NCAA Football

Ohio State Regains Confidence as It Gets Revenge Against Michigan State

When Ohio State invaded East Lansing and came away with a 49-37 victory against Michigan State on Saturday night, it did more than just redeem last year's devastating loss in the Big Ten title game. The No. 8 Buckeyes (8-1) also regained their confidence after finally coming up with a big win. 

Ohio State, which became an afterthought in the College Football Playoff race when it fell to Virginia Tech in Week 2, has now won seven consecutive games and is shooting up the rankings. But none of those wins did more for Urban Meyer's squad than beating the Spartans, because it made the Buckeyes believers in themselves. 

“I just think we earned back our confidence," offensive line coach Ed Warinner said, according to Patrick Maks of Eleven Warriors. "I think we just earned back the belief our players have, a belief in our program, belief in how we do things at Ohio State, how Coach Meyer runs his program and we just got our confidence back that we can win a big game.”

The Buckeyes didn't just win a big game—they also proved that they have a budding superstar at quarterback in J.T. Barrett and that their high-flying offense is as explosive as it is efficient. 

Against a Michigan State team that came into the game boasting the nation's fifth-ranked total defense, the Buckeyes piled up 49 points and 568 total yards of offense—which were season highs allowed by the Spartans. Michigan State did force a pair of turnovers, but both came via special teams while Barrett was waiting on the sideline.

When the redshirt freshman was on the field, he was sensational, completing 61.5 percent of his passes for 300 yards and three touchdowns. Barrett was also effective on the ground, running for 86 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries. 

But it was the big plays he triggered that pushed Ohio State over the hump. 

On 3rd-and-22 early in the second quarter, Barrett placed a perfect pass to Devin Smith for a 43-yard gain. Later, the quarterback would run it in from one yard out to tie the game at 14. On Ohio State's next drive, Barrett connected with Michael Thomas on a quick slant, and the sophomore wideout raced 79 yards for a score. 

It was like that all night—a 47-yard run from Ezekiel Elliott early in the first quarter, a 44-yard touchdown pass to Smith in the second, a 55-yard run from Barrett in the fourth to help seal the game. The Buckeyes consistently came up big against one of the country's strongest defenses. 

It was a surprising outburst, but from the moment the Buckeyes stepped on the field, they knew they were the better team.

"No disrespect to [Michigan State], but I felt all night they couldn't hang with us," Smith told reporters after the game. "I told coach that all night."

It turned out to be true.

Connor Cook and the Spartans offense gave Ohio State their best shot, but it just wasn't good enough. Michigan State amassed 37 points and 536 total yards of offense, which is usually more than enough for the Spartans to secure an easy victory, but that effort couldn't keep them within 12 points of the Buckeyes.

Ohio State's unwavering focus broke Michigan State's will. The Buckeyes scored touchdowns on seven of their final eight possessions before going into clock-killing mode. 

That performance on a national stage had Meyer smiling in the postgame press conference.

"I'm glad everybody got to see the Ohio State Buckeyes," Meyer said. "Because this is a different Buckeye team than it was early in the season."

It most certainly is, and the selection committee in charge of picking this year's title contenders should take note. 

Meyer has his Ohio State Buckeyes playing at a high level. After beating Michigan State, they have their confidence back. And a confident Meyer-led team can be very dangerous.

 

All stats via NCAA.com.

David Regimbal covers Ohio State football for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.

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Tennessee Volunteers vs. Kentucky Wildcats Complete Game Preview

One thing that has grown to be counted on every November is Tennessee beating Kentucky in college football.

That's happened in 28 of the past 29 years.

No matter how bad the Volunteers have been recently (other than 2011, when UK beat the Vols with a receiver at quarterback), they've always handled their neighbors to the north. 

This year, that isn't going to be as easy. UK second-year coach Mark Stoops has his team on the cusp of bowl eligibility. The Wildcats need to beat either the Vols or Louisville to get into the postseason.

The Vols, on the other hand, need to beat two of their final three opponents: Kentucky, Missouri and Vanderbilt. Quarterback Joshua Dobbs has breathed new life into a stagnant offense, and UT is coming off an overtime upset of South Carolina.

After a much-needed bye week, the Vols should be fresher on both sides of the ball, which will help in a particularly thin defense. This game has major ramifications for both rebuilding programs.

Here's everything you need to know about the rivalry that used to be known as the "Battle for the Beer Barrel."

 

Date: Saturday, Nov. 15

Time: 4 p.m. ET

Place: Neyland Stadium, Knoxville, Tennessee

TV: SEC Network

Radio: Vol Network, Kentucky IMG Sports Network

Spread: Tennessee by 7.5 points, according to Oddsshark.com.

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NCAA Football Rankings 2014: Week 12 Standings and Analysis for Latest Polls

Let the arguing begin.

With two undefeated teams and eight one-loss squads in college football’s power-five conferences and only four College Football Playoff spots to go around, there is sure to be plenty of debate and posturing between Week 12 and the end of the season.

The best way to make a statement is with an impressive performance on the field, and we saw that from the likes of TCU, Ohio State, Oregon, Baylor and Arizona State, among others, in Week 11.

With that in mind, here is a look at the Amway Coaches and the Associated Press polls, as well as Bleacher Report's official Top 25 entering Week 12.

 

Analysis

While these polls are certainly worthwhile in terms of generating discussion and arguments, they are ultimately meaningless in the playoff picture. The selection committee will release its updated rankings Tuesday, which will give fans a better picture of where their teams stand.

However, the argument can be made that these polls are something of a teaser as to what the official rankings will look like.

The SEC may be the most talked-about conference in all of college football, but the most interesting dilemma is in the Big 12. TCU is ranked one spot ahead of Baylor in the AP Poll even though both teams have one loss and the Bears beat the Horned Frogs in their head-to-head showdown. 

Stewart Mandel of Fox Sports had some interesting clarifications from the conference:

Could the Big 12 be the conference to get two teams into the playoffs instead of the SEC? How much weight will the head-to-head victory carry for Baylor?

The answers to those questions from the selection committee could shape the entire landscape of the playoff race.

One conference that is fairly straightforward is the Pac-12. It appears that we are headed toward a clash between Oregon and Arizona State in the conference title game, and the winner will almost assuredly reach the College Football Playoff. The Sun Devils were impressive Saturday against Notre Dame, and the Ducks are hitting on all cylinders behind Marcus Mariota and the high-octane offense. 

Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports and Cecil Hurt of The Tuscaloosa News provided some positive updates for the Ducks after Week 11:

Elsewhere, it is a somewhat popular notion that the Big Ten is out of the playoff race now that Michigan State has two losses, but the Ohio State Buckeyes are hanging around. Kirk Herbstreit and Mike Greenberg of ESPN both noted that the Buckeyes were very impressive in their victory on the road against the Spartans on Saturday:

The problem with Ohio State’s playoff chances is the inexplicable home loss it suffered early in the season to Virginia Tech. Yes, that was only J.T. Barrett’s second career start behind an inexperienced offensive line, but the Hokies are in last place in the ACC Coastal Division.

Bill Rabinowitz of The Columbus Dispatch described the paradox that comes with voting for the Buckeyes:

Then there is the SEC. 

Kyle Tucker of The Courier-Journal presented the doomsday scenario for the conference:

The SEC West has so many dangerous teams that it is not that difficult to envision a scenario where everyone has two losses. There is also the possibility that Missouri wins the conference championship against the SEC West representative, which would be an absolute disaster for the league’s playoff hopes since the Tigers lost to Indiana.

