NCAA Football News

Melvin Gordon's Record 408-Yard Rushing Day Gets a 'Tecmo Bowl' Remake

Nebraska running back Melvin Gordon broke LaDainian Tomlinson's FBS single-game rushing record with a 408-yard effort (in three quarters) vs. Wisconsin. 

But as we all know, a great football play isn't completely legit until it gets remade on Tecmo Bowl.

Luckily, YouTube user Random Logic came up with the 8-bit version of the historic day.  

[CollegeSpun]

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Miami Football: Best Bowl Game Options for the Hurricanes

The 2014 edition of the Miami Hurricanes have clinched bowl eligibility, but Al Golden's team is still waiting for the postseason picture to unfold.

Eight Atlantic Coast Conference teams have reached six wins, while North Carolina and Virginia Tech both currently sit at 5-5. Of course, the ACC has at least nine guaranteed bowl slots, so Miami isn't in danger of missing the cut.

So, where will the 'Canes be traveling for their final outing of the season? A handful of analysts have published their thoughts on the matter.

Considering the projections, however, the destinations Miami should prefer for its bonus game are relatively clear. For example, the Military Bowl would certainly be a neat tribute to the U.S. Armed Forces, but playing an American Athletic Conference program would also be a disappointment.

Accounting for competition value is important, since the Hurricanes need to show improvement against above-average teams. Put simply, other postseason options provide a more meaningful contest for the rebuilding program.

Remember that the following are the best remaining opportunities. Miami is definitely out of the running for the Orange and Peach Bowls, while a repeat appearance in the Russell Athletic Bowl is unlikely, as is the Belk Bowl.

 

Pinstripe Bowl

Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press believes a showdown with a Big Ten opponent in Yankee Stadium is the probable outcome for Golden's crew.

Reynolds notes Miami has a large alumni base in the area, which is an important component of the selection process. Of the three postseason games listed here, however, the Pinstripe is the least preferred from a competition perspective.

Penn State is an obvious pick to occupy the Big Ten's slot, and battling Christian Hackenberg is an intriguing prospect. It would be the first postseason meeting between the schools since the 1987 Fiesta Bowl, when Vinny Testaverde's five interceptions doomed the Hurricanes' hopes for a national championship.

Additionally, Maryland and Rutgers are also logical candidates from the conference, which Miami once opposed in the ACC and Big East, respectively.

While other options may be subjectively better, taking a trip to the Pinstripe Bowl would not be a complete disappointment for the 'Canes.

 

Music City Bowl

Miami has an outside chance at heading to LP Field, but the Music City Bowl pits the ACC vs. the much-heralded, oft-criticized SEC.

Unsurprisingly, Tennessee is a popular choice from the SEC side, given the school's proximity to Nashville. The Volunteers aren't necessarily a glamorous opponent, but they've significantly improved since dual-threat quarterback Josh Dobbs took over.

Not only would Butch Jones' squad be a quality nonconference opponent anyway, they'd possess a distinct home-field advantage. The Hurricanes lost away games to Louisville, Nebraska and Georgia Tech this season with a combined deficit of 100-61.

Realistically, there are a handful of other SEC teams that could be chosen to represent the conference in Nashville. Kentucky is another program to watch, but the Wildcats must upend rival Louisville to clinch their sixth win.

Miami could put its season-long improvement to the test and see if the evident progression results in what would essentially be a road victory over an SEC foe. The 'Canes have never appeared in the Music City Bowl throughout its 16-year history.

 

Sun Bowl

Ahh, memories. The lone time Miami was chosen for the Sun Bowl (2010), it was shellacked by Notre Dame 33-17 in sub-40-degree temperatures as then-newly hired coach Golden watched from the press box.

Golden detractors could attempt to establish a full-circle irony, saying he essentially began and ended his career in El Paso. That's probably not happening, nor should it—but that's a different story for another day.

Regardless, the Dec. 30 game chooses a Pac-12 opponent for the other sideline, and the western conference boasts a solid group of mid-level teams. Long story short, the 'Canes would almost assuredly oppose one of USC, UCLA, Arizona, Arizona State or Utah—five teams Miami has played a combined 10 times.

Each of those programs have posted a record of 7-3 or better, battling each other in hopes of winning the South Division.

The only team to knock off Oregon is Arizona, though it lost to USC, which lost to Utah, which lost to Arizona State, which lost to UCLA, yet USC currently leads the division. The Pac-12 South is exactly like the ACC Coastal, except the former isn't as collectively embarrassing.

The Hurricanes have never played Utah, but the Utes have attempted to establish a nationwide brand of "The U," which is Miami's claim to fame. Without question, someone from either side would call a postseason meeting a "Battle for The U." That would be a travesty, but it would undoubtedly happen.

Petty disagreements aside, there's little doubt the Hurricanes' toughest potential competition would be found at the Sun Bowl.

 

Follow Bleacher Report college football writer David Kenyon on Twitter: @Kenyon19_BR.

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Notre Dame Football: The Failed 2011 Recruiting Class

Notre Dame's football team is going through some painful growing pains this November. After a 6-0 start had Irish fans thinking about the College Football Playoff, Brian Kelly's young football team has lost three of four, setting up a two-game finish that will likely determine whether or not this season is deemed a success or a failure. 

This tipping point comes after turnovers have marred the offense's efficiency and injuries have depleted an already young defense. But after five years in South Bend, examining how this team got here requires a look back. And the main culprit is a recruiting class that was supposed to lead Notre Dame to new heights. 

The 2011 recruiting class was supposed to be the backbone of the 2014 roster. Instead, it's a reminder of the fickle nature of college football—as injuries, attrition, bad luck and poor performances have turned a heralded group into a hole in the roster.

As we approach Senior Day at Notre Dame Stadium, the 23-man class that Kelly signed will only have 13 in uniform on Saturday afternoon. (Fifth-year players Austin Collinsworth, Christian Lombard and Justin Utupo will also be honored.) While a large part of the group still has a year of eligibility available, Kelly was asked about the struggles this class has had, leaving less of an impact than anyone could've imagined four Februarys ago.

"Doing it for as long as I have, you never count on one particular class to be the backbone as much as you count on them to be leaders," Kelly said. "You count on them to help. But I don't think it's ever one class.

"I think classes can kind of set the tone for success by one player being a playmaker or two players, but I don't know that it ever stretches across the entire class.  I think each one of them has individual qualities."

Let's take a closer look at this group. 

 

Success Stories

Kyle Brindza, P/K

Take away his terrible Saturday against Northwestern, and Brindza's been all you could ask for. A four-year contributor, he's been Notre Dame's specialist in all facets of the kicking game for two seasons and is the school's all-time leader in field goals. 

