NCAA Football News

UCLA Football: Bruins' Road to Making the College Football Playoff

UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley didn't shy from talk of a Pac-12 championship or the College Football Playoff after the Bruins' 42-30 loss to Oregon on Oct. 11. 

"To this point, we still have everything in front of us," Hundley said. "There will be a two-loss team in that playoff. Hopefully we come out and just do our part. If we play good ball for the rest of the season, anything goes."  

Since falling to 4-2 with that defeat, UCLA scrapped for a pair of road wins and entered the inaugural College Football Playoff rankings at No. 22. 

The Bruins have a long way to climb from No. 22 to No. 4, but history suggests it's possible—recent history, in fact. 

Michigan State went on a tear in its final stretch, winning the Big Ten title en route to the No. 4 ranking in the final BCS poll. 

Following the Spartans' road map could lead UCLA's way into the College Football Playoff, but it's not an easy path. 

 

Biggest Obstacles to Playoff Berth 

The most substantial hurdle UCLA has between it and running the table to close out this season is itself. 

The Bruins have repeatedly failed to play up to potential, or their own lofty standards. Whether surrendering sacks en masse, coughing up costly turnovers or drawing inopportune penalties, UCLA football has been its own worst enemy. 

Eliminating self-inflicted wounds is the first and perhaps biggest step UCLA can take toward playoff contention.  

As far as external challenges, UCLA has a pretty favorable schedule ahead of it. Three of the Bruins' four remaining games are at the Rose Bowl, starting this week with No. 12 Arizona.  

UCLA is 2-0 against Arizona since Jim Mora and Rich Rodriguez arrived at their respective programs. The Bruins have similar fortune against rival USC in the Mora era. 

Stanford is another story. The Cardinal beat UCLA in consecutive weeks in 2012, including in the Pac-12 title game, then dominated the Bruins in October 2013. 

This year's Stanford team looks much different than the two conference title-winning squads of 2012 and 2013, however. The Cardinal defense is still stout, but the offense is anemic. 

UCLA's sole remaining road date is a Nov. 8 homecoming trip for Mora. The head coach faces his alma mater, Washington, in a city where he spent three seasons with the professional franchise. 

Husky Stadium is a notorious inhospitable venue for visiting teams, but this year's Washington team has two losses there. The Huskies are battling through an offensive identity crisis not unlike that of Stanford. 

Expect UCLA to be the favorite in all four of its remaining dates. Should the Bruins live up to expectations in that stretch, the remaining obstacles between them and the College Football Playoff are entirely beyond their control. 

 

Help Needed

Before UCLA can worry about any outside help it might need, the Bruins need to take some advice from Jerry Maguire

Mora summarized the situation bluntly on the Oct. 22 edition on Fox Sports Radio's Jay Mohr Sports

"We can't lose another one and be in the [Pac-12 championship] picture," he said. 

Indeed, UCLA's playoff help starts internally. The Bruins must win out to have any semblance of a sliver of a chance at cracking the top four—and winning out includes a Pac-12 title game victory. 

Hundley was steadfast that winning the conference title remained the goal, but the Bruins are heading into the final month of the season playing catch-up. They currently look up at three teams in the Pac-12 South Division race: Utah, Arizona and Arizona State.

Arizona comes to the Rose Bowl on Saturday, so the formula there is pretty simple: UCLA pulls ahead of the Wildcats with a win.

The Bruins hold a similar head-to-head tiebreaker over Arizona State should the Sun Devils drop another conference game.

The trickier scenario is that which involves Utah. The Utes upset UCLA in the Rose Bowl on Oct. 4, 30-28. 

UCLA needs Utah to drop two more games because the Utes hold the head-to-head advantage. Either Arizona or Arizona State beating Utah helps UCLA, but the Bruins benefit from Oregon winning at Rice-Eccles Stadium on Nov. 8. 

In fact, UCLA fans should become Ducks supporters the rest of the way. An 11-1 Oregon team, presumably ranked in the top four of the College Football Playoff rankings, is the ideal Pac-12 title game opponent. 

Going back to the Michigan State 2013 analogy, UCLA needs Oregon to be its Ohio State: a championship-caliber opponent and marquee win to close out the season. 

 

Prediction

UCLA's season is confounding to this point, but salvageable. The Bruins are certainly capable of playing at a championship level, demonstrated in their 62-27 shellacking of Arizona State. 

Otherwise, however, they have fallen short of expectations. Take away the two home losses to Utah and Oregon, and UCLA is still underachieving, squeaking past seemingly inferior opponents because of lackluster performance on either side of the ball. 

The Bruins are not just capable of winning each of their next four: They should win those four. But expectation and reality have not quite been on the same page for this UCLA team. 

We are deep enough into the season that the repeatedly erratic performances by UCLA are more identity than aberration. Because the Bruins should go the remainder of their schedule unscathed does not mean they will.

Look for UCLA to lose once more, effectively eliminating it from the College Football Playoff race. 

Prediction: 9-3; Holiday Bowl  

 

Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise cited.  

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SEC Extra Points with Barrett Sallee: Steve Spurrier Sounds off on Autographs

Insight into the Business?

Georgia running back Todd Gurley will have to sit two more games after the NCAA ruled that he received more than $3,000 over a two-year span for autographs and other memorabilia.

Who better to ask his thoughts on the matter than the always-honest Head Ball Coach?

South Carolina's Steve Spurrier was asked about his stance on players receiving payment for autographs on Wednesday's SEC coaches teleconference, and provided some interesting insight into how things really go down.

"It appears some guys sign autographs and say 'hey, give me the money when my days are over,'" Spurrier said. "Because, obviously, they're not signing them for free. I guess Todd Gurley took some money now when he should have waited until his eligibility was over. He would have been fine, I guess."

Slip of the tongue? Not at all.

Spurrier reiterated it later in the call.

"I think most of the guys who are in position to sign autographs are smart enough to say 'catch me after the bowl game, and we can do some business then,'" he said.

Spurrier also reiterated his stance that college football players and basketball players should receive between $4,000-$5,000 per year for expenses.

"With the tremendous amount of money that football and basketball brings in, I just personally think you should reward those guys that are bringing in the big money for all of our universities," he said.

It's going to happen soon enough through autonomy, and the backlash from Gurley's autograph scandal will only accelerate the process.

 

If You're Going to Burn a Redshirt, You Burn It

Tennessee had planned to redshirt sophomore quarterback Joshua Dobbs and leave the season in the hands of senior Justin Worley. But when the wear and tear of constantly being hit by opposing front sevens took a toll on Worley's shoulder, head coach Butch Jones decided the time was right to scrap the original plan and trot out Dobbs early in Tennessee's loss last week to Alabama.

All Dobbs did against the Crimson Tide was complete 19 of 22 passes for 192 yards, two touchdowns, one pick and run 19 times for 75 yards. Alabama head coach Nick Saban said, according to AL.com, that his team didn't practice for Dobbs, so his performance might have been more due to shock and awe than anything else.

That doesn't matter. With Worley still questionable, Dobbs should be the starter from here on out on Rocky Top.

With a team that's so young and a season that is on the verge of being lost, it's time for Tennessee to truly prepare for the future. That future is in the hands of Dobbs.

