NCAA Football

How Michigan's Run Game Can Survive Without Derrick Green for Rest of 2014

Derrick Green was finally showing the Wolverines what he could do for them. Now they’ll have to find out what they can do without him.

The sophomore was having one of his best games for Michigan on Saturday—74 yards on just 12 carries—before breaking his clavicle during the late stages of the 26-24 loss to Rutgers.

Coach Brady Hoke said it best Monday: The season-ending injury, especially its timing, is “unfortunate” for Green, who just recently got around to showing everyone why he was so heavily recruited. He ran hard in Piscataway, New Jersey, and helped the offense string together what was arguably its best overall outing of 2014.

“We’re going to miss him, but it’s De’Veon [Smith] and Justice Hayes and Drake Johnson…” said Hoke, who’ll count on Green to become a pseudo coach while the backfield adjusts to his absence.

At this point, there's no sense in completely altering the game plan. Michigan has to roll with what it has, and it's as simple as that. De'Veon Smith is capable of shouldering the heavy duties, while Justice Hayes and Drake Johnson—and who knows, maybe even Dennis Norfleet?—will be tasked with the rest. 

 

De’Veon Has to Lead

Despite just 31 yards on 10 carries, Smith, a 5’11”, 223-pound sophomore, moved the ball with great force on Saturday.

His totals don’t stand out or jump off the page, but he certainly held his own within the red zone, evidenced by his hard-fought one-yard touchdown that gave the Wolverines a 16-12 lead with 1:43 to play in the second quarter.

Like Green, he’s been a slow starter. That has to change, and fast, if the Wolverines want to advance their power-running technique, which popped up every now and then this past weekend.

Offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier said that Smith is similar to Green, which has been known for some time. However, “without giving away strategic things that we would want to do,” he said that Smith wouldn’t be pigeonholed as another Green, adding that Hayes and Johnson won’t be limited due to their smaller statures.

“We’re going to do some different things with each one of them,” Nussmeier said.

Sure, try different things. But make sure that Smith, who's been shelved early in games to make way for Green, gets somewhere in the range of 15 to 20 attempts per game. He can't be left to cool off on the sidelines, which is one of the reasons why it takes a few series to set the wheels in motion. 

 

It’s Not Over

As this tweet from Mark Snyder of the Detroit Free Press indicates, Michigan players have recently felt good about running the ball. Jack Miller, the team's center, said so during Monday's player presser. 

Nussmeier and Hoke agree, Team 135 will be different without Green, who was one of the top recruits of the 2013 class.

But Smith wasn’t a throw-in for Michigan; he was the No. 21-ranked running back, per 247Sports. Neither was Hayes, who was one of the nation’s top 100 prospects in 2011, per Rivals. Once committed to Notre Dame, Hayes ultimately flipped the script because Michigan felt more comfortable than South Bend.

With 19 carries, one more than his previous career high of 18 set in 2012, the former Grand Blanc superstar is in position to get comfortable in Nussmeier's backfield. The 5'10", 194-pound junior has waited years for this chance, and due to a deficiency within the offense, he could be the perfect remedy for the situation.

The Wolverines are No. 10 in the Big Ten when it comes to converting third downs, touting an unhealthy success rate of 41.6 percent. But Hayes’ shiftiness, along with his experience, ability to catch the ball and read defenses, should pay dividends.

Hoke said that Hayes has “primarily been a very good third-down back.” So there you go. Problem solved.

OK, so it’s not that cut and dried. But Nussmeier isn’t calling it a day just yet. He’s confident in his reinforcements. 

“Obviously, it’s disappointing to lose Derrick. [Saturday] was one of his better games,” said Nussmeier. “I felt like he was really dialed in, focused, ran extremely hard. So, you know, we got great expectations for the other guys.

“De’Veon’s done an outstanding job all season, as has Justice. You know, and then…some other guys have got to step up. Drake’s got to step up, and we’ll continue to move forward and feel good about those guys moving forward.”

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

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes and references to were obtained firsthand by the writer

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Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Arkansas Razorbacks Complete Game Preview

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Alabama’s attempt to get back on top of the college football world will begin in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

The Crimson Tide are on the road for the second straight week to face the Arkansas Razorbacks a week after losing their first game of the season 23-17 to Ole Miss.

This week is more of a return to old-school, smashmouth football, as Arkansas has bucked the trend of wide-open, hurry-up offense in the SEC and instead prefers a mauling, physical rushing attack to wear teams out.

Arkansas is No. 1 in the SEC and the country in rushing touchdowns and first and sixth in rushing yards.

The Razorbacks are looking for their first SEC win in two years, and Alabama wants to bounce back after slipping up last week.

Here’s everything you need to know:

Date: Saturday, October 11

Time: 5:00 p.m. CT

Place: Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium

TV: ESPN

Radio: Crimson Tide Sports Network, IMG Razorback Sports Network

Spread: Alabama by 9.5 to 10, according to OddsShark.com.

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8 College Football Recruits Who Had an Explosive Week

October arrived with a flurry of phenomenal high school football performances. We've reached the stage of the season when postseason fortunes begin to hang in the balance with every showdown. 

College prospects picked up their intensity to kick off a crucial stretch of the 2014 campaign, commanding attention with game-changing plays. Each week at Bleacher Report, we highlight several of these dominant displays that helped carry programs.

Here's our latest breakdown of big-time efforts from college football's stars of tomorrow.

