NCAA Football

Will Muschamp Resigns from Florida Gators: Latest Details, Comments and Reaction

The writing has been on the wall for a while now, but it is reportedly official: Will Muschamp will no longer be the Gators head football coach.  

Florida confirmed that Muschamp stepped down as head coach in a release on GatorZone.com

David Jones of FloridaToday.com originally reported Muschamp had resigned as Florida's head coach. 

Muschamp later issued a statement, via GatorZone.com:

'I appreciate the opportunity that has been offered to me and my family by Dr. Machen, Jeremy Foley and the University of Florida,' said Muschamp. 'I was given every opportunity to get it done here and I simply didn’t win enough games – that is the bottom line. I’m disappointed that I didn’t get it done and it is my responsibility to get it done.

'I have no bitter feelings, but this is a business and I wish we would have produced better results on the field. We have a great group of players and a staff that is committed to this University and this football program. They have handled themselves with class and I expect them to continue to do so. As I’ve said many times, life is 10 percent of what happens to you and 90 percent how you respond.'

Although the Gators stuck with Muschamp after a miserable 2013 season, and athletic director Jeremy Foley gave him a vote of confidence when things in Gainesville were at their worst, it always seemed inevitable that the 43-year-old was going to be handed a pink slip. 

When you have a program with as much prestige as Florida has, it's difficult to put together bad campaign after bad campaign and keep your job. After going 4-8 in 2013, Florida's 5-4 record masks the futility with which it has played. The Gators needed three overtimes to take down Kentucky, barely squeaked past a below-average team in Tennessee and were trampled by rival Alabama. 

An embarrassing blowout at the hands of Missouri at home seemed to be the straw that broke the camel's back, as even the pro-Muschamp camp had to admit it was time for a change. The Tigers had just 119 total yards of offense, but four different types of return touchdowns resulted in a 42-13 shellacking.

That led to this unbelievable stat, via ESPN's Bomani Jones:

In the wake of the team's loss to South Carolina on Saturday, Muschamp spoke about it being a missed opportunity, courtesy of RJ Schaffer of GatorZone.com. "When you have two kicks blocked, you’re going to lose that football game," Muschamp said. "We had every opportunity to win, settle down defensively." 

After dropping seven games in a row to end 2013—which included a loss to FCS school Georgia Southern—Muschamp was always teetering on the edge. The Gators' ugly start to the season only led to more pressure on Muschamp, who just two years ago led the Gators to an 11-2 record and a Sugar Bowl appearance. 

Their eight losses in 2013 were the most for the Gators in a single season since 1979, and they failed to go to a bowl for the first time since 1990.

A former defensive coordinator for the Miami Dolphins, as well as Auburn and Texas, Muschamp's defense at Florida was never really a problem. 

Following the announcement, Edgar Thompson of OrlandoSentinel.com provided a statement from a source at Florida:

But his offense has largely become lifeless, and hiring Kurt Roper to run the offense this offseason has not helped. Quarterback Jeff Driskel has struggled mightily and the ground game has not been able to muster up enough momentum to become a reliable force. The Gators offense has ranked outside the top 90 in total yardage three of Muschamp's four years in Gainesville.

Florida may be able to rally around Muschamp and beat Eastern Kentucky at home next week to become bowl eligible, but it's difficult to imagine the Gators emerging victorious on the road against Florida State the following week. 

Muschamp will land on his feet, probably as a defensive coordinator somewhere. But there is a certain status quo in Florida, and he fell far below that line, forcing the Gators to move in a different direction. 

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Why Arizona State's Loss Should Change Playoff Committee's Perception of Pac-12

Every conference has a stadium that should have its own episode of the Twilight Zone. For the Pac-12, Oregon State's Reser Stadium fits that description.

It's where the hopes and dreams of highly ranked teams go to die.

That's exactly what happened in Saturday night's stunning 35-27 win by Oregon State over Arizona State. As Brett Edgerton of ESPN tweeted, it was the fifth time since 2000 that an unranked Beavers team beat an Associated Press Top 10 team at home:

Oregon State coach Mike Riley is one of the noted "good guys" in the business, but he's crushed the soul of some great teams.

The Sun Devils may not be one of those great teams in the traditional sense, but at No. 6 in last week's College Football Playoff rankings, they did have their eyes on a playoff spot.

"When you're sixth in the country, you go into a place and you're going to get everybody's best performance,'' Arizona State coach Todd Graham told Doug Haller of the Arizona Republic. "We got Oregon State's best shot tonight. We weren't prepared for it. They deserve the credit."

That's all but officially been thrown out the window now. Between a loss to a .500 team that dwells at the bottom of the Pac-12 North and a blowout at the hands of UCLA, Arizona State no longer has a shiny resume.

Its best win, depending on your view, is either over USC on a Hail Mary or over Utah, which currently sits in fifth place in the South Division.

That brings to light another point: The Pac-12 South, with the exception of Colorado, is anyone's division to win.

UCLA, at 8-2 overall and 5-2 in the Pac-12, has come full circle and controls its conference destiny with remaining games against USC and Stanford. However, the Trojans technically lead the South by a half-game.

Overall, the first- and fifth-place teams in the South are separated by no more than two games.

There's a lot of depth in the Pac-12 South, but few, if any, truly great teams—not unlike the rest of the college football landscape.

Things are different in the North Division, where Oregon has secured a spot in the conference championship game and controls its path to the playoff. The second-place team in that division is 5-5 Stanford, which also happens to have a losing conference record after falling to Utah 20-17 in double overtime.

As strange as it sounds, two road games against Cal and UCLA could mean the Cardinal is in danger of losing out on bowl eligibility for the first time since 2008.

To see the conference champion of the past two years drop off this far is surprising.

All of this leads to the question of whether the Pac-12 really is the second-best conference—it feels like there are good divisions rather than good conferences in college football—behind the SEC like it was pegged in the offseason.

Last week's CFP rankings would indicate that the committee still thinks so. The Pac-12 had five ranked teams—Oregon, Arizona State, UCLA, Arizona and Utah—which was tied with the Big Ten for second-most by any conference.

The SEC led all conferences with seven.

What's more, though, is that all five of those Pac-12 teams were ranked at least one spot higher in the CFP poll than the Associated Press poll.

Those numbers are bound to shift this Tuesday when the committee releases its updated rankings. Whatever those rankings are, though, this much is becoming clear: The Pac-12's best, and probably only, playoff hope now is Oregon.

Everyone else in the conference may be on the outside of the Top 10 looking in depending on where the committee places the Bruins, who were off this week.

After Arizona State's loss, it's tough to find a definitive No. 2 in the Pac-12. That's not a good thing if one of those teams were to upset the Ducks in the Pac-12 Championship Game.

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football.

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Why Arizona State's Loss Should Change Playoff Committee's Perception of Pac-12

Every conference has a stadium that should have its own episode of the Twilight Zone. For the Pac -12, Oregon State's Reser Stadium fits that description. It's where the hopes and dreams of highly ranked teams go to die...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

College Football Playoff 2014: Latest NCAA Predictions After Week 12 Standings

What, didn't expect controversy to come with the inaugural College Football Playoff? 

Week 12 surely caused the committee to hit the panic button, as the No. 1 team in the land fell while a pair of others in the Top Five hardly avoided upsets. Now a number of one-loss teams look like realistic possibilities, and if things keep going at this pace, some two-loss teams might just look good, too. 

So much for the regular season not mattering, right?

The job of the committee is certainly not easy. As things stand right now, two of the four slots are absolute locks. One is somewhat debatable despite an undefeated defending champ occupying it, while the last is as good as anyone's guess.

 

College Football Playoff Predictions

Alabama

Remember back at the start of the season when everyone was ready to write off Alabama? That for one reason or another, Nick Saban's dominance over the recruiting realm would not matter as the season raged forward?

Right.

The Crimson Tide have come full circle before the eyes of the nation as key new faces on defense and Blake Sims under center have become more comfortable in the spotlight. The culmination of this growth was Saturday's 25-20 upset of No. 1 Mississippi State.

Grantland's Matt Hinton put it best:

There, Blake Sims threw for 211 yards and a score, T.J. Yeldon was his usual self with 72 rushing yards and a score and Amari Cooper was his usual self with eight grabs for 88 yards and a score.

Most impressive, though, was the Crimson Tide defense. It held Heisman favorite Dak Prescott to 290 passing yards and two scores through the air, with another 82 rushing yards on the ground. The unit also forced him to toss three interceptions.

