NCAA Football News

6 College Football Recruits Who Had an Explosive Week

The final weekend of October high school football action didn't fail to entertain. Pivotal showdowns helped clear up—or, in some cases, cloud—state playoff pictures as prominent college prospects took their efforts to another level at the perfect time.

We continue our weekly review of top-tier recruit performances with a look at athletes from across America who stepped up, shattered records and, most importantly, led their teams to victory.

 

2015 3-star quarterback Tucker Israel, Lake Nona High School (Orlando, Florida)

The Clemson commit continues to carve up opponents and solidify his spot in Sunshine State football record books. Israel, a 6'.05", 200-pound passer, collected 600 yards through the air for a second straight week, becoming the third high school player in history to accomplish that feat, per Kevin Askeland of MaxPreps.

Israel, who now holds Florida records for single-game passing yards, career passing yards, career completions and career touchdown tosses, has been torching teams during the second half of his senior season. He completed 30 of 38 attempts Friday night against Celebration High School, tallying 630 yards and nine touchdowns. 

His performance propelled Lake Nona to a 73-22 win. Israel now has 39 touchdown tosses through nine games. 

 

2016 4-star wide receiver Josh Imatorbhebhe, North Gwinnett High School (Suwanee, Georgia)

This scintillating junior standout made quick work of the Duluth High School defense Friday night, wreaking havoc throughout a remarkable opening half. Imatorbhebhe caught six passes for 206 yards and five scores before intermission, according to Chris Hillyard of the Gwinnett Daily Post.

His monstrous effort helped North Gwinnett establish a 51-24 halftime lead. The team cruised to a 71-24 victory. 

Imatorbhebhe hauled in three touchdown receptions in the first quarter, including a 52-yard score on the game's opening play from scrimmage. His following four touchdowns came on catches of 48, 12, 21 and 56 yards. 

"I was just feeling it," he told me Saturday morning. "Our quarterback did a great job of getting the ball in my hands and giving me the opportunity to make big plays."

Imatorbhebhe holds scholarship offers from Missouri, Michigan, Virginia, Vanderbilt, Florida, Ohio State and several other schools. He is enjoying a career-best season this fall with 53 catches for 964 yards and 14 touchdowns through eight games, per MaxPreps.

 

2016 5-star quarterback Shea Patterson, Calvary Baptist Academy (Shreveport, Louisiana)

The 6'2", 195-pound passer is playing more confident than ever these days, validating and enhancing his status as a top-tier 2016 prospect. Lakeside High School is the latest opponent to fall victim, unable to slow down Patterson during a Friday night showdown.

Patterson picked apart passing lanes, completing nine of 11 attempts in a 44-7 victory, per MaxPreps. His performance featured five touchdown tosses, including scoring connections to four different receivers.

The former Arizona commit is on fire with 15 touchdown passes and no interceptions in his past five games. Patterson is completing 65 percent of throws this season, which has helped his team get off to a 7-1 start. 

His offers sheet features LSU, Oklahoma, Alabama, Notre Dame, USC and Texas A&M. The Aggies extended a scholarship last week:

 

2015 4-star wide receiver Damarkus Lodge, Cedar Hill High School (Cedar Hill, Texas)

Lodge saved his best effort of the season for a massive spotlight, as Cedar Hill faced fellow state title contender DeSoto High School on national television. Game attendees included star Dallas Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant.

The 6'2.5", 190-pound prospect was simply unstoppable during the highly anticipated showdown. Lodge collected 235 receiving yards in a 65-42 victory that provided a resounding statement to the rest of the Lone Star State. 

He caught three touchdown passes, including a game-sealing score in the fourth quarter, according to Matt Wixon of The Dallas Morning News. His performance drew praise from the most impressive pass-catcher in Texas:

Lodge now has 33 touchdown receptions since 2013, per MaxPreps. Cedar Hill is 21-3 during that span.

He decommitted from Texas A&M last month, visiting several campuses since that decision. Lodge has spent time at Ole Miss, LSU and USC during the past several weeks. 

 

2015 3-star defensive back Kareem Ali, Timber Creek High School (Sicklerville, New Jersey)

The 5'10", 175-pound playmaker may be looking ahead to a college career at cornerback, but he showed off his offensive skills Friday night against Clearview High School. Ali set season-highs with 262 yards and three touchdowns on just 15 carries, delivering the Chargers to a 33-21 victory over Clearview, according to Joe Zedalis of NJ.com.

Ali hadn't even registered a 100-yard rushing output in 2014 prior to the outburst. He found the end zone on runs of 12, 18 and 24 yards, adding a 23-yard touchdown reception in the process.

His eventful evening also included four tackles and a fumble recovery. Ali initially committed to Maryland before flipping to Temple this summer.

 

2015 4-star quarterback Brady White, Hart High School (Santa Clarita, California)

White led his team back from a second-half deficit Friday night against Golden Valley High School. The 6'2", 190-pound prospect flourished on downfield targets, hooking up with fellow 4-star recruit Trent Irwin seven times for 163 yards and two touchdowns, per Brent Maranto of the Santa Clarita Signal.

Irwin was hardly alone as a recipient of White's well-placed passes. The Arizona State commit completed 18 of 28 attempts for 336 yards and three scores.

