NCAA Football

AP College Football Poll 2015: Week 13 Rankings Unveiled for Top 25 Teams

Clemson maintained its No. 1 spot in the Associated Press Top 25 poll with another impressive performance Saturday, but there were significant shakeups elsewhere in the rankings after a wild Week 12. 

Alabama moved up to the No. 2 spot, while Ohio State and Oklahoma State—who were previously ranked second and fourth, respectively—tumbled.

Here is a look at the AP's latest Top 25 poll with just a couple of weeks remaining in the 2015 regular season:

Also, the following is a rundown of Bleacher Report's view of the college football hierarchy:

Both Clemson and Alabama had easy Saturdays, as they enjoyed blowout victories over inferior opponents. The Tigers sunk Wake Forest, 33-13, behind 343 yards and three touchdowns from quarterback Deshaun Watson, while the Crimson Tide rolled past Charleston Southern, 56-6.

The Buckeyes weren't so fortunate, as they managed a mere 132 yards of total offense in a 17-14 loss to rival Michigan State. The defeat dropped OSU to No. 8 in the polls, while the Spartans moved up to No. 6 and now control their own destiny in the Big Ten East.

Ohio State has struggled offensively all season long, with head coach Urban Meyer waffling between J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones at quarterback. As ESPN's Mike Greenberg pointed out, Saturday's loss was a manifestation of something that had been building for weeks:

Frustration boiled over following the game when superstar running back Ezekiel Elliott—who had just 12 carries for 33 yards—announced his intent to go pro and blasted the play-calling, per's Austin Ward:

Honestly, this is my last game in the Shoe. I mean, there's no chance of me coming back next year. What happened today, it was kind of like a bad, bad dream. Offense had a rough day, and I'm disappointed. I'm disappointed in the play calling, I'm disappointed in the situations we were put in, and I wish it all played out differently.

OSU wasn't the only top team to go down, as Oklahoma State also fell and had its undefeated season ruined by Baylor.

The Bears toppled the Cowboys by a score of 45-35 in Stillwater, Oklahoma, which is something they hadn't done in more than 75 years, according to ESPN Stats & Info:

Paul Myerberg of USA Today believes Baylor made a great case for itself against Oklahoma State despite last week's loss to Oklahoma:

While Baylor's win means it still has life with regard to the College Football Playoff, it certainly bolstered Oklahoma as well, who held off TCU, 30-29.

Along with the Sooners and Bears, undefeated Iowa and one-loss Notre Dame received a bump in the polls as well by virtue of wins over Purdue and Boston College, respectively.

Although the AP and College Football Playoff rankings haven't necessarily been in sync thus far, the new AP poll paints an interesting picture and perhaps provides a preview of what the CFP committee will come up with.

Oklahoma, Michigan State and Iowa were all on the outside looking in when it came to last week's poll, but all three of them impressed the Associated Press voters enough to move up.

The 2015 college football season has been a crazy and unpredictable one, and that is highlighted by the fact there are still so many quality teams in the running for a CFP spot.

While the new AP poll favors the likes of Clemson, Alabama, Iowa and Notre Dame to be the four left standing, the chaos 2015 has generated suggests that may change significantly in the coming weeks.


Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter.

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Paul Rhoads Fired by Iowa State: Latest Details, Comments and Reaction

After seven years with the school, Paul Rhoads reportedly is out as head coach of the Iowa State Cyclones. 

Fox Sports' Bruce Feldman and ESPN's Brett McMurphy both reported the news Sunday afternoon, though McMurphy added that he will still coach the Cyclones' final game against West Virginia on Saturday.

Iowa State went on to confirm the decision, via Brandon Chatmon of ESPN.

The news doesn't come as a major surprise after the Cyclones missed out on a bowl game for the third straight season. And more so than simply failing to qualify for a bowl game, ISU simply wasn't competitive toward the end of Rhoads' reign.

Iowa State won five games between 2013 and 2014 and showed little progress in 2015, picking up just three overall wins. The standards for the Cyclones aren't as high as for other Big 12 schools, but it became apparent the program wasn't headed in the right direction.

The school gambled when it signed Rhoads to a 10-year extension in December 2011, roughly a month after the Cyclones upset the then-No. 2 Oklahoma State Cowboys. Even if contracts are often ripped up and rarely fulfilled in college football, seeing a team commit to a head coach for 10 years is almost unheard of.

