Don’t knock Michigan linebacker Joe Bolden for showing heart during a heated moment—the “classless” and “unsportsmanlike” arguments won’t hold a drop of water.
Granted, his tent-spike-driving tirade near midfield prior to Michigan’s 35-11 loss to Michigan State was a bit misdirected—not to mention a tad overdramatic—but the 6'3", 231-pound junior didn’t overstep boundaries or taint the legend of the Big Ten’s iconic in-state rivalry.
There is no need for a judge and jury, as there was no crime or violation committed.
In fact, by lighting an emotional fire underneath his teammates, the defensive cornerstone and team captain was simply carrying out orders—plain and simple.
However, on Sunday, Brady Hoke felt the need to apologize for Bolden, placing a phone call to Spartans coach Mark Dantonio to clear the air. In an effort to further clarify the scenario, Hoke followed by releasing a public statement—you know, just for the sake of being thorough and transparent.
It was thoughtful but entirely unnecessary.
Apologize? For what? So the guy got wild by performing a team-wide gut check in front of a packed Spartan Stadium. So he challenged his own team to tilt the balance of the recently lopsided annual affair.
Good for him.
By doing that, he proved that some members of Team 135 still have a pulse—the intent was there and duly noted by defensive coordinator Greg Mattison.
“I love Joe Bolden! Are you kidding me?” he exclaimed when asked about the pregame outburst. “Joe Bolden...[satisfied laughter]...Man, I’ll tell you what: Give me a room of him. Give me a room of Joe Boldens. Give me 11 of them. Just line them up—put them at any position you want—and I’m going to tell you what: There will be a lot of happy people, and me being the happiest.
“When you say ‘Joe Bolden’ to me, you’ve got a guy—that’s a football player. That’s a guy who’s a leader, who gives everything that he can give. And you know what? We’ve got a bunch of them like that too, which is really neat.”
Mattison got quite emotional in response to the question about Bolden. See it here on MGoBlue (5:30).
It’s taken Bolden less than two full seasons to solidify himself as a leading producer. His 63 tackles (32 solo, 31 assists) are second to fellow linebacker Jake Ryan’s 68 (40, 28) and, since his sophomore year, he’s been frequently mentioned as one of Team 135’s most dedicated members.
When Hoke and Mattison discuss players who get it, they’re referencing the Boldens of the world.
Following the Wolverines’ 30-14 loss to the Gophers, Bolden, in essence, took full blame for his defense’s lapses and transgressions; it surrendered a season-high 183 yards to running back David Cobb and missed several tackles during the Wolverines' first home loss to Minnesota since 2005.
He had a decent game, though the same can’t be said for the rest of his teammates. However, instead of placing blame, he chose to shoulder the burden while facing an army of glaring TV cameras that was posted behind a flock of reporters with recorders.
"You know, you're never happy with a loss,” he said, visibly tense. “If you love to compete, you're never happy unless you win. And when you win, you want to still compete and you want to keep on it."
Rather than complaining about the defense being on the field for 34 minutes, 40 seconds, he flipped the script when asked if he was irritated by the lack of rest between series.
"Not at all,” Bolden replied. “From a defensive perspective, you have the opportunity to go out and play more snaps. If you love the game, if you love Michigan, you love putting the winged helmet on, you love the opportunity to go out and play Michigan defense."
Mattison’s correct: The Wolverines need more Boldens. Sure, they all "compete" and "work hard," as the staff says each week. But if they don't feel differently while playing—and ultimately losing to—the Spartans, and if they seem content after bowing to teams Michigan's owned in the past, then they’re playing for the wrong school.
Bolden seems to be one of a select few who are capable of making those distinctions.
Follow Bleacher Report’s Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter: @AdamBiggers81
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes and references to were obtained firsthand by the writer.
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If you look at the college football rankings heading into Week 10, there is a feeling of inevitable controversy that creeps in.
After all, there are 16 power-five conference teams (including Notre Dame) that are ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 with a single loss. Even if you work under the assumption that the undefeated Florida State Seminoles and Mississippi State Bulldogs will be in the College Football Playoff field, the selection committee still has to pick two more squads.
Then there is undefeated Marshall, who won’t get in the playoffs but is still racking together win after win.
With that in mind, here is a look at the Week 10 rankings. The official Bleacher Report poll can be found here.
Week 10 Under-the-Radar Game to Watch: Florida State at Louisville
The Thursday night showdown between Florida State and Louisville may not be the marquee matchup on paper that the games featuring Ole Miss against Auburn, TCU against West Virginia, Utah against Arizona State and Arizona against UCLA are in Week 10, but don’t be surprised when the Cardinals keep it close.
Stranger things have happened on Thursday nights in college football, and the home crowd will be absolutely rocking throughout the game.
This is about more than just the home-field advantage, though. The Louisville defense is fourth in the nation in scoring at 14.6 points allowed per game, No. 1 nationally in total defense, No. 1 against the run and No. 10 against the pass. Louisville has won four of its last five games and has not given up more than 23 points in a single contest all year.
