NCAA Football

Iron Bowl 2015: Alabama vs. Auburn Complete Game Preview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Date: Saturday, November 28

Time: 2:30 p.m. CT

Place: Jordan-Hare Stadium


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

Spread: Alabama minus-13, according to

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It certainly is.


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

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Gary Patterson Advocates for 6- or 8-Team College Football Playoff Format

Many saw the inception of a four-team playoff as merely a prelude for a more inclusive college football championship tournament, and TCU head coach Gary Patterson made the argument the College Football Playoff should grow to six or eight teams.

"I just don't think you can have five power conferences—I think you need to take the winner of all five and then you have an at-large or you have three more," Patterson said Tuesday, per Travis L. Brown of the Star-Telegram.   

Patterson has reason to take umbrage with the current format. His team narrowly missed out on the playoff last year, finishing sixth in the selection committee's final rankings. The Horned Frogs' two losses this year have also eliminated them from Top Four consideration.   

On one hand, you can see Patterson's argument, since including all the Power Five conference winners would eliminate the need for a lot of debate regarding the playoff.

Then again, it's not hard to envision a future in which a conference champion has two or three losses and clearly isn't one of the six or eight best teams in the country.

The Bowl Championship Series was an improvement on the old system but still had plenty of flaws. The CFP improved upon the BCS but came with its own problems. No perfect system will ever exist to crown a college football national champion.

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College Football Week 13 Predictions: Picking Top 25 Games Against the Spread

Welcome to rivalry weekend, where the stakes are higher and the point spreads get even tighter.

Last week, I went 11-4 with my Top 25 against-the-spread picks, bringing my two-week total to 23-13 since taking the reins of this weekly column. Keeping up that momentum this weekend, though, will be a challenge.

Week 13 features quite a few road favorites looking to avoid letdowns against their hated rivals. Other games are essentially pick 'ems, with spreads down to the one- to two-point range. Then there are the typical big margins for red-hot teams facing in-state rivals that have had a tough time in the 2015 season, which always make for some interesting calls.

So, without further ado, here are my ATS picks for each game featuring a team in the Top 25 of the latest Associated Press poll. These decisions were made based on some statistical matchups—both basic and advanced—and the betting and straight-up trends for both teams.

And remember, my only rival this week is the line—not your favorite team. 

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Top Recruits Join WWE Star to Lend Helping Hand to Homeless for Thanksgiving

With the Thanksgiving holiday approaching, touted recruits such as 5-star corner Saivion Smith and 4-star receiver Nate Craig-Myers have plenty to be thankful for.

Smith, a current LSU commit, and Craig-Myers are two of the top recruits in the 2016 cycle—each with more than 20 offers to their credit.

Yet last Saturday, just days ahead of Thanksgiving, the pair of prep stars from the Tampa area were part of a group of young student athletes who took part in a drive to feed the community’s homeless.

The event was held at the local Salvation Army and organized by Hopeful Inc. in conjunction with Unsigned Preps—a local nonprofit organization specializing in providing high school football players guidance and assistance along the path toward a college scholarship.

Led by UP founders Ricky Sailor and Romey Battle, the group helped feed more than 250 of the community’s less fortunate residents a meal filled with holiday staples such as turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes and pie.

“It means a lot,” Smith told Bleacher Report about his participation in the event. “Just being able to give back to people who need it the most. It’s just one of those things that makes you feel good and it’s something I’m glad to be a part of.”

Craig-Myers echoed those sentiments. The 6’2”, 205-pounder told the Recruitniks podcast recently about his desire to make a difference through community service, and this event was just the latest opportunity for him to lend a helping hand.

“It’s a blessing and I just feel that if I have an opportunity to help the less fortunate. I’m going to do whatever it takes to see a smile on their faces,” Craig-Myers said.

For Battle—who serves as the Director of Student Development for Unsigned Preps—the project holds a special place in his heart.

“[It] is very important to me because my father was homeless for most of my adult life,” he said. “Seeing these young men give back at such a young age is moving.”

One of the mentors involved with Unsigned Preps, Thaddeus Bullard—who is also known as WWE superstar wrestler Titus O’Neil—is a former pro football player who has spoken to the kids in the program about using the platform that sports provides to help the community. 

“With Unsigned Preps, we talk to them all the time about being great people and men of character,” Bullard said. “A lot of them come from disadvantaged backgrounds. So for them to be able to go out and perform that kind of service to those in need, it’s great to see. The message is getting received loud and clear that character is more important than just athletic ability alone.”

Having once been in the shoes of touted recruits such as Smith and Craig-Myers, Bullard recognizes the example they are helping to set for their peers and kids who are watching their every move.

“It’s awesome because these kids are getting ready to go off to college and make big names for themselves,” Bullard said. “Some of them are going to have an opportunity to play professional football, but they will always call Tampa home. Therefore, they are already setting a standard as being role models to those that they play with now and their brothers, cousins and those that come after them.”

One of the highlights Bullard recalls was hearing a testimonial from one resident who has battled with drug and alcohol addiction. Despite the path his life has taken, he spoke on how he felt blessed to still be alive and share his story with others in hopes they find an alternate route.

“That helped bring everything in perspective for that day,” Bullard said. “With the Thanksgiving holidays coming up, some people don’t have anything, but they are thankful just to be alive. That’s the message that even hit me.”

Smith recounts seeing a lady in the food line with her two children, which is something he said makes an impact that goes beyond his abilities to make plays on the gridiron.

While the world of recruiting, especially at this time of year, tends to generate headlines that range from negative to ridiculous, Smith credits the figures behind groups such as Unsigned Preps for creating opportunities such as last weekend’s event to show how young athletes can help make a difference.

“It’s not just the kids in the program. It’s really people like Ricky Sailor and Antez Brinson, the guys who go out and get these events organized,” Smith explained. “I think it’s really cool and I was glad to be a part of it.”

The next order of business for the group will be organizing a Christmas event centered around giving toys away for the community’s less fortunate children. As Craig-Myers noted, it’s another opportunity to give back to the community that has supported him in each step of his journey.

“Community service is important to me because I just want to show the people that I’m not just a ball player. I’m also a helping hand,” Craig-Myers explained. “Just having the [community] know about you and seeing the look on their faces when we impact their lives, that’s what it’s all about.”


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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Penn State Nittany Lions vs. Michigan State Spartans Betting Odds, Football Pick

Michigan State is only 2-4 against the spread at home this season, and lucky to be that. Meanwhile, Penn State is 0-4 ATS on the road this year. Coming off their big upset of Ohio State the Spartans look to clinch a spot in the Big Ten Championship Game when they entertain the Nittany Lions Saturday in East Lansing.


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: 30.4-25.8 Nittany Lions


Why the Penn State Nittany Lions can cover the spread

The Lions started this season 7-2—the only losses coming to two pretty good teams in Temple and Ohio State—but have lost their last two games, most recently a 28-16 decision last week to another good team, Michigan. Penn State led the Wolverines late into the second quarter 10-7, fell down 21-10, rallied to within 21-16 midway through the fourth but couldn't quite complete the comeback.

The Nittany Lions had their chances, with three incursions deep into Michigan territory, but had to settle for three very short field goals.

Penn State has struggled on offense this season, no doubt about it, but ranks 14th in the country in total defense and 18th in scoring defense, allowing less than 19 points per game. If they can ugly this game up, the Lions could make things very interesting for Sparty.


Why the Michigan State Spartans can cover the spread

Michigan State, playing without its starting quarterback, pulled off a shocker last week, beating defending national champion Ohio State in Columbus 17-14 on a field goal at the buzzer. The Spartans actually dominated the line of scrimmage all day, but trailed 14-7 heading into the fourth quarter. They then tied the game on a short Gerald Holmes touchdown run with 12 minutes to go and later won it on Michael Geiger's 41-yard kick that hooked through the uprights as the clock ran out.

On the day Michigan State ran the ball 51 times for 203 yards and held the Buckeyes to a measly 132 total yards, winning time of possession by more than 16 minutes and taking that game outright as a two-touchdown underdog.