Given Iowa State's history—or lack thereof—on the football field, you can understand why it felt such a pressing need to secure what it thought was a promising head coach. Plus, a $1.6 million base salary wasn't altogether unreasonable for a Big 12 head coach.

What the extension did instead was tie Iowa State to a good but not great head coach and saddled the program with a hefty buyout in order to send Rhoads packing.

Whereas that win over Oklahoma State looked to be the start of something special in Ames, it was instead Rhoads' one moment in the spotlight.

The problem for Iowa State is that finding a replacement won't exactly be easy. As Sports Illustrated's Pete Thamel noted in October, it feels as though an unusual number of schools have openings at the moment:

The Cyclones will have a lot of competition for many of the top candidates, which will make the hiring process even harder.

Also problematic for Iowa State is its place in the college football hierarchy. The renovations to the Bergstrom Football Complex in 2012 provide the program with great facilities, but that only goes so far toward luring top recruits.

The Cyclones haven't had a winning season since 2009, and they haven't cracked the Associated Press' Top 25 poll in a decade. Not to mention, the program hasn't won 10 games ever in its history.

Becoming a consistent contender in the Big 12 isn't impossible for Iowa State, but it's a years-long process. And when the school shows a modicum of success, holding on to the coaches who made it happen would prove difficult.

Even Baylor's rise under Art Briles started slowly, as the Bears went 4-8 in each of his first two seasons. He also had a talent like Robert Griffin III to help transform the team.

Meanwhile, Kansas' improbable 12-1 2007 campaign came six years into Mark Mangino's tenure.

Rhoads' replacement will likely be given plenty of time to try to work his magic, but he'll have an uphill road to climb to make the Cyclones nationally prominent again.

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College GameDay Bound for Bedlam Between Oklahoma and Oklahoma State in Week 13

For all the talk in the preseason on how Baylor vs. TCU would be the biggest game of rivalry weekend in the Big 12, next Saturday's showdown between Oklahoma (10-1) and Oklahoma State (10-1) will take that honor—and the coveted visit from ESPN's College GameDay

The popular pregame show announced Sunday morning that it will visit Stillwater, Oklahoma, for the annual matchup in the Bedlam Series between the visiting Sooners and the host Cowboys.

As always on rivalry weekend, GameDay didn't have a shortage of appealing games from which to pick.

But the show went with the somewhat rare decision to visit a school that is coming off a loss. Oklahoma State's undefeated start to the season ended Saturday night in a home 45-35 defeat to one-loss Baylor.

That loss, coupled with previously unbeaten Ohio State's 17-14 loss to Michigan State, swung the door wide open for Oklahoma to stake a strong claim for the College Football Playoff, as Bleacher Report's Bryan Fischer noted Saturday night:

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 really is the best team in the country, it’s tough to overlook that Oklahoma is 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.

While Oklahoma State most likely needed to win out in order to make the final four, the Cowboys still have plenty to play for next week than just the usual bragging rights.

If TCU knocks off Baylor next Friday night and Oklahoma State beats Oklahoma, Mike Gundy's team would be the outright Big 12 champion with an 11-1 record.

"It's been a great year; it's a chance to have a phenomenal year," Oklahoma State defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer said, per Jenni Carlson of the Oklahoman. "There's a lot that they know they can play for. Yes, it hurts having that ultimate goal out, but there's a lot of people in the nation that face that every week."

This year's Bedlam game is shaping up to be the sixth time in eight seasons that both rivals will be ranked heading into the matchup.

As for the prospect of more late-game drama and championship-level chaos, each of the last three meetings have been decided by single digits—with two of those going into overtime.

Last year, unranked Oklahoma State knocked off Oklahoma in unbelievable fashion, forcing overtime with less than a minute remaining on a 92-yard punt return for a touchdown. After Oklahoma missed a field goal, Ben Grogan knocked his down to give the Cowboys a 38-35 victory.

In a series long dominated by the Sooners, the Cowboys will be looking to grab back-to-back wins for the first time since 2001 and 2002—a pair of upsets over Top-Five teams from Oklahoma. 


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

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Amway College Football Poll 2015: Week 13 Rankings Unveiled for Top 25 Teams

Another week, another pair of national title contenders seeing those chances dealt a major blow. Don't you just love this time of year? 

Those schools don't. But that's the nature of the beast as we grow closer to deciding the four College Football Playoff selections. In the meantime, let's take a look at the latest coaches and Bleacher Report polls while breaking down the weekend that was.



