NCAA Football

Bowl Projections 2014: Latest Playoff and Selection Committee Games Predictions

What do you get when you mix large and passionate fanbases, conference pride and subjective rankings in the race to the College Football Playoff?

Plenty of controversy and debate.

With four spots up for grabs in the initial College Football Playoff, teams are scrapping and fighting for every last style point, significant victory and resume booster. There are precious few games remaining in the season, and it is now or never if teams want to impress the selection committee.

With that in mind, here is a look at the latest playoff and selection committee bowl game projections heading into Week 13.

 

Coveted No. 4 Spot

While there are four playoff spots up for grabs, it is looking safer every week to assume that Florida State, Alabama and Oregon are going to snag three of them. After all, the Seminoles, Crimson Tide and Ducks simply have more talent than their remaining opponents and will cash in on those advantages accordingly with decisive victories.

Florida State is not going to lose to Boston College, Florida or the other ACC representative in the conference championship game.

Alabama is not going to lose to Western Carolina or the SEC East representative in the conference title game, especially since it will likely be the same Missouri squad that lost to Indiana. That leaves a revenge showdown with Auburn in Tuscaloosa in front of a fired-up crowd with a fired-up team.

The Ducks and their high-octane offense simply have too many weapons all over the field to lose to the likes of Colorado or Oregon State. They could also get the same UCLA squad they already blasted once this year in the Pac-12 title contest.

That leaves one coveted spot remaining in the field of four, and the only realistic contenders are Mississippi State, Ohio State, Baylor and TCU.

Don’t look now, but Mississippi State is getting far too much credit for simply being in the SEC compared to what it has actually done on the field.

Yes, it beat Auburn, but that is the same Tigers team that was eviscerated by Georgia on Saturday and lost to a mediocre Texas A&M squad. Yes, Mississippi State beat LSU, but that is the same LSU team that lost to Arkansas in the Razorbacks’ first SEC win since 2012.

SEC defenders may not want to admit it, but Ohio State’s win at Michigan State and Baylor’s win against TCU are both better than any victories Mississippi State has on its resume.

That’s not even mentioning the fact that the selection committee could be a bit harder on the Bulldogs in the final poll if they are not a conference champion. They won’t even be a division champion.

Dan Mullen seems to think his team’s goals are still in front of it, though, according to The Associated Press, via ESPN.com:

We should feel awful. You should have a sickness in your stomach. We should embrace this feeling to make sure that this feeling doesn't happen again. We'll feel sick tonight but then we'll get over it.

Except for being undefeated, every other goal is still ahead of us.

As for Ohio State, it does have that sparkling win at Michigan State (which is more impressive than Oregon’s win in friendly September conditions against those same Spartans), but it also has by far the worst loss of any playoff contender.

Sure, there are legitimate excuses that can be made for the Buckeyes considering it was a mere two weeks after they lost star quarterback Braxton Miller to injury, but Virginia Tech is just not a good football team. That kind of loss is hard to erase, although Ohio State has done a fairly good job of trying with impressive performances on the road against ranked teams the last two weeks.

The Buckeyes’ best chance is if the selection committee goes by the eye test because there may not be a team in the country playing better football than Urban Meyer’s bunch.

Then there is the Big 12 conundrum between Baylor and TCU.

TCU was ahead of Baylor in the most recent rankings, largely because the Horned Frogs played a better nonconference schedule, but at some point that head-to-head win the Bears picked up against TCU earlier in the season will be the deciding factor. What’s more, TCU’s win over Minnesota will not look as impressive if the Golden Gophers lose to Ohio State (already happened), Nebraska and Wisconsin to finish the season.

Baylor also has the game against Kansas State as the carrot dangling on the end of its schedule that will bolster its resume. 

At the end of the season, the Bears’ ultimate threat may be Ohio State rather than TCU or Mississippi State, especially since the Buckeyes will be the only one of that group playing in a conference title game. Bleacher Report’s Ben Axelrod noted that momentum seems to be shifting in the Buckeyes’ direction from a perception standpoint:

One thing is for sure—there is bound to be plenty of controversy, arguing and incredible finishes in the upcoming weeks. Buckle up.

 

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Kansas State vs. West Virginia: TV Info, Spread, Injury Updates, Game Time, More

It has been a long, angry week and change since the Kansas State Wildcats took the field, but the rest period comes to a halt Thursday in Morgantown for a Big 12 encounter with the West Virginia Mountaineers.

The 7-2 Wildcats were last seen in early November getting throttled by TCU, 41-20. Gone is the notion that Bill Snyder's defense could stop any team in the land and that the Wildcats could seize the conference title.

Things are not as dramatic for Dana Holgorsen's Mountaineers, which appear on course for a winning season thanks to one of the nation's better aerial attacks.

The showdown is a classic strength versus strength encounter with plenty at stake for both sides. It should go without saying that Thursday has a great headlining act.

 

Weight of the World

The 6-4 Mountaineers go as senior quarterback Clint Trickett goes.

Trickett has completed 68.3 percent of his passes this season for 3,173 yards and 18 touchdowns to eight interceptions, but when the former member of the Florida State Seminoles has a bad game, the Mountaineers go down in a hurry.

Case in point, Trickett's last two outings, which both wound up as losses:

Feel free to add in a 45-33 loss to Oklahoma in which Trickett tossed a pair of touchdowns and interceptions. Contrast that with the team's eye-opening upset of Baylor in which he completed 65.7 percent of his passes with three scores and one pick.

