NCAA Football

SEC Football: Best Performances from Week 12

Week 12 in the SEC was supposed to be "cupcake Saturday."

Instead, The Citadel stole all the cupcakes from South Carolina, Florida Atlantic had several off the plate in its overtime loss to Florida, and Georgia Southern nearly stole the whole bakery in an overtime loss at Georgia.

On top of that, LSU stumbled to its third straight loss—a 38-17 debacle at the hands of Ole Miss.

Who had the best performances of the week in the SEC? Our picks based on output and importance to the team are in this slideshow.

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Bowl Projections 2015: College Football Playoff Predictions for Top Teams

Late November Saturdays never fail to disappoint. 

Just when it looked like the final four teams were lined up with relatively easy paths to the playoffs, Michigan State shakes things up with a thrilling last-second victory at Ohio State. 

With at least one new team entering the Top Four, there will be plenty of debate over the next few days in the college football world. 

Here is the latest projection of how the College Football Playoff and the rest of the New Year's Six bowl games will shake out by season's end.


Notable Teams

Michigan State

Despite a loss to Nebraska in early November, Michigan State is now in excellent position to run the table and advance to the playoffs. 

Today's big winners were Oklahoma, Michigan State, & Baylor. At least 1 of them will be in the CFB Playoffs. Maybe 2.

— Rob Stone (@RobStoneONFOX) November 22, 2015

With a win over Penn State in their regular-season finale, the Spartans advance to the Big Ten Championship Game to face Iowa.

The loss to Nebraska is one of the worst defeats of any top-10 team, but Michigan State's victory at Ohio State is arguably the best win on any resume. 

Last season the committee rewarded Ohio State for closing the season on a high note, and Michigan State appears to headed down that same path.


Ohio State

With a win over Michigan, the Buckeyes will safely be in one of the New Year's Six bowl games, potentially even representing the Big Ten in the Rose Bowl if the conference champion is selected to the playoffs. 

It's also worth noting that Ohio State is not out of the playoff hunt.

If Michigan State loses to Penn State (a possibility, especially given Connor Cook's uncertain status) and the Buckeyes take care of Michigan, Ohio State wins the Big Ten East Division. The Buckeyes would then face Iowa for the conference title. 

While a one-loss Buckeyes squad might not be a lock for the playoffs, the CFP committee has shown respect for the Big Ten, as demonstrated by its selection of one-loss Ohio State to last year's playoff and its ranking of Iowa this season. 


Florida State

The Seminoles have been eliminated in the ACC race and therefore are out of the playoff hunt, but a New Year's Six bowl selection remains a possibility. 

Florida State travels to Gainesville to face Florida on Saturday, giving the Seminoles an opportunity to close the regular season with a major boost to their resume. As an added bonus, the victory would deliver a death blow to the rival Gators' playoff hopes.

The ACC doesn't have a New Year's Six bowl affiliation this year, since the Orange Bowl is one of the semifinal games, but due to location, the Peach Bowl in Atlanta would be a likely placement for the Seminoles. 



The Ducks looked like they were finished in early October, with bowl eligibility a serious question mark following their loss to Washington State.

But quarterback Vernon Adams returned from injury and has led Oregon on a torrid stretch to put the Ducks back into consideration for a New Year's Six bowl. 

The game has slowed down so much for Vernon Adams to the point that I don’t know if a Pac-12 QB is playing at higher level right now.

— Dan Rubenstein (@DanRubenstein) November 21, 2015

In fact, Oregon could even be in play for a Rose Bowl selection if Stanford is able to wrap up the Pac-12 title and sneak into the playoffs with two losses. 

For those who may doubt the inclusion of a three-loss team in this projection, keep in mind that in 2014 the committee selected three-loss Arizona, fresh off a 51-13 loss to Oregon in the Pac-12 title game, to play in the Fiesta Bowl. 



The highest ranked team from the Group of Five conferences earns an invitation to a New Year's Six bowl, and Navy currently holds that position. 

If the Midshipmen win out, they will likely earn the nod from the committee. 

Credit Navy. While so many teams are screwing around today, Mids are just crushing Tulsa. Would love to see Navy in a New Year's Six game.

— Adam Rittenberg (@ESPNRittenberg) November 22, 2015

The possible selection of Navy throws a wrinkle into the bowl selection process, which is worth mentioning. 

If Navy is the highest ranked Group of Five team on Dec. 6, the date of the bowl selections, the committee will delay the announcement of the Group of Five team until after the Army-Navy game on Dec. 12, according to ESPN's Heather Dinich

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Ed Feng's Week 13 College Football Playoff Standings Predictions

How will the College Football Playoff committee rank teams this Tuesday at 7 p.m. ET?

We use analytics to make an educated guess. Based on last week's committee rankings, my algorithm adjusts teams based on the most recent opponent and margin of victory.

Teams that win keep their place unless they need overtime to beat Florida Atlantic. Teams that lose drop, but not as much if they lose to a Top 10 team. You get the idea.

Let's look at the top movers from Week 12.


Ohio State's title defense is likely over

The stage was set for Ohio State to surge toward 11-0 and a berth in the College Football Playoff. It had Michigan State coming to The Horseshoe without the services of star QB Connor Cook.

However, Michigan State rained on the Buckeyes' party and won a slow, ugly game 17-14. The Spartans defense, which had looked awful against Air Force and Rutgers, showed up in a big way and allowed only 132 yards on 2.9 yards per play to a potent Ohio State offense.

Of course, any defense will look better against questionable play-calling. Urban Meyer's staff called numerous QB runs for J.T. Barrett, and Barrett ended the game with more carries than RB Ezekiel Elliott. Barrett is a fine runner, but he's not the explosive threat of Heisman candidate Elliott.

After the game, Elliott criticized the Buckeyes' play-calling. However, news also came out that Elliott spent three days this week in the hospital, so the coaching staff may have been trying to protect him.

In any event, Ohio State's drop in the rankings will be interesting. Will the committee consider the absence of Cook in judging the Buckeyes? I predict that Ohio State drops to 8th, but the actual drop could be greater if the committee penalizes the Buckeyes for losing to a depleted Michigan State.


Baylor stays alive in upsetting undefeated Oklahoma State

Art Briles makes you question whether it matters which quarterback he plays. Jarrett Stidham, the backup at the beginning of the season, started for Baylor against Oklahoma State and led the Bears to a 24-14 halftime lead.

However, Stidham sustained a leg injury and couldn't play the second half. Third-string QB Chris Johnson came in and threw two perfect strikes for touchdowns of 39 and 71 yards. He added another rushing touchdown to lead Baylor to a 45-35 win.

With the win, Baylor moves up to sixth in the committee rankings. It could still make the playoff but is behind an Oklahoma team it lost to last week.

Oklahoma State lost its first game of the season, which drops the Cowboys to 11th in the committee rankings. To make the playoff, they need a big win over Oklahoma next week and many teams to lose.


Florida survives near-death experience against Florida Atlantic

Florida entered the game against Florida Atlantic as a 31-point favorite but needed overtime to win 20-14. The result drops Florida to 10th in the committee rankings.

It's time to question whether the Gators deserve consideration for one of four playoff spots.

Florida didn't make the Top 25 of the preseason coaches poll. This might seem irrelevant this late in the season, but preseason polls are remarkable predictors. The preseason coaches poll has predicted 59.9 percent of bowl-game winners since 2005, not far behind the 61.5 percent for teams favored by the gambling markets.

In addition, Florida has survived close games against weak Kentucky and Vanderbilt teams. The Gators' loss to LSU looks worse every week as the Tigers have lost three straight games and are spiraling.

Florida still has a shot at the college football playoff, especially since it has already secured a spot in the SEC Championship Game. However, with the close call against Florida Atlantic, its game against rival Florida State next week suddenly seems like a giant road block. 


Ed Feng has a Ph.D. in chemical engineering from Stanford and runs sports analytics site The Power Rank. You can find him on Twitter @thepowerrank.


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Oklahoma Survives TCU Scare, Still Alive for Heavyweight Semifinal vs. Alabama

NORMAN, Okla. — In a season when so many games seem to come down to one play, one coin-flip, one stop, whatever thin group of title contenders there is have to continually find a way to be on the right side of those 50/50 moments when the game is on the line.

On a bitter-cold Saturday night in Big 12 country, as chaos reigned supreme on the national level, the Sooners found themselves facing just such a moment with seconds left on the clock while clinging to a 30-29 lead after allowing TCU back into the ballgame.

As Horned Frogs backup quarterback Bram Kohlhausen started to scramble to his right and complete a furious comeback, Oklahoma nickelback Steven Parker found himself in no man’s land. With Kohlhausen running a path to the goal line and a pair of TCU receivers flashing open at the exact same time, Parker reacted in a way that frightened his coaches right up until the second he swatted the quarterback’s floater to the 20-yard line.

