NCAA Football

On the Field, Auburn Has Moved on from "The Kick-6"

AUBURN, Ala. — It's hard to find a part of Auburn that hasn't been influenced by the ending to the 2013 Iron Bowl.

Former Tigers cornerback Chris Davis' game-winning, literally last-second, 109-yard field goal return to knock off No. 1 Alabama and send Auburn to the SEC Championship Game—more commonly known as "The Kick-Six"—is everywhere.

Just inside the Auburn Athletics Complex, which overlooks the side of Jordan-Hare Stadium where Davis first took the ball out of the end zone, the entire left side of the atrium is covered with an oversized photo of the postgame celebration:

Right before the kickoff of each home game this season, Auburn's hype video has started with an exaggerated clock countdown that stops at "0:01" and then launches into Davis' return:

Even Auburn University's commercial for 2014 is based on the play and the commencement speech from Stan White, the former Tigers quarterback who interjects alongside play-by-play man Rod Bramblett as Auburn's radio color commentator:

The team made news earlier this year when it painted Davis' path on the famous play onto Pat Dye Field for "Big Cat Weekend," its biggest recruiting event: 

"The Kick-Six" has surrounded everything Auburn football for the last year, and that's not counting the countless replays on television and online.

"I've seen it a couple times," senior wide receiver Quan Bray said Sunday night.

After a short pause, he quickly clarified.

"A couple hundred, seems like," Bray said with a laugh. "It shows everywhere, and that was a great play. It's going to be in history forever."

But even with all the hype surrounding the play and the amount of emphasis the university—and even the team—has put on it this season, Auburn's players and coaches want to make one thing clear.

“We’re not going to bring it up or talk about it, because it can’t help us this year," offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee said. "That was last year. This year is completely different, and we’re going to have to play even better this year."

Even though Auburn will enter Saturday night's contest as two-score underdogs to Alabama, just like it was in last year's meeting, the Tigers have no plans to revisit the ever-present play as motivation to pull off another upset.

"It’s a new year," head coach Gus Malzahn said. "This is a new team, just like theirs is a new team. There are players who have overlapped that played in it, but this is a new year and a new game."

In fact, Auburn is looking at last year's game-winner, which was perhaps the most dramatic moment in the program's long history, as a potential distraction.

That's right—the play that helped send Auburn to Atlanta and Pasadena is somewhat of a problem this season.

"It’s one of those things you’ve got to deal with," Lashlee said. "Both sides have to deal with it because it’s kind of what comes with the week, just normal distractions and things that are out there. I don’t think it will bother our guys."

Senior center Reese Dismukes said the constant replays haven't affected him, even though there are constant references to it on social media this week.

"I haven't really noticed much of that," Dismukes said. "I try not to read everything I see on Twitter. I haven't really seen it that much. Obviously on the little highlight reel, the one ESPN is doing, it has it from last year."

The stance of avoidance that Auburn is taking this week comes in the midst of a disappointing second half to the 2014 season, one that started with dreams of another conference title and another shot at the national championship.

Losses to Texas A&M and Georgia mathematically put the Tigers out of contention for both of those trophies, meaning that Saturday's game will be about being the spoiler instead of fighting for a semifinal spot.

"I think it’s the greatest college rivalry in football, and it will be hyped up," defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson said. "If we’d played a little bit better in two or three games this year, it’d be an even bigger one. Last year everybody had a stake in it. It was going to be huge. This year, we’re kind of the spoilers."

Although "The Kick-Six" has and will continue to be replayed everywhere during Iron Bowl week, Auburn players say they know this is a completely different team and a completely different situation.

Because of that, there's no reason to look back.

"I think that's way behind us," Dismukes said. "We're way ahead of that now. Our main focus is this year and going in there and doing what we've got to do."

 

All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All recruiting rankings and information courtesy of 247Sports. All stats courtesy of cfbstats.com.

Justin Ferguson is Bleacher Report's lead Auburn writer. Follow him on Twitter @JFergusonAU.

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Predicting College Football's Biggest Headlines for Week 14

With Week 14 upon us, it's time to take a look at what everyone will be talking about during rivalry week. Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Michael Felder, Barrett Sallee and Adam Kramer discuss the biggest headlines for the upcoming football week.

Will Florida State remain unbeaten after rivalry week?

Watch the video and let us know!

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Rankings 2014: Top 25 NCAA Playoff Standings for Week 14

Alabama, Oregon, Florida State and Mississippi State all won their respective matchups Saturday, and for the first time in weeks, there wasn’t a complete upheaval of the Week 14 College Football Playoff Top 25 rankings.

Despite the Associated Press ranking the Seminoles as the No. 1 team in the nation and the Amway Coaches Poll tabbing them at No. 2, the College Football Playoff voting committee still has FSU listed at No. 3 overall.

Let the debate continue.

Here are the Week 14 College Football Playoff, Associated Press and Bleacher Report Top 25 polls and a preview of this week’s most important matchup.

 

Week 14’s Most Important Matchup

While Alabama is playing Auburn in the Iron Bowl, Oregon is squaring off against a tough Oregon State team and Florida State is taking on in-state rival Florida, the biggest game of the weekend will be the Mississippi State Bulldogs vs. the Ole Miss Rebels.

The Egg Bowl.

The top three ranked teams in the nation should win their matchups with relative ease, but Mississippi State has a tough test against Ole Miss in a crucial matchup. With the Bulldogs' playoff hopes on the line, quarterback Dak Prescott and the entire roster must come prepared for a battle.

The Rebels and the Bulldogs have a long and storied history against each other, but there have been few times in the past that there has been more on the line. Mississippi State enters the game as the No. 4-ranked team in college football, and Ole Miss is currently ranked 19th overall.

Ole Miss is 18th on the Week 14 Associated Press Top 25 poll:

Regardless of where the Rebels are ranked, the team still has an immense amount of talent on both sides of the ball and will give the Bulldogs a serious challenge. Not only is Ole Miss hosting the game, but the Rebels also were victorious the last time the teams played at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.

Ole Miss has lost three of its last four games, but the competition in the SEC is incredible. After beating Alabama and Texas A&M, the Rebels lost to LSU, Auburn and Arkansas, the latter loss being a 30-0 upset in Week 13.

On the other hand, Ole Miss has the top-ranked defensive unit in the nation in terms of points allowed per game with 13.5. The Bulldogs will have a tough time breaking through the Rebels defense.

