NCAA Football

College Football Playoff Rankings 2014: Predictions for Week 14

For seemingly the first time since the College Football Playoff rankings were unveiled, the committee might not have a reason to change its Top Four from one week to the next.

That obviously remains to be seen until the Week 14 rankings are released Tuesday night, but all of the four teams—Alabama, Florida State, Oregon and Mississippi State—took care of business in Week 13. If the committee shakes things up, it means it was wooed by an outside challenger enough to supplant one of the top teams.

Will that happen? It's hard to say, but other than Florida State—who beat Boston College on a last-second field goal—each of the Top Four squads won in convincing fashion. 

Take a look at the Week 13 playoff rankings, then glance lower for updated predictions as to how the Top Four should look in Week 14.

 

Week 14 CFP Predictions

1. Alabama

Alabama is far from a consensus No. 1, as told by their No. 2 Associated Press ranking. But unless the Crimson Tide fall to Auburn or in the SEC title game, they'll be strolling into the CFP with the top seed.

They took care of Western Carolina 48-14 Saturday to move to 10-1, although a slow start had ESPN's David Hale wondering if they were as in control of games as they have recently let on:

Alabama has rolled at home this season, and it's likely to do the same in next weekend's Iron Bowl against Auburn—who struggled with Samford Saturday.

Once dogged for failing to notch a quality win, the Crimson Tide have put that critique to bed with an overtime victory at LSU and a five-point win over the nation's top team. Few can doubt anymore that Alabama is as complete a team as there is in college football, just based off their formidability on all three phases—offense, defense and special teams.

This isn't the unstoppable force that Alabama was a few years ago, but they're undoubtedly better than anyone else in this wide-open 2014 season. 

 

2. Oregon

It's technically not a tuneup for a rivalry game if you're facing a conference foe, but don't tell that to Oregon. The second-ranked Ducks throttled Colorado at home for Senior Day, 44-10.

Pac-12 Networks capped the result:

A convincing win over Utah two weeks prior was enough to bump Oregon up from third to second—jumping Florida State—in the CFP rankings. The Ducks don't look like they've missed a beat since then, as Marcus Mariota added to his Heisman Trophy campaign with four touchdowns against Colorado Saturday.

The CFP committee made a statement with their moving Oregon to No. 2 last week—if the Ducks win out against Oregon State and in the Pac-12 title game, they're comfortably in. Now, it's just up to Oregon—and those two prospective teams—to decide its fate. 

 

3. Florida State

Before too long, Florida State is going to trademark this type of winning. 

Revered for blowing virtually everyone out last season, the Seminoles have made their name this year by coming as close as possible to losing. It was never on better display than Saturday at home, facing an overmatched Boston College team that they only beat 20-17 on a last-second field goal.

Tom Fornelli of CBS Sports capped up the thoughts of pretty much anyone who has closely followed Florida State in 2014:

Honestly, Florida State's dramatic victory was the only impactful moment among the Top Four Saturday. Alabama, Oregon and Mississippi State all crushed their competition in similarly convincing fashion, but the Seminoles' close win gives the committee something to dissect. And not in a good way.

The dreaded game-control factor will hang over Florida State more than ever following another apathetic victory, and it's hard to argue that it shouldn't at this point. Even with losses, Alabama and Oregon—and maybe even Mississippi State—have shown more formidability than the reigning champs week in and week out.

They don't face murderer's row down the stretch with games against Florida and Georgia Tech, but the 'Noles will have to prove twice more that they can truly win ugly.

 

4. Mississippi State

It's going to take perfection down the stretch (and maybe some style points) for Mississippi State to make the CFP after its loss at Alabama last week. 

But it took a big first step in that direction Saturday, toppling Vanderbilt 51-0 at home to send the seniors out with a win. Bulldogs quarterback Dak Prescott threw for three touchdowns and ran for a fourth.

A wealth of possibilities are open for Mississippi State, even though there's only one game left—the Egg Bowl at Ole Miss. Alabama losing against Auburn would put the Bulldogs in the SEC title game, but a Bulldogs win against their biggest rivals would be a big statement to close out the year either way.

Enough to keep Mississippi State at No. 4? That remains to be seen. TCU, Baylor and Ohio State all would make for a convincing case to jump them if one wins its conference title.

But the Bulldogs' big wins earlier in the season and a close loss to Alabama may be enough to get Dan Mullen's crew in regardless.

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Bowl Predictions 2014: Updated Playoff Projections After Week 13 Results

The more things change, the more they stay the same in college football. Every playoff contender won on Saturday, although some made it look a lot easier than others.

Alabama handled its business against lowly Western Carolina, Oregon destroyed Colorado, Baylor pulled away from Oklahoma State, Mississippi State crushed Vanderbilt, Ohio State needed an impressive fourth quarter to beat Indiana and Florida State once again squeaked by, this time against Boston College.

Here is a look at the updated playoff projections after the Week 13 results.

 

Playoff Projections

Sugar Bowl: No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Baylor

Rose Bowl: No. 2 Florida State vs. No. 3 Oregon   

Championship Bowl (in Arlington, Texas): TBD (semifinal winners)

 

Week 13 Twitter Reaction for Playoff Contenders

Call it luck all you want, but at some point Florida State deserves credit for finding a way to win every single time in the final minutes. It did so again on Saturday against Boston College when it won 20-17 on a field goal in the final seconds.

ESPN Stats & Info noted that it was business as usual for the Seminoles, while Paul Myerberg of USA Today pointed out the most important stat of all:

Alok Pattani of  ESPN Stats & Info acknowledged that the Seminoles may not have been as close to losing as it appeared, while Chantel Jennings of ESPN.com took the subjective point of view (that is hard to argue against):

Another playoff contender that struggled in the first three quarters of its game was Ohio State, but the Buckeyes did dominate the fourth quarter against Indiana on the way to a 42-27 victory. J.T. Barrett broke some records along the way, although he didn’t seem too excited about it in the aftermath and was more focused on the task at hand, via Jeff Svoboda of Buckeye Sports Bulletin:

Despite the close win, Bleacher Report’s Ben Axelrod believes that the Buckeyes control their own destiny, as long as Wisconsin is the opponent in the Big Ten Championship Game:

The team right behind Ohio State in the most recent College Football Playoff rankings was Baylor, and it looked impressive in a dominating 49-28 win over Oklahoma State. Chuck Carlton of the Dallas Morning News acknowledged how unstoppable the offense was all game:

Another high-octane offense, Oregon, destroyed Colorado’s overmatched defense and won 44-10. SportsCenter pointed out that quarterback Marcus Mariota set some records, while Rob Moseley of GoDucks.com passed along the Heisman Trophy contender’s quote after the game:

Elsewhere, ESPN Stats & Info noted how helpless Vanderbilt was against Mississippi State:

The Week 13 prime-time matchup featured UCLA crushing its crosstown rival USC, 38-20. Arash Markazi of ESPN pointed out that the tide has turned in this showdown, while Lindsey Thiry of the Los Angeles Times noticed that the Bruins fans were having some fun in the fourth quarter:

Danny Kannell of ESPN gave some credit to the Bruins for the victory:

One team that will not be making the College Football Playoff is Michigan, which lost again on Saturday, this time to Maryland. It inspired a response from Michigan congressman John Dingell:

The next step in the race for the playoffs is the release of the new rankings on Tuesday.

