NCAA Football

Florida State vs. Louisville: How Seminoles' Win Will Shake Up Week 11 Rankings

The Louisville Cardinals' No. 1-ranked defense could only pin down the reigning national champion Florida State Seminoles for so long on Thursday at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium.

Last year's Heisman winner Jameis Winston overcame three interceptions to rally the second-ranked Seminoles back on the road to a 42-31 victory.

Bleacher Report's NFL draft expert Matt Miller raised a great point in his analysis of Winston's roller-coaster performance that was brilliant in the end:

As one of only two power-five conference programs still undefeated, it appears Florida State will retain its rightful status as the second-ranked team in the College Football Playoff in Week 11.

The following quote from playoff selection committee chairman Jeff Long regarding the myriad of one-loss teams fortifies that notion.

"It was extremely difficult, more difficult than any of us had expected having gone through our mock selections before," said Long after the first rankings were released Tuesday, via ESPN.com news services. "There are 18 one-loss teams in FBS at this point in time, and the difference between many of them is very slim."

Barring an upset loss by No. 1 Mississippi State to Arkansas this weekend, the top of the NCAA football hierarchy ought not to change.

Winston didn't look like the best quarterback on the field for at least the first half or so. That designation belonged to Louisville's Will Gardner, who, to be fair, was helped by stud wide receiver DeVante Parker.

Interesting enough, Michael Dyer, a former Auburn running back who didn't play in the Tigers' loss to FSU in last year's national title game, was the one who gashed the Seminoles often.

ESPN Stats & Info contextualized how strong Dyer's effort was:

When it counted most, though, Winston rose to the occasion yet again, spreading the ball around well and getting some necessary help from his backfield on the ground and through the air.

Skip Bayless of ESPN praised Winston's grit:

Respect for the Seminoles' on-field product will only grow after this epic comeback in which they were trailing 21-0 at one point.

Florida State saw a couple freshmen step up and make big plays. Receiver Travis Rudolph had the game-changing, 68-yard touchdown reception in the third quarter, cutting the Louisville lead to 24-14.

The drives in which the Seminoles pulled to within three points and later took a one-possession lead at 35-31 were dominated by running back Dalvin Cook, per FSU Football:

ESPN College Football alluded to the rather easy road ahead in the victors' bid for an undefeated 2014 campaign:

Championship teams tend to do what Florida State did Thursday evening. The Seminoles weren't playing their best, yet they found a way to grind out a win against such a difficult defense.

That has to carry a lot of weight when the College Football Playoff selection committee sits down and assesses where Florida State resides among the game's elite. How the remaining opponents impact the Seminoles' perception is another matter.

But all coach Jimbo Fisher's resilient bunch continues to do is win. With an off-the-charts, big-game QB at the helm in Winston and a deep bunch of players that stepped up Thursday, the Seminoles deserve the benefit of the doubt in the rankings now and moving forward.

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Man Bizarrely Videobombs Jimbo Fisher's Postgame Interview

This man saw his opportunity to videobomb Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher's postgame interview on Thursday night, and he ran with it.

Who knows what he was thinking at the time, but he seemed to be enjoying himself.

ESPN 680's Mark Ellis shared a bit of information on the videobomber:

[Vine, Twitter]

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BYU Football: Will Bronco Mendenhall Ever Be Fired?

After last Friday's 55-30 loss to Boise State, BYU has arguably reached rock-bottom under head coach Bronco Mendenhall. With a four-game losing skid to non-Power Five teams escalating, the Cougars are scrambling for a solution to their struggles.

Blame whatever you please, but the coaching has been as ugly as anything in the past four games. BYU has come out unprepared, unmotivated and sloppy, and there is no one to shoulder the blame but Mendenhall. He has absolutely toyed with the reins to his defense, failed to prepare his players and simply been out-coached for the past several weeks.

Derik Stevenson, a former BYU linebacker, stated the truth clearly in a recent article:

(BYU football's) great culture...has taken some serious blows. The team is currently, officially the third best program in the state. There is no bigger fan and proponent of BYU than I am. But the reality is clear: Brigham Young Football is at a tipping point. (Mendenhall's) services have been appreciated. But it’s time for (Mendenhall) to go. Anyone that takes the time to truly dig into the stats can see that (Mendenhall is) not going to change.

I agree wholeheartedly with Stevenson's statements and know that BYU will never reach an elite level with Mendenhall at the helm. But when the truth rears its ugly head, reality is clear—Bronco Mendenhall may never get fired from BYU—at least, in the near future.

First off, even if the Cougars only win one more game this season and miss a bowl game, too many people love Bronco. He should be respected for putting faith first and building quality young men. But unfortunately at BYU, even for a football coach, that will always come before winning.

Mendenhall has had just enough success—on and off the field—to gain respect from the administrators, church leaders and nearly anyone who has a say at BYU. He may not be able to lead his team to home victories over Utah State and Nevada, but hey, his firesides are pretty great!

