NCAA Football

Is Anybody Scared of Alabama Anymore?

As darkness fell during Alabama’s narrow escape at Arkansas on Saturday, so too did the curtain come down on a Crimson Tide dynasty that once felt like it might last forever.

Yes, Nick Saban’s teams once struck fear if not outright terror in the hearts of opponents while claiming three national championships in four years from 2009-20012.

But those days are gone. Having Alabama on a team’s upcoming schedule no longer is cause for panic. These days it means opportunity.

The more Alabama struggled to nail down a one-point victory against a so-so opponent, the more apparent that became. 

The Razorbacks were in the process of losing a 15th consecutive Southeastern Conference game. Fifteen. And two of the game’s most fortuitous moments had swung in the Crimson Tide’s favor.

The first came early in the opening quarter when Arkansas’ Kody Walker was hit and fumbled just before entering the end zone. What had looked like a certain touchdown vaporized when the ball rolled out of the end zone for a touchback.

The second came when Alabama defensive end Jonathan Allen deflected the extra point on Arkansas’ first touchdown, in the second quarter. That ultimately left the final tally at 14-13 and denied the Razorbacks a chance in overtime. It also should leave Alabama's fans feeling very lucky that their team is 5-1 and still in the AP poll's top 10.

Pronouncing the Alabama dynasty over or at least rapidly crumbling isn’t an overreaction to one game. With a 5-3 record in its last eight games, even the most ardent Bama fan can't contend the Tide has been rolling. 

All three defeats were to ranked teams, the kind Alabama once built its reputation against: Auburn in last year’s Iron Bowl, Oklahoma in last season’s Sugar Bowl and Ole Miss in last week’s wake-up call that college football in Oxford is a monster on the rise.

Against Arkansas, Alabama did manage to avoid what would have been Saban’s first back-to-back SEC losses since 2007. But if Alabama is still among the nation’s genuinely elite teams, the Tide should have responded to the Ole Miss loss with something substantially better than a one-point squeaker against an opponent they stomped with identical 52-0 drubbings in 2012 and 2013.

Saban contended otherwise afterward, telling reporters that: ''Obviously, our team was very disappointed and responded well, I think, to what happened a week ago. It's tough on the road in this league, and our division is really, really difficult. There's no easy games.''

Saban got it right about the SEC West, where Alabama appears to be losing ground across the board. But let’s not hear any chatter about Alabama always playing with a target on its back. You want to live in the penthouse, that comes with the territory.

Likewise for the leg injury that sidelined running back Kenyan Drake. Winning national titles in the 2009, 2011 and 2012 seasons gave Alabama a recruiting edge that helped stockpile thoroughbreds, so don’t complain if the talent pool isn’t endlessly deep.

The fact is that the Tide would have been hard-pressed to beat any other SEC West team with the way they played Saturday. 

Looking ahead, next week’s game against Texas A&M might as well be named the Regrouping Bowl for both teams, and the Nov. 15 showdown with soaring Mississippi State looms as a potential embarrassment.

This was Saban’s 100th game at Alabama, and he’s 84-16 since arriving in Tuscaloosa. But that was just about the only positive number generated for him on Saturday.

Arkansas scored numerical victories all over the stat sheet. They won the count for first downs, 18-10, for total yards, 335-227, and for rushing yards, 89-66.

Midway through third quarter, Alabama had only three rushing yards, and while the conditions were wet, they weren’t torrential. But the Tide’s total yardage was a season-low, way worse than the 396 than they managed against Ole Miss, and light years from the 645 they piled up on Florida.

Dynastic teams don’t get worse as the season grinds on. They don’t run into new problems that need solving, like Alabama’s four fumbles on special teams, two of which were lost. They punish opponents, they improve and they look forward to punishing again.

That’s not where Alabama is these days, as was made obvious in the fourth quarter, when quarterback Blake Sims’ failed quarterback sneak looked more like a slam-dunk try than a crucial 4th-and-1 attempt. 

Sims leapt vertically when he need only a few horizontal inches. That led Saban to bemoan that:

Well that was the ugliest-looking quarterback sneak I ever saw. I mean we run the quarterback sneak and we teach a guy how to run a quarterback sneak and we never ever taught that.

And if Saban has hopes of keeping the Alabama dynasty intact, that's not the only lesson he needs to get right in the very near future.

 

Tom Weir covered college football as a columnist for USA Today.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Is Michigan's Defensive Effort Against Penn State a Sign of Things to Come?

The Wolverines haven’t given up on the season.

With Brady Hoke’s fate hanging in the balance, a large raucous crowd in attendance and an opponent looking for its own signature victory, Michigan found its defensive mojo exactly when it needed it most.

The team enters the bye week with its first Big Ten victory of the season and proof that its defense is capable of containing an opponent with the game on the line.

After six games of erratic play, the defense has arrived to give Michigan fans hope that the season can be salvaged.

How good was Michigan’s defense? Penn State only eked out a single touchdown while gaining 54 yards on the ground and 160 yards through the air.

Michigan’s defense clamped down and shut out Penn State in the second half to preserve the 18-13 victory in the first Big Ten night game in the history of Michigan Stadium. It even scored two points by forcing the Nittany Lions to take a safety with the game clock running down. The resulting kick was Penn State’s last chance to get back on offense but Michigan recovered the attempted onside kick and smothered the clock to preserve the victory.

Defensive end Frank Clark forced Penn State to attempt the desperate tactic after sacking Christian Hackenberg for a 13-yard loss to set up fourth-and-32 at the Penn State 3-yard line.

Last week Frank Clark whiffed on a big sack while battling Rutgers. This week versus Penn State he made sure not to make that mistake again.

“I knew it was going to be a sack before I even got to him,” said Clark of the big play.

That play and, most importantly, the victory was cathartic for Clark and the defense as a whole.

“It felt good to finally finish a game, we’ve been going through a lot of scrutiny as a team the last three weeks,” he said. “Against our last opponent we didn’t finish the game after it was put on our back.”

While Clark was emphatic that "this was a team victory—it wasn’t a defensive victory or an offensive victory,” the defense was the highlight of the game.

Defensive back Jourdan Lewis made a big interception that resulted in a second-half Michigan field goal.

“I saw my guy go across the field,” said Lewis. “I just watched the quarterback’s eyes and jumped in front of [the receiver].”

When it came time to stop Penn State late in the fourth quarter with the game on the line the defense was ready.

“We were going to stop them, that’s the only thing we were worried about, “ said Lewis. “That’s exactly what Michigan defense does, we want the pressure.”

That pressure is about to amp up considerably.

In two weeks Michigan heads to East Lansing where it will face the 24th-ranked offense in the country (496.4 total yards per game) and the 11th ranked defense (297.0 total yards per game).

Michigan State crushed Michigan 29-6 last year at Spartan Stadium and due to a quirk in scheduling will host the Wolverines for a second consecutive season.

It’s an opportune time for Michigan’s defense to prove that its performance versus Penn State wasn’t a fluke.

A win over the Spartans would put Michigan’s season back on track, while a loss will put an expiration date on Brady Hoke's Michigan tenure.

