NCAA Football

Bowling Green WR Reels in TD Catch out of Kent State Defender's Hands

Sorry, Kent State—that belongs to Roger Lewis.

The Bowling Green wide receiver managed to reel in a 64-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter of Saturday's game by yanking it out of the hands of a Kent State defender.

The score extended the Falcons' lead to 41-0.

------------Update: Oct. 24 4:30 pm.m EST------------------------

The next quarter, the sophomore made another incredible touchdown catch—Odell Beckham Jr.-style. The one-handed grab made it 48-0:

[Twitter]

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Clemson vs. Miami: Score, Highlights and Twitter Reaction

In its first major road test of the season, Clemson made history by handing Miami its worst-ever loss in a 58-0 drubbing. The Tigers improved to 7-0 and made a compelling case to be placed in the Top Five when next week's polls are released.

According to College Football Talk, the Hurricanes' worst loss prior to Saturday was a 70-14 thrashing at the hands of Texas A&M in 1944. 

Clemson was in control of this game from the opening kickoff, picking apart Miami's defense with a rushing attack that racked up 416 yards on 63 carries. The Tigers went into halftime with a 42-0 lead and coasted over the final 30 minutes to make sure no one got injured. 

This is what Clemson's stat line looked like heading into halftime, per the team's Twitter account:

For perspective on the Tigers' 363 yards and 22 first downs in the first half, it had a total of 296 yards and 15 first downs in a 24-22 win over Notre Dame on Oct. 3. 

Five different players—Wayne Gallman, Zac Brooks, Artavis Scott, Deshaun Watson and Kelly Bryant (two)—had rushing touchdowns in the game.

Watson was stellar, throwing for 143 yards and running for 98 more with two total touchdowns before being taken out midway through the third quarter. His 34-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Leggett basically summed up how things were going for both teams, per ESPN:

In an unusual move at the break, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney had his team kneeling on the field, per Dave Hyde of the Sun Sentinel:

The ABC television broadcast picked up some of Swinney's speech, in which he told the team to keep playing Clemson football. While not the most inspirational talk, it's hard to argue with something that worked so well. 

While the Tigers can go back home with all the confidence in the world, Miami will be asking a lot of questions. The Hurricanes entered this game 4-2, with those losses coming on the road against Cincinnati and Florida State by a combined 16 points. 

There has been speculation about the future of Miami head coach Al Golden for a long time. Andy Staples of Sports Illustrated last week named him the next coach to be fired:

There doesn't seem to be a firm magic number of wins or losses for Golden, but the fanbase has been in revolt for a while and seems ready for a change. My guess is he would need to win the ACC Coastal Division to stay, but with games against Virginia Tech, Clemson and Duke in the next three weeks, that won't be easy.

The "good" news is there Hurricanes were able to defeat Virginia Tech a week ago, but no one is going to remember that after Saturday's laugher. 

Before the game, Matt Porter of the Palm Beach Post tweeted a picture of a plane flying an anti-Golden banner near Sun Life Stadium:

ESPN's Paul Finebaum made a joke at Golden's expense once the rout was on:

Adding injury to insult for Miami, starting quarterback Brad Kaaya left the game in the second quarter after failing a concussion test following a sack, per WQAM (h/t Susan Miller Degnan of the Miami Herald).

As you can see in the video below, per Demetric Warren of Varsity Preps, Shaq Lawson broke through the line to take down Kaaya despite the Hurricanes having three more blockers than Clemson had pass-rushers:

There was a moment early in the game when Clemson led 7-0 but Miami appeared to have something going. The Hurricanes put together a 56-yard drive to reach the Tigers' 19-yard line, but it ended when Kaaya threw an interception. 

Kaaya's overall numbers entering play Saturday were strong, with 10 touchdowns and one interception. The sophomore, however, is among the nation's worst when it comes to red-zone turnovers, per ESPN Stats & Info:

It's been a long struggle for Miami as it tries to get back to being relevant in the ACC, not to mention the national conversation. The Hurricanes are 32-25 under Golden, which is not the standard this program is used to setting. 

Of course, credit Clemson for never letting up. The Tigers are one of the nation's best teams and are going to be in the mix for the College Football Playoff. 

In fact, Fox Sports' Colin Cowherd was finally swayed by what he saw from Clemson:

This was just one of those weeks when everything went right for Clemson and wrong for Miami. 

The Hurricanes will have a shot at redemption next week at Duke. Golden has to get his players to put this loss behind them; otherwise, the ugliness could carry over against a solid Blue Devils squad. 

