NCAA Football

Comparing College Football Playoff Committee Rankings to BCS

After just one week, it's pretty clear that the College Football Playoff selection committee members are behaving like the voters in The Associated Press and coaches polls.

Yes, the 12 members are doing more homework and their rankings remain superior and more logical than the polls, but they're very much falling into the trap of sliding teams up and down based on wins and losses. With the exception of one team—Ole Miss at No. 11—the teams are ordered according to their number of losses.

The committee may come to regret having to do this made-for-TV event (let's face it, ESPN really wanted it) every week until Dec. 7, when it has to unveil its final rankings—the only one that actually matters. If the members want to fulfill the promise that they're taking a fresh look at each team every week, there had better be significant fluctuations in the upcoming rankings.

While these rankings don't exactly resemble the old BCS standings (and that's a good thing), we have the entire Top 10 pegged in order with the exception of Nos. 5 and 6 Alabama and TCU being flipped. And committee chairman Jeff Long admitted during the selection-show interview that these teams are so close that they had to "go to the tape" to break the tie.

Here's how this week's rankings look:

 

Explanation of Rankings

BCS rankings are a simulation of the BCS formula used from 2004-2013 with two exceptions: 1) The AP poll is used in place of the Harris Poll; 2) Sagarin and Massey rankings are their native systems instead of the non-MOV version used for the BCS.

CFP mock rankings are published weekly at Bleacher Report, with components including polls, computers, strength of schedule and conference championships. The full rankings are here.

 

A Few Highlights, Thoughts from Committee's Rankings

Ole Miss' Big Drop Reveals Poll Mentality

The Rebels lost a heartbreaker against No. 3 Auburn on a last-minute fumble that was ruled a touchdown on the field and only overturned by replay as Laquon Treadwell suffered a horrific ankle injury in the process. But they dropped seven spots in the rankings to No. 11. That smells like a poll.

 

Eight Teams Can Still Play Their Way in

With Alabama having games remaining against Auburn and Mississippi State, it looks like the top seven teams, plus No. 9 Arizona State, all will have a shot to land a spot in the playoff field simply by winning out. The highest-ranked team that does not control its own fate is eighth-ranked Michigan State, which needs at least one of the other conference champions to suffer a second loss.

 

Notre Dame Faces a Must-Win Game, and Then Some

The Irish, as expected, are still stuck at No. 10. They can move up by beating No. 9 Arizona State this week and then must root like crazy for the Sun Devils the rest of the way. Notre Dame's best chance of getting into the playoff will rest on ASU winning the Pac-12 title (presumably over Oregon).

 

Committee Has a Bias, but Not an SEC Bias

Of the six SEC teams in the committee's rankings, only Ole Miss is placed higher than in the Playoff Committee Rankings than the AP poll. Of the five Pac-12 teams in the rankings, each is ranked at least as high if not higher in the Playoff Committee Rankings than in the AP poll. You can interpret this as the polls being biased toward the SEC (which they are) and/or that with four of the 12 committee members having Western ties (more than any other region), the teams out on the left coast are getting a closer look.

 

Little Guys Still Get No Love from Committee

No Group of Five team made it into the Top 25 this week, and this is at least somewhat troubling. If Marshall is deemed unworthy because of its weak schedule, then Colorado State (despite the fact that it needs help to win the Mountain West) should be strongly considered. If strength of schedule is of such paramount concern, then there's no chance any non-Power Five team will ever land in the playoff. As in, ever.

 

Follow on Twitter @ThePlayoffGuru

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Hits and Misses of the CFP Committee's Top 25 Poll After Week 10

The College Football Playoff selection committee came out with its second Top 25 ranking Tuesday, and much like with the previous system, there's bound to be debate.

Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Adam Kramer and Michael Felder break down the hits and misses from the committee poll.

Which schools do you think deserved to be in the CFP?

Check out the video and let us know!

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College Football Playoff Rankings 2014: Twitter Reacts to Week 11 Top 25 Reveal

The second edition of the 2014 College Football Playoff rankings were revealed during an ESPN telecast on Tuesday. As was the case in the inaugural hierarchy, the Mississippi State Bulldogs reign as the top-ranked team in the nation.    

Here is a look at the fresh Top 25 order, decided by a 12-person selection committee:

These rankings rather appropriately drop on national Election Day.

A customary part of the freedom to vote is also the freedom to express oneself, in the unique medium of social media at that. Twitter had plenty to say regarding the latest College Football Playoff selection committee's perceptions.

Ole Miss experienced a free fall after its second straight defeat Saturday, this one coming at the hands of Auburn, 35-31, in Oxford. SEC Network's Greg McElroy felt the team caused the biggest initial stir based on its ranking of 11th:

Exacerbating Saturday's loss, though, was the scary situation involving Rebels star receiver Laquon Treadwell, who is expected to be out for four months with a broken leg and dislocated ankle.

Auburn's quality win was enough to hang in the top four, as its only loss is to the perceived best team in the country, Mississippi State.

Ryan Black of the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer documented what playoff committee chairman Jeff Long had to say about the Tigers' standing:

The popular Notre Dame Fighting Irish are still on the outside looking in. ESPN College Football helped explain why that is:

One team barely off the pace is the mighty Alabama Crimson Tide, who have pulled it together since losing to Ole Miss away from Tuscaloosa.

Coach Nick Saban's powerhouse program is a perpetual title contender, built to endure the grind of a brutal SEC schedule. A 34-20 victory at Tennessee on Oct. 25, combined with the Tide's track record, led ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit to say the following, per College GameDay:

John Middlekauff of Comcast SportsNet offered a forward-looking overview of how he thinks the remaining games will play out:

ESPN's Joe Schad noted how Alabama's resume is superior in many ways to the current last team in, the Oregon Ducks:

But the importance of quarterback play is paramount at any level of football, and that's where the Ducks have an edge over just about anyone else.

