Big Ten lunchtime links

January, 15, 2014
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Happy hump day.

Season wrap: Ohio State

January, 15, 2014
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The vast majority of teams in the country would have gladly traded places with Ohio State, but the season still qualified as a disappointment, given the combination of high expectations and a pair of postseason stumbles.

Everything before those final two games went just about perfectly to plan, with coach Urban Meyer guiding the Buckeyes to another perfect record behind a prolific offense and a defense that typically offered enough support to keep everything pointed to a championship. But Michigan State was able to pick apart Ohio State through the air and had a talented enough defense to slow down quarterback Braxton Miller, and Clemson staged a late rally to pull out a victory in the Discover Orange Bowl that dropped Meyer’s record to 24-2 overall with the Buckeyes.

Offensive MVP: QB Braxton Miller. The junior had issues at the end of the season throwing the football, but his athleticism, competitive fire and plenty of eye-popping numbers made him the player the Buckeyes could never truly survive without for long. Kenny Guiton filled in admirably during Miller’s September injury, and running Carlos Hyde ended his career with an epic tear through the Big Ten. But Miller is the engine, and he still has one more year of development to tap into his potential as a passer.

Defensive MVP: LB Ryan Shazier. Few players in the nation gave more to their unit than Shazier did for the Buckeyes, stuffing the stat sheet from all angles while building himself into a potential high-round draft pick and declaring for the NFL draft a year early. The junior was at times a one-man wrecking crew, flying around the corner as a blitzer, making tackles anywhere between the sidelines and stabilizing a front seven that had six new starters lined up next to him.

Best moment: A perfect record in the regular season was on the line, along with the hopes of a national title and the invaluable bragging rights that come with a rivalry win. And it all boiled down to one make-or-break play as Michigan scored a late touchdown and rolled the dice on a game-deciding 2-point conversion. Tyvis Powell’s interception didn’t end up saving a national championship season, but it did clinch another pair of gold pants and give the Buckeyes plenty to celebrate at the time.

Worst moment: After flying so high the week before, the Buckeyes finally crashed to earth in the Big Ten title game, dropping their first game under Meyer and out of the national championship race at the same time. Michigan State had a fantastic game plan to slow down Miller, and it picked apart Ohio State’s struggling defense, but the Buckeyes still had a fourth-quarter lead, which slipped away in a sobering 34-24 defeat.
The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a daily dose of recruiting in the mornings. Today’s offerings: Numerous coaches at the American Football Coaches Association convention agree negative recruiting happens more than most people think and some of the stories are too good to be true; NC State has a top-40 class, but Wolfpack coach Dave Doeren is working to ensure they finish strong; and Larry Johnson recruiting for Ohio State could only mean big things for the Buckeyes.

Negative recruiting at its finest
There are numerous tales about negative recruiting tactics on the recruiting trail. So while at the AFCA convention, I asked coaches how much really does happen. The answer: a lot. A Utah assistant coach said rival Pac-12 schools do all they can to convince prospects Salt Lake City is a desolate place and try to confuse the Utes in-state rival BYU. “We get recruits that ask all the time about the Honor Code,” the coach said. “We have to constantly tell them ‘That’s BYU. That’s not our school.’ We also have had some kids tell us other schools said we don’t even have TVs in Utah.” Yes, it does get that bad when trying to sell a prospect during the final few weeks of recruiting.

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This week, on "As the Big Ten turns ..."

Bill O'Brien left Penn State for the NFL's Houston Texans and took Ohio State defensive line coach/top notch recruiter Mike Vrabel with him. Ohio State head coach returned the favor to the Nittany Lions by hiring longtime Penn State assistant/top notch recruiter Larry Johnson to replace Vrabel.

Meanwhile in Arkansas ... Bret Bielema fled Wisconsin for the SEC less than a year after complaining about the SEC-style recruiting tactics Meyer was using. On Tuesday, Bielema's trusted defensive coordinator, Chris Ash, left the Razorbacks to go work for -- you guessed it -- Meyer and the Buckeyes.