 

5-star 2016 defensive tackle Rashan Gary, Paramus Catholic High School (Paramus, New Jersey)

We were in attendance to watch Gary and company continue an in-state rivalry with Bergen Catholic. Instead of a dogfight, we witnessed total domination by the junior defender and Paramus Catholic. 

Gary, rated fifth overall nationally in the 2016 class, collected six sacks, according to the team's statistician. He led the charge for a squad that finished the game with a school-record 12 total sacks. 

The 6'4" lineman, who shared he's now up to 295 pounds and certainly looks the part, was unstoppable, whether he penetrated the offensive backfield through the edge or interior.

Gary effectively neutralized the efforts of Bergen Catholic quarterback Jarrett Guarantano, a 4-star 2016 prospect whose top four collegiate options are Alabama, Oklahoma, Clemson and Ohio State. 

Guarantano was pummeled throughout the matchup and routinely rushed by Gary. He completed just 11 of 28 pass attempts for 115 yards and two interceptions. Here is Guarantano getting chased:

Gary said he feels at home following his offseason transfer from Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School. Paramus Catholic featured 5-star athlete and current Michigan freshman Jabrill Peppers last season and hasn't suffered much of a fall-off thanks in large part to its prized newcomer.

"I'm very comfortable here, and it feels great to battle with my brothers for wins like this," he told me. "This is probably the best game I've had."

Gary added a third-quarter punt block before scooping the ball up and taking it to the end zone. His all-around performance confirms he belongs in the discussion as the nation's No. 1 defensive prospect, regardless of age.

He headed up to Rutgers after the game to watch the Scarlet Knights defeat Michigan. Gary mentioned Florida State, Miami and Alabama among several schools he'd like to visit at some point during the recruitment process.

 

5-star cornerback Kendall Sheffield, Fort Bend Marshall High School (Missouri City, Texas)

The 6'0", 181-pound playmaker impressed on both sides of the ball in a victory over Texas City High School. Sheffield helped his team snap a two-game losing streak by starring at receiver and in the secondary, where he is expected to spend his collegiate career.

He started off the scoring with a 27-yard touchdown reception, flashing quickness that also shines on the track. Sheffield is a state champion hurdler who clocked some of the country's quickest times as a junior.

Sheffield finished the contest with three catches for 58 yards.

A pick-six helped put the game away, as Sheffield returned an interception 48 yards for a score in the 27-14 victory, per Wes Swift of The Galveston County Daily News. He secured six interceptions during the past two seasons and continues to be a ball hawk this fall.

Sheffield followed up the performance with an official visit to USC. His recent campus trips include Ohio State, Texas A&M and Alabama, while a journey to Florida State is expected later this month. 

 

Unranked wide receiver Ellex Davis, Monarch High School (Pompano Beach, Florida)

Many wondered, for obvious reasons, how the Monarch offensive attack would fare without 5-star Alabama commit Calvin Ridley in the lineup. As it turns out, the nation's No. 1 receiver had quite an understudy ready to step up.

Davis, a 5'10", 170-pound playmaker, rose to the occasion and did his best Ridley impression during a 70-31 victory over Coral Springs. He pulled in 12 passes for 306 yards and four touchdowns, per Scott Salomon of the Miami Herald.

He also made an impact on defense, returning a second-quarter interception 34 yards for another score. Though his collegiate offer sheet remains a work in progress, perhaps the player they call "Pooh" will emerge as another premier Pompano Beach prospect.

“I knew that once Calvin wasn't coming back, I would have to be more productive in games,” Davis told Salomon. “I am looking to take his place as the main part of our offense and show the guys that they can count on me to get the job done. I just want to do what is best for the team and play to the best of my ability.”

He's on the right track so far.

 

3-star 2016 running back Da'Leon Ward, Skyline High School (Dallas, Texas)

Ward helped Skyline wallop district opponent Jesuit High School 56-30 Friday night, running wild throughout the onslaught. He gained 224 rushing yards and contributed as a receiver in the victory, per Tommy Cummings of The Dallas Morning News.

His 75-yard touchdown run fueled a huge first half for Skyline, which scored 35 points prior to intermission. Ward, a 5'11", 180-pound junior, added two more scores on the ground.

ESPN Big 12 recruiting analyst Damon Sayles was impressed with Ward:

He flashed dual-threat skills by also making an impact in the passing game. Ward turned a relatively short reception into a 38-yard scoring play, pushing his touchdown total to four for the day.

His offer list includes Louisville, TCU and UNLV. Ward has also warranted interest from multiple in-state schools as he continues to state his case as a respected Texas offensive weapon.

 

4-star wide receiver Juwan Johnson, Glassboro High School (Glassboro, New Jersey)

The Penn State commit kept his team unbeaten with a monstrous downfield performance Friday night. Johnson, the younger brother of Detroit Lions defensive end George Johnson, flashed the big-play skills that make him a coveted prospect throughout a 45-6 win over Gloucester High School.

He scored three first-half touchdowns, setting the tone for a route. Johnson snared in scoring receptions of 20, 29 and 48 yards before intermission, per Joseph Santoliquito of NJ.com.

The 6'4", 200-pound prospect spent much of the second half sidelined as the game got out of hand. He finished the contest with four catches for 105 yards and three scores.

"I think I'm a guy who can come down with the tough catches close to the line of scrimmage, but I'm more than just a possession receiver," Johnson told me this summer. "I can make plays in space and use my quickness to run away from defenders."

He chose the Nittany Lions over offers from Alabama, Michigan State, Rutgers and Ohio State.  

