NCAA Football

NCAA Football Rankings 2014: Hits and Misses from Week 10

Week by week, the College Football Playoff field is getting smaller. Losses for Pac-12 South teams Arizona and Utah in all likelihood knock those three teams out of the playoff race for good. Ole Miss—another two-loss team—may still have a chance, but the outlook is grim. 

As is customary every Sunday, The Associated Press and USA Today released their new Top 25 polls. Though neither of these polls are taken into consideration with the playoff selection committee, they may provide a glimpse into where teams stand. 

You can also check out the latest Bleacher Report Top 25 for comparison.

Which teams were appropriately ranked in the latest Top 25 polls? Which ones weren't? The answers are in the following slides.

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College Football Rankings 2014: Week 11 AP and Amway Standings Revealed

For any detractors of the College Football Playoff—they are few and far between, but amazingly, they do exist—the top critique was that the BCS system essentially made every week a playoff game for the top teams in the nation. 

Well, just ask schools like Ole Miss, Georgia and Arizona if anything has changed. All three lost this weekend. And all three likely kissed their chance at a playoff goodbye.

The stakes have never been higher in college football, and this week illustrated that perfectly. Below, you'll find both the Associated Press and coaches polls, along with a breakdown of the week's action and a forecast for this week's selection committee rankings.

 

Associated Press Poll

 

Coaches Poll

 

Analysis

At this point, there doesn't seem to be a ton of questions over which three teams deserve to be atop the rankings. Undefeated Mississippi State and Florida State are no-brainer selections for the first two spots, while Auburn's impressive win at Ole Miss—coupled with wins over Kansas State and LSU and a lone loss to Mississippi State—has provided it an impressive resume at No. 3. 

Poor Ole Miss. On one play, it saw a go-ahead touchdown with less than two minutes remaining turned into a turnover and a broken leg to key offensive player Laquon Treadwell. And with that, its chances at reaching this year's playoff were almost certainly extinguished. 

Devastating. 

That will leave the selection committee with a big decision to make at the No. 4 spot. While the AP and coaches made their choice, which way will the committee turn?

Oregon certainly made a strong case after demolishing Stanford.

Heather Dinich of ESPN thinks Oregon is the only choice at No. 4 for the committee: 

The Ducks didn’t just snap their two-game losing streak to the Cardinal, they did it in convincing fashion and reasserted themselves as the team to beat in the Pac-12. Oregon broke Stanford's Football Bowl Subdivision-best streak of 31 straight games allowing fewer than 30 points. That was double the number any other school in the country had. 

Oregon beat Stanford with style, sustaining drives against the Cardinal’s stingy defense. The Ducks’ defense also made its case, helping put together a complete performance when they needed it most. 

More than a few folks in the country might disagree with Oregon's case as the obvious No. 4 team.

Alabama didn't play, but its ranking this week seems a bit irrelevant anyway, since in the next two weeks, it faces LSU and Mississippi State, a pair of games that will have huge ramifications in college football. That isn't the only huge game coming up for a No. 4 contender.

Notre Dame facing Arizona State next weekend will eliminate one of those teams from playoff contention. Michigan State vs. Ohio State is essentially a play-in game to reach the Big Ten championship. And TCU and Kansas State will battle it out, with the loser all but being eliminated from playoff contention and possibly a Big-12 title too.

Talk about a brilliant weekend of football. Of course, every weekend is a huge weekend at this point.

"This was a playoff game," Auburn linebacker Kris Frost told The Associated Press, via ESPN, after Auburn survived Ole Miss. "But from here on in, every game is a playoff game. They just get bigger and bigger.''

Indeed they do, Kris. Indeed they do.

 

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College Football Rankings 2014: Twitter Reacts to AP and Amway Week 11 Polls

For college football's elite, style points are no longer important. Margin of victory is an afterthought, replaced by the crossed fingers of "survive and advance" attitude typically more associated with March Madness.

After Week 10, that's probably a good thing. The nation's three best teams were all able to chalk another game in the win column, but none of them made it an easy affair. Mississippi State and Florida State nearly dropped their first game of the season against inferior competition, while Auburn battled down to the wire against Mississippi.   

All got the job done, which is enough for a mostly inert Top 25. The Bulldogs, Seminoles and Tigers are locks to remain in the College Football Playoff outlook, while the Associated Press and Amway Coaches polls continue to back Nick Saban's Alabama team over Oregon.

Here is a look at how the Week 11 polls played out, along with the B/R Top 25:

The week's first scare came Thursday night, when Florida State again made its job a lot harder than it had to be against Louisville. The Cardinals raced out to a 21-0 lead in the second quarter behind running back Michael Dyer and wide receiver DeVante Parker before a lights-out second half from Jameis Winston propelled the Seminoles to a 42-31 win.

Winston, who threw a career-high three interceptions, finished with 401 yards and three touchdowns. His game turned around on the third interception, when he stayed with the play and forced Louisville safety Gerod Holliman to fumble on his return. The reigning Heisman winner was nearly perfect from then on despite playing with an ankle injury.

"Pain is temporary," Winston told reporters. "So I was hurt and I had some limitations, but I wasn't really feeling the pain. I couldn't push off of it really."

ESPN's Scott Van Pelt complimented Winston's ability to compartmentalize:

Two days later Mississippi State and Auburn were sweating bullets of their own. Arkansas held possession for nearly 39 minutes and controlled the pace against the Bulldogs, but Dak Prescott's 69-yard strike to Fred Ross gave the Bulldogs a 17-10 win.

The Razorbacks, who are 0-5 in the SEC, had two critical fourth-quarter drives come away without points. First Alex Collins was stuffed for no gain on a 4th-and-goal play at the Mississippi State 3-yard line, and then Brandon Allen was intercepted on Arkansas' final drive deep inside the red zone. Prescott had his second two-interception game in the last three weeks but threw for a career-high 331 yards.

The Heisman candidate has been more up and down throwing the ball lately, with five of his seven picks coming in the last three weeks. Adam Caplan of ESPN wondered whether his game will translate to the next level:

Game of the Week status, though, goes elsewhere in the SEC. Nick Marshall accounted for four touchdowns as Gus Malzahn's offense won a battle with Hugh Freeze's defense in a 35-31 Auburn victory Saturday night. A back-and-forth affair where no team ever had the momentum for very long, the Tigers scored three of the last four touchdowns and Ole Miss had a potential game-winner wiped off the board late due to a fumble.

Laquon Treadwell caught what was initially ruled a touchdown with 1:30 remaining, but replays showed he fumbled before crossing the plane. Auburn linebacker Cassanova McKinzy clearly recovered the fumble and Auburn was awarded possession, closing out one of the regular season's best contests.

"Our guys find ways to win when its close,” Malzahn told reporters. “Our guys truly believe they are going to win the game if it’s close.”

Ralph D. Russo of The Associated Press thinks Auburn is building a solid playoff resume:

The other candidate for Saturday's most captivating finish came in Morgantown, where a 37-yard Jaden Oberkrom field goal kept TCU's playoff hopes alive. Oberkrom's kick capped off a 13-point comeback from the Horned Frogs, who have emerged as the Big 12's best hope for the final four. A hotly contested loss to Baylor is the only blemish on Gary Patterson's team, which plays Kansas State next week in a game that will set the stage for the remaining Big 12 outlook.