Secondly, even if Bronco lost every game remaining on the schedule—even against winless FCS team Savannah State—who has the right to fire him? BYU's current director of athletics, Tom Holmoe, has anything but the authority to give him the boot.

Holmoe had a five-season tenure as Cal's head coach and posted the following records:

*Four wins in 1999 were stripped after NCAA violations

On top of winning only 16 games through five seasons, NCAA violations under Holmoe gave Cal five years' probation and limited scholarships, among other punishments. He obviously has no right to fire Mendenhall, especially after eight straight bowl games.

Lastly, if BYU were to fire Mendenhall, who would they hire as a replacement? Apologies to the dreamers, but Andy Reid and Norm Chow aren't reasonable choices. Neither are Kyle Whittingham, Mike Leach, Robert Anae and (definitely not) Holmoe.

So, who's left? Navy's Ken Niumatalolo is a name that has been tossed around lately. So has Utah's Kalani Sitake, who is a former BYU star and proven defensive guru. But would anyone in their right mind want to face the expectations from BYU fans that are growing every year?

At this point, we can only wait and see how this all plays out. Maybe Mendenhall stays on board for several more seasons, or maybe a brave new coach takes the reins at BYU.

If anything is clear, it is that Mendenhall's time as a Cougar should be running short. He isn't the type of coach who can steer BYU to a nationally elite level or contend for a national championship. The biggest problem BYU faces is finding a way to say thanks and get him out the door.

Only time will sort out the mess that has sprung up in Provo. And at this point, unless things change, it will go downhill from here.

Someday, one can only hope that BYU will get back to being, well, BYU.

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Jameis Winston Throws 3rd INT of Game, Redeems Himself by Forcing Fumble

No. 2 Florida State found itself in some trouble at No. 25 Louisville on Thursday night, but the Seminoles caught a huge break at the beginning of the second half.

Trailing 21-7 at the start of the third quarter, Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston threw his third interception of the game. However, Winston was able to redeem himself a bit by forcing a fumble on the return, with the Seminoles recovering the loose ball.

Florida State ended up turning the ball over on downs on the drive.

After just one play in the second half, Winston had already set a new career high with three interceptions in a game. 

[College Spun]

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Can Ohio State's Defense Fuel a Run to the College Football Playoff?

When the College Football Playoff selection committee released its first Top 25 rankings on Tuesday night, Ohio State (6-1) was buried at No. 16—placed behind 13 other one-loss teams.

The Buckeyes are facing a major uphill battle with just five games remaining in the regular season, needing to rise 12 spots in order to have a shot at this year's national title. 

A vastly improved and surging defense could push the Buckeyes up that hill and back into the playoff conversation.

Ohio State has been known for its offense since Urban Meyer took over three years ago, but in 2013, a leaky defense that surrendered an average of 38.3 points and 539 total yards to its final three opponents—Michigan, Michigan State and Clemson—cost the Buckeyes a chance to play for the national championship.

That prompted the hiring of Chris Ash as co-defensive coordinator and the complete overhaul of Luke Fickell's unit.

Meyer wanted a scheme that featured his defenders attacking the ball as opposed to the soft zones that opponents could pick apart.

That, in essence, is what drove Ash to join Meyer's staff.

“[Meyer] said he wanted a defense that challenges the offense, that’s aggressive, that will attack, not worry about the ‘what ifs,’ create confusion,” Ash told Stewart Mandel of Fox Sports. “Those are things I believe in to be successful. When he started talking my language, I started listening.”

Early returns from Ash's overhaul have been positive, as opposing teams are having a much harder time moving the ball against this year's Buckeyes.

Through seven games, Ohio State ranks 11th in total defense, 17th in passing yards allowed, ninth in interceptions and 25th in rushing and scoring defense. Led by super-sophomore defensive end Joey Bosa, who ranks fifth nationally in sacks per game, the Buckeyes have been very disruptive.

Despite their improved play, the Buckeyes haven't come close to reaching their ceiling defensively.

They're still susceptible to the occasional big play—which Cincinnati took advantage of in Week 3 by connecting on three long touchdown passes—and they can wear down late—which almost cost them last week against Penn State and its late rally.

With that said, Meyer knows that his team is close to reaching the dominant level he envisions.

If the Buckeyes can reach it soon, they could shoot up the rankings.

Consider Michigan State, which at this point last year was unranked with the same 6-1 record as the Buckeyes. The Spartans used a dominant defensive stretch to climb the BCS standings, allowing just 9.2 points per game in their final five regular-season matchups.

A 34-24 victory over Ohio State in the Big Ten title game vaulted Mark Dantonio's squad to a No. 4 ranking ahead of bowl selections.

It's hard to imagine the Buckeyes being that good, but if they continue to improve, they could see a similar rise in the polls.

 

All stats via NCAA.com.  

