NCAA Football

Bowl Predictions 2014: Updated Projections for Playoff Games Before Week 13

For as thrilling as the 2014 college football season has been with stunning upsets, marquee matchups and what promises to be a memorable finish on the way to the first ever College Football Playoff, the Week 13 schedule is lackluster at best. 

Playoff contenders Alabama, Oregon, Florida State, Mississippi State, Ohio State and Baylor are all at home against overmatched opponents and should rack up some style points.

Of course, if the favorites go into their games with that mindset, we could have a shocking upset or two that turns the postseason race upside down. With that in mind, here is a look at the updated playoff projections heading into Week 13.

 

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)

 

Under-the-Radar Week 13 Playoff Game to Watch: Boston College at Florida State

One person who thinks Florida State should be the top-ranked team in the country is Boston College coach Steve Addazio.

He suggested as much in recent comments, according to The Associated Press (h/t USA Today): “How anybody could rationalize it any other way is absolutely mind-blowing to me. These guys find a way to win and they play the best at their most competitive moments. That's usually what great teams do.”

The Seminoles have found a way to win every week, and they should do the same Saturday against Addazio’s squad. From a talent standpoint, this should not be a close game, and that’s not even mentioning the fact that Florida State is at home and playing for much more than Boston College will be Saturday.

However, there has been a disturbing pattern for the Seminoles that could pose a problem against the Eagles.

Florida State has trailed at the half in six of its last 11 games (dating back to the BCS title showdown with Auburn) and has won three games this season in which it trailed by 15 points or more.

The Seminoles even found themselves behind 17-3 against Boston College in the second quarter of last year’s meeting. 

Of course, Florida State found a way to win all of those games, largely because defending Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston was a completely different player in the second halves. Here is a look at how much better he has been after intermission, courtesy of ESPN Stats & Info:

The reason this pattern of slow starts may be a concern Saturday if it pops up again is Boston College is built to play with the lead. It is 12th in the nation in rushing yards per game and features a quarterback in Tyler Murphy who has 1,006 rushing yards and is more comfortable moving the chains with his legs than arm.

Running back Jon Hilliman has also been effective and has 620 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground.

The Eagles shocked USC earlier in the season with an incredible 452 rushing yards as a team. Murphy ran for 191 all by himself, and Hilliman found the end zone on the ground twice. That is the exact formula the Eagles will stick with Saturday when they try to pull off a second incredible upset in the same season, and they will look to grind out the clock if they find themselves with the lead.

However, the other side of the ball could be a problem for a Boston College defense that ranks 65th in the nation in passing yards allowed per game.

The Eagles like to bring pressure, which will put their cornerbacks in a number of one-on-one situations with Florida State’s athletic receivers on the outside. Again, the talent difference will come into play, as Winston will find a number of his playmakers for big plays to open up a lead.

While the Eagles do have the formula to play with an early lead if they can grab one, Florida State will bank on its talent advantage from the opening kick. Eventually, the Seminoles will stop playing with fire and take the early initiative on the scoreboard, and Saturday will be that day.

Style points matter now more than ever with four playoff spots up for grabs and a number of one-loss contenders hanging around.

The Seminoles will rack up plenty of those points Saturday. 

Prediction: Florida State 48, Boston College 17

 

Follow me on Twitter:

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Week 13 Schedule: TV and Live Stream Info for Every Game

There aren't as many heavyweight matchups in Week 13 as there have been in previous weeks of the college football season, but the game of the week is one that will impress.

Arizona and Utah will square off in a game with major implications. A loss for Utah likely knocks them out of the Top 25, and a win for the Wildcats would be crucial in inching them closer to the Top 10. With the regular season coming to a close, every game is a must-win for nationally ranked teams.

Most of the big boys have cupcake games this week. Mississippi State, Oregon, Florida State and others in the Top 10 should all make it out unscathed. That makes it even more imperative for Arizona to win.

There's a vast slate of games on the schedule this week. If watching powerhouses beat up on lesser teams doesn't interest you, then there are a bevy of other games to choose from. Continue reading on for the schedule and live stream information for every game in Week 13.

 

2014 College Football Week 13 Schedule

 

Schedule and viewing info courtesy of ESPN.comFor games without national or regional coverage on a major network, check local listings.

 

Live Stream

On the go and want to catch the live stream of your favorite team? Find the game by using the below information. Note that some live streams may require a subscription.

ESPN: WatchESPN

SEC: CBSSports.com

Fox: Fox Sports Go

BTN: BTN2Go.com

Pac-12: Pac-12.com

ABC: ABC Live

CBS: CBSSports.com

 

Game of the Week

No. 14 Arizona at No. 23 Utah

The Arizona Wildcats and the Utah Utes enter this week's matchup coming off similar victories in Week 12.

The Wildcats needed a field goal at the end of the game to take care of Washington, 27-26. The Utes needed two overtimes to defeat Stanford by a field goal, 20-17.

ESPN's Ted Miller tweeted that these two squads are used to playing tight games:

Having just squeaked past inferior competition, these two teams come into Week 13 looking to play far better. It won't be easy against much-improved competition.

Arizona struggled last week in large part because of the struggles in the passing attack. Quarterback Anu Solomon was just 17-for-39 passing with two interceptions, while his wide receivers didn't do him any favors. Samajie Grant led the way with 85 yards on just four catches.

Coach Rich Rodriguez obviously wasn't pleased with the outing, and he let his players know about his displeasure, via Daniel Berk of the Arizona Daily Star:

We had a really stern quarterback-receiver meeting (Sunday), and it wasn’t real enjoyable for them. It wasn’t really enjoyable for them or for me. I told them that my expectations are so much higher for them than anyone else’s. We owe it to each other to be as sound and efficient and clean as far as doing your assignments as best as possible.

