NCAA Football

Alabama at Georgia Complete Game Preview

Georgia called for a blackout, and Alabama strength and conditioning coach Scott Cochran told the Crimson Tide players that it meant they were going to a funeral.

He turned out to be right when Alabama buried Georgia in 2008, the last time the Tide visited Sanford Stadium. 

Alabama took the opening kickoff and drove 80 yards on 11 plays, and the rout was on. The sellout crowd was silenced except for the visiting fans who were enjoying the 31-0 halftime lead en route to the 41-30 victory.

“The bottom line was we didn't play well that day,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said. “We played a much better second half. I think we scored I don't know in the second half, scored a good many, but not enough to overcome what had happened in the first half.

“But we just got whipped obviously.”

Richt made that comment before the last meeting between the teams, the 2012 SEC Championship Game that’s widely regarded to be the best in league history. The game went down to the final play as Alabama held on for a 32-28 victory and then went on to crush Notre Dame in the BCS National Championship Game.

Although Georgia isn’t ranked No. 3 as it was during the previous two meetings, it's eighth in the AP poll, while Alabama is 13th. Another memorable matchup appears to be on tap.

Here’s everything you need to know:

Date: Saturday, October 3

Time: 3:30 p.m. ET

Place: Sanford Stadium


Radio:Crimson Tide Sports Network, Georgia Bulldog Sports Network, ESPN, Sirius 84, XM 84

Spread: Georgia -2.5, according to

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What Charlie Strong Must Do to Turn Texas' Season Around

You don't have to be a fan of the Texas Longhorns to know this is a frustrating, albeit sometimes exciting, team to watch. To classify Texas in a word, it would be "eventful."

On the surface, you could say this is a result of fielding a young and inexperienced group. To a large degree, you would be right. In the week leading up to the season opener against Notre Dame, Texas' depth chart featured 34 freshmen and sophomores, per Mike Finger of the San Antonio Express-News.

When so many young players take the field at once, mental errors are often in abundance. There will be good moments but probably far more not so good moments before and afterward.

So, not surprisingly, the theme for the 1-3 Longhorns is finishing—or an inability to do so.

If there's a silver lining for Texas, it's at least getting close enough to victory that the swift, icy grip of defeat is all the more soul-crushing. It's a sinister way to look at moral victories, something no one probably ever thought they'd associate with the Longhorns, but at least there's been reason for hope lately.

There's no way this program and its fanbase would have been able to handle any more 38-3 losses like the one suffered against Notre Dame.

Eventually, though, close is only going to get the Horns so far. What can head coach Charlie Strong do to help Texas get past the disappointment and back on some sort of winning track?


Veteran Improvement

So much has been made about how young Texas is. And it is young. But there are just enough veterans from the Mack Brown era sprinkled into the two-deep that youth isn't the only hindrance.

At some point, there are seniors who need to perform like seniors.

What Texas ideally needs is for senior running back Johnathan Gray to be the leading rusher—not quarterback Jerrod Heard. Of course, part of that responsibility falls on new play-caller Jay Norvell, who needs to give Gray more than 11 touches a game:

It needs receiver Daje Johnson to be more of a touchdown machine. He currently has one touchdown, and it came on a punt return. It needs offensive lineman Sedrick Flowers to be the anchor of a still-green group up front.

As Wescott Eberts of Burnt Orange Nation writes, Flowers has had lapses in blocking assignments and committed egregious penalties:

Against Notre Dame, Flowers drew an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and was lucky to avoid an ejection when he punched a Fighting Irish player during an altercation. Last weekend, Flowers drew another unsportsmanlike penalty when he cut blocked a Cal player well after the whistle and right in front of an official. He was lucky not to injure his opponent.

However, Flowers did take on a vocal leadership role by indirectly calling out backup offensive lineman Marcus Hutchins following Saturday's loss to Oklahoma State. According to Ryan Autullo of the Austin American-StatesmanFlowers said "lack of preparation" wasn't an excuse for poor play by Hutchins, who replaced Kent Perkins (knee injury):

I think what happened is a lack of preparation by the backup. I feel as though he didn’t foresee (an injury). I don’t think he took that into consideration when he was preparing. He just saw this week as another week that he wasn’t gonna play. If he would have taken more time in practice and film review, took it more seriously, then it would have been different.

You can’t use "I had no reps" as an excuse.

Cornerback Quandre Diggs was a vocal leader a year ago and had no problem calling out other players who didn't commit to the regime. Flowers can assume that role in 2015, but he has to be smarter as well.

The coaching staff needs to put its best players in a position to succeed, but the veterans have to take it upon themselves as well to play with a greater sense of urgency.


Limit the Mistakes

Texas has been a sloppy team this year and will probably continue to be a sloppy team. Eliminating mistakes isn't nearly as achievable as improving on them.

The two recent losses to Cal and Oklahoma State will be remembered for special teams gaffes: Nick Rose's missed extra point and the bobbled/shanked punt attempt, respectively. 

However, mistakes haven't been limited to the kicking game. The Horns rank eighth in the Big 12 in penalties per game and are last in third-down conversions. It's not a coincidence that they're so poor in those two areas. Getting behind the chains can be a drive-killer.

But it's not just penalties and turnovers that define the word "mistake." Poor decisions, coverage miscues and lack of communication all lead to bad execution.

On defense, that means giving up big plays and struggling to get off the field. The Longhorns currently rank ninth in the Big 12, ahead of only Texas Tech, in big plays allowed (10-plus yards) and are dead last in opponent third-down conversion percentage.

Tackling is also a major problem, as Anwar Richardson of tweeted during the Oklahoma State loss:

What's the solution? Unfortunately for Texas, there isn't a quick fix, a magic wand that can make things better. That's just fundamental football not being played. The only remedy is more reps. Lots and lots of reps.

The same goes for the offense. Heard is an electric playmaker, and the decision to let him run around behind a patchwork O-line is a workable short-term solution. But for every long run and/or touchdown Heard has, he'll follow it up with a rookie mistake.

Confidence is easily Heard's best attribute and his biggest drawback.

On many occasions against Cal and Oklahoma State, Heard would sooner take an unnecessary sack or run out of bounds behind the line of scrimmage than throw the ball away. Heard would rather try to pick up more yards by running horizontally (or backwards) than simply picking up the first down.

Heard is a gifted athlete. Everyone watching him knows it. The coaching staff knows it. And, perhaps to his detriment, he knows it.

Part of coaching is letting players be themselves and do what they do best. Generally speaking, Texas' new approach to the offense has allowed Heard to flourish in that situation. But there needs to be a balance as well. Part of the coaching staff's job is to harness Heard's athleticism into better decision-making.


Knock off 1 of the "Big Three"

The front half of Texas' schedule was always going to be the tougher half. How would you like to play Notre Dame, Cal, Oklahoma State, TCU and Oklahoma in five of your first six games?

For all that's transpired over the past few weeks, the possibility of Texas starting 2-4 or even 1-5 has always been—and remains—extremely real. The damaging part of such a bad start is it can hurt a team's confidence in itself.

Despite all that's happened, and all that could continue to happen, the Longhorns have to believe they can still win.

The best-case scenario for the remaining two games of the first six-game stretch is winning them to end up 3-3. That would require the Longhorns to beat TCU and Oklahoma. Without a doubt, Strong is getting his team to believe it can win both of those games, as well as every game remaining on the schedule.

At the risk of selling Texas short, the more realistic goal might be to go 1-1. For that matter, can Texas knock off either Baylor, Oklahoma or TCU?

Consider the 2014 season, when Texas went 6-7. The Horns had a nice three-game run in late October and early November when they knocked off Texas Tech, West Virginia and Oklahoma State in consecutive weeks. Beyond that, however, Texas lacked any sort of signature win.

Knocking off at least one of the Big 12's "Big Three" would be a tangible step in the right direction. It would require everything that's been discussed above (and more), but it would take some heat off Strong.

It would be a season-defining game.

The first year of the Strong era was defined by player attrition and no identity. The Longhorns' biggest drawback was they felt motionless. But such is the case with transition years for many programs.

The second year so far has been marked by moments of promise followed by crushing heartbreak.

The Longhorns are trudging through the mud right now. It's dirty, difficult and annoying. Who knows? They might not ever make it to the other side of this field, but at least Texas is going somewhere.

