NCAA Football News

Heisman Watch 2014: Grading Top Contenders' Performance from Week 12

You could argue that this 2014 college football season hasn’t had a true Heisman moment—the kind of moment where fans take notice of an accomplishment so incredible that they can’t help but say, “That might have won the Heisman Trophy."

Well, one of those moments took place Saturday afternoon in Madison, Wisconsin. Racing through the snow and past a tired Nebraska defense, Wisconsin junior tailback Melvin Gordon took the final play of the third quarter 26 yards for a touchdown. Gordon stopped at the back of the end zone and took a slight bow. He had just set the new FBS single-game rushing record, his 408 yards passing the 406 that TCU tailback LaDanian Tomlinson put up against a hapless UTEP defense in November of 1999.

It was a special day for Gordon, one that should vault him to the forefront of the Heisman Trophy race and one that highlights this week’s performances by Heisman Trophy candidates. Here are this week’s grades for Heisman candidates. The criteria for inclusion is inclusion in last week’s Heisman Watch by ESPN.

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NCAA Football Rankings 2014: Week 13 Standings and Analysis for Latest Polls

And then there was one. 

No. 1 Mississippi State's loss to No. 4 Alabama in Tuscaloosa means that Florida State remains the only power-five conference school with an unblemished record. It also means it is about the only team with a guaranteed ticket to make it into the inaugural College Football Playoff.

The rest of college football's top teams have now put their fate in the hands of the playoff committee. With each team losing at least one game, it's not going to be an easy task for them to sort through the wreckage and choose the other three most deserving teams. 

Fans will still have to wait until Tuesday to see the latest batch of CFP rankings, but the newest Associated Press and Bleacher Report polls have already been released. Here's how those rankings see the teams stacking up: 

 

Week 12 Winners

Looking at the polls, there were a few teams who definitely picked up crucial wins in Week 12. The most obvious would of course be the Alabama Crimson Tide. The Tide welcomed Mississippi State to Bryant-Denny Stadium and controlled most of the game with typical Alabama defense. 

The win was yet another over an AP No. 1 team for Nick Saban. No coach has been better at toppling top teams than the Alabama boss, per ESPN Stats & Info:

The win puts Alabama in the driver's seat for a berth in the playoff. Sitting atop the SEC West, all that stands between the Tide and a berth are games against Western Carolina, Auburn and the SEC Championship Game. 

Another big winner from Saturday was Florida State. The Seminoles managed to survive and advance yet another week with a 30-26 victory over rival Miami. If the 'Noles were under the same scrutiny as one-loss teams around the country, this wouldn't have been a good win. 

After all, they had to prove their ability to come from behind once again this season. They came back from a 23-7 deficit in the second quarter to remain flawless. They're knack for coming back this year is putting them in rarefied air, as noted by ESPN Stats & Info:

However, as ugly as Florida State's wins have been this season, the fact remains it has made it through its schedule unscathed. It's a point that head coach Jimbo Fisher emphasized after the game, per Christy Cabrera Chirinos of the Sun-Sentinel: “Talk about our guys, just amazing. What a special group of guys. Everybody talks about this team, it doesn’t do this, it doesn’t do that. Well measure them for 60 minutes. When you measure this team up for 60 minutes, it measures up pretty dadgum good.”

With just Boston College and Florida left on the regular-season slate, it's looking like the ACC Championship Game might be the only remaining challenge left for them to hurdle. 

 

Week 12 Losers

Regardless of how college football decides who plays in its championship game, there's always going to be a recency bias. A loss in September will always be more forgivable than a loss in November. That's what makes losing (or not winning as well as expected) difficult this time of year. 

No team is likely to find that out as clearly as Mississippi State. The Bulldogs went from being a shoo-in for the CFP to yet another one-loss team who must hope that the committee sees it fit to include them over their one-loss brethren. 

Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, it wasn't just their own loss that hurt. As Stewart Mandel of Fox Sports pointed out, none of the high-caliber teams that they beat did them any favors:

Even with those losses, the Bulldogs still have one of the best resumes in the country. The question now becomes how the committee would feel about putting a team that isn't a conference champion into the playoff. With Alabama in control, it appears that Mississippi State's shot at the SEC crown is gone. 

Perhaps one of the teams that lost the most with a win was TCU. As one of the six power-five conference schools with just one loss on the season, the Horned Frogs have now entered the part of the season in which they are expected to dominate against inferior competition. 

Trailing 3-6 Kansas 20-10 in the third quarter would not be considered domination. As Kirk Herbstreit noted, failing to put away the Jayhawks early in Lawrence could create some perception problems for TCU: 

Of course, finding a way to pull out the victory is better than, say, losing by 14 at home against Virginia Tech. Still, it wouldn't be a surprise to see Ohio State jump TCU or Mississippi State remain above the Frogs despite their loss to Alabama. 

Shifting to the West Coast, the Pac-12 found itself short one playoff contender when all was said and done Saturday. The No. 6 Arizona State Sun Devils were stunned by the Oregon State Beavers, despite the Beavers entering the game on a four-game losing streak. 

The Devils had set themselves up nicely for a playoff campaign after back-to-back wins over ranked teams in Utah and Notre Dame. Now, they must hope to emerge from a jumbled mass of two-loss teams in the Pac-12 South that includes USC (whom they hold a win over), UCLA (whom they lost to) and Arizona (remains to be seen). 

That's one less team the committee will have to figure out what to do with come Dec. 6. 

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College Football Picks Week 13: Predictions and Odds for Top 25 Schedule

The only teams in the nation's Top 25 that are safe from utter defeat in any given week are the ones that are inactive due to a bye. That statement rang true in Week 12, as multiple contenders fell to lesser opponents and others were given huge scares.

With the 2014 college football season continuing its unpredictable nature for this long, there's no reason to expect anything to be different in Week 13. Several ranked teams are set to clash once again, and others could be set up for trap games, so get ready for another wild ride.

What do Vegas oddsmakers think of the upcoming week of action? Here's a look at the updated Associated Press rankings, followed by odds and predictions for every Top 25 game on the Week 13 slate.

Point spreads are courtesy of Odds Shark and current as of November 16 at 6 p.m. ET.

 

Week 13 Upset Alert: (15) Arizona at (20) Utah

While the Utes are favored in Vegas' eyes due to home-field advantage, No. 15 Arizona is on upset alert.

Utah slid down the nation's rankings after a two-game skid, falling to Arizona State in overtime and succumbing to Oregon's potent offense one week later. The team pulled itself together in Week 12, though, riding its stout defense to an overtime victory over Stanford.

There wasn't much to speak of offensively for the Utes, but many would say the team needs to get the speedy Christian McCaffrey involved more frequently.

David Lombardi of ESPN.com tweeted his take on the running back:

However, the team's defense was simply phenomenal.

Pressure by Nate Orchard and Co. ensured a miserable day for Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan, who finished the game with a 29.1 quarterback rating. Bill Riley of ESPN 700 tweeted an interesting statistic regarding Utah's pass defense against Stanford:

Arizona is a pass-heavy team, and inconsistent Anu Solomon will have his hands full.

Solomon is coming off a lackluster outing against Washington, completing 17 of his 39 passing attempts for 242 yards, zero touchdowns and two interceptions. He led the Wildcats to a victory, but that came on a last-second field goal.

Percy Allen of the Seattle Times tweeted about Solomon's struggles under pressure:

Utah displayed its ability to sustain long drives, killing the clock and keeping its stout defense fresh against the Cardinal in Week 12. Continuing that trend against Arizona shouldn't be much of an issue considering the Wildcats' struggles against the run Saturday, as Washington racked up 245 yards on the ground.