Here is Bleacher Report’s Week 14 rankings:

Mississippi State has an elite defense as well. The unit is ranked 11th in the sport and is only allowing an average of 18.4 points per game. After watching the Rebels get shut out by Arkansas last week, the Bulldogs defenders can’t wait to get on the field against Ole Miss.

The real strength of Mississippi State is the offensive unit.

Led by Prescott, the Bulldogs have the 40th-ranked passing attack (264.9 yards per game) and the 19th-ranked ground game, averaging an impressive 246.8 rushing yards per game. After a heartbreaking loss to the Crimson Tide in Week 12, Mississippi State bounced back with a 51-0 beating on Vanderbilt.

With the Bulldogs understanding the magnitude of the situation, the team will bring its best on the road and hand Ole Miss another heartbreaking loss. Mississippi State will be playoff bound with a victory Saturday, and the program deserves it after a great 2014 season.

Predicted Final Score: Mississippi State 30, Ole Miss 20

 

Stats via ESPN.com.

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Georgia Football: Is Georgia Tech a Worthwhile Foe in the CFB Playoff Era?

Affectionately known by the moniker Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate, the rivalry between the Georgia Bulldogs and the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets is one of the South’s oldest (and once, one of the bitterest) in-state rivalries. 

But despite meeting more than 100 times on the gridiron, this matchup will not remain viable for the Dawgs in the College Football Playoff era.

Not too long ago, Georgia Tech boasted one of the proudest programs in college football.  National championships in 1917, 1928, 1952 and 1990 made the Yellow Jackets a program worth envying.  As such, they were an ideal rival for the Bulldogs. 

As of late, however, the disparity between the ACC and the SEC and a current reign of Georgia dominance has brought the merits of this late-season game into question—especially within the context of the new College Football Playoff.

 

Conference Separation

South Carolina head coach and quote-machine Steve Spurrier once said (per Mike Herndon of AL.com) that Georgia had more rivals than any team in the nation. "Georgia has so many rivals," he insisted.  "It's difficult for them to have a big rivalry game every week."

Spurrier’s commentary was somewhat in jest (he listed Vanderbilt as one of the Bulldogs’ greater enemies), but there was truth in his statement. 

Georgia and Florida have been bitter SEC rivals for decades.  Georgia and Auburn lay claim to being the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry.  The Georgia vs. Clemson game was instrumental in shaping the college football landscape for much of the 1970s and 1980s. 

Now, the Bulldogs and Spurrier’s Gamecocks tend to have epic divisional battles.  And even as the Tennessee Volunteers program has struggled in recent years, there’s been no love lost between the Vols and the Dawgs.

In light of that superfluous set of rivalries, Georgia Tech is easy to miss.  Though games with Clemson are now intermittent, the rest of the Bulldogs’ most hated foes present much more meaningful opposition, if for no other reason than conference allegiance. 

The Gators, Gamecocks and Volunteers hail from neighboring states in important recruiting grounds and compete for the same division crown as the Bulldogs every year.  As this weekend perfectly demonstrates, a win (or a loss) to Georgia Tech does nothing for Georgia’s chances within the Southeastern Conference.

And Auburn, Georgia’s permanent cross-division opposition, is meaningful as a conference game and also as a grudge match between the SEC East and the SEC West.

At best, a victory over Georgia Tech gives the Bulldogs an opportunity to conquer an ACC team, but given the recent trajectories of both conferences, that is hardly meritorious.  By any measure of ranking, the SEC is deeper than the ACC and presents a better product.

 

Lopsided Rivalry

Even in-state bragging rights have fallen by the wayside over the preceding decades.  It’s easy to note Georgia’s 12 wins over Georgia Tech over the past 13 seasons, but although that streak is strong, it’s not an outlier.

Dating back to 1957, Georgia has completely dominated this series.

And while both schools share—in theory—the same recruiting territory, the combination of Georgia’s dominance in the rivalry and Georgia Tech’s option-specific offense keeps the Yellow Jackets from ever truly competing with the Bulldogs' ability to sign elite prospects.

Ultimately, wins are expected for Georgia in this rivalry.  Losses are bound to happen—and to be clear, one could occur this year—but they’re viewed more as frustrating missteps than disappointing indictments of the state of both programs. 

A Georgia loss to Georgia Tech is perceived as both an upset and—for Georgia fans at least—a reflection of a lack of diligence by the better team.

 

Indifference

That trend manifests itself, for better or worse, in a general indifference from many of the Bulldog faithful. 

To be sure, most Dawg fans want to beat Georgia Tech.  But they also want to beat everyone on the schedule.  And for the majority of Georgia fans, Tech is no longer the most significant rival of the Bulldogs. 

A recent poll conducted by 247Sports illustrates this point clearly.  At the time of publishing, 53 percent of voters tabbed Florida as Georgia’s biggest rival.  Georgia Tech raked in less than 23 percent of the votes.

For Georgia, fans’ indifference may be reflective of a threat greater than an actual loss to Georgia Tech: the threat of committee indifference.

Currently, Georgia Tech is positioned 16th in the College Football Playoff rankings.  Accordingly, a convincing win over the Yellow Jackets could propel the Bulldogs forward. 

But such high polling position is not necessarily the norm for Georgia Tech. 

Over the preceding five years, Georgia Tech has been ranked (by the Associated Press) only twice at the time of this season-ending matchup.  And the Yellow Jackets were ranked higher than the Bulldogs at kickoff just twice from 2004-13.

This year, a win over Georgia Tech could prove beneficial.  But it’s not hard to picture a scenario in which a game—even a win—against the Yellow Jackets could negatively impact the Bulldogs’ playoff scenarios. 

In fact, combining this year’s SEC scenarios with last year’s edition of Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate paints such a picture.

If Missouri loses to Arkansas, Georgia will advance to the 2014 SEC Championship Game.  Hypothetically, the Dawgs could upset an opponent from the SEC West and still be on the outside looking in as far as the CFP is concerned—regardless of the status of Georgia Tech. 

But a game like last year’s—a double-overtime victory over an unranked Georgia Tech squad—would certainly hurt the Bulldogs from the perspective of committee sentiment.

In light of that, reexamining the validity of this annual rivalry could be a prudent move.  After all, the positives of a win over Georgia Tech now might be outweighed by the potential negatives of the game—regardless of the outcome.