The victory puts the Spartans in the driver's seat in the Big Ten East; win this game, and it's off to the conference championship game for the third time in five seasons, and perhaps beyond.


Smart pick

Michigan State just knocked off King Buckeye on his home court, but it can be very difficult to get up emotionally two weeks in a row, even for good teams. Also, Penn State has several of the ingredients needed to pull off upsets on the road, such as a veteran quarterback and a good defense. And the Spartans might have to go with their backup quarterback again. Michigan State may very well win this game, but the smart money here lies with the Lions, plus the points.


Betting trends

Michigan State is 3-7 ATS in its last 10 games after a win.

Penn State is 1-8 ATS in its last nine games on the road.

Penn State is 7-3 SU in its last 10 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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Bleacher Report's Ultimate Guide to College Football Rivalry Weekend

If there was nothing else at stake—just good ol’ fashion hate, holiday bragging rights and maybe a sixer of a local IPA—this weekend, the last stand for many, would spawn plenty of emotion all by its lonesome.

See, before the College Football Playoff consumed every bit of our attention and turned us all into chaos zombies, there were rivalries. These matchups between two teams, usually tied together geographically—although not always—are the epicenter of our interests. They are essentially why we’re all here.

The first thing one does when he picks a college football team, before butchering the words of the fight song the first few times through, is learn who to hate. It’s on Page 1 of the manual.

Masked deep within this hate, of course, exists a great deal of respect. It’s not a respect you talk about or celebrate, but it’s there. This relationship between two programs is complicated.

Oh, Rivalry Week is indeed special. It doesn’t demand anything more than itself. The hate (and silent respect) is enough to carry us through. It just so happens, however, that this particular Rivalry Week also has so much more.

The suspense that has been building over the course of a wild and unpredictable season ends here, at least for some. And if Rivalry Week wasn’t enough, perhaps playoff and Heisman implications will draw you in.

Here is a look at (gasp!) the final week of college football’s regular season, where rivalry hate isn’t just tolerated; it’s required to gain access to the door.


The Thanksgiving Buffet: Previewing the Top Five Games of Week 13 

5. UCLA at USC (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC or ESPN2)

The victor will play the following weekend; I suppose we should start there. Although the dream seasons for both SoCal teams did not matriculate, winning the Pac-12 South isn’t a bad consolation. And the fact that a rivalry game will also decide the division is also a juicy bit of local drama.

Josh Rosen, presently, loves not throwing interceptions. The true freshman has not thrown the ball to the other team since October 15. While his numbers in Saturday’s victory over Utah weren’t Vernon Adams Jr.-esque, the 17-9 victory against a ranked team worked just fine.

USC allowed just a few more points last week. Well, more than a few. In fact, on the topic of Adams, he totaled six touchdowns against a defense that has been torn apart by injuries. The Trojans lost, 48-28, which is a suboptimal way to transition into a truly meaningful game.

Still, the offense is not without weapons. Despite the lopsided defeat, USC still managed to total 186 yards on the ground. It will no doubt score. But can it stop the other team from scoring more?

We’re about to find out. Regardless, even though other games have greater playoff implications, you’ll want to catch this one.


4. Alabama at Auburn (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS)

Having spent last weekend in Alabama, I can confirm that the Iron Bowl is still rather important these days. That part will never change. Despite the vastly different seasons unfolding, this one is always circled in red pen.

Yes, Alabama is good. Very good, in fact. Nick Saban, a week removed from a splendid rant that involved excrement and a tin horn, has his group looking like a fine misery machine heading into the last regular-season stop.

Derrick Henry didn’t have to do much  last week with Charleston Southern on tap, although he still totaled 68 yards and scored twice. That will likely change this week, and the end result, when it’s all said and done, could be a bronze statue.

After looking like it had stabilized matters, Auburn’s loss to Georgia put the climb on hold. The Tigers had no issues with Idaho in Week 12, posting 56 points behind quarterback Jeremy Johnson.

While Jovon Robinson vs. the Alabama front seven won’t garner the same hype that Leonard Fournette received against the defense, it will be one to keep an eye on. Robinson, a physical freak of nature, has emerged in the second half.

Ultimately, it will take a gargantuan effort for Auburn to spring the upset. But given the way this season has gone, nothing should be assumed.


3. Ohio State at Michigan (Saturday, 12:00 p.m. ET, ABC) 

The first round of Urban Meyer vs. Jim Harbaugh suddenly has a little less vigor than it did late last week. That’s not to say this game isn’t A) hugely important or B) loaded with entertainment.

But the stakes have changed. Well, maybe.

In losing to Michigan State, Ohio State didn’t just hurt its own Big Ten Championship hopes. Michigan needed the Buckeyes to win that game, too. Now both need Michigan State to fall to Penn State, which is certainly feasible. That game (more on it in a bit) will take place later in the day.

For Ohio State to rally, the offense needs to find a rhythm. That’s stating the obvious after the Buckeyes finished with just five first downs and 132 total yards in Saturday’s 17-14 loss on Saturday. The running game was absent. The passing game, given limited opportunities, could never get churning in difficult weather.

Making matters even more taxing this week is the nation’s No. 6 scoring defense. Michigan has been superb on that side of the ball, a trend which continued on Saturday. The Wolverines limited Penn State to just 207 yards in their win. On offense, quarterback Jake Rudock continued his excellent play. He’s been on a roll these last three games.

Do yourself a favor and curl up in front of this game with a warm fire. The hate will be real, regardless of what happens next. This could be the start of something special—something that could carry on well beyond December.


2. Notre Dame at Stanford (Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, FOX)

It’s hard to know precisely what it on the line here, but it’s safe to say it's a lot. The loser will be removed from College Football Playoff consideration; the winner, especially if that winner is Notre Dame, will add a gold star to its resume.

A few weeks ago, we buried Stanford’s playoff hopes. But then losses happened. Then there were more losses. Now, having taken care of Cal behind the continued Superman (and potential Heisman) efforts of running back Christian McCaffrey—who totaled a school-record 389 all-purpose yards last Saturday— the Cardinal is in a position to storm back with a win against Notre Dame and a Pac-12 Championship.

Stanford’s playoff hopes are still somewhat unlikely, but they are not dead by any means.

The Irish, of course, have become playoff fixtures in the past few weeks. It never truly felt like such hopes would be dashed against Boston College in Fenway Park, although the final 19-16 win didn’t exactly instill confidence during a critical time.

Five Notre Dame turnovers were the story on Saturday. For the Irish to move forward, quarterback DeShone Kizer has to protect the ball.

The health of Notre Dame is also a concern. Cornerback KeiVarae Russell is out, which is an enormous loss. Running back C.J. Prosise is also banged up and unlikely to play. What a year it’s been for injuries in South Bend.

But even with these mounting woes, there is optimism. Notre Dame is supremely talented and on the cusp. Stanford is dangerous and still alive. Let’s do this.


1. Oklahoma at Oklahoma State (Saturday, 8:00 p.m. ET, ABC)

The name "Bedlam" seems appropriate this year—perhaps more so than any other in recent memory. By the time Oklahoma and Oklahoma State finish late Saturday night, we might have our first College Football Playoff participant. Or perhaps the Big 12 will have played itself into a mystery position yet again.

Seriously, this is Bedlam in all of its beautiful madness. 

It doesn’t have quite the same punch as it did a week ago, when Oklahoma State was heading into its final two games, both at home, undefeated. The Pokes could not withstand Baylor’s offensive surge, despite the fact that they knocked starting quarterback Jarrett Stidham out of the game, prompting the Bears to turn to their third-string QB. It did not matter.

Despite a strong effort from Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph—who threw for 430 yards and three touchdowns—the ground game, which totaled just eight yards, did not help matters. The defense, which allowed 700 yards, did not help either. 

Oklahoma, meanwhile, barely escaped a TCU squad that is now a shell of its former self because of injuries. The moment Baker Mayfield left the game with an injury, the offense seemed to hit a road block. In many ways, the Sooners were lucky to escape with a 30-29 win. Samaje Perine’s 188 yards didn’t hurt.

