NCAA Football

College Football Playoff Rankings 2014: Twitter Reacts to Week 10 Reveal

The first rankings for the 2014 College Football Playoff were released Tuesday night. With how much controversy the BCS standings have generated in the past, it was going to be fascinating to see what the new system's 12-person selection committee produced.      

Here is a look at the hierarchy in the eyes of those who will judge the four postseason participants worthy of battling for the national championship:

To the surprise of very few, Mississippi State reigns supreme as the No. 1 team, a status the Bulldogs hold in both the Associated Press and USA Today polls. The reigning national champion Florida State Seminoles, the only marquee program with an undefeated record, rightly sits No. 2.

Dan Wetzel of Yahoo Sports weighed in on the grueling process the committee underwent to determine its top 25 teams:

Now, let's get on to some of the reaction from Tuesday's rankings.

The Big Lead's Jason McIntyre was right in line with the selection committee's top four:

Critics may say that SEC bias played a factor, in light of this observation from ESPN Stats & Info:

ESPN's Max Bretos hinted at that phenomenon:

NOLA.com's Jeff Duncan captured a unique illustration of college football's current powerhouses:

Former Alabama quarterback and current SEC Network analyst Greg McElroy presented his perspective:

Steve Palazzolo of Pro Football Focus offered his take:

Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee was a bit surprised by Notre Dame's modest ranking of 10th:

Fox Sports' Joel Klatt felt the Fighting Irish and Alabama were in their proper slots:

With the amount of SEC flavor that occupied the top of the rankings, the Pac-12 Conference noticed its representatives were held in high esteem:

Before the unveiling, Alabama head coach Nick Saban didn't feel the unveiling bore much significance, via The Tuscaloosa News' Aaron Suttles:

And Saban may have a point in that there is so much more football to be played before anything definitive is decided in terms of the playoff picture.

That holds true for the Crimson Tide, as SportsNation suggested:

Alabama might be disappointed to be in sixth in light of its third-place standing in the two other major polls, whether Saban and his team acknowledges it or not.

Mississippi State still has to face the likes of both Alabama and Ole Miss on the road in two of its final three games, so the Bulldogs are far from a lock to remain at the top. A foundation of confidence has been groomed with wins over LSU and Auburn already, though.

The SEC appears to be both top-heavy and deep as the nation's best football conference yet again. It wouldn't be a surprise to see the national champion emerge from that formidable group.

However, the fact that all these big-time programs beat each other up amid heated competition could lead to a different school seizing ultimate glory. The following quote from ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit is fitting:

Non-SEC squads still in the mix, other than the obvious Seminoles, are Oregon and Notre Dame. They have playmaking, dual-threat QBs in Marcus Mariota and Everett Golson respectively to give them a puncher's chance at the playoffs.

So many one-loss teams are jockeying for position, though, so it's nearly impossible to determine what will happen from here. Whether the College Football Playoff is considered an improvement over the BCS is also yet to be seen.

With the inaugural release of these rankings, at least the road to crowning a champion is becoming clearer.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

4-Star WR Brandon Burton ​Compares Star​ QBs Ricky Town and Josh Rosen

Brandon Burton is still in the midst of his junior high school season, but the Southern California wide receiver already has experience competing alongside and against some of the country's premier players. Those opportunities helped him become a valued member of the 2016 recruiting class.

"I'm grateful to be in this position," Burton said. "I've been putting in the work, while others have been there to challenge me and force me to become better."

The 6'0", 180-pound playmaker previously encountered a pair of pressure-packed situations any pass-hungry receiver would cherish while competing in the competitive seven-on-seven scene. Burton served as a receiver for 5-star quarterbacks Josh Rosen and Ricky Town.

The celebrated prospects are considered top-tier talents in an impressive 2015 quarterback class and could drastically impact the future Pac-12 football landscape.

Rosen, a defending state champion at St. John Bosco High School, is committed to UCLA. Town, a former Alabama pledge who plays for St. Bonaventure High School, flipped to USC in January. 

Burton, rated ninth nationally among 2016 receivers in 247Sports' composite rankings, holds offers from each Los Angeles program and could potentially reunite with either player at the next level. He spent time with Rosen and Town during different phases of his seven-on-seven ventures and speaks highly of both blue-chippers.

“They’re great leaders and bring an extreme amount of talent to the field," Burton said. "You can't question their arm strength or ability to put the ball where it needs to be. They can both throw receivers open, which is pretty rare at this level."

Though he offered up praise for their physical tools, Burton believes sharp mentalities set the Elite 11 finalists apart.

"They step into a huddle and know exactly what they’re doing. That definitely makes an impact on everyone else," he said. "Once they get up to the line, both can identify whatever the defense is showing and make pre-snap adjustments."

Burton expects Town and Rosen to battle for conference titles in college.

“Right now the USC and UCLA rivalry is already really good, but it’s going to continue to grow because of the coaching staffs at both schools and the kind of players they're bringing in," he said. "I think the quarterbacks could take it to another level in the next few years with Josh Rosen and Ricky Town.”

Burton, who doubles as a defensive back, could become a part of the crosstown clash in coming years if he chooses to sign with either squad. His high school, Junipero Serra, is located in Los Angeles County and has served as a valuable Trojans recruiting pipeline.

Rising NFL receivers Robert Woods and Marqise Lee starred there before beginning sensational USC careers. Trojans freshman Adoree' Jackson, a 5-star 2014 signee, also hails from Junipero Serra. 

The three-way player has made an immediate impact. He has a touchdown reception and 21 tackles this season, adding a 100-yard kickoff return score last weekend against Utah. 

Jackson, who was the top-ranked cornerback in 247Sports' 2014 composite rankings, made sure Burton brought his best to every practice as an underclassman.

“Adoree’ always had us ready to go," he said. "Who wouldn’t want to compete against the best? That’s exactly what he was—a top-five player in the nation who forced you to get better. I definitely give him some credit for helping me get to where I am now."

