California's resurgent Golden Bears are only 1-3 straight up over their last four meetings with UCLA, but they're also 5-2 against the spread over their last seven clashes with the Bruins. The Pac-12's ursine rivals meet again Thursday night at the Rose Bowl.
Point spread: Bruins opened as 6.5-point favorites, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark. (Line updates and matchup report)
College football pick, via Odds Shark computer: 30.5-24.6 Bruins
Why the California Golden Bears can cover the spread
Cal won its first five games this season before falling 30-24 in a tough game at undefeated Utah two weeks ago. The Bears then had last week off.
Cal trailed the Utes 24-10 late in the first half and pulled to within a field goal late in the third quarter, but could get no closer. The Bears outgained Utah 467-435 on the night, but ultimately couldn't overcome six turnovers, five on Jared Goff interceptions.
Cal is tied for second place in the Pac-12 North at 2-1 in conference play and has outgained every conference foe so far. As long as Goff cuts down on the picks and the defense makes some stops, the Bears have a shot in every game left on their schedule.
Why the UCLA Bruins can cover the spread
UCLA opened this season 4-0 with wins over BYU and Arizona, but has encountered some turbulence since then with back-to-back losses to Arizona State and Stanford. Last Thursday the Bruins fell down early on a Cardinal pick-six and never recovered, eventually losing 56-35.
The injury bug has taken a big bite out of UCLA, especially on defense, where three starters are down and out for the season. But offensively, the Bruins are averaging 463 yards and 35 points per game, led by freshman quarterback Josh Rosen, who has thrown 12 touchdown passes, and running back Paul Perkins, who has scored eight times. So they can score with just about anybody in the conference.
If UCLA can move the chains on an iffy Cal defense, work some clock and minimize the minutes its own defense has to play, it can put a halt to that two-game skid.
UCLA needed a late field goal to beat Cal last year 36-34, but the Bruins aren't quite the same team now that they were then, while the Bears are on the improve. The smart choice here is Cal.
California is 5-2 ATS in its last seven games against UCLA.
California is 7-1 ATS in its last eight games on the road.
UCLA is 0-8 ATS in its last eight games in October.
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Greene County High School (Iowa) quarterback Daric Whipple literally took it from end zone to end zone. Once Whipple saw the opening, there wasn't a defender who was going to keep him from that touchdown.
Watch the video and let us know what you think!
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With another week in the books that proved once again how unpredictable the college football season truly is, voters still tried to take their best stab at the impossible task of ranking the Top 25 entering Week 8 action.
Put Michigan's last-second gaffe that cost the Wolverines a huge win over Michigan State aside, and the weekend that was produced telling results for teams in the College Football Playoff conversation. LSU distanced itself as the lone remaining SEC unbeaten by dispatching Florida, while Alabama showed its championship grit by stomping Texas A&M.
It's anyone's guess as to who the nation's best team is at this point, and the votes reflect that—a whopping six teams in the Associated Press poll received a first-place vote. More answers are on the way this weekend, so let's take a look at the polls before targeting a marquee game of the weekend.
Week 8 Top 25 Game to Watch
No. 3 Utah at USC
It's role reversal in the most obvious of ways in Saturday's top game. Utah will head to Los Angeles to face the USC Trojans in a battle that is sure to shape the CFP conversation in the Pac-12, but not in the way many thought some two months ago.
No, it's safe to say nobody could have envisioned this program sitting at 3-3 without a head coach. Even the most pessimistic Trojan supporter couldn't see this coming, a team with true championship aspirations falling apart so quickly.
USC hung in there against Notre Dame last weekend, but the slate doesn't get any easier, as Ryan Abraham of USCFootball.com noted:
Turmoil at USC is nothing new, but the real shock comes with the team they welcome to Southern California. The Utah Utes have transformed from a team on the outside of the Top 25 outlook into the Pac-12's lone unbeaten and one of the nation's marquee teams.
Stiff tests have continued to come the Utes' way as they are asked to prove their championship qualifications, and they've passed them all. Amid tough slugfests against California and Arizona State, Utah came out on top.
A big reason why is the impact rushing of Devontae Booker, who is averaging 130 yards per game and also leads the Utes in receptions. Even with a trip to USC proving to be a tough one, Stewart Mandel of Fox Sports wondered if Booker would dominate:
An ability to establish the run should be paramount in this showdown. USC's run defense hasn't been terrible, ranking seventh in the Pac-12 while allowing 170.7 yards per game, but the Trojans let up around the 200-yard mark against both Stanford and Notre Dame this year.
