NCAA Football

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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Georgia Bulldogs vs. Florida Gators Betting Odds, College Football Pick

Florida is a moneymaker so far this season, going 5-2 against the spread, while Georgia is acting like a pickpocket, going just 2-5 ATS. In a game that could decide who wins the SEC East, the Gators battle the Bulldogs at the big cocktail party in Jacksonville Saturday afternoon.

 

Point spread: The Gators 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: 39.8-25.4 Bulldogs

 

Why the Georgia Bulldogs can cover the spread

UGA snapped a two-game losing streak last time out, beating Missouri two weeks ago 9-6. The 'Dawgs had last week off.

Georgia outgained the Tigers 298-164, outrushed them 120-21 and won time of possession by a lopsided 39-21 margin. But the Bulldogs had to settle for three field goals on excursions inside the Missouri red zone and missed another short attempt. Nonetheless, the victory kept Georgia's hopes of a division title alive, following consecutive losses to Alabama and Tennessee.

 

Why the Florida Gators can cover the spread

After starting this season 6-0, Florida suffered its first loss last time out, that 35-28 decision at LSU two weeks ago. The Gators also had last week off.

Florida led the Tigers early 7-0, fell down by two touchdowns at the half and rallied to tie the game at 28-28 in the third quarter. But the Gators gave up what turned out to be the winning score on a fake field goal early in the fourth.

Just before that, the Gators won at Missouri 21-3, holding the Tigers to just 257 total yards of offense, covering as six-point favorites. Just before that, they beat Ole Miss 38-10, allowing 328 yards, winning that game outright as six-point home dogs. Just before that, they rallied to stun Tennessee 28-27. And just before that, they beat Kentucky 14-9, giving up just 241 yards.

Florida isn't wowing anybody on offense, but its defense ranks in the top 20 in the country in several key categories.

 

Smart pick

Georgia lost running back Nick Chubb to a knee injury, but replacement Sony Michel has run for 232 yards over the last two games. And the 'Dawgs defense is as good as the Gators defense. So despite the ATS records so far, the smart choice in this spot is UGA.

 

Betting trends

Florida is 5-2 straight up and 6-1 ATS in its last seven games on the road.

Florida is 8-2 ATS in its last 10 games.

Georgia is 14-6 SU in its last 20 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

Oklahoma State Cowboys vs. Texas Tech Red Raiders Betting Odds, Football Pick

Oklahoma State owns a nice little run in its series with Texas Tech, winning the last six meetings in a row and going 5-1 against the spread. The Cowboys shoot to stay undefeated and tied for the lead in the Big 12 when they visit Lubbock to run with the Red Raiders Saturday afternoon.

 

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

College football pick, via Odds Shark computer: 37.1-35.1 Cowboys

 

Why the Oklahoma State Cowboys can cover the spread

OSU just ran its winning streak to nine games, stretching back to last season, with a 58-10 romp over Kansas last week, covering as a 33-point home favorite. The Cowboys scored less than three minutes into the game, led 28-0 before the Jayhawks hit the board, then secured the cash by shutting out Kansas in the second half. Oklahoma State outgained the Jayhawks by over 350 yards and outrushed them 202-30, but then again, it was Kansas.

Two weeks ago the Cowboys outlasted West Virginia in overtime 33-26, even though the Mountaineers outgained and outrushed them. But that was the first time that had happened this season to OSU.

On the season the Cowboys are averaging 480 yards per game; Texas Tech is giving up 560 yards per game. Sounds like a good chance for Oklahoma State to put up some points.

 

Why the Texas Tech Red Raiders can cover the spread

The Raiders are 5-3 SU and 4-3-1 ATS this season and had won two straight games but lost last week at Oklahoma, 63-27. Texas Tech, as a 15-point road dog, had the spread pushed late into the third quarter but ran out of gas and allowed the Sooners to score the last 21 points of the game. Tech came up with 436 yards of offense on the Oklahoma defense, 183 on the ground, but quarterback Patrick Mahomes threw four interceptions, which proved costly.

Two weeks ago the Red Raiders won at Kansas 30-20, while just before that they put up 66 in a victory over Iowa State. And earlier this season they scored 35 against Baylor, 52 against TCU and 35 against Arkansas. So Tech has the ability to go punch-for-punch with quality foes.

 

Smart pick

The Raiders could be dangerous, but a porous defense is hard to hide. And playing on the road means the spread is a little more amenable to Oklahoma State. Give the points with the Cowboys.

 

Betting trends

Oklahoma State is 6-0 SU and 5-1 ATS in its last six games against Texas Tech.

The total has gone over in Texas Tech's last seven games at home.

Oklahoma State is 5-1 ATS in its last six 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

Who Could Be This Year's Ohio State?

It was late on the night of September 6, 2014, but then-No. 8 Ohio State’s season, sitting at 1-1, was over.

The vultures were circling moments after the team fell 35-21 to Virginia Tech, and the outlook for Urban Meyer’s program (and the Big Ten in general) seemed to be relegated to a nice postseason trip to a Florida bowl game if it was lucky.

The Buckeyes had just lost for the third time in their past four games and given up seven sacks to Bud Foster’s tough Hokies defense. There were calls to bench quarterback J.T. Barrett after he threw three interceptions in just his second start, and even Meyer’s personally coached unit of special teams had failed OSU that night several times, including with a 24-yard punt to set up a touchdown.

“We just gotta get a lot better. And that starts tomorrow,” Meyer said in his press conference at the time. “We had a good meeting as a team. You really find out about people. And I have a lot of confidence that some of these young people—now they're veteran guys—that are going to get better and better each week.”

As hard as it was to believe when those coachspeak words left Meyer’s mouth, that’s exactly what happened with the Buckeyes. They grew up and got better. Barrett wound up First Team All-Big Ten and the offensive line went from weakness to strength in a hurry. By the end of the season, even with third-stringer Cardale Jones behind center, there was no stopping or slowing down Ohio State.

The College Football Playoff selection committee took notice and, despite the objections of plenty, put the Buckeyes in the final four. The rest is history, with the team completing a remarkable postseason run to capture the national title.

Who can follow in their footsteps in 2015 and make a run despite suffering an early loss? Here are a few candidates:

 

Alabama

Lost to: Ole Miss 43-37

Why it can make a run: The Crimson Tide are already being anointed by some as the team to beat in the SEC even if that’s not quite true in reality. There’s plenty of talent on this squad, including tailback Derrick Henry and emerging stars like Minkah Fitzpatrick. The quarterback play has steadily improved with Jake Coker under center, and the offensive line has started to jell.

If you look at how the team plays in the second half of games, it’s clear it's getting great coaching and making great adjustments. Just as important is its schedule sets up nicely: It gets a bye before hosting LSU and then closes out November with Mississippi State, an FCS team and a bad Auburn squad.

This isn’t the Alabama we’re used to seeing, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be in the playoff.

 

Notre Dame

Lost to: Clemson 24-22

Why it can make a run: Despite dealing with nearly half of their preseason starters finding some sort of injury, the Irish have persevered and remained in firm playoff contention.

Quarterback DeShone Kizer has improved each week, and he is a threat to score in multiple ways each snap. C.J. Prosise has proved to be plenty capable of handling the rushing load, and you’d be hard-pressed to find as deep a group of pass-catchers than the team in South Bend, Indiana, has. Throw in an attacking defense led by Sheldon Day and terrific linebacker Jaylon Smith, and one can see how the team can make the playoff.

