NCAA Football

Mississippi Rebels vs. LSU Tigers Betting Odds: Analysis and Prediction

The LSU Tigers will try to build off a dominant home win and hand the Ole Miss Rebels their first loss of the season when they square off in Baton Rouge Saturday. The Tigers crushed Kentucky 41-3 last week as 11.5-point favorites to improve to 4-1 against the spread in their past five home games.


Point Spread: The Rebels opened as three-point favorites at Tiger Stadium.

Odds Shark Computer Pick: Tigers 33.3, Rebels 27.3


Why the Mississippi Rebels Can Cover the Spread

The Rebels already own big SEC road wins at Vanderbilt and Texas A&M earlier this season by a combined score of 76-23, covering the spread in both of those games easily.

They closed as 2.5-point underdogs against the Aggies and followed that win up with a 34-3 home victory over Tennessee last week as 15.5-point favorites.

Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace continued his solid play with 199 yards and two touchdowns against the Volunteers, and he threw for 346 yards in last year’s 27-24 upset of LSU at home as a 9.5-point underdog. That victory made the Rebels 13-4 ATS in the last 17 meetings with the Tigers.


Why the LSU Tigers Can Cover the Spread

LSU finds itself in the rare position of home underdog and has covered the spread the last two times under this scenario, both times against Alabama.

Ole Miss is enjoying a fine year but does not have the same kind of recent history as the Crimson Tide, who have won three national championships in the past five years.

The Tigers have been double-digit favorites in three of the last four meetings with the Rebels and won the past two games between the teams at home by a combined 13 points.

The good news is that the underdog is 12-2 ATS in the past 14 meetings, so maybe LSU can turn the tables and pull off the upset this time around.


Smart Pick

Ole Miss has won just once in its last six trips to Baton Rouge but has gone 9-0 ATS in the past nine meetings there. While the Rebels were underdogs in eight of those games, the lone time they were favored came in 1999 as 3.5-point favorites and resulted in a 42-23 victory.

The Tigers have been able to reel off wins in three of their last four games, but neither of their past two losses has been close. A 34-29 home loss to Mississippi State last month was not nearly as close as the final score suggests because LSU was trailing 34-10 in the fourth quarter.

Ole Miss is quite simply the better team in this conference matchup and will win by at least a touchdown.


Betting Trends

  • Mississippi is 5-0 straight up in its last five games.
  • LSU is 6-2 ATS in its last eight games.


All point spread and lines data courtesy of Odds Shark, all quotes gathered firsthand unless otherwise noted. Check out Twitter for injury and line movement updates and get the free odds tracker app.

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Michigan Wolverines vs. Michigan State Spartans Odds: Analysis and Prediction

The Michigan Wolverines once owned the rivalry with the Michigan State Spartans, winning six meetings in a row not too long ago. But Sparty has turned the tables, winning five of the last six meetings, going 6-0 against the spread. Michigan and Michigan State battle for the Paul Bunyan Trophy Saturday afternoon in East Lansing.


Point spread: Spartans opened as 15.5-point favorites at Spartan Stadium, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark (line updates and matchup report).


College football pick via Odds Shark computer: 44.3-26.3 Spartans


Why the Michigan Wolverines can cover the spread

The Wolverines snapped a three-game losing streak with a much-needed 18-13 victory over Penn State two weeks ago, then had last week off. Michigan outgained and outrushed the Nittany Lions and, most importantly, covered the spread as field-goal favorites.

Earlier this year, the Wolverines outgained and outrushed Notre Dame but committed four turnovers and lost 31-0. They also outgained and outrushed Utah but committed four turnovers and lost 26-10. Over their last two games, though, they've turned it over just once and gone 2-0 ATS.


Why the Michigan State Spartans can cover the spread

Since losing at Oregon back in September, the Spartans are 5-0 straight up and 3-2 ATS. Last week, Michigan State won at Indiana 56-17, cruising to the cover as a 16-point road favorite. The Spartans trailed early 17-14, then scored the last 42 points of the game.

Sparty outgained the Hoosiers 662-22—that's a 438-yard margin—and won time of possession by a 39-21 margin, although it should be pointed out that Indiana was without its starting quarterback. But that probably didn't matter much considering Michigan State had two guys rush for 100 yards while going 10-of-16 on third-down conversions.

The Spartans lead the Big Ten East at 3-0 and get Ohio State at home in two weeks, so they can probably smell another trip to the conference championship game.


Smart pick

Michigan State should be able to win the ground battle this week and in turn roll to a victory over their hated rival. And since the team that wins the game usually covers the spread, the smart money here resides with the Spartans.


Betting trends

  • Michigan is 3-7 SU in its last 10 games.
  • Michigan State is 4-1 ATS in its last five games at home.


All point spread and lines data courtesy of Odds Shark. All quotes gathered firsthand unless otherwise noted. Check out Twitter for injury and line movement updates and get the free odds-tracker app.