David Regimbal covers Ohio State football for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.

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UCLA Football: How the Bruins Can Upset Arizona

A massive Pac-12 South Division clash takes place Saturday night in the Rose Bowl, as the UCLA Bruins play host to the University of Arizona Wildcats. 

As is the case with virtually every contest in the division, this game has considerable implications for both teams in terms of becoming the South champion. 

Should UCLA lose this contest, it can virtually kiss its chances at winning the division goodbye. Rich Rodriguez brings a team that's looking to atone for two straight losses at the hands of the Bruins, including a 66-10 loss the last time Arizona played in Pasadena.

This piece will look at three aspects UCLA can utilize in order to upend the Wildcats. 

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UCLA Football: How the Bruins Can Upset Arizona

A massive Pac-12 South Division clash takes place Saturday night in the Rose Bowl, as the UCLA Bruins play host to the University of Arizona Wildcats...

Begin Slideshow

Florida State TE Nick O'Leary Slams Louisville Ball-Carrier to Ground After INT

Anyone who picks off a Jameis Winston pass better watch out for Florida State tight end Nick O'Leary.

Louisville linebacker James Burgess was able to intercept a Winston pass in the second quarter of Thursday night's game. After dragging O'Leary with him for a few yards, the Seminoles tight end gained his footing and slammed Burgess to the ground.

The Cardinals were able to capitalize on the interception, however. They scored a touchdown on the ensuing drive to take a 14-0 lead.

[The Big Lead]

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College Football Picks Week 10: B/R's Expert Predictions for Top 5 Games

It’s hard to believe we’ve reached the 10th week of the 2014 college football season, but here we are.

This Saturday features some excellent matchups all across the country, but to no one’s surprise, the biggest game is down south.

Ole Miss will host Auburn and look to prove last week’s loss to LSU was just a fluke. This game has major playoff implications, as the Rebels are ranked No. 4 and the Tigers are ranked No. 3. Which team will come out on top? 

In the Big 12, TCU and West Virginia will battle it out to see who is the best team in the conference. Expect another wild shootout in Big 12 country between two great offenses. 

The race for the Pac-12 crown will become much more clear after this weekend. Is Utah for real, or will Arizona State continue its surge to the top?

Will UCLA play to its potential, or will head coach Rich Rodriguez and the Arizona Wildcats take them down?

Can Oregon finally knock off Stanford, or will the Cardinal once again spoil the Ducks’ dreams of playing for a national title?

We’ll learn a great deal in Week 10, so get your popcorn ready!

Ben Kercheval still holds the top spot among our experts, but it remains a tight race. 

What say you, college football fans? Let us know your picks in the comments below!

 

Reminder: Our experts are picking the top five Saturday games against the spread.

Odds via opening lines at Odds Shark.

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What a Win over South Carolina Would Mean for Butch Jones and Tennessee

Although the Tennessee Volunteers have played eight games in 2014, the season really begins on Saturday when they take on the South Carolina Gamecocks in Columbia.

The Vols have played a brutally tough schedule so far. After breezing through two games against solid mid-major programs, Tennessee faced an onslaught that included No. 4 Oklahoma, No. 12 Georgia, No. 3 Ole Miss and No. 4 Alabama. 

Add in a disappointing loss to a mediocre Florida Gators squad at home and the Vols are sitting at 3-5 heading into the final month of the season.

Last season, it looked as though Tennessee was a lock to make a bowl game after upsetting the No. 11 Gamecocks. However, Auburn, Missouri and Vanderbilt all turned out to be much tougher than expected, and losses in those games forced the Vols to sit at home in December for the third year in a row.

This year, the entire slate of November is much easier, with only Kentucky improving over last season. Every other team has regressed to the point where the Vols have a great shot at winning out.

But first, the team has to take care of business against a South Carolina team that beat Georgia and nearly beat No. 5 Auburn on the road.

Here are four important takeaways for the Vols if they can pull the upset against the Gamecocks on Saturday. 

 

It Will Help the Players Learn How to Win on the Road 

Tennessee head coach Butch Jones frequently talks about how this young Vols team needs to learn how to win. While that's true in a general sense, it's even more important when it comes to SEC road games.

The Vols haven't won a conference game on the road in a stadium that doesn't belong to Kentucky or Vanderbilt since Oct. 13, 2007, when they beat Mississippi State at Davis Wade Stadium.

Road games in the SEC are notoriously difficult, but good teams find ways to win in front of hostile crowds every week. Tennessee has come exceptionally close as recently as Week 5 when it lost by three points to the Georgia Bulldogs at Sanford Stadium. 

Beating the Gamecocks under the lights at Williams-Brice Stadium would represent a turning point for a program that has presented virtually no threat to the big boys in recent years when playing outside Neyland Stadium. 

