NCAA Football

College Football Week 9 Schedule: NCAA Top 25 TV and Live Stream Coverage

Another week where the outlook around the college football world stays much the same. The reigning champions from Ohio State remain atop both the Associated Press and Amway Coaches polls for Week 9, but there are plenty of other teams still alive in the playoff chase.

The wait continues for this year's version of "Upset Saturday," where several marquee teams are handed crushing blows in one fell swoop. If that day never arrives, the College Football Playoff selection committee could end up facing some incredibly difficult decisions.

There's still plenty of football to play before that point, though. So let's check out the viewing information for this week's AP Top 25 games along with a breakdown of some top matchups.

 

Top 25 Schedule

 

Week 9's Best Games

Georgia vs. No. 11 Florida

Florida received a bye week at an ideal time. The Gators suffered a narrow defeat on the road against LSU last time out. Having a chance to regroup emotionally last week before a massive SEC East battle with Georgia should work to their benefit.

The Bulldogs already have two conference losses, to Alabama and Tennessee, but their schedule is more favorable moving forward. However, while this is a golden opportunity, offensive tackle John Theus knows the margin for error is razor-thin, per Greg Ostendorf of ESPN.com.

"At this point, every game is an elimination game for us," Theus said. "We have to win out to be where we want to be."

The key for Georgia is its defense. The unit gave up 38 points in each of the losses to the Crimson Tide and the Volunteers. Now the pressure is even more intense with star running back Nick Chubb out for the season with a knee injury.

On the flip side, the Gators need to get their ground game going. Every player with at least 20 carries this season, including starting running back Kelvin Taylor, is averaging less than four yards per carry. That must improve to survive the rest of the SEC grind and earn a berth in the conference title game.

 

No. 12 Oklahoma State vs. Texas Tech

It's rare for a team from one of the major conferences to fly below the radar as much as Oklahoma State has this season. The Cowboys started the campaign in the shadow of Baylor and TCU in the Big 12 and are still there with all three teams at 7-0.

They will have an opportunity to change the perception with games against the Bears and Horned Frogs looming. But first, they have to deal with a tricky road test against Texas Tech. It's a game that can derail their playoff charge before those marquee games, as Nathan Hiatt of the O'Colly noted:

The Red Raiders already have a lot of big-game experience under their belt this season. They only lost by three points to TCU but got blown out by Baylor and Oklahoma. This is a game Oklahoma State should win, but it can't afford to overlook the challenge.

The Cowboys put together one of their strongest all-around performances of the season last week to crush Kansas. They racked up 583 total yards of offense, forced two turnovers and won by 48 points. They must build off that as they prepare for a far more competitive game.

 

No. 9 Notre Dame vs. No. 21 Temple

This game nearly lost its luster as Temple trailed East Carolina with under five minutes to go last week. The Owls survived the upset bid by scoring two late touchdowns to remain unbeaten, however, and it created this week's only meeting of ranked foes.

It's a chance for both teams to make a serious statement. The Fighting Irish need more marquee victories to make their playoff case, and Temple needs one to validate its terrific start. In case the game needed more hype, College GameDay will be there:

If the Irish battle back into the playoff mix, DeShone Kizer deserves a lot of credit. The situation looked bleak when the sophomore quarterback stepped in for the injured Malik Zaire. He's responded with a stretch of solid play to keep the offense afloat, but he will get tested by the nation's eighth-ranked scoring defense.

That said, the real mystery is how Temple will play as the level of competition increases exponentially. So far, its biggest triumphs came over Penn State and Cincinnati. Beating Notre Dame would show the Owls' record isn't just a fluke made possible by a mediocre schedule.

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Ranking the Best SEC Matchups of Week 9

After a couple of quality weeks, this Saturday features an SEC slate that's a bit on the lighter side, as bye weeks are in full swing and there are no matchups between ranked opponents.

There are still a few extremely intriguing games.

The most interesting one will occur in Jacksonville, Florida, as the Georgia Bulldogs and 11th-ranked Florida Gators will renew their rivalry in the "World's Largest Cocktail Party."

Ole Miss has to travel to the loveliest village on the Plains of Alabama, and Tennessee heads to Lexington, Kentucky, to try to reverse this season's bad luck against the Wildcats.

Vanderbilt must venture out of conference to take on a ranked opponent, and Texas A&M has to find a way to pick up the pieces against South Carolina.

The SEC East may very well be at stake this weekend, so that will provide plenty of drama. Other games should hold plenty of interest as well, as contenders will try not to get in scary situations on Halloween.

Taking into consideration the quality of opponents, venue and chances of an upset, let's take a look at the top SEC games of the week.

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Georgia Bulldogs vs. Florida Gators Complete Game Preview

It’s that time of the year again. At the end of October, Georgia and Florida fans flock to Jacksonville for the annual meeting between the two SEC schools.

This matchup could be called the unofficial SEC East Championship Game because the winner will have the inside track of winning the division title.

Florida is coming off a tough loss to LSU. But because the Gators lost to an undefeated LSU team by a slim margin, they proved they are the team to beat in the SEC East.

The Bulldogs are coming off an ugly win against Missouri where they did not score a touchdown for the first time since the 2010 Liberty Bowl. With the loss of Nick Chubb and the struggles of Greyson Lambert, Georgia comes into the game with a chip on its shoulder.

Florida may be the favorite in the game, but because we have seen it many times before in this series, anything can and will happen on Saturday.

 

Date: Oct. 31, 2015

Time: 3:30 p.m. ET

Place: EverBank Field, Jacksonville, Fla.

TV: CBS

Radio: Gator Sports Network, Georgia Bulldogs Sports Network, Sirius/XM 81/81

Odds: Florida is a three-point favorite, according to Odds Shark.

 

When Georgia Has the Ball

When Georgia played Missouri nearly two weeks ago, the first play from scrimmage was a sign of things to come, as Greyson Lambert’s pass was picked off. He would finish the game 23-of-32 passing, but the Missouri defense could have picked off a couple of passes.

Even with the loss of Chubb in the Tennessee game, Georgia’s strength is in the run game. Sony Michel had a workman-like game against the Tigers, rushing for 87 yards on 25 carries. For him to be used at his full ability, he will need to have fewer carries and more receptions in the backfield. That means Keith Marshall and Brendan Douglas will see more carries. Both are reliable veterans, but they are not at the same level as Michel.

Snapshot of @Greyson_Lambert stats thru 7 games. pic.twitter.com/LCIDLn1Fz5

— Bulldogs On 2 (@WSBbulldogs) October 20, 2015

Georgia went up against a Missouri team that only gives up 12.5 points per game. And the Bulldogs will face another tough defense, as Florida ranks No. 4 in scoring and total defense in the SEC. However, the Gators did give up 35 points and 423 yards in the loss to LSU before their bye. The good news for the Gators is they won’t have to face Leonard Fournette when they play the Bulldogs; he was the reason Florida had a hard time stopping the Tigers.

Florida’s defense is led by linebacker Antonio Morrison, who has 54 tackles and seven tackles for loss. But it’s the defensive line that has been doing big things this season. Jonathan Bullard has 10 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks, while Alex McCalister and Joey Ivie have four and 3.5 sacks, respectively.

 

When Florida Has the Ball

For the most part this season, Florida has struggled on offense, as the team is eighth in the SEC in scoring offense. And with quarterback Will Grier suspended for the rest of the season, the Gators will have to rely on Treon Harris.

