NCAA Football

Nebraska Football: Ranking the Top 5 Surprises for the Huskers This Year

Nebraska football fans had an idea of what to expect coming into the 2014 season, but they have received a few surprises along the way. As with any season, unexpected twists and turns have popped up, changing expectations from where they were in the summer.

Here are five of the biggest surprises Nebraska fans have seen as the 2014 season has unfolded.

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8 Best True Freshmen Contributing for College Football Playoff Contenders

The final month of the college football season is no time for neophytes. The season’s most important games are played with a year’s worth of work and preparation riding on every snap. There’s no room for error and no time for players who coaches don’t trust.

This is especially true for College Football Playoff contenders. Although the last two Heisman Trophies were won by redshirt freshmen (Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M and Jameis Winston of Florida State), true freshmen can be hard to find on the depth charts of elite programs.

If you’ve cracked the two-deep chart as a significant contributor on a playoff contender this time of year, there’s little doubt that you’re talented. Coaches like to say that there aren’t any freshmen this time of year, because players who are contributing have enough experience to shed that label.

That’s certainly the case for these true freshman contributors to College Football Playoff hopefuls. Playoff contenders were defined as teams with one loss or fewer and ranked in the top 10 of the latest College Football Playoff Top 25. These players were selected for their contributions to their teams and overall ability.

Unless otherwise noted, all stats were obtained from teams' individual websites.

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Nebraska Football: What Wisconsin Means for Ameer Abdullah's Heisman Chances

Nebraska and Wisconsin football fans have waited several weeks to see Ameer Abdullah and Melvin Gordon face off. When the Huskers head to Camp Randall for this week's round of college football games, that matchup will finally take place.

However, there's another story happening at the same time. For Abdullah, his Heisman chances will be greatly impacted by how he fares against Wisconsin. It may not be what fans are watching for, but it's still important.

Abdullah has had an impressive 2014 season so far. It's one that has landed him on Heisman watch lists week to week. It's one that also requires him to remain impressive for the last three weeks of Nebraska's regular season.

Against Wisconsin, is that possible? The odds may feel stacked against Abdullah. After all, an MCL sprain took him out of the Purdue game. He was left with one rushing yard on six attempts, which is easily the biggest outlier of Abdullah's season.

That means his performance against the Badgers needs to be strong. Wisconsin head coach Gary Andersen hopes Abdullah is well enough to put up a good fight.

"Given the class act he is," Andersen said, per the Chicago-Tribune. "I truly hope he is 100 percent."

During the 2014 season, Abdullah has four games where he surpassed the 200-rushing yard mark. Those were Florida Atlantic (232), Miami (229), Illinois (208) and Rutgers (225). He's only had three games with less than 100 yards, and those were McNeese State (54), Michigan State (45) and Purdue (1). At this point in the season, the senior has 1,250 yards and 17 touchdowns.

While impressive, that's not going to be enough to earn Abdullah an invite to New York City. An impressive win (or showing, even if the Huskers lose) would help his case significantly. That's easier said than done, though.

Wisconsin knows what it needs to do to beat Nebraska. Looking at the Huskers' sole loss, as well as the games where the team struggled, there is one common denominator: Abdullah. When his yards are limited, the Huskers struggle (like Michigan State and McNeese State). When he's given all the room to run, Nebraska's offense (and team as a whole) fare much better.

That means Wisconsin's defense is going to target Abdullah. They'll want to stop him and limit him. However, Abdullah and the Nebraska offense will have to find a way to ensure he gets the yards he needs. Abdullah is working hard to ensure that happens.

“I think he’s probably worked in the last week and a half as hard as I’ve seen him in a long time,” Nebraska offensive coordinator Tim Beck said, per “He’s very determined to do everything he can to be 100 percent for the game.”

Obviously the injury to Abdullah's knee will remain a concern. As Mitch Sherman of pointed out, "MCL injuries are tricky. To be clear, it’s a partial tear -- by definition, that’s a sprain -- so it could get worse if he moves the wrong way on that leg. "

That alone makes the Wisconsin game a big one for Abdullah. It's hard to tell how his knee will respond until he's actually playing on it. In practice, Beck felt Abdullah "looked good," per

When all eyes are on the matchup of Abdullah and Gordon, fans should take a moment to pay attention to Abdullah's bigger storyline. How he fares against Wisconsin could easily seal his fate one way or another as a Heisman candidate.