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Miami Hurricanes vs. Virginia Tech Hokies Betting Odds: Analysis and Prediction

Virginia Tech owns the recent rivalry with ACC foe Miami, winning eight of the last 11 meetings straight up, including a 42-24 victory last year, going 8-3 against the spread in the process. In a game matching two teams who can ill afford another conference loss, the Hokies host the Hurricanes Thursday night in Blacksburg.


Point spread: Hokies opened as two-point favorites at Lane Stadium, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark. (Line updates and matchup report)


College football pick via Odds Shark computer: 34.1-30.7 Hurricanes


Why the Miami Hurricanes can cover the spread

The Hurricanes picked up a 55-34 nonconference victory over Cincinnati two weeks ago, covering as 16-point favorites, then had last week off. Miami racked up 621 yards of offense—335 on the ground—as both Duke Johnson (162 on just 10 carries) and freshman Joseph Yearby (113 on eight attempts) hit the century mark rushing.

The win and the ground-game production came as welcome reversals of the previous week's loss to Georgia Tech in which the 'Canes were held to 107 yards rushing. Miami has already lost two ACC games this season; if the Hurricanes want to play in the ACC Championship Game, they'll probably have to win them all from here on out, starting Thursday night.


Why the Virginia Tech Hokies can cover the spread

The Hokies had won two games in a row but took a tough loss at Pitt last week by a score of 21-16. Tech got within five points with five minutes to go but couldn’t quite complete the comeback. Junior quarterback Michael Brewer threw for 265 yards and, most importantly, did not throw an interception after tossing at least one pick in each of the first six games.

The Hokies had outgained their previous three opponents, including Georgia Tech and North Carolina, until getting outgained by the Panthers by 40 yards. As usual, Virginia Tech doesn't impress offensively, but it ranks 20th in the country in total defense and 30th vs. the run. Virginia Tech also owns two ACC losses already, so it's almost win-or-die for the Hokies, as well, when it comes to the divisional race.


Smart Pick

This game is a total toss-up; the teams are equal on many levels, and both teams are a bit banged up. In the end, the team that runs the ball more effectively and doesn't turn it over will probably win and cover. And the smart pick believes that, at the moment, Miami has the better chance of doing so this weekend.


Betting trends

  • Miami is 1-7 ATS in its last eight games on the road
  • Virginia Tech is 4-1 SU in its last five games when playing Miami


All point spread and lines data courtesy of Odds Shark, all quotes gathered firsthand unless otherwise noted. Check out Twitter for injury and line movement updates and get the free odds tracker app.

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Which State Has a Better Shot at the CFB Playoff: Alabama or Mississippi?

With the emergence of the Mississippi State Bulldogs and the Ole Miss Rebels, there is no question the state of Mississippi has become the epicenter of the college football world. 

This does not sit well with the fine people who call Alabama home. 

The Crimson Tide and the Auburn Tigers have been two Alabama programs long entrenched in college football lore.  

Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Michael Felder and Barrett Sallee debate which republic reigns supreme in college football.

Which state is the best for football?

Watch the video, and let us know! 

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BYU Cougars vs. Boise State Broncos Betting Odds: Analysis and Prediction

Brigham Young started 4-0 this season, but since losing multitalented quarterback Taysom Hill to that nasty leg injury, the Cougars are 0-3 both straight up and against the spread. And things don't get any easier this week, as BYU heads to Boise State to take on the Broncos on the Smurf turf at Albertsons Stadium Friday night.


Point spread: Broncos opened as 6.5-point favorites at Bronco Stadium, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark (line updates and matchup report).


College football pick via Odds Shark computer: 33.1-31.4 Broncos


Why the BYU Cougars can cover the spread

The Cougars took a terrible hit when Hill went down, but their recent demise can't be blamed entirely on the quarterback situation. In his first action in place of Hill, senior Christian Stewart threw three interceptions against Utah State. Next time out against Central Florida, he threw just one interception and three touchdown passes.

Last week, in a 42-35 loss at Nevada, he threw zero picks and four touchdown passes. BYU actually outgained the Wolf Pack 601-411 and led 28-13 midway through the third quarter, but three lost fumbles proved costly.


Why the Boise State Broncos can cover the spread

Since opening the season with that loss to Ole Miss, the Broncos have won five of six games, going 4-2 ATS, including a 37-27 victory last week over Fresno State. Boise State outgained the Bulldogs 492-313 and held the ball for almost 36 minutes, and 76 of Fresno State's yards came on one play.

The Broncos have now outgained and outrushed six of seven opponents this season, and those are usually good ways to win games and cover spreads. Boise State ranks 23rd in the country in total offense, and with help from running back Jay Ajayi, who has run for almost 900 yards already this season, and the 24th-ranked run defense, it's outrushing foes by over 70 yards per game.


Smart pick

The loss of Hill has certainly had an impact on BYU, but Stewart has improved each time out, and linesmakers and the betting public may not have picked up on that yet. So the value with the spread on this game may lie with the underdog Cougars.


