NCAA Football

Would You Rather: Week 9 Edition

The college football season is past the halfway mark, and the competition is heating up. The College Football Playoff has dominated much of the conversation this season, but many more questions still remain unanswered.

Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Michael Felder and Barrett Sallee debate some of the hottest topics.

Would you rather have UCLA's Brett Hundley or USC's Cody Kessler as your starting quarterback?

Watch the video and let us know!

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Southern Cal Trojans vs. Utah Utes Betting Odds: Analysis and Prediction

USC leads the Pac-12 South at 4-1 and is 5-2 against the spread on the season. Utah sits just a game out of first in the South and is 5-1 ATS. Two of the best bets in college football so far this season meet in a big divisional battle when the Trojans take on the Utes Saturday afternoon in Salt Lake City.

 

Point spread: Trojans opened as a pick'em at Rice-Eccles Stadium, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark. (Line updates and matchup report)

 

College football pick via Odds Shark computer: 36.7-34.7 Trojans

 

Why the Southern Cal Trojans can cover the spread

The Trojans just took care of business against Colorado, beating the Buffs 56-28 and covering as 20-point favorites. USC quarterback Cody Kessler threw four of his school-record seven touchdown passes in the first quarter, as the Trojans jumped out to a 28-0 lead and cruised from there.

So Southern Cal is 4-1 both straight up and ATS in Pac-12 play, and the only loss came on that blown coverage on the last play of the game against Arizona State a few weeks ago. The Trojans are also 3-0 SU, 2-1 ATS against Utah since the Utes joined the conference three years ago, including a 19-3 victory last year.

 

Why the Utah Utes can cover the spread

The Utes are one of the more pleasant surprises in college football so far, with road wins at Michigan, at UCLA and at Oregon State. Last week, Utah outrushed the Beavers 253-119 on their way to a 29-23 overtime victory in Corvallis.

In fact, the Utes have outrushed their last three opponents by an average of 118 yards. So a team that was expected to finish in the bottom half of the Pac-12 South has a chance to grab a tie for the lead with a victory this week, going against a defense that gave up 450 yards on the ground against Boston College earlier this season.

 

Smart Pick

USC is only 1-9 ATS in its last 10 games as a road favorite, while Utah is 10-3 in its last 13 games as a home dog. But sometimes trends should be disregarded, and this is one of those situations. The Trojans are the more talented team, and their defense has improved since that debacle against BC. So the smart pick goes with Southern Cal, at the short spread.

 

Betting trends

  • Southern Cal is 5-11 ATS in its last 16 games on the road
  • The total has gone UNDER in five of Utah's last seven games at home

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Southern Cal Trojans vs. Utah Utes Betting Odds: Analysis and Prediction

USC leads the Pac -12 South at 4-1 and is 5-2 against the spread on the season. Utah sits just a game out of first in the South and is 5-1 ATS...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

South Carolina Gamecocks vs. Auburn Tigers Betting Odds: Analysis and Prediction

The Auburn Tigers will look to rebound from their first loss of the season when they host the South Carolina Gamecocks in an SEC matchup on Saturday. The Tigers are coming off a bye week after losing at Mississippi State 38-23 as two-point road favorites, and they are 5-0 straight up and against the spread in their last five home games against conference opponents.

 

Point spread: Tigers opened as 14-point favorites at Jordan-Hare Stadium, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark (line updates and matchup report).

 

College football pick via Odds Shark computer: 38.6-27.8 Tigers

 

Why the South Carolina Gamecocks can cover the spread

The Gamecocks may have failed to cover the spread in six of their past seven games, but they remain an intriguing team that is capable of hanging around against just about any team in the SEC this year. Before beating Furman 41-10 last week as a 37-point favorite, South Carolina lost its previous two games by a combined eight points.

And outside of a surprising 52-28 home loss to Texas A&M in their season opener, you have to go back two years to find the previous time the Gamecocks lost by more than 11 points. South Carolina may not be able to pull off the upset, but staying close against Auburn and covering the double-digit spread is certainly not out of the question.

 

Why the Auburn Tigers can cover the spread

Despite losing to the top-ranked team in the country two weeks ago, the Tigers still have to believe they can make another run at the national championship like they did last year. Winning out may prove to be too tough of a task considering their remaining schedule, but a 20-14 road win at Kansas State is definitely looking a lot better now that the Wildcats beat Oklahoma 31-30 on the road last week.

Auburn is 6-1 ATS in its last seven games as a home favorite and has also covered five of the past six meetings with the Gamecocks, although the teams have not played each other since 2011.