 

Phil Callihan is a featured writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotations obtained firsthand

Follow @PSCallihan

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Southern Cal vs. Arizona: Game Grades for Trojans, Wildcats

The Southern Cal Trojans traveled to the desert and knocked off the No. 10 Arizona Wildcats in thrilling fashion by a score of 28-26 on Saturday night.

Running back Buck Allen led the Trojans offense with 205 yards rushing and three touchdowns on only 26 carries. It was a career-high effort for Allen, who dominated all evening long. 

For once in a football game, the proverbial icing of a kicker finally paid off. USC head coach Steve Sarkisian iced Arizona kicker Casey Skowron twice in the game—both leading to huge misses. Arizona's beleaguered kicker missed three on the night—including one in the final seconds that would have won the Wildcats the game. 

The win by Southern Cal now places the Trojans atop the Pac-12 South Division standings. 

A full box score can be found here, courtesy of NCAA.com. Check out first-half and final grades for the Trojans and Wildcats. Additional analysis for positional units will also be addressed. 

 

Southern Cal Trojans Game Grades

Passing Offense

With the success of USC's rushing attack, there wasn't a big need to stretch the field vertically. Cody Kessler was efficient and poised, completing 66 percent of his passes on the evening. While he didn't put up huge numbers statistically, he calmly guided the Trojans offense very well.

His one minor mistake came on the interception throw late in the first. Aside from that, he was solid. 

 

Pass Defense

In the first half, USC did a nice job of challenging Arizona's receivers. Most of the routes were shorter than 10 yards, and the Trojans didn't allow any big plays. 

Injuries in the second half to Adoree' Jackson and Kevon Seymour understandably made things difficult. At times, USC trotted out three freshmen in the secondary. Arizona began to smartly pick on the inexperienced players and was able to gain yards in chunks. 

Anu Solomon threw for 395 yards on the night but averaged only 5.5 yards per completion. It's a case where statistics can be a bit deceiving. 

 

Rushing Offense

What more can we say about Allen? USC's star tailback led the way with a career-high 205 yards rushing. He, along with Justin Davis, was virtually unstoppable at points in the game. 

Credit USC's offense for dominating the battle at the line of scrimmage. Both Allen and Davis had gaping holes to run through. Throw some pads on Pat Haden, and he would have run for close to 100 yards on the evening. 

In total, USC ran for 239 yards and a 6.3 yards-per-carry average. 

 

Run Defense

The defense hounded Arizona's offensive line all night long. Led by Leonard Williams, the front three got consistent penetration up the middle. Williams was a disruptive force throughout the night—even when he faced double- and triple-teams. 

The defense held Arizona to a 2.7 yards-per-carry average. Although Nick Wilson didn't play in the game, USC's front effectively shut down an important element to Arizona's offensive success.

 

Special Teams

Aside from a 43-yard punt return by Arizona receiver DaVonte' Neal and an onside recover by Arizona, the USC unit did very well—especially considering starting kicker Andre Heidari was a late scratch due to a groin injury. 

The blocked field-goal attempt at the end of the first half by Claude Pelon was huge from a momentum standpoint. It also loomed large on the final scoreboard, as the Trojans won by two points. 

 

Coaching

Credit Sarkisian for icing Arizona's kicker. Although this wouldn't seem like an overly important thing, Skowron missed both kicks after being held up by a USC timeout.

The defense played very well for three quarters and then reverted back to a similar showing versus Arizona State last week. Justin Wilcox in particular never adjusted to Arizona's passing scheme of quick throws—which predominantly were slants and outs to the perimeter. 

Offensively, some questionable calls in third-down situations could have come back to bite the Trojans. Regardless, the team won on the road versus a Top 10 team.

Job well done by Sark and the staff.  

 

Arizona Wildcats Game Grades

Passing Offense

Arizona used a predominantly short passing attack for the first half, often looking to exploit the perimeter on outs and hitches. 

In the second half, coach Rich Rodriguez opened it up a bit. With USC's corners playing with a considerable cushion, Solomon simply took what the defense gave him. Due to the running back situation, Arizona threw probably more than it would have liked. Regardless, Solomon went 43-of-72 for 395 yards and one touchdown. 

 

Pass Defense

The secondary generally did a solid job of containing the elite skill players of USC. Jarvis McCall in particular defended Juju Smith very well. The Wildcats tackled well and never allowed the receivers to beat them in space.

USC's longest pass play went for only 25 yards, and Arizona held Kessler to only 185 yards passing on the night. The interception by Jonathan McKnight was Kessler's first in 196 attempts. 

 

Rushing Offense

Arizona did not have much success running the football, but it wasn't necessarily its fault. Without Nick Wilson, Arizona had little in the way of physicality in the backfield. The reliable Terris Jones-Grigsby was knocked out of the game in the first half, which left a decimated backfield. 

Jared Baker probably played the best game of his career in relief of Jones-Grigsby. The Los Angeles native had three touchdowns—including two on the ground.

However, the unit as a whole only rushed for 77 yards on 29 carries. This equates to a paltry 2.7 yards-per-carry average. 

 

Run Defense

It was a tough night for the unit across the board. The Trojans ran to the tune of 6.3 yards per carry. Allen had a career high in rushing, and the defense gave up 239 yards on the ground for the night. 

At times, the line could not adequately get off blocks. Various pressure packages also weren't overly effective. On most instances, the bigger USC offensive line engulfed the small, undersized Arizona front. There's only so much a 247-pound nose guard can do versus the massive guards of Southern Cal. 

 

Special Teams

It was a tough night for the Arizona kicker. Even with two makes on the evening, the grade would have been an "F," had it not been for a nicely executed onside kick recovery in the final moments. Skowron missed three very manageable attempts. Converting on just one would have given Arizona the victory. 

Nothing else really needs to be said. 

 

Coaching

Defensively, Jeff Casteel seemed reluctant to bring pressure. At times (especially in the first half), Kessler had all day to sit in the pocket and make throws. Furthermore, Arizona made few adjustments against the vaunted USC rushing attack. 

Offensively, the team was handicapped without its two top running backs. As a result, it's understandable that the offensive balance was irregular. However, Rodriguez made a questionable decision on the zone-read call for the two-point conversion. 

With USC playing exclusively freshmen at corner, why not attack one of the inexperienced players with Cayleb Jones or Austin Hill? Running the third-string RB into the strength of USC's defense didn't make much sense. 

Also with the struggles of his kicker, one has to wonder whether Rich Rod should have kept his offense on the field earlier in the game as opposed to attempting some of the field goals. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Southern Cal vs. Arizona: Game Grades for Trojans, Wildcats

The Southern Cal Trojans traveled to the desert and knocked off the No. 10 Arizona Wildcats in thrilling fashion by a score of 28-26 on Saturday night...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Buck Allen Vaults USC Right Back into Pac-12 Title Hunt

Little came easily for USC in its season-preserving, 28-26 defeat of No. 10 Arizona, but running back Javorius "Buck" Allen made rushing for a career-high 205 yards look awfully simple.

Allen carried the USC offense on his back much of the night—and he did so by carrying plenty of defenders.

His record night, punctuated by three touchdowns, gave the Trojans enough of a cushion to hold off Arizona's 13-0 fourth-quarter rally.

Allen made a convincing case to jump into the Heisman Trophy conversation. Whether he does remains to be seen.