For his part, the experienced senior knows when his mistakes hurt the team, as revealed by comments after the loss to TCU, per Allan Taylor of the West Virginia MetroNews: “Last week the whole game-manager thing came up, and I thought I did a pretty terrible job of managing the game. Couple turnovers—I’ve got to be able to hold on to the ball and be more conscious of that.”

Trickett now has to deal with a Wildcats defense that ranks 21st in the nation with just 21.1 points allowed per game on average. Texas, which ranks slightly higher than Kansas State in that regard, held the Mountaineers in check in their last outing.

Should Trickett not return to form, a Wildcats team with everything to lose will capitalize and steal a win in his house.

 

Motivational Anger

Almost a full two weeks off is a lot of time to dwell on mistakes made in perhaps the biggest game of the season. 

One can tell from comments made by linebacker Jonathan Truman, per Kellis Robinett of The Kansas City Star, that all involved are anxious to go out and put the debacle against the Horned Frogs behind them:

We always do a great job in our bye weeks with our preparation. A lot of us were pretty emotional after the game. We were hurt and angered by the TCU game, and I think the maturity of this team has really evolved that emotion to motivation toward that next game at West Virginia.

We are eager to get back on the practice field and correct our mistakes and move on and use that motivation to propel us forward.

The Kansas State defense was uncharacteristically bad against the Horned Frogs, allowing four total touchdowns to quarterback Trevone Boykin and a pair of rushers to rush for a minimum of 120 yards.

Still, the globe has been down this path with the Wildcats before.

The last time Kansas State lost it was at the hands of then-No. 5 Auburn, 20-14. A little more than a week later, Snyder's team blew away UTEP, 58-28.

Now, West Virginia is no UTEP, but Kansas State can only hope that a similar bounce-back performance is in the cards against a tricky opponent. If not, the season will be fully lost.

 

When: Thursday, November 20, 7 p.m. ET

Where: Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium, Morgantown, West Virginia

Television: Fox Sports 1

Betting Lines (via Odds Shark):

  • Over/Under: N/A
  • Spread: EVEN

 

Team Injury Reports

Injury reports per The Sports Network, via USA Today.

 

Prediction

Las Vegas is iffy on this one for good reason. 

The recent run of form by the Mountaineers is discouraging. That said, Trickett can explode at any point and has done so against notable competition as many times as he has struggled.

What swings things in Kansas State's favor, other than a typically sound defense that is sure to be back to form, is a strong offense led by Jake Waters. Quietly a dual-threat quarterback, Waters has accounted for 20 total touchdowns this season and can keep Trickett off the field.

Limited opportunities against an elite defense is a recipe for disaster for the home team.

Prediction: Wildcats 34, Mountaineers 28

 

Statistics and info courtesy of ESPN unless otherwise specified.

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The Most Important Georgia Players for the Rest of the Year

The Georgia football team has an 8-2 record with a 6-2 record in the SEC. It needs Missouri to lose one of its last two games to clinch the SEC East and make the trip to the Georgia Dome for the SEC Championship, which would be the third time in four years for the Bulldogs.

But even if that does not happen, the Bulldogs will need to play well in their last two games because they still have a lot to play for, including a 10-win season and a chance to finish the year in the Top 10.

In order for those things to happen, they need their star players and key contributors to play like they have all season long. But who are the most important players for the rest of the season?

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Nebraska Cornhuskers vs. Minnesota Golden Gophers Complete Game Preview

Where does the time go? After waiting months and months for college football to begin, the final home game for Nebraska is already here. Hard to believe, isn't it?

The Huskers will face Big Ten West foe Minnesota on senior day. Thirteen seniors, including Ameer Abdullah and Kenny Bell, will be honored before the game.

After a disappointing loss to Wisconsin, the Huskers are looking for redemption. While a trip to the Big Ten Championship Game is likely out of consideration, the bowl game Nebraska is invited to is still up in the air. That's what makes this matchup as important as any other.

Minnesota is Nebraska's most frequent opponent in the Big Ten, per Huskers.com. The Gophers even hold the lead in the series, which is currently 30-22-2. 

The Gophers beat the Huskers in 2013, which is another reason Nebraska is out for redemption. Can the Huskers secure a win during the last 2014 game at home? Or will it be a repeat of last year in Minneapolis?

 

Where: Memorial Stadium, Lincoln, Nebraska

When: Saturday, November 22, at noon ET

Watch: ESPN

Listen:Husker Sports Network or Sirius Channel 91, XM 91

Betting Line via Odds Shark: Nebraska (-10)

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Texas Football: What Longhorns Must Work on During Bye Week to Prep for TCU

After a 2-4 start to the season, many people may not have expected the Longhorns to make it to a bowl game. But Charlie Strong's team fought to prove the doubters wrong.

Now Texas is 6-5, bowl-eligible and has an off week to prepare for its regular-season finale.

But the task ahead will be anything but simple.

Texas will face No. 5 TCU on Thanksgiving night, and the preparation during the bye week could make or break the Longhorns' chances of finishing the season on a high note.

The Horned Frogs battled their way into the Top Four of the College Football Playoff rankings due to the team's impressive wins over then-No. 4 Oklahoma and then-No. 7 Kansas State, according to a Campus Insiders interview with CFP committee chairman Jeff Long.

But TCU faced a near-death experience against Kansas last week and will be looking to regain the confidence of the CFP committee.

Regardless of where TCU is ranked, the Longhorns are almost guaranteed to be a home underdog to the Horned Frogs on Thanksgiving, which makes the bye-week preparation even more important.

Strong has constantly reiterated the importance of making it to a bowl game. With that goal achieved, the Longhorns will shift their focus onto beating the Horned Frogs.

