NCAA Football

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.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Ted's Takes: Oregon Looking Like Playoff Team, the Rise of Shaq Thompson

Neither the Oregon Ducks nor Marcus Mariota clinched anything Saturday. But both entities confirmed their serious national presence, the Ducks for a spot in the first College Football Playoff and Mariota as a (in my view, the) leading Heisman contender.

Oregon enacted its predicted offensive edge against Stanford. It used Royce Freeman and Thomas Tyner as running backs who bludgeoned the Cardinal defense. When Mariota moved the ball to any Duck on the perimeter, Stanford did not tackle with the precision that was its hallmark in its previous two seasons.  

And Oregon has speed. Devon Allen, a national champion in the 110-meter hurdles, has transferred his speed from the oval track to the 100-yard field. Thus, Oregon has found a replacement for the big-play capability of the injured Bralon Addison.

Then, there is Mariota. After Freeman had established his running chops through the first quarter, Mariota called a read-option run from the Stanford 22-yard line in the first quarter. Defensive end James Vaughters crashed, buying the fake to Freeman. Mariota kept the ball, ran to his left past a leg-locked Vaughters and sprinted for a touchdown through a Cardinal defense that appeared mired in quicksand.

When I first met Mariota two seasons ago, I asked him if he had heard any comparisons to Colin Kaepernick. He had just started to hear them but admitted being unsure as to their accuracy.

Just watch the 22-yard touchdown run. It is an eerie view of a younger Kaepernick—the long strides that chew up yards in larger chunks and speed that stuns.

Mariota executed an offense, though, that wasn’t just Oregon flash. This was Duck strength. As receiver Darren Carrington told The Oregonian, a flyer had circulated in the Oregon locker room earlier in the season. It contained the views of ESPN pundits who claimed “Oregon’s too soft for Stanford.” (Is there a Stanford fan on the planet who ever imagined those words relating to Cardinal football?) 

Oregon firmly smothered that belief with its third touchdown. The finish to its drive wasn’t isolating receivers in space or Mariota’s speed, rather straight on running from Freeman (two runs of 10-plus yards in the red zone) and a scoring burst from Tyner. They were Oregon’s repayment for the pounding it received from Stepfan Taylor and Tyler Gaffney, the Cardinal’s elite runners of the past two seasons.

Oregon established a tougher brand of football in beating Michigan State. But this was the moment every Duck fan needed. Oregon has reached an era where it expects to contend annually for national championships. Stanford had denied it twice. The Ducks were emphatic in proving they were no longer “too soft for Stanford.”

Mariota also needed this game. A rough night at Stanford Stadium last November removed him from Heisman consideration. This was the brilliant performance he needed on a significant stage.

While early names like Kenny Hill and Todd Gurley have dropped, Mariota remains a constant at or near the top of most Heisman lists.

Lest anyone think a Pac-12 player can be a Heisman lock, consider these 2009 Heisman results:

Pac-12 standout and Stanford running back Toby Gerhart put up a good fight, but he ultimately lost to Alabama's Mark Ingram.

Taking a look at the 2009 Heisman Trophy votes by region, one can see why. 

Gerhart won the West region but could not overcome the lop-sided vote from the South and Southwest.

Now, to 2011. 

Robert Griffin III wins the Heisman with a decided margin in first-place votes, 405 to Andrew Luck’s 237. As expected, each player carried his “home” region.

But, here are the South region (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee) results:

  1. Griffin: 303 points
  2. Richardson: 256 points
  3. Luck: 182 points

Griffin’s victory was deserved, unlike Ingram besting Gerhart in 2009. But the South voting in 2011, like Ingram’s win, highlight the utter lack of respect for Pac-12 football from that region and, in my opinion, threaten the integrity of the Heisman vote.

(Disclosure: I became a Heisman voter in 2011, after declining multiple invitations. The biggest factor in my acceptance was the 2009 vote.)

I see nothing yet to cause my thinking to change for 2014—Mariota will need to be significantly better than his peers from the SEC.

-- 

Mariota is the Pac-12’s best player, but charging into second place on this list is Washington’s Shaq Thompson.

