NCAA Football

Tennessee Football: Grading Volunteers' Top Freshmen Post-Week 10

Tennessee head coach Butch Jones is redefining "rebuilding" on Rocky Top. The Volunteers have played 23 true freshmen, more than any other team in the Football Bowl Subdivision.

While it has been a slow go in the development process, the Vols finally broke through with a big win last weekend, beating division foe South Carolina 45-42 in Columbia to set up the possibility for a bowl berth.

UT has to win two of its final three games to go to the postseason.

First-year fingerprints were all over that victory over the Gamecocks as budding stars such as running back Jalen Hurd and defensive end Derek Barnett continued to emerge as household names.

Potential stars abound as fruits from Jones' first full recruiting class, and solid role players are shaping up as well from that haul and redshirts from the previous cycle. Several have played so much it's difficult to believe they were going through orientation just a few months ago.

Let's take a look at Tennessee's top youngsters and critique their promising performances in their abbreviated careers.

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2015 DB Recruits Most Likely to Be Future Shutdown Corners in the NFL

With the emergence of bigger receivers and freakishly athletic tight ends, finding corners who can lock down one side of the field has become increasingly difficult.

For the nation's top college football coaches, that puts a premium on finding athletic corners on the recruiting trail with size and range who can keep up with shifty and explosive pass-catchers. 

However, the 2015 class has a deep group of corners—as evidenced by the fact that there are five players at the position who have earned the coveted 5-star designation.

Which cover corners are the best candidates to become future shutdown corners in the NFL?

*Players listed in alphabetical order.

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Texas Football: The 5 Most Telling Stats for the Longhorns This Season

Despite their 4-5 record, the Texas Longhorns remain a team ripe with potential. But as the stats show, it's tough to expect much more down the stretch thanks to their mistake-prone ways.

The fact is that the Longhorn defense has gotten it done all season, especially against the pass. This unit's yards-per-attempt figure ranks among the best in the nation, which is amazing given the talent level of the Big 12 passing attacks.

Unfortunately, the offense remains stuck in the mud because of too many mistakes with the ball, poor conversion rates and a passing attack that remains overly focused on two playmakers.

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Michigan Football: Wolverines Offense Taking Flight with Unexpected Players

When Michigan began Brady Hoke’s fourth campaign, big changes were expected on offense.

The offense certainly changed, but the results were disappointing as the team struggled. But with Michigan’s bowl hopes on the line last week, two players who were huge question marks entering this season have put the offense back on track, as the team enters the backstretch of the season with Brady Hoke's job in doubt.

Offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier was hired to impose consistency on an attack that had morphed from one game to the next under his predecessor. While his exact tactics were a matter of debate, the players who’d star in the new scheme were highly touted.

The running attack would be powered by Derrick Green or De’Veon Smith, who had battled during spring practice and fall camp. A late entry in the battle was Ty Isaac, who had petitioned the NCAA for immediate eligibility after transferring from USC. All three had been highly coveted 4-star recruits and were capable of being the top back.

The passing attack would be anchored by returning fifth-year senior Devin Gardner, who would be targeting wide receiver Devin Funchess and tight end Jake Butt. Both Gardner and Butt were returning from injuries while Funchess entered the season wearing the hallowed No.1 jersey, an honor that carries high expectations for a Michigan receiver.


The Best Laid Planes Often Go Astray

Everything was in place for Michigan to bounce back from last season’s 7-6 collapse. But the season had some unpleasant surprises for Michigan.

The running game was still mired behind an ineffective offensive line. Even when the offensive line did open gaps for Derrick Green and De’Veon Smith, they lacked the vision to take advantage of the openings.

Ty Isaac made an impression but only on the practice squad since the NCAA denied his eligibility request. Smith inherited the starting job when Green broke his clavicle and was lost for the season prior to the Penn State game.

The passing attack had problems of its own.

Gardner continued to turn the ball over and was benched for Shane Morris. Morris left the game with what was eventually diagnosed as a concussion; an injury that engulfed the program and started a chain of events that resulted in the dismissal of athletic director David Brandon.

Tight end Jake Butt (10 receptions for 113 yards and one touchdown) returned from an ACL injury but hasn’t replicated the success of last season.

Devin Funchess (48 receptions for 572 yards and four touchdowns) is the team’s top receiver but isn’t the big-play threat that many expected when the season began, a leg injury that occurred during the second game of season is still hampering his speed and route-running ability.

Heading into a homecoming matchup versus Indiana, Michigan desperately needed a win to keep its bowl hopes alive.

With the season hanging in the balance, two players who had played minor roles all season both stepped up with dual 100-plus yard performances to pace the Michigan offense.


Running Back Drake Johnson


Drake Johnson entered the Indiana game with nine career carries for 50 yards over three games (one last season before being injured and two earlier this season).

Johnson took advantage of the opportunity, exploding for 122 yards on 16 carries and scoring his first two career touchdowns. The performance was extra special since it happened on homecoming, and both of his parents are Michigan alumni. His mom, who has served as Michigan head cheerleader coach for over 30 years, talked to mgoblue.com about watching her son have his first big game for Michigan:

I cried at the first one [touchdown] because I knew it was a dream come true for him. He's been talking about playing football since he was a little kid. When he talked about talking smack to the players here as a little kid, he really did. A couple times, I grabbed him by the collar and said, 'Would you get back here and be quiet!' But he would say, 'I'm going to do this, and that's going to be me!'

And now, he really did do that. I'm so lucky to be in the right place at the right time.

Johnson brought a new wrinkle to the Michigan running attack. While Green and Smith are traditional power backs, Johnson exhibited speed and elusiveness that could spell trouble for future opponents. 

It also helped that Michigan's offensive line had one of its best performances of the season.

Hoke played coy about naming him as the starting running back for this week, but Johnson impressed former Michigan great Braylon Edwards with his performance versus Indiana:

Johnson’s career day kept Michigan’s postseason hopes alive and provided a glimmer of what Doug Nussmeier has been trying to accomplish on offense since replacing Borges.


Wide Receiver Amara Darboh

Amara Darboh had been in the shadow of Funchess all season before getting his first 100-yard game versus Indiana. Darboh (nine receptions for 107 yards and one touchdown) exploited gaps in the Indiana secondary to become Michigan’s top receiver in the game.

Darboh also made a great defensive play, breaking up a potential pick-six in the first half.

His performance marks a long road back since a foot injury caused him to miss last season.

Doug Nussmeier addressed Darboh’s journey back during his weekly press conference:

…being cleared to play doesn’t mean you’re going to play at the highest level you’re capable of and these are both really young players that are growing each and every week. You’re seeing the emergence of Amara.

Darboh’s performance will force opponents to account for two deep threats in addition to tight end Jake Butt. His emergence bodes well for the Michigan offense as it gears up for its final three regular-season games.