"They are very explosive and have a lot of playmakers," Strong said. "They get the ball in the playmakers' hands, and they just score. I just feel like we have to play defense, and that is the only way we're going to win. We have to play defense."

The defense needs to stay focused because it will have its hands full against TCU's offense, which has averaged 46 points per game and has outscored opponents 459-231. But the defense has proven its ability to shut down high-powered offenses. 

The Longhorns have held conference opponents to roughly 14 points less than what the teams have averaged this season.

The defense will need to play at its best on Thanksgiving, but the unit is far from the most important concern for the Longhorns.

The biggest question for Texas is if the Longhorns offense can outscore the Horned Frogs.

The Longhorns' 23.7 points per game rank No. 9 in the Big 12 and No. 98 nationally in scoring offense. Texas needs to change this if it wants to finish the season with a record better than .500.

At this point, it's nearly impossible to believe the Texas offense can keep up with TCU. And unfortunately for Texas fans, TCU's defense has been dominant and has allowed an average of 23 points per game.

The Longhorns' ground game has come to life over the last three games. Running backs Malcolm Brown and Johnathan Gray have racked up 496 yards and seven touchdowns since the Kansas State game. But the backs will face a difficult matchup against TCU.

The Horned Frogs have given up 25 offensive touchdowns—only nine on the ground. 

Texas has to test TCU's run defense, but it will need to be ready to throw the ball if the Longhorns cannot move the chains on the ground.

Quarterback Tyrone Swoopes looked to be regressing after his career-high performance against Iowa State. The sophomore only completed 47 percent of his passes against Kansas State, Texas Tech and West Virginia.

But Swoopes bounced back against Oklahoma State and completed 24 of 33 passes for 305 yards and two touchdowns.

Most football teams begin and end with the quarterback, and in order for Texas to keep up with TCU's offense, Swoopes has to continue to build off of his performance against the Cowboys.

The Longhorns look to have an unfavorable game against the Horned Frogs. TCU will be looking to redeem itself following the close win over Kansas, and it has to prove its worth to the CFP committee.

In a game where the Horned Frogs have everything to lose and the Longhorns have momentum, a Thanksgiving upset is absolutely attainable. But the preparation over the next week will be key for Texas.

"We need some time off. We only have one game left, so that's where we're going to pour it all in," Strong said. "We will come back on Wednesday, and we'll go to work on Wednesday. We don't play until the following Thursday, but we're going to work all the way up until then."

 

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.

Taylor Gaspar is Bleacher Report's featured columnist covering the Texas Longhorns. Follow Taylor on Twitter: @Taylor_Gaspar.

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Oregon Ducks vs. Colorado Buffaloes Complete Game Preview

The Oregon Ducks have two regular-season games left to leave a lasting impression on the College Football Playoff committee. While a victory over lowly Colorado isn’t going to move anyone, it will keep the third-ranked Ducks (9-1, 6-1) on the path toward a Jan. 1 Playoff game. 

There is no reward for playing the Buffaloes (2-8, 0-7), only risk. Oregon not only needs to leave Autzen Stadium with a big victory, it needs to stay healthy in the process.

The Ducks are coming off of a much needed bye week and will be without tight end Pharaoh Brown—out for the season—and center Hroniss Grasu—out two weeks with a knee injury—in this game.

However, the Ducks will get back tackle Andre Yruretagoyena, who has missed the last eight games after injuring his left leg against Michigan State.

Oregon’s O-line is a shell of what it was at the beginning of the season, but it should be able to succeed on Saturday against a Colorado team that is ranked No. 106 in total defense.

Here's what you need to know:

Date: Saturday, Nov. 22

Time: 1:30 p.m. PT/ 4:30 p.m. ET

Place: Autzen Stadium (Eugene, Oregon)

TV: Pac-12 Network

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Oregon Ducks vs. Colorado Buffaloes Complete Game Preview

The Oregon Ducks have two regular-season games left to leave a lasting impression on the College Football Playoff committee...

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Matthew Burrell to Ohio State: Buckeyes Land 4-Star OT Prospect

Matthew Burrell's long and wide-reaching recruitment process is finally over. Burrell announced his decision to attend Ohio State on Monday, leaving offers on the table from the likes of Alabama, Florida State and Notre Dame.

Adam Friedman of Rivals.com had the news:

A 4-star offensive tackle out of C. D. Hylton High School in Virginia, Burrell landed scholarship offers from nearly 40 schools. 247Sports' composite rankings consider him the fifth-ranked tackle in the nation and the 91st-ranked player overall. Among the hotbed area that is the Virginia high school football scene, Burrell ranks third among all recruits.

His decision to attend Ohio State is certainly noteworthy, considering the sheer uncertainty that pervaded throughout the process. The Buckeyes carried a slight advantage throughout—247Sports' crystal ball assessment had OSU as a prohibitive favorite in early July—but other schools were seemingly encroaching throughout. Alabama, Florida and Texas each made a strong impression at different points.

It's certainly possible at this point Burrell's recruitment is still not over. Verbal commitments are nonbinding until February's national signing day, so any fundamental changes at Ohio State or another school making a strong push could potentially cause him to waver.

At the high school level Burrell, does have a history of finding the best long-term situation for himself. He started his prep career at Chancellor, where he broke out as a star during his first two seasons. But given the chance to attend Hylton—and be close to friends around whom he grew up—Burrell made the call in 2013 to transfer.

In his first season at one of the area's top schools, Burrell continued raising his national profile. He continued a growth spurt into a 6'5", 290-pound frame that gave him a distinct advantage even despite the uptick in competition. Quick off the ball to give him an initial advantage, Burrell projects as a very solid two-way blocker and could contribute right away.

