NCAA prez Emmert: Food rule was ‘absurd’

NCAA president Mark Emmert said Friday that he was happy to take pressure off his organization and its member schools as the governing body's legislative council voted earlier this week to eliminate all previous restrictions on food for athletes.

"The biggest problem was, the NCAA has historically had all kinds of, I don't know how to describe it [except to say] dumb rules about food," Emmert said on ESPN Radio's "Mike & Mike" show. "The infamous one is you can provide between meals a snack, but you can't provide a meal. Well, then you got to define what's the difference between a snack and a meal? So it was literally the case that a bagel was defined as a snack – unless you put cream cheese on it. Now it becomes a meal. That's absurd."

Emmert went on to say that "if UConn wants to feed Shabazz [Napier] breakfast in bed every day they can," but he made a point of saying that the new rules weren't brought about because of the Huskies guard's recent comments that sometimes he went to bed "starving."

The problem wasn't an issue only for schools, it was a burden on the NCAA, as well.

"We wind up having to enforce the stupid rule, which means you have to have someone watching if someone is putting cream cheese on a bagel," Emmert said.

Emmert told ESPN.com that if the deregulation of food gives some schools advantages over other schools, so be it.

"The notion that schools might compete by offering better quality food, that's not inherently a bad thing," Emmert said. "So let's compete over who can provide the best nutrition for a student-athlete. We compete over who can give them the best locker room. I'd rather they compete over who can give them the best nutrition. So will there be competition around that, I'm sure there will be, but I don't think that's a bad thing."

Next week, Northwestern football players will vote on whether to form a union. For his part, Emmert said, "Most of the things that I saw Northwestern athletes asking for are either in place or on their way to being in place."

One issue brought up by former Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter in his hearing with the National Labor Relations Board was the idea of completely covering medical expenses. Emmert said the NCAA spends $20 million a year on premiums to cover a long-term disability insurance policy for athletes. The NCAA policy has covered some former athletes who were permanently disabled on the field of play during their college years for at least 20 years.

Emmert said that 2014 will be a year of progress, as he expects the NCAA to approve a measure that will cover the gap between a scholarship and the full cost of attendance. Emmert also said a vote will take place next week on a rule that will tack on an extra year at the end of the eligibility of a player who transfers and immediately has to sit out a season.

"You don't want to be punitive to an athlete who makes a change, obviously, but you don't want to have coaches recruiting people off other people's benches," Emmert said.

As the pressure mounts on the NCAA, with lawsuits and potential unionization of the Northwestern players, Emmert told ESPN.com he hopes the current model will survive.

"The reality is that the model serves more than a half a million students every year very well," Emmert said. "It produces $2.7 billion in scholarship support. Are there things we need to fix? You bet there are. But you don't throw that baby out with the bathwater. We have to find ways to change and improve without ruining that successful model.

"It's far too easy to look at this huge top-line revenue number and say 'Everyone is making money,' when the reality is that that top-line number supports a half a million kids."

NCAA outlines stance in opposition to ‘pay for play’ in memo

 

Dabo Swinney isn't a fan of the college athletes' union movement. (USATSI)
Dabo Swinney isn't a fan of the school athletes' union motion. (USATSI)

With the College Athletes Gamers' Association union movement on one aspect, and the Ed O'Bannon and Jeffrey Kessler lawsuits (amongst others) on the opposite, you can't blame the NCAA for feeling threatened lately. And in flip, you can't blame it for a talking factors memo revealed by al.com Sunday that seeks to "help members in conducting public outreach or responding to media requests."

 

That includes a number of bullet factors beneath headings like "Why Pay for Play Isn't the Answer," "Necessary Information/Proof Points," and "The World with Scholar-Athlete Unions/Pay for Play," the memo initially surfaced on the website of the Nationwide Affiliation of Collegiate Women Athletics Directors. An NCAA spokesperson told al.com that the NCAA created the memo after "our members requested details and information on pay-for-play as a result of there was so much misinformation in the media."

The memo also options quotes from the likes of Mike Slive, Larry Scott, South Carolina athletic director Pat Haden, and a prolonged one from Clemson coach Dabo Swinney. Talking in late March, Swinney argued that "we have got enough entitlement on this nation as it's" and "to say these guys get nothing totally devalues an education."

Placing apart the issue of whether or not the NCAA needs to be championing feedback that describe the CAPA's emphasis on lengthy-term well being points and assured scholarships as "entitlement," it's worth noting – as SBNation did – that the NCAA's version of Swinney's feedback neatly elides that he began them by saying "I have no idea" what to make of the NLRB resolution and "I really do not know sufficient about it to comment.”

That doesn't essentially imply Swinney's feedback must be dismissed out of hand. But still, it seems worthy of an "oops" all the same.

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Two tie for 50-yard freestyle title at NCAAs

AUSTIN, Texas – Three months ago, Alabama's Kristian Gkolomeev lived in Greece. Two months ago, Arizona's Brad Tandy was ineligible for NCAA competition.

On Thursday, they shared a national title in the 50-yard freestyle at the NCAA men's swimming championships, each finishing in 18.95 seconds.

Tandy, cleared by the NCAA last month after its investigation of his year off after high school spent in South Africa training to make the country's Olympic team, held a slim lead after the first 25 yards.

But Gkolomeev, who moved to the United States in January, rallied in the final 25.

"Usually my first 25 is the strongest, so I'm kind of used to having that open water," Tandy said. "I hit (the turn) fine, I just couldn't quite get the grab to maintain my speed from the first 25. Luckily, it was a tie, so I'm pretty happy with that."

Texas, serving as this year's host, is looking for its first NCAA men's swimming title since 2010. Led by freshman Michael Dixon, who won an individual championship in the 1-meter springboard, the Longhorns, with 146 points, had a one-point lead over California after the first of three days.

"Have you ever seen a meet like this in your life? There's never been one like it," Texas coach Eddie Reese said. "If we win one here, I can turn the guys loose Saturday night and I can go home."

The Golden Bears, who won the 400 medley and 200 freestyle relays Thursday, are trying to capture their third title in four years.

"You don't get to do that too often in a sport where you put four guys together and let them go after it," Cal coach David Durden said. "Relays are fun. It was never one split or one person. It was kind of the collective group that did the job."

Florida's Marcin Cieslak won the 200 individual medley in 1:40.58. The Gators were third with 137 points.

Defending champion Michigan was fourth with 109 points, followed by Georgia with 74.

Southern California's Cristian Quintero won his first individual NCAA championship with a pool-record 4:10.02 in the 500 freestyle, an event he finished third in last year and second the year before.

Copyright 2014 by The Associated Press

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No. 1 seed Florida thumps Pitt, advances to Sweet 16

ORLANDO, Fla. – Scottie Wilbekin scored 21 factors and prime-seeded Florida beat Pittsburgh sixty one-45 within the NCAA event Saturday, advancing to the Candy sixteen for the fourth consecutive yr.

Patric Younger added seven factors and eight rebounds for the Gators, who prolonged their college file for consecutive wins to 28.

Coming off a lackluster performance in its NCAA opener, Florida (34-2) played with significantly more vitality and depth against the Panthers (26-10).

Wilbekin and Younger spearheaded the effort. And had Florida not been chilly from three-point range, the game would have been basically over a lot ahead of it was. The Gators have been 5 of 20 from behind the arc, with not less than 5 of those rimming in and out.

Florida advanced to the round of 16, the place it can play either fourth-seeded UCLA or 12th-seeded Stephen F. Austin on Thursday in Memphis, Tenn. The Bruins and Lumberjacks play Sunday in San Diego.

Talib Zanna led the Panthers with 10 factors, their only player in double figures.

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Carbo overloading: OU reports pasta pile-on

Oklahoma athletics apparently does not believe in all-you-can-eat banquets.

The Sooners elected to self-report three players for getting extra meals at a graduation banquet than they should have, based on The Oklahoman.

The violations occurred on Might 10, 2013, in line with the newspaper, with pasta being the precise item in question.

To have their eligibility reinstated, the three had to donate $3.eighty three every (the cost of the pasta servings) to charities of their alternative.

While the Sooners elected to self-report, the NCAA released a press release saying that what the three players did was not a violation of any NCAA guidelines.