 

It Will Establish a New SEC Winning Streak for Tennessee

The Vols being down in recent years has been a boon for other SEC teams, as they've been able to pad their overall records and pick up win after win after win at Tennessee's expense.

The Florida Gators have beaten Tennessee 10 times in a row. The Alabama Crimson Tide just scored their eighth consecutive win over the Vols, and Georgia now has five victories in a row going back to 2010. 

Even longtime doormat opponent Vanderbilt and SEC newcomer Missouri hold two-game win streaks over the Vols. 

Right now, Tennessee can only claim superiority over the Kentucky Wildcats with a two-game win streak and the South Carolina Gamecocks with a single win last season. 

The Vols simply can't continue losing to their rivals year in and year out and expect to have any success in the SEC. If Jones and his staff want to make Tennessee relevant again, they have to start winning SEC matchups with regularity every season. 

A win against the Gamecocks would give the Vols a two-game win streak against one of the SEC East's best teams in recent years and would help take the sting out of losing yet again to the usual suspects of Florida, Alabama and Georgia.

 

It Will Prove the Team is on the Right Track 

South Carolina isn't nearly as complete a team as it has been in recent years, and the Vols must take advantage of that on Saturday.

Tennessee blew a prime opportunity to get a fast track toward bowl eligibility after the devastating loss to Florida earlier this month. Yes, the Vols held Florida to just 10 points, but the end result was the same as all the other contests since 2005: an L on the schedule.

While the Gamecocks are by no means a cupcake team, Tennessee is more then capable of winning this game. Josh Dobbs' performance against Alabama showed the Vols offense works with the right player under center.

Dobbs was supposed to redshirt this season before likely taking over the reins in 2015, but with Justin Worley's injury potentially ending his career at Tennessee, his time is now. Because of his scrambling ability, Dobbs makes the entire Tennessee offense look better, but it won't mean much if the Vols can't put points on the board against a questionable South Carolina defense. 

Will Dobbs and offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian take full advantage of the favorable matchups they get on Saturday night, or will the team struggle to score touchdowns like it did against Ole Miss and Florida? The answer could be quite telling for Tennessee's future. 

 

It Will Ease the Pressure for Reaching Bowl Eligibility 

In late October 2010, the Vols were 2-6 and appeared to have no hope of making a bowl game. But Tennessee rallied under new freshman quarterback Tyler Bray and won all four remaining games on the schedule, becoming bowl eligible and providing a spark to the program. 

This time around, Tennessee is 3-5 and facing slightly easier odds to making a postseason game. Still, the idea of winning three games in a row is daunting for any young team, no matter who the opponents are.

That's why a win against the Gamecocks on Saturday is vital to give the Vols breathing room heading into the final stretch of games all located within the state of Tennessee. 

While the Vols will likely be favored against Missouri, Kentucky and Vanderbilt, winning all three games with their backs against the wall won't be easy. The team played tight against Florida when the pressure was on, and it's hard to imagine the last three games playing out any differently under that scenario.

Going 3-1 is a much easier task than going 4-0, and a win on Saturday would give the team the confidence necessary to not only reach 6-6 on the season, but potentially 7-5 and a nice and warm bowl game somewhere other than the frigid turf of Legion Field or LP Field in late December.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Florida State vs. Louisville: Live Score and Highlights

Florida State 0, Louisville 0—Mid 1st Quarter

The second-ranked Florida State Seminoles (7-0, 4-0 ACC) are taking on the No. 25 Louisville Cardinals.

ESPN is carrying the ACC battle. Bleacher Report is providing live scoring updates and in-game analysis. Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

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Joe Mixon Enters Alford Plea on Misdemeanor Assault Charge

Oklahoma freshman running back Joe Mixon entered an Alford plea Thursday afternoon on misdemeanor charges of punching a female student on July 25 at a restaurant in Norman, Oklahoma, per Eric Bailey of the Tulsa World:

In an Alford plea, a defendant can maintain that he is innocent but allow a court to pronounce him guilty, acknowledging that sufficient evidence exists for a jury to find him guilty.

Mixon received a one-year deferred sentence, will be responsible for 100 hours of community service and will have to partake in cognitive behavior counseling. He entered an Alford plea on the charge of acts resulting in gross injury/outraging public decency.

"We think it's a fair agreement," said Tyler Box, Cleveland County assistant district attorney. "The agreement calls for 100 hours of community service, which we think serves the community and also calls for him to participate in behavior counseling, which we feel was also needed."   

Oklahoma suspended Mixon for the entirety of the 2014 college football season a little less than a month after the incident occurred. According to Bailey, Mixon struck another student after the two got into an argument at Pickleman’s Gourmet Cafe.