Still Need Two More Wins

The Michigan offense looked good versus Indiana, but the team needs two more victories to secure a bowl bid. A postseason berth is the bare minimum for Brady Hoke to have any chance of returning next season.

A victory over Northwestern is possible, but the two final games versus Maryland and Ohio State will be difficult.

Michigan will need unheralded players to keep producing for the offense to keep rolling.

Players like Drake Johnson and Amara Darboh will play key roles in determining Brady Hoke’s fate.


Phil Callihan is a featured writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotations were obtained firsthand.

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Bowl Predictions 2014: Updated Playoff Projections Before Critical Week 11

Let your couch cushions know that you plan on getting very familiar with them on Saturday.

The Week 11 college football slate features six marquee contests that will shape the College Football Playoff discussion for the rest of the season. There will be teams eliminated from competition with losses on Saturday, but the winners will make a loud statement to the selection committee with a month remaining in the season.

Among the Saturday showdowns are clashes between Ohio State and Michigan State, Oregon and Utah, Alabama and LSU, Arizona State and Notre Dame, Kansas State and TCU and Oklahoma and Baylor.

November is when the pressure really sets in on the college football calendar, and we will see which teams are capable of delivering in the clutch on Saturday.

The College Football Playoff projections will likely look different after such a loaded week of games, but here is a look at where they stand now.

 

Playoff Projections

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

Rose Bowl: No. 3 Michigan State vs. No. 2 Alabama   

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

Florida State already won its difficult games on the schedule. The Seminoles are going to win out and will have the opportunity to defend their national title.

Alabama is hitting its stride as it enters November, and the Crimson Tide will also win out and clinch the SEC title. That will get Nick Saban’s team into the field of four.

Mississippi State’s only loss will be to Alabama, and wins against SEC heavyweights like Auburn, LSU and Ole Miss will get the Bulldogs into the playoffs. 

Michigan State will knock Ohio State out of the national title race for the second consecutive season and win the Big Ten. The Spartans will benefit from a number of losses in the Big 12, Pac-12 and from Notre Dame down the stretch and seize one of those coveted four spots.

 

Under-the-Radar Week 11 Game to Watch: Oregon at Utah

While the lion’s share of the college football attention will be directed toward games in the SEC, Big Ten and Big 12 on Saturday, the late-night showdown between Oregon and Utah in the Pac-12 figures to be just as entertaining and important in the College Football Playoffs race.

The Utes may be eliminated from postseason consideration with two losses, but the Ducks are right in the thick of it. However, a second loss of the season on Saturday would prove crippling to their playoff chances.

The critical matchup in this one features the Oregon offense against the stout Utah defense.

Oregon brings a balanced and intimidating offensive attack to the table on Saturday. It is 16th in the nation in passing yards per game and 25th in rushing yards per game, and quarterback Marcus Mariota is on the short list of everyone’s Heisman contenders with 2,541 passing yards, 410 rushing yards and 33 total touchdowns.

Mariota makes plays with his arms and legs and has come through in the clutch for the Ducks in tense moments against UCLA, Washington State, Michigan State and Stanford. The defense has to constantly focus on Mariota and preventing his big-play abilities, which opens up the field for the running backs and wide receivers to make plays in space.

However, the Utah defense means this will be a strength-against-strength matchup.

The Utes have three players among the Pac-12’s top six in tackles for loss and have yet to give up 30 points in a single game this season, which is an impressive accomplishment in the quarterback-loaded Pac-12. Utah is giving up 21.3 points a game and will challenge Mariota and the Ducks. 

Hans Olsen of 1280 The Zone and Football Writers Association of America member Patrick Schmidt believe the Utah defense will have a big impact on this game:

Utah will be motivated after a heartbreaking loss to Arizona State with a chance to make a national statement against one of the most respected programs in the country. What’s more, the crowd should be rocking under the lights, which could influence Oregon’s up-tempo offense.

Oregon coach Mark Helfrich certainly thinks the crowd could be a problem, via Gary Horowitz of the Statesman Journal, “You have to be on point in every phase to get it done. We’re going to a very hostile environment against a very good team.”

Ultimately, the problem for the Utes will be scoring the ball.

They are 111th in the nation in passing yards per game at 175.3, and things look even worse after leading receiver Dres Anderson was lost for the season with a knee injury. The Utes will rely on their rushing attack behind Devontae Booker, who is second in the Pac-12 with 123.8 yards per game.

Oregon’s defense struggled against California two games ago, but it redeemed itself against Stanford. The Golden Bears exploited the Ducks through the air, while the Cardinal rely on the run. Oregon is beatable if you bring a solid passing attack to the table, but Utah does not.

The Utes will contain the Ducks’ offensive attack for most of the game, but they won’t be able to score enough points to come away with the win.

You can only ask so much of the defense against Mariota and Oregon, and the Ducks will eventually break through for a decisive touchdown late in the game. Oregon will be tested, but it will do enough to win and maintain its inside position for a College Football Playoff spot. 

Prediction: Oregon 31, Utah 17

 

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Bowl Predictions 2014: Updated Playoff Projections Before Critical Week 11

Let your couch cushions know that you plan on getting very familiar with them on Saturday. The Week 11 college football slate features six marquee contests that will shape the College Football Playoff discussion for the rest of the season...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Michigan Football: Player Development Under Brady Hoke a Mixed Bag

Michigan head coach Brady Hoke has always taken a great deal of pride in developing players into young men. He has said that being a father figure and mentor is just as important as being a coach—no one would argue with that if he were winning. 

But instead of highlighting his 69-of-69 senior graduation rate and success of those away from the field, the masses are talking about how Hoke isn’t always molding those great students into great football players. They're talking about how his Wolverines (4-5, 2-3 Big Ten) fail to improve on a regular basis.  

“What I would say is that Jake Ryan is a semifinalist for the Butkus Award…Frank Clark was 217 pounds when he got here, he’ll be a draft choice,” Hoke replied when asked to address critics. 

Fair enough. Some guys have gotten better, and some will continue to advance thanks to his staff—and Ryan is a shining example of Hoke's process.

Since his sophomore year with the Wolverines, Ryan, when healthy, has been one of the best linebackers in the Big Ten—the 6’3”, 236-pound senior ranks No. 7 in the league with 79 tackles, averaging an impressive 8.8 per game. His 12.5 tackles for loss are second only to the 14.5 posted by Ohio State’s Joey Bosa, who is widely regarded as one of the elite defenders in college football. 

As for Clark, Hoke’s spot-on there—he’s no longer a skinny kid who didn’t know which position he’d play; he’s now a 6’2”, 277-pound wrecking ball of a defensive end who lives in the backfield.

And while we’re at it, we might as well add Brennen Beyer to the conversation; the 6’4”, 256-pound senior DE has evolved into a quarterback’s worst nightmare and leads Team 135 with five sacks.

