NCAA Football News

Oklahoma State QB Commit Nick Starkel Throws for over 500 Yards, 5 TDs

Oklahoma State has enjoyed a strong run on the field and is creeping into the College Football Playoff conversation, especially after Saturday’s win over Big 12 juggernaut TCU. 

Cowboys head coach Mike Gundy and his staff are also getting it done on the recruiting trail.

The best example of that is the performance of 3-star quarterback and current Cowboys pledge Nick Starkel on Friday night.

According to Jordan Ottaway of the Denton Record-Chronicle, Starkel lit it up in leading Argyle Liberty Christian School to a 50-8 win over Plano John Paul II.

The 6’3”, 186-pounder completed 26 of 36 passes for 503 yards with five touchdowns and only one interception.

As Ottaway noted, Starkel’s scoring strikes covered 74, 62, 12, 87 and 38 yards.

The potential quarterback of the future for the Cowboys program threw for 297 yards in the first half to help the Warriors jump out to a 17-0 halftime lead.

Starkel and the Warriors put the foot on the gas in the second half, scoring 33 points in the third quarter to run away with the team’s sixth win.

“Nick is going to complete passes if we protect him,” Liberty head coach Barton Hundley told Ottaway. “Our offensive line did an excellent job of protecting him.”

Overall, it was the type of performance that illustrated how Starkel could fit into Gundy’s high-powered attack in Stillwater. 

As Bleacher Report’s Michael Felder noted, the strong points of Starkel’s game appear to merge perfectly with what Gundy looks for in his quarterbacks.

The nation’s No. 20 pro-style passer in the 2016 class has consistently displayed a quick release, the ability to get passes off with varying release points and his elusiveness in the pocket.

For Starkel, his stellar play in his senior season is a continuation of what was a strong offseason that saw him earn a trip to the finals of the Elite 11 competition.

As Bleacher Report’s Damon Sayles detailed, Starkel has a big fan in Elite 11 head coach Trent Dilfer—who said Starkel reminds him of current Texas Tech quarterback Davis Webb.

"He's my Davis Webb. He's a guy who maybe people were wondering if he'd be good,” Dilfer told Sayles. “He's going to not just be good, but he's going to be great. He has the frame, he has the mind and he has the release. The sky's the limit for this kid."

With the package of attributes Starkel will bring to Stillwater, Cowboys fans have plenty of reasons to be excited about his future in the program.


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

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College Football Playoff 2015: Latest NCAA Predictions After Week 10 Standings

Just one week into the College Football Playoff rankings, the Top Four will be shaken up thanks to No. 4 Alabama's convincing victory over No. 2 LSU. 

Losses by Michigan State and TCU will also shake up the Top 10, giving the playoff committee plenty to discuss in this week's meeting.

The New Year's Six bowl projections have been slightly altered this week, but plenty more changes are sure to come as teams such as Baylor and Ohio State face their toughest tests of the season in the coming weeks.


Notable Teams


After dominating Leonard Fournette and LSU, Alabama is in sole possession of first place in the SEC West and has a clear path to the playoffs. 

Alabama will move up at least one spot in the playoff rankings, surpassing LSU and potentially overtaking Ohio State.

If the results hold, my predicted College Football Playoff standings: 1. Alabama 2. Alabama 3. Alabama 4. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

— Brian Hamilton (@BrianHamiltonSI) November 8, 2015

While the path appears to be clear for Alabama to reach the playoffs, it's worth noting that the remainder of the Crimson Tide's SEC games will be away from home. 

Alabama travels to Mississippi State and Auburn to wrap up the SEC regular season, followed by the SEC title game. An upset loss in any of those games would dramatically shake up the playoff picture. 

Nick Saban is just 2-2 at Auburn as Alabama's head coach, and the Tide have lost at least one SEC road game in each of the past two seasons.



Florida State gave Clemson a scare, but once again the Tigers came out on top and are in position to cruise into the playoffs. 

Clemson's remaining regular-season opponents have a combined 9-18 record this season, which should allow the Tigers to remain undefeated heading into the ACC title game. 

With victories against Florida State and Notre Dame, Clemson is comfortably in position to cruise into the playoffs should it remain undefeated. 

Potentially an undefeated Ohio State team could jump Clemson in the rankings by season's end, after knocking off Michigan State and Michigan. But it's difficult to imagine the Tigers falling further than No. 2 should they keep winning, especially since every team in the SEC now has at least one loss.


Notre Dame

Due to the loss of No. 2 LSU, we're about to find out just how much the playoff committee respects one-loss Notre Dame. 

The Irish were ranked fifth in the initial poll, directly in front of four undefeated teams, due to their impressive strength of schedule. But Baylor, which plays a back-loaded schedule in the Big 12, is expected to continue to rise.

Notre Dame appears to be positioned to rise into the Top Four this week, but the committee may be setting Irish fans up for disappointment. If Baylor runs the table with wins against TCU, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, the undefeated Bears would likely climb ahead of Notre Dame. 

The good news for the Irish, however, is they still have one more opportunity to make a statement with a trip to Stanford in their season finale. 


Oklahoma State

For much of the season, it was assumed the loser of the Baylor/TCU game would slide into the Sugar Bowl. Oklahoma State's upset of TCU, however, now puts the Cowboys in position to battle Baylor for the Big 12 title. 

The Cowboys will certainly be underdogs against Baylor, but they have the advantage of playing at home against the Bears and in their season finale against Oklahoma. 

One thing nobody had ever really considered — what if Oklahoma State is actually the best team in the Big 12?

— Jake Trotter (@Jake_Trotter) November 7, 2015

Even with a loss to Baylor, if Oklahoma State can hold off the rival Sooners, the Cowboys would likely become the Big 12 representative in New Orleans at the Sugar Bowl. 

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After Shakeup Saturday, Can Anyone in College Football Go Undefeated?

Let's make one thing abundantly clear: It doesn't matter who you are, how talented your team is, who your coach is, what conference you play in or what your strength of schedule is. The most difficult thing to do in college football is go undefeated, and there aren't enough italicized fonts in the world capable of stressing that point enough. 

So much has to go right for a team to go unbeaten. At the core, a team made up of 18-to-22-year-old players has to be perfect (or nearly perfect) every week. And so we ask: Can anyone in college football make it through the regular season unscathed?

The list of teams with the capability and the remaining schedule to remain unbeaten starts, and perhaps ends, with Clemson. If J.T. Barrett returns as Ohio State's starting quarterback, the Buckeyes could be added to that short list as well.

As for the Tigers, they are the No. 1 team in the land, with legitimate reason. In a season with no elite teams, Clemson is arguably the most complete. That's the most anyone can realistically expect out of a college football team this year.

Week 10 of the 2015 college football season was a sobering reminder of that fact. LSU, Memphis, Michigan State and TCU all lost on Saturday, and all had College Football Playoff aspirations. That list of fallen unbeatens doesn't even include previously undefeated Toledo, which lost to Northern Illinois 32-27 on Tuesday—the same night the playoff selection committee released its first Top 25.

If seeing is believing, then J.B. Long of the Pac-12 Networks provides a solid visual of what happened this week: 

Furthermore, of the six unbeaten teams remaining—Clemson, Ohio State, Baylor, Iowa, Oklahoma State and Houston—as many as four (Iowa vs. Ohio State, Baylor vs. Oklahoma State) still have to face one another. The Buckeyes also have back-to-back games against Michigan State and Michigan, who are a combined 15-3. 

Houston has a difficult November, too, with games against Memphis and Navy, though the Cougars do get both teams at home. As Andy Staples of Sports Illustrated tweeted, the odds of four teams finishing the regular season unscathed and providing clarity to the committee are, in a word, low: 

Clemson has by far the easiest path to the playoff, but the Tigers have shown signs of vulnerability all the same. The stiff defense, which has ranked No. 1 nationally in several key categories, was burned on multiple occasions in a 56-41 win over North Carolina State two weeks ago. Still, the Tigers found a way to respond offensively to the Wolfpack's surges every time.

The game against Florida State on Saturday was won in nearly polar opposite fashion. In a low-scoring, hard-hitting struggle, Clemson needed 10 fourth-quarter points while shutting out FSU to pull away. 

It's not always going to be easy for college football's best teams. In fact, the lack of a dominant team almost ensures there will be a number of close calls. The truly important factor for remaining undefeated teams is asking a simple question with a difficult answer: Can you find a way to win when it matters?

That's something Clemson coach Dabo Swinney commented on after beating the Seminoles: 

There's no room for fans to be incredulous about Swinney's comments. College football is so unpredictable that it's only natural we see a different team fall every week. Oklahoma's awful loss to Texas becomes even more inexplicable when you notice that the Sooners have been among the more impressive-looking teams since. The possibility of the Sooners winning the Big 12 remains real. 

Florida housed Ole Miss at home in early October and then barely survived Vanderbilt a month later. Stanford lost to Northwestern in Week 1 yet could be the best one-loss team in college football. 

Who knows with these teams?

And who knows with Clemson? The remaining schedule of Syracuse, Wake Forest and South Carolina looks more than passable, but what if the Gamecocks play rivalry spoiler for the ages? What if, heaven forbid, Tigers quarterback Deshaun Watson gets hurt?