As long as the Bulldogs continue to win, though, the SEC will have at least one representative. Quarterback Dak Prescott knows that style points don’t matter nearly as much as winning, via Alex Scarborough of ESPN.com: “A win is a win. I don’t care. I don’t care if it’s by one point of whatever, it doesn’t matter to me as long as we’re winning.” 

It's hard to argue with that.

 

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College Football Playoff 2014: Top 25 Predictions After Week 12 AP Rankings

The 2014 regular season has been genuinely entertaining, but the mad rush toward the College Football Playoff has everyone trying to predict where the top programs in the nation will land on the Week 12 poll.

The Associated Press Top 25 rankings are a good barometer for how the Playoff selection committee will vote, but as proven through the first two weeks of the process, there are typically distinct differences.

Here are the predicted Week 12 College Football Playoff rankings, the Associated Press and Bleacher Report Top 25 polls and a breakdown of Week 11’s biggest winner.

 

 

Week 11’s Biggest Winner

After Auburn’s loss to Texas A&M Saturday, the biggest winner in the hunt to make the College Football Playoff was the Alabama Crimson Tide, who held on to beat LSU in a thrilling overtime game.

Coming into Week 11, Alabama was ranked fifth overall and was on the outside of the Playoffs looking in. While a matchup against another ranked program in the LSU Tigers was a serious test for the Crimson Tide, the team pulled out a huge victory.

LSU gave Alabama a fight, forcing the game into overtime, but the Crimson Tide scored a touchdown and earned the 20-13 win. With Auburn losing to Texas A&M in a stunning result Saturday as well, there is no doubt that Alabama deserves a spot in the top four now.

After the win over LSU, Alabama head coach Nick Saban spoke to Edward Aschoff of ESPN.com, “It was tough down there, and I’m really, really proud of our players for finishing the game the way they did. Great win. Great win for Alabama, and I’m really proud of our players.”

Unfortunately for Crimson Tide nation, the time spent in Playoff contention could be short-lived.

As if a final-week matchup against Auburn wasn’t tough enough, Alabama hosts the No. 1 Mississippi State Bulldogs in Week 12. While a victory for the Crimson Tide would catapult them into the conversation for No. 1 overall, a loss would send the team out of Playoff contention.

Alabama could regain some momentum if the program were to beat Auburn in the Iron Bowl, but the losses to Ole Miss and possibly Mississippi State would likely result in the Crimson Tide being pushed out of the top four for the remainder of the season.

At least for this week, Alabama is Playoff-worthy.

 

*Stats via ESPN.com.

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Auburn vs. Georgia: Complete Game Preview

Though both teams may be saddled with two losses, Saturday's game between the Auburn Tigers and the Georgia Bulldogs still carries conference implications galore.

Auburn (7-2 overall, 4-2 in the conference) currently sits fourth in the SEC West but remains very much in the division race thanks to a tiebreaker over Ole Miss and the ability to garner a tiebreaker over Alabama with an Iron Bowl win to close out the season.  Of course, even the best-laid plans and loftiest of hopes mean nothing if the Tigers can't first get by the Bulldogs this weekend.

Similarly, Georgia (7-2 overall, 5-2 in conference) is hoping that by winning out and getting help in the form of a loss from Missouri it will sneak back to Atlanta for its third SEC Championship Game appearance in four seasons.  But again, the first step to making that dream a reality is beating Auburn.

Here's what you need to know about this pivotal matchup between two bitter rivals:

  • Date: Saturday, November 15
  • Time: 7:15 p.m. ET
  • Place: Sanford Stadium, Athens, Georgia
  • TV: ESPN
  • Radio: Georgia Bulldogs Radio Network, AU Sports Network
  • Spread: Georgia (-2), per Odds Shark

 

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand and all stats accessed via Sports-Reference.com.

 

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Pretenders and Contenders for College Football Playoff After Insane Week 11

After a wild Week 11 that gave us some incredibly close finishes, it's time to decide which teams are for real. Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Michael Felder, Barrett Sallee and Adam Kramer debate who is a contender and who are just pretenders.  

Do you think Mississippi State is a contender or pretender?

Watch the video and let us know! 

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College Football Odds: Opening Week 12 Betting Lines and Totals

The Marshall Thundering Herd, looking to improve to a perfect 10-0 this season, have opened as strong 19.5-point favorites over the visiting Rice Owls at sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark on the college football betting lines for Week 12.

No. 21 Marshall jumped two positions in the Associated Press Top 25 following its lopsided 63-17 win over Southern Miss on the weekend, easily covering as the 26.5-point favorite. The Herd have been dominant this season, posting each of their nine victories by an average margin of more than 30 points, and they have been a solid bet, going 6-2-1 against the spread this season.

The 6-3 Owls have won their last six games straight up and ATS, improving to 4-1 in conference play to stay in contention in the Conference USA West division,. They trail only Louisiana Tech, which leads the West with a 6-0 record.

Rice topped Marshall in their last meeting, a 41-24 win last season, but the Herd are 3-2 SU in their last five games against Rice, going 3-1-1 ATS.

The Duke Blue Devils will be gunning for their fifth consecutive SU win when they face Virginia Tech in Week 12, opening as seven-point home favorites over the Hokies at sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark.

No. 19 Duke posted a decisive 27-10 win over the Syracuse Orange last weekend, covering as the four-point road favorite. The win kept the Blue Devils atop the ACC Coastal division with a record of 4-1 against conference opponents.

The 4-5 Hokies continue to endure a disappointing campaign, losing their third straight game SU and ATS last weekend, a 33-31 decision to visiting Boston College. The loss was Virginia Tech’s fifth in its last six when pegged as the favorite.

The surging Ohio State Buckeyes opened as strong 14.5-point road favorites for their Week 12 matchup with the Minnesota Golden Gophers at sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark. No. 8 Ohio State catapulted five spots in the AP Top 25 following its dominant 49-37 upset victory over Michigan State last weekend, its seventh straight SU win, 6-1 ATS.

The 7-2 Golden Gophers are 6-0 SU at home this season and 4-2 ATS, and they are deadlocked atop the Big Ten West alongside Nebraska and Wisconsin with a conference record of 4-1.

In other Week 12 college football betting action, the East Carolina Pirates opened as 2.5-point favorites over Cincinnati. The USC Trojans are favored by 12 points over California, and North Carolina opened as a slender 1.5-point favorite over Pittsburgh.

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

The minute the clock struck triple zeros in the Oregon and Utah clash in Week 11, college football fans and College Football Playoff hopefuls alike were ready to turn their attention toward Week 12.

After all, every game matters in the race for the final four spots, and there are as many as nine teams with zero losses or one loss with legitimate postseason hopes (sorry, Auburn, losing to the same Texas A&M team that got thumped 59-0 against Alabama and barely escaped UL Monroe is not a good look in November).

With that in mind, here is a look at the Associated Press rankings and then predictions and odds for every Top 25 game on the Week 12 slate. Point spreads are courtesy of Odds Shark as of Sunday evening at 8 p.m. ET.

 

Week 12 Upset Alert: Florida State at Miami

The showdown between Alabama and Mississippi State is the marquee game on the Week 12 calendar, but there is serious upset potential in the rivalry matchup between Florida State and Miami.