“I had a hard decision between staying with my receiver—I knew the route was Double Drive Seven—and coming to get the quarterback. I just kind of played in between, trying to play dummy,” Parker said, before flashing a large grin. “I timed my jump right.”

The timing could not have been more perfect, sending the sellout crowd into a frenzy that only grew as soon as teammate Zach Sanchez recovered the ensuing onside kick.

Oklahoma had made it. That gray area had turned golden, thanks to Parker.

To win a title, whether it be a conference championship or a national one, you have to come out victorious when faced with those situations that could swing either way. While it wasn’t pretty in the second half, Oklahoma did so once again to keep their College Football Playoff hopes alive.

“You look around the country every week, is it ever perfect? No, it’s tough,” head coach Bob Stoops said. “Rarely is it perfect. We had a lot of excellent games, and we were due for one that you could still win when you were not at your best.”

The Sooners are not just in the running to make the final four, however; they should be a lock with a win next week in the annual Bedlam game against their in-state rivals. While folks may make arguments (and have good ones) in South Carolina and Tuscaloosa as to who is the best team in the country, it’s tough to overlook that Oklahoma has been playing the best of anyone over the past two months.

Combined with the result up the road—Baylor throttled Oklahoma State 45-35 in Stillwater—and ensuing chaos elsewhere around the country, it looks increasingly like we’re on a path that includes Stoops’ squad in the playoff.

And while nobody around Norman will ever say it out loud, the most appetizing semifinal matchup still on the board would be the Sooners taking on Stoops’ favorite nemesis—the SEC—in a heavyweight rematch with Alabama for a trip to the title game in Glendale.

That’s right, selection committee, do whatever you have to do in order to justify it, but give us Bama and give us Big Game Bob one more time.

There are precious few complete teams in college football this season, but Oklahoma has a strong case that they are one of them. They run the ball well, they play defense as well as anybody when faced with wide-open attacks and they have a fairly strong kicking game.

More than anything, they may just have the best quarterback in the country in Baker Mayfield. His value was readily apparent as he zigged and zagged through Gary Patterson’s defense on his way to two first-half touchdowns and a 23-7 lead that was far more lopsided than even that scoreline indicated.

The exuberant gunslinger has a penchant for escaping danger most of the time but couldn’t quite survive his head suffering two hard hits to the turf on Saturday. While he did remain in the game for several series late in the second quarter, Mayfield was diagnosed with concussion-like symptoms (he said he had a headache, Stoops relayed after the game) and pulled for backup and former Sugar Bowl hero Trevor Knight.

Mayfield was far from the only player to miss snaps, however, as running backs Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine both missed several series with leg injuries. In the end, despite the well-oiled machine sputtering with Knight under center, Oklahoma still did enough to celebrate senior night in style.

“This wasn’t our best performance, but still, we found a way to win at home,” center Ty Darlington said. “A year ago, this might have been one we would have let slip up.”

“It was just kind of an, ‘Alright, let’s do this’ type of thing,” Knight added. “You never know when somebody is going to take a hit or a helmet is going to pop off. You always have to be ready to go. We put together the plan at halftime, and we didn’t execute it as well as we wanted to, but we got the win, that’s all that matters.”

Critics will use the one-point win to downplay Oklahoma’s chances, noting that TCU was without star quarterback Trevone Boykin and Biletnikoff Award semifinalist Josh Doctson. While that was certainly the case for a Horned Frogs offense that had nothing going beyond a handful of big plays, it’s still a win over a team that has lost just three times in the past two seasons and proved to be far better than the No. 18 ranking the committee had given them four days prior.

Last week’s win at Baylor looks even stronger for the Sooners in light of Saturday’s events, and while there will still be an ensuing Big Ten-versus-Big 12-versus-Notre Dame battle for what looks to be the final two playoff spots behind Clemson and Alabama, there’s only one matchup that could satisfy everybody from casual fans to broadcasters to college football diehards.

Alabama vs. Oklahoma, Part II. The first round went to the Sooners two seasons ago in the Sugar Bowl, and this year would present a perfect opportunity for the Crimson Tide to extract revenge. It could be a semifinal featuring two Heisman finalists in running back Derrick Henry and Baker Mayfield.

Furthermore, it would offer Sooners fans the opportunity to show that the win two years ago was no fluke. After the Big 12 was left out of the playoff last year, it could even serve as a chance to show that the league’s teams do play defense after all, as the Sooners possess a top-25 unit.

“I’m really tired of defending that line, it’s senseless. We all know what good football is,” defensive coordinator Mike Stoops remarked.

Clemson still has to face 10-1 North Carolina in the ACC Championship Game but otherwise seem to have a lock on one of the top two seeds. The Big Ten will sort itself out with one of Iowa, Michigan State and maybe still Ohio State emerging with another seed. Notre Dame is lurking but may find their resume lacking when examined closely next to the Big 12 champion.

That leaves us with a clear path for a heavyweight title fight in either South Florida or the familiar site at the Cotton Bowl between the Tide and a Sooners team that has a chance to capture three Top-25 wins to close the year out—two on the road.

Oklahoma has proved that they’re good and trending toward great. Just as impressive, they’ve found a way to win when games were up in the air.

Much debate will fill the airwaves and social-media streams over the coming weeks, but hopefully the selection committee is ready to give the people what they want.

In a year when the line between a playoff team and a quality team is thinner than ever, Alabama against Oklahoma just feels like it’s on the right side of a gray area.


Bryan Fischer is a national college football columnist for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter at @BryanDFischer.

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NCAA Football Rankings 2015: Predicting the AP Top 25 After Week 12

A college football November to remember continued in grand fashion this weekend, with plenty of chaos and close calls for those teams inside the coveted Top 25.

Three undefeated teams went down Saturday, including the defending national champion, and several other Top-10 programs came close to losses that would have definitely knocked them out of the playoff picture. 

Others reinserted their names into the race and will be set for big moves up the polls. They resurrected their championship dreams and proved that you can't count out anyone with just one loss.

As the dust settles from another weekend of mayhem, it's time to sort out the fallout and predict the next Associated Press Top 25 poll, which comes out Sunday afternoon.

Here is this week's projection, along with some spotlighted risers and fallers.


Moving up

Michigan State

Sparty is back on track for a shot at the College Football Playoff after Saturday's walk-off upset of previously undefeated Ohio State. As ESPN's Brett McMurphy noted, Michigan State once again knocked off a main Big Ten rival with its first lead of the game coming with no time on the clock:

The Spartans overcame the absence of quarterback Connor Cook and made the plays it needed to down the stretch, snapping the Buckeyes' 23-game winning streak. Ohio State's high-powered offense put up only 132 yards on 45 plays in what was an unreal effort from the Michigan State defense.

"Ohio State's two scoring drives went 38 yards combined," Bleacher Report's Brian Leigh noted. "Star running back Ezekiel Elliott, who entered the game a Heisman candidate, ran 12 times for 33 yards. Star quarterback J.T. Barrett, who shredded the Spartans in East Lansing last season, created nothing through the air."

Michigan State is in prime position to leapfrog Florida and emerge as one of the top one-loss teams in college football. The Spartans' complete resume probably doesn't have enough for them to jump Oklahoma, which narrowly avoided a loss to TCU, but they'll still be in prime position. Not bad at all for a team that lost to a struggling Nebraska program a few weeks ago.



These Bears aren't dead just yet. Through another injury to a starting quarterback, Baylor still put up 700 yards of offense in a huge win at previously undefeated Oklahoma State. 

Excellent defense, too, played a major role in the program's first win in Stillwater since 1939.

"The Bears running game was dominant and their defense was solid—even stellar at times—in the double-digit win," Brandon Chatmon of wrote. "Baylor, the Big 12’s leading rushing offense, got back on track with 73 carries for 304 yards and three touchdowns... The Bears defense did its part, forcing five first-half three-and-outs from Oklahoma State’s offense."

While Baylor still needs to take care of business against banged-up TCU and struggling Texas before worrying about the playoff, it should hitch a ride with Michigan State up three spots in this week's AP poll. Both teams battled through adversity and tough road environments to regain their momentum on the national stage.


The returners

In addition to Ohio State's, Oklahoma State's and TCU's losses, five other teams in the Top 25 lost in Week 12. Houston should hang around—more on the Coogs later—but the others will open the door for some returning faces in the Top 25.

Toledo dropped a tough one to Northern Illinois a couple of weeks ago, but the Rockets have gotten right back on track with back-to-back wins away from home in Tuesday night #MACtion. Toledo was already the leading vote-getter in last week's poll, and a double-digit win at high-powered Bowling Green should be more than enough to get the one-loss Rockets back into the poll.