The schedule also helps this year, with the narrow loss (in a driving rainstorm) against Clemson not looking bad at all and the potential for as many as five Top 25 wins by the time December rolls around.

 

Stanford

Lost to: Northwestern 16-6

Why it can make a run: It could be argued that nobody in the country has played as well as Stanford has the past six weeks.

After listening to calls for him to change play-calling duties, head coach David Shaw has really opened things up and gotten more creative, as Stanford has scored at least 31 points in six straight. The defense is opportunistic as ever despite being fairly young in key spots, and running back Christian McCaffrey has entered the Heisman conversation by leading the FBS in all-purpose yardage by nearly 40 yards per game over his nearest competitor.

A win over Notre Dame (and likely Utah) at the end of the year would be a nice resume booster to show the committee too.

 

Oklahoma

Lost to: Texas 24-17

Why it can make a run: Anything can happen in rivalry games, but few expected the Sooners to be bullied and nearly run off the field by the Longhorns in the Red River Rivalry game at the beginning of the month. They’ve responded since then, including a very impressive throttling of Texas Tech on Saturday that showed the team did have some hope in slowing down an Air Raid offense.

Quarterback Baker Mayfield has the moxie to lead the team on a big run and win the Big 12 while it seems as though the run game is finally developing into the threat it was supposed to be coming out of fall camp.

They get TCU at home in late November as part of a three-game stretch against ranked opponents that will determine what kind of year it will be in Norman, Oklahoma. Based on the way they’ve played at times, it can’t be put past Bob Stoops winning another Big 12 title, especially considering the opening they’ve received with Seth Russell’s injury at Baylor.

 

Utah

Lost to: USC 42-24

Why it can make a run: The Utes were run off the field by the Trojans, but you’d be hard-pressed to find anybody outside of Salt Lake City who thought they could survive the Pac-12 South unscathed.

The schedule is completely manageable, and the Utes can say quarterback Travis Wilson got his turnover-filled game out of the way at the Coliseum.

They have the kind of team that coaches would love to have: They run the ball, play physical defense and are top-notch on special teams. UCLA could still be tricky in late November, but that’s at home. If the Utes win the last five games of the regular season, the Pac-12 title game will determine whether they go to the playoff. 

 

Florida

Lost to: LSU 35-28

Why it can make a run: Even being on this list should tell you how good of a job head coach Jim McElwain and his staff have done with the Gators. Because they’re in the East, the schedule sets up quite nicely for the team, and Saturday’s game against Georgia may very well be the toughest left.

The defense is fast and features one of the best defenders in the country in cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III. Quarterback remains a question mark, but Treon Harris has proved to be capable of winning games, and the skill position talent has performed well no matter who is behind center.

A fairly close road loss to LSU isn’t a bad mark against Florida at all, and beating whoever comes out of the West in Atlanta will boost its resume. It’s still crazy to see the Gators in a position to make a playoff run, but that’s exactly what they’re primed to do with a few breaks elsewhere.

You can follow Bryan Fischer on Twitter at @BryanDFischer.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Southern Cal Trojans vs. California Golden Bears Betting Odds, Football Pick

Southern Cal owns 11 consecutive victories in its Golden State rivalry with California, going 8-3 against the spread in the process. But the offensive-minded Bears will have upset in mind when they host the Trojans on Saturday afternoon in Berkeley.

 

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

College football pick, via Odds Shark computer: 35.7-29.5 Trojans

 

Why the Southern Cal Trojans can cover the spread

Southern Cal just snapped a two-game losing streak last week, knocking off previously unbeaten Utah 42-24, covering as a six-point home favorite. The Trojans trailed the Utes after one quarter 14-7, but scored 35 of the game's next 38 points to take control. USC outgained and outrushed Utah, won time of possession by a 35-25 margin, sacked Utes quarterback Travis Wilson three times and picked him off four times.

Just before that the Trojans lost at Notre Dame 41-31 and at home to Washington 17-12, even though they outgained both the Irish and Huskies. In fact, Southern Cal has outgained every opponent except one this season.

 

Why the California Golden Bears can cover the spread

Cal is coming off its poorest performance of this season, a 40-24 loss at UCLA last Thursday. The Bears fell down by 20 points in the second quarter and never recovered against a fired-up Bruins outfit.

Two weeks ago, Cal lost at Utah 30-24 in a game that wasn't decided until the final drive ended in a Bears incompletion. But Cal outgained the Utes and held on for the cover as seven-point dogs.

Prior to that the Bears had won their first five games this season, putting up some big offensive numbers along the way. Quarterback Jared Goff had an off-day against Utah, throwing five picks, but on the season has already thrown 20 touchdown passes. If it can just get a little improvement on defense Cal could be dangerous.

 

Smart pick

Southern Cal is coming off an emotional home victory over Utah, while Cal is coming off a down outing against UCLA. But college football is like a roller coaster, and emotions fluctuate from week to week. That's why the Bears are the smart pick in this spot, plus the points.

 

Betting trends

Southern Cal is 11-0 SU in its last 11 games against California.

Southern Cal is 1-6 ATS in its last seven games on the road in October.

California is 6-14 SU and 5-15 ATS in its last 20 games at home.

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Southern Cal Trojans vs. California Golden Bears Betting Odds, Football Pick

Southern Cal owns 11 consecutive victories in its Golden State rivalry with California, going 8-3 against the spread in the process. But the offensive-minded Bears will have upset in mind when they host the Trojans on Saturday afternoon in Berkeley...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Power Ranking Every Current Opening College Football Head-Coaching Job

We're only now getting through the halfway point of the 2015 college football season and already there are seven Football Bowl Subdivision jobs available. Just imagine what December will be like. 

But before we get into the coaching silly season, let's look at what is open as well as the advantages and disadvantages for each. Some jobs, like USC, are clearly in the top echelon of the sport. Others are a bit more muddled together. Recruiting grounds, money, administrative support, expectations and ability to win are all things that can close or widen gaps between jobs. 

That, and fit. Never underestimate what that can do for a head coach's job security. 

How good (or bad) are college football's open jobs right now? We power rank them in the following slides. 

Begin Slideshow

If Auburn Misses 2015 Bowl Game, Will Gus Malzahn Be on Hot Seat?

When quarterback Sean White's pass hit the turf at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium on the final play in the bottom of the fourth overtime on Saturday, it could have grounded Auburn's bowl hopes as well.

The 4-3 Tigers host suddenly-hot Ole Miss this weekend, travel to Texas A&M the following week and then host Georgia before the only sure-fire win left on the schedule (Idaho) and the Iron Bowl vs. Alabama.

Auburn needs to spring an upset to earn a bowl game and, more importantly, those valuable bowl practices for an evolving defense and its young quarterback.

What if it doesn't happen?

The Tigers were picked to win the conference at SEC media days in August, and a sub-.500 season would place head coach Gus Malzahn on the hot seat in 2016.

After all, the defense ranks last in the conference in total defense (430.6 yards per game), is awful on third downs (47.4 percent) and has struggled mightily ever since "Buck" Carl Lawson left the first half of the season opener with a hip injury.

That shouldn't happen.

