Inside The Office: A Look Back

December, 10, 2014
Dec 10

Spurrier officeFloto + Warner

Each week during the regular season, we gave you a guided tour inside the office of a different FBS head coach. The offices spanned from the modest to the majestic, but all of them held their own unique trophies, tributes, mementos and memorabilia.

Here's another look at all 15 in the order they were originally published.

South Carolina's Steve Spurrier

Not every head coach has his own Heisman Trophy stashed away, but the first thing that catches the eye in Spurrier's office is his brood of ornamental gamecocks. The Head Ball Coach isn't shy about giving out an ornithology lesson, either.

Michigan State's Mark Dantonio

Up in East Lansing, Dantonio unsurprisingly displays several items that serve as a nod to the warrior mentality and the Spartan spirit. Keep your eyes out for the one blue thing in his office.

UCLA's Jim Mora

The Bruins' head coach reminds recruits of his experience coaching at the professional level, and Yoda also makes a prominent cameo as Mora's spiritual mentor, in a way.

(Read full post)

Big Ten morning links

December, 10, 2014
Dec 10
It's been three days since the end of the college football regular season. Only 267 days before it gets started again.

1. The Big Ten announced plans for a conference-wide concussion protocol starting in the 2015 season. The league will have an independent trainer in the press box of every game to monitor for players that show concussion symptoms. The plan is similar to what Michigan instituted in October when quarterback Shane Morris returned to a game with a mild concussion. The Big Ten's new protocol will include disciplinary actions for team's that don't properly report concussions. Having independent concussion monitors on-hand helps trainers on hectic sidelines and it wouldn't be a surprise if other conferences around the country soon followed suit.

2. Ohio State offensive coordinator Tom Herman won the Broyles Award Tuesday, given to the nation's top assistant each year. Herman, the architect of the Buckeyes' No. 4-ranked scoring offense, earned the award this season while twice replacing Heisman contenders at quarterback with barely a hiccup in production. Herman is an engaging personality who will likely be a coveted head coaching candidate in the near future. Herman, 39, is young and so is his offense. Ohio State will return almost all of its firepower next season and will likely be considered one of the best, if not the best, offenses in the country to start the year. Herman will have the luxury of being picky, but with the promising future ahead he probably isn't in any rush to get out of Columbus.

3. In other coaching news, the rumor mill continues to churn in Ann Arbor. The top choice for most Wolverines' fans is current San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh, but former Michigan great Charles Woodson said he's not very optimistic that Harbaugh will take the job. Meanwhile, erstwhile coach Brady Hoke made his final official Michigan appearance Monday night at the team's awards banquet. Hoke's players thanked him for showing up when he easily could have skipped the event. It served as a fitting end for a coach who always put his love for his players first, even when it put him in a bad spot.

Now, on to the links...

East Division
West Division

COLUMBUS, Oh. -- When 24 former Heisman Trophy winners gather in New York this weekend to welcome the newest member into college football's most exclusive fraternity, former Ohio State running back Archie Griffin will be two of them.

Forty years ago last week, Griffin, a Buckeye junior, won the 1974 Heisman. And 40 years ago next December, Griffin won a second. He remains the only player in the history of the game to win its most prestigious individual award twice.

Were that the only characteristic that set apart Griffin from the other Heismen, it would be enough. The difficulty of winning a second Heisman has amplified beyond merely being the best player in college football in consecutive seasons.

The NFL beckons players three years out of high school. A demanding voting body compares the defending Heisman winner not only to every other college football player that season, but to his winning performance a year earlier.

But that's not the reason that the Heisman fraternity has a special place in its membership for Griffin. As far as the other winners are concerned, the next two-time winner will have to not only better his own performance on the field, but match Griffin off it.

"Archie is the godfather of the group," said Andre Ware, the 1989 Heisman winner and an ESPN college football analyst. "He is the standard."

"He's one of the humblest Heisman Trophy winners I've ever been around," said George Rogers, the 1980 winner. "He doesn't say very much, but when he does, everybody listens."

"Archie always handles himself well," said Gino Torretta, the 1992 Heisman recipient. "There's a ton of respect for him."

In an era when the past two Heisman winners have been guilty of boorish, immature behavior off the field, their older brethren are concerned about them tracking mud into the Heisman House.

(Read full post)


A battle between two coaching titans has Trevor Matich looking forward to the Alabama-Ohio State contest.
The list of offensive coordinators and quarterback coaches who can thrive with their first-choice at the most important position on the field is long. There are probably other assistants who can successfully integrate a backup and keep the attack rolling along.

