NCAA Football News

Utah vs. UCLA Complete Game Preview

When: Saturday, Oct. 4, 10:30 p.m. ET

Where: Rose Bowl Stadium; Pasadena, California

TV: ESPN

Utah vs. UCLA features two Pac-12 South teams on opposite trajectories after their Week 5 performances.

UCLA returned to the Top 10 of the Associated Press poll, jumping from No. 11 to No. 8 on the heels of routing Arizona State, 62-27. The Bruins played their most complete game and answered some of the concerns surrounding their team after a somewhat slow start to 2014.

Meanwhile, Utah stumbled in its Pac-12 opener, letting Washington State rally from 21 points down to hand the Utes their first loss of the season.

The home defeat squashed the momentum Utah had built in an impressive 3-0 start, which included a convincing win over Michigan in the Big House in Week 4.

Utah has an opportunity to reverse its course under the lights of the Rose Bowl Saturday. The Utes come in desperate to avoid starting the conference season 0-2, which makes them dangerous.

The potential for a trap also lingers for UCLA. The Bruins host No. 2 Oregon on Oct. 11, and both teams entering that contest undefeated should command national attention.

First, both teams must hold up their end in Week 6.

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Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Ole Miss Rebels Complete Game Preview

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — It’s time to see what this Alabama football team is made of.

The Crimson Tide will hit the road for Oxford, Mississippi, this weekend to take on the Ole Miss Rebels in an early-season clash between SEC unbeatens.

Ole Miss boasts maybe the conference’s best defense, while Alabama is hitting its stride on offense. The Rebels haven’t beaten Alabama since 2003 and will surely be eager for a signature win.

The Crimson Tide, meanwhile, want to assert their dominance in an SEC West that is looking historically good.

Here’s everything you need to know:

Date: Saturday, October 4

Time: 2:30 p.m. CT

Place: Vaught-Hemingway Stadium

TV: CBS

Radio: Crimson Tide Sports Network, Ole Miss IMG Network

Spread: Alabama by 6, according to OddsShark.com.

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Is Hutson Mason the Answer at Quarterback for the Georgia Bulldogs?

Hutson Mason has had his struggles early on in this season. Georgia is still in the hunt to make some waves, but would it go further with a different quarterback under center?

Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Barrett Sallee and Adam Kramer discuss Georgia's options at the QB position.

Does Georgia need a change at QB? Watch the video and let us know!

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. Stanford Cardinal Complete Game Preview

As the calendar turns to October, Notre Dame faces the most important stretch of its 2014 season. After playing its most uneven game of the season in an ugly 31-15 victory over Syracuse, the Irish now face their stiffest challenge of the young season as No. 14 Stanford comes to South Bend. 

The Cardinal have gotten the better of Brian Kelly's teams, winning three of the last four. But returning to Notre Dame for the first time since their overtime defeat in 2012, David Shaw's squad needs a victory after already dropping a tight game to USC. 

The Cardinal boast the nation's best defense, leading the country in both scoring and yardage allowed. They'll present Everett Golson with his toughest challenge of the season, as the Irish offense will need to clean up after an error-filled performance that erased an otherwise productive Saturday. 

In a rivalry that grows with intensity each year, let's get you ready for Notre Dame and Stanford. 

 

Date: Saturday, October 4

Time: 3:30 p.m. ET

Place: Notre Dame Stadium in Notre Dame, Indiana

TV: NBC

Radio: IMG College Sports, SiriusXM Channel 129

Spread: Even, according to Odds Shark.

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10 Biggest Takeaways from the First Month of the College Football Season

The first five weeks of college football season have taught us many things. The SEC is really, really good. The Big Ten…not so much.

This sport is still the best in the world.

But some takeaways are bigger than others. To wit, there are things we didn't know before the season that are driving the national narrative through September. They're the most important things that we—the unbiased college football fan—have learned.

