NCAA Football

Texas Football: It's Too Early to Determine Charlie Strong's Job Status

Fifteen minutes was all it took, which is remarkable when you stand back and consider time in the linear sense.

In 15 minutes of game time, TCU took a torch to all the progress Texas and head coach Charlie Strong had made in the previous three weeks against Rice, Cal and Oklahoma State—much like Frogs receiver KaVontae Turpin torched the Longhorns pass defense for 138 yards and four touchdowns. 

In 15 minutes, the Horned Frogs took advantage of every imaginable Texas mistake, from a fumble to a safety, and made the Horns pay dearly. As far as shooting oneself in the foot goes, Texas may as well have played "Plinko" on The Price Is Right to see what would happen next. It was all pretty much on the table.

“That’s what bothers you,” Strong said (via Mike Finger, the San Antonio Express-News). “When things go wrong, they continue to go, and we can’t stop it. We don’t plug the leak.”

In 15 minutes, TCU, though shorthanded because of injuries, showed it was still one of the best teams in the Big 12 while Texas was irrefutably nowhere near that group, now or anytime in the foreseeable future. TCU head coach Gary Patterson knew as much before the game even kicked off: 

How times have changed. Accepting that is important here. 

In 15 minutes, TCU led Texas 30-0. It would go on to win 50-7, giving the Longhorns their 21st double-digit loss out of 32 total losses since 2010. That's almost two out of every three losses. 

But while 15 minutes was long enough to show the rebuilding project at Texas was nowhere near complete, it wasn't long enough to prove Strong isn't the guy to lead it. For that matter, 60 minutes isn't long enough. Neither are 18 games. 

Strong isn't what ails Texas. If anything, the myriad issues are far bigger than him. Two-thirds of the aforementioned double-digit losses occurred before Strong was even hired. Mack Brown did many great things for the Longhorns over the years. He won a national title, played for another, put players into the NFL and ran a program free of major NCAA infractions. 

The final years from 2010-13 were embarrassingly poor, though. In 2014, Texas was shut out of the NFL draft for the first time since 1937. The Horns' 2016 NFL draft prospects don't look promising, either, as an AFC scout told Lance Zierlein of NFL media last month: "All 'guys' and no 'dudes'. Texas barely shows up on our master list of prospects to scout this year. Vince Lombardi couldn't do anything with the guys they have on offense."

As astonishing as it seems given the school's abundant resources, Texas doesn't have NFL-caliber players—at least not ones who have been developed. Freshmen like linebacker Malik Jefferson should change that in time, but that's a conversation for another day.

On that subject, though, Strong has only put together one true recruiting class, as former Texas cornerback Quandre Diggs tweeted Saturday:

In that class, Strong won over Jefferson, the No. 1 in-state player according to 247Sports. Strong will need two or three classes to find that type of game-changing recruit on offense. At Louisville, he found that player in quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. 

Good coaches don't just master the X's and O's of the game; they hire good assistants and get quality players. Suggesting Strong is suddenly a bad coach who only got a chance at Texas because of Bridgewater is absurd, backward thinking. It's also myopic because it ignores how Strong developed loads of talent at Louisville and molded them into draft-ready players. It's also insulting to the years of hard work Strong put in as a defensive assistant and the admiration coaches like Urban Meyer and Lou Holtz have for him. 

Kansas State coach Bill Snyder, who uncovers more hidden gems in the recruiting process than perhaps anyone in college football, is the exception, not the rule. And you can still bet Snyder would take 4-star and 5-star players in heartbeat if they were knocking down his door. 

In the meantime, Texas is simply trying to field a roster good enough to win games in Big 12 conference play. Remember the number of double-digit losses? From 2010-13, the Longhorns lost 10 of those games to Big 12 opponents. Getting boat-raced by conference opponents, many of which recruit in Texas, only snowballs the problem: 

Strong has lost by double-digits four times to Big 12 teams. This is a problem he inherited, not created. 

None of this means Strong is immune to criticism. The way the offense has been handled is a mess. The play-caller controversy between quarterbacks coach Shawn Watson and offensive line coach Joe Wickline—created to avoid a lawsuit from Wickline's former employer, Oklahoma State—was confusing and unnecessary. (Trial over Wickline's buyout is set for 2016, per Max Olson of First-year wide receivers coach Jay Norvell was promoted to play-caller two games into the season, but he hardly looks like a long-term solution. 

Strong hasn't been perfect, but he deserves time to put his stamp on Texas. That tends to take about three to four years. That doesn't mean the Longhorns have to win a national or Big 12 title by Year 4, but it does mean Strong has to show he can at least compete for one. Only then is it fair to decide whether Strong is the right person for Texas. 

However, college football today is a sport of instant results. Compounding the criticism directed at Strong is that Michigan and Florida have won right away with first-year head coaches Jim Harbaugh and Jim McElwain, respectively. The Wolverines are 4-1, and the Gators are 5-0 after knocking off Ole Miss at home. 

Harbaugh and McElwain inherited much better situations, however. Texas' last top-15 recruiting class before 2015 was in 2012. In that span, Florida and Michigan have posted a top-five class each, according to 247Sports' composite rankings. Both programs, despite their struggles, have churned out NFL-caliber players. The only thing missing were coaches who could develop the talent. 

Texas is missing more. Much more. 

Maybe Strong can get things turned around, or maybe he won't. But we're not going to find that out in Year 2. If anything, Texas has a little bit more time on that. 


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

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Auburn 4-Star Commits Woody Barrett and Eli Stove Shine in Week 6

While Auburn hasn’t met its lofty expectations on offense early in the season, Tigers head coach Gus Malzahn and his staff can take solace in the fact that help is on the way.

A pair of Tigers commits in 4-star quarterback Woody Barrett and 4-star receiver Eli Stove put up monster performances in leading their teams to victory in Week 6. 

Barrett, a 6’2”, 225-pounder who rates as the nation’s No. 5 dual-threat quarterback and the No. 202 prospect overall in the 2016 class, scored three total touchdowns in leading West Orange (Florida) High School over Apopka 28-3.

According to J.C. Carnahan of the Orlando Sentinel, Barrett had 16 carries for 160 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He also threw for 78 yards and another score.

His rushing touchdowns covered 28 and 15 yards, respectively, and his 34-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter helped the Warriors take a 7-3 lead—one they would never relinquish.

Barrett has had a strong season both on the ground and through the air. With his size and athleticism, he is showing why he could potentially be the quarterback of the future on the Plains.

Meanwhile, Stove who rates as the nation’s No. 9 wide receiver and the No. 73 player overall in 2016, has missed some time this season due to an injured shoulder.

However, he wasted little time reminding Tigers fans of what makes him one of the most dangerous playmakers in the 2016 class.

As Seth Stringer of the Northwest Florida Daily News notes, Stove hauled in five receptions for 100 yards and two scores. He also added 36 yards on three carries and another touchdown on the ground in helping Niceville (Florida) High School to a 55-6 win over Fort Walton Beach.

The 6’1”, 178-pounder has accounted for 1,750 yards of total offense with 20 touchdowns over the last two seasons.

Stove is a versatile athlete who can stretch the field vertically and create big plays in open space—which makes him a candidate to fit in nicely into Malzahn’s spread attack.

While Auburn’s class—which has 11 commitments and currently sits at No. 27 nationally in the 247Sports team rankings—is rated well-below its classes in recent years, the performances by the Tigers' top two offensive commits is proof the class has more quality than quantity.

Between Barrett and Stove, the two Sunshine State natives have the potential to give a boost to the Tigers' high-powered attack in the coming years.


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


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The One Unit That Will Decide the SEC West Champion

Five games into the season, and the SEC West has a mess on its hands.

The two teams who have earned top five rankings through the first month-plus of the season—Alabama and Ole Miss—have already suffered losses, Texas A&M and LSU are the only undefeated teams left, and suddenly, Arkansas—which was dead and buried after losing to Toledo, Texas Tech and Texas A&M—has a little life after beating Tennessee on the road.

All that, and there are still seven games left in the regular season.

Which individual unit will decide the SEC West? It's the Texas A&M defensive line, and it isn't all that close.

Led by sophomore defensive end Myles Garrett and junior Daeshon Hall, the Aggies have transformed themselves into a force up front. Garrett's 7.5 sacks on the season rank third nationally, Hall has five more to his name, and the Aggies as a whole lead the conference with 19 sacks on the season.

As Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports noted on Twitter, the pair has become one of the most feared duos off the edge in college football this year:

Texas A&M's front four is hardly a one-trick pony, though. When combined with fellow linemen Julien Obioha, Daylon Mack, Alonzo Williams and Qualen Cunningham, the Aggies are loaded across the board, aggressive and able to keep those big bodies fresh for a full four quarters.

This unit will decide the SEC West.

If they can force teams into shootout situations and allow Hall and Garrett to pin their ears back consistently, it'll be lights out for the opposition. 

The problem for the Aggies, though, is that the run defense hasn't played where it needs to play in order to get the power running teams in the SEC West off of their game and into passing situations. The Aggies rank next-to-last in the SEC in rushing defense after giving up 182.6 yards per game on the ground through five games.

That's going to have to change, because if teams like Alabama and LSU establish the run, then the Texas A&M defense will be on its heels throughout the contest.

It's a young defense, though. We've already seen studs like true freshman Daylon Mack emerge as forces up front, including on this play against Nevada in which he swallowed two players.

There are no complete teams in the SEC West, but Texas A&M is on the brink of becoming one if it can shore up its run defense. A little help will go a long way, because with the offense that the Aggies are able to produce with quarterback Kyle Allen at the helm, they can force other teams into shootouts very easily. 

Alabama is already a game behind the Aggies with a loss on its resume, Texas A&M has two weeks to prepare for the Tide at home, and Alabama will be on its seventh game in as many weeks.

Plus, as we've seen twice over the last three seasons, the Aggie offense is fully capable of exploiting Alabama's problems in the defensive backfield. If that happens again, quarterback Jake Coker better watch out, because Garrett and Hall will tee off.

One-loss Ole Miss can't run the ball against air, much less a defense that trots 11 players out there. Plus, as head coach Hugh Freeze pointed out after Saturday's 38-10 loss to Florida, his Rebels have some issues up front.

"I’m concerned for everything, [offensive line] being one of them," he said in quotes released by Ole Miss. "We’re playing some young kids up there against a really good defensive front. Everybody has some young kids, and everybody has some injuries, and nobody really wants to hear that. We just have to get the ones we have prepared to play, and play better."

The game against LSU could be the one that decides the division.

With that game on the final weekend of the regular season, that young defensive line will have plenty of time to prepare for the Leonard Fournette express. 

Based on the result of that game, the Aggies could take a trip the following week to Atlanta and play for the SEC title.


Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports. Statistics are courtesy of CFBStats.comBarrett 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 6 Standings for College's Top 25 Teams

Take what you thought you knew about the college football elite and throw it out the window, because an upset-filled weekend of action has left the Top 25 looking drastically different.

The previously ranked No. 1 team had to scrape and claw its way to a win over Indiana. The No. 2 team did the same against Purdue. Then throw in outright losses by third-ranked Ole Miss, No. 6 Notre Dame and No. 8 Georgia, and there's enough chaos to rewrite the Top 10 altogether.

The Associated Press and Amway Coaches polls won't drop until Sunday afternoon, but Bleacher Report's top college football analysts have already broken it down for you. Take a look below at the Top 25 entering Week 6.


Bleacher Report Top 25: Week 6

Information courtesy of Bleacher Report


Surprise Teams on the Rise

No. 6 Utah Utes

Has any team ever had a better week by simply sitting at home with its feet up, enjoying a bye?

It's hard to say so, as Utah got a week of rest under its belts while watching the Top 10 fall to pieces across the board on the opening Saturday of October. One week after their shocking demolition of Oregon (a 62-20 affair), losses elsewhere have the Utes jumping heavily.

It's not surprising, then, to see so many folks pegging Utah as a potential College Football Playoff team, including ESPN's Rece Davis:

The Utes defense is the real deal and should allow them to remain vying for an undefeated season in the Pac-12, but it's the offense that could take them to the next level. Devontae Booker is an all-purpose machine with nearly 600 total yards already, while Travis Wilson makes the right plays at quarterback to propel drives and put up points.

It may be early, but so far, Utah looks legit.


No. 11 Florida Gators

What got into the Ole Miss Rebels over the last several weeks? Better yet, what got into the Florida Gators?

Two teams headed in very different directions just weeks ago took a complete 180 on Saturday, when the Gators dismantled Ole Miss, 38-10 in the Swamp. It was the same Rebels team that took it to Alabama on the road just weeks ago, and the same Florida team that needed a miraculous comeback to beat Tennessee.

It's been rocky times for the Gators over the last couple of years, but young star quarterback Will Grier is making things happen that haven't occurred since Florida's last glory run, per ESPN Stats & Info:

Is it too early to tell if head coach Jim McElwain truly has the Gators turning a corner? After all, this team was expected to struggle to get into bowl eligibility before the season, relying on an empty cupboard of depth and less talent across the board than they're used to in Gainesville.

But it's hard to label a demolition of Ole Miss as a fluke, especially when that very same team just did a similar deed to Alabama two weeks ago.

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NCAA Football Rankings 2015: Predicting the Top 25 After Week 5

The upset bug came back with a vengeance in Week 5 of the college football season.

Four Top 10 teams lost to lower-ranked opponents, including a pair of SEC powers that lost big cross-divisional games by the exact same scoreline. The early favorite in the Pac-12 was stunned at home by a two-loss team, and the weekend's biggest game ended in heartbreak for the comeback-minded visitors.

Elsewhere, the nation's top two teams looked less than impressive in Big Ten play, while two Big 12 leaders lit up the scoreboards on Saturday.

The combination of all these results should make for some interesting ballots in the Week 6 Associated Press poll, which makes this week's task of projecting the Top 25 the toughest challenge of the young season.

As always, here's this week's prediction for the upcoming AP poll and some special spotlights on the biggest rises and falls in the Top 25.


Who's No. 1?

Ohio State's narrow win at Indiana on Saturday should've swung the door open for a new team to vault into the No. 1 spot in the AP poll. With Michigan State having to hold onto a tight home win against Purdue, it seemed to be Ole Miss' chance to make the big jump.

But the Rebels—more on them later—fell flat on their faces against Florida in the Swamp.

With No. 2 failing to impress and No. 3 losing on the road, Ohio State will most likely hold onto No. 1 in the AP poll. While TCU and Baylor can make their own strong claims to the top spot, I'm siding with the opinion of the AP's own Ralph D. Russo.

"Winning ugly was fine for Florida State last year because the Seminoles won them all until the semifinals," Russo wrote. "Ohio State will likely be afforded the same courtesy. As would pretty much any team from a Power Five conference."

Last year's Florida State team, one that is looking eerily like this year's Ohio State squad, didn't lose its No. 1 spot in the poll until Mississippi State recorded a huge win over then-No. 2 Auburn. Since no other Top Five team has pulled off a win of that magnitude yet, the Buckeyes should survive at No. 1 for another week.


Moving up


After breaking into the Top 25 last weekend following a comeback win over a falling-apart Tennessee team, Florida proved it was for real Saturday night by hammering No. 3 Ole Miss at home.

Behind an outstanding performance from quarterback Will Grier, the Gators opened up a 25-0 halftime lead, and the defense didn't allow a touchdown to Ole Miss' normally potent offense until the 4:04 mark of the fourth quarter. Let's be clear—Florida owned this matchup from the start.

Florida now has the most impressive win of the season after smashing a team that entered the weekend with the second-most No. 1 votes in the AP poll. 

That huge victory should be enough for the Gators to leap over a logjam of one-loss teams and also undefeated Northwestern, which doesn't have as shiny of a resume as Florida.



While TCU might not have enough firepower to jump all the way to No. 1 in the country—the Horned Frogs slipped from a tie at No. 3 to No. 4 last weekend after a narrow win at Texas Tech—it should get a boost this weekend in the polls.

TCU destroyed one-win Texas by a score of 50-7 at home Saturday. Trevone Boykin was excellent again, but the real impressive story was a banged-up TCU defense shutting down a Texas offense that had somewhat started to turn a corner.

"It built a lot of confidence for our defense," TCU cornerback Nick Orr said, per Chuck Carlton of the Dallas Morning News. "We knew we gave up 52 points last week, but [we] came out this week locked and focused, which made up for it."

