NCAA Football News

Rapid-Fire Predictions for College Football's Biggest Games in Week 10

With Week 10 scheduled to have some great games, it's time to take a look at our rapid-fire predictions.

How will Deshaun Watson and Clemson do against ACC rival Florida State? Can Trevone Boykin continue his Heisman Trophy push against Oklahoma State? Could Minnesota threaten Ohio State minus J.T. Barrett?

Find out in the above video as Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Michael Felder, Barrett Sallee, and Adam Kramer go in-depth on Week 10.

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College Football Week 10: Top 25 Upset Alert

It's that time of the week again. It's time to see just who is going to fall on the upset alert list this week. Some of the undefeated teams of college football are in for some bad times.

Who is our No. 1 team to be put on the upset alert? Who wins, TCU or Oklahoma State?

Find out in the above video as Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Adam Kramer goes in-depth on who is on upset alert. 

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Daily Fantasy College Football Week 10: DraftKings Optimum Lineup, Matchup Guide

Nearly every college football team across the country has already wrapped up eight games, with some of the toughest matchups still lying ahead for daily fantasy owners. Week 10 brings an enticing slate of games that features a showdown between Alabama and LSU that has massive implications.

So should owners trust Leonard Fournette or Derrick Henry against tough defensive matchups? Will Deshaun Watson repeat his success after a six-touchdown performance against NC State? Here's a look at our top picks and analysis at every roster position for early and late games.

 

QB Analysis

Why target a quarterback who simply rests in the pocket rather than a dual-threat signal-caller? With Kyler Murray and Watson, you can have your cake and eat it, too. That is, of course, if you like multitiered cakes.

Watson is the lead target for the early slate even against a solid Florida State team. We're not worried about the matchup here because Watson has proved he can destroy any defense this year.

His average of 27.4 fantasy points per game is hurt by slowing down in a shellacking against Miami and essentially mercy-ruling Wofford, Appalachian State and Georgia Tech. That won't happen against FSU. When forced to lead his team, Watson will do so in a massive way after accounting for 437 yards and six scores against NC State.

As for Murray, he'll carry owners in the nightcap against a porous Auburn defense. After rushing for 156 yards in his first start in the SEC, Murray will face a defense that ranks 93rd in the country against the pass and 98th against the rush. Murray is going to pick apart the Tigers in his second opportunity under center.

 

RB Analysis

We're going with one safe option and one that should shine despite his matchup at the running back position. Henry is obviously the player with a tough matchup, going against an LSU team that ranks sixth in the country against the rush.

So why go with a running back with that in mind? Because LSU hasn't faced a player as ferocious as Henry. Henry even earned praise from Leonard Fournette, whom he'll be facing on Saturday, per Jim Kleinpeter of NOLA.com.

He's a great running back. I told the defense you got to get ready to tackle him. …

If I played defense, I wouldn't want to tackle him. But that's your job to tackle him, so I would have to make a business decision every time you go against him.

When LSU goes to tackle Henry on Saturday night, it won't be quite as easy as any previous back. Given his average of 155 rushing yards and six touchdowns over the last four games, there's no reason owners shouldn't target Henry over Fournette at $1,500 less on DraftKings.

In the safe-bet department, Elijah Hood is a solid choice against Duke. North Carolina's lead back missed time against Pittsburgh in the second quarter and still ended up with over 100 total yards. In a rivalry game at home, look for huge numbers for Hood on the ground.

 

WR Analysis

Jakeem Grant is an explosive option at the wide receiver position who comes at a high cost. However, his matchup and recent results warrant the price tag. Going up against West Virginia's 97th-ranked pass defense after piling up 13 receptions for 178 yards and a touchdown his last time out makes him a no-brainer.

Aaron Burbridge comes at a higher salary, but he is equally deserving of our No. 1 receiver spot in the late games. Coming off three straight games with over 125 yards and over 26 fantasy points, the Michigan State wideout will be a massive component for the Spartans and DFS owners getting another win.

 

Flex Analysis

This is where we take our chances. Owners can either pick a safe player who puts up consistently decent numbers or a potential home-run hitter. In Mikel Horton and Adoree' Jackson, we have two targets who have a shot to break out thanks to injuries.

For Horton, an elbow injury to Stanley "Boom" Williams will keep him out of the Georgia game, per Jennifer Smith of the Lexington Herald-Leader. So why should you put faith in a backup? Because he proved himself in relief of Williams with 128 total yards against Tennessee. Facing a Bulldogs defense that has allowed 138 rushing yards and over one touchdown per game, Horton is a solid flex play.

Jackson, on the other hand, is already known as one of the most explosive players in the country. With JuJu Smith-Schuster suffering through a right hand injury, Ryan Abraham of Scout.com doesn't believe the Trojans' leading receiver will be a factor on Saturday.

Now it's time for Jackson to step up in Southern Cal's offense. Already having over 300 receiving yards this season and showing an ability to take the top off any secondary, Jackson is a perfect addition to late lineups.

 

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How JT Barrett's Suspension Changes Braxton Miller's Role in Ohio State Offense

When the Ohio State defense has taken the practice field in the days leading up to Saturday night's matchup with Minnesota, a new face has lined up behind center with the Buckeyes' second team.

That face also happens to be a familiar one.

While Ohio State may possess the most talented depth chart in all of college football this season when it comes to signal-callers, the Buckeyes quarterback room finds itself lacking experience this week as J.T. Barrett serves a one-game suspension for an OVI citation.

Behind Cardale Jones, neither redshirt freshman Stephen Collier nor true freshman Joe Burrow have taken significant snaps in their respective college careers, seemingly leaving Urban Meyer in somewhat of a conundrum should Jones go down with an injury against the Golden Gophers.

Fortunately for Ohio State, however, a two-time Big Ten MVP at its sudden position of need has been stashed away in the wide receivers room for the better part of the 2015 season: Braxton Miller. And with his QB depth chart temporarily depleted, Meyer has opted to call on the services of the 2012 and 2013 Big Ten Quarterback of the Year to serve as Jones' backup in this weekend's prime-time matchup.

"It's a busy week," Meyer said of Miller's preparation for the Golden Gophers. "There's a lot going on."

