NCAA Football

Alabama's Offense vs. Ole Miss' Defense Won't Be the Determining Factor

When No. 3 Alabama walks into Vaught-Hemmingway Stadium in Oxford, Mississippi, on Saturday afternoon to take on No. 11 Ole Miss, it will be power vs. power in one of the biggest SEC games of the season.

Alabama's offense currently ranks fourth in the nation in yards per game (594.3) and fifth in yards per play (7.62). Quarterback Blake Sims and that crew will be going up against the fourth-best defense in the country (248.0 YPG and 3.74 yards per play).

The Rebels have notched nine interceptions in just four games, so while Sims has looked great all year long—particularly two weeks ago when he tossed for 445 yards and four touchdowns against Florida—this will be, by far, his toughest test of the year. 

Ole Miss safety Cody Prewitt is excited about facing off against the Tide offense, saying, per Fox Sports' Brandon Speck that "we don't really think Bama is as good as they have been."

The matchup between Ole Miss' defense and Alabama's offense won't be what decides the game, though. Ole Miss' offense vs. Alabama's front seven is the most important matchup of the game.

It'll be no contest, as SEC Network's Paul Finebaum explained to The Opening Drive on WJOX 94.5 in Birmingham.

Alabama has made an effort to be faster in its front seven over the last few years, with fast and physical players like defensive end Jonathan Allen and linebacker Rashaan Evans. Those kinds of players—Allen, in particular—will be a huge factor on Saturday afternoon in Oxford.

Ole Miss' offensive line has been a sore spot this year. The Rebels have given up 29 tackles for loss this season—tied for the second-worst mark in the SEC. That inconsistency up front is a big reason why quarterback Bo Wallace has been mistake-prone.

Wallace has thrown an SEC-worst six interceptions, including two last week against Memphis in addition to fumbling once. He and Ole Miss' offensive line haven't seen anything like what's coming at them this weekend. 

The Crimson Tide front seven gets after the quarterback, thrives off mistakes generated with pressure and will put Sims and that offense in position to capitalize.

How do you slow down a pass rush?

A consistent running game would help, and Ole Miss' running game has been far from consistent this year.

The Rebs are averaging just 160.75 yards per game on the ground and just 3.99 yards per carry—the third-worst mark in the conference. If they have a strength on the ground, it's off the edge, where smaller running backs I'Tavius Mathers and Jaylen Walton have done the most damage.

Guys like Allen can track down even the fastest running backs, as he proved last year in the highlight above, chasing down Heisman Trophy finalist Tre Mason from behind.

If Ole Miss can protect Wallace and prevent him from taking risks against Alabama's defense, it will go a long way toward springing the upset. Doing that, however, probably requires establishing a strong and consistent running game, and against this Alabama defense, that's no easy task.

Bama's offense vs. Ole Miss' defense is going to be a wildly fascinating chess match, with both teams earning their fair share of praise. 

It will be a decidedly one-sided affair when Ole Miss has the ball, though.

The Tide will be all over the Rebels from the get-go, force mistakes by the dozen and lead the Crimson Tide to a big victory on the road in Oxford.

 

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

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

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College Football Rankings 2014: Updated Outlook on Top Week 6 Polls

A wild weekend of college football has fans ready to check out the Week 6 college football rankings from The Associated Press, USA Today and Bleacher Report.

With several top programs like Alabama, Oregon and Oklahoma having the week off, and other schools like Florida State and Georgia barely picking up victories, there has been turnover in the polls.

Here are the updated Week 6 rankings and the biggest winner and loser from Week 5.

*Polls via Amway coaches', The Associated Press and Bleacher Report.

 

Biggest Winner: LSU

The biggest winner of Week 5 was LSU. With several top-ranked teams off and several others barely earning a victory in hard-fought matchups, LSU utterly dominated New Mexico State, winning by a lopsided score of 63-7.

While the Tigers still have a loss on their record, it came against a better-than-expected Mississippi State team. Add in a Week 1 win over the tough Wisconsin Badgers, and LSU looks more and more like a viable SEC Championship contender every week.

The story of the day was freshman quarterback Brandon Harris. Not only did he go 11-of-14 through the air for 178 yards and three touchdowns, but he also racked up 36 yards on the ground for another two touchdowns.

Despite Harris clearly winning the starting job with his Week 5 performance, Tigers head coach Les Miles told Ron Higgins of The Times-Picayune about his quarterback situation:

We're not going to operate that way. We're always going to do things in a measured fashion. We'll go back and communicate with our team.

Brandon Harris came in and did exactly what we needed him to do. He handled the communications, and he made positive plays. Seven straight scoring drives, no turnovers, he operated the offense very effectively. I didn't see that as a surprise.

But I can tell you this. We're going to need both quarterbacks this season. There's a long season left. Anthony Jennings has to get better. Some of the things he did, the fumble and two picks, are things he cannot do. He'll have to make changes, he'll have to improve.

As great as the win was for LSU, the program must turn its attention immediately to its biggest opportunity of the year against Auburn on the road in Week 6. The Tigers are desperate to climb back into the postseason conversation, and a win over Auburn would help the school’s case.

If LSU can use the momentum created against New Mexico State to stun Auburn, the Tigers will continue to climb the rankings and be a viable championship contender.

 

Biggest Loser: Arizona State

As great as the win was for LSU in Week 5, the loss for Arizona State against UCLA was equally as devastating for the Sun Devils. The matchup against the Bruins was the first real test of the season for ASU, and the program failed miserably, losing 62-27.

The offense had its issues, but it was Arizona State’s defense that ultimately betrayed them. The Sun Devils allowed an astounding 580 total yards of offense (355 passing and 225 rushing), including four highlight-reel touchdowns, via ESPN College Football's Twitter account:

Arizona State needed this win. The team began the toughest stretch of the schedule at home against UCLA and will now travel to USC and host Stanford in the next two games. With the team’s confidence shaken, the Sun Devils could easily fall to 3-3 after six games.

If the program has any real hope of regaining their place toward the top of the rankings, Arizona State must beat both USC and Stanford and go on to beat Notre Dame later in the season. That's a tough stretch for any team, but ASU is coming off a disheartening loss.

Starting quarterback Taylor Kelly was unable to play with a foot injury and was replaced by Mike Bercovici. Regardless of which player starts next week, the key for the team must be limiting turnovers and being smarter with the football.

 

*Stats via ESPN.com.

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Samuel Chi's Mock College Football Playoff Standings: Week 6

While there are 17 teams still unbeaten in FBS, only about a dozen or so realistically remain in the hunt for a spot in the four-team playoff field. The SEC West, with six of its seven teams ranked in the Top 15, takes up almost half of the list of the contenders.

But that does not mean multiple teams from that division will get into the playoff. The possibility does exist, though it's a long shot. The SEC West will begin in earnest its elimination process this weekend as three divisional showdowns take place: Alabama visits Ole Miss, Auburn hosts LSU and Mississippi State welcomes Texas A&M.

None of the other conferences are likely to land more than one team in the playoff field, and they will now go through their own internecine battles. Here's a look at where everyone stands at the end of the "preseason" phase.

