NCAA Football

FSU vs. Louisville: TV Info, Spread, Injury Updates, Game Time and More

The Florida State Seminoles were fortunate enough to have a bye week directly after their Week 8 contest against Notre Dame came down to the wire. The nation's No. 2 team is back in action on Thursday, but winning on the road against a strong Louisville team will be no easy task.

While the Cardinals may not have the poise of Teddy Bridgewater at the quarterback position again this season, the team's defense has stepped up in a big way, allowing just 14.6 points per game. In fact, Louisville hasn't given up more than 23 points in a single contest this season.

This clash of ACC foes pits strength against strength. Can Heisman-winning quarterback Jameis Winston lead the Seminoles to an 8-0 record, or will a sound Cardinals defense play spoiler to Florida State's College Football Playoff bid?

Both of these teams are already bowl-eligible, but that's only half of the story. This game is just as much about pride within the conference.

 

Battle of Strengths

There's no question the Seminoles have one of the most explosive offenses in the nation. This team has scored over 30 points in six of its seven contests this season—including a 31-point performance against a very stout Fighting Irish defense.

While Winston may not be quite up to Heisman form in 2014, he's remained very efficient. Against Notre Dame, he completed 23 of his 31 passing attempts for 273 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Winston's interception rate may be up this season, but so is his resilience.

The Seminoles didn't hold a lead through three-and-a-half quarters against Notre Dame, yet Winston only appeared to get better as the game went on. He led a convincing 10-play, 75-yard drive in the fourth quarter resulting in a Karlos Williams touchdown run and a lead the team wouldn't relinquish.

Winston won't have it any easier on Thursday.

The Cardinals' fourth-ranked defense has been lights-out this season. Before the team's bye week, it faced a dangerous North Carolina State offense that gave the Seminoles fits earlier in the season. Well, that wasn't quite the case against Louisville.

Quarterback Jacoby Brissett was held in check, completing 18 of his 32 passing attempts for 223 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. He didn't do too much damage on the ground, either, as it took the Wolfpack a good chunk of carries to rack up any kind of yardage:

Florida State only averaged 1.9 yards per carry against Notre Dame, putting the game completely on the arm of Jameis Winston. Expect that to be the case once again on Thursday.

 

Aerial Prowess

This game could come down to one big play for either of these teams—and they both have wide receivers capable of hitting a home run whenever they touch the ball.

Rashad Greene is arguably the best wide receiver in the nation right now. He shows up each and every game, showcasing his route-running ability, soft hands, vision, elusiveness and speed. He's an all-around wide receiver and playmaker, and that showed up against Notre Dame.

Against the Fighting Irish, Greene racked up eight passes for 108 yards, averaging 13.5 yards per catch, one touchdown and a long reception of 33 yards. Those were all team highs, and that's nothing new for Greene.

Here's a look at the NFL prospect's numbers this season:

Louisville's DeVante Parker is just as dangerous. While he missed most of the season due to injury, he didn't take long to prove why he's one of the nation's best. North Carolina State didn't have an answer for Parker in his first game back in action. He caught nine receptions for 132 yards, averaging 14.7 yards per catch, and a long of 37 yards.

This 6'3" senior pass-catcher appears to have a very bright future in the NFL as well.

Expect both of these receivers to go head-to-head on Thursday, as one will likely be given a chance to make a big enough play to turn the tide of the game.

 

When: Thursday, October 30

Time: 7:30 p.m. ET

Where: Papa John's Cardinal Stadium in Louisville, Kentucky

Channel: ESPN

Live Stream: WatchESPN

Betting Line (via Odds Shark): Florida State -5

 

Team Injury Reports

Injury reports per The Sports Network, via USA Today.

 

Prediction

This one will be far closer than many would anticipate. While Florida State does boast a prolific offense, the Cardinals have the defensive personnel to match up nicely. Louisville's ability to take away the run will put a larger amount of pressure on Winston to perform on the road.

The Cardinals haven't had the most high-octane offense this season, but the return of Parker did wonders for the team's ability to move the ball down the field. The Seminoles defense has been gashed at times this year, and Parker has the vertical ability to exploit Florida State's secondary.

Expect this one to come down to the wire. While Louisville has home-field advantage, the Seminoles' resilient nature will once again help them emerge victorious thanks to another big scoring drive in the waning minutes of the contest.

Prediction: Florida State 24, Louisville 20

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Playoff 2014: TV Schedule, Time and Live Stream for 1st Release

Months of human polls and wild speculation come to a halt Tuesday when the inaugural College Football Playoff Top 25 poll is released to the public.

The College Football Playoff selection committee, which consists of 12 members at the moment, has perhaps the most difficult task in the sporting world. Normally the decision process would still be quite difficult, but this chaotic season has ensured the inaugural poll is a major obstacle.

Keep in mind that the reveal will come in front of a national audience, too.

Fans can witness the action firsthand Tuesday night.

 

What: College Football Playoff Top 25 Poll First Release

When: Tuesday, October 28 at 7:30 p.m. ET

TV: ESPN

Live Stream: WatchESPN

 

How it Works

A total of 12 members, after Archie Manning stepped down, meet the Monday before Tuesday's release and attempt to sift through loads of information before coming up with a poll that reflects which teams are in and which are out should the playoff be next week.