Baylor, for example, must navigate its remaining schedule, easily the hardest in college football, without quarterback Seth Russell. True freshman Jarrett Stidham looked more than capable of leading the offense against Kansas State Thursday evening, but the Bears defense was so bad against the run that the Bears seem just as beatable as any other undefeated team. 

Remember when Bleacher Report's Adam Kramer told everyone to relax and that the playoff rankings would sort themselves out? Well, it didn't even take a week for some of that cannibalization to begin. 

Who are we to say Week 10 will be the only time that happens? That's a ton of meaningful football left to be played, and someone has to lose. 


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

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Jeremy Johnson Saving Auburn's Season Creates Big QB Battle This Offseason

Had I told you two months ago that quarterback Jeremy Johnson would play a big part in saving Auburn's season in mid-November, you probably would have told me that I was crazy.

And maybe some other, more colorful thing.

Yet here we are, with Johnson—who had been benched since Week 3 save for a few snaps as a changeup quarterback—serving as Auburn's (5-4, 2-4 SEC) savior during Saturday night's 26-10 win at No. 19 Texas A&M.

His stat line (13-for-17 for 132 yards and a touchdown) doesn't exactly jump off the page. Make no mistake, though: By starting the game 9-for-9 with a touchdown and leading his team on two straight touchdown drives to open the game, he allowed Auburn to control the game early.

It never let up.

"That's how it was supposed to have been," Johnson said, according to Charles Goldberg of Auburn's official site. "My teammates believed in me whether I was sitting or starting. They've been telling me all week, and in the locker room before the game, 'I believe in you.' I just took that to heart."

That creates quite an interesting scenario on the Plains not only during the month of November but in bowl practices Auburn likely earned due to Johnson leading his team to win No. 5 in College Station—and a sure-fire win with Idaho left on the schedule.

Despite a 2-3 record as a starter, redshirt freshman Sean White has been pretty solid in a pinch and has progressed nicely as Auburn established an offensive identity when it needed it most.

Before being forced out of action on Saturday with various lingering injuries, White had completed 74 of his 125 passes for 1,063 yards, one score and had been plagued by his receivers having stone hands.

While Johnson's game vs. Texas A&M was solid, White has done enough to avoid being "Wally Pipp'ed" and losing his job due to injury down the stretch this year.

The battle at quarterback during bowl practices and this offseason in Auburn, though, got cranked up a notch this week. A loose Johnson looked good on the road in a tough environment in a pinch, and that could be the first step toward realizing potential that was discussed prominently last offseason.

"That's the biggest thing I was missing at the beginning of the season," he said, according to Goldberg. "I was just too uptight. Keeping a smile on my face made things better."

So what will Auburn do?

Head coach Gus Malzahn and offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee likely have to get both reps during the final three games vs. Georgia, Idaho and Alabama so they can hit the ground running in bowl practices.

There's another curveball coming to the Plains, too.

The Tigers got a commitment from junior college dual-threat stud John Franklin III this week. The former Florida State and current East Mississippi Community College standout threw seven touchdowns, tossed two picks, rushed for 451 yards and nine touchdowns in nine games, according to

As Kevin Scarbinsky of noted last week, Franklin—who acted as former Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall on Florida State's scout team in December 2013 leading up to the 2014 BCS National Championship Game—provides the run threat Auburn lacks from its current quarterbacks.

Franklin—who will be a junior next year—won't enroll until January, which leaves Johnson and White two months to sort out the current depth chart and provide the best counterpunch to Franklin's ability as a dual-threat weapon.

Thanks to Johnson's performance on Saturday, Auburn will likely get those critical 15 bowl practices this December to help the offense grow.

Get ready, because you're going to hear a lot about Auburn's quarterback depth chart over the next nine months.


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

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

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Heisman Watch 2015: Breaking Down Top Candidates in the Race After Week 10

A handful of upsets shook up the playoff picture in Week 10, but that pales in comparison to the jolt the Heisman race sustained on Saturday. 

Convincing losses by TCU and LSU nearly knocked the two front-runners from the race entirely, opening the door for a slew of candidates who had been waiting in the wings. 

The following list features a handful of candidates who are on the rise, along with the notable candidates (Leonard Fournette and Trevone Boykin) whose Heisman resumes suffered major blows this weekend.


Notable Candidates

Trevone Boykin, TCU

Boykin was a legitimate candidate entering Week 10, but his Heisman hopes quickly evaporated during TCU's loss to Oklahoma State. 

Unfortunately for Trevone Boykin, there's no overcoming a 4-INT game in a 20-point loss to win the Heisman. Best-case is finalist.

— Stewart Mandel (@slmandel) November 8, 2015

While Boykin is certain to finish the season with Heisman-worthy numbers (he's already accounted for 37 touchdowns), his four interceptions against the Cowboys is a performance Heisman voters will not easily forget.

At this stage, it will be tough for Boykin to generate enough momentum to earn an invitation to New York for the Heisman ceremony, let alone be a viable contender to win the award. But if Boykin has one last run in him, it has to come in the form of an upset over Baylor.

TCU hosts Baylor the day after Thanksgiving, giving Boykin one last shot at a Heisman-worthy performance.


Leonard Fournette, LSU

On Saturday morning, Fournette was the heavy favorite in the Heisman race. By Saturday night, the nail had been firmly hammered into his coffin. 

In recent years, it has been nearly impossible for a non-quarterback to generate the type of Heisman hype Fournette has built up in recent weeks, but voters will be quick to throw out their early-season predictions after his 31-yard performance against Alabama. 

Heisman candidates can overcome a down game, but not one in a loss of this magnitude. 

Heisman voters thinking Fournette and Boykin are doing a lot of Steve Spurrier right now: "Welp..."

— Tim Cowlishaw (@TimCowlishaw) November 8, 2015

The most recent running back to win the Heisman, Alabama's Mark Ingram, had multiple games in which he ran for fewer than 100 yards, but the Crimson Tide ran the table, thus avoiding any blame being placed on Ingram for any single outcome. 

In 2005, Reggie Bush also won the Heisman for an undefeated team, which allowed voters to forgive his four sub-100 rushing performances. 

All Fournette can do now is hope everyone else in the race slips up, forcing voters to circle back and reconsider his entire body of work.


Corey Coleman, Baylor

Baylor could have used a more dominant performance to bolster its playoff hopes, but in terms of Coleman's Heisman campaign, Thursday night's game against Kansas State couldn't have gone better. 

Despite working with freshman quarterback Jarrett Stidman, Coleman turned in his best performance of the season with a season-high 206 yards on 11 receptions. 

Coleman also added two touchdowns, bringing his season total to 22. 

Oklahoma visits Waco next week, giving Coleman his first opportunity to shine against a formidable defense. 


Ezekiel Elliott, Ohio State

Elliott hasn't had a signature performance yet, but he simply keeps chugging along and hanging around the Heisman picture. 

Ezekiel Elliott now has 14 straight 100-yard rushing games. Zeke is very much in the Heisman race, esp w/ games vs. MSU and at Michigan left

— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) November 8, 2015

The momentum swing in Elliott's favor may be coming in the next few weeks, as Elliott will close out the regular season against Michigan State and Michigan. 

It's also worth noting that if the Buckeyes run the table, Elliott will have one last shot to win over voters in the Big Ten title game. Meanwhile, his closest competition among running backs, Fournette, will likely be at home, as LSU is unlikely to advance to the SEC Championship Game.

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NCAA Football Rankings 2015: Week 11 Standings for College's Top 25 teams

Oh, the drama.

Week 10 in college football was filled with results that separated the contenders from the pretenders. There's only one place to start, and that's at the top. The No. 1 Clemson Tigers came back from a 10-6 halftime deficit to defeat the No. 16 Florida State Seminoles 23-13.

After another rock-solid game (297 passing yards, TD and no interceptions), Tigers quarterback Deshaun Watson should be strengthening his Heisman Trophy case.

The Tigers moved to 9-0 overall, 6-0 in the ACC, and they clinched the ACC Atlantic title. They may have also hurdled their last major impediment on the way to the College Football Playoff (CFP). The Tigers have three remaining games at the Syracuse Orange, at home against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons and another road game at the South Carolina Gamecocks.

In the ACC Championship Game, the Tigers will more than likely be facing the No. 21 North Carolina Tar Heels. Expect the Tigers to be the heavy favorites to run the table and remain in the top spot. After the big win, Clemson head coach indicated his Tigers are just getting started, per ESPN College Football:

ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit feels the win was enough to keep the Tigers atop the poll:

Here's a look at the latest Bleacher Report polls:

The coaches' poll won't be released until noon ET, and the Associated Press rankings are revealed at 2 p.m. ET. You can see all conference standings at All ranking references in the text were as of Saturday morning.


Bama Rollin', LSU Slipping

What team could dream of knocking Clemson off its perch after such a big victory? The No. 4 Alabama Crimson Tide might have a legitimate case. On Saturday, they spanked their rivals and No. 2 LSU Tigers 30-16 behind 210 yards and three rushing touchdowns from Derrick Henry.

Bama improved to 8-1 while knocking LSU from the ranks of the unbeaten at 7-1. While Bama did lose to No. 15 Ole Miss earlier this season, it still has four wins over ranked opponents. Three of those have come over teams ranked in the Top 10.

