NCAA Football

BYU vs. Middle Tennessee Complete Game Preview

Buried in a four-game losing streak, BYU travels to Middle Tennessee on Saturday. The two teams played last season in Provo, and the Cougars won, 37-10.

Wins have been hard to come by lately for BYU. Despite winning their first four games, the Cougs evened their record at 4-4 after a blowout loss at Boise State. Middle Tennessee, on the other hand, beat UAB last weekend to improve its record to 5-3.

With BYU struggling and MTSU on the rise, it will surely be a good game. Here is a complete preview.

Date: Saturday, November 1

Time: 3:30 p.m. ET

Place: Floyd Stadium, Murfreesboro, TN

TV: CBS Sports Network

Radio: KSL NewsRadio (102.7 FM, 1160 AM)

Spread: BYU, -3.5 (via OddsShark.com)

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USC Football: Game-by-Game Predictions for the Month of November

Traditionally, USC football has flourished in the month of November. 

The Trojans went a remarkable 27-0 in Novembers from 2001 through 2008, ran the table to close out 2011 and rebounded from a dismal 2012 November to go 4-1 in the month a year ago. 

This season, USC's hope of winning the Pac-12 South and earning the program's first berth into the conference championship game is contingent on duplicating past November success. 

USC plays twice in the Coliseum and twice on the road to cap off the season but leaves Los Angeles just once in November. The sole excursion from the Southland is USC's next date and the program's first trip to Washington State since 2010. 

A Thursday night date with Cal follows, then the every-other-year tradition of USC playing back-to-back rivalry tilts finishes head coach Steve Sarkisian's first season at the helm.

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USC Football: Game-by-Game Predictions for the Month of November

Traditionally, USC football has flourished in the month of November. The Trojans went a remarkable 27-0 in Novembers from 2001 through 2008, ran the table to close out 2011 and rebounded from a dismal 2012 November to go 4-1 in the month a year ago...

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Bowl Projections 2014: Predicting Best Scenarios for Top Contenders in Week 10

This is the week college football fans circled on their calendars the moment it was announced there would be a four-team playoff to determine the national champion. The first rankings for the College Football Playoff are released on Tuesday night, opening a Pandora's box of possibilities for the weeks to come. 

After the dust settles from the madness on Tuesday night, teams have to go out and play to justify their rankings or improve their spots. That's what is interesting about this whole process: As still-very-early bowl projections trickle out, so much is going to change. 

In addition to offering up some of the most-anticipated bowl predictions, this is a look at what the top national title contenders must do to improve their stock after Week 10. 

 

Top Title Contenders

Mississippi State (Week 10 vs. Arkansas)

The nation's top-ranked team showed some cracks against Kentucky in Week 9 but was able to escape with a 45-31 victory; Mississippi State's spot in the College Football Playoff is secure for now. It also helps that the Bulldogs will be playing an Arkansas team that has lost all four of its conference games by an average of 11 points. 

ESPN Stats & Info's metrics have Mississippi State ranked as the No. 1 team in strength of record and game control. Those two stats measure a team's win probability per game on a play-by-play basis and the schedule it has played. 

With those numbers in mind, the Bulldogs still have to prove more after the Wildcats gave them a good fight. That was a road game in the SEC, even if it was a mid-level team in the conference. 

Dak Prescott has been more turnover-prone lately with three interceptions in the last two games, so it will be nice for him to go against a defense that ranks 60th in points allowed. Style points are everything in a game that you're supposed to win. 

The Bulldogs had their potential letdown game last week against Kentucky but came through it unscathed. A win like the one they had against Texas A&M, with 48 points and 559 yards of offense, would do well to ease any doubts about their schedule heading into a November slate that includes Arkansas and Mississippi. 

 

Florida State (Week 10 at Louisville)

Most pundits seem to agree that if Florida State is going to lose in the regular season for the first time since 2012, it will happen on Thursday night at Louisville. The Cardinals don't have a great team, but the defense has great raw stats that include the fourth-fewest points allowed per game. 

Of course, you have to put things in context. Louisville's schedule so far has included Miami, Murray State, Virginia, FIU, Wake Forest, Syracuse, Clemson and North Carolina State. We are going to find out how good Bobby Petrino's team is this week. 

Oddsmakers don't love the Seminoles in this spot, with Odds Shark noting they are a 3.5-point favorite.

If you follow trends closely, you know that the Cardinals will have to score at least 32 points to win this game. According to Corey Clark of The Tallahassee Democrat, Florida State has put up at least 31 points in every game started by Jameis Winston.

"In the 20 games started by quarterback Jameis Winston," Clark wrote, "the Florida State Seminoles have never scored less than 31 points. The reigning Heisman Trophy winner has accounted for a staggering 59 touchdowns during that span and FSU has scored 123 TDs overall."

That does play into Louisville's strength on defense, per Clark:

The Cardinals are second in pass-efficiency defense and third-down defense and fourth in the nation in scoring defense (14.6 points allowed).

They have allowed just three touchdown drives this season of longer than 40 yards. And in total, the Louisville defense has given up just five offensive TDs to FBS teams in 2014.

Again, keep in mind the opposition. Considering how the odds have lined up for this game, all the Seminoles must do is come out of the game with a victory. Style points would be nice, but since they are the defending champions who have yet to lose a game this year, a tough road win in the conference is all that matters. 

