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AP College Football Poll 2015: Top 25 Rankings, Week 10 Projections and More

The Ohio State Buckeyes can't stay at the top forever, can they?

You can sense that some serious movement atop the Associated Press Top 25 poll is coming. With the news that quarterback J.T. Barrett has been suspended for the Nov. 7 game against the Minnesota Golden Gophers, it feels like Ohio State's grasp as the No. 1 team in the country is loosening.

The Buckeyes looked to be back to their old ways after handing a 49-7 shellacking to the Rutgers Scarlet Knights. The Baylor Bears are now without quarterback Seth Russell for the remainder of the year, and there are seven teams undefeated in the Top 10.

In short, it's a cluster. Week 10 of the college football season may be the most crucial week to date. Let's take a look at this week's matchups and preview the Game of the Week as we prepare for Tuesday, when the College Football Playoff's rankings are released to the world.

Game of the Week: No. 4 LSU at No. 7 Alabama

Time: 8 p.m. ET

When: Saturday, Nov. 7

Where: Bryant-Denny Stadium

Looking for a game that has everything? Let's go down the list:

  • A matchup of two Top 10 teams
  • First place in the SEC West on the line
  • College Football Playoff implications
  • The best player in college football on the world's biggest stage
  • Heisman Trophy implications

Sounds like a great way to cap off Saturday's action.

The race for the Heisman Trophy is down to two players: TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin and LSU running back Leonard Fournette. Both of these outstanding athletes have made strong cases as to why they should be the favorite for the Heisman Trophy.

Up until now, neither of these players have had a defining game for the voters to observe. Fournette is going to get his chance on Saturday, when the LSU Tigers travel to Tuscaloosa to take on the Alabama Crimson Tide in prime-time SEC action.

Think back to Sept. 19 in Bryant-Denny Stadium. It seemed to be the end of the Alabama dynasty as we knew it. The Ole Miss Rebels pulled off one of the more remarkable upsets in the early college football season by taking down Alabama, 43-37.

Since then, the Crimson Tide have been on a roll (no pun intended). During Alabama's five-game winning streak, only one of those games has been decided by less than 10 points. That was two weeks ago, on Oct. 24, at home against the Tennessee Volunteers.

The Crimson Tide were off this past week, which was needed after that lackluster performance. That works well in Alabama's favor. Derrick Henry also works in Alabama's favor.

Quarterback Jake Coker has thrown seven interceptions to only 11 touchdowns this year. For the first time in recent memory, the Crimson Tide have had mediocre play at quarterback. The junior running back, Henry, has picked up the slack offensively for Alabama, rushing for 1,044 yards and 14 touchdowns this year.

It's because of Henry running the ball that Alabama has been given new life, not just in the SEC race, but in the College Football Playoff race as well.

And while all the attention has been on Fournette, the play of LSU quarterback Brandon Harris should not be overlooked. The sophomore from Bossier City, Louisiana, has yet to throw an interception this year. On the road, in a tough environment like Alabama, that could very well change this week. If Harris can play a calm, collective game, LSU will have a great chance to win.

A loss for Alabama would essentially end all thoughts of a spot in the College Football Playoff. Two losses, both at home and to conference teams, would not be a good look on the resume.

A win, however, would change everything for Alabama. It'd jump LSU, supposedly in the AP rankings, and it would be a good look with the first CFP rankings coming out on Tuesday. SEC Network studio anchor Peter Burns thinks the same thing:

No team has yet to stop Leonard Fournette, let alone contain him.

That will not change against Alabama.

Who knows if LSU has enough to win a national championship this year? That remains to be seen, and that will be saved for further evaluation down the line. But Fournette is a freight train that can't be stopped. Until a team can step up and utilize a game plan that will prevent Fournette from taking over a game, the results will stay the same.

LSU wins and continues its march toward a playoff spot.

Prediction: LSU 27, Alabama 24

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TCU Horned Frogs vs. Oklahoma State Cowboys Betting Odds, College Football Pick

TCU is only 2-5 against the spread over its last seven road games, while Oklahoma State is just 2-6 ATS in its last eight spots as a home dog. In a huge game in the Big 12 conference with national championship implications, the 8-0 Frogs battle the 8-0 Cowboys Saturday afternoon in Stillwater.

 

Point spread: The Horned Frogs opened as five-point favorites, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark (line updates and matchup report).

College football pick, via Odds Shark computer: 48.6-31.8 Horned Frogs

 

Why the TCU Horned Frogs can cover the spread

TCU remained unbeaten and on course for a national championship playoff berth with a 40-10 romp over West Virginia last week. The Frogs led 17-0 out of the gate, 23-10 at the half, then held the Mountaineers scoreless in the second half, securing the cover as 12-point favorites. On the day, TCU outgained West Virginia 616-327, ran for 228 yards and held the ball for over 36 minutes.

But something seems to be missing with the Frogs; after hitting the 50-point mark five times in a row, they've only scored a total of 85 points over their last two games. And yes, that is sarcasm.

More importantly, though, the TCU defense, which looked a little vulnerable a few weeks ago, has limited its last two foes to a total of 31 points.

 

Why the Oklahoma State Cowboys can cover the spread

Oklahoma State also remained undefeated last week with a 70-53 shootout victory at Texas Tech, winning that game outright as a two-point road dog. The Cowboys spotted the Red Raiders the first 17 points of the game but battled back, took their first lead late in the third quarter, then took the lead for good early in the fourth, ending the game with a 28-8 run.

On the day, Oklahoma State racked up 662 yards of offense, breaking loose for multiple big plays, and added scores on a punt return and an interception return. The Cowboys have now scored at least 58 points three times this season.

 

Smart pick

The Frogs have outrushed every opponent so far this season, while Oklahoma State has been outrushed in three of its last five games. Also, when it comes to common opponents, TCU blew out West Virginia and Texas, while the Cowboys beat the Mountaineers in overtime and the Longhorns by a field goal. Despite its recent ATS road record, take TCU here, giving the points.

 

Betting trends

Oklahoma State is 8-2 ATS in its last 10 games in November.

The total has gone over in seven of TCU's last 10 games on the road.

TCU is 12-1 straight up in its last 13 games on the road in November.

 

All point spread and lines data courtesy of Odds Shark, all quotes gathered firsthand unless otherwise noted. Check out Twitter for injury and line movement updates and get the free odds tracker app.

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Florida State Seminoles vs. Clemson Tigers Betting Odds, College Football Pick

The home team is 8-1 straight up over the last nine Clemson-Florida State battles but only 4-5 against the spread, as the teams have played some close games over recent seasons. In a contest that could decide an ACC division championship, the Tigers host the Seminoles Saturday afternoon at Death Valley.

