There are not many coaches in America who jab the way Steve Spurrier and Dabo Swinney do.

[+] EnlargeDabo Swinney, Steve Spurrier
AP Photo/Richard ShiroDabo Swinney and Steve Spurrier will put their verbal sparring sessions aside as their teams do the talking on the field this week.
Nothing might epitomize that more than this Vine a South Carolina fan created. But while Spurrier has had the last laugh over Swinney and Clemson the past five years, there is one week when he keeps his darts squarely inside his pocket. That would be this week -- in the days leading up to the actual game. Both coaches have too much respect for the rivalry to let their own war of words get in the way.

Talkin' is for talkin' season, as Spurrier would say.

Now, that doesn't mean they fire shots at each other exclusively in the offseason. But if you look at the best barbs they have traded, none of them were spoken during game week. With the rivals meeting again Saturday, we thought it would be worth taking a look at the best trash talk between them.

1. October 2012: Spurrier says: "Most of our guys have never been to Death Valley. "That is the Death Valley, isn't it? Or is there another one around?"

Swinney responds: "I can see where he might have a little confusion. Our guys have never been to USC. California's a long way from here. … Got two Death Valleys and two USCs, but there's only one real one."

2. July 2014: At ACC Kickoff, Swinney is asked about his relationship with Spurrier. Swinney says: "He's from Pluto, and I'm from Mars."

Spurrier responds: "Dabo probably thinks there's only, what, nine planets out there? I think I read where Pluto may not be considered one now."

3. January 2014: After beating Wisconsin 34-24 in the Capital One Bowl, Spurrier said: "Hey, these two Capital One Bowls in a row are pretty nice, but that state championship ain't bad, either."

After beating Ohio State a few days later in the Discover Orange Bowl, Swinney responds: "We're the first team from South Carolina to ever win a BCS bowl."

Spurrier needed the last word on this one. In an interview with ESPN.com's Chris Low, Spurrier responds back: "I called [former Clemson coach] Danny Ford and said, 'Danny, does Dabo forget that Clemson in 1981 went down to the Orange Bowl, won the national championship and went undefeated?' They didn't call it a BCS bowl back then, but it was the same bowl, the Orange Bowl, and the Orange Bowl has always been a major bowl."

4. November 2011: South Carolina play-by-play announcer Todd Ellis is quoted after South Carolina's 34-13 win over Clemson: "As Coach Spurrier says, we might not be LSU or Alabama, but we ain't Clemson, folks."

Told the remarks came from Spurrier, Swinney responds with lengthy commentary in a long rant before closing: "He is exactly right –- they ain't Alabama, they ain't LSU and they certainly are not Clemson. That is why [North] Carolina is in Chapel Hill, USC is in California and the university in this state always has been and always will be Clemson. It's right here in Clemson, South Carolina. You can print that. Tweet that."

Spurrier could not let this one go. In August 2013, he tells reporters: "At this time last year Dabo's favorite USC, Southern Cal, was preseason No. 1 in the country," Spurrier said. "I call them Dabo's favorite USC. But anyway, we are playing Dabo's favorite Carolina, too. He loves North Carolina and Southern Cal for some reason. I don't know."

Just a few weeks ago, Spurrier roiled Clemson fans when he asked for the score in the Tigers' game against Georgia Tech in his postgame interview following a win over Florida. "I guess the upstate team got beat today. Is that correct?" he asked reporters. When told the score and that quarterback Deshaun Watson got hurt again, Spurrier said, "Well, that game, looks like we're in better shape than we were two weeks ago, right?"

After his comments caused an uproar, Spurrier said he would try not to say anything to upset Clemson fans "at least the next two weeks." Time is about to run out.

That's what talkin' season is for, anyway.
In the 100 days leading up to signing day 2015, RecruitingNation will be looking back at our ESPN recruiting rankings from 2006 to the present and counting down the best player of the past 10 years at each ranking position, No. 100 to No. 1.

Michael Morgan, No. 70 in 2006 class

Morgan came out of talent rich Skyline High in Dallas, Texas as one of the nation's most heavily sought linebacker prospects. Some figured he could end up at UCLA where his brother Steve Morgan played, but Morgan’s recruitment came down to USC, Florida State and Texas A&M, with the Trojans winning out in large part because of the strong relationship developed between Morgan and then USC linebackers coach Ken Norton, who currently coaches Morgan with the Seattle Seahawks.

Morgan’s career at USC was one built on patience and physical development. After redshirting as a freshman in 2006, Morgan was a reserve linebacker and special teams player for the Trojans in 2007, appearing in 12 games with nine tackles.

Morgan was again a backup outside linebacker in 2008, playing 12 games with one start vs. Oregon. He tallied 22 tackles and five tackles-for-loss in what were the first true glimpses of the player he would become.

The 2009 season was Morgan’s first as a full-time starter. In nine starts and 13 games played, Morgan posted 50 tackles, 13 tackles-for-loss and four sacks.

Morgan capped his career in Los Angeles in 2010 playing in 13 games, recording 57 tackles and three tackles-for-loss as a near 220-pounder after leaving Skyline High just shy of 190-pounds.

Morgan went undrafted in the 2011 NFL draft. He signed a free agent contract with the Seattle Seahawks, where he is in his fourth season playing for Pete Carroll, the same coach that recruited him to USC.