A statement would be nice because this is the last true test Florida State has at least until the ACC Championship Game, but winning on the road against a quality opponent is hard enough. 

 

Auburn (Week 10 at Mississippi)

Everything below the top two teams is a muddled mess. That's what happens when everyone loses a game, but it does create great drama each Saturday. Since Alabama, currently ranked third in The Associated Press Top 25, is off this week, the spotlight goes to Auburn. 

It's an excellent spotlight game to have, as the Tigers are traveling to The Grove for a showdown with a Mississippi team out to keep its title hopes alive coming off a devastating loss at LSU.

This game is a perfect example of why its pointless to get too hung up on the initial College Football Playoff standings, even though they are fun to look at. All of these jumbled SEC teams will play each other, so it will all work itself out by the end of the season. 

The dynamic between these two teams will be fascinating to watch. Auburn is an offensive team that relies on the run. Gus Malzahn's team is 10th in rushing yards and 15th in points per game. They've run into trouble on defense at times, allowing 73 points in their last two games. 

If Auburn's defense needs a break, it may find one against an Ole Miss team that is 50th in points per game and 83rd in rushing. The Rebels make their money on defense, allowing an FBS-leading 10.5 points per game. 

One area to keep an eye on for the Tigers is special teams. Joel A. Erickson of The Birmingham News noted they have been dismal at returning kicks so far this season:

A program that has returned a kickoff for a touchdown in each of the past six seasons ranks just 12th in the SEC, averaging just 20 yards per return overall.

The problem is starting to cost the Tigers field position. After a Ricardo Louis fumble on a kickoff return helped Mississippi State seal a win two weeks ago, Auburn failed to crack the 20 on either of its returns against South Carolina.

In a game that doesn't figure to feature a lot of scoring on either side, field position becomes everything. The Tigers can afford a sloppy victory because of what we know about Mississippi's defensive capabilities. It would be nice to see their defense step up in a key spot, especially with games against Texas A&M and Georgia looming in the next two weeks. 

Sometimes, though, it's just enough to survive and advance. That really is all that Malzahn can ask of his team as it prepares to enter the brutal final stretch that also includes the regular-season finale against Alabama. 

 

If you want to talk sports, hit me up on Twitter. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Texas A&M Football: QB Position Is Not the Aggies' Problem on Offense

Kenny "Trill" might become Kenny "Chill" soon.

As in, chilling on the bench.

Texas A&M offensive coordinator Jake Spavital announced on Tuesday that the quarterback job that once belonged to sophomore Kenny Hill is now open, and true freshman Kyle Allen will compete to win the job this week as the Aggies prepare for Louisiana-Monroe (via: TexAgs.com):

Hill leads the SEC with 331.1 passing yards per game and 23 touchdown passes but has thrown seven interceptions against SEC competition—six of which have come in the last three games, all of which were losses.

Allen, the top pro-style passer in the class of 2014, is 23-of-38 for 264 yards, three touchdowns and two picks this year, primarily playing in mop-up duty for the Aggies. Spavital told TexAgs.com that Allen was in disbelief when he was told that the battle was open again.

It's the right time for Texas A&M to make a change. After all, ULM shouldn't present much of a challenge, and whoever wins the job this time around needs full first-team reps this week before the Aggies go on the road to Auburn on Nov. 8.

Is that really the problem, though?

Spavital and head coach Kevin Sumlin's play-calling has been wildly unbalanced this year. The Aggies have thrown 359 passes this season while running only 249 rushing plays. This despite having Tra Carson, Trey Williams and Brandon Williams lining up behind (or alongside) Hill in the Aggies backfield.

Are those numbers skewed due to Texas A&M being behind in games and forced to throw itself out of a hole? Not really. Sure, 102 of his passes have come when the Aggies are down by 15 or more points. That's not surprising.

Is there a good reason, though, for his second-most attempts to come when the Aggies are up by 15 or more?

Maybe it was the breakout performance in the season opener, maybe it was the small village of physically talented wide receivers, and maybe it was a desire by Sumlin and Spavital to go back to the air raid system that made Sumlin successful at Houston. But Hill clearly isn't ready to be Case Keenum.

He can be Kenny Hill, though, and a change in the way Texas A&M calls plays would certainly help. That would mean more structured zone read, more running responsibilities to the running backs and a more conservative approach.

Who knows? Maybe that would even help out an Aggies defense that's become more of a punchline than a power under Sumlin.

Whether it's Hill or Allen taking the snaps, Texas A&M needs a philosophical tweak to what it does offensively. It needs to be more conservative and run the football instead of trying to force an identity on its offense. If that coincides with a quarterback change to Allen, that's fine. If Hill wins the job again, that's fine, too.

The Aggies rank 11th in the SEC in rushing with 151.63 yards per game on the ground, and those 249 attempts are the third-fewest in the conference. 

Change that, and the fortunes of the Aggies will also change. 

Until that happens, either Hill or Allen will have to become Joe Montana down the stretch. Otherwise, this will be a lost season in College Station.