There's no such wait-and-see necessary to determine who leads the chaotic Pac-12 South, however. By knocking Arizona, the conference's last unbeaten, from its perch, USC leads in the win column.

That doesn't mean the Trojans control their own destiny just yet. Arizona State joins Arizona, Utah and USC as one-loss Pac-12 South teams, and the Sun Devils have the tiebreaker over the Trojans by virtue of their comeback win last week in the Coliseum.

Still, USC was in real danger of dropping out of the title race for all intents and purposes Saturday night. Had Wildcats kicker Casey Skowron made any one of three missed field-goal attempts, USC would have fallen to .500 and trailed the Wildcats by two full games.

And, despite Allen's best efforts, that very nearly became reality.

The final minutes served as a reminder that while USC is still in the thick of the wide-open Pac-12 chase, it's hardly a finished product.

Arizona attacked a USC down cornerbacks Kevon Seymour and Adoree' Jackson. Largely untested freshmen Jonathan Lockett and John Plattenburg acquitted themselves nicely, but their being forced into the lineup in a critical situation speaks to the tenuous nature of the Trojans roster.

USC's lack of numbers looms as a very real threat to its championship aspirations.

The Trojans' thin roster also seemed to have an impact on the defense in the fourth quarter. Much like a week ago against Arizona State, USC contained an explosive, high-tempo opponent for more than three quarters.

But just like the Sun Devils in Week 6, the Wildcats were able to open the flood gates in the fourth quarter.

Head coach Steve Sarkisian was perilously close to coming under intense scrutiny for his late-game decisions, as well.

For as much as Allen carried the Trojans, he was conspicuously absent for much of their final possession. Sarkisian instead turned to sophomore Justin Davis, who coughed up a costly fumble earlier in the second half.

Sarkisian also called a timeout on Arizona's final drive, which gave the Wildcats time to run an additional play before bringing on the field-goal unit.

But Sarkisian also called another timeout before Skowron's game-winning attempt. Sarkisian brought 6'9" offensive lineman Zach Banner onto the field, which may have contributed to Skowron's attempt going wide-right.

It was the second time a precisely timed stoppage spared USC from giving up points.

All the other contributing factors take a back seat to Allen, however. His long touchdown rushes in the first half gave USC a lead it never ceded and effectively put the season back on track.

The Trojans reflect the Pac-12 as a whole: Unpredictable. The team in this conference that can find the most stability in the coming weeks will take the inside track to the championship.

And USC has stability in Allen.

 

Statistics via ArizonaWildcats.com.  

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Buck Allen Vaults USC Right Back into Pac-12 Title Hunt

Little came easily for USC in its season-preserving, 28-26 defeat of No. 10 Arizona, but running back Javorius "Buck" Allen made rushing for a career-high 205 yards look awfully simple...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

College Football Rankings Week 8: B/R's Official Top 25

So it wasn't to the level of madness that we saw last week, but Week 7 wasn't too shabby, either. And after all that craziness, having a Saturday with a little more stability was refreshing.

But we still have plenty of movement in the Bleacher Report Top 25, mostly at the top where there's a new No. 1, while those trailing the leaders are pretty well bunched.

This week's poll was voted on by 18 members of B/R's college football team: writers Ben AxelrodPhil CallihanMichael Felder, Andrew HallKyle KensingDavid KenyonBen KerchevalAdam KramerBrian LeighBrian PedersenBarrett SalleeBrad ShepardErin SorensenMarc Torrence and Greg Wallace, as well as editors Eric Bowman, Hunter Mandel and Max Rausch.

Each voter submits his or her ballot based on observations made during the just-completed week's games. Teams receive 25 points for a first-place vote, all the way down to one point for being ranked 25th. And then the top 25 vote-getters are ranked in order of their point totals.

Check out Bleacher Report's Week 8 poll, then give us your thoughts in the comments section.

Begin Slideshow

NCAA Football Rankings 2014: Predicting the Top 25 After Week 7

Week 6 of the college football season was all about chaos. Week 7 was all about near chaos.

Three teams from the national Top 10 were defeated, but two of those teams, Auburn and TCU, were playing road games against Top Five opponents (Mississippi State and Baylor, respectively). It's hard to call those "chaotic" defeats.

At the same time, though, last week's No. 6 team (Notre Dame) struggled at home against North Carolina, last week's No. 7 team (Alabama) struggled on the road at Arkansas, last week's No. 8 team (Michigan State) struggled on the road at Purdue and last week's No. 11 team (Oklahoma) struggled on a neutral field against Texas. We almost saw a lot more wreckage in Week 7 than we actually did.

What sort of effect is this going to take on the polls? It's difficult to say. The biggest winners of the week will not be the biggest risers, because they started so far toward the top. There isn't any room for them to rise. For the teams they beat, however, there is always plenty of room to free-fall. The rankings are a bottomless pit.

Here's a projection of Sunday's Associated Press Top 25.

Note: Rankings above reflect the author's projection of the Week 8 AP poll—not how he would rank the teams himself.

 

Biggest Risers

Oregon

Oregon's offense looked a lot more like...well, Oregon's offense in a thorough win over UCLA. Offensive tackle Jake Fisher returned to the lineup after missing two games with an injury, and it was difficult to ignore the improvement he catalyzed up front.

Fisher moved from right tackle to left tackle when Tyler Johnstone went down with a torn ACL this spring and has played as well on Marcus Mariota's blind side as he always had on his sighted side. Mariota was not sacked against a very good Bruins pass rush, and Oregon rushed for 258 yards on 41 carries.

The Ducks raced out to a 42-10 lead before allowing UCLA to score some meaningless points at the end of the fourth quarter, taking their foot off the gas once the outcome was in hand. If this version of Oregon shows up for the rest of Pac-12 play, it's not hard to foresee a scenario where it finishes 12-1, wins the conference and sneaks into the CFP despite last week's ugly home loss to Arizona.

 

USC

USC held on tight to beat Arizona, 28-26, in the wee hours of Sunday morning. This time, there was no Grand Canyon State miracle.

As egregious as the Trojans' Hail Mary defense was against Arizona State in Week 6, do we really think that says much about the quality of their team? If not for that one lapse in defense, they would be 5-1 right now and probably ranked inside the Top 15. Even with a loss at Boston College, the Trojans would be ranked inside the Top 15.

So it seems logical to think they'll re-crack the Top 20 after winning a road game against an alleged Top 10 opponent. Even after the loss to ASU, the Trojans placed No. 28 with 61 votes last week. And who among that back group did more than USC to rise up during Week 7?

 

Biggest Fallers 

Missouri

Missouri's offense was terrible against Georgia. Painfully, comically terrible. It was the most undeserving-of-a-Top-25-ranking performance from a Top 25-ranked team we have seen this entire season.

Offseason darling Maty Mauk—a player for whom I am guilty of believing the hype—played the worst game of his career, completing just nine of 21 passes for 97 yards and four interceptions. At times, he looked like he wanted to turn the ball over, lest he be forced to take another snap behind his overwhelmed offensive line.

Missouri's defense was plucky but eventually caved when its offense kept throwing it back onto the field with no rest. There is enough talent on this roster for Missouri to compete for second place in the SEC East, but in a division so devoid of quality teams, that doesn't mean much of anything.

