NCAA Football

Oklahoma State Cowboys vs. Kansas Jayhawks: Complete Game Preview

The Oklahoma State Cowboys came out of the gate a little sluggish last weekend against the Iowa State Cyclones, but right before halftime the kicking game gave them a much-needed boost to give them a 13-6 lead going into the half.

Ultimately, the Pokes managed to turn on the jets in the second half and ride the momentum generated by the special teams to a 37-20 victory.

Kansas hasn't been as fortunate, as the Jayhawks have lost their two Big 12 games by a combined 42 points so far. That's led to Charlie Weis losing his job and has put this team into a bit of turmoil.

On paper, this looks like an easy win for the Cowboys; however, this has the potential for a classic trap game on the road.

Can Oklahoma State take care of business and improve to 5-1 before it hits the meat of its schedule? Read on to find out.

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College Football: Top 5 Games to Watch in Week 7

It will be another exciting week of college football, especially with both Mississippi schools looking to earn another huge victory for the second week in a row. 

As if there wasn’t enough interest in the SEC West already, No. 2 Auburn travels to Starkville to face No. 3 Mississippi State, while No. 3 Ole Miss heads into hostile Kyle Field in hopes of knocking off a No. 14 Texas A&M team that knows how to score points. 

With much of the focus on games in the SEC West, the SEC East could be decided this week with No. 13 Georgia out to prove it can take down No. 23 Missouri without one of the best players in the country, Todd Gurley

No. 12 Oregon and No. 16 UCLA will surprisingly limp into the Rose Bowl, after both suffered crushing defeats at home last week. The winner in this matchup will stay in the hunt for a national title. 

Speaking off joining the national title hunt, the winner of No. 9 TCU and No. 5 Baylor in Waco, Texas, will be the front-runner to win the Big 12 and join the national title race as well. The Horned Frogs could put themselves in position to win their first conference title since 2011, which was when they were still a member of the Mountain West Conference, with back-to-back wins over Oklahoma and Baylor.

On a Saturday that could feature many high-scoring outcomes, here are the top five games to watch in Week 7.   

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Jameis Winston Faces Disciplinary Hearing over 2012 Sexual Assault Allegations

Mark Schlabach of ESPN.com reported that Florida State notified quarterback Jameis Winston on Friday that he will face a disciplinary hearing regarding sexual assault allegations from 2012.

Florida State’s interim president Garnett Stokes and vice president for student affairs Mary B. Coburn sent a letter to Winston and his attorney stating that the quarterback could be charged with as many as four violations of the school’s student conduct code.

Two of those four potential violations involve sexual conduct.

The next step for Winston is to contact the school's Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities and schedule an information hearing. That hearing will address the impending student conduct hearing that could impact Winston's future with the football team and university.

What's more, Florida State is being investigated by the Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights about whether the school did enough to protect the Title IX rights of the woman who accused Winston.

The letter sent Friday differs from what Winston’s attorney, David Cornwell, tweeted out earlier:

On the field, Winston was part of the Florida State team that finished the 2013 season undefeated and won the national title. The defending Heisman Trophy winner was also suspended during the Clemson game earlier this season for yelling an obscene phrase on campus. Florida State, absent its star QB, narrowly escaped that game with a victory.

This latest development comes after Kevin Vaughan of Fox Sports reported the following Friday:

“Florida State University officials and Tallahassee police took steps to both hide, and then hinder, the criminal investigation into a rape allegation against the school's Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Jameis Winston last fall, a FOX Sports investigation has found.”

The entire Vaughan report can be found here.

It remains to be seen what the immediate and future fallout from these latest developments will be for the school and quarterback.

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College Football Week 7: Live Scores, Highlights and Reaction

Can anything top last week?

We’re certainly hoping Week 7 comes close to the wild chaos that took place last Saturday.

There are a number of games capable of going down to the wire, so get ready for another fun weekend.

It all starts off with No. 23 Missouri hosting No. 13 Georgia on CBS at noon ET. The Bulldogs will be out for revenge after last year's loss, but things could get difficult without Todd Gurley playing. 

Immediately following on the same network at 3:30 p.m. ET is the top game of the weekend, with No. 2 Auburn traveling to No. 3 Mississippi State.

Will Dak Prescott and the Bulldogs continue to climb, or can Nick Marshall prove Auburn is still the team to beat in the SEC? 

Out West, No. 18 UCLA hosts No. 12 Oregon at 3:30 p.m. ET on Fox, and No. 10 Arizona hosts the USC Trojans at 10:30 p.m. ET.

Who will reign supreme in the Pac-12 after this weekend? 

The premier night game on Saturday pits No. 3 Ole Miss against No. 14 Texas A&M. The Aggies fell flat a week ago, but look for them to come out strong against the talented Rebels.

Who will be on top in the SEC when Week 7 is all said and done? 

Keep it locked right here with Bleacher Report for the latest scores, updates and highlights from Saturday’s action.

