NCAA Football

USC Trojans vs. UCLA Bruins Betting Odds, Analysis, College Football Pick

Not too long ago, USC dominated its rivalry with UCLA, winning 12 of 13 meetings through 2011, covering the spread three times in a row. But the Bruins are working on turning the tables on the Trojans, winning and covering the last two meetings...

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North Carolina Tar Heels vs. Duke Blue Devils: Odds and College Football Pick

The Duke Blue Devils will try to rebound from a disappointing home loss when they host the North Carolina Tar Heels Thursday night in an ACC matchup between intrastate rivals. The Blue Devils are coming off a 17-16 setback to Virginia Tech last week as 3.5-point home favorites and need to beat North Carolina in order to keep their hopes of a second straight ACC Coastal Division title alive.

 

Point spread: Blue Devils opened as six-point favorites, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark (line updates and matchup report).

 

College football pick, via Odds Shark computer: 39.5-32.6 Blue Devils

 

Why the North Carolina Tar Heels can cover the spread

The Tar Heels have endured a rough season, as they started out 2-0 but lost four straight before winning three of their past four. They have not lost a game they were supposed to, though, since falling at East Carolina 70-41 as a 1.5-point road favorite back on September 20.

North Carolina has gone 4-1 against the spread in its last five games, with the only straight-up losses during that stretch coming at Notre Dame and Miami. The Tar Heels have lost the last two meetings with Duke but had won 15 of the previous 16, and it would make their season if they could pull off the upset in Durham.

 

Why the Duke Blue Devils can cover the spread

The Blue Devils may have just suffered a tough home loss, but maybe they were caught looking ahead to this game against their rivals from Chapel Hill. They are still 11-2-1 ATS in their last 14 games as home favorites, including that loss to the Hokies, and can win the division with a victory here and another at home against Wake Forest in their regular-season finale.

Duke is also 4-1 versus the line in its past five home games against conference opponents, with the lone loss coming last week against Virginia Tech. The Blue Devils cannot hang their heads over that and should have plenty of motivation left.

 

Smart Pick

Duke has too much to play for here to let last week’s loss hang over Wallace Wade Stadium. The Blue Devils went through the most difficult part of their schedule by playing four times on the road in five games before hosting the Hokies, and they managed to earn wins in four of them. This three-game stretch at home to close out the season was set up for Duke to succeed, and the loss to Virginia Tech was just a bump in the road.

While North Carolina has played better lately, the team has lost 10 of 11 games as a road underdog with a 3-8 mark ATS. The Tar Heels have also failed to cover the spread in three of the past four meetings, so back the Blue Devils here.

 

Betting Trends

  • North Carolina is 16-3 SU in its last 19 games when playing Duke.
  • Duke is 3-16 SU in its last 19 games when playing North Carolina.

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Mississippi Rebels vs. Arkansas Razorbacks Betting Odds, College Football Pick

The Arkansas Razorbacks hope last week’s big home win carries over to this Saturday, when they host the Ole Miss Rebels in an SEC matchup. The Razorbacks snapped their 17-game losing streak against conference opponents with a 17-0 victory over LSU as 1.5-point home favorites last Saturday, and they will try to make it two SEC wins in a row against an Ole Miss team that has dropped four of five road games in league play.

 

Point spread: The Rebels opened as two-point favorites, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark (line updates and matchup report).

 

College football pick, via Odds Shark computer: 29.2-26.7 Rebels

 

Why the Mississippi Rebels can cover the spread

The Rebels got a week off to prepare for Arkansas, and you could argue it was more like two weeks, as their previous game was a 48-0 rout of Presbyterian. They had lost two in a row to a pair of Tigers teams in Auburn and LSU before beating the Blue Hose, but those games were decided by a total of seven points.

Even though Arkansas was able to end its SEC drought, the team has dropped seven of eight at home against conference foes. The Razorbacks could still be celebrating the end of that skid to the point that they are not prepared enough to play a talented Ole Miss squad.

 

Why the Arkansas Razorbacks can cover the spread

Arkansas will be riding high following the team’s last victory, which extended its home winning streak against the spread to five games overall at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium. The Razorbacks are 4-1 straight up in those games, with the lone loss there coming against Alabama by one point, 14-13.

They did lose another home game to Georgia 45-32, but that one took place at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock. Arkansas still has a shot to become bowl-eligible despite its 1-5 mark in SEC games this season, so expect head coach Bret Bielema to use that as a rallying cry.

 

Smart pick

The Rebels have enjoyed a fine season, but this is a tough spot for them coming off a bye and facing a pumped-up team that has newfound confidence. They are just 3-7 ATS in their past 10 meetings with the Razorbacks, who not only won but also shut out the Tigers last week in a dominant defensive effort that limited them to 123 yards.

Arkansas is already building for the future, and Bielema’s coaching finally got his team over the hump in that win against LSU. There should not be any more pressure on the Razorbacks to end their SEC losing streak, so they will be able to play looser and have nothing to lose. For that reason, watch for Arkansas to spring the upset in another low-scoring game.

 

Betting trends

  • Mississippi is 3-7 ATS in its last 10 games when playing Arkansas.
  • Arkansas is 4-2 SU in its last six games when playing at home against Mississippi.

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Minnesota Golden Gophers vs. Nebraska Cornhuskers Betting Odds, Analysis, Pick

Minnesota just lost a tough game to Ohio State but covered again; the Golden Gophers are now 5-2 against the spread over their last seven contests. They're also 4-1 ATS in their last five Big Ten road games. Nebraska, meanwhile, just got its butt kicked at Wisconsin, and is just 1-4-1 ATS in its last six Big Ten home games. The Cornhuskers host the Gophers Saturday in Lincoln.

 

Point spread: Cornhuskers opened as 10-point favorites, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark. (Line updates and matchup report)

 

College football pick, via Odds Shark computer: 41.7-33.4 Cornhuskers

 

Why the Minnesota Golden Gophers can cover the spread

The Gophers just lost at home to the Buckeyes, 31-24, but covered as 13-point home dogs. Minnesota trailed early, 14-0, but rallied to tie the score at 14-14. The Gophers then gave up the next 17 points to trail 31-14, but they scored twice to pull within 31-24 and had time on the clock before coming up empty on an onside kick.

Minnesota basically answered every Ohio State score, except one. Two weeks ago, the Gophers ran all over Iowa in a 51-14 blowout victory. Minnesota is averaging 224 yards per game on the ground, and its defense ranks 33rd in the country. Finally, the Gophers had lost back-to-back games to Nebraska in 2011 and 2012 by scores of 41-14 and 38-14 but upset the 'Huskers last year, 34-23.

 

Why the Nebraska Cornhuskers can cover the spread

The 'Huskers will be looking for redemption, after last week's debacle against the Badgers, and for revenge, after last year's loss to the Gophers in Minneapolis. Nebraska had won three games in row, over Northwestern, Rutgers and Purdue, by an average score of 38-18 before losing to Wisconsin. The 'Huskers took advantage of some early Badgers mistakes last week to build a 17-3 lead, but lost control after that.

