NCAA Football

College Football Odds: Opening Week 12 Betting Lines and Totals

The Marshall Thundering Herd, looking to improve to a perfect 10-0 this season, have opened as strong 19.5-point favorites over the visiting Rice Owls at sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark on the college football betting lines for Week 12.

No. 21 Marshall jumped two positions in the Associated Press Top 25 following its lopsided 63-17 win over Southern Miss on the weekend, easily covering as the 26.5-point favorite. The Herd have been dominant this season, posting each of their nine victories by an average margin of more than 30 points, and they have been a solid bet, going 6-2-1 against the spread this season.

The 6-3 Owls have won their last six games straight up and ATS, improving to 4-1 in conference play to stay in contention in the Conference USA West division,. They trail only Louisiana Tech, which leads the West with a 6-0 record.

Rice topped Marshall in their last meeting, a 41-24 win last season, but the Herd are 3-2 SU in their last five games against Rice, going 3-1-1 ATS.

The Duke Blue Devils will be gunning for their fifth consecutive SU win when they face Virginia Tech in Week 12, opening as seven-point home favorites over the Hokies at sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark.

No. 19 Duke posted a decisive 27-10 win over the Syracuse Orange last weekend, covering as the four-point road favorite. The win kept the Blue Devils atop the ACC Coastal division with a record of 4-1 against conference opponents.

The 4-5 Hokies continue to endure a disappointing campaign, losing their third straight game SU and ATS last weekend, a 33-31 decision to visiting Boston College. The loss was Virginia Tech’s fifth in its last six when pegged as the favorite.

The surging Ohio State Buckeyes opened as strong 14.5-point road favorites for their Week 12 matchup with the Minnesota Golden Gophers at sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark. No. 8 Ohio State catapulted five spots in the AP Top 25 following its dominant 49-37 upset victory over Michigan State last weekend, its seventh straight SU win, 6-1 ATS.

The 7-2 Golden Gophers are 6-0 SU at home this season and 4-2 ATS, and they are deadlocked atop the Big Ten West alongside Nebraska and Wisconsin with a conference record of 4-1.

In other Week 12 college football betting action, the East Carolina Pirates opened as 2.5-point favorites over Cincinnati. The USC Trojans are favored by 12 points over California, and North Carolina opened as a slender 1.5-point favorite over Pittsburgh.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Picks Week 12: Predictions and Odds for Top 25 Schedule

The minute the clock struck triple zeros in the Oregon and Utah clash in Week 11, college football fans and College Football Playoff hopefuls alike were ready to turn their attention toward Week 12.

After all, every game matters in the race for the final four spots, and there are as many as nine teams with zero losses or one loss with legitimate postseason hopes (sorry, Auburn, losing to the same Texas A&M team that got thumped 59-0 against Alabama and barely escaped UL Monroe is not a good look in November).

With that in mind, here is a look at the Associated Press rankings and then predictions and odds for every Top 25 game on the Week 12 slate. Point spreads are courtesy of Odds Shark as of Sunday evening at 8 p.m. ET.

 

Week 12 Upset Alert: Florida State at Miami

The showdown between Alabama and Mississippi State is the marquee game on the Week 12 calendar, but there is serious upset potential in the rivalry matchup between Florida State and Miami.

The Hurricanes have won their last three games and held opposing rushing attacks to 2.1 yards per carry, but it is the offense that should have the Seminoles on alert. Miami scored at least 30 points in each of those three games, and Duke Johnson is the best player in the country whom nobody is talking about.

Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press noted that Johnson has been racking up incredible numbers even though he hasn’t been on the field throughout the entire year:

Head coach Al Golden commented on the lack of heavy use, via Reynolds:

We want to keep his odometer down. We want to keep the hits off him. That's the biggest thing. His production is up but his overall play count is down. And I think he'd be the first to tell you, I think he's fresh and playing his best football right now.

This is the game the Hurricanes have been saving him for all season.

Johnson has at least 100 rushing yards in each of his last five contests and has scored in every game but the season opener. This prime-time showdown in front of the home fans is the ideal spotlight game for Johnson’s budding Heisman Trophy candidacy.

Johnson will be going for more than just a victory on Saturday. He has 3,080 rushing yards in his career even though he missed the majority of the second half of the 2013 season with injury, and he is nipping at the heels of Ottis Anderson’s Miami running back record of 3,331 career yards.

Florida State has given up more than 150 rushing yards in three of its last four games. Yes, the Seminoles have a strong front seven, but they are vulnerable against a formidable rushing attack, and that is exactly what Miami brings to the table.

The Seminoles have played in close games all season but emerged victorious with impressive second halves (and timely offensive pass interference calls), and that will once again be the case on Saturday.

Ultimately, Jameis Winston and the Florida State offense will make enough plays down the stretch to win yet again, but the Miami rushing attack and a raucous crowd under the lights will pose a serious problem for the majority of the game. 

The Seminoles are officially on upset alert.

Prediction: Florida State 28, Miami 24

 

Follow me on Twitter:

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Rankings 2014: Latest Standings and Predictions for Week 12

Any fear that the College Football Playoff would devalue the regular season should be long gone. 

Every Saturday is another 14-hour drama that unfolds before the fans’ eyes from the early noon ET kickoffs to the Pac-12 games that thrill us into the wee hours of the morning. Week 11 was certainly no different, as six games featured clashes between ranked teams.

Here is a look at the resultant fallout in the polls, including Bleacher Report’s official Top 25, heading into Week 12.

 

Week 12 Predictions

Alabama Ends Mississippi State’s Undefeated Dream

The SEC is down to one undefeated team, and it is Mississippi State. Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, the bullies on the SEC block will end that dream on Saturday.

Alabama gets Mississippi State at home and will unleash its dominant defense against Dak Prescott and the Bulldogs offense. The Crimson Tide rank second in the country in points allowed per game at 13.9, and they are fresh off a game-saving defensive performance against LSU in overtime.

The Crimson Tide will win this game by forcing a timely turnover in the second half. Mississippi State had 18 turnovers in its first nine games, and the Crimson Tide bring the best defense it has faced all year to the table.

At least head coach Dan Mullen recognized the problem before the Week 11 game against UT Martin, according to The Associated Press, via Fox Sports: "We take a lot of pride in protecting the football. I am obviously not very happy to have almost two years' worth of turnovers in eight games." 

Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, Mullen won’t be happy after Saturday’s game either.

 

Florida State Survives Scare

Florida State has followed a familiar pattern all season—let the opponent hang around for the opening half and then do enough to win after intermission.

The Seminoles survived in that fashion against Oklahoma State, North Carolina State, Notre Dame, Louisville and Clemson. You will be able to add archrival Miami to that list after Week 12.

The Hurricanes will be plenty motivated at home to end Florida State’s College Football Playoff hopes behind a balanced offensive attack that averages 33 points a game. Miami comes into this one with a three-game winning streak, and all three of its losses came on the road against quality opponents (Louisville, Georgia Tech and Nebraska). 

The Seminoles allowed at least 20 points in each of the last four games and will struggle to contain Miami’s offense. It will take an impressive second half from Jameis Winston for Florida State to avoid its first loss since 2012.

 

Ohio State Survives Stiff Test From Minnesota

Ohio State made a louder statement than anyone else in the country in Week 11 (outside of perhaps TCU) when it walked into Michigan State and dominated the Spartans from the middle of the second quarter on.

It was a cathartic revenge game for the Buckeyes against the team that knocked them out of the national championship game a season ago. However, their clash at Minnesota is the classic definition of a trap game.

Ohio State is fresh off its biggest win in years and now has to motivate itself again for another road contest against a less talented opponent. It probably doesn’t help that the kickoff will be at noon ET, before the entire Minnesota student section even files in. It will certainly have a different feel than the prime-time game at Michigan State. 

The bottom line is, the Buckeyes must avoid overlooking the Gophers, and that will be easier said than done. Jeff Svoboda of Buckeye Sports Bulletin also had an important message for Ohio State fans assuming that this will be an easy victory:

The good news for Buckeyes supporters is that coach Urban Meyer understands that his team cannot overlook the Golden Gophers. At least he does if this quote, via Patrick Maks of Eleven Warriors, is any indication:

Ohio State will do enough to win and stay firmly in the race for one of the four College Football Playoff spots, but we will not see the same intensity we did against Michigan State.

 

Follow me on Twitter:

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Bowl Predictions 2014: Latest Playoff Projections Before Critical Week 12

Week 11 on the college football schedule was supposed to separate the contenders from the pretenders with six showdowns between ranked teams. 