Honorable mention: Jalen Hurd, No. 70 in class of 2014. Hurd battled shoulder injuries in high school, but managed to set the single-season record in the state of Tennessee as a junior before missing his entire senior season following shoulder surgery. He picked Tennessee over Florida and Ohio State in a recruitment that was never close after the hiring of Butch Jones in Knoxville. Hurd has been an impact player for the Vols in 2014 with more than 700 yards rushing, as well as over 900 all-purpose yards. He posted 100 yards or more rushing in wins against Georgia, South Carolina and Kentucky.
The Florida-Florida State rivalry has been one built on runs. Only three times since 1968 have the teams alternated wins over a three-year period.

Seminoles coach Jimbo Fisher ended a six-game skid to Florida in his first season as head coach in Tallahassee, and now he has Florida State on the verge of its fourth win in five seasons against the Gators. In all three FSU wins under Fisher, the Gators have been held to seven points.

Adding to the rivalry this season has been quarterback Jameis Winston, who has goaded Gators fans seeking his autograph by signing his name and last year’s score, 37-7, on the Florida memorabilia.

However, Florida has the distinction of being the last team to hand FSU a loss, although it came all the way in 2012, 27 games ago.

ESPN reporters Edward Aschoff and Jared Shanker break down the classic ACC-SEC rivalry:

[+] EnlargeWinston
Kim Klement/USA TODAY SportsThe Gators know they can't allow Jameis Winston to be comfortable in the pocket.
Key to victory for Florida: If the Gators are going to win this game, they have to run the ball well. That’s how they upset Georgia, and that’s the only way Florida will leave Tallahassee with a win over the Seminoles. Florida averaged 201 rushing yards in conference games and piled up 418 on Georgia to open the month. FSU has allowed 416 rushing yards in the last two games, which means the Gators will have to heavily rely on running backs Matt Jones and Kelvin Taylor, who have the one-two-punch ability to frustrate a defense that has been far from elite this season.

Key to victory for Florida State: Jimbo Fisher said he will dial up the film of Florida’s win over Georgia because the Bulldogs employ former FSU assistant Jeremy Pruitt as defensive coordinator, and the Noles still run a similar scheme. Florida State has struggled to stop the rush all season, and Florida ran all over Georgia. What Florida State has to do, as it has all season, is stop the run in pivotal situations. Florida State is significantly better against the run in the second half, and if the Noles can keep Florida’s offense off the field in the second half, it will give Winston the requisite time needed for a comeback if it once again comes to that.

X-factor for Florida: While running the ball will be key for the Gators, you have to take Winston out of the game. Winston is very good against the rush, but you have to force him into bad situations if you want to beat him. Putting pressure on him will be key for Florida’s defense, and that’s where end/linebacker Dante Fowler Jr. comes in. The future first-round draft pick has been one of the SEC’s most disruptive players this season (credited with 15 quarterback hurries), and if he can force Winston to rush his throws it will be a major advantage for Florida’s defense.

X-factor for Florida State: There’s no point in ignoring the obvious. Anytime Winston suits up for Florida State, he is the Seminoles’ X-factor. He is the reigning Heisman Trophy winner and college football’s premier prime-time player. No deficit to this point has been too large for Winston, who continually rises to the occasion in the game’s tensest moments. He leads the country with four game-winning drives in the fourth quarter and has a QB rating of 194.26 when trailing by 15 or more points. For Florida to win, it will have to keep Winston out of the end zone for more than just the first half.

Aschoff’s favorite moment from the rivalry: Watching Warrick Dunn in this rivalry was fun, and so was having the game decide the national championship after the 1996 season. But two memories really stick out to me because I was actually there for them: Ron Zook getting carried off the field in 2004 (didn’t they rename the field “Ron Zook Field” after that?) and the 2008 Florida team’s impressive rain-soaked win in Tallahassee. The one thing about the 2008 game that really sticks out is how Tim Tebow, covered in garnet paint, taunted FSU’s student section after a touchdown because Seminoles fans cheered when Percy Harvin went down with an ankle injury. To this day, that 2008 Florida team is the best team I’ve ever covered.

Shanker’s favorite moment from the rivalry: No doubt those games were memorable ones and that 2008 image of Tebow will live on this rivalry’s lore for quite some time. However, I’m going with the 1994 “Choke at Doak.” I’ve watched it a handful of times over the last few years with the 20-year anniversary being this week, and it’s crazy how so many little plays added up to help FSU overcome a 31-3 deficit to tie it in the final minutes. That ’94 comeback makes this 2014 season look tame by comparison. This season’s renewal could go down in history, too, if Muschamp leaves like Zook did. I don’t know if Nole Nation would be able to take that a second time.

Big 12 viewer's guide: Week 14

November, 28, 2014
Nov 28
10:00
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Baylor and Kansas State each face one final hurdle before a head-to-head matchup at McLane Stadium on the final Saturday of the season that could garner plenty of headlines. Meanwhile, West Virginia and Iowa State look to snap significant losing streaks.

Here are the storylines to watch in the Big 12 during Week 14:

West Virginia at Iowa State, noon ET (Fox Sports 1): Neither team brings much momentum into this game with the Cyclones on a four-game losing streak and the Mountaineers on a three-game slide. Those downward trends won't sit well with Dana Holgorsen or Paul Rhoads. ISU watched its first Big 12 win slip out of its hands against Texas Tech a week ago, so the Cyclones could be entering this game with more momentum than previous weeks. Intrigue will join WVU on the plane to Ames, Iowa, with Skyler Howard's performance against Kansas State putting a spotlight on the quarterback spot for Holgorsen’s squad. Even if starter Clint Trickett is healthy, Holgorsen might not hesitate to turn to Howard if Trickett struggles.

