NCAA Football

Syracuse vs. Florida State: Live Score and Highlights

Florida State - 21

Syracuse - 7 

11:00 2nd Quarter

TV: ABC

Reeling from perhaps the most shocking ending in program history last week against Georgia Tech, the Florida State Seminoles will try to pick up the pieces of what is now their first regular-season game in three seasons coming off a loss. 

To add injury to Georgia Tech's insult, the team announced that Everett Golson is out with concussion symptoms, so the torch will be passed to Sean Maguire. 

Can Syracuse add to FSU's misery, or will the Seminoles rebound? Stay plugged in to find out. 

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Ole Miss vs. Auburn: Live Score and Highlights

Ole Miss 10, Auburn 10—Late 2nd Quarter

The 19th-ranked Ole Miss Rebels need a win over the Auburn Tigers to stay alive in the SEC West.

ESPN is broadcasting the conference clash. Bleacher Report is providing scoring updates, highlights and analysis. Feel free to join the conversation in the comments section.

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Everett Golson Injury: Updates on FSU Star's Concussion and Return

Florida State quarterback Everett Golson is unexpectedly on the shelf, as the senior signal-caller is dealing with a concussion.

Continue for updates.

Golson Out Saturday vs. Syracuse Due to Concussion Saturday, Oct. 31

According to Florida State football's official Twitter account, Sean Maguire will start over Golson on Saturday against Syracuse, because Golson is suffering from a concussion.

It is unclear when Golson picked up the injury, but he was not listed on FSU's injury report, per Bud Elliott of Tomahawk Nation.

Seminoles head coach Jimbo Fisher did, however, say that Golson got "banged up" in last week's loss to Georgia Tech, according to ESPN.com's Jared Shanker.

Golson is in his first and only year at Florida State after transferring from Notre Dame. Mired in academic problems for a good deal of his career in South Bend, he left the Irish after losing his starting job to Malik Zaire toward the end of 2014. Golson threw for 3,445 yards 29 touchdowns against 14 interceptions but struggled in high-profile games and did not bring quite the same level of dynamism.

He competed with Maguire during offseason practices to replace Jameis Winston, who went No. 1 overall in the 2015 draft after a highly successful (and controversial) career under center. Golson was eventually named starter after winning the position battle in camp and has largely been solid in that role. Golson enters Saturday having thrown for 1,659 yards and 11 touchdowns with just one interception in 2015.

“Himself,” Fisher said of who deserves credit for Golson's improvement, per Bob Ferrante of the Palm Beach Post. “At the end of the day, it’s about the players knowing it. Who cares who gets the credit? It’s about the kid. It’s not about us. It’s about the player and him becoming what he can become. I don’t think that’s very important.”

With Golson now out, Maguire will get his time to shine, and he'll certainly have to, as Florida State will also be without star running back Dalvin Cook on Saturday, according to Shanker. The junior quarterback has some starting experience, as he won his only start last year against Clemson.

The Seminoles have enough talent to defeat a Syracuse team that has dealt with injury issues in its own right at the quarterback position, but with a huge ACC clash against Clemson looming next week, the Seminoles need to be close to full health in order to have a chance.

 

Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter

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JT Barrett Arrested for OVI: Latest Details and Comments on Ohio State QB

Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett was reportedly arrested early Saturday morning near the school's Columbus campus for operating a motor vehicle while impaired.

Eric Seger of Eleven Warriors first reported the news. Brett McMurphy of ESPN confirmed the arrest. The school released a statement regarding the arrest and announced Barrett would be suspended for the team's next game, against Minnesota on Nov. 7, via Mark Schlabach of ESPN:

The incident comes one week after Barrett made his first start of the season, against Rutgers. He shined in the contest, completing 14 of 18 passes for 223 yards and three touchdowns in a 49-7 victory. He also gained 101 yards and scored twice on the ground after taking over for Cardale Jones, who had started the first seven games for the Buckeyes.

Barrett's strong showing last weekend made it likely he'd keep his name atop the depth chart for the Minnesota game, but the incident pushes the team's quarterback situation back into turmoil.

No further information about the arrest was immediately available.

If the reports are accurate, this incident marks an example of poor decision-making by a player who was finally getting another chance to prove himself as a starter for the reigning national champions.

 

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Florida vs. Georgia: Live Score and Highlights

The Georgia Bulldogs and the Florida Gators are getting ready to do battle this afternoon at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, Fla. The game will kick off at 3:30 p.m. ET and it will be televised on CBS.

The Gators are looking to bounce back after a 35-28 loss to LSU two weeks ago. Without quarterback Will Grier, who is suspended for the rest of the season, Treon Harris will lead the Gators who had a strong outing last week, throwing for 217 yards and two touchdowns. Harris will look to have the same performance against the Bulldogs, a team that he beat last year.

And by the looks of things, the Bulldogs have made a change at quarterback as well. According to ESPN.com, Faton Bauta will get his first career start this afternoon. Bauta has played in a total of six games the last two seasons and has yet to see any action this year.

Be sure to come back to this blog when the game kicks off for the latest scoring updates and highlights.

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Bowl Predictions 2015: Playoff Projections Heading into Week 9

After nearly two months of games and teams making their cases to be included among the nation's elite, answers will be provided after Week 9 when the College Football Playoff selection committee releases its first ranking of the season on Nov. 3. 

This has been an unusual season already, as there were seven undefeated teams in the Associated Press Top 10 entering play this week, and that doesn't even include Oklahoma State at No. 12. The three one-loss teams that round out the list are titans in Alabama, Stanford and Notre Dame.

Basically, this is the best possible scenario for drama in college football with at least 12 teams still in the playoff mix. Usually these things end up working themselves out in the final month, so let's look at the projected playoff bracket as of this Saturday. 

 

Projection Analysis

Ohio State started the season looking like a shaky No. 1, especially relative to preseason expectations when the Buckeyes were a unanimous choice for the top team by the Associated Press

Head coach Urban Meyer finally made a quarterback change, going to last year's starter J.T. Barrett against Rutgers last week. The Buckeyes won 49-7, and Barrett had five total touchdowns and 324 total yards. 

In 90 fewer pass attempts than Cardale Jones, Barrett has the same number of touchdown passes (seven) to just two interceptions. 

Meyer understands that his team is not perfect, telling Fox Sports (via Stewart Mandel of FoxSports.com) that he's been part of groups that were supposed to dominate all of their opponents before. 

“I’ve been down this road before where the expectation level is over the top,” Meyer said. “All I care about is getting better each week. We haven’t played perfectly, but not a lot of people out there have.”

With Barrett under center, running back Ezekiel Elliott still one of the most dynamic playmakers in the nation and a defense that's allowed just 17 points in its last two games, the Buckeyes look like the team they were expected to be when 2015 started. 

Ohio State's two biggest tests of the season are still on the horizon, as the Buckeyes host Michigan State on Nov. 21 and travel to Michigan on Nov. 28. A late-season loss would throw everything for a loop, but with just one conference loss since 2012, it will require a perfect game from the Spartans or Wolverines to pull off the upset. 

Looking at the No. 2 spot, it's a battle between Clemson and LSU. The SEC squad gets the advantage—not because of the conference, but due to the possibility of having wins over two top-10 teams by season's end in Florida and Alabama—but it's very close. 

Clemson's win over Notre Dame is the best win for either team at this point in the season. That game also looks like the Tigers' biggest test of the season, as Florida State is the only ranked team still on the schedule. 