While we saw some of that when Ohio State handled Michigan State, Arizona State beat Notre Dame, TCU crushed Kansas State, Alabama outlasted LSU and Utah literally dropped the ball against Oregon, the biggest headline was Texas A&M’s shocking upset over Auburn.

Not only did it likely end the Tigers’ playoff hopes, but it put a major dent into the narrative about two SEC teams making the College Football Playoff field. Mississippi State and Alabama are certainly both still contenders, but they play each other in Week 12, and the Bulldogs still have to battle Ole Miss.

With that in mind, here is a look at the latest playoff projections heading into a critical Week 12.

 

Bowl Predictions

Sugar Bowl: No. 1 Florida State vs. No. 4 TCU

Rose Bowl: No. 3 Oregon vs. No. 2 Alabama

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

Florida State and Alabama will clinch the top two spots in the field of four by winning out and capturing their respective conference championships. That would leave the Seminoles undefeated and the Crimson Tide with only one loss and a number of impressive SEC wins.

Oregon now has the inside track at a one-loss season and a Pac-12 title with only one difficult game remaining on the schedule (the Pac-12 Championship Game against the eventual South Division winner). 

TCU will seize the fourth and final spot by winning out against Texas, Iowa State and Kansas. The Horned Frogs may eventually need Baylor to lose since the Bears won their head-to-head showdown, but Kansas State will help TCU out by beating Baylor.

 

Week 12 Sneak Peek

The headliner of the Week 12 schedule and the game with the biggest playoff implications is the showdown between Alabama and Mississippi State.

The Bulldogs may be No. 1 in the country, but this one is in Tuscaloosa against an Alabama team that could be hitting its stride after a narrow win at LSU. A loss would be crippling to Mississippi State’s playoff chances even with an SEC schedule because it still has to play Ole Miss and would likely lose out on the division crown to the Crimson Tide.

That would raise the question of whether a team can really be the best in the country if it isn’t the best team in its own division.

There is also this bit of information, via Brian Bennett of ESPN:

Outside of the SEC West clash, there are two Week 12 games in particular that should have playoff contenders on upset alert.

Florida State has to travel to Miami to take on the motivated and dangerous archrival Hurricanes, while Ohio State has to go to Minnesota and face an underrated Golden Gophers team. The Seminoles continue to win, which is the most important part of the playoff race, but they haven’t looked as dominant as they did a season ago.

Head coach Jimbo Fisher suggested as much after a Week 11 win over Virginia, via CBS Miami: “Winning is hard. There’s no such thing as a bad win. We knew this was going to be a very physical, good football team.”

As for Minnesota, it destroyed a solid Iowa team in Week 11 and could give the Buckeyes serious problems if the latter is still reveling in its impressive win over Michigan State and overlooking a sleepy noon kickoff against the Golden Gophers.

That game could be too close for comfort for many within the borders of Buckeye Nation.

Other games to watch are showdowns featuring Auburn against Georgia and Nebraska against Wisconsin. While the Tigers and Bulldogs clash lost some luster when Auburn lost to Texas A&M, the game between the Cornhuskers and Badgers is critical in the Big Ten’s West Division.

The winner will have the inside track for a spot in the conference championship game against Ohio State in all likelihood, and the Cornhuskers would be very much alive in the playoff race in that scenario. 

Buckle up, because the ride is just getting started.

 

Follow me on Twitter:

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Superlatives from Kramer's Korner: An Unexpected Star Is Born

With 5-star weapons scattered all over the field, Alabama turned to a lineman-turned tight end—a 304-pound hulking human being who looked far too large to be running free down any football field—at a time when it needed a big play.

As bizarre as it looked from where we were seated, the entire sequence played out perfectly.

Brandon Greene had never caught a pass until Saturday night. In fact, not long ago, he was the nation’s No. 12 offensive lineman recruit. He bounced back and forth between the offensive line and tight end, and he’s been used as a blocker regardless of where he’s played throughout his young collegiate career.

Against LSU, however, that all changed. Greene got loose on a play that also featured true freshman lineman Cam Robinson—an even larger human being known for his blocking—decoying on a screen pass.

The result of the play was a 24-yard gain, perhaps the most important 24 yards of Alabama’s season. Although a personal foul was called, negating some of the enormous gain, Alabama scored only a few plays later when DeAndrew White caught the go-ahead touchdown.

LSU couldn’t mount any offense when it got the ball, and the game ended on a failed throw into the end zone.

With unlimited options at Lane Kiffin’s disposal, Greene was the one he targeted. For a team that has relied so heavily on its star power—a recruiting and development factory unmatched by any other—it was this curious, outstanding play call that helped spark a road victory.

As a result, the Crimson Tide will hang around in the College Football Playoff conversation a bit longer. In fact, with a loss from its rival, Alabama will likely move into the updated top four on Tuesday night when the selection committee unveils its latest Top 25.

For Alabama to stay in this mix, it will rely on 5-star talents such as Amari Cooper, Landon Collins, Robinson T.J. Yeldon and many others. Ultimately, these players will dictate just how the latest chapter of Alabama football is written.

On one play, however, in the biggest moment imaginable, the powerhouse broke script. And a 304-pound man still searching for a position took up the entire spotlight.

As for the awards, Vine-worthy moments and necessary tweets featuring televisions in swimming pools, here are observations from Week 11.

 

Offensive Player of the Week: J.T. Barrett, Ohio State 

On the road and operating against one of the nation’s best defenses, J.T. Barrett made it look easy at times. Ohio State’s redshirt freshman quarterback didn’t just find success against Michigan State, he dismantled the Spartans and put on an absolute clinic.

Although he completed only 16 passes, Barrett threw for 300 yards. He also added 86 rushing yards on 14 carries and scored five touchdowns. For further perspective on this offensive output, please take note of the following.

OSU points against MSU, tonight: 49. M points against MSU, Hoke era: 43.

— mgoblog (@mgoblog) November 9, 2014

 

 Dominant Defender: Gerod Holliman, Louisville

It is somewhat shocking that Gerod Holliman hasn’t found his way into this section prior to Week 11. The nation’s leader in interceptions added three more to his resume against Boston College. He also finished the game with a pass breakup, four tackles and one tackle for loss. 

Holliman has now picked off 13 (!!!) passes this season, just one shy of the FBS record. Ole Miss defensive back Senquez Golson is second nationally with nine interceptions, while the next closest player on this list has six INTs. 

More startling than the number itself is Holliman’s interception game log, which is far more active than any interception log you've seen in recent memory.

 

Video Game Box Score

— The Boise State-New Mexico game was an offensive thing of beauty. The Broncos came back and won despite giving up 28 first-quarter points, although the overall numbers from this one were staggering. In total, there were 109 points and 1,285 yards. Perhaps most amazing about this game, however, is that New Mexico State ran for 505 yards...and still lost by double digits.

And they didn't win. In fact, they lost by double digits. pic.twitter.com/aNpwwPaAgf

— Adam Kramer (@KegsnEggs) November 9, 2014

— After falling behind 14-0 to Southern Miss, Marshall responded. Oh, did it respond. With less than one minute left in the first quarter, the Thundering Herd finally scored on a Rakeem Cato touchdown pass. Including this score, Marshall outscored the Golden Eagles 63-3 in the final 46 minutes. And in the last four second halves, Marshall has outscored its opponents 108-13.

 

Anti-Video Game Box Score

— Iowa marched 76 yards on 12 plays and scored a touchdown on its first drive against Minnesota. On its last drive of the day, it went 81 yards on nine plays for a score. While these may seem like positive developments, the drives in between against Minnesota tell a rather different tale. Proceed with caution.

What a delicious sandwich. pic.twitter.com/wHZEIC8tVX

— Adam Kramer (@KegsnEggs) November 8, 2014

— It was not a great Saturday for the Stoops family from a box score/results standpoint. Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops and Kentucky’s Mark Stoops each suffered massive defeats, losing to Baylor and Georgia by, well, a lot. In total, the Stoops bros were outscored 111-45 and outgained in total yardage 1,104 to 673.

— And finally, there's no further context needed for this one. Behold the saddest drive chart of the weekend, which says a lot given the relative sadness to be found. 

FINAL Indiana drive chart vs. PSU: punt punt punt punt punt punt interception punt punt punt missed field goal punt punt interception downs

— Chris Adamski (@C_AdamskiTrib) November 9, 2014

 

Biggest Surprise

In the box score, this play is listed as a 100-yard fumble return for Oregon’s Joe Walker, which is strange enough without further context. But if you watched this play unfold, you know that this necessary Ducks touchdown was far more complex than that. 