"Whereas we recognize Oklahoma's commitment, there are not any NCAA rules relating to portion sizes, and any penalties were decided by the college," NCAA spokeswoman Meghan Durham mentioned in a press release.

Although the gamers weren't identified, offensive linemen Gabe Ikard and Austin Woods took to Twitter to fess up for piling on the pasta and declare they paid $5 for the food.

 

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NCAA Prediction Bowl Game Preview/Pick- #24 Duke vs. #21 Texas A&M

blue devils

#24 Duke Blue Devils (10-3) vs. #21 Texas A&M Aggies (8-4) 12/31- 8:00PM EST

 

CHICK-FIL-A BOWL- Atlanta, GA

 

Line: TA&M -11.5

Over/Under- 75.0

 

In what is expected to be his final collegiate game, last year’s Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel will lead his #21 Aggies against this year’s surprise team, the #24 Duke Blue Devils in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl.

 

The Blue Devils (10-3) will have yet another daunting task of trying to stop a great quarterback. In their ACC title game against No. 1 Florida State, they had this year’s Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston to contend with and lost the battle and game 45-7.

 

Now it’s Manziel who will provide another test.

 

When we found out our matchup, we were all pumped about it because it’s awesome to play against a guy that exciting and an offense that good,” Duke linebacker Kelby Brown said. “It’s a chance to make a statement for ourselves, and it’s just fun. It’s the nature of a competitor.”

 

Having already faced Winston, the Blue Devils can’t really take anything from that game to use against Manziel because they have different styles and run different offenses.

 

Duke linebacker David Helton, who led the ACC with 122 tackles says Winston and Manziel are “two different quarterbacks.”

 

Winston “is definitely a scrambler as well, but he’s not as much as a scrambler as Manziel is,” he added. “Manziel is built on scrambling. … He likes to sit back there and kind of make magic happen, whereas Winston is more a bigger guy and he likes to sit in the pocket a little more than Manziel does. Different mindsets for both of them.”

 

Manziel is expected to enter the NFL draft in April, but the redshirt freshman hasn’t reveled his plans.

 

I’m not going to reflect on that until it is his last day,” Aggies coach Kevin Sumlin said. “All I can tell you is what he has done for the university up to this point (is) well-documented. His numbers speak for themselves. He is without a doubt the most exciting player in America.”

 

Manziel was the first freshman to take home the Heisman last year, but this season came in fifth in the voting. He has been mostly unavailable for the media this year to avoid any distractions to his team.

 

Most thought Texas A&M (8-4) will contend for a national title, but went 0-4 against ranked opponents and are coming off back-to-back losses to LSU and Missouri.

 

If we can win this game, it’ll be the first time in the history of this program we’ve won three bowl games in a row,” Sumlin said.

 

Duke has had great year, setting a school record for wins, beat two Top 25 opponents, won their first Coastal Division title in the ACC and actually shut out Florida State for the first quarter before the Seminoles ran away with it.

 

Once you play against the best and you play against somebody else, you can look at it and say, ‘OK, we played against the best, so what (else) is there out there?” freshman cornerback DeVon Edwards said. “If we do good against them, we should do good against anybody.”

 

The Blue Devils are led by Anthony Boone, who lost his first career game as a starter in the ACC title game, and says trying to outplay Manziel “doesn’t win football games.

 

Guys like that are going to put up numbers. To try to go out there and compete with them is where I’ll try to do too much and mistakes will happen,” Boone said.

 

Boone had three turnovers against the Seminoles and a repeat performance will not bode well for their chances against the Aggies who can put points up behind Manziel, as the oddsmakers have made them a big (minus -11.5) point favorite on Tuesday night, but get the latest lines on the game up until kickoff right here at Wonder Punter.

 

The Blue Devils will be without their rushing leader Jela Duncan (562 yards), who was suspended for an undisclosed violation of its academic policy.

 

Texas A&M suspended standout freshman linebacker Darian Claiborne who is tied for the team lead with 89 tackles. He was arrested Sunday on two drug possession charges.

 

Duke will have a chip on their shoulder to prove to the critics they can play with the big boys, but Texas A&M has too many weapons to stay with and I predict the Aggies capturing their third straight bowl game and Manziel going out a winner.

 

Prediction/Pick: Texas A&M

By Mario Martinez- Wonder Punter

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NCAA Prediction Bowl Game Preview/Pick- Michigan vs. Kansas State

wolverines

Michigan Wolverines (7-5) vs. Kansas State Wildcats (7-5) 12/28- 10:15PM EST

 

BUFFALO WINGS BOWL- Tempe, AZ

 

Line: KSU -5.0

Over/Under: 55.5

 

The Kansas State Wildcats, winners of five of their final six games and feeling confident, head into Tempe on Saturday night in search of their first bowl game victory since 2002 as they take on a Michigan team that has struggled down the stretch and will be without their starting quarterback.

 

The Wildcats (7-5) have been a successful program under coach Bill Snyder, but haven’t tasted a bowl win in five postseason games since beating Arizona State in the 2002 Holiday Bowl.

 

It is obvious that one of my many failings is that I do not have to answer to that,” the 74-year old Bill Snyder said. “It could be a multitude of things, and perhaps it is, or maybe it’s something simple that I am overlooking. …. The bottom line is I really do not know.”

 

Kansas State was eluded victories in its last two major bowl games in the 2011 Cotton Bowl and 2012 Fiesta Bowl, but like their chances this year in the Buffalo Wings Bowl with a Wolverines team without their star quarterback.

 

After a 2-4 start, the Wildcats went on a 5-1 run to put themselves in a great bowl game after Big 12 foes Baylor and Oklahoma wound up in BCS bowls this year. They were headed for the Holiday Bowl, but Saturday’s bowl game is a step up and they plan to take full advantage of it.

 

Nobody on our team has won a bowl game, with the exception of the coaches,” junior linebacker Jonathan Truman said. “We need it. We want it really bad.”

 

Michigan (7-5) started out 5-0, but lost four of five to finish the season with four of those losses by four points or fewer, with its last loss at the heals of their biggest rival Ohio State 42-41 back on November 30th.

 

It was that game that knocked Devin Gardner out of Saturday’s contest with a turf toe injury, a big blow after their star threw for 451 yards and four touchdowns. It was that impressive showing that gave the Wolverines the nod over Nebraska, who had two more wins in the Big 10 than Michigan a spot in Saturday’s game.

 

With Gardner out, the spotlight will be on freshman quarterback Shane Morris to lead the Wolverines as he makes his first career start.

 

Obviously, we recruited him at Michigan to be the quarterback at Michigan,” coach Brady Hoke said. “This is a great opportunity. We have a lot of faith in how he goes about his business getting ready to play.”

 

With a Michigan running game that ranks 112th in the nation with a paltry 3.2 yards per carry, it will be vital for the young Morris to find success through the air to have a chance, so look for Morris to target Jeremy Gallon, who had 80 catches for 1,284 yards with nine touchdowns.

 

Kansas State will counter with Tyler Lockett who had 71 receptions for 1,146 yards and eight touchdowns to lead the Wildcats, who use a two-quarterback approach… junior Jake Walters averages 9.43 yards per attempt and sophomore Daniel Sams, who ran for 784 yards with 11 touchdowns.

 

I’ve never been a fan of having two guys at that position that play equally,” Snyder said. “But both of them are very deserving of having the opportunity to play.”

 

With Gardner out, the oddsmakers have made the Wildcats a (minus -5.0) point favorite on Saturday night, but as always, get the latest spread on the game(s) up until kickoff right here at Wonder Punter.

 

On defense, watch for Michigan cornerback Blake Countess tied for fourth in the nation with six interceptions and Kansas State defensive end Ryan Mueller who had 11 ½ sacks and a Big-12 leading 18 ½ tackles for loss.

 

It’s tough to go with a young quarterback without much game experience and without a solid running game for the Wolverines, I like and predict the Wildcats notching their first bowl win in over a decade.

