NCAA Football News

The Nightmare Scenario for College Football Playoff Selection Committee

Relax. It'll all work itself out. 

That was the message relayed by Bleacher Report colleague Adam Kramer Tuesday night following the unveiling of the first College Football Playoff Top 25. Kramer's not wrong, nor is he alone. While ESPN's rankings show can easily spark heated feelings and a sense of controversy—that is, of course, ultimately the point of the show—the general chorus of reaction was levelheaded.

It's Nov. 3

Ohio State was ranked 16th in last year's initial poll. 

This is supposed to be fun

All of these things are true in and of themselves. However, they all operate under the assumption things will, in fact, work out naturally. 

But what if they don't? After all, there have been few truly dominant teams. What if, instead of things getting clearer, they get more convoluted? As Chris Vannini of CoachingSearch.com tweeted, so many schedules across college football are both incomplete and back-loaded. Paul Myerberg of USA Today noted the sheer number of ranked teams that still have to play one another in a finite time span. 

For every optimist, there is a pessimist. Here's assuming nothing in college football "works itself out." Here's betting every team loses at least once—shoot, maybe twice. Here's thinking of a world of conference tie-breakers and Group of 5 playoff crashers. 

Here's college football's nightmare scenario. (For visual representation, allow us to direct you to the late, great Chris Farley attempting to sell brake pads.)

 

The SEC's Postseason Streak is Jeopardized

Since the SEC is almost always at the center of the discussion, it's as good a place to start as any. 

Jon Solomon of CBS Sports called the first playoff standings an "SEC love affair," and it's hard to say that's not the case. "The committee ranked LSU, Alabama, Florida, Ole Miss, Texas A&M and Mississippi State all higher than those teams are slotted in both the Associated Press and USA Today coaches polls," Solomon wrote. 

Specifically, the Alabama Crimson Tide coming in at No. 4 struck a particular nerve. 

 “How [Alabama] won those games that they won against quality opponents, I think that sends a strong message of why we ranked Alabama higher than Florida,” committee chair Jeff Long said. 

The noteworthy detail about Alabama, however, is it does not control its SEC West destiny. Even if the Tide beat LSU on Saturday, they sit behind Ole Miss in the West standings because of a head-to-head loss. If the Rebels win out, they go to Atlanta for the SEC title game, not Alabama (or LSU). 

Ole Miss, though, has two losses (to Florida and Memphis). If Ole Miss wins the SEC as a two-loss team, it potentially puts the SEC's postseason appearance in jeopardy by allowing an undefeated Memphis to vault into the top four. Whether the Rebels are capable of that is another story. 

Yet a two-loss Ole Miss still might not be the worst thing that could happen to the SEC. Let's say Florida wraps up the SEC East on Saturday against Vanderbilt. Since the Commodores have all of three wins, and the Gators facing them at home, it's no surprise OddsShark.com lists Florida as a three-touchdown favorite. 

But then, Florida then loses a stunner at South Carolina and drops its rivalry game against Florida State. The Gators would still be Atlanta-bound, but as a three-loss team. What if Florida then beats Ole Miss for the second time this year to become SEC champs?

Does the selection committee do the expected thing and leave the SEC out of the playoff field? Or, does it dare insert a one-loss, non-divisional winner like Alabama or LSU into the field? It could be 2011 all over again. 

 

On That Note: Let's Talk About Memphis

College football's postseason format was not expanded to allow greater access for Group of 5 teams. Ironically, though, the field could feature a Group of 5 team sooner rather than later if college football decides to get especially weird. 

Memphis has officially arrived as the playoff Cinderella, coming in at No. 13 in the rankings. The Tigers look the part of a contender and could be the best team outside the power conferences since the days of the Boise State Broncos under head coach Chris Petersen and TCU when the Horned Frogs were in the Mountain West. 

The most intriguing part about Memphis is, aside from its win over Ole Miss, this team hasn't faced its toughest stretch yet. Beginning Saturday, the Tigers embark on a three-game stretch—vs. Navy, at No. 25 Houston and at No. 22 Temple—in which its opponents are a combined 21-2. Both losses (by Navy and Temple) came at the hands of Notre Dame.

If the Tigers go unbeaten, they will legitimately be in the playoff conversation. It would be a long shot, as Ralph Russo of the Associated Press and Matt Hinton, formerly of Grantland, opined, but it would be a shot nonetheless. 

Perhaps no team in college football would benefit from a cannibalized SEC like Memphis. If nothing else, an undefeated Memphis versus two-loss SEC champion Ole Miss versus one-loss Alabama or LSU would make for a fascinating, and possibly difficult, decision for the committee. 

 

The ACC Screws Itself

Clemson is the ACC's best hope for playoff inclusion, and it's not all that close. The Tigers are the No. 1 team according to the selection committee, and there's no way they drop four spots if they win out. 

The Florida State Seminoles are another story. Though FSU has only one loss, it's to a Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets team that might not make a bowl game. Regardless of how that game ended, it's a bad loss. Starting the playoff rankings at No. 16 isn't insurmountable by itself for the Seminoles—eventual national champs Ohio State started there last year—but the loss to the Yellow Jackets might be. 

Florida State's ACC title hopes aren't dead, though. In fact, they're alive and well if the Seminoles beat Clemson on Saturday. Such a scenario would be a massive blow to the ACC's playoff hopes. As Stewart Mandel of Fox Sports tweets, the deciding blow would be if the Seminoles win the ACC but lose to Florida in nonconference play. 

The other situation in which the ACC could screw itself out of a playoff spot is if Clemson runs the table in the regular season but somehow drops the conference championship game. Similar to the SEC, the committee would have to decide if a nonconference champion Clemson is still one of the four best teams in college football. 

Can anyone say 2003 Oklahoma?

 

Tiebreakers, Part I: The Big Ten

The playoff path for Ohio State, and even Michigan State, is clear if they keep on winning. The Buckeyes rank third in the standings with the Spartans coming in at No. 7. The Nov. 21 game between these two is still weighted with significance. 

However, Ohio State also still has to play Michigan on Nov. 28. That's a far bigger challenge than initially thought since Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh has turned things around quicker than anticipated. The possibility exists of a three-way tie atop the Big Ten East standings with Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State finishing 7-1 in conference play. (Michigan State has already beat Michigan.) 

For things to get truly wonky, Ohio State would have to beat Michigan State and then lose to Michigan the following week. Tom Dienhart of the Big Ten Network explains what would happen in such a scenario. 

The long story short? The playoff committee would play a deciding role in who wins the East division: 

The highest ranked team in the first College Football Playoff poll following the completion of Big Ten regular season conference play shall be the representative in the Big Ten Championship Game, unless the two highest ranked tied teams are ranked within one spot of each other in the College Football Playoff poll. In this case, the head-to-head results of the top two ranked tied teams shall determine the representative in the Big Ten Championship Game.

It would come down to this because the tie wouldn’t be broken by the conference’s first four tiebreakers.

Those are right here:

The records of the three tied teams will be compared against each other. (They all would be 1-1 vs. each other)

The records of the three tied teams will be compared within their division. (They all would be 4-1)

The records of the three teams will be compared against the next highest placed teams in their division in order of finish (4, 5, 6, and 7). (They all would be 4-0)

The records of the three teams will be compared against all common conference opponents. (They all would be 4-0)

Oh yeah, that will be fun and not at all entrenched in controversy. Nope, not one bit. 

 

Tiebreakers, Part II: The Big 12

You mean the top of the Big 12 could have a tie? Where have we seen this before?

Last spring, the Big 12 adjusted its tiebreaker procedures to give clarity to what was an unnecessarily confusing title race. In short, if two teams are tied, the head-to-head winner will be named the champion. If this had been in place last year, Baylor would have, officially speaking, been the Big 12's top team. 

But it's really the three-team tiebreaker where things get interesting: 

If three or more teams are tied, steps 1 through 4 will be followed until a determination is made. Once a team has been eliminated from a multi-team comparison, it is dropped from further comparisons. If only two teams remain tied after any step, the winner of the game between the two tied teams shall be the Champion.

The conference records of the three or more teams will be compared against each other.

The conference records of the three or more teams will be compared against the next highest placed team(s) in the conference (4, 5 and 6….).

When comparing against the next highest placed teams, a two-way tie among the next highest placed teams will be broken by head-to-head before the comparison begins.

If more than a two-way tie exists among the next highest placed teams, record against the collective tied teams as a group will be used.

Scoring differential among the tied teams. The team with the lowest difference between points scored and points allowed in games vs. the tied teams are eliminated from consideration.

Draw (In the event steps 1-3 cannot break a multi-team tie the champion will be determined by draw at the Conference office.

It's good to know the Big 12's protocol on tiebreakers, but the reality is if three teams finish with a loss—say, Baylor, Oklahoma State and TCU—the conference is likely being shut out of the playoff for the second year in a row. That would propel the Big 12 to install a deregulated conference championship, which would give its eventual champion one more critical game against a quality opponent. 

The only way a one-loss Big 12 team gets into the playoff is if there are several two-loss conference champions among the Power 5 leagues. 

 

The Pac-12's Uphill Climb

One of the many takeaways from Tuesdays rankings is the Pac-12 is in the worst position of any Power 5 conference. Stanford is the Pac-12's highest-ranked team at No. 11 with Utah one spot behind at No. 12. Only one other Pac-12 team is ranked: No. 23 UCLA. 

The playoff hopes for the Cardinal and Utes are still alive, but there's obviously no precedent set for a team coming from as far back in the rankings as UCLA. 