 

Point spread: This game was off the board early in the week, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark. (Line updates and matchup report)

College football pick, via Odds Shark computer: 37.6-29.2 Tigers

 

Why the Florida State Seminoles can cover the spread

Playing without quarterback Everett Golson (concussion) and running back Dalvin Cook (ankle), FSU nonetheless bounced back from a loss at Georgia Tech two weeks ago to beat Syracuse last week 45-21, covering as a 16-point favorite. The Seminoles spotted the Orange the first touchdown of the game, then scored 45 of the next 52 points to take control.

Junior quarterback Sean Maguire, in his second career start, hit on 23 of 35 throws for 348 yards and three touchdowns—all to Travis Rudolph—without a pick, while freshman Jacques Patrick, subbing for Cook, ran for 162 yards and three more scores.

On the day, Florida State outgained Syracuse 575-303. It was the fifth time this season the 'Noles outgained their opponents by at least 100 yards. In Maguire's only previous career start, he beat Clemson last season 23-17 in overtime, throwing for 304 yards and the game-tying score with six minutes to go.

 

Why the Clemson Tigers can cover the spread

The Tigers are 8-0 and still part of the College Football Playoff conversation after outlasting North Carolina State last week 56-41 in Raleigh. Clemson trailed a fired-up Wolfpack team 20-19 just before halftime but took the lead for good on a DeShaun Watson touchdown pass—one of his five on the day—then scored the first touchdown of the second half and pulled away from there, eventually covering as a 13-point road favorite.

The Tigers outrushed NC State 240-135, outgained the Pack 623-389 and won time of possession by a 34-26 margin. Clemson has now outrushed six of eight opponents this season and outgained seven of eight.

At 5-0 in ACC play, a half-game up on FSU, the Tigers could basically clinch the Atlantic Division title with a victory Saturday, considering their last two conference games are against Syracuse and Wake Forest.

 

Smart pick

This is a big one for Clemson; if they can win Saturday, and take the four winnable games that would follow, the Tigers will make the College Football Playoff. On the other side of this bout, Florida State is a little banged-up at some key spots. Also, Clemson outplayed the 'Noles last year and probably should have won that game. Take the Tigers, minus the points.

 

Betting trends

Florida State is 1-5 SU and ATS in its last six games on the road against Clemson.

The total has gone under in eight of Clemson's last 10 games at home in November.

Florida State is 2-8 ATS in its last 10 games after a win.

 

All point spread and lines data courtesy of Odds Shark, all quotes gathered firsthand unless otherwise noted. Check out Twitter for injury and line movement updates, and get the free odds tracker app.

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LSU Tigers vs. Alabama Crimson Tide Betting Odds, College Football Pick

Alabama owns a four-game winning streak in the rivalry with LSU, including that national championship victory three seasons ago, going 3-1 against the spread. To stay alive in the battle for this season's national title, the Crimson Tide need to run that streak to five when they take on the Tigers in Tuscaloosa Saturday night.

 

Point spread: The Crimson Tide opened as seven-point favorites, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark (line updates and matchup report).

College football pick, via Odds Shark computer: 32.4-31.1 Tigers

 

Why the LSU Tigers can cover the spread

Louisiana State is off to a 7-0 start to this season, 4-3 ATS, after taking care of business against a pretty good Western Kentucky team a couple weeks ago 48-20, covering as a 16-point favorite. The Tigers only led the Hilltoppers 17-13 midway through the third quarter but used a 31-7 run to pull away. LSU racked up 497 yards of offense, 211 on the ground, as Heisman candidate Leonard Fournette ran for 150, which was actually his lowest rushing total of the season.

Three weeks ago, the Tigers outlasted Florida 35-28, covering six points, and just before that they won at South Carolina 45-24, covering 20 points. LSU has also outrushed every opponent this season by at least 100 yards. At 4-0 in conference play, the Bayou Bengals lead the SEC West by a half-game over Alabama and Ole Miss as they chase their first berth in the SEC Championship Game since 2011.

 

Why the Alabama Crimson Tide can cover the spread

Alabama is 7-1 this season, after topping Tennessee two weeks ago 19-14. The Tide had last week off.

Sluggish Alabama fell behind the Volunteers 14-13 with six minutes to go in the game but immediately embarked upon an eight-play, 71-yard scoring drive, culminating in a 14-yard Derrick Henry touchdown run to take the lead for good. On the day, the Tide outgained Tennessee 364-303 and held the ball for almost 36 minutes.

Three weeks ago, 'Bama beat Texas A&M 41-23, covering five points; just before that, the Tide defeated Arkansas 27-14; and just before that, they beat Georgia 38-10. At 4-1 in conference play, Alabama needs a victory Saturday to stay in the hunt in the SEC West.

 

Smart pick

During the Miles vs. Saban era with these two programs, six of nine meetings have been decided by seven points or less, including Alabama's 20-13 overtime victory last season. And there's not much reason to believe Saturday's game won't be close, too. Also, the Tide are 0-5 ATS over their last five home games, dealing with some inflated point spreads. Take the Tigers here, plus the points.

 

Betting trends

LSU is 5-2 straight up in its last seven games on the road against Alabama.

Alabama is 0-5 ATS in its last five games at home.

LSU is 14-5 SU in its last 19 games in November.

 

All point spread and lines data courtesy of Odds Shark. All quotes gathered firsthand unless otherwise noted. Check out Twitter for injury and line movement updates and get the free odds tracker app.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Clemson Playoff Hopes on Line Against Florida State

When No. 3 Clemson takes the field against No. 17 Florida State inside Memorial Stadium on Saturday afternoon, Nov. 7, it’ll be the biggest game of the Tigers’ season.

That, in itself is nothing new: Clemson-Florida State has decided the ACC Atlantic Division champion in each of the last five seasons, and either Clemson or FSU has won the ACC in each of the last four seasons. 

What is new, however, is the fact that Clemson’s College Football Playoff hopes ride on the outcome.

At 8-0, Dabo Swinney’s bunch has gained national respect and played itself into excellent position for the first CFP Top 25 of the season on Tuesday. Yahoo Sports' Pat Forde has Clemson as his No. 1 playoff seed, should the season end today. But the Tigers simply won’t have the juice to make the playoff without beating Florida State.

“It’s fun to be in November going into the championship run and be in the conversation,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said, via Gene Sapakoff of the Charleston Post and Courier.  “That’s a blast. That’s where we want to be. I mean, we embrace that. But we want to be there Dec. 6. But for that to happen, we have to win this week. We have to win the division. We have to win the ACC Championship Game.”

Such is the reality of Clemson’s resume. Clemson currently has one victory over a team expected to finish the season in the Top 25. A rain-soaked 24-22 win over Notre Dame was the No. 8 Fighting Irish’s only loss to date, and it looks better by the week.

Current Coastal leader North Carolina, the likely foe in the ACC Championship Game, just cracked the rankings at No. 21. Beyond that, the Tigers have Wake Forest, Syracuse and South Carolina, three teams with a current combined record of 9-16.