Hoke’s right, some guys are developing.

Look at Joe Bolden—the 6’3”, 231-pound linebacker is arguably the most intense competitor on the roster. He was a great signing, and he’ll be a star senior.

Take a glance at Matt Godin—a 6’6”, 286-pound sophomore D-lineman who continues to show why he deserves more snaps. He too is on pace to have a respectable career. Even true freshman Bryan Mone, a 6’4”, 312-pound D-tackle, is coming along nicely.

But they’re caught in the carousel of one day you play, the next you don’t.

And honestly, given this staff's track record, it's difficult to guarantee that they'll continue climbing the ranks—not because they can't or won't, but because coaches aren't getting the best out of everyone else. 

Why expect any different when it comes to them? 

There has been a severe divide in who does what, when and where. Constant maturation and production from high-value positions such as quarterback, running back and wide receiver have been absent under Hoke. 

Michigan hasn’t had a dominant 1,000-yard rushing running back since 2011 (Fitz Toussaint), and it hasn’t had a steady pro-style quarterback who could do more than merely manage a game since 2007 (Chad Henne). Instead, it's had a Devin Gardner—a fifth-year senior who has been trapped in an inconsistent spiral of turnovers and uncertainty ever since he was drubbed 29-6 and sacked six times by Michigan State in 2013.

Instead, it's had a Denard Robinson who was essentially tasked with saving a skidding program from further embarrassment. And with more than 10,000 electrifying yards of offense, he did that to a degree. But Shoelace wasn't Hoke's guy; he was Rich Rodriguez's. However, Hoke tried to make the best of the situation by forcing Robinson into a more traditional role, which didn't work and only compounded matters. 

It’s been years since the Wolverines have had anything close to a proper offensive line—as a matter of fact, that position group has hit the floor since Hoke took over in 2011. The Ben Bradens, Erik Magnusons and Patrick Kuglers of the world aren’t ascending as quickly as once thought.

And other than Devin Funchess, Michigan—which gets its targets at the position—doesn’t have a receiver to speak of these days. But even he isn't immune; Funchess is having a down year, which is leaving many to wonder if the 6'5", 230-pound junior should consider returning for his senior season. 

Sure, there are cases of progression. Hoke’s starting Mason Cole, a true frosh, at left tackle. If that doesn’t point to development (and natural talent), nothing does. But those examples, the few and far between stories of Ryan and Clark, aren’t enough to satisfy a fanbase that's yearning for more from everyone across the board, not just from a select few. 

Hoke’s stubborn and somewhat misguided loyalty to upperclassmen, paired with his youngsters' slow progression, has been his downfall.

Where is Freddy Canteen? He was the greatest thing since sliced bread after the spring game. But ever since, he's barely touched the field. 

Want another?

Next up is Drake Johnson, who wowed spectators with 16 carries for 122 yards and a pair of touchdowns during Saturday’s 34-10 homecoming shellacking of Indiana. It was about time, because before then, he had just five carries for 41 yards and Michigan had little hope radiating from its backfield. 

Hoke said on Monday that the redshirt sophomore has “always been in the mix."

That's been the report since spring scrimmages, when Johnson was a top challenger for the No. 1 job. Never mind the fact that he was just months removed from a season-ending ACL tear suffered in the 2013 opener, he was ready then. 

“When Drake Johnson gets back in the fall, I think it’ll be fun to see who emerges,” Hoke said in April, according to MLive.com’s Nick Baumgardner.

Derrick Green and De’Veon Smith were the ones to “emerge," though. Each had strong finishes to their freshman seasons and deserved their moments of truth. However, a peaking Green was lost after breaking his clavicle Oct. 4, Smith’s stalled and stuttered with 77 attempts, and Justice Hayes can’t get in rhythm.

Johnson got his feet wet versus the Hoosiers, but Hoke and offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier aren't hitching their wagons to him just yet. He just showed more with less than any running back this season, but the coaching staff's taking it slow with him. 

Why?

That answer is easy, according to Hoke: “Because he had to get the opportunities from a practice standpoint of running with the first group." 

It seems that results in the form of stat-stuffing debuts aren't enough to sway Hoke from relying on those with considerably lower production. It's cost him games in the past and, at this rate, it could end up costing his job. 

 

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

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

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College Football Playoff Rankings 2014: Week 11 NCAA Championship Predictions

It has been just one week since the inaugural College Football Playoff rankings were released, and the Top Four has already changed.

Ole Miss' heartbreaking loss at the hands of No. 3 Auburn dropped the Rebels out of the playoff picture, while Oregon comfortably took its spot with a shellacking of Stanford.

There will certainly be more movement at the top—perhaps as early as this week, with the Ducks facing a tricky road matchup at No. 17 Utah—and the newest rankings will soon be deemed irrelevant, but it's fun to take a glimpse at what would happen if the regular season ended today. 

That said, here are some predictions based solely on the second iteration of the College Football Playoff rankings.

 

No. 1 Mississippi State vs. No. 4 Oregon

I'm pretty sure neutral fans would be OK with this matchup coming to fruition. Dual-threat quarterbacks Dak Prescott and Marcus Mariota are two of the most thrilling players in America, and they sit at Nos. 1 and 2 on most Heisman Trophy lists.

So, yeah, I guess watching them go back and forth for a spot in the national championship would probably be all right.

Judging by recent play, you have to give the advantage in this one to the Ducks. Mississippi State struggled to put away Kentucky and needed a broken play to beat Arkansas at home, while the Ducks have averaged 47.75 points per game since a loss to Arizona a month ago.

That includes 45 against both a talented Washington squad and a normally extremely stout Stanford side, as Fox Sports' Joel Klatt noted:

Oregon's defense, which is 71st in the nation in yards per play allowed, is obviously concerning. But the Ducks would have little trouble scoring on the Bulldogs, who have given up 34 to UAB, 29 to LSU, 31 to Texas A&M and 31 to Kentucky.

In a shootout, I'll put my trust in Mariota and his 26-to-2 touchdown-to-interception ratio.

 

No. 2 Florida State vs. No. 3 Auburn

This playoff thing is pretty fun. First, we had a battle between the top two Heisman candidates. Now, we have a rematch of last year's national championship, which happens to include the defending Heisman winner.

Should this matchup play out, I think Auburn gets revenge. 

While it's difficult to bet against Jameis Winston in a big game, especially with the immense amount of talent around him, the fact that the Seminoles struggle to hold on to the ball is concerning. With 2.3 giveaways per contest, they are 119th in the country out of 128 teams.

The News & Observer's Joe Giglio put it simply:

The Seminoles have survived the turnovers thus far, but they won't against Auburn, a team that not only excels in forcing mistakes (2.2 takeaways per game) but also can turn them into points fairly easily with a thoroughly explosive offense. 

