NCAA Football

College Football Picks: Week 9 Predictions for Every Game

It's a relatively light week in college football, with only 48 games on the schedule between Thursday night and early Sunday morning. And at first glance it doesn't look like a particularly awe-inspiring slate, with only two games pitting ranked teams.

But we've been down this road before. No matter what things looked like going into a weekend, every one so far this season has been wonderful once it's gone down. That's what we're expecting this time around, too.

Four unbeatens, but two of them are on the road this week against five-win teams. And several other games will have major impacts on conference and division standings, not to mention all of the contests featuring teams a win away from bowl eligibility.

Check out our predictions for Week 9 of the 2014 season, then give us your guesses in the comments section.

Last week: 37-16 (.698)

Season: 371-121 (.754)

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Louisville Restaurant Takes Crab Legs off Menu Prior to Florida State Game

The Louisville Cardinals will try to take down the undefeated Florida State Seminoles on Thursday, October 30, and local establishments are taking the opportunity to make more jokes about Jameis Winston.

Steakhouse owner Jeff Ruby tweeted that his Louisville location would not be selling crab legs at their raw bar because Winston is in town. 

People continue to take shots at Winston over the crab leg incident in late April. It's unclear if Ruby is serious about taking the item off of the menu, but I'm sure Winston wouldn't be a fan if he saw the tweet.

[Twitter, h/t College Spun]

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Oregon Football: Ranking Ducks' Biggest Remaining Threats on 2014 Schedule

The Oregon Ducks (6-1, 3-1) are firmly in control of the Pac-12 North and are ranked No. 6 in the country; however, there are still five tough Pac-12 opponents waiting to take them out of contention for a spot in the College Football Playoff.

While an early loss to Arizona may have bruised Oregon’s playoff hopes, it turned out not to be the knockout blow we originally thought it might be. In fact, Bleacher Report’s Samuel Chi projects that the Ducks will play in the College Football Playoff.

With only five games left this season—not including a Pac-12 Championship Game—the Ducks have limited opportunities to impress the playoff selection committee and leave their mark on the college football season.

With a healthy offensive line, the emergence of true freshman running back Royce Freeman, an improving defense and Heisman candidate Marcus Mariota under center, the Ducks are poised to do some late damage and prove themselves to be a worthy playoff candidate.

As we mentioned, five tough Pac-12 opponents stand between them and a shot at the Pac-12 title game. One slip-up and the Ducks' postseason aspirations will go up in smoke.

With that in mind, let’s rank the biggest remaining threats on Oregon’s schedule.

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Oregon Football: Ranking Ducks' Biggest Remaining Threats on 2014 Schedule

The Oregon Ducks (6-1, 3-1) are firmly in control of the Pac -12 North and are ranked No. 6 in the country; however, there are still five tough Pac -12 opponents waiting to take them out of contention for a spot in the College Football Playoff...

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The Alabama Effect on the SEC

Paul Finebaum noticed something peculiar when he was in Fayetteville, Arkansas, two weeks ago to see Arkansas take on Alabama.

There was no fear or anxiety in the air from anyone the SEC prognosticator talked to—from Razorbacks coach Bret Bielema down to the fans grilling hot dogs before the game. The usual intimidation that comes with playing Alabama was largely gone.

Alabama ended up winning an ugly 14-13 game. But Arkansas—the team and fans—believed it could win all the way until the final whistle.

The Crimson Tide have become the standard to which teams are measured, and nowhere is that more apparent than their own division, which top to bottom is unquestionably the best in college football.

When Ole Miss took down Alabama two weeks ago, fans immediately poured onto the field, tore down the goalposts and launched a celebration that will be remembered in Oxford for a long time. In fact, two of Alabama’s last three losses have elicited field stormings from the victorious in attendance.

“Just to see them and see how big it is for them to just beat Alabama—they make it a big deal,” Alabama senior fullback Jalston Fowler said. “When we win, we just keep it simple and keep going.”

The SEC West is a combined 38-11 to start the season. Ten of those 11 losses were to teams within the division. The only loss? Last place Arkansas fell this past weekend 45-32 to Georgia—the top team in the East.

It speaks volumes when the division’s worst team by a wide margin is Arkansas, which chewed up Texas Tech’s front seven and spat it back out then handled a good MAC team in Northern Illinois.

This year’s dominance is a culmination of the profound effect that Nick Saban and Alabama have had on the rest of the league since joining forces in 2007, especially within their own division. Three BCS championships over a four-year span created an astronomical convention for teams to play to.

In 2008, SEC West teams won an average of 7.2 games. Last year that number was up to 8.6.

“Alabama is the measuring stick,” Finebaum said. “Ole Miss—it wasn’t about, 'Well are we going to beat State or LSU?' It’s, 'How are we going to beat Alabama?' At LSU it’s the same thing. At Mississippi State, they’re not successful until they beat Alabama. Auburn obsesses over Alabama.”

Just about every team in the division (save for LSU) has seemingly overhauled its football department to get to that level where it can compete at that level or to be prepared to compete at that level from the get-go (Texas A&M).

These changes have come on and off the field in the form of style of play, recruiting and increased resources.

It’s gotten to the point where all six other teams feel they can play at that level. Even Arkansas, way down at the bottom.

“Everybody in our division has a really good team, and we all have to play each other,” Saban said. “I don’t ever remember it ever being like that.”

 

Style of Play

Alabama was winning with defense.

It led the country in yards per game in two of its three of its championship seasons, the outlier being 2009, when it finished second to TCU, which then played in the Mountain West.

But surely there had to be an effective counter. Teams found that success with the hurry-up offense.

By getting back to the line faster, running more plays and creating confusion for defenses, teams were able to level the playing field of sorts.

Outside of LSU, which has been the only school able to match Alabama pound-for-pound talent-wise (more on that in a moment), teams that have beaten the Crimson Tide lately have used some version of that style of play.

Alabama defenses under Saban rely on being disciplined. Players could read keys pre-snap, make calls depending on formations and personnel and adjust accordingly. Fastball teams take precious time away from that process and cause confusion as the ball is being snapped.

It started in 2010, when Gus Malzahn was Auburn’s offensive coordinator. Led by quarterback Cam Newton, the Tigers hit several big plays, mounting one of the most memorable comebacks in college football history to take down the Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa.

After head coach Gene Chizik’s firing after the 2012 season, Malzahn was hired as his replacement. He beat Alabama in his first game as head coach in 2013 using a similar style of play.

"That hurry-up, no-huddle is what high school kids really enjoy these days," Auburn athletics director Jay Jacobs told B/R’s Barrett Sallee in the spring. "Even though we're both recruiting the best athletes and go head-to-head on a lot of recruits, our style is totally different. It's what Gus has always run since he was a high school coach, and has made the games really fun. It's a totally different style than the pro style, and it gives the prospects a choice."

Now, every other SEC West school except for LSU and Arkansas run some form of that hurry-up, no-huddle.

Texas A&M laid the best blueprint for beating Alabama in 2012. It came into Bryant-Denny Stadium and shocked the world, beating the Crimson Tide 29-24 and putting up 418 yards of total offense in the process. A year later it ran up 628 yards against Alabama in a loss.

It’s still unclear whether that style of play is specifically responsible for Alabama’s defensive struggles. Whether it plays out over the course of the game could be argued either way. But teams have been able to hit timely big plays, like Ole Miss just two weeks ago. And it helps to have the right quarterback.

“Johnny Manziel is a blueprint,” Finebaum said. “There was no way to defend him.”

Still, hurry-up offenses are here to stay. They’ve caused a lot of headaches for Saban, who is used to winning with defense.