To make this list accessible to the greatest number of people, an effort has been made to skew broad. "Penn State's offensive line is even worse than we thought," for example, is an important takeaway for fans of the Nittany Lions, but it doesn't carry much weight beyond them. Takeaways in that vein have not been included.

Instead, this list focused on takeaways of national import: lessons that would register for a football fan with no team allegiance. Whether it's a national-title contender looking sluggish, a Power-Five conference looking strong or a powerhouse program looking for answers, these are lessons from the first five weeks that affect all of us.

Sound off below to let me know what you would add.

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Miami vs. Georgia Tech: Complete Game Preview

An early-season advantage in the ACC Coastal Division is at stake when the Miami Hurricanes battle the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets on Saturday, Oct. 4.

Riding high after a defensive masterpiece against Duke, Miami is looking to extend its series winning streak to six games over Georgia Tech.

The Yellow Jackets enter the matchup confident and fresh, having improved to 4-0 after toppling Virginia Tech on the road and resting on a bye last weekend.

According to OddsShark, the 'Canes are favored by two points. The game can been on ESPN2, kickoff set for 7:30 p.m.

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Ohio State Buckeyes vs. Maryland Terrapins Complete Game Preview

After stunting Cincinnati with a 50-28 victory in Columbus and inserting itself back into the hunt for a playoff spot, the Ohio State football team will head to College Park for its Big Ten opener with Maryland.

Having gotten off to a 4-1 start in their inaugural season in the conference, the Terrapins have looked strong through their first five wins of the season and are coming off consecutive wins over Syracuse and Indiana.

The Buckeyes, meanwhile, are hoping to maintain the recent wave of momentum that they've enjoyed since their Sept. 6 loss to Virginia Tech. After being handed its first defeat of the season at the hands of the Hokies, Ohio State appears to have regained its footing with a 66-0 thrashing of Kent State and last weekend's beatdown of the Bearcats.

Will the Buckeyes continue their streak of success, or will Maryland earn its first signature win of its Big Ten era? We'll find out this weekend. But until then, here's everything you need to know about Ohio State's conference opener with the Terrapins:

Date: Saturday, Oct. 4

Time: 12 p.m. ET

Place: Byrd Stadium in College Park, Maryland

TV: ABC

Radio: Ohio State Football Radio NetworkMaryland Sports Radio Network

Spread: Ohio State (-10), via Vegas Insider

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College Football Picks: Pittsburgh Panthers at Virginia Cavaliers Odds

The Pittsburgh Panthers and the Virginia Cavaliers clash this Saturday night at Scott Stadium in a key conference matchup in the ACC’s Coastal Division. The game is set to kick off at 7:30 p.m. (ET), and it will be available nationally on ESPN3.

Pitt is coming off a disappointing 21-10 loss to Akron this past Saturday as a 21-point favorite at home. The Panthers are now 3-2 straight up on the year with a 2-3 record against the spread. The total has stayed “under” in their last two games.

The Cavaliers have won three of their first five games SU as well, and they come into this contest with a perfect 5-0 mark ATS. This past Saturday they beat Kent State 45-13 as 26-point home favorites, and the total has now gone “over” in three of their last five games.

 

Pittsburgh at Virginia Betting Storylines

Pittsburgh appeared to be gaining some traction through the early part of the season, but last week’s unexpected loss to the Zips was a major step backwards for this program. This followed a 24-20 loss to Iowa as a 6.5-point home favorite in Week 4. The offense is averaging 32.8 points per game, but it has tallied a combined total of only 30 points in its last two outings. Quarterback Chad Voytik threw for 220 yards and a score against Akron, but he completed less than 60 percent of his 34 attempts and was intercepted once.

The Panthers defense is ranked 23rd in the nation in points allowed in giving up an average of just 18 PPG, but these stats have been padded a bit against some less-than-competitive games earlier in the season. This unit has yet to really be tested against a quality offense, and if last week’s loss is any indication, it could have its issues stopping Virginia this week.