 

The Rankings

(See methodology of standings)

 

The Playoff Teams

1. Oklahoma

The Sooners remain on top of the standings but will now enter the most challenging portion of their schedule, beginning with a visit to unbeaten TCU. OU's solid strength of schedule will keep it in the playoff field as long as it keeps winning. (Projected bowl: Playoff at Sugar Bowl)

2. Auburn

The Tigers will enter the most brutal six-game stretch of 2014 beginning with the LSU game. After that, they'll play five more teams currently ranked in our Top 25, including road games at both Mississippi schools and Georgia. And if they get through all of that unscathed, they still have to visit Tuscaloosa for the Iron Bowl at the end of the regular season. (Projected bowl: Playoff at Rose Bowl)

3. Florida State

A second consecutive narrow escape doesn't affect FSU's place in the playoff, but it might influence its seeding. Because they're the defending national champions, the 'Noles will make the playoff field as long as they win the ACC undefeated, or perhaps even with one loss. (Projected bowl: Playoff at Rose Bowl)

4. Alabama

Even though they're also in the SEC West, the Tide somehow have an easier schedule than most of their divisional foes. They avoid the better teams in the SEC East and have likely their toughest two games (Texas A&M and Auburn) at home. (Projected bowl: Orange Bowl)

 

First Four Out

5. Oregon

Don't let the heading fool you: The Ducks are in the playoff field if they win out, no ifs and buts. Even with one loss, Oregon likely will have a shot to get into the playoff as long as it wins the conference title. The Ducks host Stanford this year, which will help their chances. (Projected bowl: Playoff at Sugar Bowl)

6. Texas A&M

The Aggies can still play their way into the playoff field, thanks to last week's overtime escape against Arkansas. But for them, it's likely one (loss) and done because of their atrocious nonconference schedule. (Projected bowl: Cotton Bowl)

7. UCLA

The Bruins did themselves a huge favor with an emphatic win at Arizona State last Thursday. That was enough to wipe away a rather unimpressive nonconference portion of the season in which they barely beat three middling teams in Virginia, Memphis and Texas. But things are just getting started for UCLA, as it must navigate perhaps the top-ranked schedule in FBS this year. (Projected bowl: Fiesta Bowl)

8. Ole Miss

The Rebels might not be in this spot for long after getting by September against subpar competition, struggling against Memphis for three quarters in their last game. The upcoming game against visiting Alabama arguably will be the most important in program history in at least a quarter century, or more. (Projected bowl: Non-CFP bowl)

 

Other Fun Facts

* At the moment, there does not appear to be a spot for BYU in the six CFP bowls. The Cougars' independent status is not helping their cause, as there is no guarantee of any sorts for them. Complicating things is that the ACC has a guaranteed second spot in the Orange Bowl should Florida State qualify for the playoff, and right now that belongs to Clemson (ranked at No. 26).

* The other independent, Notre Dame, likely will not be squeezed out as long as it either wins out or finishes the season with just one loss. The Irish can play their way into the playoff field if they can knock off Florida State and essentially grab the ACC's place for themselves.

* East Carolina remains in the driver's seat for the "Group of 5" guaranteed bowl slot. It's likely that the Mountain West, MAC and Sun Belt are already eliminated, leaving just Marshall from Conference USA and the winner of the East Carolina-Cincinnati game (if it wins the American title) as the only contenders for that bowl slot.

Follow on Twitter @ThePlayoffGuru

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LSU vs. Auburn Complete Game Preview

AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn received its first major test two weeks ago at Kansas State, but the degree of difficulty steps up even higher this weekend in the first of six straight conference games.

And Gus Malzahn's team will not be able to ease into what could be a half-dozen games against ranked competition. No, Auburn will kick things off with a home game against a hungry LSU team that has beaten Auburn seven of the last nine years—including last season, when the Bayou Bengals handed Auburn its only regular-season loss.

It's safe to say the two teams are not at top gear heading into this year's Tiger Bowl. Undefeated Auburn's offense is not at the efficiency it enjoyed at the end of last season, while LSU recently dropped a home game to Mississippi State for the first time in more than two decades amid a quarterback controversy.

However, both defenses have been bright spots this season, with Auburn making the jump toward the top 25 nationally in several major categories and LSU continuing to be one of the country's toughest against the pass.

This highly anticipated SEC West showdown has all the makings of another instant classic in what has been a series filled with incredible moments. Before we get into the full breakdown, here are the basics: 

Begin Slideshow

Ohio State Band Makes Michigan the Witch in Tribute to 'The Wizard of Oz'

This year marks The Wizard of Oz's 75th anniversary, so the Ohio State University Marching Band decided to pay tribute to the movie with its halftime show during Saturday's game against Cincinnati.

Of course, the band had to put its own spin on things.

They created a variety of formations that depicted certain characters. From Dorothy and Toto to the Scarecrow and the Wicked Witch of the West, the band brought the movie's major characters to life on the field.

They also revealed something that most fans of the movie didn't know about one of the characters: The Wicked Witch of the West was a Michigan Wolverine.

Ohio State's band typically finds a way to take a shot at Michigan during its halftime shows, and it found the perfect way to do so during its Wizard of Oz tribute. 

[The Ohio State University

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Tennessee Volunteers vs. Florida Gators Complete Game Preview

It's been nine long years since the Tennessee Volunteers tasted victory against the heated, hated rival Florida Gators.

But unlike most recent games between the two teams, Saturday's game appears wide open.

Both the Vols and Gators have considerable holes. They've combined for three losses already through seven total games a year removed from neither going to a bowl game.

While UT has shown flashes of being on its way back into the conference picture, Florida has its own questions under fourth-year coach Will Muschamp. He fired his offensive coordinator and hired Duke's Kurt Roper after a four-win 2013.

The Gators have had offensive issues again this year, struggling to beat Kentucky at The Swamp, then getting pummeled by Alabama.

Are these two teams passing while going in different directions? Or are the Gators still the "Mighty Gators" when they step onto the field against a Vols team that hasn't been able to get over the psychological hump against them?

UT has a huge opportunity for a major, perhaps season-altering win on Saturday. It may be the most important game of Butch Jones' Tennessee tenure so far. Let's break it down.

 

Date: Saturday, Oct. 4

Time: Noon ET

Place: Neyland Stadium, Knoxville, Tennessee

TV: SEC Network

Radio: Vol Network, Gator Sports Network, Sirius/XM 91

Spread: Florida by 1 point, according to Oddsshark.com.

Begin Slideshow

Notre Dame Football: Game-by-Game Predictions for the Month of October

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Notre Dame football improved to 4-0 with its 31-15 win over Syracuse on Saturday, but the schedule stiffens, and the Irish made it clear they know they’ll need to improve against their upcoming opponents.

Following the victory at MetLife Stadium, Irish sophomore linebacker Jaylon Smith was asked in a straightforward manner: Will Notre Dame start losing if it puts forth similar performances to the one it did against the Orange?

"Yeah, as simple as that," Smith said. "You talk about Stanford and North Carolina and Florida State, teams like that coming up, you can't allow for those mental errors and that sloppiness. So we understand that."

The Irish committed five turnovers but still powered to a fairly convincing win. Players and coaches agreed afterward that isn't a sustainable model.

But the Irish are the No. 9 team in the country and have scored at least 30 points in each game. They have a defense that has met (and possibly exceeded) expectations quicker than expected.

So how will Notre Dame fare against its three October opponents?

 

Stanford

Notre Dame faces its first true test of the season when it squares off with No. 14 Stanford on Saturday at Notre Dame Stadium.

The Irish have taken care of business through their first four games—quite convincingly in the first two, not as forcefully in the second two. They'll need to be on their game against Stanford, which has already battled with USC and Washington.

Yet in both of those games, the Cardinal were not overly impressive. Stanford suffered its lone loss, 13-10, at the hands of the Trojans in Week 2. Despite gaining 413 yards of total offense, the Cardinal fumbled four times and lost two. Stanford was just 2-of-5 in the red zone.

Against Washington on Saturday, the Cardinal doubled Washington's offensive output (364-179 yards) but, again, lost two fumbles, threw an interception and committed eight penalties for 85 yards.

Notre Dame's defense has proved capable of slowing solid ground attacks, and Irish defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder will present different looks trying to confuse Cardinal quarterback Kevin Hogan.

