NCAA Football

Oregon Ducks vs. Oregon State Beavers Complete Game Preview

On paper, the Oregon State Beavers should be no match for the second-ranked Oregon Ducks. In reality though, the Beavers pose a significant threat to Oregon’s postseason aspirations...

Begin Slideshow

College Football Superlatives from Kramer's Korner: The Year of the Running Back

A true freshman just shattered a historic record that had stood for a whole seven days. That, more than anything, paints a picture of just how remarkable 2014 has been for running backs. Despite the absurdity of what you’ve already seen, don’t stop watching. They're really only getting started.

The conversation starts, of course, with Oklahoma’s Samaje Perine, who just set a single-game record by rushing for 427 yards in a single game. Just last week, Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon broke a mark that stood tall for 5,474 days; this time it didn’t quite make it so far.

In a week in which his record was broken, Gordon continued to make history of his own. He eclipsed more than 2,000 rushing yards for the season, becoming the fastest player in the history of the sport to do so. He also has a realistic shot at Barry Sander’s mark for most rushing yards in a season.

Take away his fourth quarters this year, and he would still be leading the nation in rushing. Badger Football noted just how impressive Gordon's rushing total is over "the first three quarters of games":

If you took Melvin Gordon's rushing totals from just the first 3 quarters of games, he would still lead the country w/1,915 yards. #Badgers

— Badger Football (@BadgerFootball) November 23, 2014

You could celebrate these two backs and their remarkable achievements for exactly what they are—seizing the conversation entirely—although you wouldn’t begin to scratch the surface when it comes to this crucial yet undervalued position.

Indiana running back Tevin Coleman has rushed for 535 yards and four touchdowns in the past two weeks, pushing his total for the year over 1,900 yards. He has done so with limited help through the air and little fanfare. You need to watch him more if you aren’t already.

James Conner of Pittsburgh has bowling-balled his way to 1,600 yards rushing and 22 scores. Devon Johnson, Marshall’s unheralded junior back, has rushed for more than 1,500 yards and 16 touchdowns while averaging more than eight-and-a-half yards per carry.

There are stars everywhere, and the freshman crop is the most potent of our lifetime. Outside of Perine, Oregon’s Royce Freeman, Western Michigan’s Jarvion Franklin, Georgia’s Nick Chubb, Arizona’s Nick Wilson, Northwestern’s Justin Jackson and South Florida’s Marlon Mack have already run for more than 1,000 yards in their first season as collegiate backs.

That list doesn’t include LSU’s Leonard Fournette, Florida State’s Dalvin Cook, Tennessee’s Jalen Hurd, Georgia’s Sony Michel and Auburn’s Roc Thomas. They have all flashed brilliance at some point during their debut seasons, and you can be sure that there is greatness to follow.

It’s the now, but it’s also the future. And as Gordon churns toward history, a deep crop of talented runners are ready to reestablish the position’s true worth. Despite the notion that offense will be done through the air going forward, this season has told us otherwise. 

As for awards, video of grown men doing barrel rolls onto football fields and more, let us dive deep into Week 13.

 

Offensive Player of the Week: Samaje Perine, Oklahoma

For the second consecutive week, our Offensive Player of the Week has made running for more than 400 yards in a single football game look entirely too routine. Gordon broke the rushing record in Week 12 in only three quarters; Perine broke Gordon’s seven-day mark three minutes into the fourth quarter.

I thought this was supposed to be difficult?

Perine’s 427-yard rushing effort against Kansas came on 34 carries, which averages out to 12.6 yards per rush. He also caught one pass for 19 yards and scored five touchdowns. 

This is the third time Perine has rushed for at least 200 yards in a game this season. He has also gone for 640 yards on the ground in the last two games alone.

Reminder: He is also a true freshman. 

I’m so sorry, Big 12 defensive coordinators. Might as well put on another pot of coffee.

 

Dominant Defender: Arkansas (Yes, the Entire Defense)

Let’s flip the script, at least for one week. The situation calls for it.

Instead of highlighting individual defensive excellence—and Missouri’s Markus Golden likely would have been the deserving choice had we stayed true to form—we’re celebrating an entire defense for consecutive relentless efforts.

Arkansas did it again. The Hogs didn’t just secure a second SEC win under head coach Bret Bielema, but they also shut out their opponent for the second consecutive week. 

After allowing no points and 123 yards to LSU in Week 12, Bielema’s group allowed just 316 yards and no points to Ole Miss in a 30-0 victory. The Razorbacks were relentless in pressuring the Rebels, and Ole Miss never really found an offensive rhythm. For the game, Arkansas forced six turnovers overall. 

I’m not sure there’s a team in the country outside the Top Seven I’d like to play less than this one. They just sit on you and don't allow you to get up. It is so much fun from a comfortable distance.

 

Video-Game Box Score 

 —In one of the most obscure box scores you will see all season, Washington State finished with 622 yards of offense, including 601 yards passing from quarterback Luke Falk. It outgained Arizona State by nearly 300 yards for the entire game. And, thanks in large part to five turnovers, the Sun Devils still won by three touchdowns. Football is weird, man.

—Colorado State has quietly built up a bit of box-score wreckage this season against opponents that haven’t stood much of a chance. Against New Mexico, the Rams kept up with this theme by finishing with 698 total yards, 32 first downs and 58 points. Running back Dee Hart—the former Alabama product—ran for 230 yards and five touchdowns on only 20 carries. Not a bad day at the office.

 

Anti-Video-Game Box Score 

—In a game that will be studied for decades, Wake Forest and Virginia Tech went to overtime tied 0-0. The Demon Deacons eventually won 6-3 in a field-goal battle, turning in one of the surprise ACC performances of the year. Although 6-3 paints an accurate anti-video-game box score as is, the drive chart is something you really need to see. You’ve been warned; this is not for the faint of heart.

Art. pic.twitter.com/HIQQ0iw6Eo

— Adam Kramer (@KegsnEggs) November 22, 2014

—You may officially reset your "Days since SMU was featured in the Anti-Video-Game Box-Score Section" clocks to zero. Against UCF, the Mustangs finished with just 116 yards of total offense and just 50 passing yards. More staggering, however, is the fact that SMU finished with four first downs and five turnovers. That’s right, more turnovers than first downs. Stay tuned for more SMU updates.  

 

Unbalanced Box-Score Weirdness of the Week

—We’ve added another section this week to celebrate Kansas State’s offensive performance against West Virginia. When you run the ball 28 times for three total yards and still win convincingly on the road at West Virginia, you create your own category. Behold the ultimate anti-balance, courtesy of Bleacher Report's Ben Kercheval providing the game stats.

#balancepic.twitter.com/SjaZzFmNpG

— Ben Kercheval (@BenKercheval) November 21, 2014

Biggest Surprise

In one moment, we were presented two unexpected and visually appealing outcomes. You’re getting your money’s worth this week. 

Tennessee’s fake field goal against Missouri in the second quarter was unanticipated perfection. Alex Ellis hauled in the pass from Patrick Ashford—who looks like he could actually start at some (if not most) SEC schools—and the Vols took an early lead on the touchdown.

As if the magnificent bit of special teams excellence wasn’t enough, a Tennessee fan took it upon himself to celebrate by barrel-rolling out of the stands (unintentionally, of course) and onto the field. It's not just the fall that makes this follow-up celebration; Kirk Herbstreit's serious call of this moment really sealed the deal.

And in case you wanted to watch that in slow-mo on loop (and you do), you're in luck.

 

Best Moment: “Jesus, Girls and Marcus Mariota”

Unless Les Miles reads Moby Dick in its entirety at a press conference, you will not see a better postgame interaction than the one that took place between Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich and a 12-year-old student from O'Hara Catholic School.

It will all make sense, at least somewhat, momentarily. I promise.

Following the Ducks’ 44-10 victory over Colorado, Helfrich was asked if he thought star quarterback Marcus Mariota would return to Oregon next season by a young girl diving headfirst into the profession.

The exchange that followed was unquestionably one of the better press conference moments you will ever see. In fact, let’s just allow 12-year-olds to ask the questions moving forward. Cool? Cool.

