NCAA Football

Michigan Football: Will Wolverines Make a Bowl Game This Year?

The Michigan Wolverines gave their fans a glimmer of hope when they defeated the Penn State Nittany Lions 18-13 under the lights at Michigan Stadium.

At 3-4 (1-2 Big Ten), Brady Hoke's goal of winning the conference title is about as likely as Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio and former Wolverine Mike Hart becoming best friends. Hoke must now set his sights on a lesser but more critical personal goal: saving his job.

Hoke's best shot at returning for another season depends on his team becoming bowl-eligible by winning three of its five remaining games.

Only one national pundit currently predicts that the team will do so. Mark Schlabach of has Michigan heading to Dallas to play in the Heart of Dallas Bowl (Big Ten vs. C-USA) versus Louisiana Tech. 

In Hoke’s first season, Michigan made a BCS bowl, but the team is now scrambling to make a third-tier bowl. If Michigan fans were upset with last year’s Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, wait until they get a load of this year’s options.

The Wolverines will need to sweep their home games (Indiana and Maryland) and win at least one of their three remaining road contests (Michigan State, Northwestern and Ohio State) to go bowling.

The game versus Indiana (3-3) became more winnable with news that injuries had elevated Indiana's third-string quarterback to the starting role:

In most seasons, Michigan could count on beating Maryland (4-1), but after losing to Rutgers and Utah, it can’t take any team for granted.

Hoke’s record away from Michigan Stadium is dismal (7-13), and it’s not much better versus key rivals Michigan State and Ohio State (2-4). Add that Hoke has never beaten the Buckeyes or the Spartans on the road, and the team’s margin of error is razor-thin.

Michigan barely beat Northwestern (3-3) last season and plays the Wildcats for the second consecutive season on the road.

There is another path for Hoke to guarantee his return. If Michigan could win out—finishing 8-4, including wins over rivals Michigan State and Ohio State—the team’s early-season collapse could be forgiven.

But Ty Duffy of The Big Lead shares the view of many who think Hoke is toast:

Brady Hoke [Michigan] Michigan won ugly against Penn State Saturday Night. The players are still fighting. It may not matter. The Rutgers loss all but sealed Hoke’s fate. Instead of 4-3, the Wolverines are 3-4. They must beat both Michigan State and Ohio State on the road, as well as everyone else, to get to eight wins. A reprieve could come at 7-5 with a narrow loss at MSU and a win over Ohio State. But that would be pushing it.

If Michigan fails to make a bowl game, Hoke’s seat will be so hot it’s unlikely he’ll survive. There's a small possibility Michigan could catch fire, but after seven games, it's more likely Michigan will spend bowl season at home waiting for a new coach to be named.


Phil Callihan is a featured writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotations obtained firsthand

Follow @PSCallihan.


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Watch South Carolina's 4-Star 2016 RB Target Predict Rest of Gamecocks' Season

CJ Freeman—a 4-star running back from North Carolina, according to the 247Sports composite rankings—has some strong thoughts about how the South Carolina Gamecocks will fare this year.

Watch him predict the rest of the Gamecocks' season.

Do you agree with his predictions?

Watch the video and let us know!

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Why Missouri Is the Biggest Game of Will Muschamp's Florida Career

Florida State, Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama.

These are all of the games on Florida's schedule that, back in August, were widely assumed held the keys to the Gators' 2014 season and, in turn, head coach Will Muschamp's career.

Instead, it's Missouri that is driving the bus.

The Gators will host the Tigers on Saturday in what—by far—is the biggest game of Muschamp's head coaching career.

With two losses already in the books and the Seminoles, Bulldogs and Gamecocks already on the schedule, there's absolutely no margin for error for Muschamp anymore. His crew will likely be underdogs in at least two of those games and, depending on how the quarterback situation shakes out with redshirt junior Jeff Driskel and true freshman Treon Harris, probably more.

If Muschamp is going to stay employed beyond 2014, he has to not only beat the Tigers, but manage his quarterbacks properly.

"We're going to see who has the hot hand," Muschamp said on Wednesday. "And see who's helping move our football team and gives us the best opportunity to win. We'll make that decision as we go through the game. Both guys deserve, and have earned the opportunity, to play."

Whoever steps up at quarterback will have a revitalized defense helping him out.

The Gators are giving up just 269 yards per game over the last two games—a win over Tennessee and a loss to LSU. That's a stark change from September, when the Gators gave up 450 yards in a triple-overtime win over Kentucky and 672 in a blowout loss at Alabama.

It's a recipe for some success, as's Thomas Goldkamp notes:

How much depends on the quarterback being smart with the football, which has been more myth than reality in Gainesville this season?

That better change this week, because if they fall to a Missouri team that's struggling offensively under quarterback Maty Mauk, the outlook for the rest of the season will look incredibly bleak.

An 8-3 record likely will keep Muschamp employed, but 7-4 might get him fired—depending on which four teams those losses come against. A blowout to Alabama and a home loss to a mediocre LSU team hasn't helped matters, and another to a sputtering Missouri team would all but seal Muschamp's fate.

To borrow a line from Jonathon Moxon on Varsity Blues, it's "the next 60 minutes, for the next year of his life."


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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The Most Unstoppable Play in College Football

The college football world has been taken hostage by one play. The screen and go is becoming not only one of the most utilized plays but possibly its most dangerous.

Michael Felder breaks down just what makes this play so dynamic.

Is this the best play in college football?

Watch the video and let us know!

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Georgia Football: What the Bulldogs Must Do to Slow the Arkansas Ground Attack

The Georgia Bulldogs offense has been excellent at running the ball, averaging 275 yards per game, which is second in the SEC. The one team that is doing better when running the ball than the Bulldogs is the team they will play on Saturday.

The Arkansas Razorbacks are averaging 278 yards per game. Like the Bulldogs, they have three quality backs that can produce at any given time. Alex Collins, Jonathan Williams and Korliss Marshall make up the three-headed monster for the Razorbacks and all three average at least 4.8 yards per carry.

How do the Bulldogs slow down or even stop the Arkansas ground attack?

One thing to note about the Bulldogs defense is they are the No. 2 rushing defense in the SEC, averaging 101 yards per contest. They only allowed one 100-yard rusher this year, and that was Jalen Hurd of Tennessee.