No. 7 Baylor versus Texas Tech in Arlington, Texas, 3:30 pm ET (ABC): The Bears can't seem to get the traction they need to rise in the College Football Playoff rankings. But BU needs to win, and win impressively, if it hopes to keep its name in the conversation for another week. The Bears have minimal room for error. Tech enters the game after its first win since mid-October against ISU a week ago. The Red Raiders would love to play spoiler for the Bears while creating a little momentum heading into the offseason if they're able to finish the regular season with a two-game win streak which includes a win over the nation's No. 7 team.

Kansas versus No. 12 Kansas State, 4 p.m. ET (Fox Sports 1): The final home game for all-purpose threat Tyler Lockett could inspire the senior to do something special at Bill Snyder Family Stadium. The Wildcats have plenty to play for with a Big 12 title still within reach. Meanwhile, KU interim coach Clint Bowen could strengthen his résumé even further with a win over the in-state rival Wildcats. And the Jayhawks' sloppy showing at Oklahoma should give KU plenty of motivation to show they're better than they played against the Sooners a week ago.

ACC viewer's guide: Week 14

November, 28, 2014
Nov 28
10:00
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It seems like just yesterday we were kicking off the ACC season, but here we are at the finish line. Week 14 may be the end of the regular season, but there’s still plenty of intrigue -- from crucial rivalry showdowns to three teams playing for bowl eligibility. Here’s what to watch for.

Friday, 8 p.m.

Virginia at Virginia Tech, ESPN, #UVAvsVT

Few rivalries in the country have been as lopsided as this one, with the Hokies winning 10 in a row and 14 of the last 15. But this year’s matchup feels entirely different. UVa is coming off an emphatic win over Miami, a win that helped save Mike London's job. Virginia Tech, meanwhile, is coming off one of its most embarrassing losses in history, a 6-3 defeat to Wake Forest. Changes on the Hokies’ staff appear all but certain at this point. To add to the intrigue, both teams are playing for bowl eligibility, with the winner getting that crucial sixth win and the loser on to what promises to be a tumultuous offseason.

Saturday, noon

Georgia Tech at Georgia, SEC Network, #GTvsUGA

The Yellow Jackets toppled Georgia in Athens in 2008 in Paul Johnson’s first season as coach, and it appeared that perhaps the power structure in the state was beginning to change, but in the five years since, it’s been all UGA. In last year’s game, Tech led 20-0 in the second quarter only to lose 41-34 in double overtime. This year, the Jackets’ players are hoping to finally get some revenge, and with Tech playing its best football of the year, an upset is certainly possible. Georgia fell to Florida last month when it couldn’t stop the ground game, and Tech figures to employ the same philosophy this weekend.

Kentucky at Louisville, ESPN2, #UKvsLOU

There’s plenty on the line for both sides in the ACC’s newest rivalry game against the SEC. Kentucky has lost five straight, but a win here could get Mark Stoops’ squad bowl eligible. Louisville’s offense is finally clicking, as Reggie Bonnafon looks comfortable in his role as starter. A win for the Cardinals would keep them in the hunt for an Orange Bowl berth. But, of course, state bragging rights may top all of those goals.

South Carolina at Clemson, ESPN, #SCvsCLEM

Like Virginia and Georgia Tech, Clemson has been on the wrong side of a lopsided rivalry in recent years. Dabo Swinney beat South Carolina to secure the head-coaching job at Clemson in 2008, but he hasn’t been able to repeat the feat since. But freshman QB Deshaun Watson could return for this one, and he offers hope. Add to that a South Carolina defense that offers little in the way of a pass rush and has been gouged repeatedly this year, and things certainly look a bit more positive for the Tigers. It will be up to Vic Beasley & Co. to quell the South Carolina ground game, but Clemson fans are clearly hoping this is the year the Gamecocks’ run comes to an end.

12:30 p.m.

Syracuse at Boston College, ESPN3, #CUSEvsBC

Tyler Murphy & Co. nearly upended defending champ Florida State last week in Tallahassee, but fell just short. Whether the emotions of a close loss in a big game carry over may be the biggest factor in this matchup. Syracuse is reeling, with an offense that has mustered just 40 points in its last four games -- all losses. BC’s defense is one of the more underrated units in the country, which won’t make it easy for the Orange to bust out of their offensive slump, and Murphy’s big-play ability could be the spark for BC’s seventh win of the season.

NC State at North Carolina, ESPN3, #NCSTvsUNC

North Carolina had plenty to celebrate last week, knocking off rival Duke for the first time in three years, taking back the Victory Bell and earning bowl eligibility. Can the Tar Heels keep that momentum going against another rival in the regular-season finale? UNC has won four of five and played its best defensive game of the year a week ago, while NC State hasn’t beaten a bowl-eligible team since its opener against Georgia Southern. This could be a nice feather in North Carolina’s cap, but a win for NC State would be a signature victory for Dave Doeren.

3:30 p.m.

Florida at Florida State, ESPN, #UFvsFSU

It’s been exactly two years since Florida State last lost a game, and that one came at home against rival Florida. The two programs have trended in opposite directions since, with Jimbo Fisher poised for a run at a second straight national championship, while Will Muschamp will be coaching his final game for the Gators after resigning two weeks ago. Still, FSU hasn’t shown a propensity for blowing away anyone this season, and Florida has the ground game to frustrate the Seminoles’ D and the secondary to test Jameis Winston. A decade ago, Ron Zook upended FSU after he’d been axed by Florida. Muschamp will try to do the same this time around.

7 p.m.

