NCAA Football

Oklahoma QB Trevor Knight Hurdles Baylor Defender

Trevor Knight, get you some!

In the first quarter of the Oklahoma Sooners and Baylor Bears Big 12 matchup, Oklahoma quarterback Trevor Knight hurdled Baylor defensive back Terrell Burt.

 Nowadays, hurdles are a dime a dozen, but rarely do you see a quarterback with this kind of hops.

Was this the best quarterback run of the season?

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Sterling Shepard Injury: Updates on Oklahoma Star's Groin and Return

Oklahoma's critical showdown with Baylor will see the Sooners without wide receiver Sterling Shepard due to a groin injury. 

According to Kris Budden of Fox Sports, via Stewart Mandel of Sports Illustrated, Shepard will not play for the Sooners today:

According to John Shinn of The Norman Transcript, Shepard didn't practice much during the week after injuring his groin against Iowa State on November 1. Head coach Bob Stoops tried to take things easy on his star wideout:

“I haven’t seen much yet,” Stoops said. “We’ve just been bringing him along slowly.”

Shepard is averaging 19.1 yards per reception for the Sooners and has been their go-to guy in the red zone. His absence isn't what Oklahoma needed against a potent Baylor offense. 



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NFL Draft Watch: Why Marcus Peters Is an Elite On-Field Talent

For a vast majority of the top collegiate football talent, the season is just hitting the most difficult stretch of games. With teams deep into conference play, there are championship berths and a potential playoff seed on the line for team achievement, and individual glory in the long term.

One player that will be unable to help his team anymore is Marcus Peters, who was a star cornerback for the Washington Huskies until this week. He was dismissed from the Huskies squad for getting into another argument with the coaching staff, according to Kevin Gemmell of

Now without team responsibilities, Peters has a jump-start on his journey to the NFL draft. The junior was already considered a lock to enter the draft before this latest bump in the road, per Tony Pauline of Draft Insider.

We won’t get into the incident because there simply isn’t enough information to make an educated guess on who is in the right or wrong. But what is evident is the talent that Peters displayed throughout his time at Washington.

To see how well Peters projects to the NFL, I watched every single snap of the Huskies until Week 10, when Peters participated against the Colorado Buffaloes. Gathering so much data and charting his play could make a stronger statement about Peters’ talents.

With scarce quality cornerback play in the NFL, there is no better time to enter the league as a defensive back prospect than now. Teams must consider taking an elite talent as high as the top five because a potential lockdown cornerback is only truncated in value by quarterback and pass-rusher, maybe left tackle.

Let’s dive into why Marcus Peters could be the best overall prospect in the 2015 NFL draft, should he officially declare.

Physical Gifts

Listed at 6’0”, 190 pounds, Peters has an ideal size for any scheme. His arm length should measure impressively, as he was often asked to jam receivers in press coverage off the line of scrimmage. He excelled in this assignment, even against bigger, longer receivers.

Arm length for a cornerback is crucial for success. Not only does length allow cornerbacks to make an impact as the ball is snapped, but also helps corners challenge receivers at the catch point. A well-timed leap or full extension of the arm can be the difference between a touchdown and an interception.

More importantly than what Peters looks like in shorts is how well he uses his size. Peters often lines up on the boundary, meaning he’s on the short side of the field (if the ball is on the left hash mark, Peters is covering the receiver closest to the sideline). This puts immense pressure on Peters to disrupt the receiver quickly, or else a quick-hitting route with yards-after-the-catch potential is easy to complete.

Peters is excellent in this regard, often pushing his receiver out of bounds with his impressive strength and length. By using his arms at full extension, he’s able to recover if the receiver breaks free of his contact, or gets five yards down the field.

To complement his length, Peters shows very good vertical leap ability. His timing on when he leaves his feet certainly helps, but when he does the standing vertical jump test at the NFL combine, expect one of the highest marks of the entire class. His powerful drive is from his legs and staying balanced throughout coverage.

Physically, the most valuable gift a defensive back can have is hip fluidity and ankle flexion. Being able to turn and run with a faster receiver is a must for outside cornerbacks in the NFL because competition levels are insanely high.

