NCAA Football

What Will Playoff Committee Need to See from Mississippi State in the Egg Bowl?

Even in the age of the College Football Playoff, the sport is essentially a beauty contest.

Despite being ranked No. 4 last week by the College Football Playoff selection committee, Mississippi State needs to use its Saturday showdown with Ole Miss as the runway. 

If Alabama wins the Iron Bowl with Auburn, it'll be the last chance for the Bulldogs to leave an impression on the committee. Because of that, head coach Dan Mullen's crew needs style points against the Rebels on national television on Saturday afternoon.

As Mississippi State offensive lineman Ben Beckwith notes (via: Bob Carskadon of HailState.com), the Rebels want to play spoiler.

The Bulldogs' spot in the four-team event is tenuous at best, with Baylor, Ohio State and TCU all nipping at their heels. Some or all of those teams could boast conference championships—a stated point of emphasis for the committee—when all is said and done, and Mississippi State's job this week should be to minimize the impact of those conference championships as much as possible.

What specifically does Mississippi State need to show?

 

Game Control

The Bulldogs need "game control." Lots and lots of "game control."

Unfortunately, that term has crept into the national narrative in this new age of the four-team playoff, and with Ole Miss reeling following its 30-0 loss at Arkansas last week, Mississippi State needs to earn a lot of game control points against an Ole Miss team whose flaws have surfaced over the final month of the season.

Ole Miss' loss last week really hurts Mississippi State. Sure, Arkansas looks a little tougher now, but a Top 10 matchup on rivalry weekend would have been the perfect way to go out on a high note.

Instead, the Rebels are beat up with star wide receiver Laquon Treadwell out and quarterback Bo Wallace nursing an ankle injury, and they haven't been able to run all season long even at optimal health. Mississippi State's front seven has to hold the Rebels rushing attack in check and force "Bad Bo" to make an appearance. 

The Bulldogs' resume is more beefy than a team like Baylor's, which only has beaten three teams with records above .500. But Mississippi State doesn't have a top-end win like Baylor's over No. 5 TCU or one as emphatic as the Bears' 48-14 road win at Oklahoma.

A win over Ole Miss wouldn't really change the fact that Baylor has the better signature win, but if the Bulldogs go on the road and emphatically beat a team in the lower half of the Top 25, it would at least bolster the case.

 

A Complete Defense

There are no great teams in college football this year, there are just a bunch of good ones. Mississippi State is in that group, and proving to the committee that it has fixed its flaws late in the season would be a good way to tie a bow on the resume.

What are Mississippi State's problems? Its defense has holes.

Sure, the Bulldogs are giving up just 18.4 points per game (11th in the nation) and boast the best red-zone defense in the country (59.46 percent), but they're giving up 400.7 yards per game and 4.24 yards per play.

Simply put, defensive coordinator Geoff Collins' crew bends but doesn't break very much.

It needs to be as stiff as a board on Saturday.

These are uncharted waters for all of us, and while the committee can set forth specific metrics that are emphasized, Mississippi would be well-served to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that it has become a truly complete football team by holding Ole Miss' offense in check everywhere on the field, not just inside the 20-yard line.

 

Strength vs. Strength

Ole Miss is known for its stifling defense that's giving up just 309.9 yards per game and 179.0 through the air, which will present a tough challenge for Mullen, quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Josh Robinson.

Mississippi State's offense needs to show that it's strong against one of the best, and that means big days from Prescott, Robinson and the loaded group of receivers that includes Jameon Lewis and De'Runnya Wilson.

Prescott thinks that the 51-0 win over Vanderbilt that saw the Bulldogs put up 502 total yards and break the 500-yard mark for the eighth time this season served as a nice tuneup (via: Carskadon):

Prove it. 

Go out there and play the brand of Mississippi State football that earned the No. 1 ranking earlier in the season over defending national champ Florida State, despite the 'Noles not losing a game.

This is a beauty pageant, and there's a runway waiting for Mississippi State in Oxford on Saturday afternoon.

It needs to turn some heads, regardless of where it's ranked going in.

 

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

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

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Bowl Projections 2014: Latest Playoff Predictions, Odds and More

Make sure to get as much family and friend time in as you can early on this Thanksgiving week, because the race for the College Football Playoff will take center stage on Thursday night, Friday and Saturday. 

Rivalry games and conference championship contests are all that stand in the way of a potential playoff spot for a number of teams, including Alabama, Florida State and Oregon.

With that in mind, here is a look at the latest playoff projections and odds from Statmilk and Odds Shark before my playoff predictions and a deeper look at one of the dark horses that could butt its way into the entire conversation.

 

Statmilk Playoff Projections and Odds

National championship odds are courtesy of Odds Shark, as of Sunday night at 10 p.m. ET.

 

Scott Polacek Playoff Projections

Sugar Bowl: No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Baylor

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

Championship Bowl (in Arlington, Texas): TBD (semifinal winners)

 

The Dark-Horse Candidate: UCLA

There are four playoff spots available, and if Alabama, Florida State and Oregon win out, they are taking three of them. After all, that would mean the Crimson Tide won the SEC, the Ducks won the Pac-12 and the Seminoles finished as the only undefeated power-five conference team and as ACC champs.

Between the quality wins on Oregon’s and Alabama’s resumes and the zero in the loss column for Florida State, there isn’t much of an argument against those three.

The next tier consists of the one-loss contenders in Ohio State, Mississippi State, Baylor and TCU. They all have an inside track on two-loss UCLA from the Pac-12, but that will only truly matter when the final rankings are released.

Chaos is an inescapable part of college football, especially with a number of rivalry showdowns and conference championship tilts on the immediate horizon.

It is not that difficult to envision a scenario where some combination of an Alabama loss to Auburn, a Baylor loss to Kansas State, a TCU loss to Texas, an Ohio State loss to Wisconsin, a Mississippi State loss to Ole Miss, a Florida State loss to Georgia Tech or, most importantly in this scenario, an Oregon loss to UCLA occurs.

Clearly, this all will not happen, but we could certainly see a few upsets, which would open the door for the red-hot Bruins.

If UCLA was to win out and push its winning streak to seven, that would mean the resume includes wins over Texas, Arizona State, Arizona, USC, Stanford and Oregon in the Pac-12 title game. The selection committee will also grant some favor toward conference champions, which would help UCLA’s cause. 

Chris Dufresne of the Los Angeles Times passed along some interesting numbers from Nate Silver of Five Thirty Eight, as well his own opinion on UCLA’s ultimate chances:

UCLA’s biggest problem is the two in the loss column, although defeats at the hands of Utah and Oregon are nothing to really be ashamed of either. Still, the Bruins survived close calls against Virginia, Memphis, Texas, California and Colorado, which isn’t exactly Murderers' Row.

