NCAA Football

Why Auburn and Alabama Should Fear Playoff Wild Card Notre Dame

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

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

Watch out for Notre Dame, though.

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

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

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

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

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

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

How much would the absence of a division title hurt?

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and video analyst for Bleacher Report, as well as a co-host of the CFB Hangover on Bleacher Report Radio (Sundays, 9-11 a.m. ET) on Sirius 93, XM 208.

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of cfbstats.com, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

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Which Freshman Running Back Is the Future of College Football?

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

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

Watch the video and let us know!

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

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

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

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

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

 

Potential Upset Special: Ole Miss at LSU

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There will be no upset in Death Valley on Saturday. 

Prediction: Ole Miss 31, LSU 20

 

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Michigan Wolverines vs. Michigan State Spartans Complete Game Preview

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

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

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

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


Date: Saturday, October 18, 2014

Time: 3:30 p.m. ET

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

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

Television: ABC

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

Spread: MSU by 15.5 via Odds Shark

Live Stats: MGoBlue.com GameTracker

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

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

Who is the best quarterback in college football?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We're talking of course about the five one-loss teams still with a shot at the conference championship game, and while two-loss squads like UCLA and Stanford shouldn't give up hope, the road ahead is foggy and bleak at best.

ESPN.com's Kevin Gemmell notes that Oregon's win against the Washington Huskies on Saturday added a few more pieces to the puzzle, but that anything can (and probably will) still happen.

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

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

 

The Favorite: Oregon Ducks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Sleeper: USC Trojans

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Rest

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

All stats via CFBStats.com.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

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

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

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Maryland Terrapins vs. Wisconsin Badgers Complete Game Preview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Devin Gardner wouldn’t take the bait.

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

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

“No,” fired a visibly annoyed Gardner.

And then came several seconds of awkward silence.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But let's save that for another day. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Yes, I have," he said.

Anything specific? 

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

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

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

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

But he won't tell you that. 

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

 

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

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

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Syracuse Orange vs. Clemson Tigers Complete Game Preview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The First Defensive Series

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

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

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

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

 

The Sneaky-Good Opponents

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

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

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

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

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

 

The History

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

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

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

 

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

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Tennessee Negative Political Ad Compares Candidate to Lane Kiffin

Most people in the state of Tennessee are Volunteers fans, so it's always good to try to appeal to the majority in political campaigns.

One candidate decided to release these negative ads about their opponent, comparing them to former Vols head coach Lane Kiffin

That's one way to get votes.

[Twitter, h/t SB Nation]

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Miami vs. Virginia Tech: Complete Game Preview

The Virginia Tech Hokies host longtime rival Miami this Thursday in Blacksburg, Va. It's a meeting with huge ACC Coastal Division implications as both schools enter the meeting with identical 4-3, (1-2 in ACC play) records. 

It's the second straight Thursday game for the Hokies. Tech went to Pittsburgh last week and lost a close one the Panthers.

The Hokies and Hurricanes have been heated rivals since the mid-'90s when they were both in the Big East. The Hokies have won 13 of the last 19 meetings. 

The loser of Thursday's game will likely be eliminated from Coastal Division contention, so it's a must-win for both teams. 

  • When: Thursday, October 23, 2014
  • Where: Lane Stadium, Blacksburg, Virginia
  • Time: 8:00 p.m. ET
  • TV: ESPN
  • Radio: Virginia Tech IMG Sports Network. Here is a complete list of stations by area.
  • Spread: The Hurricanes are presently three-point favorites, via Odds Shark.

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Nebraska Cornhuskers vs. Rutgers Scarlet Knights Complete Game Preview

It's been a month since the Nebraska Cornhuskers' last home game. Back home, the Huskers face Big Ten newcomer Rutgers.

1920 was the last time the two saw each other, and Nebraska won 28-0. That game was played at the New York Polo Grounds.

Ninety-four years later, the two programs finally meet again, but this time it's at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Nebraska. Rutgers is 5-2 on the season, while the Huskers are 6-1. Nebraska is looking to win again, as the team continues its fight to make it to the Big Ten Championship Game.