Peters demonstrates his hip fluidity routinely when he breaks on short routes such as slants, or when he’s running downfield in man coverage. He doesn’t lose any ground on receivers when he transitions, a clear indicator that he’s a fluid mover. His matchup against Stanford wide receiver Ty Montgomery epitomized this, as Montgomery is one of the fastest straight-line runners in the country.

Although Peters doesn’t have sub-4.4 speed by the eye test, he should run quite well for his size. At the 3:16 mark in the video below, we can see Peters chasing down Montgomery from behind on a kick return, proving he has more than enough speed to be a quality NFL cornerback.

Changing directions quickly is also vital for successful coverage. That’s where ankle flexion comes in. Not only do the hips need to sink so the corner can explode back to the ball, the ankles have to be able to handle such a violent motion and support the acceleration. A sequence of backpedal to planting to exploding toward the ball is lightning quick, and athletes who have elite traits are best equipped to consistently execute.

Ball Awareness

Some cornerbacks are great in coverage, but aren’t the type of player who offenses purposely avoid because they don’t make the offense pay for targeting them. To be a playmaker, it takes special ball awareness. It’s innate, and must come naturally.

Confidence and understanding of the defense can help a cornerback stay focused on the receiver and the ball at the same time, but the anticipation of when the ball is arriving and where the trajectory ends takes special mental prowess.

With Peters, it does not take long to notice his elite ball awareness. He’s notched 11 career interceptions and 35 defensed passes in his career, which is incredible for a cornerback that has played only 34 games. On the film, it’s eye-opening to see him break toward the ball even before the pass has left the quarterback’s hand.

To see a play like the one above just once in a film session is noteworthy, but this happened three times in eight games in 2014. Peters reads a quarterback's eyes simultaneously with his assigned man, which allows him to instinctively break on the ball and force incompletions.

The term “ball skills” is a little different than ball awareness, but it is still referring to how well a player acts on the arriving pass. Peters again excels in this area, looking like a receiver as he high-points passes.

He uses his physical gifts and strength to box receivers out and play the ball, taking it like it is his own. Sometimes this leads to penalties (he had four defensive pass interference calls this season), but that is the risk of forcing a turnover. His ability to rip passes out of the air is reminiscent of the most dominant NFL receivers, let alone a cornerback.


Without the ability to stay close to the receiver in coverage, a cornerback is worth very little. If ball skills and awareness are advanced skills for cornerbacks, coverage ability should be basic. But not all cornerbacks are able to sustain such a high level of coverage as Peters does.

To see how a player performs in coverage, I had to develop a measure more effective than what is currently available in traditional box scores. Looking at the opposing players’ statistics do not tell the entire truth, as the quarterback could’ve thrown a bad pass, or the receiver may have finished the play by making an otherworldly action on the ball.

By creating a measure called “burn percentage,” we are able to see how many times a cornerback is actually beaten in coverage, regardless of whether they are targeted or the pass in complete. You can read more about how it is scored on my original blog post.

Below, we can see the benchmarks created for burn percentage based on studying the 2013 and 2014 cornerback draft classes.

Only three cornerbacks lost on less than 20 percent of qualifying snaps in the last three years, and they are Desmond Trufant, Kyle Fuller and Bradley Roby. Each were first-round picks and playing quite well in the NFL.

By staying within one yard of the receiver at the point of release or as the ball arrives, the cornerback has effectively challenged the pass enough to earn a “win.” This is subjective, but meant to be graded the same no matter the player or situation.

In the chart below, look at how Peters performed in 2014.

In 71 qualifying snaps where Peters could’ve been targeted in the play, he earned a win on 38 snaps, and lost just nine times. The remaining snaps that were not graded mean that he was in position to make a play on the ball, but was not targeted. In essence, he was not penalized for the quarterback refusing to throw the ball into good coverage.

This equals out to a 12.6 burn percentage, which is five percentage points better than the previous best for this study by Kyle Fuller in 2013. That’s a tremendous accomplishment, especially when the quality of opponents is factored in.

The most talented individual Peters faced was Arizona State receiver Jaelen Strong. Strong was targeted six times while Peters was in coverage, and won just three times. He recorded the only touchdown allowed directly by Peters this season.