The great matchup will be on the other side, where Stanford's top-ranked defense (by both scoring defense and total defense, per CFBStats.com) will aim to slow Notre Dame's high-powered offense. Everett Golson should make his share of plays, but the Irish ground game will have to chip in and provide variety against a strong defense.

Still, Notre Dame's offense looks too potent, and its defense should hold up.

Prediction: Notre Dame wins

 

North Carolina

This matchup looked intriguing when North Carolina began the season ranked at No. 23 in the preseason AP poll, just six spots behind the Irish at that point.

But the two defenses have been polar opposites, tilting the balance well in the favor of Notre Dame. The Tar Heels surrendered 29 points in a season-opening win over Liberty (FCS) and 27 in a victory over San Diego State. Not terrible.

But the defense has been porous the last two weeks to say the least. North Carolina allowed 70 points to East Carolina two weekends ago and 50 points to Clemson on Saturday. That's a stunning 120 points in two games.

Any way you slice it, it's challenging to see Notre Dame's offense falling quiet. Even if the Tar Heels clean things up defensively, Golson and the Irish offense have been too explosive. They'll have a prime opportunity to pick apart a North Carolina defense that ranks 126th (of 128 FBS teams) in scoring defense, per CFBStats.com.

Prediction: Notre Dame wins

 

Florida State

Make no mistake, this has been the marquee tilt on Notre Dame's 2014 schedule for a while now. The Seminoles have been sitting at No. 1 in the nation the entire season, and Florida State presents a challenging obstacle despite some recent close calls.

The Seminoles needed overtime to top Clemson at home two weeks ago and only outlasted North Carolina State, 56-41, on Saturday on the road.

Still, Seminoles quarterback Jameis Winston is the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, and there is talent all over the field.

It will be quite interesting, however, to see how Florida State's defense changes between now and Oct. 18, when the Irish and 'Noles kick off in Tallahassee, Florida.

Stout in the run to the national championship, Florida State has fallen sharply off that pace in 2014.

Expect this game to be closer than what some pundits would have predicted before the season, but it will still be very difficult for a young Notre Dame squad to saunter into Doak Campbell Stadium in a raucous environment and escape with a victory.

Prediction: Florida State wins

 

All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

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

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College Football's Most Important Offers of the Week

Last weekend’s showdown between St. John Bosco (California) and Bishop Gorman (Nevada)—the nation’s top two prep programs in the USA Today high school football national rankings—was preceded by some intriguing news on the recruiting trail. 

A pair of dynamic Bishop Gorman sophomores, quarterback Tate Martell and receiver Tyjon Lindsey, learned they had earned offers from Pac-12 powerhouse USC.

This development is particularly interesting in the case of Martell, who committed to then-Huskies head coach and current USC head coach Steve Sarkisian in July of 2012.

Martell told Lars Hansen of Realdawg.com (subscription required) last month that he’s sticking with his pledge, and that he’s been in communication with Chris Petersen and the new staff.

"I am still committed," Martell said. "Coach [Chris] Petersen and coach [Jonathan] Smith both told me that my commitment stands and they want to keep my commitment."

The 5’11”, 180-pounder is a 4-star prospect and the No. 93 overall player in the 2017 class. As B/R’s Tyler Donohue notes, Martell has gotten off to a blistering start in his first year in charge of the Gaels program. 

The Trojans' offer to Lindsey makes him the third skill player on the Gorman roster with a tender from USC—joining 2015 4-star receiver Cordell Broadus and 2015 4-star tight end and UCLA commit Aliz’e Jones

While it’s still very early in the process for both Martell and Lindsey, expect Sarkisian and his staff to keep close tabs on both 2017 standouts moving forward.

 

Oregon Heads to Texas to Offer 2016 Standouts

Dating back to Chip Kelly’s tenure at Oregon, the Ducks have always recruited the state of Texas hard, with former Ducks standouts such as LaMichael James, Josh Huff and Darron Thomas all hailing from the Lone Star State.

Last week, Mark Helfrich and his staff offered two of the top juniors from Texas in Sachse High School teammates and 4-star standouts Devin Duvernay and Jared Mayden II.

Duvernay, who is the No. 38 player overall in the 2016 class, is one of the nation’s top receivers. Mayden, who checks in at No. 89 overall, is rated as the No. 6 corner in the 2016 class.

Both players have lengthy offer lists. But with the Ducks’ history of plucking talent out of Texas, don’t be surprised if they become factors in the recruitment of both Duvernay and Mayden.

 

2016 DE Blowing Up

Arguable the most popular player in recruiting circles last week was 2016 4-star defensive end Terrell Hall.

The 6’5”, 218-pound Washington, D.C., native picked up offers from Penn State, Iowa, Virginia Tech and Rutgers last week. 

On the heels of his offer from James Franklin, Hall made it to Happy Valley last weekend for the Lions game against Northwestern. This weekend, Hall is scheduled to visit Maryland. 

With Hall possessing the size and athleticism to become a pass-rushing terror off the edge, expect the interest in his recruitment to continue to pick up steam moving forward.

 

Oklahoma Offers Pair of 2016 Defenders from Houston

Bob Stoops and the Oklahoma Sooners have made a living recruiting in the state of Texas.

The Sooners hit the Houston area hard last week, resulting in a pair of offers to defensive standouts in the 2016 class. 

Eric Monroe, a 5-star safety, and 3-star linebacker Jeffrey McCulloch are the latest Texas natives whom Stoops is pursuing in hopes of getting them to head north for college.

Monroe—who is one of the top five juniors in Texas—is a 6’0” 180-pounder who ranks as the nation’s third-best safety in the 2016 class. With McCulloch, the Sooners' offer represents his most high-profile tender to date.

 

Best of the Rest

  • According to Friedman, Maryland offered 2016 defensive end Keith Simms. Pittsburgh also offered the 6’3”, 220-pounder last week.

 

Sanjay Kirpalani is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports. 

 

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AP College Football Poll 2014: Official Top 25 Rankings, Week 6 Projections

There were quite a few close calls, but with just one upset, there weren't many changes in college football's Top 25 rankings on Sunday. The South Carolina Gamecocks were replaced in the rankings by the team that defeated them on Saturday.

The Missouri Tigers pulled off the 21-20 upset over the Gamecocks and rose to 24th in the rankings. The Tigers had just been bounced from the rankings after an upset home loss to the Indiana Hoosiers the week before.

South Carolina fell out of the Top 25 altogether.

After being destroyed at home by the UCLA Bruins, the previously undefeated Arizona State Sun Devils also dropped out of the rankings. The 3-0 TCU Horned Frogs filled the void by landing at the No. 25 spot.

The Horned Frogs will immediately be forced to prove their worth. They take on the No. 4 Oklahoma Sooners.

Here's a look at the updated Top 25.

Rank Team Record Points 1 Florida State (27) 4-0 1416 2 Oregon (13) 4-0 1405 3 Alabama (13) 4-0 1387 4 Oklahoma (7) 4-0 1357 5 Auburn 4-0 1272 6 Texas A&M 5-0 1206 7 Baylor 4-0 1149 8 UCLA 4-0 975 9 Notre Dame 4-0 972 10 Michigan State 3-1 944 11 Ole Miss 4-0 906 12 Mississippi State 4-0 848 13 Georgia 3-1 788 14 Stanford 3-1 643 15 LSU 4-1 636 16 USC 3-1 560 17 Wisconsin 3-1 502 18 BYU 4-0 450 19 Nebraska 5-0 445 20 Ohio State 3-1 298 21 Oklahoma State 3-1 246 22 East Carolina 3-1 237 23 Kansas State 3-1 216 24 Missouri 4-1 145 25 TCU 3-0 109

Week 6 will be anything but uneventful. There's a plethora of games that will immediately impact the College Football Playoff scene. All of the following games pit undefeated teams against each other:

  • Alabama at Ole Miss
  • Oklahoma at TCU
  • Texas A&M at Mississippi State

 

Will "Trill" Lead the Aggies to Victory?