In fact, the Cardinals have held their six ACC opponents below their scoring average every time out.
The Florida State offense is going to have its hands full trying to reach the end zone.
Louisville is so efficient defensively because it has so many impressive individual talents. Gerod Holliman, James Sample and Charles Gaines are all in the top 11 in the ACC in passes defended, and Lorenzo Mauldin, Sheldon Rankins and Keith Kelsey are all in the top 11 in the ACC in sacks.
That combination of ruthless pass-rushers and talented secondary members allows Louisville to get pressure when it only rushes four. That makes life particularly difficult on the wide receivers trying to get open when there is safety help and only a couple of seconds until the quarterback gets hit.
Louisville defensive coordinator Todd Grantham discussed his unit, via Andrea Adelson of ESPN.com:
I felt we had individuals who could be really good at their positions, so we talk about that as winning your one-on-one matchups. As you go through the day and you work, try to be the best at your position and if you’re the best at your position, and we can get you in one-on-one situations, you’re going to affect the game, which is good for our team. We’ve been able to get some matchups that are positive for us and those guys have made some plays.
The Cardinals are fresh off a 30-18 win over North Carolina State. The transitive property is too simple to apply to college football, but it still has to be mentioned that it was the same Wolfpack team that dropped 41 points on Florida State.
Brendan Sonnone of the Orlando Sentinel shared his thoughts on the defense Florida State will face on Thursday, as well as a quote from head coach Jimbo Fisher:
Considering Florida State has not scored less than 30 points this year with Winston under center and Louisville has not given up 30, something has to give.
This is also Florida State’s first game since the Notre Dame nail-biter, and clashes with Miami and Florida are waiting down the road. Between any lingering sense of relief from the Seminoles after the offensive pass interference call against the Fighting Irish and the anticipation of those upcoming rivalry games, Florida State could overlook this one.
While the majority of the focus heading into the showdown will be on the Louisville defense against the defending Heisman Trophy winner Winston and the Florida State offense, the difference in this game may be the Cardinals’ ability (or inability) to score against the Seminoles.
Louisville ranks 72nd nationally in passing yards per game and 90th in rushing yards per game, and Florida State is 29th in the country in scoring defense and has plenty of potential NFL talent on that side of the ball. Yes, the Seminoles have struggled at times defensively, but they will find a way to keep the Cardinals from scoring too often on Thursday night.
Winston will have a difficult test against the Louisville defense, but if he finds the end zone three times, that will be enough because his defense will thrive in this matchup against a middle-of-the-road Louisville offense.
Winston will do just enough to get his team yet another victory.
Prediction: Florida State 27, Louisville 20
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Michigan (3-5, 1-3 Big Ten) continued its free fall last week losing 35-11 to in-state rival Michigan State. Michigan was not only dominated on the field but found itself embarrassed by a motivational ploy gone wrong that further angered the Spartans. Michigan State hammered the Wolverines, tacking on a late touchdown after which its fans chanted “Keep Brady Hoke” as the game clock expired.
The Wolverines return to Michigan Stadium for a homecoming game versus Indiana with a razor-thin margin for error left to make a bowl game, needing to win of three of four remaining games to be postseason eligible. Indiana (3-4, 0-3 Big Ten) is also struggling, and Michigan needs to take advantage of this opportunity to get back on track.
A loss to Indiana would accelerate calls for Brady Hoke’s dismissal.
This homecoming will be a time for Michigan fans to revel in memories of the past while wondering how long it will be before gridiron glory again returns to Ann Arbor.
Date: Saturday, November 1, 2014
Time: 3:30 p.m. EDT
Place: Michigan Stadium (109,901), Ann Arbor, Mich.
Series vs. Indiana: Michigan leads 53-9
Radio: Michigan Sports Network, Sirius (113), XM (195)
Spread: Michigan by 9.5 via Odds Shark
Live Stats: MGoBlue.com GameTracker
Last Meeting vs. Indiana
Michigan won a 63-47 shootout over Indiana for its final home win of the season. The Wolverines pulled away with three fourth-quarter touchdowns. Michigan would only win one more game (an overtime thriller versus Northwestern) for the rest of the 2013 season.
*Information according to University of Michigan Wolverine Football game notes.
With 479 passing yards per game—the most in the FBS—is Washington State’s Connor Halliday really the best quarterback in the nation?
And with 170 rushing yards per game—also No. 1 in the nation—is Indiana’s Tevin Coleman the best running back?
You have to wonder if quantity really does equal quality and if the numbers that underscore our understanding of college football really tell us which players are the best.
Here are 10 guys who may not be all-world in the major statistical categories we hold so dear, but who are proving themselves to be elite players outside of the box.
Since the possibilities are endless, we’ll limit the discussion to just a handful of athletes from each side of the ball.
The Florida State Seminoles were fortunate enough to have a bye week directly after their Week 8 contest against Notre Dame came down to the wire. The nation's No. 2 team is back in action on Thursday, but winning on the road against a strong Louisville team will be no easy task.