Right now Alabama is easily the best team in the nation. So long as Saban and Co. take care of Auburn to close the year, the Crimson Tide are one of the four.

 

Oregon

Marcus Mariota and the Oregon Ducks were one of the biggest winners of Week 12. Why? 

They were on bye.

Over the course of such a chaotic weekend, that certainly means a whole lot. The Ducks need no help getting in at this point, either. Marcus Mariota is the new Heisman favorite thanks to his 2,780 passing yards and 29 touchdowns to two interceptions.

Not only does Mariota's team have three wins over ranked opposition at 9-1, it finally got over its seemingly annual November struggles and exorcised its Stanford demon, 45-16. In a popular upset pick the week after, the Ducks flawlessly moved past ranked Utah, 51-27.

Oregon does little wrong this season, although a defense that ranks outside of the top 50 is going to get tested in a major way sooner rather than later. Still, Mariota's offense has taken down a trio of elite defenses and has an easy finish to the season.

 

Florida State

The Florida State Seminoles are not out of the running—or any game, for that matter—until they say so. 

Jameis Winston and Co. were at it once again in the comeback department Saturday, erasing a serious halftime deficit to upend the Miami Hurricanes, 30-26. As ESPN Stats & Info noted before the late charge, the Seminoles have made a habit of the clutch:

"They love each other and it gets down to that," coach Jimbo Fisher said, per The Associated Press, via ESPN.com. "They play for each other. They don't panic. This is a heck of a Miami football team. Give them credit ... but our kids just execute when they have to."

What the Seminoles do is not all that appealing. Winston was once again sluggish with 304 yards with a touchdown and interception. But timely defense and 92 yards and a pair of scores from freshman tailback Dalvin Cook got the Seminoles the win.

The Seminoles remain undefeated, although some controversy will begin to seep into the conversation as its resume continues to go up in flames as Notre Dame and others keep losing. Still, if Fisher's team can avoid letdowns at Boston College and Florida, the Seminoles have to be considered a lock.

 

Mississippi State

Look, the loss to Alabama was bad, but where else is the committee going to turn at this point? Should it?

The only right answer is no. This Bulldogs team lost to the best team in the country by just five points and still has notable wins over LSU, Texas A&M and Auburn. As far as resumes go, SEC play ensures the Bulldogs are in the postseason so long as they win out.

Eric Rosenthal of HoundSports.com concurs:

Clay Travis of outkickthecoverage.com provides a note as to how other contenders stack up:

The Bulldogs still tout one of the nation's best defenses and offenses, the latter led by Prescott. The former Heisman front-runner still has 2,521 yards and 20 scores through the air, with another 861 and 11 on the ground.

The Egg Bowl against Ole Miss to end the season will decide everything for the Bulldogs. As long as the Bulldogs prevail there, one has to imagine they become a stone-cold lock for the CFP.

 

Stats and information via ESPN.com unless otherwise specified.

 

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Bowl Projections 2014: Latest Playoff Predictions Heading into Critical Week 13

Week 12 was a tale of what could have been in the playoff picture, as Florida State and TCU both narrowly avoided crippling upsets with their postseason hopes on the line.

Style points may be important, but the most imperative thing about November football is avoiding the chaos and coming away with victories. Unfortunately for Mississippi State and Arizona State, they did not claim victory in Week 12 during trips to Alabama and Oregon State, respectively.

The Crimson Tide have recovered from an early loss to Ole Miss and may just be the team to beat the rest of the way in the College Football Playoff race. Nick Saban has his squad hitting its stride at just the right time, which is a dangerous proposition for the rest of the country.

So what did wins by Alabama, Florida State, TCU and Ohio State and losses from Arizona State and Mississippi State do to the playoff picture? Read on to find out.

 

Playoff Projections

Sugar Bowl: No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Baylor

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

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

 

Breakdown

Alabama beat LSU earlier in the season, but the Tigers are just not as good in 2014 as fans are accustomed to seeing. Saturday’s performance against Mississippi State represented the marquee win that was missing from the Crimson Tide’s resume up to this point, and now there is absolutely zero doubt that they will make the playoff field if they win out.

The Iron Bowl is at home this season against a team that just got its doors blown off by Georgia. After that, Alabama will play the SEC East winner in the conference title game. That will be the Missouri Tigers if they can win their last two games. Remember, that is the same Missouri team that lost to Big Ten bottom-feeder Indiana.

The bottom line is nothing is standing in Alabama’s way on the road to the playoffs.

Elsewhere, projected No. 2 seed Florida State is the cardiac kid of the 2014 playoff race. ESPN Stats & Info noted that it is making quite the habit of falling behind early and coming away with second-half comebacks:

The Seminoles did it again on Saturday against Miami with a 30-26 victory. That marks close calls against Clemson, North Carolina State, Notre Dame, Louisville and Miami now, but the most important thing is that they continue to win as the defending champs.

Wide receiver Rashad Greene discussed the close wins, according to The Associated Press (via ESPN.com): "That's how we're built. At the end of the day, we don't panic, we don't point fingers, we don't blame anyone. We make it possible."

With only Boston College, Florida and an ACC title game against a less-talented opponent standing in the way, the Seminoles should cruise to a playoff spot.

Oregon had a bye in Week 12, but it controls its own destiny to the playoffs, which is all you can ask for at this point of the season.

The Ducks should destroy an overmatched Colorado team in Week 13 before a rivalry clash with Oregon State. While the cliche sayings like “throw the records out when these two teams play” will be out in full force, Oregon should win that one as well with Heisman Trophy candidate Marcus Mariota going up against a vulnerable Beavers secondary.

A win in the Pac-12 title game for one of the nation’s most dynamic offenses (46 points a game) would clinch a playoff spot for the Ducks and give them a golden opportunity to win the first national title in program history.

That fourth spot is the intriguing one up for grabs, as Ohio State, TCU, Baylor and Mississippi State all have their eyes on it.

The Bulldogs hung with Alabama on Saturday, but the lack of even a division crown, let alone a conference title, will hurt them in the final poll. The selection committee will ultimately put increased emphasis on a conference championship. Of course, Mississippi State will have its hands full with Ole Miss in the final regular-season game, so it may be a moot point.

The Buckeyes look like a team that nobody would want to play at the end of the season, but that loss to Virginia Tech will ultimately be their undoing. It may not be entirely fair considering they lost superstar Braxton Miller to injury and had to throw a freshman quarterback into the fire right away, but that is the worst loss of all the playoff contenders.

That leaves TCU and Baylor fighting for the final spot. While the Horned Frogs—who barely escaped a terrible Kansas team in Week 12—have been ahead of the Bears in the College Football Playoff rankings, Baylor’s head-to-head win over TCU from earlier in the season will take final precedent at the end of the year.

What’s more, TCU’s win over Minnesota will lose some luster if and when the Golden Gophers drop their final three games of the season (already lost to Ohio State and have Nebraska and Wisconsin waiting). 

As long as the Bears and their nearly unstoppable offense take care of business at home against Texas Tech and Kansas State, they will be in the field of four.

 

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NCAA Football Rankings 2014: Week 13 Standings for College's Top 25 Teams

On Saturday, we learned why every team, no matter its ranking, treats every single contest like a playoff game at this time of year. No team is safe from defeat, regardless of its opponent's record or standing, and one slight lapse in judgement or focus could have season-altering consequences.

The College Football Playoff picture shifted once again following Saturday's action, as Week 12 proved to be every bit as exciting and unpredictable as any other week this season. Not only were there several enormous upsets over some of the nation's top teams, but almost every ranked squad in action was tested in some way.

We should expect the Week 13 polls to look quite different from the top to the bottom, as many Top-25 teams—including No. 1 Mississippi State—were defeated on a very turbulent Saturday. Here's a look at the results, followed by a breakdown of the weekend's events.

 

Breakdown

It all started with a clash between SEC juggernauts No. 1 Mississippi State and No. 5 Alabama. Nick Saban's team continued its torrid pace through the conference, knocking off one of the last remaining undefeated teams due to an all-around solid effort on both sides of the ball.

The victory most assuredly propels the Crimson Tide back into the Top Four and puts them in great position to enter this year's College Football Playoff. The team is playing at a high level right now, and a late-game drive that secured the victory was given enormous praise by Saban during a press conference with The Associated Press, via ESPN.com.

Said the coach, "It was one of the greatest drives in Alabama history, probably."