The Utes defense is pretty good against the pass, having held each of their past three opponents under 239 yards through the air.

Utah's offense isn't particularly explosive, but they have a good opportunity to put some points on the board in this one. Kyle Gunther of KFAN tweeted about the porous Arizona defense and how it could help Utah:

Offense should be the story of this game. It'll come down to how well each team can execute against tougher competition.

Rodriguez's conference with his players should give them the spark necessary to perform better offensively, and the Wildcats defense should be enough to jump-start the Utes.

The difference-maker will likely be Arizona running back Nick Wilson. If the passing game still isn't working, the Cats are going to pound the ball on the ground. Wilson has nine touchdowns and 867 rush yards on the year, so he's clearly a potent weapon out of the backfield.

Establishing the run early will help Solomon through the air later on in the game, so Wilson will surely dictate the overall success of his offense.

Every game is a must-win for Arizona because of how tight the Pac-12 is. We're in store for an emotional contest. Arizona and Utah should make headlines Saturday afternoon.

Tune into ESPN at 3:30 p.m. ET to catch the action.

 

Follow Kenny DeJohn on Twitter: @kennydejohn

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

UCLA Football: 6 Most Important Players for Rest of the Year

Sitting at 8-2, the No. 9 UCLA Bruins have a lot to play for with two games remaining on the schedule. 

There's a very real chance Jim Mora's squad could sneak into the mix as a playoff team. In order for this scenario to potentially unfold, the Bruins must win their two remaining contests—in addition to the Pac-12 Championship Game against Oregon. 

There are a group of players on the roster in particular which will aid in UCLA running the table. Two of the players are considered team leaders.

One is perhaps the most dynamic offensive weapon on the team, and three others are significantly important when it comes to getting after the opposing signal-caller.

The following six players are very important when speaking about UCLA's prospects for the rest of the year.

Begin Slideshow

UCLA Football: 6 Most Important Players for Rest of the Year

Sitting at 8-2, the No. 9 UCLA Bruins have a lot to play for with two games remaining on the schedule. There's a very real chance Jim Mora's squad could sneak into the mix as a playoff team...

Begin Slideshow

Texas Football: The Most Important Longhorns Players for the Rest of the Year

Bowl-eligible coming off an impressive 28-7 win at Oklahoma State, the Texas Longhorns can now focus on upsetting No. 5 TCU and then winning said postseason game.

So maybe that's a little easier said than done, but it's possible if head coach Charlie Strong's most important players can step up and close the season as one of the hottest teams in the country.

That means the Horns need big showings from their quarterback, resurgent running back and—most importantly—the guys who have shown up for them all season.

Begin Slideshow

2015 NFL Draft: NFL Comparisons for Some of Draft's Top Talent

NFL draft season is creeping closer, and a picture of the top prospects in the class is starting to come into focus. 

As fans start to envision this year's crop in their favorite teams' uniforms, the easiest way to analyze their fit is by picturing their closest NFL comparison. 

While no comparison is perfect due to the complex nature of scouting prospects, here are a few close NFL comparisons for some of the top draft-eligible prospects based on each of their strengths and weaknesses.

Begin Slideshow

If Florida State Isn't a Playoff Fraud, Now's the Time to Prove It

Florida State’s football reputation is on trial, and since the gridiron isn’t a courtroom the Seminoles will have to endure being considered guilty of fraud until proven otherwise.

That means they really need to beat Boston College by about 60 points on Saturday.

Such is life for a team that dominates the ACC but flatlines with the 12 members of the College Football Playoff committee, ranking only third again this week despite an undefeated record.

The Seminoles are learning the hard way that evaluating today’s teams extends way beyond counting wins and losses. At a time when style points are being tallied and discussed like never before, FSU has spent 2014 looking like someone in danger of drowning in his or her own bathtub.

CFP committee chairman Jeff Long made it clear that it’s not enough to win on the scoreboard. A team also must look good doing it.

"We look at the games, how they've played them, whether they've controlled the game," Long said, via AL.com's Mike Herndon, referencing FSU’s repeated early deficits against so-so opponents. "They've had a number of come-from-behind victories."

That makes me a little itchy. It hints that selecting four teams for the playoff is drifting into the world of beauty pageants. Or worse, figure skating, where soft landings, mood-enhancing music and flashy sequined costumes all figure into the judges’ computations.

But the committee’s collection of hypercritical eyes also speaks to just how valuable the four playoff spots are. This isn’t the NCAA basketball tournament, where sixth-place teams can grab a spot in the field and no-name universities get gifted with a play-in game. 

Per Jeff Sagarin (via USA Today), Florida State’s strength of schedule ranks only 51st, and there’s no chance of it spiking with only a pair of unranked teams left on the regular-season slate, Boston College and Florida.

To be fair, playoff contender Baylor is further back at 55th, and Ohio State is starting to stir up talk of edging into the final four despite a schedule that ranks 47th.

But Florida State’s performances scream vulnerability. Saturday’s win over Miami was the fifth one this season that saw the Seminoles trail at halftime. 

Also, maybe FSU has stirred up residual doubts by having a history of not living up to its early-season ratings. According to the The Wall Street Journal, no other college team has been overrated so often as the Seminoles have been this century.

If FSU is looking for a scapegoat for its plight, Notre Dame is the best candidate.

The Fighting Irish were undefeated when they took FSU down to the wire on Oct. 18 in what seemed like the game of the season at the time. But that 31-27 victory, which easily could have flipped if not for a late pass-interference call, now looks aggravatingly ho-hum in the wake of Notre Dame nosediving to 7-3 after an overtime loss to Northwestern.