"Basically, the league has no margin for error," Stewart Mandel of Fox Sports wrote. "Either Stanford or Utah needs to run the table and finish as a 12-1 champion and hope both TCU and Baylor stumble."

Interestingly, the Pac-12's biggest game might not even be played between two conference opponents. The Nov. 28 game between Notre Dame and Stanford has major playoff implications for both teams. As Mandel notes, if the Irish win out and beat the Cardinal, it may not matter if Stanford wins the Pac-12. 

If Notre Dame beats Stanford, the Pac-12 might collectively (and secretly) pull for Utah to win out, provided the Utes still only have one loss. 

 

What Does it Mean?

Here's what the playoff committee could be dealing with if the worst of worst-case scenarios comes to fruition: 

Good luck with that. 

The last time college football's postseason was truly in a state of upheaval was 2007. While 2015 hasn't quite reached those levels of tomfoolery, the potential is there. 

So brace yourselves, playoff committee. The job isn't an easy one, and it's not without criticism, but Year 1 proved to be relatively straightforward. It also helped that No. 4 Ohio State won the whole thing, making that selection look glorious. 

The point being, the committee hasn't faced a situation—or number of simultaneous, non-mutually exclusive situations—in which it was truly tested. Just as many of college football's top teams will be put through the grinder in November, so too could the committee's thought process and decision-making. 

To paraphrase a popular college football saying: The selection committee ain't played nobody yet. 

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Power Ranking Big Ten QBs Heading into Week 10

With the final stretch of the regular season approaching, several Big Ten teams have no shortage of question marks—both positive and negative.

And whether a team has aspirations of making the College Football Playoff or creating momentum at the end of an otherwise disappointing campaign, its hopes are undoubtedly tied to the play of its quarterbacks in what's been a banner year for the position in the conference.

From an unprecedented quarterback battle at Ohio State to potential first-round picks playing at Penn State and Michigan State to surprise performances at Iowa and Northwestern, never has the league seen this much talent playing behind center at the same time in a single season. Even in the bottom half of the league, some teams have found reason for optimism moving forward, thanks in large part to the play of their signal-callers through the first two months of the regular season.

With that in mind, let's take a look at the current power rankings of Big Ten quarterbacks in 2015, based on their performances to this point in the year.

Begin Slideshow

Biggest Surprises from College Football Playoff Committee's Rankings

Although the rankings that matter don't come out for several more weeks, that didn't stop the college football world from devouring the first College Football Playoff Top 25 for the 2015 season, which was released Tuesday night.

The committee wasted no time in causing a firestorm with its initial rankings, prompting shouts of #SECbias and all-around disrespect from several fanbases across the country. 

These rankings had several notable surprises, especially in the coveted top six—the teams that get the special spots on the mock bracket during the ESPN broadcast. While most of these early disputes will work themselves out in the all-important month of November, the Top 25 gave everyone a glimpse at what the committee values most when determining who's in and who's out.

Here are five of the biggest surprises from the initial Top 25, which include a couple of higher-ranking household names and a soaring team that isn't a member of a traditional power conference.

If these surprising Top 25 rankings were just devices to generate more interest in upcoming games and spark heated arguments, consider that mission fully accomplished. Continue the debate over the most surprising calls in the comments below.

Begin Slideshow

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

November builds up to the finish for the Michigan football program, which starts the month against a favorable opponent but ends against one of the nation's best teams.

Although the schedule sets up nicely for at least three wins, the Wolverines must tally four straight victories to stay in the Big Ten East Division hunt. Rutgers, Indiana, Penn State and Ohio State remain on the docket.

These predictions are based on the current health status and recent trends of each team. Things change, so the projected final scores may change as the games approach. The wins and losses are what matter the most.

 

Rutgers (Nov. 7, 3:30 p.m. ET)

In mid-October, the Scarlet Knights took Michigan State down to the wire. They had a chance to launch a last-second prayer to tie the game but instead spiked the ball.

However, Rutgers' key player in that matchup might not be available against Michigan. Wide receiver Leonte Carroo, who caught three touchdowns vs. MSU, is battling an ankle injury that has sidelined him partially (Ohio State) and completely (Wisconsin).

Those two outings showed how lost the Scarlet Knights offense is without Carroo, since the unit managed just 17 points, while the defense surrendered 97.

According to Matt Sugam of the Associated Press, Rutgers coach Kyle Flood said Carroo will play if he's medically cleared. That sounds vague—and probably is—but it's now up to the receiver and his pain threshold.

With or without Carroo, Michigan is the clear favorite. But even if he's available, Carroo will be limited and going up against Jourdan Lewis, one of the country's best cornerbacks.

Prediction: Michigan 27, Rutgers 6

 

Indiana (Nov. 14, TBD)

The Hoosiers opened the season with four straight wins, but then conference play began. Indiana stuck around with Ohio State, pushing the Buckeyes to a last-second effort inside the 10-yard line before ultimately falling short.

Since that strong effort, though, Penn State dismantled the Hoosiers, who allowed three touchdowns to Carroo. Indiana then lost to Rutgers and collapsed late against Michigan State.

While Indiana should be able to stick around with Michigan, Kevin Wilson's team has a significant problem: finishing in the fourth quarter. During Big Ten action, opponents have outscored the Hoosiers 70-10 over the final 15 minutes of contests.

The Wolverines had an issue against rival Michigan State, but that final-play collapse was a fluke of epic fluky proportions. Michigan will stave off Indiana and earn a relatively comfortable victory.

Prediction: Michigan 31, Indiana 13

 

Penn State (Nov. 21, TBD)

Penn State is a prime example of where box-score scouting and the eye test constantly clash.

Christian Hackenberg, who is projected as a first-round-caliber quarterback in the NFL, has thrown for 13 touchdowns and just two interceptions, leading the Nittany Lions to a 6-2 record. He's even avoided a pick during each of the last six games.

When the junior misses throws, they can be ugly. Really ugly. When Hack is on target, the pass is often an absolute dime.

Which version of Hackenberg shows up against the Wolverines will be the biggest factor in the outcome.

Michigan should have few issues overpowering Penn State's mediocre offensive line and subsequently neutralizing running back Saquon Barkley. It'll be up to Hackenberg to guide an offense devoid of standout receivers against the No. 9 pass defense in the Football Bowl Subdivision.

Now, the Wolverines will encounter a run defense that could pose a tough test. Michigan likely won't run away with a victory, but it'll contain Hackenberg enough to win on the road.

Prediction: Michigan 24, Penn State 14

 

Ohio State (Nov. 28, noon ET)

Assuming the season continues as expected, Ohio State will travel to Michigan Stadium boasting an 11-0 record, while the Wolverines will be 9-2.

The biggest question, though, is which quarterback they'll face. J.T. Barrett earned the starting role but might've given it up following an arrest for operating a motor vehicle while impaired. He'll serve a one-game-suspension, so Cardale Jones will be back under center.

If Jones tears apart the Minnesota defense, will Urban Meyer stick with "12 Gauge" and send Barrett to the bench?

At this moment, it seems unlikely Barrett will demand the starting position back. He simply wasn't consistent enough during his stint, though Michigan would have a decent chance to beat Jones because he's limited as a runner.

Should Barrett remain at quarterback after the suspension, though—and Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer hasn't said Barrett has lost the job—his dual-threat ability will push Ohio State past a Wolverines defense that had some problems stopping Utah's and Minnesota's running quarterbacks.

Prediction: Ohio State 30, Michigan 24

 

All recruiting information via 247Sports. Stats from CFBStats.com. Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow Bleacher Report CFB Writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Natrez Patrick, Chauncey Rivers Arrested: Latest Details, Mugshots and Reaction

Georgia freshmen defenders Natrez Patrick and Chauncey Rivers were arrested Wednesday on charges of misdemeanor possession of marijuana. Bulldogs head coach Mark Richt announced they would each be suspended one game as a result of the incident.  

Mark Schlabach of ESPN.com reported Patrick and Rivers were arrested by University of Georgia police early Wednesday morning and booked after 2 a.m. ET. He also provided a statement from Richt about the situation: "They made a very poor decision and I'm extremely disappointed. They will be disciplined in an appropriate manner and hopefully have learned a valuable life lesson that will benefit them moving forward."

Fox 5 Atlanta provided the players' mugshots:

Patrick had been seeing time as part of the team's linebacker rotation with 13 total tackles in seven games. He has an intriguing skill set that could allow him to eventually develop into a key pass-rushing asset for the Bulldogs, barring further off-field issues.

Rivers has been limited to more sporadic special teams duties in his first season. He's registered a single tackle in two appearances.

Both players will now miss the team's SEC clash with Kentucky on Saturday. Given their already limited playing time, they could struggle to get back on the field once their suspensions end, too.

Patrick and Rivers will be eligible to return when Georgia faces off with Auburn on Nov. 14.

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Schools to Watch After 4-Star RB Kareem Walker Decommitted from Ohio State

A murky recruiting situation at Ohio State became clear-cut Tuesday night when coveted New Jersey running back Kareem Walker decommitted from the Buckeyes via Twitter.

"It is after much consideration, thought and meeting multiple times with my family and coaches that I'm rescinding my verbal commitment to Ohio State," Walker wrote. "At this point the relationship has changed. I've wrestled with this for a few months and truly wanted it to work out."

His internal struggle with the decision hasn't exactly been a secret during recent weeks, as Walker used an official visit at Michigan in October and later announced plans to spend time at Alabama, Arizona State and Ole Miss.