Got all that. The coaching carousel is never boring, is it?

[+] EnlargeUrban Meyer
Jamie Sabau/Getty ImagesUrban Meyer is strengthening his staff with the additions of Chris Ash and Larry Johnson.
The latest news here is Meyer hiring Ash away from Bielema, according to ESPN's Joe Schad, to replace safeties coach/co-defensive coordinator Everett Withers, who's now head coach at James Madison. Couple that with the Johnson coup, and Meyer has made two impressive, strategic moves in bringing in outstanding assistants who also know the Big Ten and its footprint extremely well.

Ash has been Bielema's defensive coordinator since 2011 and oversaw the Wisconsin defense on the 2011 and 2012 Rose Bowl teams for the Badgers. He's a secondary coach by trade so that fits in perfectly with what Ohio State needed -- especially after what we saw down the stretch from the Buckeyes' pass defense.

While Wisconsin might have had some noteworthy breakdowns in the secondary during Ash's time, he's never had the pure talent to work with that he'll find in Columbus, where guys like Vonn Bell, Doran Grant, Eli Apple and Tyvis Powell are ready to be coached up.

Ash was making a reported $550,000 at Arkansas so Ohio State obviously made a big commitment to get him. It's another good sign for the Big Ten, which is now bringing SEC guys into the league (James Franklin, Doug Nussmeier) instead of the other way around.

You have to wonder what this means for Luke Fickell, as Ash would seem unlikely to leave the Hogs if he weren't going to at least major input on calling plays. Unless he really got a big raise. (Or unless he decided that "We don't want to be like the SEC, in any shape or forms." Ahem). We'll likely find out more about Fickell's role when Meyer talks about these moves officially later in the week.

Both Ash and Johnson are outstanding hires for Ohio State, and if they tweak some rivals just a bit in the process, well, that's just a bonus for the Buckeyes.
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Turns out Urban Meyer can land blue-chip coaching prospects, too.

[+] EnlargeLarry Johnson
Michael R. Sisak/Icon SMILarry Johnson has a long history of developing defensive linemen and will get a crop of talented players to work with at Ohio State.
In turn, the Ohio State coach has done everything he can to keep the pipeline of talented players flowing smoothly despite the offseason shakeup to his staff.

Meyer hadn’t needed to prove that his eye for talent was as sharp in picking out assistants since his first staff was finalized ahead of the 2012 season. With the two-year commitments he required of his coaches all honored and completed, the seemingly unexpected departure of defensive line coach Mike Vrabel to the Houston Texans put Meyer on the spot, and in reportedly swooping in to snatch up Larry Johnson away from Penn State, he hardly could have done a better filling that void for the Buckeyes.

Vrabel had quickly proven himself as one of Ohio State’s most valuable recruiters and among the best in the Big Ten during his three seasons with the program. But Johnson has been doing it for years with the Nittany Lions, and his reputation as a closer and a resume that can back it up surely made him the most attractive candidate to Meyer.

Vrabel’s knowledge of the game made for a smooth transition when he stepped away from the NFL as a player and returned to his alma mater to coach. He was regularly praised for his ability to help make in-game adjustments to the scheme and his work this season in turning a unit that had to replace all four starters into a fearsome line that helped Ohio State lead the conference in sacks made it clear he could develop talent as well.

But Johnson is no slouch on the sideline. His leadership skills won him numerous endorsements from those around or affiliated with Penn State as a viable option to lead the entire program in the wake of both the Jerry Sandusky scandal and Bill O’Brien’s departure. And he’s also been able to maximize the talent at his disposal during his decorated career with the Nittany Lions, with the first-round draft picks to prove it.