The Tigers will face another ACC road test next week against North Carolina State before a huge showdown at Memorial Stadium against Florida State. Swinney is pushing all the right buttons so far this season, so don't expect a lot of changes until the opposition proves it has the advantage. 

 

Post-Game Reaction

Not surprisingly, Swinney was very pleased with the way his team performed, per Dan Hope of OrangeandWhite.com:

Swinney was particularly complimentary of his star quarterback:

Following this kind of victory, it's hard to be critical. Swinney will obviously find plays that weren't perfectly executed, as every coach does, but 58-point wins don't happen very often. 

Things were much different on the other side. Miami's coach was direct in assessing the problems of his team, per Orlando Alzugaray of 560 WQAM. 

"It's really pretty simple: We got beat up front. We've gotta get it corrected quickly," Golden said. 

Swinney was not going to bask in the misery of another head coach, per Aaron Brenner of the Post and Courier:

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Clemson vs. Miami: 58-0 Shutout Marks Worst Loss in Hurricanes History

Now is not a good time to be a member of the Miami Hurricanes. 

On Saturday afternoon, the University of Miami suffered its worst loss in program history, a 58-0 beat down at the hands of the No. 6 Clemson Tigers. 

According to Westwood One Sports' Jason Horowitz, it breaks a school record for the worst shutout loss, which was a 52-0 affair against Howard College in 1927. Howard College is now known as Samford. 

It is also the largest margin of defeat in Hurricanes history, per CBSSports.com's Jon Solomon, as it breaks the record previously held by a 70-14 loss to Texas A&M in 1944. 

The loss was tough on former players, as they took to Twitter to voice their displeasure of this year's team and their head coach, Al Golden. 

Former Hurricane Leon Searcy, who was being honored during the game, was not in a celebrating mood:

Warren Sapp was calling for Golden's job:

Clemson out-gained Miami 567-146 on offense while picking up 33 first downs. Miami had just six all day. Add a Hurricanes passing game that averaged 2.6 yards per completion along with three interceptions and things were not going to end well for the green and orange. 

Outings like this are not going to keep Golden around for much longer. At 4-3 this season with a program that once was the class of college football, setting school records for all of the wrong reasons is not a good way to make a case as to why you should keep your job. 

 

Stats courtesy of ESPN.com

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Cold Hard Fact for Saturday, October 24, 2015

Fact: Miami's 58-0 loss to Clemson on Saturday was the biggest margin of defeat in the school's history. Previously, it lost by 56 to Texas A&M in 1944.

Bleacher Report will be bringing sports fans the most interesting and engaging Cold Hard Fact of the day, presented by Coors Light.

Source: ESPN Stats & Info

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Will Miami Head Coach Al Golden Make It Through the 2015 Season?

Al Golden entered Saturday’s crucial visit from No. 6 Clemson already firmly on the hot seat as Miami’s head coach. A mediocre 32-24 record in four-and-a-half seasons at the Hurricanes’ helm has fans angry, with planes flying “Fire Al Golden” banners over Sun Life Stadium on a weekly basis.

Saturday afternoon, the Tigers lit a bonfire under that hot seat. Miami was totally lifeless in a 58-0 defeat, the worst defeat in program history, which also dropped the ‘Canes to 4-3. National pundits are asking: Will Golden even make it through 2015 as Miami’s coach?

Let’s take a look.

Miami athletic director Blake James told Dave Hyde of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel that no change is imminent, but it's clear Golden’s margin for error in Miami has gotten much smaller. Saturday dropped the ‘Canes to 1-2 in ACC play with five ACC Coastal games ahead. Winning the Coastal will be difficult, given that Pittsburgh, Duke and North Carolina (all ahead on the schedule) began the day unbeaten in league play.

Per reports from multiple reporters at the game, “Fire Golden” chants broke out at Sun Life Stadium for the first time. “This is the kind of performance that, in all candor, that gets you fired,” said ABC play-by-play announcer Sean McDonough.

Miami didn’t bring back a lot from 2014’s 6-7 team, including just eight starters. Even that group has been hit by injuries, though. Last week, senior linebacker Raphael Kirby suffered a season-ending knee injury, and Saturday, talented sophomore quarterback Brad Kaaya was sidelined by a concussion.

