Last week was "the week the SEC fell apart," as nearly every game not involving Alabama resulted in a surprise outcome.
Meanwhile, the rest of the country pretty much went according to chalk, except for maybe that home choke by Louisville and how badly Florida State romped over Clemson.
Now comes Week 9, the first since the BCS standings were released. Every game from here on out is gauged not just by conference championship or bowl-eligibility impact, but how it will affect the next set of rankings and the neverending politicking that comes with those standings.
To that end, the rankings listed in these predictions are teams' current BCS ratings, not their AP ranking as had been the case in past weeks.
Click through the picks to see what we think will happen over the next few days and nights—for the record, we went a cool 36-12 last week, including correctly picking Tennessee and Ole Miss' upsets in the SEC—and then, if you're so inclined, chime in about how you agree (or, more likely disagree) with the selections.
With eight weeks of the 2013 season complete, Johnny Manziel has just six games remaining as a college football player.
However, that's only if he can return from his shoulder injury and is healthy enough to complete the balance of the Aggies’ regular season schedule and a bowl game.
What it amounts to is a maximum of 12 halves, 24 quarters or 360 minutes more of the collegian edition of Johnny Football.
Though Manziel is one of the most polarizing figures in the history of the game, what’s left of his brief passage through the institutional ranks should be sopped up with a biscuit.
Indeed, even if you’re appalled by Manziel’s antics, it’s worth your while to sit down and watch—awestruck—taking in the unforgettable sight of a rare comet burning across the screen.
From being thrown out of a frat party, to leaving the Manning Passing Academy early, to avoiding long-term NCAA ineligibility—the brief reign of Johnny Football has been (if nothing else) as dramatic as a semester in junior high school.
The video below—by ESPN’s Wright Thompson—summarizes the controversy Manziel has produced simply by being himself, both on and off the field.
Even if you’ve grown weary of discussing the many angles of the Manziel phenomenon, it’s difficult to deny that he hasn’t changed the way we think about college football and its participants.
Perhaps what’s most impressive about Manziel—qualities that manage to be overshadowed by his aura—is his remarkable athletic ability.
Though he could be called lots of names, the bottom line is that he is a special football player in spite of—or maybe because of—his personal traits.
It’s intriguing that what gets him in trouble off the field also fuels his greatness on the field.
Manziel’s ability to change games and to confuse and upend opposing defenses is difficult to statistically track. This all has to do with his innate ability to make something out of nothing, a quality that at least partially stems from his fearless attitude.
Categories that could be added to track Manziel might be “plays saved,” “super scrambles” or most “11-yard losses that result in 32-yard gains.” On the other hand, maybe the most accurate way to numerically account for Manziel’s greatness would be a “net gain” statistic.
To illustrate, take a look at the following video clips, which pay tribute to classic Manziel-isms in action.
The first comes in this season’s narrow—but epic—loss to Alabama and the second from the Aggies’ dramatic win over Ole Miss.
What can be statistically illustrated is how Manziel has single-handily transformed Texas A&M’s offense (with the help of Kevin Sumlin, who debuted at the same time).
Not only has Manziel led the Aggies offense to an average of 100 more yards and seven additional points per game, but he has been single handily responsible for a whopping 70 percent of the team’s total output (ranked No. 3 nationally) since last season.
Whether you approve of Manziel or not, he is one of the most exciting, impactful and productive players in history.
Though the “Manziel effect” on college football has been a wild ride, what’s even more intriguing is looking beyond the 2013 season.
Manziel is the perfect storm of swirling controversy, extreme confidence and gifted athleticism to make the future seem promising and scary all in the same breath.
Yes, this guy could beat all of the odds again and become one of the greatest players in the history of the NFL (remember, he was a 3-star recruit who won the Heisman as a freshman).
Or, he could bomb out professionally and personally like Ryan Leaf, who he’s been often compared to.
The question is easy, but the answers are complicated: What happens when Manziel is done playing football at Texas A&M University?
For an up-close-and-personal estimation, take a look at what Manziel’s father had to say—according to an article by ESPN the Magazine’s Wright Thompson—about “Johnny Football completely devouring Johnny Manziel.”
‘Yeah,’ Paul [Manziel] says one evening, driving in his car, ‘It could come unraveled. And when it does, it’s gonna be bad. Real bad.’...He imagines a late-night call, and the cable news ticker, and the next morning's headlines. 'It's one night away from the phone ringing,' he says, 'and he's in jail. And you know what he's gonna say? 'It's better than all the pressure I've been under. This is better than that.'