 

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand and all stats courtesy of Sports-Reference.com.

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Top Recruits Who Will Be Impacted by Result of the Florida-Florida State Game

While rivalries are always hotly contested among fanbases, most prospective recruits don’t share the same fervor until they actually pick a school. 

For example, there will be a number of recruits at this weekend’s matchup between Florida State and Florida who are considering both schools. 

Both schools will fight desperately to earn a victory over their hated rival, but for most recruits, the final score will have a minimal moment on their final decision.

However, that’s not to say the result can’t have an impact.

A win by Jimbo Fisher and the Seminoles would reinforce their standing as the most dominant program in the state.

On the other hand, the Gators—who were the last team to defeat the ‘Noles back in 2012—will look to erase the frustration of a two-year spell filled with disappointment by sending outgoing coach Will Muschamp off with a victory.

Which top recruits will be watching the action between the Seminoles and the Gators closely?

*Recruits listed in alphabetical order. 

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For Jalen Hurd, Tennessee, Anything Less Than a Bowl Game Is a Disappointment

Tennessee breakout star freshman running back Jalen Hurd is seeking more.

Never mind that the Vols are one of the nation's youngest teams, having played 24 freshmen, or the fact that they've navigated one of the toughest schedules. All that matters is if they beat lowly instate rival Vanderbilt this weekend in Nashville, they'll make the program's first bowl game since 2010.

That game will essentially be Hurd's homecoming. The Hendersonville native is jacked up about the possibility of getting a program-projecting win in his backyard.

"It’s everything for us; it's a live-or-die situation," Hurd told Bleacher Report on Tuesday evening after practice. "Especially with it just being at home, it makes it something else. It’s amazing.

"All we're thinking about is that sixth win. So, whoever's in our way is what we're focusing on right now. That sixth win means everything. We're trying to get Tennessee back to a bowl game, which is where they should be. So every day we’re preparing to get that win."

If the Vols don't win, well, that's going to be catastrophic. It will mean they've failed to go to a bowl game yet again and ultimately finished with a sideways step from a season ago.

Simply put, it's unacceptable to everybody. 

For a player with the drive and motivation of Hurd, this season already has fallen short of his own immense expectations, and by association, those of the team he expects to put on his young shoulders.

From a personal perspective, regardless of whether Hurd views this year as a success or not, it has been. Despite starting just seven games, he has 756 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns. He's also the team's second-leading receiver with 33 catches for 217 yards and two more touchdowns.

Tennessee's offense flows directly through the 6'3", 228-pound goliath of a runner, and more often than not, he produces. How he goes, the offense goes.

At times such as the fourth quarter against South Carolina when the Vols needed a big play, they leaned on Hurd. He took a screen pass, broke two tackles and sprinted 21 yards for a touchdown on a fourth-down play that ultimately provided the catalyst for a comeback win.

He's that kind of player, and he already is a leader and a monster talent.

Kentucky's coach Mark Stoops compared him to Adrian Peterson. During ESPN's telecast of the Missouri game, analyst Kirk Herbstreit likened him to Hurd's childhood idol, Eddie George.

Despite the personal accolades, Hurd doesn't dish much on goals, but there is a huge one remaining.

"My expectations were more than what I've done so far," he said. "I definitely expected to do more and to do more as a team, but you just adjust to what you have. But one of my biggest goals was to go to a bowl game. This game means everything for us. This team [Vanderbilt] is what’s standing in our way, and we have to get this win."

Though Hurd and others shrugged off any extra motivation with this game being back in their old stomping grounds, UT coach Butch Jones acknowledged there may be a little something extra.

Said Jones, according to UTSports.com:

The great thing about staying at home and representing your home state institution is you play in front of your family and friends every home game in Neyland Stadium in 102,455. But I know it will be special, they get to go back to Nashville. But again, they are very, very mature, a lot of them have played [there] before in high school, so I don't see that being any clutter or any distractions at all.

Hurd is used to tuning out distractions. His even-keeled demeanor off the field contrasts drastically with his violent running style. Even during a recruitment where everybody in the nation wanted him, Hurd ended things early by pledging to UT in March of 2013 before signing 11 months later.

He never wavered; he just wasn't one who lived for the drama.

Hurd believed in Jones, wanted to be part of the program and became the jewel of a top-notch recruiting class and a recruiter that pulled together a star-studded group. Hurd reached iconic status before he ever arrived in Knoxville, and he has lived up to the massive hype.

"Definitely I was a fan of Tennessee growing up," Hurd recalled. "My grandparents followed it very hard. They're diehard UT fans. They've always supported me, anywhere I wanted to go, but when I finally came here, they were ecstatic. It’s crazy just being here with all my hometown friends in the state I grew up in. It's amazing representing them every day."

Several of his classmates from the same area felt the same way. Defensive end Derek Barnett and wide receiver Josh Malone (among others) all hail from the Midstate.

Jones again is recruiting well in Nashville, Murfreesboro and the corridor between the two cities. That talent-rich area was largely ignored by Derek Dooley, but Jones made it a priority. It's returning players who are providing the program's backbone.

Hurd already is looked upon by Vols fans as a trailblazer who believed in Jones before there was any tangible proof of something to believe in. He's perhaps the most beloved Vol already, and he is blossoming into a star.

"It's a blessing just being here," Hurd said, "and even being on a pedestal...you’ve just got to take a step back and look at it that way and know that you're working hard for family, for your coaches, for everybody here and for your teammates."

The fruits of that hard work are hard-earned wins, and they've been hard to come by this year. The Vols need one more for all the struggles to pay off. Even if Hurd has bigger aspirations for his days at UT than just making a bowl game, getting to the postseason is the first step.

After that? Well, Hurd doesn't talk too much about personal goals, but he's got an ultimate vision for this program. 

"I can't speak too much on goals, but all I know is I'm going to put everything I have into this program and try to get this team to a national championship," he said. "I'm going to do everything I can do."

 

All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats gathered from UTSports.com, unless otherwise noted.

Brad Shepard covers SEC football and is the Tennessee Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. Follow Brad on Twitter @Brad_Shepard.

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College Football Rivalry Games with Biggest Heisman Implications

Welcome to crunch time.

With just two weeks remaining in the 2014 college football regular season, we’ve reached the point where awards are won and postseason berths are earned. From now until Dec. 6, every FBS program gets one last chance to make the most of its season, and players get a final shot at impressing voters.