In addition to being listed as the backup quarterback on the Buckeyes' official depth chart for the week, Miller will still fill the starting H-back role that he's played since making the move from pass-thrower to pass-catcher this past offseason. In eight games, the 6'2", 215-pounder has caught 19 balls for 280 yards and three touchdowns, in addition to rushing for 207 yards and an additional score on 30 attempts.

But just because he's now listed as the second-string quarterback doesn't mean that only an injury to Jones could allow Miller to take snaps behind center, something he's still done periodically throughout his premiere season as a wide receiver.

With Barrett out of the picture on Saturday, Meyer's use of Miller in that capacity could increase dramatically.

Especially considering that in Jones' last two starts this season, Barrett was subbed in situationally in an effort to give Ohio State a more mobile threat at QB than the 6'5", 250-pound Jones. That came as the result of surprising early struggles for the Jones-led Buckeyes offense, which ranked 108th in the country in red-zone efficiency through the first five games of the season.

While Barrett eventually took over as the full-time quarterback, Meyer seemed to bring out the best in Jones as a starter when using him in a two-quarterback system. On Saturday, he could find himself doing that once again, this time with the quick-twitched Miller taking the reins of the OSU offense inside the red zone.

"He's had an incredible week of practice," Meyer said of Miller. "He just shows up and really goes about his business."

Likely by design, Miller's teammates have remained mum on the subject of his increased role in the Buckeyes offense. That's only allowed questions to remain about whether or not Miller is a capable passer at this point in the season, as it was a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder in 2014 that brought his career as a full-time quarterback to a premature end.

One shovel pass aside, Miller hasn't officially thrown a pass since Ohio State's appearance in the Orange Bowl at the end of the 2013 season. In pregame warm-ups this season, Miller has routinely tossed the ball underhand when doing so overhand would have sufficed, further fueling speculation that his shoulder isn't yet healthy enough for a full quarterback workload.

"No comment," Buckeyes linebacker Darron Lee said when asked how far Miller has thrown the ball in practice this week.

"I'm not answering any Braxton questions," linebacker Joshua Perry said, declining three inquiries into the senior wideout's practice habits in preparation for Minnesota.

Meanwhile, the Ohio State coaching staff has insisted that Miller is back to full strength as a passer and could very well attempt his first throw in nearly two years against the Golden Gophers this Saturday. According to Meyer, the issue isn't whether or not Miller can throw at this point, but rather how accurate he would be after having spent the better part of the past year practicing as a wide receiver.

"It's a just a matter of—he can throw—how prepared is he to throw?" Meyer said. "So we're going to work on that this week as well and get him ready to go."

Should Jones go down with an injury on Saturday, it will be interesting to see whether Meyer actually turns to Miller as a full-time quarterback, bringing an already unprecedented quarterback situation in Columbus full circle. After Barrett shined in Miller's injury-induced absence in 2014, a broken ankle suffered in the regular-season finale opened the door for Jones to start three consecutive postseason games, with the former third-string quarterback leading the Buckeyes to the inaugural College Football Playoff in the process.

Jones entered 2015 as Ohio State's starter for its first seven games before turning the job over to Barrett, whose citation over the bye week has put Jones—and potentially Miller—back at the forefront of what is once again an unsettled quarterback conundrum.

At this point, Meyer has declined to discuss what his thought process will be when it comes to choosing who the Buckeyes' starter will be when Barrett returns from his suspension next week. "We'll worry about next week next week," he said.

But once again, the Buckeyes' quarterback position remains a question mark moving forward for college football's defending champions.

Could Miller now be re-entering the fray, as unlikely as it seemed? A lot of that will depend on how—and how much—he plays on Saturday.

And just how big of a role can we expect Miller to play in the Ohio State game plan in his quasi-return to quarterback?

His teammates won't tell. But reading between the lines, it appears to be a significant one.

"You'll see on Saturday," right guard Pat Elflein said.

"You'll see."

 

Ben Axelrod is Bleacher Report's Big Ten lead writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BenAxelrod. Unless noted otherwise, all quotes were obtained firsthand. All statistics courtesy of CFBStats.com. Odds provided by Odds Shark. Recruiting rankings courtesy of 247Sports.

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Bowl Projections 2015: Postseason Predictions, College Football Playoff Outlook

The college football season is flying. After nine weeks of exciting play, upsets and shock endings, the College Football Playoff rankings were released on Tuesday, with the first grouping of four teams that could vie for the national championship.

Here are the current rankings:

While things are surely going to change over the next month of the regular season, it's never too early to look ahead to December and January, when bowl season takes control of the country.

So I'll do my best to predict who will be playing in each bowl game and focus on the final four that could be competing for the national championship. 

When it comes to the final four teams that will be taking part in the College Football Playoff, I have Clemson, Ohio State, Alabama and Notre Dame. 

Clemson will be hosting Florida State on Nov. 7 in what I see as the Tigers' last real challenge of the regular season. If they are able to get past the Seminoles, Syracuse, Wake Forest and South Carolina won't be rooting them out of the final four. 

ESPN College Football takes a look at their probability to win out this season:

Second on that list, Ohio State is going to have a tougher time ending its season unbeaten. Saturday, Nov. 21, will see them play Michigan State, who is currently 8-0 and sits seventh in the CFP rankings. After that, the Buckeyes go into the Big House and meet Michigan in what will be the biggest game in that rivalry in almost a decade. 

If Ohio State is able to win those final two games, I think it'll roll right through to the national championship as it'll be ready for the high-pressure situations that playoff football brings. 

I have Ohio State beating Alabama, who I think beats LSU this week, and Clemson beating Notre Dame in the first round of the playoff. As the first team out currently, Notre Dame has a fairly easy schedule to end the season. With Alabama playing LSU, two teams currently in the top four, one of them is bound to drop out after Week 10, thus leaving an open spot for the Irish. Once in, they won't be leaving. 

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College Football Picks: Week 10 Predictions for Every Game

If college football were a horse race, the pack would be coming around the final turn right now for the stretch run. And as anyone who has watched the ponies run will know, a lot can and will happen during those last few furlongs.