 

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

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Top Recruits Who Will Be Impacted by Result of Florida-Georgia

Florida and Georgia renew a longstanding rivalry Saturday when the teams meet in Jacksonville for an annual clash affectionately known as the "World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party." If the Gators suffer another SEC beatdown, it could become a going-away party for Will Muschamp.

The embattled head coach's tenuous situation is among the most discussed storylines of this college football season. Florida has failed to make necessary strides in his fourth year, losing eight of its past 10 conference matchups and four of them by double-digit margins.

These struggles have translated into the 2015 recruiting cycle, with Muschamp failing to maintain prospects' confidence amid rumors of his impending dismissal. The Gators lost a pair of 4-star linebacker commits last week, plummeting to 61st nationally in 247Sports' composite class rankings.

Meanwhile, Georgia holds the nation's No. 3 class and remains a potential playoff team. The Bulldogs can take a step toward postseason contention and perhaps punctuate the Muschamp Era in Gainesville by winning a fourth straight game in this celebrated series.

Here's a look at recruits who will be watching closely this weekend, with an eye on how this matchup could impact their signing day decisions.

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Kenny Hill vs. Kyle Allen: Latest Updates, Reaction on Texas A&M's QB Battle

Earlier this season, Kenny Hill was a Heisman hopeful at the head of an SEC contender. Now, the sophomore quarterback isn't even guaranteed a starting job for Texas A&M after his recent performances.    

The quarterback famously known as Kenny Trill is now in danger of losing his spot to true freshman Kyle Allen. Offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Jake Spavital provided the latest on the quarterback rotation, per Sam Khan Jr. or ESPN.com:

We opened it back up. It's still wide open. We're going to split the [first-team] reps [Tuesday] and possibly on Wednesday and by Thursday we'll probably have a declared starter and they'll take all the reps for that Thursday practice.

Kyle came into my office and he asked me if this was for real. I said, 'Yeah, it is.' And he said, 'Good, because I'm going to try to go get it.'

Hill started the season with five straight wins as Texas A&M looked like a national title contender, throwing 17 touchdowns and just two interceptions. Since that point, the Aggies are mired in a three-game losing streak while Hill has six touchdowns and six interceptions.

Connor Tapp of 247Sports offered his take on the recent decline for Hill:

After setting a school record for passing yards with 511 against South Carolina in the season opener, Kenny Hill struggled mightily in three consecutive losses to Mississippi State, Ole Miss, and Alabama. The 59-0 shutout at the hands of the Crimson Tide was among the worst losses in school history.

Losses are piling up, and some of the blame is seemingly being placed on Hill. Luckily, Allen appears to have talent and potential that the Aggies might utilize.

Allen was the No. 1 pro-style quarterback in the 2014 class, via 247Sports' composite rankings, and enrolled in January. It also sounds like Allen is more than ready for the moment, per his conversation with Spavital.

Coming up for the Aggies is a much easier matchup against UL-Monroe prior to traveling to Auburn. If there is a change made, Allen would essentially have a warm-up game before facing the No. 4 team in the nation.

Both quarterbacks also have another potential contender coming next season in Kyler Murray. For now, either signal-caller will be tasked with turning around the program in an SEC West that is arguably filled with the best teams in the country.

 

Follow @RCorySmith on Twitter.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football 2014: Updated National Championship Odds for Week 10

With Week 10 quickly approaching, the inaugural College Football Playoff is inching closer. Many of the top teams today could be on the outside looking in come December. 

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Adam Kramer lays his national champion odds for all the top teams in the hunt. 

Which team is the odds-on favorite to win the national championship?

Watch the video and let us know! 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Ohio State Football: Who Is the Real J.T. Barrett?

COLUMBUS, Ohio — To paraphrase Eminem, will the real J.T. Barrett please stand up?

Of course, with a sprained MCL, that may be easier said than done for the Ohio State quarterback.

Nevertheless, that's become the most popular question in Columbus over the past three days following Barrett's struggles in the Buckeyes' 31-24 double-overtime win over Penn State in Happy Valley on Saturday.

After entering the Heisman Trophy discussion following video-game-like performances against Kent State, Cincinnati, Maryland and Rutgers, the redshirt freshman posted just 74 passing yards against the Nittany Lions, also tossing two interceptions and one touchdown.

Those numbers are a far cry from the 292.5 passing yards and 4.25 touchdowns per game that he averaged in his previous four outings, although he did do enough on the ground (75 yards, two overtime touchdowns) to escape State College with a win.

It is also worth noting that he sprained his MCL at some point in the first half, an injury that has previously cost Braxton Miller and Carlos Hyde significant playing time for the Buckeyes.

"It was a tough, gritty performance," Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer said of Barrett's most recent showing.

Regardless of whatever handicap you place on Barrett's uneven outing against Penn State, the fact remains that his two worst games have come against the two best defenses that the Buckeyes have faced this season.

While the Nittany Lions rank seventh in the nation in total defense, Virginia Tech currently measures in at No. 27 in the same category, having held Barrett to a 9-of-29, 219-yard, one-touchdown, three-interception stat line on Sept. 6.

But in between Ohio State's defeat at the hands of the Hokies and the close call in Happy Valley, Barrett managed to make the most of the Buckeyes' inferior opponents.