 

Prediction/Pick: Kansas State

By Mario Martinez- Wonder Punter

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NCAA Prediction Bowl Game Preview/Pick- Miami (FL) vs. Louisville

ncaa predictions hurricanes vs cardinals

Miami Hurricanes (9-3) vs. #18 Louisville Cardinals (11-1) 12/28- 6:45PM EST

 

RUSSELL ATHLETIC BOWL- Orlando, FL

 

Line: LOU -3.5

Over/Under: 57.5

 

In what will likely be Teddy Bridgewater’s final game in a Louisville Cardinals’ uniform as he is expected to declare for the NFL draft, he will lead his football team against the Miami Hurricanes in the Russell Athletic Bowl on Saturday night.

 

Saturday’s bowl matchup will also feature two teams that will become conference rivals as #18 Louisville will be moving into the ACC next year to join Miami.. a team that Florida native Bridgewater had originally committed to before deciding on Louisville.

 

With Bridgewater expected to be a sure top 10 NFL pick next April, the junior quarterback who was a leading candidate for the Heisman before falling off is looking to go out on top come Saturday.

 

With a 38-35 defeat to Central Florida back on October 18th and failing to throw for 300 yards in his final four games with only five touchdown passes, he saw his Heisman Trophy chances go by the wayside as he was not invited to New York as a finalist.

 

Despite his lack of production towards the end of the season, Bridgewater still finished with 3,523 yards and 28 touchdowns with only four interceptions to finish as the nation’s fifth-leading passer, but in the end couldn’t get his Cardinals (11-1) back to a BCS bowl after last year’s Sugar Bowl win over Florida.

 

This is a very talented young man. He has great command on the offense,” Miami coach Al Golden said.

 

Miami (9-3) had recruited Bridgewater successfully and had a verbal commitment back in 2010, but after the firing of then head coach Randy Shannon following a 7-6 season, Bridgewater bolted for Louisville.

 

The Cardinals have 23 Miami-area natives on their team and are thrilled to be going back home to face a Miami team of players many have played against growing up.

 

When they found out, it was like ‘We’re playing back at home again, we’re playing basically our teammates and the people that they play in high school,’” said senior defensive end Marcus Smith, a Georgia native who is the AAC defensive player of the year. “Feeling that with them is gonna be great one.”

 

Miami will be playing in their first postseason game since 2010, when the university implemented a self-imposed two-year bowl ban due to improper benefits from a booster. Former Miami assistant Clint Hurtt who was implicated in the scandal is now on the Cardinals staff.

 

Early on, the Hurricanes were a top 25 team but lost three in a row and fell out of the rankings, but now look to post their first double-digit wins since the 2003 season.

 

Our kids are excited, I think they’re grateful.” Golden said. “They’ve been through a lot the past two years, and they have not been able to have this opportunity.

 

They’re practicing with a purpose, they’re excited, and clearly they have a really tough opponent coming up.”

 

The Hurricanes feel they have a great quarterback of their own in the likes of Stephen Morris, who threw for 2,868 yards with 21 touchdowns and looks forward to matching up with Bridgewater.

 

It’d be a great challenge and a great headline for a lot people,” Morris said

 

Louisville will be moving to the ACC’s Atlantic Division next season, while the Canes are in the Coastal but are scheduled to play one another next year.

 

When we go play in the ACC next year, I think (the bowl) will put our stamp on this season, and it will tell the world that we can play with teams in the ACC and we can play with anybody,” Smith said.

 

The oddsmakers feel the Cardinals can play with the Hurricanes now as they have made them a (minus -3.5) point favorite, but get the latest lines on the game up until kickoff right here at Wonder Punter.

 

Smith finished second in the nation with 12 ½ sacks and with a Cardinals defense that ranked second in the FBS allowing only 257.9 yards per game and has been dominate against the run allowing just 86.3 yards per contest, I like and predict the Cardinals making it a happy home coming for many of its players.

 

Miami top rusher Duke Johnson suffered a season-ending injury with a broken ankle back in mid-season to make the challenge that much greater against the Cardinals defense, but expect an entertaining bowl game.

 

Prediction/Pick: Louisville

By Mario Martinez- Wonder Punter

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NCAA Prediction Bowl Game Preview/Pick- Cincinnati vs. North Carolina

ncaa prediction and picks

Cincinnati Bearcats (9-3) vs. North Carolina Tar Heels (6-6) 12/28- 3:20PM EST

Line: UNC -2.5

Over/Under: 56.5

Belk BOWL- Charlotte, NC

Two teams that mirrored each other during the season will take the field on Saturday afternoon in the Belk Bowl hoping to end the year on a high note.

 

Cincinnati (9-3) and North Carolina (6-6) both struggled in the early season, then made some midseason changes at quarterback which led to long winning streaks before both teams lost close games to longtime rivals in their regular-season finale.

 

They are a lot like us because they had a slow start and then won a lot of games in the end,” Bearcats coach Tommy Tuberville said. “We are probably a much better team now than we were at the beginning of the year, as they are.”

 

North Carolina coach Larry Fedora said of his team… “This is a resilient bunch of guys that kept believing in one another throughout the year and I’m glad they were rewarded with a bowl game. We’re looking forward to facing a very good Cincinnati team led by an outstanding coach in Tommy Tuberville.”

 

The Bearcats will be making their second consecutive appearance in as many years in the Belk Bowl defeating Duke last year 48-34, and this year are back in it thanks in part to a six-game winning streak during the middle of the season that helped them finish third in the AAC.

 

Quarterback Brendon Kay took over the signal calling for the Bearcats in the second game of the season replacing injured first-stringer Munchie Legaux and responded well throwing for more than 3,000 yards in a season, despite not always being 100 percent healthy.

 

I tell you that kid competed and he did it on one leg. His ankle is so bad. He’s been wanting to play and push through it and it’s been that way for about six weeks and he has only practiced about one or two days a week,” Tuberville said of Kay following his team’s 31-24 loss to then-No. 19 Louisville on December 5.

 

He doesn’t throw the ball much because his shoulders are so banged up but I tell you he is a warrior.”

 

The Tar Heels also made a quarterback change with Marquise Williams taking over for Bryn Renner who suffered a season-ending shoulder injury back on November 2nd. The more mobile Williams generated 14 touchdown passes while also rushing for 531 yards and six scores to lead the Heels.

 

Look for North Carolina’s Eric Ebron, one of the nation’s top tight ends to be a main target as he leads the team in catches with 55 and with yards with 895, as he looks to challenge the Cincinnati defense.

 

I just go there out there and do what I do best,” Ebron told the school’s official website.

 

Ebron is a finalist for the Makey Award which is given to the top tight end in all of college football and has already declared himself eligible for the 2014 NFL draft following the Belk Bowl.

 

North Carolina finds itself in the Belk Bowl by way of a 1-5 start followed by a five game winning streak to become bowl eligible before losing to in-state rival Duke 27-25 to end the regular-season.

 

Coach Fedora is proud of the way his team performed after a horrible start. “I’m excited for our team, especially our seniors, who fought through some early season adversity and won five of the last six games to become bowl eligible.”

 

The Bearcats may have the better record, but the oddsmakers are giving the Tar Heels a slight (minus -2.5) point favorite playing close to home in Charlotte, but get the latest spread on the game up until kickoff right here at Wonder Punter.

 

The Tar Heels are 2-0 all-time against the Bearcats, but I predict Cincinnati, who outscored their opponents by 166 points through the backend of their schedule to continue the trend on Saturday and leave the state of North Carolina with the Belk Bowl trophy.

 

Prediction/Pick: Cincinnati

By Mario Martinez- Wonder Punter

Penn State beats Wisconsin 3-1 for NCAA title

The Nittany Lions (34-3) dogpiled as streamers rained down at Seattle's Key Arena. During the celebration, Wisconsin's players returned to the court to applaud the champions.

The 12th-seeded Badgers (28-10) were the lowest seed ever to make it to the final match. Stanford won the title in 2004 as the 11th seed.

McClendon finished with 11 kills for Penn State, which is 6-3 overall in NCAA championship matches. Megan Courtney and Dominique Gonzalez each had 20 digs.

Dominique Thompson had 16 kills for Wisconsin and 5-foot-7 outside hitter Deme Morales added 15. The Badgers were making their first appearance in the championship match since 2000, when they fell to Nebraska in five sets.