 

For the Highlight Reel

Canaan Severin’s touchdown grab was an acrobatic thing of beauty. In fact, at first glance it didn’t even seem real. It all looked far too easy.

As it turns out, it was very much real. And the 23-yard catch against Miami helped the Cavaliers take down Miami at home.

You will now spend the next few minutes watching this, wondering how exactly it came together. The call from the magnificent Joe Tessitore also helped make the moment.

 

If the College Football Playoff Started Today...(or Why I Hate Your Team)

Let’s be honest; we didn’t learn much last week. FCS games and overall scheduling mediocrity provided very little in terms of playoff shakeups. That will likely change this week with so many meaningful games on the horizon, although it didn’t do much to my particular playoff picture.

Here is my top four; please express your outrage accordingly by throwing all rotten vegetables in your possession. Don't loft them, either.

1. Oregon

2. Alabama

3. Florida State

4. Mississippi State

 

 

Five Leftovers to Chew on

1. It should be mandatory that all teams playing in rivalry games wear their home uniforms. I cannot stress this enough. Watching UCLA and USC play one another in beautiful HD—each in their home threads—has become one of my favorite football sights of the year.

Although the game itself turned rather “meh” quickly, you were still able to sit back and marvel at the cosmetic beauty. Other teams take note; you should really be doing the same.

2. Gary Pinkel is quietly approaching wizard status as a head coach. Are the Tigers the best team in the country? Of course not. But when you look at the past two seasons and what Pinkel’s teams have been able to accomplish—especially given the immense amount of talent that left campus this past offseason—you start to appreciate the job he’s done.

I’m not sure he’d ever want to leave his current spot for another job, but I’m shocked he doesn’t get more looks from major programs.

3. It has become abundantly clear over the course of the season, even until this past Saturday, that I have severely underrated Arizona. I assumed that at some point the tires would fall off in somewhat spectacular fashion and that the Wildcats would regress to the expected average. That hasn’t happened. In fact, following Arizona’s 42-10 blowout victory over Utah on the road, the exact opposite has occurred.

Be sure to make next week’s Arizona-Arizona State game required viewing. There are a lot of matchups you do not want to miss. This is one of them.

4. Are we still somehow underrating Marcus Mariota? That seems like a strange question given the Heisman and NFL draft buzz that has started to bubble over, although I can’t help but wonder if we’re not truly appreciating just how fabulous Oregon’s quarterback has been over the past few years.

When you stack up his production to some of the great quarterbacks in recent memory, however, you start to see just how rare this kind of career dominance truly is. Enjoy him while you can. Craig Pintens of GoDucks.com shared Mariota's impressive TD/INT comparison:

Marcus Mariota has incredible career 95:12 TD/INT ratio. Notable comparisons below #GoDuckspic.twitter.com/h90uk5wz7u

— Craig Pintens (@UOPintens) November 23, 2014

5. With a win next over UConn next Saturday, Memphis will complete the flip. The Tigers will have gone from 3-9 to 9-3 in just one calendar year. A victory here would also give the Tigers the American Athletic Conference Championship, which is remarkable. That sound you hear in the distance is the Brinks truck backing up to Justin Fuente’s front lawn. This man is about to paid (and deservingly so).

 

Large Man Play of the Week

Connor Kruse, a fifth-year senior at Michigan State, provided the most thrilling one-yard run you will see all year.

What could possibly be so exciting about a one-yard run, you ask? Well, Kruse just so happens to be a 325-pound offensive lineman who was given a carry on an end-around. It was as amazing as it sounds, although you've sprinted to the highlight long ago.

The play was originally designed for Travis Jackson, although he suffered an injury early in the game. That meant it was up to Kruse to fill in, despite not having practiced this once throughout the week, and the end result was football magic.

 

Elusive Special Teams Save of the Week

Yale punter Bryan Holmes was close to being destroyed. With Harvard players barreling down, however, Holmes deceptively offered up a fake punt—not the one you’re accustomed to reading about, but an actual fake—before tucking the ball and sneaking off a quality 46-yard punt.

Don't ever let anyone tell you that punters can't make highlights. They are people, too.

 

Amazing Screen Grab of the Week

When is it appropriate to celebrate a 0-0 game heading into overtime? Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer gave us the answer following Wake Forest’s missed field goal as time expired.

The Demon Deacons, of course, proceeded to win in extra time, and the end result is one of the saddest frozen moments of 2014. Put it on a calendar. Deadspin's Timothy Burke captured the moment:

THIS IS NOTHING TO CELEBRATE, FRANK BEAMER pic.twitter.com/2sqjAJAZ2C

— Timothy Burke (@bubbaprog) November 22, 2014

 

This Week in Excessive Eye Black

UCLA, consider this your eye-black intervention. I understand that this plan worked for you and you just beat your rival, but why don't you have a seat and we can talk this out. Detroit Jock City's Nate Williams and Pac-12 Networks' JB Long chimed in on the subject:

Will someone please take the eyeblack away from UCLA?! pic.twitter.com/5IHONCa9rg

— Nate Williams (@NateWilliamsFS) November 23, 2014

Here are my exclusive college football punter eyeblack power rankings: 1) pic.twitter.com/NZpzsmvdvb

— JB Long (@JB_Long) November 23, 2014

 

Terrifying (But Fantastic) Fan of the Week

Have you ever had nightmares about corn monsters? You have?

If so, please skip past this Nebraska fan who probably cares more than one should.

 

That One Time Tim Tebow Made Someone Cry Tears of Joy with a Cake

The headline really does say it all. Here are cake tears.

 

From the Peanut Gallery (Best Tweets of the Weekend)

UVA is owning us today... pic.twitter.com/n4Adwid19l

— Geoff Perrott (@TheTurkeyTavern) November 23, 2014

Straight up, we found this abandoned poster at Gameday. pic.twitter.com/nXGLdeH3BG

— Jane Coaston (@cjane87) November 22, 2014

Harvard kicker is so Harvard it hurts pic.twitter.com/ja8RCPxVWb

— Thad Castle (@ThadCastIe_) November 23, 2014

 

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

DaVonte Lambert Injury: Updates on Auburn Star's Leg and Return

When Auburn takes on Alabama in the Iron Bowl on Saturday, the Tigers could be without one of their best defensive players.

According to Phillip Marshall of Auburn Undercover, DaVonte Lambert injured his leg in Auburn's win over Samford.

"He's probably out this week," said Auburn's defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson. "We don't know for sure."

Lambert leads the Tigers with 3.5 sacks and has seven tackles for loss. Defense has been a problem for Auburn for most of the season, and the absence of the junior defensive lineman won't help matters against the explosive Alabama offense.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Rankings 2014: Playoff Projections Ahead of Week 14 Release

Florida State was the only team in the latest edition of the College Football Playoff rankings that had any trouble winning this past weekend.

However, the Seminoles' standing in the postseason picture should be intact since they are still without a loss. Absent of any other massive upsets at the top, Tuesday's release of the Week 14 rankings shouldn't deviate from the prior established hierarchy.

While the top three spots should be solidified, there is a little more debate to go around thanks to a number of viable candidates in the running for the fourth and final spot.

Here is a closer look at the top projected teams that will occupy the first four slots in the Week 14 standings.

 

1. Alabama

Western Carolina did hang with the Crimson Tide for a time. When star Alabama receiver Amari Cooper exited with a knee injury, there was even further cause for alarm.

But the temporary red flags were little to worry about, as the Tide rallied in Tuscaloosa for a 48-14 triumph, able to rack up points against their inferior foe even without Cooper in the lineup.

The win won't earn Alabama any style points with the selection committee, but it was a deserved break following two great SEC victories at LSU in overtime and over prior No. 1 Mississippi State. As much as football is a team sport, this analysis from Bleacher Report's Matt Miller helps Alabama's case:

Since Cooper suffered a mere bruised knee, there's no need to panic or knock the Tide down a peg in the new rankings.

Alabama coach Nick Saban often sets out to prove that defense wins championships—and often succeeds in doing so. Conceding just 14.5 points per game ranks second nationally, and doing so in the SEC makes this year's team yet another Tuscaloosa juggernaut.