So does Burton see himself following the footsteps of past Junipero Serra greats to the Coliseum? 

”It’s a great pipeline and I’m proud to have the option of continuing it," he said. "But right now I’m open to going anywhere in the country. I’m excited about some of the offers I recently received.”

Stanford is one that really stands out. The Cardinal extended a scholarship offer in early October and Burton immediately reciprocated interest.

“It’s a great football program and a great education up there," Burton said. "Stanford offers the best of both worlds and that’s a big deal to me.”

He plans to visit Palo Alto for a game in the coming weeks to get a better feel for what Stanford brings to the table. Burton's other Pac-12 offers include Arizona State, Cal, Colorado and Utah.

Given his willingness to explore options beyond the West Coast, offers from Miami, Florida and Florida State also warrant attention. Burton would like to establish relationships with more SEC programs as things progress, specifically identifying Ole Miss, LSU, Texas A&M, Mississippi State and Tennessee as potential fits.

Expect more doors to swing open before long. The next star Junipero Serra recruit has arrived.

“It’s great to be a part of that history," Burton said. "It was a big reason why I decided to attend this high school. It's produced top college prospects for a while and now you’re starting to see them make an impact in the NFL. I'm just trying to live up to what they've done."

 

Recruit quotes obtained firsthand by Bleacher Report national recruiting analyst Tyler Donohue unless otherwise note.

Recruit ratings courtesy of 247Sports.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

4-Star WR Brandon Burton ​Compares Star​ QBs Ricky Town and Josh Rosen

Brandon Burton is still in the midst of his junior high school season, but the Southern California wide receiver already has experience competing alongside and against some of the country's premier players...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

College Football Playoff 2014: Official Selection Committee Rankings for Week 10

As the release of the inaugural College Football Playoff poll was drawing near, speculation about the sport's hierarchy reached a fever pitch. How closely would the 12-person committee's Top 25 resemble the standard-bearing Associated Press and Coaches polls? Would there be a state of inertia that seemingly renders the whole thing moot or would the new voters radicalize the tried and true beyond our comfort?

Tuesday night, the committee unveiled a happy medium.   

As expected, Mississippi State retains across-the-board control of its own destiny by earning the top spot in the poll released during an ESPN special. Dan Mullen's Bulldogs are followed by Florida State, the only other remaining Power Five unbeaten. Immediately following the locks at the top are Auburn and Ole Miss, an interesting deviation from the other polls:

The 12-person selection committee is comprised of an eclectic group of college football experts and surprises. Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is the most notable among a group of current athletic directors, former media members and former coaches. Famous football father Oliver Luck, who also serves at the West Virginia athletic director, is also on the committee. 

The group gathered to put their inaugural rankings together Monday at the Gaylord Texan Resort in Grapevine, Texas. The lengthy meeting was said to involve multiple votes as the members established their criteria and made their case.

"This is a truly historic day in college football," executive director Bill Hancock said, per Heather Dinich of ESPN.com. "Twenty years from now we will all look back and say we were here on the first meeting of the selection committee. When we took the first vote today, we looked at each other and said we have just taken the first vote in the history of the college football playoff. It was really, really a cool thing."

While only the top four teams matter in the end—all other remaining bowl games are determined by conference affiliation—the committee decided on a Top 25 for the sake of consistency. Conference championships, schedule strength, head-to-head record and common opponents are chief among the criteria used.

It's no surprise, then, that Mississippi State was a no-brainer lock for the No. 1 spot. Led by Heisman contender Dak Prescott, the Bulldogs have reeled off seven straight wins to start the season, three of which came against Top 10 opponents. LSU and (especially) Texas A&M have been outed as being a bit overrated in hindsight, but Mullen's offense is anything but.

Prescott, garnering numerous Tim Tebow comparisons along the way, has compiled 25 total touchdowns (15 passing, 10 rushing) while emerging as perhaps the best player in college football. The junior signal-caller at times struggles with accuracy in the pocket but has come through with massive performances in the season's biggest games.

The second-ranked Seminoles have their own star quarterback in reigning Heisman winner Jameis Winston, whose 2014 ebbs and flows have been followed by his team. Florida State is nowhere near as dominant as 2013. After not allowing a team to come closer than two touchdowns last regular season, the Noles have battled through three one-possession games.

Two weeks ago against Notre Dame, Florida State came within a controversial offensive pass interference call of its first loss of the Winston era. If they manage to get past a trip to Louisville Thursday night, Jimbo Fisher and Co. look like a near-lock for the CFP. The defending champs don't have a ranked team remaining on their schedule and have only one road game after their tilt with the Cardinals.

"We don't have anything to prove to anybody," Winston told reporters. "We've just got to keep playing and hopefully things will go our way. But one thing we are consistently proving is that we are winners."

When the College Football Playoff was announced, it looked like a potential Nick Saban playground. Saban's Alabama teams have gone undefeated or had one loss in the regular season four of the last five years, and the Crimson Tide come into each campaign with enough preseason hype to make their one-loss outfit a playoff lock. 

Alabama's loss to Ole Miss coupled with a weak schedule so far seemingly closed the expectations gap. Despite losing last week to LSU, the Rebels snuck in with the final playoff spot—likely boosted in a large way by their win over the Tide. In fact, Saban's team will also have to leapfrog one-loss Oregon to get into the championship game.

Luckily, schedule strength should play in the Tide's favor going forward. Idle this Saturday, Alabama closes out its regular-season slate with games against LSU, Mississippi State, Western Carolina and Auburn. Oregon's only comparable game comes when it visits Utah on Nov. 8. 

Perhaps the most interesting ranking outside the Power Five purview was the best team not ranked at all: undefeated Marshall. The Thundering Herd, helmed by stealth Heisman candidate Rakeem Cato, have reeled off eight double-digit wins. Cato and punishing running back Devon Johnson are one of the better one-two punches never mentioned on national programs, which is largely a product of Marshall's residence in the dreadful Conference USA.