ESPN's Rece Davis seems to think Alabama's win is worthy of obtaining the No. 1 ranking:

The loss by Mississippi State doesn't take them out of the running for a playoff spot, especially taking into consideration the abundance of upsets throughout the day. We'll see what the selection committee thinks of the Bulldogs' effort soon enough.

Florida State and TCU, the two other Top Four teams, barely escaped with victories over unranked opponents Saturday. The Seminoles had to usher in late-game magic once again to defeat Miami, and the Horned Frogs barely pulled one out against Kansas. Will those lackluster efforts be enough to maintain their current positions?

Arizona State sure helped teams like Baylor and Ohio State on Saturday, as the Sun Devils followed up their brilliant win against Notre Dame with a terrible showing against Oregon State. The Beavers racked up 498 yards of offense in their win, knocking Arizona State right back out of contention.

Here's a look at the on-field mayhem that ensued, via ESPN College Football:

Ohio State's J.T. Barrett was scintillating on Saturday against Minnesota. His team may have only won by seven points, but his 189 rushing yards turned some heads, and he is beginning to enter the Heisman discussion.

The Auburn Tigers may have had the most disappointing showing of all on Saturday. Nick Marshall looked awful as a passer, and the team struggled to get anything going on the ground, turning the ball over three times and scoring just seven points in the process.

Meanwhile, the return of Todd Gurley was outstanding. He paired with Nick Chubb to torch Auburn's defense for a combined 282 yards and three touchdowns on 48 carries. Take a look at this incredible graphic from the SEC Network:

Georgia may be poised to make a run back up the rankings with what appears to be the nation's most prolific ground attack.

The back half of the Top 25 was filled with upsetting performances. Nebraska, LSU, Notre Dame, Clemson, Duke, Texas A&M and Minnesota all lost on Saturday, putting their positions within the nation's top teams in serious question.

For The Win noted what another Notre Dame loss may mean for Florida State:

Solid performances by Wisconsin, Georgia Tech and Utah should all result in moves up the rankings entering Week 13.

With the amount of upsets and close calls that took place in Week 12, the nation's entire hierarchy stands to shift in dramatic fashion—starting at the very top.

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Frank Clark Arrested: Latest Details, Mugshot and Reaction on Michigan DE

Michigan defensive end Frank Clark was arrested on charges of domestic violence, per ESPN's Brett McMurphy citing Erie County, Ohio, jail records.  

Angelique Chengelis of The Detroit News provides Michigan's statement on the situation:

David Harns of isportsweb.com tweeted Clark's mugshot: 

According to Mark Snyder of the Detroit Free Press, "Ohio law indicates a conviction could carry a $1,000 fine and six months in jail."

This isn't the senior's first incident since joining Michigan. According to McMurphy, "In September 2012, Clark was arrested and pleaded guilty to a felony count of second-degree home invasion after entering a university dormitory and stealing a MacBook Air laptop from a Stockwell Hall dorm room. He was sentenced to one-year probation and fined $1,741."

He was also suspended for one game during the 2012 season for his involvement in that incident. 

The latest charges threaten to mar what has been an excellent season on the field for Clark, who has 42 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks on the season. Clark is coming off of his best game of the season, posting eight tackles and adding 1.5 sacks against Northwestern. 

Michigan's season has already been quite disappointing on the field. The team is 5-5 and has been poor enough at times that more than a few folks have been calling for head coach Brady Hoke's replacement. The team now has to address a major issue off of the field as well, depending on the pending investigation into the domestic violence charges levied against Clark. 

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Heisman Watch 2014: Breaking Down Race Front-Runners After Week 12

One of the most devastating weekends in recent college football history has shaken up the Heisman race in a major way. 

No. 1 Mississippi State and Heisman favorite Dak Prescott went down at the hands of Alabama, but that was just the beginning of the madness on the way to the inaugural College Football Playoff.

While Prescott and Jameis Winston—the latter of whom looked shaky at best while hardly surviving against Miami—are certainly not out of the running entirely, a down week came at the worst possible time, while other stars continued to craft impressive resumes and others shockingly entered the race outright.

Once again, the Heisman watch needs a massive overhaul.

 

Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin

Chatter about Heisman moments never ceases this time of year.

Breaking an historic record certainly qualifies.

Wisconsin junior back Melvin Gordon ran his way into the record books Saturday against Nebraska with 25 carries for 408 yards and four scores, as ESPN Stats & Info illustrates:

"Yeah, I didn't even know I was close to the record," Gordon said, per The Associated Press, via ESPN.com. "I was kind of just running away."

The globe certainly knows about Gordon now. Before the outburst, he was just another back who piled on elite numbers against up-and-down competition but never really distanced himself from other backs who were doing much of the same thing. 

No back is going to top what Gordon did Saturday.

It may not be enough to steal the Heisman outright, but Gordon now has 1,909 rushing yards and 23 touchdowns on an 8.6 per-carry average. Heisman moment in hand, Gordon is head and shoulders above the other backs on the watch list at this point.

 

Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama

Already an NFL draft darling and perhaps the most important player in the country to his team, all Amari Cooper did in Saturday's upset of the No. 1 Bulldogs was play his game. 

In short, Cooper made highlight-reel grabs and wound up with eight catches for 88 yards and a score. Cris Carter was one of many to throw his support behind Cooper after yet another elite performance:

Bleacher Report's Matt Miller joined the fray as well:

It is difficult to stress just how much the Crimson Tide need Cooper. The next leading receiver Saturday caught just four passes for 40 yards. No other receivers scored.

That proved a microcosm of the season as a whole. Of his team's 2,742 total receiving yards and 21 scores this season, Cooper now has 1,303 and 11.

As far as actual Heisman moments go, go ahead and pick a week and bask in Cooper's play. Taking down the No. 1 team in the land, though, certainly does not hurt.

 

J.T. Barrett, QB, Ohio State

It would be wise to take the Heisman bid by Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett very seriously. 

Barrett was the guy nobody wanted to see take the field this season, but he is what the Buckeyes were stuck with after a season-ending injury to Braxton Miller. All Barrett has done since then is lead the Buckeyes on a 9-1 war path that might just end with a trip to the CFP.

This past Saturday saw Barrett put on one of his more impressive performances to date as the Buckeyes took down No. 25 Minnesota, 31-24. Barrett threw for 200 yards and a trio of scores, but he was far from a one-trick quarterback, as he also found his way to 189 yards and a score on the ground.

In total, Barrett's season has been quite extraordinary:

Some may knock the schedule as a whole, but keep in mind that Barrett has shown well against the best of the best, too. Take that win over Michigan State for example. He managed five total touchdowns against one of the best defenses in the nation to get his team the win.

Barrett finishes against a soft schedule that includes Indiana and Michigan, so expect the gaudy stats to only continue to pile up.

 

Honorable Mentions

 

Stats and information via ESPN.com unless otherwise specified.

 

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College Football Playoff Predictions 2014: NCAA Underdogs to Watch After Week 12

When it comes to the inaugural College Football Playoff, Week 12 was the most catastrophic blow yet to the impending postseason. 

The slate of games was akin to a minefield, and that may be putting it lightly. No. 1 Mississippi State went down at the hands of Alabama. The Florida State Seminoles hardly survived Miami. Ditto for TCU against Kansas.

What remains is a shaky outlook for the CFP. A number of one-loss teams all look deserving but can certainly take losses in the coming weeks that ruin everything. Underdogs for the playoff abound, but only a few have a serious stab at the CFP—for now.

 

Underdogs to Watch

Ohio State

Like it or not, the Ohio State Buckeyes are a serious threat to the CFP in the coming weeks. 

While the Buckeyes have taken care of business each step of the way despite some extreme adversity, fellow contenders have fallen left and right. Saturday was a 31-24 road win over the No. 25 Minnesota Golden Gophers, which proved to be a great test for Urban Meyer's team.

 "I'd like to see anybody in the country come up here and do this, come up here in November," Meyer said, per Doug Lesmerises of Cleveland.com. "I challenge any team that wants to go ahead and schedule this one, against a very good team, have at it."

Many will roll their eyes. Minnesota is not an SEC team, yes, but the Golden Gophers are still 7-3 with a strong defense and a great running game. 

The Buckeyes are an attractive option for the CFP committee for a number of obvious reasons, chief among them being quarterback J.T. Barrett. Tom Withers of The Associated Press puts it best:

Barrett put on another show for his Heisman resume Saturday night, throwing for 200 yards and a trio of touchdowns while adding another 189 yards and a score on the ground.

