NCAA Football

College Football Rankings 2015: Playoff Predictions Heading into Week 13

Tuesday’s College Football Playoff poll was perfect foreshadowing for what fans will see at the end of the season.

There are teams from the ACC, SEC, Big Ten and Big 12 in the Top Four, and that will not change once the playoffs are announced. The only thing that will be different is the representative from the Big Ten.

With that in mind, here is a look at the updated rankings as well as some predictions for the final four playoff teams.




Clemson, Alabama and Michigan State all have conference championship games at the end of the season and will solidify themselves in the eyes of the committee with their respective titles.

The Big 12 does not, which hurt the league last year. However, Oklahoma will have victories over TCU, Baylor and Oklahoma State by season’s end (and even a nonconference win against Tennessee), which will be enough to overcome any questions about whether it is a true conference champion. The head-to-head wins over the other competitors will make it clear the Sooners are the best team in the league.

The Pac-12 will be on the outside looking in because each of its teams has two losses. That is a testament to the overall strength of the conference, but it is an unfortunate reality for the league this year.

Stanford will have the opportunity to make a statement with a win over No. 6 Notre Dame Saturday, but it still wouldn’t have enough to leap an undefeated Clemson or a one-loss Alabama, Michigan State and Oklahoma in this scenario.

As for a potential one-loss Notre Dame (if it beats Stanford), the lack of a conference and conference title game will prove costly. What’s more, the Fighting Irish’s victories over Texas and Georgia Tech are nowhere near as impressive as they hoped at the beginning of the season, and even USC has four losses.

Notre Dame would be riding wins over Stanford, Temple and Navy, which are solid but not enough to stack up to those from Michigan State or Oklahoma. If the Spartans win out, they will have victories over Ohio State, Michigan, Iowa and Oregon, while the Sooners would have the TCU, Baylor and Oklahoma State victories.

ESPN’s Danny Kanell suggested the fact Notre Dame is behind Iowa, Michigan State and Oklahoma in the current rankings is ominous:

JJ Stankevitz of CSN Chicago reiterated that belief:

As for the teams that will be in with these projections, they will all be challenged in the upcoming games.

Michigan State must get past Penn State and then Iowa in the Big Ten Championship Game, and Alabama must beat archrival Auburn and then Florida in the SEC Championship Game. Oklahoma must get past Oklahoma State, and Clemson has to deal with South Carolina and then North Carolina in the ACC Championship Game.

The Spartans will handle the undefeated Hawkeyes because of a stifling defense that is fresh off an incredible performance against Ohio State. Michigan State held the Buckeyes to 14 points and allowed a mere 132 total yards against an offense that has been among the nation’s best all season.

The Crimson Tide are simply too tough on defense (third in yards and points allowed per game) for a Tigers squad that is 2-5 in the SEC and a Gators team that barely snuck past Vanderbilt and Florida Atlantic.

The Sooners have too much firepower with Baker Mayfield and Samaje Perine for a Cowboys team that is 60th in the nation in points allowed per game, and Clemson has superstar quarterback Deshaun Watson, who will be too much for a North Carolina team that needed overtime to beat Virginia Tech Saturday.

Part of the beauty of college football is arguing about conference superiority every season. The ACC, Big Ten, SEC and Big 12 will settle it on the field in the playoffs this year.

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Bleacher Report's Week 13 College Football Playoff Predictions

Will your team make the College Football Playoff?

Unlike most media sites, Bleacher Report doesn't give you a "yes" or "no" answer. Instead, we use the playoff committee rankings and analytics to assign your team a probability of making the playoff.

The sortable table shows the results, while you can find more information on the simulation methods here.

Let's look at the biggest stories after Week 12.


Oklahoma now in the driver's seat for playoff berth

Oklahoma almost lost this weekend. TCU, playing without star quarterback Trevone Boykin, mounted a late comeback and had a two-point opportunity in the final moments to win the game. Instead, the Oklahoma defense denied the attempt, giving the Sooners a 30-29 win in a game in which they were favored by 19, per Odds Shark.

Usually, a team that wins holds its spot in the committee rankings. Instead, Oklahoma jumped Week 12 winners Iowa and Notre Dame to the third spot in this week's rankings. Maybe the committee is starting to buy into some of the Sooners' signature wins this season, which include beating a good Tennessee team on the road in September.

Oklahoma travels to Oklahoma State for its Bedlam rivalry game Saturday. By my numbers, Oklahoma is the better team on both sides of the ball. Quarterback Baker Mayfield didn't play in the second half against TCU, but he has passed concussion tests and will most likely play.

If Oklahoma turns its 62 percent win probability into a Bedlam win, it'll make the playoff.


Ohio State not dead just yet

How does Ohio State, which dropped to eighth in the rankings after losing to Michigan State, still have a 33 percent chance to make the playoff? My numbers give the Buckeyes only an 11 percent chance to win the Big Ten, a key criterion for the committee.

However, Ohio State could still make the playoff without a conference championship. Allow me to explain.

Suppose Ohio State beats Michigan on Saturday (67 percent win probability), which gives it a win over a Top 10 team. And suppose Michigan State wins the Big Ten (51 percent probability) and secures a playoff spot.

Ohio State would be sitting at 11-1 with its only loss against Michigan State. Additionally, the Buckeyes would most likely not drop after championship week because they don't play. Their resume would look comparable to other teams vying for the last playoff spot.

For example, consider a one-loss Notre Dame team. The Fighting Irish would have a loss to Clemson but a win over Stanford. Ohio State and Notre Dame would have similar-looking resumes.

And while it's remote, there's a chance any of the Top Three teams (Clemson, Alabama and Oklahoma) could lose a remaining game. This would only help Ohio State's chance to grab the fourth spot in the playoff.

My algorithm makes adjustments the last week of the season that penalize a team without a conference championship, which is most likely Ohio State's situation. Even with this adjustment, Ohio State has a 33 percent chance to make the playoff.


Iowa faces critical game against Nebraska

Undefeated Iowa finally made the Top Four of the committee rankings this week. However, the Hawkeyes can't rest, as they face an underrated Nebraska team Friday.

At first look, 5-6 Nebraska doesn't seem like stiff competition for an undefeated playoff contender. But if you look closer, the Cornhuskers have lost five of their games by a total of 13 points. This includes a loss to BYU on a last-second Hail Mary touchdown pass in the first week of the season.

Despite its lofty ranking, Iowa isn't as good as its 11-0 record suggests. The Hawkeyes are 27th in my rankings that drive these Bleacher Report playoff odds. In addition, other trusted computer rankings such as Sagarin (17th), Massey-Peabody (32nd) and S&P+ (29th) don't have Iowa anywhere near the top 10.

By my numbers, Iowa is a slightly better team than Nebraska. However, Nebraska has a 53 percent chance to pull the upset due to home-field advantage. The bookmakers disagree with these numbers, as they have Iowa as a small favorite. However, both methods predict a tight game.

This game has critical importance to the playoff picture. The scenario in which Iowa loses to Nebraska but beats Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship Game would most likely eliminate both teams, opening up the path for the Notre Dame-Stanford winner and possibly Ohio State. 


Notre Dame pays dearly for close win over Boston College

Notre Dame had a 19-3 lead in the fourth quarter against Boston College on Saturday. That lead could have been much larger if not for three Irish turnovers deep in BC territory.

Boston College then scored two late touchdowns to close the gap, and the Fighting Irish survived with a 19-16 win. The playoff committee apparently thought this three-point win reflected poorly on Notre Dame and dropped it to sixth in this week's rankings.

Notre Dame travels to Stanford for a critical game that should feature a lot of points. Despite a rash of season-ending injuries, Notre Dame's offense has been explosive all season. Quarterback DeShone Kizer will move the ball against a suspect Stanford defense that allowed almost 500 yards to both Oregon and California in consecutive weeks.

Stanford can score points as well. Christian McCaffrey has averaged 5.9 yards per carry in addition to his duties as a receiver and kick returner. He will face an underachieving Notre Dame defense that lost starting cornerback KeiVarae Russell to injury last week.