Known for his success in the pocket, he flashed dual-threat capabilities with 112 rushing yards in the 38-24 win. White, who committed to the Sun Devils over Oregon, Penn State and Cal, has 35 total touchdowns through eight games, per MaxPreps.

 

Quotes obtained firsthand by Bleacher Report national recruiting analyst Tyler Donohue unless otherwise noted.

Recruit ratings courtesy of 247Sports.

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Blind College Football Playoff Resumes for the Top 10 Contenders

Ranking College Football Playoff contenders is an obviously imperfect science that lends itself to bias at all levels.

But the bias in question is not the conference bias (homerism) or recency bias (prisoner-of-the-momentism) most commonly associated with college football. More often than not, the bias secretly informing the rankings is what's known as the bias blind spot—the bias of failing to account for one's own bias.

The best way to control for this type of bias is to strip away the nonessential factors (team names, coach names, etc.) and judge the teams based strictly on their resumes. "Numbers never lie" is an embellishment...but they do lie a lot less often than people.

On that note, here is a look at the Top 10 teams in the Associated Press poll—only this time, their names have been omitted. The SOS column (seen below and on the subsequent table) refers to the Strength of Schedule numbers at TeamRankings.com:

*Note: Numbers refer to the current AP ranking of the opponent in question. Numbers in bold refer to a true road win or a true home loss—i.e., are extra-impressive in Column 4 but extra-indicting in Column 5. 

Everyone who looks at this table sees something different because everyone who follows college football values something different.

Is strength of schedule more important than record? How much does home-field advantage matter? Should we judge teams more on who they have beaten, or who they were beaten by?

Here is how I—subjectively—would rank these teams based on the numbers above (including their records) and nothing else:

  1. Team 6
  2. Team 3
  3. Team 2
  4. Team 1
  5. Team 8
  6. Team 10
  7. Team 9
  8. Team 5
  9. Team 7
  10. Team 4

Wins and losses are the things that matter most, but they are not the only things that matter. 

In a sport such as football, which so often comes down to inches, they are not a faultless metric when determining which teams are better than others.

"Championship teams are generally defined by their ability to dominate inferior opponents, not their ability to win close games," is one of the self-described "basics" at Football Outsiders, the Internet's preeminent source of advanced football metrics.

Here is a look at each team's statistical profile: 

*Calculated by subtracting points, yards and yards per play allowed per game from points, yards and yards per play scored/gained per game.

And here is how I—subjectively—would rank these teams based on the numbers above and nothing else (including record):

  1. Team 1
  2. Team 10
  3. Team 4
  4. Team 5
  5. Team 2
  6. Team 8
  7. Team 6
  8. Team 9
  9. Team 3
  10. Team 7

Talk about counterintuitive. The teams that I ranked No. 1 and No. 2 based on the first table—i.e., the two unbeaten teams in the AP Top 10—are No. 7 and No. 9 on my blind ranking of statistical dominance.

The numbers used above are flawed, slightly, because they don't weigh for garbage time vs. non-garbage time, which in one case makes a huge difference based on what we know outside of the blind-resume treatment. But for now, it's a staggering conclusion.

Which leads us to our final table: the composite of the two things we just looked at. Based on how I ranked the blind resumes in the previous sections, here is how the Top 10 teams stack up and how that compares with the actual Week 10 AP poll.

If their blind score was the same, I made a subjective decision between them using either record (when applicable) or head-to-head analysis. But that analysis, while also subjective, was made without considering the teams or any of the games I've seen them play.

Everything was done in the blind:

So...there you have it.

Alabama has the best resume in the country. TCU deserves to be ranked much higher than it is. Florida State, Notre Dame and Oregon have all played worse than their records/rankings suggest.

Or at least that's the conclusion I have drawn. Again, everybody values something different. Blind resumes are like a Rorschach test and these numbers, as alluded to above, are slightly imperfect.

Sound off below if you saw something I didn't see.

 

Unless otherwise cited, all stats courtesy of cfbstats.com 

Follow Brian Leigh on Twitter: @BleighDAT

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Which 'Real' Dark-Horse Team Has Best Chance to Make College Football Playoff?

We all know about the main contenders for the College Football Playoff, but what about the teams that no one seems to be talking about that have the best chance of making it into the playoff?

Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Michael Felder, Barrett Sallee, and Adam Kramer give their dark horses to make the College Football Playoff in the video above. 

Which one of these teams has the best shot to make the CFP? Watch the video and let us know. 

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Kynon's Korner: Next Richard Sherman Decides Friday, Alabama Commit Eyes Oregon

South Florida standout Tarvarus McFadden will make his verbal pledge on Halloween. It will be trick or treat for his top three of Florida State, Georgia, and LSU. The 6'3, 198-pound cover man is an athletic freak of nature. Tall cornerbacks usually don't have the hips or lateral quickness to stay with quicker wide receivers, but McFadden is the exception to the rule. He can play bump-and-run coverage or handle a zone area with ease because of his length and range. Because of his size he often gets compared to Seattle Seahawks All-Pro Richard Sherman and that is fine with McFadden. The Plantation (Fla.) American Heritage defender calls Sherman his favorite cornerback. 

We know Sherman's alma mater Stanford likely won't land the talented defensive back when he announces on Friday. Out of the three finalists, McFadden has only visited FSU and UGA this fall. He was in Athens, Ga. for the Georgia-Clemson in late August and recently he was at Florida State for the Seminoles-Fighting Irish contest. 