Not with the talent on Auburn's roster and the presence of first-year defensive coordinator Will Muschamp, who was supposed to be the magic potion that fixed the team's major lingering problem.

There's been some progress, particularly last week in the 54-46 loss to Arkansas. But not enough to get Auburn over the hump.

"I thought we've improved," Muschamp said, according to Charles Goldberg of AuburnTigers.com. "We improved a lot playing the run against a very good running team. We battled our butt off, we competed hard in the game and to get ourselves to 24-24 at the end of the game. 

"Statistically, after regulation, it's probably one of our better games, too, so there's a lot of improvement."

The offensive issues fall squarely on Malzahn.

While the struggles of quarterback Jeremy Johnson—particularly his inability to read defenses—surprised virtually everybody, the fact that he was woefully unprepared for the starting job despite being groomed for it for two full seasons falls squarely on Malzahn's shoulders.

That's not going to cost him his job this year.

After all, things are much different at Auburn now as opposed to when Gene Chizik lost his job two years after winning the 2010 national title.

Auburn was in the College Football Playoff mix for more than two months last year, has started to generate some offensive momentum with White taking the snaps and redshirt sophomore Peyton Barber toting the rock, and is a far cry from that 2012 team that got shut out in its final two SEC games of the season.

"We're starting to get into a little bit of a groove," Malzahn said on his radio show on Monday night, according to Goldberg. "That comes with explosive plays, and the last two games we've had more explosive plays. When that happens, we get tempo and can get into our pace. The good thing offensively is we have a lot of room to grow."

Ideally for Malzahn, that growth will continue, Auburn will win at least one of its "toss-up games" in addition to Idaho and that growth will be accelerated during bowl practice.

If it doesn't, though, 2016 could get sketchy.

This is the mulligan year, and if the Tigers miss a bowl game, Malzahn should be coaching for his job when toe meets leather next year.

According to 247Sports, Auburn has had top-10 recruiting classes in each of Malzahn's three recruiting seasons, and it will get White, Barber and a talented group of skill players back. It also has plenty of potential on defense, and that potential should be realized in the second year under Muschamp.

There's no excuse for not contending in the SEC West.

 

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Statistics are courtesy of cfbstats.com.

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and national college football video analyst for Bleacher Report, as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on SiriusXM 83. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

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How Miami's Recruiting Is Impacted by Firing Al Golden

The Miami Hurricanes opted to make a dramatic midseason move Sunday after an embarrassing 58-0 loss to Clemson, firing head coach Al Golden.

Golden, who arrived in Coral Gables from Temple University in 2010, finished above .500 twice in four full seasons with the school. He lost more matchups than he won against ACC opponents, capped off by Saturday's devastating defeat. 

Miami Director of Athletics Blake James released a public statement shortly after the decision to name assistant Larry Scott interim head coach.

"We have a proud tradition of excellence at Miami, not just in football but in all sports, and we want to compete for ACC and national championships," James said. "I simply believe that now is the time to bring the Hurricane Family together and rally behind our young men.”

It's been a while since Miami legitimately joined the national championship chase. The Hurricanes haven't claimed a conference title since leaving the Big East in 2004, finishing no better than 9-3 during the past decade.

Clearly, this a program at a crossroads right now. You can be sure that's weighed heavily on recruiting efforts.

Doubt has swirled around Golden's regime for years now, and a 6-7 result last season created more speculation than ever. Despite ever-present rumblings about Miami's future, both in the short and long term, the Hurricanes managed to maintain solid momentum with prospects.

Golden signed the ACC's third-best recruiting class last February and actually held the top overall spot in national 2016 composite class rankings for a significant stretch of this cycle (it now rates 11th). Miami reached 20 commitments well before other programs, though the quality-vs.-quantity argument certainly came into play for a group loaded with 3-star recruits. 

Repercussions of the coaching change reverberated immediately on the recruiting trail.

Longtime Hurricanes wide receiver commit Ahmmon Richards, who has 37 touchdown receptions since 2014, per MaxPreps, backed off his verbal pledge Sunday:

Other Miami commits, such as prized in-state wide receiver Sam Bruce, rallied around the program.

"I didn't commit to no damn coach! I committed to the U," he tweeted, per CanesWarning.com.

While the Miami brand still resonates with recruits, it's undoubtedly lost some of the luster that once shined bright a decade ago. The program is just 60-47 since Larry Coker lost his job, failing to win a single bowl game under the direction of Golden and Randy Shannon, who is now a Florida Gators assistant.

The challenge is twofold for Miami. The Hurricanes must convince prospects to trust in this process moving forward, even though the man who will provide that sales pitch probably isn't on campus yet.

For his faults as a game-day coach, Golden at least held accountability on the recruiting trail. His staff is still in place for now, but rapport between the team and young targets will be tested in the months before national signing day, especially as assistants continue their careers elsewhere:

Bruce, who tweeted the message above, also shifted attention to how Miami will handle holdovers during an expansive program change. He seemed to stress the importance that Hurricanes wide receivers coach Kevin Beard carried in his recruitment process:

The pressure is on Miami to hit a home run with its next hire following two lackluster tenures. For recruits who plan to arrive on campus in January, it's pivotal for administrators to find the right fit fast.

"I'm just curious really to see who they bring in and how they change things. I only have a few months to make a final decision since I'm graduating early, so I'm hoping my questions are answered soon," Hurricanes linebacker commit Zach McCloud told Corey Bender of Scout.com.

The waiting game will likely inspire multiple Miami pledges to explore alternative collegiate options and line up campus visits. Prospects would be wise to at least develop a firm Plan B in case they aren't on the same page with whichever coach takes over. 

Indianapolis Colts assistant Rob Chudzinski, Memphis head coach Justin Fuente and former Miami head coach Butch Davis are among the names being floated around early as possible candidates. Plenty others, outlandish and realistic alike, will certainly emerge as things evolve.

Michigan's quick ascension under Jim Harbaugh has translated into a top-10 class on the 2016 recruiting trail, so don't underestimate the potential for immediate results if Miami locates its ideal new leader. 

The Hurricanes are centrally located in one of America's most fertile recruiting regions, which makes this job an attractive opportunity for any coach who appreciates the perks of capitalizing on an excellent local talent base.

High school standouts were barely through kindergarten when Miami last enjoyed glory on a national stage. The goal of returning to prominence has fallen far short under the past two coaching staffs, pushing those successes further distant in the rearview mirror.

Miami's new coach must do more than improve the fortunes of a football team. He'll need to change the narrative with recruits, offering opportunities to become building blocks for a proud program that is forced to start from scratch once again.

 

Tyler Donohue is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. All player ratings are courtesy of 247Sports' composite rankings. Follow Tyler via Twitter: @TDsTake.

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Week 9 Will Be True Test of Jim Harbaugh's Leadership at Michigan

Asked at his Monday press conference about the controversial ejection of linebacker Joe Bolden for targeting that preceded Michigan State's improbable win over his team the last time it played, Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh opted for a unique analogy.

"Not into the 'if this, if that' type of scenarios," Harbaugh said. "If worms had machine guns, then birds wouldn’t be scared of them."

Harbaugh couldn't recall whether he got the line from a book, a movie or, what's most likely, his own imagination. But regardless of where the unlikely comparison came from, it's served as an overriding message to the Wolverines heading into this weekend's crucial matchup with Minnesota, which will play a large role in defining the trajectory of the remainder of Michigan's season.