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FSU, Tallahassee Police Reportedly Hindered Jameis Winston Investigation

Fox Sports' Kevin Vaughan unearthed documents that reportedly detail the ways in which Florida State University and Tallahassee police impeded and obstructed the investigation into the sexual assault charges levied against quarterback Jameis Winston:

University administrators and Winston’s attorney, Tim Jansen, had a head start on the state attorney in Tallahassee responsible for investigating and prosecuting serious crimes. Florida State administrators, for instance, had all the police reports at least four days before State Attorney Willie Meggs was handed the case.

FSU's police chief reportedly obtained a copy of police reports from the night in question and forwarded them to a member of the school's athletic department. Eventually, the reports wound up in Jansen's hands.

Meggs doesn't take offense to the fact that FSU police had the reports, but "he remains mystified" that campus police would then give the report to university administrators.

According to Vaughan, Jansen had the reports before Meggs interviewed two key witnesses. The witnesses were FSU football players who signed affidavits after speaking with Jansen.

"I became pretty much of the belief that somebody had gotten his reports to his defense attorney, because he had already talked to our witnesses," Meggs said. "If he didn’t know about it, how does he know to interview them and get affidavits?"

Vaughan reported that on Jan. 11, 2013, Scott Angulo, a Tallahassee police detective, made his boss aware of the allegations of the incident from Dec. 7, 2012. Angulo's memo highlighted all of the pertinent info about Winston and also included that "Winston is a FSU football player."

Winston spoke with local authorities on Jan. 22, who were then contacted by somebody claiming to be "the athletic directors assistant." Winston had an interview with the police scheduled for the next day, but Jansen arrived in his place for what was labeled "a fact-finding mission" by a detective on the case.

"There was a whole long litany of things that we would have done," Meggs said to Fox Sports. "You don’t call the defendant to make an appointment to talk about putting him in jail."

Walt Bogdanich of The New York Times wrote in April that local police mishandled the investigation in a few very important ways:

After the accuser identified Mr. Winston as her assailant, the police did not even attempt to interview him for nearly two weeks and never obtained his DNA.

The detective handling the case waited two months to write his first report and then prematurely suspended his inquiry without informing the accuser. By the time the prosecutor got the case, important evidence had disappeared, including the video of the sexual act.

According to Bogdanich's timeline of the investigation, Angulo closed the case on Feb. 11, 2013, without interviewing key witnesses. In November 2013, nearly a year after the incident allegedly occurred, investigators began interviewing key witnesses and obtained Winston's DNA.

The investigators only pursued a case against Winston after being pressed by local reporters, per Grantland's Bryan Curtis.

"It deserves an explanation from the cops," Curtis wrote. "Their explanation, in turn, deserves our scrutiny. There are unimportant mysteries and important ones. This is one of the latter."

Vaughan's report also alleges that FSU campus police told local reporters that an investigation of Winston wasn't underway, which it in fact was.

He explained that "those police officials were involved in updating Florida State administrators on the case and helping formulate the school's public relations response in the first days after the explosive story became public."

Florida State has already released a statement about what it felt was "misinformation in the media," per The Associated Press, via ESPN.com:

Florida State said the only people aware of the incident before January 2013 were Tallahassee police, campus police and the victims advocate program. The decision not to seek charges was made after Winston's lawyer said the Tallahassee Police Department was 'no longer pursuing the case,' and Winston and his roommates said the sex was consensual.

In December 2013, Meggs gave a press conference announcing that the state attorney wouldn't pursue sexual assault charges against Winston. With no legal action taken against Winston, the FSU star finished the 2013 season, winning the Heisman Trophy and leading the Seminoles to the national championship.

Winston has since been caught on video stealing crab legs from a local Publix grocery store and was suspended by the school for his team's game against Clemson after yelling an obscene phrase on the Florida State campus.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

5 Mississippi State Players Auburn Missed on in Recruiting

Mississippi State aims to keep momentum moving forward against another heralded SEC opponent Saturday when reigning conference champion Auburn comes to town.The Bulldogs are enjoying a historically successful season, feature a Heisman Trophy-contending quarterback and can take things to another level by sending the Tigers home with a loss.

Head coach Dan Mullen has a reputation for finding under-the-radar recruits who surprise people with their collegiate success. Several of those athletes are from Alabama and had opportunities to attend Auburn while others simply never received offers from the Tigers.

Here's a look at five such Bulldogs who should have some extra incentive in this highly anticipated matchup.

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Georgia Fans Build Shrine for Todd Gurley Outside of Sanford Stadium

Georgia Bulldogs fans are doing whatever it takes to lift Todd Gurley's suspension.

They've already tried signing a White House petition, but now they're hoping this shrine outside of Sanford Stadium will do the trick.

Although it's probably all for naught, the one-time Heisman favorite will probably appreciate the gesture.

Keep praying, Georgia fans.

[Twitter, h/t USA Today's For The Win]


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Bowl Predictions 2014: Updated Playoff Picks Heading into Week 7

When 11 of the Top 25 teams in the Associated Press Poll lose in a single week, it is bound to turn the College Football Playoff race upside down. 

That is exactly what happened in the aftermath of Week 6, when the Nos. 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18 and 19 teams all lost. Predicting the four playoff spots is anyone’s guess now, as mainstays like Florida State remain among the leaders alongside Cinderella stories from Mississippi State and Ole Miss. 