USC's offense runs through quarterback Cody Kessler much more than its run game, but his aerial attack shouldn't scare off Utah's defense too much. The secondary is fresh off facing some of the most potent passing attacks in the Pac-12.
With that being said, Utah is in the midst of a Pac-12 murderer's row, and for the first time teams are coming at them like they're a national powerhouse. Don't think the Trojans haven't heard about Utah's ascent, and that should have them fired up to have a shot at dethroning the Utes.
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It's a down week on the national schedule—hence why College GameDay is at James Madison instead of an FBS location—but therein lies the beauty of handicapping.
Even with just a handful of ranked matchups and expected close margins, each game against the spread is a mystery.
The new Associated Press Top 25 features four non-power conference schools (Memphis, Toledo, Houston and Temple), along with teams such as Pittsburgh and Duke that rarely land on national television. The degree of difficulty for researching and picking these games is going up, but if you do the work, there's value all over the board.
As always, feel free to chime in below with your opinions or questions about the picks. I'll explain my rationale beneath each game, but of course we can always dive deeper. Just remember to keep it civil and that no one here hates your team.
The line is our only enemy.
I have a confession to make: I love chaos.
I want there to be so much chaos that the average fan taps out due to stress. There is never enough madness in college football; there can only be more. With my love of bedlam out in the open, I present the following statement.
Two months into the season, undefeated Iowa—yes, that Iowa, the one with a schedule more favorable than any other Top 25 team—is very much in the College Football Playoff mix. But let’s not stop there.
Let’s throw in Oklahoma State for some added spice. While we’re at it, toss in some Memphis. And sure, sprinkle in a little Toledo. Now, mix it all together, and what do we have? A delicious, potent dark-horse cocktail.
While it’s unlikely that any of these teams will still be standing at the very end, the possibility exists. And possibility, for those who abide by this theory, is all we need.
For Iowa, with regular-season games against Maryland, Indiana, Minnesota, Purdue and Nebraska, the formula is there despite sustaining massive injuries.
Oklahoma State, the most puzzling of the undefeated teams, will play TCU, Baylor and Oklahoma all at home. It is unlikely all three of those games will be wins, but what about just two of the three?
And Memphis and Toledo present the most chaotic doomsday scenario of them all. The Tigers’ win over Ole Miss validates the resume a great deal, but things will have to break their way in order to push a Power Five team aside. And Toledo, with a win over Arkansas, will have to hope for this house of cards to collapse and deliver unprecedented style points along the way.
ESPN wants no part of this theory. Ratings and underdog brands do not mix well with New Year’s Eve semifinal games.
But more than halfway through the season, at a time when the underdog usually lies down after an ambitious run, a handful of unfamiliar logos are trudging right along. The chaos theory is still intact for a select few.
How long they sustain this role is to be determined. Hopefully, it's a while longer.
As for other College Football Playoff observations—including a Q&A with ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit, here’s where we stand heading into Week 8.
Arrow Pointing Up: LSU
It’s time to seriously consider Les Miles’ team as a playoff threat if you haven’t already. No longer just a bulldozing, cheat-code running back, the Tigers suddenly have weapons well beyond Leonard Fournette.
They showed that against Florida on Saturday, beating a feisty team with its backup quarterback, doing so with a familiar running game but also through the air and with defense. If quarterback Brandon Harris can continue to develop, the Tigers have a wonderful shot at making the playoff.
And there is also that Fournette character. Did we mention him?
The issue with LSU, if one exists, is the schedule. The Tigers draw Western Kentucky this week, an underrated opponent. After a bye, LSU will travel to Alabama and Ole Miss. It will also play Arkansas and Texas A&M at home.
While many of these teams might seem down at the moment, not many have a more difficult closing gauntlet. Still, they are more than capable to handle it all.
Arrow Pointing Down: Michigan
There’s not much to say, really. In 10 seconds, Michigan went from a trendy College Football Playoff pick to a team in need of a great deal of help. The margin for error—even with this more inclusive system—is still so marginally thin. One play can change an entire season, and it did just that for the Wolverines.
The reality of this final botched punt still hasn’t set in. (It will never set in.)
