NCAA Football News

Notre Dame Football: The 5 Most Important Recruits for the Irish's 2016 Season

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — The Notre Dame football recruiting engine continues to rev, as the Irish added an 18th commitment to their class of 2016 on Monday.

Running back Deon McIntosh became the latest high school senior to pledge to the Irish for the 2016 season. Notre Dame’s class is slotted as the 13th-best in the nation at 247Sports.

Of those verbal commits and Notre Dame’s remaining targets, who are the five (OK, maybe six) most important recruits for the Irish heading into the 2016 season? We’ll consider the prospects’ overall rankings, plus their potential to make an impact in 2016.

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Bowl Predictions 2015: Projections for College Football Playoff Teams

The College Football Playoff committee released its third rankings of the season on Tuesday night and there were no changes to the top five teams. 

But with plenty of difficult matchups remaining, there are sure to be some upsets that will send shockwaves through the college football world.

Below are the current CFP committee rankings, followed by a projection of which teams will be left standing at season's end and a breakdown of what those four teams need to do to reach the playoffs. 


Projected Final CFP Rankings 

1. Clemson

The Tigers already survived their toughest tests of the season by beating Notre Dame and Florida State. 

Clemson will be heavily favored in its final two regular-season games against Wake Forest and South Carolina, which likely leaves North Carolina as the only remaining challenge between the Tigers and the No. 1 seed in the playoffs. 

If Clemson falters down the stretch, it will likely be due to the mounting injuries. 

According to Dan Hope of, a number of key players injured on Saturday are still questionable for Week 12:

#Clemson CB Mackensie Alexander, RB Wayne Gallman, RG Tyrone Crowder all listed as questionable for this week. WR Ray-Ray McCloud still out.

— Dan Hope (@Dan_Hope) November 17, 2015

The most critical name on that list is starting running back Wayne Gallman. 

Gallman was crucial to the Tigers' success against Notre Dame and Florida State, rushing for over 100 yards in each game. 

If Gallman returns in time for the ACC title game, the Tigers should be considered heavy favorites to run the table and enter the playoffs as the No. 1 seed. But if Gallman is out, the Tar Heels may have a shot to pull the upset. 


2. Ohio State

Ohio State enters Week 12 at No. 3 in the rankings, but with three quality opponents potentially remaining on the schedule, the Buckeyes will almost certainly jump one-loss Alabama if they run the table.  

Urban Meyer's crew hosts Michigan State on Saturday, and while both teams are known for their defenses, this matchup was a shootout in 2014 when Ohio State pulled off the 49-37 win. 

Michigan State simply couldn't contain Ohio State last season, as J.T. Barrett and Ezekiel Elliott combined to account for 540 yards of offense. 

If the Buckeyes duo can generate anything close to that type of output again, Ohio State should cruise to victory.

Anything could happen in the regular-season finale against Michigan, as this rivalry has seen its share of upsets. But the Buckeyes will certainly be favorites given the recent domination in the series. Dating back to the start of the Jim Tressel era in 2001, Ohio State is 12-2 against its rival up North.

Ohio State will then be met by the Big Ten West division champ, which may actually be the easiest remaining game on the Buckeyes' schedule. Undefeated Iowa is on track to advance to meet the Buckeyes in Indianapolis but will be significant underdogs in the game. 


3. Alabama

Despite the early-season loss to Ole Miss, Alabama will represent the SEC in the playoffs if it runs the table. 

Jeff Long: There was some talk about moving Alabama to No. 1, but the final vote was clear for Clemson.

— Stewart Mandel (@slmandel) November 18, 2015

The only question will be where a one-loss Alabama team falls in the rankings. 

The Tide are currently ranked second due to their strength of schedule, but that advantage will diminish greatly as the Big Ten and Big 12 close out the season with a number of high-profile matchups. 

Given the respect the committee clearly has for the SEC, and fact that Alabama has a Top 25 nonconference victory over Wisconsin, the Crimson Tide will likely be the highest-ranked one-loss team in the final rankings. 


4. Notre Dame

Among the current top four, Notre Dame is the only school that may not control its own destiny.

If either Oklahoma State or Oklahoma runs the table, the Big 12 champion could slide into this spot. However, both teams have difficult matchups in the final two weeks, including a head-to-head matchup on November 28. 

Notre Dame fans should be pulling hard for Baylor (against Oklahoma State) and TCU (against Oklahoma) this weekend. 

Jeff Long said committee discussed 5-through-7 the most, which indicates Notre Dame still entrenched at No. 4.

— Jake Trotter (@Jake_Trotter) November 18, 2015

If both Oklahoma schools go down on Saturday, the Irish would likely control their own destiny given their strength of schedule to this point and another quality opponent remaining in the season finale against Stanford. 

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College Football Rankings 2015: Playoff Standings and Predictions for Week 12

Week 11 was the calm before the proverbial storm in college football. A new batch of playoff rankings were released, but the Top Four remained the same. 

For now, Clemson, Alabama, Ohio State and Notre Dame can rest assured the committee still likes what they've done on the field. They can't afford to fall asleep at the wheel, though.

At this point, one bad week could lead to a tumble down the rankings. Even a win that isn't deemed impressive by the committee can lead to losing some ground in the race. TCU found that out the hard way this week. The Frogs dropped three spots from last week after narrowly defeating Kansas.

Here's a look at the most recent Top 25 as the playoff committee sees it.  

The current hierarchy is only a snapshot of how the committee views these teams at this point in time. If we've learned anything so far, it's that tectonic shifts can happen as the season comes to its conclusion. Here's a look at the games that could have a drastic effect on the field. 


Notre Dame vs. Boston College

On the surface, this seems like an odd place to start a list of important games in Week 12. 

Based on records and the eye test, this should be an easy win for Notre Dame. But if the Irish think they can start looking ahead to Stanford while keeping their spot at No. 4, this is a game that's more dangerous than its first impression indicates. 

Consider the following:

  • Boston College's defense is one of the best in college football by just about every metric. Football Outsiders' S&P rankings have them at No. 2, their FEI is at No. 5 and they're No. 1 in yards allowed per game, per CFBStats.
  • This game is being played at Fenway in Boston, which is essentially a home game for the Eagles, with the added weird factor of playing at a baseball field. 
  • Notre Dame has No. 11 Stanford next week, which creates a bit of a look-ahead risk in this game. 

This doesn't necessarily mean that the Irish are doomed. There's a reason that they are ranked No. 4. They have plenty of weapons on offense to challenge the Eagles defense in the way most offenses cannot.

Head coach Brian Kelly acknowledged the balance that BC has on defense, noting that there aren't many players you can target.

“It’s really a defensive unit philosophy that you’re working at more than anything else,” he said, according to an Associated Press report via the Indianapolis Star. “So it’s not one particular guy. So you’re really looking at how they’re coached and how they’re defending down-and-distance and formationally.” 

However, it's worth noting that it wouldn't be surprising to see this game get ugly. Boston College's offense is abysmal at just 17.3 points per game, but they do have the ability to make this a slugfest.  

The Irish probably aren't on full-blown upset alert, but it isn't a stretch to think they might have issues getting separation from a 1-7 team on Saturday. With some of the teams sitting behind them looking to make big statements, this game is sneakily important for Brian Kelly. 