Abdullah has made a career at Nebraska by doing everything he can to lead Nebraska to victory. Against Wisconsin, he has a chance to do just that, while also booking his flight to New York City in December.

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JC Shurburtt's Top 5 Underrated Recruits in 2015 Class

The 2015 class is full of top recruits that can come into some major programs and have an immediate impact for their respective teams. 

Stephen Nelson talks with 247Sports National Recruiting Director JC Shurburtt about some under-the-radar recruits in the 2015 class.

Who can have the biggest impact for their team next season?

Watch the video and let us know!


Highlights courtesy of Hudl.

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Who Is the QB of the Future for the LSU Tigers?

LSU has been having trouble at the quarterback position throughout the 2014 season. Anthony Jennings and Brandon Harris have been splitting time for the Tigers, but they have both struggled.

Stephen Nelson talked with T-Bob Hebert, former LSU Tiger and host of the radio show Double Coverage, about the QB situation at the university.

Who should be the starting QB for the LSU Tigers?

Watch the video, and let us know!

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Andrew Zow: The Highs and Lows of Life as a Black QB at Alabama

At the onset of the season, there was a battle between Blake Sims and Jacob Coker to see just who would succeed AJ McCarron as Alabama’s starting quarterback. In a state where college football is a religion, this was heavily scrutinized tug of war.

While this played out, there was a not-so-subtle element of race bubbling beneath the surface. Sims is black, Coker’s white—there were questions if more than merit was at play. ‘Bama blogs and Facebook comment threads wondered aloud if race would be a factor.

Columnists suggested that SEC Network analyst Andre Ware favored Sims for the job primarily to champion a fellow black QB. In a region of the country with a complex history of race relations and at a school once on the wrong side of civil rights when Gov. George Wallace infamously stood in a doorway to block two black students from enrolling, it was no surprise that the quarterback battle would be framed this way.

Before Blake Sims this year, Andrew Zow was the last African-American quarterback to start at Alabama, playing from 1998 to 2002. Zow had an up-and-down career, playing through the turmoil of coach Mike DuBose’s final year and the uncertainty of Dennis Franchione’s two seasons as coach.

He was still able to guide Alabama to an SEC championship in 1999 and finished his career with 5,983 passing yards and 35 touchdowns. However, he was benched his senior season with some Alabama passing records within reach in favor of Tyler Watts.

Watts was white. People talked.

Today, Zow, 36, is married to his high school sweetheart and is the father of three sons and the head coach at Montevallo High School, about 30 miles outside of Birmingham. On a recent afternoon, Zow sat in his football office and reflected on his roller-coaster career at Alabama and what impact, if any, his race had on that experience.


Bleacher Report:Did your race matter at Alabama?

Andrew Zow: A lot of people want to make it racial a lot of time. I’m not going to say it’s not. Sometimes you may get the feeling that, "Hey, look this could be racially motivated." But with some of the things you put up with as quarterback, Bama fans could care less about your race. There’s the side of the fans who want their guy in there, regardless of what [racial] side you’re on. I put up with it.

There were times when I could have blown the top off it and said this is what it is. Sometimes I felt like that. But I had to think about the bigger picture for me and my family.

You run into some people who always had something to say, depending on whether you won or lost. We had a bad loss. I don’t know why, but I went to the mall. A guy stopped me and was trying to tell me how to play. I was pretty upset with him. As a quarterback, it’s hard to go anywhere. And that was when social media wasn’t that big. These guys now are like rock stars. 


B/R: Did the African-American community celebrate your accomplishments?

AZ: I was considered one of the most influential African-American athletes at the University of Alabama at the time. Back home in my community [Lake Butler, Fla.], I was more being celebrated as a kid playing quarterback in college than being a black quarterback at Alabama.

I don’t think they ever had anything specific where they held something for me. Within the black community, everyone was proud of me. You could sense the support, and they would say how many prayers they were sending up for me in being there and succeeding.

Sylvester Croom and his brother, Calvin Croom, they both played at Alabama. Calvin had a church in Tuscaloosa, the College Hill Baptist Church. The people at the church made a big deal of me playing quarterback. Calvin was one of those guys who celebrated and supported me. And Coach [Terry] Jones, the strength and conditioning coach at Alabama when I was there, he also went to the same church. He and his wife were very supportive of me. They had me come into the church and speak to the kids all the time.