The good news for Oklahoma is that Mayfield is likely to play. If that is the case, then the outlook on this game will change. But even if he plays, don’t assume that Oklahoma State won’t up in a tremendous fight. Despite last week’s result, this is still a deeply talented team capable of throwing the conference into a playoff predicament.


Leftovers of Intrigue: Games With Enormous Ramifications

Oh, it doesn’t end with the main course. Part of the joy of this week is eating turkey for every single meal through the weekend. The same theory applies with the football. Let us celebrate the leftovers.

Iowa at Nebraska (Friday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC): What exactly is on the line here? Well, everything. If Iowa wins, it will voyage to Indianapolis for the Big Ten Championship with a spot in the College Football Playoff on the line. This is a real sentence that many are struggling to come to terms with but might as well start now. Standing in the Hawkeyes way, however, is a team that already derailed one undefeated season. Oh, and Nebraska is coming off a bye and playing for bowl eligibility. This is a delectable Friday matchup.

Penn State at Michigan State (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC): The word for this game is “close,” which is appropriate on a variety of fronts. Most significantly, it’s the word Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio used to describe the status of starting quarterback Connor Cook and when he might return. If the Spartans beat Penn State at home, they’re in the Big Ten Championship Game and in prime shape for a spot in the playoff. Ohio State or Michigan will keep close tabs on this one.

Florida State at Florida (Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN): It has not come easy for Florida, which is a polite thing someone says after a team requires overtime to squeak past Florida Atlantic. Quite frankly, the Gators have looked underwhelming the past three games, especially on offense. And still, strangely, they have just one loss, and the playoffs are something we can still talk about. If Florida can beat its rival—regardless of how it happens—it will keep those peculiar hopes alive. Florida State has others plans in mind.



Thanksgiving Sides Power Ranking: Hot Turkey Takes 

There is no bad side on Thanksgiving. That’s important. People enjoy different things for different reasons, which is why this holiday allows us to embrace multiple dishes at once. Still, with so little space on your plate and in your space, there is a clear pecking order of importance.

Consider this a guide. (Please note: Cranberry sauce is not included, because it’s really not great. This concludes my very hot Thanksgiving take.)

1. Stuffing: The Alabama of Thanksgiving sides. When cooked right—hopefully with a cornbread base—it’s nearly impossible to conquer. Even the worst stuffing is capable of dominance. 

2. Green Bean Casserole: When done right, it’s pure joy. When done wrong, there could be issues. This is a volatile dish, depending on the quality of the chef, but the good far outweighs the bad.

3. Biscuits: It’s a long day. Carbs are important. And deep down, whether they are homemade or straight from the can, bread is never a bad idea. 

4. Mashed Potatoes: It’s always slightly overrated, although it still warrants a spot in the top five. Add garlic, and now we’re talking. Results may vary, depending on the maker.

5. Homemade Apple Sauce: The most underrated and perhaps underutilized dish can add a nice bit of variety to any plate. You won’t find in all kitchens, and perhaps that should change.


Parting Shot (Part 1): On Ezekiel Elliott and Our Quest For Honesty 

Following Ohio State’s crushing 17-14 loss to Michigan State on Saturday, Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott—having been shown openly sobbing during the national anthem, knowing precisely what this game meant—let loose a bit of vocal honesty atypical at this level.

"I'm disappointed in the play-calling," an emotional Elliott told reporters after the game. "I feel like we just weren't put in the right opportunity to win this game. We weren't put in the right situations to win this game.”

Elliott provided the cherry on top when asked about his future, confirming the worst-kept secret. “There's no way I'm coming back next year,” he said. Social media went wild.

There are a few layers to this onion, so let’s peel. Blaming a coach in any capacity through the media is not something that should happen. This certainly could have (and should have) been avoided. Elliott has since apologized.

And yes, when it comes to announcing future plans, I suppose Elliott could have waited one week until after Michigan. In reality, however, he was simply confirming what we already knew. We knew this back in January.

But the reaction to this has been astounding. Enormous character assumptions have been established without hesitation. The masses have assumed that Elliott, having said exactly what the entire football world either knew or thought, just lost millions.

In being honest with his remarks, something the media craves and demands, Elliott confirmed the following: Being bland and predictable with the media is a much more desired route. Why on earth would one speak his mind if the product of honesty will be backlash?

I love personalities, and Elliott is one of them. And while one could very easily establish an opinion of his character in a moment that he would like back, watch the way Elliott throws his body around this week while blocking for his quarterback and a few extra yards. There is much more to this young man than a bad microphone visit.

Sure, things could have been handled a bit better. But this is not the doomsday scenario that so many have made it out to be. Elliott will still make millions—as he should—and will likely learn from this.

I imagine the athletes thinking about straying from the “we played hard” script will as well.


Parting Shot (Part 2): Brine Your Turkeys, and Enjoy the Greatest Holiday of the Year

I cannot stress enough how important it is to soak your bird in flavor before you cook it. Please, don’t be one of the lost souls who serve family members dry, tasteless bird. It’s not right. You are better than this.

Brine your turkey, and lives will be changed. Taste buds will be satisfied.

Also, have a wonderful Thanksgiving. There is no holiday that comes close to offering this kind of buffet of riches. I implore you to eat as much as you can, and please don’t blow a hamstring if you play football before watching football. 

What a wonderful weekend it will be. See you on the other side.

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UCLA Bruins vs. Southern Cal Trojans Betting Odds, College Football Pick

Southern Cal beat UCLA 12 out of 13 times earlier this century, but the Bruins are 3-0 both straight up and against the spread in this rivalry since coach Jim Mora took over three seasons ago. In the game that will decide the Pac-12 South title, the Trojans host UCLA for the 85th Battle for Los Angeles on Saturday afternoon at the Coliseum.


Point spread: Trojans opened as 3.5-point favorites, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark. (Line updates and matchup report)

College football pick, via Odds Shark computer: 37.5-33.6 Bruins


Why the UCLA Bruins can cover the spread

The Bruins bounced back from that home defeat to Washington State two weeks ago with a 17-9 victory at Utah last week, keeping their division title hopes alive. UCLA scored a touchdown on the opening drive of the game, led 10-0 after one quarter and allowed the Utes to pull within one point midway through the third quarter, but pushed the lead to eight on a Paul Perkins touchdown run a few minutes later.

They stymied Utah from there, winning a tough game that went off as a pick 'em on the betting line. The Bruins only managed 325 yards of offense, but held the Utes to 307—and won the turnover battle 2-0. UCLA is now 9-1 straight up and 7-3 against the spread over its last 10 Pac-12 road games.


Why the Southern Cal Trojans can cover the spread

Southern Cal had won four games in a row to take control of the Pac-12 South, but ran into a buzz saw last week and lost at Oregon 48-28. That game was tied at 14-14 well into the second quarter before the Trojans gave up a 24-0 Ducks run. USC pulled to within 38-28 with the whole fourth quarter to go, but could get no closer.

On the day the Trojans produced 424 yards of offense, 186 on the ground, and won time of possession by almost 10 minutes, but had no answer for Oregon quarterback Vernon Adams, who threw six touchdown passes.

USC got outgained last week for the first time since the loss to Stanford eight weeks prior.


Smart pick

UCLA just pulled off a nice road upset, but truth be told the Bruins got some help, as Utah fumbled the ball away twice in UCLA territory. Meanwhile, USC had its lunch handed to it last week at Oregon. But college football is a funny game, and those who are up one week often fall down the very next, and vice versa. Take the Trojans.


Betting trends

UCLA is 2-7 ATS in its last nine games on the road against Southern Cal.

UCLA is 4-12 SU in its last 16 games against Southern Cal.

Southern Cal is 11-1 SU in its last 12 games after a loss.


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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UCLA Bruins vs. Southern Cal Trojans Betting Odds, College Football Pick

Southern Cal beat UCLA 12 out of 13 times earlier this century, but the Bruins are 3-0 both straight up and against the spread in this rivalry since coach Jim Mora took over three seasons ago...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Which College Football Playoff Hopeful Has the Best QB?