As CFB Playoff captures, the committee has been hard at work on the inaugural batch of rankings:

The criteria is not so well-defined and may not be even after the release, should no leaks occur.

In theory, the committee will mostly focus on conference championships and strength of schedule, with the latter meaning those big schools that schedule a tough nonconference slate will be rewarded as opposed to those teams that book easily won matchups that amount to bye weeks.

Again, though, in theory.

Also of importance seems to be head-to-head competition and outcomes of common opponents. Not of importance? Other polls, such as the Associated Press Top 25 and coaches polls, as they do not take into account strength of schedule.

Many, such as Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel, want to know if all this chatter of strength of schedule will actually come to fruition, as captured by Brandon Kiley of KTGR The Big Show:

Regardless, the 12 people on the committee will turn in votes over a series of weeks in what will ultimately form the 25-team list, although certain members paid by a school must recuse themselves from talking about said school.

Critics will point out that a weekly release may be an issue if a team gets hot near the end of the season but began ranked low and, as a result, winds up missing the CFP.

But really, does anyone expect there to not be controversy?

 

What to Expect

SEC, SEC and SEC.

Well, as far as the overall Top 25 goes. Much debate has and will continue to be had in regards to how the conference beating up on itself will hurt each team's CFP chances, but it does not prohibit the conference from dominating the initial list.

As for an official CFP prediction? The top two are quite obvious. The bottom two, not so much: 

Mississippi State is the darling of the nation at the moment thanks to Heisman contender Dak Prescott, who reminds many of a guy by the name of Tim Tebow. The Bulldogs have wins over Texas A&M, LSU and Auburn, but upcoming battles with Alabama and Ole Miss might throw this initial poll for a loop.

Speaking of Alabama, Nick Saban's Crimson Tide figure to get a nod near the top of the polls and perhaps eventually enter the CFP—as long as the team can keep up with that encounter with the Bulldogs and take care of business against Auburn to close the season.

Florida State is the other obvious entrant and potential No. 1 in the first offering Tuesday. Jameis Winston is a Heisman winner, and a recent triumph over Notre Dame means the team has a cakewalk the rest of the way.

TCU is but one single-loss wild card, but it may prove to have a distinct advantage as the Big 12 does not hold a conference title game, meaning the Horned Frogs can run the table the rest of the way and likely secure a spot in the CFP.

Tuesday's release should reflect something similar to these thoughts unless all the talk about strength of schedule has been smoke. Regardless, hostility toward the initial release is a given considering this is new to everybody, and the difference between the No. 4 and No. 12 teams in the nation is miniscule at best.

Enjoy the show.

 

Note: All info courtesy of CollegeFootballPlayoff.com unless otherwise specified.

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

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

We are heading into the final month of the college football regular season, and the Georgia Bulldogs are trying to earn a spot in the College Football Playoff.

As of right now, they are in good position. They lead the SEC East and have only one loss, which gives them the right to make a case for being one of the best one-loss teams.

But before the Bulldogs can think of the national title (or an SEC title for that matter), they will need to do well in their last five games, which are all played in the month of November. Will the Bulldogs keep the hot streak going? Will a team like Florida or Auburn cool them off?

Here are game-by-game predictions for the Bulldogs in the month of November.

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Pac-12 Football: Ranking the Job Security of Pac-12 Coaches

With the month of November still in front of us, the temperature of each Pac-12 coach's seat is liable to change at least a few degrees over the next five weeks. Whether that's a little bit cooler or a little bit warmer all depends on how the teams play, but it's safe to say not everyone has a deadbolt lock on their job.

Relative to other conferences, though, the Pac-12 has a bunch of coaches who have virtually zero chance of getting fired. Ranking those coaches isn't easy, so one way to look at it is by thinking about where they would stand if their teams lost every remaining game.

Over half of the coaches would still have a job, while some might be left updating a resume. While that might not be the fairest way to judge job security, temperatures heat up quicker in some towns than others. If Colorado loses the rest of its games, Mike MacIntyre will probably be okay. If Oregon does the same thing, Mark Helfrich might be in trouble, but that's the nature of college football, especially when your program has built such a strong reputation.

Also factored into the equation here is the remaining schedule. You have to take into account the road ahead and factor that into how secure jobs are for every coach.

We're ranking them from twelve on down to one in order of the most secure to the least secure. Will anyone be fired at the end of the season, or will this be the first year in recent memory with zero coaching changes?

Begin Slideshow

Pac-12 Football: Ranking the Job Security of Pac-12 Coaches

With the month of November still in front of us, the temperature of each Pac-12 coach's seat is liable to change at least a few degrees over the next five weeks...

Begin Slideshow

College Football Playoff 2014: Predicting Inaugural Bracket Participants

With the College Football Playoff selection committee set to reveal its first batch of rankings for the inaugural postseason affair that seems increasingly small as each week of the season progresses, it is time to take another look at some predictions.

Not that anything has been easy to predict this year. Four teams are certainly not enough for the CFP, as the difference between the No. 4 team in the land and the No. 12 team is really just a matter of preference at this point.