 

Matthias Farley, DB

The senior is tied for the team lead in interceptions and sacks, and he's one tackle for loss behind Sheldon Day for the team lead there as well. After struggling as an every-down safety, Farley's had an excellent rebound season in 2014. He'll return for a fifth year in 2015. 

 

Everett Golson, QB

We can only wonder how Golson's career would've played out had he been able to play in 2013, not just train with George Whitfield. But Golson's one of college football's most dynamic quarterbacks, even as turnovers have marred his return to the football field. Golson has a year of eligibility remaining in 2015. 

 

Ben Koyack, TE

Notre Dame's snap leader in 2014, Koyack was a semifinalist for the Mackey Award and has been a key part of the Irish offense. A backup behind Tyler Eifert and Troy Niklas, Koyack's first season starting has yielded 27 catches for 289 yards, including the game-winning touchdown against Stanford. 

 

Nick Martin, OL

After starting at center for most of last season, Martin has shifted to guard and is once again a mainstay up front for the Irish. Named captain of the 2014 team, Martin will be back for a fifth year, his third as a starter. 

 

Cam McDaniel, RB

Last Saturday won't go on his highlight reel, but the senior captain led the Irish in rushing in 2013 and has played a key role on this year's team as well. In addition to serving as a key reserve during the 2012 season, McDaniel also cross-trained between running back and cornerback as the coaching staff looked for answers in the secondary. 

 

Left Early 

George Atkinson III, RB

An excellent kickoff returner and an enigmatic, big-play running back, Atkinson never quite reached the potential many saw for him at Notre Dame. He was given multiple chances to win the starting running back job in 2013, but he fell out of favor at the position, ultimately deciding to leave early and enter the NFL draft. He went unselected and is currently on the Oakland Raiders practice squad. 

 

Aaron Lynch, DE

After leading Notre Dame in sacks as a true freshman, Lynch quit the football team during spring practice in 2012, transferring back home to play at South Florida. After sitting out a transfer year, Lynch played one season at USF before sliding in the NFL draft to San Francisco in the fifth round. His three sacks are tied for second on the 49ers. 

 

Troy Niklas, TE

Niklas started his career at Notre Dame on the defensive side of the ball before moving to tight end before his sophomore season. After playing 2012 with All-American Tyler Eifert, Niklas had an impressive junior season with 32 catches 498 yards and five touchdowns. While Brian Kelly thought he should come back for his senior season and play his way into the first round, Niklas went in the second round to the Arizona Cardinals. He's a reserve this season, making just three catches while playing in seven games. 

 

Stephon Tuitt, DE

Tuitt burst onto the scene as a sophomore in 2012, his 12 sacks nearly toppling Justin Tuck's single-season record. But after a disappointing, injury-plagued junior season, Tuitt decided to declare for the NFL draft anyway, falling to the second round, when the Pittsburgh Steelers drafted him. He's struggled in his first NFL season, playing just four snaps last week and totaling just five tackles on the year.

 

Major Injuries 

Brad Carrico, DE

The first pledge of the 2011 class, Carrico projected to be a 3-4 defensive end. He bounced between the defensive and offensive line before a foot injury in 2012 ended his career. He's currently on a medical scholarship at Notre Dame and will graduate with his class. 

 

Ben Councell, OLB

Councell looked like the prototype outside linebacker for Bob Diaco's 3-4 defense. But after a redshirt freshman season, Councell played behind Danny Spond in 2012 and Jaylon Smith in 2013. A major knee injury suffered last season—not to mention a scheme change—have limited his contributions.

 

Jarrett Grace, MLB

The heir apparent to Manti Te'o, Grace's career is on hold as he slowly recovers from a major leg injury suffered last season against Arizona State. Grace is still on the roster but has needed multiple surgeries to heal the broken fibula suffered late last October. Earlier this week, Kelly said Grace's future was uncertain on the football field. 

  

Eilar Hardy, DB

An early knee injury was a setback for Hardy, burying him on the depth chart for two years. So was his involvement in the recent academic probe, keeping him off the field for the season's first eight games before he was cleared by the NCAA. Hardy had a chance to make his move in 2013, but was suspended twice for violations of team rules. 

 

Matt Hegarty, C

If there's a happy story among this group, it's Hegarty. After suffering a stroke and having surgery to repair a microscopic hole in his heart, Hegarty returned to the team in 2013 and played capably in relief of Nick Martin at the end of last season. He's started at guard and tackle during 2014 and will likely return for a fifth year. 

 

Chase Hounshell, DL

The Ohio native hasn't been able to shake multiple shoulder injuries, with surgery derailing his career almost from the start. Hounshell was among the first defensive linemen from this group to see the field, playing in seven games as a freshman before missing nearly two full seasons after multiple shoulder surgeries. Even if healthy, Hounshell is unlikely to continue his playing career at Notre Dame next season. 

 

Tony Springmann, DL

Expected to be a key contributor at defensive tackle this season, Springmann never fully recovered from a knee injury suffered before the 2013 season and is on a medical scholarship with his career finished. The 6'6", 296-pound lineman played a key reserve role in 2012 and was counted on to be a force on the interior of the defensive line. 

 

Disappointments or Derailed

Josh Atkinson, CB

After playing early as a freshman, Atkinson struggled to stay in the two-deep as the depth chart around him improved. Blessed with world-class speed, Atkinson has made more of a mark as a track sprinter than on the football field. He's yet to play this season and could complete his eligibility elsewhere in 2015. 

 

Jalen Brown, CB

Another cornerback who's been buried on the depth chart. Brown has rarely traveled with the team this season and has yet to see the field. After redshirting as a freshman, Brown will also likely play out his eligibility elsewhere in 2015. 

 

DaVaris Daniels, WR

One of the team's most talented players, Daniels is sitting out this season after an Honor Code violation kept him and four teammates out for the bulk of the season. Daniels was the team's leading receiver, but was on academic suspension during last year's spring semester, only to return for summer school and find trouble again. He has yet to decide if he'll return to Notre Dame. (Kelly has yet to confirm whether that option remains available to him.)

 

Conor Hanratty, OL

The son of former Irish quarterback Terry Hanratty, Conor was a starter briefly in 2013 as an injury replacement for Christian Lombard and battled for a starting guard job in 2014. One of the lowest-rated recruits in the 2011 class, it's not completely fair to call Hanratty's career a disappointment. But his return in 2015 is still up in the air, especially with all three starters on the interior of the offensive line slated to return. 

 

Anthony Rabasa, DE

Never a great fit for Bob Diaco's 3-4 defense, Rabasa has seen more time this season than any before, playing some key snaps as a pass-rusher for Brian VanGorder. That said, Rabasa hasn't lived up to the recruiting hype he carried into South Bend, one of the top prep players in Miami when he picked the Irish. 