“I never thought that I would be here as a coach, in my lifetime as a coach," Saban said. "That running regular, I-formation plays and running the ball out of regular two wide receivers, two backs out of the backfield, would be the anomaly of football.”

 

Recruiting

Of course, these styles of play don’t mean much without talented players to run the system.

“None of us are great coaches without players who can make plays,” Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said.

Alabama has signed Rivals’ No. 1 class every year since 2008, Saban’s first full year to pull in a recruiting class. That’s given the Crimson Tide the players necessary to play that physically dominating style on offense and defense that defined their dynasty.

And as their talent level has gone up, just like with style of play, schools have adapted. While there have been ups and downs for the league as a whole, over time, the recruiting has trended in a positive direction in terms of class ranking since Saban has been at Alabama.

Malzahn, Freeze and Sumlin were hired not just for their schematic acumen, but their persuasive ability with high school recruits. Notably, Ole Miss signed a top-10 class—unheard of in Oxford before Freeze’s arrival—with players like Antonio Conner, Evan Engram, Robert Nkemdiche, Laquon Treadwell and Laremy Tunsil, among others from that class, playing key roles in the Rebels’ upset over Alabama.

“Alabama has as many 5-star recruits as they ever have, it’s just a matter of if they all pan out,” Finebaum said. “Meanwhile, Ole Miss just happened to come up with the stars of that class a year ago. If Alabama had taken one or two of those players—it’s so hard to figure that out.”

And it’s worked both ways.

As teams recruit to match that talent level of Alabama, the Crimson Tide too have had to adjust their style to match the offenses teams have brought in.

Those included players like outside linebacker Rashaan Evans and defensive end Da’Shawn Hand, both smaller players than Saban would normally recruit at their position but faster and more apt to counter spread teams.

“One of the goals we have was to get a little more fast-twitch, quicker-body-type guys to play on the edges for us,” Saban said this past signing day. “We're playing against a lot more spread. I feel between the outside backer types we got as well as some of the more athletic kind of defensive ends we got that maybe we satisfied that need as well. “

 

Resources

Players not only need somewhere to practice but also to have meetings, watch film and just hang out. Alabama has similarly been at the forefront of facilities and stadium upgrades—key factors in recruiting and player development—and so too have schools followed suit to keep up.

Since Saban came to Alabama, every SEC West school has made significant upgrades to either its stadium, practice facility or both.

The Crimson Tide notably upgraded their stadium to hold over 100,000 fans opening in 2010 and last year unveiled a $9 million weight room/player lounge/team facility that could pass for a 5-star hotel if need be.

“All that does is create an atmosphere where you look over there, depending on which direction, and you go to your AD and say, ‘Hey, Alabama has a brand new workout room with 25 plasma TVs in there, how come we only have three?’” Finebaum said.

For other schools whose resources are competitive nationally but put them in the bottom half of the West, the challenge becomes allocating those resources efficiently.

“We’ve invested $100 million in facilities in the last couple of years,” Mississippi State athletics director Scott Strickland said in an interview with Bleacher Report. “The Leo Seal, Jr. Football Complex is as nice a football complex as you’ll find. It doesn’t have gold-plated toilets, you don’t walk into the lobby and see a waterfall. But it’s very nice. Again, we try to put our money where we think it’s going to make the biggest impact and not things that may be as showy or flashy as what other people spend their money on.

"That’s not a criticism of other people, that’s just what works for us, the kind of kids we attract. That’s the way we do it.”

Alabama too has set the precedent in the salary game.

When Nick Saban was originally hired in 2007, he made a then-unheard-of $4 million.

In 2013, the average SEC coach made an average of $3.3 million, per USA Today’s database of coaches salaries. That’s a number sure to go up once full 2014 numbers are out, as both Saban and Malzahn received lucrative extensions.

Saban’s most recent raise and extension over the summer has him making $6.9 million per year, while Malzahn will make $3.85 million. Saban’s staff as a whole will make $5.2 million.

“(Saban) elevated the salary game to such a high number,” Finebaum said. “He was at one level—if you paid him $4 million when he started out, they paid the Auburn coach $1.3 (million). Everyone started paying more. Doesn’t always mean you always get better coaches, but what it does mean is you can probably get better assistant coaches, because there’s so much money allocated across the board.”

 

End in Sight?

The question now becomes, with a league so utterly dominant, when will it end?

For Alabama, the hot debate after a loss so early in the 2014 season has been whether its college football dynasty is over. The jury is still very much out there—the Crimson Tide still have a very real chance to win the SEC, make the College Football Playoff and add to their trophy case.

But if Alabama is undone, it will be as a byproduct of its own success. Whether it loses another game to Texas A&M, Mississippi State, Auburn or someone else, it will be a team that has studied the Crimson Tide blueprint and worked tirelessly to defeat it.

And the division could become a victim of its own success, with so many good teams beating up on each other and thus taking each other out of the national picture.

These things come and go, ebb and flow. The SEC West’s supremacy won’t last forever.

“Everybody in the East wants to win just as badly as everybody in the West,” Strickland said.

For now, though, the division can enjoy having five of its seven teams ranked in the AP Top 25, including four in the Top 5.

And no matter where it ends, there will be no question where it started. At a school in Tuscaloosa with a coach who changed the game.

“There’s no question,” Finebaum said. “Nick Saban has influenced everything.”

 

Marc Torrence is the Alabama lead writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Follow on Twitter @marctorrence.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

2016 DE Jamal Holloway​'s Journey from the Hardwood to the Gridiron

Jamal Holloway admits he wasn't giving football full attention at the start of his junior season. He wore the Panthers' purple and gold uniform, working through drill after drill, but thoughts drifted to the 10-point lead that painfully vanished nearly half a year earlier.

The coveted 6'3", 215-pound prospect from Camden High School in Southern New Jersey couldn't put Newark Tech out of his mind. That's the opponent who stormed back during the final stretch of a tightly contested 2014 Group II state title game to thwart the Panthers' aspirations for a championship.

"That one hurt a lot," he said.

Holloway, who doubles as a defender on the football field and forward on the basketball court, sought to solidify a lasting spot in the legacy of Camden's storied hoops program. He averaged a double-double during his sophomore season and led all starters in field-goal percentage. 

A breakout season ended in the showdown with Newark Tech, a frustrating 48-44 defeat in which Holloway struggled to find his rhythm. Emotions from the game's aftermath lingered into summer and eventually football training camp, creating a slight hangover effect. 

"I let that loss bother me for a while, probably too long," Holloway said. "I went through some trouble focusing on football early because my mind was thinking about how close we were to bringing home a state title. I was just upset about it."

It took a few live-action reps, but eventually he put things in perspective.

Postseason glory is also up for grabs on the gridiron, and Camden, unbeaten through six games, requires his best to make a deep run.

"I'm all about football right now," he said. "My coaches and teammates helped keep me on track. There's another championship to chase."

Holloway, who averaged 14 points per game last basketball season, conversely aims to limit scoring during the fall. He's an impressive edge defender with 80 tackles and 10 sacks since the start of last season.

Not bad for a player who briefly walked away from the sport during a span of his adolescence to focus on basketball.

These days, Holloway is chasing down quarterbacks with the same tenacity he displays during a drive toward the rim.

"Jamal is what we call a 'freak athlete,' and there's a lot of room for him to grow," Camden football coach Dwayne Savage said. "He's a natural pass-rusher who is really just starting to understand the game. He's the kind of player who can continue to improve when he gets to college. It's all about finding the right fit for him."

His options are mounting.

Holloway holds scholarship offers from Michigan State, Pitt, Temple, Old Dominion, Virginia and Rutgers. Plenty of others have hosted him on campus or expressed interest, including Ohio State and West Virginia.

