NCAA Football

Texas Football Getting Its Swagger Back off the Field

Texas is still Texas. Baylor is still Baylor. What that implies, though, depends on who you ask. 

If you ask Longhorns wide receiver John Harris, it implies that Texas is unwilling to yield to Baylor as the top Big 12 team in Texas—or perhaps the best team in Texas regardless of conference. 

"They're still Baylor," Harris said Monday, via Mike Finger of the San Antonio Express-News. "Just because they started playing better in this era, that's good for them. We're still Texas."

The comments echo the ones issued by Horns linebacker Steve Edmond, who referred to Baylor as "trash" in April before later issuing an apology.*

(*Which was undoubtedly forced.) 

Here's the obvious: Texas isn't better than Baylor right now. The Bears won the Big 12 championship last year and have been generally steamrolling opponents; Texas has underachieved since 2010. 

The Bears travel to Austin this Saturday as 17-point favorites, according to OddsShark.com. The series between the two has been mostly one-sided since 2010, with Baylor winning three of the last four. Two of those wins have come by 20 points or more. The lone loss, in 2012, was by six points on the road in a 56-50 shootout. 

Yet vocal Texas players still think they're better. Frankly, it's kind of refreshing. Humorous, but refreshing. 

It doesn't matter if it's Texas, Baylor or anyone else, players and coaches should think they're the best. Judging by how easily Bears coach Art Briles dismissed Harris' comments, via Shehan Jeyarajah of The Dallas Morning News, it doesn't sound like Baylor's threatened by them: "What am I supposed to say? We’re still Baylor, TCU is still TCU, Oklahoma is still Oklahoma. I don’t know what that means."

When asked whether the comments make a difference, Briles continued:

I honestly don’t know. I was unaware of any comments that were made. It helps with the four to five days prior to the game, but I don’t think it has any bearing on the football. Whether we’re getting under people’s skin, I don’t know. How people view us, that’s their right. We can’t define that. We can just think about ourselves.

That's likely because Baylor thinks it's pretty amazing, too, and it would be correct.  

As Finger tweets, coming across as confident (or, as some might say, arrogant) isn't necessarily a bad thing. In fact, Finger believes that head coach Charlie Strong likes the edge on display in some of those comments: 

Arrogance by itself didn't mark the downfall of Texas football. Complacency, poor assistant coaching hires and several key misses in recruiting did. 

The final years of the Mack Brown era were many things. Among them was the fact that the program was extremely buttoned up. That's not the case now. 

The attitude adjustment Texas is undergoing isn't translating into wins and may not for some time. There's far more to fix in Austin than just confidence. 

Whether the "new" Texas can get the program back to a championship level remains to be seen, but there's already an edge with the 2014 Longhorns that wasn't there over the past couple of years. 

That's fun to watch, even if the results don't always match. 

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. All quotes cited unless obtained firsthand. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Winners and Losers from September

The first month-and-change of the college football season is complete, lending us a decent-sized sample with which to declare some early winners and losers.

For certain players, coaches, teams and conferences, the end of September is a shame given how kindly this first month has treated them. For others, the calendar cannot turn soon enough.

The criteria of this list is pretty self-explanatory: Winners are entities that improved their public standing; losers are entities that hurt it.

For players, that could mean improving or worsening one's NFL draft stock and Heisman candidacy. For coaches, it could mean improving or worsening their job status and general repute. For teams and the conferences they play in, it's all about the College Football Playoff.

Sound off below, and let me know whom you would add.

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Wake Forest Demon Deacons vs. Florida State Seminoles: Betting Odds, Analysis

The defending national champion Florida State Seminoles bring a 20-game winning streak into this ACC matchup with the Wake Forest Demon Deacons Saturday. However, the Seminoles have been less than impressive since earning their way into last year’s BCS Championship Game with an 0-5 mark against the spread (ATS) in their last five games.

 

Point spread: The Seminoles opened as 38-point favorites at Doak Campbell Stadium, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark. (Line updates and matchup report).

 

Odds Shark computer prediction: 51.1-16.5 Seminoles

 

Why the Wake Forest Demon Deacons can cover the spread

The Demon Deacons have not done much right over the last couple of seasons, dropping eight of their last 10 games. However, they have covered the spread in three straight games this season, following a 20-10 loss at Louisville last week as 21-point underdogs.

While Wake Forest has been outscored 111-3 in losing the past two meetings with Florida State, it was just three years ago that the team pulled off a 35-30 upset of the Seminoles as 10-point dogs. The Demon Deacons have not lost by more than 12 points since last year’s 59-3 loss to Florida State as 34-point home underdogs.

 

Why the Florida State Seminoles can cover the spread

The Seminoles have trailed by at least one touchdown in the first half of each of the last two games, and sooner or later, they will remember that fast starts were the key to their national championship run a year ago.

The return of reigning Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston helped them in a 56-41 victory at North Carolina State last week after it hurt them early on. Winston threw two interceptions in the win but also tossed four touchdown passes and totaled 365 yards through the air as Florida State rallied from a 24-7 first-quarter deficit.

In their last three wins against Wake Forest, the Seminoles have allowed only three points.

 

Smart Pick

Florida State does not look like a very motivated team right now, but facing the Demon Deacons might be exactly what the team needs to get back on track and end its ATS skid. The Seminoles are 4-1 ATS in their last five meetings with Wake Forest and 5-2 against the line in their past seven home games against ACC opponents.

This is one of those games in which Florida State should just explode and make all the critics forget about the team’s struggles with and without Winston over the last few weeks. Watch for the Seminoles to do just that and bust out of their slump with their biggest win of the year.