That means the only FSU games that yielded “quality wins” came against two teams that barely wedged their way into the CFP rankings: No. 22 Clemson and No. 24 Louisville. And FSU should be glad that the AP poll’s voters don’t get a say in the playoff, because neither Clemson nor Louisville made that Top 25 this week. 

But there’s a second Notre Dame factor at work for those who would love to see Florida State shunned from college football’s first four-team playoff for the national championship. 

It doesn’t take an elephantine memory to recall what a lousy participant Notre Dame was in the 2012 season’s BCS Championship Game, trailing 28-0 at halftime and falling further behind at 35-0 before losing 42-14 to Alabama.

That’s the team FSU resembles right now. 

The Irish had three wins against teams that finished in the final AP poll’s Top 25: No. 7 Stanford in overtime, No. 15 Oklahoma and No. 24 Michigan by the scant margin of 13-6.

Florida State is 10-0 and has won 26 consecutive games, but things get blurry when the eye test is administered.

Riding the arm of reigning Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston, the Seminoles rank a very respectable 11th for passing yards. But the ground game has been absent since the school year started, ranking only 105th.

For scoring, they’re 17th, and the defense is 34th for points allowed. Those are nice numbers if you’re trying to impress the selection committee of a tier-three bowl game, but they definitely don’t scream final four.

Florida State has some ready-made alibis for why it has had to scramble its way to victories that should be walkovers for a team that’s truly playoff-worthy.

Last Saturday’s 30-26 survival against Miami was an in-state rivalry game, where emotions often narrow the final margin.

As the defending national champion, FSU also has a figurative target on its collective back. The added incentive for opponents is ending that 26-game winning streak and earning a distinction that can never be taken away.

But the committee obviously couldn't care less about the tough road that teams will take to what may be the most prestigious national championship ever won in college football. The schedule SEC West teams play ends that discussion in a hurry.

So if Florida State is unhappy with its No. 3 spot in the playoff rankings the best way to show it is by looking like a champion on Saturday—a take-no-prisoners champion who controls the game from the outset and starts making up for all those other unimpressive performances.

 

Tom Weir covered college football as a columnist for USA Today.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Ohio Bobcats Fans Go Cow Tipping During Game vs. Northern Illinois

This is what Tuesday night MACtion is all about. 

During the first half of Northern Illinois' Mid-American Conference football game vs. Ohio, with the contest tied at 7-7, a fan dressed as a cow was grazing around, eating grass, minding his own business—just being a cow. 

But out of nowhere, another fan shoved him over and sent him rolling down a hill! 

MACtion. It's not just on the field. 

[SB Nation]

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Post-Week 12 College Football Playoff Projections from Analytics Guru Ed Feng

After ESPN aired the release of the inaugural College Football Playoff poll, the question on everybody's mind was: What will the rankings look like when they matter on Dec. 7?

My algorithm projects just that in the sortable table above. Now, allow me to explain my rankings...


Florida State Is Through the Fire

The Seminoles survived.

After three weeks lingering just outside my top four, the odds are finally in Florida State's favor. My numbers saw trap games at Louisville (51.8 percent win chance) and at Miami (35.8 percent win chance), but Jameis Winston's second-half heroics saved the 'Noles in both matchups. 

After the win over Miami, Florida State's probability to make the playoff jumped from 36.0 percent to 56.3 percent, third best in the nation. 

Florida State has won the Atlantic Division and will play either Duke or Georgia Tech in the ACC Championship Game.

My numbers suggest Florida State would have a more difficult time with Georgia Tech (70.3 percent win probability), largely due to the fact that this matchup would force the Seminoles defense to face a different style offense in Georgia Tech's triple-option, chop-blocking attack.

Lucky for the Seminoles, Duke has a better chance (61.2 percent) than Georgia Tech (38.8 percent) to win the Coastal Division. Florida State would have a 79.0 percent win probability over Duke in the neutral-site championship game.


Ohio State's Incredible Rise

Two weeks ago, Ohio State was facing a tough road game against Michigan State and had a 4.5 percent chance to make the playoff. Now, after two straight wins over Top 25 teams, Ohio State has a 39.0 percent playoff probability—more than an eightfold increase.

The offense has driven the Buckeyes' late-season surge. In my rankings, which take yards per play and adjust for strength of schedule, Ohio State has the fourth-best offense in the nation. Even the most optimistic Ohio State fan would not have believed that when Braxton Miller's injury forced J.T. Barrett to take over at quarterback.

Ohio State will almost surely win the Big Ten East, and its most likely opponent in the conference championship game is Wisconsin, which has an 84.2 percent chance to win the West. The game will come down to whether Ohio State's 25th-ranked defense can slow down the best rushing attack in the nation. Ohio State has a 53.4 percent chance to emerge as the winner.

The Buckeyes need some help, but they are very much alive. 


Why Did Mississippi State's Odds Go Up?

Mississippi State (9-1) could not overcome three Dak Prescott interceptions against Alabama and lost its first game of the season. However, its playoff odds increased from 40.1 percent to 43.9 percent. There are two reasons why.

First, the committee dropped Mississippi State only three spots to fourth in its rankings. My model assumes that a team drops seven spots on average after a loss. However, this likely doesn't apply to a team that suffers its first loss so late in the season. The 40.1 percent playoff odds for Mississippi State last week were probably low.

Second, the loss now means Mississippi State has just a 9.9 percent chance to win the SEC West and play in the conference championship game. This small likelihood is a good thing, as it means Mississippi State avoids another tough game.

The Bulldogs will have a good chance to make the playoff if they blow out Vanderbilt and win against Ole Miss. However, the latter is far from certain. My numbers show Mississippi State as underdogs (41.6 percent win chance) in the Egg Bowl Nov. 29.