No other Conference USA outfit is even within arm's reach of the Top 25. The two best teams other than Marshall (Louisiana Tech and Middle Tennessee) have matching 5-3 records. Eight of the conference's 13 teams are .500 or below.

Needless to say the Herd aren't getting any points in the strength of schedule criteria. They've failed to make much of an impact in the other major polls, and the selection committee is keeping them at arm's length from the playoff conversation.

“I’m kind of anxious to see how it turns out,” Marshall coach Doc Holliday told reporters. “At this point, you need to worry about where you are five weeks down the road. That’s when it counts. Somebody Auburn, about this time a year ago was 24th in America and ended up playing for the national championship. They say remember what you do in November. That’s kind of when it counts, and at the end of the day you look up and see where you are.”

Of course, Auburn had the benefit of playing top-ranked Alabama. Marshall gets the likes of Southern Miss, Rice and UAB. Not exactly a Sabanesque challenge.

If more Power Fives start falling by the wayside as the Herd stay undefeated, it'll be awfully interesting to see how the selection committee susses out its priorities. Tuesday night made it quite clear they have their work cut out. 

 

Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Playoff 2014: Final Four Predictions After 1st Rankings

The first College Football Playoff committee poll has been released, and the controversy officially begins.

Sure, everyone expected the likes of Mississippi State and Florida State in the top two. But how the rest of the top programs fell after that was anyone's guess.   

Ultimately, the committee decided that the top four teams currently are Mississippi State, Florida State, Auburn and Ole Miss. The shocker was clearly the final team as Ole Miss lost over the weekend to LSU.

Needless to say, head-to-head matters for the committee with Ole Miss defeating Alabama and remaining in the playoff picture. Of course, this is all fluid and quite a bit will change between now and the final rankings.

That may be the way they stand now, but the poll will be constantly changing just like any other rankings system. Following the first official poll release by the committee, here's a full look at the latest College Football Playoff predictions.   

 

 

No. 1: Florida State

When it comes to teams that have a shot at remaining undefeated, Florida State has a much better outlook than Mississippi State. Sorry Marshall, but even remaining unscathed likely won't lead to a bid in the playoff this season.  

The Seminoles are nowhere near the same team they were a year ago, but they have already survived the toughest part of the schedule. An early victory over Oklahoma State and recent win against Notre Dame means the Noles are nearly a lock for the playoff.

In fact, Brad Edwards of ESPN.com (subscription required) notes Florida State only has two relatively difficult games on the schedule:

The FPI gives Miami the best chance to upset FSU (on Nov. 15), but if you believe that the formula for beating the Seminoles is a stout defense and a difference-making crowd, then this Thursday's game at Louisville could be all that realistically stands between Florida State and a spot in the playoff. Either way, the amount of resistance on FSU's path to an unbeaten regular season is far less than what fellow unbeaten Mississippi State faces

Louisville this Thursday night might present a difficult test, but FSU's defense should have no problem shutting down the Cardinals. Then there's the Miami rivalry, which now looks slightly more intriguing with the Hurricanes suddenly surging.

The Canes haven't lost all season at home, but then again, they haven't had any stiff competition. Wins against Cincinnati and Duke look good, but they are nowhere near the caliber of Florida State.

If Jimbo Fisher can keep the team on track and Jameis Winston remains under center, this program is the most likely to make the field. Likely the only undefeated team at the top remaining, FSU will go in as the No. 1 seed as well.

 

No. 2: Alabama

Just when some were doubting Nick Saban and Alabama's dominance, the Crimson Tide are rolling again.

Currently, the Tide should be placed behind undefeated Mississippi State, but they have a chance to take them down at home on Nov. 15. Saban spoke about what it takes to remain one of the top teams in the country, per Edward Aschoff of ESPN.com:

Consistency in performance is what’s going to be key to being successful down the road. That’s something that all of our players need to understand, and I do think they understand that. We have to be able to play Alabama football on a more consistent basis. That’s something that everybody’s got to be committed to.

Recent blowout wins for the Tide have seen them defeat SEC opponents by a combined total of 73 points. Heading into Baton Rouge against LSU, Bama simply needs a win before heading home for the rest of the season.

The Tigers may have knocked off Ole Miss, but Saban's program appears ready and rolling to take them down after the bye. Not only can Bama eventually win the SEC, but it should also get a chance at a top-two seed heading into the first College Football Playoff with wins against Mississippi State and Auburn

 

No. 3: Oregon

Much like Florida State, Oregon heads into Week 10 of the college football season with confidence. The Ducks aren't undefeated due to a loss to Arizona, but they have just one ranked team remaining on the schedule and a chance to secure a bid to the playoff.

That ranked team is Utah, who lost a home game earlier this season to Washington State. The Cougars are currently 2-6 with one win in the Pac-12, and Connor Halliday certainly isn't Marcus Mariota.

The Ducks' junior quarterback has been phenomenal this season, passing for 24 touchdowns and just one interception in the last game against California. His potent offense has mowed over nearly every team this season thanks his consistency, as ESPN Stats & Info points out:

Oregon's train might have hit a small speed bump against the Wildcats, but it doesn't appear to be slowing anytime soon. Equipped with a Heisman contender and playmakers all over the field, look for the Ducks to be one of the final teams in the final four.

 

No. 4: Mississippi State

The second SEC team is none other than Mississippi State—a surprising program that has already made a huge statement with a 7-0 record but still has a long road to make the playoff.

Wins over former Top 10 teams like LSU and Texas A&M put the Bulldogs on the map, but the 15-point dismantling of Auburn was the eye opener. Much of that success is thanks in large part to Heisman hopeful Dak Prescott.

Getting the job done with his arm and legs, Prescott has already amassed 25 total touchdowns compared to just five turnovers during the streak. He's also keeping up with former prolific SEC quarterbacks, as ESPN College Football points out:

The next true test for the Bulldogs awaits them on Nov. 15 in Tuscaloosa. Facing a motivated and surging Alabama team, MSU will need to pull out everything to remain undefeated against the Tide.