Peters did well that game, however, limiting Strong to just 36 yards, per my own charting. Their matchup was a major indicator that his style of play will translate to Sundays, where he will be facing similar players every week.

Peters also played extremely well against Colorado standout receiver Nelson Spruce. Although he has 90 receptions and 999 yards on the season, Peters limited Spruce to two catches and 28 yards, via my own charting. The Buffaloes receiver wins with excellent route running and quickness, but Peters swallowed his routes with ease.



Washington often employed Cover 3 schemes to emphasize their pass rush and limit big plays from its opponents. Peters fits into this, but it is not his optimal scheme. He’s excellent in press, as mentioned above, due to his technique when landing his punch on receivers.

Using his strong frame and length, he is able to control the receiver at the line, placing his hands inside the chest and driving the opponent. Sure, his hands will at times be swatted down, but even forcing that can disrupt the offense for the split second needed to finish a sack or create pressure.

Peters has the physical traits and profile of a standout, press corner in Cover 1 or 3, where everyone is playing man and the cornerback has little help on their island. Cover 3 assigns a deep zone to be responsible for, and limits the cornerback to just defending the sideline. Again, Peters was stuck in Cover 3 often because of the other talent in the secondary, which is young and subpar, but not for a lack of physical gifts or talent.

He did not log a single snap in the slot this season, instead seeing a majority of snaps at the left cornerback spot, which is the strong side of the offense. As a good run defender, he was trusted to be on the short side of the field and take on running backs quite often. He rarely backed down and always gave great effort.

His scheme versatility means that any team could easily justify taking him. Like many other areas, this is where ball awareness can only help his argument to play for any NFL team. Even in a scheme that downplays cornerbacks like a Tampa 2, having those ball skills and anticipation ability will be valuable.



Many players are great athletes, but technique shows dedication to the craft and the want to be the best player on the field.

The area that really shows technique as a cornerback is when defending comeback routes and quick slants. To change direction suddenly and keep proper balance is incredibly difficult, but Peters does this with great consistency. He keeps his feet squared with his shoulders, which means his movement is under control and his body isn’t flailing all over.

Reducing the amount of moving parts is key, as it saves energy and valuable time in pursuit. Foot speed and placement are the main ingredients for doing such; lead feet will allow receivers to have a field day on double moves and quick-cutting routes.

Peters displays great control of his body for games at a time. Like any player, he had a few moments where he was not properly balanced in his stance, but those are few and far between, meaning those moments do not define his talents and technique refinement.

Since he plays so much on the outside and in Cover 3, he has to be able to pin receivers to the sideline to minimize the landing zone if the receiver does bring in the ball. Peters is tremendous at quickly getting the receiver glued to the sideline, which gives the quarterback even less room for error to test Peters’ coverage downfield.

This also goes back into his ability to box out receivers and play the ball like an offensive player. He gains inside positioning and the only way to steal the ball away is to go up and over his frame. As you may see, it’s very hard to beat a big, physical corner with great technique and ball skills.



It’s difficult to find many weaknesses in Peters’ game because he’s such a standout athlete with great technique in key areas.

His on-field persona is certainly easy to see when watching his games. He’s similar to Dez Bryant, in that he clearly loves to play and is extremely passionate. Sometimes, like against Eastern Washington, he gets too emotional. He was benched after drawing a penalty for taunting a receiver.

His competitiveness is somewhat of a positive and negative, but he needs more awareness as to when to scale it back and not hurt his team. This isn’t a major negative, as many players are immature in college and will develop as young adults in the NFL.

There are brief moments where Peters locks onto the quarterback’s eyes too long and doesn't pay attention to the receivers’ routes. This happened three times against Hawaii, and also when he allowed Strong to score a touchdown.

Of course, when playing the ball as much as Peters tends to do, this will happen. Forcing a turnover is extremely valuable for a defense, so the risk/reward should be considered worth it.

He’s prone to drawing defensive pass interference calls with his style of play. Although some of the penalties he’s drawn should be considered borderline, he will give pause to a referee’s mind, even if he’s playing the ball and not just desperately hitting the receiver.