Prediction: Notre Dame 20, Boston College 14


The Big 12 Doubleheader: TCU vs. Oklahoma; Oklahoma State vs. Baylor

When the Big 12 put together its schedule, it clearly wanted the conference to be on center stage the last two weeks of the season. 

Mission accomplished. 

The four teams involved in these two games have three losses among them, and only one team really feels like it has been eliminated by the committee. TCU would have to win convincingly the next two weeks to move from 18 to the Top Four. 

However, one of these teams is going to have a strong case for inclusion in the playoff. On Saturday, we'll have a better idea of who that team is. 

Oklahoma State has the inside track. The Cowboys are ranked the highest at No. 6. They're also the only team that hasn't lost. With Baylor and Oklahoma remaining on the schedule, they also have the best opportunity to impress the committee over these last two games. 

Oklahoma might be the best team, though. As Joe Schad of ESPN notes, the Sooners are better than the Cowboys in various metrics:

Vegas seems to think that Oklahoma is the Big 12's best bet to make the playoff as well. RJ Bell of ESPN Radio projected Bob Stoops' squad as favorites over each of the three teams ahead of them right now:

Baylor is the forgotten contender here. Art Briles' squad is actually ranked seven spots ahead of Oklahoma State in terms of Football Outsiders' F/+ rankings. The game is a pick'em according to Odds Shark

If the Bears can win with any style points, they would be right back in the conversation and would once again become a difficult team for the committee to rank. 

Prediction: Oklahoma 42, TCU 28

Baylor 34, Oklahoma State 31


Ohio State vs. Michigan State

Ohio State has benefited from the name on their jerseys and the CFP National Championship banner it hung last season. The committee has been slow to give credit to teams that haven't played fellow elite teams, but the Buckeyes are sitting at No. 3 without a game against a team currently ranked in the Top 25. 

Clay Travis of Fox Sports 1 noted that fellow undefeated teams such as Iowa and Oklahoma State could argue strength of schedule with the Buckeyes. 

However, the defending champions will have something to hang their hats on by the end of Saturday. The No. 9 Spartans will roll into Columbus and give them an opportunity to pick up an emphatic win over a top-10 opponent. 

According to Odds Shark, Ohio State is expected to pass its first test of the season with flying colors. It is a 13-point favorite just two weeks removed from the Spartans losing to Nebraska. 

Because Urban Meyer's team did an outstanding job of improving on a weekly basis last season, it will continue to get the benefit of the doubt until that is no longer the case. With Michigan State losing some of its shine in recent weeks, the Buckeyes should make a statement here. 

Prediction: Ohio State 38, Michigan State 24

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Georgia Southern Eagles vs. Georgia Bulldogs Complete Game Preview

The Georgia Bulldogs have completed SEC play with a 5-3 record, and they will now have a two-week stretch when they face in-state opponents. On Saturday night, the Bulldogs will face Georgia Southern in the final game at Sanford Stadium this season.

Georgia Southern comes into the game with a 7-2 overall record and a 5-1 record in Sun Belt Conference play. They are also the defending conference champions.

The Bulldogs, however, come into the game with some momentum. After losing to Florida almost three weeks ago, they rolled past Kentucky and beat Auburn with defense and special teams. So Georgia will look to keep the momentum going against a very good Georgia Southern team.

But as good as the Eagles are, the Bulldogs should be able to come away with a win if they continue to play like they have the last two weeks.


Date: Nov. 22, 2015

Time: 7 p.m.

Place: Sanford Stadium, Athens, Ga.


Radio: Georgia Bulldog Sports Network, Eagle Sports Network, Sirius/XM 112/202

Odds: Georgia is a 14.5 favorite according to Odds Shark.


When Georgia Southern Has the Ball

Georgia Southern runs an option offense, but they run it better than any team in the country. The Eagles lead the country in rushing yards per game (378.89), rushing touchdowns (39) and yards per carry (6.73).

And because the Eagles run the ball better than any team in Division I, they rarely throw the ball, as they have attempted to pass 96 times and they average 64 passing yards per game.

The offense is led by running backs Matt Breida and L.A. Ramsby as well as quarterback Kevin Ellison. All three players have rushed for at least 560 yards and six touchdowns this season. Running back Wesley Fields has also been a key contributor, rushing for 557 yards and six touchdowns.

The Eagles are facing a Georgia defense that has given up 139.6 rushing yards per game. And despite winning against Auburn last week, the Bulldogs allowed 213 yards on the ground.

Overall, the defense has been solid for the Bulldogs, ranking fourth in the SEC in total defense and fifth in the SEC in scoring defense. Jake Ganus has emerged as the leader on defense, as he is 14th in the conference with 74 tackles. And Jordan Jenkins is putting together another strong season with 9.5 tackles for loss and four sacks.


When Georgia Has the Ball

I think it’s safe to say the Georgia offense is not going to scare anyone based on that they have done the last month. They have not reached the 30-point mark during that span, and last week, the Bulldogs scored only one offensive touchdown in the win against Auburn.

Greyson Lambert completed 12 of his 17 passes last week, but he threw for only 97 yards. If the Bulldogs are going to light up the scoreboard, the run game will have to be on fire. The Bulldogs are fourth in the SEC in rushing offense, and Sony Michel has done a solid job taking the place of Nick Chubb as he has rushed for 795 yards and five touchdowns.

The Bulldogs are facing an Eagles defense that is second in the Sun Belt in scoring, rushing and total defense. They are led by Antwione Williams, who is sixth in the conference with 73 tackles. Bernard Dawson leads the team with three sacks, and Antonio Glover has been a monster in the secondary, as he’s third in the country with six interceptions.


Player to Watch for Georgia Southern: Matt Breida

As it was mentioned earlier, there are a number of players who have helped the Eagles become the No. 1 rushing attack in FBS. But if there is one player the Bulldogs need to watch for, it would have to be Breida.

Not only is the junior running back second in the Sun Belt in rushing, he also ranks eighth in the country with 1,242 yards. He knows how to get into the end zone too, as he ranks 10th in the country with 14 touchdowns.

@SportsSturm If you had RBs like Matt Breida doing this kind of thing, you'd never pass either:

— Adam McC (@TwoBitWhackJob) November 13, 2015

So why isn’t Breida getting a whole lot of national attention? Because he plays in a non-Power Five conference and Georgia Southern is not nationally ranked. Also, most of his damage has come against Sun Belt Conference opponents. Regardless, Breida will get his yards on Saturday. If he has a career day against the Bulldogs, the boys in red and black will be in deep trouble.


Player to Watch for Georgia: Isaiah McKenzie

If there was one player who was key in Georgia’s victory over Auburn last week, it would have to be Isaiah McKenzie. 

The sophomore receiver scored the Bulldogs' only offensive touchdown late in the third quarter, and he gave the Bulldogs the lead in the fourth quarter as he returned a 53-yard punt for a touchdown.

Isaiah McKenzie gives #UGA the late lead with a 55 yard punt return for a TD!

— Georgia Bulldogs (@UGAonScout) November 14, 2015

That play was noticed by the higher-ups in the conference, and McKenzie was named the SEC Special Teams Player of the Week.

McKenzie has been the team’s biggest weapon the last two seasons, recording four punt returns for touchdowns, which ties a school record, according to Chip Towers of He also has one kick return for a touchdown, which gives him five overall special teams’ touchdowns.

