NCAA Football

Archie Manning Takes Leave from College Football Playoff Committee Due to Health

The College Football Playoff committee lost one of its most visible members for the remainder of the season Monday, as Archie Manning, 65, has been forced to remove himself from the 2014 selection process due to health concerns.  

Manning released a statement discussing his decision, courtesy of CollegeFootballPlayoff.com:

Manning said he would undergo surgery next month to help relieve discomfort he is experiencing while walking and moving around. He will be unable to travel to the meetings. ...

... Manning said, 'It is an honor to serve on this committee, and I enjoy the group and was looking forward to the opportunity ahead. My health had to be my primary concern, and I intend to be up and about as soon as possible.'

Bill Hancock, executive director of the College Football Playoff, also provided a statement discussing the news:

We will miss Archie. He has such a great knowledge of college football and history with the game, but we all understand his reason for taking a leave. I wish him all the best and look forward to his return in 2015.

The committee will stay with 12 members this season, per the press release. ESPN's Joe Schad reports what that would mean in the event of a standstill:

Chris Mortensen of ESPN first reported Manning was opting to resign from the committee:

Per Mortensen, Manning had knee replacement surgery earlier in the year and will require another surgery next month. Following a back surgery in 2013, Manning simply needs some time to mend.

An Ole Miss legend—he was the starting QB from 1968-70—Manning was selected second overall in the 1971 NFL draft by the New Orleans Saints, where he played for 11 seasons. His last season came with the Minnesota Vikings in 1984, when he was 35.

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football's Most Important Offers of the Week

The rise of Texas head coach Charlie Strong began on the recruiting trail, dating back to his days as a hotshot assistant at Florida and South Carolina. 

Even when he was at Louisville, Strong recruited the state of Florida—and specifically the talent-laden portions of Dade and Broward counties in South Florida—with tremendous success.

Last week, the new Longhorns boss and his staff hit the South Florida area with a specific purpose.

Texas offered eight 2015 defensive backs from the area: 4-star safety and FSU commit Calvin Brewton, 4-star safety and Alabama pledge Shawn Burgess-Becker, 3-star corner and Ohio State commit Carlton Davis, 4-star corner Davante Davis, 3-star corner Ronnie Hoggins, 3-star corner Sheldrick Redwine, 4-star athlete Tim Irvin and 4-star safety and Miami commit Jaquan Johnson.

Hoggins—who leads the nation with 13 interceptions through five games—told Ryan Bartow of 247Sports (subscription required) that Texas has emerged as the new leader for his services.

“I was shocked,” Hoggins told Bartow. “That’s big-time football. Me growing up watching them on TV. I love the way they produce defensive backs. They’ve been bringing out DBs out of their school.”

Per Ourlads, the Longhorns have two seniors and a junior starting in their secondary this year.

Given their aggressiveness at finding defensive playmakers on the back end, the shift in their approach is a telling indicator of one of the Longhorns’ most pressing needs heading down the stretch of the 2015 cycle.

 

2016 Florida WR in Demand

While senior defensive backs in the Sunshine State were among the week’s most coveted prospects, one standout junior pass-catcher from Florida earned five new offers.

Three-star receiver Tre Nixon was offered by GeorgiaIllinoisMichigan StateMissouri and Ohio State.

The 6’0”, 160-pound receiver caught 30 passes for 636 yards and six touchdowns as a sophomore.

Given the rash of recent interest in Nixon, expect more offers to keep coming in for one of the top juniors in the Sunshine State.

 

Clemson, South Carolina Battle for Fast-Rising 2016 OL

At the beginning of last week, Javon Kinlaw was an unranked offensive lineman with one offer from home-state power South Carolina.

Now, as Barton Simmons of 247Sports notes, he’s been rated as a 4-star and the No. 18 player overall in the 2016 class.

According to ESPN’s Gerry Hamilton, Clemson has jumped into the race to land the 6’7”, 285-pound prospect with immense upside.

While the two Palmetto State powers represent Kinlaw’s only official offers, it’s only a matter of time before he blows up on the national scene.

 

No. 1 Doing Work on Recruiting Trail 

With the Magnolia State being the current epicenter of the college football universe, it’s no surprise that Dan Mullen and the No. 1 Mississippi State Bulldogs would hit the recruiting trail aggressively during their bye week.

The Bulldogs offered a pair of underclassmen classified as athletes.

Texas 4-star junior standout Christian Wallace earned a Bulldogs offer, per Brian Perroni of 247Sports.

Meanwhile, the Bulldogs also dipped into Tennessee to offer 2017 4-star two-way star Maleik Gray, according to Woody Wommack of Rivals. Gray also picked up an offer from LSU, per Simmons.

Additionally, the Bulldogs offered 2016 4-star corner Donte Vaughn, according to Chris Smith of Vandy247.

With the momentum riding high from the Bulldogs' fast start to the 2014 season, the surge of interest from top-flight recruits is sure to increase.

 

Best of the Rest

Notre Dame is the newest offer for 2015 4-star safety Rashad Roundtree. The Irish also offered 2015 3-star receiver Lawrence Cager.

According to Rusty Mansell of Dawgs247 (subscription required), Georgia offered 3-star safety DreGreenlaw—who recently decommitted from Arkansas State.

Texas also offered 2015 4-star tight end Devonaire Clarington.

Ohio State offered 2015 3-star corner and current Clemson pledge Juwaun Briscoe. Urban Meyer and his staff also tendered 3-star running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn, according to Bill Kurelic of Bucknuts. Per Luke Stampini of GatorBait, Florida also offered Briscoe.

According to Scout’s Corey Bender, Michigan State offered 2015 5-star corner Tarvarus McFadden. The Spartans also offered 2015 3-star receiver Isaiah Renfro, per Adam Gorney of Rivals.

LSU has offered 4-star JUCO defensive end and South Carolina commit Marquavius Lewis, per Sonny Shipp of 247Sports.

Alabama offered 2016 4-star defensive end Justin Madubuike.

South Carolina is the newest offer for 2016 3-star offensive lineman Parker Boudreaux. The Gamecocks also offered 2016 running back Tyrek Tisdale, per Bender.

Baylor is the latest offer for the newest 5-star recruit in the 2016 class in corner Saivion Smith.

2016 4-star linebacker and USC pledge Daelin Hayes picked up offers from LSU, Arizona State and Boston College.