The defending national champions, Ohio State, lost Saturday. And then the real fireworks began.

Michael Geiger's field goal as time expired gave Michigan State a 17-14 win over the Buckeyes, likely ending the team's shot at a national title barring a Michigan State loss to Penn State next week. With a win, it would be the Spartans and not the Buckeyes that faced Iowa in the Big Ten title game, meaning Ohio State's best-case scenario is a win over Michigan and a spot in the Rose Bowl. 

And that reality seemed to frustrate a few players for Ohio State, namely running back Ezekiel Elliott. 

"How we lost, I just feel like we weren't put in the right opportunity to win this game, we weren't put in the right situations to win this game," Elliott said, per Austin Ward of ESPN. "I don't think Michigan State was better than us. They weren't. We didn't execute."

He then put to bed any notion that he would be returning to the team after this season.

Honestly, this is my last game in the Shoe. I mean, there's no chance of me coming back next year. What happened today, it was kind of like a bad, bad dream. Offense had a rough day, and I'm disappointed. I'm disappointed in the play calling, I'm disappointed in the situations we were put in, and I wish it all played out differently.

And frankly, more than a few folks agreed with Elliott, like Barrett Sallee of Bleacher Report:

Will Brinson of CBS Sports concurred:

Fran Fraschilla of ESPN felt that Elliott undercut head coach Urban Meyer far too much, however:

Elliott's streak of 15 games with over 100 yards was also snapped Saturday—and with it more than likely his Heisman chances. So it was hardly surprising that he was frustrated, though the fact that he was so openly vocal about it seems indicative of a season in which the Buckeyes have been loaded with talent but consistently seemed off-kilter and prone to underachievement. 

Ohio State wasn't the only team that saw its national title hopes delivered a potential knockout blow, though, as Oklahoma State lost to Baylor, 45-35. With Clemson, Alabama, Notre Dame, Iowa, Oklahoma and Florida all winning—and Baylor and Michigan State posting the most impressive wins on the weekend—the Cowboys were always likely to take something of a tumble down the rankings. 

That result left the Big 12 wide open, however, especially with Oklahoma getting past TCU on Saturday. Oklahoma and Oklahoma State still have a matchup on the schedule, while Baylor has TCU and Texas down the stretch, so quite a lot is left to be decided. For the moment, though, Heisman hopeful Baker Mayfield and the Sooners appear to be the front-runners in the conference and the team most likely of the bunch to reach the College Football Playoff. 

While Clemson, Alabama and Notre Dame seem to control their own playoff destinies at this point, the fourth spot is now wide open, with the Big 12 schools, Iowa and even Michigan State remaining in the running. And, of course, an upset or two down the stretch could really mix things up. 

Hey, it's college football. Unpredictability is about the only thing we can accurately predict at this point.


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Breaking Down the Long-Shot Teams in Hunt for College Football Playoff

So, you're telling me there's a chance?

Week 12 of the college football season gave us the single biggest dose of chaos all year. In one day, three undefeated teams—Houston, Ohio State and Oklahoma State, the latter two of which were in the College Football Playoff hunt—lost. 

Now, we're left with undefeated Clemson and Iowa, just like we all thought would happen at the beginning of the year. 

All this guarantees the four-team playoff will be at least half-full with one-loss teams, and the potential still exists that a two-loss team could sneak in there. That falls in line with the overall theme this season: There are zero dominant teams. 

There's still a lot that can unfold with two weeks left before the playoff selection committee names its final four. Current playoff long shots aren't out of the running yet. Below is a list of one- and two-loss teams that could still crash the playoff under the right circumstances. The following teams are either still in the running for their conference championship or have been guaranteed a spot in their conference championship game. 



Rebounding from a loss to Oklahoma by beating an undefeated top-six team (Oklahoma State) double digits...on the road...with your third-string quarterback...and backup running back is one way to go about getting respect, Baylor. 

The Bedlam game between Oklahoma and Oklahoma State on Nov. 28 still reigns as the Big 12's most important game. With a win, the Sooners are the Big 12's best hope for a playoff spot, especially if Notre Dame loses to Stanford. But it will be fascinating to see where the playoff committee places Baylor, who has two games left against TCU and Texas. By dropping the Bears only four spots to No. 10 last week, the committee left the door open for Baylor to make a comeback. 

Baylor needs help, of course. That starts with Oklahoma losing to Oklahoma State. All the Bears can do is keep winning. 