Clemson's big victory was just its second over a ranked opponent. It doesn't have another on the regular-season schedule, though North Carolina would fit the bill should that matchup materialize in the ACC title game.

In any case, Bama would likely have a better resume if it wins out. The Tide have the No. 22 Mississippi State Bulldogs next and the No. 10 Florida Gators in the SEC Championship Game—barring a loss in one of Bama's final two regular-season conference games.

If Bama wins out, it will deserve the top spot by season's end. 

As for LSU, it could still theoretically find its way into the CFP, but it will likely need carnage to ensue in the Big 12. We saw a little of it take place on Saturday.


Big 12 Will Devour Itself

The No. 8 TCU Horned Frogs (8-1) fell 49-29 to the still-unbeaten and rising No. 14 Oklahoma State Cowboys (9-0). Led by Mason Rudolph (352 passing yards and five touchdowns) and James Washington (five receptions for 184 yards and three touchdowns), the Cowboys offense was just too dangerous for a leaky Horned Frogs defense. 

Because the Big 12 doesn't have a conference championship game, matters have to be settled in the regular season. After the No. 6 Baylor Bears eked out a 31-24 win over the unranked Kansas State Wildcats on Saturday, they and the Cowboys are the last two unbeaten teams in the conference.

That may not last long.

Baylor, a team playing without star quarterback Seth Russell, still has to beat the No. 15 Oklahoma Sooners, the Cowboys and the Horned Frogs over the next three weeks.

The Cowboys have the Iowa State Cyclones before the Baylor matchup, and they finish with the rival Sooners. If the Bears or Cowboys lose any of those games, you'd have to think a one-loss LSU team beats them for a third or fourth spot.


Big Ten Looking Like a One-Team Conference

As long as the No. 3 Ohio State Buckeyes doesn't falter at the Illinois Fighting Illini, at home against the No. 7 Michigan State Spartans or at the Big House against the No. 17 Michigan Wolverines, the defending champions should claim a spot in the playoff.

They moved to 9-0 with a 28-14 win over the Minnesota Golden Gophers. The Spartans looked all the more beatable after being upset by an unranked Nebraska Cornhuskers team on Saturday, 39-38. In a complete choke job, the Spartans likely watched their playoff hopes slip away as they were outscored 19-7 in the fourth quarter.

With the loss, there's almost no way the Big Ten gets more than one team in the CFP this year.


Don't Forget About Notre Dame, but Forget About the Pac-12

The No. 5 Notre Dame Fighting Irish are right where they need to be. A 42-30 win over the Pittsburgh Panthers moved them to 8-1 this season. Notre Dame has two wins over ranked teams, and its only loss was a two-point setback at Clemson. 

Losses don't come more respectable than that.

After home games against Wake Forest and the Boston College Eagles, it will all likely come down to the battle at the Stanford Cardinal in the season finale for the Irish. Because of the draw Notre Dame delivers, if it finishes 11-1, there's no way it won't make the CFP over a one-loss Big 12 champion that hasn't solidified itself with a postseason conference championship. 

That said, a one-loss LSU Tigers squad should get the nod if its only loss is to the team that is ranked No. 1 in the final CFP poll. A two-loss Stanford team and the No. 12 Utah Utes would then be the Pac-12's best hopes for a CFP representative. 

There's a fat chance of either team being chosen for the CFP.

As of today, the most logical prediction for the four playoff teams at the end of the season figures to be:

  1. Alabama
  2. Clemson
  3. Ohio State
  4. LSU

If this scenario plays out, there are going to be some very unhappy folks in South Bend, Stillwater and Pac-12 country.

How about an eight-team playoff?

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SEC Football: Best Performances from Week 10

Week 10 was billed as Separation Saturday, and in the SEC, that meant No. 2 LSU and No. 4 Alabama throwing haymakers in Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa. 

Unfortunately for Tiger fans, Alabama running back Derrick Henry did most of the damage.

Led by Henry's three touchdowns and 210 rushing yards, the Crimson Tide throttled LSU 30-16 in a game between two potential playoff teams.

Did Henry's heroics land him in our weekly slideshow featuring the best performances in the SEC based on output and importance to the team?

Begin Slideshow

Bowl Predictions 2015: Complete CFP Projections Following Week 10

There was a major shakeup in the College Football Playoff rankings Nov. 7, with four previously unbeaten top-15 teams going down.

No. 2 LSU, No. 7 Michigan State, No. 8 TCU and No. 13 Memphis contributed to what will be changes in the CFP landscape.

LSU was part of the first CFP rankings announced this week, and even though the Tigers loss was to the No. 4 Alabama Crimson Tide, it's likely they fall out when the next rankings are announced.

Let's take a look at some bowl projections after Week 10, and who will be playing in the CFP semifinal matchups:


Alabama Making a Statement

Alabama landed in the No. 4 spot of the first CFP rankings this week, amid some criticism because it suffered an early-season loss to No. 18 Ole Miss. Turns out, the Crimson Tide may have been ranked too low.

Alabama dismantled No. 2 LSU Saturday night, 30-16, and now controls its own destiny in regard to winning the SEC West.

LSU will almost certainly fall below Alabama in the rankings, and might fall completely out. The Crimson Tide have a great shot at passing Ohio State even if the Buckeyes win out. OSU has had some close calls this year, and the committee has already shown it's not afraid to rank Alabama ahead of undefeated teams.

Playing in the SEC contributes to a tougher schedule than Ohio State's Big Ten slate, per ESPN Stats & Info:

If Buckeye players and fans don't believe the SEC hype, they may get a chance to find out just which team is better in a 2/3 matchup between OSU and Alabama in the Cotton Bowl.

Look for that to happen if both teams win out, because as good as Alabama has played, it's unlikely the committee will drop Clemson from the top spot if the Tigers finish the season undefeated.


Clemson Isn't 'Clemsoning' Anymore

Dabo Swinney hates the term.

The Clemson head coach has heard the slang "Clemsoning"—a knack for losing big games—before, and has had enough.

Last month Swinney went off on the media after after a 43-24 victory against Georgia Tech, per USA Today's Laken Litman:

"I’m sick of it. I don’t even know why you bring up the dagum word. How about these other teams who lose to unranked teams all the time? We ain’t lost to anyone unranked since 2011, but I have to come to a press conference in 2015 and get asked that. And that’s all media bull crap."

Clemson already had a win over No. 5 Notre Dame on its resume, and defeated No. 16 Florida State Saturday, 23-13, to claim a spot in the ACC Championship game.

ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit thinks the Tigers are deserving of the No. 1 spot:

It could be time to retire "Clemsoning," but the Tigers haven't won a national championship just yet. Swinney noted after they defeated Florida State there is plenty of work to still do, per "We won the Kentucky Derby tonight," Swinney said. "But we want to win the Triple Crown."

In order to do so, they are going to have to take down the country's best offense in a semifinal matchup with the Baylor Bears.

Baylor lost starting quarterback Seth Russell after he suffered a season-ending neck injury in an Oct. 24 victory against Iowa State. He led the nation in passing yards and touchdowns before the injury. However, the Baylor offense still performed well Nov. 6 without him in a 31-24 victory at Kansas State.

Freshman Jarrett Stidham stepped in and completed 23-of-33 passes for 419 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions against the Wildcats. 

He now has 750 yards, nine touchdowns and zero interceptions this season. Stidham has a chance to be this year's Cardale Jones—the sophomore who stepped in for the injured J.T. Barrett before the Big Ten Championship game last year, and engineered the Buckeyes to the national championship.

Baylor leads the nation in scoring at 57.4 points per game, and Clemson is in the top 15, at 38.7. The Tigers have the better defense, and an offense that should be able to keep up with Baylor. If so, "Clemsoning" might soon mean winning.

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NCAA Football Rankings 2015: Predicting the AP Top 25 After Week 10

The all-important month of November in college football kicked off with quite a big bang on "Separation Saturday."

Week 10 featured the biggest slate of high-profile matchups this season along with some more late-game drama and outright insanity.

Those big-time games, from the latest heavyweight clash in the SEC West to an important statement victory down in the Big 12, will undoubtedly lead to serious shakeups in rankings everywhere this weekend. There's now real intrigue at the No. 1 spot and some important sorting to do throughout the Top 10.

As we do at this time each week, here are the latest predictions for the Associated Press Top 25not the College Football Playoff rankings, which were recently unveiled for the first time this season. This is for the poll that will come out Sunday afternoon.

In this week's edition of the projections, I've circled more risers than fallers, as I'll touch on the two Top-Five teams that fell this weekend in the "moving up" category.


Moving up


Clemson was already riding high heading into this weekend's matchup against one-loss Florida State in Death Valley. The playoff committee had the Tigers at No. 1 in the country in its initial Top 25 earlier this week, and they defended it with a 23-13 comeback win over the Seminoles.

The Tigers rallied to put up 512 yards of offense through the excellent Deshaun Watson and Wayne Gallman, and the defense came up with several big stops after allowing a huge touchdown run to Dalvin Cook on the second play from scrimmage. FSU didn't find the end zone again and turned the ball over twice in the contest.

With the major victory and Ohio State and Baylor's tight results this week, the AP pollsters could follow the committee's lead and put Clemson at No. 1 over the undefeated Buckeyes and Bears. Overtaking Baylor would be easy—the Tigers had the same number of first-place votes and trailed the Bears by just 27 points in the Week 10 poll.