The only way to find out if the other side was worth the trip is by going through.


Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. All quotes cited unless obtained firsthand. All stats courtesy of

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College Football Week 5 Predictions: Picking Top 25 Games Against the Spread

Last week, after a catastrophic showing in Week 3, I vowed to get back to my roots and pick more underdogs.

The immediate results were favorable: a 9-7-1 record against the spread that gets me back to .500 for the season. But I still think I left some points on the board by getting sucked in by big favorites. Why I picked Ole Miss and Michigan State, I'll never know.

This week I'm getting back after it, only I'm banking even harder on underdogs. My macro read on the season, if I have one, is that a lot of teams are good but no teams are great; that parity is alive and well.

If I'm right about that, it's nice to have points for protection.

As always, feel free to chime in below with your opinion or with questions about the picks. I'll explain my rationale beneath each game, but of course we can always dive deeper. Just remember to keep it civil and that no one here hates your team.

The line is our only enemy.

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The Quick Resurgence of Michigan Football Under Jim Harbaugh

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — There is a logic of self-fulfillment that big college football programs have to use when trying to rebuild. The starting point is that you have to believe in your greatness just as a matter of faith. Then you force yourself to see proof when it isn't there. Finally, eventually, you need hard evidence or the whole thing falls apart.

It is the backward cycle of football fandom. And the truth is, the players go through it, too, with the fans.

Believe first and use that belief to prove it later.

At Michigan, the entire belief has been in Jim Harbaugh. No proof, just Harbaugh. And while the Wolverines were pounding on 22nd-ranked BYU on Saturday, winning 31-0, it became clear that Harbaugh has been racing through the cycle. The team is getting better every week.

People don't have to see things that aren't there anymore.

"It is coming," Harbaugh said after the game. "It's coming together. I'm starting to know our team, and I'm liking what I'm knowing."

He's right. That's not a surprise, really other than how fast it is happening. On the other hand, Harbaugh has done it in a hurry everywhere he has been, selling the ideal as fact and then proving it—before, inevitably, his intensity gets on the wrong people's nerves.

But this isn't the time to talk about that. So far, there is no grumbling from any level, from fans or administrators, on the record or off. Whereas the 49ers couldn't wait to be rid of him, the only one little thing he has done at Michigan was this: The Big Ten Network made its preseason tour of the campuses, and when it got to Michigan to talk with Harbaugh, he blew them off. He blew off his own conference.

By Year 4, that sort of thing might not seem so trivial.

It's a little different for Harbaugh at Michigan than it was in San Francisco, though. This is home, so his shelf life will be longer. For sure, Michigan fans wanted one of their own.

So things have changed already in Ann Arbor. The private parking lots near Michigan Stadium are jacking up rates. That's $50 to get within a 10-minute walk. You see big tents near the stadium selling shirts and things welcoming Harbaugh: "Keep Calm and Wear Khakis."

It was two hours after the game when Stephen Masko, a Michigan Man, football fanatic and grad from 1987—"the same year as Harbaugh"—packed up his Ford Explorer to leave the golf course that fans had turned into a parking lot ($50)/garbage dump. Police were driving on the course telling people it was time to go home. But they were enjoying this too much.

Masko said it felt like the days of Bo Schembechler again, back when Harbaugh was the quarterback. And while he still came to the games through the Rich Rodriguez and Brady Hoke eras, and still wore his Michigan hat and shirt, "I don't want to say I was embarrassed to be putting it on, but…"

A couple blocks away in the field at Pioneer High, Kipp Randall and Shane Coleman were packing up their satellite dish. They have been coming to the games for years. But they just stay out in the parking lots tailgating the whole time, watching on TV.

By then, there were just a few dozen people left in the lot, some throwing a football around.

"Last year," Randall said, "this is how it looked throughout the third quarter."

"We'd be talking about the next game," Coleman said. "Now we're listening to the crowd."

See, the place sounds different now. Looks different. Feels different.

But look, these aren't exactly long-abused hard-luck fans finally finding joy. These aren't Cubs fans. When Michigan needed to push a reset button on itself, it smartly hired Rodriguez to modernize things. But the place simply wasn't used to losing big, and wasn't prepared to let RichRod have time to change the face of the place.

So it treated Rodriguez poorly out of arrogance and dumped him. Then it brought in Brady Hoke, Michigan Man, who knew how Michigan wanted to look. A few years later, he had to go, too.

Now it's Harbaugh's turn. And maybe a few bad years brought a little—gulp—humility to the place. At the very least, it brought an understanding that losing is a possibility.

Whatever the case, until Saturday, Michigan was living only on Harbaugh's promise.

That goes for the players, too. In Harbaugh's first game at Michigan, the Wolverines couldn't get to Utah's quarterback. They couldn't quite push Utah around. On Saturday, they had BYU quarterback Tanner Mangum, a social-media favorite after winning two games on Hail Marys, getting his first dose of reality. Michigan manhandled BYU with muscle and not much flash, the way they like it in the Midwest.

BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall talked afterward about the devastation the game might have caused his team. He said you find out who you are after a game like that, not after winning on a Hail Mary.

I asked Mendenhall, who had studied game tape of Michigan before seeing the Wolverines firsthand, if they were improving.

"They're asking their quarterback just to do enough in the right settings, and they can rely on their defense while that happens," Mendenhall said. "By far, they're the best team we've played in four games."

By far? Think about that. A week earlier, BYU lost 24-23 to UCLA, which is ranked No. 7. Michigan, at 3-1, is now No. 22.

So far, Harbaugh hasn't been as, shall we say, quirky (weird?) as we've come to expect. He has been mellow. No fights with opposing coaches during the postgame handshake. He hasn't started a rivalry with Ohio State's Urban Meyer, the way he did in the past with Pete Carroll.

He seems to be absorbing everything going on around him, everything he already is creating.

"I had a couple opportunities to just see how inspired our crowd is, our student section is, a full stadium," he said. "Just so enthusiastic about our university and our team. It was good. Had a nice couple of occasions to look up and go, 'This is good for us and for football.' It looked good. …

"Whatever level you're at, the thrill of winning a football game is a great thrill. A team victory all the way. Feel happy when we win a game."

He said he still watches NFL games and even stole a play he had seen his brother, John, put in as the coach for the Baltimore Ravens.

The thing is, Harbaugh doesn't seem to be in a fight with the world. Maybe it's just early. But someone asked him about the flak quarterback Jake Rudock had taken. The narrative after the first game was that no matter what Harbaugh does, you have to have a quarterback. Now, Rudock looks solid, if not spectacular.

It was an opportunity for Harbaugh to gloat. And this is what he said:

"He wasn't taking any flak from me. I've been telling him he's doing a good job."

Meanwhile, a few players told me the team seems more fired up this year than in the past. Granted, two of them said Harbaugh gave a motivational talk last week about some proverb or saying, and players had no idea what he was talking about or even how he was interpreting it. But even so, players believe more.

So Michigan is back? Well, careful with that. Remember that in 2011, Brady Hoke's first year, the Wolverines beat Notre Dame and Ohio State and won the Sugar Bowl. Hoke was fired three years later.

But Saturday was a breakthrough win for Michigan, and maybe Harbaugh, too. He'll need a breakthrough win against Ohio State at some point soon. But shutting out BYU broke the program through to the next step of the cycle, from pretending to proving.

"I don't know, maybe the sky's the limit," Harbaugh said. "Who knows?"


Greg Couch covers college football for Bleacher Report.

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Keion Joyner Reveals Top 3: Odds on Where 4-Star LB Lands

One of the nation’s top linebackers in the 2016 cycle has cut his list to three lucky programs. 

According to Ryan Bartow of 247Sports, 4-star Keion Joyner has Florida State, LSU and North Carolina battling it out for his commitment.

He stated that all three schools are “even and tied,” and he plans to visit all three of his finalists before announcing his commitment on Jan. 2 at the Under Armour All-America Game.

Will Joyner stay close to home and play for the in-state Tar Heels, or will he head south to join either the Tigers or the Seminoles?

All three programs have various reasons to feel optimistic about landing the 6’3”, 200-pounder.

Let’s break down the odds for each of Joyner’s finalists.