As long as Barrett continues to play at this level, few stand in the Buckeyes' way when it comes to the playoff. Unlike teams such as Mississippi State and others, the Buckeyes have a relatively easy finish to the season against Indiana and Michigan.

 

Baylor

Even though the Bulldogs went down at the hands of the Crimson Tide Saturday, there may not be enough for the committee to bump Baylor over the loser of that encounter. 

Yet, of course.

The Bears were on a bye in Week 12, a beautiful thing considering what went down over the course of the weekend. What sweetens the pot is the fact that just last week Bryce Petty and the Bears blew away the Oklahoma Sooners, 48-14.

Not only that, these Bears already own the head-to-head encounter with TCU by way of a 61-58 win back in mid-October. To further that position, the Horned Frogs struggled to a 34-30 win over Kansas Saturday—a team the Bears beat 60-14.

The nation's fourth-best passing attack led by Petty (2,421 yards and 21 touchdowns to three interceptions) scored the most points per game on average entering the weekend at 50.1.

That elite attack still has to avoid a choke job against Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and Kansas State, but that is more than enough time to perhaps secure the Big 12 and allow one of the other top contenders such as Oregon to take a dive.

So long as Baylor continues to play its game, the Bears are on the hunt.

 

CFP Projection

It should go without saying that the Crimson Tide are once again on top of the collegiate football world.

A loss to then-No. 11 Ole Miss way back when continues to look like a non-factor at this juncture. Nick Saban's defense found a way to hold Dak Prescott to 290 passing yards and two touchdowns to three interceptions. Blake Sims continues to improve under center.

Speaking of the Bulldogs, the loss is in no way enough to knock them out of contention just yet. It stings, but a loss to Alabama by five points is what it sounds like—not bad at all. So long as the Bulldogs take care of business against Ole Miss to close the season, they will be in the CFP.

The same goes for Oregon and Florida State. Marcus Mariota and the Ducks were on a timely bye in Week 12. The team is not going anywhere, not with a 9-1 record, three wins against ranked opponents and a prolific offense.

Florida State needed the full four frames to take down rival Miami, but the point is that Jameis Winston and Co. survived. Avoiding upsets at the hands of Boston College and Florida are next for the Seminoles in order to ease into the CFP.

 

Stats and information via ESPN.com unless otherwise specified.

 

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College Football Playoff Committee Under Pressure After Bloody Week

A constant theme of this season has been that there’s still a lot of football left to be played, and the remaining games will sort everything out. But now there’s a lot less football left to be played, and the picture is murkier than ever as the College Football Playoff Committee faces its toughest rankings session.

Florida State, the team that so many fans seem to love to hate, still has its golden goose egg in the loss column, so there’s really no arguing that the defending national champions belong in the final four.

But after that there are seven one-loss teams from the power-five conferences, and good luck figuring out a fair way to rank them.

Two of those one-loss teams, Oregon and Arizona State, are pretty likely to face each other in the Pac-12 title game, which helps some.

But how will the College Football Playoff Committee distinguish between the rest of the pack?

Let’s make some guesses.

 

Teams on the rise: What to do with Ohio State?

The Ohio State delegation would benefit most if the committee favors teams that show the most November momentum.

The Buckeyes won the Michigan State showdown, then backed it up with a victory in arctic conditions at Minnesota on Saturday.

They also have a nice little comeback saga working with J.T. Barrett steadily emerging from an unknown backup (until Braxton Miller got hurt) to one of the nation’s most dependable quarterbacks.

But the committee needs to be careful about overvaluing the OSU comeback. Every team has to overcome adversity. That's part of football. And teams shouldn't be ranked in order of who has the best storyline.

 

Is Mississippi State still alive?

The big loser in the what-have-you-done-lately equation could be Mississippi State, after having its undefeated run ended by Alabama.

I hope it doesn’t shift like this. I don’t see how an awful loss, like Ohio State’s to Virginia Tech in September, can be overlooked in favor of a so-called “quality defeat,” like the one Mississippi State suffered on the road against Alabama, just because of where those games fell on the calendar.

The SEC's hopes to land two teams in the playoff has taken a big hit, but Mississippi State could revive them by crushing Ole Miss in the regular-season finale at Oxford. That’s far easier said than done in what looms as the state’s all-time showdown, but the Bulldogs shouldn't be sent to the scrap heap because of losing a road game against a top-five opponent.

 

Head-to-head: The TCU-Baylor dilemma

Isn’t a head-to-head result the most common tiebreaker in sports? And also the one we resort to first? The NFL certainly has always seen it that way.

But the CFP Committee hasn’t valued that factor so far, at least not with Baylor and Texas Christian.

Baylor beat the Horned Frogs fair and square back on Oct. 11, by the eye-popping score of 61-58. But the committee had Baylor three spots below TCU in last week’s rankings.

The swing factor appears to be how those two Big 12 teams performed in games at West Virginia. Baylor was swamped there by the Mountaineers, 41-27. TCU squeaked out a victory in Morgantown, 31-30, on a last-second field goal.

But doesn’t a head-to-head outcome outweigh results against a common opponent? If I’m Baylor, I want a recount.

The only other one-loss teams to face each other are Alabama and Mississippi State, and imagine how loud the Crimson Tide would scream if anyone ranked them behind the Bulldogs.

 

Who suffered the worst loss at home?

Home-turf defeats are a big factor for me, but the committee doesn’t seem to weigh them heavily. Oregon was ambushed 31-24 at home by Arizona in early October, yet the committee pushed the Ducks ahead of Florida State in last week’s rankings.

Two other one-loss teams suffered their lone defeat at home. Arizona State’s was absolutely humiliating, 62-27, but was inflicted by a UCLA team that has a good shot at ending the season in the Top 10.

That leaves Ohio State as suffering the most humbling loss at home among the one-loss teams, 35-21, to unranked Virginia Tech. The Hokies look more respectable after a road upset over Duke on Saturday, but they're still just a 5-5 team with a 2-4 record in the weakest of the power-five conferences.

 

Quality wins

This factor has morphed a lot as the season plays out. For instance, Florida State gained prestige when it outlasted then-unbeaten Notre Dame back on Oct. 18, but that win carries a lot less weight after seeing the Fighting Irish fall to 7-3 on Saturday with a home-field loss to 4-6 Northwestern.

So let’s update the quality-wins factor in order of how the once-beatens ranked with the committee last week. (Spoiler alert: An analysis of quality wins probably starts more arguments than it settles.) 

Mississippi State: Winning at LSU’s Death Valley was huge, but the victories against Texas A&M and Auburn don’t look nearly as big now. 

Oregon: The Ducks have a hefty pair of vote-swaying road victories at UCLA and Utah, the latter of which was by the whopping count of 51-27. But some of the shine has come off the early-season win at home over Michigan State.

Alabama: Personally, my vote for No. 1 will go to the Crimson Tide, if they survive Auburn in the Iron Bowl and go on to another win in the SEC title game. Saturday’s win over Mississippi State was much more lopsided than the five-point margin showed, and there’s no disputing that SEC teams play a meat-grinder schedule. But it has to be acknowledged that Alabama’s survival at LSU required overtime and a miracle escape in regulation. 

TCU: The wins against Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and West Virginia seemed impressive at the time, but all of those teams subsequently fell out of the AP Poll’s Top 25 and remain on the fringe, at best. Kansas State is TCU’s only triumph against a Top-25 team, and Saturday’s struggle at Kansas was humbling.

Baylor: TCU is the only defeated opponent that’s highly regarded, but the Bears get a season-ending shot at Kansas State. And wouldn't it be nice if the Big 12 had a conference championship game?

Arizona State: The Sun Devils had been looking pretty good in this category. But then Stanford fell out of the Top 25, and Notre Dame lost in overtime to Northwestern. Now there’s only USC and Utah.

Ohio State: The back-to-back road victories against Michigan State and Minnesota give the Buckeyes some style points, but that momentum could be blunted by finishing against two cupcakes, Indiana (3-7) and Michigan (5-5). But a win in the Big Ten title game against Wisconsin could be persuasive, particularly if OSU figures out how to stop Melvin Gordon, the locomotive who ran for a record 408 yards Saturday.

So where does it all leave the playoff picture? Very, very confused, with little hope of having a consensus final four.