The Cavaliers were well down in the rankings when it came to the futures odds to win the ACC this season, but they have as good a chance as anyone to still earn a spot in the conference title game by winning their division. They already upset newcomer Louisville 23-21 as four-point home underdogs to post a key victory in their ACC opener. Virginia also gave UCLA and BYU all they could handle by covering as a double-digit underdog earlier this year.

This team has shown some solid balance on both sides of the ball with an offense that is generating 33.2 PPG and a defense that is holding teams to 23.2 PPG. Kevin Parks has anchored the ground game with 258 yards rushing on 75 attempts, and Canaan Severin has been a huge target in the passing game with 20 receptions for 225 yards and two scores.

 

Pittsburgh at Virginia Betting Odds and Trends by Doc’s Sports

Point Spread: Virginia -4.5

Total Line: OFF

The betting trends on Covers have the Panthers listed at 4-1 ATS in their last five games on the road, and the total has stayed under in 12 of their last 18 road games.

The Cavaliers have gone a perfect 5-0 ATS in their last five games at home, and they have covered in their last seven games overall. The total has gone “over” in 10 of their last 13 games.

Head-to-head in this ACC matchup, the favorite has gone a perfect 4-0 ATS in the last four meetings, and the total has been evenly split 2-2.

 

College Football Picks: Pittsburgh at Virginia Betting Predictions

These two ACC foes appear to be heading in opposite directions as they both enter the meat of the conference schedule. The Cavaliers know that this is a must-win game to keep their Coastal Division title hopes alive, and they are catching the Panthers at a great time to nail down the SU win at home by well more than the current 4.5-point spread.

Take: # 332 Virginia (-4.5) over Pittsburgh- 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 4

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Is Alabama vs. Ole Miss Winner Guaranteed a CFP Spot?

Coming off their bye week, the Alabama Crimson Tide travel to Oxford, Mississippi, to tangle with the Ole Miss Rebels in one of the most anticipated matchups of the season. The winner will begin to make its case as the top team in the country's premier conference.   

Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Barrett Sallee and Adam Kramer break down a game that will be sure to shake up the SEC West.

Will the winner of this game become the team to beat in the SEC West?

Watch the video and let us know!  

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

USC vs. Arizona State Complete Game Preview

WHEN: Saturday, Oct. 4, 7:30 p.m. ET

WHERE: Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum

TV: Fox

Saturday’s Pac-12 South matchup pitting No. 16-ranked USC vs. Arizona State features teams with matching 3-1 overall records. However, the conference implications on the line could not be much more different for each side.

USC is in pursuit of a 3-0 start to Pac-12 play, coming off a 35-10 rout of Oregon State in Week 5. Conversely, Arizona State is trying to avoid an 0-2 hole in the league.

The Sun Devils opened their Pac-12 slate with a thud last week, dropping a 62-27 decision at home to UCLA. A second consecutive loss within the division would put the reigning South champions squarely behind the eight ball.

Arizona State could be without starting quarterback Taylor Kelly, who missed the Sun Devils’ Week 5 loss with a foot injury. Sun Devils head coach Todd Graham said Kelly is "pretty questionable," via Doug Haller of the Arizona Republic

Backup Mike Bercovici passed for 488 yards and three touchdowns in his first career start last week. Bercovici’s ability—or inability—to end USC’s streak of four games without surrendering a passing touchdown may tell the story of this week’s contest.

The USC defense will have plenty of motivation to shut down the Sun Devils offense, however. The 62 points Arizona State scored in last year’s meeting with USC tied the most ever given up by the Trojans.

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Wake Forest vs. Florida State Complete Game Preview

Florida State should finally enjoy a more comfortable victory on Saturday.

After three close calls against Oklahoma State, Clemson and North Carolina State, the Seminoles (4-0) now play host to one of the Atlantic Coast Conference's worst teams, Wake Forest (2-3). 