Dan Wolken of USA Today compares TCU favorably to Alabama:

Not looking favorable in comparison to Alabama is Georgia, which was inexplicably thumped by Florida, 38-20, on Saturday. The Gators, who have been among college football's worst offenses throughout Will Muschamp's tenure, racked up 445 total yards behind a fierce rushing game. Kelvin Taylor and Matt Jones combined for 389 yards and four touchdowns, toting the rock 25 times apiece.

Quarterback Treon Harris threw only six times and was rendered a prop with his team employing a throwback to the leather helmet era. As Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee correctly notes, Georgia's loss has zero to do with the absence of suspended running back Todd Gurley:

Bill Connelly of SB Nation also highlighted what an unlikely loss this was for the Bulldogs:

Though not necessarily an upset, UCLA's 17-7 home win over Arizona helped provide clarity in the Pac-12. Arizona State, an overtime victor over Utah, now has the inside track at winning the South Division. The Sun Devils can begin cementing their resume with a win over Notre Dame next week.

Tom Fornelli of CBS Sports is a fan of the Arizona State defense:

In all, Week 10 proved to be a table-setting week. Playoff contenders were further whittled down, Heisman moments were realized and, well, just some random nonsense happened.

Seven days from now we should have a much clearer picture.

 

Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

AP College Football Poll 2014: Complete Week 11 Rankings Released

A Saturday in the fall can make a team's season, but more often than not in college football, it breaks a season instead.

Underestimate a lesser opponent and become the victim of an upset? Kiss the playoff goodbye. Lose for the second week in a row against brutally tough competition? Kiss the playoff goodbye. Show up flat and have an off day? Yup, you can likely kiss the playoff goodbye.    

While the selection committee's rankings are ultimately the only ones that matter at the end of the season, The Associated Press poll offers an interesting preview of what might be to come in the committee's weekly poll. Below, you'll find this week's AP poll, Bleacher Report's official Top 25 and a recap of the weekend's biggest results.
 

Rankings

 

Analysis

For a few teams, the dream all but ended on Saturday. Georgia failed to show up against middling Florida and suffered its second loss of the season. Arizona was stifled by UCLA's defense and the team that upset Oregon earlier in the season has lost two of three since.    

But perhaps no loss was more impactful on the season than Ole Miss' defeat at the hands of Auburn, its second in two weeks after falling to LSU a game prior. And perhaps no loss was more painful, either.

Ole Miss appeared to have the game in hand. With less than two minutes on the clock, Bo Wallace hit receiver Laquon Treadwell on a third-down screen. The playmaker broke three tackles and appeared to score the go-ahead touchdown. But replays would show that as he was being pulled down from behind on a tackle that left him with a broken leg, he had actually fumbled before reaching the end zone and Auburn recovered the ball for a touchback. 

And thus, Ole Miss went from a potential three-point lead to a 35-31 loss and almost assuredly no place in the College Football Playoff. 

"It's just a really, really sickening way to lose," Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze told reporters after the game.

Stewart Mandel of Fox Sports sympathized: 

And Gary Parrish of CBS Sports rubbed it in:

Whoever coined the phrase "adding insult to injury" likely had something similar to this finish in mind. 

The Ole Miss loss changes the debate. Last week, the argument in college football was centered on which teams were deserving of the No. 3 and No. 4 ranking. Now, that argument will shift solely to the No. 4 ranking, as Auburn has clearly locked up a top-three spot given its impressive wins over Kansas State, LSU and Ole Miss and a lone loss on the road against Mississippi State. 

Schools like Alabama, Oregon, Notre Dame, Michigan State and TCU appear to have the best cases to make at the moment. The Associated Press made its choice, but it will be fascinating to see which team replaces Ole Miss when the selection committee releases its poll.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Michigan Football: Wolverines Must Feed Drake Johnson More Carries

All Drake Johnson needed was a chance—a real chance—to prove that he was worthy of a more significant role in Michigan’s backfield.

And while the redshirt sophomore has several miles to go, he launched himself onto the fast track Saturday with 16 carries for 122 yards and two touchdowns during the Wolverines' 34-10 homecoming win over Indiana—and it couldn’t have been a more fitting debut for the former Ann Arbor Pioneer star who used to dream, from across the street, of running wild at The Big House.

"That was just a complete rush of emotion," Johnson said, recalling his 10-yard score, according to MLive.com’s Brendan F. Quinn. "I jumped up there and was like, wait, wait, I need to get down. I don't want to do anything dumb. I think the first touchdown was...I can't think of any word but magical."

After the game, coach Brady Hoke said that Johnson’s “always been very motivated and a hard worker.” Not long ago, an ACL injury derailed the hometown product’s progress. But going back to 2013, Johnson has been a constant topic of conversation and a contender for more snaps.

However, the subtle emergence of Derrick Green and De’Veon Smith put him on the backburner.

But on Oct. 4, Green was lost for the season after breaking his clavicle against Rutgers. That opened the door for Smith, who’s shown glimpses of power but has lacked consistency—and that, in turn, cracked the window for Johnson, who had five carries (two versus Appalachian State; three against Michigan State) for 41 yards entering homecoming.

Today, everyone is wondering what took the Wolverines so long to incorporate the kid who once occupied the bottom of the depth chart.  

“He took an advantage of an opportunity and did a heck of a job,” Hoke said, later taking a moment to acknowledge Johnson’s skill set by saying, “He's more of a slasher than the others (team RBs) and I think the one thing he does have is, he has a very good burst, you know, when you look at the gears. He's got the ability to take it the distance, also.”

 

What to do with De’Veon?

With exception to Week 1’s rumble for 115 yards and two touchdowns, Smith, an ideal-size bruiser at 5’11” and 223 pounds, has been hit or miss. Actually, a better comparison would be bunt or miss. Since his season-opening eruption, he’s been good for five to 50 yards a game with an occasional touchdown.

That’s not close to No. 2 production, let alone No. 1.

Smith has been caught in a web of indecision. When warmed up, he’s an aggressive runner who breaks tackles and picks up a few yards after contact. But when he’s idle, or barely running—which is usually due to being sidelined by coaches—he’s prone to running into his own linemen and gaining very little.

Again, he’s a good back. But until further notice, it’s time for him to move over for Johnson, who showed much more on 16 carries than Smith has with 77 attempts.

 

It’d Be Justice for Drake

Green’s injury also opened the door for Hayes. But Hayes hasn’t taken full advantage of opportunities, not like Johnson did Saturday, anyway.

Like Smith, Hayes has flashed his hand every now and then. But he’s either trump tight, or he’s on the verge of busting. There is no in between for the 5’10”, 190-pound junior who carried the ball six times for 21 yards versus the Hoosiers.

Fifteen of those yards came at once.

And like Smith, Hayes should prepare to make way for Johnson.

Due to his great hands, Hayes is more suited for the slot, not the backfield. He can endure hits, but he doesn’t always successfully absorb and advance.

Like Johnson, he has cut moves upon cut moves, but the lack of durability is a serious concern. That’s what has kept him off the field for three years—well, that and injury, which is a byproduct of his lack of mass.

 

More Clock!

The so-called experts can lobby all they want—writers, TV analysts and radio personalities have all praised Johnson's breakout versus Indiana. 