 

Tom Weir covered college football as a columnist for USA Today

 

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College Football Playoff Rankings 2014: Predictions for Week 13

Week 12 of the college football season may not have brought a plethora of upsets, but it did raise significant questions about some of the top playoff contenders.  Florida State and TCU held on for narrow road wins over clearly inferior opponents, Arizona State bowed out of the playoff picture and erstwhile No. 1 Mississippi State no longer has any margin for error after failing to mount much resistance in Tuscaloosa until it was too late.

After Saturday's results, there are still about three to four teams that almost certainly control their own destinies, while three to four more teams could raise serious debate if they win out.  So while there are a pair of clear choices for the top two, at least four or five teams have legitimate claims to the third and fourth playoff slots at the moment.

Let's forecast how the playoff committee may rank its top four on Tuesday night, diving deeper into some of the biggest issues and upcoming games with the top postseason contenders.

 

1. Oregon Ducks

Oregon has faced early-season turmoil after their loss against Arizona and questions about Mark Helfrich's viability, but once again, the Ducks are among the small handful of legitimate national-championship contenders.  Idle on Saturday, Oregon will likely take over as the new top-ranked team in the playoff projections, as staying home made them one of the few marquee teams not to take a hit to their resume:

Of course, the Ducks never closed the deal during the BCS era, and if they are to capture the inaugural playoff championship, the defense must continue treading water.  As talented as Marcus Mariota is, the Arizona loss illustrated how little margin for error the potential Heisman winner has.  As Football Outsiders' Brian Fremeau notes (via ESPN Insider, subscription required), Oregon has had issues ending opponents' drives quickly:

The Oregon defense ranked in the top 40 in this metric in each of the previous seven seasons, halting at least 36 percent of opponent's drives after three or fewer downs each year. This year they are forcing three-and-outs on less than 25 percent of opponent's drives. Getting opponents off the field quickly can facilitate a tempo advantage for the Ducks' offense. Oregon forced Utah off the field without a first down five times last weekend and scored on four of the ensuing five possessions. In their loss to Arizona, the Ducks forced only two three-and-outs.

The Ducks defense also ranks just 33rd in his Fremeau Efficiency Index (FEI) metric, standing out like a sore eye among the other top contenders.  Oregon's relatively benign regular-season schedule should stave off any concerns, but a potential Pac-12 Championship meeting against Arizona State could bring those underlying issues to roost.

 

2. Alabama Crimson Tide

Some will assert that the Crimson Tide might belong ahead of the Ducks, based on the quality of their wins.  Alabama is the top-ranked team in the aforementioned FEI rankings.  In fact, some believe Nick Saban's crew could ascend all the way to the top:

That would certainly be far from an unreasonable ranking, but Alabama should be no lower than second given that they are now the front-runners in the nation's top conference.  As SI.com's Pete Thamel opines, Blake Sims' progression this season has separated the Tide from the rest of the loaded SEC:

Sims was the steady quarterback that Alabama needed as its playmakers shined all around him. Yeldon finished the game with 72 rushing yards and a touchdown. Star receiver Amari Cooper caught eight balls for 88 yards with a score. But on that game’s defining, soul-crushing drive, Sims again executed deftly when he needed to. That drive led to what proved to be the winning score, as Mississippi State scored on a Prescott touchdown pass with 15 seconds left to pull the Bulldogs within five.

Indeed, though the structure of Alabama's offense will never permit Sims to put up gaudy numbers, he still ranks second in the country in ESPN's QBR metric, behind only Mariota.  The Tide's schedule is beginning to open up, with Auburn reeling and the SEC East appearing increasingly meek.  At this point, it would be stunning if Sims and Co. dropped another game to fall out of the playoff.

 

3. Florida State Seminoles

The Seminoles were an irrepressible juggernaut in sweeping through the season undefeated last year, but Florida State has appeared significantly more vulnerable in 2014.  After escaping with a four-point win over 6-4 Miami, five of the Seminoles' 10 wins have come via second-half comebacks.  

That form is hardly befitting of their still-perfect record, especially when considering the mediocrity of the ACC.  Jameis Winston continued his disturbing pattern of first-half struggles against the Hurricanes, leading Florida State to just two scoring drives while turning the ball over while the Seminoles were driving.  Indeed, some are beginning to wonder if Florida State is simply skating by on perception:

Apart from a mildly challenging home game against Florida, we probably will not receive any real answers about the defending champs until the playoff.  It is essentially unfathomable to leave out an undefeated major conference champion, especially one that started the season universally ranked No. 1.  Nevertheless, the Seminoles look like long shots to repeat at the moment.

 

4. Mississippi State Bulldogs

After emerging as one of the nation's best stories over the first 10 games, Mississippi State came crashing back to reality with their 25-20 defeat at Bryant-Denny, as Alabama maintained a comfortable separation throughout despite a late Bulldogs charge.  However, with just a single loss in the SEC, the Bulldogs still possess a comfortable playoff resume.

TCU fans will likely be up in arms, of course, given that the Horned Frogs are actually the favorites to win their conference with just a single loss.  SEC fans may scoff at the difference in conference strength between theirs and the Big 12, but in reality, the Bulldogs' resume is not nearly as strong as their ranking would have suggested:

However, Mississippi State does have an opportunity to notch a season-ending road victory at Oxford.  At that point, it would become extremely difficult to pass over the Bulldogs, especially considering that TCU lost its premier matchup at Baylor.  Anti-SEC sentiment may boil over if this scenario comes to fruition, but the resumes at this point speak in favor of the Bulldogs.

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Bowl Predictions 2014: Updated Playoff Projections After Week 12 Games

Surprise, surprise. There was another batch of highly ranked teams to fall on a college football Saturday.

Week 12 looked like a dangerous slate of games with playoff contenders Florida State, Arizona State, Ohio State and TCU all hitting the road, but the Seminoles, Horned Frogs and Buckeyes all managed to notch victories.

Of course, the Horned Frogs and Seminoles made things a lot more interesting than their fans would have preferred, and the Buckeyes only won by seven, even though they controlled the entire game.

However, the Sun Devils lost at Oregon State, Auburn dropped one at Georgia and Mississippi State fell from the ranks of the unbeaten.

Perhaps the most important result from Week 12, though, was that loss for the No. 1 team in the land. It was a strange situation with the top-ranked squad, Mississippi State, seen as an underdog, but Alabama was very impressive in the victory. The Crimson Tide control their destiny for the SEC title and seem to be hitting their stride at just the right time.

Not to be outdone, Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon set the all-time NCAA single-game rushing record with 408 yards against Nebraska. What made it even more impressive was that it happened in three quarters. 

So what does it all mean for the playoff picture? Here is a look at the updated postseason bowl projections.

 

Bowl Projections

Sugar Bowl: No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Baylor

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

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

 

Week 12 Twitter Reaction

Ohio State kicked off Week 12 with a noon ET start and beat No. 25 Minnesota, 31-24. While the Buckeyes’ seven-point win doesn’t look particularly impressive if you didn’t actually watch the game, they did control the entire contest and would have won by more without costly turnovers. 

One player who did shine was quarterback J.T. Barrett. Todd Porter of The Repository and ESPN Stats & Info noted that he broke some records in the process:

Austin Ward of ESPN and Michael Felder of Bleacher Report seemed ready to throw Barrett’s name in the Heisman race:

One team that had more trouble than Ohio State did on Saturday was TCU. The Horned Frogs barely escaped a trip to lowly Kansas with a 34-30 win, and Pat Forde of Yahoo! Sports pointed out what all TCU fans probably feared in the aftermath of that game:

Nobody put up more style points than running back Gordon in Wisconsin’s dominant 59-24 win over Nebraska. While the Badgers are not in playoff contention, they appear primed to reach the Big Ten title game from the West Division after a win like that, although they will still have to take care of the Minnesota Golden Gophers. 

Gordon was the story with 408 rushing yards. ESPN Stats & Info and Andrew Siciliano of NFL Network put the ridiculous numbers in perspective, while SportsCenter noted that it was business as usual for the Wisconsin rushing attack:

The Big Ten Network passed along the highlights of the record-breaking performance, while previous record-holder LaDainian Tomlinson offered some congratulations:

Gordon commented on his day, according to The Associated Press, via ESPN.com: "Yeah, I didn't even know I was close to the record. I was kind of just running away." 