It begins with the No. 6 Texas A&M Aggies traveling to take on No. 12 Mississippi State Bulldogs. This is a key SEC West battle. The winner of this game figures to represent the biggest challenge to the No. 3 Alabama Crimson Tide for the division title.

The Aggies are set to take on Bama on Oct. 18, while the Bulldogs get the Tide on Nov. 15. 

On Saturday, the red-hot Kenny "Trill" Hill will attempt to keep the momentum he established back in Week 1 vs. South Carolina. Last week against the Arkansas Razorbacks, Hill rallied the Aggies to an overtime win with three second-half touchdown passes.

The Bulldogs defense has proven to be tough all year. It has allowed only 16.5 points this season. Facing a high-powered offense like the Aggies, it's a battle of two extremes. The winner could very well break into the top five.

 

Is Ole Miss Ready for the Big Time?

One of the other colossal games on the schedule features Bama on the road against the No. 11 Ole Miss Rebels. This is yet another intense battle in the treacherous SEC West. Ole Miss' program has been building toward a season like this for the last two years.

With senior quarterback Bo Wallace having a fine year, and the defense sparked by defensive tackle Robert Nkemidiche, the Rebels are going to be a major test for the Tide. 

Can Bama run the football against the Rebels defense? Will Amari Cooper continue his blistering start? Through four games, Cooper is averaging 10.75 receptions, 163.75 yards and 1.25 touchdowns. 

This should be one heck of a battle.

 

How Will the Rankings Look When the Smoke Clears?

It's unlikely either the Florida State Seminoles or Oregon Ducks falter. The Seminoles are at home against the unranked and offensively challenged Wake Forest Demon Deacons. 

Oregon has a tougher assignment against the undefeated Arizona Wildcats. Still, Marcus Mariota and Co. are at home. The Ducks will be expected to handle the Cats easily.

Things obviously get a bit tougher for Alabama and Oklahoma. Both teams are on the road against undefeated, ranked opponents. If you're looking for the team more likely to come up with the upset win, bet on Ole Miss.

The Rebels will be amped, but it all comes down to ball security for Wallace. He's thrown six interceptions this season already. His defense will keep him in the game, but if Wallace turns the ball over, Ole Miss can't win.

Look for Ole Miss to come up with one of the biggest wins in program history on Saturday. Bama will fall out of the top four, and the playoff picture will be turned on its ear.

 

Stats per CFBStats.com

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NCAA Football Rankings 2014: Week 6 Standings and Analysis for Latest Polls

Winning isn't everything. One wouldn't expect that adage to carry over into NCAA football rankings predicated on which schools play a sport better than others, but tell that to Florida State.

The phrase takes on another meaning in this setting. Winning isn't everything, because beating your opponent in dominating fashion is just as important. Although the Seminoles staved off an upset against the North Carolina State Wolfpack, they showed vulnerability in the process.

How did allowing 41 points affect their standing atop the college football leaderboard? Would Texas A&M and Georgia face any repercussions for narrowly generating victories in SEC play? Let's take a look at the latest AP and Amway coaches polls.

 

NCAA Rankings Analysis

For the third time in four games, Florida State came dangerously close to dashing its title defense short. Against NC State, the Seminoles surrendered 24 first-quarter points and 520 total yards throughout the game, but Jameis Winston and Karlos Williams picked up the slack in their 56-41 victory.

In his return from a one-game suspension, Winston threw for 365 yards and four touchdowns along with two interceptions and a fumble that kept the Wolfpack alive. In his best game of the season, Williams accrued 126 rushing yards and a career-high three touchdowns.

Coach Jimbo Fisher took a positive outlook, crediting his team for rallying from behind to salvage a victory. Per ESPN's CollegeFootball's Twitter page:

Now the cynical perspective: FSU has a 13-point margin of victory after winning last year's regular-season games by an average of 40 points per contest. The defense has allowed 403.3 yards per game, hardly befitting a No. 1 squad.

So despite improving to 4-0, the Seminoles lost the top mark in the Amway poll, falling to an idle Alabama team that boasts a 28-point average margin of victory through four games. In the AP poll, they hold a narrow nine-point lead over Oregon.

If the Crimson Tide return from their week off to derail Ole Miss, they'll stay ahead of FSU in the Amway rankings while leapfrogging them in the AP poll. Oregon can also bolster its case for No. 1 against Arizona.

Meanwhile, Texas A&M and Georgia received mulligans despite close calls. The Aggies knocked off Arkansas after allowing 285 rushing yards. After College GameDay praised A&M's improved defense earlier in the day, the club regressed by allowing 484 total yards on Saturday.

Although the Razorbacks are 3-2, their other loss came at Auburn's hands, and the voters realize that a low-level SEC team is still a top-notch squad. Georgia received the same benefit, as the Volunteers have lost two consecutive games but to two ferocious foes in the Bulldogs and the Oklahoma Sooners.

Against 1-4 Vanderbilt, Georgia won't receive the same benefit of the doubt with a single-digit victory. After gaining a career-high 208 yards against Tennessee, Todd Gurley will continue to bolster his Heisman candidacy while keeping his squad in Top 10 consideration.

Arizona State's Top 25 standing was stripped in one listing and placed in jeopardy in the other after relinquishing 62 points to UCLA. Brett Hundley carved up ASU's secondary for 355 yards and four touchdowns, making Mike Bercovici's 488 yards all for naught.

As noted by ESPN CollegeFootball, the Sun Devils somehow gave up four touchdowns spanning more than three-quarters of the field.

With its next two games against USC and Stanford, Arizona State can erase the sour taste stemming from that defeat by upending its Pac-12 rivals. Given its defensive woes, however, it's more likely that at least one more loss sends ASU slipping further down the polls. 

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Vanderbilt vs. Georgia: Complete Game Preview

The Vanderbilt Commodores may be struggling in the post-James Franklin era, but that doesn't mean they'll be any less upset-minded this weekend when they travel to take on the Georgia Bulldogs.  And such a mentality is merited given this game's recent history and the wide-open state of the SEC East.

Last year, Vanderbilt shocked Georgia with a 31-27 victory.  And if there's anything we've learned from this division in 2014, it's that anything—even a repeat upset—is possible.

Here's what you need to know about Saturday's game: 

  • Date: Saturday, October 4
  • Time: 4:00 p.m. ET
  • Place: Sanford Stadium, Athens, Georgia
  • TV: SEC Network
  • Radio: Georgia Bulldog Radio Network, Vanderbilt Radio Network
  • Spread: Georgia (-32.5), per OddsShark.com

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College Football Rankings 2014: Latest Standings and Predictions for Week 6

The college football rankings won't look the same following a crazy Week 6 schedule that features six matchups of ranked teams.

Looking back on Week 5, there were a few results that shook up the standings. South Carolina dropped a game to Missouri, Stanford just edged Washington and Texas A&M needed overtime to defeat Arkansas. Expect action that's even more compelling in Week 6.

Anything can happen in football, so counting on the higher-ranked team isn't exactly a foolproof method of success. You'll have to analyze the matchups to predict the winners.

Below, you'll find predictions for a few notable matchups on the schedule as well as the updated standings heading into Week 6.

 

Arizona at Oregon

While not a matchup against ranked teams, Arizona and Oregon will be an exciting affair. The Wildcats and Ducks are both 4-0. That said, Oregon's competition has obviously been much stronger.

