NCAA Football News

College Football Playoff Rankings 2014: Predictions for Final Poll

Now is the time we wish the College Football Playoff Committee good luck.

The battle for the coveted fourth playoff spot was fierce on championship Saturday. No. 3 TCU dominated Iowa State as expected, rolling to a 55-3 win behind a four-touchdown, 460-yard masterclass from quarterback Trevone Boykin.

The win earned them a share of the Big 12 title with No. 6 Baylor, who defeated a strong Kansas State team 38-27 and is holding out hope that the playoff committee recognizes their 61-58 win over the Horned Frogs from earlier in the season.

Ohio State essentially tried to end the Wisconsin football program in the Big Ten championship game, rolling over the Badgers 59-0 behind a three-touchdown performance from quarterback Cardale Jones and a suffocating defense.

Florida State did what they've done all season long, scraping out a win over Georgia Tech in the ACC championship game to preserve their undefeated record. 

Here are my predictions for the final Top 25 in the College Football Playoff rankings.

No. 2 Oregon looked like a good bet to take the top spot with their dominant 51-13 win over Arizona in the Pac-12 championship on Friday, but No. 1 Alabama put in a brilliant, suffocating performance of its own in a 42-13 trouncing of Missouri in the SEC championship game. 

Forget the controversy that is sure to surround the final playoff spot; just be glad these two teams have proved they are the cream of the crop in the NCAA. A Ducks-Crimson Tide game is a matchup any non-partisan football fan should be eager to see. 

Marcus Mariota had five total touchdowns against the Wildcats on Friday. Bleacher Report's Matt Miller compared Mariota to a current professional star after his brilliant performance:

Wide receiver Amari Cooper was his usual brilliant self for 'Bama in the SEC championship, putting up 12 catches for 83 yards and setting an SEC record in the process, per ESPN Stats & Info:

Running backs Derrick Henry and T.J. Yeldon put up two rushing touchdowns each, while Blake Sims was nearly perfect throwing the football, completing 23-of-27 passes for 262 yards and two scores.

Determining the final two playoff spots is going to be an unbelievable headache for the playoff committee considering the resume's of the teams in contention. 

Florida State was arguably less impressive this season than any of the other teams in the Top Six heading into Week 15, but it would be an absolute absurdity to freeze out the undefeated defending champions. They are just as much a lock for a playoff spot as Oregon and Alabama.

Ohio State has a considerable edge over the Big 12 schools with an outright Big Ten championship to its credit. Their thorough demolition of Wisconsin with the third-string Jones at the helm was the single most impressive performances of the season.

It shows that Ohio State might be the most well-rounded team in the nation, considering one can't point to a single player as the impetus for most of their success.

TCU and Baylor earned a share of the Big 12 title, but the lack of a championship game in their conference just might hurt them in the eyes of the playoff committee. Bears coach Art Briles was upset with the decision to have co-champions after his team won the head-to-head matchup against the Horned Frogs earlier this year.

"You know, if you're going to slogan around and say there's 'One True Champion,' all the sudden you're gonna go out the back door instead of going out the front?" Briles said, via ESPN.com's Max Olson. "Don't say one thing and do another."

The playoff committee isn't getting any help in sorting out this mess from Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby, either.

Baylor closed out the season with two close wins over Texas Tech and Kansas State; a blowout performance in the latter would have earned them greater consideration.

TCU pummeled Iowa State, but they could suffer by not finishing off the season against a marquee opponent like Ohio State, FSU and Baylor did.

"I feel like we did everything we needed to do on our end to be one of those top four teams," said Boykin after the game, via The Associated Press (h/t ESPN.com).

Yahoo Sports' Pat Forde noted a potential line of thinking for the committee, one that would shut out the Big 12 from the playoff:

This scenario just might play out when the decisions are in. It's tough to punish TCU for winning by 52 points on Saturday, but it's equally as tough to lock out a Buckeyes squad that was one of the hottest teams in the country down the stretch. These two squads are the proverbial rock and hard place boxing in the playoff committee after Saturday's results.