With the Golden Flashes (No. 81), Bearcats (No. 115), Terrapins (No. 103) and Scarlet Knights (No. 82) currently combining for a 95.25 average national ranking in total defense, Barrett moved the ball at will, never throwing for fewer than 261 yards and three touchdowns in a single game.

So who's the real J.T. Barrett: The player who has committed five turnovers against the two defenses he's faced that rank higher than 75th in the nation or the one who posted Heisman-caliber numbers against lesser competition?

The answer likely lies somewhere in between.

Starting with the positive for Barrett, he remains just past the midway point of his freshman season and showed steady improvement up until last Saturday's game.

It also didn't help that Ohio State's offensive line struggled against the Nittany Lions' front seven and conservative play-calling was evidenced in the Buckeyes' 57 runs compared to 19 pass attempts—12 of which Barrett completed.

Barrett has performed better than anybody could have predicted he would when he unexpectedly took over for an injured Miller two weeks prior to the start of the season, and Meyer has routinely praised the Wichita Falls, Texas, native's leadership in recent weeks.

That even rang true after the Penn State game, where Barrett may not have looked great but still walked away a winner.

“His progression and growth as a leader and a man has been exponential." Meyer said of Barrett. "That was a tough, tough performance."

But regardless of the end result, Meyer admitted that Saturday's effort wasn't Barrett's best. "It wasn't a great performance as far as making the right reads and doing the things a quarterback needs to do," he said.

While his current injury may compound matters, that's something that Barrett will need to clean up—especially with next Saturday's showdown with Michigan State looming.

As he did in his previous four starts before facing the Nittany Lions, Barrett should be able to get by on talent alone this weekend against Illinois but will need to play a more refined game against the Spartans' sixth-ranked defense for the Buckeyes to have any chance of escaping East Lansing with a win.

If there's anything we've learned in Ohio State's first seven games of the season, it's that the Buckeyes seem to go as Barrett does. This is why—while the rest of us try to figure out which Barrett will be on the field on Nov. 8—his shaky, yet successful performance at Penn State told Meyer everything he needed to know about his quarterback.

"To say that I knew you a year-and-a-half ago, I did not," Meyer recalled of his postgame speech to Barrett in front of the rest of his team. "Now I do."

 

Ben Axelrod is Bleacher Report's Ohio State Lead Writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BenAxelrod. Unless noted otherwise, all quotes obtained firsthand. All statistics courtesy of cfbstats.com and recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Texas vs. Texas Tech Complete Game Preview

Texas and Texas Tech are both experiencing down seasons. The teams are sitting at 3-5 and hoping to make it to a bowl game. 

The Longhorns and the Red Raiders are both coming off of embarrassing losses.

The Red Raiders were dominated in an 82-27 loss to TCU and will be looking to bounce back against the Longhorns.

But can Texas bounce back on the road against the struggling Texas Tech Red Raiders? Let's take a look.

 

When: Saturday, Nov. 1, 7:30 p.m. ET

Where: Jones AT&T Stadium, Lubbock, Texas

TV: FS1

Austin radio: KVET 98.1/1300

SiriusXM satellite radio: XM 202; Sirius 117; Internet 969; Spanish 550

Last meeting: Nov. 28, 2013, Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, Austin, Texas

Last meeting outcome: Texas 41, Texas Tech 16

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What Auburn Can Learn from LSU's Victory over Ole Miss

Anomaly or the start of a trend?

That's what Ole Miss is left to ponder after LSU racked up 264 rushing yards in the Tigers' 10-7 win in Death Valley last week. Prior to that matchup, Ole Miss had not allowed an opponent to rush for more than 193 yards on the ground and had given up an average of 82.25 rushing yards per game to SEC opponents.

So what happened?

Ole Miss was outmanned by a tougher, more physical LSU offensive line.

On LSU's only two scoring drives on Saturday night, 25 of the 30 plays were runs, including 12 straight on a 95-yard march in the fourth quarter that culminated with a three-yard pass from Anthony Jennings to Logan Stokes—the only pass of the drive.

The game plan featured guards pulling around the corner, wide receivers getting after it as blockers downfield and a stable of running backs including Leonard Fournette, Kenny Hilliard and Terrence Magee.

"They played with great passion and played a really, really physical brand of football," Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze said during Monday's press conference. "Coach (Les) Miles had his guys ready. They deserve credit. From watching the film, we did not play our best game. That's always disappointing."

What can Auburn learn from LSU's win over Ole Miss?

 

Ground-and-Pound

Athletic offensive linemen, wide receivers blocking their tails off downfield and a large cast of characters available to carry the ball...sound familiar?

While it looks different out of the spread, those are all staples of Gus Malzahn's offense at Auburn.

Not only are they staples, Auburn is rolling into Oxford at the right time to exploit what suddenly looks like an unstable Ole Miss run defense.

The Tigers got back to the basics last week against South Carolina, rushing for 395 yards on 47 attempts—8.4 yards per carry—in the 42-35 win on the Plains.

Running back Cameron Artis-Payne rushed for 167 yards and a touchdown, quarterback Nick Marshall rushed for 89 and three touchdowns and wide receiver Ricardo Louis ran for 102 yards and a touchdown.

That's a lot of variety that doesn't even include Roc Thomas and Corey Grant, both of whom also made an impact as runners and blockers.