USC offered 2016 4-star safety C.J. Pollard, per Blair Angulo of Rivals.

Per ESPN’s Tom VanHaaren, Maryland is the latest school to offer 2016 4-star defensive end Terrell Hall. The Terps joined Virginia Tech as the newest schools to offer 2016 4-star receiver Brad Hawkins, according to Bartow.

2016 defensive back Nigel Knott received an offer from Tennessee, per Paul Jones of 247Sports.

2016 4-star corner Nygel Edmonds picked up an offer from Penn State, per Chris Smith of 247Sports.

Per King High School (Detroit) assistant coach Terel Patrick, Michigan and Wisconsin are the latest offers for

2016 4-star receiver Donnie Corley.

TCU offered 2016 3-star receiver Theo Howard, per Scout’s Brandon Huffman.

LSU offered 2014 4-star offensive lineman Devery Hamilton, per Adam Friedman of Rivals.

2017 4-star athlete Jamyest Williams picked up offers from Wisconsin and Illinois.

Per ESPN’s Derek Tyson, 2017 4-star corner Shaun Wade earned offers from Ole Miss and Wisconsin.

 

Sanjay Kirpalani is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

Follow @SanjayKirpalani

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Updated College Football All-American Team Projections for Post Week 8

For all of the anticipation and talk surrounding college football, the season certainly passes quickly.

Saturday’s thrilling action officially marked the midway point of the 2014 season. There are only seven regular-season weeks left in the season, meaning we’ve had plenty of opportunities to see which players have lived up to their hype, which players have exceeded it and which players are disappointments. Many outlets, like SI.com, have released their midseason All-America teams. 

It’s the perfect time to project which players will be All-Americans when the season ends. These projections are based on performances to date, their statistical efforts and overall importance to their teams.

*Stats from ESPN.com, Sports-Reference.com and individual team sites were used in comprising this article.

Begin Slideshow

NCAA Football Rankings 2014: Week 9 Standings and Analysis for Latest Polls

It may seem like the national picture changes every single week in college football, but we enter Week 9 with four SEC teams and the defending champions in the Top Five.

Sure, there may be some new SEC faces from years past, but the conference is still dominating the national discussion for the time being. Florida State was an offensive pass interference call away from losing its first game since 2012 against Notre Dame, but the Seminoles remain smack in the middle of the College Football Playoff discussion after another win.

Elsewhere, Oregon and Michigan State are still part of the national picture after dominant wins, while Baylor took a tumble after an upset loss to West Virginia. Here is a look at the polls heading into Week 9 (the Bleacher Report poll can be found here) before we delve into some expert analysis on the new rankings.

As we mentioned, the SEC is dominating the polls. In fact, it is only the SEC West that has really made its presence felt on the top of the polls, as the SEC East is not exactly anything to write home about outside of Georgia.

Ralph D. Russo of The Associated Press put the SEC’s accomplishment into perspective, while Stewart Mandel of Fox Sports praised some earlier victories from the SEC representatives in light of the Week 8 results:

One person who did not have a completely SEC-dominant top four was ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit, who gave the Oregon Ducks some love after their blowout win over archrival Washington:

Speaking of Oregon, the Week 9 coaches poll brought a bit of controversy because Michigan State was ranked higher than the Ducks yet again. Remember, Oregon beat Michigan State by multiple scores earlier in the season, but that apparently doesn’t matter much in the eyes of the coaches. 

Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports, Tom Fornelli of CBS Sports and Adam Rittenberg of ESPN certainly didn’t seem to agree with the decision to put Oregon behind the Spartans:

While much of the focus was on the placement of Michigan State in relation to Oregon, Mandel took the time to note that the Spartans may not deserve to be higher than TCU either:

While the SEC has a stranglehold on the top of the polls and the difference between Michigan State and Oregon was the cause of some angst, the headline of Week 8’s slate of games was the showdown between Notre Dame and Florida State.

SportsCenter gave fans a chance to relive the excitement and also noted that losing to highly ranked teams has become an old habit for the Fighting Irish:

While Notre Dame proved that it belonged among the national discussion by almost pulling off the upset on the road at Florida State, much of the focus in the aftermath was on the offensive pass interference call that took what would have been Notre Dame’s game-winning touchdown off the board. However, Mike Lupica had a rather insightful quote regarding that whistle, via ESPN Radio:

Elsewhere in the polls, Baylor took a tumble after losing at West Virginia. ESPN Stats & Info shared what that meant in terms of the College Football Playoff picture, while John McClain of the Houston Chronicle seemed appreciative of how far the Bears have come:

Another team that came a long way over the past few years but lost on Saturday was Stanford. While the Cardinal may be headed in the wrong direction, Feldman shared an impressive tidbit:

Stanford and Baylor will need some more formidable years to be considered national powerhouses, but two traditional bluebloods did impress on Saturday. College GameDay, Cecil Hurt of the Tuscaloosa News and Eleven Warriors shared the fallout from Alabama’s and Ohio State’s perspective:

We aren’t even to November yet, and there are a large number of teams that have legitimate cases for the postseason.

Chaos has been the name of the game in college football for years with the BCS, and that is not likely to change just because four teams get into a playoff instead of two. In fact, we are guaranteed to have a playoff that features at least one team with a loss, and that is likely to be more because an undefeated Marshall probably will not have the resume to make the field.

That means the season isn’t over for teams with a loss like Michigan State, Alabama, Oregon, Ohio State, Baylor, Auburn, TCU, Georgia and Notre Dame. If nothing else, we are well on our way to some interesting arguments down the stretch of the season. 

Best of luck to the committee.

 

Follow me on Twitter:

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Odds: Opening Week 9 Betting Lines and Totals

No. 1 Mississippi State will be gunning for its 10th straight win straight up when it takes on the Kentucky Wildcats this weekend as early 13-point favorites on the college football betting lines.

Following a bye in Week 8, the undefeated Bulldogs face their first challenge since ascending to the top of the AP Top 25 poll with a convincing 38-23 win over Auburn as 2.5-point underdogs.

The win was the Bulldogs' third straight against Top 10 schools, as they posted a 34-29 upset win over LSU before dominating Texas A&M by a 48-31 score as three-point favorites.

The Wildcats are coming off a 41-3 loss to LSU as 11.5-point underdogs and will be desperate for a win to stay in contention in the SEC East. Kentucky is 5-0 SU and 4-1 against the spread in its last five games at home, but the Wildcats have had little success against the Bulldogs, going 1-4 SU and ATS in their last five home meetings.