Because for as heartbreaking as the Wolverines' loss to the Spartans was, with Jalen Watts-Jackson returning a fumbled punt as time expired to give Michigan State a 27-23 victory in a game that was seemingly all but over, Michigan still has—at least—five games left in the 2015 season, and potentially plenty to play for.

And while Harbaugh may not be into "if this, if that" hypotheticals, it's not hard to imagine the path these Wolverines would be following if they were still under the direction their past leadership. In each of the last two years with former head coach Brady Hoke at the helm, Michigan's seasons were marked with obvious turning points, each of which resulted in apparent tailspins, as evidenced by the ensuing results.

Two years ago, it came by way of a 43-40 overtime loss to Penn State after what was an otherwise promising 5-0 start to the 2013 campaign. Those Wolverines, however, responded by losing five of their final seven games to close the season, including a 31-14 drubbing by Kansas State in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl to seal a 7-6 record on the year.

In 2014, Michigan's first speed bump came much sooner, with the Wolverines getting shut out by Notre Dame in a 31-0 blowout in just the second week of the season. Michigan never truly bounced back, losing three of its next four games and three of its final five, including back-to-back losses to Maryland and Ohio State to close its 5-7 season—Hoke's last in Ann Arbor.

With the dramatic fashion in which the Wolverines lost to Michigan State two weeks ago—which was followed by either a timely or untimely bye week depending on your point of view—Michigan could once again see its season take one of two paths.

Under Harbaugh, however, the Wolverines' prospects are much more promising than they were with Hoke, and the first-year Michigan head coach said he liked what he saw from his team in practice during last week's bye.

"It was very sharp and guys were mellowing out," Harbaugh said. "Felt like we improved from where we were on Tuesday and Wednesday."

Not that Harbaugh would state it publicly if the case was otherwise, but at the very least, the former Stanford and San Francisco 49ers head coach has a track record when it comes to his teams bouncing back. In Harbaugh's first three seasons with the 49ers from 2011-2013, his teams lost consecutive games just twice, with San Francisco's 8-8 campaign—which included four losses in its final five games—in 2014 looking more like an outlier than anything else.

But while the NFL game is different from the college one, Harbaugh's resume with the Cardinal also speaks for itself, as his teams lost consecutive games just once in his final two seasons in Palo Alto. In perhaps the most analogous situation to where the Wolverines currently find themselves, Harbaugh's last Stanford team responded to losing a Top 10 matchup to Oregon in the fifth week of the season by reeling off wins in its final eight games, closing the 2010 campaign with a 12-1 record and a victory over Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl.

It may not be an apples-to-apples comparison, but this Michigan team certainly has a lot left to play for, and despite already having two losses on its record, the team isn't necessarily out of the picture for the College Football Playoff.

Harbaugh, however, isn't concerning himself with what remains past this weekend's go-round with the Golden Gophers and the battle for the Little Brown Jug, which Harbaugh remembers well from his playing days as a quarterback with the Wolverines.

"One of the great trophies," Harbaugh said of the reward for the annual meeting between Michigan and Minnesota. "I've always remembered it that way and we'll approach it the same way—that we want it."

Should Michigan—which still possesses the nation's top-ranked defense—beat the Gophers, it could be accomplishing more than obtaining a trophy and ridding itself of the sour taste of its loss to the Spartans. With Big Ten East front-runners Ohio State and Michigan State still yet to play one another and the Wolverines' annual battle with the Buckeyes still ahead, Michigan still has a chance to play itself into conference championship contention.

"We’re looking to define our season over the next number of games that we play," Harbaugh said.

The opportunity to do just that starts Saturday.

If Michigan win out—well, let's stop right there. After all, we already know how Harbaugh feels about hypotheticals.

 

Ben Axelrod is Bleacher Report's Big Ten lead writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BenAxelrod. Unless noted otherwise, all quotes were obtained firsthand. All statistics courtesy of CFBStats.com. Odds provided by Odds Shark. Recruiting rankings courtesy of 247Sports.

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5-Star Isaac Nauta Discusses Official Visits, Criteria for Making Final Decision

BRADENTON, Fla. — With a little more than two months left before he will enroll early at the school of his choice, 5-star tight end Isaac Nauta is still sorting through his options.

He’s already taken official visits to Georgia, Michigan and Ole Miss. He's slated to visit both Alabama and TCU next month. His decision will seemingly come down to those five schools.

Coaches from four of his five favorites—all except TCU—were in attendance for IMG Academy's 28-20 win over Paramus Catholic (New Jersey) last weekend.

The 6’4”, 237-pounder admits his decision will be tough, but he’s identified a couple of factors that will be critical in picking the best school for him.

“I just try to break it down to two simple things. It’s where I get a gut feeling and then the other one is just being around good people,” Nauta told Bleacher Report. “Every school has good facilities and good coaches. It’s being around good people, that’s what makes college fun. I’d like to go to a place where they win a little bit too.”

One thing he’s paid close attention to on his visits is how each school is using the tight end.

“I just want to see what they do with the tight end,” Nauta said. “No matter what [coaches] tell you, coaches aren’t going to change their scheme for you. If they tell me they are going to use the tight end, I’d love to see it on the field.”

In the offseason, the ninth-ranked player in the 2016 recruiting class left his home state of Georgia prior to transferring to Florida powerhouse IMG Academy. The Bulldogs have been the perceived leaders since he backed off an early pledge to Florida State in the summer.

He was in attendance for the Bulldogs’ home loss to Alabama. While the Bulldogs have faded after a strong start, he admits that he’s very comfortable with the staff and the direction the program is headed in.

“Obviously, for them, after that Alabama game it’s been a little bit of a struggle,” Nauta explained. "They had a chance to tie it up with Tennessee, but they couldn’t make a play at the end. They are struggling a little bit, but overall, I like the program. I like the coaching staff over there. I think they have a good plan, but it’s just a matter of getting the guys.”

Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh—who was present during last weekend's game between IMG and Paramus—has made Nauta a priority in this cycle. While Nauta saw the Wolverines' shocking loss to rival Michigan State in person, he likes Harbaugh’s history of using the tight end as a featured option in his offense.

“Coach Harbaugh, he’s really big on using the tight end,” Nauta said. “He’s proven it everywhere he’s been, whether that was in the NFL or at Stanford. He’s always used the tight end and it’s a pro scheme too, so that will prepare you for the league.”

He also admits that the visit to Ann Arbor exceeded his expectations.

“Besides [the loss], it was a great visit,” Nauta said. “They showed me a really good time. I knew I would like it up there, but I didn’t think I would like it as much as I did.”

One lure to Ole Miss is the fact that he’s currently playing with 5-star quarterback and current Rebels pledge Shea Patterson, who has been in his ear about teaming up again at the next level.

“I’ve gotten to build a little bit of chemistry with [4-star receiver] Drake [Davis] and Isaac over the summer and the other guys since I’ve been here,” Patterson said. “It’s been cool really. I just try to have fun with it. Recruiting can be stressful, so I think it’s important to keep that levity with it when we joke around about it.”

Nauta is also looking forward to his final two visits to Alabama and TCU.