The Hurricanes have won their last three games and held opposing rushing attacks to 2.1 yards per carry, but it is the offense that should have the Seminoles on alert. Miami scored at least 30 points in each of those three games, and Duke Johnson is the best player in the country whom nobody is talking about.

Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press noted that Johnson has been racking up incredible numbers even though he hasn’t been on the field throughout the entire year:

Head coach Al Golden commented on the lack of heavy use, via Reynolds:

We want to keep his odometer down. We want to keep the hits off him. That's the biggest thing. His production is up but his overall play count is down. And I think he'd be the first to tell you, I think he's fresh and playing his best football right now.

This is the game the Hurricanes have been saving him for all season.

Johnson has at least 100 rushing yards in each of his last five contests and has scored in every game but the season opener. This prime-time showdown in front of the home fans is the ideal spotlight game for Johnson’s budding Heisman Trophy candidacy.

Johnson will be going for more than just a victory on Saturday. He has 3,080 rushing yards in his career even though he missed the majority of the second half of the 2013 season with injury, and he is nipping at the heels of Ottis Anderson’s Miami running back record of 3,331 career yards.

Florida State has given up more than 150 rushing yards in three of its last four games. Yes, the Seminoles have a strong front seven, but they are vulnerable against a formidable rushing attack, and that is exactly what Miami brings to the table.

The Seminoles have played in close games all season but emerged victorious with impressive second halves (and timely offensive pass interference calls), and that will once again be the case on Saturday.

Ultimately, Jameis Winston and the Florida State offense will make enough plays down the stretch to win yet again, but the Miami rushing attack and a raucous crowd under the lights will pose a serious problem for the majority of the game. 

The Seminoles are officially on upset alert.

Prediction: Florida State 28, Miami 24

 

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College Football Rankings 2014: Latest Standings and Predictions for Week 12

Any fear that the College Football Playoff would devalue the regular season should be long gone. 

Every Saturday is another 14-hour drama that unfolds before the fans’ eyes from the early noon ET kickoffs to the Pac-12 games that thrill us into the wee hours of the morning. Week 11 was certainly no different, as six games featured clashes between ranked teams.

Here is a look at the resultant fallout in the polls, including Bleacher Report’s official Top 25, heading into Week 12.

 

Week 12 Predictions

Alabama Ends Mississippi State’s Undefeated Dream

The SEC is down to one undefeated team, and it is Mississippi State. Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, the bullies on the SEC block will end that dream on Saturday.

Alabama gets Mississippi State at home and will unleash its dominant defense against Dak Prescott and the Bulldogs offense. The Crimson Tide rank second in the country in points allowed per game at 13.9, and they are fresh off a game-saving defensive performance against LSU in overtime.

The Crimson Tide will win this game by forcing a timely turnover in the second half. Mississippi State had 18 turnovers in its first nine games, and the Crimson Tide bring the best defense it has faced all year to the table.

At least head coach Dan Mullen recognized the problem before the Week 11 game against UT Martin, according to The Associated Press, via Fox Sports: "We take a lot of pride in protecting the football. I am obviously not very happy to have almost two years' worth of turnovers in eight games." 

Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, Mullen won’t be happy after Saturday’s game either.

 

Florida State Survives Scare

Florida State has followed a familiar pattern all season—let the opponent hang around for the opening half and then do enough to win after intermission.

The Seminoles survived in that fashion against Oklahoma State, North Carolina State, Notre Dame, Louisville and Clemson. You will be able to add archrival Miami to that list after Week 12.

The Hurricanes will be plenty motivated at home to end Florida State’s College Football Playoff hopes behind a balanced offensive attack that averages 33 points a game. Miami comes into this one with a three-game winning streak, and all three of its losses came on the road against quality opponents (Louisville, Georgia Tech and Nebraska). 

The Seminoles allowed at least 20 points in each of the last four games and will struggle to contain Miami’s offense. It will take an impressive second half from Jameis Winston for Florida State to avoid its first loss since 2012.

 

Ohio State Survives Stiff Test From Minnesota

Ohio State made a louder statement than anyone else in the country in Week 11 (outside of perhaps TCU) when it walked into Michigan State and dominated the Spartans from the middle of the second quarter on.

It was a cathartic revenge game for the Buckeyes against the team that knocked them out of the national championship game a season ago. However, their clash at Minnesota is the classic definition of a trap game.

Ohio State is fresh off its biggest win in years and now has to motivate itself again for another road contest against a less talented opponent. It probably doesn’t help that the kickoff will be at noon ET, before the entire Minnesota student section even files in. It will certainly have a different feel than the prime-time game at Michigan State. 

The bottom line is, the Buckeyes must avoid overlooking the Gophers, and that will be easier said than done. Jeff Svoboda of Buckeye Sports Bulletin also had an important message for Ohio State fans assuming that this will be an easy victory:

The good news for Buckeyes supporters is that coach Urban Meyer understands that his team cannot overlook the Golden Gophers. At least he does if this quote, via Patrick Maks of Eleven Warriors, is any indication:

Ohio State will do enough to win and stay firmly in the race for one of the four College Football Playoff spots, but we will not see the same intensity we did against Michigan State.

 

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Bowl Predictions 2014: Latest Playoff Projections Before Critical Week 12

Week 11 on the college football schedule was supposed to separate the contenders from the pretenders with six showdowns between ranked teams. 

While we saw some of that when Ohio State handled Michigan State, Arizona State beat Notre Dame, TCU crushed Kansas State, Alabama outlasted LSU and Utah literally dropped the ball against Oregon, the biggest headline was Texas A&M’s shocking upset over Auburn.

Not only did it likely end the Tigers’ playoff hopes, but it put a major dent into the narrative about two SEC teams making the College Football Playoff field. Mississippi State and Alabama are certainly both still contenders, but they play each other in Week 12, and the Bulldogs still have to battle Ole Miss.

With that in mind, here is a look at the latest playoff projections heading into a critical Week 12.

 

Bowl Predictions

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

Rose Bowl: No. 3 Oregon vs. No. 2 Alabama

Championship Bowl (in Arlington, Texas): TBD (Semifinal Winners) 

Florida State and Alabama will clinch the top two spots in the field of four by winning out and capturing their respective conference championships. That would leave the Seminoles undefeated and the Crimson Tide with only one loss and a number of impressive SEC wins.

Oregon now has the inside track at a one-loss season and a Pac-12 title with only one difficult game remaining on the schedule (the Pac-12 Championship Game against the eventual South Division winner). 

TCU will seize the fourth and final spot by winning out against Texas, Iowa State and Kansas. The Horned Frogs may eventually need Baylor to lose since the Bears won their head-to-head showdown, but Kansas State will help TCU out by beating Baylor.

 

Week 12 Sneak Peek

The headliner of the Week 12 schedule and the game with the biggest playoff implications is the showdown between Alabama and Mississippi State.

The Bulldogs may be No. 1 in the country, but this one is in Tuscaloosa against an Alabama team that could be hitting its stride after a narrow win at LSU. A loss would be crippling to Mississippi State’s playoff chances even with an SEC schedule because it still has to play Ole Miss and would likely lose out on the division crown to the Crimson Tide.

That would raise the question of whether a team can really be the best in the country if it isn’t the best team in its own division.

There is also this bit of information, via Brian Bennett of ESPN:

Outside of the SEC West clash, there are two Week 12 games in particular that should have playoff contenders on upset alert.