If the Eagles want to win on Saturday, one of the things they have to do is keep McKenzie in check.


Final Prediction: Georgia 35, Georgia Southern 17

The Bulldogs likely won’t blow past the Eagles because they have been inconsistent the last month and the Eagles are good enough to keep it close. However, the Bulldogs are more talented and have more depth at key positions.

The one thing Georgia Southern has to do is run the football like they have all season long. If Breida gets going, the Bulldogs will have a tough time pulling away from the Eagles.

However, the Bulldogs should be able to do enough on defense to limit Georgia Southern, and McKenzie should have a couple of big punt returns. That should help the offense score points, because they will work from a short field, and they should get north of 30 points for the first time in over a month.

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College Football Week 12 Schedule: Top 25 Teams' TV Schedule, Live Stream Info

The College Football Playoff committee could be facing some excruciatingly tough decisions if the remaining weeks don't weed out some of the contenders. It's still a crowded race heading into Week 12, which leaves basically no margin for error down the stretch.

Although the competitive nature of the playoff race will likely leave a couple of programs with strong resumes on the outside looking in, it does make the final stage of the regular season more intriguing. A few upsets could change the complexion of the entire outlook.

With that in mind, let's check out the Top 25 schedule for Week 12, including viewing information for each contest. That's followed by an early look at the most important matchups.


Top 25 Schedule


Biggest Games

Michigan State at Ohio State

The reigning champion Buckeyes have benefited from a favorable schedule so far. A season-opening victory over Virginia Tech is the most notable result. But finishing the regular season with the Spartans and then Michigan should finally provide a serious test.

Michigan State has already scored victories over Oregon and the Wolverines thanks to a well-balanced offensive attack and the nation's third-best turnover margin. In turn, Ohio State star Joey Bosa knows the real tests start now, as noted by Matt Charboneau of the Detroit News.

"This is definitely the biggest game of the year so far," Bosa said. "We try and treat every game like that but we're facing a really good team. They're good every year and as always, the next two games are huge and they are every year, so we treat it just like that."

It's a challenge that's going to force the Buckeyes to play much better than they did in victories over Minnesota and Illinois. The offense in particular was extremely sluggish at times, forcing the defense to step up until those issues got sorted out. J.T. Barrett and Co. can't afford another slow start this week.

Ohio State holds a one-game edge over both Michigan State and Michigan in the Big Ten East, so the importance of the next two weeks really can't be overstated. And it's just as important for the Spartans if they want to at least force themselves back into the playoff conversation.


Baylor at Oklahoma State

Some of the most dramatic moments over the next few weeks will surely come from the top-heavy Big 12. The Bears and Cowboys are joined by TCU and Oklahoma in a four-way battle for the top spot, which is bolstered by a back-loaded schedule to create several key matchups.

This game is particularly important for the Bears, which are coming off a loss to Oklahoma. They have been viewed as a top playoff contender all season, and two straight losses would bring a swift end to their national title hopes. Max Olson of highlighted the various scenarios:

The problem for Baylor is inconsistency on defense. The unit's inability to get key stops puts undue pressure on the offense, and last week, the Jarrett Stidham-led group just couldn't keep pace with the Sooners. The Cowboys have similar explosiveness on offense.

Oklahoma State has gone through the season pretty much the opposite of Baylor. It flew under the radar for quite a while but has now emerged as a serious playoff threat. The Cowboys can further solidify that status with a statement win Saturday.


TCU at Oklahoma

Oklahoma started a treacherous three-game stretch with an impressive road triumph over Baylor last week. The most difficult part of any challenge like the one the Sooners are going through is getting over the emotional high of a big win to compete at a high level again the next week.

The challenge the Horned Frogs represent could change based on injuries. Both quarterback Trevone Boykin and top receiver Josh Doctson are battling ailments this week. Oklahoma noted head coach Bob Stoops is still getting his team ready to face one of the nation's most dangerous QBs:

Of course, the playoff committee may not look as favorably on a win if TCU doesn't have either of its two playmakers. It showcases the numerous different elements in play at this stage of the season when so many teams are fighting for limited space.

That said, if Oklahoma can replicate its offensive showing from last week with Baker Mayfield playing like a serious Heisman candidate, it may not matter who's on the field for the Horned Frogs. That combined with a defense that did well to limit the big play is a potent combo for the Sooners.


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Ranking the Best SEC Matchups of Week 12

Well, we knew it was coming, didn't we? The SEC football schedule was bound to lighten up at some point, and the season's penultimate week is normally a time for league teams to wind up a difficult slate with a cupcake for dessert before the season-finale rivalry game.

Still, even though there are some real clunkers this week, there are also still four or five solid games on the schedule.

The top four contests will be played between two league participants, while Georgia is facing a more-difficult-than-originally-anticipated in-state opponent in Georgia Southern. Nobody expects UGA to lose, but the Bulldogs need to be on upset alert. 

Elsewhere, two pivotal SEC West battles will be waged in Oxford and Fayetteville. Tennessee also travels to Missouri to try to end a three-year drought against the Tigers, while they'll be fired up for coach Gary Pinkel's final game at Faurot Field.

It may not be the best week of games, but there are always surprises. And there are still enough intriguing games to keep us all occupied. So, let's take a look at the top SEC games of the week.

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Tennessee Football: 5 Most Important Recruits for the Volunteers' 2016 Season

After two jam-packed recruiting classes the past two seasons, the Tennessee Volunteers likely won't take the full allotment of 25 players in this year's haul.

But that doesn't mean the 2016 class of players is any less important.

Butch Jones' third full class won't be as highly touted as his first two, but UT desperately needs it to have its fair share of instant-impact players. When you've had to rebuild a program essentially from scratch, many areas are still devoid of depth, even this far into a coaching tenure.

This year's injury-riddled Vols team is proof of that. 

So far, Tennessee's 2016 class is ranked in the top 20 nationally at 17th, according to 247Sports, but that's good for just seventh in a loaded SEC where recruiting is competitive year-round. The Vols have 17 committed players, and, as always, that's fluid.

Though the Vols don't have many guys on the board they're clear-cut leaders for at the moment, a lot can change between now and national signing day. If UT finishes the year 8-4 and then wins its bowl, Jones could find himself with the power of proof on the recruiting trail.

But with several areas of need in Knoxville, who are some of the players in this year's class who could provide big-time help for the Vols right away? Let's take a look at a handful of current commits and a couple of guys who are high on the Tennessee board who would be major additions to the 2016 team.

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Notre Dame's Iconic Brand Has Playoff Committee Between a Rock and a Hard Place

The selection committee finds itself in a most precarious position—one that transcends selecting the top four teams in college football. If push comes to shove and all things are generally equal, would a College Football Playoff so deeply concerned about eyeballs and interest really tell Notre Dame, the sport's most polarizing brand, to try again next year?

Stay tuned. (Well, maybe.) 

In the latest College Football Playoff rankings, the top four didn't budge: Clemson, Alabama, Ohio State and Notre Dame made up the "current" playoff as teams below them bounced around like pinballs.

The Irish, with a win over Wake Forest, withstood pushes from Iowa and the Big 12 once more. Those pushes will likely grow stronger in the coming weeks, although Notre Dame is not without its own opportunity. After playing Boston College in Fenway Park this weekend, Brian Kelly's team will head out to Stanford to deliver its final selection-committee impression. 