But the props carry a little more weight when they come from a guy who's been there, done that. Roy Roundtree, one of Michigan's recent standouts, fought hard to get his shot. While he didn't didn't sit as much as Johnson or play running back, the former receiver certainly recognizes when it's the next guy's turn. 

 

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

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

 

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College Football Playoff 2014: Bracket Predictions Ahead of Week 11

Just one Top 10 team fell in Week 10, but it was enough to likely knock that program out of the playoff picture. No. 4 Ole Miss came up short against SEC-rival Auburn at home, leaving the door open for another team to creep into the top-four discussion.

The Rebels' slide might mean big things for No. 5 Oregon in the College Football Playoff committee's rankings. But with several weeks remaining in the season, what did Week 10 of the college football season tell us about how the playoff will shape up?

Can the Ducks rout opponents the rest of the way? Will the SEC West keep two teams in the playoff? What do we make of Florida State barely escaping Louisville with a win on Thursday night?

All of those questions and more will be answered the rest of the way. For now, here's a look at predictions for who will make the semifinals.

 

Breakdown of Predictions

Not much has changed in my mind about who the top four teams will be at the end of the year. In fact, Mississippi State and Ole Miss' performances made the projections look even better.

The Bulldogs will likely remain the No. 1 team in the country thanks to their win over Arkansas. However, the close margin of victory proved they aren't as mighty as once perceived in the SEC. Chase Goodbread of NFL.com shared his thoughts on Dak Prescott and Mississippi State as a whole:

Prescott, a leading candidate for the Heisman Trophy, threw for a career-high 331 yards on 18 of 27 passing, but also threw a pair of interceptions—his fourth and fifth over the last three games—to help keep the Razorbacks in the game until late in the fourth quarter.

But it was Mississippi State that scored 17 straight points for the win, and Prescott who found Fred Ross for a 69-yard touchdown pass for the game-winning points in the fourth quarter.

Even if Mississippi State does stumble in one game—which I predict will happen against Alabama—it has a chance to make it to the playoff. Currently projected at No. 4, they should make it to the playoff and have a shot at the title.

Mississippi State wasn't the only top team to scuffle in Week 10, as Florida State narrowly pulled out a win. The Seminoles needed a late charge in the first half and an outburst in the third and fourth quarters to remain undefeated.

That also sparked some comments from Jameis Winston about the makeup of the team, per ESPN:

Just one more true test remains for the Noles against Miami on Nov. 15, who is currently riding a three-game winning streak. Pass that test and another rivalry game against Florida, and FSU will be competing for another championship in January.

One program that continues to roll is Oregon after a midseason loss to Arizona. A 29-point win over Stanford should be enough to move the Ducks into the top four in the playoff committee rankings.

Much like Prescott and Winston propelling their teams to great seasons, Marcus Mariota continues to excel for Oregon. Dane Brugler of CBS Sports provided a look at his astounding career statistics:

The final team projected in the playoff is one of the only teams not to make any noise this week. With a bye, Alabama actually got some help from Auburn in the win over Ole Miss.

Ralph D. Russo of The Associated Press points out exactly what the Crimson Tide need to make the playoff:

Having a ridiculous schedule ahead, winning out is not at all guaranteed. But with contests against Mississippi State and Auburn at home, coming away with those victories might be enough to boost Bama to the No. 2 spot in the playoff.

If they can continue their winning ways, the Tide will be one to watch in the postseason. Potentially going against an Oregon offense clicking on all cylinders, nothing will be easy for the Tide or any other team in the final four.

 

Follow @RCorySmith on Twitter.

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Texas A&M vs. Auburn Complete Game Preview

The Texas A&M football team will play the Auburn Tigers on Saturday in Auburn, Alabama. The Aggies will need to play at a different level than they have in the past few weeks, if they want to leave the plains with a win. 

Texas A&M is 6-3 on the season and 2-3 in the SEC. The Auburn Tigers are 7-1 on the season and ranked No. 3 in the latest college football playoff rankings. 

The Aggies barely scraped by Louisiana-Monroe 21-16 to earn their sixth win and become bowl eligible. They are playing poor football right now with their offense struggling to consistently gain first downs. 

Auburn is one of the top teams in the nation, while A&M is playing like one of the worst teams in the nation. The Aggies are 1-3 in their last four games and appear ready to get the season over with. They will need a tremendous effort from the coaches and players in order to make a game of it at Auburn. 

This is a look at how the Aggies match up with the Tigers.  

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ESPN "College GameDay" Headed to Michigan State vs. Ohio State for Week 11

ESPN's College GameDay is heading north for a rematch of last year's Big Ten Championship Game.

Chris, Lee, Herbie and the crew will make camp next week in East Lansing, Michigan, to watch the Michigan State Spartans host the Ohio State Buckeyes, the show's official Twitter account announced Sunday morning:

Michigan State beat Ohio State 34-24 in last year's conference title game, handing OSU head coach Urban Meyer his first loss in nearly two years with the program. Before that, he had started his tenure with 24 consecutive wins.

More than ending the winning streak, though, Sparty ruined Ohio State's chances of playing for the BCS National Championship, something it was a virtual lock to do had it finished the year 13-0. Instead, the Buckeyes had to "settle" for a trip to the Orange Bowl, where they lost a shootout to Clemson, 40-35.

"The dream was ripped away from us," Meyer said of last year 's Big Ten title game , per Ben Axelrod of Bleacher Report.

"This is a motivated team."

Michigan State, too, is motivated to beat the Buckeyes, knowing full well that the Big Ten East title will be on the line. Both teams are 7-1 overall and 4-0 in conference play and harbor dreams of making the College Football Playoff, but whoever loses this game, for all intents and purposes, will be eliminated from that discussion.

The Spartans were featured on College GameDay earlier in the season, losing a deceptively competitive game at Oregon, 46-27. They led by nine points in the third quarter of that game before fading away late, a fate they almost repeated in their closest Big Ten game of the season, a manic 27-22 win over Nebraska in Week 6.

College GameDay has attended the last two Michigan State-Ohio State meetings, cementing this as one of the best nascent rivalries in college football.

In addition to last year's Big Ten title game, the show also came to East Lansing when the Spartans hosted the Buckeyes in 2012—a game the latter won 17-16 en route to a 12-0 regular season (after which they were not eligible to play in the postseason).

This year, the show chose a third straight trip to Michigan State-Ohio State over, chiefly, Kansas State at TCU, Alabama at LSU and Notre Dame at Arizona State. All three of those games would have made fine selections, but it's hard to quibble with the biggest (if not the only big) game left on the Big Ten schedule.

"This is why you come to Ohio State," said Buckeyes quarterback J.T. Barrett, per Joe Rexrode of the Detroit Free Press. "To go play Michigan State at Michigan State."

Sorry, Wolverines fans.

There's a new That Team Up North.

 

Follow Brian Leigh on Twitter @BLeighDAT.

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Amway College Football Poll 2014: Complete Week 11 Rankings Released

The 2014 college football regular season has been wild and unpredictable, and another week full of intense action has resulted in turnover on the Week 11 Amway Coaches Top 25 poll.     

With Auburn beating Ole Miss in the game of the week and several other ranked teams involved in hard-fought outcomes, college football fans were treated to a schedule of games that lived up to the hype.

Here are the complete Amway and Bleacher Report rankings for Week 11.   