Any way you slice it, there are six teams deserving to go to the inaugural College Football Playoff. Unfortunately, there are just four spots. The committee will have no choice but to disappoint two programs and their fanbases when the final selection comes out, but it's best that they stick with a host of outright conference champions and as soon as the decisions are in, cue the campaign for an eight-team playoff.



Rankings listed in text are courtesy of CollegeFootballPlayoff.com.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Alabama vs. Missouri: What's Next for Each Team After SEC Championship 2014

Perhaps we should stop suggesting that there is no dominant team this college football season.  While parity has dominated for much of the season, a peaking Alabama squad is clearly becoming the nation's top team, a notion it reaffirmed by demolishing Missouri, 42-13, in the SEC Championship Game.

The Crimson Tide continued their ascent into a terrifying offensive powerhouse, piling up 504 total yards.  Despite hanging on for much of the first half, the Tigers were largely helpless to stop Blake Sims and Co., who had a 13:26-minute edge in time of possession.

Neither team's season is over yet, however, as the Tide's victory has important postseason implications for both squads.  Obviously Alabama will have higher stakes to play for in the playoff, but Missouri's bowl game aspirations will have future consequences as the Tigers continue building their profile three years into their SEC membership.  After bringing home a Cotton Bowl victory last January, another premier victory over a Power Five conference would further assimilate Mizzou into the SEC.

Putting a forward-looking lens on the SEC Championship Game, let's analyze how both teams may fare in the postseason based on their performances on Saturday.

 

Missouri: Build the Program Profile

The Tigers have been an underrated squad during Gary Pinkel's tenure, having won double-digit games in five of the past eight seasons.  Nevertheless, Missouri has never quite been able to get over the hump into a premier bowl game, as Saturday's loss put them in some ignominious history:

With the defeat, the Tigers will most likely head to a second-tier bowl for an SEC school. The Outback and Citrus (formerly Capital One) Bowls have both traditionally chosen teams from the SEC East, so one of those two appears like the most likely destination for Missouri.

The Tigers would subsequently play a Big Ten or ACC opponent, with Clemson, Maryland, Notre Dame and Minnesota standing out as the most probable selections.  Missouri figures to be favored over all except perhaps Clemson, whose quarterback, Deshaun Watson, led the Tigers to their first victory over arch-rival South Carolina since 2008 despite playing on a torn ACL.

Nevertheless, with two consecutive conference championship game appearances, the Tigers have almost totally erased the black sheep label that emerged after their dismal 5-7 debut season in 2012.  With four losses and a plus-172 point differential in conference play over the past two seasons, there is little doubt that the Tigers have passed the fallen empires of Florida, Georgia and Tennessee.

Next year will provide a bit of a rebuilding challenge; along with All-American Shane Ray's likely early defection for the NFL, the Tigers are losing eight senior starters, including their top three receivers.  But quarterback Maty Mauk will be back for his junior campaign, and even if Ray leaves, Missouri will return seven defensive starters.  Thus, expect the Tigers to finally receive some respect in the preseason forecasts next summer.

 

Alabama: Reestablish the Dynasty

Like the rest of the SEC, Missouri is striving to reach the standard Nick Saban has established in Tuscaloosa.  Championships are the expectation in Alabama, and whether the trophies come in the form of crystal balls or leg lamps, the Tide will need to capture their fourth national title in six seasons to call 2014 a success.

As the presumptive No. 1 seed, the Tide will likely play in the Sugar Bowl against either TCU, Florida State, Baylor or Ohio State.  The Horned Frogs and Seminoles appear as though they are the likeliest candidates, though TV politics have led analysts to take conflict stances on Alabama's likeliest semifinal opponent:

Regardless of who the Crimson Tide face, they have separated themselves as the best team in the country.  Football Outsiders' Fremeau Efficiency Index (FEI) not only rates the Crimson Tide as the top team in the nation, but Alabama is also the only squad to boast a top-five unit on both offense and defense.  Whether it be a defensive struggle or historic offensive slugfest, the Tide have shown the versatility to win through any method.