FSU likely won't need overtime, as it did to slip past Clemson. Or a late touchdown, as it did to hold off Oklahoma State. Or a second-half rally, as it did at NC State.

The Seminoles have shown their fight, but they've also shown their weaknesses. When FSU takes the field against the Demon Deacons, the Seminoles need to show that they have improved their tackling and run blocking. And they need to cut down on the turnovers after giving up two interceptions and a fumble against the Wolfpack.

All of the questions have caused poll voters to question FSU. The Seminoles retained the No. 1 spot in the AP poll, but they dropped to No. 2 behind Alabama in the USA Today football coaches poll.

Here's a look at the FSU-Wake Forest game, which begins at 3:30 p.m. ET and will be televised regionally by ABC (and on ESPN3.com outside of the region).

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UCLA vs USC: Which LA Powerhouse Has Best Shot for CFB Playoff?

USC has one loss on the season, and UCLA is undefeated. These teams are fighting for position in the Pac-12 South, but they have their eyes set on the College Football Playoff.

Bleacher Reports College Football Analysts Barrett Sallee and Adam Kramer debate which of these teams has the best shot to play for the national championship.

Which one of these Pac-12 powers has the best chance of winning it all?

Watch the video and let us know!

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College Football Odds: Week 6 Betting Lines Open with FSU as Huge Favorite

The Florida State Seminoles will look to put a stop to an 0-5 skid against the spread when they play host to the Wake Forest Demon Deacons Saturday as 38-point favorites on the college football betting lines.

The 4-0 Seminoles maintain a tenuous grip on the top spot in the AP Top 25, but they have fallen behind undefeated Alabama in the Amway Coaches Poll.

Florida State had four turnovers, including three by quarterback Jameis Winston, and needed to overcome a 17-point deficit to top North Carolina State 56-41 over the weekend.

This week, the Seminoles face a lesser opponent in the form of division rival Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons have lost eight of their last 10 straight up, including a 59-3 beating by Florida State last November.

However, the Demon Deacons are 4-2 against the spread in their last six games, including covering in their last three as double-digit underdogs.

The 4-0 Crimson Tide will have their hands full in maintaining their perch atop the Coaches Poll when they take on Mississippi as 4.5-point road favorites, per sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark this week.

The Tide put an end to a five-game losing streak ATS with a 42-21 win as 14-point favorites over Florida in Week 4. Alabama is 5-0 SU in its last five against the Rebels, including a 25-0 victory last season. However, the Crimson Tide have been a betting disappointment when facing Ole Miss, covering in just three of their last nine meetings.

The 4-0 Oregon Ducks will be gunning for a seventh consecutive victory SU when they welcome the Arizona Wildcats to town as 23-point favorites, per sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark.

Despite putting numbers in the win column and a steady raise in the national rankings, the Ducks have been a disappointment to college football bettors, covering just twice in their last nine overall while going 0-5 ATS in their last five when favored by 20-plus points.

The Wildcats, meanwhile, are off to a 4-0 start but have been losers in their last three ATS.

In other Week 6 college football betting matchups, Texas A&M travels to Mississippi State as a slim one-point road favorite in a battle of undefeated teams, while the 4-0 Auburn Tigers play host to the 4-1 LSU Tigers as nine-point home favorites.

The 4-0 UCLA Bruins return home to take on Utah as 12.5-point favorites, while the surprising East Carolina Pirates are favored by 38 points over SMU.