The healthy Hurricanes gave a complete no-show, however. Clemson ran all over Miami en route to a 42-0 halftime lead, outrushing the Hurricanes 230-25. Many in the crowd who bothered to make it to Sun Life Stadium beat a retreat to the exits, and Clemson pulled all of its starters up 45-0 midway through the third quarter. Golden told reporters, including Gene Sapakoff of the Post and Courier, that he took responsibility for the poor effort. 

Assuming Golden is still employed Monday morning, how does he save his job?

There’s only one way: win, win, win. With five games left, Miami must win them all to have any shot at winning the Coastal (which would be progress, given that the program hasn’t played for the ACC title since joining the league in 2004). In fact, Miami has just one nine-win season in the last five years.

If Golden can run the table and pull out a nine- or 10-win season (with a bowl victory), that would represent tangible progress. Perhaps even a 4-1 record to end the regular season would do the trick.

But the case could also be made that efforts like Saturday’s are too much to overcome. Multiple former Hurricanes, including offensive linemen Bryant McKinnie and Joaquin Gonzalez, ripped Golden on Twitter, and this certainly won’t build any enthusiasm for the end of the season.

Miami’s administration will have to decide if it makes sense to let Golden go before season’s end or even if it’ll matter. Four Power Five programs (Illinois, Maryland, South Carolina and USC) are already in the market for new head coaches and ahead of Miami in their searches.

Would it really make any difference? Even if the Hurricanes fire Golden, they wouldn’t be making a hire before season’s end and possibly longer, depending on where their preferred target stands with his current program.

An in-season firing would be about sending a message to Miami fans who still care, saying, “This isn’t acceptable any longer.”

If that’s the case, Golden should be fired Sunday morning, because efforts like Saturday's certainly aren’t acceptable in the fifth year of his tenure. Otherwise, Golden should get one final chance to salvage his job. Because if it gets any worse, the Hurricanes really have no decision at all to make. Al Golden should be gone.

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Rawleigh Williams Injury: Updates on Arkansas RB's Neck and Return

Saturday's SEC battle between Arkansas and Auburn featured a scary moment, as Razorbacks freshman running back Rawleigh Williams was stretchered from the field after suffering an injury.

Continue for updates.

Williams Taken to Hospital Due to Neck InjurySaturday, Oct. 24

Williams went down and was unable to get up after being tackled near the sidelines late in the third quarter of Saturday's game.

He was ultimately carted off the field and taken to the hospital for "precautionary reasons," and SEC Network reported he was seen communicating with trainers, per Brandon Marcello of AL.com.

According to Marcello, SEC Network reported Williams was diagnosed with a neck injury and that he had movement in all extremities.

As seen in this photo courtesy of Razorback Nation, Williams' teammates gathered around him after the injury occurred out of concern for the talented youngster's well-being:

Also, Arkansas running back Alex Collins paid tribute to Williams by flashing a No. 22 with his fingers after scoring to put the Razorbacks on top 21-14, per SEC Network:

The exact extent of Williams' injury is unclear, but the fact that he was able to move is certainly encouraging news.

It is possible that the Razorbacks' No. 2 rusher could be forced to miss some time, though, which means leading rusher Collins will likely be asked to take on an even greater workload moving forward.

 

Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter.

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Indiana vs. Michigan State: Live Score and Highlights

Michigan State 28, Indiana 26 — Late 3rd quarter

Game action is now underway between No. 7 Michigan State (7-0) and Indiana (4-3). ABC, ESPN and ESPN2 are televising the matchup regionally from East Lansing, Michigan.

We are watching the game, providing live analysis as the action unfolds.

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Brad Kaaya Injury: Updates on Miami QB's Concussion and Return

An already-miserable day got even worse for the Miami (FL) football team Saturday, as sophomore quarterback Brad Kaaya was forced to exit early due to injury.

Continue for updates.

Kaaya Out vs. Clemson Due to ConcussionSaturday, Oct. 24

According to Sun Sentinel Sports, Kaaya was knocked out of Saturday's clash with Clemson after suffering an apparent concussion due to a hit.

Kaaya went down hard on a sack from Clemson's Shaq Lawson, and WQAM subsequently reported that the signal-caller failed a concussion test on the sidelines, per Manny Navarro of the Miami Herald.

While Kaaya entered the game as the ACC's leading passer, the Tigers made life miserable for him, limiting him to 6-of-10 passing for 51 yards and an interception before he departed in the second quarter.

He was replaced by Malik Rosier, who didn't fare any better, as the Hurricanes trailed No. 6 Clemson heading into the locker room for halftime.