While the Cardinals may not have the poise of Teddy Bridgewater at the quarterback position again this season, the team's defense has stepped up in a big way, allowing just 14.6 points per game. In fact, Louisville hasn't given up more than 23 points in a single contest this season.
This clash of ACC foes pits strength against strength. Can Heisman-winning quarterback Jameis Winston lead the Seminoles to an 8-0 record, or will a sound Cardinals defense play spoiler to Florida State's College Football Playoff bid?
Both of these teams are already bowl-eligible, but that's only half of the story. This game is just as much about pride within the conference.
Battle of Strengths
There's no question the Seminoles have one of the most explosive offenses in the nation. This team has scored over 30 points in six of its seven contests this season—including a 31-point performance against a very stout Fighting Irish defense.
While Winston may not be quite up to Heisman form in 2014, he's remained very efficient. Against Notre Dame, he completed 23 of his 31 passing attempts for 273 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Winston's interception rate may be up this season, but so is his resilience.
The Seminoles didn't hold a lead through three-and-a-half quarters against Notre Dame, yet Winston only appeared to get better as the game went on. He led a convincing 10-play, 75-yard drive in the fourth quarter resulting in a Karlos Williams touchdown run and a lead the team wouldn't relinquish.
Winston won't have it any easier on Thursday.
The Cardinals' fourth-ranked defense has been lights-out this season. Before the team's bye week, it faced a dangerous North Carolina State offense that gave the Seminoles fits earlier in the season. Well, that wasn't quite the case against Louisville.
Quarterback Jacoby Brissett was held in check, completing 18 of his 32 passing attempts for 223 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. He didn't do too much damage on the ground, either, as it took the Wolfpack a good chunk of carries to rack up any kind of yardage:
Florida State only averaged 1.9 yards per carry against Notre Dame, putting the game completely on the arm of Jameis Winston. Expect that to be the case once again on Thursday.
This game could come down to one big play for either of these teams—and they both have wide receivers capable of hitting a home run whenever they touch the ball.
Rashad Greene is arguably the best wide receiver in the nation right now. He shows up each and every game, showcasing his route-running ability, soft hands, vision, elusiveness and speed. He's an all-around wide receiver and playmaker, and that showed up against Notre Dame.
Against the Fighting Irish, Greene racked up eight passes for 108 yards, averaging 13.5 yards per catch, one touchdown and a long reception of 33 yards. Those were all team highs, and that's nothing new for Greene.
Here's a look at the NFL prospect's numbers this season:
Louisville's DeVante Parker is just as dangerous. While he missed most of the season due to injury, he didn't take long to prove why he's one of the nation's best. North Carolina State didn't have an answer for Parker in his first game back in action. He caught nine receptions for 132 yards, averaging 14.7 yards per catch, and a long of 37 yards.
This 6'3" senior pass-catcher appears to have a very bright future in the NFL as well.
Expect both of these receivers to go head-to-head on Thursday, as one will likely be given a chance to make a big enough play to turn the tide of the game.
When: Thursday, October 30
Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
Where: Papa John's Cardinal Stadium in Louisville, Kentucky
Live Stream: WatchESPN
Betting Line (via Odds Shark): Florida State -5
Team Injury Reports
Injury reports per The Sports Network, via USA Today.
This one will be far closer than many would anticipate. While Florida State does boast a prolific offense, the Cardinals have the defensive personnel to match up nicely. Louisville's ability to take away the run will put a larger amount of pressure on Winston to perform on the road.
The Cardinals haven't had the most high-octane offense this season, but the return of Parker did wonders for the team's ability to move the ball down the field. The Seminoles defense has been gashed at times this year, and Parker has the vertical ability to exploit Florida State's secondary.
Expect this one to come down to the wire. While Louisville has home-field advantage, the Seminoles' resilient nature will once again help them emerge victorious thanks to another big scoring drive in the waning minutes of the contest.
Prediction: Florida State 24, Louisville 20
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Months of human polls and wild speculation come to a halt Tuesday when the inaugural College Football Playoff Top 25 poll is released to the public.
The College Football Playoff selection committee, which consists of 12 members at the moment, has perhaps the most difficult task in the sporting world. Normally the decision process would still be quite difficult, but this chaotic season has ensured the inaugural poll is a major obstacle.
Keep in mind that the reveal will come in front of a national audience, too.
Fans can witness the action firsthand Tuesday night.
What: College Football Playoff Top 25 Poll First Release
When: Tuesday, October 28 at 7:30 p.m. ET
Live Stream: WatchESPN
How it Works
A total of 12 members, after Archie Manning stepped down, meet the Monday before Tuesday's release and attempt to sift through loads of information before coming up with a poll that reflects which teams are in and which are out should the playoff be next week.
As CFB Playoff captures, the committee has been hard at work on the inaugural batch of rankings:
The criteria is not so well-defined and may not be even after the release, should no leaks occur.
In theory, the committee will mostly focus on conference championships and strength of schedule, with the latter meaning those big schools that schedule a tough nonconference slate will be rewarded as opposed to those teams that book easily won matchups that amount to bye weeks.
Again, though, in theory.