"Everybody out there saw out there that as a team, we weren't just happy to be playing in this match, " Wisconsin first-year coach Kelly Sheffield said. "A lot of emotions in the locker room. They expected to win, they played to win. Not a whole lot of people thought we had a chance to do that, but our players did. "

Wisconsin won the third set and strung together a key four-point run to go up 17-15 in the fourth. Ellen Chapman's ace made it 22-19, but a missed serve by Annemarie Hickey – who had injured her shoulder earlier in the set – hurt the Badgers. Hancock's ace narrowed it to 23-22, and Slay's kill down the middle evened it.

Hancock had another ace before McClendon's tap arced over the net and dropped untouched.

"Micah's serve at the end? We had maybe a four-point lead, and she caught on fire, " Wisconsin freshman Lauren Carlini said. "We couldn't control her. "

Hancock, a junior, finished with three aces.

"Penn State has the biggest weapon in college volleyball in Hancock's serve, " Sheffield said. "We battle like crazy to keep it off the floor. She hadn't gone off on us too much this year, but tonight, they got some points in that rotation. "

Penn State, led by national coach of the year Russ Rose, swept Washington in the semifinals. Surprising Wisconsin downed top-ranked Texas, the defending champion, in straight sets to advance to the final.

The Badgers came out with determination, going up 5-3 before the Nittany Lions, with a distinct size advantage, evened it at 9 on McClendon's cross-court kill before pulling in front on 6-foot-6 Slay's swing.

A five-point Penn-State run made it 20-15. Chapman's tap over the net for Wisconsin held off set point until Scott's kill to give the Nittany Lions 1-0 advantage.

Penn State went ahead 10-4 in the second after Hickey's ace, but scrappy Wisconsin clawed back, pulling ahead 18-17 to cap an 8-2 run. Carlini's kill put Wisconsin ahead 24-23, but Morales served into the net for the Badgers' second straight service error, opening the door for Penn State, which closed the set with a pair of spikes from Scott to go up 2-0.

Trailing in the third set, Wisconsin pulled in front 13-12 on Morales' kill before Carlini and Thompson combined for a block and Morales added another point-winning swing to make it 15-12.

Pushed by momentum, Thompson and Morales combined for the block to go up 23-17 and first-year coach Kelly Sheffield pumped his fist. Wisconsin claimed the set when Cerame Prieto served into the net for Penn State.

Hickey finished with 26 digs for Wisconsin.

"It hurt pretty bad, " she said of her shoulder. "I could feel it come out of my shoulder and it was painful, but we were playing in such a high intensity, we were winning the game, all I wanted to do was win for my teammates. I didn't want to come out. "

The Nittany Lions beat Wisconsin twice in straight sets during the regular season. Overall, Penn State has a 43-7 advantage in the series between the teams, including a 3-0 advantage in postseason play.

"I thought it was a great match, " Rose said. "All three times we played Wisconsin was a battle. They play great defense, play really hard, passionate kids. It's hard to advancethe tournament. Texas was defending champion, they ran into a real hot team. We knew that was the case. "
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NCAA Prediction College Bowl Preview/Pick- Ohio vs. East Carolina

ncaa pick and prediction

Free NCAA Pick and Prediction Bobcats vs. Pirates

Ohio Bobcats (7-5) vs. East Carolina Pirates (9-3) 12/23- 2:00PM EST

Lines and betting Odds 

Line: ECU -13.5

Over/Under: 62.0

 

BEEF ‘O’ BRADY BOWL- ST. Petersburg, FL

 

The East Carolina Pirates had their third Conference USA title in their sights, but a blowout loss in their regular-season finale ended that opportunity, so they will now focus on a second double-digit win season when they battle Ohio in the Beef ‘O’ Brady Bowl on Monday night.

 

The Pirates (9-3) where in search of their third Conference USA title in six years, but a blowout loss to Marshall 59-28 put an end to that. East Carolina is moving to the American Athletic Conference next season to join the likes of such teams as Louisville, Central Florida and Cincinnati.

 

East Carolina was riding a five-game winning streak behind their high-powered offense, but fell short of yet another opportunity for a conference crown with their loss at Marshall, who won the East Division.

 

I am proud of that group,” coach Ruffin McNeill said. “I’ve been coaching 33 years. It’s rare when you have a chance to win nine games but we have a chance to win 10… We have done a lot of things that nobody thought we could do.”

 

Leading the offensive charge of the Pirates is Conference USA MVP Shane Carden. All the junior quarterback has done is rank sixth in college football with 3,866 passing yards. rank eighth with 32 touchdowns passes and is tops in the nation with a 71.0 percent completion rating.

 

Thanks to Carden, the Pirates are 10th in the FBS with 40.4 points and 331.5 yards through the air per contest, which Ohio head coach Frank Solich admits finding a way to slow down Carden is a priority.

 

You don’t have great passing stats without having a great quarterback that’s poised,” Solich said. “He’s a great thrower, is knowledgeable about the game and reads things well.”

 

Another concern for Ohio will be the 1-2 punch of receiver Justin Hardy, fifth in the nation with 105 receptions for 1,218 yards with eight touchdowns and running back Vintavious Cooper, who has run for 995 yards and 11 touchdowns. Carden has 10 rushing touchdowns of his own.

 

They’ll also spread people out which enables them to get the ball to their receivers, guys that are playmakers,” Solich said. “Also when you spread people out, you can generally piece together a pretty good running game. Just look at them, they have talent. They’re big and physical on both sides of the ball.”

 

For the Ohio Bobcats (7-5), they will look to counter with fifth-year senior quarterback Tyler Tettleton, who since taking over the starting job in 2011 has thrown for 8,769 yards and 66 touchdowns, but his recent struggles down the stretch this year has been a concern.

 

During the Bobcats three-game losing streak, Tettleton totaled just 351 yards with one touchdown and two totaling a dismal 16 points, but after bouncing back his regular-season finale, he’s confident his offense can match the fire-power of the Pirates.

 

That’s the plan. We’re hoping to go into this thing and put in a good game plan,” Tettleton said. “Hopefully we’ll have a chance to score a lot points and see what happens.”

 

And scoring a lot of points is what they’ll need as the oddsmakers have made the Pirates a huge (minus 13.5) point favorite and with an over/under of 62.0, they expect the points to be flying as well. Get the latest line on this game up until kickoff right here at Wonder Punter.

 

The Bobcats may be a big underdog going in, but they have plenty of bowl experience as they are making their fifth consecutive appearance in postseason and have won their last two games.

 

It means a lot for this senior class to be here all five years and have a chance to go to a bowl game every single year,” Tettleton said. “It’s awesome and hopefully we can win three straight for this university.”

 

Tettleton had 331 yards and two touchdowns last year in the Independence Bowl to lead his team to a 45-14 rout of Louisiana-Monroe.

 

The Pirates will be looking to snap a four-game bowl losing streak and I predict this year will be the year to get they get it done to take home the trophy and cap off a 10-win season.

 

The Pirates fell 43-34 to Louisiana-Lafayette in the New Orleans Bowl last December.

 

Prediction/Pick: East Carolina

By Mario Martinez- Wonder Punter

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UNC’s McDonald reinstated; Hairston still out

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – North Carolina senior Leslie McDonald was cleared to enjoy by the NCAA on Wednesday, and the Tar Heels guard returned to the lineup against Texas after lacking the first nine games of the regular period for receiving impermissible benefits.

In making the announcement, the NCAA furthermore said it offers not yet received a reinstatement demand concerning junior safeguard P.J. Hairston.

According to the NCAA’s statement, North Carolina discovered McDonald’s violations on Oct. 24 and submitted a reinstatement ask for on Dec. 11.

McDonald must pay out restitution of $1,783 to a charity of his choice after the school and the NCAA concluded he recognized “the usage of luxury cars, transaction of parking tickets, a cellphone and lodging” during the springtime and summer of 2013. The total must be compensated in full before North Carolina’s regular-season finale March 8 at Duke.

“We are certainly happy to have this concern resolved for Leslie,” Tar Heels trainer Roy Williams said in a statement. “It has been a terrible period for Leslie and his household and our basketball group. I was very disappointed by Leslie’s activities, and he understands this. He has experienced the consequences of his activities, and I hope he has discovered a lesson that I also wish his teammates recognize.”

McDonald, a fifth-year player, is certainly the lone scholarship senior on Williams’ roster. He averaged 7.2 points per game last season. McDonald scored 15 points in the Tar Heels’ 86-83 reduction to Texas on Wednesday evening.