Florida State has to travel to Miami to take on the motivated and dangerous archrival Hurricanes, while Ohio State has to go to Minnesota and face an underrated Golden Gophers team. The Seminoles continue to win, which is the most important part of the playoff race, but they haven’t looked as dominant as they did a season ago.

Head coach Jimbo Fisher suggested as much after a Week 11 win over Virginia, via CBS Miami: “Winning is hard. There’s no such thing as a bad win. We knew this was going to be a very physical, good football team.”

As for Minnesota, it destroyed a solid Iowa team in Week 11 and could give the Buckeyes serious problems if the latter is still reveling in its impressive win over Michigan State and overlooking a sleepy noon kickoff against the Golden Gophers.

That game could be too close for comfort for many within the borders of Buckeye Nation.

Other games to watch are showdowns featuring Auburn against Georgia and Nebraska against Wisconsin. While the Tigers and Bulldogs clash lost some luster when Auburn lost to Texas A&M, the game between the Cornhuskers and Badgers is critical in the Big Ten’s West Division.

The winner will have the inside track for a spot in the conference championship game against Ohio State in all likelihood, and the Cornhuskers would be very much alive in the playoff race in that scenario. 

Buckle up, because the ride is just getting started.

 

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College Football Superlatives from Kramer's Korner: An Unexpected Star Is Born

With 5-star weapons scattered all over the field, Alabama turned to a lineman-turned tight end—a 304-pound hulking human being who looked far too large to be running free down any football field—at a time when it needed a big play.

As bizarre as it looked from where we were seated, the entire sequence played out perfectly.

Brandon Greene had never caught a pass until Saturday night. In fact, not long ago, he was the nation’s No. 12 offensive lineman recruit. He bounced back and forth between the offensive line and tight end, and he’s been used as a blocker regardless of where he’s played throughout his young collegiate career.

Against LSU, however, that all changed. Greene got loose on a play that also featured true freshman lineman Cam Robinson—an even larger human being known for his blocking—decoying on a screen pass.

The result of the play was a 24-yard gain, perhaps the most important 24 yards of Alabama’s season. Although a personal foul was called, negating some of the enormous gain, Alabama scored only a few plays later when DeAndrew White caught the go-ahead touchdown.

LSU couldn’t mount any offense when it got the ball, and the game ended on a failed throw into the end zone.

With unlimited options at Lane Kiffin’s disposal, Greene was the one he targeted. For a team that has relied so heavily on its star power—a recruiting and development factory unmatched by any other—it was this curious, outstanding play call that helped spark a road victory.

As a result, the Crimson Tide will hang around in the College Football Playoff conversation a bit longer. In fact, with a loss from its rival, Alabama will likely move into the updated top four on Tuesday night when the selection committee unveils its latest Top 25.

For Alabama to stay in this mix, it will rely on 5-star talents such as Amari Cooper, Landon Collins, Robinson T.J. Yeldon and many others. Ultimately, these players will dictate just how the latest chapter of Alabama football is written.

On one play, however, in the biggest moment imaginable, the powerhouse broke script. And a 304-pound man still searching for a position took up the entire spotlight.

As for the awards, Vine-worthy moments and necessary tweets featuring televisions in swimming pools, here are observations from Week 11.

 

Offensive Player of the Week: J.T. Barrett, Ohio State 

On the road and operating against one of the nation’s best defenses, J.T. Barrett made it look easy at times. Ohio State’s redshirt freshman quarterback didn’t just find success against Michigan State, he dismantled the Spartans and put on an absolute clinic.

Although he completed only 16 passes, Barrett threw for 300 yards. He also added 86 rushing yards on 14 carries and scored five touchdowns. For further perspective on this offensive output, please take note of the following.

OSU points against MSU, tonight: 49. M points against MSU, Hoke era: 43.

— mgoblog (@mgoblog) November 9, 2014

 

 Dominant Defender: Gerod Holliman, Louisville

It is somewhat shocking that Gerod Holliman hasn’t found his way into this section prior to Week 11. The nation’s leader in interceptions added three more to his resume against Boston College. He also finished the game with a pass breakup, four tackles and one tackle for loss. 

Holliman has now picked off 13 (!!!) passes this season, just one shy of the FBS record. Ole Miss defensive back Senquez Golson is second nationally with nine interceptions, while the next closest player on this list has six INTs. 

More startling than the number itself is Holliman’s interception game log, which is far more active than any interception log you've seen in recent memory.

 

Video Game Box Score

— The Boise State-New Mexico game was an offensive thing of beauty. The Broncos came back and won despite giving up 28 first-quarter points, although the overall numbers from this one were staggering. In total, there were 109 points and 1,285 yards. Perhaps most amazing about this game, however, is that New Mexico State ran for 505 yards...and still lost by double digits.

And they didn't win. In fact, they lost by double digits. pic.twitter.com/aNpwwPaAgf

— Adam Kramer (@KegsnEggs) November 9, 2014

— After falling behind 14-0 to Southern Miss, Marshall responded. Oh, did it respond. With less than one minute left in the first quarter, the Thundering Herd finally scored on a Rakeem Cato touchdown pass. Including this score, Marshall outscored the Golden Eagles 63-3 in the final 46 minutes. And in the last four second halves, Marshall has outscored its opponents 108-13.

 

Anti-Video Game Box Score

— Iowa marched 76 yards on 12 plays and scored a touchdown on its first drive against Minnesota. On its last drive of the day, it went 81 yards on nine plays for a score. While these may seem like positive developments, the drives in between against Minnesota tell a rather different tale. Proceed with caution.

What a delicious sandwich. pic.twitter.com/wHZEIC8tVX

— Adam Kramer (@KegsnEggs) November 8, 2014

— It was not a great Saturday for the Stoops family from a box score/results standpoint. Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops and Kentucky’s Mark Stoops each suffered massive defeats, losing to Baylor and Georgia by, well, a lot. In total, the Stoops bros were outscored 111-45 and outgained in total yardage 1,104 to 673.

— And finally, there's no further context needed for this one. Behold the saddest drive chart of the weekend, which says a lot given the relative sadness to be found. 

FINAL Indiana drive chart vs. PSU: punt punt punt punt punt punt interception punt punt punt missed field goal punt punt interception downs

— Chris Adamski (@C_AdamskiTrib) November 9, 2014

 

Biggest Surprise

In the box score, this play is listed as a 100-yard fumble return for Oregon’s Joe Walker, which is strange enough without further context. But if you watched this play unfold, you know that this necessary Ducks touchdown was far more complex than that. 

Utah wide receiver Kaelin Clay was gone. He beat the Oregon defense with relative ease, and the Utes looked to be up 14-0 on one of the nation’s top teams as the second quarter got underway. And then, at about the 1.5-yard line, he dropped the ball as he started his celebration early.

It was clear as day, and the chaotic turn allowed Walker to pick the ball up and go 100 yards as cameramen frantically tried to determine what had just occurred.

The Ducks ended up winning the game in comfortable fashion with a late surge, although one can’t help but wonder how different things might have looked. 

 

Best Moment 

As card-carrying media members, we are not supposed to show favoritism toward any player, coach or team. With that nonsense taken into full consideration, how can you not love Minnesota coach Jerry Kill?

It’s his overall demeanor, the way he’s dealt with his epilepsy out in the open and the fact that he’s a tremendous and vastly underrated football coach. Somewhat quietly, Kill had made Minnesota a contender once again. And along the way, on occasion, he has celebrated this long voyage with dance.