Even with non-elite quarterback play in the past, the Tide have found a way to win national championships. Fifth-year senior Blake Sims is doing enough to run the offense by dishing it to Cooper and also making plays with his legs to keep Alabama on course for the College Football Playoff's No. 1 seed.

 

2. Oregon

Quality wins over Michigan State and UCLA are looking better by the week, particularly since the Bruins are so esteemed in the selection committee's eyes.

An improving Ducks defense is doing a better job complementing the uptempo Oregon offense that's triggered by Heisman Trophy front-runner Marcus Mariota.

The dual-threat signal-caller made sure his team was up for an easy matchup with Colorado off a bye week, accounting for four total touchdowns in a 44-10 victory. ESPN's College GameDay accentuated Mariota's massive impact:

As long as Mariota keeps playing at such a high level, Oregon is going to be in the national title hunt.

A road trip to Oregon State should give the Ducks another quality victory against a rival considering the Beavers, though inconsistent, recently upset Arizona State and lost to Utah earlier in the year in overtime.

Then comes the Pac-12 title game, where Oregon could ascend to No. 1 in the rankings depending on what happens. Either way, the Ducks seem like a mortal lock for the Top Four.

 

3. Florida State

All the Seminoles do is win football games. For the 27th straight time, FSU came out on the proper end of Saturday's hard-fought ACC win over Boston College, 20-17.

Perhaps the best sign from that game came from reigning Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston, who looked as good passing the ball as he had all year in rainy conditions. Pro Football Focus' Steve Palazzolo offered the specifics:

Winston has to keep taking care of the football to keep the Seminoles' dreams of repeating as national champions alive.

ESPN Stats & Info points out just how tough Florida State has been when it matters most:

A rivalry clash with the Florida Gators is next, followed by the ACC Championship Game against a triple-option Georgia Tech offense. The Yellow Jackets run the ball as much as BC did and could control time of possession to try and bring an abrupt end to FSU's playoff hopes.

Critics—and perhaps even the committee—will continue to disparage the lack of quality wins and dominance the Seminoles have shown. They can't knock FSU out of the first four unless the reigning champions lose, though.

 

4. Mississippi State

Dak Prescott's Heisman campaign came to a halt in Tuscaloosa, but the dynamic playmaker had four touchdowns in one half of the Bulldogs' 51-0 shutout of Vanderbilt this last Saturday.

The Ole Miss Rebels, who are the only team this year to defeat Alabama, loom as the Bulldogs' big hurdle in Week 14—and the Egg Bowl rivalry clash is in Oxford.

Will Brinson of CBSSports.com observes how oddsmakers are projecting a tight clash in the all-Mississippi regular-season finale:

And it should be a close one, but if the Bulldogs truly have taken the next step and risen among college football's elite, they will take care of business on the road at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.

A defense led by star linebacker Benardrick McKinney should help Mississippi State, yet the young Rebels have an extremely talented unit of their own. In a game that should boil down to the most important position, Prescott gives the Bulldogs a considerable edge.

The ankle injury to Ole Miss senior QB Bo Wallace impacted him and led to six turnovers in last week's 30-0 loss at Arkansas. It's hard to imagine that even the incentive of a rivalry game will spark the Rebels to a monumental upset, which will culminate in rare stability atop NCAA football.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Boise State Football: With Harsin at the Helm, Broncos Peaking at Right Time

In the middle of the second quarter in Boise State’s game against Wyoming, any viewers still awake saw the Broncos pull off a perfectly executed Statue of Liberty play. Quarterback Grant Hedrick dropped back and faked a pass to the right, but he handed the ball with his off hand to Jay Ajayi, who was running to the left. Ajayi dashed 20 yards to the end zone, and Boise State was able to extend its lead to 28-7.

That type of play brought back memories of what made Boise State famous. Arguably the most memorable play in Boise State football history also came on that Statue of Liberty play. It occurred in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl on the two-point conversion that finished off the incredible upset of Oklahoma.

When Chris Petersen accepted the Washington head coaching position last December, the Boise State program could have easily lost its edge. However, with Bryan Harsin now calling the shots, the opposite has happened.

Harsin, who played quarterback at Boise State from 1995-1999 and was on the Bronco coaching staff from 2001-2010, has reinvigorated a team that seemed to digress toward the end of Petersen’s tenure. The Broncos lost four games in 2013, which amounted to one-third of Petersen’s total losses in his eight seasons at Boise.

This year’s Boise State team looks very formidable—one that a power conference team would not like to face in a bowl game. The Broncos are loaded with weapons on the offensive side of the ball, and Harsin has made sure that creativity and trickery remain BSU staples.

Senior Grant Hedrick has blossomed into a lethal dual-threat quarterback, passing for 20 touchdowns and rushing for six more so far this season. He ranks 10th in the nation in passer rating, according to ESPN.com, and has continued to improve throughout the year.

However, Hedrick has greatly benefited from the presence of Jay Ajayi. Ajayi leads the nation with a whopping 276 carries and forces defenses to put more people in the box to stop the run, allowing Hedrick plenty of space to operate his aerial attack. Ajayi has also been an integral part of the passing game, recording the third-most catches on the team and four touchdowns.

In the third quarter of the Broncos' 63-14 romp of Wyoming on Saturday, Ajayi caught a screen pass and raced 73 yards for a touchdown. With that terrific catch-and-run, Ajayi set the school record for yards from scrimmage in a single season.

A receiving corps consisting of Shane Williams-Rhodes, Thomas Sperbeck and Chaz Anderson has responded admirably since star wide receiver Matt Miller was lost for the season with an ankle injury. Williams-Rhodes leads the team in catches, Sperbeck leads the team in receiving yards and Anderson leads in yards per catch.

The defense has struggled mightily at times, but the offense has been good enough to bail the team out in most games. The Broncos sit at 9-2 on the season and are one win away from the Mountain West Conference championship game. Should they win out, the Broncos have a solid chance of sneaking into a top-tier bowl.

In ESPN.com’s most recent bowl projections, both Mark Schlabach and Brett McMurphy picked Boise State to play UCLA in the VIZIO Fiesta Bowl. Also, the Broncos worked their way into the AP Top 25 for the first time in 2014. It marks the 13th consecutive season that Boise State has been ranked in the AP or coaches poll at least once in a season.

This year’s team is not quite as dominant as the Broncos were in Petersen’s prime—when Kellen Moore was handing off to Doug Martin and throwing to Austin Pettis and Titus Young—but it is playing remarkably better than it did the past two seasons.

And Harsin deserves a ton of credit for the transformation. He has made the offense more efficient and productive while at the same time keeping the Boise State edge that Petersen developed.

The Broncos have not cracked either of the first two of the College Football Playoff rankings, but with their recent impressive play, that may change on Tuesday when the new polls will be released.

BSU lost its season opener to an Ole Miss squad that was in the playoff conversation until this weekend and then got outplayed by Air Force four weeks later, losing 28-14. In that game, the Broncos turned the ball over seven times, including four Hedrick interceptions. Since then, though, they have won six straight games, averaging more than 50 points per game, and Hedrick has thrown only four interceptions.

They are playing their best football in three years, peaking at just the right time, and if they are picked to play in a premier bowl, they will be a tough matchup for whomever they play. They might not be as talented as their opponent, but that has never intimidated them before.

If it’s a close game at the end, the Broncos have shown they have a knack for an exciting finish. Whether it’s the hook-and-ladder, Statue of Liberty or another trick play, Harsin will not be afraid to pull the trigger.

Watch out for the Broncos—not only this year, but in the future—because Bryan Harsin has picked up right where Petersen left off.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

FCS Playoffs 2014: Postseason Schedule, Bracket and Championship Predictions

In the FCS, 24 teams earned the right to compete in the postseason. All of them have a shot at winning the national championship. If you ask a lot of college football fans, they would probably say the FBS could learn a thing or two from this structure.

As it is, the FCS has the most definitive postseason format, and that's part of what makes its playoffs so intriguing. Add in some legendary coaches, programs and great players, and this is the perfect complement to the bigger-budget FBS bowl games.