No. 3 Ole Miss will also be looking to continue its winning ways when it travels to the bayou to face No. 24 LSU as three-point road favorites at sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark.

The Rebels are riding an eight-game winning streak, SU and ATS, but have had mixed results against the Tigers, posting a 1-5 record SU in their last six trips to LSU but covering in their last five. LSU is 12-1 SU in its last 13 home dates, but a mediocre 7-6 ATS.

Riding high after handing No. 21 Texas A&M a crushing 59-0 loss last week, No. 4 Alabama opened as strong 15.5-point road favorites over Tennessee.

While the Crimson Tide looked like College Football Playoff contenders in their win over the Aggies, they have been a weak bet, going just 3-8 ATS in their last 11, with the UNDER going 0-3 in their last three games.

Tennessee has lost four of its last five games heading into Saturday night’s Tide vs. Volunteers betting matchup at Neyland Stadium and is winless SU and ATS in its last five against Alabama.

In other college football betting action, No. 5 Auburn returns to action, opening as 14-point favorites against South Carolina at sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark. No. 8 Michigan State opened as 15.5-point favorites over the rival Michigan Wolverines, while No. 23 Marshall, looking to move to 8-0 SU on the season, opened as a 26.5-point favorite over Florida Atlantic.

Lines courtesy of Odds Shark.

College Football OddsHome Line Arkansas State at Louisiana-Lafayette 3   Connecticut at East Carolina -24   Miami at Virginia Tech -2   South Florida at Cincinnati -10   Troy at South Alabama -12   BYU at Boise State -6.5   Oregon at California 16   Memphis at Southern Methodist 24   Rutgers at Nebraska -15   Texas at Kansas State -13   UAB at Arkansas -21   Maryland at Wisconsin -10   North Texas at Rice -13   Minnesota at Illinois 6.5   North Carolina at Virginia -7.5   San Jose State at Navy -10   Northern Illinois at Eastern Michigan 20.5   Ohio at Western Michigan -8   Ga Southern at Georgia State 15   Massachusetts at Toledo -17.5   Akron at Ball State 1   UCLA at Colorado 12.5   Kent State at Miami (Ohio) -4.5   Michigan at Michigan State -15.5   Mississippi State at Kentucky 13   Texas Tech at TCU -20   Georgia Tech at Pittsburgh -4   Oregon State at Stanford -13.5   Central Michigan at Buffalo 1.5   Louisiana Tech at Southern Miss 13   West Virginia at Oklahoma State -4   Boston College at Wake Forest 12   Florida Atlantic at Marshall -26.5   Vanderbilt at Missouri -24   Old Dominion at Western Kentucky -11.5   UNLV at Utah State OFF   Temple at Central Florida -11   Arizona at Washington State 4   Texas State at Louisiana-Monroe -2   Syracuse at Clemson -16.5   Wyoming at Colorado State -21.5   Texas El Paso at UTSA -9.5   Mississippi at LSU 3   Alabama at Tennessee 15.5   South Carolina at Auburn -14   Ohio State at Penn State 11.5   Southern Cal at Utah PK   Arizona State at Washington OFF   Nevada at Hawaii 4  

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Picks Week 9: Predictions and Odds for Top 25 Schedule

As top college football teams continue to lose, the race for spots in the College Football Playoff remains wide open.

Notre Dame and Baylor suffered their first losses of the season in Week 8, which leaves just four undefeated teams in all of FBS. Marshall remains an outside contender for a playoff spot, but Mississippi State, Florida State and Ole Miss are still on top of the rankings.

Every week becomes more important as squads jockey for position and want to continue to prove themselves. Even without too many high-profile matchups in Week 9, anything can happen during the weekend.

Here is a look at predictions for each game and a breakdown of the top battles to watch. 

 

Top Games

No. 3 Ole Miss vs. No. 23 LSU

Few expected Ole Miss to still be undefeated at this point of the season, but the Rebels moved to 7-0 on the season thanks to a defense that has been one of the best in the country.

The defense currently ranks first in the nation with just 10.6 points per game allowed, never giving up more than 20 points in any game. ESPN's Damien Woody is a big fan of the unit:

This could cause some serious problems for an LSU offense that has struggled against weaker opponents throughout the year. The rushing attack helped the Tigers put up 41 against Kentucky, but quarterback Anthony Jennings has not completed more than 50 percent of his passes in any of the last five games.

Ole Miss is capable of shutting down the run with a great front seven, which could force Jennings to make plays, and he simply has not shown the ability to pull that off.

Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace has his faults as well, but he has limited his interceptions lately and should be able to do enough to earn an easy win, even on the road.

 

No. 19 Utah vs. No. 22 USC

Utah has now played in three straight close games but came out victorious in the last two, both on the road. The Utes defeated UCLA by two points earlier in the month and then knocked off Oregon State in double overtime last week.

The squad now returns home against USC. Running back Devontae Booker and the rest of the Utah offense will try to keep up the strong play.

Unfortunately, things will only get tougher, as the Trojans are coming off an impressive game against Colorado. Quarterback Cody Kessler threw seven touchdown passes in a 56-28 win, showing what the offense can do when it is at its best.

Head coach Steve Sarkisian noted his thoughts on the performance of his quarterback in the press conference after the game:

We challenged him. We want more explosive plays in our offense. We want to throw the ball down the field more and to trust our guys that they'll go make plays. We did that from the very beginning. They weren't all completions, but it became an aspect of our team and our game that created bigger plays.

This vertical passing game to Nelson Agholor, JuJu Smith and others will be extremely difficult to stop for anyone when Kessler is hitting his targets like he was Saturday. Utah could have its hands full in the secondary and could be in danger of allowing a number of explosive plays.

With the way both teams can move the ball, this is likely to be a high-scoring battle. However, USC should find a way to win this one.

 

No. 25 West Virginia vs. Oklahoma State

These two teams had opposite fortunes Saturday.

Oklahoma State came into the day considered a top contender in the Big 12, but the squad was embarrassed by TCU in a 42-9 loss.

West Virginia's day went much better, as the Mountaineers upset Baylor 41-27 thanks to 322 passing yards and three touchdowns from Clint Trickett. The squad has two losses on the year, but they came in hard-fought games against Alabama and Oklahoma. It now appears this is a good team capable of beating anyone in the country.