He played well in the LSU game, throwing for 271 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions. However, he did get sacked five times, which proved to be the difference in the game.

Harris has experience playing against the Bulldogs, as he led the Gators to a 38-20 rout last season. However, he only completed three passes and only rushed for 31 of the team's 445 rushing yards.

Treon Harris brings big-game experience into UGA matchup #UFhttps://t.co/RMGl9P2y1fpic.twitter.com/kiApOuTryZ

— Gators FB Report (@gators_fb_fanly) October 27, 2015

The Bulldogs will not have to worry about the Florida rushing attack, because the Gators rank 13th in the SEC in rushing offense, and Matt Jones, who rushed for nearly 200 yards last year against Georgia, is now in the NFL. But Georgia has issues dealing with dual-threat quarterbacks.

When the Bulldogs took on Tennessee earlier this month, Joshua Dobbs ran for 118 yards and two touchdowns and threw for 312 yards and three touchdowns, which led to a Vols win.

It was a poor showing for a Bulldogs team that is ranked third in the SEC in total defense. If the Bulldogs don’t want a repeat performance when they take on the Gators on Saturday, everyone has to stay at home and maintain his assignment.

 

Player to Watch for Georgia: Malcolm Mitchell

After a 2013 season when he was injured and a 2014 season when he was coming back from an injury, Malcolm Mitchell is back and has become the Bulldogs' main deep threat.

Mitchell is ninth in the SEC in receptions (35), eighth in yards (505) and tied for sixth in touchdowns (four). All those numbers aren’t bad considering the Bulldogs rank ninth in the SEC in passing.

The Gators know the Bulldogs are going to establish the run game, so Florida will do whatever it takes to make Lambert throw as much as possible. So it’s important he is able to find Mitchell early and often so the Bulldogs can stretch the field and have balance on offense.

This game means a lot to Mitchell because he wants to beat the Gators as a senior. He was huge in the game in 2012, as he caught a 45-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter to put the game away.

#FloridaHateWeek#JeanShorts#GatorsAreLamehttps://t.co/vPoP1XqQfF

— tgentry97 (@tgentry97) October 26, 2015

 

Player to Watch for Florida: Vernon Hargreaves

In order for Mitchell to stretch the field, he will have to go up against one of the best cornerbacks in college football.

Vernon Hargreaves is a big reason the Gators are strong on defense. According to GatorBait.net via Thomas Goldkamp of 247Sports, Hargreaves has only allowed 11 catches for 158 yards on 23 targets. He had better numbers in his freshman and sophomore seasons, but he has been dealing with an ankle injury all season long.

Hargreaves also has a team-high three interceptions, 22 tackles and one forced fumble.

Vernon Hargreaves, uno de los mejores playmakers en defensa de la NCAA. Una prueba: forzó un fumble vs Fournette. https://t.co/uzaVB7lIAt

— Pedro Dominguez (@pedrominguez_) October 18, 2015

Nothing is set in stone, but Hargreaves could line up against Mitchell all game long. It will be the best matchup of the game because both have speed and explosion and are disciplined at their respective positions.

 

Prediction: Florida 24, Georgia 21

Based on what has happened the last few years in this series, this will come down to the wire. Both teams will come out with a lot of energy, because they want to have better performances than the last time they were out on the field.

The loss of Chubb hurts Georgia. It forces Michel and Lambert to do more, and it also means guys such as Marshall, Douglas, Terry Godwin and Jay Rome will need to make plays.

It won’t be easy to do so consistently because Florida has a lot of moving parts on defense and will make sure the Georgia’s running game never gets going. If that happens, the Gators will win, and Bulldogs fans will be beyond angry on how the 2015 season has unfolded.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Kyle Allen vs. Kyler Murray vs. Jake Hubenak: Updates on Texas A&M QB Battle

The Texas A&M starting quarterback job is officially up for grabs between current No. 1 Kyle Allen, true freshman Kyler Murray and sophomore Jake Hubenak.

Continue for updates.

Aggies Starting QB to be Named Friday Tuesday, Oct. 27

Head coach Kevin Sumlin spoke Tuesday about what the Aggies are seeking at the most important position and why Allen's leash was so long to begin with, per the Associated Press' Kristie Reiken:

Looking for consistency across the board at quarterback. Cutting down on turnovers. This week you'll be evaluated not only based on practice, percentage in drills and everything else, but also evaluated in your leadership skills, communication with teammates and the coaching staff and general overall play and demeanor.

[...]  (It's) hard to play that position looking over your shoulder all the time. A lot of other positions you can yank guys in and out. But without confidence it's hard to play quarterback. You kind of want a guy to play himself out of it, but it wasn't happening and we made the change.    

Allen had a stellar start to the 2015 campaign in guiding the Aggies to a 5-0 record. The gifted sophomore has since lost command of the offense. He threw three pick-sixes in an ugly 41-23 loss to Alabama and was just 12-of-34 passing for 88 yards and an interception in a 23-3 defeat to Ole Miss in his last outing.

Ever since Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel left for the NFL after the 2013 campaign, Texas A&M hasn't been able to find a sustainable successor. Kenny Hill got off to a hot start last season but eventually regressed, was benched in favor of Allen and is now awaiting a chance to play at TCU.

Now Allen may be on the wrong end of a similar development if Murray wrests the starting job away prior to this Saturday's SEC showdown with South Carolina.

Murray was a 5-star recruit and considered the No. 1 dual-threat QB in the class of 2015 by 247Sports. Although he couldn't beat out Allen in their initial competition, this may be the beginning of Murray's tenure running the show.

But Murray also reportedly directed an expletive-laden tirade at offensive coordinator Jake Spavital when he was pulled from the Alabama game for throwing an interception, per John P. Lopez of CBS Houston. The 18-year-old dressed for the Ole Miss contest but didn't play even when Allen was floundering.

Sumlin addressed the Murray incident Tuesday and expressed optimism about what Murray's done of late to redeem himself, per Reiken:

Kyler has done the things necessary that we've asked him to do based on what happened on the sideline. Hopefully that's been a learning experience for him. Since that time...he has come back has practiced and is doing the right things. That's why he was part of discussion (Monday) in this competition.

That unfortunate episode from Murray nevertheless leaves the door open for the dark horse in Hubenak, a junior college transfer, to possibly take over.

Among the trickiest aspects of this QB kerfuffle in College Station is how to fairly divide practice reps between three different players. Sumlin referred to how detrimental it can be at the position for players to be looking behind them, which can disrupt any hopes of establishing a rhythm and asserting oneself as the leader of an offense or team.

Allen and Murray were also highly recruited, so benching them this many times early in their careers may alienate them from the program and create further tension in the locker room.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Bleacher Report's Week 9 College Football Playoff Predictions

Will your team make the College Football Playoff?

Unlike most media sites, Bleacher Report doesn't give you a yes or no answer.  Instead, we use analytics and the AP poll as a substitute for committee rankings to assign your team a probability to make the playoff.

The sortable table below shows the results, while you can find more information on the methods here.  Week 8 changed the odds for some teams with the highest probabilities.  Let's look at the top talking points.

 

Clemson makes the jump after crushing Miami

The numbers always like a team that wins 58-0.  Clemson's embarrassment of Miami not only got 'Canes coach Al Golden fired, but bumped the Tigers' playoff probability to 55.4 percent, highest in the nation.