The action starts on Nov. 29. The top eight seeds get first-round byes, but the other 16 battle it out for the right to advance to the second round on Dec. 6.

Here's a look at the matchups for the first two weeks of play as well as the viewing information for each game.

First round, Nov. 29

  • Fordham vs. Sacred Heart, 12 p.m., ESPN3
  • Eastern Kentucky vs. Indiana State, 1 p.m., ESPN3
  • Richmond vs. Morgan State, 1 p.m., ESPN3
  • Sam Houston State vs. Southeastern Louisiana, 2 p.m., ESPN3
  • Montana vs. San Diego, 4 p.m., ESPN3
  • James Madison vs. Liberty, 4 p.m., ESPN3
  • Montana State vs. South Dakota State, 4 p.m., ESPN3
  • Northern Iowa vs. Stephen F. Austin, 8 p.m., ESPN3

Second round, Dec. 6

  • No. 1 New Hampshire vs. Fordham/Sacred Heart, 1 p.m., ESPN3
  • No. 8 Chattanooga vs. Eastern Kentucky/Indiana State, 1 p.m., ESPN3
  • No. 5 Illinois State vs. Northern Iowa/Stephen F. Austin, 2 p.m., ESPN3
  • No. 4 Eastern Washington vs. Montana/San Diego, 4:30 p.m., ESPN3
  • No.3 Jacksonville State vs. Sam Houston State/Southeastern Louisiana, 2 p.m., ESPN3
  • No. 6 Villanova vs. James Madison/Liberty, 4:30 p.m., ESPN3
  • No. 7 Coastal Carolina vs. Richmond/Morgan State, 1 p.m., ESPN3
  • No. 2 North Dakota State vs. Montana State/South Dakota State, 4 p.m., ESPN3

The quarterfinals will take place on Dec. 12-13. The following weekend, the semifinals will determine the final two squads.

The FCS championship will be played on Jan. 10. Which two teams will be playing in the final game?

 

Sleeper Team - James Madison Dukes

Heading into Saturday's first-round battle against Liberty, the Dukes are on an eight-game winning streak since losing back-to-back games to Villanova and Delaware.

A diverse and effective running game makes the Dukes a formidable squad. Jauan Latney has run for 573 yards and six touchdowns this season. The team also features Khalid Abdullah, who has gone for 521 yards and three scores.

The Dukes have won one national championship, and that came 10 years ago. As a team seeded outside of the top eight, the odds are not in James Madison's favor, but it still could make some noise early.

 

Favorite - New Hampshire Wildcats

No FCS team could handle the Wildcats this year. They lost to the Toledo Rockets in the season opener, but the Wildcats went largely unchallenged by teams in their class.

The regular-season finale did bring about a close call against the Maine Black Bears. A strong defensive stand helped to offset six turnovers by the Wildcats offense.

Needless to say, quarterback Sean Goldrich—who threw three interceptions—will have to take better care of the football in the playoffs to make good on their status as the top seed.

 

Championship Game Prediction - New Hampshire vs. North Dakota State

Despite their struggles in the regular-season finale, the Wildcats will regain their form in the postseason. The team's defense hasn't allowed 20 points to an opponent in three weeks.

Having that unit to fall back on will prove to be invaluable. 

Opposing them should be No. 2 seed and 11-time national champion North Dakota State Bison. The Bison are 11-1, with their only blemish coming on the road against Northern Iowa on Nov. 8.

Dual-threat quarterback Carson Wentz had 246 yards of total offense in the regular-season finale against the Youngstown State Penguins. His leadership and the experience of the players who were on last year's championship team should drive the Bison back to the title game.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Mississippi State Player Spazzes out on Sideline vs. Vanderbilt

The Mississippi State sideline was hyped during Saturday's game against Vanderbilt. The raucous atmosphere is best summed up by the clip above.

He wasn't the only player having a good time, however.

The Bulldogs' matchup against the Commodores marked the last home game for this senior class, and with a 51-0 victory, there were plenty of reasons for the sideline to be going crazy.

[Vine]

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

How Alabama's Amari Cooper Can Still Win the Heisman Trophy

A wide receiver legitimately contending for the Heisman Trophy seems more like fiction than reality, but if there's any receiver who deserves to be in that conversation this year, it's Alabama junior Amari Cooper.

The 6'1", 210-pound junior from Miami has 90 catches for 1,349 yards and 11 touchdowns this season, with 46 of those yards coming on three catches in the 48-14 tune-up win over Western Carolina on Saturday. His 3,085 career receiving yards are an Alabama record, and those three catches bring him to 194 for his career—tied with D.J. Hall for the most in program history.

He left the game Saturday with a bruised knee, but head coach Nick Saban said that his absence was just a precaution.

"Coop just has a bruised knee," Saban said in quotes emailed by Alabama. "He could’ve gone back in the game and played—we don’t have a problem with him."

That's good, because standing in the way of Alabama and the SEC West title is an Auburn team that has a pass defense that would struggle to cover an average junior high squad. That game will have the eyeballs of the nation on it, as ESPN's College GameDay will be in Tuscaloosa as the Tide look to avenge last season's heartbreaking loss on the "Kick Six."

Cooper is already receiving a considerable amount of Heisman love. He was out of the B/R top five this week, but he has bounced in and out throughout the season. In Athlon Sports' weekly survey, Cooper chimed in at the No. 3 spot following Week 12 and will surely be in the discussion this week.

What needs to happen for Cooper to get to New York?

If he can exploit the holes in the Auburn secondary in the Iron Bowl with the world watching, it will set him up for a late-season charge that could land him in New York City as a Heisman finalist, just as former Auburn running back Tre Mason did down the stretch last season.

This is an Auburn pass defense that's giving up 232.5 yards per game through the air and has given up 280.2 per game over its last five SEC contests. It's ripe for the picking, and a big performance from Cooper—who has 997 of his receiving yards in the first halves of games—could put Auburn away early and earn Cooper a ticket to the Big Apple.

From there, a strong performance against either Missouri or Georgia in the SEC Championship Game might earn him some late first-place votes. It would be even better for Cooper's Heisman case if it's the Bulldogs in the Georgia Dome.

Very quietly, Georgia has produced the SEC's second-best pass defense (167.0 YPG)—only three yards behind first-place LSU. That's a remarkable turnaround from last year's squad, which gave up 227.4 yards per game through the air and was more of a punchline than a pass defense power. On top of that, a showdown with Georgia—which chimed in at the No. 8 spot this week in the AP poll—would certainly resonate more across the country than a matchup with No. 17 Missouri.

Cooper has already made his case to be the "MVP" of college football this season. Nobody expected Blake Sims to be the starting quarterback in Lane Kiffin's first season as offensive coordinator. Cooper's ability to provide security for Sims and Kiffin early is a big reason why the Tide offense has evolved into a multidimensional force.

He's going to need help to win the Heisman, though. 

Only two non-quarterbacks have won it since 2000, Reggie Bush in 2005 and Mark Ingram in 2009, and Bush returned his after the NCAA came calling.

For Cooper to have a chance, Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota—the clear front-runner—needs to lose one of his final two games either at Oregon State or vs. the Pac-12 South champ in the conference title game. More specifically, the Ducks need to lose because of uncharacteristic mistakes from Mariota himself.

That'd clear the quarterback front-runner out of the way and open the field to contenders like Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon, TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin, Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett, Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty and others. 

Gordon has done tremendous work—especially lately—but a star wide receiver putting his team on his back in the two biggest games of the year to solidify a playoff spot would be hard for voters to ignore.

Cooper is on the periphery now, and if Mariota stumbles, he's in the perfect spot with the perfect stages to kick down the Heisman door.

 

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and video analyst for Bleacher Report as well as a co-host of the CFB Hangover on Bleacher Report Radio (Sundays, 9-11 a.m. ET) on Sirius 93, XM 208.

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of CFBStats.com, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Rankings 2014: Week 14 AP and Amway Standings Revealed

Cupcakes were abound in Week 13 of the college football season, so there wasn't much change at the top of the rankings. However, one Top 10 program continued to slide after a shocking blowout loss.    