After beating Iowa into a pulp, Kill decided it was time to break out the moves yet again. 

 

For the Highlight Reel

Myles Jack cannot be human. He must instead be some sort of linebacker robot, one that was accidentally given running back programming as a rogue scientist’s final elaborate exit from his company. That is the only feasible explanation.

Regardless of what the circumstances were to create UCLA’s remarkable weapon, Jack showed the nation (again) his incredible range of skills on his 28-yard touchdown scamper against Washington.

There’s a stiff arm, a spin move and somehow he manages to stay in bounds while displaying the balance of a 185-pound scatback. Bless this faulty and aggressive programming. 

 

 

If the College Football Playoff Started Today...(or Why I Hate Your Team) 

This is becoming increasingly difficult.

Although the picture will continue to evolve over the coming weeks—especially with Alabama-Mississippi State on deck in Week 12—the College Football Playoff conversations are becoming a bit more authentic.

Before we get to that game, however, we have to select four playoff teams and enrage the masses not invited to the party. Remember: If your team is not mentioned below, it’s a personal attack on you and your rooting interests. There can be no other explanation.

1. Mississippi State

2. Florida State

3. Oregon

4. TCU

4.1. Alabama (It’s that close.)

 

Five Leftovers to Chew on

1. After beating Iowa State, Kansas fans stormed the field. They ripped down the goal posts. They celebrated, finally, after years upon years of unsatisfying results. While this was happening, the field-storming police arrived and poked fun, which is to be expected. After all, it is Iowa State and the field-storming police never sleep. But this judgment is always so strange. For starters, these are college kids. And if someone feels like celebrating—and can do so without anyone getting injured—who are we to say otherwise? Let young people act like young people.

2. There’s a very real possibility that Duke will finish the regular season with an 11-1 record, and no one seems to care. After beating Syracuse 27-10 on the road in Week 11, the Blue Devils will close with Virginia Tech, North Carolina and Wake Forest all at home. Let’s say for the sake of getting weird that Duke wins out in the regular season and beats unbeaten Florida State in the ACC Championship Game. Is Duke a playoff team? If not, the Blue Devils would be awfully close. Yes, this is a real-life scenario you should consider.

3. It’s amazing that Urban Meyer still needs to win marquee games in order to reinforce his status as an elite coach. When you look at what he’s been able to do with a completely rebuilt offensive line and a redshirt freshman at quarterback, the 2014 season might be some of Meyer’s finest work yet. There’s still work to be done—and a spot in the College Football Playoff still seems unlikely—but kudos to Meyer and the Buckeyes for bouncing back after one of this season’s most perplexing losses.

4. On the topic of quality coaches, kudos to Charlie Strong and the Texas Longhorns. Our expectations of this national power have certainly shifted greatly, as seen by a celebration over a good (but not great) West Virginia squad. But this is the very beginning. As Strong attracts more talent to the program—and he will do just that in the not-too-distant future—the product will continue to blossom. In the meantime, celebrate the small victories accordingly. (Also, all that dad strength can’t be easy to lift upward.)

5. I know putting running backs in the Heisman discussion is no longer the “proper” thing to do, but are we really going to just ignore Melvin Gordon? Yes, Wisconsin has two losses, but the Badgers' two losses are a product of having a limited passing attack. Without Gordon, who knows where this team would be. With three games remaining, Gordon has rushed for 1,501 rushing yards and scored 21 total touchdowns. If he goes for 2,000 yards—and even if he doesn’t—I hope he at least makes the trip to New York. He’s earned it.

 

Your Unexplainable 15-Play, 33-Yard Drive of the Week

Years from now, when all of earth’s secrets are unlocked, scientists will tirelessly attempt to explain one final incredible event.

How did Wyoming take 15 plays and nearly eight minutes to go 33 yards?

Wyoming's 15-play, 33-yard drive pic.twitter.com/ZgNZybd59x

— Barrett Sallee (@BarrettSallee) November 8, 2014

Don’t bother trying to explain the events above. That's for our future scientists to sort out.

 

Bizarre and Spectacular Sequence of the Week

Some moments are so superb that they can’t possibly be fit in one play.

Disclaimer: Please keep in mind that “superb” can also refer to overall entertainment value, not the overall quality of play—or, in this instance, plays. 

North Carolina State and Georgia Tech delivered a three-part masterpiece. First came the interception-turned fumble, which bounced off a foot and into the arms of Quayshawn Nealy. Nealy ran it back—looking like he might go the distance—until he was tackled and stripped by Jaylen Samuels. N.C. State recovered the fumble, getting unexpected life. 

On the very next play,quarterback Jacoby Brissett threw a pick-six. 

Fin.

 

Michigan-Northwestern Told Through Magic Vines 

Did you, for whatever reason, not see Michigan and Northwestern play football this weekend? If so, that was probably well-planned on your end. Excellent work.

A 0-0 game at half finally saw points (finally) in the final 30 minutes, although the 10-9 final score pretty much says it all. Here's a brief summary in two Vines. Anything more, and you've invested too much into this game.

First, there was this, the anti-highlight reel play of the weekend. 

And then there was this two-point conversion attempt by Northwestern that could have won the game. It did not. 

Now let us never speak of this game again.

 

That One Time Gus Johnson Confused Ron Jeremy and Ron Burgundy

Live television is unbelievably difficult. Gus Johnson is wonderful at his job. Those two things are important, and they're also why we’re going to allow him this mulligan for confusing Ron Burgundy of Anchorman with a person who, well, isn't Ron Burgundy.

 

That One Time a Game Was Delayed Due to a Grill Fire

This, as far as I'm aware, was the first time this season a game was delayed due to a grill fire in the concessions. You knew Fordham and Bucknell would get a shoutout this week, you just never knew it would happen like this. 

Concession stand fire at Bucknell! pic.twitter.com/8t3eGTjkaW

— WFUV Sports (@wfuvsports) November 8, 2014

 

Understandable Fan Overreaction of the Week

Sometimes silent disappointment isn't enough. Sometimes, when it's really difficult, you have to throw your television in a pool.

One of my roommates went to Auburn. pic.twitter.com/8iESdGSmAV

— Kurt Stadelman (@KurtStadelman) November 9, 2014

 

From the Peanut Gallery (Best Tweets of the Weekend)

Guy Fieri is loving it. pic.twitter.com/rzhF6mp7zb

— Tom Fornelli (@TomFornelli) November 8, 2014

#M00Npic.twitter.com/GQcd88rr9a

— MGoShoe (@MGoShoe) November 8, 2014

Lol. PC player postgame amazed at the size of Robert Nkemdiche's bicep. pic.twitter.com/GiNMZa5pqp

— Bennett Hipp (@BennettHipp) November 8, 2014

Alabama is the Death Star, and kicking field goals is the thermal exhaust port.

— Ryan Nanni (@celebrityhottub) November 9, 2014

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Playoff 2014: Rankings and Predictions Heading into Week 12

Leading up to one of the most pivotal weekends of the season for three of the top teams in the country, a lot is on the line on Saturday.

This week's college football committee poll hasn't been released, but every fan knows how important the Mississippi State vs. Alabama game promises to be. Both teams are vying for a shot at the SEC title along with a chance to make the first-ever College Football Playoff.

Outside of the SEC, Florida State will put its undefeated record on the line against Miami. Each team comes in on a roll, but the Hurricanes' three-game winning streak is nowhere near the run the Seminoles have through the last two seasons.