So, what should be expected from this contest? The Utes will control the pace of the game, and that's their biggest advantage. Keeping Solomon off the field for extended periods of time will prevent him from getting into a rhythm, causing him to struggle against Utah's defense. This one will remain close throughout, and Utah's defense will come up huge late in the game to secure a win.

Prediction: Utah 23, Arizona 20

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Bowl Predictions 2014: Updated Playoff Projections Before Crucial Week 13

Week 12 was everything college football fans could have asked for before it started. 

An incredible 10 ranked teams lost, including No. 1 Mississippi State, No. 6 Arizona State and No. 9 Auburn, and the playoff picture is even more muddled than it was before after TCU and Florida State struggled against unranked foes.

However, at this point, winning is the most important thing. With that in mind, here is a look at some updated playoff projections heading into Week 13 before a closer look at what lies ahead for the postseason contenders.

 

Bowl Predictions

Sugar Bowl: No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Baylor

Rose Bowl: No. 2 Florida State vs. No. 3 Oregon   

Championship Bowl (in Arlington, Texas): TBD (semifinal winners)

 

Week 13 Playoff Preview

Let’s just call Week 13 the eye of the storm.

The last couple of weeks saw a number of Top 10 teams fall, thrilling finishes and marquee showdowns between some of the best teams in the country. What’s more, rivalry games and conference title clashes await fans in Weeks 14 and 15.

You may want to get some chores done Saturday, though, because the schedule is lackluster at best. But Week 13 is absolutely crucial because the playoff contenders cannot afford any losses to lowly opponents if they want to be playing for a national title in January.

Ohio State starts it off when it hosts Indiana in a sleepy noon ET kickoff time. While the Buckeyes should roll, Indiana is 11th in the nation in rushing yards per game behind one of most underrated players in the nation in Tevin Coleman. If nothing else, it will be good practice for the Buckeyes before they battle Melvin Gordon in a potential Big Ten Championship Game.

Mississippi State will take out its frustrations from its loss to Alabama on poor Vanderbilt. The Commodores are 0-6 in the SEC and barely escaped Charleston Southern and Massachusetts earlier in the season. They are certainly not going to keep up with the Bulldogs.

Out west, Oregon faces Colorado. This is a perfect matchup if you are some type of masochist sports fan who loves painful blowouts. Marcus Mariota and the high-octane Ducks offense will make mincemeat of the Buffaloes’ 120th-ranked scoring defense.

Colorado has given up more than 30 points in nine of its 10 games this season and will have no chance at slowing Oregon down.

Alabama will take its momentum from the impressive victory over Mississippi State into a laughable November matchup against Western Carolina. Does anything really need to be said about this matchup? Just imagine the jokes if a Big Ten playoff contender played against Western Carolina in November.

Elsewhere, Florida State takes on Boston College.

If this game goes according to script, Boston College will seize a two-score lead in the first half and get everyone’s hopes up before the Seminoles come roaring back. Eventually, Florida State has to start getting credit for winning these games instead of getting criticized for not winning with enough style points.

Love them or hate them, the Seminoles will be in the playoffs if they take care of business against the overmatched Eagles, Florida and their ACC Championship Game opponent. Head coach Jimbo Fisher talked about how important and difficult it is to just win in college football, via Jared Shanker of ESPN.com:

[Winning] is so much harder than we make it seem to be out there. If it wasn’t, guys would be undefeated all the time. … Why do you think I’m nervous every week? A college kid – think of all the things that went through your head at that age. It’s a challenge every week to control their minds to bring them to focus, to understand how to be consistent. That’s the hard thing.

The best game featuring a playoff contender in Week 13 is the showdown between Baylor and Oklahoma State. On paper, this may be a decent contest based on the Oklahoma State name compared to the likes of Colorado, Western Carolina and Boston College, but the Cowboys are not a good football team this season, even if they did almost beat Florida State in the opener.

Oklahoma State is 5-5 and lost four games in a row. Its five wins came against Missouri State, Texas San Antonio, Texas Tech, Iowa State and Kansas, which is not exactly a murderer’s row. It was also destroyed by TCU, West Virginia, Kansas State and Texas and is giving up 30 points a game.

Baylor leads the nation with 50.1 points a game. This could get out of hand quickly if the Bears offense gets going in the first quarter.

What’s more, the Cowboys offense isn’t exactly dominant, as Jake Trotter of ESPN noted:

Chances are, the playoff contenders are going to live to see another day after Week 13 is in the rearview mirror.

 

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College Football Rankings 2014: Latest Standings and Predictions for Week 13

After a dramatic Week 11 full of unexpected and season-altering results, Week 12 had a tough act to follow. Well, it certainly delivered, as the nation's pecking order shifted in substantial fashion once again. 

The Top 25 doesn't remotely resemble what it did just one week ago, as upset victories and close calls plagued the best teams in the country. Not only do we have a new No. 1 squad, but we also have several new teams in this week's standings due to the collapse of previously ranked schools.

So, which teams currently comprise the Top Four? Which dropped out of the Top 25 altogether? Are there any new teams in the playoff mix? The answers to those questions may surprise you. Here's a look at each poll released on Sunday, followed by a few predictions for key Week 13 games.

 

Week 13 Predictions

Florida State's No. 1 Ranking Is Short-Lived

The Seminoles may be the nation's top-ranked team heading into Week 13, but let's face it: Their recent games have been rather ugly. Florida State continues to somehow muster late-game magic to earn wins, but there will come a time when that runs out. It may be in Week 13 against Boston College.

Jameis Winston and Co. have been slow out of the gate over the past several weeks. This has led to very close calls against Notre Dame, Louisville, Virginia and Miami. If that trend continues against the Eagles, the end result should be similar.

Here's a look at Winston's lopsided numbers before and after halftime this season, via ESPN Stats & Info:

Boston College has a very solid running game that ranks 12th in the nation, averaging 264.0 yards per game. Dual-threat quarterback Tyler Murphy and running back Jon Hilliman have combined for more than 1,600 rushing yards and 20 touchdowns this season. Combine that with a defense that's only allowing an average of 21.9 points per game, and you get a team that can control the pace of a game.

Even if the Seminoles win, Boston College will keep things very close. That won't look good in the eyes of the selection committee. With Alabama and Oregon having very favorable contests in Week 13, expect one—or both—of them to leapfrog the Seminoles.

 

Ohio State Makes a Playoff Statement

How impressive have the Buckeyes been of late? They followed up a 55-point showing against Illinois with a 49-point performance against a stout Michigan State defense and, most recently, a brilliant game by quarterback J.T. Barrett in a Week 12 victory over Minnesota.

Barrett was on fire Saturday against the Golden Gophers. He threw for 200 yards and three touchdowns, but even more impressively, he rushed for 189 yards and another score. That rushing total was a new team record, and he now owns the most touchdowns in a single season in school history, according to ESPN College Football:

The freshman signal-caller is sure making his case for Heisman consideration, and that will continue in Week 13 against a porous Indiana defense. Ranked 106th in the nation and allowing 33.6 points per game, the Hoosiers gave up 429 yards of offense and 45 points to Rutgers in Week 12. Barrett and Co. must be chomping at the bit to get their hands on that defensive unit.

Expect to see another huge performance from Ohio State's quarterback this coming Saturday, as the Buckeyes roll to a huge victory and give the selection committee something to think about before the Week 14 rankings are released.

 

USC Takes Down UCLA

The Trojans have been on a roll of late, and UCLA is meeting its in-state rival at the wrong time. Aside from a loss during a defensive struggle with Utah, USC's offense has exploded, putting up 56, 44 and 38 points in its other three most recent games. That offense will get a shot at the Bruins' 79th-ranked defense in Week 13.