"When I went to Florida State my family really liked it," McFadden told Bleacher Report directly. "I've been there before so it was really anything new, but I enjoyed the game. Early on I was watching how the team played together, but then I started watching my position to see if I have chance to play there. I looked up the depth chart before going up there and I see a chance to play early. The visit was a 10."

Defensive coordinator Charles Kelly, assistant coaches Bill Miller, and Sal Sunseri are recruiting McFadden for the 'Noles. The 5-star prospect said the staff makes him feel like a priority and they talk to his parents whenever possible. 

As for Georgia, former American Heritage stars Sony Michel and Isaiah McKenzie signed with Georgia in the 2014 class and have made an early contributions for the 'Dawgs. Those connections appeal to McFadden and could help Georgia's case. 

"I really enjoyed the Georgia visit. The game and atmosphere were great," added McFadden. "The depth chart is favorable there too. I like that Sony and Izzy are making an impact there." 

Assistant coach Bryan McClendon and defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt are putting the full court press for McFadden. McClendon was the lead recruiter for Michel and McKenzie a year ago and has built a great reputation at Heritage over the last couple of seasons. McClendon's effort and Pruitt's prior experience with McFadden could pay off for Georgia come Friday. 

"I knew Coach Pruitt when he was at Florida State, so we have a good bond," noted McFadden. "I like his defensive schemes and how he runs his defense. He's also a good person in general. It's not always about football when I talk to him. I like that."

Although, McFadden will make a verbal commit on Friday his recruitment may not be over. He told me he wants to see LSU and he will try to set something up with Tigers assistant coach Corey Raymond at a later date. 

Stay tuned. 

Oregon Offer Could Shake Things Up for Alabama Pledge

5-Star Alabama commit, Demetris Robertson is no lock to the Tide.

"I'm keeping tabs on Georgia, Auburn, Southern California, Florida State, Florida, Georgia Tech, UCLA, LSU, and Oregon," the 5-Star ATH told Bleacher Report. "An Oregon offer would make things interesting in my recruitment."

When pressed more about the Ducks and his interest in the program? He replied, "I've been a big fan since I was in rec league. Their uniforms are sweet, but I like their style of play on offense. My goal is to visit them and see what they have going on."

If Oregon can get Robertson on campus similar to Florida State for a big game or in the off-season it could help their chances with the speedy wideout. We are going to monitor this situation more closely as it sounds like the Tide still have some work to do with keeping Robertson a part of the class of 2016.

Robertson has yet to see a game a Bryant-Denney Stadium, so he doesn't know what to expect when he visits Tuscaloosa, Ala. later this fall. 

"To be honest, most stadiums look the same," Robertson told me. "I haven't been to an Alabama game yet to get a feel for the atmosphere. I might hit up the Iron Bowl and Georgia vs. Auburn." 

Cal Impresses 4-star Lavan Alston

Ventura (Calif.) St. Bonaventure flanker Lavan Alston took an official visit to California two weeks ago and the trip went well according to Alston. The 4-star split end has a 247Sports Crystal Ball prediction trending to the Golden Bears. 

"The best part of the visit was the game was best part itself," said Alston. "My host was wide receiver Bryce Treggs. He was real cool. The campus was really nice along with the area around the school. The atmosphere was crazy and I really enjoyed it."

Assistant head coach Rob Likens is recruiting Alston for Cal and the athletic playmaker with 4.45 speed could be a nice addition for this year's class.  The Golden Bears have a pair of 3-star wide receiver commitments, but Alston brings something different to the table with his linear speed and home run ability.

Alston appears to be headed to the Pac-12 at the next level. He said the schools recruiting him "the hardest" in no particular order are Oregon State, Cal, Utah, Arizona State, and Washington.

He doesn't report any other official visit plans, but he will likely check out the aforementioned schools over the next few months. 

WR Tre Nixon Loved Penn State Visit

Melbourne (Fla.) Viera wide receiver Tre Nixon made a return visit to Happy Valle for the Penn State-Ohio State clash with his mom and brother, Devin Nixon. The three-star prospect visited State College, Pa. over the summer, but this trip was "amazing" according to Nixon.

"It was great to see all the fans screaming and shouting every time a big play happened," Nixon told Bleacher Report. "It gave me the chills. The atmosphere in the stadium was just ridiculous. My family enjoyed it too and it was just an all around great visit. Then again it was a good game. I know Ohio State puts up a lot of points. To hold them and put up a fight like that it came down to the wire. The visit was a 10 out of 10."

Nixon said he paid attention to the receivers when they hit the field. "As soon as the offense came on the field I locked on to them. I could definitely see that Coach (Josh) Gattis had those guys ready. They have sure-handed receivers that can catch the ball in traffic. I love the way they spread the ball around. Coach Gattis was explaining to me he needs someone like me do go down the field and be a deep threat. I have a lot of respect for the coaches."

The 6'0, 160-pouner has been to Florida, Duke, and USF this fall. He has plans to attend the Auburn-Georgia tilt on Nov. 15 and he is trying to circle more dates on his calendar.

Nixon was born and raised in Scottsdale, Ariz. and he grew up watching Oregon with his family. He wants to make a decision before the start of his senior season. The speedy pass-catcher said all the schools recruiting him are even right now, but Penn State and Ole Miss are doing their best to make him feel like a priority via social media. 