While these squads seem to be headed in opposite directions, Oklahoma State has a chance to prove the latest loss was just a fluke with a better effort against West Virginia. The Cowboys will be at home and will now be the squad trying to pull off the upset, and the talent is there to get the win.

However, TCU exposed this defense, which means it could be another big day for Trickett and wide receiver Kevin White. These two will link up a bunch of times, and it will led to another big win for the Mountaineers.

 

Follow Rob Goldberg on Twitter for the latest breaking news and analysis.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Tennessee Volunteers vs. Alabama Crimson Tide Complete Game Preview

When fourth-ranked Alabama travels to Neyland Stadium to take on the Tennessee Volunteers next Saturday night, it's shaping up to be a battle of two teams heading in drastically different directions.

Following a 59-0 dismantling of Texas A&M, the Crimson Tide are living up to their preseason billing as one of the nation's most dominant teams after taking a few weeks (and a loss) to get their sea legs.

The Vols played admirably against tough opponents such as Oklahoma and Georgia earlier this season. But in their past two SEC games, they lost 10-9 at home against Florida and were blown out at No. 3 Ole Miss.

Their offense is in shambles, and their defensive prowess is wasted.

Now, UT will play its biggest rival in a series that recently hasn't been much of a rivalry. A game that appeared to have promise for an upset not so long ago looks far-fetched now.

In a series of streaks, the Tide have won seven consecutive. The past four margins have been by 31, 31, 31 and 35 points. It may not be much different Saturday.

Let's take a look at everything you need to know about the famed "Third Saturday in October," which again will be played on the fourth Saturday of the month this year.

 

Date: Saturday, Oct. 25

Time: 7:30 ET

Place: Neyland Stadium, Knoxville, Tennessee

TV: ESPN2

Radio: Vol Network, Alabama Crimson Tide Sports Network, Sirius/XM 84

Spread: Alabama by 15.5 points, according to Oddsshark.com.

Begin Slideshow

College Football Rankings 2014: Latest Standings and Predictions for Week 9

The saying may suggest that getting there is half the fun, but the journey to the College Football Playoff sure seems like a lot more fun than that.

Another Saturday passed on the amateur gridiron, and we saw a controversial offensive pass interference call in the final moments of the Top Five showdown between Florida State and Notre Dame, an Alabama beatdown of Texas A&M, a shocking loss by Baylor and the disappearance of Oklahoma from the national discussion.

Here is a look at the latest fallout in the polls (the Bleacher Report poll can be found here) before we dig into some predictions for a couple marquee games of Week 9.

 

Week 9 Predictions

USC vs. Utah

While the majority of the attention in the Pac-12 is directed toward Oregon, Arizona State, Arizona and USC, Utah has quietly entered the conference championship discussion.

The Utes' only loss on the season came in a one-point heartbreaker to Washington State, while they count wins over UCLA, Michigan and Oregon State on their early resume. What’s more, running back Devontae Booker is riding high after gashing Oregon State’s defense for 229 rushing yards and three touchdowns.

He commented on the performance, which included the game-winner in the second overtime, according to The Associated Press, via ESPN.com: “It was pretty much myself just running hard. They gave me the ball, I just took it and ran with it. Got in the end zone, scored, end of game.”

If Booker can get it going consistently, he would give Utah an extra dimension to go along with its already stout defense.

USC also has some momentum after an upset win over Arizona and a blowout victory against Colorado. Were it not for a Hail Mary pass from Arizona State, the discussion around USC would be much different right now.

Still, the difference in this game will be a raucous home crowd behind the Utes. It has been quite some time since Utah has had a chance to be a legitimate player on the national stage, and a win here will propel it into to the thick of the Pac-12 South race.

The crowd will pick up on that urgency, and Booker will ride the momentum from his last performance to another big day. 

Prediction: Utah 24, USC 20

 

Ohio State vs. Penn State

Only two games in Week 9 feature multiple ranked teams, and one involves an LSU squad that is probably a bit overrated after getting crushed by Auburn and barely squeaking by Florida and its disastrous offense. Instead of previewing a blowout Ole Miss win, we will move to the Big Ten for our second prediction.

Ohio State and Penn State are trending in opposite directions and will meet under the lights in what is sure to be a whiteout at Penn State (if you ignore the scarlet heavily sprinkled throughout the stadium).

The Nittany Lions are coming off a bye week, but they lost their last two games to Michigan and Northwestern. The Northwestern loss was a blowout, but losing to the 2014 version of the Wolverines may be even worse.

Ohio State, on the other hand, has not been challenged since an early loss to Virginia Tech, and it is clear that this team filled with freshmen and sophomores is making enormous leaps from week to week. Saturday represents a chance for the Buckeyes to creep back into the College Football Playoff discussion as they show the nation just how far they have come since September. 

Urban Meyer suggested as much, via Ben Axelrod of Bleacher Report:

What’s more, J.T. Barrett is quietly putting up Heisman Trophy-type numbers, as Eleven Warriors noted in a comparison between his numbers and those of Jameis Winston a year ago:

The Penn State offense is an abysmal 111th in the country in points per game (21.2) and simply won’t be able to keep up with Barrett and Co. This one may be over by the middle of the third quarter. 

Prediction: Ohio State 31, Penn State 14

 

Follow me on Twitter:

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Big Ten Football: Which 2015 Recruiting Class Will Transform Its Team Next Year?

College football recruiting isn't quite like it was in the old days.  Sure, there's plenty of talent out there—maybe even more so these days—but like never before, college programs are willing to take a chance on putting some of these youngsters on the field very early in their collegiate careers.  That, of course, opens the door for some immediate impacts from the true freshmen coming in with the class of 2015.

We've only barely moved past the halfway point of the 2014 college football season, but don't fool yourself into thinking that coaches around the Big Ten and the nation don't have one eye focused on the upcoming 2015 recruits.

We've already seen a plethora of verbal commitments around the Big Ten, including 32 4-star recruits and a 5-star prospect.  So which Big Ten programs could benefit the most from the instant impact these players could have?  Let's take a look.

 

Unless otherwise noted, quotes or references to quotes were obtained firsthand by the writer.

All recruiting star ratings and team rankings are from 247Sports.com, unless otherwise noted.

Begin Slideshow

Texas Football: Position-by-Position Midseason Grades for the Longhorns

Fresh off their much-needed win over Iowa State, the Texas Longhorns have reached the midpoint of their Big 12 slate. 