According to ESPN.com's Sharon Katz, ESPN's Football Power Index actually has Clemson tied with Ohio State among teams most likely to end this season undefeated:

...Ohio State has the slightest edge, less than half a percentage point, over Clemson when it comes to their respective chances to win out. With games against Michigan State and Michigan, the Buckeyes have a tougher remaining schedule than Clemson, but they also have one fewer game, and one fewer chance to lose, than the Tigers. Even when a team has a 90 percent chance to win, it is still expected to lose one out of every 10 times, so the extra game makes a difference.

It's really splitting hairs between Clemson and LSU if both teams end up undefeated. LSU has to face Alabama in Tuscaloosa on Nov. 7, will go to Mississippi on Nov. 21 and possibly the SEC Championship Game, which would currently be a rematch with Florida. 

Given that schedule for LSU, along with the lack of high-end competition for Clemson even in a potential ACC Championship Game, Les Miles' team gets the No. 2 seed. 

The race for the final spot is going to be insane, but Stanford takes the crown at this moment by virtue of having a schedule that's more favorable than most of the other teams ahead of it. 

*Indicates team could play a conference championship game

With those schedules, having already established that I believe Michigan State and Alabama will lose their single games against top-five opponents, Stanford's slate sets up very well to make a run at the final playoff spot. 

Granted, the Cardinal's opening loss at Northwestern looks worse now after the Wildcats lost back-to-back games against Michigan and Iowa by a combined score of 78-10 and survived against Nebraska, but don't forget the selection committee rewarded Ohio State for a strong finish last year despite an early loss against Virginia Tech. 

Plus, with Notre Dame currently in the top 10 and making a playoff push, Stanford ending the regular season with a win over the Fighting Irish will go a long way toward making its national championship argument. 

Baylor and TCU are certainly in the mix, but those two teams have yet to play a ranked opponent. TCU has won three road games against Minnesota, Texas Tech and Kansas State by a combined 16 points, and the Horned Frogs still have to play at Oklahoma State and Oklahoma. 

Baylor is playing three elimination games in a 13-day span, including two on the road, against Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and TCU. 

The Big 12 looks much better this season than it did in 2014, but that depth is likely to cost the conference a spot in the College Football Playoff once again because it will be difficult for Baylor and/or TCU to enter their Nov. 27 matchup undefeated. 

As a result, Stanford will continue to slide up the rankings before putting itself in a position to make the playoff. 

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College Football Rankings 2015: Reviewing NCAA Polls Before Final Week 9 Games

Ohio State and Baylor are leading a crowded charge toward the College Football Playoff heading into Week 9. There are still numerous contenders with a legitimate shot of claiming one of those four coveted spots, however, which is going to make for an interesting stretch of the regular season.

The highly competitive nature of the race increases the level of intrigue exponentially. It reduces the margin of error for every playoff hopeful, including the Buckeyes and Bears, and could leave some tough choices for the selection committee once the dust settles.

With that in mind, let's check out where the Top 25 teams stand in the Week 9 polls. That's followed by a closer look at some teams with a chance to make a statement Saturday.

 

Week 9 Rankings

 

Teams with Most To Gain

Florida

The Gators' clash with Georgia is crucial on several fronts. Getting the victory over a solid Bulldogs squad would obviously help their resume and, more importantly, put them in firm control of the SEC East. The conference title game could provide that marquee win they need in the end.

Furthermore, it's important for Florida to bounce back after its first loss of the 2015 campaign against LSU. Head coach Jim McElwain believes his team got away from what had made it successful and needs to focus on its individual tasks, as noted by Robert Judin of Campus Insiders.

"I thought we got a little out of sorts in our last game. I thought, in the first half, we pressed—guys doing uncharacteristic things," McElwain said. "It wasn't anything doing with their effort, but they were trying to do more than what they had to do. That isn't how we're gonna win. We're gonna win by doing our job, and we're gonna win together."

The defense must elevate its level of play after giving up 35 points and 423 yards to the Tigers. The unit certainly can't afford to take the Bulldogs lightly, even though they lost star running back Nick Chubb to a season-ending knee injury.

Florida has three winnable games on tap after this week before a high-profile clash with rival Florida State in the finale. The Gators must win out and hope for some help. Beating Georgia would be a key step in the right direction.

 

Oklahoma State

Oklahoma State hasn't garnered as much hype as you'd expect from an unbeaten team in a Power Five conference. That's in large part due to the amount of attention given to Big 12 rivals Baylor and TCU, which also remain undefeated and came into the campaign with higher outside expectations.

The Cowboys will get their chance at both conference powerhouses in the weeks ahead. First, they must take care of business on the road against Texas Tech, though. While Tech is only 5-3, context is necessary to better understand that record, as explained by Chris Level of Red Raider Sports:

One of those defeats was a narrow three-point loss to the Horned Frogs. That's why this amounts to a trap game for Oklahoma State. If they aren't completely focused on this week with seemingly bigger challenges on the horizon, the Red Raiders will pull off the upset.

On the flip side, if the Cowboys survive, then they will have an opportunity to force their way into the playoff mix in those upcoming games with Baylor or TCU. So it has the feeling of a turning-point game one way or another for them.

 

Temple

While the Owls have a couple notable wins, highlighted by their season-opening upset of Penn State, they are still searching for more respect from the voters. Beating Notre Dame would go a long way in earning that respect.

Two late touchdowns allowed Temple to escape an upset bid from East Carolina last week. Now the question is whether it will respond with a better performance or if that game showcased weaknesses, especially on the offensive side, that the Fighting Irish will exploit.

One thing's for sure: The programs are on completely different ends of the college football spectrum when it comes to these types of games. Notre Dame public relations assistant Leigh Torbin pointed out the stark contrast:

The Temple defense, which ranks eighth in the nation in points allowed per game, must set the tone. If the Owls can avoid an early onslaught by the Irish, they should settle into the game and make it highly competitive. A win would allow them to jump in the polls with a Memphis clash still to come.

 

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Daily Fantasy College Football Week 9: DraftKings Last-Minute Picks and Advice

The obvious names rule the daily fantasy college football Week 9 slate.

Owners perusing lineups one last time before locking them in know all about Baker Mayfield, Jared Goff, Keyarris Garrett and more.

While names such as the above hog the attention, it's important to note that cheaper options allow more flexibility and, in some cases, higher point totals. With so many names over so many games, it's hard for owners to keep up.

Below, let's take a look at some of the cheaper alternatives and advice for owners sweating during crunch time.

 

Quarterback: Josh Rosen, UCLA ($7,600)

Need to save a few bucks at quarterback? 

UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen is the guy. The Bruins signal-caller has been on fire as of late, posting 26 or more points in three of his last five outings. Last time out, he went 34-of-47 with 399 yards, three scores and no picks for 31.76 points.

Rosen next suits up against Colorado in a game with an attractive over-under of 63. He's going to do most of the scoring in that one considering the Colorado defense has allowed 14 passing scores and better than 11 yards per attempt.

In other words, Rosen looks like a surefire bet to triple his asking price, if not outright challenge for the top point total by a quarterback this week.

 

Running Back: Xavier Jones, SMU ($4,100)

Now would be the time to load up on SMU running back Xavier Jones.

Jones has 11 or more points in five games this year and averages 14.3; in other words, he's an insane value at this price.

But it gets better.

It's hard to know why the price is so low here. The SMU-Tulsa showdown has an over-under of 75. Jones has seen double-digit carries in every game this year and at least two catches in five outings.