As he told The M Block about his junior season:

I made a really big jump from where I was at last year. They coached me up a whole lot, I got a whole lot of accolades for performing on both sides of the ball this year. My footwork has gotten a lot better.  I could always finish blocks, it was just where I was finishing them. I came off the ball a lot better this year and I improved at picking up blitzers in my pass sets.

Typical of most offensive linemen of his age, Burrell's biggest weakness is his tendency to rely on a physical advantage. Too often he can ignore technique because he's simply bigger, stronger and faster than the opposing linemen attempting to rush the passer. Urban Meyer will have to work on keeping his hips steady and his hands active after the initial jump off the line of scrimmage.

Burrell also played defensive line in high school, so he understands the process that goes into both sides. That makes him at least slightly more apt at the line of scrimmage.

Overall, there aren't many qualms with Burrell as a prospect. He should top out well into the 300-pound range, and if he's able to add that weight without losing his quickness, it's possible he could be a real right-side anchor come his sophomore or junior year. If he doesn't quite develop into an elite tackle prospect, he has the frame necessary to move inside with some additional bulk.

It's not a bad problem to have for the Buckeyes. There is enough depth on the offensive line at this point for Burrell to figure out what he's going to become at the next level. And by the time they're ready to graduate, Burrell will probably be ready to take over as one of Big Ten's best all-around linemen.

Whether that's at tackle or guard remains to be seen.

 

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Georgia State Panthers vs. Clemson Tigers Complete Game Preview

Saturday was very disappointing for the Clemson Tigers, but they will have an opportunity to get back on track in front of the home crowd against Georgia State this Saturday. Whether it was quarterback Deshaun Watson being injured or the offense failing to get anything going, not much went right for the Tigers in the 28-6 loss to Georgia Tech.

Watson likely won’t see action in this game, so which quarterback will we see? Senior Cole Stoudt was benched in the second half after throwing three interceptions, and Nick Schuessler was 4-of-4 passing in the few drives that he played.

You can’t overlook any opponent, but the big target is still two weeks away. The showdown with the South Carolina Gamecocks will be the most anticipated game of the season, but the Tigers will need to stay focused this Saturday and avoid any kind of letdown.

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USC's Josh Shaw Won't Be Charged After Investigation for August Incident

Indefinitely suspended USC cornerback Josh Shaw received good news Monday when the Los Angeles District Attorney's office didn't press charges against him.       

Michael Lev of the Orange County Register reported on the matter, as Shaw was being investigated "after getting into an argument with his girlfriend, then fleeing the scene by jumping from a balcony."

Shaw had claimed that he sprained both ankles by jumping off the second-floor balcony of the apartment to rescue his nephew from drowning. However, he later admitted to making up that story from the night of Aug. 23 in Palmdale.   

The DA determined that Shaw hadn't caused any harm to his girlfriend despite a heated argument in which neighbors called the police, since they heard screams from the apartment. The police presence flustered Shaw, leading to a drop of some 20 feet from the apartment's balcony, which caused his injuries.

Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times spoke with Shaw, who lamented the fact that he'd done such damage to his reputation in the public eye.

"I would challenge somebody who doesn't know me to seek those who have encountered me and find one person who has one bad thing to say about me," said Shaw. "I've created this persona that I always do what's right … and then, boom."

Before his suspension, Shaw was considered among the best cornerbacks in college football, with the chance to be a top-tier prospect in the 2015 NFL draft. That opportunity still exists, but after this saga away from the field, Shaw's stock isn't as high as it could have been.

Not being able to play for a full season could call into question just how good of shape Shaw is in, especially since he's had to recover from injuries to both ankles. CBSSports.com currently projects Shaw to be a third- or fourth-round draft choice.

The fifth-year senior was a team captain before being banished, so it will be interesting if the intangibles that merited that designation can help Shaw convince NFL front offices to take a chance on him. Avoiding charges in this instance has to help Shaw's cause.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

USC's Josh Shaw Won't Be Charged After Investigation for August Incident

Indefinitely suspended USC cornerback Josh Shaw received good news Monday when the Los Angeles District Attorney's office didn't press charges against him...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Star Brothers Daniel and Josh Imatorbhebhe's Quest to Play Together in College

When it comes to the recruiting trail, Josh Imatorbhebhe secured a slight head start over older brother Daniel. Despite an early disparity in interest, their respective paths could eventually lead to the same college campus.

But if that isn't the case, an eight-win 2014 campaign at North Gwinnett High School in Georgia could be the final time this talented duo lines up together on the gridiron.

"It's something I try not to think about," Daniel said. "That possibility definitely stirs some emotions because we've done some great things alongside each other."

The Imatorbhebhes are among the most highly recruited pass-catchers in the Southeast, with 2015 prospect Daniel drawing more than a dozen offers at tight end and Josh commanding widespread interest as a coveted 2016 wide receiver.

The duo combined for 91 receptions, 1,559 yards and 23 touchdowns in 2014, per MaxPreps. A state title chase ended surprisingly early on Nov. 14 when the team was upset by Central Gwinnett High School in first-round playoff action.

Daniel is months away from finalizing collegiate plans, while Josh will enter the 2015 season viewed as one of the Peach State's premier returning seniors. Just a few years ago, the football field didn't appear to be the gateway toward a bright future that it's become for both brothers.

"I thought I was going to the NBA," Josh said. "I was one foot in and one foot out in football. I thought basketball was my ticket to success. We both grew up thinking that."

That changed after his freshman season. Josh, once viewed as a potential pillar for the North Gwinnett basketball program, elected to follow Daniel's lead and focus solely on football.