Utah wide receiver Kaelin Clay was gone. He beat the Oregon defense with relative ease, and the Utes looked to be up 14-0 on one of the nation’s top teams as the second quarter got underway. And then, at about the 1.5-yard line, he dropped the ball as he started his celebration early.

It was clear as day, and the chaotic turn allowed Walker to pick the ball up and go 100 yards as cameramen frantically tried to determine what had just occurred.

The Ducks ended up winning the game in comfortable fashion with a late surge, although one can’t help but wonder how different things might have looked. 

 

Best Moment 

As card-carrying media members, we are not supposed to show favoritism toward any player, coach or team. With that nonsense taken into full consideration, how can you not love Minnesota coach Jerry Kill?

It’s his overall demeanor, the way he’s dealt with his epilepsy out in the open and the fact that he’s a tremendous and vastly underrated football coach. Somewhat quietly, Kill had made Minnesota a contender once again. And along the way, on occasion, he has celebrated this long voyage with dance.

After beating Iowa into a pulp, Kill decided it was time to break out the moves yet again. 

 

For the Highlight Reel

Myles Jack cannot be human. He must instead be some sort of linebacker robot, one that was accidentally given running back programming as a rogue scientist’s final elaborate exit from his company. That is the only feasible explanation.

Regardless of what the circumstances were to create UCLA’s remarkable weapon, Jack showed the nation (again) his incredible range of skills on his 28-yard touchdown scamper against Washington.

There’s a stiff arm, a spin move and somehow he manages to stay in bounds while displaying the balance of a 185-pound scatback. Bless this faulty and aggressive programming. 

 

 

If the College Football Playoff Started Today...(or Why I Hate Your Team) 

This is becoming increasingly difficult.

Although the picture will continue to evolve over the coming weeks—especially with Alabama-Mississippi State on deck in Week 12—the College Football Playoff conversations are becoming a bit more authentic.

Before we get to that game, however, we have to select four playoff teams and enrage the masses not invited to the party. Remember: If your team is not mentioned below, it’s a personal attack on you and your rooting interests. There can be no other explanation.

1. Mississippi State

2. Florida State

3. Oregon

4. TCU

4.1. Alabama (It’s that close.)

 

Five Leftovers to Chew on

1. After beating Iowa State, Kansas fans stormed the field. They ripped down the goal posts. They celebrated, finally, after years upon years of unsatisfying results. While this was happening, the field-storming police arrived and poked fun, which is to be expected. After all, it is Iowa State and the field-storming police never sleep. But this judgment is always so strange. For starters, these are college kids. And if someone feels like celebrating—and can do so without anyone getting injured—who are we to say otherwise? Let young people act like young people.

2. There’s a very real possibility that Duke will finish the regular season with an 11-1 record, and no one seems to care. After beating Syracuse 27-10 on the road in Week 11, the Blue Devils will close with Virginia Tech, North Carolina and Wake Forest all at home. Let’s say for the sake of getting weird that Duke wins out in the regular season and beats unbeaten Florida State in the ACC Championship Game. Is Duke a playoff team? If not, the Blue Devils would be awfully close. Yes, this is a real-life scenario you should consider.

3. It’s amazing that Urban Meyer still needs to win marquee games in order to reinforce his status as an elite coach. When you look at what he’s been able to do with a completely rebuilt offensive line and a redshirt freshman at quarterback, the 2014 season might be some of Meyer’s finest work yet. There’s still work to be done—and a spot in the College Football Playoff still seems unlikely—but kudos to Meyer and the Buckeyes for bouncing back after one of this season’s most perplexing losses.

4. On the topic of quality coaches, kudos to Charlie Strong and the Texas Longhorns. Our expectations of this national power have certainly shifted greatly, as seen by a celebration over a good (but not great) West Virginia squad. But this is the very beginning. As Strong attracts more talent to the program—and he will do just that in the not-too-distant future—the product will continue to blossom. In the meantime, celebrate the small victories accordingly. (Also, all that dad strength can’t be easy to lift upward.)

5. I know putting running backs in the Heisman discussion is no longer the “proper” thing to do, but are we really going to just ignore Melvin Gordon? Yes, Wisconsin has two losses, but the Badgers' two losses are a product of having a limited passing attack. Without Gordon, who knows where this team would be. With three games remaining, Gordon has rushed for 1,501 rushing yards and scored 21 total touchdowns. If he goes for 2,000 yards—and even if he doesn’t—I hope he at least makes the trip to New York. He’s earned it.

 

Your Unexplainable 15-Play, 33-Yard Drive of the Week

Years from now, when all of earth’s secrets are unlocked, scientists will tirelessly attempt to explain one final incredible event.

How did Wyoming take 15 plays and nearly eight minutes to go 33 yards?

Wyoming's 15-play, 33-yard drive pic.twitter.com/ZgNZybd59x

— Barrett Sallee (@BarrettSallee) November 8, 2014

Don’t bother trying to explain the events above. That's for our future scientists to sort out.

 

Bizarre and Spectacular Sequence of the Week

Some moments are so superb that they can’t possibly be fit in one play.

Disclaimer: Please keep in mind that “superb” can also refer to overall entertainment value, not the overall quality of play—or, in this instance, plays. 

North Carolina State and Georgia Tech delivered a three-part masterpiece. First came the interception-turned fumble, which bounced off a foot and into the arms of Quayshawn Nealy. Nealy ran it back—looking like he might go the distance—until he was tackled and stripped by Jaylen Samuels. N.C. State recovered the fumble, getting unexpected life. 

On the very next play,quarterback Jacoby Brissett threw a pick-six. 

Fin.

 

Michigan-Northwestern Told Through Magic Vines 

Did you, for whatever reason, not see Michigan and Northwestern play football this weekend? If so, that was probably well-planned on your end. Excellent work.

A 0-0 game at half finally saw points (finally) in the final 30 minutes, although the 10-9 final score pretty much says it all. Here's a brief summary in two Vines. Anything more, and you've invested too much into this game.

First, there was this, the anti-highlight reel play of the weekend. 

And then there was this two-point conversion attempt by Northwestern that could have won the game. It did not. 

Now let us never speak of this game again.

 

That One Time Gus Johnson Confused Ron Jeremy and Ron Burgundy

Live television is unbelievably difficult. Gus Johnson is wonderful at his job. Those two things are important, and they're also why we’re going to allow him this mulligan for confusing Ron Burgundy of Anchorman with a person who, well, isn't Ron Burgundy.

 

That One Time a Game Was Delayed Due to a Grill Fire

This, as far as I'm aware, was the first time this season a game was delayed due to a grill fire in the concessions. You knew Fordham and Bucknell would get a shoutout this week, you just never knew it would happen like this. 

Concession stand fire at Bucknell! pic.twitter.com/8t3eGTjkaW

— WFUV Sports (@wfuvsports) November 8, 2014

 

Understandable Fan Overreaction of the Week

Sometimes silent disappointment isn't enough. Sometimes, when it's really difficult, you have to throw your television in a pool.

One of my roommates went to Auburn. pic.twitter.com/8iESdGSmAV

— Kurt Stadelman (@KurtStadelman) November 9, 2014

 

From the Peanut Gallery (Best Tweets of the Weekend)

Guy Fieri is loving it. pic.twitter.com/rzhF6mp7zb

— Tom Fornelli (@TomFornelli) November 8, 2014

#M00Npic.twitter.com/GQcd88rr9a

— MGoShoe (@MGoShoe) November 8, 2014

Lol. PC player postgame amazed at the size of Robert Nkemdiche's bicep. pic.twitter.com/GiNMZa5pqp

— Bennett Hipp (@BennettHipp) November 8, 2014

Alabama is the Death Star, and kicking field goals is the thermal exhaust port.

— Ryan Nanni (@celebrityhottub) November 9, 2014

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Playoff 2014: Rankings and Predictions Heading into Week 12

Leading up to one of the most pivotal weekends of the season for three of the top teams in the country, a lot is on the line on Saturday.

This week's college football committee poll hasn't been released, but every fan knows how important the Mississippi State vs. Alabama game promises to be. Both teams are vying for a shot at the SEC title along with a chance to make the first-ever College Football Playoff.

Outside of the SEC, Florida State will put its undefeated record on the line against Miami. Each team comes in on a roll, but the Hurricanes' three-game winning streak is nowhere near the run the Seminoles have through the last two seasons.

Prior to Week 12 getting underway, here's a look at the latest Associated Press rankings and predictions for top games.

 

Mississippi State vs. Alabama

A week after surviving certain doom in Death Valley with a win over LSU, Alabama has one of its biggest matchups of the season against Mississippi State.