John Shinn of The Norman Transcriptreported earlier in October that the surveillance tape from the restaurant in question would be released to the public on Nov. 3. However, that no longer appears to be the case:

The Tulsa World's Guerin Emig spoke with a city attorney from Norman who was also unsure as to the tape's possible release:

Oklahoma President David Boren released a statement to the media. In it, he said that Mixon's suspension won't be overturned but that he'll have a chance to get back on the team in the spring, per Bailey:

Mixon entered Norman with a ton of hype as a 5-star recruit. According to 247Sports' composite rankings, he was the best all-purpose back in the Class of 2014 and 21st-best recruit overall.

He served as the crown jewel of the Sooners' recruiting class, which ranked 14th in the nation in 247Sports' composite system.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Rankings 2014: Week 10 Games That Will Shake Up Playoff Picture

The release of the first College Football Playoff rankings has completely changed the anticipation for this week's slate of games. Now that teams know where they stand in the committee's eyes, they better understand how much work is ahead of them. 

Week 10 feels like the first huge slate of games on the season. There have been patches of games so far that made the season worth watching closely, but the heart of conference season ratchets up the tension and drama. 

In order to properly prepare you for Saturday's action, here are the matchups you should be watching closely. That's coming up right after we remind you of how the selection committee ordered the top 25 teams. 

For the record, Florida State at Louisville wasn't considered for this particular piece since it is just focused on Saturday games.

 

Key College Football Playoff Games

No. 3 Auburn at No. 4 Mississippi

What better place to start than with the biggest game of the weekend? This game seemed to lose some luster after Mississippi lost to LSU last weekend, then the selection committee kept the Rebels in the top four to make it a monumental clash. 

Of course, since the committee seemed to favor schedules and wins over close losses, the loser of this game isn't necessarily dead despite having two losses. Auburn still has games against Georgia and Alabama to build itself back up in the event of defeat, while Mississippi has the Egg Bowl against Mississippi State looming. 

This game is also fascinating because it's a contrast in styles. Mississippi does have talent on offense, but the defense carries this team, allowing an FBS-best 10.5 points per game. Auburn hasn't played defense the last two weeks, allowing 73 points to Mississippi State and South Carolina. 

The Tigers make up for their defensive ineptitude with one of the best rushing attacks and a cool 39.3 points per game. 

Toby Petitpas of ESPN Stats & Info provided some numbers that will tell you why Auburn's running game against Mississippi's stout defense is the right way to determine who will win:

-Since Malzahn took over as head coach, Auburn is 15-0 when it runs for at least 250 yards and 3-3 when it does not. Ole Miss is winless (0-7) in three seasons under Hugh Freeze when its opponent rushes for more than 200 yards, including last week’s loss to LSU. 

-Ole Miss has allowed three rushing touchdowns this season, tied for third fewest in the FBS. Auburn scored five rushing touchdowns last week against South Carolina. 

In fairness, Auburn's defense allowed 416 passing yards against South Carolina last week. Bo Wallace has been mostly good this season, though the last two weeks have seen him complete less than 50 percent of his passes and under 60 percent in four of the last five games. 

Given Wallace's inconsistent nature and how LSU just gashed the defense for 264 yards, everything is set up for Auburn to win this game. That's what you should expect to happen at The Grove. 

 

No. 7 TCU at No. 20 West Virginia

No one wants to give the Big 12 any love, but it's the only conference outside the SEC to place two teams in the Top 10 of the College Football Playoff rankings (Kansas State is No. 9). TCU has been slowly building an impressive resume, despite that ugly loss against Baylor. 

This week against West Virginia will tell us how far the Horned Frogs have come. The Mountaineers have been rolling since losing to Oklahoma on September 20, defeating Baylor and Oklahoma State in the last two weeks by a combined score of 75-37. 

One factor to keep in mind that isn't getting a lot of attention is the weather. Specifically because TCU hasn't played in anything other than pristine conditions, per Chris Anderson of 247Sports.com:

TCU also has the misfortune of being inconsistent on defense with Kevin White, arguably the nation's best receiver, on the other side. 

Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy told David Ubben of Fox Sports Southwest that the Cowboys got torched by White because they didn't have enough personnel in the secondary to match up with him and cover the other areas on the field:

"You can single him up and go man and hope he doesn't make plays or you can help some," Gundy said. "Because of the youth we have in our secondary right now, we chose to help some and it hurt us in run support."

White had just three catches for 27 yards against Oklahoma State, but since he commanded so much attention, the Mountaineers ran for 210 yards in the game.

TCU has given up a lot of points to ranked opponents this season. Oklahoma and Baylor, the two best offenses it's faced, scored a combined 98 points. The Horned Frogs have a potent offense of their own, scoring 82 points against Texas Tech and leading all FBS schools with 50.4 per game. 

At some point, it would be nice to think TCU can get a stop when it has to win a game. West Virginia hasn't always done that, but it's also got the weapons to keep pace offensively in this showdown. The Mountaineers are peaking at the right time and have this game on their home turf. Look for the upset. 

 

Stanford at No. 5 Oregon

Even though Stanford's title hopes disappeared long ago, its matchup with Oregon is always a fascinating one because Cardinal head coach David Shaw seems to have the formula for slowing down the Ducks offense. 