 

 

Breaking Down Week 10

Just when you thought it was safe to sit back and enjoy college football without complete madness breaking out, Week 10 reared its ugly head and had fans on the edge of their seats starting Thursday when Florida State played.

FSU managed to beat Louisville in a tougher-than-expected matchup, but the Seminoles still earned the win. With the battle against the Cardinals being the last true test until the final game of the season against Florida, an unblemished record looks like a real possibility for the Seminoles.

When asked about the difficult matchup against Louisville, Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston had this response, per Gary B. Graves of The Associated Press, via FloridaToday.com: “I told them, ‘We've been here before.’ Being down is nothing when you've got heart. Honestly, we play better when we're down. We do anything to win. We don't enjoy being down.”

The madness continued Saturday when the No. 1-ranked Mississippi State Bulldogs were involved in an intense battle against Arkansas, winning 17-10. While this victory won’t help the team impress voters, the gritty wins are those that build confidence within a program. With Mississippi State still scheduled to play Alabama and Ole Miss, though, the Bulldogs need to figure out what’s wrong with the offensive unit if they want to remain in playoff contention.

In the best matchup of the weekend, the Auburn Tigers took on the Ole Miss Rebels in the college football equivalent of a heavyweight boxing match. With the chance to cement its spot in the College Football Playoff, Auburn outlasted Ole Miss, 35-31, and has proven to be one of the top four teams in the sport this season.

ESPN’s Paul Finebaum broke down the outcome of the marquee matchup perfectly:

Another impressive matchup was TCU beating West Virginia, 31-30. The two teams fought incredibly hard throughout the game and the matchup was finally settled by a game-winning field goal. The Horned Frogs continue to show the tenacity needed to be a threat in a postseason format.

Not all of Saturday’s games were close. Oregon, Kansas State, Baylor, Nebraska, Ohio State and Oklahoma all managed to earn lopsided victories in Week 10.

It wasn’t all positive news for several of the teams that entered the week ranked, as Georgia, Arizona and Utah were all handed heartbreaking defeats.

With plenty of turnover and enough intense on-field action to satisfy fans until next week, it’s a good time to be a college football fan.

 

*Stats via ESPN.com.

 

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How Texas Longhorns Must Use Texas Tech Win to Build Momentum for Final Stretch

LUBBOCK, Texas — The Texas Longhorns may not have put up 82 points against Texas Tech, but Saturday's 34-13 win in Lubbock has given the team a much-needed confidence boost before it prepares for the tough road ahead.

The Longhorns had a slow start against the Red Raiders, but a huge hit from Quandre Diggs—which knocked out quarterback Patrick Mahomes from the game—changed the momentum.

"It was just a good hit," Diggs said. "I came in, saw he was running and did what I was supposed to do to get my team fired up. Those are plays I need to make each and every week to get the guys going and do what I do."

It certainly got the team going.

Running back Malcolm Brown picked up his first 100-yard rushing performance of the season. And quarterback Tyrone Swoopes bounced back following an atrocious fumble that was recovered by Texas Tech in the end zone to give the Red Raiders an early lead, and he finished the game completing 13-of-25 passes for 228 yards and a touchdown.

"I [asked] them before the game, 'What team will show up today? Is it going to be a team that plays with a lot of passion, a lot of confidence? A team that has a lot of pride and just understands what we have to go get done?'" Texas head coach Charlie Strong said following Saturday's game.

And the head coach got the confident team.

Some critics will disregard the win because it was against a struggling Texas Tech team. But the Longhorns need to ignore any critics and use the momentum from Saturday's game to their advantage.

Strong has been brutally honest when discussing the ups and downs of his Longhorns; the team has been inconsistent all season. 

Even though there is still work that needs to be done, Saturday's game was one of the most complete performances of the year.

"I think we can all get better in each phase of the game, but we played a well-rounded game and [have] got to get back to work this week," Diggs said. "We are going to enjoy this one right now, but once tomorrow hits, we have to get back to work."

November is one of the most significant and telling months in college football. It's the last chance for competitors to put up or shut up.

If the Longhorns want to make it to a bowl game, Texas has to emulate the game plan from Texas Tech for the gauntlet final stretch of the season against West Virginia, Oklahoma State and TCU.

"There are three more games to go," Strong said. "We have West Virginia at home next week, so it's great to get this win, and now we can get back home and get ready to play West Virginia."

 

Taylor Gaspar is Bleacher Report's featured columnist covering the Texas Longhorns. Follow Taylor on Twitter: @Taylor_Gaspar.

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Steve Spurrier Gives 54-Second Press Conference After Loss to Tennessee

The University of South Carolina lost an overtime heartbreaker to the University of Tennessee, 45-42, and Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier was in no mood for questions.

Spurrier was so upset that the postgame press conference, which normally takes 10-to-15 minutes, lasted approximately 54 seconds and involved zero questions.

You can read a transcript of his entire conference below.

The loss to Tennessee marked the third time the Gamecocks have lost after they were up by at least 13 points in the fourth quarter. They're now 4-5 this season and 2-5 in conference play.

[Footballscoop.com]

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Steve Spurrier Is a Legend, but There's No Excuse for Press-Conference Pouting

Steve Spurrier is a legend, but Saturday night in Columbia, the "Head Ball Coach" went too far.

After his team fell 45-42 in overtime to Tennessee at Williams-Brice Stadium and gave up 645 yards to the Vols in the process, Spurrier crossed the line.

Instead of participating in the postgame "press conference," he treated it like a lecture, speaking for 62 seconds before saying "I don't need to take any questions. You guys watched it."

That's unacceptable.

As the leader of his program and the players on his roster, Spurrier should know better. He should set a good example for the program and his players and own up to his problems.

He should own the moment.

Sure, this might get viewed as a media rant, and you might say that Spurrier doesn't owe the media anything.

You're wrong. As the face of the program, he owes the media and fans an explanation for what's gone wrong. If it gets repetitive, that's fine. That's a Spurrier problem, not a media problem.

It is part of his job to meet after the game and, more importantly, be the face of the program. Right now, the face of the Gamecocks program appears to be running from the problems that he played a major part in creating instead of owning them, despite the fact that there's a giant image of Spurrier on the side of Williams-Brice Stadium.

That's not the media's fault, that's Spurrier's fault.

South Carolina doesn't have the personnel on defense to compete for the SEC East—even the 2014 SEC East, which is more of a punchline than a power. It's been that way all season long, and while he may get tired of answering the same questions about his defense, it's his responsibility.

The Head Ball Coach got a contract extension and a raise to $4 million per year this offseason. With that kind of coin coming in, hanging much-maligned defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward out to dry to answer questions isn't something a leader does. Hanging 18-to-22-year-old players out to dry to answer questions isn't something a leader does.

Spurrier gets a pass for a lot of things he says, because...well...he's Spurrier. He's honest, forthcoming and fun in press conferences. Because of that, many will give him a pass in this instance.

Brad Crawford of SaturdayDownSouth.com didn't.

He shouldn't get a pass. 

Not from the media, not from South Carolina fans and not from anybody.

This wasn't "classic Spurrier," this was "coward Spurrier."

This is a guy who willfully allowed his assistants and players to take the heat instead of owning the problems for which he's responsible.

He is the face of the South Carolina program, and right now, that program has the face of a coward.