Evaluating Marcus Peters from an on-field-talent standpoint was an absolute treat for someone who extensively covered the defensive back class for Bleacher Report last year, as I did. He’s a rare player entering the NFL with his combination of size, speed, technique and ball skills.

Why he was dismissed from the program will be something NFL teams will have to dig in to, but from a football standpoint, Peters is one of the few elite cornerback prospects in the last decade. He’s a potential Pro Bowl-type talent who can force an offense to change their game plan just for his ability to force turnovers.

He compares favorably to NFL cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and former Husky Desmond Trufant because of his ability to play in any scheme and cover any route variation. His value for his play could prove to be worthy of a top-five selection in May.

If a team is willing to invest in developing Marcus Peters the person, don’t be surprised if they’re rewarded with an elite cornerback talent in short time.


All stats used are from

Ian Wharton is a Miami Dolphins Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report, contributor for Optimum Scouting, and analyst for FinDepth. 

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NFL Draft Watch: Why Marcus Peters Is an Elite On-Field Talent

For a vast majority of the top collegiate football talent, the season is just hitting the most difficult stretch of games...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Best Signs from ESPN's College GameDay Week 11

ESPN's College GameDay traveled to East Lansing, Michigan for the Big Ten clash between No. 14 Ohio State and No. 8 Michigan State, with a playoff berth on the line. 

But when ESPN's College GameDay involves Ohio State's Urban Meyer, you know the fans are going to have some fun. So let's get it on. 

These Michigan State fans won't forget the dejected Urban Meyer eating pizza after last year's B1G championship game:

Urban Meyer is so basic:

More fun Urban Meyer signs:

Softer than Drake. Nailed it:

Indiana DID beat Mizzou, so they make a point:



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Georgia vs. Kentucky: Live Score and Highlights

Early Second Quarter

Georgia 21, Kentucky 7


Kentucky is in a big hole early.  Can the Wildcats make a comeback or at least make things interesting?  Follow along here. 


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College Football Week 11: Live Scores, Highlights and Reaction

Keep it locked to Bleacher Report for all the day's highlights, scores and more!

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Penn State vs. Indiana: Live Score and Highlights

Penn State 0, Indiana 0  - start of the second quarter

Buried in the carnage of what has been two disappointing Big Ten seasons so far, there's an embedded heavyweight battle expected in today's Penn State-Indiana showdown in Bloomington.

Yes, the Nittany Lions and Hoosiers have combined to lose their last seven consecutive conference games, and both teams are reeling. But the game will match up the nation's top rusher in Tevin Coleman against Bob Shoop's PSU run defense that is ranked first nationally.

So far, neither offense has done anything as the first quarter was a Punt Fest.

Penn State will be trying to halt its first four-game losing streak since 2004. Indiana will try to make it two in a row.

Be sure to keep open the blog for highlights…if they exist in this donnybrook.

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Baylor vs. Oklahoma: Live Score and Highlights

Oklahoma 7, Baylor 3—Late Lst Quarter

The No. 12 Baylor Bears and No. 15 Oklahoma Sooners are squaring off in a pivotal Big 12 matchup Saturday afternoon at Memorial Stadium.

Fox Sports 1 is carrying the conference tilt. Bleacher Report is providing live scoring updates and in-game analysis. Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

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Presbyterian College vs. Ole Miss: Live Score and Highlights

The Ole Miss Rebels will look to earn their eighth win of the season when they face Presbyterian College at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. The game will kick off at noon EST and it will air on the SEC Network.

The Rebels are coming off a heartbreaking loss to Auburn and they now have to claw their way back into the SEC West race. Ole Miss has played in six consecutive games and they have been beat up, losing Laquon Treadwell and Denzel Nkemdiche to season-ending injuries the past two weeks.

Ole Miss is going up against an opponent that is one of the top teams in the FCS in Presbyterian College, but the Blue Hose have been blown out by two FBS teams this season, Northern Illinois and N.C. State.

Be sure to come back to this blog when the game kicks off for the latest scoring updates and highlights.

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Bowl Projections 2014: Predictions for College Football Playoff Before Week 11

Week 11 of the college football season brings a whopping six matchups between ranked teams, as the playoff picture could receive a significant shake-up.  Given that the field of contenders is already thinning, it is possible that we could see a clear-cut group of four teams hold the pole position after Saturday's action.