Things could get more interesting in Auburn's backfield this week against the Rebels, with Artis-Payne, Thomas and Grant all joining Marshall on the field at the same time.

"You could possibly even see all three of them on the field at the same time in the future," Malzahn said on his radio show Monday night (h/t James Crepea of the Montgomery Advertiser).

All of the talk of becoming more balanced in the offseason has suddenly been replaced by more of a retro approach to the Auburn offense, as Malzahn noted on Tuesday (h/t AuburnSports.com's Jay G. Tate):

Ole Miss' front seven was worn down and beat up by LSU, and it showed in the fourth quarter on what turned out to be LSU's game-winning drive. Now Auburn comes calling—a team with an offense designed to wear defenses down with tempo and beat them up by winning the battle in the trenches.

Auburn learned a lot about itself last week, when it went more old-school, focused more on a diverse running game and stretched the field through the air only at appropriate times.

That works, and it should work again this week against an Ole Miss defense that we also learned is susceptible to bruising, power-rushing attacks.

 

"Bad Bo" Is Real

Quarterback Bo Wallace has been known as a boom-or-bust quarterback during his first two seasons in Oxford, but "Bad Bo" had been noticeably absent during the 2014 season.

Until Saturday night.

Wallace completed just 14 of 33 passes for 176 yards, one touchdown and one pick in the loss to LSU.

That one pick was huge. With nine seconds to go, head coach Hugh Freeze passed up the chance to kick the game-tying 47-yard field goal in favor of taking one more shot to get a few more yards and give his kicker a closer look.

Instead of hitting the receiver in the flat or throwing it away, Wallace threw deep and was picked off by Ronald Martin to end Ole Miss' dream season. This came two plays after another Martin interception on a terrible pass was negated by pass interference on Jalen Mills five yards downfield.

While Ole Miss' pass defense has been getting all of the publicity, Auburn has quietly gone about its business, picking off 13 passes on the season—second-most in the SEC.

Wallace wants to be more aggressive against the Tigers.

"A lot of times when we're throwing right now, it's third down," he said during Monday's press conference. "We're staying in 3rd-and-long so much. People get in their defenses and it's hard in this league to convert third downs as well as people play third-down defense. We have to get back to throwing the ball on first and second down and making plays like we did earlier in the season."

An aggressive game plan could actually benefit Auburn.

The Tigers have struggled to get a pass rush this season, but with offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil day-to-day, expect the Tigers to get very creative with their front seven in an attempt to rattle Wallace.

After all, it's not like Ole Miss presents a challenge on the ground. That brings me to the next point.

 

No Running Threat

Ole Miss is simply not a good running team.

The Rebels rank 12th in the SEC in rushing yards per game (149.5) and yards per rushing attempt (3.87), and were stymied by the Tigers on Saturday night, gaining 137 yards on the ground. This against an LSU rush defense that had given up 212.4 rushing yards per game against FBS opponents coming in.

Ole Miss' offense is one-dimensional by necessity, not by choice.

There's no between-the-tackles threat on that roster. I'Tavius Mathers and Jaylen Walton run toward the edges, with Wallace again taking on too much of those responsibilities and absorbing way too many hits.

"It's a number of factors," Freeze said during Monday's press conference. "We've had several decent games where we've rushed fairly well. It is a challenge and continues to be. There are a lot of factors. We could sit here and talk about losing one-on-one battles or they have the right call at the right time and we have a bad call at the wrong time."

Auburn's run defense is giving up just 3.37 yards per play on the ground, and linebackers Cassanova McKinzy and Kris Frost have progressed in nearly every game since the middle of last season.

Toss in "Star" Robenson Therezie and linebacker Justin Garrett, and Auburn has the speed off the edge at the second level to slow down those rushers and make Ole Miss just as one-dimensional as LSU did.

That's right where Auburn's defense wants to be.

The lessons learned last week will converge on Saturday night in Oxford.

If Auburn stays true to its new self on the ground and gets to Wallace, it should lead to a big statement for the Tigers and end Ole Miss' dream season with a resounding thud.

 

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

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

10 Most Valuable Players in College Football

There are good players, and then there are players a team just can't do without. With the college football season just over the halfway point, it's time to examine the most valuable players in the game. 

Again, this is a list of the most valuable players, not necessarily the best players period or the guy with the most eye-popping stats—though there is some crossover and a few Heisman contenders are featured. 

Take Georgia running back Todd Gurley, for example. Gurley is outstanding and identified as "the nation's best back" by Bleacher Report's Matt Miller.

Is he valuable to the Bulldogs? Absolutely. Is he irreplaceable? No, as evidenced by the fact that Georgia is 2-0 without him and his backup, Nick Chubb, has shown he's more than capable of handling the responsibility of being an every-down back. 

Rather, this is a list of players whose teams would be—or, in some cases, already are—lost without them. These are players who lead their teams (or the nation) in a specific statistical category, sometimes by a long shot. In other words, the offense or the defense basically goes through them. 

Which players are the most valuable? The answers are in the following slides. 

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4-Star WR Equanimeous St. Brown: More Success at Notre Dame or USC?

Equanimeous St. Brown is one of the nation's top wide receiver prospects of the 2015 class. USC and Notre Dame are among the teams courting St. Brown for his services, according to 247Sports.