While it’s far from a forgone conclusion, let’s hope for Manziel’s sake that the traits that make him so brilliant on the field don’t ultimately become his undoing in his bigger role in life.
Regardless of anyone’s individual take on the young man, the prospect of Manziel the athlete’s thrilling brand of play in the NFL is tantalizing.
Until then, college football enthusiasts should enjoy every last crumb on the table in the feast of Johnny Football. And that’s the case even if it leaves a bit of a bad taste in your mouth.
Statistics courtesy of College Football Statistics.
Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com
Sometimes you have to tip your cap to chaos and move on.
That was the required approach to Week 8, and NCAA Football 14 could not overcome the tremendous upset powers. It was indeed a rough simulation, although it’s how you respond that counts (I’m sorry if this feels like an ad for a sports drink, we’re pumping ourselves up accordingly.)
For those new to these parts, here’s the skinny: Using the video game NCAA Football 14, all games from the college football weekend are simulated. Those results are reported—and never doctored—and the most important preview of the weekend is created.
Now it’s time to get back on track. All chaos from this point on will start here.
Updated Record Through Week 8: 24-16
Texas quarterback Case McCoy embraced the underdog role at a young age.
Whether it was growing up with a rare skin disease, living in the shadows of older brother Colt McCoy or consistently being a backup quarterback at Texas, Case McCoy's journey has not been a Cinderella story.
At five-years-old, McCoy was diagnosed with scleroderma—a rare skin and muscular disease. Although it was not life threatening, the disease put him at a disadvantage early in his life.
"It was tough," McCoy said of the disease. "It was not ideal. I didn't really understand it. It was something I struggled with for eight or nine years, but it made me who I am today.
"It was a disadvantage I was put at early, but at the same time, I don't think I would be here if it weren't for it. It made me work harder and made me want all of this more than I probably would have if I was a normal, healthy child."
The trials faced at a young age have helped add to the chip on McCoy's shoulder, that can be seen anytime he takes the field.
My dad was my coach and I told him at a young age, 'Don't treat me differently. Coach me just like you did my brothers and allow me to achieve my dreams,' at a time where doctors were saying it was not possible.
That has been a motive my whole life. You can tell me what you want, you can tell me I can't do something, but I will do it and I will prove you wrong.
Proving people wrong is what he does best. McCoy has led Texas to significant wins during his time in Austin, most recently when Texas upset No. 12 Oklahoma 36-20 in the 108th Red River Rivalry.
But, the road to his senior season has not been an easy route.
Bumps in the Road
Case McCoy followed his brother's path when he chose to attend Texas over scholarship offers from Arizona, Auburn, Colorado State and Texas A&M. But his journey as a Longhorn has been the polar opposite of his older brother's career.
In 2010, Texas quarterback Garrett Gilbert significantly struggled in many games. His worst performance happened at Kansas State when he completed 32 of 59 passes and threw five interceptions in the first three quarters. McCoy was not given the chance to help his team, even though a quarterback change was desperately needed.
Gilbert finished the 2010 season ranked No. 99 in passing efficiency, with a quarterback rating of 111 and No. 113 in interceptions thrown (17). McCoy took seven snaps total in two games his freshman year and attempted one pass and one rush.
For a guy who was pretty highly recruited, you want to play instantly and make an impact. That was never the situation for me. I've battled to be first team, second team, third team. But, at the same time, I wouldn't change it. It has made me who I am.
McCoy's chances of starting for Texas appeared brighter than ever after Gilbert left the Longhorns two weeks into the 2011 season. But rumors about McCoy's future as a Longhorn surfaced when McCoy ended up splitting reps with true freshman David Ash.
McCoy served as a backup to Ash in his junior season in 2012 and only started one game after Ash broke his ribs against TCU. McCoy managed to make headlines for an off-the-field issue at the 2012 Alamo Bowl when linebacker Jordan Hicks and he were sent home for "violating team rules." A San Antonio police report later revealed a sexual assault allegation against McCoy and Hicks.
No charges were filed.
"I owe an apology to everyone," McCoy said of the incident in San Antonio. "I let down my coaches and my teammates. Luckily, David (Ash) played great [in the Alamo Bowl] and was healthy, but you never know the situation that could happen in a game. I have learned from my mistakes and thankfully, my coaches and teammates accepted me back to the team and we move forward."
McCoy went on a 10-week mission trip to Peru in the summer of 2013, rather than spending the time working with his team. The mission trip once again sparked rumors of McCoy's future as a Longhorn.