Florida State is the best remaining opportunity for a marquee victory.

While 2015 has been unpredictable, college football remains top-heavy. Temple’s loss to Notre Dame means 11 unbeaten FBS teams remain. Taking remaining matchups into consideration, a maximum of six teams can finish the regular season unbeaten (Clemson in the ACC, Baylor, Oklahoma State or TCU in the Big 12, Iowa, Michigan or Ohio State in the Big Ten, LSU in the SEC, Toledo in the MAC and either Houston or Memphis in the AAC).

Let’s just assume that Toledo, Houston or Memphis won’t have the resume to crack the College Football Playoff, as their current best wins are over Arkansas, Vanderbilt and Ole Miss, respectively. That leaves a potential unbeaten from the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12 and SEC. A year ago, Florida State was the only unbeaten team in the FBS, and the Seminoles wound up as the No. 3 playoff seed.

That speaks to the relative strength, or lack thereof, of the ACC. The Sagarin ratings measure the strength of college football leagues, breaking them down by division if possible. The ACC Coastal ranks fifth, and the ACC Atlantic, even with Clemson and FSU, ranks eighth, behind the SEC East. That’s the second-worst ranking of any Power Five league or division, just ahead of the Big Ten West at No. 10.

It will be impossible to keep a Power Five unbeaten out of the playoff, but that can’t be said for a one-loss team.

Baylor, TCU and the Big 12 found that out the hard way last year when both were passed by Ohio State in the final poll (the only one that truly matters) for the fourth and final playoff spot.

If the Tigers beat Florida State and then defeat North Carolina in the ACC title game, they’d be unbeaten with three Top 25 victories. That’s a resume that would be very difficult to keep out of the four-team field.

A blemished resume, however, puts a team at the mercy of the selection committee, which is a place no one ever wants to be.

And remember how this game has decided the Atlantic title for the last four years? That’ll be the case again this year.

Beyond Saturday, Florida State has only one ACC game left, hosting NC State on Nov. 14 before finishing the season against FCS foe UT-Chattanooga and rival Florida. While FSU already has one ACC loss (to Georgia Tech), the Seminoles would be favored to beat the Wolfpack. They’d also own the Atlantic tiebreaker with a win over Clemson, regardless of how the Tigers fare against Syracuse or Wake Forest.

Would a team that couldn’t even win its division make the College Football Playoff? Highly unlikely. After all, the event that ushered in the playoff was SEC West foes Alabama and LSU meeting in a boring BCS National Championship Game following the 2011 season.

For Clemson, the playoff math is simple. Win, and they’re in. And no game is more important than the one staring them in the face Saturday.

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Can Leonard Fournette Lock Up 2015 Heisman Trophy vs. Alabama?

Three years ago, a young star went into Tuscaloosa in early November and made a Heisman statement that resonated across the entire country.

That man's name was Johnny Manziel. A month later, he made Heisman Trophy history by becoming the first redshirt freshman to take home college football's most prestigious individual award.

LSU running back Leonard Fournette has taken a different path but will come to the same intersection Manziel came to just three years ago.

Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

Fournette will walk into Bryant-Denny Stadium on Saturday night as the unquestioned front-runner in the race for the Heisman and square off against the third-best run defense in the nation (78.50 YPG) in front of a prime-time national audience on CBS in a game other networks specifically program content around to avoid.

As Scott Rabalais of the Baton Rouge Advocate noted, it's essentially a two-man race heading into November between Fournette and TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin.

If he's successful against the Crimson Tide, etch it in stone—Fournette will be the 2015 winner of the Heisman Trophy.

"Fournette is the best college football running back since [former Oklahoma running back] Adrian Peterson," said Bill King, Heisman voter and host of The Bill King Show on WNSR 560/95.9 in Nashville, Tennessee. "A good—not even great—performance vs. Bama likely seals it."

Fournette started hot this season, topping the 1,000-yard mark in Game No. 5. That launched him into the forefront of the conversation but also presented the risk of "Fournette fatigue" setting in.

All Fournette has done, though, is hold the course. 

He's averaging 193.14 yards per game on the ground, has ripped off nine straight 100-yard games, his 15 touchdowns lead the country among running backs and he has reached a point where he will likely have to have multiple letdowns to not win the award.

"When you look at Fournette, he's just such a physical specimen," said Lance Taylor, Heisman voter and co-host of The Roundtable on WJOX 94.5 in Birmingham, Alabama. "He's got the perfect combination of size, strength, speed and everything. He just doesn't see like a running back that we've seen. He's one of those guys who comes along every 10 years."

However, one strong performance against the vaunted Bama defense will work wonders for Fournette's Heisman campaign.

"If he were to go on the road against what looks to be the elite defense in college football and goes for 150 yards and two or three touchdowns, I don't want to say he'd lock it down, but I guess it really just depends on how many times [offensive coordinator] Cam Cameron wants to give him the ball," Talyor told Bleacher Report.

Not only would a strong performance impress voters, but coupled with a win, would vault LSU to the thick of the College Football Playoff race, which always helps a Heisman campaign.

It takes a lot for anybody not playing quarterback to put together a season that's worthy of Heisman consideration. After all, former Wisconsin stud Melvin Gordon rushed for 2,587 yards last year, and didn't even get half as many votes as Oregon's Marcus Mariota. Former Badger Montee Ball rushed for 33 touchdowns in 2011 and finished fourth.

To legitimately contend for the Heisman as a non-quarterback, a player needs to jump into the spotlight early, stay in the middle of it for a full three months and carry his team.

Fournette has been doing that.

"If they go out and beat Alabama on the road, I don't have any faith in Ole Miss, so it seems pretty obvious that the winner of this game is going to win the SEC West. Then probably go on to win the SEC and make the College Football Playoff." Taylor said.

If it continues on Saturday, he will break through that glass ceiling and be the Heisman Trophy winner.

 

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.

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NCAA Football Rankings 2015: Week 10 Standings and Analysis for Latest Polls

The new college football rankings have been released, and the defending champion Ohio State Buckeyes are still the top team in the nation—on all official accounts. Here's a look at the polls from the coaches, Associated Press and Bleacher Report:

 

As the Buckeyes Turn

Ohio State's quarterback situation is one of the biggest soap operas in college football. There was indecision early in the year, as head coach Urban Meyer seemed to have a problem committing to either Cardale Jones or J.T. Barrett. 

Over the last two weeks, Meyer seemed to settle on Barrett, and the team looked better for it. The Buckeyes are a perfect 8-0, but in the last two games, they have outscored teams 87-17. That includes a 49-7 rout of the Rutgers Scarlet Knights on October 24.

Barrett accounted for five touchdowns in that game, and everything seemed great. That was until he was suspended for one game after being arrested for operating a vehicle while intoxicated Saturday, per Mark Schlabach of ESPN.com.