Marcus Mariota, a favorite for the Heisman Trophy, has been stellar on the year. He has already racked up 13 touchdowns and 1,135 yards through the air. Throw in the 214 yards and three touchdowns on the ground, and Mariota has truly been one of the most dynamic weapons in the game.

Of course, he's had some help. Royce Freeman, Devon Allen and Byron Marshall have been strong supporting characters in Oregon's impressive start.

The Wildcats have a potent offense as well, so this game could definitely become a shootout by the second half. Quarterback Anu Solomon has 13 touchdowns and 1,454 yards through the air to go with 167 yards rushing.

Nick Wilson is a dynamic rusher, totaling four touchdowns and 482 yards thus far. It will be the combined efforts of Solomon and Wilson that determine if the Wildcats can keep up with the Ducks.

While both teams are 4-0, the strength of schedule tells us that Oregon has played far better teams. Arizona has wins over UNLV, UTSA, Nevada and California—a far cry from South Dakota, Michigan State, Wyoming and Washington State.

The Ducks will be 5-0 following next Saturday.

Prediction: Oregon, 42-28

 

Texas A&M at Mississippi State

Ready for the game of the week?

The Aggies are 5-0 after an overtime victory against the Razorbacks, and Kenny Hill has looked superb to start the season. He's attacking defenses through the air and capitalizing on space in the middle with his feet.

This team is arguably better than last year's group led by Johnny Manziel and Mike Evans, and that really says something. The Aggies are definitely a contender for one of the four playoff spots when the season comes to a close.

The Bulldogs enter Week 6 after a bye week. They defeated lackluster opponents through the first three weeks but took down LSU in impressive fashion in Week 4. Don't sleep on this Bulldogs team against A&M.

Dak Prescott and Josh Robinson lead the offense on the ground, and it will be their ability to keep the chains moving that makes the A&M defense tired. By keeping the Aggies offense off the field, the Bulldogs have a chance.

That has proven hard to do, however. The predicted result could easily flip-flop, but it's hard to go against the grain.

Prediction: Texas A&M, 34-29

 

Follow Kenny DeJohn on Twitter: @KennyDeJohn_BR

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

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

A full month of the season is in the books, and the Longhorns are a below-average 2-2 heading into a brutal month of October. Given the current state of the team, Texas would be lucky to get one more victory before November.

Charlie Strong's team has talent, but the offensive line is dragging down the team as a whole. Through four games, the Longhorns are averaging just 3.4 yards per carry, which tied for worst in the Big 12.

Texas' ineffectiveness up front has also limited the team's big-play ability, as evidenced by Tyrone Swoopes' 5.7 yards-per-attempt average.

That might be good enough to take care of Iowa State at home, but Baylor, Oklahoma and Kansas State will be major problems unless this team makes a radical improvement.

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College Football Picks Week 6: Predictions and Odds for Top 25 Schedule

 Don't get too attached to the latest college football rankings. Several ranked opponents will collide during an eventful Week 6 that is sure to affect the polls.

A dozen of the Top 25 schools will compete against a fellow ranked squad. Many of those marquee matchups include College Football Playoff contenders that can't afford a loss during their quest to solidify Top 4 placement.

October will begin in lavish style with this loaded slate of must-see TV. Last week consisted of many big-name schools fending off upsets, but some big boys are going down for real this weekend. That's not really going out of a limb considering two teams can't walk away from the same game with a victory.

 

Game of the Week: No. 6 Texas A&M vs. No. 12 Mississippi State

With so many incredible games on the docket, picking the most intriguing clash is a nearly impossible task. Yet given recent developments from the past two weeks, the SEC clash between the undefeated Texas A&M Aggies and Mississippi State Bulldogs bears major implications.

Texas A&M nearly muddled this match's significance in a Saturday scare against Arkansas, entering the fourth quarter down 28-14. Kenny Hill then delivered two deep bombs to send the game into overtime, where he won the game with a 25-yard touchdown pass to Malcome Kennedy.

"We just made the connection on that one," Hill told The Associated Press, via Fox Sports, regarding the game-winning pass. "They had the defender getting there late, and I threw it to him. He took care of the rest."

After a rocky start, Hill dominated down the closing stretch, as illustrated by ESPN's College GameDay.

Despite the near loss, the Aggies are 5-0 with a 24-point victory against South Carolina under their belt. This weekend marks the beginning of a brutal stretch for them which makes them a CFP contender if they can somehow escape the period with limited damage.

Not considered much of a threat entering the season, Mississippi State put the SEC on notice by upsetting LSU on Sept. 20. The Dak Prescott bandwagon reached full capacity after the team tallied 268 yards, 105 rushing yards and a touchdown each way during the monumental win at Baton Rouge.

ESPN Stats & Info put the stunner into perspective.

What will happen when two Heisman contenders clash to maintain their team's unblemished record? Either way, a highly entertaining game with plenty of points is in order.

While the Aggies' defense has progressed this year, they've mostly beat up on inferior competition. Against South Carolina and Arkansas, they allowed 917 combined yards. They've padded their numbers against Lamar, Rice and SMU, but they haven't improved enough to contain Prescott.

Hill will also get his points, so this matchup could very well boil down to who gets the ball last or which side makes the biggest mistake at the most inopportune time.

In his last three games, Prescott has registered at least 200 passing yards and 100 rushing yards each time with 10 total touchdowns. Texas A&M isn't built to stop him, so the rising junior will shake up the SEC landscape by once again knocking off a higher-ranked conference adversary.

Prediction: Mississippi State 45, Texas A&M 42

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Week 5 College Football Superlatives from Kramer's Korner

Breaking through—or reestablishing your worth, no matter how you want to phrase it—is exceedingly challenging in college football.

We appreciate and celebrate moral victories. When a team like Arkansas can transform from disregarded scrapheap to a living, breathing, demolition-happy bulldozer in a matter of nine months, we offer polite applause and admire the achievement.

And yet, as the Hogs fell to Texas A&M in overtime despite leading by two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, we were reminded just how difficult it is to separate from your former self.

Bret Bielema drew up a brilliant game plan and dialed up the appropriate gambles—some of which you’ll see momentarily—and the entire blueprint fell apart before you could even identify the damage being done. The Hogs’ magnificent effort came undone, which means Bielema’s first victory against an SEC program in his new area code will have to wait.

It doesn’t mean Arkansas is bad. In fact, the Hogs look live enough to beat almost anyone they line up against. It simply recognizes the work left to be done to truly break past thresholds beyond the casual applause phase, especially when your division is as unrelenting as the SEC West.

To be viewed as an upper-echelon program, you need to beat upper-echelon programs. Arkansas will do this in time—perhaps as early as this year—although the next, next step will be the toughest. Then there’s the challenge of staying there, which is another magnificent battle entirely.

Did I mention that this sport is hard?

As for observations, awards and important strength-coach tackles from Week 6, here they are.

 

Offensive Player of the Week: Nelson Spruce, Colorado

In a week jam-packed with offensive goodness, Colorado wideout Nelson Spruce delivered another reception-packed game, although this toppled his previous efforts—and pretty much all efforts—by a significant margin.

And, in an Offensive Player of the Week first, the recipient’s team did not come away victorious.

Against Cal, Spruce finished with 19 (!!!) catches for 176 yards and three touchdowns. This marked the third time this season the junior caught at least 10 passes and the fourth time he’s gone over 100 yards.

Good show, Spruce. Even in a loss.

 

Dominant Defender: Su'a Cravens, USC

USC’s standout safety has been working at linebacker, and the experiment has been a smashing success thus far. Just ask Oregon State.