Also of importance seems to be head-to-head competition and outcomes of common opponents. Not of importance? Other polls, such as the Associated Press Top 25 and coaches polls, as they do not take into account strength of schedule.
Many, such as Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel, want to know if all this chatter of strength of schedule will actually come to fruition, as captured by Brandon Kiley of KTGR The Big Show:
Regardless, the 12 people on the committee will turn in votes over a series of weeks in what will ultimately form the 25-team list, although certain members paid by a school must recuse themselves from talking about said school.
Critics will point out that a weekly release may be an issue if a team gets hot near the end of the season but began ranked low and, as a result, winds up missing the CFP.
But really, does anyone expect there to not be controversy?
What to Expect
SEC, SEC and SEC.
Well, as far as the overall Top 25 goes. Much debate has and will continue to be had in regards to how the conference beating up on itself will hurt each team's CFP chances, but it does not prohibit the conference from dominating the initial list.
As for an official CFP prediction? The top two are quite obvious. The bottom two, not so much:
Mississippi State is the darling of the nation at the moment thanks to Heisman contender Dak Prescott, who reminds many of a guy by the name of Tim Tebow. The Bulldogs have wins over Texas A&M, LSU and Auburn, but upcoming battles with Alabama and Ole Miss might throw this initial poll for a loop.
Speaking of Alabama, Nick Saban's Crimson Tide figure to get a nod near the top of the polls and perhaps eventually enter the CFP—as long as the team can keep up with that encounter with the Bulldogs and take care of business against Auburn to close the season.
Florida State is the other obvious entrant and potential No. 1 in the first offering Tuesday. Jameis Winston is a Heisman winner, and a recent triumph over Notre Dame means the team has a cakewalk the rest of the way.
TCU is but one single-loss wild card, but it may prove to have a distinct advantage as the Big 12 does not hold a conference title game, meaning the Horned Frogs can run the table the rest of the way and likely secure a spot in the CFP.
Tuesday's release should reflect something similar to these thoughts unless all the talk about strength of schedule has been smoke. Regardless, hostility toward the initial release is a given considering this is new to everybody, and the difference between the No. 4 and No. 12 teams in the nation is miniscule at best.
Enjoy the show.
Note: All info courtesy of CollegeFootballPlayoff.com unless otherwise specified.
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We are heading into the final month of the college football regular season, and the Georgia Bulldogs are trying to earn a spot in the College Football Playoff.
As of right now, they are in good position. They lead the SEC East and have only one loss, which gives them the right to make a case for being one of the best one-loss teams.
But before the Bulldogs can think of the national title (or an SEC title for that matter), they will need to do well in their last five games, which are all played in the month of November. Will the Bulldogs keep the hot streak going? Will a team like Florida or Auburn cool them off?
Here are game-by-game predictions for the Bulldogs in the month of November.
With the month of November still in front of us, the temperature of each Pac-12 coach's seat is liable to change at least a few degrees over the next five weeks. Whether that's a little bit cooler or a little bit warmer all depends on how the teams play, but it's safe to say not everyone has a deadbolt lock on their job.
Relative to other conferences, though, the Pac-12 has a bunch of coaches who have virtually zero chance of getting fired. Ranking those coaches isn't easy, so one way to look at it is by thinking about where they would stand if their teams lost every remaining game.
Over half of the coaches would still have a job, while some might be left updating a resume. While that might not be the fairest way to judge job security, temperatures heat up quicker in some towns than others. If Colorado loses the rest of its games, Mike MacIntyre will probably be okay. If Oregon does the same thing, Mark Helfrich might be in trouble, but that's the nature of college football, especially when your program has built such a strong reputation.
Also factored into the equation here is the remaining schedule. You have to take into account the road ahead and factor that into how secure jobs are for every coach.
We're ranking them from twelve on down to one in order of the most secure to the least secure. Will anyone be fired at the end of the season, or will this be the first year in recent memory with zero coaching changes?
With the College Football Playoff selection committee set to reveal its first batch of rankings for the inaugural postseason affair that seems increasingly small as each week of the season progresses, it is time to take another look at some predictions.
Not that anything has been easy to predict this year. Four teams are certainly not enough for the CFP, as the difference between the No. 4 team in the land and the No. 12 team is really just a matter of preference at this point.
Mississippi State is a good example of this, as the Bulldogs were an afterthought in the minds of most before the season. Now? Dak Prescott and Co. rule the SEC.
The CFP poll each week between now and December figures to look at a number of factors, chief among them strength of schedule and head-to-head outcomes. Using that as a baseline, a final four can be formed.
College Football Playoff Predictions
1. Mississippi State
It certainly does not take long for the naysayers to come out of the woodwork.
After wins over LSU, Texas A&M and Auburn, many have already dismissed the Bulldogs for "struggling" against unranked Kentucky last week by "only" winning by 14 points. Never mind the fact Kentucky is 5-3 and much better than in recent years, right?
As ESPN Stats & Info notes, the Bulldogs are still king in a number of areas, including a few very important ones in regard to the CFP:
Prescott is the reason the Bulldogs have made it to this point.