 

Ishaq Williams, DE

Viewed by some analysts as a 5-star prospect, Williams has yet to make his mark on the Notre Dame program. He was stuck behind NFL draft picks Darius Fleming and Prince Shembo for his first three seasons. Now he's sitting out this year because of his involvement in the academic misconduct. He has told Brian Kelly he'd like to return in 2015, where he'll be a key piece of a defensive line that needs big bodies. 

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Can Mississippi State Really Hold on to a Spot in the College Football Playoff?

Cue the #SECBias arguments, because Mississippi State is about to test them in the next few weeks. 

The latest College Football Playoff Top 25 was released Tuesday, and the Bulldogs, fresh off of a 25-20 loss to now No. 1 Alabama, took the fourth and final spot in the playoff field should the season end today. TCU, Ohio State and Baylor are No. 5, No. 6 and No. 7, respectively, and seem to be the final cutoff for teams with playoff hopes. 

However, playoff chair Jeff Long said "the difference between teams four through seven is very narrow." (H/t Stewart Mandel, Fox Sports.) 

In other words, Mississippi State is no sure thing when it comes to a playoff spot. The good thing for Dan Mullen's team is that no one in college football is a sure thing. 

The first and simplest thing that the Bulldogs have to do to be in the discussion at year's end is win—that, or pray for losses around them. Without an Alabama loss between now and the SEC Championship Game, the Bulldogs do not control their destiny. The regular-season-ending game at Ole Miss is potentially Mississippi State's last chance to get a key victory. 

Would that be enough? The playoff has been set up to field the "four best teams," not necessarily four conference or divisional champions. However, the number of teams in position to win their conferences atop the rankings suggests it's a major factor. 

What Mississippi State's playoff hopes come down to is whether the committee thinks the Bulldogs have the strength of schedule to fend off a Big Ten champ Ohio State or Big 12 co-champ, be it TCU or Baylor.

Mississippi State plays in the SEC West, considered to be the best division in college football. However, as the season has progressed, some of that shine has worn off. The Bulldogs' best win is against Auburn, a team that just got housed by Georgia. 

Mississippi State got credit for staying close against Alabama, even though the game wasn't as close as the score indicated. The Tide led 19-3 at the half, and Mississippi State's final touchdown came with 15 seconds left in the game.

Given that the committee is more inclined reward a team for what it has done (won) vs. what it hasn't (lost), that credit's shelf life is limited. Long has said in the past that there's no way to project conference champions, so teams aren't going to get credit for what they haven't done yet. That will obviously be re-evaluated at year's end. 

Adding to that is Mississippi State's nonconference schedule, consisting of such blue-blood programs as Southern Miss, UAB, South Alabama and UT-Martin. That slate is undeniably soft. Now that Mississippi State has a loss, more light has been cast upon those four games. 

Baylor, Ohio State and TCU generally had light nonconference schedules as well. If Mississippi State had one marquee nonconference win, similar to Oregon's victory over Michigan State, then perhaps strength of schedule/quality wins would matter more than winning a conference. At the very least, it'd be another layer to the discussion.

The confusing thing about the committee's thought process—or, at least how it has been relayed—is that there are numerous things that are taken into consideration that don't always appear to be evenly applied. As a result, there are a lot of conflicting narratives about what's important. 

For one week, Mississippi State was the benefactor of the committee's thought process. As the season winds to an end, however, the Bulldogs aren't in the position a team would want to be in. When all is said and done, it wouldn't be surprising if that came back to bite them.  

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. 

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Taysom Hill Injury: Updates on BYU QB's Leg and Recovery

After suffering a fractured leg and ligament damage in the team's 35-20 loss to the Utah State Aggies on Oct. 3, BYU Cougars star quarterback Taysom Hill is reportedly doing well with his recovery following surgery.

Jay Drew of The Salt Lake Tribune provided an update on the junior signal-caller: 

Hill also shot down reports that the ligaments were shredded, that he considered a position change or planned on bolting to the NFL in the upcoming draft:

Hill is done for this season, finishing with 975 passing yards, seven touchdowns and three picks. He also ran for 460 yards and eight touchdowns.

The Cougars were 4-0 heading into the game with Utah State but went on to lose their next four games without Hill. On the season, BYU is 6-4 and finishes the regular season with matchups against Savannah State and Cal.

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College Football Rankings 2014: Top 25 NCAA Playoff Standings for Week 13

Mississippi State’s loss to Alabama threw a major wrench in the College Football Playoff rankings for Week 13, and the result was a major turnover in every major NCAA Top 25 poll heading into the final stretch of the regular season.

With the Crimson Tide taking the No. 1 spot on the College Football Playoff poll and the Florida State Seminoles earning the top spot in the Associated Press rankings, the next few weeks of football will be the most important of the year.

Here are the Week 13 College Football Playoff, Associated Press and Bleacher Report Top 25 polls and a preview of this week’s most important matchup.

 

 

 

 

Week 13’s Most Important Matchup

There is an abundance of exciting matchups on the Week 13 schedule, but the most important game in terms of postseason implications is the Florida State Seminoles taking on the Boston College Eagles.

Florida State remains undefeated in 2014, but the team was passed over by Alabama and Oregon in the latest College Football Playoff rankings. While the Seminoles topped the AP poll, the rankings that really matter have the program at No. 3 overall.

With a meeting against Boston College Saturday, Florida State must send a definitive message to the rest of the sport that the program is the best in the nation. The problem is that the Seminoles have played from behind recently and have struggled with consistency.

Saturday’s victory over Miami (Fla.) was due in part to late-game heroics from quarterback Jameis Winston, but the team has been involved in far too many close battles. Florida State has trailed in the second quarter in seven of its last eight games and has been too dependent on the offensive unit to make big plays in crunch time.

While the Seminoles have struggled to maintain a steady pace for an entire game over the last several weeks, Boston College coach Steve Addazio told The Associated Press, via ESPN.com, about his respect for the program:

These guys find a way to win and they play the best at their most competitive moments. That's usually what great teams do. ... They won the national championship and they're undefeated and it's their second year running. They played Auburn last year in the national title game, found a way to win. I'm into giving credit where credit is due, and they're an amazing football program.

This game will be so interesting due to the chance it presents the Eagles. BC has played strong in the ACC this season, and a win over Florida State would make this year’s campaign a rousing success.

Boston College has a talented rushing attack that is currently ranked 12th in the nation with an average of 264 yards per game. With the Seminoles giving up 139.7 yards rushing per game, the Eagles have the rushing ability to upset their opponents if FSU isn’t 100 percent focused on the task at hand.

Florida State has a potent offensive attack of its own, but Winston will be forced to square off with a Boston College defense that is ranked 23rd in the nation, allowing just 21.9 points per game. The Eagles are coming off a loss to Clemson but have marquee wins over USC and Virginia Tech.