Betting trends

  • BYU is 0-5 ATS in its last five games.
  • Boise State is 4-2 ATS in its last six games.


All point spread and lines data courtesy of Odds Shark. All quotes gathered firsthand unless otherwise noted. Check out Twitter for injury and line movement updates and get the free odds-tracker app.

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Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Tennessee Volunteers: Odds, Analysis and Prediction

The once-bitter rivalry between Alabama and Tennessee has tilted one way over recent seasons, as the Tide have beaten the Volunteers seven times in a row, going 6-1 against the spread in the process. Can Alabama keep that trend rolling when it visits Rocky Top Saturday afternoon? Or can coach Butch Jones and the Vols begin to turn it around?


Point spread: Crimson Tide opened as 15.5-point favorites at Neyland Stadium, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark. (Line updates and matchup report.)


College football pick via Odds Shark computer: 39.2-13.3 Crimson Tide


Why the Alabama Crimson Tide can cover the spread

Anybody that had any doubts about the Tide might want to watch a replay of last week's 59-0 torching of Texas A&M.

In retrospect, it's hard to figure why Alabama was only favored by 11 points over the Aggies. The Tide led 45-0 at halftime, eventually outgained A&M 602-172 and in general just dropped a big bomb on the Aggies. Alabama has now outgained and outrushed every opponent this year except Arkansas, and it won that game anyway.

The Tide rank 16th in the country in total offense, third in total defense and their quarterbacks, who were thought to be the weak link on this team, own a 16-3 touchdown-to-interception ratio.


Why the Tennessee Volunteers can cover the spread

The Vols seemed to be making progress, playing Georgia and Florida tough a few weeks ago, beating Chattanooga 45-10 and covering as 25-point favorites, so we might chalk up last week's loss to Ole Miss as a bump in the road. Tennessee only trailed the Rebels 7-3 late into the second quarter, and 14-3 late into the third, but just couldn't move the chains, going three for 16 on third-down conversions.

Also, quarterback Justin Worley, after compiling a 12-5 touchdown-to-interception ratio through the first six games of this season, took a step back by throwing three picks. But the Vols are building for the future and figure to improve as the season progresses.


Smart Pick

With that loss to Ole Miss a couple weeks ago, Alabama knows it cannot afford one more slip if it hopes to win the SEC, a possible prerequisite for making the four-team College Football Playoff.

Also, if this game were being played in Tuscaloosa, the Tide might be favored by 25 points. Tennessee just hasn't shown enough improvement yet to inspire any betting confidence, so the smart money here should go with the better team at the more manageable spread.


Betting trends

  • Alabama is 5-0 straight up in its last five games when playing Tennessee.
  • Tennessee is 0-5 ATS in its last five games when playing at home against Alabama.


All point spread and lines data courtesy of Odds Shark, all quotes gathered firsthand unless otherwise noted. Check out Twitter for injury and line movement updates and get the free odds tracker app.

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B/R CFB Committee: Playoff Predictions Heading into Week 9

The top four teams are starting to emerge, but the rest of the contenders aren't far behind. Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Michael Felder and Barrett Sallee give you their picks for teams to disrupt the College Football Playoff picture. 

What team deserves to be in the CFP?

Watch the video, and let us know!

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Is Jameis Winston a Guaranteed Heisman Finalist After Huge Win vs. Notre Dame?

In the Florida State Seminoles' big win over the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Jameis Winston made a huge statement toward his back-to-back Heisman Trophy candidacy.

But there are other deserving players across the country who are doing everything they can to dethrone Winston.

Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Michael Felder and Barrett Sallee break down Winston and the rest of the field's chances at getting to New York.

What is your Heisman Top Five right now?

Watch the video and let us know!             

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Why Auburn and Alabama Should Fear Playoff Wild Card Notre Dame

As dominoes around the country continue to fall, the idea of having two teams from the same conference in the inaugural College Football Playoff is becoming more likely.

It's a long shot, sure. If Auburn or Alabama runs the table—and only one can since the two play each other—there's a really good chance that the winner of the Iron Bowl could have a very strong case to be that second team from the SEC in the playoff.

Watch out for Notre Dame, though.

The Fighting Irish fell to No. 2 Florida State 31-27 on Saturday night in Tallahassee and nearly won the game on a pick play that went for a touchdown with 13 seconds left. The referees correctly called offensive pass interference on the play, and quarterback Everett Golson's fourth-down prayer wasn't answered.

Despite that, head coach Brian Kelly's crew proved that it belongs in the playoff discussion with other one-loss powers, as's Jon Solomon notes:

If Notre Dame runs the table from here on out and Florida State keeps winning, it'd have a pretty strong playoff resume.

They'd have wins over Arizona State and USC—both of which are in the top 20 right now, a last-second loss to one of the top teams in the country at their place and, at that point, plenty of momentum.

Would Auburn or Alabama's resumes look more attractive? Probably, but it's impossible to say "definitely" right now.