There should be another parade of three-loss teams, and the victorious ones this weekend appear to be Mississippi State, UCLA and Pittsburgh. Mississippi State bounced back from its big loss to Alabama with an unreal shootout win over Arkansas, and the Bulldogs are next in line in the "receiving votes" category after Memphis took its third straight loss Saturday.

Right behind Dan Mullen's team are UCLA and Pittsburgh. The Bruins got a low-scoring road win over Utah, and they might have enough to slide just ahead of the Bulldogs this week. Pittsburgh lit up the scoreboard early against Louisville, which came into the game on a four-game winning streak. The Panthers might have the best losses of this trio, so any order of these teams wouldn't be surprising at all.


Moving down

Ohio State and Oklahoma State

Saturday wasn't a good day to be a fan of an OSU. Two previously undefeated teams—Ohio State and Oklahoma State—are set to tumble down the polls after losing at home in big conference games.

For Ohio State, Michigan State was the first ranked opponent the Buckeyes had played all season. They couldn't get much going against the Spartans defense, and the bizarre decision to limit a clearly frustrated Ezekiel Elliott to just a dozen carries will loom large in the coming weeks. 

Oklahoma State, on the other hand, had no answer for most of the night against Baylor's offense, and it scored only once off the Bears' three turnovers. Offensively, Oklahoma State only totaled eight yards on the ground and went 5-of-15 on third downs.

As for poll placement, Ohio State had a good-sized lead on Oklahoma State heading into this weekend—two whole spots—and its closer margin of defeat should put the Buckeyes ahead of the Cowboys in this week's rankings. 



Jim McElwain's Gators get the unfortunate distinction of dropping down in this projection despite actually winning Saturday. The problem is that Florida had to go to overtime to knock off two-win Florida Atlantic at home.

"They took it to us," McElwain told the SEC Network after the game, per Zac Ellis of Sports Illustrated. "They probably deserved to win... We still have 10 wins, don’t we?"

Yes, Coach Mac, but those wins don't change the fact that Florida has looked underwhelming in the last three weeks. The Gators have beaten Vanderbilt, South Carolina and now FAU—all teams with losing records—by a combined 18 points. Their lone loss of the season, a close decision at LSU, is looking worse by the week as the Bayou Bengals continue to slide.

Look, Florida is still headed to the SEC Championship Game way ahead of schedule under McElwain and has a chance to impress against Florida State. But results like the one the Gators had against FAU on Saturday won't win them any more friends in these polls.



The two OSUs weren't the only unbeaten teams to taste defeat for the first time this season on Saturday. Houston went up to UConn and got caught in the prototypical trap game, losing by three to the Huskies.

Houston had a chance to either tie the game or take a late lead, but quarterback Greg Ward Jr. threw an interception with 55 seconds left to seal the deal. The Cougars had a season-low 318 yards of offense and turned the ball over a total of four times.

"They played great defense and ran the ball really well," Houston coach Tom Herman said, per Desmond Conner of the Hartford Courant. "We didn't make enough plays. They are really stout up front. If you can't run the ball against them, it's going to be a long night."

Houston's strength of schedule kept it outside the Top 10 through its first 10 wins of the season, and it'll cause the Cougars to take a big hit in the poll this weekend. Look out for red-hot and three-loss Oregon, which beat a ranked USC team by 20 this weekend, to potentially stay ahead of one-loss Houston in the Top 25.


Justin Ferguson is a college football writer at Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @JFergusonBR.

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College Football Rankings: Bleacher Report's Week 13 Top 25

And then there were two.

The second-to-last full weekend of college football saw three of the five remaining unbeaten teams come falling down, throwing the playoff picture into massive turmoil in the process. The Bleacher Report Top 25 wasn't immune to this chaos, as there are new teams all over the rankings, but we now have a much more definitive No. 1 team.

Twenty members of our college football staff voted in this week's Top 25: writers Ben Axelrod, Greg Couch, Ed Feng, Justin Ferguson, Bryan Fischer, David Kenyon, Ben Kercheval, Adam Kramer, Brian Leigh, Mike Monaco, Brian Pedersen, David Regimbal, Barrett Sallee, Brad Shepard, Greg Wallace and Christopher Walsh; video experts Michael Felder and Sean McManus; and editors Eric Bowman and Eric Yates.

First-place votes were worth 25 points, with each subsequent rank worth one fewer point, all the way down to one for 25th place. The 25 highest vote-getters made our list, with the rest falling into the "others receiving votes" category.

See where everyone falls after Week 12, then give us your thoughts in the comments section.

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Cal vs. Stanford: Score, Highlights and Twitter Reaction

The Stanford Cardinal are heading to Levi’s Stadium.

After a 35-22 win over the California Golden Bears on Saturday in Stanford Stadium, the No. 11-ranked Cardinal punched their ticket to the Pac-12 Championship Game on Dec. 5 in Santa Clara, California.

Stanford will be vying for its third conference championship in the last four years under head coach David Shaw. The Cardinal will meet the winner of next week’s USC-UCLA showdown for a guaranteed spot in the Rose Bowl.

In the 118th all-time meeting between the two teams, Stanford faced the challenge of containing Cal quarterback Jared Goff, the projected top quarterback in next year’s NFL draft.

Goff threw for 386 yards and two touchdowns, so the Cardinal didn’t succeed on that front. But Stanford succeeded in keeping the Golden Bears out of the end zone for the majority of the game. Cal didn’t cross the goal line until there were four minutes, 54 seconds remaining in the third quarter, when Goff threw a touchdown pass to Darius Powe.

The Cardinal didn’t get much from quarterback Kevin Hogan, who threw for 96 yards and a touchdown in the win. But as has been the case all year, Christian McCaffrey carried the Cardinal to victory, rushing for 192 yards and also returning a kickoff for a 98-yard touchdown with 38 seconds left in the first half.

Stanford's official Twitter account provided a clip of McCaffrey's touchdown as he sprinted down the right sideline and went untouched to help put Stanford up 21-6 at halftime:

The Heisman Trophy candidate has been the biggest reason why Stanford is in this position. His 388 all-purpose yards Saturday set a new Stanford record. He's been putting up numbers like this all year, per ESPN's David Lombardi:

After the Cardinal lost to the Oregon Ducks on Nov. 14, Stanford seemed to be losing its grip on the Pac-12. If Stanford had lost to Cal, Oregon would have been in position to represent the North Division in the conference title game with a win over Oregon State next week.

But Stanford will be in Levi's Stadium for a chance to win the conference championship. That much is certain. This part isn't: Will Stanford be playing to earn a spot in the Rose Bowl or to secure a spot in the College Football Playoff?

The way CBS Sports' Jon Solomon sees it, that answer will come after Stanford's game against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish next week in a de facto CFP quarterfinal matchup:

Postgame Reaction

ESPN's Heather Dinich was on SportsCenter after Stanford disposed of Cal on Saturday night. When asked to give her top four teams in college football, she listed Clemson, Alabama, Michigan State and Oklahoma.

Iowa was not listed, and when asked about why the undefeated Hawkeyes were not in her top four, Dinich responded with the phrase, "Iowa's best win is against Northwestern."

The same Northwestern team who beat Stanford 16-6 to open the college football season.

It's understandable. The early portion of the schedule should not be considered. A lot has changed since the Cardinal lost to the Wildcats in Week 1. Beating USC in the Coliseum was not expected. Neither was that eight-game winning streak the Cardinal went on.

To discredit Iowa right now is to discredit Stanford. And if the dominoes fall the right way, both of those teams could be playing for a national championship.

If Stanford doesn't lose to Oregon, there's a certain chance Stanford is in the College Football Playoff discussion heading into its showdown with Notre Dame next week. So much can change in a week's time, as Ralph Russo of the Associated Press points out:

For the Cardinal to be 8-1 in the Pac-12 with how that Northwestern game unfolded is a huge accomplishment and a credit to David Shaw as the program's head coach. That's something Shaw will say with pride, per ESPN's David Lombardi:

Stanford has just as much of a chance to make the Final Four as any eligible team at this point. If the Cardinal can beat Notre Dame, then that'll get the committee talking.

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College Football Playoff Rankings: Biggest Takeaways from Week 12

Backloaded schedules made Week 12 one of the season's biggest.

Long-awaited matchups in the Big Ten, where Ohio State hosted Michigan State, and the Big 12, where Oklahoma State hosted Baylor and Oklahoma hosted TCU, put a large group of fringe contenders in the spotlight during SEC-SoCon Challenge Week.

Those games lived up to the hype—at least in terms of intrigue—with two coming down to the final minute and two resulting in an undefeated team's first loss. The outcome of those games, plus others, had obvious implications on the College Football Playoff picture.