"[The media] made it seem like I was leaving, but I was never leaving," McCoy said Monday. "I chose this school for a reason. I always wanted to play for the University of Texas and I don't know if there is a guy on this team that has more pride for this school than I do. I am doing everything I can, week-in and week-out, to get this school back on the map."
McCoy spent the summer installing water filtration systems in poverty-stricken villages in Peru. Helping those in need helped McCoy to realize how blessed he is, not only to live in the United States, but to also play the game he loves.
"That trip to Peru has made me a better quarterback and a better teammate," McCoy said. "I would never change my decision, I would do it again today. Being separated from [football] for 10 weeks made me realize how much of a passion I have for the game and how much love I have for my teammates.
"There was a time where I was kind of going through the motions and not relishing the moment I am living in. Once I realized that and understood that I had one more year to do what I love and to continue to try to achieve this dream I've had for so long, that was biggest impact I got from the trip. I was ready to get back to my team as soon as that all hit me."
"If he had been the starting quarterback, he probably wouldn't have gone," Mack Brown said of McCoy's mission to Peru. "But being the backup quarterback going into his senior year, we actually felt like David (Ash) could lead the summer, and he needed to be the guy and be the leader. So it worked out well."
McCoy's Unexpected Senior Season
McCoy's role as the Longhorns quarterback unexpectedly became larger than ever when starting quarterback David Ash suffered a head injury in Week 2 of the season. McCoy has helped Texas overcome its 1-2 start and has the Longhorns contending for the Big 12's BCS berth at 3-0 in conference play.
"I grew up being an underdog," McCoy said. "I've been at a disadvantage for a long time. I went to a high school where we were always the underdog. And I love it. I love the us-against-the-world mentality because that's where you grow. That's where you become a team."
Everyone outside of the Texas football program expected the Longhorns to fall on their face against the Sooners. But in true Case McCoy form, he led Texas to its first win over Oklahoma since 2009 and did so with a giant chip on his shoulder.
"Complacency is when you start to fail, especially as a quarterback," McCoy said after being asked about the chip on his shoulder. "The way I avoid that is by keeping a chip on my shoulder. No one thinks I'm any good but my team. That's why my team keeps playing hard and I'm excited to go to war with these guys.
"This team is rolling. I'm a competitor. I want to be the guy. I'm not going to lose that job."
McCoy's confidence of maintaining his starting role seems to be relative in his current situation. Speculation of true freshman Tyrone Swoopes taking over as quarterback reached an all-time high when Ash went down at BYU. But, the way Mack Brown discussed Swoopes' future Monday has somewhat silenced the rumors.
The thing you want to try to do is be fair and not put him (Swoopes) in if David is coming back because David and Case would be the two quarterbacks and then he (Swoopes) loses a year.
Until Ash is cleared to play, McCoy is not going anywhere.
McCoy has continued to step up to the challenge of transitioning from a backup quarterback into the starting role and vice versa. The expiration date of McCoy's starting career is up in the air with Ash's head injury being a week-to-week battle.
But, what will happened if Ash returns?
After the Oklahoma game, Mack Brown told the Longhorn Network that this team is McCoy's team. Brown later clarified saying, "At this point, it is Case's team. When David returns, we'll have to look at it, but that's not an issue at this point."
It is also not an issue this week as the Longhorns prepare for TCU.
Nobody outside of the Texas medical staff and football program truly knows what is going on with Ash's injury. All that is known is Ash suffered a concussion in Week 2 against BYU, had recurring concussion symptoms at some point in the first half of Texas' game against Kansas State two weeks later and has not been seen by the media since.
With no timetable set for Ash's return, Case McCoy's future as the Longhorns' starting quarterback resembles his career at Texas: a week-to-week battle as the underdog.
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.
Follow Taylor on Twitter: @Taylor_Gaspar
Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com
Fresh off of a homecoming win against the TCU Horned Frogs, the Oklahoma State Cowboys will travel north to Ames, IA to take on the Iowa State Cyclones.
On paper, this looks like a relatively easy victory for the Pokes, as the Cyclones are just 1-5 on the season and have struggled to keep opposing teams out of the end zone.
That said, we said the same thing in 2011 and we all know how that turned out.
Obviously, this game doesn't quite have the National Championship implications that the 2011 contest did, but it's important that Oklahoma State come out, play well, and get their offense back on track before their tough late-season schedule kicks in.