The winner of the Iron Bowl would likely have a top-five win over its intra-state rival, and likely another since Alabama will host No. 1 Mississippi State on Nov. 15 and Auburn will travel to No. 3 Ole Miss on Nov. 1. If either Mississippi school runs the table and plays for the SEC title, there could be some tense moments for the Iron Bowl winner on selection Sunday.

How much would the absence of a division title hurt?

As an independent, Notre Dame wouldn't have a conference title to boast, either, but the absence of a division title for the Iron Bowl winner could weigh heavily on a selection committee that has "conference championships" listed as its first point of emphasis. Notre Dame can't win one. Auburn and Alabama can. If they don't, will they be penalized?

We don't know because this process is brand new.

A one-loss non-champion from the SEC already has to deal with other top 10 teams from around the country that conceivably will have a conference title to boast, like Oregon, Michigan/Ohio State and whoever emerges from the Big 12. 

Now it has Notre Dame—and all that goes along with it, including, gasp, television ratings—to deal with. 

It's an unenviable job for the selection-committee members. We're headed full-speed ahead toward a situation where there not only could be several one-loss SEC teams vying for the final playoff spot or spots, but those teams could be battling with other big-name programs from around the country with comparable resumes. 

Be wary of Notre Dame. If the Irish stick around, it could be the program to spoil the SEC's playoff party.


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, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

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Which Freshman Running Back Is the Future of College Football?

This season in College Football, the title "freshman" doesn't really seem to apply to Oregon running back Royce Freeman, who is playing more like a four-year starter. Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder discusses why Freeman is the best freshman running back in the country. 

Do you think he's the best running back in the country?

Watch the video and let us know!

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College Football Rankings 2014: Week 9 Standings and Top 25 Team Records

The lead-up to the College Football Playoff has been an emotional roller coaster every single week, but that ride may go on a temporary hiatus in Week 9. After all, there are only two games between ranked teams in The Associated Press Poll on tap, and three of the Top 10 teams are on a bye.

Of course, that could mean we are in store for a week of landscape-shifting upsets as well.

Only time will tell what Week 9 has in store for the fans, but it is worth looking at the where teams stand in the respective polls. With that in mind, here is a look at the updated rankings (the Bleacher Report poll can be found here) and respective team records before we dig into a preview for one of the marquee games on the schedule.


Potential Upset Special: Ole Miss at LSU

It is a testament to how far Ole Miss has come that a hypothetical loss in Death Valley at night would be considered an upset for the Rebels.

LSU may be ranked at this point based solely on its pedigree over the past 10 years. Yes, it beat Wisconsin, but the Badgers lost to Northwestern and likely would have beaten the Tigers had they continued to give the ball to Melvin Gordon. Elsewhere, LSU lost to Mississippi State at home and then got its doors blown off in a trip to Auburn.

Perhaps the most concerning game, though, was the one against Florida when the Tigers needed the last couple of minutes to pull out a 30-27 win against a team that is an absolute disaster on offense.

The eyeball test alone suggests LSU is far from what fans are accustomed to this season. However, it still boasts the nation’s No. 8 scoring defense (17 points a game) even with the blowout loss to Auburn, and this one will be under the lights at Death Valley. The crowd will be ready to go, which will be a test for an Ole Miss squad that isn’t quite used to being the hunted quite yet. 

College GameDay will also be there, as it announced on Twitter:

Glenn Guilbeau of noted why that could be an issue for Ole Miss:

LSU is 5-4 at home with GameDay, which began in ESPN's studios in Bristol, Connecticut, in 1987 before moving to on-campus sites in 1993. The Tigers have been the visiting team when GameDay is in town another six times and won four of those, including over Alabama in Tuscaloosa 2005 and in 2011. In neutral site appearances for national championship games and season openers, LSU is 5-1. Overall, the Tigers are 14-7 with GameDay in town.

LSU will also be looking for some spoiler revenge of its own since Ole Miss knocked off the No. 6 Tigers last season in Oxford. Bo Wallace threw for 346 yards in that one and helped set up what proved to be a game-winning field goal by Andrew Ritter.

At least the Tigers finally looked like a complete team in Saturday’s win over Kentucky, and coach Les Miles thinks it portends positive things moving forward, via Guilbeau of "I think what is happening is this football team is coming together. We are improving. We are in a position to play better, and I think this football team is looking forward to that. I think the timing is right."

If LSU is going to win, it will have to make the Rebels one-dimensional so the pass rush can pin its ears back and get pressure on Wallace. Ole Miss is 11th in the SEC with 151.3 rushing yards a game, so that may not be out of the question.

However, if we are going to sing the praises of LSU’s defense, we have to also recognize Ole Miss’ as well. The Rebels are first nationally in scoring defense, sixth in rushing defense, eighth in total yards allowed and even lead the SEC with 15 interceptions and 20 forced turnovers.

The only game that Ole Miss was even challenged in was its dramatic victory over Alabama that gave it an inside track at a College Football Playoff spot, largely because of that defense.