But on the field at Lucas Oil Stadium on Saturday night in the Big Ten championship game, Tom Herman put the capper on a résumé for the Broyles Award as the nation's top assistant coach that simply couldn’t be denied by unleashing a third-stringer on one of the best defenses in the nation, and the 59-0 destruction led by Cardale Jones basically made it impossible to deny Ohio State’s third-year offensive coordinator when the trophy was presented on Tuesday.

[+] EnlargeHerman
Jason Mowry/Icon SMITom Herman has helped five quarterbacks win games for Ohio State in the past two seasons.
“Tom Herman is an excellent coach,” Urban Meyer said after the game last weekend. “His unit the first year was very average. I talk about we got a Player of the Year in the Big Ten [in Braxton Miller], but as a unit they weren't very strong.

“Now it's one of the strongest units on the team. He's done a marvelous job.”

If Herman had worked with Miller only, maybe it would be a different story. But clearly everybody in Ohio State’s quarterbacks room is getting hands-on attention and a quality football education, because three other players have successfully stepped in when needed to lead the spread attack thanks to injuries over the last two seasons.

First it was Kenny Guiton coming off the bench, winning games and setting a few Ohio State records along the way.

Then it was J.T. Barrett, who tagged in on short notice after Miller suffered a season-ending shoulder injury about 10 days before the start of the season and would go on to set the Big Ten record with 45 total touchdowns while keeping Ohio State on track for the College Football Playoff.

And after losing Barrett to a broken ankle in the regular-season finale against Michigan, the Buckeyes simply moved on to the next guy once again and watched as Jones established a new conference record of his own after posting an eye-popping 255.8 quarterback rating while carving up Wisconsin to clinch the Big Ten title.

Maybe Herman isn’t the only assistant in the country who could have molded all of those guys into players capable of keeping a high-octane machine humming along. But this season Herman left no doubt that he could do it, and he certainly deserved to be honored for it.

All that’s really left for Herman now that he has proven himself as the country’s top assistant is to try his hand running his own program. Odds are that opportunity is going to be coming sooner than later, and his résumé has a fresh new entry listed under his accomplishments.

Trevor Matich and Andre Ware preview the Sugar Bowl and look at what will be the biggest keys for Alabama and Ohio State.
Here's a look at the news and notes surrounding each Big Ten team and its respective bowl:

Ohio State (Allstate Sugar Bowl): Urban Meyer and Nick Saban met three times between 2008 and 2010, with the Tide winning the last two meetings. Meyer’s Florida Gators won, 31-20, in the first meeting. … According to the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook, Ohio State would be favored over Florida State -- but it would be an underdog against Alabama, Oregon, TCU, Baylor, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Auburn and Oklahoma. … Meyer is one of eight finalists for the Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Award and one of three finalists for the Maxwell Coach of the Year. … Alabama teams that have been ranked in the top 2 of the AP poll are 5-1 in bowl games in New Orleans and boast six national championships. … Ohio State slightly trailed both Baylor and TCU in game control (No. 8) and strength of W-L (No. 6) but had the advantage in strength of schedule (No. 45). Baylor was No. 59 in that category, while TCU was No. 53.

Michigan State (Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic): The Spartans extended a school record this season with their eighth straight bowl appearance. That is the second-longest streak in the Big Ten and the 13th longest in the country. … Michigan State has won its past three bowl games -- against Georgia, TCU and Stanford -- which is also a school record. It’s also the longest active bowl winning streak in the conference. … Michigan State has made 25 bowls in its history, but it’s never been to the Cotton Bowl, which dates back to 1937. … According to the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook, Michigan State would’ve been favored over Florida State if it had made the playoff.

Minnesota (Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl): The Gophers last played a January bowl game in 1962, when it beat UCLA, 21-3, in the Rose Bowl. … This is Minnesota’s 17th bowl appearance, but it will be just the second time it plays in Florida. … Jerry Kill became just the second coach to guide Minnesota to three straight bowl games. (Glen Mason was the other.) … conducted a September poll by asking coaches: Who would you want your son to play for? Kill tied Stanford’s David Shaw for third with 7 percent of the vote.