Miami will almost certainly fall to 4-3 on the season and 1-2 in the conference, but it is a team that still has a chance to do some damage in an Atlantic Coast Conference that is wide open outside of Clemson and Florida State.

In order to do that, however, it will need the services of Kaaya since it's already abundantly clear that head coach Al Golden doesn't have another viable answer at quarterback on his roster.

 

Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter

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Texas Tech vs. Oklahoma: Live Score and Highlights

Texas Tech vs. Oklahoma

TV: ABC/ESPN2

Time: 3:30 p.m. ET

Coming off their 55-0 rout of the Kansas State Wildcats on the road, the Oklahoma Sooners look to keep up the momentum against a very pesky Texas Tech Red Raiders squad, known for almost pulling off the upset against TCU earlier this season. 

Stay plugged in below for continued updates of this Big 12 matchup as the Sooners look to keep their title hopes alive. 

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Tennessee Volunteers vs. Alabama Crimson Tide: Live Score and Highlights

For nearly a decade, the famed "Third Saturday in October" battle between the Tennessee Volunteers and Alabama Crimson Tide has been a lopsided affair.

When the Volunteers and Crimson Tide get together Saturday, UA will be going for its ninth consecutive win. That run of dominance coincides with coach Nick Saban being lured away from the NFL and back to the college game.

In a series of streaks, the current one is painted crimson.

Saban's ownership of Tennessee dates back to his LSU days, when the 2001 SEC Championship Game victory helped end UT's reign atop the league. He's 10-1 lifetime against Tennessee, and in a rivalry where there isn't any love lost, 'Bama stoked the coals by hiring Lane Kiffin as offensive coordinator two years ago.

Kiffin, as most know, was head coach in Knoxville in 2009 before bolting for USC.

This season, the Vols are banged up, despite coming off a bye week after a huge home win over Georgia. Alabama, meanwhile, is playing its best football of the season after an early loss to Ole Miss.

It'll be UT's dual-threat quarterback Joshua Dobbs against perhaps the best defensive front seven in the nation. The subplots are many, and if history is any indication, the records can be thrown out when these two teams meet.

Stay right here for all your live-blogging and scoring action. The game kicks off at 3:30 p.m. ET, and we'll be here to bring you all the action.

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3 Dead, Dozens Injured at Oklahoma State Parade After Car Crashes into Crowd

Homecoming festivities prior to Oklahoma State's football game against Kansas were marred Saturday as a car crashed into a crowd along a parade route in Stillwater, killing three.

According to Evan Anderson of KWTV, Stillwater Mayor John Bartley confirmed that three died and 27 people were airlifted to local hospitals.

Anderson went on to reveal a total of 10 people were in critical condition. 

Stillwater PD said the alleged driver of the car, Adacia Avery Chambers, has been arrested on the suspicion of driving under the influence, per George Schroeder of USA Today. Oklahoma State said Chambers is not a student and was not part of the parade, according to Cody McDonell of KWTV in Oklahoma.

CNN provided further details regarding the incident:

Oklahoma State University's official Twitter account released a statement following the news:

Rival Kansas University, which is set to clash with Oklahoma State on Saturday, tweeted its support:

Stillwater PD spokesman Kyle Gibbs announced the game will be played as scheduled, per Schroeder.

Saturday was supposed to be a day of celebration for an Oklahoma State team that has exceeded expectations in 2015 and is very much in the running for a Big 12 title.

The focus has instead shifted toward this tragic incident.

 

Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter.

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Kansas State Coach Bill Snyder Gets Hit by Player, Gets Right Back Up

It's a good thing Bill Snyder still has it.

The 76-year-old Kansas State coach took a pretty nasty hit from one of his own players, senior defensive back Morgan Burns, and was knocked to the ground on the sideline during Saturday's game against Texas.

But don't worry—he took it like a champ and reportedly got right back up:

[SB Nation]

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Iowa State RB Mike Warren Recreates Butt Fumble vs. Baylor

The Iowa State Cyclones can use all the luck and good fortune they can get against the No. 2 Baylor Bears. 

Recreating Mark Sanchez's infamous butt fumble, unfortunately, didn't exactly help their cause.

Freshman running back Mike Warren lost control of the ball in the first quarter of Saturday's game when he grazed the backside of one of his teammates.

It's a rough life.

[ESPN, h/t For The Win]

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JoJo Robinson Suspended: Latest Details, Comments and Reaction on Arkansas WR

Arkansas freshman wide receiver JoJo Robinson was suspended indefinitely ahead of the Razorbacks' clash with Auburn on Saturday.