Still, Nebraska is 8-2 SU, 6-3-1 ATS and not quite dead yet in the Big Ten's West Division race. The 'Huskers are averaging 264 yards per game on the ground, and the Gophers defense just got gouged for 289 by the Buckeyes.

 

Smart Pick

Both these teams are in the same boat, at 4-2 in Big Ten play, and they're built the same way, running a ground-based attack. The spread on this game is more indicative perhaps of reputation, rather than on-field talent. So the smart money here probably lies with Minnesota, plus the points.

 

Betting Trends

  • Minnesota is 7-16 SU in its last 23 games on the road
  • Nebraska is 3-5-1 ATS in its last nine games at home

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Louisville Cardinals vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish: Betting Odds, Analysis, Pick

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish will look to avoid suffering their third consecutive loss Saturday when they host the Louisville Cardinals. The Fighting Irish are coming off a shocking 43-40 overtime loss at home to Northwestern last week as 17-point favorites, and they have not lost two in a row at Notre Dame Stadium since 2010.

 

Point spread: The Fighting Irish opened as nine-point favorites, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark (Line updates and matchup report).

 

College football pick, via Odds Shark computer: 36.5-23.6 Fighting Irish

 

Why the Louisville Cardinals can cover the spread

The Cardinals appear to be building some momentum toward the end of the season despite a couple of tough losses to Clemson and Florida State over the past six weeks. They crushed Boston College on the road Nov. 8 38-19 as three-point favorites behind another dominant performance from wide receiver DeVante Parker, who had eight receptions for 144 yards and his first touchdown of the season.

Even though Parker has scored only once in three games, he has clearly made a positive impact on his team with 490 receiving yards on 25 catches, proving why he was considered a first-round NFL draft pick before the season. Finally healthy, he still might end up going that high.

 

Why the Notre Dame Fighting Irish can cover the spread

Notre Dame is clearly reeling right now, but the odds are against the team losing two straight home games. The Fighting Irish have not had a three-game losing streak since 2010 when they started 1-3.

Defensively, they just need to focus on holding Parker in check and obviously do a much better job than they did in last week’s loss to the Wildcats, who used their running game to overpower them. Notre Dame has had a tendency to play to the level of its competition though, and the team has a 6-1 mark against the spread (ATS) in its past seven games against teams with a winning record.

 

Smart Pick

This has all the makings of a tight matchup decided by a field goal late, which gives Louisville a great opportunity to cover the spread. The Cardinals are a remarkable 12-1 ATS in their last 13 games as road underdogs, including nine straight covers under that scenario. They are also 6-3 straight up (SU) in their past nine as a road dog, so playing the Fighting Irish away from home will not be too big of deal for them.

If anything, Louisville may be extra motivated to beat Notre Dame as many visitors to South Bend are. Just ask Northwestern’s players, who made the most of their first trip there since 1995. Look for the Cardinals to cherish this visit and at least beat the spread in a close game.

 

Betting Trends

  • Louisville is 8-4 ATS in its last 12 games.
  • Notre Dame is 1-4 ATS in its last five games.

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Kansas State Wildcats vs. West Virginia Mountaineers: Analysis and Pick

The Kansas State Wildcats and the West Virginia Mountaineers are both coming off bye weeks following rough road losses and will meet in Morgantown Thursday night in a key Big 12 matchup. The Wildcats are hoping to rebound from a 41-20 loss at TCU as 6.5-point road underdogs while the Mountaineers are looking to bounce back after falling 33-16 at Texas as three-point favorites.

 

Point spread: This game opened as a pick'em, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark (Line updates and matchup report).

 

College football pick, via Odds Shark computer: 29.6-28.3 Wildcats

 

Why the Kansas State Wildcats can cover the spread

Despite losing to the Horned Frogs away from home before the bye, Kansas State has been outstanding on the road with a 13-2 mark against the spread (ATS) in its last 15 games as a road underdog. The Wildcats are also 18-6 ATS in their past 24 road games and 17-5-1 vs. the line in their previous 22 games as visitors against conference opponents.

In addition, they beat West Virginia 35-12 at home last year and crushed the Mountaineers 55-14 in their last visit there two years ago, covering the spread in both games with the under going 2-0. In last season’s meeting, Kansas State wide receiver Tyler Lockett was the star, hauling in eight catches for 111 yards and three touchdowns.

 

Why the West Virginia Mountaineers can cover the spread

While West Virginia has lost two games in a row, the team had covered three straight, including a huge 41-27 home victory against Baylor as an eight-point underdog a little more than a month ago. The Mountaineers have proven they can throw the ball effectively against good teams, and that win over the Bears is the perfect example.

They also nearly beat TCU at home November 1 but came up just short in a 31-30 loss. West Virginia quarterback Cole Trickett is coming off his two worst performances of the season in consecutive games with just one touchdown and three interceptions during that stretch. Trickett came up big against Baylor with 322 yards and three touchdowns, and he will want to go out with a bang in his final home game at Mountaineer Field.

 

Smart Pick

The Mountaineers have outperformed preseason expectations this season yet have still not played well at home against Big 12 foes, dropping five of their last seven games there under that scenario both straight up (SU) and ATS.

The Wildcats are the kind of team that gives West Virginia fits, led by head coach Bill Snyder, who has developed the perfect game plan to win the last two meetings. Snyder’s team was simply overmatched by the Horned Frogs but will not face that same situation against the Mountaineers.

Opponents have seemingly figured out Trickett, and Snyder should be able to hold him in check as well. Kansas State’s strong road trends ATS are just too hard to ignore in this spot. Look for the Wildcats to pull off the upset as a small road dog again.

 

Betting Trends

  • Kansas State is 6-1 ATS in its last seven games.
  • West Virginia is 4-2 ATS in its last six games at home.

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Boston College Eagles vs. Florida State Seminoles: Betting Odds, Analysis, Pick

Florida State just keeps winning, but that hasn't meant it's been a good bet. In fact, the Seminoles are just 3-8 against the spread over their last 11 games and 1-4 ATS in their last five home games. The undefeated 'Noles will be big home chalk when they hit the field at Doak Campbell Saturday against 6-4 Boston College.

 

Point spread: Seminoles opened as 20.5-point favorites, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark. (Line updates and matchup report)

 

College football pick, via Odds Shark computer: 40.3-19.1 Seminoles

 

Why the Boston College Eagles can cover the spread

The Eagles had won back-to-back ACC road games at Wake Forest and Virginia Tech, before losing at home to Louisville two weeks ago, 38-19. BC then had last week off. The Eagles only trailed the Cardinals by five points through three quarters but faded, as BC quarterback Tyler Murphy threw four interceptions, leading directly to 17 Louisville points.