However, Arkansas is a team that relies heavily on the run, which is why this will be a difficult challenge for the Bulldogs. The front seven needs to generate pressure, which this team has been solid at this season.

It's not just sacks, but tackles for loss also play a factor in generating pressure. The Bulldogs' two outside linebackers, Leonard Floyd and Jordan Jenkins, are good at making plays in the backfield. Both players have a combined six tackles for loss. Those two will be X-factors in making plays off the edge because Collins and Marshall are guys that can make plays outside the tackles.

As for Williams, he’s a power runner that is hard to bring down. He will be used when the Razorbacks want to run between the tackles.

This is where Amarlo Herrera and Ramik Wilson come in.

The top tacklers on the team, Herrera has 47 and Wilson has 41. Both rarely miss tackles and both are leaders on defense. They will need to do the same thing they have been doing all season, and that’s flying to the football and making sure their teammates knows their assignments at all times.

If Wilson and Herrera struggle in terms of making the right calls and making tackles, the Razorbacks will have no issues running the ball against the Bulldogs.

The defensive linemen also need to do their part and beat an offensive line that only has one senior.

The rotation includes Ray Drew, Mike Thornton, Toby Johnson, Sterling Bailey and Josh Dawson. The two players to watch are Johnson and Dawson, as both have combined for 2.5 sacks and seven tackles for loss.

The defensive line rotation will need to make sure they eat up space for the linebackers, stopping Collins, Marshall and Williams from getting to the second level.

Again, this will be the most difficult rushing offense the Bulldogs have faced this season.

Despite being fundamentally sound in run defense, the Razorbacks know what they are on offense and will pound the ball all game long. It’s vital for the Bulldogs to not let the Razorbacks run wild because they can’t afford to let them get going, especially in the early stages of the game

The Bulldogs made a statement when they shut out Missouri last week. They need to make another statement when they travel to Little Rock on Saturday.


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Georgia vs. Arkansas: TV Info, Spread, Injury Updates, Game Time and More

Traditional, impose-the-will ground games take center stage in Saturday's colossal SEC showdown between the No. 10 Georgia Bulldogs and Arkansas Razorbacks.

Try not to dwell on the fact Arkansas is unranked—or the past. This is a new Razorbacks program forged in the fire that is Bret Bielema's recruiting trails and philosophies, which resulted in near upsets of two Top 10 SEC teams in each of the past two weeks.

Georgia is no slouch and easily the best team in the SEC East, but Mark Richt may once again need to lean on backups at running back to get the job done in the manner he prefers. Recent wins have been of the dominant variety, but the credibility of the opposition is certainly worth questioning.

Expect a grisly affair and a welcome break from the spread-it-out passing attacks when these two meet.


Brute Force Measures

Georgia lost Heisman front-runner Todd Gurley to suspension before last week's critical SEC East encounter with Missouri.

As's Edward Aschoff reports, Richt is not sure if he will have Gurley back for Saturday, and the same applies to other talented backs Keith Marshall and Sony Michel.

"I just don't have any answer for that," Richt said, per Aschoff. "I don't know. If there's something worthy of reporting, we'll report it. Other than that, we're focusing on things that we can control."

It sounds crazy, but it is still difficult to panic, at least at face value.

The Bulldogs have by far the deepest backfield in the nation. Against the Tigers, Richt and his staff turned to freshman Nick Chubb, who bruised his way to 143 yards and a score on 38 totes to keep his team ranked 12th in the nation at an average of 275.7 rushing yards per game.

Wildly enough, it still pales in comparison to what the Razorbacks are able to do, as Bielema's team is the only roster in the nation that touts two backs with more than 500 rushing yards apiece:

The team totals against top-tier competition are staggering. Against Auburn, the Razorbacks ran wild for 153 yards and a score on a 5.3 average. The totals were 285 and three on 6.1 against Texas A&M. A total of 89 yards and a score on a 2.3 average against Alabama is hard to complain about, too, given the numbers are diluted thanks to scrambles from quarterback Brandon Allen.

It is worth noting, as Radi Nabulsi of does, that the Bulldogs do well against the run:

This is a different kind of test for Georgia, though, and if the defense does not come prepared for war, Richt's team might get steamrolled.


Don't Forget the Defense

What gets lost in the hype of Arkansas' stout rushing attack is a defense that does not surrender a ton of points against the heavyweights, or at least is able to keep the game relatively close as of late.

The exception is the 45 points allowed in Auburn to start the season. Since then, the Razorbacks defense has been a problem for each team that has stepped on the field with it.

In a 35-28 overtime loss to then-ranked No. 6 Texas A&M, the Razorbacks held the potent Aggies offense to a 4-of-13 mark on third downs and forced Kenny Hill to go 21-of-41, although it did total 386 yards and four touchdowns to one interception.

A week later then-ranked No. 7 Alabama came to town. The Arkansas defense once again stood strong and forced a 4-of-15 mark on third downs, held quarterback Blake Sims to just 161 yards and two scores and stuffed the Crimson Tide rushing attack for just 66 yards on a 2.1 average.

Derek Ruscin of ESPN 96.3 put it best:

Clearly, Arkansas is wildly under the radar as a team that is well-rounded. This is a major concern for a Bulldogs team using backups at a major area of strength, so another outburst from Chubb is not a guarantee.


When: Saturday, Oct. 18, 4 p.m. ET

Where: War Memorial Stadium (AR), Little Rock, Arkansas

Television: SEC Network

Betting Lines (via Odds Shark):

  • Over/Under: 58.5
  • Spread: Georgia (-4)


Team Injury Reports

Injury reports per Sports Network, via USA Today.



This has trap game written all over it.

Arkansas is a very good team that can play with any in the nation thanks to a ball-control offense and a sound defense that recently has stepped it up a notch.

The problem for Georgia is that if Chubb gets stuffed, the offense needs to turn to Hutson Mason for offensive production. Mason is no Hill or even Sims at this point, having just 843 yards and eight touchdowns to three interceptions on the year.

Saturday, expect Arkansas to trot out at home and impose its will for the program's first SEC victory in its last 16 tries.