 

Smart pick

While South Carolina has the potential to cover the spread, Auburn is the much safer pick here. The Gamecocks just can’t be trusted based on how inconsistent they have played so far this season, while there’s definitely no shame for the Tigers in losing to the nation’s No. 1 team on the road.

Auburn still controls its own destiny in the national title picture and has other big games to play down the stretch. Convincing wins are important for the Tigers to build their case for getting into the four-team playoff field at the end of the year, so their focus will be on blowing out South Carolina here.

 

Betting trends

  • South Carolina is 14-6 SU in its last 20 games on the road.
  • Auburn is 5-1 ATS in its last six games when playing South Carolina.

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Tim Tebow Comments on Florida's Struggles, Leadership

Former Florida quarterback Tim Tebow thinks he knows what's missing from the current group of Gators, who are 2-3 in conference play (3-3 overall) through Week 8 of the 2014 college football season.

In a radio interview Tuesday with 1010 XL in Jacksonville, the SEC Network analyst commented that he doesn't see the same type of fight and determination that existed when he was helping lead the program to a pair of BCS national championships.

He said the Gators' blowout loss to Missouri in Week 8 was "tough to watch," but also noted they aren't completely out of the SEC East race quite yet.

When the conversation shifted to what needed to change, Tebow focused on two areas where he excelled during his storied collegiate career: heart and leadership.

The station passed along his thoughts about Florida's overall issues:

He also touched on the Gators' offensive struggles:

Tebow was never the most natural quarterback. His inability to refine his throwing motion is a major reason why he's currently an analyst rather than still playing in the NFL somewhere.

But Tebow is essentially the king of intangibles, which helped him win a lot of college games, so his words hold weight when he talks about a lack of heart or leadership. He was able to play a key role in generating a winning atmosphere during his time at Florida—a dynamic that's begun to fade over the past few seasons.

Will Muschamp took over from Urban Meyer ahead of the 2011 season. He led the team to a bowl game in each of his first two seasons and posted a Top 10 finish in 2012. Florida went just 4-8 last season, however, and is off to a 3-3 start this year.

Any time a program like Florida stops winning on a consistent basis, criticism comes from all angles. The focus must be on finishing the season strong. There's a chance to make a major impact with games against Georgia and Florida State on the horizon.

The Gators could use another player like Tebow. Those types of talents don't walk through the locker room door very often, though. It's up to somebody in the room already to step into a leadership role during the bye week to provide a spark before a key clash with the Bulldogs on Nov. 1.

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Ohio State Buckeyes vs. Penn State Nittany Lions Odds: Analysis and Prediction

The Ohio State Buckeyes bring a four-game winning streak into Beaver Stadium Saturday for a key Big Ten matchup with the Penn State Nittany Lions. The Buckeyes have also gone 4-0 against the spread during this stretch and hope a strong finish in the conference can catapult them into consideration for the four-team College Football Playoff at the end of the year.

 

Point spread: The Buckeyes opened as 11.5-point favorites at Beaver Stadium, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark. (Line updates and matchup report.)

 

College football pick via Odds Shark computer: 37.6-18.0 Buckeyes

 

Why the Ohio State Buckeyes can cover the spread

Ohio State is not messing around anymore and knows what’s at stake the rest of the way. Win out, and the Buckeyes will make their case for a spot in the four-team playoff. Lose another game, and they will need to start thinking about next year.

That’s the way they have been playing in the past four games, as none of their last four covers have been in question with an average margin of victory of nearly 39 points.

Ohio State is coming off a 56-17 home win over Rutgers as a 21-point favorite and won its last road game 52-24 at Maryland two weeks earlier as 6.5-point chalk.

 

Why the Penn State Nittany Lions can cover the spread

The Nittany Lions may not be competing for a national championship this year, but they are still looking to improve from last season and can play spoilers against the Buckeyes. Penn State has dropped two in a row both straight up and ATS but was off last week to try to figure out how to turn things around. The key for the Nittany Lions is getting quarterback Christian Hackenberg to play better.

The sophomore captain threw for a season-low 160 yards in an 18-13 loss at Michigan in the team’s last game and had higher expectations for this season, especially after putting together three consecutive games of more than 300 yards passing to start the year. If Hackenberg can get back on track here, Penn State will have a good shot to cover the spread.