There probably won’t be much movement in the top seven considering all the playoff contenders won except TCU, which had a bye week, although there is a chance Baylor could move up after an impressive showing. While Ohio State didn’t look as dominant against Indiana, Minnesota’s victory over Nebraska should help the Buckeyes’ cause since the Golden Gophers are one of their marquee wins.

UCLA could move up from its No. 9 spot since No. 8 Ole Miss lost in convincing fashion against Arkansas on Saturday.

With rivalry showdowns and conference championships on the horizon, the most important thing moving forward will be simply winning games. That is the only way to get into the playoffs at this point.

 

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NCAA Football Rankings 2014: Predicting the Top 25 After Week 13

Compared to some previous weeks this season, Week 13 was relatively timid in terms of the ranked teams falling.

Florida State survived a tough test against Boston College, and Ole Miss was shut out by Arkansas. Beyond those two games, nobody in the top 15 was tested. Five ranked teams lost in Week 13, but four of the five were ranked No. 20 or lower in the AP Poll.

While there won't be too much shakeup in the top half, let's predict what the AP Poll will look like on Sunday. 

Note: Rankings reflect a prediction of the Week 12 AP poll—not how the author would rank the teams himself.  

 

Biggest Risers

Minnesota

One week after giving Ohio State a run for its money, the Minnesota Golden Gophers delivered a crushing blow to a fledgling Nebraska Cornhuskers team, winning 28-24 despite falling behind 21-7.

Quarterback Mitch Leidner, who filled the void for an injured David Cobb, rallied the Gophers to the tune of 111 yards through the air and two touchdowns. More importantly, the win now gives the Gophers a chance to knock off Wisconsin next week for a chance to earn a bid to the Big Ten title game against Ohio State.

 

Louisville

Whenever you upend the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, regardless of whether or not they're reeling, you'll get noticed. The Cardinals defeated the Irish 31-28 on Saturday and have very quietly become an eight-win team with a chance at a prime-time bowl game. The Cardinals have Kentucky on their docket to finish the regular season next week, so a win over an SEC team could very much boost their resume.

 

Biggest Fallers

Ole Miss

It truly seems like ages ago when Ole Miss upset Alabama. Now the Rebels are 8-3 after getting shut out 30-0 to Arkansas on Saturday and quickly falling out of relevancy. A loss in the Egg Bowl next week could very well see the Rebels, after such a hot start to the year, miss out on a late December bowl game.

As a whole, Ole Miss has lost three of its last four, with the only victory coming against lowly Presbyterian. Now, an upset in the Egg Bowl over Mississippi State would create some cool playoff chaos.

 

Nebraska

After giving up a 17-3 lead to Wisconsin last week, the Nebraska Cornhuskers fell to Minnesota 28-24 in Week 13. Now at 8-3 and out of the hunt for the Big Ten title game, Nebraska will hope to salvage a win next week against Iowa to have an outside chance at a decent bowl game. But for now, Bo Pelini's seat is starting to warm up and the Huskers should fall out of the rankings altogether.

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College Football Rankings Week 14: B/R's Official Top 25

On paper, this past weekend of college football wasn't one to get too excited about. Certainly not in comparison to some of the previous slates, or what's in store next weekend. But paper can only tell us so much, as there were a number of surprising results from Thursday through Saturday that impacted playoff chances and our rankings.

The Bleacher Report Top 25 is voted on by 18 members of our college football team: writers Keith Arnold, Ben Axelrod, Phil Callihan, Michael Felder, Justin Ferguson, Andrew Hall, Kyle Kensing, David Kenyon, Ben Kercheval, Adam Kramer, Brian Pedersen, Barrett Sallee, Brad Shepard, Erin Sorensen and Greg Wallace, as well as editors Eric Bowman, Hunter Mandel and Max Rausch.

Each voter submits their ballots based on observations made during the just-completed week's games. Teams receive 25 points for a first-place vote, all the way down to one point for being ranked 25th, and then the top 25 vote-getters are ranked in order of their point totals.

Check out B/R's Week 14 poll, then give us your thoughts in the comments section.

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Brett Hundley's Dominance over USC Keeps Bruins on Track for Pac-12 South Title

PASADENA, Calif. — If Brett Hundley was playing his last career game as No. 9 UCLA’s quarterback against crosstown rival and No. 19-ranked USC, the redshirt junior made Saturday’s 38-20 win one to remember.

Hundley’s 326 yards passing elevated him past Cade McNown as the program’s all-time career leader in total yardage.

As for Hundley’s effort on the night, he passed for three touchdowns and ran for another, officially ending the night with four touchdowns—though he was involved in five, surrendering a pick-six to USC linebacker Anthony Sarao on UCLA’s opening possession.

“To be honest, after that happened, I was the calmest I was all game,” Hundley said. “We didn’t panic, and when stuff like that happens, you can’t panic.”

He added: “You can’t be afraid to make mistakes.”

The play became a microcosm for UCLA’s season: a slow start with a torrid finish.

The Bruins broke a 14-14 tie in the second quarter with 24 straight points that put an emphatic punctuation mark on the current era of the USC-UCLA rivalry.

“UCLA runs L.A.,” Hundley said matter-of-factly. “If you didn’t hear it last year, I think this year sort of made the stomp to express that.”

Hundley’s comment isn’t without support. He’s undefeated against USC in his three seasons as the Bruins’ starting quarterback.

UCLA’s run in the rivalry also coincides with Jim Mora’s arrival as head coach, but Mora was reserved in his assessment of the Bruins running the city.

He’s more focused on them running the Pac-12.

“Can’t sit here and gloat,” he said. “Got to move on, and that’s what we’re going to do.”

UCLA’s win was its fifth straight and keeps the Bruins in control of the Pac-12 South with one game to play.

A Bruins win Friday at home vs. Stanford sends them to Levi’s Stadium and the conference title game for a rematch with No. 2 Oregon.

The Ducks handed UCLA its last loss, 42-30, at the Rose Bowl on Oct. 11.

Hundley is winless against Oregon in his UCLA career at 0-2. Getting another crack at the Ducks also means scoring his first career victory against Stanford.

The Cardinal beat the Bruins last season and twice in 2012, including in the Pac-12 Championship Game.