UCLA’s Myles Jack and his occasional forays into the offensive backfield impressed us last year. Thompson has set a very high standard for two-way play, starting the year with four defensive touchdowns before moving to running back.

Thompson shredded the Colorado defense for 174 rushing yards and a 41-yard pass reception. And, he covered punts.

It may be too late for Thompson to enter the Heisman derby. But he is as important to his team as any conference player.

Nick Aliotti summed up Thompson perfectly on Pac-12 Networks after his Boulder performance, “Washington does not win that game without Thompson playing offense.” 

Arizona State found a way to beat Utah. Most accurately, it survived 60 minutes and then watched one of the nation’s best kickers, Andy Phillips, miss two field-goal attempts in overtime. Utah dominated the line of scrimmage and special teams. Utes QB Travis Wilson did enough damage with his legs to generate some offense. And Devontae Booker continues to be this year’s version of Ka’Deem Carey, a tireless workhorse running back.

Then, at the end, Taylor Kelly and the Sun Devils are celebrating a win. Todd Graham did not waver when Kelly recovered from a foot injury. Mike Bercovici had played well, giving many some pause about the starting job. Not Graham. He returned to Kelly, and the Sun Devils are a Saturday win over Notre Dame from the Top 10 and forced entry into the national playoff picture.

It has been a horrid football fall in Pullman, but the most unpleasant moments were in Saturday’s first half when Connor Halliday suffered a broken leg after a hit from USC’s Leonard Williams.

Halliday’s Cougar career ended with huge individual numbers but no team success. The latter is not to indict Halliday. Despite a scheme that makes no attempt to run and little ability to pass protect, Halliday competed in a supreme manner.

Sean Mannion is healthy and, now, the Pac-12 career passing yardage leader. But the Beavers have suffered a meltdown and have only this week’s game against Washington State as a possible win. Post-Markus Wheaton and Brandin Cooks, the Beavers pass game has suffered. Injuries have decimated the defensive line, normally an Oregon State staple.

Mannion is a pro prospect, but scouts will have to look beyond a lost senior season.

All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Ted's Takes: Oregon Looking Like Playoff Team, the Rise of Shaq Thompson

Neither the Oregon Ducks nor Marcus Mariota clinched anything Saturday. But both entities confirmed their serious national presence, the Ducks for a spot in the first College Football Playoff and Mariota as a (in my view, the) leading Heisman contender.

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

SEC Football Q&A: With Newfound Confidence, Can Florida Knock off Florida State?

We've reached November, and just like we all planned, Florida head coach Will Muschamp got his signature win.

Wait...what?

Florida's 38-20 win over Georgia on Saturday afternoon in the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party was one of the most surprising developments of the college football season—particularly considering the Gators threw just six passes and ran 60 running plays.

Is Florida back? What will Georgia running back Todd Gurley do now that the season appears to be lost? Can Mississippi State finish off its perfect season?

Those questions are answered in this week's SEC Q&A.

 

Let's not get carried away.

Sure, Florida looked good against the Bulldogs—particularly running backs Kelvin Taylor and Matt Jones, who combined for 389 rushing yards and four touchdowns. And yes, Florida State's rush defense hasn't been great this year. The Seminoles are giving up 148 yards per game while the Bulldogs are allowing 144.25.

Being one-dimensional against good teams gets you beat. Sure, the bruising rushing attack worked against Georgia, which likely expected at least something from freshman quarterback Treon Harris in the passing game. It won't in the long term, though.

Simply put, that identity has to be part of Florida's identity, not its entire identity.

Meanwhile, Florida State was busy on Thursday night producing the biggest comeback in school history, digging out of a 21-point hole on the road to beat Louisville 42-31. Louisville came in as the No. 1 defense in the country, which is something that FSU fans will certainly use as a selling point for their program without realizing that the "Granthamization" of that defense under first-year defensive coordinator Todd Grantham is still ongoing.

It was a good win for the Seminoles, not a great win or a sign of the offense fixing all of its problems.

Still, the 'Noles are a proven heavyweight with a full repertoire of knockout blows at their disposal while the Gators are nothing more than featherweight with one move at this point.