They will need some obvious improvement in order to get the necessary three wins to reach a bowl, but this team is largely trending up heading into the stretch run.

Tyrone Swoopes has grown into a weapon for Charlie Strong's team, bringing an explosive element to back up a defense that had done most of the work through six games.

He's the key moving forward, as is some improved play from the offensive line and special teams.

Begin Slideshow

Ohio State Football: Position-by-Position Midseason Grades for the Buckeyes

The Ohio State football team has reached the midway point of the regular season, and after a disappointing upset loss to Virginia Tech in Week 2, the Buckeyes are surging their way back into the playoff race.

The offense, which looked lost and overwhelmed against the Hokies, has eclipsed 50 points and 500 yards of total offense in each of the last four games. The defense is starting to click under new co-defensive coordinator Chris Ash, who has installed a more aggressive scheme this season.

Now ranked No. 12 in the week's Amway Coaches Poll, the Buckeyes are looking to build on their budding momentum.

How does Urban Meyer's team grade out through six games?

Begin Slideshow

Power Ranking Every SEC Defense

Exotic offenses have been all the rage in college football over the past few years, but in the SEC, a solid defense still goes a long way.

Six of the top 20 defenses in the nation reside in the SEC, including an Ole Miss team that thrives off of turnovers and an Alabama team that just shut out Texas A&M's Kevin Sumlin for the first time in his head coaching career.

Which SEC defenses are the best?

We rank all 14 of them in this slideshow.

Begin Slideshow

Michigan Football: The Challenge Wolverines D Faces vs. Michigan State

Through seven games, Michigan’s defense has kept most of the opposing rushers modest, but it’s given up far too many big plays to receivers.

This Saturday, defensive coordinator Greg Mattison’s men must tighten up in both areas if they’re to give the Wolverines (3-4, 1-2) a chance versus No. 8-ranked Michigan State in East Lansing.

Winners of five of the past six, the Spartans (6-1, 3-0) have the Big Ten’s No. 1-ranked scoring offense (47 PPG) and tout the league’s No. 2-ranked total offense: It’s entirely possible for Connor Cook, their quarterback, and Jeremy Langford, their running back, to set new season highs against Team 135, which gave up 404 passing yards to Rutgers’ Gary Nova and 183 rushing to Minnesota’s David Cobb.

The Spartans are fresh off a 56-17 dismantling of Indiana, while the Wolverines scored their first conference victory two weeks ago, downing Penn State 18-13. Judging by stats and recent history, Oct. 25’s duel along the Red Cedar could end up being incredibly lopsided.

 

Dynamic Players Set the Tone for MSU

Cook is 18-2 as a starter and has already crept into the upper echelon of Michigan State’s record books: With 4,490 yards, he’s No. 9 in total passing; his 39 passing touchdowns rank No. 7 in program history.

In short, the 6’4”, 218-pound junior, who is 11-0 versus the Big Ten, is becoming an elite Spartans quarterback, and he’s known for busting loose during big games.

Back in January, he threw for 304 yards and three scores during Michigan State’s 24-20 Rose Bowl win over Stanford. This season, he’s been one of the most talked about players in the Big Ten, steadily climbing up NFL prospect charts on a weekly basis.

Michigan will have its hands full with Cook, who threw for a modest but respectable 252 yards and rushed for a touchdown during his team’s 29-6 series victory in 2013—he gets it done through the air and on the ground.

Like Minnesota’s Cobb, Langford is one of the top backs in the country. His 664 yards are No. 6 in the Big Ten, which, on top of Langford and Cobb, features star running backs Melvin Gordon of Wisconsin and Tevin Coleman of Indiana.

In 2013, Langford, who's eclipsed 100 yards in each of the past four weeks, carried the ball 26 times for 120 yards and a touchdown against the Wolverines. 

By now, one thing should be clear: Michigan State has a great quarterback and running back who will test Mattison’s No. 4-ranked total conference defense (301 YPG; No. 2 in rush D, 93.6 YPG).

But there’s more—much more.

Led by Tony Lippett, a senior, Michigan State’s receiving corps should regularly pester Jourdan Lewis, Blake Countess, Ray Taylor and the rest of the Wolverines secondary, which was burnt to a crisp by Rutgers. 

And Notre Dame.

That was bad. 

Prior to this season, defensive backs were thought to be one of Team 135’s strengths. However, Countess’ underperformance has hindered an otherwise solid position group.

Capping Lippett, Keith Mumphrey, Aaron Burbridge and Josiah Price, a tight end, should be the goal. Limiting Cook’s options is a surefire way to disrupt progress for a team that averages 8.9 yards per completion.

 

UM’s D Must Be MVP

The word—or one of them, at least—has been “together.” The defense especially has vocalized its chemistry for weeks on end. Countess and Lewis have each said that they believe in their secondary and vow to improve.

And the secondary has. But it’ll need to give more Saturday. The Spartans have 18 passing touchdowns, the second most in the Big Ten. With 11, Michigan is one of five in the league to give up 10 or more through the air.

Frank Clark, one of the team’s best linemen, has also expressed similar thoughts. He knows how good his defense can be. He just wants it to reach that level every week.

The 6’2”, 277-pound senior is known for playing with great emotion and energy. Taking a leading role through practices and meetings isn’t only a good idea, but it’s necessary.

The Wolverines need all the leadership they can get this week.

 

Follow Bleacher Report’s Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81

References to Clark, Lewis and Countess statements were obtained firsthand by the writer via press conference.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

NCAA Football Rankings 2014: Hits and Misses from Week 9

That was fun. 

Week 8 was eventful, if nothing else. To start the day, a pair of upsets in the Big 12 opened up the conference's title race and introduced a couple of new faces to the playoff conversation. The fitting nightcap was Florida State rallying to beat Notre Dame in a classic between two Top Five teams. 

Just when you think the playoff picture is remotely clear, it gets shaken up like a snow globe. 

As is customary every Sunday, The Associated Press and USA Today released their new Top 25 polls. You can also check out the latest Bleacher Report Top 25 for comparison.

Which teams were appropriately ranked in the latest Top 25 polls? Which ones weren't? The answers are in the following slides.

Begin Slideshow

College Football Rankings 2014: Week 9 AP and Amway Standings Revealed

After another wild week of college football, fans of the sport are already looking ahead to Week 9 and the latest Top 25 polls and rankings.