Tennessee already knows the offensive line is a disaster, and Dobbs' athleticism will help keep those chains moving, keep the Vols on schedule and perhaps break a big play or two that can sway the outcome of the game.

Jones is pleased with the way Dobbs responded, but knows there's room for his sophomore to grow:

Josh is progressing...He made some big plays for us. I thought he was very poised. I thought he benefited from his live game opportunities last year, and going into a game with a sold out crowd playing [at the time] the No. 4 ranked team in the country, I thought he handled himself well. With him, it's just about making the routine plays, not the 'oh my God' plays, but the routine plays. We had a slant down by the goal line that has got to be a touchdown.

At 3-5, Tennessee needs to try to catch lightning in the bottle and get to a bowl game. Not for the trip but for the practice. The Vols have played 23 true freshman in 2014—the most in the nation. Toss Dobbs in with those guys for bowl practice, and the foundation is being laid for the future of the program. 

Tennessee has South Carolina, Kentucky, Missouri and Vanderbilt left on the schedule, winning three of four isn't out of the question.

 

False Alarm

Ole Miss exited the LSU game battered and bruised, with linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche, defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche, offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil and safety Cody Prewitt all nursing various injuries. Not the most comforting thought, considering the Auburn Tigers—another smashmouth, power rushing team—is headed to Oxford on Saturday night.

Of those injuries, it appears only Denzel Nkemdiche's is serious. The reserve linebacker for the Rebels underwent season-ending ankle surgery this week.

The others, however, will be back for the showdown between the No. 4 Rebels and No. 3 Auburn Tigers this weekend.

"They did get some dings the other night that will probably keep them from being 100 percent, "head coach Hugh Freeze said, "But they're going to give it a go for sure."

That's big news for Ole Miss' defense, which needs defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche and safety Pruitt to play big to slow down Auburn's multidimensional rushing attack. On the other side, Tunsil's health is critical for a Rebel offensive line that's had issues protecting quarterback Bo Wallace. They've given up 19 sacks this season—the third-most in the conference—and losing its most reliable piece would be devastating.

Crisis averted.

 

Ace in the Hole

It's no secret that Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn and Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze are friends. The two former high school coaches both coached at Arkansas State, run similar offenses and play a round of golf with South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier every spring at SEC Spring Meetings in Destin, Florida.

They also share a bond with Ryan Aplin.

The former Arkansas State quarterback played for both head coaches with the Red Wolves, was an administrative intern under Freeze in 2012 and 2013 and moved over to become a graduate assistant for Malzahn at Auburn this year.

Aplin has watched film with Auburn's defensive staff this week, according to Brandon Marcello of AL.com, hoping to give them insight into what Freeze's offense is doing.

"It's always a concern that you have people on your previous staffs and played for you on other staffs you're competing with," Freeze said.

Will it work?

Freeze changed his signals this spring as a result of Aplin's departure. That doesn't mean Aplin can't crack the code. His presence in the film room to discuss tendencies of Freeze's play-calling and quarterback Bo Wallace's decision-making could play a huge factor in one of the biggest games of the season.

If it is, Freeze will adjust.

"We wholesale changed everything," Freeze said. "There may be some things that he can add. We'll kind of feel it out early on and see if they've got something or not, but I don't know what else we can do at this point that we haven't already done."

It should make for quite an interesting cat-and-mouse game on Saturday night.

 

"If Only Georgia Was at Full Strength"

Georgia running back Todd Gurley won't be back for this weekend's "World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party" against Georgia. 

Is Will Muschamp happy? The Internet seems to think so.

Except that he's not. Believe it or not, Muschamp is disappointed that Gurley won't be toting the rock for the Bulldogs on Saturday afternoon in Jacksonville.

"Todd's a competitor," he said on Wednesday. "As a competitor, you want to compete against guys like him."

But as a coach on the hot seat, Muschamp probably doesn't want to compete against guys like him. It's a nice, diplomatic answer by Muschamp and the proper thing to say, but let's be real, that's about as far from the truth as you can get.

 

Quick Outs

  • Texas A&M is wearing some sweet throwback uniforms from 1939 this weekend versus ULM, that features an amazing replica leather helmet. Head coach Kevin Sumlin said on Wednesday that he hadn't seen the real thing yet, only the pictures, but "they look pretty good to me." That might be the understatement of the century.
  • South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier confirmed that the Gamecocks will wear black uniforms versus Tennessee on Saturday night. With four losses already down, any change is good change for the reeling Gamecocks.
  • Florida head coach Will Muschamp reiterated that Treon Harris is his quarterback on Saturday against Georgia. "It's Treon's game to play," he said. Muschamp also didn't rule out former starter Jeff Driskel seeing time in specific situations. At this point of the season, with his job on the line, ruling anything out—even Driskel—would be reckless.
  • Coaches, to a man, don't care about the College Football Playoff rankings—especially Arkansas' Bret Bielema. "I can't waste my time worrying about something that we're not involved in," he said. He's not wrong.

 

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

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

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Why Georgia Will Be Fine Without Todd Gurley vs. Florida and Kentucky

In the interest of forthright disclosure: There's never a good time to be without the best running back in the country.  The Georgia Bulldogs will rightfully miss junior star Todd Gurley against Florida and Kentucky over the coming weeks.

But Georgia will be fine without him.

Todd Gurley, University of Georgia football student-athlete, must sit a total of four games, or 30 percent of the season, for accepting more than $3,000 in cash from multiple individuals for autographed memorabilia and other items over two years. Gurley, who acknowledged violating NCAA rules, must repay a portion of the money received to a charity of his choice and complete 40 hours of community service as additional conditions for his reinstatement. Gurley will be eligible to play on Nov. 15.

-NCAA.com

Within the context of the season, Gurley's suspension, which will last a full four games if not overturned, could not have come at a better time.  

The prospect of traveling without him to Missouri and Arkansas once felt daunting, but the Dawgs outscored the Tigers and the Razorbacks by a combined margin of 47 points.  While neither Florida or Kentucky should be overlooked, the Gators (at a neutral site) and Wildcats present no more ominous of a challenge than Georgia's previous two contests.

After all, Florida recently suffered a 42-13 loss to the same Missouri team that Georgia absolutely manhandled.  And Kentucky, despite showing signs of improvement, is still a year away from upsetting a Top 10 team like Georgia.  At best, the Wildcats are wildly inconsistent, looking great in a win against South Carolina and respectable against Mississippi State while looking mediocre in a close loss to Florida and disastrous in a 38-point loss to LSU.

Stretching beyond the quality of opposition is one constant change that has come to define Georgia: steady improvement.

Offensively, Georgia has never been better—literally—as the Bulldogs are on pace to set a school record with an average of 43.4 points per contest.  Gurley is out, but freshman running back Nick Chubb has stepped up, and he will improve each and every game.  Sony Michel, another freshman running back who has averaged 9.7 yards per carry, is closer to returning.  And, veteran running back Keith Marshall should soon be contributing as well.

Combine that still stellar running game with ongoing improvements from quarterback Hutson Mason and the recent returns of playmaking receivers Malcolm Mitchell and Justin Scott-Wesley, and there's no reason to think this offense will suddenly stall out against Florida and Kentucky without Gurley.