Give me the heavyweight all day, every day.

 

No.

NFL folks will tell you it's the smart thing to do for his NFL future, and they're probably right. If you're a running back, you know your shelf life as a pro is limited in this day and age, and the fewer carries you get in college, the more you can get as a pro.

With that said, though, Georgia still has SEC title and major bowl aspirations, and Gurley can play a big part of that. If the Bulldogs win out and gets dominoes to fall around them, they still could enter the Georgia Dome as a two-loss team that would be 60 minutes away from making a "New Year's Six" bowl.

That counts for something. After all, his teammates are the same guys whom he worked with all offseason for the past three seasons, the same guys he spends several hours of days with even when they aren't on the field and the same guys who are depending on him.

That counts for something.

I don't buy the idea that Gurley should hang up his cleats right now simply because Georgia's season might—might—be lost. He and his team still have room to improve, and that starts now and will continue when Gurley comes back for the Auburn game next week.

 

I'm not sure Mississippi State is being written off as quickly as you think it is, but there's certainly a sentiment out there that the Bulldogs' magical run will be coming to an end soon.

I'm part of that group.

Mississippi State's defense didn't exactly set the world on fire two weeks ago on the road at Kentucky when the Wildcats racked up 401 passing yards against the Bulldogs. Last week against Arkansas—not exactly the world's most explosive passing team—quarterback Brandon Allen racked up 238 passing yards and was picked off in the end zone by Will Redmond with 15 seconds left to preserve the win.

These aren't exactly two of the SEC's best teams, and they had a reasonable amount of success against the top-ranked Bulldogs.

Looming is an Alabama offense that is loaded with talent. Can anybody on Mississippi State's roster cover Amari Cooper? Nobody else has this year, so it's hard to imagine a scenario in which Mississippi State starts a trend.

It's a raucous environment inside Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, and Mississippi State certainly has looked beatable—even at home. 

It's more skepticism than anything else.

 

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and video analyst for Bleacher Report as well as a co-host of the CFB Hangover on Bleacher Report Radio (Sundays, 9-11 a.m. ET) on Sirius 93, XM 208.

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of cfbstats.com, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Texas A&M Football: Why Jake Spavital Needs to Be Replaced as Aggie OC

The Texas A&M offense is struggling to string together drives and score points right now. Texas A&M offensive coordinator Jake Spavital needs to have his play-calling duties removed in order to right the offensive ship in Aggieland. 

In 2013 the Aggies were known as a team with an explosive offense but a porous defense. They started out the 2014 season off well on the offensive side of the ball but have regressed horribly during the last four games. 

The Aggies are currently 6-3 on the season and are staring a 6-6 regular-season record in the face if they cannot get their offense in gear. Spavital has contributed to these offensive struggles. 

The offense no longer resembles what fans have come to expect from a program under head coach Kevin Sumlin. If Sumlin wants to compete for conference titles at Texas A&M, then he is going to have to find a better offensive coordinator. 

 

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Michigan Wolverines vs. Northwestern Wildcats Complete Game Preview

Michigan (4-5, 2-3 Big Ten) bounced back from a big road loss to instate rival Michigan State to defeat hapless Indiana, 34-10 on homecoming. Brady Hoke now takes his team on the road to face Northwestern (3-5, 2-3 Big Ten) needing at least two more victories to gain a bowl bid. A win versus Northwestern is crucial—Michigan’s final two regular-season opponents (Maryland, Ohio State) have a combined record of 13-4. A loss may signal the end of the Brady Hoke era.

The drama between these two programs extends beyond the field. Michigan has targeted Northwestern athletic director Jim Phillips as a possible replacement for David Brandon, who resigned on Friday.

If Michigan poaches Phillips, will he bring football coach Pat Fitzgerald along with him to Ann Arbor? Fitzgerald has been a target of Michigan during past searches.

With Northwestern football facing an uncertain future in the wake of its players voting to unionize, the loss of Phillips and or Fitzgerald would be devastating.

Michigan’s running game showed life last week and will need a repeat performance versus Northwestern as Brady Hoke continues his quest to save his job.