The nation’s focus will be trained on the chase for the four College Football Playoff berths, which will be awarded Dec. 7. The Heisman Trophy race is also tightly contested: Oregon’s Marcus Mariota and Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon lead the field in the race to pick up the stiff-arm trophy on Dec. 13. Final votes are due Dec. 9, but this week, the final full week of the regular season, will be important, too.

Rivalry games abound across the map, with teams who just plain don’t like each other facing off for bragging rights and playoff positioning. They also have the potential to affect the Heisman race. Here’s a look at this weekend’s games which could impact the chase for the Heisman Trophy. The players spotlighted are all included in ESPN's Heisman Watch and will play big roles in their rivalry games.

 

Begin Slideshow

After Clutch 5-Star Commit, Which Top Targets Should UCLA Push for Next?

UCLA just signed Keisean Lucier-South, a 5-Star defensive end, as per 247sports. The Bruins class is shaping up to be a dandy with several top prospects leaning towards UCLA.

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder discusses how Jim Mora can round out his already stellar recruiting class.

How good can the Bruins be next season?

Watch the video and let us know!

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

After Clutch 5-Star Commit, Which Top Targets Should UCLA Push for Next?

UCLA just signed Keisean Lucier -South, a 5-Star defensive end, as per 247sports . The Bruins class is shaping up to be a dandy with several top prospects leaning towards UCLA...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

More Than Just the Kick-6: Relive the Greatest Iron Bowl Ever

The 2013 Iron Bowl was arguably the best edition in its long, storied history. From the national-championship implications and the back-and-forth scoring to the wild finish, this game had it all.

Bleacher Report caught up with key media members and officials as they told the story of the game from their perspective.

Was this the best college football game of all time?

Check out the video and let us know!  

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Notre Dame vs. USC: Which Team Will Rebound and Build Momentum for 2015?

One of the best cross-country rivalries takes place in Week 14: Notre Dame vs. USC. With both teams not in the championship picture, they now shift their focus to the future. 

Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Michael Felder and Adam Kramer debate which program has a brighter future.

Which team is better equipped for 2015?

Check out the video and let us know! 

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College Football Playoff Standings: Week 13 Rankings and Bowl Game Projections

Just like that, there are two weeks left in the 2014 college football season. The postseason picture is becoming clearer as November begins to fold into December. While the playoff field still has to be figured out, bowl pictures are starting to take form. 

Here's how the two major Top 25 polls looked after Week 13. The following slides contain bowl projections heading into Week 14. Click on the links below to view the latest College Football Playoff, Associated Press and USA Today Top 25 polls.

College Football Playoff 

Associated Press

USA Today Amway Coaches Poll

Begin Slideshow

Auburn vs. Alabama: Assessing Each Team's Key to Victory in 2014 Iron Bowl

How many times have you watched the replay of Auburn's Chris Davis' game-winning return of an Alabama missed field goal to secure a 2013 Iron Bowl victory this week? Ten? Twenty? Well, there's a reason for all of that reminiscing—this is one of the most exciting college football games every year, and there will be no exception in 2014.

You aren't fired up yet? Well, maybe this will help:

Last year, the Tigers took down the No. 1 Crimson Tide, ending their hopes of a BCS title. This year, Alabama is the nation's top-ranked squad once again, and a win could propel the team into the first-ever College Football Playoff. Will Auburn play spoiler once more?

Before Auburn attempts to repeat history and Alabama gets a shot at redemption on Saturday, here's a look at the biggest key to victory for each team in this year's Iron Bowl.

 

Alabama: Get out of the Gate Quickly

The Crimson Tide's offense was a work in progress early in the season, but quarterback Blake Sims really came into his own, and Alabama is averaging 35.0 points per game as a result. However, Sims and Co. need a quick start to gain an early lead on the Tigers, forcing them to play from behind.

When Alabama has trailed early in conference games this season, results haven't been good. Ole Miss was the first to get on the board against the Crimson Tide, and the Rebels went on to win that game. Later in the season, LSU jumped out in front early. While Alabama won that game, it was forced to do so in overtime.

In both of those instances, Alabama didn't score until the second quarter. That cannot be the case against a dangerous Auburn offense on Saturday.

The Tigers are a run-first team. When they fall behind, they are taken out of their comfort zone. That was the case earlier this season when Dak Prescott got Mississippi State out to an early lead against Auburn. It forced the Tigers to pass more frequently, and the end result was Nick Marshall completing 17 of his 35 passing attempts for two touchdowns and two interceptions.

Mississippi State won that game handily by clamping down on defense after gaining that early lead, and Alabama is built to do the same.

This shouldn't be an issue for Sims in the Iron Bowl. Of his 19 touchdown passes this season, eight have come in the first quarter. He's also completing 67.7 percent of his passes in the opening quarter of games this year, over 7 percent more than any of the other three.

 

Auburn: Fire Up the Defense

Auburn isn't exactly the team you think of in terms of defense; however, that's going to have to change for the Tigers if they are to take down Alabama yet again.

This season, Auburn's defense can be described as porous. The Tigers are ranked 40th in scoring defense, 74th against the pass, 38th against the run and 52nd in total defense. Those aren't good numbers to begin with, but the problem here is that they've been worse against SEC opponents.

Over their last five conference games, the Tigers have allowed at least 31 points in each. If Auburn gives up that many points to Alabama, a victory will be practically out of reach against a Crimson Tide defense ranked second in the nation, allowing an average of just 14.5 points per game.

One big way to slow Alabama down will be to contain wide receiver Amari Cooper. Tigers defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson spoke with Joel A. Erickson of AL.com about the team's plans to double-cover the prolific wideout.

"We'll do it some, absolutely," said Johnson. "Of course, there's a lot of different ways you do it. What everybody calls double-zone, just two deep, try to have somebody over the top, try to disguise what you're doing."

Keeping Alabama's offense from lighting up the scoreboard will work in similar fashion to how Auburn took down Ole Miss and its stout defense. While the Rebels did put up 31, the points were spread out over the course of the game, allowing the Tigers to continue running the ball, racking up 248 yards and three touchdowns on 46 carries and coming away with a win.

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Arkansas vs. Missouri: 2014 Battle Line Rivalry TV Info, Spread, Injury Updates

For the first time since 1963, the Arkansas Razorbacks and Missouri Tigers will play in the regular season.