With Michigan State losing momentum with another closer-than-expected home win, don't be surprised if TCU takes full advantage with a move into No. 2—that is, if lower-ranked Baylor doesn't surprisingly jump both programs.


Clemson and Alabama

Clemson almost blew an 18-point second-half lead Saturday night against Notre Dame, but the Tigers held on to record a huge home win over the higher-ranked Fighting Irish. While its offense was held to fewer than 300 yards, Clemson's defense forced four turnovers and made a huge stop to deny what would've been a game-tying two-point conversion.

With Florida State failing to impress away from home in ACC play against Wake Forest, I have the Tigers jumping the Seminoles and sliding right behind idle Utah in this week's poll.

Meanwhile, Alabama reignited its playoff push with a massive road blowout victory over previously undefeated Georgia. Outside of a pair of fumbles and a long touchdown run by Georgia superstar Nick Chubb, Alabama played a completely dominant game of football between the hedges.

Even with its one loss to Ole Miss, Alabama should have enough momentum to also vault over Florida State, which started the weekend two spots ahead. The Tide looked like a total contender again in Athens.


Moving down

Ole Miss

The talk surrounding Ole Miss turned on a dime this weekend after its ill-fated trip to the Swamp. The Rebels seemed to be knocking on Ohio State's door with a favorable-looking schedule in the early part of October.

But Ole Miss looked nothing like a championship contender against Florida, turning the ball over four times and not putting points on the scoreboard until the second half. This, of course, is the same Ole Miss team that scored 76, 73 and 43 points in its first three games of the season.

"We really needed the game early on to go back-and-forth a little bit and stay close and let us figure a few things out," Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze said, per Hugh Kellenberger of the Clarion-Ledger. "But we turned it over and had negative plays. … Before you know it, it’s a different game."

Ole Miss' toothless performance against Florida should cause a huge fall from No. 3 in the polls. With one-loss Stanford routing Arizona and Notre Dame fighting back in a close loss against Clemson this week, this projection has the Rebels at No. 16, right in front of idle USC.


Notre Dame

You've got to hand it to Notre Dame. The Irish just don't quit, even when the odds are stacked against them.

Notre Dame rallied to score 19 points in the fourth quarter at Clemson in a game that was played in dreadful weather conditions. But a pair of missed two-point conversions and four turnovers were too much for the Irish, who can take some positives away from their trip to Death Valley.

"When the torrential rain settles in South Carolina, No. 6 Notre Dame’s season is not lost, and the Irish could very well still find themselves in the playoff hunt as the season progresses," Bleacher Report's Mike Monaco wrote.

The Irish's failed comeback effort in rainy Clemson should be looked upon more favorably than Ole Miss' virtual no-show at Florida on Saturday night. Notre Dame won't take as big of a hit heading into Week 6. 


UCLA and Georgia

UCLA was also the face of a late comeback attempt Saturday night, but the Bruins couldn't prevent Arizona State from scoring a back-breaking, game-sealing touchdown inside the Rose Bowl.

The Bruins entered the fourth quarter down 29-10 and scored back-to-back touchdowns behind the backfield tandem of Josh Rosen and Paul Perkins. However, the decision to take an intentional safety didn't pay off, as a less than full-strength UCLA defense couldn't get Arizona State's offense off the field late.

Georgia, on the other hand, was completely outplayed in its home loss to Alabama, which entered the game in a much better position than Arizona State. The Bulldogs still have a good chance to take home the SEC East, but they'll have to rebound in a big way these coming weeks.

Both teams entered the week right beside each other in the polls, and their disappointing losses will stick them down in the lower reaches of the Top 20. With No. 20 Oklahoma State edging a Kansas State team that was forced to use yet another starting quarterback at home, they slide into No. 18 and No. 19. 


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

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Oregon vs. Colorado: Game Grades, Analysis for the Ducks

On Saturday, the Oregon Ducks survived what turned into a thriller down the stretch as they beat the Colorado Buffaloes 41-24 to rebound from last week's drubbing against Utah. 

The Ducks were undoubtedly led by Royce Freeman, who racked up 163 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. 

There are significant questions at quarterback for the Ducks, but a win is a win for now. 

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

Rush Offense: The Ducks were monsters of the pond on the ground, racking up 361 rushing yards as a team. Freeman's 163 led the way, while Taj Griffin added 110. Perhaps the most important part of Oregon's rushing attack came in the fourth quarter, when the offense ate away valuable clock and moved the chains as the Buffaloes tried to rally. A+ 

Pass Offense: Taylor Alie and Jeff Lockie, the latter of whom started but was routinely shifted in and out, didn't look impressive throwing the ball. In fact, the best pass play of the day came on a reverse pass for a touchdown that was thrown by Bralon Addison. Lockie and Alie combined to go 12-of-20 passing for 137 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Vernon Adams could get healthy, and the questions at the position could be answered right then and there, but for now, they linger. C-

Rush Defense: Colorado came into the game averaging 272 yards per game on the ground, third-best in the Pac-12. Instead, the Oregon front line stiffened up and limited Colorado to just 77 yards on the ground. That forced Sefo Liufau into full-on air-it-out mode, making the Buffaloes a one-dimensional team as the game progressed. A- 

Pass Defense: Liufau finished the contest with 231 yards, a touchdown and an interception on 25-of-42 passing. He's a bona fide leader for Colorado, and those numbers are respectable considering he was the only thing that worked. That's a testament to Oregon's rush defense and how stout it was, but the secondary nonetheless didn't let a seasoned gunslinger throw up and down the field on it. B-

Special Teams: No problems here. The Ducks had nice returns and didn't have any disasters. Kicker Aidan Schneider was a perfect 7-of-7 on kicks, including two field goals. A

Coaching: Oregon has been used to decimating Colorado ever since the Buffs joined the Pac-12. Saturday night was different, although there were numerous factors including thunderstorms and simply playing on the road without the starting quarterback, Adams. Nonetheless, head coach Mark Helfrich had to work a tad harder than he probably should have, but he did pull out a road win to get the Ducks back on track for now. B+

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Oregon vs. Colorado: Game Grades, Analysis for the Ducks

On Saturday, the Oregon Ducks survived what turned into a thriller down the stretch as they beat the Colorado Buffaloes 41-24 to rebound from last week's drubbing against Utah...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

College Football Rankings: Bleacher Report's Week 6 Top 25

For the second year in a row, the first week of October has proven to be an ominous one for the highest-ranked teams in college football.

Previously unbeaten teams Georgia, Notre Dame, Ole Miss, UCLA and West Virginia, among others, suffered their first losses of the 2015 season, while schools such as Clemson, Florida State, Michigan State and Ohio State escaped by the skin of their teeth. The only league that seemed to avoid having any major turmoil among its elite was the Big 12, and that disaster avoidance is quite noticeable in our latest Bleacher Report Top 25.

Twenty-one 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, Hunter Mandel 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 5, then give us your thoughts in the comments section.

Begin Slideshow

Ed Feng's Week 6 College Football Playoff Standings Predictions

How would the College Football Playoff committee rank teams this week? Which four schools would make the playoff?

We use analytics to make an educated guess on the committee rankings. The Associated Press poll provides a baseline for the Top 25 teams before the committee releases its first poll. My algorithm then adjusts teams based on the most recent opponent and margin of victory.

Teams that win keep their place unless they need overtime to beat Jacksonville State. 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 three most interesting movers from Week 5.

Alabama storms up rankings with definitive win

Did you give up on Alabama after its loss to Ole Miss?

The AP pollsters sure did. Alabama dropped from second to 12th after the six-point loss in Week 2. They didn't seem to consider a fortunate tipped pass that went for an Ole Miss touchdown or that Alabama had a chance to win in the final minute.

Alabama didn't give up on itself. The Crimson Tide stormed back up the rankings with a definitive 38-10 win at Georgia this week.

While Alabama dominated all phases of the game, the pass defense stood out. Georgia had thrown for more than 10 yards per attempt (including negative sack plays) before this game. The Bulldogs aired it out for just 103 yards on 3.4 yards per attempt against the Tide.

After five weeks of the season, Nick Saban has his team in a familiar position: the middle of the national championship chase.