Having an elite quarterback isn't a necessity when it comes to making a playoff or national championship run. Neither is having a veteran quarterback. Those characteristics are considered more of a luxury. 

Consider the following: Of the last six national title winners, only one—Alabama in 2012—had a multiyear starter at quarterback (AJ McCarron) at the time they won it all. The others—Ohio State (2014), Florida State ('13), Auburn ('10) and Alabama ('09)—had a first-year starter. McCarron, in fact, was a first-year starter in 2011 when Alabama beat LSU. 

In that same span, only Florida State and Auburn had once-in-a-generation quarterbacks in Jameis Winston and Cam Newton, respectively. The last two teams that had the best of both worlds was Florida in 2008 with Tim Tebow and Texas with Vince Young in 2005. 

The point being, if having a superstar at quarterback was a prerequisite for winning the whole dang thing, Oregon's Marcus Mariota would have been celebrating a long-awaited title last season. 

Clemson sophomore Deshaun Watson could break that trend, however. With two weeks left in the 2015 season, Watson has stated his case as college football's best quarterback in a year in which running backs have dominated. Since the Tigers are the No. 1 team according to the College Football Playoff Top 25—a new set of rankings will be revealed Tuesday night—Watson also happens to be the best quarterback on a playoff-caliber team. 

As a second-year starter (the first full-time), Watson has been outstanding. He leads the ACC with 326 total yards per game—that ranks 11th nationally—and a passer rating of 161.08. David Hale of breaks down Watson's numbers further: 

Still, what Watson’s doing is impressive. He’s now topped 380 yards in four straight and five of the last six (the lone exception because he was limited in a blowout of Miami). In the last decade, no other ACC quarterback has had more than three straight games with 380 yards or more of offense.

Only two players — Texas Tech’s Graham Harrell and Hawaii’s Colt Brennan — had more conference games with at least 385 yards of offense and a touchdown in a season. Only Baylor’s Robert Griffin III (5) had a streak of 385-yard/one-touchdown games against conference foes longer than Watson’s (4).

In a wide-open year for the Heisman, Watson is the quarterback most likely to win the award at 3-1 odds, according to That's second behind only Alabama running back Derrick Henry. The next-closest quarterback in terms of Heisman odds is Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield at 14-1. For what it's worth, Zac Ellis of Sports Illustrated has Watson as his No. 1 Heisman candidate. 

While it remains to be seen who will win the Heisman, Watson already has the vote of one former winner: Newton. 

“That’s my little brother, man. I’ve seen Deshaun grow,” Newton said, per Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer. “When I first met Deshaun he was in 11th grade and he was on my all-star team. He was always eager. He was like a sponge. Quiet, but yet always looking to see how he could make his game better. For me to see him playing down the road at Clemson, it’s great.”

Watson and Mayfield are newer faces relative to the likes of other star quarterbacks like Michigan State's Connor Cook and Stanford's Kevin Hogan, both of whom are also battling for a playoff spot. However, Watson and Mayfield have been two of the more electric players in college football this year. And with TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin and Baylor quarterback Seth Russell sustaining injuries, Watson and Mayfield* also have the added benefit of being healthy.

(*Mayfield sustained a head injury in Week 12 against TCU, but has passed concussion tests and is cleared to resume practice ahead of this week's game against Oklahoma State, according to head coach Bob Stoops (via the team's official Twitter account.) 

Even though Watson and Mayfield are dual-threat quarterbacks and shifty scramblers, they use their skill set in different ways. Mayfield has drawn the Johnny Manziel comparison because of his ability to extend the play with theatrics. He's a backyard football gunslinger to the bone. Every snap he takes has the ability to end up on a highlight reel. 

Watson can also scramble with the best of them, but his improvisation skills are a bit more subtle. As B/R colleague Michael Felder explains, the game has slowed down a lot for Watson over the course of the season to the point where a breakdown in a play doesn't control him; rather, he controls the situation: 

Pro Football Focus' Gordon McGuinness did a good write-up on Watson that explains as much. His legs will always be there as a safety outlet, but he uses them to help make greater strides in his passing game. His arm strength has always been there, but his ball placement is now as good as it has ever been:  

Since the lopsided win over Miami, Watson has graded positively as a passer in every game, with his rushing boosting his grade and the Clemson offense when it’s been needed. He’s a gifted athlete who can make a defense pay with his legs, but it’s been the maturation of him as a passer which has seen him really start to impress and become the type of quarterback many believed he could be after last season. Comparing his performances as a passer from the first eight weeks of the season to the past four really is night and day.

Because Watson doesn't have the same level of pure flash Mayfield does, it can be easier to take for granted just how easy he makes it look. Mayfield's game has an element of anarchy to it—and it works for him. Oklahoma knows it's going to live and die by that. But rarely is there a time when Watson doesn't look like he's in complete control of what's happening. 

In a year in which quarterbacks aren't ruling college football, it's easy to gravitate toward the gaudy numbers and the highlight-reel plays. Quietly, though—if that's possible—Watson has improved greatly over the course of the season and transformed into the most complete quarterback. He just so happens to play on one of college football's most complete teams. 

Together, Watson and Clemson have an opportunity to become part of rare company by winning a national championship with an accomplished and truly gifted signal-caller. 


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

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NCAA Football Rankings 2015: Projecting Final Playoff Field Heading into Week 13

If Ronda Rousey and the Ohio State Buckeyes have taught us anything this month, it's that a major upset is just a well-executed game plan and a well-timed kick away. 

As is College Football Playoff pandemonium. 

The Michigan State Spartans' upset of Ohio State altered the playoff landscape. It was assumed that the defending national champions would take care of business in the Big Ten and earn the right to defend its title in the tournament. 

Instead, the Iowa Hawkeyes now represent the Big Ten in the Top Four. But even Kirk Ferentz's squad has much to prove before getting its shot on the biggest stage. 

College football's final week means rivalry week. And with rivalry week comes the potential for serious chaos. 

Here's a look at the projected Top Four for the end of the season, along with some teams on upset alert as they attempt to make their final case for a berth. 


Teams on Upset Alert

Iowa Going to Lincoln Looking to Go 12-0

The term "lucky" is generally overused to describe teams. No team gets to 11-0 by luck alone. 

However, "fortunate" can describe a team that just hasn't run into the right test. And Iowa's good fortune might come to an end on Saturday.

The Hawkeyes simply haven't been tested very often on the road. This will only be their fifth game in a hostile environment this season. A 40-10 win over Northwestern stands out as the only quality win in their previous four. 

Of all of Iowa's road opponents, the 5-6 Cornhuskers might be the most dangerous. Mike Riley's team is coming off of wins over Michigan State and Rutgers. 

The Spartans also came into their matchup with Nebraska undefeated. Now the Huskers are looking forward to play spoiler again. 

Nebraska quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. discussed the upcoming matchup, via Eric Olson of the Associated Press:

We've been looking forward to it. We wanted them to be undefeated coming in just like we wanted Michigan State to be undefeated. We want to prove that our record doesn't say anything about the team we have. Yeah, we lost some close games, a lot of close games. We are a very good football team. We just have to put it all together and when we do, it shows.

The analytics give the Huskers a great shot to get their record to .500 and ruin the Hawkeyes' run. According to B/R's Ed Feng, this is pretty much a 50/50 game:

The Hawkeyes have found a way to prove doubters wrong all season. Beating a hot team on the road would add a quality win to their playoff resume, but a loss would likely knock them out of contention. 


Notre Dame Looking to Make One Last Playoff Case at Stanford

Watching Iowa lose on Friday might give the Notre Dame Fighting Irish a boost in their quest for a playoff berth. But losing to Stanford would make that a short-lived excitement for the Irish. 

Up to this point, Notre Dame's signature wins are Temple and Navy. Those are two solid programs. Navy is in the top 10 of Football Outsiders' F/+ rankings, meaning they are among the most efficient teams in the country. 