The last month of the regular season is overloaded with huge games that will determine who plays for a national championship as well as who wins various FBS divisions and conferences. That starts this weekend, where we'll get three matchups of ranked teams, including pitting two unbeaten foes against each other. There are 10 perfect teams left in the country after Toledo fell Tuesday, and no more than eight will remain after Week 10.

Beyond just championship drives, though, many teams are fighting to become bowl-eligible and get in position to have an extra game some time over the holidays. There are only a handful of contests this week that won't have an impact on the overall college football landscape.

We have predictions for all of them, even a pairing of one-win teams in Ohio that only the most devoted of college football fans would care about. Check out our picks, then give us your own in the comments section.

NOTE: All rankings listed are from the College Football Playoff rankings.

 

Last week: 35-19 (.648)

Season: 435-137 (.760)

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Texas Football: Game-by-Game Predictions for the Month of November

Texas' three November games could have been really interesting.

Coming off convincing wins over Oklahoma and Kansas State, Charlie Strong's team had it figured it. The Longhorns were handily winning the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, gaining the look of a team nobody wants to mess with at the end of the season.

That all vanished on Halloween. The Horns played a lifeless game at Iowa State, getting worked 24-0 by a supposed Big 12 bottom-feeder.

The loss pushed the Longhorns to 3-5 for the second year in a row, meaning they'll have to win three of four to reach a bowl game. They pulled it off last season with a three-game spurt at this exact point in the season, albeit with a much more experienced team.

Given that its last non-November game of the regular season will be Baylor, the Longhorns better hope they can repeat their 2014 success. To do it, they'll have to figure out how to play on the road.

Begin Slideshow

Nick Saban Discusses College Football Playoff Rankings

The arrival of the season's first College Football Playoff rankings signaled the start of debate regarding the viability of title contenders, and Alabama finds itself at the center of the conversation entering a crucial showdown against the LSU Tigers. 

While Clemson, LSU and Ohio State all slotted into the playoff picture as expected, Alabama emerged as a surprise selection at No. 4 considering its one loss came at home against a two-loss Ole Miss team. The ranking was especially curious since undefeated squads like Baylor, Michigan State and TCU were left on the outside looking in. 

"Losses matter, especially home losses," Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee wrote. "Whether Alabama passes the eye test or not, it still lost at home to Ole Miss—a team that is ranked 18th in the CFP rankings. In fact, it's a wonder that Florida is ranked six spots behind Alabama, based on a comparison of the resumes of the two SEC powers."

So while the college football universe responded in an uproar, Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban did his best to subdue some of the outrage by putting things in perspective. 

At his Wednesday press conference, Saban explained why he believes the release of rankings at this relatively early juncture isn't worth fussing over, per 247Sports.com's Charlie Potter

I don't think the ranking means anything. It doesn't mean anything. All it means is that you've created an opportunity to have a chance to finish the season and maybe have an opportunity to play in some other games that are big games. The players are smart enough to know that they need to stay focused on the game because if you don't play well in every game that we have from here on out you won't be ranked any more. So what good does it do, what does it mean? It means nothing.

Complete video of Saban's remarks can be viewed below, courtesy of Tide 99.1 FM

Saban has a point. 

If the Tide win out, they'll likely seal their fate and enter the postseason as one of the four programs lucky enough to compete for a national championship. But if Alabama drops Saturday's game against LSU, its hopes will be dashed. 

At this point, it's a matter of the Tide playing out their schedule and executing in a way that compels the CFP selection committee to keep them front and center when the rankings are released each week. 

A win over LSU will go a long way toward solidifying Alabama's spot as a worthy CFP resident, but the Tide find themselves in a precarious spot as they attempt to clinch back-to-back CFP berths with such a fierce LSU squad looming and the season's home stretch getting underway. 

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Week 10 College Football Picks: LSU over Alabama, Plus Clemson, Ohio State

The first edition of the 2015 College Football Playoff rankings were released Tuesday, with three of the teams expected to be there and the fourth not much of a surprise because of the SEC’s strong reputation as the best conference in the country.

It will not matter, though, since the second-ranked LSU Tigers (7-0) visit the fourth-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide (7-1) on Saturday, with the loser falling out of the top four.

The Tigers are led by Heisman Trophy favorite Leonard Fournette, who leads the nation in rushing with 1,352 yards and 15 touchdowns. While the Tide have a very good running back as well in Derrick Henry (1,044 yards and 14 touchdowns), Fournette will prove why he is the best player in the country.

Alabama is a consensus 6.5-point favorite according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark and has gone 0-5 against the spread in its last five home games. The road team has also won four of the past five meetings, so back LSU to spring the upset and stay in the top two next week.

The top-ranked Clemson Tigers have won 11 straight games dating back to last year, and they host the Florida State Seminoles (7-1) as 12-point chalk.

The home team has won eight of the past nine meetings in this SEC matchup, and Florida State has dropped five of six in the series both straight up and ATS on the road.

The Seminoles have also failed to cover eight of their last 10 games following a win, meaning the Tigers will win this one easily by two touchdowns or more to remain in the top spot.

The third-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes (8-0) have had to deal with some off-the-field issues recently, as starting quarterback J.T. Barrett has ceded the job back to Cardale Jones following his suspension.

But the defending national champion Buckeyes will be very focused against the Minnesota Golden Gophers (4-4), who will struggle here without head coach Jerry Kill, who resigned last week due to health issues.

Ohio State is a huge 23-point favorite in this spot but will still find a way to cover in what will be the team’s most impressive win this season.

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Tre Bryant Decommits from Kansas State: Latest Details, Comments and Reaction

Kansas State football just took a hit, and the player in question isn't even enrolled in the school yet. On Wednesday, 3-star running back recruit Tre Bryant announced via his Twitter that he has decommitted from the Wildcats.

Here is his tweet announcing his decision:

Out of Christian Brothers College in St. Louis, Bryant is listed by 247Sports' composite ratings as the fifth-best prospect in the state and the 41st-ranked running back in the nation from the class of 2016. 

Bryant isn't wasting any time either, according to 247Sports' Michael Bruntz:   

With a 40-yard dash time of 4.52, Bryant doesn't hold the blazing speed that some of the premier backs in the nation possess, but he does make up for it in toughness. 