 

UCLA

As mentioned above, UCLA was outplayed by more than 12 points in its 42-30 loss against Oregon. The only real difference between last year's meeting and this year's meeting was the fact that this year's meeting took place in the Rose Bowl, where all of UCLA's fans could witness the embarrassment firsthand.

For the umpteenth consecutive week, Brett Hundley struggled to feel pressure in the pocket, which makes him a suboptimal quarterback for a team so prone to allowing pressure. The NFL will be enamored with Hundley's physical tools—and rightfully so; they're impressive—but it's looking more and more like he'll never put the pieces all together in college. He isn't a good fit for this team.

The real trouble with Saturday's game was the UCLA defense, which wilted by allowing Oregon to score 42 points in the first 46 minutes of the game. A lot of that was a result of its offense not staying on the field, but it was difficult to watch the Bruins' supposedly superior unit get torched.

 

Texas A&M

What do we make of Texas A&M?

The Week 1 win at South Carolina looks worse than it did at the time, but South Carolina beat Georgia on that same field. The Week 5 win against Arkansas was difficult on the eyes, but Arkansas just came within a blocked extra point of taking Alabama to overtime. And even though the Aggies got worked by the Mississippi schools the past two weeks...the Mississippi schools appear to be the class of college football.

Still, there is no good excuse for getting beaten as handily as Texas A&M did by Ole Miss in Week 7—especially on its home field. Kevin Sumlin's supposedly fine-without-Johnny-Manziel offense sputtered to the tune of zero points in the first half.

"We're getting whipped up front," Sumlin said at halftime, per Bruce Feldman of FoxSports.com. And that is the problem exactly. At its best, Texas A&M functions from the inside out. For three consecutive weeks now, its offensive line has been outplayed by an opponent's defensive line. In all three cases, it hasn't even been close.

The line is the biggest difference between last year's team and this year's. It's also the reason A&M might fall out of the polls pretty soon.

 

Arizona

Arizona finally lost a game in Week 7, mounting a frantic comeback against USC but falling just short with a missed 36-yard field goal as time expired.

Truthfully, however, the Wildcats' undefeated season should have been buried long before Casey Skowron's kick went sailing wide right. They should have lost to California before catching a Hail Mary as time expired, and they shouldn't have even been within two points against USC.

The Wildcats are not a bad team by any measure. They won a true road game at Oregon, which, no matter the state of Oregon's offensive line, is difficult to replicate. Rich Rodriquez is a fantastic game-planner, the receivers are first-rate, Anu Solomon looks like a future star and even the defense is better than in previous years.

But this was never a team that belonged in the Top 10. It just wasn't. It deserved to be there based on its record and its on-paper resume, but who among us really thought it was one of the 10 best teams in the country? Who would have taken it over, say, Oklahoma on a neutral field? 

Twenty seems like a much fairer spot.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

USC vs. Arizona: Score and Twitter Reaction

Just one week after pulling a major upset win over the Oregon Ducks, the No. 10 Arizona Wildcats were bit by the upset bug themselves. On Saturday, the USC Trojans came into Tucson, Arizona, and handed the Wildcats their first setback of the season.

The 28-26 loss will almost certainly send the Wildcats tumbling in the polls.

The Trojans' Javorius Allen was phenomenal out of the backfield. He had 205 yards rushing and three touchdowns. Allen's effort helped to offset the 395-yard passing performance from Arizona's Anu Solomon.

The Wildcats had their opportunities. They couldn't manage a two-point conversion with 1:07 remaining that would have tied the game—even after a pass-interference penalty gave them a second chance. The Wildcats recovered the subsequent onside kick to breathe new life into their hopes of remaining undefeated.

Solomon got his team within field-goal range, but Arizona kicker Casey Skowron missed the 36-yard attempt wide right. Skowron earned goat status for missing the very makeable attempt, but the play-calling on second and third down before the miss wasn't exactly genius.

Instead of running the ball up the middle on second down to gain a few more yards for Skowron, Arizona elected to have Solomon throw a low-percentage pass to Caleb Jones in the end zone. It fell incomplete, and that took away the team's opportunity to spike the ball on third down.

On the next play, Solomon simply hurled the ball out bounds in what was really just a wasted opportunity.

USC nearly gave the game away with careless penalties throughout the second half. The pass interference on the two-point conversion was just one example. The Trojans were penalized a total of 13 times for 103 yards in the game. Somehow they still hung on for a much-needed win.

With the victory, the Trojans are the top team in the Pac-12 South. USC has been anything but impressive in most of its games this season, but head coach Steve Sarkisian's team has found its way to a 4-2 record overall and a 3-1 mark in the conference.

Many people doubted whether Arizona was for real when it vaulted into the No. 10 spot after knocking off the Ducks. Saturday night's loss makes any of the Wildcats' detractors look as though their criticisms were on point. Losing at home to such an imperfect Trojans team is a bad look.

With so much transition in the top 25 over the last two weeks, it wouldn't be a shock to see the Wildcats drop out of the top 20 with this loss. This one will sting for a while.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

The Only 7 Teams Who Control Their Own College Football Playoff Destiny

There is still so much to be determined, and yet, it’s amazing how much we already know. 

The bedlam of the college football season has created a foggy College Football Playoff picture at the halfway point. Entire conferences already need help to garner consideration for one of the four coveted spots. As a result, the usual jam-packed list of undefeated teams is surprisingly modest. Auburn, Arizona and TCU fell this week, making a small list even smaller.

Only six unbeatens remain. There were 14 following the games of Week 7 last year and 12 at this point in 2012.

— Brett Edgerton (@EditorEdge) October 12, 2014

Resumes are being crafted, and a group of human beings—better known as the selection committee—will likely have its work cut out.

Through the madness, a handful of programs still control their own playoff destiny, pushing past the various bits of carnage. Some of these teams will eventually clash, two as early as next week. 

As for those currently in control of their playoff destiny, here is the updated rundown.

 

Mississippi State

Thought by many, including me, to be the No. 1 team in the nation, Mississippi State is racking up critical wins week after week. Although the path to an unbeaten regular season is far from a given, Mississippi State certainly controls its own playoff fate as it dives deeper into SEC play. 

With their win over Auburn, the Bulldogs have done a complete perception transformation. It was by no means a clean game on either side—with conditions and turnovers playing a significant role—but the victory served as a reminder that this team is very much for real for those who weren’t ready to embrace this unfamiliar contender.

Still, the path to perfection is riddled with difficult games. Dan Mullen’s squad still has road games at Kentucky (yes, this should be noted), Alabama and rival Ole Miss. It also has a home matchup against Arkansas.

"If we keep on this path, ask me the second week of December," Mullen said to CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd following Saturday’s game.

At this rate and path, we might have to.

 

Ole Miss 

“Some” college football writers on Bleacher Report—writers who will remain nameless—predicted that Ole Miss would struggle against Texas A&M due to an Alabama hangover. Boy, were “those” guys wrong. 

Playing on the road a week after taking out the Crimson Tide, the Rebels dominated Texas A&M at Kyle Field. As a result, much like its instate rival, the expectations for this team have evolved, even more so from where it was a week ago. 