The Bulldogs and Crimson Tide are Nos. 1 and 2 in the SEC West but have much larger aspirations for the season. A victory for either team would make its resume even more solid for the College Football Playoff committee.

Mississippi State is, of course, led by Dak Prescott, who is one of the leading Heisman contenders, via ESPN College Football:

Prescott has muscled his way to 2,231 passing yards, 779 rushing yards, 29 total touchdowns and just seven interceptions. He's led the Bulldogs to wins over LSU, Texas A&M and Auburn, but Saturday will be a true test on the road.

Following the team's win over LSU, Nick Saban referenced where his team stands heading into Week 12, per George Schroeder of USA Today:

“We control our own destiny in terms of what we want to accomplish, and we won the game,” Saban said. “But we didn’t play that great. And we need to play better, and we need to improve.”

Amari Cooper may steal all of the spotlight for the Tide—and rightfully so—but it will be Blake Sims who has to close the deal on Saturday. Sims was solid on the final drives for Bama in the fourth quarter and overtime against LSU but will need a full game of great play to take down Mississippi State.

Even with the great season the Bulldogs have put together, Bama at home with the weapons on offense and defense will be too much. The Tide will roll on Saturday, but this might not be the final matchup for the two teams this season.

Prediction: Alabama 23, Mississippi State 21

 

Florida State vs. Miami

The focus for college football fans will be squarely on Tuscaloosa on Saturday, but an upset might just take place in Coral Gables.

Jameis Winston has been a rock for the Seminoles since his first start as a freshman, never losing during his tenure. His play has the Seminoles nearing a mark ironically enough set by Miami over a decade ago, as ESPN Stats & Info notes:

Now a sophomore, Winston has been under fire all season but still finds ways to survive despite inconsistent play. Last year's Heisman Trophy winner has thrown 17 touchdowns to 11 interceptions, including multiple turnovers in four games already this season.

On the opposite side stands Duke Johnson, who has quietly built his own case to be in Heisman contention. Johnson has totaled 1,486 total yards and 11 touchdowns this season and put up some of his best numbers against ACC opposition.

Miami coach Al Golden spoke about Johnson's recent production and how he's dealt with the running back this season, per CBS Miami:

We want to keep his odometer down. We want to keep the hits off him. That’s the biggest thing. His production is up but his overall play count is down. And I think he’d be the first to tell you, I think he’s fresh and playing his best football right now.

That strategy has seemed to pay off lately as Johnson is hitting his stride. Over the last four games, Johnson has averaged 201.4 yards and tallied eight total touchdowns.

Florida State will get a heavy dose of Johnson, so this matchup will be much closer than some might expect. But with FSU surviving so many close games already this season, expect yet another against Miami as it continues a push to the College Football Playoff.

Prediction: Florida State 35, Miami 31

 

Follow @RCorySmith on Twitter.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football's All-Week 11 Team: Top Performers at Every Position

Week 11 was a show-this-off-to-your-friends type of week, a slate that was just as good as the chaos-filled Week 6.

This time, however, we were assured of that going in. Two games featured opponents from the College Football Playoff Top 10, and three more featured opponents from the Top 17. Nearly 60 percent of the Top 17 was playing each other.

With so many important games on the schedule, there was more opportunity than usual for players to prove their worth against the best competition/on the biggest stage. In these games in particular (but not unanimously), we found our All-Week 11 performers.

Before we proceed, a weekly reminder that the All-Week team does not use stats as a concrete metric. Raw numbers are weighed against level of competition and how the players looked. Stats were taken into strong account but not used as an absolute yardstick.

They are not always indicative of who played best.

Begin Slideshow

TCU vs. Alabama: Who Deserves the Last College Football Playoff Spot?

Thankfully, the season doesn't end today. Bodies of work aren't complete. And if Week 11 showed us anything, it's that college football is too much fun for it to end so soon. 

Still, that hasn't stopped an ever-growing debate about which teams are more worthy of a playoff spot. With Auburn's loss to Texas A&M, Alabama, Oregon and TCU assume the jockeying for the final two spots in the latest playoff rankings. 

Oregon seems like a sure thing to fill one of those spots after a convincing 51-27 win at Utah. The Ducks now have one of the best nonconference wins in the country over Michigan State and back-to-back blowout victories over the best two defenses in the Pac-12 (Utah and Stanford). 

Which means, chances are, the final spot comes down to either Alabama or TCU. There's simply no way Florida State and Mississippi State aren't No. 1 and No. 2, no matter how you rank them. For what it's worth, the Tide and Frogs came in at No. 5 and No. 6, respectively, in the playoff poll a week ago

Which one is more deserving? If the season ended today—again, it doesn't—the edge would have to go to TCU. 

To be clear, it's close. Let's start by looking at the resumes side-by-side in the table below: 

Can you guess which team is which without looking?

Alabama is Team 1 and TCU is Team 2. The Tide clearly have a strength-of-schedule advantage based on Sagarin rankings, but both have just one victory over a current Associated Press Top 25 team. TCU has victories over former Top 25 teams West Virginia and Oklahoma; Alabama also beat the Mountaineers—by 10 in Week 1 of the season—and it beat Texas A&M 59-0 when the Aggies were ranked, probably wrongly so.

TCU's one loss came on a last-second field goal after blowing a big lead to Baylor, currently ranked No. 6 in the AP poll. Alabama's lone defeat came at the hands of No. 10 Ole Miss, which has since dropped a pair of close games to LSU and Auburn. 

Either way, there's no doubt that each team's best win came this past weekend. TCU leveled Kansas State 41-20, while Alabama needed overtime to beat LSU 20-13. 

By Tide coach Nick Saban's own admission, it was not his team's best effort. 

B/R colleague Barrett Sallee thinks that, while thrilling, beating LSU in Death Valley isn't a playoff invitation for Alabama. Not by itself, that is. He's not the only one. 

TCU has looked better to this point. Going forward, though, things could change to the point where we're not even having this discussion. Alabama still has to play No. 1 Mississippi State and Auburn, and it gets both at home. Whether you think the Tide looked impressive or not in the win over LSU, the opportunity is there for Alabama to put this conversation to bed once and for all. 

Conversely, TCU could be in the middle of a potentially fascinating debate at year's end if the Frogs and Baylor win out. The Bears hold the head-to-head win over the Frogs, but to date, voters have been more favorable to TCU. If both finish as co-champions, playoff head honcho Bill Hancock says that each team will be viewed, in essence, as the Big 12 champ. 

There's a lot that still needs to be figured out, which is why it's a good thing we still have another month to sort through it all. If Alabama and TCU keep winning, though, they'll be in good position at year's end—better position than some others, in all likelihood. 

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Missouri vs. Texas A&M Complete Game Preview

The Texas A&M football team will take on the Missouri Tigers at Kyle Field on Saturday. This game could decide the winner of the SEC East. 

The Aggies are 7-3 on the season with a 3-3 record in the SEC. Missouri is 7-2 with a 4-1 record in the SEC. The Tigers have a one-game lead on Georgia in the East. They will have to win their three remaining regular-season games in order to win the division. 

Texas A&M is coming off a 41-38 upset win over Auburn on the road. The Aggies are playing for a better spot in the bowl order. Missouri had a bye and has had an extra week off to prepare for Texas A&M. 

This is a look at how the two teams match up on Saturday. 

Begin Slideshow

Alabama Showdown Is the Biggest Game in a Generation for Mississippi State

Ever since Nick Saban took over as the head coach of the Alabama Crimson Tide prior to the 2007 season, the program has played in enormous football games.

Whether it's the annual showdown with his former LSU program, the rivalry with intrastate foe Auburn, tough out-of-conference matchups or bowl games, big-game atmospheres and Alabama go together like peanut butter and jelly.

It's a different case for No. 1 Mississippi State.

To steal a line from the Adam Sandler hit Big Daddy, big games and Mississippi State go together like lamb and tuna fish.

Well, at least until this year.

Head coach Dan Mullen's crew has suddenly become synonymous with winning big games after going on the road to beat LSU, 34-29, in a game that wasn't as close as the score indicated and then beating defending conference champ Auburn a few weeks later, 38-23, in Starkville.

A win over No. 3 Alabama in Tuscaloosa would cement the staying power of the Bulldogs and put them in position to clinch the division the following week at home against Vanderbilt.

"It’s a big-time game this week," Mullen said in postgame press conference after the UT-Martin win. "This is what you play for. We’re in the middle of November, competing for first place in the SEC West, which is what it’s all about. That’s what you come here for. That’s what we want our program to be like."

It's never been like this. 