Wisconsin (Outback Bowl): Wisconsin has now made 13 straight bowl games -- the seventh-longest streak in the country -- with the past five taking place in January. … The Badgers have played in the Outback Bowl four other times. They’ve lost the past three (to Georgia twice and to Tennessee). … If Melvin Gordon scores one more TD, he would join Barry Sanders and Kevin Smith as the only players with 2,000 yards and 30 TDs in a single season. … Gordon needs just seven rushing yards to surpass USC’s Marcus Allen (2,342 yards) and move into third on the single-season rushing list.

Nebraska (National University Holiday Bowl): This is the Huskers' 51st bowl appearance, the third most in the nation, and their seventh straight appearance. … Mike Riley was named the new head coach Dec. 4 but will not coach in the game. Interim coach Barney Cotton will. … USC and Nebraska have met four other times, including a 2006 and 2007 home-and-home series, and the Trojans hold a 3-0-1 advantage.

Iowa (TaxSlayer Bowl): Since 2001, no Big Ten team has won more bowl games or has a higher bowl winning percentage than Iowa. The Hawkeyes are 6-5 during that time. … Under Kirk Ferentz, Iowa is 4-2 against current SEC teams in bowl games. … Iowa last played in the TaxSlayer Bowl in 1983 (then known as the Gator Bowl), when it lost to Florida by a score of 14-6.

Maryland (Foster Farms Bowl): This will be the first meeting between Maryland and Stanford. … The Terrapins are the biggest underdog in the conference this postseason, as Stanford is a two-touchdown favorite. … Maryland is 11-12-2 all time in bowls but has won five of its past seven. … Maryland last appeared in San Francisco to face Oregon State in the Emerald Bowl in 2007. It lost 21-14.

Penn State (New Era Pinstripe Bowl): This is the first time the Nittany Lions will be playing in the new Yankee Stadium, but they played three times previously in the old stadium. Of course, that last trip was quite a while ago -- Penn State last played there in 1929 when it lost to NYU, 7-0. … This is Penn State’s 45th bowl game, tied for ninth most in the nation. … The Lions’ defense is one of just two that ranked in the top 10 this season in all of the following categories: rushing defense (No. 1), total defense (No. 2), scoring defense (No. 8), pass efficiency defense (No. 2) and defensive third-down conversion percentage (No. 6).

Rutgers (Quick Lane Bowl): This is the ninth bowl appearance in 10 seasons for Rutgers. Prior to the 2005 season, the Knights had played in just one bowl (1978) in school history. … Kyle Flood is the first coach in school history to lead Rutgers to a bowl in his first three seasons. … The Quick Lane is one of five new bowl games in this year’s lineup. … Player gifts for the bowl include a Fathead made in each participant’s likeness; the winner also gets a $25,000 locker room makeover.

Illinois (Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl): This is Illinois’ first bowl appearance since 2011 and the 18th in program history. Illinois’ bowl record is 8-9 overall. … The Illini are one of just two Big Ten teams with a bowl winning streak – the other is Michigan State – as Illinois won the 2010 Texas Bowl (over Baylor) and the 2011 Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl (over UCLA). … Tim Beckman’s squad has posted five comebacks on the year, and four wins came after trailing in the fourth quarter.

Tom Herman wins Broyles Award

December, 9, 2014
Dec 9
[+] EnlargeHerman
Jason Mowry/Icon SMIOhio State offensive coordinator Tom Herman won the Broyles Award as the nation's top assistant coach.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- Ohio State offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Tom Herman was named the winner of the Broyles Award on Tuesday, after the Buckeyes made the College Football Playoff despite losing two starting quarterbacks to season-ending injuries.

The Buckeyes went 12-1 this season, averaged more than 45 points per game and beat Wisconsin 59-0 in the Big Ten championship game despite using their third starter of the year.

"It's the hand we were dealt and we played it," Herman said.

Other finalists included offensive coordinators Lane Kiffin at Alabama, Scott Frost for Oregon and Doug Meacham at TCU and Missouri defensive coordinator Dave Steckel.

Ohio State plays Alabama in the Sugar Bowl in a national semifinal Jan. 1. Oregon will play Florida State in the Rose Bowl in the other semifinal, and the national championship is Jan. 12 in Arlington, Texas.

Cardale Jones, Ohio State's third QB, completed 12 of 17 passes for 257 yards in the Big Ten title game.

"We told him, 'Don't go out there and lose the game,'" Herman said.

Jones was playing because J.T. Barrett

(Read full post)

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- A year ago, Ohio State's emphasis on stuffing the run came at the expense of a horrific pass defense.