Tulsa lets up an average of 249.6 rushing yards per game and better than five yards per carry. While it sounds crazy, Jones should have a floor of about 20 points. 

 

Running Back: Soso Jamabo, UCLA ($5,300)

Soso Jamabo exploded onto the scene for the Bruins last week after an injury to Paul Perkins.

While he suited up for practice this week, owners shouldn't count on Perkins taking a full workload against a beatable opponent, making Jamabo a great value play.

Last week, Jamabo carried it 18 times for 79 yards and a score with two catches for good measure, giving him 16.7 points. It's not unreasonable to expect another tripling of value in a game that could get ugly while the Bruins try to protect their lead back.

Given the efficiency he's shown and the situation, Jamabo looks like a good way to break free of the pack in larger tournaments.

 

Wide Receiver: Joshua Atkinson, Tulsa ($6,300)

It's hard to ignore any game with an expected total of 75 points.

As such, Tulsa wideout Joshua Atkinson has the look of an incredible value in comparison to some pricier options.

Atkinson has scored at least 19.7 points in every game he's appeared in this year, averaging 23.4 total. It figures to be more of the same against SMU in what should be a blowout, especially considering the Mustangs allow better than 15 yards per completion to opponents and have let up 17 passing scores already.

Atkinson figures to extend his scoring streak to two games and go well over triple value.

 

Wide Receiver: David Glidden, Oklahoma State ($5,000)

David Glidden might not be the biggest name for the Oklahoma State Cowboys on offense, but he's an incredible value at this price and averages 15.7 points per game.

Most of all, though, he's playing offensive-minded Texas Tech in a game featuring an eyebrow-raising over-under of 78.

Texas Tech actually ranks worse against the pass than the aforementioned Mustangs, allowing an average of 280.0 passing yards per game. Glidden himself has 15 or more points in four games this year, a fifth seeming quite obvious in such a shootout.

 

 

Enter the DraftKings $1.25 M Play-Action contest this weekend. Use promo code BLEACHER REPORT when you sign up.

Pricing information and scoring data obtained from DraftKings.com. Odds via Odds Shark.

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Louisville vs. Wake Forest: Score, Highlights and Twitter Reaction

The Louisville Cardinals improved to 4-4 as they held off the Wake Forest Demon Deacons, 20-19, on Friday night at BB&T Field in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

The Cardinals improved their all-time record versus Wake Forest to 3-0 but more importantly kept their bowl hopes alive despite starting the season 0-3. Wake Forest fell to 3-6 with the loss.

The key play in the game came around the three-minute mark in the third quarter, when Chucky Williams intercepted Wake Forest's John Wolford in Demon Deacons territory. Williams took it to the Wake Forest 22-yard line, and despite not moving the ball, Louisville took its first lead of the game with a 39-yard field goal by John Wallace.

The Cardinals never looked back en route to the victory.

The early star of the game was Louisville wide receiver Jamari Staples, who caught two first-half touchdowns and finished with 10 catches for 133 yards. He showed off his athletic ability by stretching over the goal line on his first touchdown, which helped the team tie the game at 10-10 with 8:17 remaining until halftime. ESPN College Football provided footage of the sequence:

Prior to that, Wake Forest wide receiver Cortez Lewis put himself on the highlight reel with an acrobatic catch and juke, resulting in a 78-yard touchdown that helped the Demon Deacons take a 10-0 lead. ESPN College Football was busy Friday with highlights from this game:

Cortez's teammate Tabari Hines did his best to show up his fellow wide receiver with a catch and juke of his own, which went for 58 yards and helped give the Demon Deacons a 19-10 lead. ESPN shared the highlight:

It looked good for Wake Forest until Staples scored his second touchdown with 22 seconds remaining in the half. A tweet before the game by ESPN seemed to foreshadow the outcome:

While the Cardinals passing game was a big reason why they won the game, inaccurate passing from Wake Forest's quarterbacks helped immensely as well.

Wolford and Kendall Hinton combined for four interceptions, which ended up being a decisive factor in the game. The second pick led to the go-ahead field goal, and the third came in the red zone with 12:54 to play and Wake looking to take the lead.

Per Yahoo Sports' Dr. Saturday, the Demon Deacons should have avoided the turnover:

It wasn't the only sign of ineptitude for Wake, who blew its first-half lead with four ineffective drives to start the second half, per Joedy McCreary of the Associated Press:

The Demon Deacons added another interception to their turnover mark with four minutes left in the game shortly after blocking a Louisville field-goal attempt. This time, Shaq Wiggins picked the pass off near the goal line and returned the ball 36 yards.

It wasn't the nail in the coffin, however, as Wake forced a Louisville punt and got the ball back with 1:43 to play on its own 11-yard line.

Four plays and a fumble in its own territory later, Louisville took over on downs and ran out the clock.

Quarterback Lamar Jackson was efficient for Louisville, completing 19 of 26 passes for 207 yards and two touchdowns. He came into the game, and ended it, with an impressive resume, per ESPN's Twitter account:

However, Jackson eventually left after suffering an injury. The Cardinals were down to the their third quarterback, Kyle Bolin, after second-stringer Reggie Bonnafon suffered an injury.

It didn't matter.

Head coach Bobby Petrino's squad held on to improve to 4-4 overall and 3-2 in the ACC. Two victories in their final four games will make the Cardinals bowl-eligible, and they'll have a good chance with games against Virginia and Syracuse next on the schedule.

It's the fourth victory in five games for the Cardinals, who were left for dead after an 0-3 start to the season. They are still mathematically alive to win the ACC Atlantic Division, but at 4-0, Clemson will likely run away with the crown, leaving Louisville to be happy with any bowl.

This season will still be a success if the team can reach the postseason. This may not have looked like the most impressive victory, but anytime a team can win on the road in its conference, it's a step in the right direction.

 

Post-game Reaction

It wasn't the prettiest victory for the Cardinals. However, as former Louisville linebacker and current Buffalo Bills defender Preston Brown said in this tweet, it doesn't matter how you get the W, as long as you get it:

It was a career night for Staples. He had his first 100-yard performance since the first game of his career in 2013 as a freshman at UAB. He was happy with his night, per the team's Twitter account:

Petrino didn't sound thrilled with how his team played overall, but like Brown, was pleased with the outcome, per Steve Jones of the Courier-Journal: "I’m happy to get out of here with a win. It was a battle, came down right to the end…The defense really came to play in the second half, really dominated, came up with big interceptions for us time and time again.”

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Wyoming Cowboys vs. Utah State Aggies: Live Score and Highlights

We witnessed a classic Midwest rivalry on Friday night when the Utah State Aggies won the infamous "Bridger's Battle" against the Wyoming Cowboys, their division rivals, in a 58-27 victory.

Wyoming were without some of its key players, including senior QB Cameron Coffman and WR Tanner Gentry. Freshman QB Nick Smith started in place of Coffman, marking his first start in his young college football career. 

The team was off to a strong start before giving up the lead to Utah. Despite the loss, Smith did pretty well in his first starting performance, completing 10-of-18 passes for 83 yards, resulting in two touchdowns. Other top performers on the Cowboys squad were WR Jake Maulhardt, who scored two of the team's touchdowns tonight. Brian Hill finished with 26 carries and 201 yards.