"I knew it was a risk, and I was at an early crossroads in my life," Josh said. "I had to make an adult choice about which direction would be better for me in the long run and really just went on blind faith. It turned out to be a blessing."

He spent his sophomore campaign sharing snaps behind 4-star senior receiver Nate Brown, who now plays at Missouri. Despite limited touches, his 6'2", 202-pound frame and elite athleticism drew attention from several college coaching staffs.

Josh landed his first scholarship offer last January from Boston College, weeks before Florida presented Daniel with his initial offer. Even though he posted production that rivaled any 2015 Georgia tight end as a junior, the elder Imatorbhebhe watched as his brother beat him to a scholarship.

“It was a confusing time," Daniel said. "Josh was supportive. He just kept saying ‘yours is coming, yours is coming.' He’s a freak athlete, while I’m more someone who has to work hard to be above average. Things seem to come more naturally to him."

Still, there were moments of doubt for Josh, who found his full-time conversion to the football field more difficult than he expected at the onset.

"I thought football would be mostly about athletic ability but it’s so much more than that," he said. "I struggled trying to figure out lot of stuff and thought about quitting, but my brother was always motivating me. Now I’ve matured to understand how to handle situations. I'm more meticulous in my craft and trying to actualize my potential."

By the start of the 2014 season, both Imatorbhebhes held offers from across the country.

Daniel committed to Missouri in April. However, he began to question that decision and eventually backed off the verbal pledge in September.

Naturally, his loyalty to Josh was a motivating factor.

"That commitment was the first time in this process I really felt like I made a decision without fully considering my brother," Daniel said. "There were a lot of factors involved, and the Missouri coaching staff was great to me, but I didn't necessarily feel like Josh and I were on the same page there."

Since reopening his recruitment, Daniel has spent official visits at Florida and Ohio State. Josh, who also holds offers from each program, accompanied him on those trips.

“It was huge having him there with me," Daniel said. "If Josh couldn’t come on an official, I didn’t want to go. We talked about everything from the experience and how we felt about things. It’s great having him in the equation every step of the way.”

Meanwhile, Josh received a sneak peek of what lies ahead for him next season, when teams will be lining up to welcome the younger brother.

"What I took away from joining him for the process is that it’s a big deal," he said. "You can’t take it lightly. People roll out the red carpet and overextend themselves to get you on their campus. It shows just how huge of a decision this is."

That decision ultimately lies ahead for both players, but Daniel is up first. Along with Ohio State and Georgia, he's keeping a close eye on Vanderbilt and Cal.

As word spreads about Josh's junior season—a campaign that included four games with 100-plus receiving yards and 15 touchdown receptions—programs continue to join the pursuit. As his list of options grows, it creates more opportunities for him that don't involve Daniel.

"I understand why they would offer Josh and not me, especially if they already have the tight end position filled for 2015," Daniel said. "It's just something we'll have to deal with moving forward."

Clemson and Georgia—a pair of programs Josh mentions as attractive destinations—are unlikely to offer Daniel at this stage. But don't think for a moment that closes the door on a possibility of this brotherly duo joining forces at the next level.

“My mom was praying for twins, and we were the closest thing she got. I love my brother," Josh said. "It would be great to play and live together in college. I don’t feel like that’s the main thing either of us need to worry about, though. We have different needs and different wants, so if that means we end up taking different paths, than so be it."

It's a realistic outlook, and one that causes emotions to surface for Daniel, who plans to enroll early.

"The clock is ticking for me," Daniel said. "It's my last season at home, my last Christmas at home. It all makes me want to sit back and enjoy these moments. Things are going to change in my life very soon, and even though I know my brother will always be a big part of it, I hope we still have a lot of snaps to take together on the field. It's been amazing to share this experience with him, and I'm not sure if I'm ready to let that go."

 

Quotes obtained firsthand by Bleacher Report recruiting analyst Tyler Donohue unless otherwise noted.

Recruit ratings courtesy of 247Sports.

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The Most Important Notre Dame Players for the Rest of the Year

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — In a short span of 96 seconds and a brief overtime period, Notre Dame lost to Northwestern, fell to 7-3 and raised a slew of questions heading into its final two games of the regular season.

With 1:36 remaining in regulation, Irish senior running back Cam McDaniel ran to the right side and fumbled. Northwestern drove down the field, tied the game and won it in overtime.

Almost exactly one month ago, the Irish were undefeated and ranked fifth in the country heading into a prime-time showdown with Florida State. Even after the last-minute loss to the Seminoles, Notre Dame looked like a surefire top-10 or top-15 team at the worst. Now, the Irish are out of the Top 25.

So with two games remaining in the regular season—a home meeting with Louisville on Saturday and the rivalry matchup with USC the following weekend—who are the most important Irish players? These aren’t necessarily the best or most-used players on the team, but they’ll all need to be at the top of their game for the Irish to make strides.

 

Everett Golson

Naturally, Notre Dame goes as Everett Golson goes. His mixed performance against the Wildcats on Saturday—21-of-40 for 287 yards, three touchdowns, one interception and 78 rushing yards, a score and a fumble—aptly sums up his season. There’s been plenty of good; there’s no debating that. But costly mistakes seem inevitable at this point for the second-year starter.

On Saturday, Golson’s biggest blunder was a third-quarter fumble. Notre Dame had 1st-and-goal from the Northwestern 5-yard line, and Golson was charged with a fumble on a read-option. As Irish head coach Brian Kelly said afterward, many of the recent mistakes have been “critical errors”—turnovers inside the red zone, for instance.