Mississippi State is a good example of this, as the Bulldogs were an afterthought in the minds of most before the season. Now? Dak Prescott and Co. rule the SEC.

The CFP poll each week between now and December figures to look at a number of factors, chief among them strength of schedule and head-to-head outcomes. Using that as a baseline, a final four can be formed.

 

College Football Playoff Predictions

1. Mississippi State

It certainly does not take long for the naysayers to come out of the woodwork.

After wins over LSU, Texas A&M and Auburn, many have already dismissed the Bulldogs for "struggling" against unranked Kentucky last week by "only" winning by 14 points. Never mind the fact Kentucky is 5-3 and much better than in recent years, right?

As ESPN Stats & Info notes, the Bulldogs are still king in a number of areas, including a few very important ones in regard to the CFP:

Prescott is the reason the Bulldogs have made it to this point. 

While some will draw Tim Tebow comparisons thanks to his ability through the air and toughness on the ground, ESPN College Football points out that Prescott is on pace to surpass two other major recent names:

Now, the Bulldogs do have to survive Alabama and Ole Miss, among others, to make the CFP. But given an elite offense and a defense that surrenders just 21.6 points per game, Prescott's team currently looks like a lock. 

 

2. Florida State

Like it or not, the Florida State Seminoles and Jameis Winston are also a lock at this point in time.

The Seminoles survived Oklahoma State to start the season, overcame Clemson in overtime and most recently took down a Top Five team in the form of Notre Dame.

Winston leads an offense that ranks No. 14 overall in terms of passing yards per game, and on the year, he is completing 70.6 percent of his passes for 1,878 yards and 13 touchdowns to six interceptions.

In other words, the Seminoles mostly look like the team that birthed a Heisman winner and title last season.

That said, not everyone is confident the team can run the table, as ESPN College Football reveals:

It makes sense, as Louisville is a tough test, Virginia has a strong defense, Miami and Florida are tough in-state matchups and Boston College has already pulled off an impressive upset this season over USC thanks to a top-15 defense.

Like last year, though, an elite quarterback makes the difference. Until Winston and the Seminoles suffer a setback, the team is an obvious shoo-in for the CFP. 


3. Alabama

Perhaps no team that figures to be a serious contender for the CFP has a tougher schedule the rest of the way than the Alabama Crimson Tide. 

Nick Saban's team faces three ranked opponents in four games to close out the year, two of which rank fourth or better. A slate that features the aforementioned Bulldogs, LSU and Auburn would scare most teams, but not Alabama as it continues to hit its stride.

"This team is getting better and better," said quarterback Blake Sims, per Edward Aschoff of ESPN.com. "We’re becoming even closer and we just want to play hard for each other. The way our coaches fight for us, we want to play even harder for them."

Quietly, Sims has thrown for seven touchdowns to no interceptions in his last three games. He is flanked by the typically stout Crimson Tide defense, which ranks No. 3 overall with an average of 14.0 points allowed per game.

The Crimson Tide has grown up right in front of the nation's eyes in the past few weeks, with no true end in sight. Running the table is quite a daunting task, but yet again, it is unwise to doubt Saban's team.

 

4. TCU

The fourth slot is truly a wild guess thanks to the vast number of quality one-loss teams that pepper the collegiate landscape at the moment. 

Most would be hard pressed to find a team more deserving than TCU, though.

The Horned Frogs are one ugly quarter against Baylor away from being undefeated and a surefire favorite for the postseason. A loss to a Top Five team is in no way crippling, especially after the team recovered with a blowout win against ranked Oklahoma State and then an indescribable 82-27 win over Texas Tech.

Behind the arms and legs of junior quarterback Trevone Boykin—who has 2,306 passing yards and 21 touchdowns to three interceptions with 374 rushing yards and three scores on the ground—TCU touts the nation's top scoring offense, which averages 50.4 points per game.

Keep in mind that a major part of the equation is the future, though. As College GameDay hints, that is yet another bright spot for the team:

West Virginia and Kansas State will prove tough tests but are surely winnable matchups. Keep in mind that should TCU win out, the team has to be a lock for the CFP with the Big 12 not holding a conference title game.

Perhaps the fourth and final slot is not so difficult to figure out after all.

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

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

The month of October gave Clemson Tigers fans a few scares, and it doesn’t get any easier in November with games against Georgia Tech and South Carolina.

Luckily for the Tigers, quarterback Deshaun Watson will be back at some point next month. That is very good news, as the offense has produced just 33 combined points in Cole Stoudt’s two starts.

Clemson still has a lot to play for at this point, with the opportunity for an 11-win season still there. Also, if Florida State makes the playoff, Clemson would be in solid position to represent the ACC in the Orange Bowl.

That’s enough talk about bowl games, though, because the Tigers have a couple of challenges ahead of them next month.

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Boston College vs. Virginia Tech: Complete Game Preview

As the calendar turns to November, the Virginia Tech Hokies find themselves in an unfamiliar position: battling to be bowl-eligible. 

With two straight losses in prime time on Thursday nights, Tech gets back to work on Saturday as the Boston College Eagles come to town.