Bo Mattingly of KASR passed along word of the suspension, which was announced in the press box prior to kickoff. Bobby Swofford of KFSM confirmed the punishment.

No information about the reason for the ban was immediately released.

It's the second time Robinson has found himself sidelined this season. He previously missed the team's season-opening victory over UTEP due to a suspension. Head coach Bret Bielema didn't provide the exact reasoning, but he stated there would be zero tolerance, per Matt Jones of Whole Hog Sports.

"We had 16 goals we voted on and No. 1 was no distractions," Bielema said after the UTEP game. "I just kind of shared with him, if he's a distraction to this room, to his offense, to me, to anybody, zero tolerance. The good news was that what he got suspended for he got corrected in 24 hours."

Robinson was arrested last April after an alleged armed robbery by an individual he was riding in a car with in Miami. The charges against him were later dropped after he was cleared of any wrongdoing, his attorney, Larry Handfield, told Jeff Barlis of ESPN.

After sitting out the 2014 campaign as a redshirt, Robinson has registered just six catches for 53 yards and no touchdowns this season. He arrived at Arkansas as a highly touted 4-star prospect, per 247Sports' composite rankings, but his involvement has been minimal so far.

A second suspension in the span of two months doesn't bode well for his chances of making an impact moving forward, either.

 

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Clemson and Miami Players Nearly Get into Fight Before Game

Tensions were running high before the No. 6 Clemson Tigers and Miami Hurricanes even kicked off Saturday.

Two players from the opposing teams appeared to be engaging in some sort of argument about an hour before the game when teammates joined the fray.

It's unclear what sparked the altercation, but it could make for a chippy game when the teams kick off at noon from Sun Life Stadium.

[Twitter, h/t College Spun]

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Auburn vs. Arkansas: Live Score and Highlights

Arkansas 21, Auburn 14 - Late Third Quarter

Stay tuned for breaking news, commentary and analysis throughout the matchup as the Tigers visit the Razorbacks on the SEC Network. For more details, check out the NCAA box score HERE

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Clemson vs. Miami: Live Score and Highlights

The sixth-ranked Clemson Tigers look to continue their undefeated season Saturday, taking on a Miami Hurricanes team that is desperate for a marquee win.

Clemson (6-0) has only played one game on the road this season and needed a last-minute collapse from Louisville to avoid overtime in September. Nevertheless, Deshaun Watson leads a team favored by eight points, per Odds Shark.

Miami (4-2) is looking to build off a 10-point victory over rival Virginia Tech, and a win over Clemson would certainly help beleaguered coach Al Golden have an argument for saving his job. The program hasn't beaten a Top 10 team since 2009.

ABC will broadcast the ACC clash at noon ET. Bleacher Report will provide scoring updates, highlights and analysis. Feel free to join the conversation in the comments.

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Daily Fantasy College Football Week 8: DraftKings Last-Minute Picks, Best Values

It's finally time for the weekend, which means daily fantasy college football is firing up a full slate again. Yeah, Thursday and Friday games are enticing, but there's nothing like staying in your sweatpants on a Saturday to watch seemingly endless amounts of college football action.

Why not make some money while partaking in that ritual? That's why DraftKings provides daily fantasy for the entire season. In anticipation of Saturday's action, here's a look at the best last-minute picks and a few value options peppered in.

 

Quarterback: J.T. Barrett, Ohio State ($8,300)

He's not exactly a great value, but for a No. 1 quarterback, J.T. Barrett is well worth the salary hit. After earning the starting role earlier this week for the Buckeyes, the training wheels are coming off for the 2014 Heisman hopeful.

Head coach Urban Meyer explained the reasoning behind his decision, per Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports:

Even with limited playing time against Penn State and Maryland, Barrett averaged nearly 30 points per game. That's thanks to his mobility, amassing 164 yards and five touchdowns in the rushing game. At $1,100 less than the top option at QB, Barrett is an obvious choice on Saturday against Rutgers.

 

Running Back: Shock Linwood, Baylor ($6,800)

Being the running back for one of the most prolific offenses in the entire country has its perks. While Shock Linwood might not be considered the top running back in the nation, he's getting opportunities to shred defenses thanks to Baylor's passing game.

Linwood has cashed in on his touches, averaging 8.5 yards per carry. That's led to 803 rushing yards and eight touchdowns through just eight games. Playing at home against an Iowa State defense that has allowed 55.5 points per game over the last two weeks, expect a huge game from Linwood.