"We tried bellyaching last year and it didn’t seem to work,” said Baylor head coach Art Briles, per Matt Hayes of Sporting News. “We’ll just keep playing.”



The concept of a playoff without a one-loss SEC team would have been laughed at just a few months ago. But Florida is doing its best to make it happen. 

The Gators needed overtime to beat Florida Atlantic 20-14. This offense, marred by depth problems, is a wreck. Ranked No. 8 in the latest playoff standings, it wouldn't be surprising to see Florida drop a couple of spots when the new Top 25 is revealed on Tuesday. And if Florida plays again like it played Saturday, it has two more losses coming against Florida State and, presumably, Alabama in the SEC Championship Game. 

But what if, somehow, Florida wins out? Those would be two huge wins, and the committee would have a dilemma. Does it include a one-loss SEC champion because it's a one-loss SEC champion? Or, as B/R colleague Barrett Sallee notes, would the so-called "eye test" hurt them? That's assuming, of course, Florida doesn't magically turn into the team of the century. 

It'd be an interesting exercise, but chances are the Gators would be able to sneak in. Now they just have to win two tough games. Good luck. 



The Wolverines are quietly hovering outside the top 10 with two losses. In order for Michigan to so much as think about the playoff, it has to get to the Big Ten Championship Game. That requires beating Ohio State and getting help from Penn State, who would need to beat Michigan State. 

Then, Michigan would have to beat Iowa. The Wolverines don't have many quality wins outside of Northwestern and BYU, but they did lose to Utah and Michigan State—teams that are a combined 18-4—by a total of 11 points. And the loss to the Spartans, as you know, came on a crazy mishandled punt at the end of the game. 

Michigan needs help just to get into a position to seriously be in the playoff hunt. This team has the opposite path of controlling its own destiny. Its best friend is chaos, but if Week 12 taught us anything, it's that chaos does reign supreme. 


North Carolina

With North Carolina's 30-27 win over Virginia Tech, the Tar Heels have locked their place in the ACC Championship Game against Clemson. Looking across the Power Five conferences, this actually should get people more excited than any other conference title game. Here, you have the No. 1 team in the country versus the one-loss team playing as well as anyone. 

But it feels as though North Carolina is playing the role of spoiler more than playoff hopeful. Last Tuesday, committee chair Jeff Long said UNC was "weighted down" by its resume: 

Would a potential win over the No. 1 team change that? With two weeks left, the Tar Heels have to climb 13 spots, one more than Navy, who isn't even in a power conference. 


Ohio State 

Ohio State's 17-14 loss to Michigan State in and of itself was surprising, if for no other reason than the Buckeyes were a 13-point favorite, according to OddsShark, with uncertainty surrounding injured Spartans quarterback Connor Cook. 

At the same time, Ohio State losing felt like a long time coming. The Buckeyes are talented, but the offense never clicked this season, and many players were likely looking on to bigger and better things

Ohio State can still get to the playoff, though. First, it needs to beat Michigan next Saturday, and Michigan State has to lose to Penn State. Then, it would have to beat Iowa in the Big Ten Championship Game. Only then could the Buckeyes even think about a playoff appearance, and that depends largely on what happens elsewhere. 

The committee showed leniency toward Ohio State this year, despite the fact it didn't beat anyone of note and sometimes didn't look great doing it. (Hey, it helps to be the reigning champs.) Perhaps, then, the committee would be more forgiving to Ohio State if it rattled off two big wins and got some help along the way. However, Kyle Rowland of the Toledo Blade believes the Bucks are more likely bound for a New Year's Six spot:


Oklahoma State

The Pokes are in a tough spot. Two weeks after getting a huge win over TCU, Oklahoma State lost at home to Baylor, a team that lacked full strength in key spots. That's going to be difficult, if not impossible, to overcome. 

Next Saturday, Oklahoma State plays an Oklahoma team that's won six in a row and is as confident as anyone. The Cowboys' playoff prayer could be answered, however, if it knocks off the Sooners while the Bears lose to TCU. That scenario is certainly possible. 

But Oklahoma State was ranked sixth before the loss. It never felt like the committee was all-in on the Cowboys. Last week, Long went so far as to say undefeated Iowa was better: 

Whether the Hawkeyes are or aren't better than Oklahoma State doesn't matter anymore. The Cowboys weren't getting the benefit of the doubt before, and they're certainly not going to get it now.  