Quarterback Cody Kessler has been fantastic lately. He's coming off a huge game against California, throwing for 371 yards and four touchdowns. Kessler has a knack for getting out of the gate quickly, and that could cause problems for an inconsistent UCLA squad.

According to Dane Brugler of CBS Sports, Kessler's efficiency puts him in some elite company:

While the Bruins are riding a four-game winning streak entering this contest, they haven't been able to dispose of opponents easily, winning in a few close shootouts. The fact this team was taken down to the wire by the likes of Colorado and California recently isn't a good sign with an impending matchup against a more prolific offense.

Brett Hundley has been playing very well recently, showcasing his ability to create yards with both his arm and his legs, but his skill set will be severely tested against a USC defense that's allowing an average of just 23.3 points per game.

This game should be a close battle between two very good quarterbacks, but the Trojans are the more well-rounded team, and that will be the difference-maker in this one.

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College Football Superlatives from Kramer's Korner: Welcome to Campaign Season

Urban Meyer’s first order of business was the most imperative: conquer Minnesota in its outdoor, oversized, alcohol-serving snow globe and keep all hopes for a College Football Playoff appearance alive no matter what cost.  

His second undertaking—once item No. 1 had been crossed off the list—was to play to the crowd and reinforce how ancient that inexplicable loss to Virginia Tech appears today. Meyer’s post-win message was calculated and not the least bit surprising.

Like an expert promoter talking up his prizefighter to anyone willing to listen, he reminded us that college football’s campaign season is upon us:

Urban Meyer: "I challenge any team in the country that wants to schedule this one in November. Have at it."

— Brian Bennett (@BennettESPN) November 15, 2014

Meyer undoubtedly believes in the extended sales pitch, but this signifies much more than being openly confident about your team. It’s where the “head coach” label morphs into astute politician. It’s where actual football is accompanied with sound bites suited for a poster.

This verbal art form isn’t exclusive to Ohio State. It also doesn't exist solely because a group of humans will decide CFB’s postseason for the very first time. Even the BCS brought out these November pitches in an effort to sway Harris Poll voters’ ears and overall public appeal.

With 12 committee members to influence, you can expect this coach-speak weekly from any team within arm’s reach of the playoff. It’s far easier to sway a human than it is to sway a computer, and for that reason, the campaigning will likely reach an unexplored threshold over the coming weeks. You’ve been warned.

Even though these comments relayed in tweets and  columns may seem insignificant in the grand scheme, a coach—particularly one looking to close ground on the top four positions—has no other choice but to embrace his inner used car salesman.

It will be familiar, repetitive and completely understandable. However, as the flood of self-endorsements continues to rain down each week, the more significant question becomes: Will it work?

We shall see.

As for the rest of the week, including awards, highlights and Vines of grown men eating ice cream in the snow, here is your Week 12 recap.

 

Offensive Player of the Week: Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin 

This is the least amount of suspense surrounding any award in the history of awards. The fabulous Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin’s star running back, broke the FBS record for rushing yards in a game Saturday. And he did it in three quarters.

Gordon finished with 408 rushing yards on 25 carries, good for an average of 16.3 per rush. He also found the end zone four times. His 408 yards rushing were two better than former TCU running back LaDainian Tomlinson, who went for 406 yards against UTEP in 1999. It’s worth pointing out that Gordon accomplished this in 15 minutes less and did so against a ranked opponent.

In total, Gordon has now rushed for 1,909 yards and scored 25 touchdowns this season. He is, quite simply, unfair.

 

Dominant Defender: Jalen Ramsey, Florida State 

You could make an argument—and a pretty convincing one—that Florida State does not beat Miami if Jalen Ramsey doesn’t play the best game of his season and one of the best games a defensive back has played all year. 

Yes, there were defenders with better overall tackling numbers this weekend, but his impact was felt through various moments in the game, including Miami’s last offensive snap. Ramsey secured the Florida State win with his interception late in the fourth quarter. He also added three tackles, a tackle for loss, four pass breakups, a forced fumble and a blocked PAT.

The blocked PAT changed the complexion of the Hurricanes’ final drive entirely, and its importance cannot be overstated. 

 

Video Game Box Score

-Tevin Coleman picked the wrong week to run for 307 yards. Indiana’s outstanding running back carried the ball 32 times to reach this incredible output, good for nearly 10 yards per carry. He also scored a touchdown. The most shocking thing about this performance wasn’t the production itself; it’s that the Hoosiers still lost to Rutgers by 22 points, despite a massive showing from their star. 

-Cincinnati and East Carolina provided the most basketball-esque score of the weekend Thursday. In total, the Bearcats and Pirates combined for 100 points, 1,158 yards, 854 passing yards and 59 first downs. There were also 107 passes thrown. In the end, despite its best efforts to give the game away, Cincinnati prevailed, 54-46.

 

Anti-Video Game Box Score

-If you were curious as to why the USC-Cal game lasted far longer than it should have, look no further than the part of the box score where penalties are housed. The Trojans and the Bears combined for 24 penalties and 271 penalty yards, which is remarkable, even for Pac-12 officials. USC did the primary heavy lifting, finishing with 14 penalties for 159 yards.

-The injury to superstar freshman Deshaun Watson forced Clemson to turn (again) to the experienced Cole Stoudt. It did not go well. Stoudt completed just three of 11 passes for 19 yards. He also threw three interceptions, two of which were taken back a combined 147 yards for touchdowns. As a result, you finished with a better rating than he did: 

Cole Stoudt's QB rating -12.8. Yes, that is a negative twelve point eight. pic.twitter.com/ts5Jw3770U

— Beat Clemson (@BeatClem) November 15, 2014

 

Biggest Surprise

I’ll be honest, I did not expect to see a grown man on the sideline, mustache-equipped, eating ice cream in the snow early Saturday afternoon. Thanks to Minnesota sideline phone technician Dan Lehman, however, that’s precisely what transpired.

Oh, don’t judge. There is never, ever a bad time to eat ice cream. Quite frankly, eating ice cream in below-freezing temperatures might as well be featured on a Big Ten rivalry trophy. At the pace we’re manufacturing these, perhaps this will soon be possible. 

Also, have you ever eaten ice cream in the snow? Why not?

 

Best Moment

In untraditional fashion, Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema has established a cult-like following through soul-crushing losses. That seems strange given the way we obsess over results, although the Razorbacks’ 2014 season has been anything but ordinary.

Bielema finally earned his first SEC win Saturday, limiting LSU to 123 yards and allowing no points in a 17-0 win. A fanbase that had anxiously waited to celebrate the occasion finally got its chance—and celebrate it did: 

WHAT. A. NIGHT. #WeTookTheBoot#WPSpic.twitter.com/zKZu3ff9D3

— Razorback Football (@RazorbackFB) November 16, 2014

It’s hard to not feel the satisfaction for Bielema and the program in general. Arkansas had come so close to ending a winless conference streak that dragged out far too long, with many of the defeats being a play or point away from a different result entirely. Along the way, the Hogs picked up sympathy. And, because the team is so obviously improved, it has garnered respect.

Although one win against LSU won’t erase a season of close calls, it does set a solid foundation for the remainder of the year and next season. The progress has been remarkable.

Now, at least on the surface level, there are some results to go with it. Expect plenty more to come.

 

For the Highlight Reel

At first glance, the series of events didn’t seem real. The score itself was already strange enough, and a play of this magnitude nearly overloaded our system. But Nigel King’s bizarre and brilliant sideline-navigating grab was real, and for a while, it looked like a potential deathblow to TCU’s College Football Playoff hopes.

The upset bid was not to be, although that doesn’t make King’s 78-yard touchdown any less magnificent. The fact that he was able to catch the ball off the deflection, gather it with one hand and somehow not go out of bounds will stay a football mystery.