We recently projected Georgia as the fourth playoff team after the Week 6 upsets, but that now changes after the latest news regarding star running back Todd Gurley, via national college sports writer Bryan Fischer:

Now that Georgia is out of the field, read on for a refresher on the other three squads and to find out which team takes the Bulldogs' spot.

 

Playoff Projections

Sugar Bowl: Florida State vs. Oklahoma

Rose Bowl: Michigan State vs. Alabama 

Championship Bowl (in Arlington, Texas): TBD (Semifinal winners)

 

Teams

Florida State

As long as Florida State continues to win, regardless of how impressive the final deficit is, it is going to crack the field of four.

It’s not only because the Seminoles are the defending champions, either. An undefeated regular season would include wins over Notre Dame, Oklahoma State and Clemson, as well as victories in a number of trap games against the likes of Florida, Miami, Virginia and Louisville. What’s more, it is hard to argue with Florida State’s overall talent level if we are discussing best teams.

The Notre Dame game stands out as the one remaining significant challenge. It will help Florida State that it is at home, but it is more important that it is Notre Dame’s first true road game. That’s right, the Fighting Irish only play four true road games this season, and the first one just so happens to come against the defending champs.

The thinking here is that Notre Dame is unprepared to challenge Florida State into the fourth quarter.

 

Oklahoma

The key here for Oklahoma—or anyone with plans on winning the Big 12—is the Pac-12 beating itself up.

We are working under the assumption that the SEC champ and Florida State are already taking two spots, so the Pac-12 champion having multiple losses would be critical for the eventual Big 12 and Big Ten champions.

The Sooners will bounce back from their loss to TCU quickly because contests against Kansas State, Baylor and Oklahoma State are all at home. Oklahoma will take care of business in Norman while squads such as Oregon, UCLA, Arizona State, Utah, Stanford and Arizona are all handing each other multiple losses.

Head coach Bob Stoops also had an answer to anyone who thinks the Sooners have a relatively easy schedule, via Jason Kersey of The Oklahoman:

To me, strength of schedule is the biggest issue. Some conferences play nine conference games; some play eight. That’s a big deal, who you’re playing in those other four or other three games. 

We’re playing nine [conference games] and Tennessee. We just had Notre Dame and Florida State, outside of our nine conference games. Hopefully that should make a difference, if you’re all winning.

 

Michigan State

The Pac-12 decimating itself will have the same impact for Michigan State’s playoff chances as Oklahoma’s.

The Spartans will move up the polls as the SEC and Pac-12 teams accumulate losses, and that loss to Oregon will fade into the memory of early September. Michigan State should handle Purdue, Indiana, Michigan, Maryland, Rutgers and Penn State as well, which means the team will have to beat Ohio State to reach the playoffs.

The Buckeyes and quarterback J.T. Barrett look much better now than they did at the start of the year, but that game is in East Lansing under the lights. The prediction here is that Michigan State prevails with a strong defense against the young Ohio State offense, which will give it an excellent opportunity to reach the playoffs.

Assuming the Spartans will easily win out is perhaps showing a lack of respect for the Big Ten as a whole, but we are clearly not the only ones who think Michigan State will crack the playoff field, as Joe Rexrode of the Detroit Free Press pointed out:

 

Alabama

Georgia was projected here largely because we were working under the assumption that the SEC West teams would beat each other up.

However, now Todd Gurley is suspended, the thought is that Alabama will emerge from the SEC West and beat the SEC East champion. The SEC has built up so much capital the past few years—with seven straight national titles before Florida State won last season—that the champion will reach the playoffs, even if that team has two losses.

Alabama gets Auburn, Mississippi State and Texas A&M at home, while Auburn has to go to Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Georgia and Alabama. That is an absolutely brutal road schedule for the Tigers.

What’s more, Ole Miss still has to go to Texas A&M and play Auburn and Mississippi State, while Mississippi State has to go to Alabama and Ole Miss on top of a home game with Auburn.

None of these schedules are easy by any stretch (such is life in the SEC West), but Alabama faces all its challenges at home. Not to mention the fact that we are talking about the program that has dominated college football recently and will likely be playing with a chip on its shoulder for the rest of season after a heartbreaking loss to Ole Miss. 

The result will be a playoff spot for Nick Saban’s bunch.

 

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Treon Harris Reinstated After Accuser Withdraws Sexual Battery Allegations

Freshman quarterback Treon Harris was reinstated to the Florida Gators football team Friday after the sexual battery allegation against him was withdrawn by the accuser.

Barrett Sallee of Bleacher Report passed along the entire statement from head coach Will Muschamp as his team prepares to take on the LSU Tigers Saturday night:

Harris was originally suspended by both Florida and the University Athletic Association on Monday in light of the university police launching an investigation into an accusation that Harris sexually assaulted a female student early Sunday.

Jeff Barlis of ESPN.com reports the incident apparently took place at an on-campus residence hall.