If Seminoles head coach Jimbo Fisher can keep his team focused on Boston College, there is no doubt that Florida State has a more talented roster.

Led by Winston and the nation’s 17th-ranked offensive unit (averaging 37.1 points per game), the No. 3 team in the College Football Playoff poll will struggle to make a statement. The Seminoles will beat the Eagles, but they will not prove they belong at the top of the playoff conversation.

Predicted Winner: Florida State 34, Boston College 30

 

*Stats via ESPN.com.

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Nick Saban Tops USA Today's List of Highest Paid College Football Coaches

USA Today revealed the salaries for every FBS head football coach Wednesday, and it comes as little surprise that Alabama's Nick Saban tops the list.

Saban has led the Crimson Tide to incredible success during his eight years at the helm, including three national championships. He is deservedly a cut above the rest in terms of pay, but the top 10 is littered with other high-profile coaches as well:

While many expected names reside near the top of the list, Michigan State's Mark Dantonio stands out at No. 2. Dantonio has done very well during his eight years with the Spartans having won two Big Ten titles and a Rose Bowl, but he doesn't have the same star power as the likes of Saban, Steve Spurrier and others.

Even ESPN.com Big Ten reporter Brian Bennett didn't expect Dantonio to rank that highly:

As pointed out by Gerry Ahern of USA Today, Saban coincidentally coached at Michigan State previously, which suggests the Spartans job is an extremely valuable one:

Iowa's Kirk Ferentz also raises some eyebrows at No. 9 since the Hawkeyes haven't won a conference title since 2004. Per Dirk Chatelain of Omaha.com, Ferentz's salary isn't exactly consistent with his team's performance:

Regardless of that, USA Today's list makes it abundantly clear that coaching in a power conference is extremely lucrative.

As college football's popularity continues to grow, that figures to become truer with each passing year.

 

Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter

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NFL Draft Projections for Alabama's 2015 Prospects

The Alabama Crimson Tide are enjoying another standout season in 2014. Good teams produce good players, and Nick Saban's squad is loaded with NFL talent. 

Stephen Nelson was joined by College Football Analyst Michael Felder and Bleacher Report College Football Lead NFL Draft Analyst Matt Miller to discuss which Crimson Tide players are bound to play on Sundays. 

Which of these Alabama players has the most upside?

Check out the video and let us know!

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Auburn Football: How the Tigers Can Salvage Their Season

AUBURN, Ala. — Three days after his team's goals of repeating as SEC champions and finishing "13 seconds better" by claiming a national title it came close to winning last season officially came to an end, Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn made a guarantee.

The Tigers may be out of the big races following an embarrassing 34-7 loss to rival Georgia, but they won't end the 2014 season with a whimper.

"The true champions and the true winners rebound," Malzahn said during his Tuesday press conference, which you can watch below via AL.com. "They come back and they bounce back and that’s been our message... We’re disappointed and we should be, but that’s behind us. It is what it is, and we have to find a way the next two weeks to finish this thing strong.

"We will finish this thing strong, there’s no doubt."

Auburn has posted three losses in its five games, including back-to-back defeats to Texas A&M and Georgia that took the Tigers from a potential playoff bid to 10 spots away in the latest rankings. 

It has been a crushing late-season collapse, especially for a team with national championship hopes and hype through the first few weeks. 

But, since the final whistle sounded last Saturday night in Sanford Stadium, the tone for Auburn's coaches and players has been one of determination, even though they will not be celebrating any sort of conference or national championship this winter.

"Last week was very disappointing, and this week was very disappointing," offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee said. "It's all about how you respond. As coaches, we've got to respond well if we want our players to respond well. We still have plenty to play for."

As silly as it may sound by looking at the schedule, "plenty to play for" starts this weekend with the Tigers' final home game—a matchup with FCS opponent Samford.

After a weekend where nothing went right in all three phases of the game, a comfortable victory against the lower-division Bulldogs could give Auburn the momentum it desperately needs.

"Right now we just have to get better," defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson said. "That would be a by-product that hopefully will happen... Our starters and our rotators need to play well first, and have a good week of practice."

Following this Saturday night's game at Jordan-Hare Stadium, Auburn should be 8-3, giving the Tigers at least 20 wins in the two seasons following the 3-9 debacle of 2012.

"I think that's a huge accomplishment," senior tight end C.J. Uzomah said. "I don't think that's been done in the history of college football. We're looking at this one week at a time."

And then would come the true meaning of "plenty to play for"—a trip to Tuscaloosa to play new No. 1 Alabama in the Iron Bowl.

The Tigers can't get back to Atlanta with a great chance at a playoff berth, but they could prevent their biggest rivals from getting there and set themselves up for double digits in the win column.

Even with Auburn's grueling 2014 schedule and late-season disappointments, 10 wins would mark the best "second season" following a big turnaround in the last couple of decades:

"It's not what our goal was," Uzomah said. "That's not what our aspirations were. But at the same time, we do that and we win our bowl game, that's another 10-win season... Going forward, we're looking for three more wins."

But before Auburn can get its sights set on knocking off a red-hot Crimson Tide team and turning around a bad finish to 2014, there are plenty of problems that need to be fixed against Samford.

"We just have to address [the problems] in this upcoming week and make sure we can still salvage this season," Uzomah said. "We can't look past Samford, and we need to come into Alabama with a vengeance."

 

All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All recruiting rankings and information courtesy of 247Sports. All stats courtesy of cfbstats.com.

Justin Ferguson is Bleacher Report's lead Auburn writer. Follow him on Twitter @JFergusonAU.

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Rapid-Fire Predictions for College Football's Biggest Matchups in Week 13

Heading into Week 13 there are some big matchups with huge implications on the College Football Playoff. Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Michael Felder, Barrett Sallee and Adam Kramer give you their biggest headlines heading into the weekend. 

What will Melvin Gordon do for an encore after his record-breaking performance?

Watch the video and let us know! 

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SEC Extra Points with Barrett Sallee: Lane Kiffin, Blake Sims and Alabama Tempo

Tempo Is Bad, Except When It's Good

Last offseason, the possibility of the "10-second rule" that would prevent teams from snapping within the first 10 seconds of the play clock forced old-school and new-school coaches into a passive-aggressive war of words that served as a nice bridge between national signing day and the start of spring practice.

Alabama head coach Nick Saban was one of those old-school coaches at the forefront of that debate.

"I think player safety is the No. 1 thing, and that was my No. 1 issue as well," Saban said in February according to AL.com's Joel A. Erickson. "I think when players get tired, they're more susceptible to get injured if you can't substitute players when they're tired or if they're injured and you can't get them out of the game."

Instead of digging in his heels, Saban has adapted. The Crimson Tide are averaging 72.3 plays per game—nine more than they averaged last year.