It’s better that way.

 

If the College Football Playoff Started Today...(or Why I Hate Your Team) 

Had Florida State lost Saturday night, this section would have been pure mayhem. As is, picking the top four teams in college football—and placing them neatly in a four-team playoff that won’t be decided for weeks—remains a tall order. 

Ohio State and both Big 12 teams are right on the cusp, so let’s get that out of the way now. As for what my playoff would look like if it started today, here is the top four. (Note: My playoff would include 64 teams, be played on an aircraft carrier and would not allow Pac-12 officials under any circumstance.)

1. Oregon

2. Alabama

3. Florida State

4. Mississippi State

 

Five Leftovers to Chew on

1. Todd Gurley will almost certainly never carry the ball at the collegiate level again, which is a tough reality to stomach. Gurley suffered a torn ACL Saturday against Auburn while playing for the first time since his suspension, ending his season and almost certainly his Georgia career. Although there are many ways to take this conversation and various ways to direct anger and blame, I’d rather not. Well, not now, at least. I just feel for a kid who got a raw deal in a variety of ways this year. Get well soon, Gurley.

2. Speaking of injuries, Deshaun Watson’s knee injury—which looked serious at the time—is not as bad as it appeared. In fact, he might play again this year. Regardless of whether he does or not, not having to deal with major rehabilitation over the offseason is an enormous win for Watson and the Tigers. If he can stay healthy in 2015, he could be in line for a special season.

3. I understand the frustration with Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini and his inability to win a “big” game. It’s not just the fact that Pelini is losing these games, either. In many cases—including Saturday—the Cornhuskers have been blown out in embarrassing fashion. And yet, even with these results considered, Pelini shouldn't be on the hot seat. Not yet, at least. If he doesn’t win one of these types of games over the course of next season, however, the negativity may start to turn yet again.

4. Florida State again lured you into believing it had no shot against Miami, although this is becoming a weekly ritual at this point. I wrote about this Saturday night, shortly after the Seminoles overcame a 23-7 deficit to beat the Hurricanes. It’s clear this is not the same dominant team from last season, so don’t bother wondering when it will suddenly come together. But in a year without a dominant team, FSU and its chaotic style still has as good of a chance as anyone to win it all.

5. What a brutal way for Arizona State’s College Football Playoff bid to end, although given the timing, perhaps we shouldn’t be all that surprised that an average Oregon State team was able to pull off the upset. Even in the disappointment, however, Todd Graham should be celebrated for the job he’s done this season. Graham replaced almost his entire defense and played without his starting quarterback for much of the season. Perhaps Florida was paying attention.

 

Large Man Play of the Week 

When a man tipping the scales near or above 300 pounds does something exceptional, you’re bound to find that exceptional moment in this weekly recap. It doesn’t matter if this large human plays at Alabama or Mercer—he will be highlighted and celebrated.

Enter Thomas Marchman, Mercer’s offensive lineman, who caught a touchdown against Warner on Saturday. This, while excellent by its lonesome, didn’t encompass the entire scene. He was just getting started.

There's a bowling pin celebration and a large man doing a cartwheel included in the video below. You're going to want to hit play if you haven't already. 

 

Best Failed Fake Punt of the Week

This is special, Cal, and I mean that sincerely. Yes, this fake punt against USC failed miserably, but it failed in such spectacular fashion that we can’t help but offer up casual applause. 

Why did Cole Leininger lift up both legs—faking it, so to speak—before throwing a duck into the ground?

Perhaps it was all part of the plan... 

 

Animated Reaction of the Week

Although most fans are content to express their disappointment with a missed field goal with a minor arm gesture and a curse word or three, this gentleman from Minnesota had other plans. Someone get him a hug.

 

Fan of the Week

The commentary in the tweet below says it all, really. I have nothing to add. 

You can see the regret in real time. RT @RedditCFB It was 12° in Boise last night: https://t.co/knPsDMQZWd

— Steven Godfrey (@38Godfrey) November 16, 2014

 

Coat of the Week

What a beautiful coat! pic.twitter.com/ZEAQQPYamj

— Brent Yarina (@BTNBrentYarina) November 15, 2014

This isn’t so much a coat as it is a fabulous bear costume. It also moonlights as a handy Big Ten football accessory, especially when the calendar turns to November. 

Can this coat be worn in most normal-sized automobiles? No chance. But you will never be cold again.

 

Gators Blocking Gators (Again)

Oh, Florida. Not again. Not like this.

 

From the Peanut Gallery (Best Tweets of the Weekend)

http://t.co/eZCK64BeMc

— Gamecock Athletics (@GamecocksOnline) November 15, 2014

Spurrier is about to drop a mixtape at the postgame pic.twitter.com/F2dh28nsVv

— Danny (@recordsANDradio) November 15, 2014

Miami dad giving the FSU bus the finger. Miami (maybe 3-year old) daughter on his shoulders following suit

— Jared Shanker (@JShankerESPN) November 15, 2014

.@HeismanTrophy Hi.

— Badger Football (@BadgerFootball) November 15, 2014

Charlie Strong on his pregame message to players: "They told me it was cold. I told them it wasn't cold."

— Mike Finger (@mikefinger) November 16, 2014

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College Football's All-Week 12 Team: Top Performers at Every Position

For a fan with zero rooting interest, Week 12 might have been the best week of the season. It didn't have the chaos of Week 6 or Week 11, but it had the best combination of upsets, drama, big games and singular performances.

The last of those ingredients was the most important. Week 12 featured the breaking of an FBS record, and a notable one at that. And it only took three quarters for the player in question to break it.

Yes. He was That. Freaking. Good.

Before we continue with the rest of the list, here is your weekly reminder that the All-Week team is not based on raw statistics. The player with the biggest numbers did not necessarily make the team. Stats were a primary factor, but only after they were weighed against context (opponent, situation, location, game film, etc.).

Sound off below and let us know who you would add.

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The Most Important Michigan Players for the Rest of the Year

Getting a bowl bid is the objective, and Michigan has two more chances to reach the six-win plateau: This Saturday at home versus Maryland and Nov. 29 at Ohio State.

So there’s one, really—one realistic shot at finishing the year at 6-6. And that’s this weekend. It won’t be in the season finale versus the Buckeyes in Columbus, that’s crystal clear and has been for about nine weeks.

That said, coach Brady Hoke will need the most out of his best in order to evenly scrape by before heading into 2015. Those guys’ identities aren’t secret. Everyone knows who they are.

And let’s be honest here: They know who they are, too. It’s time for them to play up to potential or bust.

 

De’Veon and Drake Express

A successful rushing game, or lack thereof, could decide Saturday’s clash with the Terps, who have the conference’s No. 12 rush defense and No. 13 total defense. Putting the ball into the hands of De’Veon Smith and/or Drake Johnson would be ideal, as they’re each on the ascent.

Plus, they’re the only guys available in this department.

A week ago, Smith, a 5’11”, 220-pound sophomore, put up a career-high 121 yards during the Wolverines’ win over Northwestern. The week prior, Johnson, a 6’0”, 211-pound redshirt sophomore, burst for 122 during the 34-10 homecoming romping of Indiana.

Additionally, the Terps were just gutted by Michigan State for 242 yards.  

It’s prime time for offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier to unleash a ground attack.

 

The Devin Connection

What happened here? It’s mid-November, and a pair of stars continue to fade—or, in other words, the exact opposite scenarios have played out for Devin Funchess and Devin Gardner.

During the preseason, Funchess, a 6’5,” 230-pound junior, was widely recognized as one of the country’s best receivers. Today, he remains celebrated, but a down year has certainly raised a few questions, especially in regards to ball security.