One of the teams it's most directly competing with, Oklahoma, will have multiple opportunities to impress. After beating then-No. 6 Baylor on Saturday, the Sooners could add wins over No. 18 TCU and No. 6 Oklahoma State in the coming weeks. This is shaping up to be the 2015 version of Ohio State.

With that in mind, the doomsday scenario for the College Football Playoff is looming: If Oklahoma and Notre Dame are left fighting for a single vacancy, which team does the selection committee take?

The Irish aren't just a big brand out of place. While they might be absent a marquee win, their schedule's consistency trumps just about anyone not named Alabama. And a victory over Navy, now No. 16 in the latest rankings, could end up morphing into a marquee win whether the world is ready to embrace it or not.

This isn't some farce. Notre Dame is exceptional. Its resume is excellent. And its close loss to No. 1 Clemson—a 24-22 road defeat—could be a tipping point in this discussion. It certainly looks meaty compared to Oklahoma's still unexplainable loss to Texas.

But with the Irish, especially in a year this convoluted, it can't just be about football. While the Sooners are no slouch in the branding department, few teams match the intrigue—the deep love and even deeper hate—that Notre Dame provides.

There's a weight to this that the committee will have to carry. The conspiracy theories, whether they're warranted or not, will rain down.

In a way it's not fair to the Irish—an exceptional team that has battled through injuries to deliver a remarkable year—one that might be playoff-worthy. It's also not fair to the selection committee. Whether the members realize it or not, politics could play a role. And even if they don't, the perception of politics playing a role could loom large.

Notre Dame is far more than a fantastic and resilient football team; it is a potential golden ticket. The committee, if it comes down to it, will have to decide just what to do with the Irish.

As for other thoughts on the latest playoff standings, let's get to it.


So the Pac-12 Might Not Be Dead After All

I'd like to take a brief moment to apologize to the Pac-12. This will only take a second.

In the heat of the moment, after a long day of maddening results, I closed the door late Saturday night on the Pac-12's chances of making the College Football Playoff.

After seeing the selection committee's work Tuesday night, I've decided to wedge that door open a wee bit. An average house cat—one with a regular exercise plan—could not fit through the opening. My bad, Pac-12. 

Stanford didn't plummet from its No. 7 spot. In fact, after losing to Oregon, the Cardinal should be thrilled about checking in at No. 11 in the latest rankings.

This wasn't a TCU-esque tumble; this was a modest fall during the right week. Many others did the same.

With a game against Notre Dame still looming—along with a likely spot in the Pac-12 Championship Game if all goes as planned against Cal on Saturday—Stanford has enough firepower to inch closer to where it needs to be.

To climb that far, however, the Cardinal will need help. This is not an optimal spot by any means. Chaos of the most chaotic variety is necessary, but perhaps it's not as much as originally believed.


Oklahoma, As Expected, Is a Contender Once More 

In some ways, Oklahoma's Tuesday night was mildly disappointing. Some questioned before the reveal whether the Sooners' convincing victory over Baylor in Week 11 would propel them as high as the top five. That was not to be.

Instead, Oklahoma had to "settle" for the selection committee's No. 7 spot. While this wasn't the shocking rise some were anticipating, make no mistake about it: The Sooners are in lovely shape to crash the playoff, even with that loss to Texas sitting uncomfortably in their sidecar.

Bob Stoops' team debuted at No. 15 just two short weeks ago. Now, it only has to rise three more spots in order to complete an Ohio State-like climb. With those games against TCU and Oklahoma State on tap, Oklahoma could state an emphatic case. 

The Sooners are not a lock, but no team has done more to improve its chances over the past few weeks.


The Lurking Contender

Of all the teams currently in complete control of their seasons, Florida is, without an ounce of doubt, the program being discussed the least. In fact, this feels like a good time to point out that the Gators are right there—sitting at No. 8 with ample opportunities ahead.

Now, this is the part of the Florida playoff hopeful section where I point out the obvious: Unless something drastically changes with the offense, the Gators will not realize this potential. Let's get that straight.

After barely getting by Vanderbilt, Florida let an overmatched South Carolina team hang around for quite a while Saturday. Still, after everything, there is only one loss on its schedule.

This weekend, the Gators draw Florida Atlantic. After that, they will play Florida State and likely Alabama in the SEC Championship Game. There will be no debate if they win those two games—and that "if" should probably be presented in size-72 font.

They win out, and they're in.

It may seem unlikely with a backup quarterback leading the push, but there are only a handful of teams still fortunate enough to make this assertion. This is one of them, even if we don't care to talk about it.


North Carolina Watch: Week 12

The Tar Heels have become a pet project of mine. Over the past couple of weeks, few teams have looked more dominant in conference play. And yet, it's abundantly clear that the selection committee isn't as high on North Carolina as everyone else

After spending time at No. 23 last week, the Tar Heels made a nice jump to No. 17 in the latest rankings. But given the way this team has played—and the way others have not—this is frustratingly low. Selection committee chairman Jeff Long, while making his weekly ESPN appearance, gave some insight as to why that's the case.

"They do have two FCS wins on their record," Long said. "The committee certainly is aware of that."

Long tied a bow on the subject, bringing up the team's Week 1 loss (via Fox Sports' Stewart Mandel):

Jeff Long on UNC: Two FCS wins, and opening loss to South Carolina "weighing them down."

— Stewart Mandel (@slmandel) November 18, 2015

Please note: "Weighing them down" is not a term any team wants to acquire in this system. It might as well be a giant anchor. This is a tag that cannot be shed, no matter how well the Tar Heels play in the weeks to follow.

With a potential matchup against Clemson in the ACC Championship Game still likely, North Carolina can no doubt rise. But after hearing Long carve apart its journey to this point, it seems unlikely that a dream finish would be enough.

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College Football Playoff 2015: Championship, Final Four Predictions for Week 12

No shuffles. No surprises. The selection committee released its third College Football Playoff rankings on Tuesday, and the Top Four and two outside looking in remained intact.

Clemson, Alabama, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Iowa and Oklahoma State all stayed put at one through six, though the biggest jumper was Oklahoma, which has quietly climbed to No. 7 and looks likely to make a run at the incumbents.

Six of the top eight teams still play teams within those ranks should current conference title game projections hold, leaving plenty left to sort with just three weeks remaining.

Here is a look at the CFP Top 25 with predictions on who will make the final four.    


PREDICTION: No. 1 Clemson vs. No. 4 Oklahoma

For a one-loss team in a Big 12 stigmatized for its weak nonconference schedule, Oklahoma arguably sits in the best possible position heading into Week 12.

The Sooners are coming off a convincing win over Big 12 favorite Baylor and still play No. 18 TCU and No. 6 Oklahoma State, which remains unbeaten. A trifecta of victories to secure the conference crown—the Big 12 does not have a title game—will put the Sooners in a favorable position and leave them with a great argument to join the party, as Tony Barnhart of the SEC Network indicated:

Notre Dame currently sits fourth, though that might not be for long. Its lone loss was to top-ranked Clemson, which the committee seems to discount, as Dan Wolken of USA Today hinted:

The Fighting Irish still play No. 11 Stanford to help their cause, but the hot team seems to be Oklahoma. And Vegas hypothetically projected the Sooners would beat the three teams ahead of it, per RJ Bell of 

The Tigers could be the only unbeaten to reach the playoff and, fair or not, will have stay unblemished to keep their title hopes alive.