While some will draw Tim Tebow comparisons thanks to his ability through the air and toughness on the ground, ESPN College Football points out that Prescott is on pace to surpass two other major recent names:
Now, the Bulldogs do have to survive Alabama and Ole Miss, among others, to make the CFP. But given an elite offense and a defense that surrenders just 21.6 points per game, Prescott's team currently looks like a lock.
2. Florida State
Like it or not, the Florida State Seminoles and Jameis Winston are also a lock at this point in time.
The Seminoles survived Oklahoma State to start the season, overcame Clemson in overtime and most recently took down a Top Five team in the form of Notre Dame.
Winston leads an offense that ranks No. 14 overall in terms of passing yards per game, and on the year, he is completing 70.6 percent of his passes for 1,878 yards and 13 touchdowns to six interceptions.
In other words, the Seminoles mostly look like the team that birthed a Heisman winner and title last season.
That said, not everyone is confident the team can run the table, as ESPN College Football reveals:
It makes sense, as Louisville is a tough test, Virginia has a strong defense, Miami and Florida are tough in-state matchups and Boston College has already pulled off an impressive upset this season over USC thanks to a top-15 defense.
Like last year, though, an elite quarterback makes the difference. Until Winston and the Seminoles suffer a setback, the team is an obvious shoo-in for the CFP.
Perhaps no team that figures to be a serious contender for the CFP has a tougher schedule the rest of the way than the Alabama Crimson Tide.
Nick Saban's team faces three ranked opponents in four games to close out the year, two of which rank fourth or better. A slate that features the aforementioned Bulldogs, LSU and Auburn would scare most teams, but not Alabama as it continues to hit its stride.
"This team is getting better and better," said quarterback Blake Sims, per Edward Aschoff of ESPN.com. "We’re becoming even closer and we just want to play hard for each other. The way our coaches fight for us, we want to play even harder for them."
Quietly, Sims has thrown for seven touchdowns to no interceptions in his last three games. He is flanked by the typically stout Crimson Tide defense, which ranks No. 3 overall with an average of 14.0 points allowed per game.
The Crimson Tide has grown up right in front of the nation's eyes in the past few weeks, with no true end in sight. Running the table is quite a daunting task, but yet again, it is unwise to doubt Saban's team.
The fourth slot is truly a wild guess thanks to the vast number of quality one-loss teams that pepper the collegiate landscape at the moment.
Most would be hard pressed to find a team more deserving than TCU, though.
The Horned Frogs are one ugly quarter against Baylor away from being undefeated and a surefire favorite for the postseason. A loss to a Top Five team is in no way crippling, especially after the team recovered with a blowout win against ranked Oklahoma State and then an indescribable 82-27 win over Texas Tech.
Behind the arms and legs of junior quarterback Trevone Boykin—who has 2,306 passing yards and 21 touchdowns to three interceptions with 374 rushing yards and three scores on the ground—TCU touts the nation's top scoring offense, which averages 50.4 points per game.
Keep in mind that a major part of the equation is the future, though. As College GameDay hints, that is yet another bright spot for the team:
West Virginia and Kansas State will prove tough tests but are surely winnable matchups. Keep in mind that should TCU win out, the team has to be a lock for the CFP with the Big 12 not holding a conference title game.
Perhaps the fourth and final slot is not so difficult to figure out after all.
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The month of October gave Clemson Tigers fans a few scares, and it doesn’t get any easier in November with games against Georgia Tech and South Carolina.
Luckily for the Tigers, quarterback Deshaun Watson will be back at some point next month. That is very good news, as the offense has produced just 33 combined points in Cole Stoudt’s two starts.
Clemson still has a lot to play for at this point, with the opportunity for an 11-win season still there. Also, if Florida State makes the playoff, Clemson would be in solid position to represent the ACC in the Orange Bowl.
That’s enough talk about bowl games, though, because the Tigers have a couple of challenges ahead of them next month.
As the calendar turns to November, the Virginia Tech Hokies find themselves in an unfamiliar position: battling to be bowl-eligible.
With two straight losses in prime time on Thursday nights, Tech gets back to work on Saturday as the Boston College Eagles come to town.
The Hokies (4-4, 1-3 against conference opponents) are essentially eliminated from Coastal Division contention, while the Eagles (5-3, 2-2 against conference opponents) are still alive in the Atlantic, even though defending national champion Florida State will be almost impossible to unseat.
BC won last year's game at Chestnut Hill, but the Hokies won the previous five meetings. VT leads the all-time series 15-7.
- When: Saturday, November 1, 2014
- Where: Lane Stadium, Blacksburg, Virginia
- Time: 12:30 p.m. ET
- TV: ACC Network
- Radio: Virginia Tech IMG Sports Network. Here is a complete list of stations by area.
- Spread: The Hokies are currently three-point favorites, via Odds Shark.
“And it’s hard to hold a candle
In the cold November rain.”
—Guns ‘n Roses, “November Rain”
Nebraska football fans will be putting away their Halloween candy (in more ways than one) and preparing for the November end-of-season stretch run that will define whether 2014 was a success or a failure. Trips to Wisconsin and Iowa highlight the challenges of the month, but four potential pitfalls await Nebraska as it tries to find a way back to Indianapolis.