 

Running Back: Elijah Hood, North Carolina ($5,900)

Looking for a middle-tier running back who has a great matchup? Elijah Hood is your man.

UNC's lead running back isn't putting up the same eye-popping numbers as Linwood, but he has shredded ACC defenses this season. Coming off three touchdowns in the last two games against Wake Forest and Georgia Tech, Hood is set to torch Virginia.

His 18.6 average points per game is hurt slightly by games against Delaware and South Carolina, where his legs were saved. Once because of a huge lead, the other because the game was out of hand. On a winning team that should throttle Virginia, look for Hood to run wild for fantasy owners.

 

Wide Receiver: Laquon Treadwell, Ole Miss ($6,100)

Laquon Treadwell got off to a good start to the season but has been sensational lately. While Ole Miss left Memphis with a disappointing loss, Treadwell did all he could to pull out a win. His 14 receptions for 144 yards were both career highs to go along with his receiving touchdown.

It isn't fair for owners to expect another 44-point outburst, but quarterback Chad Kelly clearly has confidence in Treadwell. In a huge matchup against No. 15 Texas A&M, Treadwell will be the workhorse in the passing game and a dependable start for DFS owners.

 

Wide Receiver: Kermit Whitfield, Florida State ($4,600)

Why exactly is Kermit Whitfield priced at $4,600 this week? Well, I can't answer that. Why should you leave him off your roster? I can't give a reasonable answer to that question either.

How about we stop with the questions and look at the facts. Whitfield has exploded onto the scene over the last two weeks, per Ryan S. Clark of Rivals.com:

A healthy Kermit is simply not fair against a Georgia Tech team that has lost its last five games. Florida State will roll on Saturday night, and Whitfield will serve as a perfect compliment to any wide receiver corps on DraftKings. Pick him up as a WR3 or flex and expect WR1 production.

 

Follow R. Cory Smith on Twitter for more DraftKings advice:

DraftKings owners can win $300K in the "Dive for the Pylon" tournament to start off the college football season! Use Promo Code BLEACHER REPORT when you sign up.

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Bowl Predictions 2015: Latest Projections for College Football Playoff

The first 2015 College Football Playoff rankings will be released in less than two weeks, so the postseason picture is becoming easier to project.

One team has reigned supreme all season in both the Associated Press and Amway polls—the last season's national champion Ohio State Buckeyes. But is OSU a lock to be in the top four? It hardly seems so despite the immense amount of NFL-caliber talent on the roster.

Below is a breakdown of the projected CFP games, based mainly on current rankings but also with some conjecture as to how the rest of the season will play out.

 

Orange Bowl: No. 1 Ohio State vs. No. 4 Clemson

Yes, the Buckeyes still stay atop the NCAA football hierarchy in the end with a Big Ten title and an undefeated record still in tow. One big reason for that is coach Urban Meyer's decision to go with J.T. Barrett over Cardale Jones as the starting quarterback.

Despite superior arm talent, upside and a brief track record from last year that could have landed him in the NFL, Jones has lost the job. It might be because Barrett, a team captain, has outworked Jones in an effort to regain a job he lost to injury in the 2014 regular-season finale.

Barrett is a better fit for what Meyer is trying to do. He's a superior ball-carrier in the open field in terms of quickness and acceleration. He can process and read a defense faster and thus get the ball to the Bucks' myriad of playmakers in a more proficient way.

NFL Network's Albert Breer has heard of a comparison for Barrett that bodes well for the Buckeyes:

The OSU defense has been fine and will continue to be with the likes of Joey Bosa and Darron Lee headlining the front seven.

As for Clemson, its path to the playoffs goes through the ACC—an easier gauntlet to run through than the SEC, Pac-12 or even the Big Ten. The ACC Coastal division isn't exactly loaded with world beaters, and the Tigers' hardest remaining game is against Florida State at Death Valley.

ESPN's David Hale references how strong Clemson's playoff resume would be if it maintains a perfect record:

Despite losing first-round NFL draft picks in Vic Beasley and Stephone Anthony on defense, Clemson is allowing less than three yards per carry and ranks 10th in total yards allowed per game.

Sophomore signal-caller Deshaun Watson is undeniably gifted. He lit up Boston College's vaunted D for 420 yards passing in a recent 34-17 victory. The only concern is the two picks he threw, bringing his total to seven on the year.

Watson has thrown at least one interception in all but one game thus far. In what would be a tight game against Ohio State in a prospective Orange Bowl showdown, it'd be hard to pick against the Buckeyes due to Watson's tendency to give the ball away.