The strength of Utah State is the defensive line, which ranks 24th in the nation, and it proved why during Friday's showcase, limiting Wyoming to 353 yards. Top performers included QB Kent Myers, who completed 14-of-17 passing for 246 yards for three touchdowns. Devante Mays had an exciting series of plays throughout the game, resulting in 22 carries for 176 yards and two touchdowns. WR Wyatt Houston also logged two touchdowns for the Aggies. 

Utah State needed this win after breaking a three-game winning streak with a 48-14 loss to San Diego State last week. It is aiming for a win to stay ahead of Boise State in hopes of keeping the lead in the division, and to contend for the Mountain West title. 

Both teams return to the field next Saturday, with Utah facing the New Mexico, and Wyoming taking on Colorado State.

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Seth Collins Injury: Updates on Oregon State QB's Knee and Return

Oregon State Beavers quarterback Seth Collins will be sidelined after suffering a knee injury, according to Gina Mizell of the Oregonian.

Continue for updates.

Collins Ruled Out vs. Utah Friday, Oct. 30

Collins did not travel with the Beavers for their Week 9 game against the No. 13 Utah Utes, according to Danny Moran of the Oregonian. Mizell reported Collins suffered the injury during stretches before practice Thursday.

The team initially ruled Collins' status as a game-time decision, per Kevin Hampton of the Corvallis Gazette-Times. On Thursday, first-year Oregon State head coach Gary Andersen told Mizell he was optimistic.

"I have no idea," Andersen said. "He left the field even before stretch was over with, and (I) haven't seen him since. We'll have to get updates from Doc (Dr. Doug Aukerman) as we move forward. I'm always optimistic.”

The Beavers will turn to redshirt freshman Nick Mitchell, who played his first game in Week 8 against Colorado, throwing nine completions on 24 attempts for 122 yards, no touchdowns and an interception.

Collins, a true freshman, won the starting job over Marcus McMaryion after the season opener. He's amassed 890 pass yards, six touchdowns and six interceptions while also churning out 536 rush yards and another five scores.

The nature of his injury is worrisome, given his dual-threat versatility. John Canzano of KGW News highlighted how sorely the team will miss him in the interim:

Oregon State is 2-5 and will play UCLA, Cal, Washington and Oregon after Utah to finish the season. With wins over only Weber State and San Jose State when Collins was healthy, an optimistic finish to the season seems ambitious.

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How the SEC Could Take a Playoff Hit in 2016's Very 1st Weekend

Who says the SEC doesn't play anybody in nonconference games?

The conference released its entire 2016 schedule on Thursday. Immediately, the Week 1 slate stands out. If you're of the belief that the College Football Playoff era should usher in tougher out-of-conference games, or if you're just a fan of great football, then it's impossible not to love what the SEC has in store during opening weekend.

You can check out the entire slate in the link above, but below are the key games:

You can't ask for a much better group of games than that. From the top of the SEC to the middle, there are intriguing matchups. Bleacher Report's Bryan Fischer echoed just about everyone's words on this schedule:

But the give-and-take of a schedule like that is it can set the tone—at least perception-wise—for the rest of year, for better or worse.

If the SEC dominates that set of games, the perception of it being the strongest conference in college football will only grow. If it doesn't perform well, the conference could be in trouble. Not just in the minds of fans or critics, but in the playoff race as well.

Before going any further, it's important to clarify that a bad Week 1 wouldn't eliminate the SEC from the playoff. After all, the Big Ten flat-lined in Week 2 of the 2014 season, but that didn't stop Ohio State from going on a national title run.

To take it a step further, the Pac-12 didn't have the greatest opening weekend this year, going 2-2 against fellow Power Five teams with additional losses to Hawaii, Portland State and Boise State. Yet Stanford (6-1) and Utah (6-1) are still very much in the playoff discussion.

The Cardinal are even drawing comparisons to Ohio State from 2014 in terms of starting slow and finishing strong.

A bad opening week would, however, eliminate some room for error for the SEC moving through the rest of the year.

Let's think worst-case scenario first because it's the least likely to happen and the easiest to pass through. If Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, LSU, Mizzou, Texas A&M and Ole Miss all lose, you're talking about several of the SEC's perceived top-half teams starting the year 0-1.

Since a majority of those teams would still have to play each other—Georgia, in fact, gets Ole Miss and Auburn out of the West Division—natural cannibalization will increase the chances of a two-loss division champion.

That doesn't mean an SEC team couldn't run the table in conference play, but it'd be especially difficult since conference foes know each other best.

For historical reference, no team has gone undefeated in SEC play since LSU did it in 2011. Coincidentally enough, the Tigers are the remaining unbeaten team in the SEC this year.

Would a two-loss SEC champion still be able to crack the playoff field? It would depend largely on how the rest of the college football landscape looked. As of yet, there's no precedent for a two-loss team getting in.

But if the SEC does have a bad Week 1 in 2016, the likelier event is the conference going under .500 against the aforementioned Power Five opponents.

The good thing about these games is some of them have a playoff feel months before the field of four is selected. USC, Clemson, UCLA and Florida State could all be playoff hopefuls next year. Thus, the possibility of losing early to them wouldn't be the worst thing ever.

However, that could come back and hurt the SEC later if head-to-head games are needed as tiebreakers.

Say USC and Alabama, each with a loss, are jockeying for a final playoff spot in early December. Based on Baylor finishing ahead of TCU in last year's final regular-season CFP standings, one would think the Trojans would have the edge in such a hypothetical situation.

Yes, the entire body of work counts. But if the head-to-head doesn't matter, what was the point of the game?

Of course, we're 10 months from knowing how the SEC will do in opening weekend and more than a year away from knowing if a bad showing would prove costly. Talking through possible scenarios long before they happen serves entertainment purposes, but that's about it.

Still, the SEC took on a big challenge by scheduling tough games early and all at once. For that, the conference deserves a ton of credit. But because everything the SEC does is magnified compared to other conferences, the other possibility—that of brutal losses—is going to be on the collective minds of college football fans.

And if the worst-case scenario does come to fruition, will the SEC choose to tackle something like this again?

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football.

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Kyler Murray Named Texas A&M Starting QB over Kyle Allen vs. South Carolina

After two consecutive losses saw the team drop out of the Top 25 rankings, Texas A&M benched quarterback Kyle Allen and named freshman Kyler Murray the starter Friday for its upcoming game against South Carolina, according to Brent Zwerneman of the Houston Chronicle. 

Allen, who started the first seven games for the 5-2 Aggies, threw one touchdown and four interceptions over the past two games, both double-digit losses to No. 7 Alabama and No. 19 Ole Miss. 

Head coach Kevin Sumlin has played Murray at times this season, with the freshman taking snaps in five of seven games. He's a combined 17-of-31 for 167 yards through the air to go with 92 rushing yards. 

For Sports Radio 1150's Gabe Bock, everything is falling into place for Murray:

A player who possesses plenty of speed to complement a solid arm, Murray will take on a South Carolina defense that has allowed 414 yards per game this season, which could make for a nice debut as a starter. 

It's been quite a whirlwind for Murray. Just three-and-a-half months ago, he was fresh off his Gatorade National High School Athlete of the Year award, having recently wrapped up his senior year at Allen High School in Texas, per Zwerneman. 

Now, he has an opportunity to turn Texas A&M's season around, as there is plenty more football to be played. The Aggies will need some help if they want to climb out of their fourth-place hole in the SEC West.

But if A&M runs the table with Murray under center, which would include a win over No. 4 LSU at the end of November, the Aggies will have found their starter for next year's pursuit of a spot in the College Football Playoff. 