Here's a quick look at what we learned.


Ohio State's Reign Is Over

Ohio State lost to Michigan State on a last-second field goal, but that phrase makes it sound as if the two teams were even.

They weren't.

The Spartans outgained the Buckeyes 294-132, engulfing Ohio State's offense and leaving star running back Ezekiel Elliott, a supposed Heisman Trophy favorite, whining about his coaches and the loss.

Sparty pulled the upset without senior quarterback Connor Cook, who missed the game with a shoulder injury.

Backup Tyler O'Connor made his first career start in The Horseshoe, but Michigan State outplayed the Buckeyes on both sides of the ball from start to finish.

USA Today's Dan Wolken left impressed and thinks the Spartans should control their own destiny:

Head coach Mark Dantonio said he thinks Cook will be back next week against Penn State, per Dan Murphy of, which gives the Spartans an offense as potent as their defense flashed on Saturday.

If Michigan State beats Penn State, and Iowa, which advanced to 11-0 with a 44-20 win over Purdue, beats Nebraska in Week 13, the Spartans and Hawkeyes will meet in the Big Ten Championship with a playoff berth potentially on the line.

Ohio State could still make the playoff theoretically, but doing so would require a win over Michigan, Penn State beating Michigan State, a subsequent win over Iowa and a lot of chaos elsewhere.

For all intents and purposes, the Buckeyes are done.


Big 12 Deja Vu?

The Big 12 drew the short straw last season and has yet to place a team inside the Top Four of a weekly CFP ranking this year.

It added to that trouble by losing its last unbeaten team, Oklahoma State, to a loss against Baylor in Week 11. The Bears looked great on both sides of the ball and stand a modest chance of making the playoff, but Oklahoma State finishing 12-0 would have definitely earned the Big 12 a playoff bid, so the Cowboys' loss was bad for the conference.

Also bad for the conference: Oklahoma nearly choking against TCU. Quarterback Baker Mayfield left with a head injury, and the Horned Frogs mounted a comeback in his absence. They scored what might have been the game-tying touchdown with seconds to play but went for the win and lost when Steven Parker batted down a pass on the two-point conversion. OU stayed afloat but did not land the style points it needed.

The silver lining is that Ohio State lost, which ostensibly opens a playoff spot. That and other factors led my colleague, Adam Kramer, to say the Big 12 is still well situated. And really, in a lot of ways, it is.

But that silver lining comes with a caveat, since Iowa remains undefeated, Michigan State reemerged as a contender and Notre Dame earned a sloppy win over Boston College. If Notre Dame beats Stanford next week and stays ahead of the Big 12's top team, that means Oklahoma or Baylor, assuming a win for one or both next week, could enter championship weekend in the Top Four but then drop behind the winner of the Big Ten Championship Game.

Just like TCU did last season.

That gulp! you hear is Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby.


The SEC Needs Alabama

If Alabama loses, the SEC misses the playoff.

It's really that simple.

You could have made the case for Florida, if it beat the Crimson Tide in the SEC Championship Game, to crash the field as 12-1 conference champions. But the Gators hurt their resume by limping past Vanderbilt two weeks ago, made things worse by struggling at South Carolina and then pulled the plug by needing overtime against Florida Atlantic in Week 12.

Even if the Gators beat Florida State and Alabama to close the season—which, by the way, they won't—they're a tough sell to crash the national semis. With so many quality fringe contenders (see above), how could a team with so many red marks make the field?

It's Alabama or bust in the nation's most lucrative conference. Get ready for a month of conspiracy theories!

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College Football's Month of Mayhem Setting Up Fantastic Road to Playoff

Few have been spared. The nature of an unpredictable sport in the midst of an unpredictable season has been nothing short of madness—regulated, sequenced carnage that's building toward something even larger. And this week, the destruction was delivered by unfamiliar faces. 

There are two names that sum up the current exasperating state of college football brilliantly: Michael Geiger and Chris Johnson.

Before Saturday, these were young men with jerseys on a sideline and names on rosters. Now? They are cogs to the chaos, and better yet, potential fuel to unexpected playoff runs.

Geiger is Michigan State’s kicker. Say hello. It was Geiger who ended Ohio State’s undefeated season with a 41-yard field goal to give the Spartans a 17-14 victory in Columbus. He then celebrated his way into our hearts:

Michigan State pulled this off in the Horseshoe without starting quarterback Connor Cook—who sat out because of a shoulder injury—which is even more amazing. The kick also prompted a chain reaction that carried well into the Buckeyes' locker room and perhaps beyond.

Johnson is Baylor’s third-string quarterback. You probably don’t know him. Say hello to him as well. He’s been playing wide receiver for much of the year, although he recently made the move back to quarterback when Seth Russell went down with a neck injury in late October.

When freshman Jarrett Stidham left the game at halftime due to injury, Johnson took over. He responded by throwing for 138 yards, running for 42 yards and accounting for three touchdowns (two passing, one rushing). Not every throw was perfect, although he guided the Bears to a 45-35 road win over previously undefeated Oklahoma State.

In total, three teams suffered their first loss—the other being Houston, which fell to Connecticut, 20-17. Oklahoma, the nation’s hottest team, nearly lost to TCU after Baker Mayfield came out of the game with a head injury. Florida, suddenly deeply offensively challenged, nearly lost to Florida Atlantic—yes, that's 2-9 Florida Atlantic.

For the third consecutive week, multiple teams in the Top 10 tumbled, creating the latest shakeup in a long line of change. And now, after three months of carnage, only two undefeated teams remain: Clemson and Iowa. There is a weight to that last sentence that somehow summarizes hundreds of hours.

Seriously, imagine if your future self came back in time and gave you this news in August; now imagine shunning your future self for eternity and laughing him or her back to the future.

The journey itself has been remarkable, but the culmination could somehow be even more satisfying. There is a chance that this whole thing comes together with fireworks, explosions, smiles and tears.

Only a handful of teams now control their own playoff fate; the rest is so hazy, especially after Ohio State—a team we seemingly penciled into the playoff 10 months ago, finally came undone. But we’re not finished.

Chaos and controversy will undoubtedly walk arm-in-arm and meet us in the middle the next two Saturdays. Perhaps it’s ambitious to declare that the best is still somehow out there. Although at this point, nothing is off the table. Rip up that script.

Here are other takeaways from another lovely weekend of college football.


The Wild, Weird and Still Well-Situated Big 12 

The last undefeated fell, which would seem like an enormous detriment for a conference without a championship game. But strangely, even with Oklahoma State’s loss, the Big 12 is still fully functional when it comes to the College Football Playoff. 

Oklahoma is now the most likely candidate, although even this declaration should come with fine print. The Sooners edged TCU 30-29 in a game that became interesting the moment Mayfield departed.

His status moving forward is a huge story. Right now, however, Oklahoma could make a very convincing case for the playoff with a win over Oklahoma State next weekend, even if that victory will be viewed slightly different after the Pokes’ loss.

Paralleling the madness in the conference was Notre Dame’s ugly 19-16 win over Boston College at Fenway Park. Depending on how Clemson, Alabama and Iowa close, style points could certainly matter. Although Oklahoma didn’t exactly bottle this valuable resource, perception could swing back in favor of the Sooners.

And here’s another weird possibility, albeit an unlikely one. With Baylor’s victory over Oklahoma State, does the Big 12 stand an outside chance, if chaos is served in industrial-sized doses, of landing two teams in the playoff?

A lot would have to happen for this to unfold. A LOT. Tons. So much that it’s hard to fathom. But just keep this one in the back pocket if and when the explosions come.


Speaking of...Is the Love for Notre Dame About to Cool After a Close Call?

Playing in a baseball stadium, the turnover-happy Irish didn’t make things easy in a game many overlooked. Five Notre Dame turnovers ultimately kept Boston College in the game longer than many expected.

As a result of an ugly three-point win, it will be fascinating to see how the selection committee handles Notre Dame moving forward.

The Irish's resume didn’t crumble Saturday. In fact, Temple’s victory over Memphis and Navy’s continued dominance likely aided it some. But this was not the optimal time for an effort like this against an inferior opponent, either.

Having held down the No. 4 spot for multiple weeks, Notre Dame still has a great opportunity to be in the selection committee’s four on Tuesday night. Ohio State’s loss leaves a vacancy that will likely be gobbled up by Iowa.

The final spot will be the one worth watching. Will Michigan State see a boost? Will Oklahoma swap spots with Notre Dame?

Heading into its last regular-season game, a Nov. 28 tilt against Stanford, the Irish have a wonderful opportunity to make a final impression. Before that contest is played, it will be fascinating to see what the playoff puppeteers think of Brian Kelly’s team after its close call.