Ohio State, though, entered the week with 33 more first-place votes and a sizable points advantage over Clemson. That's a big gap, but I think the Tigers will jump the less-than-impressive Buckeyes this week. Having that No. 1 next to their name all day thanks to the playoff committee should give them a strong wave of momentum with the pollsters.



Alabama backed up its lofty ranking from the playoff committee with a 30-16 victory over fellow SEC West heavyweight LSU, which entered the game with an undefeated record.

Derrick Henry led the way for Alabama with 210 rushing yards and three touchdowns against the LSU defense, completely taking the Heisman spotlight away from Leonard Fournette. The runaway Heisman favorite heading into Saturday had only 31 rushing yards after entering the game with an average of 193 per contest.

"There just wasn't any real estate for Fournette to stretch his legs," Michael Casagrande of wrote. "He was thrown for losses on four occasions with a long run of 18 yards. A few of Alabama's defensive linemen said Wednesday they were sick of the talk leading up to the game. It delivered that message Saturday night."

The Crimson Tide already had a great chance to make a big AP poll jump with a win over LSU, and a couple of high-profile losses ahead of Alabama should've ensured a spot in the top four from the media. Alabama probably doesn't have enough to overtake undefeated Baylor, but it's more than fine as a red-hot No. 4 team.


Oklahoma State

Oklahoma State entered Week 10 as the lowest-ranked undefeated team from the Power Five conferences. The Cowboys' close calls earlier in the season didn't earn them much favor with the pollsters in the first two months.

But Oklahoma State opened a major month of November in the Big 12 with a 49-29 win over previously undefeated TCU in Stillwater. Despite TCU's 663 yards of offense, the Cowboys' defense picked off Heisman contender Trevone Boykin four times and became only the second team this season to hold the Horned Frogs to fewer than 30 points.

Offensively, Oklahoma State hit TCU for big plays time and time again. Three of its six offensive touchdowns went for 50 or more yards, and another one—its first of the day—totaled 48 yards.

Oklahoma State should get plenty of respect in the polls this week after knocking off TCU. The Cowboys might not be able to jump one-loss Notre Dame and Stanford in these rankings, but they've now got a much-bigger win than any this season from undefeated Iowa, which held off Indiana to win by eight points Saturday. They move just ahead of the Hawkeyes and settle at No. 7 here.


Wisconsin and Northwestern

With Ole Miss, Toledo and Texas A&M taking upset losses in Week 10, there's plenty of room for some new blood in the AP Top 25.

Joining Navy—more on the Midshipmen in a bit—in this week's predicted poll is the Big Ten combo of Wisconsin and Northwestern, a pair of two-loss teams with decent resumes.

Wisconsin's only two losses this season came against SEC West front-runner Alabama and undefeated Iowa, with the latter coming by four points at the beginning of October. Since then, the Badgers have won five straight, including Saturday's narrow road victory over Maryland. Wisconsin led the receiving votes category in Week 10 and will slide into the poll here without much problem.

No. 25 is a bit trickier, as three-loss USC entered the week with more votes than Northwestern, which snatched a spot in the committee's rankings on Tuesday night. With USC needing a fourth-quarter rally to secure a win over disappointing Arizona, the Wildcats should have enough momentum to break into the poll again after their victory over a better Penn State team.


Moving down

Michigan State

The Spartans will be the latest group of fans to feel completely shafted by a late refereeing decision, as officials appeared to blow a possible illegal touching call on Nebraska wide receiver Brandon Reilly's game-winning touchdown catch.

But Michigan State, a team that has flirted with disastrous losses several times this season, only got in that position because of a defensive breakdown in the second half. A six-loss Nebraska team scored four touchdowns on five possessions after halftime to pull off the 39-38 shocker.

"Michigan State couldn't stop [Nebraska] because Michigan State, in its present form, can't stop anybody," Bleacher Report's Brian Leigh wrote. "In that way, the controversial ending will bury the lede from this game. Sparty got what's been coming to it all season."

Michigan State should slide a good ways out of the Top 10 following its first loss of the season—one that came against a Nebraska squad coming off a high-scoring defeat to Purdue. The Spartans land ahead of two-loss Michigan, a team that was seconds away from beating Michigan State a few weeks ago, in this week's AP projection.



A funny thing happened on the way to next week's massive showdown between Houston and Memphis in the increasingly important AAC West race. The Tigers won't visit Houston with an unbeaten record or hopes of a playoff run in Week 11 thanks to Saturday's 45-20 loss to divisional foe Navy.

The option-running Midshipmen picked apart Memphis' struggling defense, and quarterback Keenan Reynolds even unloaded a 75-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter to give Navy a 24-17 lead. Navy ran for 374 yards against the Tigers, with three different runners finding the end zone.

On offense, Memphis turned the ball over three times and failed to convert a pair of fourth-down tries. As Tigers head coach Justin Fuente simply put it, per ESPN, Navy "kicked [Memphis'] tail" and proved it is a "nightmare" for any opponent.

Memphis' first defeat of the season won't knock it out of the Top 25, although its most impressive win of the season looks worse now that Ole Miss has three losses. Navy, on the other hand, only has a loss to Notre Dame to its name and should crack the polls as a strong Group of Five contender.


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

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ESPN College GameDay Headed to Waco for Oklahoma vs. Baylor in Week 11

Waco, Texas is not only the site of a potential de facto Big 12 title game plus a play-in game to the College Football Playoff, it's also the host of next week's ESPN CollegeGameDay as the morning crew will be taking the show to Baylor as the Bears host the Oklahoma Sooners. 

Sitting at 8-0 with the inside track to the Big 12 title, particularly after TCU's loss to Oklahoma State, the Bears are hungry to finish the season strong and with a host of statement wins in order to avoid last year's slight that left them out of the CFP. 

A win over the storied Sooners would be the perfect variable to plug into that formula. 

As for the Sooners, they still control their own destiny when it comes to claiming a share of the Big 12 title as they have games with Oklahoma State, TCU as well as next week's matchup with Baylor left on their slate. Oklahoma's lone loss this season was a surprise upset in the Red River Rivalry contest against the Texas Longhorns. 

The Bears easily dispatched the Sooners in Norman last year 48-14, so revenge will be on the minds of the Crimson and Cream. 

Baylor is coming off a win over the Kansas State Wildcats on the road, where the Wildcats' late rally left the Bears with just a 31-24 victory despite controlling the game—hey CFP committee, game control—throughout its entirety. 

As for the Sooners, who responded to the loss to Texas by shutting out the Wildcats in Manhattan 55-0 a week later, they continued their resurgence by routing lowly Iowa State 52-16 on Saturday. 

The Sooners have the overwhelming historical advantage in this series, winning 21 of 24 matchups. But they lost the last one, and that's all that most will remember. 

Expect this contest to be a shootout, and one that will have major implications for which team will be crowned Big 12 champion at season's end. 

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College Football Playoff Rankings: Biggest Takeaways from Week 10

In college football, history repeats itself.

For the second straight week, we had a high-profile game (Michigan State at Nebraska) end on a major officiating controversy, and for the fourth straight week, we had a high-profile game (Arkansas at Ole Miss) end in a way we have rarely seen.

But that was only the tip of the iceberg on "Separation Saturday," when four unbeaten teams tasted defeat for the first time this year. Those losses and other results will have an effect on the College Football Playoff rankings, the second edition of which will come out Tuesday.

Here's a quick look at what we learned.


Michigan State and LSU Lose Ugly

Four teams dropped from the ranks of the unbeaten on Saturday, and we'll get to all four in due time.

For now, let's focus on Michigan State and LSU.

The Spartans melted down at Nebraska, coughing up a 12-point lead in the final two minutes before losing on a controversial no-call. The Huskers are one of the best six-loss teams in college football, but they're still a six-loss team one week removed from losing to Purdue. Any way you swing it, this was not a quality loss.

The same could be said for the Tigers, who despite losing to a quality opponent did not take a quality loss. Alabama outgained LSU by more than 250 yards, held Leonard Fournette to 31 yards on 19 carries and looked roughly 10 clicks out of the Tigers' league.

With Ole Miss losing to Arkansas, Alabama assumed control of the SEC West. That's one one-loss team that will outrank both LSU and Michigan State. The same goes for Stanford and Notre Dame—the latter of which I called Saturday's biggest winner—who will play each other in a de facto playoff quarterfinal at the end of November.

The Tigers and Spartans did not play themselves out of the CFP picture (see: Ohio State's loss to Virginia Tech last year). They did, however, play themselves out of the top tier. They entered the week in control of their own seasons.

Now they not only need help; they need a lot of help.


Oklahoma State Replaces TCU in Playoff Picture

Oklahoma State made an Oklahoma Statement, beating TCU 49-29 to hand the Horned Frogs their first loss since last October.

The Cowboys intercepted Trevone Boykin four times, riding that and five Mason Rudolph passing touchdowns to a lopsided win in Stillwater.

Prior to Saturday's statement, the best team Oklahoma State had beaten was...West Virginia? Texas Tech? Central Michigan? There's a reason it was No. 14 in the first playoff rankings—considerably lower than the other power-conference undefeateds.

But now? Suffice it to say the Cowboys proved their worth. TCU outgained them by more than 200 yards, 663-456, but those stats, as in many blowouts, are misleading. Oklahoma State defended the Horned Frogs better than any team all season.