 

Trends

  • Wake Forest is 1-4 ATS in its last five games when playing Florida State.
  • The total has gone over in 12 of Florida State's last 18 games.

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Texas A&M Football: Game-by-Game Predictions for the Month of October

The Texas A&M football team will play one of the most challenging schedules in the nation in the month of October. The Aggies will face three teams ranked in the Top 12 but should be able to scrape by with a 2-1 record. 

Texas A&M is 5-0 on the season with a 2-0 conference record and the No. 6 ranking in the latest Associated Press poll. They are one of the top teams in the nation but are not without flaws. They still have a couple of weaknesses that can be exploited by their opponents. 

The Aggies are going to play No. 12 Mississippi State, No. 11 Ole Miss and No. 3 Alabama in consecutive weeks. That is a very challenging schedule, especially when you consider that two of those contests are on the road.

This is a look at the expected outcome of the Aggies' October slate of games.   

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Utah State Aggies vs. BYU Cougars: Betting Odds, Analysis and Prediction

Brigham Young and Utah State have met each of the last six seasons, and while the Cougars won five of those contests, the Aggies covered the spread in five of those last six meetings. BYU and USU get together for the 84th time overall, the 61st time for the Old Wagon Wheel, Friday night in Provo.

 

Point spread: The Cougars opened as 21-point favorites at LaVell Edwards Stadium, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark (Line updates and matchup report). 

 

Odds Shark computer prediction: 32.5-19.3 Cougars

 

Why the Utah State Aggies can cover the spread

The Aggies are 2-2 straight up (SU), with their two losses coming at Tennessee and, two weeks ago, at Arkansas State. They then had last week off. Three weeks ago, Utah State beat Wake Forest 36-24, but because they gave up a score on an interception return, the Aggies came up short in covering the spread as 15-point favorites.

USU then lost to the Red Wolves 21-14 in overtime, missing on the cover as a three-point dog even though it outgained ASU by almost 100 yards while winning the time-of-possession battle by a 32-28 margin. The Aggies have outgained their last three opponents by 90 yards per game, and they outrushed them by over 100 yards per game.

 

Why the BYU Cougars can cover the spread

The Cougars are 4-0 SU, 2-2 against the spread (ATS) this season, with road wins at Connecticut and at Texas and home victories over Houston and Virginia. BYU outgained its first three opponents by 175 yards per game and outrushed them by over 200 yards per game.

The Cougars struggled a bit two weeks ago with the Cavaliers, but they rallied and actually had the 14-point spread covered a couple of times, before allowing a score with two minutes to go to give up the cash.

BYU is averaging 450 yards per game on offense, 231 yards per game on the ground, while allowing just 89 yards per game rushing. And quarterback Taysom Hill is back to working his magic, completing 67 percent of his throws, with six touchdown passes, while leading the team in rushing with 428 yards and seven more scores.

 

Smart Pick

Utah State quarterback Chuckie Keeton missed the game against Arkansas State with a sore knee, and his status for Friday is uncertain. Without him, the Aggies are more one dimensional on offense, which doesn't bode well going against a good BYU defense. So while the linesmakers were hesitant to put out an early line on this game, the pick, regardless, goes with the Cougars, minus the points.

 

Trends

  • Utah State is 1-12 SU in its last 13 games when playing BYU.
  • BYU is 5-1 SU in its last six games.

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Texas A&M Aggies vs. Mississippi State Bulldogs Odds: Analysis and Prediction

The unbeaten Texas A&M Aggies will face their biggest test of the season when they visit the undefeated Mississippi State Bulldogs in a key SEC matchup Saturday. The Aggies rallied for a 35-28 overtime win against the Arkansas Razorbacks last week at home and have failed to cover the spread in four of their past five road games against SEC opponents.

 

Point spread: The Aggies opened as one-point favorites at Davis Wade Stadium at Scott Field, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark (line updates and matchup report).

 

Odds Shark computer prediction: 51.0-35.2 Aggies

 

Why the Texas A&M Aggies can cover the spread

Texas A&M got its wake-up call against the Razorbacks, trailing 28-14 in the third quarter before scoring 21 unanswered points to earn the overtime victory. The Aggies came up just short of covering as 7.5-point favorites in that game, and they seem to focus better on the road this season.

They have covered the spread in both of their road games this season, including a 52-28 win at South Carolina in the season opener as nine-point underdogs. The other road game was a 58-6 victory at SMU as 35-point favorites two weeks ago. In the last meeting at Mississippi State, Texas A&M won 38-13 as a 6.5-point road favorite in 2012.

 

Why the Mississippi State Bulldogs can cover the spread

This could be Mississippi State’s year, especially after the team ended a 14-game series losing streak against LSU with a 34-29 road victory two weeks ago. The Bulldogs beat the Tigers in that game as seven-point road underdogs to improve to 8-1 against the spread in their last nine overall.

They are also 3-1 ATS in their last four home games and 3-1 against the line this season, with the lone non-cover coming against UAB in a 47-34 home win as 29-point favorites. Mississippi State also covered last year’s meeting with the Aggies, which resulted in a 51-41 loss but an ATS win as a 19-point road underdog.

 

Smart pick

This game should come down to quarterback play, and the Bulldogs have the more experienced signal-caller in junior Dak Prescott, who played in last year’s game. Prescott has been the key to Mississippi State’s season so far, especially at LSU, where he threw for 268 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 105 yards and another score.