Prediction: Razorbacks 27, Bulldogs 24


Statistics and info courtesy of ESPN unless otherwise specified.


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Tennessee vs. Ole Miss: TV Info, Spread, Injury Updates, Game Time and More

Normally an encounter between a top-three team and a .500 opponent is one to ignore, but that is hardly the case in the SEC this weekend when the Tennessee Volunteers hit the road for a date with the No. 3 Ole Miss Rebels.

Tennessee is still stuck in rebuild mode under the guidance of Butch Jones, but the team has helped to produce a couple of nail-biters against better opponents this season in close losses to then-ranked No. 12 Georgia and Florida.

Ole Miss is a darling of the nation at the moment, along with No. 1 Mississippi State. Hugh Freeze's Rebels are 6-0 and have taken down Alabama and Texas A&M over the course of the past two weeks.

So, what a late Saturday kickoff has for fans is a matchup between a heavyweight and a scrappy underdog with immense College Football Playoff implications on the line.


Stay the Course

This is about not getting complacent and sticking to what works for the Rebels. 

A 23-17 win over then-ranked No. 3 Alabama confirmed what most knew—the Rebels can be a great team if quarterback Bo Wallace is on top of his game. The defense, which ranks second only to Stanford overall, allows just 11.8 points per game on average.

Those thoughts were reaffirmed one week later in College Station with a 35-20 manhandling of then-ranked No. 14 Texas A&M.

Freeze is certainly not allowing his team to become complacent against Tennessee, a program that he says parallels the path traveled by the Rebels recently, as captured by Patrick Brown of the Times Free Press:

In all likelihood, the defense will continue to play at a high level. The pressure, then, falls on the shoulders of Wallace to hold up his end of the bargain.

Wallace is one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in the nation when he is on point. Against the Crimson Tide, he threw for 251 yards and three scores with 32 more yards on the ground. He found 178 passing yards and 50 more on the ground to go with three total touchdowns against the Aggies.

When Wallace struggles, though, he tosses three interceptions against Boise State or two more against Memphis while rushing for negative yardage. His off days have yet to hurt the team, but in the face of a credible opponent, they most certainly will.

Tennessee qualifies as a credible opponent.


The Predictable Approach...

It's the only path Tennessee can travel come Saturday.

The offensive line in front of quarterback Justin Worley is downright miserable. While the senior has completed 63.3 percent of his passes for 1,388 yards and 12 touchdowns to five interceptions, his line has allowed 23 sacks to date, which ranks among the 10 worst totals in the nation.

In other words, Ole Miss does not have to worry much about the running game or long-developing pass plays. This is an offensive line that allowed five sacks to UT-Chattanooga last week, an FCS team.

The only applicable thing Jones can draw up, then, is quick-hitting plays to a set of talented wideouts that can certainly do damage with the ball in their hands:

Considering the team as a whole averages just 3.0 yards per carry, the passing game will need to come through Saturday for the Volunteers. The only problem is, the nation's second-best defense is well-aware.


When: Saturday, October 18, 7 p.m. ET

Where: Vaught-Hemingway Stadium at Hollingsworth Field, Oxford, Mississippi

Television: ESPN

Betting Lines (via Odds Shark):

  • Over/Under: 46.5
  • Spread: Ole Miss (-16)


Team Injury Reports

Injury reports per The Sports Network, via USA Today.



Eventually, Tennessee is going to explode for a major win it is not supposed to have.

It just will not be against Ole Miss.

The Tennessee wideouts will give Ole Miss some problems, but a one-dimensional attack behind a patchwork offensive line is only going to do so much damage against an elite defense.

Wallace has been unstoppable to date, which may be impacted by a top-20 defense. But Saturday at home, the Rebels are the safe bet, even if it means riding the defense to avoid an epic letdown.

Prediction: Rebels 21, Volunteers 13


Statistics and info courtesy of ESPN unless otherwise specified.

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Stanford vs. ASU: TV Info, Spread, Injury Updates, Game Time and More

Something has to give when the No. 23 Stanford Cardinal meet the No. 17 Arizona State Sun Devils in Saturday's Pac-12 showdown, a third encounter between the schools in the past two seasons.

The Cardinal escaped with a pair of wins over the Sun Devils last season, once in the regular season and once in the conference title game. This year, though, both teams have suffered major hiccups so far and tout opposing strengths.

David Shaw's Cardinal are once again a force on the defensive side of the football, but the team has failed to slam the door on credible competition such as USC and Notre Dame. Todd Graham's offense continues to churn no matter who resides under center, but the team was laughed out of the building against UCLA a few weeks back.

When these two meet in Tempe Saturday, expect fireworks. Or not. That is what makes encounters between these programs with different approaches so much fun.


A Tale of Two Quarterbacks

One year removed from throwing for 3,635 yards and 28 touchdowns to 12 interceptions, Arizona State senior quarterback Taylor Kelly has attempted just 68 passes this year, although six of them have gone for touchdowns.

Kelly is still a question mark after a bye week thanks to a foot injury, but the nation's No. 14 scoring offense at 41.2 points per game on average has hardly skipped a beat thanks to Mike Bercovici, who has a pair of quality outings under his belt:

That UCLA game was an inexplicable 62-27 loss and the encounter with USC only resulted in a win thanks to a fluky Hail Mary, so it makes sense to reason that Graham would prefer to have his senior under center Saturday.

But according to Craig Grialou of, it seems both are set to get some playing time:

This makes sense based on comments by Graham in the week leading up to the game, per The Associated Press, via

Taylor has years' experience in winning games and to move the down markers in very different ways, whether it be with his legs, the run game, making good decisions. I think Berc's just a great extension of him, obviously brings a lot to it from the standpoint of the rhythm passing game. They complement each other very well.

Both will need to be in superb form regardless, as Stanford brings with it the No. 1 defense in nation, which allows just 10.0 points per game. 


Letdown Potential and Will Power

Stanford already has two soul-crushing defeats against ranked opposition this season, both which came by just three points each.

A loss to then-ranked No. 14 USC at the start of September was strange in that the stout Cardinal defense allowed 156 total rushing yards on a 4.2 average. The beginning of October was more strange thanks to a loss to then-ranked No. 9 Notre Dame, a team that managed 129 yards and a 4.0 average, not to mention a fourth-down touchdown to win the game.