There is no sexy bid for the College Football Playoff on the line. But there is Arkansas as one of the most dangerous teams in the nation and already bowl-eligible. There is Missouri's quest to win the SEC East and play in the title game.

There is the birth of the Battle Line Rivalry.

In what promises to be a brutal affair between two like-minded SEC members, a tradition will be created. While not the biggest game on Friday's slate, this one is the most deserving of attention from fans around the globe.

 

Trench Warfare 

The cliche "something has to give" certainly applies when looking at these two teams.

Missouri does the majority of its offensive damage on the ground thanks to the efforts of tailbacks Russell Hansbrough and Marcus Murphy. The former has 858 yards and nine scores, the latter has 689 and three.

The nation knows about Arkansas' elite ground attack at this point. It is the main reason the Razorbacks have made it through a schedule that includes Auburn, Texas A&M, Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi State, LSU, Ole Miss and Missouri to become bowl-eligible:

"I know this, we're playing as good as anybody," Arkansas coach Bret Bielema said, per The Associated Press, via FoxSports.com. "I'm sure there's a team or two that would be a matchup issue for us, but we're playing really good … If you just put us in a room right now with anybody, I think we could hold our own very, very well."

Author Zach Law puts one aspect of the impending physical matchup into perspective:

The biggest caveat of all? Both teams rank 16th nationally with an average of just 20.2 points allowed per game.

That said, the number is certainly more impressive for the Razorbacks given the aforementioned schedule and the fact the unit has now shut out LSU and Ole Miss in back-to-back games. 

Regardless, something truly will have to give Friday.

 

Ruining the Party

If there is one player set to take the field in Columbia who can ruin how this game figures to play out, it is Tigers sophomore quarterback Maty Mauk.

That sounds strange to say provided the fact he is the guy who tossed four interceptions on 21 attempts in a 34-0 loss to Georgia earlier this season. But Mauk has turned up his play a notch and has seven touchdowns to just one interception over the course of his last four outings.

His most recent was impressive, too, as SEC Network illustrates:

Granted, Mauk has not completed better than 60 percent of his passes in seven games and counting, but if there is a way to counteract what may be gaudy rushing totals by Arkansas, it is scores through the air by the sophomore.

Whereas Arkansas ignores the passing game because it can (and will Friday with quarterback Brandon Allen injured), Missouri at least attempts to get Mauk going each time out for his propensity to score in a hurry.

If Mauk can ride recent momentum gained by saving his team's SEC East title hopes, this one may not exactly be a ground-based affair.

 

When: Friday, November 28, 2:30 p.m. ET

Where: Faurot Field, Columbia, Missouri

Television: CBS

Betting Lines (via Odds Shark):

  • Over/Under: N/A
  • Spread: Arkansas (-1.5)

 

Team Injury Reports

Injury reports per The Sports Network, via USA Today.

 

Prediction

The Razorbacks are about to shock the globe again. 

Missouri's defense ranks well, but keep in mind that both of the team's losses this season have come against the strong rushing attacks of Indiana and Georgia. Both programs were able to bruise their way to a minimum of 210 yards and three scores on the ground apiece.

Now think of what that deep, physical Arkansas attack will do to the unit.

Look for the Razorbacks to have a field day in Columbia.

Prediction: Razorbacks 28, Tigers 20

 

Statistics and info courtesy of ESPN unless otherwise specified.

 

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Bowl Projections 2014: Playoff Predictions After Release of Week 14 Poll

There may be plenty of hype that surrounds the weekly release of the College Football Playoff rankings, but nothing changed in the top seven on Tuesday. 

Alabama, Oregon and Florida State are still in perfect position to finish as the top three, while Mississippi State, Baylor, TCU and Ohio State are right in the thick of the race for the No. 4 spot.  So what does that do for the playoff projections?

Read on to see the latest playoff picks from StatMilk, the national championship odds from Odds Shark and my own playoff projections.

 

StatMilk and Odds Shark Playoff Projections and Odds

*Odds to win the national championship are courtesy of Odds Shark, as of Tuesday night at 10 p.m. ET.

 

Scott Polacek Playoff Projections

Sugar Bowl: No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Ohio State

Rose Bowl: No. 2 Florida State vs. No. 3 Oregon  

Championship Bowl (in Arlington, Texas): TBD (semifinal winners)

 

Breakdown

Alabama, Oregon and Florida State making the playoffs in this hypothetical is fairly self explanatory at this point.

They were the top three teams yet again in Tuesday’s new poll, and, assuming they all win out, the Crimson Tide would be SEC champs with wins over Auburn, Mississippi State, LSU and the SEC East champion, the Ducks would have wins over UCLA, Stanford, Michigan State and the Pac-12 South champion and the Seminoles would be the one undefeated power-five conference team remaining as ACC champs.

There may be some criticism surrounding Florida State because it wins so many of its games by close margins, but quarterback Jameis Winston put that in perspective, via Brendan Sonnone of the Orlando Sentinel:

Well, you know, we were downgraded every time we blew someone out last year, so think of the irony of that. If we win the game close, we're bad. When we blow someone out, we're bad. But the thing is, we're a team, we're a family at Florida State.

What everyone else thinks about us, that's none of our business.

The surprise here is the No. 4 spot, especially since I have consistently put Baylor there in recent bowl projections.

The reason for that change is because the Buckeyes were still ahead of the Bears in the most recent poll, and that will weigh large in the near future. Baylor didn't pass Ohio State when the Buckeyes struggled with Indiana, which means it may not have another opportunity to jump Urban Meyer's bunch in the future polls.

If Baylor wins out and beats Kansas State, its resume will be close enough to TCU’s that the head-to-head victory from earlier in the season will finally come into play. That would ultimately put the Bears ahead of the Horned Frogs.

However, the Buckeyes are ahead of those Bears, and in this scenario, they beat Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game.

The Badgers have climbed to No. 14 in the rankings and will likely be even higher by the time the conference title game rolls around. An Ohio State win over Wisconsin will be seen in the same light as a Baylor win over Kansas State, so the Bears will not jump the Buckeyes in the last rankings.

That leaves Mississippi State.

As of now, the Bulldogs are getting credit for being in the SEC, but the selection committee will grant more credit to conference champions at the end of the season. If all of these teams win out, the Bulldogs won’t even be SEC West champions, let alone SEC winners.