School spokeswoman Janine Sikes also released a statement Friday, via Barlis: “This means she is not pursuing criminal charges against him at this time but maintains the right to do so in the future.”

As Muschamp mentioned, Harris will not play in Saturday’s home game against the Tigers.

Harris has completed four of six passing attempts this season, with two of the completions going for touchdowns. He helped the Gators overcome a nine-point deficit on the road against archrival Tennessee on Oct. 4 by making plays with his legs and avoiding turnovers.

Jeff Driskel will likely be the starting quarterback for Florida on Saturday, despite the fact that he threw three interceptions against the Volunteers and nearly cost his team the opportunity to win.

Harris certainly had some momentum on the field after digging Florida out of that early hole in his most recent performance, but there are far more important things at matter here than the game of football.

It remains to be seen when Harris will return to the field.

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Alabama vs. Arkansas: Should Tide Fans Be Worried About Facing Razorbacks?

The Alabama Crimson Tide should have their hands full with the Arkansas Razorbacks on Saturday.

Last season, such a remark would have been met with laughter and amusement from the Tide faithful. This time around, nobody’s laughing.

It’s funny how much a year can change.

 

2-Headed Rushing Attack

If there’s one thing the Razorbacks do exceptionally well, it’s run the ball.

Through five games, the team boasts the No. 7-ranked rushing attack in the nation, racking up an average of 316.6 yards per game. Furthermore, only Georgia Southern has more rushing touchdowns than Arkansas’ 20.

Stellar sophomore Alex Collins leads the way, rushing for 621 yards and six scores on 86 carries. The Fort Lauderdale, Florida, native has topped 130 yards three times this season and rushed for no fewer than 68 yards in a game this year.

After Collins, Jonathan Williams picks up the slack, rushing for 486 yards and eight touchdowns on 66 carries.

Combined, the duo makes for quite the formidable 1-2 punch. Just ask Texas Tech—Collins and Williams paced an attack that combined for 438 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground.

AL.com's Andrew Gribble hints at a war between two strengths:

Something's got to give when Alabama’s No. 3-ranked run defense meets the toughest rushing attack it's faced this season.

 

Injuries Racking Up

The loss to Ole Miss didn’t just affect the Tide in the standings, it also resulted in some additions to their injury list.

Running back Kenyan Drake suffered a broken leg and is expected to miss the rest of the season, per AL.com's Michael Casagrande. Although he was considered Alabama’s third-string back, Drake still managed to find the end zone four times on the ground and twice in the passing game.

Other casualties from Saturday’s game include starting linebacker Denzel Devall and starting center Ryan Kelly. Kelly is expected to miss a couple weeks and Devall is set to miss roughly three to four weeks.

Playing against the Razorbacks at full strength would be hard enough.

 

Road Woes

The Tide have played in two games away from home—Week 1 vs. West Virginia and last week against Ole Miss—and struggled in both.

Quarterback Blake Sims also seems to be affected by the road. Those two games are the only two occasions during which he has failed to throw a touchdown, tossing two interceptions instead.

Given that Arkansas is better at stopping the run than the pass, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Saban turn to Sims to win the game with his arm.

Against the Rebels last weekend, Sims did an okay job managing the game. But when he was tasked with winning the game—on Alabama’s final drive—he showed his inexperience, tossing a game-ending interception.

If the Tide want to avoid a second straight upset, Sims will need to get over his road woes.

 

All stats, recruiting information and rankings used in this article are courtesy of cfbstats.com and 247Sports.

For complete coverage and everything college football, you can reach Sebastian on Twitter and via email at Sebastian.LenaBR@gmail.com.

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Notre Dame CB KeiVarae Russell Will Miss Entire Season Due to Academic Scandal

If Notre Dame is going to make a run to the College Football Playoff, it will have to do so without cornerback KeiVarae Russell. He was one of the players suspended before the season after an investigation into academic scandal and has been told he's out all year. 

According to Keith Arnold of NBC Sports, Notre Dame's Honor Committee informed Russell of his season-long suspension:

The preseason All-American candidate has received news from Notre Dame’s Honor Committee and addressed his teammates with the news on Thursday, two different sources confirmed.

Russell plans on returning to South Bend and the Irish football team. There has been speculation that the third-year cornerback was considering a jump to the NFL after the season, though that move isn’t happening now according to sources.

Douglas Farmer of 247Sports had Russell's full statement:

Per Adam Shear of Fox 28 in South Bend, Russell and the other four players who were suspended are still enrolled at Notre Dame:

Russell did generate some controversy on October 2 when Matt Fortuna of ESPN.com reported the star cornerback was venting his frustration with the school and the process of getting reinstated in an Instagram post that has since been deleted:

I killed my meeting; I was so prepared and ready and was able to refute damn near every suspicion they had. Described details of assignments thoroughly so they couldn't say I didn't do it AND THEY STILL SAID MY DECISION WONT COME UNTIL ALL 5 OF US (and some other minor hearings) ARE DONE. Decision MIGHT come next week, not even 100% it's tough to understand these people.

While Russell's absence does hurt Notre Dame on the field this year, it has to provide head coach Brian Kelly some relief knowing he will likely have arguably his best defensive player back for the 2015 season. Russell tallied 51 tackles and one interception last year. 