 

No. 3 Auburn vs. No. 4 Oregon

Auburn is third in the nation in yards per play. Oregon is fourth. Both teams have shown the ability to efficiently and quickly march the ball down the field in a variety of ways.

Ultimately, this one would come down to the running game and which team is better able to control the clock.

The advantage in that department goes to Auburn. Each team is equally capable of running the ball, but the Tigers have been much better defensively. They rank 28th in yards per rush allowed, while the Ducks are 56th.

Gus Malzahn's squad hoists the national championship trophy in this very fictional scenario.

Still, with road trips to Georgia and Alabama left on the schedule, Auburn has a whole lot of work just to keep its spot in the playoffs.

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College Football Week 11 Schedule: TV and Live Stream Info for Every Game

As the season storms toward the inaugural College Football Playoff, Week 11 presents one of the most loaded slates of all.

Few serious contenders are watching from the sidelines this week, and few ranked teams are in games that will have little to no impact on the CFP. Heavyweight conference bouts and meetings between ranked teams line the schedule.

The best course of action is to plot out how one will spend the busy Saturday in regards to the wealth of superb matchups. To that end, let's take a look at the full Week 11 schedule and viewing info.

 

2014 College Football Week 11 Schedule

Schedule and viewing info courtesy of ESPN.com. For games without national or regional coverage on a major network, check local listings.

 

Live Stream Resource

Below is a database for the biggest streaming services out there for fans on the go or who do not get a game on the old-fashioned television. Note that some may require a subscription or cable.

ESPN: WatchESPN

SEC: CBSSports.com

Fox: Fox Sports Go

BTN: BTN2Go.com

Pac-12: Pac-12.com

ABC: ABC Live

CBS: CBSSports.com

 

Game of the Week

Kansas State vs. TCU

It is the Big 12 that steals the show in a stacked Week 11.

Thank the conference's lack of a title game for that, as a meeting between the Kansas State Wildcats and TCU Horned Frogs has CFP and Big 12 title implications.

Call it a war of contrasting styles, too. Bill Snyder's Wildcats are one of the nation's top defenses, coming in at No. 12 overall thanks to an average of just 18.6 points allowed per game. On the flip side, Gary Patterson's offense not only ranks sixth overall in passing yards per game (335.9) but ranks No. 2 overall with an average of 48.0 points per contest.

The TCU offense is led by quarterback Trevone Boykin, who has 2,472 yards and 22 touchdowns through the air with another 423 yards and four scores on the ground.

Boykin has proved an absolute nightmare for defenses unlike anything the collegiate game has seen since, well, Robert Griffin III and Johnny Manziel. Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports has the scoop:

As a team, the Horned Frogs have dropped 37 points on Oklahoma, 58 on Baylor (in a loss), 42 on Oklahoma State and 82 on Texas Tech.

One opponent that will not be intimidated, though? The Wildcats.

“This last month is definitely going to be exciting,” said Kansas State quarterback Jake Waters, per ESPN.com's Jake Trotter. “But we just have to focus on what we do and execute the way we know we can and see what happens.”

Waters himself has ensured this season that his unit provides a strong complement to a stout defense. He has 1,878 yards and 11 scores through the air, with 404 yards and seven more scores on the ground. 

As D. Scott Fritchen of GoPowerCat.com notes, Waters has taken care of the ball at a historic clip this season:

Kansas State's biggest accomplishment actually came in its lone loss this season. The strong defense held then-ranked No. 5 Auburn to just 20 points and 128 rushing yards. Considering the Tigers are one of the nation's best and rank among the 10 best rushing teams and 15 top scoring teams, the Wildcats defense is not to be underestimated.

This contest in particular clearly has anything a fan could ask for. Two battle-tested rosters with opposing strengths get set to square off with everything on the line.

Week 11 is loaded, but this one is the only game every fan should circle in red.

 

Stats and information via ESPN.com unless otherwise specified.

 

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Ohio State Football: Redemption, Respect and Renewal on the Line Against MSU

When Urban Meyer and the Ohio State football team travel to East Lansing for a battle against Michigan State this Saturday, there will be more than just an inside track to the Big Ten title game on the line. 

For the Buckeyes, redemption for last year's loss to the Spartans, national respect and a renewed hope for this year's College Football Playoff will all be up for grabs.

It's a game that fans and media have been looking forward to since December 7 of last year, when Michigan State shocked Ohio State in a 34-24 upset in the Big Ten Championship Game. The Buckeyes were just one win away from booking a trip to Pasadena, California, for a date with Florida State in the national title game, but the Spartans dashed those hopes with a dominant performance in Indianapolis. 

Fast forward 11 months, and both teams are in a familiar place—atop the Big Ten with championship aspirations. And while this week's prime-time matchup has deep implications for the outcome of the 2014 season, it's hard for the Buckeyes to keep from looking back at the disappointment from last year.

“I feel like [Michigan State] stole something from us,” Buckeyes linebacker Darron Lee said this week, according to Patrick Maks of Eleven Warriors. “That’s how I felt just watching it. I wanted a piece of them last year, honestly.”

Lee and the rest of the Buckeyes—who will be boasting a vastly improved defense for this year's matchup—will get that opportunity under the lights in Spartan Stadium. 

Meyer knows that his team will need to be at its best to come out victorious. The Buckeyes were gashed by the Spartans last year, surrendering 304 passing yards (and 438 yards total) in the 10-point loss.

"They jumped out to a quick start," Meyer said, according to Ohio State's official website. "We did not play very good pass defense. Gave up a big one that we didn't need to give up."

Can Ohio State shut down the rugged and high-flying Spartans, who have used a blend of power on the ground and speed on the perimeter to build the nation's fifth-best scoring offense?

If the Buckeyes can find a way to do that and produce a victory Saturday night, Meyer believes his team will finally earn the respect it deserves.

With that respect—Ohio State would also register a signature win it desperately needs. The Buckeyes came in at No. 16 in the College Football Playoff's first poll and moved up two spots to No. 14 on Tuesday. 

Jeff Long—the chairman of the 12-member committee in control of selecting the final four playoff contenders—explained Ohio State's meager ranking with a reference to the Buckeyes' bad loss to Virginia Tech in Week 2. He also spoke about the opportunities ahead for the Buckeyes.

“I wouldn’t call [the Virginia Tech loss] an albatross, but it was not a good loss for them,” Long said, according to Tim May of The Columbus Dispatch. “But Ohio State has opportunities on their schedule to play up…"

Meyer knows that a win over a championship-caliber Michigan State team would vault Ohio State back into playoff contention. And he, like his own players, reflected on last year's loss to the Spartans this week.

“The dream was ripped away from us (last year), ripped away by a very good team," Meyer said, according to Todd Porter of The Repository.