As recently as a couple weeks ago, the mandate to shore up the secondary seemed to be damaging what used to be the Buckeyes' strength up front stopping the run.

Finally, after nearly three full seasons under Urban Meyer, the No. 4 Buckeyes found the balance their coach had been looking for, just in time for a four-team College Football Playoff that could throw everything from smash-mouth football to a high-flying spread offense at his team as it contends for a national championship. And on the heels of what was effectively a perfect game on the defensive side of the ball in the Big Ten championship, it appears the Buckeyes are finally ready for anything -- and more than capable of shutting it down.

[+] EnlargeMichael Bennett
AP Photo/Darron CummingsOhio State's defense bottled up Melvin Gordon in the Big Ten title game, finally showing the balance desired by Urban Meyer just in time for the College Football Playoff.
“[Saturday] helped, because I had my reservations during the year, like everybody did, about stopping the run,” Meyer said. “Because we really installed a backward approach, a back-end-first approach to pass defense. Work the back end first and then move forward. We’ve always been a front-end first and then coverage-wise, we’ve added a lot of coverage principles.

“After last week’s performance, I feel like we’re still a little too young to say we’re a finished product. We’re not a finished product, there are too many young players out there. The future is very bright, though.”

The present isn’t too shabby for the Buckeyes, either. And suddenly it’s not just their offense and a seemingly endless supply of quarterbacks that could give a team like No. 1 Alabama some problems in the semifinal at the Allstate Sugar Bowl.

The Buckeyes were anemic in the secondary as Ohio State unraveled late in the season a year ago, but the more aggressive approach to pass coverage installed by co-defensive coordinator Chris Ash has cut down the yardage allowed dramatically while also generating more interceptions than any other unit in the Big Ten.

Gashed for three consecutive weeks in November by some of the top rushers in the league, the Buckeyes bottled up the best in the nation against Wisconsin in the conference title game, holding Heisman Trophy finalist Melvin Gordon to just 76 yards on 26 carries.

The combination of those improvements produced utter dominance for the Buckeyes on the field in a 59-0 shutout victory. And off the field, it’s taken the self-belief of a defense that has been under intense scrutiny for the last two seasons to another level as it prepares for a stiff challenge from a versatile Alabama offense -- with another chance to show off its improvement waiting with a victory.

“The confidence is very high, and you can’t play this game without confidence,” Ohio State senior linebacker Curtis Grant said. “Just to go out and make a statement like that, it gives you more confidence and it makes you more hungry to come out and just keep getting better. If you can do that one week, why not keep continuing that?

“I can’t even explain it. I watched the first half of the game and I was shocked. Just to see how hard that we were playing, everybody looks super fast on film and we were just getting to the ball. It was just crazy. I can’t really put it into words.”

Meyer had found and used plenty of colorful words to describe the defense before this past weekend, and he reflected again hours after the game on how “abysmal” the pass coverage was heading into the postseason at this time a year ago.

But after a long wait, and nearly three years of work, he subtly slipped in a nickname that has come to define the traditionally stout defenses Ohio State has long been known for. After Saturday night’s performance it was impossible to argue it hadn’t been earned.

“Best effort we had since we've been here,” Meyer said. “There's always been games where the defensive line played well, maybe the back end was giving up some plays.

"This was a complete, thorough effort by our defense.

“Everybody was waiting for the Silver Bullets to come back, including the head coach.”

They appear to be back, all right, and the timing couldn’t be any better for the Buckeyes.

What if the playoff had eight spots?

December, 9, 2014
Dec 9

The champions of the SEC, Pac-12, ACC and Big Ten have been selected for the inaugural College Football Playoff. The co-champions of the Big 12 were the first teams left out of the mix, and calls for an expanded playoff format have ramped up as a result.

No matter the playoff format, there will always be deserving teams on the outside looking in. But an eight-team playoff could accommodate automatic bids for each of the Power 5 conference champions and would likely include every major conference team with one loss or fewer. This year may have been ideally suited for an eight-team playoff since exactly eight Power 5 teams ended the year with two or fewer losses.

How might a hypothetical eight-team playoff play out this postseason? We ran playoff projections on the assumption that the eight playoff seeds would match the College Football Playoff committee's final top-eight ranking and that the quarterfinal round would feature home games for the top seeds. In other words, No. 1 Alabama would host No. 8 Michigan State in the quarterfinals, and the winner would advance to the neutral-site semifinals. Individual game projections for each of the possible playoff matchups were calculated based on ESPN's opponent-adjusted drive efficiency ratings.