The Fighting Irish have been able to withstand the loss of Russell and the other four suspended players thus far, going 5-0 and moving up to No. 6 in The Associated Press rankings. They will play North Carolina this week before a trip to Tallahassee against Florida State on October 18. 

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2-Year-Old Can Name All the Pac-12 Conference Teams

Who wants to memorize a multiplication table when you can memorize college football helmets?

This adorable two-year-old can name all 12 teams in the Pac-12 conference.

It's safe to say he's starting his college football fandom at an early age.

[Pac-12]

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Tennessee Football: Ranking the Volunteers' Team MVP Candidates Through 5 Games

Although the season isn't quite halfway over, there are already a few clear MVP candidates emerging for the University of Tennessee Volunteers.

With the No. 3 third-down defense in the country and the No. 2 overall defense in the SEC East, per NCAA.com statistics, defensive coordinator John Jancek's unit is significantly outperforming the team's offense. 

That's why the majority of the team's MVPs at this point come from the defense. It doesn't take a stat sheet for even the most casual fans to know that the Tennessee defense has improved significantly since its disastrous outing in 2012 and ho-hum performance in 2013.

Every unit is clicking and making tackles, from the front four to the linebackers to the secondary.

While there's still time for the Vols' offensive players to begin making a case for MVP status, the list at the moment belongs almost entirely to the defense.

Here are the team's top MVP candidates through five games of the 2014 season. 

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Notre Dame Football: Game Against Tar Heels More Than an FSU Dress Rehearsal

You can't blame Notre Dame fans for looking past North Carolina.

With a trip to Tallahassee, Florida, just eight days away, the college football world will focus on the showdown between the Irish and Florida State as soon as Saturday night is over in a renewal of a rivalry that literally started the traveling madness known as ESPN's College GameDay.

So while Irish fans might be checking hotel prices and looking at flights—it's ugly, Domers—Brian Kelly's squad welcomes Larry Fedora and his Tar Heels to town.

It's a game that counts just as much as the rest of them, Kelly reminds us. A week after being taken to the limit against Stanford, the Irish could leave Notre Dame Stadium 5-1 if they think they're in for a dress rehearsal before the Seminoles.

During Kelly's Tuesday press conference, the Irish head coach paid North Carolina's team the ultimate compliment, comparing the Tar Heel roster to his.

"In a lot of ways, [they're a] very similar team," Kelly said. "Young, athletic, a lot of very good athletes."

Some may take that as lip service. Since the Tar Heels gave up 70 points to East Carolina and enter Saturday as the worst power-five defense in college football, you couldn't blame them.

But the Tar Heels are the perfect foil for a Notre Dame team that's played down to its level of competition these past few seasons.

While Brian Kelly has won 26 of his last 31 games, the Irish have spent a great deal of that time living on the edge. As BlueandGold's Lou Somogyi points out, Notre Dame has one of the unlikelier seven-game winning streaks you could ever imagine after eking out a three-point victory over Stanford:

The 17-14 victory versus Stanford this past weekend marked the seventh consecutive time Notre Dame won a game that was decided by four or fewer points, with the game on the line right through the final possession. Just how hard is that to do? Well, consider that it tied a Notre Dame record for such victories.

In 2012, Notre Dame won all three contests decided by four points or less: Purdue (20-17), BYU (17-14) and Pitt (29-26 in triple overtime).

The Irish also won all three in 2013: Michigan State (17-13), Arizona State (37-34) and USC (14-10). The three-point conquest of Stanford this year continues the trend where Notre Dame has found a knack to win such games. It also should be noted that all but the Arizona State game were at home, and even ASU was at a neutral site for the Shamrock Series.

The first time a seven-game winning streak in these outcomes occurred was from 1937-39 under head coach Elmer Layden. That was snapped with a 7-6 loss at Iowa.

Those wins against Purdue, BYU and Pitt all should serve as notice that any underdog can come into Notre Dame Stadium and challenge the Irish. So if Notre Dame fans want to see the type of big game they're hoping for next Saturday, the football team will need to take care of business this weekend.

That means ignoring the distractions that continue with five suspended teammates still awaiting their fate, according to ESPN.com's Matt Fortuna.

It also means getting an offense back on track after struggling to run the ball and battling turnovers in the past two weeks.

As Notre Dame continues to ascend the polls and earn its place in the water-cooler discussion surrounding the College Football Playoff, it's natural that distractions will continue to occur. However, Kelly feels confident that his team will continue to stay focused, as it's a young group that's found a way to eliminate distractions that started before preseason camp even opened.

"There are too many guys in here that just want to play," Kelly said this week. "Look, they know that they are ranked. But they are more interested in playing the game than anything else. The veterans that we have here have been down this road before.  They have been undefeated, and they know what it takes and what you have to put in, to beat an opponent when you're at Notre Dame."

Surrounded by Saturdays featuring ranked opponents, the North Carolina game has been circled as a potential trap since we started talking about this schedule months ago.