Wake Forest at Duke, ESPNU, #WAKEvsDUKE

The record certainly won’t wow anyone this season, but Wake Forest has, in some ways, been one of the most impressive teams in the ACC. With huge holes across the offense, points have been at a premium all season, and the Deacons knew going into the year it would be an uphill battle. But they’ve continued to fight all season, which is a tribute to the work being done behind the scenes by head coach Dave Clawson. The work paid off with a 6-3 win over Virginia Tech last week -- Wake’s first conference victory in more than a year -- but the test is much tougher this week. Duke enters this game riding a two-game losing streak, and David Cutcliffe will surely want to send his seniors out with a win in their last home game.

Pittsburgh at Miami, ESPN2, #PITTvsMIA

James Conner's availability looks doubtful, which means it’ll be up to Chad Voytik and Tyler Boyd to spark Pitt’s offense. The bigger question, however, may be whether Miami is motivated to finish up the season. Last week’s game against Virginia was as listless as the Hurricanes have looked all year, and another poor showing in the regular-season finale could ratchet up those hot-seat rumors for Al Golden. There’s no question which side wins this game on paper, but with Pitt playing for a bowl game and Miami simply playing out the string, motivation could be the differentiating factor.

SEC viewer's guide: Week 14

November, 28, 2014
Nov 28
10:00
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What more could you want to finish the regular season?

There are games with playoff implications, division implications and bowl implications to choose from. There's even a Friday afternoon game to get you through to the weekend.

The SEC's regular season has been crazy so far. Now it's time to see whether it ends with a flourish.

Friday, Nov. 28

2:30 p.m.

Arkansas at No. 17 Missouri, CBS: All right, Missouri, you've been doubted all season. You've been knocked as soft on defense and woefully inconsistent on offense. You were laughed out of the room when you lost to Indiana. But here you are a win away from claiming the Eastern Division crown for a second straight season. The only thing standing in your way is Arkansas, which has won back-to-back SEC games in convincing fashion.

Saturday, Nov. 29

[+] EnlargeSteve Spurrier
Jeremy Brevard/USA TODAY SportsCan South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier notch his sixth straight win over Clemson?
Noon

Kentucky at No. 22 Louisville, ESPN2: If Mark Stoops' Kentucky Wildcats are going to reach a bowl game ahead of schedule, it's not going to be easy. It would mean breaking a five-game losing streak on the road at Louisville, which would easily be their most impressive win of the season. The problem is the Cardinals boast one of the best defenses in the country.

South Carolina at No. 21 Clemson, ESPN: There's not a lot on the line for either team other than pride, which is good because there's plenty of it in this rivalry. The back-and-forth between Steve Spurrier and Dabo Swinney the past few years has been worth the price of admission, and on Saturday we'll find out whether the Head Ball Coach can extend his winning streak over Clemson and Swinney to six games.

No. 16 Georgia Tech at No. 9 Georgia, SEC Network: If Missouri somehow loses to Arkansas and gives Georgia the Eastern Division title, that's not the end of the story. Because if the Bulldogs want to somehow sneak back into the playoff conversation, it will take more than backing into Atlanta. It will take beating Georgia Tech convincingly, and that won't be easy seeing as the Yellow Jackets average 327.9 yards per game rushing and have won four games in a row.

3:30 p.m.

No. 4 Mississippi State at No. 19 Ole Miss, CBS: Talk about two teams going in opposite directions. On the one hand, there's Ole Miss, which fell deeper into the dumps last week by losing at Arkansas 30-0. On the other hand, there's Mississippi State, which redeemed itself after a tough loss at Alabama by beating Vanderbilt 51-0. With the Bulldogs playing for a spot in the playoff and the Rebs playing for pride, it's clear which team has the greater inspiration to win the Egg Bowl.

Florida at No. 3 Florida State, ESPN: Speaking of inspiration, it will be interesting to see how Florida comes out for coach Will Muschamp's final time leading the Gators. Will his end be Ron Zookian? Or will it be one final, unceremonious note? While that's unclear, one thing is certain: Florida State likes to make things interesting. The Seminoles have struggled against teams they were supposed to blow out before. Could we be looking at a repeat?

4 p.m.

Tennessee at Vanderbilt, SEC Network: Not a lot of people thought Tennessee would make a bowl game this year. Not with a schedule that included tough nonconference games against Utah State, Arkansas State and Oklahoma. But lo and behold, the Vols are one game away from bowl eligibility, and the only opponent left is Vanderbilt. Easy, right? It should be, seeing as the Commodores haven't won an SEC game all season.


7:45 p.m.

No. 15 Auburn at No. 1 Alabama, ESPN: The best Auburn can hope for is to play the role of spoiler, to crush Alabama's dreams of an SEC title and a playoff berth with one final regular-season swing. And in a rivalry as intense as the Iron Bowl, that might be enough. But the fact of the matter is Auburn just isn't playing good football these days. Alabama has won huge games against LSU and Mississippi State in recent weeks, while Auburn has fallen woefully flat with losses to Texas A&M and Georgia.

Pac-12 viewer's guide: Week 14

November, 28, 2014
Nov 28
10:00
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The regular season's grand finale is upon us. Here's a look through Black Friday and Closing Saturday in the Pac-12:

Friday, Nov. 28

12:30 p.m.

Stanford at UCLA, ABC: The Cardinal are the two-time defending Pac-12 champions, but they're now in a position to play spoiler to UCLA's title bid. A win locks up the South for the No. 8 Bruins and keeps them in contention for the four-team College Football Playoff. Stanford will be without offensive star Ty Montgomery (shoulder), so UCLA figures to have a good chance to beat the Cardinal for the first time since 2008.