So let’s take a look at how we should expect Nebraska to fare in its final four games of the regular season.
Nov. 1: Purdue
Nebraska’s November is no picnic, but at least it has a bit of a soft start to the month. Purdue has been struggling to rebuild under Darrell Hazell, but it currently sits at 3-5 overall and 1-2 in the Big Ten. The Boilermakers have shown some fight in the last few weeks, knocking off Illinois in Champaign and putting up game efforts in close losses to Michigan State and Minnesota.
So Purdue may not be the automatic win that Nebraska fans anticipated at the start of the season. But anything less than a comfortable win—particularly off the back of a sloppy performance against Rutgers—should make for an uncomfortable bye week.
But Nebraska’s sloppy play against Rutgers is bad news for Purdue, as Bo Pelini should have his teams full attention in practice this week. A sharp Nebraska should be more than enough to comfortably handle Purdue
Fearless Forecast: Nebraska 45, Purdue 13
Nov. 15: at Wisconsin
Reports of the Badgers’ demise may have been a bit premature. After B1G fans were ready to write off Wisconsin as a legitimate conference title contender, the Badgers undress Maryland in Madison, 52-7, in a game that might not have been as close as the score indicated.
Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon is the nation’s No. 2 rusher (one spot better than Ameer Abdullah), and if the Badgers can get any kind of a passing attack going they can be dangerous. Couple that with a stingy defense and the house of horrors that is Camp Randall and Nebraska looks to have a tall order facing it.
But Wisconsin does too. For its offense to work, Wisconsin must have some semblance of a passing attack, and Nebraska’s defensive line should be effective enough to pressure the Badgers’ quarterback (whichever one they roll out) into mistakes. Look for Nebraska, with the advantage of an off week to prepare, to take advantage of a Wisconsin team in transition and notch an important road win.
Fearless Forecast: Nebraska 27, Wisconsin 20
Nov. 22: Minnesota
The Gophers know who they are and, more importantly, who they are not. Minnesota will come to Lincoln with a ground-and-pound attack and hope to shorten the game and wear the Blackshirts out, like it did in Minneapolis last year.
But Nebraska has more going for it, both on offense and on defense, than it did a year previously. A clearly hampered Taylor Martinez will not be the albatross around Nebraska’s offense this time around, and the memory of last year’s upset should be more than enough to keep NU focused and ready.
Fearless Forecast: Nebraska 31, Minnesota 17
Nov. 28: at Iowa
Before the season started, this dope thought that Iowa would beat Nebraska on its way to a B1G West division title. Then came losses to Iowa State (!) and Maryland, along with less-than-convincing wins against the rest of its schedule. Laboring to beat Northern Iowa, Ball State and Purdue does little to inspire confidence that the Hawkeyes are even close to a team ready for a division title.
Add into the mix an unsettled situation at quarterback and a rushing attack that is far less potent than imagined and Iowa looks to be a far cry from what it was expected to be at the start of the season.
With games against Minnesota and Wisconsin before facing Nebraska, it’s hard to guess what Iowa’s record will be on the day after Thanksgiving. But a more complete Nebraska team, with a trophy to win back, should be enough to get the job done for NU.
Fearless Forecast: Nebraska 24, Iowa 14
Stats from CFBStats.com.
For a different look at Nebraska football, check out The Double Extra Point.
Or you can use the Twitter machine to follow @DblExtraPoint.
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With four games remaining in the regular season, the No. 25 UCLA Bruins still have a shot at winning the Pac-12 South Division.
The upcoming slate is not an easy one by any stretch. All four opponents have been or are currently ranked. Fortunately for Jim Mora's team, three of the four games are being played in the Rose Bowl.
This piece will take a stab at predictions for the quartet of games in November. Not only will UCLA look to make it into the conference championship game, but it will also try and win 10 games in back-to-back seasons.
The Oregon Ducks (7-1, 4-1) have blown two consecutive chances for a shot at the national championship. The Stanford Cardinal (5-3, 3-2) stalled both of those chances. The Ducks hope that the third time’s the charm.
In each of the past two seasons, the Ducks came into the Stanford game with an undefeated record and a realistic shot at reaching the BCS Championship Game. In 2012, while sitting at 10-0, The Associated Press ranked Oregon No. 1 heading into the matchup against Stanford. In 2013, with an 8-0 record, the Ducks were ranked No. 2 in the country before the Stanford game.
Now, with the College Football Playoff in tow, the Ducks have yet another realistic chance of playing for a national title. Once again, the Cardinal stand in their way.
Can the Ducks finally overcome their demons and slay Stanford? That is the only question that matters this week. Yes, the Ducks have three more games after this week, including a terrifying road trip to Utah. However, Stanford is the game that every Ducks fan had circled at the beginning of the year. This one means just a little bit more than any other game on the Oregon schedule this season.
While this game has Pac-12 North implications—the Ducks hold a one-game lead over the Cardinal—the rivalry takes precedent and is the real storyline.