The winner of Notre Dame and Stanford will theoretically stay alive in the playoff hunt. However, each team's small playoff odds (27 percent for Notre Dame, 20 percent for Stanford) confirm that the winner needs help to end the season in the Top Four.


Ed Feng has a Ph.D. in chemical engineering from Stanford and runs sports analytics site The Power Rank. You can find him on Twitter, @thepowerrank. 

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Five Years Later: Harvey Updyke and the Day a Rivalry Went Too Far

It has been five years now, and at Auburn they're still just hoping the new trees on Toomers Corner will survive.

At this point, they feel that having dug down eight feet below the old trees, they did get below the poison that killed them. They took all that dirt to the landfill, put in a drainage system, removed all the poisoned water nearby and made sure—best they could—that other water in the area that would work its way over wasn't poisoned, too.

Still, one of the replacement trees died. And now they're nurturing the replacement for a replacement.

"The tree went in in July," said Auburn horticulture professor Dr. Gary Keever, who has been used heavily as an adviser throughout the ordeal. "The above-ground portion hasn't changed, but the other tree put out a flush of growth in the spring. So we're optimistic.

"Unless another Harvey Updyke comes along."

Another Harvey Updyke. That's an interesting concept.

This Saturday is the Alabama-Auburn football game, the Iron Bowl. It might be the most passionate rivalry out there—one that has that special something that so many others lack. Passion that five years ago boiled over in such memorable fashion.

Auburn won the Iron Bowl that year, and Updyke, an Alabama fan, retaliated. So say the courts, anyway. Updyke has denied his role on some occasions and admitted it on others.

Either way, it was two months later when Updyke called into the Paul Finebaum radio show, described himself as Al from Dadeville and said he had poisoned the trees at Toomers Corner.

"Keep in mind, we would get a lot outrageous claims on the show," said Pat Smith, longtime producer of Finebaum's show and now in content development for Cross Digital Multimedia. "But when he started talking and saying what he'd done, I came running down the hall to the control room.

"You could sense something in his voice that he had done something completely unfathomable in this rivalry."

Of course, Smith said he wasn't positive. But then the Auburn police called after "Al from Dadeville" hung up. And then a few days later, someone from a state senator's office called to say to expect a call from the FBI or Homeland Security over "that phone call from that crazy guy," Smith said.

"I said, 'You mean, he really did that?' He said, 'Pat. The trees are dead. The issue is they believed he put so much poison in the ground that it could affect the water supply. It elevated real quick from a crazy guy wanting to get back at something done to the Bear Bryant statue to a potential terrorist."

Updyke went to prison for what he did and was fined $800,000, an amount he'll never make a dent into.

There's a certain amount of sensitivity about Updyke. He went through several attorneys during his case and ended up with two of them. One told Bleacher Report to contact the other one for this story. The other one didn't respond to a request.

The story catapulted Finebaum from a college football media star in the Southeast with growing national interest into a full-fleged national media star. What does he think about the whole thing? An ESPN spokesperson said that Finebaum told her he had already said everything he has to say about it.

Yes, someone who talks for a living every single day said he didn't want to talk about it.

And Updyke? He politely wrote, via direct message:

"I'm sorry I was advised not to do anymore interviews. Finebaum has contacted multiple times and I've had to turn them down."

Yes, he was on Finebaum's show a handful of times over the years. And one time, Smith said, Updyke—a former Texas state trooper—came to the studio and just sat there, without a mic, and watched Finebaum do radio for a few hours while members of the show's staff stared through the big window at him.

In some ways, Southern football can cross the line at times—go from religion to near-cult. Smith talked about the culture of sports talk radio in the South, where regular, colorful callers can become celebrities themselves. Maybe that's enough to push someone who is already close to the line.

"There was absolutely zero remorse from him," Keever said.

Case in point: Updyke's Twitter account. He tweets incessantly. Mostly he brags about Alabama football, mixing in some caring personal messages and far-right-wing political comments. And then there are the ones like this:

Or similar sentiments with less-safe-for-work language.

Surely, most Alabama fans don't claim Updyke. But he does have a level of fame and popularity, and he doesn't seem to feel the need to hide from it.

Back on the Auburn campus, Keever explained that the original trees carried emotional value. They were the backdrop of memories to the Auburn family for decades. They used to produce acorns, which were sold off for charity. Some of the acorns were planted off-campus and are growing into oak trees now.

Those trees are being moved near the site of the original ones. Meanwhile, it was tradition for Auburn fans to throw massive amounts of toilet paper of the trees—volunteers would clean it up—after big wins and big events. Auburn is a little unsure if the replacement replacement tree can handle that and has asked fans to hold off doing that again until next year.

Keever suspects that despite increased cameras and security around the tress, if Auburn wins the Iron Bowl Saturday, the fans won't be able to control themselves.

That might not be a problem, though: On Twitter, Updyke predicts Alabama by blowout.


Greg Couch covers college football for Bleacher Report.

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Georgia Bulldogs vs. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets Complete Game Preview

It’s that time of year again. Every Saturday after Thanksgiving, Georgia and Georgia Tech go at it in their annual rivalry.

And if this year’s version is anything like the last two seasons, we could be in for a treat, as both of those games went into overtime.

Odds are the game on Saturday won’t go into overtime; Georgia comes into the game winners of their last three games, while Georgia Tech has won only three games this season. However, that doesn’t mean anything, because Georgia Tech defeated a then-unbeaten Florida State team earlier in the year. So the state of Georgia will be in for an interesting contest Saturday afternoon.


Date: Nov. 28, 2015

Time: Noon ET

Place: Grant Field, Atlanta  


Radio: Georgia Bulldog Sports Network, Georgia Tech Sports Network, SIRIUS/XM 112/194

Odds: Georgia is a five-point favorite according to Odds Shark


When Georgia Has the Ball

The Bulldogs have shown this season that they are not going to light up the scoreboard. Because of the quarterback play, they are limited to what they want to do on offense.

Greyson Lambert was solid yet not great in the Georgia Southern game last week, completing 16 of his 25 passes for 183 yards and one touchdown. His longest pass play was 27 yards to Malcolm Mitchell.

The Bulldogs will rely heavily on Sony Michel to make plays on offense. Michel rushed for 132 yards on 23 carries, and he scored the walk-off touchdown in overtime against Georgia Southern.

There's no surprise what the @YP Powerful Play of the Game is this week! It's Sony Michel's game-winning touchdown!

— Georgia Bulldogs (@UGAAthletics) November 22, 2015

The good news for the Bulldogs is going up against a Georgia Tech defense that surrenders 364 yards and 26 points per game. The problem for the Yellow Jackets is the defense will look good for a few series in a game, but they will give up a few big plays which ends up costing them in the end. The one constant on defense is defensive lineman Adam Gostis, who leads the team with three sacks.


When Georgia Tech Has the Ball

As long as Paul Johnson is the head coach, the Yellow Jackets will always run the ball first with their triple-option offense. They are seventh in the FBS with 261.82 rushing yards per game, and they are tied for ninth in the FBS with 30 rushing touchdowns.

However, those numbers are a drop-off from what it was last year, as the Yellow Jackets averaged 342 rushing yards per game and 47 rushing touchdowns. Both of those numbers were good enough for second place in the FBS.

And it might be tougher for Georgia Tech to be efficient on offense, because quarterback Justin Thomas might not be able to play after he suffered an upper-body injury last Saturday against Miami, according to Ken Sugiura of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Thomas is second on the team with 491 rushing yards and has thrown for 1,263 yards. If he can’t go, then Matthew Jordan, who filled in for Thomas on Saturday, will get his first career start on Saturday.

However, no matter who is at quarterback, the Yellow Jackets are going up against a Bulldogs defense that has improved each game.

Since the Florida loss, the Bulldogs have given up only 33 points in the last three games. The Bulldogs defense was strong last Saturday against Georgia Southern, as they allowed only 233 rushing yards and one touchdown. The Eagles lead the country in rushing with 379 yards per game, and they have tallied 50 rushing touchdowns.

Linebackers Jordan Jenkins and Leonard Floyd led the way for the Bulldogs, combining for 24 tackles and four tackles for loss.