Alabama, Oregon and Mississippi State all throttled their opponents to remain in the Top Four of the rankings. Despite Florida State scuffling against Boston College, the Seminoles remained undefeated but are no longer at the top of both polls.

The Crimson Tide took over the No. 1 spot in the Amway Coaches Poll while the Seminoles are still at the top for The Associated Press.

Meanwhile, Ole Miss was shut out by Arkansas on the road in a 30-0 loss that dropped it out of the Top 10. Following Saturday's action, here's a look at the Associated Press and Amway Coaches polls ahead of Week 14.

 

 

Biggest Winner: UCLA

Winning the battle for Los Angeles means a lot for UCLA, but it also helped secure a spot in the Top 10 in both polls for the Bruins.

UCLA dominated USC, 38-20, to move to 9-2 and in position to put together the special year it was hoping for prior to the season. Quarterback Brett Hundley spoke about how special the win was, per Greg Beacham of The Associated Press (via The Washington Times):

UCLA runs L.A., if you guys didn’t hear last year. ...

It’s hard to express how it feels to win three times in a row versus your rival. Everything that goes into the game, each year it gets bigger and bigger, and this year was to top it off. This was the biggest - the Pac-12 South (standings), everything was on the line. And to come in our house, have everybody there and to pull out a victory like that at home, it says a lot to this team.

The junior signal-caller torched the Trojans for four total touchdowns and his fifth game with over 300 passing yards. He was limited on the ground with just two rushing yards, but one went for a score as USC couldn't find an answer.

Hundley also broke a school record during the game, as ESPN Stats & Info points out:

Still holding on to a chance at making the Pac-12 Championship Game, the Bruins are firing on all cylinders. Now a Top 10 team in every poll, Hundley has UCLA looking like one of the best teams in the country late in the season.

 

Biggest Loser: Ole Miss

For the second straight week, Arkansas smashed an SEC opponent with a shutout win. Only this time, it was a former Top 10 program that couldn't run with the Razorbacks.

The Rebels went into Fayetteville and simply couldn't find any offense to secure another win in the SEC West. Bo Wallace threw two interceptions as the Razorbacks forced six turnovers on the day.

Even with the loss, Ole Miss still has a lot to play for heading into the final game of the season. Austin Miller of OleMissSports.com notes what lies ahead in the Egg Bowl against Mississippi State:

Wallace has one more chance to prove that he can lead the Rebels in his final showdown with the Bulldogs during his senior season. Going in with a 1-1 record against Mississippi State, Wallace has a chance to earn one of the most memorable wins over the program's biggest rival.

 

Follow @RCorySmith on Twitter.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

AP College Football Poll 2014: Complete Week 14 Rankings Released

Week 13 of the college football season felt like the calm before the final storm this year. The top teams generally all had winnable games, the major rivalry games were a week away and some of the most anticipated matchups of the season are on the horizon as well.        

Still, no week in this season has been without surprises or head-scratching results, and while the top teams in the rankings survived, a few other results could end up seriously shaping the playoff landscape.

Let's take a look back at the week that was while reviewing the Week 14 Associated Press poll and the Bleacher Report poll as well.    

 

 

 

Analysis

The top of the rankings was never going to see that much movement after the top teams in the nation generally avoided being upset. While Florida State had its struggles against a Boston College team it probably should have handled without incident, once again the Seminoles found a way to win, 20-17.

Still, it's hard not to have your doubts about the Seminoles. They certainly divide opinion, as Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times tweeted:

Some folks see a team that has struggled against inferior competition. They remember the dominance of last year's team and contrast it to the team this year that is winning by the closest of margins. They'll point to this stat from ESPN Stats & Info, for instance:

Other folks will see a team that always finds a way to win. They'll note that FSU can handle adversity and delivers in crunch time. They'll focus on the wins, not how close the Seminoles were to losing. Ultimately, it's a matter of perspective. 

Many of the other results on the day are going to have the top playoff contenders checking their resumes. Minnesota's win over Nebraska, for instance, certainly bolstered TCU's resume just a little bit, while Ole Miss' shocking 30-0 loss against Arkansas hurts Alabama's resume just a touch—the Crimson Tide lost to the Rebels—and probably takes a bit of the shine off of the upcoming Egg Bowl. 

"I'm certain our confidence is probably not the same as it was a month ago," Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze told reporters.

For Mississippi State, the hiccup from Ole Miss probably just made it a little bit more difficult for the Bulldogs to sneak into the playoff. Unless Alabama loses to Auburn or falls in the SEC title game, Mississippi State is going to have to rely on a strong resume when being considered against conference champions for one of the four spots in the playoff. 

Ole Miss was the last "big win" Mississippi State could hope to add to its resume. Now, that big win won't look quite as impressive for the Bulldogs. Given the madness of this college season and the number of teams still with a strong case to make for reaching the playoff, every little thing matters when determining a top four. 

Mississippi State will certainly be hoping its rival's recent struggles don't hurt the Bulldogs in the long run. 

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

NCAA Football Rankings 2014: Hits and Misses from Week 13

There weren't any upsets among the teams fighting for a playoff spot, save for Ole Miss' shutout loss to Arkansas. However, Ohio State and Florida State were two of the teams that avoided a massive letdown. 

How do the Sunday afternoon polls look as a result? There's not a ton of change at the top, which should be expected. After that, it's anyone's guess. 

As is customary every Sunday, The Associated Press and USA Today released their new Top 25 polls. Though neither of these polls is taken into consideration with the playoff selection committee, they may provide a glimpse into where teams stand. 

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's All-Week 13 Team: Top Performers at Every Position

Congratulations, Melvin Gordon. Your single-game FBS rushing record of 408 yards stood for exactly one week.

Oklahoma freshman running back Samaje Perine surpassed Gordon in Week 13 with 427 rushing yards in a 44-7 win over Kansas. Suffice to say, Perine is one of the top performers of the week. 

But Perine wasn't alone. There were a lot of great performances around college football, even if the overall slate of games was average. Which ones made the list? The answers are in the following slides. 

Again, here is your weekly reminder that the All-Week team is not based on raw statistics. The player with the biggest numbers did not necessarily make the team. Stats were a primary factor, but only after they were weighed against context (opponent, situation, location, game film, etc.).

Begin Slideshow

College Football Rankings 2014: Twitter Reacts to AP and Amway Week 14 Polls

Those hoping the college football playoff picture would be clearer after Week 13 were sorely disappointed. A week filled with few Top 25 matchups finished largely as expected, with the nation's elite keeping themselves in the title picture.   

Florida State did its weekly escape act against Boston College, while Alabama, Oregon and Mississippi State each blew out cupcakes. The College Football Playoff poll won't be released until Tuesday, but the Associated Press and Coaches outlooks are a solid enough representation of what should be an inert few days.

Here is a look at both Top 25s:

Florida State, like it is many Sundays, is most worthy of a postmortem. The Seminoles were again the recipient of good luck, as Alex Howell's 42-yard field goal missed wide right and helped set up yet another Jameis Winston last-minute drive. Winston and Dalvin Cook spearheaded a 12-play, 66-yard drive to give Roberto Aguayo a chance to hit a game-winning 26-yard field goal. 

"Honestly, I didn't feel the butterflies," Aguayo told reporters. "It was just kick whatever of my career, kick 100 and whatever. Yeah, it was to win the game but you can't think of it like that because that's when things will start going through your head, like, 'Oh, this is a game winner I have to make it.'"

Tom Fornelli of CBS Sports commented on Florida State's habit of coming back from the dead:

ESPN's Peter Burns said he'd take Arkansas, which defeated Ole Miss on Saturday, over the Seminoles:

Everyone left the weekend focused on Florida State because so few other results were worth mentioning. Oregon avoided giving Colorado its first Pac-12 win in a 44-10 romp. Marcus Mariota threw for 323 yards, added 73 on the ground and accounted for four total touchdowns. Those scores helped the Heisman favorite break the single-season Pac-12 record for total touchdowns.

"I couldn't have done it without all those guys in the locker room," Mariota told reporters. "To me, it is what it is—a number. I'm sure another guy will come around in the next couple of years and break it."

Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports highlighted Mariota's two-year run of excellence:

SB Nation's Ryan Nanni threw credit Mariota's way for validating his entire division:

Alabama and Mississippi State also earned uneventful victories against cupcake opponents. The Crimson Tide overcame a surprisingly spry first two quarters against Western Carolina en route to a 48-14 blowout of the FCS school. Lane Kiffin's offense accounted for more than 600 total yards and scored the game's final 31 points.

Someone should probably tell Jesse Spector of the Sporting News about that:

Mississippi State's 51-0 victory over Vanderbilt was never in question. Dak Prescott threw three touchdowns and the Bulldogs rushed for 283 yards in the relatively relaxing blowout.

"We cleaned up a lot from last week and made some plays," Prescott told reporters. "We won 51-0. If you don't think we controlled that game, then I don't know what you're looking for."

In-state rival Ole Miss awaits next week. As noted by Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee, though, the Bulldogs' resume might not look especially great if they pull off that victory:

Ohio State will also have some work to do on its resume after Saturday. The Buckeyes trailed lowly Indiana deep into the third quarter before going on four-touchdown run to put the game away. Ohio State's 42-27 victory will have more people questioning the Big Ten outfit, which came into Week 13 already needing help to get into the CFP.

ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit is nonetheless a believer, ranking the Buckeyes fourth in his poll:

"We're conference division champions, we've won a bunch of games (nine) in a row," Ohio State coach Urban Meyertold reporters. "We have some work to do. Sometimes in college football, things don't go exactly as scripted."

While Meyer is correct, the only game that didn't go as "scripted" this week was Arkansas' 30-0 blowout of Ole Miss. Higher-ranked teams won all but one other game, which was then-No. 25 Minnesota's win over then-No. 23 Nebraska—not exactly a shocking upset. The result created a poll that looks largely like the one that came before, leaving a smaller margin for error than ever.

The biggest deviation from the playoff committee and the standard pollsters remains Marshall, which continues bathing in the undefeated waters in anonymity. The Thundering Herd had their first close call of the season in their 23-18 win over UAB, which will do little to help bring the committee around on their resume. 

ESPN's Joe Schad created a neat #advancedstat for Marshall's season:

Undefeated record aside, it's unlikely that Marshall gets any recognition from the committee this season. The Herd's strength of schedule isn't good enough to stack up against power-five teams, and it'll be interesting to see how they're treated when it comes to bowl selections.

For now, though, Marshall's best argument is how flawed the other teams at the top look.

 

Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Texas A&M vs. LSU: Complete Game Preview

The Texas A&M football team will take on the LSU Tigers on Thanksgiving Day at Kyle Field. The game will help decide the pecking order for bowl games in the SEC West.

The Aggies enter the game with a 7-4 record overall and 3-4 in the SEC. The Tigers are also 7-4 with a 3-4 conference record.

Texas A&M has not beaten LSU during the Aggies two seasons in the SEC. The Tigers have a three-game winning streak over A&M.

The Aggies and the Tigers both feature very young teams. The winner of this game will have some momentum as they head into the bowl season and prepare to compete for the SEC title in 2015.

This is a look at how the Aggies and Tigers match up with each other.  

Begin Slideshow

Amway College Football Poll 2014: Complete Week 14 Rankings Released

There weren’t nearly as many upsets Saturday as there were in weeks previous, but there was still plenty of college football action, and the Week 14 Amway Coaches Poll reflects the madness.   

With top programs like Alabama, Oregon and Mississippi State dominating their foes and other teams like Florida State involved in closer battles, the perceptions of the highest-ranked schools has shifted once again.

Here is the full Week 14 Amway Coaches’ Poll and a full breakdown of the previous week of action.

 

 

Breaking Down Week 13

After Alabama beat Mississippi State in Week 12, the top four teams in the nation were shifted once again and the result was a schedule full of interesting matchups for all of the Top 25 teams.

The Crimson Tide, Ducks and Bulldogs proved they all deserve College Football Playoff spots by dominating each of their opponents Saturday. Each of the aforementioned teams beat its challenger by at least 30 points. The only team in the top four that didn’t dominate its opponent was Florida State.

Boston College was 6-4 coming into Saturday’s game against the Seminoles, but the Eagles looked much better than usual. FSU took an early lead, but it was mediocre in the second half and only stole the win on a late field goal, 20-17. The Seminoles are undefeated; however, another close call shows why the program doesn’t deserve to be ranked No. 1 overall.

While FSU came close to losing Sunday, one program that utterly disappointed was the Ole Miss Rebels. In one of the most lopsided losses of the week, Ole Miss was destroyed by Arkansas, 30-0. The defeat is bad news for Rebels fans, but Mississippi State is salivating at the matchup against the in-state rivals in the final regular-season matchup.   

Here is where Bleacher Report put Ole Miss in the Week 14 Top 25 Poll:

Other teams that lost Saturday in disappointing fashion were Utah against Arizona and Notre Dame against Louisville. It wasn’t all bad for teams once considered elite, though, as programs like Ohio State, Baylor, Georgia, Michigan State, Arizona State and Auburn all managed important victories in the penultimate week of the regular season.

The two best games of the week were UCLA vs. USC and Nebraska vs. Minnesota. The Bruins earned a huge amount of respect for the decisive win over the Trojans, and the Golden Gophers shocked the Cornhuskers, ensuring Minnesota a spot in the Top 25 for another week.

The nonstop action of the 2014 college football regular season has set the stage for an incredible postseason. If the College Football Playoff is half as interesting as the majority of this year has been, this will be the perfect inaugural season.

 

*Stats via ESPN.com.

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Georgia QB Hutson Mason Is Getting Hot at the Right Time

A month ago, Georgia quarterback Hutson Mason was viewed more as a liability than a weapon. Over the last month, though, the redshirt senior signal-caller for the Bulldogs has caught fire during an important time in his one and only season as Georgia's starting quarterback.

My, how things have changed.

Mason has completed 68.4 percent of his passes this season (160-of-234) for 1,825 yards, 19 touchdowns and only three interceptions—with his last pick coming on Oct. 4 in a win over Vanderbilt.

He has thrown nine touchdowns in the month of November and has averaged more than 10 yards per attempt in three of the last five games.

He's not a game manager anymore. He's a difference-maker.

He showed it early and often against Charleston Southern on Saturday, throwing for 187 yards and three touchdowns on only 12 attempts.

"I'm not trying to go for big stats or anything," Mason said in quotes released by Georgia. "As long as we get it done then it feels good. I just try my best to operate and get it done with the play that's called."

As Radi Nabulsi of UGASports.com points out, Mason's season is comparable to that of Heisman Trophy front-runner Marcus Mariota of Oregon in some aspects:

Is Mason going to join the Heisman discussion? Of course not.

But he is getting hot at the right time for a Georgia team with at least a small glimmer of hope in the race for the inaugural College Football Playoff.

That's important, because while Georgia had always planned on being a run-first team—whether that was with Todd Gurley, Nick Chubb or somebody else—Mason needed to establish a threat downfield in order for the Bulldogs to truly ascend to contender status.

Now he has.

Earlier in the year, Mason seemed reluctant to throw deep. When he did, the passes didn't have the zip on them that they had Saturday.

Take the first touchdown of the game, for example. Not only were the Charleston Southern linebackers and safeties sucked in by the play action, but Mason delivered the ball deep downfield with authority and hit Chris Conley in stride for the score:

He's going to need to do more of that down the stretch because style points can be had against a Georgia Tech pass defense that is giving up 223.3 yards per game and 7.2 yards per attempt through the air.

The same can be said if the Bulldogs get to the SEC Championship Game against a Mississippi State crew that ranks last in the SEC in pass defense (281.4 YPG). If it's Alabama instead, well, the game probably will fall on Mason's shoulders.

Mason's success, combined with the presence of veteran receivers Conley and Michael Bennett, the return of Justin Scott-Wesley and Malcolm Mitchell and the emergence of Jonathon Rumph, has transformed Georgia's offense into a force to be reckoned with.