If the Tar Heels matchup is a trap game, it's one we've been staring at for an awful long time.

But with a trip to Tallahassee and a potential Game of the Year candidate on the horizon, Irish fans are already hitting the fast-forward button.

Let's just hope Brian Kelly's team isn't doing the same thing.

 

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand. 

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Miami Football: Beating Cincinnati Necessary Step Toward Salvaging Season

The 3-3 Miami Hurricanes limp into a bout with the Cincinnati Bearcats not necessarily in a must-win situation but more adequately termed a better-not-lose outing.

Fortunately, the 'Canes get a minor break from an important clash, since a meeting with Cincinnati is the final nonconference matchup of the regular season. Knocking off the Bearcats is, however, a necessary step toward salvaging the year.

A devastating 10-point loss to Georgia Tech last weekend has Miami clinging to an ever-so-small chance at the Coastal Division title, one that won't come without serious help from elsewhere.

Here we go again.

It's the middle of October, and the perennially underachieving 'Canes have already dropped two ACC contests with a road trip to Virginia Tech on deck and Florida State looming.

At the absolute best, Miami is looking at nine wins—including a bowl victory—but seven or eight are the most likely finishes. Regardless, the Hurricanes must open the second half of their season with a victory, because falling to Cincy could completely derail the team.

Entering a deafening Lane Stadium as losers of two straight would be mentally challenging enough already but dropping a pair of winnable games prior to battling Virginia Tech might prove disastrous.

Simply put, the Hurricanes must return to the form they displayed in a solid win over Duke, and Cincinnati offers a perfect opportunity to take the recovery a step further.

The Miami offense has yet to play a complete game, stumbling on third down, in the red zone, dropping open passes or committing costly turnovers.

"We as an offense just haven't executed the way we should. There's no way to explain it," Duke Johnson said, per Christy Cabrera Chirinos of the South Florida Sun Sentinel. "We're just not doing what we're supposed to do and what we know we're capable of doing."

Positives certainly exist: Brad Kaaya has clearly improved, and Johnson is still turning nothing into something. Phillip Dorsett and Clive Walford have combined for 32 receptions, 30 of which have resulted in first downs or touchdowns. True freshman Braxton Berrios has earned a starting role.

But the negatives have affected the 'Canes more: A terrible conversion rate on third down. Settling for field goals. Few explosive runs for Johnson. Stacy Coley's unforeseen slump. A negative-four turnover margin.

Granted, Miami has struggled in every facet of the game, so there's no single unit shouldering the majority of blame. A portion absolutely falls on the coaches but even the Hurricanes stars have had underwhelming seasons.

Ereck Flowers hasn't been the dominant force he was striding toward becoming, Tracy Howard lost his starting job and Denzel Perryman has put together a few stinkers.

Nevertheless, Miami is a more talented team than Cincinnati, and the Bearcats are likely to be without starting quarterback Gunner Kiel.

"He's been struggling to get his passing arm over his head," head coach Tommy Tuberville said, according to Tom Groeschen of the Cincinnati Enquirer. "Last time I looked, it's hard to throw a deep ball underhanded."

Should Kiel be officially unavailable, the 'Canes would ultimately be gifted an opportunity to dominate on both sides of the football, something they really need before conference play resumes.

Each team remaining on the schedule is more than capable of defeating a squad hampered by issues on offense, defense and special teams, especially when Miami doesn't know which problems will make an appearance during a given week.

Realistically, the Hurricanes might lose to Virginia Tech, Florida State and another team, so being upset by the Bearcats could send 2014 to the trash. They don't have time to be dejected about what's gone wrong, they just have to fix it—starting this weekend.

"There's no heads down in the locker room," Berrios said, per Matt Porter of the Palm Beach Post. "There's no pity. There's no feeling sorry for us. We're a team. We're bonded together...let's go get it."

Miami has no choice other than to "go get it," lest it enter the season's final five ACC games teetering on the brink of potentially failing to even qualify for a bowl. It shouldn't happen given all the circumstances, but the 'Canes still cannot afford a loss to Cincinnati.

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Oklahoma vs. Texas: Trevor Knight's Legs, Not Arm, Key to Sooners Victory

When the Oklahoma Sooners and Texas Longhorns meet Saturday, expect quarterback Trevor Knight to be released from his harness.

Thus far, the Sooners coaching staff has veered on the safe side when it comes to the sophomore, limiting the amount of running he does. However, following last weekend’s loss to TCU—a game in which Knight struggled heavily in the pocket—Oklahoma will have to undergo drastic changes in its playcalling if it wants to keep its College Football Playoff hopes alive.

With that in mind, expect Knight to run wild this weekend.

If the Sooners coaching staff needs a push in that direction, it just needs to take a look at the Longhorns defense. Through five games, the unit ranks No. 29 in total defense (333.6 YPG) and No. 5 against the pass (134.6 YPG), allowing just four passing touchdowns and intercepting nine passes.

As for Texas’ weakness? Yep, you guessed it: Stopping the run.

Opponents have taken advantage of the Longhorns’ front seven, rushing for an average of 199.0 yards per game—Texas ranks No. 99 against the run—while finding the end zone six times. In fact, all but one opponent has racked up 170 yards rushing or more against the Longhorns.