Behold Your New-Look (Sort of) Big Ten Playoff Contenders

Fear not, Iowa fans. Nothing has changed on your end. If the Hawkeyes win out, they’re in. The schedule might not have the same beef as it did with undefeated Ohio State at the end of the rainbow, but it doesn’t matter.

An undefeated Big Ten team makes the playoff; there’s absolutely zero debate about that at this point.

The question now, however, is whether Michigan State also controls its playoff fate. With road wins over Ohio State and Michigan along with a home victory over surging Oregon, the answer is probably yes. 

While Ohio State and Michigan were expected to compete for a spot in the Big Ten Championship Game up until Week 12—seriously, next weekend’s headlines were already being written—that is no longer the case.

If Michigan State beats Penn State next weekend, it will represent the East. And while the Spartans were a trendy playoff pick before the season began, they were out of sight and mind until dinnertime Saturday. My, how things change. 

Ohio State and Michigan could both still factor in the playoff if Michigan State loses to Penn State, which is certainly possible given Cook's status.

But right now, the conference’s playoff hopes exist elsewhere—in places many thought they’d never have to look.


Oh, What Could Have Been 

The damage has been done. Oregon will not participate in the College Football Playoff—not with three losses on the resume. But at the moment, after five consecutive wins, the Ducks look like a team that could compete with just about anybody hovering around the playoff bubble. 

Let’s talk about those losses. In two of those defeats—Utah and Washington State—quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. didn’t play because of a broken index finger on his throwing hand. Against Michigan State, a loss that has aged like a fine wine, Adams played with the injury. He clearly was not himself, and the Ducks still almost pulled it off on the road. 

Over the last four games, however, a healthy Adams has accounted for 17 touchdowns and beat Stanford as a significant underdog. Against USC on Saturday, Adams threw for 407 yards on only 25 attempts and found the end zone six times through the air. 

"Tremendous football player,” USC interim coach Clay Helton told reporters after the game. "We knew we would have to get him on the ground and we just didn't get him on the ground enough," Helton said. "Credit to him, I have a lot of respect for the young man."

The rebound is noteworthy, especially for a program many were pronouncing dead not long ago. But one can’t help but wonder what might have been if that pesky digit was intact all along.

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Luke Falk Injury: Updates on Washington State Quarterback's Status and Return

Luke Falk's Saturday night ended prematurely when the Washington State Cougars quarterback exited his team's matchup against the Colorado Buffaloes in the third quarter. The sophomore remained down for some time after suffering what appeared to be a head or neck injury.

Continue for updates.

Falk Immobilized and Carted Off Field Sunday, Nov. 21

Colorado defensive lineman Samson Kafovalu wrapped up Falk for a sack, and as he was bringing Falk down, the quarterback's head snapped back and hit the turf. According to Fox Sports' Bruce Feldman, the training staff quickly removed Falk's facemask to provide the necessary medical assistance.

Stefanie Loh of the Seattle Times reported Falk was able to move his arms, and Jeff Nusser of SB Nation's CougCenter provided a Vine of Falk giving a thumbs-up to the crowd at Martin Stadium in Pullman, Washington:

Losing Falk is a blow to Washington State's offense, since he entered Saturday's matchup with 4,067 yards and 35 touchdowns through the air. But that is secondary to Falk's health. Seeing a player carted off the field on a backboard is never pleasant.

The injury was especially concerning for Falk since it came one week after he suffered a similar injury against the UCLA Bruins.

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Luke Falk Injury: Updates on Washington State Quarterback's Status and Return

Luke Falk's Saturday night ended prematurely when the Washington State Cougars quarterback exited his team's matchup against the Colorado Buffaloes in the third quarter...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

KeiVarae Russell Injury: Updates on Notre Dame CB's Foot and Return

Notre Dame Fighting Irish cornerback KeiVarae Russell suffered a foot injury in his team's 19-16 win over the Boston College Eagles on Saturday.

Continue for updates.

Russell Diagnosed with Stress Fracture Saturday, Nov. 21

WSBT-TV's Carl Deffenbaugh passed along the update, adding that it is unclear when Russell will be able to return.

Deffenbaugh also posted a picture of Russell being helped off the field at Fenway Park, which was the site of Saturday's showdown:

The senior is a staple of Notre Dame's defensive backfield, and losing him for an extended period of time as the Irish eye a spot in the College Football Playoff could prove to be costly.

Russell came on in October, recording seven tackles against Navy before notching 10 tackles and an interception against USC and another pick in a win over Temple.

Junior Devin Butler should be in line for an increased snap count in Russell's absence. Don't be surprised if opposing quarterbacks target him early and often when the Irish hit the field without one of their top defensive backs.  

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Kyle Allen's Refocused Effort vs. Vandy Exactly What Texas A&M Needs for Future

Kevin Sumlin reopened the quarterback battle at Texas A&M earlier this week, telling reporters he wanted to see two areas of improvement from the position moving forward.

"We’re looking for consistency out of the position, and that’s what this week of practice will be about," Sumlin said Tuesday, per Knox Bardeen of SEC Country. "[And] it’s something that we’ve put an emphasis on, our turnover margin."

On Saturday night, Sumlin watched from the sidelines as sophomore Kyle Allen checked both of those boxes in a 25-0 win for the Aggies.

Allen, Texas A&M's first-string quarterback for the first seven games of the season, returned to the starting lineup in a road game against Vanderbilt. 

While the Commodores only had four wins on the season, they boasted a much-improved defense that was in the top half of the SEC in several major stat categories.

The sophomore finished 18-of-36 passing for 336 yards, one touchdown and zero interceptions.

Those numbers might not blow many people away, but the 50 percent rate of completions was caused by quite a bit of inconsistency from the Texas A&M receiving corps. 

Drops were a problem all night for the Aggies, even on perfectly placed passes from Allen.

When Texas A&M's wideouts were able to hold onto the ball, big plays happened.

Ten of Allen's 18 completions Saturday night went for more than 10 yards. Seven of those went for at least 20 yards, and four went for at least 30.

Texas A&M's lone touchdown of the evening was a 95-yard bomb from Allen to Josh Reynolds late in the second quarter. It gave Texas A&M a two-score lead and more breathing room for a defense that would go on to pitch a shutout.

While Allen's receivers were responsible for a chunk of his incompletions, the young quarterback maintained consistency throughout the game. After starting 1-of-4, he never threw more than two consecutive incompletions again for the rest of the evening.

In the red zone, Texas A&M went 3-of-4 scoring—all on field goals—with the only failed opportunity coming from a missed 35-yarder from Taylor Bertolet in the second quarter. 

The Aggies would've loved Allen and the offense to turn those trips into touchdowns, but Vanderbilt has been one of the toughest teams in the nation to score on in the red zone this season. The Commodores entered the weekend fourth in scoring percentage and sixth in touchdown percentage.

But the coaching staff would tolerate those red-zone results in a shutout win—especially considering how well Allen took care of the football. 

As Sumlin said earlier this week, the turnover margin has been a defining factor for Texas A&M in games against FBS opponents. 

On Saturday night, the Aggies were in the positives again, with one Kyle Shurmur interception from Vanderbilt up against zero turnovers from the Allen-led offense.

A few weeks ago, it appeared true freshman Kyler Murray was ready to take over as Texas A&M's quarterback of the future. Allen struggled against Alabama and Ole Miss' ferocious defense, and Murray came in to wow against an abysmal South Carolina unit.

But when Murray threw three interceptions in an ugly loss to Auburn and two more against FCS foe Western Carolina, Allen had another opportunity to redeem himself.

The sophomore reestablished his spot as the No. 1 signal-caller in practice during the week, and he took all of the snaps Saturday night against a tougher-looking Vanderbilt defense.

By getting some of that success back Saturday, Allen showed why he should be the quarterback for the rest of 2015 and beyond for Texas A&M.

According to Brian Perroni of 247Sports, Sumlin even confirmed Allen's starter status after the game.

"We're good where we are right now," Sumlin said, per Perroni. "We won't have to make an announcement this week."

Murray is a scary weapon on the ground, no doubt, but Texas A&M needs more of an efficient passer to command Sumlin and Co.'s offense.

Allen has the experience and the consistency to feed the ball efficiently to the likes of Reynolds, Christian Kirk, Ricky Seal-Jones and Speedy Noil. All of those receivers could easily be back next season, too, to build even more chemistry with Allen.  

If he can continue to take care of the ball against LSU and whichever bowl opponent the Aggies will face in the postseason, Allen will have the position on lockdown for 2016. 

That would put an end to the lengthy quarterback drama in College Station and give Texas A&M some much-needed certainty on the offensive side of the ball.

After all, Sumlin's offense has shown before that when it is clicking, it's a force to be reckoned with in the cutthroat SEC West.


