NCAA Football News

Dak Prescott Will Enter 2015 NFL Draft If Projected to Be Selected in 1st Round

Mississippi State has been one of the best stories in college football this season, led by its breakout star at quarterback, Dak Prescott.   

But the Bulldogs better prepare themselves for life after Prescott, because the quarterback recently told Pete Thamel and Thayer Evans of SI.com that there's a possibility he will enter the 2015 NFL draft:

'One of the worst things is not going, getting injured and hurting your situation,' he said. 'I wouldn’t risk it if I had a chance to go first round. I’m graduating college, and my time here will be done, I’ll do exactly what I wanted to do.'

He added: 'When the time came and there’s an option, first, second or third round and I had the season I wanted to have, I’d go.'

Prescott is on track to graduate in December with a degree in educational psychology, but Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen expects him back next season. 'I’d be shocked, but you never know,' he said.

Prescott's pro prospects are an interesting point of debate. On one hand, he's currently one of the Heisman front-runners, with 1,478 passing yards, 14 passing touchdowns, four interceptions, 576 rushing yards and eight rushing scores. His ability as a dual-threat quarterback is always intriguing, especially as more teams in the NFL are adapting plays like the zone-read into their playbooks.    

On the other hand, he's only in his first year as the starter and his completion percentage of 61.5 percent isn't terribly impressive. Earlier in the month, one NFL general manager compared him to another opinion-dividing quarterback to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com:

It's hard to argue that Prescott wouldn't benefit from another year of seasoning at Mississippi State. On the other hand, it's hard to argue with Prescott turning pro if he feels he'll be selected in the first three rounds to eliminate the injury risk that accompanies returning to college. 

If Prescott continues to shine, perhaps wins the Heisman Trophy and leads Mississippi State to an SEC title or the College Football Playoff, it's hard to imagine him returning for his senior year. If he's left with major goals to accomplish after this season, however, he would likely be better off continuing to improve at Mississippi State.   

 

 

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Watch High School RB Hurdle 5 Defenders in 1 Game

St. John's High School senior running back Shane Combs likes to hurdle. Combs hopped, skipped and jumped his way past multiple defenders in the Pioneers' 52-20 win over Massachusetts rival Shrewsbury High School. Combs ended his monster day with 198 yards rushing and three touchdowns. 

Was this the best run you've seen on the high school level?

Watch the video and let us know! 

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Focus Is on Fun for Getting UCLA Football Back on Track

Getting back to winning amid a two-game losing streak for the UCLA Bruins could be as simple as getting back to the most basic reason for playing football: having fun. 

"We played kind of uptight," linebacker Deon Hollins said after UCLA's practice Tuesday at Spaulding Field. 

The team's collective tension boiled over last Saturday at a temperature rivaling the near-100-degree temperatures in the Rose Bowl for the Bruins' 42-30 loss to Oregon. 

The most noteworthy examples of the team's emotion perhaps getting the best of it were defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich's sideline argument with head coach Jim Mora and defensive lineman Eddie Vanderdoes' flag for striking an Oregon player in a pile. 

Mora said Tuesday that the Pac-12 will not suspend Vanderdoes for Saturday's game at Cal but rather discipline would be "handled in-house."  

But after reaching a melting point Saturday, UCLA is positioned to simmer down.  

Hollins attributed UCLA's uptight attitude to "a lot of expectations."  

The record-high temperatures in California are falling this week, and so too have the outside expectations placed on the Bruins. UCLA, once a Top 10 team, is out of both The Associated Press and Amway Coaches Polls. 

The Bruins' slide from national championship contender to unranked following losses to Utah and Oregon could easily turn into a full-on tailspin, but they're using their struggles to regroup. 

"We never relax," center Jake Brendel said. "But it is kind of like, hit the reset button."

UCLA faced a similar situation last year, losing at Oregon one week after falling to Stanford. The Bruins went on to win five of their next six, including blowouts over rival USC and bowl game opponent Virginia Tech to start the 2014 hype in earnest. 

During the backstretch of the 2013 season, a looser UCLA bunch danced on the sideline before opening kickoffs and flew around fields with an exuberance seemingly lacking this campaign. 

If nothing else, the Bruins' current losing skid presents an opportunity to channel that same kind of attitude as they hit the second half of 2014.  

"It's never a good thing to lose two times in a row," Brendel said. "But in a way, that could help us just because the certain people who were here last year could have an idea of how to manage that."  

UCLA's looser outlook gets tested immediately with a visit to Cal, one of the less inviting venues in the Pac-12 for recent Bruins teams. UCLA is winless there since its last conference championship-winning season, 1998.  

The trek north is already fun for linebacker Eric Kendricks, whose older brother, Mychal, starred at Cal before joining the NFL's Philadelphia Eagles. 

"I think my brother has a bye week, so he might be coming down," Kendricks said. "He'll probably on their sideline rooting for the Bears."

Some good-natured family trash talk hasn't started yet, but Kendricks said that's because "the week's still early."  

Younger brother can get the last word with a Bruins win, but that's contingent on the defense shutting down Cal's high-powered passing offense, led by quarterback Jared Goff.

Goff is averaging 363.2 passing yards per game and has 22 touchdown throws with just three interceptions. 

Whereas Utah and Oregon attacked UCLA with multifaceted rushing attacks, Cal will send a bevy of wide receivers at the Bruins for Goff to air it out.

"You've got to change your mindset as far as running to the ball," Kendricks said of transitioning from the run-based opponents to Cal's bear-raid. "I'm not going to give you all our secrets on what we're going to do, but [change is] definitely looking in the game plan." 

Nothing could be more fun for the Bruins than spoiling Saturday for Goff and Co.—and a little fun is just what UCLA needs to get its season headed in the right direction. 