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder discusses which school would be the best fit for St. Brown.

What school would be the best fit for St. Brown?

Check out the video and let us know! 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Texas A&M Football: Game-by-Game Prediction for the Month of November

The Texas A&M football team enters the final months of the 2014 regular season with a 5-3 record overall and a 2-3 record in the SEC. The Aggies will go 3-1 in their remaining games and match their 8-4 regular season record from 2013. 

The Texas A&M football team is currently riding a three-game losing streak. It just had its first bye week of the season and first opportunity to assess what worked and did not work during the first eight games.

The Aggies have some issues on defense caused by inept play at the linebacker position. That cannot be addressed during the season. The coaches should be able to address some play-calling issues that have popped up during the losing streak.

You cannot win football games when everyone knows what play you are going to call on offense. Aggie offensive coordinator Jake Spavital has become predictable—hopefully this has been addressed during the bye week.

This is a look at how the Aggies will do during the month of November.  

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Utah Utes vs. Arizona State Sun Devils: Betting Odds, Analysis and Pick

Arizona State is 3-0 straight up and 2-1 against the spread versus Utah since the Utes joined the Pac-12 three seasons ago. That bodes well for the Sun Devils, as they seek a berth in the conference championship game for the second straight season.

South Division-leading ASU hosts second-place Utah for Homecoming in Tempe Saturday night.

 

Point Spread: The Sun Devils opened as 2.5-point favorites.

Odds Shark Computer Pick: Sun Devils 29.9, Utes 26.7

 

Why the Utah Utes Can Cover the Spread

The Utes just came up with a big home win over USC, scoring on a one-yard Travis Wilson touchdown pass with eight seconds to go for a 24-21 victory. Utah only managed 137 yards rushing on 42 carries but held the Trojans to 100 yards on 37 rushing attempts.

The Utes might have avoided the need for last-minute heroics had they not lost two fumbles inside the USC 5-yard line.

Since being upset at home by Washington State last month, Utah has won and covered three games in a row to get to 6-1 both SU and ATS on the season, and 3-1 both SU and ATS in Pac-12 play.

 

Why the Arizona State Sun Devils Can Cover the Spread

The Sun Devils have also won and covered three games in a row after winning at Washington last week 24-10.

ASU was out-gained and out-rushed by the Huskies, but senior quarterback Taylor Kelly—in his first game back after missing a month due to injury—tossed a pair of touchdown passes and the defense forced three turnovers, the last of which was returned for the game-clinching score.

So the only blemish on the Devils' slate remains that loss to UCLA. Arizona State is averaging 186 yards on the ground, 303 through the air and the defense has allowed just 20 points over the last two games.

 

Smart Pick

Statistically speaking, the Utes don't stand out, but they have out-rushed their four Pac-12 foes by an average of almost 100 yards per game and already own three road victories this season.

The Sun Devils, on the other hand, have been out-rushed in four of their five conference contests. Last year, as Utah struggled through a 5-7 season, it almost upset Arizona State, which went on to win the South.

The pick here goes with the Utes, plus the points.

 

Betting Trends

  • Utah is 4-1 ATS in its last five games on the road.
  • Arizona State is 1-4 ATS in its last five games at home.

 

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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Utah Utes vs. Arizona State Sun Devils: Betting Odds, Analysis and Pick

Arizona State is 3-0 straight up and 2-1 against the spread versus Utah since the Utes joined the Pac -12 three seasons ago. That bodes well for the Sun Devils, as they seek a berth in the conference championship game for the second straight season.

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TCU Horned Frogs vs. West Virginia Mountaineers Betting Odds and Pick

So far this college football season, TCU is the best team in the country on which to wager, going a perfect 7-0 against the spread. But if the Horned Frogs want a piece of the big prize, something along the lines of a Big 12 conference title, they'll have to leap over at least a couple of teams, including this week's opponent, surprising West Virginia.

 

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

 

College football pick, via Odds Shark computer: 46.8-42.3 Horned Frogs

 

Why the TCU Horned Frogs can cover the spread

The Horned Frogs just laid 82 points on Texas Tech last week, cruising to a cover as 24-point favorites. TCU racked up a ridiculous 785 yards of offense, 305 on the ground, and quarterback Trevone Boykin threw seven touchdown passes. So over their last three games, including that heartbreaking loss at Baylor, the Frogs have scored 182 points.

In fact, while under head coach Gary Patterson TCU has mainly been known for its defense, this year's edition of the Frogs ranks second in the country in total offense and leads the nation in scoring at 50 points per game.

 

Why the West Virginia Mountaineers can cover the spread

The Mountaineers were supposedly headed for another lower-division finish in the Big 12 this season, but instead they've won four conference games in a row and sit just a half-game out of first place. Last week, West Virginia won at Oklahoma State, 34-10, pulling away in the fourth quarter to secure the victory and the cover.

That performance was especially impressive considering the Mountaineers avoided the letdown after the upset victory over Baylor the week before. West Virginia ranks 10th in the country in total offense, and while the defense only ranks 58th overall, it did hold the Bears, who own the top-ranked offense in the country, to just 318 total yards.