While Texas A&M’s Kenny Hill has been great so far this year in replacing Johnny Manziel, this will be another huge test for him on the road. Hill had his coming-out party at South Carolina in the season opener, but the Bulldogs are a better team than the Gamecocks, and they picked off Manziel three times last season. Look for Hill to have his worst game of the season with Mississippi State pulling off the victory and cover.

 

Trends

  • Texas A&M is 3-6 ATS in its last nine games.
  • Mississippi State is 8-1 ATS in its last nine games.

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Insider Buzz: Michigan AD Throws Brady Hoke Under Bus; Will Both Survive?

Brady Hoke's seat was already hot at Michigan. Now it looks like he may have some company with Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon also dealing with a lot of scrutiny.

College football analyst Michael Felder sits down with Michigan beat writer Nick Baumgardner to discuss what is happening in Ann Arbor.

Do you think that both the AD and head coach will be fired?

Watch the video and let us know.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Stanford Cardinal vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish Odds: Analysis and Prediction

Notre Dame is only 1-3 against the spread in its last four games against the Pac-12 and 1-3 ATS in its last four contests against Stanford. The 4-0 Irish, rolling once again with Everett Golson back at quarterback, will try to reverse those trends when they host the Cardinal Saturday afternoon in South Bend.

 

Point spread: This game opened as a pick'em at Notre Dame Stadium, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark (line updates and matchup report).

 

Odds Shark computer prediction: 32.1-22.1 Cardinal

 

Why the Stanford Cardinal can cover the spread

The Cardinal are 3-1 and coming off a tough 20-13 road victory over conference rival Washington, although they couldn't quite cover the spread at -8. Stanford rushed for 186 yards, held the Huskies to 179 total yards and won the time-of-possession battle by a 32-28 margin. But the Cardinal gave up a Washington defensive score, which cost them the cover.

The Cardinal's only loss so far came three weeks ago against USC, a 13-10 decision in which they outgained the Trojans 413-291 but had what might have been the game-winning touchdown nullified by a questionable chop-block penalty.

 

Why the Notre Dame Fighting Irish can cover the spread

The Irish are off to a 4-0 straight up, 3-1 ATS start following a 31-15 victory at Syracuse last week in which Golson at one point completed 25 passes in a row. Notre Dame is now 14-1 SU and 9-5-1 ATS in games Golson has started. The Irish racked up more than 500 yards of offense against the Orange but committed five turnovers, one of which was returned for a touchdown.

If not for those turnovers, Notre Dame would have won that game much more comfortably. As it was, the Irish still covered the spread at -10. Golson owns an 11-2 touchdown-to-interception ratio this season and is one of four Notre Dame backs with at least 100 rushing yards already.

 

Smart Pick

Stanford leads the nation in total defense, allowing just 198 yards per game, and in scoring defense, pitching two shutouts already, giving up just two offensive touchdowns. But Notre Dame seems to have rediscovered a little of the mojo that got it to the national championship game two seasons ago. So in what should be another good, tough, perhaps sloppy affair, the pick here goes with the Golden Domers.

 

Trends

  • The total has gone under in four of Stanford's last five games when playing Notre Dame.
  • Notre Dame is 8-4 SU in its last 12 games when playing Stanford.

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Oklahoma Sooners vs. TCU Horned Frogs Betting Odds: Analysis and Prediction

The TCU Horned Frogs have hit some tough times since joining the Big 12 three seasons ago, but they are off to a 3-0 straight-up and against-the-spread start to this season. The Horned Frogs now begin what they hope is a winning Big 12 campaign when they host the Oklahoma Sooners on Saturday afternoon in Fort Worth, Texas.

 

Point spread: The Sooners opened as five-point favorites at Amon Carter Stadium, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark (line updates and matchup report).

 

Odds Shark computer prediction: 51.9-43.4 Sooners

 

Why the Oklahoma Sooners can cover the spread

The Sooners are 4-0 SU and 3-1 ATS following a 45-33 victory and cover at West Virginia two weeks ago. They had last week off. Oklahoma trailed the Mountaineers for most of the first half of that game but scored 28 of the next 31 points to pull away and eventually earn a cover as an eight-point favorite.

OU outrushed West Virginia 301-137, held the ball for almost 34 minutes and scored on a kickoff return. The Sooners had some holes to fill on offense coming into this season, but with nine starters back on defense, Oklahoma has allowed just 99 yards rushing per game so far. That defense also provided a cover in a win over Tennessee, returning an interception 100 yards for a score for the decisive tally.

 

Why the TCU Horned Frogs can cover the spread

The Frogs, with eight starters back on both sides of the ball from last year, look like they've got their best team since joining the Big 12. So far, they've beaten Samford, Minnesota and SMU, covering as favorites of 33, 17 and 31 points.

Beating the Mustangs at the moment doesn't mean much, but the Gophers just beat Michigan, and TCU outgained Minnesota 427-268. The Frogs have averaged 211 yards rushing so far while holding foes to just 92 yards per game on the ground. Last year, while going through a tough season, TCU gave Oklahoma a good game in Norman, losing 20-17 but covering as a 10-point dog.

 

Smart pick

This might be a good one, as the Frogs are trying to establish themselves as contenders in the Big 12. But home-field advantage is often overstated in college football. If this game were being played at Oklahoma, the Sooners would likely once again be favored by double digits. And OU hasn't had much trouble making money on the road lately, going 4-1 ATS in its last five games as road chalk and 3-0 ATS in its last three Big 12 road trips. So the pick here is with the Sooners, minus the points.

 

Trends

  • Oklahoma is 2-4 ATS in its last six games when playing TCU.
  • The total has gone over in six of TCU's last nine games at home.