Then again, upsets could just begin the cycle anew and create even more chaos.  Top SEC and Pac-12 contenders are facing tricky road contests, while the Big 10 and Big 12 are essentially conducting elimination games between two of their top contenders.

Thus, Saturday's action is likely to change our perception of the playoff field.  For now, though, let's take a step back and predict the current field, as well as the game with the biggest playoff implications.


Projected Playoff Field

Sugar Bowl: No. 1 Florida State vs. No. 4 Auburn

Rose Bowl: No. 2 Oregon vs. No. 3 Mississippi State


This is a prediction of how the rest of the season will play out, not where things should currently stand.  Despite a pair of shaky outings against ACC foes Louisville and Clemson this season, the Florida State Seminoles still look like the clear-cut team to beat.  

Though the Seminoles still face Florida, the weak Costal division should make the ACC title game a mere formality, thus punching Florida State's ticket to the semis.

Auburn is just as talented as Florida State, as it actually tops Football Outsiders' Fremeau Efficiency Index.  But the SEC has cannibalized itself the whole season, and with one loss already in hand, the Tigers have no margin for error against a brutal schedule:

Nevertheless, with the weakness of the other conferences, it's not hard to envision the SEC receiving two teams.  Undefeated Mississippi State can likely absorb one loss—fortunate considering that they still visit Tuscaloosa and Oxford, not to mention a potential SEC Championship game against Florida or Georgia.

If the Bulldogs survive and give the SEC two teams, the Oregon Ducks currently look like the favorites to jump up in the field.  Oregon finally got over the Stanford hump last week, though a tough Pac-12 championship game against either Arizona State or UCLA does loom (not to mention a tricky road trip to Utah this weekend).  

Nevertheless, behind an improved defense and increasingly healthy offensive line, Marcus Mariota and Co. look like the class of the conference.


Game of the Week: No. 10 Notre Dame at No. 9 Arizona State

Though other contests like Alabama-LSU and Ohio State-Michigan State may hold more cache and generate bigger TV ratings, the game in Tempe actually holds the greatest playoff implications.  Both the Fighting Irish and Sun Devils are one-loss teams sitting on the periphery of the postseason picture, but a marquee win could vault them into serious consideration for the final four.

The matchup will pit two of the nation's best quarterbacks in Everett Golson and Taylor Kelly.  However, expecting fireworks might be folly.  

The Sun Devils have employed a heavy pressure defense that utilizes plenty of blitzes, and against Florida State this season, Golson struggled when the Seminoles sent blitzers through the interior A- and B-gaps:

Kelly's issues could stem from rustiness more than scheme.  After missing three games following surgery on his right foot, Kelly has appeared rusty.  

The Arizona State signal-caller has completed just 56.1 percent of his passes for just 6.75 yards per attempt in two games since his return.  Additionally, Kelly's mobility has appeared impaired, resulting in more negative dropbacks:

This is not to disparage the two quarterbacks, but rather to show how both Notre Dame and Arizona State are underrated and complete teams.  

Both teams likely need a bit of help to realistically challenge for the four-team playoff, but notching a win against a fellow top-10 opponent would be the type of signature victory that would stand out to the committee at season's end.

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College Football Rankings 2014: Final NCAA Overview of Week 11 Standings

The most important weekend of the 2014 college football season is here.

The schedule itself does the talking. Baylor at Oklahoma. Notre Dame at Arizona State. Alabama at LSU. Kansas State at TCU. Ohio State at Michigan State. Oregon at Utah.

It goes on, but one has to feel sorry for the pollsters at some point. Granted, this is the job they signed up for, but the path to the inaugural College Football Playoff has seemingly created more movement on the weekly polls than ever on a week-to-week basis.

Below, let's look at the notable polls before illustrating the thing most came to see—the CFP committee's poll. Soak it all in, because everything is about to go up in flames.


Week 11 College Football Top 25 Rankings

AP Poll can be viewed at

Amway Poll can be viewed at

B/R Poll can be viewed at


College Football Playoff Week 11 Rankings



Week 11 Storylines to Watch

Oregon's Trap Game

The nation is sleeping on one of Saturday's late games, which may have a bigger impact on the CFP than any of those that come before it.