 

Stats courtesy of ESPN.com

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

The Blueprint to Win 2015 College Football Playoff

Lost in the never-ending conversation about going undefeated or winning a national championship in college football are all the things it takes to get there. 

It may sound like an obnoxiously simple statement, but going undefeated and/or winning a national title is hard—hard in the way developing a new mathematical proof is hard, because you're searching for an exact formula of universal truth. Programs like Florida State and Ohio State have made winning streaks so commonplace, you take for granted the countless hours of work that made them happen in the first place. 

Even then, there's no guarantee a team will make it to a national title game, let alone win. "Four teams isn't enough," Steve Broussard, a longtime assistant coach at several Pac-12 schools, said in an interview with Bleacher Report. "The playoff should be eight or 16 teams to allow a lower-level team to participate and give them a chance to compete with the big boys."

The common complaint with Broussard's wish is it would dilute the regular season. But when you think about college football teams as a structure made of building blocks, you realize there are several of them—certainly more than four—that have the same blueprint. 

What separates them?

Luck, for one, is the ultimate unpredictable metric. Be it a favorable officiating call or a fortuitous bounce of the football, luck is as necessary as turnover margin or offensive efficiency Yet it cannot be fully measured on a stat sheet. 

So if luck can't be measured, what can? What is the blueprint for winning the College Football Playoff? We compiled data from championship-winning teams over the last 10 years: Ohio State, Florida State, Alabama (x3), Auburn, Florida (x2), LSU and Texas. We examine common themes in the following categories:

  1. Recruiting rankings: What does it mean to recruit at a "championship level"?
  2. Preseason poll position: The USA Today Coaches poll was tied to the BCS system, so this looks at whether preseason rankings either foreshadowed the national championship game or influenced it. 
  3. Strength of schedule: Does it really matter?
  4. Margin of victory: How dominant are teams on a week-to-week basis?
  5. Yards per play (offense and defense): It's a more accurate measure than total yardage, which can be influenced by the number plays. 
  6. Explosive drives (offense and defense): How good is a team at picking up big yardage and preventing it?
  7. Turnover margin: How good are teams at holding on to the ball while taking it away?

Lastly, we'll look at the playoff contending teams in 2015 and see which ones fit the mold. 

 

Before the Downs Are Played

A championship isn't won in a day. Or week. Or a month. Or even a year. The work to even be in a position to compete for a title begins years in advance and works its way forward. 

 

Recruiting: What Championship-Level Classes Look Like

A common misconception fans tell themselves is recruiting rankings don't matter. Granted, it's true recruiting is an inexact science, but to say it "doesn't matter" also largely depends on the context. It may not matter when it comes to building a Super Bowl-caliber team, but it does matter when developing a championship-caliber team in college. To suggest anything else is a lie. 

The past 10 national championship winners prove as much. Using 247Sports' Composite* data, here are the national rankings for each title team from Year 1 (four seasons before the championship run) to Year 5 (the championship season). This allows for the possibility of redshirt seniors and true freshman to be contributors. Also, note that the percentage of blue-chip players—otherwise known as 4- and-5-star prospects—is noted in parentheses. 

(*You can read more on the 247Sports Composite algorithm HERE.)

There are natural errors within the timeline, of course. For instance: A player who signed five classes before a national championship may not have been on the team at the time it won it all. In fact, he may have left after three years and declared for the NFL.

Similarly, not every freshman who signed in the same season as a national championship started or even played. Some may not have ever made it on to campus. There's a natural attrition every year that needs to be anticipated. 

But the numbers do provide an idea of what it means to recruit at a "championship level." In short, your favorite team better sign top-10 (maybe top-15) classes regularly with at least 40 percent of the prospects being of the blue-chip variety. It's no surprise to see Alabama's 2012 numbers rank the highest in both categories. That year, the Tide won their third national title in four years. 

The two exceptions were Auburn in 2010 and Alabama in 2009. One had Heisman-winning quarterback Cam Newton. The other had head coach Nick Saban.  

 

Do Preseason Polls Matter?

There are two polar opposite opinions on preseason polls. The first is they're irrelevant and the first top-25 poll shouldn't come out until, say, sometime in October. The other is preseason polls detrimentally influence perception throughout the season by forming false narratives and overrating (or underrating) certain teams.

The truth is probably somewhere in the middle, but it was nevertheless a more relative discussion when in the BCS era. With the playoff selection committee formulating its own top 25, the coaches poll (and Associated Press poll) are of little use beyond entertainment purposes. 

Still, did the coaches poll correctly anticipate which teams had a shot at the national championship? Yes and no. You could track down every preseason top-10 team and where it finished the year, but the short answer is teams that went on to win a national title were typically given plenty of preseason love: 

Other than Florida State in 2013 and Auburn in 2010, no eventual national champion charted began the season ranked outside the coaches poll top 10. But the Seminoles and Tigers proved quickly they deserved more attention. Both landed in the top five of the same poll by Week 8. 

 

Winning by the Numbers

The recruiting classes have been signed and the offseason is over. Now it's time for the games to begin. What does a team have to do for 12 (or 13) weeks to make the final four?

 

Strength of Schedule: It Matters Just Enough  

Strength of schedule isn't a direct correlation for how good a team is; it only measures how hard a team has been pushed. Presumably, however, a team that has successfully navigated its way through a tough schedule is better than one that has successfully gone through an easier one. 

For much of the past 10 years in the BCS era, strength of schedule mattered. This was because Sagarin rankings were, like the coaches poll, hand-in-hand with the BCS. It was only natural, then, that teams with a higher strength of schedule generally ended up playing for the national championship. From 2005-12, the BCS national champion had a strength of schedule ranked in the top 20 of the Sagarin ratings. 

The exception in the BCS era was Florida State in 2013. The Seminoles' schedule was average in the national landscape and poor relative to past BCS champs. However, Florida State was so dominant week after week that it was impossible to ignore. 

How strength of schedule impacts playoff selections can't be fully determined yet since the format is only in its second year. For what it's worth, though, last year's playoff field was considerably lighter on the strength-of-schedule emphasis. Only Alabama had a top-five SOS (No. 2), per Sagarin. Oregon (No. 20), Florida State (No. 21) and Ohio State (No. 29) all ranked lower by a sizable margin. 

Baylor and TCU, the Big 12 teams left out of the field at No. 5 and No. 6 in the final regular-season playoff rankings, had Sagarin SOS ratings of 59th and 51st, respectively. (Recall, too, that TCU was No. 3 heading into the final week and dropped three spots after beating Iowa State.) 

How the committee votes this year will help determine whether the high SOS trend will continue in the new format, or whether results will be more sporadic. If we're demanding an early answer, then yes, strength of schedule seems to matter some. However, the requirement appears to have been loosened in the playoff era.  

"Strength of schedule will still have something to do with it," Broussard said. "And what about conference strength? Is there parity?" 

  

What Dominating Looks Like

As mentioned above, the 2013 Florida State Seminoles were so dominant that leaving them out of the BCS championship game would have been an egregious omission. So just how good was Florida State?

The Seminoles broke the single-season FBS scoring record with 723 points, surpassing the previous high of 716 set by Oklahoma in 2008. As for margin of victory, no BCS champion from 2005-13 won by more every week. On average, FSU beat its opponents by 39.5 points.

For context, Baylor, which has the highest-scoring offense this year at 61.1 points per game, is beating opponents by 36 points per game. And the Bears' Sagarin SOS rating (102) is far worse than Florida State's was in 2013. (Of course, Baylor has yet to play the toughest part of its schedule. That 102 rating will improve.) 