The problem is, things are in no way easier for the Cardinal the rest of the way. Three of the team's five remaining games after Saturday are on the road, with those three coming against No. 9 Oregon, California and UCLA. Go ahead and throw in No. 20 Utah for good measure, too.

As if all of this is not enough, the AP writeup notes that Stanford will likely be without No. 2 wideout Devon Cajuste, too, placing even more pressure on an ineffective offense that ranks No. 89 with 26.3 points scored per game to produce against an elite defense.

In short, Stanford's season will be defined Saturday. If the defense can do all of the heavy lifting, the team may be able to win. If not, well, we have seen the end result twice already.


When: Saturday, October 18, 10:30 p.m. ET

Where: Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe, Arizona

Television: ESPN

Betting Lines (via Odds Shark):

  • Over/Under: 54.5
  • Spread: Stanford (-3)


Team Injury Reports


Injury reports per Sports Network, via USA Today.



While Stanford has looked shaky in big games this season, it seems to have the formula down pat in regards to upending a fully loaded Sun Devils offense. 

This year is different in that the Sun Devils may trot out two quarterbacks, too, although in general quarterback rotations merely disrupt a signal-caller's rhythm and subsequently hurt offenses as a whole.

The Cardinal are on the road, but the offense should be able to actually move the ball somewhat well for once against the 92nd-ranked defense. We know the Stanford defense is going to play at a high level, but it gets some serious help from a messy quarterback situation.

Living on the edge is going to bite the Sun Devils yet again.

Prediction: Cardinal 20, Sun Devils 17


Statistics and info courtesy of ESPN unless otherwise specified.


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Kansas State vs. Oklahoma: TV Info, Spread, Injury Updates, Game Time and More

Another piece of the Big 12 riddle gets a solution Saturday when the No. 14 Kansas State Wildcats encounter the No. 11 Oklahoma Sooners in Norman.

Bob Stoops' team finds itself in a bit of a tailspin two weeks removed from a loss to then-ranked No. 25 TCU and less than a week after hardly holding off unranked and 2-4 Texas. An encounter with the Wildcats, a team with only a single loss, which came against then-ranked No. 5 Auburn, is the last thing the Sooners need at the moment.

Alas, it is what they get, as do fans, who can expect a rather high-scoring affair as long as both offenses hold up their ends of the bargain. One of Saturday's early contests, the showdown figures to be one of the most entertaining with conference and College Football Playoff implications on the line.

The best part? It appears this could swing in either direction.


Finding the Cure

A Sugar Bowl triumph over Alabama in which he threw for 348 yards and four touchdowns seems forever ago for Oklahoma quarterback Trevor Knight.

Expectations were through the roof for Knight after that contest, although some may concur with a sarcastic opinion on the matter, courtesy of Ralph D. Russo of The Associated Press:

Knight's past three games have left something to be desired, which has staggered the Sooners offense overall:

More concerning is the fact he now must attempt to turn things around against a stout Kansas State defense.

Remember, Bill Snyder's defense ranks among the best in the nation, especially against the run. The unit ranks No. 4 overall against the ground game, surrendering just 81.4 yards per game on a 2.8 per-carry average. Auburn's prolific attack mustered just that average for 128 yards in a narrow six-point win.

Part of what has made Knight great in the past is his ability to move the chains with his feet, but this season, he averages just 4.3 yards per carry. Snyder already has his team prepped and loaded for that element of the contest, too.

"You have to be prepared for the quarterback draw, the zone read aspect of it and just his ability to pull it down and scramble with it," Snyder said, per STATS LLC, via "If you are successful enough to cover receivers, he has good feet and can pull it out."

If Knight and his number of potent rushers out of the backfield (Samaje Perine leads the way with 568 yards and nine scores) cannot keep drives alive and finish with touchdowns, it puts unnecessary pressure on a shaky defense that has struggled with these Wildcats as of late.


Aerial Chess

Stoops and his staff surely have nightmares over the Wildcats combo of quarterback Jake Waters and star wideout Tyler Lockett.

While the Sooners escaped last year's encounter with a 10-point win thanks to more than 300 rushing yards on the ground, the potent quarterback-wideout duo gave the Sooners a wealth of issues. Let's review the historic damage inflicted:

  • Waters threw for 348 yards, a career high.
  • Lockett caught 12 passes for 278 yards and three scores, the best receiving performance in school history.
  • Lockett also had 162 kickoff return yards, good for a school-record 440 total yards.

All Waters has done in his senior year? Throw for 1,206 yards and seven touchdowns to three interceptions while completing 65.0 percent of his passes. He also has 320 yards and six more scores on the ground.

As D. Scott Fritchen of notes, he is in the hands of some elite company:

Lockett has been a tad quieter in his senior campaign, posting 29 catches for 399 yards and three scores, but it is difficult to complain.

Keep in mind that the Sooners come in at No. 42 overall in terms of total defense, allowing 21.5 points per game.

One week removed from allowing the hapless Longhorns to run up 482 total yards and 26 points, there is certainly cause for concern that Waters and Lockett are set to run roughshod on the Sooners yet again.


When: Saturday, October 18, Noon ET

Where: Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium, Norman, Oklahoma

Television: ESPN

Betting Lines (via Odds Shark):

  • Over/Under: 58
  • Spread: Oklahoma (-12)


Team Injury Reports

Kansas State: No significant Injuries.

Injury reports per Sports Network, via USA Today.



The downward trajectory the Sooners have traveled as of late is quite a concern, whereas the Wildcats have brutalized most of their opponents and stood tall against one of the SEC's best, not to mention a title contender from last season with most critical pieces back in the fold. 

Oklahoma is helped by the fact this is a home encounter, but the stout Kansas State run defense can force the Sooners to the air, where Knight has proven time and again this year to be a liability.

Saturday, look for the Waters-Lockett combo to get hot once again when tasked with keeping the pressure off its defense. At this point, Waters' ability to move the chains with his feet gives the Wildcats a serious edge, hostile environment or not.

Prediction: Wildcats 35, Sooners 30


Statistics and info courtesy of ESPN unless otherwise specified.