"I like having offers from this region, but I'm open to go anywhere in the country," he said. "It's a chance to see the world. Education is the most important thing because a career in football is never guaranteed."

Holloway, who hopes to focus collegiate studies in the science field, has enjoyed a rapid rise in the recruiting spectrum. Teams across the country continue to identify him as a "high ceiling" guy who is just starting to scratch the surface of his potential.

"College coaches always tell me I bring a lot of natural athleticism to the field, which they definitely like," he said. "They say I'm fast off the ball and like what I can do along the outside. There are definitely things I need to work on, like using my hands better, but they can see how I'm developing."

There's a bit of rawness to his game at this stage, but the promise is apparent.

"Jamal picked things up really quickly," said teammate Ron Johnson, a 4-star defensive end prospect. "Right now he's still figuring some things out, but he can take over sometimes."

His success is starting to come more consistently, evidenced by five straight games with at least four tackles. 

College programs vary on where they envision Holloway within a defensive scheme. Rutgers, the in-state Big Ten Conference newcomer, hosted him for a victory over Michigan earlier this month and believes he's best suited to bulk up a bit and play defensive end.

"I really like the way Rutgers plays, especially now that they're in a bigger conference," Holloway said. "It's a tenacious defense that's always in attack mode. I could see myself there."

Michigan State has also emerged as a top contender and defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi maintains contact. Unlike Rutgers, the Spartans would prefer him to line up at outside linebacker.

Life in East Lansing, Michigan, would also provide an intriguing possibility for Holloway. Michigan State is one of three schools that have opened the door for him to enroll as a dual-threat athlete.

Along with Virginia and Temple, the Spartans coaching staff has talked with him about potentially walking on to the basketball team. It's a difficult task, notably done by eventual NFL stars Donovan McNabb (Syracuse) and Julius Peppers (North Carolina), but Holloway won't shy away from the workload.

"Playing both sports in college is something I would like to pursue," he said. "If the option is there, why not? It won't be easy, but that's a big goal of mine. I'm grateful that some of these teams are willing to let me do that."

With those plans at the forefront, Holloway concentrates on staying sharp in both sports throughout the year. His mindset will revolve around football for at least another five or six weeks, but preparation for hoops season becomes paramount as Thanksgiving nears.

"It can be tough to handle sometimes because I try to focus on one sport while it's in that season," he said. "But I still need to be ready for basketball, so it's important for me to work myself into shape and make sure my shot is solid, especially when it gets closer to December."

Holloway doesn't take days off of the grind and typically spends a portion of his Sunday working out with Camden basketball legend Dajuan Wagner, who famously scored 100 points in a game and remains New Jersey's all-time leading scorer.

The former Cleveland Cavaliers lottery pick is practically royalty within the community and continues to support local athletes, including one of the town's top basketball players who happens to be pretty darn good at football.

"He tells me to work on my fundamentals in everything I do and that will eventually pay off," Holloway said. "We don't really talk about the recruiting stuff, but I know he's here to help me when I need advice. That's pretty big."

Holloway is more likely to log 100 tackles in 10 games than 100 points in four quarters, but you better believe he has his sights set on matching at least one of Wagner's high school accomplishments—a state championship victory.

Whether Holloway is throwing down dunks or running backs, that quest remains constant. 

 

Quotes obtained firsthand by Bleacher Report national recruiting columnist Tyler Donohue.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

B/R Exclusive: Watch Top DE in 2015 Class Kengera Daniel Commit

Kengera Daniel, a top defensive end in the 2015 class, sat down with Bleacher Report to announce his official commitment. He has narrowed his choices to Louisville, Alabama, Kentucky, Virginia and NC State. Tune in to find out which school he chooses.

How well do you think he will fit in with his new team?

Watch the video and let us know!

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Tennessee Trip Perfect Solution to Alabama's Road Woes

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — It’s been a tale of two Alabamas during the 2014 season.

There’s home Alabama and road Alabama. Home Alabama looks unbeatable, breaking records and grinding offenses into a fine dust. Road Alabama looks like it would finish toward the bottom of the SEC West.

The Crimson Tide is in the middle of a stretch of four in five games away from Bryant-Denny Stadium. They seemed to let out a lot of their frustration in their one home game during that run on Saturday, obliterating Texas A&M, 59-0.

But this week, Alabama will get back on an airplane and head to Knoxville before a bye week and subsequent trip to Baton Rouge to finish out the 2014 away schedule.

That game at LSU is massive for Alabama’s SEC West chances. It almost certainly can’t lose another game, especially before ending the season with Mississippi State and Auburn at home. And Tiger Stadium is always a difficult place to play.

But Alabama first gets to play a very down Tennessee team. It will be a great opportunity to fix its road woes before that huge trip to LSU.

*Note: Table data only include statistics from true road games, so Alabama's season opener against West Virginia in the Georgia Dome was not included.

It’s difficult to pinpoint one overarching reason Alabama has played subpar on the road.

The main one players point to is emotion, or lack thereof, and how that translates onto the field. Senior fullback Jalston Fowler thought the team was playing “like we were scared to lose.”

There was a spark in emotion, though, at the end of the Arkansas game. After Landon Collins’ late interception, players streamed onto the field in celebration. Nick Saban said that’s the most emotion he’s seen from his team in a long time and that it was good to see players celebrate simply getting a win.

So Saban came up with an analogy (along with some help from back-to-back national champion men’s golf coach Jay Seawell): “Let the horse run.” It comes from the movie, Seabiscuit, referring to a horse whose owners were too scared to lose instead of just letting it, well, run.

And run did they ever. The Alabama-Texas A&M box score reads like a video game. There was no shortage of that coveted emotion.

Now, the challenge becomes carrying that over into another week—and the rest of the season.

“That's everybody's choice. Everybody chooses their energy,” Saban said this week. “That's everybody's choice. Hopefully, our team will choose that kind of positive energy, that kind of positive attitude in terms of what they want to build on, what they want to accomplish. And understand the importance of good energy early in the week to have great preparation so they are confident going into the game and feel you can execute and do the things you need to do.”

The other factor that could be looked at is simply inexperience and the lack of execution that follows.

According to Phil Steele’s combined experience chart (h/t ESPN’s Alex Scarborough), which calculates how young a team his, Alabama checks in at No. 107 out of 128 FBS teams. 

The Crimson Tide is also breaking in a new quarterback and new offensive coordinator. Having all of that working together, especially in a hostile environment, is certainly a challenge. 

“The quarterback is the starting point of all that to manage the game,” Saban said. “His in and out of the right plays and make the right checks. I think that all starts with the preparation. I think it's really, really important to have great preparation this week because it is a challenge we have to overcome, especially offensively.

"I think it's going to be really important we play really, really good on defense as well because they have a really good defensive team. It's going to be a challenge for us offensively, being able to execute the way we need to, to have success.”

All of that will certainly be in play again this week in front of a hostile Tennessee crowd fired up by a major rivalry game and the return of a certain maligned coach in those parts.

But the Volunteers aren't expected to pose much of a threat in terms of competition. Tennessee is still looking for its first SEC West win.

Alabama can put criticisms of its past road performances behind it with a strong showing on Saturday. And in the process prepare for an even bigger test two weeks later.

“After what we did this past week, I'm ready to see what we can do on the road,” quarterback Blake Sims said. “Show everybody we can bring it from home and take it on the road and keep the same intensity.”

 

Marc Torrence is the Alabama lead writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Follow on Twitter @marctorrence.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

UCLA Defense Seeks More Sacks Despite Colorado's 'Dirty' Line Play

Seeking to improve its sputtering sack production, the UCLA defense responded with three sacks of Cal quarterback Jared Goff.