While it’s an enormous setback, Michigan isn’t dead. Not with so much time left. A lot will need to happen for the Wolverines to get back into the hunt, but a Big Ten championship can be had. They will need help, but it's still there, hovering in the distance.
Perhaps four undefeated teams will waltz into the playoff and eliminate teams like this; something tells me it will be slightly more complicated than that. Still, this was a major setback. There's no other way to shape it.
Is Stanford Suddenly Ohio State 2.0?
The formula is familiar. Come in with high expectations, lose a really ugly football game early in the year, lose the interest of the football world and follow it up by playing dominant football for the foreseeable future.
Last year, this was the blueprint Ohio State followed after its loss to Virginia Tech. The result was an appearance in the College Football Playoff and a national championship.
This year, at least early on, Stanford seems to have grabbed the baton.
Since falling helplessly to Northwestern in Week 1—a game that prompted many to dig Stanford its grave—the team has rebounded. Last Thursday’s 56-35 win over UCLA followed a 55-17 win over Arizona. Suddenly, behind do-everything back Christian McCaffrey, this offense has life.
This catch was pretty decent, too.
The team is rolling. The defense should get better. The whole machine can still improve.
At No. 10 in the AP poll, climbing back up, the schedule sets up remarkably well. Stanford’s remaining road games are Washington State and Colorado. David Shaw’s team also plays Cal, Notre Dame, Oregon and Washington. It will likely be a favorite from here on out.
Add in a potential matchup in the Pac-12 Championship Game against Utah—a matchup that is looking more and more feasible—and Stanford has newfound life. Win out, and it's almost assured.
There is a long way to go for a College Football Playoff bid to be realized, but an early loss will certainly help. That feels like ages ago for the team now ranked No. 10, and the selection committee will share a similar sentiment. After all, it did last year.
Talking College Football Playoff With ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit
Each Saturday night, after a long, exhausting, 18-hour day, ESPN analyst and College GameDay host Kirk Herbstreit unveils his updated College Football Playoff top four, and the football world usually loses its mind.
His Twitter mentions at these hours are some of the Internet’s darkest back alleys. But he always takes it in stride, and the man loves his job. (He’s also fabulous at it.)
Although Herbstreit does not have any say in how the final field will ultimately look, the man knows plenty about the playoff. So late last week, before the Week 7 games were completed, I asked Herbstreit a few playoff-related questions regarding this season, the chaos and potential changes ahead.
Bleacher Report: Does it feel like the chaotic nature of this season could make life difficult on the selection committee?
Kirk Herbstreit: It does remind me a little bit of where we were heading in 2007, when we had such chaos toward the end. For me, however, it’s still too early.
Eventually, a lot of these teams will have to play each other, so there will be some separation. But I think it will go all the way down to that final week, and the committee will likely have a much tougher time this year than it did last year. There are a lot of good teams, but there don’t seem to be a lot of great teams. Maybe that will change, but that’s what I see right now.
If this thing finishes the way it potentially could, where you have, say, seven teams with one loss, that argument for the No. 4 spot is going to be as nasty as it has ever been. Again, it reminds me a lot of ’07.
I had coaches calling me that night telling me why his team deserved to be in over whoever else. I think it’s going to be a lot like that. And you’re going to have five, six or seven teams thinking this is a corrupt system wondering if there’s a conspiracy.
Twitter may implode when that committee comes out with its final decision in December. It could get nasty. And guys like us, who have to have our own Final Four, will just be pinatas. They’re going to hate us if they don’t already.
BR: You post your own playoff rankings each week. What is the typical response?
KH: Oh, I get a bit of everything.
“I love your rankings, that was spot on!”
“You’re such a moron, I can’t stand you!”
People think you’re a genius if you include their teams. If you leave someone’s team out, then you haven’t watched them or you’re not giving them the credit they deserve. It comes with the territory.
To me, honestly, that’s what makes this great. As crazy as it can get, I love that people care so much about the sport. I don’t think you get this with college basketball, the NFL or the NBA. But man, you release your top four in college football in August, and it is game on. That’s very unique, and it says a lot about the passion that we have these fans.
BR: There are a lot of parallels being made between Ohio State this year and Florida State last year. Do you think the committee will view the Buckeyes—and teams with a lot of talent and perhaps a lack of style points—differently following the Seminoles’ playoff struggles?