"I want someone to look at the stats and tell me we had a bad game so that I can laugh it off," defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer told reporters. "For these guys, this was outstanding, and I'm so proud of them. It was a huge night. There were 110 gradeable snaps, so they probably played 120 when you take off penalties and such. Those guys are exhausted."

Where does this leave the Big 12? Frankly, in a complicated spot.

Oklahoma State plays Baylor in two weeks, and the winner of that game will be the only Big 12 team with a chance to go undefeated. But the Cowboys play Oklahoma and the Bears play TCU the following weekend, so whoever wins will be in a prime spot to turn around and lose.

Baylor also plays the Sooners next week, so there's a chance it loses before playing Oklahoma State. These schedules are so back-loaded that it feels like the Big 12 season hasn't even begun.

Or at least that's how it felt before Saturday. The Cowboys beating the Horned Frogs was the first major domino to fall since Texas beat Oklahoma.

Now the conference knows what it needs to root for.

Like last year, it's unlikely to get a one-loss champion in the playoff.


The Clock Strikes Midnight on Memphis

Memphis went out not with a bang but a whimper, losing 45-20 on its home field to Navy.

The Midshipmen rushed for 374 yards and made the Tigers look soft. It was the worst-case scenario for Justin Fuente's team, which was No. 13 in the first CFP rankings and earned so much positive buzz for starting 8-0 with a win over Ole Miss.

The new potential Cinderella is Houston. The team Memphis is slated to play next week—and might have looked past Navy for—survived a thriller against Cincinnati to emerge as the sole undefeated team in the AAC.

The Cougars own a pair of Power Five wins over Louisville, which just won its fifth of six games, and Vanderbilt, which just nearly upset Florida in The Swamp. Compare the Gators' 9-7 win over Vandy to Houston's 34-0 win over Vandy last weekend, and it doesn't take long to see the Cougars' road to the playoff.

But they don't have what it would take to crash the party, as Bleacher Report's Adam Kramer explained:

While Houston is still unbeaten and will have a place in the selection committee's Top 25 heading into Week 11, the Cougars just don't have the resume to approach the Top Four. That's not to say that interest is sucked out of these games; Memphis-Houston next weekend is hugely important, and there are still fantastic Group of Five developments to unfold. 

But the playoff? That madness will have to wait for another year.

So much for that Group of Five playoff sleeper.

Only the big boys will be invited.

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Nick Saban Proves He Owns Les Miles, Has Alabama Playoff Ready

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Anyone still want to complain about the University of Alabama’s initial ranking by the College Football Playoff committee?

Days after there was a loud uproar about it having Alabama fourth, the Crimson Tide more than proved to be worthy by dominating No. 2 LSU 30-16 at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

The game wasn’t as close as the score indicated, either, and considering that it was Nick Saban’s fifth-straight win over Les Miles, including the 2012 BCS Championship Game that resulted in a 21-0 final score, it may take some time for the long-term impacts to be felt.

For now, though, it’s obvious that No. 4 Alabama has all the pieces in place to make another title run.

“I’ve always liked the grit of this team,” Saban said. “I’ve always liked the way this team competes. We may not always execute right, and people can criticize the penalties and the negative plays that we have sometimes, but ability to overcome adversity has not been an issue with this group so far.”

Saturday night, against the team that was supposed to be able to physically match up against the Crimson Tide, and was supposed to have the best player in college football, Alabama simply dominated. It was better on offense, defense and special teams, and especially on the lines.

After pulling away in the third quarter, it ended up with an advantage in total yards of 434-182, and LSU quarterback Brandon Harris completed just six passes.

Yet the game’s most telling statistics all centered around the running backs, with Alabama junior Derrick Henry pounding out 210 rushing yards on 38 carries while scoring three touchdowns.

LSU’s Leonard Fournette, who had such a huge lead in the Heisman Trophy race that before Saturday it didn’t matter who was in second, was limited to 31 rushing yards on 19 carries.

Coming in, Fournette was averaging 193.1 yards per game, and his season low was 154, set two weeks ago against Western Kentucky. Before he popped an 18-yard run to set up his own touchdown in the fourth quarter (after a fumble gave LSU first down at the Alabama 22) his biggest gain was just four yards.

“The week leading up to it the guys in the locker room were, ‘Man, I’m sick of hearing about this guy,’” senior linebacker Reggie Ragland said. “He’s really good.”

A strong indication that it was going to be the Crimson Tide’s night occurred before kickoff. The moment Ole Miss lost to Arkansas, which meant that Alabama again controlled its destiny in the Southeastern Conference’s western division, the energy at Bryant-Denny Stadium went to its highest levels yet this season.

To use a This is Spinal Tap reference, it went to 11.

For Saban, though, he knew it the first time LSU ran its bread-and-butter rushing play with Fournette. Not only did the defense not buckle, but it stuffed him.

Led by the defensive line, Alabama had nine different players contribute to seven tackles for a loss, and LSU’s longest possession of the game was just six plays. Overall, only two Crimson Tide defenders finished with more than four tackles, safety Geno Matias-Smith with six and senior lineman Jarran Reed with five.

That’s the statistical definition of swarming.

“I thought I was about to make one play and I saw Geno come out of nowhere and just thump him, and I was “Ooohhh-we,” Ragland said. “I thought we did a great job. Everyone wrapped him up and if you wrap him up you have a good chance.”

Even Henry called his defense “phenomenal,” although his teammates were saying the same about him.

“I’ve been saying the whole time that he’s an impressive dude, and he deserves all the respect and the accolades that come with that,” said senior quarterback Jake Coker, while sophomore left tackle Cam Robinson had no problem proclaiming who he thought should be the new front-runner for the Heisman after Henry had the third-most carries by a player in Alabama history.

Robinson also doesn’t have to worry about his next trip home to Monroe, La., either. After leading a strong group of recruits out of the bayou two years ago, which caused Fournette to half joke during the preseason what he wanted to do something different by staying home, the offensive lineman has more than bragging rights.

“It’s always fun for me,” a smiling Robinson said. “I don’t have to worry about anybody riding me.”

Actually, none of the players on the Alabama roster except for those who redshirted in 2011 know what it’s like to lose to LSU. The Game of the Century during the 2011 regular season resulted in a 9-6 final score, and since then the Tigers have been outscored in the series 130-63.

Perhaps like that year, a rematch could be in order, but this time LSU will have the difficult road and will need some serious help from the field. A strong defense and a pounding running game can take a lot of teams far, although it already knows that Alabama’s better at both.

This is also familiar territory for the Crimson Tide (8-1, 5-1 SEC).

“We’ve never counted ourselves out and now we’re back in control of our own destiny in the West,” said senior linebacker Dillon Lee, the first player to pick off a Harris pass this season. “I think we’re just getting better and better every week, but tonight especially. Compared to the rest of the season, it was our most complete game.”

Yet Alabama knows it can play better, and still has to dispatch Mississippi State, rival Auburn and Florida in the SEC Championship Game. That's enough to keep everyone's focus on what lays ahead, and none of those opponents should be underestimated.

It did enjoy this one, though.

“It was crazy,” kicker Adam Griffith said about the Alabama locker room. “It was probably the craziest since the national championship my freshman year.”

“I’ve never seen our team so excited over a win like that, because they’re a really good team,” senior center Ryan Kelly said. “This was the last SEC home game for me at Bryant-Denny Stadium. You just couldn’t ask for a better way to go out.”                


Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Christopher Walsh is a lead SEC college football writer. Follow Christopher on Twitter @WritingWalsh.

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Everything You Need to Know About College Football Week 10 in 60 Seconds

With unbeaten teams suffering their first losses of the year, Heisman Trophy hopefuls putting up lackluster performances and games decided on crazy last-minute touchdowns, Week 10 of the college football season was full of action.

Which top contenders took big losses this week? Which one-win teams are making their case to break into the College Football Playoff?

Find out in the video above as Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder breaks down the best of the Week 10 action in 60 seconds.

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College Football Rankings: Bleacher Report's Week 11 Top 25

Just another uneventful weekend of college football, huh? Hardly.

Steeled by the release of the first playoff rankings and a long list of great matchups, Week 10 had a lot of hype and lived up to it. And along the way, five of the 11 unbeaten teams lost for the first time in 2015.

And we have another new No. 1 team in the Bleacher Report Top 25, along with plenty of movement throughout the rankings.

Twenty members of our college football staff voted in this week's Top 25: writers Ben Axelrod, Greg Couch, Ed Feng, Justin Ferguson, Bryan Fischer, David Kenyon, Ben Kercheval, Adam Kramer, Brian Leigh, Mike Monaco, Brian Pedersen, David Regimbal, Barrett Sallee, Brad Shepard, Greg Wallace and Christopher Walsh; video experts Michael Felder and Sean McManus; and editors Eric Bowman and Eric Yates.

First-place votes were worth 25 points, with each subsequent rank worth one fewer point, all the way down to one for 25th place. The 25 highest vote-getters made our list, with the rest falling into the "others receiving votes" category.

See where everyone falls after Week 10, then give us your thoughts in the comments section.

Begin Slideshow

Ed Feng's Week 11 College Football Playoff Standings Predictions

How will the College Football Playoff committee rank teams this Tuesday at 7 p.m. Eastern? 