The No. 25-ranked Bruins will try to continue the positive development of its pass rush this week at Colorado, but defensive end Takkarist McKinley explained Wednesday why that's a unique challenge.

"They're dirty," McKinley said after UCLA's practice Wednesday at Spaulding Field.

The second-year junior college transfer, who joined UCLA's roster four games into the season, left no ambiguity about his assessment of the Buffaloes' offensive line.

"They try to chop-block you," McKinley said. "They try to tear your ACL. To me, that's dirty. But to them, they're just trying to do their job."

Whatever the means, the Buffaloes have been effective in their job of keeping quarterback Sefo Liufau upright for much of the season. Colorado has allowed just 12 sacks through seven games.

Offensive line play is one facet in which Colorado has undergone a wholesale transformation under second-year head coach Mike MacIntyre. The Buffs gave up 20 sacks a season ago, 30 fewer than in the 2012 campaign.

"They've given up the least amount of sacks as a unit in the Pac-12, which is saying a lot considering they've had a lot of reps and they throw it a lot," UCLA defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich said.

While Colorado has cut down the number of sacks it allows, UCLA has seen the number of sacks it generates dwindle.

The absence of All-American linebacker and first-round NFL draft pick Anthony Barr is glaring at times. Barr registered as many sacks individually in 2013 as the Bruins have as a team thus far into 2014.

UCLA's lack of sacks is partially attributable to easily rectified miscues. One of Barr's replacements at outside linebacker, Deon Hollins, has regularly been in opposing backfields and has a team-high three sacks.

Hollins has been fractions of a second away from getting several more sacks, however, and it seems like only a matter of time before the floodgates open for him.

The same is true for defensive end Owamagbe Odighizuwa, who gained his second sack on the year last week at Cal.

McKinley played a more prominent role, lining up on the outside in the position Odighizuwa previously manned—fitting, considering McKinley referred to himself as "a little Owa."

McKinley's presence allowed Odighizuwa to play on the interior of the defensive line, which Ulbrich said produced results.

"They affected the quarterback," he said. "They were getting in the backfield and in the run game, too. Started playing on [the offense's] side of the line of scrimmage a little bit more, a little bit more knock-back. They were a little bit more aggressive."

Both increasing its sack total and pressuring Liufau are contingent upon UCLA continuing to improve against the run. The Bruins are allowing 4.07 yards per rush—not a bad average by any means, but a slight jump from 2013's output of 3.95 yards per carry.

Stymieing Colorado on first and second down to create 3rd-and-long situations is key, McKinley said.

However, UCLA's best bet for shaking off Colorado's cut-blocking style and getting to Liufau is to avoid a down-and-dirty game in the trenches—no pun intended.

"If we get off [the line of scrimmage] with speed, we can beat them," McKinley said. "Use your hands, use your speed, club, rip and dip, beat them with speed."

 

Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise cited. Statistics via cfbstats.com.

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UCLA Defense Seeks More Sacks Despite Colorado's 'Dirty' Line Play

Seeking to improve its sputtering sack production, the UCLA defense responded with three sacks of Cal quarterback Jared Goff. The No...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Felder's Rant: Notre Dame Didn't Get Screwed; About Time Offensive PI Was Called

Referees have a lot of influence on college football games. With new rules being enforced and defenses playing more aggressively, one infraction has weighed more heavily than the rest.

Bleacher Report college football analyst Michael Felder tells you his problems with pass interference calls in college football.

Do you think this is a big problem in college football?

Watch the video and let us know!

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Lane Kiffin's Mother Worries About Son's Safety in 1st Game Back at Tennessee

Tennessee fans will never forget the way former Volunteers coach Lane Kiffinbolted for USC in January 2010 after just one season in Knoxville. This Saturday marks the first time Kiffin, now the offensive coordinator for the Alabama Crimson Tide, will return to Neyland Stadium since he resigned.

The return to Knoxville has Kiffin's mother, Robin, very concerned for her son's safety. She spoke to CBS Sports' Jon Solomon about her son's relationship with Tennessee fans.

Lane sent it [a Tosh.0 sketch] to me on a family group text. It was awful. That language is horrible. ... They never leave him alone. I don't see them picking on anybody else like that. That guy at Texas Tech (Mike Leach), he locked a quarterback in a shed and he gets another job. Are they still talking about that? No. The Arkansas guy (Bobby Petrino) gets caught on a motorcycle wreck with another woman and he gets another job. Are they talking about him? No.

The Kiffins know that Neyland Stadium is going to be a hostile environment for Lane. The family isn't taking any chances, which is why the kids will not be in attendance.

However, he doesn't have a choice. He has a job to do. Robin just wishes that her son would coach from the press box this weekend.

"I'm scared to death for his safety," Robin Kiffin said. "Some people were visiting us last weekend from Tennessee, and they said they better not let him on the sideline (where Kiffin coaches at Alabama), they should put him in the press box. I want him to be in the press box."

Although it doesn't happen frequently, fans have been known to run onto the field during games. That has to make Kiffin's family a bit uneasy.

Kiffin led Tennessee to a 7-6 record back in 2009. When the Trojans came calling in 2010, he took the job. He lasted less than four years at USC before getting fired. It didn't take him long to catch on with another program—this time as an offensive coordinator for Nick Saban's team.

The coach's exit didn't sit well with Volunteers fans. On Saturday, Tennessee fans can let Kiffin know they haven't forgotten about him. For the sake of her son, Robin is hoping that booing is the only thing that happens.

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Nebraska Football: Huskers Must Continue Reshuffling Offensive Line

It seems a little wrong to call them backups now. After a strong showing against Northwestern, right tackle Givens Price, right guard Chongo Kondolo and center Ryne Reeves made a case for a starting position on Nebraska's offensive line.

The three were able to make that case thanks to rotation.

It was that lack of rotation against Michigan State that had many confused. Even offensive coordinator Tim Beck broke his silence when speaking with reporters about failing to rotate the offensive line:

You got a guy that you trust and you know has done a good job — when do you pinch hit for him? You feel like he's due. We felt like we were due and our guys were going to go out there and eventually just make a play, get a little momentum and get a little spark. We just didn't do it.

In Evanston, Illinois, that all changed.

In the second quarter, Price, Kondolo and Reeves helped with Nebraska's seven-play, 80-yard touchdown drive, as The Grand Island Independent's Bob Hamar pointed out. The trio was also a part of another Husker touchdown later in the second half.

The argument has now become whether or not the three have earned a starting position on the offensive line. If nothing else, their performances proved that Beck needs to continue rotating the offensive line.

It's not just fans who noticed the benefit of rotating. Fellow offensive linemen saw it, too.

“We had a lot of guys step up and play really good football — Chongo, Givens and Reeves,” left guard Jake Cotton told reporters. “Guys who hadn’t got in against Michigan State came in and played their butts off. I think film is going to be really kind to them tomorrow.”

What the film will show is that Price, Kondolo and Reeves deserve to be a part of the game plan going forward. In the second half against Northwestern, the three showed just how beneficial they are to the team.

"On the second possession of the third quarter, Moudy moved to the left side," ESPN.com's Mitch Sherman noted. "Reeves entered. Kondolo and Price took the right side. The next three drives produced 185 yards and three touchdowns."

Price, Kondolo and Reeves are proving that they have more to offer the offensive line than just their talents. They're also becoming leaders, as Price told reporters:

I don’t know what he told the other guys for sure, but what he told me was I need to be more consistent in what I do. He came to us after the game and said he probably should have played some of us. So we kind of took that as, ‘You know what? We need to give him a reason to put us in early.’ And that’s what we did during the bye week.