2-Loss Teams Still Alive

After 12 weeks of college football, the top seven contenders for the college football playoff have one loss or fewer. However, this doesn't necessarily mean that the remaining teams have no chance to crack the top four.

Of the 10,000 simulations I ran to produce these playoff probabilities, 27.5 percent had a two-loss team in the playoff. This includes scenarios in which a one-loss team, say Alabama, loses again and makes the playoff.

Right now, Ole Miss is the top-ranked two-loss team at No. 8 in the committee rankings. The Rebels could climb back into the top four with a win over Mississippi State (58.4 percent win probability) and help from other teams. My numbers imply a 15.3 percent chance of this happening.

Another two-loss SEC team, Georgia, is right behind Ole Miss in ninth. It can only win the East Division if Missouri loses one of its two remaining conference games. My numbers give a 70.0 percent chance for this to occur. Then, if Georgia wins the SEC championship, the committee will have to move it into the fourth spot.


Alabama Finally Ranked Where It Belongs

Alabama has always had one of the best playoff probabilities. According to my numbers, the Tide's playoff probability has never dipped below 43.9 percent.

Finally, the committee caught up to our numbers and put the Tide in the Top Four where they belong. 

The Crimson Tide have a whopping 74.8 percent chance to make the playoff.


Ed Feng founded The Power Rank and has also written for Grantland and Sports Illustrated. Follow him on Twitter @thepowerrank.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Kramer's College Football Notebook: Is SEC Bias Back?

You could argue that the Week 13 College Football Playoff Top 25 is rife with SEC bias, although you’d have to wander down a ways to make your case, with the first four teams being fine right where they are. 

With so much conversation taking place over whether the SEC is receiving preferential treatment by the selection committee, it has become abundantly clear that this group still values the Southeastern Conference above all others.

That's not necessarily bias, but it is the current reality.

If you have gripes with the SEC’s poll placement, don’t look at Alabama, the nation’s No. 1. Don’t focus in on Mississippi State, which fell only to the fourth spot—and reasonably so—after a loss to the Crimson Tide. These teams have done enough to warrant consideration for the playoff, at least right now. You may not necessarily agree completely, but you understand.

As you dive deeper down the poll, you notice a trend. You see Georgia back in the Top 10 only weeks after suffering a loss to Florida, a team whose head coach stepped down just days ago. Although the Bulldogs—at least talent-wise—are on par if not better than the teams below them, the committee was quick to forget one of this season’s most surprising losses. That doesn’t mean it's wrong about this particular move, but it is a noteworthy stance being made.

Perhaps more intriguing, however, is the team Georgia manhandled on Saturday. Auburn, in the midst of a nasty tailspin, still only dropped to the No. 14 spot, down from No. 9 in Week 12.

While you could argue that Auburn’s current rank doesn’t matter—pointing out that its playoff hopes are all but dead—that doesn’t mean this rating won’t alter the perception of others going forward.

It could help a team like Alabama solidify the No. 1 rank if the Crimson Tide beat the Tigers in the Iron Bowl Nov. 29. It could also help Mississippi State creep into the playoff if Auburn is able to return to form, considering the Tigers are likely still the Bulldogs’ best win.

This is where the case for SEC bias can be made, in the far less obvious places. But in reality, such bias—whether real or manufactured jargon—won’t even be realized until the final ranking is released on Dec. 7 and our semifinal games are crafted.

At that point, we’ll be able to decide if one conference was given preferential treatment over another. Until then, we’re simply taking notes and tossing out claims along the way. I suppose it helps us pass the time. 

As for other observations on the latest rankings, here’s what stood out.

 

2-Loss Teams Are Still Alive

While we’re busy debating the resumes of one-loss teams within reach of the top four positions, there are things brewing down below that warrant your attention. 

Georgia, UCLA and Ole Miss—three teams with two losses—are just sort of hanging around, waiting for the appropriate time to shock the system.

The case for the Rebels isn’t as obvious. They need to win out, which is not a given with Arkansas and Mississippi State to come, and they also need help. But with Alabama assuming the role as the new No. 1, Ole Miss at least can point to its schedule and highlight perhaps the most impressive win of all Top 10 teams to date. 

A lot has to fall into place for this run to be realized, although crazier things have happened, as you’re well aware. 

For Georgia and UCLA—two teams that looked to be out of this at various points in the season—the path to the playoff is a bit more defined. It's also not a tremendous leap. If one or both of these teams are able to find their way into their conference championship games without another loss on the schedule, there’s a decent likelihood each will draw a top-three opponent in the finale.

Say Georgia closes out the season by beating Alabama, or UCLA finishes with a revenge victory over Oregon; how will the selection committee respond?

These remain “what if?” scenarios as it stands today, but all three could reach the playoff with a little (or a lot of) help.

 

TCU, Ohio State, Baylor, Mississippi State and No. 4-Spot Chaos

Perhaps this situation will sort itself out cleanly and the committee will be able to toss an obvious team into the fourth and final playoff opening with a smile and without a ton of debate. 

In all likelihood, however, this will not be the case. And the resume dissection when it comes to Mississippi State, TCU, Ohio State and Baylor—the teams with one loss in the No. 4 through No. 7 spots—could play out through conference championship weekend. 

.@jefflongUA: “The differences between teams 4-7 are narrow, very narrow. There are more games to play....”

— George Schroeder (@GeorgeSchroeder) November 19, 2014

There is an excellent case to be made for all four as it stands right now: Ohio State is the hottest team, Mississippi State’s lone loss just came to the No. 1 school, TCU’s Big 12 resume is probably the most impressive, and Baylor is the only team to beat TCU. 

That translates to endless discussion, something the committee has likely invested countless hours in while trying to sort through. Thankfully, it still has many meaningful games to watch and results to explore.