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Nebraska Cornhuskers vs. Michigan State Spartans Odds: Analysis and Prediction

Two of the best teams to bet on so far in this college football season meet when Nebraska and Michigan State square off Saturday night in East Lansing. The Cornhuskers are 4-1 against the spread whereas the Spartans are 3-1 ATS.

Only one will cover the spread Saturday and one will go down. The question is, who will do what?

 

Point Spread: The Spartans opened as eight-point favorites at Spartan Stadium.

Odds Shark Computer Prediction: Spartans 38.7, Cornhuskers 27.2

 

Why the Nebraska Cornhuskers Can Cover the Spread

The Huskers are off to a 5-0 start, winning their last two games over Miami and Illinois, and putting up 86 points in the process.

Nebraska rushed for 343 yards to Miami's 76, allowing it to cover as an eight-point favorite. Then the Huskers rushed for 485 yards to the Illini's 78 on the way to covering a 21-point spread.

Running back Ameer Abdullah has already run for 833 yards and eight touchdowns, while quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. has rushed for 420 yards and thrown 10 touchdown passes.

Last year, the Huskers lost at home to Michigan State 41-28 but actually out-gained and out-rushed the Spartans that day. Five turnovers did them in.

 

Why the Michigan State Spartans Can Cover the Spread

The Spartans are 3-1 straight up following a 56-14 victory over Wyoming last week, covering a 28-point spread. Michigan State jumped out to a 42-7 lead, eventually out-rushed the Cowboys 338 yards to 98 and held the ball for over 35 minutes.

That's how one covers a large spread.

In their one loss this season, the Spartans led at Oregon 27-18 late into the third quarter before the Ducks broke loose. Michigan State has had great success recently in games expected to be close, going 8-1 ATS in its last nine games as either a favorite of fewer than 10 points or an underdog.

 

Smart Pick

Since joining the Big Ten three seasons ago, Nebraska has beaten Michigan State in two out of three meetings and gone 2-1 ATS. The Huskers are also 3-1 ATS in their last four games as underdogs.

So the pick here is with Nebraska, plus the points.

 

Trends

  • Nebraska is 5-1 ATS in its last six games.
  • Michigan State is 1-5 SU in its last six games when playing Nebraska.

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

LSU Tigers vs. Auburn Tigers: Betting Odds, Analysis and Prediction

The Auburn Tigers will play their first SEC game since their season opener when they host the LSU Tigers in a huge conference showdown Saturday. Auburn lost 35-21 at LSU last year as a 17-point underdog before running the table and starting a string of 13 wins against the spread (ATS) in 15 games.

 

Point spread: Tigers opened as nine-point favorites at Jordan-Hare Stadium, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark (Line updates and matchup report). 

 

Odds Shark computer prediction: 40.0-23.3 Tigers

 

Why the LSU Tigers can cover the spread

The Tigers have won the last three meetings with Auburn along with six of the past seven, so they know what it takes to get a victory in this series. LSU has been favored in each of the last three games between the teams, outscoring Auburn by a combined score of 93-41, including a 12-10 victory at Jordan-Hare Stadium in 2012.

The Tigers bounced back from a 34-29 home loss to Mississippi State two weeks ago by pummeling New Mexico State 63-7 as a 43-point favorite behind a career-high 122 yards and two touchdowns from freshman running back Leonard Fournette. LSU backup quarterback Brandon Harris also came off the bench to throw three touchdown passes and run for another couple of scores in the rout, and he appears to be in line to start this week.

 

Why the Auburn Tigers can cover the spread

Auburn is playing as well as any team in the country right now despite failing to cover the spread in the last two games. The Tigers are coming off a 45-17 victory against Louisiana Tech last week, falling just short of covering as 32-point favorites.

Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall threw for 166 yards and three touchdowns and ran for 105 more in the win over the Bulldogs, and he will be looking to atone for last year’s performance against LSU when he had two interceptions and no touchdowns.

The Tigers are 7-1 ATS in their last eight home games, including 4-0 against the line when pitted opposite SEC opponents during that stretch.

 

Smart Pick

Auburn had been on an amazing 13-0 run ATS before dropping its last two. While that is not a huge cause for concern, it still means the team is not playing at the same high level as last year. LSU’s quarterback change to Harris could be just the spark the team needs to start playing better offensively.

Harris nearly completed a crazy comeback against Mississippi State two weeks ago, and it will be difficult for Auburn to prepare for him in this spot. Auburn covered the spread in the last two meetings as an underdog, and LSU can do the same thing. Look for the visiting Tigers to keep this one within a touchdown.

 

Trends

  • LSU is 3-6 ATS in its last nine games when playing Auburn.
  • Auburn is 8-1 ATS in its last nine games at home.

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

NCAA Football Rankings 2014: Full List of Week 6 College Standings and Polls

During the race to the inaugural College Football Playoff, no team is safe.

The mighty Florida State Seminoles had quarterback Jameis Winston for all four frames last week, only to almost lose and subsequently take a dive out of the No. 1 slot in the Amway Top 25.

To the delight of many (not really), the Alabama Crimson Tide are back on top.

Such is the way the 2014 season has gone to this point. Wild upsets have peppered the landscape to date, with more and more sure to occur in the depths of conference play.

Here is a look at the polls, with a closer look at some of the bigger movers of Week 6 and what it means on the path to the playoff.

 

2014 College Football Week 6 Rankings

 

Analyzing Notable Risers and Fallers

South Carolina

The dream of the playoff seems all but over for the South Carolina Gamecocks. An opening-week loss to Texas A&M was something the team could fight through, but a second loss pretty much slams the door shut.