If TCU gets criticized for a close win against Kansas and Ohio State takes some heat for a narrow victory over Indiana, UCLA deserves to be put under that same microscope for those games as well.

Still, winning is all that matters, and quarterback Brett Hundley discussed where his team stands, via Chris Foster of the Los Angeles Times:

“We went through the expectations and the hype at the beginning of the season, where everyone wanted us to win by 60. We’ve grown. We learned to play football and not worry about the rankings. We sit in a pretty good position, but it doesn’t matter right now.”

A lot is potentially at stake here in this UCLA hypothetical between the value of a conference championship, marquee wins and respectable losses. What’s more, plenty has to happen before the Bruins are serious playoff contenders, including a much-easier-said-than-done upset of Oregon in the conference title game. 

Just be warned, though, that UCLA still has a chance to factor into the playoff discussion by season’s end.

 

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Auburn Football: Tigers Fans' Complete Guide to 2014 Iron Bowl

AUBURN, Ala. — It's Thanksgiving week in the state of Alabama, and that usually means three things: food, family and at least one college football team with national title hopes is about to go up against its biggest rival.

This season, Alabama is once again on the path to a berth on the game's biggest stage—this time, a potential place in the inaugural College Football Playoff. The Crimson Tide have not been as impressive in 2014 as championship-quality teams of years past under Nick Saban, but they are still right where they want to be heading into the final week of the season.

On the other side, Auburn's dreams of repeating as an SEC champion and avenging its national title game loss are gone after a late-season slide. However, Gus Malzahn's uptempo and hungry team that thrived as the underdog throughout the 2013 season is back in a familiar spot in 2014, one in which it will once again try to inflict the killer blow on Alabama's title goals.

To make things even more dramatic, this year's Iron Bowl comes one year after the most exciting and unbelievable finish in the sport's history, Chris Davis' "Kick Six."

Hopes and hatred will reach a boiling point Saturday night—yes, it's a night game this year—in Tuscaloosa as Auburn hopes to turn the college football world on its head one more time:

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Notre Dame Football: What the Irish Should Be Thankful for in 2014

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Thanksgiving is mere days away, and Notre Dame football finds itself stumbling down the homestretch of the season.

Currently riding a three-game losing skid, the Irish are 7-4 after a 6-0 start—a peak that seems so long ago. While the current vibe is one full of negativity surrounding this Irish squad, let’s take a look at what Notre Dame should be thankful for in 2014.

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Ohio State Football: What the Buckeyes Should Be Thankful for in 2014

Thanksgiving is a time for people to reflect on the good things in their lives, and for Ohio State fans, there are a number of reasons to be incredibly grateful. 

Since losing in a shocking 35-21 upset to Virginia Tech in Week 2, Urban Meyer has the Buckeyes playing as well as any team in the country. Ohio State rose to No. 6 in the latest playoff rankings after back-to-back road wins over Michigan State and Minnesota. Last Saturday, a 42-27 victory against Indiana clinched the Big Ten East Division for the Buckeyes, assuring Meyer's squad a spot in the conference title game. 

As Ohio State gets ready to host Michigan for its regular-season finale, here are five things the Buckeyes should be thankful for. 

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AP College Football Poll 2014: Official Top 25 Rankings and Week 14 Projections

The College Football Playoff selection committee may not agree, but the Associated Press poll kept undefeated Florida State at No. 1 overall for yet another week despite another close game against Boston College in Week 13. This ensures that the debate over which team is actually the nation's best will rage on for at least another week.

No matter your stance on that argument, we should all be able to agree on one thing: With a playoff system finally in place this year, we will know which squad is most deserving of a championship when it's all said and done. So, for now, let the parley continue.

Week 14 is set to commence with a whole new series of questions. What adjustments were made within the Top 25? Which teams are favored in the eyes of Vegas oddsmakers? Who could be in for an upset this week? Let's break it down.

Complete CFB standings can be found at ESPN.com.

All odds courtesy of Odds Shark and current as of November 23.

 

Upset Special: Arkansas over No. 17 Missouri

That's right, Arkansas is about to do it again. Three weeks ago, picking the Razorbacks over any SEC team would seem like a completely foolish maneuver. However, after blanking both LSU and Ole Miss in consecutive weeks, Bret Bielema's team is rolling.

Arkansas isn't doing anything special on offense to accumulate wins, and it doesn't have to. In Week 13 against the Rebels, the Razorbacks forced six turnovers, intercepting Bo Wallace twice, Ryan Buchanan once and collecting three lost fumbles. One of those interceptions was returned for a touchdown by Rohan Gaines, and several other turnovers resulted in great field position for the team's offense.

One thing Arkansas has done very well on the offensive side of the ball is establish the run. This team doesn't shy away from physical play, and that was wildly apparent against the Rebels, as Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins combined to rush 43 times for 160 yards and a touchdown.

There isn't a line on this game yet due to the injury sustained in Week 13 by quarterback Brandon Allen, as Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee indicates:

Still, backup Austin Allen did just fine in relief against Ole Miss, completing three of his five passing attempts for 65 yards. Due to a run-heavy offense, he should be just fine if he's forced to start in Week 14.

Missouri is currently riding a five-game winning streak, but the Tigers haven't exactly been blowing opponents out of the water. The team's offense was given a difficult time against Tennessee in Week 13, as quarterback Maty Mauk only connected on 12 of his 25 passing attempts and the team averaged 4.0 yards per carry.

While the Tigers did manage to put up 410 yards of offense, it took 70 plays to do so. They'll have an even tougher time moving the ball against an Arkansas defense that ranks 16th in the nation, allowing an average of just 20.2 points per game.

Prediction: Arkansas 23, Missouri 17

 

Lock of the Week: No. 5 Baylor over Texas Tech

Baylor's quarterback Bryce Petty is set to take a field he's likely to play on in the NFL—AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Expect a big day from the senior signal-caller against Texas Tech's porous, 126th-ranked defense, allowing an average of 40.6 points per game.

Not many teams have been able to slow the Bears down this season. The team holds a 9-1 record entering Week 14 and is still well in the hunt for a spot in the College Football Playoff. Sporting News tweeted what many college football fans want to see:

Baylor enters its contest against the Red Raiders ranked first in the nation, averaging 50.0 points per game. In fact, the team has scored fewer than 45 points in just two contests this season.

The Bears showed how dangerous they can be in Week 13 against Oklahoma State. Petty didn't have a solid game by his standards, completing 18 of his 29 passing attempts for 262 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions, but the team still managed to put up 49 points due to strong rushing performances from Shock Linwood and Devin Chafin, as well as good showings from wide receivers Corey Coleman and Jay Lee.

This team has weapons all over the field, and Texas Tech simply hasn't been able to stop much of anyone this season—especially the high-powered TCU Horned Frogs, who put up a whopping 82 points.