Mississippi State has been to only one SEC Championship Game since the divisional split in 1992—a 24-14 loss to eventual national champion Tennessee in 1998. That Bulldog team, led by head coach Jackie Sherrill, entered the Georgia Dome 8-3 and ranked No. 23. 

My, how things have changed.

"Saturday night's game with Alabama isn't just the biggest in a generation, it's the biggest in the history of the program," said Richard Cross, co-host of Head to Head Radio, syndicated statewide in Mississippi. "Mississippi State is positioned perfectly. Not only do the Bulldogs have a huge opportunity in front of them, they have, arguably, the best team they've ever had to try and capitalize on this opportunity."

Hyperbole? Not at all. It's that big in Starkville.

"This is the biggest football game State has played in since the SEC championship game in 1998, and probably bigger," said Brian Hadad, host of The B&B Show on Bulldog Sports Radio on VSporto. "There were no national title implications for Mississippi State that day. Simply put, in 100 plus years of football, Mississippi State has never played in a game with stakes like this."

How will Mississippi State react to the big stage? 

Nothing has phased it yet. The Auburn game was complete with ESPN's College GameDay in town, and all Mullen's crew did was build an early 21-0 lead on the Tigers and hold on for the win.

If the Bulldogs follow the same blueprint against Alabama, the same result will follow.

Alabama's win over LSU will be incorrectly be labeled as a quality win for the Crimson Tide. Is it their best win? Yes. But Alabama's offense sputtered in Death Valley, the play-calling was suspect and the defense was susceptible to quarterback Anthony Jennings' ability to make things happen on the ground at times.

Jennings is no Dak Prescott.

The Bulldogs quarterback is in the thick of the Heisman Trophy race, has proved to be a threat with his legs and, unlike Jennings, is dangerous as a passer.

If Prescott leads Mississippi State to a win, the celebration in "StarkVegas" will be a combination of exuberance and relief.

"It means you can exhale," Hadad said. "A win here all but clinches a second SEC West championship and a probable playoff spot. It means State can go to Oxford [to play Ole Miss] knowing its place in Atlanta is secure. Honestly, I don't know how Mississippi State fans will react, because there's no precedent for it."

That precedent is on the brink of being set. If it is Saturday afternoon, it will set off the celebration of a generation in Starkville.

 

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

NCAA Football Rankings 2014: Hits and Misses from Week 11

Another college football weekend is in the books, and another round of carnage has ensued. The anticipated weekend of the season featured six games between Top 25 teams. Five of those games resulted in double-digit wins. Only Alabama's overtime win over LSU was close. 

Additionally, Auburn saw its playoff hopes go up in flames after a surprising loss to Texas A&M. So, sure, it was an elimination weekend of sorts. 

As is customary every Sunday, The Associated Press and USA Today released their new Top 25 polls. Though neither of these polls are taken into consideration with the playoff-selection committee, they may provide a glimpse into where teams stand. 

You can also check out the latest Bleacher Report Top 25 for comparison.

Which teams were appropriately ranked in the latest Top 25 polls? Which ones weren't? The answers are in the following slides.

Begin Slideshow

College Football Rankings 2014: Twitter Reacts to AP and Amway Week 12 Polls

Another week, another wash of potential playoff teams falling by the wayside. Auburn's upset loss to Texas A&M coupled with six high-profile matchups between Top 25 teams has provided some clarity with the college football season winding down.    

After two wins against lesser opponents, Mississippi State and Florida State continue to be the mainstays atop the Associated Press and Amway Coaches polls. Moving up into the near-lock status for a Top Four berth are Oregon and Alabama, which each earned noteworthy road victories against Utah and LSU, respectively.

With No. 5 TCU inching its way into the conversation, there is a pretty clear hierarchy atop the polls. Here is a look at how both Top 25s played out, along with Bleacher Report's official Top 25:

The biggest change is near the top, with Auburn dropping to No. 9 after its 41-38 loss to Texas A&M. The Tigers battled back from a 35-17 halftime deficit, but lost fumbles on their final two drives thwarted the comeback effort. Nick Marshall coughed the ball up on a goal-line rush attempt from the Aggies 2-yard line, and then a botched snap deep inside Texas A&M territory wrapped it up.

"It hurts. It hurts our team," Auburn coach Gus Malzahn told reporters. "We had goals and dreams and we didn't get it done."  

ESPN's Mike Greenberg weighed in on the loss:

True freshman Kyle Allen threw for 277 yards and four touchdowns in the best start of his young career. The Aggies, who were the sixth-ranked team in the country before opening their SEC schedule with three straight losses, are still on the outside looking in. They close the regular season with home games against Missouri and LSU.

ESPN fantasy expert Matthew Berry, whose mother is the mayor of College Station, sent out his congratulations:

Speaking of Les Miles' team, it came within a possession of ending Alabama's national title hopes. The Crimson Tide needed a furious 50-second drive to set up a 27-yard Adam Griffith field goal to force overtime, where Blake Sims found DeAndrew White from six yards out to keep Alabama at one loss. Sims completed 20 of 45 passes for 209 yards and two touchdowns in a game that felt like an old-school SEC matchup.

"He didn't have one of his better games. It was tough," Alabama coach Nick Sabantold reporters of his quarterback. "He hung in there. He made some great plays when he had to...I'm really, really proud of way he hung in there."

ESPN Stats & Info provided numbers on the dichotomy between Sims' performance early versus down the stretch:

The coaches' decision to keep Alabama above Oregon has been a little controversial given the Ducks' emphatic win over Utah. Marcus Mariota threw for 239 yards, added 114 on the ground and scored four total touchdowns, including two in a 24-point fourth quarter. Mariota and Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott have emerged as the two clear front-runners for the Heisman Trophy.

Bryan Fischer of NFL.com noted how impressive Mariota's numbers have been given the injuries elsewhere on the team:

Oregon closes its regular season with relative gimmes against Colorado and Oregon State, which should put the Ducks 11-1 heading into the Pac-12 Championship Game.

Their likely opponent in that contest, Arizona State, moved closer to making the Pac-12 title game a quasi-playoff contest Saturday. The Sun Devils got their biggest win of the season in a 55-31 rout of Notre Dame, which was mostly caused by five Irish turnovers. Everett Golson threw four interceptions and the Irish managed only 41 rushing yards to send their playoff chances packing.

On the other side, Taylor Kelly had three touchdowns and 224 yards passing while D.J. Foster added 120 yards on the ground. Arizona State led by as many as 31 points and staved off a Notre Dame comeback attempt to score the game's final three touchdowns. Only rival Arizona on Nov. 28 should come between the Sun Devils and a potential showdown with Oregon.

"Getting a win on a national stage like that is big for this program," Kelly told reporters.

ESPN Stats & Info provided a, well, not great stat for Irish fans:

Also proving their worth to the selection committee were Ohio State and Baylor, which each came into Saturday with their share of skeptics. Freshman J.T. Barrett accounted for five touchdowns and Ezekiel Elliott rushed for 154 yards, as the Buckeyes earned their biggest win of the season against Michigan State.

Ohio State has won seven straight games since its frustrating loss to Virginia Tech and has the inside track at a Big Ten title. Urban Meyer's team does not have a game remaining against a ranked opponent until a potential conference championship showdown. Perhaps the most noteworthy game remaining for the Buckeyes is against rival Michigan.

Paul Myerberg of USA Today has already turned in his prediction:

Baylor, which it should be noted defeated TCU this season, shouldn't have many doubters left following its 48-14 thrashing of Oklahoma. The Bears scored the game's final 45 points after going down 14-3 in the first quarter. Corey Coleman caught 15 Bryce Petty passes for 224 yards and a touchdown, also adding another score on the ground.

"There was something about this game," Petty told reporters. "This game, for me, was circled, dotted, starred, whatever you want to call it on the calendar. I don't like to make that public because every game's a big game, but I really wanted to win this game."

ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit called Oklahoma's loss "embarrassing":

Stewart Mandel of Fox Sports notes Baylor's impressive win should help close the gap between the Bears and Horned Frogs:

While the Big 12 is still left to be decided, Saturday provided some much-needed clarity for the playoff picture. There are only 10 Power Five teams with zero or one loss, and with many of them playing one another down the stretch, the situation may suss itself out and leave an obvious final four.

For now, the debate rages on.

 

Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Rankings 2014: Week 12 AP and Amway Standings Revealed

Step right up and state your case for this year's College Football Playoff. One-loss teams will be considered. Heck, before everything is done and dusted, two-loss teams might be considered, too.

Strength of schedule? You'll need that. Marquee wins? Vital. Head-to-head matchups? They matter, until they don't. Passing the eye test? We're still trying to figure out what the parameters of that test are. 