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Texas A&M vs. Alabama: TV Info, Spread, Injury Updates, Game Time and More

One of the season's top overall encounters that was supposed to have a College Football Playoff ticket swinging in the balance has lost some of its luster when the No. 21 Texas A&M Aggies meet the No. 7 Alabama Crimson Tide.

Nick Saban's Crimson Tide blew through the first four games on the slate before an upset at the hands of then-ranked No. 11 Ole Miss, only to respond with a narrow one-point victory over unranked Arkansas. Kevin Sumlin's Aggies are in danger of dropping three consecutive games after back-to-back losses to ranked opponents.

Instead of CFP questions in need of answers, things are more basic for this heavyweight encounter. Can the offenses move the ball with some semblance of efficiency? Can shaky defenses shore up issues?

Much gets revealed Saturday afternoon in a matchup that doubles as a prelude to even bigger contests down the road for both sides.


In Search of a Revival

Alabama appeared to have solved its offensive problems a few weeks back.

Senior quarterback Blake Sims seized the job with emphasis and then took it to a normally stout Florida defense with 445 yards and four touchdowns to one interception. He then imploded in the loss to Ole Miss, tossing no scores and a pick before throwing for a pair of scores and just 161 yards in the 14-13 win over the Razorbacks.

As the 48th-ranked offense that averages 33.2 points per game, Saban's unit has some serious work to do. It starts with T.J. Yeldon and the ground game. Yeldon ran wild against the Rebels for 123 yards on 20 totes, but the team as a whole averaged 3.8 yards per rush.

Against an Arkansas defense that allowed 302 rushing yards to Auburn, Alabama's top three rushers were a major part of the reason the team could muster a per-carry average of just 2.1 last weekend:

To keep up with a pass-happy Aggies attack, an offensive turnaround to mirror the unit that outscored its first four opponents by a total of 168-56 will need to impose its will on the ground.

That said, the Aggies have not been as potent as most are accustomed to as of late. The team needed overtime to upend Arkansas three games ago (not totally a bad thing—Bret Bielema has done an incredible job).

In a loss to Mississippi State, the Aggies rolled for 526 yards but a 5-of-17 mark on third down and quarterback Kenny Hill tossed three picks. Rinse and repeat in a loss to Ole Miss last week—455 total yards, 7-of-18 mark on third downs and three total turnovers.

That surely will not get it done in Tuscaloosa. Gaudy numbers are one thing, turnovers end games on their own.


Defensive Measures

The offenses get the attention when these teams take the field, but it is the defenses that will have a bigger impact on this contest in particular.

Texas A&M has been leaky all year long on that side of the football, ranking just inside the top 50 with 22.6 points per game allowed. The rush defense in particular has been nothing short of putrid.

For Saban, exploiting this defense is the key to the game, although his defense will also have to improve in a number of areas.

"We're going to certainly have to be at our best to do a good job of trying to get them stopped, and also to control the ball on offense so they don't have it all the time," Saban said, per STATS LLC (via "Those things are really critical in a game like this."

Of most concern is the propensity for the team to give up major plays through the air. 

The Crimson Tide allowed West Virginia's Clint Trickett to throw for 365 yards and a score, while Ole Miss' Bo Wallace tossed three scores, which came from 14, 34 and 10 yards out, the latter two coming when it mattered most—with less than six minutes left in regulation.

Hill has had his fair share of struggles, but he undeniably has the talent to expose a struggling unit.


When: Saturday, Oct. 18, 3:30 p.m. ET

Where: Bryant-Denny Stadium, Tuscaloosa, Alabama

Television: CBS

Betting Lines (via Odds Shark):

  • Over/Under: 61.5
  • Spread: Alabama (-11.5)


Team Injury Reports

Injury reports per Sports Network, via USA Today.



The Crimson Tide secondary is in for its biggest test of the year, as Hill is capable and Sumlin's offense is one of the most potent in the nation.

That said, Alabama at home is a daunting task for any team, but especially a young Aggies squad that is already on a serious downward spiral and in danger of losing three straight.

Yeldon and Sims, among others, will be able to keep the struggling Texas A&M defense on its toes and keep the chains moving enough to where Hill will have limited opportunities to exploit the Alabama secondary. Given his struggles as of late, a few mistakes might happen, anyway.

Alabama certainly does not run away with it, but a revival on the ground will spark the Crimson Tide.

Prediction: Crimson Tide 28, Aggies 20


Statistics and info courtesy of ESPN unless otherwise specified.


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Notre Dame vs. FSU: TV Info, Spread, Injury Updates, Game Time and More

This season, it gets no bigger than Saturday night when the No. 5 Notre Dame Fighting Irish travel to Tallahassee for a showdown against the No. 2 Florida State Seminoles that's laden with College Football Playoff implications.

Granted, both teams have contributed to the preseason favorite for game of the year losing a bit of its luster in recent weeks. The Seminoles lost the top ranking in the land due to a lackluster schedule, and the Fighting Irish nearly overlooked unranked North Carolina before winning in a shootout, 50-43.

Still, the teams are led by two of the nation's top quarterbacks and overall rosters forged for the inaugural CFP. Even though credibility is on the line for both, as might be the No. 1 ranking, the encounter boils down to a decisive moment in the lead-up to the first CFP.

History will be written Saturday night between two powers.


Behind Undefeated Arms

The story writes itself.

In one corner is Florida State's Jameis Winston. Last year's Heisman Trophy winner is better in some areas that last year, already touting 1,605 yards with 11 touchdowns to five interceptions while completing 70 percent of his passes. Do not forget a pair of touchdowns with his legs, too.

In the other corner is Notre Dame's Everett Golson, who returned to the team this year and has 1,683 passing yards with 16 touchdowns to four interceptions while completing 62.5 percent of his passes. Remember the 209 rushing yards and four scores, too.

Both men are undefeated in the regular season to date, as ESPN CollegeFootball puts into visual form:

For both men, though, the contest is more than just a potential career-defining win or loss.

Winston helps the Seminoles to average 39.0 points per game, but one of the nation's most polarizing players needs the win to shake the narrative that he pads his stats against poor competition. He missed the game against Clemson, and in the 37-31 season-opening win against Oklahoma State, he threw one touchdown to a pair of interceptions.