Even if Prescott can't lead them over Bama, the Bulldogs still have the Egg Bowl against Ole Miss to redeem themselves. Do that and come away with only one loss in the SEC West, and this team will give FSU a true test for a chance at a national title.

 

Follow @RCorySmith on Twitter.

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BYU vs. Middle Tennessee Complete Game Preview

Buried in a four-game losing streak, BYU travels to Middle Tennessee on Saturday. The two teams played last season in Provo, and the Cougars won, 37-10.

Wins have been hard to come by lately for BYU. Despite winning their first four games, the Cougs evened their record at 4-4 after a blowout loss at Boise State. Middle Tennessee, on the other hand, beat UAB last weekend to improve its record to 5-3.

With BYU struggling and MTSU on the rise, it will surely be a good game. Here is a complete preview.

Date: Saturday, November 1

Time: 3:30 p.m. ET

Place: Floyd Stadium, Murfreesboro, TN

TV: CBS Sports Network

Radio: KSL NewsRadio (102.7 FM, 1160 AM)

Spread: BYU, -3.5 (via OddsShark.com)

Begin Slideshow

USC Football: Game-by-Game Predictions for the Month of November

Traditionally, USC football has flourished in the month of November. 

The Trojans went a remarkable 27-0 in Novembers from 2001 through 2008, ran the table to close out 2011 and rebounded from a dismal 2012 November to go 4-1 in the month a year ago. 

This season, USC's hope of winning the Pac-12 South and earning the program's first berth into the conference championship game is contingent on duplicating past November success. 

USC plays twice in the Coliseum and twice on the road to cap off the season but leaves Los Angeles just once in November. The sole excursion from the Southland is USC's next date and the program's first trip to Washington State since 2010. 

A Thursday night date with Cal follows, then the every-other-year tradition of USC playing back-to-back rivalry tilts finishes head coach Steve Sarkisian's first season at the helm.

Begin Slideshow

USC Football: Game-by-Game Predictions for the Month of November

Traditionally, USC football has flourished in the month of November. The Trojans went a remarkable 27-0 in Novembers from 2001 through 2008, ran the table to close out 2011 and rebounded from a dismal 2012 November to go 4-1 in the month a year ago...

Begin Slideshow

Bowl Projections 2014: Predicting Best Scenarios for Top Contenders in Week 10

This is the week college football fans circled on their calendars the moment it was announced there would be a four-team playoff to determine the national champion. The first rankings for the College Football Playoff are released on Tuesday night, opening a Pandora's box of possibilities for the weeks to come. 

After the dust settles from the madness on Tuesday night, teams have to go out and play to justify their rankings or improve their spots. That's what is interesting about this whole process: As still-very-early bowl projections trickle out, so much is going to change. 

In addition to offering up some of the most-anticipated bowl predictions, this is a look at what the top national title contenders must do to improve their stock after Week 10. 

 

Top Title Contenders

Mississippi State (Week 10 vs. Arkansas)

The nation's top-ranked team showed some cracks against Kentucky in Week 9 but was able to escape with a 45-31 victory; Mississippi State's spot in the College Football Playoff is secure for now. It also helps that the Bulldogs will be playing an Arkansas team that has lost all four of its conference games by an average of 11 points. 

ESPN Stats & Info's metrics have Mississippi State ranked as the No. 1 team in strength of record and game control. Those two stats measure a team's win probability per game on a play-by-play basis and the schedule it has played. 

With those numbers in mind, the Bulldogs still have to prove more after the Wildcats gave them a good fight. That was a road game in the SEC, even if it was a mid-level team in the conference. 

Dak Prescott has been more turnover-prone lately with three interceptions in the last two games, so it will be nice for him to go against a defense that ranks 60th in points allowed. Style points are everything in a game that you're supposed to win. 

The Bulldogs had their potential letdown game last week against Kentucky but came through it unscathed. A win like the one they had against Texas A&M, with 48 points and 559 yards of offense, would do well to ease any doubts about their schedule heading into a November slate that includes Arkansas and Mississippi. 

 

Florida State (Week 10 at Louisville)

Most pundits seem to agree that if Florida State is going to lose in the regular season for the first time since 2012, it will happen on Thursday night at Louisville. The Cardinals don't have a great team, but the defense has great raw stats that include the fourth-fewest points allowed per game. 

Of course, you have to put things in context. Louisville's schedule so far has included Miami, Murray State, Virginia, FIU, Wake Forest, Syracuse, Clemson and North Carolina State. We are going to find out how good Bobby Petrino's team is this week. 

Oddsmakers don't love the Seminoles in this spot, with Odds Shark noting they are a 3.5-point favorite.

If you follow trends closely, you know that the Cardinals will have to score at least 32 points to win this game. According to Corey Clark of The Tallahassee Democrat, Florida State has put up at least 31 points in every game started by Jameis Winston.

"In the 20 games started by quarterback Jameis Winston," Clark wrote, "the Florida State Seminoles have never scored less than 31 points. The reigning Heisman Trophy winner has accounted for a staggering 59 touchdowns during that span and FSU has scored 123 TDs overall."

That does play into Louisville's strength on defense, per Clark:

The Cardinals are second in pass-efficiency defense and third-down defense and fourth in the nation in scoring defense (14.6 points allowed).

They have allowed just three touchdown drives this season of longer than 40 yards. And in total, the Louisville defense has given up just five offensive TDs to FBS teams in 2014.

Again, keep in mind the opposition. Considering how the odds have lined up for this game, all the Seminoles must do is come out of the game with a victory. Style points would be nice, but since they are the defending champions who have yet to lose a game this year, a tough road win in the conference is all that matters. 

A statement would be nice because this is the last true test Florida State has at least until the ACC Championship Game, but winning on the road against a quality opponent is hard enough. 