Texas Tech has been able to put up some points this season due to the efforts of quarterback Patrick Mahomes and running back DeAndre Washington. The duo has torched weaker defenses throughout the season. However, they've struggled against stronger units such as Kansas State, TCU and Texas. Expect history to repeat itself against an underrated Baylor defense that ranks 27th in the nation, allowing an average of 21.7 points per game.

Watch for an enormous day from Petty as the Bears light up the scoreboard early and often en route to a blowout victory over Texas Tech.

Prediction: Baylor 56, Texas Tech 21

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Samuel Chi's Mock College Football Playoff Standings: Week 14

With just two weeks left in the regular season, the field of contenders for the four playoff spots is shrinking fast. After Saturday, there are only 16 teams still mathematically alive for their respective conference championships. And of those 16, maybe half of them have a legitimate shot of being part of the inaugural College Football Playoff.

While winning the conference championship is not necessarily a prerequisite of qualifying for the playoff, the committee did list that as a major factor in its selection process. Of all the remaining contenders, maybe just one—Mississippi State—has a shot at making the playoff without winning its conference.

There probably will not be significant changes in the committee's rankings this week other than that No. 8 Ole Miss will be tumbling down after a 30-0 wipeout loss to Arkansas. So we'll take a good look at those final 16 teams and dissect their prospects:

 

Teams with no chance

Wisconsin (Big Ten), Minnesota (Big Ten), Georgia Tech (ACC): The Minnesota-Wisconsin winner as well as Georgia Tech are guaranteed a place in their respective championship games. But they're too far down the standings and have weak resumes with killer losses (Wisconsin to Northwestern, Minnesota to Illinois, Georgia Tech to North Carolina) to have any shot.

 

Teams with slim chance

Kansas State (Big 12), Arizona (Pac-12), Arizona State (Pac-12): These three two-loss teams are hovering around the low 10s, but all have significant obstacles to overcome. K-State can share the Big 12 title if it wins out, but having lost to TCU and with an extra nonconference loss, it's unlikely to leapfrog the Frogs in the rankings. The Territorial Cup winner can only claim the Pac-12 South with a UCLA loss to Stanford, but even if that team beats Oregon in the Pac-12 title game, it needs lots of teams in front of it to suffer unexpected losses to get into the Top Four.

 

Teams need a lot of help

Georgia (SEC), Missouri (SEC): Mizzou wins the SEC East with a victory over resurgent Arkansas; otherwise, the division title goes to Georgia. But besides having to knock off a heavily-favored SEC West winner (Alabama or Mississippi State), both teams already have two losses, including a very bad one each (Georgia to Florida, Mizzou to Indiana). A win by the East winner in the conference title game may very well cost the SEC a spot in the playoff.

 

Teams need some help

Baylor (Big 12), TCU (Big 12), Ohio State (Big Ten), UCLA (Pac-12): All of those teams can win at least a share (in the cases of TCU and Baylor) of their respective conference titles on their own, but they don't control their own fate when it comes to the playoff. Only one of those teams will make it to the Top Four if the top three teams win out. Despite last week's No. 7 ranking, Baylor might have the best shot as it's likely to jump both TCU and Ohio State with a final-game victory over Kansas State to finish 11-1.

 

Team needs Auburn's help

Mississippi State (SEC): An Auburn upset of Alabama in the Iron Bowl puts the Bulldogs back in the SEC title game—if they defeat slumping Ole Miss in the Egg Bowl. Without a division (and conference) title, they probably will end up 11-1 with nowhere (in the playoff) to go. While it's currently ranked No. 4, Miss State is certain to lose ground in the final two weeks of the season to a one-loss champion from another conference since its resume is not good enough to trump that purportedly important consideration.

 

Teams need no help

Alabama (SEC), Oregon (Pac-12), Florida State (ACC): Win out and they're in the playoff, simple as that. Never mind the committee's seeming hostility, the Seminoles will get a chance to defend their title if they beat Florida and Georgia Tech in the next two games.

 

Other Fun Facts

 * Is this the week the committee finally puts a group-of-five team (or two) in the rankings after having snubbed them the past three weeks? There are just 24 power-five teams with three or fewer losses, and Duke is certainly not going to be ranked. That means either Marshall and/or Colorado State will break through or up to a pair of four-loss teams will be ranked.

* Georgia Tech should be a lock for the Orange Bowl if it beats Georgia in the Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate. Other than playoff-bound FSU, there are no other ACC teams with fewer than three losses. Of course, the Jackets are guaranteed an Orange Bowl berth if they upset the 'Noles in the ACC title game.

* Notre Dame and BYU are both 7-4, and neither has a prayer of getting into a New Year's Six bowl. But even if their respective seasons had gone much better, access to the playoff and the best bowls still will be difficult for them under the new regime. With Navy set to join the American next season, we finally could be witnessing the death of independents at the FBS level.

 

Follow on Twitter @ThePlayoffGuru

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College Football's Most Important Offers of the Week

With most programs gearing up to close out the 2014 season, more coaching staffs across the country are starting to focus their efforts on finishing the 2015 recruiting class.

While a number of 2015 recruits have long been committed to their school of choice, a handful of late bloomers are starting to emerge on the radar of programs from coast to coast.

One such prospect is 3-star corner Colin Samuel

The 6’3”, 186-pounder, who plays at powerhouse Long Beach Poly High School in Mission Hills, California, earned five offers last week from the likes of Michigan, Washington State, UCLA, Oklahoma and Mississippi State.

As Clint Brewster of Wolverine247 notes, Samuel has the size and length that coaches on the college level are vigorously pursuing at the corner position.

JC Shurburtt of 247Sports notes that while Samuel’s stock is on the rise with a number of schools across the nation, it’s the in-state Bruins who could be on the verge of landing the emerging sleeper.

Prior to the Michigan offer, Samuel seemed warm to the thought of giving the Wolverines a shot, per Steven Lorenz of Wolverine247 (subscription required).

"I felt good about what they had to say and feel like they could be pretty close to offering me,” Samuel said. “If they do, they would immediately be one of my top schools. I would definitely visit them."

The recent flood of interest in Samuel is bound to grow if the Golden State product chooses to keep his options open.

 

Stanford Offer Snatched up Quickly by 2015 DT

Although it rarely happens these days, there are instances when recruits instantly commit upon receiving an offer that they really covet.

Such was the case for 2015 3-star defensive tackle Wesley Annan—who committed to Stanford immediately after he was offered last Monday, per Steve Wiltfong of 247Sports.

"It's everything I wanted athletically, academically, socially,” Annan told Wiltfong. “It's a great place and I loved it. The environment alone, any athlete would love competing in an environment like that."

The 6’4”, 280-pounder chose the Cardinal over offers from Boston College, Duke, Maryland, Ole Miss and Virginia among others.