While Clemson looked great this weekend, Florida State did not.  As a six-point favorite, the Seminoles lost to Georgia Tech 22-16 when a field-goal attempt was blocked and returned for a game-winning touchdown.

Before Week 8, my numbers gave Clemson a 62 percent to beat Florida State in a pivotal ACC game.  Now, Clemson has a 73 percent chance to win, which plays a big role in their increased playoff probability.

Not many expected Clemson to make a playoff run this preseason because an elite defense lost most of its starters from last season.  However, coordinator Brent Venables has done a fantastic job as Clemson has allowed 4.14 yards per play this season, sixth-best in the nation.

 

Seth Russell injury drops Baylor from the top spot

Before panic time over Seth Russell, Baylor had panic time with Seth Russell.  Prior to the quarterback getting hurt Saturday, Baylor didn't score on its first four possessions of the second half against Iowa State.

Last week, I discussed how Baylor had the highest playoff probability despite a weak schedule because they kept winning by large margins.  On Saturday, they beat Iowa State by 18, much less than the 35 expected by the markets.  Baylor's playoff chances dropped from over 50 percent to 35 percent.

Panic with Russell turned into panic over Russell as it was announced the quarterback will not play the remainder of the season because of a fractured bone in his neck.  What seemed like a small sample size of four possessions becomes a potentially bigger problem without the Heisman-contending quarterback.

However, if any coach in America can fix a quarterback problem, it's Art Briles.  After a bye week, Baylor will start freshman Jarrett Stidham, a highly touted prospect, against Kansas State.  The Bears' 35 percent playoff probability makes no adjustment for the loss of Russell, but let's wait a few games to determine whether any adjustment is necessary.

 

Ohio State eclipses even odds to make playoff

What is a top playoff contender supposed to do against weak competition?  Beat them, badly.

Ohio State pounded Rutgers 49-7 and reminded everyone why the Buckeyes entered the season as the consensus No. 1 team.  QB J.T. Barrett started the game and completed 14 of 18 passes for 223 yards.  With his sustained success over 12 games last season, this seemed like the right QB choice all along.

With the emphatic win, Ohio State has a 55.23 percent chance to make the playoff, barely trailing Clemson (55.45).  They have a tough road game against a resurgent Michigan team to end the regular season, but my numbers give them a 55 percent win probability in that game.

 

The Temple fairy tale ends this weekend

Temple has had a magical season so far.  It has an unblemished 7-0, and their game with Notre Dame this Saturday has drawn the attention of ESPN's College GameDay crew.

However, Temple is not as good as its record suggests.  The offense has yet to gain more than 5.4 yards per play in any game this season, and they beat a poor Massachusetts team by only two points.

While Temple's defense has been sound, they face a difficult task in Notre Dame's offense.  This season, the Fighting Irish have gained 7.3 yards per play, fifth-best in the nation.  

Notre Dame presents a difficult matchup for Temple on both sides of the ball.  My numbers give Temple only a 25 percent chance to win.

 

The Big 12 likely only gets one playoff team

With TCU and Baylor both in the top five of the playoff odds, it might seem like two Big 12 teams will make the final four.  However, this is not the case.  It's most likey one or the other, as even the sum of their chances is only 72 percent.

Baylor plays TCU on Thanksgiving weekend, and the winner most likely wins the Big 12 and makes the playoff.  It's unlikely the other team makes it with one loss.  For this to happen, a few of the favorites in conference championship games would have to lose.

Also, let's not assume both Baylor and TCU make it to Thanksgiving undefeated, as they both have a game with Oklahoma. The Sooner defense has allowed 4.5 yards per play (15th in the nation), which gives Oklahoma a decent shot to win either game.

 

Ed Feng has a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from Stanford and runs the sports analytics site The Power Rank. You can find him on Twitter @thepowerrank.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Ole Miss vs. Auburn Complete Game Preview

This Halloween matchup between Ole Miss and Auburn was billed as a potential SEC West elimination game in the offseason—one that had the massive revenge narrative from last season's ending and featured two high-powered offenses looking to stay alive in the race to Atlanta.

But as October comes to a close, Ole Miss (6-2, 3-1 SEC) is the only one with championship hopes, although they're slimmer after a pair of tough road losses. Auburn (4-3, 1-3 SEC) is scratching and clawing just to qualify for a bowl game.

No. 19 Ole Miss will look to build on a bounce-back 23-3 victory over Texas A&M this weekend against struggling Auburn, which fell in four overtimes at Arkansas last Saturday. The Rebels lost to Auburn last season in heartbreaking fashion, so expect this game to have a ton of emotion.

A morning kickoff on Halloween has the potential to get weird. It also could get downright scary for the Tigers, who are having a hard time stopping anyone on defense this season.

Before we break down the latest edition of Ole Miss vs. Auburn, here's all the basic info you need to know:

Date: Saturday, October 31

Time: Noon ET (11 a.m. local time)

Location: Auburn, Alabama (Jordan-Hare Stadium)

TV: ESPN

Radio: Ole Miss Radio NetworkAuburn IMG Sports Network

Line: Ole Miss -7, according to Odds Shark

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Takeaways from ESPN's Latest Shifts in Its 2016 Player Recruiting Rankings

Late Tuesday morning, ESPN released its revised ESPN 300, and while a few athletes in the 2016 class were introduced to the elite list, a couple of athletes made significant rises—and noteworthy drops.

Here are a few takeaways from the list:

 

WR Davis continuing to rise

Ask anyone at IMG Academy, and with all the talent on the football team, Drake Davis is the athlete to keep an eye on.

Davis went from unranked to No. 76 in the ESPN 300. The 6'4", 215-pound receiver is one of Shea Patterson's favorite targets on the field, and he's also a major recruiting target for Patterson, an Ole Miss commit.

Ole Miss, LSU, Texas A&M, Clemson and UCLA are the schools to watch for Davis, who has said on multiple occasions that Ole Miss is his current leader. Along with being a solid receiver and special teams contributor, Davis also excels in soccer and track and field.

 

DT Manuel loses fifth star

While Shavar Manuel is considered a top-10 prospect nationally, ESPN decided to strip the defensive tackle of his fifth star.

Per ESPN's evaluators, Manuel is an "explosive big man who can create problems as easily inside as he used to do on the edge." The evaluators are fans of Manuel's ability, but they credited the loss of the fifth star to "consistent maximization of that ability."

Manuel is still ranked No. 9 overall and the No. 4 defensive tackle in the 247Sports composite. He has 20 offers and has schools like Auburn, Florida, LSU, Georgia and Florida State high on his list.

 

Close QB battle gets closer

Although Georgia commit Jacob Eason is ranked higher than Stanford pledge K.J. Costello in the 247Sports composite rankings, Costello not only outranks Eason but also Patterson, as well.

Costello is the top-ranked pocket-passing quarterback and the No. 14 overall player, according to ESPN. Eason is the No. 2 pocket-passing quarterback and No. 16 overall. Patterson, listed as a pro-style quarterback by the 247Sports composite, is ESPN's top-ranked dual-threat quarterback but ranked No. 18 overall.

One thing's for certain: All three quarterbacks are excellent options if you need a signal-caller to play early next season.

 

DE Burns makes an impression

Remember the name Brian Burns. Over the summer, Burns showed he was just as worthy to earn an invitation to The Opening as the other defensive linemen present.

As the nation's No. 11 weak-side defensive end, Burns was rewarded for his stellar play with a spot in the ESPN 300. Per ESPN, Burns has 10 sacks through seven games, which makes sense as he was very disruptive in 1-on-1 drills at The Opening.