B/R: What was it like being the QB at Alabama?

AZ: I came to Alabama not knowing what I was getting into. I was eight hours from home, and I didn’t know anybody here. I get here, and Bruce Arians, who’s now the coach for the Arizona Cardinals, is the offensive coordinator. I get into camp, receivers and upperclassmen love me because I have a live arm. Bruce Arians says, "You’re a quarterback."

There were rumors going around the locker room that they were going to move me to defensive back. I packed my bags that night to go back home the next day. I called my mom and, of course, she said pray about it and talked with her in the morning. I did, and I changed my mind.

I found out later the rumors were from another quarterback. He did it to get in my head. I was already on edge about it.

When Tyler Watts got there, there was more competition for me. I wasn’t a running quarterback. I wasn’t the stereotypical black quarterback. Supposedly the black kid can’t throw but can run, and the white kid can’t run but can throw. Those roles were reversed. Tyler ran a lot. It’s not that I couldn’t run. But in the SEC, if you can’t run faster than 4.5 [seconds in the 40-yard dash], you better be throwing the ball. And I had a strong arm.


B/R: Were you ever secure about your starting position?

AZ: I never liked splitting time at quarterback. They would switch me in and out [with Watts]. I remember going to Coach DuBose and saying, "I don’t want to share time anymore." He said we’re not. This was going into his last year, and he was having his issues off the field [a sexual harassment lawsuit].

We get out to UCLA at the start of the season, and we don’t know who the starter is. I was the starter coming out of the spring, but we don’t know who the starter is. I’m completely nervous because of it.

You know you’re going to get pulled at some time or another. But you don’t know when. As a coach now, I wouldn’t put that kind of pressure on a kid. You can’t play like that.

It’s the same thing with Blake Sims. You can’t play with the pressure of knowing that your coaches aren’t behind you. But in his case, I believe Coach [Nick] Saban and those guys are behind Blake. Regardless of what we think or the media thinks, I believe Coach Saban is behind him.

Going through that year was just hard. If the coaches aren’t on the same page, the kids aren't going to be on the same page. You’d see coaches arguing on the sidelines and coaches always at each other. It was a tough year.

Things didn’t get any better for me when Coach Franchione came in 2001. Our first conversation was him saying I couldn’t play for him if I turned the ball over. He was trying to get the point across on protecting the ball. But how can you play thinking if you make a mistake, you’re coming out? I had a rough third year, which is all on me. I take full blame.


B/R: Were there any specific decisions in which you wondered if race played a factor?

AZ: That third year, the only way I could play freely is if I knew I was going to play the whole game. I get into my senior year, and I come out of spring camp [the starter]. In fall camp, Tyler passes me up. How he did it, I don’t know.

Was it political? Part of me says yes, and part of me says he just beat me out. The competitive side of me says I did what I needed to do to get the job. We start that season 3-5. My senior year was starting like my junior year ended when we went 3-8.

We go into the Mississippi State game, and I look up at the sky, and I get this feeling that I’m going to play. Not wishing anything bad to happen to Tyler, but he gets hurt and I get in the game. I drive us down the field, and we win the game. I’m the Player of the Game.

Tyler is hurt pretty bad, and no one knows when he’s coming back. Even though I’m taking most of the reps in practice, practicing like the starter, they still don’t name me the starter. We played Auburn, and we beat them 31-7, and we had an unbelievable game. I’m Player of the Game.

We played Southern Miss the following Thursday night—to make up for the game we missed on 9/11. It was raining like crazy. We win, and I’m the Player of the Game again.

We go from 3-5 to 6-5. We make a bowl game, the Independence Bowl. It’s still up in the air going into the bowl game as to whether I’m going to be the starter. I’m thinking to myself, "So be it. The Lord has blessed me to have these last three games."


B/R: Looking back, do you have any clearer view about the reasons behind a few of those decisions?

AZ: There were some strange things that happened during my senior year. The four games I played, I was Player of the Game. I was also close to breaking some [team passing] records. In the UCLA game, Tyler goes down with cramps, I come in, and I’m 3-for-3, 95 yards with a touchdown. I get pulled because they said I had a concussion.