The combination of new offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin's flexibility and first-year starter Blake Sims' comfort level with tempo is a big reason why.

"For us to sit here and think that [Sims] would come in this year and be completing 62 percent of his passes, throw 18 touchdowns and only three picks, that's absurd," ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit told B/R as part of his tour promoting the Allstate "It's Good" sweepstakes. "It's a combination of his skill set along with the way that Kiffin has found a way to use him. Early in the year, they were kind of tinkering with tempo, and over time, they recognized that Blake performs better in a hurry-up."

Kiffin's work this year is being highly underappreciated.

He took an offense to the next level with Sims—a quarterback who was largely considered to be a backup in the offseason. Kiffin has done it with creativity, flexibility and patience. He didn't give Sims too much too quickly or try to force too much into the game plan, and that's paying off for the Crimson Tide late in the season.

 

The Devaluation of the Regular Season

College football is the greatest regular season in sports because the margin for error is so thin, and one loss could spell disaster.

Well, that's how it used to be, anyway.

The importance of wins and losses has been replaced by the eye test and a silly subjective metric known as "game control."

"It might be considered somewhat subjective," playoff chairman Jeff Long said in a teleconference on Tuesday night. "The committee looks at the game, how the game was played, how close the game was played, whether there were lead changes back and forth, or whether a team was in control from the opening kickoff, or whether they gained control say in the second half and finished out the game." 

When did a subjective stat like "game control" take precedent over wins, losses and strength of schedule? Apparently, this year.

Alabama, the committee's No. 1 team, has a loss on its resume and only one win over an opponent currently ranked in the College Football Playoff Top 25. Oregon has a home loss to No. 15 Arizona but also has wins over No. 9 UCLA, No. 11 Michigan State and No. 17 Utah. 

Defending national champ Florida State has the biggest gripe. The Seminoles have looked sluggish but navigated the rather calm waters of the ACC without a loss and have two wins over current CFP Top 25 teams—No. 22 Clemson and No. 24 Louisville, the latter of which was on the road.

Apparently that's not good enough.

"I will say that those two Top 25 wins are against No. 22 and No. 24, so they're at the back end of the Top 25," Long said. "But they're very close."

Sure, the old BCS computers would have churned out similar rankings this week as the College Football Playoff selection committee did on Tuesday night. But how many of those voters try to mirror the CFP rankings now?

Remember when college football's power brokers used the possibility of devaluing the regular season as the biggest drawback to a playoff?

We're here.

 

Let Them Play

Texas A&M has made it known that it wants the rivalry with Texas rekindled.

Former Texas A&M President R. Bowen Loftin famously said that his program would play the Longhorns "anytime, anywhere" back in November 2013, but so far, the reluctance from the boys in Austin has prevented the two from getting back together.

Now, apparently the SEC is standing in the way.

According to a report from Chip Brown of HornsDigest.com, SEC officials have indicated to bowls with SEC and Big 12 tie-ins that the conference wouldn't support a postseason matchup between the Aggies and Longhorns because the Aggies have too much to lose.

If that's true, that's incredibly lame.

Outside of the playoff bowls and possibly the rest of the "New Year's Six," bowl season is largely college football's version of the postseason NIT in college hoops. A bowl game matchup—nudge nudge, perhaps in the AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl—would be wildly intriguing to the SEC, Big 12 and the entire nation.

Let them play, for college football's sake.

Texas A&M being the program with too much to lose in the matchup indicates the drastic shift in the landscape of college football in the state of Texas over the last five years. But really, is one bowl game loss going to force the loser to forget how to recruit, operate and run its program?

Of course not.

Let them play.

 

Running Back Depth For Days

Georgia running back Todd Gurley's playing days between the hedges are over after the draft-eligible junior tore his ACL late in last week's win over Auburn. As we pointed out on Sunday, the running game in Athens is still in good hands next year thanks to the emergence of freshman Nick Chubb this year.

It appears that Georgia may have a ton of depth behind him.

Junior Keith Marshall has missed the last seven games and could be headed for a medical redshirt, according to Seth Emerson of the (Columbus, Georgia) Ledger-Enquirer. Head coach Mark Richt compared Marshall's situation to that of quarterback Hutson Mason in 2012, who would have had his redshirt burned if something would have happened to then-starter Aaron Murray.

What does that mean for Georgia next year?

It means that Marshall—a former 5-star prospect in the class of 2012—would have two years left with rising sophomores Chubb and Sony Michel—both of whom have enjoyed success this year.

That'd be wildly beneficial for a Georgia team that will be undergoing another change at quarterback and will have to replace senior wide receivers Michael Bennett and Chris Conley.

 

Quick Outs

  • As I wrote yesterday, it's more likely that there are zero SEC teams in the College Football Playoff than two despite No. 1 Alabama and No. 4 Mississippi State both being in the current Top Four. With so much talk of "game control" this week, Mississippi State better not let Vanderbilt hang around this weekend. If it doesn't win the SEC, it needs style points.
  • Arkansas has been getting a ton of respect down the stretch, and it appears that Saturday's shutout win over LSU has only helped matters. No. 8 Ole Miss—a team with an outside chance at winning the SEC West and earning a College Football Playoff berth—is only a 3.5-point favorite over the Hogs in Fayetteville this weekend, according to Odds Shark. That's quite a compliment to the job that head coach Bret Bielema has done this year despite several near-misses.
  • What exactly is Ole Miss now? It seems like a month ago when wide receiver Laquon Treadwell suffered his season-ending injury, but since then, the Rebels have had a game vs. Presbyterian and a bye. What exactly will Ole Miss' offense look like? Can Cody Core, Quincy Adeboyejo or Vince Sanders step up? They'll need to this week against an underrated Arkansas defense (340.6 YPG).
  • If you're looking for another reason why the SEC needs to go to a nine-game conference schedule, Week 13 is here to provide more evidence. Eastern Kentucky, Charleston Southern, South Alabama, Western Carolina and Samford all appear on SEC schedules this week, which should be unacceptable to the conference's television partners. They should tell the conference to schedule some compelling matchups on the penultimate weekend of the regular season.

 

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

Notre Dame Football: Irish Problems Too Big to Fix This Year

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — As Notre Dame football’s list of problems continues to grow with injuries and “critical errors,” the Irish head into their final two games of the regular season staring at a pair of ranked opponents.

As lost as the season might feel for some Notre Dame fans, the reality is the Irish could still finish the regular season at 9-3, earn a spot in a respectable bowl game and have an opportunity to reach 10 wins this season. While it’s a far cry from Notre Dame’s legitimate flirtation with the College Football Playoff, the season isn’t totally lost.

But to ensure they still do take something away from the 2014 campaign, the Irish must clean up in a variety of areas down the stretch. So which problems are correctable, and which issues might have to wait until next year?