Like in 2013, Funchess has been bitten by the drop bug. But his misses aren’t entirely his fault—Gardner hasn’t been very accurate, despite touting a career-high 61 percent completion rate. Gardner’s struggles have made it difficult for things to click with Funchess, who’s been hobbling on a bum leg/lower body injury for most of the season.

Needless to say, but necessary considering the subject of Michigan football, Gardner and Funchess have to find a way to string together two great weeks of football, something that’s yet to be done in 2014.

Not good weeks. Not better-than-average weeks. Great weeks.

 

D-Line Needs Ojemudia

Frank Clark was jailed this past weekend in Erie County, Ohio, for his alleged role in a domestic dispute/altercation, per CBS(h/t MGoBlog, Detroit Free Press). Needless to say, his status with the team and university is uncertain at this time. 

With Clark, the defense has a chance to win games. He’s been a valuable contributor in each of the Wolverines’ five victories this fall. Without the 6'2", 277-pound senior, the chances of coming out on top slightly diminish. He’s among the Big Ten’s best pass-rushers and is third in the league with 13.5 tackles for loss.

He’s been a fixture up front and is sorely needed.

Meanwhile, Mario Ojemudia, a 6’3”, 251-pound junior, would likely replace him. Playing at a level somewhere in the neighborhood of Clark is the goal, but getting there could be difficult for a guy with one start to his credit.

There is a slight bright side, though: He had a career-high two sacks during a 10-9 win at Northwestern. He’s played in 31 games. He’s been around for three years. Ojemudia’s transition, in theory, should be a plug-and-play scenario for Hoke’s staff.

The D-line and Greg Mattison’s run defense have carried Team 135 by allowing a meager 2.82 yards per attempt—and it’s battle-tested against a handful of upper-echelon ball-carriers. As a whole, the run D ranks No. 3 in the league and No. 7 nationally.

Keeping up with that type of production is the Wolverines’ best shot at landing in a bowl—and now that Clark's in limbo, that’s going to be a tall order to fill.

Even for Mattison.

 

Follow Bleacher Report’s Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81

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Northwestern Players Stoked About Getting Chick-fil-A After Upsetting Notre Dame

Warning: Video contains NSFW language. 

"And we got Chick-fil-A! This is the best day ever!"

That pretty much sums up how some of the Northwestern players felt after they saw what their dinner would be after upsetting No. 18 Notre Dame, 43-40, in overtime on Saturday.

It's not clear if the players were more excited about beating the Fighting Irish in South Bend or getting Chick-fil-A for dinner. Regardless, it was a good night to be a Wildcat football player.

[YouTube]

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Bowl Predictions 2014-15: Playoff Projections Prior to 4th Rankings Release

Several College Football Playoff hopefuls struggled, but the biggest loss was by the No. 1 team in the country. Mississippi State may have faltered but still has tough games ahead that can keep it in the running.

By virtue of their strong start to the season, the Bulldogs remain in contention for a playoff spot. Though it likely won't retain the top position when the fourth CFP poll is released, Mississippi State is still in a favorable position.

Others who were hoping to crack the Top Four weren't quite as lucky. Arizona State's surprising loss to Oregon State and Auburn's blowout defeat against Georgia all but seals their fates as outsiders in the playoff.

Scuffling programs like Florida State and TCU still have their hopes alive, but doubt might be creeping into the minds of voters. Ahead of the fourth poll release, here's a look at the projected College Football Playoff matchups and analysis for each team.

 

Breakdown of Projections

Though it didn't seem obvious weeks ago, Alabama is certainly deserving of a playoff spot after defeating Mississippi State.

The Crimson Tide are rolling late in the season and should finally see their name in the Top Four on Tuesday night. Much of that success is thanks in large part to the offense that got off to a 19-3 lead at the half before pulling off the huge win.

Amari Cooper leads that offense and has been an explosive receiver throughout his career, per College GameDay:

Even with the loss for the Bulldogs, they still have a shot at making the field with their remaining schedule.

Vanderbilt is coming up next weekend for Mississippi State, but the Egg Bowl should convince voters that it can contend for a title. Going against an Ole Miss team that was once ranked in the Top Four, a victory might propel the Bulldogs to the playoff.

Quarterback Dak Prescott struggled against Bama early but helped get his team back in the game. However, Jon Solomon of CBS Sports notes that the disappointing play wasn't just evident on Saturday:

Despite those issues, Prescott can right all of those wrongs over the next two weeks and prove himself on the biggest stage possible.

Outside of the SEC, Oregon got the week off and remains in the running for a playoff appearance. TCU wasn't able to put away Kansas until late in the game, as the Jayhawks nearly changed the college football landscape.

The Horned Frogs weren't the only top team that nearly lost, as Florida State narrowly survived against Miami. Jameis Winston got a lucky bounce on one passing touchdown, and the Seminoles outscored the Hurricanes 20-3 in the second half.

Winston continued his up-and-down season, as he surged in the second half, per ESPN Stats & Info:

The sophomore quarterback also had a message for Miami fans after the game, via Bleacher Report:

That message might also apply to haters of the Seminoles after the regular season. If Florida State can survive against Boston College and rival Florida, the Noles might be competing for a title for a second straight season.

Other programs like TCU and Baylor might make a late push to earn a place in the playoff, but these four teams will likely clinch the spots. When the first College Football Playoff gets underway, expect several familiar programs to do battle for the title.

 

Follow @RCorySmith on Twitter.

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Todd Gurley Ruled Out for Season with Torn ACL

Georgia Bulldogs star running back Todd Gurley returned in Saturday's win over Auburn following a four-game suspension. Unfortunately, he exited the SEC showdown in the fourth quarter and has now been ruled out for the remainder of the 2014 season with a torn ACL in his left knee.   

WSB sports director Zach Klein initially reported that Gurley had suffered a torn ACL against Auburn, and that news was confirmed Sunday:

Gurley offered a quick comment on his situation via Twitter:

Bleacher Report expert Dave Siebert offered his opinion on the situation:

Gurley ran for 911 yards and nine touchdowns on just 123 carries this year. He is among the most gifted players at his position in recent memory.   

Before the injury, had the all-purpose playmaker declared for the 2015 NFL draft, he had a real chance to be the first running back selected in the first round since 2012. Now the future is a lot murkier for Gurley, whose draft stock will likely drop drastically, as the injury may cost him his entire rookie campaign in the pros.

It's better to take the rehabilitation process slowly, though. Running backs have become so interchangeable that it takes a transcendent talent to emerge as a surefire feature back. Gurley has the tools to be just that when healthy.

Whenever he does return to the gridiron, the Georgia star figures to enjoy plenty of successful playing days ahead as long as his knee holds up.

The Bulldogs have the backfield depth to absorb Gurley's loss for the remainder of the year, particularly with stud freshman Nick Chubb in the fold, but NFL teams will have to take a longer look the junior before they consider investing a valuable draft pick in him.

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After Early-Season Woes, Longhorns Prove They're Headed in the Right Direction

There were a lot of smiling faces following the Texas Longhorns' 28-7 win over Oklahoma State. And some that resembled a look of relief.

The Longhorns' early-season woes sparked questions about the direction of the Texas football program. And after Kansas State handed Texas its fifth loss of the year, many signs pointed to Charlie Strong's first season in Austin ending on Thanksgiving night without a bowl bid.

But the Longhorns had a different outlook of their future.

"Everybody just wrote us off," Strong said. "I told the guys don't let outside forces control this football team."

The Longhorns took their coach's words to heart.

Texas overcame the lethargic start of the season by winning two consecutive games, including an upset over then-No. 23 West Virginia, giving the Longhorns the first signature win of Strong's short Texas tenure.