 

Ohio State Offers Trio of 2016 Standouts

Urban Meyer and the Ohio State Buckeyes are one of the schools poised to make a run at the No. 1 spot in the 2015 class rankings.

However, Meyer and his staff were focused on the 2016 class last week.

Per Tom Loy of 247Sports, Meyer offered 3-star Florida teammates in quarterback Ervin Barrett and receiver Eddie McDoom.

Another junior standout that received an offer from the Buckeyes is 4-star running back Antonio Williams—who is scheduled to make his commitment on Dec. 4.

With things just about wrapped up for 2015, Meyer and his staff are already laying the groundwork for another star-studded class in 2016.

 

A Preview of Bedlam with 2016 DB

One of the nation’s most underrated rivalries is the Bedlam Series between in-state rivals Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.

Fans of the Sooners and the Cowboys will have to wait until Dec. 6 for the next installment of the rivalry to take place in Norman.

However, Bob Stoops and Mike Gundy went at it on the recruiting trail last week as both Oklahoma and Oklahoma State offered 3-star 2016 safety Calvin Bundage.

The two schools join Tulsa as in-state programs who are chasing the 6’3”, 190-pounder.

 

Best of the Rest

  • Duke is the newest offer for 2016 3-star tight end Thaddeus Moss—who is the son of former NFL star receiver Randy Moss.
  • 2017 running back Stephen Carr picked his first offer from Washington, Gorney reported.

 

Sanjay Kirpalani is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

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Tennessee Volunteers vs. Vanderbilt Commodores Complete Game Preview

Payback will be wearing orange-and-white-clad jerseys this Saturday as the Tennessee Volunteers seek bowl eligibility against in-state rival Vanderbilt.

The last time these two teams met in a frigid Neyland Stadium last November, the Vols needed to win each of their final two games to reach the postseason in head coach Butch Jones' first season.

But instead of UT heading to Kentucky with a solid chance, VU stunned the Vols with a 14-10 win.

Quarterback Patton Robinette—a graduate of nearby Maryville High School who wasn't offered a scholarship by the Vols—ran in a keeper from five yards away with 16 seconds left to secure the win. Vandy was the beneficiary of an overturned ball spot on fourth down previously to extend the drive.

The win gave then-coach James Franklin his second consecutive victory over the Vols. 

Much has happened since then. Franklin bolted for Penn State, only to be replaced by Stanford defensive coordinator Derek Mason. The Commodores have suffered a miserable season, sitting at 3-8 with wins over Massachusetts, Charleston Southern and Old Dominion by a combined 18 points.

The Vols again must beat Vanderbilt to go to a bowl game, but this year, that looks a little easier than it has in years past. Here's everything you need to know about the matchup.

 

Date: Saturday, Nov. 29

Time: 4 p.m. ET

Place: Vanderbilt Stadium, Nashville, Tennessee

TV: SEC Network

Radio: Vol Network, Vanderbilt IMG Sports Network, Sirius 113/XM 190

Spread: Tennessee by 15 points, according to Oddsshark.com.

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Georgia Tech vs. Georgia: Complete Game Preview

Despite an uneven recent history, Georgia Tech and Georgia have more in common this year than many recognize.  

Both the Yellow Jackets and the Bulldogs boast identical records at 9-2 overall and 6-2 in conference play.  Georgia Tech clinched the ACC's Coastal Division with a Duke loss last week; Georgia is hoping to win the SEC East with a Missouri loss this weekend.  Both teams lead their respective conferences in points per game and rely heavily on potent rushing attacks.

Oh, and both schools hail from the Peach State, and this rivalry, dubbed "Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate," has been played 109 times.

Here's what you need to know about this weekend's rivalry game:

  • Date: Saturday, November 29
  • Time: Noon ET
  • Place: Sanford Stadium, Athens, Georgia
  • TV: SEC Network
  • Radio: Georgia Tech IMG Sports Network, Georgia Bulldogs Radio Network
  • Spread: Georgia (-14.5), per Odds Shark

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How the Texas Longhorns Will Ruin TCU's Playoff Dreams

The TCU Horned Frogs, enjoying one of the best seasons in their history, are sitting pretty at No. 5 in the latest CFP rankings.

However, they will have their hands full when they head to Austin to take on Charlie Strong and the Texas Longhorns.

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder illustrates how Texas will pull off the upset of TCU, putting a halt to the Horned Frogs' national championship dreams. 

Will Texas beat TCU?

Check out the video and let us know! 

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Bowl Predictions 2014: Updated Playoff Projections and Odds Before Week 14

The College Football Playoff may not officially start until January, but every week in November is a win-or-go-home situation for the top contenders.

All the undefeated and one-loss playoff contenders won Saturday, so the top of the polls will not look that different Tuesday. Still, we may see some chaos on the horizon with rivalry games and conference championships in the next two weeks.

With that in mind, here is a look at Statmilk’s latest playoff projections and odds before looking at mine and the latest update in the race for the No. 4 seed.

 

Statmilk Playoff Projections and Odds

 

Scott Polacek Playoff Projections

Sugar Bowl: No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Baylor

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

Championship Bowl (in Arlington, Texas): TBD (semifinal winners)

 

Updated Race for No. 4

As long as Alabama, Oregon and Florida State win out, they should occupy the first three spots in the final rankings. The Crimson Tide would be SEC champions, the Ducks would win the Pac-12, and the Seminoles would be the one undefeated power-five conference team as ACC champs.

That means there is a race for the No. 4 spot.

Mississippi State was No. 4 in the most recent College Football Playoff rankings and should stay put Tuesday after easily dispatching Vanderbilt. Mississippi State’s best argument is its position in the presumed best conference in the country, the SEC.

The loss to Alabama is certainly nothing to be ashamed of, and wins over Auburn and LSU are impressive. Still, both Tigers teams have lost games in blowout fashion since losing to the Bulldogs and may not quite be as daunting as once thought. 

At least Mississippi State has ESPN’s Paul Finebaum on its side:

Ohio State may be the biggest long-term threat to Mississippi State for the No. 4 seed because it could be the one solo conference champion in this four-team race. That is still the case despite the fact it didn’t look all that sharp Saturday against Indiana (for what it's worth, that was the same Hoosiers team that beat the current SEC East leader, Missouri).

The Buckeyes have their rivalry game with Michigan and then the Big Ten title game against either Wisconsin or Minnesota remaining. A win over a highly ranked Badgers squad would go a long way toward bolstering the resume, and it would help in the bigger picture because the Bulldogs will not be SEC champions if Alabama wins out.

What’s more, if both TCU and Baylor win out, they will be co-champs in the Big 12 without a conference championship game. Ohio State would be an interesting case study into how much the selection committee values conference champions.

Urban Meyer talked about what lies ahead for his team, according to The Associated Press (h/t ESPN.com): "We're conference division champions, we've won a bunch of games (nine) in a row. We have some work to do. Sometimes in college football, things don't go exactly as scripted."