 

Turnovers

It seems we’re beating a dead horse by routinely analyzing Notre Dame’s turnover mishaps, but that’s what happens when a team goes on a brutal run of misfortune.

As bad as Notre Dame has been with ball security of late—nine turnovers in two games—it’s tough to envision this horrid stretch continuing. At some point, the Irish must clean things up and protect the football better, right?

“When we turn it over, it's critical,” Irish head coach Brian Kelly said Tuesday. “I mean it's catastrophic turnovers. We're turning it over on the 5-yard line, on the goal line. We're throwing it off our kid's helmet, it's bouncing up in the air and they're returning it. They are absolutely critical turnovers.”

Even just marginal improvement in that area will do a world of difference for Notre Dame. As Kelly mentioned Tuesday, there’s a fine line between wins and losses in college football, and the Irish turnovers have recently placed them on the wrong end of things.

“We've got to hold on to the football,” Kelly said. “Now, when we say 'hold on to the football,' what does that mean? Clearly we've got to make sure that we're giving the ball to the right guy at the right time and doing the things that minimize risk. And so all those things are in the evaluation mode while still knowing at the end of the day, we have to score a lot of points.”

 

Defense

While the turnovers seem at least somewhat correctable, the outlook isn’t as optimistic for the Notre Dame defense.

Already without senior middle linebacker Joe Schmidt, the Irish must now proceed without stalwart defensive lineman Sheldon Day, who will miss Saturday’s matchup against Louisville with an MCL sprain. Kelly did say he expects to get Day back at some point this season.

The previously lowly Northwestern offense gashed the Irish and exposed problems at all levels of the defense. Communication, though, has been a common issue throughout the entire defense, a group Kelly said is younger than any he’s had before.

“We've got to play better defense,” Kelly said. “We've got to make some key stops. We've got to get lined up.”

Alignment and communication have been difficult for Notre Dame, especially without Schmidt. While it’s just one fluky example, take this third-down play from Saturday’s game:

It’s reasonable to expect some improvement from the likes of freshman middle linebacker Nyles Morgan, who will be making just his third start Saturday against Louisville. But wholesale improvement could be tough to come by for an Irish defensive unit that might not even start one senior down the stretch.

Graduate student cornerback Cody Riggs should play some with a stress reaction in his foot, and graduate-student defensive lineman Justin Utupo will likely be counted on in some capacity with Day out. Otherwise, the young Irish defense must find its way on its own against Top 25 opponents.

 

Kicking Game

The holding malfunctions were one thing, but Kyle Brindza’s hooked field-goal attempts against the Wildcats were another. Brindza has now missed eight field goals this season, but Kelly still supported his senior Tuesday.

“I still think we've got one of the best kickers in the country,” Kelly said. “He had an off day on Saturday. But I expect him to bounce back.”

Kelly has loads of evidence to back that up. Brindza entered the season as a worthy candidate for the Lou Groza Award based on two strong seasons of place-kicking. Another week with holder Malik Zaire should instill more comfort and confidence in Brindza.

A few rough weeks won’t overshadow the rest of Brindza’s season—much less his career. Expect him to bounce back Saturday.

 

All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Mike Monaco is a lead Notre Dame writer for Bleacher Report. Follow @MikeMonaco_ on Twitter.

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Could Braxton Miller and J.T. Barrett Make a 2-QB System Work at Ohio State?

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Even as he continues to recover from a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder that ended his senior season before it ever started, Braxton Miller appears to have no shortage of options when it comes to his future.

The two-time Big Ten MVP could take his talents to the NFL draft, where he'd likely be a late-round pick, or take advantage of college football's graduate transfer rule and immediately receive eligibility at another school.

But those in Columbus maintain that Miller's plan is to return to Ohio State for a second try at a senior season in 2015. That sentiment was backed up by an NFL.com report by Chase Goodbread on Wednesday.

"Speculation is swelling that Miller is considering a post-graduate transfer," Goodbread writes. "Two sources close to Miller, however, say the quarterback's plan for now is to remain at Ohio State and lead the Buckeyes in 2015, according to NFL Media's Albert Breer."

While head coach Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes' staff would certainly welcome Miller back with open arms, the emergence of redshirt freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett complicates matters.

After all, the assumption in August was that Miller would regain OSU's starting quarterback job based on his previous merits, but Barrett's accomplishments may ultimately trump those, as the Heisman Trophy contender has the Buckeyes on the cusp of a Big Ten Championship and potential appearance in the College Football Playoff.

A lot, of course, can change between now and the end of the season, but Barrett's progress to this point makes it awfully hard to imagine that he'll find himself back on the bench when the 2015 season kicks off.

In just 10 games, the Wichita Falls, Texas, native has broken Ohio State's single-season record for touchdowns accounted for (38) and is only four scores away from tying Drew Brees' Big Ten record of 42 total touchdowns in a single season.

Those numbers certainly speak for themselves, as it becomes clearer each week that Barrett will be the Buckeyes' starting quarterback in 2015. But where would that leave Miller?

After all, when healthy, there may not be a more dynamic quarterback in the country, one more capable of single-handedly keeping his team in any game than Miller. He has finished in the top 10 in Heisman voting in each of the past two seasons.

While rumors that Miller could potentially change positions in the Ohio State offense have only been further fueled by the success that former Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson has found as a running back with the Jacksonville Jaguars, it's unlikely that Miller would opt to learn a new spot in college and not the pros.

Despite his injury, Miller has already put enough footage on film to prove that he'd be worth a late-round investment for any NFL team looking to add another potential playmaker to its offense.

But if Miller really is hellbent on returning to Ohio State, one seldom discussed option for the Buckeyes would be to run a two-quarterback system.

That would present questions of its own, given the alpha dog nature of the quarterback position, but Meyer has insisted that such setup could be successful if both signal-callers possess the right attitude.

"It all depends on the makeup of the individual," Meyer said when asked about Wisconsin's quarterback situation on Nov. 11. "If they're egoless and team-first guys, it will be no problem."

Meyer is no stranger to multiquarterback systems, his most famous coming in 2006 when Chris Leak and Tim Tebow helped lead Florida to a BCS National Championship. That might actually provide an intriguing blueprint for the Buckeyes, with Barrett playing the primary quarterback role that Leak did and Miller serving as the situational back with a unique skill set a la Tebow.

Such a setup would be dependent on Miller accepting a secondary role, which would undoubtedly be humbling for a player who has accomplished as much he already has in his college career.

But if the Huber Heights, Ohio, native was willing to move from starting quarterback to situational weapon, the Ohio State offense would be the most versatile in the nation with Barrett, Miller, H-back Jalin Marshall and 4-star prospect Torrance Gibson all capable of both carrying the ball and attempting passes.