Dual-threat signal-caller Marcus Mariota accounted for four total touchdowns in Oregon's defining 45-16 triumph over Stanford. Schad surveyed the top four and pondered the implications of some epic QB matchups:

Fox Sports Southwest's David Ubben shared his thoughts on the implications these Week 11 rankings have for the Big 12 conference:

ABC 57 News' Brandon Pope offered his take on the standings:

Fox Sports' Joel Klatt feels Michigan State, though ranked eighth as the class of the Big Ten, may never garner enough respect from the committee:

Neither of the top two teams in Mississippi State and Florida State had easy times preserving their perfect records. However, it's a mark of a championship contender to pull out close calls, as the Bulldogs did in a 17-10 win at Arkansas.

The Seminoles always have a target on their backs as the defending national champions. Jameis Winston overcame three interceptions and a 21-0 deficit against Louisville's elite defense on the road to lead FSU to a comeback, 42-31 victory.

That grit is a big reason both teams are first and second respectively for the second week in a row. With so many hot, one-loss teams in pursuit, though, there is bound to be a big shakeup in the College Football Playoff picture in the coming weeks.

Some of the one-loss teams sitting behind Ole Miss may feel slighted, particularly two of the best the Big Ten has to offer in Nebraska and Ohio State. Those teams will be worth monitoring, as will Arizona State, ranked ninth and looming large if anyone above the Sun Devils stumbles.

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College Football Playoff 2014: Official Selection Committee Rankings for Week 11

For the College Football Playoff committee, Week 10 played out as an affirmation of its assumptions. Mississippi State, Florida State and Auburn each earned hard-fought victories, while other potential spoilers began falling by the wayside.

So it should be no surprise that the committee's second meeting was a lot more self-explanatory. As expected, the trio atop last week's landscape remained in a state of inertia, while former No. 5 team Oregon slid into the final opening.

Idle Alabama and an ascending TCU outfit represent the last two teams waiting for their higher-ranked adversaries to falter. Here is a full look at how the rest of the committee's Top 25 played out:

While the major changes were few and far between atop the poll, the nation's elite did their best to give their respective fanbases heart attacks. Florida State started the weekend of near-upsets with a thrilling comeback from 21 points down against Louisville on Thursday.

Jameis Winston, who threw three interceptions in the first 31 minutes of the game, atoned for his mistakes with three second-half touchdowns and 401 passing yards. The reigning Heisman winner turned around what was shaping up to be the worst performance of his career on the third interception, when he forced a fumble on Gerod Holliman's return.

Starting with its next possession, Florida State would outscore Louisville, 35-7, en route to a 42-31 victory. The Seminoles have now been legitimately scared six times in eight games, including their 17-point comeback against NC State that became a similar double-digit win. Those close calls are in stark contrast to 2013, when Winston and Co. didn't allow a regular-season opponent closer than two touchdowns in one of the most dominant campaigns on record.

Coach Jimbo Fisher juxtaposed the two seasons for Andrea Adelson of ESPN.com:

We’re a different team because people look at us differently. Last year, we were the team that was trying to climb, so sometimes they know you’re a good team, but when you’ve won a championship and you’re winning the way we’re winning now, people are going to give you their A-game. They’re going to come prepared, and our kids are learning to do that and learning to persevere in those situations.

Mississippi State, the nation's other Power Five unbeaten, also needed a second-half resurgence against Arkansas. The Bulldogs went down, 10-0, early in the first half before scoring the game's final 17 points—though it was not without help. Alex Collins was stopped on a 4th-and-goal run from the Bulldogs' 3-yard line, and Brandon Allen threw a game-clinching interception to Will Redmond inside the red zone in the fourth quarter.

Those were Arkansas' only possessions after a 69-yard pass from Dak Prescott to Fred Ross gave the Bulldogs their first lead. Prescott threw for a career-high 331 yards but also threw two interceptions. The Heisman favorite has thrown five of his seven picks in Mississippi State's last three games, as his passing ability is proving to be a weakness at times.  

"Different guys stepped up and made plays when we needed plays to be made," Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen told reporters. "Our guys are finding ways to win."

The Bulldogs will get to take a break this week when FCS outfit UT Martin visits. Mullen's team closes with trips to Tuscaloosa and Oxford, with a home game against lowly Vanderbilt sandwiched in between. They already have three wins against then-Top 10 opponents on their slate but will undoubtedly be facing their toughest tests going forward.

Auburn's season-ending gauntlet began at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium on Saturday, where an Ole Miss team determined to keep its playoff spot nearly held on on its home field. Laquon Treadwell made a 19-yard reception with under two minutes remaining and appeared to cross the plane of the end zone before video replay showed he fumbled the ball on an ugly tackle.

Officials, who called the play a touchdown on the field, reversed the call and awarded Auburn the football. The Tigers drained most of the remaining time off the clock, leaving Bo Wallace 26 seconds to go 51 yards. Treadwell suffered a dislocated ankle and broken leg on the tackle. He will miss the remainder of the season.

"This was a playoff game,'' Auburn linebacker Kris Frost told reporters. "But from here on in, every game is a playoff game. They just get bigger and bigger.''

The Tigers host a struggling Texas A&M team Saturday before beginning their preparations for trips to Georgia and Alabama. Nick Saban's Crimson Tide program, which lacks a signature win this season, will hope to blaze its path to a playoff berth and atone for 2013's loss in its regular-season finale.