Unfortunately, any program from the Group of Five is somewhat discredited, so a win over Stanford is crucial to the Irish's case.

But getting a win over the Cardinal will be tough. Not only are the Irish coming off a lackluster performance against an admittedly surprisingly talented Boston College defense, but they suffered two key injuries that could impact this game. 

Cornerback KeiVarae Russell will miss six to eight weeks due to a fractured tibia, while C.J. Prosise is doubtful for the game due to a high ankle sprain, per Matt Fortuna of ESPN

The Cardinal won't be missing their featured back, Christian McCaffrey. The do-it-all sophomore is having a great season and was recently named Pro Football Focus's top college back:

With the Irish coming all the way across the country to play McCaffrey and the Cardinal in a game that will have Heisman implications, expect the running back to go off and be a deciding factor in this one. 

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Where LSU Turns Now After 4-Star QB Feleipe Franks' Decommitment

It happened.

LSU fans hoped the rumors wouldn't become reality, but Monday evening, 4-star quarterback Feleipe Franks announced via Twitter that he decommitted from LSU. Franks' tweet implied that the decommitment was coming; it was just a matter of when.

So what now for LSU?

Great question.

LSU is now without a quarterback pledge in their 2016 class, and with Franks' decommitment, LSU's class dropped from the top spot to No. 2 nationally, behind Ohio State, in the updated 247Sports team rankings. The Tigers, however, have way more to think about than finishing with the nation's top-ranked class.

Franks was expected to compete for a starting spot next year. The Tigers have Brandon Harris, Anthony Jennings and Justin McMillan on the depth chart, but with the team's issues on offense the last three weeks, Tigers fans are looking for a shot in the arm.

Franks could have been that shot in the arm. Not anymore.

According to 247Sports, LSU has offered seven quarterbacks, Franks included, in the 2016 class and three quarterbacks in the 2017 class. The six other 2016 quarterbacks offered have all committed elsewhere. However, as it often said in recruiting, verbal commitments are nonbinding.

It's all about getting that signature on a national letter of intent in February. This means LSU will have an opportunity to do two things: either flip one of the already committed quarterbacks or find a diamond in the rough within the class.

Don't expect 5-star Shea Patterson to waver from his commitment to Ole Miss. Same can be said about 4-stars Dwayne Haskins (Maryland), Brandon Peters (Michigan) or Jarrett Guarantano (Tennessee).

Jawon Pass and Avery McCall are committed to Louisville and Coastal Carolina, respectively. Pass, who competed at the Elite 11 finals in Oregon, was one of the last quarterbacks of the Elite 11 participants to verbally commit. Pass' top three before his decision were Louisville, Alabama and Auburn, but part of that may have been because Franks already was committed to LSU. Franks committed to LSU before the start of his junior year in June of 2014.

Pass is a 6'5", 220-pound, 4-star dual-threat option and a player with a lot of upside. McCall is more compact at 6'1" and 195 pounds, built like a running back with a quarterback's arm. He surprised people when he committed to Coastal Carolina in September. He had offers from LSU, Tennessee, South Carolina and North Carolina State.

A 3-star, dual-threat option, McCall could be one to watch, but it also depends on if he wants to play Power Five football. Coastal Carolina currently plays FCS ball but will join the Sun Belt Conference in June 2016 and will play its first full Sun Belt schedule in 2017.

The LSU coaches also could venture into the junior college ranks for a quarterback. Coffeyville Community College's Riley Ferguson, a former Tennessee signee, is the nation's top-ranked overall JUCO quarterback and an overall top-20 JUCO player. Lackawanna College's Andrew Ford, a former Virginia Tech signee, is ranked No. 3 among JUCO pro-style quarterbacks. If the Tigers want a dual-threat passer, Arizona Western College's Trent Hosick, a former Missouri signee, is the top-ranked player at the position.

The Tigers will have their options to replace Franks in the 2016 class, but the work is definitely there to be done.


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

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Is 4-Star QB Feleipe Franks a Lock to Florida After Decommitting from LSU?

The LSU Tigers, burdened by swirling speculation around head coach Les Miles, lost a prized prospect Monday night when Florida quarterback Feleipe Franks decommitted.

The 4-star recruit, pledged to LSU since spring 2014, announced his decision on Twitter

"For about a month now I have been talking with LSU about decommitting," he wrote. "I have given this process a lot of thought and feel that [it's] only best for me to make my decommitment public."

Franks, a 6'5", 220-pound passer from Wakulla High School, was an early foundational member of a 2016 Tigers class rated No. 1 nationally in composite rankings before his departure. He joined the class just months after a sophomore season that featured 1,842 passing yards and 19 total touchdowns. 

Rated No. 5 among pro-style quarterbacks in composite rankings, Franks held scholarship offers from Florida State, Florida, Mississippi State, Alabama, Georgia and Clemson before his junior campaign. He provided positive momentum for LSU's class throughout a 17-month commitment, exciting other Tigers recruits. 

"It definitely gives you an edge to have a high-profile quarterback, and in my opinion we have one with Feleipe Franks," defensive tackle Caleb Roddy told Bleacher Report in July. "He's fantastic, and he has a rocket arm. Hopefully he can take the offense to another level when it's his time to step up at LSU. I truly believe he can be one of the best in the country."

Franks, a national Elite 11 finalist, leads Wakulla into the third round of state playoffs this weekend. He's thrown for 2,125 yards, 28 touchdowns and two interceptions through 12 games, according to MaxPreps.

A four-year varsity standout, Franks has tallied 7,387 total yards and 87 scores in high school. His large frame and impressive athleticism make him a rushing threat in short-yardage situations, resulting in three touchdowns on the ground this fall.

Franks' decommitment leaves LSU searching for a replacement with 10 weeks remaining in the recruiting cycle. It's a final stretch that could certainly include more drama in Baton Rouge as the fate of a star-studded coaching staff is determined.

Meanwhile, this development opens the door for alternative college programs to enter the equation. Focus immediately shifts to Gainesville, where the Florida Gators are set to host Franks for a third consecutive home game. 

He is expected to attend the Gators' annual rivalry showdown with Florida State on Saturday. Florida, 10-1 under first-year head coach Jim McElwain, will end a six-season absence from the SEC title game in December. 

An offense that predominately sputtered during recent years has rebounded well this fall. The passing game, in particular, continues to show signs of improvement.

The Gators rate 66th nationally in passing yards per game (222.3) after finishing 106th in that category last year. Redshirt freshman Will Grier and sophomore Treon Harris have combined to throw for 2,435 yards, 18 touchdowns and seven interceptions through 11 games. 

Florida features an emerging crop of young offensive playmakers. Freshman wide receiver Antonio Callaway leads the Gators in receiving yards and touchdowns, while 4-star pass-catchers Freddie Swain and Joshua Hammond are among key additions in the 2016 class. 

Franks would fill the Gators' most glaring void of this cycle.

Florida failed to sign a quarterback in 2015 despite a late run at current Seminoles freshman Deondre Francois. The Gators then saw Grier, perceived offensive leader of the present and future, suspended until next October.

Florida quarterback commit Kyle Trask, a 3-star prospect from Manvel High School in Texas, didn't hold a single Power Five offer when the Gators extended one in late July. Houston Baptist and McNeese State were among the only collegiate options for Trask, who rates 90th nationally among pro-style quarterbacks.

In contrast, Franks has spent almost his entire high school career in the spotlight. It's shining brighter than ever as he returns to The Swamp, a place many pundits now expect him to call home. 

Florida claims 81 percent of experts' predictions in Franks' 247Sports Crystal Ball, including the past 17 projections. It remains to be seen whether Franks will aim to schedule a series of official visits before announcing a final choice, but the Gators are clearly in the driver's seat at this stage.

The Gators continue to capitalize on a bounce-back campaign, carrying 23 commitments in a 2016 recruiting class that recently cracked Top 10 composite rankings. Adding Franks to the mix would immediately enhance ongoing efforts to land fellow elite in-state targets like Binjimen VictorNate Craig-Myers and Wakulla teammate Keith Gavin.