 

Date: Saturday, November 8, 2014

Time: 3:30 p.m. ET

Place: Ryan Field (47,330), Evanston, Illinois

Series vs. Northwestern: Michigan leads series 55-15-2

Television: ESPN2

Radio: Michigan Sports Network, Sirius (113), XM (195)

Spread: Northwestern by 2 via Odds Shark

Live Stats: University of Michigan Statbroadcast

Last Meeting vs. Northwestern

Last season, Michigan suffered a 1-4 record during November with its sole victory coming over Northwestern 27-19 in a triple-overtime thriller. The Wolverines forced overtime with a critical field goal in poor weather as regulation time expired. 

(Information according to University of Michigan Wolverine Football game notes.)

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College Football Playoff 2014: Final Predictions for Week 11 Rankings

The Week 11 College Football Playoff rankings will be released by the selection committee on Tuesday, and fans from schools all around the nation are waiting in anticipation for the second top 25 poll.

Undefeated programs Mississippi State and Florida State were able to keep their respective records perfect, but a battle toward the top of the standings between Auburn and Ole Miss has guaranteed turnover in the poll.

Here are the final predictions for the College Football Playoff Week 11 rankings, the Associated Press and Bleacher Report Top 25 polls and a breakdown of the team most likely to go undefeated.

 

 

The Team Most Likely to Go Undefeated

The battle to stay unbeaten between Mississippi State and Florida State will likely be the determining factor in which team ends the season as the No. 1 seed in the inaugural College Football Playoff.

While the Bulldogs are the No. 1-ranked team in the nation right now, their upcoming schedule is brutal compared to the one the Seminoles will navigate for the remainder of the season.

Mississippi State hosts UT Martin in Week 11, but travels to Alabama to play the Crimson Tide in Week 12. As if that wasn’t a big enough test for the Bulldogs, the program travels to Ole Miss to play the Rebels in the final game of the regular season.

Staying undefeated will be tough for Mississippi State. As Matt Chatham of FootballByFootball.com pointed out, via NESN.com, the Bulldogs also have to think about the SEC Championship:

Unfortunately, they also have one of the toughest roads ahead in college football, with road games against two of the current top six teams in the rankings, Alabama and Ole Miss. A potential SEC championship matchup … if they’re able to make it to that point…would likely be against a talented Georgia team with running back Todd Gurley. Sheesh.

On the other hand, Florida State’s victory over Louisville in Week 10 was the team’s last ranked opponent on the schedule. Over the next three weeks, the Seminoles play Virginia, Miami (FL) and Boston College. The three aforementioned opponents have gone a combined 16-11 this year.

The biggest remaining test for FSU will be the regular-season finale against the Florida Gators at Doak Campbell Stadium. While the Gators were able to pull off the huge upset over Georgia, the program is still 4-3 this season.

Led by defending Heisman Trophy and National Championship winning quarterback Jameis Winston, Florida State has the inside lane to stay unbeaten. If Mississippi State takes a loss in any of the remaining games on the schedule or in the SEC Championship, the Seminoles will make the playoffs as the No. 1 seed.

For a team that started the season slow, Florida State’s run to the top will continue to be an incredible sight.

 

*Stats via ESPN.com.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Can Michigan State Really Replace Ohio State as Big Ten's Power Program?

Rankings mean nothing—at least, not for the next four weeks or so. They certainly don't mean anything ahead of Ohio State's trip to East Lansing to take on Michigan State this Saturday in what is both the Big Ten game of the year and possible playoff elimination game. 

Though Michigan State ranks ahead of Ohio State in every major poll, the Buckeyes don't identify themselves as underdogs. The Vegas line suggests it's almost a toss-up game, with the Spartans being a mere three-point favorite, according to Odds Shark. That's a line that would change in Ohio State's favor if the game was being played in Columbus. 

In any case, Ohio State offensive lineman Taylor Decker doesn't consider the Buckeyes an underdog, either by point spreads or mentality.  

It's also an interesting stance considering Ohio State actually hasn't won a Big Ten title since 2009, though the 2012 undefeated Buckeyes would have been a favorite had they not been serving a postseason ban for "Tattoo-gate." 