Date: Saturday, Oct. 19
Time: 12:00 p.m. ET
Place: Jack Trice Stadium (56,800 cap.) Ames, IA
Radio: Cowboy Radio Network
All-Time Series: Oklahoma State holds a 26-18-3 advantage all-time.
When evaluating a player, one of the initial traits to look for is explosiveness. Being able to explode allows players to make plays at every position.
However, it's most important on offense. Eluding defenders, surging upfield for big gains and scoring touchdowns all come from a player possessing an excellent burst with the ball. The 2014 class features some remarkably explosive prospects on offense, but it's time to look at the recruits who are elite in this category.
A pair of teammates from Florida make this list, while an athlete from New Orleans is like a bomb with the ball in his hands. Also, a few defensive prospects with outstanding offensive potential warrant consideration.
While the likes of Marcus Mariota, Jameis Winston and Johnny Manziel are rising to the top of the Heisman watch lists, there are a few other players who are putting up big-time numbers and should have their name mentioned among those three quarterbacks.
Here is a look at four sleeper candidates that could potentially push the Heisman favorites during the stretch run of the college football season.
Lache Seastrunk, RB, Baylor
Lache Seastrunk has been one of two stars, the other being quarterback Bryce Petty, driving the Baylor Bears offense this season.
Baylor has scored over 69 points in all but one of their games this season, the lone low-scoring performance came in a 35-25 win over Kansas State.
In his seven games this season, the junior running back has averaged 9.2 yards per carry while scoring 10 touchdowns.
The one knock on Seastrunk right now is that he has compiled these numbers against below-par competition.
He will have a chance to knock off that criticism in the upcoming weeks as Baylor faces No. 15 Oklahoma, No. 10 Texas Tech and No. 19 Oklahoma State.
If Seastrunk and the Bears can survive all three of those crucial Big 12 match-ups, then his Heisman candidacy will be taken seriously.
Sean Mannion, QB, Oregon State
In seven games this season for the Oregon State Beavers, junior quarterback Sean Mannion has thrown for just under 3,000 yards.
Mannion and the Beavers should be sitting at 7-0 heading into their showdown at home with No. 6 Stanford on Saturday, but they slipped up in their first game of the season. They lost to Eastern Washington 49-46 at home.
Mannion has not let the loss from the opening week of the season hurt his potential Heisman campaign: he has thrown at least 360 yards in every game he has played.
The junior from Pleasanton, CA is currently seen as a outsider in the Heisman race, but if he delivers a spectacular performance against Stanford, he could insert his name into the discussion for the illustrious trophy.
If Mannion can find a way past the Cardinal at home, he will have to navigate a tricky Pac-12 schedule that ends with a trip to Eugene to play No. 3 Oregon in the Civil War Game on November 29.
A.J. McCarron, QB, Alabama
Alabama senior quarterback A.J. McCarron has flown under the radar this season, and there is a reason for the lack of hype surrounding the Crimson Tide signal caller.
McCarron has thrown over 300 yards in just two games against Texas A&M and Kentucky, and in his other five games, his play has been nothing to write home about.
Unfortunately for McCarron's Heisman hopes, he does not have many marquee games left to prove that he is worth winning the award.
Only two ranked teams, No. 13 LSU and No. 11 Auburn, remain on the Crimson Tide's schedule along with Tennessee, Mississippi State and Chattanooga.
With a lackluster schedule in front of him, McCarron will have to put up astronomical numbers to ensure that his name is relevant in the Heisman discussion.
Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State
Here is your obligatory dark-horse Heisman candidate.
Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr, younger brother of former No. 1 NFL Draft pick David Carr, has guided the Bulldogs to a 6-0 record to open the season.
Carr's Heisman campaign almost did not happen. The Bulldogs barely slipped past Rutgers, winning 52-51 in overtime in their first game of the season.
Since then, Carr has led the Bulldogs to five more victories, and he has thrown for over 400 yards in three of those games.
For Carr's name to even be remotely considered for the Heisman in December, he will have to lead the Bulldogs to an undefeated season in the Mountain West and put up Baylor-like numbers in the major offensive statistical categories.
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The No. 12 UCLA Bruins will have arguably its toughest challenge of the 2013 season, as it travels to Eugene to take on the No. 3 Oregon Ducks.
Jim Mora's team is coming off of its first loss of the season, a 24-10 defeat to Stanford. The Bruins suffered multiple injuries on the offensive line in the loss. Depth will surely be tested against Oregon's talented defensive line.