Those trips were intended to serve as a barometer for his feelings toward the Buckeyes.

"I'm committed to Ohio State. ... These visits are to confirm I'm making the right choice for my future," Walker explained last month, via Tom VanHaaren of ESPN. 

His travels were supposed to conclude with a fifth and final official visit to Columbus. The situation seemed to point toward him remaining a member of the Buckeyes class last week when he affirmed his initial choice during a CBS Sports broadcast with recruiting analyst Tom Lemming:

Instead, a lengthy verbal pledge is history. Walker, who committed to Ohio State at halftime of its national championship victory over Oregon, is officially back on the open market three months shy of national signing day.

The 6'1", 210-pound prospect is considered the No. 1 overall running back in composite rankings, setting the stage for a frenzied final stretch as he searches for an alternative landing spot. Walker, a 4-star recruit, is best suited for a one-cut rushing scheme in which backs quickly burst upfield rather than extending plays along the perimeter.

The DePaul Catholic High School senior has rushed for 3,551 yards and 45 touchdowns since 2013, according to MaxPreps.

Ohio State moves ahead in the 2016 cycle with former Wisconsin commit Antonio Williams and scintillating in-state H-back Demario McCall as candidates to earn early carries next season. The Buckeyes may still welcome Walker to Columbus during his college career, though odds are in favor of him returning in a maize-and-blue uniform.

Michigan is indeed the prohibitive favorite entering a new chapter in this recruitment process. The Wolverines carry commitments from three fellow New Jersey 4-star prospects—Ron JohnsonBrad Hawkins and Ahmir Mitchell—who each joined him during his visit to Ann Arbor.

"I think Kareem really liked the entire day. The fans knew who he was. The players knew who he was. Everyone was showing him love," Johnson told Bleacher Report. "He's a rare player. I need him with us at Michigan."

Wolverines recruiting coordinator Chris Partridge previously served as head coach at Paramus Catholic High School in the Garden State, where he led his team against Walker and DePaul Catholic last fall. Partridge has helped spearhead the program's push in New Jersey and also has Michigan in prime position to pluck Paramus Catholic defensive lineman Rashan Gary, the top-ranked overall recruit in America.

Like the Buckeyes, Michigan has managed to assemble impressive backfield depth in its 2016 class. The Wolverines carry commitments from Chris EvansKiante Enis and Kingston Davis, but it's clear there remains room for Walker. 

"I had a good trip to Michigan. It's the second time I've been there, but the first time with this staff," he said in a statement afterward, via VanHaaren. "The game atmosphere was tremendous; fans really love the team. I enjoyed speaking with the coaches and meeting everyone."

We must wait to learn if trips to Alabama, Arizona State and Ole Miss remain on Walker's radar in the wake of his decommitment. Those travel dates haven't been publicly confirmed to this point, and this development may ultimately alter previous plans. 

According to a late October report from Josh Newberg of 247Sports, Walker has also communicated with Florida State "peridocally" this season. He hasn't been to Tallahassee since June 2014, so the Seminoles likely still have strides to make in order to become a serious contender.

Following his journey to Ann Arbor, Walker still has four official visits at his disposal. It isn't clear whether he will still consider utilizing one at Ohio State or if his relationship with the Buckeyes is essentially severed.

Michigan now commands 73 percent of experts' predictions in his 247Sports Crystal Ball, including the past 16 projections. 

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Clemson Coach Dabo Swinney Promises Pizza Party If Tigers Make 2015-16 Playoffs

The Clemson Tigers may be No. 1 in the current College Football Playoff rankings, but Clemson coach Dabo Swinney isn't celebrating yet.

However, if the Tigers are in the top four when the final ranking of the season comes out (before the playoffs), the coach will throw a party—and he will make sure everyone has a good time.

How? Free pizza.

Swinney downplayed the importance of earning the top spot in the first College Football Playoff poll of the season, noting that there's still a month to go. That being said, he did promise to throw a giant pizza party for Death Valley should his Tigers be selected for the 2015-16 College Football Playoff.

"The only poll that we’re excited about is Dec. 6, and I promise you we’ll have the biggest poll party you’ve seen," Swinney said, per Ed McGranahan of the State. "We’ll open up Death Valley and serve pizza to everybody. That’ll be a time to celebrate a poll. Until then it doesn’t matter.”

Even if you don't like football but you live near Clemson University, you now have a vested interest. There aren't many things in life better than pizza, let alone free pizza.

Swinney knows that his team can't afford to get caught up in the rankings. Clemson hosts No. 17 Florida State this weekend in a showdown that could decide the ACC Atlantic Division and will certainly have playoff implications.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

High School Safety Blasts Wide Receiver to Free Ball Up for Interception

Watch Dawson Siemonsma out of Plattsmouth High School perfectly time his hit on the opposing wide receiver to jar the ball loose for an interception in the clip above.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Bowl Predictions 2015: CFP Projections Following Initial Poll Release

Commence the outrage.

The selection committee released the initial College Football Playoff poll Tuesday, and there were a number of surprises. The undefeated, defending national champion Ohio State Buckeyes found themselves at No. 3. Alabama is No. 4 despite a loss and zero wins over a Top 15 team, while undefeated Michigan State, Baylor and TCU are all on the outside looking in if the playoffs started today.

Here is a look at the complete rankings:

Remember, this is just the first poll, and the rankings are incredibly fluid, as the committee proved last year when the Buckeyes worked their way up to the title after starting No. 16 in the first College Football Playoff poll.

There are a number of marquee games that will impact the playoff picture far more than this first batch of rankings.

Ohio State and Michigan State still play each other, and the winner will likely play Iowa in the Big Ten Championship Game. The SEC still features a number of marquee showdowns, including Saturday’s clash between LSU and Alabama and the conference title game between Florida and the eventual West champion. Plus, the Big 12 let everyone know how back-loaded its schedule is this year:

With so much still to be decided, here is a look at an early playoff prediction following this first poll.

 

No. 1 Ohio State Buckeyes

Ohio State boasts arguably more talent than anyone else in the nation. In fact, Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller had five Buckeyes in the first round of his mock draft, and the argument can be made for as many as seven or eight in those initial 32 picks.

That talent will shine through as the season progresses.

Some would argue the defending national champions should be No. 1 until another team knocks them off, but Ohio State is No. 3 in the initial rankings. That is largely a product of the schedule, but it will have opportunities against Michigan State and Michigan late in the season and then Iowa in the conference title game if it takes care of business. 

The Buckeyes will win those marquee games in the final three weeks and make a profound late statement to the committee. Bill Rabinowitz of the Columbus Dispatch declared the defending champions have nothing to worry about if they keep winning:

The title will once again run through the Scarlet and Gray.

 

No. 2 Clemson Tigers

If Clemson knocks off Florida State Saturday, Tigers fans should book their tickets to the College Football Playoff.

Dabo Swinney’s team already beat Notre Dame and a talented Appalachian State squad and survived tricky contests at North Carolina State and at Louisville. The heavy lifting is mostly done if the Tigers get by Florida State, and that game is at home. What’s more, Dalvin Cook and Everett Golson did not play in the Seminoles’ last game with injury concerns and could be limited in Saturday’s contest. 

The Tigers will watch Ohio State leapfrog them because of the late quality wins on the Buckeyes’ schedule, but they are still safely in the playoffs.

 

No. 3 Alabama Crimson Tide

Let this sink in, everyone—the SEC champion is getting into the playoffs. Just accept it and enjoy the football. The selection committee made it clear it views the league as the best conference in the country with two teams in the Top Four and six in the Top 25 of Tuesday’s poll.

Just like last year, that champion will be the Crimson Tide. They already have a solid nonconference win over Wisconsin and victories at Georgia and at Texas A&M on the resume. In terms of what’s ahead, the LSU clash is at home Saturday, and Auburn looks nowhere near the top-notch team many expected before the season started.

The Crimson Tide will win out behind the powerful running of Derrick Henry and a stingy defense and represent the SEC in the College Football Playoff once again.

 

No. 4 Baylor Bears

Baylor was left on the outside looking in last season, but that won’t be the case in 2015. The Bears don’t have any quality wins of note yet, but they still have showdowns with Oklahoma, undefeated Oklahoma State and undefeated TCU on the remaining schedule.

Don’t mistake the lack of quality wins for the lack of talent when it comes to Baylor. The Bears are averaging a ridiculous 61.1 points per game this season, which is 12.2 points more than the next-closest team.

Even though quarterback Seth Russell is injured, wide receiver Corey Coleman and running back Shock Linwood are among the best players in the nation and will keep the offense rolling in the signal-caller’s absence.

Coach Art Briles was not afraid to discuss the overflowing amount of talent on the roster, per Chris Low of ESPN.com:

I've told the players that my only anxiousness comes from making sure we fulfill what we're capable of. You don't get many chances to bowl a 300 game. I don't want to bowl a 294 and almost be there. I want to be there. That's my anxiety because we're good.

It's the best team we've had in my eight years here, and I don't think it's even close.

This is the best team in the Big 12, and it will roll through the back-loaded schedule. That’s enough for a playoff berth this season.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Why Alabama Shouldn't Be Ranked No. 4 in the College Football Playoff

Prior to the season, I picked Alabama to win the College Football Playoff Championship Game.

I still think Alabama will win the College Football Playoff Championship Game.

I think Alabama will run the table, get help with a loss by Ole Miss and win the SEC Championship Game.