Cravens finished with six tackles, a sack and two total tackles for loss against the Beavers on Saturday. His biggest play, however, came when he intercepted a Sean Mannion pass and returned it 31 yards for the first touchdown of the game.

When he wasn’t providing stat sheet material, he was flying all over the field. The true sophomore has quickly become one of the nation’s premier defensive players, and he showcased this again—at a new position—in Week 5.

 

Video Game Box Score

-The entire Cal-Colorado box score is basically a football science experiment: 112 points, 1,205 yards and 63 first downs. Oh, and we’re just getting started. Colorado QB Sefo Liufau and Cal QB Jared Goff each threw for 449 yards, seven touchdowns and one interception in the same game. Football is weird, man.

-How’s this for production? Cincinnati wideout Chris Moore caught three passes for 221 yards and, you guessed it, three touchdowns. That averages out to a cool 73.7 yards per catch and a touchdown on 100 percent of his touches. (So maybe I didn’t have to do the math on the second part, but it was served to you anyways.)

 

Anti-Video Game Box Score

-Oh, SMU. Through four games, the Mustangs have been outscored 202-12. That’s not a typo; it’s just a difficult number to wrap your head around, as is the fact that the SMU offense has zero rushing touchdowns on the year while carrying the ball 126 times for 183 yards. Stay tuned—there will be more visits to come.

-Texas Tech is not doing itself any favors on defense, although the offense isn’t exactly helping, either. Behold a disturbing takeaway that pretty much outlines the life of a struggling football program.

Unbelievably, Texas Tech has now lost the turnover battle in 12 straight games - a full season's worth. 31 giveaways, 12 takeaways.

— Zach Barnett (@zach_barnett) September 26, 2014

 

Biggest Surprise

Although Arkansas was unable to hold onto the victory, Bret Bielema—who met his wife at a blackjack table in Las Vegas—did have the most successful gamble of the week.

With less than two minutes remaining in the first half, Bielema called a fake punt on the Hogs’ side of the field. That’s when punter Sam Irwin-Hill—who just so happens to be ambidextrous—took off and went 51 yards for the touchdown.

It was unexpected, and it was brilliant.

You expected that the punter would be tackled eventually, although Irwin-Hill just kept running into open air until he was no longer required. This gamble gave Arkansas a seven-point lead at the half.

Don’t ask about the rest of the game; just enjoy the lovely little fake and let’s move on.

 

Best Moment

There is another side of the heartbreak that Arkansas is probably still coping with. On the opposite end of the emotion spectrum is overwhelming joy, and Texas A&M—having experienced plenty of this already in 2014—celebrated a comeback win accordingly in Jerry’s World.

The only thing bad about Kevin Sumlin locker room celebrations is that we’re not there to partake in the fun.

Seriously, where’s the invite?

 

For the Highlight Reel

It looked like the kind of play you’d see in flag football, only it came in an actual college football game against the defending national champions.

North Carolina State quarterback Jacoby Brissett, the former Florida Gators product, delivered one of the best, strangest and most athletic plays you will see a QB make. He was nearly tackled—a few times, actually—but he was able to roll out and eventually find a teammate for a touchdown.

Watch it a few times; it still won’t make much sense (I’ve tried).

Oh, and as a follow-up play, Brissett also completed a pass from his back. Now he’s just showing off.

 

For the Anti-Highlight Reel

If you enjoyed seeing two Florida offensive linemen block one another last season—and I assume you are nodding at this point; otherwise, we can no longer be friends—then, buddy, you are in for a treat.

Behold the sequel: Two Penn State linemen blocking each other, which is the only recap you need to read on Penn State’s loss to Northwestern.

 

If the College Football Playoff Started Today...(or Why I Hate Your Team)

Even though Oregon and Oklahoma were both off this week, I made a switch between the No. 1 and No. 2 teams after rewatching the Ducks’ game against Washington State. That offensive line for Oregon is an enormous liability, although the Ducks are still very much in the mix.

Please express your anger with these picks and exclusions accordingly. And remember, it’s personal. I'm picking these four teams in an effort to make you angry.

1. Oklahoma

2. Oregon

3. Texas A&M

4. Alabama

 

Five Leftovers to Chew on

1. The situation at Michigan has gone from dumpster fire to an even bigger dumpster fire. The decision to leave quarterback Shane Morris in the game after taking a brutal helmet-to-helmet hit—which can be seen here—was inexcusable. The outrage was performance-related before, although it’s more than that after Saturday. You can place the blame in a variety of different places, but it’s an ugly situation regardless. Stay tuned.

2. Clemson quarterback DeShaun Watson is going to be a star. Heck, he might be one already. The true freshman threw for 435 yards and six touchdowns against North Carolina, and he just looks so much more advanced than most QBs his age. Yes, you could probably throw for at least 250 yards against UNC, but that doesn't change the point that he’s required viewing.

3. Charlie Weis has been relieved of his duties, which means Kansas is looking for a coach. When it comes to a replacement, I’d love to see Memphis head coach Justin Fuente get a look. Fuente has done a brilliant job building from the ground up in Memphis, a team that has improved a great deal in recent years. With more resources and a bigger footprint, I think he would excel in this spot. Then again, perhaps he should hold out for a better opportunity if Kansas comes a calling.

4. Missouri deserves the utmost kudos for basically flipping the script against South Carolina from a season ago. The team is by no means perfect, although the Tigers are as live as anyone in the SEC East. Getting a win in Columbia—the other Columbia—is a feat we could not have envisioned before last season. My how things have changed. Oh, and Missouri is 15-4 against the spread in its last 19 games. Not bad.

5. Let's look ahead real quick. The Week 6 slate of games has to be one of the better Saturdays the sport has seen in some time. There are so many quality matchups buried beneath the obvious picks: Ole Miss-Alabama, Mississippi State-Texas A&M, LSU-Auburn and Stanford-Notre Dame. Cancel all plans and lock yourself in the room for the day. Destroy your cell phone if you have to.

 

Large Man Play of the Week

We were deprived of a FAT GUY TOUCHDOWN this week, although Auburn defensive tackle Montravius Adams—who awesomely sports No. 1—nearly went the distance on an interception.

Oh, we were this close.

Adams, who checks in at 306 pounds according to his bio, moves entirely too well for a man his size. Although he was unable to make it across the goal line, the efforts of large human beings, as always, deserve your utmost appreciation.

 

This Week in Strength-Coach Tackling

Do you have your Weird Football Bingo Cards handy? You do? Well, go ahead and cross off “strength coach for a major college football program tackles a fan who ran on the field.”

Apparently, Anthony Schlegel, an assistant strength coach at Ohio State, had seen enough of the fan running on the field. So he decided to intervene. 

I could describe the scene further, although that’s why YouTube was invented.

There was not a better tackle from this past weekend, as outlined by the image below. I feel like his neck vein could win a few fights by itself.

OSU assistant strength coach Anthony Schlegel taught a lesson to a fan who ran on the field. http://t.co/MKPXREY5GXpic.twitter.com/sF62blMXkY

— ESPN CollegeFootball (@ESPNCFB) September 28, 2014

 

This Week in Coordinated Facepalms

Disappointment can be art, no matter what anyone tries to tell you. To prove this point, I present to you the following Texas Tech sideline reaction from Thursday night’s loss at Oklahoma State.

It’s as if they were following a script (and doing so brilliantly).

Sometimes one faceplam just isn’t enough.

 

This Week in Steve Spurrier Tumbles

You know how you never get invited to play golf with Steve Spurrier? You either a) beat him in a crucial conference game or b) run into him on the sideline, knocking him to his knees. 

Oh, Maty Mauk. And I’ll bet Steve Spurrier plays a lot of nice courses, too.