At 5'10" and 195 pounds, he uses his stature as leverage to stay low to the ground and break plenty of tackles. Here are just some of his highlights from his junior year, courtesy of Hudl:

According to Steve Wiltfong of 247Sports, Bryant recently completed a visit to Minnesota and will also consider Indiana, Northwestern, Syracuse and Vanderbilt after his trip to Nebraska. 

With some big schools seeking his signature, it's safe to assume that no matter where Bryant goes, he will be featured in the backfield of a prominent program's team in the next few years

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Which Undefeated College Football Team Will Lose Next?

With the current list of undefeated teams in college football, there are bound to be some really intense games coming up.

Is TCU going to fall to Oklahoma State in its next game? How will Leonard Fournette impact LSU's game against Alabama?

Find out in the video above as Stephen Nelson and Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Barrett Sallee go in depth on these undefeated teams.

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Former Notre Dame RB Greg Bryant Commits to UAB

UAB football won't return until the 2017 FBS season, but the Blazers will now have a high-quality running back ready to roll whenever they hit the field again.

Former Notre Dame running back Greg Bryant announced on Wednesday on his Instagram account that he has committed to continue his football career at UAB.

"Never in my life would I be thinking I would go here," Bryant posted. "But the next move has to be the best move. I'm officially committed to the University of Alabama Birmingham! Strictly a business decision. ‪Minor setback for a major comeback."

Bryant, who was Notre Dame's second-leading rusher as a sophomore in 2014 with 289 yards and three touchdowns, was ruled academically ineligible for the 2015 season back in August.

Before the announcement, Bryant was already facing a four-game suspension due to a violation of team rules.

According to Matt Fortuna of ESPN.com, Notre Dame planned on keeping Bryant on scholarship as he sat out the 2015 season, but he transferred to ASA College in Miami.

Bryant is a former 4-star recruit out of Delray Beach, Florida. He was rated as the No. 46 overall player and No. 7 running back in the entire country for the Class of 2013.

The former Irish back's return to college football will come a year later than expected, though.

UAB made the controversial decision to cut its football program last December—citing financial reasons—only to announce it was "taking steps" to reinstate it six months later.

As Drew Champlin of AL.com notes, Bryant isn't the only former blue-chip recruit to pledge to the resurrected Blazers in recent weeks.

Head coach Bill Clark and his staff picked up commitments late last month from former LSU players Clifton Garrett and Maquedius Bain.

Garrett was a 5-star linebacker out of high school, while Bain was a 4-star defensive lineman. Both are transferring from junior colleges—just like Bryant—n time for spring practice in 2016.

 

Unless otherwise noted, statistics courtesy of cfbstats.com. Recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

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

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Why Oklahoma Can Be the Ohio State of the 2015 College Football Playoff

Oklahoma is forgotten in—but not entirely out of—the College Football Playoff race.

It's easy to understand why no one's talking about the Sooners. They're the lowest-ranked Big 12 team in the initial CFP rankings (No. 15) with a bad loss to Texas.

When the Big 12's November slate is mentioned—no other Power Five conference has a more brutal, backloaded schedule—the discussion usually revolves around Baylor and TCU, and whether they can remain undefeated heading into their Nov. 27 game.

Oklahoma State, the third undefeated Big 12 team, is filling the role of the dark horse, as noted by Max Olson of ESPN.com. The Cowboys get all their toughest remaining games at home, including TCU this Saturday.

So where does that leave Oklahoma? It's odd to think of head coach Bob Stoops' team as the outcast, but that's essentially how it's labeled.

But there's another way to look at the Sooners as they enter the critical stretch of the season: They can be the Ohio State of the 2015 College Football Playoff.

Like the Buckeyes last year, the Sooners have an almost inexplicable loss. How Stoops has prepared for Texas over the last three years is a legitimate question that has already been asked.

“I think maybe we jumped a little ahead of ourselves Texas week,” wide receiver Sterling Shepard said, per Jason Kersey of the Oklahoman. “The most important game is the next game.”

Otherwise, the Sooners are still a top-tier team in their conference. And like with the Buckeyes in 2014, the opportunity to get better at the right time is there for the taking.

The gap between Oklahoma and the Big 12's three undefeated teams isn't that large. On paper, seven points are what separate the top four teams in the Big 12 from being 31-0 instead of 30-1. 

And Oklahoma has dominated outside of its loss to the Longhorns. The Sooners' average point differential when winning is plus-32.1 points per game. Only Baylor has a larger margin of victory at 36 points per game in the Big 12.

The Sooners win in advanced stats, too.

Oklahoma State defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer told Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports that points per possession is one of the most important metrics for a team's success. Sure enough, BCF Toys indicates that Oklahoma ranks eighth nationally in points scored per offensive drive.

An expanded table of Oklahoma's advanced stats compared to those of the Big 12's "Big Three" shows the Sooners are actually the best overall defense in terms of preventing points per drive. Oklahoma's offense, while lagging behind the likes of Baylor and TCU in similar offensive categories, is more than serviceable.

BCF Toys explains its categories as follows:

Teams are ranked by net points scored per drive (NPD), the difference between points scored per offensive drive (OPD) and points allowed per opponent offensive drive (DPD). Points per value drive for the offense (OVD) opponent offenses (DVD) are calculated on possessions that begin on the offense's own side of midfield and reach at least the opponent's 30-yard line. Points per long drive for the offense (OLD) and opponent offenses (DLD) are calculated on possessions that begin inside the offense's own 20-yard line.

Oklahoma's success on defense is important because Baylor, TCU and Oklahoma State rank first, second and fifth in the Big 12 in points per game, respectively. All average at least 44 points per game.

So now that we know where Oklahoma stacks up in the Big 12 on the stat sheet, how can this team make an Ohio State-type run to the playoff?

It starts with taking care of your own business, which for the Sooners means better blocking up front. A largely new-look offensive line proved to be the glaring weakness in the loss to Texas. Oklahoma was terrible in pass protection when the Longhorns defense rushed extra men. The Sooners also couldn't run the ball, averaging a season-low 1.81 yards per carry (including sacks).

If all of that sounds like Ohio State's problem last year against Virginia Tech, you're not mistaken.

Moving forward, Oklahoma has to do a better job of creating lanes for Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon to run over and around people.