But come forward, college football teams, and bring forth your resumes. While we have to wait a few days until the playoff committee unveils its rankings, the Associated Press and Amway Coaches polls are out for this week. Let's take a look at each below, along with Bleacher Report's official Top 25, and analyze the weekend that was.

 

AP Poll

 

 

Coaches Poll

 

 

Analysis

You really don't want to be the No. 3 team in the country this season. At some point this year, Oregon, Oklahoma, Alabama, Ole Miss, Baylor and Auburn have been in that position in one poll or another, and all have lost.

This week it was Auburn, dropping a heartbreaker to Texas A&M, where—please excuse the cliche—the magic seemed to run out for War Eagle. 

"We just didn't get it done when we usually do," Auburn coach Gus Malzahn told Brandon Marcello of AL.com after the team's 41-38 loss to Texas A&M that included two Tigers fumbles in the last three minutes of the game.

That's perhaps the difference between reaching the playoff and watching it at home—uncharacteristic fumbles at the worst possible moment against a team you're supposed to beat. But that's been this season in a nutshell.

That finish—along with several other key results over the weekend—has left the quest for the playoff in upheaval. Sort of like it was in upheaval last week. And the week before that. And the week before... Well, you get the point. 

Mississippi State and Florida State will remain atop the rankings until they slip up, which could be coming this week for the Bulldogs when they face Alabama. Speaking of Alabama, it leads a contingent of one-loss teams that will be screaming their playoff qualifications to anyone who will listen, including Oregon, TCU, Arizona State, Ohio State and Baylor. 

It's amazing to think we had anything but a four-team playoff for all these years. How compelling has this season been?

And how compelling is it yet to be? This week alone, Mississippi State faces Alabama, Auburn faces Georgia and Nebraska takes on Wisconsin.

Sure, it's far from a week that saw Auburn lose, Alabama barely survive LSU, Ohio State knock off Michigan State, TCU thwart Kansas State and Arizona State eliminate Notre Dame from the playoff picture, but that Mississippi State versus Alabama game alone is worth the price of admission.

It's also potentially worth a ticket to the SEC Championship. And in the muddled SEC West, that ticket is an SEC team's best shot at reaching the playoff. Everything else will be left up to the playoff committee to sort through. 

Given the past few weeks, there is going to be a lot of sorting to be done. We're amid the madness now, folks, but the best is yet to come.

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

AP College Football Poll 2014: Complete Week 12 Rankings Released

The madness continues. 

Each week of the college football season has begun to feel like a playoff, with major upsets and marquee matchups changing the top four on a consistent basis. At this point, one loss for a team could be catastrophic, while one big win could be exactly what a school needs to put some shine on its resume.

It's all up in the air. This past week, that was readily apparent. Let's take a look at how the Associated Press ranked these teams, along with Bleacher Report's official Top 25, and analyze the major outcomes after a wild weekend of football.    

 

 

Bleacher Report Poll

 

Analysis

As they should, the top two teams in the nation remain unchanged, as Mississippi State and Florida State stayed unbeaten over the weekend. While Mississippi State will become a major discussion point if it loses on the road to Alabama next week—how far down the standings should the Bulldogs drop if they lose to one of the top teams in the country away from home?—for the moment the school deserves to be No. 1. 

But which teams deserve to be Nos. 3 and 4?  

While the AP voters made their decision this week, the playoff committee has yet to weigh in, and that's the real decisive factor. It's hard to imagine Oregon will be leapfrogged by any teams after a solid away win over Utah, though Alabama (win over LSU), TCU (win over Kansas State), Ohio State (win over Michigan State) and Arizona State (win over Notre Dame) all make strong cases.

Even Baylor kept its name in the running with a decisive victory over Oklahoma.

"We have to control what we can control," Bryce Petty told reporters after the Bears smoked the Sooners, 48-14. "If we go out and win these last three games, we put up a fight. But we have to win."

That's the mantra for most of the one-loss teams: Win out and you'll probably get your shot at the College Football Playoff.

That's no small task, of course. Alabama nearly learned that lesson the hard way against LSU Saturday night in an overtime thriller. SportsCenter on Twitter passed along the highlights of that contest:

More and more, it feels like a two-loss team could end up sneaking back into the Top Four. There are still many huge matchups left on the schedule, and that's before you consider the conference championships—many of those will be playoff games in their own right.

Of course, it could play out much cleaner than that. Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports certainly thinks it will:

That wouldn't be very much fun, would it? 

So far this year, we've had crazy upsets, head-scratching outcomes and, well, utter madness throughout. The end of the season may play out with a bit more stability and predictability, but that would be out of character for a year that has consistently defied expectations.

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

ESPN College GameDay Headed to Mississippi State vs. Alabama for Week 12

After a two-week hiatus in the Big 12 and the Big Ten, ESPN's College GameDay will return to the SEC for the fifth time this season next week when Alabama hosts Mississippi State in Tuscaloosa.

The show's official Twitter account announced the news:

Mississippi State is one of two undefeated teams left in the country and sits atop the College Football Playoff standings. Alabama is 8-1 with a road loss to the Bulldogs' in-state rival, Ole Miss, and ranked No. 5.

After Auburn lost to Texas A&M Saturday, however, the Crimson Tide have a chance to move into the top four. Doing so would require holding off TCU, which looked much more convincing beating Kansas State 41-20 than Alabama did beating LSU 20-13 in overtime, but it's possible.

And if it happened, this game would be a "hypothetical playoff preview" between the No. 1 and No. 4 teams in the country.

Alabama has lost the last two times it appeared on GameDay, most recently against Ole Miss along with last year's Iron Bowl against Auburn. Before that, though, Nick Saban's team had won eight consecutive GameDay games between January of 2012 and November of 2013.

To wit, Alabama played eight GameDay games between January of 2012 and November of 2013. When Mississippi State beat Auburn in front of Lee, Chris, Herbie and the crew this season, it marked the first time in program history the Bulldogs had ever been featured on the show.

Head coach Dan Mullen, quarterback Dak Prescott, running back Josh Robinson and a deep and talented defense have Mississippi State enjoying the finest season in program history, a year that has vaulted them from underdogs to favorites in the SEC West.

This isn't an "elimination game," because the Bulldogs are undefeated, but it's a game whose outcome might decide the fate of the division, the conference and by extension the national championship.

"It's going to be a fun game, it's going to be a challenging game," Prescott said Saturday. "But we're excited for that."

Yeah, Dak. So are we.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Amway College Football Poll 2014: Complete Week 12 Rankings Released

Saturday’s intense schedule of 2014 regular-season college football action was filled with ranked matchups and intense rivalries, and the result was one of the most memorable days of the year.

With an incredible six games featuring two teams ranked in the Amway Coaches Poll going head-to-head, fans of the sport were treated to several postseason-quality matchups just a few weeks from the first College Football Playoff.      

Here are the Week 12 Amway Coaches and Bleacher Report Top 25 polls and a breakdown of Week 11.

 

 

Breaking Down Week 11 

It was another wild week in college football, but there was some stability at the top of the rankings with Mississippi State and Florida State.

The Bulldogs and Seminoles each won their respective matchup in convincing fashion, further cementing their spot at the top of the Week 12 poll. While both programs cruised to a victory Saturday, next week won’t be as easy. Florida State will have a tough battle against Miami (FL), while Mississippi State has an even tougher test against the Alabama Crimson Tide.

Mississippi State vs. Alabama will be the Game of the Week.

The Crimson Tide were involved in a bitter battle against LSU that went into overtime, but the Tide managed to secure the 20-13 win. Now, Alabama will have to square off with the most talented all-around team in the nation.

Crimson Tide quarterback Blake Sims didn’t have a great game, but head coach Nick Saban gave him some praise in his postgame comments to reporters.

“He didn't have one of his better games. It was tough. He hung in there. He made some great plays when he had to. ... I'm really, really proud of way he hung in there.”

One top team that faltered in a game the team should have won was the Auburn Tigers. Auburn has a tough schedule for the remainder of the year, but a matchup against Texas A&M should have resulted in a victory. Instead, the Aggies stunned the Tigers, 41-38, and Auburn may have seen its hope of a spot in the playoff dashed in the process.

Another team continuing to make a case for a spot in the College Football Playoff is the Oregon Ducks, and an entertaining victory over the Utah Utes was a major accomplishment. With a 9-1 record and two winnable regular-season matchups remaining (as well as the Pac 12 Championship), Oregon is on the right path to making the postseason.

The biggest winners of the week were the TCU Horned Frogs, Ohio State Buckeyes, Arizona State Sun Devils and Baylor Bears.