If Missouri falls to Arkansas on Black Friday, which would allow Georgia to waltz into the Georgia Dome, don't be surprised if the Bulldogs make some noise.

Mason is a difference-maker now, and that could cause more college football chaos if he gets hot in the Georgia Dome.

 

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and video analyst for Bleacher Report as well as a co-host of the CFB Hangover on Bleacher Report Radio (Sundays, 9-11 a.m. ET) on Sirius 93, XM 208.

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of CFBStats.com, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Playoff 2014: Latest NCAA Predictions After Week 13 Standings

The warpath to the inaugural College Football Playoff came to a screeching halt in Week 13.

Weeks of upsets, intrigue and tough tasks placed on the shoulders of pollsters everywhere evaporated as the top four teams in the nation took care of business in the face of various levels of competition to stay the course in the CFP race.

There are still plenty of one-loss teams in the hunt sure to move up in the coming weeks should any of the top names suffer a setback. But for now things seem to be in a holding pattern.

It might just be the calm before the storm.

 

College Football Playoff Predictions

1. Alabama

Nick Saban's Alabama Crimson Ride had it the easiest in Week 13.

Call it a well-earned rest, too.

One week removed from upending Mississippi State, then the No. 1 team in the land, Saban's squad got a rest with a matchup against Western Carolina. There, Blake Sims threw for a pair of scores, Derrick Henry rushed for two and Chris Black went for more than 100 yards receiving.

To be fair, though, the Crimson Tide were a bit sloppy in the early goings of the eventual 48-14 win, as ESPN Stats & Info points out:

It is hard to fault the Crimson Tide too much, though. The team was coming off a major upset and surely already has its eyes set on the Iron Bowl against Auburn to close the season.

Given what happened in the same scenario a season ago, the team can be forgiven for overlooking the Catamounts in the early goings of Saturday's contest.

 

2. Oregon

One week removed from a bye, the Oregon Ducks took care of business in emphatic fashion to play their part in this week's holding pattern in regard to the CFP.

Marcus Mariota and Co. welcomed Colorado to town Saturday and scored a 44-10 victory on the back of the Heisman contender's 323 passing yards and three scores.

As SportsCenter points out, it was a record-breaking day for Mariota:

"I couldn't have done it without all those guys in the locker room," Mariota said, per The Associated Press, via ESPN.com. "To me, it is what it is—a number. I'm sure another guy will come around in the next couple of years and break it."

So long as Mariota stays healthy, the Ducks can play with any team in the nation. There has been no November slump this time around. The Ducks got past Stanford and then took down Utah, a team that is more Stanford than Stanford this year, anyway. This is also the same team that easily moved past Michigan State back in early September.

The CFP spot for the Ducks has never really been questioned.

 

3. Florida State

For one reason or another, the Florida State Seminoles love to live on the edge. 

Just take a moment to digest an eye-popping number provided by ESPN Stats & Info:

This time the opponent was Boston College. Jameis Winston threw for just 281 yards with a touchdown and an interception while the backfield behind him managed just 3.8 yards per carry.

As a result, the Seminoles needed a field goal from Roberto Aguayo with three seconds left in regulation to pull out the 20-17 win.

To be blunt, the Seminoles are an ugly team this year. The defense continues to give up in the neighborhood of 22 points per game, and the offense sputters based on the level of competition it encounters.

NC State, Notre Dame, Louisville, Miami and Boston College have all given the Seminoles problems this year. It stands to reason, then, that the Seminoles may struggle against others that qualify for the CFP.

Given the way the team continues to pull out wins, though, they should not be discredited. As far as CFP resumes go to get that foot in the inaugural door, the Seminoles are pristine.

 

4. Mississippi State

A matchup with one of the bottom-feeders in the SEC was a good way for Dak Prescott and the Bulldogs to get back on track after that aforementioned upset at the hands of Alabama.

On the way to the effortless 51-0 victory over Vanderbilt, Prescott was back in Heisman form, throwing for 193 yards and three scores with another 30 yards and a score on the ground.

All the Bulldogs had to do after the loss to Alabama to make the CFP was win the rest of their games. A win over Vanderbilt was a given, which leaves the Egg Bowl against Ole Miss to close the season. 

While that will prove no easy task, the Rebels did just suffer a shutout loss at the hands of Arkansas. Then again, everything goes out the window when it comes to the in-state rivalry, so the Bulldogs' season will very much be on the line next Saturday. 

A seemingly countless number of one-loss teams will be watching. 

 

Stats and information via ESPN.com unless otherwise specified.

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Bowl Projections 2014: Latest Playoff Predictions Before Critical Week 14

It’s finally here.

Week 14 could otherwise be known as rivalry week in the race to the College Football Playoff, as some of the country’s most famous and heated showdowns will go a long way toward determining the four postseason spots up for grabs. 

With that in mind, here is a look at the latest playoff projections heading into a crucial Week 14.

 

Playoff Projections

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

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

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

 

Week 14 Look Ahead for Playoff Contenders

Don’t have too much tryptophan on Thanksgiving, because TCU faces off with in-state rival Texas on Thursday evening.

The Horned Frogs will certainly be favored as a serious playoff contender, but the Longhorns have recently turned the corner and won three games in a row in dominating fashion. Quarterback Tyrone Swoopes is fresh off a 305-yard throwing performance against Oklahoma State and could give a TCU defense that struggled to contain Kansas’ attack some trouble.

On Saturday, Michigan will travel to Ohio State for the 2014 edition of The Game.

Get ready to hear the cliche “throw the records out when these two teams play” all week, especially since Michigan only lost to the favored Buckeyes by a single point last year. Still, the Buckeyes have won nine of 10 games in this rivalry and have much more at stake than the Wolverines at this point of the season.

That doesn’t seem to faze Michigan center Jack Miller, via Angelique S. Chengelis of The Detroit News:

We're not playing for a whole lot like they are. They're trying to get a bid into the playoff. Games like this is what this rivalry is built on when one team is going to be a big underdog going in, and all three kids in here (the postgame interview) are Ohio kids, and I can tell you it would be pretty sweet to go in their backyard and get a win.

Another nationally relevant rivalry clash is the one between Auburn and Alabama.

This year, it is the Crimson Tide going for the national championship, while Auburn will have to play spoiler. The Tigers won on one of the most incredible plays in the history of college football last season when they returned a missed field goal the distance of the field in the final seconds, but the Crimson Tide will certainly be out for revenge at home.

Elsewhere, Oregon has to travel to Oregon State and needs to beware of a Beavers squad that knocked off Arizona State in Corvallis, and Florida State takes on a Florida team that features a stingy defense. In fact, the Gators give up fewer than 21 points a game and will try to prevent Jameis Winston from orchestrating yet another second-half comeback.

One game that Ohio State, Baylor and TCU will pay close attention to is Mississippi State’s trip to Ole Miss. 

Assuming Alabama, Oregon and Florida State have a stranglehold on the top three spots if they all win out, it is between the Buckeyes, Bears, Horned Frogs and Bulldogs for the final seed. Even if Mississippi State beats its rival, Ole Miss’ loss on Saturday to Arkansas could be a problem for the Bulldogs, via Bleacher Report’s Barrett Sallee:

Finally, the Bears have to travel to Texas Tech, but the Red Raiders are an abysmal 4-7 this year. It is difficult to envision Texas Tech slowing down Baylor’s high-octane offense. 

Expect plenty of debate and posturing for those four spots if all the playoff contenders win, but beating a rival is often easier said than done. Buckle up for the best week on the college football schedule.

 

Follow me on Twitter:

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Is Florida State Really 1 of the 4 Best Teams in College Football?

You're not going to believe this, but Florida State barely won a game on Saturday. 

Surviving and advancing is something Florida State has done all season. Clemson, Louisville, North Carolina State and Miami have all jumped out to leads against the Seminoles, sometimes by double digits, but failed to hold on against a team that hasn't lost in two years.  

On Saturday, the Seminoles extended their winning streak to 27 games in the rain against Boston College, 20-17, thanks to a game-winning Roberto Aguayo field goal. It was a game of mistakes, questionable officiating and awkward, literal run-ins with said officials. 