[+] EnlargeNick Wilson
AP Photo/Steve DykesIn Arizona's last three games, RB Nick Wilson has rushed for more than 100 yards in each contest.
ASU at Arizona, Fox: If UCLA slips, the Sun Devils and Wildcats are both ready to pounce on the opportunity to win the Pac-12 South in this Territorial Cup. Let's rephrase that: If UCLA slips, this can turn into the biggest Territorial Cup ever. A division championship and a Levi's Stadium date with Oregon would be on the line. Key matchup here: Arizona freshman running back Nick Wilson against ASU's volatile run defense.

Saturday, Nov. 29

10 a.m.

Utah at Colorado, Pac-12 Network: The Utes are slipping badly and the Buffs are 0-8 in Pac-12 play. There's certainly hope in Boulder after Arizona drubbed Utah 42-10 in Salt Lake City last week. Kyle Whittingham's club is staggering, and Colorado's Mike MacIntyre -- who strongly feels his program is making progress -- would love nothing more than an uplifting win entering a critical offseason.

12:30 p.m.

Notre Dame at USC, Fox: This is another contest pitting two clubs coming off losses. The 2014 season has taken a turn for the worse on both Figueroa St. and in South Bend, but one of college football's most storied rivalries is an intriguing watch regardless. The Irish will be playing this game without Sheldon Day and Jarron Jones, their two best defensive linemen. They've given up 30-plus points in six straight games for the first time in their 126-year history. Yes, that's Javorius Allen licking his chops.

1:30 p.m.

BYU at Cal, Pac-12 Network: The Bears have one more crack at securing the bowl eligibility that will earn them vital December practice time. The opponent is BYU. The Cougars have won three straight games in their effort to salvage what once looked like a season of complete misery following Taysom Hill's injury. But those wins came against shaky competition: Jared Goff's unit should move the ball against a BYU defense that surrendered 55 points to Boise State.

5 p.m.

Oregon at Oregon State, ABC: There's plenty on the line in the Civil War: While the Ducks battle for a College Football Playoff spot and a Marcus Mariota Heisman trophy, the Beavers will scrap for bowl eligibility in Sean Mannion's final season. Remember the upset havoc that Reser Stadium can wreak. Oregon is certainly the better team, but nothing is guaranteed heading into Corvallis.

7:30 p.m.

Washington at Washington State, ESPN: The Cougars played well as they built up a 24-21 lead at ASU last week, but turnovers helped knock the wheels off in the second half. Still, Mike Leach's club smells opportunity here: This Apple Cup is in Pullman, and Washington is a weaker opponent than the Sun Devils. The Huskies' Cyler Miles played efficient football last week; Chris Petersen will ask for more of the same out of his quarterback so that Wazzu's Luke Falk (601 passing yards vs. ASU) stays on the sideline. Falk did turn the ball over last week, though, and the Huskies are known to generate takeaways from time to time (24 this season).

Big Ten viewer's guide: Week 14

November, 28, 2014
Nov 28
10:00
AM ET
Hopefully you've already recovered from a day's worth of turkey and pumpkin pie because the games start in about two hours.

It’s the final week of the Big Ten’s regular season, and there are still quite a few questions left to be answered: Will Tevin Coleman surpass 2,000 yards on the season? Who will face Ohio State in the Big Ten championship? Will Northwestern or Illinois find its way to bowl eligibility?

There are no night games or byes this week. So shake off that tryptophan, make another turkey sandwich – possibly to go with that bowl of turkey soup – and get that remote ready. Here’s a glance at what you should look forward to (all times ET):

Noon Friday

Nebraska (8-3, 4-3 Big Ten) at Iowa (7-4, 4-3), ABC: Ameer Abdullah admitted he’s been frustrated the past two weeks – because of his injury and back-to-back losses – and even said matter-of-factly, “It sucks. It definitely does suck.” Bo Pelini is on the hot seat again and can’t afford a third straight loss; Kirk Ferentz wants to secure another eight-win season and have some kind of trademark Big Ten victory. (Iowa hasn’t beaten a Big Ten team with a winning record.) Something has to give.

[+] EnlargeBriean Boddy-Calhoun
AP Photo/Nati HarnikMinnesota and defensive back Briean Boddy-Calhoun are playing for a Big Ten division title at Wisconsin.
Noon Saturday

Illinois (5-6, 2-5) at Northwestern (5-6, 3-4), ESPNU: Let the (unlikely) battle for bowl eligibility begin. Northwestern bounced back from a 3-6 record with victories over Notre Dame and Purdue, while Illinois played its best special-teams game of the year last week to beat Penn State. The Wildcats are without senior QB Trevor Siemian, who suffered a torn ACL, so their postseason hopes are pinned to backup Zack Oliver.

Purdue (3-8, 1-6) at Indiana (3-8, 0-7), BTN: Don’t let the records fool you. Sure, these are two of the worst teams – recordwise – in the Big Ten. But this one might be worth watching for no other reason than Tevin Coleman, who could be playing in the final college game of his career. Coleman needs just 94 yards to reach 2,000 on the season and he’s also a finalist for the Doak Walker Award. He might be the best running back in the nation not named Melvin Gordon.

Michigan (5-6, 3-4) at No. 6 Ohio State (10-1, 7-0), ABC: The Ga_e will always _ean so_ething special. Especially as long as Ohio State continues with its tradition of crossing off every “M” on campus. The Buckeyes are the big favorite, while the Wolverines have been a big disappointment. But nothing would make Wolverines fans happier than knocking Ohio State out of the playoff picture. Of course, Ohio State is also currently scoring an average of 24 points more per game than Michigan -- so that’s not going to be easy.