But if the season were to end today—and thank goodness it does not—committee chairman Jeff Long would require bodyguards ‘round the clock following his top-four explanation. In its current form, it's an absolute mess.

For all we know, however, two of the teams currently fighting for one spot could both get in. Although the top three spots are spoken for by deserving teams outside of this debate, chaos often comes when you least expect it. As we wait for chaos above, we also search for clarity below.

Good luck with this one, committee.

 

Can Somebody Give Marshall a Hug?

It has become abundantly clear that no result for Marshall will be good enough to crack the Top 25.

This season, Doc Holliday’s team has outscored its opponents 471 to 163. It has not lost, winning every game by at least two touchdowns and all but two games by at least three touchdowns. And yet, given the lackluster schedule, it’s not good enough. 

Even when No. 25 Minnesota lost at home—albeit to a surging Ohio State team—the Thundering Herd were unable to overtake the Gophers in the poll. Minnesota, with an extra loss on its resume, didn’t budge from its position.

That’s really all you have to say when it comes to Marshall and the uphill climb each team outside of the Power Five faces while jockeying for a position. It’s not a knock on Minnesota directly, but rather an honest evaluation of how the committee seems to view these teams that are simply trying to make an appearance.

Although Long acknowledged that these schools are being discussed, they’re not being brought up by enough members of the group to warrant a place in the rankings.

Jeff Long: "We talked a lot about Marshall, Boise State, Colorado State, Memphis, Northern Illinois" Talking about top Group of 5 team..

— Ralph D. Russo (@ralphDrussoAP) November 19, 2014

With no meaningful games for Marshall or Colorado State on the horizon, there’s no reason to assume this trend will alter course. 

One of these two teams will be playing in a meaningful bowl game as part of the new agreement. With no appearances likely for either squad moving forward, however, we might have to wait until the very last day to see which one ultimately hears its name called.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Is Alabama Really the Best Team in the Country?

The Alabama Crimson Tide are sitting pretty at No. 1 in the latest edition of the College Football Playoff committee's official rankings

Bleacher Report college football analysts Adam Kramer and Michael Felder debate whether the Crimson Tide are the best team in the country.

Is Alabama deserving of the No. 1 ranking? 

Watch the video and let us know! 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Is the CFP Committee Finally Respecting the Ohio State Buckeyes?

The Ohio State Buckeyes made a nice jump to No. 6 in the latest version of the College Football Playoff committee's rankings. 

Bleacher Report college football analysts Michael Felder and Adam Kramer discuss whether or not the Buckeyes are finally getting the proper respect.

Do the Ohio State Buckeyes belong at No. 6?

Watch the video, and let us know! 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

5 Things We Learned from College Football Playoff Committee's Week 13 Rankings

Are you happy now?

For those who clamored for the BCS' demise and the birth of a playoff system, Tuesday night's rankings could not have brought smiles to their faces. In short, the committee's choices actually made the polls look good by comparison.

It's as if the selection committee's 12 members are waging war on logic. Strength of schedule is important, only when it's not. Head-to-head matters, except when it doesn't. 

And if you're not a member of the Power Five conferences, you should just tune in on Dec. 7 when the committee reveals who will get that guaranteed slot in a New Year's Six bowl. Your resume and body of work clearly do not measure up to the big boys, no matter what you do.

So what can we take away from this week's rankings? You mean other than that the committee should be immediately disbanded in favor of an improved BCS formula?

OK, let's try these five:

 

1. The eyeball test trumps all

Alabama is ranked No. 1 because it apparently looks better "on offense, defense and special teams" than everyone else, according to chairman Jeff Long, who spoke on ESPN's broadcast. The committee is untroubled that Alabama has beaten just one of its own Top 25 teams (Mississippi State) while No. 2 Oregon has beaten three (UCLA, Michigan State and Utah) and No. 3 Florida State two (Clemson and Louisville) while staying undefeated.

 

2. Maybe the problem is those lying eyes

Former No. 1 Mississippi State only dropped to No. 4 after losing to Alabama because Long said the Bulldogs lost by only five to the Tide and were never out of the game. Maybe that's the biggest problem with item No. 1—the committee members need to have their eyes examined.

The Bulldogs were never in that game, all the way to the concession TD that made the final score of 25-20 deceptively close. This "good loss," however, was enough to keep MSU in the playoff field despite the fact that, like the Tide, it's beaten just one currently ranked team (Auburn).

 

3. Strength of schedule for me, not for thee

And whereas Baylor is ostensibly still punished for its terrible nonconference schedule, the same does not apply to Mississippi State, which actually played four non-Power Five opponents as compared to Baylor's three.

The Bulldogs beat Southern Miss (3-8), UAB (5-5), South Alabama (6-4) and Tennessee-Martin (FCS, 5-6) and that's good enough to trump TCU, which actually beat three currently ranked teams and played two more Power Five opponents than MSU did.

 

4. Ohio State looks to be DOA

The Buckeyes are No. 6 and probably as good as dead when it comes to the playoff, unless they get some kind of divine intervention. There are not enough good opponents left on their schedule that will provide them with a significant lift to jump teams like Mississippi State and TCU.

And Baylor, one spot behind now, is poised to perhaps snatch the final playoff spot if it can defeat Kansas State on the final day of the regular season to claim the Big 12 title.

 

5. Group of Five? What Group of Five?

For the third week in a row, no team outside of the Power Five conferences (and Notre Dame) was in the rankings. Of the 27 Power Five teams with three or fewer losses, only Duke and Iowa are not ranked.

The committee clearly takes strength of schedule seriously when it comes to Group of Five teams. It's still very much anybody's guess which team among Marshall, Colorado State and Boise State is considered the best in the (possibly faulty) eyes of the committee.