Stanford is to the Ducks what the 2004 New York Yankees were to the 2004 Boston Red Sox. In order to become champions, the Ducks must first take down the team that has stood in their way for the past two seasons.
Here's what you need to know:
Date: Saturday, Nov. 1
Time: 4:30 p.m. Pacific Time
Place: Autzen Stadium (Eugene, Ore.)
Spread: Oregon -9.5, according to OddsShark.com.
In a scenario that should be all too familiar to Tennessee fans, the Volunteers are heading into November and needing a near sweep of the remaining teams on the schedule to secure bowl eligibility.
At one point during the first quarter of Saturday's game against No. 3 Alabama, it looked like the Crimson Tide were in the process of not only dismantling the Vols on the field, but also dismantling any belief the players and coaches had in the team's progress in recent weeks.
Enter Joshua Dobbs.
As soon as the sophomore quarterback stepped in to replace Nathan Peterman, Tennessee's offense and defense came alive. Dobbs made plays with his feet and looked poised, calm and confident against one of college football's best defenses.
Ultimately, Tennessee fell short and lost 34-20, but the mood among Vols fans after the game was one of renewed hope and optimism.
Although Tennessee head coach Butch Jones has yet to name a starter for Saturday's game against the South Carolina Gamecocks, it's hard to imagine it being anyone other than Dobbs.
Offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian's play-calling has been criticized throughout the season, but his offense looked like a well-oiled machine with Dobbs at the helm.
Now that the Vols have found their quarterback for the foreseeable future, how will the rest of the season play out?
Here are game-by-game predictions for the four remaining games of Tennessee's 2014 season.
Ultimately, four teams will battle it out at the end of the college football season for a national championship. But what if there was 16?
That's the theoretical question the Super 16 poll voters ask each week as they rank the top 16 teams in the nation. And with a number of one-loss teams out in the wild, a 16-team playoff this season would be a brilliant spectacle.
We can dream, right? Let's take a look at the Super 16 poll, along with the B/R Top 25.
The group of voters picking this week's Super 16 had an easier job than the selection committee, that much is for certain. While Mississippi State and Florida State seem like no-brainer selections for the first two spots in the playoff at this point in the season, how do you decide which two teams deserve the next two?
Teams like Auburn, Ole Miss, Alabama, Oregon, Notre Dame, Michigan State and TCU, among others, can all make a pretty compelling case for the third and fourth spots. The scene is certainly set for an epic November in that regard.
Of course, it would be even more fun if all of these teams could actually face off in a larger playoff, hence the theoretical nature of the Super 16 rankings. Arizona and Arizona State seem unlikely to sniff the playoffs in the current format, for instance, but in a 16-team playoff, both would at least have the chance to show their ilk on the field.
Or instead of arguing if three SEC West teams deserve to be in the top four, we could actually just let them duke it out on the field. Ah well.
Alabama has outscored its past two opponents 93-20 and has averaged 535.5 yards per contest. The defense has yet to give up 400 yards of offense in a game this season, and after having some real issues in its secondary, Alabama has given up an average of 171.5 passing yards per game in the past two outings.
We have immersed ourselves in the Magnolia State the past few weeks, but it's time to start to looking at what's happening in Tuscaloosa. Alabama is creeping back into the playoff race at the perfect time.
Quarterback Blake Sims also commented on the team's success, per Aschoff.
"This team is getting better and better," said Sims. "We’re becoming even closer and we just want to play hard for each other. The way our coaches fight for us, we want to play even harder for them."
Of course, the Auburn fans don't want to hear any of that. Auburn's only loss came to Mississippi State on the road, and it has a great non-conference win over Kansas State to add to its resume. Of course, the real fun is just beginning, as Stewart Mandel of Fox Sports tweeted:
It seems as though the College Football Playoff will go through the SEC West this year. But wouldn't it be fascinating to see the SEC West have to go through the rest of college football?
How fun would a game between Oregon and Auburn be? Or Alabama and Notre Dame? How about Ole Miss and Michigan State locking horns? Or Mississippi State battling TCU?
We'll likely get one of those teams versus Florida State at some point, and that's going to be a blast. But with so many teams worthy of the playoff to this point in the season, the four-team playoff is only in its first year and it already feels inadequate.
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One thing is certain about the first College Football Playoff rankings that will be released Tuesday: There will be one undefeated team that has absolutely no chance to make the final four.
That’s the sad plight of Marshall, which is 8-0 but figures to be ignored because it plays in Conference USA.
It's probably of little consolation, but at least Rolling Stone magazine has declared the West Virginia university “The People’s Champion.”
Count me among those who think the Thundering Herd has the best team name in college sports, but also one of the worst predicaments when it comes to getting ranked. The latest AP poll has Marshall way down at No. 23, but isn't that's one spot better than LSU was when it upset No. 3 Ole Miss last Saturday night?
And if Marshall wins out and maintains a spotless record in the loss column it’s a reminder that college football still doesn’t have a foolproof means of selecting a national champion.