It’s not like Knight, a San Antonio native, doesn’t have the talent to pull off a big running day.

Over six appearances during his freshman campaign last season, Knight rushed for 445 yards and two touchdowns on 67 carries. On three occasions he rushed for 80 yards or more, including topping the century mark twice.

In comparison, through five games, Knight has only rushed for 130 yards and two touchdowns on 27 carries. In all but one of those games, Knight didn’t attempt more than five rushes, including failing to record a single one against West Virginia on Sept. 20.

If it isn’t broke, why fix it?

“We don’t want him hit as much as we can avoid it,” head coach Bob Stoops said earlier this season, per The Oklahoman’sJason Kersey. “You see the quarterbacks that are out in NFL and college. The more he can avoid it, the better.”

The alternative hasn’t worked so well for Oklahoma this season.

Knight has thrown for 1,374 yards, five touchdowns and five interceptions on 54.5 percent passing. He has thrown for multiple touchdowns in a game only once this year, and his completion percentage is a career worst and ranks ninth in the 10-team Big 12.

And this poor play is supposed to change against a secondary that held Baylor’s explosive quarterback Bryce Petty to just 111 yards on 7-of-22 passing last Saturday?

During the first half of Saturday’s loss to TCU, Knight actually ran the ball quite frequently. Whether it was by design or not, he made plays after plays, picking up big first downs. His mobility played a large role in the Sooners holding a 31-24 lead early in the third quarter.

However, the team surprisingly turned away from the run after taking the lead. That resulted in a disastrous stat line for Knight over his final eight possessions, as he threw for just 48 yards and two interceptions—one returned for a touchdown—on 6-of-19 passing while being sacked twice.

If Oklahoma wants to get back on the winning track, the coaching staff is going to need to fully trust in Knight.

Whether they like it or not, their season depends on it.

 

All stats, recruiting information and rankings used in this article are courtesy of CFBStats.com and 247Sports.

For complete coverage and everything Oklahoma football, you can reach Sebastian on Twitter and via email at Sebastian.LenaBR@gmail.com.

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5 Arkansas Players Alabama Missed on in Recruiting

Alabama and Arkansas renew their SEC rivalry Saturday evening in Fayetteville. Like so many conference foes, these programs perennially clash on the recruiting trail, resulting in interesting subplots taking place within the on-field action.

Whether a player was once spurned by his opponent as a prospect or ultimately elected to go elsewhere despite holding an offer from that team, things become a bit more personal when the two sides meet again between the hash marks. 

Here's a look at five former recruits who could have potentially worn a Crimson Tide uniform but instead represent the Razobacks in battle.

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Johnny Manziel Shows Support for Todd Gurley with #FreeGurley Tweet

After going through his own autograph controversy while playing at Texas A&M last year, Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel took to Twitter on Friday to show support for suspended Georgia running back Todd Gurley.

Manziel followed up with a comment to reporters in Cleveland: 

Gurley was suspended indefinitely by the University of Georgia on Thursday during an "ongoing investigation into an alleged violation of NCAA rules." Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports is reporting that the investigation is for accepting extra benefits for his likeness. 

[Twitter]

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How SEC West Division Could Land 2 Teams in the College Football Playoff

We're still early enough in the college football season that most one-loss teams in power-five conferences shouldn't be eliminated from the playoff conversation. 

Similarly, the idea that a single conference, and perhaps division, could get two teams into the College Football Playoff shouldn't be officially ruled out, either. 

Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn certainly thinks so. 

"I think there's going to be good chance there will be two teams from the [SEC] West, or at least two teams from the SEC, to make the Final Four,"Malzahn said Thursday on ESPN Radio's Mike & Mike.

Of course, Malzahn is going to stump for what benefits the division and conference in which he coaches because, ultimately, it means that it could benefit his team. 

The possibility of two SEC West teams making the playoff isn't unfathomable, however. While, in theory, winning a conference matters, it's not a prerequisite. The theme maintained by CFP executive director Bill Hancock is that the field will consist of "the four best teams.

What qualifies as "best" remains to be seen, but what is known is that it doesn't solely mean being a conference champ. In 2011, the two best teams in the BCS' eyes, Alabama and LSU, came from the SEC West. 

Other recent history suggests that, while rare, two teams from the same division could be playoff bound. A mock selection committee re-examining the 2008 season included Texas and Oklahoma, both formerly of the now-defunct Big 12 South, in its "practice" four-team playoff

The general consensus in 2014 is that the SEC West is college football's strongest division. Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports wrote as much in late September, and the latest Associated Press and coaches polls have five West teams among the top 25. B/R's playoff guru, Sam Chi, has three SEC West in his latest playoff mock standings

Interestingly, though, four of the five top SEC West teams are ranked in the top 10 even though their toughest football ahead of them. Put another way, many teams at the top of the West division still have to play one another. 

That's not to suggest that the West is overrated, but it's also worth pointing out that, prior to Week 6, the best win by any team in that division (with the benefit of hindsight) was Auburn's road victory over Kansas State on Sept. 18. 