It was also a game in which the zombie Seminoles rose from the dead—again. After 55 minutes of neck-and-neck football, Florida State did what it absolutely had to do: be better than the Eagles for 12 plays, 66 yards and 4:34. 

It wasn't a dominating performance, but it rarely has been this season. Besides, a win is a win, right? 

Or is it? Is Florida State truly one of the four best teams in the country? The College Football Playoff selection committee has already knocked the only undefeated power-five team down to the No. 3 spot in the rankings as of last week and appears ready to drop the Seminoles like a stone at the first loss. 

To the committee's credit, not all wins or resumes are created equally. It is possible for a one-loss team to be better than an undefeated team. Whether Alabama and Oregon are better than Florida State is a conversation for another day, though. What matters is whether Florida State is playoff-caliber. 

The answer is unequivocally yes. 

There are no great teams in college football this year. That's part of what has made this regular season so fun, not necessarily the playoff format itself. The idea that any team could lose on any given week makes for compelling television, even with yawn-worthy slates like Week 13

It also makes Florida State's case for the playoff stronger. As of last Tuesday evening, Alabama was considered the best team in the country, but 'Bama couldn't finish against Ole Miss. Oregon was considered the second-best team, but the Ducks couldn't finish against Arizona.

Those losses aren't the end of the world. The difficulty of navigating through conference play, where teams know each other well, is undervalued. Come this Tuesday, Ole Miss and Arizona should still be Top 25 teams. Furthermore, the identity of a team in October isn't always the same as it is in November. Teams grow and develop together.

You can say the same thing about Florida State and its ability to close out games. As head coach Jimbo Fisher pointed out to Heather Dinich of ESPN.com, his team has finished where others have not:  

Let me ask you this: How about the way everybody else hasn't finished?. Our team has never not finished. The game is 60 minutes. This team hasn't lost in over two years. Everybody says 'game control.' That's something made up. As a coach, you talk about one thing: Finish. Get it done. This team wins in every way, shape and form you can win. Everybody else has failed at least once, no matter what you look at, and some of those teams have lost when they were over 20-point favorites.

Granted, it's been frustrating to watch, especially considering that a year ago the Seminoles were blasting the doors off opponents on a regular basis. If the committee isn't taking last year into consideration, though—and rightfully so—then holding the Seminoles to the same standard isn't right, either.  

There's also this: Florida State is unpopular. For fans to cheer for Notre Dame, Louisville head coach Bobby Petrino and Miami to beat the Seminoles in the same year should tell you everything you need to know about this team's popularity. 

But lost in the outrage about quarterback Jameis Winston's character, the culture of Florida State athletics, Tallahassee and its shady police department is the fact that Florida State, the football team, can straight-up play ball—when it has its act together. 

Secondary is the credit Winston actually deserves for being perhaps the best field general in college football. Not talked about enough is the fact that defensive back Jalen Ramsey is everywhere, including your nightmares. And while he might not be the most physically gifted player on the field, receiver Rashad Greene is good for eight catches and 106 yards with one good arm, breaking school records along the way

Not enough is made about Fisher and his second-half adjustments. Every week, Florida State gets every opponent's best shot. While the 'Noles may not have played any great teams, they're not playing a schedule of only scrubs, either. 

It may not be what everyone wants, but it's what they're getting. 

Is this model sustainable? It feels like Florida State's close calls are bound to catch up to it eventually. It's not far-fetched to think all of this comes back to bite this team in either the ACC championship game against Georgia Tech or the playoff.  

But the committee can't make decisions based on what might happen or what hasn't happened. Winning one's conference hasn't been taken into consideration yet because, well, it hasn't happened yet. If Florida State wins out and wins the ACC, it's in the playoff.

If it's not, what was the point of the regular season? All of the games count, even the close ones. 

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football.   

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

NCAA Football Rankings 2014: Week 14 Standings for College's Top 25 Teams

Week 13 produced the first Saturday in which a Top Four team didn't lose since the College Football Playoff rankings were released for the first time on October 28. That statement alone is a testament to how wild of a season we've had to this point.

Still, while those top teams all produced wins, there were plenty of unexpected results across the nation.

Once again, many Top 25 squads either lost or were severely tested, and we should expect the Week 14 polls to adjust accordingly. After all, many of these games were supposed to be highly contested, but some produced downright ridiculous results. Here's a perfect example, via ESPN Stats & Info:

Yes, that actually happened. So, what else transpired in the penultimate week of the 2014 college football regular season? Here's a look at the Top 25 results from Week 13, followed by a breakdown of the week's action.

Updated college football standings can be viewed at ESPN.com.

 

Breakdown

Alabama did exactly what it was supposed to do Saturday. The Crimson Tide easily disposed of Western Carolina, winning 48-14 despite using plenty of reserve players in the process. A pivotal clash against Auburn in Week 14 will determine the fate of the nation's top-ranked squad.

Oregon performed in similar fashion, defeating Colorado 44-10 on the heels of another Heisman-like performance from Marcus Mariota, who completed 24 of his 32 passing attempts for 323 yards and three touchdowns, adding 73 rushing yards and another score.

It was a bit of a different story for Florida State. The Seminoles continued their trend of close calls, defeating Boston College 20-17 on a last-second field goal. Here's a look at Florida State's recent shaky track record, via ESPN Stats & Info:

These unspectacular wins may be enough to get this team into the College Football Playoff, but it won't hold up against better opposition.

It should be safe to say Mississippi State wasn't too happy about losing their No. 1 ranking to Alabama. The Bulldogs came back with a vengeance Saturday, hammering Vanderbilt to the tune of 51-0. That kind of performance will ensure this team gets a berth in the playoff.

With TCU on a bye week, Ohio State had a great chance to gain some ground and get closer to the Top Four. While the Buckeyes did win by a decent margin, they had to come from behind in the third quarter against a very inferior team. That may not sit well with the selection committee.

The same can be said for Baylor. The Bears also had a great shot to make up some ground, but they gave up 28 points to a struggling Oklahoma State team, winning in less-than-convincing fashion. Gaining ground after that performance is highly unlikely.

Then we get to the curious case of Bo Wallace and Ole Miss. Wallace was terrible Saturday, throwing two picks in a shutout loss to Arkansas. Some folks weren't too pleased with the quarterback's performance, and they took to Twitter to express their frustration, via Saturday Down South:

This Rebels team is not as good as we previously thought, and they are now officially out of the playoff picture.

One team that made a nice move was UCLA. The Bruins put on a show against USC, winning 38-20 and moving to 9-2 on the season. While UCLA may not be a playoff contender, it will be considered for some very prestigious bowl games. The same cannot be said for the Trojans after losing their fourth game of the season.

Nick Chubb received only nine carries Saturday against Charleston Southern, but the talented running back sure made them count. He rushed for 113 yards and two touchdowns before handing the reins to Brendan Douglas.

Here's a look at Chubb's big run of the day, courtesy of ESPN:

Georgia sure does know how to produce running backs.

Michigan State continued its winning ways, stifling Rutgers for a 45-3 victory. Arizona State put up 52 points on Washington State, but not before the Sun Devils trailed 24-21 at halftime. Auburn bounced back with a much-needed 31-7 victory over Samford.

One of the big surprises of the afternoon came from Arizona. The Wildcats torched a stout Utah defense, racking up 298 rushing yards and four touchdowns in a 42-10 romp. Arizona had been highly inconsistent this season, but it is sure capable of lighting up the scoreboard when firing on all cylinders.

Wisconsin barely escaped Iowa, winning 26-24 thanks to a solid day from running back Melvin Gordon. Still, the game ball of the day went to Oklahoma running back Samaje Perine, who rushed for 427 yards and five touchdowns, breaking Gordon's week-old NCAA record in the Sooners' victory over Kansas, via SportsCenter:

Rounding out the Top 25, Clemson took care of Georgia Southern 28-0, Nebraska fell to Minnesota 28-24 in a highly contested matchup and Louisville defeated Notre Dame following a missed field goal by the Irish in the waning seconds of the game.

What a day. We will most certainly be seeing a new pecking order when the Week 14 polls are released.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Pages