Despite all of that, there's no reason why the Crimson Tide should be ranked fourth in the first edition of the 2015 College Football Playoff rankings.

Head coach Nick Saban's crew chimed in at the No. 4 spot on Tuesday night, behind only No. 1 Clemson, No. 2 LSU and No. 3 Ohio State, to the surprise of many.

Are you kidding me?

There's no reason for Alabama to be ranked higher than undefeated "Power Five" teams like Baylor, TCU or Michigan State.

Losses matter, especially home losses. 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 how Florida is ranked six spots behind Alabama, based on a comparison of the resumes of the two SEC powers.

Florida's only loss came on the road to No. 2 LSU by seven points in a game in which Florida fought tooth and nail with backup quarterback Treon Harris, who was thrust into action the week of the game due to the suspension of starter Will Grier. Its loss was at night, at home, to those Rebels—a team that Florida beat at night, at home, 38-10, in a game that really wasn't as close as the score indicated.

Alabama's best win? Spare me the talk of "top-10 Georgia and Texas A&M on the road." 

Yes, those teams were ranked in the top 10 of other polls at the time they played, but the Aggies are 19th in the first edition of the CFP poll, and Georgia is an abject disaster.

"If you go look at Alabama and how they won those games that they've won against quality opponents, and I think that sends a strong message of why we ranked Alabama higher than Florida," CFP selection committee chairman Jeff Long said in his teleconference Tuesday night.

Give me a break.

Should LSU get credit for beating a "top-25 Auburn team" when it throttled the Tigers—who sit at 4-4 right now—during Week 3? 

Of course not.

Let's talk about what's really at play here: The CFP selection committee releases rankings in the middle of the season to program the sport for entertainment purposes.

It'll never outright admit that, but the human element is alive and well in that board room in Grapevine, Texas, and the members know that No. 2 LSU visits No. 4 Alabama this weekend, and one will fall out next week. Just as they knew No. 3 Auburn and No. 4 Ole Miss played the week after the first rankings last year. 

They know that the Big 12—which has Baylor at No. 6, TCU at No. 8, Oklahoma State at No. 14 and Oklahoma No. 15—essentially has a round-robin tournament among top contenders in the month of November.

"[Oklahoma State] still needs to play some stronger teams at the end of their schedule, and that's coming up for them, as well, so they'll get a chance," Long said. "Their overall strength of schedule thus far is not very high, so I think that's resulted in Oklahoma State being ranked behind Baylor and TCU."

Panic set in when Alabama was listed in the No. 4 slot, and even more when you looked one spot below to find fellow one-loss traditional power Notre Dame.

If the selection committee wants people to take it seriously, it has to place important things—you know, like wins and losses—ahead of the eye test and subjective metrics like "talent" and "eye test."

Alabama's presence in the top four indicates that it doesn't, which means that these weekly rankings should be taken with a grain of salt.

Or for what they really are: a programming device.

 

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

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Bleacher Report's College Football Ultimate Guide to Week 10

Congratulations! You have officially made it to the most exciting, intense and unpredictable month of the college football season. Take a bow. You did it.

Now, say farewell to your social life. Say goodbye to productivity. Don’t quit your job just yet, but at least build a confined sleep fort under your desk for naps. Naps are going to be important these next four weeks.

The month of November is where an already spectacular college football season reaches its apex. A combination of splendid scheduling along with a solid plateful of high-stakes intensity, each and every Saturday from this point on is destined to take a bat to your mailbox and continue driving. That’s a good thing; you need a new mailbox anyway.

The Big 12’s lineup of undefeated teams will all clash, starting this Saturday. Ohio State and Michigan State are still to meet. Yes, the Harbaugh-infused Wolverines will also get a crack at the Buckeyes. And the SEC and Pac-12 will do their darnedest to keep playoff resumes intact.

As for those energy-infused Group of Five headliners? Well, Memphis and Houston are less than two weeks away from touching gloves. But they have to get by this week first.

By the time December hits, few will be left standing. Chaos is imminent. Nap now so you can consume it all later.

And it all starts in Week 10, where we are guaranteed to see an undefeated team fall. Oh, and Alabama-LSU returns with purpose.

 

The Buffet: Previewing the Top 5 Games of Week 10

5. Notre Dame at Pittsburgh (Saturday, 12 p.m. ET, ABC)

It won’t gobble up headlines like some of the other games on the Week 10 docket, but Notre Dame-Pittsburgh is deeply important. Sure, it might not be Big 12-ian in nature in terms of points scored, but entertainment value could be high.

The Irish seem to operate with suspense. It’s who they are, at least at this point in the season. And thus far, this mantra has worked out well.

Temple gave Notre Dame its best shot, although there are some zombie tendencies about Brian Kelly’s team that are admirable. Even though quarterback DeShone Kizer had his forgettable throws, he also seems to have it. Given the situation he's been thrown into, he’s been exceptional.

Pittsburgh saw its four-game winning streak snapped against North Carolina in Week 9. The Panthers fell 26-19 despite having ample opportunities to change the outcome. Quarterback Nathan Peterman played decent in the loss, although the offense simply could not generate enough big plays.

This will have to change against Notre Dame. While the Pittsburgh defense is capable of slowing down a potent offense for the second consecutive week, the offense will have to do its part.

It won’t be a masterpiece, but it will be fun. (Probably.)

 

4. Duke at North Carolina (Saturday, 12 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

Let’s address the elephant in the room out of the gate. Duke lost a game last week on a play that wouldn’t pass at lunch recess. They lost on a play that ultimately got the ACC officials suspended less than 24 hours later.

They lost on, well, this:

“The decision that was made in replay was made after all the play was done on the field,” Duke head coach David Cutcliffe said, speaking about this situation far more professionally than I would have. “So we’re still in the same mode. Nothing has changed other than they realized they got the replay wrong.”

This is going to linger; there’s no question. And yet, Duke has a significant game to play in a few days. This can’t linger any longer.

Duke quarterback Thomas Sirk has been excellent. He leads the team in passing—well, yeah—and also rushing. It will be on him to test a North Carolina defense that is, dare we say...good?

Under new DC Gene Chizik, the Tar Heels are suddenly functional. Chizik is currently coaching the nation’s No. 17 scoring defense. For reference, North Carolina was No. 119 in this category last season. Offensively they might not be as supercharged as we've seen in recent years, but senior Marquise Williams can be electric.

UNC, without much fanfare, has morphed into a contender. Duke is in a position to rebound from devastation. This is an enormous one in the ACC Costal. All broken hearts must be repaired.

 

3. Florida State at Clemson (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC)

It’s the most important game the ACC will feature all year, which should sound somewhat familiar. While Clemson-Florida State might not have the same buzz as Alabama-LSU, it’s not far behind. When these two teams meet, you should watch.

Clemson’s magnificent rebuild on defense suddenly looks more vulnerable than it did a week ago. There’s no shame in beating NC State 56-41 on the road in a classic look-ahead matchup. But given the defensive dominance early on, all those points allowed were a bit of a surprise.

Still, the offense is deadly and much more than quarterback Deshaun Watson. Running back Wayne Gallman has become a star in the ACC. While other running backs may be mentioned more, such as the primary back on the other sideline in this game, Gallman’s presence his been critical.

On the topic of running backs, Florida State’s Dalvin Cook might be the most explosive player in the nation. The Seminoles cruised right past Syracuse last weekend, doing so without quarterback Everett Golson or Cook. Jimbo Fisher rested his two ailing players for this very game and this very moment.

Cook won’t be 100 percent for the rest of the season, but even 80 percent of his kind of talent can be diabolical. In seven games, he’s averaging more than eight yards per carry and 12 yards per reception.

The health of the Seminoles’ best players will be a storyline to follow before the game and certainly during it. FSU is also banged up in other areas, including the offensive line. That's not optimal.

Last year's contest turned out to be a good one. We'll see if this follows along.

 

2. TCU at Oklahoma State (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, Fox)

It’s no surprise that TCU is undefeated entering Week 10 despite the handful of close calls it has had to maneuver past. It’s mildly surprising that Oklahoma State is undefeated at this point of the season, although this is no fluke. This team can play. 

The Big 12’s November spectacular starts in Stillwater, Oklahoma. Although their game against Texas Tech did not go well early, the Pokes rallied in the second half and posted a 70-spot in the win. Not bad. (Well, it’s really bad if you’re Texas Tech.) 

Although the individual offensive performances for Oklahoma State don’t jump off the page the way they do with TCU, this is a deep group. And on the defensive side, Emmanuel Ogbah is an absolute monster. He jumps off every page. More people need to be talking about him.

That is not an issue with Trevone Boykin. We talk about him plenty, and for good reason. Last week, Boykin threw for 388 yards, ran for 84 yards and scored four touchdowns. He also made a move so filthy that he received a high five from West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen.

Sometimes the only thing you can do is offer a surrender high five:

Home field will be significant. The offense from both teams will likely be absurd. This game might take six hours, and I plan to consume every morsel. Stock up the fridge for occasions like these.

 

1. LSU at Alabama (Saturday, 8 p.m. ET, CBS)

It has grown into one of sport’s greatest yearly fixtures—doing so not with geographical bragging rights or trophies, but through meaningful moments and hitting that makes your bones weep. That seems like a lovely table-setter for a game that means a great deal to both programs and will likely feature collisions that make your television sway. 

So here we are. Both Alabama and LSU are coming off byes. Both operate with a very familiar, predictable and still taxing identity: run the football down the opponent’s throat and squeeze the hope out of the other sideline.