 

Opening NCAA lines aggregated by Odds Shark

Central Florida at Houston -2.5   Florida Atlantic at Florida International 9   Arizona at Oregon -23   Louisville at Syracuse 3.5   San Diego State at Fresno State 2   Utah State at BYU     Iowa State at Oklahoma State -17   Texas A&M at Mississippi State 1   Marshall at Old Dominion 17.5   Ohio State at Maryland     Southern Methodist at East Carolina -36   Southern Miss at Middle Tennessee -17   Purdue at Illinois     Florida at Tennessee 1.5   Ball State at Army -3   Virginia Tech at North Carolina 1.5   Eastern Michigan at Akron -21   Massachusetts at Miami (Ohio) -4.5   North Texas at Indiana -14   Tulsa at Colorado State -15   Navy at Air Force 4   Ohio at Central Michigan     Wisconsin at Northwestern 9.5   North Carolina State at Clemson -14   Buffalo at Bowling Green -5   Baylor at Texas 13   Alabama at Mississippi 4.5   Stanford at Notre Dame 0   Wake Forest at Florida State -38   New Mexico at UTSA -19   Oklahoma at TCU 5   Arizona State at Southern Cal -11   Kansas at West Virginia -24   Oregon State at Colorado 7.5   Vanderbilt at Georgia -33   Kent State at Northern Illinois -22   South Alabama at Appalachian State 5.5   Georgia State at Louisiana-Lafayette -17   LSU at Auburn -9   Utah at UCLA -13   Idaho at Texas State -15   Hawaii at Rice -6   Texas Tech at Kansas State     Louisiana-Monroe at Arkansas State -10   Michigan at Rutgers -3.5   UAB at Western Kentucky -14   Texas El Paso at Louisiana Tech -13   Toledo at Western Michigan 10   Memphis at Cincinnati -6.5   Miami at Georgia Tech -1   Pittsburgh at Virginia -4   South Carolina at Kentucky 7.5   Nebraska at Michigan State -8   UNLV at San Jose State     Ga Southern at New Mexico State 16.5   Boise State at Nevada 1.5   California at Washington State -4  

 

Stats and odds courtesy of Odds Shark.

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Will Michigan's Brady Hoke and Florida's Will Muschamp Survive the Season?

With the losses mounting, some of the most prestigious coaching jobs in the country are in jeopardy. The seats are heating up. 

Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Adam Kramer and Michael Felder tell you who could be out of a job this season.

Do you think these coaches will make it through the year?

Watch the video and let us know! 

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What Is the Most Important SEC Game in Week 6's Monster Lineup?

Week 6 has arguably the best regular-season matchups of the year. The SEC has a slate of fantastic games that is sure to shake up the conference and College Football Playoff picture. 

Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Michael Felder and Barrett Sallee debate which game has the biggest implications.

Which SEC team has the most at stake in Week 6?

Watch the video and let us know.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Will Arizona Repeat 2013 Heroics and Blow Up Oregon's CFB Playoff Chances?

The Arizona Wildcats pulled off one of the most shocking upsets of the 2013 season when they trounced the Oregon Ducks, 42-16, in Tucson, Arizona. 

Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Barrett Sallee and Adam Kramer rehash last season's big win for Arizona, as well as look forward to this year's version in Eugene, Oregon.  

Could we see a repeat of that fateful day in Week 6? 

Watch the video and let us know!

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SMU Head Coach Search: Latest News and Rumors on Position

With the resignation of June Jones, SMU needs to find a football coach capable of bringing the program back to its glory years.   

According to Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports, the team could be considering former Texas head coach Mack Brown:

A wildcard name to keep an eye on with the SMU vacancy is former Texas coach Mack Brown, now an ESPN broadcaster. Word is, some well-connected SMU brass are intrigued by Brown and think he might be tempted by the chance to coach again.

The head coaching job became available when Jones surprisingly resigned after just two games, according to The Associated Press, via ESPN Dallas Fort Worth. The former Hawaii coach explained:

It was a very difficult decision for me to make, as you can imagine. I have devoted my life for the last 50 years to playing and coaching this game and it has been a great journey. This job has a lot of demands, as you know, and along with that journey comes a price that is paid.

I have some personal issues I have been dealing with and I need to take a step away so I can address them at this time.