 

Auburn (Week 10 at Mississippi)

Everything below the top two teams is a muddled mess. That's what happens when everyone loses a game, but it does create great drama each Saturday. Since Alabama, currently ranked third in The Associated Press Top 25, is off this week, the spotlight goes to Auburn. 

It's an excellent spotlight game to have, as the Tigers are traveling to The Grove for a showdown with a Mississippi team out to keep its title hopes alive coming off a devastating loss at LSU.

This game is a perfect example of why its pointless to get too hung up on the initial College Football Playoff standings, even though they are fun to look at. All of these jumbled SEC teams will play each other, so it will all work itself out by the end of the season. 

The dynamic between these two teams will be fascinating to watch. Auburn is an offensive team that relies on the run. Gus Malzahn's team is 10th in rushing yards and 15th in points per game. They've run into trouble on defense at times, allowing 73 points in their last two games. 

If Auburn's defense needs a break, it may find one against an Ole Miss team that is 50th in points per game and 83rd in rushing. The Rebels make their money on defense, allowing an FBS-leading 10.5 points per game. 

One area to keep an eye on for the Tigers is special teams. Joel A. Erickson of The Birmingham News noted they have been dismal at returning kicks so far this season:

A program that has returned a kickoff for a touchdown in each of the past six seasons ranks just 12th in the SEC, averaging just 20 yards per return overall.

The problem is starting to cost the Tigers field position. After a Ricardo Louis fumble on a kickoff return helped Mississippi State seal a win two weeks ago, Auburn failed to crack the 20 on either of its returns against South Carolina.

In a game that doesn't figure to feature a lot of scoring on either side, field position becomes everything. The Tigers can afford a sloppy victory because of what we know about Mississippi's defensive capabilities. It would be nice to see their defense step up in a key spot, especially with games against Texas A&M and Georgia looming in the next two weeks. 

Sometimes, though, it's just enough to survive and advance. That really is all that Malzahn can ask of his team as it prepares to enter the brutal final stretch that also includes the regular-season finale against Alabama. 

 

If you want to talk sports, hit me up on Twitter. 

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Texas A&M Football: QB Position Is Not the Aggies' Problem on Offense

Kenny "Trill" might become Kenny "Chill" soon.

As in, chilling on the bench.

Texas A&M offensive coordinator Jake Spavital announced on Tuesday that the quarterback job that once belonged to sophomore Kenny Hill is now open, and true freshman Kyle Allen will compete to win the job this week as the Aggies prepare for Louisiana-Monroe (via: TexAgs.com):

Hill leads the SEC with 331.1 passing yards per game and 23 touchdown passes but has thrown seven interceptions against SEC competition—six of which have come in the last three games, all of which were losses.

Allen, the top pro-style passer in the class of 2014, is 23-of-38 for 264 yards, three touchdowns and two picks this year, primarily playing in mop-up duty for the Aggies. Spavital told TexAgs.com that Allen was in disbelief when he was told that the battle was open again.

It's the right time for Texas A&M to make a change. After all, ULM shouldn't present much of a challenge, and whoever wins the job this time around needs full first-team reps this week before the Aggies go on the road to Auburn on Nov. 8.

Is that really the problem, though?

Spavital and head coach Kevin Sumlin's play-calling has been wildly unbalanced this year. The Aggies have thrown 359 passes this season while running only 249 rushing plays. This despite having Tra Carson, Trey Williams and Brandon Williams lining up behind (or alongside) Hill in the Aggies backfield.

Are those numbers skewed due to Texas A&M being behind in games and forced to throw itself out of a hole? Not really. Sure, 102 of his passes have come when the Aggies are down by 15 or more points. That's not surprising.

Is there a good reason, though, for his second-most attempts to come when the Aggies are up by 15 or more?

Maybe it was the breakout performance in the season opener, maybe it was the small village of physically talented wide receivers, and maybe it was a desire by Sumlin and Spavital to go back to the air raid system that made Sumlin successful at Houston. But Hill clearly isn't ready to be Case Keenum.

He can be Kenny Hill, though, and a change in the way Texas A&M calls plays would certainly help. That would mean more structured zone read, more running responsibilities to the running backs and a more conservative approach.

Who knows? Maybe that would even help out an Aggies defense that's become more of a punchline than a power under Sumlin.

Whether it's Hill or Allen taking the snaps, Texas A&M needs a philosophical tweak to what it does offensively. It needs to be more conservative and run the football instead of trying to force an identity on its offense. If that coincides with a quarterback change to Allen, that's fine. If Hill wins the job again, that's fine, too.

The Aggies rank 11th in the SEC in rushing with 151.63 yards per game on the ground, and those 249 attempts are the third-fewest in the conference. 

Change that, and the fortunes of the Aggies will also change. 

Until that happens, either Hill or Allen will have to become Joe Montana down the stretch. Otherwise, this will be a lost season in College Station.

 

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

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Top Recruits Who Will Be Impacted by Result of Florida-Georgia

Florida and Georgia renew a longstanding rivalry Saturday when the teams meet in Jacksonville for an annual clash affectionately known as the "World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party." If the Gators suffer another SEC beatdown, it could become a going-away party for Will Muschamp.

The embattled head coach's tenuous situation is among the most discussed storylines of this college football season. Florida has failed to make necessary strides in his fourth year, losing eight of its past 10 conference matchups and four of them by double-digit margins.

These struggles have translated into the 2015 recruiting cycle, with Muschamp failing to maintain prospects' confidence amid rumors of his impending dismissal. The Gators lost a pair of 4-star linebacker commits last week, plummeting to 61st nationally in 247Sports' composite class rankings.

Meanwhile, Georgia holds the nation's No. 3 class and remains a potential playoff team. The Bulldogs can take a step toward postseason contention and perhaps punctuate the Muschamp Era in Gainesville by winning a fourth straight game in this celebrated series.

Here's a look at recruits who will be watching closely this weekend, with an eye on how this matchup could impact their signing day decisions.