Golson's Fighting Irish average 34.5 points, but his play has taken a severe dip in recent weeks. Staggering turnover issues, as explained by Jared Shanker and Matt Fortuna of, can and will doom the Fighting Irish early Saturday:

Last Saturday against North Carolina, all three of his turnovers were converted into easy touchdowns. One was on an interception return, and twice he fumbled near his own end zone. Against Stanford, he threw a critical red-zone interception and fumbled inside his own 10 in a game where points were at a premium. When the Irish played Syracuse, a Golson interception was returned for a touchdown and he fumbled twice, one of which was inside the red zone.

In a perfect world, one of the two quarterbacks rises to the occasion and etches his name permanently in the Heisman Trophy race while lifting his team to the CFP.

But as the season so far suggests, things will be more difficult than anticipated for both.


Controversy, Distractions and Letdowns

Fans understand that a matchup has some controversy surrounding it when even Las Vegas elects to start pulling the betting odds from the table.

The controversy portion of the equation comes from a number of off-field issues for Winston, including yet another collegiate autograph scandal, as a Stats LLC report, via, notes.

As mentioned, the Seminoles also have to counter the rankings drop, something that star corner P.J. Williams says is simply motivation to avoid a letdown against the Fighting Irish Saturday. 

"Every week we look to do that," Williams said, per Stats. "But when we're playing a bigger team on a bigger stage, we definitely look to play a lot harder and show everybody that we are one of the best teams and we can definitely compete on that level. I definitely like having doubters."

Notre Dame has to simply play up to its competition. That sounds like an easy enough task for the No. 5 team in the land, but the team has now played down to the level of its competition against Purdue (granted, a historical rivalry game), Stanford and North Carolina.

How the Fighting Irish respond when actually an underdog—scratch that, a severe underdog, as ESPN Stats & Info illustrates—is something the nation has waited all season to see:

At times, it can be cliche to paint the picture as a contest of which team can rise to the occasion, but for a pair of would-be contenders fending off past and current demons, that aspect of the season's top contest is quite difficult to dismiss. 


When: Saturday, October 18, 8 p.m. ET

Where: Bobby Bowden Field at Doak Campbell Stadium, Tallahassee, Florida

Television: ABC

Betting Lines (via Odds Shark):

  • Over/Under: N/A
  • Spread: Notre Dame (-13.5)


Team Injury Reports

Injury reports per The Sports Network, via USA Today.



It is difficult to see how Notre Dame comes away with a win Saturday. 

The Fighting Irish are 1-16 versus Top Five opposition since 1999, with eight losses in a row, seven of which came by a minimum of 13 points. Now keep in mind that Brian Kelly's team has played four games at home and two at neutral sites.

A young team with a suddenly turnover-prone leader playing its first game in hostile territory against Florida State? It is a scary recipe to say the least.

Winston and Co. are certainly not perfect, and points will not come easy against a Fighting Irish defense that ranks No. 8 in the nation with an average of 17.2 points surrendered per game. But they will come at home, especially if the defense can cash in on a few turnovers.

Expect Florida State to remain on track for the CFP.

Prediction: Seminoles 30, Fighting Irish 28


Statistics and info courtesy of ESPN unless otherwise specified.


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College Football Picks: Week 8 Predictions for Every Game

Can you believe we're already in Week 8 of the 2014 college football season? Seems like just yesterday we were clamoring for that first slate of games, and now after a few straight weekends of amazing action, it's like the year is going by too fast.

We have to relish each week's slate of matchups, and this one is pretty darn good. There are five clashes of teams ranked in The Associated Press Top 25, including the toughest test yet for defending champion Florida State, while outside the rankings there are games pitting teams battling for division and conference titles.

Check out our predictions for Week 8, as well as our experts' picks for the top games this weekend, and give us your thoughts in the comments section.

Last week: 36-19 (.655)

Season: 334-105 (.761)

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Pac-12 Football: Ranking the 10 Most Exciting Conference Games so Far in 2014

The Pac-12 conference no longer has to worry about east coast folks missing out on the late-night contests; they've simply been too competitive to ignore, even if it means an extra cup of dark roast the next morning.

In a year as wild as any in recent memory, the Pac-12 has been involved in a number of games that you have to see to believe. From multiple Hail Marys to an NCAA passing record and last-second (missed) field goals, the thrill factor is at an all-time high.

We're taking a look at the 10 most exciting conference games thus far, though with only 18 head-to-head matchups in the books, we're giving a special nod to a pair of out-of-conference tilts involving Pac-12 teams.

Remember, a close game is not necessarily an exciting one. To put it simply, which games would you pay to have erased from your memory so you could sit down and watch them again?


All stats via

Games that just missed the cut: USC-Stanford, Notre Dame-Stanford, Rutgers-Washington State, WSU-Utah.

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Pac-12 Football: Ranking the 10 Most Exciting Conference Games so Far in 2014

The Pac-12 conference no longer has to worry about east coast folks missing out on the late-night contests; they've simply been too competitive to ignore, even if it means an extra cup of dark roast the next morning...

Begin Slideshow

BYU Football: Are Injuries or Coaching to Blame for Recent Struggles?

In just a few short weeks, BYU's 2014 football season turned from a fairytale to a nightmare.

The Cougars started with a 4-0 record, including convincing wins over Texas and Virginia, and had a legitimate Heisman contender in Taysom Hill. Within days, the storylines flipped—the Cougars lost to Utah State (USU) and Central Florida, and more than a few key players, including Hill, were injured in the process.

All of a sudden, hopes of a perfect season, potential New Year's bowl game and another Heisman are gone. Naturally, with another seemingly disappointing season, BYU fans have let pointed fingers fly. But is there any single thing to blame for back-to-back losses and smashed hopes?

Of course, the common scapegoats have been thrust into the spotlight—anything from the referees, to bad coaching, to the injuries. All three are reasonable, but the former shouldn't make for a reasonable argument.

Sure, the officials in the past two games have missed calls here and there. The one that gets Cougar fans the most heated—a pass interference no-call against UCF—turned out to be a major factor in the final outcome. 

This was not called as PI. 4th and 3 with the game on the line. UCF DB was hugging the WR for BYU.