We use analytics to make an educated guess. Based on last week's committee rankings, my algorithm adjusts teams based on the most recent opponent and margin of victory.

Teams that win keep their place unless they need overtime to beat Jacksonville State. Teams that lose drop—but not as much if they lose to a Top 10 team. You get the idea.

Let's look at the top movers from Week 10.

Alabama surges to No. 2 after shutting down Fournette, LSU

Leonard Fournette picked the wrong game to forget his Superman cape. Either that or Alabama's defenders had Kryptonite in their helmets, as they held the LSU star to 31 yards on 16 carries.

LSU QB Brandon Harris picked up the slack in the first half with a gorgeous touchdown to Travin Dural that kept the game close at halftime. However, Harris threw an early second-half interception that started the Alabama rout.

Alabama's convincing 30-16 win allows it to take over LSU's second spot in the committee rankings. With the loss, LSU drops to 11th among a slew of other one-loss teams.

The Crimson Tide gave LSU a heavy dose of Derrick Henry, who looked like a true Heisman candidate en route to 210 yards and three touchdowns on 5.5 yards per carry. This strategy should also work against future opponents Mississippi State and Auburn, both of which struggle in run defense.

In addition to the Alabama win, Ole Miss lost to Arkansas in overtime. With this second conference loss for the Rebels, Alabama will win the SEC West if it wins the two remaining games. Once again, Nick Saban has his team in its usual spot: contending for a national title.


Oklahoma State rises with convincing win over TCU

When a team gains almost 200 yards more than its opponent, it usually wins the game. It almost never loses by 20.

However, TCU accomplished this tragic feat against Oklahoma State, as Heisman hopeful Trevone Boykin threw four interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown. A goal-line stand by Oklahoma State in the fourth quarter also helped the Cowboys win 49-29.

The big win vaults a still-unbeaten Oklahoma State into the Top 10 of the committee rankings. But how good is this team? Oklahoma State entered the weekend 23rd in my rankings that drive the Bleacher Report playoff odds. Winning its first three Big 12 games by a total of 12 points hurts them in my numbers.

The Cowboys also didn't make the top 10 in two other trusted computer rankings: Jeff Sagarin (14th) and Massey-Peabody (21st). Oklahoma State will move up in computer rankings with the win over TCU but most likely not into the Top 10.  

Oklahoma State still has two monumental opportunities to impress the committee in home games against Baylor and Oklahoma. While the Cowboys will be underdogs in both games, the committee will have no choice but to put a 12-0 team into the playoff.


Clemson solidifies top spot in rankings

Clemson linebacker Ben Boulware had quite a game. With the Tigers nursing a three-point lead late in the fourth quarter, Boulware stuffed Florida State's Dalvin Cook on 4th-and-short. In case that wasn't enough, Boulware then stripped Travis Rudolph on the next drive to seal the game for the Tigers, who won 23-13.

With a 10-point win over a ranked opponent, the algorithm would normally move Clemson ahead of another team. But since the committee ranked Clemson first and my algorithm now works off these rankings (instead of the AP poll), the Tigers hold onto the top spot.

Clemson finishes up the season with Syracuse, Wake Forest and South Carolina—not exactly a murderers' row of opponents. In the ACC championship game, the Tigers should be eight-point favorites over North Carolina, their projected opponent.

Clemson has not only earned the top spot in the committee rankings but also has the easiest path to the playoff. When Bleacher Report reveals its playoff probabilities Tuesday night, Clemson will most likely have greater than a 75 percent chance to make the final four teams.


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

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Why Notre Dame Is the True Big Winner in College Football's Shake-Up Saturday

The biggest of many winners from college football's "shake-up Saturday" was Notre Dame, which not only beat Pittsburgh but also, by virtue of what happened around it, essentially guaranteed that running the table would land it in the College Football Playoff.

Conspiracy theorists will say that was true before Saturday—ain't no way they're snubbing Notre Dame and its guaranteed television ratings—but now the 11-1 Irish would deserve a playoff spot based on any objective survey of resumes.

The only realistic scenario in which they don't make the playoff is one with three undefeated conference champions and one-loss Alabama. That is theoretically possible, but it's unlikely enough that Notre Dame, after Week 10, can feel pretty good about its lot.

Let's review some of the key things that happened to help the Irish.


1. Notre Dame Beats Pittsburgh, 42-30

This one is self-explanatory. DeShone Kizer threw for 262 yards and five touchdowns, 152 and three of which went to Will Fuller, and the Irish earned a quality road win over a team that was ranked in Week 9. They now play Boston College and Wake Forest, a pair that is 0-11 against the other 12 ACC teams, before heading to Stanford in the season finale.


2. Clemson Beats Florida State, 23-13

Notre Dame's quality loss remained a quality loss. No. 1 Clemson survived against its biggest rival, beating Florida State on the strength of quarterback Deshaun Watson, a dominant defense and timely screen passes to ice the game away. The Irish lost by two in Death Valley during a hurricane, so as long as the Tigers keep winning, it's hard to see any one-loss team (save Alabama) ranking ahead of them.

Speaking of which.…


3. Alabama Beats LSU, 30-16

The key here is that Alabama left no doubt in its win over LSU, outclassing the Tigers for 60 convincing minutes. A late score made things look more respectable, but the Crimson Tide outgained the Tigers 434-182, holding Leonard Fournette to 31 yards on 19 carries. Contrast that to Notre Dame's loss at Clemson, and you'll see how this plays well for the Irish. A close loss at Alabama would have rivaled ND's close loss at Clemson. This loss, however, does not.


4. Nebraska Beats Michigan State, 39-38

Speaking of potential one-loss teams that might have outranked Notre Dame: Michigan State dropped the ball. The Spartans melted down at Nebraska, losing on a controversial call and forfeited their margin for error next week when they head to Ohio State. Prior to Saturday's loss, MSU could have lost a close game in Columbus, finished 11-1 and had a one-loss resume commensurate with that of the Irish. Now that long-discussed point becomes moot.


5. Navy Beats Memphis, 45-20

It's not just the quality loss propping Notre Dame's resume above other one-loss teams; it's the unexpected quality wins. Chief among those wins is Navy, which upset No. 13 Memphis and remained undefeated against teams that aren't the Irish. The Midshipmen rushed for 374 yards in the win and are on track to reach an access bowl if they finish 11-1. Temple struggled on Friday night, but it and Navy might both be ranked come Tuesday.

That's a convincing list. And all from one day, too!

The Irish did lose running back C.J. Prosise to an upper body injury, but freshman Josh Adams emerged with 147 rushing yards, and head coach Brian Kelly said after the game that Prosise is "doing pretty good right now" and called him day-to-day, per's Matt Fortuna.

It sounds like he'll be back when Notre Dame needs him.

The only other thing that didn't go right for the Irish was that Stanford looked great (and avoided major injuries) in a 42-10 win at Colorado.

Unless the Irish choke against BC or Wake, they will travel to Palo Alto in what amounts, at least to them, as a national quarterfinal. Win and they make the semis. Lose and they go home.

If Stanford enters with one loss, that game will actually be a semifinal. 

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College Football's Ultimate Villain, Alabama, Reigns on Shake-Up Saturday

Like a collection of supersized, supercharged monsters, Alabama announced its emphatic return late Saturday night in a homecoming celebrated by few. It ripped the limbs off an undefeated team and casually tossed them aside. It ripped the heart out of a Heisman campaign and held it upward, smiling.

All the college football world could do was begrudgingly marvel at the remains.

This was destruction in its purest form—a beautiful kind of ugly. This was a demolition masterpiece. This was the sport’s most exceptional villain—a role it plays so exceptionally well—growing in strength on the national stage. This was vintage Alabama. 

Outside of Tuscaloosa, only a small portion of the nation will be happy with this development. Only a small portion will celebrate Alabama’s 30-16 win over LSU and what it means in the bigger picture. 

That’s not to say this same group won’t respect the victory immensely. When a defense can limit Leonard Fournette, the nation’s most electric running back, to 31 carries on 19 yards, there has to be some level of respect. When Tide back Derrick Henry (210 yards, three touchdowns) can make moving at 242 pounds look that easy, there has to be some positive response. And yet, much of the country will not celebrate this effort.

It’s the national championships. It’s the recruiting dominance and the way Nick Saban stockpiles his roster yearly. It’s Saban himself, a smile-less, robotic leader who gasses this great machine.

It’s the way Alabama goes about its supremacy—choosing to suck the life out of its opponents by sitting on them and refusing to get up, rather than attempting to do it with flash. It’s the final drive on Saturday night—a 13-play, nine-minute, 18-second masterpiece that ended in the victory formation.

Oh, is it beautiful. But it’s not for everyone.

Although Alabama isn’t the villain to all, it is the antihero to many. Success will do that. And while being the villain could be perceived by some to be an overwhelming negative, college football needs a villain. It needs Alabama.

It needs a team to assume this role—playing with such a carefree, brutish style—to showcase just how powerful and different one program can operate every once in a while. That happened Saturday night, and not all will be happy about it.

That’s a good thing. That’s exactly how it should be. Alabama certainly doesn't mind.

As for other thoughts on a wild Saturday, a day that saw three of the nation's Top 10 teams fall, here is an assessment of the Week 10 carnage.