Game statistics courtesy of StatBroadcast. Unless otherwise noted, other statistics courtesy of

Justin Ferguson is a college football writer at Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @JFergusonBR.

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Baylor Defense Reaches New Level at Oklahoma State, Keeps Bears in Playoff Hunt

Baylor upset Oklahoma State in Stillwater on Saturday, and despite a big performance from receiver KD Cannon—five catches, 210 yards and two touchdowns—the real MVP was the defense.


It may look different on paper, where the box score shows the Cowboys gained 441 yards and hung 35 points, but much of that production came at the end of the fourth quarter, when Baylor had a comfortable three-score lead.

The meat of the game saw Baylor force seven straight empty possessions and nine scoreless trips in 10. It sacked Mason Rudolph six times, owning the line of scrimmage and pulverizing the Cowboys' running game.

Kyle Porter of Pistols Firing summed things up nicely:

The key to Baylor's defense was, per normal, the line.

Tackle Andrew Billings and ends Jamal Palmer and Shawn Oakman flooded the backfield often, making Cowboys blockers look small and slow.

Billings excelled in particular, which was crazy after pregame reports suggested he would sit with an injury. Those reports were quickly amended, and Billings proved his health from the gun. It was arguably his best game of the season—although picking is admittedly hard—and indubitably the best Baylor's defense has played all year.

"We felt like we were together tonight as a defense," Billings told reporters after the game, per Baylor's official Twitter account. "It felt great."

The offense did its part across the line, even after quarterback Jarrett Stidham left with an injury.

Third-string QB Chris Johnson connected on two deep touchdowns at the start of the third quarter, and the offense eventually finished with 700 yards. (Ho-hum.)

Head coach Art Briles gave a somber update on Stidham, saying "he's not very good" and that Baylor will "have to hustle to see if he's able to go" against TCU next week, per journalist David Ubben.

But Johnson has the skills to run this offense, can make enough plays to gash an injured TCU defense and inspires enough confidence to beat any potential playoff opponent. Quarterbacks in this system have proven fungible, much like Ohio State's system, which third-string QB Cardale Jones led to last year's national title.

Especially if Baylor's defense balls out like it did in Week 12, Johnson can steer the ship past just about anyone.

Having said that, Baylor still needs help to make the playoff. Oklahoma beat TCU in Norman, surviving after a wild late comeback attempt, and now stands one win from finishing 11-1.

The Bears could make an argument to pass Oklahoma, even though they lost head to head, because their only loss of the season came against a playoff contender, while Oklahoma dropped a game to non-contender Texas.

The problem is Baylor can't really make that argument after last year, when in order to pass TCU it argued the opposite. The Bears claimed head-to-head was more important than whom one lost to, because it made them look better than the Horned Frogs, whom they beat, despite a loss to non-contender West Virginia.

Pyrrhically, that argument worked, and Baylor passed TCU in the final poll. But neither team made the playoff, and the precedent the Bears set by passing TCU will prevent them from passing Oklahoma. They need Oklahoma State to beat the Sooners next week in Bedlam. There's no good way around that.

But strange things always happen in Bedlam, so Baylor shouldn't count itself out. It just beat a 10-0 opponent with its second- and third-string quarterbacks in a city where it hadn't won since FDR's second term (1939). Its defense also flashed another gear.

The Bears should feel good heading into TCU week.

They are still very much in the hunt.


Brian Leigh covers college football for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @BLeigh35 

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TCU vs. Oklahoma: Game Grades, Analysis for Horned Frogs and Sooners

What. A. Game. 

The Oklahoma Sooners added a huge resume booster to their College Football Playoff application bid with a thrilling 30-29 victory that came down to a failed two-point conversion in the game's final moment. 

Both teams had to use multiple quarterbacks—Baker Mayfield left with concussion concerns, while Foster Sawyer struggled and was benched—and the Sooners had the game seemingly locked up early in the fourth quarter. But a furious rally by the Horned Frogs fell just short. 

With that, let's check out the game grades for each team's positional units. 

Oklahoma Sooners

Rush Offense: A+

The Sooners tallied 333 yards on the ground as well as a score, led by Samaje Perine who had 188 yards on 26 carries. Joe Mixon added 87 yards on just 11 touches, providing the perfect complement. Oklahoma ultimately controlled the tempo of the game on the ground, which is so critical against an explosive squad like TCU. 


Pass Offense: B-

The numbers from Oklahoma's aerial attack aren't gaudy by any stretch. Mayfield and Trevor Knight went a combined 14-of-37 passing with 203 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. The numbers likely would have been better had Mayfield not left the game with an injury, but Oklahoma didn't make any critical mistakes in the passing game. 


Rush Defense: B

Without Trevone Boykin or Josh Doctson, you knew going into this contest that TCU would try to run the ball. Oklahoma's front line responded by limiting the Horned Frogs to 161 yards on 36 carries. The Horned Frogs did have a few big plays on the ground, but they didn't make a huge difference in the final score. 


Pass Defense: B+

The Sooners would've graded out perfectly had it not been for KaVontae Turpin's huge touchdown grab that gashed the Oklahoma secondary in the fourth quarter. In the end, the Sooners were on the hook for 229 yards and three touchdowns through the air, but they also had three interceptions. Zack Sanchez, who had a terrific game, had two. 


Special Teams: C

Austin Seibert started his day 3-of-3 on field goals. But a missed attempt, followed by a punting snafu in which he fielded a low snap with his knee on the ground, proved costly for the Sooners and were big reasons the Horned Frogs were able to stay in the contest. 


Coaching: A-

The Sooners let TCU hang around longer than they should have, but beating the once-Big 12 favorite is no easy task. Oklahoma did enough to preserve its playoff hopes by scheming out the Horned Frogs on a blistering cold Saturday night in Norman. 


TCU Horned Frogs

Rush Offense: B-

The Sooners knew that TCU would try to rely on its rushing attack without Boykin or Doctson, so a bit of a handicap is necessary in this grade. Aaron Green was impressive with 126 yards on 23 touches and a score, but TCU ultimately couldn't make up for its lack of an aerial assault by pounding the ball. 


Pass Offense: C+

Sawyer clearly wasn't the answer, but Bram Kohlhausen nearly was when it came to finding a solution for the absence of Boykin. The two combined for 229 yards, three touchdowns and as many picks through the air, but Kohlhausen was a huge spark plug in the fourth quarter. Again, a handicap is fair here since these guys aren't the usual starters. The three interceptions were a huge momentum swing in the contest, but TCU got itself back into the game through the air late. 


Rush Defense: D-

The Sooners wanted to control the flow of the game on the ground, and TCU's defensive line allowed them to. Giving up 333 yards on the ground is inexcusable and shows perhaps the Horned Frogs' biggest weakness defensively. 


Pass Defense: B+

While Mayfield looked like a joystick in the first half, that masked his actual performance statistically. He had just 127 yards, albeit with two scores, while only completing nine of 20 passes. Knight wasn't any better, going 5-of-16 passing for 76 yards. 


Special Teams: A

TCU had no issues on this front. Jaden Oberkrom connected on his only field-goal try from 43 yards out, and the Horned Frogs didn't give up any huge returns. 


Coaching: B+

This is perhaps the highest grade for any losing coach this year. Plenty will be made, and debated, about the decision to go for two points after scoring what could have been the game-tying touchdown in the final minute of the game. While the decision itself actually makes sense—TCU didn't have the playmakers to shut down an Oklahoma team that, in all honesty, had dominated most of the game—but the play call was questionable to have Kohlhausen roll out. Then again, a slightly mistimed jump by Steven Parker of the Sooners instead of a perfectly executed one, and TCU could have very well taken the lead on that play. 

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TCU vs. Oklahoma: Score, Highlights and Twitter Reaction

The Oklahoma Sooners and TCU Horned Frogs engaged in a battle of the walking wounded Saturday in Norman, Oklahoma, but the No. 7 Sooners battled through bumps, bruises and a stunning late TCU rally to down the No. 18 Horned Frogs, 30-29, and keep their College Football Playoff hopes alive. 

Oklahoma entered the fourth quarter up by 17 points, but TCU head coach Gary Patterson was in a bind and switched from redshirt freshman quarterback Foster Sawyer to senior Bram Kohlhausen with Trevone Boykin (ankle) on the shelf.

Kohlhausen entered and immediately settled the Horned Frogs offense down, leading two clutch scoring drives, including a touchdown with 51 seconds remaining that brought the team within one point.

TCU then opted to go for the two-point knockout punch instead of kicking the extra point to tie the game, but Oklahoma's defense came up with a stand to escape with the win. The Big 12 shared the replay on Twitter:

Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield completed nine of 20 passes for 127 yards and two touchdowns but didn't return to the field in the second half after taking several big shots—including one to the head—throughout the first half.