Furthermore, Georgia's defense is one of the most improved units in the entire country.  

Florida struggles mightily on offense, and its hard to imagine a scenario in which a true freshman (Treon Harris) would solve Georgia's pressure and tight coverage in his first collegiate start.  Meanwhile, Kentucky's offense has averaged just north of 25 points per game in SEC play.

Make no mistake about it: Gurley's absence is disappointing.  It's undoubtedly frustrating to teammates and coaches, and fans are justifiably befuddled.  And on a broader scale, the general public feels admittedly—though not necessarily wrongfully—left in the dark.  

The anticipated length of Gurley's suspension has changed from two games to four, but the on-field results won't be altered by his prolonged absence.  Georgia will beat Florida and Kentucky and inch closer to playoff consideration even without the one-time Heisman candidate. 

Todd Gurley will be missed along the way, but he'll also be patiently awaiting an opportunity to remind everyone why he's the best running back in the country.  He'll get that chance on Nov. 15 against Auburn.  And that game matters much more than any contest he's missing.

 

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand and all stats courtesy of Sports-Reference.com.

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Biggest Surprises from College Football Playoff Committee's Rankings

After two months of hearing about weekly meetings between the 13 (and eventually 12) members of the College Football Playoff selection committee, the curtain was finally pulled back on their clandestine work with Tuesday's first playoff rankings.

Before that Top 25 was released, all we could do was speculate as to how the committee would factor in big wins, key losses, schedule strength and countless other factors to rate the nation's top teams. Now we have some clarity, as well as the opportunity to pick apart what the committee has done to this point.

Many teams landed where expected, based on where they sat in the Associated Press and Amway polls, but the committee did manage to throw a couple of curveballs in how they ranked certain teams. Here's a look at the biggest surprises from the initial CFP rankings.

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College Football Rankings 2014: NCAA Teams That Can Still Move into Top 4

The Ole Miss Rebels made picking the top two teams easy for the College Football Playoff committee. By losing to LSU on Saturday, the college football landscape was left with just two undefeated teams from power conferences.

Here's the thing: Because the top four enter the playoffs, the race for the third and fourth spot is now a jumbled mess of one-loss teams that could all make a case for being in the last two spots. Ole Miss is currently fourth, but many including the voters of The Associated Press don't believe the Rebels are one of the four best teams in the country.

Here's a look at the first College Football Playoff Rankings, per the committee's official site.

College Football Playoff Rankings Rank Team Record 1 Mississippi State 7-0 2 Florida State 7-0 3 Auburn 6-1 4 Ole Miss 7-1 5 Oregon 7-1 6 Alabama 7-1 7 TCU 6-1 8 Michigan State 7-1 9 Kansas State 6-1 10 Notre Dame 6-1 11 Georgia 6-1 12 Arizona 6-1 13 Baylor 6-1 14 Arizona State 6-1 15 Nebraska 7-1 16 Ohio State 6-1 17 Utah 6-1 18 Oklahoma 5-2 19 LSU 7-2 20 West Virginia 6-2 21 Clemson 6-2 22 UCLA 6-2 23 East Carolina 6-1 24 Duke 6-1 25 Louisville 6-2

 

Is Ole Miss Unsteady?

Sure, Bo Wallace looked dreadful on Saturday against LSU in the Rebels' 10-7 loss. He completed just 14 of 33 passes and threw a crucial interception late. However, this season the Rebels do own a win over the Alabama Crimson Tide and a victory over the Texas A&M Aggies, which doesn't look as good now as it did three weeks ago.

Still, the Rebels have one loss and a win over a team that is perhaps its strongest competition for a spot in the playoff. Because of that, the committee is right to keep Ole Miss in the top four...at least for now.

There's a huge game on the horizon against Auburn this week. A win would plant Ole Miss firmly in a top-four spot. Barring a major upset at the hands of Arkansas or Presbyterian, Ole Miss might even be able to withstand a second loss to Mississippi State in the regular-season finale and still make the playoff field.

They would need help, but with wins over Alabama and Auburn, who could definitively say the Rebels wouldn't be one of the four best teams in the land?

There are 11 teams that by some stretch of the imagination—large or small—could find themselves in the top four. We'll focus on the two with the best chance that currently sit outside of the playoff picture.

 

Ole Miss vs. Everybody

Alabama

Alabama is the most natural competitor for Ole Miss. While the Rebels won the head-to-head matchup, the belief around the country appears to be that Bama is now the superior team. Wide receiver Amari Cooper has emerged as a candidate for the top pick in the 2015 NFL draft, and T.J. Yeldon is running like a man possessed.

The duo has combined for seven touchdowns in the last two games.

Unfortunately for Alabama, it will need Ole Miss to lose again in order to prove it is the better team. A precedence seems to have been set with the initial CFP voting: Head-to-head wins will weigh heavily in the rankings. Were that not the case, Bama would probably have been ahead of Ole Miss.

When you look at the two teams' remaining schedules, Ole Miss may have the edge.

The Rebels do have Auburn this week and Mississippi State in the regular-season finale, but Alabama's remaining schedule is a little tougher. It will go up against a resurgent LSU team next week, followed by a home date against Mississippi State and the Iron Bowl against Auburn in the regular-season finale.

Because Ole Miss has the easier remaining schedule and already own the tiebreaker—so to speak—with the head-to-head win, the Rebels have a good chance to remain ahead of Alabama.

 

Oregon

Aside from a potential Pac-12 championship showdown, Marcus Mariota and the Oregon Ducks' biggest tests should come over the next two weeks.

Sure, the Stanford Cardinal hasn't looked scary this season, losing all three of its games against ranked opponents, but this is still a bitter rivalry.

The Cardinal has routinely been the monkey wrench in the Ducks' title plans over the last few years. You can bet Kevin Hogan and Co. will want to stick it to Oregon again on Saturday.

The following week Oregon travels to Salt Lake City to battle the No. 17 Utah Utes. The Utes are tough at home and seem to have found themselves a permanent quarterback in 6'7" junior Travis Wilson. He led the team to a dramatic come-from-behind win over USC last week.

This could be a pitfall for Oregon. If the Ducks survive both games and win the Pac-12 title game they should be in, based on the chaos that is sure to ensue with the top SEC teams.

Winning the Pac-12 title game is no given considering the Ducks could rematch the Arizona Wildcats, the team that handed them their lone loss earlier in the season. If Mariota is looking to solidify his Heisman Trophy campaign, big performances and wins in these three huge games are key.

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Alabama Football: Crimson Tide's Road to Making the College Football Playoff

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Nick Saban doesn’t want to hear about your playoff rankings. Not yet at least.

“To me, none of it matters,” Saban said on Tuesday night, shortly before the release of the inaugural rankings. “What does it matter? It only matters where you end up at the end. What matters to us is how we do in each and every game that we have that we have to play. We have four games left to play. If we can be successful in those games, maybe there's a chance that we would play in the SEC Championship Game as well.”

Alabama still has plenty of work left to do this season, so Saban is right to give such a dismissive answer. At this point, the playoff rankings could only serve to take his team’s focus away from winning its remaining games, without which, the playoff talk for Alabama becomes moot.