Outside of Gordon’s impressive day, the Big Ten picked up an impressive nonconference victory when Northwestern walked into Notre Dame and won in overtime. Nicole Auerbach of USA Today pointed out that the Wildcats may be in the midst of a disappointing season, but they have a couple of notable wins:

The most important Week 12 result in terms of the playoffs was Alabama’s 25-20 win over Mississippi State. Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller took the Crimson Tide’s perspective from the marquee win, while Grantland’s Shane Ryan pointed out that the Bulldogs are far from dead in the playoff picture:

Another team that is far from dead in the postseason picture is undefeated Florida State, although the defending champs took it down to the wire yet again in a 30-26 win over Miami.

ESPN Stats & Info noted that the Seminoles have made a habit out of late comebacks, while SI College Football and ESPN’s Arash Markazi realized we should have never expected anything different:

Eventually, the pattern of falling behind early and coming back in the second half may catch up to Florida State when it plays against formidable competition in the playoffs, but it can put it on cruise control until then. The ACC is a notch below the Seminoles, and the Florida Gators don’t have the talent to knock Florida State out of the playoff race.

What’s more, there is something to be said for finding a way to win close games, and Florida State will be plenty battle-tested when the playoff contests are close in the final minutes. 

Fans can criticize the Seminoles all they want for narrowly escaping lesser opponents, but winning is all that matters, even in a sport dominated by style points.

Just ask Arizona State, which learned a valuable lesson, as ESPN Stats & Info pointed out:

Buckle up, because we are sure to see even more chaos in Week 13.

 

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College Football Rankings Week 13: B/R's Official Top 25

Mississippi State, look what you've gone and done.

By falling at Alabama on Saturday, the Bulldogs have assured that there will be a new No. 1 in pretty much every poll of significance. But who, exactly, will take over that top spot in rankings such as the one by the College Football Playoff selection committee?

Maybe you can get a good idea by checking out our latest rankings, fresh out of the oven to warm you after a frigid Saturday of college football action.

The Bleacher Report Top 25 is voted on by 20 members of Bleacher Report's college football team: writers Keith Arnold, Ben Axelrod, Phil Callihan, Michael Felder, Justin Ferguson, Andrew Hall, Kyle Kensing, David Kenyon, Ben Kercheval, Adam Kramer, Brian Leigh, Brian Pedersen, Barrett Sallee, Brad Shepard, Erin Sorensen, Marc Torrence and Greg Wallace, as well as editors Eric Bowman, Hunter Mandel and Max Rausch.

Each voter submits their ballots based on observations made during the just-completed week's games. Teams receive 25 points for a first-place vote, all the way down to one point for being ranked 25th, and then the top 25 vote-getters are ranked in order of their point totals.

Check out Bleacher Report's Week 13 poll, then give us your thoughts in the comments section.

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ASU vs. Oregon State: Score and Twitter Reaction

Arizona State's chances of making the college football playoff died in Corvallis, Oregon, on Saturday night. The No. 6 Sun Devils lost 35-27 to the Oregon State Beavers, thus shutting the door on any top-four finish in 2014.

Down a point, 28-27, late in the fourth quarter, ASU was driving for  the potential game-winning score. With all three timeouts and a little under three minutes to play, the Sun Devils had more than enough time to get within field-goal position.

On the fifth play of the fateful drive, Oregon State linebacker Michael Doctor intercepted a Taylor Kelly pass and returned it 35 yards for the touchdown, giving the Beavers a 35-27 lead with only 1:38 remaining.

Grantland's Matt Hinton wonders if Doctor would've been better off running around and killing seconds off the clock rather than picking up the quick score:

As CBSSports.com's Tom Fornelli highlighted, the Sun Devils were still within a score of tying the game:

In the end, it didn't matter. Beavers linebacker sacked Kelly on a 4th-and-2 on the next drive, giving the ball to Oregon State to end the game.

Kelly had his worst performance of the season, throwing for 264 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. He completed just 50 percent (22-of-44) of his passes. Jaelen Strong did his best to help out his quarterback, catching nine passes for 103 yards, but he looked to be hobbled late in the game.

While Kelly's interception proved pivotal, Arizona State's loss won't be traced back to the offense.

Earlier in the season, defense was a major issue for ASU. After making some improvement on that side of the ball in wins over Stanford, Washington and Utah, those issues reared their ugly head on Saturday night.

The Sun Devils had no answer for the Storm Woods and Terron Ward, who combined to gain 273 yards on the ground. Together, they averaged nearly a first down (9.1 yards) every time they touched the ball.

This is the first time OSU upset a top-10 team in Corvallis since 2008, per ESPN Stats & Info:

According to ESPN.com's Brett Edgerton, five top-10 teams have lost at Oregon State this millennium:

Oregon State didn't have any sort of early game jitters, quickly jumping out to a 14-3 lead in the first quarter courtesy of rushing touchdowns from Woods and Ward. Both players broke out for big runs, with the former going 78 yards and the latter scampering 66 yards.

A 17-yard touchdown run from Kelly to D.J. Foster got ASU to within four points, 14-10, with 1:13 left in the first.

The Sun Devils dominated the second quarter, adding two more touchdowns to take a 24-14 lead going into halftime. Kelly was responsible for the first score, hitting tight end Kody Kohl for a 46-yard touchdown pass. ASU linebacker Antonio Longino picking up a fumble and returning it 36 yards to the house:

Pac-12 referees have built a rather poor reputation over the years, and they didn't cover themselves in glory on Longino's fumble return, per NFL.com's Bryan Fischer:

Arizona State should've had a 27-14 lead, but Zane Gonzalez missed a 30-yard field goal 1:23 from the half. Still, having any sort of lead was good news. The Sun Devils came in unbeaten when leading at halftime under Todd Graham, per ASUDevils.com:

Despite giving up 21 unanswered points, Oregon State didn't wilt. The Beavers recovered in the third quarter, keeping ASU out of the end zone. Sean Mannion and Victor Bolden connected for a 20-yard touchdown pass, closing the deficit to three points, 24-21.

Gonzalez corrected his earlier mistake, hitting a 29-yard field goal to help Arizona State maintain a 27-21 lead in the fourth quarter.

But the Beavers got yet another big play, with Mannion hitting Jordan Villamin with a go-ahead 67-yard touchdown with 10:55 to play:

Arizona State failed to move the ball for much of the last 10 minutes, with Kelly's interception a dagger in the Sun Devils' comeback attempt.

With the defeat, ASU falls into a three-way tie for second in the Pac-12 South. USC has a half-game lead at 6-2.

Even in the event the Sun Devils win the division and beat Oregon in the conference championship game, the selection committee won't send a two-loss Arizona State into the playoff. As quickly as ASU rose up the standings, it will fall equally as fast.

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College Football Playoff Rankings: Biggest Takeaways from Week 12

The committee and the polls all had undefeated Mississippi State ranked No. 1 coming into the weekend. But as usual, Las Vegas knew better, as Alabama was a solid favorite entering Saturday's showdown with the Bulldogs.

The Crimson Tide played like it, going wire-to-wire in a 25-20 victory that really wasn't that close. But strangely, when the committee's rankings come out on Tuesday, the Bulldogs will be the only team in its Top 25 that Alabama has beaten. Because of that, Oregon likely will be the new No. 1 team.

Who's No. 1 or No. 2 in reality does not matter much. Since Florida State will remain No. 3 after another close escape, all eyes once again will be on the final playoff spot. TCU had its issues before beating Kansas, but that probably will be enough to keep it at No. 4, with Ohio State and Baylor very much in the mix. Arizona State, stunned by Oregon State in another Pac-12 late show, is probably out of it.

In all, there are fewer than 10 teams still in contention for the four playoff spots:

Teams that moved up

Big 12

While there's a lot of talk about the SEC landing two teams in the playoff, the conference most likely to pull off that feat now is the Big 12. Precisely because it doesn't have a conference title game, the Big 12 can send both TCU and Baylor to the playoff as co-champions, each with an 11-1 record. It's still a long shot, but if a couple of upsets happen in the title games of the other conferences...you just never know.

SEC West

The two Mississippi teams are still alive for the SEC West title and therefore, a playoff berth. Mississippi State has a slim chance of making the four-team field with an 11-1 record and no division title. But with either Georgia (blown out by Florida) or Missouri (lost to Indiana) destined to win the SEC East, the conference could be left with no team in the playoff if the West winner is upset in the title game.