 

Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise cited. Statistics courtesy of CFBstats.com

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Rivalry Renewed: The Notre Dame vs. Florida State Ultimate Hype Tape

The rivalry between Florida State and Notre Dame is a heated one that is also layered with historical context. Two of the top teams of the last 25 years of college football collide to write another chapter in the already stirring clash of prestigious powerhouses.  

Does ND or FSU have the better shot at winning the national championship?

Watch the video and let us know!

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B/R CFB Committee: Playoff Predictions Heading into Week 8

With Week 8 quickly approaching, it's time to take a look at the College Football Playoff picture. There are quite a few deserving teams that are playing some outstanding ball right now, but only four teams can make the dance.

Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Michael FelderAdam Kramer and Barrett Sallee forecast their potential College Football Playoff.

Who is in your top four right now?

Watch the video and let us know! 

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Bo Jackson Speaks About Failed Attempt to Mentor Jameis Winston

Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston nearly had a mentor in former Heisman winner Bo Jackson, but the two-sport superstar claims the controversial Seminoles star didn't want to listen.     

During an appearance on The Jim Rome Show, via Chase Goodbread of NFL.com, Jackson said that he tried to speak with Winston and the encounter didn't go well:

I really don't know who is giving this young man guidance. I have communicated with him and I just talked to him like I was his dad. The things that you need to do. And this was before the incident where he was (suspended) from the baseball team (for stealing crab legs). I'm the type of person, I will go out of my way to help anybody. Normally, I don't like giving people advice if I haven't been down that road myself. But if I give you advice on something that I know more about than you by just falling out of bed in the morning, if you can't take that advice and learn from it, then I've got nothing else to do with the situation. You're on your own.

Rome did try to get clarification about what exactly Jackson said to Winston, but the former running back would only say, "If I told you what I told him, it'll probably singe the hairs in your ears."

Florida State is currently looking into whether Winston received compensation from a company that specializes in selling autographed merchandise, according to a report from Darren Rovell and Mark Schlabach of ESPN.com.  

Schlabach separately reported on Oct. 11 that Winston is going to face a disciplinary hearing from Florida State officials regarding the allegations of a 2012 sexual assault case involving a female student at the school. 

Winston has had controversy follow him around for most of the last two years for a variety of reasons. While he certainly isn't under any obligation to listen to what Jackson claims to have told him, the nationwide perception of Winston won't be helped by this.   

 

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Could a 2-Loss Team Make College Football Playoff?

Are we on course for a repeat of the 2007 madness?

Remember the wackiest year in the BCS era, when a two-loss team made it to the championship game and won the national title? It's only the third weekend of October, but there's a possibility that history might repeat itself in the inaugural year of the College Football Playoff.

While most of the strangeness took place in the final two weeks of the season in 2007, we might not have to wait as long this year. There are only five unbeaten major conference teams (with all due respect to Marshall—which is not much), and at most only three of them may be undefeated at the end of the regular season.

One of the unbeatens is sure to go down Saturday as Notre Dame visits Florida State. The Egg Bowl later in the season will eliminate another potential unbeaten. What this means is that at least one one-loss team will crash the four-team playoff field.

Which brings us to our next question. Might a two-loss team make the playoff field?

The answer is a definite maybe. With two of the five power conferences already without an undefeated team, it's very likely that a two-loss conference champion will be considered by the selection committee. And if the committee sticks to the pledge that conference titles will be of paramount importance, then a two-loss conference winner might be picked ahead of a one-loss at-large team.

So who are the potential two-loss candidates?

There are 22 one-loss teams in the power-five conferences, and it's from this group that a two-loss conference champ might emerge. Teams already with two losses are unlikely to remain in the mix as they must run the table from here on out, but there are exceptions as well.

We'll then start our process of elimination. First step: Any two-loss ACC or Big Ten team will not be in the playoff field. Both conferences are ranked significantly below the other three, according to Jeff Sagarin (via USA Today), so even a one-loss team, including Florida State, might have a hard time making the playoff field.

That leaves us with the SEC, Pac-12 and Big 12. With plenty of conference games ahead and competitive top-tier teams, it's not beyond question that a two-loss team might emerge as the conference champion. Taking a look at teams already with at least one loss, these are the most likely candidates to make the playoff despite two losses:

1. Georgia - The Bulldogs can incur another conference loss (or a loss to Georgia Tech) and still win the SEC East. And if they shock the West winner and take the SEC title, the committee probably will have to put them in the playoff field either over or in addition to another SEC team.

2. Auburn/Alabama - Both teams are in the same boat, with a loss each to one of the unbeaten Mississippi teams. A second loss probably will not be good enough to win the division, so the most likely path for either team—the one that wins the Iron Bowl—to make the playoff field is to win the SEC West with one loss but lose the SEC title game and still be picked as an at-large team.

3. USC - The Trojans already have two losses, but they have a couple of things going for them: Their remaining conference schedule is relatively benign, and they have a high-profile game against Notre Dame at the end of the regular season. If they can win the Pac-12 South, defeat an unbeaten or one-loss Irish and then take the conference title, they have a shot. It's a long shot, but it can be done.

4. Oregon - The Ducks might be able to win the Pac-12 North with two losses and then take the conference title. But they'll need a lot of help in this scenario to make the playoff field. They'll need Michigan State to win the Big Ten with two losses and all SEC teams except the champion also with multiple losses.

5. Oklahoma - Half of the Big 12 teams have no more than one loss, but OU is the only one with a (slim) chance to make the playoff field with two losses. In that case, the Sooners will have to at least share the conference title and have at least one other power-five conference winner be saddled with two or more losses. Their computer rankings likely will remain high even after incurring another loss.