Florida State: 8-1 

While Joyner has been to Chapel Hill on multiple occasions, he’s yet to step foot on Florida State’s campus. 

That will change in less than two weeks when Joyner takes an official visit to FSU when they host in-state rival Miami on Oct. 10. 

Two things are working in FSU’s favor in its pursuit of Joyner.

First, first-year Seminoles defensive ends coach Brad Lawing is a native of Joyner’s hometown of Havelock, North Carolina. Also, the ‘Noles have a huge need for linebackers in this cycle—a problem exacerbated by the recent decommitment of 4-star JUCO linebacker Tyree Horton.

"Me and (defensive ends) Coach (Brad) Lawing have had a very good bond there ever since he was at Florida,” Joyner told Bartow. “Coach Lawing is recruiting me the hardest. He wants me to come down and see what I would like there."

However, given the timeframe of his visit and impending commitment, the ‘Noles may only get one shot to wow Joyner.

Will it be enough to land a dynamic out-of-state talent at a position of need?

With a program with the tradition that Florida State has, it’s possible. However, given Joyner’s familiarity with his other two finalists, it’s certainly not ideal.


North Carolina: 7-1

Of his three finalists, Joyner is most familiar with the Tar Heels campus.

As Chris Nee of Noles247 notes, North Carolina was the only school to host him on a visit during the summer.

"I like the atmosphere there. I also like the relationship I have with the coaches and players there,” Joyner told Bartow on what stands out to him about North Carolina.

The idea of staying close to home and playing under new Tar Heels defensive coordinator Gene Chizik is likely to appeal to the nation’s No. 4 outside linebacker and No. 53 player overall in the 2016 cycle. 

Time will tell if geography and an appealing depth chart are enough to keep North Carolina’s No. 3 prospect in-state.


LSU: 5-1

Nee notes that Joyner has family in Louisiana, which has allowed him to take trips to Baton Rouge with his most recent visit coming back in the spring.

According to Nee, members of his extended family from Abbeville, Louisiana, are also expected to be at his announcement. While that may not mean much in the grand scheme of his decision, it certainly doesn’t hurt the Tigers' chances.

Similar to the Seminoles, LSU has a need for linebackers in the 2016 cycle since it didn't bring in any prospects at that position in the 2015 class.

Additionally, the transfer of Clifton Garrett—who was one of just two linebacker signees in the 2014 class—has the Tigers actively searching for prospects with the potential to step in and play right away.

The race to land Joyner is close and far from settled, and his visits could go a long way toward determining where he eventually lands.

However, as things stand, the Tigers have enough reasons to be feel good about their chances with Joyner.


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

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San Jose State vs. Auburn Complete Game Preview

As Auburn heads into the second month of the 2015 season, the Tigers are already virtually eliminated from accomplishing their biggest preseason goals—returning to the SEC and national title pictures.

Auburn will be looking for its first complete performance of the year this Saturday against San Jose State, a fellow 2-2 team that the Tigers routed 59-13 early in 2014. 

However, this year's Auburn team hasn't shown nearly that same amount of high-scoring potential on offense, as a surprising quarterback change last week prompted a few improvements but ultimately zero touchdowns against SEC West rival Mississippi State.

Auburn's defense is hoping to build on last weekend's performance against the Bulldogs, which featured excellent run-stopping and a second-half surge. The Tigers will most likely need that same level of play again, as their Mountain West opponents this week are coming off a monster offensive showcase in a rivalry win.

Before we break down the second straight meeting between Auburn and San Jose State, here is all the basic info for the matchup: 

Date: Saturday, Oct. 3

Time: 4 p.m. ET (3 p.m. local time)

Location: Auburn, Alabama (Jordan-Hare Stadium)

TV: SEC Network

Radio: Auburn IMG Sports Network

Line: Auburn -20, according to Odds Shark

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Arizona State Sun Devils vs. UCLA Bruins Betting Odds, College Football Pick

Arizona State is 0-4 against the spread this season and just 1-7 ATS over its last eight games stretching back to late last season. Were the Sun Devils overrated coming into this campaign? And after getting blown out by USC at home last week, things don't get any easier for Arizona State as it heads to Los Angeles to take on UCLA on Saturday evening at the Rose Bowl.


Point spread: Bruins opened as 13-point favorites, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark. (Line updates and matchup report)

College football pick, via Odds Shark computer: 38.1-22.2 Bruins


Why the Arizona State Sun Devils can cover the spread

ASU is 2-2 on the season but is coming off a puzzling effort last week, a 42-14 loss at home to Southern Cal. The Sun Devils fell down early and had a chance to cut into the lead and gain some momentum just before halftime, but a fumble was returned 94 yards for a Trojans defensive score. Another fumble on the ensuing kickoff gave USC another touchdown and ASU never recovered.

On the day, the Sun Devils outrushed the Trojans 182-76 and held a 32-28 edge in time of possession, but four turnovers and two missed field goals did them in.

Arizona State had won its previous two games, albeit against Cal-Poly and New Mexico, by a combined score of 69-31. If it can just eliminate the mistakes, the Sun Devils might be ripe for a bounce-back effort this week.


Why the UCLA Bruins can cover the spread

UCLA is 4-0 SU and 2-1-1 ATS following last week's 56-30 victory at Arizona. The Bruins spotted the Wildcats the first touchdown of the game, then scored the next four to take control. On the day, UCLA racked up 497 yards of offense, ran for 213 yards and turned three Arizona turnovers into touchdowns. That seems like a good way to win a football game on the road.

Freshman quarterback Josh Rosen threw for 284 yards and two scores without a pick, which was a welcome improvement after his performance against BYU two weeks ago.

The Bruins opened this season with a 34-16 victory over Virginia, although they gave up the cover as 18-point favorites when they allowed a meaningless score with three minutes left in the game. They then beat UNLV 37-3, covering at -32.

UCLA took a hit last week when it lost linebacker Myles Jack for the season to a knee injury, but it's next-man-up for the talented Bruins in their quest for a division title.


Smart pick

At first glance the outcome of this game might seem obvious, but sometimes obvious is a bad bet. And one of the worst things bettors can do is base bets solely on what happened last week. If this game were lined before the season started, UCLA might only be favored by four or five points. The Bruins might still win this game, but the smart choice here is with Arizona State, plus the points.


Betting trends

The total has gone over in Arizona State's last five games against UCLA.

Arizona State is 0-6 ATS in its last six games.

UCLA is 10-1 SU in its last 11 games.


All point spread and lines data courtesy of Odds Shark. All quotes gathered firsthand unless otherwise noted. Check out Twitter for injury and line movement updates and get the free odds tracker app.

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Arizona State Sun Devils vs. UCLA Bruins Betting Odds, College Football Pick

Arizona State is 0-4 against the spread this season and just 1-7 ATS over its last eight games stretching back to late last season...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

4-Star WR Stephen Sullivan on Top 6: 'I Love Everything About Each School'

Two weeks ago, Donaldsonville, Louisiana, 4-star receiver Stephen Sullivan discussed being slightly overwhelmed with finding a college home and preparing for early high school graduation. The process went to the next step for him Monday when he announced his top six via Twitter.

Sullivan announced a top six, in no particular order, of LSU, TCU, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Auburn and Tennessee. The nation's No. 12 wide receiver chose those six schools out of a reported baker's dozen.

Now, it's time to trim even further. It's a decision he's looking forward to but also one he's not expecting to be a cakewalk.

"I feel that it's going to be a pretty hard one, knowing that every school is a great school," Sullivan said. "I love everything about each school. I'm also building a great relationship with each coach, so I feel that it's going to be pretty hard."

The decision comes with additional news that Florida State, which two weeks ago Sullivan said would receive his first official visit, is out of the running and will not get a visit after all. Sullivan confirmed with Bleacher Report via text on Monday that he's yet to finalize which school will get his first visit, but a decision could come very soon.

At 6'6" and 230 pounds, Sullivan is a big, physical receiver who relies on his size, athleticism and strength to make plays downfield. Sullivan would be a major asset at whichever school he attends—and he plans on making a decision in time to join the winning school for spring workouts. Sullivan said he has taken enough credits to graduate high school.