The Buckeyes will get the necessary boost from knocking off a formidable Wisconsin team (and Heisman Trophy candidate Melvin Gordon) to leapfrog Mississippi State and hold off the Big 12 contenders. 

Don’t just assume Ohio State will beat Wisconsin, though. Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports noted that Gordon is at his best when the stakes are highest:

However, J.T. Barrett and the Ohio State offense will outscore Gordon and the Badgers and make a final impression on the selection committee. 

Get ready for a Nick Saban and Meyer showdown in the College Football Playoff.

 

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College Football Week 14 Schedule: TV and Live Stream Info for Every Game

The pageantry and tradition surrounding annual clashes with hated rivals is one of the few sacred things remaining that separates big-time college sports from professional ones.

College football fans will be treated to a number of crucial rivalry showdowns in Week 14 with much more than bragging rights on the line. There are four spots up for grabs in the initial College Football Playoff, and the top contenders will all be tested in Week 14 by some of their most hated opponents. 

With that in mind, here is a look at the entire schedule with broadcast information.

The schedule and viewing information is courtesy of CBSSports.com. For games without national or regional coverage on a major network, check local listings.

 

Live Stream Resources 

Just in case you are inexplicably doing something Saturday that isn’t sitting in front of your television and watching these games (you get a pass if you are actually at one in person), here is a look at the various live streams available.

 

ESPN: WatchESPN

SEC: CBSSports.com

Fox: Fox Sports Go

BTN: BTN2Go.com

Pac-12: Pac-12.com

ABC: ABC Live

CBS: CBSSports.com

 

Week 14 Playoff Viewer Guide

That is an overwhelming amount of games, channels and live streams, even for this late in the season. Perhaps it would be easier to digest with something of a viewing game plan revolving around the games featuring playoff contenders.

Thanksgiving is easy because there is only one game. TCU heads to Texas to take on a suddenly resurgent Longhorns team that has won three in a row and has its eyes set on ending TCU’s title hopes.

Texas’ defense is 24th in the country in points allowed per game, so if there is going to be an upset, it will start on that side of the ball.

Friday is also fairly straightforward in terms of what you will be watching. Stanford and UCLA square off in an afternoon clash that should fit in perfectly with your morning shopping schedule. Come back from the Black Friday specials to watch Brett Hundley tear apart a mediocre Stanford team that has lost two of its last three. 

ESPN Stats & Info noted that the Bruins are rolling on offense, which is bad news for the Cardinal:

Saturday is where your remote-control skills will be tested.

Michigan and Ohio State kick things off at noon ET in one of the most storied rivalries in not only college football but all of sports. Fans were treated to a brawl, ejections and a game-winning two-point conversion attempt in the final minute of last year’s game, so this is must-see viewing for fans who consider themselves college football fans.

Despite Michigan’s struggles, the players have one thing on their mind, as junior Joe Bolden said (via Nick Baumgardner of MLive.com):

It's the biggest rivalry in all of sports, it's the last Saturday in November. You get to go back to your home state, see a lot of people who don't like you anymore. It's a meaningful game. Throw out the records, the point (spread). It's a football game.

And it's played just like every other football game, and at the end of the day, you'll see who's better.

Things get really interesting at 3:30 p.m. ET when Florida takes on Florida State, Ole Miss squares off with Mississippi State, and Baylor battles Texas Tech.

Baylor has the top-scoring offense in the country, and Texas Tech has the 126th-scoring defense in the nation, so the recommendation here is to watch that game first. It will likely be over by the end of the first quarter, and you can direct your attention toward the other two games.

Keep an eye on the Florida and Florida State contest early, but that is the one you want to turn on in the fourth quarter. After all, Florida State has survived close calls against Oklahoma State, Clemson, Notre Dame, Louisville, Miami and Boston College that all came down to the final minutes. The Seminoles also had to come back against North Carolina State and have provided some of the best late-game drama in all of college football this year.

In between the beginning of the Baylor game and the end of the Florida State one, focus your attention on Ole Miss and Mississippi State.

This may be the most important game on the schedule since Ohio State, Baylor and TCU are all in the mix with the Bulldogs for the No. 4 spot. It represents a chance for Mississippi State to put some style points up against a respected but reeling opponent. The Rebels have lost their last three SEC games, and their once-vaunted defense allowed a combined 65 points against Arkansas and Auburn.

Mississippi State could put up a crooked number and impress the selection committee.

The nightcap features games between Oregon and Oregon State and Alabama and Auburn.

The Crimson Tide are seeking revenge after losing on a 110-yard missed field goal return in the final seconds last season. It ended their national and SEC championship hopes, and Nick Saban will surely have a motivated football team going against an Auburn squad that got its doors blown off by Georgia in its last SEC game.

From a competitive standpoint, the SEC clash figures to be closer, but the Ducks beat the Beavers by a single point last year. Quarterback Sean Mannion has the all-time Pac-12 record for passing yards in a career, and he will test an Oregon secondary that has been burned before this season (allowing 41 points to California comes to mind).

Still, Marcus Mariota and the high-flying Oregon offense figures to bury an Oregon State defense that allowed 30 points to Hawaii, 35 to USC, 31 to Colorado, 38 to Stanford, 45 to California, 39 to Washington State and 37 to Washington.

That means you will probably have the Auburn and Alabama game on to finish the day. Here’s to hoping fans are treated to an equally thrilling finish in that game as they were last season.

 

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Arizona State vs. Arizona: 2014 Territorial Cup TV Info, Spread, Injury Updates

The stakes have never been higher in the Territorial Cup between the Arizona State Sun Devils and Arizona Wildcats.

Literally—both teams rank among the top 13 in the nation, meaning this is the first time in the epic in-state rivalry's history that both programs are ranked for the showdown. More importantly, both sit at 9-2 and are part of a three-way tie at the top of the Pac-12 South.

Again, it does not get bigger than this. Arizona State has won three of the last four in the series, but both teams enter with prolific offenses that promise a shootout is set to unfold in the desert.

 

(In)Experience Factors

Some were ready to consider this a down year for the Wildcats. 

After all, the team is led by freshmen at both quarterback and running back. Anu Solomon has been a great surprise under center, though, throwing for 3,216 yards and 15 touchdowns to seven interceptions.

It helps that tailback Nick Wilson is already one of the nation's best, having rushed for 1,085 yards and 12 touchdowns on a 6.0 per-carry average. That said, it is the quarterback who most scares Arizona State coach Todd Graham.