Player to Watch for Georgia: Keith Marshall

Keith Marshall is not going to have 25 carries and won’t likely be the key to the outcome of the game. But after a roller coaster of a career, he will play his final regular-season game on Saturday.

Marshall has one year of eligibility, but he decided not to use that year and move on to the NFL.

#Dawgs Senior shout-out to Keith Marshall! Thanks for your hard work & commitment to the G!

— GATA Dawgs (@BassinDawg) November 18, 2015

After a very promising 2012 season, Marshall’s career has been hit with a number of injuries the last two seasons, including a torn ACL in 2013. Marshall is the No. 3 running back, and he has rushed for 255 yards and four touchdowns in nine games.

With this being his last regular-season game and the Bulldogs having trouble throwing the ball downfield, Marshall should see a good amount of carries on Saturday. But more than anything, he just wants to get a win.

“Even when I’m done playing and he’s still at Tech, I’ll never put on a Tech shirt,” Marshall said about his brother, Marcus, to Chip Towers of “Quite frankly, we don’t like them.”


Player to Watch for Georgia Tech: Marcus Marshall

While Keith Marshall is ending his career at Georgia, his brother, Marcus Marshall, is just getting started at Georgia Tech.

The freshman running back has made a name for himself, as he leads the Yellow Jackets in rushing with 609 yards and four touchdowns. Marshall was named ACC Rookie of the Week when he rushed for 129 yards and two touchdowns against Pitt.

Marcus Marshall on a big run

— BuzzTalkRadio (@BuzzTalkRadio) September 4, 2015

The younger Marshall is really excited not only to play against Georgia Tech’s biggest rival, but he can’t wait to see his brother on the opposing sideline.

"My family, everybody is real excited to watch and those who can come are really excited to see it, but my brother and I haven't really been going back and forth too much," Marcus said to Charles Odum of the Associated Press, via


Final Prediction: Georgia 28, Georgia Tech 24

Because of the way this series has played out the last two years, the 2015 version will be an exciting contest. Georgia Tech will come out fired up because it’s their last game of the year. Georgia will be fired up because they are playing for their head coach, who could be out of a job by season’s end.

But when it comes down to it, the Bulldogs have been playing better football this month, and the fact that they faced an option team in Georgia Southern last week will benefit the Bulldogs when they face the Yellow Jackets. If the Bulldogs can run the ball against a struggling Georgia Tech defense, then it will be the boys from Athens who will have bragging rights for the next 364 days.

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College Football Week 13 Schedule: TV, Live Stream Details for Top 25 NCAA Games

Plenty of questions still need to get answered with just a couple of weeks left for those teams with playoff hopes to make their case. Perhaps Week 13 will finally bring some clarity to a race that's remained bunched up for most of the season.

Not only is the schedule filled with high-profile rivalry clashes, but many of the teams inside the Top 10 are also going out on the road this week. It creates an atmosphere where there could be multiple upsets to thin out the herd a bit.

With that in mind, let's check out the complete slate of marquee action for this week. That's followed by a breakdown of a key storyline worth following during Week 13.


Top 25 Schedule


Biggest Storyline: Big 12 Race

One year ago, the Big 12 had two teams, Baylor and TCU, with a legitimate case to make the College Football Playoff. Neither one ended up getting the nod. The conference could find itself right back in the same situation this time around.

The Bears are joined by Oklahoma and Oklahoma State with just a single loss, while the Horned Frogs have two but can still play the role of spoiler. It raises concerns about whether having so many huge matchups near the end of the season will help as much as expected.

Perhaps if the marquee games were spread out more evenly throughout the conference slate, the individual impact would be a lot larger.

That said, Matt Hayes of Sporting News argues the Big 12 has an image problem due to its high-scoring style of play. That more than anything else is why it sometimes struggles to get as much respect as other top conferences or an independent like Notre Dame.

Hayes also passed along comments from Sooners head coach Bob Stoops about being unsure of the next step to take.

"I don't know what more we can do as a conference," Stoops said. "We've got great players like everyone else. We play big games like everyone else. Watch and judge for yourself."

A lot of people will be watching this week as the Big 12 puts on two more crucial games: Oklahoma vs. Oklahoma State and Baylor vs. TCU. The question is whether there's a set of results that would allow any of the three contenders to gain complete control of a playoff spot.

Maybe if TCU hands the Bears their second loss and one of the rivals from Oklahoma scores a sizable victory in the latest edition of the Bedlam Series, the Big 12 will have a clear leader.

On the flip side, Baylor head coach Art Briles hopes his team can still sneak into the playoff by winning out, but he doesn't think politicking helps, per Chris Low of

"We tried a little belly-aching and all that last year, and it didn't seem to work," Briles said. "So we'll just keep playing. We tried some truisms, too, and it didn't seem to work. We've got two extremely tough games in front of us."

Ultimately, since a committee is making the final call and not a mathematical formula, it's impossible to know exactly the various fates of the Big 12 depending on the final few key results. ESPN's Mike Greenberg summed it up over the weekend:

Add in the fact the Big 12 doesn't have a championship game for one team to make a final statement for the committee, and the outlook is just as uncertain as it was 12 months ago. The conference has a few good teams, but it's unclear whether there's a great team that warrants a playoff spot.

In the end, the Big 12 might end up with a case of deja vu.


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5 Tennessee Football Stars Who Chose the Volunteers over Vanderbilt

As good as the talent has been in the state of Tennessee over the past few years, the Volunteers have had to go to battle with several teams—including in-state rival Vanderbilt—to lure top prospects.

Several of the biggest playmakers on UT's resurgent roster considered the Commodores deep in the recruiting process. Tennessee's leading tackler, top rusher and best offensive lineman (among others) all considered Vanderbilt, especially when current Penn State coach James Franklin was at the helm in Nashville.

A couple were even committed to Vandy. Still others, like Josh Malone and Jack Jones, had the Commodores on their recruiting lists, but VU wasn't among their finalists when they chose to come to Knoxville.

Many of those guys came from the middle Tennessee area, where UT has thrived since coach Butch Jones took over.

"At one point it was a nice area to go in and get one or two players out of, but all of a sudden, it's really been a battleground that's important particularly for Tennessee and Vanderbilt to have a firm control over," 247Sports national director of scouting Barton Simmons told the Associated Press' Steve Megargee. "I think the talent level right now in middle Tennessee is unprecedented relative to its history."

Part of the fun of Rivalry Week is that a lot of guys know each other, talk trash and became friends while visiting schools throughout the process. It's the same story between Tennessee and Vanderbilt.

Vandy coach Derek Mason himself even talked some smack about the Vols back when he was hired, telling a crowd at a Tennessee-Vanderbilt basketball game, "for the upside-down T, we'll see you, too," according to the Tennessean's Jeff Lockridge.

There's no love lost between the two programs, and Vanderbilt especially hates Tennessee because of the dominance UT has enjoyed in the series. State ownership, bragging rights and more are up for grabs when the two teams get together in Knoxville this weekend.

The chattiness began from Mason's players way back in the summer, such as Caleb Azubike's jawing, so the Vols would love nothing more than to shut him and the Commodores up with their play on the field.

Though Mason isn't winning many recruiting battles versus the Vols, it's always important for UT to beat the Commodores for prospects purposes. And Jones is always thinking about recruiting.

Let's take a look at some Vols who may be major difference-makers this weekend who could have just as easily been wearing black and gold.


Derek Barnett: 6'3", 257-Pound Sophomore Defensive End

Tennessee's most disruptive defender burst onto the college football scene last year with 72 tackles, including 20.5 for a loss and 10 sacks. Though those numbers have taken a minor dip this season, Barnett is still putting up all-conference-caliber stats.

He could have been doing it for coach Mason's 'Dores.

Back when Barnett was a terrorizing 4-star defensive end for Brentwood Academy, he had several suitors, including Missouri, Vanderbilt and Ole Miss. Because of his scholastic prowess, Barnett strongly considered the Commodores, and early in the process, UT feared Franklin would land him.