In the Mississippi State game, I drive us down to the goal line, and the third-string quarterback comes in the game, taps me on the shoulder and says, "Drew, I got you." I was like, "What?" I remember running to the sidelines, and I’m hot. Antonio Carter, who played wide receiver for us, said, "Drew, you haven’t said anything all year. Just keep it cool."

I was cool. Jonathan Richey was the third-string quarterback. He runs on the first play. On the second play, he fumbles, and Mississippi State gets the ball. We lose. No one ever explained why the third-string quarterback comes in the game.


B/R: What kind of relationship do you have with Blake Sims?

AZ: Going into AJ McCarron’s senior year, I spoke with Blake Sims the spring before last on the sidelines. I just told him to be ready. I’ve sent messages to guys who are down there for him. But he hasn’t reached out to me. You want the kid to succeed. This year is going to be tough.

The stuff on the field is hard enough. But the expectations are unbelievable. There are people out there that expect you to win a national championship and a Heisman.

I probably could have gone further in my career as a defensive guy, but I wanted to play quarterback. I wouldn’t trade it for the world because of what I experienced at quarterback at the University of Alabama—the good and bad. It takes a lot to play quarterback there.


B/R: How would you describe your relationship with the Alabama football program today?

AZ: My relationship with Alabama is good. Tuscaloosa is about an hour from here. I go down for A-Day. We have the Alabama connection [with former players]. I try to get involved if I can. My kids [three sons] and I try to go down for a bowl practice.

Coach Saban has been good to me. He’s very good with former players. He wants guys to be there for the other guys. If I was living in Tuscaloosa, I’d be going back there all the time. You talk about what he’s built there, it’s great. He’s very open.

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Bowl Predictions 2014: Projections for Playoffs and Selection Committee Games

The 2014 college football season is only 11 weeks old, and, while that is a small sample size, it is enough to let us know that the four-team playoff waiting at the end has not devalued the regular season.

Every week brings more thrilling excitement, nail-biting finishes and debates over schedule strength, postseason worthiness and the subjectivity of the rankings. The more things change in college football, the more they stay the same.

Another thing the playoffs will not completely devalue is bowl season. While every team wants to make the four-team postseason, there are four selection committee bowl games that will pit some of the nation’s best squads against each other on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.

Think of them like the old BCS games. Sure, Florida State and Auburn were the two playing in last season’s national championship, but Michigan State’s win over Stanford in the Rose Bowl and Clemson’s win over Ohio State in the Orange Bowl were still very important for the respective programs.

With that in mind, here is a look at the updated playoff projections and selection committee games heading into a critical Week 12.


Under-the-Radar Week 12 Game to Watch: Arizona State at Oregon State

The showdown between Mississippi State and Alabama is the marquee game on the Week 12 schedule, and Ohio State’s test against Minnesota, Florida State’s trip to Miami and Auburn’s game against Georgia also jump off the page.

However, the late-night Pac-12 date between Arizona State and Oregon State is one college football fans should keep an eye on because it has significant playoff implications.

The No. 6-ranked Sun Devils finally captured the nation’s attention in Week 11 when they easily handled Notre Dame, but now they have to go on the road and avoid a trap game against an Oregon State team that loves to air it out. If Arizona State is still reveling in its win over Notre Dame or looking ahead to a future clash with Arizona and potential conference championship game with Oregon, the Beavers could pull an upset.

At least coach Todd Graham seems focused on the task at hand, according to STATS LLC, via

It definitely has to be right there at the top (of our wins). But our top priority and goal is to win the Pac-12 championship, the Rose Bowl, and then obviously the national championship and we haven't accomplished those goals yet and we have to move on in the locker room and get ready for Oregon State.

Interestingly, Arizona State has lost four consecutive times at Oregon State and has not won in Corvallis since 2005. However, there is plenty of reason for optimism this time around because of the Sun Devils’ offense against what Oregon State calls a defense.

The Beavers allowed 40.7 points per game the last three times they took the field and saw the opposition run for 673 yards during that stretch.

Arizona State’s balanced attack is 26th in passing yards per game and 44th in rushing yards per game with Taylor Kelly slinging it around and D.J. Foster finding holes behind an impressive offensive line. There is little doubt that the Sun Devils will score early and often against the Beavers, much like they did against Notre Dame.