The Cardinal have won this Pac-12 clash the last two years, holding Oregon to a total of 34 points. They gave up 717 yards in the two games but forced the Ducks to play catch-up with a limited clock by controlling the ball for 79 minutes and 59 seconds. 

It's a battle of strength versus strength at Autzen Stadium, as David Lombardi of ESPN tweeted out how Stanford's defense stacks up against Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota:

That's how the game is going to be won because neither Oregon's defense nor Stanford's offense offers much hope. The Cardinal have shown some proficiency in the running game with Remound Wright and Barry Sanders combining for 616 yards on 109 carries. 

However, it's easy for opponents to stop Stanford's running game because QB Kevin Hogan can't move the ball in the passing game. We could've thought the same thing last year, then Stanford wound up running for 274 rushing yards to make the quarterback play moot. 

Mariota has carried Oregon all year, despite getting beat up behind a bad and banged-up offensive line. That group is getting healthy at the right time, and this is the junior quarterback's last chance to make noise in the title race and improve his stock in the Heisman picture. 

 

If you want to talk sports, hit me up on Twitter: @adamwells1985.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

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

The Oregon Ducks (7-1, 4-1) are four regular-season games away from a shot at the Pac-12 Championship and, if they can win out, a spot in the inaugural College Football Playoff.

In recent weeks, we’ve used this little corner of the Internet to rank Oregon’s biggest threats for the rest of the season and discuss the Ducks’ road to the Playoff. However, we’ve yet to predict every game remaining on Oregon’s schedule this season.

While the Ducks certainly don’t have the most difficult schedule from here on out—that honor belongs to either Auburn or Ole Miss—Oregon does have its work cut out. Right out of the November gates the Ducks must immediately take on Stanford, who has taken Oregon out of national championship contention for two consecutive years. The Cardinal will be looking to make it a three-game sweep in Eugene on Nov. 1.

Following the game against Stanford, the Ducks have to go play No. 17-ranked Utah in Salt Lake City. While Stanford may have taken Oregon out in the past, it is Utah that could really do damage to the Ducks' season this year.

Oregon then has a bye week that is followed by a Nov. 22 game against Colorado and a Nov. 29 Civil War battle in Corvallis. While both of those games should be winnable, there are no guarantees in the Pac-12 this season.

With only a month left to go and a couple of brutal games still ahead for the Ducks, it’s time to give our game-by-game predictions for the month of November.

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

The Oregon Ducks (7-1, 4-1) are four regular-season games away from a shot at the Pac -12 Championship and, if they can win out, a spot in the inaugural College Football Playoff...

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With Auburn Looming, Texas A&M Better Figure out Who Its QB Is vs. ULM

Texas A&M opened the door to its quarterback competition during its bye week, and instead of naming one Thursday—as offensive coordinator Jake Spavital said would happen earlier in the week—the Aggies are going to string all of us along even longer.

Neither sophomore Kenny Hill nor true freshman Kyle Allen was named the starting quarterback in Aggieland for Saturday's game against ULM, according to Gabe Bock of TexAgs.com.

Hill has started every game of the season for head coach Kevin Sumlin's Aggies but has fallen on hard times lately. He has thrown as many touchdowns as interceptions—six—over the current three-game losing streak. He only threw for 138 yards and 5.3 yards per attempt in A&M's most recent game—a 59-0 loss at Alabama in a game that wasn't nearly as close as the score indicated.

Allen came to College Station from Scottsdale, Arizona, as a highly decorated gunslinger who's supposed to be more like former Houston quarterback and Sumlin disciple Case Keenum. The former 5-star prospect and top-ranked pro-style passer in the most recent recruiting class, Allen has seen only mop-up duty this year, completing 23-of-38 passes for 264 yards, three touchdowns and two picks.

This can't turn into a prolonged quarterback rotation.

One contender needs to walk into the locker room at halftime as the clear-cut No. 1 so that he can build some much-needed confidence in the second half.

I touched on Texas A&M's real problem earlier this week when it became clear that the quarterback job was open. The recent struggles weren't just a quarterback problem; they were problems stemming from bizarre play-calling that made it appear like the staff was trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.

The play-calling needs to change this weekend and become more conservative for either Hill or Allen in order to keep the defense fresh and take the pressure off the new—or old—quarterback.

There's no time to mess around, because looming around the corner is a road test vs. No. 3 Auburn in two weeks on The Plains.

Is Auburn's defense suspect? At times, yes. Particularly through the air.

We learned last week vs. South Carolina, though, that the Tigers offense went back to the basics, has become more run-focused than it was earlier in the season and will force opposing offenses to keep up.

That's the last thing A&M needs. It is a possibility, though, which means that the new quarterback absolutely has to gain confidence in the offense—whether there are changes or not—this week vs. ULM.