Burns, a 4-star athlete in the 247Sports composite, is a solid speed rusher who uses his slim, 6'5", 215-pound frame to his advantage against larger, slower offensive linemen. Georgia, Florida State, Florida, LSU, Auburn and Alabama are among the schools to keep an eye on for Burns.

 

North Carolina pledge is bigger, better

North Carolina defensive end commit Tomon Fox is becoming more of a player to watch in the 2016 class. Fox has gained more than 25 pounds since his junior year, and he's been able to maintain the quickness that makes him an intriguing speed rusher.

Fox, whose Hudl page says he's now 6'3" and 240 pounds, committed to North Carolina in June but has more than 20 offers. Fox is a 3-star player according to 247Sports composite, but further evaluation of the bigger, much-improved Fox could be grounds for granting him a fourth star.

The Tar Heels are hoping to sign Fox in February and win a big recruiting battle against the other Power Fives recruiting him, including Notre Dame, Penn State, Auburn, Arkansas, Michigan, UCLA and a handful of others.

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

4-Star Rahshaun Smith Opens Up on LSU Visit, Meeting Leonard Fournette

BRADENTON, Fla. — Even though he’s been on campus for less than a year, there’s no doubt that 4-star linebacker Rahshaun Smith has emerged as a team leader for Florida powerhouse IMG Academy.

For example, one day before his team’s nationally televised matchup against New Jersey force Paramus Catholic, Smith lit into his team during practice. He explained to Bleacher Report: 

Me being a leader on my team and being voted as a captain by my coaches and my teammates, I felt it's my responsibility when guys are getting out of line or if guys need some encouragement; I feel like it’s my job [to speak up]. I do it all the time. They feel comfortable with me because I don’t feel like I’m better than these guys. I feel we are all on the same level. Me having a voice for the team, everyone respects that.

Originally from Baltimore, Smith said leadership is a trait he was born with and one that hasn’t gone unnoticed to the bevy of college coaches who are hoping to land his commitment. 

The latest program to host him on an official visit, LSU, made a favorable impression when he visited Baton Rouge for the Tigers' big win over Florida on Oct. 18: 

It was a great visit. It was my first time in Baton Rouge. I ate some really good food. The environment at the game was second to none. They got some of the best fans in the country. They were constantly cheering for us when we were out there in pregame. Their business school, which is where I want to study, is definitely good. We got to take a tour and speak with some of the professors and see the classrooms. It was definitely a great visit.

Another highlight for Smith was meeting and conversing with the Tigers' star running back and current Heisman Trophy candidate, Leonard Fournette. While Smith didn’t know what to expect of his first interaction with one of college football’s brightest stars, Fournette’s humility made a lasting impression on him:

That was my first time talking to him. You’re like, ‘That’s Leonard Fournette,’ and thinking he’s a big-time guy so he won’t say much. But that definitely wasn’t him. He’s a humble, down-to-earth guy. We started talking from there, and I got to learn a lot about him. He told me about what he was going to do the next day, and he came up to me during pregame and told me, ‘Mark my words and remember what I told you yesterday.’ He went out there and handled his business.

IMG teammate, 5-star corner and current Tigers pledge Saivion Smith has joked with him about potentially having to tackle Fournette in practice on a daily basis next season. That’s a thought Smith admits he’s pondered since returning from Baton Rouge.

“[Saivion] is my roommate, so he’s constantly in my ear talking about LSU, and he jokes with me about having to tackle [Fournette] in practice,” Smith said. “But that’s competition, which is something that I love. Leonard Fournette is a big guy and a great back, but if you are playing in the SEC, you are going to play a lot of those. If I play against him in practice, that’s better for me come game time.”

The visit was Smith’s second official, as he visited Oregon in late September. His next visit is set for Nov. 14 at Auburn when it hosts Georgia. Visits to Maryland and Clemson—the school he originally committed to before reopening his process—loom in December.

With Smith on track to be an early enrollee, he said a decision could come at the Under Armour All-American Game or shortly afterward.

He said his final decision will come down to a few critical factors.

“Definitely somewhere I can play early,” Smith said. “Somewhere that has great coaches and coaches that can really develop me and prepare me for the next level. A great academic school. Somewhere that has my major. Playing time is definitely vital. You definitely want to go somewhere and play if you are ready.”

 

Sanjay Kirpalani is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand and all recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Grading Every Power Five Dark Horse's Path to the Playoff

The College Football Playoff race is beginning to take shape. Many of the favorites from the preseason, like Ohio State, Baylor, Clemson and TCU, are still in the running. Others, like USC and Auburn, fell out long ago.

Then there are the dark horses, the teams that have surprised with fast starts.

Would anyone have guessed heading into Week 8 that Utah would be the Pac-12's lone undefeated team? Would anyone have thought Florida would be the SEC East's best team? Did anyone put down money on undefeated Iowa before the season started? If so, what insider information are they getting?

With November just around the corner, what are the odds that these overachieving teams not picked to win their conference/division can keep pace in the playoff hunt?

Looking ahead at schedules, key games and whether a team could overcome a loss—or second loss—we grade each Power Five conference's playoff dark horse.

 

Florida

At 6-1, Florida is one of college football's best surprises. First-year head coach Jim McElwain has done a superb job of getting the Gators out of mediocrity and into the SEC Championship conversation right away.

The talent was there, even with depth problems along the offensive line. The program just needed the right coach.

McElwain will likely preach how every week is a new season because, well, that's what coaches do. But there are basically three major events for Florida between now and early December: this Saturday's rivalry game against Georgia, the regular season-ending game against Florida State and, potentially, the SEC Championship Game.

That's assuming the Gators can get past Vanderbilt and Florida Atlantic at home, and South Carolina on the road.

Florida is also without starting quarterback Will Grier, who has been suspended due to a positive performance-enhancing drug test. The offense now rests on quarterback Treon Harris.

As Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee noted, "The Gators have the best chances in the SEC to win the conference, according to ESPN's Football Power Index, at 29.4 percent."

To be sure, the path is manageable. It is not, however, a given. Florida fell short in its biggest game of the year against LSU. Granted, a fake field goal was the difference, but the result was the same.

There's a chance Florida would face the Tigers again (or even Ole Miss) if the Gators win the East. Florida is good enough to win its remaining games and it would be playoff-bound if it did. Still, it's fair to wonder if the depth and offensive explosiveness—or lack thereof—will hurt this team one more time.

Grade: B

 

Florida State

The ACC has three conference dark horses: Duke, Florida State and Pitt, all of which are 6-1. The Panthers have the "best" loss (to Iowa by three points), but the Seminoles have the toughest remaining games (at Clemson on Nov. 7, at Florida on Nov. 28).

Win those two games, and Florida State definitely re-enters the playoff discussion.

However, realistically, the ACC's playoff hopes rest on Clemson. The Tigers are the ACC's lone undefeated team and directly in the mix for a top-four spot.

David M. Hale of ESPN.com sums things up nicely: "If you’re keeping track at home, the ACC has five teams with one loss or fewer, more than any other conference in America. And yet the ACC also has just one team ranked in the Top 15 and, seemingly, Clemson is the only real threat to make the playoff."

All of this may be based on preconceived notions, but it's the battle the ACC is fighting. Should it win out, Florida State would have the best resume in the ACC. Pitt isn't far behind if it does the same thanks to a Nov. 7 game against Notre Dame.