The Eagles have out-rushed eight opponents this season; they're 6-2 both SU and ATS in those games. Finally, BC gave the 'Noles a good battle last year, leading 17-3 before giving way but hanging on for the cover as 23-point home dogs.

 

Why the Florida State Seminoles can cover the spread

The Seminoles have won 26 games in a row after rallying to beat Miami last week, 30-26. FSU trailed the Hurricanes early, 16-0, but as it's done several times previously this season, came from behind for a victory. Jameis Winston threw for 304 yards and one score, running back Dalvin Cook ran for 92 yards on just seven carries and the 'Noles defense held the 'Canes to just three points after halftime.

And because it was only favored by two points, Florida State covered the spread. The Seminoles only rank 43rd in the country in total offense and 58th in total defense; they just keep winning games.

 

Smart Pick

Florida State has won 26 in a row, and there's little reason to believe it won't bump that streak to 27. But as with several games already this season, the Seminoles are probably a bit overrated on the betting line. And Boston College stands a good chance of winning the ground battle in this game, which often leads to covers. So the smart money here resides with the Eagles, plus the points.

 

Betting Trends

  • Boston College is 4-1 SU in its last five games on the road
  • The total has gone under in six of Florida State's last seven games at home

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Arizona Wildcats vs. Utah Utes: Betting Odds, Analysis, College Football Pick

Two Pac-12 teams from the South Division battling for postseason position will meet in Salt Lake City Saturday when the Utah Utes host the Arizona Wildcats. Both Utah and Arizona are already bowl-eligible and coming off wins last week. The Wildcats will be looking for their third straight victory overall and have gone 5-2 against the spread (ATS) in the last seven meetings with the Utes.

 

Point spread: The Utes opened as 3.5-point favorites, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark (Line updates and matchup report).

 

College football pick, via Odds Shark computer: 30.2-27.4 Wildcats

 

Why the Arizona Wildcats can cover the spread

Outside of a 17-7 loss November 1 at UCLA, Arizona has won all of its other road games, going 3-0 with a 2-1 mark ATS. The biggest road win for the Wildcats came October 2 at Oregon, as they handed the Ducks their only loss of the season so far 31-24 as 21.5-point underdogs. They also pounded Washington State 59-37 on the road as two-point favorites before losing to the Bruins, which remains their lone setback since losing 28-26 at home October 11 to USC.

Arizona has won the last two meetings with Utah by double digits, including a 34-24 victory at Rice-Eccles Stadium two years ago in a similar spot as a three-point road underdog.

 

Why the Utah Utes can cover the spread

The Utes suffered a 51-27 home loss to Oregon in their last home game two weeks ago as 9.5-point home underdogs, but they bounced back in a big way last Saturday at Stanford with a 20-17 overtime victory as 10-point road dogs.

The win against the Cardinal showed again how much character and heart this Utes team has, as they were able to score more touchdowns in the OT periods (two) than they did in regulation in a game that went to the first extra session tied at 7-7. Utah is 5-1 ATS in its last six games and 8-2 vs. the line overall this season.

 

Smart Pick

The Wildcats and the Utes each have an outside shot at winning the Pac-12 South depending on what happens in Saturday’s USC-UCLA game. A win by the Trojans would give them the division title, but a victory by the Bruins keeps both of them in play for a chance to face the Ducks again in the conference title game.

Utah has beaten both California schools and would love nothing more than to top the Wildcats in its last home game of the season before hitting the road for a matchup with Colorado to end the regular season.

The Utes will treat this as their biggest game of the season while Arizona still has a meeting with intrastate rival Arizona State on deck. Look for the home team to come through in this spot and state its case as the best team in the South.

 

Betting Trends

  • Arizona is 5-2 straight up in its last seven games on the road.
  • The total has gone under in five of Utah's last seven games when playing Arizona.

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Arizona Wildcats vs. Utah Utes: Betting Odds, Analysis, College Football Pick

Two Pac -12 teams from the South Division battling for postseason position will meet in Salt Lake City Saturday when the Utah Utes host the Arizona Wildcats. Both Utah and Arizona are already bowl-eligible and coming off wins last week...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

College Football Playoff Chairman Jeff Long Embraces His Role as Twitter Pinata

These days, Jeff Long’s Twitter mentions should come with disclaimers. Don’t let your children near them. Latex gloves should be required before scrolling through the endless stream of scorn.

Every week on Tuesday night—right when the Arkansas athletic director and College Football Playoff committee chairman exits his live appearance on ESPN for the Dallas airport—the outrage and passion pour in through an outlet driven by instant access.

Although Long could easily ignore the expletives en masse, the repetitive misuse of “your” and the other personal attacks, he doesn’t shut them out entirely. In fact, Long takes in this feedback—at least to a reasonable threshold—as he winds down after a long couple of days.

“When I’m crawling onto that commercial flight home, I might just flip on Twitter and take a peek to see who’s riled up most,” Long said. “But I really don’t let it affect my outlook on my day job at Arkansas or my job on the committee. I know that fans are passionate and understand. Some of them cross the line with the way they express themselves, but I skip over those pretty quickly.”

@CFBPlayoff@jefflongUA I trust Larry Culpepper more than you snarky tools. ESPN, SEC & you all smack of anti-trust violations & collusion.

— Richard (@stadiumgameday) October 29, 2014

This is the life of the College Football Playoff ambassador: airplanes, obscenities and countless hours of work that will undoubtedly be underappreciated. It requires skin as thick as armor, a wealth of football intellect and the unique ability to establish an opinion and then let go of these strong thoughts when explaining collective reasoning to the football world.

Long makes up only 8 percent of the committee influence—the same as every other member—although his impact on this process is far more significant. He is the face and voice of a new playoff system, delivering weekly joy to four fanbases and serving as the grim reaper for all others.

Anger will no longer be directed at a faceless computer program; it will be sent in bulk to a man who, despite the seemingly impossible task, was constructed to handle it.

 

Part 1: Gathering Intel in a Football Cathedral

The grim reaper just finished explaining his fabulous new football-watching palace. You can hear the joy in his voice as he describes his viewing quarters, a room he perfected knowing just how his Saturdays would be spent.

“I splurged on myself,” Long said. “I have a wife and two daughters and no hobbies, so I typically spend money on them and not myself. But I did splurge back in the summer. I bought three 4K televisions.”

Long’s voice practically beams when he describes in detail the resolution differences between 4K technology and HD. And as he paints a picture of his den—one as clear as the picture in his 65-inch centerpiece and the two 60s surrounding it—you start to see where job and passion collide.

@jefflongUA how drunk were you guys? Notre dame #10 ole miss #4 ??

— Ryan pierce (@thaatguyry) October 29, 2014

On any given Saturday, Long copes with the same eyeball and screen limitations that you do, even while operating with a dream setup. When three televisions won’t cut it, Long will stream another game on his iPad. And if the game streaming on his iPad grows in intrigue and importance, he’ll promote it to one of the larger televisions and reshuffle the entire room, like a bar owner meeting the demands of vocal patrons.