Fighting Irish still in contention for a playoff spot

Clemson held off a surging Notre Dame team for a dramatic 24-22 win. The win moves the Tigers up to ninth in the rankings and puts them in playoff contention.

However, don't count out Notre Dame just yet. The Fighting Irish outgained Clemson by 141 yards, proving they are valiantly overcoming season-ending injuries to key contributors on offense.

Notre Dame lost the game due to losing three fumbles in key situations. Randomness plays a big role in fumbles, so Saturday's performance doesn't make Notre Dame any more likely to fumble in the future.

My numbers make Notre Dame a favorite in each of its remaining games except at Stanford. Sitting at 13th in the committee rankings, this still makes the Irish a contender for the CFP.


Michigan State showing some cracks in the Spartan armor

While Michigan State is second in the AP poll, there have been numerous bad omens for this team.

The Spartans won a close game against Oregon, who got destroyed by Utah last week. Then, for consecutive weeks, Michigan State gained fewer yards than both Air Force and Central Michigan despite winning both games.

Early Saturday, Michigan State needed a last-minute defensive stand to beat Purdue, a team that has yet to beat an FBS opponent. The three-point win counts for negative style points with the committee.

Michigan State will not move in the AP poll. However, the playoff committee sees the problems with this team and drops it behind TCU.


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

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ESPN College GameDay Headed to Cal at Utah in Week 6

In news that underscores a crazy, unpredictable college football season, ESPN's College GameDay announced Saturday that it will travel next week to Cal at Utah.

The Bears and Utes were both unranked in the preseason Associated Press poll, but both are undefeated after five weeks, which makes them a fitting matchup for Kirk, Lee, Reece and the rest of the crew.

GameDay's official Twitter account broke the news:

Utah had a bye in Week 5 but left a lasting impression two weeks ago, when it beat Oregon 62-20 at Autzen Stadium. The Utes led 62-13 after 50 minutes before taking their foot off the gas and coasting.

Cal, meanwhile, struggled the last time we saw it, barely beating Washington State in Week 5. The Bears survived thanks to all-world quarterback Jared Goff, who despite a slow start finished 33 of 45 passing with 390 yards, four touchdowns and one interception.

"We settled in and started to do our own stuff," Goff said of Cal's second-half improvement, per quotes released by the school. "We stopped trying to do too much on offense. We just settled in and got a feel for what they were doing and we were able to make some big plays."

Goff versus Utah quarterback Travis Wilson will be a story to watch next weekend. The former is one of the hottest NFL prospects in the country and ranks No. 1 in Pro Football Focus' quarterback ratings; the latter is a mobile 6'7" specimen who's struggled with injuries but finally looks poised to reach his potential.

The coaching matchup between Cal head coach Sonny Dykes, a Mike Leach disciple and one of the best offensive minds in college football, against Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham, a blue-collar coach and one of the best defensive minds in college football, also makes this game interesting.

Interesting enough to head to Utah over the Red River Shootout between Texas and Oklahoma? Based on how the Longhorns looked against TCU this week, probably.

Cal at Utah is the cream of next week's crop.

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Ole Miss vs. Florida: How Rebels Loss Impacts AP Rankings, CFP Picture

The No. 3 Ole Miss Rebels got crunched, 38-10, by the 25th-ranked Florida Gators on Saturday night at The Swamp, which means the Rebels' run as rankings darlings could be over.

Ole Miss steadily ascended up the Associated Press Top 25 poll over the first three weeks of the season, and it used an upset win against the Alabama Crimson Tide in Week 3 to move into a tie for No. 3. 

However, the Rebels have tapered off ever since. They put forth an uninspiring effort in a 27-16 win over the Vanderbilt Commodores a week ago, and that lethargy carried over to Saturday's showdown with the Gators. 

"I’ve coached long enough to know you have nights like this," Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said following the loss, per the Clarion-Ledger's Daniel Paulling. "It’s not fun. But you’ve got to take the criticism that comes with it and get your team better. We’re still right in the thick of the West race, and we’re going to go play and get better."

Based on past precedent, Ole Miss could drop somewhere in the range of five to seven spots.

Alabama's loss to the Rebels sent the Crimson Tide from No. 2 to No. 12, and the story was similar for Oregon following the Ducks' Week 2 loss to Michigan State. After a 1-0 start landed Oregon in the No. 7 spot, head coach Mark Helfrich's side plummeted to No. 12 after taking a tough road loss against the Spartans. 

The question, then, is how much weight Ole Miss' head-to-head win over Alabama holds. Both the Rebels and Crimson Tide own the same 4-1 record, but Alabama has a stronger resume and been the more polished side since the two teams met in Week 3.

The SEC powerhouses will likely slot in right next to each other when the new AP poll drops, but Alabama's convincing 38-10 win over the No. 8 Georgia Bulldogs could be enough to shoot the Crimson Tide past the Rebels.

The good news for Ole Miss is that some of its primary competition for a College Football Playoff spot faltered as well. The No. 6 Notre Dame Fighting Irish and No. 7 UCLA Bruins also lost Saturday night, which means Ole Miss can drop only so far. 

"Ole Miss still controls its SEC destiny, but things just got much tougher," Sports Illustrated's Andy Staples wrote. "The Rebels’ win at Alabama on Sept. 19 was about the best hole card an SEC team could hold, but Saturday’s loss removes any margin for error."

The Rebels are still alive in the CFP conversation, but Saturday's performance against Florida will need to be an anomalistic blip on their resume. If it isn't, their spot in the polls will drop considerably, and title hopes will fade fast.

The good news is that upcoming meetings with New Mexico State and Memphis will give Ole Miss extended opportunities to correct the mistakes it made against Florida. SEC play will resume for the Rebels on Oct. 24 against an undefeated Texas A&M team before matchups against Arkansas, LSU and Mississippi State round out the regular-season slate.

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College Football Playoff Rankings: Biggest Takeaways from Week 5

Week 5 looked great on paper and lived up to the hype on the field.

Starting Thursday night in Cincinnati, where the Bearcats handed Miami its first loss of the season, and extending well into Saturday evening, the week that was featured shocking results across the board.

Most of those results don't have a national impact, but some throw a wrench into the College Football Playoff discussion and affect what we knew—or thought we knew—about the best teams in the country.

On that front, here is what we learned.


The Favorites Are No Longer Favorites

The supposed No. 1 team in the country, Ohio State, struggled for the fourth time in as many games and barely beat Indiana, 34-27.

The supposed No. 2 team in the country, Michigan State, struggled for the fifth time in as many games and barely beat Purdue, 24-21.

The supposed No. 3 team in the country, Ole Miss, struggled for only the first time but lost at Florida, 38-10.

Who are the playoff favorites? That question has been a theme this entire season but crescendoed in Week 5. The more games we play, the closer we inch to a repeat of 2007—the wackiest season in recent memory and perhaps one of the wackiest ever.

ESPN's Jake Trotter said the following of the top three's struggles:

Good point, Jake. And also a perfect segue…


Big 12 Leads the Country in Top-Flight Contenders

The SEC, from top to bottom, remains the best conference in college football. The Pac-12 is not far behind. 

But the Big 12 has the strongest top 30 percent.

TCU, Baylor and Oklahoma looked keen in their conference openers, beating Texas (50-7), Texas Tech (63-35) and West Virginia (44-24), respectively. The Sooners won by the smallest margin but played the only ranked opponent. All three looked equally impressive.

All three are playing like playoff contenders.

The defenses all need work, but they're coming along and have the talent to support each team's offense. The winner of the Big 12 will likely depend on whose defense comes the furthest the fastest.

In order to beat the other two—which the Big 12 desperately hopes one team does—each defense will have to contain a pair of high-flying offenses. But "contain" is different than "stop." Baylor head coach Art Briles alluded to something similar after allowing 35 points against Texas Tech, an offense on par with any in the country.

"I thought our defense made the plays," he said, per quotes released by the school. "You know, if you can get two or three stops, you can flip the game."

That's all these defenses need to do.

And all three are good enough—potentially—to do that.

The Big 12 should squeeze at least one of these programs into the CFP.


Clemson Has the Inside Track on a Playoff Berth

Clemson cleared one of two major hurdles left on its schedule, racing to a big lead over Notre Dame and then holding on for dear life late.