Early in the recruiting process, it was all Vols and Vandy, and the two teams stayed on Barnett's mind until the end, when they were both finalists for his services. He told Simmons back in 2013: "Vandy and UT are sticking out." 

Then, later, while discussing Vanderbilt: "I talk to Coach (John) Donovan and Coach (James) Franklin and they’re just on the up rise. They're doing better every year and they're going to bowl games and you get good academics so it's a win-win. You go there and you don’t go to the NFL, you still get good academics."

Where would the Vols be without one of the best defensive ends in the country? It's a cringe-worthy thought for UT fans. But there was a time when he was dreaming in black and gold.


Malik Foreman: 5'10", 178-Pound Junior Nickelback

The Kingsport native has experienced plenty of ups and downs in this three-year career as well as this season, but the past few games, UT's starting nickel is playing at a very high level.

The Vols defense is improving because of it.

Though Foreman wasn't meant to be a starter this year, he was thrust into the lineup when Rashaan Gaulden was lost for the season back in August. The more the speedy junior has played, the better he's gotten.

Back in 2012, when Foreman was going through the recruiting process, he'd already made his mind up to go from his East Tennessee home to play for Franklin at Vanderbilt. For two months, he was heading to VU. But when Jones took over in Knoxville, he made Foreman a priority.

He wound up landing him along with Dobyns-Bennett High School teammate Devaun Swafford. Jones flipped him to become part of his first class in Knoxville.

"Me and my mom talked about it and I prayed about it and I've liked UT ever since growing up and it was just a dream come true," Foreman told Daniel Lewis, who then reported for "Then they offered my friend, so that was another plus—that’s what led me to make the decision to switch."

Though it took some time for Foreman to develop, it wound up being a good move for UT.


Jalen Hurd: 6'4", 240-Pound Sophomore Running Back

The nation's top teams coveted Hurd, who was among the top running backs in the nation when he played for Beech High School.

Ohio State, Florida, Alabama, USC and others made the trip to the Nashville area to try to lure Hurd to their schools. Though he ended the recruiting process extremely early when he committed to Jones in March 2013 more than a year before he'd sign, he was giving strong consideration to Vanderbilt.

When Hurd shocked a lot of folks by committing to Tennessee, then-VU coach Franklin took to Twitter following Hurd's verbal pledge.

That was vintage Franklin during his tenure at VU, routinely taking to social media to voice his opinions about players who picked or failed to pick the Commodores. That little outburst drew scrutiny from several media members and many more Vols fans, according to GoVolsXtra's Evan Woodbery.

Franklin told SBNation's Steven Godfrey that "this is another instance of people trying to make a controversy where there isn't one. That wasn't related to a specific recruit." But it was just a little too much of a coincidence to be otherwise.

Regardless, that's all ancient history now. Hurd is ripping off runs and is the offensive centerpiece and workhorse for the Vols. He's coming off his career-high in carries and yards against Mizzou, and he already has more than 1,000 yards this season.

After suffering an early injury last year against VU, he's geared up to have a big night. Nothing would be better for him than lighting up his hometown team. 


Jalen Reeves-Maybin: 6'0", 225-Pound Junior Outside Linebacker

Tennessee's other Jalen is a middle-Tennessee boy who was hotly coveted by Franklin as well. Back when he was a midterm enrollee out of Clarksville's Northeast High School, Reeves-Maybin chose Tennessee over a host of other finalists, including VU.

That was back when Derek Dooley was coaching Tennessee, and Reeves-Maybin represents one of the former UT coach's recruiting wins that actually wound up working out well for the Vols.

Last season, Reeves-Maybin tied for the team lead with A.J. Johnson in tackles, and as a speedy, playmaking outside linebacker, he's all over the field after spending his freshman year as a special teams dynamo. This year, he has UT's tackle lead all to himself, and he's a legit NFL prospect.

Back when Reeves-Maybin was a jumbo safety as well as a high school quarterback, his athleticism was evident. It wasn't by accident that he was a player that both SEC in-state schools wanted. He was a 4-star, and he's played up to that ranking.

Going through the recruiting process, Reeves-Maybin was a "high priority" for Vanderbilt, according to the City Paper's James Boettcher. Instead, he wound up in orange and white, and rather than playing for the Commodores on Saturday, he'll be trying to tackle them.


Jashon Robertson: 6'3", 315-Pound Sophomore Offensive Guard

Finally, one of Tennessee's most surprising stars nearly played alongside Foreman in Nashville, where he may have been on the opposite side of the trench.

Back when he played for Montgomery Bell Academy in Nashville, Robertson was a two-way lineman who had pledged to Franklin for more than six months to play defensive tackle.

When Franklin left, he opened his recruitment back up and ultimately joined youth football teammate Hurd in Knoxville. He told GoVols247's Wes Rucker after flipping to UT:

I've always kind of believed that things happen for a reason, and I kind of try to take everything I can from experiences. The process just showed me…it just kind of showed how you have to pick a place over a coach. It really just revealed how special a place Tennessee is. I just think that I’ll love being there regardless of what happens. Tennessee's just a special place—a really special place.

After spending roughly a week on the defensive side of the ball once he got to Knoxville, Robertson flipped over to offensive guard where he was an almost immediate starter.

Nearly two years later, he's Tennessee's most talented and strongest offensive lineman. Though he's spent much of the season banged-up, he returned for the Missouri game, and it's no coincidence the Vols offensive front played its best game of the season.

Had Franklin stayed at VU, Robertson would be on the other side of the ball getting ready to play the hated Vols. Instead, he'll probably be announcing UT as his alma mater when he's playing in the NFL in a couple of years.

Tennessee has won many more battles than it's lost over Vanderbilt in recruiting battles the past few years, just as it has historically on the field. This Saturday, some of those head-to-head tussles for letters of intent will manifest themselves as players who have turned the Vols program around on the field.


All stats gathered from unless otherwise noted. All quotes and information gathered firsthand unless otherwise noted. All recruiting information gathered from 247Sports, 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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Texas Football: 5 Best Moments for the Longhorns in the Chancellor's Spurs Game

It's not the Thanksgiving rivalry we're used to, but it's the one we'll get when Texas tries to hang onto the Chancellor's Spurs on Thursday against Texas Tech.

In lieu of a matchup with Texas A&M, the 4-6 Longhorns will host Texas Tech in the 19th iteration of the Battle for the Chancellor's Spurs. Since 1996, the Horns have won the matchup 15 times, including the last six in a row.

The biggest moment in the series obviously belongs to the Red Raiders, who crushed Texas' title hopes in 2008 with Michael Crabtree's last-second touchdown. But the Longhorns have had their fair share of big moments in the series, including Vince Young's first superstar performance and Chance Mock's game-winner in 2003.

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Is College Football Ready to Finally Embrace the Cinderella?

In small doses, college football treasures its underdogs. There’s nothing quite like watching a full-bodied favorite come undone at the hands of an underestimated, undeserving challenger. 

These moments of chaos are celebrated in mass. They power our week-to-week DeLorean. But our interest in the underdog usually fades right then and there, once all fans have been cleared from field.

One more week? Sure, little guy, have a blast. Win that next game. Two more weeks? Why not, buddy. You earned it.

Anything beyond that, however, and euphoria seamlessly morphs into agitation. The little engine that could quickly becomes an annoyance. Once the College Football Playoff becomes a potential reality, the darling is no longer the darling—at least for those not comfortably underneath the rooting interest umbrella..

That leads me to the Iowa Hawkeyes, the selection committee’s No. 4 team in the latest College Football Playoff standings. This is indeed a brave new world.

With debate swirling, Iowa finds itself in a delightful position. If the Hawkeyes beat Nebraska and a team to be determined in the Big Ten Championship Game, they’re in the playoff. There will be no debate. There will be no second thoughts.

There will be outrage, certainly, but that won’t change a discomforting reality—not for all, but for many.

While college basketball seems to embrace these unlikely bracket voyages, this is different. In football, instead of celebrating this unlikely scenario, these teams are greeted with pitchforks. Instead of rallying to the weird, we dissect schedules and scream about the lack of Top 25 wins from the highest mountaintops. 