Strength of schedule aside, the teams we charted were beating opponents comfortably. The lowest margin of victory for a BCS champion was 16.2 by Florida in 2006. Still, that means opponents would need make up three scores to win. 

 

Elite Offenses vs. Elite Defenses: Excel in at Least One Area

The old saying goes "defense wins championships." But is that really true? 

It can be, but the importance of offense can't be overlooked either. Six of the last 10 national champions finished in the top 10 nationally in yards per play on offense. The ones that didn't—2011 Alabama, 2009 Alabama, 2007 LSU and 2006 Florida—finished in the top 10 nationally in yards per play allowed on defense. 

There were a few teams that were elite in both categories: 2005 Texas, 2008 Florida, 2012 Alabama and 2013 Florida State. Otherwise, it matters less which side of the ball is better; the important thing is for a team to truly excel in one area. 

The numbers were similar in explosive drives*, as determined by Footballoutsiders.com (however, note the data only goes back to 2007). Five of the eight teams were explosive on offense. Two more were effective at stopping opposing offenses from being explosive. The outlier was LSU, which was neither explosive on offense nor especially stingy against big plays on defense.

(*Football Outsiders defines explosive drives as "the percentage of each offensive drive that average at least 10 yards per play.")

Explosive plays and drives are most often associated with high-tempo offenses, but that doesn't have to be the case. The only thing that matters is finding matchups to exploit. On defense, making an opponent work for everything it gets goes a long way in potentially creating third-down situations or turnovers. 

"As a coach, you're always looking at matchups between the regular season and the postseason," Broussard said. "Now it's a one-game series. So where's this team's weakest link and how can you exploit it for explosive plays?" 

Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin is excellent at finding those advantageous matchups and exploiting them. Twice last year he was seen signaling "touchdown" before the Tide even scored. 

 

Winning the Turnover Battle 

The term "forcing turnovers" can be misleading. There are turnovers that occur out of luck or being in the right place at the right time. Then there are turnovers that are actually forced by individual effort or good defense. 

Broussard, like every other coach that has ever existed, harped on the importance of turnovers. A huge part of winning is taking care of the football while taking away scoring opportunities for opposing teams. Ultimately, football is a game of opportunities. How many or few a team has goes a long way in determining how successful it will be. 

Turnover margin generally reflects this. All but one national champion (Florida, 2006) excelled in turnover margin. No team that had a positive turnover margin finished with anything less than a plus-five. Four were at least plus-14. 

Want to make a national championship run? Win the turnover battle and do it big. 

 

The Coach On the Sideline Matters (but so Can the Quarterback on the Field)

What's more important in winning? The coach or the players? The short answer is they're both critical in their own ways. "It goes hand in hand," Broussard said. "You have to have coaches capable of motivating players. But then players have to go out there and make plays."

However, consider that six of the past 10 national championships have been won by two coaches: Saban and Urban Meyer (at Florida and Ohio State). Florida State's Jimbo Fisher and LSU's Les Miles are the only other active head coaches to have won a title. 

The other two are Gene Chizik, the former Auburn coach who is currently the defensive coordinator for North Carolina, and former Texas coach Mack Brown

And Chizik and Brown had once-in-a-generation type of players at quarterback. 

In Texas' two national championship appearances, '05 and '09, Brown had the two best quarterbacks in program history: Vince Young and Colt McCoy, respectively. One accounted for 467 yards and three touchdowns in a national championship game. The other hurt his shoulder early in the game and did not return.

You already know what happened, but you could guess the outcomes of each game based on those sentences. 

As for Chizik, Auburn's '10 national championship was led by Newton, a rare quarterback—a specimen, really—if there ever was one. Newton would go on to be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 NFL draft. 

An experienced quarterback isn't needed to win a national championship. Newton and Florida State's Jameis Winston were first-year players when they led their teams to the top of college football. In fact, a prolific quarterback isn't necessary either. Alabama's Greg McElroy and LSU's Matt Flynn have national championships while Oregon's Marcus Mariota, last year's Heisman winner, does not. Life in college football is perplexing that way sometimes. 

But if a team doesn't have a top-tier quarterback, it better have a top-tier coach on the sideline. 

  

The Outliers

Sometimes, there are things you simply can't account for in a championship run, for better or worse. 

 

The LSU Factor

In 2007, college football didn't know what it was or what it wanted to be when it grew up, leaving the BCS, a series of computer formulas, to try to sift through the madness. What resulted was one big shoulder shrug when it came to determining the two best teams: LSU and Ohio State. 

When charting the numbers for this blueprint, LSU was often the anomaly. The Tigers were the only two-loss national champion. They didn't routinely blow opponents out, at least not to the level of other national champions. They weren't particularly lethal on offense and didn't have a game-changing quarterback.

But LSU thrived in a year that was anything but normal. Michigan's Week 1 loss to Appalachian State in the Big House was a statement that things were about to get batty. Sure enough, '07 was a year of upsets while teams like South Florida and Kansas took their turns being ranked No. 2 in the Associated Press poll. 

LSU again played in the national championship in 2011, a year when the BCS was marred by more controversy than usual because the title game featured two SEC West teams. 

As Andy Hutchins of SB Nation points out, LSU has played for a national title on a four-year cycle. 2015 falls in line with that. And, like '07 and '11, this season might just be crazy enough to match Tigers coach Les Miles.  

 

Staying Healthy and Overcoming Injuries

The irony of addressing injuries now is that it was literally the first thing Broussard mentioned. 

"How healthy you are and what kind of depth you have is crucial," Broussard said. "It's about finding other guys to step up and putting them in positions to make plays." 

When coaches talk about depth, it's not just in the number of players on the charts. It's about the experience and/or capabilities of the No. 2s and No. 3s. That's what made Ohio State's championship run so memorable. Cardale Jones was the third-string quarterback not five months before confetti rained down on him in AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. In that span, the Buckeyes coaching staff essentially had to adjust the offense not once, but twice on the fly. 

If there's a team Ohio State can empathize with, it's Baylor. Bears quarterback Seth Russell is done for the year with a fracture in his neck, leaving true freshman Jarrett Stidham to run the offense. As it so happens, Baylor is about to embark on its toughest stretch of the season. In November, Baylor plays Oklahoma, at Oklahoma State and at TCU in consecutive weeks. 

Baylor isn't alone, though. 2015 has felt like the "year of the injury" in many ways. The list of injured stars is too long to count, but when players like Russell, Pitt running back James Conner, UCLA linebacker Myles Jack and West Virginia safety Karl Joseph are out for the year, you know it's bad.

Perhaps no two teams understand this more than Notre Dame and TCU, both of which have been hit hard by injuries and attrition. The Frogs have been particularly banged up on defense while the Irish have felt the impact all over. Yet they are a combined 14-1 with the only loss—Notre Dame's—coming on the road by two points to Clemson. 

Injuries are awful because they show no prejudice. They can strike anywhere, any time to any player. If playoff hopes are going to be realized, though, teams have to be prepared to successfully play the next man up—and not just say so in theory. 

 

Who Fits the Mold?

For this exercise, 14 playoff-caliber teams were put under the exact same lens as the previous 10 national championship winners to see if any programs stood out. Those teams are: Ohio State, Baylor, TCU, LSU, Michigan State, Clemson, Alabama, Stanford, Notre Dame, Oklahoma State, Iowa, Florida, Utah and Memphis.