“With Alabama, I’ve never been there for a game,” Nauta said. “I just want to see the game-day atmosphere there. I want to see if it’s a place I could live for four years. I do know that they use their tight end, just because of what they have done in the past with them. Obviously, their offense hasn’t changed with [head coach Nick] Saban being there. With TCU, that’s a potent offense, so I just want to see how they would use the tight end if I were to go there.”

Nauta also noted that the official visits are critical in helping him make his final decision—which is scheduled to come during the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in January.

With only a few games left in his high school career, he also notes how his offseason transfer to IMG is preparing him for the jump that awaits him in a few months.

“It’s been great to go against all of these guys on a daily basis,” Nauta said. “Sometimes we will score in two plays, and the windows for opportunity are so small because we’ve got so many good guys. But that makes it more challenging and more competitive, and that’s the way it’s going to be in college.”

 

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

 

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Meet Baylor's New Playoff Hope, Quarterback Jarrett Stidham

Back in February 2015, as a part of Baylor's national signing day, head coach Art Briles described Jarrett Stidham with a few adjectives.

Dependable. Accurate. Intelligent. Competitive. Great words to follow any quarterback, let alone an incoming freshman.

Eight months later, that dependable, accurate, intelligent, competitive quarterback Briles recruited officially will take over starting duties for the No. 2-ranked Bears. As Seth Russell prepares to sit out with a season-ending neck injury, Baylor's offense is now in the hands of a 19-year-old true freshman.

A 19-year-old true freshman who the people around him say was built for this very moment.

"Everybody's talking about it here," said Ryan Cox, assistant director of athletic communications at Tarleton State University, located in Stidham's hometown of Stephenville, Texas. "We were at a local diner, and Baylor was playing on TV, but somebody wanted to watch something different. You don't watch anything else when Baylor's playing, especially when Jarrett's playing.

"Everybody here is rooting for him. We know what he can do. There's not a better situation in the country where a top-five team can have a backup come in and won't lose a step."

On Nov. 5, let the games—and the run for a national championship with a young upstart calling plays—officially begin.

 

'He's ready'

Russell's injury was one that hit Baylor hard, as he was the leader of an offense that has scored at least 45 points in all seven games and 60 or more points five times this season. Russell threw for 2,104 yards and 29 touchdowns and also rushed for 402 yards and six scores this season. Baylor's offense produced mind-boggling numbers under Russell, averaging 686.1 yards and 61.1 points per game.

And now with Russell sidelined, the torch has been passed slightly prematurely. The good news for Baylor: Stidham's stats as a freshman during mop time have been phenomenal. Stidham, who has appeared in all seven games, has completed 24 of 28 passes (86 percent) for 331 yards and six touchdowns.

Dependable. Accurate. Intelligent. Competitive.

"The thing about it, he's a capable player," Briles said in a Monday conference call. "He's ready."

Stidham's high school resume tells a lot. He was the nation's No. 2 dual-threat quarterback in the 2015 class behind Texas A&M's Kyler Murray. He accounted for 3,903 total yards (2,934 passing) and 50 touchdowns (35 passing) in a shortened senior season and for 3,434 total yards (2,613 passing) and 44 touchdowns (30 passing) as a junior at Stephenville.

As a sophomore, Stidham backed up current Texas State quarterback Tyler Jones and spent most of his time at wide receiver. He caught 11 touchdowns and helped Stephenville win a state championship under Joseph Gillespie, who now coaches linebackers at Tulsa.

Playing receiver early in his high school varsity career may have been one of the best things for Stidham. It's his ability to learn the receiver position that may serve as a huge advantage to connect with Baylor's star-studded receiver group, consisting of Corey Coleman, KD Cannon and Jay Lee.

There's chemistry with Stidham and his receivers. He showed what he could do during the summer of 2014, when he—then a Texas Tech commit—competed in the Elite 11 finals and not only dazzled those in attendance, but also pushed for Elite 11 MVP honors.

"Jarrett was a huge favorite of the staff last year," said Brian Stumpf, vice president of football events for Student Sports and one of the leaders of the Elite 11. "He has tremendous makeup in terms of composure, disposition, competitive nature and a feel for the position.

"Coming out of the [Elite 11], you looked at Jarrett as a kid who, if he continues to mature and fill out physically and avoids major injury or non-football issues, he has a chance to be as good as anyone in that class."

That chance now comes in a matter of days, on the road against Kansas State.

 

Competitive, yet collected

Exactly one year ago, Stidham had successful surgery on a broken throwing hand. He made a full recovery in time to join Baylor for spring workouts after graduating high school in December 2014.

Nothing seems to stop Stidham when he's on a mission to achieve a goal. That was the attitude he built with his teammates at Stephenville, according to 2017 running back Kaegun Williams, the nation's No. 5 all-purpose back who played two seasons with Stidham before he transferred to Cedar Hill (Texas) High School.

"He was a really fierce competitor," Williams said. "He tried to do whatever it took to get the win. The year he hurt his hand, you could tell he tried to play through the pain. He never wore it on his face, but I think he started to realize if he kept on playing, he could hurt the team more. He didn't want to do that."

His competitive nature is one of the reasons why he attracted more than 20 offers. Cox, who covered Stidham's games as a freelance writer before accepting the Tarleton State position, said it'll be the "three C's" that'll keep him in the limelight at Baylor.

"He's calm, cool and collected," Cox said. "He never gets too high or low; he's always on an even level. He knows what he's supposed to do on the field, and he goes out and executes."

It helps having Art Briles and offensive coordinator Kendal Briles in Stidham's corner. All three have ties to the city of Stephenville. Art Briles was the head coach at Stephenville High School from 1988-99, where he won four state championships. Kendal Briles was the starting quarterback for Stephenville's 1999 state-champion team.

"I think with Art Briles being a Stephenville guy, they had connections already," Cox said. "Art's going to help him along the way. It's a big situation for [Stidham], but with all of the support around him, he'll be just fine."

Stidham's early graduation proved to be a blessing in disguise, as he learned the system during spring workouts. Stidham's performance against Kansas showed that if pushed into the starting spot, he'd be ready. He completed nine of 10 passes for 117 yards and two touchdowns in a 66-7 win. His first pass as a college quarterback came in the season opener against SMU, and it went for a 42-yard touchdown to Chris Platt.

In short, Stidham may have some bumps early, but he's ready for the challenge overall. And there's a ton of confidence in the freshman among the coaching staff.

"He's beyond years, maturity wise," Art Briles said. "He doesn't seem like a freshman, act like a freshman or perform like a freshman. He's a guy who's instinctively and athletically ready to work.

"Any time you can step on the field in game situations, it certainly gives you some comfort. He's a guy we felt all along would be in line to be a productive player for us. If it's time to help the team right now for him, then that's what he's ready to do, and that's what our team will rally around."

 

Developing cohesiveness

Williams describes Stidham as a "very strong leader," someone who won't have a problem garnering respect from the upperclassmen.

"He's a leader vocally, and he shows it through his game," Williams said. "He took me under his wing and helped me to get established into the offense. He made our group successful, and I think he can contribute to the team by doing the same for Baylor."

Having the bye week to prepare for Kansas State will be huge for Stidham. Art Briles said the extra time will allow Stidham to get extra reps with center Kyle Fuller, and the line will experience a chance in play-calling cadence.

To add, Stidham will have more opportunity to throw with the first-team offense. He's been used to throwing with the second team. Developing cohesiveness with a new group of receivers, running backs and offensive linemen could mean the difference in Baylor remaining a national title contender or a team fighting to stay in the Top 25 poll.