Now he’s going to inherit a position group that is certainly the most loaded on the Ohio State roster and potentially one of the best in the nation with Noah Spence, Joey Bosa, Michael Bennett, Tommy Schutt, Jamal Marcus and Adolphus Washington all returning, just for starters. And that’s before Johnson gets a chance to get to work on what he does best as a recruiter, which should only help the already rich get wealthier up front.

Given how successful Vrabel had been in short order and how valuable he was for Ohio State, it might have been hard to envision that the Buckeyes could end up coming out even heading into Meyer’s third season, let alone maybe even being winners in the offseason sweepstakes.

But in case anybody needed a reminder, Meyer typically gets what he wants. And in flipping Johnson from Penn State, he also got the Buckeyes exactly what they needed.

Sources: Buckeyes hire Ash, Johnson

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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Ohio State once again has a full coaching staff, and its beleaguered defense has two fresh faces to get started on the overhaul on that side of the ball.

The Buckeyes reached a deal Tuesday with Arkansas defensive coordinator Chris Ash, sources told ESPN's Joe Schad, and have officially announced the hiring of Penn State defensive line coach Larry Johnson Sr.

In a release on Wednesday, Johnson said: "In just a few hours I can tell that Ohio State cares about football. There is a winning tradition that is important here. They care about academics and they care about players, and I like the way [head] coach Urban Meyer approaches things. He's a great teacher. He is very organized and this is what I was looking for."

Meyer praised Johnson in a statement "as a family man, as a coach and mentor of young men, and as a recruiter. He is an outstanding addition to our coaching staff."

Ash is expected to fill the co-defensive coordinator and secondary coach role vacated by Everett Withers when he took over as the coach at James Madison. Johnson will replace defensive line coach Mike Vrabel, who was hired by the Houston Texans.

"I've got no comment right now," Ash told ESPN.com. "Nothing is official."

Ohio State has not confirmed the Ash hire, which was first reported by SI.com.

The coaching vacancies were the Buckeyes' first since Urban Meyer finalized his first staff prior to the 2012 season.


(Read full post)


Last week, we took a look at five Big Ten offensive players to watch in 2014. Today, we turn to the defense.

We're limiting ourselves to five players on each side of the ball. We're looking for players who will take that next step into greatness, like Michigan State's Shilique Calhoun (who made this list a year ago). Players who earned first- or second-team All-Big Ten honors from either the coaches or the media were not eligible for this list. We're focusing instead on those who can make a big leap.

Away we go, in alphabetical order ...

[+] EnlargeVonn Bell
Streeter Lecka/Getty ImagesAfter a big first start in the Orange Bowl, things are looking bright for Ohio State's Vonn Bell (11).
Vonn Bell, S, Ohio State: We could have put Joey Bosa on this list, but that would have been too easy. Bell got his first start in the Discover Orange Bowl and showed off his playmaking ability with a spectacular interception of Clemson's Tajh Boyd near his own end zone. He probably should have played more as a true freshman but has a chance to really break out as a sophomore in a revamped Buckeyes secondary.

Desmond King, CB, Iowa: He played well this season as a rookie starter for the Hawkeyes and stood out in the Outback Bowl against LSU's pair of star receivers. In fact, the Tigers' Odell Beckham Jr. told the Des Moines Register that "I feel as if the sky is the limit for him."

Ifeadi Odenigbo, DE, Northwestern: He was one of the Wildcats' top-rated recruits ever when he signed in 2012, and Odenigbo made his first impact this year as a third-down pass-rushing specialist. He finished second on the team with 5.5 sacks. The redshirt sophomore should have more opportunities for playing time with Tyler Scott graduating, though Northwestern still has Dean Lowry and Deonte Gibson at defensive end.

Vincent Valentine, DT, Nebraska: The future is bright for the Huskers' young defense, and we strongly considered linebacker Michael Rose, safety Corey Cooper and others here. But there aren't a lot of 325-pound defensive tackles with major upside floating around, and that's what Valentine is. He showed flashes during his redshirt freshman campaign and could develop into a force on that defensive line for Bo Pelini.

Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State: Waynes is hardly an unknown. He started as a sophomore in the Spartans' No-Fly Zone secondary and was honorable mention All-Big Ten. He still has room to get even better, though, and with Darqueze Dennard moving on to the NFL, he'll become the leader of the cornerbacks group. Heck, the way Michigan State has produced defensive studs, we could have made this entire list out of Spartans, as guys like Lawrence Thomas, Joel Heath, Ed Davis and Riley Bullough all have major potential.

Big Ten lunchtime links

January, 14, 2014
Jan 14
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The first point on my New Year's resolutions was to stop making so many lists. … This isn't going well.
While Penn State searched for a coach in December 2011, Urban Meyer convinced several Penn State recruits to switch their pledges to Ohio State. Top defensive line prospects like Noah Spence and Tommy Schutt were among those who went from Blue and White to Scarlet and Gray.

[+] EnlargeUrban Meyer
Chris Trotman/Getty ImagesThe rivalry between Ohio State and Penn State could heat up if former PSU defensive line coach Larry Johnson joins Urban Meyer's staff.
Penn State hired a new coach on Saturday in James Franklin, but Meyer once again has used Penn State's situation to bolster Ohio State's defensive line.

Hours after longtime Penn State defensive line coach Larry Johnson announced he wouldn't remain in Happy Valley despite Franklin offering him an assistant position, Sports Illustrated's Pete Thamel and ESPN's Joe Schad reported that Johnson was nearing an agreement to join Meyer's staff at Ohio State. The Buckeyes must replace Mike Vrabel, who has taken a post with the Houston Texans under, yep, former Penn State coach Bill O'Brien.

The coaching business is a small world, isn't it?

Ohio State hasn't confirmed the move, but the addition of Johnson would add to the next phase of the PSU-OSU rivalry. Like Meyer, Franklin comes to the Big Ten from the SEC and brings a similar type of aggressive recruiting approach. When Franklin talked Saturday about dominating the state of Pennsylvania and the region in recruiting, folks in Columbus took notice.

Now Ohio State is poised to replace an exceptional recruiter in Vrabel with another exceptional recruiter in Johnson, who brought top talent to Penn State throughout his 18 years as an assistant there. Johnson coached high school ball in Maryland and has strong connections to the area, which becomes even more important to the Big Ten with the University of Maryland officially joining the league on July 1.

The recruiting competition between Johnson and Franklin, once Maryland's coach-in-waiting, for top recruits in and near the Beltway will be fierce. Recruits from other areas like Thomas Holley, an ESPN 300 defensive lineman who committed to Penn State in October, could now be in play for Ohio State.

Johnson could have remained in Happy Valley and has been nothing but positive toward Franklin despite being passed over for the job for the second time in two years. As he told ESPN.com's Josh Moyer on Monday night, "Getting promoted isn't the issue to me. At the end of the day, it's giving Coach Franklin the chance to move forward."

It's also time for Johnson to tackle a new challenge. Ohio State could be shaking up the defensive play-calling duties after the unit's struggles in 2013, and Johnson would be a good candidate to assist Luke Fickell or take over. He turned down a chance to become Illinois' defensive coordinator after the 2008 season, and also said no to an opportunity at Maryland after the 2011 campaign. Joining Ohio State would make less sense if it's strictly a lateral move as a line coach, but if Johnson can move up both in pay and in responsibilities, he's making the right decision. Franklin is expected to bring defensive coordinator Bob Shoop from Vanderbilt to Penn State.

Penn State certainly will miss Johnson, who had plenty of support from current and former players to become the next Lions coach. Ohio State, meanwhile, needed another strong recruiter after losing both Vrabel and Everett Withers from its defensive staff. It certainly would get one in Johnson.