But there was another goal Texas needed to reach: becoming bowl-eligible.

The Longhorns achieved that goal Saturday night in Stillwater.

"I challenged our players early in the week and said we have two games left and we need to get to a bowl game," Strong said. "We owe it to ourselves and to our seniors for the leadership that they've provided the last few weeks. We've come a long ways, and to get bowl-eligible speaks volumes of the hard work that they've put in."

Texas has proven it can be a tough team, which is something Strong has strived for since he was hired in January. But Saturday's win over Oklahoma State showed a new level of toughness—aside from the way the Longhorns manhandled the Cowboys.

In years past, Texas has not always fared well in cold weather conditions. One could almost guarantee the Longhorns would struggle against their opponents if the temperature dropped below 50 degrees.

The weather was expected to be in the low-40s to mid-30s Saturday night in Stillwater. Some players showed up to Boone Pickens Stadium wearing extra layers, which was considered the norm for many Longhorns from previous seasons.

Little did they know Strong had a different agenda for his team.

"They thought it was cold and I told them it isn't cold," Strong said. "The linemen had on tights and I said, 'We're going to win the game up front so take it off, you're not going to wear it.' The skill guys had pouches on and I said, 'Only the quarterback is going to wear a pouch, take it off.'

"We were going to go out there with the right mindset. The weather was not going to be an issue, we were going to go out there and win this game."

Strong was not going to allow his team to balk at playing in cold weather, and the Longhorns realized their coach was right.

"He challenges us as men and challenges us as a team," senior wide receiver John Harris said of Strong's no-tights policy in Stillwater. "It's fun to have a coach like that."

The ability to fight through cold weather is a small achievement and will likely go unmentioned moving forward.

But what has been unfolding for Texas is something more than a team fighting for bowl eligibility, or a team proving it can suck it up in cold weather conditions. It's proof the Longhorns have bought into Strong and are headed in the right direction.

Year one of the Strong era has been anything but ordinary. The first-year head coach demonstrated he was going to do things his way when he dismissed nine players for violating his core values—honesty, treat women with respect, no drugs/stealing/weapons.

Critics questioned if Strong was too strong for Texas and if the perceived disciplinarian side of the coach would cause him to lose his locker room.

The questions were at an all-time high when the Longhorns were 3-5 with four games remaining, including two Top 25-ranked opponents and two road games in hostile environments.

But while most people were writing off the Longhorns, the team was rallying together, fighting for one another and ready to prove the 2014 season would not end in November.

"We just came together as a group," senior defensive end Cedric Reed said of the team buying in over the last three games. "We fought through the wounds and we made it. We're bowl-eligible, but we still have another game on the schedule."

The fight is not over. Texas will face No. 5 TCU on Thanksgiving night. The regular-season finale will be a difficult task, and the Longhorns will likely be home underdogs to the Horned Frogs.

But if Strong's team has proven anything over the last three weeks, it's that the Longhorns will not go out without a fight, and it's far too early to count out Texas.

"We've been resilient all year. We could have easily packed it up three games ago and said we weren't going to finish out the season. But these guys continued to fight," senior cornerback Quandre Diggs said. "It's a great opportunity for us to continue to build on and to get this thing going in the right direction for next year."

 

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.

Taylor Gaspar is Bleacher Report's featured columnist covering the Texas Longhorns. Follow Taylor on Twitter: @Taylor_Gaspar.

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Even Without Todd Gurley, Georgia Is a Legitimate SEC Title Contender

While Georgia was celebrating Saturday's emphatic 34-7 win over Auburn between the hedges, there was still concern for its future.

Star running back Todd Gurley, who rushed for 138 yards and a touchdown in his first game back from a four-game suspension due to receiving money in exchange for autographs, suffered a knee injury while making a cut midway through the fourth quarter.

He was helped off the field and then walked to the locker room with help from trainers, and according to Bleacher Report's Matt Miller, Bulldog Nation's worst fears have come true.

It's horrible news for Gurley, who, as Miller points out, will likely be one of the top picks in the 2015 NFL draft if he elects to leave college. After missing time with injuries in each of the past two seasons, it's hard to imagine a scenario where Gurley—a true junior—will want to risk playing another season in college when he can rehab while gaining a paycheck.

In the short-term, though, Georgia should be fine.

The Bulldogs are in the clubhouse with a 6-2 SEC record, and if Missouri falls once in its final two games (at Tennessee, vs. Arkansas), head coach Mark Richt's crew will represent the SEC East in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.

If they get to that point, they're more than capable of getting hot in the Georgia Dome and winning the SEC Title regardless of the opponent.

The reason is simple—freshman Nick Chubb.

The Cedartown, Georgia, native has 1,039 yards and nine touchdowns in only four starts on the season and thoroughly took over games at Missouri and Arkansas in Gurley's absence. The 5'10", 228-pounder rushed for 144 yards and two touchdowns against Auburn—the fifth straight game in which he's gone north of the century mark—and added two catches for 48 yards.

"[Nick] Chubb is a physical back who runs with determination," Richt said in postgame quotes released by Georgia. "He has more ability to make people miss than you'd think and he has good vision. He's a good back, a special back."

As the clip above from ESPN's College GameDay Twitter account shows, the combination of size and speed makes Chubb a dangerous weapon.

He's already proven that he can be a feature back, and if fellow studs Sony Michel and Keith Marshall get back from injury prior to the SEC Championship Game, the Bulldog offense will be able to get back to the original plan and spread carries around for a full four quarters.

Couple that with a run defense that seems to have regrouped well after the Florida debacle, and Georgia is suddenly a threat.

Even if Georgia doesn't get the luck it needs to get to Atlanta and Missouri wins out, the future is still very bright in Athens. 

Chubb, Marshall and Michel should all be back next season, and with a new quarterback taking over for redshirt senior Hutson Mason, the experience they received—Chubb in particular—in 2014 will allow the new starter to ease into the role.

Georgia has been preparing for the post-Gurley era for quite some time, and unfortunately, it appears that has started earlier than anticipated.

If Saturday was his last night in the red and black, he left a legacy at Georgia that is going to be difficult to top. Running backs have been labeled as "the next Herschel Walker" for generations at Georgia, but it might be time to retire that moniker. While Walker will always be mentioned, top-tier prospects will now be striving to become "the next Todd Gurley."

Fortunately for Georgia, one might already be on the roster.

His name is Nick Chubb.

 

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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Everett Golson Injury: Updates on Notre Dame Star's Shoulder and Return

Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson suffered a shoulder sprain in Saturday's loss to Northwestern.

Head coach Brian Kelly confirmed the injury on Sunday, via Matt Fortuna of ESPN.com:  

'I don't know,' Kelly said during his weekly teleconference.' I haven't gotten a chance to talk to him about it. There were certainly a couple of throws when he first did it where he put the ball into the ground. You could see that it affected him then. He said he was fine after that but obviously we missed some throws, especially in overtime. But he said it didn't affect him.'

Golson's return to the field for the Fighting Irish was one of the biggest stories heading into the college football season. He missed all of last year after an academic violation prevented him from being enrolled at the school for a semester.

It was a major setback for Notre Dame after reaching the national championship game the previous season. The South Carolina native had provided much-needed stability under center while letting the team's vaunted defense handle the rest.

Unfortunately for Notre Dame, his comeback story has already suffered a setback due to the injury. The Irish will hope the scare doesn't result in an extended absence.

The only good news is the strong play of Malik Zaire during the Blue-Gold game and practices. He actually pushed Golson for the starting job and will get his chance to shine should Golson's injury require some time to recover.