 

Follow on Twitter @ThePlayoffGuru

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How Ohio State's Offense Has Changed from Braxton Miller to J.T. Barrett

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Even if the rest of Columbus is, Tom Herman isn't one for "What could be?"

Which is why when asked how his unit would be different this season with the injured Braxton Miller starting in place of J.T. Barrett, the Ohio State offensive coordinator opted not to compare the past two Buckeye quarterbacks.

"I get that question quite a bit," Herman admitted on Monday. "You guys like to deal in what ifs and hypotheticals. I like to deal in what is and reality. So I don't think it would be much different."

But as Herman's answer continued, the coach speak eroded as he admitted that there are some plays that Miller's presence allowed him to call and that Barrett's presence doesn't permit. "Obviously the home run ability of him when he tucks the ball and runs with it, whether on a design run, scramble, read, whatever, is going to be there when Braxton's in and as opposed to when he's not," he relented.

Home run ability.

That seems to have been the phrase of choice for the Buckeyes staff on the many occasions that it's been asked to discuss what the Ohio State offense misses without Miller at the quarterback position. After all, in two seasons under Urban Meyer, Miller compiled 2,339 rushing yards and 25 rushing touchdowns, en route to twice being named the Big Ten's MVP.

But even as Miller has stood on the sideline, nursing a season-ending torn labrum this year, the Buckeyes offense has hummed along under the direction of Barrett.

Through the first five games of the 2014 season, Ohio State ranks 12th in the nation in yards per game (524) and fifth in scoring average (44.5 points per game). Those numbers are comparable to the Buckeyes' averages a year ago of 512 yards and 45.5 points per game, which ranked eighth and fifth in the country, respectively.

So without Miller's ability to run the ball, how has Ohio State kept its offense on track? It hasn't been with the legs of Barrett, who has attempted 14 fewer rushes for 122 less yards than Miller did in his first five full games of the 2013 campaign.

Rather, the Buckeyes have maintained their home run ability with a plethora of emerging playmakers and the steady hand of Barrett, who ranks third in the country with a passer rating of 186.3. In his first five starts, the redshirt freshman has completed passes to 12 separate receivers—in 12 games in 2013, Miller connected with a total of nine different pass-catchers.

Drawing back on a conversation with former Notre Dame head coach and current ESPN analyst Lou Holtz, Meyer was more honest while discussing the difference in this year's Ohio State offense. As Holtz sees it, Miller's injury has required others to step up, leading to a more balanced approach for the Buckeyes.

"[Holtz] said it's a much different offense now than it was last year, and it's because there's a void," Meyer said. "We're using skill. Ezekiel Elliott is a different player than [running back] Carlos [Hyde] was. You got Dontre [Wilson] and Jalin [Marshall] starting to develop, which gives you a little more flexibility on the perimeter run game too."

The numbers in the Buckeyes' box scores back that up, although that may be selling Barrett's ability short. While he may not be as explosive as his predecessor, Barrett has proven efficient as a runner with 55.2 yards per game, in addition to completing a higher percentage (66.2 percent) of his passes than Miller did a season ago.

Which begs the question: Does the improvement of the Ohio State offense have more to do with the talent around the quarterback position or the person playing it?

There's a compelling argument for each.

On the one hand, Barrett doesn't have Hyde or Corey "Philly" Brown to rely on, but he has been gifted with improved versions of Elliott and Wilson, as well as Marshall, Michael Thomas and Corey Smith—each of whom redshirted a season ago. In fact, Miller entered this season expecting to play the role of distributor, stating it was his preference to not run the ball as much as he has in the past.

That's of course something that we'll have to take his and the Ohio State coaching staff's word for, as the latter showed a propensity for relying on Miller's legs when games have gotten tight in the past two seasons.

Is it Barrett's ability as a seemingly more natural passer that has allowed for the Buckeyes' new spread-it-around approach? Or would Miller be finding similar success, while also adding his dynamic running ability to the equation?

These are the hypotheticals that Herman isn't interested in dealing with, as he insists that his focus solely remains on the Buckeyes' upcoming matchup with Rutgers. But regardless of what he says, there's no denying that the Ohio State offense has been different this season than it has been in the past two—regardless of whatever the reason for that may be.

"What we do well, our offensive staff, is we adapt to the personnel—I've been asked that question, 'Is this the vision we have?'" Meyer said. "I'd like to have really fast players that create big plays. We're kind of developing that right now. But I don't mind having what we had last year either.

"As long as there's good quality players to work with, which you should always have at Ohio State, it's up to the offensive staff to develop the plan around those players. I think our guys have done a really good job."

 

Ben Axelrod is Bleacher Report's Ohio State Lead Writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BenAxelrod. Unless noted otherwise, all quotes obtained firsthand. All recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

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Auburn Football: Grading Each Positional Unit at Halfway Point of the Season

AUBURN, Ala. — This week, the defending SEC champions are at a crossroads.

The Auburn Tigers have not completely found the same stride against highly ranked teams that they had toward the end of 2013, but Auburn is still a SEC and College Football Playoff contender at 5-1 through the first half of the season.

Although there has been a stronger emphasis on the passing game and a wealth of returning talent, Auburn's offense is below the pace it set last season in head coach Gus Malzahn's return to the Plains. Meanwhile, the Tiger defense is playing some of its best ball since the days Tommy Tuberville roamed the sidelines at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

With an important off week between the 38-23 loss to new No. 1 Mississippi State and the rest of a brutal schedule—all three of Auburn's remaining road games are against teams currently ranked in the Top 10—it's a good time to review each positional unit at this point in the campaign.

I have handed out midterm grades for each position, and while Auburn has continued its run as one of the country's best teams, there is definitely room for improvement across the field. Take a look at the following grades and post your own report card for the Tigers in the comments section below.