"It makes all the difference in the world, especially with the offensive line we have and the dynamic skill people involved," Art Briles said. "It certainly takes a lot of pressure off that position."

Stumpf doesn't expect a major dropoff with Stidham taking over starting duties. He felt that Stidham had a chance to finish his career statistically as "an all-time NCAA great" if he was put into a starting role early.

"He's underrated athletically," Stumpf said, "and having played wide receiver as a sophomore, he is a kid who you can call a football player, not just a quarterback."

If Stidham can be that go-to playmaker for Baylor that he was at Stephenville, the Bears will stay in contention for a national championship. It's his time to either sink or swim.

And many aren't expecting him to sink.

"You're never concerned with a player like Jarrett," Cox said. "He's got the full package from ability to mindset to leadership. He makes players better around him.

"This is his time. The people in Stephenville know he'll be ready."

 

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

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SEC Football Q&A: Is Mark Richt Really a Possibility at Miami?

The coaching silly season in college football has been accelerated this year, thanks to the sudden dismissal of former USC head coach Steve Sarkisian, the resignation of South Carolina legend Steve Spurrier and the recent departure of former Miami head coach Al Golden.

Those three rather high-profile jobs opening up, along with Maryland, Illinois and a high-upside group of five job in UCF has made late October feel like mid-December in the coaching speculation business.

Where will Miami turn? That question along with the prospect of the SEC being left out of the College Football Playoff are addressed in Bleacher Report's weekly SEC Q&A.

 

While this may get confused with the asinine "Mark Richt is on the hot seat" talk, let's first try to separate the two conversations.

Georgia head coach Mark Richt isn't on the hot seat, isn't getting fired and isn't coaching for his job down the stretch in 2015. He just got raises for himself and his staff, completed the tough task of getting an indoor practice facility approved and, while not a national championship contender, is still in the conversation in the SEC East.

He is a former Miami player, though, and knows the sunshine state quite well after working on the Florida State staff from 1990-2000.

Because of that, his name has been bandied about in the Miami talk, including from USA Today's Dan Wolken.

Unless some serious tension arises between himself and the Georgia administration—you know, like last winter when he played hardball and won in the days leading up to the Belk Bowl win over Louisville—there's no reason to think he becomes so unhappy that he takes a step down to a lesser job like Miami.

Make no mistake, that's what Miami is.

The Hurricanes haven't won 10 or more games in a season since joining the ACC in 2004, don't have facilities comparable to Georgia and whoever takes the job will have similar pressure to what currently exists in Athens.

Why would he move?

Richt is going to be mentioned because of his ties. But as Wolken mentioned in his list of candidates, that's about the only reason to consider him a candidate.

 

I generally don't like to speculate about specific College Football Playoff scenarios because it's almost impossible to know the landscape of the sport once the season wraps up.

But this is a rather simple one.

Yes, one-loss Notre Dame would get the nod over a two-loss SEC champion seven days a week and twice on Sunday.

Think about all Notre Dame has gone through this year. They lost running back Greg Bryant to academics before the season, lost his replacement Tarean Folston to injury during the season, moved C.J. Prosise to full-time running back and all he's done is rush for 922 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Malik Zaire out? No problem. All sophomore DeShone Kizer has done is throw 10 touchdowns and only four picks in a pinch while keeping the Irish in the mix.

Those are just a few of the six season-ending injuries suffered by Fighting Irish players this year. Through it all, they're still 6-1 with a close road loss to undefeated Clemson on its resume, has a solid win over USC and would need to get by ranked foes Temple, Pitt and Stanford to finish as a one-loss team.

Would a two-loss SEC champ have a tougher schedule? I'm not even sure at this point based on the inconsistent nature of some of the middle-of-the-pack teams in the conference like Tennessee, Georgia, Texas A&M and Arkansas. 

Even if the hypothetical two-loss SEC champ's schedule is tougher, it's not nearly enough to make up for that second loss—which wouldn't be on Notre Dame's resume.

 

Definitely Auburn.

Texas A&M (5-2) and Kentucky (4-3) should go to bowl games based on their future schedules. The only sure-fire win left on the docket for Auburn (4-3) is a home tilt with Idaho during the next-to-last week of the season.

Could the Tigers upset the Aggies, Georgia or Ole Miss this weekend? Sure. 

The offense looks much better with Sean White at quarterback. As long as the wide receivers hold on to the football—which evidently is a lot to ask after last week's performance vs. Arkansas—they should at least be competitive in those games.

Make no mistake, though. They would be upsets.

The good news for the Tigers is that "Buck" Carl Lawson, who has been out ever since the second quarter of the season opener vs. Louisville, could be back soon to help boost a defense that's been horrendous this season, per Tiger Talk (h/t AL.com). The Tigers rank last in the SEC in total defense (430.6 YPG), third-down defense (47.42 percent) and red-zone touchdowns allowed (21).

Head coach Gus Malzahn's crew needs a win to earn a bowl game and, more importantly, bowl practices. This week for Ole Miss would be a good time to do it, so that it can also gain a little momentum for the stretch run in November.

 

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Statistics are courtesy of cfbstats.com.

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and national college football video analyst for Bleacher Report, as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on SiriusXM 83. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

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College Football Playoff Notebook: The Calm Before the Storm

This seems like the appropriate time to remind you that the College Football Playoff selection committee despises your favorite college football team. 

It’s the lack of quality wins, the lack of defense, the lack of offense, the turnover differential, the analytics it probably made up an hour ago on a cocktail napkin, the uniforms and the way the mascot carries himself or herself on the sidelines. All of it.

And so, when you settle into your favorite chair next Tuesday evening for the reveal of the selection committee’s first Top 25 of the year, with your cold beverage in one hand and your outrage cannon in the other, just know that this is personal. This can be the only explanation.

Well, that or the reality that picking a College Football Playoff at the end of October is an impossible task.

In fact, as the selection committee revs its engines on another season, keep in mind what next Tuesday evening’s broadcast is all about: Money. Lots and lots of money. 

It’s about generating interest in college football’s still-new postseason, which it will most certainly do. It’s about selling ad space on ESPN, which it will most certainly do. It’s about generating just enough controversy to spike storylines that can carry us through Thanksgiving, all the way until early December, when the actual College Football Playoff is revealed.

Oh, it will do that.

With these simple truths fully accounted for, it is impossible not to be supercharged for the playoff reboot. This process—for all of its faults and the unknown—is still wildly exciting. Despite knowing the distance still to travel, each and every Top 25 released—starting on November 3—will be required viewing. It’s intoxicating.

Deep down, we know a ranking this far in advance means little to nothing—and yet we can’t stay away. Slowly but surely, the interest will amplify. November will somehow morph into December, and these money-grabs—I mean early rankings, sorry—will mean everything.

It will be heartbreaking for some. Infuriating for others. A tease for most. For a small number of fanbases six weeks from now, it will be pure joy. 

And it all starts next Tuesday. See you then.

As for other observations on the playoff, here is the final notebook before we do it live.

 

Arrow Pointing Up: Clemson

In all of my years watching football, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a more lopsided game between two conference foes than what unfolded between Clemson and Miami. That was demolition at its finest. It cost Al Golden his job.