The obvious obstacle, of course, is Mississippi State. On top of what could be the most hyped Egg Bowl ever played, Ole Miss still has road trips to LSU and Arkansas. The Rebels also play Auburn at home.

Of all undefeated teams, this is likely the most turbulent playoff path. But given the way Hugh Freeze’s team has played thus far on both sides of the ball, the possibility of a playoff appearance should be embraced. 

Like Mississippi State, Ole Miss has gone from good story to SEC wrecking ball.

 

Florida State

Even with negativity and distractions hovering over the program, the Seminoles have quietly gone about their business while the teams around them have fallen.

In many ways, Florida State’s 38-20 victory over Syracuse on Saturday was a microcosm of the season: a lot of good on both sides of the ball, and yet, the overall product isn’t quite where it was a year ago. 

Through it all, FSU is right where it needs to be. Although you could question the overall strength of the ACC, it does not matter for the Seminoles.

If they win out, they’re in the playoff. There’s no debate there. 

With games against Notre Dame, Louisville, Miami and Florida on tap—along with a matchup against an ACC Coastal team to be determined—the Seminoles’ road to the playoff is much kinder than others. Arguably the biggest test still to come is now in the on-deck circle. 

Speaking of…

 

Notre Dame

It has not always been clean. It has not always been efficient. It has not always been easy on the eyes. But through the first two months of the college football season, Notre Dame has managed to stay unbeaten. 

Faced with the ultimate sandwich game, Notre Dame powered past North Carolina 50-43 after a slow start. This came a week after the Irish needed a late touchdown to squeeze past Stanford 17-14 at home and before a critical matchup against Florida State in Tallahassee. 

While style points are not exactly piling up for Brian Kelly’s team, they’re of no importance right now. If—and the open-ended nature of the word is critical here—the Irish beat Florida State, they will immediately vault into playoff consideration. Of course they will.

Beyond Florida State, a team you can’t simply glaze past, Notre Dame still plays at Navy, at Arizona State and at USC. No one said it would easy, but the Irish are in position.

 

Baylor

Even without a conference championship game, Baylor is sitting pretty for one of the four vacant CFB Playoff openings. “Pretty” isn’t a word you’d use to describe how the Bears got to this point, although, like others included, it’s gotten the job done.

A basketball score-infused comeback against TCU to maintain this position was needed for Baylor on Saturday. Down three touchdowns in the fourth quarter, the Bears ultimately took down TCU 61-58 at home. Despite watching the game in its entirety, the score still felt strange to type. 

As a result, Art Briles’ group is still in lovely shape. It doesn’t erase the holes that require attention, but Baylor is still unbeaten. With games against West Virginia, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Kansas State to come, however, the Bears will need to get right in a hurry to stay in control of their fate as the season progresses.

 

Georgia or Kentucky (The “Let’s Get Weird” Scenario)

In a game of “who doesn’t belong?” this category would light an M-80 and throw its hand up straight up into the sky to be noticed. Your confused outrage at this point is understood and appreciated.

However, the team to come out of the SEC East still—at this moment in time—controls its own playoff destiny. The two teams at the top of the standings, Georgia and Kentucky, will play one another on November 8. It is uncertain if running back Todd Gurley will play in this game for Georgia or what Kentucky will look like if/when he does, but these are the only two two teams with one loss in the East.

That means they’re still alive.

For this to transpire, one of these two teams would also have to win every other game on its schedule. And, making it even more complicated, the one-loss team will have to beat the SEC West champion as a significant underdog. At that point, they would be all but guaranteed a spot in the playoff even without an unblemished loss column.

It is strange and remarkably unlikely. And yet, the scenario remains very real. 

In a year built on madness, no doomsday stone should go unturned.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Texas A&M Once Again Proving They Are More Style Than Substance

For the past few years, the flair for the dramatic that Johnny Football, Kenny Trill and the rest of the Texas A&M Aggies possess have made them one of the most popular college football teams. 

But Saturday's loss to Ole Miss proved one inevitable fact that fans in College Station don't want to admit—this team isn't built to be a legitimate contender for an SEC title. 

This year, Kenny Hill was the darling of college football—another young quarterback taking the wild and unpredictable college football landscape by storm. 

Before Hill was the flashier, far more controversial Johnny Manziel. A Heisman winner as a freshman, the guy that flashed money signs anytime the ball bounced his way defined the new world order of Saturdays. 

But he didn't leave Texas A&M—something he once tweeted that he couldn't wait to do—as an SEC champion. Nor did the Aggies' gunslinger ever take the 12th Man to the promised land of a BCS bowl. 

This season, Hill, the heir to Manziel's throne, had the Aggies looking like early-season playoff contenders after a Week 1 throttling of South Carolina. Plenty of analysts were pegging Hill as the Heisman favorite, and to his own credit, he had earned that distinction. 

However, the same bug that always seems to bite Kevin Sumlin teams bit hard over the last two weeks. 

After winning their first four games by an average of 43.5 points, the Aggies were pushed to the limit two weeks ago against Arkansas, winning 35-28 in overtime. 

Then the past two weeks had the state of Mississippi proving they are the kings of college football in 2014, not the state of Texas or Alabama for that matter. The only constant between both Ole Miss and Mississippi State these past two weeks?

Wins over the Aggies. 

At times, the flashy offense of Texas A&M has found success against the traditional powerhouses of the SEC. There was Manziel's freshman year victory over Alabama as a prime example.  

But as history tells almost any team that employs the no-huddle, there will be Saturdays where it doesn't work. And those days equate to losses. The Aggies lost to Ole Miss, and Bo Wallace isn't anywhere near the type of quarterback that Hill is. 

The Aggies have also never been known to field a strong defense that can hold its own against top competition. Last year's loss to Alabama, where Manziel arguably had his best game of the year, proved just that as the Aggie offense did all it could, but the defense simply couldn't get enough stops. 

Offenses will win you games, but defenses will bring you championships. 

Both Mississippi teams, plus the Crimson Tide have control of their own destiny in the SEC. With two losses and a matchup to the Tide coming up next, Texas A&M could very well end up on the outside looking in at the playoffs before we even hit November. 

College Station likes to claim that they own the state of Texas with the recent downturn in Austin. But clearly, Waco is the site of the new throne in the Lone Star State. The Aggies have proven instead that they're the dukes of Texas. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Playoff Rankings: Biggest Takeaways from Week 7

Is Alabama's dynasty over? Despite the protestations to the contrary by one of Paul Finebaum's irate callers, the proof is becoming irrefutable. 

The Crimson Tide had to resort to a blocked PAT just to escape Fayetteville, Arkansas, by the hair on their chinny chin chins. Granted, Arkansas is vastly improved and deserves better than its 0-3 SEC record, but Alabama's play showed all the signs of a fading power ready to cede its perch.

And the usurpers are ready. There are only four unbeaten teams left in the power-five conferences after Saturday, and two of them reside in the state of Mississippi. If the talk of the Egg Bowl being more important than the Iron Bowl sounded like a gag last week, no one is laughing at that line now.

We're but two weeks away from the selection committee's inaugural rankings. While the committee members have a truckload of statistics and data available to them, these trends should be pretty unmistakable:

 

Teams That Moved Up

State of Mississippi

This isn't just a cute little story about the Magnolia State anymore. Mississippi will have the second- and third-ranked teams in the polls come Sunday, behind defending champion Florida State. In fact, both Ole Miss and Mississippi State boast a better resume than the 'Noles.

