six local time earlier today and released from the Athens-Clarke County (Ga.) Jail a couple of hours later after posting a $5,700 bond.

No details of what led to the arrest and charge have been released.

Brini was a three-star member of UGA’s 2017 recruiting class.  The linebacker hasn’t played a down for the Bulldogs as a true freshman.

Earlier this month, Natrez Patrick and Jayson Stanley were arrested on marijuana-related charges.

Phil Bennett leaves Arizona State staff

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The plan for success at Arizona State under AD Ray Anderson was to remove head coach Todd Graham and while keeping everything else the same — just with a head coach that was… better. And as we know, that head coach turned out to be Herm Edwards.

But not a week into his tenure, Edwards has already hit his first crossroads.

The Sun Devils announced Tuesday that defensive coordinator Phil Bennett has left the staff over family matters.

The statement from Edwards:

“While I would have liked for Defensive Coordinator Phil Bennett to remain on the coaching staff, I do appreciate the fact that he has chosen not to stay based upon family reasons,” said Edwards. “Family always comes first and right now he needs to turn his attention to that.  My top priorities right now going forward are to solidify our recruiting class and to assemble a defensive coaching staff.  Both objectives are moving along quite well.”

The question now will be who Edwards turns to as Bennett’s replacement. As we know, the new Devils coach has not coached in a decade and not coached in college in nearly three.

So this hire will be anyone’s guess.

Report: Bill Snyder to return to Kansas State in 2018

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Retirement rumors will persist about Bill Snyder until he inevitably retires, especially at this time of year. But a report from K-StateOnline on Tuesday will push those rumors back another year.

According to the site, the Wizard will return to the Kansas State sideline in 2018:

Four separate sources have now confirmed to K-StateOnline.com that Bill Snyder plans to return to coach Kansas State in 2018.

Multiple sources also said that the mood within the Vanier Football Complex and K-State program is “good” heading into bowl season – despite speculation to the contrary.

Snyder took a leave of absence in the offseason to battle throat cancer, but he returned in time for fall camp and has not missed any games this season. A report also emerged last month that former AD John Currie attempted to bring Oregon defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt aboard as a head coach-in-waiting, but the school rebutted that by stating Snyder will be the Wildcats’ head coach until he decides he’s not.

Snyder has made no secret he’d like his son, Sean Snyder, to one day succeed him, but a number of logical candidates exist in Leavitt, Brent Venables and new UTEP head coach Dana Dimel.

Now in the ninth year of his second stint as K-State head coach, Snyder owns a record of 209-110-1 with the Wildcats. He has guided the program to two Big 12 championships and six top-10 finishes, though none since 2002.

Kansas State entered this season ranked No. 18 in the AP poll but finished the regular portion at 7-5. The Wildcats will meet UCLA in the Cactus Bowl on Dec. 26 (9 p.m. ET, ESPN).

 

Finalists named for inaugural Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year

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Jason Witten was named the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year in 2012, and now his foundation is attempting to start a similar honor for college football. While the William V. Campbell Trophy goes to the nation’s best scholar-athlete and the Wuerffel Trophy honors the nation’s best community servant, no other college award attempts to recognize what the Witten Man of the Year recognizes.

And what is that, you ask?

Reads the boiler plate from the Jason Witten SCORE Foundation:

Presented annually to the Division I college football player who has demonstrated a record of leadership by exhibiting exceptional courage, integrity and sportsmanship both on and off the field. The award honors the type of exemplary character and commitment to community, family and teammates demonstrated by Jason Witten, the 2012 NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year and one of the most prominent role models in the game.

Nominees are gathered from the Sports Information Directors of each NCAA Division I football-playing institution. Three finalists are selected by the award’s board of directors, and the winner is selected by a panel of prominent former players and coaches, as well as members of the college football media.

The finalists were announced Tuesday, and they are:

  • Alabama safety Minkah Fitzpatrick
  • UCF linebacker Shaquem Griffin
  • Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph

“I am very excited to announce these three exceptional young men as the finalists for the inaugural Collegiate Man of the Year,” the former Tennessee tight end said in a statement. “Minkah Fitzpatrick, Shaquem Griffin and Mason Rudolph are outstanding leaders on the field, in the classroom and in the community, and they embody what the sport of college football is all about. It was a nearly impossible task to choose just three from all of the great student-athletes nominated. There are so many outstanding leaders who are great representatives for college football, and I commend all of the nominees for the tremendous example they set on and off the field.”

These types of awards seem to be just as much about honoring the namesake as they do the winner, but I doubt either of the three finalists would turn down the award if chosen.

The winner will beget a $10,000 contribution in his name to his school’s scholarship fund, and will be chosen on Feb. 22.