The only demands Long has to meet are his own, which are different from most athletic directors'. He has to see everything, understand everything and, eventually, be able to articulate what he and the committee observed as a collective unit. Thanks to his football-laced background, this task is easier for him than it would be for most.

In his former life—before he had his first administration gig—he was a college football player and then a college football coach. Long played at Ohio Wesleyan and followed up his playing career with coaching stops at Miami of Ohio, North Carolina State and Michigan among others. It was during these coaching days that he learned the nuances of watching film and assessing performances in a different light.

“I am definitely watching football differently than I have in the past and really looking at it more back to my coaching days early in my career where I was looking for how teams were playing, attacking defenses and preparing for offenses,” Long said. “I slipped into being more of a fan over 20 years of not having to coach, so that’s come back out in me watching it more like a coach.”

Before the committee began meeting each Monday and Tuesday, Long was watching roughly 20 hours of football every week. Now that the committee meetings are taking up a good chunk of his time prior to the reveal of the latest College Football Playoff Top 25, Long says his viewing time is down some, although still in the range of 15 hours.

He loads up his DVR, views the coaches’ tapes when they become available and also spends his Saturdays much like you spend yours. If you follow Long on Twitter, you know—despite the intensity of his schedule—he’s up well past midnight with the rest of us football degenerates, waiting until the last meaningful late-night matchup has concluded.

Hey @CFBPlayoff fans, who is still with me?

— Jeff Long (@jefflongUA) November 9, 2014

This isn’t necessarily anything new for Long, though his reasoning behind watching games deep into the night has evolved.

“I was always staying up late to watch Pac-12 games because if my own team was playing that day, I really used it to unwind,” Long said. “I couldn’t go to bed early because I still had the adrenaline rush of my own games on a Saturday, but now I might have three of them up at once.”

 

Part 2: Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

It’s not just the endless hours of tape and live results.

In fact, the actual information-gathering portion is only a small part of the process for Long, who still has to be an athletic director at a major SEC program all while trying to sort through the various quirks of a new playoff system. As a result, his weekly schedule is anything but ordinary.

When the last meaningful game has finally ended somewhere past midnight and into Sunday morning, Long gathers as much sleep as he possibly can—which really isn’t much—before waking up and digging through the DVR and catching up on football action that he might have missed.

Sunday morning is basically an extension of Saturday. Long catches up on relevant football from the previous day, adding notes and details throughout. Once he has consumed all the football time will allow, he crafts his own Top 25 before he heads to the airport.

Late Sunday afternoon, Long leaves for Dallas. Once he arrives, he unpacks his items, reviews his materials once more—ensuring everything is in order for the day to follow—and again tries to stock up on sleep, the most valuable in-season commodity.

The next morning, Long meets with Bill Hancock, executive director of the College Football Playoff, to cover matters that need to be discussed before the group convenes. At 2 p.m., the College Football Playoff Selection Committee gathers, and the doors close.

“We work typically up until dinner at around 6:30 and we only take about 30 minutes for dinner. Then we go back to the meetings,” Long said. “We might work as late as 10 or get out as early as 7:30.”

What’s on the menu, you ask? Let’s just say the expense reports, as it stands, aren't exactly generating closed-door meetings with the accounting department.

Dinner for the @CFBPlayoff Chair! No 🍟 😄 pic.twitter.com/1L3g3sIBbU

— Jeff Long (@jefflongUA) November 5, 2014

The next day, the committee has breakfast at 8 a.m. before beginning discussions at 8:30. They allocate time until 2 p.m., though the group has finished early on more than one occasion.

Once the final point has been made and all differences have been addressed, the committee’s work for that week is complete. It looks so easy on paper, although the path to this point is anything but.

While the elite teams within and on the outskirts of the first four ultimately suck up the spotlight, a significant portion of the committee’s time is spent on teams you never actually hear about.

“We certainly look at more than 25 teams," Long said. “We stop ranking at 25, but there are a group of others outside that 25 that we’re assessing and evaluating. We probably spent more time on 21 through 25 in our discussions and analysis, which would lead you to believe that we talked a lot about those that didn’t appear in the Top 25.”

When the committee has agreed on all teams in the Top 25—or perhaps "compromised" is the appropriate term—the ranking is sealed and the room disperses. Not Long, though. His most agonizing portion has only just begun.

 

Part 3: Hello, World

This is the part of the job you wouldn't wish on your worst enemy. It's where football opinion morphs into football messenger. After all, someone has to deliver the news.

For the remaining portion of Tuesday afternoon, Long has to let go of his own opinions. He has to remove himself from the stances he took just hours earlier. He has to distance himself from the countless hours of football he only just consumed and instead find a different voice entirely, a voice that represents an entire room. 

And, most important to our interests, Long must prepare to justify the latest playoff standings on live television.

@CFBPlayoff@jefflongUA u can all go screw yourselves!!! The fact u have sparty where u do shows u have 0 integrity. GA & ND royally screwed

— Toby Deal (@tdisu19) October 29, 2014

“The rest of the time I spend trying to prepare for the media that evening,” Long said. “I try to get the committee in my mind and get the thoughts of Jeff Long the individual committee member out of my mind. It’s important that I not just represent my view. I have to represent the view of the 11 others in that room. That takes some preparation.”

Although Long isn’t logging hours in front of the cameras—more like minutes—his brief Q&A with ESPN’s Rece Davis on Tuesday night following the release of the Top 25 is significant for many reasons.

For starters, we never were allowed to ask the BCS any questions about why it did certain things. Putting the committee chairman in the spotlight is a welcome change of pace to the process. It doesn’t mean we’ll always hear what we want or expect to hear—depending on the perspective—although this transparency is most appreciated. Better yet, it's entirely new.

“The toughest for me, personally, is sitting there with an earpiece in, staring at a camera lens and talking with Rece Davis,” Long said. “I get a question, and I have to very quickly put it into the context of how the committee would feel about it. Your first reaction is how you as an individual would answer that question. When I may seem unsure or delayed in my answer, it’s only because I’m trying to answer in the voice of the entire committee and not just Jeff Long.”

When the final question has been asked, Long’s work as committee chairman is complete, at least until the next meaningful game is played. He removes his earpiece, takes off his microphone and makes a dash to the airport.

It's at this moment that his job comes full circle with the previous week. Long is able to take off his chairman hat and throw on some more familiar Arkansas-branded apparel, at least until the next meaningful game is played.

“The two days of meetings for the selection committee are full days,” Long said. “They really take me out of the work at the University of Arkansas, and then Wednesday, Thursday and Friday back on campus are much more intense. It’s just much busier because you’re cramming five days of work into three.”

As Long tucks himself into an uncomfortable seat 35,000 feet in the air for the short flight home, he has a few hours to relax before returning to his full-time job and everyday life. It is his routine, although there is nothing routine about it.