Barrett will miss only the upcoming game against the Minnesota Golden Gophers—a contest the Buckeyes should win without him. However, you have to wonder if there will be any other fallout from his off-field issues.

For now, the Buckeyes are still firmly in control of their own destiny. But everyone will be watching to see how the champs respond to this distraction.

 

Could the SEC Get Two Teams in the College Football Playoff?

Week 10 is going to be huge, and that's especially the case in the SEC.

The fourth-ranked LSU Tigers head to Tuscaloosa to take on bitter rivals in the No. 7-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide. The game equates to the SEC West championship, as the winner will likely win the division and move onto the conference title game.

Meanwhile, the No. 11 Florida Gators look to have the SEC East division on lock. They own a two-game lead in the division and have only two very winnable games against the Vanderbilt Commodores and South Carolina Gamecocks remaining on the conference schedule. 

Assuming nothing crazy happens the rest of the way for the Gators, they could find themselves in the SEC championship with another crack at the Tigers. LSU handed Florida its only loss of the season, 35-28, in Baton Rouge on October 17.

If Florida knocks off LSU in the rematch and that's the Tigers' only loss of the season, it would be hard to see a scenario where it doesn't make the playoff. Likewise, Florida should definitely be in as the SEC postseason champion.

 

Clemson's Last Major Test

The Clemson Tigers look to be sitting pretty at No. 3, but they will have a serious test at home Saturday against the Florida State Seminoles. The Noles are probably the only ACC team capable of pushing Clemson.

Sophomore quarterback Deshaun Watson has looked like a Heisman Trophy candidate in the team's last two games. He's completed over 77 percent of his passes, thrown for six touchdowns and no picks and run for two more scores. 

If the Tigers are to beat Florida State, Watson will need to stay efficient as a passer and continue to put pressure on the defense with his legs.

Follow Brian Mazique on Twitter

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The College Football Week 9 All-Heart Team

The Week 9 All-Heart team features college football players who refused to let their teams lose—even with an assist from the refs.

Sadly, poor officiating was the biggest story of the weekend, but as cliche as it sounds, that's football. It happens. And when it does, it doesn't diminish the effort, will and heart of the players.

Priority was given to power-conference players in high-profile games, since part of making this list includes playing well on the big stage. However, if the moment or performance was special enough, players from any FBS school were eligible to make the team.

Sound off below and let us know whom we missed!

Begin Slideshow

College Football Picks Week 10: Predictions and Odds for Top 25 Schedule

After a somewhat underwhelming week of games, college football fans should be treated with a fantastic slate of games in Week 10.

This Saturday features three games pitting top-25 teams against one another, while a number of additional clashes have serious upset potential, which could shake up the outlook for the College Football Playoff. The likes of Alabama, Notre Dame, Florida, Utah and Oklahoma can't afford a second defeat, or that's the end of their top-four dreams.

Let's take a look at the Associated Press' Top 25 poll for Week 10 and three of the juiciest matchups ahead this weekend.

 

Associated Press Top 25 Poll

 

Games to WatchNo. 1 Ohio State vs. Minnesota

Minnesota may be 4-4 and heading to Columbus, Ohio, having lost three of its last four games, but the Golden Gophers could be a tricky matchup for Ohio State.

When it comes to defending the pass, Minnesota has been extremely strong all season. It sits 13th in yards allowed per game (176.3). In addition, Football Outsiders' S&P+ metric, which adjusts for factors such as garbage time stats and situational success, ranks the Golden Gophers 11th in pass defense.

That's not good news for the Buckeyes, who rank 31st in passer rating (146.5) but 75th in yards per game (217.6).

Ohio State looked to have taken a step forward last week with J.T. Barrett as the starting quarterback. But the Buckeyes will be going back to Cardale Jones after Barrett's OVI arrest and subsequent one-game suspension.

ESPN Stats & Info offered up this figure to broadly demonstrate how much better the defending national championships have played offensively with Barrett under center:

Minnesota doesn't have a great run defense, which will be an issue with Ezekiel Elliott looking more like the Heisman Trophy candidate many expected him to be before the season.

Still, Ohio State has had trouble putting teams away for good with Jones at quarterback, in small part due to the way head coach Urban Meyer had gotten a little more tentative with his play-calling.

The Buckeyes should still win even if Meyer reverts to that tactic, but don't be surprised if his team pulls out the victory in unconvincing fashion, similar to how it prevailed over Indiana back on Oct. 3.

 

No. 7 Alabama vs. No. 4 LSU

Leonard Fournette is currently leaving Herschel Walker and Bo Jackson in his dust in the SEC record books, but his most difficult task to date comes Saturday: facing off against the Alabama Crimson Tide.

Making this game all about Fournette vs. Alabama is somewhat reductive, but his performance will in all likelihood decide the outcome of this game. LSU certainly can't afford to have him struggle; otherwise, the Tigers' fate will rest on the arm of Brandon Harris.

After Alabama lost to Ole Miss earlier in the year, the familiar narrative about the end of the Crimson Tide dynasty once again came up. Yet, Alabama defeated Georgia and Texas A&M by 28 and 18 points, respectively, following that game. Both of those wins came on the road as well.

The Tide haven't lost two regular-season games in the same year since 2010. You can fool Nick Saban once, but you can't fool him twice—at least until bowl season rolls around. If anything, Alabama might be more dangerous after it has suffered a first defeat, since any threat of complacency among the players goes out the door.

As much as you want to get excited at the prospect of Fournette running all over the Alabama defense, the Tide are allowing just 78.5 yards per game on the ground and 2.6 yards per carry. And even when they give up a big game on the ground to a star running back, like they did with Nick Chubb earlier this year, they compensate by ratcheting up against the pass.

Across the board, Alabama is the more complete team, but Fournette's prodigious talent could still tip the scales in favor of LSU.

 

No. 3 Clemson vs. No. 17 Florida State

Whether fair or not, "Clemsoning" has become a part of the college football lexicon after Clemson consistently tantalized fans in the past, only to let them down later, usually in heartbreaking fashion. The Tigers' defeats to Florida State in each of the last two years immediately come to mind when you think of a "Clemsoning."

Back in October, head coach Dabo Swinney delivered an impassioned defense of his team and why he feels the label is unfair:

While Swinney has every right to take umbrage with what he feels is any negative perception of Clemson, the Tigers record (10-16) against ranked opponents in his tenure is less than ideal:

On one hand, it feels like Clemson finally turned the corner in its 24-22 victory over Notre Dame on Oct. 3.

Then again, the Tigers allowed 19 points in the fourth quarter and very nearly allowed the Fighting Irish to tie the game with seven seconds remaining. It looked like Swinney did everything to not lose that game rather than put Notre Dame away when it was on the ropes.