Of his six schools, five represent the SEC. LSU fans will be happy to know Sullivan is still considering the Tigers, as he decommitted from the program in August. He decommitted to explore other options, but the overall atmosphere and camaraderie on campus, however, keeps Sullivan interested in the program. He's maintained solid relationships with offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, receivers coach Tony Ball and recruiting coordinator Frank Wilson, as well as head coach Les Miles.

"With LSU, every time I go there, it's like family," Sullivan said. "They already treat me like I'm a player there."

The only non-SEC school of the half-dozen may be the school to watch. Sullivan has been a major target for TCU, and he would be the program's top-ranked commit if he made his verbal pledge there.

Sullivan has good relationships with TCU offensive analyst Hudson Fuller, as well as offensive coordinator Doug Meacham and outside receivers coach Rusty Burns. Additionally, prognosticators have chosen TCU as the winning school in Sullivan's 247Sports Crystal Ball.

"TCU's been good to me," Sullivan said. "Coach Fuller is like another brother to me. To be honest, I've been there on unofficials three or four times, and I've never been disappointed."

The next few weeks will give Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Auburn and Tennessee opportunities to win him over, at least for an official visit. Sullivan has six favorites, which means one school will get left out of an official visit—assuming he takes all five of his officials.

And when it's time for him to make a decision and transition into the college life, expect Sullivan to be a competitor early. Per, Sullivan has 26 catches for 414 yards and seven touchdowns this season after recording 57 catches for 987 yards and 11 touchdowns his junior season.


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

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Meet College Football's 2015 Dark-Horse Playoff Contenders

If there's one thing the month of September has taught us, it's that we should take everything that we've talked about over the past eight months, crumple it up and throw it in the garbage. 

Then again, that's the beauty of this thing we call college football. Its only predictable quality is that you never know who's going to emerge and who's going to tank. 

Although the 2015 season is still young, enough games have been played that a handful of playoff dark horses have emerged. But, by the same logic, that means there's still more football to be played. September playoff dark horses could be gone by November. Conversely, teams we never would have predicted to be in the Final Four conversation could lead it. 

In the meantime, let's look at which teams won September with huge games and/or individual performances and then what their season looks like moving forward. Below we examine teams that are undefeated and weren't picked to win their respective division and/or conference to start the season. 


Dark Horses


The Pac-12 South division was supposed to be monopolized by the city of Los Angeles. After clubbing Oregon 62-20 in Week 4, though, Utah officially introduced itself to the divisional and Pac-12 title race.

And, potentially, the playoff field as well. That's not bad for a team that was projected to finish fifth in the Pac-12 South. 

The Utes aren't a consensus Top 10 team yet—Associated Press voters ranked the Utes 10th, while the coaches poll ranks them 12th—which is peculiar given they provided college football with its most eye-opening win of the 2015 season so far, as Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports explains: 

Michigan State, a strong team that got some legit support for No. 1 this week in the polls, barely escaped against the Ducks a few weeks ago, and that game was in East Lansing. Utah's season-opening win against Michigan also is looking a lot more impressive when you consider how the Wolverines have looked since, especially on Saturday when they smashed No. 22 BYU.

Truth is, no one has two wins any more impressive than what Utah has.

Utah is at least hovering around the Top 10—it also received one first-place vote in the AP poll. Nevertheless, UCLA remains the South division (and Pac-12) favorite. 

Certainly, the win over Oregon was impressive, but the season-opening victory over Michigan looks better and better by the week as well. The one-two punch of quarterback Travis Wilson and running back Devontae Booker makes the ground game go, and Wilson is effective enough at passing the ball to maintain offensive balance. 

Utah hasn't quite caught UCLA, which makes the Utes a trendy dark-horse pick.'s Pac-12 bowl projections still have the Bruins in the Final Four. But Utah is creeping up. The Nov. 21 game in Salt Lake City looks far more interesting now. In the meantime, Utah has tough games against Cal, USC and Arizona. 

Just don't ask head coach Kyle Whittingham about the playoff just yet. 

"Don't even go there," Whittingham said Monday, according to Matthew Piper of the Salt Lake Tribune."That's not even in the realm of our thought process."



Oklahoma's Week 2 win over Tennessee has lost a lot of shine lately. Thanks to a heartbreaking loss to Florida—just the latest in a disappointing trend for the Vols—Tennessee's breakout season looks over before it ever truly got started. Beating Tennessee might still be the Big 12's best nonconference win, and that does count for something, but it's not by nearly as wide a margin as it once was. 

Still, grabbing the W in Knoxville launched Oklahoma into the Big 12 title picture with Baylor and TCU. That part hasn't changed. The Bears have yet to be tested, and the Frogs' defensive attrition has been evident in the past two weeks against SMU and Texas Tech. The perceived gap between the projected top two teams in the Big 12 heading into the season and Oklahoma has definitely shrunk. 

The Sooners defense has still been hit-or-miss, an extension of a problem from last year. Defensive coordinator Mike Stoops put together an outstanding game plan against Tennessee but couldn't follow that effort up the next week against Tulsa. (Golden Hurricanes head coach and former Baylor offensive coordinator Philip Montgomery continues to be nightmare fuel for Oklahoma.) 

The biggest difference for the Sooners in 2015 has been quarterback Baker Mayfield. The former Texas Tech signal-caller gives this offense an extra boost in confidence and improvisation that has taken it to the next level. There's simply no coaching against what Mayfield can do with his feet when he extends the play. And there's no shortage of playmakers for him, either. 

Looking ahead, the Sooners catch the right breaks schedule-wise. Three of their five toughest games on paper (excluding the neutral-site rivalry game against Texas) are at home: West Virginia, Texas Tech and TCU. 

November could not only be critical for Oklahoma but could very well decide the Big 12 title race in a matter of weeks. Baylor, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and TCU all play one another within a month's time. For the Sooners specifically, the Nov. 14 road trip to Baylor could be the game of the year. The Bears have had OU's number lately, and a win in Waco could go a long way to transitioning this team from a playoff dark horse to a legitimate option. 



When you have arguably the best player in college football, it immediately boosts your chances of winning. And LSU has running back Leonard Fournette, the current odds-on favorite to win the Heisman, according to

Anything and everything you need to know about the Tigers' 2015 season—their offense, identity, playoff hopes and more—is neatly packaged in a 6'1", 230-pound weapon of mass football destruction. 

“He fits in very comfortably with some of the elite running backs that we’ve had here,” LSU head coach Les Miles told Bleacher Report's Adam Kramer

Fournette is averaging about 210 yards per game and won't face a run defense capable of slowing him until Florida in mid-October. So long as quarterback Brandon Harris can be a complementary running threat and competent enough passer—LSU ranks last in the SEC in passing offense, but Harris is seventh in passer rating—it's OK that the offense goes through Fournette. 

LSU operates like a team from a previous era: outstanding running attack, sound defense and not too many explosive plays (at least in the passing game). If it works, it works, and so far, it has worked. 

If the Tigers find themselves in the 11, 12 or 13-win echelon by season's end—they were picked to finish third in the SEC West—it will be in large part because of Fournette. That would bode well for his Heisman chances as well. 


Next Ones Up


The Wildcats are a surprising 4-0, and not just any 4-0, either. Wins over Stanford and Duke look incredible now that the Cardinal have defeated USC and the Blue Devils have topped Georgia Tech. Northwestern has to be the Big Ten West favorites at this point, right? The question remains whether this team would be able to stand up against Ohio State or Michigan State. It faces neither in the regular season. The Michigan game should be another good test. 


Texas A&M

The Week 1 win over Arizona State is far less impressive now that the Sun Devils have shown they're capable of being housed more than once. The come-from-behind win against Arkansas showed the run defense is still a work in progress, too. That could be troublesome with Mississippi State, Alabama, Ole Miss and LSU still on the schedule. The month of October is just brutal for the Aggies. 


Bonus: Memphis

We'll look the other way on part of the aforementioned "dark horse" criteria for Memphis, the preseason American Athletic Conference West favorite, for one important reason: The Tigers reside outside the Power Five. If there are any "playoff crashers" remaining, Memphis has the best chance to assume that role. 

However, the Tigers are 4-0 and still outside the two major Top 25 polls. That should tell you far this team still has to go before it's even remotely in the playoff conversation, let alone seriously involved. 