But they control their destiny with easily the softest schedule among the remaining hopefuls, finishing the season against Wake Forest and South Carolina, each 3-7, then an ACC Championship Game, likely vs. No. 17 North Carolina.

Clemson is coming off narrow wins over Florida State and Syracuse but has proved to be the most complete team with the FBS seventh-ranked defense and 19th-ranked offense.

Prediction: Clemson over Oklahoma


PREDICTION: No. 2 Alabama vs. No. 3 Ohio State

Many were skeptical of Alabama’s rank among the Top Four in the initial polls, but the Crimson Tide continue to show they’re arguably the best. Even committee chair Jeff Long indicated they have a strong case at the top, per Stewart Mandel of Fox Sports:

Aside from rankings, Vegas likes the Tide to not only reach the playoff, but win their fourth title under head coach Nick Saban, per ESPN Stats & Info:

According to ESPN Stats & Info, the Crimson Tide rank first in ESPN's strength of record and strength of schedule. A win over 5-5 Auburn in the final week of the regular season will also assure Alabama a spot in the SEC Championship Game vs. No. 8 Florida, with yet another chance to bolster its resume.

Ohio State, meanwhile, hasn't weathered nearly as difficult a run thus far, as ESPN’s Brett McMurphy noted:

But the Buckeyes have a far more daunting slate than any of the remaining contenders, as their back-heavy schedule has finally arrived.

Should it win its second straight title, Ohio State will have to down five teams in a row currently ranked among the Top 12—at No. 9 Michigan State, at No. 12 Michigan, vs. No. 5 Iowa in the Big 10 Championship Game should the Hawkeyes win out and then two playoff games against the Top Four.

A massive slip-up is the only possible setback that would keep the remarkably talented Buckeyes from winning the Big 10 unblemished. But a run-in with vengeful Alabama in a rematch of last year’s semifinal will be too tall a task to overcome.

The Crimson Tide are churning out wins in archetype fashion to their titles of years past—with relentless defense and a bruising offense. Take the Tide all the way.

Prediction: Alabama over Ohio State

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Ohio State Football: The 5 Most Important Recruits for the Buckeyes' 2016 Season

Ohio State's 2016 recruiting class is ranked No. 2 nationally and is absolutely loaded with standout players who can make an immediate impact as freshmen next year.

The Buckeyes, who are currently riding the nation's longest winning streak at 23 games and are in prime position to make the College Football Playoff for the second straight year, will lose a lot of star power to the NFL draft next May.

That will create a number of opportunities for the elite crop of first-year players who will be making their way to Columbus, Ohio, for their collegiate careers.

Here are five players in particular who have a great chance of cracking the two-deep in 2016.

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College Football Playoff Rankings 2015: Best Reaction to Week 12 Top 25 Poll

Another week brings another poll that is sure to bring plenty of debate, passion and comedy as the College Football Playoff committee released its third ranking of the year in preparation of Week 12. 

Luckily for us, because it's 2015, those emotions, whether it be satisfaction or pure venom, are all bottled up and thrown out on one beautiful forum for all to see: Twitter.     

But first, let's take a look at the updated CFP rankings released on Tuesday night:   

Before America could view the rankings, which were originally set to be released at 9:30 p.m. ET, the college football world had to wait for the completion of the Kentucky-Duke basketball game that ran late. It didn't make Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee very happy:

It did allow ESPN's college basketball crew to weigh in on things, which didn't mean much to the New York Post's Zach Braziller:

However, it gave's Cory Thone plenty of time to get off of Twitter:

The Top Four teams of the CFP rankings remain the same as last week, as Clemson, Alabama, Ohio State and Notre Dame are Nos. 1, 2, 3 and 4, respectively, after wins. 

Iowa remains No. 5, and Oklahoma State moves into sixth after Baylor's loss in Week 11 to Oklahoma. The Bears drop to 10th, while the Sooners jump from 12th to seventh. 

While there is some anxiety among Oklahoma State and Iowa fans, NFL Network's Albert Breer has some words of wisdom for them:

A ticket to the CFP could come down to the Week 13 Bedlam rivalry between Oklahoma and Oklahoma State on Nov. 28 if they win their Week 12 games. That's something that scares Twitter user Patrick W:

Some of those people pulling for the outside teams—such as Oklahoma State, Iowa and Oklahoma—just can't get past the selection committee placing two one-loss sides, Alabama and Notre Dame, in the Top Four, including KOCO's Bryan Keating:

And Skippy Bomgarner:

Barstool Chief seemed pretty pleased with the Irish staying at No. 4:

TWC's Mick Shaffer thinks that the two outside teams have history against them in their pursuit for Notre Dame's No. 4 spot:

A little higher in the Top Four, if things hold for the rest of the season, there will be a rematch of last year's semifinal between Alabama and Ohio State. Anthony Carpico can't see that ending well for Alabama:

ESPN Stats & Info, though, thinks otherwise:

NOT SportsCenter joked there is a bias in favor of Alabama and against the Big 12:

Deeper in the rankings there are also a few surprises, as the Commercial Appeal's Tom Schad pointed out:

No matter what happened in this week's release, though, USA Today Sports' Nicole Auerbach has a friendly reminder for all of those fans throwing things at the television:

College football has devised a wonderful system to keep fans on the edge of their seats and involved even when there are no games scheduled.

It has to be even more enthralling for those interested in the sport but aren't invested in a certain team in pursuit of a playoff spot, as those fans who have a team in contention provide everyone else with entertainment each week. Luckily, those without a team in the running can come back next Tuesday, sit back and watch the virtual fireworks fly across their Twitter feeds.       


Joe Pantorno is also on Twitter, but his school cut its football program in 2009. 

Stats courtesy of

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Why Stanford's Showdown with Notre Dame Still Serves as Playoff Elimination Game

There are few coaches in college football who get the big picture of the season quite like Stanford head coach David Shaw.

That’s why it should not be all that surprising when the Cardinal alumnus, still sorting things out after a tough loss to Oregon, uttered these words to reporters following practice on Tuesday ahead of this week's "Big Game" against Cal.

“I’m not answering questions about the playoff,” Shaw said, according to the San Jose Mercury News' Jon Wilner. “It’s a waste of time.”

He’s absolutely right, of course. The weekly rankings released by the College Football Playoff selection committee serve little purpose aside from grabbing a ratings point or two for ESPN and further inflaming most of social media every Tuesday night.

But at least on this Tuesday, it wasn’t quite the waste of time many Stanford fans expected.

Despite what appeared to be the Ducks spoiling another national—and maybe even Pac-12—title run on Saturday, the Cardinal found themselves as the highest-ranked two-loss team in the latest rankings at No. 11.

Sure, that’s a four-spot drop from the week before, but it’s hardly the deathblow to the Pac-12 playoff hopes that many were expecting.

That, combined with Notre Dame solidly set at No. 4, only reinforces a bit of information that most of college football was excitedly looking forward to on the Saturday following Thanksgiving: When the Irish and Cardinal hook up on the Farm, it will still serve as a de facto playoff elimination game.