Jones had a 36-43 record in his career at SMU, including an 0-2 mark in 2014 before leaving. The squad proceeded to lose the next two games without him and go into the conference portion of the schedule 0-4. Overall, the squad has been outscored 202-12.

Although the Mustangs are just two years removed from a win in the Hawaii Bowl, it seems the current squad is a long way from contending on a weekly level. It will obviously be difficult for any coach to turn around this program within a few years.

That being said, Brown is someone who would bring immediate respectability to the program. While he had his ups and downs throughout his career, the coach totaled a 238-117-1 record over 29 years with Texas, North Carolina and Tulane, including a national championship in 2005.

He also has a lot of recruiting ties in the area after spending 16 years in Austin.

Interestingly, he could have some competition from a former player and assistant. According to Kirk Bohls of the Austin American-Statesman (h/t John Taylor of Pro Football Talk), Major Applewhite has reportedly applied for the SMU job.

There will certainly be a lot of interest around the country for the position, especially considering the recruiting hotbed in the area. This coaching search remains something to follow in the coming weeks and months.

 

Follow Rob Goldberg on Twitter for the latest breaking news and analysis.

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Alabama's Offense vs. Ole Miss' Defense Won't Be the Determining Factor

When No. 3 Alabama walks into Vaught-Hemmingway Stadium in Oxford, Mississippi, on Saturday afternoon to take on No. 11 Ole Miss, it will be power vs. power in one of the biggest SEC games of the season.

Alabama's offense currently ranks fourth in the nation in yards per game (594.3) and fifth in yards per play (7.62). Quarterback Blake Sims and that crew will be going up against the fourth-best defense in the country (248.0 YPG and 3.74 yards per play).

The Rebels have notched nine interceptions in just four games, so while Sims has looked great all year long—particularly two weeks ago when he tossed for 445 yards and four touchdowns against Florida—this will be, by far, his toughest test of the year. 

Ole Miss safety Cody Prewitt is excited about facing off against the Tide offense, saying, per Fox Sports' Brandon Speck that "we don't really think Bama is as good as they have been."

The matchup between Ole Miss' defense and Alabama's offense won't be what decides the game, though. Ole Miss' offense vs. Alabama's front seven is the most important matchup of the game.

It'll be no contest, as SEC Network's Paul Finebaum explained to The Opening Drive on WJOX 94.5 in Birmingham.

Alabama has made an effort to be faster in its front seven over the last few years, with fast and physical players like defensive end Jonathan Allen and linebacker Rashaan Evans. Those kinds of players—Allen, in particular—will be a huge factor on Saturday afternoon in Oxford.

Ole Miss' offensive line has been a sore spot this year. The Rebels have given up 29 tackles for loss this season—tied for the second-worst mark in the SEC. That inconsistency up front is a big reason why quarterback Bo Wallace has been mistake-prone.

Wallace has thrown an SEC-worst six interceptions, including two last week against Memphis in addition to fumbling once. He and Ole Miss' offensive line haven't seen anything like what's coming at them this weekend. 

The Crimson Tide front seven gets after the quarterback, thrives off mistakes generated with pressure and will put Sims and that offense in position to capitalize.

How do you slow down a pass rush?

A consistent running game would help, and Ole Miss' running game has been far from consistent this year.

The Rebs are averaging just 160.75 yards per game on the ground and just 3.99 yards per carry—the third-worst mark in the conference. If they have a strength on the ground, it's off the edge, where smaller running backs I'Tavius Mathers and Jaylen Walton have done the most damage.

Guys like Allen can track down even the fastest running backs, as he proved last year in the highlight above, chasing down Heisman Trophy finalist Tre Mason from behind.

If Ole Miss can protect Wallace and prevent him from taking risks against Alabama's defense, it will go a long way toward springing the upset. Doing that, however, probably requires establishing a strong and consistent running game, and against this Alabama defense, that's no easy task.