Now, the biggest hurdle for the Tigers approaches Saturday. They're 8-20 all-time against the Seminoles, and they've dropped four of their last five meetings.

If Clemson wins, then Swinney is further validated for his hatred of the "Clemsoning" tag. Should his team lose, then all of the critiques of his team once again come to the fore, and rightfully so.

In more practical terms, Florida State is Clemson's toughest game left on the schedule. South Carolina is a complete mess, and none of North Carolina, Pittsburgh or Duke looks all that imposing in a potential ACC championship matchup.

A spot in the playoff would be well within reach for the Tigers if they remain undefeated following Week 10.

 

Note: Week 10 spreads are courtesy of Odds Shark.

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College Football Rankings 2015: Latest Standings and Predictions for Week 10

Brace yourself for a wild week of college football.

We've had a few upsets and plenty of crazy finishes in recent weeks, but Week 10 finally brings the marquee matchups we've been waiting for this season. 

Starting Tuesday night with Toledo, Week 10 features ranked teams playing four different nights. And it's all capped off with a classic SEC battle between LSU and Alabama on Saturday night. 

The updated polls and the Week 10 schedule and spreads are below followed by a breakdown of a few of the most intriguing matchups of the week.

Note: Due to key injuries, the lines for Michigan State-Nebraska and Florida State-Clemson have not been posted as of Monday morning, according to Odds Shark. No against-the-spread picks have been given for these games.

 

Notable Games

Baylor (-18.5) at Kansas State

It's safe to assume Baylor would be favored by at least three touchdowns with a healthy Seth Russell under center, but the unknown factor of freshman Jarrett Stidham taking over drops the line a few points. 

We've seen Art Briles' staff plug in unknown quarterbacks into this system and churn out highly productive passers year after year, and there's little reason to expect a drop-off with Stidham. 

Stidham is not the typical off-the-radar recruit being groomed to fit Briles' offense. He was graded as a 4-star recruit by both Rivals and ESPN, making him one of the most highly touted high schoolers to join Briles at Baylor. 

#Baylor WR Lynx Hawthorne on Seth Russell, "we'll miss him greatly, but catching pass from @Jarrett_Stidham is almost like a gift from God."

— David Smoak (@DavidSmoak) October 28, 2015

A night game in Manhattan is not the ideal environment for Stidham to make his debut, as Bill Snyder has a knack for getting his squad to play its best on the biggest stages. But this Kansas State group, which is currently winless in Big 12 play, appears to be in rebuilding mode and not ready to keep pace with the Baylor offense. 

Prediction: Baylor 48, Kansas State 24

 

No. 17 Florida State at No. 3 Clemson

Clemson will be the favorite in this game, but the spread will be heavily influenced by the status of Dalvin Cook and Everett Golson. 

The Florida State star running back and quarterback both missed the Seminoles' game against Syracuse. Golson was held out due to a concussion, while Cook missed the game with an ankle injury

Head coach Jimbo Fisher offered little clarity on the status of his star players after Florida State's victory over Syracuse but did say he would "evaluate" the quarterback situation, according to ESPN.com's Jared Shanker:

In his postgame interview, FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said he will "evaluate" the quarterbacks. Everett Golson or Sean Maguire against Clemson?

— Jared Shanker (@JShankerESPN) October 31, 2015

The key to the game could be Cook's health. Clemson has allowed just 437 rushing yards in five ACC games this season, with an average of just 2.7 yards per attempt.

Florida State has won three straight in this matchup, but the Tigers have won five of the last six at home

Prediction (assuming Cook, Golson are healthy): Clemson 35, Florida State 28

 

No. 4 LSU at No. 7 Alabama (-7)

Alabama has won four straight against LSU, holding the Tigers to 17 or fewer points in every game. 

Despite the recent success, it's difficult to get behind the Crimson Tide as a touchdown favorite against one of the most dangerous rushing attacks in the nation.

LSU's passing attack has struggled at times this season, but quarterback Brandon Harris has shown development as the season has progressed. According to CFB Film Room, Harris is completing over 50 percent of his passes in his last two games against SEC opponents, a dramatic improvement over his early-season performance:

If the last two weeks is the real Brandon Harris, LSU might run away with the SEC.. pic.twitter.com/4nos2FBcpK

— CFB Film Room (@CFBFilmRoom) October 23, 2015

If LSU can make some plays down the field in addition to the production it's sure to get from Heisman Trophy candidate Leonard Fournette, this should be a close battle—if not an outright win for the Tigers. 

Prediction: LSU 21, Alabama 17

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Bowl Predictions 2015: Latest CFP Projections Based on Week 10 Rankings

Bowl predictions are a bit easier to gauge at this point in the 2015 NCAA football season. The year's first College Football Playoff rankings are due to release Tuesday, and the Top Four is where postseason projections of any kind ought to begin.

The Associated Press and Amway polls offer a glimpse into what to expect from the CFP committee, though. As has been commonplace all year, Ohio State remains No. 1 in the country, and there isn't much variation between the two polls' first four.

TCU gets the nod in the playoff picture in the Amway poll over Clemson, who is slotted even ahead of LSU in the AP.

Read on for some CFP projections from yours truly based on the Week 10 hierarchy and some conjecture as to what will transpire for the remainder of the regular season.

 

Orange Bowl: No. 1 Ohio State vs. No. 4 Clemson

Coach Urban Meyer's Buckeyes have wobbled but not ultimately wavered in reigning supreme all season long. OSU figures not to be tested too severely until its final two games: home versus Michigan State and at Michigan.

It's almost as though this loaded Ohio State team has been waiting around and not quite hitting its stride. A similar phenomenon unfolded last season, as the Bucks peaked at the perfect time en route to a surprise national title.

That's why college football spectators have to believe OSU will flip the switch on again. Running back Ezekiel Elliott has been thriving despite a turbulent quarterback situation, and a defense stacked with NFL-caliber talent is jelling better of late, yielding just 17 points over the last two games.

Clemson would present an intriguing opponent in a hypothetical matchup and seems the best suited to lock up the College Football Playoff's last berth. The ACC is the easiest to navigate among those in contention as opposed to the Pac-12 and SEC.

In the Tigers' last contest, a defense that saw the departure of NFL first-round picks in Vic Beasley and Stephone Anthony finally seemed to show against NC State. Thankfully, sophomore QB Deshaun Watson was there to rise to the occasion, throwing for 383 yards and five touchdowns in a 56-41 victory.

Rivals.com's Mike Farrell applauded Watson for his progress, as he carved up what was a Wolfpack defense that ranked among the best in the country entering Saturday's game:

Explosive as Watson is as a passer and runner, he'd need to be special to evade a Buckeye pass rush led by Joey Bosa, scramble and elude a savvy linebacker corps headlined by Darron Lee and beat the stout OSU secondary.