Not a good look.

 

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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Oregon Is Pac-12's Best Playoff Team but Wild South Division Could Play Spoiler

The single most exciting element of this 2014 college football season is that no team is head and shoulders above the rest. If anything, this is the perfect year to implement a four-team playoff. 

To be clear, there are a lot of excellent teams. Florida State, Mississippi State, Auburn, TCU, Michigan State—the list of undefeated and one-loss teams realistically vying for a playoff spot in November is eclectic. 

Without officially ruling any team out, the Pac-12's best chance to send a team to the playoff would appear to be 8-1 Oregon. The Ducks have a key nonconference win against Michigan State and the inside track out of the North division to the Pac-12 Championship Game. 

That happened Saturday when Oregon stopped a two-game slide against Stanford, statistically one of the best defenses in the country, in a 45-16 win. The score snapped a 31-game streak in which the Cardinal did not allow more than 30 points a game.

Stanford may be average at 5-4, but the dismantling by the Ducks is more impressive than they might get credit for. If anything, it shows Oregon is playing its best football right now. 

If Oregon makes its way to the Pac-12 title, the question isn't whether a South division team can pull the upset. That was answered in early October when Arizona traveled to Autzen Stadium and came away with a 31-24 win. 

Rather, the more pertinent question is whether any team from the Pac-12 South can upend Oregon again given the way the Ducks are cruising. 

As far as the regular season goes, Utah will have an opportunity to do just that next Saturday, Nov. 8, at home. The Utes are coming off of a 19-16 overtime loss to Arizona State, so their playoff hopes are basically over. (A 28-27 loss to Washington State in September is a killer.)

But that doesn't mean Utah can't play the role of spoiler and hand Oregon its second loss of the season. Whether that actually happens, though, remains to be seen. Similar to Stanford, Utah plays solid defense (21.3 points per game allowed, 3.19 yards per rush allowed) and is so-so on offense. 

Assuming Utah doesn't gash Oregon's pass defense—the Utes rank last in the Pac-12 in passing offense—Oregon is probably in the clear if it jumps out to a big lead. 

The Utes are part of a revolving door in the Pac-12 South. Arizona State stands alone atop the division—for now—with a 5-1 conference record. Four other teams—USC, UCLA, Arizona and the Utes—all have two conferences losses. Trying to dissect tie-breakers and possible outcomes is headache-inducing. 

"We're in the driver's seat and that's where we want to be," Sun Devils quarterback Taylor Kelly said, via The Associated Press (h/t ESPN.com).

Does that make the Pac-12 South deep or average? That's a matter of perception, but the fact is four of those teams were ranked in the College Football Playoff Top 25 heading into Week 10. For what it's worth, UCLA has the nation's 11th-toughest schedule, per Jeff Sagarin's ratings

If nothing else, the South division is exciting and embodies the chaos of the '14 season. 

Are any of those teams legitimate playoff contenders? Arizona State is the most likely choice if it wins out, as Ralph D. Russo of The Associated Press points out. At that point, it would have wins over Notre Dame, Oregon, Utah and Arizona. 

However, the Sun Devils' lone loss is a 62-27 rout at the hands of UCLA. Again, all teams this season have blemishes, even the undefeated ones. But 62-27 is a difficult score to overcome regardless. What's happening around the rest of the college football landscape could be a huge factor. 

Clearly, there's a lot at play and just as much still to be decided. The way the Pac-12 South has gone, the title game could feature anyone except Colorado. 

And the way the season has gone, no team is immune to the upset. Oregon of all teams should know that. The Pac-12 has two teams with a playoff shot. In a moment's notice, though, it could have none. 

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. All stats courtesy of cfbstats.com

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Oregon Is Pac-12's Best Playoff Team but Wild South Division Could Play Spoiler

The single most exciting element of this 2014 college football season is that no team is head and shoulders above the rest. If anything, this is the perfect year to implement a four-team playoff...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

NCAA Football Playoff 2014: Latest Predictions After Week 10 Standings

Ole Miss has had a great year so far, but the team has almost no chance of reaching the College Football Playoff after suffering its second-straight loss on Saturday.

A fumble on the goal line by Laquon Treadwell gave the Auburn Tigers the 35-31 win. The seemingly serious injury to Treadwell's left leg made the game secondary and added insult to injury. Treadwell was carted off, and per Dr. Dave Siebert of Bleacher Report, will probably miss the remainder of the season.

With the win, the Auburn Tigers' hopes of reaching the College Football Playoff have been invigorated. It could all wind up coming down to a tussle with the rival Alabama Crimson Tide in the Iron Bowl.

That's where Auburn figures to stumble.

Few—if any—team is playing as well as Alabama is right now. Since losing to Ole Miss and inching by the Arkansas Razorbacks the following week, Alabama has outscored its opponents (Texas A&M and Tennessee) 93-20. 

Surely Nick Saban's bunch will make the CFP, right?

Not by my estimation. As good as Alabama has played, it's hard for me to see them going through LSU, Mississippi State, Auburn and the SEC title game—assuming they get there—without a loss.

With a loss already this season, that's more than likely what 'Bama would need to make it in to the top four. Because of that murderer's row of a schedule, 'Bama is not in my projected top four.

 

Who Will Reach the Top Four?

Florida State

The No. 1 Florida State Seminoles has passed all of its significant regular-season tests. It probably won't play another ranked team until the ACC title game. That looks like a matchup with the No. 21 Duke Blue Devils. Jamison Crowder and Co. pulled out a 51-48 double-overtime win over the Pittsburgh Panthers on Saturday, but they don't figure to trouble the Noles.

Because of the easy schedule, Florida State looks like a virtual lock to hold down the top spot in the final CFP bracket. 

 

Mississippi State

The team that emerges out of the SEC will likely be No. 2. For me, that has to be the Mississippi State Bulldogs. There will be some sentiment that Alabama is the best team in the conference, but with two losses, it will be impossible to elevate the Tide over the Bulldogs whom I see escaping the rigorous SEC West with just one loss.

Losing to 'Bama on Nov. 15 won't plummet the Bulldogs too far to recover, as they will still be the only SEC West team with one loss. Neither the Missouri Tigers or Georgia Bulldogs will be a match for Mississippi State in the SEC championship, thus Dak Prescott and that nasty defense will enter the CFP.

 

Oregon Ducks

Marcus Mariota and the Oregon Ducks exorcised the Stanford Cardinal demon on Saturday with a lopsided 45-16 win. The Ducks still have a tough battle on the road against No. 17 Utah next week, but that is a game Oregon is expected to win.

As long as the Ducks don't stumble in the Pac-12 Championship, they should be the No. 3 seeds.

 

Michigan State

The last seed should belong to the Michigan State Spartans. Everything is riding on the Nov. 8 showdown with the Ohio State Buckeyes. If Mark Dantonio's team can beat the Buckeyes, it won't play another ranked team in the regular season.

In the Big Ten championship, the Spartans are likely to play the Nebraska Cornhuskers, whom they have already beaten this season. 

As a one loss Big Ten team, the Spartans are a perfect fit for the No. 4 spot.

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NCAA Football Rankings 2014: Week 11 Standings for College's Top 25 Teams

If we've learned anything to this point in the 2014 college football season, it's that no team is safe on any given week. Plenty of the nation's previously top-ranked teams suffered losses—or, at the very least, major scares—to unranked opponents, and we saw more of the same in Week 10.