Florida State

The Noles somehow found a way to survive another close call and now it looks like they have clear sailing toward the playoff with their quest to repeat as national champions intact. Despite the weakness of the ACC and lacking any wins over a Top 25 team (in the upcoming rankings), FSU is now the only power-five team without a loss. It's in if it wins out.

 

Teams that moved down

Auburn

The Tigers' hopes of repeating as the SEC champion died between the hedges on Saturday. They cannot win the SEC West now and therefore have no shot of getting into the playoff. All Auburn has left is playing spoiler, as an upset victory in the Iron Bowl over Alabama likely will gift the division title to the winner of the Egg Bowl.

Ohio State

The Buckeyes are rolling toward the Big Ten East title, but their window of making the playoff is closing fast. They'll likely face a two-loss Wisconsin team in the Big Ten title game and aside from Michigan State, they will have not beaten a single ranked team. Ohio State needs a lot of help.

Committee's bottom rankings

Seven of the committee's 10 bottom-ranked teams (Nos. 16-25) lost and Utah needed overtime to avoid being the eighth. But the real question is why does the committee bother ranking 25 teams? Its job is to put four teams in the playoff and, to a lesser extent, pick the other eight teams for the New Year's Six bowls. What's the point of aping the polls?

 

Group-of-five team in the best position

Committee chairman Jeff Long mentioned five teams in contention for the access spot last week, but East Carolina lost again and Northern Illinois is really more of an afterthought. So it remains a three-team race and, with the bottom dropping out of the committee's last rankings, it'll finally have to tip its hand next Tuesday.

Marshall is now only one of two unbeaten FBS teams, having won every game by no fewer than 15 points and with an average margin of victory over 30 points. But the Herd's weak strength of schedule allows both Colorado State and Boise State to stay in contention, as the Broncos remain in control of the Mountain West race despite having one more loss because of their win over the Rams.

 

Projected conference championship matchups

ACC: Florida State vs. Duke

Big Ten: Ohio State vs. Wisconsin

Pac-12: Oregon vs. UCLA

SEC: Alabama vs. Georgia

 

Follow on Twitter @ThePlayoffGuru

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NCAA Football Rankings 2014: Predicting the Top 25 After Week 12

Week 12 was a wild one. From the comeback that was stopped short of an onside kick between Mississippi State and Alabama and Ohio State's survival of a feisty Minnesota team to Florida State winning yet another thriller, this week is sure to shake up the polls

One thing is almost for certain: Week 13's AP Poll will feature a new No. 1 after the Bulldogs fell to the Tide.

Pollsters are always impossible to prognosticate, but here's our best crack at it.

Note: Rankings reflect a prediction of the Week 12 AP poll—not how the author would rank the teams himself. 

 

Biggest Risers

Wisconsin

Climbing on the back of Melvin Gordon, who set an FBS record with 408 rushing yards in a game, the Wisconsin Badgers thrashed the Nebraska Cornhuskers 59-24 and are projected to shoot up eight spots in the polls. 

In a game between No. 11 Nebraska and No. 22 Wisconsin by AP Poll standards, the Huskers are a big letdown, while Gordon and Co. have thrust their way into the national spotlight. The Badgers now control their own destiny to the Big Ten title game, where they'll likely have a shot to upend Ohio State.  

 

Georgia

The Georgia Bulldogs are that significant other that never goes away to the SEC. Saturday's 34-7 beatdown of Auburn just a few weeks removed from an upset loss to Florida has put Georgia in a place to contend with Missouri for the SEC East title. 

The Bulldogs' SEC slate is complete, while the Tigers still have two games left to play in the league, which include matchups with Tennessee and Arkansas, the latter of which just upended LSU.

Could Georgia play spoiler to the SEC in their hunt for two bids to the playoffs? It sure looks like it.  

 

Biggest Fallers

Nebraska

What in the world happened at Camp Randall? 

One of the best rush defenses in the country heading into Saturday, ranked 19th nationally, gave up 581 yards on the ground to the Wisconsin Badgers. Worse yet, they also lost 59-24, which should cause them to drop at least seven spots. 

Nebraska is also all but out of the hunt for the Big Ten title game, as they'd need to win out and have the Badgers lose out. All in all, it's another promising season that will ultimately end in disappointment for Bo Pelini and Co. 

 

Notre Dame

At just 3-6, nobody could've seen Northwestern upsetting Notre Dame. 

But they did, 43-40. In overtime. 

That's the beauty of the beast that is college football. Just three games ago, Notre Dame had projected No. 1 Florida State on the ropes, and now they're falling to a mediocre Big Ten squad. 

The biggest takeaway from this loss is that Notre Dame's bid for a prime-time bowl game just took a serious hit. 

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College Football Playoff Projections After Week 12

Week 12 has jumbled the College Football Playoff bracket to a place where it's nearly unrecognizable. Which four teams are in as things currently stand?

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Adam Kramer gives his updated predictions after a wild weekend.

Who is in your top four? Watch the video and let us know!

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Florida State, the Teflon Kings of College Football, Look Like Team of Destiny

Until you cut off Florida State’s head, it is not dead. And even if you managed to somehow pull off this enormous feat, holding actual physical proof to the sky for the college football world to see, it wouldn’t seem real. Given the state of this team and its knack for living, dying and then living all over again, no zombie scenario should go unexplored. 

They did it again. Looking lifeless, hopeless and utterly out of sync against Miami on Saturday night, the Seminoles’ inched past their in-state rival with a second-half surge, winning by the final score of 30-26.

It was a tale of two halves, which should be a familiar blueprint by this point in the year. It’s in this team’s nature to make something so remarkably difficult look somehow natural—like it had been planned all along—which is why the comeback against the Hurricanes really wasn’t all that shocking. 

Even in the second quarter, when sensational 'Canes freshman quarterback Brad Kaaya hit Clive Walford on a 61-yard touchdown pass to give Miami a 23-7 lead, you didn’t panic, or in the case of many fans outside the city of Tallahassee, celebrate the development.

You took note of the damage being done, but instead of crowning the Hurricanes victorious with so much game to be played, you watched and waited. After all, you had seen it before. 

You waited because recent history told you to wait. This is what Florida State has become this season, an imperfect team far different from last year’s installment, still capable of pulling off the extraordinary with the flip of a switch. 

The switch was flipped, and the surge came from familiar faces and emerging stars. Quarterback Jameis Winston was outplayed statistically by his counterpart in this matchup, although he was again surgical when he needed to be. After looking mortal throughout the first 30 minutes, Winston put together a fabulous second half as the offense settled in. 

True-freshman running back Dalvin Cook flashed moments of brilliance yet again, running for 92 yards and two touchdowns on only seven carries. His 26-yard touchdown run with just over three minutes remaining in the fourth quarter proved to be the winning score.

Roberto Aguayo, the most dependable special teams weapon in the country, also played a role in securing the win. Aguayo made all three of his field goal tries on Saturday night, including a 53-yarder with less than eight minutes remaining. 

The defense also played a significant role, perhaps the most important of all. After giving up yards in bunches—especially in the middle of the field—the Seminoles’ defense allowed only three points after the intermission behind one of the more impressive individual performances of the season.

Jalen Ramsey was everywhere. The FSU defensive back blocked a PAT, broke up passes, forced a fumble and also delivered the clinching moment when he picked off Kaaya’s pass with less than a minute remaining.

Following the game, Ramsey made his stance on Florida State’s national standing clear as day.

FSU's Jalen Ramsey: “Until someone beats us, we’re the No. 1 team in America. We’re still the champs. And that's how it is.”

— Ira Schoffel (@IraSchoffel) November 16, 2014

Most will gladly disagree with this statement and present legitimate arguments to state their case. With Notre Dame’s loss to Northwestern in Week 12, the Seminoles lack a statement win.

And yet, with Mississippi State’s perfect season no more thanks to Alabama, the Seminoles are now the nation’s lone power-five team without a loss. It hasn’t been easy or pretty—a far different product than last year’s dominating weekly performances—but the end result, at least until this point, is undeniable.

They have done it through extraordinary comebacks, moments that won’t possibly be justified through statistical analysis. Three times this season Florida State has looked dead in the water; three times this season the final scoreboard told a different story entirely. 

With so much negativity swarming around the program—the latest development centering on a report from The New York Times regarding an alleged hit and run—it’s easy to see why Florida State has become enemy No. 1. Each time Florida State has fallen behind, the nation has rooted on the underdog seemingly in control. Each time, they have left disappointed, a little less surprised with every act of this football Houdini.