Most importantly, the last few weeks have validated Saban's controversial preseason decision to stick with Sims at quarterback over much-ballyhooed transfer Jacob Coker.  Sims ranked second in the country in QBR headed into the game, and with a massive 92.6 adjusted QBR rating against Missouri, the senior has established himself as one of the nation's top signal-callers.

The one missing ingredient in Bama's championship squads has been an explosive passing game.  With that element in tow as well, Alabama must be considered heavy playoff favorites, even with two stiff challenges remaining.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Orange Bowl 2014: Known Info Before Final Playoff Rankings Reveal

Under the new College Football Playoff structure the top six bowl games rotate, serving as the national semifinals. Although the Orange Bowl will have to wait another year to fill that role, it should still receive a high-profile matchup for New Year's Eve.

The teams that will play in one of the sport's oldest bowl games will be determined by the selection committee based on its final rankings. The announcement will be made on Sunday afternoon at around 2:45 p.m. ET, according to the CFP's official site.

Before that happens, let's check out all of the important details for the 2014 Orange Bowl, along with a look at the selection process and the teams with the best chance to get picked for the marquee game.

 

Viewing Information

Where: Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida

When: Wednesday, Dec. 31 at 8 p.m. ET

Watch: ESPN

Live Stream: WatchESPN

 

Selection Process

The Orange Bowl is the only one of the non-semifinals being chosen by the committee with specific requirements. While the others will pit two at-large teams against each other, the showcase at Sun Life stadium is going to feature an ACC squad taking on one from either the SEC or Big Ten.

Notre Dame is also eligible for selection. Up until about a month ago, the Fighting Irish actually looked like strong contenders for the spot, but they proceeded to lose four straight games to finish the campaign, knocking them out of the mix.

 

Analyzing Potential Teams

On the ACC side, Georgia Tech is the likely selection, with Florida State heading into the College Football Playoff. The Yellow Jackets reached the conference title game after winning the Coastal Division by one game over Duke.

Being selected for the Orange Bowl would be a nice accomplishment for a team that didn't receive much preseason hype. In fact, athletic director Mike Bobinski explained to Andrea Adelson of ESPN that the lack of respect helped fuel their strong season:

I do believe the best thing that might have happened to us this year is when we got picked so low in the preseason.

We were already well on our way to having a good offseason and having a better locker room, having a group of guys that are more together and honestly care about each other, play for each other and push each other harder more than we had in recent years.

Adding that extra impetus of, 'Hey, we're not getting a whole lot of respect from folks' was a nice little addition to the mix.

As usual, it was the rushing attack leading the way for Georgia Tech. It ran for more than double the yards it passed for, which is amazing considering the direction the game has headed in recent years, with more and more teams relying on the pass from spread looks.

A lot of credit goes to head coach Paul Johnson and his staff for implementing a system that can power its way to success, even when the opponent knows what's coming.

Other options include Clemson and Louisville, but either one being slotted above the Yellow Jackets would be a surprise.

As for their opponent, two teams stand out from the crowd—one from each of the conferences involved (SEC and Big Ten).

From the SEC, it's Mississippi State. The Bulldogs finished second in the very difficult West Division behind only Alabama. They finished 10-2, which was highlighted by an extremely impressive three-game stretch in which they knocked off LSU, Texas A&M and Auburn.

The only downside is that their two losses came late in the campaign. Neither was a bad defeat, coming on the road to the Crimson Tide and rival Ole Miss. But the committee has put high value on current form, so losing twice in the final three weeks hurts.

That's why the edge probably goes to Michigan State out of the Big Ten. The Spartans were two spots higher in the rankings in the latest release. Ralph D. Russo of the Associated Press thinks that will probably secure their Orange Bowl berth:

Michigan State also ended the regular season with a 10-2 record. Although the level of competition wasn't as high in the Big Ten as it was in the SEC, the committee seemingly believes the Spartans' numerous blowout wins down the stretch offset that.