This is where O-line coach Bill Bedenbaugh will earn his paycheck. Like with Ohio State in 2014, the question is, can this O-line come together as the season progresses? If it does, there's more than enough talent to propel the offense into a different gear.

Secondly, Oklahoma's remaining schedule, while daunting, does present some breaks.

The Sooners will get Baylor's new quarterback, true freshman Jarrett Stidham, in just his second start. They also get TCU at home, and the Horned Frogs have been a vastly different team on the road—and not for the better.

The season-ending game at Oklahoma State will be a challenge, but Stoops has a 12-4 record against the Cowboys and is 6-2 in Stillwater. If nothing else, Stoops has history on his side.

There are drawbacks, of course, for looping Oklahoma into the playoff conversation. While there is precedent of a one-loss team getting into the playoff, there isn't one for when that loss comes to a sub-.500 team. Unless Texas head coach Charlie Strong can work miracles, it's possible the Longhorns miss a bowl game.

No. 16 Florida State, another playoff long shot, is in a similar boat due to its loss to Georgia Tech two weeks ago.

However, the Seminoles would have an ACC Championship Game to play if they beat Clemson and win out. That's something Oklahoma and the Big 12 do not have—not yet, anyway. That 13th game could be a great equalizer against a bad loss.

There's no doubt that the Sooners have a lot of ground to cover. Brandon Chatmon of ESPN.com wrote, "No matter how good the Sooners look and how many quality wins they secure, Oklahoma’s loss to Texas is like a cinder block preventing its rise into playoff contention. Style points will matter for the Sooners, and Bob Stoops' team has minimal room for error."

But given how Oklahoma has played post-Texas, and with advanced stats speaking for themselves, the notion of the Sooners winning the Big 12 isn't that far-fetched. Plus, there are five weeks for all hell to break loose.

For a sport that enjoys dabbling in the strange, Oklahoma making a late-season push to the playoff wouldn't be the strangest development.

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. All quotes cited unless obtained firsthand. All stats courtesy of cfbstats.com unless noted otherwise.

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Did Notre Dame Receive the Blue Blood Bump in First Playoff Rankings?

Notre Dame and its massive fanbase had to be pleasantly surprised Tuesday night when the Fighting Irish came in at No. 5 in the first College Football Playoff rankings of 2015—three spots ahead of where they currently sit in the AP poll and four spots better than the coaches poll.

The playoff committee put head coach Brian Kelly and his team in a perfect position heading into the first weekend of November.

With No. 2 LSU and No. 4 Alabama set to square off Saturday night in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, a win at Pittsburgh would put the Irish in one of the coveted playoff spots. Win out, and Notre Dame would seemingly be a lock for the final four, even with its one loss from earlier in the season.

According to Stewart Mandel of Fox Sports, only a couple of teams would have a realistic shot at jumping the Irish in the playoff rankings.

"The one obvious concern is that an undefeated Big 12 champ (TCU, Baylor or Oklahoma State) would eventually pass the Irish, as could No. 12 Utah if it runs the table and wins the Pac-12," Mandel wrote. "I would not be as worried, though, about a one-loss TCU, Baylor or Oklahoma State because the Irish should still finish with a stronger schedule."

Notre Dame's enviable position in the initial playoff rankings, however, came with its fair share of critics.

Matt Hayes of Sporting News suggested Notre Dame—and No. 4 Alabama—was ranked above the likes of undefeated Baylor, Michigan State, TCU and Iowa because of its name recognition.

"If you're seeing a trend (college football heavyweights) and embracing a conspiracy theory (the selection committee went big to draw interest), you're not alone," Hayes wrote. "The Irish lost at Clemson on the last play of the game, a two-point conversion try that could have tied the game. Other than that, there’s what on the ND resume?"

But while some are claiming a "blue blood bump" for Notre Dame in the playoff rankings, the numbers support a great ranking for the Fighting Irish at this point in the season.

Notre Dame has a loss, yes, but it's the best conceivable loss in college football. That holds a lot of weight, especially when compared to teams that have zipped through easy schedules.

The Fighting Irish played Clemson, the committee's No. 1 team, on the road and in torrential rains from the Hurricane Joaquin storm system. While Notre Dame didn't impress for the majority of the game, it rallied in a huge way late.

Since that game, Clemson has put up more than 530 yards in four straight victories by double digits. The Irish held Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson and company to 296 yards of offense in the rain-soaked contest.

As Bill Connelly of SB Nation noted on Twitter, the close loss at Clemson makes Notre Dame look a lot better in hindsight.

But while that loss undoubtedly looks better compared to the ones from teams such as Florida, Stanford and Utah, it doesn't quite explain Notre Dame's position above that quartet of undefeated teams from No. 6 through No. 9.

(Side note: Florida has a legitimate gripe to be just No. 10 if Notre Dame is No. 5, as the Gators lost by a touchdown at the committee's No. 2 team.)

For the answer to that puzzle, look at the Irish's complete body of work.

While Texas fell flat at the beginning of the season and Georgia Tech went through a rough losing streak to plummet out of the Top 25, Notre Dame's recent schedule has consisted of some legitimate tests compared to those of, say, Baylor and TCU.

In fact, Notre Dame's last three wins have all come against "teams with better-than-.500 records," which Mandel pointed out was committee chairman Jeff Long's favorite buzzword of Tuesday evening.

Notre Dame has two more wins against such teams than both Baylor and TCU, who have only beaten 5-4 Texas Tech. Iowa has the same amount, and Michigan State's count is boosted by wins over 5-3 Western Michigan and 5-3 Air Force.

None of those teams come close to Notre Dame's total strength of schedule through the first nine weeks of the college football season, per Jeff Sagarin's ratings at USA Today.

Ignore the notion of a "blue blood bump." The committee appeared to favor Notre Dame because of its strength of schedule, especially its most recent games. 

"I think our last four games have been as good as anybody that’s played in the country," Kelly said before the rankings came out Tuesday, per Keith Arnold of NBC Sports. "I don’t know where it stands up exactly. I just know we played a very good schedule in the month of October. We have to win more games, but I’ll stand up our schedule to anybody else right now."