The turnovers have often been grave in nature, and they’ve been plentiful. In his last seven games, Golson has committed 19 turnovers—more than 84 FBS teams have coughed up the entire season.

For Notre Dame to right the ship in its final two regular-season games and manufacture some momentum heading into its bowl game, Golson must be sharper. It’s pretty simple.

 

Kyle Brindza

All of a sudden, Notre Dame’s kicking game is a question mark. Irish senior Kyle Brindza entered the season as a Lou Groza Award candidate. The burly Brindza missed eight field goals as a sophomore and six last season; he was trending in the right direction.

Earlier in the year, Brindza’s stat line could be mostly explained by the struggles in the holding game. While new holder Malik Zaire didn’t inspire loads of confidence early on with his miscue on an extra-point attempt, it’s still fair to look further for explanations of Brindza’s kicking problems. He’s now 11-of-19 on field-goal attempts this season after hooking two tries against Northwestern.

“He’s got a new battery in there,” Kelly said after the game. “Probably thinking a little too much. Trying to get him not to think about the hold and he starts thinking about the hold and then you get into rushing your mechanics and, unfortunately, it hurt us today.”

Based on Brindza’s track record, it’s reasonable to assume he’ll turn things around in the final three games of the season. Notre Dame needs him and his points, as the defensive struggles have continued in recent weeks.

 

Jaylon Smith

Notre Dame’s defense has been continually gashed in recent weeks, and someone—anyone—needs to step up and start to stop the bleeding.

Irish sophomore linebacker Jaylon Smith has been solid all season, and his role has become even more crucial after senior “Mike” linebacker Joe Schmidt suffered a season-ending ankle injury. Irish junior defensive end Sheldon Day has been terrific too, but Day’s status is up in the air following a knee injury suffered Saturday. We should learn more about Day’s outlook Tuesday when Kelly addresses the media in his weekly press conference.

So Smith will be one of the key cogs counted on to correct things defensively, as the Irish continue to trot out young and inexperienced teammates.

“We’re obviously playing a lot of young guys that are struggling and they’re doing their best, but too many young guys on the field,” Kelly said Saturday. “That’s probably the biggest issue right now that we’re just trying to fight through.”

There’s only so much more Smith can do as just one of 11 players on the defense. He tallied 10 tackles and forced a fumble against the Wildcats, and he leads the squad with 77 tackles. If he can somehow find another gear down the stretch, Smith could lift up the Irish defense.

 

All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. Louisville Cardinals Complete Game Preview

While Notre Dame fans are still reeling from an overtime defeat at the hands of woeful Northwestern, the coaches and players have no choice but to turn their attention to Louisville. And fresh off a bye week, the Cardinals come to South Bend looking to deliver a knockout punch to a team that's clearly wobbling against the ropes. 

In the final home game of the season, the Irish have another opportunity to get their eighth victory, a win that would make head coach Brian Kelly the first Notre Dame coach ever to win eight or more games in his first five seasons on the job. 

But getting there looks much harder than it did a month ago. The Irish have gone from College Football Playoff contenders to a group that's in danger of free fall, courtesy of a defense that's fallen apart and an offense that continues to turn the football over in critical situations. 

After finding a way to get outscored by one of the least-explosive offenses in all of college football, the Irish now take on one of the best defenses in the nation. It's a matchup that has many people doubting Kelly's young team, with the point spread moving drastically in Louisville's favor after opening up with Notre Dame favored by 9.5 points. 

Let's get you ready for the very first meeting between Louisville and Notre Dame, with Bobby Petrino set to bring the Cardinals to South Bend. 

 

Date: Saturday, November 22

Time: 3:30 p.m. ET

Place: Notre Dame Stadium in Notre Dame, Indiana

TV: NBC

Radio: IMG College Sports, SiriusXM Channel 129

Spread: Notre Dame by 3.5, according to Odds Shark.

Begin Slideshow

BYU vs. Savannah State Complete Game Preview

BYU will welcome FCS foe Savannah State to Provo this weekend for senior night. The Cougars and Tigers have never met before, so the game will be a first for both teams.

With a win over UNLV last week, BYU became bowl eligible and gained its second straight victory. Savannah State, on the other hand, has not won a game all season, and it doesn't look like that will change this Saturday.

So, what should we expect out of BYU's final home game? Read on to find out.

Date: Saturday, November 22

Time: 1 p.m. MST (3 p.m. EST)

Place: LaVell Edwards Stadium, Provo, UT

TV: BYUtv

Radio: KSL NewsRadio (102.7 FM, 1160 AM)

Spread:Not Available

Begin Slideshow

Ohio State Buckeyes vs. Indiana Hoosiers Complete Game Preview

One week after walking away from the winter wonderland that was Minnesota with a 31-24 victory, the Ohio State football team will head home to Columbus to host its final two games of the regular season. The first test left on the Buckeyes' schedule will be a date with Indiana, which currently finds itself on a five-game losing streak.

Ohio State, meanwhile, has racked up eight straight victories and is right in the thick of the race to be a part of the first-ever College Football Playoff. A ninth consecutive win for the Buckeyes would clinch them the Big Ten East championship, securing a spot in Indianapolis for a second straight conference title game appearance.

And while Ohio State enters Saturday's contest a heavy favorite, having something on the line should go a long way toward capturing the Buckeyes' attention.

Are the Hoosiers capable of haunting Ohio State? We'll find out on Saturday. But until then, here's everything you need to know about the Buckeyes' showdown with Indiana:

Date: Saturday, Nov. 22

Time: 12 p.m. ET

Place: Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio

TV: Big Ten Network

Radio:Ohio State Football Radio Network, IUHoosiers.com

Spread: Ohio State (-30), via Odds Shark

Begin Slideshow

Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Western Carolina Catamounts Complete Game Preview

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — After two straight physical games against some of the SEC’s best, Alabama needs a little bit of a break. It will get that this week.