That attitude is exactly why Beck needs to continue rotating the offensive line going forward. As long as the players are proving they're capable of stepping up in practice, they should be on the field every Saturday.

Now that Price, Kondolo and Reeves have shown what they're capable of, there really is no reason to not let them keep going. As the three get more comfortable, the small mistakes they made on pass protection will be corrected.

However, improvement does take experience. All three proved against Northwestern that they deserve the chance to earn the playing time.

Beck admitted after the Michigan State game that he should have rotated more. If nothing else, that's the primary reason Nebraska should make sure it continues during the final five games of the regular season.

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Wisconsin Football: Position-by-Position Midseason Grades for the Badgers

This season has not started off as planned for the Wisconsin football team.  After a near-miss against then-No. 13 LSU in Houston, the Badgers reeled off a trio of unimpressive victories before their slow starts got the best of them in their first true road game at Northwestern.

The Wisconsin Badgers (4-2, 1-1 Big Ten) have mostly underachieved, particularly in the passing game and defending the vertical passing game, but many of their faults have been made up for with well above-average run defense and one of the best rushing attacks in the country.

Looking at all nine position groups, I assigned grades based on performance at the midway point of the season.  While I think the arrow is pointing up at some positions, grades have been assigned based on how that group has performed to date, not accounting for how they played just last week or whether there are signs of improvement.

With a couple of A's thrown in amidst some grades that might require a signature on the test, let's go through position-by-position to see where the Badgers stand through the first six games of the season, starting with the oft-maligned quarterbacks.

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Notre Dame Football's Midseason Report Card

With a week off after a difficult loss to Florida State, Notre Dame gets an opportunity to catch its breath this week. Sitting at 6-1 and ranked inside the Top 10 of both the AP and Coaches Poll, Brian Kelly's young team is a surprise contender for a spot in the College Football Playoff. 

How they got there is an interesting story. Losing key starters on both sides of the ball courtesy of graduation and the NFL draft, the Irish also opened training camp short three critical starters: wide receiver DaVaris Daniels, cornerback KeiVarae Russell and defensive end Ishaq Williams.

Five total players were lost for the season after an academic investigation ran into October, just another distraction for a team and coaching staff that has had to deal with off-field surprises seemingly annually.  

But the Irish have avoided any pitfalls during their fast start, thriving through an early season schedule that softened a bit thanks to down years by Michigan and Stanford. Notre Dame showed themselves to be for real last Saturday night, battling the defending champs to the last play and losing on a penalty call that still has people talking

With the university on mid-semester break and the football team on bye, let's take a look at the Irish's midseason report card. 

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How LSU Offense Can Find Success vs. Tough Ole Miss Defense

LSU quarterback Anthony Jennings is about to swim into shark-infested waters on Saturday night. 

The Ole Miss "Landshark" defense is a bloodthirsty bunch. The unbeaten Rebels are No. 1 in the country in scoring defense and sit atop the SEC in takeaways.  

Ole Miss currently leads the nation in scoring defense with 10.6 PPG. HC Hugh Freeze has made huge improvements. pic.twitter.com/okVFKy9bkt

— ESPN CollegeFootball (@ESPNCFB) October 20, 2014

Jennings has only lost one game as a starter and has yet to throw an interception in SEC play. On the other hand, he has eclipsed 200 yards only once and is completing a measly 50 percent of his passes. 

Jennings is not the only player head coach Les Miles needs to step up. The entire offense must rise to the occasion for the Tigers to upset the No. 3 team in the country.

Here is what the offense needs to do to be successful. 

 

Establish the Run

It sounds so cliche, but running the football is so crucial to success in the SEC. The Tigers need to develop a ground game to help Jennings throw the ball successfully against the Rebels. 

How LSU should run it is an inexact science, especially against a stout Rebels front. 

Ole Miss is allowing less than 100 rushing yards per game, which is second in the SEC. The Rebels are formidable up the middle, led by defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche. But a closer look at the numbers from Cameron Roberson of Death Valley Voice gives hope to the Tigers:

Against the two top-30 rushing offenses Ole Miss has faced, they've allowed 361 yards, 4.46 ypa. LSU is 30th in rushing offense.

— Cameron Roberson (@LSUbeat) October 22, 2014

LSU left guard Vadal Alexander and right guard Ethan Pocic both played their best games of the season against Kentucky. Alexander and Pocic's biggest improvements have been their ability to get to the second level of the defense to block linebackers. 

Unfortunately for the Tigers, the Rebels defensive tackle play is better than Kentucky. Blocking beyond the line of scrimmage becomes more difficult when guards are stalemated after the snap. Ole Miss does a great job of maintaining gap responsibilities against the run. 

Alabama's best runs came when running backs T.J. Yeldon and Derrick Henry found small creases and cutback lanes. LSU's stable of backs must do the same. The only way that is possible is if the LSU offensive line continues blocking hard even if it is beat initially. Running back Terrence Magee and the offensive line displayed both traits to perfection on his first touchdown run against Kentucky. 

[ESPN Video] 3Q LSU T. Magee run for 9 yds for a TD: Terrence Magee run for 9 yds for a TD http://t.co/VQs0ziE9ws#Wildcats

— Kentucky Wildcats (@BR_UKWildcats) October 19, 2014

LSU will also look to run the "stretch" behind left tackle La'el Collins, a play that had success against Florida and Kentucky. The play puts added pressure on defensive ends to hold the point of attack. The problem with the stretch is the time it takes to develop, which is tough against the speed of the Rebels defense. 

That is an NFL block right there RT @Goldkamp247 LSU's La'el Collins blows Jon Bullard 5 yards off LOS https://t.co/DLlDuSo0S2

— Derek Tyson (@DerekTysonESPN) October 13, 2014

No matter how it is done, effective runs will be vital for offensive coordinator Cam Cameron. The play-action pass would do wonders for Jennings. 

 

Complete Short and Intermediate Passes

Jennings' worst trait has been the short and intermediate passing game. If that does not change against Ole Miss, it will be costly. 

The Rebels love to play "soft" coverage, meaning their defensive backs play off the line of scrimmage in an effort to prevent big plays. Jennings must take what the defense gives him and move the chains. Below is an example against Alabama of the massive cushions the Crimson Tide receivers were given. 

Jennings' chemistry with Travin Dural is special, but the Rebels will likely have safety help on his top target all game long. If he forces deep passes into double coverage to Dural, it will result in interceptions. 

Alabama quarterback Blake Sims did an adequate job against the Rebels dumping the ball off to his tight ends when his No. 1 target, Amari Cooper, was blanketed. Unfortunately for Jennings, LSU's tight ends have only caught three passes all season. He will need slot specialists John Diarse and Trey Quinn to step up and make these tough plays.

If the coverage is slated to Dural's side, 5-star true freshman Malachi Dupre will have more opportunities to make plays. Dupre has caught 11 balls for 257 yards and four touchdowns, but a majority of that has come with Brandon Harris at quarterback. He must perform as well with Jennings as he did with Harris.

Jennings must also do a better job of delivering Dupre the football. Below is a beautifully designed play by Cameron against Mississippi State in the early stages of the second quarter.

After a successful Leonard Fournette run two plays prior, Cameron calls a play-action pass that forces the Bulldogs linebackers to crash the line of scrimmage. This creates a massive opening in the middle of the field. Pass protection is solid across the way, and Dural—running a deep post—takes the safety with him.

Pocic gets pushed back some into Jennings, but overall, the pocket to deliver the ball is relatively clean. This is a throw he must make to an open Dupre (who is not in the above frame). 