Prior to Week 12 getting underway, here's a look at the latest Associated Press rankings and predictions for top games.

 

Mississippi State vs. Alabama

A week after surviving certain doom in Death Valley with a win over LSU, Alabama has one of its biggest matchups of the season against Mississippi State.

The Bulldogs and Crimson Tide are Nos. 1 and 2 in the SEC West but have much larger aspirations for the season. A victory for either team would make its resume even more solid for the College Football Playoff committee.

Mississippi State is, of course, led by Dak Prescott, who is one of the leading Heisman contenders, via ESPN College Football:

Prescott has muscled his way to 2,231 passing yards, 779 rushing yards, 29 total touchdowns and just seven interceptions. He's led the Bulldogs to wins over LSU, Texas A&M and Auburn, but Saturday will be a true test on the road.

Following the team's win over LSU, Nick Saban referenced where his team stands heading into Week 12, per George Schroeder of USA Today:

“We control our own destiny in terms of what we want to accomplish, and we won the game,” Saban said. “But we didn’t play that great. And we need to play better, and we need to improve.”

Amari Cooper may steal all of the spotlight for the Tide—and rightfully so—but it will be Blake Sims who has to close the deal on Saturday. Sims was solid on the final drives for Bama in the fourth quarter and overtime against LSU but will need a full game of great play to take down Mississippi State.

Even with the great season the Bulldogs have put together, Bama at home with the weapons on offense and defense will be too much. The Tide will roll on Saturday, but this might not be the final matchup for the two teams this season.

Prediction: Alabama 23, Mississippi State 21

 

Florida State vs. Miami

The focus for college football fans will be squarely on Tuscaloosa on Saturday, but an upset might just take place in Coral Gables.

Jameis Winston has been a rock for the Seminoles since his first start as a freshman, never losing during his tenure. His play has the Seminoles nearing a mark ironically enough set by Miami over a decade ago, as ESPN Stats & Info notes:

Now a sophomore, Winston has been under fire all season but still finds ways to survive despite inconsistent play. Last year's Heisman Trophy winner has thrown 17 touchdowns to 11 interceptions, including multiple turnovers in four games already this season.

On the opposite side stands Duke Johnson, who has quietly built his own case to be in Heisman contention. Johnson has totaled 1,486 total yards and 11 touchdowns this season and put up some of his best numbers against ACC opposition.

Miami coach Al Golden spoke about Johnson's recent production and how he's dealt with the running back this season, per CBS Miami:

We want to keep his odometer down. We want to keep the hits off him. That’s the biggest thing. His production is up but his overall play count is down. And I think he’d be the first to tell you, I think he’s fresh and playing his best football right now.

That strategy has seemed to pay off lately as Johnson is hitting his stride. Over the last four games, Johnson has averaged 201.4 yards and tallied eight total touchdowns.

Florida State will get a heavy dose of Johnson, so this matchup will be much closer than some might expect. But with FSU surviving so many close games already this season, expect yet another against Miami as it continues a push to the College Football Playoff.

Prediction: Florida State 35, Miami 31

 

Follow @RCorySmith on Twitter.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football's All-Week 11 Team: Top Performers at Every Position

Week 11 was a show-this-off-to-your-friends type of week, a slate that was just as good as the chaos-filled Week 6.

This time, however, we were assured of that going in. Two games featured opponents from the College Football Playoff Top 10, and three more featured opponents from the Top 17. Nearly 60 percent of the Top 17 was playing each other.

With so many important games on the schedule, there was more opportunity than usual for players to prove their worth against the best competition/on the biggest stage. In these games in particular (but not unanimously), we found our All-Week 11 performers.

Before we proceed, a weekly reminder that the All-Week team does not use stats as a concrete metric. Raw numbers are weighed against level of competition and how the players looked. Stats were taken into strong account but not used as an absolute yardstick.

They are not always indicative of who played best.

Begin Slideshow

TCU vs. Alabama: Who Deserves the Last College Football Playoff Spot?

Thankfully, the season doesn't end today. Bodies of work aren't complete. And if Week 11 showed us anything, it's that college football is too much fun for it to end so soon. 

Still, that hasn't stopped an ever-growing debate about which teams are more worthy of a playoff spot. With Auburn's loss to Texas A&M, Alabama, Oregon and TCU assume the jockeying for the final two spots in the latest playoff rankings. 

Oregon seems like a sure thing to fill one of those spots after a convincing 51-27 win at Utah. The Ducks now have one of the best nonconference wins in the country over Michigan State and back-to-back blowout victories over the best two defenses in the Pac-12 (Utah and Stanford). 

Which means, chances are, the final spot comes down to either Alabama or TCU. There's simply no way Florida State and Mississippi State aren't No. 1 and No. 2, no matter how you rank them. For what it's worth, the Tide and Frogs came in at No. 5 and No. 6, respectively, in the playoff poll a week ago

Which one is more deserving? If the season ended today—again, it doesn't—the edge would have to go to TCU. 

To be clear, it's close. Let's start by looking at the resumes side-by-side in the table below: 

Can you guess which team is which without looking?

Alabama is Team 1 and TCU is Team 2. The Tide clearly have a strength-of-schedule advantage based on Sagarin rankings, but both have just one victory over a current Associated Press Top 25 team. TCU has victories over former Top 25 teams West Virginia and Oklahoma; Alabama also beat the Mountaineers—by 10 in Week 1 of the season—and it beat Texas A&M 59-0 when the Aggies were ranked, probably wrongly so.

TCU's one loss came on a last-second field goal after blowing a big lead to Baylor, currently ranked No. 6 in the AP poll. Alabama's lone defeat came at the hands of No. 10 Ole Miss, which has since dropped a pair of close games to LSU and Auburn. 

Either way, there's no doubt that each team's best win came this past weekend. TCU leveled Kansas State 41-20, while Alabama needed overtime to beat LSU 20-13. 

By Tide coach Nick Saban's own admission, it was not his team's best effort. 

B/R colleague Barrett Sallee thinks that, while thrilling, beating LSU in Death Valley isn't a playoff invitation for Alabama. Not by itself, that is. He's not the only one. 

TCU has looked better to this point. Going forward, though, things could change to the point where we're not even having this discussion. Alabama still has to play No. 1 Mississippi State and Auburn, and it gets both at home. Whether you think the Tide looked impressive or not in the win over LSU, the opportunity is there for Alabama to put this conversation to bed once and for all. 

Conversely, TCU could be in the middle of a potentially fascinating debate at year's end if the Frogs and Baylor win out. The Bears hold the head-to-head win over the Frogs, but to date, voters have been more favorable to TCU. If both finish as co-champions, playoff head honcho Bill Hancock says that each team will be viewed, in essence, as the Big 12 champ. 

There's a lot that still needs to be figured out, which is why it's a good thing we still have another month to sort through it all. If Alabama and TCU keep winning, though, they'll be in good position at year's end—better position than some others, in all likelihood. 

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Missouri vs. Texas A&M Complete Game Preview

The Texas A&M football team will take on the Missouri Tigers at Kyle Field on Saturday. This game could decide the winner of the SEC East. 

The Aggies are 7-3 on the season with a 3-3 record in the SEC. Missouri is 7-2 with a 4-1 record in the SEC. The Tigers have a one-game lead on Georgia in the East. They will have to win their three remaining regular-season games in order to win the division. 