Turnovers would do Clemson in, as its stellar front wouldn't be able to contain OSU running back Ezekiel Elliott.

Prediction: Ohio State 27, Clemson 20

 

Sugar Bowl: No. 2 LSU vs. No. 3 TCU

The Big 12 representative figures to be TCU. Despite a struggling defense, the Horned Frogs have stayed undefeated and are better suited to face adversity than rival Baylor. TCU also gets the Bears at home in the regular-season finale.

With the privilege of playing in the Sugar Bowl may come an encounter with an SEC powerhouse program. LSU figures to be the team the Horned Frogs face, thanks primarily to Heisman Trophy front-runner Leonard Fournette.

Horned Frogs QB Trevone Boykin has carried TCU when it has failed at keeping opponents off the scoreboard. The contrast of styles between LSU's gritty rushing attack and the Horned Frogs' pass-heavy spread is a dynamic a juxtaposition as a fan could ask for in a playoff matchup.

Road trips to Alabama and Ole Miss still loom for the Tigers, but Fournette gives them a chance to set the tone in both those contests by controlling possession and demoralizing the opposition with big runs.

What shouldn't be lost amid LSU's landmark win over Florida last week is how well Brandon Harris played under center. Harris was 13-of-19 passing for 202 yards and two scores. He just turned 20 this month, is evolving in a big way as a sophomore and has yet to throw an INT in 2015.

ESPN analyst Damien Woody was most impressed by Harris' performance and made a bold proclamation touting LSU as a legitimate challenger for the No. 1 ranking:

Tigers coach Les Miles emphasized how important it is for Harris to keep playing within himself and not be bothered by those who see him as the weak link for a playoff contender, per the Times' Glen Guilbeau:

The opinions that matter will all come from that room — that big building that we practice in. And he'll need not to worry about what others say. Others don't know. And all they have to do is watch the film. All they have to do is see him spin a couple of passes for them to realize that, no, this guy can throw it. So he needs to just do the things that he’s been doing and not try to exceed the play call.

About any QB would look to be leading an inferior element of an offense with Fournette running the ball. Miles is correct in stating all outsiders need to do is watch Harris throw some downfield passes to realize the high ceiling he has—one Harris hasn't come close to reaching yet.

As Harris continues to improve and gets more comfortable in the system, even when opponents key in on Fournette, it won't be hard for his quarterback to capitalize on favorable matchups.

Boykin would keep TCU close in a hypothetical College Football Playoff clash. He's a senior playing with a chip on his shoulder as well after not making the CFP in its inaugural edition.

The Tigers would ultimately prevail thanks to Fournette's ability to chew up yardage, clock and morale. It would put Boykin in a near-impossible situation to rally from—even with such a lethal weapon in wideout Josh Doctson on his side.

Prediction: LSU 34, TCU 24

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College Football Rankings 2015: Updated NCAA Week 8 Standings, Final Poll Review

The 2015 college football season has reached its midway point with no fewer than 15 teams still in the playoff mix. 

Week 8 is a transition time for many of the top-ranked teams, as they are coming off critical matchups last week and/or looking ahead to bigger things still to come. Yet that's also dangerous because upsets happen when teams let their guard down. 

Going over the Top 25 before the meat of this week's schedule happens on Saturday, there are many teams that need to make a statement 10 days before the College Football Playoff committee releases its initial standings. 

 

Week 8 Top 25 Rankings

 

Team on Upset Alert: Utah (at USC)

Things are not good at USC right now. Steve Sarkisian was fired as head coach less than two weeks ago, with Nathan Fenno and Lindsey Thiry of the Los Angeles Times reporting Sarkisian allegedly had problems with alcohol as a coach dating back to his time at Washington. 

On the field, the Trojans are just 3-3 with two losses in Pac-12 play against Stanford and Washington. Taking on an undefeated Utah team ranked third in the Associated Press Top 25 poll would seem to be a bad omen for USC. 

Yet it's not unfair to ask if the Utes are overrated. Their win over Michigan in the season opener looks better now than it did at the time, but they were pumped up thanks in large part to a 62-20 victory over Oregon. 

In most seasons, that kind of win against the Ducks would be impressive, but this is a 4-3 team right now. 

ESPN's Football Power Index is giving USC a 72 percent chance to beat Utah on Saturday, with Sharon Katz of ESPN.com explaining the rationale behind that number:

USC has a number of close losses, and Utah has a few close wins. Scoring margin is generally a better predictor of future performance than a team's win-loss record itself, and USC and Utah have the exact same scoring margin (plus-17 points per game) through six games. The Trojans may be playing with an interim head coach, but they have arguably more talent, particularly on offense, than any team in the Pac-12.