Of course, the committee has already pulled off some surprising moves since the initial rankings were released back in October. Nothing is official until all of the games from championship weekend are taken into consideration.

All the teams with a chance will soon discover their fate.

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Sugar Bowl 2015: Known Info Before Final Playoff Rankings Reveal

Already one of the biggest bowl games on the schedule, the 2015 Sugar Bowl will take on an increased importance as it is one of the two semifinal games in the inaugural College Football Playoff. 

As the selection committee prepares to unveil its final rankings on Sunday, the pieces have been put in place for the matchup that will take place in Atlanta on New Year's Day. All that remains is making sure the committee doesn't try anything funny, which has happened more than once this season. 

While there's still more than three weeks to go before the game and a few hours before the matchup is officially announced, here is a look at everything that's set for this year's Sugar Bowl thus far. It's only appropriate to follow that up with an examination of the teams most likely to be playing in New Orleans. 

 

Teams in the Mix

Alabama Crimson Tide

As things are set up, the Sugar Bowl will play host to the No. 1 and No. 4 seeds in the College Football Playoff rankings. For the last three weeks, since defeating Mississippi State on November 15, the top spot has belonged to the Alabama Crimson Tide. 

Nick Saban's team has shown some cracks at times this season. The offense was stagnant against LSU, while the defense gave up 630 yards and 44 points against Auburn. Through it all, they have come out with just one loss. 

ESPN Stats & Info put out numbers using advanced metrics, as well as the rankings, prior to the SEC Championship Game to show how good Alabama has been this season:

Everything has been set up for 'Bama to play in the Sugar Bowl. The Crimson Tide have taken care of their biggest rivals (LSU and Auburn) already this season. Blake Sims has had his ups and downs but stepped up in the biggest moment of his career in the Iron Bowl. 

Combine that with the committee's love of the Tide, and it's not going to surprise anyone when they are selected as the top overall seed. 

 

TCU Horned Frogs

Even though TCU rose up to No. 3 in last week's rankings, the committee could opt to knock the Horned Frogs back down due to a cupcake opponent in Iowa State on Saturday. 

Regardless, though, Gary Patterson's team is a lock for one of the two big bowl games. Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight.com actually gave TCU the best odds of any team to make the playoff after last week's rankings came out:

TCU’s chances of making the playoff are now 96 percent, according to the FiveThirtyEight model — up from 80 percent before the committee’s new rankings were released. Those odds might seem incredibly high, but TCU has a cupcake opponent in 2-9 Iowa State, against whom it’s a 97 percent favorite, according to ESPN’s Football Power Index (FPI). TCU remains unlikely to make the playoff should it lose, but it looks safer in the event of a win. 

Based on the comments made by selection committee chairman Jeff Long after TCU was announced as the No. 3 team on Tuesday, it's clear the people in power love what they have seen from the Horned Frogs despite their head-to-head loss against Big 12 rival Baylor, via Jerry Hinnen of CBSSports.com:

We look at their losses. Baylor's loss is against a West Virginia team that's outside the top 25, and TCU's is against Baylor, who is No. 6 ... We look at many, many different things. Overall, the evaluation -- the human evaluation -- of this is what this committee is designed to do. And I think they've done that in this case with TCU and Baylor.

Saturday was basically a glorified coronation for TCU, as there was little doubt it would take care of business against Iowa State. The Horned Frogs aren't likely to move down after climbing up, though there is a logjam after the top two spots that warrants putting them here. 

 

Florida State Seminoles

Based on the current rankings, the Sugar Bowl matchup was set to be Alabama against Florida State. There was some controversy about the committee dropping an undefeated Seminoles team from third to fourth, though Andrea Adelson of ESPN.com has a theory about that:

"Dropping Florida State to No. 4 means a semifinal in the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans against No. 1 Alabama," Adelson wrote. "That is the dream matchup everybody wanted to end last season, a delicious pairing between mentor Nick Saban and mentee Jimbo Fisher."