"Man, he's done a tremendous job,'' Graham said, per Doug Haller of AZCentral.com. "Just a great operator of the offense, and his ability to extend plays, he really has a great knack for that. He's very elusive in the pocket, and you can tell he has a mastery of what they're trying to do. He does a great job."

As a result, the Wildcats come in at No. 22 with an average of 36.2 points per game. One problem—the more experienced Sun Devils trump that with an 18th-ranked offense that averages 37.2.

Senior quarterback Taylor Kelly has had a bit of a rough season thanks to a foot injury, but still has 1,730 yards with 18 touchdowns to five picks. He is rounding into form just in time, having thrown for nine touchdowns to three interceptions over the course of his past three outings.

Kelly has his own elusive lead back in junior D.J. Foster, who averages 5.7 yards per carry and has 968 yards and nine scores on the year. 

In short, this has the look of an offensive shootout, although the experience gap may prove critical. This is especially the case with Solomon's status up in the air due to injury, meaning Jesse Scroggins, who has attempted seven career passes, would be the starter.

 

Getting Defensive and Territorial 

The hiccup for both teams, of course, is a thing called defense.

The visitors rank 65th in this regard, the hosts 54th. Both share a common loss to the UCLA Bruins, which says all that really needs to be said about both units.

Arizona State was on the wrong side of a 62-27 outcome in which quarterback Brett Hundley threw for four touchdowns and the defense allowed 225 rushing yards and two more scores. Arizona let Hundley run wild for 32 total yards, and the Bruins found 271 yards on the ground.

Both offenses will clearly run through the ground game Friday, although Arizona appears to have a distinct advantage in that the Sun Devils struggle to contain dual-threat quarterbacks. Of course, this notion relies on Solomon actually being active and effective on a short week. 

Still, that appears to swing things slightly in Arizona's favor, although it is important to point out that the series favors the visitor. As of late, at least, with the road team holding an 8-6 record in the last 14 contests.

As the Wildcats seniors play at home for the last time, they can only hope that trend does not hold true.

 

When: Friday, November 28, 3:30 p.m. ET

Where: Arizona Stadium, Tucson, Arizona

Television: Fox

Betting Lines (via Odds Shark):

  • Over/Under: N/A
  • Spread: N/A

 

Team Injury Reports

Injury reports per The Sports Network, via USA Today.

 

Prediction

If the home team were fully healthy, this one would likely play out a little differently.

But the Sun Devils are the ones finally getting to full strength and hitting their stride. Kelly is going to shred a defense that struggles in most aspects and counteract whatever the Wildcats can throw at him.

Solomon or not, the Wildcats offense will be a bit one-dimensional in its approach. Wilson is a great player, but the freshman is not at a point where he can do it all on his own.

That brings up the decisive factor—experience. Kelly and Co. have been down this path before.

Prediction: Sun Devils 36, Wildcats 30

 

Statistics and info courtesy of ESPN unless otherwise specified.

 

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Arizona State vs. Arizona: 2014 Territorial Cup TV Info, Spread, Injury Updates

The stakes have never been higher in the Territorial Cup between the Arizona State Sun Devils and Arizona Wildcats...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Stanford vs. UCLA: TV Info, Spread, Injury Updates, Game Time and More

Owners of a five-game winning streak, the only thing that can stop the UCLA Bruins from playing in the Pac-12 title game is a 6-5 Stanford Cardinal team.

It is not as easy as it sounds.

The Cardinal have taken down the Bruins three times over the course of the past two seasons. The gritty defense that has given Brett Hundley and Co. fits is alive and well. That said, the dual-threat quarterback has turned up his play in recent weeks.

In a battle of opposite strengths to close the season, Stanford wants nothing more than to play the spoiler. UCLA has its eyes on bigger things. One of Friday's marquee showdowns is of the can't-miss variety.

 

Tempo Talk

Hundley and the Bruins are at their best when they can jump out to an early lead and never look back.

In fact, the Bruins have losses to Utah and Oregon this season. They were down 7-0 after one frame against the former and 8-0 against the latter. For one reason or another, the Bruins are at their best when playing with the lead.

That just so happens to be the perfect counter to Stanford. Out of necessity more than anything this year, David Shaw's team is at its best with the lead. It simply cannot fall behind and play catch-up—especially without its best offensive weapon come Friday, as NFL.com's Bryan Fischer points out:

Ty Montgomery is the team's leading receiver with 61 grabs for 604 yards and three scores. The next closest has 28 catches. As a result, the Cardinal rank 89th in scoring this season.

Stanford has certainly had the recipe to shut down the Bruins in recent years, though. It is something Bruins coach Jim Mora is quite aware of, in fact.

''We just have to play better,'' Mora said, per The Associated Press, via FoxSports.com. ''If that's the common thread, yeah, we have to play better. We have to protect the ball. We have to take care of our quarterback.''

If Mora's team can strike first in the face of the nation's seventh-ranked defense, it puts itself in a great position to avoid the upset and see title hopes realized.

The task falls on one man.

 

The Focal Point

Of course, that man is Hundley.

For Hundley, this is rather simple—foot to the pedal and never look back. He has completed 72.0 percent of his passes this season for 2,873 yards and 20 touchdowns to five interceptions. As one of the nation's premier dual-threat players, he also has 566 yards and eight scores on the ground.

Stanford has given Hundley serious issues in the past, but it is critical to point out that he should be in great form considering Friday may be his last home game before he jumps to the pro level, as noted by College GameDay:

Where Hundley lands in the pros is a debate for another day, but he surely feels like he has something left to accomplish when it comes to facing the Cardinal. Last season alone in a loss, Hundley tossed two picks and was sacked four times.

The UCLA offense simply will not move against Stanford without a great performance from Hundley. Few better options exist for him as a going-out party than blowing away the Cardinal, but there is a big difference between talking about it and doing it.

 

When: Friday, November 28, 3:30 p.m. ET

Where: The Rose Bowl, Pasadena, California

Television: ABC

Betting Lines (via Odds Shark):

  • Over/Under: 50
  • Spread: UCLA (-4.5)

 

Team Injury Reports

Injury reports per The Sports Network, via USA Today.

 

Prediction

It is hard to see how Stanford goes on the road without its best offensive player and pulls off this upset.

Hundley is simply too hot right now for the Cardinal to completely contain. Over the course of his last two outings alone, he has thrown for five scores with one pick and added another three scores on the ground.