Instead of appreciating something truly rare—and seeing Iowa check in at No. 4 during Thanksgiving week would most certainly qualify—most fight its very existence. 

The assumption, of course, is that Iowa doesn’t belong. Perhaps there is some truth to that. If Iowa had Michigan State’s schedule, chances are it wouldn’t be in this spot. But saying this team doesn’t belong in the Top Four given what it has accomplished and what others have not, at this point, is a complete falsehood.

Still, many are impatiently tapping their foot, waiting for Iowa's carriage to turn into a pumpkin.

Let the regulars in. That’s how it’s always been.

Iowa still has much work to do. The Hawkeyes could most certainly lose to rested Nebraska on Friday. And even if they get past the Cornhuskers, Kirk Ferentz’s team will likely still be an underdog to Michigan State, Michigan or Ohio State in the Big Ten title game.

Winning the next two games will be no small task, even for a team that has showed a great deal of resiliency over the course of the year. But the opportunity is there. The situation, as alarming as it is to some, is very real. 

And if push comes to shove and Iowa plays itself into college football’s most exclusive tournament, what will the reaction be? I suppose that depends.

We’re on the verge of finding out. Best prepare yourself now mentally and emotionally, just in case.

As for other thoughts on the latest College Football Playoff standings, let’s dive right in.


Questions Remain, But This Was a Wonderful Week For the Big 12 

Oklahoma’s rise to No. 3 in the latest College Football Playoff standings was, without an ounce of doubt, the most noteworthy rise since the release show kicked into gear. It was only two spots, but it was so much more.

With one game remaining against Oklahoma State, the Sooners suddenly feel like they are on the verge of making the postseason with a win over their rival. A favorable situation is now a position of strength.

Win, and they’re (almost) in.

Despite the fact that Oklahoma nearly fell to TCU last week with starting quarterback Baker Mayfield out with an injury, it was not penalized. And that Texas loss? Well, that was a long time ago, friend.

“I think it's more a function of how Oklahoma has performed since that loss,” selection committee chairman Jeff Long said on ESPN. “They have performed at a high level since then, so they've overcome that loss with their play on the field and the success they've had and the wins they've accumulated, with now six wins over teams with .500 or better records.”

Baylor also enjoyed a boost this week, checking at No. 7 after taking down Oklahoma State in its own building. With two games remaining and a chance to win the Big 12 with an Oklahoma loss this weekend, the Bears are not out of it yet. 

The path to the playoff isn’t as simple for the Bears as it is for Oklahoma. For starters, Baylor needs another team to lose and maybe a few more. But the Big 12, after so much debate, should be cautiously optimistic entering Week 13.

Up until this week, we docked the league for its lack of early scheduling. We pontificated that a lack of a championship game could once again doom the conference. This could still be the case, although things are coming together at just the right time.


Has the Selection Committee Cooled on Notre Dame? 

On the other end of the optimism spectrum, I present Notre Dame—fresh off an ugly five-turnover, three-point victory over Boston College in Fenway Park. 

After the selection committee showed the Irish plenty of love the last few weeks, leaving them comfortably in the No. 4 spot, Notre Dame fell to No. 6 this week. While there were bigger drops for victorious teams—looking at you, Florida—no drop was more significant.

With only one game remaining on its schedule, Brian Kelly’s squad suddenly doesn’t feel to have the stranglehold it once did. In moving Oklahoma and Michigan State above the Irish, the selection committee made a very clear statement whether it meant to or not.

Now, the good news for Notre Dame is that it has a chance to showcase its worth against Stanford this weekend. The bad news is that an already injury-riddled team will be without cornerback KeiVarae Russell and potentially without running back C.J. Prosise.

The worse news is that Notre Dame’s primary competition for a playoff spot, at least momentarily, will also have a chance to prove their worth against quality opponents.

All was not lost, but Tuesday night was not kind.


Does a Two-Loss Team Have a Shot at the Playoff?

Yes. Absolutely. 

Even though there are only two weeks remaining, there's still a long way to go.

While it is unlikely that a two-loss team crashes the College Football Playoff, things can change quickly. Just look at the last few weeks. And with potential opportunities ahead, both No. 9 Stanford and No. 10 Michigan should still be considered threats to surge to the Top Four if things turn strange.

Stanford, of course, could significantly boost its resume with a win over Notre Dame. Losses from Iowa, Michigan State and Baylor this weekend wouldn’t hurt, either. While it’s unlikely that all three teams all fall, there are losable games on the docket for teams ranked higher than the Cardinal. A Pac-12 championship would also add a significant boost.

Michigan needs a bit more help. For starters, the Wolverines need to beat Ohio State and have Michigan State fall to Penn State this weekend. Without that, the plot ends. But if those two things happen—and they very well could happen—look out. 

Sticking with the hypothetical, if Michigan were to beat unbeaten Iowa in the Big Ten Championship Game, that would push matters even further. 

Although both teams should be viewed as dark horses to sneak into the Top Four, opportunities to impress exist. That's all they can ask for at this point. And if enough carnage does take place, these two are in a position to take advantage.


The Destiny Club

With two weekends of games left on the docket, the teams in control of their playoff fate are limited. You can count them on one hand and still give a thumbs up. 

At the moment, Clemson, Alabama, Iowa and Michigan State are the only four that are locks to make the playoff if they win out.

While Michigan State is outside the Top Four presently, a win over Penn State and Iowa would be more than enough to change that. The Spartans’ resume, especially with Oregon’s sudden rise, has come together brilliantly. 

As for everyone else, well, it’s complicated. And until that final conference championship is decided, it will remain complicated.

While Florida was teetering with this label entering Week 12, the Gators’ tumble to the No. 12 position, even with only one loss, takes them out of the conversation for now.

If the offense somehow kicks into gear and Florida finds a way to take down Florida State and Alabama in consecutive weeks, it will most certainly state a compelling case. But after barely inching past FAU, all talks of destiny have been put on hold. 

Oklahoma at No. 3 is suddenly in an unexpected gray area. After Tuesday night, it feels like a win on Saturday might be enough to propel the Sooners into the playoff. And yet, I’m not comfortable making that proclamation just yet, even with a massive move in a critical week.

It’s getting close, though. Real close.

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Ohio State Football: The 5 Best Moments for the Buckeyes from the Game

From clinching national title berths to Heisman Trophy-winning performances, Ohio State has enjoyed some memorable moments against its most hated rival in Michigan.

There's been no shortage of big moments between the Buckeyes and the Wolverines, who first met in October of 1897. Michigan blanked Ohio State 34-0 in that inaugural matchup and holds an edge in the all-time series record at 58-46-6, but the Buckeyes have dominated since the turn of the century, winning 12 of the last 14 meetings (although the 2010 victory was later vacated). 

With more than a century of history to sift through, here's a look at the five moments that shaped one of the greatest rivalries on all of sports.

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Jim Harbaugh Smashes Actual Buckeye in Front of Bo Schembechler's Grave

This feels like it’s straight out of a movie.

As Michigan prepares for its showdown with Ohio State on Saturday, head coach Jim Harbaugh took the traditional Wolverines’ walk through Forest Hill Cemetery, where the greats are buried.

Harbaugh then smashed an actual buckeye in front of Bo Schembechler's grave.


Saturday should be fun.


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College Football Playoff 2015: Predicting Final 4 Teams After Latest Rankings

Welcome to chaos season.

On Saturday, Michigan State shocked the defending national champion Ohio State Buckeyes on the road. Baylor handed Oklahoma State its first loss of the season. Oklahoma needed a stop on a two-point conversion to hold off TCU and keep its playoff hopes alive. And Florida survived an overtime scare against Florida Atlantic.

Just another day in college football.

The selection committee released its latest rankings Tuesday after the carnage, and time is running out for teams to make statements with postseason spots on the line. With that in mind, here is a look at the College Football Playoff rankings and projections for the four squads who will seize the coveted top four slots at the end of the year.     



Clemson is in the driver’s seat at No. 1, and it is difficult to envision anything but an undefeated finish and top seed for the Tigers.  