 

5-star quarterback Josh Rosen, St. John Bosco High School (Bellflower, California) 

The country's top-rated 2015 quarterback didn't waste any time proving his team was ready to move forward after its first defeat since 2012. Rosen, who committed to UCLA this spring, tossed five touchdowns before halftime Friday in a 65-7 win over Crenshaw.

He carved up the Crenshaw defense with a level of precision that has come to largely define his approach. Rosen completed 12 of 16 pass attempts for 264 yards and five scores, per MaxPreps.

UnderTheRadar provided highlights of Friday night's game:

The 6'4", 205-pound passer has completed 63 percent of his passes for 1,260 yards, 14 touchdowns and just one interception through five games this season. He's added 169 yards and three scores on the ground.

Rosen, who committed to UCLA this spring over Michigan and Cal, intends to compete for the Bruins starting job as a true freshman if current quarterback Brett Hundley elects to leave for the NFL draft.

"I'd love to take snaps on opening day," he told me this summer. "I'm going to work as hard as I can to make that happen."

 

2-star wide receiver Emmanuel Moore, Northwest High School (Justin, Texas)

The late-rising recruit didn't land his first FBS offer until this summer, but he could be on the verge of blowing up based on his performance as a senior.

Moore, a 6'0", 185-pound prospect, provided a major spark for his squad in a near-upset of perennial Lone Star State powerhouse Denton Guyer. 

Though Northwest suffered a 43-33 defeat, Moore starred and was largely unstoppable throughout the showdown. He tallied a game-high 13 receptions for 172 yards and three touchdowns, per MaxPreps.

Moore has accumulated at least 100 receiving yards in three of five games this season, including double-digit reception totals in each of the past two contests.

His breakout season features 45 catches for 648 yards and 11 touchdowns, placing him among state leaders in all three categories. 

He announced his commitment to North Texas in September, citing the program's belief in him as a motivating factor. 

“North Texas is the only team that showed that they really wanted me and offered me a scholarship,” Moore told Brett Vito of the Denton Record-Chronicle.

Moore is bound to attract increased attention, and his recruitment could ultimately mirror that of 2014 DeSoto High School recruit Desmon White, who pledged to North Texas when his first offer arrived but is now a freshman at TCU.

 

4-star quarterback Zach Gentry, Eldorado High School (Albuquerque, New Mexico)

The Texas commit continues to come up big in the clutch, leading his team to thrilling victories. Eldorado claimed its second straight one-point win Friday night when Gentry collected nearly 500 yards of total offense in a 57-56 affair.

The 6'7", 230-pound prospect completed two touchdown passes, compiling 327 yards through the air. He added another 120 yards and three scores on the ground, per James Yodice of the Albuquerque Journal.

Gentry vaulted his team ahead with a two-point conversion run with just 32 seconds remaining in regulation. A two-yard touchdown pass put him in position to push Eldorado ahead.

Through six victories this season, Gentry is completing 75 percent of his pass attempts for more than 2,000 yards and 25 touchdowns. The past pair of contests have required gutsy performances during late stages.

“Two wild games,” Gentry told the Albuquerque Journal. “I can’t believe it.”

Longhorns fans should feel ecstatic about his latest achievements.

 

Recruit ratings courtesy of 247Sports.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Picks: Louisville Cardinals vs. Clemson Tigers Odds

The Louisville Cardinals continue their initial run through the ACC with a huge matchup this Saturday afternoon against the Clemson Tigers at Memorial Stadium. The game is set to kick off at 3:30 p.m. ET and will be available nationally on ESPN3.

The Cardinals ran their current straight-up winning streak to three games with this past Friday's 28-6 romp over Syracuse as 1.5-point favorites on the road. They are now 5-1 SU on the year with a healthy 4-2 record against the spread. The total has stayed under in five of their first six games this year.

After Clemson lost that 23-17 heartbreaker to Florida State in overtime on Sept. 20 as a 9.5-point road underdog, it rolled over North Carolina and North Carolina State by a combined score of 91-35 while covering as a 14-point home favorite in each contest. The total stayed under the closing 64-point line in last Saturday's 41-0 shutout over the Wolfpack, and it has now stayed under in two of the Tigers' last three games.

 

Louisville at Clemson Betting Storylines

Louisville came over from the American Athletic Conference this season with high expectations in its new conference despite the loss of quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. So far, it has held its own in the ACC with the exception of a 23-21 loss to Virginia on Sept. 13 as four-point road favorites. Last Saturday's win over the Orange left the Cardinals 3-1 SU in conference play.

The offense has definitely lost some of its punch with a passing game that is averaging only 231.8 yards a game, but the ground game has helped to pick up the slack behind Brandon Radcliff and Dominique Brown, who have each rushed for over 300 yards so far.

The biggest strength of this team has been on the other side of the ball with a defense that is ranked sixth in the nation in points allowed. This unit is giving up an average of just 12.7 points a game, and the Cavaliers were the only team to score more than 21 points against it this year. It is ranked seventh in the country in total yards allowed and third against the run.

The Tigers also had a pretty big hole to fill at quarterback, but so far, the duo of Deshaun Watson and Cole Stoudt has done a great job in an offense that is averaging 335.8 passing yards a game. Mike Williams has been the biggest target on the team with 21 receptions for 520 yards and four touchdowns. Clemson's run offense has been a whole different story, averaging just 155 yards a game and ranking 78th in the FBS.