Texas A&M is coming off a 41-38 upset win over Auburn on the road. The Aggies are playing for a better spot in the bowl order. Missouri had a bye and has had an extra week off to prepare for Texas A&M. 

This is a look at how the two teams match up on Saturday. 

Begin Slideshow

Alabama Showdown Is the Biggest Game in a Generation for Mississippi State

Ever since Nick Saban took over as the head coach of the Alabama Crimson Tide prior to the 2007 season, the program has played in enormous football games.

Whether it's the annual showdown with his former LSU program, the rivalry with intrastate foe Auburn, tough out-of-conference matchups or bowl games, big-game atmospheres and Alabama go together like peanut butter and jelly.

It's a different case for No. 1 Mississippi State.

To steal a line from the Adam Sandler hit Big Daddy, big games and Mississippi State go together like lamb and tuna fish.

Well, at least until this year.

Head coach Dan Mullen's crew has suddenly become synonymous with winning big games after going on the road to beat LSU, 34-29, in a game that wasn't as close as the score indicated and then beating defending conference champ Auburn a few weeks later, 38-23, in Starkville.

A win over No. 3 Alabama in Tuscaloosa would cement the staying power of the Bulldogs and put them in position to clinch the division the following week at home against Vanderbilt.

"It’s a big-time game this week," Mullen said in postgame press conference after the UT-Martin win. "This is what you play for. We’re in the middle of November, competing for first place in the SEC West, which is what it’s all about. That’s what you come here for. That’s what we want our program to be like."

It's never been like this. 

Mississippi State has been to only one SEC Championship Game since the divisional split in 1992—a 24-14 loss to eventual national champion Tennessee in 1998. That Bulldog team, led by head coach Jackie Sherrill, entered the Georgia Dome 8-3 and ranked No. 23. 

My, how things have changed.

"Saturday night's game with Alabama isn't just the biggest in a generation, it's the biggest in the history of the program," said Richard Cross, co-host of Head to Head Radio, syndicated statewide in Mississippi. "Mississippi State is positioned perfectly. Not only do the Bulldogs have a huge opportunity in front of them, they have, arguably, the best team they've ever had to try and capitalize on this opportunity."

Hyperbole? Not at all. It's that big in Starkville.

"This is the biggest football game State has played in since the SEC championship game in 1998, and probably bigger," said Brian Hadad, host of The B&B Show on Bulldog Sports Radio on VSporto. "There were no national title implications for Mississippi State that day. Simply put, in 100 plus years of football, Mississippi State has never played in a game with stakes like this."

How will Mississippi State react to the big stage? 

Nothing has phased it yet. The Auburn game was complete with ESPN's College GameDay in town, and all Mullen's crew did was build an early 21-0 lead on the Tigers and hold on for the win.

If the Bulldogs follow the same blueprint against Alabama, the same result will follow.

Alabama's win over LSU will be incorrectly be labeled as a quality win for the Crimson Tide. Is it their best win? Yes. But Alabama's offense sputtered in Death Valley, the play-calling was suspect and the defense was susceptible to quarterback Anthony Jennings' ability to make things happen on the ground at times.

Jennings is no Dak Prescott.

The Bulldogs quarterback is in the thick of the Heisman Trophy race, has proved to be a threat with his legs and, unlike Jennings, is dangerous as a passer.

If Prescott leads Mississippi State to a win, the celebration in "StarkVegas" will be a combination of exuberance and relief.

"It means you can exhale," Hadad said. "A win here all but clinches a second SEC West championship and a probable playoff spot. It means State can go to Oxford [to play Ole Miss] knowing its place in Atlanta is secure. Honestly, I don't know how Mississippi State fans will react, because there's no precedent for it."

That precedent is on the brink of being set. If it is Saturday afternoon, it will set off the celebration of a generation in Starkville.

 

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.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

NCAA Football Rankings 2014: Hits and Misses from Week 11

Another college football weekend is in the books, and another round of carnage has ensued. The anticipated weekend of the season featured six games between Top 25 teams. Five of those games resulted in double-digit wins. Only Alabama's overtime win over LSU was close. 

Additionally, Auburn saw its playoff hopes go up in flames after a surprising loss to Texas A&M. So, sure, it was an elimination weekend of sorts. 

As is customary every Sunday, The Associated Press and USA Today released their new Top 25 polls. Though neither of these polls are taken into consideration with the playoff-selection committee, they may provide a glimpse into where teams stand. 

You can also check out the latest Bleacher Report Top 25 for comparison.

Which teams were appropriately ranked in the latest Top 25 polls? Which ones weren't? The answers are in the following slides.

Begin Slideshow

College Football Rankings 2014: Twitter Reacts to AP and Amway Week 12 Polls

Another week, another wash of potential playoff teams falling by the wayside. Auburn's upset loss to Texas A&M coupled with six high-profile matchups between Top 25 teams has provided some clarity with the college football season winding down.    

After two wins against lesser opponents, Mississippi State and Florida State continue to be the mainstays atop the Associated Press and Amway Coaches polls. Moving up into the near-lock status for a Top Four berth are Oregon and Alabama, which each earned noteworthy road victories against Utah and LSU, respectively.

With No. 5 TCU inching its way into the conversation, there is a pretty clear hierarchy atop the polls. Here is a look at how both Top 25s played out, along with Bleacher Report's official Top 25:

The biggest change is near the top, with Auburn dropping to No. 9 after its 41-38 loss to Texas A&M. The Tigers battled back from a 35-17 halftime deficit, but lost fumbles on their final two drives thwarted the comeback effort. Nick Marshall coughed the ball up on a goal-line rush attempt from the Aggies 2-yard line, and then a botched snap deep inside Texas A&M territory wrapped it up.

"It hurts. It hurts our team," Auburn coach Gus Malzahn told reporters. "We had goals and dreams and we didn't get it done."  

ESPN's Mike Greenberg weighed in on the loss:

True freshman Kyle Allen threw for 277 yards and four touchdowns in the best start of his young career. The Aggies, who were the sixth-ranked team in the country before opening their SEC schedule with three straight losses, are still on the outside looking in. They close the regular season with home games against Missouri and LSU.

ESPN fantasy expert Matthew Berry, whose mother is the mayor of College Station, sent out his congratulations:

Speaking of Les Miles' team, it came within a possession of ending Alabama's national title hopes. The Crimson Tide needed a furious 50-second drive to set up a 27-yard Adam Griffith field goal to force overtime, where Blake Sims found DeAndrew White from six yards out to keep Alabama at one loss. Sims completed 20 of 45 passes for 209 yards and two touchdowns in a game that felt like an old-school SEC matchup.

"He didn't have one of his better games. It was tough," Alabama coach Nick Sabantold reporters of his quarterback. "He hung in there. He made some great plays when he had to...I'm really, really proud of way he hung in there."

ESPN Stats & Info provided numbers on the dichotomy between Sims' performance early versus down the stretch:

The coaches' decision to keep Alabama above Oregon has been a little controversial given the Ducks' emphatic win over Utah. Marcus Mariota threw for 239 yards, added 114 on the ground and scored four total touchdowns, including two in a 24-point fourth quarter. Mariota and Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott have emerged as the two clear front-runners for the Heisman Trophy.

Bryan Fischer of NFL.com noted how impressive Mariota's numbers have been given the injuries elsewhere on the team:

Oregon closes its regular season with relative gimmes against Colorado and Oregon State, which should put the Ducks 11-1 heading into the Pac-12 Championship Game.