For Clemson, this colossal drubbing was a statement of sorts. And with the selection committee readying its rankings, the Tigers showcased talent, depth and, above all, balance.

Granted, burying this Miami team in a pile of points isn’t exactly the ultimate resume boost. But the way they went about it was. This was a clinic. 

With the ACC’s strength suddenly in question—and Florida State’s loss to Georgia Tech did not help matters on Saturday—these style points won’t hurt in the eyes of the committee. If the Tigers keep this up, there will be zero questions about resume or whether they belong in college football’s top four regardless of what its primary competition does next.

 

Arrow Pointing Down: Utah

The Utes’ College Football Playoff hopes did not die in Los Angeles. But, in falling 42-24 to USC, the caravan hit a flat tire. Well, maybe four flat tires. And the bumper fell off.

While the hype is not nearly as popular as it was a week ago, don’t jump off just yet.

The good news for Utah is that there is still ample time to repair matters. The other bit of good news is that Kyle Whittingham’s team is still a game clear of UCLA in the Pac-12 South. With games against Oregon State, Washington, Arizona, UCLA and Colorado remaining, Utah is poised to run the table until the Pac-12 Championship Game.

The problem now, however, is that the room for error is essentially erased. And perhaps the other unfair reality is that Utah simply does not have the brand recognition to get the benefit of the doubt. I hate this part of this exercise, but it’s undeniable.

 

Updated College Football Playoff Projection

You don't have to wait until next Tuesday to be outraged. Here is my updated College Football Playoff projection, here for all your outrage needs.

For the record, Stanford is giving me the most fits not being involved. If David Shaw's team finishes out without another loss, it will have a fascinating case in the current climate. Heck, given the chaos still to come, the Cardinal could be near the top by the time the dust clears. For now, however, Stanford is on the outside.

LSU is also very much in the mix as well, of course. A win over Alabama on the road in Week 10 would change everything.

Let the outrage commence.

  1. Ohio State
  2. Baylor
  3. Clemson
  4. Alabama

 

The Seth Russell Effect: Now What for Baylor?

On Monday, Baylor announced that starting quarterback Seth Russell would miss the rest of the season. Russell suffered a neck injury on Saturday, and it will require season-ending surgery.

“Seth exemplifies the spirit and will of our football team,” Baylor head coach Art Briles said of Russell in a release, “and through this our team will keep that spirit alive and well for him.”

Russell has been nothing short of brilliant. He leads the nation in pass efficiency and total touchdowns, and he is essentially at or near the top of every major QB statistic. 

The loss is enormous—the latest in a brutal year for injuries. On that note, we wish him a full recovery.

However, the show must go on for Baylor.

The conductor of this show will be none other than Jarrett Stidham, one of the nation’s elite quarterback recruits from the past class. Stidham has looked fabulous in his limited action for Baylor. Thus far, he has more touchdowns than incompletions. Briles has also been unwavering in his confidence of the frosh from the day he stepped foot on campus. 

(Translation: This is very unfortunate news to stomach, but not many teams have this kind of luxury as a contingency plan.)

In terms of the impact this has on the playoff, it’s significant. Although parallels will be drawn to J.T. Barrett’s injury last season, the circumstances between Ohio State and Baylor, at least momentarily, are drastically different. 

If Baylor wins out under Stidham—regardless of how he plays—it will be in the playoff. Plain and simple. That was not the case for the Buckeyes last year as they attempted to rebound under Cardale Jones. They needed style points in the worst way and found it in the Big Ten Championship Game.

Baylor doesn’t need style points. It just needs to win.

The Big 12’s back-loaded schedule will make for a wild November. After a bye, Baylor will play three Top-15 teams including Oklahoma, at Oklahoma State and at TCU. That’s a lot to ask out of a true freshman, although he will not be going it alone.

With so many weapons at his disposal, Baylor should still be considered a threat to win the whole thing. And although the first ranking means very little, it will be fascinating to see how the selection committee views Baylor this week after a bye.

So stay tuned. All hope is not lost by any means. But we have much to learn.

 

What Is the Value of Being Undefeated?

Since the format of the College Football Playoff was first announced, I’ve had my eyes on one specific chaos scenario: How would the selection committee view an undefeated team with a far less impressive strength of schedule over a one-loss team that powered through a gauntlet of a season?

More significantly, would the committee have the public courage to omit a team without a loss for a program with a blemish?

It’s hard to say, really. Florida State, despite unimpressive results week after week last season, still managed to stay undefeated and was eventually deemed playoff-worthy. Although the committee moved Seminoles up and down throughout the top four, it never felt at risk of missing the playoff. And despite strong pushes from both Baylor and TCU, FSU never felt as though it was on the verge of missing out. 

If an undefeated Power Five program is left out of the playoff, just imagine the backlash.

There’s still a long way to go for this potential to be realized this season, although the potential is there. Alabama, Stanford and Notre Dame could be extremely appealing one-loss options if they close out the rest of the season without a loss.

The Irish and Cardinal will play later this year, meaning one of those programs will fall out, although the winning team will certainly enjoy a boost. And if the committee ultimately had to choose between a team like Iowa or Memphis—the best chaos candidates right now—versus a one-loss team with a better resume, would it actually leave the team with a perfect record out?

Memphis seems likely. Iowa is a bit more tricky.

Ultimately, as unfair as it may seem, it likely boils back to brand power. The logo on the helmet matters. An unbeaten Iowa and an unbeaten Ohio State—resumes being equal—are vastly different. And while we seem likely to avoid this quandary for another year given the dwindling candidates, it will enter the spotlight at some point. 

When it does, good luck.

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College Football Rankings 2015: NCAA Week 9 Polls and Standings Projections

Half of the Associated Press Top 10 is on a Week 9 hiatus, but if last Saturday proved anything, it's that no one should look away.

Week 8 featured just one matchup of Top 25 teams, but there was no shortage of drama. Unbeaten Florida State and Utah were each humbled by unranked foes on the road, while No. 7 Alabama narrowly survived a fourth-quarter scare from Tennessee. Oh, and there were also a pair of four-overtime games. 

Week 9 again features just one Top 25 matchup—No. 9 Notre Dame at No. 21 Temple—and Ohio State, Baylor, LSU, Alabama and Michigan State are all at home Saturday. But by no means does that mean there will be a falloff of spectacle.

With just one week until the first rankings from the College Football Playoff committee, here is a look at the AP Top 25 and a few notable teams in the hunt for the final four:

 

Notable Teams

No. 3 Clemson Tigers

Clemson steamrolled Miami 58-0 in what wound up being Al Golden's final game as Hurricanes head coach.

The Tigers appear to have the clearest path to the playoff, with a Week 10 hosting of Florida State being the only true threat remaining. As ESPN Stats & Info indicated, Clemson has the best shot to lock up the ACC sacrificing few, if any, blemishes:

This year's Tigers are toppling opponents with dominant defense. Only three teams rank higher in total defense among the FBS, and it just so happens one of those is Clemson's Week 9 opponent: the North Carolina State Wolfpack, ranked third in the category.

The Tigers will extend a rude awakening to the unranked Wolfpack, though. NC State hasn't seen any quarterback the likes of Deshaun Watson, who's carved up defenses to the tune of 1,553 yards with an ACC-high 15 touchdowns and 69.3 completion percentage. 