Expect McElwain's staff to treat him like one of their own pledges this weekend while he's on campus. Officially free of his "LSU-bound" label, Franks suddenly seems primed to join Florida's burgeoning offensive attack.


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

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Outside of the National Spotlight, 2015 Egg Bowl Should Still Be a Classic

The 2015 edition of the Egg Bowl between Ole Miss and Mississippi State won't match the hype and exposure of last year's edition, when Mississippi State had outside hopes of a berth in the College Football Playoff and both schools spent several weeks in the national spotlight.

Don't be fooled by the lack of buzz, though.

This one should be a classic.

"The Egg Bowl, because of what it is, [getting ready to play] won't be that difficult," Rebel head coach Hugh Freeze said, according to Ole Miss' official site. "We will have emotion, and we will be ready to go."

Ole Miss comes in fresh off its 38-17 demolition of LSU on Saturday night in Oxford and has one of the most difficult offenses to defend in all of college football. Laquon Treadwell is a monster at wide receiver with 72 catches for 1,060 yards and eight touchdowns. The threat of Treadwell burning offenses deep has opened things up for Cody Core, Quincy Adeboyejo, Damore'ea Stringfellow and tight end Evan Engram to exploit one-on-one matchups.

Couple that with the dual-threat capabilities of quarterback Chad Kelly, and Ole Miss is tough to defend, as Bulldogs head coach Dan Mullen noted, according to Mississippi State's official site:

I think what he does outside of their offense is where he presents problems. He brings improvisational skills. When the play breaks down, he is a very deceptive runner. He makes people miss. He can avoid pressure. He keeps plays alive and breaks tackles. He's elusive with the ball in his hands.

Ole Miss leads the conference with 40.5 points per game, has upped that to 45 points per game during the month of November and—if it gets a little help from Auburn earlier in the day—could be playing for a berth in its first SEC Championship Game on Saturday night in Starkville. However, Freeze said he won't be focusing on anything other than the Bulldogs:

Once we get to the stadium, all the phones will be put away. We won't have any idea of what is going on with that game. There may be some updates in the stadium. I don't know. I typically don't hear those. There will be enough riding on the Egg Bowl regardless of the outcome of that game. We should play with everything that we have.


Even if there aren't SEC title hopes on the line, this game still carries enormous weight for the push for a New Year's Six bowl in addition to the already-heated in-state bragging rights.

On the other side, Bulldogs quarterback Dak Prescott is fresh off a performance for the ages in the 51-50 win over Arkansas. The dual-threat senior totaled seven touchdowns (five passing, two rushing), had 554 yards of total offense by himself and vaulted back into the thick of the race for the 2015 Heisman Trophy.

What better way for Prescott to cap off of his career than to beat the in-state rivals in his final home game?

"I'm not around him, but he strikes me as someone that is determined to be the best that he can be, and I'm certain he is putting the work to be the best quarterback that he can be for his team," Freeze said. "He shows it on the field."

Couple that with a talented Bulldogs receiving corps that features De'Runnya Wilson but also boasts Fred Ross—who trails only Treadwell in catches this year with 69—and the Egg Bowl should evolve into the sequel to last week's Bulldogs-Razorbacks pointfest in Fayetteville.

High-scoring? Major bowl implications? Two great quarterbacks? Potentially an SEC West title on the line for Ole Miss?

Count me in.

Sure, there are some great games of national importance on the line Saturday night like Notre Dame at Stanford, Florida State at Florida and Oklahoma at Oklahoma State. Keep an eye on the Egg Bowl, though.

It could wind up being the best game of the weekend.


Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Statistics are courtesy of

Barrett 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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Clemson Tigers vs. South Carolina Gamecocks Betting Odds, College Football Pick

South Carolina is 5-1 both straight up and against the spread over the last six rivalry battles with Clemson, but the Tigers took last year's game and are playing for huge stakes this year heading into the 113th edition of the Palmetto Bowl Saturday afternoon in Columbia.


Point spread: The Tigers opened as 15.5-point favorites, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark. (Line updates and matchup report)

College football pick, via Odds Shark computer: 46.6-17.4 Tigers


Why the Clemson Tigers can cover the spread

Clemson extended its winning streak to 14 games last week with a 33-13 victory over Wake Forest. The Tigers, as four-touchdown favorites, scored on their opening drive of the game and led 20-0 after one quarter and 33-7 after three, but they put the brakes on in the fourth and declined to cover.

On the day, Clemson outgained the Demon Deacons by a lopsided 552-152 margin but committed four turnovers, which played a part in the ATS outcome. The Tigers have now outgained every opponent this season except one, seven of them by 200 yards or more.

Clemson is already headed to the ACC Championship Game, and a berth in the College Football Playoff could follow. But none of that will matter if the Tigers slip up this week.


Why the South Carolina Gamecocks can cover the spread

The one thing about hitting rock bottom is there's nowhere to go but up, and that's the attitude South Carolina should take after getting upset last week at home by The Citadel 23-22.

The Gamecocks fell down early 14-3, battled back and led by five points midway through the fourth quarter. They fell back down on a long Bulldogs touchdown run, then had a 90-yard catch-and-sprint score of their own in the last minute negated due to a penalty, sealing their fate.

On the day, South Carolina outgained The Citadel 439-387, and almost a third of the Bulldogs' yards came on two long scoring plays. The Gamecocks are now 1-4 SU since head coach Steve Spurrier stepped down but 3-2 ATS. And those four losses were by an average of five points per game.

The Gamecocks are struggling through a lost season, but the one thing that could save it is an earth-shattering upset of their hated rival, who also happens to be the top-ranked team in the country.


Smart pick

Clemson appears on its way to the College Football Playoff, while South Carolina just got upset by an FCS team. But the Tigers are 0-3 ATS over their last three games, as big spreads have taken their toll, and this is a rivalry game. Take the Gamecocks, plus the points.


Betting trends

Clemson is 1-5 SU and ATS in its last six games against South Carolina.

South Carolina is 10-2 SU in its last 12 games after losing as a favorite.

Clemson is 14-0 SU in its last 14 games.


All point spread and lines data courtesy of Odds Shark, and 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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The New Woody and Bo? Urban Meyer and Jim Harbaugh Bring New Hype to 'The Game'

A native of Galena, Ohio, located just a half-hour drive from Ohio Stadium, Joshua Perry's relationship with the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry isn't unlike that of the other 22-year-olds who grew up around "The Game."

In the '90s, he saw Wolverines head coach Lloyd Carr dominate and ultimately be one of the primary reasons for the firing of John Cooper following the 2000 season. That was followed by an ongoing stretch that's seen the Buckeyes win 11 of their last 13 matchups against "That Team Up North," which now finds itself on its third head coach since Carr retired eight years ago.

So despite the unevenness—on one side or the other—that Perry's seen in the rivalry over the course of his lifetime, you'll have to excuse him for not wanting to diminish the recent meaning of The Game as he prepares to play in his fourth edition of it. Which is why the Ohio State linebacker offered a unique analogy when asked about a potential "restoration" of the rivalry.

"'Restore,' to me, means that it went to crap and is dilapidated, and some hipsters went and bought it, not to live in but as an investment, and they're trying to flip it right now," Perry said at Big Ten media days in July. "That's not what this is."

Still, the Buckeyes' resident fashion expert conceded of the rivalry, "It hasn't been what it was."

But as Perry's final game against the Maize and Blue approaches, even he admitted that this year's game is unlike any other—and not just because both Ohio State and Michigan find their Big Ten title hopes on the line against one another for the first time since 2007, both needing help from Penn State against Michigan State later in the day.

With the addition of Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh, the stakes for both teams are now secondary in a rivalry that already includes one of college football's most prominent sideline stalkers, Urban Meyer.

And as the first showdown between Harbaugh and Meyer approaches, it's hard not to notice a palpable buzz building.

"It's always big to be a part of the first of something," Perry said on Monday. "It's kind of the start of an era."