While we know Arizona State will score, the interesting development to watch will be if Oregon State’s offense can keep up.

Quarterback Sean Mannion boasts the all-time Pac-12 record for career passing yards and has thrown for 739 yards the past two games. What’s more, he has been lethal against the blitz in his career, as Ted Miller of ESPN noted:

However, Mannion has also thrown six interceptions this season, and the Sun Devils feasted off turnovers against Notre Dame, per ESPN Stats & Info:

Arizona State will not have to respect the run (Oregon State is 115th in the nation in rushing yards per game), so it will be up to the secondary if the Sun Devils want to stay in the College Football Playoff hunt. Fortunately for the Sun Devils, they are second in the Pac-12 against the pass at 231.2 yards per game.

Oregon State will find a way to score some points with a dynamic quarterback like Mannion, but it won’t be nearly enough to counter the offensive onslaught we will see from the Sun Devils against the Beavers defense.

This one will be over by the middle of the third quarter. 

Prediction: Arizona State 44, Oregon State 27


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ESPN College Gameday 2014: Week 12 Schedule, Location, Predictions and More

The SEC is widely heralded as the strongest conference in college football, and Week 12 of the 2014 season brings us a clash between juggernauts Alabama and Mississippi State. Before these teams take the gridiron in Tuscaloosa, the cast of ESPN's College GameDay will be in attendance and ready to fire up the nation:

Will the No. 1 Bulldogs reign supreme, or will the No. 5 Crimson Tide shake up the College Football Playoff picture in a matchup that features extraordinary postseason implications? Be sure to tune in before Kirk Herbstreit, Lee Corso and the rest of the crew dish out their predictions for the day.


ESPN College GameDay Viewing Information

When: Saturday, November 15

Where: Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Alabama

Time: 9 a.m. - 12 p.m. ET

Channel: ESPN

Live Stream: WatchESPN 


Preview and Prediction

This matchup features a battle of strengths, as a potent Mississippi State offense runs into a sturdy Alabama defense. We all know the age-old adage about a stalemate that occurs between an irresistible force and an immovable object. That will be the theme of Saturday's game.

Mississippi State is already getting hyped for its intense road contest:

The Crimson Tide aren't slouches on the offensive side of the ball; they simply happen to be more prolific on defense. Quarterback Blake Sims has produced some enormous games, but the team's second-ranked scoring defense was the reason for wins against teams like Arkansas, Tennessee and LSU.

The Bulldogs are just the opposite. The team is only allowing 19.7 points against; however, the offense has simply been more consistent this season, putting up at least 34 points in eight of its nine contests. Dual-threat quarterback Dak Prescott has been the catalyst for Mississippi State's 12th-ranked scoring offense.

Here's a look at the tale of the tape between these two squads, giving us a better idea of which team may have the upper hand:

As you can see, the offensive side of the ball hasn't been extremely contrasting between these teams. After all, the Bulldogs are only averaging just about 35 yards more per game. However, scoring is where the difference lies, as Mississippi State is translating that yardage into 5.1 points more per contest than its impending opponents.

Defensively, Alabama has a large advantage. While the Bulldogs are ranked 16th in the nation in points against, they have been tested by ranked teams, giving up at least 23 points to LSU, Texas A&M and Auburn. On the flip side, the Crimson Tide held LSU to 13 points and Texas A&M to zero.

Last season, Mississippi State's Prescott missed his team's 20-7 loss to Alabama. The Bulldogs were absolutely manhandled in that contest, and the quarterback spoke about his feelings regarding that game during an interview with Drew Champlin of

Said Prescott, "I wanted to play so badly (last season). They were ranked No. 1 and that was tough being out for that game. Of course I wanted to get out there. Now being able to go to Tuscaloosa and the starter and healthy, I'm very excited." 

This time around, Mississippi State happens to be ranked No. 1 in the nation. However, Alabama is riding an impressive four-game winning streak and hasn't allowed more than 20 points to an opponent in that span. Needless to say, Prescott will have his work cut out for him if he wants to buck this trend:

Expect to see another low-scoring game between these two teams. Prescott may struggle out of the gate against the best defense he's seen all year. Alabama may have trouble moving the ball early as well if a similar game plan to the team's Week 11 showing against LSU that featured a heavy passing game is utilized.