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Kenny Hill vs. Kyle Allen: Latest Updates, Reaction on Texas A&M's QB Battle

Earlier this season, Kenny Hill was a Heisman hopeful at the head of an SEC contender. Now, the sophomore quarterback isn't even guaranteed a starting job for Texas A&M after his recent performances.    

The quarterback famously known as Kenny Trill is now in danger of losing his spot to true freshman Kyle Allen. Offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Jake Spavital provided the latest on the quarterback rotation, per Sam Khan Jr. or ESPN.com:

We opened it back up. It's still wide open. We're going to split the [first-team] reps [Tuesday] and possibly on Wednesday and by Thursday we'll probably have a declared starter and they'll take all the reps for that Thursday practice.

Kyle came into my office and he asked me if this was for real. I said, 'Yeah, it is.' And he said, 'Good, because I'm going to try to go get it.'

Hill started the season with five straight wins as Texas A&M looked like a national title contender, throwing 17 touchdowns and just two interceptions. Since that point, the Aggies are mired in a three-game losing streak while Hill has six touchdowns and six interceptions.

Connor Tapp of 247Sports offered his take on the recent decline for Hill:

After setting a school record for passing yards with 511 against South Carolina in the season opener, Kenny Hill struggled mightily in three consecutive losses to Mississippi State, Ole Miss, and Alabama. The 59-0 shutout at the hands of the Crimson Tide was among the worst losses in school history.

Losses are piling up, and some of the blame is seemingly being placed on Hill. Luckily, Allen appears to have talent and potential that the Aggies might utilize.

Allen was the No. 1 pro-style quarterback in the 2014 class, via 247Sports' composite rankings, and enrolled in January. It also sounds like Allen is more than ready for the moment, per his conversation with Spavital.

Coming up for the Aggies is a much easier matchup against UL-Monroe prior to traveling to Auburn. If there is a change made, Allen would essentially have a warm-up game before facing the No. 4 team in the nation.

Both quarterbacks also have another potential contender coming next season in Kyler Murray. For now, either signal-caller will be tasked with turning around the program in an SEC West that is arguably filled with the best teams in the country.

 

Follow @RCorySmith on Twitter.

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College Football 2014: Updated National Championship Odds for Week 10

With Week 10 quickly approaching, the inaugural College Football Playoff is inching closer. Many of the top teams today could be on the outside looking in come December. 

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Adam Kramer lays his national champion odds for all the top teams in the hunt. 

Which team is the odds-on favorite to win the national championship?

Watch the video and let us know! 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Ohio State Football: Who Is the Real J.T. Barrett?

COLUMBUS, Ohio — To paraphrase Eminem, will the real J.T. Barrett please stand up?

Of course, with a sprained MCL, that may be easier said than done for the Ohio State quarterback.

Nevertheless, that's become the most popular question in Columbus over the past three days following Barrett's struggles in the Buckeyes' 31-24 double-overtime win over Penn State in Happy Valley on Saturday.

After entering the Heisman Trophy discussion following video-game-like performances against Kent State, Cincinnati, Maryland and Rutgers, the redshirt freshman posted just 74 passing yards against the Nittany Lions, also tossing two interceptions and one touchdown.

Those numbers are a far cry from the 292.5 passing yards and 4.25 touchdowns per game that he averaged in his previous four outings, although he did do enough on the ground (75 yards, two overtime touchdowns) to escape State College with a win.

It is also worth noting that he sprained his MCL at some point in the first half, an injury that has previously cost Braxton Miller and Carlos Hyde significant playing time for the Buckeyes.

"It was a tough, gritty performance," Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer said of Barrett's most recent showing.

Regardless of whatever handicap you place on Barrett's uneven outing against Penn State, the fact remains that his two worst games have come against the two best defenses that the Buckeyes have faced this season.

While the Nittany Lions rank seventh in the nation in total defense, Virginia Tech currently measures in at No. 27 in the same category, having held Barrett to a 9-of-29, 219-yard, one-touchdown, three-interception stat line on Sept. 6.

But in between Ohio State's defeat at the hands of the Hokies and the close call in Happy Valley, Barrett managed to make the most of the Buckeyes' inferior opponents.

With the Golden Flashes (No. 81), Bearcats (No. 115), Terrapins (No. 103) and Scarlet Knights (No. 82) currently combining for a 95.25 average national ranking in total defense, Barrett moved the ball at will, never throwing for fewer than 261 yards and three touchdowns in a single game.

So who's the real J.T. Barrett: The player who has committed five turnovers against the two defenses he's faced that rank higher than 75th in the nation or the one who posted Heisman-caliber numbers against lesser competition?

The answer likely lies somewhere in between.

Starting with the positive for Barrett, he remains just past the midway point of his freshman season and showed steady improvement up until last Saturday's game.

It also didn't help that Ohio State's offensive line struggled against the Nittany Lions' front seven and conservative play-calling was evidenced in the Buckeyes' 57 runs compared to 19 pass attempts—12 of which Barrett completed.

Barrett has performed better than anybody could have predicted he would when he unexpectedly took over for an injured Miller two weeks prior to the start of the season, and Meyer has routinely praised the Wichita Falls, Texas, native's leadership in recent weeks.

That even rang true after the Penn State game, where Barrett may not have looked great but still walked away a winner.

“His progression and growth as a leader and a man has been exponential." Meyer said of Barrett. "That was a tough, tough performance."

But regardless of the end result, Meyer admitted that Saturday's effort wasn't Barrett's best. "It wasn't a great performance as far as making the right reads and doing the things a quarterback needs to do," he said.

While his current injury may compound matters, that's something that Barrett will need to clean up—especially with next Saturday's showdown with Michigan State looming.

As he did in his previous four starts before facing the Nittany Lions, Barrett should be able to get by on talent alone this weekend against Illinois but will need to play a more refined game against the Spartans' sixth-ranked defense for the Buckeyes to have any chance of escaping East Lansing with a win.