The Ohio State-Penn State rivalry has been ratcheted up a notch, both on the field and especially on the recruiting trail.
video
The ESPN 300 has been updated and the Big Ten saw plenty of movement for its commits, both up and down the list. Here is a look at the five biggest movers within the ESPN 300.

Smith shoots up the rankings
Defensive back Erick Smith (Cleveland, Ohio/Glenville) recently committed to Ohio State to join teammates Marcelys Jones and Marshon Lattimore as future Buckeyes. Previously ranked No. 228 overall, Smith moved up 45 spots to 183 in the new rankings. He is a big safety who will add a lot to the Ohio State defense in the future. Smith was an Army All-American and had an outstanding week of practice. His rise in the rankings was earned on the field and should make Buckeyes fans happy he will be in Columbus next season.


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Big Ten's best of 2013

January, 14, 2014
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We're starting to wrap up the 2013 Big Ten season, which included the rise of Michigan State to elite status, more accolades for Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller, Iowa's mini-renaissance, Northwestern's backslide, Jerry Kill's health-related absence and Minnesota's impressive response, up-and-down seasons from Michigan and Nebraska and much more. The league's national title drought reached its 11th year, but Michigan State brought home a Rose Bowl championship to the frosty Midwest.

To put a bow on the season, here are some Big Ten superlatives:

[+] EnlargeMark Dantonio and Connor Cook
Harry How/Getty ImagesMark Dantonio made seemingly all of the right moves in 2013, including sticking with Connor Cook at QB.
Best coach: Mark Dantonio, Michigan State. Dantonio helped the Spartans find the inches that separated them in 2012, when they lost five Big Ten games by a total of 13 points. He made the right calls on offense after a shaky start, and the Spartans ended up winning their final nine games, including their first outright Big Ten title and first Rose Bowl championship in 26 years.

Best player, offense: Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller. No player dominates the scouting report for opposing defenses like the Buckeyes signal-caller, who complemented premier rushing skills with a more accurate arm, despite some late struggles. He won Big Ten MVP honors and league offensive player of the year honors for the second consecutive season, had 3,162 yards of offense and 36 touchdowns (24 pass, 12 rush). Miller led Ohio State to a second straight undefeated regular season and will be back as a senior in 2014.

Best player, defense: Michigan State cornerback Darqueze Dennard. The nation's No. 1 defense had several standouts, but Dennard tops the list after leading the "No Fly Zone" secondary and earning the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation's top defensive back. A first-team All-American, Dennard recorded four interceptions and 10 pass deflections, and repeatedly shut down opposing wide receivers. He was a finalist for the Nagurski Trophy.

Best moment: Many wondered how Michigan State would fare in the Rose Bowl without star middle linebacker and co-captain Max Bullough, suspended a week before the game. Turns out the Spartans were just fine as Kyler Elsworth and Darien Harris filled in well. Fittingly, MSU sealed its victory on a fourth-down stop of Stanford, where Elsworth leaped over the pile to stuff Ryan Hewitt. The play epitomized a team that overcame every obstacle and a defense that slammed the door on the opposition all year long. Elsworth was named Rose Bowl defensive player of the game.

Best rivalry game: Ohio State at Michigan. We haven't been able to say this very often about The Game in recent years, but the Wolverines and Buckeyes provided plenty of drama on Nov. 30 at the Big House. Neither defense had answers for the opposing offense and the teams combined for 83 points, 74 first downs and 1,129 total yards. Michigan went for the win with 32 seconds left, but its 2-point conversion attempt failed and Ohio State survived.

Best play: Nebraska's season hung in the balance Nov. 2 as the Huskers, coming off of a road loss to Minnesota, trailed Northwestern 24-21 with four seconds left at the Wildcats' 49-yard line. Huskers quarterback Ron Kellogg III, the team's third-stringer entering the season, evaded the rush and launched a Hail Mary to the end zone, which freshman wide receiver Jordan Westerkamp caught following a deflection for the winning touchdown. It saved Nebraska's season and possibly coach Bo Pelini's job.