The Hokies (4-4, 1-3 against conference opponents) are essentially eliminated from Coastal Division contention, while the Eagles (5-3, 2-2 against conference opponents) are still alive in the Atlantic, even though defending national champion Florida State will be almost impossible to unseat. 

BC won last year's game at Chestnut Hill, but the Hokies won the previous five meetings. VT leads the all-time series 15-7. 

  • When: Saturday, November 1, 2014
  • Where: Lane Stadium, Blacksburg, Virginia
  • Time: 12:30 p.m. ET
  • TV: ACC Network
  • Radio: Virginia Tech IMG Sports Network. Here is a complete list of stations by area.
  • Spread: The Hokies are currently three-point favorites, via Odds Shark.

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

“And it’s hard to hold a candle

In the cold November rain.”

—Guns ‘n Roses, “November Rain”

Nebraska football fans will be putting away their Halloween candy (in more ways than one) and preparing for the November end-of-season stretch run that will define whether 2014 was a success or a failure. Trips to Wisconsin and Iowa highlight the challenges of the month, but four potential pitfalls await Nebraska as it tries to find a way back to Indianapolis.

So let’s take a look at how we should expect Nebraska to fare in its final four games of the regular season.

 

Nov. 1: Purdue

Nebraska’s November is no picnic, but at least it has a bit of a soft start to the month. Purdue has been struggling to rebuild under Darrell Hazell, but it currently sits at 3-5 overall and 1-2 in the Big Ten. The Boilermakers have shown some fight in the last few weeks, knocking off Illinois in Champaign and putting up game efforts in close losses to Michigan State and Minnesota.

So Purdue may not be the automatic win that Nebraska fans anticipated at the start of the season. But anything less than a comfortable win—particularly off the back of a sloppy performance against Rutgers—should make for an uncomfortable bye week.

But Nebraska’s sloppy play against Rutgers is bad news for Purdue, as Bo Pelini should have his teams full attention in practice this week. A sharp Nebraska should be more than enough to comfortably handle Purdue

Fearless Forecast: Nebraska 45, Purdue 13

 

Nov. 15: at Wisconsin

Reports of the Badgers’ demise may have been a bit premature. After B1G fans were ready to write off Wisconsin as a legitimate conference title contender, the Badgers undress Maryland in Madison, 52-7, in a game that might not have been as close as the score indicated.

Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon is the nation’s No. 2 rusher (one spot better than Ameer Abdullah), and if the Badgers can get any kind of a passing attack going they can be dangerous. Couple that with a stingy defense and the house of horrors that is Camp Randall and Nebraska looks to have a tall order facing it.

But Wisconsin does too. For its offense to work, Wisconsin must have some semblance of a passing attack, and Nebraska’s defensive line should be effective enough to pressure the Badgers’ quarterback (whichever one they roll out) into mistakes. Look for Nebraska, with the advantage of an off week to prepare, to take advantage of a Wisconsin team in transition and notch an important road win.

Fearless Forecast: Nebraska 27, Wisconsin 20

Nov. 22: Minnesota

The Gophers know who they are and, more importantly, who they are not. Minnesota will come to Lincoln with a ground-and-pound attack and hope to shorten the game and wear the Blackshirts out, like it did in Minneapolis last year.

But Nebraska has more going for it, both on offense and on defense, than it did a year previously. A clearly hampered Taylor Martinez will not be the albatross around Nebraska’s offense this time around, and the memory of last year’s upset should be more than enough to keep NU focused and ready.

Fearless Forecast: Nebraska 31, Minnesota 17

 

Nov. 28: at Iowa

Before the season started, this dope thought that Iowa would beat Nebraska on its way to a B1G West division title. Then came losses to Iowa State (!) and Maryland, along with less-than-convincing wins against the rest of its schedule. Laboring to beat Northern Iowa, Ball State and Purdue does little to inspire confidence that the Hawkeyes are even close to a team ready for a division title.

Add into the mix an unsettled situation at quarterback and a rushing attack that is far less potent than imagined and Iowa looks to be a far cry from what it was expected to be at the start of the season.

With games against Minnesota and Wisconsin before facing Nebraska, it’s hard to guess what Iowa’s record will be on the day after Thanksgiving. But a more complete Nebraska team, with a trophy to win back, should be enough to get the job done for NU.

Fearless Forecast: Nebraska 24, Iowa 14

 

Stats from CFBStats.com.

For a different look at Nebraska football, check out The Double Extra Point.

Or you can use the Twitter machine to follow @DblExtraPoint.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

UCLA Football: Game-by-Game Predictions for Month of November

With four games remaining in the regular season, the No. 25 UCLA Bruins still have a shot at winning the Pac-12 South Division. 

The upcoming slate is not an easy one by any stretch. All four opponents have been or are currently ranked. Fortunately for Jim Mora's team, three of the four games are being played in the Rose Bowl. 

This piece will take a stab at predictions for the quartet of games in November. Not only will UCLA look to make it into the conference championship game, but it will also try and win 10 games in back-to-back seasons. 