Before Long stocks up on a few extra minutes of the season’s most valued commodity, the vocal and visual ambassador of college football's new postseason has one final item to address. 

He cracks open his iPad, although this time he's not watching film. Instead, Long opens up his Twitter mentions to gauge the response, knowing well in advance some of the nastiness that awaits.

 

Unless noted otherwise, all quotes obtained firsthand.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Ted's Takes: How USC Can Save Its Season, What Happened to Stanford?

For the third time in the last four years, the USC-UCLA game will have Pac-12 title meaning. The winner can’t clinch the South, but it does become the favorite. And a bigger prize looms—a chance to barge its way into the national championship picture.

UCLA’s path is simple—win two home games against USC and Stanford, and claim the South championship.

USC needs help because of the now-famous “Hail Mary” pass from Arizona State’s Mike Bercovici to Jaelen Strong on October 4. The result: USC must win Saturday and needs Arizona to beat ASU on November 28.

Now, USC needs no sympathy, nor will it receive any from foes. So, we offer these facts simply as context. Here are the scholarship players dressed and played by USC in its last three games:

The Trojans have played this season with brilliant individuals, but without numbers. They are with Leonard Williams, Nelson Agholor, Adoree' Jackson and JuJu Smith—players who are the envy of every conference school.

But their game-day sideline is also filled with walk-ons. Their stories are often heartwarming and usually associated with other schools. USC football is not about walk-ons.

So, a Pac-12 South championship would represent validation for Steve Sarkisian’s first season. The year has been uneven. Games have been lost to the inability to adequately defend a “Hail Mary” and a lack of rule awareness (a backwards pass was not possessed by a Trojan and returned by Utah for a gift touchdown in a game decided by three points.)

How can the Trojans beat their rivals? How can they earn a shot at Oregon on the Pac-12’s biggest stage?

Many of the indicators are even:

The highlighted two at the bottom are areas that I believe could swing the game.  

The largest stat difference is the turnover impact. In turnover margin, it is USC +9, and UCLA is even. But the Bruins have had 12 giveaways cost them 59 points.

Now factor in the completions and the Trojans’ ability to take deep shots with Kessler to Agholor and Smith, and that may present the USC path to victory.

Can Jeff Ulbrich coordinate a defensive plan that slows USC’s big plays and lessens the damage from turnovers by the Bruins offense?

On that last question might hinge the Bruins’ last chance to resurrect their summer hopes of playing for a national prize.

 

Stanford Struggles 

While five teams are still alive in the South, Oregon enjoys November knowing it will play for the conference title. The Ducks have handled their business and been helped by a surprisingly weak season for Stanford.

Why is Stanford at 5-5, needing a road victory at Cal or UCLA for bowl eligibility?

One hidden number: 2.

That is the number of takeaways by the Stanford defense in 10 games.

We talk about a Cardinal defense that leads the conference in most categories, including the most important one—allowing just 16.5 points per game (almost seven points ahead of second-place USC.)

Yet, this Stanford team has needed its defense to make game-changing plays. It begged for spectacular defense from a unit that has been rock-solid.

Why? Stanford’s offense has crashed in recent weeks. It heads towards a rare feat: last in points scored, first in points allowed. Stanford has been poor in the red zone, unable to settle on a lead running back and inconsistent in its ability to find Ty Montgomery game-breaking plays.

The result? Kevin Hogan has had to morph from game-manager to game-winner. The offensive line, populated by standout tackles in Andrus Peat and Kyle Murphy, has not dominated on a consistent basis. And the Cardinal string of excellent tight ends (Coby Fleener, Zach Ertz, Levine Toilolo) has stalled.

Stanford’s immediate challenge is to find the sixth win. But David Shaw faces a vital postseason decision. Hogan has another year of eligibility. Does Stanford want him back? Can Hogan gain his degree by spring, affording him the option of playing for another school as a graduate student? Does Shaw feel redshirt Keller Chryst is ready to start in 2015?

Those answers will be the first step to shaping next year’s Pac-12 North.

 

Injured Ducks 

Oregon’s view is towards December 5, although Oregon State conveniently provided Mark Helfrich a mass dose of awareness with its upset of Arizona State.

The Ducks have Colorado in Eugene this Saturday, a game that should provide no threat to Oregon. The final game of the season is against the rival Beavers, which the Ducks must not overlook. 

Health is paramount to the Ducks after losing tight end Pharaoh Brown and center Hroniss Grasu to injury in Utah.

Two players, according to The Oregonian, are preparing to take Grasu’s place on Saturday.

Redshirt Doug Brenner filled in during the fourth quarter in Utah, while senior guard Hamani Stevens could also play there.

Returning Saturday is junior tackle Andre Yruretagoyena after missing eight games. Coupled with the season-long absence of Tyler Johnstone, Oregon has shined in mixing together a proficient offensive line.

The Ducks will need to continue doing just that if they're to win the inaugural playoff.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Ted's Takes: How USC Can Save Its Season, What Happened to Stanford?

For the third time in the last four years, the USC-UCLA game will have Pac -12 title meaning. The winner can’t clinch the South, but it does become the favorite...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

College Football Playoff 2014: Final Predictions for Week 13 CFB System Rankings

Mississippi State was the No. 1 team in the Week 12 College Football Playoff rankings, but that all-important ledger is set for a change at the top after yet another week of NCAA football filled with shocking upsets and surprise results.

Alabama's 25-20 win over the aforementioned Bulldogs gave it a nice boost in the polls, and it should be included in one of the four College Football Playoff spots when the Week 13 results are published. The Crimson Tide seem to be in control of their own destiny, just the way micromanaging extraordinaire Nick Saban likes it.

Arizona State's faint dreams of CFP glory were snuffed out by a game Oregon State squad in a 35-27 loss. The Beavers, a mere 2-5 in the Pac-12 after their surprise victory, have now seemingly cleared the way for in-state nemesis Oregon to win the conference and snatch a playoff spot.

Florida State is still undefeated after a come-from-behind 30-26 victory over Miami and, despite losing so many in-game skirmishes, is on a seemingly inexorable march toward the national championship.

Here are some predictions for the Week 13 CFP rankings, followed by a closer look at two teams that will likely be jockeying for a final playoff spot over the final few weeks of the regular season.

 

Sorting Out the Final Playoff Spot

Assuming Alabama, Oregon and Florida State all win out and capture conference championships, they should be locks for the inaugural College Football Playoff. That could leave quite a scrum for the final playoff spot, as there are several worthy one-loss contenders.

TCU still pips Baylor in both the AP poll and the Amway coaches poll, even though Baylor beat them by three points earlier in the season.

The 61-58 Baylor win is far enough in the rearview mirror, yet late enough in the regular season, that no trace of recency or primacy bias will likely affect the playoff decision-makers, even though Baylor does hold a tiebreaker advantage for the Big 12 championship from the result.