Hairston’s potential violations came to light in the springtime after a visitors stop turned up details indicating he had used premium rental vehicles paid for by 3rd celebrations. Hairston averaged a team-leading 14.6 factors per game final season.

After the reduction to Texas, Williams declined to take questions about Hairston’s standing or whether the school would distribute a reinstatement demand on his behalf. North Carolina athletic director Bubba Cunningham did issue a short statement.

“The University of North Carolina can be functioning with P.J. Hairston and his household to settle a few unresolved problems that remain,” the declaration read. “We expect to have this matter resolved at the finish of this week.”

[+] EnlargeLeslie McDonald, P.J. HairstonLiz Condo/USA TODAY SportsLeslie McDonald, still left, had been in the Tar Heels’ lineup Wednesday night, but P.J. Hairston remains in limbo.

McDonald known as Wednesday evening “bittersweet” because Hairston wasn’t also declared eligible to play.

“It’s a hard offer being able to become strong in front of the camera because it hurts serious down inside that you can’t become out there with your family – that’s what we call it – my brothers, out there offering their all,” McDonald stated. “Just to be back I has been overjoyed.”

McDonald and Hairston leaned on each other for assistance while they were sidelined. McDonald mentioned they tried to remain focused on issues they could manage, like practice.

“All we can do is talk to each additional, perform the normal points, be as casual as we can,” McDonald said. “That really issues. If you attempt to do the extraordinary, that’s not actually being genuine. We just like to be us. I think that’s what carried us on and kept our spirits up.”

Both players participated in exercise while ineligible.

Oregon gamers Dominic Artis and Ben Carter have furthermore missed time under comparable circumstances. In November, the two received nine-game suspensions and were ordered to pay back again $1,800 each for selling sneakers supplied by the college.

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NCAA Prediction College Bowl Game Preview/Pick- Tulane vs. Louisiana-Lafayette

ncaa picks

Tulane Green Wave (7-5) @ Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns (8-4) 12/21- 9:00PM EST

 

Line: TUL -2.5

Over/Under: 49.5

 

R+L CARRIERS NEW ORLEANS BOWL- New Orleans, LA

 

The Ragin’ Cajuns of Louisiana-Lafayette will be in search of their third win in the New Orleans Bowl on Saturday, but will have to do it this time against an opponent that calls New Orleans home, their in-state foe– the Tulane Green Wave.

 

While the Ragin’ Cajuns have enjoyed success in the postseason in three consecutive years, the Green Wave will be making their first trip to a bowl game since 2002, but both team will be battling injuries at the quarterback position.

 

The Ragin’ Cajuns (8-4) rattled off eight straight regular-season victories in between a pair of two-game losing streaks to start and end the season and their last loss, a 30-8 defeat to South Alabama on December 7 cost them their first outright Sun Belt title and had to settle for sharing the title with Arkansas State.

 

I am not going to let this ruin the entire season,” coach Mark Hudspeth said. “We are the Sun Belt Conference champions. Even though we finished tied, we beat the team head-to-head that we finished tied with and we won eight games in a row. We won a conference title in just our third year together and negative people can get off the train and the positive ones can join me in New Orleans because we’re going back to a bowl.”

 

But, to get it done on Saturday, the Ragin’ Cajuns may be without junior quarterback Terrance Broadway who missed the final game of the season when he suffered a broken right arm back on November 30th. Broadway is listed as questionable for Saturday’s contest.

 

Tulane is also dealing with quarterback issues with starter Nick Montana, who has been slowed by a shoulder injury, but coach Curtis Johnson is anticipating his quarterback playing as well as Broadway for the Ragin’ Cajuns.

 

We want to be basic as we can, but we are going to prepare for Broadway,” Johnson said. “Broadway makes the whole thing go. We think Nick will be ready, but if he isn’t, then we’ll move on to Devin (Powell).”

 

Montana is out of California and is the son of NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana and separated his shoulder back in October and re-aggravated it in the last game of the season back on November 30th.

 

The Green Waves go into Saturday’s bowl game having lost three of its last four and is struggling offensively to put points on the board.

 

Out team was not healthy offensively,” Johnson said. “We took a beating the last couple of weeks. Our quarterback wasn’t very healthy since early on in the season.”

 

Tulane went 5-5 this season with the junior Montana calling the signals, completing 53.1 percent of his passes for 1,654 with 14 touchdowns and nine interceptions.

 

The Ragin’ Cajuns were averaging 41.7 points in the three games before Broadway got injured and last year with Broadway calling the signals, beat Tulane 41-13.

 

I think if you look at what happened last year against them, they really took us to the woodshed,” Johnson said. “They played sensational.”

 

But despite last years loss, the oddsmakers are making the Green Waves a slim (minus -2.5) point favorite at their home Dome stadium, but get the latest odds up until kickoff right here at Wonder Punter.

 

But coach Hudspeth knows his team must get a handle on their turnovers where they have turned the ball over seven times in the last two games with no takeaways, whereas the Green Wave had a plus-12 turnover in their last two games with only one giveaway.

 

I predict the Ragin’ Cajuns taking care of the ball on Saturday and if Broadway is able to go, see them capturing the New Orleans Bowl championship.

 

Prediction/Pick: Louisiana-Lafayette

By Mario Martinez- Wonder Punter

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NCAA Prediction College Bowl Game Preview/Pick- Buffalo vs. San Diego State

buffalo ncaa picks

NCAA Prediction and Free Pick Bulls vs. Aztecs

Buffalo Bulls (8-4) vs. San Diego State Aztecs (7-5) 12/21- 5:30PM EST

 

Line: EVEN

Over/Under: 53.0

 

FAMOUS IDAHO POTATO BOWL- Boise, ID

 

The San Diego State Aztecs will make their school-record fourth consecutive bow appearance when they meet the Buffalo Bulls in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl on Saturday evening.

 

The Aztecs (7-5) overcame a brutal 0-3 to put themselves in a position to continue building its football program under the guidance of third-year coach Rocky Long, who has maintained the programs success following predecessor Brady Hoke.

 

I think the team is happy and excited about going to a bowl game,” Long said.

 

With its fourth straight bowl game, the Aztecs have matched their total bowl appearances over the last 41 years combined and are the first team since 2010 to make it to a bowl game following an 0-3 start.

 

San Diego State will look to junior running back Adam Muema to carry the load as he has gained over a 1,000 yards for the second straight season, but has struggled in his last two games with only 57 yards on 36 carries.

 

(The lack of success) has nothing to do with Adam Muema,” Long insisted. “It has to do with our offensive line not blocking very well for the run in the last two games. But all good running backs that have a good game have to have someone open a hole for them up front.”

 

Senior safety Nat Berhe, a first-team all-Mountain West selection anchors the San Diego State defense that finished second to Fresno State in the conference. Berhe recorded team-highs of 59 solo tackles and 94 overall and added six passes defended with two fumble recoveries.

 

Buffalo (8-4) will be making its second straight bowl appearance in school history and like the Aztecs had to overcome a rough start of the season with losses to BCS-bound Ohio State and Baylor by a combined 110-33 margin.

 

The Bulls then turned it on with a seven-game win streak that ended when they lost their regular-season finale 24-7 to Mid-American champion Bowling Green on November 29th.

 

It’s been four years in the making,” coach Jeff Quinn said about his team’s bowl berth.

 

Expect Buffalo to use a ground attack as well, behind senior star running back Brandon Oliver, a two-time 1,000 yard rusher who has accumulated 1,421 yards with 15 touchdowns this season.

 

The oddsmakers have the game EVEN with Ohio State having been the common opponent for both teams. The Aztecs lost to the Buckeyes 42-7 at Ohio State, while the Bulls loss to Ohio State was much closer according to Aztec quarterback Quinn Kaehler… “I remember Buffalo played Ohio State pretty tough, a lot tougher then we did, so they have some good players on that team and especially on defense,” said Kaehler.

 

With a pick-em game, expect the line to maybe move, so be up to date with the latest spread right here at Wonder Punter up until game time.

 

This will Buffalo’s second bowl appearance since a loss to Connecticut in the 2009 international Bowl.