As for the Ducks, Mark Helfrich's team was third in the initial BCS Standings. Feeling a bit slighted, Oregon could look to have an impressive victory against a battered UCLA squad. A win against the Bruins will surely enhance Oregon's resume for a possible National Championship bid.
Here's everything you need to know:
Date: Saturday, Oct. 26
Time: 4:00 p.m. PT
Place: Autzen Stadium, Eugene, Ore.
Radio: Sirius XM Radio
Line: Oregon -23 per VegasInsider.com
With a weekend full of exciting matchups, there are several coaches, players and teams to keep an eye on.
Some will be looking to perform when faced with adversity. Others will look to keep a good stretch of play going. And for one, an undefeated season lies in the balance.
All in all, several names will be under the microscope this weekend.
Here are six of the ones to pay attention to.
Cordell Broadus, a 4-star receiver from California's Diamond Bar High School and the noted son of Snoop Dogg, was caught throwing a cheap-shot punch against Diamond Ranch High School on Friday night and has reportedly been suspended because of it, according to CBS LA.
TMZ posted video of the incident and highlighted the player believed to be Broadus (No. 21) as he punches an opponent. Here's a GIF of TMZ's video:
According to CBS LA:
The problem started late in the game, with only three minutes left to play. It was unclear who started the fight, but football players speaking off-camera told KCAL9′s Brittney Hopper that a large number of players will be suspended as a result.
Among those rumored to be suspended is Cordell Broadus, Diamond Bar High School’s standout receiver and the son of rapper Snoop Lion.
The footage TMZ posted, while grainy, clearly shows a player (believed to be Broadus, who wears No. 21) run into the middle of a shoving match and deliver a right hook to an opponent.
Both benches eventually clear and the game was called off as a result.
Broadus, a member of the Class of 2015, is the No. 50 recruit on 247Sports' composite and the No. 3 junior receiver in the country.
He already has scholarship offers from 11 schools—including USC, Notre Dame, UCLA, Cal, LSU and Nebraska—and has drawn interest from other brand-name programs like Oregon and Oklahoma.
His recruitment is still active and hotly contested, but there appears to be a consensus clubhouse leader: 100 percent of voters for the 247Sports "crystal ball" think he is headed to USC.
Here's a video of the ensuing brawl, though unlike the TMZ footage, it does not include a shot of Broadus' alleged punch:
This incident might cause some of those schools to reassess their recruitment of Broadus, though it shouldn't throw too big of a wrench into his future. So long as he shows genuine remorse and keeps his nose clean, talent like his typically wins out.
TMZ tried reaching out to Snoop Dogg's representatives for a comment, but so far they have been unsuccessful.
Regardless, this is not what daddy meant when he said, "Drop it like it's hot."
Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com
With five games remaining, four of which coming in Oxford, the Ole Miss Rebels are now firmly in control of their final bowl destination. Sitting at 4-3 (2-3 SEC), it's not a matter of if Hugh Freeze will lead his club to back-to-back bowl games, but rather where they'll go bowling.
Following the upset win over then-No. 6 LSU, the Rebels now sit at 4-3 overall (2-3 SEC).
Sure the Rebels dropped road games at No. 1 Alabama and on the Plains, not to mention having lost a heartbreaker to Texas A&M in Oxford for the second time in as many years.
But guess what?
Each of those three teams, all ranked inside the Top 15, have a combined record of 18-3.
Here were the three losses: Alabama over A&M, Auburn over A&M and LSU over Auburn.
That's called the SEC.
Remaining Regular Season Slate for Rebels
Coming off the LSU win, Jeff Sagarin ranks the Rebels as having played the No. 1 toughest schedule (SOS) in America through October 19. It's a very telling figure.
With the hardest part of their schedule in the rear-view mirror, the Rebels now have a chance to close out the regular season well. Very well, actually.
October 26: Idaho (1-6) SOS No. 64
November 2: Open
November 9: Arkansas (3-5) SOS No. 17
November 16: Troy (4-3) SOS No. 130
November 23: Missouri (7-0) SOS No. 30
November 28: at Miss State SOS No. 34
Assuming the world doesn't end on Saturday and Ole Miss makes easy work of Idaho, the Rebels will have a week off to rest up a truly banged up bunch. Then, a struggling Arkansas Razorbacks club heads to Oxford on November 9.
And struggling the Razorbacks are (3-5, 0-4 SEC), having lost its four SEC games by an average 32.25 PPG. That being said, any given SEC club can upset another on any given Saturday. It'll be something Freeze preaches to his kids leading up to the Arkansas game.