As long as head coach Dabo Swinney’s team knocks off South Carolina (which just lost to The Citadel on Saturday) and wins the ACC Championship Game against North Carolina, it will be in the postseason.

However, North Carolina is a legitimate threat in that ACC showdown, especially with an offense that features dual-threat quarterback Marquise Williams and running back Elijah Hood. The Tar Heels are 10th in the nation in points scored per game and will challenge Clemson from the opening kick.

Still, North Carolina needed overtime to get past a 5-6 Virginia Tech team Saturday and doesn’t have the defense necessary to slow down the explosive Clemson attack for an entire four quarters. Deshaun Watson is a Heisman Trophy candidate and already beat Notre Dame and Florida State.

The Tar Heels won’t stand in his way with a playoff spot on the line.



Despite the one loss to Ole Miss, Alabama is in a win-and-in position with two games remaining. 

The Crimson Tide don’t have a lot of ranked victories, but there are a number of solid opponents on the schedule. ESPN Stats & Info illustrated just how difficult it would be for most teams to match Alabama’s record at this point of the season:

That means Alabama doesn’t have to worry about what happens across the nation as long as it takes care of business. It will do exactly that.

Analysts can use the cliche of “throwing out the records” during rivalry games for the Auburn showdown Saturday, but this year’s Tigers team is 6-5 with one win in the SEC against an opponent not named Kentucky. It isn't beating the Crimson Tide.

Alabama is also not going to lose to a Florida squad that needed overtime just to get past Florida Atlantic and a field goal in the final seconds to beat Vanderbilt. The Crimson Tide are too strong on the defensive side (third in the nation in yards and points allowed per game) for the Gators and have running back Derrick Henry to set the tone on offense.

Dane Brugler of CBS Sports commented on the overall talent on the roster:

Alabama will be in the playoff with so much skill across the board.


Michigan State

Michigan State made a statement to the rest of the country Saturday with its road victory over the defending champion Buckeyes. Now all it has to do is knock off Penn State and beat undefeated Iowa, and it will be in the playoff.

The defense that held Ezekiel Elliott, J.T. Barrett, Michael Thomas, Braxton Miller and the rest of the loaded Buckeyes to 14 points and 132 total yards will do just that.

When Michigan State wins out, it will have a Big Ten title to go along with victories over a resurgent Oregon team, Ohio State, Michigan and Iowa. Loss or not, that resume is not getting left out of the College Football Playoff.

Head coach Mark Dantonio was more interested in what his team can control in his press conference, per

I think that first of all, I'll be at meetings and somebody will walk down and say this is where we're at. That's what I think will happen. Because I'm going to concentrate on what we can do. The best thing that we can do right now is focus on Penn State. Then everything else to me sort of works out. Just do what you do, and good things happen. That's usually been the best way that I've tried to approach things and let other people do their job. 

As long as the Spartans heed their coach’s words, they will be in the Top Four come season's end.



Oklahoma was the big winner with Tuesday’s poll and jumped all the way to No. 3 in the rankings.

That won’t mean anything if the Sooners can’t beat their rivals, Oklahoma State, but they will do just that because they are the most complete team in the offense-happy Big 12. A win over the Cowboys would also mean head coach Bob Stoops’ team has quality victories over Baylor, Oklahoma State and TCU on its resume, which is enough to overcome the ugly loss to Texas from earlier in the season.

That string of impressive wins will propel the Sooners into the playoff, especially after Notre Dame loses to Stanford on Saturday.

Baker Mayfield is a Heisman Trophy candidate leading the offense alongside running back Samaje Perine, who already topped 1,100 rushing yards for the second straight season. The defense is also in the top 25 of the country in points allowed per game, which makes it the only team in the conference in the top 50 of that statistic.

Oklahoma will get a shot at some of the other complete teams across the nation with the playoff berth.

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College Football Playoff Rankings 2015: Experts React to Latest Top 25 Poll

One Big Ten team out, another one in for the latest College Football Playoff rankings. After moving to 11-0 with a 40-20 win over Purdue on Saturday, Iowa slid into the No. 4 spot in the selection committee's poll, following mainstays Clemson and Alabama and surprise No. 3 entry Oklahoma.

Joe Schad of ESPN seems in agreement with the committee:    

Notre Dame, which had hung on to the No. 4 ranking heading into this week, dropped all the way to No. 6 despite beating Boston College. Michigan State is the first team out after taking care of business in an upset win over Ohio State.

Pete Sampson of Irish Illustrated pointed out one way Notre Dame could get back in the committee's good graces:

Oklahoma moved ahead of Notre Dame among the one-loss teams despite nearly blowing a three-score lead against TCU. The Horned Frogs' polarizing decision to go for two after scoring a potential game-tying touchdown with under a minute left ultimately saved the Sooners from at the very worst a nail-biting overtime. 

Peter Berkes of SB Nation made light of Oklahoma's still being in the Top Four despite losing to a bad Texas team:

Dan Wolken of USA Today didn't love the decision, though he later clarified:

Perhaps the team with the biggest gripe is Michigan State, which has a better loss (against Nebraska) and arguably topped Oklahoma's best win this weekend by taking down Ohio State. Michael Geiger kicked a 41-yard field goal as time expired to give the Spartans a 17-14 win in Columbus. They held the Buckeyes to just 132 yards and got just enough from an offense lacking star quarterback Connor Cook.

Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports is on board with the Spartans:

Fox Sports' Stewart Mandel made a salient point for those upset about Michigan State being fifth:

Perhaps making the Spartans' win all the more impressive is how Vegas views Ohio State, as noted by gambling expert R.J. Bell:

Among one-loss teams, it was a difficult week to be a Cowboy, Gator or Tar Heel. Oklahoma State, Florida and North Carolina are all sitting behind two-loss teams in the rankings despite being Power Five teams themselves. The Cowboys descended to No. 11 after being taken out by Baylor, while North Carolina and Florida hang around in the Top 15 despite some less than stellar wins over unranked opponents.

Matt Hayes of Sporting News answered this question simply:

Overall, despite some confusion about the timing, the general sense is that the committee got the Top Four right. Iowa deserves its moment in the sun for being undefeated and will get a chance to prove itself to the world when it plays in the Big Ten Championship Game. Perhaps the only real loser here is Notre Dame, which will probably need losses from two of the five teams ahead of it to make any real headway.


Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter.

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Winners & Losers of College Football Playoff Committee's Rankings After Week 12

With another week of the college football season gone by, we are inching closer and closer to the College Football Playoff. After a wild week 12 headlined by then-No. 3 Ohio State falling 17-14 at home to Michigan State, the College Football Playoff committee's rankings were bound to change up this week. 

Where did the committee rank the Spartans? Just how high did the previously No. 8 Oklahoma Sooners jump after their win over TCU? 

Find out in the video above as Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Barrett Sallee and Adam Kramer break down the biggest winners and losers of the latest edition of the CFP rankings. 

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10 Burning Questions 10 Weeks from 2016 National Signing Day

While the focus of college football fans shifts toward playoff positioning, coaching staffs are also determined to finish this recruiting cycle strong. National signing day, looming large Feb. 3, is now just 10 weeks away. 

Intrigue abounds, as more than half of America's 5-star prospects remain uncommitted and several premier programs are facing crossroads at leadership positions. Developments during these next two-and-a-half months may ultimately determine which teams contend for titles in 2016 and beyond. 

With the countdown toward signing day well underway, we examine 10 questions that take precedence in the recruiting spectrum.

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College Football Playoff 2015: Committee Rankings Announced Entering Week 13

The race to the College Football Playoff is nearing the homestretch.

The selection committee released its poll Tuesday heading into Week 13, which will be the final rankings before the conference title game matchups are set. There is no longer plenty of time to play spoiler and climb up the rankings with quality wins. In fact, the scenarios for the four postseason positions are largely straightforward at this point.

Still, this is college football. It would be surprising if chaos didn’t happen, even with a limited amount of games remaining on the schedule.

With that in mind, here is a look at the latest poll as well as a conference-by-conference look at the race to the College Football Playoff.