For now, Alabama will have to worry about a trip to Baton Rouge, where a resurgent LSU awaits. The Tigers had a week off after handing Ole Miss its first loss of 2014, and there's nothing Les Miles would want to do more than knock Saban out of playoff contention. Alabama, yet to defeat a Top 20 opponent, finishes with three of them in its final four games.

While strength of schedule is a factor in preventing Alabama from being a playoff team at the moment, it controls its own destiny. Considering those closing weeks, there is a zero percent chance a one-loss Tide team is left out in the cold.

The same most certainly cannot be said for the Big Ten, which continues to lag behind other conferences. No. 8 Michigan State has the best chance of making the field and hosts Ohio State this week, but the committee is clearly not enamored with the conference's depth. The Buckeyes and Nebraska are trailing other Power Five one-loss teams, and even two-loss Ole Miss slotting in ahead of both. 

The Big 12, meanwhile, has to have a more positive outlook. TCU's 31-30 comeback win over West Virginia leaves only one ranked team left on its schedule—No. 7 Kansas State this week. The winner of that game has an inside track at a playoff berth, with the Horned Frogs looking especially promising due to their shrug-worthy finish.

With six games pitting Top 25 opponents against one another, the picture should be even clearer seven days from now. Until then, let the debate begin. Again.

 

Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter

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College Football Playoff 2014: Final Four Predictions After 2nd Top 25 Rankings

Every Saturday is essentially an elimination round for college football teams. In Week 10, it was Ole Miss that was all but eliminated from discussions—for now—with a heartbreaking loss to Auburn.   

The second College Football Playoff committee poll reflected that with the Rebels dropping out of the top four. Mississippi State, Florida State and Auburn were in the Nos. 1, 2 and 3 spots for the second straight poll. This week, they were joined by Oregon, who benefited from Ole Miss' drop.

For the first time ever, just two SEC teams were ranked in the top four of the playoff committee's rankings. Granted, it was only the second week, but another team in Alabama is waiting for someone to slip.

It's time to take a look at the most recent rankings and predictions for the final four at the end of the season.

 

Breakdown of Predictions

Those who have been keeping up with my projections will notice that nothing changed this week. Seeing as how Ole Miss wasn't in my original prediction, the Rebels' loss didn't impact the semifinal games.

Two weeks into the playoff committee polls, the only team originally in my rankings not in is Alabama. Having a week off, the Crimson Tide are just outside of the playoff picture with two other SEC West teams still in the top four.

Much of the recent stretch of dominance for Bama has been thanks in large part to Amari Cooper. He's been so phenomenal thus far that he even received at least one vote for Governor in Alabama, per John Talty of AL.com.

The dynamic receiver is by far the top wideout in his conference, as the SEC Network points out:

Still outside of the playoff for now, the duo of Blake Sims and Cooper will lead the Tide to a semifinal appearance. If it knocks off Mississippi State and Auburn, Alabama will come in as the top SEC team and battle Oregon for a chance at making the championship game.

Speaking of the Ducks, they have their own Heisman contender that has been a consistent force this year. Marcus Mariota has throttled nearly every opponent and did so again in a 29-point victory over Stanford.

The Cardinal aren't as great as they have been in recent years, but it's still an impressive win in the Pac-12. Oregon coach Mark Helfrich spoke about the ease of the offense with Mariota at the helm, per Adam Rittenberg of ESPN.com:

You don't even have to draw it up. You can just talk about it and he gets it. That's such a huge deal for that quarterback to be able to think about it over and over again without having to watch it, or even without having to do it. Because that's a thousand reps you can have without wear and tear of playing anybody.

Whether it's his intelligence or overall skill on the field, Mariota has what it takes to lead his team to the playoff. If the Ducks get past Utah this weekend, the remaining schedule looks promising as they make a run at a national championship.

Life wasn't easy for every top team this past week as Florida State struggled mightily against Louisville on Thursday night. Just days later, the only other undefeated team in Mississippi State was tested by unranked Arkansas in a 17-10 victory.

For both teams, however, it was the man under center that kept their record unblemished. The Seminoles saw Jameis Winston go from three interceptions in the first half to finish with 401 passing yards and three touchdowns.

Jesse Palmer offered his take on the quarterback's late-game heroics, per SportsCenter:

Meanwhile, Dak Prescott had to rescue the Bulldogs in the last two quarters to remain the top team in the country. Despite the Razorbacks pushing multiple great programs this season, a loss to the 4-5 program would have been devastating.

The Bulldogs might be struggling in close games to lesser opponents, but they are still a dominant team, as ESPN Stats & Info notes:

Still, Mississippi State will have to survive a daunting schedule ahead against both Alabama and Ole Miss. If they remain undefeated, the bracket will take on a completely different look. However, a loss to the Tide and win over the Rebels would slot them at No. 4 in the playoff.

Several weeks still stand between now and the actual playoff, but the picture is beginning to take shape. Thanks to a wealth of ranked teams facing one another this Saturday, the bracket might have a completely different look next week.

That's the fun of college football—every Saturday is another elimination round.

 

Follow @RCorySmith on Twitter.

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Florida State Football: Ranking the Top 5 Seminoles' Performances in October

No. 2 Florida State capped off an undefeated October with a thrilling come-from-behind victory at Louisville last Thursday. The victory followed on the heels of conference wins over Wake Forest and Syracuse and a highly contested triumph over Notre Dame.

Let’s take a look back at the five best individual performances by FSU players over the past month.

Begin Slideshow

Resurgent LSU Is the Ultimate College Football Playoff Crasher

LSU's players have a better sense of their place in college football this week than the rest of us. You see them as a spoiler, a broken-down powerhouse reduced to wrecking somebody else's dreams instead of acting on their own. It is being written, tweeted, blogged and trolled that the Tigers are trying to snatch a consolation prize with a win over Alabama on Saturday.