If there's a two-loss team with a legitimate shot at this playoff thing, it's Stanford. The Cardinal are the highest-ranked two-loss team, one spot ahead of Michigan. Unlike the Wolverines, Stanford is also guaranteed to get two more games: one against Notre Dame and the Pac-12 Championship Game versus either UCLA or USC. 

The Pac-12 title is critical for Stanford's playoff hopes as a conference champion, but the Notre Dame game has the overall bigger implications. The Irish are playing for a spot as well and have only one loss (24-22 to Clemson). 

If Stanford does beat Notre Dame, it'll be interesting to see how the committee perceives the win. It'll be a quality victory, of course, but the Irish are banged up; seriously, they're as snakebit as any team in college football. Will the committee qualify that win like it would with, say, Oklahoma over an injury-plagued TCU?

It's something to keep an eye on. 


Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. All quotes cited unless obtained firsthand. 

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College Football Playoff 2015: Top Four Predictions After Week 12 NCAA Results

After two consecutive weeks of the same four teams making up the College Football Playoff, Ohio State's loss to Michigan State will shake up the Week 13 rankings. 

Since the teams directly trailing Ohio State were victorious Saturday, there shouldn't be much drama in the unveiling of the new Top Four. 

However, there are plenty of tough games remaining on the schedule for the projected playoff teams.

Each of these teams appears to control its own destiny, but it would be a surprise if another upset or two didn't shake things up in the final weeks.


Projected Week 13 College Football Playoff Rankings

1. Clemson

For the second straight week, a banged-up Clemson team limped to victory in less-than-dominant fashion. 

The Tigers' 33-13 win over Wake Forest certainly wasn't a statement win, but head coach Dabo Swinney's squad has put itself in a position where winning is the only thing that matters. 

Clemson played without starting running back Wayne Gallman in this one, so the sloppy offensive performance, which included two interceptions by quarterback Deshaun Watson, can be somewhat forgiven. 

At this point, Clemson simply needs to get healthy and keep winning. An undefeated Tigers squad will represent the ACC in the playoff regardless of how it looks down the stretch. 


2. Alabama

The only thing head coach Nick Saban was concerned with Saturday was escaping a quasi-bye week against Charleston Southern without any injuries. 

Alabama controls its own destiny and deserves to be considered a heavy favorite in the SEC, but its spot in the playoff is certainly not guaranteed. 

Saban: You're only as good as your last play. We obviously have a road game in one of the best rivalry games in the country.

— Aaron Suttles (@AaronSuttles) November 22, 2015

The Tide travel to Auburn for a tough road rivalry game Saturday. Alabama will certainly be favored, but late-November rivalry games are rarely easy. 

Expect Auburn to sell out to stop Heisman candidate Derrick Henry, forcing quarterback Jake Coker to win the game with his arm. 


3. Notre Dame

We can be fairly confident in predicting Notre Dame and Iowa to round out the Top Four, but the order will be up for debate. The Irish have held steady ahead of Iowa throughout the CFP committee's initial rankings, but a narrow victory over Boston College could potentially open the Irish's placement back up for debate. 

Regardless of whether Notre Dame is ranked third or fourth, it likely controls its own destiny to advance to the playoff. 

While the Irish are hurt by their lack of a conference affiliation and therefore no title game to wrap up the season, a season finale at Stanford gives the team a chance to close the season with a statement victory on the road.


4. Iowa

Iowa may have some supporters for a rise to No. 3 due to Notre Dame's close call against Boston College, but ultimately, its victory over lowly Purdue is unlikely to be enough to boost the team up. 

The Hawkeyes close out the regular season against Nebraska before facing either Michigan State, Michigan or Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship Game. 

Is America ready for Iowa in the Top 4???!!! #hawkeyes#ANF

— Danny Kanell (@dannykanell) November 22, 2015

Even if Iowa is ranked fourth this week, fans shouldn't worry. By running the table, it will likely have the resume to jump one-loss Notre Dame and settle into No. 3.

That said, Iowa shouldn't look past Nebraska. The Cornhuskers need a victory to become bowl-eligible, are playing their best football of the season and have had their bye week to prepare.

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Ohio State Football: How Buckeyes' Top Commits Performed This Weekend

While Ohio State’s national title hopes took a huge hit with Saturday’s loss to Michigan State, Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer and his staff also have eyes on battling for the nation’s top-rated recruiting class.