Win-and-in for Notre Dame. Win-and-still-alive for Stanford.

Given how solid Brian Kelly’s team is at No. 4 in the poll, Tuesday night said far more about Shaw’s squad remaining in the hunt for the final spot in the playoff.

Granted, it’s still going to take a slight miracle. The Big 12 has to continue to beat itself up, starting this week with TCU taking down Oklahoma. But the gap between the top three Big 12 teams and Stanford isn’t especially wide in the committee’s mind.

And unlike those in the flyover states, Stanford has an opportunity to pick up quality wins in the next three weeks, starting with Cal, followed by Notre Dame and then either Utah—which is also still barely alive at No. 13—or No. 24 USC.

That’s a nice resume booster, and if the Cardinal do indeed win out, they would knock out Notre Dame and likely set up a Stanford-vs.-Big-12-winner scenario as a result.

“Oklahoma and Oklahoma State have pushed their way up closer into that Top 5,” committee chair Jeff Long said on ESPN after the rankings. “But I’ll tell you we spent a lot of time debating [Nos.] 5 through 7.”

Long also noted that Iowa was better than both Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. That’s another nugget to file away should a one-loss Sooners squad or a one-loss Cowboys team wind up remaining in the discussion after each hosts a pair of big matchups on Saturday.

Likewise, the Irish have to enjoy their current spot in the playoff pecking order. They still continue to get rewarded for losing a close contest to Clemson—as opposed to being punished for it—and that win over Navy earlier in the season looks better and better.

Add in USC moving into the Top 25 and possibly winning the Pac-12 South, and all Notre Dame needs to do is take care of business in the next two weeks and hope for the Big 12 to continue to beat itself up.

Even if it comes down to the Irish and the hard-charging Sooners for the fourth spot, the committee has given us every indication that it is currently leaning toward South Bend and not Norman.

Can that change in a few weeks' time? Sure, but it would be a tough flip-flop to explain in the final set of rankings.

There’s plenty of football left to be played over the next three weeks of the season, including a ton of games between contenders. The playoff picture is settling more with each passing week, but it’s still in a bed of quicksand.

Even with a Stanford loss to Oregon last week, however, we’re still able to reach the conclusion we were at seven days ago: There will be what amounts to a quarterfinal on the Farm right after Thanksgiving between the Irish and the Cardinal.

It’s looking strongly like win-and-in for one team, especially with a convincing Notre Dame triumph. It’s nothing less than survive-and-advance for the other.

We may only get four spots in the College Football Playoff, but—a few weeks out anyway—it sure looks like a bigger tournament from here.


Bryan Fischer is a national college football columnist at Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter at @BryanDFischer.

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Winners, Losers of College Football Playoff Committee's Rankings After Week 11

We are yet another week closer to the 2015 College Football Playoff, which brings us to the latest rankings released by the CFP selection committee. After a weekend full of impressive wins and not-so-impressive losses, the committee sure had a lot to consider.

Have there been any changes among the top four teams? Which teams are the biggest winners this week and which are the biggest losers?

Find out in the video above as Bleacher Report college football analysts Barrett Sallee and Michael Felder break down the latest rankings.

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LeBron James Comments on Ohio State Football Ahead of Michigan St., Michigan

Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James has never hidden his affinity for the Ohio State Buckeyes and was glad to share his thoughts Tuesday on the Associated Press' No. 2 football team in the land.

James spoke to reporters ahead of a road game against the Pistons in Detroit about the Buckeyes' upcoming games against the Michigan State Spartans and Michigan Wolverines.

He was asked about the difference head coach Jim Harbaugh has made in his first year with Michigan, Ohio State's biggest rival, per Austin Ward of

"Well, it doesn't matter who's the coach over at Michigan, it's always a rivalry," James said in a video by WXYZ-TV (h/t Ward). "We really don't care who's at the helm over there."

James made it clear he isn't worried too much about Michigan, and that could be because it hasn't been much of a rivalry of lately. Ohio State has won 10 of the past 11 games in the series, which includes a vacated win by the Buckeyes in 2010.     

However, Harbaugh has turned around No. 14 Michigan, whose eight wins with two games remaining are the most for the program since 2012.

Ohio State won't play Michigan until the season finale this year, but the No. 9 Spartans pose a challenge in Week 12. According to Ward, James wasn't nervous about the impending matchup with Michigan State.

"No, coach Urban Meyer will prepare the team to do their job in all three facets of the game, offense, defense and special teams," James said, expressing confidence in the Ohio State head coach. "They'll be ready to go."   

Even though he was talking about Michigan State, that could be taken as a jab at Harbaugh and the Wolverines. 

Earlier this season they lost to the Spartans on a bizarre special teams play on the final snap of the game. Michigan's punter bobbled the snap and tried to kick it away, failed miserably, and the ball landed in the hands of a Spartan. It was returned for a touchdown, giving Michigan State the victory.

James made sure to say Meyer will have his Buckeyes prepared in all facets of the game, and losing on a mistake like that won't happen to Ohio State.

It was a funny take on something that was no laughing matter for Michigan and its fans.

Your move, Harbaugh. 

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College Football Playoff 2015: Week 12 Rankings Released by the Committee

It is mid-November in another college football season, and it'd frankly be more surprising at this point if things went according to plan on the field than off script. We can throw words like "chaos" and "upsets" around when highly ranked teams fall, but that has become the new normal in the sport. 

As a result, the four coveted College Football Playoff positions are still up for grabs with only two more weeks of regular-season showdowns remaining until the conference title games.

The picture once again looks different with the release of the Week 12 rankings, largely because four Top 10 teams lost on Saturday (Baylor to Oklahoma, Stanford to Oregon, LSU to Arkansas and Utah to Arizona).

The mainstays are still there with Clemson, Ohio State, Alabama and Notre Dame, but squads like Iowa, Oklahoma State and even a one-loss Florida are still right in the thick of the race.

With that in mind, here is a look at the College Football Playoff Week 12 rankings the selection committee released on Tuesday evening:

With the playoff picture still muddled after those four losses by Top 10 teams, it is more straightforward to break things down by conference.



Even though it struggled to shake Syracuse on Saturday, Clemson is still in prime position in the ACC with wins over Notre Dame and Florida State.

Wake Forest and South Carolina will not be a problem for the Tigers—just being from the SEC does not make the Gamecocks a threat, especially since they are 1-7 in their conference—although the potential ACC Championship showdown with North Carolina is far more intriguing than it looked a few weeks ago.

The Tar Heels are undefeated in conference play and scored a combined 125 points in the past two games against Duke and Miami. The combination of quarterback Marquise Williams and running back Elijah Hood makes North Carolina a legitimate threat to the Tigers.

An undefeated Clemson would be a lock for the playoff, but a one-loss North Carolina team would need some help even with an ACC crown.


Big 12

The Big 12 featured the most important result of Week 11, as quarterback Baker Mayfield took Oklahoma on the road and beat previously undefeated Baylor by 10 points.

The Sooners received the subsequent boost in the playoff rankings (previously No. 12), and the Big 12’s playoff hopes appear to be centralized in the state of Oklahoma with the one-loss Sooners and undefeated Oklahoma State.

Elsewhere, injuries have derailed a TCU team that nearly fell to hapless Kansas on Saturday, and Baylor doesn’t have any quality wins to fall back on after the loss to Oklahoma.