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UCLA Football: Game-by-Game Predictions for Month of November

With four games remaining in the regular season, the No. 25 UCLA Bruins still have a shot at winning the Pac -12 South Division. The upcoming slate is not an easy one by any stretch...

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Oregon Ducks vs. Stanford Cardinal Complete Game Preview

The Oregon Ducks (7-1, 4-1) have blown two consecutive chances for a shot at the national championship. The Stanford Cardinal (5-3, 3-2) stalled both of those chances. The Ducks hope that the third time’s the charm.

In each of the past two seasons, the Ducks came into the Stanford game with an undefeated record and a realistic shot at reaching the BCS Championship Game. In 2012, while sitting at 10-0, The Associated Press ranked Oregon No. 1 heading into the matchup against Stanford. In 2013, with an 8-0 record, the Ducks were ranked No. 2 in the country before the Stanford game.

Now, with the College Football Playoff in tow, the Ducks have yet another realistic chance of playing for a national title. Once again, the Cardinal stand in their way.

Can the Ducks finally overcome their demons and slay Stanford? That is the only question that matters this week. Yes, the Ducks have three more games after this week, including a terrifying road trip to Utah. However, Stanford is the game that every Ducks fan had circled at the beginning of the year. This one means just a little bit more than any other game on the Oregon schedule this season.

While this game has Pac-12 North implications—the Ducks hold a one-game lead over the Cardinal—the rivalry takes precedent and is the real storyline.

Stanford is to the Ducks what the 2004 New York Yankees were to the 2004 Boston Red Sox. In order to become champions, the Ducks must first take down the team that has stood in their way for the past two seasons.

Here's what you need to know:

Date: Saturday, Nov. 1

Time: 4:30 p.m. Pacific Time

Place: Autzen Stadium (Eugene, Ore.)

TV: Fox

Spread: Oregon -9.5, according to OddsShark.com.

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Oregon Ducks vs. Stanford Cardinal Complete Game Preview

The Oregon Ducks (7-1, 4-1) have blown two consecutive chances for a shot at the national championship. The Stanford Cardinal (5-3, 3-2) stalled both of those chances. The Ducks hope that the third time’s the charm...

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

In a scenario that should be all too familiar to Tennessee fans, the Volunteers are heading into November and needing a near sweep of the remaining teams on the schedule to secure bowl eligibility.

At one point during the first quarter of Saturday's game against No. 3 Alabama, it looked like the Crimson Tide were in the process of not only dismantling the Vols on the field, but also dismantling any belief the players and coaches had in the team's progress in recent weeks. 

Enter Joshua Dobbs.

As soon as the sophomore quarterback stepped in to replace Nathan Peterman, Tennessee's offense and defense came alive. Dobbs made plays with his feet and looked poised, calm and confident against one of college football's best defenses.

Ultimately, Tennessee fell short and lost 34-20, but the mood among Vols fans after the game was one of renewed hope and optimism.

Although Tennessee head coach Butch Jones has yet to name a starter for Saturday's game against the South Carolina Gamecocks, it's hard to imagine it being anyone other than Dobbs.

Offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian's play-calling has been criticized throughout the season, but his offense looked like a well-oiled machine with Dobbs at the helm.

Now that the Vols have found their quarterback for the foreseeable future, how will the rest of the season play out?

Here are game-by-game predictions for the four remaining games of Tennessee's 2014 season.

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Super 16 Poll Week 10: Complete Rankings Released for 2014 Season

Ultimately, four teams will battle it out at the end of the college football season for a national championship. But what if there was 16?

That's the theoretical question the Super 16 poll voters ask each week as they rank the top 16 teams in the nation. And with a number of one-loss teams out in the wild, a 16-team playoff this season would be a brilliant spectacle. 

We can dream, right? Let's take a look at the Super 16 poll, along with the B/R Top 25.

 

Rankings

 

Analysis

The group of voters picking this week's Super 16 had an easier job than the selection committee, that much is for certain. While Mississippi State and Florida State seem like no-brainer selections for the first two spots in the playoff at this point in the season, how do you decide which two teams deserve the next two? 

Teams like Auburn, Ole Miss, Alabama, Oregon, Notre Dame, Michigan State and TCU, among others, can all make a pretty compelling case for the third and fourth spots. The scene is certainly set for an epic November in that regard. 

Of course, it would be even more fun if all of these teams could actually face off in a larger playoff, hence the theoretical nature of the Super 16 rankings. Arizona and Arizona State seem unlikely to sniff the playoffs in the current format, for instance, but in a 16-team playoff, both would at least have the chance to show their ilk on the field. 

Or instead of arguing if three SEC West teams deserve to be in the top four, we could actually just let them duke it out on the field. Ah well. 

Stocks are rising and stocks are falling all over the place in college football. One team whose stock is rising again is Alabama, as Edward Aschoff of ESPN.com wrote:

Alabama has outscored its past two opponents 93-20 and has averaged 535.5 yards per contest. The defense has yet to give up 400 yards of offense in a game this season, and after having some real issues in its secondary, Alabama has given up an average of 171.5 passing yards per game in the past two outings. 

We have immersed ourselves in the Magnolia State the past few weeks, but it's time to start to looking at what's happening in Tuscaloosa. Alabama is creeping back into the playoff race at the perfect time. 