Will the Huskers defeat Rutgers at home, or will the Scarlet Knights find a way to take home a victory?

 

Where:Memorial Stadium, Lincoln, Nebraska

When: Saturday, October 25, at noon ET

Watch: ESPN2

Listen: Husker Sports Network or Sirius Channel 84, XM 84

Betting Line via Odds Shark: Nebraska (-17)

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Bowl Projections: Predicting Top 2014-15 Postseason Matchups

With the halfway point of the 2014-15 college football season a thing of the past, the inaugural College Football Playoff and the usual crop of bowl games are within reach.

In other words, it is time to project how things will shake out.

There are enough games in the books to know which teams stand out the most. We know who the top players in the country are and which players—such as Mississippi State's Dak Prescott—can will their team to the title game on their own.

We even have some semblance of an idea as to how the rest of the games will play out although this season has been wilder than most. Not that it is a bad thing, as ESPN's Joe Schad muses:

Here is a stab at 2014-15 bowl projections with some details after the jump.

 

2014 College Football Bowl Projections

The latest AP Top 25 poll can be viewed here.

 

Sometimes, Predictable...

...Is all fans get.

The season has been far from it, but one constant remains—no team is stopping Florida State.

These Seminoles have won 23 straight games. It has not always been pretty. It has been controversial at times, such as in the waning moments of the team's 31-27 victory over then-No. 5 Notre Dame last weekend.

Quarterback Jameis Winston has been on fire over the course of his past two games, one of those being the biggest test the Seminoles will face thanks to a strong Fighting Irish club. Then again, that Notre Dame team is 1-17 against Top Five teams since 1998. 

Regardless, these Seminoles continue to win. The rest of the schedule has the look of a cakewalk, too. 

Louisville is a tricky opponent thanks to a potent offense and a great defense that ranks No. 4 in the country, but the Seminoles have more than a week to prepare for that showdown. Virginia, Miami (Florida) and Boston College are all hardly above .500 while a season-ending encounter with Florida actually presents the Seminoles with an opponent that is just .500—and coming off a 42-13 loss to Missouri.

The biggest opponent to the Seminoles' playoff chances is themselves. Remember that even if the team does pick up a single loss, it is hard to imagine voters would not put Winston and Co. in the running.

 

The Comeback Story

Many declared the Michigan State Spartans dead in the water in regard to the CFP after a 46-27 loss to then-No. 3 Oregon back in early September.

Now, the Spartans are ranked higher than the Ducks.

So it goes in the wild, inaugural CFP season, where a number of one-loss teams are already sure to get in on the action by season's end. Based on recent play and the rest of the schedule, the Spartans figure to be one of them.

Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio certainly thinks his team should be in the running, as captured by Paul Myerberg of USA Today Sports:

What we'd like to have people say about us is that we're efficient. We stop the run. We make them throw the ball on offense. All we care about is winning football games, actually. That's probably what most people care about. That's the way I was raised to coach, I guess.

He certainly is not wrong. The Spartans surprisingly rank No. 3 overall with an average of 47.0 points scored per game. The defense is its usually elite self, most notably stunting a potent Nebraska rushing attack at the beginning of October and holding Heisman Trophy contender Ameer Abdullah to 45 yards and a pair of scores on a 1.9 yards-per-carry average.

The rest of the schedule is simple. Take care of business against Michigan, fend off an iffy Ohio State team and win games against programs with inflated records such as Maryland, Rutgers and Penn State.

 

Battle of Mississippi

Like everyone predicted, the biggest game of the season is a season-ending affair between Mississippi State and Ole Miss.

Of course, those Rebels are ranked No. 3 in the land thanks to the No. 1 defense that allows just 10.6 points per game on average and has wins over Texas A&M and Alabama.

Those Bulldogs are the top team in the nation thanks to an elite offense led by Prescott and wins over LSU, Texas A&M and Auburn.