Snapping that skid against Stanford is UCLA’s next mission. For the next few hours, however, the team can revel in another rivalry win—particularly for seniors like linebacker Eric Kendricks, who were part of the 50-0 USC victory in 2011.

“My first start as a Bruin was in the 50-0 loss,” Kendricks said. “I told myself I was never going to go out like that again.”

Kendricks did his part to ensure UCLA wouldn’t go out on the losing end, intercepting a pass in the first half on a diving play along the sideline.

Kendricks helped key a defense that held USC to just 62 rushing yards. And the Hundley-led offense took advantage on the other end, beating the Trojans where they’d excelled most heading into Saturday.

USC entered with the best red-zone defense in the Pac-12 and seventh best in the nation. But UCLA, the most effective red-zone offense in college football, won that battle.

The Bruins capitalized on five of six red-zone opportunities, four of which culminated in touchdowns.

Perhaps the biggest of those possessions came just before halftime when Hundley found Eldridge Massington in traffic for the quarterback’s third touchdown of the first half with just 14 seconds remaining before intermission.

For the Trojans, a field goal was the difference between a six-point halftime deficit and two-possession disadvantage to open the back half. And USC never quite recovered.

On the Bruins’ first drive out of the locker room, Hundley took a big hit on a blitz up the gut—but not before delivering a perfectly placed ball to Thomas Duarte for 38 yards.

“We saw inexperience in their back end,” Duarte said. “We saw some things we could take advantage [of], and we did.”

That pass, leading to a 10-yard Paul Perkins touchdown run, was the second of two game-breaking connections between Hundley and Duarte.

The duo hooked up on a routine slant pattern in the first quarter that Duarte took 57 yards for a touchdown after shaking safety Leon McQuay III on a cutback.

“I came to the sideline and told Brett and [offensive coordinator Noel] Mazzone, ‘Hey, we’ve got to look for this. They’re going to split safeties and they’re leaving me wide open,’” Duarte said. “Sure enough, we came back to it and it was a touchdown.”

For Hundley, such moments have helped define a record-setting career.

“It’s truly a blessing to now be able to now hold the career passing touchdown, career total offense,” he said. “To think of Pop Warner days, to high school, nobody dreams about doing things like this. Now it’s a reality with hard work.”

And with a little more hard work, Hundley and the Bruins can add another notable record to a growing list of accomplishments: a Pac-12 championship.

 

Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise cited. Statistics courtesy of the UCLA athletic department.

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Brett Hundley's Dominance over USC Keeps Bruins on Track for Pac-12 South Title

PASADENA, Calif. — If Brett Hundley was playing his last career game as No. 9 UCLA’s quarterback against crosstown rival and No. 19-ranked USC, the redshirt junior made Saturday’s 38-20 win one to remember...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

After Poor Offensive Showing, Tennessee Looks to Get Back on Track vs Vanderbilt

In the wake of a buzz-killing 29-21 loss to Missouri, the Tennessee Volunteers were left with a once-potent offense tattered by the Tigers' dominant defense and searching for answers.

Now with a must-win situation facing them next week at Vanderbilt, UT must get that unit on track or the Vols will be home for the holidays. 

Coach Butch Jones bluntly summed up what's left of a Vols season that has been reduced to a do-or-die atmosphere in Nashville.

Another performance like Saturday night's could make a probable win against the Commodores an uncertainty. After two weeks of riding the wave of excitement quarterback Joshua Dobbs brought to the starting lineup, UT reverted to its struggles of old.

Drives stalled quickly and fruitlessly as the Vols failed to take advantage of field position all night. As was the case for most of the season, the majority of offensive issues can be traced back to the struggles of the offensive line.

The front five was awful, reverting to old form and allowing Dobbs to get pummeled throughout the game.

Most importantly, costly mistakes abounded. Trailing just 16-13, Dobbs turned the football over on consecutive possessions. The first of those was a fumble when he was trying to make something happen against Mizzou's torrid pass rush.

Then, the blunder of the game came just when it looked like the Vols were going to tie or take the lead. On a first-down play from the Tigers 29-yard line, Dobbs fired a dart to freshman receiver Josh Malone. The ball caromed off his hands and into those of Kenya Dennis.

Three plays later, Maty Mauk hit Jimmy Hunt on a 73-yard touchdown pass to break Tennessee's heart.

That machine-gun momentum swing crushed the Vols, but that was just the culmination of a night full of frustration. 

Jalen Hurd could never get going on the ground, and a strong Mizzou defense determined not to let Dobbs freelance with his feet kept him in the pocket and put him on the ground.

An offense missing its biggest weapon in receiver Marquez North and its offensive line leader in center Mack Crowder lacked the pizzazz from previous weeks.

There was no downfield passing game, and UT's offense looked scarily like it did during the season's first seven weeks before Dobbs breathed new life into it. 

They'll have to find a way to generate yardage vertically without North. Jones dropped the bomb after the game that he's lost for the season.

The Tigers defensive front is the best the Vols have faced all season, and Vanderbilt isn't even in the same league.

But with so much riding on next week's game for UT and the Commodores wanting nothing more than to end a miserable season by ending Tennessee's, the Vols can't afford the same issues.

After all the mistakes by the offense and a pair of big ones on defense, the game ended in controversy and derailed another comeback effort by the Vols.

Mizzou's lead swelled to 29-13 when Tennessee's offense finally struck with its first touchdown of the night. Dobbs hit Jason Croom on a fade before going airborne for a two-point conversion to cut the lead to eight.

That's where things got, shall we say, interesting.

Needing an onside kick, another touchdown and two-point conversion with less than two minutes remaining, UT recovered two kicks. But on the first one, the Vols were called offside. Since Mizzou touched the ball, however, the Vols had to rekick.

The offside call was borderline, and it didn't go UT's way.

Then, when it looked like the Vols would get the football back after Coleman recovered the second one, replays clearly showed the ball traveled just nine yards. But Jones inexplicably called his second timeout to challenge the call, which was upheld, and Mizzou wound up running out the clock.

It was a frustrating finish to to a frustrating game. But the season's not finished.

Much like last year, Tennessee enters the VU game in a must-win situation. Unlike last season, the Commodores are struggling mightily, sitting at 3-8, winless in the conference and fresh off getting obliterated 51-0 by Mississippi State. 

The Vols entered Saturday's game as the heavy favorites in Vegas, carrying tons of momentum and an offense that looked capable of shredding opponents at will with Dobbs at the helm. After getting dragged down to Earth by Mizzou, only one of those things remain.

Tennessee will be big favorites next week, but the momentum is squashed, and an offense that spent much of this game searching for answers desperately needs to re-find them this week. 

Tonight, that once-excellent opportunity for a bowl game feels just a bit farther from reach.