Jennings skips the pass to Dupre, killing the perfectly executed play by the Tigers.  

The Rebels will force Jennings to beat them. He must be willing to read the defense and throw to his second or third read if need be. Locking onto a receiver against the safety duo of Cody Prewitt and Tony Conner will lead to interceptions and/or bone-crushing hits. 

 

Pass Protection

Ole Miss is not a blitzing a team. The Rebels trust their athletic defensive line to get to the quarterback on passing downs.

There will be times when LSU's rushing attack is stifled, which means the offensive line must be effective protectors when the Rebels know the Tigers will pass. 

Even with an effective running game against Florida, the Tigers allowed four sacks. Offensive line coach Jeff Grimes has seen his group give up 16 on the season, including nine in conference play. 

Marquis Haynes is a pass-rushing specialist who leads the Rebels in sacks with 6.5. Expect Ole Miss to line Haynes up against the much-improved right tackle, Jerald Hawkins. 

Nkemdiche, C.J. Johnson, Byron Bennett and Deterrian Shackelford all have two sacks on the season as well. The entire Rebels front creates great push even if it doesn't reach the quarterback. 

LSU's line must provide Jennings a pocket to throw the football. He must trust his protection and allow his receivers time to get open. The group, though, cannot have this happen:

Watching LSU game again, completely forgot when Bud Dupree blew by La'el Collins, a preseason top-10 NFL Dr... https://t.co/K81XzrwnB4

— Jason Marcum (@marcum89) October 22, 2014

Cameron must also instruct Jennings to get the ball out of his hands quickly. If a pass is open underneath, take it. This could be a game where checkdowns to Magee are the best option.

 

Conclusion

LSU cannot skate by with simple running plays and a few tosses from Jennings. Former Tigers quarterback Alan Risher agrees, per ESPN 104.5:

Alan Risher on @1045espn's #AFR: "I firmly believe" that #LSU cannot win against #OleMiss running their same offensive strategy.

— James Haralson (@jamesharalson) October 21, 2014 

The Ole Miss defense is packed with intelligent, well-prepared athletes. If the Rebels know what is coming, they will dominate. But despite their dominance, it is not an impossible feat for the Tigers to have a successful game offensively.

Red Cup Rebellion states Ole Miss has forced SEC opponents to score nearly 20 points below their season averages. If that trend continues, the Tigers project to score 17 points and gain 311 total yards. With the way Rebels quarterback Bo Wallace is performing, that will likely not be enough for the Tigers to win. 

LSU must run the ball effectively, complete short passes and protect Jennings in order to win. If not, the carnivorous Landsharks could have a bloody night in Death Valley. 

 

Stats, rankings and additional information provided by cfbstats.com and LSU Sports Information. Recruiting information provided by 247Sports.

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow me on Twitter @CarterthePower.

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Heisman Trophy 2014 Stock Watch: Who Is Rising and Falling Post-Week 8?

Week 8 was highlighted by a Top Five game between Notre Dame and Florida State that had massive implications on the race for the College Football Playoff and a similarly consequential effect on the race for the Heisman Trophy.

According to the Bovada numbers at Odds Shark, Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson and Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston were two of the top seven pre-Week 8 Heisman candidates, and the result of a head-to-head matchup can go a long way when the ballots are due in December.

Elsewhere, an upset in Morgantown, West Virginia, had a sizable effect on two players' Heisman chances—one positive, one negative. The same can be said of a 59-0 blowout in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

We compiled this list using the aforementioned Bovada numbers at Odds Shark, which were updated earlier this week on account of what happened Saturday. It does not reflect players such as Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace, whose odds held firm at 20-1.

Sound off below to let us know who you think should win.

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Front-Runners, Wild Card and Expectations for the Chaotic ACC Coastal Division

The Atlantic Coast Conference's Coastal Division might be the chaotic disaster we've come to expect, but it's just getting started.

As has been said, "It's a dog-eat-dog world." Well, the seven football programs in the league's parity-filled faction has excelled at gobbling each other up.

In fact, Andy Bitter of The Roanoke Times points out the entire division—in just eight weeks—has already defied the transitive property.

And there's no sign of those nonsensical results ending. Put simply, the Coastal is a mess.

Three teams sit at 2-1 in conference action, another at 2-2 and a trio at 1-2. It may not appear that a front-runner exists, but exploring what's left on each team's slate provides a relatively clear answer on the programs to watch.

Relatively, of course, since the division undeniably has the potential to implode.

 

Front-Runners

Duke dropped its conference opener to Miami, but the Blue Devils are still in great position to repeat as Coastal champions.

Led by outstanding safety Jeremy Cash, Duke is preparing to encounter the most favorable remaining schedule, highlighted by comfortable matchups against the bottom two from the Atlantic Division: Syracuse and Wake Forest.

Laura Keeley of the Raleigh News & Observer said though Duke hasn't necessarily separated itself as the team to beat, the Blue Devils possess a couple of advantages.

There is a remarkable amount of parity in the division—a seven-way tie at 4-4 is a possibility—so it's hard to predict who is going to win any Coastal Division game. That said, Duke does have an edge in coaching—David Cutcliffe and his staff know what they're doing, and the Blue Devils won't beat themselves. Duke [leads the] ACC in turnover differential (plus-8), fewest turnovers committed (five) and fewest sacks allowed (four).

Since the Blue Devils won't beat themselves, another opponent has to earn it. So, enter Pittsburgh.

Under the direction of third-year coach Paul Chryst, the Panthers are poised to dethrone Duke, especially if they beat Georgia Tech on Oct. 25.

Pitt needs more consistent play from quarterback Chad Voytik, but the duo of running back James Conner and wideout Tyler Boyd is one of the most daunting combinations in the ACC.

Voytik and Conner recently shredded Virginia Tech on the ground, while Boyd hauled in six passes for 86 yards, including a 53-yard score. When the 'Canes defeated Duke, they relied on a similarly balanced attack, so the blueprint is there.

The matchup between Duke and Pitt on Nov. 1 at Heinz Field will be the deciding factor in which program holds the edge in the Coastal.

 

Wild Card

What is North Carolina? Frustrating, that's what.

The Tar Heels surrendered nearly 800 yards to East Carolina, so staging a last-minute comeback to upset Georgia Tech was the natural result for the Heels.

Larry Fedora's squad is like the neighborhood kid who overstays his welcome. He tags along no matter the activity, even if outclassed. Then, once you think he's disappeared, bam!, the little stinker is standing right in the foreground wondering what's up next.

For the second straight year, North Carolina found itself mired in a four-game losing streak before winning its seventh outing of the season.

Was the victory over Georgia Tech the beginning of another second-half resurgence? There is no definitive answer, it's merely conjecture.

Even if the Tar Heels don't rise up the standings, they can still wreak some serious havoc against Virginia, Miami, Pitt and Duke.

 

Credit Where It's Due, But Pretender, Too

Heading into the season, Virginia was supposed to be the worst team in the Coastal. Despite solid recruiting efforts, head coach Mike London was probably going to start feeling his seat warm.

But the Cavaliers didn't listen to the noise.

They put a scare into then-No. 7 UCLA, shocked 21st-ranked Louisville, fought a Top-25 BYU squad and knocked off Pitt. A win over Duke would propel Virginia to a 3-0 conference record and challenger status, but it ultimately came up a touchdown short.

Following the loss, per Andrew Ramspacher of The Daily Progress, quarterback Matt Johns said, "We're still in the race. It really is still wide open. That gives us a great opportunity next week to come back and correct our mistakes and hopefully come out with a win."