No. 1 Mississippi State was pushed to the brink by Arkansas, No. 11 Georgia was pummeled by Florida, fans of No. 10 Notre Dame were given heart attacks by Navy, and No. 3 Auburn emerged victorious in an epic clash against No. 4 Ole Miss. Now, that's quality entertainment.

Almost every Top 25 team was involved in some Saturday madness in one way, shape or form. The College Football Playoff picture has been shaken up after practically every week this season. There's no reason to think that won't happen once again as we head into Week 11.

With the dust settled across the nation, here's a glimpse at how each of college's top teams fared in Week 10.

College Football Playoff rankings can be viewed at CollegeFootballPlayoff.com.

The complete AP Poll rankings can be viewed at CollegeFootball.AP.org.

 

Breakdown

The week began with Florida State surviving Louisville to remain undefeated. Perhaps the Seminoles' struggles against the Cardinals proved to be the writing on the wall for the remainder of a crazy week.

Mississippi State suddenly doesn't resemble the juggernaut it once was. Quarterback Dak Prescott threw for a career-high 331 yards, but the team simply couldn't get its ground game going, averaging just 3.7 yards per carry. A minus-two turnover differential against an unranked opponent is also concerning going forward.

Pete Prisco of CBS Sports doesn't appear to believe in the Bulldogs:

Auburn performed as expected, utilizing its ground game to defeat Ole Miss in a shootout. The Tigers racked up 502 yards of offense and scored 35 points against what has supposed to be a very stout Ole Miss defense. Bo Wallace and Co. played well, but the team didn't have enough firepower to compete in the end.

According to ESPN Stats & Info, Auburn has become very good at emerging victorious in shootouts:

Oregon put on the most impressive performance of the week. The Ducks torched a very good Stanford defense for 45 points due to another Heisman-worthy performance by quarterback Marcus Mariota. The game snapped the Cardinal's 31-game streak of holding opponents to fewer than 30 points.

The win was a big one for Mariota's college career, via SportsCenter:

TCU escaped West Virginia, as a 37-yard field goal as time expired earned the Horned Frogs a victory. The Mountaineers will be thinking about their five turnovers all week long.

Notre Dame allowed Navy to remain in the mix deep into the fourth quarter, but the Fighting Irish prevailed in the end. Duke had a tough time against Pittsburgh, winning in double overtime on a Thomas Sirk five-yard touchdown run.

Not every contest was a close one on Saturday, as some teams fared extremely well in Week 10. Kansas State, Baylor, Nebraska, Ohio State and Oklahoma all went ahead early and didn't look back, winning by huge margins.

Even the late games on Saturday were chock-full of surprises. Arizona was upset by UCLA after allowing quarterback Brett Hundley to run rampant throughout the contest. Arizona State was pushed to the brink by Utah, but overcame the visiting team with a field goal in overtime.

A couple of teams suffered terrible losses on Saturday. East Carolina was upended by Temple due to a whopping five fumbles lost. Here's a look at the game's odd final numbers, via ESPN Stats & Info:

Georgia's defense looked terrible, allowing the Florida Gators to rack up 418 rushing yards and five touchdowns en route to a lopsided win for the underdog.

The season just continues to get more interesting by the week. At this point in the season, every contending team must treat each contest like a playoff game. Small mishaps must be avoided at all costs, as they continue to be devastating—and potentially season-ending.

A new slate of season-altering games will soon be upon us, as Week 11 looms on the horizon. With potential berths in the College Football Playoff or other prestigious bowl games on the line, every contending team must be at its best. College football in November isn't for the meek.

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Georgia Football: Bulldogs Must Fix Run Defense to Keep SEC Title Hopes Alive

Saturday’s game was supposed to give the Georgia Bulldogs a fourth consecutive win over the Florida Gators and further control of the SEC East.  Instead, an inability to stop the Gators’ ground attack resulted in one of the most embarrassing Georgia losses in recent history.

And while there are still plenty of meaningful goals that can be accomplished by this Georgia team, the Bulldogs must fix their run defense to have any shot at an SEC Championship.

In the case of Saturday’s game, statistics tell quite a story.  Florida ran the ball 60 times while attempting just six passes.  Further review makes it abundantly clear that this disproportionate load had less to do with freshman quarterback Treon Harris’ inability to pass and tons to do with Georgia’s complete failure against the run.

As Bulldogs defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt asked rhetorically (per Seth Emerson of Macon's The Telegraph), "If you can’t stop it, why would you do something else?  When you look up and they’ve got over 400 yards rushing, it’s pretty obvious we couldn’t stop it.”

Florida's 60 carries, 50 of which belonged to Kelvin Taylor and Matt Jones, resulted in 418 rushing yards and five rushing touchdowns.  And on a day when things did not go as planned, each and every one of those yards negated something positive for Georgia. 

Freshman running back Nick Chubb accounted for 215 yards while replacing suspended star running back Todd Gurley in the Bulldogs lineup.  But Georgia’s glaring deficiency against the run made that effort fruitless. 

Quarterback Hutson Mason threw for 319 yards, but that didn’t matter because Georgia couldn’t stop the Gators on the ground.

When all was said and done, what appeared to be an even game based on the box score was a blowout win for Florida in which Georgia never really seemed capable of winning.  And the Bulldogs' struggles defending the run leave ongoing cause for concern at two levels.

First and foremost, Saturday’s display calls into question the toughness of coordinator Jeremy Pruitt’s unit.  Time and time again, Florida lined up with one sole intention—to run the ball.  And time and time again, Georgia yielded yardage—both in large bunches and in hard-earned five-to-seven-yard gains.

Georgia had shown glimpses of unrest against the run, particularly in the loss to South Carolina when backup running back Brandon Wilds consistently picked up first downs and advanced the Gamecocks’ cause in a narrow victory.  But Saturday’s shortcomings were more alarming, because Florida’s game plan was so abundantly clear from the onset.

Florida attempted just five passes in the first half, so Georgia began stacking the box.  In a second half that saw Florida attempt just one pass, the Gators racked up 256 rushing yards.  And that was with safeties like Quincy Mauger and Corey Moore sneaking up to play the run and Damian Swann cheating in from his star position.

Florida didn’t merely happen upon yards as Georgia’s defense struggled to anticipate play-calling (which was partly the case against South Carolina).  On the contrary, the Gators willed yardage against Georgia’s front throughout the contest, even with clear intentions.  And it should be noted that unlike Georgia’s offense, which played without its best player (Gurley), the Bulldogs defense was fully intact.

The second and more pressing concern is that Florida didn’t just expose a weakness, the Gators exposed a weakness that several future Georgia opponents will be able to exploit.

Two of Georgia’s remaining four opponents, Auburn and Georgia Tech, rank in the Top 10 nationally in rushing offense.  Accordingly, the Tigers and Yellow Jackets must feel awfully good about moving the football against the Bulldogs.  After all, two Gators, Jones and Taylor, ran for career highs against Georgia on Saturday.  And they did so against a healthy Georgia defense and without even feigning a desire to pass.

And if Georgia plays its way into the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta, something that seemed all but assured prior to the Florida game but now is entirely up in the air, the Bulldogs will likely face Mississippi State, Auburn or Alabama.  Those three teams combined average more than 250 rushing yards per contest.