However, a win over the Hogs would propel the Rebels to bowl-eligibility at 6-3 (3-3 SEC).
The following weekend, a Troy team (4-3, 1-3 away) that Mississippi State (3-3, 0-2 SEC) handled 62-7 earlier this year travels to Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. When the Trojans and Rebels square off, so should begin the Rebels' season within a season of "playing for a warmer bowl location."
A win over Troy would improve the Rebels to 7-3 (3-3 SEC) with only two games remaining.
And honestly, if Ole Miss isn't 7-3 after Troy, they will (and should) be very disappointed.
Final Two Regular Season Games Will Tell Story
In the end, look no further than the Rebels' final two regular-season games to make the biggest impact on where the boys in red and blue spend the bowl season.
Their final two games will be at home on senior night against No. 5 Missouri (7-0, 3-0 SEC) and on the road vs. Mississippi State for a Thanksgiving Night Egg Bowl.
While one game will be against yet another highly-ranked opponent in the Tigers, the other will be equally as challenging against a Bulldogs team looking to avenge an embarrassing Egg Bowl loss in 2012.
By the time November 23 rolls around, Mizzou may have well already locked up the SEC East title and a spot in the SEC Championship Game. If that's the case, it'll be quite interesting to see how motivated Mizzou will be heading to Oxford, with Texas A&M only a week ahead.
Then on Thanksgiving, the Rebels will face in-state rival Mississippi State. There's a great possibility the Bulldogs will be looking for an all-important sixth win in the Egg Bowl to become bowl eligible.
Making Sense of a Clouded Bowl Picture
Assuming Ole Miss advances to 7-3 ahead of the Mizzou game, wins over the Tigers and Bulldogs would put the Rebs at 9-3 and in excellent position for a New Years Day bowl bid.
Likely remaining ahead of the Rebels in SEC bowl pecking order will be Alabama, Missouri and Auburn. The most likely bowl destinations of these three, at the moment, would be the BCS National Championship, Sugar Bowl and Cotton Bowl.
From there, things get a little more cloudy with the Outback, Capital One, Chick-fil-A, Gator and Music City Bowl left to make their picks (and try and work with one another).
A 4-3 Georgia club still faces Auburn and rival Georgia Tech on the road.
A 5-2 South Carolina team travels to Mizzou this weekend, before hosting Florida and Clemson.
A 6-2 LSU squad must travel to Tuscaloosa before hosting Texas A&M at home.
A 5-2 Texas A&M team must still play at both LSU and Mizzou.
Still with a lot of football left to play, as evidenced by the schedules above, Georgia and Ole Miss clearly have easier paths to nine regular season wins than South Carolina, LSU and Texas A&M.
If the Rebels finish 9-3, they likely won't fall below the Chick-fil-A Bowl.
If they finish 8-4, the Gator Bowl becomes the most likely destination.
If the Rebels drop two more to finish 7-5, they'd all but be assured a trip to Nashville.
And if Ole Miss drops three of its next five to finish 6-6, it'll be a 70-mile drive to the Liberty Bowl.
Before the season began, I predicted a 9-3 record and a trip to the Chick-fil-A Bowl.
That's my story and I'm sticking to it.
Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com
The first half the season is over. Now, things will start getting interesting in the Big 12.
One of the first games that could have a major impact on the conference standings kicks off at 3:30 p.m. ET when Texas Tech travels to Oklahoma. The Red Raiders are 7-0 and No. 10 in the BCS. Though Baylor is the favorite to win the conference, Tech is right there ready to take the lead.
Passing its first major test in Norman would be huge for Tech and first-year coach Kliff Kingsbury.
The Big 12's other undefeated, Baylor, also plays on the road at Kansas. In fact, four of the Big 12's top five teams are on the road this weekend.
Will that be a recipe for upsets? Let's get to the picks.
(All rankings reflect the latest BCS standings.)
After a weekend full of upsets, Week 9 of college football offers up plenty of interesting games of its own.
Several ranked opponents will square off against each other. An undefeated squad will try to hurdle its first true test on the road. A fallen contender will try to get its season back on the right track.
All this and more make up the various storylines for this weekend.
But here are the five teams that face the toughest matchup.
The SEC coaches line up one-by-one every Wednesday to take questions from members of the SEC media, and this week's teleconference was littered with news, nuggets and information that fans need to know heading into Week 9.
What were some of the highlights?