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand. Recruiting information and ratings courtesy of 247Sports unless otherwise noted. 

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Garrett Taylor Decommits from Michigan: What's Next for Wolverines, 4-Star?

Michigan recruiting continues to trend in the wrong direction as lopsided losses and coaching staff speculations mount in Ann Arbor. The Wolverines suffered another setback Monday afternoon when 4-star defensive back Garrett Taylor announced his decommitment: 

The Virginia standout initially pledged to Michigan in March but recently began exploring other options. He traveled to Virginia Tech last week and is set to spend official visits at Ohio State and Penn State next month.

Those three teams seem to be firmly in the picture for Taylor moving forward. Given the programs in pursuit, it appears he could return to The Big House as a member of the visiting sidelines.

Taylor, a 6'1", 195-pound wide receiver and cornerback at St. Christopher's School, holds more than 30 scholarship offers. He was the third-highest rated member of Michigan's 2015 recruiting class, which now features just nine prospects. 

Head coach Brady Hoke is struggling to keep grips on a once-promising group of commitments. Taylor is the latest in a growing number of talented high school seniors who've opted to head elsewhere for college.

Defensive end Darian Roseboro decommitted from Michigan in late September. The 4-star prospect pledged to North Carolina State less than two weeks later.

Wolverines fans once envisioned a secondary featuring Taylor and fellow 4-star cornerback Shaun Crawford, but the Ohio native flipped to Notre Dame in June. Serious problems on the recruiting path began to develop last winter when the team lost commitments from coveted offensive playmakers George Campbell and Damien Harris.

Michigan quarterback commit Alex Malzone expressed frustration about a devolving situation but understands the motivating factors for fellow Michigan recruits. 

"I think Coach Hoke has this team playing its heart out right now, but it's important to win games," he told me earlier this month. "The recruits know that. I know that. The coaches know that. If Michigan doesn't start picking up some wins, they could be in trouble. That's just the way it is."

The Wolverines are coming off a 35-11 loss at Michigan State and are now 4-8 against Big Ten Conference opponents since 2013. Hoke is charged with the task of turning things around on the field and salvaging a recruiting class that's on the brink of completely unraveling.

Commits Chris Clark (Texas and UNC), Brian Cole (Wisconsin) and Darrin Kirkland (USC) are each considering other universities. The loss of one or all of these 4-star players would send the program plummeting further down in 247Sports' composite class rankings, which currently list Michigan at 39th nationally.

Meanwhile, the Wolverines must address defensive secondary issues during the final stretch of this recruiting cycle. With Taylor and Crawford no longer on board, identifying and securing new targets becomes increasingly paramount.

The Wolverines options at safety and cornerback include Tyron Miller and Marcus Lewis. At this stage, it will be difficult for Michigan to command big-time commitments until a tenuous administrative situation is stabilized. 

 

Quotes obtained firsthand by Bleacher Report national recruiting analyst Tyler Donohue unless otherwise noted.

Recruit ratings courtesy of 247Sports.

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Will Perceived SEC Bias Infect College Football Playoff?

If there is one constant about cries of bias in any big public decision, it's this: They come after the decision is made. That's what's so curious about what's going on with the College Football Playoff selection committee.

This sport has begged for a tournament to determine its champion for years. Now it has one. And with the committee's first-ever poll about to come out on Tuesday, everyone seems to be sure about one thing:  

The fix is in for the Southeastern Conference.

How can anyone be so sure? Hardly anyone on the committee has even spoken. Yet people outside of SEC country just seem to know it's coming. The perception of bias toward the SEC is already infecting the playoff. And why, when everyone knows the SEC is the best conference? It's because of doubts in the way this thing is set up. It is structured for bias.

Everyone knows. It has been set up to keep almost all of the money and power in the hands of the big five conferences and ace out the little guys. Most of the 12 committee members work for, or used to work for, schools in those five leagues. So, according to USA Today, undefeated Marshall and its league, Conference USA, have felt it necessary to hire an LA-based PR firm to try to get someone to notice them.

And I asked Nebraska coach Bo Pelini what he meant last week when he said it wasn't good for college football that ESPN, owner of the SEC Network and the money behind the playoff, had such a close business relationship with one conference. Was he suggesting it could unfairly influence which four teams are picked for the playoff?

"Like I say, being a member of a different conference (the Big Ten), would that worry me if it came down to two teams and a decision?" Pelini responded. "Yeah, it would worry me a little bit."

Do not blow off Pelini. He is making an important point, though he doesn't seem bothered by the fact that long-time Nebraska coach and then athletic director Tom Osborne is on the committee. Still, Pelini is the head coach of a ranked team with one loss in a major conference. And he is suspicious about bias. We're not just talking about crazed college football fans

"The people on the committee are going to check their hats at the door," CFP executive director Bill Hancock told Bleacher Report. "We insist on that. They've met six or seven times, and it's a point we emphasized in the first meeting.

"Nobody represents anybody in the group. They all represent the game nationally."

But if teams from their conference get into the playoff, then that means money to them. That is an automatic conflict of interest. And the chairman of the committee is Jeff Long, athletic director at Arkansas, which, if you didn't know, is in the SEC.