The Crimson Tide, actually, would be a favorite over the rest of the playoff field.

But a loss to Ole Miss still makes things a little tricky to actually get there.

Let’s take a closer look at where Alabama goes from here.

 

Biggest Obstacles to Playoff Berth

Alabama has four games left, two of which are against the No. 1 and No. 3 team, according to the playoff committee. Another one is a road, night game against LSU.

Not exactly a walk in the park.

But the remaining slate could end up being a blessing more than a curse. Alabama has a chance to significantly bolster its resume over the last four games. Right now, its biggest win is West Virginia, ranked No. 20 by the playoff committee and really hitting its stride in the Big 12.

And winning would not only help its playoff argument significantly, but it would knock off, on its own, two teams ahead of it in the playoff race.

In theory, if Alabama is ranked No. 6, and if two teams ahead of it lose, the Crimson Tide would be in at No. 4, right?

That would appear to be the case on the surface, but it might not actually work out that way. Which brings us to our next point.

 

Help Needed

Should Ole Miss win out, Alabama would be left out of the SEC championship, and thus be denied the opportunity to win its league, something the College Football Playoff says it values. If Florida State wins out, that leaves two more spots.

Should teams like, say, Oregon and Michigan State win out and win their respective leagues at 12-1, that would mean three teams battling for the last two positions. Would Alabama get one of those? Would the committee put it in ahead of a one-loss, conference champion?

Alabama would rather not leave that up to chance.

To avoid this scenario, Crimson Tide fans should hope, first and foremost, for an Ole Miss loss. That would give the Rebels two losses and put Alabama squarely in control of its own destiny and, subsequently, its playoff destiny. (That would also, though, require Alabama fans to cheer for Auburn this week, in a cruel twist of fate.)

Otherwise, Alabama should hope that as many of the one-loss teams outside of the SEC lose as well. That would include Oregon, Michigan State, TCU, Notre Dame, Kansas State and the like.

 

Prediction

All of this discussion becomes irrelevant Saturday night.

Ole Miss loses to Auburn, opening up the SEC West for Alabama to claim. It wins a close game in Baton Rouge, takes care of Mississippi State easier than most thought it would.

That sets up an epic Iron Bowl two weeks later that will once again decide the SEC West. Alabama gets its revenge on Auburn, sending it to the SEC Championship Game. It wins another hard-fought game in Atlanta against Georgia, vaulting the Crimson Tide into the first ever College Football Playoff.

 

Marc Torrence is the Alabama lead writer for Bleacher Report.

Follow on Twitter @marctorrence.

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College Football Playoff 2014: Examining Top 25 NCAA Rankings After 1st Release

The release of 2014’s first College Football Playoff poll was one of the most genuinely anticipated moments of the year, and fans of the sport were not disappointed by the result.

Instead of being blown away by the injustice of the BCS, the 12-person selection committee issued a fair assessment of the college football landscape and will continue to do so throughout the regular season.

Here is the first College Football Playoff poll, all three NCAA top-25 rankings and a breakdown of the Top Four teams in postseason contention.

 

 

Breaking Down the Top Four Playoff Contenders

The unanimous top team in the country is the Mississippi State Bulldogs. The program has won all seven games this season and has beaten the likes of LSU, Texas A&M and Auburn along the way.

Led by junior quarterback Dak Prescott, Mississippi State has looked like the best team in the nation and deserves the No. 1 spot in the playoff poll. Prescott is a Heisman Trophy contender with 1,694 yards passing, 664 yards rushing and 25 total touchdowns, but the schedule only gets tougher for the Bulldogs.

With matchups against Alabama and Ole Miss still to come, there is a chance Mississippi State could lose at least once this season. If the Bulldogs run through the Crimson Tide and the Rebels, though, their place in the playoffs will be cemented.

Another team in contention is the defending national champion Florida State Seminoles. While there have been off-field issues with quarterback Jameis Winston, the team has not allowed the play on the field to be adversely affected. Florida State is unbeaten in 2014.

The program already has wins over Clemson and Notre Dame, and if the Seminoles can beat Louisville on Thursday, the favorable schedule will be set up for the team to remain unbeaten all season.

An undefeated Florida State team would be guaranteed a spot in the college football playoffs.

After Mississippi State and FSU, the debate over which team should be ranked next has already started raging. The committee selected Auburn and Ole Miss as the third and fourth teams in the playoff spots for the first week, but that could easily change as the season progresses.

For right now, Auburn and Ole Miss deserve the final two spots. They play each other this Saturday, and this is what would be considered a must-watch matchup.

For the Tigers, a loss earlier in the season to Mississippi State was tough to handle, but the quality of the opponent can’t be questioned. Add in the fact that Auburn has big wins over Kansas State, LSU and South Carolina, and the program will be ready for this week’s game against Ole Miss.

The Rebels are coming off a heartbreaking loss to LSU but boast wins against Alabama and Texas A&M this season. With the nation’s top-ranked defense (allowing just 10.5 points per game), Ole Miss will be one of Auburn’s toughest matchups all year.

With Auburn possessing the more dangerous offensive unit, and Bo Wallace of the Rebels being a liability at times, the stage has been set for the Tigers to take this victory and further cement a spot in the playoffs.

In order for Ole Miss to make the playoffs after another possible loss, there would have to be major turnover at the top of the standings. The College Football Playoff poll is a good start, but with teams like Alabama and Oregon on the outside looking in, it will be interesting to see how it evolves each week.

It’s already far better than the old BCS system.

 

*Stats via ESPN.com.

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Florida State Football's Road to Making the College Football Playoff

The Florida State football team is No. 2 and in position to earn one of four spots in the College Football Playoff. All the Seminoles need to do is keep winning to assure the 2013 national champs that they will have a chance to repeat.

Coach Jimbo Fisher and the Seminoles were on a plane Tuesday night when the playoff committee announced its rankings and found out that FSU was No. 2 when the team landed in Louisville, Kentucky.

 

FSU has won 23 straight games and looks to make it 24 when the Seminoles face Louisville (6-2, 4-2 ACC) on Thursday night. The Seminoles haven't put together dominating wins in 2014. They've held off late rallies and used a few comebacks of their own. 

"It hasn't been pretty," ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit said on the College Football Playoff television show Tuesday night. "But they've won. It isn't always about style points, it's about winning and moving on to the next week."

Style points matter little at this point. FSU needs to just win its five remaining regular-season games and the ACC Championship Game on Dec. 6 to ensure its spot in the playoff.

Let's take a look at FSU's obstacles in the road ahead:

 

Biggest Obstacles to a Playoff Berth

FSU's toughest remaining game could be Thursday's showdown with Louisville. The Cardinals have the nation's No. 1 defense and No. 1 rush defense. FSU has struggled to run the ball, ranking 101st nationally, so the Seminoles will need to put the game on quarterback Jameis Winston's shoulders.

After the Louisville game, FSU will play four games against unranked teams as the Seminoles face Virginia (4-4), travel to Miami (5-3), host Boston College (5-3) and finish the regular season at home against Florida (3-3). 