2013 was supposed to be Ohio State's year, but instead the Buckeyes lost to the Spartans in the Big Ten title game. Michigan State went on to win the Rose Bowl over Stanford as part of the program's rise to dominance, while Ohio State lost to Clemson in the Orange Bowl and, later, quarterback Braxton Miller to a season-ending shoulder injury. 

All that is in the past, though. The winner of Saturday's game will have the upper hand in the Big Ten East Division and a possible inside track to the playoff conversation at year's end. 

And if Michigan State wins, it's time to talk about the Spartans as the Big Ten's power program. In many ways, Michigan State has been doing the same things as Ohio State, but without being the national brand for the past several years. 

As of this week, head coach Mark Dantonio hasn't lost a Big Ten regular-season game since Nov. 17, 2012 (23-20 to Northwestern). That's a streak of 13 straight games. (Ohio State has won its last 20 regular-season games against Big Ten opponents.)

The Spartans are tied with Ohio State with the most wins over the past four years. In that span, Michigan State is 2-1 against the Buckeyes. 

In addition to great winning percentages, both programs have top-tier head coaches—Dantonio and Urban Meyer—and an in-demand coordinator—Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi and Ohio State offensive coordinator Tom Herman. 

The only real difference between the two has been on the recruiting trail, with the Buckeyes obviously having the edge. Ohio State has landed the top class in the Big Ten and finished in the top 10 nationally, according to 247Sports, in six of the past seven years. 

(*Did not participate in postseason play)

Michigan State, meanwhile, has only finished in the Top 25 nationally using those same recruiting rankings twice in the same span. 

But that speaks to how good of a job Dantonio and his staff have done at developing talent. It's also beginning to translate into players like defensive end Malik McDowell committing to the Spartans. McDowell, the first 5-star player to sign with Michigan State since William Gholston in 2010, has played in all eight games this season. He certainly looks like the future of Michigan State's D-line.

Though known for defense, Michigan State has improved dramatically on offense. The Spartans actually enter Saturday's game with a nearly identical scoring offense as Ohio State (45.5 points per game compared to 45.6 points per game). However, the Buckeyes have a slightly more efficient offense, as noted by Footballoutsiders.com

Similarly, the Buckeyes have a slightly better scoring defense than Michigan State (19.9 points per game allowed vs. 20.3 points per game allowed), though the Spartans are considered the more efficient defense as noted by the same Football Outsiders numbers.

On paper, Michigan State and Ohio State are as even as they get. 

With both programs in the Big Ten East, Michigan State and Ohio State will play each other on a yearly basis. Though Michigan is the common rival and the traditional measuring stick for both, Michigan State-Ohio State could be budding into the Big Ten's newest and best rivalry, if you will. 

Even if neither coach will acknowledge it.

Michigan has fallen on hard times while the Spartans and Buckeyes have thrived. Michigan State has already quashed the "Little Brother" label given to it by former Wolverines running back Mike Hart in 2007, Dantonio's first year. Since losing to Michigan that season 28-24, Michigan State has won six of the last seven in that series. 

Ohio State, one of the Big Ten's premier and historic programs, would seem to be the last big hurdle between Michigan State and a potential College Football Playoff appearance, barring an upset between now and early December. 

It would also be the moment Michigan State affirms its place atop the Big Ten. 

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. All stats courtesy of cfbstats.com unless noted otherwise. All recruiting rankings courtesy of 247Sports

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Rapid-Fire Prediction on Remainder of Big 12 Season & Playoff Implications

The Big 12 has a logjam near the top of the conference. Five teams are battling for a conference championship; with no conference title game, the playoff chances become even harder.

Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Michael Felder and Adam Kramer predict what will happen the rest of the Big 12 season.

Who will win the Big 12?

Watch the video and let us know!

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NCAA Football Rankings 2014: Full List of Week 11 College Standings and Polls

Feel free to soak in and digest the latest batch of NCAA football rankings as soon as possible, because they will go poof in a matter of days.

Such is life in this season which ends with the inaugural College Football Playoff. No team is immune to an upset on a week-to-week basis, not with an ever-spreading parity and a heightened importance to each game.