Talent doesn't always win out, but there are going to be games when it all clicks to remind the world why it was so highly regarded. USC started the season as a Top 10 team before losing two of its last three games by a combined 25 points. 

Utah is playing better football right now, but USC has faced a schedule that already includes Notre Dame and Stanford. Those two teams are better than anyone the Utes have defeated, preparing the Trojans for this kind of spotlight at home in a game that could salvage their season. 

 

Playoff Hopes Crushed: Texas A&M (at Ole Miss)

Texas A&M has a knack for teasing everyone. The Aggies start strong, climb up high in the polls and start generating national title buzz. Remember last year's season-opening 52-28 win over South Carolina?

That pattern continued in 2015, as head coach Kevin Sumlin got his team off to a 5-0 start. The Aggies looked like they found a defense that could play during that stretch, allowing 21 points per game. 

Last week, hosting Alabama at Kyle Field, Texas A&M proceeded to give up a season-high 41 points as Derrick Henry ran over the Aggies to the tune of 236 yards and two touchdowns. Quarterback Kyle Allen had three interceptions, and the midseason swoons continued. 

Mississippi isn't exactly coming into this game on a high note after getting dominated in a 37-24 defeat at Memphis. That makes both teams desperate to right the ship, though the Aggies have more at stake with an outside shot at still climbing back into the playoff mix. 

According to Odds Shark, Texas A&M is a six-point favorite on the road. Tom Fornelli of CBS Sports did note the Aggies have been successful against the spread this season.

"Why am I taking Texas A&M?" Fornelli wrote. "Well, the Aggies have been 6-2 against the spread on the road since last season, while Ole Miss is currently 1-3 ATS against SEC teams this season, and has failed to cover the spread in three of four games since the Alabama win."

There's also the question about how effective Ole Miss star defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche will be after suffering a concussion last week, if he's even able to play. 

Yet even with that potentially huge hole on defense, as noted by Daniel Paulling of the Jackson Clarion-Ledger, Rebels quarterback Chad Kelly has been terrific so far this season:

The junior has completed 154 of 235 passes (65.5 percent) for 2,234 yards and 16 touchdowns against seven interceptions. Kelly leads the SEC in passing yards per game (319.1), pass efficiency (161.9) and yards per completion (14.5) and is no worse than 12th in the country in seven categories.

Paulling did note that Texas A&M's pass defense ranks 25th in yards allowed per game (183.2), but it's also played games against teams like Ball State and Nevada. Even Alabama ran the ball so effectively that it only asked Jake Coker to throw 25 times. 

Putting the Aggies secondary against Kelly and big-play receivers like Laquon Treadwell, Cody Core and Quincy Adeboyejo will be its biggest test of the season. 

 

Most Necessary Change: J.T. Barrett Starting for Ohio State

After weeks of it seeming obvious, Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer finally made the choice to bench quarterback Cardale Jones in favor of J.T. Barrett to start this week against Rutgers. 

Barrett is being given a fairly soft game for his return, which is likely by design. Rutgers has three wins this season, two of which have come against Norfolk State and Kansas. 

One reason Ohio State hasn't been as dominant this season as everyone expected is because Jones struggled in key spots, with Austin Ward of ESPN.com noting the red zone was a particularly problematic area:

Barrett was remarkably efficient inside the 20-yard line during the last two weeks, leading Ohio State to points on all 11 attempts with touchdowns on 10 of them. The move almost instantly solved a problem that had been clearly bothering Meyer. During first five games with Jones as the primary option, the Buckeyes were generating points, but they settled for field goals six times, missed one kick, twice had a half come to an end without getting points and Jones threw one interception.

One can understand why Meyer wanted to go with Jones before the season started. The strong-armed quarterback provided a downfield element with big-play threats like Devin Smith, preventing defenses from loading the box to stop Ezekiel Elliott as the Buckeyes won a national title. 

However, as Jones got more exposure, his lack of overall experience began to show, and he didn't make adjustments. Barrett isn't the same kind of quarterback, as he lacks the arm strength, but his ability to create in and out of the pocket is perfect for Meyer's offense. 

The change at quarterback was a long time coming. Meyer finally made it, and now Barrett will have a chance to lead the Buckeyes into the playoff like he was supposed to last season. 

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