Best coaching decision: Connor Cook didn't do much in a loss to Notre Dame to separate himself from the other Spartans quarterbacks. But after going to Andrew Maxwell for the final drive against the Irish, Dantonio and the staff decided to stick with Cook for the Big Ten season. It gave Cook the confidence he needed to lead MSU's offense to a Big Ten title.

[+] EnlargeJeremy Gallon
AP Photo/Lon HorwedelMichigan WR Jeremy Gallon had a game for the ages against Indiana.
Best individual performance: Michigan wide receiver Jeremy Gallon against Indiana. Sure, the Hoosiers' defense has been abysmal forever, but you just don't see too many wide receivers rack up 369 receiving yards, much less in a league game. Gallon set a Big Ten record for receiving yards and recorded the second-highest total for a receiver in FBS history. He had 14 receptions, two for touchdowns. Quarterback Devin Gardner had a team-record 503 passing yards. Ohio State's Miller had big performances against both Penn State and Iowa, Christian Hackenberg lit up Wisconsin's defense, and Cook recorded his first two career 300-yard passing performances in the Big Ten title game and Rose Bowl.

Best freshman: Penn State's Hackenberg. New Lions coach James Franklin inherits a future superstar under center, as Hackenberg backed up his recruiting hype in his first season. Hackenberg finished third in the Big Ten in passing (246.2 YPG) and threw 20 touchdown passes against 10 interceptions. He completed the season by connecting on 70 percent of his passes for 339 yards and four touchdowns against Wisconsin.

Best newcomer: Nebraska defensive end Randy Gregory. The junior-college transfer excited Nebraska fans when he came to Lincoln and left them even happier after his first season. Gregory led the Big Ten with 10.5 sacks and tied for second in tackles for loss with 17. He earned first-team All-Big Ten honors and triggered Nebraska's improvement on defense down the stretch.

Best new coaching hire: Illinois offensive coordinator Bill Cubit. The Illini improved their win total from two to four this season, but things would have been worse if not for Cubit, who helped Illinois improve from 119th in 2012 to 46th this year. Quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase was the Big Ten's only 3,000-yard passer. Cubit might have saved head coach Tim Beckman's job for another year, as the Illini now look for a similar jump on defense.

Big Ten Monday chat wrap

January, 13, 2014
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We started off this week with a great Big Ten chat. With spring football just around the corner (well, not really, but here's to hoping the next few weeks fly by) there were quite a few questions about what to expect in the upcoming months and the 2014 season.

If you missed it you can check out the full transcript.

Here are a few highlights ...

DP (Minnesota): What have you heard about Jeff Jones' recruitment? Do the Wolverines have a chance to flip him or will he stay here with my beloved Gophers?

Chantel Jennings: He had a huge showing at the Under Armour All America game which boosted his recruiting stock and bigger names have been contacting Jones. I think there's a chance the Gophers could lose him, but if he stays, it would be possibly the biggest commitment during the Kill era. A local talent like that can urge other local talents to stay in state. I'm not saying it would be some huge trend, but even a coup here or there could make the difference for the Gophers over the next few seasons.

Brian (Portland, Oregon): The B1G East is going to be brutal. Give us your early predictions for the top 3 next year?

Chantel Jennings: So true, Brian. I'd say MSU and OSU are definitely there and the third spot is a toss up between Penn State and Michigan. I might give the edge to the Wolverines here because they have a few more offensive weapons returning than the Nittany Lions (assuming that those weapons play up to their potential). But Franklin comes in with a lot of confidence in this group and Hackenberg is such a talented QB. The Oct. 11 match up between those two teams will definitely be one to watch.

Trey (Huntsville): What are some OOC matchups you're most looking forward to in 2014?