UCLA is fully in stride with the Pac-12 title game in sight while Stanford is just happy to be bowl-eligible. That says it all in regard to how this one will play out on a short week.

Look for Hundley to come out firing and not let the Cardinal get close to taking back the lead.

Prediction: UCLA 23, Stanford 14

 

Statistics and info courtesy of ESPN unless otherwise specified.

 

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College Football Playoff Rankings 2014: Week 14 NCAA Championship Predictions

For the second week in a row, the Alabama Crimson Tide are atop the College Football Playoff rankings following Tuesday's release. Coach Nick Saban's powerhouse from Tuscaloosa is in prime position to win its third national title in four years.

However, Alabama is no lock to remain there with an Iron Bowl rivalry clash against Auburn on deck for Saturday, which serves as the headliner of Week 14's action.

The Top Seven teams in the playoff standings didn't change from last week, but the top teams all face considerable tests against underdog adversaries that are fully capable of pulling an upset. On the other hand, the superior teams should pull through at this late stage of the season, so the top of the NCAA standings may look identical once more in the next edition.

Below is a complete look at the current Top 25 rankings, along with predictions as to which teams will be in the Top Four following Week 14.

 

 

Predictions for Top Four

1. Alabama

Considering how Auburn dashed the Tide's national championship hopes in such heartbreaking fashion in last year's Iron Bowl, it's only fitting Alabama gets a shot at revenge in Bryant–Denny Stadium.

The Tide have yet another savvy, veteran quarterback in fifth-year senior Blake Sims, who adds the dimension to make plays with his legs that his predecessors have lacked. Sims keeps the opposing defenses honest enough to open running lanes for T.J. Yeldon and Derrick Henry.

AL.com's Andrew Gribble notes how Sims has been quite the playmaker this year:

Meanwhile, Saban has once again assembled an elite Alabama defense, one filled with NFL-caliber talent and ranking second in the country, conceding just 14.5 points per game.

ESPN's Chris Fowler offers some hope for the underdog visitors:

Auburn has the ninth-ranked rushing attack in the country, yet the Tide give up just 2.76 yards per carry, per NCAA.com. Something will have to give, and considering the fact that the Tigers have lost two of their past three matchups with ranked teams, Saturday's game should go in Alabama's favor.

There is just too much physicality on the Tide's side for them to drop a second straight game to Auburn, especially at home. They will confine Tigers QB Nick Marshall to the pocket (as was done with Mississippi State's Dak Prescott), likely with mush-rushing tactics to coerce Marshall into mistakes.

Sims' decision-making is second to no QB in the SEC, and that will allow Alabama to protect home field and get into the conference championship game with a big victory.

 

2. Oregon

It's not as if the Ducks can take Oregon State lightly when they travel to Reser Stadium in Saturday's "Civil War" clash.

The Beavers are scrapping for bowl eligibility and have upset Arizona State this year. They are a foe to be reckoned with, particularly with so much pride on the line.

But Oregon State won't be able to tame Ducks Heisman Trophy front-runner Marcus Mariota in all likelihood. Mariota has been shredding defenses all year and should feast on Oregon State's 91st-ranked scoring defense.

Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports highlighted just how impressive Mariota has been over the past two years:

The selection committee shouldn't dock Oregon any style points if it wins ugly in Corvallis. The Ducks haven't even come close to defeat since a disappointing loss to Arizona at home. They went on the road in the next game and knocked off UCLA in a victory that's looking better by the day.

As long as Mariota is at the offensive controls, Oregon ought to be a shoo-in for the Top Four. The Pac-12 Championship Game could even vault the Ducks into the No. 1 spot if Alabama falters ahead of them.

 

3. Florida State

The possibility of having the Seminoles third and Oregon second—or the other way around, doesn't matter—is tantalizing to say the least.

Seeing Mariota do battle with reigning Heisman winner and national champion counterpart Jameis Winston would be must-see TV. It would also help determine which young man will be chosen as the first QB in the 2015 NFL draft (assuming both leave school early).

Casting that aside for a second, what Florida State has done as a team this year is nothing short of remarkable. ESPN's Heather Dinich documented what coach Jimbo Fisher had to say about his team's standing among college football's best:

Being slotted below two one-loss teams will only further fuel the Seminoles' quest for a repeat, which they seem determined to accomplish despite a number of close calls along the way.

Dane Brugler of CBSSports.com captured the resilience FSU has shown:

Boston College threw the ball just 12 times in the Seminoles' 20-17 victory this last Saturday. Between the Florida Gators' run-heavy offense and Georgia Tech's triple-option attack, FSU will deal with the ACC title game, and there could be tougher sledding ahead.

In the face of massive expectations, distractions on and off the field and scoreboard deficits, the Seminoles keep coming back for more. So many contributors have stepped up along the way that it won't be a surprise when Florida State skates by and remains among the four playoff teams when the final standings are released.

 

4. Mississippi State

While the Top Three appear to be a bit more solidified, Mississippi State's hopes of staying in the Top Four hinge largely on what others do. Should Alabama fall to Auburn—the Tide wouldn't in this scenario—the Bulldogs would get a shot to play for the conference championship.

But with just a road trip to Ole Miss remaining, coach Dan Mullen's team doesn't control its own destiny. Mike Greenberg of ESPN explains in his analysis:

Big 12 contenders TCU and Baylor are nipping at the Bulldogs' heels, and the Bears have a great shot to leap over everyone in front of them by beating No. 12 Kansas State in their regular-season finale.

Then there's Ohio State, whose rise to sixth in the standings has been catalyzed by freshman QB J.T. Barrett. The Buckeyes have the benefit of a conference title game where they'd probably match up with a quality adversary in Wisconsin and make their own case to get in.

The lone loss to Alabama is nothing to be ashamed of, but it took away from the mystique surrounding dual-threat Bulldogs signal-caller Prescott and the meteorically rising Mississippi State program. It now needs help just to remain in the Top Four beyond next week's release.

While it will look good for the Bulldogs to knock off the Rebels in the Egg Bowl—and they will, by a comfortable margin—Prescott will need to orchestrate a truly dominant win to leave a lasting impression for the selection committee.

Otherwise, Mississippi State will be relegated to a high-profile bowl game. That would be a great step in the right direction for Mullen and Co. but not what fans were ultimately hoping for after such a promising start.

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