Baylor made the loudest statement of any contender Saturday when it crushed Oklahoma State. The nation’s No. 1 scoring offense is always going to come through in style points, but the head-to-head victory over TCU is the trump card in Baylor’s back pocket.

The Bears’ final game against Kansas State will likely decide the fate of their season, and if they win that, it will be hard to ignore a resume with victories over the Wildcats, Horned Frogs and Oklahoma.

Finally, there is TCU, which was still ahead of Baylor in the most recent College Football Playoff rankings even though the Bears beat the Horned Frogs earlier in the season.

Baylor actually moved ahead of TCU in the latest AP poll, which could be a harbinger of things to come Tuesday. The more equal the two resumes from the Big 12 become, the more likely Baylor’s head-to-head win over TCU will come into play.

TCU did get a major boost Saturday when Minnesota beat Nebraska in Nebraska. Minnesota is the Horned Frogs’ biggest nonconference win, and the Golden Gophers still control their own destiny in the race for the Big Ten West title. If they beat Wisconsin, it would set up a showdown with the Buckeyes and a golden opportunity to bolster TCU’s chances.

The Horned Frogs still have to take care of their own business first, though, with a tricky game against Texas on the horizon. The Longhorns have won three games in a row, including an impressive 33-16 victory over West Virginia, and would certainly love to end the playoff hopes of their in-state rivals. 

Buckle up because there are bound to be plenty of changes between now and the end of the season.

 

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NCAA Football Rankings 2014: Week 14 Standings and Analysis for Latest Polls

The switch from the BCS to the College Football Playoff has not devalued the regular season's excitement, but it has certainly devalued the release of the Associated Press and Amway Coaches polls.

The College Football Playoff rankings come out on Tuesday, which will give fans a better idea of where their teams stand in the race for the postseason, but these polls are still something of an early teaser.

With that in mind, here is a look at the latest rankings after Week 13.

The first thing that jumps out about the Associated Press poll is the fact that Baylor finally moved ahead of TCU.

The debate about which team should be higher in the polls between the Horned Frogs and Bears has raged on for much of the season, even though Baylor beat TCU head-to-head. While that victory is the ultimate trump card for the Bears, the Horned Frogs did have a more impressive nonconference slate, which has kept them afloat in the race for No. 5.

TCU has to play Texas on Thanksgiving, and Baylor has a difficult contest with Kansas State waiting at the end of the season, so neither team is a lock to finish with only one loss.

The second thing that stands out is Florida State’s position at No. 1, even though it was No. 3 in the most recent College Football Playoff rankings. The Seminoles are the only power-five conference team that is still undefeated, so it makes sense, although they have been forced to come back in the second half throughout the season and seem to have a charmed life right now.

Dominant or not, Florida State continues to win. Head coach Jimbo Fisher suggested that is the most important thing, via Heather Dinich of ESPN.com:

Let me ask you this: How about the way everybody else hasn't finished? Our team has never not finished. The game is 60 minutes. This team hasn't lost in over two years. Everybody says 'game control.' That's something made up. As a coach, you talk about one thing: Finish. Get it done. This team wins in every way, shape and form you can win. Everybody else has failed at least once, no matter what you look at, and some of those teams have lost when they were over 20-point favorites.

As long as Florida State knocks off its archrival, Florida, and wins the ACC Championship Game, it will be in the Top Four at the end of the year, but questions will remain until it starts to dominate weaker opponents like Boston College.

Another big mover in the latest AP poll was UCLA, which moved up from No. 11 to No. 9.

The Bruins dismantled USC on Saturday, 38-20, and could present an interesting predicament to the selection committee if it managed to win out and beat Oregon in the Pac-12 title game.

The Bruins have two losses, but in that hypothetical, they would jump ahead of the Ducks as conference champs and have marquee wins over Oregon, USC, Arizona and Arizona State. That may just be playoff-worthy depending on what some of the teams ahead of UCLA do between Week 14 and the end of the season.

Finally, the most important thing about any of these polls is the race for No. 4, since it appears as if Florida State, Alabama and Oregon will take up three of the playoff spots if they win out. 

Mississippi State is No. 4 in both the AP and Coaches polls and seems to be getting some credit by association for being in the SEC West. Stewart Mandel of Fox Sports and Paul Myerberg of USA Today pointed out just how tough that division has been this season:

The best chance for fellow No. 4 contender Ohio State is if Wisconsin, which is No. 14 in both polls released on Sunday, continues to climb and sets up a marquee showdown in the Big Ten Championship Game. A Buckeyes victory there would test just how much value the selection committee places on conference titles, since Mississippi State wouldn’t be a conference champion if Alabama wins out.

What’s more, the Big 12 would have co-champions without a title game if Baylor and TCU win out. 

Until the new playoff rankings are released on Tuesday, fans will simply have to use the AP and Coaches polls as the baseline for any arguments.

 

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College Football Playoff 2014: Top 25 Predictions After Week 14 AP Rankings

Another week of the 2014 college football season is in the books, which means you should start paying attention to the selection committee's Top 25.

It's funny to watch fans get worked up about the first couple of batches of rankings. Remember when everybody was upset about two SEC teams being in the College Football Playoff? That's not going to happen anymore. Things tend to correct themselves in college football

Now, it's time to start paying attention, though. Little time remains until the conference championships. The polls carry more weight because those on the outside looking in are running out of chances to impress the committee.

The playoff rankings have not yet been revealed, but a bevy of other polls are out. You can see the Associated Press poll below:

The AP poll isn't the be-all and end-all in terms of deciding the playoff rankings, but the committee will likely use it as a road map.

 

Top 25 Breakdown

Top Four

The composition of last week's Top Four will almost certainly remain the same. The order might be a little different, though.

The only team that could possibly get bounced out—and it would be a stretch—is Mississippi State, and the Bulldogs shut out Vanderbilt. The Commodores aren't a good team, but beating any FBS team 51-0 sends a message. It's the school's largest in-conference shutout in nearly 80 years, per ESPN Stats & Info:

Conversely, Mississippi State is really the only team that could move up as well. 

The selection committee won't be impressed by Florida State's win over Boston College. The Seminoles needed a 26-yard field goal from Roberto Aguayo with three seconds remaining to put away the Eagles. FSU is obviously deserving of a Top Four spot but perhaps not the top seed.

Meanwhile, Oregon and Alabama both beat weak opponents by 34 points, so there's little reason to elevate or demote the Ducks and/or the Crimson Tide.

The realistic move would be moving Mississippi State up to third and dropping FSU to fourth, which still seems unlikely.

Don't be surprised if the playoff seeds are unchanged when the rankings are revealed.