 

I too have it as an evenly matched game, but I expect both teams to play hard and with pride, but in the end will predict the Aztecs winning to take home the trophy.

 

Prediction/Pick- San Diego State

By Mario Martinez- Wonder Punter

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NCAA Prediction Bowl Game Preview & Pick Cougars vs. Rams

Washington State v USC

NCAA Free Pick and Prediction Bowl Game

 

Washington State Cougars (6-6) vs. Colorado State Rams (7-6) 12/21- 2:00PM EST

 

Line: WASH ST: -4.5

Over/Under: 65

 

GILDAN NEW MEXICO BOWL- Albuquerque, NM

 

The Washington State Cougars and Colorado State Rams will kickoff the bowl season on Saturday with the Gildan New Mexico Bowl and both teams are excited about getting into a bowl game and turning their football programs around.

 

Colorado State coach Jim McElwain and Washington State coach Mike Leach, both in their second-year agree that the bowl matchup is a sign of things changing for both struggling programs, where the Rams (7-6) haven’t been to a bowl game since 2008 and for the Cougars (6-6), it’s been a decade since they tasted the postseason.

 

One of the accomplishments you want early is to get in a bowl game and be part of that club,” McElwain told reporters. “There’s a certain aura that comes with being a bowl team.”

 

McElwain was the offensive coordinator with Alabama during the Crimson Tide’s BCS national championships in 2009 and 2011, and knows the importance of a bowl appearance for a program when it comes to recruiting.

 

Coach Leach says his players are made up of largely of freshman and sophomores, but knows his seniors have been through “rough dry times” and haven’t had the opportunity to play in a bowl game. “They’ve never been in a bowl and (had) hoped they would,” Leach said. “Talking about it and actually doing it are two different things.”

 

Players to watch for the Rams will be running back Kapri Bibbs, who leads all of college football with 28 rushing touchdowns with 1,572 yards on the ground and quarterback Garrett Grayson, who ranks among the nation’s top 20 in passing yards (3,3270). The Rams set a school record with four games scoring 50 or more points and is the only school to have a 3,000 yard passer and 1,500 yard runner in a single season this year.

 

For the Cougars, they are led by junior quarterback Conner Halliday who operates the spread offense and is ranked fourth nationally in passing yards (4,187) and with 28 touchdowns, is tied for 13th.

 

Let’s not forget, this is this same Washington State Cougars that played the Auburn Tigers in their first game of the season in which they lost in a heartbreaker 31-24.

 

We should have won that game,” Leach said.

 

The Cougars like their chances going in on Saturday and feel they were battle tested all year having played four opponents that appear in the top 16 of the BCS standings and so do the oddsmakers who have made them the early (minus -4.5) point favorite. Get the latest spread on the game up until kickoff right here at Wonder Punter.

 

Expect both teams to showcase their high-powered offense come Saturday and McElwain says his defense will have to be ready.

 

I know they throw the heck out of it,” McElwain said. “I know (Leach) isn’t afraid to throw it and he’ll probably throw it coming off the bus.”

 

I too, like the battle tested Cougars and predict a high scoring affair with the Cougars taking home the trophy.

 

Prediction/Pick: Washington State

By Mario Martinez- Wonder Punter

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N. Dame wins 1st NCAA men’s soccer title

CHESTER, Pa. – Confetti rained down, the Notre Dame struggle music “Victory March” blasted over the loudspeakers and everybody on the Fighting Irish’s soccer crew ran to 1 side of the sector to celebrate.

For the first time within the faculty’s proud athletic history, Notre Dame was on prime of the men’s school soccer world.

Notre Dame
Notre Dame won the NCAA men’s soccer title for the primary time in school historical past Sunday.

Led by objectives from Andrew O’Malley and Leon Brown, and one other massive game from College Cup co-Most Excellent Participant Harrison Shipp, Notre Dame received its first men’s soccer title with a 2-1 victory over Maryland on Sunday at PPL Park. The Fighting Irish finished the season 17-1-6.

“We’re all smiling big smiles,” mentioned sixty eight-year-old coach Bobby Clark, who received his first title in 27 years coaching at Dartmouth, Stanford and Notre Dame.

Patrick Mullins, the nation’s main scorer, scored for Maryland (17-four-5). The Terrapins have been attempting to win their fourth national championship and third under coach Sasho Cirovski.

“They’re worthy winners and I am genuinely blissful for Bobby for all he’s achieved for school soccer,” Cirovski mentioned. “I hope he enjoys this one. At Maryland, we shoot for the celebs yearly. We intention excessive. And once you aim that top and when you don’t attain it, you continue to end up on the moon, which is larger than most individuals.”

Shipp, a finalist for the MAC Hermann Trophy as the nation’s greatest player, set up O’Malley’s profitable purpose with a wonderfully positioned free kick in the 60th minute. O’Malley leaped for Shipp’s kick and directed a header past goalkeeper Zack Steffen’s outstretched arms.

Coming into Sunday’s title sport, O’Malley, a senior defender, had scored just twice in his collegiate profession – and, in keeping with Clark, he missed a few chances throughout the season.

But he did not miss when it counted.

“The goal itself was actually put on a silver platter for me,” O’Malley stated. “It could have been powerful for me to screw it up, I suppose. Harry simply performed an attractive ball and all I needed to do was redirect it to the again put up.”

O’Malley, from close by West Chester, said it was further special to score the championship-deciding objective in front of a lot of his household and pals, who made the quick commute to watch him play at PPL Park.

“I sort of jokingly mentioned after the sport – but I’m a little bit critical -that people suppose I’m good now,” O’Malley said. “So, hopefully, I will simply experience that.”

Brown tied it at 1 within the fortieth minute with a tricky-angle shot. He entered the game as a reserve when Vince Cicciarelli was forced to go away when he broke his collarbone in the tenth minute.

Luke Mishu and Nick Besler have been both credited with assists after Besler flicked on a long Mishu throw-in proper to the foot of Brown, who slid a troublesome-angle shot past Steffen.

Mullins, Maryland’s own Hermann Trophy finalist, opened the scoring for the Terrapins in the 35th minute.

Moments earlier, Mullins thought a penalty kick was warranted when a volley from Alex Shinksy from cleared off the aim line by what looked to be the arm of Notre Dame’s Patrick Hodan. But Hodan was not referred to as for the hand ball and then Mullins used his personal hand to carry the ball down and deposit a shot past goalkeeper Patrick Wall.

“Within the heat of the moment, I hit it down with my hand and, like all good ahead, I hit it within the web,” Mullins mentioned. “That is not who I’m and I’m very upset in how that play resulted… I will regret that one for the rest of my life.”

Mullins, who shared College Cup Most Excellent Player honors with Shipp, had 19 objectives this season and completed his college career with forty seven, second in program historical past.

But for Cirovski, it was the character Mullins displayed in admitting to an intentional hand ball that shows what MLS groups will probably be getting when the Maryland senior is likely selected as one of many prime picks in next month’s draft.

“After I construct my stadium, I will bronze a statue with him out front,” Cirovski stated. “He is made from the most effective stuff on earth. It affected him. It affected him loads… His conscience was hurting.”

For Shipp – who completed his senior season with 12 targets and 11 assists, including three within the College Cup – it was not solely gratifying to win a national title but to do so for Clark.

“I believe this program has known for the previous few years that we’re headed in the suitable path,” Shipp said. “We had an amazing regular season (final yr) however I feel we kind of realized that it was time for this program to take the next step. And we thought the one logical place to try this was to succeed in the ultimate 4 and win a nationwide championship.

“And to do it for this guy – our coach – is wonderful. He’s most likely probably the most underappreciated college soccer coach in the nation.”

NOTES: The Besler family has received two major soccer titles in the past week. Besler’s brother, Matt, a U.S. national workforce defender, won the MLS Cup with Sporting Kansas Metropolis last Saturday… In Mullins’ 4 years at Maryland, the Terrapins have lost only two games wherein he scored… In the semifinals Friday, Notre Dame beat New Mexico 2-zero, and Maryland topped Virginia 2-1… Along with Shipp and Mullins, Patrick Hodan (Notre Dame), Besler, O’Malley, Grant Van De Casteele (Notre Dame), Tsubasa Endoh (Maryland), Steffen, Jordan Allen (Virginia), Darius Madison (Virginia) and Michael Calderon (New Mexico) have been chosen to the School Cup All-Event Team.

Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press

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NCAA Week 15 College Football Game Preview- #16 UCF vs. SMU

 

#16 UCF Knights (10-1) @ Southern Methodist Mustangs (5-6) 12/07- 12:00PM EST

 

Line: EVEN

 

No. 16 Central Florida travels into Dallas Saturday afternoon with two chances to punch its ticket to a BCS bowl as they take on the SMU Mustangs.

 

Two scenarios for the Knights to assure themselves a BCS birth…. A Cincinnati loss on Thursday night to #19 Louisville or a victory in their season finale over the Mustangs, and UCF (10-1, 7-0) will capture the American Athletic Conference title and also a trip to a BCS bowl.

 

UCF coach George O’Leary wants his team to earn it on their own.

 

Whatever happens on Thursday night, I don’t want to back into anything,” O’Leary said. “I think you want to win it if you have a chance to be undefeated in conference play. How many teams can do that this year?.. Our concern is playing SMU and winning the game. That’s why we’re playing. Whatever happens could be great for us or it doesn’t change anything.”

 

UCF plans to take full advantage of their opportunity as Louisville were the favorites to runaway with the AAC championship, but it hasn’t been easy as UCF have posted six wins by seven or fewer points this season, with five of those in conference play.

 

Their most recent victory over South Florida 23-20 resulted in a Knights win with five turnovers… something coach O’Leary called for extra focus this week in practice.

 

We’re very fortunate to win a game with five turnovers,” O”Leary said. “I’ve been in football a long time. I’ve had four and scraped by. Five? That’s a lot. It shows the resiliency of both sides of making plays when they had to make it. But again, the offense’s performance was unacceptable. They were told that.

 

We just gotta get back to things that we do and stop worrying about individual (statistics), which I think was taking place a little bit.”

 

With UCF riding a seven-game win streak and an offense that ranks second in the AAC with 34.6 points per game, they have to like their chances of claiming their first conference championship since 2010.

 

For SMU (5-6, 4-3), at stake is the opportunity to become bowl eligible, but with a defense that is yielding a league-worst 34.8 points per game, they will have their work cut out for them.

 

Even more so if starting quarterback Garrett Gilbert is unable to go on Saturday with a knee injury.

 

No quarterback problems with UCF as QB Blake Bortles is ranked seventh nationally in pass efficiency (167.3) and has thrown for 3,038 yards and 22 touchdowns this season.

 

Knights receiver J.J. Worton has complete faith in Bortles getting the job done…

 

No one senses (him) being scared in the huddle,” Worton said. “We all know what he can do and we all know he’s gonna take us to where we need to be. And trust him, we’re just gonna run our routes and know he’s gonna get the ball there.”

 

And it’s with a seasoned quarterback such as Bortles, we can expect the opening line of EVEN to move quickly, so be sure to get the all the latest odds on the game up until kickoff right here at Wonder Punter.

 

Too much UCF Knights on both sides of the ball on this one and predict an easy victory for the Knights to capture the AAC championship.

 

PICK: UCF

By Mario Martinez- Wonder Punter

 

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NCAA Prediction Week 15 College Football Thursday Game Preview/Pick- #19 Louisville vs. Cincinnati

bearcast ncaa pick

#19 Louisville Cardinals (10-1) @ Cincinnati Bearcats (9-2) 12/05- 7:30PM EST

 

Line: LOU -3.5

Over/Under: 51.0

NCAA Free Pick and prediction college football

A share of the American Athletic Conference title will be on the line Thursday night when No. 19 Louisville travels into Cincinnati to battle the Bearcats, who will still have a slight chance of making a BCS bowl.

 

At stake for both teams will be an AAC title to the winning team along with a UCF loss at Saturday at SMU. However, if home underdog Cincinnati can pull out a victory, it will have a chance at the league’s automatic Bowl Championship Series berth because Louisville lost earlier in the year to UCF 38-35.

 

Cincinnati (9-2, 6-1 AAC) did not play UCF this year and would just need to finish ahead of the Knights in the final BCS standings to guarantee a BCS bowl berth.

 

#19 Louisville Cardinals (10-1) @ Cincinnati Bearcats (9-2) 12/05- 7:30PM EST

 

Line: LOU -3.5

Over/Under: 51.0

 

A share of the American Athletic Conference title will be on the line Thursday night when No. 19 Louisville travels into Cincinnati to battle the Bearcats, who will still have a slight chance of making a BCS bowl.

 

At stake for both teams will be an AAC title to the winning team along with a UCF loss at Saturday at SMU. However, if home underdog Cincinnati can pull out a victory, it will have a chance at the league’s automatic Bowl Championship Series berth because Louisville lost earlier in the year to UCF 38-35.

 

Cincinnati (9-2, 6-1 AAC) did not play UCF this year and would just need to finish ahead of the Knights in the final BCS standings to guarantee a BCS bowl berth.

 

Football gets a little bit long and old this time of year. It’s kind of a grind for everybody,” Cincinnati coach Tommy Tuberville said. “When your last game really means something—whether it’s a chance to go to a different bowl, or the possibility of a chance of a piece of a championship, it makes it a lot more fun.”

 

The Cardinals lone defeat this season came at the hands of UCF and it’s that loss that is sending Louisville to a lesser bowl game this year.

 

I don’t think it’s deflating (not going to a BCS game), because you’re looking at a team right now who’s won 10 games,” coach Charlie Strong said. “You’re sitting there 10-1, so we don’t get to the BCS. We’re going to get to another bowl game, but you can’t take away what we’ve already accomplished with 10 wins.”

 

The ‘Keg of Nails’ trophy is what both teams will also be playing for, which dates back to 1929. The Bearcats hold an all-time advantage of 29-22 over Louisville, but with the Cardinals moving to the ACC next season, it’s unclear when both teams will play again.

 

Louisville will be looking for it’s second straight win after losing four consecutive games before winning last year 34-31 on a last second field goal as time expired.

 

Louisville junior quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has fallen off his numbers in his last three games throwing for only two scores and one interception while being sacked eight times with a 127.8 passer rating. In his previous eight games, he posted a 191.6 passer rating with 23 touchdowns and two interceptions.

 

The overall offense of the Cardinals has also dropped in those three games going from 495.3 yards per game to 347.7.

 

Bridgewater was an early season Heisman Trophy hopeful and with the possibility of still being a high NFL draft choice if he elects to go pro, his career at Louisville may be coming to an end.

 

I still feel we have a couple more games on the schedule,” Bridgewater said. “Right now, I have my focus on that.”

 

The early spread has made the Cardinals a (minus) -3.5 point favorite on the road Thursday, but as game time approaches, the line may move so be sure to get the latest odds up until kickoff here at Wonder Punter.

 

Expect a close ballgame as defensively as both teams are getting it done… the Cardinals rank second in the nation in total defense allowing teams to only 245.5 yards per game. The Bearcats rank eighth, yielding 302.4 yards per contest.

 

Cincinnati has won 16 of 18 home games, while outscoring their opponents by an average of 23.4 points and have been hot offensively in their last two games totaling 1,192 yards in their wins at Rutgers and Houston.

 

The Cardinals in a close one.

 

PICK: Louisville

By Mario Martinez- Wonder Punter

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NCAA Prediction Week 14 College Football Game Preview/Pick- #25 Notre Dame vs. #8 Stanford

ncaa picks

NCAA Free Pick and prediction Notre Dame vs. Stanford

 

#25 Notre Dame (8-3) @ #8 Stanford (9-2) 11/30- 7:00PM EST

 

Line: STAN -15.0

Over/Under: 49.0

 

With the Pac-12 North title already won and a shot at the Rose Bowl next week with winning the Pac-12 championship, No. 8 Stanford will turn their attention to hosting the No. 25 Fighting Irish Saturday night in a game where nothing more then winning and playing for pride will be stake.

 

Stanford (9-2) has been on roller-coaster ride the last three weeks with the Oregon Ducks, winning, then losing, then winning the Pac-12 North Division title for sure after last weeks Oregon lost and Cardinal win.

 

Stanford will play the #12 ranked Arizona State Sun Devils next weekend for the Pac-12 championship and the right to represent the Pac-12 in the Rose Bowl in Pasadena in January.