These are teams ranked in the coaches poll top 15. However, Florida State and Oklahoma were substituted for Memphis since 1) the Tigers are a legitimate playoff crasher and 2) Florida State and Oklahoma lost to sub-.500 teams. 

Since the 2015 season has only recently crossed the halfway point, the comparisons are only a guide. For example: Baylor has one of the worst strength of schedules in major college football, but things get a lot more challenging over the next month. Conversely, Iowa's schedule gets easier. Offensive and defensive numbers can improve or dissolve. About the only thing that will stay the same are recruiting rankings because they've already been established. 

However, enough football has been played that trends should at least be forming. The requirements for aligning this year's teams with past champions under the same categories are as follows based on past numbers: 

  1. Recruiting: Must have averaged a top-15 class with at least 40 percent blue-chip recruits. 
  2. Preseason coaches poll rankings: Must be ranked in the top 15. 
  3. Sagarin SOS: Must be ranked in the top 30. 
  4. Margin of victory: Must be at least 16 points. 
  5. Offensive yards per play: Must be at least 6.00 YPP.  
  6. Defensive yards per play: Must be no greater than 5.00 YPP. 
  7. Explosive drives (offense vs. defense): Must rank in the top 15 of at least one category.
  8. Turnover margin: Must be at least plus-five.  

Seven teams align with at least two-thirds of the nine categories: Ohio State, Baylor, TCU, LSU, Clemson, Alabama and Notre Dame. Stanford and Memphis weren't far behind with five categories. 

Some of the teams make sense. The Buckeyes haven't played their best football yet—though Week 8's win over Rutgers indicates they're getting close—but they've received the benefit of the doubt. Others are a surprise. Despite losing to Northwestern in Week 1, Stanford has quickly turned things around and is playing as well as anyone. A few more weeks and the Cardinal could be considered one of college football's top four teams. 

Memphis is the ultimate wild card. The Tigers aren't some low-level football team getting by without a signature win. If Ole Miss continues to win out, Memphis is going to look even better after beating the Rebels in Week 7. 

The great thing about college football's regular season is it still matters even though the postseason format has doubled. Baylor and TCU still have to play one another, as do Notre Dame and Stanford, and Alabama and LSU. Things will naturally figure themselves out, and the playoff field will continue to narrow. 

A lot can and will change between now and early December, but if you're looking for teams to follow that fit a certain mold, the Buckeyes, Bears, Frogs, Tide, Irish, Cardinal and Tigers (x3) should be the ones at the top of the list. 

Not that they weren't already, that is. 

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. All quotes obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise. All stats courtesy of cfbstats.com (2008-15) and sports-reference.com (2005-07) unless specified otherwise. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Michigan Fan Dresses Up Baby as Head Coach Jim Harbaugh

In the land of All Hallows' Eve, there are two unspoken, well-known truths: The simplest and most recognizable of costumes is king, and all costumes look much cuter on babies.

Such is the case with this tiny future Wolverine, whose parents have bestowed upon first-year Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh the highest form of flattery by decking out their little one in a complete Harbaugh starter kit—polo, khakis and baseball cap.

The praise is well-earned. Harbaugh has elevated the Wolverines to a 5-2 record. Dressing their child in his image might be this family's play at ensuring that he'll stay.

Unlike the coach, it's doubtful his diminutive double will be jeered and taunted for this look, and the distinctly less intense look is a nice change.

In fact, it's probably a safe bet this baby's tantrums don't come close to the notoriously hot-tempered Harbaugh's.

Who's to say, though? Perhaps in a few years, he'll upgrade to something like this:

Your move, San Francisco 49ers. Want to give this kid a call?

[For the Win]

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Pat Haden Steps Down from College Football Playoff Committee

The College Football Playoff selection committee will have 12 members for the rest of the season, as USC athletic director Pat Haden vacated his post with the brain trust Friday.   

According to a press release from CollegeFootballPlayoff.com, Haden said his recent health problems are forcing him off of the selection committee: 

I am reluctant to step down, but my doctors advised me to reduce my traveling. With the weekly CFP meetings about to start and the travel commitment involved, I had to make this difficult decision. I feel it is in the best interest of the CFP and also of USC, with our current football coaching change and our upcoming Coliseum renovation.

Prior to USC's game against Notre Dame on Oct. 17, per Notre Dame on NBC, Haden collapsed on the field in South Bend, Indiana. 

Haden did provide an update on his health the day after USC lost to the Fighting Irish:

The 62-year-old was part of the inaugural CFP selection committee last season. The group will unveil its first rankings of the 2015 season Tuesday. 

Haden has been USC's athletic director since 2010. The football program has made bowl games in each of the last three seasons and won at least nine games three times in a five-year span. 

This marks the second consecutive year in which the selection committee will not have a full complement of 13 members, as Archie Manning stepped down for health reasons last year. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

TE Zarrian Holcombe Decommits from Texas A&M; What's Next for 'Optimus Prime'?

Late Thursday night, Humble, Texas, tight end Zarrian Holcombe announced his decommitment from the Texas A&M Aggies. He called the move a mutual decision.

The next move for the 3-star, Summer Creek High School standout: Formulating a plan to experience and enjoy the recruiting process that he's yet to have.

Holcombe committed to Texas A&M in March after taking a few unofficial visits to the campus. With November approaching, Holcombe, originally recruited by Aggies special teams coordinator and tight ends coach Jeff Banks, now will get the opportunity to take some official visits and make a decision after experiencing some other schools.

"Coach Banks and I are still close, and he's going to help me with my decision," Holcombe said. "I honestly don't know who's interested in me at this point. I'm hoping to find out soon."

Holcombe, who holds—and has earned—the nickname "Optimus Prime," has nine reported offers from schools in the Pac-12, Big 12, Big Ten, SEC and American conferences. The Pac-12 is a conference to keep an eye on, as he has offers from Oregon, Cal, Washington and Colorado.

Holcombe's Texas offer also is one to watch. The Longhorns have a blocking tight end with pass-catching ability already committed in 3-star Peyton Aucoin. Adding a flex tight end who, at 6'5" and 215 pounds, also could line up at wide receiver would be a win for Texas and coach Charlie Strong.

For now, Holcombe is wide open, and there are no set plans on official visits at the moment.

"I honestly don't know; I plan on going to the U of H [Houston] game Saturday," he said. "I'm hoping I can get some attention within the next three days so I can start over."

Holcombe added that he's looking forward to experiencing the recruiting process like some other athletes he's spoken with. He's recently been in contact with a Summer Creek teammate, defensive end Isaiah Bean, about making trips.

"Hopefully, it's as fun as the other guys make it seem to be," Holcombe said. "I'm just hoping [the process] is not a slow restart."

Whichever school lands Holcombe will get a big, pass-catching option who has good speed, athleticism and power. He's explosive off the line and has been reliable when the ball is in his hands. He has nine catches for 126 yards and two touchdowns this season, per the Houston Chronicle. He had 14 catches for 261 yards and two scores as a junior.

"I know how to make a positive out of a negative play," Holcombe said. "I worked all summer to be a war-ready ball player."

The next couple of months will give Holcombe a new chance at showing off his skills to schools that have already recruited him, as well as new interests looking for a flex tight end. Holcombe is the nation's No. 26 tight end, but his mission is to make believers out of those who are still on the fence about him.

"I'm going to be bigger, stronger, quicker, more agile ... and more of a leader," Holcombe said in March. "At the same time, I want to see more guys just like me. Being a leader, I want to see as many guys on the same track as I am."