The Week 11 polls predictably saw some major movement thanks to a number of eyebrow-raising results, so kudos once again to the pollsters tasked with staying on the ball in a timely manner.

Below is a look at the rankings fresh out of the oven, with a breakdown of the biggest movers after the jump.

 

Week 11 College Football Top 25 Rankings

AP Poll can be viewed at CollegeFootball.AP.org.

Amway Poll can be viewed at USAToday.com.

B/R Poll can be viewed at BleacherReport.com.

 

Analyzing Top Risers and Fallers

Riser: UCLA

Brett Hundley and the UCLA Bruins have been one difficult program to figure out this season. 

The team started out on shaky footing, not exactly blowing out Virginia, Memphis or Texas. No worries, though, as the team blew away former No. 15 Arizona State 62-27—then lost two in a row, including one game to unranked Utah.

Of course, the team then took down unranked California and Colorado by a combined five points. 

Obviously none of this was enough to inspire loads of confidence from pollsters, but they did think enough of last week's 17-7 upset of former No. 12 Arizona to make the Bruins one of the week's highest risers.

In that contest, Hundley threw for 189 yards and a score and added another 131 yards on the ground, part of the Bruins' 271 yards and a score in that category. The Bruins defense showed up, too, limiting a previously strong Wildcats rushing attack to just 80 yards on a 2.6-per-carry average.

"Today was the first game that I felt defensively like we did what we were supposed to do on every play," UCLA coach Jim Mora said, per The Associated Press (h/t ESPN.com). "Don't pop a gap. Just do your job. Trust your teammate. We did that. You saw the result. ... It was a big win for us, and it keeps us alive, and that's what we're after."

Ryan Kartje of the Orange County Register reveals why Hundley finally looks like the Heisman contender most thought he should be:

So is this a sign of a major return to form for the Bruins? Perhaps, but a brutal schedule with Washington, USC and Stanford to close the season will reveal all. Hundley's play will need to hover at its current level, and a defense that ranks 77th in the nation with an average of 27.7 points per game allowed will need to remain strong for the Bruins to keep their momentum.

For now, Hundley and Co. can just bask in a sudden rise in the court of public opinion.

 

Faller: Georgia

Simply put, the Georgia Bulldogs did not show up in a historic-rivalry showdown, got punched in the mouth repeatedly and opted to stay down on the mat rather than get up and fight.

“They lined up and gave us a good ole butt-whipping," defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt said, per ESPN.com's Jeff Barlis. "They run the power and the zone, things you see every day in practice."

The Florida Gators used the Bulldogs for practice all right, rushing for a whopping 418 yards and five touchdowns.

Quarterback Treon Harris attempted six passes.

The sad part is that the Bulldogs actually got a somewhat-strong performance out of quarterback Hutson Mason, who threw for 319 yards and a score. Nick Chubb was once again a force on the ground in place of the absent Todd Gurley, rushing for 156 yards and a score on a 7.4 average.

Yet none of that really matters when the defense collapses in on itself in such a manner.

It is hard to understand how this is the same Georgia team that took down a ranked Clemson squad to start the season, or the one that shut out Missouri. Or even the same one that kept the elite Arkansas rushing attack in check back in mid-October.

Regardless, the Bulldogs have a simple go of it in three of their remaining four games this season, the lone exception being when Auburn comes to town. Should the Bulldogs play as they did last weekend, that one will be a massacre.

For the time being, the SEC East belongs to Missouri. If Mason and his team do not put the knee-slapper behind them in a hurry, the season will be lost.

 

Stats and information via ESPN.com unless otherwise specified.

 

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Virginia Cavaliers vs. Florida State Seminoles: Odds, College Football Pick

Florida State owns a 24-game winning streak, including eight in a row to start this season, but is just 2-6 against the spread this year as it battles fired-up foes and tough point spreads almost every week. After avoiding an upset last week at Louisville, the Seminoles host Virginia for homecoming in Tallahassee Saturday night.

 

Point spread: Seminoles opened as 21.5-point favorites, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark (line updates and matchup report).