Saturday will mark the first official head-to-head battle between the two distinguished head coaches, with the eighth-ranked Buckeyes heading to Ann Arbor for a 12 p.m. ET kickoff with the No. 12 Wolverines. But it won't mark the first time the two coaches simultaneously take part in college football's most storied rivalry, as their collision course has been more than a quarter-century in the making.


The Guarantee

While Meyer wasn't able to leave his mark on The Game until the clock struck zero on Ohio State's 26-21 victory in 2012, Harbaugh first had his name etched in Michigan lore 29 years ago.

Needing a win against the Buckeyes to clinch a trip to Pasadena to play in the Rose Bowl, Harbaugh, then the senior quarterback for the seventh-ranked Wolverines, laid the groundwork for his confident reputation by issuing a guarantee that Michigan would beat Ohio State in the 1986 edition of The Game.

The eventual Heisman Trophy finalist made good on his promise, completing 19 of his 29 attempts for 261 yards in what was ultimately a 26-24 Wolverines win.

"It’s legendary in regards to historic tales of Michigan football," said Ken Magee, an Ann Arbor native 
and author of The Game: The Michigan-Ohio State Football Rivalry.

And while Harbaugh has been reluctant to discuss his infamous guarantee—"That was a long time ago," he said following the Wolverines win over Penn State on Saturday, "in my youth"—Meyer remembers it well.

Then a graduate assistant working with the tight ends for the Buckeyes, Meyer was a member of former Ohio State coach Earle Bruce's staff when Harbaugh vowed victory. Asked about it on Monday, the fourth-year Buckeyes head coach recalled the play that ultimately settled the score 29 years ago, a missed field goal by Ohio State kicker Matt Frantz.

"I do remember that," Meyer said of Harbaugh's guarantee. "And I remember us missing a wide-left right at the end as the clock ticked zero."

A year later, Harbaugh would begin what would prove to be a 14-year career in the NFL, while Meyer would begin his ascent up the coaching ranks, only after being fired from Ohio State as a part of Bruce's staff following the 1987 season.

But for both Harbaugh and Meyer, all roads would lead back to The Game. 


The New Woody And Bo

In today's landscape of college football, you'd be hard-pressed to find two personalities more dynamic than the current head coaches at Ohio State and Michigan.

Meyer is more reserved but often intense. Success has followed him in head coaching stops at Bowling Green, Utah, Florida and OSU, resulting in three national titles in a 14-year head coaching career, including the Buckeyes run to last season's College Football Playoff championship.

Harbaugh, meanwhile, hasn't quite seemed to make the full transition from player to coach, still wearing cleats and coming up with quirky sayings while completing turnaround jobs as the head coach at San Diego, Stanford, the NFL's San Francisco 49ers and now his alma mater.

The combination of the two hasn't proved to be a combustible mix just yet, save for a few thinly veiled run-ins on the recruiting trail.

Then again, the two have yet to coach a game against one another, which is what makes Saturday's matchup between the two so highly anticipated.

"Spice, intensity," ESPN College GameDay analyst and former Ohio State quarterback Kirk Herbstreit answered when asked by Bleacher Report what Harbaugh will add to the OSU-Michigan rivalry. "Even when Ohio State was winning [in the 2000s] with Jim Tressel, the fan in me liked Woody [Hayes] and Bo [Schembechler]. The fan in me liked the angst, the emotion—the 'I'm not going to cross midfield to shake his hand.' Just all the stories that you would hear.

"I don't know if we're going to get to that level with Urban and Jim, but it's going to be different."

Meyer idolized Hayes while growing up in Ashtabula, Ohio, before joining the staff of Bruce, who was mentored by the fiery former Buckeyes head coach. Harbaugh played for and often references Schembechler, for whom his father, Jack Harbaugh, served as an assistant coach in the 1970s.

"They were legendary in their own way," Magee said of Hayes and Schembechler. "In essence, these were the Muhammad Alis and Joe Fraziers of the football world. Two legendary, epic coaches."

Given the success both Meyer and Harbaugh have already enjoyed in their coaching careers and their respective connections to the legendary head coaches associated with their respective programs, the comparisons are both obvious and fair.

They're also welcome, given the recent history of the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry.


Rivalry Restored

Pierre Woods grew up in Cleveland, a highly touted 4-star defensive end at then-emerging Northeast Ohio prep powerhouse Glenville High School. A fan of the Buckeyes throughout his childhood, Woods' recruitment coincided with the end of Cooper's time in Columbus, which saw the former Ohio State head coach accumulate a 2-10-1 record against the Wolverines from 1988-2001.

So when Cooper and the Buckeyes botched their recruitment of Woods—he said he went unrecognized by the former OSU head coach at an AAU basketball tournament before showing up at Glenville to recruit Woods days later—he had no qualms about going to play for the rival he grew up rooting against.

Given Michigan's dominance over Ohio State at the time, it seemed like the better option anyway.

"It was like, 'You know what? If you can't beat 'em, join 'em,'" Woods told B/R in a phone interview.

But Woods' arrival in Ann Arbor happened to be the same year the Buckeyes would replace Cooper with Tressel, who went 9-1 against the Wolverines, his lone loss to Carr coming in 2003. Just as it did the decade before, the lopsided nature of The Game continued, this time with Michigan on the losing end.

"When Rich Rodriguez was there, it was pretty bad," Woods said, referencing Carr's successor, who compiled an 0-3 record against Ohio State from 2008-10.

More than the lack of intrigue in The Game itself in recent years—Michigan hasn't had a shot at the Big Ten title in the final week of the regular season since 2007—there has a void of personality on the sidelines for both schools.

Tressel was a senator who rarely strayed from being politically correct. Rodriguez wasn't a "Michigan Man" and never seemed to understand the rivalry. His successor, Brady Hoke, was no match for Meyer, tallying a 1-3 record against the Buckeyes, his lone victory coming against interim coach Luke Fickell in 2011.

All of this, added to Ohio State's recent dominance, has created an unspoken apathy in the Buckeyes and Wolverines' annual Big Ten battle in recent years, an indistinguishable game despite three recent close calls in the series.

But with Harbaugh now opposing Meyer on the sideline, lack of interest and personality should no longer be a problem.

"It's going to be very different than Brady Hoke just saying 'Ohio' and, 'Boy, that's gonna get them," Herbstreit said. "This is gonna be different just because of the personality of Jim."


The New "Ten Year War"?

While their distinct personalities and resumes may be enough to do so, it's highly unlikely we'll see Meyer and Harbaugh create another "Ten Year War," the period from 1969-78 that saw Hayes and Schembechler go head-to-head. In that time, Schembechler went 5-4-1 against his mentor, with the two teams combining for six Big Ten titles and one national title (Ohio State, 1970).

"Hollywood couldn’t have written a better script, where you pit the student against the teacher," Magee said. "It wasn’t just the two personalities that got into it. It was the media and the fans that really got into the whole 'Bo versus Woody.'"

With conference realignment and the addition of conference championship games and the College Football Playoff, it would be difficult for each Harbaugh and Meyer meeting to mean as much as the 10 between Schembechler and Hayes did. Quite frankly, given their respective track records, it'd be hard to imagine both coaches remaining at their current schools for the remainder of the next decade.

But while the stories may not be identical, interesting parallels do exist. While they aren't the same "student and teacher" Woody and Bo were, Harbaugh and Meyer were born in the same Toledo hospital six months apart, each living relatively short existences in Ohio's Glass City.

Then there's this season, which despite the Buckeyes' loss to Michigan State last weekend still possesses plenty of similarities to Schembechler's Ann Arbor debut in 1968.

Ohio State, the defending national champions, will be facing a rejuvenated two-loss Michigan team on the road, as was the case 46 years ago when a 24-12 Wolverines win jump-started the Ten Year War. Harbaugh will be in his signature pullover and khakis, just as Hayes wore his block "O" hat and short-sleeved button-up, adding color to a rivalry that was built in black and white.