The absence of Todd Gurley, the improvement of Hutson Mason and the emergence of the defensive secondary are no longer hindering this Georgia team.  But a much more alarming deficiency defined this team yesterday.  Georgia needs to make the loss to Florida and the onslaught of rushing yards allowed an outlier performance.  Otherwise, the Bulldogs can say goodbye to dreams of an SEC Championship.

 

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand and all stats courtesy of Sports-Reference.com.

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Alabama Back on the Rise as Tide Rolls Toward Death Valley

For a team that’s riding into Death Valley this week, Alabama’s spirits should be unusually high.

The Crimson Tide spent Saturday on the sidelines, enjoying the rest and healing that comes from a bye week, yet they saw their status for the College Football Playoff soar.

Yes, Nick Saban’s crew is very much back in the hunt for a national championship, even after getting written off by many (including me) when it struggled at Arkansas.

But Alabama will be no worse than fifth when the next round of CFP rankings surfaces on Tuesday, which is a great place to be for a team that’s certain to blow past the only team it has lost to, Ole Miss.

The schedule is also loaded with the control-your-own-destiny factor for Alabama. Both games with higher-ranked teams—Nov. 15 with Mississippi State and Nov. 29 with Auburn—will take place in Tuscaloosa. Alabama’s scouting crew no doubt has some fresh ideas about how to unseat those two SEC West rivals after seeing both taken to the wire in narrow victories on Saturday.

That’s what’s really good for the rising Tide. Every team ahead of it suddenly looks as vulnerable as Alabama did after losing to Ole Miss and then grinding out that 14-13 squeaker at Arkansas on Oct. 11 on a missed PAT.

If Alabama deserved to get kicked to get curb after struggling at Arkansas, shouldn’t No. 1 Mississippi State be under the same scrutiny after surviving the Razorbacks at home by the mere count of 17-10?

Dak Prescott wasn’t operating on two good wheels for MSU, but three first-half turnovers made the Bulldogs’ top-ranked status look shaky as they hit a rugged homestretch.

No. 2 Florida State has a relatively weak schedule the rest of the way, but it is developing a bad habit of falling behind early and needing minor miracles to remain undefeated.

Louisville had the Seminoles firmly on the ropes recently, and it’s not unthinkable they could be kept there by one of the two resurgent in-state rivals it must face.

FSU has a Nov. 15 date at Miami, which is 6-3 and climbing after beating its last three opponents by a cumulative score of 132-60. The Seminoles finish at home against Florida, and the Gators just went from doormats to dominators while perhaps saving Will Muschamp’s job with a thrashing of Georgia.

No. 3 Auburn remains the best of the once-beatens, but only because Ole Miss fumbled the ball away inside the 10-yard line twice in the final five minutes on Saturday.

And while Oregon looked strong against traditional nemesis Stanford, Alabama should be able to leapfrog the Ducks if it wins out.

That’s the tough part. But Saturday was probably the perfect time for an off day, as the Tide braces for its trip to Louisiana State. 

Death Valley has been a graveyard for many SEC West hopefuls, including Ole Miss this season. Alabama has been 2-1 there in the Saban era, and they’ve all been nail-biters. The Tide won in overtime in 2008, lost 24-21 in 2010 and salvaged a 21-17 win in 2012.

This year, they’ll head to Baton Rouge with momentum that will justify every “Roll Tide” chant. They’ve won their last two games over Texas A&M and Tennessee by a combined 93-20 score and the Alabama defense has yet to allow 400-yard game.

"This team is getting better and better every week," quarterback Blake Sims told the Montgomery Advertiser last week. "We are becoming even closer. We want to play hard for each other. The coaches fight for each other. We want to play harder for them."

Sims also has added a “Shake and Blake” element to his attack. With touchdown runs of 43 and 28 yards in the last two games, Alabama has the threat of a running quarterback for what seems like the first time in forever.

“He has brought an added dimension that coach Saban has never had at Alabama, with a guy that can run like that,” former Alabama quarterback Jay Barker told the Associated Press.

And for a program with such a rich football legacy, the 2014 edition of the Crimson Tide is on a somewhat surprising pace to set a flock of school records. Projections by AL.com envision Sims raising the bar for most passing yards, Amari Cooper rewriting the receiving section and Alabama setting a new mark for total offense.

On the other side of the ball, Alabama is getting back junior linebacker Denzel Devall just in time for the trip to Death Valley. He’s one of the Tide’s most experienced defenders, and he will add depth to a unit that needs just one more sack to match last season’s total of 22.

If there’s a flaw in the Alabama attack, it’s with the kicking game. Adam Griffith made his first seven field goal attempts this season, then missed four of his next five. He has been used sparingly the last two times out, attempting only one three-pointer, and he missed a point-after at Tennessee.

At a press conference last week, Saban said Griffith has “a little bit of a physical problem” that has limited his practice, but he wouldn’t elaborate.

But with the way Alabama has rebounded, the team looks determined not to let its chances for a fourth national championship in six seasons come down to a kick. 

 

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

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Bowl Predictions: Updated Playoff Projections Heading into Week 11

Surprise, surprise—college football fans were treated to another incredible slate of games in Week 10 that impacted the postseason picture.

The College Football Playoff looms over seemingly every single game that features a top-notch contender, which makes the season feel like a nonstop postseason. The intensity and sense of desperation when Auburn and Ole Miss came down to the final minutes on Saturday was palpable through even a television screen as both SEC teams tried to fight off essential elimination from the postseason picture.

Elsewhere, Mississippi State survived a scare from an Arkansas team that has yet to win a conference game since 2012, TCU overcame a multi-score deficit in the fourth quarter and kicked a game-winning field goal as time expired against West Virginia, Notre Dame escaped a dangerous Navy team at the end and the Pac-12 delivered its usual thrilling late-night finishes.

Arizona State stunned Utah in overtime, while UCLA handed Arizona its second loss of the season. The Arizona schools are probably not fond of the Bruins, considering they knocked off both the Sun Devils and Wildcats this year.

The biggest upset of Week 10 was Florida’s victory over Georgia.

The Gators controlled the line of scrimmage and dashed the Bulldogs defense for 418 rushing yards. That was Georgia’s second loss, and it still has to play Auburn and potentially an SEC Championship Game against a daunting opponent from the West Division. That may have spelled the end of the Bulldogs’ playoff hopes.

Here is what the updated playoff projections look like as we head into Week 11 of the season.

 

Playoff Projections

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

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

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

 

Breakdown

First things first—if a presumed playoff contender is not on this list, the assumption is that it will pick up another loss before the end of the season.

That means teams like Oregon, Arizona State, the Big 12 contenders, Notre Dame and Auburn will all fall between now and the announcement of the initial playoff field.

Those Big 12 teams, like Kansas State, TCU and Baylor, will cannibalize each other (Oklahoma may help with Baylor), the Ducks could trip up against Utah or in the Pac-12 title game, the Sun Devils and Fighting Irish play each other, USC (Notre Dame) and Arizona (Arizona State) and the Tigers play at Georgia and at Alabama.

That is a lot of potential losses.

As for a team that will reach the postseason, Florida State simply continues to find ways to win games.