Baylor, TCU and lower-ranked Oklahoma State each have the reasonable opportunity to vault into the thick of the playoff picture if they run through a tough, back-loaded Big 12 schedule without a loss. 

Iowa and Michigan State, too, will get their chances in November. Both teams would have to beat No. 3 Ohio State in order to make an undefeated run of their own to the postseason.

Notre Dame can still improve its resume, too, in the final month of the regular season. Pittsburgh is another above-.500 team, and the Irish end their schedule with a trip to Pac-12 front-runner Stanford.

While the early playoff rankings are mostly for entertainment value at this point—there's a lot of potential chaos still left on the board—they give a glimpse as to what the committee values in a playoff team.

There's no doubt a Notre Dame playoff game would be tremendous for television ratings and ticket sales, but those are far from the only reasons why the Fighting Irish are sitting in the Top Five.

Right now, even with one loss, Notre Dame is highly regarded as a top playoff contender because of its full body of work—not its name brand.

 

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

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4-Star WR Tre Nixon Breaks Down 6 Favorites, Aims to Commit 'Soon'

College football coaching staffs invest significant hours analyzing game film of prospective student-athletes. Florida wide receiver Tre Nixon is reversing these roles.

The 4-star recruit spends Saturdays studying schemes of programs under his consideration. It's part of a detailed evaluation process he hopes ends with an ideal fit.

"I try to completely dissect the offenses," Nixon told Bleacher Report.

He and his mother set up two televisions in the living room, watching multiple games at one time when necessary. Other matchups are recorded and saved for viewing later in the day.

"Each game I watch brings me another step closer to a decision," Nixon said.

There are six teams under the microscope these days. The Viera High School senior, rated 42nd nationally among receivers in 2016 composite rankings, is focused on a group of favorites featuring Auburn, Ole Miss, Texas A&M, Penn State, Florida and Georgia.

Nixon, a 6'1", 170-pound playmaker, views each school as a possible landing spot. Strong relationships with coaches and consistent communication are a commonality among them.

Bucking the national trend, Nixon doesn't have intentions of using all five official visits. In fact, he's not sure if one is even necessary. 

"I've traveled to each of these schools at least once over the past year, so I have a good idea of what the coaching staffs and campuses are like," Nixon said. "If I take official visits, I'm just going to fall in love with every school I visit. That's going to hurt me more than it's going to help me."

His lone campus trip this season occurred in an unofficial capacity Oct. 23, when he attended Florida's game against Ole Miss. The Gators' 38-10 victory commanded attention from across the country and served notice to Nixon that a new era in Gainesville has arrived.

"There were so many questions about how [head coach Jim] McElwain was going to do and what the offense would look like. They've definitely silenced all the doubters so far by getting the ball rolling this season," he said. 

Nixon admits he's impressed by how the Gators have implemented wide receiver Antonio Callaway. The true freshman leads Florida with 418 receiving yards and three touchdown catches.

"They're doing a great job putting receivers in spots where they can make plays," he said. "Even with the transition to another quarterback, Florida has a system that's still successful. They're spreading the ball around."

Nixon, who hears from Florida commits Chauncey Gardner and Jake Allen, is also excited about what he's seen from Texas A&M newcomer Christian Kirk. He occasionally speaks with the Aggies freshman, who has 47 receptions for 662 yards and four touchdowns in his first collegiate campaign.

"When you're a senior in high school, it's always good to see a team that's not afraid to put a young player in position to step up," Nixon said while discussing the successes of Kirk and Callaway.

Texas A&M, averaging 263 passing yards per contest, already has a pair of underclassman quarterbacks who were 5-starrecruitsTate Martell, another blue-chip passer, is pledged to join the program in 2017.

"Their offense speaks for itself. It's basically a pass-happy system, and they love dishing the ball to receivers in open areas," Nixon said.

Though Georgia is currently dealing with substantial struggles in its passing game, Nixon appreciates his relationship with Mark Richt's staff and believes improvements are on the way.

"I like the coaches a lot at Georgia. They have [5-star quarterback] Jacob Eason coming in next year too. Eason said he'd love to have a receiver like me to throw to throughout his career," he said.

The Bulldogs should boast a bevy of backfield talent next season, which catches his eye from a scouting standpoint.

"Just being able to see how effective their run game can be, and how it creates a lot of one-on-one coverage outside for receivers, gets me excited," Nixon said.

Ole Miss is another SEC squad expected to welcome in a top-tier quarterback who has reached out to him during recent months.

"That's a spread team that loves to throw the ball a lot. Like Georgia, Ole Miss is bringing in an outstanding quarterback with Shea Patterson. There's a lot to like at Ole Miss," he said.

Auburn rounds out Nixon's list of preferred SEC options. He likened the Tigers' attack to what he's grown familiar with at Viera.

"Auburn's offense is similar to what we run in high school. Playmakers get the ball in space with all those screens and stuff. They give guys a chance to create in the open field," Nixon said.

That's a key factor for the speedy receiver, who is clocked at 4.38 seconds in the 40-yard dash, according to 247Sports. He's looking for a role that allows him to capitalize.

"I definitely use God-given speed to my advantage. I can get on top of defensive backs really quick. I get in and out of my breaks in a hurry. Teams want that vertical threat downfield to take the top off a defense," Nixon said.

He provides elite quickness that coaches covet and believes it may be needed most in Happy Valley.

"I could come in and bring another dimension to Penn State's offense," Nixon said. "A big part of the reason I like Penn State is the opportunity to become a downfield threat that they don't really have right now. I can provide something new there."

While he certainly is a burner, Nixon is far from one-dimensional. 

"I really pride myself on being able to run all the routes, and that's something I spent a lot of time working on during the offseason. I don't want to just be considered a guy who can only go deep. I want to be able to do everything," he said.

The Nittany Lions are an outlier among his favorites, considering the school's distance from Southeast alternatives that are closer to home.

"It is far away, but there's such a family atmosphere at Penn State," Nixon said. "Those coaches are probably the ones I've been closest with throughout this entire process. I see no reason why I wouldn't succeed around those kind of people."

Though he initially planned to announce his collegiate intentions in October, those plans were postponed. For Nixon, it's a choice important enough to get right the first time.