With top teams like Florida State and Alabama winning and other elite programs like Baylor and Oklahoma taking losses, the turnover in the polls once again has become a staple of the season. This has been one of the wildest years in recent memory.

Here are the full Amway coaches, Associated Press and Bleacher Report Top 25 polls and a breakdown of Week 8 of the college football season.

 

 

Breaking Down Week 8

Mississippi State was lucky to have a bye in Week 8 as the madness of the college football regular season continued with a schedule full of interesting matchups and stunning losses.

The biggest game of the weekend was the ranked battle between the Florida State Seminoles and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. FSU took the hard-fought victory over Notre Dame, 31-27, and leaned heavily on Jameis Winston. With 273 yards passing, two touchdowns and one interception, Winston and the Seminoles are starting to find their offensive rhythm.

Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher told Jared Shanker of ESPN.com what the win means:

That's extremely satisfying. It's what you play for. That's what you strive to get your program to all the time, to be able to persevere and play in games like this and win those games. That's what I love about our team. They have a lot of pride and know how to win.

For the Fighting Irish, a strong performance against the defending national champions is a great building block moving forward. The loss will be tough to swallow, but if Notre Dame stays undefeated for the remainder of the season, the team will be playoff contenders.

The most lopsided game of the week was the Alabama Crimson Tide’s beat down of Texas A&M on Saturday afternoon, 59-0. There were questions about Alabama’s validity as championship contenders, but victory over the Aggies proved the Crimson Tide are still very much a threat.

Just like Texas A&M, several other top programs fell in Week 8. There was conversation about the Baylor Bears being one of the best teams in college football, but a stunning loss to West Virginia has hurt Baylor’s chances of finishing in the top four.

Another former championship contender that fell Saturday was Oklahoma. Kansas State stunned the Sooners with a 31-30 loss, and Oklahoma continues its slow fall down the rankings. Oklahoma State also lost to TCU in Week 8, and it is clear the wide open Big 12 will be one of the most interesting conferences coming down the regular-season stretch.

Several teams did manage to win in lopsided fashion and put in their best effort to climb the top 25 polls. Programs like Ole Miss, Michigan State, Oregon and Ohio State were victorious and continue to build resumes for the college football playoffs.

With another incredible week of action scheduled for Week 9, college football fans have come to expect several upsets and plenty of intense action. If you enjoy conference rivalries, next week will be right up your alley.

 

*Stats via ESPN.com.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Rankings 2014: Twitter Reacts to AP and Amway Week 9 Polls

A week after dropping to No. 2 in part due to a lack of schedule strength, Florida State finally got its signature win in a thriller over Notre Dame. It still wasn't good enough to pass the ascendant Mississippi State, though.

Idle after battling through a three-game gauntlet of Top 10 opponents, the Bulldogs managed to hold onto the top spot in the Amway Coaches and Associated Press polls. Assuming they win next week's road tilt at Kentucky, Dak Prescott and Co. are expected to stay atop the only rankings that matter—the College Football Playoff poll—when it is released for the first time next week.    

After nearly being knocked back to No. 3, Florida State's triumph over Notre Dame at least created some more space between the Seminoles and Ole Miss. The Rebels easily dispatched of Tennessee to remain one of three undefeated Power Five conference teams. The most notable changes come directly after the inert Top Three, as Alabama, Michigan State and Auburn have re-entered the playoff chase.

Here's a look at how the polls played out, including a look at the B/R Top 25:

Glaringly missing from its former perch is Baylor, which drops to No. 13 in the Coaches Poll and No. 12 in the AP after losing to West Virginia. The Mountaineers stifled the Baylor passing game by putting constant pressure on Bryce Petty and jamming receivers at the line. Petty, who is more than likely out of the Heisman race, finished 16-of-36 for 223 yards and two touchdowns.    

ESPN Stats & Info made the point that Baylor's loss will help create chaos in the playoff race:

One of those teams that could create chaos is Notre Dame, which certainly looked like a playoff-worthy team in Tallahassee. The Irish never trailed until 7:39 remaining in the fourth quarter and appeared to score the game-winning touchdown until a controversial penalty called it back. Everett Golson hit Corey Robinson from three yards out with 13 seconds to play, but officials called offensive pass interference on the pick play to wipe the score off the board.

"We execute that play every day," Notre Dame head coach Brian Kellytold reporters. "And we do it legally and that's the way we coach it. We don't coach illegal plays."

While Kelly was unhappy with the call, his team's performance bought some favor. Kyle Rowland of the Journal Gazette was one of many to say a one-loss Irish team deserves a playoff spot:

The one-loss team all but guaranteed a berth is Alabama. Frustrated with criticism after last week's 14-13 win over Arkansas, Nick Saban's squad unleashed a two-way thrashing of Texas A&M in a 59-0 blowout. As ESPN Stats & Info pointed out, the victory tied for the fourth-largest margin in history over an AP Top 25 team:

Blake Sims threw for 268 yards and three touchdowns, while T.J. Yeldon and Derrick Henry combined for 184 yards and three scores on their 23 attempts. The Crimson Tide also held Texas A&M's high-powered offense to just 172 total yards, coasting down the stretch after opening up a 45-0 lead at halftime. The Aggies have lost three straight SEC games after opening with five straight wins.

Even former Aggies star Johnny Manziel couldn't help but laugh at the blowout in a now-deleted tweet:

In all, though, the battle of one-loss teams is far from settled. There are currently 14 one-loss teams in Power Five conferences—15 if you include Notre Dame.

Oregon, which already has a signature win over Michigan State this season, beat Washington, 45-20, for its second straight impressive Pac-12 victory. Georgia continues trucking along despite being without star Todd Gurley, opening up a 38-6 halftime lead over Arkansas en route to an easy victory. The Bulldogs have a Nov. 15 game against Auburn that may decide the fate of both teams.

It's an impossible process of separating those teams from the likes of TCU, Kansas State, Ohio State and others, all hanging around and one win away from entering the top-four conversation. Bob Wischusen of ESPN points out perhaps even some two-loss teams could still enter the conversation:

But the team perhaps in the best position to blow up the playoff if Marshall, which continues its quiet rise up the rankings. The Thundering Herd, led by Heisman dark horse Rakeem Cato, have scored 40-plus points in all seven of their wins and haven't allowed a team to come closer than 15 points. Their 45-13 romp over Florida International this week was their sixth straight win of 25 or more points.