Sumlin went back to the drawing board during the bye week, opening up not just the quarterback spot but virtually every spot for all comers, according to quotes emailed by Texas A&M:

I think our guys understand that they have had the opportunity to prove to us…and let me say this. We just don’t change for change sake. We give guys the opportunity in practice to demonstrate to coaches and to the other players that they understand what we’re trying to do, what we’re doing, and (whether they) are proficient at what we’re doing. By the same token, you have the same opportunity to demonstrate you can’t do that.All is not lost for the 5-3 Aggies.

In order to live by his word and not "change for change sake," he has to settle on one quarterback now and let that guy be "the man" against the Warhawks.

The Aggies can still play spoiler against the No. 3 Tigers next week. More importantly, though, they need to establish some offensive momentum heading into bowl practices and the 2015 season.

Eight of the 10 wide receivers on Texas A&M's most recent depth chart in its game notes are underclassmen, and seven of its top nine pass-catchers this season are underclassmen.

Those guys need work with their quarterback of the future, and that work needs to begin right now.

What looked like a pushover against a weaker opponent on Saturday has turned into much more for the Aggies program. It's a landmark day. It's the start of next season. It's a chance to hit the reset button and set the tone for bigger games down the stretch, including Auburn, Missouri, LSU and a bowl opponent.

The last thing this program needs is more uncertainty at the quarterback position, and one of the two contenders needs to get right this weekend.

Otherwise, it's going to be a long November in College Station.

 

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

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

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Auburn vs. Ole Miss Trailer: Eventually a Dream Becomes a Nightmare

With the release of the first ever College Football Playoff rankings, this week's matchup between the No. 3 Auburn Tigers and the No. 4 Ole Miss Bulldogs holds even more significance.

The loser will be bounced from the Final Four, making their road back a daunting task. Ole Miss vs. Auburn will be a game to remember.

Who will win this potential CFP eliminator?

Watch the video and let us know!

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College Football Rankings 2014: NCAA Playoff Standings and Key Week 10 Picks

This week, the College Football Playoff selection committee gave coaches, players and fans its first outlook on how the season is shaping up so far. The Week 10 rankings eliminate any questions about how the race sets up heading into the stretch run.

As expected, the SEC dominates the top portion of the first batch of standings with four teams inside the top six. That includes the No. 1 team in the country, Mississippi State. The question is whether the conference will beat each other up enough to open the door for others to join the conversation.

With that in mind, let's check out the complete Top 25 list for the first official playoff rankings. It's followed by a preview and prediction for three of the most important games on tap in Week 10.

 

College Football Playoff Rankings

 

Predictions for Biggest Week 10 Games

No. 2 Florida State at No. 25 Louisville

Florida State is the reigning champion and undefeated through seven games, yet it doesn't hold the top spot in the rankings. That's likely because the committee is waiting to see the Seminoles play a dominant brand of football against a big-time opponent.

Every time the level of competition has been raised, whether it be Oklahoma State, Clemson or Notre Dame, they have only squeaked by. Going on the road to Louisville provides them with an opportunity to make a major statement on Thursday night.

It won't be easy, though. The Cardinals rank fourth in the nation in scoring defense. And Sharon Katz and Toby Petitpas of ESPN.com note Jameis Winston has never faced a defense that ranked in the top 25 in defensive efficiency on passing plays:

Louisville, on the other hand, leads the nation in that stat, adding about 13 points per game to its net scoring margin as a result of its defense on passing plays. The Cardinals have allowed the lowest Total QBR in the nation and only NC State's Jacoby Brissett has posted a raw QBR above 25 against them (0-100 scale, 50 is average).

The Cardinals don't have an explosive offense to pair with that rock-solid defense, so Florida State does have some margin for error. But if it comes out of the gate sluggish, the pieces are definitely in place for an upset.

Ultimately, it's a turning-point game. Either the Seminoles will finally showcase their dominance or Louisville will finish the job those aforementioned teams couldn't and shake up the playoff race.

Prediction: Florida State by 10

 

No. 3 Auburn at No. 4 Ole Miss

No game has generated more hype this week, and rightfully so. The committee judged that these are the best two one-loss teams in the country based on their current resumes. One team will go a long way to bolster it even further on Saturday.

Ole Miss could still be undefeated if not for botching the end sequence last week against LSU. Multiple mistakes allowed the Tigers to secure a game-ending interception rather than see the Rebels send the game into overtime with a field goal.

The rankings gave Bo Wallace and Co. a reprieve, though. They are still firmly in position to make the playoffs. Ryan Black of the Ledger-Enquirer passed along comments from head coach Hugh Freeze, who's tried to convince his team not to put too much stock in the current standings.

"I tell our kids here that we're focused solely, really, on one ranking, and that would be what's issued Dec. 7. I think that's the one that really matters," he said. "I recognize that the committee, they have a difficult job. We have confidence in them and I know that they're going to judge the full schedule of games."