 

Brad Shepard covers SEC football and is the Tennessee Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. Follow Brad on Twitter @Brad_Shepard.

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Auburn Takes Care of Business on Senior Night, Turns Focus to Upsetting Alabama

AUBURN, Ala.—Instead of being a memorable game for the senior players and their families, Senior Night was shaping up to be one to forget for Auburn after one quarter.

Auburn's once-potent offense was averaging 1.8 yards per play. Quarterback Nick Marshall fired a bad interception that forced the Tigers' defense to make a fourth-down stop. Flags continued to mount for the SEC's most-penalized team.

Oh, and Auburn was playing an FCS opponent—the 7-3 Samford Bulldogs.

After Samford went up 7-0 midway through the second quarter, Auburn snapped into action thanks to its seniors.

"Mainly it was just us hurting ourselves," senior tight end C.J. Uzomah said. "It took Samford scoring for us to realize that we needed to get our crap together, really."

Marshall found wide receiver Sammie Coates on a 49-yard pass and senior wide receiver Quan Bray found the end zone two plays later on a 23-yard run.

The lightning-fast, three-play drive energized an entire team and a sleepy Jordan-Hare Stadium en route to a 31-7 victory.

"We just came out not ready to play at the beginning of the game," Marshall said. "But as the game got going, we got back to playing Auburn football."

Although the road to the final whistle Saturday night wasn't entirely smooth, "Auburn football" returned for a team that desperately needed a jolt after back-to-back losses and before a trip to Tuscaloosa next Saturday to take on No. 1 Alabama.

"You know, coming off the last two weeks with two losses, it was about getting the bad taste out of our mouth," senior running back Corey Grant said. "It important for us to get this win, especially for next week when we play our big rivalry. It is going to be a big game, and it was good to actually get a win tonight and get that good feeling back."

The focus on the Plains immediately turned to Tuscaloosa, even for a group of seniors just minutes removed from their final game at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

"It's going to be a hostile environment," said Bray, who became the first player in school history to have a rushing, a receiving and a punt return touchdown in the same season. "We know that. We'll come out tomorrow and get the things we need to correct down, and then we'll go to Tuscaloosa and handle business."

For the Tigers' offense, preparing for the Crimson Tide and one of the nation's toughest defenses comes down to avoiding the slow starts that have plagued them in games big and small this season.

Auburn's scoring drought reached more than 75 minutes of game time, stretching back to the second drive of a blowout loss to Georgia, before Bray found the end zone in the second quarter:

"We just came out flat," Bray said. "We went three-and-out, and we weren't getting nothing going. Once we got things going, that's when we were at our best."

Now that the team has gone from being a national title contender to just a potential spoiler with hopes of a mid-tier bowl, Auburn defensive tackle Gabe Wright claimed the disappointments started to wear down on the Tigers.

"I'd say we had a really good week of practice," Wright said. "But I'd be a liar if I said the high expectations and goals we had set being diminished over the past couple of weeks didn’t have an effect on us."

For Wright, Samford's lone touchdown was a wake-up call for a team that was struggling to stay motivated.

"Coming off a loss we know that we’ve got to get [momentum] back, but I feel like we did a good job this week," Wright said. "Of course, the goal this week was to beat Samford, but also to get Auburn back to the playing level we want to be. After they scored, that really rose the bar."

Motivation won't be a problem, though, heading into next weekend's massive rivalry clash in a hostile environment.

"It's probably going to be one of the funnest games I've ever played in," Uzomah said. "Obviously, the Alabama game last year was the height of my football career, but this is going to be up there. Their fans are going to be nasty.

"I don't know what they're going to be saying or doing—I know little kids flick you off sometimes. I'm looking forward to it."

 

All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All recruiting rankings and information courtesy of 247Sports. All stats courtesy of cfbstats.com.

Justin Ferguson is Bleacher Report's lead Auburn writer. Follow him on Twitter @JFergusonAU.

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USC vs. UCLA: Game Grades, Analysis for Trojans and Bruins

Brett Hundley and No. 9 UCLA reestablished their dominance over No. 19 USC Saturday night, with the Bruins pounding their way on both sides of the ball to a dominant 38-20 victory under the lights in the Rose Bowl.

The Bruins (9-2) manhandled the Trojans (7-4), outgaining them by 186 yards in the 18-point victory. Jim Mora's squad needs one more victory (against Stanford next week) to clinch the Pac-12 South. If it can do that, the team will book a trip to the conference championship game for a rematch against Oregon.

For now, though, UCLA gets to enjoy its third consecutive victory over its crosstown rival.

How did the Trojans and the Bruins grade out from an entertaining game Saturday night?

 

USC Trojans Grade Analysis

Pass Offense: Most of USC's success has come through the air offensively this year, but that wasn't the case against UCLA. Cody Kessler, who came into the game as the nation's 12th-ranked passer, managed just 214 yards and one touchdown against the Bruins. Kessler threw a bad interception and failed to get anything going down the field past UCLA's secondary.

Nelson Agholor, coming off a career performance against Cal last week, hauled in just three passes for 24 yards.

Run Offense: Kessler was under constant fire all night, which hurt USC's run offense in a big way, but the Trojans running backs failed to get anything going. Javorius Allen gained just 59 yards on 14 carries—averaging a modest 4.2 yards per carry—and Justin Davis chipped in 37 yards on nine attempts. The Trojans failed to generate any big plays on the ground, as their long carry on the night went for just 12 yards.

Pass Defense: USC's pass defense got off to a great start when Anthony Sarao picked off a Brett Hundley pass and returned it 17 yards for a touchdown on UCLA’s first drive. But things turned quickly for the Trojans when Hundley found a groove. The Bruins had no trouble poking holes in USC's secondary as they finished with 326 passing yards on the night. 

Run Defense: UCLA had a tough time finding holes in USC's defense early, finishing with minus-seven yards in the first quarter. USC was keyed in on Hundley as a runner, which was a big reason why UCLA only had 45 rushing yards at halftime.

That changed a bit after the break when UCLA's star quarterback broke free for a 15-yard touchdown run. But that was the biggest play the Trojans allowed on the ground, as they only gave up an average of 3.1 yards per carry to the Bruins. 

Special Teams: Things got off to a bad start for USC’s special teams when Agholor muffed a punt early in the first quarter, which set UCLA up inside the 10 for an easy touchdown drive. That was the only notable special teams play from the Trojans, which is as bad as it sounds. With UCLA shutting down the offense, USC could have used a big play in the kicking game to provide a spark.

Coaching: Steve Sarkisian made some curious calls in the first half, most notably in short down-and-distance situations. He called for a fullback dive and a zone-read run when USC needed just two yards on separate, critical situations—both of which resulted in lost yards. The Trojans left valuable points on the board when they went for it on fourth down instead of kicking a chip-shot field goal late in the first quarter.