It's a good conspiracy theory, helped by the fact that Florida State wouldn't have to travel as far to get to New Orleans compared to Pasadena, California for the Rose Bowl. 

Even though their wins aren't always sexy, there's something to be said for the Seminoles always finding a way to come out on top. Per ESPN's College GameDay on Twitter, no other school in the country can match Florida State's combination of comeback wins and close wins:

Statistical analysis has taken over sports, and a lot of it is valuable, but sometimes it takes away from remembering the ultimate goal is to win a game. No one has done that more over the last two years than Florida State. 

 

Baylor Bears

There's a real argument to be made for Baylor to be ranked ahead of TCU already, as the Bears won a 61-58 shootout against their conference rivals on October 11. The committee didn't agree, slotting Art Briles' team in three spots behind the Horned Frogs before Saturday's games. 

One silver lining for Baylor is it had a chance to prove itself once again with a showdown against ninth-ranked Kansas State. The school tried to take necessary steps to get more publicity, including hiring a public relations firm, via SportsCenter:

While that's going a little overboard, as well as blurring the lines once again between college football and business, all Baylor really had to do is beat Kansas State to at least warrant consideration for one of the top four spots. 

The climb is steep because of the competition around them, but the Bears have put together a resume that can compete with anyone. There will be justified outrage if they don't get in and TCU does. Remember when the BCS formula was broken?

 

Ohio State Buckeyes

Even the most optimistic Ohio State fan will tell you that they didn't see a 59-0 drubbing of Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game coming. Certainly, it wouldn't happen without star quarterback J.T. Barrett. 

But it did, which leaves the selection committee with the unenviable task of having to leave out one of TCU, Ohio State or Baylor. Florida State could be included in that group since it was fourth last week, but there's no way to leave out an undefeated defending national champion. 

As crazy as it sounds based on the results from Saturday, Ohio State still seems like the odd team out. Think about what we know: The committee loves TCU, as evidenced by its ranking last week; Baylor has a head-to-head win over TCU and by matchup ranking had a tougher game on Saturday than the Buckeyes. 

Therefore, it comes down to what the committee prefers. Even with the win over Wisconsin, Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight.com only gives Ohio State a 40 percent chance to make the top four, putting the Buckeyes fifth in its latest simulation. 

While being fifth is nothing to scoff at, it's not enough to get you into the playoff.  

If you want to talk sports, hit me up on Twitter. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Rose Bowl 2015: Known Info Before Final Playoff Rankings Reveal

The Rose Bowl is traditionally one of the biggest games of the college football season, and that's no different this year, given the stakes.

Historically, the Rose Bowl generally featured the winners of the Big Ten and Pac-10/Pac-12 conferences.

Since the creation of the Bowl Championship Series, the Rose Bowl became a little more inclusive, serving as the national championship for a few different seasons and also featuring TCU and Oklahoma when the conference champions were otherwise occupied.

With the advent of the College Football Playoff, that changes a bit.

Until the selection committee unveils the last batch of College Football Playoff rankings, it's anybody's guess as to whom will play in the 2015 Rose Bowl.

Here's what we know so far heading into the New Year's Day clash.

 

When: Thursday, Jan. 1, 2015, at 5 p.m. ET

Where: Rose Bowl, Pasadena, Calif.

Watch: ESPN

Live Stream:WatchESPN

 

Where Rose Bowl Fits into Playoff

Since this is the first year for the playoff, some fans remain unaware how the Rose Bowl fits into this year's rotation. The game serves as one of two semifinals this year, with the No. 2 and No. 3 seeds facing off. The winner will play whomever wins the Sugar Bowl, with the national championship in Arlington, Texas.

In the old system, you had the Rose Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, Sugar Bowl and Orange Bowl fall under the BCS umbrella. One of the four would host the national championship, with the host rotating from one year to the next.