Currently, Ohio State has the nation’s No. 2 group—which is loaded with talent across all positions.

A majority of the class has already completed their senior seasons, but a handful of future Buckeyes are still starring in the postseason.

As detailed by Bill Kurelic of Bucknuts, 4-star corner Wayne Davis enjoyed a monster performance on both sides of the ball in leading Lake Taylor [Virginia] High School to a 52-39 win over Kings Fork.

The 5’11”, 187-pound Davis hauled in eight passes for 297 yards and four touchdowns. According to the Virginian-Pilot, Davis scored two touchdowns—one on a 96-yard reception and another on a 30-yard interception return for a score—in less than a minute late in the game to help the Titans improve to 12-0 on the season.

Davis is scheduled to begin his college career on defense, but his performance serves as a showcase of his athleticism and ability to create explosive plays on both sides of the ball.

Another out-of-state Buckeyes pledge put up a valiant effort in a heartbreaking loss.

According to Brian Perroni of 247Sports, 4-star quarterback commit Tristen Wallace accounted for 329 yards of total offense and four touchdowns as DeSoto [Texas] High School lost 41-40 against powerhouse Allen.

Wallace completed 8-of-25 passes for 168 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed 26 times for 161 yards and another two scores.

His ability to create big plays with both his arms and his legs make him an ideal fit in Meyer’s spread offense.

Additionally, a pair of in-state commits from the Buckeyes' top-ranked 2017 class helped Archbishop Hoban High School defeat rival St. Vincent-St. Mary 24-21.

According to Tim Bielik of, 4-star quarterback Danny Clark passed for 100 yards and 4-star running back Todd Sibley rushed 23 times for 60 yards and a touchdown in the Knights' hard-fought playoff victory.

Meyer is known as a tenacious recruiter, and his work on the trail helped him quickly restore the Buckeyes program to prominence. 

Judging by the amount of talent he and his staff have amassed in the 2016 and 2017 classes, the Buckeyes aren’t showing any signs of slowing down anytime soon.


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

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Chaos Around the Country Makes Style Points Critical for Florida's Playoff Push

Florida survived a scare on Saturday afternoon in "The Swamp," and not the ironic and humorous kind like in the Scary Movie films.

The Gators survived a 20-14 overtime scare from two-win Florida Atlantic and looked lost in the process. They managed just 253 total yards against the seventh-best defense in Conference USA, quarterback Treon Harris completed just eight of his 17 passes and allowed five sacks to a defense that hadn't managed a single one over its previous two games.

The team's lack of energy was concerning to first-year head coach Jim McElwain.

"When something bad happens they mope around,'' he said, according to Scott Carter of "Here's the visual: when you guys go to the seafood market, or go to the grocery store, and you see all those dead fish on ice, that's the energy they are playing with right now.

"How excited are you to hang out with that dead fish?"

That's concerning because, at least on paper, Florida still has a shot at the College Football Playoff. That might put the Gators in the back of a one-loss field of contenders that added Ohio State, Oklahoma State and Houston to the mix on Saturday.

The lack of style points in the last "cupcake game" of the season for the Gators, though, couldn't have come at a worse time.

The offensive line is still a mess, Harris still isn't a threat in the passing game and the running game isn't getting any help from the offense—one that had to hit the reset button midway through the season when redshirt freshman starting quarterback Will Grier was suspended for a year for violating the NCAA's policy on performance enhancing drugs.

Now they're going into the intrastate showdown with Florida State and the SEC Championship Game (likely against Alabama) with an offensive identity crisis.

"We don't need dead fish,'' running back Kelvin Taylor said, per Carter. "We need energy. We've just got some guys on this team that just refuse to take off the governor."

Let's just assume for a second that Florida does win out. It not only needs to win out, but it needs to look really good in the process if it's going to sneak into the playoff picture.

If Clemson wins out, it's safe to assume the Tigers are in. It's also a near-certainty that a one-loss Big Ten champion would likely get the nod, save for Iowa if it loses at Nebraska on Black Friday and then wins the Big Ten Championship Game.

A one-loss Big 12 champion will be nearly impossible for the committee to leave out, especially if that one-loss champion is an Oklahoma team that will have topped Baylor, TCU and Oklahoma State over the final three weeks.

One-loss Notre Dame or one-loss Florida?

That could become the debate, and what the Fighting Irish have done through a litany of injuries might be too difficult to overlook. Plus, Notre Dame's loss—a two-point loss at Clemson in a quagmire—looks much better than Florida's lone setback on the road to an average LSU team.