Although a two-quarterback system featuring both Barrett and Miller could make one of the best offenses in the country all the more dangerous, Meyer also knows that there's a reason why championship contenders often stick with just one signal-caller.

In 2010, Meyer again opted to use multiple quarterbacks in the same offense, with John Brantley, Jordan Reed and Trey Burton splitting reps for the Gators.

Brantley, Reed and Burton never found the same chemistry that Leak and Tebow did four years prior, with Florida ultimately tallying an 8-5 record in Meyer's final season in Gainesville.

"It's actually very hard," Meyer said of multiquarterback systems. "It's risky. We had some issues with it."

As Meyer alluded to, it all comes down to the mindsets of the players participating in it, and there's no reason to believe that either Barrett or Miller would be averse to splitting reps with one another. In fact, Ohio State offensive coordinator Tom Herman said that Miller has still been active in the Buckeyes' quarterback room despite his inability to play this season.

"He's in meetings, he's engaged with our guys when he's not in the training room," Herman said. "He's doing good."

As for a potential two-quarterback system or quarterback controversy, Meyer has recently declined to commit to anything after initially giving Miller his endorsement in late September. But of all the problems for a head coach to have, Meyer insists that this is a good one.

"Competition brings out the best," Meyer said on Nov. 10. "And I'm really excited to have two really good quarterbacks next year, if that's the plan."

According to NFL.com, it is the plan. And that could make the Buckeyes' options—like Miller's—limitless.

 

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 statistics courtesy of cfbstats.com and recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Tennessee's Showdown vs. Missouri Has Ramifications Beyond Just Bowl Eligibility

Tennessee is getting ready to play its biggest football game of head coach Butch Jones' two-year tenure, chiefly because of the respectability a victory would bring to the program.

Playing meaningful games this late is something the Volunteers haven't been able to do much in recent years. While winning one out of the final two games and going to a bowl game remains a vital goal to the growth of this program, taking care of both would accomplish much more than many thought could be done this season.

Not only would UT assure itself of that all-important postseason berth (not to mention the 15 additional practices), it would signal a landmark victory that would make the nation stand up and take notice.

Here are three additional reasons beyond the bowl why beating the Tigers would be huge:

 

A Return to the National Picture

The most important residual effect of beating Missouri is that Tennessee will be viewed as a force to be reckoned with in the SEC East for the foreseeable future.

UT has been a powderkeg waiting to explode for years now, but it seems just when everybody is ready to say the Vols are "back," they're knocked back down to reality.

ESPN's College GameDay came to town back in early September of 2012 for the Florida game and devoted much of its program to the fact that if UT could get over the hump against the Gators, Derek Dooley may have his program on the track back.

Then, UF beat the No. 23 Vols 37-20, exposing Sal Sunseri's defense and sending it down what would become yet another 5-7 season that got Dooley fired.

Last year, things looked like they could turn when the Vols broke through with an upset of South Carolina, but they lost four of five down the stretch to fail to become bowl-eligible once again.

Now, Tennessee stands at 5-5 after upsetting South Carolina and blowing out Kentucky. It is actually favored at home in a night game at Neyland Stadium against an 8-2 Mizzou team contending for the top of the SEC East.

With a really strong chance to make a bowl game already, due to closing the season against hapless Vanderbilt, UT needs to set its sights higher. Beating the Tigers will make everybody stand up and take notice that Jones has the program aiming for a higher trajectory this season than most expected.

People already are trumpeting UT's turnaround since Joshua Dobbs took over at quarterback to lead what has become an unstoppable offense in recent weeks.

On the SEC Network's nightly review of Saturday's games, analyst Greg McElroy mentioned Tennessee as being the potential SEC East favorite heading into 2015, a sentiment he reiterated on Twitter.

McElroy's studio colleague Booger McFarland went a step further, calling Dobbs a Heisman Trophy contender next season.

Despite all the positive buzz surrounding the program on a national level (at least, prior to the alarming allegations that permeated the program this week), the facts remain that the defenses of South Carolina and Kentucky are atrocious.

Scoring 95 points against any duo of SEC teams the way the Vols have is impressive, but if they can duplicate a winning effort against a Missouri team that has continually found ways to win—especially on the road where it is 4-0—would make it impossible for anybody to doubt the direction of the program.

 

A Response to Adversity

By now, everybody knows about the allegations surrounding UT's second all-time leading tackler and emotional senior leader A.J. Johnson, as well as sophomore cornerback Michael Williams.

While there are much more important elements in the investigation beyond football purposes, the immediate impact for the Vols on the gridiron is potentially catastrophic.

Johnson rarely leaves the field in any alignment, and he's been a starter since his first day on campus. He aligns the front seven, and he is one of the best tacklers in the history of the SEC.

With safety Brian Randolph (who calls plays for the back four of the UT defense) out for the first half of the Mizzou game following a targeting penalty, the Vols are expected to be without their two defensive leaders for much of a game against an opponent whose offensive success hinges on speed and motion.

"We're gonna need to grow up in a hurry," Jones told GoVols247's Wes Rucker (subscription required).

Volquest.com's John Brice (subscription required) noted that true freshman Jakob Johnson would be the "likely starter" in Johnson's place this weekend.

With two key cogs in the defense almost definitely not playing and another one suspended for a half, UT has major questions. But that's why Jones' vaunted recruiting class last year is important.

If UT goes out and plays an emotional, impressive game on defense without some of its playmakers, it will not only be a major testament to the depth and talent on the roster, but it also could prove this team is mentally tough enough to face adversity and excel despite it.

Jones preaches mental toughness and earning the right to win over and over. It may as well be another game maxim. This is an opportunity for the Vols to prove it in practice.

If they go out and win, that's a huge step forward for a program that hasn't been able to get out of its own way in the past.

 

A Recruiting Tool

As if the nation's fourth-ranked recruiting class on 247Sports needed another reason to get hotter on the recruiting trail, the Vols have a chance to fill their remaining few spots in their class with elite players.

The nation's No. 4 inside linebacker, Darrin Kirkland Jr., is expected to visit Knoxville this weekend, and a good showing from the Vols could put them in an enviable position for the former Michigan commitment.

Also, a couple of vitally important targets have mentioned in the past comments that suggest they need to see some signs of winning from the Vols.

Nashville defensive end Kyle Phillips (who lists UT, LSU, Ole Miss and Alabama among his finalists) has noted how he wants to see progress. He told GoVols247's Ryan Callahan (subscription required) earlier this year:

I mean, it is important for me to see wins. But, also, I'm realistic. I know that a young team's not going to come in and win a national championship and stuff like that. I know stuff like that just doesn't happen like that. But if I see that they're fitting in the system and they've improved, and they've got a lot of younger guys playing, then it would give me some confidence (in them).