LSU’s passing attack has struggled against the solid defenses it has faced this year (84 passing yards against Auburn and 140 against Mississippi State), and the Rebels may just be the best unit it will see this season.

This one will stay close, and the Tigers may even jump out to an early lead behind a raucous crowd, but Ole Miss’ defense will prove to be too much for what appears to be a mediocre LSU team this year.

There will be no upset in Death Valley on Saturday. 

Prediction: Ole Miss 31, LSU 20


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Michigan Wolverines vs. Michigan State Spartans Complete Game Preview

Michigan (3-4, 1-2 Big Ten) stopped the bleeding the last time it took the field by beating Penn State 18-13 under the lights at home. But now it faces a more ferocious and talented opponent in Michigan State (6-1, 3-0 Big Ten).

Over the course of the rivalry, Michigan sometimes could complain that the Spartans had bent the rules (or the clock) to win, but those times are in the past. Michigan State is now the pre-eminent football power in the state and put a vicious beating on the Wolverines the last two times the teams met in East Lansing.

Both programs have a lot riding on this year’s game. Because of a scheduling quirk, the teams meet for the second consecutive season in East Lansing, and the timing couldn’t be worse for Brady Hoke. The Spartans are competing for a spot in the new national championship playoffs and are looking not just to win but to make a statement for the national polls, while Hoke is fighting for his job.

A victory for Michigan would give Hoke some much-needed ammunition to stave off critics who are calling for his job, but a loss would probably seal his fate.

Date: Saturday, October 18, 2014

Time: 3:30 p.m. ET

Place: Spartan Stadium (75,005), East Lansing, Michigan

Series vs. Michigan State: Michigan leads 35-24-2

Television: ABC

Radio: Michigan Sports Network, Sirius (113), XM (195)

Spread: MSU by 15.5 via Odds Shark

Live Stats: GameTracker

Last Meeting vs. Michigan State: Michigan’s 29-6 loss in East Lansing last year was the beginning of a brutal slide that sunk the team’s Big Ten title hopes. The Spartans manhandled the Wolverines, limiting them to minus-48 yards rushing (the lowest total in school history) and sacking Devin Gardner seven times.

Begin Slideshow

10 QBs Who Aren't Getting Nearly Enough Praise This Season

Who is the best quarterback in college football?

Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott?  Oregon’s Marcus Mariota?  Florida State’s Jameis Winston?  Ole Miss’ Bo Wallace?

While those guys are at the top of the list—Heisman hopefuls leading teams with serious College Football Playoff aspirations—are they really the best of the best?

Rating quarterbacks is a tricky business, but with 128 starters in the FBS, it’s logical to assume that the elite guys aren’t just those who get the most media love, or those that play for the top teams.

Here’s a look at 10 young athletes that you may or may not have heard of, each of whom deserves a second glance.

Begin Slideshow

Pac-12 Football: Which 1-Loss Team Has the Best Chance at Winning the League?

Before the 2014 college football season began, the Pac-12 took on the identity of a deep conference that was likely to cannibalize itself when league games commenced.

That's exactly what's happened, and though every team still has at least five league games remaining, the list of contenders has been reduced to five.

We're talking of course about the five one-loss teams still with a shot at the conference championship game, and while two-loss squads like UCLA and Stanford shouldn't give up hope, the road ahead is foggy and bleak at best.'s Kevin Gemmell notes that Oregon's win against the Washington Huskies on Saturday added a few more pieces to the puzzle, but that anything can (and probably will) still happen.

The South Division is perhaps as deep as any in college football outside of the SEC West, and counting the Bruins out would be a mistake. But for the sake of the argument, we're taking a look at which one-loss teams have the best chance to win the Pac-12.

It should be noted that USC has two losses to its name, but the only one that matters in the race for the division is the home defeat to Arizona State.


The Favorite: Oregon Ducks

We've seen two different Oregon football teams take the field in 2014. The first team started 3-0 and had arguably the most impressive performance to date of anyone when it whipped Michigan State 46-27 back on Sept. 6.

The Spartans hung close for three quarters, but the Ducks wore out the mighty defense of Pat Narduzzi and coasted to a comfortable win.

The other team from Eugene we saw after the 3-0 start went just 1-1 with a narrow victory at Washington State and a disappointing home loss to Arizona.

What made this team different was an inability to rush the passer on defense or deny offenses from gaining large chunks of yards, as well as an offensive line that was simply dreadful.

Quarterback Marcus Mariota still put on a show in both outings, but without time or room to throw, the offense sputtered, and the undefeated mark went out the window.

Then, in a must-win game at UCLA, the first team showed up again. Oregon dominated on the ground en route to a 42-30 victory that was never very close.

The obvious difference was the return of offensive tackle Jake Fisher, who had been out since the Wyoming game. And with an improved line to help protect Mariota and open up holes in the running game, points came fast and easy.

That same team showed up on Saturday and blasted the Huskies 45-20 in a performance that looked a lot like what we've come to expect out of Oregon in recent years. The defense allowed yards but not very many points, and the offense moved the ball on the ground to open up an effective passing attack.