 

Smart Pick

These teams have gone to overtime each of their two meetings since joining the Big 12, which is why the underdog is 2-0 against the spread in those two games. And this game looks like it might be another close one. So the smart choice here is with the home dog, plus the points.

 

Betting Trends

  • The total has gone OVER in four of TCU's last five games
  • West Virginia is 6-1 SU in its last seven 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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College Football Rankings 2014: Full List of Week 10 NCAA Standings and Polls

The long-awaited release of the first College Football Playoff rankings are finally mere hours away. But for now, fans will have to rely on the good, old-fashioned polls to get an idea of where teams stand in the current college football landscape. 

Taking a look at the latest Amway coachesAssociated Press and Bleacher Report polls, one thing is certain—the controversy that marked the BCS era isn't leaving anytime soon. 

With Ole Miss going down in Baton Rouge, Mississippi State and Florida State remain the only two power-five conference teams to remain unbeaten. That means that at least two of the College Football Playoff participants are likely to have at least one loss. 

Figuring out who deserves to earn those two spots is sure to be the topic of debate from now until the end of the season. Here's a look at who the most recent polls like, followed by a preview of some of the week's biggest action:

 

Marquee Matchups

TCU at West Virginia

TCU and West Virginia's brief history against each other in the Big 12 is a dramatic one. In their two games against each other as conference foes, the visiting team has won in overtime. 

With both teams appearing in the Top 25 polls and Morgantown playing host to ESPN College GameDay, the 2014 edition should be yet another chapter in the developing rivalry. 

Of course, no one would have expected these two teams to be playing in such a high-profile game last season. Both teams went 4-8 last season behind starting quarterbacks who threw just seven touchdowns to seven interceptions. 

This year, both teams have experienced much more success. Most likely because both TCU's Trevone Boykin and West Virginia's Clint Trickett have stepped up in big ways:

As TCU's assistant AD Mark Cohen points out, Boykin has been putting up numbers similar to recent Heisman winners Robert Griffin III and Johnny Manziel:

The only downfall to TCU's offensive breakthrough this season has been a downgraded defense. Where the Frogs have traditionally been known for their stout defense, the new fast-paced offense has left the defense out on the field more than it is used to. 

This game should be a shootout. TCU is currently first in the country in points per game at 50.8, but West Virginia is 25th at 34.4. In a shootout, it's the team with the better quarterback that has the advantage. 

That's Boykin by a nose.

Prediction: TCU 45, West Virginia 42

 

Auburn at Ole Miss

Ole Miss won't get much time to lick its wounds after its upset loss to LSU last week. The 6-1 Auburn Tigers will roll into Oxford looking to bolster their claim to a College Football Playoff berth. 

Fortunately for the Rebels, a trip back to Oxford might be just what the doctor ordered. A look at these two teams may reveal a fairly equal matchup, but looking at what Auburn has done on the road this season tells the story. 

Thus far, the Tigers have only left the friendly confines of Jordan-Hare Stadium twice this season. The first was a narrow 20-14 victory over Kansas State. The second was the team's lone loss on the season to Mississippi State, 38-23.

One player in particular whose numbers have declined on the road is Nick Marshall:

This trend gives the Rebels' tough defense a rather simple game plan to follow—force Marshall to throw the ball. 

Given Ole Miss' No. 16 ranking in rushing yards allowed per attempt (3.2, per TeamRankings.com) the Rebels have the tools to stack the box and do just that. The question is whether Marshall can make plays when that happens. 

The answer to that question has been no to this point in the season. With the Rebels looking to rebound this week, it's likely to be the same story. 

Prediction: Ole Miss 20, Auburn 14

 

Upset Alert

Stanford at Oregon

It might be easy to dismiss Stanford as a legitimate threat to hand the Ducks their second loss of the season. The Cardinal have lost all three of their games against ranked opponents this season and have one of the worst offenses in the Pac-12. 

However, doing so would be a mistake. There's a reason that David Shaw's team has given the Ducks fits the last two seasons, and it isn't the offense. Stanford's physical defense has been able to slow Oregon down in wins over the Ducks in each of the last two seasons. 

As David Lombardi of ESPN points out, the defense from Palo Alto is still one of the best in the nation:

Stanford's offense isn't likely to have enough scores in its system to spring the upset. Kevin Hogan hasn't been able to make up for a punchless run game this season. However, the defense and recent history of playing Oregon tough should make this much more challenging for the Ducks than the 10-point spread (via Odds Shark) would indicate.

Prediction: Oregon 24, Stanford 20

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The Power-5 Conference Most Likely to Be Left out of the CFB Playoff

There are five power conferences in college football but only four spots in the College Football Playoff. Four is one fewer than five. It doesn't take Archimedes to deduce that (at least) one of those conferences will be omitted from the field.

The debate over which conference that will be has dominated the season, the answer seeming to change each passing week. Right now? My answer is probably the Big 12. But I say that knowing all too well that it could make me look like an idiot come Monday.

Why the Big 12? It's a process of elimination, more than anything.

The SEC has four teams ranked in the Associated Press Top 10 including No. 1 Mississippi State—one of two unbeaten teams left from power conferences. The other unbeaten, Florida State, has the ACC in good shape to make the field despite (and in many ways because of) the fact that it's the weakest of the power-five leagues.