The Horned Frogs eked out a 34-30 win over lowly Kansas in Week 12, and it will be interesting to see if that damages their reputation at all. Head coach Gary Patterson realizes the perception of his squad is out of his hands.

"I can't control any of that," said Patterson, via Dave Skretta of The Associated Press. "The best thing for us is to win out, be 11-1, be (Big 12) co-champion, and then we'll let the chips fall where they do. There's still a lot of football left to play."

Baylor leads the nation in points scored with 50.1 per game, which is a wildly impressive feat, but it is not much better than the Horned Frogs' 45.9 points per contest.

TCU has more high-profile wins than the Bears by virtue of going 4-1 against teams ranked in the Top 25 at the time of the contests (Baylor is 2-0 in such contests). It's difficult to parse these two teams, although defense might be one possibility. 

Assuming TCU fends off Baylor in the playoff committee's estimation, it still must contend with the Bulldogs, who should win their final two games against Vanderbilt and Ole Miss.

Including two SEC teams in the CFP may be too much for some football fans to stomach, but it's tough to say the Bulldogs deserve to fall out of contention after just one loss to an SEC West rival with the No. 2-ranked scoring defense in the nation.

Grantland's Charles P. Pierce is of the opinion that the Bulldogs could be hurt by their lack of brand recognition:

The topic under discussion was whether Mississippi State — which entered a game at Alabama undefeated and left the stadium with one (close) loss — had disqualified itself from the four-team super-duper All-U-Can-Hype television hootenanny that will debut at the end of this football season. The question is absurd, because it depends not on Alabama now having the upper hand on Mississippi State. It depends on Alabama being Alabama, which Mississippi State is not, and the playoff decision will be made not on the relative strength of the two teams but the relative strength of the two brands. Because, based on Saturday’s game at least, there’s not a dime’s worth of difference between these two teams.

Of course, the last part of that final sentence is just as applicable to TCU and Baylor. Mississippi State ranks in the top 20 in both scoring offense and defense, but it will be hurt by the late loss and will be hoping Auburn can somehow pull off more Iron Bowl shenanigans and trip up Alabama at the end of the season.

Ohio State is also in the running and should be in consideration if it wins out. ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit has the Buckeyes in his personal top four:

Led by freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett, Ohio State has won its last five games by an average of 21.2 points. The wins have come against mostly lower-tier opponents, but it's impossible to count out a hot team from a power-five conference at this point.

Deciding among these four teams is an unenviable task, to say the least, and it seems the only thing that can really clear things up is a big team dropping another game as the season comes to a close.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Rankings 2014: Week 13 Standings and Top 25 Team Records

The Alabama Crimson Tide taking down the undefeated Mississippi State Bulldogs highlighted the action in Week 12; however, unexpected results and dramatic conclusions featuring many of the nation's top teams ran rampant during a turbulent Saturday.

While Alabama sure looks like a contender once again, other contending teams produced rather questionable results. Florida State was pushed to the brink by Miami, relying on late-game magic to win once again. The same happened to TCU against Kansas. Arizona State completely dropped the ball, losing to Oregon State and falling out of contention.

Those conclusions are only the tip of the iceberg, as many Top 25 squads fell or were at least given close calls. In the wake of Week 12, the polls shifted in an extreme manner. Here's a look at the updated standings heading into a pivotal Week 13.

Full CFB standings can be viewed at ESPN.com.

 

Week 13 Marquee Matchup

Boston College at (1) Florida State

The Seminoles are the last remaining unbeaten team in the nation's Top 25. A victory over Boston College on Saturday would put the team just one win away from finishing out the season with a perfect record. However, does remaining undefeated automatically ensure Florida State a No. 1 ranking?

Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports tweeted Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long's thoughts on where Florida State should be ranked:

In the eyes of The Associated Press poll voters, the Seminoles are still deserving of the nation's top seed. Although, both Alabama and Oregon did receive first-place votes. This is due to some lackluster showings, especially in the first half, by Florida State in recent games.

Jameis Winston and Co. struggled out of the gate once again in Week 12 against Miami, allowing the Hurricanes to jump out to a 16-point lead before the Seminoles even got on the board in the second quarter.

Sure, Florida State made another signature comeback, winning the game on a last-minute drive; however, there were several ugly takeaways for the nation's top-ranked team.

Winston continues to put up subpar numbers. He completed 25 of his 42 passing attempts for 304 yards, one touchdown and one interception against Miami. Those aren't even close to the Heisman-type numbers expected of the quarterback.

Here's a look at his lopsided statistics before and after halftime this season, via ESPN Stats & Info:

On the other side of the ball, the Seminoles were absolutely gashed on the ground by running back Duke Johnson, who carried 27 times for 130 yards and a touchdown, as the Hurricanes racked up a total of 176 rushing yards.

At the game's conclusion, Miami gained a total of 492 yards of offense to Florida State's 418. There's plenty of reason to believe that will happen once again this coming Saturday against Boston College.

The Eagles boast the nation's 12th-ranked rushing offense, averaging 264.0 yards per game on the ground. Earlier in the season, Boston College defeated USC by rushing for a whopping 452 yards and five touchdowns. This team has a very prolific ground game.

Considering the Seminoles allowed Miami's 38th-ranked rushing defense to control the game early in Week 12, the Eagles have a great chance to put up some gaudy numbers against a slacking Florida State defense. This could allow Boston College to jump out to an early lead.

Should Florida State find itself in a hole once again early in the game, it will be a difficult climb back for a win against a Boston College defense allowing an average of just 21.9 points per game. That said, this game should be a whole lot closer than many will expect.

Boston College will have a tough time winning in Tallahassee, but it has the ability to keep the score close. If that's the case, we could see some changes atop the nation's rankings heading into Week 14.

Prediction: Florida State 26, Boston College 24

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Which Team Should Be Most Feared in College Football Playoff Semifinals?

This is the team you don't want any part of in the College Football Playoffs. The team that displays the most explosive talent, and the team that has the ability to beat anyone in the nation. 

Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Adam Kramer and Michael Felder debate who is the most dangerous team in the country. 

Who is the most dangerous in the nation?

Watch the video and let us know! 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football: Week 12 Recap, Game Attended and Pick Results

After Week 12 of the 2014 college football season, things have gotten very interesting regarding the College Football Playoff rankings.

No. 1 Mississippi State went into Tuscaloosa hoping to come away with its first win against No. 5 Alabama in seven years and keep its national title hopes alive. The Crimson Tide defense had other plans, though, as it caused Heisman-contending quarterback Dak Prescott to throw three interceptions.

Nick Saban's squad pulled out to a 19-0 lead in the first half, before the Bulldogs finally answered with a 23-yard field goal with three seconds remaining in the second quarter. Prescott would eventually throw a four-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Fred Ross early in the fourth quarter to tighten things up at 19-13, but Alabama answered back on its next possession with a 15-play drive that resulted in a T.J. Yeldon seven-yard touchdown run. In the end, Mississippi State wasn't able to make the plays when it needed to and fell to the Crimson Tide 25-20.