The Buckeyes are hoping to return the favor in East Lansing Saturday night.

 

All stats via NCAA.com.

David Regimbal covers Ohio State football for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.

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Bowl Projections: Predicting College Football Playoff Matchups After Week 10

The weird thing about the College Football Playoff committee issuing a poll every week is how weirdly unnecessary it'll all seem in a few weeks. In the BCS system, polling mattered. Only two teams were going to get a chance to play for a national championship, and everyone needed a look to see how this convoluted formula worked.

There is no convoluted formula in the playoff system. There are 12 people in a room coming to a consensus, not unlike the selection committee for March Madness. Those respected folks meet once a year—when they are deciding which 68 teams to put into the NCAA tournament. There are explanations given afterward, but we're never provided with a Top 68 list because there's no need for one.

All of which is to say that while debating the CFB Playoff polls is nice, there is only one of them that matters. And that poll won't be coming out for more than a month.

So instead of parsing the latest outlook, which was released Tuesday night, let's instead look forward. We'll use the current rankings as a framework of the committee's mindset, but they're generally thrown out in favor of projections related to future performances.

Meaning, at this very moment, these are the two matchups I expect to see when the Dirty Dozen mails in its final term paper. So, anyway, let's hop to it.

 

No. 1 Florida State vs. No. 4 Mississippi State

Despite their half-dozen close calls, Florida State is a near-lock for a playoff spot. The second-ranked Seminoles play three of their final four regular-season games at home, none coming against especially difficult competition. Boston College and Miami are both frisky, to the point betting expert RJ Bell indicated the Seminoles will open as an underdog against the Hurricanes.

That, of course, is lunacy. Florida State, despite its inherent flaws, has won all of its games. Controversial opinion alert: Winning is better than losing. Come hell, high water or 21-point deficits, Florida State has won 24 straight games. To make them an underdog at any point is disingenuous—at least until that high-wire act comes back to haunt them.

Florida State is good enough to navigate this minefield they call the ACC. And by minefield, I mean comfortably furnished Victorian home with stuffed animals for carpeting. 

Mississippi State, meanwhile, is a Call of Duty rookie navigating a field of experienced snipers. The Bulldogs have road trips to Alabama and rival Ole Miss sandwiched between gimmes against UT Martin and Vanderbilt. Given that Ole Miss sits No. 11 in the latest rankings, there is a strong possibility that Mississippi State will be facing its fourth and fifth Top 10 team of 2014 down the stretch.

Factor in a potential SEC Championship Game, and I don't see Dak Prescott and Co. getting through to January unscathed. The SEC is too daunting, and the West is almost masochistic in its difficulty.

That said, Dan Mullen's team is getting in if it finishes the regular season with one loss. The Bulldogs' back-to-back-to-back victories over Top 10 teams is perhaps the most impressive feat of this college football season. Their flaws are minimal. Prescott can get into trouble when he tries to do too much with his arm, and their special teams is weak enough that it could swing a game down the stretch.

Losing one game is totally within reason. Dropping two down the stretch would be ignoring the two-plus months of excellent football Mississippi State has turned in. Look for them to be the last team in with a single loss.

 

No. 2 Alabama vs. No. 3 Oregon

Yep, I realize putting Alabama in this spot means picking the Tide to defeat two of the nation's three best teams, go on the road to take down LSU and possibly win the conference outright. I realize that is a task more difficult than the one resting at Mississippi State's feet. I realize how impossible that sounds—especially for a team that dropped its only game against an elite opponent.

I also realize it is very dumb to bet against Nick Saban. Alabama has not lost more than one regular-season game since my sophomore year in college. Three of the past five seasons have seen the Tide play for a national championship, and they undoubtedly would have been given to a theoretical playoff in 2013.

Saban is the best, most prepared coach in the country. Lane Kiffin's offense has scored 93 points over its last two games after criticism reached a fever pitch following the Tide's 14-13 win over Arkansas. Saban's defense has not allowed more than 23 points all season; only Mississippi State, Alabama and Auburn rank top-10 nationally in Football Outsiders' FEI plus ratings on both sides of the ball. As we saw last season, Alabama having home-field advantage against Auburn might provide just enough boost to send the Tide into the playoffs.

As for Oregon, it all essentially comes down to Saturday. Get past 17th-ranked Utah on the road and it's clear sailing until the Pac-12 Championship Game. The Ducks close their regular season with games against Colorado and Oregon State, which boast a combined 1-10 record against intraconference opponents. That lone win? It was Oregon State defeating Colorado.

Utah doesn't have the offensive talent to take advantage of Oregon's defensive weaknesses. Travis Wilson's 165-pass interception-less streak is perhaps the nation's most misleading statistic. Wilson has not had a pass gain more than 20 yards since Sept. 27. Devontae Booker will give the Ducks' shaky run defense problems, and Utah has enough defensive talent to keep the game semi-close, but Oregon has scored 40-plus points in four straight games. I have a difficult time conjuring 28 for Utah.

Oregon is probably headed for a collision with Arizona State in the Pac-12 title game, which could mean anything in a few weeks. The Sun Devils play their biggest game of the season Saturday against Notre Dame. Hold home field and it's possible that Arizona State and Oregon are headed for a de facto play-in game for the playoffs.

Either way, advantage Oregon.

 

Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Oklahoma State Football: What's Wrong with Daxx Garman?

In the three games the Oklahoma State Cowboys played in September, starting quarterback Daxx Garman had 929 yards with a 56.3 completion percentage, eight touchdowns and just two interceptions. Furthermore, Garman was only sacked eight times in those three games, good for 2.67 sacks per game.

In the five games since, Garman has 954 yards with a 54.3 completion percentage, three scores and nine interceptions. In addition, he's been sacked 16 times, which raises his sacks per game to 3.2 per game.

Obviously, the talent level of Oklahoma State's opponents has only gone up as the season has progressed; however, Garman's numbers (and the Cowboys offense) have basically dropped off the map completely in the last five games.

Outside of playing Kansas State's defense instead of Texas Tech's, what's happened to Garman over the past month to turn him into a shell of the gunslinger Oklahoma State had in September?

Well, that's a question that has a complicated answer. That said, the biggest factor is likely the offensive line. Simply put, the line play has been awful and, unfortunately, there's not much anyone can do about it.

This is what happens when two of your key starters go down to injury (Brandon Garrett and Devin Davis) and two more decide to leave the university for various reasons (Travis Cross and Jake Jenkins). You have to turn to walk-ons to play center, and your offense's play goes into the tank.

The increase in sacks given up week to week is alarming on its own, but it isn't the only thing keeping Garman from being effective.

If you look at yards per attempt, you'll notice that Garman's statistics have gone from 10.68 YPA in September to around six in the five weeks since. That suggests that Garman doesn't have time to throw the ball deep (his strength) and is being forced to attempt shorter routes to counteract pass-rushers who are getting in his face early and often.