The defense rose to the occasion last week by shutting out NC State, but this unit has been shaky at times this season. It gave up 45 points in an opening weekend loss to Georgia and even in a fairly one-sided affair against North Carolina, it was tagged for 35 points. Overall, the defense is allowing an average of 22 points a game.

 

Louisville at Clemson Betting Odds and Trends by Doc's Sports

Point spread: Clemson -13

Total Line: OFF

Covers betting trends have the Cardinals listed at 21-8 ATS in their last 29 road games, and they are 6-2 ATS in their last eight games overall. The total has stayed under in seven of their last eight road games.

The Tigers are 5-0 ATS in their last five home games and 5-1 ATS in their last six games following a SU win. The total has gone over in seven of their last 10 games played at home.

This will be the first meeting between these two teams in recent memory.

 

College Football Picks: Louisville at Clemson Betting Predictions

Louisville should be able to use the lack of familiarity between the two teams to its favor in this matchup. While the Cardinals offense will really need to step things up to have any chance of getting the SU win on the road, I am confident that their defense will be able to keep things close enough to cover with the 13 points.

 

Take: # 173 Louisville (+13) over Clemson, 3:30 p.m. ET, Saturday, Oct. 11

 

Odds and point spread information courtesy of Covers unless otherwise noted.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

After Wild Weekend, Can 2 SEC Teams Make the College Football Playoff?

The SEC is loaded with possible College Football Playoff candidates. This past weekend just made the playoff picture extremely more ambiguous with top teams seemingly dropping like flies.

Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Michael Felder and Barrett Sallee debate whether this power conference can get two teams into the College Football Playoff.

How many teams from the SEC will be in the Playoff?

Watch the video and let us know!

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Which Undefeated Team Will Lose Next?

There are few unbeaten teams left in college football after last week ravaged much of the top competition. The question now becomes which of the remaining undefeated teams will not make it through Week 7 without a loss.

Bleacher Report college football analysts Adam Kramer, Barrett Sallee and Michael Felder give their picks for the next undefeated team to lose.

Which undefeated team will go down in Week 7?

Watch the video, and let us know!

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Alabama Football: How Will Kenyan Drake's Injury Impact Lane Kiffin's Offense?

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Alabama will be without a key component of its offense for the rest of the season.

Running back Kenyan Drake, who broke his leg in the second quarter of the Crimson Tide’s game against Ole Miss, will miss the rest of the season with the injury, Alabama coach Nick Saban said on Monday.

“I think probably eight to 10 weeks before he really can start doing things that would allow him to be able to even think about being able to play football again,” Saban said.

It was a gruesome injury, one that won’t escape the minds of many who saw it live or on replay. The nature of the injury and recovery time aren’t much of a surprise.

But now Alabama will have to finish the season without one of its most explosive weapons—one who had been used all over the place so far this season—and suddenly finds itself with limited running back depth.

“Kenyan’s got a lot of production for us and he’s done a really good job all year long,” Saban said. “I don’t think there’s any question about the fact that when you lose a player like that, it does have some impact. But I do think we have other players that can do those things. Now they’re going to get the opportunity to do it and we’re going to have to have some other people to step up.”

Drake was the Crimson Tide’s most versatile player and one of new offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin’s favorite toys through four games.

In Alabama’s three-back backfield, he was the home run hitter of the group. He has an argument for fastest player on the team and was used a lot on off-tackle runs. He also led the team in touchdowns with four.

Kiffin was using Drake more in the passing game, and he was thriving.

Drake’s speed and 6’1”, 202-pound frame allowed him to be used as a receiver at times. He was split out wide against Florida Atlantic and took a screen pass 39 yards to the house. His most impressive play as a wide receiver came against Florida.

The Gators matched up Drake with a linebacker who had no chance against his speed in the open field. The safety couldn’t get over in time, and Drake was off to the races.

Alabama has plenty of talented offensive weapons on its roster but can’t just replace him straight up.

T.J. Yeldon and Derrick Henry are two talented running backs in their own rights, but neither has the skill set to replace Drake. Henry is very much a physical, between-the-tackles runner. Yeldon uses his vision and quickness to hit holes hard and fast. He has speed in the open field but can’t hit the accelerator like Drake.

The trio made for an effective combination, with each bringing a different set of talents to the table. Now that Drake’s out, it limits more of what Alabama can do in the run game.

It also gives the team's running back depth another hit.

Tyren Jones is already out “several weeks” with a torn tendon in his finger. Drake’s injury leaves Altee Tenpenny as the only other true running back on the roster.

Tenpenny was a 4-star prospect out of high school and has looked fine in mop-up duty. He is more in the mold of a downhill runner, too. It’s unclear if Tenpenny will get in the rotation, but if he does, he won’t be able to bring what Drake does.

As Alabama tries to make the climb back to the top of college football, it will have to do so without one of its best and most versatile offensive weapons.

 

Marc Torrence is the Alabama lead writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats come from cfbstats. Recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

Follow on Twitter @marctorrence.

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UCLA vs. Oregon Complete Game Preview

WHEN: Saturday, Oct. 11; 3:30 p.m. ET 

WHERE: Rose Bowl Stadium; Pasadena, California

TV: Fox

One of the most highly anticipated Pac-12 Conference tilts before the season has taken on a decidedly different look after a wild Week 6. 

Oregon and UCLA were the media's preseason picks to win the North and South divisions—still an attainable goal for both. 

However, the Ducks and Bruins face more of a must-win scenario coming into Saturday's affair after both suffered losses at home. 