On paper, South Carolina did most everything right against Missouri. It held Tigers quarterback Maty Mauk to just 132 yards on a 12-of-34 line. Conversely, Dylan Thompson threw for 219 yards and a score while getting another strong effort from back Mike Davis, who gained 104 yards and a score on 22 totes.

The defense even held the normally explosive Tigers to a 2-of-16 success rate on third downs.

To no avail, especially in the fourth quarter, when the defense seemed gassed at best and allowed Mauk to convert a long run and a pair of deep passes with the game on the line.

Really, this sort of collapse and eventual loss to a beatable opponent was to be expected. Steve Spurrier has done great things for the program, but his teams have lost a minimum of two SEC games each season over the course of 10 years.

South Carolina has shown signs of life during its tumultuous season, including an impressive upset of then-ranked No. 6 Georgia. But even a rebound performance the rest of the season may prove to be a case of too little, too late.

 

Arizona State

It was easy to fall into the trap of thought that the Arizona State Sun Devils, even without starting quarterback Taylor Kelly, would put up a strong fight against UCLA at home Saturday.

So much for that.

Replacement Mike Bercovici attempted a ridiculous 68 passes, which spawned 488 yards and three touchdowns to two interceptions. Conversely, UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley finally had his breakout performance of the season with 355 yards and four touchdowns on all of 23 pass attempts.

The defensive collapse was matched in its level of ineptitude by a special teams unit that allowed a pair of kick returns to go back for scores. Offensively, Bercovici was a sitting duck most of the night thanks to gems such as this:

Arizona State coach Todd Graham spoke plainly about the performance.

"That was embarrassing. It was a frustrating night," Graham said, per the AP, via ESPN.com. "The standard that we set here was not met tonight."

The massive nosedive in most polls is understandable, but the worst may be yet to come. Next up is a trip to No. 16 USC, then a visit from No. 14 Washington.

Then again, perhaps it will prove to be a redemption tour that catapults the Sun Devils back up the polls. Obviously, though, a few things are going to need to be repaired before that becomes a realistic scenario.

 

TCU

The most underrated team in the nation is now on the board.

It may not last long, though, as TCU must welcome No. 4 Oklahoma to town. Then again, the Horned Frogs seem to be a trendy pick this week now that the public is aware of their skill, as best illustrated by Bleacher Report's Adam Kramer:

TCU has a bit of an iffy resume to date thanks to wins over Samford, Minnesota and SMU. Then again, the team ranks No. 2 in the nation defensively, allowing all of seven points per game.

Seven. That is impressive regardless of the opposition.

A note from Kirk Herbstreit goes a long way in breaking down why TCU has always been one of the top teams in the nation:

The Horned Frogs are no joke offensively, either, thanks to junior dual-threat quarterback Trevone Boykin. Through three games, he leads the team in rushing with 183 yards and three touchdowns to complement his 858 yards and eight touchdowns to one interception through the air.

Of course, the rank will be put in serious jeopardy Saturday against the Sooners, but add to the fact that the Horned Frogs field an elite defense and Oklahoma just struggled en route to a win against West Virginia, and another leap upward is certainly not out of the question in next week's polls.

 

Stats via ESPN.com. Amway Poll via USA Today. AP Poll via The Associated Press.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Arizona State Sun Devils vs. Southern Cal Trojans: Odds, Analysis and Prediction

The USC Trojans will be out for revenge Saturday at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum when they host the Arizona State Sun Devils in a key Pac-12 South matchup.

The Trojans were embarrassed in a 62-41 loss at Arizona State last year as 3.5-point underdogs, prompting the dismissal of former head coach Lane Kiffin, but they covered the spread for the third time in four games this season in a 35-10 rout of Oregon State last week as seven-point home chalk.

 

Point spread: The Trojans opened as 10.5-point favorites at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark (Line updates and matchup report).

 

Odds Shark computer prediction: 38.3-31.0 Trojans

 

Why the Arizona State Sun Devils can cover the spread

The Sun Devils are 4-1 against the spread (ATS) in their past five meetings with USC and have lost just one of those games by more than five points. Arizona State is 2-0 away from home this season, including a cover in a 58-23 victory at New Mexico as a 24.5-point favorite and a non-cover in a 38-24 win at Colorado as 16-point chalk.

The Sun Devils are coming off a rough 62-27 home loss to UCLA a week ago Thursday and have had some extra time off to think about how they can improve to get ready for the Trojans.

 

Why the Southern Cal Trojans can cover the spread

USC is 9-3 ATS in its last 12 home games against Pac-12 opponents and bounced back from a disappointing 37-31 road loss to Boston College as a 17-point favorite with a big win over the Beavers. The Trojans will likely be facing Arizona State backup quarterback Mike Bercovici with starter Taylor Kelly out indefinitely with a foot injury.

Bercovici struggled a bit against the Bruins last week with two interceptions, and USC quarterback Cody Kessler is coming off a solid game against Oregon State with 261 passing yards and two touchdowns. In the battle of quarterbacks, the Trojans have a definitive edge.

 

Smart Pick

The Sun Devils were shellacked by UCLA last week at home, and it will be interesting to see how that affects them on the road as they try to avoid a sweep by the Los Angeles schools. USC is 4-1 ATS in its last five games as a home favorite while Arizona State is 1-3 ATS in its past four as a road underdog.

The Trojans were burned on the ground in their lone loss to Boston College, and the Sun Devils do not possess that same threat running the ball without Kelly in the lineup. Arizona State is clearly not the same team without him, and that showed against the Bruins. Look for USC to win this game by at least two touchdowns.