The winner of the rivalry showdown between the Sooners and Cowboys will have a significant case for a playoff spot, even if Oklahoma has that inexplicable loss to Texas on its resume.

Sooners head coach Bob Stoops suggested that his team would be a lock if it won out during an interview Monday night on ESPN’s SportsCenter (h/t “I don't know how you couldn't. If you go on the road and beat the No. 6 team in the country, you beat the No. 11 team in the country [TCU] and Oklahoma State also on the road—the No. 4 team in the country—who else is doing that at the end of the year, or even through the whole year?”

It's hard to argue with that.


Big Ten

For as much attention as the Big 12 received for its back-loaded schedule, the Big Ten will take center stage in the next few weeks with showdowns between Ohio State and Michigan State, Ohio State and Michigan and the East Division winner against a potentially undefeated Iowa.

The bottom line for the Buckeyes is they control their own destiny, regardless of what happens around them.

They are undefeated and the defending national champions, and they face three of the top teams in the country—assuming they get to the Big Ten Championship Game—in the coming weeks as resume boosters. Win out, and head coach Urban Meyer's squad will have a chance to go back-to-back.

Undefeated Iowa likely also controls its destiny with the conference title game against a strong opponent waiting at the end.

Michigan State still needs some help with the loss to Nebraska on its resume, although a victory over the defending champions in Columbus would be as good a win as any team in the nation has this season.

If the Spartans find a way to beat the Buckeyes and Iowa to end the season, they will have a legitimate case for the playoff—especially since the nonconference win over Oregon looks more impressive after the Ducks beat Stanford on Saturday.

As for two-loss Michigan, it is still on the outside looking in and ironically needs help from the archrival Buckeyes to remain in the Big Ten race.

If Ohio State beats the Spartans, the showdown with the Wolverines at the end of the season will decide the East Division.



For as strong as college football fans assume the SEC is every year, the conference now only touts two realistic playoff contenders after LSU fell off the proverbial cliff with a loss to the same Arkansas team that dropped early games to Toledo and Texas Tech.

Alabama looks like the best team in the country after another convincing win against a quality opponent (Mississippi State). Florida still controls its own destiny despite lackluster showings against Vanderbilt and South Carolina because of a finishing stretch against Florida State and the Crimson Tide—assuming Alabama reaches the SEC title game.

As long as the Gators take care of business against the Seminoles and Alabama beats Auburn, the winner of the SEC Championship Game will be in the playoff.



Things are starting to look rather dire for the Pac-12 after Saturday's results.

Typically, a loss to Oregon is nothing for Stanford to hang its head about, but the Ducks have three losses this year and are not realistic playoff contenders. Elsewhere, Utah dropped a costly game to an Arizona team that fell in its previous three contests, including a 49-3 beatdown at the hands of Washington.

Every team in the league now has multiple losses, and only Stanford still has much semblance of a playoff dream because of the Notre Dame carrot dangling at the end of the schedule.


Notre Dame

Notre Dame represents something of a nightmare scenario for the power conferences, especially since there are only four spots for the Power Five leagues. The Fighting Irish making the playoffs would mean at least two of the leagues were left out.

If head coach Brian Kelly’s squad wins out, it will have victories over solid teams in Temple, USC, Pittsburgh and Stanford. However, its resume took a hit when the Owls lost to South Florida in blowout fashion and Stanford fell to Oregon on Saturday.

ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit suggested as much:

It also hurts Notre Dame that Texas, Georgia Tech and USC have all underperformed this year, which has taken much of the luster off a schedule many assumed was one of the best in the nation before the season started.

In an interesting twist, 8-1 Navy may be the best quality win for the Fighting Irish when the dust settles—especially if the Midshipmen find a way to knock off undefeated Houston on Nov. 27.

The outcome of the Navy-Houston showdown will directly impact Notre Dame’s chances at making the playoff. Welcome to the new normal.

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Kyler Murray vs. Kyle Allen: Latest Updates on Texas A&M QB Battle

The quarterback battle at Texas A&M between opening day starter Kyle Allen and freshman Kyler Murray appears to be heating up.

Continue for updates.

Sumlin Re-Opens QB CompetitionTuesday, Nov. 17

Murray’s subpar outings vs. Auburn and Western Carolina the past two weeks—a combined 296 passing yards, 87 rushing yards, three total touchdowns and five interceptions—have prompted head coach Kevin Sumlin to re-evaluate his decision to name Murray the starter over Allen following Week 9.    

Per Knox Bardeen of SEC Country, Sumlin’s supposition is that continued competition will breed the best:

Some have had good moments and some have had some not so good moments. We’re looking for consistency out of the position, and that’s what this week of practice will be about. We’ll name a starter as we get closer to game time.

It’s something that we’ve put an emphasis on, our turnover margin. We’re minus-3 for the year. … There’s no secret, with the exception of Saturday, the games that we’ve won we’ve been in the plus category in turnover ratio. The games that we’ve lost, we’ve been on the bottom end of that. That has a lot to do with people who touch the ball.

Murray, the blue chip in the Aggies’ 10th-ranked signing class, per 247Sports, supplanted Allen following a remarkable performance vs. South Carolina in Week 9 in which he posted 379 all-purpose yards and a pair of touchdowns with a 71.4 completion percentage. 

As touted as Murray was, Allen led the team to a 5-0 start, during which he averaged 254.8 yards and 2.6 touchdowns per game with a 64 percent completion rate. 

The saga of seeking sustainability under center is an issue the Aggies have faced since former Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel departed for the NFL. 

Kenny Hill surged to Heisman speculation early in 2014 before fading and eventually transferring to TCU. Allen was 247Sports' No. 1-rated pro passer in last year’s class, but he hasn’t been able to maintain starter status. And Murray has now had his share of struggles. 

Texas A&M ranks fourth in the SEC in total offense (434 yards per game) but couldn’t muster momentum toward a run at the conference crown in a rugged SEC West.  

The Aggies' final two games against Vanderbilt and AP No. 9 LSU will likely play a pivotal factor on who takes first-team reps next August. 

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Charleston Southern at Alabama Complete Game Preview

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — For those who are wondering why the University of Alabama would be playing Charleston Southern, which is ranked ninth in the Football Championship Subdivision and has already clinched the Big South Conference title, the key lies with the Crimson Tide’s next opponent.

On Nov. 28, Alabama faces its primary rival Auburn, which during the Nick Saban era has scheduled the following opponents the week before: 

  • 2007: Bye
  • 2008: Bye
  • 2009: Bye
  • 2010: Bye
  • 2011: Samford
  • 2012: Alabama A&M
  • 2013: Bye
  • 2014: Samford
  • 2015: Idaho

Self-preservation is a key aspect to it, but also consider Alabama’s schedule if it faced another Southeastern Conference opponent the week before facing Auburn. It would play four league games on consecutive Saturdays and then a fifth if it made the SEC Championship Game.

Meanwhile, this will be Alabama’s first opponent since Arkansas on Oct. 10 that didn’t have extra time to prepare for the Crimson Tide.

Texas A&M, Tennessee and LSU were all coming off a bye, and Mississippi State faced Missouri the previous Thursday.