Both teams have proven that they're not just cute, feel-good stories, suffering no letdown this week after big victories in Week 6. The Egg Bowl is indeed shaping up to be what will decide the SEC West.

 

Baylor

The Bears overcame a 21-point deficit with less than 12 minutes to play to stun TCU in a battle of unbeatens. With it, the persistent questions about Baylor's less-than-stellar nonconference schedule will start to recede. 

As the only undefeated team in the Big 12, Baylor is now in a prime position to claim a spot in the playoff field. The Bears might not always win pretty with a very shaky defense, but they're never out of any game with their firepower.

 

Notre Dame

The Irish certainly didn't score any style points in a harder-than-expected win over mediocre North Carolina, but they continue to benefit from the fact that other power conference teams are knocking each other off.

Even a loss at Florida State next week might not eliminate Notre Dame from the playoff field. With a schedule getting considerably softer after Tallahassee, the Irish should be pretty close to a lock for at least a spot in one of the New Year's Six bowls.

 

Oregon

The Ducks righted their ship with a resounding win over UCLA, a game that wasn't as close as the final score of 42-30 indicated. They're still in control of the Pac-12 North race, with a showdown against Stanford to come Nov. 1.

With all the SEC West teams starting to inflict losses on each other, Oregon still has a shot to play its way back into the playoff. It should also keep sending reminders that it's defeated Michigan State, which inexplicably is still ranked several spots ahead in both polls.

 

Teams That Moved Down

State of Alabama

First, Auburn was resoundingly beaten by Mississippi State. Then, Alabama struggled to shake off Arkansas. The SEC West's center of gravity has shifted across the borders to the state of Mississippi, which is now 2-0 against its divisional foes from Alabama.

The Tigers' chances of repeating as the SEC champ just became that much more daunting, as their schedule does not let up going forward. Alabama does get a bit more of a break with the schedule, but it hasn't faced Mississippi State yet, never mind the Iron Bowl.

 

TCU

It was all right there for the taking, but the Horned Frogs simply blew it. TCU was about 10 minutes away from a huge win in Waco, Texas, and firm control of the Big 12 race, having already defeated Oklahoma last week.

But after Baylor blitzed them 24-0 to finish the game, the Frogs probably are out of the playoff race. The dwindling number of contenders from the Big 12 might help the Pac-12 and the Big Ten if no one emerges as a clear conference champion. 

 

UCLA

The Bruins began their meltdown last week when they missed a pair of field goals at the end of an upset loss to Utah. It culminated Saturday when their coaches went nuclear at each other on the sideline. 

UCLA ranked in the Top 10 to open the season and was a chic pick to crash the playoff field. Halfway into the season, the Bruins have proved that they're not ready for prime time.

 

BYU

The Cougars' flickering hopes of landing in a New Year's Six bowl were officially extinguished after Thursday's loss to Central Florida in overtime. For the purposes of being relevant in the new college football landscape, BYU might have to rethink whether its path of independence is really working out—even though, money-wise, it's still a winner.

 

Group-of-Five Team in the Best Position

East Carolina

The Pirates just continue to grind out victories, this time a 28-17 win at South Florida to keep them in pole position for the Group-of-Five bowl bid. The ranks of their competition actually thinned out a bit as fellow American Athletic member Memphis lost to drop out of contention.

If East Carolina should falter, Marshall—the only unbeaten team in the Group-of-Five conferences—will be in the mix along with the Mountain West winner, with Colorado State currently leading the pack.

 

Projected Conference Championship Matchups

ACC: Florida State vs. Duke

Big Ten: Michigan State vs. Minnesota

Pac-12: Oregon vs. Arizona

SEC: Mississippi State vs. Georgia

 

Follow on Twitter @ThePlayoffGuru

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

There Is No Doubting Ole Miss' Landshark Defense After Win over Texas A&M

Lack of respect? 

No. 3 Ole Miss' defense certainly played like one that felt disrespected on Saturday night in a 35-20 win, as the Rebels defense—known as the "landsharks"—dominated the high-octane Texas A&M offense on the road at hostile Kyle Field.

What's that? Texas A&M gained 455 yards and quarterback Kenny Hill threw for 401?

As NFL.com's Chase Goodbread notes, Hill's stats lie:

Ole Miss picked off Hill twice, including a 75-yard interception return for a touchdown by safety Cody Prewitt early in the second quarter that put the Rebels up 21-0.

Hill was sacked twice and constantly pressured by the fast and physical Rebel front seven, led by sophomore defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche. Hill also fumbled on the first play of the fourth quarter, which Keith Lewis returned for a touchdown to make it 35-7.

It was the Rebel rush defense that really led the charge.

The Aggies managed just 54 rushing yards on the night, and a mind-boggling 1.5 yards per rush. Holes at the line of scrimmage were more myth than reality for running backs Tra Carson, Trey Williams and Brandon Williams.

“That was really important," Nkemdiche said in quotes emailed by Texas A&M. "To come out there with great intensity in a hostile in environment, it was crazy. I couldn’t even hear at the beginning of the game. Defense was great. We came out and we didn’t let them get anything. Going into halftime 21-0 was really big for us."

Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin credited the Rebels for forcing the Aggies to be one-dimensional by shutting down the ground game, according to Mike McCoy of ABC 40 in College Station.

There's no doubt that this defense is not only a championship-caliber defense, but it's the best defense in the nation. Throw the statistics out the window, this defense changes games. 

This team has a disruptive interior lineman in Nkemdiche, an ultra-athletic linebacking corps and a secondary—led by Prewitt—that is great in coverage and against the run. 

Ole Miss' defense is the most complete defense in the nation, and whether the "good Bo" or "bad Bo" version of quarterback Bo Wallace shows up, the defense is going to not only keep the Rebels in games, but could determine the outcome of games.

It's rare that a defense can do that.

The Rebels still have several challenges in front of them, including home tilts vs. the potent offenses of Auburn and Mississippi State. At this point, is there any reason to doubt the Rebels?

If the defense keeps playing this way, nope.

It's the best defense in the country, and there isn't a close second.

 

Barrett Sallee is the Lead SEC college football writer and video analyst for Bleacher Report, as well as a co-host of the CFB Hangover on Bleacher Report Radio (Sundays, 9-11 a.m. ET) on Sirius 93, XM 208.

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of cfbstats.com, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

LSU vs. Florida: Game Grades, Analysis for Tigers and Gators

In a very well-contested SEC game, LSU was able to come away with a 30-27 win against Florida. The final box score can be found here via NCAA.com.

Both teams ran the ball well, both made huge pass plays late in the game and both teams made plays on defense. But at the end of the night, it was Florida that made the most mistakes, leading to the Tigers kicking a 50-yard field goal with three seconds left to steal one at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

Here are some game grades for both the Tigers and the Gators.

 

Passing Offense

It was not a good night in the air for Anthony Jennings. However, he did throw a 41-yard pass to Travin Dural late in the fourth quarter, which set up a Dural 11-yard touchdown reception two plays later. In Jennings' defense, he was going up against an aggressive Florida front seven, and that gave the secondary free range to be aggressive with the LSU receivers. Jennings needs to be more consistent, but he did just enough to win the game.