If the past two weeks are any indication, Oregon looks like the favorite to win the Pac-12. But difficult games against Stanford and Utah lie ahead, and after a misstep against Arizona, no one would be too surprised to see the Ducks falter once again.


The Sleeper: USC Trojans

Much like Oregon, the USC Trojans have also put forth two different teams in 2014. The first was a team that walloped Fresno State before eking out a win at Stanford.

Then the other version of the Trojans reared its ugly head in an embarrassing 37-31 loss at Boston College. It was ugly for several reasons, not the least of which was the fact that the Eagles lost at home to Colorado State just two weeks later. But the biggest concern had to be getting dominated in the trenches.

Boston College ran for 452 yards at over eight yards per carry, with quarterback Tyler Murphy leading the way by piling up 191 yards on just 13 carries.

He only threw for 54 yards, which makes you scratch your head even more. How could USC allow that to happen knowing the Eagles' passing attack was limited at best?

When it was USC's turn to score, the passing attack kicked it into high gear, while the ground game managed just 20 yards. That's a 432-yard difference, and when you have Javorius Allen lined up in the backfield, that's a disgraceful statistic.

It was that effort that should give you pause when considering USC as a possible Pac-12 champion, but we can end the doom and gloom right there. Since then, the only sour note has been poor defense on a Hail Mary from Arizona State that cost the Trojans a conference loss.

USC also boasts a road win in Tucson against a then-undefeated Arizona squad, and it did so with a punishing ground attack and athletic defense that limited the Wildcats' uptempo, spread-rushing formula.

Steve Sarkisian's team is the sleeper of the group because it disappeared from national consciousness following the loss to Boston College and has stayed there since the defeat to the Sun Devils.

But USC has the most talent of any team in the conference, and if Cody Kessler can keep hurting defenses following the punishing runs of Allen, the Trojans can hang with and beat anyone.


The Rest

Normally, this is the point in the piece where you have your long shots, but is that an accurate way to describe any of the one-loss teams left in the Pac-12?

We're talking about Utah, Arizona and Arizona State, and it's safe to say that no one would be shocked to see any of these teams wearing the crown come December.

No one has been perfect; hence the losses on their respective resumes. But Utah has solid wins at UCLA and Oregon State and plays host to Oregon in three weeks.

Arizona has the best win of anyone with its 31-24 victory in Autzen Stadium, and the best all-around performance may have been on Saturday when Arizona State effectively shut down Stanford in a 26-10 romp.

Then there are the blemishes on each team's record that leave room for doubt. Utah has the worst loss of the group after letting Washington State crawl back from a 21-point deficit to win, while Arizona State can only try to forget about the 62-27 beatdown it received at the hands of UCLA.

Arizona probably wins the argument of "best loss" considering it fell to USC after missing a potential game-winning field goal in the closing seconds. But a loss is a loss—who has the best one won't be a factor in the division race.

Both the Arizona schools have played USC, and the Wildcats have already traveled to Oregon. The Ducks will miss both Arizona State and the Trojans, but beyond that, everyone will still have to square off.

With as wild and wacky as the majority of Pac-12 games have been, there's no predicting how it will play out. The safe bet stays on the Ducks, who have the conference's best player along with a host of weapons on offense to mask a defense that has been up and down.

But USC is hitting its stride, and the rest of the one-loss teams all have what it takes to represent the Pac-12 as its champion during bowl season.

The fun part for all of us? Without a clear-cut front-runner, the next six weeks should be as exciting as any in recent memory. Buckle up.


All stats via

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Pac-12 Football: Which 1-Loss Team Has the Best Chance at Winning the League?

Before the 2014 college football season began, the Pac -12 took on the identity of a deep conference that was likely to cannibalize itself when league games commenced...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Maryland Terrapins vs. Wisconsin Badgers Complete Game Preview

After a bye week to rest and heal up, the Wisconsin Badgers (4-2, 1-1 Big Ten) meet the Maryland Terrapins (5-2, 2-1 Big Ten) in a cross-divisional matchup at Camp Randall Stadium on Saturday at noon ET.

Pitting one of the most consistent teams of the past decade-plus against a newcomer to the Big Ten in Maryland, this homecoming game is sure to be an interesting matchup between teams with highly contrasting styles.

Whereas the Badgers will look to set the tone with a physical run game, the Terrapins are stocked with arguably the best receiving corps in the conference and are not afraid to air the ball out as much as they can while largely ignoring the run game.

This game sets off a stretch of six games in a row to close the season, which see the Badgers travel to Rutgers and then Purdue in the following weeks.  The Badgers need to win all three of these games to keep them in the running for a trip to Indianapolis and the Big Ten Championship Game.

After those three games, the Badgers return home to face fellow West Division power Nebraska.  They then close their season with a trip to Kinnick Stadium to take on the Iowa Hawkeyes and end the year with a home game against the Minnesota Golden Gophers in the Battle for Paul Bunyan's Ax.