 

The Amazing, Ridiculous and Absurd Safety That Never Was

Behold TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin trying to make the most out of a bad snap by throwing it...directly into the bottom of a the goal post. But SMU was offsides, so TCU was granted a do-over and five extra yards.

This has to be the most exciting five-yard offsides penalty in the history of mankind.

(This is where I point out that these two points would have been more than 10 percent of SMU’s total scoring this season.)

 

As the World Turns: The Turbulent and Chaotic Life of an Offensive Lineman

To truly appreciate the life an offensive lineman, you need the appropriate tune. And to help us set the appropriate mood for the play you will watch momentarily, you should hit listen to this song and let it flow through your blood stream.

All set? Good.

With Step 1 complete, let us turn our attention to Arizona State’s Christian Westerman. On Thursday night against UCLA, Westerman was unable to track down the chaos that surrounded him. Instead, he slowly drifted into nothing, and it made for a truly exceptional Vine.

It can indeed be a very mad world for offensive linemen.

 

The Child-Birthing Class Moment of the Week

Perplexed by the text above? I would imagine so. Here’s a tweet that came across during Thursday night’s Oklahoma State-Texas Tech game.

This guy is the MVP of our childbirth class pic.twitter.com/fXisjKnrQa

— Matt Amilian (@mattamilian) September 26, 2014

Now, this one hits home. I only recently graduated—for lack of a better term—from my own child-birthing class as my wife and I prepare for our first. From my own experiences, I can confirm that streaming, tweeting and texting in this kind of environment can be remarkably difficult.

It takes a real pro to accomplish this, and this gentleman pulled it off. I can only hope that the WiFi cooperated.

 

From the Peanut Gallery (Best Tweets of the Weekend)

SMU's starting QB is really good https://t.co/ae2q8KyEXU

— Patrick Burns (@patjburns) September 27, 2014

"Did someone say game day?" https://t.co/nel2xbKgSA

— TUSK Arkansas Mascot (@Tusk_UA) September 26, 2014

Peyton going w/ the "Dad" look pic.twitter.com/so3n2f5RVr

— Michael Necci (@manecci) September 27, 2014

Bielema throwing the ball, Clooney married. Up is down. Hold your loved ones close.

— Bunkie Perkins (@BunkiePerkins) September 27, 2014

And they're using rotary dial phones in 2014... #NDvsCUSEpic.twitter.com/rj6aQBO4fE

— Eric Stangel (@EricStangel) September 28, 2014

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Michigan Football: Game-by-Game Predictions for the Month of October

Six weeks ago, a 9-3 record was an attainable goal for Michigan’s Team 135.

However, recent events suggest otherwise, as the Wolverines again find themselves washing away the stale taste of another embarrassing home loss—this time 30-14 to Minnesota—and look barely capable of winning five or six games.

The “easy” part of the schedule wasn’t as easy as it should (could) have been. Coach Brady Hoke’s team suffered a pair of nonconference setbacks (Notre Dame, Utah) before entering Big Ten play, and droves of analysts and experts see a bleak finish to 2014.

But during his postgame press conference this past Saturday, Hoke made it clear that he’s holding on to something that’s becoming more of a dream than a potential reality.

“This team can still win a [Big Ten] championship,” he said.

With a stroke of divine luck, sure—that could happen. But the Wolverines (2-3) must first figure out how they’re going to escape October.

This slideshow will predict the outcome of Michigan’s upcoming October schedule, which will end with either treats or cruel tricks.

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes and references to were obtained firsthand.

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Ohio State Football: Game-by-Game Predictions for the Month of October

As September gives way to October, the No. 20 Ohio State Buckeyes (3-1) are ready to move past their nonconference slate and kick off a potential Big Ten title run.

Ohio State enters league play with some momentum after back-to-back routs of intrastate opponents. The Buckeyes blasted Kent State in a 66-0 shutout, and after a week off, they piled up 710 yards of total offense in a 50-28 victory over Cincinnati.

The Buckeyes needed that positive momentum after falling at home for the first time under Urban Meyer in Week 2, when the Virginia Tech Hokies blitzed their way to a 35-21 upset win.

With Big Ten play looming, Ohio State will face off against the league's two newest members—Maryland and Rutgers—before a showdown against Penn State in Happy Valley. 

Here are the Buckeyes' game-by-game predictions for the month of October. 

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Brady Hoke Comments on Decision to Let QB Shane Morris Return After Hit to Head

Michigan Wolverines head football coach Brady Hoke has been under enough fire for how underwhelming his storied program has performed on the field. After a bad 30-14 loss to Minnesota on Saturday, he faced criticism for the handling of injured quarterback Shane Morris.

The sophomore signal-caller took a big hit in the fourth quarter that forced him to the sideline, but Hoke reinserted him into the game after just one play off. Morris was later carted off the field.

Nicole Auerbach of USA Today documented Hoke's statement on the matter from Sunday, which makes no mention of a potential head injury Morris may have sustained:

ESPN's Adam Rittenberg offered his take:

Bleacher Report's Michael Felder weighed in on the situation before Hoke's comments were released:

Morris was just 7-of-19 passing for 49 yards and an interception with shabby protection throughout the game against the Big Ten rival Golden Gophers.

Asked after the game whether he thought Morris had a concussion, Hoke provided a somewhat muddled answer that he attempted to clarify somewhat in his latest remarks.

"I don't know if he had a concussion or not, I don't know that," said Hoke, via MLive.com's Nick Baumgardner. "Shane's a pretty competitive, tough kid. And Shane wanted to be the quarterback, and so, believe me, if he didn't want to be he would've come to the sideline or stayed down."

The current climate Michigan is operating in doesn't exactly promote a prompt transition under center. Morris is attempting to establish himself as the face of the program's future in bypassing Devin Gardner on the depth chart, and thus far it's going poorly.

This is yet another dynamic that is hurting Hoke's clout as coach, and with three losses already in 2014, he may be shown the door soon enough. Based on the footage of the hit Morris took that ultimately forced him to leave Saturday's game, the fact that Hoke didn't acknowledge the possibility of Morris hurting his head won't do much to promote Hoke's precarious popularity.

Next up for Michigan is a road trip to Rutgers before hosting Penn State and a tough contest away from home with rival Michigan State. Between an uncertain QB situation and this latest controversy, Hoke's seat is indeed hot.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Alabama Football: Tide Will Be Fueled Again by Latest Media Shot from Ole Miss

In case this week’s epic Alabama vs. Ole Miss showdown needed any more fuel, Rebels safety Cody Prewitt just gave it some more.

After Ole Miss’ 24-3 scrap with Memphis that assured the Rebels would be undefeated when they face Alabama, Prewitt said this, according to Fox Sports’ Brandon Speck:

"We understand that we haven't played a team that's going to be as good as Bama. But we don't really think Bama is as good as they have been. And we're better than we have been. We're looking forward to getting to the game plan and really nailing down all the tweaks and stuff that we're going to have to put into Bama."

Confidence is never a bad thing. And this isn’t exactly a massive dig at Alabama. But it’s still not what Ole Miss needed.

One of its players called out Alabama last year, and it didn’t work out too well. Now the Crimson Tide will have similar motivation and could get a similar result in the end.

Last season, it was Rebels quarterback Bo Wallace.

"Yeah, I think we can put points on them," Wallace said, according to AL.com’s Michael Casagrande. "I think we can put points on anybody. We just have to show up and play. It's the same thing every week, let's stay on schedule, control the tempo and don't have any turnovers."

Wallace was wrong, in a big way.

The Alabama defense held the Rebels off the board completely in a 25-0 shutout in Bryant-Denny Stadium. The defense even sacked Wallace in the end zone for a safety late in the game just for good measure.