After falling behind by 10 at the break, USC didn't make any adjustments to slow down UCLA's ferocious pass rush. There were no quick screens to punish the attacking defense, and Agholor was horrendously underutilized throughout the night. 

 

UCLA Bruins Grade Analysis

Pass Offense: Hundley’s night got off to a rough start with the pick-six, but he bounced back in a big way. He finished the first half completing 78.9 percent of his passes for 202 yards and three touchdowns. The junior signal-caller spread it around, too, finding nine different receivers in the first two quarters.

With the blowout nature of the game, Hundley wasn't asked to do much in the second half. He still finished with 326 passing yards and three touchdowns. Wideout Thomas Duarte was explosive, leading all receivers with 95 receiving yards (and a touchdown) on just two receptions.

Run Offense: The Bruins boast a potent rushing attack because Hundley is such a dangerous threat on the ground. The quarterback came into the game with 564 rushing yards, but he only managed two yards against the Trojans. 

That was a big reason for UCLA's struggles on the ground. The Bruins gained just 135 rushing yards Saturday night, which was 80 yards shy of their season average. 

Pass Defense: UCLA's secondary had a tough task in stopping Kessler, Agholor and a surging Trojans passing attack, but that’s exactly what it did Saturday night. The secondary got a big boost from an inspired defensive front. UCLA came into the night averaging just 1.6 sacks per game, but it registered six against Kessler and the Trojans. That disrupted everything USC tried to establish offensively, which was a huge key to the victory. 

Run Defense: USC aims to establish balance offensively, but UCLA eliminated that possibility when it raced out to a big lead early in the third quarter. That's a big reason why the Bruins were able to limit the Trojans to just eight rushing yards in the second half. Of course, that low total was as much the result of UCLA's pass rush as it was its run defense, but it was still an incredible performance from a fired-up defense. USC finished with just 61 rushing yards on 33 carries. 

Special Teams: It was a quiet night for UCLA's special teams as they failed to make any big plays, but they also didn't make any huge mistakes. The Bruins did come up with Agholor's muffed punt in the first quarter, but otherwise, it was a forgettable night. Matt Mengel averaged just 33 yards on his six punts. Ka'imi Fairbairn connected on his only field-goal attempt (a 32-yard chip shot) and accounted for just 52 yards on four kick returns.

Coaching: Mora knew that he could outman and outgun USC, and he executed his game plan perfectly Saturday night. The Bruins raced out to a comfortable lead early in the third quarter and then went to work grinding out the game against an overmatched defense. He established complete control over USC with a third consecutive victory over his biggest rival.

 

All stats via NCAA.com.

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Heisman Watch 2014: Top 5 Rankings After Week 13

The Heisman hopefuls really showed up in their respective games on Saturday. This week, the list of Heisman favorites changes, as a former winner is left out of our top five.

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Barrett Sallee gives you his updated top five finalists for the Heisman Trophy.

Who is your favorite to win the 2014 Heisman?

Watch the video and let us know!

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Missouri vs. Tennessee: Game Grades, Analysis for Tigers and Vols

The Missouri Tigers rode their defensive line and a big second half by Maty Mauk to a 29-21 road win over the Tennessee Volunteers.

Mizzou's defense sacked Tennessee quarterback Joshua Dobbs six times on the night, keeping the Vols offense out of the end zone until late in the fourth quarter. Mauk did the rest, throwing for two touchdowns and 152 yards in the final two frames.

With this victory, the Tigers are only a home victory over Arkansas away from the SEC East title.

 

Game Grades for the Tigers

Passing Offense

Mauk just could not connect in the first half, going 6-of-15 and 78 yards as his receivers dropped a lot of catchable balls. Everyone flipped the switch after halftime, allowing Mauk to throw both of his touchdowns to put the game out of reach.

Jimmie Hunt turned in a spectacular effort on his 73-yard touchdown, while Bud Sasser recovered from a case of the drops to catch his touchdown. The big duo combined for seven catches, 182 yards and two scores.

 

Rushing Offense

The ground game was solid throughout, slowing down a very strong Tennessee pass rush. Marcus Murphy led the way with 82 yards and two scores, with Mauk and Russell Hansbrough contributing another 99 yards.

 

Passing Defense

The defensive line absolutely dominated this game, sacking Dobbs six times before it was all said and done. Tennessee's quarterback did lead an impressive fourth-quarter drive to make things interesting, but you'll always live with 5.3 yards per attempt as a defense.

 

Rushing Defense

There was absolutely nothing happening for the Vols on the ground, netting just 53 yards on 29 attempts. Tennessee got better in the second half, but not by much.

 

Special Teams

This unit is the only reason the Vols even stayed in the game. Andrew Baggett missed two extra points and a 51-yarder, while the field-goal unit allowed an easy fake field goal to go for a 31-yard touchdown.

Even at the end of the game, these guys were trying to give it away. The Volunteers recovered two onside kicks, nullifying both with penalties.

 

Coaching

Gary Pinkel stuck with the plan no matter how close Tennessee was able to keep up. You'd like to see fewer mistakes from special teams, but the rest of the team picked up the slack. His defense allowed one touchdown to an offense that was averaging almost 40 points over its last three games.

 

Game Grades for the Volunteers

Passing Offense

Without center Mack Crowder, the offensive line just had no shot at protecting its quarterback. Dobbs was able to scrape together one scoring drive but had no protection for most of the night.

Pig Howard and Von Pearson each turned in nice efforts, turning in 11 catches for 132 yards.

 

Rushing Offense

The ground game was a disaster from the start. The offensive line couldn't get any push, Dobbs made several bad reads and the end result was 53 yards on 29 attempts.

Jalen Hurd had a couple of nice runs in the second half, but that's about it.

 

Passing Defense

Missouri's butterfingers did this group a lot of favors in the first half. Mauk's receivers dropped a couple of big gainers, but then they were able to turn them into points in the second.

The defensive line, led by Curt Maggitt, got some pressure throughout. It just wasn't enough to keep Mauk from slinging it deep.

 

Rushing Defense

The Tigers rode their ground game to two easy touchdowns in the first half, then they backed off a little as Mauk started hitting the deep balls. Simply put, Mizzou was able to get yardage and extend drives when it needed to.

 

Special Teams

Special teams scored 13 of Tennessee's 22 points on the night and almost returned the ball to the offense on a couple of onside kicks. The 31-yard fake field goal for the score was keyed by a 58-yard kick return by Evan Berry.

 

Coaching

We need a pretty thorough explanation as to why Butch Jones wasted a timeout to challenge an obvious illegal touching penalty. There's a huge difference between having two timeouts left with under two minutes to play and one timeout left with under two minutes to play.