The sophomore is technically correct, but the Cavaliers face the toughest road of any Coastal program—a path they likely must navigate at 4-1 to stay in contention.

David Teel of the Daily Press said Virginia's limited offense and thin defense will doom the Cavaliers.

"Presuming Jameis Winston's continued presence," Teel said, "it's difficult to imagine Virginia winning at FSU. So to go 4-1 down the stretch, the Cavaliers would have to win four consecutive coin-flip games, including road tests at nemeses Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech."

Virginia surprised the ACC, and the Cavaliers deserve to be recognized for their superb efforts through seven games. But 2014 just isn't their year.

 

Work to Do and Help Needed

Georgia Tech ripped off five straight wins and started to draw national attention, but it was only a matter of time before its record was blemished. Duke, of course, happily obliged in derailing a confident Yellow Jackets squad—one week after Tech swarmed Miami.

Though a letdown against North Carolina was something Paul Johnson's team needed to avoid, Georgia Tech is still very much alive. Ken Sugiura of the Atlanta Journal Constitution said a 7-5 finish is realistic and can see the Jackets plucking an eighth.

As poorly as the defense played against North Carolina, it's still the same team that beat Virginia Tech and Miami. Tech's defense isn't great, but I tend to think it's better than what it showed. And, as long as the offense plays efficiently, that should give Tech a chance in their final four ACC games.

Pittsburgh has yet to face an offense the caliber of Tech's and the Jackets have played their best defense against pro-style offenses. Virginia is better than expected, but hardly unbeatable, particularly at Bobby Dodd Stadium. You'd have to think the Jackets would have a chance at N.C. State. Clemson, obviously, will be a bear.

As it stands, Georgia Tech is the two-loss team with the best chance to win the Coastal.

Miami, on the other hand, is clinging to a minimal title chance. Plus, although the Hurricanes surely don't want it any other way, they must host longtime rival Florida State.

A third loss would nearly eliminate "The U," but an unlikely hypothetical favors Miami. Should a three-way tiebreaker be relegated to intra-division record, the 'Canes are fortunate two conference losses (likely) came from the Atlantic, because its Coastal winning percentage would be higher.

If—and that's an incredible if—Miami can manage four victories, it would hold a head-to-head advantage over at least four division foes and probably five.

Ultimately, Duke Johnson and Co. aren't finished, but the 'Canes are nearly eliminated and hoping for a multi-team gridlock.

Virginia Tech can't catch a break, fighting through a host of bumps and bruises to its injury-riddled roster. The Hokies have played without Marshawn Williams, Luther Maddy, Shai McKenzie, Trey Edmunds and Brandon Facyson while Josh Stanford took a temporary leave of absence.

Falling short to Georgia Tech and Pitt stung, but losing to either Miami or Duke is basically a death sentence for Virginia Tech. Three shortcomings in the Coastal won't sit nicely in a tiebreaker, so the Hokies might be the first team effectively eliminated in the near future.

Though Virginia Tech's conference hopes are practically dashed, toppling in-state rival Virginia would be a middling Miss Congeniality-esque prize.

 

Expectations

Madness. Expect madness. And heartbreak. Then false hope, which only leads to heartbreak once again.

Virginia Tech is the first team to exit the picture, followed by UNC shortly thereafter. With respective losses to Florida State, Virginia's fate is sealed despite an encouraging campaign while Miami's final shreds of hope are almost completely dashed.

Georgia Tech hangs around through mid-November, but a loss to Clemson keeps the Jackets from heading to Charlotte. The winner of Duke vs. Pitt eventually becomes the 2014 champion only to be handled by the Seminoles in the ACC Championship Game.

Nevertheless, don't be surprised at any result, because the Coastal Division is a chaotic, dog-eat-dog world, and anything is possible.

 

Note: All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Follow Bleacher Report college football writer David Kenyon on Twitter: @Kenyon19_BR.

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National Football Foundation Releases 2015 College Football Hall of Fame Ballot

The 2015 ballot for induction into the College Football Hall of Fame—the first class that will be inducted since the launch of the new Atlanta, Georgia location—was released Wednesday afternoon by the National Football Foundation.

The ballot includes 75 players and six coaches from the Football Subdivision ranks, which is standard protocol, but the names were released earlier than usual because the 2015 class will be announced for the first time on Jan. 9 in Arlington, Texas, three days before the national championship takes place in AT&T Stadium.

"We would like to thank [College Football Playoff] Executive Director Bill Hancock and his staff for the opportunity to announce our Hall of Fame Class in conjunction with the Championship Game," said NFF President & CEO Steve Hatchell in the official press release. "We believe the presence of the national media at the title game will significantly raise the profile of the announcement…"

Featured on the ballot are three former Heisman Trophy winners—Colorado running back Rashaan Salaam, Nebraska quarterback Eric Crouch and Texas running back Ricky Williams—along with several other high-achieving players and even one active head coach.

Here is a full look at the FBS Ballot:

*Note: highlighted names did not appear on the 2014 ballot.

 

RB Ricky Williams, Texas

Williams won the Heisman Trophy in 1998 after leading the country in rushing for the second consecutive season. He also broke the record for most career rushing yards by an FBS player (previously held by Tony Dorsett of Pittsburgh), an achievement that was remarkable despite being broken by Ron Dayne of Wisconsin just one year later.

But Williams did not make the CFB Hall of Fame on his first attempt last season, thanks in large part to the NFF's unwritten rule about electing players from the same school in consecutive seasons—a rule alluded to by Ivan Maisel of ESPN.com in 2012.

Former Longhorn Jerry Gray was inducted in the 2013 class, so Williams never stood a real chance of getting in despite appearing on the ballot. This time, though, he should be fair game.

 

The Big Miami Three

Like Williams, a trio of former Miami Hurricanes knew not to get their hopes in 2014 after Vinny Testaverde was inducted in 2013.

But this time, their hopes are as high as they should be.

The trio in question consists of defensive tackle Jerome Brown, a unanimous first-team All-American in 1986; defensive tackle Warren Sapp, recipient of the 1994 Lombardi and Nagurski Awards; and linebacker Ray Lewis, a first-team All-American in 1995.

Sapp and Lewis are modern icons for having played more recently than Brown, but all three players have strong cases for eventual inclusion. No more than one of them will get in this season (unless the voting process changes), but they shouldn't all be left out again.

 

Bill Snyder, Kansas State

Snyder is eligible to make the Hall of Fame thanks to a new rule allowing active coaches who are 75 or older to appear on the ballot, per Ralph Russo of The Associated Press.

His 75th birthday was less than three weeks ago (Oct. 7).

Alas, even though Snyder is the most recently eligible of the 81 FBS names on the ballot, he is one of the surest bets for induction. He turned a stillborn Kansas State program into a Big 12 contender during the 1990s and early 2000s before retiring, watching his former program regress for three seasons under Ron Prince, returning and getting it back to its current state (No. 11 in the current AP poll).

Former Oklahoma head coach Barry Switzer once said of Snyder: "He's not the coach of the year, he's not the coach of the decade, he's the coach of the century!", per Mark Janssen (via ESPN.com).

And at 75, he's still going stronger than ever.

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SEC Extra Points with Barrett Sallee: Treon Harris Starts, Lane Kiffin's Return

No Other Option

Desperate times call for desperate measures.

Florida head coach Will Muschamp announced during Wednesday's SEC coaches teleconference that true freshman quarterback Treon Harris will start against the Georgia Bulldogs in the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party on Nov. 1.

"He has knack for making plays and making some good things happen for our football team," Muschamp said. "We have struggled with production at the quarterback position, and that's been an issue for us along with some others. He's a guy who has a much better understanding moving forward."

At this point, Harris is the only option. 