The biggest key to this game is the efficiency of Auburn's offense. In two road games against ranked opponents, the Tigers averaged just over 21 points. In all other games, they averaged better than 46 points. The latter group includes a 41-point outburst against LSU.

This should be a game that goes right down to the wire. In the end, the slight edge goes to the more balanced team overall, which is Auburn.

Prediction: Auburn by three

 

No. 17 Utah at No. 14 Arizona State

The good news for both of these teams is that they are still alive in the playoff race at this stage of the season. The bad news is they likely have to win out in order to make it. So that makes this a virtual elimination game, which will be common in the weeks ahead.

Utah is riding a three-game winning streak, but it's been playing with fire. The Utes' only game during that streak decided by more than a field goal came in double overtime against Oregon State. They need the fourth-quarter defense to improve this week.

Defense is also the focal point for Arizona State. The Sun Devils gave up 96 points over two weeks against UCLA and USC. They rebounded by giving up just 20 in wins over Stanford and Washington. With three games against ranked foes over the final five, the unit must continue to improve.

If their defense holds up, the passing game will make the difference. Arizona State is averaging more than 300 yards per game through the air. Utah is a shade under 200. It should be enough of an advantage for the home side to score a narrow victory.

Prediction: Arizona State by four

 

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USC Football: Final Stretch of 2014 Season Sets Tone for Sarkisian's Program

Replicating the strong finishes of past USC teams is an obvious goal of the 2014 Trojans, but the four-game final stretch is as much about setting the tone for head coach Steve Sarkisian's overall vision as it is improving upon this year's record. 

USC enters this last month of Sarkisian's debut campaign out of the Top 25 and clinging to slim hope of winning the Pac-12 South. Since starting 2-0 and reaching No. 9 in the Associated Press poll, the Trojans are .500 with a series of tough losses that have tested the team's collective attitude. 

“They’re learning about themselves and the strengths they possess,” Sarkisian said after practice Tuesday at Howard Jones Field. “It’s natural to try and focus on the weaknesses, which we have to learn from and getting better. But we have to dig deep and find out about ourselves." 

The most recent was a 24-21 heartbreaker last week at Utah, decided on the game’s final possession. In the immediate aftermath, redshirt sophomore offensive lineman Zach Banner said he learned a lot about the program’s makeup.

“I’ve never seen so many people that were disappointed about a loss, [who] care, [who] want to fix things and step up,” he said.  

Although in his first season as a primary contributor for the Trojans, Banner has been in the program for three seasons. He said that in his time at USC, the response to losing was not always this way.

"Me being on a couple of these teams in college the last couple years, when things go downhill, you question some leadership," he said. "People stop encouraging. They start getting extremely selfish, where they only think about themselves."

Losing can become cyclical in that way, but Banner believes USC is prepared to fend off the malaise that can create internal strife.   

“This is a different feeling I’ve never felt before with any team and the reason I say that is the people in this locker room care about each other,” he said. “You can take that however you want.”

Chemistry just might be the most valuable long-term quality USC develops in its first season with Sarkisian at the helm, particularly given the considerable collective youth of the roster.  

First and second-year players who will shape USC’s identity in the coming years are in prominent roles across all three phases.

Among the youngsters taking on key responsibilities are Banner’s mates on the line: Damien Mama, Toa Lobendahn and Viane Talamaivao.

The three true freshmen started against Utah’s prolific sacking defense last week and the unit played arguably its best game of the season—even with redshirt sophomore Chad Wheeler sidelined by a torn ACL. Lobendahn practiced in Wheeler's spot at left tackle this week. 

USC will only get younger, too. Next year’s recruiting class marks the first with a full allotment of 25 scholarships in three years.

But for as much as the upcoming stretch sets the tone for seasons to come, Sarkisian is steadfast that this year’s team can compete for the conference championship.

One of the team’s veterans, redshirt junior running back Javorius "Buck" Allen, discussed how USC can successfully navigate its final stretch.  

 “Trust the coaches with what they prepare us with day in and day out,” he said.  

Allen added USC must commit to playing “Trojan ball.”

What exactly constitutes Trojan ball in the Sarkisian era is a question repeatedly asked of the coach through his first eight games.

As important as the off-field atmosphere USC cultivates in this final stretch is establishing its on-field identity. Banner sees the former laying the foundation for the latter.

“You have to care enough to say, ‘I’m going to get my job done,’” he said. “There’s a lot of things we can fix. There’s a lot of things we can do better. But we’re getting better.”

 

Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise cited. 

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USC Football: Final Stretch of 2014 Season Sets Tone for Sarkisian's Program

Replicating the strong finishes of past USC teams is an obvious goal of the 2014 Trojans, but the four-game final stretch is as much about setting the tone for head coach Steve Sarkisian 's overall vision as it is improving upon this year's record...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

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