 

Trends

  • The total has gone under in five of Arizona State's last six games when playing on the road against Southern Cal.
  • Southern Cal is 5-2 ATS in its last seven games when playing at home against Arizona State.

 

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

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Arizona State Sun Devils vs. Southern Cal Trojans: Odds, Analysis and Prediction

The USC Trojans will be out for revenge Saturday at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum when they host the Arizona State Sun Devils in a key Pac -12 South matchup. The Trojans were embarrassed in a 62-41 loss at Arizona State last year as 3...

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Is Will Muschamp or Brady Hoke More Likely to Have the Same Job in 1 Year?

In a matter of months, it's possible that two premier jobs in college football, Florida and Michigan, are open. 

Gators coach Will Muschamp and Wolverines coach Brady Hoke find themselves firmly on seats made of actual fire after recent losses—the latter especially so in light of a controversy over handling visibly concussed quarterback Shane Morris.

For that, Hoke is far less likely to be coaching the same team this time next year. Muschamp's tenure in Gainesville has been filled with more valleys than peaks, but one narrative that's not attached to him is that he doesn't care about player safety. 

In an era of awareness about head injuries in football, there's little room for error in how programs, college or pro, handle them. After multiple statements by Hoke and Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon over the past 48 hours, it's clear that Michigan's lackof awareness led to a large margin of error in how it handled the gruesome hit to Morris in a 30-14 loss to Minnesota on Saturday. 

From Brandon's statement, via the Michigan Daily

In my judgment, there was a serious lack of communication that led to confusion on the sideline. Unfortunately, this confusion created a circumstance that was not in the best interest of one of our student-athletes. I sincerely apologize for the mistakes that were made. We have to learn from this situation, and moving forward, we will make important changes so we can fully live up to our shared goal of putting student-athlete safety first.

As Dan Wetzel of Yahoo Sports writes, Hoke cares about his players. That much has been documented by those who have played for and against him. However, it is possible to care about player safety, yet completely mismanage a head injury. That appears to be the case here. 

Player safety, especially involving concussions, is an easy and noble cause to get behind because of tragic incidents that have been linked to head injuries. 

According to Sam Mellinger of The Kansas City Star, the autopsy of former Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher showed signs of CTE, "a degenerative brain disease found to cause dementia, aggression, confusion and depression among people who’ve suffered repeated head trauma, including football players." Belcher killed his girlfriend before taking his own life in 2012. 

Earlier this month, Texas quarterback David Ash recently announced he was giving up football for good after multiple concussions. The decision, however difficult, was universally applauded

So when Morris stayed in the game on Saturday despite barely being able to stand without the help of his teammates, the outrage was swift and unforgiving. George Schroeder of USA Today was one of several columnists to write that it is indeed time for Hoke to go. 

That leads to an interesting question: Would the masses be calling for Hoke's job if Michigan was 5-0? Kirk Herbstreit of ESPN tweeted that he isn't sure it would even be a story.

To be clear, it would definitely be a story for the reasons listed above, but it can also be true that Michigan's 2-3 record plays a role, if not a major one, in the demands that Hoke be fired.

As Andy Staples of Sports Illustrated tweeted, the mismanaged incident basically gives Michigan a free pass to do so because the tone of Hoke being in over his head had already been established. 

Does Hoke survive the season? It doesn't look like he will, and that could be said for reasons beyond the Morris incident. The Wolverines have trended downward since Hoke's first season in 2011, and the coaching staff has done a poor job of developing players, especially on along the offensive line. 

It doesn't matter who the offensive coordinator or quarterback is; the ability to run and pass protect starts up front. Michigan can't do either. 

Florida has had similar problems under Muschamp: Anemic offenses as a result of multiple offensive coordinators trying to fit square pegs in round holes, but usually sound defenses. 

Still, the Gators are technically 2-1, despite being outclassed by Alabama this year, and can still do some damage in a wide-open SEC East.

The Wolverines are in a Big Ten East Division expected to be controlled by Michigan State and, to a lesser extend, Ohio State. Wins the rest of the way don't look like they're going to come easy. It's also worth noting that Brandon is on his own hot seat, too. Firing a head coach is one sign that an AD is trying to save his own rear end. 

At this point, one would have to think Hoke has to win just about every remaining game to keep his job. Beating Michigan State and/or Ohio State would likely do the trick. However, there's been nothing on the field to suggest this is remotely possible. 

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. All quotes cited unless obtained firsthand. 

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Arizona Wildcats vs. Oregon Ducks Betting Odds: Analysis and Prediction

A pair of undefeated Pac-12 teams will meet in Eugene Thursday night when the Oregon Ducks host the Arizona Wildcats. The Ducks are just 1-4 against the spread in their last five games as home favorites, and they will be out for revenge after losing badly in Tucson last year 42-16 as 18.5-point road chalk.

 

Point Spread: The Ducks opened as 22.5-point favorites at Autzen Stadium.

Odds Shark Computer Prediction: Ducks 46.8, Wildcats 29.6

 

Why the Arizona Wildcats Can Cover the Spread

The Wildcats are 6-3 ATS in the past nine meetings with Oregon and have some confidence from last year’s big home victory in the series.

They are coming off a bye to help them prepare for the Ducks and were lucky to stay unbeaten when they rallied back to beat Cal 49-45 two weeks ago on a 47-yard touchdown pass as time expired.

Arizona freshman quarterback Anu Solomon had the best game of his young career with 520 passing yards and five touchdowns against the Golden Bears, leading his team back from a 28-6 halftime deficit with 36 fourth-quarter points.