He was 8-of-12 last week against Missouri for 98 yards, one touchdown and one interception, and he provides much more of a home run threat than redshirt junior Jeff Driskel, which is a huge factor for an offense that lacks any semblance of a spark.

Driskel—who will have a role as a quarterback moving forward in some capacity—has thrown six touchdowns and 10 interceptions this season while completing just 53 percent of his passes.

With a bye week to prepare for the Bulldogs and Muschamp on thin ice, consider this a Hail Mary—one last shot for Muschamp to attempt to catch lightning in a bottle before packing up his office and moving on to a defensive coordinator role somewhere outside of the Gainesville city limits.

 

He's Baaaack

The Alabama-Tennessee rivalry doesn't carry the same national appeal as it used to due in part to Alabama's offensive coordinator's impact on the Tennessee program.

Lane Kiffin, current Tide coordinator and former head coach of the Vols in 2009, will make his return to Knoxville on Saturday in a game that's been circled on the calendar ever since Kiffin was hired by Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban in January 2014.

Tennessee's defense has been pretty good this year, giving up just 325.9 yards per game, but the combination of Alabama's offense getting right at home last week and Kiffin looking to make a statement will create a homecoming celebration for Kiffin, who will be coaching from the sideline.

When asked if Kiffin is really concerned about his return to Knoxville, Saban downplayed it.

"Why would you say 'really'? I haven't heard much about it," Saban said on Wednesday. "I think the most important thing for us is that we need to focus on the game. The game's not about that. The game is about the players. Regardless of what fans think and fans do, I think our coaches are focused on what we're going to do in the game and how we're going to help our players play their best."

It's more of a distraction for Tennessee than it is for Kiffin and Alabama.

Alabama has a job to do after opening things up with 672 yards in a home win over Florida, Alabama went on the road and averaged just 311.5 over the next two games against Ole Miss and Arkansas. Last week at home, it lit it up yet again with 602 yards. 

The Tide are not going to make the same mistake again. 

In uncharacteristic fashion, the outspoken Kiffin will speak softly and carry a big stick.

Saban doesn't allow assistants to speak to the media except for one time in the summer and once before bowl games, so Kiffin will speak through quarterback Blake Sims, wide receiver Amari Cooper and running backs T.J. Yeldon and Derrick Henry.

It's going to get ugly.

 

Weathering the Storm

Georgia announced on Wednesday that it is seeking reinstatement for star running back Todd Gurley after the junior was suspended for the previous two games during an investigation into improper benefits.

"I want to thank the University, coaches, teammates and the Bulldog Nation for their patience and support," Gurley said in a statement emailed by Georgia. "I take full responsibility for the mistakes I made, and I can't thank the University, my coaches and teammates enough for supporting me throughout this process.  I'm looking forward to getting back on the field with my teammates."

Like a good lawyer in court, Georgia wouldn't ask for reinstatement unless it already knows the answer, so expect Gurley back for the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party on Nov. 1 vs. Florida.

If that's the case, running back Nick Chubb deserves consideration for team MVP honors. All Chubb did in Gurley's absence was rush for 345 yards and three touchdowns in road wins at Missouri and in Little Rock over Arkansas.

Those two wins were statements for Georgia.

The defense forced six interceptions during that span after only picking off seven passes all of last season. The offense didn't miss a beat, Chubb got valuable carries and proved he can help keep Gurley fresh, and quarterback Hutson Mason settled down and didn't throw an interception after throwing three in the previous two games.

Gurley may get the Heisman Trophy hype, but Chubb deserves team MVP consideration. Without him, Georgia wouldn't be in control of its College Football Playoff destiny.

 

Say What?

Ole Miss is cruising right along as the No. 3 team in the nation, complete with an unblemished record and one of the most ferocious defenses in the nation. 

Next stop: Baton Rouge, where the Rebels are 3.5-point favorites over LSU, according to Odds Shark.

What...what?

This is the same LSU team that got run out of its own building by No. 1 Mississippi State, got stomped on the road by No. 5 Auburn and is woefully one-dimensional by necessity on offense due to quarterback issues, right?

How is that possible?

Playing in Death Valley at night counts for something, sure. But Mississippi State proved that isn't as much of a factor as it has been in years past when it topped the Tigers 34-29 in a game that wasn't nearly as close as the score indicated. 

One way to explain it would be LSU's defense. The Tigers' weakness has been run defense, where they rank 10th in the SEC at 162.5 yards per game. Ole Miss can't really exploit that, though. The Rebels rank 11th in the SEC in rushing offense at 151.29 yards per game and haven't been able to run between the tackles very well at all, which could explain why the line is so low.

Those giant hotels in the southern Nevada desert didn't build themselves, and oddsmakers typically know what they're doing. That Ole Miss defense, though, will make quarterback Anthony Jennings' head spin and will lead the Rebs to another big win.

 

The Hunted

These are uncharted waters for the Mississippi State Bulldogs, who will play with the No. 1 ranking next to their name for the first time in program history when they kick off with Kentucky on Saturday afternoon.

Head coach Dan Mullen isn't concerned. He talked about the challenges his team now faces in quotes released by Mississippi State:

This is the biggest game we have played of the season. I said the Auburn game was the biggest game ever played in the state of Mississippi. This game is bigger now. Now we are a team that has a target on our back. We have to go on the road in a hostile environment and play one of the hottest and most improved teams in college football.

It may be new for Mississippi State, but it's not for Mullen.

As the offensive coordinator of Florida from 2005-2008, Mullen is well-versed on how to handle success. The Gators spent every week of the 2006 season in The Associated Press Top 10 and all but two in the Top 10 in 2008—both of which resulted in national titles for the Gators.

Mississippi State won't spend too much time patting itself on the back reading its press clippings. Nothing Mississippi State will see from here on out will surprise Mullen, and a good team always takes on the personality of its coach.

 

Too Good To Sit

Auburn "Star" Justin Garrett had the hybrid linebacker/safety position locked down exiting the spring of 2013, but a foot injury opened the door for Robenson Therezie to take the job and run with it.

Midway through the 2014 season, Garrett is on the move to linebacker, where he will split time with middle linebacker Cassanova McKinzy and outside linebacker Kris Frost.

"You can't have Justin Garrett sitting on the sideline for 55 snaps," said defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson in quotes released by Auburn. "We're trying to find a way to get the best 11 on the field on any one play."

Garrett's increased role will help out a run defense for Auburn that's already shown a tremendous amount of improvement this year. The Tigers rank sixth in the SEC in rushing yards per game at 120.67 and fifth in yards per attempt at 3.34.

Auburn has that strong South Carolina rushing attack, led by Mike Davis, this week, Georgia looming in Athens on Nov. 15 and a trip to Tuscaloosa to play Alabama to wrap up the season.

Getting Garrett in the mix at linebacker is the right move at the right time.

 

Quick Outs

  • Johnny McCrary will start at quarterback for Vanderbilt against Missouri, according to The Tennessean, making him the fourth starting quarterback for the Commodores this year. Fourth time's the charm? McCrary has tremendous upside but needs the weapons around him to step up to solidify the job full time.
  • South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier and Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn have struck up a friendship since Malzahn was hired by Auburn prior to the 2013 season. The credit for that friendship goes to golf. Spurrier, Malzahn and Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze play a mini-tournament in Destin, Florida, in spring meetings every May, and bragging rights are on the line. "The first year, I lost," Spurrier said. "People think I win all the time. I won last year, though."
  • Florida head coach Will Muschamp discussed the possibility of Georgia running back Todd Gurley being back for the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party, saying, "We want to play people at their best. He'll be fresh, I imagine that."

 

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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