But what separates Memphis from, say, Temple or Houston is that it has a monster game at home against Ole Miss on Oct. 17. There are only three opponents standing in the way of this being a matchup between undefeated teams—for Memphis, South Florida (Oct. 2) and for Ole Miss, Florida (Oct. 3) and New Mexico State (Oct. 10). Assuming the Tigers and Rebels can get through Week 5 unscathed, the stage should be set for a game worthy of at least some national attention: 

Memphis gets a bye before facing Ole Miss, so there would be no lack of preparation or enthusiasm. If the Tigers beat a potential Top Five team, you can be sure they'll quickly enter the outside playoff discussion. Memphis would have to go undefeated to remain a valid playoff contender, but it would have a quality win like no other Group of Five team. Assuming Ole Miss' season doesn't burst into flames, that is. 


Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. All quotes cited unless obtained firsthand. All stats courtesy of

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The Parallels Between 2014 Florida State and 2015 Ohio State

COLUMBUS, Ohio — With his Monday press conference winding down, Urban Meyer was ready to get started on his afternoon activities. So as soon as the Ohio State head coach saw the direction that what he thought would be the final inquiry of the day he was headed, he seized the opportunity to address it directly.

"Does it feel like more of a grind this year than maybe you thought it might?" the reporter asked.

"Oh, I imagine you're leading to the fact that there are expectations that are so high?" Meyer responded, rewording the question to acknowledge the elephant in the room that the Buckeyes haven't been playing as well as many thought they would be through the first four games of their national title defense.

"Exactly," the reporter replied.

From there, Meyer didn't mince words.

"I could tell you no, but I think so," Meyer said. "First you're winning pretty soundly, playing pretty good. And the expectation level—you say, 'Well, back when you played Alabama, back when you played [Oregon in the national championship].'

"But this is a different team. Different time."

This year's Ohio State squad isn't the first to find that out the hard way.

After all, it was just a year ago that defending national champion Florida State found itself seemingly underachieving, despite returning several key pieces from its title team while facing a relatively manageable schedule.

One month into the Buckeyes' turn at defending their crown, the similarities between the two teams' respective national national championship defenses are too glaring to ignore.


Slow Starts

Through the first four weeks of the 2014 season, the Seminoles found themselves in the exact same position Ohio State does at the moment. With a 4-0 record to its credit, FSU sat at No. 1 in both major polls with the bulk of its conference schedule still ahead.

But just like the Buckeyes, the Seminoles' top billing had more to do with what they had accomplished the season before than it did what they done in the prior four weeks.

Because in wins over Oklahoma State, The Citadel, Clemson and North Carolina State, Florida State hardly looked like the nation's No. 1 team. The Seminoles beat their first four opponents by point differentials of seven, 25, six (in overtime) and 15, respectively, a far cry from the dominance they asserted during their run to the 2013 national title.

"I'm not really concerned," FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher said following his team's 56-41 win over North Carolina State on Sept. 27. "I think we're getting better in a lot of ways."

As for the Buckeyes, Meyer has been more willing to admit to his team's shortcomings thus far, which have included an 18-point victory against Virginia Tech, a 38-0 shutout of Hawaii, a 20-13 win over Northern Illinois and a 26-point best of Western Michigan.

Sure, Ohio State's first four wins have been more impressive from a point differential standpoint than the Seminoles' were a season ago, but the Buckeyes have admittedly not played up to their own standards through the first third of the regular season.

That rang especially true in Ohio State's closer-than-expected win over Northern Illinois on Sept. 19, which saw the Buckeyes offense commit five turnovers and give the Huskies two opportunities to drive the field late in the game with a chance to tie or take the lead with a touchdown.

After being bailed out by a second-half pick-six by linebacker Darron Lee, members of the OSU offense admitted they weren't playing like the nation's top-ranked team.

"Right now, we're not the No. 1 team in the country," running back Ezekiel Elliott said. "We definitely have the potential to be, but right now, with the way we're playing, we're not."

Technically, the Buckeyes still are the nation's No. 1 team, and based on having entered the season with pole position, that likely won't change—at least in the AP Top 25 and USA Today Sports Coaches Poll—unless Ohio State endures an actual loss, not a moral one. But through four weeks, the Buckeyes have hardly played to their potential, especially on offense, where inconsistencies have become commonplace in the past month.

And just like last year's Seminoles, a lot of those struggles can be pinned on one position in particular.


Quarterback Conundrums

At no point last season did Florida State face a quarterback controversy like the one Ohio State has dealt with, but there are similarities in the drop in production that both teams have seen from their respective signal-callers.

For the Seminoles, the disappointing quarterback play came by way of reigning Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston, who spent his sophomore season marred in controversy and even suspended for FSU's September matchup with Clemson. The distractions off the field for Winston appeared to lead to issues for him on it, with his completion percentage, yardage total and touchdowns all taking a dip from 2013 to 2014, while his interceptions increased from 10 as a freshman to 18 as a sophomore.

"I think we all learn from our experiences," Fisher stated after Winston threw three interceptions in a 42-31 win over Louisville in late October. "I think he continues to grow as a person, as a player and in all aspects of his life."

Meyer, meanwhile, has been more upfront about his disappointment when its come to the play of his quarterbacks, with neither Cardale Jones nor J.T. Barrett grabbing hold of what's been an unprecedented quarterback competition between two key figures on last year's title team.

Through the 2014 regular season, it was Barrett who was the Heisman Trophy candidate—he ultimately finished fifth in voting—before a broken ankle in the Buckeyes' regular-season finale opened the door for Jones to win three consecutive postseason games en route to the national title.

After not announcing who his starter for 2015 would be until the Buckeyes' season opener against Virginia Tech, Meyer has stuck with Jones as his No. 1 quarterback through the first four games of the season despite benching him mid-game in the second and third weeks.

Barrett, however, failed to seize his opportunities to jump back in the starting lineup and currently possesses a season stat line of 21-of-38 passing, 193 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.

"Someone has to beat someone out," Meyer said as he explained why he was sticking with Jones in the starting lineup after Barrett finished the Buckeyes' battle with Northern Illinois. "You don't anoint people, 'Let's give that guy a shot.' Every time I hear that, I guess that person's never coached for a living."

In a way, Meyer was rewarded for his patience last weekend, with Jones putting together his best game of the season in Ohio State's win over Western Michigan on Saturday. But despite throwing for a career-high 288 yards and two touchdowns, Jones missed on several opportunities downfield due to underthrown balls, something that wasn't lost on his head coach.

"Fundamentally, he wasn't sound," Meyer said of Jones, who he estimated threw six underthrown passes against the Broncos. "So that's just something you've got to work on."

But for the first time all season, the Buckeyes' quarterback conundrum seems to have quieted. What that will mean for Ohio State moving forward remains to be seen.


Uncertainty Ahead

How much the Buckeyes can improve between now and the end of the year is to be determined, although it's worth noting that last year's Ohio State squad didn't begin to hit its stride until it approached the postseason. Like last year's Seminoles, the Buckeyes will likely benefit from a favorable schedule, which may not see them face a ranked opponent for more than another month.

With games against Indiana and Maryland to start the Big Ten campaign, followed by a home matchup with Penn State and dates against Rutgers, Minnesota and Illinois, the Buckeyes may not be truly challenged until a Nov. 21 meeting with second-ranked Michigan State. Even then, that matchup comes in Columbus, giving the Buckeyes the added benefit of playing the highly anticipated matchup on their own home field.

But Ohio State's seeming cakewalk through October and the better part of November could also be a double-edged sword for the Buckeyes. Look no further than the precedent the College Football Playoff committee set with Florida State a year ago, slotting the Seminoles third in the first four-team tournament, despite FSU being the only team in the playoff with an undefeated record.

Based on the criteria set forth for the committee, it became clear that quality wins were what mattered most in its seeding process. And with two ranked opponents—as well as another one in a potential Big Ten Championship Game—ahead, those could come few and far between for Ohio State this year.

Of course, it also didn't help the Seminoles' case that despite playing a lesser schedule, they found themselves in a number of close calls. Heading into the ACC Championship Game, Florida State won its final three regular-season games by a combined 12 points, all in matchups against unranked opponents.

"We look at their body of work, whether they’ve controlled the games, compared them to those around them," Arkansas athletic director and College Football Playoff committee chairman Jeff Long said as he explained why the Seminoles were slotted third despite their status as the undefeated reigning national champions.