UT is also trying hard to flip Georgia offensive tackle commitment Patrick Allen, who told Volquest.com's Paul Fortenberry (subscription required) that "Tennessee hasn't always been the best but they are finishing strong."

The way Jones has recruited thus far in his time at Tennessee without wins to back up his words has been extremely impressive. Going to a bowl will enhance that pitch, but making the postseason and being able to hang his coonskin cap on beating an 8-2 division rival on the way can only fan the flames.

Tennessee is a surging program with a rising star at quarterback, a stable of young talent playing all over the field, another elite recruiting class lined up to come in 2015 and a bright future.

Beating Mizzou can announce to the college football world that the wait for UT's return to the conversation in the SEC is over.

 

All recruiting information taken from 247Sports composite, unless otherwise noted.

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

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Braxton Miller or J.T. Barrett: Who Should Start for Ohio State in 2015?

Injured Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller is reportedly planning to return to the Buckeyes next season, according to College Football 24/7's Chase Goodbread.

Bleacher Report college football analysts Michael Felder and Adam Kramer discuss the potential impact of Miller's return for the Buckeyes.

Who will be Ohio State's starter next season?

Watch the video, and let us know!        

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Playoff Standings: Week 13 Rankings and Bowl Game Projections

Ever so slightly, the playoff field is getting smaller. This week, it's all about which team gets that fourth and final spot. 

For everyone else, it's bowl season. Projections are back, and we're here to give the postseason our best guess. 

Here's how the two major Top 25 polls looked after Week 12. The following slides contain bowl projections heading into Week 13. Click on the links below to view the latest College Football Playoff, Associated Press and USA Today Top 25 polls.

College Football Playoff 

Associated Press

USA Today Amway Coaches Poll

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Michigan Football: Biggest X-Factors for Wolverines vs. Maryland

Despite disappointing losses, numerous controversies and season-ending injuries to key players, a bowl game is still within Michigan’s reach.

It may seem like a small consolation for a team that entered the season hoping to compete for a Big Ten title, but a bowl trip would represent a remarkable turnaround for team that was 2-4 halfway through the season.

The bye week gave head coach Brady Hoke no respite from controversy. It began with university president Mark Schlissel speaking out about perceived academic failings in the football program and ended with the dismissal of defensive end Frank Clark.

In both cases, Hoke took the high road—countering Schlissel’s attack with statistics that documented the football program's graduation record and dismissing Clark outright.

Hoke's future is unclear, but he’s done an admirable job of keeping his team from imploding. He’s working to be bowl-eligible and send his seniors out on with a win in their final home game.

Maryland may be a tough opponent on Saturday, but the game is far more winnable than Michigan’s final season contest with Ohio State.

Hoke needs the following players to have great performances for Michigan to become bowl-eligible.


Defensive End Taco Charlton

The loss of Frank Clark is a critical blow to a Michigan defense (ranked No. 8 nationally) that has been steadily improving throughout the season.

After losing two of its top receivers, Juwann Winfree (suspension) and Stefon Diggs (injury), Maryland will need to pound the ground to open up the passing game for quarterback C.J. Brown. Taco Charlton will need to show that he can contain the run game while harassing Brown when he drops back to pass.

Charlton has played well, but he’ll need to prove he has the conditioning to remain effective and handle the increased reps he’ll get in Clark's absence.


Running Back Drake Johnson

Drake Johnson burst onto the scene with 123 rushing yards versus Indiana only to disappear the next week versus Northwestern. Johnson seems to be more comfortable playing at home, relying on the energy of the home crowd.

Michigan needs Johnson to have a good game running the ball and grinding down the clock.

If the offense can run the ball, quarterback Devin Gardner will have fewer opportunities to throw interceptions. It’s a brutal assessment, but Gardner’s inaccuracy is well-documented and doesn’t seem to be improving. He is a huge liability in the passing game.




Defensive Back Jourdan Lewis

Maryland may be down two top receivers, but quarterback C.J. Brown will need to throw the ball, giving Jourdan Lewis an opportunity for a big game.

According to Matt Zenitz of The Baltimore Sun, injured top receiver Diggs (52 receptions for 654 yards and five touchdowns) may be back versus Michigan.

If not, then Deon Long (38 receptions for 450 yards and one touchdown) will be Brown’s top target.

Brown has thrown nine interceptions this season, and if the Michigan defensive line can pressure him, Lewis can add to that total.

Wide Receiver Dennis Norfleet

Dennis Norfleet is offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier’s favorite wild card on offense. Seemingly every trick play features Norfleet in a prominent role.

His return after missing the Northwestern game because of injury adds a much-needed wrinkle to the Michigan attack. He will have an opportunity to shine on offense and by returning kicks versus Maryland.

A huge game for Norfleet could clinch a bowl berth for Michigan and let Hoke win in what might be his final game at Michigan Stadium.
 

Phil Callihan is a featured writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotations obtained firsthand.

Follow @PSCallihan.

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LSU Football: 2015 Recruits Tigers Must Land

LSU needs help. 

Head coach Les Miles has watched his team flounder over the past couple of weeks. The Tigers were shut out with ease by Arkansas after losing a close heartbreaker to Alabama. LSU fans have a right to be concerned for the future. 

Miles will look for some reinforcements on the recruiting trail. The Tigers' 15 commits in the 2015 class has them ranked 15th nationally, which is only good enough for the eighth in the SEC. But there is still plenty of room to grow. 

Predicting what teenagers will do is an inexact science. The Tigers would take a step back if any of their current commits were to renounce their pledge. Miles will be hopeful if they all keep their word and sign with LSU.

But that is out of the control of Miles and his staff. All they can do is recruit prospects that are currently uncommitted or committed to other schools. Here are four players the Tigers could desperately use for a return to the SEC Championship Game.

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NFL Draft Stock for CFB's Top Performers Including Florida DL Dante Fowler

There is a host of NFL talent in college football this year, and they don't all play for top teams.

These are guys with some solid draft prospects and tremendous upside that you should know about. 

Stephen Nelson sits down with Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder and Bleacher Report Lead NFL Draft Analyst Matt Miller to discuss some of CFB's top performers.

Which one of these players can have the biggest impact in the NFL?

Watch the video and let us know!

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

The Most Important Ohio State Players for the Rest of the Year

After a 31-24 victory over No. 25 Minnesota last Saturday, Ohio State jumped two spots to No. 6 in the latest playoff rankings. But with the regular season winding down, Urban Meyer will need his best players to step up and push the Buckeyes into the Top Four to make this year's highly anticipated postseason. 

As the top teams jockey for position, the Buckeyes are set to host wavering Indiana and Michigan teams before a potential trip to the Big Ten title game.

Whether they're fueling an explosive offense or helping a surging defense, these four players are crucial to Ohio State's playoff hopes.

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