However, the Georgia Tech loss is a major blemish for the Seminoles. Although the most memorable play was the blocked field goal returned for the game-winning score, the reality is Florida State's weaknesses—offensive line play and mental errors—showed up again long before that happened.

In short, there's a remote chance Florida State—or even Pitt—could get in, but neither seems equipped to make that run. Clemson is.

Grade: D

 

Iowa

Yep, we're actually talking about the Hawkeyes in reference to the playoff. These are indeed fascinating times.

Iowa gets a huge break schedule-wise because it doesn't have to play Ohio State, Michigan or Michigan State in the regular season. Though Iowa's schedule sets up well for an undefeated run, it hasn't been completely terrible, either. Northwestern, Pitt and Wisconsin, three of Iowa's best wins, are 18-5.

That was the difficult part. Maryland, Indiana, Minnesota, Purdue and Nebraska remain between Iowa and 12-0. Only the Gophers have a winning record.

At the risk of declaring Iowa undefeated before it happens, let's just say things shake out well.

Undefeated or not, though, it should be agreed upon that Iowa's playoff hopes hinge on the Big Ten Championship Game. That would in all likelihood be against Ohio State, Michigan State or Michigan—the three teams Iowa hasn't had to play.

But if the Hawkeyes do get to that point, something happens.

How you view the Big Ten's unlikely playoff team is narrowed through the lens of just one game. Just one. How Iowa played in 12 previous games doesn't matter. Can it play well enough to win this one game?

If college football has taught us anything, it's that anything can happen for one game.

Grade: A

 

Oklahoma State

Iowa may have the easiest regular-season path to the playoff, but undefeated Oklahoma State has the most advantageous one.

The Cowboys must get past Texas Tech on the road in Week 8 for this conversation to go any further, though. Lubbock is a tricky place and Oklahoma State is just a three-point favorite, per Odds Shark.

However, November sets up beautifully. Oklahoma State gets its three toughest opponents—vs. TCU, Baylor and Oklahoma—at home. The only road game is Iowa State. That's not to say the final stretch is easy—Oklahoma State might not be able to afford a loss—but you could not have asked for the schedule to set up any better if you're competing for a Big 12 title and playoff spot.

On that note, the Big 12 title race could go one of two ways: A clear front-runner could emerge or everybody could cannibalize one another and no one would exit November without multiple losses.

Still, Chuck Carlton of the Dallas Morning News reported that Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy is confident there will be a Big 12 team in the field of four. Presumably, in his opinion, his team:

Oklahoma State has lived dangerously a few times this year but has been able to win every game. That style likely won't hold up in the toughest stretch of the season, however. The Pokes need to start playing their best football now. If they do, they have the best setup of any Big 12 contender in the grind of November.

Grade: B

 

Utah

Oh, how things change. This time last week, Utah was ranked in the AP Top 4 with one of the best resumes in college football. One 42-24 loss to USC later, though, and the Utes go from playoff contenders to playoff dark horses.

The good news is Utah is by no means out of the running.

Since the Pac-12 South is a grinder, one loss doesn't define a season. That South Division title is still in play, too, meaning a playoff spot is still on the board.

Utah can prove its loss to USC was nothing more than a bad game by taking care of Washington and Arizona before getting UCLA at home in late November.

Though the Utes don't play Stanford in the regular season, a possible Pac-12 Championship Game against the Cardinal—who are playing as well as anyone in college football—could be the win Utah needs for a late-season surge.

Also, as a team on the fringe of the playoff discussion now, Utah can benefit from a number of undefeated teams losing to one another as the season progresses.

Could Utah afford a second loss before a possible conference championship appearance? The 2015 season may test this theory, but it's obviously something the Utes want to avoid altogether. 

Grade: C

  

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. All quotes cited unless obtained firsthand. All stats courtesy of cfbstats.com.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Alabama Football: Crimson Tide's Checklist to Winning SEC Title

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Tim Tebow knows a few things about winning championships; after all, he won two national titles during his time with the University of Florida and may have won a third had Alabama not gotten in the way in 2009.

So what does he think will decide the Western Division of the Southeastern Conference this season? Probably miscues—as in the team that makes the fewest will come out on top between Alabama, LSU and Ole Miss.

“I think quarterback play can define it, but I think it’s more on the mistake side,” he explained. “If you have a game with two or three interceptions, another team can run away with it like [Alabama at Texas A&M]. You can have two great teams playing at a high level, stopping the run and playing great defense and a quarterback gives a team up.

“A quarterback can win it, but the consistency factor of not losing it is more important.”

One of the key factors in senior Jake Coker’s development as Alabama’s quarterback this season has been minimizing his errors. Many don’t get noticed by fans, but interceptions obviously do.

He had three passes picked off in October—two against Arkansas and one by Tennessee, which were Alabama’s closest games. He had none at Georgia and Texas A&M, and both were blowout wins.

Granted, that’s an oversimplification of his progress, but considering Alabama had five turnovers in its only loss this season at Ole Miss, the importance can’t be stressed enough by head coach Nick Saban.

“Alabama every single week they do on occasion beat themselves and make mistakes, everybody does and that’s understandable,” former Crimson Tide quarterback Greg McElroy said. “But the mistakes are correctable.

“They never make the same mistake twice it seems like. His detail-oriented nature, his ability to focus on the tasks at hand, and then with the clear knowledge about what’s coming, he always has an answer about what a team might throw at you. He already has an adjustment for the adjustment that he expects them to make and I think there’s something to be said for that. He plans for everything.”

If Saban were to put together a checklist for winning the SEC title (outside of just beat LSU, Mississippi State, Charleston State and Auburn and then win in Atlanta on Dec. 5), it would probably look something like this:

 

1. Heal up: It’s the No. 1 priority this week with the team enjoying its bye and getting away from football for a couple of days over the weekend. The one unit that especially needs the rest is the offensive line, where senior center Ryan Kelly suffered a concussion against Texas A&M and barely practiced before Tennessee, senior right tackle Dominick Jackson sprained an ankle against the Vols and sophomore Cam Robinson has been playing with injuries all season (knee and shoulder are the ones that have been disclosed).

“Everybody’s a little tired,” Kelly said after Alabama played its eighth straight Saturday, including the brutal October of at Georgia, Arkansas, at Texas A&M and Tennessee. “I know a lot of guys are pretty excited to have some time off.”

 

2. Have Plans B, C and D ready: When Kelly was sidelined, the offense struggled using a silent count at Texas A&M with redshirt freshman J.C. Hassenauer at center. That experience will help him a lot should it be needed again, as Bradley Bozeman looked much better the second game he filled in for Kelly in 2014. When Jackson left the Tennessee game, Ross Pierschbacher went from left guard to right tackle, and Bozeman came in a guard. A bye week is a good time to get other players up to speed just in case.

 

3. Third downs: If there’s been one glaring area of concern offensively, it’s been third-down conversions, as Alabama ranks 107th in the nation. There’s been a little improvement after going 2-of-13 against Louisiana-Monroe and 1-of-12 at Georgia, but it’s a stat to keep an eye on in November.

 

4. Yards after the catch: It’s one area Coker can improve, as too often receivers are making catches without the opportunity to continue downfield. There should be continued progress down the stretch as the quarterback continues to build a rapport with his receivers.