Other drama took place in Miami, where Jameis Winston and the third-ranked Seminoles were down 16 points twice in the first half against in-state rival Miami (Florida) and didn’t take the lead until there was 3:05 left in the fourth quarter. Florida State made a comeback yet again and came away with a 30-26 victory.

It got interesting for No. 4 TCU, who was expected to run all over an inferior Kansas team on the road but ended up with more than it bargained for. The Horned Frogs were down most of the game until Cameron Echols-Luper returned a 69-yard punt for a touchdown with 2:38 remaining in the third quarter. They managed to escape Lawrence with a 34-30 win, but it should be interesting to see where they’ll land in the rankings Tuesday evening.

The Big Ten West Division had an important weekend with 25th-ranked Minnesota looking to stay in the division hunt with a home game against East Division foe, eighth-ranked Ohio State, while West Division rivals 16th-ranked Nebraska and 20th-ranked Wisconsin collided in Madison.

The Golden Gophers hung with the Buckeyes but weren’t able to do enough defensively to contain freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett. Barrett passed for 200 yards, rushed for 189 yards and scored two total touchdowns in a 31-24 win.

The Cornhuskers appeared to be in control with a 17-3 lead early in the second quarter, and then everything fell apart. The Badgers scored 56 unanswered points with help from Heisman candidate running back Melvin Gordon, who rushed for an FBS-record 408 yards, and won in dominating fashion, 59-24.

The Pac-12 South Division race will now likely be decided the week before the Pac-12 Conference title game with Oregon State upsetting No. 6 Arizona State 35-27 late Saturday night in Corvallis.

Game Attended

No. 16 Nebraska 24 at No. 20 Wisconsin 59

Nebraska appeared to be in control early by causing three Wisconsin turnovers, two of which were fumbles by the top running back in the nation, Melvin Gordon. With a 17-3 lead, it looked as if the Badgers were going to have their hands full in a must-win game.

Momentum began to change near the end of the second quarter, though, when Wisconsin took a 24-17 lead on a Sam Arneson five-yard touchdown reception from quarterback Joel Stave.

It was all Badgers once the second half began, as they went on to score 56 unanswered points, with Gordon leading the way in the backfield. Gordon broke LaDainian Tomlinson’s FBS single-game rushing record with a 408-yard, four-touchdown performance in just three quarters.  

The Wisconsin offense racked up 581 yards on the ground against a Nebraska defense, which heading into Saturday’s matchup had held opponents to 123.8 rushing yards per game. While much of the focus was on Gordon’s record-breaking performance that is likely to send him to New York City for the Heisman Trophy Presentation, Cornhusker running back Ameer Abdullah was held by a stout Badger defense to just 69 rushing yards on 18 carries and no touchdowns.

Since joining the Big Ten Conference, Nebraska has lost to Wisconsin in three of four meetings and has been outscored by a combined total of 204-102. It has also had its troubles at Camp Randall Stadium by losing to the Badgers by an average of 33 points.

Gary Andersen’s squad now controls its destiny in the Big Ten West Division with a road contest at Iowa this Saturday and a home game against rival Minnesota on Nov. 29.

Pick Results

Overall Record: 39-21

Week 12 Record: 4-1

Note: Team in bold indicates author’s pick


Prediction: Ohio State 38, Minnesota 26

Result: Ohio State 31, Minnesota 24


Prediction: Clemson 41, Georgia Tech 35

Result: Georgia Tech 28, Clemson 6


Prediction: Alabama 28, Mississippi State 24

Result: Alabama 25, Mississippi State 20


Prediction: Wisconsin 30, Nebraska 24

Result: Wisconsin 59, Nebraska 24


Prediction: Georgia 45, Auburn 38

Result: Georgia 34, Auburn 7

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Bowl Projections 2014: Latest Playoff and Selection Committee Games Predictions

What do you get when you mix large and passionate fanbases, conference pride and subjective rankings in the race to the College Football Playoff?

Plenty of controversy and debate.

With four spots up for grabs in the initial College Football Playoff, teams are scrapping and fighting for every last style point, significant victory and resume booster. There are precious few games remaining in the season, and it is now or never if teams want to impress the selection committee.

With that in mind, here is a look at the latest playoff and selection committee bowl game projections heading into Week 13.

 

Coveted No. 4 Spot

While there are four playoff spots up for grabs, it is looking safer every week to assume that Florida State, Alabama and Oregon are going to snag three of them. After all, the Seminoles, Crimson Tide and Ducks simply have more talent than their remaining opponents and will cash in on those advantages accordingly with decisive victories.

Florida State is not going to lose to Boston College, Florida or the other ACC representative in the conference championship game.

Alabama is not going to lose to Western Carolina or the SEC East representative in the conference title game, especially since it will likely be the same Missouri squad that lost to Indiana. That leaves a revenge showdown with Auburn in Tuscaloosa in front of a fired-up crowd with a fired-up team.

The Ducks and their high-octane offense simply have too many weapons all over the field to lose to the likes of Colorado or Oregon State. They could also get the same UCLA squad they already blasted once this year in the Pac-12 title contest.

That leaves one coveted spot remaining in the field of four, and the only realistic contenders are Mississippi State, Ohio State, Baylor and TCU.

Don’t look now, but Mississippi State is getting far too much credit for simply being in the SEC compared to what it has actually done on the field.

Yes, it beat Auburn, but that is the same Tigers team that was eviscerated by Georgia on Saturday and lost to a mediocre Texas A&M squad. Yes, Mississippi State beat LSU, but that is the same LSU team that lost to Arkansas in the Razorbacks’ first SEC win since 2012.

SEC defenders may not want to admit it, but Ohio State’s win at Michigan State and Baylor’s win against TCU are both better than any victories Mississippi State has on its resume.

That’s not even mentioning the fact that the selection committee could be a bit harder on the Bulldogs in the final poll if they are not a conference champion. They won’t even be a division champion.

Dan Mullen seems to think his team’s goals are still in front of it, though, according to The Associated Press, via ESPN.com:

We should feel awful. You should have a sickness in your stomach. We should embrace this feeling to make sure that this feeling doesn't happen again. We'll feel sick tonight but then we'll get over it.

Except for being undefeated, every other goal is still ahead of us.

As for Ohio State, it does have that sparkling win at Michigan State (which is more impressive than Oregon’s win in friendly September conditions against those same Spartans), but it also has by far the worst loss of any playoff contender.

Sure, there are legitimate excuses that can be made for the Buckeyes considering it was a mere two weeks after they lost star quarterback Braxton Miller to injury, but Virginia Tech is just not a good football team. That kind of loss is hard to erase, although Ohio State has done a fairly good job of trying with impressive performances on the road against ranked teams the last two weeks.