Suppose this was basketball season. A team with Marshall’s undefeated record and ranking in the polls could be reasonably expected to get a No. 6 seed in the NCAA tournament and have a shot at knocking off some of the sport’s marquee schools.
But that opportunity doesn’t exist in football. Which is why Marshall coach John “Doc” Holliday confesses to having a case of “basketball envy.”
“I do,” the coach told me Monday during a phone interview. “I worry about the direction we’re taking as far as football is concerned, because what’s wrong with having a Butler in the (championship game of) NCAA tournament? Every year somebody steps up and makes a run in basketball. I think that’s what college sports and college football should be all about.”
But with power-five conferences having such a huge edge, both historically and for strength of schedule, there’s no place in college football for a Cinderella story.
“If there’s a football team out there that’s a non-power-five team that deserves to be in the talk, then what’s wrong with that?” asks Holliday. “I think it would be great for college football.”
Instead, Holliday sees potential trouble brewing for even some top teams because of the ever-growing emphasis on the power-five conferences.
“I think at times you better be careful what you ask for, and I’m talking about even within the power-five conferences,” Holliday said. “The way I kind of see it going down the road, there’s going to be separation even within the power-fives … I think there are going to be 10 or 15 teams out there that are totally separated. Can those people in the private schools, and all those people within the power-fives, can they compete with the upper tier? I’m not sure they can.”
Holliday stresses that, “I don’t want anybody to give us anything.” But he adds that, “I think we deserve to be in the conversation, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.”
The coach hopes people won’t forget how good non-power-five Boise State was while going 92-12 under Chris Petersen from 2006-13. Or, before it joined the Pac-12, the Urban Meyer-coached Utah team of 2008 that went 12-0.
Holliday was on Meyer’s staff at Florida as associate head coach from 2005-07, which included one national championship with Tim Tebow at quarterback.
“I know that when I worked with Urban that one of the best football teams he thought he ever had was the Utah team when they were undefeated, prior to him going to Florida,” Holliday said. “He’ll tell you that today, that it was one of the best teams he ever coached.”
Holliday says his Marshall quarterback, Rakeem Cato, compares nicely with Tebow.
“As far as competitiveness, absolutely,” Holliday said. “He’s in the same boat.”
But a better comparison for Cato perhaps is Russell Wilson. Two weeks ago Cato broke Wilson’s FBS college record by throwing a touchdown pass in a 39th consecutive game, and then kept the streak alive and growing to 40 in Saturday’s victory against Florida Atlantic.
“What I like about him is what a special kid he is,” Holliday said. “He’s a guy who has overcome adversity.”
That’s putting it mildly. Cato’s mother died suddenly from pneumonia when he was 13, and his father was imprisoned throughout the quarterback’s childhood.
He also grew up in Liberty City section of Miami, which has one of the nation’s highest crime rates. Fox Sports’ Bruce Feldman wrote an excellent piece about the rigors of Cato’s childhood, and how he had to overcome anger and bitterness before he could become a complete success on the field.
The undersized QB arrived at Marshall weighing only about 150 pounds, but now is a muscular 176.
“He walked onto campus as a skinny kid who didn’t know when to get up or go to bed,” Holliday said. “To see him come as far as he’s come has been great.”
Cato figures to win a third consecutive C-USA Offensive Player of the Year award and leave Marshall as one of the school’s best three quarterbacks all time, joining former NFL players Byron Leftwich and Chad Pennington.
Pennington can perhaps best relate to how this Marshall team is being left out of the national championship discussion, since he was the star of the 1999 team that went 13-0.
As good as Cato has been, last Saturday’s 35-16 victory over Florida Atlantic belonged to Devon Johnson. The junior ran for a school-record 272 yards and four touchdowns, and had a remarkable hat trick of three long-distance TD runs, from 58, 62 and 66 yards.
It gave Johnson his seventh 100-yard game of the year and pushed his season total to 1,203 yards and an 8.8-yard average per carry. But until just a few days before practices began in August, Johnson had been penciled in as a tight end. And he was originally recruited as a linebacker.
“I’d like to sit here and tell you we have a crystal ball and knew he was going to be the type of player he is,” said Holliday. “I think probably the thing that’s get overlooked here with his success right now is that our offensive line is playing really well. We’ve got an offensive line that’s built in the same mode that he is. They’re all physical, tough like he is, they’re very well coached. He’ll be the first one to tell you that without that offensive line he wouldn’t have the success that he has.”
That success includes helping make Marshall the only FBS team to score at least 35 points in every game. The Herd’s 45.9 scoring average ranks third nationally, and with a defense that’s giving up only 16.5 points a game Marshall’s 29.4 scoring margin leads the nation.
Still, there isn’t much chance of Marshall moving up much in the rankings considering its remaining schedule: Southern Mississippi (3-5), Rice (4-3), UAB (4-4) and Western Kentucky (3-4).
But undefeated is undefeated. And if Marshall remains that way, the college game should be respectful and at least include the Thundering Herd in the conversation.
Tom Weir covered college football as a columnist for USA Today. All quotes in this story were gathered firsthand.
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