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Can Marcus Mariota Lead Oregon Past Washington and into the Playoff?

The Oregon Ducks' high-powered offense faces a stiff test when it squares up against the Washington Huskies' staunch defense.

Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Adam Kramer and Michael Felder break down the intriguing matchup.

Will Washington's defense be able to stop the speedy Oregon attack?

Watch the video and let us know! 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

SEC Extra Points with Barrett Sallee: Fans Should Like Nick Saban's Rant

Saban Steps Up

Everybody loves a good press conference rant, and Alabama coach Nick Saban provided one on Monday, going off on fans and critics who are disappointed over Alabama's 14-13 win over Arkansas last weekend.

"I was just happy to see our players be happy about playing a game and winning," Saban said. "And it really, sort of, if you want to know the truth about it, pisses me off when I talk to people that have this expectation like they're disappointed that we only won the game 14-13 and the way we played. Really. That's frustrating. You wanna talk about something that's frustrating? That's frustrating. To me. For our players. Who played with a lot of heart in the game."

Good for Saban.

He has every right to defend his players and team from critics with unrealistic expectations. Any road win in the SEC is a good win, and while his team—particularly his special teams unit—was a little sloppy in Fayetteville, it overcame adversity on the field and got a very important win.

What's the problem?

There isn't one.

Star wide receiver Amari Cooper suffered and fought through a shoulder injury in the game, which was played in rainy conditions. Going conservative, in that situation, isn't the worst idea ever.

Has Alabama's success since 2008 created an expectation of excellence? Absolutely. Like every other team in the country, though, Alabama has a roster full of 18-to-22-year-old young men who make mistakes, get rattled and figure out ways to rebound.

When they do rebound, they shouldn't be criticized. They should be complimented.

 

No Other Option

Florida quarterback Treon Harris was in line to start last week at home vs. LSU, but a five-day investigation into a sexual assault allegation—which was later recanted—cost him a week of practice, film room work and the game vs. the Tigers.

Harris is back now, and according to head coach Will Muschamp, he and redshirt junior Jeff Driskel will both see time during the game.

"They both will play this week, and we'll work through the week, and we'll see how things go and we'll see how it goes from there," Muschamp said in quotes emailed by Florida. "Right now, Jeff [Driskel] will probably start, but they're both going to play."

This is how it should be done, given the circumstances.

I wrote on Saturday that it's up to Harris to save Muschamp's job, but in order for that to happen, it needs to be handled responsibly. Starting Driskel and working Harris in is the responsible thing to do.

Starting Driskel and getting Harris in early allows Muschamp to get them both into the flow early and then go with whoever is more productive—which likely will be Harris based on Driskel's struggles throughout his career.

If Muschamp were to start Harris, he struggles and then the team goes back to Driskel, it'd be a panic move. It'd hurt more than help the team and, in turn, hurt Muschamp's job stability.

It'll be Harris' job soon enough, most likely by halftime against Missouri this weekend.

 

High Praise From the Top Bulldog

Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott has gone from Heisman Trophy dark horse to contender to front-runner in a matter of five weeks and is a big reason why his Bulldogs are ranked No. 1 in both the AP Top 25 and USA Today football coaches polls for the first time ever.

Prescott has averaged 246.3 passing yards and 96 rushing yards per game while scoring 23 total touchdowns through six games.

To athletics director Scott Stricklin, Prescott's leadership skills and the relationship he has with his teammates are even more impressive.

"He's a special individual," Stricklin told Bleacher Report. "I've been at this for over 25 years in college athletics, he's one of the most unique individuals who I've ever been around. He's so mature for his age and respectful. On top of that, he has such natural leadership abilities. On top of that, he's a heck of a football player. Take the football piece away, and he's still a great guy to have in the program and a part of the University. I've never been around any student-athlete quite like him."

If Prescott and the Bulldogs keep this up, he'll be in New York City representing his team, his school and his family as a Heisman finalist.

 

Gurley Watch...Continues

Georgia is still working with the NCAA to figure out star running back Todd Gurley's status for this weekend, as the school's investigation on whether or not Gurley accepted money for autographs enters its second week.

With Gurley in limbo, Georgia is again preparing for life without him, as the Bulldogs travel to Little Rock for a game with the Arkansas Razorbacks this weekend.

After the team first said that former running back J.J. Green wouldn't need to move from safety back to the offensive side, Seth Emerson of The Telegraph reports Green has moved back to running back this week in practice.

Is that a sign of Gurley's status? Maybe and maybe not. It is, though, a sign that Georgia needs bodies at running back.

Freshman Nick Chubb had 42 touches last week in the 34-0 win over Missouri, which earned him SEC Freshman of the Week honors. Since the Gurley news broke last Thursday evening, he was really the only option.

With a full week to prepare for life without Gurley—should that be the case—head coach Mark Richt has some time to piece together some depth.

Green finished second on the team last season with 384 yards and three touchdowns, and he will provide an insurance policy along with Brendan Douglas behind Chubb this week if Gurley can't go.

Richt and offensive coordinator Mike Bobo didn't have the time to sort the situation out last week. They do now, and moving Green back to offense is a smart move.