Marcus Mariota and Oregon better not be sleeping on it, though.

The Ducks finally got over the hump by upending Stanford 45-16 last week to quell whispers that the team is due for an annual November, soul and postseason-crushing loss. 

As a wise man once said, though—not so fast, my friend. 

The problem with the above theory and the fact most are unaware of this game's importance stems from the fact that Utah has been given little attention this season. For shame, too, as the Utes are more Stanford than Stanford is this season.

The Utes allow just 21.3 points per game this season and lead the nation in sacks with 39 to date. The team is far from a one-trick pony, though, as the offense can get down and dirty in quite an effective manner thanks to running back Devontae Booker, who has 990 yards and eight touchdowns on a 5.4 average this season.

Oregon has appeared to turn on the afterburners, though, gaining four wins in a row after a stunning upset at the hands of unranked Arizona at the start of October.

"Particularly after the Arizona game it's been more competitive, a better sense of urgency," coach Mark Helfrich said, per STATS LLC on "All those things, win or lose, you try to impart on these guys of getting better in everything we do. Unfortunately, sometimes it's adversity in the form of a loss that wakes everybody up."

Right now the Ducks are playing the best ball they have all season, and Mariota has been his usual self (2,541 yards and 26 touchdowns to just two interceptions) when actually upright in the pocket or rolling out of it.

That figures to give Oregon the edge on the road, but should the hogs in front of Mariota collapse and Booker get the ball in his hands with his team in the lead, the CFP is going to suffer its biggest blow to date.


The One-Loss CFP Underdog

It was predictable that a one-loss team, if not two, would slip into the CFP.

Not many figured one might come from the Big Ten, though.

Michigan State has something to say about that. Many were ready to write off the Spartans after an early September loss on the road to Oregon in rather ugly fashion, but since then the team has rattled off six straight wins in a rather unconventional, if not unexpected manner.

Make no mistake, the Spartans are still great on defense. The team surrenders just 20.3 points per game on average. But it is the nation's fifth-ranked offense at 45.5 points per game that has many, including ESPN CollegeFootball, wondering if the Spartans can power their way to the postseason:

Some, such as Gerry DiNardo, per Bo Mattingly, project the Spartans to slip into the fray:

To do so, of course, the Spartans will need to move past the pesky Ohio State Buckeyes Saturday, led by surprising quarterback J.T. Barrett (1,856 passing yards, 23 touchdowns, 496 rushing yards, six touchdowns).

For quarterback Connor Cook, who completes 60.6 percent of his passes this season, that will prove to be the toughest test since Oregon.

It is certainly a passable one, and one the Spartans cannot do without. The team is wedged behind more than a few SEC and Big 12 teams, among others, in the hunt for the CFP. Those dominoes can and will fall, but the Spartans will need to stand strong in the process.

The real test begins now.


Stats and information via unless otherwise specified.


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College Football: Top 5 Games to Watch in Week 11

Week 11 will be the most important week of the 2014 College Football season with six matchups between ranked teams, along with conference and national title hopes on the line.

The Big Ten East representative for the conference championship game will more than likely be decided when No. 14 Ohio State travels to face off with No. 8 Michigan State in a heavyweight matchup. The loser will probably be eliminated from the College Football Playoff race.

The Big 12 may have the biggest weekend of them all. No. 12 Baylor heads to No. 15 Oklahoma, where it will hope to come away with its first win in Norman ever. The other Big 12 contest could decide who wins the conference title and stays in the national title picture when No. 7 Kansas State travels south to Fort Worth, Texas, to battle it out with No. 6 TCU.

With teams looking to stay in contention for the national title, 10th-ranked Notre Dame will need a win at a surging ninth-ranked Arizona State squad if it has any chance of making a case of moving into a spot in the Top Four.

There, of course, must be one high-profile SEC matchup per week. In what has become the biggest SEC game of the season since Nick Saban came to Tuscaloosa, No. 5 Alabama will have the difficult task of knocking off an improving No. 16 LSU team in Death Valley.

In what will be a playoff-type environment in the college football world this Saturday, here are the top five games to watch.

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