Cato, who threw for 214 yards and four touchdowns, set an NCAA record with his 39th straight game with a touchdown pass. He and running back Devon Johnson have become one of the nation's most prolific backfields, sitting second in points (47.4) and yards (575) per game. 

"How about Cato?" Marshall coach Doc Holliday asked reporters after the game. "I mean, it's a record that may never be broken. That's a heck of a record. If anyone deserves it, that young man does. And to be able to come down here to Miami and do that in front of his family, 15 minutes from where he grew up, that was huge."

Count Josh Graham of Scout.com among those on the Cato-for-Heisman bandwagon:

Draft writer Shane P. Hallam said Marshall deserves a playoff spot if it goes undefeated:

Marshall's greatest obstacle is its strength of schedule. The Herd do not have a power conference team on their 2014 schedule, let alone another Top 25 outfit. With the selection committee emphasizing schedule difficulty, it would be hard to justify allowing Marshall into the playoff—even over a two-loss team out of the SEC West gauntlet.

A trip to one of the high-profile bowl games not related to the four-team playoff seems possible. But if Marshall keeps winning, the inaugural season of the new system may already have a controversy on its hands.

 

Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

AP College Football Poll 2014: Complete Week 9 Rankings Released

Another week, another set of brilliant matchups, thrilling finishes and newly minted debates forged in college football. The destination in college football this season might be the new four-team playoff, but boy, oh boy, has the journey been fun.         

With several top teams facing off, this week's Associated Press rankings were sure to look a whole lot different than they did coming in to the weekend. Let's take a look at how the AP voters view the college football landscape now. Also, make sure to check out Bleacher Report's official Top 25 and review the week that was.     

 

Rankings

 

Analysis

Last week, Mississippi State and Ole Miss made their case for why they deserved consideration as the top team in the nation. On Saturday, Florida State followed suit.

In a thrilling, nail-biting 31-27 win over Notre Dame, the defending champs served notice that they shouldn't be so easily disregarded in the national championship conversation. Despite being outplayed in the first half and needing an offensive pass interference penalty at the end of the game to help preserve the victory, the Seminoles once again found a way to prevail.

Afterward, head coach Jimbo Fisher talked about his team's ability to win the close ones, via Paul Myerberg of USA Today:

You can say whatever you want. This team is dominant. Is it this, is it not as spectacular? I'll tell you what, I wouldn't trade it for any team in America.

I'll grow with this team. I'm proud of them, proud to be coaching them. The team has tremendous what I call 'adversity tolerance.' It doesn't flinch. It can deal with anything. It can deal with pressure moments, pressure situations. And that's what we did tonight.

Florida State's road to the playoff seems to be without any major detours at this point. Louisville is perhaps the team's biggest regular-season threat looming—Miami and Florida simply aren't the Miami and Florida of years past this season—while at the moment it appears as though Duke will await the Seminoles in the ACC title game.

In other words, if Jameis Winston and Co. somehow fail to reach the playoff, it will be because they couldn't overcome their biggest remaining adversary: themselves. 

As for Notre Dame, the Fighting Irish still can play themselves into the College Football Playoff. It's hard to see the playoff committee dinging them too much for losing on the road to last year's champions. Wins over Arizona State, Louisville and USC should complete a resume that leaves them as one of the more appealing one-loss teams in the nation by the time the regular season draws to a close.

While Notre Dame is a one-loss team with plenty of room for optimism, Baylor's season took a turn for the worse Saturday after losing to West Virginia. It was not a timely loss, as the Bears still have to face Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Kansas State this season.

Of course, perhaps we shouldn't be surprised, per this tidbit from ESPN Stats & Info:

The SEC West possesses four playoff contenders in Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Alabama and Auburn. And let's not sleep on one-loss Georgia, which could head into the SEC title game as a one-loss team and play its way into the playoff with a victory.

With Florida State looking like a lock for the playoff, Notre Dame potentially having a very impressive one-loss resume and schools like Oregon, Michigan State and Ohio State still clawing their way back to favor with the voters and committee alike, Baylor's chances of reaching the playoff took a major blow Saturday. 

All the Bears can do now is win out. And even that might not be enough.  

The Big 12 saw a lot of moving and shaking amongst the ranks Saturday. TCU's vital win over Oklahoma State and Kansas State's victory over Oklahoma leave those two teams in the running with Baylor as the most likely Big 12 squads to reach the playoff. Stewart Mandel of Fox Sports thinks TCU will be able to make a strong case:

With the voters not terribly high on the Big 12 contenders, however, it seems a long shot that the conference will have a playoff participant this season. But there's a lot of football left to be played.

Every team in the nation is acutely aware of that fact. The postseason may have doubled by two teams, but that has only served to double the intrigue of this season.

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Jameis Winston Reportedly Expected to Declare for 2015 NFL Draft

Jameis Winston has no plans on returning to Florida State for his junior season, but he's not about to run from his off-the-field troubles, either.

According to a report from CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora, Winston unsurprisingly plans to enter the 2015 NFL draft. While that in and of itself is not noteworthy—most have projected the reigning Heisman winner as a top-10 pick—what's interesting is that Winston is currently planning on finishing out his third academic year in Tallahassee.   

As La Canfora notes, there were rumblings indicating Winston would drop out for the second semester in order to avoid any more off-the-field distractions. Florida State is currently in the process of scheduling a student judiciary hearing for Winston regarding a 2012 sexual assault allegation, and the university is also investigating reports he may have received impermissible benefits in exchange for his autograph.

ESPN.com's Darren Rovell reported roughly 2,000 items bearing Winston's signature were authenticated by James Spence Authentication. There was some talk that Winston would be held out of Saturday's 31-27 win over Notre Dame, but university athletic director Stan Wilcox issued a statement saying the star quarterback would be allowed to play.

"We have no information indicating that he accepted payment for items reported to bear his signature, thereby compromising his athletics eligibility," Wilcox said, per Sean Rossman of the Tallahassee Democrat. "The fact that items appear on an Internet site bearing the signature of a student-athlete does not singularly determine a violation of NCAA rules."

Winston completed 15 of 16 passes in the second half of the Seminoles' comeback win, at times single-handedly carrying the offense down the field.