Their likely opponent in that contest, Arizona State, moved closer to making the Pac-12 title game a quasi-playoff contest Saturday. The Sun Devils got their biggest win of the season in a 55-31 rout of Notre Dame, which was mostly caused by five Irish turnovers. Everett Golson threw four interceptions and the Irish managed only 41 rushing yards to send their playoff chances packing.

On the other side, Taylor Kelly had three touchdowns and 224 yards passing while D.J. Foster added 120 yards on the ground. Arizona State led by as many as 31 points and staved off a Notre Dame comeback attempt to score the game's final three touchdowns. Only rival Arizona on Nov. 28 should come between the Sun Devils and a potential showdown with Oregon.

"Getting a win on a national stage like that is big for this program," Kelly told reporters.

ESPN Stats & Info provided a, well, not great stat for Irish fans:

Also proving their worth to the selection committee were Ohio State and Baylor, which each came into Saturday with their share of skeptics. Freshman J.T. Barrett accounted for five touchdowns and Ezekiel Elliott rushed for 154 yards, as the Buckeyes earned their biggest win of the season against Michigan State.

Ohio State has won seven straight games since its frustrating loss to Virginia Tech and has the inside track at a Big Ten title. Urban Meyer's team does not have a game remaining against a ranked opponent until a potential conference championship showdown. Perhaps the most noteworthy game remaining for the Buckeyes is against rival Michigan.

Paul Myerberg of USA Today has already turned in his prediction:

Baylor, which it should be noted defeated TCU this season, shouldn't have many doubters left following its 48-14 thrashing of Oklahoma. The Bears scored the game's final 45 points after going down 14-3 in the first quarter. Corey Coleman caught 15 Bryce Petty passes for 224 yards and a touchdown, also adding another score on the ground.

"There was something about this game," Petty told reporters. "This game, for me, was circled, dotted, starred, whatever you want to call it on the calendar. I don't like to make that public because every game's a big game, but I really wanted to win this game."

ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit called Oklahoma's loss "embarrassing":

Stewart Mandel of Fox Sports notes Baylor's impressive win should help close the gap between the Bears and Horned Frogs:

While the Big 12 is still left to be decided, Saturday provided some much-needed clarity for the playoff picture. There are only 10 Power Five teams with zero or one loss, and with many of them playing one another down the stretch, the situation may suss itself out and leave an obvious final four.

For now, the debate rages on.

 

Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Rankings 2014: Week 12 AP and Amway Standings Revealed

Step right up and state your case for this year's College Football Playoff. One-loss teams will be considered. Heck, before everything is done and dusted, two-loss teams might be considered, too.

Strength of schedule? You'll need that. Marquee wins? Vital. Head-to-head matchups? They matter, until they don't. Passing the eye test? We're still trying to figure out what the parameters of that test are. 

But come forward, college football teams, and bring forth your resumes. While we have to wait a few days until the playoff committee unveils its rankings, the Associated Press and Amway Coaches polls are out for this week. Let's take a look at each below, along with Bleacher Report's official Top 25, and analyze the weekend that was.

 

AP Poll

 

 

Coaches Poll

 

 

Analysis

You really don't want to be the No. 3 team in the country this season. At some point this year, Oregon, Oklahoma, Alabama, Ole Miss, Baylor and Auburn have been in that position in one poll or another, and all have lost.

This week it was Auburn, dropping a heartbreaker to Texas A&M, where—please excuse the cliche—the magic seemed to run out for War Eagle. 

"We just didn't get it done when we usually do," Auburn coach Gus Malzahn told Brandon Marcello of AL.com after the team's 41-38 loss to Texas A&M that included two Tigers fumbles in the last three minutes of the game.

That's perhaps the difference between reaching the playoff and watching it at home—uncharacteristic fumbles at the worst possible moment against a team you're supposed to beat. But that's been this season in a nutshell.

That finish—along with several other key results over the weekend—has left the quest for the playoff in upheaval. Sort of like it was in upheaval last week. And the week before that. And the week before... Well, you get the point. 

Mississippi State and Florida State will remain atop the rankings until they slip up, which could be coming this week for the Bulldogs when they face Alabama. Speaking of Alabama, it leads a contingent of one-loss teams that will be screaming their playoff qualifications to anyone who will listen, including Oregon, TCU, Arizona State, Ohio State and Baylor. 

It's amazing to think we had anything but a four-team playoff for all these years. How compelling has this season been?

And how compelling is it yet to be? This week alone, Mississippi State faces Alabama, Auburn faces Georgia and Nebraska takes on Wisconsin.

Sure, it's far from a week that saw Auburn lose, Alabama barely survive LSU, Ohio State knock off Michigan State, TCU thwart Kansas State and Arizona State eliminate Notre Dame from the playoff picture, but that Mississippi State versus Alabama game alone is worth the price of admission.

It's also potentially worth a ticket to the SEC Championship. And in the muddled SEC West, that ticket is an SEC team's best shot at reaching the playoff. Everything else will be left up to the playoff committee to sort through. 

Given the past few weeks, there is going to be a lot of sorting to be done. We're amid the madness now, folks, but the best is yet to come.

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

AP College Football Poll 2014: Complete Week 12 Rankings Released

The madness continues. 

Each week of the college football season has begun to feel like a playoff, with major upsets and marquee matchups changing the top four on a consistent basis. At this point, one loss for a team could be catastrophic, while one big win could be exactly what a school needs to put some shine on its resume.

It's all up in the air. This past week, that was readily apparent. Let's take a look at how the Associated Press ranked these teams, along with Bleacher Report's official Top 25, and analyze the major outcomes after a wild weekend of football.    

 

 

Bleacher Report Poll

 

Analysis

As they should, the top two teams in the nation remain unchanged, as Mississippi State and Florida State stayed unbeaten over the weekend. While Mississippi State will become a major discussion point if it loses on the road to Alabama next week—how far down the standings should the Bulldogs drop if they lose to one of the top teams in the country away from home?—for the moment the school deserves to be No. 1. 

But which teams deserve to be Nos. 3 and 4?  

While the AP voters made their decision this week, the playoff committee has yet to weigh in, and that's the real decisive factor. It's hard to imagine Oregon will be leapfrogged by any teams after a solid away win over Utah, though Alabama (win over LSU), TCU (win over Kansas State), Ohio State (win over Michigan State) and Arizona State (win over Notre Dame) all make strong cases.

Even Baylor kept its name in the running with a decisive victory over Oklahoma.

"We have to control what we can control," Bryce Petty told reporters after the Bears smoked the Sooners, 48-14. "If we go out and win these last three games, we put up a fight. But we have to win."

That's the mantra for most of the one-loss teams: Win out and you'll probably get your shot at the College Football Playoff.

That's no small task, of course. Alabama nearly learned that lesson the hard way against LSU Saturday night in an overtime thriller. SportsCenter on Twitter passed along the highlights of that contest:

More and more, it feels like a two-loss team could end up sneaking back into the Top Four. There are still many huge matchups left on the schedule, and that's before you consider the conference championships—many of those will be playoff games in their own right.

Of course, it could play out much cleaner than that. Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports certainly thinks it will:

That wouldn't be very much fun, would it? 

So far this year, we've had crazy upsets, head-scratching outcomes and, well, utter madness throughout. The end of the season may play out with a bit more stability and predictability, but that would be out of character for a year that has consistently defied expectations.

 

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