— Dustin Fox (@DustinFox37) October 10, 2014

Still, even if the Cougs got that call, they would still have to score. And, even if they would have scored, UCF would get the ball back and be in a position to win the game. So, no matter what, the referees did not—in any way—lose the game for BYU. The Cougars had a two-possession lead in the third quarter and blew it.

So, with referees out of the way, up comes the issue of injuries. In the past two weeks, injured starters or key players include:

  • Taysom Hill (QB)
  • Jamaal Williams (RB)
  • Alani Fua (OLB)
  • Dallin Leavitt (DB)
  • Craig Bills (DB)
  • Brayden Kearsley (OL)
  • Jordan Johnson (DB)
  • Adam Hine (RB)
  • Terenn Houk (WR)

On top of that, linebacker Bronson Kaufusi and receiver Jordan Leslie are currently rehabbing after recent injuries. In addition, JUCO transfer Nick Kurtz will seek a medical redshirt season after a lingering ailment.

Obviously, it is difficult to win games without almost half of your starters. The injury situation has taken its toll on BYU—and will keep nagging the team for the rest of the season—but at this point, it's just something you have to deal with and move on.

Although you can't really control injuries, one thing you can control is coaching. BYU's coaching—especially since Taysom Hill got hurt against Utah State—has been hideous. Of course, it had its issues before (see play-calling, delay-of-game vs. Virginia, etc.,) but it took a big plunge during the USU game.

From the first few minutes of the USU game, anyone could tell that Utah State was the better-prepared team. They came out more physical and more motivated. It only got worse when Hill went down—instead of Robert Anae calling running plays and short passes to get backup quarterback Christian Stewart comfortable, he stuck to deep routes which killed Stewart's confidence.

The next game, against UCF, Algernon Brown and Paul Lasike played their hearts out, combining for 151 rushing yards in regulation. That opened up the passing offense, making Stewart more relaxed and buying more time in the pocket.

But as soon as overtime hit, Anae went back to the Utah State game plan—to make Stewart attack the defense with his arm. Although the rushing offense had been shredding UCF all night, every play Anae called in overtime was a passing one.

That alone cost BYU the game. And that's not to mention defensive coordinator Nick Howell's in-game shenanigans, when he was forced to play backup safety Kai Nacua:

Howell on Nacua: "He knows I didn't trust him. I was forced to throw him in, and he proved me wrong. He played good...he's a good player."

— Greg Wrubell (@gregwrubell) October 14, 2014

It's one thing to doubt your backup safety in a big situation, and it's another to tell him that you have trust issues. Forget Nacua—if I were BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall, the people I wouldn't trust are Howell and Anae.

Blame the refs, blame the injuries, but the coaching against UCF and Utah State—not to mention in the previous four games—has been downright ugly. If the Cougars can't clean things up soon, they could have a rough finish to the season.

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The 3 Biggest X-Factors for Boston College vs. Clemson

Leading up to this Saturday’s matchup between the Clemson Tigers and Boston College Eagles, there’s excitement but also a level of nervousness over Cole Stoudt’s second "debut." After beginning the season as the starter, this Saturday will be his first start since the Florida State game.

Though how Stoudt plays is the biggest factor for Clemson, there are also a couple of other things the Tigers need to focus on before this weekend’s conference matchup.

Since we mentioned Stoudt, we will start with him.


How Cole Stoudt Plays

He didn’t play very well against Louisville, but we'll give him a pass considering the shoulder injury and missed practices. With that in mind, the Tigers can’t afford for Stoudt to play like that again. The run game isn’t strong enough at this point to play conservatively, so the senior quarterback will need to make plays through the air.

Clemson won its last game with superb defense and consistent special teams, but you can’t count on the defense to play that well every game. With a full week of practice and a mind-set as the starting quarterback, Stoudt will play better this week.


Tigers’ Ability to Stop the Run

If I told you after the Georgia game—when Clemson gave up 328 yards on the ground—that the Tigers would have arguably the best rushing defense in the nation by mid-October, would you believe me? Well believe it or not, they are right there in that discussion.

Per’s David Hale, the Tigers have allowed the fewest rushing yards since the season opener.

The defense will face a tough test this weekend against Boston College, though. The Eagles rank fifth in the nation in rushing, averaging 315.7 yards per game. Quarterback Tyler Murphy leads the attack with 711 yards and eight touchdowns.

Running the ball is what helped Boston College upset Southern California—it had 452 yards on the ground in that game—so it’s likely that the Eagles try to do the same thing in this upset bid.

If I’m Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables, I am going to load the box and dare Murphy to throw the ball downfield. He hasn’t been particularly successful in that aspect, throwing six interceptions and only three touchdowns.


Special Teams

Like I mentioned earlier, special teams were crucial in the last game. The touchdown on Adam Humphries’ punt return and Ammon Lakip’s three field goals were ultimately the difference in winning and losing.

Lakip struggled in the two road games earlier this year—he missed three out of four kicks against Georgia and Florida State—so it will be interesting to see how he performs in this game. While it’s worth noting his struggles in those two games, he has been near perfect at home, only missing one kick.

This game feels like it could come down to the final quarter—it always seems that way with Boston College—so special teams are vital.

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UCLA Football: What Bruins Must Do to Win Pac-12 South

At 4-2 (1-2 in conference play), things are a bit tenuous for Jim Mora and the UCLA football team. 

As of now, UCLA ranks just above Colorado in the Pac-12 South Division standings. Another loss (or two) could potentially extinguish any hopes of playing in the conference championship game. 

This piece will look at how UCLA can indeed win the South Division. Four points in particular will be on the agenda. 

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UCLA Football: What Bruins Must Do to Win Pac-12 South

At 4-2 (1-2 in conference play), things are a bit tenuous for Jim Mora and the UCLA football team. As of now, UCLA ranks just above Colorado in the Pac-12 South Division standings...

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Michigan Football: How Wolverines Offense Must Prepare for Michigan State

Coming off its first Big Ten win of the season, Michigan now has a long week to prepare for No. 8-ranked Michigan State, which it’ll face Oct. 25 in East Lansing.

Beating Penn State 18-13 this past Saturday at The Big House provided a subtle kick for the Wolverines (3-4, 1-1 B1G), who have fallen well short of expectations this fall. However, prior to the season, the thought of a one-loss team squaring off against the Spartans (6-1, 2-0) was realistic.