 

I remind people that we don’t go through all the ups and downs that maybe even the media and the fans go through because we keep our minds on our jobs,” Stanford coach David Shaw said. “If we win a big game, they don’t cancel the next week. If we lose a game, they don’t cancel the next week.”

 

Shaw stressed to his team, just worry and focus on the week ahead and it will work out.

 

It’s been very emotional,” Stanford wide receiver Ty Montgomery said. “You definitely learn a lot of lessons. It’s kind of a blessing to experience some highs and some lows. Depending on how you look at it, you can always take something positive out of something negative. It’s been a good experience to be able to fight and bounce back.”

 

It’s simple now for the Cardinal… beat the Sun Devils next week and make a trip to their fourth-straight BCS bowl game… the Rose Bowl.

 

However, a win against Notre Dame is still important because if Stanford losses to Arizona State, their win over the Irish could mean the difference between the Alamo, Holiday, or Sun Bowls…. all less then desirable than a BCS bowl.

 

The Cardinal will be looking for sweet revenge after last year’s game in South Bend that saw the Irish win 20-13 in overtime on a disputed play when Cardinal Stephan Taylor was ruled by officials to have been stopped short of the goal line on fourth down. That Stanford loss helped keep the Irish magical season of 2012 alive.

 

That loss is history and Shaw wants his team focused for Saturday night.

 

We don’t go back in our rooms and cry, which for some reason is what people wants us to do, because that’s what some people do,” Shaw said. “When you have a stake in it, and you’re in it, you take the lessons learned and go forward.”

 

The game plan for Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly this time around is to establish the run, can eliminate the Cardinal from big plays and keep them under 20 points on the scoreboard.

 

Going in Saturday’s game, the Cardinal rank third in the nation against the run, allowing just 89.5 yards per game, while the offense is averaging 33.4 points a contest. And to boot, have won 15 straight home games.

 

So, it’s easy to see why all the numbers point to Stanford who have been favored at (minus) -15.0 points over the Irish. Of course, the line may move, so be sure to check through Wonder Punter up until game time for the latest spread.

 

The Irish (8-3) have had a season that saw them move up, down, out and finally back in the polls again. They believe last week’s tough game against unranked BYU will help them be mentally ready and physically prepared to put up a fight against the highly-favored Cardinal.

 

We need to continue to build on that and develop that, and that’s the way we’ve got to play this game of football,” Brian Kelly said.

 

I’m taking my chances with the Cardinal who have won three out of the last four meetings against the Irish and this year have the more talented and seemingly better prepared football team.

 

Kelly has described the series between the two schools as “a great rivalry.”

 

PICK: Stanford

 

By Mario Martinez- Wonder Punter

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NCAA Prediction Week 14 College Football Game- #22 UCLA vs. #23 USC

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Free Pick NCAA Prediction and Preview UCLA vs USC

 

#22 UCLA Bruins (8-3) @ #23 USC Trojans (9-3) 11/30- 8:00PM EST

 

Line: USC -3.5

Over/Under- 51.5

 

As a kid growing up in Los Angeles, cross-town rivals SC/UCLA for me has always been the best rivalry in College Football…. call it West Coast bias, me being a homer or just the simple fact that I grew up rooting for one and hating the other, or whatever? But this to me is my favorite and the best rivalry in all of sports as these two schools are set to battle on Saturday night in the Coliseum for the right to have another year of bragging rights.

 

Unlike most other schools in the nation who are a rivals, these two colleges are not separated by long miles or one end of the state to the other but by simply a short bus ride, which is why I feel it is so intense when these two programs get together…. in any sport to be honest. These two colleges have their die-hard fans who are loyal to one or the other just like any other ‘hard-core’ rivalries across the nation. There is no down the middle as a fan. Pick a side and that’s it! I will be rooting, yelling, booing and wearing my colors come Saturday night.

 

USC (9-2, 6-2) has seemed to regain it’s national prominence under ‘interim’ coach Ed Oregeron who took over for Lane Kiffin who was fired following the Trojans 62-41 thrashing at the hands of Pac-12 South champion Arizona State on national television back on September 28.

 

All Oregeron has done since that “black-eye” moment in the program is lead this once proud football program to a 6-1 record and brought back the pride in Trojan football.

 

SC is still searching for a new head coach, but I feel Oregeron has done a great job under the circumstances of the NCAA sanctions and highly-recruited standouts who were underachieving under Kiffin. They are now playing winning football games and he should be given a shot to lead the football program back to a national power.

 

A Trojan win on Saturday on maybe the ‘interim’ tag will be removed and he’s given a new title…. head coach. Will USC A.D. Pat Haden agree?

 

If it was up to UCLA coach Jim Mora, the answer would be yes, who cast his vote for Oregeron as conference coach of the year.

 

He gave them a real spark,” Mora said. “When you come into a situation like that where you’re an interim coach, the likelihood of being retained—at least from the outside perception; who knows what’s going on over there—it frees you up to really go after it. I voted for him for Pac-12 coach of the year. That’s what kind of job I think he’s done. I think he’s very deserving of it.”

 

For UCLA (8-3, 5-3), they lost an opportunity to win their second Pac-12 South title last week against Arizona State and a chance for their first Pac-12 championship… so this week against their most hated rival, they will focus on a second consecutive win over the Trojans.

 

USC quarterback Cody Kessler will be making his first start against the Bruins Saturday night and says this….

 

We know there is a lot more emphasis on this game just because of the rivalry and the tradition behind it,” Kessler said. “But we’re going to treat it just like any other week.”

 

USC goes in having dominated the series winning 12 of the last 14 meetings, but last year’s Bruins 38-28 win is still fresh in the minds of all the Trojans.

 

Getting beat. Losing. Terrible taste in our month,” Orgeron said. “Against our rival team. Not playing well. Letting down the Trojan family. Not a very good feeling.”

 

One big boost the Trojans will have come game time is the possibility of star receiver Marqise Lee being back in action where in last year’s game Lee caught nine passes for 158 yards and one touchdown.

 

According to Orgeron, Lee is a ‘sure’ bet to play on Saturday.

 

He’s as special as they get, Mora said. “He has all the attributes of a great receiver. He loves to compete. He can get off the bump-and-run, he can beat you deep, he can stop on a dime and run great routes. You can tell he’s not 100-percent healthy, but that doesn’t mean a lot when you’re talking about Marqise Lee.”

 

Injuries on the Bruins offensive line has been a problem all year and will be again against the Trojans, where they are expected to start three freshmen.

 

UCLA has played many freshmen all year long due to injury problems… but in the long run will pay dividends.

 

We’re very close. We’re an incredibly young football team,” Mora said. “We’re moving up the mountain, we just have to get more mature and that’s a process. There is no magic fairy dust you can sprinkle on a freshman and say, ‘Ok, now you’re a junior.”

 

The Trojan defense will have their sights set on UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley where last year as a freshman in the rivalry game he went 22 of 30 for 234 yards and one TD while rushing for two more scores.

 

We cannot let Hundley run the ball or throw the ball deep,” Oregeron said. We need to be great on coverage and great on our rush.”

 

Hundley is 214 of 315 for 2637 yards passing with 22 touchdowns. He was talked early in the Heisman conversation before falling off.

 

USC has won five straight games and has beaten the Bruins seven straight times at the Coliseum and with those numbers have been made a (minus) -3.5 point favorite for Saturday’s game, but be sure to check the latest spread leading up to kickoff right here at Wonder Punter.

 

I look forward to another great showdown between these two teams and predict the Bruins will pull off an upset in the Trojans’ backyard. My UCLA player to watch will be standout true freshman Myles Jack who plays on both sides of the ball. Jack is outstanding on the defensive side of the ball and was recently inserted into the running back position to give the UCLA running game a much needed shot in the arm.

 

Coach Mora will have his team ready after last weeks ‘could’ve been’ game…

 

You always worry after a tough loss, a real emotional loss, how you’re going to respond,” Mora said. “They just came out and went to work. They’re excited about this game.”

 

Me too. I expect high scoring between both schools with back and fourth action and the usual drama. But, in the end…. Prediction…. UCLA

 

PICK: UCLA

 

 

By Mario Martinez- Wonder Punter