The two collide on Nov. 29.

Both have a good shot of getting there undefeated, too. Ole Miss needs to survive LSU and Auburn, but with a defense that held Alabama to 17 points and a senior quarterback in Bo Wallace who has thrown 17 touchdowns to six interceptions, it is not out of the realm of possibility.

Prescott and the Bulldogs have a much easier ride, the exception being a trip to Alabama. Given Prescott's 246 passing yards, 121 rushing yards and three total scores in a comfortable win over Auburn, though, it is hard to imagine he will have a ton of difficulty against the Crimson Tide.

The wackiest part? If both get to the end of the season undefeated, the loser of the contest could still make the CFP and invoke a rematch.

Strap in for a wild finish.

 

Note: All stats and info via ESPN.com unless otherwise specified.

 

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7 College Football Recruits Who Had an Explosive Week

The high school football regular season rolled on last weekend with playoff positioning and community bragging rights at stake. Marquee matchups drew crowds to bleachers in every corner of America, and many included dynamic performances by elite players involved.

We detail these dominant displays every Monday, paying close attention to athletes who helped alter their teams' fortunes with phenomenal efforts and could someday do the same in college. Here's our latest look at compelling prospects who owned the action.

 

4-star 2016 athlete Jordan Fuller, Old Tappan High School (Old Tappan, New Jersey)

Fuller, the younger brother of standout UCLA wide receiver Devin Fuller, was supposed to spend his entire junior campaign at quarterback but suffered a wrist injury prior to the season. The setback made it necessary for him to spend time at receiver and defensive back, where he managed to make an impact while fighting through discomfort.

"It's annoying, to be honest," Fuller told Todderick Hunt of NJ.com earlier this month. "I want to get it (the cast) off, but I've just got to wait. But it should be off in the next few weeks. There's a little pain but it's getting a lot better."

The 6'2", 190-pound prospect returned to quarterback against Pascack Valley, and although Old Tappan fell 35-28, the game represented a positive step in his development. Fuller erupted for 304 rushing yards, scoring three times on the ground and adding a touchdown toss. 

Rated ninth nationally among athletes in 247Sports' composite rankings, he is likely to land at safety or receiver at the next level. Fuller visited Rutgers earlier this fall and has collected offers from Ohio State, Miami and Maryland in recent months.

 

5-star quarterback Blake Barnett, Santiago High School (Corona, California)

The Southern California standout continues to create plenty of buzz about Alabama's offensive future. Barnett, a Crimson Tide commit, shattered his own single-game program passing record during a 49-35 victory over Riverside King High School. 

He torched defenders for 498 yards through the air to surpass his former career-high mark of 384 yards, per Eric-Paul Johnson of The Press-Enterprise. Barnett connected on three touchdown throws, including a pair from 50-plus yards.

Flashing the mobility that makes him America's top-rated dual-threat quarterback, Barnett added two rushing scores. He now has 10 total touchdowns in the past two games, both league victories.

Barnett, who initially pledged to Notre Dame last November, flipped to Alabama in June. He followed up the eye-opening effort with a trip to Tuscaloosa for Saturday's game against Texas A&M, where he snapped this candid photo of head coach Nick Saban:

 

Unranked running back Cliff Miller, Columbian High School (Tiffin, Ohio)

Miller headlined a matchup that featured surreal statistical numbers. He led his squad to an 83-82 overtime win against Shelby High School.

The contest tied an Ohio state record for most combined points in one game, per Larry Phillips of the Mansfield News Journal. Miller helped the scorekeeper stay busy throughout, tallying 10 touchdowns and a two-point conversion. 

His 62 total points are tied for third all time in the state. Miller scored six times before intermission, and his final trip to the end zone gave Columbian its game-winning advantage in the extra session.

You won't read much about Miller mulling over many FBS offers at this point, but he just put himself in state history books and on the national radar.