TCU took on a then-Top 10 Kansas State team and utterly dominated the matchup. With prowess showed on both sides of the ball, TCU continues to be a team that could slide into the top four with a few well-placed SEC losses.

Ohio State was another ranked program that faced a then-Top 10 challenger. The Buckeyes went down early to the Michigan State Spartans, but the teams went back and forth in one of the most entertaining matchups of the weekend. While Ohio State took the win, both programs looked strong.

The Buckeyes looked tough to beat in Week 11, but there were other programs that looked even more impressive. Arizona State took on the vaunted Notre Dame Fighting Irish and managed to walk away with a lopsided 55-31 victory.

The most shocking outcome of the week was Baylor’s domination of Oklahoma. The Sooners were expected to be in contention for the CFP this season but lost their third game of the year in the blowout fashion to the Bears.

With another wild weekend of college football in the books, it’s abundantly clear that this season is going to get even crazier before the final four teams that will make the playoff are named.

 

*Stats via ESPN.com.

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

SEC in Danger of Playing Itself out of Playoff Picture

In the rough-and-tumble SEC, the risk of teams cannibalizing each other exists more than in any other division in college football.

That's exactly what's happening this season, and it could cost the conference the coveted second spot in the inaugural College Football Playoff.

The latest team to go down is the one that had the clearest path. Auburn held down the No. 3 spot in the playoff rankings during their first two weeks of its existence, and with games on the road against Georgia and Alabama left on the schedule, the committee would be hard-pressed to keep the Tigers out if were to win both games. 

Committee chairman Jeff Long specifically stated that they don't bring the previous week's rankings into meetings, but they'd still likely find the same conclusion, and Auburn's resume would surely be boosted by road wins over Georgia and Alabama.

Instead, it was unranked Texas A&M that threw a wrench in the works.

The Aggies topped Auburn 41-38 on Saturday afternoon in a wild game on The Plains that saw the Tigers claw back from a 35-17 halftime deficit only to fumble away the game twice in the final two minutes.

The Tiger meltdown came one week after Georgia got tossed out of the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party, when Kelvin Taylor and Matt Jones served not only as running backs but bouncers.

As it stands, there are only two teams in the SEC with fewer than two losses—No. 1 Mississippi State (9-0) and No. 3 Alabama (8-1). Conveniently, the two will square off in T-Town this weekend in what will serve as an elimination game for the Tide and a statement game for the Bulldogs.

Unless some really strange dominoes fall between now and early December, those are the only two SEC teams with realistic playoff hopes. At most, only one will get in. Yes, even if Mississippi State loses to Alabama and finishes the season with that one loss without playing in the SEC Championship Game.

One of the primary points of emphasis in the selection committee's methodology is conference championships, and as SEC teams have fallen out of contention, teams with conference title hopes have moved into the playoff neighborhood.

"Let me remind you, and I will say this each and every week: Conference championships won will be an additional factor, but of course we won't have that information until December," Long said on Tuesday according to ASAPSports.com.

While the SEC is busy beating itself up, top contenders from around the country—including defending champ Florida State—are boosting their playoff resumes.

TCU looks like the real deal after throttling Kansas State 41-20 in Fort Worth. Quarterback Trevone Boykin has jumped into the thick of the Heisman Trophy race in the nation's third-best offense (550.3 YPG). Baylor's out-of-conference schedule is a joke, but the Bears did just work over Oklahoma 48-14 at their place and hold the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Horned Frogs.

The road for both Big 12 contenders is relatively easy, and if one runs the table and holds the Big 12 title, it will play well with the committee.

Oregon seems to have solved its offensive line issues and boasts the Heisman Trophy front-runner in Marcus Mariota. Between Oregon and Arizona State—which beat Notre Dame 55-31 in Tempe—one will likely run the table and claim the Pac-12 title.

Quietly, Ohio State has been steadily improving and looked like a power on the road in a 49-37 win at Michigan State. Head coach Urban Meyer's crew should win out now that quarterback J.T. Barrett has settled into the quarterback role and will be an attractive option if it holds the Big Ten title.

There's a doomsday scenario on the horizon for the SEC.

What happens if the cannibalization continues with an Alabama win over Mississippi State, a Crimson Tide loss to Auburn and Ole Miss winning the Egg Bowl over Mississippi State? All of the West contenders would have two losses, and the champ would be fighting an uphill battle for the playoff in a scenario that isn't very far-fetched.

Even if that specific scenario doesn't play out, an SEC Championship Game upset could spell disaster, as Todd Fuhrman and Joel Klatt of Fox Sports 1 noted:

Two teams in the College Football Playoff?

That seemed like a pipe dream before. and as teams have played their way out of it this season, it's more of one now.

The SEC should just worry about getting one in. That should be good enough.

 

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

Michigan Football: Wolverines Run D the MVP of 2014 Season

There is no debate—Greg Mattison’s run defense is, by far, Michigan’s most valuable asset.

And as usual, it anchored Saturday during Team 135’s 10-9 road win over Northwestern.

On a day when the Wolverines offense was wildly and typically inconsistent, and not to mention in need of more help than ever, Mattison’s running-back-stoppers clogged enough holes, filled enough gaps and made enough tackles to hold the Wildcats to minus-nine rushing yards.

And that includes production from star freshman Justin Jackson, who entered the game with a team-high 726 yards and five touchdowns but managed just 35 yards and zero scores when facing the likes of Jake Ryan, Joe Bolden, Matt Godin, Frank Clark and Brennen Beyer.

That’s just naming a few.

Mattison’s band of All-Stars certainly deserves praise after shutting down another hyped Big Ten ball-carrier. Perfection is nearly impossible to attain; but the defensive coordinator’s play-calling and personnel have been close enough, despite being gouged by Michigan State’s Jeremy Langford (177) and Minnesota’s David Cobb (183).

Indiana’s Tevin Coleman grabbed 108 yards that didn’t matter on homecoming. He didn’t score, either.

Again, another back denied.

For the second consecutive year, Mattison’s total defense is among the top 15 in the country. In 2013, it was No. 13. Right now, it’s No. 7 overall and has the No. 9-ranked rushing defense, allowing a paltry 2.82 yards per attempt and seven touchdowns.

And think about those touchdowns—Langford had three of them and Appalachian State’s Marcus Cox had one in the opener, leaving three dispersed among eight other opponents.

 

Individual Strengths/Weaknesses

OK, so the Wolverines have done all of this while playing the No. 66-ranked schedule (SOS), per Team Rankings.

That could be the lone counterpoint, but the players don’t make the schedules—they just have to stop the guy they’re slated to face on Saturday, and Team 135 has accomplished that feat without issue and against a league ripe with talented runners.

The Wolverines do a great job by targeting the ball-carrier—meaning that linebackers and linemen quickly shift to the guy with the ball. Makes sense, right? That said, other than Cobb and Langford, there aren’t many examples of guys just outrunning or running through Michigan.

Even Langford, one of the best in the B1G, wasn’t casually strolling through Mattison’s D-line and linebackers—he’d bounce off a guy or two while picking up a few yards, but his bread and butter has always been the knockout blow: through the tackle, right up the seam.

That said, big plays in general have been Mattison’s downfall. His secondary hasn’t played up to expectations. However, the run D has more than compensated.

Ryan’s 14 tackles for a loss have him at No. 6 in the league; his 90 tackles are No. 5 overall. Plus there’s Joe Bolden, who’s right behind Ryan with 79 tackles, good for No. 13.

The pair of linebackers has abruptly halted nearly every back who’s dared to challenge. And as mentioned earlier, Clark and Godin have visited the backfield quite often lately—their havoc-laced shifts of obstruction have forced backs into making poor decisions, leading them into swarms of winged hats at every turn.

 

Road Ahead

The Wolverines are on another bye before colliding Nov. 22 with Maryland. Then it's on to the dreaded season finale versus Ohio State, which crushed the Spartans 49-37 on Saturday night in East Lansing. A loss twice that lurks around the corner. 

But back to the task at hand, which is taking a look at the two top remaining backs: The Terps' C.J. Brown, who is actually the quarterback and leading rusher (380 yards) and the Buckeyes' Ezekiel Elliott, who cruised for 154 yards and two touchdowns against Pat Narduzzi's ironclad Spartans D. 

Brown probably won't be an issue in Ann Arbor. And really, it's not a good idea for quarterbacks to run against the Wolverines. Indiana's Zander Diamont could attest to that. 

Elliott, though, is a problem.

And since it's Ohio State versus Michigan in Columbus, he'll probably be in overdrive. Whether he rips Michigan like Cobb and Langford remains to be seen. But it'll be decided once an MVP-caliber RB and MVP-caliber run D collide at The Shoe. 