Bama's offense vs. Ole Miss' defense is going to be a wildly fascinating chess match, with both teams earning their fair share of praise. 

It will be a decidedly one-sided affair when Ole Miss has the ball, though.

The Tide will be all over the Rebels from the get-go, force mistakes by the dozen and lead the Crimson Tide to a big victory on the road in Oxford.

 

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

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

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College Football Rankings 2014: Updated Outlook on Top Week 6 Polls

A wild weekend of college football has fans ready to check out the Week 6 college football rankings from The Associated Press, USA Today and Bleacher Report.

With several top programs like Alabama, Oregon and Oklahoma having the week off, and other schools like Florida State and Georgia barely picking up victories, there has been turnover in the polls.

Here are the updated Week 6 rankings and the biggest winner and loser from Week 5.

*Polls via Amway coaches', The Associated Press and Bleacher Report.

 

Biggest Winner: LSU

The biggest winner of Week 5 was LSU. With several top-ranked teams off and several others barely earning a victory in hard-fought matchups, LSU utterly dominated New Mexico State, winning by a lopsided score of 63-7.

While the Tigers still have a loss on their record, it came against a better-than-expected Mississippi State team. Add in a Week 1 win over the tough Wisconsin Badgers, and LSU looks more and more like a viable SEC Championship contender every week.

The story of the day was freshman quarterback Brandon Harris. Not only did he go 11-of-14 through the air for 178 yards and three touchdowns, but he also racked up 36 yards on the ground for another two touchdowns.

Despite Harris clearly winning the starting job with his Week 5 performance, Tigers head coach Les Miles told Ron Higgins of The Times-Picayune about his quarterback situation:

We're not going to operate that way. We're always going to do things in a measured fashion. We'll go back and communicate with our team.

Brandon Harris came in and did exactly what we needed him to do. He handled the communications, and he made positive plays. Seven straight scoring drives, no turnovers, he operated the offense very effectively. I didn't see that as a surprise.

But I can tell you this. We're going to need both quarterbacks this season. There's a long season left. Anthony Jennings has to get better. Some of the things he did, the fumble and two picks, are things he cannot do. He'll have to make changes, he'll have to improve.

As great as the win was for LSU, the program must turn its attention immediately to its biggest opportunity of the year against Auburn on the road in Week 6. The Tigers are desperate to climb back into the postseason conversation, and a win over Auburn would help the school’s case.

If LSU can use the momentum created against New Mexico State to stun Auburn, the Tigers will continue to climb the rankings and be a viable championship contender.

 

Biggest Loser: Arizona State

As great as the win was for LSU in Week 5, the loss for Arizona State against UCLA was equally as devastating for the Sun Devils. The matchup against the Bruins was the first real test of the season for ASU, and the program failed miserably, losing 62-27.

The offense had its issues, but it was Arizona State’s defense that ultimately betrayed them. The Sun Devils allowed an astounding 580 total yards of offense (355 passing and 225 rushing), including four highlight-reel touchdowns, via ESPN College Football's Twitter account:

Arizona State needed this win. The team began the toughest stretch of the schedule at home against UCLA and will now travel to USC and host Stanford in the next two games. With the team’s confidence shaken, the Sun Devils could easily fall to 3-3 after six games.

If the program has any real hope of regaining their place toward the top of the rankings, Arizona State must beat both USC and Stanford and go on to beat Notre Dame later in the season. That's a tough stretch for any team, but ASU is coming off a disheartening loss.

Starting quarterback Taylor Kelly was unable to play with a foot injury and was replaced by Mike Bercovici. Regardless of which player starts next week, the key for the team must be limiting turnovers and being smarter with the football.

 

*Stats via ESPN.com.

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Samuel Chi's Mock College Football Playoff Standings: Week 6

While there are 17 teams still unbeaten in FBS, only about a dozen or so realistically remain in the hunt for a spot in the four-team playoff field. The SEC West, with six of its seven teams ranked in the Top 15, takes up almost half of the list of the contenders.