The tape tells the same story. Go back and watch any Oklahoma State game from the past month and you'll notice that a majority of Garman's misses are high. More often than not, this is because he's trying to throw over someone on defense.

Garman's line simply isn't giving him the time to throw, forcing him to do things he's not proficient at and keeping the Pokes offense from humming along at its usual pace. When Daxx Garman is successful, he sits back and picks apart a defense with his rocket arm.

Unfortunately, that's probably not happening again this year.

Oklahoma State opponents will continue to blitz Garman as long as the offensive line continues to be such a sieve. However, there are a few things Oklahoma State coaches could do to help Garman out.

The first thing that could help is more carries for Tyreek Hill. The coaches seem to have doubts about whether or not Hill can carry the ball more than 15 times a game, but at some point, you need to let him loose.

Hill can break long runs at the drop of the hat and could slow pass-rushers if he's used effectively. Draw plays would certainly be helpful; that said, even runs off tackle would allow him to get outside the numbers and use his speed to his advantage.

The Pokes began to do this some last week against Kansas State. However, the team largely went away from Hill in the second half after he was so effective in the first 30 minutes. Hopefully with Des Roland back against the Texas Longhorns, the staff can spread out those carries and let him be effective throughout a full game.

Another thing Oklahoma State may have to consider is more screen plays.

It may not always be the most exciting play, but it does allow Garman to get off quick passes to the many talented Oklahoma State receivers. The logic here is that teams will be forced to slow down their pass-rushers, thus giving Garman more time later when attempting deeper routes.

That's where Garman is dangerous. We've seen him attempt countless short slant patterns that sail over the receivers' heads and know that he struggles on anything that's not 15 yards out. Therefore, finding ways to get him more time in the pocket is imperative.

If Oklahoma State is going to get its sixth win and become bowl-eligible, the offensive line play will have to improve. Whether this is done through scheme or play-calling, it doesn't matter. The team needs to make adjustments to give its young quarterback time to throw the ball.

Oklahoma State's last real chance comes in two weeks at home against the Texas Longhorns. If it doesn't win there, the 2014 season is essentially over. Look for Mike Gundy and his staff to incorporate a few new wrinkles during their bye week and come out with just enough changes to pick up a crucial win.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football's Giants Have Lost Their Intimidation Factor

When Alabama plays at Louisiana State on Saturday the X factor won’t be how loudly Nick Saban growls on the sideline or how many trick plays Les Miles calls. No, the unmanageable intangible will be Tiger Stadium, and the non-stop wall of noise the Crimson Tide will have to battle at the place known as Death Valley.

Ole Miss experienced the building’s lethal aspects two weeks ago, falling 10-7 to LSU in a game that led Rebels quarterback Bo Wallace to say Tiger Stadium was the "craziest place" he had ever played.

Yes, ear plugs are always a good idea for visiting teams in Baton Rouge. But there also are signs the stadiums that traditionally have been revered as the most imposing in college football are losing their intimidation factor.

In a game that’s dominated by the Power 5 conferences, let’s reference those venues as the Power 7 stadiums, the ones with seating capacities of 100,000 or more: Michigan’s Michigan Stadium (109,901), Penn State’s Beaver Stadium (106,572), Ohio State’s Ohio Stadium (104,944), Tennessee’s Neyland Stadium (102,455), LSU’s Tiger Stadium (102,321), Alabama’s Bryant-Denny Stadium (101,921) and Texas’ Memorial Stadium (100,119).

Six of the seven have witnessed outcomes this season that bring into question whether they still deliver the maximum home-field advantage, and the seventh will be severely tested this month. Let’s take them one by one.

Michigan, “The Big House” 

It was built in 1927 on land made quicksand-like by an underground spring. It was so wet that a crane was engulfed during construction, and it still remains under the stadium. And the Michigan offense looked like it was mired in quicksand while generating only 171 yards of total offense in a 30-14 loss to Minnesota on Sept. 27.

It marked the first time in 135 years of Michigan football that the Wolverines had three losses by the end of September, and it was their worst home-field loss since 1962 to Michigan, which had been beaten 58-0 in its previous trip to Ann Arbor.

Also of note was the under-capacity attendance figure of 102,926. There have been complaints at Michigan that changes in the student ticket plan is hurting attendance, and making the Big House a less fearsome place to play.

Penn State, Beaver Stadium

The Nittany Lions were on a nifty 4-0 roll until lightly regarded Northwestern rolled into Beaver Stadium and started them on a four-game losing streak with a surprising 29-6 beatdown.

This was a homecoming game, for crying out loud. Northwestern was a natural choice, and came in having won only twice in its previous 11 games, and one of those was against Division I-AA Western Illinois.

The Nittany Lions have lost twice at home since then, including last Saturday to 4-4 Maryland, 20-19. That was only the second time Maryland beat Penn State in 38 tries, and was the Terrapins’ first-ever victory at Penn State.

Ohio State, “The Horseshoe”

The Buckeyes’ proud football tradition includes never being ranked lower than fourth nationally in average home attendance since 1949. And with recent expansion making room for a record crowd of 107,517 to cram into Ohio Stadium on Sept. 7, a wild celebration of a prime-time blowout was anticipated.

Instead, Ohio State was humbled by Virginia Tech, 35-21.

It was the first time Ohio State lost a home game to an unranked, non-conference opponent since Stanford and Florida State turned that trick on consecutive weekends in 1982. For Virginia Tech, it was the first time the Hokies won a road game against a team that was ranked eighth or higher in the polls.

It also is a defeat that could forever haunt the Buckeyes. If they had won that game they’d be undefeated, and no doubt firmly entrenched in the top four of the College Football Playoff rankings.

Tennessee, Neyland Stadium

Given the disparity in talent between Tennessee and Alabama, it was no surprise that UT fans didn’t get to savor a revenge victory when Lane Kiffin returned to Neyland Stadium last month as offensive coordinator of the Crimson Tide.

But the Oct. 4 game at home against Florida was another matter. The Gators seemed beatable, and the Vols were aching for a victory against a bitter SEC rival that had defeated them nine consecutive times.

The defense did its job, limiting Florida to 10 points. But Tennessee scored only nine as the losing streak continued.

Tennessee’s recent mediocrity points out one problem with having a huge stadium: It often doesn't fill up unless the team is winning. So even though Tennessee has the SEC’s biggest stadium, it ranked only 11th in the conference in 2013 for percentage of seating capacity filled.

Texas, Memorial Stadium

From 1968-76 the Longhorns were virtually unstoppable at Memorial Stadium, winning 42 consecutive home games. And as recently as 2009 they were pretty good there too, going 6-0 at home and losing only in the BCS championship game, to Alabama.