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Isaiah Graham to TCU: Horned Frogs Land 4-Star WR Prospect

TCU received a boost to its 2016 recruiting class Friday as wide receiver Isaiah Graham committed to becoming a member of the Horned Frogs.

Trey Mongrue of KTVE passed along word of the decision from the Bastrop High School (La.) standout. The wideout posted a message on social media last night ahead of the announcement:

Graham is a 4-star recruit who rates as the No. 227 overall prospect and the No. 44 wide receiver in next year's incoming class, according to 247Sports' composite rankings.

Although he's modestly sized for a modern receiver—247Sports lists him at 6'1'', 180 pounds—he's emerged as a talented playmaker. He's capable of stretching the field with good straight-line speed, but he also isn't afraid to work over the middle of the field.

He'll need to add more power to fill out his frame. That will help him better handle a more physical brand of football at the collegiate level and keep him healthy in the face of consistent punishment.

The quicker he can do that, the better. There will be some openings among the Horned Frogs' receiving corps next season with Josh Doctson, Kolby Listenbee and Ja'Juan Story all in their senior year for the undefeated Big 12 squad.

Graham probably won't be ready for an extensive role right away. He still needs some development time to add a little more polish to his game, both in terms of route running and blocking. But his reliable hands and playmaking ability give him a chance to at least carve out a role in certain packages.

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Winners, Losers from College Football Recruiting Trail for Month of October

College football featured significant on-field developments and a pair of high-profile coaching changes during October, adding new dynamics to a compelling recruiting landscape.

Storied programs Miami and USC are scrambling to keep things intact, while a new regime at Florida has swiftly found its groove. With those storylines and more in mind, here's a look back at recruiting winners and losers from the past month.

Begin Slideshow

Odds Multiple College Football Teams Finish the 2015 Season Undefeated

The 2015 college football season has been as competitive as any in recent memory. As we move into the final six weeks of the regular season, the College Football Playoff picture is wide-open.

Twelve FBS teams are unbeaten, and a number of one-loss teams, led by Alabama, still have a very realistic shot at one of the four coveted spots. In other words, we’re in for one heck of a ride between now and when the second CFP field is announced on Dec. 6.

How it will shake out remains unclear, but one interesting factor will be the number of unbeaten teams. A year ago, Florida State was the only unbeaten in the playoff field. But what happens if there are multiple unbeatens, or unbeaten teams from the Group of Five leagues like Houston, Memphis, Temple or Toledo?

Things could get very interesting. Let’s take a look at the odds that multiple teams will finish the regular season unbeaten.

 

History

First off, let’s examine recent history.

Over the last 10 seasons, the regular season has ended with multiple unbeaten teams five times, but that doesn’t necessarily tell the whole story. Since 2010, when the final regular-season poll featured three unbeaten teams (Auburn, Oregon and then-Mountain West member TCU), the final poll has featured exactly one undefeated team entering the postseason. In 2011, it was LSU. In 2012, it was Notre Dame, with Florida State holding the mantle the past two seasons.

In 2005, Southern California and Texas both finished the season unbeaten before engaging in an epic national title battle in the Rose Bowl. In 2006, there were two unbeatens (No. 1 Ohio State and No. 9 Boise State), but the Broncos didn’t factor in the national title picture. 2007 was one of the craziest seasons on record. How wild? The Buckeyes had one loss, and they were the only one-loss team in the top seven.

A year later, both Utah and Boise State finished the season unbeaten, but neither were among the nation’s top six teams. 2009 was a bit of an outlier—five teams (Alabama, Texas, TCU and Cincinnati, as well as No. 6 Boise State) finished the season unbeaten, but under the BCS format, the Crimson Tide and Longhorns faced off in the Rose Bowl for the national title.

In summation, multiple unbeatens are entirely possible, but there is a precedent for an unbeaten from a lesser league to be left out of the playoff and national title picture completely.

 

The Contenders

As we wind up October, 12 FBS teams are unbeaten, but there will be a maximum of eight unbeaten by season’s end due to matchups remaining on the schedule.

Unbeaten Houston and Memphis will face off on Nov. 14 at Houston. In addition, Memphis travels to current unbeaten Temple a week later. Temple also has a difficult matchup Saturday when No. 9 Notre Dame visits Philadelphia. And should the Owls survive the regular season without a loss, they’ll likely face either Houston or Memphis in the inaugural AAC title game.

In the Big Ten, Michigan State, Ohio State and Iowa are all undefeated. The Spartans and Buckeyes will clash Nov. 21 in Columbus, with one team’s record leaving with a blemish. And should Ohio State survive Michigan State, a trip to Ann Arbor for the annual rivalry showdown with Michigan one week later will be no easy test.

Of the Big Ten unbeatens, Iowa has the most obvious path to a 12-0 record. The 7-0 Hawkeyes don’t have Michigan State, Michigan or Ohio State on their schedule due to the league scheduling rotation, and their remaining schedule is easy.

Of the remaining five opponents, only Minnesota is currently above .500 at 4-3. The Gophers and Maryland will both be piloted by interim coaches, and Purdue is 1-6. That leaves road trips to 4-4 Indiana and 3-5 Nebraska as the toughest “tests” remaining.

Of course, Iowa would likely face off with either Michigan State or Ohio State in the Big Ten title game, the Hawkeyes’ toughest test by far.

Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz, of course, is taking nothing for granted, as he told Mike Hlas of the Cedar Rapids Gazette: “Every weekend there’s examples of how wrong the experts can be. But experts don’t have to play games. I’m not criticizing it or making fun of it, but for the guys that have to go out and compete, it’s a whole different deal.”

In the Big 12, Baylor, Oklahoma State and TCU are all unbeaten, but the league’s nine-game round-robin format guarantees one unbeaten, at most, emerging from the fray. Oklahoma State faces TCU on Nov. 7 and Baylor on Nov. 21, and the Horned Frogs and Bears tangle in one of the season’s biggest games on Nov. 27.

And don’t forget the presence of one-loss Oklahoma, who will also face all three teams in its final three games. November will be a month to remember in the Big 12, and it is entirely possible that the league will wind up with two one-loss teams, as it did a year ago with Baylor and TCU.

In the SEC, LSU is the lone unbeaten, but the Tigers have an ultra-tough test next week at Alabama. The Tigers also must travel to Ole Miss and host Texas A&M and Arkansas (which shut them out 17-0 a year ago) in their final four games. That’s a very difficult gauntlet to run for an unbeaten season.

The MAC also features an unlikely unbeaten in 7-0 Toledo, which owns wins over Power Five foes Arkansas and Iowa State. But the Rockets still must travel to MAC West leader Bowling Green, and even if they finish the season unbeaten, their ceiling is the Group of Five spot in the New Year’s Six bowls, given the MAC’s comparative league-wide weakness.

Attrition caused by unbeaten matchups will take its toll, and so will the difficult matchups ahead for those not guaranteed to face another unbeaten (like Iowa and LSU).

While it is entirely possible that an AAC or MAC team could run the table, the odds of either crashing the College Football Playoff party is slim.

The odds of finishing the season with multiple unbeaten teams? Let’s put it at 10-1, but the odds of multiple Power Five teams finishing the season unbeaten is much slimmer. Let’s call that 30-1. And even if that happened, it wouldn’t disrupt the playoff picture.

One thing that’s guaranteed? The action between now and early December is going to be tremendous. Don’t lose your remote, folks.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

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