LSU insists it is more relevant than being a banana peel.     

"We're not out of it," fullback Connor Neighbors said. "We're not."

Neighbors did not mean "out of it," as in "out of milk," "out of bread" or "out of brain cells." He meant "out of it," as in the national championship picture. You're laughing, smirking, ridiculing and thinking, "He's out of it, alright. Out of his mind."

But seven years ago LSU had two losses and played for the national championship and won it all. That was in the BCS era, when two teams were picked for the title game sweepstakes. This is the College Football Playoff Era. Four teams are in the final pool. Somewhere a man has bitten a dog. Strange things can happen.

LSU has lost to No. 1 Mississippi State and No. 3 Auburn. If you are going to have smears on your resume, those are the ones to have. The Tigers just beat No. 4 Ole Miss. If they beat No. 5 Alabama, that's two wins over top 5 teams.

The Tigers are dangerous because they have some of the best talent in the country and are playing with the spunk and mean of their fullback, who started his career as a walk-on. Neighbors, even with the advanced pedigree of three generations wearing Bama Crimson, got no offers in recruiting. He was not only shut out by Division I, but he was shut out by FCS schools, Division II and Division III.

Neighbors, who is 5'11", 240 pounds, fits none of the height-weight-speed criteria that go with playing football in Division I, much less for a blue chip harvester like LSU. He was recruited by one guy, though, and it counted. LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis got a tip and convinced Neighbors to walk-on as a linebacker. He was switched to fullback and became a Smash Brother.

So the heck with heritage this week. His grandfather, Billy, played for Bear Bryant. His father, Wes, played for Ray Perkins. His brother, Wes, played for Nick Saban. Billy took Connor on a trip to LSU and told his grandson, "This place suits you." Wes told his son, "It's your life, do what you want. Go for it."

Sure, a whole lot has to happen for Neighbors' vision to come true, like Mississippi State losing twice, Auburn losing again and Alabama losing to LSU. But the contenders all swim in a pool of sharks in the SEC West, which means they have to go on the road and can lose.

We could see the conference office marching down a list of tie-breakers involving three or more SEC West teams tied at 6-2. Think about it as you read tie-breaker No. 7 on cross-divisional opponents. If Florida keeps winning, the resurgent Gators could not only save Will Muschamp's job, they could catapult LSU into the SEC West title.

Then, if Oregon loses, if Michigan State loses, if, if, if ...

The "ifs" have lined up for the Tigers before. Undefeated in regulation in 2007, two overtime losses, and they got matched up with Ohio State and won the national title.

Yeah, it is a lot of dominos falling right, but think about it from Alabama's perspective. LSU, once considered mediocre with losses to Mississippi State and Auburn has been juiced again. The Hat, Les Miles, has been selling this same line to his team:

"We're not out of it."

The Tigers were embarrassed by one team from Alabama already. Neighbors said the loss to Auburn and all the mental mistakes made him sick to his stomach. The mental mess has been cleaned up, he said. More important, their freshman quarterback has grown, the defense is better, the freshman running back is bossing defenders.

Neighbors says it again. The Tigers still have a chance to play for the big money.

Alabama is going to get a motivated opponent that could ruin the Tide's own title hopes. That should make Alabama fans nervous because that isn't the typical Mississippi State pushover arriving in Tuscaloosa the following week. Look how bruised Ole Miss was when it left Baton Rouge.

Here is something else to remember about LSU.

While the rest of us overuse the week's cliche "They remember November", the Tigers brood over October. On the Monday after the 41-7 loss to Auburn, they gathered in the middle of the practice field, players only, and got a scalding from the team's leaders. In the days that followed, the prima donna wide receivers were singled out for not blocking downfield when the ball wasn't being thrown to them. Defensive linemen were told to buck up on the run. No more missed assignments on the offensive line. No more dancing and looking for the big hole from running backs. Hit it up in there.

It was a players-only meeting that Monday, but they borrowed a line from the coaching staff.

Starting jobs around here are etched in sand, easily wiped away. Anybody can get screwed to the bench. Anybody.

Here is something else the Tigers are really angry about. You and me said LSU won the game against Ole Miss because that crowd was so loud in Tiger Stadium it scared the Rebels' quarterback stiff. The raucous crowd is why Ole Miss scored a measly seven points, we said. That really ticked off Neighbors.

"Man, it should have been 21-0 us before they got anything on the scoreboard," he said. "It made me mad, like the stadium had more to do with them losing than us players.

"Then they (Ole Miss) don't even fall in the polls. It was like, 'Oh, it was just where they played,' not like they got beat by a good team.

"Hell with that."

Neighbors would settle for Saturday's game to be played in a dusty lot in Baton Rouge, or Tuscaloosa, or maybe back in his hometown of Huntsville, Alabama. LSU is not the same team that got trashed by Auburn and whipped by Mississippi State. The Tigers are feeling ruthless.

 

Ray Glier covers college football for Bleacher Report. He has covered college football and various other sports for 20 years. His work has appeared in USA Today, The New York Times, CNN, The Washington Post and Al Jazeera America. He is the author of How the SEC Became Goliath (Howard/Simon & Schuster, 2013). All quotations were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. 

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Watch High Schooler Make Mind-Blowing TD Catch Around Clueless Defender

Sometimes in football you just have to trust your hands. That was the case for Sam Wisneski, a Ashwaubenon (Wisconsin) High School wide receiver, who made a ridiculous no-look touchdown catch as he was wrapped around a defender. Although there was a flag on the play, the touchdown stood, much to the chagrin of the defense. 