 

4-star running back Soso Jamabo, Plano West High School (Plano, Texas)

The 6'2.5", 210-pound playmaker provided yet another example of his scintillating abilities Friday night, rushing for four first-half touchdowns. Jamabo, who was crowned Homecoming King during the game's festivities, helped Plano West wallop Lewisville 55-22 and improve to 6-1 this season.

He finished the night with 145 rushing yards and five total touchdowns, per Keith Whitmire of The Dallas Morning News. Jamabo added a 54-yard scoring reception in the second half after his dominant early efforts.

The running back is enjoying a career-best season. He now has 1,558 rushing yards and 31 total touchdowns, averaging 11 yards per carry.

Jamabo is weighing offers from UCLA, Oklahoma, Arizona State and Notre Dame, among others.

 

5-star athlete Torrance Gibson, American Heritage High School (Fort Lauderdale, Florida)

Gibson, who ranks among the most talented all-around players in this recruiting cycle, stepped up for defending state champion American Heritage in a crucial showdown with Apopka High School. He rushed for 151 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries, per the Sun Sentinel.

The 6'4", 200-pound prospect aims to play quarterback in college. He threw a touchdown pass and rushed for two more scores in the 30-20 victory over Apopka.

Gibson changed the complexion of a highly anticipated matchup by dashing 60 yards for a go-ahead score as time expired in the third quarter. Even when he's not hitting a high percentage of pass attempts, Gibson has shown he's fully capable of controlling a contest with dangerous rushing skills.

His six touchdowns on the ground lead all American Heritage players through seven games. Gibson has more than 1,300 total yards as a junior.

He remains uncommitted. Ohio State, LSU, Arizona and Oklahoma are among the programs in pursuit.

 

3-star running back Shannon Brooks, Pickens County High School (Jasper, Georgia)

The Minnesota commit continues to lead the way for Peach State rushers following another dominant performance. Brooks blew by defenders for 274 yards on just 13 carries, pushing his team to a 69-34 win over Lafayette High School, per MaxPreps.

The 5'11", 196-pound rusher added a 45-yard reception, threw a 65-yard touchdown and scored four times as a runner. Brooks has been impressive throughout his senior season, surpassing 200 yards on the ground in five of seven games.

The past three efforts have featured 14 rushing touchdowns, pushing his total to 26 this season.

 

4-star wide receiver Cordell Broadus, Bishop Gorman High School (Las Vegas, Nevada)

The talented downfield target continues to make the most of his only year at national title contender Bishop Gorman. Broadus, the son of hip-hop icon Snoop Dogg, caught three touchdowns in a 70-13 rout of Legacy High School, per MaxPreps.

He now leads the team with eight scoring receptions through nine games. Broadus finished the contest with four catches for 131 yards, setting his personal single-game high with the squad.

The 6'2", 195-pound pass-catcher is considering several collegiate options, including USC, UCLA, Notre Dame and Baylor.

 

Recruit ratings courtesy of 247Sports.

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Oregon Ducks vs. Cal Bears Complete Game Preview

The Oregon Ducks (6-1, 3-1) finally played a completely football game against the Washington Huskies and came away with a huge 45-20 victory. While the Ducks are now in control of the Pac-12 North division, there is no time to rest as they head to the Bay Area on a short week to take on the Cal Bears (4-3, 2-3) at the new Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara.

Oregon, now ranked No. 6 in the country by The Associated Press, has beaten the Bears five consecutive times. However, these are the new and improved Cal Bears. Despite losing their past two games to Washington and UCLA, the Bears have been competitive in almost every game this season and are led by sophomore quarterback Jared Goff, who is one of the most underappreciated quarterbacks in the nation.

After winning only one game in 2013, head coach Sonny Dykes has the Bears believing that they can compete with any team in the Pac-12. Outside of a 31-7 loss to Washington two weeks ago, the Bears have been competitive in every game—including narrow losses to UCLA and Arizona. 

While the Bears believe they can compete with Oregon, the Ducks know they only have so many opportunities left to impress members of the College Football Playoff committee. The Ducks may be looking ahead to their matchup against Stanford on Nov. 1; however, they would be foolish to overlook these Cal Bears.