The path to the playoff is clear for the undefeated Clemson Tigers. As long as they knock off South Carolina—which lost to The Citadel on Saturday—and then win the ACC Championship Game against North Carolina, they are in the playoff.

It is not quite as simple for North Carolina, especially after the Tar Heels needed overtime to get past Virginia Tech on Saturday and still have that ugly loss to South Carolina on their resume. If they beat North Carolina State in the season finale and Clemson in the conference title game, then the Tar Heels will have a solid case but may still need some upsets around the nation to get into the Top Four.

Perhaps the selection committee would look past the ugly loss at the start of the year, as David M. Hale of suggested: 

If North Carolina wins out, its resume will include a conference title, 12 straight wins—with potentially seven coming against bowl-eligible teams—and a victory over the nation’s top team. That should fit pretty well with the committee’s priorities of selecting teams with big wins and conference championships that are peaking at year’s end.


Big Ten

Michigan State’s road victory over Ohio State was the most important result of the Week 12 slate. It ended the Buckeyes' 23-game winning streak and signaled at least a temporary changing of the guard in the Big Ten, with Michigan State and Iowa having the league’s best chances at the playoff.

It also means we will have a new national champion this season as long as the Spartans beat Penn State and clinch a spot in the conference title game.

If Michigan State wins out, it will have quality victories against Oregon (who is suddenly on a roll and climbing the rankings), Ohio State, Michigan and Iowa in the Big Ten championship. Even with the ugly loss to Nebraska, the Spartans will likely be in the playoff in that scenario.

As for Iowa, as long as it still has a zero in the loss column, it will be in the thick of the playoff chase. The selection committee isn’t going to leave an undefeated power-conference champion out, especially if the Hawkeyes beat the same Spartans team that knocked off Ohio State in Columbus. 

Elsewhere, the winner of the Ohio State and Michigan rivalry clash needs Penn State to upset the Spartans to remain in the Big Ten championship picture. It is difficult to envision a team from the Big Ten (or any conference) making the playoff without a conference title, even if it is a squad loaded with future first-round picks such as the Buckeyes.


Big 12

Frankly, the Big 12 is something of a mess near the top since there is no conference championship game to provide clarity. Baylor, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State all have one loss, while TCU is essentially out of the picture after losing its second game in three tries.

The Sooners and Cowboys play each other Saturday, which will create some separation. If Oklahoma wins, it will likely be considered the de facto Big 12 champion with head-to-head victories over Baylor, Oklahoma State and TCU, even if there isn’t a title game at the end. However, if Oklahoma State wins, it would be in a battle with a Baylor team that already beat the Cowboys. 

Oklahoma State would likely need the Bears to lose to either TCU or Texas in their final two games—otherwise, Baylor’s head-to-head victory will prove critical.



The Pac-12 is arguably the strongest conference from top to bottom, especially with how vulnerable the SEC East teams looked Saturday (South Carolina lost to The Citadel, Florida needed overtime to beat Florida Atlantic and Georgia needed overtime to beat Georgia Southern).

Still, it looks like a long shot for the Pac-12 to reach the playoff after its teams beat each other up all year.

Stanford (9-2) has a golden opportunity to add a quality victory to its resume with Saturday’s showdown against Notre Dame, but it still needs to win the conference title and receive some help around the nation to remain in the discussion.

Head coach David Shaw is more focused on what he can control, per David Lombardi of “Instead of spending my time trying to guess what’s going to happen, I’d rather just play our games and see what happens.” 

This may be a year when the Pac-12 focuses on beating quality opponents in its bowl games as a way of making its case as the nation's best conference.



The SEC is straightforward, as long as Alabama takes care of business against Auburn and Florida handles Florida State. Those two teams would play each other in the conference title game, and the winner would only have one loss in that scenario and essentially clinch a playoff spot.

Even if it is much harder to find currently ranked opponents the Crimson Tide defeated this season than SEC fans would have you believe, it is hard to argue with the sheer number of solid teams on Alabama’s (and Florida’s) resume. 

It becomes trickier if Florida loses to Florida State, which is very possible considering how vulnerable the Gators recently looked against Florida Atlantic and Vanderbilt, and manages to beat Alabama in the SEC title game. That would mean the conference champion had two losses and would need help from other leagues around the country, even with the SEC perception boost.


Notre Dame

Notre Dame (10-1) is still in striking distance of the Top Four heading into its final contest of the season, especially since it is against a quality opponent at Stanford. If the Fighting Irish lose, they can kiss their postseason hopes goodbye, but they need to cheer for chaos across the country in other games if they win.

If Clemson wins the ACC without a loss, Alabama or Florida wins the SEC with one loss, an undefeated Iowa or one-loss Michigan State wins the Big Ten and Oklahoma, Baylor or Oklahoma State wins the Big 12 with only one loss, Notre Dame would need to rely on the selection committee to reward it with a playoff spot without a conference title over another team that has one.

That looks far less likely now that Oklahoma jumped to No. 3 in Tuesday's rankings.

Let the politicking begin.

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Cal Reportedly Asks NCAA to Count Win vs. Grambling State for Bowl Eligibility

The NCAA is running into problems finding enough bowl-eligible teams for each and every one of the 40 bowl games ahead in the coming weeks. The California Golden Bears are doing their part to ease the NCAA's burden.

According to USA Today's Steve Berkowitz, Cal is asking the NCAA Football Oversight Committee to count its 73-14 victory over Grambling State toward the win total necessary for bowl eligibility. Berkowitz explained why the Golden Bears may need the NCAA to make an exception in this case:

Under NCAA rules, FBS schools generally can count one win against an FCS team per season toward the six needed for bowl eligibility. However, for the game to count without a waiver, the FCS school needs to have awarded — on average — at least 90% of the 63 scholarships allowed under FCS rules during a rolling two-year period.


Grambling officials have not yet determined whether that was the case, [Cal athletics spokesman Wes Mallette] said.

Cal may ultimately have no need for the waiver.   

"Grambling has told us and we believe strongly that the requirement has been met and this will not be an issue," said Mallette.   

The Golden Bears also have one more game left in the season. They play Arizona State on Saturday, and a win over the Sun Devils would give Cal the adequate number of victories to qualify for bowl season.

According to's Dennis Dodd, only 71 teams meet bowl qualifications heading into Week 13, leaving nine spots open. Considering more than half of the FBS teams reach bowl games, it only makes sense the supply would fail to meet the demand.

College football fans love watching more college football, but bowl season may have grown to an extent it dilutes the on-field product. Bowl games featuring 5-7 or even 6-6 teams aren't going to draw a ton of national interest.   

At least in the case of Cal, one more game would allow fans to get what is likely the last look at quarterback Jared Goff—whom many expect to leave college early and enter the 2016 NFL draft—at the college level.

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Cal Reportedly Asks NCAA to Count Win vs. Grambling State for Bowl Eligibility

The NCAA is running into problems finding enough bowl-eligible teams for each and every one of the 40 bowl games ahead in the coming weeks. The California Golden Bears are doing their part to ease the NCAA's burden...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Iron Bowl 2015: Alabama vs. Auburn Complete Game Preview

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Even though Thanksgiving is Thursday, University of Alabama senior linebacker Reggie Ragland won’t be talking to his brother if he can help it this week. They can catch up some other time.

“Sadly, my brother’s an Auburn fan, but I’m trying to convert him,” Ragland said. “All these years, he just won’t go.

“I try to stay away from him [this week] because he loves to talk trash and all that. Knowing him, he’ll probably call me in the next couple days talking about Auburn or something like that. But I’ll tell him, ‘You’ve got to roll with ’Bama.’”

Ragland hails from Madison, Alabama, and even though it's easy to say that the rivalry game means more to those from the state, it doesn't take the others long to figure it out. For example, the Crimson Tide's offensive line has starters from Louisiana, Iowa, Ohio and California, but they all know that it's not another game.

“It’s always been a big dream of mine,” said senior quarterback Jake Coker, who grew up in Mobile. “Playing in this game means a lot to me.”

“It means a lot to everybody,” senior center and Ohioan Ryan Kelly said.