3:30 p.m. Saturday

No. 10 Michigan State (9-2, 6-1) at Penn State (6-5, 2-5), ABC: The Nittany Lions are hoping to experience some déjà vu this season. Last year, they entered their home finale as 24-point underdogs to Wisconsin and some way, somehow, came out on top in an upset. This season, they’re only 13-point underdogs. And while the Penn State defense is historically good this season, the offense is historically bad. Michigan State, on the other hand, is a well-rounded team that’s fighting for a trip to one of the New Year’s Six bowl games.

No. 18 Minnesota (8-3, 5-2) at No. 14 Wisconsin (9-2, 6-1), BTN: It all comes down to this in the West. The winner will advance to the Big Ten title game to face Ohio State; the loser will have to lament watching it from the dorms. Gordon needs just 1 yard to break the Big Ten single-season rushing record, and Minnesota’s David Cobb is “very questionable” for the contest. Jerry Kill is arguably the front-runner for Big Ten Coach of the Year and, if he pulls this out, we can probably take “arguably” away from that sentence. This is a must-watch.

Rutgers (6-5, 2-5) at Maryland (7-4, 4-3), ESPNU: Both teams have met or exceeded expectations this season, but it’s been a difficult second half for Rutgers. After starting 5-1, the Scarlet Knights have won just one of their past five and have looked really overmatched against the B1G’s best. Maryland has looked like the better team – and beat both Iowa and Penn State – but Rutgers would like to change the conversation here. A victory for either team would go a long way; Rutgers could grab some second-half respect or Maryland could climb its way to a better bowl.

Required reading
Virginia Tech is playing to extend two major streaks Friday night: its bowl game streak and its dominance over Virginia.

The former is only in play because of the Hokies' letdown at Wake Forest last week. That, coupled with the Cavaliers' upset over Miami, has turned this prime-time affair into a win-or-go-home showdown between the in-state rivals.

"We made it more important for us in that last ballgame," Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer said. "We had a chance to get bowl eligible the last time and didn't get it done. So this game has more importance.

[+] EnlargeFrank Beamer
Bob Donnan/USA TODAY SportsFrank Beamer can lead Virginia Tech to a 22nd straight bowl game with a win over Virginia on Friday.
"But I really believe overall the pride in the state of Virginia, that's the big prize in this ballgame. And what else you put with it, you can, but I think there's a lot of pride with both universities, the alumni of both universities, the supporters of both universities. So, I think that's the big, big thing right there, just the pride in your state school."

This season, as much as any over the past three years, has proven to be an exercise in frustration for the Hokies. Their Week 2 win at Ohio State seemingly portended a return to the double digit-win seasons that all in Blacksburg had become so accustomed to over the years. That triumph has instead turned noteworthy for the fact that it could end up being the blemish that keeps the Buckeyes out of the College Football Playoff.

Virginia Tech has lost six of nine games since its victory in Columbus, no defeat more humiliating than Saturday's 6-3, double-overtime loss to the Demon Deacons that was scoreless after regulation.

The Hokies have won just 20 games these past three seasons, after eight straight double digit-win seasons. A loss to the Hoos at Lane Stadium would see their streak of consecutive years going to a bowl game snapped at 21, which is the second-longest active streak in the nation.

Beamer's squad is one loaded with significant freshman and sophomore contributors, making for a bright future. But a rash of injuries across the backfield and offensive line, among other places, has helped make for an uneven campaign.

The significance of a 5-7 season would not be lost on anyone, especially not the 28th-year head coach most responsible for this run of productivity.

"Well, it's important," Beamer said of the streak. "It's been a very consistent program over the years. This has been a year that things haven't gone quite as normal as you'd want them to, but I think when you start throwing in -- I think a third of our starters we projected to start the year aren't there right now. Last count we played 21 freshmen, and when you have those things, then I don't think you've got a settled situation.

"I don't think we've had a year of personnel that's had as many changes and ins and outs as this particular year. I understand it all, but it is still important. It's important to this football team. It's important to this program. It's important to our alumni that we get back to a bowl and keep that streak going."

Beamer's counterpart Friday night will not be coaching for his job, as Virginia athletic director Craig Littlepage announced Wednesday that Mike London would return for a sixth season as the Hoos' head coach.

While London's team has improved its win total by three games from 2013, a win at Virginia Tech to extend its own season would go a long way toward building momentum for next season and validating the program's direction, especially since London has yet to beat his in-state rival.

For one side, Friday night will present the uneasy beginning to an offseason filled with questions.

"It's always important, particularly your last game, the emphasis on when you play your in-state rival, the implications that it has to playing an additional game afterwards, the kids that are on both sides, the community that support the programs -- all those things -- the alumni. All those things you have to take into consideration," London said. "But ultimately, the game is played on the field and in between the white lines, and the preparation and the players' ability to execute, perform, is the thing that matters most from year to year. This is another year of where now you look at the records, you look at other issues, the players knowing each other on both teams. It comes to the last game of the regular season."

Instant Analysis: TCU 48, Texas 10

November, 27, 2014
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AUSTIN, Texas -- Fifth-ranked TCU took care of business Thanksgiving night, knocking off Texas 48-10 at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium to improve to 10-1 on the year. Here's how the game was won:

How the game was won: TCU smothered Texas' offense from the start, shutting down its running backs (29 yards on 21 carries) and pressuring Tyrone Swoopes into committing five of the Longhorns' six turnovers, two of which were returned for touchdowns. The Horned Frogs' offense finally got rolling in the second half against a typically stout Texas defense.