Aligning with Clemson's upward trend is Watson's stock for the Heisman Trophy; he recently ranked fourth among candidates by Zac Ellis of Sports Illustrated for college football's most prestigious award:

He won't put up the numbers that, say, Trevone Boykin will at TCU. ... Plus, few teams in college football look more dangerous than Clemson right now. That's why winning the Heisman may not require Watson to record insane statistics. He might simply need to maintain the status quo.

Clemson has been climbing all season, starting at No. 12 and now firmly in the playoff mold. It has outscored opponents 269-100, and there's no indication its torrid pace will slow. One could argue, such as Tyler Duke of Fox Sports, that Clemson is the most complete team in college football.

Will Clemson make the playoff? Yes

 

No. 8 Stanford Cardinal

With Utah's loss to Southern California, Stanford emerged as the highest-ranked Pac-12 team in the Week 9 AP poll. The Cardinal may have been the better team all along. 

Stanford is averaging 37.4 points per game to Utah's 34.7 and has outproduced the Utes, 454.7 yards to 390.1 in total offense. The Cardinal are coming off a 31-14 drubbing of Washington, which entered the game as the Pac-12 leader in total and scoring defense.

Stanford's surprise has been all-purpose sensation Christian McCaffrey, who's racked up at least 300 total yards in consecutive games and emerged as a dark horse for the Heisman, per college football analyst Phil Steele:

Stanford plays Washington State this weekend before contests against downward-trending Oregon and Cal to finish its Pac-12 slate. A looming season finale against No. 9 Notre Dame will present a revealing clash between playoff hopefuls. 

If the Cardinal run the table, they'll have a conference title and another respectable win on their resume, which could catapult them to the final four. The Top 10 is crowded with seven unbeatens, but many still play each other—No. 4 LSU at No. 7 Alabama on Nov. 7, No. 1 Ohio State at No. 6 Michigan State on Nov. 21 and No. 2 Baylor at No. 5 TCU on Nov. 27.

With the potential to keep climbing, Stanford is still very much a playoff contender. 

Will Stanford make the playoff? No

 

No. 11 Florida Gators

Florida marches to into its neutral-site rivalry tilt with Georgia coming off a bye and respectable 35-28 loss to LSU in hostile Death Valley. The Gators sit atop the SEC East and could put a serious blow to the rest of the division's hopes with a win over the beleaguered Bulldogs, losers of two of their last three.

Despite playing under new head coach Jim McElwain and a suspension to starting quarterback Will Grier, the Gators head into the final week of October with all their goals intact. 

Backup quarterback Treon Harris threw for a respectable 271 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions against LSU but was marred by three scoreless drives to end the game. Edward Aschoff of ESPN.com noted there is still much work to be done for Harris to lead the Gators to their first SEC title game since 2009 but that Harris is capable:

If you checked out any Florida-inspired message boards or social media, you'd have thought Harris drug Florida's offense back into the abyss it called home for the past five years. Harris' final acts weren't great on Saturday, but his overall performance should give Florida's staff, players and fans hope for a run to the SEC championship.

Harris helped lead Florida to an upset 38-20 win over then-No. 9 Georgia last year, throwing three passes for 27 yards while rushing for another 31. 

After Week 9, Florida only has Vanderbilt and South Carolina on its division schedule. A loss to Georgia would shift the Bulldogs back atop the SEC East, but that seems unlikely given Florida's offensive superiority. The Gators are also winners of nine in 14 attempts against Georgia head coach Mark Richt.

If Florida can reach the SEC title game, it'll likely face the Alabama-LSU winner in what seems like an incredibly daunting foe. But there's still plenty of time for Harris and the Gators to steadily improve on what's already been a remarkable and sooner-than-expected performance this year. 

Will Florida make the playoff? No

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Week 9 Predictions: Picking Top 25 Games Against the Spread

Another winning week has me creeping toward .500, the Mendoza Line of picks against the spread.

My record for the year (68-70-2) is still a notch below that number, and well below my goal of 57 percent, but the past three weeks have seen a mild turnaround. Another solid showing in Week 9 might help me pull my own backdoor cover. 

As always, feel free to chime in below with your opinions or questions about the picks. I'll explain my rationale beneath each game, but of course we can always dive deeper. Just remember to keep it civil and that no one here hates your team.

The line is our only enemy.

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College Football Rankings 2015: Power Ranking All 128 Teams for Week 9

What was supposed to be a relatively uneventful week of college football once again proved that the worst schedules can produce some of the craziest results. We lost a pair of unbeaten teams—as well as two more head coaches, bringing the total to seven FBS jobs that have opened up this season—and also had a pair of games require four overtimes to decide a winner.

We also have a new set of Bleacher Report power rankings, which have been impacted by this past weekend's weirdness.

Bleacher Report's power rankings are comprised of an average of five sources: B/R's weekly Top 25, the Associated Press Top 25, the Amway Coaches Poll, ratings guru Jeff Sagarin's computer rankings and the author's personal rankings for every FBS school. The top 50 teams are broken down individually, while the rest of the 128 FBS teams are summarized in a few easy-to-digest chunks.

Check out where everyone ranks after eight weeks, and then give us your thoughts in the comments section.

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Texas vs. Iowa State Complete Game Preview

Looking for their third straight win, the Texas Longhorns travel to Iowa State to take on the struggling Cyclones on Saturday. 

Charlie Strong's team seems to have finally found its offensive identity. Two weeks after running for 313 yards in 24-17 win over Oklahoma, Jerrod Heard and the offense ripped off another 274 yards on Kansas State in a 23-9 win. Two of the Big 12's better defenses have had no answer for the Texas ground attack.

The offense isn't the only story in Austin. The defense has also buckled down of late, holding both the Sooners and Wildcats to less than 300 yards of offense.

While things couldn't be going much better for Strong, things are getting ugly in Ames. On Monday, head coach Paul Rhoads fired offensive coordinator Mark Mangino following a 45-27 loss to Baylor and now looks to be coaching for his job.

On the positive side, Rhoads also announced the promotion of sophomore Joel Lanning to the starting quarterback spot. He threw three touchdowns in the loss to the Bears, and the Cyclones hope he can spark an upset at home.

 

Date: Saturday, October 31

Time: 6 p.m. ET

Location: Jack Trice Stadium, Ames, Iowa

TV: Fox Sports 1

Line: Texas -6.5, according to Odds Shark

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Virginia Tech vs. Boston College: Complete Game Preview

Another week and another disappointing loss for Virginia Tech, as the Hokies lost a 45-43 heartbreaker to Duke and fell to 3-5 (1-3) on the season.

Up next for the Hokies: a Boston College team that has beaten Tech in each of the last two seasons.

Could things get even worse for Virginia Tech?

Well, the Hokies' bowl streak could be in serious jeopardy. With four games remaining, VT needs to win at least three in order to go bowling for the 23rd consecutive season.

Boston College enters this weekend's game with an identical 3-5 record, although the Eagles are 0-5 in ACC play. BC has lost its last four games.

The Hokies lead the all-time series 15-8.

  • When: Saturday, October 31, 2015
  • Where: Alumni Stadium, Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts
  • Time: 12:30 p.m. ET
  • TV: ACC Network
  • Radio: Virginia Tech IMG Sports Network. Here is a complete list of stations by area.
  • Spread: The Hokies are presently 2.5-point favorites, according to Odds Shark.

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