 

5. Continue to establish playmakers: The more who stand out as playmakers, the tougher they’ll all be to defend. While Calvin Ridley has become Coker’s primary receiver, ArDarius Stewart had a big game against Tennessee and matched the freshman’s 88 receiving yards.

“Those guys really made some big plays,” said junior tight end O.J. Howard, who is also becoming a bigger part of the passing game. “They really stepped up. They showed that they have matured a lot.”

 

6. Ride Derrick Henry: The junior running back went from averaging 16.75 carries per game in September to 28.25 in October, when he gained 155.5 rushing yards. That’s a grueling pace, but Henry appears to be dishing out more punishment than he’s receiving.

“He’s a very talented back. He has a good news for the end zone and pushes the pile,” said McElroy, who played with Mark Ingram, Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacy at Alabama. “I think Derrick would rank up there at the top with all of them.”

 

7. Keep plugging away up front: Linebacker Ryan Anderson told reporters that the talk in the huddle before A’Shawn Robinson’s game-clinching fumble recovery against Tennessee was that if it wanted to go down as one of the best Crimson Tide defenses, it had to make a big play. The front seven needs to keep that attitude for the rest of the season.

“If you look at the teams that have won national championships, defensive line play has always been at a premium,” McElroy said. “There’s no one is better in the country than Alabama.”

 

8. Continue to ball hawk: The Crimson Tide didn’t have an interception against Tennessee after safeties Eddie Jackson (knee) and Ronnie Harrison (ankle) both had injury setbacks, but Alabama is still in the top five nationally with 12 picks, four of which have been returned for touchdowns.

“I think [coach Mel Tucker] has done a tremendous job in the secondary,” said former LSU standout Marcus Spears, who serves as an analyst along with McElroy and Tebow on the SEC Network. “Guys are flying around, and they look a lot more sure about what they're doing in the secondary. We talked about this front seven over and over again leading into the preseason, but the secondary has started to look like the best unit on the defense, and I think that's scary for people.”

 

9. Continue to improve on special teams: The unit as a whole has looked much better recently, with Adam Griffith having made his last five field goals and 10 of his last 12, and punter JK Scott was named the SEC Special Teams Player of the Week. Long snapper Cole Mazza has returned to form after missing two games, and Kenyan Drake is back returning kickoffs again.

 

10. Don’t let up: Like LSU and Ole Miss, Alabama essentially controls its own destiny but only if it wins out. The LSU game will get tons of hype, but if it were to win and then lose to Mississippi State or Auburn, it would almost certainly kill its chances of making the playoffs.

Consequently, Alabama has to play each game with a sense of desperation because its season will be on the line each week.

“You never know if you have what it takes to win a national championship until you’re put in that situation in which time and time again you have to play up to expectations,” McElroy said. “This team absolutely has the makings. This team has done a wonderful job defensively for the entire season, they’ve been really off the charts.

“I would absolutely say that this team is built for the long run.”

  

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Christopher Walsh is a lead SEC college football writer. Follow Christopher on Twitter @WritingWalsh.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Buying or Selling Every Top 10 Team as Playoff Championship Contender

The race for the college football national championship can be as volatile as the stock market, as a handful of contenders found out in the last few weeks.

Two previously undefeated Top 10 teams tasted defeat last Saturday, knocking them out of the high rankings and leaving them with some serious work to do in order to get back into the thick of the playoff race. But they can follow the example of several other one-loss squads that have already bounced back and fought their way into contention again.

Other Top 10 teams have seen their championship stocks fall—despite their perfect records—due to injuries and less-than-impressive play. While there's still time to recover, the roads only get tougher from here for many powerhouse programs.

Last month, B/R colleague Brian Leigh took the championship stock of the Top 10 teams in the Week 5 Associated Press poll. We'll do the same here, handing out similar grades of Strong Sell, Moderate Sell, Reluctant Sell, Reluctant Buy, Moderate Buy and Strong Buy for the current Top 10.

Stocks are based on the teams' overall talent, health, schedules and performances so far this season. Everyone has their own unique view of the playoff stock market, so be sure to sound off on these contenders in the comments below.

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Robert Nkemdiche Withheld from Consideration for Lott Trophy by Ole Miss

Mississippi defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche is widely regarded as one of the nation's best defensive players, but his apparent academic standing has kept him off of the list of candidates for the Lott IMPACT Trophy. 

According to Pat Forde of Yahoo Sports, Nkemdiche's name was not on the most recent quarterfinal ballot for the award.   

"When the Lott Impact Trophy folks sent out the lengthy ballot of quarterfinalists for the award for the nation’s top defensive player, there was a surprising footnote at the bottom: 'ROBERT NKEMDICHE, DE, Ole Miss – School does not feel he meets academic standards,'" Forde wrote.

Forde also mentions that Ohio State's Joey Bosa and Baylor's Shawn Oakman were kept off of the list after they were suspended for one game this season, but Nkemdiche was withheld because the university "simply felt he wasn’t doing the job in the classroom."

The Lott IMPACT Trophy website states the award recognizes "individuals who demonstrate excellence in the field of athletics" and the IMPACT acronym stands for "Integrity, Maturity, Performance, Academics, Community and Tenacity."

In terms of football talent, Nkemdiche has been very good in 2015 with 5.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks in seven games. He's also one of the best known players in the country, thanks to his status as a potential first-round pick in next year's NFL draft. 

Nkemdiche has never been suspended or missed a game due to academic problems in three years at Mississippi, but his apparent issues in the classroom will cost him a shot at winning at least one major postseason award.

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Oregon State Beavers vs. Utah Utes Betting Odds, College Football Pick

The betting favorite is 3-1 both straight up against the spread in the four Oregon State-Utah meetings since the Utes joined the Pac-12, which perhaps bodes well for Utah heading into Saturday night's bout with the Beavers in Salt Lake City.

 

Point spread: The Utes opened as 21.5-point favorites, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark. (Line updates and matchup report)

College football pick, via Odds Shark computer: 29.0-19.8 Utes

 

Why the Oregon State Beavers can cover the spread

OSU is in rebuilding mode, with a new head coach, trying to make progress from week to week. The Beavers won a couple of games earlier this season against lesser foes and gave Stanford a tough three quarters a few weeks ago, although they couldn't carry that forward in a pair of Pac-12 road losses at Arizona and Washington State. Last week Oregon State fell at home to Colorado 17-13, even though it outgained and outrushed the Buffaloes.

On the season the Beavers are averaging 189 yards per game on the ground. If they can grind out some first downs and control some clock this week they could keep this one close enough to cash.

 

Why the Utah Utes can cover the spread

After starting this season with six straight victories, Utah suffered its first loss last week, falling 42-24 at an inspired USC. The Utes led early 14-7, but gave up 17 points in the last four minutes of the first half, seven on a Travis Wilson pick-six as Utah was driving for the tying score, and never recovered.

Prior to that, though, the Utes beat the likes of Michigan, Utah State, Oregon, Cal and Arizona State, all of who own winning records at the moment. Utah also outrushed each of those opponents. Now the Utes get to go against an Oregon State defense giving up almost 200 yards per game on the ground.

 

Smart pick

Utah is still in the running for a division title and may be ripe for a bounce-back effort following the dud at USC. Meanwhile, Oregon State is still struggling under the new coaching regime. So even though the line on this game is probably inflated by at least a field goal or so, the smart money resides with the Utes.

 

Betting trends

Utah is 6-2 ATS in its last eight games at home in October.

Oregon State is 15-5 ATS in its last 20 games on the road in October.