 

The rankings

 

Follow on Twitter @ThePlayoffGuru

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Blueprint for How Ohio State Can Crash the College Football Playoff

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Win and you're in?

When it comes to Ohio State's chances of making the first-ever College Football Playoff, it may be that simple.

For the third consecutive week, the Buckeyes moved up in the selection committee's poll on Tuesday, jumping from No. 8 to No. 6 following their 31-24 win over No. 25 Minnesota last weekend. Three weeks ago, Ohio State found itself 16th and an apparent long shot in the committee's initial poll before jumping to the edge of the all-important top four.

And while on the surface it may appear as though the Buckeyes still need help to earn a coveted top-four spot and subsequent chance at the national championship, that might not necessarily be the case.

Because of the teams who don't appear to control their own fates, Ohio State has the best chance to make a final definitive statement. With their road wins over Michigan State and the Golden Gophers enhancing their resume in the past two weeks, the Buckeyes will have a chance to add to it in the Big Ten Championship Game should No. 16 Wisconsin wind up representing the conference's West division.

That's more than at least two of the teams currently ranked ahead of them can say.

Assuming each team ranked in the top seven wins out through the remainder of its schedule, that would likely guarantee No. 1 Alabama, No. 2 Oregon and No. 3 Florida State spots in the top three in some order. That would leave No. 4 Mississippi State, No. 5 TCU, Ohio State and No. 7 Baylor vying for the fourth and final spot, with the Buckeyes possibly possessing the inside track.

It may not seem that way now with both the Bulldogs and Horned Frogs ranked ahead of OSU. But Mississippi State currently trails Alabama in the SEC West and thus would be left out of the SEC Championship Game. And the Big 12 doesn't have a league title game for TCU to play in.

Moreover, TCU only has 6-5 Texas and 2-6 Iowa State remaining on its slate, hardly opportunities to make a final pitch to the playoff committee.

Meanwhile, the Buckeyes are currently on track to represent the East division in the Big Ten Championship Game, with only 3-7 Indiana and 5-5 Michigan standing in their way. Should Wisconsin win out—the Badgers have 7-3 Iowa and 7-3 Minnesota left on their schedule—it could very well find itself in or near the committee's top 10, giving the Buckeyes another opportunity to pick up an all-important quality win.

"Ohio State has had two impressive road wins in the Big Ten," committee chair and Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long said on ESPN's Tuesday night rankings reveal. "Those were statements that they made on the road in the Big Ten against ranked teams. That made a very positive statement about Ohio State and allowed them to move to the level that they did."

One would imagine that adding another such victory, albeit at a neutral site, would only increase the Buckeyes' standing with the committee, possibly placing them in the top four without any outside help.

Mississippi State does make for a potentially formidable foe given that its lone loss came to the current No. 1 team in the country and it still has No. 8 Ole Miss remaining on its schedule. But the CFP's website lists conference championships as its top criteria for differentiating comparable teams, and the Bulldogs won't even own a division title in the event that Alabama wins out.

As for No. 7 Baylor—who Ohio State jumped this week while the Bears were on a bye—like TCU, it doesn't have a conference championship game to potentially make a final statement in. But Baylor does have a Dec. 6 date with No. 12 Kansas State left on its slate, which could give the Bears one last quality win on a resume that already includes a victory over TCU.

It's unlikely that would be enough for Baylor to jump back over Ohio State, but in this first year of the playoff, everything is unprecedented. There's simply no guaranteeing that a Big Ten championship would be enough for the Buckeyes solidify a top-four spot, but the more this season plays out, the more likely it seems.

That is perhaps why Urban Meyer declined comment when asked on Monday whether his team belonged in the playoff. Ohio State may not control its own destiny—at least not to its knowledge—but the Buckeyes are trending upward with one last potential statement left to be made.

"That's not even going to be addressed," Meyer insisted. "We wake up every day to compete for championships in November. It's at the doorstep now."

 

Ben Axelrod is Bleacher Report's Ohio State Lead Writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BenAxelrod. Unless noted otherwise, all quotes obtained firsthand. All statistics courtesy of cfbstats.com and recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Hits and Misses of the CFP Committee's Top 25 Poll After Week 12

The College Football Playoff selection committee came out with its Top 25 ranking Tuesday, and much like with the previous system, there's bound to be debate.

Bleacher Report college football analysts Adam Kramer and Michael Felder break down the hits and misses from the committee poll.

Which schools do you think deserve to be in the CFP?

Check out the video, and let us know!

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Playoff Rankings 2014: Twitter Reacts to Week 13 Top 25 Reveal

For the first time since the College Football Playoff rankings were introduced this year, the Mississippi State Bulldogs are not the top-ranked team in the country.   

The Alabama Crimson Tide, lurking on the edge of the postseason picture until Tuesday's reveal, made their way to the top of the rankings and bumped the Bulldogs to No. 4 thanks to a 25-20 victory on Saturday in Tuscaloosa.

Here is an overview of the rest of the Top 25 standings:

Committee chairman Jeff Long justified boosting Alabama so far in the hierarchy, per ESPN CollegeFootball:

The only team in the championship picture to avoid a loss thus far are the Florida State Seminoles. Although they haven't gotten a lot of style points in grinding to a perfect 10-0 record, there's no denying the reigning national champions have what it takes to repeat at this point.  

A tough ACC test nearly derailed the Seminoles, yet quarterback Jameis Winston and Co. made enough plays to win a tight one, 30-26. Controversy is sure to swirl since Florida State is below two one-loss teams, though, especially since Oregon was idle last week.