In the CFP, the Cotton Bowl and Peach Bowl are added to the prestigious list. Rather than switching the national championship, the six bowls rotate who hosts the two semifinal games. You can see the rotation schedule for the next three years below.

The Rose Bowl won't serve as the national semifinal at any other point in the next three years.

 

Who's Still in Play?

Nobody can say for sure right now who will play in the Rose Bowl. Between glancing at the Week 15 playoff rankings and results from Friday and Saturday's games, however, fans can get a good idea of at least which teams are in the discussion.

Three teams are essentially locks for the top four after the conference championships: Florida State, Alabama and Oregon. The Crimson Tide and Ducks won the two toughest conferences in the country, while the Seminoles are the only Power Five team still unbeaten.

Say what you want about Florida State's penchant for close wins. The only thing FSU needs as a playoff credential is its 13-0 record. Head coach Jimbo Fisher isn't sweating the committee's decision, per Pete Thamel of Sports Illustrated:

It seems a safe bet that the committee will be weighing the resumes of Ohio State, Baylor and TCU as it fills out the playoff bracket.

The Big 12 is officially recognizing two champions, which makes the committee's decision that much harder:

Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight wondered whether the members might save itself a major headache and simply send in the Buckeyes:

Say what you want about the Big Ten, but beating Wisconsin by 59 points in the title game was a major statement. According to ESPN.com's Mark Schlabach, it was the second-biggest shutout of a top-15 team ever:

Schlabach also crunched the numbers, and it's hard to vote against OSU:

Those fans without a dog in the fight shouldn't really get upset no matter who gets sent into the playoff. There won't be a bad semifinal matchup, and this system is miles better than the Bowl Championship Series.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Which Celebrities Were Best Guest Pickers on ESPN College GameDay?

College football's regular season is over, and with it went the best part of ESPN's College GameDay: the celebrity pickers. 

The show will broadcast from Annapolis, Maryland, for Army-Navy next weekend and again during bowl season, but without another full slate of games to pick from, we will not get the immaculate weirdness of, say, Bill Murray body-slamming Lee Corso.

No celebrity picker topped Murray's showmanship during 2014, but that was to be expected. Nobody ever will.

So let's check out how they did with their actual picks:

 

Jase and Willie

Our standings are bookended by Jase and Willie Robertson, the Duck Dynasty brothers who appeared at Ole Miss-LSU in Week 9.

Willie made a point of fading every pick Jase offered—save their LSU Tigers—which backfired when it turned out Jase went 9-0. Jase ended up with the best record of the season. Willie ended up in the cellar:

At least it made for decent TV.

 

Katy Perry Had a Day

Teen idol Katy Perry had herself a day in Oxford, Mississippi, nailing seven of her nine predictions.

The only games she missed were Tennessee over Florida and Oklahoma over TCU. The former was an ugly 10-9 Gators win that easily could have gone to the Vols, and the latter can be forgiven since Perry admitted that lust for Sooners quarterback Trevor Knight informed her pick.

It's all good, though. Two losses were not enough to spoil Perry's first college football experience. She followed up her day by having herself a night, and Oxford's bar scene might never be the same:

Legend Status: Unlocked.

 

Sorry, Male Musicians

Do not—I repeat, do not—invite a male musician to GameDay.

Chances are he'll make your team lose.

South Carolina lost when Kenny Chesney came for the Missouri game. West Virginia lost when Brad Paisley came for the TCU game. And Michigan State lost when Alice Cooper came for the Ohio State game.

Care to guess how many other home teams lost after hosting GameDay?

Exactly as many other male musicians appeared as pickers.

Nada.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Big Ten Championship 2014: Game Grades, Analysis for Wisconsin and Ohio State

Urban Meyer and No. 5 Ohio State flexed their muscles and proved themselves as the class of the conference, hammering No. 13 Wisconsin in a 59-0 shutout loss in the Big Ten Championship Game Saturday night. 

The Buckeyes (12-1) put on a show as they claimed their first Big Ten title since 2009, out-gaining the Badgers (10-3) by 293 yards. Cardale Jones was brilliant playing in place of the injured J.T. Barrett, leading Ohio State to a huge victory in his first career start.