It's been a long and winding road for the Notre Dame starter. This is just the latest twist in a story that's featured plenty of them. For now, the comeback story is on hold.

Exactly how it will impact the Irish depends on how much time he'll miss.

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

NCAA Football Rankings 2014: Hits and Misses from Week 12

And this is where things could get interesting.

No. 1 Mississippi State suffered its first loss of the season to Alabama on Saturday. Where the Bulldogs and Tide end up among the top four teams will undoubtedly be the storyline to watch.

Also, Florida State pulled another Houdini and escaped from a potential loss to Miami. Arizona State saw its playoff hopes fall in Corvallis to Oregon State.

From those games and plenty more, a lot happened in Week 12. 

As is customary every Sunday, The Associated Press and USA Today released their new Top 25 polls. Though neither of these polls are taken into consideration with the playoff-selection committee, they may provide a glimpse into where teams stand. 

You can also check out the latest Bleacher Report Top 25 for comparison.

Which teams were appropriately ranked in the latest Top 25 polls? Which ones weren't? The answers are in the following slides.

Begin Slideshow

College Football Rankings 2014: Week 13 AP and Amway Standings Revealed

The 2014 college football season has been unpredictable, to say the least, and the resulting Associated Press and Amway Coaches’ Top 25 rankings reflect the madness that took place on Saturday.

With the Alabama Crimson Tide beating the Mississippi State Bulldogs in the game of the week and several other ranked programs taking heartbreaking losses, the turnover in the polls is reflective of the quality of competition.

Here are the Associated Press and Amway Coaches’ polls for Week 13 and the biggest winner and loser from Saturday’s wild on-field action.

 

 

 

 

Biggest Winner: Alabama Crimson Tide

The biggest winners of the week were the Crimson Tide. The 25-20 victory over Mississippi State proved Alabama was still a top contender for a national championship, but the way the team won proved the current roster can stand toe-to-toe with any team in the nation.

On the offensive side of the ball, head coach Nick Saban has kept the offensive game plan simple, helping quarterback Blake Sims avoid making mistakes. With wide receiver Amari Cooper proving to be an elite target and running back T.J. Yeldon consistently churning out yardage, the Crimson Tide has averaged 33.7 points per game this season.

As good as the offense has been, Alabama’s biggest strength is the defense. Whether it’s stopping the run or shutting down the passing attack, the Crimson Tide are now only allowing 14.5 points per game, the second-fewest in the sport.

Alabama still has tough tests against Auburn and in a possible SEC Championship Game, but the experience of the program in big games was a big reason the team won on Saturday and will enter the College Football Playoff as a legitimate contender.

 

Biggest Loser: Arizona State Sun Devils

The Arizona State Sun Devils entered Week 12 at No. 6 in the College Football Playoff rankings, but a devastating loss to Oregon State has killed any hope the program had of making it into the top four.

Arizona State has a favorable matchup against Washington State on Saturday and a final regular-season game against Arizona, but the two losses this season ensure the Sun Devils will not make the Playoff. The strength of the team’s victories does not outweigh the way the team was defeated twice.

There is no doubt that beating Notre Dame, USC, Utah and Stanford makes for a successful year, but the most Arizona State can hope for is a top-10 finishing spot. If the Sun Devils had won out and a team like Oregon suffered another defeat, the program would have been a serious Top Four contender.

Unfortunately, Oregon State had different plans. For Sun Devils fans, Saturday’s loss was the worst-case scenario.

 

*Stats via ESPN.com.

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AP College Football Poll 2014: Complete Week 13 Rankings Released

Just when you think you have everything figured out in college football, another week of action turns those notions on their head.

This weekend was no different, as a series of upsets, close calls and huge conference showdowns once again altered the top of the rankings. While the selection committee's rankings are the only ones that will ultimately matter for teams trying to reach the College Football Playoff, the Associated Press offered its perspective Sunday of the Top 25 teams in the country this week.   

Let's break down that poll next to Bleacher Report's official Top 25 and take a look back at the weekend that was.  

 

 

Analysis

Once again, an SEC showdown drastically altered the top of the rankings.

This time, it was Alabama pulling off a huge 25-20 home victory against the top-ranked team in the nation heading into Saturday, Mississippi State. The result not only gave Alabama the signature victory it really needed for its resume, but it also means it controls its own fate in the SEC. 

Win out and the Crimson Tide will reach the SEC Championship Game. Win that and they'll undoubtedly qualify for the playoff. 

Mississippi State certainly isn't out of the playoff picture just yet. Alabama still has to beat Auburn, while the Bulldogs might even get into the playoff without reaching the SEC title game, seeing as they have wins over LSU, Texas A&M and Auburn and have yet to face Ole Miss, another win that would really bolster their resume. Surely, though, the team woke up on Sunday with a bad taste in its mouth.

"We should feel awful," head coach Dan Mullen told reporters. "You should have a sickness in your stomach. We should embrace this feeling to make sure that this feeling doesn't happen again. We'll feel sick tonight but then we'll get over it. Except for being undefeated, every other goal is still ahead of us."

More than a few teams in college football barely escaped that sickness in their stomachs. Florida State had to overcome a 23-10 deficit at the half against Miami. TCU barely got past Kansas, a close call that will surely have Baylor fans calling for the Bears to vault past the Horned Frogs in the playoff committee's rankings. 

And one team didn't survive, as Arizona State fell to Oregon State and likely lost any chance of reaching the playoff in the process. It wasn't just a huge loss for the Sun Devils, as Ralph D. Russo of The Associated Press tweeted:

And so the college football season has come down to the teams that seemingly control their destiny in the playoff chase (Florida State, Alabama, Oregon) and those teams that are hoping their resumes are strong enough to get them in (TCU, Baylor, Ohio State, Mississippi State).

In other words, with three weeks remaining, everything is still up for grabs in college football. In a sense, the playoff has already begun. At this point in the season, one loss can cost a team everything.

 

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College Football Rankings 2014: Twitter Reacts to AP and Amway Week 13 Polls

One Power Five unbeaten fell by the wayside. The other came back from 15-plus points down for the third time this season. With those results and a few others, it's safe to say Saturday provided one of the most thrilling slates of games in 2014.   

Florida State, despite never quite looking like the best team in the country, re-ascends to No. 1 following its comeback victory over Miami and Mississippi State's loss to Alabama. The Crimson Tide, meanwhile, continue their march to a playoff berth by sitting at No. 2, with idle Oregon holding firm at No. 3. Despite losing, the Bulldogs only drop a few spots and remain in position for a potential playoff berth if they win out.

Here is a look at how the Top 25 played out in the Associated Press and Amway Coaches polls:

The most significant win of the week belonged to Alabama, which controlled the tempo throughout its 25-20 win over Mississippi State. The Tide picked Dak Prescott off three times and went up 19-0 before Mississippi State scored 20 of the game's final points. Prescott's four-yard touchdown pass to Jameon Lewis with 15 seconds remaining was the only thing that kept Alabama from winning by two scores.

"We should feel awful," Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen told reporters. "You should have a sickness in your stomach. We should embrace this feeling to make sure that this feeling doesn't happen again. We'll feel sick tonight but then we'll get over it."

Bryan Fischer of NFL.com pointed out some of the Bulldogs' biggest wins look suspect in hindsight: 

Alabama has won five straight games since its loss to Ole Miss. With rival Auburn floundering following its 34-7 loss to Georgia, Nick Saban's team looks primed for a playoff berth. Matt Hinton of Grantland said the Tide sit atop his rankings of teams he wouldn't want to play:

Florida State doesn't look primed for anything. Well, except for second-half comebacks. The top-ranked Seminoles were down 16-0 and 23-7 in the first half of Saturday's game against Miami. And, like they have so many times this season, they turned it on late for a thrilling 30-26 victory. Jameis Winston threw for 304 yards and Dalvin Cook rushed for 92 on just seven carries, including a 26-yard scamper for the game-winning score.   