J.T. Barrett also needs to redeem himself following an impending suspension this week due to an arrest for operating a vehicle while intoxicated.

Barrett lost his job to Cardale Jones to injury last year, and while his off-field mishap is seen as a negative, yours truly foresees one of two positive possibilities. Either the sophomore captain comes back reinvigorated and further fired up to prove himself or Jones runs with his reprieve after being benched and doesn't look back.

Having a runner like Elliott and a defense with the Buckeyes' personnel to complement give whoever moves forward under center plenty of support to guide OSU to the promised land once again.

Prediction: Ohio State 34, Clemson 21

 

Sugar Bowl: No. 2 TCU vs. No. 3 LSU

The best of both worlds from the AP and Amway occur in these projections to a degree because of the Horned Frogs' home-field advantage against Big 12 rival Baylor in the regular-season finale.

Baylor lost star QB Seth Russell for the season in its last win over Iowa State, have yet to play a game without him and thus can't be endorsed as a viable playoff entrant.

In the video below, TCU signal-caller Trevone Boykin and stud LSU running back Leonard Fournette are endorsed as the top two Heisman Trophy contenders, and rightly so. They have been nothing short of phenomenal this year.

After West Virginia lost to the Horned Frogs 40-10 and Boykin accounted for four total touchdowns, Mountaineers coach Dana Holgorsen had effusive praise for the face of TCU's program.

"Trevone Boykin is the best player in college football," said Holgorsen, per ESPN.com's Jake Trotter. "I'm glad we never have to see him again."

Boykin leans heavily on Horned Frogs receiver Josh Doctson, though, and LSU has a supremely athletic secondary that could bracket coverage to his side of the field and at least somewhat limit him.

Once Fournette gets going downhill, there's no stopping him. This would especially be the case against a TCU defense that yields 172.5 yards per contest on the ground.

ESPN Stats & Info referenced the latest new ground Fournette broke:

The biggest challenge Fournette faces this year will come this Saturday against Alabama. No matter who's been placed before him, the sensational sophomore has gone off. It also helps that Tigers QB Brandon Harris is continuing to make strides and has yet to throw an interception in 2015.

There's no denying Boykin is a big-time talent and can extend plays to help Doctson spring free. It's just unlikely the Horned Frogs would have enough beef up front to stop Fournette and also account for Harris, who is only getting better the more live reps he gets in game action.

If Ohio State and LSU were to meet in the national title game, it'd be a fascinating duel between Meyer and Tigers coach Les Miles, two of college football's most aggressive and savvy gridiron strategists. And the ball-carrier battle between Fournette and Elliott would be quite special as well.

Prediction: LSU 38, TCU 28

 

Note: Stats courtesy of NCAA.com unless otherwise indicated.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Tennessee Volunteers vs. South Carolina Gamecocks: Complete Game Preview

Even during the lean times of coach Butch Jones' Tennessee tenure, the Volunteers found a way to beat South Carolina.

This weekend, they'll try to do so as the favorite.

Riding a two-game winning streak over the Gamecocks, the Vols are also playing the best football of the Jones era after dominating Kentucky, hanging with Alabama a couple of weeks ago and upsetting Georgia before the bye week. 

UT is clicking on all cylinders offensively, and the Vols boast the nation's best special teams. Though they've still got some holes on defense, defensive coordinator John Jancek's unit is making strides because it is getting after opposing quarterbacks and forcing mistakes.

The Gamecocks are trying salvage something this season under interim coach Shawn Elliott, who took over after Steve Spurrier abruptly resigned. They're 3-5 on the year and just 1-5 in the SEC, but they showed signs of life with Perry Orth at the helm against Texas A&M in a 35-28 loss.

Last year, the Vols really got things going in the right direction with a comeback, overtime victory over Carolina in Columbia, and this season, they'll try to keep the positive vibes going.

Let's take a look at everything you need to know for this weekend's game.

 

Date: Saturday, Nov. 7

Time: 4 p.m. ET

Place: Neyland Stadium, Knoxville, Tennessee

TV: SEC Network

Radio: Vol Network, Gamecock IMG Sports Network, Sirius XM 190

Spread: Vols by 15, according to Oddsshark.

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Robert Beal to Notre Dame: Fighting Irish Land 4-Star DE Prospect

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish continue to put together a quality football recruiting class for 2017.

Robert Beal, a defensive end from Norcross, Georgia, has committed to play for head coach Brian Kelly's Fighting Irish, according to Scout.com's Chad Simmons.

Beal chose Notre Dame over 22 other schools that presented him with offers, according to 247Sports, which lists him as the third-best weak-side pass-rusher in the entire class. He became the fourth 4-star recruit to commit to Notre Dame's 2017 recruiting class and the fifth overall.

The edge-rusher from Norcross High School chose Notre Dame over the likes of Alabama, Auburn, Baylor, Florida and Michigan.

Simmons said Beal's current rankings can be deceiving, because he's still getting better:

He has a great frame and he has added about 15 pounds since last season, he is really getting stronger, and with that weight and strength, he is becoming a better all-around football player.  In 2015, he has shown the ability to push big offensive linemen backwards, disengage, and make a play on the ball.  He can still improve his consistency in the pad level department, but it has gotten better.

With his size, length, and athleticism, he can really close on the ball.  One of his biggest strengths is still his speed and quickness in pursuit.  His length is a big asset too.  He is really learning how to use it to his advantage to keep offensive linemen off his body.

Beal's decision to go to Notre Dame is another big-time get for Kelly. He's already gotten 2017 verbals from offensive tackles Dillan Gibbons and Joshua Lugg, and the addition of Beal means Kelly is determined to focus on the trenches.

Those two will join 4-star offensive linemen Tommy Kraemer and Liam Eichenberg from the 2016 class.

Notre Dame has also gotten 2017 commitments from tight ends Brock Wright (Cypress, Texas) and Cole Kmet (Arlington Heights, Illinois). 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

ASU's Deonte Reynolds Involved in Fight, Shots Reportedly Fired in Tempe

An Arizona State Sun Devils football player was involved in an altercation Saturday that ended when someone reportedly fired gunshots.

According to Miguel Otarola of the Arizona Republic, Sun Devils defensive lineman Deonte Reynolds got into a fight with someone at a gathering of nearly 300 people near an American Legion hall in Tempe, Arizona. Otarola noted “someone in the crowd fired multiple rounds during the fight, scattering the crowd, witnesses said.”

Brad Denny of 3TV Sports provided an image of the aftermath at the scene:

Reynolds was treated for minor injuries, although there were no reported firearm injuries in nearby hospitals.

Police found blood at the scene, although witnesses said it was from a fistfight. Nobody was arrested, and police are attempting to sort out the details.