The Big 12 November Madness Starts Early 

A few days after Baylor struggled at Kansas State, TCU’s undefeated dream season came to a crashing halt in Stillwater.

Oklahoma State didn’t just upset the selection committee’s No. 8 squad. No, the Pokes, No. 14 in the debut ranking, absolutely manhandled the Horned Frogs—sending shock waves through the Big 12 and beyond. A new contender emerged.

In the 49-29 victory, Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph threw five touchdowns. He was brilliant. Perhaps more impressive, however, was the way Mike Gundy’s defense slowed the best quarterback in the nation.

Trevone Boykin threw four interceptions. When wideout Josh Doctson left the game with a wrist injury, the offense looked completely out of sync. This was a dominant defensive showing by the Cowboys.

The result will certainly impact our perception of TCU, a team many were pegging for the playoff. On the other side of the result, this game drastically alters the way many, including the selection committee, should view Oklahoma State. An emphatic win like this is impossible to ignore.

There is still much work to be done. The Big 12 slate still will have plenty to say—continuing with Oklahoma-Baylor in Week 11. 

Don’t look now, though. After Iowa State, Oklahoma State plays both Baylor and Oklahoma at home to close the year. Things could stay weird.


Michigan State Finally, Unexpectedly, Painfully Goes Down in Flames

Oh, Michigan State got hosed.

There is no other way to shape it. Sure, the game should have been out of reach by the fourth quarter, and the Spartans should have taken care of business. But that doesn’t make this loss any easier to stomach in East Lansing.

Up 38-33 with less than a minute remaining, Nebraska wideout Brandon Reilly scored the go-ahead touchdown that should not have been allowed. Officials ruled that Reilly was pushed out of bounds before making the catch, although replay—and even the live shot—said otherwise. It appeared as though Reilly’s exit from the field was his doing.

"We're going to collect ourselves and understand that our destiny is still in our hands,” Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio told reporters following the game.

He’s absolutely right. And yet, this loss feels like a dagger. Maybe not a dagger; let's call it a tremendous gut punch.

To many, this has been a long time coming. Michigan State narrowly escaped Purdue and Rutgers before beating Michigan on a walk-off fumble return. So yeah, the writing was on the wall. But still, Nebraska didn’t feel like the team capable of finally pulling this off—not after the Cornhuskers allowed 55 points to Purdue last week. 

Regardless of how or if it should have happened, it happened. And while Michigan State still has a shot at Ohio State and a chance at a Big Ten title, things will have to change in a hurry for this lovely bounce-back story to be written.


No Madness Here; Clemson Looks Like the No. 1 Team in the Country

One could look at the final score of Clemson-Florida State, combing over every bit of the box score goodness, and leave somewhat unimpressed that the nation’s No. 1 team in the College Football Playoff standings didn’t win by more.

To me, however, the Tigers’ performance on Saturday generated the opposite response. What range this team has.

In beating Florida State 23-13, Clemson showed its ridiculous depth and resolve. The week prior, the Tigers won a shootout, 56-41 over NC State. This week, in an emotional rivalry matchup that has plagued the program in recent years, Dabo Swinney’s team showed it could both take and give a punch. 

Quarterback Deshaun Watson missed a handful of throws. The running game early on struggled to do much of anything. But then it got going. And then Watson got going, finishing with 297 yards passing, 107 yards rushing and a touchdown through the air. The defense that struggled so badly one week ago took over.

That’s what was so impressive—the fact that Clemson won games in consecutive weeks in such differing, impressive ways. And on a weekend rife with upsets, the Tigers looked very much like the favorite to win the whole thing.


Cinderella Is No More

It was fun for about four days. 

When Memphis debuted at No. 13 in the initial College Football Playoff rankings last Tuesday, we embraced the still-unlikely scenario that the Tigers could crash the playoff party. Then Saturday happened. 

First, Ole Miss lost to Arkansas, which took a baseball bat to Memphis’s biggest resume boost. Then the Tigers did the major damage to this unlikely push, losing to Navy, 45-20. That should about do it.

While Houston is still unbeaten and will have a place in the selection committee's Top 25 heading into Week 11, the Cougars just don’t have the resume to approach the top four. That’s not to say that interest is sucked out of these games; Memphis-Houston next weekend is hugely important, and there are still fantastic Group of Five developments to unfold. 

But the playoff? That madness will have to wait for another year.

Still, there will be plenty of madness to go around.

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LSU vs. Alabama: Game Grades, Analysis for Tigers and Crimson Tide

It was the perennial showdown between two SEC West heavyweights, and this time, it featured two Heisman-contending running backs. It was billed as a game that would come down to a single play or two in the fourth quarter. We expected fireworks from the Tigers and Tide.

But Alabama was the only team to effectively light the fuse.

The Tide bottled up Leonard Fournette all night, while Derrick Henry ran over, around and through the LSU defense to the tune of 210 yards.

It's time to go over the performances, group by group, in our weekly game grades.

Here is the box score from Saturday's game, via

LSU Pass Offense

Brandon Harris completed just six passes in the entire game on 19 attempts. The Tigers did manage to find 128 passing yards and a touchdown among those six completions, but it was really the interception to start off the second half that killed any chance LSU had at a comeback.

At that point, LSU was trailing by just three points, 13-10. But in one play, Harris threw the ball right to Dillon Lee, and the Tide took over at the LSU 30. A few plays later, it was 20-10.

Harris was under duress for most of the night, but he didn't find much help from his receivers and certainly not from his offensive line.


LSU Run Offense

Yikes, this was bad.

We knew Alabama's defensive front was good, but we thought LSU's O-line and Fournette were up to the challenge. Boy, were we wrong!

Fournette ran the ball 19 times but was held to one yard or less on 13 of those carries. He finished with just 31 yards, and the Tigers totaled just 54 as a team.

There's really no other way to put this: LSU was awful running the ball, and Alabama was equally great at defending against it.

Not only did LSU lose control of the SEC West, but Fournette probably lost control of the Heisman race, too.


LSU Pass Defense

Giving up 184 passing yards isn't necessarily a bad night, but considering Alabama attempted just 24 passes (and completed 18 of them), those numbers suddenly don't look so stellar.

LSU did manage to keep Alabama's passing game out of the end zone, and the Tigers were able to bring occasional pressure on Jake Coker. But when it came to crunch time, the Tigers pass defense couldn't get the necessary stops.

LSU's passing defense was just ineffectual enough to open up the Bama ground attack, and in the second half, the combination of trying to defending against both the pass and the run simultaneously allowed the wheels to come off.


LSU Run Defense

As great as Alabama's run defense was, LSU's was the opposite.

Henry ran for 210 yards and three touchdowns against an LSU front that seemed completely overmatched for most of the contest.

Kenyan Drake added 68 yards on 10 carries, and LSU's D-line looked like a war-weary group by the fourth quarter.

What's even more concerning is that the Tigers' ability to defend against the run seemed to get worse, not better, as the game wore on. They made no adequate adjustments, and Alabama looked to be a boulder picking up speed as it rolled down a hill.

By the time Alabama scored its final points of the evening, LSU was putting up little more than token resistance.


LSU Special Teams

Trent Domingue connected on his lone field-goal attempt of the evening but had an extra point blocked in the second half.

The real pain, though, came in the LSU kick-return game. The Tigers were stopped deep in their own end on multiple occasions, and the long kick return of the night was just 15 yards by Derrius Guice. Donte Jackson averaged just 2.5 yards on his two punt returns (six yards and minus-one yard).


LSU Coaching

We know LSU fans love Les Miles and company, and for good reason, but this was not the best performance by the coaching staff.

After the first-half debacle in the running game, we expected some major shifts in the second half that would see Fournette break open a little more or shift the play-calling scheme to something other than what we saw earlier.

Instead, we got more of the same.

Perhaps Miles believes that Fournette is the only worthy weapon LSU has on offense. Perhaps he just thought that time and perseverance were all that were needed. Whatever he was thinking, it was wrong.

LSU was not only outplayed but out-coached.


Alabama Pass Offense

Alabama only needed to throw the ball 24 timesjust enough to keep LSU off balance against Henry's rushing attack.

But Coker made the most of his 24 throws, completing 18 of them for 184 yards. And while he didn't find the end zone, he also avoided the one thing that could have allowed LSU to creep back into the game late: interceptions.

Calvin Ridley led the Tide receivers with 51 yards on seven catches.


Alabama Run Offense

Coming into this game, Fournette was all anyone could talk about when it came to Heisman contenders. On Sunday, it will be Henry.

Henry torched LSU to the tune of 210 yards and three touchdowns on 38 carries, running all over the Tigers defense all night long.

The Alabama O-line was stellar in opening up lanes, and Henry did the rest by shrugging off multiple tacklers on seemingly every play. As easily as Alabama was able to bottle up Fournette, LSU had absolutely no answer for Henry.

Don't be surprised if Henry will be atop many Heisman watch lists from this point forward.


Alabama Pass Defense

LSU was looking to lean on Fournette, but when Alabama made it clear that wasn't an option, the Tide still put together a solid performance against the Tigers pass attack.

Harris completed just six passes on the night, and Lee came up with perhaps the quintessential momentum-grabbing play at the beginning of the third quarter, picking Harris off deep in LSU's own end and setting up an Alabama score.