 

Playoff Hopefuls

TCU is bound to get dinged for not not playing anyone of note as the season ends. After their big win over Kansas State on Nov. 8, the Horned Frogs finish with Kansas—whom they beat—Texas and Iowa State. That's not exactly a murderers' row.

TCU was off this week, which opens the door for the selection committee to begin souring on the Horned Frogs and throwing its support behind other power-five teams.

If somebody supplants TCU for fifth, it will likely be Ohio State. Critics rightfully bring up the loss to Virginia Tech, but there's no question this is a completely different Buckeyes team. J.T. Barrett isn't a Heisman Trophy favorite, but he's on the list of guys on the periphery.

What could hurt Ohio State is the fact that it was ahead of Indiana by just a point heading into the fourth quarter. The Buckeyes might've won by 15 points, but it wasn't a real positive win:

With that said, the committee could favor Baylor more than the Buckeyes. The Bears had a decisive 49-28 win over Oklahoma State on Saturday. They were up 42-14 in the fourth quarter before the Cowboys got two garbage-time touchdowns.

"I think our team's record speaks for itself," said Baylor head coach Art Briles, per the Austin Statesman. "I think good teams find ways to win, and that's kind of what we did."

Baylor sits fifth in the AP poll, so it wouldn't be a surprise to see the Bears there in the playoff rankings as well.

The wild card will be UCLA. The committee was high on the Bruins in Week 13, placing them ninth. A 38-20 win over No. 19 USC will only embolden the group.

FoxSports.com's Stewart Mandel thinks UCLA will likely be no lower than eighth, and he also argued that the Bruins could still sneak into the playoffs.

"It's still a long shot, but if all hell breaks loose—if Georgia or Missouri upsets the SEC West champ in Atlanta, or Ohio State falls in the Big Ten title game—then a two-loss UCLA team that ends its season by beating one-loss Oregon would have a solid case for the Top Four," he wrote. 

The only problem for UCLA is that it has struggled mightily against Oregon and Stanford—the two teams the Bruins would need to beat in order to make the playoff.

 

The Rest

You don't want to dismiss a large swath of the rankings, but, in reality, just one of the 15 teams listed above has a shot at making the playoff. The only team with a remote chance is Missouri, and that's only if the Tigers win the SEC Championship Game and the other dominoes fall as needed.

Missouri would have to hope that enough one-loss teams above it lose between now and the end of the season. The selection committee might love the SEC, but it's unlikely to love the SEC enough to send in the Tigers ahead of a one-loss Baylor, TCU, Ohio State or Oregon team.

It's also worth watching whether the committee gives any love to the group-of-five conferences. With USC, Utah, Nebraska and Duke all falling out of the AP Top 25, the chance is there for some combination of Marshall, Boise State and Colorado State to sneak into the playoff rankings.

Mike Hamrick, Marshall's athletic director, believes those schools in the group of five deserve to at least know where they are in relation to the power-five teams, per CBSSports.com's Jon Solomon:

But Hamrick does question why undefeated Marshall has yet to be ranked. And he is frustrated by what he views as the increasing divide between the so-called haves and have-nots even in college football rankings.

"I didn't think it was going to become that way, but then you see these rankings every week with three-loss teams making it," Hamrick said. "It's very confusing if you're a [Group of Five] school. We don't know how we fit in and that's why I wish there was at least some transparency. Hey, if we're No. 50, just tell me we're 50. I don't care. But the average fan's take right now is [the committee is] more worried about ranking the Power Five and then they'll just deal with us later, which was not what my understanding was of when this was all put together."

It's time to start giving the Thundering Herd and the Rams some love.

The next-best options are 6-5 Arkansas and 7-4 LSU. The SEC has some good teams at the top, but the conference has been exposed lately. There's no way a four- or five-loss team deserves Top 25 consideration.

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Auburn vs. Alabama: Preview, Updated Odds and Prediction for 2014 Iron Bowl

The Auburn Tigers will travel to Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa to take on the Alabama Crimson Tide Saturday in the 2014 Iron Bowl. This game went down in history—or infamy, for Alabama fans—last year, producing one of the most memorable conclusions to any game in recent memory.

Auburn's Chris Davis' 108-yard return of a missed field goal to defeat Alabama in regulation is still fresh in the minds of many Crimson Tide players. Safety Landon Collins shared his thoughts with Michael Casagrande of AL.com: "Definitely looking forward to playing those guys again. We have a little chip on our shoulder against them. But we'll definitely be ready to face them when the time comes."

Will Collins and his teammates find redemption this time around? Based on the way Alabama has been playing of late, that certainly appears to be the case. However, that was a common thought last year as well.

Before this highly anticipated game kicks off, let's take a look at the updated odds and predict the outcome of this pivotal SEC clash.

 

Viewing Information

When: Saturday, November 29

Where: Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Alabama

Time: 7:45 p.m. ET

Channel: ESPN

Live Stream: WatchESPN

Game Line (via Odds Shark): Alabama -9.5

 

Preview and Prediction

Once again, Alabama enters this contest ranked first in the nation (according to the latest College Football Playoff poll), and Auburn will be looking to play the role of spoiler.

One big difference the Crimson Tide bring to the table is quarterback Blake Sims. He isn't known for lighting up scoreboards, but he's extremely efficient and takes care of the football, throwing just four interceptions on the year.

That efficiency has allowed Sims to flourish this season, as Jim Dunaway of WIAT-42 Birmingham noted the quarterback is nearing some school records:

With a quarterback very capable of protecting the ball, Alabama is able to unleash a fantastic two-headed monster out of its backfield. T.J. Yeldon and Derrick Henry have put on a show this season, each averaging at least 5.0 yards per carry and combining for 1,440 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns.

This well-balanced offense is capable of methodically moving the ball down the field, keeping the clock running and the team's defense fresh, but with the highly talented Amari Cooper at wide receiver, Alabama is more than capable of producing a big play at any given moment.

Despite going down with an apparent knee injury in Week 13, head coach Nick Saban told media Cooper is just fine and ready for Saturday, via Cecil Hurt of the Tuscaloosa News:

With a defense ranked second in average points against (14.5), fifth in total yards per game (283.5), second in rushing yards per game (85.3) and 27th in passing yards per game (198.2), you can make a strong argument that Alabama is the nation's most complete team.

Auburn still has quite a dynamic running game this season despite losing ball-carrier Tre Mason to the NFL. Nick Marshall has evolved as a passer and is more of a dual-threat quarterback than he was in 2013. He's completed 59.6 percent of his passes this season, throwing 15 touchdowns against six interceptions.

The quarterback will get one of his trusty weapons back for Saturday's game, as Rotoworld NFL Draft tweeted D'haquille Williams is slated to return to action:

However, the signal-caller's bread and butter is on the ground. Marshall is averaging 5.5 yards per rush, gaining 731 yards and scoring 11 times through 11 games. He's complemented very nicely by running back Cameron Artis-Payne, who is averaging 5.6 yards per carry, gaining 1,405 yards and 11 touchdowns.