Chantel Jennings: Aug 30: PSU/UCF (in Ireland), NU vs. Cal, Michigan vs. App State, Wisconsin vs. LSU. Sept 6: MSU @ Oregon is one I'm definitely looking forward to. Sept 13 has Minnesota at TCU which will be an excellent road test. Sept 27 is Wisco vs. USF, another good one.

Bob (Dayton): Chances of Braxton Miller improving enough to be in the Heisman race?

Chantel Jennings: He made huge jumps from 2012 to 2013. His completion percentage went from 58 to 64. In 2012 he threw 15 touchdowns and six interceptions. In 2013 that improved to 24 TDs and seven interceptions. I don't see why he won't make major strides again in this off season. However, he'll have quite the competitor down in the state of Florida for that Heisman race.

Aaron (WI): Are the Badgers consistently overrated? I am a big WI fan but they always seem to be ranked in the top 15. Seems like they always just put up numbers against weaker B10 Teams but EVERY time they play a decent team way from Camp they lose.

Chantel Jennings: Road wins are hard for sure. And Wisconsin didn't exactly rock in that category this season (bowl against SC, @ Penn State, @ OSU) nor were the Badgers stellar in that category last season (Rose Bowl vs. Stanford, @ PSU, @ Nebraska, @ Oregon State). But for the most part, they're not getting completely run into the field in those games. They're competitive on the road which is a good sign. And I think next season, with a few major pieces returning, they'll have an experience factor that helps. And they'll have the opportunity to prove that. Look no further than the season opener.

Thanks for those who stopped by. Hope your new years are off to great starts.

Big Ten lunch links

January, 13, 2014
Jan 13
12:00
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Alright, alright, alright ...

The 10 most memorable BCS moments

January, 13, 2014
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With the door closed on the 16-year reign of the BCS, we dove into the 72 BCS bowl games to find the 10 most memorable moments of the BCS era.

10. Utah’s hook-and-ladder: The first team ever dubbed a “BCS Buster” was the Urban Meyer-coached and Alex Smith-led Utah Utes in 2004. In the 2005 Fiesta Bowl, Utah led Pittsburgh 28-7 late in the third quarter and lined up at the Panthers’ 18-yard line. Smith swung it left to Steven Savoy, who lateraled to Paris Warren, who ran it in for the score as the Utes completed a 12-0 season.

9. Peerless Price down the sideline: Tennessee led Florida State 14-9 with 9:29 remaining in the fourth quarter in the 1999 Fiesta Bowl with the first BCS Championship on the line. UT quarterback Tee Martin found Price down the right sideline, and Price took it the distance for a 79-yard score. Price had 199 receiving yards for the winning Vols, the most ever in the BCS title game.

8. Ginn’s costly return: Ohio State received the opening kickoff from Florida in the 2007 BCS Championship game, and Ted Ginn Jr. wasted no time in getting the game’s first score on a 93-yard return. What will always be remembered, however, is that Ginn suffered a foot injury on the ensuing celebration and was out for the rest of the Buckeyes’ 41-14 loss.

7. Warrick's juggling score: Though the championship of the 1999 season was marked by Virginia Tech freshman QB Michael Vick, it was Florida State’s Peter Warrick who was named the most outstanding player. He had a punt return for a touchdown in the second quarter, and his juggling catch on a 43-yard score midway through the fourth served as the dagger.

6. Vince Young, Part I: Facing Michigan in the 2005 Rose Bowl, Young was responsible for all five Texas touchdowns in a 38-37 win. Though he had runs of 60, 23 and 20 yards, the most impressive was a 10-yard run in which Young escaped the tackle of Michigan lineman Pat Massey before scampering to the right pylon.

5. Dyer isn’t down: Tied at 19 with Oregon with just more than two minutes remaining in the 2011 BCS Championship Game, Auburn running back Michael Dyer appeared to be tackled for a short gain at the Auburn 45-yard line. Having rolled over the defender, Dyer was never ruled down, and ended up gaining 37 yards on the play before he was taken down at the Oregon 23-yard line. Auburn would win on a field goal as time expired.