But that does not mean multiple teams from that division will get into the playoff. The possibility does exist, though it's a long shot. The SEC West will begin in earnest its elimination process this weekend as three divisional showdowns take place: Alabama visits Ole Miss, Auburn hosts LSU and Mississippi State welcomes Texas A&M.

None of the other conferences are likely to land more than one team in the playoff field, and they will now go through their own internecine battles. Here's a look at where everyone stands at the end of the "preseason" phase.

 

The Rankings

(See methodology of standings)

 

The Playoff Teams

1. Oklahoma

The Sooners remain on top of the standings but will now enter the most challenging portion of their schedule, beginning with a visit to unbeaten TCU. OU's solid strength of schedule will keep it in the playoff field as long as it keeps winning. (Projected bowl: Playoff at Sugar Bowl)

2. Auburn

The Tigers will enter the most brutal six-game stretch of 2014 beginning with the LSU game. After that, they'll play five more teams currently ranked in our Top 25, including road games at both Mississippi schools and Georgia. And if they get through all of that unscathed, they still have to visit Tuscaloosa for the Iron Bowl at the end of the regular season. (Projected bowl: Playoff at Rose Bowl)

3. Florida State

A second consecutive narrow escape doesn't affect FSU's place in the playoff, but it might influence its seeding. Because they're the defending national champions, the 'Noles will make the playoff field as long as they win the ACC undefeated, or perhaps even with one loss. (Projected bowl: Playoff at Rose Bowl)

4. Alabama

Even though they're also in the SEC West, the Tide somehow have an easier schedule than most of their divisional foes. They avoid the better teams in the SEC East and have likely their toughest two games (Texas A&M and Auburn) at home. (Projected bowl: Orange Bowl)

 

First Four Out

5. Oregon

Don't let the heading fool you: The Ducks are in the playoff field if they win out, no ifs and buts. Even with one loss, Oregon likely will have a shot to get into the playoff as long as it wins the conference title. The Ducks host Stanford this year, which will help their chances. (Projected bowl: Playoff at Sugar Bowl)

6. Texas A&M

The Aggies can still play their way into the playoff field, thanks to last week's overtime escape against Arkansas. But for them, it's likely one (loss) and done because of their atrocious nonconference schedule. (Projected bowl: Cotton Bowl)

7. UCLA

The Bruins did themselves a huge favor with an emphatic win at Arizona State last Thursday. That was enough to wipe away a rather unimpressive nonconference portion of the season in which they barely beat three middling teams in Virginia, Memphis and Texas. But things are just getting started for UCLA, as it must navigate perhaps the top-ranked schedule in FBS this year. (Projected bowl: Fiesta Bowl)

8. Ole Miss

The Rebels might not be in this spot for long after getting by September against subpar competition, struggling against Memphis for three quarters in their last game. The upcoming game against visiting Alabama arguably will be the most important in program history in at least a quarter century, or more. (Projected bowl: Non-CFP bowl)

 

Other Fun Facts

* At the moment, there does not appear to be a spot for BYU in the six CFP bowls. The Cougars' independent status is not helping their cause, as there is no guarantee of any sorts for them. Complicating things is that the ACC has a guaranteed second spot in the Orange Bowl should Florida State qualify for the playoff, and right now that belongs to Clemson (ranked at No. 26).

* The other independent, Notre Dame, likely will not be squeezed out as long as it either wins out or finishes the season with just one loss. The Irish can play their way into the playoff field if they can knock off Florida State and essentially grab the ACC's place for themselves.

* East Carolina remains in the driver's seat for the "Group of 5" guaranteed bowl slot. It's likely that the Mountain West, MAC and Sun Belt are already eliminated, leaving just Marshall from Conference USA and the winner of the East Carolina-Cincinnati game (if it wins the American title) as the only contenders for that bowl slot.

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