Hancock said he has seen this before. He worked for 16 years with the NCAA Tournament in basketball and said people were always assuming that CBS had a hand in which teams were picked. Yet plenty of people think that tournament is the best sporting event out there. What about ESPN's influence on the football playoff?

"Zero," Hancock said. "Zero. They have nothing to do with the selection process. They never asked. It never came up."

Bias and conflict of interest are matters of perception, more so than of fact. And ESPN is a major player in nearly all sports. It is too important a force not to scrutinize in the same way we scrutinize the biggest sports leagues. That's why Pelini's point was important. ESPN all but owns the sport of college football. It owns several bowls and is paying out nearly half a billion dollars a year over the next 12 years for the rights to the playoff.

Meanwhile, ESPN made news recently when it pulled out of a documentary that was going to take an important look at concussions and football. Reportedly, ESPN's business partner, the NFL, was unhappy about the documentary.

Now, ESPN is a big business and should be making good business decisions. Most, maybe all, networks with business relationships with sports have a journalistic arm, too. But as part of the setup of the playoff, the teams will be selected by committee members who are free to pick whichever teams they want. Other sports' playoffs are based on winning divisions and wild cards and things that aren't so subjective.

I'm not saying that ESPN will use its power and influence on the college football selections. In fact, I doubt it will. But it certainly has the muscle and the power. And again, we're talking perception here. It's on ESPN to be convincing.

And that's not what Chris Fowler was when he came out with a rant Saturday, saying "I'm a little defensive, but I get defensive when stupid, uninformed stuff gets repeated again and again, and somehow people all over the world think we have a stake in having three teams from this league (SEC) get in."

 I'm not saying Bo Pelini is a genius, but it's not the best argument just to say that whoever doesn't agree with you is stupid. There are valid reasons to wonder.

 

Greg Couch covers college football for Bleacher Report. He also writes for the New York Times and was formerly a scribe for FoxSports.com and the Chicago Sun-Times.

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Alabama Football: Brutal November Will Define Tide's Season

When the first in-season rankings for the College Football Playoff come out on Tuesday, there will be much consternation and disagreement over resumes, placement, injuries and more.

It is inevitable. It is also what makes college football so fun.

Plenty of that will revolve around Alabama, currently the highest-ranked one-loss team in both the AP and Coaches polls. The Crimson Tide, though, are currently third in their own division, behind undefeated and unanimous No. 1 Mississippi State and Ole Miss, which beat Alabama three weeks ago but suffered its first loss of the season on Saturday to LSU.

For Alabama, (and probably for the rest of college football) these midseason rankings will be a meaningless exercise. The Crimson Tide have made several strong statements so far this season and looked weak at other times, in both wins and losses.

But Alabama’s resume and body of work is far from incomplete, more so than many of the top teams in the country against whom it will by vying for one of those four coveted spots.

The Crimson Tide’s brutal November gauntlet (which features three teams in the AP top 16 and two in the top four) will ultimately define the 2014 team, for better or for worse, and provide more evidence as to whether Alabama truly deserves to be in the inaugural playoff.

Let’s take a look at the three toughest games that lay ahead for Alabama after a bye week to rejuvenate.

 

At No. 16 LSU

At the beginning of the season, this looked yet again like it would be another epic clash of two SEC West titans. When the Tigers dropped two early games against Mississippi State and Auburn, though, much of the wind came out of that sail.

But LSU’s home upset of then-No. 3 Ole Miss flipped the SEC West on its side and suddenly this game means everything again. The Tigers finally look like the uber-talented, win-with-brute-force team we’ve come to know and love.

Still, this being the only road game Alabama has left works out in the Crimson Tide’s favor. It will be the easiest, on paper, of the three.

LSU’s strength on offense is its run game. Freshman Leonard Fournette is coming into his own, rushing for more than 100 yards in three of his last five games, including 113 in Saturday’s win. The Tigers have the second-most rushing yards in the SEC, behind only Arkansas.

That plays right into Alabama’s hands.

The Crimson Tide’s run defense is tops in the SEC. Alabama held Arkansas to just 89 yards on the ground, the Razorbacks’ lowest total of the year.

You can never count out Les Miles in Tiger Stadium, as we found out yet again on Saturday. But of these three games, this one appears to be the easiest.

 

Vs. No. 1 Mississippi State

Alabama-Mississippi State falls this year where it typically does on the Crimson Tide’s schedule—right after a physical game against LSU. This usually results in a sloppy game against an undermatched Bulldogs team, giving Alabama coach Nick Saban plenty to work on before the Iron Bowl.

That can’t be the case this year.

Mississippi State is the top-ranked team in the country and playing like it. Quarterback Dak Prescott is leading a very efficient offense, and the Bulldogs have as good of a defensive line as there is in college football.

Mississippi State knocked off LSU, Texas A&M and Auburn in back-to-back-to-back weeks to prove their No. 1 ranking. Everything is coming together for Dan Mullen in his sixth year as head coach.

Simply put: this isn’t the game for another annual letdown.

This game is in Bryant-Denny Stadium, though, which is huge for Alabama. It is averaging almost 50 points per game and more than 600 yards of offense at home. The Bulldogs have only won eight times in Tuscaloosa since these two teams started playing in the late 1800s.

This game has the potential to be a 1-vs.-3 or even 1-vs.-2 game in three weeks and will be one of the biggest games of the year in college football.