It’ll be the first meeting between Alabama and Charleston Southern, which will get a sizable check for making the trip. The Buccaneers started as a club program in 1989, moved up to Division III in 1991 and was reclassified as an FCS team after a 1993 NCAA rule stipulated that all sports at a school must play in the same division.

"You know, we don't have a lot of choices,” Nick Saban said about the scheduling. “It's not like going into a restaurant and getting a menu and saying 'OK, we can play these 24 different teams. Which one do you want to play?' Most of the time, we're bargaining and begging to get anybody to play us. So we don't always have a lot of choice.”

Here’s everything you need to know for Saturday’s game:

Date: Saturday, November 21

Time: 3 p.m. CT

Place: Bryant-Denny Stadium

TV: SEC Network

Radio: Crimson Tide Sports Network, , Sirius 112, XM 192; 1450 WFMB-AM Charleston.

Spread: does not have a line listed.


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Which College Football Team Will Finish 2016 Recruiting Cycle with Most 5-Stars?

With national signing day less than three months away, 16 5-star recruits remain uncommitted. 

That means powerhouse programs across the nation will battle it out in the coming weeks for the best of the best in the 2016 cycle.

Only two schools—LSU and Ohio State—have at least two pledges from 5-star prospects. However, a quick glance at the top 10 of the 247Sports class rankings shows a number of schools that have a shot at multiple 5-star prospects still on the board. 

Schools such as Alabama, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Michigan and Ole Miss are fighting to move up in the rankings by closing with a few elite talents. Meanwhile, Auburn, Notre Dame and Tennessee headline a few schools outside the Top 10 which are hoping to close out with a strong finish to the cycle.

When the dust settles, which program will finish with the most 5-star prospects on signing day?

Let’s take a look at the top five contenders for that distinction.



Of course, any discussion surrounding a program and its ability to land premier talents has to include Alabama—which is trying to land its unprecedented sixth straight top-rated recruiting class.

Tide head coach Nick Saban and his staff already have one pledge from 5-star offensive lineman Jonah Williams. However, the Tide are involved with more than half of the remaining uncommitted 5-star prospects still searching for the right program. 

Of that group, the Tide are considered to be the favorites for in-state 5-star linebackers Lyndell Wilson and Ben Davis.

Plus, they are in the thick of the race for players such as offensive lineman Gregory Little and athletes Mecole Hardman Jr. and Demetris Robertson.

Given the program’s history of closing strong under Saban, expect Alabama and its pursuit of the top targets on its board to be one of the main storylines heading into signing day.



While the 2015 season has been filled with ups and downs for Georgia, the Bulldogs have a chance to close the recruiting cycle with a bang if they can land a majority of the top remaining prospects on their board.

Assuming that head coach Mark Richt remains in place, the Bulldogs are well-positioned with 5-star prospects such as Hardman, Robertson, defensive tackle Derrick Brown, tight end Isaac Nauta and wideout Kyle Davis.

In fact, the Bulldogs are the 247 Sports Crystal Ball's favorites for each of those prospects.

However, if a coaching change is made with Richt or to prominent members of his staff, that could be enough to push a few prospects elsewhere.

Regardless, it’s safe to say that the offseason happenings in Athens will be worth watching for recruiting fans around the country.



The Tigers already have a pair of 5-star talents on board in corner Saivion Smith and safety Eric Monroe.

Additionally, head coach Les Miles and his staff are in the running for a trio of 5-star defensive tackles: Rashan Gary, Shavar Manuel and Rashard Lawrence.

LSU currently has the nation’s No. 1 class, and the Tigers would have a great chance to hold on to that ranking if they hit on a few top remaining targets down the stretch. 

Any addition to their current class will keep the Tigers in contention to end up with the most elite prospects in the 2016 cycle.



The arrival of head coach Jim Harbaugh has already sparked a significant turnaround on the field for Michigan.

He’s also making waves on the recruiting trail. The Wolverines currently have the nation’s No. 8 class and are heavily involved with Gary and Nauta.

In fact, they are the perceived favorites to land the nation’s top overall prospect and could be in position to steal Nauta, given the uncertainty surrounding the Georgia staff.

The Wolverines are also in the hunt for 5-star California linebacker Caleb Kelly.

Given the buzz the Wolverines have already amassed on the field, it’s safe to assume that their momentum will help them close out their 2016 class on a high note.


Ohio State

Coming off a national title, it’s no surprise to see Ohio State involved with a number of blue-chip recruits in the 2016 cycle.

Head coach Urban Meyer and his staff have assembled a group that sits at No. 2 in the 247Sports team rankings. Leading the Buckeyes class are 5-star defensive ends Nick Bosa and Jonathon Cooper.

The Buckeyes are also involved with Rashard Lawrence and fellow 5-star defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence, as well as 5-star linebacker Mique Juarez.

Similar to Saban, Meyer represents one of college football’s best closers on the recruiting trail.

With the Buckeyes gunning for another national title, expect them to aim for the top spot in the recruiting rankings when signing day rolls around.



With so many elite programs and coaches who have found success in recruiting wars over the years, there figures to be a good bit of intrigue in the final weeks leading up to signing day.

By the sheer volume of prospects interested in both Alabama and Georgia, those two programs seem to stand out in terms of which school figures to land the most 5-stars by signing day. 

With Georgia having to answer questions about the future and the direction of the program, it's hard to go against Alabama—which seems to have the inside track on finishing with that title.


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


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College Football Week 12 Predictions: Picking Top 25 Games Against the Spread

Week 12 is mostly a mixed bag of contenders playing cupcakes, former front-runners looking to rebound with quality victories, and dark horses trying to avoid those dreaded trap-game losses.

Oh, and then there's the game of the week—the defending national champion taking on its banged-up but still dangerous divisional rival.

But when you pick against the spread, there's always a tough call to make, even in the games that appear to be easy blowouts.

In Week 11, my first since taking over this column, I went a respectable 12-9 in Top 25 games. Now I'll look to keep that momentum rolling in a Saturday slate that was much more difficult for me to settle on than last week's list of matchups.

I'll try my best to explain this week's picks in the following slides using recent straight-up and against-the-spread trends as well as some statistical matchup breakdowns. Tell me your picks in the comments below, and remember, I don't hate your team.

I hate our common enemy—the line.

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Police Investigating Alleged Rape at Home of Tommy Armstrong Jr.

Police in Lincoln, Nebraska, are investigating an alleged rape that occurred at the home of Nebraska Cornhuskers starting quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr.  

Paul Hammel and Joe Duggan of the Omaha World-Herald detailed Tuesday a 20-year-old woman reported the alleged sexual assault upon arriving at Lincoln hospital at approximately 2:30 p.m. Sunday.

The report cites Lincoln police spokeswoman Katie Flood as the source of the information and adds the alleged victim knows the suspect, though no arrests have been made. Police said the alleged assault occurred between approximately 2:15 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. Sunday.

Armstrong was interviewed Sunday at his home and indicated he was hosting a party after the Cornhuskers' 31-14 win over Rutgers. The junior signal-caller also spoke to the World-Herald about the alleged assault.

"I don't know why that person said that," said Armstrong of the alleged victim. "We're confused about the whole situation. From what we're hearing, everything was consensual."

Cornhuskers wide receiver Jordan Westerkamp is Armstrong's roommate and was also interviewed by police, as was tight end Trey Foster, according to what Armstrong told the World-Herald.

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