Yahoo Sports' Pat Forde had no issue with the committee's first four this week:

Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee noted how Louisville's presence among the nation's top teams aids FSU's cause, as the Seminoles mounted a comeback win on the road against the Cardinals earlier in the year:

Stewart Mandel of Fox Sports made a keen observation about Florida State's circumstances:

ESPN's Robert Smith hinted at some SEC bias in the rankings from the 12-person selection committee in light of Auburn's modest drop following a 34-7 blowout loss to Georgia:

Cleveland.com's Chris Fedor believes Mississippi State and Alabama are indeed deserving of top-four spots given their brutal conference schedules:

There is merit to that notion, in light of the top quality wins the undefeated Seminoles have had to date, per Fox Sports' Bruce Feldman:

Scott Van Pelt of ESPN feels that the Ohio State Buckeyes are playing as well as any team in the nation at the moment, via ESPN College Football:

A meager out-of-conference schedule continues to plague Baylor in the committee's eyes, and ESPN's Joe Schad weighed in on that subplot:

As for what lies ahead, it will be interesting to see whether Ohio State can run the table, win the Big Ten championship and insert itself into the top-four discussion. That conference doesn't have the same reputation as the SEC, yet the Buckeyes are still playing excellent football, with a formidable front seven on defense and a prolific QB in J.T. Barrett.

The Horned Frogs will also seek to do whatever they can to climb back into the top four. It appears the SEC may very well have two participants in the College Football Playoff, which could leave both TCU and Ohio State as the odd teams out.

But considering there are so few one-loss teams remaining, never mind undefeated, there is still enough football to be played for the postseason hierarchy to undergo a significant shift.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Playoff Rankings 2014: Selection Committee Top 25 for Week 13

Predicting the four teams sitting atop the Week 13 College Football Playoff poll was rather self-explanatory.

Oregon, by virtue of kicking back with its feet up in Eugene on Saturday, was a shoo-in. So were Florida State and Alabama, the former again narrowly escaping its first loss and the latter taking down the No. 1 team in the country. Most assumed Mississippi State, having survived the SEC West gauntlet and losing its only game to a playoff contender, would stick around.

All that remained was finding out the order. How far would the Bulldogs slide? Would the Seminoles fall behind multiple one-loss teams? Do the Ducks ascend to the top spot despite being inactive this week?

Here is a look at the answers to those questions and how the entire Top 25 panned out:

Mississippi State's descent is certainly the biggest takeaway, as the Bulldogs' comeback effort against Alabama fell short.

Dak Prescott probably played himself out of the Heisman running with three interceptions, each coming deep inside Crimson Tide territory. While none of those turnovers directly led to points for Alabama, they stopped Mississippi State in its tracks as it attempted to mount a comeback from a first-half deficit that stretched to 19 points.

"It was very disappointing," Prescott told reporters. "We squandered a lot of points. We lost focus in the game. You have to win in the red zone, but we squandered our chances. Alabama is a great team. They did a good job (with defensive) scheming, but I think it was on us."

Alabama's path to the CFP has been evident for weeks. The Tide have successfully completed the first two legs of their late-season gauntlet, defeating LSU in Baton Rouge and taking down Mississippi State. They'll have to atone for their heartbreaking 2013 loss to Auburn in two weeks and win the SEC championship—most likely against Missouri—to stay alive.

"It's just like the playoffs now," Alabama coach Nick Sabantold reporters. "You can't afford to lose."

Florida State also knows it can't lose. The Seminoles have not defeated a team currently ranked inside The Associated Press Top 25 and have built their resume on a series of nail-biters. The defending champs earned their third victory of the season after trailing by 15 or more points, overcoming two separate 16-point deficits in their 30-26 win over Miami.

Jameis Winston threw for 304 yards and Dalvin Cook gained 92 on only seven carries, adding two critical touchdowns. Cook's 44-yard score in the second quarter helped stop the bleeding after the Hurricanes scored the game's first 16 points, and his 26-yard scamper with 3:05 remaining capped off the comeback.

"They love each other and it gets down to that," Seminoles coach Jimbo Fisher told reporters. "They play for each other. They don't panic. This is a heck of a Miami football team. Give them credit...but our kids just execute when they have to."

Florida State finishes the regular season with home games against Boston College and Florida. By all accounts, the Seminoles should skate through rather easily to a 12-0 finish. Boston College is a 6-4 team coming off a drubbing against Louisville, and Florida, despite being a rival, is playing out its season with a lame-duck coach. These are games elite teams—even ones as flawed as these Seminoles—should pull off without much issue. Looking ahead, the Seminoles should expect to face either Duke or Georgia Tech in the ACC championship.

It'll be interesting to see how the committee reacts if Florida State comes close to losing either contest. None of the remaining power-five teams with zero or one loss play another the rest of the way. It's possible, albeit unlikely, that all seven head into the final rankings unscathed over the last few weeks.

The two SEC teams, Alabama and Mississippi State, seem like mortal locks if they finish with one loss. Both have at least one more game against a ranked opponent, and getting through the SEC West with one loss is a feat that's virtually unparalleled.

Oregon, which has relative gimmes against Colorado and Oregon State remaining, has been a committee favorite throughout the process. Add in a Pac-12 Championship Game matchup against a team that will very likely be ranked, and the Ducks aren't likely to find themselves on the outside looking in.

That could leave TCU, Baylor and Ohio State standing in the cold. The Horned Frogs blemished their resume over the weekend by falling 10 points behind Kansas in the second half before righting the ship. 

"This was not going to get any style points," TCU coach Gary Patterson told ESPN.com's Jake Trotter. "I know it'll probably hurt us. But the biggest thing is we got to 9-1. We found a way to win on the road, with some bounces that didn't go our way. A lot of teams would have lost this game." 

Baylor, which still owns the head-to-head advantage against TCU, is home for its last three games. The Bears will most likely be Kansas State's biggest fans down the stretch, as the Wildcats remain their greatest chance to play a ranked opponent.