Junior Trevor Knight came on in relief of Mayfield, and although the Sooners struggled to keep the chains moving, a 72-yard touchdown run by Samaje Perine in the third quarter proved to be the difference, as the Big 12 showed:

Perine finished with 26 carries for 188 yards and a touchdown, while Knight completed just five of 16 passes for 76 yards and an interception.

Sawyer drew the start in place of Boykin, but the Sooners secondary had a bead on the inexperienced signal-caller. Although Sawyer and the Horned Frogs attempted to stretch the field and maintain their aggressive offensive demeanor, the results weren't positive. 

Sawyer completed eight of 18 passes for 107 yards, a score and three interceptions, two of which came when TCU needed to establish a rhythm in the first half.

Bleacher Report's Adam Kramer used a familiar analogy to describe TCU's strategy prior to Kohlhausen's entrance:

The Sooners outgained the Horned Frogs 536-390 on the evening, with running back Aaron Green (23 carries, 126 yards, one touchdown) representing TCU's lone source of consistent offense. 

For the majority of the first half, the Sooners controlled the tempo and momentum. Mayfield's legs allowed him to repeatedly extend plays, and the junior conjured up images of another famous collegiate scrambler, according to Kramer:

With TCU in trouble as a result of desperate downfield passing attempts, Mayfield found receiver Dede Westbrook for a 36-yard touchdown to help put Oklahoma up by 16 going into halftime, as the Big 12 documented on Twitter:

The second half was a grind for the Sooners, but Mayfield did enough in the first half to lay the groundwork and allow his side to rattle off a sixth straight win. 

In order for Oklahoma to keep its championship flame flickering, it will need to claim intrastate bragging rights next weekend against Oklahoma State when Bedlam descends upon Stillwater.

If Oklahoma turns up the heat against the Cowboys, it will be up to the selection committee to decide the Sooners' fate. And with Notre Dame firmly in the mix and wielding a win over Texas, a key loss to the Longhorns earlier in the season could come back to bite Oklahoma.

But at this rate, all of those concerns are secondary to Mayfield's health. If Oklahoma's star quarterback and Heisman Trophy hopeful can't return in time for the regular-season finale, the Sooners' 2015 campaign could end in disappointing fashion—just as Saturday's game nearly did.

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Texas A&M vs. Vanderbilt: Game Grades, Analysis for the Aggies

The Texas A&M Aggies defeated the Vanderbilt Commodores 25-0 on a cold night in Nashville, and there was not a lot of heat coming from these two offenses. Texas A&M moved the ball pretty well but struggled to convert opportunities into touchdowns, and they had to settle for seven field-goal opportunities. It was the special teams that especially shined for A&M Saturday night, with kicker Taylor Bertolet connecting on six of those field-goal opportunities. 

Vanderbilt on the other hand struggled to get first downs, and head coach Derek Mason's squad finished with only 148 total yards. The struggles started with quarterback play, as Vandy completed just five passes for 23 yards in this game. Whether one views it as bad offense or good defense, it was a solid effort for Texas A&M's defense to hold Vandy to zero points. 

Kyle Allen got the start at quarterback for Texas A&M, his first in three games, and he played very well for the Aggies on Saturday night. Five dropped passes did not help with his completion percentage, but he finished the night 18-of-36 passing for 336 yards and one touchdown. 

The two teams both have conference matchups to prepare for next week. Vanderbilt will travel to Knoxville to take on the Tennessee Volunteers, and the Aggies will face the struggling LSU Tigers. 


Texas A&M Game Grades

Passing Offense

Allen had a very good night even though the final statistics may not jump out at you. He made some great throws down the field and proved why he is the best option at quarterback for the Aggies. He totaled 336 passing yards in his return to the starting lineup. 


Rushing Offense 

The Aggies had only 39 yards rushing at the half, but it ended up being a productive night for that unit. Tra Carson had 126 yards on 22 carries, and A&M rushed for 150 yards as a team. 

The game plan was more reliant on the passing game, but the Aggies were able to run the ball in the second half when they needed to. 


Pass Defense

There's not much to say here with Vanderbilt only passing for 23 yards on five completions. The "A" grade is pretty self-explanatory. Vanderbilt's quarterbacks never looked comfortable Saturday night, and A&M did a great job of pressuring them into bad throws. 

Vanderbilt is one of the worst passing offenses in the country, but A&M played well and did what it needed to do in this game. 


Rush Defense 

Vanderbilt ran the ball effectively early on, but the Aggies stepped up and shut down the run game after halftime. The Commodores, who had 107 yards rushing at halftime, finished with only 125 yards on the ground. 

We knew Vanderbilt was not going to light up the yardage totals by passing, so it's impressive that Texas A&M limited the run game, because that made it tough for Vandy to move the ball at all. 


Special Teams 

Bertolet got plenty of practice Saturday night, as he attempted an astounding seven field goals. He connected on six of those field goals, tying a school and conference record for field goals made in a game. 

His lone miss came in the first half, hence the "B" grade for the first half. When someone attempts that many field goals, we can't expect him to make them all, right? 



The offensive game plan worked well, and offensive coordinator Jake Spavital gave Allen plays in which he could step up and get the ball down the field. The Commodores played a lot of single coverage, and Spavital did a great job of attacking those opportunities. 

Defensive coordinator John Chavis has to be proud of the way his defense played, and it all started with him dialing up the pressure on the Vanderbilt quarterbacks. The defense stopped the run when it had to, and that really limited what Vandy was able to do offensively. 

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Notre Dame Can't Afford a Similar Sloppy, Unfocused Effort vs. Stanford

BOSTON — The venerable grounds at Fenway Park hadn’t hosted football since 1968, and Notre Dame football did little on the field to push the sport forward Saturday.

Take away the green, glitzy glamour of the seventh Shamrock Series—Notre Dame’s annual off-site home game—and focus on the 60 minutes of game action inside the warning track. The Irish did trudge away from Boston College with a 19-16 win and a 10-1 record, but Notre Dame left much to be desired and plenty to be developed before it meets Stanford next weekend in what could prove to be a playoff-clinching regular-season finale.

From the opening kickoff that knuckleballed out of bounds, the Fighting Irish and Eagles bludgeoned one another with an unending slew of sloppiness. In addition to Notre Dame’s five turnovers, including three in the red zone, the Irish muffed three punts, dropped multiple sure receptions and batted around would-be interceptions. In the final tune-up before Notre Dame’s main event next weekend, the Irish only created more questions.

“Tonight it was turnovers,” Irish head coach Brian Kelly said. “Just found a way to win against a very spirited Boston College team despite the amount of turnovers that we had tonight. … Would we have planned to turn it over this many times and thought we could’ve won? Probably not.”

In describing the turnovers, Kelly said freshman running back Josh Adams’ fumble “should’ve been secured” and called a pair of quarterback DeShone Kizer’s interceptions “ill-advised” and “careless.”

“If we take care of the football, this game separates,” Kelly said.

Beyond merely the turnovers, the Irish were messy.

There was Will Fuller with a fourth-quarter drop near the goal line, three drives after the standout wideout dropped a crossing pattern over the middle.

Three plays later, there were Jaylon Smith and Matthias Farley deflecting a lifeless John Fadule pass and elongating the Eagles’ life.

There was a kick off the upright, back-foot throws and plenty of worm-burning ground balls that grazed over the would-be infield dirt. In seven trips to the red zone, the Irish scored just two touchdowns.

“It’s like leaving runners in scoring position,” Kelly cracked from Red Sox manager John Farrell’s standard postgame perch. “To keep stubbing our toe down there becomes concerning.”

And no matter how much bite the Boston College defense boasts or how valued each November win should be, there’s no denying the victory was woefully lacking. Take Kizer, who unknowingly misspoke and, in the process, acknowledged how many Irish fans likely felt.

“It’s ugly to have this loss at this time of the year, but at the same time, it’s gonna be a great learning experience for me and the rest of the offense,” Kizer said.

A loss? Not this week.

“It is so hard to win football games. It is so hard,” Irish senior linebacker Joe Schmidt said. “I honestly have no idea what happened in the college football landscape today, but I can guarantee you there was a lot of stuff that happened today that you didn’t exactly think was gonna happen. That’s college football. That’s why people love it. It’s hard to win football games. And we’re happy that we won today.”

But even Schmidt will tell you Notre Dame needs to be better against Stanford. It needs enough to win and maybe even more to convince a committee presented with potential alternatives like Oklahoma, Baylor, Iowa and Michigan State.

“We want to go in and play a clean game against Stanford,” Schmidt said. “Really, we’re not thinking about style points.”