But since then home dates haven’t done much for Texas. From 2010 on they have lost 13 at Memorial, and the winning visitors have included UCLA, Iowa State, West Virginia and Ole Miss. And, this year, Brigham Young.

That loss to BYU on Sept. 6 may be the one that stung the worst. The 41-6 score was Texas' worst home defeat since a 66-3 trashing at the hands of UCLA in 1997.

LSU, Tiger Stadium

The most famous of Tiger Stadium's multitude of rocking moments came in 1988, amid the celebration for Tommy Hodson's touchdown pass to Eddie Fuller as time expired during a 7-6 victory against Auburn. The crowd's reaction was literally seismic, registering as an earthquake on the seismograph in the Louisiana Geological Survey office on LSU's campus.

But that's also about the level of shock that LSU fans suffered back on Sept. 20, when the Tigers fell to Mississippi State, 34-39. That loss ended a 14-game winning streak against the Bulldogs, and was the first time Mississippi State won at Baton Rouge since 1991.

The victory over Ole miss helped atone for that setback, and a win against Alabama might totally erase the memory.

Alabama, Bryant-Denny Stadium

Speaking of Alabama, it has the other 100,000-seat football palace. The Crimson Tide has won 12 consecutive games at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Only Auburn and Baylor, have longer active home winning streaks.

But the reputation of Bryant-Denny Stadium will be heavily on the line this month if the Crimson Tide's playoff hopes rest on beating Mississippi State and Auburn there.

 

Tom Weir covered college football as a columnist for USA Today. 

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Kramer's College Football Playoff Notebook: Committee Not Afraid of Huge Moves

We had our doubts—and the final verdict is nowhere close to taking shape—although the College Football Playoff selection committee is doing enough in its infancy to give you hope that this chaos-driven weekly exercise might actually work.

Now, please don’t smother this group of human beings with praise just yet; not that this scenario ever entered your mind after only two weeks. Call it an orientation.

Ultimately, none of this really matters until it actually does.

It’s the final product—the four teams tabbed once all conference champions have been decided—that will determine our confidence in the group moving forward. Nothing else. And yet, with Week 11's College Football Playoff Top 25 unveiled, provided courtesy of USA Today's George Schroeder, the selection committee’s mindset is starting to come into focus: 

Week 2 @CFBPlayoff Top 25: pic.twitter.com/1Sn1thB3np

— George Schroeder (@GeorgeSchroeder) November 5, 2014

We learned that, for the most part, the teams scattered throughout the Top 25 are generally where they’re supposed to be. There are discussions to be had over placement—and a few general omissions to have concern with—but the committee seems to be operating under the guidelines it promised, which is significant.

Perhaps most importantly, however, is that the committee seems completely unafraid to give teams a larger jump or drop than we’ve seen in recent years. It didn’t just stand pat in its second week of work, sliding down the losers and propping up the winners in assembly-line fashion, similar to what we saw from the BCS. It made a handful of head-turning decisions.

The committee gave Arizona State an enormous boost for its win against Utah, lifting the Sun Devils from No. 14 to No. 9. It took the bottom out of the Bulldogs, following their lackluster showing in a 38-20 loss to the Florida Gators, dropping Georgia down to No. 20 from No. 11. It also bounced Ole Miss from No. 4 to outside the Top 10.

These larger, notable moves are the ones that matter, at least at this point in the season. If the committee is willing to take these types of stands off one-game performances—celebrating the power of a remarkably limited sample size—then ultimately it will continue to adjust these rankings without worry of shocking the system.

This is a good thing, especially when you consider how much the system will be shocked. (Perhaps as early as this upcoming weekend.)

Here are other observations regarding the committee’s work and what they mean moving forward.

 

Here Comes the Pac-12 Love

Arizona State’s surge to the No. 9 spot isn’t the only notable move in the Top 10. In fact, it’s not even the most impactful jump as it stands right now.

Following their 45-16 drubbing of Stanford—along with Auburn’s win over former No. 4 Ole Miss—the 8-1 Ducks entered the playoff if it just so happened to start right now, sliding up from No. 5 to No. 4. Although Oregon never truly received consideration to jump any higher, it makes no difference. 

As committee chairman Jeff Long stated (via Fox Sports' Stewart Mandel):

Long: "There was a clear voting difference between No. 2 FSU and No. 3 Auburn, Auburn solidly into No. 3 position ahead of Oregon."

— Stewart Mandel (@slmandel) November 5, 2014

If the Ducks win out, they’re in. It's that simple. And in a strange turn, Arizona State—with a game against Notre Dame coming—might be in the same position. The Sun Devils, if all goes according to plan, could draw Oregon in the Pac-12 Championship Game. If that’s the case, you could be looking at a true under-the-radar CFB playoff resume taking shape before our eyes.

Elsewhere, Utah—despite losing 19-16 in overtime to Arizona State—didn’t budge from the No. 17 spot, which speaks volumes about what the committee thinks of the conference. And UCLA, still a mystery to us all, jumped four spots from No. 22 to No. 18.

Not bad for one week.

 

Irish Fans, Be Happy You Just Got Jumped

Notre Dame’s College Football Playoff lifespan has been uneventful but also fascinating due to the lack of movement. In a bit of a surprise, the Irish debuted at No. 10 in the initial rankings. After struggling against Navy on the road—still coming away with a double-digit victory, 49-39—Notre Dame didn’t move at all, even as Ole Miss exited the Top 10. 

Cause for concern? Absolutely not. In fact, given the team cruising past it, this is a positive development for Notre Dame.

Arizona State’s move past the Irish comes at the perfect time. In desperate need of that resume-boosting win—rather than holding up its near win over Florida State for the world to see—Notre Dame has a chance to turn heads this week as it heads to Tempe, Arizona. 

If Brian Kelly’s team takes down Arizona State, a team the committee is clearly high on, then you can expect the anticipated movement upward to occur. If not, well, then you have permission to riot, Irish faithful.

As it stands, however, don’t view the  selection committee's Week 11 conclusion as further disrespect; look at it as an opportunity and a way to make up ground with the bigger picture in sight.

 

Big Ten Still Waiting, Watching and Hoping

With its most important game on the horizon, the Big Ten is still embracing standing still. This isn’t necessarily a positive or negative, but rather it's a product of the intrigue swarming elsewhere.

Michigan State, No. 8 in the latest rankings, will welcome No. 14 Ohio State this weekend. Ultimately, the team to come away victorious in East Lansing will receive a boost by the committee. If the Spartans win, they will certainly jump past a Big 12 team. TCU and Kansas State—No. 6 and No. 7, respectively—meet up this weekend, which means MSU would have to move up.