While the Miami game is FSU's last road contest, the Seminoles have played well against the Hurricanes in recent years. Fisher is 4-0 vs. Miami as FSU's head coach, and the Seminoles haven't lost at Miami since 2004. The Hurricanes have had an up-and-down season, but tailback Duke Johnson has been tough to stop, rushing for 1,036 yards and seven touchdowns.

Florida has been shaky on offense and is replacing junior Jeff Driskel with true freshman Treon Harris on Saturday when the Gators play Georgia in Jacksonville, Florida. Harris could provide a spark to the team, but it remains to be seen how effective he will be when playing on the road against FSU.

 

Help Needed

FSU has the luxury of being one of two unbeaten teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision (Marshall is technically the third but considered a long shot and is not ranked by the playoff committee). While the Seminoles don't need help, they will certainly get it from the head-to-head games in the SEC and other conferences.

The sheer volume of potential one-loss teams that have a chance to reach the playoff is staggering. Of the 25 teams ranked by the committee on Tuesday, 17 have one loss. But there is also a full month of football remaining, not to mention pivotal conference championship games.

And by default there are head-to-head SEC games that will help clarify the playoff teams. In the SEC, Alabama and Auburn will play on Nov. 29, which could be an elimination game (one team will go to sleep that night with two losses). Mississippi State will also play at Ole Miss that same day.

 

Prediction

The road ahead includes five games—and Louisville at No. 25 by the playoff committee is the only ranked team. FSU must win on Thursday at Louisville, but then all of the games are at least in the Sunshine State.

All of FSU's opponents after Louisville may be unranked, but they all appear headed to a bowl game with the exception of the Gators, who are 3-3 and will be fighting for bowl-eligibility. While all the remaining teams are unranked, the road isn't necessarily easy. Rivalry games simply can't be viewed that way.

Louisville is statistically the toughest defense left on the schedule for FSU. If the Seminoles get past the Cardinals, expect them to handle the rest of the schedule and finish the regular season 12-0. The ACC's Atlantic Division champion could be any one of a large group of teams, but FSU's talent and depth are two reasons to think the Seminoles will win. 

A rematch against Miami or Virginia in the ACC Championship Game is certainly less than desirable, but FSU should be able to win on a neutral field.

Bob Ferrante is the Florida State Lead Writer for Bleacher Report, all quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow Bob on Twitter. All stats courtesy of seminoles.com.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Notre Dame Football: The Irish's Road to Making the College Football Playoff

The early ballots are in. Notre Dame's got work to do.

That's hardly surprising, especially with the Irish's most impressive performance coming in defeat to No. 2 Florida State. But that the College Football Playoff's selection committee slotted the Irish in at No. 10 in their first official ballot gives you an idea that not only do the Irish have to win their remaining football games, but they'll need some help along the way.

But that help is on the way. Both with opportunities on the field and challenges coming to the programs ranked ahead of the Irish. So while panic has likely set in for every contender not inside the top four, a quick history lesson should at least help cure the temporary insanity that's set in. 

Just take a look at the shakeup that hit college football last season from Week 9 on. No. 1 Alabama went 4-1 down the stretch and lost its chance to play for the BCS title. No. 2 Oregon went 3-2 and fell outside the Top 10. Undefeated FSU leap-frogged both by winning and ended up in the title game, while No. 4 Ohio State lost late and fell to No. 6.

At this time last year, Miami was No. 6 in the country and undefeated. Al Golden's team went 3-3 to close the season and finished unranked.

Recent history won't make Irish fans feel better about where they sit in these initial rankings. But with five more opportunities to play this season, the focus stays on the field for Brian Kelly, whose young team isn't good enough to win games and scoreboard watch. 

 

Biggest Obstacles to Playoff Berth

Each of the five teams Notre Dame faces this November has the ability to beat the Irish. That's reason enough for this young football team to keep their heads down and let everything sort itself out. 

The first challenge comes this weekend from Navy, who last year played a near-perfect game and almost left South Bend with another shocking upset. From there the Irish travel to the desert, where the Sun Devils and their dynamic passing offense await. 

Ranked 14th in the poll and likely to climb higher if they beat Utah this weekend, a victory over Arizona State is the type of win that impressed the committee early. The Sun Devils could continue to be the Irish's best friends by winning after they play the Irish, as well, with Arizona and two other conference games still on their slate before a potential Pac-12 title game. 

Northwestern isn't likely to be ranked regardless of what happens in its next two games against Iowa and Michigan, but Pat Fitzgerald's team has won some big games. They knocked off a Wisconsin team that had LSU on the ropes and blew out a Penn State team that took Ohio State to overtime. While that likely says more about the Big Ten this year than the Wildcats, in a rivalry for the pride of Chicagoland, expect Notre Dame's neighbors from Evanston to come to South Bend looking to spring an upset. 

While Louisville slotted in at No. 25 in the initial playoff rankings, they'll have a chance to shoot up the boards come Thursday against Florida State. That upset would likely hurt the Irish now but maybe help them later if they're able to take care of the Cardinal when they come to town in a few weeks. 

Lastly, the season ends in Southern California for the annual date with USC. In Steve Sarkisian's first season atop Troy, the Trojans have lost three close games, bumping them from any shot at a playoff berth. But they're poised to be spoilers down the stretch, with rivalry games against UCLA and the Irish remaining. 

While none of Notre Dame's future opponents have the possibility of being a "signature victory" (one of the more ridiculous notions in college football), five more wins would put the Irish at a balanced 11-1 that will match up with the best records in college football.  

 

Help Needed

At this point, it's clear that Notre Dame needs some help to jump into the four playoff spots. But that help is coming in November. Of the nine teams ranked ahead of the Irish, six will square off, creating elimination games along the way. TCU and Kansas State will play a Big 12 elimination game. The Egg Bowl and the Iron Bowl will add another loss to the ledgers of either Mississippi State or Ole Miss, as well as Alabama and Auburn. 

At this point, worrying about Oregon or Michigan State looking like the better one-loss team is a fruitless endeavor. The Ducks have made a habit of late-season swoons lately, and even if the Spartans get by Ohio State this weekend, matching resumes between a team with wins over Jacksonville State, Eastern Michigan and Wyoming—in addition to a 19-point loss—will likely come out in Notre Dame's favor, especially if Florida State continues to win. 

While the "survive and advance" mentality that reigned during the BCS era of human polls has many fans worried that there's too much ground to make up or teams to leap frog, committee chairman Jeff Long tried his best to acknowledge that this vote is merely a snapshot that's certain to change. 

"Everyone on the selection committee recognized that our rankings will change over the next six weeks," Long told ESPN's Rece Davis during the telecast. "I think that's important for us to emphasize. We expect our rankings to change over the next six weeks. One week's rankings won't influence the next week's rankings."

 

Prediction

For as much chatter as there is certain to be over the coming weeks, Notre Dame's goals remain clear. Win the remainder of your football games, and let the rest sort itself out. 

In many ways, the committee's placement of the Irish makes sense when you consider that it's far too early to reward teams for impressive losses. So while an 11-1 Notre Dame team likely gets that benefit of the doubt, a 6-1 team with its best victory a 17-14 struggle over a now-three-loss Stanford team doesn't. 