FCS Western Carolina will roll into Tuscaloosa for a glorified scrimmage on Saturday and give Alabama a tuneup before another high-stakes Iron Bowl.

The Crimson Tide are riding high after a 25-20 win against what was at the time the No. 1 team in the country. Western Carolina has won seven games this year after winning just four total in the last three seasons.

This week, Alabama coach Nick Saban is more worried about making sure his team continues to improve rather than just beating the Catamounts.

“So if I say what do we have to do to win this game, I might think, 'Well, I don't have to practice as hard this week. The guy's not quite as big as what I'm used to having to play against, or whatever,’” Saban said.

“Are you going to get better that way or not? Taking advantage of the opportunity that you have is much bigger than that. ‘I need to play better. I need to improve. I need to help my teammates play better. We didn't execute these plays properly. We need to start getting these plays right.  We've got to do a better job, whether it's covering, blocking, carrying out fakes, catching balls, whatever it is.’ The major thing for me is stay focused on what you need to do to improve, so you take advantage of the opportunity. And that's for every player.”

Here’s everything you need to know:

Date: Saturday, November 22

Time: 3 p.m. CT

Place: Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Alabama

TV: SEC Network

Radio: Crimson Tide Sports Network, Catamount Sports Network

Spread: None.

Begin Slideshow

Super 16 Poll Week 13: Complete Rankings Released for 2014 Season

In a 16-team playoff format, we wouldn't question Ohio State's resume, or if a one-loss SEC team that doesn't win the conference deserves to get into the playoff. We wouldn't worry about TCU being ranked ahead of the Baylor team that defeated it (OK, maybe we'd worry about it a little) or even lament Arizona State's loss this week that knocked it out of the postseason conversation.    

We don't have a 16-team playoff format, of course. But each week, the voters at the Super 16 Poll play that fun theoretical and decide on their best 16 teams in the nation. Below, you'll find their latest poll along with the Bleacher Report poll this week and analysis on the rankings.

 

Analysis

At this point, while the various polls don't necessarily agree on what order they should be placed in, they do agree that Alabama, Oregon and Florida State are the top three teams in the nation. Florida State still hasn't lost, Oregon has gotten better and better as the season has worn on (and has a great non-conference win over Michigan State) and Alabama has the best win of the bunch after it just knocked off Mississippi State.

While Florida State was dropped to No. 3 in the standings by the selection committee this week and has its share of detractors, it's hard to ignore that the Seminoles just keep on winning.

"Everybody talks about this team doesn't do this, doesn't do that," Jimbo Fisher told Dan Wolken of USA Todayafter Florida State survived Miami. "When you measure this team for 60 minutes, it measures up pretty dag-gone good to anybody, anywhere."

After those three teams, though, the No. 4 spot is seemingly up for grabs. While a four-team playoff isn't really taken into consideration by the Super 16 voters—since they are voting on a 16-team playoff pool—determining the No. 4 team in the country has become college football's most important debate.

A pair of Big 12 schools, Baylor and TCU, can each make a case. So too can Ohio State. But are we all leaving Mississippi State for dead too quickly?

Pat Forde of Yahoo Sports isn't and still has the Bulldogs in his top four:

Mississippi State fell hard in Tuscaloosa, but doesn’t fall out of the Fab Four. The Bulldogs were on the verge of being run out of Bryant-Denny Stadium but regrouped and made a game of it, showing their mettle. Even though all three of their quality wins took a hit Saturday—Auburn lost to Georgia, LSU lost to Arkansas and Texas A&M lost to Missouri—they still have more on the resume than Baylor, TCU and Ohio State.  

Reaching the College Football Playoff without winning the SEC or even reaching the title game—Alabama will win the SEC West if it wins out—will be a blight on Mississippi State's resume, no question. But the fact that the Bulldogs' resume is already so strong and could get even stronger if they beat Ole Miss shouldn't be disregarded. 

In a 16-team playoff, teams like Ohio State, TCU and Baylor wouldn't be left out. And even in the four-team playoff system, TCU and Baylor may not be left out, depending on which team wins the Big 12. But Ohio State is probably in trouble. 

The team's best win is Michigan State on the road, a pretty good win. But the Big Ten is down this year, and the Buckeyes are likely either going to only be able to add a potential win over two-loss Nebraska or two-loss Wisconsin in the conference title game. Plus, the loss to Virginia Tech is easily the worst loss amongst the top contenders for the playoff. 

So yes, the Buckeyes would probably be all in favor of an expanded playoff system this year. They may still get in, but it's hard to imagine them getting in over a Mississippi State, Baylor or TCU.

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Hugh Freeze Contract: Latest News and Rumors on Negotiations with Ole Miss

Ole Miss might be on the outside looking in at the first ever College Football Playoff, but head coach Hugh Freeze will reportedly earn a new contract for his efforts.   

No deal is in place yet but it appears likely one will be set in the near future. Ole Miss athletics director Ross Bjork discussed the latest on Freeze, per Ben Garrett of Ole Miss Spirit:

Bjork's comments were passed along in Garrett's report:

Obviously, we’ve redone his contract after the last two seasons. We’ve used the same approach. ... We’ve been proactive throughout the season. Coach knows how we feel about him. We love that he loves being here and his family’s comfortable. We’ll take the next couple of weeks to iron out the details and by all accounts, we’ll have a new deal in place for him when the season’s over.