Florida not only needs to win out, but it needs to look really impressive on offense.

Is this team capable of that?

"Florida 1.0" was when Grier was at the helm, but "Florida 2.0" looks like this year's version of the 2012 Gators. A team that needed a blocked field goal returned for a touchdown late against Louisiana-Lafayette in November to win 27-20. A team that was exposed in the Sugar Bowl by a Louisville squad led by star quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.

In years past, when the SEC received the benefit of the doubt, it might not be a debate. After two straight seasons without a major bowl win and an SEC East that looks like a joke, I'm not sure Florida will get that benefit of the doubt. 

The dominoes have relegated Florida to at or near the back of the one-loss pecking order, and it needs a miracle to win out.


Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Statistics are courtesy of

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and national college football video analyst for Bleacher Report, as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on SiriusXM 83. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

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NCAA Football Rankings 2015: Week 13 College Top 25 Standings Predictions

After a typical crazy late November weekend, voters have some tough decisions to make. 

Only two teams from the Associated Press Top 10 went down on Saturday (Ohio State and Oklahoma State), but a number of other interesting outcomes, such as Florida's close call against Florida Atlantic, are sure to shake things up. 

The following is a projection of how the AP poll will look when it's released on Sunday afternoon, followed by a breakdown of a few notable teams moving up or down in this week's rankings.

Notable Teams

No. 6. Michigan State

Mark Dantonio has put together a strong run at Michigan State, but Saturday's upset of Ohio State may have been the most impressive victory of his career. 

Since Urban Meyer joined the Big Ten, his only two conference losses have come at the hands of Dantonio's Spartans.

With backup quarterback Tyler O'Connor filling in for starter Connor Cook, the Spartans were heavy underdogs but controlled the clock and played stifling defense to knock off the Buckeyes. 

Now Michigan State controls its own destiny to win the Big Ten and likely advance to the College Football Playoff. 

But first, the Spartans need Cook to get healthy. Without him, the regular-season finale against Penn State is not a guaranteed victory, and even more shake-up could be coming if the Spartans go down.


No. 10. Florida

The Gators' overtime victory over Florida Atlantic creates an interesting dilemma for voters. 

Teams are rarely dropped in the rankings for an ugly victory unless others jump them with more meaningful wins. But Florida's performance against the 2-9 Owls was so abysmal that it will be tough for many voters to justify leaving the Gators in the Top 10. 

The Gators were ranked No. 8 in the AP poll a week ago but are likely to slide a few spots.

Jim McElwain will say "A win is a win," but it's not. This was bad. Hard to justify this today. #Gators

— Dari Nowkhah (@ESPNDari) November 21, 2015

The College Football Playoff committee will be left with an even more difficult decision in a few weeks should Florida win the SEC Championship Game over Alabama or Ole Miss.

Could a team that nearly lost to Florida Atlantic in late November really be among the four best in the country?


No. 15. TCU

Clearly, TCU will fall after suffering its second loss of the season. However, the Horned Frogs might not drop too far. 

The loss of quarterback Trevone Boykin was a devastating blow to TCU, and voters may be inclined to forgive the loss to Oklahoma due to the Horned Frogs' ability to keep the game close with their backup quarterback. 

After struggling to put away lowly Kansas without Boykin, the mere fact that TCU had a chance to win in the final moments against the Sooners was an accomplishment. 


No. 17. Oregon

Oregon was ranked No. 23 a week ago as the second-highest three-loss team, behind USC. But after dismantling the Trojans, it's clear that Mark Helfrich's squad is the best of the three-loss crew. 

The question is: How high can a three-loss team climb?

Voters will likely be all over the board with their placement of Oregon. 

On one hand, the Ducks have three losses, which should dictate a spot near the bottom of the Top 25. 

On the other hand, two losses were without Vernon Adams, and all three were to teams ranked in last week's AP poll (Michigan State, Utah, Washington State). And now that Adams is healthy, the Ducks are steamrolling through the Pac-12 and might be the most dangerous team in the conference. 

Vernon Adams today: 6 TD 4 Incompletions He's the 1st QB EVER to throw for 6 TD against USC.

— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) November 21, 2015

One could argue Oregon is among the 10 best teams in the country right now, justifying a much higher placement on some voters' ballots. 