A redshirt sophomore, Winston has thrown for 1,878 yards and 13 touchdowns against six interceptions this season. His numbers are down in nearly every major statistical category with the exception of completion percentage, though that's in part thanks to his passes traveling a shorter distance in 2014. After averaging a jaw-dropping 10.57 yards per attempt as a freshman, he's dropped to a closer-to-pedestrian (but still very good) 8.90 yards per attempt.

In 2013, Winston became the second freshman Heisman Trophy winner in history. He and Oregon's Marcus Mariota are widely considered the two best quarterback prospects in the 2015 class, though Winston's off-the-field transgressions have dropped his stock.

After opening the season as the No. 1 overall player on his big board, ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. (subscription required) has dropped Winston to No. 16. There is no telling where Winston will stand next April, but it's interesting he appears adamant about clearing his name.

 

Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

ESPN 'College GameDay' Headed to Baton Rouge for Ole Miss vs. LSU in Week 9

ESPN's College GameDay will head to the Bayou to watch LSU host Ole Miss next weekend.

After getting drilled at Auburn and struggling to beat Florida, the Tigers finally looked like themselves again in Week 8, beating Kentucky 41-3. If it plays like it did against the Wildcats, Les Miles' team has a chance to end Ole Miss' dream season, which the Rebels kept alive with a 34-3 blowout over Tennessee in Week 8.

GameDay's official Twitter account confirmed the location Sunday:

Ole Miss upset LSU in Oxford last season, doing so when the Tigers were ranked No. 6 in the country. Bo Wallace completed 30 of 39 passes for 346 yards, leading the Rebels 61 yards in 13 plays to set up the game-winning 41-yard field goal by Andrew Ritter.

"I'm really not surprised at all that we won this game," said All-American safety Cody Prewitt, per the Associated Press (via ESPN.com). "I feel like it's the first time this season we played for 60 true minutes."

But that was then, and this is now; and now is a season in which Ole Miss has been playing for 60 true minutes. Hugh Freeze's team is 7-0 and on course for a spot in the College Football Playoff.

This time, it is LSU's turn to play spoiler.

The Tigers are normally money in home night games, but Ole Miss' in-state rival, Mississippi State, knocked them off in Tiger Stadium earlier this season—a win that began the Bulldogs' ascent to No. 1 in the polls.

What can Miles do to avoid a repeat of that performance? Who on LSU's defense will step up? How will quarterback Anthony Jennings—whose play has been uneven, to put it kindly—fare against a "Landsharks" defense that Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee called without a doubt "the best in the nation?"

Only one good way to find out.

Get up, Baton Rouge. It's GameDay.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Is Florida State a Lock to Finish Undefeated?

If the goal of the 2014 college football season is to be one of the final four teams for the playoff, then the regular season has been March Madness. Florida State specifically has been a team that has survived and advanced. 

The Seminoles did it in overtime against Clemson without starting quarterback Jameis Winston and defensive end Mario Edwards on September 20. They did it again the following week in a come-from-behind win against North Carolina State.

And they did it again in a 31-27 win over Notre Dame on Saturday, going toe-to-toe with the Irish before taking their first lead midway through the fourth quarter. 

Then, Florida State hung on—with a little help from an offensive pass-interference call. 

Good call? Bad call? It doesn't matter now. Just survive and advance. 

Of course, to say that Florida State is merely surviving and advancing indicates the Seminoles aren't very good when nothing could be further from the truth. The Noles have three wins over Top 25 teams, a reigning Heisman winner in Winston and NFL-caliber talent both on the field and waiting in the wings. There's a weekly debate about whether Florida State should be the No. 1 team in the country. 

However, it doesn't matter how much talent a team has or how good the coaching staff is. It's hard to win every game in a season, let alone 23 in a row like Florida State has dating back to 2012. It's no secret that the Seminoles aren't as dominant as they were in 2013, nor is it an insult to say they've received some breaks along the way. 

Will Florida State keep its undefeated streak going through the rest of the season? There's no way to definitively answer that, but let's put it this way: It wouldn't be surprising if the answer is no. 

Look around the rest of the landscape. Kansas State (5-1, 3-0) is leading the Big 12 standings. Minnesota (6-1, 3-0) is the Big Ten West leader. Ole Miss (7-0, 4-0) and Mississippi State (6-0, 3-0) are tied for first in the SEC West and are two of the three best teams in the country.

Little has gone according to plan, which is a big reason why this particular season has been so entertaining. The fact that Florida State leads the ACC Atlantic, like it was projected to do, is almost an anomaly compared to the rest of college football. 

As Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! Sports tweets, the playoff has not diminished the value of the regular season. On the contrary, it's as strong as it's ever been. 

The possibility of more chaos is almost a guarantee. There are three undefeated power teams remaining: Florida State, Mississippi State and Ole Miss. At most, only two of those teams will be undefeated by season's end. 

Florida State will undoubtedly be favored in all of its remaining games: At Louisville (Oct. 30), Virginia (Nov. 8), at Miami (Nov. 15), Boston College (Nov. 22) and Florida (Nov. 29). Does that mean the Seminoles will finish undefeated? If this season has taught us anything, it's that there are no truly dominant teams; everyone is vulnerable in some form or fashion. 

A road trip at Louisville on a Thursday night seems like a prime formula for an upset, but a rivalry game at Miami could be tricky as well. There's no way to know in this sport when things are going to be turned upside down. That's part of the appeal, and part of why coaches lose their hair so quickly. 

But know this: If Florida State does finish undefeated, it is a lock for the playoff as either a No. 1 or No. 2 seed. 

"Hopefully, we can get that No. 1 spot back," Florida State linebacker Terrance Smith told Andy Staples of Sports Illustrated. "They took it from us, so we had to win this game."

Being No. 1 in the Associated Press and/or Amway coaches polls doesn't matter since those polls technically aren't taken into account with the selection committee. Being No. 1 in the committee's eyes is the only thing that matters for geographical purposes since the semifinal sites are at the Sugar Bowl and Rose Bowl. 

Even then, games are all about matchups. A No. 1 vs. No. 4 game doesn't automatically favor the top-seeded team. 

The way this season has gone, a one-loss team shouldn't be taken out of the playoff conversation. In that vein, a one-loss Florida State wouldn't necessarily be out of the final four.

But Florida State controls its destiny. That's a great place to be considering the number of upsets 2014 has produced. What the Seminoles undoubtedly know, however, is that no game is a sure thing. Every win going forward is a good one. 

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Pages