 

College football pick, via Odds Shark computer: 47.0-27.0 Seminoles

 

Why the Virginia Cavaliers can cover the spread

The Cavaliers started this season with four wins and five covers through their first six games, although they've been slowed recently thanks to tough losses to Duke and North Carolina. Earlier this year, Virginia gave UCLA a tough game in a 28-20 loss, beat Louisville, gave BYU a tough game out in Provo and won at Pitt.

The Cavs also outgained both the Blue Devils and the Tar Heels in defeat. For the season, Virginia ranks a bit pedestrian on offense but 28th overall on defense and 20th against the run.

 

Why the Florida State Seminoles can cover the spread

The Seminoles seem to be able to turn the juice on whenever needed. Last week, FSU trailed the Cardinals 21-0 late in the second quarter but rallied to score 42 of the last 52 points of the game for a 42-31 victory and cover as a four-point road favorite.

Quarterback Jameis Winston threw 48 times in come-from-behind mode, three of which went for interceptions, but also made several big throws, three for scores, including one that iced the cover with two minutes to go. By the numbers, the 'Noles don't overly impress; they just keep winning games.

 

Smart pick

While Florida State has shown the ability to turn its game up a notch whenever needed, they've also needed to do so several times this season. And playing at home means the point spread is probably inflated toward the 'Noles. So the smart pick here is with underdog Virginia, plus the points.

 

Betting trends

  • Virginia is 4-8 ATS in its last 12 games when playing Florida State.
  • Florida State is 4-2 ATS in its last six games when playing at home against Virginia.

 

All point spread and lines data courtesy of Odds Shark. All quotes gathered firsthand unless otherwise noted. Check out Twitter for injury and line movement updates and get the free odds-tracker app.

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Texas A&M Aggies vs. Auburn Tigers Betting Odds, Analysis, College Football Pick

After a promising start to this season, Texas A&M hit the skids, losing three games in a row straight up and four in a row against the spread. The Aggies stopped that slide last week with a win over Louisiana-Monroe, but still couldn't cover the spread. Things don't exactly get easier this week when A&M hits the SEC road to play the defending conference champion Auburn Tigers Saturday night at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

 

Point spread: The Tigers opened as 14.5-point favorites, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark. (Line updates and matchup report)

 

College football pick, via Odds Shark computer: 45.2-40.0 Tigers

 

Why the Texas A&M Aggies can cover the spread

Kenny Hill made a big splash earlier this season, taking over at quarterback for the departed Johnny Manziel, but his recent two-game suspension forced the Aggies to go with freshman Kyle Allen last week. And it worked, at least enough for a 21-16 victory, putting a halt to a three-game losing streak.

A&M seemed to have lost its way with those three straight losses, although those did come against Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Alabama, three pretty good teams. The Aggies opened this season with five straight wins, piling up a bunch of yardage and points. If they can just regain a little of that earlier momentum, they could keep this one close.

 

Why the Auburn Tigers can cover the spread

At 4-1 in SEC play, the Tigers still think they can win a second straight conference championship. They've got a little work left to do, and they might need a little help, but with two straight wins following the loss to Mississippi State they're still alive. Two weeks ago Auburn beat South Carolina 42-35, and last week it won at Ole Miss 35-31.

The Tigers put up 500 yards of offense on the supposedly stout Rebels defense, including 248 yards on the ground. On the season, Auburn is outrushing foes by 154 yards per game. Finally, the Tigers have been good bets in this spot recently, going 5-1 ATS in their last six SEC home games and 6-2 ATS over their last eight games as home favorites.

 

Smart Pick

Auburn is still playing with a chance to make this year's College Football Playoff; Texas A&M isn't really playing for anything. And beating a 3-5 UL-M team by five points doesn't inspire much confidence. So the smart money here resides with the team that's going to win the game, and that's the Tigers.

 

Betting Trends

  • The total has gone under in four of Texas A&M's last five games
  • The total has gone under in four of Auburn's last six games

 

All point spread and lines data courtesy of Odds Shark, all quotes gathered firsthand unless otherwise noted. Check out Twitter for injury and line movement updates and get the free odds tracker app.

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