That could mean a couple of things. On one hand, it could mean that the West cannibalizes itself and no one escapes without multiple losses. On the other, two teams could rise to the top with, say, one loss between them. 

Either scenario creates the potential for a fascinating conversation at season's end, though largely dependent on what the rest of the landscape looks like. 

Does the Big Ten champion—say Michigan State or Ohio State—still have one loss? How about the Pac-12? Do Florida State and Georgia Tech get through the season unscathed and meet in the ACC championship game? These are all questions that would play a part in shaping the Final Four. 

Strength of schedule varies, to be sure, but the general rule of thumb for a playoff-caliber team, at least among power-five conferences, is relatively consistent: There will be some stinkers, some decent opponents and some good ones. 

The nuances of side-by-side resumes is where things get tricky. 

In other words, it's going to take a lot of losing outside the SEC for the West to get two teams into the playoff—and that's assuming the West doesn't beat itself up along the way. 

Mathematically, there would have to be two others conferences that take themselves out of the playoff race for this to be a possibility. Which ones would those be? It's tough to tell as of Week 7. 

There's also the matter of perception. 

Just as the SEC's reputation could factor into a pair of teams making the playoff, other conferences don't have that luxury. 

The Big Ten's reputation has tanked, especially after a pretty horrific effort in Week 2. The Big 12 is in an interesting position since it lacks a conference championship game and puts teams at a greater risk to lose because of a nine-game conference schedule. 

The Pac-12 lacks other major brands outside Oregon, UCLA and USC. Once Arizona upset Oregon last Thursday, the narrative shifted to whether the Pac-12 would have a playoff team at all (this is, of course, premature). 

Even the SEC East, which appears to be wide open, has been knocked down a couple of pegs perception-wise thanks to South Carolina's 3-3 record and Missouri's loss to Indiana. 

Conference perception ultimately shouldn't aid or hinder what a certain team does during the regular season. Until the selection committee proves that point, however, it's an interesting storyline. 

Whether the SEC West benefits from it or not remains to be seen. As of the second week in October, however, just about anything is possible. 

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. 

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Florida State Defends Jameis Winston Investigation in Letter to Students

Florida State University released an open letter to its community on Friday in an attempt to offset what it describes as a "drumbeat of misinformation" concerning its investigation into the 2012 sexual assault allegation against football star Jameis Winston.

The statement posted on its official site, which includes an 18-step timeline highlighting its handling of the situation and the Title IX obligations associated with it, doesn't name Winston. It refers to him as "the athlete," but the details are in line with his situation.

Florida State said the main reason for its silence on the issues was in order to protect students. It also explains why it decided to speak out now:

But as we expect other stories to appear, it is abundantly clear that the continual drumbeat of misinformation about the University's actions causes harm to our students, faculty, alumni, supporters and the FSU community as a whole. Because of this, and within the constraints of state and federal privacy laws, we want to share with you more detail to set the record straight.

The university states it immediately responded after learning of a possible sexual assault and passed the case to the Tallahassee Police Department after learning the alleged incident occurred off-campus.

It went on to explain why the Title IX administration was not notified about the case, which was at the time no longer being pursued by the police:

The Athletics Department also considered accounts by the athlete and two other FSU student athletes who were present at the encounter. All three independently described it as consensual. Based on that and the TPD's decision, the Athletics Department did not file a report with the University's Title IX administrator or the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities.

A decision was then made to send the case to the State Attorney's Office for further review. FSU asserts it attempted to help protect the complainant's personal information from the public and followed up with a Title IX investigation.

Based on the information available, it was announced in February they would not move forward with it unless new details were brought to light. Two months later, the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights began to look into Florida State's handling of the situation.

After getting cooperation from the complainant, Florida State reopened the Title XI investigation and notes it's currently approaching a "final resolution of the complaint."

The university states it's also working with the Department of Education on its inquiry into the matter:

The University takes sexual assault very seriously. The University is also cooperating fully with the U.S. Dept. of Education investigation into this matter. Indeed, it was the University that informed the DOE nearly six months ago about the Athletics Department knowledge of the case.

Iliana Limon Romero and Brendan Sonnone of the Orlando Sentinel provided a response from the accuser's lawyer, John Clune, about the open letter. He claims it's filled with errors and is just an attempt to get in front of another story that will be released:

Florida State knows that there is a big story about to break from the NY Times and their PR team is trying to do a little preventative damage control. The obvious news in this statement is that senior athletic department officials met with Winston and his lawyer one month after the rape occurred then decided to hide it from the Title IX office.

He also accused Florida State of attempting to break laws to protect its football program:

The statement's timeline is full of errors but it shows that we can add both [the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act] and the victim-advocate privilege to the list of laws Florida State is willing to break to protect this football program. What else can the school do wrong in this mess? The whole country is moving toward improving the response to campus rape while Florida State still backpedals the other way.

Winston has continued to play throughout the process. He's denied any criminal acts and, last December, the state attorney decided against charging the quarterback. He was suspended for one game earlier this season for a separate incident.

 

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