UCLA only lead in a 30-28 defeat against Utah came on quarterback Brett Hundley's touchdown pass to wide receiver Eldridge Massington late in the fourth quarter.

Otherwise, UCLA followed the script of Week 6 upheaval to the letter. The Bruins' loss capped a weekend filled with chaos around college football, which fittingly started with UCLA's Week 7 opponent. 

The Ducks are trying to rebound from a 31-24 loss at home to Arizona last Thursday, the first of the week's many upsets. 

Another conference loss for either makes reaching December's Pac-12 Championship Game considerably more difficult. Expect both preseason favorites to come out with renewed urgency in the Rose Bowl on Saturday. 

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UCLA vs. Oregon Complete Game Preview

WHEN: Saturday, Oct. 11; 3:30 p.m. ET WHERE: Rose Bowl Stadium; Pasadena, California TV: Fox One of the most highly anticipated Pac-12 Conference tilts before the season has taken on a decidedly different look after a wild Week 6...

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Could Trae Elston's Suspension Cost Ole Miss Game, Perfect Season vs. Texas A&M?

Ole Miss topped Alabama 23-17 on Saturday to vault into the No. 3 spot in the latest AP poll and announce itself as not only a contender for the SEC West title, but also the national title.

For the Rebels to keep the national title train going in the right direction, they're going to have to get a big performance this weekend from their stout pass defense, which leads the SEC, giving up just 152.4 yards per game through the air.

They're going to be doing it without starting safety Trae Elston for the first 30 minutes of the game after Elston attempted to stomp on Alabama running back Kenyan Drake during Saturday afternoon's win over Alabama (Warning: the incident occurred on the same play in which Drake suffered a gruesome ankle injury, so watch at your own risk).

Will Elston's absence be a big loss for the Rebels? Absolutely.

He is fifth on the team with 24 tackles, has one pick and one forced fumble on the season and has started at the "Rover" position this year. Ole Miss is equipped to replace him with either backup "Rover" David Kamara or by moving a reserve—like freshman C.J. Hampton—into a more prominent role.

That's not good news considering Texas A&M quarterback Kenny Hill is completing 66.9 percent of his first-half passes (97-of-145) and tossed 12 of his 21 touchdown passes during the first 30 minutes of games.

As NFL.com's Chase Goodbread notes, Aggies offensive coordinator Jake Spavital will pay special attention to Elston's absence.

Elston's suspension will not, however, cost Ole Miss the game and its perfect season.

That would've happened regardless.

Ole Miss simply doesn't match up well with Texas A&M.

The Aggies' biggest hole on defense is their inability to stop the run up the middle, which is where Arkansas and Mississippi State both found success over the last two games. The Aggies rank next to last in the SEC in rush defense (178.83 YPG) and are giving up 5.34 yards per rushing attempt against conference foes. 

The Rebels don't run between the tackles, though. 

Jaylen Walton (238 yards) and I'Tavius Mathers (152 yards) are their top two rushers, and both are more dangerous off the edge than they are between the tackles. As was the case the previous two seasons, quarterback Bo Wallace shouldered some of the load on the ground, notching 11 carries—tied for the team lead on Saturday with Walton.

He's not the type of running threat who can expose the Aggies like Alex Collins, Jonathan Williams, Dak Prescott and Josh Robinson have over the last two games.

If Ole Miss is going to spring the upset—the Rebels are three-point road underdogs according to Odds Shark—it's going to have to pass. That means Wallace—who's tied with South Carolina's Dylan Thompson and Florida's Jeff Driskel with an SEC-worst six interceptions—will have freshman phenom Myles Garrett and his 6.5 sacks coming at him.

Different than Alabama, though, Texas A&M will almost certainly force Ole Miss into more of a shootout than the Crimson Tide did. A shootout means more passing situations, which means more opportunities for Garrett to pin his ears back and for "Bad Bo" to make an appearance on the road in a hostile, late-night environment.

Elston's half-game suspension doesn't help. In fact, it makes a shootout more likely. 

That was going to happen anyway, though. The matchups in this game were going to cause Ole Miss' perfect season to come to an end on Saturday night in College Station whether Elston was there or not.

 

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

Cincinnati vs. Miami: Complete Game Preview

The Cincinnati Bearcats and Miami Hurricanes both attempt to rebound from embarrassing losses in a nonconference matchup on Saturday, Oct. 11.

A rib injury forced Gunner Kiel out of the 27-point blowout against Memphis, which racked up 610 offensive yards on the Bearcats.

One week after earning an important win over Coastal Division foe Duke, Miami collapsed during the second half of a 27-17 loss to Georgia Tech.

This is the 12th meeting between the two programs and first since 1998. The Hurricanes hold a 10-1 series advantage over Cincinnati, including a 5-0 mark at home. Kickoff is scheduled for noon ET and can be seen on ESPN3.

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LSU Tigers vs. Florida Gators Complete Game Preview

LSU and Florida have average football teams in 2014. For the first time in the Les Miles era, the two traditional powerhouses will meet with both teams unranked.   

LSU is 4-2 and winless in conference play. The Tigers have been dominated on both sides of the ball by Auburn and Mississippi State. Miles will look to avoid his first 0-3 start in SEC play in his illustrious career. 

Florida is 3-1 on the season, with a 2-1 conference mark. The Gators were fortunate to defeat Kentucky in triple overtime in mid-September. Last week, true freshman quarterback Treon Harris led a late charge to beat Tennessee 10-9.