With two-thirds of the 2015 season left, there remains plenty of time for the Buckeyes to change their course and begin to take advantage of their schedule by posting eye-popping point differentials. Through four weeks, however, Ohio State appears to be headed on a similar path as last year's Florida State team, which ultimately lost to Oregon in their semifinal matchup in the Rose Bowl.

But if there's one difference between this year's Buckeyes and last year's Seminoles, it's that Meyer, unlike Fisher, is owning the situation rather than running from it.

"I think that's natural, yeah. I could tell you no, but I think so," Meyer said of this season having been harder than even he expected it to be. "That's my job—I'm watching it very closely."


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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Mississippi State Bulldogs vs. Texas A&M Aggies Betting Odds, Football Pick

Texas A&M is 2-1 against Mississippi State since joining the Big 12 three seasons ago, but the Bulldogs won last year's meeting and have covered the spread in the last two matchups. In a game that could separate contender from pretender in the SEC West, the Aggies host the Bulldogs Saturday night in College Station.


Point spread: Aggies opened as six-point favorites, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark. (Line updates and matchup report)

College football pick, via Odds Shark computer: 25.6-23.5 Aggies


Why the Mississippi State Bulldogs can cover the spread

The 'Dogs are 3-1 both straight up and against the spread on the season after last week's 17-9 win at Auburn. Mississippi State led 14-0 at halftime on a pair of Dak Prescott touchdown passes, and the Bulldogs defense limited the Tigers to three field goals on the day. MSU was outgained 389-326, but came up with key stops, including a pick deep in the red zone, to secure the victory.

Prescott has now completed 67 percent of his throws this season with seven touchdown passes against zero interceptions, while the Mississippi State defense has held foes to less than 15 points per game.

Three weeks ago, against its toughest foe so far, the Bulldogs rallied to within a two-point conversion of LSU at 21-19, missed it, but covered as a three-point home dog. Prescott and the MSU stop unit have a chance to keep this week's game close, too.


Why the Texas A&M Aggies can cover the spread

The Aggies are 4-0 this season, and 3-1 ATS, after outlasting Arkansas in overtime last week in Arlington 28-21. A&M tied the game on a touchdown and two-point conversion with three minutes to go, then won it on a defensive stop after quarterback Kyle Allen's second touchdown pass of the game to Christian Kirk in the first extra period.

Aggies backers actually got lucky last week when A&M kicker Taylor Bertolet missed a 38-yard field on the last play of regulation. By winning via the touchdown in overtime, the Aggies covered as six-point favorites.

Texas A&M won its first three games while averaging 46 points per in the process. The Aggies might not hit that mark this week, but even 28 might be enough to cover.


Smart pick

Last year the Aggies started 5-0 and rose to the ranks of championship contenders, then lost in Starkville 48-31. This year, A&M might have revenge in mind. And while that doesn't always work out, this might be a good spot for it. The smart money here sides with the Aggies.


Betting trends

The total has gone under in Mississippi State's last six games against the SEC.

Mississippi State is 2-5 ATS in its last seven games in October.

Texas A&M is 1-4 SU and ATS in its last five games at home in October.


All point spread and lines data courtesy of Odds Shark, all quotes gathered firsthand unless otherwise noted. Check out Twitter for injury and line movement updates and get the free odds tracker app.

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Jake Fromm Names Top 2: Which School Is Best Fit for 2017 4-Star QB?

Georgia quarterback recruit Jake Fromm is just a month into his junior season at Houston County High School, but collegiate possibilities are already playing a big role. 

The 6'3", 220-pound passer holds more than a dozen scholarship offers, including a few from SEC squads. He pointed to a pair programs from the conference as key contenders during his discussion with David Johnson of 247Sports. 

"I would have to say that Ole Miss and Alabama are my top two," Fromm told Johnson. 

Both teams extended an offer this spring, identifying him as a premier prospect based on underclassman evaluation. Opportunities in Tuscaloosa and Oxford stand out on a list that also features SEC foes South Carolina, Vanderbilt and Kentucky.

Beyond the conference, Fromm claims offers from Michigan State, Virginia Tech, Nebraska and Miami, among others. With all three 5-star quarterbacks now committed in the 2017 recruiting cycle, Fromm is a coveted commodity.

Rated ninth nationally among pro-style passers in class composite rankings, Fromm has flourished as a starter. He completed 63 percent of pass attempts last season, per MaxPreps, throwing for 3,629 yards and 31 touchdowns. 

During his past 18 games, Fromm was largely dominant. He posted 41 scores and just nine interceptions during that span, solidifying his status as a promising prospect. 

Alabama and Ole Miss currently carry intriguing playmakers at the position in 2016 classes, but both coaching staffs aim to enhance depth with big additions down the road. Fromm fits the bill for either team.

Ole Miss landed Elite 11 MVP Shea Patterson, who is rated No. 1 overall among 2016 quarterbacks, while Alabama holds a commitment from dynamic 4-star Texas talent Jalen Hurts.

The Crimson Tide appear to be trending toward mobile quarterbacks with Hurts and 5-star 2015 signee Blake Barnett, but Fromm is at his best between the tackles. He operates most effectively from the pocket, utilizing quality decision-making and precise touch while pushing passes downfield. 

Alabama hosted him on campus earlier this season. Fromm was in Tuscaloosa to see the Crimson Tide face Ole Miss. The Rebels claimed victory, leading to a rise in national polls.

“It was awesome, the atmosphere of the game was incredible,” he told Hank South of 247Sports. “It was hard, because both teams I’m looking really hard at."

Though South Carolina still seemingly plays a role in this recruitment, the Gamecocks look like a somewhat distant third. Just like on the field, Alabama may also be a stride behind its conference rival in this race.

"I really have to say I like Ole Miss," he told Johnson, who also reported the Rebels have Fromm atop their 2017 quarterback board.

His on-field characteristics are slightly reminiscent of Patterson and current Ole Miss starter Chad Kelly. Fromm can excel in improvisational settings and move around if needed, delivering darts when provided a slice of space to operate.

The path to playing time won't be an easy process at either school, so he must ultimately seek out an offensive attack that suits him well and looks stable for the future. Right now, that edge goes to Ole Miss.

"It's exactly what I do in high school," Fromm told Johnson. "It's the same tempo, same pass options. It's almost identical."

Fromm will soon have a chance to assess the situation in person. He plans to visit Oxford in the coming weeks for the first time since a July camp, per Johnson, targeting games against Texas A&M (Oct. 24) and LSU (Nov. 21). 

Expect him to reach a decision some time after this season, setting the stage for Fromm to become the face of whichever recruiting class he joins. The SEC is his likely destination, with Ole Miss at least momentarily standing out as a slight favorite.


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

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SEC Football Q&A: Can Georgia Beat Alabama and Run the Table?

It's hard to believe it, but here we are with one month of the college football season already in the books. 

The first month of the season brought the college football world plenty to discuss, including Tennessee head coach Butch Jones' inability to close, Georgia's surprise surge and an SEC West that's about as jumbled as it can get through four weeks.

We'll hit the burning questions that have popped up during the first month of the season in this week's SEC Q&A.


That's a big "if," because while Alabama has a loss on the books, the teams that typically give Alabama trouble are those with mobile quarterbacks and those that can stretch the field deep.

Georgia has neither.

With that said, though, it should be a tough battle between Georgia's running backs and offensive line versus the vaunted Alabama front seven. It's the toughest test of the season for Georgia, by far. 

If the Bulldogs clear that hurdle, yes, winning out would be a legitimate possibility. 

It's hard to draw up a scenario in which Georgia would be underdogs for the rest of the regular season, and it could be the favorite in the SEC Championship Game in the Georgia Dome depending on what the matchup is and how rosters look at that point.

With that said, though, this is the same program that got run by a very mediocre Florida team last year, lost to Vanderbilt in 2013, lost at home to 6-6 South Carolina in 2007 and seemingly has that one "uh oh" moment every single season.

As long as head coach Mark Richt can avoid that, Georgia should be able to run the table after the Alabama game. That's much easier said (or written) than done, though.

Ultimately, I think it'll be a nonissue. 