Knock the offense if you’d like. Tear down the running game. Talk about the lack of receivers and poor play from the quarterback. But remember the one reason why Michigan is in position to go bowling: Mattison’s run defense.

 

Follow Bleacher Report’s Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Playoff 2014: Latest NCAA Predictions After Week 11 Standings

Every week in the college football season affects the projections for the playoff, but no set of games have been bigger this year than Week 12.

With six games between teams ranked in the top 20 in the College Football Playoff Rankings, there was clearly a lot on the line coming into Saturday. Those that came through are now one step closer to reaching the goal of competing for a national title.

Of course, there is still a lot of season left to be played with important matchups between top teams coming up over the next few weeks. Keeping the rest of the year in mind as well as the latest games, here are predictions for the four teams left standings.

 

College Football Playoff Predictions

1. Florida State

Florida State does not deserve to be the top team in the nation at the moment, and they will likely not be too much more impressive by the end of the year. However, it seems like an almost certainty the squad will remain undefeated at this point, which in a major conference is enough for a ticket to the College Football Playoff.

The Seminoles' best win of the year came at home against Notre Dame, and only after a disputed call in the closing seconds. ESPN's Colin Cowherd explained why this win is not even all that impressive anymore:

Arizona State destroyed the Irish Saturday with a 55-31 victory that makes Florida State's schedule look even worse.

Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk also broke down how the team rates statistically compared to others around the nation:

Despite all this, the squad is good enough to beat Miami, Boston College and Florida, as well as whoever it plays in the ACC Championship Game. With the SEC likely to beat each other up, the Seminoles will be sitting alone on top of the rankings.

 

2. Alabama

If the season ended today, there is no question Mississippi State would represent the SEC in the playoff while Alabama would also likely get a bid. However, there are still a bunch of tough games remaining on the schedule for each squad.

Mississippi State has to go on the road to face both Alabama and Ole Miss in the Egg Bowl. One slip could be enough to ruin the team's chances of a national title.

On the other hand, Alabama fans had been upset about the team's low ranking, but there will still be chances to prove itself. As CBS Sports noted, it did that Saturday:

The Crimson Tide have played their final true road game of the year and now have home games against Auburn and Mississippi State. Considering how much better Alabama is at home (remember that 59-0 win over Texas A&M?), this team should be able to win out.

If this does indeed happen, there will be no argument against Nick Saban's squad being the best one-loss team in the nation.

 

3. Oregon

We will never know what would have happened if Utah had gone up 14-0 in this game, which is what should have happened if Kaelin Clay did not drop the ball at the 1-yard line before celebrating a touchdown, which resulted in a 99-yard touchdown return for Oregon.

Instead of having a two-touchdown lead at home, Utah ended up tied at 7-7 with the Ducks remaining in the game.

Stewart Mandel of Sports Illustrated explained the rest:

Oregon clearly has one of the most talented teams in the nation with an explosive offense led by Marcus Mariota. While the team struggles at times, it usually still finds a way to blow out opponents.

Most importantly, the Ducks knocked off what appeared to be the toughest remaining regular-season game on the schedule. Colorado and Oregon State have a combined 1-12 record in the Pac-12 and should not be too much trouble.

A potential conference-title game against Arizona State could be a difficult matchup for Oregon, but a win will be enough to put this team into the playoffs.

 

4. TCU

Although many college football fans would prefer to see more traditional teams in the College Football Playoff, it will be hard to keep TCU out after what they have done this season.

Trevone Boykin has led one of the best offenses in the nation all year and recently dominated a very good opponent in Kansas State. The only loss on the year came in a 61-58 shootout against Baylor, which also has only one loss but a much weaker overall resume.

Head coach Gary Patterson was asked after his latest win whether he felt he needed to justify the team's ranking over Baylor:

No. It was at their place, we were up 21 points, and it was a three-point ball game. I don’t have a problem. I think Baylor is a really good football team. But I also know Minnesota is now 7-2, and they just beat Iowa. I thought Baylor did a great job [at Oklahoma]. 

I don’t see any of the games [the Bears] have left would mean any more than the games we have.

TCU has as respectable of a loss as anyone in the country while also adding a number of quality wins. With games against Kansas and Iowa State on the schedule, arguably the only tough obstacle remaining is a road game against Texas.

Based on what we have seen so far with this squad, there is no reason to believe the Horned Frogs will not keep winning and play their way into the playoff.

 

Follow Rob Goldberg on Twitter for the latest breaking news and analysis.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Heisman Watch 2014: Breaking Down Race Front-Runners After Week 11

Week 11 was nowhere near as catastrophic as most would have guessed when it comes to the inaugural College Football Playoff, but the same cannot be said of the 2014 Heisman Trophy race.

Fans should understand that this is nothing but a good thing, though.

While last year's winner, Florida State's Jameis Winston, flounders as his team wins, a player who reminds many of Tim Tebow, an unheralded quarterback from an unheralded program and even a wide receiver are making serious claims as reputable candidates.

With Week 11 in the books, the 2014 Heisman watch needs to be updated, to say the least.

 

Dak Prescott, QB, Mississippi State

Many will point out that Mississippi State's Dak Prescott got to beat up on a cupcake in the form of Tennessee-Martin this past weekend, but that should not diminish his accomplishments to date provided he does not make the schedule.

Besides, there is something to be said for a player simply taking care of business—which he did en route to a 45-16 win thanks to 206 passing yards and a pair of touchdowns to go with another six carries for 54 yards and a score.

As SEC Network notes, Prescott made school history in the process:

For now, Prescott remains at the top of the watch. Wins against LSU, Texas A&M and LSU, among others, can attest to that.

Of course, the outlook could change dramatically next weekend after Prescott's Bulldogs visit the Alabama Crimson Tide.

 

Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon

Many were ready to crown Marcus Mariota as the Heisman winner after he finally got over the hump with a 45-16 triumph against Stanford. Really, though, a much better test came this past weekend against Utah.

Feel free to crown the man.

Against one of the best defenses in the nation on the road, Mariota was his usual self. He threw for 239 yards and a trio of touchdowns while coming alive as a runner (114 yards and a score) against a defense that entered the game leading the nation in sacks.

What makes Mariota so impressive and a heavyweight in the race, other than his 29-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio, is the woeful state of the roster around him.

This is not some typical Oregon unit. Injuries have plagued the roster all year, especially in the offensive trenches. According to NFL.com's Bryan Fischer, Saturday saw three more critical pieces leave with notable injuries.

Amid the chaos, Mariota continues to shine and win. A Pac-12 title game and a whole lot more may await.

 

Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama

If a non-quarterback is going to take the Heisman this year, it is a lock to be Alabama wideout Amari Cooper. The more he plays, the more this thought process applies to the No. 1 overall pick in the upcoming NFL draft, too.

The numbers speak for themselves. His entire body of work this season, including his clutch role in the Crimson Tide escaping Death Valley Saturday with CFP aspirations intact, is overwhelming:

It should come as no surprise, then, that Cooper set a record in the process:

It also isn't surprising that many, including radio host Adam Schein, are counting the days until Cooper hits the pros:

Look at it this way: The Crimson Tide have 2,531 receiving yards and 20 touchdowns this season. Cooper accounts for 1,215 and 10 of those, respectively.

To say another player is more important to his team this season would prove quite difficult. Encounters with Mississippi State, Auburn and more will be nice ways for Cooper to pad his resume in the coming weeks.

 

Trevone Boykin, QB, TCU

Most may prefer any number of names to TCU's Trevone Boykin, but few will actually be able to argue against his impressive resume at this point.

Boykin has done incredible damage on his own this season, amassing 2,691 yards and 23 touchdowns to just four interceptions through the air. One of the nation's best dual-threat quarterbacks also has 546 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground.

Not bad for a player who has had many critics in his ear telling him to switch positions.

"For two years people have been telling him he can't play quarterback and we'd never win," TCU coach Gary Patterson told reporters. "He's like anybody else I know with fire in him. They're going to try to prove people wrong."

Boykin is much more than a statistical warhorse, too.

Look at Week 11—tasked with overcoming an elite Kansas State defense that had previously limited Auburn's potent attack to 21 points, the junior led the Horned Frogs to a 41-20 blowout win by way of 219 yards and a score through the air as well as 123 yards and three scores on the ground.

With a Big 12 title and perhaps much more in sight, Boykin is quite difficult to ignore in favor of bigger names.

 

Honorable Mentions

 

Stats and information via ESPN.com unless otherwise specified.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Pages