Maryland, meanwhile, is still in the thick of the East Division race, trailing just Michigan State and Ohio State and sitting one game off the pace.  Maryland is in the midst of its most difficult stretch, having just taken on Ohio State and Iowa before coming to Madison.  

After their game against the Badgers, the Terps travel to Happy Valley to play Penn State and then head home to face Michigan State.  If the Terps can snag two wins in these games, they'll ensure bowl eligibility before heading to Ann Arbor and then facing Rutgers in a season-closing clash between this year's Big Ten debutants.

Let's take a look at the keys to victory and players to watch for both teams as well as a prediction for this week's matchup.

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Michigan vs. Michigan State Is Most Important Game of Devin Gardner's Career

Devin Gardner wouldn’t take the bait.

As a matter of fact, he wasn’t even remotely close to falling into those cobwebs during Monday’s press conference at the Crisler Center, quickly shooting down and dismissing every reporter’s attempt at getting him to crack during rivalry week.

One writer asked Gardner if he had to clear any “mental hurdles” before Saturday’s meeting with No. 8-ranked Michigan State (6-1, 3-0), possibly suggesting that the Wolverines’ fifth-year senior quarterback was somehow traumatized by being “beaten up” during Michigan’s 29-6 loss to the Spartans in 2013.

“No,” fired a visibly annoyed Gardner.

And then came several seconds of awkward silence.

It was that kind of day for Gardner—whose Wolverines (3-4, 1-2) are 1-5 versus their in-state rivals since 2008 and have continuously struggled versus power-five opponents, winning just four times in the past 13 contests.

The writer wasn’t out of line for asking. It was a fair question. Gardner endured twice his normal share of punishment that dreadful day in East Lansing. Before Nov. 2, 2013, he was 9-3 as a starter and had been barely scraped.

Since then, he’s won four of his past 10 starts while simultaneously becoming the oppositions’ favorite moving target. In 2013, he was sacked 34 times, the third-most in FBS. This season, he’s been sacked 16 times and sits at No. 25. He could climb the ranks this weekend.

While downing the Spartans wouldn’t “save” the season (it can’t be “saved”), it’d certainly give Gardner a little confidence as he makes his way through the remainder of his career. It could even help him get over some of those "mental hurdles" that don’t exist.

But he insists that Saturday’s just another run-of-the-mill date with MSU, the defending Big Ten and Rose Bowl champion that's favored by more than two touchdowns, according to Odds Shark.

“It means a lot to me, but it means a lot to me every year, so….” Gardner quickly said. “You know, I’m just excited to get to the game (play).”

On top of being dinged for nearly half of a field via six sacks in 2013, Gardner completed just 14 of 27 passes for a lukewarm 210 yards—and zero touchdowns. He also threw a pick.

In other words, he didn't take care of business. 

Coach Brady Hoke was asked how he’d feel, theoretically of course, about not playing well in a rivalry game. While his response wasn’t a direct reference to Gardner, who wasn’t the only player to have a tough go, it's certainly a blanket statement that could apply to the quarterback.

“It would bother me if I played in the game, if you’re asking me, personally, and I didn’t do my job,” Hoke said. “It would bother the hell out of me.”

So, by connecting the dots, one could reach the conclusion that Gardner should be bothered by 2013’s failure in East Lansing. He’s a “competitor” who “wants to win every one (game).” Why wouldn’t he feel the need to prove something Oct. 25?

He's already been pummeled 31-0 by Notre Dame this season. He lost at home to Utah and fell on the road to Rutgers, a conference newcomer.  

Don't believe the spin. This year's game with the Spartans should mean everything to Gardner. It should be considered the biggest bout of his collegiate tenure...until the season finale versus Ohio State.

But let's save that for another day. 

Mistakes have plagued Gardner, who said that he's watched film from 2013 and taken mental notes. 

Perhaps better than anyone, he knows what went right and what went wrong. At times, Michigan benefited by his impromptu actions. In other cases, his indecision and frantic mode of operation cost the team dearly. 

Beginning with 10:31 to play and down 22-6, Gardner engineered a 12-play, 53-yard drive that landed Michigan on the Spartans' 15-yard line. There was hope, if even just a little, for Team 134.

Then he lost five yards after recovering his fumble. Then he threw an interception to Darqueze Dennard, who sat on it at the three...and then the game was over. 

And while that particular play didn't cost the Wolverines a win, looking back, it certainly serves as a constant reminder of Gardner's downside. One less pick here, one more touchdown there and Michigan walks away victorious.  

So, did he learn from that game? Has he made corrections to ensure that Oct. 25 won't be a repeat of Nov. 2? 

"Yes, I have," he said.

Anything specific? 

"I can't give you all our secrets, sorry," he said. 

On Saturday, Gardner has a chance to go out on a high note. He doesn't want to be the rare Wolverines quarterback with a losing record to the Spartans. He knows how important the eighth game of 2014 is to the program and the fans. 