"As it came closer and closer, I just wasn't ready for a decision. The most important thing for me is to not rush anything. I would say a commitment is definitely coming soon, but there's no set date right now," he said.

Nixon, who secured his first scholarship offer from South Florida as a sophomore, now has 51 universities to consider.

Just one week shy of the playoffs in a senior season that's featured 55 receptions for 943 yards and 15 scores through nine games, per MaxPreps, he may be just a few more Saturday film study sessions away from finding his next home.

"I ask myself every day what the deciding factor is going to be. Each school has its pros and cons. They run different offenses, have their own atmospheres and coaches with totally different personalities," Nixon said. "I'll continue watching these teams every Saturday until I wake up one day and know where I want to go. It will be an easy decision when that happens." 

 

Quotes obtained firsthand by Bleacher Report National Recruiting Analyst Tyler Donohue. All player ratings are courtesy of 247Sports' composite ratings. Follow Tyler via Twitter: @TDsTake. 

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CFB Playoff Venues for 2018-20 Announced: Details, Comments and Reaction

The administrative arm of the College Football Playoff announced Wednesday the three host cities for the 2018, 2019 and 2020 national championships. In order, they are Atlanta, Santa Clara, California, and New Orleans.

New Orleans has played host for the national title game before, with four champions crowed in the Big Easy during the Bowl Championship Series era. It's also the site of the Sugar Bowl, which has long been one of the most prestigious bowl games. 

Atlanta is another obvious choice given the city's history of hosting the Peach Bowl. In addition, Mercedes-Benz Stadium should be completed by the time the 2018 national championship rolls around.

"This is a very exciting day for everyone involved and a huge win for the Atlanta community," said Dan Corso, executive director of the Atlanta Sports Council, per AtlantaFalcons.com. "Together, we look forward to working with the College Football Playoff to host an unforgettable event and showcasing all that Atlanta has to offer as a host city."

Some college football fans might be a bit skeptical about the decision to award Santa Clara a title game, however. Levi's Stadium has already hosted a WrestleMania event and is the venue for Super Bowl 50, but USA Today's Dan Wolken highlighted one of the biggest problems with the venue since its opening:

Those in charge of Levi's Stadium will have a little more than three years to sort out the turf issue.

The CFP committee will just hope the 2019 national championship brings a bigger crowd to Santa Clara than last year's Pac-12 title game did.

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Alabama Assistant Coaches' Future on the Line Against LSU

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Even before the College Football Playoff committee placed both in the Top Four of this year’s initial rankings, there was already a lot on the line when the University of Alabama football team hosts LSU on Saturday.

It’s especially true of the coaching staffs and those who hope to someday become head coaches (or become head coaches again). Alabama has them in abundance, as Nick Saban’s coaching tree continues to grow.  

Four years ago, Jim McElwain was the offensive coordinator for Saban, and he's still riding the success of topping Florida in 2009. With Alabama on the rise again, he was lured away by Colorado State.

According to the USA Today database, McElwain’s initial contract at Florida is paying him a base salary of $3,983,359 this season. Meanwhile, Alabama’s current offensive coordinator, Lane Kiffin, is under contract for $680,000 this year and is due to make $714,000 in 2016.

There’s a growing feeling in Tuscaloosa that he may not be around to collect, just like this could be the final go-around for defensive coordinator Kirby Smart. 

It took only about a minute after Steve Spurrier stepped down at South Carolina for Smart’s name to be mentioned as a possible successor. After Frank Beamer announced his retirement from Virginia Tech last week, USA Today’s Dan Wolken reported that Smart was "very interested" in the opening.

Both jobs make sense for Smart, who for years as one of the highest-paid assistant coaches in college football—topped only by former Saban assistant Will Muschamp at Auburn this season—has been pulling recruits out of Georgia for the Crimson Tide.

Smart interviewed for the head coaching job at Auburn in 2012. His name was previously strongly connected to the searches at Ole Miss, Texas A&M and Southern Miss, but with the defense not matching its 2011-12 numbers the past couple of years, the prospective inquiries stopped.

Smart’s dream jobs are still Alabama and Georgia, but it’s believed that he’s now more open to other head-coaching openings in the region.

Meanwhile, offensive line coach Mario Cristobal’s name is obviously being mentioned in Miami. He played for the Hurricanes (1989-92), has served as an assistant for his alma mater and recruited the talent-rich area well when he was the head coach at Florida International.

One also has to wonder how long it is before Kiffin gets another head-coaching chance, either at another big-time program and maybe even with an NFL team. The former head coach for the Tennessee Volunteers and the Oakland Raiders had a 28-15 record at Southern California during the fallout from the Pete Carroll years that included NCAA penalties.

“Yeah, it’s very humbling,” Kiffin said last December prior to the Sugar Bowl. “In this profession it happens all the time. You can be really hot one minute and the next minute be unemployed. It’s just a reminder that you always got to keep trying to improve yourself, you always gotta keep growing and never be satisfied where you are.”

Rumors seem to always surround Kiffin even when there aren’t any coaching openings, and sure enough when the Tennessee Titans fired head coach Ken Whisenhunt on Tuesday, his name was one of those being talking about on social media as a potential replacement.

What those people may have forgotten was that in 2010, Tennessee Football Inc., the company that owns the Titans, sued Kiffin and Southern California for "maliciously" luring away assistant running backs coach Kennedy Pola a week before training camp opened.

It’s going to take a while for things to play out, but no one would be surprised if Saban’s staff was essentially raided, especially if Alabama makes a run at another national title.

The key, of course, is to keep it all from becoming a distraction, which is why in part that Saban only gives reporters access to his coordinators twice a year and the other assistants just once. He wants there to be a clear message and focus during the season. 

When McElwain left, he was hired on Dec. 13, 2011, when Alabama was in the midst of a title run. He essentially did both jobs until the Crimson Tide played LSU in the BCS Championship Game on Jan. 9, but he flew back to Tuscaloosa on Dec. 23 for the start of the Crimson Tide’s practices.

“I never questioned his focus or loyalty in terms of what his job was and what he was doing,” Saban said. “I'm happy for our coaches to be recognized and have opportunities. When the time comes, I'll do everything I can to help them, and I think they all know that. But at the same time, their job and their responsibility right now is to stay focused on our team and what we're doing. I think they all understand that.