Florida will be without Harris on Saturday though, as he has been suspended indefinitely by the program, per The Orlando Sentinel. The true freshman is being investigated by the University of Florida Police Department for sexual assault.  

Nevertheless, Gators head coach Will Muschamp will take comfort in being in "The Swamp" on Saturday. The home team has won this annual cross-divisional rivalry the past three seasons. 

Here is a preview of this week's matchup.

 

What You Need to Know

Time: 6:30 p.m. CT 

Place: Ben-Hill Griffin Stadium; Gainesville, Florida

TV: SEC Network

Radio: LSU Sports Radio Network, Gators IMG Sports Network

Spread: LSU by 1, via Oddsshark.com

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Creating the Ultimate 2015 Wide Receiver Recruit

There are a lot of top recruits who offer many things at the wide receiver position for the Class of 2015. Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder tells you which attributes he would take from which receiver to make the ultimate 2015 wide receiver.

What wide receiver do you want on your team?

Watch the video and let us know!

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Bowl Projections 2014-15: Week 7 Playoff Predictions

The college football madness isn't going to stop. Following a week of chaos that set dynamite to the College Football Playoff projections, another sizzling slate of games will reconfigure the standings once again.

Half of the nation's top 10 squads went down last week. ESPN Stats & Info delivered some historical perspective on the carnage before No. 8 UCLA also suffered an upset late Saturday night.

Now is a good time to take a breather and access the damage, but another earthquake is set for Week 7. Four matchups pit ranked opponents against one another, including two bouts between top-10 squads.

Somebody is going down again, but who will take the plunge this time? Here's a look at what lies ahead for the current top-four schools, along with the predicted playoff picture after Week 7.

 

Game of the Week: No. 2 Auburn vs. No. 3 Mississippi State

It's safe to say the loser falls from the playoff snapshot and the victor at least sits at No. 2 while making a case for the top spot. 

They're not No. 1 in the polls, but the Auburn Tigers hold the top slot in ESPN's Power Index.

It's easy to see how the model gives them the edge over Florida State. Through five games, they're undefeated with a 27.6-point average margin of victory. Against an LSU squad brandishing title aspirations, they gained 566 total yards to their SEC rival's 280 in a one-sided contest.

While Nick Marshall has completed just 57.9 percent of his passes, the number has risen in each of his last three games. He's also amended those accuracy issues with 12 total touchdowns to just one interception. He noted the strides he's taken this season to ESPN.com's Greg Ostendorf.

I’m a way better [passer] than I was last year. Coach [Rhett] Lashlee and Coach Malzahn, they took time out with me in the offseason and focused on my footwork, my eyes on the target and then just stepping through the throws. I’m satisfied [with this game], but there’s always room for improvement.

Actually, he's only shown significant improvement in the turnover department while slightly regressing in other key indicators. 

Meanwhile, Dak Prescott is producing a strong Heisman campaign for Mississippi State, who have pulled off two consecutive upsets over LSU and Texas A&M. ESPN The Magazine's Twitter page compared his hot start to past Heisman winners.

Even when this wasn't a groundbreaking matchup in 2013, the two delivered a great game, which Auburn won, 24-20, by scoring with 10 seconds left. Now Mississippi State knocking Auburn down a peg would hardly be considered a stunner.

According to Odds Shark, the Bulldogs are underdogs for the third straight time, but only by a small amount in a coin-flip game. They're now firmly on Auburn's level, a reality offensive lineman Ben Beckwith hopes onlookers are late to realize.

“Recognition is awesome, but you kind of like being under the radar, honestly,” Beckwith told ESPN.com's Edward Aschoff. “I like going [into games] thinking the other teams are looking over us. You would think they wouldn’t be.” 

If Florida State had to deal with an SEC schedule, these two opponents could easily justify finishing the season ranked No. 1 and 2. Given the new playoff system, a loss shouldn't doom the team that draws the short end of the stick, although it'll take a perfect finish afterwards.

A shootout plays in the Bulldogs' favor. Prescott still has a firm upper hand over the rising Marshall, and Auburn gained just 78 rushing yards in last year's head-to-head showdown. 

The Bulldogs have proved they're for real over the past two weeks, and they'll do some again at home by scoring a monumental victory over the Tigers.

Predictions: Mississippi State 38, Auburn 35

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Will the Egg Bowl Mean More Than the Iron Bowl in 2014?

All eyes have been on the 2014 Iron Bowl ever since Auburn cornerback and kick returner Chris Davis took an Alabama field-goal attempt back 109 yards the other way as time expired to give the Tigers a 34-28 win over the Crimson Tide and a berth in the SEC Championship Game.

Were we focused on the wrong intrastate rivalry game with a clever nickname?

Halfway through the season, it looks like the Egg Bowl between co-No. 3 Mississippi State and co-No. 3 Ole Miss in Oxford has more of the makings to serve as the de facto SEC West title game.

The folks in Mississippi are pumped, as Courtney Cronin of the Clarion-Ledger points out.

Is that a realistic possibility or an overreaction based on the Bulldogs' big win over Texas A&M and the Rebels' nail-biter over Alabama?

Realistic, sure.

After all, both programs currently share the No. 3 spot in the AP Top 25 Poll and Ole Miss will certainly be out for revenge after quarterback Bo Wallace fumbled in overtime to lose last year's edition.

Don't count out the Iron Bowl from getting back in the mix to become the most important game not just of the SEC's season, but the most important game played this year in all of college football.