 

Running Offense

As much as the passing offense struggled at times, that was not the case for the running game. Leonard Fournette ran hard, tallying 140 yards on 27 carries and scoring two touchdowns. Terrence Magee added 50 yards on six carries and Kenny Hilliard also had a rushing touchdown. No matter who was in at running back, the Tigers ran the ball well; all three brought something different to the table.

 

Passing Defense

Jeff Driskel does not throw the ball well downfield, and LSU knew that. Despite hitting on a few big throws, Driskel could not shake the secondary, which is why he threw two interceptions. One of the plays of the game came when Ricky Jefferson picked off Driskel late in the fourth quarter, which led to the Tigers' game-winning field goal.

 

Running Defense

Driskel was the leading rusher for the Gators, with 71 yards on 21 carries. The reason he was the leading rusher was the fact that the front seven for LSU took Matt Jones out of the game, and Kelvin Taylor was a non-factor. After giving up nearly 300 yards on the ground against Auburn, LSU tightened their gaps and played their responsibilities, which is why Florida averaged only 3.8 yards per carry.

 

Special Teams

LSU special teams did not play well, but they were the reason they won. The punt-coverage team could not contain Andre Debose, and Colby Delahoussaye missed an extra point in the third quarter. But as it was mentioned earlier, Delahoussaye kicked the game-winning field goal of 50 yards. So the special teams saved the day, but had they played better at the beginning of the game, Florida would not have scored 14 of its points.

 

Coaching

Les Miles did a good job getting his team ready for a tough SEC road contest after getting blown out at Auburn last week. Despite being down by 10 early in the game, his players continued to fight and got better as the game went on. Miles knows he has a young team, but he’s been patient with them, and it paid off tonight.

 

Passing Offense

Driskel made a few plays with his arm that led to points, but he was still inconsistent like he has been all season. He did throw two interceptions, and the second one he threw cost the Gators the game. Driskel is a gutsy quarterback, but in order for the Gators to win the SEC East, they will need to throw the ball downfield consistently, and Driskel doesn’t have it.

 

Running Offense

Driskel did a solid job running the ball, as he gained 71 yards on 21 carries. However, 59 of those yards came in the first half, and no other running back had more than 35 yards. The running game was hurting with the loss of Matt Jones, who left the game with a nagging injury. Mack Brown and Kelvin Taylor are quality backs, but they were a nonfactor against LSU.

 

Passing Defense

Jennings did find Dural in the fourth quarter, but he was inconsistent the majority of the game because the Florida defense pressured him all game long.  Credit goes to the Florida front seven, as they recorded four sacks and have tallied 10 sacks the last two games. Dante Fowler was a monster for Florida with four sacks and two quarterback pressures.

 

Running Defense

The run defense for Florida could have been better, though. The group could not stop Fournette as he was bowling over defenders. That led to Magee getting 50 yards, and Hilliard was able to get in the mix as he scored a touchdown. That is something the Gators will have to work on moving forward.

 

Special Teams

One of the reasons Florida was able to lead most of the game as well as come back to tie it was the play of the special teams. Andre Debose has a big night in the return game, as he totaled 115 punt return yards and one touchdown. Kyle Christy punted the ball well with two punts over 50 yards and one landing inside the 20-yard line. And Francisco Velez was able to hit on both of his field goals.

 

Coaching

Some may not agree, but Will Muschamp did a solid job preparing his team for this game. Had Driskel not thrown the pick at the end of the game, the Gators would have won and made some noise in the SEC East race. Even when LSU took the lead in the third quarter, the Gators kept fighting on offense, defense and special teams, and Muschamp was a big reason for that.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Ole Miss vs. Texas A&M: Game Grades, Analysis for Rebels and Aggies

Bo Wallace ran for a pair of touchdowns during the first quarter, and the third-ranked Ole Miss Rebels defense flat-out demolished the No. 14 Texas A&M Aggies 35-20.

 

Ole Miss

The outcome was hardly ever in doubt, and the Rebels' grades certainly reflect their outstanding performance Saturday evening.

Pass Offense: Save for a single throw, Bo Wallace had a brilliant night under center. The senior quarterback finished the game 13-of-19 for 178 yards, connecting with Quincy Adeboyejo for a 33-yard touchdown. Laquon Treadwell added five receptions for 53 yards.

Run Offense: Though Ole Miss didn't rely on the ground game, Wallace and Jaylen Walton rushed for 50 and 49 yards, respectively. Most importantly, however, the Rebels' offensive line was absolutely stellar throughout the blowout.

Pass Defense: The box score shows a 79.2 percent completion clip for Kenny Hill, but the Landsharks forced checkdowns and dump-offs all night long. Cody Prewitt's pick-six gave Ole Miss a 21-point lead that completely silenced the record-setting Kyle Field crowd.

Run Defense: Admittedly, Texas A&M does not have a formidable rushing attack, so it's no surprise the Rebels locked the Aggies down. With that being said, Ole Miss still limited the A&M backs to 54 yards on 35 carries.

Special Teams: From the outset, the Rebels won all three phases—Walton opened the game with a 40-yard kick return. Will Gleason averaged 42.7 yards per punt, and Gary Wunderlich's extra point that ricocheted off the upright and in was the lone near-mistake.

Coaching: Hugh Freeze may have pieced together the best defense in the entire nation. Under his leadership, Ole Miss has become a national title threat. The Rebels coaching staff called a flawless game en route to a dominant conference victory.

 

Texas A&M 

Pass Offense: Kenny Hill picked apart the Ole Miss defense for 401 yards and two touchdowns, right? Wrong. The sophomore managed just 204 of his final tally while the Rebels built at 35-7 lead, spending the fourth quarter facing a prevent-heavy defense and racking up his yards that way.

Run Offense: "Nonexistent" seems like a suitable way to describe the Texas A&M ground game. Tra Carson, Brandon Williams, Trey Williams and Hill combined to manage a pitiful 1.5 yards per attempt.

Pass Defense: Myles Garrett is inching closer toward the SEC freshman sack record, and that's the only positive thing Texas A&M's pass defense has at this point.

Run Defense: The longest run the Aggies surrendered gained just 16 yards, but the Aggies struggled to contain zone reads and jet sweeps. Ultimately, Texas A&M's front seven wasn't shredded but couldn't stop Ole Miss, either.

Special Teams: Though a fake field goal failed terribly, Josh Lambo tacked on a pair of extra points. Drew Kaser blasted six punts and earned a 50.7-yard average, bolstering his #Kaser4Heisman campaign once again.

Coaching: What exactly was Kevin Sumlin thinking when he called that fake field goal down 21 points? Does Texas A&M even know what defense is? What has happened to the Aggies' explosive offense? Yeah, it was a bad night for the coaches.

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Texas A&M vs. Ole Miss: How Rebels' Win Reshapes Playoff Picture

No. 3 Ole Miss (6-0 overall, 3-0 SEC) earned its keep as one of the top teams in the nation after handily defeating No. 14 Texas A&M 35-20 for a crucial SEC road win.

The Rebels' 15-point victory doesn't so much shake up the rankings as it does confirm one undeniable fact: The state of Mississippi is the dominant force in college football right now. 