Here’s everything you need to know about the 80th Iron Bowl. (The Crimson Tide have a 43-35-1 edge in the series):

Date: Saturday, November 28

Time: 2:30 p.m. CT

Place: Jordan-Hare Stadium


Radio:Crimson Tide Sports Network, Auburn IMG Sports Network, Westwood One, Sirius 119, XM 190. 

Spread: Alabama minus-13, according to

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Ohio State Is Now New No. 1 Recruiting Class, but Will Buckeyes Stay on Top?

It wouldn't be a shocker if the Ohio State fan who wants to be No. 1 in everything—and by everything, I mean everything—gave a thunderous applause when the news broke Monday night of 4-star quarterback Feleipe Franks decommitting from LSU.

Franks' announcement, which he made via Twitter, meant two things. First, it left LSU without a quarterback commit.

And second—probably more important to the Ohio State diehards—the decommitment was just enough to drop LSU from the No. 1 position in the 247Sports team rankings for the 2016 recruiting cycle. 

Say hello to the top spot, Buckeyes—at least for now.

Both Ohio State and LSU have 18 commits as of Tuesday afternoon. The difference in the schools is Ohio State has two more 4-star pledges (12) than LSU.

What does this mean now? Honestly, not much. But because rankings are such a high priority of entertainment during each recruiting cycle, the race for the top spot nationally is something that many people will follow.

And, for Ohio State fans, it's a spot they don't want to relinquish.

With December around the corner, look for more schools to prepare their final recruiting pitches to uncommitted stars and the athletes they feel they can flip before February's signing day. The Buckeyes are hoping to add to a stout class that includes the 5-star defensive end duo of Nick Bosa and Jonathon Cooper

Two 4-star players to keep an eye on are safety Brandon Burton and defensive tackle Antwuan Jackson, two players who were on an official visit to Ohio State over the weekend. Burton told Bill Kurelic of 247Sports that the Buckeyes were definitely in the mix. Kurelic also reported that Jackson had a great time in Columbus with his father present.

Dexter Lawrence is a 5-star defensive tackle who could be a great complement to Bosa and Cooper if he ultimately chooses Ohio State. However, he is thought to be leaning toward Florida, Florida State or Clemson. Wide receiver Binjimen Victor is another 5-star player to watch, as he has Ohio State in the mix, along with Florida, Tennessee, West Virginia and others.

Landing any combination of the aforementioned uncommitted players only strengthens Ohio State's class, and it allows it to have a legitimate shot at maintaining the No. 1 team-rankings spot after signing day. You can believe that LSU, Florida State and Alabama will try to land heavy hitters of their own, so look for head coach Urban Meyer and his staff to ramp up on recruiting in the next few weeks.

Alabama has a good shot at pushing from No. 4 to No. 1, as it's a major contender for a few uncommitted athletes, including the nation's No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 players in defensive tackle Rashan Gary, offensive tackle Greg Little and Lawrence. Alabama has held the national top spot in team rankings since 2011.

LSU still is in the running, despite losing Franks and dealing with the chatter about Les Miles possibly leaving the program, as's Joe Schad noted. The Tigers are hoping to land Gary and 5-star defensive tackle Shavar Manuel and somehow get Alabama residents and 5-star linebackers Lyndell "Mack" Wilson and Ben Davis out of the state.

Florida State is going hard after Lawrence and Manuel, as well as the 4-star tandem of cornerback Trayvon Mullen and wide receiver Nate Craig-Myers. Offensive tackle Landon Dickerson is another 4-star prospect who could really give the Seminoles a boost, as they currently sit in the third spot of the team rankings.

Maintaining the top spot won't be easy for Ohio State, but it is doable. The next few weeks are key if being on top is a priority for the Buckeyes.


Damon Sayles is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. All player ratings are courtesy of 247Sports' composite ratings. Follow Damon via Twitter: @DamonSayles

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More Coaches Should Use Their Best Players Like Michigan Uses Jabrill Peppers

The first hint that Jim Harbaugh might play Jabrill Peppers on offense this season came in July, when the first-year Michigan head coach mentioned the idea of inserting the sophomore safety into the lineup when the Wolverines had the ball.

It made for a fun story and message board fodder, something to keep an eager fanbase occupied during an ensuing fall camp that offered limited media access.

The idea of Peppers, a 5-star talent, with the ball in his hands was certainly intriguing, and the 6'1", 205-pounder already figured to be Michigan's primary punt returner for the 2015 campaign.

But even the most optimistic of Maize and Blue faithful had to take the notoriously secretive Harbaugh's lineup suggestion with a grain of salt. Coaches often talk about getting the ball into the hands of their most skilled athletes but rarely take action when that player's primary position comes on the defensive side of the ball.

With one game left in the regular season and the Wolverines' Big Ten Championship hopes still alive, however, one could argue that Peppers has been Michigan's second-most valuable offensive player behind only emerging quarterback Jake Rudock.

Peppers didn't take his first offensive snaps of the season until the Wolverines' Oct. 17 date with Michigan State, lining up as a wide receiver and catching two passes for 35 yards in what was ultimately a stunning Spartans victory.

Over the course of the season, the New Jersey native's role on offense has evolved from wideout to Wildcat quarterback to running back—all while maintaining his spots as a starting safety and No. 1 punt returner.

"He's such good player. I can think of five different positions he could be really good at in football. Can somebody be the Willie Mays of football? Can somebody be the five-tool player, the five-position player?" Harbaugh asked rhetorically during Tuesday's Big Ten coaches teleconference.

"Maybe. Maybe that'll end up being Jabrill Peppers."

In five games as a part-time offensive player, Peppers' play would suggest that Harbaugh might be right.

Touching the ball in games against MSU, Minnesota, Rutgers, Indiana and Penn State, Peppers has tallied 97 yards of total offense (43 rushing, 54 receiving) and two touchdowns (both rushing) on 17 touches (11 rushes, six receptions). He also ranks fifth in the Big Ten with a punt return average of 11.4 yards.

Defensively, the Garden State product has recorded 40 tackles and defended 10 passes, serving as a key cog in a Wolverines defense that currently ranks second in the nation.

But the numbers—particularly on offense—don't tell the whole story of just how valuable Peppers has been to Harbaugh's first team in Ann Arbor.

Take for example this weekend, when Michigan went to Happy Valley to take on the Nittany Lions with both teams' Big Ten title hopes still alive.

With the Wolverines up 21-16 and taking over at the Penn State 40-yard line in the fourth quarter with a chance to put the game away, Harbaugh opted to run two plays for Peppers, with his five-yard rush setting up a one-yard rushing touchdown for starting running back De'Veon Smith.

Peppers' play may not have been anything spectacular, but it was telling that the Michigan coaching staff opted to trust him with the ball in his hands with the game on the line. Perhaps that—plus his apparent explosiveness—is why Harbaugh said he was considering transitioning Peppers to a full-time running back in the offseason.

"He’s a darn good running back," Harbaugh said on Monday. "[Next season] may get a little crazy. It may be one of the things we look at."

But before the Wolverines and Peppers can look ahead to 2016, they still have one game left in this year's regular season—Saturday's matchup with rival Ohio State.

If Michigan can beat the Buckeyes and Penn State goes on to beat Michigan State on Saturday, the Wolverines will be playing in the Big Ten Championship Game with a potential spot in the College Football Playoff on the line.

It'd take a lot of work and a little bit of luck, but if Michigan finds itself in that position, it's a safe bet that Peppers will be a big reason why.

As it currently stands, the second-year standout could be an All-Big Ten performer on defense and a strong candidate for the newly announced Rodgers-Dwight Return Specialist of the Year trophy, per the Associated Press (h/t USA Today).

Might an All-Offense honor be on the horizon in Peppers' college career? Harbaugh isn't ruling it out.

"He'll find his absolute best position as you go along," Harbaugh said. "It's interesting to think about and consider the possibilities."

It certainly is.


Ben Axelrod is Bleacher Report's Big Ten lead writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BenAxelrod. Unless noted otherwise, all quotes were obtained firsthand. All statistics courtesy of Recruiting rankings courtesy of 247Sports.

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