It's up to the Irish to change perceptions. They can do that by winning impressively over their five remaining opponents. They've have a prime-time opportunity to blow by Navy. They have a rare 3:30 p.m. ET start for an away game, where a national audience will see them battle Arizona State. Add in quality-win opportunities against Louisville and USC, and everything is still possible. 

Brian Kelly can use the loss to Florida State as fuel for November. And he'll be able to use Notre Dame's placement in the first playoff poll in the same way. 

An 11-1 Notre Dame team a controversial penalty away from being unbeaten won't be left on the outside looking in. So if the Irish can run the table in November, they'll have a month to prepare for a battle with the No. 1 seed. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

The Secret Behind the Nation's Best Offense

TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin is leading one of the nation's most prolific offenses in the 2014 season. Boykin has made huge strides to become a legitimate Heisman Trophy contender, but he has had a lot of help.

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder discusses the man who has helped Boykin mature so quickly as a quarterback. 

Do you think Boykin will make it to the Heisman ceremony?

Watch the video and let us know!

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Sleeper Teams with the Best Shot of Making the Playoff

The College Football Playoff selection committee released its first rankings of the season Tuesday evening, shining a light on how the people charged with creating the four-team bracket view the teams competing to be included in it.

The release of the rankings, more than anything, remind us that the season is nearing an end. But we're not so close that things can't change momentously. Last year at this time, Auburn was No. 11 in the BCS rankings and Michigan State was No. 22.

Both of those teams finished in the BCS top four.

In putting together this list, "sleeper" wasn't defined by any sort of quantitative metric. It was defined as any team that isn't being talked about as a legitimate threat to make the playoff.

Then, in listing the sleepers with the best chance of making the playoff, factors such as talent, coaching, current form and (most importantly) schedule were taken into consideration. This is not necessarily the best teams no one is talking about as a playoff contender; if it were, LSU might have made the cut.

It's the teams with the best chance of crashing the party.

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Whatever Happened To: Sports Edition

In the enormous, always-changing world of sports, fans are regularly left wondering, "Whatever happened to" this or that?

Rules frequently change, technology constantly redefines, and even stars can vanish before we know it.

Athletes we were ready to idolize—such as Johan Santana and Freddy Adu—disappeared in what seemed like a moment. And ideas we thought were forever—like FoxTrax and Reebok Pumps—were actually nothing more than fads.

So below—in our Whatever Happened To: Sports Edition list—we celebrate some of our favorite sports things and people that quickly disappeared but are definitely worth remembering.

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Auburn Football: Tigers' Road to Making the College Football Playoff

AUBURN, Ala. — On Tuesday night, when the college football world awaited the first College Football Playoff rankings, Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn wasn't tuning in to ESPN.

A few hours earlier, in his weekly press conference, Malzahn said he wasn't going to pay attention to the highly anticipated release.

"It does not concern me at all," Malzahn said.

So when his Tigers were unveiled as the No. 3 team in the new system, Malzahn was out on the practice field.

After all, Auburn is just a few days away from a tough road trip to Ole Miss, the new No. 4 team in the CFP Rankings.

And Saturday's important matchup is what has the full attention of Malzahn and the defending SEC champions.

"I’m viewing this Saturday as the biggest game on the schedule," Malzahn said. "We’ve got to go there and we’ve got to play well to win. That’s the only thing on our mind. We aren’t looking ahead to this and that. We are going to Ole Miss and we are trying to win the game."

Auburn is quite familiar with the "one game at a time" approach at this point in the schedule. The Tigers remember last season, when they took a loss to an SEC West opponent in the first half of the season and rallied to become conference champions.

As Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs noted several times on Twitter, this football program has been there before:

 

Biggest Obstacles to Playoff Berth

Auburn has two home games and three road games left on its schedule, and all three trips away from Jordan-Hare Stadium are huge roadblocks.

As Mississippi State, which beat the Tigers earlier this month, continues its run atop the SEC standings, Auburn faces three one-loss teams that are also fighting to cement themselves into the first ever playoff. 

All three teams have their impressive strengths and dangerous weaknesses, and so do the Tigers, who will most likely have to knock off all three teams on the road in order to get a spot in the final four.

Saturday's game against Ole Miss takes place against a team and inside a home-field environment that defeated rival Alabama earlier this season.

The Rebels boast the nation's top scoring defense but have a hard time running the football—and then there is quarterback Bo Wallace, who has shown excellence and, most recently, errors in the passing game.

Two weeks later, after a possible trap game at home against pass-happy Texas A&M, Auburn will face cross-divisional rival Georgia between the hedges in Athens. The Bulldogs are getting back to full strength on both sides of the ball after a slow start to the season, and Auburn has struggled in recent years inside Sanford Stadium.

Finally, following a home finale against Football Championship Subdivision opponent Samford, Auburn will travel to Alabama for the highly anticipated Iron Bowl—a rematch of last season's instant classic that could once again play a huge role in the national title picture.

Like Auburn, Alabama hasn't been consistently at its best throughout the season, but the likes of star wide receiver Amari Cooper and a loaded backfield will be focused on keeping pace with Auburn's explosive offense.

All three of these conference road games are equally important to Auburn's playoff hopes because just one loss would virtually eliminate the Tigers from contention.

 

Help Needed

Tuesday night's poll results confirmed what Auburn already expected, with only one loss to No. 1 Mississippi State and a road win against fellow playoff contender Kansas State: If the Tigers win out, they should be in the playoff, regardless of what happens to Mississippi State.

Auburn is currently the top one-loss team, and don't expect that to change in the month of November if the Tigers get through their brutal road schedule unscathed.

However, Auburn would like to get some help from fellow divisional foes Ole Miss and Alabama in ending Mississippi State's run to Atlanta for the SEC Championship.

The Bulldogs would need to lose twice for Auburn to win the West, so keep an eye on two dates: Nov. 15 (Mississippi State at Alabama) and Nov. 29 (Mississippi State at Ole Miss). Of course, the Tigers will have their hands full on both of those dates with the "Amen Corner" road trips.

Auburn winning out wouldn't guarantee a playoff spot, but the way the committee voted in its first poll shows how highly it values Malzahn's one-loss team at this point.

 

Prediction

I personally do not see Auburn having trouble with Texas A&M a week from Saturday in Jordan-Hare Stadium, and the Samford game will be another easy blowout win against an FCS opponent.

I also didn't pick the Tigers to lose at Ole Miss this weekend, although that game looks like it could easily go either way.

In the end, if Nick Marshall and Co. hold on to the football, I trust Auburn's offense to keep up its momentum against an Ole Miss defense that gave up a good chunk of rushing yardage against LSU last weekend.

However, judging by the quality of Auburn so far this season and the state of its last two road opponents, I do not think the Tigers will receive a playoff berth at the end of the schedule.

I see one more loss for Auburn, and I am leaning toward the Georgia game—a pick I made this preseason—as the one that will end those national title dreams.

Getting through three insanely tough road games against three playoff contenders looks to be too tall of a task for an Auburn team that has such a leaky secondary and lack of a pass rush.

The Tigers could improve in both of these areas this weekend against the Rebels and carry huge momentum into Athens and Tuscaloosa, but I don't see three straight road wins for this team right now.