 

Smart Pick

Ohio State routed Penn State 63-14 last year at home, covering as a 16-point favorite to improve to 6-2 ATS in the past eight meetings. The Buckeyes are also 10-4-1 versus the line in their last 15 road games while the Nittany Lions are just 1-3 ATS in their past four home games against Big Ten opponents. All those trends back Ohio State, and rightfully so.

The Buckeyes are the far superior team with much more on the line right now. Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer knows how to close out seasons and will have his players ready to go in this spot to not only win, but also cover as double-digit road favorites.

 

Betting trends

  • The total has gone OVER in five of Ohio State's last five games
  • Penn State is 1-4 SU in its last five games when playing Ohio State

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Mississippi State Bulldogs vs. Kentucky Wildcats Odds: Analysis and Prediction

The Mississippi State Bulldogs return from their bye week and will put their unbeaten record on the line when they visit the Kentucky Wildcats in an SEC matchup on Saturday.

The Bulldogs will try to win their 10th straight game dating back to last season and beat the Wildcats for the sixth time in a row, while Kentucky looks to bounce back from a 41-3 road loss at LSU as a double-digit home underdog.

 

Point Spread: Bulldogs opened as 13-point favorites at Commonwealth Stadium.

Odds Shark Computer Pick: Bulldogs 46.2, Wildcats 26.5

 

Why the Mississippi State Bulldogs Can Cover the Spread

Mississippi State has too much to lose right now as the No. 1 team in the country, especially with a tough road ahead the rest of the way.

The Bulldogs simply can’t afford a loss here and have covered the spread in six of the last seven meetings with the Wildcats.

Top Heisman Trophy candidate Dak Prescott saw two of his competitors for the award (Notre Dame's Everett Golson and Baylor's Bryce Petty) lose last week, giving him the perfect opportunity to shine in his first game back from the bye.

Prescott completed 23 of 34 passes for 268 yards and two touchdowns and also ran for 33 yards on 16 carries in last year’s 28-22 home win over Kentucky. That was the only meeting over the past seven where Mississippi State did not cover as a 12.5-point favorite.

 

Why the Kentucky Wildcats Can Cover the Spread

The Wildcats have not fared well on the road this season, but they are 5-0 straight up and 4-1 against the spread at home. They had turned in impressive back-to-back performances at Commonwealth Stadium before being routed by the Tigers last week.

Kentucky quarterback Patrick Towles never got on track at LSU with just 146 yards, but he threw for 424 yards and four touchdowns in his previous two games combined.

Towles did not play in last year’s meeting, so the Bulldogs will not be familiar with him. However, the Wildcats did play against Prescott last season and were able to cover the spread against him. This familiarity plus the home field could lead to another ATS win.

 

Smart Pick

Kentucky may be 4-1 ATS at home this season, but only one of those covers was against an SEC team. That came in a 45-38 upset of South Carolina as a 4.5-point underdog on October 4.

The Wildcats are only 1-10 ATS in their last 11 home games as double-digit dogs and will be facing a highly motivated Mississippi State team that has enjoyed a lot of past success against them.

The Bulldogs are also 8-3 ATS in their last 11 games as road favorites and 3-0 vs. the line in their past three games away from home against SEC opponents. On the other hand, Kentucky is 2-8 ATS in its past 10 home games vs. conference foes.

This all adds up to another big win for Mississippi State.

 

Betting Trends

  • Mississippi State is 4-1 SU in its last five games on the road.
  • Kentucky is 8-17 SU in its last 25 games.

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Welcome Back to the Playoff Picture, Oregon

Though the reality is Oregon never really left. Perhaps it was more of a brief hibernation. 

In fact, very few teams who were in the playoff discussion to start the season are all but officially out now as of mid-October. Oklahoma, now that it has suffered its second loss of the season to Kansas State, has a long ways to go to even think about getting back in the race. So, too, does UCLA. 

And, yes, as unlikely as it seems, SMU has been eliminated from playoff contention. 

Overall, though, don't be quick to pull the trigger on anyone. Eliminating anyone from the Big Ten after Week 2 was a mistake, just as eliminating the Pac-12 after Week 6 was wrong.

Don't like preseason rankings? That's fine, but then conversely we collectively have to acknowledge that teams and conferences still have a chance despite early losses. 

As far as the whole body of work is concerned, the regular season still matters in the playoff era. 

At 6-1—the lone loss coming to Arizona—the Ducks are very much alive. The latest playoff projection from USA Today has Oregon in the field as a No. 4 seed if the season were to end today. Mississippi State received the top seed with Florida State as a No. 2 seed, and Ole Miss is a No. 3 seed.