Sure, this staff made a nice call on the fake field goal, but the timeout management was awful, and the offensive line looked totally lost. Jones is better than this.

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Mizzou Win Puts It in Driver's Seat for SEC East Title, Dark-Horse Playoff Shot

There's nothing pretty about Missouri this season, but that's fine with the Tigers.

Here they are for the second straight year going into the final week of the season needing to win to claim the SEC East and, as was the case last season, with faint national-title hopes still flickering.

Wait, hold on. Missouri as a College Football Playoff contender?

It seems crazy to say and certainly is bizarre for me to write. After beating Tennessee 29-21 on Saturday night in Knoxville, though, it's time to start at least considering the possibility of Missouri acting as the ultimate late-season College Football Playoff dark horse.

The defense was all over Joshua Dobbs, sacking the sophomore signal-caller five times and forcing two total turnovers (one fumble, one interception).

Head coach Gary Pinkel was pleased with the performance, according to David Morrison of the Columbia Daily Tribune:

This isn't the prettiest team. In fact, for three quarters on Saturday night, it was sometimes ugly. But quarterback Maty Mauk caught fire in the fourth quarter, tossing two touchdown passes to break open a tight game and bring Missouri to the brink of back-to-back East division titles.

So how does Missouri make it to the playoff?

It's a long and winding road that starts with a win over Arkansas in Columbia on Black Friday. After the way Missouri's defensive line has played all year, it's only fitting that it'll have to show out against the biggest offensive line in football—college or NFL—in order to get to Atlanta.

If the Tigers clear that hurdle and get to the Georgia Dome, a highly ranked SEC West contender—either No. 1 Alabama or No. 4 Mississippi State will be waiting for them. A win over either the Crimson Tide or the Bulldogs would be nice, but it'd be really helpful to make it emphatic and make it over No. 1 Alabama.

Call it "game control" if you wish, but a resounding victory in the Georgia Dome over the Crimson Tide would be a nice final statement to the 12 members of the selection committee.

After that, just a few dominoes need to fall. 

And by "a few," I mean a lot.

First thing's first, a TCU loss needs to happen, and the most likely chance for that is Thanksgiving night when the Horned Frogs visit a suddenly resurgent Texas team that's won three straight. That'd solve one Big 12 problem, and Baylor losing to Kansas State on the final week of the season would be a good second step to clear the Big 12 road.

Now that the Big 12 is out of the way, Ohio State needs to go down. The Big 12 Championship Game against Wisconsin or Minnesota is the best place for that. Since Wisconsin is a two-loss team that'll likely be in the Top 15 this week, it'd be helpful if it's a sloppy game on both sides. But if Missouri wins out, that SEC Championship Game win would likely place the Tigers at the top of the two-loss pecking order.

After that, it's a breeze.

Just a Mississippi State loss to Ole Miss to ensure that Missouri is the unquestioned No. 1 in the SEC playoff pecking order and an Oregon and/or Florida State losses over their final two games for insurance purposes.

Missouri in the College Football Playoff? Yeah, it's crazy.

But Indiana winning on the road over the eventual SEC East champ seems crazy too. 

It's not crazy; it's the "SEC Coastal," better known as the SEC East in 2014.

 

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

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

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Don't Blame Everett Golson for Notre Dame's 3rd Straight Loss

As Notre Dame football’s season continues to crumble, this time the story was less about turnovers or sloppy play from quarterback Everett Golson in Louisville’s 31-28 win over the Irish on Saturday.

Sure, Golson’s second-quarter interception came at his own 14-yard line and prompted a Louisville field goal. And yes, his fumble a few drives later resulted in a 32-yard loss. But the damage, in general, was kept to a minimum.

"I think he did some good things," Irish head coach Brian Kellysaid afterward to reporters. "There are some things that we want to do better, but he made some great plays with his feet. It's so hard right after the game to give you a great analysis of it. There are some things that I thought could have gotten the ball out quicker, but I'm not right behind the center."

Golson was 16-of-24 for 236 yards, two touchdowns and the interception, while also scampering in on a two-point conversion to pull Notre Dame within three, 31-28, at the beginning of the fourth quarter.

Golson certainly has room for improvement, but the major issues Saturday were mostly on the defensive side of the ball and in the kicking game. For the sixth consecutive game, the Irish surrendered at least 30 points. The Cardinals racked up 409 yards of total offense—229 of which came on the ground.

Entering Saturday, 51% of Notre Dame’s tackles this season came from freshmen and sophomores. Today, 67% came from freshmen/sophomores.

— Mike Monaco (@MikeMonaco_) November 23, 2014

Yet still, with a chance to tie the game, Notre Dame’s field-goal battery of kicker Kyle Brindza, holder Malik Zaire and snapper Scott Daly couldn’t convert from 32 yards out.

WATCH: Kyle Brindza misses the potential game-tying field goal against Louisville http://t.co/bUQTPRRJNv

— Notre Dame on NBC (@NDonNBC) November 23, 2014

Here’s a look at the setup/hold for Kyle Brindza’s final FG try: pic.twitter.com/ryfI45Sphy

— Mike Monaco (@MikeMonaco_) November 23, 2014

"I don’t think it was executed at the level it needed to be," Kelly said. "I didn’t see it. I’ll have to watch it on film, but in talking to Kyle, it did not appear to be handled cleanly."

While the blame game rages on, the simple fact is that Notre Dame could not drill a much-needed kick—again. Asked about the prospects for 2015, Kelly offered a blunt breakdown.

"Well, we've lost back-to-back games because we couldn't put down a ball and kick it 32 yards," he said.

"They know that they easily could win any of the games they've played in," Kelly said later. "A mistake here or there and not executing at the time necessary has been the difference between a win and loss with this team—razor-thin."

Sure, it’s possible to point to a certain play in a certain situation and engage in the "what if" game. But Notre Dame’s issues have been both widespread and continuous.

 

All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Mike Monaco is a lead Notre Dame writer for Bleacher Report. Follow @MikeMonaco on Twitter.

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Vanderbilt vs. Mississippi State: Game Grades, Analysis for the Bulldogs

The Mississippi State Bulldogs defeated the Vanderbilt Commodores 51-0 on Saturday to remain in the hunt for a spot in the first annual College Football Playoff. 

The Bulldogs, behind Heisman candidate Dak Prescott, rolled up over 500 yards of total offense, forced three turnovers and held the Commodores to just 224 total yards.

Prescott, who exited the game late in the third quarter, completed 16 of 21 passes for 192 yards and three touchdowns. Prescott also ran for a touchdown, too. 

Mississippi State ran for 284 yards, and 11 different Bulldogs caught a pass. 

It all comes down to the Egg Bowl for Mississippi State. The Bulldogs head to Oxford next week with a spot in the College Football Playoff on the line. 

How did Mississippi State grade out in its win over Vanderbilt?