I see Auburn finishing 10-2 this season, with both losses coming on the road against the top two teams in the SEC and earning a "New Year's Six" berth in either the Peach, Fiesta or Cotton Bowl.

But winning out and even earning a spot in the SEC Championship Game is nowhere near impossible for a team that has been nothing short of unpredictable. After all, I have been completely off the mark with my lastthreepredictions.

 

All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All recruiting rankings and information courtesy of 247Sports. All stats courtesy of cfbstats.com.

Justin Ferguson is Bleacher Report's lead Auburn writer. Follow him on Twitter @JFergusonAU.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

A Star Reborn: The Ultimate Amari Cooper Hype Tape

Amari Cooper has been opening eyes throughout his tenure at Alabama. From his breakout freshman year to his current junior campaign, the talented wideout has left his mark in Tuscaloosa. 

What are your thoughts on the maturation of this explosive wide receiver?

Watch the video and let us know! 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Do the LSU Tigers Have What It Takes to End Alabama's Playoff Hopes?

The LSU Tigers bounced back with a huge win against Ole Miss, and the Alabama Crimson Tide have been rolling along since their unfortunate loss to that same Rebels team.

The LSU-Alabama rivalry will be renewed next week.

Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Barrett Sallee and Michael Felder discuss whether the LSU Tigers can knock off the Alabama Crimson Tide.

Can anyone stop Alabama?

Watch the video and let us know.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Notre Dame Football: Investigating Brian Kelly's History Against the Option

SOUTH BEND, Ind.—Notre Dame football kicks off a difficult final five games of the regular season with a unique challenge Saturday in Navy’s triple-option offense.

In an annual or biannual event, the Irish must recalibrate their defense completely to face these run-based offenses. When discussing the Midshipmen, Irish head coach Brian Kelly called such offenses “a great equalizer” in college football as it relates to size, speed and strength.

“They create a lot of problems, and I think the most important thing is it's not whether you're athletic or strong or physical, it's whether you can be one-eleventh of that unit and do your job, and get off blocks and make plays and make tackles,” Kelly said.

Kelly has already had seven games going up against option teams through his first four seasons in South Bend. With the Midshipmen waiting for the Irish on Saturday night, we went back and examined—by the numbers—Kelly’s history defending the option since he’s been at Notre Dame.

 

Looking Back

The service academics have trotted out their option offenses against the Irish in recent years, with Kelly and his squad facing Navy and Army in 2010, Air Force and Navy in 2011, Navy in 2012 and Air Force and Navy in 2013.

Things got off to a shaky start against the option in 2010, as the Midshipmen toppled Notre Dame, 35-17, behind a prolific ground attack. Notre Dame struggled with the Falcons in 2011 but still managed a hefty 59-33 victory. Navy again gave the Irish fits last season, but Notre Dame managed to prevail with a 38-34 win at home.

On the other side of things, the Irish have taken care of business against Army in 2010 (a 27-3 win), Navy in 2011 (a 56-14 win) and 2012 (a 50-10 win) and Air Force in 2013 (a 45-10 win).

 

Digging Deeper Defensively

There are a variety of ways to look deeper and analyze just how well (or not) Notre Dame has fared against these option-based opponents. We’ll keep it fairly simple and check how Notre Dame’s defensive performances in those seven games compared to its average work for those specific seasons.

Though the Irish have only lost one of those games to option opponents in the Kelly era, the opposition scored more points on Notre Dame than the Irish allowed on average that season on three different occasions. Essentially, Notre Dame’s defense was less stingy in three of the seven games.

Sliced another way, we can compare the margin of victories in those games to account for blowouts and squeakers. As it turns out, only twice has the opponent won or played the game so closely as to mark a sharp difference from Notre Dame’s average margin of points.

 

Analyzing the Offenses

Looking at the offenses run by Air Force, Navy and Army gives us another trough of data to view. We know these teams put up monster rushing totals—in terms of carries, yards and yards per carry. So it’s not fair to compare their raw rushing numbers against the Irish to Notre Dame’s defensive averages.

But we can see how the option offenses performed against Notre Dame compared to all the other defenses the service academies faced in those seasons.

In two games—Navy 2010 and Air Force 2011—the Midshipmen and Falcons, respectively, eclipsed both their rushing yards per game and yards per carry. In 2013 Air Force rushed for more yards than its season average, and the 2013 Midshipmen rushed for more yards per carry against the Irish.

So, in four of the seven games against Notre Dame, these option offenses have outperformed their season averages.

 

But the telling statistic is yards per carry. It’s difficult to make broad generalizations based on raw numbers from seven games, but yards per carry is pretty straightforward. How did these offenses do with each individual carry against the Irish? Did they gain more or less yards than what they typically notched during the rest of the season?

On average, option-running opponents have rushed for 0.26 fewer yards per carry against the Irish in these seven games compared to those teams’ season averages. So while Notre Dame’s defense has certainly had its hands full at times against triple-option attacks, when we look at the seven games as a whole, the Irish have kept their opponents in check.

 

The Bottom Line

Of course, much of the historical chatter could change with new defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder calling the shots.

But despite all the numbers and the talk about Navy, Army, Air Force and the option, Notre Dame is 6-1 in those games. No matter how tight things have gotten, Kelly’s Irish have only lost one game to option teams—and that was in October of the inaugural season of the Kelly era.

The Irish will need to be crisp and focused against the Midshipmen on Saturday night if they want to improve to 7-1 and climb the College Football Playoff rankings, which debuted Tuesday night with Notre Dame slotted 10th.

“We have to be extremely disciplined,” Kelly said. “We have to run and make plays and make tackles and get off blocks. If we do that, we'll be successful. If not, it won't matter if we're more flexible or more athletic than our opponent.”

 

All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Adidas Unveils 1939 Throwback for Texas A&M, Complete with Leather-Like Helmets

The Texas A&M Aggies will have a new—yet familiar—look when they take the field against Louisiana-Monroe on Saturday.

In honor of the 75th anniversary of the Aggies' last national championship team, Adidas has unveiled 1939 throwback uniforms. Adidas has helped Texas A&M stay modern with uniforms in recent seasons, but the company went all out to help the team pay homage to its past.

Adidas included a commemorative patch on the jersey, inspired by the ones the team wore during the 1939 season. Of course, science has come a long way since 1939, and Adidas made sure these uniforms were made with Techfit Shockweb technology.

The jersey and pants don't look like anything out of the ordinary.

However, the helmet and cleats certainly jump out.

The helmets are easily the most unique part of this look. Each helmet is "dark maroon with a hydro film leather-like texture featuring wing and cross graphics." 

Even the cleats, "designed in a dark brown throwback style with a premium tumbled leather upper and metal eyelets," got the throwback treatment.

How do these throwback uniforms grade out?

[Adidas]

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Texas A&M Football: Lack of Running Game Plagues Aggies

Less than two weeks ago, Texas A&M traveled to Alabama to try to engender the same magic they did the last time they stepped foot on Bryant-Denny Stadium.  That time was two years ago, when a Johnny Manziel-led Aggies squad upset the then-No. 1-ranked Crimson Tide on their home turf in a 29-24 thriller.