No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide

Likelihood to win four-team playoff: 35 percent
Likelihood to win eight-team playoff: 28 percent

Alabama is not the favorite to win the inaugural College Football Playoff, according to our data, but it would be the overall favorite to win in an eight-team format because our rating gives the Tide an 87 percent chance to beat their hypothetical quarterfinal opponent, Michigan State, in Tuscaloosa.

Picturing an eight-team playoff

December, 9, 2014
Dec 9

It took only about 100 years for major college football to get its first postseason playoff.

Now that the inaugural College Football Playoff is finally here, it already doesn't seem to be big enough. And we haven't even played a game yet.

Who didn't see that coming?

On Sunday, the College Football Playoff selection committee announced that No. 1 Alabama, No. 2 Oregon, No. 3 Florida State and No. 4 Ohio State would play in two semifinal games, with the winners meeting in the Jan. 12 College Football Playoff National Championship Presented by AT&T in Arlington, Texas.

No. 5 Baylor and No. 6 TCU, which each finished 11-1 and shared the Big 12 regular-season title, were left out of the playoffs. The Bears and Horned Frogs weren't happy about being excluded, and they have every right to be angry. Both had a strong argument for making the playoffs.

When the playoff format was announced two years ago, we knew at least one of the Power 5 conferences wasn't going to be happy. There are only four playoff spots for five major leagues: the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC.

This year, it was the Big 12's turn to be left out, and next year it might be the ACC (when Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston is gone) or the Pac-12 (when Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota is gone). If Notre Dame is ever good again, or if a team from a Group of 5 conference makes a strong case for being included, more than one Power 5 conference might be excluded in future seasons. It might also happen if there are two really good teams from one Power 5 league.

Sure, it's an imperfect system, but it's better than what we had during the BCS era, when only two teams were selected to play in a national championship game. Can you imagine if Oregon or Florida State were left out this season?

(Read full post)

Whether it's the extra practice or the extra exposure, it's always a positive for a team to get a bowl bid. The Big Ten has 10 teams playing in bowl games this season, and beyond the obvious, there are some recruiting implications for a few of the teams within the conference.

Here is a look at what teams might benefit from the bowl game they will play in and why they could see a positive impact on the recruiting trail.

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Nike unveils CFP teams' uniforms

December, 9, 2014
Dec 9

Nike unveiled the uniforms for all four College Football Playoff teams Tuesday morning.

Each of the uniforms for Alabama, Oregon, Florida State and Ohio State features a diamond-colored swoosh on the front, which Nike says symbolizes the teams' goal: a diamond championship ring.

As the home team, Oregon will wear green-based uniforms with a green stain finished helmet. As the away team, the Ducks will wear white and gray uniforms and white helmets. The uniform pants have the words "Fighting Ducks" down the side.

Alabama and Florida State will wear their traditional crimson-and-white and garnet-and-gold home uniforms, respectively. Ohio State's home scarlet jersey features black numbers on the shoulders.

Each pair of knit cleats that will be used by all four teams were made using recycled material equal to five plastic bottles, the company said.

It's not a surprise that Nike sponsors all four title contenders; a Nike-sponsored team won 14 of the 16 BCS titles.

Of the teams in contention, Nike's Florida State deal this year is worth the most at $4.4 million in cash and gear, followed by Ohio State ($4.2 million), Alabama ($3.6 million) and Oregon ($3 million).

No. 1 Alabama will face No. 4 Ohio State in the Allstate Sugar Bowl, and No. 2 Oregon will take on No. 3 Florida State in the Rose Bowl presented by Northwestern Mutual. Both games will be played on New Year's Day.

(Read full post)

Weekend recruiting wrap: Big Ten 

December, 9, 2014
Dec 9
The regular season might be over, but there is still plenty of recruiting to be done. Here is a look at the biggest recruiting news from the past week and a look ahead within the Big Ten.

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Saban vs. Meyer
Trevor Matich discusses the coaching matchup in the Allstate Sugar Bowl between Alabama's Nick Saban and Ohio State's Urban Meyer.


Saturday, 12/20
Monday, 12/22
Tuesday, 12/23
Wednesday, 12/24
Friday, 12/26
Saturday, 12/27
Monday, 12/29
Tuesday, 12/30
Wednesday, 12/31
Thursday, 1/1
Friday, 1/2
Saturday, 1/3
Sunday, 1/4
Monday, 1/12