The Tigers won after stuffing the Irish on a two-point conversion, capitalizing on Brian Kelly's decision to not kick an extra point earlier. But really the game should never have even gotten to that point, as Clemson was the better team throughout.

With Georgia Tech and South Carolina struggling, the only major challenge left on Clemson's regular-season schedule lies on the first Saturday in November, when Florida State comes to Death Valley. The Seminoles have won three straight conference titles but do not, despite their 4-0 record, look like the same team in 2015.

Like I wrote in my earlier game story, "the Tigers and Seminoles both needed late stands to seal their wins tonight, only the former sealed their win over a College Football Playoff contender, while the latter sealed their win over Wake Forest."

Heavy Advantage: Clemson.

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SEC Football: Best Performances from Week 5

Week 5 in the SEC is in the books, and raise your hand if you pegged Florida as the best team in the SEC five games in?

Put your hand down. No you didn't.

A case could be made, though, that the 5-0 Gators are the SEC's best after they dismantled No. 3 Ole Miss 38-10 on Saturday night in "The Swamp" thanks to superstar freshman quarterback Will Grier.

Was Grier's performance one of the SEC's best this week? Our picks for the best individual performances of Week 5 based on production and importance to the result of the game are in this slideshow.

Begin Slideshow

After Chaotic, Upset-Filled Week 5, Who Is College Football's Real No. 1 Team?

The nation’s No. 1 team did not look like the nation's No. 1 team. The No. 2 team did the same. The No. 3, No. 6, No. 7 and No. 8 teams lost outright.

With all the carnage fully accounted for—another wild weekend of college football in a season that seemingly abandoned the script entirely—I have one simple question.

Who is the best team in college football?

Don’t just blurt it out. Think about it. Really think about it. Typically, in most sane seasons, one or two teams would come to mind. They might change over the course of the year, although the elite teams are usually rather defined in this sport. There are options, but not many. 

That is not the case thus far this year—not after five weeks, at least. This is no sane season. There are more options than ever.

Indiana pushed No. 1 Ohio State to the brink, No. 2 Michigan State nearly lost to Purdue, Florida blindsided No. 3 Ole Miss in Gainesville, No. 6 Notre Dame fell to Clemson, Arizona State upended No. 7 UCLA, and Alabama destroyed No. 8 Georgia.

That all one day. Whew.

After another weird weekend that prompted more questions than answers, the search for college football’s new No. 1 begins now. Let's sort through the candidates, and let's start with the team currently holding that spot.


Ohio State 

The clear choice as the top dog before the season began has earned the benefit of the doubt after early struggles. 

Outside of a handful of moments, however, Urban Meyer’s team has looked remarkably human. It needed a superhuman effort from running back Ezekiel Elliott against Indiana to stay unbeaten. Elliott ran for 274 yards in the Buckeyes’ 34-27 victory.

"We're turning the ball over at an alarming rate," Meyer told reporters following the win. "That's obviously a difference in the game. And at some point, that's going to bite you. We have to fix that." 

The defense is still one of the nation’s best—if not the best. Offensively, however, the Buckeyes are out of sync. It’s not just Cardale Jones’ fault they are struggling, either. Nothing is coming together.

Right now, the Buckeyes look and feel a lot like Florida State from a season ago. To avoid a similar undoing, things will have to improve. A matchup with Maryland next weekend certainly can’t hurt.



After watching his defense give up 63 points to Baylor in a loss, Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury did not hold back his praise.

"That's the best group of wide receivers I have ever coached against,” Kingsbury told reporters following the game. Yes, the Bears offense is cooking. Act surprised. 

The schedule has not been daunting, so the insane offensive numbers—an average of more than 63 points per game—should be viewed accordingly. Still, quarterback Seth Russell and his stable of wideouts have been great. Running back Shock Linwood, maybe the most underappreciated player in the nation, has been excellent as well.

Defensively, Baylor is fine. Given the points the Bears score, it won’t be an issue most weeks. It is this particular deficiency that gives many cause for pause: Most people need to be convinced.

If you need proof that Baylor can manhandle a better team than Texas Tech, you’ll have to wait a little longer. Next week, the Bears play Kansas. 



Oh, TCU did some horrible things to Texas in Week 5. The 50-7 final score actually could have been much, much worse.

The Horned Frogs offense was as advertised, as it has been for much of the season. Quarterback Trevone Boykin threw five more touchdowns, giving him 15 total in the last three weeks (14 passing, one rushing). More importantly, the TCU defense finally looked comfortable. With the unit having lost so many players to injuries, it was refreshing—even against a struggling team—to see this group play well.

It’s assumed the defensive holes will cost the Horned Frogs. However, at this point, even with the slew of moving parts on one side of the ball, TCU has done more than simply weather the storm.

With crucial games still to come, they're right there. And with so many others struggling to even get by, TCU's case to be the nation’s No. 1 team is still quite valid.


Michigan State 

In many ways, Michigan State’s case to be the No. 1 team mirrors that of its main competition, Ohio State: undefeated team, plenty of talent and unimpressive box scores.

After squeaking past Purdue on Saturday 24-21, Sparty again failed to dominate an opponent. Mark Dantonio’s squad has looked sluggish early, playing closer games against Western Michigan and Air Force than expected. Even the win over Oregon has lost some shine due to the Ducks' blowout loss to Utah.

Still, Michigan State has a fabulous quarterback in Connor Cook. The defensive line, led by Shilique Calhoun, is still superb.

Still very much in the conversation, Michigan State lacks style points. The good news is that many others do, too. Welcome aboard.



Don’t scoff at this inclusion in the least bit. Utah looks like an elite team.

After dismantling Oregon in Eugene during Week 4, the Utes enjoyed a well-timed bye week. By sitting on the couch, Utah gained ground as the bombs went off. It was a good weekend to kick the feet up. 

All of the ingredients are there. Travis Wilson and Devontae Booker give Utah one of the more dynamic quarterback-running back duos in the nation. The defense has played exceptionally well.

The only thing standing between Utah and the No. 1 spot is perception. If USC or Oregon delivered these exact results, we would be throwing them up to the top of the mountain with haste.

With Cal on deck, the Utes can further convince the rest of the world they belong.


Others Warranting Consideration…

Clemson: The Notre Dame blowout turned into a nail-bitter at 24-22, although Clemson enters Week 6 in prime position. While so much attention goes to quarterback Deshaun Waston, the rebuilt defense is the real reason the Tigers are inching closer to the top. Playing in a conference that's there for the taking, Clemson is in prime position to make a run at the ACC and beyond. The best part? There’s obviously room to grow. 

Oklahoma: We spent so much time talking about Baylor and TCU this offseason that we forgot about the Sooners. That should change. Oklahoma clobbered West Virginia 44-24 in Week 5 in convincing fashion, which is a win that should not go overlooked. If the offense continues to put up points and the defense continues to fly around, Oklahoma will make its case for the No. 1 spot even stronger.

Texas A&M: The Aggies are becoming more and more balanced. While the offense will continue to push teams in unique ways—thanks in large part to freshman wideout Christian Kirk—the defense has become formidable overnight. After limiting Mississippi State to 17 points in Week 5, Texas A&M's momentum is building. After a bye week, A&M draws Alabama on Oct. 17. If it wins against the Tide, we’ll have to completely recalibrate. 

Florida: Yes, Florida. This is not a drill. At this point in the year, after the Gators beat Ole Miss 38-10 Saturday night, it’s time to take them seriously. The defense has been excellent, as expected. It’s the offense—led by the sudden surge of quarterback Will Grier—that has made this team a force. Maybe it’s a bit too early to put Florida at No. 1, but the resume stacks up exceptionally well to almost any other team.


The Verdict

The team that remained dormant Saturday, Utah, probably came away with one of the stronger cases to be college football’s new No. 1 team. Perhaps that's a perfect place to begin to summarize the current state of madness. By doing nothing, Utah did plenty.

The Utes' case for No. 1 is legitimate, even if there are doubts.

Ohio State, as discombobulated as it has appeared at times, still feels like the boss at the end of the video game, though. But perhaps that’s more symbolic than anything else, because right now the Buckeyes look anything but invincible.

With that, college football's No. 1 team is none other than the great machine: Baylor

It is not easy to pick a top team nor is the Bears' case all that defined, but it's impossible to ignore just how potent and dangerous they have looked. These conclusions and gaudy numbers will have to be verified with better opponents; there's no question about it. We need more.