Unfortunately for the Aggies, they came up short this time around.  They suffered what was by far the most lopsided loss of the Kevin Sumlin era, a 59-0 blowout that was also the first time a Sumlin-coached team has been shut out in his career.

This rough patch comes as somewhat of a surprise, considering that after the Aggies crushed South Carolina in the season opener and Kenny Hill’s first career start, it looked like Hill was going to pick up right where Manziel left off.  In that game against the Gamecocks, Hill shattered several of Manziel’s career bests, and the Aggies had the looks of a team that wasn’t going to miss Johnny Football.

Next, the Aggies pummeled Lamar, Rice and SMU in consecutive weeks by a combined score of 169-19.  Kenny Hill was among the nation’s leading passers, and the Aggies were primed and ready for the brunt of the brutal conference slate.

However, they might have underestimated their SEC West competition as well as overstated their offensive prowess. 

After edging out Arkansas in overtime to push their record to 5-0 and jump to as high as sixth in the polls, the Aggies have lost three straight games to Mississippi State, Ole Miss and most recently Alabama.

Why has the offense stopped clicking lately?

There is more than one reason, but the most glaring weakness has been the lack of a consistent running game.  Johnny Manziel accounted for nearly 40 percent of the Aggies’ rushing yards over his two years as quarterback, and throw in Ben Malena, who graduated after last season, and the Aggies lost more than half of their rushing yards from last year’s squad.

Check out the Aggies' rushing leaders in the three losses:

Player Mississippi State Ole Miss Alabama Trey Williams 4 CAR, 53 YDS 7 CAR, 14 YDS 3 CAR, 12 YDS Tra Carson 11 CAR, 59 YDS 11 CAR, 29 YDS 5 CAR, 6 YDS Brandon Williams 4 CAR, 14 YDS 8 CAR, 16, YDS 4 CAR, 21 YDS Kenny Hill 12 CAR, 53 YDS 8 CAR, -4 YDS 10 CAR, -11 YDS

They actually ran the ball decently against Mississippi State, but the Bulldogs defense is ranked near the bottom of the SEC in defensive statistics.  

However, against Ole Miss and Alabama, the Aggies basically threw out the running game from the get-go.  That is a bit understandable because they were trailing early in those games, but lack of a balanced offense nonetheless has been a factor in the team’s offensive struggles.

Strictly looking at the stats, the Aggies are not that different from last year’s team.  But the difference between then and now is simple: Johnny Manziel.  He was A&M’s leading rusher in both of his seasons on campus, but it was more the threat of his legs than his actual rushing production.

Defenses were focused primarily on containing the polarizing and dynamic Aggie quarterback, and the other weapons were able to thrive because of that.  Now Kevin Sumlin has arguably more athletic pieces on the offensive side of the ball, particularly at running back with three former highly touted running backs, but Kenny Hill simply doesn’t pose the same running threat that Manziel did. 

Hill is a fine quarterback with a solid throwing arm, but when asked to drop back to pass nearly every play against supremely talented defensive players who can pin their ears back without any worry about a running play, it is an uphill climb even for the likes of Peyton Manning.

Following a bye week, the Aggies will have another week to regroup as they play Louisiana-Monroe on Saturday.  This would be a good time to attempt to revive the running game that has been stagnant recently, and it might even be with a new signal-caller.

Texas A&M offensive coordinator Jake Spavital has said recently that the quarterback battle is wide open, giving true freshman Kyle Allen, Rivals.com’s top-ranked pro-style quarterback in 2014, a chance to take over the position that he narrowly missed out on during preseason practice. 

This is the ideal time to make such changes, as the quarterback, whoever it ends up being, will be able to find his groove against a less-talented Louisiana-Monroe squad. 

I don’t think quarterback is necessarily the problem; it is just a different offensive attack in College Station without Johnny Football leading the charge, as well as the fact that the three teams they lost to are ranked in the top six of the inaugural CFB committee rankings.  Some changes need to be made, specifically regarding the running game, and Aggie fans should trust that the duo of Sumlin and Spavital will make the necessary changes to get the offense back to firing on all cylinders.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Todd Gurley's Heisman Shot Is Gone, but Georgia's Playoff Hopes Alive and Well

"Gurley Watch 2014" seemed like the opening act to the winter weather watches that grip the southeast each February, ever since Todd Gurley—the star running back for the No. 11 Georgia Bulldogs—was suspended indefinitely prior to his team's game against Missouri on Oct. 11. 

The alert has been canceled.

Well, it will be canceled.

The NCAA announced Wednesday that Gurley will have to sit two more games, bringing his total to four, after it learned that he accepted "more than $3,000 in cash from multiple individuals for autographed memorabilia and other items over two years." Georgia will appeal the decision immediately.

Those four games will almost certainly prevent Gurley from not only winning the Heisman Trophy but getting to New York City as a finalist. Some voters will hold the autograph scandal against him, and those who don't will still have to factor in his stats simply not matching up to fellow star running backs like Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon and Nebraska's Ameer Abdullah.

The Heisman is more myth than reality for Gurley. Georgia's playoff chances, though, are alive, well and boosted by the running back's return for the Auburn game on Nov. 15.

Georgia went on the road two days after the suspension was announced and stomped Missouri in a game that, as it stands right now, may have served as the de facto SEC East title game. They then shuffled some pieces around—including former running back/current safety J.J. Green—to get through the Arkansas game in Little Rock. With time to prepare for a reeling Florida team and a challenging, yet building Kentucky team, the light is at the end of the tunnel.

Halfway through Gurley's suspension, the Bulldogs are one of only a select few teams that still control their own playoff destiny. If they win out—which would include a win over No. 3 Auburn in Athens and a highly ranked SEC West foe in the SEC Championship Game—they're not only a lock for the College Football Playoff, but could be the No. 1 seed depending on what No. 2 Florida State does.

Georgia should be able to get to the Auburn game with only one loss, which would create a raucous atmosphere between the hedges. Not only will Gurley be back after more than a month off, but the game could serve as a playoff elimination game if both traditional powers hold serve over the next couple of weeks.

Is the punishment too harsh?

Not according to the letter of the NCAA's law. It actually could have been much worse for Gurley, according to UGASports.com's Radi Nabulsi:

That law is in the process of changing through the push for power-five autonomy, but it's still the law right now. For that, Gurley must pay the proper price.

Georgia's playoff hopes, however, aren't diminished by Gurley's extended absence. 

The Bulldogs should be able to dispatch of the Gators and Wildcats with relative ease and set up quite a showdown at Sanford Stadium against Auburn with their own—and perhaps Auburn's—playoff hopes on the line.

Get your popcorn ready.

 

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

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

2015 Running Back Recruits Who Have Game-Breaking Speed

With the recent trend of spread and tempo-based offenses taking over college football, more teams are coveting versatile running backs who can hurt defenses on the ground and through the air.

The 2015 recruiting class has its share of rushers who are threats to change the scoreboard every time they touch the ball.

Some of these backs are smallish, all-purpose backs, while others are capable of running through or around defenders.

Which backs in the 2015 class possess game-breaking speed?

*Backs listed in alphabetical order.

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