How did the Badgers and the Buckeyes grade out from the surprising blowout Saturday night? 

 

Wisconsin Badgers Grade Analysis

Pass Offense: Wisconsin's offense is most successful when it's featuring running back Melvin Gordon, but due to the blowout nature of the game, quarterback Joel Stave received a heavy workload. That wasn't a good thing for the Badgers, as he completed just 17 of 43 passes (39.4 percent) for 187 yards and no touchdowns. Most of that work came in the second half, when Stave threw 28 passes for 129 yards, as the Badgers were desperately trying to claw their way back into the game.  

Run Offense: Wisconsin entered the game with the nation's No. 2 rushing offense, averaging 334.3 yards per contest. The Badgers were fueled by Gordon, a Heisman Trophy candidate who leads the country with 2,260 rushing yards and 26 touchdowns. But Wisconsin was completely shut down by Ohio State, rushing for just 78 total yards on the game. Gordon was held out of the end zone for the first time all year, and the Badgers managed just 2.1 yards per carry.

Pass Defense: Going up against Ohio State's third-string quarterback, Wisconsin was consistently gashed, especially on the deep ball. The Badgers surrendered 257 passing yards on just 18 pass attempts from the Buckeyes. The three touchdowns they gave up—all of which went to Ohio State's Devin Smith—were an average of 41.7 yards. 

Run Defense: Wisconsin's run defense was even worse. Ezekiel Elliott had his way with the Badgers defense, running for 220 yards (a Big Ten title game record, previously held by Melvin Gordon) and two touchdowns on just 20 carries. In total, the Buckeyes bulldozed their way to 301 rushing yards and four touchdowns on just 38 carries, averaging 7.9 yards per carry.

Special Teams: The Badgers could have used a big play (or several big plays) from their special teams to provide a spark, but it was an uninspired night at every level. Drew Meyer had a busy night, averaging 41.1 yards on eight punts. But Kenzel Doe couldn't shake loose against Ohio State's kick coverage team and averaged just 19 yards on six returns. 

Coaching: Gary Andersen and the Wisconsin coaching staff were thoroughly outclassed by Meyer and Ohio State. The Badgers failed to rattle a quarterback who was making his first start on one of college football's biggest stages, and in the end, nothing Andersen did helped his team keep pace with the high-flying Buckeyes. 

 

Ohio State Buckeyes Grade Analysis

Pass Offense: Many thought Ohio State would play it conservatively without Barrett, but Jones came out and lit the Wisconsin defense up. The sophomore signal-caller threw for 211 yards and two touchdowns in the first half alone, and Smith was the big beneficiary, hauling in three passes for 95 yards.

The Buckeyes pounded things out on the ground in the second half as Jones attempted just four passes in the final two quarters. He finished with 257 yards and three touchdowns, all of which ended up in the steady, secure hands of Smith. 

Run Offense: Elliott got the Buckeyes off to a fast start in the first half, breaking off an 81-yard touchdown run on the third drive to put Ohio State up by 14. That run alone accounted for more rushing yards than Wisconsin managed in the entire game as the Buckeyes pounded their way to 153 yards in the first half. 

Up 38-0 to start the third quarter, Ohio State stuck to the ground attack with great success. Elliott finished with a game-high 220 rushing yards, and Bri'onte Dunn and Curtis Samuel combined for 70 yards and two touchdowns on just nine carries. That helped the Buckeyes pile up 558 total yards against the nation's No. 2 total defense.

Pass Defense: Ohio State's offense actually guided Wisconsin to play directly into the strength of the Buckeyes defense. Trailing by such a wide margin, the Badgers were forced to throw into Ohio State's vastly improved secondary. That proved difficult as Ohio State's defensive line, led by Joey Bosa, terrorized Stave all night. The Badgers missed on 26 of their 43 pass attempts, and the Buckeyes came up with three interceptions (two from senior cornerback Doran Grant). 