Today, avoiding a blowout seems like it’d be the best-case scenario for Brady Hoke, who is 1-2 versus Mark Dantonio. And other than in 2012’s 12-10 victory, Hoke’s Wolverines haven’t even been remotely close to their counterparts. His 29-6 loss in 2013 made that loud and clear.

Hoke’s regularly bowed to rivals, and his team is becoming a conference doormat and magnet for criticism. Topping the Spartans wouldn’t only be a another notch in the series win column (68-33-5, UM), but it’d be a giant step—with several miles to go—in the right direction for an ailing power looking to reclaim respect.

Hoke’s coaching alone can’t down Dantonio's 300; his players have to help do that.

And it all starts with the offense, which is a problem: Michigan has the Big Ten’s No. 13-ranked total offense. Michigan State touts the No. 4 defense.

Do the math. It doesn't look favorable for Team 135. 


Gardner Must Find Himself

In 2013 Devin Gardner scraped together 216 passing yards, which in some cases can be enough to sneak away with a win. However, he was sacked six times for minus-48 yards, dropping the total offense to just 168 yards. 

Pounded and pummeled, Gardner suffered the worst defeat of his collegiate career that day. Those memories must be distant (preferably forgotten) if he's to lead the Wolverines to an improbable outcome this time around. 

But there is a bright side: He's coming off a season-high 192 passing yards versus Penn State. Two weeks ago against Rutgers, he scored a pair of rushing touchdowns (19, 4), adding energy to the offense and giving reason to believe that the fifth-year senior can indeed get the job done. 

But he's still throwing picks.

There are only 10 quarterbacks who've tossed more than Gardner's eight. If he's not careful, he could be No. 1 after Oct. 25. He's given away at least one in five of seven games this year, which is an alarming statistic in itself. 

The Spartans have eight interceptions this season; Minnesota, Ohio State and Northwestern lead the B1G with nine. But again, in league-terms, a new No. 1 could be crowned Oct. 25. 

Gardner's also still getting sacked, and the Spartans, whose 22 are second-most in the league, are still sacking (No. 1 with 169 yards lost).

With that said, Gardner must be patient and find receivers; but at the same time, he must recognize when he's in trouble and it's time to tuck and run. That was his problem in 2013 versus his in-state foes, and that indecision has again hindered performance across the board in 2014. 

If the Wolverines are to have a chance, Gardner must lead athletically and mentally. This is his last shot to knock off the Spartans. 


Michigan State's Run D Presents Challenges

On Saturday, the Wolverines rushed for 64 yards against Penn State, or, in other words, a couple of drives' worth for Michigan State's ground game.

Without Derrick Green for the remainder of the schedule, Team 135 doesn't have a lot of options at running back; Justice Hayes isn't a bruiser. But he's great in space. De'Veon Smith is a brusier. But he's struggled to find holes. 

See the problem? Neither one can get going. 

Green could do both and demonstrated so—better than he ever has at Michigan—with 12 carries for 74 yards versus Rutgers. Unfortunately, that was his last go-round, as he suffered a season-ending broken clavicle late in the contest. 

Shilique Calhoun, Marcus Rush, Darian Harris and Ed Davis, four of the Spartans' top defenders, aren't known for giving up much real estate. Michigan State surrenders just 81. 5 rushing yards per game, No. 2 in the Big Ten.

It'll take career days from Hayes and Smith to penetrate Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi's armor. In essence, running the ball Oct. 25 could be a mere formality, something to create space between passing plays. There probably won't be much light at the end of that tunnel. 

On Wednesday, Hoke said that he's aware of his team's deficiencies and plans to adjust during practice this and next week, per Maize & Blue News' Matt Pargoff

“We didn’t run the ball very well obviously the other night [vs. PSU]," Hoke said. "So that’s something that we’ve got to continue to make improvements on. You’ve got to give the front of Penn State’s some credit. They were leading the league in rush defense and they’re one of the better fronts, but at the same time, some of the fundamental things we need to do a better job finishing, particularly on the perimeter of the line of scrimmage. That’s one area [among others]..."



Devin Funchess is the No. 1 target and will continue to be for as long as he's at Michigan. This season hasn't been ideal for the projected 2015 NFL first-rounder, but he's made a spectacular catch or two to maintain status. 

His juggling 43-yard touchdown grab against Penn State was one for the highlight reels. The 6'5", 236-pounder is capable of giving defensive backs problems, but his offense has been too inconsistent to effectively utilize him. Translation: Gardner's had trouble throwing, and Funchess isn't benefiting. Neither are the rest of the receivers. 

To win, Funchess needs a handful of big gains and at least a touchdown. Offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier must find a way to further incorporate tight end Jake Butt and wideout Amara Darboh into the plans too. Next to Funchess, they're the best options. 


Get Healthy

During his Monday presser, Hoke said that this week was a good time for a bye week. Needless to say, having extra time to chase away aches, mend wounds and ice shoulders should come in handy for Michigan, which could be as healthy as its been in some time prior to facing the Spartans, per Pargoff

"I hope so," Hoke said. "We do have the chance to get some guys back—hope to get some guys back. I can’t tell you if that’s going to happen all the way. Probably won’t tell you. I’m not sure, but I think it helps.”


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

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Oregon Football: Grading Each Positional Unit at Halfway Point of the Season

The Oregon Ducks (5-1, 2-1) have had some ups and downs through the first half of the season; however, they’re still in position to win the Pac-12 North title and have a chance of advancing to the College Football Playoff. 

While a loss to Arizona at home was disappointing for the program, wins against preseason-ranked Top 10 opponents Michigan State and UCLA have proved that the Ducks, when healthy, are one of the best teams in the entire country. The Ducks, specifically the offensive line, have had to deal with numerous injuries so far this year and have yet to truly play up to their lofty potential.

That being said, the Ducks lead the Pac-12 North and are ranked No. 9 in the country by The Associated Press.

If the Ducks can win the Pac-12 conference title and escape without suffering another loss, they will likely find themselves playing for a spot in the national championship come Jan. 1.

In order to get a sense of where the Ducks stand after their first six games let’s take a look at how each position group has performed so far in 2014.

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