Baylor has questions and legitimate concerns, just like every other team mentioned above. 

No one is perfect. At the moment, no one feels close to being perfect. In fact, after talking it through, perhaps it's best that we simply leave the No. 1 spot vacant until further notice. Thank goodness there's a four-team postseason to help us decide these things.

But first, we have to get there.

To Week 6 we go...

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Notre Dame vs. Clemson: Game Grades, Analysis for Fighting Irish and Tigers

It was a game that had an aura of history surrounding it. Notre Dame and Clemson, two traditional powers, hadn't met for nearly four decades. On Saturday night, Notre Dame went into Death Valley as the No. 6 team in the nation to take on the Tigers, who were ranked No. 12.

These two heavyweights didn't disappoint.

Clemson jumped out to an early lead, but the Irish came roaring back in the fourth quarter before the game was eventually decided on a two-point conversion attempt from the Irish—which the Tigers stopped just one yard shy to win 24-22.

There was plenty of good to go over, as well as a bit of ugliness, too. But now after catching our collective breath after that thrilling finish, it's time to delve into the game grades for both Clemson and Notre Dame.

Here is the box score, via


Notre Dame Pass Offense

There was a lot to like about DeShone Kizer's performance. Despite a slow start, he eventually finished with 321 yards on 19-of-34 passing with two touchdowns.

Kizer found open receivers when he had to, especially late in the game as Clemson's secondary began to wear down. On a night when the football might as well have been coated in Crisco, Kizer was able to fire strikes under pressure late in the fourth quarter. For such a young quarterback who wasn't even supposed to be a starter this season, he certainly has found a way to handle the pressure.

It wasn't all sunshine and rainbows, though. Kizer missed badly on the majority of his first-half throws (9-of-19 for 96 yards in the first half), missing high on many occasions. Perhaps the wet conditions affected his ability to grip and throw the ball like he normally does. If so, that makes his second-half adjustment even more impressive.

But Kizer also tossed up a costly fourth-quarter interception that nearly cost the Irish even a shot at coming back. Were in not for the ensuing missed field goal by Clemson, we may not even be talking about how close this one was.


Notre Dame Run Offense

Notre Dame had a difficult time all evening long against a feisty Clemson defense. The usually reliant C.J. Prosise ended the game with just 50 yards on 15 carries, with his longest run of the night going for just 10 yards.

While the Irish did end up with 116 rushing yards, Kizer accounted for 60 of them, and most of those yards came on scrambles rather than designed quarterback runs.

Notre Dame's offensive line had trouble bottling up Clemson's front seven all evening in an uncharacteristic manner. For the better part of three quarters, it seemed as if Clemson was simply imposing its will on the Irish O-line. Kizer was under pressure all evening, and any delayed handoff was almost always doomed to lose yards.

All in all, it was not a great night for the Irish ground attack, and our final grade reflects that feeling.


Notre Dame Pass Defense

Clemson's offensive attack isn't predicated on constant passing. Still, the Irish did a better-than-expected job of keeping Deshaun Watson's passing options limited. The Irish gave up just 97 passing yards (including just 32 after halftime).

The rain certainly helped things a bit, but on a night when the Irish passing game hung 321 yards on the Tigers secondary, Clemson can't blame everything on the weather.


Notre Dame Run Defense

This was another above-average performance from a stout defense that is becoming known for its ability to adjust to and lock down run threats as a game progresses.

The Tigers finished with 199 rushing yards, most of which were racked up early in the first and third quarters.

Watson is just the latest in a growing list of explosive dual-threat quarterbacks in the FBS these days, but the Irish managed to—after the first few drives in both halves—limit Watson's ground options almost as much as they limited his passing options.

Watson finished with 93 yards and a touchdown, while Wayne Gallman carried the ball 22 times for 98 yards.


Notre Dame Special Teams

Justin Yoon connected on his only field-goal attempt of the night, and Tyler Newsome came through in the punting game when it mattered most.

Newsome did have a 15-yard shank early in the game but finished the evening with a respectable 37.5-yard average on his seven punts.

C.J. Sanders also delivered with a much-needed big play in the second half, returning a kickoff 46 yards to midfield.


Notre Dame Coaching

We could go on and on about Brian Kelly's adjustments on defense, locking down Clemson after the Tigers' initial explosion in the first quarter, or we could talk about his ability to keep his team in games, no matter what the score is in the fourth quarter.

But all of that has been said before and will likely be said again before too long.

Here, we're going to look at one decision Kelly made that had an effect on the rest of the football game: going for two after the Irish scored their first touchdown of the night.

The game, in the end, came down to one play: a two-point conversion that Notre Dame needed to tie with seven seconds remaining.

There's an adage in football coaching that a team should never "chase points" until it is absolutely necessary. Kelly, trailing 21-9 at this point, could have kicked the extra point to make it a 21-10 game. He opted to try to cut the Tigers' lead to 10 instead of 11.

The conversion failed.

Clemson scored once more, making the score 24-9. Had Kelly opted for a kicked extra point to make the score 21-10, the two touchdowns scored by the Irish in the fourth quarter would have (with successful kicked PATs) tied the score. Instead, the Irish were forced to go for two again in the closing seconds of the game.

Many will look at the second conversion failure as the one that cost Notre Dame the game, but the first failure was just as damning.


Clemson Pass Offense

Watson isn't exactly known as a passing wizard. Coming into this game, he ranked just fifth among ACC quarterbacks with 213.7 passing yards per game. That ranking will likely drop after a 97-yard performance against Notre Dame.

Watson was a middling 11-of-22 passing with two touchdowns and an interception. And most of the passing yards he did find came on Clemson's first two drives in the first quarter.

Yes, Watson is just as dangerous—if not more so—on the ground as he is throwing the football. But in order to prevent defenses from selling out against his legs, Watson is going to need to find some real threats with his arm.

Yes, the crummy weather lends us a perfect excuse for bad passing numbers. But Notre Dame's Kizer had 321 passing yards in the exact same conditions.


Clemson Run Offense

However, when you run like Watson can run, you can get away with 97 passing yards on some nights.

He led the Tigers with 5.8 yards per rush, and Notre Dame had trouble bringing enough bodies to the play when Watson scooted to the outside with blockers.

Gallman also added to Notre Dame's defensive woes early in both halves, adding a game-high 98 yards on 22 carries.

Still, it's worth mentioning that for vast stretches of this game, Notre Dame held Clemson's offense completely in check. Were it not for the early lead and Notre Dame's similar inability to move the football, this game may have had a different outcome.


Clemson Pass Defense

There are teams around the nation that are better at throwing the football than Notre Dame. If you watched just the final quarter of this game, however, you might think otherwise.

Despite early inaccuracies, Notre Dame's Kizer settled down nicely in the second half and was even able to pick apart the Clemson secondary to the tune of 321 yards.

Again, Clemson had the benefit of an early lead, but the Tigers shouldn't always rely on teams spotting them a couple of touchdowns early.

Clemson is still the class of the ACC on both sides of the football. But if the Tigers are lucky enough to win a conference title and earn a College Football Playoff berth, shoring up the pass defense is going to be a big necessity if they want to add anything beyond "earned a berth" to their story of the 2015 season.


Clemson Run Defense

There aren't many running backs in the nation more electric than Prosise. Few defenses in the nation are capable of shutting down a guy who is averaging 150 yards per game and limiting him to just 3.3 yards per rush on 15 attempts (for 50 yards).

Clemson has one of those defenses.

Detractors will point out that Notre Dame doesn't really have a plethora of rushing threats. That might be true, but point out a team that does? Heck, even Oregon seems to be running on empty these days.

The Irish were limited to just 3.5 yards per carry Saturday night after averaging 284.8 yards per game over the first four weeks of the season (12th in the FBS).

The Tigers all but removed the threat of Prosise in this game and, in doing so, proved themselves to be one of the nation's emerging elite defenses.


Clemson Special Teams

Greg Huegel connected on one of his two field-goal attempts on the evening, and although the late miss could have potentially iced the game for the Tigers, it's hard to pin too much of the blame on a guy kicking into a swirling wind literally in the middle of a hurricane-driven downpour.