Ole Miss still has major flaws, like its inability to run between the tackles, Wallace shouldering too much of the load in the running game after two years of shoulder issues and an offensive line that's shaky at best and mediocre at worst.

As mentioned in the bold predictions article from earlier this week, Texas A&M this weekend in College Station is setting up to be a heartbreaker for the Rebs, and there are still plenty of spots where they can trip up between then and the end of the regular season.

With a stifling front seven, a wildly efficient quarterback in Dak Prescott (180.69 passer rating) and an offense that poses a threat to stretch the field and run between the tackles, Mississippi State has much more staying power than—as head coach Dan Mullen refers to it—"the school up north."

The Bulldogs have to get by Auburn first, and that matchup with the No. 2 Tigers is no easy task.

If that happens—they're a 2.5-point underdog as of Monday afternoon, according to Odds Shark—the Bulldogs could certainly do their part to make it a must-win game to play for Atlanta and, thus, bigger than this year's Iron Bowl.

Mullen's crew would still have to spring the upset and then handle life as "the hunted" for the remainder of the season, which isn't the easiest thing to do—even for teams who are accustomed to it.

A far likelier scenario would be for Auburn to beat Mississippi State, enter the Iron Bowl undefeated or with one loss, and square off against a one-loss Crimson Tide team in Tuscaloosa.

Would that make it bigger than last year's Iron Bowl? Based on record, of course not. But the ramifications in this day and age of the College Football Playoff could be very similar.

Either way, it'd likely be bigger than the Egg Bowl.

Despite Alabama's loss to Ole Miss on Saturday, the SEC West still goes through the Iron Bowl until further notice.

 

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.

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Karlos Williams Injury: Updates on FSU Star's Ankle and Return

When No. 1 Florida State travels to New York Saturday for an ACC clash with the Syracuse Orange, the Seminoles will likely be without top running back Karlos Williams.    

Coach Jimbo Fisher broke the news Monday, as captured by Corey Clark of NoleSports.com:

The senior tailback rushed 11 times for 50 yards last week in a 43-3 win over Wake Forest. So far this year, Williams has 353 yards and five touchdowns on a 4.8 yards-per-carry average.

With Williams potentially out of a conference showdown against an Orange defense that ranks No. 63 overall with an average of 24.4 points per game allowed, the Seminoles will turn to sophomore Mario Pender and freshman Dalvin Cook for production.

Bender has 154 yards and three scores on just 23 attempts this year, while Cook has tallied 128 and two on 24 totes.

Depending on the severity of Williams' injury, the Seminoles may be without their lead back when No. 6 Notre Dame comes to visit on Oct. 18 in a matchup with wide-ranging College Football Playoff implications.

 

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Ohio State Football: How Buckeyes Can Maintain Momentum

COLUMBUS, Ohio — After bouncing back from its Sept. 6 loss to Virginia Tech with three consecutive wins, the Ohio State football team now finds itself enjoying its second bye in the past four weeks.

Only for Urban Meyer, the enjoyment of the Buckeyes' week off will be kept to a minimum.

Because truth be told, a bye week is the last ingredient that Ohio State needs to add to what's been a winning recipe for the better part of the past month. Especially after one of the craziest weekends in college football history, the Buckeyes suddenly find themselves back in the thick of a hunt for a playoff spot, but that's predicated on Ohio State maintaining its newfound momentum.

"I wish we were playing another one next week," Meyer said following the Buckeyes' 52-24 win over Maryland on Saturday. "Our whole team wishes we were playing."

What's led Ohio State from its defeat at the hands of the Hokies to being a team that can't get back on the field soon enough?

It starts on the offensive side of the ball, where the Buckeyes have found their footing behind the play of redshirt freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett. An emerging star in college football, Barrett has combined for 909 passing yards, 156 rushing yards, 15 total touchdowns (14 passing, one rushing) and just one interception in Ohio State's past three games.

Those numbers stand in stark contrast from what they were during the Buckeyes' 35-21 loss to Virginia Tech, where Barrett completed just nine of his 29 pass attempts for 219 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions. In the mere matter of weeks, the reigning Athlon Freshman of the Week has gone from a liability to the focal point of an OSU offense that ranks seventh nationally with an average of 44.6 points per game.

"I'm just trying to get better during the week and not wait until game day to react to everything," Barrett said of his recent improvement. "I'm just trying to get better at learning the defense that we're going to play on Tuesday and Wednesday, so when it comes to Saturday, I can have that confidence and go out there and play."

It also helps that what seemed like a blueprint for beating the Buckeyes a month ago is suddenly something that Ohio State now looks forward to facing.

While the Hokies hammered the Buckeyes with a 46 Bear defensive front and cover zero scheme, other opponents haven't been as fortunate with copycat approaches. Barrett's improvement, Ezekiel Elliott's emergence and a growing offensive line have all played roles in the midseason adjustments that have led to Ohio State's recent string of success.

"Ever since the Virginia Tech game, we've been getting that Bear, zero coverage," Meyer noted. "And now you're starting to see receivers and quarterbacks get kind of excited when they see that. The same with the coaching staff. You're like, 'Great, do it.'"

Opponents have, and as of late, they've paid, with wide receivers Michael Thomas, Dontre Wilson and Devin Smith all making their presences felt in different ways in the Buckeyes passing game. In its current state, it'd be hard to describe Ohio State's offense as anything but in-sync, something that it will have to sustain through its week off.

 

And as for the Buckeyes defense?