The efforts of those two players are why the Tigers own the ninth-ranked rushing offense heading into Week 14. If anything can give Alabama's stout defense a tough time, it's the versatility of Auburn's ground attack.

While Auburn can rack up yards and score points, its defense must step up in a big way against the Crimson Tide. Before holding Samford to just seven points in Week 13, the Tigers gave up 31 points or more in their previous five games, going 2-3 in that span. What's even more troubling is that two of those five teams—South Carolina and Texas A&M—weren't even ranked.

Alabama's offense hasn't exactly been consistent throughout the season, but it's been good enough to win close games, going 3-1 in contests decided by one score. That mark will move to 4-1 Saturday, as the Crimson Tide notch a victory in a close one.

Prediction: Alabama 27, Auburn 23

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College Football Picks Week 14: Predictions and Odds for Top 25 Schedule

The nation's Top Four teams remain unchanged heading into Week 14 of the college football season; however, things have certainly tightened up a bit. While Florida State remains on top, second-ranked Alabama received 21 first-place votes and trail by just a slim point margin in the Associated Press poll.

Oregon and Mississippi State still round out the top squads, but keep an eye on the potent offense of the Baylor Bears.

Baylor owns the nation's top scoring offense and has a very favorable matchup in Week 14 against a shaky Texas Tech defense. If one of the Top Four should falter and Bryce Petty lights up the scoreboard as expected, we could see some very intriguing late-season changes to the College Football Playoff picture.

As we've learned throughout the season, no active team is safe from defeat. So, let's revisit a question that's asked on a weekly basis: Which top team is most likely to fall? This week's answer may surprise you. Before we delve into some analysis regarding that quandary, here's a look at the full schedule, odds and predictions for all Top 25 teams in Week 14.

The full CFB schedule can be viewed at ESPN.com.

All game odds courtesy of Odds Shark and current as of November 23.

 

Week 14 Upset Pick: Florida over No. 1 Florida State

This is the week the Seminoles won't be able to rely on their late-game magic to continue their unbeaten streak.

Rarely is an undefeated team picked to fall to an unranked opponent, but that's likely to happen to a Florida State team that has been living on the edge for several weeks now. In fact, the Seminoles just barely escaped with wins in their last two contests against Miami and Boston College by a combined seven points.

While Florida State's defense is playing well enough against the pass, it continues to get torched on the ground. In Week 13 against Boston College, the Seminoles gave up 240 yards and a score on 51 carries, an average of 4.7 yards per rush. One week prior, Miami fared just as well, rushing for 176 yards and a score on 40 carries, an average of 4.4 yards per rush.

Steve Palazzolo of Pro Football Focus tweeted a very common statement during the Seminoles' contest against the Eagles:

This week, Florida State is tasked with stopping a Gators rushing offense that's averaging 197.1 yards per game on the ground and has scored 21 rushing touchdowns this season. Expect the combination of Matt Jones and Kelvin Taylor to give the Seminoles fits.

To keep pace, the Seminoles will need a better performance from quarterback Jameis Winston out of the gate. He's been sluggish in the first half of games this season, allowing his team to fall behind quickly. Here's a very telling statistic courtesy of ESPN Stats & Info:

Winston hasn't been putting up Heisman-like numbers again this season, and that's partly due to a lack of ball security. The sophomore has thrown at least one interception in all but two games this year, totaling 13 through 11 contests. More turnovers should be expected this week against a Florida team that excels at rushing the passer, totaling 25 sacks on the season, and has come away with 10 interceptions as a result.

Obviously, defeating their in-state rivals is motivation enough for the Gators; however, they have something else to play for, via Stewart Mandel of Fox Sports:

Florida played like a team possessed in its last home contest of the season, defeating Eastern Kentucky 52-3. The team's players were all recruited by Will Muschamp, and they'll want to send the coach off with a victory in his final game with the Gators.

The right motivation can go a long way, and we'll witness that Saturday.

Prediction: Florida 27, Florida State 24

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College Football Bowl Predictions 2014: NCAA Playoff Picks After Week 13 Results

If you asked any coach of a College Football Playoff contender what he thought about his team's position in the latest rankings, each one would tell you the same thing: We are focused on the next opponent. 

After all, you don’t overlook Michigan if you are at Ohio State, Auburn if you are at Alabama, Florida if you are at Florida State, Ole Miss if you are at Mississippi State, Oregon State if you are at Oregon or even Texas if you are at TCU. 

Fans and commentators can still look at the big picture, though. With that in mind, here is a look at the latest playoff projections heading into Week 14.

 

Playoff Projections

Sugar Bowl: No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Baylor

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

Championship Bowl (in Arlington, Texas): TBD (semifinal winners)

 

Thanksgiving Treat: TCU at Texas

In a typical year, a matchup between Texas and TCU would be framed as a “big brother vs. little brother” matchup in the state of Texas in which the in-state bully, the Longhorns, were challenged by the upstart Horned Frogs.

Not in 2014.

TCU is right in the thick of the College Football Playoff race, but Texas is red-hot after an abysmal start to the season. The Longhorns have three straight wins, and they all came by three-score margins. What’s more, the early losses to BYU, UCLA, Oklahoma, Baylor and Kansas State are understandable.

The losses to the Bruins and the Sooners came in heartbreaking fashion as well. 

Another thing to keep an eye on is the overall pressure, which should be more of an issue for playoff contender TCU than Texas. ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit suggested as much:

Texas has a chance in this game because of its defense, which is the strength of the team.

The Longhorns are 24th in the nation in points allowed per game and held Oklahoma State to seven points, the dynamic West Virginia offense to 16 and Texas Tech to 13 the last three games.

TCU wins games with its offense, and it will be critical for the Longhorns to continue the defensive momentum.

TCU is eighth in the country in passing yards per game and 28th in rushing yards per game. That is the balanced attack that is a nightmare for defensive coordinators, and quarterback Trevone Boykin, who is a legitimate Heisman Trophy contender, is the director. He has a head-turning 3,021 passing yards, 548 rushing yards and 31 total touchdowns and will look to add more Thursday.

Kansas State coach Bill Snyder was certainly impressed by Boykin, via Stephen Hawkins of the Associated Press, via The News & Observer:

He provides a great deal of spark and leadership to his football team. Obviously his quickness and vision on the field, and ability to make big plays on his own ... It's just his innate ability to get to the right place the right time. He can make people miss. He just has a great sense of where he is and how to get where he needs to go.

Impressive defense or not, stopping the Horned Frogs attack that put up 82 points in a single game earlier in the season is much easier said than done.