LSU has been able to operate with this blueprint thanks in large part to running back Leonard Fournette. Just look at his season. Even the numbers don’t put the talent into context. He does not stop, although that will be tested in Week 10.

While Alabama may not have Fournette, it does have its own tap-out battering ram. Derrick Henry might not have the numbers of his counterpart, although he can be equally as impactful. He’s also run for 379 yards in the last two games.

This is the part of an Alabama-LSU preview where the author tells you that the quarterbacks will decide the outcome. And sure, maybe Jake Coker and Brandon Harris will ultimately dictate the results. Or maybe one (or both) of the running backs will just run wild on the opposing defense and win the good ol' fashion way—a method so predictable that no one saw it coming.

It's No. 2 in the current College Football Playoff standings versus No. 4. But it's much, much more than that.

 

The Game You Should Carve Out Time to Watch (Part One): Navy at Memphis (Saturday, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

The depth of Week 10 exists in the undercard. That’s one to tell you—no, implore you—to watch Memphis play Navy. Sure, Alabama and LSU will be footballing at this time, but do carve out some time. Either that, or fire up the DVR. 

Memphis did not look like a Top 25 team early on against Tulane last week, although the Tigers got it together just fine. An early effort like that against Navy, however, will not fly. The Midshipmen are 6-1, and quarterback Keenan Reynolds just tied an NCAA mark when he rushed for touchdown No. 77 in his career. 

Navy can push Memphis’ Cinderella run to the brink or beyond. Memphis best be careful.

 

The Game You Should Carve Out Time to Watch (Part Two): Cincinnati at Houston (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

Again, don’t just focus in on one or two games. Not with the things Tom Herman has brewing at Houston. 

After shutting out Vanderbilt 34-0, the Cougars enter a critical two-game stretch with loads of momentum. However, for those who weren’t watching Cincinnati take on UCF last weekend—and quite honestly, I can’t blame you for that—here’s what you missed from quarterback Gunner Kiel: 

Gunner Kiel is gonna spend his film session today catching up on Netflix shows. pic.twitter.com/4DBdRTocUs

— Adam Kramer (@KegsnEggs) November 1, 2015

So, yeah. Watch this one. Oh, I should also point out that Houston and Memphis meet in Week 11. That could be enormous.

 

The Game That Could Break The Scoreboard: Texas Tech at West Virginia (Saturday, 12 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1)

There are a handful of games that could push upward of 100 points, although I’ll take the matchup featuring the defense that has given up 133 points in its past two games and another defense that allowed 100 points the last two weeks.

If defense is your cocktail of choice, don't bother with Texas Tech-West Virginia. It will haunt you.

Both offenses can score. Both defenses can, well, allow scoring. The scoreboard might light on fire before the couches do in Morgantown.

 

Power Ranking November’s Top 10 Games

We can’t talk about this amazing month of football without backing it up with cold, hard evidence. Week 10 is exceptional as is, although the next four weeks are a fine, deep catalog of guaranteed weirdness.

I’d like to apologize in advance for any omissions. I could have made this list a Top 25, Top 50 or Top 100. Blame the editors for these word counts.

10. Florida State at Clemson (Saturday)

9. TCU at Oklahoma (November 21) 

8. Memphis at Houston (November 14) 

7. LSU at Ole Miss (November 21)

6. Oklahoma at Baylor (November 14)

5. Ohio State at Michigan (November 28) 

4. Notre Dame at Stanford (November 28) 

3. LSU at Alabama (Saturday) 

2. Michigan State at Ohio State (November 21)

1. Baylor at TCU (November 27)

 

Parting Shot: The Silly Season Has Started Early, and the End Result Will be Madness

We are still three weeks away from Thanksgiving—the landmark on the calendar that typically serves as the spark plug for the hiring and firing season. But in 2015, we didn't have to wait to carve the turkey. There are already 10 FBS programs looking for new head coaches. 

The latest additions to this list are Virginia Tech and Hawaii. Frank Beamer, after a wonderful career, has decided to retire after this season. Norm Chow, who could never really kick into that next gear at Hawaii, was relieved of his duties. Of course, Minnesota head coach Jerry Kill resigned last week due to concerns over his health.

By itself, it would be substantial. I mean, 10 openings, even in this climate, is a ton. These jobs alone will create a ripple effect that will have an enormous national impact, especially with high-profile programs such as USC, Miami and Virginia Tech all looking for new guidance. 

But that’s not even the most staggering the part. The true lunacy is that we are nowhere close to being done. Firing season really hasn’t started, and the Silly Season has yet to truly open its doors for business.

It’s hard to handicap just what jobs will open, although this is not the end. Will Georgia make a change at the top with Mark Richt? Could West Virginia make a change with Dana Holgorsen? What about Kevin Wilson at Indiana and Darrell Hazell at Purdue? Or Paul Rhoads at Iowa State? Or Mike London at Virginia?

Will the NFL lure a college coach or two away? What surprises are in store?

There are no guarantees in this business. But I guarantee that there is much more to come. By December, there could be upward of 20 teams looking for a new leader.

The end result will be message-board madness. The servers will weep. Coaching rumors will consume the holiday season, and “sources” will be a fixture at the end of the year. And yes, agents and current head coaches searching for leverage are going to make an absolute fortune from all of this. It's inevitable.

It’s going to be wild, frustrating and, of course, entertaining. Don’t worry about it now. There is far too much quality football to focus on.

But don’t forget about it, either. It will be here soon.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Kentucky Wildcats vs. Georgia Bulldogs Complete Game Preview

If there is one word to describe the Kentucky-Georgia game on Saturday, it would have to be redemption.

The Wildcats are coming off a rough 52-21 home loss to Tennessee. They are now 4-4 with a 2-4 conference record. The Bulldogs had just as bad of a loss, as they were blown out by Florida 27-3. They are now 5-3 with a 3-3 record in SEC play.

This game is not the most attractive game on the SEC slate, but this has a chance to be the most compelling simply because both teams will want to bounce back after tough losses.

However, with this game having a noon start time, let’s hope there are not a lot of empty seats at Sanford Stadium.

 

Date: Nov. 7, 2015

Time: Noon ET

Place: Sanford Stadium; Athens, Georgia 

TV: SEC Network

Radio: UK Sports Network, Georgia Bulldogs Sports Network, Sirius/XM 145/191

Odds: Georgia is favored by 14 points, according to Odds Shark.

 

When Kentucky Has the Football

Kentucky’s offense has not been a threat this season, as the Wildcats rank ninth in the SEC in total offense and 11th in the SEC in scoring offense.

The reason for the offensive struggles is the inconsistent play of Patrick Towles, who has thrown nine touchdown passes and 10 interceptions this season. In the 52-21 loss to Tennessee last week, Towles was 16-of-33 for 184 yards with one touchdown and one interception. He finished with a rating of 28.9.

The one bright spot on offense is Stanley “Boom” Williams, who is ninth in the SEC with 563 rushing yards and three touchdowns. However, he did leave the Tennessee game early because of an elbow injury, so we’ll see if he’ll be ready to go.

Garrett Johnson is a legitimate deep threat for the Wildcats. He had two catches for 50 yards and one score on Saturday.

The Wildcats are going up against a Bulldogs defense that is struggling as of late, especially in the run game. The Bulldogs are ninth in the conference in rushing defense, allowing 138 yards per game. And for the second consecutive year, Florida was able to run over the Bulldogs defense, as it rushed for 258 yards in the win.

If there is one good thing about the group, it is second in the SEC in pass defense. Thanks in large part to an experienced group led by Quincy Mauger and Dominick Sanders, the Bulldogs have allowed only 183 passing yards per game and are only allowing opposing quarterbacks to complete 53 percent of their passes.

 

When Georgia Has the Football

Last year, Georgia finished first in the SEC in scoring, averaging 41.3 points per game. This year, the Bulldogs are ninth with an average of 29.4 points per game.

The problem is the inconsistency at quarterback, and the injury to Nick Chubb has been an issue as well. Last week, Faton Bauta got his first career start at quarterback—he threw four interceptions. Greyson Lambert has been the starter all season long, but after struggling in the previous three games, the coaching staff decided to make a change for the Florida game.

Brian Schottenheimer Didn't Use Faton Bauta Effectively - https://t.co/XKlifSmGHxpic.twitter.com/h6B3JAcJ57

— SicEmDawgs.com (@SicEmDawgscom) November 2, 2015

And according to the depth chart for this week’s game, either Lambert or Bauta will get the start against the Wildcats.

The good news for Georgia is it is going up against a Kentucky team that is 13th in the SEC in scoring defense (29.1) points per game. In the last three games, the Wildcats have given up 30 points or more, which has resulted in three losses.

The Wildcats are also 11th in the conference in rushing and passing defense, which is why they are giving up a lot of points.

Linebacker Josh Forrest is the leader of the defense, as he has tallied 66 tackles and 3.5 sacks through eight games.

 

Player to Watch for Kentucky: Mikel Horton

If there was one good thing to take away from the loss to Tennessee on Saturday, it would have to be the breakout performance of running back Mikel Horton.

Williams’ injury meant that Horton had to carry the load, and he ended the night rushing for 109 yards on 14 carries. Before the Tennessee game, Horton rushed for 105 yards on 38 carries in the Wildcats’ first seven games.

#mikelhorton puts the #kentuckywildcats on the board #bbn its 7-7 https://t.co/g55KrTQVI3

— Art Vandelay (@PJordan_32714) September 12, 2015

“This opportunity I got today, I took advantage of it, and it’s more to come,” Horton said to Kyle Tucker of the Courier-Journal. “I’m going to work hard to make Kentucky a perfect program.”