The Buckeyes’ best chance is if the selection committee goes by the eye test because there may not be a team in the country playing better football than Urban Meyer’s bunch.

Then there is the Big 12 conundrum between Baylor and TCU.

TCU was ahead of Baylor in the most recent rankings, largely because the Horned Frogs played a better nonconference schedule, but at some point that head-to-head win the Bears picked up against TCU earlier in the season will be the deciding factor. What’s more, TCU’s win over Minnesota will not look as impressive if the Golden Gophers lose to Ohio State (already happened), Nebraska and Wisconsin to finish the season.

Baylor also has the game against Kansas State as the carrot dangling on the end of its schedule that will bolster its resume. 

At the end of the season, the Bears’ ultimate threat may be Ohio State rather than TCU or Mississippi State, especially since the Buckeyes will be the only one of that group playing in a conference title game. Bleacher Report’s Ben Axelrod noted that momentum seems to be shifting in the Buckeyes’ direction from a perception standpoint:

One thing is for sure—there is bound to be plenty of controversy, arguing and incredible finishes in the upcoming weeks. Buckle up.

 

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Kansas State vs. West Virginia: TV Info, Spread, Injury Updates, Game Time, More

It has been a long, angry week and change since the Kansas State Wildcats took the field, but the rest period comes to a halt Thursday in Morgantown for a Big 12 encounter with the West Virginia Mountaineers.

The 7-2 Wildcats were last seen in early November getting throttled by TCU, 41-20. Gone is the notion that Bill Snyder's defense could stop any team in the land and that the Wildcats could seize the conference title.

Things are not as dramatic for Dana Holgorsen's Mountaineers, which appear on course for a winning season thanks to one of the nation's better aerial attacks.

The showdown is a classic strength versus strength encounter with plenty at stake for both sides. It should go without saying that Thursday has a great headlining act.

 

Weight of the World

The 6-4 Mountaineers go as senior quarterback Clint Trickett goes.

Trickett has completed 68.3 percent of his passes this season for 3,173 yards and 18 touchdowns to eight interceptions, but when the former member of the Florida State Seminoles has a bad game, the Mountaineers go down in a hurry.

Case in point, Trickett's last two outings, which both wound up as losses:

Feel free to add in a 45-33 loss to Oklahoma in which Trickett tossed a pair of touchdowns and interceptions. Contrast that with the team's eye-opening upset of Baylor in which he completed 65.7 percent of his passes with three scores and one pick.

For his part, the experienced senior knows when his mistakes hurt the team, as revealed by comments after the loss to TCU, per Allan Taylor of the West Virginia MetroNews: “Last week the whole game-manager thing came up, and I thought I did a pretty terrible job of managing the game. Couple turnovers—I’ve got to be able to hold on to the ball and be more conscious of that.”

Trickett now has to deal with a Wildcats defense that ranks 21st in the nation with just 21.1 points allowed per game on average. Texas, which ranks slightly higher than Kansas State in that regard, held the Mountaineers in check in their last outing.

Should Trickett not return to form, a Wildcats team with everything to lose will capitalize and steal a win in his house.

 

Motivational Anger

Almost a full two weeks off is a lot of time to dwell on mistakes made in perhaps the biggest game of the season. 

One can tell from comments made by linebacker Jonathan Truman, per Kellis Robinett of The Kansas City Star, that all involved are anxious to go out and put the debacle against the Horned Frogs behind them:

We always do a great job in our bye weeks with our preparation. A lot of us were pretty emotional after the game. We were hurt and angered by the TCU game, and I think the maturity of this team has really evolved that emotion to motivation toward that next game at West Virginia.

We are eager to get back on the practice field and correct our mistakes and move on and use that motivation to propel us forward.

The Kansas State defense was uncharacteristically bad against the Horned Frogs, allowing four total touchdowns to quarterback Trevone Boykin and a pair of rushers to rush for a minimum of 120 yards.

Still, the globe has been down this path with the Wildcats before.

The last time Kansas State lost it was at the hands of then-No. 5 Auburn, 20-14. A little more than a week later, Snyder's team blew away UTEP, 58-28.

Now, West Virginia is no UTEP, but Kansas State can only hope that a similar bounce-back performance is in the cards against a tricky opponent. If not, the season will be fully lost.

 

When: Thursday, November 20, 7 p.m. ET

Where: Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium, Morgantown, West Virginia

Television: Fox Sports 1

Betting Lines (via Odds Shark):

  • Over/Under: N/A
  • Spread: EVEN

 

Team Injury Reports

Injury reports per The Sports Network, via USA Today.

 

Prediction

Las Vegas is iffy on this one for good reason. 

The recent run of form by the Mountaineers is discouraging. That said, Trickett can explode at any point and has done so against notable competition as many times as he has struggled.

What swings things in Kansas State's favor, other than a typically sound defense that is sure to be back to form, is a strong offense led by Jake Waters. Quietly a dual-threat quarterback, Waters has accounted for 20 total touchdowns this season and can keep Trickett off the field.

Limited opportunities against an elite defense is a recipe for disaster for the home team.

Prediction: Wildcats 34, Mountaineers 28

 

Statistics and info courtesy of ESPN unless otherwise specified.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

The Most Important Georgia Players for the Rest of the Year

The Georgia football team has an 8-2 record with a 6-2 record in the SEC. It needs Missouri to lose one of its last two games to clinch the SEC East and make the trip to the Georgia Dome for the SEC Championship, which would be the third time in four years for the Bulldogs.

But even if that does not happen, the Bulldogs will need to play well in their last two games because they still have a lot to play for, including a 10-win season and a chance to finish the year in the Top 10.

In order for those things to happen, they need their star players and key contributors to play like they have all season long. But who are the most important players for the rest of the season?

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Nebraska Cornhuskers vs. Minnesota Golden Gophers Complete Game Preview

Where does the time go? After waiting months and months for college football to begin, the final home game for Nebraska is already here. Hard to believe, isn't it?

The Huskers will face Big Ten West foe Minnesota on senior day. Thirteen seniors, including Ameer Abdullah and Kenny Bell, will be honored before the game.

After a disappointing loss to Wisconsin, the Huskers are looking for redemption. While a trip to the Big Ten Championship Game is likely out of consideration, the bowl game Nebraska is invited to is still up in the air. That's what makes this matchup as important as any other.

Minnesota is Nebraska's most frequent opponent in the Big Ten, per Huskers.com. The Gophers even hold the lead in the series, which is currently 30-22-2. 

The Gophers beat the Huskers in 2013, which is another reason Nebraska is out for redemption. Can the Huskers secure a win during the last 2014 game at home? Or will it be a repeat of last year in Minneapolis?

 

Where: Memorial Stadium, Lincoln, Nebraska

When: Saturday, November 22, at noon ET

Watch: ESPN

Listen:Husker Sports Network or Sirius Channel 91, XM 91

Betting Line via Odds Shark: Nebraska (-10)

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