Their defense is nearly impenetrable and scores about as often as it allows others to do the same, per SportsCenter:

The Mississippi State Bulldogs (6-0, 3-0) defeated No. 2 Auburn (5-1, 2-1) by a score of 38-23 and look like the cream of the Southeastern Conference crop with Dak Prescott at the helm.

Considering No. 1 Florida State went on cruise control against Syracuse, save for quarterback Jameis Winston, expect one of the Mississippi squads to top the polls next week.

Here is a look at the performances of AP Top-10 teams after Saturday and what those results mean for the inaugural College Football Playoff:

Kenny Hill is a fine college quarterback, but the last two weeks have proved that he is no world beater, and the SEC West belongs to either Ole Miss or Mississippi State.

CBS Sports' Gary Parrish thinks the national title conversation starts (and perhaps ends) with these two teams:

Alabama (5-1, 2-1) may have defeated Arkansas (3-3, 0-3), but its limp, mistake-riddled performance doesn't bode well for its future. The Crimson Tide fumbled twice on special teams and committed a number of boneheaded penalties.

Voters likely won't forget this desultory display, which likely drops them below Auburn in the eyes of many observers. However, a win is a win and a one-loss Alabama could move up should either Mississippi school slip up.

If there is a team from the SEC East to challenge either Ole Miss or Mississippi State, its the No. 13 Georgia Bulldogs (5-1, 3-1), who shut out No. 23 Missouri and put up 34 points of their own despite not having running back Todd Gurley in pads and on the gridiron. 

Elsewhere in the college football landscape, the Big 12 looks chock full of top-tier teams. No. 5 Baylor finally got a game against a ranked opponent and took its season to the brink, eventually pulling out a come-from-behind 61-58 victory against No. 9 TCU.

Quarterback Bryce Petty threw six touchdowns and two interceptions, but those picks were just his second and third of the young season, and he looks to be in command of the offense. The Bears may have issues on defense, but everyone knows this offense is capable of putting up huge numbers against just about anybody.

However, Sports Illustrated's Andrew Perloff isn't quite sure what to make of Baylor after the headline-grabbing win:

No. 11 Oklahoma (5-1, 2-1) is still lurking after defeating Texas, and No. 16 Oklahoma State (5-1, 3-0) could vault up the rankings should it beat the Horned Frogs in Week 8.

The playoff picture isn't shaping up well for the Pac-12, with the dominance of the SEC, Big 12 and undefeated No. 6 Notre Dame still in the fold. Oregon still has an outside shot, but it will have to run the table and need No. 10 Arizona to lose a couple of games. 

No. 8 Michigan State is still in the hunt after handily dispatching Purdue, but the Spartans have a relatively weak upcoming schedule and needed the defense to bail them out against the Boilermakers. Of course, the opinions of others don't bother star defensive end Shilique Calhoun.

"If people want to look at the score and say that Michigan State's not a good team, that's fine by me," he said, via Joe Rexrode of the Detroit Free Press. "We're still gonna play 'Spartan Dawg' football no matter what."

Michigan State will need to vastly outplay the likes of Ohio State, Indiana and Rutgers to garner enough attention and leapfrog teams from the more powerful conferences. Still, the defense led by Calhoun and linebacker Ed Davis is one of the best in the nation and can keep the Spartans in the playoff hunt.

Every college football fan should circle November 29 on their calendar; that's when Ole Miss takes on Mississippi State. Should both teams remain undefeated up to that point, the loser of that titanic clash could still very well make the College Football Playoff. The fact that these two teams don't play each other until the last week of the regular season will help prevent another team from rising up in the power vacuum that would be created by a loss for either Mississippi team.

Then again, this college football season has proved that the preseason rankings have little to no bearing on future performance, and it's high time the phrase "any given Saturday" entered the American sporting lexicon.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Fact or Fiction After Week 7

Now that Week 7 of the 2014 college football season is in the books, it's time to play a little Fact or Fiction.

Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Michael Felder and Barrett Sallee answer some burning questions that were raised in Week 7.

Will anyone stop Ole Miss and its "Landshark" defense?

Watch the video and let us know.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

LSU's Leonard Fournette Realizes Potential, Gives Fans Look at Future in Win

BUGA Nation hit primetime television Saturday night. 

Finally, LSU running back Leonard Fournette lived up to the hype. Fournette rushed for a career-high 140 yards and two touchdowns in a 30-27 victory over Florida. 

LSU head coach Les Miles made the best coaching decision of the season by scratching the running back by committee against the Gators. Fournette took 27 of the Tigers' 50 carries and never wavered.  

Miles pumped Fournette up in the preseason unlike any other player he had before. Florida was the first time he trusted the 5-star true freshman to be the focal point of the offense. 

About time. 

Fournette finally got the touches he deserved. His 27 carries were two more than what he got against Wisconsin, Mississippi State and Auburn combined. 

Sure, Fournette struggled to start the season. But the Tigers abandoned him too early against Auburn and Mississippi State. Miles and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron gave the other running backs carries that should have gone to him. 

Fournette made defenders miss and powered through arm tackles. On his first touchdown run, he burst through a tackler at the goal line.

 

This is a freshman. This is a GROWN MAN! @LSUfball's Leonard Fournette rumbles for the 12-yd TD. #LSUvsUF » http://t.co/rptqGAQDBm

— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) October 12, 2014

 On his second, he skyrocketed over the pile from two yards out. 

121 and 2 TD's for Fournette with quarter to go. RT @FanSidedGIF: VINE - Fournette run for 2 yds for a TD #LSUhttps://t.co/5ZTDyXDcNX

— Patrick Schmidt (@PatrickASchmidt) October 12, 2014

Nearly every Fournette run featured a massive collision. Those hits began taking their toll on the Gators defense. All-SEC corner Vernon Hargreaves III was knocked out of the game while tackling him. Hargreaves' absence was felt when Tigers quarterback Anthony Jennings completed clutch passes late to Travin Dural. 

Jennings struggled through the air until late in the game. Nearly half of his completions went to fullback Melvin Jones. It is evident the LSU passing attack looks still has a long way to go. 

If Fournette and the LSU offensive line continue to play dominant football, the passing game will continue to improve. Miles can also play his preferred old-school, smash-mouth football, which is what has gotten him to 100 wins at LSU. 

The Tigers' most favorable matchup left will be 5-1 Kentucky next Saturday in Baton Rouge. After that, the Tigers will have Ole Miss, Alabama, Arkansas and Texas A&M.

There are no easy victories left for LSU, but the best path is with Fournette leading the charge.  

 

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

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Updated College Football Playoff Projections After Week 7

This week was not nearly as crazy as last week, but more of the top teams showed their true colors with statement wins. Bleacher Report's College Football Analyst Adam Kramer gives his updated version of the college football playoffs.

Which teams are in your top four for the College Football Playoff?

Watch the video and let us know!

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Watch Travin Dural Snatch the Ball for a 1-Handed TD Grab

Two-handed catches are nice, but one-handed catches are special—especially when they happen in the end zone. 

Florida Gators wide receiver Travin Dural only needed one hand to come down with a ridiculous touchdown grab vs. Florida.

Was this the best catch of Week 7?

Watch the video and let us know!

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Pages