[+] EnlargeBoise
Steve Grayson/WireImageIan Johnson's two-point conversion run in overtime propelled Boise State over heavily-favored Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl.
4. Winston to Benjamin: Trailing Auburn 31-27 in the final BCS Championship Game, Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston drove the Noles 78 yards in less than a minute to the Auburn 2-yard line. Receiving the snap with 17 seconds left in a wild fourth quarter, Winston threw a perfect pass to Kelvin Benjamin, who brought it down for the game-winning score to complete an undefeated season.

3. Was it pass interference? Some will remember Maurice Clarett’s game-saving strip of Sean Taylor, but the lasting legacy of the game is the dubious pass interference call in overtime. Miami led 24-17 and Ohio State faced fourth-and-3 from the 5-yard line. Glenn Sharpe was called for pass interference, giving the Buckeyes new life in a game they would win 31-24.

2. Boise State’s trick plays: In the 2007 Fiesta Bowl, Boise State trailed heavily favored Oklahoma 35-28 with 18 seconds left and facing fourth-and-18 from the 50-yard line. Jared Zabransky completed a pass to Drisan James just short of the first down, but he lateraled it to Jerard Rabb, who took it the rest of the way for the tying touchdown. In overtime, down 42-35 on fourth down, wide receiver Vinny Perretta completed a 3-yard pass to Derek Schouman for a touchdown. Chris Petersen elected to go for two, and Zabransky faked a throw to his right before handing it behind his back to Ian Johnson on the Statue of Liberty play for the winning two-point conversion. Johnson would propose to his girlfriend, a Boise State cheerleader, on the sideline after the game.

1. Vince Young, Part II: After a Longhorns touchdown and key fourth-down stop, undefeated Texas trailed undefeated USC 38-33 with 26 seconds remaining and faced fourth-and-5 from the 9-yard line, with the 2005 BCS championship on the line. Vince Young dropped back to pass but saw nobody open, and immediately sprinted for the right pylon for the title-winning score in the marquee game of the BCS era.
Stron/SarkisianGetty ImagesCharlie Strong and Steve Sarkisian have two of the best head coaching jobs in college football.
On the morning of Jan. 6, I sat in the media tent outside the Rose Bowl. The small handful of us already there was glued to the TV, watching as the Texas Longhorns introduced Charlie Strong as their newest football coach. That’s when one of the tent’s official attendants, who identified himself as a USC graduate, asked a question that has come up often in the past few months, especially when the jobs at USC (September) and Texas (December) became open. "If you were a football coach and you had your choice of any job in the country," he asked, pointing to the Longhorns' news conference broadcast with a hand that sported a USC class ring, "which one would you take?"

Inspired, I took that question around all day long, to current coaches, former coaches, former players and some of the suits who help run the nation’s most powerful athletic conferences. What’s the best head coaching job in college football and why? These were the five that came up the most, ranked in order of most desirable.


1. Texas Longhorns

Of the 24 people I polled in Pasadena, every single one mentioned Texas among their top five and more than half ranked it No. 1. “As a head football coach, you want to be put in position where football is priority one,” former Oregon Ducks coach and current ESPN analyst Mike Belotti said Monday. “At Texas, the numbers are just so overwhelming, whether you’re talking about the fan base, the size of the school itself, the tradition of winning, the massive number of recruiting talent in the state and, of course, the money.”

Ah yes, the money. No one spends more or makes more than Texas.

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Scene and Heard: Top 10 Predictions
In a conversation with ESPN's Antonietta Collins, national recruiting reporter Gerry Hamilton breaks down the recruiting momentum building at Auburn and offers predictions for where the top 10 recruits will commit.Tags: Trenton Thompson, Kerryon Johnson, Jeffery Holland, Martez Ivey, Torrance Gibson, Cece Jefferson, ESPN 300, RecruitingNation, high school football recruiting, Gerry Hamilton
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