Was this the craziest high school play of the football season?

Check out the video and let us know! 

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Indiana College Football Team Pulls Off Immaculate Reception of Its Own

This play by Hanover College (Indiana) may not be as jaw-dropping as the "Immaculate Reception," but it's still pretty crazy.

In a game against Earlham College, Hanover quarterback Chase Lightfoot threw a deep ball to receiver Tanner Parker. Parker was unable to catch the pass, as two defenders were all over him.

The ball did, however, hit off someone's heel and kick back to Panthers wideout Ricky Windell, who took it to the house for the touchdown.

Earlham was flagged for pass interference on the play, but the penalty was obviously declined. Windell's 70-yard touchdown made it a 7-7 game early in the first quarter.

Hanover's 49-34 victory gave the team its first win of the season. 

[D3Football.com, h/t Bob's Blitz]

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Ohio State's Playoff Chances Rest on Help from the SEC, Big 12 and Notre Dame

The selection committee will release its second College Football Playoff Rankings today. As expected, the Buckeyes will be far down the list again.

Ohio State fans can scream all they want about SEC bias in the polls, but the truth is the Buckeyes deserve to be ranked low right now. A pathetic loss to Virginia Tech and a schedule littered with cupcakes is not worthy of inclusion by the committee. They will earn respect when their accomplishments on the field justify it.

The journey to get back into the Top 10 begins on Saturday for the No. 16 Buckeyes as they head to East Lansing for an 8 p.m. prime-time game against No. 8 Michigan State. Beating the Spartans will get Ohio State back into the playoff mix, but they are still a long shot for making it because the one-loss teams from the SEC, Big 12 and Pac-12 have much stronger arguments to be selected over the Buckeyes.

Beyond the one-loss teams, Florida State is hurting Ohio State’s chances too, as the Seminoles are almost guaranteed a spot unless they completely collapse over the next few weeks. That leaves three spots to share among four power conferences and Notre Dame. The Buckeyes need considerable help to get back in the chase, but there is a path.

Here are three things that must happen for Ohio State to make it into the playoff:

 

An SEC West Team Must Win the SEC Championship and Auburn Must Lose Again

Florida’s surprising win over Georgia created significant implications for the playoff race. For instance, what will happen if Missouri wins the East Division and the SEC Championship? Seems unlikely at this point, but it is within the realm of possibility. Would the committee have the resolve to pick a two-loss Missouri team and deny a one-loss team like Auburn? Not likely.

Ohio State’s chances of making the playoff are better if Alabama wins the SEC Championship because it ensures that Mississippi State suffers at least one loss, while Auburn will have suffered two losses. Another option would be Mississippi State winning the title and Alabama beating Auburn in the Iron Bowl. Either way, the Buckeyes need Auburn to lose again, or it will be just like 2011 when Alabama finished with one loss, failed to win the SEC West and still made it to the BCS Championship Game.

Odds are slim that the committee would select two teams from the SEC if the second place team from the West has two losses. The chances are good if Mississippi State wins title and Auburn beats Alabama and finishes with just one loss.

Of course the committee could select a one-loss Bulldogs team over a one-loss Buckeyes team, but the pressure to avoid picking two teams from one conference is much easier to succumb to when it is Mississippi State rather than Auburn.

It is time for the Buckeyes to jump on the Crimson Tide’s bandwagon. They can create havoc in the SEC West and give Ohio State a real shot at making the playoff.

 

Chaos in the Big 12

Like the SEC West, there are so many knockout games remaining in the Big 12. Kansas State, TCU and Baylor are all in front of Ohio State in the polls, and OSU probably needs all three to lose again to have a reasonable shot at making the playoff.

There's no question that the Wildcats are in the playoff over the Buckeyes if they run the table. The good news for Ohio State is that Kansas State has the toughest road to winning the Big 12. They are undefeated in conference play, but still have to play at TCU, West Virginia and Baylor. The probability of another loss is high.

TCU’s path to the conference title is much easier. After its game against Kansas State this Saturday, the Horned Frogs wrap up with Kansas, Texas and Iowa State.

Baylor plays at Oklahoma this Saturday in Norman, which will be tough because the Sooners are trying to avoid a third loss. If the Bears win, they have Oklahoma State and Texas Tech on the schedule before the season-ending game at home against Kansas State on December 6. If both teams enter with just one loss, this becomes a playoff-elimination game.

Ohio State’s best chance will come from all three teams ending up with two losses. This probably means The Buckeyes need Kansas State to beat TCU, Oklahoma to beat Baylor and Baylor to beat Kansas State.

The wild-card scenario involves TCU winning the Big 12 and finishing with one loss. The committee might be inclined to pick Ohio State over TCU, even though the Big 12 is a better conference. It might not be fair, but the Buckeyes are more appealing than TCU. Plus, the Horned Frogs have zero opportunities to score points with the committee after this weekend because of the weakness of their remaining schedule. They will fall victim to out of sight, out of mind. If the Buckeyes beat the Spartans, they will have the Big Ten Championship game to make a final impression.

Still, the Buckeyes don’t want to rely on tradition and brand equity to be selected because that might not be enough when the committee is debating quality of wins and losses. The better situation will involve the Big 12 Champion finishing with two losses.

 

Notre Dame Must Lose Again

The Fighting Irish are ranked ahead of the Buckeyes right now and must lose another game for Ohio State to have any chance at making the playoff.

The good and the bad for Ohio State is that Notre Dame’s schedule is back-loaded with challenging games and opportunities to prove they deserve to be among the top four teams. They play at No. 14 Arizona State this Saturday. Next week they play Northwestern. Their last two games are at home against No. 25 Louisville and at USC on December 6. They could easily lose two or three of these games. 