Clemson also averaged better than 41 yards on its eight punts and 32 yards per kick return.

Not a bad night, all things considered, but also not a night that's going to win too many accolades.


Clemson Coaching

On one hand, it's hard to say anything bad about a coach who seemingly wills his team to win these big games through sheer force of personality and guts. On the other hand, Dabo Swinney should feel very lucky to be heading home with a victory.

With the exception of the first two drives of the game and the first drive of the second half (which was set up by Notre Dame fumbling the kickoff return), the Irish had the Tigers' number for most of the evening.

The Irish spotted the Tigers 14 points to open the contest, and despite struggling mightily late in the game, Swinney opted to go into turtle mode with better than nine minutes left.

Sure, the Tigers were up by 15 and the Irish hadn't been finding much success against the Tigers defense all night, but nine minutes is a long time to burn off the clock when only leading by a pair of scores.

Yes, in the end, Clemson won, and that's wonderful for Swinney and Tigers fans around the nation. Yes, Clemson is the ACC front-runner, and rightfully so. But moving your offense into ultra-conservative mode so early in the fourth quarter with a comparatively slim lead is playing with fire. It just so happened that it worked.

This time. By a yard.


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

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

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Watch CFB's Most Disappointed Fans, Players and Coaches After Shake-Up SAD-urday

With another action-packed weekend of college football coming to an end, it's time to take a look at all of the disappointed fans, players and coaches around the college football universe.

Which teams and players faced the most disappointment this week? Which fans were affected the most?

Watch all of the blunders, disappointments and sad faces of this week of college football in the video above.

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Heisman Watch 2015: Top 5 Rankings for Week 5

Another week of college football has come to a close, which means it's time for our weekly Heisman Trophy candidate rankings.

Who made our list this week? Who claimed the No. 1 spot? 

Watch the video above as Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Barrett Sallee reveals our top candidates for Week 5. 

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Arkansas vs. Tennessee: Game Grades, Analysis for Razorbacks and Volunteers

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Arkansas coach Bret Bielema stood on the Neyland Stadium turf, leading the small contingent of Razorbacks fans in calling the hogs following a 24-20 victory over Tennessee. 

A few minutes later, UT coach Butch Jones sat in the media room, trying to sum up his team's recent fall much the same way Bielema was doing a week ago after losing in overtime to Texas A&M.

After Saturday, the Vols and Razorbacks are going in different directions.

Tennessee mustered just 90 second-half yards (four on the ground) and was outscored 24-6 following a two-touchdown outburst in the game's first seven minutes.

Still, the Vols had the ball down by four points late in the fourth quarter but couldn't sustain a drive. Arkansas took over, ran out the clock and handed Bielema his first road SEC win as the Hogs coach.

"Our players hurt," Jones said. "I feel for them. But again, it's understanding critical plays at critical moments of the game. Everybody wants to win. But it's what are we doing to win? ...

"I'll meet with our seniors, I'll meet with our team tomorrow. We'll talk through it. They've been resilient so far, and, again, you rely on the character in your football program."

The Vols will have to dig deep. Meanwhile, the Razorbacks may have just turned the corner in their season.

Let's take a look at how both teams graded out in the game and peek back at the live blog for the in-game action.

Pass Offense 

With three top receivers out, quarterback Brandon Allen still mustered enough through the air to keep Tennessee guessing. The Razorbacks got off to a strong start with Drew Morgan, who wound up catching five balls for 110 yards. Then, in a pivotal play in the game, Allen converted a long third down to tight end Hunter Henry for 51 yards to keep the Hogs on the field. Allen failed to complete 50 percent of his passes, but he still threw for 219 yards and a score.


Run Offense

Throughout a frustrating 1-3 start, Arkansas strayed too far away from what made it so tough to beat at the end of last year: running the ball behind that big, experienced offensive line.

The Hogs got back a little bit of that last weekend against Texas A&M and rode it versus the Vols. Alex Collins and Rawleigh Williams III each had more than 100 rushing yards, and when the Hogs needed a big play, they normally got it by outmuscling the Vols. 

"Alex is playing as good of football as I've seen out of him, and it's because he’s preparing well," Bielema said. WNML AM-FM's Jimmy Hyams provided some notable rushing stats:

Pass Defense 

Looking at the numbers, the Razorbacks did allow the Vols to amass 232 yards through the air. But they didn't give up any touchdowns and rarely succumbed to the big play. Tennessee's leading receiver had just 40 receiving yards, and that was running back Alvin Kamara. The Vols yet again couldn't get a receiver on track, even against an Arkansas secondary that has been atrocious all year. This may be the best game those guys have played.


Run Defense 

It was a tale of two halves for the Hogs.

After allowing Jalen Hurd to run all over them before the break, they smothered Tennessee in in the second half, giving up just four yards on the ground. Also, Joshua Dobbs went from torching Florida on the ground a week ago to gaining just seven yards on seven carries. The spy game worked perfectly, and the Hogs were able to control the game because they got UT off the field in the second half.

"Well, I think some of it is a byproduct of we had the ball for a total of eight minutes in the second half," Jones said of UT's lack of offensive production. "We only had four possessions. We started at the minus-24, the minus-6, the minus-7, and minus-14. We knew it was going to be a line-of-scrimmage game. It showed that."


Special Teams 

This was about as poorly as a special teams can play, and Arkansas should feel fortunate that it didn't cost the Hogs the game. They allowed a 96-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Evan Berry to start the game, and had it not been for a block in the back, they'd have allowed a punt-return score by Kamara as well. Not only that, they had a botched fake field goal and had another one blocked. Yeah, that's forgettable.



While it was a bit of a gamble to eschew a late field goal that would have made the score 27-20 and going for the fake instead, Bielema put the game on the shoulders of his defense, and it paid off. He got back to what made him a coveted coach in the second half, calling run after run and chewing up the clock, limiting UT to just four possessions. This was easily the best game Bielema has coached all year, and he was rewarded.

Pass Offense 

The Vols proved they aren't scared to throw the ball downfield, and Dobbs wasn't bad. He actually did about what is expected through the air. But UT is really missing Pig Howard, Marquez North and Jason Croom, who are all injured. Freshman Preston Williams had a forgettable game with a pivotal red-zone fumble and a missed pass on a catchable ball that would have gone for a big gain.

UT's leading wide receiver still had just 30 receiving yards. They've got to get more production. Also, Dobbs has got to quit being scared to throw an interception and take more chances.

“I think we had a productive day, we just have to finish out the day," Dobbs said. "It all comes down to execution and finishing the drill. And you know the passing game isn’t really one person. It’s 11 hats on the ball, all understanding the play, all understanding the concept, and at the end of the day, executing and making a play. Obviously we can continue to improve from that aspect."


Run Offense

Early on, it looked like Hurd may take over the football game. For much of the first 25 minutes of the game, he was the best running back on the field. Kamara was doing some good things as well. Then, the offense got into a funk, and the running game couldn't bail it out. A week after Dobbs was a highlight reel running the ball, he simply couldn't get out of the pocket and down the field, as his stats illustrate, courtesy of Patrick Brown of the Times Free Press:

Pass Defense 

It's hard to say Tennessee played poorly against the pass, but it just seemed like every time Allen needed to make a play, he did. The Vols had several breakdowns on the back end, turning intermediate gains into big chunks of yardage. The breakdown on the 51-yard Henry catch was bad, as was the tackling on Dominique Reed's 33-yard touchdown catch. The Vols defense just couldn't get off the field in the second half. Sports Radio WNML's Josh Ward pointed out that the Arkansas fans were dancing while "Third Down for What" played in the background:

Run Defense: 

The Hogs made a living beating teams to a pulp in the running game a season ago, and that's exactly what they did to the Vols. Collins waited patiently time and time again for the holes to open up along the offensive front, and they consistently did. Then, he burst through them and past the second level for big gains. Williams was explosive as well. Tennessee's consistent inability to bring down the opposing quarterback is a big deterrent as well.


Special Teams

Place-kicker Aaron Medley continues to struggle, clanking a 26-yard field goal off the upright. Berry's 96-yard kick return was very nice, and punter Trevor Daniel had another quality outing. Tennessee blocked one kick and stopped another fake. But the block in the back on Kamara's punt-return touchdown proved huge.