If there's anything we've learned in Ohio State's first seven games of the season, it's that the Buckeyes seem to go as Barrett does. This is why—while the rest of us try to figure out which Barrett will be on the field on Nov. 8—his shaky, yet successful performance at Penn State told Meyer everything he needed to know about his quarterback.

"To say that I knew you a year-and-a-half ago, I did not," Meyer recalled of his postgame speech to Barrett in front of the rest of his team. "Now I do."

 

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.

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Texas vs. Texas Tech Complete Game Preview

Texas and Texas Tech are both experiencing down seasons. The teams are sitting at 3-5 and hoping to make it to a bowl game. 

The Longhorns and the Red Raiders are both coming off of embarrassing losses.

The Red Raiders were dominated in an 82-27 loss to TCU and will be looking to bounce back against the Longhorns.

But can Texas bounce back on the road against the struggling Texas Tech Red Raiders? Let's take a look.

 

When: Saturday, Nov. 1, 7:30 p.m. ET

Where: Jones AT&T Stadium, Lubbock, Texas

TV: FS1

Austin radio: KVET 98.1/1300

SiriusXM satellite radio: XM 202; Sirius 117; Internet 969; Spanish 550

Last meeting: Nov. 28, 2013, Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, Austin, Texas

Last meeting outcome: Texas 41, Texas Tech 16

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What Auburn Can Learn from LSU's Victory over Ole Miss

Anomaly or the start of a trend?

That's what Ole Miss is left to ponder after LSU racked up 264 rushing yards in the Tigers' 10-7 win in Death Valley last week. Prior to that matchup, Ole Miss had not allowed an opponent to rush for more than 193 yards on the ground and had given up an average of 82.25 rushing yards per game to SEC opponents.

So what happened?

Ole Miss was outmanned by a tougher, more physical LSU offensive line.

On LSU's only two scoring drives on Saturday night, 25 of the 30 plays were runs, including 12 straight on a 95-yard march in the fourth quarter that culminated with a three-yard pass from Anthony Jennings to Logan Stokes—the only pass of the drive.

The game plan featured guards pulling around the corner, wide receivers getting after it as blockers downfield and a stable of running backs including Leonard Fournette, Kenny Hilliard and Terrence Magee.

"They played with great passion and played a really, really physical brand of football," Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze said during Monday's press conference. "Coach (Les) Miles had his guys ready. They deserve credit. From watching the film, we did not play our best game. That's always disappointing."

What can Auburn learn from LSU's win over Ole Miss?

 

Ground-and-Pound

Athletic offensive linemen, wide receivers blocking their tails off downfield and a large cast of characters available to carry the ball...sound familiar?

While it looks different out of the spread, those are all staples of Gus Malzahn's offense at Auburn.

Not only are they staples, Auburn is rolling into Oxford at the right time to exploit what suddenly looks like an unstable Ole Miss run defense.

The Tigers got back to the basics last week against South Carolina, rushing for 395 yards on 47 attempts—8.4 yards per carry—in the 42-35 win on the Plains.

Running back Cameron Artis-Payne rushed for 167 yards and a touchdown, quarterback Nick Marshall rushed for 89 and three touchdowns and wide receiver Ricardo Louis ran for 102 yards and a touchdown.

That's a lot of variety that doesn't even include Roc Thomas and Corey Grant, both of whom also made an impact as runners and blockers.

Things could get more interesting in Auburn's backfield this week against the Rebels, with Artis-Payne, Thomas and Grant all joining Marshall on the field at the same time.

"You could possibly even see all three of them on the field at the same time in the future," Malzahn said on his radio show Monday night (h/t James Crepea of the Montgomery Advertiser).

All of the talk of becoming more balanced in the offseason has suddenly been replaced by more of a retro approach to the Auburn offense, as Malzahn noted on Tuesday (h/t AuburnSports.com's Jay G. Tate):

Ole Miss' front seven was worn down and beat up by LSU, and it showed in the fourth quarter on what turned out to be LSU's game-winning drive. Now Auburn comes calling—a team with an offense designed to wear defenses down with tempo and beat them up by winning the battle in the trenches.

Auburn learned a lot about itself last week, when it went more old-school, focused more on a diverse running game and stretched the field through the air only at appropriate times.

That works, and it should work again this week against an Ole Miss defense that we also learned is susceptible to bruising, power-rushing attacks.

 

"Bad Bo" Is Real

Quarterback Bo Wallace has been known as a boom-or-bust quarterback during his first two seasons in Oxford, but "Bad Bo" had been noticeably absent during the 2014 season.

Until Saturday night.

Wallace completed just 14 of 33 passes for 176 yards, one touchdown and one pick in the loss to LSU.

That one pick was huge. With nine seconds to go, head coach Hugh Freeze passed up the chance to kick the game-tying 47-yard field goal in favor of taking one more shot to get a few more yards and give his kicker a closer look.

Instead of hitting the receiver in the flat or throwing it away, Wallace threw deep and was picked off by Ronald Martin to end Ole Miss' dream season. This came two plays after another Martin interception on a terrible pass was negated by pass interference on Jalen Mills five yards downfield.

While Ole Miss' pass defense has been getting all of the publicity, Auburn has quietly gone about its business, picking off 13 passes on the season—second-most in the SEC.

Wallace wants to be more aggressive against the Tigers.

"A lot of times when we're throwing right now, it's third down," he said during Monday's press conference. "We're staying in 3rd-and-long so much. People get in their defenses and it's hard in this league to convert third downs as well as people play third-down defense. We have to get back to throwing the ball on first and second down and making plays like we did earlier in the season."

An aggressive game plan could actually benefit Auburn.

The Tigers have struggled to get a pass rush this season, but with offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil day-to-day, expect the Tigers to get very creative with their front seven in an attempt to rattle Wallace.

After all, it's not like Ole Miss presents a challenge on the ground. That brings me to the next point.