Horton rushed for 7.8 yards per carry against a Tennessee team that allowed Oklahoma, Alabama and Florida to rush only 3.3 yards per carry.

As a freshman, Horton rushed for 306 yards on 59 carries and scored twice. So he gave fans a glimpse of what he was capable of last year.

And with Williams’ status for Saturday uncertain, Horton will likely have a chance to make a statement at Sanford Stadium.

 

Player to Watch for Georgia: Davin Bellamy

It was not a good effort from the Georgia defense on Saturday against Florida, as the unit allowed 413 yards of total offense.

However, linebacker Davin Bellamy showed that he’s progressing as a player with seven tackles, two tackles for loss and one sack.

“He plays hard, but he’s got to learn what to do and why it’s important to do it that way,” Georgia defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt said to David Paschall of the Albany Herald. “When he does that, he’ll have a chance to be a really good football player. He’s just a redshirt sophomore, so he’s got a lot of football ahead of him.”

UGA football notebook: offensive struggles, defense, and Davin Bellamy - Red and Black https://t.co/nqrc8mRuklpic.twitter.com/RfJkAF9XkV

— Overnewser - NFL (@nflovernewz) November 1, 2015

So far this season, Bellamy has notched 27 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, two sacks and two forced fumbles. He has been seeing more playing time because of Jordan Jenkins' injured hip and Leonard Floyd playing a variety of positions. Bellamy will look to improve on those numbers Saturday against a struggling Kentucky offense.

 

Final Prediction: Georgia 28, Kentucky 14

Despite not knowing who will start at quarterback, Georgia has too much talent to go a third consecutive game where it doesn't score a touchdown. The Bulldogs need to establish the run with Sony Michel and Keith Marshall, and either Lambert or Bauta can work off of it with play action.

The Wildcats' only chance is to get Horton going. If that happens, then they can put Towles in short-yardage situations, and he would then be able to make easier plays in the passing game.

However, with the Bulldogs being at home and the speculation about head coach Mark Richt’s future with the program, the Bulldogs should come out on Saturday and put together a strong performance. The win may need nothing when it comes to the postseason, but it will be a start for the Bulldogs to finish the season strong.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Playoff Matchups We're Dying to See

When the first official College Football Playoff Top 25 of 2015 was released Tuesday night, it generated huge interest across the college gridiron world. That’s no surprise, of course. While the rankings can and will change from week to week, this was the first chance for teams and fans to see where they stand in the eyes of the committee that will determine the second College Football Playoff field.

While Clemson, LSU, Ohio State and Alabama made up the initial Top Four, there’s plenty of room for change, discussion and controversy. It got us thinking: Which matchups would we like to see in this season’s College Football Playoff?

Here’s a look at some of the most intriguing potential games that could unfold this postseason. Games were chosen for their potential storylines as well as overall entertainment value. Here we go:

Begin Slideshow

College Football Rankings 2015: Top Teams, Playoff Predictions from First Polls

Just in case the 2015 college football season wasn't exciting enough, things were ramped up a bit more on Tuesday night after the first College Football Playoff rankings of the year were released. 

While the AP Polls mostly take results into consideration, the playoff committee includes the teams' strength of schedules and where they rank among each other. 

For those reasons, only three of the four teams of the new rankings are undefeated. Let's take a look at the CFP's Top-25 rankings and my very early predictions of which four teams will be vying for the national championship:

 

College Football Playoff Prediction

1. Clemson

2. Alabama

3. Ohio State

4. Notre Dame

Obviously, the four teams that currently reside in the top four spots would like to stay there, but things are all but guaranteed to change as soon as next week. 

No. 2 LSU travels to Tuscaloosa for a Nov. 7 tilt against No. 4 Alabama, the lone beaten side in the Top Four. It will be a desperate Alabama side, who would see its national title hopes all but vanish if they lose to LSU. There are too many unbeaten sides, even if they have easier schedules, that will take their place. 

For a big All-SEC matchup, some think the rankings were a bit too favorable for LSU and Alabama, like ESPN's Danny Kanell:

As well as USA Today's Dan Wolken:

Both teams have faced and beaten plenty of ranked opponents already this season, which means Saturday is sure to be another exciting affair between the two. Because it's such an evenly matched game, I'm going to use home-field advantage as tiebreaker and say that Alabama gets the win. 

I think that would drop LSU out of the playoff and would allow the likes of either No. 5 Notre Dame or No. 6 Baylor into the Top Four. Without their starting quarterback, Seth Russell, who is out for the season with a neck injury, I can't see Baylor running the table, especially with the likes of Oklahoma State and TCU waiting for them.

Elsewhere in the Top Four, if No. 1 Clemson is able to hurdle Florida State on Saturday, they should have a fairly clear path to the playoff. But head coach Dabo Swinney knows there's a lot more to go, as he told ESPN College Football:

For No. 3 Ohio State, the last two games of the season will be their last roadblocks to a second consecutive playoff. They first host Michigan State on Nov. 21 and if they are able to get past the currently 8-0 Spartans, the Buckeyes have their archrival Michigan Wolverines waiting for them at the Big House. 

Those are two pressure-packed games and a perfect precursor to the playoffs. Win both of those games, and I would have them as a favorite to get back to the national championship. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Ranking the Best SEC Matchups of Week 10

The gargantuan game this week in the SEC will take place in Tuscaloosa between Alabama and LSU, featuring two of the top four teams in the initial College Football Playoff rankings.

Everything else is just garnish.

But that doesn't mean it's a slate of slaw. Everything may take a back seat to the Crimson Tide and Tigers, but there are some other important games. All seven tilts in the conference take place between league participants. Nobody is out of conference.

It all starts on Thursday night when newly ranked Mississippi State heads to Columbia, Missouri, where the Tigers are searching for any offense whatsoever. East battles between South Carolina-Tennessee, Kentucky-Georgia and Vanderbilt-Florida all happen on Saturday.

The biggest battles, however, are in the West, where the big one will be flanked by Arkansas-Ole Miss and Auburn-Texas A&M.

So, let's take a look at what you'll need to know as you settle in on Saturday with your pizza, adult beverage and remote control. There's plenty to see in the SEC.

Begin Slideshow

College Football Week 10 Schedule: TV and Live Stream Info for Every Game

Clemson sits atop the first College Football Playoff rankings for the 2015 season. The Tigers are followed by LSU, Ohio State and Alabama amid a highly competitive campaign with no shortage of teams still in contention for a playoff berth heading into Week 10.

That's why, regardless if a team is currently in one of those coveted top-four positions or trying to force their way in, there's little margin for error. It's going to make for a memorable, drama-filled finish to the regular season.

With that in mind, let's check out all of the action across the landscape in Week 10, including the viewing information for each contest. That's followed by a preview of the top game on tap.

 

Week 10 Schedule

 

Top Game: No. 2 LSU at No. 4 Alabama

Just in case this game needed an extra helping of hype, the College Football Playoff committee placed both teams inside the top four. Now the question is which side will emerge with the victory and solidify that preferred placement.

This game is as close as it gets on the surface. Whether it's average point differential (LSU +16.3, Alabama +17.1) or average yardage differential (LSU +150.1, Alabama +146.1), the raw numbers suggest another classic showdown between the perennial SEC powers.

Nick Saban talked about the competitive nature of the rivalry, which has had a major impact on the college football season numerous times in recent years, per Jerit Roser of the Times-Picayune.

"We've had some great games with LSU through the years," Saban said. "This has turned out to be a great rivalry, and I think it's a great rivalry because of the quality of the programs. I think six or seven times since we've been here, both teams are ranked in the top 10."

Most of the focus leading to the game will likely be on the offenses. That's no surprise given the presence of the Tigers' Leonard Fournette and the Crimson Tide's Derrick Henry, two of the nation's most dynamic running backs.

That said, in more traditional SEC style, it's the defenses that will probably decide this game. It's unlikely fans will witness another 9-6 brawl given the strength of the offenses, but whichever defensive unit can force their opponent into more 3rd-and-long situations is going to hold the edge.

For LSU, the secondary play has allowed opponents to hang around too frequently despite its undefeated record. Defensive back Dwayne Thomas stated that must change this month if the Tigers are going to keep pushing toward the playoff, as noted by David Ching of ESPN.

"We have given up a lot of just giveaway touchdowns," Thomas said. "We're correcting that because we know this November stretch is about to be huge for us and we can't afford to give opponents points like that, easy points."

Ultimately, while this game obviously carries a lot of weight both in the SEC West and the playoff chase, both sides share one advantage. Peter Burns of the SEC Network highlighted that:

These are the type of victories that are going to make the difference in the end. Given the high number of unbeaten and one-loss teams with a legitimate playoff case, at least at this stage, marquee victories over fellow contenders are massive.

Alabama and LSU are both strong enough teams to reach the final four, but one of them is going to take a serious hit Saturday. Those are the type of pressure-packed situations that allow college football to shine—something Tide and Tiger fans understand well.

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Tennessee Football: Six Breakout Players to Watch for Remainder of 2015 Season

Several Tennessee football players are becoming usual suspects on the stat sheet for coach Butch Jones and a Volunteers team that is finally beginning to play like it's capable.

Quarterback Joshua Dobbs, running backs Jalen Hurd and Alvin Kamara, linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin, defensive end Derek Barnett, cornerback Cameron Sutton and safety Brian Randolph are always going to load up on numbers as the most dependable Vols.