Coupled with that, B/R's playoff guru, Sam Chi, checks Oregon in at No. 6 in his latest playoff rankings. That's already up four spots from the week before

2014 has shown shades of the chaos of 2007, and more upsets could be on the way. As Pat Forde of Yahoo Sports writes, the likely playoff field will, mathematically speaking, continue to thin as the season trudges on: 

The max pool of teams from power-five conferences that could end the season with one or fewer losses now looks like this: two from the ACC (Florida State and Duke); two from the Big 12 (either Baylor and TCU, or just one of Kansas State, Baylor and TCU); one from the Big Ten (Michigan State, Ohio State, Nebraska, Minnesota); one from the Pac-12 (Oregon, Arizona, Arizona State, Utah); three from the SEC (from a group of Mississippi State, Mississippi, Alabama, Auburn and Georgia); and Notre Dame.

That's a best-case scenario too. If this season has taught us anything, it's that you, the fan, should pray for the best but expect the worst. 

The good news for Oregon is that it leads the North Division with a 3-1 conference record and controls its Pac-12 destiny. That's all it can control—that, and its attitude, as head coach Mark Helfrich explained to reporters

After Arizona, "(players) came in disappointed, frustrated and looked each other directly in the eye and said, let's fix this together. There was no pout element to it at all. We can't sit here and say what if we had these receivers back or these offensive linemen back. We are who we are right now and our guys are competing their tails off.

"... I think the last couple weeks we've practiced with a little bit more of a grittier edge physically, competitively. That's shown up."

The Ducks have arguably the best player in college football in quarterback Marcus Mariota but also had two glaring weaknesses: a patchwork offensive line and subpar pass defense. But as Andrew Greif of The Oregonian notes, Oregon played better on both fronts in a 45-20 win over Washington in Week 8. 

Oregon's offensive line has allowed just two sacks in the last two games. That's a big accomplishment considering 1) it had allowed 12 sacks in the previous two games before that; and 2) Washington's ability to get pressure in the backfield. 

That's a positive sign for Oregon going forward. The Nov. 1 game against Stanford will provide another stiff test as the Cardinal claim one of the best defenses in the country, giving up just 12 points a game. For that matter, Stanford has had Oregon's number lately with two straight wins over the Ducks. 

However, as Arizona State showed in a 26-10 win over Stanford in Week 8, if an offense can get something going against Stanford, the Cardinal don't have the offensive firepower to respond. 

There are few, if any, "gimmes" on anyone's schedule—not with the upsets this season has already produced. Interestingly, the games before and after Stanford—at Cal and at Utah—could be the tricky spots for the Ducks. 

Oregon isn't safe, but it is in a good spot provided it keeps winning. It has a signature win in nonconference play against Michigan State and is on pace to win its conference.

If those two things are combined at season's end, the Ducks will be in the serious playoff picture. 

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. Stats and info courtesy of cfbstats.com

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Welcome Back to the Playoff Picture, Oregon

Though the reality is Oregon never really left. Perhaps it was more of a brief hibernation. In fact, very few teams who were in the playoff discussion to start the season are all but officially out now as of mid-October...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

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

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

 

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

Odds Shark Computer Pick: Tigers 33.3, Rebels 27.3

 

Why the Mississippi Rebels Can Cover the Spread

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

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

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

 

Why the LSU Tigers Can Cover the Spread

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

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

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

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

 

Smart Pick

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

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

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

 

Betting Trends

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

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

Why the Michigan Wolverines can cover the spread

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

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

 

Why the Michigan State Spartans can cover the spread

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

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

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

 

Smart pick

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

 

Betting trends

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

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

Why the Miami Hurricanes can cover the spread

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

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

 

Why the Virginia Tech Hokies can cover the spread

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

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

 

Smart Pick

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

 

Betting trends

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

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

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

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

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

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

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

Which state is the best for football?

Watch the video, and let us know! 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

Why the BYU Cougars can cover the spread

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

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

 

Why the Boise State Broncos can cover the spread

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

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

 

Smart pick

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

 

Betting trends

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

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

Why the Alabama Crimson Tide can cover the spread

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

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

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

 

Why the Tennessee Volunteers can cover the spread

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

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

 

Smart Pick

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

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

 

Betting trends

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

 

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

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

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

What team deserves to be in the CFP?

Watch the video, and let us know!

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

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

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

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

What is your Heisman Top Five right now?

Watch the video and let us know!             

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Why Auburn and Alabama Should Fear Playoff Wild Card Notre Dame

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

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

Watch out for Notre Dame, though.

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

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