Alabama avoided discussing Wallace’s comments before the game, sticking to the party line of we-only-focus-on-ourselves.

But afterward, it was clear it heard Wallace’s message loud and clear.

There was junior defensive end Jeoffrey Pagan: “After hearing all the trash they were talking in the media, it just really played a big role for us to come out and dominate these guys.”

And cornerback Deion Belue: “Just the fact that [Ole Miss] came at us like that because of a bad game, we had a chip on our shoulder.”

And the normally soft-spoken C.J. Mosley, heart of that 2013 defense: “They called us out. And we answered the bell.”

So you can be sure that this year’s Alabama team will see what Prewitt said, even if Prewitt didn’t intend it to be seen that way, and even if Crimson Tide players don’t acknowledge it this week.

Is Prewitt right, though? Is Alabama really not as good as it has been in the past? Through four games, it’s hard to see it like that.

On defense, he may be right.

Alabama is giving up 4.51 yards per play so far, per CFBStats.com. That’s a little bit more than in championship years of 2012 (4.18), 2011 (3.32) and 2009 (4.08).

The Crimson Tide is facing offenses that put up more and more yards every year, especially when compared to 2009 and even 2011. It also, though, hasn’t seen a lot of those offenses yet this year, as it’s only faced one SEC team so far: Florida, which is 10th in the conference in yards per game.

But where there is assuredly no basis for Prewitt’s claims, it’s on offense, where new coordinator Lane Kiffin has largely maximized the offense’s skill-position players, turned Blake Sims into one of the conference’s best quarterbacks and made Alabama an offensive juggernaut.

Those numbers don’t look anything like the Alabama of the past. They look a lot better.

And it’s the side of the ball that Prewitt will be tasked with stopping.

Ole Miss might have the best secondary Alabama has faced so far and will face this year. Prewitt, Tony Conner and Trae Elston make up one of the best safety groups in the SEC.

That secondary has so far made life miserable for the quarterbacks it has faced, racking up nine interceptions through four games to lead the conference. It will be a big road test for the first-year quarterback Sims.

But Prewitt’s words will surely hit the ears of Sims, wide receiver Amari Cooper, running back T.J. Yeldon and the rest of the Crimson Tide offense.

Last year, Alabama’s defense got called out. This year, it was a defensive player delivering those words.

It’s likely going to be a recipe for more of the same.

 

Marc Torrence is the Alabama lead writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Follow on Twitter @marctorrence.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Brady Hoke Running out of Excuses as Pressure Mounts at Michigan

Brady Hoke's most fireable offense Saturday had nothing to do with a scoreboard. It was totally unrelated to the 183 yards the Wolverine defense allowed to David Cobb on the ground or the pitiful 171 yards Hoke's hapless attack put up. It didn't even have anything to do with Hoke's postgame comments, in which he told reporters, via ESPN, his insipid team can still win a Big Ten championship.

No, Hoke's most fireable offense came early in the fourth quarter when quarterback Shane Morris took a hard hit from Minnesota defensive end Thieren Cockran. Anyone with working eyes could see Morris was hurt—possibly with a concussion. He remained in the game for a subsequent play before being taken out for Devin Gardner, which wouldn't be so bad if for not what came after.

Later in the drive Gardner lost his helmet on an 11-yard run. By rule, he'd have to sit out a play. Rather than putting in third-stringer Russell Bellomy, who everyone (including Bellomy himself) thought would enter the game, Hoke re-inserted the obviously shaken up Morris for a handoff to Justice Hayes.

Morris would later leave the stadium on a cart, according to Nick Baumgardner of MLive. There has been no official word on Morris' condition, but Hoke, like any responsible adult, took responsibility and said he was wrong to have put a kid in that situation, right?

Nope!

"I don't know if he had a concussion or not; I don't know that," Hoke told reporters. "Shane's a pretty competitive, tough kid. And Shane wanted to be the quarterback, and so, believe me, if he didn't want to be, he would've come to the sideline or stayed down."

Never mind all of the information we have at our disposal about concussions. Never mind the fact that two years ago Michigan was being praised for being on the "cutting edge" of concussion research and treatment. Never mind that Morris sat out only three plays—barely long enough for a doctor to shine that little light in your ear canals, let alone perform a full concussion exam.

That quote is problematic on every single level. First, there is a 55-year-old football coach putting a decision in the hands of his (possibly concussed) 20-year-old quarterback. Shane Morris might have said he was good to go, but who wouldn't have? Morris is a struggling sophomore in his second start and was about to give way to a senior in his third season as a regular contributor under center. Plus there's the whole possibly concussed thing. 

Coaches and, by proxy, their schools/franchises far too often put the onus on a player to clear himself—to prove his "toughness" and "leadership"—rather than consulting with medical professionals. Or even standard human empathy. 

“That No. 7 is still in this game is appalling. It is appalling that he was left in on that play to throw the ball again as badly as he was hit by Cockran,” ESPN's Ed Cunningham said on the broadcast, per Nick Schwartz of USA Today.

I can't say for certain Hoke knew Morris was concussed. No one can. But it was obvious to anyone watching the game—whether on television or from the Coca-Cola swigging stands—that Shane Morris should not have been playing football.

The Morris situation is merely the latest black eye for Hoke, who is on the precipice of following Charlie Weis as the second Power Five coach sent packing before season's end.

Michigan's loss Saturday drops its record to 2-3, including an 0-3 mark against teams with a pulse. The Wolverines earned cheap early-season wins against Appalachian State and Miami (Ohio), the former a 1-3 FCS outfit and the latter possibly the worst FBS team in the nation. Notre Dame, Utah and Minnesota—the actual, functioning football teams—have outscored Michigan 87-24. 

And keep in mind we're being kind in complimenting those teams. Notre Dame is ranked in the Top 10, but hasn't been tested yet. Utah and Minnesota are also-rans in their respective conferences that will be happy to make a bowl game. All three have nonetheless landed gut punch after gut punch, defanging the Wolverines and turning them into LOLCats.

Michigan sits 104th in points scored, 108th in passing yards and is 127th out of 128 FBS teams in turnover margin. New offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier looks like a bust. His system has found uses for talented stars Derrick Green and Devin Funchess but has been totally unable to mask its deficiencies; Morris and Gardner have combined for nine interceptions against five touchdowns (all from Gardner).

It's almost unfathomable that this is the same guy who looked like a savior three seasons ago. Equipped with ready-made players from the Rich Rodriguez era—who, given what he's accomplished at Arizona, might be less at fault for his failures in Ann Arbor than previously thought—Hoke led Michigan to a 11-2 record and its first BCS bowl victory in more than a decade.

The plaudits quickly followed: Big Ten Coach of the Year. Maxwell Club Coach of the Year. You name it, Hoke won it and it all felt deserved. Even as recently as last September members of the media were excusing underperformance by giving him backhanded compliments like "at least he's not Rich Rodriguez."

Now even the most strident Rodriguez detractor would swap places with Arizona in an instant. Now Michigan is the clear little brother of Michigan State—a Freaky Friday body switch that only Lakers fans living in a Clippers town can understand. Now rather than praising Hoke he's one of college football's most embattled coaches, facing questions of whether he put an obviously injured kid into a game his team was already losing 30-7.

I'm not an advocate of writing people should lose their livelihood. That part of sports media culture has always been a bit unseemly. That level of harshness is more befitting of politics, where decision-makers hold, like, important things in their hands.

But the incredulity displayed when Hoke re-inserted Morris was justified. As is the frustration with Michigan—one of the most well-funded programs in the nation—failing to perform on the field. Combine it all and Brady Hoke is standing on the thinnest ice imaginable.

One more slip up and don't be surprised if he falls through.

 

Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter

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