Yards will be tough to come by, and the battle for field position will be extremely important in this decisive game. In this kind of contest, it's better to have a defense that can force mistakes from its opponent. Alabama gets the win, and the College Football Playoff picture will become very interesting.

Prediction: Alabama 27, Mississippi State 24

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College Football Picks Week 12: Odds and Spread Predictions for Top 25 Teams

The top teams in the land are not out of the woods just yet.

With the meat of conference play still underway, the best of the best continue to mow over one another in an effort to reach the inaugural College Football Playoff. For now, the CFP committee sees a clear trio of teams worthy of the honor, with the No. 4 TCU Horned Frogs the final surprise entrant.

Of course, that will all go up in flames in a matter of days when another chaotic week unfolds. The matchups are numerous, entertaining and ripe for savvy financial investment.


Week 12 Top 25 Point Spreads and Predictions

Note: All odds, updated as of 3 p.m. ET on Nov. 13, are courtesy of Odds Shark. College Football Playoff Rankings via


Upset Pick of the Week: Arkansas over No. 17 LSU

Perhaps it is too popular a notion that the LSU Tigers are set to take a dive on the road at the hands of the Arkansas Razorbacks. 

After all, Las Vegas gives Bret Bielema's team the nod. So, apparently, does one Kirk Herbstreit:

Popular or not, the notion makes sense, especially when one sprinkles in a little bit of history provided by SEC Network:

LSU is coming off a tough loss at the hands of Alabama. The vaunted Tigers defense, which still ranks fifth in the nation, allowed a field goal with three seconds left in regulation and then proceeded to allow the game-winning touchdown in overtime.

"This football team is made up of quality people and guys with character," LSU coach Les Miles said, per The Associated Press, via "They will be fighters. We will try to improve as a team like always. We want to play ourselves into a (bowl) game of significance. That very next game of significance will be Arkansas in its stadium."

The situation is certainly not as dire for the Razorbacks. Bielema and Co. enter Saturday's contest off a bye week. Before that, they took No. 1 Mississippi State down to the wire on the road.

Arkansas touts the No. 17 rushing offense in the nation thanks to 248.2 yards per game on the ground. The attack is led by Jonathan Williams (877 yards, 10 touchdowns), Alex Collins (840, 10) and a host of others.

The problem for the Tigers is not only the rushing attack but also the fact that if they fall behind on the road, the offense will need to lean on quarterback Anthony Jennings, who has been anything but reliable while completing just 47.1 percent of his passes with nine touchdowns and six interceptions.

Quarterback issues, a recent crushing loss and a road affair spell doom for the Tigers. 

Prediction: Razorbacks 24, Tigers 20 


Lock of the Week: No. 4 TCU over Kansas

Hats off to TCU, as the program was able to get a cupcake Big 12 showdown lined up right after a brutal stretch.

The Horned Frogs took down West Virginia two weekends ago and then thumped Kansas State 41-20 last week. Right now, it appears as if Gary Patterson's team is on its way to a conference title.

All that stands in TCU's way this week is Kansas.

The Jayhawks are 3-6 this season, with their trio of wins coming against Southeast Missouri State (4-6, OVC), Central Michigan (6-4, MAC) and Iowa State (2-7, Big 12). Clint Bowen's team ranks 121st nationally in scoring at 18.2 points per game and 90th defensively with 30.0 points allowed per game on average.

It sounds bad, but understand that this will not necessarily be a walk in the park for TCU. This Jayhawks team gave the Horned Frogs some serious issues last year before eventually losing by 10.

The Jayhawks, led by quarterback Michael Cummings (1,160 yards, five touchdowns, two interceptions), have been able to hang tough against a number of quality opponents this season, as noted by a 27-20 loss to Oklahoma State in mid-October.

Still, one has to think the Horned Frogs will be gunning to make a statement in order to impress those in charge of the CFP. Baylor is hot on their heels and owns the head-to-head result this season. 

As a result, expect Trevone Boykin (2,691 passing yards, 23 touchdowns, four interceptions, 546 rushing yards, seven touchdowns) and the Horned Frogs to come out firing on all cylinders and never let their foot off the pedal.

Prediction: Horned Frogs 45, Jayhawks 17


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