The Big Ten, the Big 12 and the Pac-12 are the most likely candidates for exclusion, but the Big 12 sticks out, counterproductively, because it has been the best of that triad this season.

It has been, in a way, too good for its own good.

Eighteen power-conference teams have either zero or one loss after nine weeks. If any of those teams runs the table, there is a good (but not definite) chance they make the playoff. Unless there is another chaotic week such as Week 6 where zero- and one-loss teams start dropping like flies, it is safe to assume, for the time being, that every two-loss team has already been eliminated.

Thus, on raw numbers, the Pac-12 has more playoff contenders (4) than the Big Ten (3) and Big 12 (3). Three of those contenders are non-traditional—Utah, Arizona and Arizona State—and one of them is Oregon, whom many have termed the favorite to win the league.

The Big Ten has Ohio State, Michigan State and Nebraska, the former two of which will play each other Nov. 8 in East Lansing. The loser of that game will be eliminated, but the winner will have an easy path to an 11-1 record and the Big Ten Championship Game. If Nebraska, which doesn't have a ranked team left on its schedule, also finishes 11-1, that game will be a de facto playoff quarterfinal.

The Big 12 has TCU, Kansas State and Baylor, three teams good enough to represent the league with pride in the CFP. The problem with the conference isn't that it lacks quality form; au contraire, it's that the conference has too much quality form. Especially with a nine-game conference schedule, the Big 12 is susceptible to cannibalism.

Kansas State has yet to play TCU or Baylor, setting up a potential nightmare scenario for the conference. If the Wildcats split those games, it could throw the Big 12's playoff hopes out of orbit.

But even if it sweeps or gets swept in those games, there are other pitfalls facing all of these teams.

TCU plays West Virginia in Morgantown this weekend. Kansas State makes the same trip to Morgantown in three weeks. Baylor—which plays Oklahoma in Norman in two weeks—saw its own undefeated season slip away in Morgantown two weeks ago.

All of which leads to a counterintuitive hypothesis: The improvement of West Virginia, which by extension means the improvement of the conference, might actually be a terrible thing for the conference.

The Mountaineers played Alabama close in Week 1 and Oklahoma close in Week 4 before finally getting over the hump against Baylor. They did so by holding Baylor to 318 yards of total offense, its lowest output since September 2010.

Their defense has taken an important leap forward, now ranking higher than their offense in Football Outsiders' S&P+ ratings, something Chris Brown of Grantland calls "amazing":

"Holding Baylor to 318 yards and 80 plays is something," head coach Dana Holgorsen said after the win. "We had two starting corners go out in the first half and it didn't change the game plan. We didn't blink. We've been talking about depth for some time…If you've got depth you've got a chance to win these games."

If West Virginia's improved depth—a microcosm of the Big 12's improved depth—is enough for the 'Neers to pull similar upsets over TCU and Kansas State, it could cost the league a spot in the playoff.

And that seems a lot more likely than, say, Oregon State beating Oregon or Penn State beating Michigan State.

Again…the Big 12 is too good for its own good.

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Stanford Cardinal vs. Oregon Ducks Betting Odds, Analysis, College Football Pick

Oregon is once again favored for its big Pac-12 North battle with Stanford, but that doesn't mean anything to the Cardinal, who have upset the Ducks each of the past two seasons on their way to back-to-back conference championships. Stanford will shoot for a third straight upset of Oregon Saturday night in Eugene.

 

Point spread: Ducks opened as 12.5-point favorites, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark. (line updates and matchup report).

 

College football pick, via Odds Shark computer: 53.5-43.2 Ducks

 

Why the Stanford Cardinal can cover the spread

The Cardinal just bounced back from that bad loss at Arizona State two weeks ago to pound Oregon State last week 38-14, easily covering the spread as 12-point favorites. Stanford doubled up the Beavers in total offense, 438-221, and with help from six sacks, it held OSU to just 12 yards rushing.

The Cardinal are struggling on offense, ranking 84th in the country overall, 93rd in rushing, but the defense ranks second overall, fifth against the run, allowing just 91 yards per game, and second in points allowed at 13 per game. Last year, as a 10-point home dog, Stanford built a 26-0 lead over the Ducks, then held on for the 26-20 victory.

 

Why the Oregon Ducks can cover the spread

The Ducks are not quite the well-oiled machine they've been in recent seasons, but they're still in the running for the conference title and a spot in this year's College Football Playoff. Oregon just put up 59 in a victory at Cal, covering the spread as a 17-point road favorite. The Ducks gave up 28 points in the first half against the Bears, then held them to 13 while pulling away in the second half.

So since getting upset at home by Arizona a month ago, Oregon is 3-0 both straight up and against the spread, including that blowout victory at UCLA.

 

Smart pick

The Ducks probably have the better team in this matchup, but the Cardinal have had their number as of late, holding Oregon to a total of 34 points over the last two meetings in this series—and the Ducks often score that many points in less than a half.

Also, Oregon is just 2-5 ATS in its last seven home games, in part because the spreads have been so high. And that might be the case for this game, too, so the smart money should go on underdog Stanford.

 

Betting Trends

  • Stanford is 2-4 ATS in its last six games when playing on the road against Oregon.
  • Oregon is 9-3 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 and line movement updates and get the free odds-tracker app.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

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