Oregon State is 0-5 SU and ATS in its last five games on the road.

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Oregon State Beavers vs. Utah Utes Betting Odds, College Football Pick

The betting favorite is 3-1 both straight up against the spread in the four Oregon State-Utah meetings since the Utes joined the Pac -12, which perhaps bodes well for Utah heading into Saturday night's bout with the Beavers in Salt Lake City ...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Syracuse Orange vs. Florida State Seminoles Betting Odds, College Football Pick

Florida State just had a long ACC winning streak snapped in crazy fashion last week but still owns an 18-game home winning streak. However, FSU is also only 2-6 against the spread over its last eight home dates. The Seminoles shoot to rebound from their first loss of this season when they host Syracuse Saturday afternoon in Tallahassee.

 

Point spread: The Seminoles opened as 19.5-point favorites, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark. (Line updates and matchup report)

College football pick, via Odds Shark computer: 33.6-18.7 Seminoles

 

Why the Syracuse Orange can cover the spread

Syracuse has lost its last four games in a row but covered the spread in three of those outings. Last week the Orange lost at home to Pittsburgh on a field goal at the buzzer, 23-20, but held on for the cover as nine-point home dogs.

Two weeks ago Syracuse lost at Virginia in overtime, 44-38, but covered as a seven-point road dog; and a month ago the Orange lost to a very good LSU squad, 34-24, easily covering as 24-point home dogs. So Syracuse is 3-0 ATS this season when getting points.

 

Why the Florida State Seminoles can cover the spread

FSU just had a 28-game ACC winning streak snapped last week when a potential game-winning field goal was blocked and returned for a Georgia Tech touchdown with no time on the clock for a 22-16 loss.

The Seminoles led the Wreck at the half 16-10 and had a chance to take a two-score lead midway through the fourth quarter, but a bobbled touchdown pass resulted in quarterback Everett Golson's first interception of the season and basically cost FSU the game.

Two weeks ago, in their most recent home game, the Seminoles started slowly but scored 35 second-half points to beat Louisville 41-21, pulling away to cover as seven-point favorites.

 

Smart pick

Florida State isn't setting any records on offense this season, but its defense is holding opponents to 16 points per game. Meanwhile, outside of its season-opening victory over FCS Rhode Island, Syracuse has been outgained in every other game by an average of 125 yards per outing. So while the spread on this game might be inflated by a few points toward the home team, the Seminoles are still the smart choice.

 

Betting trends

The total has gone under in five of Florida State's last six games.

Florida State is 20-0 SU in its last 20 games at home.

Syracuse is 5-1 ATS in its last six games in October.

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. Temple Owls Betting Odds, College Football Pick

The Temple Owls are off to their best start in program history, a perfect 7-0 straight up and 5-2 against the spread, playing themselves into contention for a New Year's Day bowl. The Owls get a shot at their biggest win in recent memory when they host 6-1 Notre Dame Saturday night at the Linc in Philadelphia.

 

Point spread: The Fighting Irish opened as 10.5-point favorites, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark. (Line updates and matchup report)

College football pick, via Odds Shark computer: 30.8-27.6 Fighting Irish

 

Why the Notre Dame Fighting Irish can cover the spread

The Irish are not only 6-1 SU this season, they're also 6-1 ATS after beating USC two weeks ago, 41-31, covering as six-point home favorites. Notre Dame then had last week off.

The Irish trailed the Trojans after three quarters, 31-24, but scored the game's next 17 points to take control. On the night Notre Dame outrushed USC 214-150, as running back C.J. Prosise topped the 100-yard mark for the fifth time already this season.

The Irish have lost once this season, by two points at Clemson, even though they outgained the Tigers that night by 140 yards. That loss looks better now, considering what Clemson has done recently.

 

Why the Temple Owls can cover the spread

Temple thought it had a good chance of returning to a bowl this season, with 19 starters back from a 6-6 team that got snubbed last year, and now the Owls have even bigger things in mind. Temple ran its record to 7-0 last week with a 24-14 come-from-behind victory at East Carolina, winning that game outright as a three-point road dog.

The Owls trailed the Pirates 14-10 late into the fourth quarter, took a lead on a P.J. Walker touchdown pass to Robby Anderson with just under four minutes to go, then blocked a punt and turned a short field into an insurance score, securing the victory.

Two weeks ago Temple outgained Central Florida by 227 yards in a 30-16 victory, and three weeks ago it outgained Tulane by 235 yards in a 49-10 win. The Owls also already own wins this season over Penn State and Cincinnati. But what they'd really like is a signature victory against a big-time foe, like Notre Dame.

 

Smart pick

Temple is a great story, but the winning streak will probably come to an end this week. And playing on the road means the spread is a little more amenable to the visiting Irish. Give the points here with Notre Dame.

 

Betting trends

Notre Dame is 12-2 SU in its last 14 games in October.

Temple is 8-0 SU and 6-2 ATS in its last eight games.

Notre Dame is 19-1 ATS in its last 20 games on the road in October.

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

North Carolina Tar Heels vs. Pittsburgh Panthers Betting Odds, Football Pick

North Carolina owns a six-game winning streak, with four covers over that span, while Pittsburgh owns a four-game winning streak and is also 4-2 against the spread over its last six contests. Two teams playing some pretty good ball as of late hook up for a big game in the ACC's Coastal Division when the Panthers host the Tar Heels Thursday night at Heinz Field.

 

Point spread: The Tar Heels opened as 2.5-point favorites, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark (line updates and matchup report).

College football pick, via Odds Shark computer: 32.3-24.2 Tar Heels

 

Why the North Carolina Tar Heels can cover the spread

Since losing its season opener to South Carolina, UNC has won every time out, including a 26-13 decision over Virginia last week. That game was tied at 13-13 at the half, but the Heels won the second half 13-0.

On the day, Carolina outgained the Cavaliers 422-353, as quarterback Marquise Williams hit on 21 of 26 passes for 226 yards, and running back Elijah Hood ran for 101 yards, his fourth 100-yard effort this season. And the Heels defense picked off Virginia quarterback Matt Johns four times.

Two weeks ago, North Carolina pounded Wake Forest 50-14, outgaining the Deacons by 228 yards. So on the season, the Heels have outgained six of seven opponents by an average of 125 yards per game.

 

Why the Pittsburgh Panthers can cover the spread

Pitt lost at Iowa back in September 27-24 on a field goal at the buzzer but has won every game since, including a tough 23-20 decision at Syracuse last week. The Panthers trailed by a touchdown twice, rallied to take a fourth-quarter lead, then won it on its own field goal at the buzzer. On the day, Pitt outrushed the Orange 188-136 and won time of possession by a 37-23 margin.

Two weeks ago, the Panthers pulled a short upset at Georgia Tech 31-28, winning time of possession by a 34-26 margin. So the key for Pitt seems to be controlling the clock. Fortunately, the Panthers get to go against a North Carolina defense this week giving up over 200 yards per game on the ground.

 

Smart pick

The Tar Heels have taken this matchup each of the last two seasons, but both those games were close. Also, while Carolina owns the edge on offense, Pitt owns the edge on defense. And in close calls like this, the smart play is with the better defense.

 

Betting trends

North Carolina is 4-1 straight up and ATS in its last five games against Pittsburgh.

The total has gone under in seven of Pittsburgh's last 10 games in October.

North Carolina is 6-14 SU in its last 20 games on the road in October.