Quarterback Blake Sims also commented on the team's success, per Aschoff.

"This team is getting better and better," said Sims. "We’re becoming even closer and we just want to play hard for each other. The way our coaches fight for us, we want to play even harder for them."

Of course, the Auburn fans don't want to hear any of that. Auburn's only loss came to Mississippi State on the road, and it has a great non-conference win over Kansas State to add to its resume. Of course, the real fun is just beginning, as Stewart Mandel of Fox Sports tweeted:

It seems as though the College Football Playoff will go through the SEC West this year. But wouldn't it be fascinating to see the SEC West have to go through the rest of college football?

How fun would a game between Oregon and Auburn be? Or Alabama and Notre Dame? How about Ole Miss and Michigan State locking horns? Or Mississippi State battling TCU? 

We'll likely get one of those teams versus Florida State at some point, and that's going to be a blast. But with so many teams worthy of the playoff to this point in the season, the four-team playoff is only in its first year and it already feels inadequate. 

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

The Undefeated Team with No Shot at Making the College Football Playoffs

One thing is certain about the first College Football Playoff rankings that will be released Tuesday: There will be one undefeated team that has absolutely no chance to make the final four.

That’s the sad plight of Marshall, which is 8-0 but figures to be ignored because it plays in Conference USA. 

It's probably of little consolation, but at least Rolling Stone magazine has declared the West Virginia university “The People’s Champion.”

Count me among those who think the Thundering Herd has the best team name in college sports, but also one of the worst predicaments when it comes to getting ranked. The latest AP poll has Marshall way down at No. 23, but isn't that's one spot better than LSU was when it upset No. 3 Ole Miss last Saturday night?

And if Marshall wins out and maintains a spotless record in the loss column it’s a reminder that college football still doesn’t have a foolproof means of selecting a national champion.

Suppose this was basketball season. A team with Marshall’s undefeated record and ranking in the polls could be reasonably expected to get a No. 6 seed in the NCAA tournament and have a shot at knocking off some of the sport’s marquee schools.

But that opportunity doesn’t exist in football. Which is why Marshall coach John “Doc” Holliday confesses to having a case of “basketball envy.”

“I do,” the coach told me Monday during a phone interview. “I worry about the direction we’re taking as far as football is concerned, because what’s wrong with having a Butler in the (championship game of) NCAA tournament? Every year somebody steps up and makes a run in basketball. I think that’s what college sports and college football should be all about.”

Butler’s basketball team made it to consecutive national championship games in hoops in 2010-11, and 2014 champion UConn was ranked only 18th going into the tournament.

But with power-five conferences having such a huge edge, both historically and for strength of schedule, there’s no place in college football for a Cinderella story.

“If there’s a football team out there that’s a non-power-five team that deserves to be in the talk, then what’s wrong with that?” asks Holliday. “I think it would be great for college football.”

Instead, Holliday sees potential trouble brewing for even some top teams because of the ever-growing emphasis on the power-five conferences.

“I think at times you better be careful what you ask for, and I’m talking about even within the power-five conferences,” Holliday said. “The way I kind of see it going down the road, there’s going to be separation even within the power-fives … I think there are going to be 10 or 15 teams out there that are totally separated. Can those people in the private schools, and all those people within the power-fives, can they compete with the upper tier? I’m not sure they can.”

Holliday stresses that, “I don’t want anybody to give us anything.” But he adds that, “I think we deserve to be in the conversation, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.”

The coach hopes people won’t forget how good non-power-five Boise State was while going 92-12 under Chris Petersen from 2006-13. Or, before it joined the Pac-12, the Urban Meyer-coached Utah team of 2008 that went 12-0.

Holliday was on Meyer’s staff at Florida as associate head coach from 2005-07, which included one national championship with Tim Tebow at quarterback.

“I know that when I worked with Urban that one of the best football teams he thought he ever had was the Utah team when they were undefeated, prior to him going to Florida,” Holliday said. “He’ll tell you that today, that it was one of the best teams he ever coached.”

Holliday says his Marshall quarterback, Rakeem Cato, compares nicely with Tebow.

“As far as competitiveness, absolutely,” Holliday said. “He’s in the same boat.”

But a better comparison for Cato perhaps is Russell Wilson. Two weeks ago Cato broke Wilson’s FBS college record by throwing a touchdown pass in a 39th consecutive game, and then kept the streak alive and growing to 40 in Saturday’s victory against Florida Atlantic.

“What I like about him is what a special kid he is,” Holliday said. “He’s a guy who has overcome adversity.”

That’s putting it mildly. Cato’s mother died suddenly from pneumonia when he was 13, and his father was imprisoned throughout the quarterback’s childhood.

He also grew up in Liberty City section of Miami, which has one of the nation’s highest crime rates. Fox Sports’ Bruce Feldman wrote an excellent piece about the rigors of Cato’s childhood, and how he had to overcome anger and bitterness before he could become a complete success on the field.

The undersized QB arrived at Marshall weighing only about 150 pounds, but now is a muscular 176.