 

Vs. No. 4 Auburn

Is any rematch more anticipated?

A year after the greatest play in college football history ended Alabama’s perfect season and sent Auburn to the SEC Championship and BCS National Championship, the Tigers and Tide finish the season in a follow-up to that epic night.

Should Auburn beat Ole Miss this weekend and Alabama take down Mississippi State, then the Magnolia State’s brief grasp on college football will be over, and it will be the state of Alabama that will determine who goes to Atlanta.

The Tigers are clicking on all cylinders offensively, trailing only Alabama in the SEC in yards per play and only by .05 yards. Its defense, though, is middle-of-the-road in the SEC, giving up just 362.4 yards per game, ninth in the league.

Even if it doesn’t end up being for the SEC West, the game will have huge implications for both teams’ playoff destinies.

 

Marc Torrence is the Alabama lead writer for Bleacher Report. All stats come from cfbstats.

Follow on Twitter @marctorrence.

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LSU Football: Adjustments Tigers Must Make on Bye Week to Prep for Alabama

LSU head coach Les Miles was at his best Saturday night against Ole Miss. 

Miles watched his team battle through adversity to defeat the Rebels 10-7. He stuck with the game plan late, which was to ground-and-pound the opposition until it wore out. Because of Miles' leadership and his team's resolve, the Tigers are now in the midst of a three-game winning streak. 

LSU's next opponent is Alabama in two weeks. The Crimson Tide are on a three-game winning streak of their own behind a stout run defense and a high-powered passing attack. Meanwhile, head coach Nick Saban is currently on a three-game winning streak against the Tigers.  

Both teams will be coming off a bye week when they meet November 8. Here are some areas the Tigers must improve if they want to defeat the Crimson Tide. 

Begin Slideshow

Arkansas' 350-Pound NFL Prospect to Surpass Matt Miller's Top QBs in 2015 Draft?

In case you missed it, 350-pound Arkansas offensive lineman Sebastian Tretola threw a touchdown pass in Week 9 vs. UAB...and it was glorious. He showed poise, mobility and tons of pocket presence.

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder and Lead NFL Draft Writer Matt Miller discuss the emerging quarterback and his "draft stock."

Will Tretola rise up the big boards and go straight to the pros?


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Which 2015 Texas Commits Are Key for Charlie Strong and Longhorns' Recovery

The Texas Longhorns' 2014 season has been filled with struggles. However, the future is bright for this Big 12 powerhouse. Head coach Charlie Strong's 2015 recruiting class has quite a few freshmen who could have an immediate impact.

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder discusses the impact these future freshmen can have.

How good can the Longhorns be with these future players?

Watch the video and let us know!

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North Carolina vs. Miami: Complete Game Preview

The North Carolina Tar Heels head south for an Atlantic Coast Conference matchup with the Miami Hurricanes on Saturday, Nov. 1.

After a four-game losing streak, North Carolina (4-4, 2-2 ACC) upended Georgia Tech and Virginia to stay alive in the hunt for the Coastal Division.

Last week, the 'Canes (5-3, 2-2) hammered conference rival Virginia Tech 30-6 behind a career performance from their star running back.

Kickoff is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. ET and will be available on ESPN3. As of this writing, Miami is favored by 11 points, per OddsShark.

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Karlos Williams Domestic Battery Investigation: Latest Details on FSU RB

Florida State running back Karlos Williams is currently under investigation for a domestic battery allegation following an incident Saturday night, the Tallahassee Police Department has confirmed.

"TPD received the case on Saturday night, October 25th, 2014 and it was immediately assigned to the Criminal Investigation Division," a statement on the police department's Facebook page read. "The alleged crime is an active on-going investigation and Florida Law does not allow TPD to discuss the details of any case while it is on-going."

Florida State later spoke on Williams' status, via Brett McMurphy of ESPN:

Williams was also at Florida State's practice on Monday, via Corey Clark of the Tallahassee Democrat:

The investigation comes just days after rumors claiming Williams was suspended came to light. As noted by Brendan Sonnone of the Orlando Sentinel, Jacksonville radio personality Rick Ballou first reported and then backtracked from claims the Seminoles back was being suspended. Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher also denied the reports Friday.

"There's another false report, and that's amazing how things happen," Fisher said. "Whoever has sources, whoever has rumors, needs to check who they are talking to—because that is about as far from truth as there is."

Sonnone later provided more details on the case:

Williams, a senior, is the team's leading rusher with 378 yards and seven touchdowns. A converted safety, Williams has struggled as a lead back in 2014 compared to last season. His yards-per-carry average is down to 4.6 from 8.0 last season, and he's failed to break a run longer than 28 yards. As a junior, Williams posted three runs of 45-plus yards.

The Seminoles play at Louisville on Thursday night in arguably the toughest game remaining on their schedule. Williams declined to comment on the case through his attorney, Tim Jansen, per Sean Rossman of the Tallahassee Democrat.

 

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Ohio State Buckeyes vs. Illinois Fighting Illini Complete Game Preview

A week after escaping Happy Valley with a 31-24 overtime win over Penn State, the Ohio State football team will return to action on Saturday for a prime-time matchup with Illinois. All eyes might already be looking at the Buckeyes' Nov. 8 matchup with Michigan State, but Ohio State must first past make it past a Fighting Illini team that's riding some momentum of its own.