If the Fighting Irish win out, nine of their wins will be against Big Ten, ACC and Pac-12 opponents. The only blemish would be a questionable loss on the road against the defending national champion. There is little doubt that the committee will choose Notre Dame over Ohio State if both teams finish with one loss. Its resume would be better and more deserving of a playoff bid.

 

Analysis

With six games pairing highly ranked teams on the schedule this Saturday, the rankings this week will be short-lived and basically meaningless. The committee’s options will become more transparent after the dust settles this weekend.

The Buckeyes can only control how they perform. Their first order of business is beating Michigan State. Nothing happens unless they win this game.

Ohio State has more at stake than getting back into the playoff hunt this week. The Buckeyes desperately need a win against the Spartans to restore the program’s reputation. Considering the talent on the roster and the sorry state of the Big Ten, another season without a Big Ten Championship would be shocking.

Great teams rise in these occasions. Before the Buckeyes can be considered a playoff team, they need to prove they can win critical games again. Doing it on the road, at night, against the defending Big Ten Champion is a good way to get the monkey of their backs.

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Alabama vs. LSU Is the Landon Collins Grudge Match

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Landon Collins didn’t hesitate when talking about Alabama’s game against LSU this week.

The Alabama safety from Geismar, Louisiana, still feels like he has a lot to prove against his home-state team, whose fans he still hears from after his wild recruitment.

“Personally, this game means a lot,” Collins said. “Just want to show them I picked the right team, definitely, that we’re the dominant force, that we’re the best team in the SEC. Show them that basically, I picked the better team.”

Now a junior at Alabama, Collins has turned into one of Alabama’s best players and its biggest leader on defense. He's second on the team in tackles with 53 and has intercepted two passes.

He played sparingly against LSU in 2012, his freshman year and first time on the opposite sideline at Tiger Stadium. Now he returns as a starter who will play a major role in the Crimson Tide’s success.

It’s the culmination of a journey for Collins that has contained several twists and turns. It's led him back to Baton Rouge and Tiger Stadium, where he can remain perfect for his career against LSU.

If you are an LSU or Alabama fan, you remember his commitment.

Collins sat on a couch at the Under-Armour All-America Game, flanked by ESPN’s Dari Nowkhah and his mom, April Justin.

He was one of the most highly sought-after players in the 2012 recruiting class, and LSU desperately wanted to keep the state’s top prospect at home. Alabama and head coach Nick Saban, as they frequently do, were making a big push to land their next defensive star.

So there Collins was, as Nowkhah asked him where he would play his college ball. What happened next is forever cemented in live commitment lore.

He slipped on a pair of Alabama gloves and said “Roll Tide Roll” as he did so. To his left, though, his mom’s disapproval was clear.

She put her left hand over her face and shook her head.

“I feel LSU is a better place for him to be. LSU Tigers, No. 1,” Justin said, putting an index finger in the air.

The commitment drew ire from a lot more Louisianans than just his mom. It’s something that he is reminded of, even now.

“Yes sir, I do,” Collins said on Monday. “Constantly. Everybody. The biggest is about my mom, asking ‘Is your mom still an LSU fan?’ and stuff like that. I’m like ‘Nah, she just cheers me on.’”

So it’s easy to see why this is such a big week for him.

“Definitely, means a lot because I want to go undefeated against those guys,” Collins said. “I don’t want to hear anything about ‘What happened this year? What happened that year?' No, I beat y’all all four, five years.”

It’s highly unlikely Collins makes it four, let alone five, years. He’s considered a top prospect in the 2015 NFL draft, expected to come out after his junior year.

Bleacher Report NFL draft analyst Matt Miller put Collins at No. 10 overall on his midseason big board.

So Collins will likely only get the opportunity to go 3-0 against his old team.

Still, it’s a game that clearly means a lot. Not only in the standings, but to a player from the area looking to prove yet another point against the team he spurned.

“Just going back into LSU country,” he said. “To playing in that stadium to hearing that hooting and hollering with their fans and the team. Definitely, this is the best game.”

 

Marc Torrence is the Alabama lead writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Follow on Twitter @marctorrence.

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Rapid-Fire Predictions for College Football's Biggest Matchups in Week 11

We're entering the home stretch of the college football season, which means every game holds more importance. Here, Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Michael Felder, Adam Kramer and Barrett Sallee predict their biggest headlines for Week 11. 

What will be the biggest surprise of Week 11?

Check out the video and let us know!

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Gut Reactions for Potential Michigan Head Coaching Candidates

Brady Hoke's days at Michigan seem to be numbered. The team is struggling and shows no signs of recovering. Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Adam Kramer discusses his gut reactions to potential future suitors for Michigan head coach. 

Who will be the head coach of Michigan next season?

Watch the video, and let us know! 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

What Tennessee Must Do to Become Bowl Eligible

The Tennessee Volunteers' bowl chances are much improved after they stormed back from a 14-point deficit to beat the South Carolina Gamecocks in overtime Saturday, but the team still has work to do to finish out the season strong and ensure a postseason appearance.

There's no question that sophomore quarterback Josh Dobbs is the answer for the Vols' recent offensive woes moving forward. Dobbs accounted for 467 yards of offense by himself, as he threw for 301 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 166 yards and three touchdowns.

Dobbs' mobility—along with the return of redshirt senior offensive tackle Jacob Gilliam, who is playing on a still-torn anterior cruciate ligament—help mask problems in the team's biggest liability: the offensive line.