The AP's ranking of Oregon could be a potential preview of how the committee views the team later this week, which will be crucial to the Ducks' potential inclusion in one of the New Year's Six bowl games. 

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Heisman Watch 2015: Latest Race Odds and Predictions

Heisman hopefuls can't win the trophy in Week 12, but they sure can lose it. 

Just ask Ezekiel Elliot. The Ohio State running back entered the week with an opportunity to challenge odds-on favorite Derrick Henry for the title. Instead, whether he'll be invited to the ceremony might wind up being an interesting storyline. 

That's the nature of this season's Heisman race. Between injuries, upsets and flat out baffling drops in production (looking at you, Leonard Fournette), there's really no telling week-to-week who will stay in this battle of attrition. 

Week 12 brought a little clarity to the race as a few candidates failed to make the statement they needed to catch the runaway train that is Henry. Here's a look at the candidates along with the latest odds from Odds Shark


Deshaun Watson Will Be Derrick Henry's Biggest Threat

It's no secret that the Heisman has become a quarterback trophy. Signal-callers have won five consecutive Heismans and eight of the last 10, including the one that Reggie Bush later vacated. 

It only makes sense that a quarterback would eventually emerge in a race that has been dominated by the likes of Fournette, Henry and Elliott. With TCU's Trevone Boykin going down to injury, that quarterback is Deshaun Watson. 

Watson might not be part of a high-flying offense like the ones found in the Big 12, but he is the best player on the best team in the country right now. That's enough to be considered. Especially when considering how the best player on the No. 1-ranked team in the country has finished in recent seasons:

As long as Clemson remains undefeated and hangs onto that No. 1 ranking Watson will remain a serious threat. It isn't like he doesn't have impressive numbers, either. 

He's had nearly 400 total yards in each of his last four games while completing 70 percent of his passes this season. That's deadly efficiency that's leading an unbeaten team right now. 


Ezekiel Elliott Will Finish Outside Top 3

Heading into Week 12 it would have been preposterous to say that Elliott would not be a top three finisher in the Heisman race. He was easily the best offensive player on the No. 3 team in the country. He put up numbers consistently (at least 100 yards in every game.) 

With an opportunity to put up big numbers against a ranked opponent in Michigan State, the stage was set for him to make up some ground against Alabama's Henry. 

Instead, the game turned out to be a nightmare for Elliott. At least, that's how he described it. 

“What happened today was just kind of a bad, bad dream,” Elliott said according to Tim May of the Columbus Dispatch. “The offense had a bad day. I’m disappointed—I’m disappointed in the play-calling. I’m disappointed in the situations we were put in. I wish it all played out differently.”

Elliot's frustrations with the coaching staff stemmed from the fact that he only got 12 touches. However, the 33 yards he got on those 12 carries is at least partially on him. 

The loss not only essentially kills Ohio State's playoff aspirations, but also put an end to Elliott as a Heisman contender. 


Christian McCaffrey Will Be a Finalist

Stanford's do-it-all running back might be a late-bloomer in the Heisman race, but he's doing everything he can to get to New York. In a week where no one really put up huge numbers he carved California up for his best performance on the season. 

The only problem is that it didn't actually happen until Sunday on the East Coast. As Steve Palazzolo of Pro Football Focus wondered, did anyone in that time zone actually see it?

The truth is most East Coast voters were likely sound asleep with visions of Watson and Henry dancing in their heads. 

However, Heisman voting can be a regional affair. McCaffrey has established himself as the top candidate out west which means he's going to have a seat waiting for him at the ceremony. 


Derrick Henry Will Be Your 2015 Heisman

Week 12 wasn't necessarily the week where Henry did something to win the Heisman trophy. It might just be the week that he won by process of elimination. 

The big Alabama back had 68 yards and two touchdowns on just nine carries against Charleston Southern (don't you dare question how dangerous the Buccaneers are). But the best news for him is that he wasn't really in the spotlight. 

Essentially, Henry did what he had to do to make sure he remains the front-runner. As Cecil Hurt of the Tuscaloosa News noted, he showed on the first drive he could essentially choose how many yards he wanted to rush for on Saturday in the first quarter:

Then he went on to casually tie an Alabama record for touchdowns in a season—with two more games to go. 

For all of Alabama's dominance, the school isn't known for producing Heisman winners. Mark Ingram became the first Crimson Tide player to win the award in 2009. 

Looks like they need to start clearing space in the trophy case in Tuscaloosa for Henry. 


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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.

Begin Slideshow

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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