Alabama will have success slowing (not stopping) running back Nick Chubb and making Georgia one-dimensional. While quarterback Greyson Lambert has been marvelously efficient over the last two weeks, throwing just two incomplete passes, he'll be harassed by Bama's front seven and make a couple of mistakes, and Georgia will suffer its first loss of the season.


Come on.

I know Tennessee head coach Butch Jones hasn't learned how to close the door in the SEC, lets the moment get too big for him in big situations, is 1-12 versus ranked opponents in two-plus years in Knoxville and has a remarkable lack of trust in his passing game.

But at least he's in big situations.

Is Tennessee going to live up to the hype—which I was partially responsible for building? 

Probably not.

The Vols are 2-2 (0-1 SEC), don't boast an offense that's anywhere close to championship-level, and trusting Jones to do the right thing at this point seems like an exercise in futility.

With that said, though, they only have one loss in conference, still get Georgia at home the week after the Bulldogs host the always-physical Alabama Crimson Tide and Florida's cross-division schedule (Ole Miss, at LSU) is incredibly daunting.

The Vols will need some help, but an SEC East title is certainly not out of the question, provided Jones evolves and the passing game improves. 

Even if it doesn't, what's the worst-case scenario for Tennessee? An 8-4 regular season? Maybe 7-5 if you factor in an upset along the way?

That's still progress for Jones, who finished the regular season last year 6-6. No, it's not a gigantic leap, but it's still progress.

You don't fire your coach while he's still showing improvement if you're Tennessee—a program that was spinning its wheels for years prior to his arrival.


Irrevocably exposed is probably a bit strong. Exposed for those 60 minutes? Sure.

That should be concerning for Texas A&M fans, but not something that changes their impression of the 2015 Aggies overall. Give credit where credit is due. Arkansas' offensive line is top-notch, and running back Alex Collins—who ripped off 151 yards and a touchdown against the Aggies—is one of the SEC's best backs.

It was a stretch to think that Texas A&M's defense would suddenly become one of the SEC's best over the course of defensive coordinator John Chavis' first offseason in College Station. That wasn't—and shouldn't—be the expectation.

It wasn't a great showing for Texas A&M, sure. It gave up three scores in the red zone to Arkansas, and the Hogs converted five of their 10 third-down opportunities. But two turnovers were nice, and the "bend but don't break" attitude of the defense is still a massive step forward from last year's crew, which shattered early and often.

Texas A&M will be fine.


Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports. Statistics are courtesy of CFBStats.comBarrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and national college football video analyst for Bleacher Report, as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on SiriusXM 83. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

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Arizona Wildcats vs. Stanford Cardinal Betting Odds, Analysis, Football Pick

Stanford owns the upper hand in the recent series with Arizona, winning five of the last six meetings straight up and going 4-2 against the spread. Coming off a convincing Pac-12 road victory, the Cardinal head home to host the Wildcats Saturday night.


Point spread: This game was off the board early in the week at sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark (line updates and matchup report).

College football pick, via Odds Shark computer: 26.9-21.8 Cardinal


Why the Arizona Wildcats can cover the spread

The Wildcats opened this season with three straight victories but fell victim to the ESPN College GameDay curse last week, losing 56-30 to UCLA. After committing two turnovers through its first three games of this season, Arizona turned it over three times in the first half Saturday, which led to three Bruins touchdowns. The Wildcats also lost quarterback Anu Solomon to a head injury in the second quarter, and while they rallied briefly early in the second half, they only traded punches from there.

By the end, though, Arizona had ground out 353 yards rushing against UCLA, as backup quarterback Jerrard Randall ran for 128 yards, including 39 on his fourth long touchdown jaunt of this season.

The Wildcats also welcomed All-American Scooby Wright back to action last week, after he missed the previous two games with a knee injury. However, the linebacker suffered a sprained foot and will be out this week.

Solomon's status for this week is uncertain, but if he can't go, Randall, while not a great passer, is dangerous. If the Wildcats can tighten up on defense and avoid the turnovers, they could keep this one interesting.


Why the Stanford Cardinal can cover the spread

After opening this season with an upset loss at Northwestern, the Cardinal have won and covered three straight games, including a 42-24 victory at Oregon State last week. Stanford only led the Beavers by four points at the half but scored the first two touchdowns of the second half, later clinching the cover as a two-touchdown favorite when Barry Sanders bolted in from 65 yards out early in the fourth quarter.

On the night, the Cardinal outrushed OSU 325 yards to 111 and won time of possession by a 35-25 margin.

Two weeks ago Stanford upset USC in Los Angeles 41-31, taking that game outright as a nine-point dog, and just before that it beat Central Florida 31-7, covering at minus-20.

The Cardinal needed a good effort from the running game last week, with quarterback Kevin Hogan nursing a sore ankle, and they got it. This week they go against an Arizona defense that just gave up almost 500 yards, including 213 on the ground, to UCLA. And Stanford loves to grind out drives.


Smart pick

Solomon's injury creates a large mystery factor for this contest. Randall can run, but throwing the ball is another story. Ultimately, the team that makes the most stops on defense will probably cover this game, and that team is more likely to be Stanford.


Betting trends

  • Stanford is 5-1 straight up in its last six games against Arizona.
  • The total has gone over in Arizona's last five games.
  • Arizona is 7-2 against the spread in its last nine games in October.


All point spread and lines data courtesy of Odds Shark. All quotes gathered firsthand unless otherwise noted. Check out Twitter for injury and line movement updates and get the free odds tracker app.

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Arizona Wildcats vs. Stanford Cardinal Betting Odds, Analysis, Football Pick

Stanford owns the upper hand in the recent series with Arizona, winning five of the last six meetings straight up and going 4-2 against the spread...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Georgia Bulldogs Betting Odds, Analysis, Football Pick

The last time Alabama went off as an underdog on the betting line, it upset Tim Tebow and Florida in the SEC Championship Game in 2009. But the Crimson Tide might go off as underdogs this week, as they are visiting Athens for the first time since 2008 to take on Georgia between the hedges Saturday afternoon.


Point spread: This game opened as a pick 'em, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark (line updates and matchup report).

College football pick, via Odds Shark computer: 23.1-19.7 Bulldogs


Why the Alabama Crimson Tide can cover the spread

Alabama bounced back from that SEC-opening loss at Ole Miss to blank Louisiana-Monroe last week 34-0. The Tide didn't do a whole lot offensively on the day, gaining a total of 303 yards, but the defense limited the Warhawks to 92 yards, just nine of those on the ground.

Alabama came up one score short of covering the spread as a 37-point favorite, but as it's done many times before under head coach Nick Saban against inferior opponents, it didn't really appear interested in covering.

The Tide opened this season with that 35-17 drubbing of Wisconsin, easily covering at minus-13, and then defeated Middle Tennessee 37-10, just missing the cover at minus-34. They then lost to the Rebels 43-37 even though they outgained and outrushed Ole Miss that day. Five turnovers did them in.

Alabama is a national championship contender but can't afford another conference loss. So the Tide will throw everything they've got at the Bulldogs on Saturday.


Why the Georgia Bulldogs can cover the spread

The Bulldogs are off to a 4-0 start to this season after dispatching Southern last week 48-6. UGA, as a 48-point favorite, led by that score after three quarters and then called the 'Dawgs off, eschewing the cover. Georgia outgained the Jaguars 532-184, as Nick Chubb chugged for 131 yards on the ground and quarterbacks Greyson Lambert and Brice Ramsey combined to complete 20 of 24 passes for 271 yards and two scores without a pick.

The Bulldogs are also already 2-0 in SEC play, with a 31-14 victory over Vanderbilt, just missing the cover at minus-18, and a 52-20 rout of South Carolina, easily covering at minus-16.

Georgia gets 'Bama at home for the first time since 2008 and, with a division title in mind, will want to make the most of that opportunity.


Smart pick

Short point spreads don't usually come into play, but these two teams are close, and this game could be decided by a point or two. So while Georgia is sure to be fired up for this one, the smart money probably rolls with the Tide.


Betting trends

The total has gone over in Alabama's last five games against Georgia.

Alabama is 0-3 against the spread in its last three games on the road in October.

Georgia is 11-1 straight up in its last 12 games at home.


All point spread and lines data courtesy of Odds Shark, all quotes gathered firsthand unless otherwise noted. Check out Twitter for injury and line-movement updates and get the free odds tracker app.