 

Quick Outs

  • When is the proper time to refer to Kentucky as an SEC East contender? If the Wildcats beat LSU in Death Valley—yes, even a down LSU team—that would signify the proper time. The SEC West hasn't lost to a team outside of the SEC West yet this year, and if Kentucky is the team that breaks that streak, that would qualify as a statement win.
  • The Robert Nkemdiche picture fiasco was ridiculous this week. First and foremost, opposing fans holding pictures of players as ransom and posting them during game week in a direct attempt to get them in trouble is a concerning practice. Let's not make that a trend. Secondly, Ole Miss' policy doesn't require suspension on the first offense and all signs point to this being new territory for Nkemdiche. Unless we find out otherwise, the story should end here.
  • Tennessee running back Jalen Hurd is banged up but will play against Ole Miss on Saturday, according to The Tennessean. The Vols need him, because the last thing quarterback Justin Worley needs is that Ole Miss front four pinning its ears back and coming after the quarterback with no threat of the running game.
  • Auburn is changing the way it is evaluating quarterback Nick Marshall, according to Joel A. Erickson of AL.com. That's a good thing. Marshall is a big-play quarterback on the ground and through the air, so why force him to be something he's not by making him throw shorter and intermediate routes? If Marshall is himself, Auburn will be fine.

 

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and video analyst for Bleacher Report, as well as a co-host of the CFB Hangover on Bleacher Report Radio (Sundays, 9-11 a.m. ET) on Sirius 93, XM 208.

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of cfbstats.com, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Do the Ohio State Buckeyes Belong in Playoff Discussion?

Ohio State was left for dead after an embarrassing loss to Virginia Tech, but the Buckeyes have kept their heads down and most importantly, kept winning. Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Michael Felder and Adam Kramer discuss whether or not Ohio State is worthy of playoff consideration.

Would you put a one-loss Ohio State team in your College Football Playoff?

Watch the video and let us know!

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Twitter Reacts to Seth Green's B/R Exclusive Commitment to Oregon

Seth Green is headed to Oregon. The 4-star quarterback prospect announced his decision to attend Oregon on Wednesday to Bleacher Report, choosing the Ducks over Michigan State and Minnesota. 

KSTP-TV Sports Anchor Chris Long shared an image of Green expressing his excitement:

Considered among the best dual-threat quarterbacks in the nation, the East Ridge (Woodbury, Minnesota) product was considered by most a near-lock to pick Oregon, per 247Sports' Crystal Ball predictions. 

Dave Schwartz, KARE11 Weekend Sports Anchor, reiterated this wasn't a shocking announcement, while Tim Leighton of TwinCities.com observed Green was leaning a certain way during the press conference: 

“I would say yes, [Oregon is] leading, but everyone makes it sound like it’s the obvious choice,” Green told David La Vaque of the Star Tribune prior to the announcement. “That isn’t true because Michigan State is a great program. They have three active quarterbacks in the NFL right now. And then Minnesota is the hometown team. Coach [Jerry] Kill is bringing the program up tremendously.”

Steve Wiltfong of 247Sports.com quickly noticed Oregon has a streak of signing high-caliber quarterbacks:

Jack Satzinger of MNDaily.com noted Minnesota was heavily recruiting Green heading into the announcement:

However, Marcus R. Fuller of TwinCities.com acknowledged Green handled the process respectfully:

Ryan McCumber of TheMajors.net predicts how Green's commitment will alter Michigan State's recruiting plans:

As a member of the Class of 2016, Green was under no pressure to make a decision now. He is in the middle of his junior season and can only make a verbal commitment at this juncture. He will not be contractually bound to Oregon until national signing day in 2016—nearly a year-and-a-half from now.

But Green sounds like someone who's already pot-committed long term.

“It just feels right for me because I narrowed down my choices,” Green told La Vaque. “I want to get it out of the way and focus on getting better as a quarterback. And also I want to help recruiting for that school.”

Ranked eighth nationally among dual-threat quarterbacks by 247Sports' composite rankings, Green has opened the eyes of scouts with his ability to create with both his arm and feet. He had thrown for 1,091 yards and 13 touchdowns, adding 343 yards and three scores on the ground prior to Friday's game against Mounds View. 

It's difficult to find many players with more physical talent. Green is listed at 6'3" and 210 pounds, with the potential to bulk up his frame over the next year. While no one will confuse him with a prime Michael Vick, he's not lacking for athleticism or top-end speed. If Mark Helfrich can work on getting more mechanical consistency, Green might be able to slot into the starting lineup as an underclassman.

However, Clint Brewster of 247Sports.com offered his critique of Green following the announcement:

Timing here, in many ways, is crucial. Green's commitment allows him to push away the distractions that others in his class will be dealing with for the next year. His improvements can also be more concentrated to Oregon's system, which has consistently highlighted dual-threat quarterbacks.

In all, everyone gets to cross off a major need from their checklist. We'll see if the feeling stays mutual into the winter of 2016, though.

 

Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Week 8 Predictions: Picking Top-25 Games Against the Spread

College football’s regular season is halfway complete, which is jarring and, yet, somehow familiar. 

Each campaign moves at extraordinary speed, and we don’t realize how swiftly it goes until the schedules are empty and we’re left gazing into nothing. Thankfully, they are not. There is still so much meaningful football to be played—so much to look forward to—and it kicks into force yet again for Week 8.

While the overall slate of games may not reach Week 6 or Week 7 levels, at least on paper, there are more than enough intriguing games to satisfy your football palate.

To add further intrigue, of course, are point spreads. And our weekly tradition of picking all games featuring the AP Top 25 against the spread has no bye week. We could have used one last week—offering up an overall performance under .500 after a solid run of selections—but that’s no excuse. 

Winning ways return with our Week 8 picks; at least that’s the plan.

 

All spreads are courtesy of Odds Shark unless noted otherwise.

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Mississippi State vs. Ole Miss: Way-Too-Early Preview for 2014 Egg Bowl

The state of Mississippi is the epicenter of college football right now. After surprising starts for the Ole Miss Rebels and the Mississippi State Bulldogs, all eyes are on this year's edition of the Egg Bowl.

Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Barrett Sallee and Adam Kramer discuss the future Egg Bowl matchup.

If the game were played today, who would win?

Watch the video and let us know! 