Targeting Rule Explained
SEC coordinator of officials Steve Shaw made a special appearance after all 14 coaches made the rounds to discuss what has become one of the most controversial rule changes in recent college football history. Three SEC players were ejected after targeting penalties during a 25-minute span during the first round of games Saturday, and Shaw did what he could to quell what is rapidly becoming a major firestorm.
"The rule is working as the rule's makers wanted it to," Shaw said. "The rule was intended to modify player behavior, change how coaches interact with their players and modify their behavior on the field. What may be surprising to you is that the overall targeting fouls are down this year over last year, even with the increased emphasis that we've had."
In FBS this season, there have been 52 targeting fouls, 14 of which were made in games involving SEC teams. Of those 14, six of them have been overturned. But according to the rule, the 15-yard penalty remains despite instant replay overturning ejections. That may change, according to Shaw.
"Even our commissioner (Mike Slive) has serious reservations about the penalty philosophy around targeting fouls when they're overturned," Shaw said. "He and I have talked, and together we are going to work with the rules committee to revisit the penalty if a targeting call is overturned."
It appears that the rule is here to stay, which means hits like Georgia Ray Drew had on Vanderbilt quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels are here to stay.
"Two (of the four from last weekend) were absolute textbook targeting," Shaw said. "One was in the gray area, but clearly, by rule, it was a targeting foul. And then we had one that was properly overturned."
Coaches have adjusted the way they approach practice as a result of the new rule.
"Anytime in practice, anything that would have been close, we show that as a team," Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen said. "You can take it overboard and say, 'Everybody just go low and target the knees every time'. We don't make that much of an emphasis of it; we just want to go low, right around the mid-section."
But the emphasis on the targeting foul clearly has coaches concerned about the risk that goes along with more players making a concerted effort to go low to avoid a foul and ejection.
"A lot schools have no trouble with it," South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said. "They tell their guys, 'Stay low, hit 'em in the waist.' You're getting a few more knees knocked out in some places because of this, but hopefully players will tackle around the chest area."
Will Johnny Manziel Play This Saturday?
Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel briefly left the game last week in the fourth quarter in the loss to Auburn, and his status for this weekend's game versus Vanderbilt is still up in the air.
"His status remains hopeful," head coach Kevin Sumlin said.
One person who isn't too concerned about Manziel's status is Commodore head coach James Franklin. When asked who he expects under center this week, Franklin didn't mince words.
"Manziel's playing," he said. "I don't think there's any doubt or question about that whatsoever."
Franklin went on to discuss just how important Manziel is to the Aggie offense.
"Johnny Manziel is the 'X-factor' as everybody knows," Franklin said. "Everybody's seen it on TV, we've watched it on coaches' film and studied it, everybody's had plans to stop or contain him and haven't had much success at doing it."
Florida head coach Will Muschamp is still dealing with the injury bug. Linebacker Jeremi Powell is the latest Gator to go down with a season-ending injury after the redshirt freshman tore his ACL in the loss to Missouri.
In addition to the loss of Powell, linebacker Ronald Powell has been nursing an ankle injury and hasn't practiced this week, although Muschamp expects him back for the Georgia game on Nov. 2.
"Ronald Powell, I think we'll get him back on the field next week," Muschamp said.
Quarterback Tyler Murphy won't throw this week after suffering a shoulder injury two weeks ago against LSU. Muschamp expects him back for the Georgia game but is growing frustrated with the rapidly growing injury list.
“It’s just one of those years’’ Muschamp said. “It's unfortunate, but it's part of the game, and you gotta coach through it and you gotta play through it."
Steve Spurrier confirmed that quarterback Connor Shaw isn't going to practice much this week but should back up Dylan Thompson Saturday night at Missouri. He also expects defensive tackle Kelcy Quarles back.
"Kelcy Quarles, our defensive tackle, had a sprained knee that looks like it's coming around," Spurrier said. "He could be available to play some. We're very healthy when compared to a lot of teams in the SEC and a lot of teams in the country."
LSU head coach Les Miles is the most entertaining member of the 14 SEC head coaches, due in part to his infinite wisdom and creative use of the English language.
How does he rebound from last weekend's loss to Ole Miss?
"The approach has been we're beyond a time frame in which we'll look back," Miles said.
But it wasn't just Miles dropping knowledge on the assembled members of the media Wednesday. The Head Ball Coach has a theory on the outcomes of college football games.
"In 50 percent of every game, there's a loser," Spurrier said.