The other side of the ball has been the problem for Texas. It is 98th in the nation in scoring offense and scored fewer than 10 points three different times this season, including a shutout loss to Kansas State. For what it’s worth, quarterback Tyrone Swoopes threw for 305 yards and two touchdowns against Oklahoma State the last time out and may have turned a corner.

The TCU defense has been vulnerable at times this season, and it gave up 30 points to Kansas, 30 to West Virginia, 61 to Baylor and 33 to Oklahoma. If Swoopes can establish some momentum early against that defense and give his own group a lead, an upset will suddenly become a possibility.

The Longhorns will also have the home crowd on their side in a raucous atmosphere under the lights. The Horned Frogs will feel the pressure in the second half with a playoff spot on the line and make a crippling mistake against an opportunistic Texas defense.

Get ready for chaos. The first upset of the week will take place Thursday. 

Prediction: Texas 31, TCU 24

 

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College Football Rankings 2014: Latest Standings and Predictions for Week 14

The College Football Playoff rankings—otherwise known as the rankings that actually mean something—will not be released until Tuesday, but the fans and commentators will certainly find a way to debate the Associated Press and Amway Coaches Polls.

Just so you are prepared heading into those arguments, here is a look at the latest rankings before digging into some predictions for the Week 14 games with the biggest playoff implications.

 

Week 14 Predictions

 

Under-the-Radar Week 14 Game to Watch: Oregon at Oregon State

While the majority of the nation focuses on Ole Miss playing Mississippi State, Auburn playing Alabama and Ohio State clashing with Michigan, this game between Western rivals has just as much at stake in the playoff race.

Oregon was No. 2 in the most recent College Football Playoff rankings and seemingly controls its own destiny on the way to the postseason. A win on the road against its rival would only solidify its position among the Top Four.

As for Oregon State, it needs to win to reach a bowl game and would love to send its seniors out with a shocking upset of the hated Ducks. Senior quarterback Sean Mannion is the all-time Pac-12 leader in passing yards, and a signature win over Oregon would be an incredible way to end his home career. 

Beavers Football passed along some of the head-turning career stats from the gunslinger:

Before you scoff at the notion that Oregon State could hang with Oregon, think back to last year's game.

The Ducks survived, 36-35, with a touchdown in the final minute of the game. There were five scores in the fourth quarter alone, and it was the perfect example of the "throw the records out" cliche that is thrown around so liberally in rivalry showdowns like this one.

Mariota was dealing with lingering knee issues that limited his mobility and ultimately wrecked Oregon's season in a previous loss to Arizona, but it was still a gallant effort from the Beavers. 

It is also worth noting that Oregon State already shook up the college football world once this season in a win over Arizona State. ESPN Stats & Info pointed out what the ultimate difference in that game was:

For as disappointing as this season has been, the Beavers are 25th in the nation in passing yards per game. Mannion threw for 314 yards and two touchdowns against the Ducks a season ago in Eugene and will look to be even better in front of the friendly home crowd.

Oregon's defense is not the strength of its team even if it is a respectable 23rd in the nation in points allowed per game. California torched the Ducks for 41 points and 560 total yards, the defense couldn't get off the field when it needed to against Arizona, and it got bailed out by Utah when the Utes dropped a sure touchdown at the one-yard line that turned into a fumble that the Ducks ran back.

It would have been 14-0 Utes after that play. Instead, it was 7-7.

If Oregon State is going to pull an upset (and earn the admiration of Ohio State, Mississippi State, TCU and Baylor fans along the way), it needs to attack that Oregon defense.

Even if Mannion finds a way to put some points up on the board against the Ducks like he did last year, the problem for Oregon State will be on the other side of the ball.

Oregon is third in the nation in scoring offense and has the clear-cut Heisman Trophy favorite leading the way in Marcus Mariota. Mariota already has 3,103 passing yards, 597 rushing yards and 42 total touchdowns on the season, and he has this and the Pac-12 title game remaining.

Former Oregon coach Mike Bellotti discussed Mariota, via Connor Letourneau of The Oregonian:

"He's the best ever. ... Akili (Smith) might have accomplished more with less than any quarterback in school history, but Marcus is, I think, the best, and I think it's already the time to say he's the best because of his winning percentage, accuracy and how he breaks the big play."

The Beavers defense has been alarmingly bad in Pac-12 play. It allowed 35 points to USC, 31 to Colorado, 29 to Utah, 38 to Stanford, 45 to California, 39 to Washington State, 27 to Arizona State and 37 to Washington and is the main reason why the team has lost five of six.

That defense couldn't contain the middle-of-the-road Pac-12 teams earlier in the season. It's certainly not going to be able to stop Mariota with the Heisman Trophy and a playoff spot on the line. 

Prediction: Oregon 49, Oregon State 30

 

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Texas Football: 5 Things the Longhorns Must Do to Upset TCU

Thanksgiving night, the Texas Longhorns will host the No. 6 TCU Horned Frogs looking to record their second big upset in three games, and it will take everything they have.

The Horned Frogs come into this game averaging 45.9 points per game and 541.6 yards per game, with their only loss coming on the road in a 61-58 shootout against Baylor.

Texas' defense will have its hands full but has held its own against explosive offenses for the better part of the season. For the Horns, it boils down to the offense playing a complete game and the special teams avoiding the big mistake.

And it wouldn't hurt if that defense could get Trevone Boykin on the ground a few times.

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Oregon Ducks vs. Oregon State Beavers Complete Game Preview

On paper, the Oregon State Beavers should be no match for the second-ranked Oregon Ducks. In reality though, the Beavers pose a significant threat to Oregon’s postseason aspirations.

For the Ducks (10-1, 7-1), the route to the College Football Playoff is simple: Win and you’re in. The same goes for Marcus Mariota’s Heisman Trophy chances—beat Oregon State, beat the Pac-12 South champion and the Ducks will likely have their first Heisman winner and a playoff game on Jan. 1.

As they say, that’s easier said than done.

While the Beavers (5-6, 2-6) are coming off of a tough loss to Washington, they’re still capable of pulling off a big upset. Just ask Arizona State.

Oregon State seems to relish playing ranked teams in Corvallis. Moreover, playing in Corvallis at night is a terrifying prospect, especially for a team like Oregon that has so much on the line. Throw in the fact that weird things tend to happen in the Pac-12 after dark, and you begin to understand why some Ducks fans may be concerned.

We haven’t even mentioned that this is the Civil War. You can go ahead and throw all of the stats out of the window.

The Ducks will have the weight of the world on their shoulders from here on out. Everyone expects the Ducks to win, and win big. Can they deal with the pressure and turn it into a positive?

Here's what you need to know.

 

Date: Saturday, Nov. 29

Time: 5 p.m. PT/8 p.m. ET

Place: Reser Stadium, Corvallis, Oregon

TV: ABC

Line: Oregon (-17.5), according to Odds Shark

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