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Georgia Football: Midseason Review for the 2014 Bulldogs

Six games into the Georgia Bulldogs’ season, it’s still hard to get a grip on this team’s identity. 

The highs, such as a season-opening rout of Clemson and last weekend’s shutout of Missouri, have been thrilling.  The lows—in particular a loss to South Carolina—have been devastating.  The offense has played well for the most part but has stalled at times.  The defense has struggled often but has seemingly found its stride.  Special teams have improved but have still been plagued by inconsistency.

Even the most dependable element of the team, star running back Todd Gurley, is now a completely unknown quantity given an indefinite suspension.

In an effort to better understand this team and where it might be going, here is a closer look at what’s worked and what hasn’t worked for the Bulldogs and some insights into the road ahead.

 

What Went Well

To be direct, a 5-1 start is worth noting in and of itself.  Georgia has played four SEC teams, three teams that were ranked at the time of kickoff and six FBS opponents.  Through that schedule, which rating guru Jeff Sagarin currently has tabbed as 23rd most difficult in the country, Georgia has held up well.  The season is still young, but Georgia has only opened one of their past 10 seasons with a better record through six games.

Broadly speaking, a lot has gone right for the Bulldogs to achieve such success.  Much to the chagrin of Mike Bobo-haters, Georgia is averaging 43.2 points per game—a total that would shatter the school’s previous record for scoring offense and currently ranks eighth in the country.  Defensively, Georgia ranks 13th in the nation in points allowed at just 18 points per contest. Only one other school, Marshall, ranks in the top 15 in both scoring offense and scoring defense.

Offensively, Georgia’s ground attack has been something to behold.  Understandably, Gurley stole headlines through the team’s first five games.  That’s bound to happen when an 8.2 yards-per-carry average gives way to 773 total rushing yards and eight touchdowns. 

But freshman running backs Sony Michel and Nick Chubb have each accounted for more than 200 rushing yards and three touchdowns over the first half of the season, and each back has a 100-yard game to his name.  Such continued success—even in the absence of Gurley—is a testament to play-calling and stout offensive line play.  Even Georgia’s running game is not a one-man show.

Defensively, improvements under new coordinator Jeremy Pruitt are hard to ignore.  After a strong second-half performance in Week 1 against Clemson, Pruitt made it abundantly clear that his work was not finished.  “We’ve still got a long ways to go,” he told Seth Emerson of the Ledger-Enquirer.  “I mean basically all we’ve done is guarantee we can go 1-11.”

Though it hasn’t always been pretty, this defense is making advancements.  Most notably the team’s ability to pressure opposing quarterbacks—particularly on obvious passing downs—has allowed this defense to prevent long third-down conversions and get off the field much more regularly.  And as of late, pass coverage has held its own downfield.

On special teams, there are signs of life as well.  Freshman Isaiah McKenzie is the first legitimate punt returner Georgia’s fielded in several years.  Though he’s occasionally loose with the football, his elusiveness is a real threat.  Further, Georgia’s coverage on kickoffs and punts alike is much improved.

 

What Didn’t Go Well

As great as the 5-1 start is, the loss to South Carolina is a black eye that darkens with every South Carolina loss.  To be sure, the Bulldogs’ rivalry with the Gamecocks is now one that transcends typical analysis.  Either team could win this game any year, regardless of record.  But the national perception is that Georgia lost to a mediocre foe given South Carolina’s 3-3 overall record and 2-3 mark in conference play.

More frustrating still is the fact that Georgia lost a hard-fought 38-35 battle after a 54-yard Todd Gurley touchdown was called back in the first half due to a phantom holding penalty.  According to Chip Towers of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the SEC’s office later indicated that the penalty should not have been called.

But the entirety of that loss can’t be blamed on officials so much as it can be blamed on the secondary’s inability to cover.  South Carolina quarterback Dylan Thompson set season highs for completion percentage and quarterback rating while throwing for 271 yards and three touchdowns in that contest.  Furthermore, two missed field goals by the normally dependable Marshall Morgan and some questionable play calls on offense sealed Georgia’s fate.

A strong second half of the season will make the loss to South Carolina forgettable, but Georgia could—and possibly should—be undefeated.  Heading into the trip to Columbia, Georgia was ranked sixth by both the AP and the Coaches Poll.  Four of the five teams ranked ahead of the Bulldogs at that time have lost, and the other (Florida State) has hardly looked dominant.  The Dawgs would likely hold a Top Three ranking if they had an undefeated record.

And, of course, one would be remiss not to mention the ongoing autograph saga involving Gurley, a disgruntled memorabilia dealer and the NCAA among the first half’s disappointments.  The length of Gurley’s suspension remains unknown, but the team is undoubtedly better when he is on the field.  Chubb did a fine job filling in for him last week against Missouri, but Georgia can’t run the table without Gurley.

 

What Lies Ahead

Optimism surrounding what has thus far been a great season is truly hedged by Gurley’s unknown future. 

If he was clear to play, it would be a fair assertion that Georgia should win every game remaining on the schedule with the exception of Auburn.  And even the Auburn game could prove a favorable matchup for the Dawgs at home.

With Gurley out, however, the entire slate is daunting.  Arkansas seems due to pick off an SEC heavyweight after back-to-back narrow defeats to Texas A&M and Alabama.  Florida always brings its best effort to Jacksonville.  Auburn could dominate if Georgia is without its star.  Even Georgia Tech, which snuck into the Top 25 for a brief moment earlier this season, could upset a Gurley-less Georgia team.

And that’s where things get difficult to prognosticate.  Things went very well for Georgia without Gurley against Missouri, but it’s easy to read too much into that 34-0 landslide victory.  Truthfully, that game probably said more about the Tigers and their lack of fortitude than it did about the Bulldogs.  The effort by Georgia was complete and therefore cannot be rightfully ignored.  But great teams do not lose by 34 points at home to an opponent that recently lost its best player.  Missouri is not a great team.