Solomon is a rising star in the Pac-12 and will get his first taste of an Oregon squad that has covered just two of its last nine games overall.

 

Why the Oregon Ducks Can Cover the Spread

Like the Wildcats, the Ducks were off last week following a 38-31 road win at Washington State that was also too close for comfort. Oregon fell behind 14-7 in the first quarter and then traded scores most of the rest of the way before scoring the game-winning touchdown with 5:33 remaining.

Ducks quarterback Marcus Mariota continued his strong campaign for the Heisman Trophy by completing 21 of 25 passes for 329 yards, five touchdown passes and no interceptions.

For the season, Mariota has 13 touchdown passes and no picks, and he was solid in defeat last year against Arizona with 308 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.

The home team is 5-2 ATS in the last seven meetings, and this is one of those statement games where Oregon needs to win big on national television.

 

Smart Pick

The Ducks are entering a tough stretch of their schedule and need to stay sharp in order to stay in the playoff picture. With a trip to UCLA on deck after this matchup with the Wildcats, Oregon must step up and make a statement as the team to beat in the conference.

The Ducks are just 1-3 ATS in their last four home games against Pac-12 opponents while the Wildcats are 1-4 against the line in their past five games as road underdogs.

Since neither team has been particularly strong in this series or in conference play, the over looks to be the pick. Both teams can put a lot of points on the scoreboard, and the over is 3-1 in Arizona’s last four games against Pac-12 foes while also going 4-1 in Oregon’s past five as a home favorite.

 

Trends

  • Arizona is 1-5 ATS in its last six games on the road.
  • Oregon is 5-0 straight up in its last five games.

 

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

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Arizona Wildcats vs. Oregon Ducks Betting Odds: Analysis and Prediction

A pair of undefeated Pac -12 teams will meet in Eugene Thursday night when the Oregon Ducks host the Arizona Wildcats...

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Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Mississippi Rebels Betting Odds Analysis and Prediction

Ole Miss is off to the start that it hoped for, winning its first four games, going 3-0-1 against the spread. The Rebels now get a chance to make some big noise when they host the Alabama Crimson Tide Saturday night in Oxford.

The Rebels have lost 10 in a row to Alabama. Can they snap that streak this week?

 

Point spread: The Crimson Tide opened as 4.5-point favorites at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark. (Line updates and matchup report)

 

Odds Shark computer prediction: 47.7-29.5 Crimson Tide

 

Why the Alabama Crimson Tide can cover the spread

The Tide is also 4-0 on the season, and while they're just 1-3 ATS, part of that has to do with the big spreads with which they've been burdened. Alabama outgained West Virginia by 145 yards but couldn't cover at minus-22; it outgained Southern Miss by 284 yards but couldn't cover at minus-47.

Finally, last time out, the Tide beat Florida 42-21, covering at minus-14. Alabama then had last week off. Alabama has beaten Ole Miss 10 times in a row, allowing an average of just 12 points per game, and has won the last three meetings by an average of 30 points per game.

 

Why the Mississippi Rebels can cover the spread

The Rebs just held Memphis to 104 total yards in a 24-3 victory, pushing the spread at minus-21. Ole Miss knew it would be pretty good on defense this year, with nine starters back on that unit from last season, and so far the Rebs have allowed just 34 points through four games.

Ole Miss is also averaging 496 yards per game on offense. The Rebs are 6-2 ATS in their last eight home games, and even though they've lost 10 in a row to Alabama, they've covered the spread in six of the last nine meetings.

 

Smart Pick

Ole Miss will have the home-field advantage for the biggest game in Oxford in a decade, but sometimes raucous emotion can actually work against a home team. How many times have we seen a team get sky-high for a big game at home on national TV only to fall flat on its face?

On the other side of this equation is Alabama, a national title contender, favored by less than a touchdown. That's where the smart money resides in this matchup.

 

Trends

  • Alabama is 5-0 SU in its last five games when playing Mississippi.
  • Mississippi is 5-0 SU in its last five games.

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Jeff Driskel's Struggles Raise Questions About Florida's Lost Quarterbacks

Remember when the University of Florida was known a school that turned out Heisman Trophy-winning quarterbacks and innovative offensive schemes?   

Those days are gone. And, as a result, the Gators have become an afterthought in the national polls and the SEC.   

A year ago, the Gators tumbled to a stunning 4-8 mark, which was even grimmer when you looked at numbers: Florida ranked 12th or lower in four of the SEC's leading offensive statistical markers—total offense, scoring offense, passing offense and rushing offense

This season has been only moderately better. After a cakewalk over Eastern Michigan, the Gators needed three overtimes at home to beat Kentucky and then watched starting quarterback Jeff Driskel complete only nine of 28 passes for a total of 93 yards and throw two interceptions in a 42-21 loss to Alabama.

On Saturday, the pain was less direct, but perhaps just as acute. Just two weeks after former Florida QB Tyler Murphy engineered an upset of then-No.9 USC for Boston College, another former Gators quarterback, North Carolina State's Jacoby Brissett, threw for three scores and 359 yards against Florida State in playing Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston to a virtual dead heat in a wild shootout.

That both Brissett and Murphy are former Gators has left coach Will Muschamp and his quarterback little cover from a growing barrage of criticism, even on a week when the Gators had a bye as they prepare for this week's SEC battle at Tennessee.

The displeasure has even been growing from inside the program, as former Gators running back Emmitt Smith expressed his feelings after the loss to Alabama.