Wins aren’t easy and shouldn’t be taken for granted. But as Schmidt acknowledged, the Irish must be crisper against the Cardinal to accomplish their mission.


All quotes were obtained firsthand and all stats courtesy of unless otherwise noted.

Mike Monaco is the lead Notre Dame writer for Bleacher Report. Follow @MikeMonaco_ on Twitter.

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Baylor vs. Oklahoma State: Game Grades, Analysis for Bears and Cowboys

The 10th-ranked Baylor Bears recorded a 45-35 victory to end the championship dreams of the No. 6 Oklahoma State Cowboys on Saturday in Stillwater.

Baylor amassed 700 yards of total offense, converted 14-of-22 third downs and improved to 9-1 on the season. The Pokes dropped to 10-1.

Pass Offense: Quarterback Jarrett Stidham torched Oklahoma State for 258 yards during the first half, but the freshman quarterback exited the game due to an ankle injury. Backup Chris Johnson took over and tossed two touchdowns. Wide receiver KD Cannon racked up a season-best 210 yards and two scores.

Run Offense: Baylor controlled the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. The offensive line helped running backs Shock Linwood, Johnny Jefferson and Devin Chafin reach at least 60 yards, while Johnson added 42 and a touchdown. The Bears finished with 304 rushing yards.

Pass Defense: Although the defensive backs were particularly vulnerable on downfield shots, they broke up a handful of throws. Additionally, on 11 third-down passing attempts, Oklahoma State converted just three. Baylor tallied six sacks.

Run Defense: The Bears made their opponent one-dimensional. Baylor entered the night as the nation's 75th-ranked run defense yet held the Pokes to a stunning eight yards on 23 carries. The College Football Playoff committee should once again pay attention to the team from Waco.

Special Teams: Kicker Chris Callahan missed a 45-yard field goal but buried a 34-yarder later on. Punter Drew Galitz blasted a 50-yard punt that was downed inside the 1-yard line. The kick-coverage unit limited Oklahoma State to 19.0 yards per return.

Coaching: Last week, the coaching staff wasn't particularly aggressive. On Saturday, however, each of the Bears' passing touchdowns were 39 yards or longer. Defensively, Baylor forced a season-best 10 punts.

Pass Offense: The two-quarterback system worked for most of the season, but Mason Rudolph was clearly the best option against Baylor. Unfortunately for the Cowboys, his 430 yards and three touchdowns weren't enough. Three receivers topped 80 yards.

Run Offense: Per Kyle Fredrickson of The Oklahoman, Pokes coach Mike Gundy said, "We didn't run the football effectively enough to give ourselves a chance." Running back Chris Carson trudged to a team-best 20 yards.

Pass Defense: Baylor's success on the ground forced Oklahoma State's safeties to respect the run, which opened up one-on-one opportunities downfield. Statistically speaking, it was the defense's third-worst performance against the pass this season. In reality, it was the worst.

Run Defense: The Pokes surrendered 21 first downs to the Bears rushing attack. When Baylor ran the ball on third down with four yards or fewer to go, it converted 10 of 12 times. Successful fourth-down runs followed the two failed attempts.

Special Teams: Punter Zach Sinor averaged 39.0 yards on his 10 punts. Not only is that not a great per-kick number, the volume of attempts was clearly a serious problem. Kicker Ben Grogan notched five extra points.

Coaching: In every aspect of the game, Baylor thoroughly outcoached Oklahoma State. Making adjustments against the quick-strike Bears offense is always a challenge, but trying to change the game plan while trailing by two scores or more is nearly impossible.


Follow Bleacher Report college football writer David Kenyon on Twitter: @Kenyon19_BR.

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Boston College vs. Notre Dame: Game Grades, Analysis for the Fighting Irish

In order to guarantee victory, coaches often say that their team's worst night must be just a little bit better than their opponent's best night.  For Notre Dame, that pretty well sums up the Irish's victory over rival Boston College.

There haven't been many victories uglier than that one, but a win is a win. And considering the Irish were facing off against the nation's top overall defense in Boston College on a night and in a setting overflowing with distractions, any victory is probably welcomed.

Still, we don't issue our weekly report cards to give teams a pass.  Let's break down the good, the bad, and the boatload of ugly in this week's game grades for Notre Dame.

Here is the box score from Saturday's game, via

Fighting Irish Pass Offense

Yardage wise, DeShone Kizer actually performed pretty well against a defense that was giving up barely more than 235 offensive yards per game.  Kizer had 320 yards on 20-of-38 passes.  Unfortunately, three of those incompletions were actually caught by Boston College.

Three interceptions in a game is a season high for Kizer—obviously—and he only managed to make up for his wayward passes by coming up with some much-needed strikes down the stretch in the second half.

Kizer wasn't helped too much by his receivers, either.  The usually sure-handed Will Fuller had three big drops on the night and didn't get his hands on the football for a reception until late in the second half. Fuller finished with three receptions for 72 yards but could have had much loftier numbers were he not participating in the Notre Dame juggling act for much of the game.

Fuller's 72 yards were enough to surpass 1,000 receiving yards on the season.

Chris Brown led all receivers with 104 yards and a score on six receptions.

Fighting Irish Run Offense

The running game wasn't much better.  The big story is the potential loss of C.J. Prosise, who left the game in the second quarter with an ankle injury.  He didn't return to the game and was seen on the Notre Dame sidelines with crutches in the second half.

Still, Prosise did manage to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark before leaving the game, giving Notre Dame just its fourth season in school history with both a 1,000-yard rusher and a 1,000-yard receiver.

Prosise also added to Notre Dame's turnover margin by fumbling before his exit.  He actually had two fumbles, but one was overturned on review.

Josh Adams didn't have the most productive evening in relief of Prosise.  Not only was Adams guilty of putting the ball on the turf, but he only managed 2.6 yards per carry on 14 attempts.

Sure, Boston College is the nation's top rush defense, limiting opponents to just 71.7 rushing yards per game heading into Saturday night. But if Notre Dame wants to be the No. 4 team in the nation, the Irish have to find a way to solve defenses of 3-8 teams like Boston College. 

Fighting Irish Pass Defense

As great as the Boston College defense is, the Eagles' offense is just awful.  The Eagles ranked 127th (out of 128) in the FBS in total offense before Saturday night, and it wasn't difficult to see why.

John Fadule, a true freshman walk-on, is known as the "passing" quarterback in the carousel of QBs utilized by head coach Steve Addazio.  Fadule was just 7-of-16 on the night for 64 yards.  Jeff Smith, the runner of the group, actually completed 5-of-6 for 24 yards and a late touchdown.

Maybe Addazio should rethink his hierarchy.

Still, limiting any team—other than Army or Navy—to just 88 passing yards is a solid night for the Irish, and we're not going to penalize the defense just for facing off against a lackluster passing attack.

Fighting Irish Run Defense

The run defense, however, wasn't quite as spot-on as the passing defense.  Boston College had some decent success in the second half on the ground, including a run by the aforementioned Smith of 80 yards for a touchdown.  Smith finished with 100 yards on five carries.

The Irish also allowed some space for Fadule to run in the second half, and the youngster exploited the gaps left open by the coverage to pick up 64 yards on eight carries.

Boston College's success is something future opponents can use as a blueprint to exploit Notre Dame's pass coverage and open up running room.  The Irish looked very susceptible to the draw, and a quarterback with good scrambling skills could be devastating to a defense that doesn't always have the most sound fundamentals when it comes to "staying home."

Fighting Irish Special Teams

The special teams only had one little hitch: Kizer couldn't handle a PAT snap and was forced to run around on a broken play before throwing the ball aimlessly into the end zone.

Justin Yoon was 2-for-2 on his field-goal attempts and 1-for-1 on the extra point he did actually get to kick.

C.J. Sanders was eventually yanked from his punt return duties and replaced by Fuller after juggling a few attempts and finishing the night with minus-four yards on three returns.

Fighting Irish Coaching

In the "old days," Brian Kelly may have had an aneurysm at some point during the game.  The play of Notre Dame was enough to drive even a sane person mad, and Kelly hasn't always been a guy known for his calm, cool demeanor.

But if Kelly's blood pressure was through the roof Saturday night, he didn't show it.  He calmly coached up his players when they came to the sideline, and he made quick, decisive changes when necessary.

The Irish did enough to win the football game, and sometimes doing just barely enough is the best a coach can do given the circumstances.

It's difficult to see what else Kelly or his staff could of done; sometimes the players just don't execute or perform to their abilities.  Saturday night was clearly one such night.

Credit goes to Kelly for keeping his players levelheaded when things seemed to be falling apart around them.  That could be a very important factor heading into the final week of the 2015 regular season.



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

Follow Bleacher Report's National College Football Featured Columnist David Luther on Twitter.


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