Game ball goes to: Josh Doctson and Paul Dawson. Two of TCU's best stepped up in a big way. Dawson racked up 10 tackles and an interception, and was all over the place. Doctson had two of the game's biggest catches, a 38-yarder to set up TCU's first offensive score and a 22-yard TD. He finished with 115 yards on seven catches.

What it means: TCU, now 2-0 in Thanksgiving games at Texas since joining the Big 12, got some good revenge for its 23-point loss to the Horns last year and got a chance to make a statement in front of a national TV audience. Quarterback Trevone Boykin (283 total yards, three TDs) was challenged by this Texas defense but had some nice moments that will help his Heisman hopes.

Playoff implication: There will be a lot of folks comparing Baylor's 28-7 win over Texas on Oct. 4 to this game. Both teams did shut down Texas' offense from start to finish. TCU's showing felt a bit more dominant -- Texas trailed 13-0 after one quarter and never really stood a chance after that -- and a 38-point road win over a team that had won three in a row definitely will look good on the résumé.

What's next: Texas finishes its regular season 6-6. Facing an SEC team in the AdvoCare Texas Bowl or the AutoZone Liberty Bowl, both on Jan. 29, appears to be the Longhorns' most likely destination. TCU has one game left, a home finale against Iowa State on Dec. 6 that could feel a lot like a victory lap for at least a share of the Big 12 title.

Video: Impact Of 2013 Iron Bowl On 2014 Edition

November, 27, 2014
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In the teams’ first meeting since Chris Davis’ miraculous Kick Six, college football reporter Chris Low breaks down Saturday’s rivalry game between No. 15 Auburn and No. 1 Alabama.
There are few things we enjoy more than a good mascot battle.

These days those tend to occur on social media, with our favorite still being the Twitter back and forth last year between Miami's Sebastian Ibis and Louie the (Louisville) Cardinal.

This time around, it was Bucky Badger and Goldy Gopher trading barbs before Saturday's Minnesota-Wisconsin showdown to decide the Big Ten West. The Battle for Paul Bunyan's Axe is the most-played rivalry in college football, contested every year since 1890.

But 1890 this is not. Nowadays, mascots trash talk on Twitter. And we get to enjoy it.

Memories, meaning of Iron Bowl

November, 26, 2014
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The Iron Bowl is like no other rivalry in sports. From Bear Bryant to Bo Jackson to Harvey Updyke, there's simply nothing that compares to Alabama vs. Auburn. It has turned players such as Van Tiffin and Chris Davis into legends. It's where the term "house divided" originated. It's on the minds of the coaches, players and fans 365 days a year.

If you haven't been a part of it, it's hard to understand. But to help with that, here's a look at the Iron Bowl rivalry from those closest to it:

Jay Jacobs, athletics director, Auburn
On the significance of the Iron Bowl: "It's a rivalry that is different than anything else because we all live together. Some rivalries are divided by borders, but this one has no borders. You're living with each other year round after that game. When you win that game, you have a little bit more pride and when you lose it, the other team has a little bit more pride."

To read the full story, click here.
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- There were plenty of times when Blake Sims could have packed it in, said enough was enough and resigned himself to not playing quarterback for the University of Alabama.

Way back in the spring, he could have thrown in the towel. He’d just tossed two interceptions during the final practice of camp, and Jake Coker, the strong-armed transfer from Florida State, was expected to waltz into Tuscaloosa and take over.

But Sims surged ahead of Coker during fall camp, won the job and started the season off on a tear, throwing eight touchdowns and two interceptions during the first four games.

It was great. Until it wasn’t.

Alabama, ranked No. 1 in the coaches' poll, then lost on the road at Ole Miss. Sims was ineffective, completing 19 of 31 passes with no touchdowns and one interception. He looked ordinary again. He looked uncomfortable, like someone who was still learning to play quarterback, not someone who could lead an offense to a national championship.

For three quarters of the following game, those suspicions were on the verge of being confirmed. Sims couldn’t get anything going and Alabama fell behind on the road against an unranked Arkansas team that hadn’t won a conference game in two years. The only thing at stake was everything, the entire season. Back-to-back losses would have meant the end of Alabama’s playoff hopes.

[+] EnlargeBlake Sims
Scott Cunningham/Getty ImagesBlake Sims waited a long time for his turn, and he's made the most of it. He has 12 touchdowns and one interception since an Oct. 4 loss at Ole Miss.
It was then that Sims came into his own. With the season hanging in the balance, he proved to be the quarterback Alabama needed.

Whatever happens on Saturday against No. 15 Auburn, Sims’ comeback is complete. Whether you take the long view of the spring until now or dive deeper into three game-clinching drives, you’ll see a quarterback who matured into the leader of a team fighting for playoff contention.

Oct. 11: Fayetteville, Arkansas

It would prove to be his first comeback.

Down 13-7 on the road, Sims got the ball with 36 seconds left in the third quarter.

Seven plays and 50 yards later, Sims faced a pivotal third-and-3 inside the red zone.

Sims took the snap, scrambled to his right and slung his arm across his body. DeAndrew White, in the middle of the end zone, came down with the pass.

“When we had to score, he became a real vocal guy,” said running back T.J. Yeldon. “He was firing us up and getting us motivated to go and score a touchdown.”

Nov. 8: Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Every Alabama quarterback has to survive Death Valley.


AJ McCarron did it two years ago when he orchestrated a game-winning drive late in the fourth quarter. His TD pass to Yeldon saved the season and sent Alabama to the national championship.