Accordingly, it’s hard to know how sustainable this team’s success is without Gurley.  The beautiful combination he brought to the field was not merely size, speed and vision.  His most valuable offerings are his consistency and his ability to break game-changing plays.  To cross over into another sport, Gurley is a high-percentage batter who hits a lot of home runs.  Georgia doesn’t have another player of that caliber.  Very few teams do.

With or without Gurley, however, this defense should continue to improve.  Assuming the front seven stays healthy and the pass rush remains as lethal as it has been, the secondary will benefit tremendously.  That bodes well for a unit that prides itself on opportunistic play and forcing turnovers. 

And offensively, Bobo still has a few wrinkles up his sleeve as coordinator.  Don’t be surprised to see a slightly heavier reliance on the passing game as quarterback Hutson Mason continues to adjust to game speed and benefits from the return of Malcolm Mitchell and Justin Scott-Wesley.  And once Sony Michel and Keith Marshall return from injury, the backfield will be much more involved in the passing game as well.

This team is capable of competing in the college football playoff.  If Gurley returns, the team could win out and enter the SEC Championship Game much less battered than the counterpart from the SEC West.  And Georgia would have a noticeable advantage in the experience department should its opponent in Atlanta hail from a Mississippi school.  Playing in the conference championship game would be new terrain for Hugh Freeze’s Ole Miss team and Dan Mullen’s Mississippi State squad.  Georgia has played in two of the last three SEC Championships.

From there, it’s hard to imagine an SEC champ being denied entry into the four-team playoff. 

The floor for this team, however, is completely unknown.  Even without Gurley, every game remaining on this schedule could feasibly be won, but his absence leaves no margin for error.  Accordingly, a 4-2 second half seems more likely.

Hang in there, Georgia fans.  There’s still a lot up in the air, but nothing is yet off the table.

 

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained first hand and all statistics courtesy of Sports-Reference.com. 

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B/R Exclusive: Watch 2016 4-Star QB Seth Green Commit

Seth Green, a dual-threat quarterback from Minnesota, has narrowed his search down to three schools. College Football Analyst Barrett Sallee has a Bleacher Report exclusive commitment. 

Which school will Seth choose?

 

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College Football Week 8 Schedule: TV and Live Stream Info for Every Game

Week 8 of the NCAA football season doesn't feature quite as many marquee matchups as the previous two weekends, but there should be plenty of excitement to go around for pigskin fans across the nation.

Mississippi State jumped to No. 1 in the Associated Press and Amway Coaches polls after its 38-23 win over then-No. 2 Auburn, and it will get at least one week to enjoy the limelight as it prepares for its next game, a Week 9 matchup on the road against the University of Kentucky. 

It's a week for those that wish to wear the rankings crown to establish themselves as contenders worthy of the inaugural College Football Playoff alongside the front-running Bulldogs.

Here is a look at the Week 8 college football slate, complete with television and live stream information.

Note: schedule courtesy of ESPN.com.

 

Live Stream Note

More games can be found at the following websites, although they may require an account or a subscription:

CBSSports.com

BTN2Go.com

Pac-12.com

NBC Live Extra

ABC Live

Fox Sports Go

 

Game of The Week

No. 5 Notre Dame at No. 2 Florida State

If you can watch just one game this weekend—skip the farmers market on Saturday for once—make it this one. 

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish take on the Florida State Seminoles in a titanic tango that will leave one squad with its first loss of the season. As ESPN College Football points out, Notre Dame does a fine job of fighting off titleholders while undefeated:

Both teams are led by their star quarterbacks—Everett Golson for the Fighting Irish and Jameis Winston for the Seminoles—who have done a bang-up job of torching opposing secondaries via the pass and wearing down front sevens with their legs.

The Seminoles rank 15th in the nation in offensive efficiency, while the Fighting Irish rank 29th, per ESPN.com. Putting up 39 points per game will earn a team a lofty ranking, but the Noles could very well struggle to hit that number Saturday.

Notre Dame is ranked 41st in team passing efficiency defense, per NCAA.com. 

It's a fine ranking and just behind Wake Forest, which ranks 40th in that category. Yes, the Seminoles dropped 43 points on the Demon Deacons, but Winston tossed just one touchdown against one interception and averaged 7.6 yards per attempt in that contest.

Golson should be able to keep up if his secondary does its job, but he will have to take care of the ball. Florida State took advantage of three turnovers in that game, and Golson has nine turnovers in the past three games, per ESPN.com.  NFL.com's Bryan Fischer felt the senior quarterback hurt his Heisman chances with his mistake-ridden performance against North Carolina:

The Seminoles will be looking to take advantage of Golson's miscues.

"We know they're going to come in and play their best game, but we see that [turnovers] on film," said strong safety Tyler Hunter, via Garry Smits of The Florida Times-Union. "We try to force turnovers anyway. We force them in practice, stripping the ball, picking it off. We try to force it on them [Notre Dame]."

It's interesting that neither team has what one can call a "signature" win on the season—the type of win that sees them grind a top-tier opponent into dust and has fans of rival teams exchanging nervous glances when the score pops at the bottom of their television sets.

Notre Dame did beat then-No. 14 Stanford, but it was a three-point victory in a somewhat turgid, sloppy affair. The Seminoles crushed Wake Forest, but the Demon Deacons are 2-4 and fifth in the ACC. A 23-17 overtime win over Clemson, with quarterback Sean Maguire at the helm in place of a suspended Winston, was encouraging, even if it did reveal how much this team depends on Winston.

This contest is a season-affirming opportunity for both teams, but it might mean a little more for the Fighting Irish.