The same offensive line that likely cost the Vols wins against Georgia and Florida now seems to be a strength, as it gave up zero sacks against the Gamecocks and helped Dobbs and Hurd rush for a combined 291 yards.

But despite all the positives from Saturday's contest—and there were plenty for the Vols to hang their hats on—there are still a few areas of concern that could be problems for Tennessee during the final three-game stretch with bowl hopes on the line.

Here are five problems and opportunities Tennessee must address and capitalize on before finishing out the season.

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Dillon Mitchell to Oregon: Ducks Land 4-Star WR Prospect

Dillon Mitchell is such a good athlete that he's been recruited as both a football and basketball player. Now, he'll potentially get to try his hand at both for Oregon after announcing his commitment Tuesday afternoon.

Matt Prehm of 247 Sports had the news: 

Tuesday afternoon 2016 three-star wide receiver Dillon Mitchell announced a commitment to the Oregon Ducks, becoming Oregon's third verbal commitment in the 2016 recruiting class.

Mitchell spoke with DuckTerritory.com prior to his official announcement on his big decision.

"Before coming my decision was just going to be based off the school, but after seeing it in person and being there I realized everything about it just fits me," said Mitchell. "The coaches, I love them to death and they love me to death. It's the place I feel the most comfortable at."

Mitchell is considered a 4-star wide receiver by 247Sports' composite rankings. According to the recruiting site, the 6'1", 180-pound playmaker is the No. 342-ranked player in the country, the No. 59 wide receiver and the No. 9 player from the state of Tennessee in the Class of 2016.

He runs a 4.54-second 40-yard dash and generated plenty of interest among top programs across the country. Per 247Sports, he received offers from Auburn, Ohio State and Ole Miss, among others.

ESPN also has him ranked as a 4-star point guard. He's considered the No. 16 player in the country at his position, the No. 28 player in his region and the No. 5 basketball player in the state of Tennessee. ESPN Insider's scouting report (subscription required) calls him "a true point guard that is quick with the ball and pushes the pace on the break as he changes speed and directions on a dime and penetrate deep in the lane in the halfcourt."

Oregon just got itself an excellent player in more than one sport. It's hard to top that.

Mitchell is a playmaker with the ball in his hands, flashing excellent quickness and the ability to make people miss in space. In a spread offense he'll be a perfect fit, as he should thrive catching quick outs and wide receiver screens and making plays on the perimeter. 

The following play should tell you all you need to know about his ability to torch an opposing defense:

Expect plenty of those plays for Oregon on Saturdays sooner rather than later.

Mitchell already has an ideal frame with room to grow. As a young player with both size and speed, he is going to be making plenty of plays for the school, perhaps on the court as well as on the field.

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Dillon Mitchell to Oregon: Ducks Land 4-Star WR Prospect

Dillon Mitchell is such a good athlete that he's been recruited as both a football and basketball player. Now, he'll potentially get to try his hand at both for Oregon after announcing his commitment Tuesday afternoon...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

The 5 Most Telling Stats for the USC Trojans This Season

Statistics can sometimes be deceiving, but not in the case of the following five from the USC football team nine games into the 2014 season. 

First-year head coach Steve Sarkisian's debut season has had its highs—thrilling road wins, program records, star performances—as well as its lows. 

Indeed, certain statistics reflect the ups and downs of the first year  of the Sarkisian era. The numbers also paint a vivid picture of the program's direction for the immediate future. 

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The 5 Most Telling Stats for the USC Trojans This Season

Statistics can sometimes be deceiving, but not in the case of the following five from the USC football team nine games into the 2014 season...

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College Football Conference Power Rankings Post-Week 10

We are two-thirds of the way through the regular season, which means enough time has passed to rank the 11 FBS conferences and have it mean something.

A lot can change between now and bowl season, but a 10-week sample is enough with which to make some telling judgements.

This list relied heavily on the F/+ ratings at Football Outsiders, an opponent-adjusted efficiency metric whose predictive powers get stronger as the season goes on (i.e., as more data becomes available). Unless otherwise noted, all mention of team rankings on the slides that follow (and there are a lot) refer to F/+.

Did the SEC retain its top spot despite the impotence of its lesser division? Is the Pac-12 the nascent juggernaut some projected at the start of the year? Which power-five conference ranks the lowest, and which group-of-five conference exceeds the rest?

Sound off below to let us know what you think.

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The Roller-Coaster Recruitment of 4-Star QB Torrance Gibson

Torrance Gibson became a Buckeye on Monday afternoon during his U.S. Army All-American Bowl jersey presentation at American Heritage High School in Broward County, Florida. His decision to attend Ohio State went public three months shy of national signing day, providing the potential for more twists and turns in a recruitment process that's already veered away from its expected path plenty of times.

The 6'4", 200-pound prospect with a million-dollar smile has spent past months tantalizing a collection of college fanbases. Gibson, one of the most actively engaged high school football stars you'll find on Twitter, acquired admirers from Rocky Top to Death Valley during a vast tour of campuses and kept them guessing on social media with constant hints about his feelings toward teams.

His scholarship offer list featured many of America's premier college programs even before he led American Heritage to a state title in 2013. Gibson partnered with running back Sony Michel—now a freshman at Georgia—last season to create a feared backfield tandem.

Gibson rushed for 1,063 yards and 10 touchdowns as a junior while throwing for another 1,789 yards and 18 scores. A three-touchdown performance in the state championship game solidified his spot among the nation's most coveted dual-threat quarterbacks.

Offers from the likes of Florida, Ole Miss, Oklahoma and Auburn arrived soon after the season, setting the stage for an epic spring break itinerary. In an effort to expand his recruiting horizons, Gibson made plans to spend time at six schools during a seven-day stretch in March.