"I’m sure we’ll talk about it as the week goes on," Harbaugh said of his coaching debut in The Game. "I’ll save some nuggets for later in the week."

And regardless of how this season—or the next 10 play out—the comparisons to Woody and Bo will always be unavoidable. A part of that is due to their lineage, and a part of that has to do with a rivalry desperate to recapture relevance while still connecting to the glory days that made it what it was.

"The war in and of itself became one of mythic proportions because of how it was marketed," Magee said. "Imagine if it was today, with social media, with Twitter, with Facebook, with 24-hour sports channels. Imagine how much they would have built it up then."

Thanks to Meyer and Harbaugh, we no longer need to.


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 Rebels vs. Mississippi State Bulldogs Betting Odds, Football Pick

Mississippi State won three Egg Bowls in a row, going 3-0 against the spread, during coach Dan Mullen's first three seasons, but Ole Miss is 2-1 both straight up and ATS against the Bulldogs since coach Hugh Freeze took over. The Rebs hope to make it three out of four, and maybe even win a division title, when these in-state rivals meet for the 108th edition of the Egg Bowl Saturday night in Starkville.


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

College football pick, via Odds Shark computer: 40.4-35.0 Rebels


Why the Mississippi Rebels can cover the spread

Ole Miss bounced back from that disheartening defeat to Arkansas three weeks ago to beat LSU last week 38-17. The Rebs scored the first 24 points of the game, let the Tigers get within 24-17, then scored the last 14 points of the game to ice the victory and the cover as seven-point favorites.

On the day Ole Miss racked up 508 yards of offense and won time of possession by almost 13 minutes.

Thanks to their victory earlier this season over Alabama the Rebs still have a chance to win the SEC West; they need a victory this week and a minor miracle in the form of a Tide loss to Auburn, but you never know.


Why the Mississippi State Bulldogs can cover the spread

MSU also bounced back from defeat last week, outlasting Arkansas 51-50 in Fayetteville. The Bulldogs spotted the Hogs the game's first touchdown, then scored 31 points in about 18 minutes to take a 17-point lead. They later fell down by 11, but rallied back, took the lead for good on a Dak Prescott touchdown pass—one of five for him on the day—with three minutes to go, then blocked a short Arkansas field-goal attempt in the last minute to save the outright victory as six-point road dogs.

Mississippi State outgained the Hogs 631-479, held them to just 73 yards rushing, and survived three turnovers. The Bulldogs have now outgained each of their last six opponents.

Last year MSU was ranked No. 4, with dreams of big things, heading into the Egg Bowl but lost in Oxford 31-17. Perhaps the Bulldogs have a nice, cold dish of revenge ready for the Rebs.


Smart pick

The Rebels will know their fate before this game kicks off Saturday night, because the Alabama-Auburn game should be over by kickoff. Regardless, this game should be close, and it's a tough one to pick. But the home team is 9-1 SU and 7-2-1 ATS over the last 10 Egg Bowls, so the smart money here probably lies with the 'Dogs.


Betting trends

The total has gone under in eight of Mississippi State's last 11 games in November.

Mississippi is 2-5 SU and 1-5-1 ATS in its last seven games on the road.

The total has gone under in seven of Mississippi's last eight games against its conference.


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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Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Auburn Tigers Betting Odds, College Football Pick

Alabama is 3-1 both straight up and against the spread over the last four rivalry battles with Auburn, but only 1-4 ATS the last five times it's visited Jordan-Hare Stadium. The Tide can take the SEC West if it can avoid a Tigers upset bid in the 80th edition of the Iron Bowl on Saturday afternoon.


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

College football pick, via Odds Shark computer: 42.4-21, Crimson Tide


Why the Alabama Crimson Tide can cover the spread

Alabama rides an eight-game winning streak into this week, after dispatching Charleston Southern last week, 56-6. The Tide led 28-0 after one quarter and 49-0 at the half before calling off the dogs. On the day, Alabama outgained the Buccaneers, 403-134, and Cyrus Jones returned two punts for touchdowns, as the Tide covered as a 40-point favorite.

Alabama has now covered three spreads in a row, with the wins over LSU and Mississippi State. With a victory Saturday, the Tide would win the SEC West, which of course is just a short hop away from the College Football Playoff.


Why the Auburn Tigers can cover the spread

Auburn is coming off one of its better performances of late, albeit against an inferior foe, beating Idaho last week, 56-34.

The Tigers, who were 33-point favorites, scored on their first drive of the day, and later led by 36 points before allowing the Vandals a pair of meaningless fourth-quarter scores and coughing up the cash. Auburn ran the ball 51 times for 297 yards, and quarterback Jeremy Johnson accounted for four touchdowns.

In Week 11, the Tigers outgained Georgia but gave up a touchdown on a punt return and lost, 20-13. Just before that, they upset Texas A&M, 26-10.

Last year, Auburn had Alabama on the ropes, up by 12 in Tuscaloosa in the third quarter before the Tide rolled back for a 55-44 victory. If the Tigers can get their running game going Saturday and avoid giving up big plays and turnovers, it could cause some headaches for their hated rival.


Smart pick

Alabama has outgained every opponent this season except one, six of them by 175 yards or more. Meanwhile, Auburn has been outgained in five of its last seven contests. And playing on the road means the spread is a little more amenable to the Tide. The smart money here backs Alabama.


Betting trends

Alabama is 1-4 ATS in its last five games on the road against Auburn.

Auburn is 2-13-1 ATS in its last 16 games.

The total has gone over in six of Auburn's last eight games after a win.


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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College Football Rankings 2015: Week 13 Conference Standings and Top 25 Polls

The Michigan State Spartans toppled the defending champion Ohio State Buckeyes on Saturday night in a game that altered the College Football Playoff landscape. The 17-14 win in Columbus has reopened the door for the Spartans to earn a spot in the CFP.

A victory over the Penn State Nittany Lions on November 28, and another win over the now-No. 3-ranked Iowa Hawkeyes in the Big Ten title game would almost certainly make the Spartans one of the four teams the committee selects.

The fact that Michigan State pulled off the road win without its starting quarterback, Connor Cook, only makes the victory all the more impressive. Junior Tyler O'Connor wasn't spectacular, but he took care of the ball and made smart decisions leading his team to the win.

After a team win like that one, there should be no doubting the Spartans. Here's a look at the latest rankings from the Associated Press, the coaches and Bleacher Report polls:

Click here to see the standings of each conference, per


Notre Dame Sitting Pretty

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish aren't in a conference, but if they beat the Stanford Cardinal in their season finale, it's hard to imagine them being left out of the CFP.

Their only loss this season is a two-point setback at the No. 1 Clemson Tigers. Losses don't get more respectable than that. There's a couple of teams that have an opportunity to leapfrog the Irish.


Florida and Oklahoma's Path to the CFP

The Florida Gators rose to No. 10 in the rankings with a 20-14 win over the Florida Atlantic Owls. As Sports Illustrated tweeted, the six-point victory wasn't the statement win the Gators might have hoped to register.

The Gators still have just one loss, and it came on the road to the LSU Tigers. That loss looked a lot better a few weeks ago. However, the Tigers have dropped two games in a row, and that hurts every contending team in the conference.

Still, the Gators are in line to face the Alabama Crimson Tide in the SEC title game. A win there would give Florida a solid resume. How can the committee deny the SEC postseason champion?

It couldn't.

The Oklahoma Sooners have a bad loss on their record this season. The loss to the Texas Longhorns just might keep the Sooners out of the CFP. Oklahoma inched past the TCU Horned Frogs 30-29 on Saturday and moved up to No. 5 in the poll.

With Bedlam on tap for Saturday against the No. 9 Oklahoma State Cowboys, the Sooners have one last shot to make a CFP statement.

Realistically, Oklahoma probably needs Notre Dame to lose to Stanford and for Alabama to knock off Florida in the SEC title game to have a shot. Even then, a one-loss Iowa Hawkeyes team—assuming they lose the Big Ten championship—or even the Buckeyes might still have better resumes.

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