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Ohio State Buckeyes vs. Indiana Hoosiers Betting Odds, College Football Pick

The last time Indiana beat Ohio State on a football field, none of the current players on either team were alive. But the Hoosiers, who have lost 20 times in a row to the Buckeyes, are 4-0 against the spread over the last four meetings. Indiana takes its shot at the defending national champs Saturday afternoon in Bloomington.


Point spread: Buckeyes opened as 17.5-point favorites, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark. (Line updates and matchup report)


College football pick, via Odds Shark computer: 43.9-24.1 Buckeyes


Why the Ohio State Buckeyes can cover the spread

OSU is off to a 4-0 start to this season after beating Western Michigan last week 38-12. The Buckeyes led 14-0, gave up a long touchdown pass for a score, then scored the next 17 points of the game to take control. Ohio State piled up 511 yards of offense, 223 on the ground, although ultimately it couldn't cover as heavy home chalk.

So far this season, the Buckeyes' best performance came in the toughest spot: a 42-24 victory at Virginia Tech. But the beginning of the Big Ten season might provide an emotional kick as OSU shoots for a second consecutive conference championship and the berth in the College Football Playoff that will probably come with it.

Finally, Ohio State is 14-0 SU and 9-5 ATS on the road under head coach Urban Meyer.


Why the Indiana Hoosiers can cover the spread

IU is also off to a 4-0 start to this season, and 3-1 ATS, after winning at Wake Forest last week 31-24, covering as a three-point road favorite. The Hoosiers took a 7-0 lead eight minutes into the game and never trailed, eventually building a 31-10 advantage, before allowing the Demon Deacons to score twice in the last six minutes.

Indiana out-rushed Wake 211-99, held the ball for almost 32 minutes and didn't turn the ball over even once; that's how you win games and cover spreads on the road in college football.

Despite the long losing streak in this series, the Hoosiers have actually given the Buckeyes several good games over recent seasons. Last year, at the Horseshoe, Indiana led 20-17 midway through the third quarter, before giving way, easily covering as a 36-point dog. If the Hoosiers can get a running game going, convert some third downs into firsts and avoid the turnovers, they could keep this one interesting too.


Smart pick

Indiana is off to a great start, while Ohio State just hasn't looked like the powerhouse it's supposed to be in the last few weeks. But the bottom line here is the Buckeyes are the better team, playing on the road, where the spread is more amenable. The smart money here resides with OSU.


Betting trends

Ohio State is 15-0 SU in its 15 games against Indiana.

Ohio State is 18-0 SU in its last 18 games.

Indiana is 5-1 ATS in its last six games.


All point spread and lines data courtesy of Odds Shark, all quotes gathered firsthand unless otherwise noted. Check out Twitter for injury and line movement updates, and get the free odds tracker app.

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Purdue Boilermakers vs. Michigan State Spartans Betting Odds, Football Pick

Michigan State owns the recent rivalry with Purdue, winning each of the last six meetings, but the Boilermakers have covered the last three meetings and are 5-2-1 against the spread over the last eight. MSU and Purdue open their Big Ten slates Saturday afternoon in East Lansing.


Point spread: The Spartans opened as 24.5-point favorites, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark (line updates and matchup report).

College football pick, via Odds Shark computer: 31.8-21.1 Spartans


Why the Purdue Boilermakers can cover the spread

The Boilers are off to a 1-3 start to this season after suffering a tough 35-28 loss at home to Bowling Green last week. Purdue tied the score at 28-28 with eight minutes to go on a David Blough-to-Gregory Phillips 62-yard touchdown connection and had a chance to take a lead on its next drive but missed a 32-yard field goal. The Boilers then allowed the Falcons to drive for the winning score in the last half-minute, aiding in their own demise with a pair of personal foul penalties.

Purdue kicker Paul Griggs also missed a 20-yard field-goal attempt in the first half. So that's at least six points they missed out on, which might have come in handy, as the Boilers missed on the cover as four-point home dogs.

On the day, Blough, a redshirt freshman making his first career start, hit on 29 of 39 throws for 340 yards and two scores against one interception.

With 15 starters back this season, the Boilermakers are hoping to make some progress in their third season under head coach Darrell Hazell.


Why the Michigan State Spartans can cover the spread

In their quest for a berth in the College Football Playoff, the Spartans are 4-0 after dispatching of Central Michigan last week 30-10. MSU led 17-0 before the Chippewas hit the board and put the game away with a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns.

The Spartans didn't exactly shine last week and came up one score short of covering as 25-point home favorites. But they outrushed CMU 181-55 and could have covered if they hadn't committed a pair of defensive penalties on the Chippewas' only touchdown drive of the day.

Michigan State hasn't put everything together in one game yet this season; if they do this Saturday, this game could get ugly.


Smart pick

Michigan State is probably going to win this game; the only matter is the final margin. But playing at home means the spread is probably inflated against the Spartans, and that victory over Oregon three weeks ago doesn't look as good now as it did then after what Utah did to the Ducks last week. If the Boilers can put up 20 points, they'll have a good shot at the cover. The smart money here may have to hold its nose, but the play is Purdue.


Betting trends

Michigan State is 6-0 straight up in its last six games against Purdue.

Purdue is 1-6 against the spread in its last seven games.

Michigan State is 0-4 ATS in its last four games.


All point spread and lines data courtesy of Odds Shark. All quotes gathered firsthand unless otherwise noted. Check out Twitter for injury and line-movement updates and get the free odds tracker app.

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Texas Longhorns vs. TCU Horned Frogs Betting Odds, Analysis, Football Pick

Texas once dominated the rivalry with Texas Christian, winning 24 straight meetings from the 1960s into the 1990s, but since the Horned Frogs joined the Big 12 they're 2-1 both straight up and against the spread in the series. TCU hosts the Longhorns for homecoming in Fort Worth Saturday afternoon.


Point spread: Horned Frogs opened as 18.5-point favorites, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark. (Line updates and matchup report)

College football pick, via Odds Shark computer: 41.3-21.6 Horned Frogs


Why the Texas Longhorns can cover the spread

UT is off to a 1-3 start to the season, its worst in 60 years, but the last two losses have come by a total of four points, including a 30-27 decision against Oklahoma State last week. The Longhorns trailed 14-3 early, rallied to take a 27-24 lead, but with less than a minute to go in a tie game their punter botched a snap, setting the Cowboys up for the game-deciding field goal.

On the day, Texas ran the ball 42 times for 171 yards while the defense held OSU to 103 yards on 46 carries. That's 2.2 yards per carry.

Two weeks ago the Longhorns rallied from 21 points down against Cal to pull within one point with a minute to go, but missed the extra point. Head coach Charlie Strong is catching flak for his team's lack of progress, but he's only in his second season. If the 'Horns could just put the brakes on the mistakes and penalties, they could begin to turn their ship around.


Why the TCU Horned Frogs can cover the spread

After outlasting Texas Tech last week 55-52, the Frogs are 4-0 so far in their quest to earn a berth in the College Football Playoff. TCU came within a half-minute of a soul-crushing upset, but running back Aaron Green caught a tipped pass in the back of the end zone on a 4th-and-goal to save the day. The Frogs outgained the Red Raiders by 150 yards (although the defense didn't exactly impress) and won the time of possession battle by a 35-25 margin.

Since a somewhat lackluster performance against Minnesota in the season opener TCU has racked up 70, 56 and 55 points, respectively.

The Frogs are filling holes on defense at the moment, but as long as quarterback Trevone Boykin and his offensive line are healthy, they'll always have a chance to simply outscore opponents.


Smart pick

The worm has turned for these two teams, relative to one another; the Frogs are now national championship contenders while the Longhorns are rebuilding. But TCU is coming off an exhausting effort last week, its defense is depleted and playing at home means the spread is probably inflated. If Texas can stop shooting itself in the foot, it could keep this one close enough to cash.


Betting trends

Texas is 1-5 ATS in its last six games.

Texas is 17-1 SU in its last 18 games on the road in October.

TCU is 8-0 SU in its last eight games against the Big 12.


All point spread and lines data courtesy of Odds Shark, all quotes gathered firsthand unless otherwise noted. Check out Twitter for injury and line movement updates and get the free odds tracker app.

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