Regardless of where your rooting interests lie—or if you believe the Seminoles are as good as Jalen Ramsey proclaims—there’s something to be said about the way they have magically walked the tightrope late in games.

It is a beautiful brand of football in a sense that the unexpected has become the norm. Instead of simply bashing the defending champions for barely overcoming teams it is supposed to beat, we should be celebrating the incredible display of week-to-week survival.

It doesn’t mean they are the nation’s No. 1 team or that they’ll be able to sustain this uncomfortable pace when asked to step up and play elite competition. But in a year when dominant teams are absent from the conversation, Florida State—watered down product and all—is still in the driver’s seat for a College Football Playoff appearance. They have earned that, not through just a chain of good fortune but a slew of outstanding and meaningful performances in moments that matter.

As a result, the head is still intact; the body parts are fully functional. The Seminoles, having toyed with death time and time again are looking more immortal each and every week. 

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Jalen Ramsey Takes His Turn as Florida State's Savior vs. Miami

Florida State cornerback Jalen Ramsey did a little bit of everything on Saturday night. He rushed the passer, he dropped back into coverage. He tackled and he broke up passes. He seemed to be exactly where he needed to be to make plays.

Ramsey forced a fumble on Miami's first play of the game and ended a dramatic night with an interception of Brad Kaaya at FSU's 16-yard line as No. 3 Florida State rallied from a 13-point deficit in the second half to win 30-26.

"I don't think either one was bigger," Ramsey said. "We needed both of them."

Those plays were the bookends to an exceptional night for Ramsey. The sophomore had three tackles, broke up four passes and blocked an extra-point attempt late in the first quarter. It turned out to be a big early play that turned the game late—had Miami made the extra point, the Hurricanes would have been trailing by just three points and could have set up the final drive for a game-tying field goal.

Instead, Kaaya was forced to throw and instead of a Miami receiver found Ramsey. It was fitting that Ramsey made the big play in the final seconds on a night when he was needed to be the savior.

"He was making plays everywhere," FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said. "His ability to play corner, play safety, tackle, blitz, he's a very unique player."

Fisher has recruited well the past few years, and he has plenty of unique players.

Quarterback Jameis Winston has often saved the day on offense this year, helping FSU rally from a 24-7 first-half deficit at North Carolina State by throwing for 365 yards and four touchdowns. Against Notre Dame, Winston led three second-half touchdown drives for the comeback. And at Louisville, he shook off three interceptions to guide FSU on five touchdown drives after halftime.

Winston has been invaluable on offense. On Saturday in Miami, however, FSU needed the defense to rise to the occasion. And Ramsey certainly did.

Ramsey has taken over at FSU's "star" cornerback position, filling the role that Lamarcus Joyner did in 2013. Joyner did it as well as anyone, becoming an All-American. Ramsey is beginning to play like an All-American, recording 60 tackles, 11 tackles for loss and two interceptions.

He is just one piece of a puzzle that is missing plenty of pieces from 2013. The Seminoles lost Joyner, safety Terrence Brooks and linebackers Telvin Smith and Christian Jones. Four key players of the defense but also four leaders. And when junior defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan opted to turn pro, it created a void in the middle of the line.

FSU's defense that gave up 12 points per game in 2013 has struggled, giving up 20 or more points in five straight games. But they made the timely adjustments against Miami, holding the Hurricanes to just a field goal in the second half.

The Seminoles have also adapted through plenty of injuries. Starting defensive tackle Nile Lawrence-Stample was lost for the season after three games with a torn pectoral. And FSU has also played games without players like Mario Edwards Jr., Derrick Mitchell, Terrance Smith and P.J. Williams.

But FSU has survived the close calls and is 10-0, the last FBS unbeaten team after Alabama defeated Mississippi State. The Seminoles have shown they can do little in the first half, but they go into the locker room at halftime and make all the right adjustments.

How will FSU do down the stretch? The Seminoles should win their last two regular-season games, both of them at home against Boston College and Florida. An ACC championship game awaits, potentially against Georgia Tech or Duke. 

If the Seminoles make it to the playoff, they won't have an SEC pedigree but will be a team that can win games on offense with Winston and the playmakers or with timely plays by rising defensive stars. And there may be no better kicker in the nation than 2013 Lou Groza Award winner Roberto Aguayo, who made three field goals (including a 53-yarder) on Saturday.

"Until someone beats us, we're the No. 1 team in America," Ramsey said. "We're still the champs. That's how it is."

 

Bob Ferrante is the FSU writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow him on Twitter. Stats courtesy of seminoles.com.

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LSU Football: Tigers' Woeful Performance vs. Arkansas the Worst in Les Miles Era

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark.—It's finally over. 

Arkansas' slow and steady beatdown of LSU was Chinese water torture for Tiger fans. The 17-0 scoreline is cringeworthy, as the Tigers were outplayed in every facet of the game.

And head coach Les Miles knows it. 

"We need to make some adjustments and fix us," said Miles after the game.

It was 1/9/12 all over again for the offense. The Tigers had not been shutout since that dreaded date of the 2012 BCS National Championship Game against Alabama. 

But this loss against Arkansas was far worse. The Tigers were dominated by a team that had not won an SEC game under Bret Bielema

Let that sink in. 

Bielema out-coached Miles. The Razorbacks won the time of possession battle and the line of scrimmage, both of which the Tigers had dominated in their last four games. 

The Tigers accumulated a season low 123 total yards. Sure, their vaunted offensive line suffered injuries to guard Vadal Alexander and center Elliott Porter. But that is no reason for them to have gotten bludgeoned that badly.

The Razorbacks consistently put pressure on Anthony Jennings, sacking him four times. Defensive end Trey Flowers said the unit felt they had an advantage up front heading into the game. 

"We knew coming into this game we were going to be able to attack the offensive line. They run block very well, but on the passing side of things we knew were going to be able to get after them," said Flowers. 

The run blocking was poor from the Tigers as well. LSU only had 36 yards rushing. Arkansas had two players eclipse that on their own. 

Jennings' receivers did not help, either, as they generated little separation against a mediocre Arkansas secondary. The Razorbacks entered Saturday as the second worst passing defense against SEC opposition.

The quarterback's 87 passing yards marks the second straight game he was held to under 90 yards passing. 

"I have to improve," said Jennings. "I need to see what I can do better to help this team."

The Tigers' defense fared better, holding Arkansas to only 264 total yards offensively. Yet those stats are deceiving. 

LSU could not get off the field on third down, as the Razorbacks were an efficient 10-of-17. Limited quarterback Brandon Allen was 6-of-11 on third down, with all six of his completions moving the chains.

Good defenses put up great statistics but great defenses make stops when it matters the most. The Tigers could not get off the field on third down. 

"It was frustrating," said LSU defensive tackle Christian LaCouture. "We just have to get better every week."

And then there was special teams. 

Arkansas had the second lowest amount of field-goal attempts and makes in the SEC entering Saturday. Adam McFain nailed a 32-yard strike to give the Razorbacks points on their opening drive. 

LSU kicker Colby Delahoussaye entered Saturday as the second best kicker in the SEC. But Delahoussaye withered in the cold, missing two field goals well within his range.

There was certainly hangover from last week's heartbreaking loss to Alabama. That, compounded by Arkansas coming off a bye week, equaled disaster for the Tigers. 

But there are only so many excuses the Tigers can make. This was the worst LSU performance under Miles ever. And it's really not even close. 

The previously mentioned Alabama goose egg in the BCS National Championship Game was somewhat understandable. It is hard to beat Nick Saban twice in the same season. Auburn and Mississippi State dominated the Tigers earlier this season, but those were two of the most prolific offenses in the country.

It would be a stretch to find a loss worse than this one in Miles' previous nine years. The 2008 season was horrendous but at least the Tigers scored points in each of their five losses. 

Miles said he will take the upcoming bye week to reevaluate his team before heading to College Station to take on Texas A&M. There could be a change at quarterback, where many fans are clamoring for true freshman Brandon Harris to replace Jennings. 

"He's (Harris) taking 50 percent of the snaps (in practice). He's developing very well," said Miles. 

Saturday was the first time Miles was shutout in the regular season while at LSU. It also cements the end of his streak of 10-win seasons. 

And it could not have been done in a more emphatic fashion. 

 

Stats, rankings and additional information provided by cfbstats.comESPN.com and LSU Sports Information. Recruiting information provided by 247Sports.

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow me on Twitter @CarterthePower.

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