Sims, who is close friends with McCarron, got the same opportunity.

Down 13-10 with less than a minute left in regulation, Sims had to act. On third-and-4, he scrambled for the first down. After an uncharacteristic drop by Amari Cooper, Sims took the next snap, darted to his right and found Christion Jones for 16 yards.

Sims killed the clock with 12 seconds left, went to the sideline and watched the game-tying field goal split the uprights.

“Blake kind of said, 'This is where we have to do it right here,'” said offensive tackle Austin Shepherd. “We all kind of said, ‘Let’s go.’ Kind of a surreal experience. We knew we could do it.”

In overtime, Sims screamed out an audible on second-and-goal. He took the shotgun snap, shuffled his feet and threw a perfect fade to the corner of the end zone for a game-winning touchdown to White.

Nov. 15: Tuscaloosa, Alabama

Nick Saban called it, “Probably one of the greatest drives in Alabama history.”


Keep in mind that the longtime head coach is not one for hyperbole.

But the 15-play, 76-yard drive Sims led against then-No. 1 Mississippi State was one for the ages. Sims, who couldn’t seem to make a play in the second half, suddenly clicked into gear after Mississippi State made it a six-point game.

Sims was so calm, so effective. On a pair of third-and-longs, he went through his progressions, saw nothing and scrambled for first downs.

On second-and-goal, he handed the ball off to Yeldon for a touchdown. Alabama went ahead by two scores and ate six minutes off the clock.

“I’m just happy that he’s doing other teams like that, because he does that to us every day at practice during two-minute drill,” said safety Nick Perry. “He’s always with a black jersey, so when we’re going up to try to tackle him, we have to tag him. He’ll always get back in the locker room, ‘Oh, you didn’t touch me. You couldn’t tackle me in a game.’ So when I see him make a play like that [against Mississippi State], I’m like, ‘Oh, well, maybe I wouldn’t tackle him.’”

Saturday: The Iron Bowl

Sims now understands what to expect of these types of games.

“It’s that one play, those 2-3 plays, that determines how the game plays out,” he said.

With Sims’ hands on the ball, Alabama fans should be confident. After leading three pivotal drives already this season, he feels like he’s done it before.

“It gives me a lot of confidence,” Sims said. “It lets my team know that I’m ready to play.”

As a senior, this will be Sims’ only shot starting against Auburn. So what’s at stake isn’t just the season. In many ways, it’s his legacy.

“It’s a great feeling,” Sims said, forever downplaying his emotions. “I’m glad that I got the opportunity to play here at the University of Alabama and I’m trying not to pressure myself too much and think of it like that.

“I’m just trying to go out and have fun with my teammates, and pretty much be in the backyard and have fun and play catch with my wide receivers.”

In other words, Sims is determined to play his game.

“I make my body language look confident so they can go out and play with ease knowing that I’m ready to play,” he said, giving away one of his secrets: deception. Like everyone else, he's eager to play Auburn. “I know the team is ready to play by how we’re walking around the locker room right now. Everybody is excited and ready to play on Saturday.”

The Burning Desire of Texas A&M

November, 26, 2014
Nov 26
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A BLAZE ERUPTS in the eastern sky -- daybreak comes hard and fast in Texas. A dozen pickup trucks are parked on the dirt of a clearing. A grove of post oak and cedar spreads in three directions. Beyond the woods is a ranch. In a chicken coop over there, something serious must be going down because the roosters are absolutely shrieking, like berserk warriors on the brink of an atrocity. In the beds of the pickups, blanketed forms shift. People are sleeping in there, have been since last night. They're undergraduates from Texas A&M University, and between the sudden sunlight and the animal racket, they begrudgingly arise. They pull on coveralls and sharpen ax blades and pinch black plugs of dip into their gums. Soon the trees in this grove, a pocket of dusty vegetation 30 miles northwest of College Station, will be mostly gone, transfigured into a four-story tower, then torched. The back of one guy's T-shirt says: "Build the Hell Out of Bonfire."

If you've heard of this pyrotechnic Texas A&M tradition -- at one time the most notorious ritual in all of college football -- chances are it's because you remember how its timber immensity, almost complete but not quite, buckled during a work shift in the wee hours of Nov. 18, 1999, and came crashing down in a terrifying cascade. Fifty-eight students, most between the ages of 17 and 21, were crawling all over the stack at the time, engaged in various duties. Twelve of them died, 27 were injured, their bodies crushed and twisted. Suddenly, for the worst of reasons, people around the country were aware of this Aggie tradition, which had evolved into such an institution that it had become a proper noun: Bonfire.

It was also a tradition that had, the news coverage suggested, run amok. An estimated 8,000 undergraduates, some 25 percent of the student population, helped erect Bonfire. It was an entirely student-staffed and student-managed project nonetheless supported by the university and in part financed by it. Incredibly, it now seems, Bonfire was built and burned on campus -- sprinkler systems installed on rooftops to keep Bonfire's cinders from setting the campus ablaze -- and ignited before A&M's annual rivalry game on Thanksgiving Day against the University of Texas. A hundred thousand people would show up for the almost liturgical incineration, an event known as Burn. It comprised 8,000 logs, rose more than 90 feet into the air and weighed in excess of 1,000 tons. It had the shape of a wedding cake but also bore an uncomfortable resemblance to depictions of the Tower of Babel. It was hyped as the biggest bonfire not only in the world but also probably in history. The media seemed to relish reporting that hundreds of gallons of jet fuel were used to ignite it.

Read the full article here. To see how the bonfire was built, click here.

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