 

Mississippi State Bulldogs Game Grades Analysis

Pass Offense: Dak Prescott was terrific. He got everyone involved in the offense and did not turn the ball over. He completed just under 80 percent of his passes and tossed three touchdown passes.

Rush Offense: The Bulldogs ran for 284 yards, as six different players ran for at least 28 yards apiece. Brandon Holloway led the Bulldogs with 65 yards on 10 carries. The team averaged just under 6 yards per carry.

Pass Defense: MSU picked off two passes and put pressure on Vanderbilt's three quarterbacks all night long. Vanderbilt completed less than 50 percent of its passes. 

Rush Defense: Vanderbilt's leading rusher, Ralph Webb, had just 16 yards on 11 carries. Vandy's leading rusher was quarterback Johnny McCrary, who rushed for just 20 yards. 

Special Teams: Darrius Sims is an excellent return man for the Commodores, yet MSU held Sims to an average of just 16 yards per kick return. Evan Sobiesk did miss an extra point for the Bulldogs. 

Coaching: Dan Mullen had his team prepared. This team knows it has a shot at the national championship and played like it on Saturday night. The offense was balanced, and the defense was aggressive. 

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College Football Playoff Projections After Week 13

After some wild Week 13 games, it's time to reevaluate the top teams and their positioning in the College Football Playoff. Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Adam Kramer gives you his projected playoff bracket.

Who do you think will be playing for a national title at the end of the season?

Watch the video and let us know! 

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Winners and Losers from Week 13 of College Football

A dreary and rain-soaked Week 13 didn't stop college football from delivering the fireworks. While Saturday's slate looked light on paper, it was heavy with thrilling finishes from the Big Ten to the Ivy League. 

From Oklahoma running back Samaje Perine breaking Melvin Gordon's one-week-old rushing record to another Florida State scare, a lot happened on Saturday. UCLA took full control of the Pac-12 South race, and Missouri came one step closer to clinching the SEC East.

With that, it's time to wrap it all up into a neat little bow. 

Which teams and players came away as winners? Which ones didn't?

Begin Slideshow

USC vs. UCLA: Score and Twitter Reaction

The Victory Bell will remain in Westwood. 

In one of college football's most famous rivalries, No. 9 UCLA remained right in the thick of the College Football Playoff picture with a dominant 38-20 win over No. 19 USC. Pac-12 Networks highlighted the victory:

After five consecutive defeats in the all-Los Angeles matchup, the Bruins have now won three in a row. And as ESPN Stats & Info noted, they have done so in emphatic offensive fashion:

Brett Hundley threw for 326 yards and had a total of four touchdowns (three passing, one rushing), Paul Perkins ran for 93 and a score, and UCLA doubled up the Trojans in total yards, 458-226.

The junior QB, who is now 3-0 in his career against USC, put it simply afterward, via Sports Illustrated's Stewart Mandel:

While the overall performance or final numbers don't suggest so, it was a nightmarish start for Hundley. On the Bruins' second offensive snap of the game, he forced a throw that was intercepted and returned for a touchdown by linebacker Anthony Sarao.

Just like that, the Trojans had a 7-0 lead less than five minutes into the game, and Hundley was the target of easy criticism and jokes, via CBS Sports' Pete Prisco and EDraft.com's Vincent Frank:

But a massive mistake from USC gave Hundley an immediate opportunity to turn things around. Nelson Agholor muffed a punt just two minutes later, setting up a 10-yard touchdown strike between Hundley and Devin Lucien.

NFL.com's Bryan Fischer noted the ongoing problem for the talented Agholor:

Things remained close until the Bruins offense began clicking at the end of the first half.

Spanning a stretch between the second and third quarters, Hundley led three consecutive scoring drives that totaled 218 yards on just 24 plays. During that run, he entered the UCLA record books, as The Associated Press' Greg Beacham noted:

With Perkins and the running game creating big lanes after a slow first half, Hundley was able to take advantage of an off-balance defense and methodically march down the field.

On the other side of the ball, the Bruins were creating endless pressure in the backfield, forcing USC's offense to become completely stagnant. Rotoworld's Josh Norris noted a problem for the Trojans:

Scott Wolf of the Los Angeles Daily News simply wasn't thrilled with the team's effort:

Javorius Allen added a three-yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter to end a streak of 24 consecutive points for UCLA, but the game had already been decided long before that point.

The Bruins will move up at least one spot with No. 8 Ole Miss' loss to Arkansas Saturday, but such a comprehensive victory against a ranked opponent could potentially help them climb a few more rungs on the ladder.

Even if not, a win over Stanford next week sets up a Pac-12 Championship battle against No. 2 Oregon, meaning the Bruins are still in excellent position to make a run at the Top Four.

As for the Trojans, they'll finish the regular season against a reeling Notre Dame squad, looking at their third straight season with at least four defeats.

If it wasn't already clear, it certainly is now: The balance of power in L.A. has shifted.

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Oklahoma State vs. Baylor: Score and Twitter Reaction

No. 7 Baylor took another step in its late-season quest to win the Big 12 Saturday night at home, toppling Oklahoma State 49-28 in McLane Stadium.

Bears quarterback Bryce Petty was on point from the get-go, throwing two touchdowns in the opening three minutes and getting his team to an early lead that it wouldn't relinquish. He finished 18-of-29 with 262 yards and three total scores.

ESPN College Football capped up the result:

The Cowboys were within a score just before halftime, but Baylor (9-1) pushed it to a two-touchdown advantage with 23 seconds left in the opening half and only added to its lead throughout the second half. Mason Rudolph's strong outing (13-of-25, 281 yards, two TDs) in his starting debut wasn't enough to complete a late comeback.

That was largely due to a dominant Baylor run game, as Devin Chafin and Shock Linwood both surpassed the 100-yard mark.

Here's a glance at the final quarter-by-quarter box score:

Saturday's game didn't feel like a revenge game upon watching, with the now-5-6 Cowboys looking to turn around their woeful season. But after they ended Baylor's championship hopes in a 49-17 win last year, the Bears came in with a chip on their shoulder.

"It's hard not to (call it a revenge game),'' Petty told The Associated Press via Fox Sports. ''Last year we had one (regular season) loss and it was to them, so we want to make sure we right our wrongs. ... I'd love to come out and show them who Baylor football really is.''

They certainly did that from the opening possession.

Baylor sprinted down the field in a jiffy, scoring on a 65-yard pass from Petty to Jay Lee for a score to go up 7-0 just 26 seconds in. 

One Oklahoma State three-and-out later, the Bears got the ball back and immediately went back to the air. Petty hit another long pass, this one to Corey Coleman for a 54-yard touchdown.