Of course it's huge. Of course it's defining. 

Bottom line: It's the biggest game to date of his career. 

But he won't tell you that. 

“I want to win just as bad as I wanted to win every single game.” 


Follow Bleacher Report's Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81.

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

Does Gardner get it done? Can he lead Michigan to an upset? As always, feel free to express your opinion in the comments section. 

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Syracuse Orange vs. Clemson Tigers Complete Game Preview

After two straight weeks in which the defense had to save the day, the Clemson Tigers hope to be in a better position against Syracuse on Saturday when the fourth quarter rolls around.

Syracuse will enter Death Valley this weekend with a 1-2 record in the conference and a 3-4 mark overall.

The offense will attempt to get things rolling against a Syracuse defense that is No. 50 in the country in points allowed, only giving up 23.9 points per game. After facing two very good defenses in previous weeks, it will be interesting to see how well Clemson is able to move the ball in Cole Stoudt’s second consecutive start.

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Georgia Football: Position-by-Position Midseason Grades for Bulldogs

The Georgia Bulldogs are seven games into the 2013 season, and they are right where they want to be in terms of having a chance to play in the Georgia Dome in December.

It has not been an easy ride to say the least. After a dominating performance against Clemson, the Bulldogs fell short against South Carolina, eased past Troy, won a back-and-forth game against Tennessee and finished the month of October undefeated with wins over Vanderbilt, Missouri and Arkansas.

The schedule is not easier as the Bulldogs still have to face Florida, Kentucky and Auburn to end the SEC leg of their schedule. But even without their best player, Todd Gurley, the Bulldogs are improving and look to be the favorite to win the SEC East.

Here are position-by-position midseason grades for Georgia.

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Nebraska Football: Will the Cornhuskers Suffer an Upset Before Wisconsin?

Nebraska football fans were relieved to leave Evanston, Illinois, on Saturday with a 38-17 win over Northwestern and could be forgiven for sneaking a peek at Wisconsin. After all, the Badgers look to be Nebraska’s next big test, with home games against Rutgers and Purdue standing in the way.

But those games still need to be played, and the chance exists for either team to upset Nebraska. Could that happen? Here are three things to worry about.


The First Defensive Series

Other than against Fresno State and (remarkably) Michigan State, Nebraska has allowed each opponent this year to score on its opening possession. Nebraska has not lost any of the games in which it has conceded an opening-drive score, but that doesn’t lessen the fire with which NU is playing.

There are only a few ways teams with inferior talent can pull off an upset, particularly away from home. One is to get a lead early and play keep-away, hoping that the pressure of a potential upset on the favorite will lead to more mistakes.

Surrendering an opening-drive touchdown doesn’t necessarily lead to an upset. Nebraska gave up opening scores to Florida Atlantic and Illinois before blowing those teams off the field. But Nebraska also gave up an opening score to FCS opponent McNeese State, helping the Cowboys to stay confident and able to hang with NU until the very end of the contest.

If Nebraska wants to avoid an upset prior to Wisconsin, coming out of the gate strong defensively would be a significant first step in doing so.


The Sneaky-Good Opponents

Hear me out. Yes, Nebraska has Rutgers and Purdue prior to Wisconsin, teams that at the start of the season would have been assumed wins.

Rutgers showed at least some signs of life this year, putting up a 5-2 record, including a win on the road at Washington State. But the Scarlet Knights’ close loss to Penn State is looking less and less impressive as the Nittany Lions struggle. And Ohio State ran Rutgers off the field last week, beating the Knights 56-17 in Columbus.

Purdue came into the season looking to be the worst team in the Big Ten. And at 3-5, the Boilermakers look to be fitting right into that prediction.

But Purdue’s record can be a little misleading. The Boilermakers gave both Iowa and Michigan State a contest, losing to the Hawkeyes 24-10 in a game that was closer than the score indicated and 45-31 to the Spartans.

Rutgers’ 5-2 record already suggests that the Knights could be more of a challenge than thought of at the start of the season. And with a win over Michigan, Rutgers showed it could beat a team with significantly better talent (albeit one in the middle of a total collapse).


The History

In some ways, 2014 feels like a different season for Nebraska. A comfortable win over Northwestern and a resilient (if ultimately unsuccessful) comeback on the road against a top opponent may be evidence that Bo Pelini’s squad this year is ready to shake off the doldrums of a four-loss season.

But that four-loss ceiling hasn’t been broken yet. And Pelini’s teams still have a track record of head-scratching losses to inferior teams. Both Rutgers and Purdue have inferior talent to Nebraska, and both games are in Lincoln. On paper, Nebraska should be prohibitive favorites against both teams.

But Pelini’s teams have in the past shown a propensity or at least a vulnerability to lose games they should win. Falling victim to that propensity could lead to an upset and a real setback in Nebraska’s attempt to reclaim national relevance.


For a different look at Nebraska football, check out The Double Extra Point.

Or you can use the Twitter machine to follow @DblExtraPoint.

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