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

South Carolina Gamecocks vs. Texas A&M Aggies Betting Odds, Football Pick

South Carolina began the post-Steve Spurrier era with a victory, but that was at home. This week the Gamecocks hit the road, where they're 0-4 both straight up and against the spread over their last four outings. They'll try to put an end to those streaks when they take on Texas A&M in College Station on Saturday afternoon.

 

Point spread: The Aggies opened as 16-point favorites, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark. (Line updates and matchup report)

College football pick, via Odds Shark computer: 29.0-23.6 Aggies

 

Why the South Carolina Gamecocks can cover the spread

The Gamecocks seemed like a despondent outfit during recent losses to Missouri and LSU, but showed some life in their first game following head coach Spurrier's departure, a 19-10 victory over Vanderbilt two weeks ago and a cover as two-point home favorites. South Carolina had last week off.

The Gamecocks took an early lead on the Commodores, then fell behind, but on the key play of the game, midway through the third quarter, quarterback Perry Orth connected with wide receiver Pharoh Cooper on a 78-yard catch-and-sprint for the touchdown that gave South Carolina the lead for good. The Gamecocks defense then secured the victory with a pair of fourth-quarter takeaways.

On the day, South Carolina outgained Vandy 424-332, as Orth threw for 272 yards and running back Brandon Wilds rushed for 119.

 

Why the Texas A&M Aggies can cover the spread

The Aggies started 5-0 this season, with wins over Arizona State, Arkansas and Mississippi State, but have lost their last two, including a 23-3 decision at Ole Miss last week. Texas A&M fell down 7-0 early and never recovered, as quarterback Kyle Allen struggled through another tough game.

Two weeks ago the Aggies lost to Alabama 41-23, but three Tide touchdowns, including the first and the last, came on returns of Allen interceptions. Between those two plays, A&M played Alabama to a 27-23 score.

The Aggies were rolling as of a few weeks ago. If Allen can quit throwing the ball to the guys in the opposing shirts, A&M can still make something out of this season.

 

Smart pick

South Carolina came up with an emotional effort last time out for interim head coach Shawn Elliott, but could be ripe for a letdown. On the other hand, the Aggies are coming off a couple of down outings, but could be ripe for a rebound. Take Texas A&M in this spot.

 

Betting trends

Texas A&M is 2-5 SU and ATS in its last seven games at home in October.

The total has gone under in eight of South Carolina's last 11 games.

South Carolina is 0-3 SU and ATS in its last three games on the road.

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Clemson Tigers vs. North Carolina State Wolfpack Betting Odds, Football Pick

Clemson owns 10 wins in its last 11 meetings with North Carolina State, but the Wolfpack are 4-1 against the spread in the last five, cashing in as underdogs three times, as well as an outright upset. The teams take up their familiar roles for Saturday's homecoming date in Raleigh.

 

Point spread: The Tigers opened as 9.5-point favorites, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark. (Line updates and matchup report)

College football pick, via Odds Shark computer: 36.2-31.8 Tigers

 

Why the Clemson Tigers can cover the spread

The Tigers are suddenly a very hot item, with seven straight wins to start this season, including a 58-0 manhandling of Miami last week. Clemson scored less than three minutes into the game, led 21-0 after one quarter and 42-0 at the half, cruising to an easy cover as 10-point favorites on the road.

The Tigers outgained the Hurricanes 567-146, piled up 416 yards on the ground, and rightly could be held at least partially responsible for getting Miami head coach Al Golden fired.

Two weeks ago, Clemson beat Boston College 34-17, outgaining the Eagles by almost 300 yards. Just before that it knocked off Georgia Tech 43-24, outgaining the Yellow Jackets by more than 300 yards. With their perfect start the Tigers have played themselves into The Conversation.

 

Why the North Carolina State Wolfpack can cover the spread

North Carolina State started this season with four straight wins, then lost consecutive close games to Louisville and Virginia Tech, but found its way back to the winning track last week with a 35-17 victory at Wake Forest. The Pack ran out to a 28-0 first-quarter lead and coasted from there, eventually outgaining the Demon Deacons 475-271, outrushing them 248-149, covering as nine-point road favorites.

On the season North Carolina State has now outgained and outrushed five of seven opponents. The Wolfpack are averaging 212 yards per game on the ground, while allowing just 107. And that's just the kind of opponent that could give Clemson a headache.

 

Smart pick

The Tigers are riding high after last week's blowout, while North Carolina State is rather quietly putting together a pretty good team itself. And this is the Wolfpack's chance at a signature victory for head coach Dave Doeren. Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson will be a handful, but the smart choice here is with the homecoming underdog.

 

Betting trends

North Carolina State is 8-2 SU and ATS in its last 10 games.

Clemson is 10-0 SU in its last 10 games.

Clemson is 3-8 ATS in its last 11 games in October.

 

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

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West Virginia Mountaineers vs. TCU Horned Frogs Betting Odds, Football Pick

The underdog is 3-0 against the spread in the three West Virginia vs. TCU games since those teams joined the Big 12 three seasons ago; the first two meetings went to overtime, and last year's game was decided by a field goal at the buzzer. The championship-minded Horned Frogs host the upset-minded Mountaineers Thursday night in Fort Worth.

 

Point spread: The Horned Frogs opened as 14.5-point favorites, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark (line updates and matchup report).

College football pick, via Odds Shark computer: 49.4-25.6 Horned Frogs

 

Why the West Virginia Mountaineers can cover the spread

West Virginia began this season well enough, with three straight victories, then lost two tough games in a row to ranked Oklahoma and Oklahoma State outfits. Two weeks ago, the Mountaineers lost their third straight game to a ranked team, at Baylor 62-38, then had last week off.

WVU, as a three-touchdown underdog, only trailed the Bears by 10 points at 34-24 well into the third quarter before letting things slip away. Mountaineers quarterback Skyler Howard kept his team in the game with four touchdown passes, but he also threw a key red-zone interception in the first half.

Earlier this month, West Virginia lost to the Sooners, 44-24, but that was a three-point game late into the third quarter. The Mountaineers then fell in overtime to the Cowboys, 33-26, after rallying from a 15-point halftime deficit. If it can move the chains, control some clock with its running game and keep the TCU offense off the field, West Virginia could keep this game close, too.

 

Why the TCU Horned Frogs can cover the spread

TCU is 7-0 and part of the College Football Playoff conversation following its 45-21 victory at Iowa State two weeks ago. The Frogs then had last week off.

TCU spotted the Cyclones an early 21-14 lead and still came back to cover as a three-touchdown favorite, scoring the last 31 points of the game. The Frogs piled up 621 yards of offense on ISU, as quarterback Trevone Boykin enhanced his Heisman chances by connecting on 27 of 32 throws for 436 yards and four touchdowns, running for 74 yards and another score.

The 45 points it scored against Iowa State was actually TCU's lowest total since Week 1, when it only scored 23 in a win over Minnesota. After that, the Frogs hit the 50-point mark five times in a row.

 

Smart pick

The Horned Frogs may well win this game, but its defense has given up 840 yards over the last two games. And West Virginia has outrushed four of its last five opponents. Also, playing at home means TCU is probably dealing with a slightly inflated spread. Take the Mountaineers here, plus the points.

 

Betting trends

The total has gone under in 12 of West Virginia's last 15 games.

West Virginia is 2-10 ATS in its last 12 games in October.

TCU is 14-6 ATS in its last 20 games.

 

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

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