The Rebels are 8-2 this season (4-2 SEC) behind Bo Wallace and the No. 1 scoring defense in the country, which allows just 11.9 points per game. Along with results, Freeze has also brought in great talent, including the No. 15 recruiting class in 2014, per 247Sports' composite system.

Alex Byington of the Opelika-Auburn News notes a recent contract for Gus Malzahn:

The extension talks also come just after rumors that Freeze might be taking over the Florida program in the future, per Hugh Kellenberger of The Clarion-Ledger. Freeze addressed those rumors, via Kellenberger:

Freeze took over a program that was 2-10 in 2011 and has completely turned it around in a short amount of time. With the current talent on the field, Freeze remaining at Ole Miss should strike fear in the rest of the SEC.

If Freeze does sign a new contract, it would be just the latest in a long line of lucrative deals for SEC coaches. After proving himself on the biggest stage, Freeze has a chance to come away with a huge contract.

 

Follow @RCorySmith on Twitter.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Playoff 2014: Top 25 Predictions After Week 13 AP Rankings

The Associated Press and College Football Playoff polls have been at odds since the latter's initial release. So it should be no surprise that it's expected the nation's top four teams are in a far different order when the committee releases its next Top 25 on Tuesday.

With Alabama finally earning the signature win needed to leap and Florida State again looking less than stellar in keeping its high-pressure, undefeated brand of football going, odds are the committee will see things far different from traditional logic. The Seminoles, who dropped to No. 3 despite being undefeated in the last release, are in danger of falling to that precarious fourth spot. Meanwhile, one-loss outfits like Oregon and Alabama are undoubtedly secure if they win out.

Based on a combination of the AP poll and the committee's previous outlook, here's a projection for how the Week 13 Top 25 will play out:

First, a disclaimer: These are predictions for how the committee will vote, not my personal rankings. Despite its weekly need to scare people half to death, Florida State would not be No. 4 on my list; it'd be No. 1. But based on how Saturday played out and the committee's increasing wariness of the Seminoles, it's hard to think it'll slot them above either SEC team or Oregon.

The Ducks, who were idle this week, ascended to the No. 2 ranking after their 51-27 win over Utah. They close the season with what should be two relative gimmes against Colorado and Oregon State, but Arizona State learned the hard way that it's never easy to take a trip to Corvallis. Plus, last season's trip to Arizona proved the Ducks aren't above semi-confounding losses.

Avoiding such frustrations has come to define Florida State's season because it's about the only thing these Seminoles do consistently well. Jameis Winston led his third comeback from 15-plus points down Saturday, as Dalvin Cook's 26-yard touchdown run gave Florida State a 30-26 win over Miami. Winston threw for 302 yards, and Cook made the most of his seven carries, gaining 92 yards and scoring twice.

Where Florida State's resume starts breaking down is strength of schedule. The Seminoles have defeated zero teams currently ranked in the AP Top 25. As noted by ESPN's Jake Trotter, that gives them exactly the same number of Top 25 wins as Marshall—a team the committee is yet to deem worthy of existence:

Of course, Mississippi State's resume isn't entirely perfect, either. The Bulldogs' wins over LSU, Texas A&M and Auburn look a whole lot less impressive now than they did a month ago. Only three-loss Auburn remains ranked after this week's loss to Georgia. 

Alabama's lone Top 25 win came this week against Mississippi State. Working from a purely logical perspective, it's easy to see how Oregon (three Top 25 wins) has emerged as the nation's best team. TCU's resume may also boast two top-tier wins if Oklahoma is back in the good graces of the Top 25 as expected.

The order of this week's Top 25 is of particular importance because it may structure the season-ending title picture. None of the seven remaining power-five conference teams with one or zero losses plays against its fellow elite teams the remainder of the season.

Florida State's best remaining game will come in the ACC Championship Game, very likely against Georgia Tech. Alabama is looking at two more tough SEC games before a potential playoff run though it may luck out and get Missouri instead of Georgia in a potential SEC Championship Game. Mississippi State's visit to rival Ole Miss sets up a potentially advantageous situation where it gets into the CFP despite failing to reach the conference championship game.

Ohio State, Baylor and TCU need help. The relative weaknesses of the Big Ten and Big 12 have haunted all three teams though the Horned Frogs were No. 4 last week and still have a chance at being a Top Four team this week.

"This was not going to get any style points," TCU coach Gary Patterson told Trotter after his team's 34-30 win over Kansas. "I know it'll probably hurt us. But the biggest thing is we got to 9-1. We found a way to win on the road, with some bounces that didn't go our way. A lot of teams would have lost this game." 

Eliminating any one-loss SEC team, especially from the SEC West, is ridiculous as a general rule. Alabama and Mississippi State still have games against ranked opponents remaining, and the separation between those two teams is minuscule. Without a few costly turnovers, it's possible the Bulldogs would have cemented their top-dog status with a triumph in Tuscaloosa.

Florida State is the top dog in the AP poll this week largely because there are few other options. Being undefeated in a power-five conference means something even if it's the weakest of the quintuple. It'd be nearly impossible for the committee to justify leaving the Seminoles out when they sit atop the two other major polls.

That leaves one remaining spot to split between the four others, which seems rather unfortunate for the aforementioned trio given the committee believes Oregon is the best one-loss team in the country. Conference championships are said to carry weight within the room, though, so that may be the best bet for unseating one of the SEC teams.

Either way, the College Football Playoff has turned into a battle of attrition. And it's one that will have an awful lot of unhappy parties if none of these elite one-loss teams fall by the wayside.

Oh, and then there's Marshall. [Shrugs]

 

Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter.

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