By the time LSU realized that the passing game was going to be its last and best hope, it was too late. The Tide simply covered receivers with blankets and pressured Harris into hurried throws.

Combined with the lockdown run defense, the passing defense came up big in this win for the Crimson Tide.


Alabama Run Defense

There is where Alabama won the game. Right from the first few series, it was clear that the front seven was planning on making a statement.

"Leonard who?"

OK, it's more of a question than a statement, but the end result was a defensive statement that the rest of the nation should notice: Run the ball against the Tide at your own peril.

It's not fair to call LSU a one-trick pony this season, but there's no doubt that LSU had been running to glory behind Fournette. Alabama's defense knew this and schemed beautifully to make devastating contact with Fournette in the backfield on almost every carry. Over his first 10 carries, he had just 10 yards. On 13 of his 19 carries, he was held to one yard or less.

We can't just give Alabama's defense an "A" here.  This was easily deserving of the grade reserved for nothing short of exceptional, above-and-beyond performance. Tide defense, you get a solid A-plus. If there was a grade higher, you'd get that, too.


Alabama Special Teams

The scuttlebutt has been that Nick Saban doesn't trust Adam Griffith in big-game situations. But after Griffith nailed a 55-yard field goal (along with two more and all three of his extra points), maybe we'll start to see fewer fourth-down conversion attempts from the Crimson Tide in the future.


Alabama Coaching

Saban proved once again that he's among the best college football coaches. He and his staff had a game plan to contain Fournette, and the players executed that plan to perfection.

Few coaches could devise a plan to limit a guy like Fournette to 31 yards, regardless of the talent present on defense. Sure, Saban has a lot of talent at his disposal, but that talent is wasted without a plan. Heck, even against teams with solid plans, Fournette has found ways to make defenses look silly.

Not this time. As much credit as we're giving to the Alabama defense for stopping Fournette, we have to give the same credit to the coaching staff for preparing the defense.

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

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

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LSU vs. Alabama: Projecting How Crimson Tide Win Impacts CFP Picture

The No. 4 Alabama Crimson Tide made a statement Saturday night, defeating the No. 2 LSU Tigers, 30-16. 

Alabama was the final team to make the field in the first College Football Playoff rankings despite suffering an early-season loss to the No. 18 Ole Miss Rebels. It didn't go over well with some, as For the Win pointed out how many teams the CFP committee overlooked:

After the beatdown the Crimson Tide gave to the previously undefeated Tigers, they are proving they belong with the nation's best. Yes, Alabama was embarrassed by Ole Miss at home, allowing the Rebels to score 43 points, but that was a long time ago.

In their six games since the loss, the Crimson Tide have allowed more than 16 points just once and now sit atop the SEC West Division. The defense was stout again Saturday, holding the nation's leading rusher, Leonard Fournette, to 31 yards.

Alabama's front seven impressed the Associated Press' John Zenor, to say the least:

Fournette was the Heisman Trophy front-runner coming into the game, but Alabama's Derrick Henry made a strong case that he should be the leading candidate. The junior rushed 38 times for 210 yards and three touchdowns and now has 1,254 yards and 17 touchdowns on the season.

It's been a while since an opponent has been able to keep Henry out of the end zone, according to ESPN Stats & Info:

Alabama's dominance on both sides of the ball helped the team prove its ranking was just. Not only did LSU lose, but No. 1 Clemson and No. 3 Ohio State also had to fight for victories this week.

The Crimson Tide cruised and now have a great shot at moving further up, per Brian Hamilton of Sports Illustrated:

Alabama can occupy only one spot, but Hamilton's point is this: Despite the loss, the Crimson Tide look like the best team in the country. Four previously undefeated teams lost Saturday: LSU, No. 7 Michigan State, No. 8 TCU and No. 13 Memphis.

If Alabama keeps winning and more undefeated teams lose, there will be little question as to why the Crimson Tide are ranked as high as they are.

In fact, with their latest win, they've already started to answer that question.

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Jeremy Johnson, Auburn Defense Show Season-Turning Redemption in Texas A&M Win

Auburn didn't ride into the Lone Star State this weekend with any momentum.

The Tigers, coming off back-to-back close losses in the SEC West, took the nation's No. 108 defense into Kyle Field on Saturday night to matchup with a high-powered Texas A&M offense that found its swagger again last weekend with new starting quarterback Kyler Murray.

On the offensive side of the ball, Auburn quarterback Sean White was ruled out with an injury and replaced by former starter Jeremy Johnson. The news caused the majority of the Auburn fanbase to let out a collective groan.

But then the game kicked off, and Auburn spent the next 60 minutes of regulation turning around that negativity into a dominant 26-10 victory over Texas A&M.

It was a complete team victory for the Tigers, but the postgame emphasis on redemption for a program that looked like it was in danger of missing the postseason were centered on Johnson and defensive coordinator Will Muschamp's unit.

The last time Johnson started at quarterback for Auburn—the September road contest against LSU—he completed less than 50 percent of his passes and threw his sixth interception in three games.

He returned in some packages after losing the job to White, but outside of a risky 44-yard completion in a loss to Ole Miss last weekend, the former starter didn't have much success.

However, when thrown into the starting lineup again, Johnson looked like the quarterback who garnered plenty of preseason hype. 

Johnson went 13-of-17 passing for 132 yards, one touchdown and zero turnovers. He was 6-for-6 through the air on the opening drive of the game and hit Marcus Davis for a 9-yard touchdown pass.

The former starting quarterback played with plenty of visible emotion, but he remained precise throughout the night and led his team to victory.

Even when Auburn leaned toward more of a run-heavy game plan in the second half, Johnson continued to make plays, including an outstanding 32-yard, third-down completion to Tony Stevens in the fourth quarter.

His efficient passing opened things up for Auburn to hammer away at the much-improved Texas A&M defense for big plays on the ground.

Running back Jovon Robinson continued his personal resurrection tour with 27 carries for 159 yards and a touchdown, and Auburn finished with 311 rushing yards as a team.

"The running backs did a great job running," Johnson told Maria Taylor of the SEC Network. "Once we get a lot of explosive plays, our offense is pretty much hard to stop."

Johnson's great performance against Texas A&M will undoubtedly give head coach Gus Malzahn a tough decision on who to start if White returns to full health. That was a nearly unthinkable scenario a week ago for these Tigers.

Although some underwhelming plays in the red zone led to four short field goals for an accurate Daniel Carlson, Auburn's offense put together its best yardage performance of the season—443—with a quarterback who seemed to be out of the starting picture.

But Auburn's offense wasn't alone in the statistical excellence Saturday night. The defense gave up the fewest yards it had all season—303—against an offense that had given Auburn so much trouble over the last three years.

Murray, who put up 379 yards of total offense by himself against South Carolina a week ago, threw three interceptions Saturday night against a stingy pass defense. He finished 13-of-23 through the air and only had 37 yards on the ground before leaving the game with a third-quarter injury.

A running quarterback, the constant enemy of Auburn's defense in the Malzahn era, did not score a touchdown Saturday night thanks to the Tigers' overall execution.

"The main focus was boxing Kyler Murray in, staying in our rush lanes and not letting him get out of the pocket," defensive end Carl Lawson told Taylor. "Just keeping him in the pocket so he couldn't scramble around and make plays, just like you see from him on the film against South Carolina."

Murray's backup, Jake Hubenak, tossed a short scoring pass shortly after his injury, and a field goal on the first drive of the game made up the only points of the night for Texas A&M.

Auburn true freshman cornerback Carlton Davis took away a sure touchdown with his interception in the first quarter.

"Our defense played great," Malzahn told Taylor. "They played their best game against a lot of really good athletes. [Murray] is like a lightning bug. That's tough."

As Brandon Marcello of noted Saturday night, the resurgence of Muschamp's unit featured a few more redemptive performances from several young defensive backs and the long-awaited return of consistent pressure on the opposing quarterback.

Although Auburn's defense didn't completely control Texas A&M from beginning to end, it made important plays when it needed them the most Saturday night—from the three interceptions to several third-down stops. 

By the end of the game, the Tigers had their best statistical defensive performance in both yards and points since last year's 41-7 home blowout of LSU.

That win over LSU last October, by the way, was Auburn's second-most recent win against an SEC West opponent. 

After going 0-for-4 against division opponents to start the 2015 season, Auburn snapped its frustrating losing streak against the West on Saturday night. 

The Tigers' fifth win of the year also put them in prime position to make a bowl, especially with a home game against 3-6 Idaho coming up in two weeks.

But the way Auburn won in College Station carries much more weight than the result itself.

The offense went through a change at quarterback and came out on the other side with a victorious and balanced performance. The defense looked like what fans dreamed of when Muschamp arrived on the Plains this offseason.

Now the Tigers will ride out of Texas A&M with some much-needed momentum ahead of a quite winnable home rivalry game against Georgia.

If Auburn was to pick up a win against the Bulldogs and then another one against Idaho, it would have a chance to match its win total from last season against Alabama and its bowl opponent.

Getting to eight wins would ultimately be a step down from what the Tigers hoped for heading into the 2015 season.

But after several weeks of doom and gloom, reaching that mark would breathe some new life into Malzahn's program.


Game statistics courtesy of StatBroadcast. Unless otherwise noted, other statistics courtesy of

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

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