But what about the emerging stars? Who are some of the guys on the fringe of becoming key role players?

These are the youngsters who have surpassed people saying, "I hope [Player X] can begin to live up to expectations." No, these are the players who already are or look as if they're getting ready to play integral roles in helping the Vols turn the current 4-4 record into an 8-4 campaign and a quality bowl berth.

The criteria here is first- or second-year players who are really starting to catch on to the college game. With such a young group of Vols that Jones compiled, Tennessee has several who fit the mold.

Let's take a look at the handful of Vols about to burst onto the scene.

 

Darrin Kirkland Jr.

It's hard to stand out in such a promising group of freshmen, but the first-year starting middle linebacker from Indianapolis fits the bill.

He has as high of a ceiling as any freshman linebacker in the entire Southeastern Conference. Though there are a few reminders that he's a young pup, there are also times when you see what he can do on the field and marvel at Kirkland's ability.

With each start, he looks more and more like he belongs. Early in the year, walk-on Colton Jumper started over him because Kirkland had a difficult time performing the all-important pre-snap chores required by such a demanding position. Tennessee's defense suffered without his athleticism.

But once he got on the field, things still didn't come easily. Kirkland flew around everywhere, sometimes without purpose or direction. His stats suffered because of it, and UT struggled in gap control.

Not anymore.

Now that Kirkland is comfortable, he's performing. The light began to come on at Florida, where he had five tackles, including 1.5 for a loss. Despite a struggle against Georgia, the youngster has at least six tackles in three of his past four games.

He talked to GoVols247's Wes Rucker before the Kentucky game about his emergence. Then, he went out against the Wildcats and got an interception and 26-yard return.

A lot of my film study, a lot of study of the back end and knowing really my responsibility in coverage as well as up front, and learning what everybody else has to do, instead of just myself, that’s really helped me find my place throughout the defense and make more plays that way. Really just my mental focus, my mental capacity of the game, understanding the game and a lot bigger overview. I’m taking my preparation throughout the week a lot more serious, and that’s helped me prepare for the bigger teams we’ve played.

Kirkland has played against better opponents than what remains on UT's schedule, but he's going to be a major part that determines whether the Vols can finish undefeated. 

 

Chance Hall

The Vols recruited players in the 2015 class they feel will be the bookend offensive tackles of the future.

One of them—6'4", 318-pound true freshman right tackle Hall—is a bookend offensive tackle of the present. Though star recruit Drew Richmond has yet to find the field, he'll be relied upon to start next year. But Hall developed a little more quickly.

All he's done since taking over for the injured Brett Kendrick in the Georgia game is impress everybody.

Yes, he got beat by Alabama's Ryan Anderson on the Crimson Tide's game-clinching sack-fumble, but those are the lumps you take playing a true freshman. For the most part, Hall has been solid. At times, he's been spectacular.

Blessed with ideal size and athleticism to play the position in a zone-blocking scheme, Hall recovered from a torn Achilles suffered during his senior year of high school in time to play right away at UT. The Vols got a steal when they lured the 3-star prospect and 75th-ranked tackle from the Washington, D.C. area.

Now, it looks like he'll be an anchor on a surprisingly stellar offensive front for the next few years. He should stay in the starting lineup for the rest of the year.

 

Justin Martin

Perhaps no Vol has made as big of an impact once he got onto the field as a starter as the junior college transfer cornerback.

With incumbent starter Emmanuel Moseley's surprising, season-long struggles in man coverage killing Tennessee on the back end, the Vols needed a defensive savior. They inserted the talented Martin, and he has provided instant-impact improvement.

Nearly everybody in the SEC coveted the 6'1", 183-pound sophomore defensive back, and he came to Knoxville, staying close to his Antioch, Tennessee, home. He was injured in fall camp and missed some significant time, but since starting against Alabama, he's played extremely well.

In that game, he wound up with seven tackles, and though he made some mistakes, he also made some big plays, including breaking up a two-point conversion attempt from Jake Coker.

"He did great," Randolph told the Chattanooga Times Free Press' Patrick Brown after the Alabama game. "He earned those reps. He earned them in practice. He got hurt early in camp, so that kind of set him back a little bit. But he's been showing up every day in practice, knowing the game plan. (He's) very smart so he picked up the defense very fast, so that's probably why he got more reps today."

Against Kentucky, he was in lockdown mode. The Wildcats couldn't get anything past him, as he played on an extremely high level. For now, Martin has a corner spot locked down. With his size and athleticism, it may be difficult to pry it away.

 

Josh Malone

So, this is what all the fuss was about.

A season ago, the 6'3", 197-pound receiver who was Tennessee's highest-rated commitment in the 2014 recruiting class really struggled when he was on the field. He hit the proverbial freshman wall, and on a receiving corps full of injuries, he was a nonfactor down the stretch.

While adjusting to the college game, Malone played too soft at times. At others, he simply struggled to consistently run routes and catch passes.

The majority of those struggles are now in the rear-view mirror. He leads the Vols with 23 catches for 315 yards and two touchdowns this year. He became the only UT receiver with more than 100 yards in a game with his performance against Kentucky.

Though the numbers are far from eye-popping, Malone has become Tennessee's most consistent target, and his relationship with Dobbs is really paying off.

With Kentucky leading 14-10 in the second quarter, Malone and Dobbs may have made the play that saved UT's season with a 75-yard scoring strike that flipped the momentum for good.

"It was a huge momentum turn," Tennessee senior offensive tackle Kyler Kerbyson told Rucker. "That really just turned the whole game around for us. It was really huge."

It's even bigger that Malone is becoming reliable. If the Vols start having some receivers live up to their massive potential, this offense can really thrive.

 

Micah Abernathy

This is a bit of a wild card to put on the list, but after his performance against Kentucky, the true freshman could start to see increased reps at nickelback.

Junior Malik Foreman's inconsistent play all year has opened a door. The former 6'0", 193-pound 4-star Abernathy looks prepared to burst through it and bust that door off the hinges.

He's an extremely athletic and versatile player who could wind up growing into a safety down the road, or he also could move out to the boundary once Sutton goes pro. For now, he may wind up being UT's answer down the stretch at a very important position.

Jones was really impressed by what Abernathy did against Kentucky and how he's come on throughout the year, according to the Knoxville News Sentinel's Troy Provost-Heron

Micah Abernathy is one of those freshman that has continued to get better and better and better and you can see it in his style of play. You can really see it in his overall playing speed. We always talk about not letting the mind tie the feet up, and he’s becoming more and more comfortable. I’ve been really, really proud of him and his continued growth and development. Just like every week, he’ll compete with Malik for the nickel spot and we’ll see how that goes.

That doesn't sound like words reserved for a player destined for mop-up duty. 

Ever since the preseason injury to starting nickelback Rashaan Gaulden ended his season, the Vols were left with a major void at the position. Foreman hasn't been bad, but he also has given up some plays. Abernathy's ceiling is higher, and UT may give him an extended look.

He's the kind of player that can be valuable at several different positions throughout his career.

 

Kahlil McKenzie

Tennessee's most touted freshman hasn't been the most impressive on the field this year for the Vols, as he's had to get adjusted to the college game.

McKenzie sat out his senior season of high school, and he had some conditioning issues once he got to Knoxville, but now that he's getting on the field more, he's made an impact in several contests.

Though the 6'3", 344-pound defensive tackle has yet to become an every-down lineman, he's beginning to be relied upon more and more. UT needs to get him some more reps in the remaining games. His sheer size and brute force can help him be a major force against the run.

"Kahlil's making plays," UT defensive line coach Steve Stripling told Brown a couple of weeks ago. "It's a funny thing about D-linemen. Sometimes they'll get a lot of snaps and make no plays, and sometimes a guy will go in there for 30 snaps and get five tackles. That's what I like about him. He ends up being around the football."

Still, how many plays McKenzie is on the field is normally dictated by what UT wants to do defensively. Against Alabama and Kentucky, UT employed more of a "rabbit package," where it tried to get smaller, quicker linemen on the field.

When that happens, obviously McKenzie stays on the sideline. But that shouldn't impede his progress or his long-term prognosis for this defense. He's expected to be the centerpiece of that line for the next couple of years.

It wouldn't be surprising at all to see him have a breakout game sooner rather than later.

 

All stats gathered from UTSports.com unless otherwise noted. All quotes gathered firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Brad Shepard covers SEC football and is the Tennessee lead writer for Bleacher Report. Follow Brad on Twitter @Brad_Shepard.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Hawaii Head Coach Search: Latest News, Rumors After Norm Chow's Firing

The Hawaii Rainbow Warriors fired head football coach Norm Chow after they dropped their sixth straight game to fall to 2-7 on the season. An old program leader is reportedly interested in the opening.

Continue for updates.

June Jones to Apply for Head Coaching Position  Wednesday, Nov. 4

According to Dave Reardon of the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, the winningest coach in school history wants to become the head coach once again. Jones said he would apply for the opening, although he didn’t offer much else, per Reardon: “I don’t want to comment further at this time because the attention should stay on the team now, and hopefully (interim coach) Chris (Naeole) can lead them to some wins down the stretch.”

Jones coached at Hawaii for nine seasons and led the Rainbow Warriors to seven winning campaigns. In total, Hawaii went 76-41 during Jones’ tenure and made the Sugar Bowl following a perfect 12-0 season in 2007. Although his team lost to Georgia in that contest, it was a monumental moment for the program. 