Yogi Berra and Brian Fantana approve.
Spurrier also talked a little smack about Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin's golf game.
"We went on a golf trip this summer to Ireland," Spurrier said. "He's one golfer I can beat."
Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.
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Sunday night brought with it the final debut of the BCS standings, the last first time that cursed formula will crunch all its numbers and spit out an initial list.
But a lot can change between now and December, which is really when the rankings start to matter. Every team still has plenty of games left on their schedule that could trip them up and drastically alter the national title landscape.
Week 9 presents a number of those potential impact games, even if it's not as loaded as the previous Saturday. Highly ranked teams face quality opponents in all corners of the nation, hoping to avoid the dreaded upset that will derail their season.
Bleacher Report's resident BCS guru, Sam Chi, compiled the five biggest impact games on the Week 9 schedule. Here's a quick preview of each one.
Trevor Taylor walked off the field a loser Saturday, despite putting up passing numbers rarely seen beyond video games. The Mendocino College quarterback racked up 796 yards through the air on 52 pass attempts, but it wasn't enough to prevent a 69-66 loss to College of the Redwoods in California JUCO action, according to the Washington Post.
Taylor, a 5'10", 180-pound sophomore out of Ukiah High School (Calif.), completed 38 throws and nine touchdown tosses in the contest. Unsurprisingly, he was named the Northern California Football Association Player of the week after his head-turning performance.
Mendocino ultimately lost the shootout when Redwoods connected on a game-winning touchdown pass with five seconds left in regulation. Perhaps Taylor's defensive teammates owe him dinner.
Opposing passer Will Hissong wasn't too shabby in his own right. He threw for 573 yards and five scores on 39 completions.
To review, the pair of quarterbacks combined for 77 pass completions, 1,369 yards and 14 touchdowns.
The California Community College Athletic Association game doesn't fall under NCAA jurisdiction when it comes to statistics or records. Still, it implores you to compare Taylor's prolific game to some of the most memorable accomplishments we've seen from collegiate quarterbacks.
Division III standout Zamir Amin (Menlo College, Calif.) established an all-time NCAA passing yardage mark in 2000, when he threw for 731 yards against Cal Lutheran. That record still stands 13 years later.
Amin also ended up on the wrong side of the scoreboard when he put up those historic numbers.
David Klingler is among a long line of Houston passers who put up huge statistics. In 1990, he amassed 716 yards against Eastern Washington, which remains the number to beat for FBS quarterbacks.
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Appearing on SportsCenter Wednesday morning, one of college football’s most controversial talking heads had no doubt who his Heisman favorite is, according to The Dallas Morning News’ Sean Lester:
“The bottom line is this — he’s played spectacularly,” Finebaum said. “In spite of what I said and what others said, he has shut us all up. To that I give him a lot of credit. He’s not only played with pain as we saw against Auburn but he’s played against all odds.”
There's no doubt that Manziel has once again been phenomenal.
Through seven games, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner has thrown for 2,289 yards, 18 touchdowns and seven interceptions on 73.2 percent passing. He’s also added another 486 yards and six scores on the ground.
Manziel’s performance has him ranked in the top five in various statistical categories including yards, completion percentage and QB rating.
However, given the stellar play of Florida State’s Jameis Winston and Oregon’s Marcus Mariota, Manziel’s Heisman campaign has taken some hits.
The sophomore currently sits at No. 3 in ESPN’s latest Heisman Watch.
Regardless, Finebaum isn’t budging from his stance:
“I’m staying with Johnny Manziel and here’s why,” Finebaum said. “He has played better than anyone else and not only that, we can’t take our eyes off of him. The Heisman goes to the most outstanding player, not the most outstanding team. As a longtime Heisman voter I criticize my fellow colleagues because we get caught up in who won, who lost, you’re out.
“The bottom line is, Johnny Manziel is still the best player in the country. His team has lost twice but I’m sticking with him right now.”
To his credit, it wasn't like Manziel wasn't near his best during the Aggies' two losses.
Against Alabama, he racked up 562 yards of total offense while tossing five touchdowns. Versus Auburn, Manziel totaled 502 yards of total offense while accounting for five scores.
Ironically, his QB ratings in those contests—203.8 and 198.2, respectively—rank among the best in his 20-game career.
Let’s see how Winston and Mariota fare backed behind the nation’s No. 120-ranked total defense.
Odds are, they both probably wouldn't be leading two undefeated teams.
All stats and rankings used in this article are courtesy of NCAA.com.
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