According to Doug Haller of the Republic, Reynolds missed 15 days of practice while waiting for NCAA clearance before the season started.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Week 10 Opening Odds Roundup: Alabama Betting Favorites vs. LSU

The Alabama Crimson Tide trail the LSU Tigers in this week's AP Top 25 poll, but they still opened as the betting favorites at sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark for the matchup between the two rivals at Bryant-Denny Stadium on Saturday night.

LSU is No. 4 and Alabama is No. 7 in the latest AP Top 25, but the Crimson Tide opened as seven-point favorites for Saturday's meeting in Tuscaloosa. LSU is a perfect 7-0 straight up and 4-3 against the spread on the season, with Alabama at 7-1 SU and 3-5 ATS.

When the schools met last year the Crimson Tide won 20-13 as a seven-point road favorite, resulting in a push on the betting lines. Alabama is 4-0 SU in its last four games against LSU but just 2-1-1 ATS, according to the OddsShark College Football Database. The road team is 4-1 SU in the last five games in this matchup, while the Crimson Tide are 0-5 ATS in their last five games at home.

LSU vs. Alabama is just one of three ranked matchups on the Week 10 board, with No. 3 Clemson hosting No. 17 Florida State and No. 12 Oklahoma State getting a visit from No. 5 TCU in the other two marquee contests. The line for Clemson vs. Florida State was off the board early in the week as the Seminoles sort through their injury situations at quarterback and running back, while TCU opened as a five-point favorite against Oklahoma State.

Top-ranked Ohio State opened as a 23-point home favorite against Minnesota for this week, with Cardale Jones getting the start at quarterback in place of the suspended J.T. Barrett for the Buckeyes. Ohio State is riding a nine-game SU win streak against Minnesota. No. 2 Baylor, meanwhile, opened as a big 18.5-point road favorite for its Thursday night game against Kansas State.

Up to No. 8 in the AP Top 25, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish opened as 7.5-point road favorites against Pittsburgh for their game on Saturday, with the betting trends for the week pointing out that the Fighting Irish are just 1-5 both SU and ATS in their last six games against the Panthers in the month of November and 0-5 ATS in their last five November games overall.

And No. 9 Stanford opened as a 16-point road favorite against Colorado for Saturday. The Cardinal are 7-0 SU and 6-1 ATS since their Week 1 defeat, and they beat the Buffaloes by a combined score of 96-7 in the two matchups between the schools back in 2011 and 2012.

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Norm Chow Fired by Hawaii: Latest Details, Comments and Reaction

On the heels of its sixth straight loss, the University of Hawaii announced it has fired head coach Norm Chow effective immediately. 

The 69-year-old head coach was in the midst of his fourth season with the Rainbow Warriors, with whom he compiled an overall record of 10-36. Hawaii is 2-7 this season with victories over the Colorado Buffaloes and UC Davis Aggies.

Hawaii athletics director David Matlin thanked Chow for his service in a statement:

I'd like to thank Coach Chow for his dedication to our football program for the past four years. Ultimately, we feel this decision is in the best interest of the University and Athletics Department and we need to move in a different direction. Coach Chow should be commended for helping our football program achieve all-time highs in APR scores and graduation rates.

This was the first head coaching job for Chow, who began his collegiate coaching career as an assistant at BYU and remained with the team in some capacity for 27 seasons. He spent three seasons in the NFL as the offensive coordinator with the Tennessee Titans. In addition, he also served as an assistant coach for North Carolina State, USC, UCLA and Utah before taking the Hawaii job.

Chow certainly didn't have the talent to work with previous Hawaii teams had, but the administration had seen enough losing after the team's relative success prior to Chow. Hawaii played in seven bowls between 2002-2010.

The school announced assistant coach Chris Naeole will take over interim duties for the remainder of the season.   

Tom D'Angelo of the Palm Beach Post reacted to the fact there are now 10 vacant FBS head coaching jobs:

The Rainbow Warriors have no chance at the postseason, but with teams like 2-6 Fresno State and UNLV still on the schedule, they have a shot at making this season respectable. Firing Chow now as opposed to after the season will give the school more time to search for a coach and talk with recruits about the process.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Rankings 2015: Twitter Reacts to Week 10 AP, Amway Polls

The Ohio State Buckeyes swept the latest version of the Amway Coaches, Associated Press (AP) and Bleacher Report polls as the unanimous No. 1 team in the nation. A 49-7 win over the Rutgers Scarlet Knights on October 24 understandably strengthened the Buckeyes' hold on the top spot.

 

Not Everyone on Buckeyes' Bandwagon

There are obviously enough voters who believe that Ohio State is the nation's best team, but not everyone believes it will make it to the College Football Playoff. 

Stewart Mandel of Fox Sports and former Missouri Tigers receiver and radio contributor T.J. Moe don't have Ohio State in their final four. 

This could be due to the instability at quarterback. Days after J.T. Barrett accounted for five touchdowns in the win over Rutgers, he was arrested for operating a vehicle while intoxicated. Per Mark Schlabach of ESPN.com, Barrett will be suspended for the team's upcoming home game against the Minnesota Golden Gophers.

Truth be told, the Buckeyes probably don't need Barrett to beat the Gophers. The question is: What will the fallout be from Barrett's arrest and suspension? Will he lose his starting spot, and if so, can the Buckeyes win the tougher games on the rest of their schedule—namely the all-important November 21 battle with the Michigan State Spartans—with Cardale Jones at quarterback?

While the Buckeyes won with Jones en route to the national championship late last season and through the early part of this year, they looked like a much better team with Barrett at the helm. Head coach Urban Meyer has some work to do to regulate the situation after being dealt an unexpected curveball.

 

Baylor No. 2 for Now

The doubters are out in full force for the nation's No. 2 team. Quarterback Seth Russell is out for the season after neck surgery, and that means true freshman Jarrett Stidham will have to step up.

Baylor Bears head coach Art Briles sent out positive wishes for Russell just prior to the procedure. 

Stidham has a tall task ahead of him. Even if he were an experienced backup, it would be tough to be thrown into the fire the way Stidham will be. After the game against the Kansas State Wildcats on November 5, the Bears will have to somehow battle their way through a rigorous string of games against ranked conference opponents.

Following the Wildcats matchup is a home game against the No. 14 Oklahoma Sooners and two road contests against the No. 12 Oklahoma State Cowboys and No. 5 TCU Horned Frogs.

Stidham will likely be the hero and goat down the stretch. Those games will make or break Baylor's chances to reach the CFP.

 

Duke Drops on Miracle Play

You may or may not have seen the Miami Hurricanes stun the Duke Blue Devils with an eight-lateral touchdown on Saturday. The 30-27 loss cost Duke, as they dropped out of the polls with the defeat to the unranked Hurricanes.

Dan Wolken of USA Today didn't seem to think much of the Blue Devils' plummet:

You have to have some sympathy for Duke and its fanbase. Miami wasn't exactly a horrible team, as it came into the game with a 4-3 record. The game ended in such an unpredictable way and with some apparent home cooking from several members of the officiating crew.