With the Spartans sitting at 7-1 and enjoying a bye week, the Buckeyes will hope to match MSU's record with a win on Saturday, making the much-anticipated showdown between the two squads a de facto Big Ten East championship game. After averaging 56 points per game from Sept. 13-Oct. 18, Ohio State came back to Earth against the Nittany Lions but will hope to head to East Lansing on a high note.

Illinois, meanwhile, managed to end a three-game losing streak last Saturday with an impressive 28-24 win over 6-2 Minnesota. Whether that game says more about the Illini or Golden Gophers remains to be seen, but it could be the start of a much-needed second-half surge for Tim Beckman's 4-4 team.

Whether the Buckeyes will regain momentum or Illinois will maintain it will be determined on Saturday. Until then, here's everything you need to know about this weekend's Big Ten battle:

 

Date: Saturday, Nov. 1

Time: 8 p.m. ET

Place: Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio

TV: ABC, ESPN 3

Radio: Ohio State Football Radio NetworkFighting Illini Radio Network

Spread: Ohio State (-28.5), via Odds Shark

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Florida State vs. Louisville Complete Game Preview

Florida State has done very well coming off a bye week the past few years, winning four straight games.

Last year, FSU opened the season with a Labor Day win at Pittsburgh 41-13. The Seminoles had 11 days off before routing Nevada 62-7 on Sept. 14.

The Seminoles also won off the second bye in 2013. After a 63-0 rout of Maryland at home on Oct. 5, FSU thrashed Clemson in a Top-Five showdown 51-14 at Death Valley.

This season, FSU easily handled The Citadel 37-12 in Tallahassee on Sept. 6. With two weeks off, and with Sean Maguire starting at quarterback, FSU slipped past Clemson 23-17 in overtime.

The Seminoles haven't spent time since the 31-27 win over Notre Dame resting. FSU has taken a few days off, but there hasn't been much of a break with an ACC showdown at Louisville next on Thursday night. Let's take a look at the matchup:

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USC vs. Washington State Complete Game Preview

WHEN: Saturday, Nov. 1; 4:30 p.m. ET

WHERE: Martin Stadium; Pullman, Washington

TV: Pac-12 Networks

Coming off a loss at Utah that puts it behind the eight ball in the Pac-12 South race, USC pays its first visit to Washington State since 2010.

USC hasn't lost on the Palouse since the 2002 in which the Trojans shared the conference championship with the Cougars. Likewise, first-year USC head coach Steve Sarkisian went 2-0 at Washington in his two Apple Cup rivalry matchups with Washington State head coach Mike Leach.

Past results have no impact on current matchups, of course. Besides, the most recent development in the 71-game USC-Washington State series was last year’s 10-7 Cougars’ win in the Coliseum.

Both last year’s result, as well as the Trojans’ loss last week at Utah, should serve as motivation when they invade Martin Stadium.

USC needs this win to avoid total elimination from the Pac-12 South championship picture. The Trojans have zero margin for error after suffering their second conference loss.

“I firmly believe we have a good football team,” Sarkisian said on his weekly conference call Sunday. “I know our guys are going to get up off the mat. They’re going to prepare hard and go out and play well this Saturday against Washington State.”

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Will Auburn End Ole Miss' Dream Season by Handing Rebels 2nd Loss?

A pair of one-loss SEC teams square off in Week 10 when the Auburn Tigers travel to Oxford, Mississippi, to take on the Ole Miss Rebels. After the Rebels' shocking loss to LSU in Week 9, they will need to stop Nick Marshall and the suddenly surging Tiger offense in order to keep their College Football Playoff hopes alive.

Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Adam Kramer and Barrett Sallee break down what should be a can't-miss SEC showdown. 

Will the loser of this game be eliminated from the College Football Playoff?

Watch the video and let us know!

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Denzel Nkemdiche Injury: Updates on Ole Miss Star's Ankle and Recovery

Ole Miss lost its first football game of the season Saturday against LSU. In the process, the Rebels also lost linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche for the season due to a broken ankle. 

Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze confirmed the news, per Edward Aschoff of ESPN.com, acknowledging Nkemdiche underwent surgery Sunday. Prior to the announcement, Freeze spoke about the impact injuries can have on team success, per Patrick MaGee of the Sun-Herald.

"This league is brutal," Freeze said. "It's difficult each Saturday to win football games, particularly when you may not play your best, and you suffer some injuries you're not used to having and you've got to play some other kids."

The loss of Nkemdiche is a significant one for the Rebels, as he has 28 tackles this season. Ole Miss will now have to move on without him against a tough Auburn (6-1, 3-1 SEC) team on Saturday.

Looking to make it to the first ever College Football Playoff, being without the linebacker might be a huge blow to the Rebels' chances.

 

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TCU's 82-Point Outburst Against Texas Tech Leads to Shortage of Fireworks

TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin led the Horned Frogs to a record-setting 82-27 blowout of the Texas Tech Red Raiders this past Saturday. As much fun as the game was for the players and the fans, the school ran into a bit of a problem during the game.

Every time the Horned Frogs score a touchdown at home, fireworks go off. When the team scored 10 touchdowns Saturday, seven of which were thrown by Boykin, it presented a bit of a problem for the school. Its inventory of fireworks had been used up.