A Michigan State victory would also put Mark Dantonio’s team in prime position to slide up further once more chaos comes in front of it, and it will come. An Ohio State victory would make this picture slightly more complicated, although the Buckeyes would undoubtedly begin their late playoff rise.

How high this rise can go depends a great deal on how the committee views OSU’s loss to Virginia Tech, although the perception would certainly start to shift. And with Nebraska very quietly sitting at No. 13 in the latest standings, a meaningful Big Ten Championship could be forming oh so quietly.

If that’s the case, it will serve as a significant boost for the conference when it matters most.

 

Power-Five Lockout

As you move down Week 11’s College Football Playoff Top 25, you can’t help but notice one glaring trend: The power-five conferences aren’t just in complete control of the postseason as expected; they're also in complete control of all 25 vacancies. There's not a non-power-five team to be found.

East Carolina’s ugly loss at Temple dropped the Pirates out of the Top 25 entirely, which should come as no surprise. It’s moderately surprising, however, that Colorado State (8-1) and Marshall (8-0)—two quality teams with one loss between them—are both still on the outside looking in.

This is significant for a few reasons, and it starts with the obvious: One non-power-five team will play in a marquee bowl when it's all said and done, although the absence of these schools from the latest rankings gives us little idea about which one that would be.

Unless this trend changes, this could stay the case moving forward. Brian Murphy of the Idaho Statesman provided insight, confirmed by the CFB Playoff committee, about what would be released:

Confirmed with @CFBPlayoff that committee will only release Top 25 tonight, whether or not G5 team is included. Will not give G5 update.

— Brian Murphy (@murphsturph) November 4, 2014

More significant to this lack of non-power-five schools, however, are the bigger-picture implications. The College Football Playoff didn’t just make life on the little guy harder. With a continued focus on quality wins and strength of schedule, it changed the situation entirely. 

The uphill climb for these smaller schools will remain a constant, regardless of timing.

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Post-Week 10 College Football Playoff Projections from Analytics Guru, Ed Feng

After ESPN aired the release of the inaugural College Football Playoff poll, the question on everybody's minds was: What will the rankings look like when they matter on Dec. 7?

My algorithm projects just that in the sortable table above. Now, allow me to explain my rankings...


Why Week 10 Favorites Won't Make the Playoff

The top three teams in the committee's rankings did not impress this weekend. Perhaps it's a sign that my projections are correct and none of these teams will make the playoff. 

Top-ranked Mississippi State has a 27.9 percent chance to make the playoff, only good for eighth-best in the nation. Last week Dan Mullen's squad started the fourth quarter tied with Arkansas.

The Bulldogs survived, but they won't be so lucky against Alabama (30.1 percent win chance) or Ole Miss (45.7 percent win chance), according to my projections.   

After a terrible first half on the road against Louisville, second-ranked Florida State looks most vulnerable among these three teams. Both The Power Rank's numbers and likely Vegas, per ESPN Radio host R.J. Bell, peg the Seminoles as an underdog to resurgent Miami on November 15.  A one-loss ACC champ will likely be on the outside looking in. 

Third-ranked Auburn looked like it surrendered a late lead to Ole Miss when Laquon Treadwell plunged into the end zone. However, replay showed Treadwell had fumbled the ball before crossing the plane, and the Tigers' season was saved.

Auburn has a 29.3 percent chance to make the playoff.


How Does Ole Miss Still Have a Shot?

Ole Miss suffered a crushing 35-31 loss to Auburn on Saturday night. The Rebels dropped from fourth to 11th in the committee rankings. However, the precedent this large drop set might benefit the Rebs in the future.

Let me explain.

The simulation that calculates the playoff probability assumes that a team drops seven spots when it loses. This distribution seems about right after seeing how the committee and The Associated Press poll reacts to losses. 

The simulation can also be run with a four-spot average drop. With this smaller drop after a loss, Ole Miss's playoff probability falls from 35.1 percent to 25.8 percent.

It is not out of the question that a two-loss team makes the playoff. As of Week 10, Ole Miss is the highest-ranked two-loss team, and the Rebs are favored in each of their remaining games. According to my stats they should finish the season 10-2 with victories over Alabama and Mississippi State (54.3 percent win chance).

Of the 10 teams ranked ahead of Ole Miss, three are guaranteed to lose head-to-heads to one another. For example, if sixth-ranked TCU loses to Kansas State this weekend, a seven-spot drop would put the Horned Frogs below Ole Miss.

Hugh Freeze could get the Rebs back in the conversation in late November if a few teams above them lose and they take care of business against Presbyterian, Arkansas and Mississippi State.


Arizona State Is Overrated

The Pac-12 contingent must be winning arguments on this committee.

Arizona State struggled at home against Utah this week. Despite the close game, the Sun Devils jumped Baylor and Notre Dame to land at ninth in the committee rankings. To show the conference bias, TCU won a close game against a ranked team (then-No. 20 West Virginia) on the road but didn't jump any teams.

It's unlikely Arizona State makes the College Football Playoff. The Sun Devils have a 52 percent chance to win at Arizona and then would likely be a big underdog in the Pac-12 title game against Oregon.

For these reasons, my numbers only give the Sun Devils a 5.5 percent chance to end in the Top Four.


Michigan State Love Coming Soon

Poor Sparty. Michigan State had a bye in Week 10, and with no game to review, the committee moved Kansas State, which convincingly beat Oklahoma State, ahead of MSU. 

This is most likely an indictment of the Big Ten. Michigan State has the 65th-ranked strength of schedule by The Power Rank, and it lost to its top-ranked opponent (Oregon).

However, my numbers like this Michigan State team. To go with its traditionally strong defense, the Spartan offense has risen to seventh in yards per play adjusted for strength of schedule, one of the factors in The Power Rank's game predictions.

Michigan State has a 70.5 percent chance to beat Ohio State at home this weekend, and that's its toughest game before the Big Ten championship.  My algorithm thinks a one-loss Big Ten champion still looks pretty good.  

The Spartans' 41.0 percent chance to make the playoff is third-best in the nation.


Ed Feng founded The Power Rank and has also written for Grantland and Sports Illustrated. Follow him on Twitter @thepowerrank.

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Is the CFP Committee Disrespecting the Notre Dame Fighting Irish?

The College Football Playoff committee released its rankings on Tuesday, and for the second week in a row, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish are sitting at No. 10. 

Bleacher Report college football analysts Michael Felder and Adam Kramer discuss whether the committee is being fair to Notre Dame. 

Is Notre Dame in the right spot at No. 10?

Check out the video, and let us know! 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Buying and Selling College Football's Playoff Contenders

The College Football Playoff selection committee came out with its second rankings of the year Tuesday, and just like in seasons past, there is much debate on where teams currently stand.

Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Michael Felder and Adam Kramer are buying and selling some of the hottest subjects after the official rankings were released. 

Did the committee get it right?

Check out the video and let us know!

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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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