Ohio State might be playing the best football of the trio after consecutive road wins against ranked opponents but has nothing of substance remaining before the Big Ten Championship Game. Indiana and rival Michigan should be pushovers; the Buckeyes' only hope is that Wisconsin is rolling as a Top 10 team by the time the likely opponents meet.

In a nutshell: Everything and nothing is settled. Should everyone win out, it's likely we're looking at the nation's top four teams heading into the playoff. That said, we're about one upset loss away from total chaos.

 

Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Playoff 2014: Final Four Predictions After 4th Top 25 Rankings

There was sure to be a shakeup in the rankings with Mississippi State falling to Alabama. Following the upset, the biggest questions were where both programs would land and how the rest of the top four would look.

With the fourth poll being released, Alabama takes the top spot for the first time following the victory. Behind the Tide sit Oregon, Florida State and Mississippi State with TCU being knocked out of the playoff picture.

All four teams have easy opponents this weekend, so there isn't likely to be much change at the top. However, the rest of the season leaves plenty of room for change at the top prior to the College Football Playoff.   

Below is a look at the latest CFP committee rankings and predictions for the playoff bracket.

 

Analysis

Don't look now, but Alabama might finally be the program most believed it would be prior to the season.

The Crimson Tide are firing on all cylinders behind a high-powered offense. Blake Sims has been playing great under center but has been helped quite a bit by the athleticism of Amari Cooper.

Thanks to his outstanding play this season, Cooper has earned a fair share of Heisman attention. Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports and Bryan Fischer of NFL.com provide their take on the dynamic receiver:

Cooper has averaged 130.3 yards and 1.1 touchdowns per game this season. He's also hauled in 47.5 percent of the receiving yards and has nearly three times as many receptions as DeAndrew White. If the Tide reach the playoff, it will be on the shoulders of Sims and Cooper.

Twenty-six games. That's how long the winning streak for Florida State has lasted despite some of the tightest matchups all season.

The Seminoles once again survived another game where they trailed by a large margin against Miami and responded with a massive comeback. However, doubt never creeps into the minds of FSU players, as defensive end Mario Edwards Jr. told Jared Shanker of ESPN.com.

"Not for one second did we think because they jumped out that we were going to lose," Edwards Jr. said. "If we calm down and play the way we're supposed to play we knew that we would come back and win the game."

Jameis Winston continued an up-and-down season with another strong second half, proving again that this program has confidence to accomplish nearly anything. ESPN Stats & Info points out just how different the two halves have been for Winston:

But will that hold up against Florida and a Coastal team in the ACC Championship? That's the question leading up to the CFP for voters. If it does, the 'Noles will be a no-brainer for the playoff and competing for a second straight title.

While FSU is leaving some doubt about its future, Oregon had a bye to regroup ahead of playing Colorado. Meanwhile, the No. 4 spot has become a hot commodity between several deserving teams.

The USA Today panel projects Mississippi State as the No. 4 team currently for the playoff, but it was an arduous task getting to that point. Background on the selection was provided by Daniel Uthman of USA Today:

The difference between No. 4 and 5 in this week's committee voting was smaller than it has been all season. In fact, Mississippi State and TCU tied at 28 voting points. The Bulldogs earned the No. 4 seed by being ranked higher than TCU on eight of the 13 individual panelists' ballots. [...]

Perhaps it is because the Bulldogs were joining the ranks of one-loss teams, or maybe it's because the Bulldogs' first loss came at Alabama.

Another loss for Mississippi State would change the entire landscape again, but it is certainly deserving of a top-four slot. The Ducks may change some voters' minds if they win the Pac-12, but a win in the Egg Bowl should be enough to solidify a spot for the Bulldogs.

Needless to say, nothing is set at this point for any of the programs listed above. As the weeks continue to wind down in the college football season, all eyes will continue to remain focused on the playoff bracket.

After all, there's no prize for finishing fifth this season, regardless of how many teams might deserve it.

 

Follow @RCorySmith on Twitter.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

The Most Important Florida State Football Players for the Rest of the Year

No. 1 Florida State has proved through 10 games that it needs production out of each and every one of its players if its national title dreams are going to remain intact.

But on a roster jam-packed full of talent expected to make an impact, there are a handful of players who are on another level when it comes to their importance to the Seminoles the rest of the season.

Let's take a look at those players, as their production will very likely determine whether the 'Noles remain in the College Football Playoff picture.

Begin Slideshow

The Most Important Tennessee Volunteers Players for the Rest of the Year

After dismantling the Kentucky Wildcats 50-16 on Saturday, the Tennessee Volunteers are just one win away from bowl eligibility and three SEC wins—the most the team has seen since 2010. 

With star senior linebacker and team captain A.J. Johnson and redshirt sophomore defensive back Michael Williams currently suspended due to a sexual assault investigation, the Vols need their younger players to step up now more than ever to continue building momentum and establishing Tennessee as an SEC team on the rise.

Saturday's matchup against the Missouri Tigers will be one of Tennessee's most important games of the season, as it gives the team a chance for redemption after it allowed the Florida Gators to escape Neyland Stadium with a win two months ago.

The Tigers control their own destiny to make it to Atlanta for their second SEC Championship appearance in a row, but the Vols can spoil their dreams if the team's outstanding new players continue to progress and improve.

In addition, with depth becoming a critical issue for Tennessee late in the season, the Vols must be careful to not take even a struggling Vanderbilt team for granted to close out the year, as the Commodores would love nothing more than to keep their in-state rival home for Christmas once again. 

For Tennessee to have a chance at winning out and reclaiming the state championship, here are five players who will be asked to play big roles down the stretch. 

Begin Slideshow

Pages