Based on that success, Lindsay Schnell of Sports Illustrated thinks Jones could be the future coach in Hawaii:

Jones’ dynamic, pass-first offenses were a large reason for the success while he was in charge of the program. Quarterback Colt Brennan finished sixth in Heisman Trophy voting in 2006 and third in 2007 and threw for an incredible 14,193 yards and 131 touchdowns in three seasons.

The Rainbow Warriors could use an offensive boost like that moving forward considering they have already been shut out three times this season.

Jones ultimately took the SMU job after that Sugar Bowl loss and struggled with a 36-53 record from 2008-14. However, the team did make four consecutive bowl games from 2009-12, which marked its first bowl appearances since the 1985 “death penalty.”

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Ohio State Football: Buckeyes' Road to College Football Playoff

The Ohio State Buckeyes aren't the top-ranked team in the country anymore, but they're in prime position to make another run at the College Football Playoff.

The Buckeyes have owned the No. 1 spot in the AP and Coaches polls every week since the preseason, but the 12-member selection committee slotted Urban Meyer's squad at No. 3 in the first official playoff rankings Tuesday night. 

What does that mean for Ohio State and its quest to repeat as national champions?

 

Where Ohio State Stands

Those familiar with the logic behind the College Football Playoff standings weren't surprised by Ohio State's No. 3 ranking.

The selection committee doesn't factor in a team's potential or future opponents—it compiles the ranking based on past performances and strength of schedule. That's why the Buckeyes were slated behind No. 1 Clemson, which has the country's best victory over fifth-ranked Notre Dame, and No. 2 LSU, which boasts wins over No. 20 Mississippi State and No. 10 Florida.

At No. 3, the Buckeyes are in excellent position to make it into the final four. They're still the odds-on favorite to win the title (h/t DJ Byrnes of Eleven Warriors), and they're comfortably ahead of title contenders with Alabama at No. 4, Notre Dame at No. 5, Baylor at No. 6, Michigan State at No. 7, TCU at No. 8, Iowa at No. 9 and Florida, which rounds out the top 10. 

 

Help Needed

If the Buckeyes take care of their business, they won't need any help getting into the playoff.

That wasn't the case last year, when they premiered at No. 16 in the first College Football Playoff ranking. The Buckeyes used impressive victories over Michigan State and Michigan to climb the rankings before breaking through with a 59-0 rout of Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game.

This year, Ohio State will have the same opportunities against Michigan State and Michigan, in addition to a potential berth in the conference title game. But this time around, those games will give the Buckeyes a chance to earn the No. 1 overall seed in this year's playoff. 

Committee chairman Jeff Long spoke highly of the Buckeyes when ESPN revealed the rankings Tuesday night. 

"Ohio State is strong," Long said, via Eric Seger of Eleven Warriors. "The Buckeyes are undefeated and they have three wins against teams with better than .500 records."

Their resume would be rock solid if they can get wins over No. 7 Michigan State and No. 17 Michigan. And if the Buckeyes draw an undefeated Iowa team (that currently checks in at No. 9) in the Big Ten title game and come up with a victory, the Buckeyes would be a near lock for the No. 1 seed.

 

Final Bowl Prediction

Ohio State will narrowly beat Michigan State and Michigan to cap a perfect regular season before cruising to the Big Ten title game and routing an undefeated Iowa team.

That three-game stretch will put a 13-0 Ohio State team at No. 1 in the final College Football Playoff standings, which will pin the Buckeyes against an undefeated No. 4 TCU squad in the Orange Bowl. No. 2 Alabama (12-1) will be matched up against an unbeaten and No. 3 Clemson team in the Cotton Bowl. 

The Buckeyes will win a 45-38 shootout against the Horned Frogs, and the Tide will bowl over the Tigers 27-16, setting up a rematch of last year's thrilling Sugar Bowl between Ohio State and Alabama for the national title. 

 

David Regimbal is the Ohio State football Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Playoff 2015: Final Four Predictions After 1st Top 25 Rankings

The first College Football Playoff rankings released Tuesday in what amounted to great theater among the social realms, as the Top Four are in a completely different order from the Associated Press Top 25 and Amway Coaches Poll

Not to much surprise, Clemson and LSU swept the top two spots. Both Tigers teams are arguably the most complete in college football and have meaningful wins to show for it, per ESPN Stats & Info:

Most dramatic in Tuesday's revealings were one-loss Alabama and Notre Dame exceeding eight unbeatens, coming in fourth and fifth, respectively. Baylor is sixth despite ranking No. 2 in the current AP poll with its FBS-best 61.1 points per game. But the committee sent a meaningful message that strength of schedule has and will continue to be the chief determining factor. 

Here is a look at the full CFP rankings:

CFP chair Jeff Long told the ESPN panel during Tuesday’s telecast the toughest teams to decipher were two from the Big 12:    

It’s Baylor and it’s TCU because of their strength of schedule and who they played thus far. I think those teams, particularly Baylor, has an explosive offense and we’ve seen that. But I think their strength of schedule has left us uncertain of their true strength. 

Really, it came down to evaluating their résumés, what they’ve done, who they’ve beaten and how they played in those games.

The AP’s Jay Cohen was among those not thrilled with the pecking order:

It’s important to keep the initial rankings in perspective—eight of the CFP Top 11 still play opponents among those ranks before the final rankings release. ESPN host Rece Davis offered reassurance to those voicing frustration in the social realms:

With the playoff picture starting to mold, here are projections for the New Year's Eve semifinal games.

 

PROJECTION: Cotton Bowl – No. 1 Clemson vs. No. 3 Ohio State

Of the current Top Four, Clemson has the easiest road to the playoff. The Tigers play No. 16 Florida State in Week 10, three unranked teams after and then an ACC title game, likely against North Carolina. 

The Tigers rank fifth in total defense (278 yards per game) and 11th in scoring offense (40.6 points), creating a balance that's catapulted Clemson to outscore opponents, 355-141. 

Long gave conviction why Clemson was the committee’s top choice, per Stewart Mandel of Fox Sports:

The Buckeyes have had a cakewalk thus far, leaving their fate to the back end of their schedule with road games against No. 7 Michigan State and No. 17 Michigan to finish the regular season. It’s difficult to imagine winning both, and losing to the Spartans could squander their hopes of playing for the Big 10 championship. 

A rugged win in East Lansing will cripple the Buckeyes the following week in Ann Arbor, but Ohio State will rebound to win the conference crown, likely against No. 9 Iowa. The respectable finish coupled with a status as defending champs with much of its 2014 roster still in tact will narrowly send the Buckeyes to their second straight playoff as the lowest seed. Mark Schlabach of ESPN agreed:

Some have criticized Ohio State for not blowing out teams the way it's supposed to, but a closer look at the numbers says otherwise. The Buckeyes have outscored opponents 308-121 or 38.5-15.1 per game. Wins by an average of 23 points—up from their 22.25 margin in 2014—are impressive, particularly given a quarterback carousel between Cardale Jones and J.T. Barrett.

The Buckeyes will be without Barrett in Week 10 vs. Minnesota after the sophomore was suspended one game for an arrest for operating a motor vehicle while impaired. They should be fine with Jones, who is 10-0 as a starter, including last year's title run.

 

PROJECTION: Orange Bowl – No. 4 Alabama vs. No. 6 Baylor

There was uproar at the committee including Alabama among the initial Top Four, but the Crimson Tide will prove why the committee ranked them there. 

After an early hiccup to No. 18 Ole Miss, Alabama has churned out five straight wins and is hitting championship form—typical of a Nick Saban-coached team in November. Up next: a colossal game against fellow playoff contender LSU in what will likely determine the SEC West—as it has in nine of the last 15 seasons. The SEC Network shared the added emphasis for Saturday's game:

In a squeaker, Alabama will get its fifth straight win over LSU in what’s become one of college football’s greatest rivalries from a sheer standpoint of championship implications. 

Tigers Heisman Trophy front-runner Leonard Fournette has been sensational—an FBS-best 1,352 rush yards and 15 touchdowns—but he'll be limited against the SEC’s best run-defense, putting pressure on quarterback Brandon Harris and LSU’s aerial attack, which ranks last in the conference. 

Harris has improved in his last three starts—716 yards, seven touchdowns and no interceptions—but the Tigers still rank dead last in SEC passing defense. 

Alabama will be LSU’s only hiccup, but it’ll be costly. Despite what ESPN’s Football Power Index indicated as the most difficult remaining schedule, according to David Ching of ESPN, the Tigers should run the table the rest of the way. But so should the Crimson Tide, who as a one-loss SEC champion will reach their second straight playoff. 

Despite being left out, Baylor still has the chance to woo the 12-person committee against No. 8 TCU on Nov. 27. The Bears will run the table and continue to put up points, while the rest of those ahead in the rankings will tumble, giving Baylor a narrow nod to reach, per Schlabach:

The Bears will be without starting quarterback and offensive catalyst Seth Russell, whom they lost for the season to a neck fracture. But Baylor should be in good shape with backup true freshman Jarrett Stidham, per Adam Rittenberg of ESPN.com:

Six coaches who recruited Stidham or have watched tape of him in games this season weighed in anonymously on Baylor's new signal-caller, his prodigious potential and what to watch as he takes the reins later this week. Their overwhelming sentiment: The Bears should be just fine.

The Bears are just the second team in the modern era to score at least 50 in five straight games, according to ESPN.com, and their average of 61.1 points per game will be too remarkable to ignore.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Pages