“How we finish will probably affect their opportunities a little bit.”

Saban’s been there himself, like when he went from being the defensive coordinator for the Cleveland Browns to taking over the head-coaching job at Michigan State. The Browns were in the midst of a playoff push, and he helped Bill Belichick notch his first postseason win as a head coach, ironically against the New England Patriots.

“I took the job, but I totally focused on what we had to do,” Saban said. “We had the best defense in the NFL. We won a playoff game and lost in the second round.”

But what makes this upcoming offseason different is that the coaching carousel may spin more intently than we’ve ever seen before. There are already 10 jobs that are open, and a lot more coaches may soon be on the move. 

Maybe it’ll work out that none of Saban’s assistants will be hired away this time, but the more the Crimson Tide wins and the more jobs that open up, the less likely that’ll happen.

 

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

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

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College Football Picks for Week 10: B/R Experts' Predictions for the Top 5 Games

Now is the time. 

Now is when it matters. After two months, the college football season has seen its fair share of upsets and "are you kidding me?" moments—which seem to come pretty much weekly at this point—but November is when the contenders separate themselves from the pretenders and championship aspirations start to crystalize from hopeful reverie to actual reality. 

Now is the time. And it starts this week. Here are the top five games of the week and our B/R Experts' picks for each. 

We start in the ACC with a battle of traditional basketball rivals, as Duke travels eight miles down the road to North Carolina. The Blue Devils fell victim to Miami's miracle eight-lateral touchdown (that shouldn't have counted) and will come in with a giant chip on their shoulder.

Meanwhile, since an opening-week loss to South Carolina, all North Carolina has done is rattle off seven straight wins. The Tar Heels are sitting in prime position to win the Coastal Division of the ACC, but a Duke win could put them squarely back in the driver's seat. Who needs hoops, anyway?

Sticking in the ACC, Florida State travels to Clemson in what was seen just three weeks ago as probably the de facto ACC title game. But with FSU's shocking loss to Georgia Tech two weeks ago on the Jackets' own miracle play, this game has lost a little luster. This is the last real test for the unbeaten Tigers. If they can get past the Seminoles, a spot in the College Football Playoff is not only possible, it's very likely. 

Notre Dame, which kept its playoff hopes alive last week with a comeback win at Temple, faces another stiff opponent, as it travels to Pitt. The Panthers had only one loss before falling to North Carolina last week, so they will be eager to get back on the win train. If Notre Dame wins, it will continue to slowly build its playoff resume, as a late-season showdown with Stanford looms large. 

The Big 12 gives us a dynamite matchup of unbeaten teams, as TCU travels to Stillwater to face Oklahoma State. There is a lot at stake in this game, as the loser will be more or less eliminated as a playoff contender. TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin could also either boost his Heisman candidacy or see it take a massive hit. And as TCU and Baylor get all of the headlines, the Cowboys just keep winning. A victory over the highly ranked Horned Frogs will go a long way toward changing the national narrative of this team. 

Finally, it's the one we've all been waiting for as the undefeated LSU Tigers travel to Tuscaloosa to face rival Alabama. This game is always circled on the calendar for both teams each year, and this year is no different, as the winner will still be in great shape for an SEC West title and possible playoff birth.

The defenses always take center stage in this game, and they will this year. But the biggest story is which running back will be able to carry his team to victory. Will Leonard Fournette continue his Heisman march during his unreal season? Or will Bama's Derrick Henry steal the spotlight and stamp his own name into the race for college football's best player?

After going 5-0 in Week 9, both Barrett Sallee and Michael Felder closed the gap on Adam Kramer. Do you agree with their picks this week? Hit us up in the comment section below. 

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Will Grier Files Appeal to NCAA for 1-Year Suspension: Latest Details, Reaction

Florida Gators quarterback Will Grier reportedly filed an appeal for his yearlong suspension Wednesday.

Nick De La Torre of Gator Country reported the news as the redshirt freshman signal-caller tries to get his NCAA football career back on track. Grier received the lengthy ban due to a positive test for a performance-enhancing drug.

His suspension began October 12, and according to Wednesday's report, his legal team will argue he had no knowledge the supplement that triggered the positive test contained a substance banned by the NCAA. His lawyers will also reportedly argue that the supplement itself was NCAA approved.

Prior to his tenure under center in Gainesville coming to an abrupt halt, Grier beat out talented sophomore Treon Harris for the starting job and guided the Gators to six straight wins to start the 2015 campaign, thriving under new head coach Jim McElwain.

The suspension couldn't have come at a worse time, because Florida had to thrust Harris into duty and wound up losing to LSU, 35-28, in Grier's first game out of the lineup.

In an article for Sporting News, the quarterback's father, Chad, spoke about his son's plight and expressed his support:

His story is not mine to tell. But I do know the facts. I do know that his mistake was one of naivete, not of malice. I do know that he had no idea that he had done anything he thought was wrong, let alone the NCAA. If and when he's ready, he'll fill in the blanks. ...

... Will loves his teammates and the University of Florida the way the most loyal SEC fans feel about their school. This crisis in Will's life has brought out the best in him as he has asked me to help him find opportunities to serve others while he waits on adults who don't even know him to decide his immediate future.

De La Torre's sources say McElwain and the university have been supportive of Grier and will continue to be as the appeals process plays out. That McElwain and others are in the young man's corner despite the negative consequences his suspension has had on the team suggests he still has a future to look forward to on the gridiron despite his current circumstances.

Instead of running from the issue, to Grier's credit, he was candid about his mistake and didn't completely deny the situation, addressing the media in an emotional press conference upon his initial suspension.

As it stands right now, the 12-month suspension will not only cause Grier to miss the rest of this year, but also the first six games of the 2016 season.

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College Football 2015 Week 10: Locks of the Week

With Week 10 of the college football season slated to have some truly awesome matchups, it's time to break down the top 10 locks. We're going to give our predictions for some of the games and single out the players who will make a difference. 

Will Derrick Henry make a difference in Alabama's next game? Is Florida State destined to lose against Clemson in Week 10?

Find out in the video above as Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Adam Kramer goes in depth on his locks for Week 10. 


Odds from Vegas Insider and accurate as of November  

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