“He walked onto campus as a skinny kid who didn’t know when to get up or go to bed,” Holliday said. “To see him come as far as he’s come has been great.”

Cato figures to win a third consecutive C-USA Offensive Player of the Year award and leave Marshall as one of the school’s best three quarterbacks all time, joining former NFL players Byron Leftwich and Chad Pennington.

Pennington can perhaps best relate to how this Marshall team is being left out of the national championship discussion, since he was the star of the 1999 team that went 13-0.

As good as Cato has been, last Saturday’s 35-16 victory over Florida Atlantic belonged to Devon Johnson. The junior ran for a school-record 272 yards and four touchdowns, and had a remarkable hat trick of three long-distance TD runs, from 58, 62 and 66 yards.

It gave Johnson his seventh 100-yard game of the year and pushed his season total to 1,203 yards and an 8.8-yard average per carry. But until just a few days before practices began in August, Johnson had been penciled in as a tight end. And he was originally recruited as a linebacker.

“I’d like to sit here and tell you we have a crystal ball and knew he was going to be the type of player he is,” said Holliday. “I think probably the thing that’s get overlooked here with his success right now is that our offensive line is playing really well. We’ve got an offensive line that’s built in the same mode that he is. They’re all physical, tough like he is, they’re very well coached. He’ll be the first one to tell you that without that offensive line he wouldn’t have the success that he has.”

That success includes helping make Marshall the only FBS team to score at least 35 points in every game. The Herd’s 45.9 scoring average ranks third nationally, and with a defense that’s giving up only 16.5 points a game Marshall’s 29.4 scoring margin leads the nation.

Still, there isn’t much chance of Marshall moving up much in the rankings considering its remaining schedule: Southern Mississippi (3-5), Rice (4-3), UAB (4-4) and Western Kentucky (3-4). 

But undefeated is undefeated. And if Marshall remains that way, the college game should be respectful and at least include the Thundering Herd in the conversation.

 

Tom Weir covered college football as a columnist for USA Today. All quotes in this story were gathered firsthand.

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Will Jacques Patrick Turn Florida State into Run-First Team in Post-Winston Era?

Florida State secured a significant commitment Monday evening when running back Jacques Patrick pledged to the reigning national champions. The coveted Orlando playmaker pledged during a ceremony celebrating his inclusion in the Under Armour All-America Game:

The long-awaited announcement provides Florida State with a prolific rusher who is capable of carrying the load as an every-down back. Patrick, a 6'1.5", 230-pound prospect, chose the Seminoles over fellow finalists Florida, Texas A&M, Alabama and Ohio State. 

Though he was projected to commit to Florida State by 100 percent of expert predictions in 247Sports' Crystal Ball, Patrick remained predominately tight-lipped throughout latter stages of the recruiting process. He enters the final stretch of his senior season ranked seventh all-time among Florida high school athletes with 7,323 career rushing yards, per Chris Hays of the Orlando Sentinel.

He trimmed his choice to the Seminoles from 54 scholarship offers, sending another strong signal that Florida State will focus on pounding opponents with a run-heavy attack in coming years.

Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston is widely expected to enter the 2015 NFL draft after his second season as starting quarterback. The Seminoles have young passers ready to step up on the roster and currently hold commitments from a trio of quarterbacks in the 2015 class, but talent behind center pales in comparison to what Florida State has stockpiled in the backfield. 

Patrick, rated third nationally among running backs in 247Sports' composite rankings, joins fellow 4-star rusher Johnny Frasier in a class that now includes 19 commits. Frasier, rated fifth in those rankings, is another immensely productive high school senior who commands consideration as a featured weapon.

The North Carolina standout has rushed for 4,500 yards and 65 scores at Princeton High School since the start of last season. No team in the country can boast quite a tandem nearly three months away from national signing day.

To put things in perspective, Patrick and Frasier have combined to rush for nearly 12,000 yards and 168 touchdowns since 2012.

In addition to this heralded duo, the Seminoles will count on continued maturation from freshman running back Dalvin Cook. The Miami Central High School product was a 5-star signee in February and erupted for his first 100-yard rushing game as a Seminole earlier this month against Syracuse.

If Patrick and Frasier each remain committed and join Cook at Florida State, head coach Jimbo Fisher can find plenty of potential while developing an offense without Winston at the helm. His trio of premier backs could play together for up to three seasons and rival any backfield in America. 

The Seminoles offensive attack surely won't involve the same level of aerial assault moving forward, but with Patrick on the bandwagon, opposing defenses better be ready for a punishing ground game in Tallahassee.

 

Recruit ratings courtesy of 247Sports. 

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Jacques Patrick to FSU: Seminoles Land 4-Star RB Prospect

Florida State bolstered its backfield in a big way Monday by landing running back prospect Jacques Patrick out of Timber Creek High School in Orlando, Florida.   

Josh Newberg of 247Sports reported the news:

Patrick is rated as a 4-star prospect and ranks as the 39th-best overall recruit and the No. 3 player at his position in the class of 2015, according to 247Sports' composite rankings. Already listed at 6'1.5" and 230 pounds with 4.51 speed in the 40-yard dash, it's not hard to see why Patrick is thought of so highly.