After just five offensive plays, Baylor led 14-0 as Big 12 Conference noted:

It didn't take long for the Cowboys to respond, and it came shortly after a Petty interception that set them up near midfield. A six-play drive ended with Desmond Roland's one-yard plunge into the end zone that made it 14-7.

Baylor extended its lead to 28-7 off a two big-boy drives that ended in Chafin touchdown scampers. But just before the half, Oklahoma State rattled off a drive at the end of the half to score and go into the locker room down 28-14.

KFOR's Bob Barry Jr. noted the Cowboys again started slow defensively and still trailed by 14 after improving as the half went on:

Meanwhile, Max Olson of ESPN.com capped up Baylor's mindset after sputtering late in the half:

Oklahoma State continued performing on defense in the second half, picking off Petty for the second time. It didn't set up any field position for the Cowboys, however, and they gave the ball right back only to concede a penalty on the punt and set up Baylor in great position.

Starting a drive at the Oklahoma State 28, Baylor wasted no time getting into the end zone on Linwood's 11-yard touchdown run—his fourth straight carry of the drive—to go up 35-14.

Linwood reached the 100-yard plateau on that carry, per The Dallas Morning News' Chuck Carlton:

Baylor entered the fourth quarter with that three-touchdown advantage, but started the final frame inside the Cowboys' red zone. The Bears took advantage, as Chafin got his third touchdown of the game to put Baylor up 42-14.

As KOKH's Sam Gannon noted, Oklahoma State's defensive formidability doesn't matter much when the Cowboys offense cannot score:

The Cowboys were seemingly motivated by the four-touchdown deficit, as they took the ensuing kickoff into Baylor territory and scored one play later on Mason Rudolph's 28-yard pass to James Washington. Oklahoma State scored again on its next possession to make it 42-28.

Baylor's late woes in the secondary alarmed Houston Chronicle's John McClain:

Also noticeable late in the game was Rudolph's emergence. Playing in his first start, he impressed with some late poise as NewsOK.com's Jenni Carlson noted:

But it wasn't enough to generate any serious momentum for a comeback. A Baylor interception with five minutes left thwarted the Cowboys' efforts to make it a one-possession game, as Petty ran it in from 21 yards out on 4th-and-2 to seal the game.

Baylor Football captured the winning moment:

While many colleges played their final home game Saturday, Baylor still has one left. The Bears travel to Texas Tech next weekend before closing out against Kansas State at home on championship weekend.

Oklahoma State is already done at home for the season, but it still has bowl eligibility on the line on the road at Oklahoma to close out 2014. A loss there would mark the Cowboys' first bowl-less season since 2005—Mike Gundy's first year at the helm.

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Which Future Alabama Studs Showed Out in Win vs. Western Carolina?

Alabama has a wealth of talent that got a chance to shine with its blowout win against Western Carolina. Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Michael Felder and Barrett Sallee talk about some Alabama players who can make a big impact in the future. 

Which player are you most excited about on the Alabama roster?

Watch the video and let us know!

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College Football Playoff Rankings: Biggest Takeaways from Week 13

Yawn.

Is it Tuesday yet? What tortured logic will the selection committee come up with this week to go with "game control" and "eye test"? Will the new monarchy of college football keep last week's top four intact or shuffle things around after decreeing a new metric?

At this point, it's anybody's guess. Saturday provided no shakeup at the top of the rankings since none of the top seven teams lost. There were scant three games involving teams both ranked by the committee, and the only real upset of the day was Arkansas' rout of No. 8 Ole Miss, which had its flickering playoff hopes extinguished.

So we're left with reading the tea leaves on what the committee might be thinking based on how the teams performed this week: Did they control the games against cupcakes? Did their resumes become more or less impressive because of what a team they played two months ago did? Or did they have an awesome week of practice? 

Here's an outlook for each playoff contender:

 

1. Alabama

The Tide didn't exercise complete control in a 48-14 win over Western Carolina, but that should not jeopardize their top ranking. Alabama's only loss looks a bit worse this week, though, as Ole Miss was blanked by SEC West bottom-feeder Arkansas, 30-0.

 

2. Oregon 

The Ducks looked as good as anybody this week, pasting Colorado 44-10 and keeping Marcus Mariota comfortably in front of the Heisman race. Oregon's only loss also now looks better than Alabama's as Arizona moved to 9-2 with an emphatic win over ranked Utah.

 

3. Florida State

This is what FSU does: rally in the second half and win it in the end. The Seminoles did it this time to Boston College, 20-17, and remain the only undefeated team from a power-five conference. They might slide again, but as long as they win out, they'll be in the playoff.

 

4. Mississippi State

The Bulldogs bounced back nicely after losing to Alabama last week and demolished Vanderbilt, 51-0, to stay in the playoff hunt. They need an Auburn upset win in the Iron Bowl and a victory of their own in the Egg Bowl to take the SEC West. Otherwise, MSU likely will cede the playoff spot to a one-loss conference champion.

 

5. TCU

The Horned Frogs were the only Top 10 team to have the week off, but they got a huge helping hand from Minnesota, which they defeated handily, 30-7, earlier in the season. The Gophers are one win away from winning the Big Ten West, and their performance for now is keeping TCU ahead of Baylor.

 

6. Ohio State

The Buckeyes worked deep into the game before finally putting away Indiana, 42-27. Nothing that happened this week improved Ohio State's resume enough to vault it past TCU, so it'll probably stay put, just barely ahead of Baylor.

 

7. Baylor

Every game Baylor wins impressively, it closes the gap on TCU and potentially brings its head-to-head victory into play in the final analysis. The Bears labored to get past Oklahoma State, 49-28, but Kansas State's win at West Virginia is helping to assure them a shot at playing into the playoff field with a win over the Wildcats in the regular-season finale.

 

9. UCLA

The Bruins might be the only two-loss team with a chance to crash the playoff field. After their emphatic 38-20 victory over USC, they need a win over Stanford for a berth into the Pac-12 title game. UCLA will get a good hard look from the committee if it can upset Oregon in that game to win the conference championship.

 

Group-of-Five Teams in the Best Position

Marshall survived its first close game of the season, stuffing UAB on a fourth-down attempt 10 yards from the end zone in the final minute to preserve a 23-18 victory. If the Herd win their next two games to go 13-0, that might be enough to secure the group-of-five spot in the New Year's Six bowl lineup.

Colorado State cruised to another win but its path remains blocked by Boise State, as each team just has a game left in the regular season. If the two-loss Broncos beat Utah State next week, they will win the MWC Mountain Division and get in position to steal the bid if Marshall falters.

 

Projected Conference Championship Matchups

ACC: Florida State* vs. Georgia Tech*

Big Ten: Ohio State* vs. Wisconsin

Pac-12: Oregon* vs. UCLA

SEC: Alabama vs. Georgia

*clinched berth

 

Follow on Twitter @ThePlayoffGuru

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