If Florida State loses this game, it could still very well march to an ACC title—with Clemson and perhaps Virginia the only legitimate challengers—and lock up a College Football Playoff spot as a one-loss conference champion. 

Notre Dame, which forges on as an independent in the FBS, might have a bit more riding on this game. Should the Fighting Irish lose, they don't have a conference ranking as a barometer, only the strength of their schedule. The six teams they've defeated have a combined record of 17-21—Stanford is the only team above .500. This game represents an opportunity to beat the best and affirm their ranking.

We want to be challenged nationally against the very, very best," head coach Brian Kelly said, per The Associated Press, via The Washington Post. "That's probably more significant than anything else, that these are the games that we want to play."

If the Fighting Irish do get past the 'Noles, an undefeated record is well within reach, as No. 17 Arizona State and No. 22 USC are the the two strongest opponents left on their schedule.

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Tennessee Football: 10 Keys to Beating Ole Miss

In order for the Tennessee Volunteers to pull off the big upset this Saturday evening in Oxford over the No. 3 Ole Miss Rebels, they have to do a lot of things right. Fixing their own issues, limiting mistakes and capitalizing on opportunities are just a few. I've compiled 10 keys to pulling the upset.

Interestingly, a combination of Florida's performance over Tennessee and Ole Miss' performance over Alabama are what it will take. The Gators did a good job keeping the game close and keeping the Volunteers offense at bay. The Rebels maintained momentum and jumped all over the Crimson Tide whenever the latter faltered.

The last time the Vols traveled to Oxford, Dexter McCluster had a career day. If Tennessee is to keep that from happening again with a current Rebel, they need to follow these 10 steps.

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Thinking Defense Doesn't Win Championships Anymore in College Football

There’s a temptation to declare Baylor unfit to win the national championship in football after seeing its defense strafed for 58 points in Saturday’s victory against Texas Christian. After all, that game’s 61-58 final score had only 25 fewer points than the 76-68 tilt between those two schools’ basketball teams in last season’s Big 12 tournament.

But the Bears are just one of six contenders in The Associated Press' latest version of the top 10 who this season have yielded a point total that would have been unthinkable for almost all recent national champions.

That’s where the college game is at the moment, and it’s a trend that’s unlikely to change unless Ole Miss’ stout tacklers and pass defenders waltz to the title.

Here’s a little history to put it in perspective:

For the 16 seasons that the BCS Championship Game existed, scoring 35 points was something of a magic number for defenses that aspired to generate a national title. During that period, only two champions entered the title game having given up 35 or more points in any contest, all season long.

The exceptions were Auburn in 2010 (which won a 65-43 shootout with Arkansas) and Louisiana State, which did it twice in 2007. But the LSU games get asterisks, since both were losses in triple overtime. (43-37 at Kentucky and 50-48 to Arkansas.) 

The respective scores in those two LSU games at the end of regulation were 27-27 and 28-28. So really, the 35-point rule was broken only once in 16 years. And eight of the BCS football champions never allowed an opponent to score 30 points.

Now then, welcome to 2014.

The season is essentially only halfway completed, and the defenses of these highly regarded teams already have had their 35-point bubble popped:

No. 2 Florida State, 41, to North Carolina State

No. 4 Baylor, 58, to TCU

No. 5 Notre Dame, 43, to North Carolina

No. 6 Auburn, 38, to Mississippi State

No. 8 Michigan State, 46, to Oregon

No. 10 Georgia, 38, to South Carolina

Please also note that No. 1 Mississippi State is barely under the wire, having been tapped for 34 points by UAB.

The entire discussion about defense in college football has shifted. Proof of that came when Baylor’s defense somehow received a big share of the credit for the TCU victory, because it finally did its job late, holding the Horned Frogs scoreless on their final three drives.

Players' enthusiasm is part of what makes the collegiate game great, but it still was a bit humorous to see Baylor defensive lineman Beau Blackshear quoted by the AP as saying: "I really think we stepped up tonight especially toward the end of the game after having that real rough first half."

On a night when a team gives up 58 points, no one on the defense stepped up. They were just stepped on.

Even funnier is that Baylor’s soft early schedule meant it went into the TCU game ranked fourth in the nation for total defense, with 267 yards per game. Funnier still was Fox Sports’ opening line in a prediction that Baylor would win 31-28: “Baylor’s defense doesn’t get enough credit.”

Yes, it's easy to have all sorts of laughs on a team that gives up 58 points, especially with hindsight as a comic tool.

But here's the bottom line: Baylor, even with a Swiss cheese defense, is still alive and in the thick of the College Football Playoff race. The nation’s No. 1 scoring defense, Stanford, is 4-2 and out of it.

The Cardinal cede only 10 points a game, but they came up short against Southern California (13-10) and Notre Dame (17-14) because they're not up to date with the college trend of outscoring opponents.

And good luck to the recruiter who tries to convince a blue-chip offensive player that Stanford is a place to thrive.

There of course will be some old-school folks who continue to lament what the spread offense has done to college football. The easy complaints are that it’s transforming college football into a video game and making defensive linemen obsolete.

Personally, I enjoyed seeing Texas A&M and Oklahoma make a defensive genius like Nick Saban squirm while his defense gave up 40-point games to those schools last season. It’s good for ratings, and it’s good for fans who want to believe that the game ain’t over til it’s over.

Compare it to Arena Football if you want but in today’s game the best defense has become an explosive offense.

So has the 35-point rule totally died?

No, it simply has shifted to the other side of the ball, because as Bleacher Report's Adam Kramer points out, 35 teams are averaging 35 points or more per game right now, which is pretty much what it takes to win in today's college game.

 

Tom Weir covered college football as a columnist for USA Today.

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