Well, at least most Tennessee fans can't blame Jones and his staff solely for this one. It was a complete lack of execution on UT's players' part. But that doesn't mean all was right in the coaching area.

Offensive coordinator Mike DeBord called an uneven game, and his unit couldn't get things going in the second half. He also picked a puzzling time to call a trick play, with the Vols down four and backed up on their side of the field facing a 2nd-and-long, and it was also odd to throw deep down the sideline on UT's final fourth down. John Jancek's defense struggled tackling, and it was out of position on numerous occasions.

The Vols weren't great last year, but they looked well-coached. They don't so far this season.


All stats gathered from unless otherwise noted. All quotes gathered firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Brad Shepard covers SEC football and is the Tennessee lead writer for Bleacher Report. Follow Brad on Twitter @Brad_Shepard.

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Texas A&M's Toughness, Balance Have Aggies Emerging as Unheralded SEC Contenders

Saturday was another day of headline-making performances in the SEC.

Alabama reignited its playoff push by smashing Georgia on the road. Florida throttled early SEC favorite Ole Miss to establish its own contender status in the East. Leonard Fournette had yet another 200-yard rushing performance for undefeated LSU.

But over in College Station, Texas A&M somewhat quietly took care of business on a night when several ranked teams failed to impress.

After all, the Aggies' 30-17 win over No. 21 Mississippi State was televised on the SEC Network and not one of the main ESPN channels.

Texas A&M jumped out to a two-touchdown lead in the second quarter and held off a pesky Mississippi State comeback effort after halftime.

The performance showcased the all-around balance and strength that make the Aggies a top contender in the brutal SEC—even if the rest of the conference isn't paying enough attention.

Quarterback Kyle Allen got Texas A&M's high-powered offense off to a quick start with a pair of touchdown passes on its first two drives of the game.

After the attack cooled off somewhat in the second quarter, Allen pieced together another touchdown drive just before halftime in less than a minute. His long passes to Christian Kirk and Josh Reynolds paved the way for a short Tra Carson touchdown run with 20 seconds left in the half. 

"Our whole game plan was working really well, and [offensive coordinator Jake Spavital] was calling the right plays at the right times," Allen told Maria Taylor of the SEC Network after the game. "Our receivers were getting open, and the offensive line did a great job of stepping up today and blocking well."

As drops hurt the passing game in the second half, Texas A&M's revitalized rushing attack then played a huge role, grinding out some tough yards to set up a couple of big field goals for the Aggies.

Texas A&M gained 194 rushing yards against Mississippi State for its biggest night on the ground against an SEC opponent since its win over Ole Miss in 2013.

"We put in a lot of work in the offseason, and we wanted to make sure that we could be physical when we played the bigger teams up front," running back Tra Carson said in a postgame interview posted by Texas A&M.

While Allen and the Aggies' star-studded receiving corps will get most of the attention on this Texas A&M offense, the commitment to running the ball more with first-year assistant Dave Christensen is already paying dividends this season.

Texas A&M is now able to move the ball well enough on the ground to work the clock more effectively against teams such as Mississippi State.

As the Texas A&M offense put up more than 500 yards Saturday night, the defense consistently frustrated the Mississippi State attack and held it to just 17 points.

"We got embarrassed last year at their field," A&M linebacker A.J. Hilliard said, per Brent Zwerneman of the Houston Chronicle. "We made an emphasis to come in our house and throw down."

The Aggies saved their best for the second half, forcing a pair of fumbles—including one inside their own red zone—and a trio of three-and-outs from the Bulldogs. Mississippi State's final drive of the game went for four plays and just three yards.

The Aggies also continued their excellent work on third downs by limiting the Bulldogs to just five conversions on 14 attempts.

"No. 1, we want to win," head coach Kevin Sumlin told Taylor. "We closed out the game the way we needed to. Our defense hung in there and created some turnovers. We didn't really capitalize the way I wanted to offensively…but that's what we needed to get to the bye week."

While the Mississippi State offense isn't at the same level as it was last season, bottling up Dak Prescott and the rest of the Bulldogs for just 17 points is quite an accomplishment.

Now armed with a 5-0 record and back-to-back wins in the division, Texas A&M is undoubtedly the hottest team in the SEC West.

"[The 2015 season is] the second straight season they've begun the year with five consecutive wins," Sam Khan Jr. of wrote. "Will this year be different? It's starting to look like it, thanks in large part to an improved defense and the maturity of Allen, who made just his 10th start on Saturday."

The only other undefeated team in the division, LSU, has struggled to fully impress in its last two games against overmatched nonconference competition. The Tigers had to hold onto a nail-biting win against Mississippi State, but the Aggies slammed the door on Dan Mullen's team Saturday night.

And Texas A&M's resume received a boost Saturday night when Arizona State knocked off previously undefeated UCLA away from home. The Aggies smashed the Sun Devils, 38-17, in a neutral-site season opener.

Though they might not get the full attention they may deserve this weekend, these Aggies are in a perfect spot heading into an all-important off week and a revenge-minded matchup with Alabama at Kyle Field.

They showed Saturday night they're more than ready to step into the SEC spotlight when their time comes.


Unless otherwise noted, statistics courtesy of 

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

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Notre Dame Still Firmly in Playoff Picture After Heartbreaking Clemson Loss

Effort, near misses and rest-of-season optimism don’t immediately wash away the pain of Notre Dame football’s 24-22 loss to Clemson on Saturday night.

But when the torrential rain settles in South Carolina, No. 6 Notre Dame’s season is not lost, and the Irish could very well still find themselves in the playoff hunt as the season progresses.

For much of Saturday’s slippery slog, Notre Dame stung itself. Drops. Penalties. Fumbles.

Before the Irish could even settle into the raucous environment at Memorial Stadium, Clemson had cracked open a 14-0 lead. And in the second half, when Notre Dame had the chance to slice into the Tigers’ 13-point margin, the Irish fumbled twice within 57 seconds. And in the fourth quarter, after DeShone Kizer threw a first-down interception, Chris Brown fumbled near the goal line and Kizer bumbled the snap at the start of the very next drive.

Still, Kizer lofted a crisp one-yard toss to Torii Hunter Jr. in the end zone with seven seconds remaining. The failed two-point conversion amounted to the decisive blow, a heavier hit when considering Notre Dame’s decision—even after a delay of game penalty—to go for two earlier in the game after C.J. Prosise’s 56-yard touchdown brought the Irish within 12 with 14 minutes and 13 seconds left in the fourth quarter.

“We’re not here for moral victories,” Irish head coach Brian Kelly told reporters after the game.

Nor should they be.

But reality does point to possibility for the Irish.

Notre Dame is 4-1 with seven games remaining in its regular season. Shove away the stench of Saturday’s loss from the short-term memory bank, and a two-point loss on the road to ACC power Clemson in historically bad weather conditions likely won’t be weighted too negatively by the playoff committee.

The Irish now host Navy and USC at home, travel to Temple and Pittsburgh in Philadelphia on consecutive weekends, welcome Wake Forest for Senior Day in South Bend, clash with Boston College at Fenway Park and round out the season at Stanford over Thanksgiving weekend.

Of course, there are no guarantees in college football and haven’t been with the Irish in recent years (recall losses to Louisville and Northwestern (2014), and Pittsburgh (2013). But if Notre Dame can avoid letdowns and traps, it’ll be tasked with handling USC at home in two weeks in prime time and toppling Stanford on the road. Those latter two objectives sure seem difficult considering Notre Dame committed four second-half turnovers against Clemson and buried itself with crippling drops.

Yet the Irish did limit Clemson to just 10 points and 207 yards on 55 plays (3.76 yards per play) over the final 53-plus minutes. Notre Dame did outscore the Tigers, 22-10, to close the contest.

It’s at least possible.

Anything, in fact, appears possible across the college football landscape this season, with Florida throttling Ole Miss from the ranks of the unbeaten and Arizona State doing the same to UCLA. Ohio State has defeated Northern Illinois and Indiana by a combined two touchdowns, and Michigan State—at home—snuck by Purdue by three points on Saturday. You can cherry pick your arguments for any side in any way. But there’s no denying an open horizon blanketed with some opportunity.

Saturday’s loss stings for Notre Dame.

But a strong finish to the season can begin to help wash away that agony.


All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

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

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