While racking up the miles, he provided open access that allowed social media followers to observe his adventures.

The journey started in Norman, Oklahoma, where the Sooners showcased past and present success during a sales pitch:

The next detour took him to another eventual finalist in Baton Rouge. Gibson conversed with LSU offensive coordinator Cam Cameron at the first of several SEC stops:

Reigning conference champion Auburn welcomed Gibson a day later. The visit was highlighted by a personal encounter with 2010 Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton, a dual-threat quarterback who thrived throughout his lone season in head coach Gus Malzahn's offensive attack.

"People tell me I play like Cam Newton, so why not sit down and talk to him about how he's the best, why he's the best? That's what I did," Gibson told Justin Hokanson of Rivals.com (subscription required). "He told me Gus is a great guy and I'd fit great within the offense." 

A visit to Clemson followed, and then Gibson moved on to Tennessee, a university he once appeared primed to attend:

Gibson raved about his trip to Knoxville, particularly when it came to describing the level of excitement shown by Volunteers fans:

That group would eventually make up a strong contingent of his followers on Twitter, providing overwhelmingly positive reinforcement for the young quarterback until things eventually began to unravel between him and Tennessee.

Gibson wrapped up the long and winding road trip with a stop at Florida before heading home:

Less than six weeks later, his recruitment accelerated.

He utilized Twitter again, unveiling a list of his top 15 college choices. Expansive announcements like this have become relatively common in recruiting thanks to social media, but his came with a twist.

Gibson presented the schools ordered by his level of interest, with Tennessee on top and Nebraska rounding things off.

Gibson cut the list in half by the end of May, but staying true to form, he provided another dramatic element. Dubbing it his "final" top seven, Gibson declared Tennessee and Auburn as co-leaders and followed the announcement with trips to both schools.

This is also the period when Gibson began developing his national blog with USA Today, attempting to draw in even more college football fans who wanted to stay up to the minute with where the playmaker might be headed.

He used the broadened stage to share news that Tennessee officially gained an edge over Auburn after his return trip to Knoxville. Naturally, Volunteer Nation took notice:

As senior season training camp neared, Tennessee settled into the driver's seat of his recruitment.

Head coach Butch Jones spent recent recruiting cycles keeping top in-state players home and plucking talent from elsewhere to establish a strong foundation for the future, and a potential star like Gibson offered an intriguing set of new possibilities.

However, Ohio State spoiled the party in Tennessee by creeping back into the picture and eventually lined up a July visit from Gibson. He confirmed the development on his national blog, giving Tennessee faithful a reason to feel fret.

Tennessee is my leader, but I'm headed to Ohio State tomorrow for the Friday Night Lights Camp. I don't know what'll happen after that as far as who will be in the lead. Just gotta see what happens when I get there. I don't know if there's anything that they can do really; I already really like Ohio State, I think it's just a feeling that I'll get. We'll see.

The Volunteers' worst fears quickly became a reality, as Ohio State unseated Tennessee atop Gibson's list upon his return:

Soon, Gibson was sporting Ohio State-themed cleats on high school fields in Florida, creating the impression that a silent commitment with Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer was possibly already in place:

Auburn and Tennessee—once viewed as the top two contenders in a frenzied pursuit—swiftly fell off the pace. It remains a mystery whether Gibson or those programs had more to do with creating distance, but their flirtation effectively ended.

In late August, he told Bleacher Report's Kynon Codrington that Arizona and Oklahoma joined Ohio State in his top three. Still, Gibson adamantly identified the Buckeyes as a heavy favorite.

"Ohio State is my clear leader," he told Codrington. "I like the offense they run; I really like everything. I know it's cold, but it's cold in the NFL, too. The most important thing is they want me at quarterback, not athlete."

His final point has been a topic of conversation throughout the recruiting cycle. 

Many recruiting analysts have outwardly questioned Gibson's ability to develop into a reliable passer at the next level, believing his athleticism would be best served at wide receiver. Recruiting industry leaders like 247Sports and ESPN list him as an "athlete" instead of a quarterback, drawing frustration from the Sunshine State standout:

Gibson lamented that lack of faith this summer during our conversation at The Opening, an invite-only football showcase held in Oregon at Nike's world headquarters. 

"I view myself as a quarterback, and right now, I'm only considering teams who look at me the same way," he told me. "That's just the way it is."

Gibson dealt with doubts in Oregon, where he was listed as a wide receiver on rosters and wasn't initially included among Elite 11 finalists. His persistence to play the position resulted in acceptance into Elite 11 action, and he took snaps at quarterback during The Opening while also running routes at receiver:

He remains a work in progress entering the last stretch of his final high school season. Through nine games as a senior, Gibson has completed 46 percent of his pass attempts for 1,236 yards, 12 touchdowns and just one interception, per MaxPreps.

Regardless of where he ultimately lines up three or four years from now, it's clear his first shot will come behind center. He is set to join fellow Ohio State quarterback commit Joe Burrow on campus next year, representing Gibson's first test toward potential playing time at the position.

Burrow, who has thrown for nearly 2,900 yards and 42 scores in 10 games this season, per MaxPreps, provides legitimate immediate competition. Either player could eventually step up to orchestrate an offense that has produced multiple Heisman Trophy contenders and first-round NFL draft picks, but not before Braxton Miller and J.T. Barrett take their turns in the spotlight.

Gibson will aim to answer plenty of questions when he arrives on campus. If his journey ahead is anything like the process that brought him to this point, prepare for fireworks.

 

Quotes obtained firsthand by Bleacher Report national recruiting columnist Tyler Donohue unless otherwise noted.

Recruit ratings and stats courtesy of 247Sports.

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