With suspensions being levied against the on-field officiating crew as well as the replay official and communicator, per Andrea Adelson of ESPN.com, Duke could make the case that it was forced to beat Miami and the refs.

Still, nothing will pull the loss off Duke's record or ascend it in the polls—at least not until the November 7 battle against in-state rival and No. 21-ranked North Carolina Tar Heels.

 

Heavy SEC Presence

The SEC Network proudly tweeted the six teams in its conference that are in the latest AP poll.

Legitimately, the Florida Gators, Alabama Crimson Tide and LSU Tigers all have a shot to make the CFP. Bama and Florida both have one loss, but the two teams could make a strong case they deserve to be in the final four if they run the table and win the SEC title game. Take a look at the strength-of-record rankings, per Alabama Media Group's Cole Cubelic:

Because LSU and Bama clash in a game that will likely decide the SEC West on Saturday, it'll be hard—or impossible—for both teams to make the playoffs. If the winner beats Florida in the conference title game, the Gators are likely out. 

There's a slight chance the Gators and the SEC West champion could make the playoffs—especially if it's the Tigers who prevail on Saturday.

LSU narrowly defeated Florida 35-28 on October 17 in Baton Rouge. A win by Florida in the conference title game might just even the score. With both teams having only one loss—assuming they both win their other games—both could make the case they have the right to play for the national title.

Week 10 will be a big one in college football, as we should know a lot more about the big picture after LSU vs. Alabama, Florida State vs. Clemson and TCU at Oklahoma State.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Top 5 Candidates to Replace Frank Beamer as Virginia Tech Head Coach

College football has lost another icon. 

Following reports from Mike Jurecki of Fox Sports 910 and ESPN's Mark Schlabach, among others, Virginia Tech confirmed head coach Frank Beamer will retire at the end of the 2015 season. 

“I have always said that ‘I want what is best for Virginia Tech,’” Beamer said a statement released by the school. “Because of my love and passion for this great university, this program and our tremendous fans, I have decided after 29 years that it’s time. Today, I informed Dr. Timothy Sands and Whit Babcock of my decision to retire at the conclusion of the 2015 season."

Hundreds, if not thousands, of words could be spent on what Beamer has meant to the Hokies program, which he took over in 1987. He leaves with a (currently) 235-120-2 (.661) winning record during 29 years at Virginia Tech. He led the Hokies program to a national championship game appearance in 1999 and won four ACC titles plus two more Big East titles outright. 

With Beamer moving on to the next phase of his life, Virginia Tech is tasked with finding a coach who can pick up where Beamer left off. Here are five candidates the Hokies should consider based on merit and potential fit. 

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Bowl Predictions 2015: Updated Playoff Projections Heading into Week 10

Survive and advance was the theme of Week 9 for the College Football Playoff contenders. 

While most of the title contenders were at home on their bye week, those that took the field gave their fans a scare on Halloween. 

Clemson, Notre Dame and Stanford were among the playoff hopefuls that found themselves in tight contests, a few of which came down to the wire. 

Below is an updated projection for the College Football Playoff matchups and other New Year's Six bowl games, followed by a breakdown of a few of the notable teams that were in action on Saturday. 

 

Notable teams

Clemson Tigers

N.C. State kept it interesting thanks to Jacoby Brissett and a few big special teams plays. But in the end, Deshaun Watson and the Tigers' front seven were too much for the Wolfpack. 

Don't know who's noticing but D. Watson of Clemson is putting on a clinic throwing the ball. #heismanfuture

— shannon sharpe (@ShannonSharpe) October 31, 2015

The closer-than-expected game shouldn't be taken as an indictment of Clemson, as plenty of championship-caliber teams have been caught looking ahead with worse performances than this in years past. 

Dabo Swinney and his squad now begin preparation for Florida State, the biggest hurdle remaining between Clemson and the College Football playoff. 

Florida State has owned Clemson in recent years, winning three straight, including a 51-14 blowout the last time the teams met in Clemson in 2013. 

That one blip against the eventual national champions aside, Clemson has historically defended its home turf in this rivalry. Dating back to 2003, the Tigers are 5-1 at home against Florida State. 

 

Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Having knocked off USC and Temple in consecutive games, Notre Dame now appears to be among the strongest one-loss teams in the nation. 

Each of the four teams in the playoff picture in this projection are currently undefeated, but the Irish are just on the outside waiting for someone to slip up. 

Notre Dame is hurt slightly by its lack of a conference championship game, which the committee made clear was an important criterion last year when it left Baylor and TCU out of the playoffs. 

However, it's worth noting that Notre Dame does wrap up its regular season at Stanford on November 28. So while Brian Kelly's squad is hurt by the lack of conference affiliation, they do have the ability to close out the season with a statement victory on the road. 

 

Houston Cougars

A win over Vanderbilt certainly isn't going to put Houston in the playoff hunt, but it is the Cougars' second victory over a Power Five conference opponent.

With two Power Five victories, the Cougars have a strong enough resume to deserve serious consideration to represent the Group of Five schools in one of the New Year's Six bowl games. 

Most points a very good Vandy defense has given up all year, but keep discounting Houston.

— Bryan Fischer (@BryanDFischer) November 1, 2015

The real test for Houston awaits in two weeks, when the Cougars host Memphis on November 14.

The winner of that game becomes the overwhelming favorite to earn a New Year's Six bowl berth but will still have a tough matchup in the AAC championship game, likely against Temple. 

 

Stanford Cardinal

A close call against Washington State might hurt Stanford in the polls initially, but in terms of the playoff picture, it's unlikely to be a significant factor. 

The Cardinal still control their own destiny in the Pac-12 race and hold a two-game lead in the North division. 

Stanford will have multiple opportunities to erase the memory of this game, as it closes out the regular season against Notre Dame, followed by a likely Pac-12 title game showdown with Utah, UCLA or USC. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Rankings 2015: Hits and Misses from the Week 10 Polls

Yep, college football got weird on Halloween night. How appropriate. 

Michigan survived an emotional rally against Minnesota on a goal-line stand. The Miami Hurricanes needed a kickoff return for the ages—which, as we now know, shouldn't have counted to begin with—against Duke. Stanford needed a #collegekickers moment to escape against an upset-minded Washington State. 

How did it all shake out in the latest USA Today Amway Coaches Poll and the Associated Press Top 25?

With five Top 10 teams on a bye in Week 9 and few losses among Top 20 teams, the rankings didn't change all that much. Still, resumes are being built (or dismantled). With the College Football Playoff selection committee to release its first Top 25 poll this week, we're getting close to the critical point in the year. 

Where did pollsters get it right? Where did they swing and miss? We give our two cents in the following slides based not only on the past week's action, but also on what has transpired so far this season.

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