 

No Running Threat

Ole Miss is simply not a good running team.

The Rebels rank 12th in the SEC in rushing yards per game (149.5) and yards per rushing attempt (3.87), and were stymied by the Tigers on Saturday night, gaining 137 yards on the ground. This against an LSU rush defense that had given up 212.4 rushing yards per game against FBS opponents coming in.

Ole Miss' offense is one-dimensional by necessity, not by choice.

There's no between-the-tackles threat on that roster. I'Tavius Mathers and Jaylen Walton run toward the edges, with Wallace again taking on too much of those responsibilities and absorbing way too many hits.

"It's a number of factors," Freeze said during Monday's press conference. "We've had several decent games where we've rushed fairly well. It is a challenge and continues to be. There are a lot of factors. We could sit here and talk about losing one-on-one battles or they have the right call at the right time and we have a bad call at the wrong time."

Auburn's run defense is giving up just 3.37 yards per play on the ground, and linebackers Cassanova McKinzy and Kris Frost have progressed in nearly every game since the middle of last season.

Toss in "Star" Robenson Therezie and linebacker Justin Garrett, and Auburn has the speed off the edge at the second level to slow down those rushers and make Ole Miss just as one-dimensional as LSU did.

That's right where Auburn's defense wants to be.

The lessons learned last week will converge on Saturday night in Oxford.

If Auburn stays true to its new self on the ground and gets to Wallace, it should lead to a big statement for the Tigers and end Ole Miss' dream season with a resounding thud.

 

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

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

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10 Most Valuable Players in College Football

There are good players, and then there are players a team just can't do without. With the college football season just over the halfway point, it's time to examine the most valuable players in the game. 

Again, this is a list of the most valuable players, not necessarily the best players period or the guy with the most eye-popping stats—though there is some crossover and a few Heisman contenders are featured. 

Take Georgia running back Todd Gurley, for example. Gurley is outstanding and identified as "the nation's best back" by Bleacher Report's Matt Miller.

Is he valuable to the Bulldogs? Absolutely. Is he irreplaceable? No, as evidenced by the fact that Georgia is 2-0 without him and his backup, Nick Chubb, has shown he's more than capable of handling the responsibility of being an every-down back. 

Rather, this is a list of players whose teams would be—or, in some cases, already are—lost without them. These are players who lead their teams (or the nation) in a specific statistical category, sometimes by a long shot. In other words, the offense or the defense basically goes through them. 

Which players are the most valuable? The answers are in the following slides. 

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4-Star WR Equanimeous St. Brown: More Success at Notre Dame or USC?

Equanimeous St. Brown is one of the nation's top wide receiver prospects of the 2015 class. USC and Notre Dame are among the teams courting St. Brown for his services, according to 247Sports.

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder discusses which school would be the best fit for St. Brown.

What school would be the best fit for St. Brown?

Check out the video and let us know! 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Texas A&M Football: Game-by-Game Prediction for the Month of November

The Texas A&M football team enters the final months of the 2014 regular season with a 5-3 record overall and a 2-3 record in the SEC. The Aggies will go 3-1 in their remaining games and match their 8-4 regular season record from 2013. 

The Texas A&M football team is currently riding a three-game losing streak. It just had its first bye week of the season and first opportunity to assess what worked and did not work during the first eight games.

The Aggies have some issues on defense caused by inept play at the linebacker position. That cannot be addressed during the season. The coaches should be able to address some play-calling issues that have popped up during the losing streak.

You cannot win football games when everyone knows what play you are going to call on offense. Aggie offensive coordinator Jake Spavital has become predictable—hopefully this has been addressed during the bye week.

This is a look at how the Aggies will do during the month of November.  

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Utah Utes vs. Arizona State Sun Devils: Betting Odds, Analysis and Pick

Arizona State is 3-0 straight up and 2-1 against the spread versus Utah since the Utes joined the Pac-12 three seasons ago. That bodes well for the Sun Devils, as they seek a berth in the conference championship game for the second straight season.

South Division-leading ASU hosts second-place Utah for Homecoming in Tempe Saturday night.

 

Point Spread: The Sun Devils opened as 2.5-point favorites.

Odds Shark Computer Pick: Sun Devils 29.9, Utes 26.7

 

Why the Utah Utes Can Cover the Spread

The Utes just came up with a big home win over USC, scoring on a one-yard Travis Wilson touchdown pass with eight seconds to go for a 24-21 victory. Utah only managed 137 yards rushing on 42 carries but held the Trojans to 100 yards on 37 rushing attempts.

The Utes might have avoided the need for last-minute heroics had they not lost two fumbles inside the USC 5-yard line.

Since being upset at home by Washington State last month, Utah has won and covered three games in a row to get to 6-1 both SU and ATS on the season, and 3-1 both SU and ATS in Pac-12 play.

 

Why the Arizona State Sun Devils Can Cover the Spread

The Sun Devils have also won and covered three games in a row after winning at Washington last week 24-10.

ASU was out-gained and out-rushed by the Huskies, but senior quarterback Taylor Kelly—in his first game back after missing a month due to injury—tossed a pair of touchdown passes and the defense forced three turnovers, the last of which was returned for the game-clinching score.

So the only blemish on the Devils' slate remains that loss to UCLA. Arizona State is averaging 186 yards on the ground, 303 through the air and the defense has allowed just 20 points over the last two games.

 

Smart Pick

Statistically speaking, the Utes don't stand out, but they have out-rushed their four Pac-12 foes by an average of almost 100 yards per game and already own three road victories this season.

The Sun Devils, on the other hand, have been out-rushed in four of their five conference contests. Last year, as Utah struggled through a 5-7 season, it almost upset Arizona State, which went on to win the South.

The pick here goes with the Utes, plus the points.

 

Betting Trends

  • Utah is 4-1 ATS in its last five games on the road.
  • Arizona State is 1-4 ATS in its last five games at home.

 

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

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