The 82-point outburst set a school record for most points in a single game. TCU leads the nation by scoring an average of 50.4 points per game this season, so it's no surprise the school ran out of fireworks before October ended.

Good news, Horned Frogs fans: More fireworks are on the way.

[Twitter]

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Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. Navy Midshipmen Complete Game Preview

College football's longest-running intersectional rivalry continues this weekend, with Notre Dame and Navy meeting for the 88th time.

Just a game after battling the defending national champions in Tallahassee, the Irish will take on one of their oldest rivals in a game that certainly lacks the glamour of Florida State but still demands the respect of Notre Dame. 

The Midshipmen's four early losses are a disappointment for a Navy team that had high expectations entering the season. But injuries to quarterback Keenan Reynolds and a rash of uncharacteristic turnovers have plagued the Midshipmen, a team that usually operates on a razor-thin margin.

But Ken Niumatalolo's squad enters FedExField on a two-game winning streak, with a healthy quarterback and an offense firing on all cylinders. 

For the Irish, the challenge will be simple, yet difficult to achieve: Slow down Keenan Reynolds.

Navy's junior quarterback may not be playing at the level he was in 2013, but he's Navy's all-time touchdown leader. Against a young Irish defense with a coordinator who hasn't seen the option in a decade, playing assignment correct football will be critical. 

With the College Football Playoff Selection Committee releasing their first rankings later this week, 6-1 Notre Dame will find out its starting spot in the race to the postseason. But none of that matters if the Irish can't take care of business against the Midshipmen, something that's gotten a lot harder in recent years. 

Let's get you ready for the annual matchup with Navy:

 

Date: Saturday, November 1

Time: 8:00 p.m. ET

Place: FedExField in Landover, Maryland

TV: CBS

Radio: IMG College Sports, SiriusXM Channel 129

Spread: Notre Dame by 14.5, according to Odds Shark.

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College Football Playoff 2014: Bracket Predictions Ahead of Week 10

The insanity continues across the college football landscape, with yet another top team falling on Saturday. Ole Miss dropped its first game of the season ahead of the first College Football Playoff poll, but another SEC West team re-entered the discussion.

Mississippi State is the only undefeated team in the division remaining but nearly fell to Kentucky in Week 9. The Bulldogs still have a road game against Alabama and the Egg Bowl before being a playoff lock. They also have to worry about a resurgent Auburn team looking to make a statement this weekend.

As the top teams in the SEC continue to knock each other off, Florida State remains undefeated and has just one true test left. This Thursday, the Seminoles face Louisville in a game that might determine their chances at another title shot.

Prior to Week 10, here's a look at the latest projections for the first ever College Football Playoff.

 

Breakdown of Predictions

There are currently three SEC West teams at the top of both the Amway and Associated Press polls. However, one of those teams is destined to lose, while the Rebels still have a chance to enter the picture again.

For now, Mississippi State remains the top dog in the SEC and the country as a whole. The Bulldogs are led by Dak Prescott, who has been historically great this season, per ESPN College Football:

Any worries about a foot injury shouldn't be huge, as the Heisman contender remains upbeat. Asked about the boot on his right foot, Prescott told Michael Bonner of The Clarion-Ledger, "Oh yeah, this is just precautionary. ... It's just, I got a boot on it."

The junior didn't appear to miss a step as he went off for three total touchdowns to lead MSU over Kentucky. Meanwhile, another SEC team routed a second straight opponent when Alabama returned to the spotlight.

Nick Saban's program crushed Tennessee 34-20 and has won its last two games by a total of 73 points. Kyle Tucker of The Courier-Journal offered his take on the Crimson Tide:

Given the No. 2 ranking in the playoff projections, the Tide will remain undefeated the rest of the way. That includes a win over the Bulldogs and an Iron Bowl victory on their way to an SEC title.

Even with a great run into the postseason, the Tide simply won't be able to do enough to move into the No. 1 seed if Florida State remains undefeated. The Seminoles had a bye after a statement win over Notre Dame and have a favorable schedule the rest of the way.

Thursday night presents the most daunting matchup for the Noles, as Brad Edwards of ESPN.com (subscription needed) points out:

The FPI gives Miami the best chance to upset FSU (on Nov. 15), but if you believe that the formula for beating the Seminoles is a stout defense and a difference-making crowd, then this Thursday's game at Louisville could be all that realistically stands between Florida State and a spot in the playoff. Either way, the amount of resistance on FSU's path to an unbeaten regular season is far less than what fellow unbeaten Mississippi State faces.

Along with FSU, another strong offensive team has a chance to finish the season in the College Football Playoff. Oregon may have fallen to Arizona earlier this season but still has strong wins over both Michigan State and UCLA.

While it appears some voters have forgotten about the dominant win over the Spartans, the Ducks can overtake them moving forward. Wins over Stanford and Utah should propel Oregon back into the playoff picture.

Marcus Mariota has been at the top of his game for Oregon, as ESPN Stats & Info notes:

If Mariota can simply lead the charge the rest of the season, the Ducks should eventually get the jump over Michigan State with the win.

By virtue of the lone loss for Mississippi State, Oregon will draw No. 2 Alabama. Given the recent run by the Tide, that's not necessarily the matchup the Ducks might want, but it gives hope for a national title all the same.

 

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