It looked like the Seminoles’ undefeated dreams were over when they trailed 21-0 to Louisville, but defending Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston led his team back in impressive fashion. Florida State’s difficult games are behind it (at Louisville, Oklahoma State, Clemson and Notre Dame) as well, and fans are in store for another undefeated season.

The Seminoles are simply more talented than Virginia, Miami, Florida and Boston College and should win out.

Bottom line, the defending national champions without a loss are going to crack the field of four.

Michigan State will also reach the playoffs, but it needs to show the selection committee a bit more against top-notch competition. It has been mixed results thus far with a loss to Oregon and a win against Nebraska, so look for the Spartans to seize their opportunity in Week 11 against Ohio State.

Quarterback Connor Cook seemed to understand the importance of this upcoming game when he discussed the fanbase of his opponent, via Mike Griffith of MLive.com:

I think they are pretty crazy actually, pretty outrageous. I remember before the (Big Ten championship) game, there was some crazy old man screaming something at me that I probably shouldn't say right now.

But I just know they are extreme. They're not like arrogant or anything. Ohio State fans, their energy level, if there's one word I could use, it would be extreme, really.

While the Buckeyes will pose a challenge, the Spartans are at home and will throw a stout defense at redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett. That will be enough to secure a win and set Michigan State up for an 11-1 regular-season record with games against Maryland, Rutgers and Penn State after that.

A potential conference-title matchup with Nebraska could help the strength of schedule right before the final playoff decision as well.

Then there is arguably the biggest constant in college football—Alabama.

The Crimson Tide seem to have hit their stride with three straight wins following the loss to Ole Miss, which will be critical with contests against LSU, Mississippi State and Auburn remaining. The good news for Nick Saban’s bunch is that the games against Auburn and Mississippi State are at home.

Alabama will win the remaining games on its schedule, which would give it victories over Auburn, Mississippi State, LSU, West Virginia and whoever the opponent is in the SEC Championship Game. That resume will not be left on the outside looking in for the playoffs, even with a single loss to Ole Miss.

That leaves Mississippi State.

The top team in the initial playoff rankings has looked anything but dominant against some of the lesser teams in the SEC the past two weeks (Kentucky and Arkansas), but there are two different ways of looking at that. 

Andrea Adelson of ESPN seemed to think the Bulldogs were fortunate, but this stat from ESPN Stats & Info gives the Bulldogs credit for either blowing teams out or keeping games close enough to win at the end:

All that truly matters at this point of the season is coming away with a win, especially in the daunting SEC West.

Mississippi State will manage to do just that in three of its remaining four games (UT Martin, Vanderbilt and a suddenly reeling Ole Miss squad) but will lose at Alabama. While that would leave the Bulldogs out of the SEC title game in this scenario, they would still have wins over LSU, Auburn and Ole Miss. 

That will get them into the College Football Playoff field.

 

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College Football Playoff Rankings 2014: Predictions for Week 11

Another wild and unpredictable college football weekend is just fresh in the books, but it's already time to assess the damage and figure out how the College Football Playoff should look entering Week 11.

There were huge tests on tap for every team currently in the CFP top four, and not all of them prevailed. Well, that would be obvious with two teams—Auburn and Ole Miss—facing each other, but the far-reaching implications from Week 10 don't start and end in Oxford, Mississippi by any means.

The first-ever CFP rankings were just released before Week 10, but there's considerable work to be done for the committee before another batch of rankings hits the presses.

Let's do some of the work for them and decide how the CFP is likeliest to play out at the end of the season after what we saw throughout Week 10.

 

1. Mississippi State

Mississippi State is done making statements. The Bulldogs are just trying to stay perfect in the toughest division in college football, and they did so for yet another week with a 17-10 win over Arkansas at home.

The victory improved the Bulldogs to their best record since before the turn of the millennium, as per ESPN Stats and Info:

The Bulldogs were nearly put on upset alert in each of their last two games against Kentucky and Arkansas, but it's not about the style points when you're undefeated in the SEC. It's about simply surviving and advancing, and Mississippi State will know that better than ever down the stretch.

Two of Dan Mullen's toughest matchups are yet to come: facing Alabama on the road on Nov. 15 and Ole Miss also on the road in the Egg Bowl to close out the season.

Despite those gigantic matchups looming, it's hard to bet against Mississippi State. Dak Prescott just gets it done when the game is on the line, and as long as he's healthy and effective, the defense doesn't need to be dominant. 

 

2. Florida State

It's looking less and less likely that Florida State's unbeaten streak will end in the 2014 regular season.

In what many pegged as the last best chance for the Seminoles to fall from the ranks of the undefeated, Florida State slipped past No. 25 Louisville on Thursday night in a tough matchup, 42-31. It suffered an early 21-point deficit, but Jameis Winston found his groove late and didn't look back.

Fox Sports' Stewart Mandel summed up the Florida State win in the most blunt way possible:

To be fair, he's probably right. Winning out would most certainly put Florida State into the four-team playoff. All that's left are games against Virginia, Miami, Boston College, Florida and the ACC title game more than likely versus Duke again. 

Florida's shocking win over Georgia this weekend may make that end-of-season tilt a bit tougher, but the Gators are no match defensively for Winston. The Seminoles have mastered the art of winning ugly against inferior teams, even when the other team pulls out all the stops.

As far as if that recipe will work in the CFP, the Seminoles look like they'll at least get the chance to find out.

 

3. Auburn

Gus Malzahn once again looks like the guy with the magic tricks in his back pocket this college football season. 

If Saturday's SEC West showdown between Auburn and Ole Miss was indeed a CFP elimination game, then the Tigers are very much alive and well in their quest to make up for last year's defeat in the final BCS title game ever.

They almost never do it in convincing fashion, and there are always deficiencies to point out—like porous tackling or massive penalty troubles, at least on Saturday. But when it comes to winning close games, Auburn is among the best.

They faced a championship-caliber battle from Ole Miss who simply refused to accept a second straight defeat, but the Tigers stepped up to the task again. Travis Haney of ESPN said how Malzahn makes sense of it:

The defeat to Mississippi State hasn't lingered long at all for Auburn, as the team has bounced back with two huge victories over South Carolina and now Ole Miss. The Tigers should out-class Texas A&M and Georgia in their upcoming two games before closing the season at Alabama.

Auburn doesn't control its own destiny in the SEC West, but winning out would most definitely get the Tigers into the top four. Toppling Alabama on the road won't be easy, but Auburn now has two huge road wins on the year against the Rebels and Kansas State.

 

4. Oregon

The Oregon Ducks might not be the fourth-best team in the country after Week 10, but they're in perfect position to make the CFP at the end of the season.

Alabama still has Mississippi State and Auburn both to play. A couple of other SEC teams could throw things for a loop with one upset. The one-loss Big 12 teams all face uphill climbs to win the favor of the committee.

But Oregon? It was the first team out of the top four in the first rankings released and is likely to be the last team in when the Week 11 rankings are out.

The Ducks stomped a Stanford team at home that has given them so many fits in recent memory, taking the 45-16 victory. Oregon can impress again by beating Utah next weekend.

Mississippi State, Florida State and Auburn will all stay ahead of Oregon should each continue its winning ways, but the Ducks are on a collision course for the Pac-12 title game. Should they end that game with a 12-1 record, nothing will keep Mark Helfrich's squad from being one of the four.

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