As a sophomore and junior, the bruising back used his unique combination of size and speed to rumble for consecutive 2,000-yard rushing seasons, scoring 59 touchdowns on the ground in that span. ESPN.com's scouting report (subscription required) has this to say about Patrick's skills:

Strong, sturdy, well-built runner with a lower center of gravity. Has college ready, compact body structure at the position. Shows very good running strength and durability. Has great top-end speed and the ability to switch on a homerun second gear and separate.

USHSS highlighted Patrick's sensational career statistics a week before he announced his commitment:

All of that suggests Patrick is ready to take on the workload of a featured back at the highest level of college football. The youngster is also already aiming high for what he plans to do at Florida State:

While it's good for a talented prospect like Patrick to convey emboldened ambition, Florida State must be sure to manage his expectations, especially if he isn't beginning atop the depth chart. Living up to Heisman hype is difficult for anyone to do, and being highly recruited doesn't guarantee success.

The blend of more quick-twitch ball-carrier skills and Patrick's imposing physical stature brings to mind former Ohio State star and current San Francisco 49er Carlos Hyde.

As can be seen on the highlight reel, there is enough cutback ability and exceptional field vision to indicate that Patrick has all the tools to be a complete, all-purpose back. Sometimes players who have such a size advantage and can shed tackles with ease such as Patrick tend to run with high pad levels. Pittsburgh Steelers running back LeGarrette Blount, who has a similar skill set, has struggled with that on a constant basis.

Such is not the case with Patrick, as he is able to lower his shoulder and explode into contact even when he's coming out of a cut. Patrick can be a fit in a downhill rushing attack and shows the aptitude to run zone plays, as he's able to read blocks effectively and make quick decisions to get up the field.

Even though Patrick possesses adequate speed to run around most defenders at the high school level, he demonstrates the knack for getting north and south to maximize most of his carries. There isn't much dancing around before he makes his decision, which has to excite his future coaches.

As long as Florida State doesn't burn him out too early and can nurture Patrick to develop at his own rate, he has all the makings of being a college superstar. Patrick has the potential to become a Heisman Trophy candidate, but he must focus on the task ahead of him, learn the Seminoles' more complex offense and be sure his preparation is up to par.

Danger looms if Patrick gets caught up in his gaudy status and myriad scholarship offers. He must buy in 100 percent to the program and pay his dues. Presuming that happens under the capable guidance of his coaching staff, the future is bright for Patrick as he takes his talents to Tallahassee.

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4-Star Jacques Patrick Commits to FSU: Best 1/2 Combo in ACC for Years to Come

4-star running back Jacques Patrick has made his decision on where he'll play his college football. The talented back out of Orlando, Florida, has committed to Florida State.

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder breaks down the how this explosive recruit will fare for the Florida State Seminoles.

Will Patrick make an immediate impact for his new team?

Watch the video, and let us know!

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Tennessee Football: An Open Letter to Volunteers Who Want to Fire Butch Jones

Dear fellow Tennessee Volunteers fan,

It's been a painful journey these past many years. Little did we know that after Phillip Fulmer "resigned" in 2008 we'd still be finding our footing again in 2014. They say that good things come to those who wait—and believe me, I'm expecting big things for the Vols based on this adage!

I've thrown my voice out with you when the team came out in black on Halloween under Lane Kiffin. I've wept with you after losing two games when leading on the scoreboard at the end of the game in 2010. I took some terrible abuse from you when I suggested moving on from Derek Dooley.

But it's okay. All in good fanhood.

I stood beside you and screamed for Butch Jones, who has injected life back into the program. I watched with you when the team nearly beat Georgia in his first year, then come back and toppled a great South Carolina team the next game. I saw Jones guide the team to being within six points of a 5-3 record this season. I've monitored Tennessee's stellar recruiting class on the message boards with you, too.

But when you called into the local radio show today and said you thought Jones should be fired, I decided to turn you loose. You're officially on your own.

This is because I understand that while we fans are on year six of the post-Fulmer era, Jones' staff is just past the halfway point of year two. I also understand that the Vols were six points away from beating Georgia in back-to-back years, but both times, the depleted, under-experienced Vols came up short.

This shows that the lack of winning isn't because of the Xs and Os. There is a simple lack of player talent and depth. The 2014 team is a perfect example.

Just look at the squad. The best players are freshmen and sophomores. Cameron Sutton, Marquez North, Derek Barnett, Jalen Hurd, Josh Malone, Ethan Wolf, Corey Vereen, Todd Kelly and more are all in either their first or second year. Though there has been little reason to look forward in the past, there is plenty of reason now.

As if that weren't reason enough, Jones is bringing in another terrific recruiting class. Is it worth it to restart the entire process when you have a coach who is so clearly on the right path to bringing in elite players again and has a track record of developing them into champions? No, it's not.

Please, when you're frustrated, grab a punching bag. Don't vouch for putting the program another five years away from relevancy.

 

Sincerely,

Daniel

 

P.S. Butch Jones' Vols have lost 12 games during his tenure. Ten of those losses (83 percent) have been against opponents ranked in the top 20. Eight of those losses (75 percent) have been against opponents ranked in the top 10.

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