"put Driskel on the bench, please, I've seen enough"

Smith later apologized to Driskel and Muschamp, but the unhappiness remains. The embattled Muschamp's future has become tentative at best and more and more people are now questioning his evaluation process in a allowing two clearly talented quarterbacks to escape, while sticking with the struggling Driskel. 

That could ultimately prove fatal to Muschamp's future in Gainesville. But it was Muschamp who recruited Driskel, a consensus No. 1 QB prospect as well as the Maxwell Football Club High School Player of the Year and the Gatorade Florida Player of the Year. And it was Muschamp who chose Driskel over Brissett and Murphy.

"Jeff gives us the best opportunity to win right now," said Muschamp in a press briefing last week.

It hasn't worked out that way; Driskel has connected on a total of only 19 touchdown passes in three-and-a-half years with the Gators and was slowed down by the broken leg he suffered last season. This year has seen him throw three picks in his last two games and guide a passing attack that ranks 106th in the country.

Things could get worse soon, as Florida faces a gauntlet of upper-tier SEC teams following the matchup with the Volunteers, starting with LSU and then Missouri and then Georgia.

For now, though, Driskel is running the show, but should he be?

 

 

 

Like Driskel, Jacoby Brissett came to Florida with blue chip credentials, ranked by Rivals as a four-star recruit. He started two games in his freshman year and competed with Driskel for the starting job in his sophomore season in 2012.

Driskel won the job and guided the Gators to a 11-2 record and a Sugar Bowl berth, which prompted Muschamp to set up a spring depth chart that had Driskel ahead of Brissett. Soon, NC State had a new quarterback-in-waiting, as Brissett sat out last season after transferring to the school.

"Driskel won the job and [Brissett] wanted to play," wrote Gainesville Sun columnist Pat Dooley in a text message to a Bleacher Report.

Second year Wolfpack coach Dave Doeren knew right away that Brissett, voted the team's Scout Team Player of the Year, was the best quarterback he had on his roster even when Brissett was sitting out.

After watching Brissett take apart his defense, Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher, who recruited Brissett out of high school in Florida, saw a comparison. "He's a lot like the guy (Winston) we got," Fisher told reporters after the game. "He's big and strong-armed and can make plays."

The former Gator has NC State off to a 4-1 start and has emerged as the ACC leader in total offense.

Murphy also has made a mark in the ACC, leading BC to a 3-2 start while tallying the second-most rushing yards in the conference and ranking third in total offense.

Although his fourth-quarter interception didn't help matters in the Eagles' loss to Colorado State on Saturday, Murphy has been a star on the rise, particularly in BC's 37-31 upset of USC. Murphy didn't do it all, but it seemed like it at times as he ran for a 191 yards and scored a game-preserving fourth-quarter, 66-yard touchdown.

"It was just a good situation," said BC coach Steve Addazio, explaining Murphy's arrival at the school. "It was a good fit. It gave him a chance to run the reigns of his own program."

Murphy had that only briefly at Florida a year ago when he moved into the starting job after Driskel broke his right leg and was finished for the season. In seven games with Murphy under center, the Gators went 3-4, as Murphy threw for 1,216 yards and six touchdowns.

But Murphy injured his right shoulder and missed Florida's final three games. Muschamp said there would be competition in the spring, but Driskel looked like the frontrunner. Or at least it seemed that way to Murphy.

"[Murphy] was told after last year that the position was open but he felt Driskel would be favored," wrote Dooley to Bleacher Report.

 

 

The fact that Murphy, Brissett and Driskel all were on the Florida campus at the same time may show that Muschamp knows how to lure talent, but there are lingering questions about how that talent was used and developed or squandered, which may be a key factor in whether Muschamp keeps his job.

Muschamp, well aware of his seemingly tenuous hold on his job, dumped offensive coordinator Brent Pease in the offseason and replaced him with Kurt Roper.

What has encouraged some Gators fans is that there may be more talent in the QB system. Will Grier, Parade Magazine's 2014 Player of the Year, and redshirt sophomore Skyler Mornhinweg (son of New York Jets offensive coordinator Mary Mornhinweg) are on call, but the immediate future would seem to be in the hands of another freshman, Treon Harris, who is listed at No. 2 on the depth chart.

"I see talent," said Roper before the season began when asked to evaluate his quarterbacks. "It takes a little bit of time to pick up [the new system]. But I see talented players."

Time is a luxury Muschamp and his staff may not have. Last week, Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley told reporters that Muschamp will coach for the entire 2014 season, but that he will be judged on the evaluation of the entire season.

If that's the case, it is doubtful Driskel will get that much longer to prove that he can be the Gators quarterback of the present, much less the future.

If the Gators lose to Tennessee on Saturday or Driskel has another ineffective game, Harris could get the call, a move Muschamp told the Gainesville Sun he's already considered.

"I thought about it," Muschamp said of the possibility to switching to Harris late in the Gators' loss to Alabama. "Especially late in the game, from that situation."

And the worse that situation gets, the more likely that switch becomes.

 

Mark Blaudschun covers college football as a national columnist for Bleacher Report. He has more than three decades of experience covering sports at a variety of newspapers in New Jersey, The Dallas Morning News and The Boston Globe. Follow him on Twitter @blauds.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Answering College Football's Biggest Questions Heading into Week 6

One of the craziest weeks on the college football schedule is quickly approaching. With that, Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Michael Felder, Barrett Sallee and Adam Kramer came together to play a classic game of "Would You Rather?" 

Who would you rather have: Cody Prewitt of Ole Miss or Su'a Cravens of USC?

Watch the video and let us know!  

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