It's still not performing at a "championship level," according to Meyer. But that doesn't mean that it's not improving.

During Ohio State's Sept. 27 contest with Cincinnati—a 50-28 Buckeyes win—familiar frustrations reared their heads for the OSU pass defense, which surrendered 352 yards and four touchdowns to Bearcats quarterback Gunner Kiel. That total included touchdown throws of 83, 78 and 60 yards, leading Meyer to state that the Buckeyes were going "back to the drawing board" when it came to their pass defense.

A week later, Ohio State didn't give up quite as many big plays but did still allow at least one, as a 60-yard pass from Terrapins quarterback Caleb Rowe to Jacquille Veii set up a four-yard score for Stefon Diggs at the start of the fourth quarter. That sequence, in particular, stuck with Meyer, who vowed that such plays will at one point cease to be a weekly occurrence for the Buckeyes.

"Once again, you just take away—someday, we will take away the big hits," Meyer said, cutting himself off. "We're going to be more aggressive on defense."

With plenty left to work on in that facet, there's at least one Ohio State unit that could potentially benefit from the Buckeyes' second bye in the past month. Perhaps that's why Meyer, once again, won't treat it like a normal week off, in an attempt to improve an Ohio State team that's as hot as any heading into the heart of the 2014 season.

"The road's getting tougher and tougher," said Meyer. "I'm going to give us as many game reps as I can just to continue to get that maturity."

 

Ben Axelrod is Bleacher Report's Ohio State Lead Writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BenAxelrod. Unless noted otherwise, all quotes obtained firsthand. All recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

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Re-Ranking the College Football Top 5 After Upset Saturday

Teams were tested this past Saturday, some of them passed, some of them failed; the only certain thing was that it was a lot of fun to watch. College Football Analyst Michael Felder re-ranks the Top 5 after a crazy weekend.

Who is your No. 1 team?

Watch the video and let us know!

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Wisconsin Badgers vs. Illinois Fighting Illini Complete Game Preview

After a thoroughly incomplete performance at Ryan Field against Northwestern, the Wisconsin Badgers (3-2, 0-1 Big Ten) take on the Illinois Fighting Illini (3-3, 0-2 Big Ten) in the friendly confines of Camp Randall Stadium, where the Badgers are 3-0.

Last week, the Badgers' two quarterbacks went a combined 12-of-29 for 138 yards, a touchdown and four interceptions.  After an ineffective first half by Tanner McEvoy, who went 4-of-10 for 24 yards and an interception, he was replaced by Joel Stave just before halftime.

Stave, who had not played this season due to a case of the yips after starting 19 games in his first two seasons of eligibility, did a couple good things, but the final stat line was ugly: 8-of-19 for 114 yards, a touchdown and three interceptions, including a backbreaker in a goal-to-go situation.

All of the quarterback problems undermined a phenomenal career day by Heisman Trophy candidate Melvin Gordon, who carried the ball 27 times for a career-high 259 yards and a touchdown.

But the Badgers' four turnovers, drive-killing and extending penalties amounted to an embarrassing road loss to an upstart Northwestern team, which finds itself in the driver's seat of the Big Ten West with a 2-0 record.

As for Illinois, its bad season got a little bit worse last week as it handed Purdue its first Big Ten win under Darrell Hazell, who lost his first nine Big Ten contests as head coach, in a 38-27 defeat in Champaign at Memorial Stadium.

Making matters worse, the lone bright spot on the team, quarterback Wes Lunt, went down with a broken leg, per ESPN.com, which should sideline him for four-to-six weeks.  Lunt is completing 66.5 percent of his passes with 1,569 yards, 13 touchdowns and only three interceptions.

To replace him is Reilly O'Toole, who has seen nowhere near the success Lunt has.  O'Toole is completing 52.6 percent of his passes for 428 yards, a touchdown and four interceptions while seeing parts of two games plus a start against Nebraska.

Let's take a look at both teams' keys to victory, the players to watch and more as each squad looks to get off the schneid in Big Ten play.

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USC vs. Arizona Complete Game Preview

WHEN: Saturday, Oct. 11; 10:30 p.m. ET

WHERE: Arizona Stadium; Tucson, Arizona

TV: ESPN2

Out of the polls for the first time this season, USC visits No. 10-ranked Arizona with what head coach Steve Sarkisian described as "sick feeling in [its] gut."

The Trojans lost to Arizona State in Week 6 on Sun Devils quarterback Mike Bercovici's Hail Mary touchdown to Jaelen Strong.

What a game! Check out the unbelievable highlights from #ASUvsUSC! @drpepper#oneofakindplayshttps://t.co/TLyqmw6XTN

— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) October 5, 2014

Conversely, one of Arizona's five wins came on a Hail Mary when quarterback Anu Solomon completed one to Austin Hill to beat Cal in Week 4.

#HillMaryhttp://t.co/iSOdUAY2gy#BearDown RT @ESPN_Pac12blog: Poll: Pac-12 play of the week http://t.co/6mrv3ZP03p

— Arizona Football (@ArizonaFBall) September 21, 2014

For one team to win in dramatic fashion, another has to suffer heartbreak. It's the yin and yang of football that has the Trojans and Wildcats on opposite ends of the spectrum coming into this Saturday's nighttime showdown in the desert. 

If Arizona can keep its good fortune rolling, it will have the inside track on the South's berth into the Pac-12 Championship Game. A USC win, however, puts the Trojans right back in the forefront of the race.

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