Here's what you need to know:  

Date: Friday, Oct. 24

Time: 7 p.m. Pacific Time

Place: Levi's Stadium (Santa Clara, Calif.)

TV: Fox Sports 1

Spread: Oregon -16, according to OddsShark.com.

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Oregon Ducks vs. Cal Bears Complete Game Preview

The Oregon Ducks (6-1, 3-1) finally played a completely football game against the Washington Huskies and came away with a huge 45-20 victory...

Begin Slideshow

College Football Picks: Syracuse Orange at Clemson Tigers Odds

The Syracuse Orange and the Clemson Tigers will butt heads this Saturday night in a Week 9 ACC Atlantic Division matchup at Memorial Stadium. The game is set to kickoff at 7 p.m. ET and will be available nationally on ESPNU.

The Orange are coming off a 30-7 romp over Wake Forest this past Saturday as six-point favorites on the road. This win snapped a four-game straight-up losing streak in which they failed to cover in three of the games. Syracuse is now 3-4 both straight-up and against the spread, and the total has stayed under in two previous road games this year.

Clemson continues to pad its overall record with SU victories in its last four games, but it has failed to cover in its last two in tighter-than-expected battles against Louisville and Boston College. This past Saturday, the Tigers beat BC 17-13, but they could not cover the 5.5 points on the road. The total has now stayed under in their last three games.

 

Syracuse at Clemson Betting Storylines

This is Syracuse's second season in the ACC after going an even 4-4 SU in conference play last year. So far this season, its only conference win was last week against the Demon Deacons after losing to Louisville and Florida State. The 30 points it scored in that win was a welcomed sign after failing to score more than 20 points in any of its previous four outings, which all resulted in SU losses.

The Orange lost quarterback Terrel Hunt earlier this month to a leg injury, and that took a bite out of both the passing game and the ground game. Hunt remains the second-leading rusher on the team with 307 yards. Prince-Tyson Gulley leads all runners with 418 yards in an offense that is averaging 192 rushing yards a game. The defense is allowing an average of 23.9 points a game, but this unit gave up 28 points or more in every contest during its recent four-game slide.

Clemson's tight six-point loss to Florida State earlier in the season put a major dent in its Atlantic Division title hopes, but it clearly remains the second-best team in the ACC this season at 5-2 SU overall and 4-1 in conference play. The offense is averaging a respectable 34.6 points a game despite only tallying a combined 40 points in the victories against the Cardinals and the Eagles. The defense remains stout, allowing an average of just 20 points a game.

Cole Stoudt got the call at quarterback this past Saturday against BC and threw for 285 yards while completing 64.4 percent of his 45 attempts. The Tigers passing offense as a whole is averaging 303 yards per game, which is ranked 22nd in the nation. Both Mike Williams and Artavis Scott came up big against BC with a combined 18 receptions for 200 yards.

 

Syracuse at Clemson Betting Odds and Trends by Doc's Sports

Point Spread: Clemson -15.5

Total Line: OFF

The betting trends on Covers have the Orange listed at 4-1 ATS in their last five road games, and the total has stayed under in four of those contests. It has stayed under in four of their last six games overall.

The Tigers are 5-1 ATS in their last six games at home and 5-2 ATS in their last seven conference games. The total has stayed under in their last six games following a SU win.

Last season, in what was the first meeting between the two since 1996, Clemson crushed the Orange 49-14 as a 14-point road favorite. The total stayed under the closing 65.5-point line.

 

College Football Picks: Syracuse at Clemson Betting Predictions

I have been waiting for Clemson's offense to explode again ever since it put up a combined 91 points against North Carolina and North Carolina State in late September. I believe this is the week the Tigers return to that level of play with a dominating win at home that easily covers the 15.5-point spread.

Take: No. 124 Clemson (-15.5) over Syracuse, 7 p.m. ET,  Saturday, Oct. 25

 

Betting information courtesy of Covers unless otherwise noted.

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