"That's how we're built," Florida State receiver Rashad Greene told reporters. "At the end of the day, we don't panic, we don't point fingers, we don't blame anyone. We make it possible."

Florida State has won four one-touchdown games in 2014 after not allowing a single team to come closer than 14 points during the 2013 regular season. With only home games remaining against Boston College and Florida, odds are the Seminoles will enter the ACC Championship Game undefeated. But a team can only play with fire so many times before a mean regression.

Jesse Spector of Sporting News had a theory on how Florida State manages its second-half comebacks:

Also in need of a second-half comeback was TCU, which narrowly avoided an embarrassing loss to Kansas. Aaron Green rushed for 128 yards and two second-half touchdowns, leading the Horned Frogs back from a 10-point deficit. Trevone Boykin added 330 yards and a score through the air.

"A lot of people would have lost that ballgame," TCU coach Gary Patterson told reporters. "There wasn't any style points here other than the fact that we fought back and won the game."

Pat Forde of Yahoo Sports thinks the scare might wind up hurting the Horned Frogs with the playoff committee:

Of course, a scare is much better than an outright loss. Just ask Arizona State. The Sun Devils' shot at a national championship fell by the wayside Saturday, as Oregon State earned a 35-27 upset in Corvallis. The Beavers rushed for 247 yards and quarterback Sean Mannion provided a steady hand, a stark contrast to Arizona State's frustrating day.

Taylor Kelly completed half of his 44 passes, and the running game had no gain longer than 14 yards. Kelly's second of two interceptions fell in the hands of Michael Doctor, who returned the ball 35 yards for a game-clinching touchdown with less than two minutes remaining. It was only Oregon State's second Pac-12 victory of the season.

Spencer Hall of SB Nation properly summed up the loss:

The Sun Devils were one of five Top 25 teams to lose against an unranked opponent. Arkansas toppled LSU for its first SEC win, Northwestern took down Notre Dame in overtime, Virginia Tech ruined Duke's outside shot at a one-loss season and Missouri ended Texas A&M's return to relevancy after one week. Justin Kaspar of Good Bull Hunting found the Aggies' loss particularly frustrating:

 Clay Travis of Fox Sports sent some snark the Irish's way:

Overall, Week 12 was perhaps the most unpredictable of the season. With a majority of the Top 25 teams playing unranked opponents next week, it'll be interesting to see if the standings are inert or they go off the deep end. After Saturday, it's pretty clearly pointing toward the latter.

 

Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter

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The Most Important Texas A&M Players for the Rest of the Year

The Texas A&M football team is 7-4 on the season with an 3-4 record in the SEC. The Aggies have shown that there are a few players who need to be on the field if they are going to win their two remaining games.

The SEC season is a grinder. It is very hard to get through the year without losing players to injuries, and the Aggies have definitely experienced that during the past few games. 

The Texas A&M program does not yet have the depth in place where they can afford to have injuries to their starters. There is a significant drop-off on defense when the starters on the Aggies' front seven are injured. 

Aggies fans were able to see this up close and personal when they played Missouri and were missing starters at defensive end and linebacker for all or part of the game. 

This is a look at the most important players on the Aggies' roster for the two remaining games of the 2014 season. 

Begin Slideshow

What Happened to Auburn's High-Powered Offense vs. Georgia?

Auburn went back to the basics during the bye week after its first loss of the season on Oct. 11 and became more focused on what made the Tigers successful on offense in 2013.

It paid off.

Head coach Gus Malzahn's crew came into the Georgia game with three straight games of 500 yards or more under their belts, including last weekend's heartbreaking loss to Texas A&M at home.

Against Georgia on Saturday, the offense tanked.

The Tigers managed just 292 total yards against the Bulldogs, as they fell in Athens 34-7.

What happened between the hedges? Let's examine:

 

Jeremy Pruitt Has Auburn's Number

Jeremy Pruitt, the first-year defensive coordinator of the Bulldogs, simply has Auburn's number. 

In his final game at Florida State last season, he held the Tigers to just 10 second-half points as the Seminoles came back from a 21-3 deficit to win the BCS National Championship Game 34-31.

In his second game vs. the Tigers in a year, Pruitt was again successful. The maligned Bulldogs defense held the potent Tigers offense down between the hedges, and did so with linebackers who, uncharacteristically, played with discipline.

"We emphasized keying in on them and running upfield to set the edge," linebacker Lorenzo Carter said in quotes released by Georgia. "That's what Coach Pruitt really put a big emphasis on this week in practice and we hunkered down and made plays."

That they did, and the biggest reason was the ability for Georgia to limit Auburn's running between the tackles. The Tigers have had a ton of success on the edges, but the edges are only successful when running back Cameron Artis-Payne makes an impact between the tackles. Georgia's defensive line and middle linebackers Ramik Wilson and Amarlo Herrera were successful in preventing Auburn from getting chunks of yards inside early, which prevented Auburn from being as multidimensional as it wants to be in the running game.

Outside, Carter, Leonard Floyd and Jordan Jenkins showed remarkable discipline containing quarterback Nick Marshall, wide receiver Ricardo Louis and running back Corey Grant. The trio of Tigers is dangerous in space, but Georgia's outside linebackers combined for 12 tackles on the day and, even when they weren't making tackles, disrupted running plays on the edge enough for their teammates to come clean up.

The defense didn't stand around and wait for Auburn to come to it, Pruitt's crew attacked Auburn. That's how he beat Auburn in Pasadena in January and how he did it between the hedges.

 

3rd-and-Long

When you're an offense like Auburn that thrives on being multidimensional in the running game, getting off schedule is a killer. That happened far too often against the Bulldogs.

The offense was stuck with 3rd-and-8 or more seven times on Saturday night. To Auburn's credit, it converted three of those opportunities, one of which was on its only scoring drive—the opening drive of the game.

After that, though, penalties (seven for 78 yards), drops and conservative play-calling doomed the Tigers on first down, which put them in difficult positions on third down.

"On the first drive, they converted some third downs and we could not get off the field," Richt said after the game. "It's so hard to stop them when it's 3rd-and-3 or less. After that, we did a little bit better job on first down and some penalties got them in trouble and behind the yardage. On 3rd-and-long, we could pin our ears back and get after them a little bit."

When they did, Marshall found himself running for his life. He has made strides as a passer this season, but when Floyd and Carter are coming in hot, life gets difficult even for elusive quarterbacks like Marshall.

 

Drops, Drops and More Drops

Auburn isn't known as a passing team, and in critical situations on Saturday night, the wide receivers proved that.

Looking shocked that the ball was actually coming at them, Tigers wide receivers suffered some pretty atrocious drops against the Bulldogs. The most critical drops came early in the third quarter. With the Tigers down 17-7 and in desperate need of a score to get back in the game, Sammie Coates dropped a ball that hit him in both hands and the chest on the first down, and Ricardo Louis dropped one in his breadbasket on the following play.

Auburn's a run-first team, and when Marshall does all he can to get the offense more balanced, his receivers can't let him down. They did so on Saturday.

"At the start of the third quarter, we had two drops back-to-back, which hurt the momentum," Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn said in quotes released by Georgia.

It wasn't an anomaly, it's the norm. 

Drops nearly cost Auburn the win on the road at Kansas State earlier this season, and it has been a recurring problem on The Plains this season.

Would it ultimately have mattered against Georgia?

Those drops didn't cause the defense to give up 289 rushing yards, but they certainly prevented Auburn from getting back into a game that was still within reach in the third quarter.

 

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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