KH: Florida State last year just sort of flirted with disaster all of last year—maybe seven or eight times. They showed the heart of a champion and found a way to win.
Personally, if you have a team coming out of the Big Ten—regardless of whether or not they’re defending national champions—and they run the table, it’s hard for me to see the committee looking at a school like Ohio State and leaving them out of the Final Four.
I don’t want to say anything is impossible, but if there’s anything close to being impossible, it would be that.
BR: Is there anything with the selection process that you would like to see changed?
KH: Not yet. I think some metrics to help the committee with strength of schedule to help verify their rankings is something worth discussing, but I kind of like it right now. I like the way the committee votes.
But I would lean to eventually getting this to eight. I still think we would maintain the regular season mattering, which is something I am very big on. I think if you go to eight, you still get these same arguments and have everything at stake week-to-week. If it got there, I would still be cool with it.
That’s the one thing I would probably bring up; the possibility of it expanding.
Herbstreit has teamed up with college football sponsor Allstate for the “It’s Good Sweepstakes,” which will award one lucky winner and three friends with a trip to New Orleans for the 2016 Allstate® Sugar Bowl® before traveling to Phoenix for the 2016 College Football Playoff National Championship.
Allstate and Herbstreit have been handing out #StreitCred on Twitter each week, spotlighting the strongest team performances and standout moments as they unfold on the gridiron. For more information, visit www.AllstateCFB.com.
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The college football landscape has become more defined after this past weekend of action, with several high-profile matchups giving us definitive winners (as well as those who came out on top thanks to miraculous plays). And as we move into the second half of the 2015 season, a clear pecking order is taking shape at the top and trickling downward.
You'll see the same in the latest version of the Bleacher Report power rankings.
Bleacher Report's power rankings are comprised of an average of five sources: B/R's weekly Top 25, the Associated Press Top 25, the Amway Coaches Poll, ratings guru Jeff Sagarin's computer rankings and the author's personal rankings for every FBS school. The top 50 teams are broken down individually, while the rest of the 128 FBS teams are summarized in a few easy-to-digest chunks.
Check out where everyone ranks after six weeks, and then give us your thoughts in the comments section.
Texas and Kansas State meet in Austin on Saturday, trying to get the second half of their seasons off to a good start.
Fresh off meetings with Oklahoma, the Longhorns and Wildcats are trending in opposite directions. The former pulled off one of the season's biggest surprises in the Red River Rivalry, knocking off the then-No. 10 Sooners 24-17.
The win sent Charlie Strong's team into its bye week on a high note and with a reason for optimism. The young Longhorns are finally clicking, and the schedule gets much easier over the year's final six games.
Things didn't go so well for Bill Snyder's team the following week. The Wildcats got the full brunt of the Sooners' frustrations, getting housed 55-0 at home.
At home, Texas should hold at slight edge as the more talented team, but we all know better than to count out Snyder.
Date: Saturday, October 24
Time: Noon ET
Location: Royal Memorial Stadium, Austin, Texas
TV: Fox Sports 1
Line: Texas -3.5, according to Odds Shark
The Virginia Tech Hokies head back to Lane Stadium on Saturday in dire need of a win. It's a situation the Hokies faced two weeks ago when N.C. State came to town after back-to-back losses.
Last week, Tech dropped to 3-4 (1-2) on the season with a disappointing, turnover-filled performance at Miami.
Brenden Motley started the game for the Hokies and turned the ball over three times before a returning Michael Brewer replaced him. Brewer made things interesting, but he also turned the ball over late and Tech's defense couldn't stop Miami when it mattered the most.
Next up for the Hokies: the Duke Blue Devils (5-1, 2-0).
Duke is coming to Blacksburg as a winner of three straight. The Blue Devils defeated Army by a score of 44-3 last weekend.
The Hokies lead the all-time series 14-8 and have dominated Duke since entering the ACC back in 2004. VT is 10-1 since becoming ACC rivals with the Blue Devils. Duke's lone win came two years ago in Blacksburg.
- When: Saturday, October 24, 2015
- Where: Lane Stadium, Blacksburg, Virginia
- Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
- TV: ESPNU
- Radio: Virginia Tech IMG Sports Network. Here is a complete list of stations by area.
- Spread: The Hokies are currently 2.5-point favorites, per Odds Shark.