Ohio State only gave up 187 passing yards as Wisconsin averaged a meager 4.3 yards per pass attempt. 

Run Defense: Ohio State's run defense was even more impressive as it shut down the nation's leading rusher in Gordon. Coming into the game averaging an incredible 188.3 rushing yards per game, the Badgers running back was shut down by the Buckeyes, gaining just 76 yards on 26 carries. The Buckeyes also forced Gordon to fumble near Wisconsin's goal line, which Bosa scooped up and returned four yards for a touchdown. It was an encouraging performance for Ohio State, which had surrendered 584 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns to the last four running backs it had faced. 

Special Teams: Cameron Johnston had another incredible night, averaging 53 yards on four punts. His 73-yard boot in the first quarter that pinned Wisconsin at its own 2-yard line was the special teams play of the game. The Badgers came close to blocking a couple of Ohio State's punts, but Johnston was able to get his four attempts off cleanly. The only hiccup of the game came early in the fourth quarter when Wisconsin blocked a 30-yard field-goal attempt from Sean Nuernberger.

Coaching: Offensively and defensively, Ohio State completely dominated Wisconsin Saturday night. That was the result of a perfect game plan by the coaching staff that was executed flawlessly by the players. Chris Ash and Luke Fickell called their best game of the season, registering a historic shutout. Meyer, Tom Herman and the offensive staff knew exactly what they had in Jones, and they put him in the perfect position to trigger the blowout. From play-calling to game management, the Buckeyes didn't miss on Saturday night, and they're Big Ten champions because of it. 

 

All stats via NCAA.com.

David Regimbal covers Ohio State football for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

NCAA Football Rankings 2014: Predicting the Top 25 After Week 15

It was championship week and fans expected plenty of playoff drama to unfold. We all wanted chaos. 

While chaos may still ensue with six teams having legitimate claims to four spots, most games ended up being blowouts this week with the exception of the ACC Championship Game, which Florida State won 37-35 to earn itself an undefeated season for the second-straight year. 

Only 13 teams in the Week 15 AP Poll were in action—nearly all of them in conference title games. That'll create some interesting poll shuffles, as six of the 13 ranked teams lost. 

So how will the season's penultimate AP Poll pan out? Here's our best crack at figuring that out. 

 

Risers

Clemson

Despite having the week off, the Clemson Tigers should move up quite a few spots in this week's poll. They were positioned right behind the Oklahoma Sooners, who coughed it up against Oklahoma State this week. Couple that with the other teams losing in conference championship games, and the Tigers should be a Top 15 team heading into bowl season.  

 

Marshall

Rakeem Cato and Co. avenged last week's loss to Western Kentucky with a win over a decent Louisiana Tech team in the C-USA Championship Game. Not exactly a Power Five title, but the Thundering Herd still have 12 wins on the year and should climb back into the polls after falling out last week.  

 

Fallers

Oklahoma

Saturday's home loss in the Bedlam game to Oklahoma State in Norman was not only embarrassing for the Sooners, it was also its fourth of the season. Oklahoma was pegged as the Big 12 favorite at the start of the season—instead it has been turned into a mediocre team at best. Losing to Oklahoma State to give the Cowboys bowl eligibility was a huge blow that should knock the Sooners out of the polls altogether. 

 

Wisconsin

The Badgers won't be punished for losing to Ohio State—they'll be punished for how they lost. A 59-0 shutout victory for the Buckeyes put Wisconsin, which had been rolling since Melvin Gordon's massive game against Nebraska a few weeks ago. Now the Badgers will be reeling from a morale-crushing defeat heading into bowl season and will suffer in the polls because of it. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Clutch Florida State Played Most Complete Game of Year When It Needed It Most

CHARLOTTE, N.C.—Florida State knew exactly what to expect from Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets' triple-option offense would piece together long drives and score points. And keep the number of FSU drives to a minimum.

So the Seminoles made the most of each possession, scoring touchdowns on four straight first-half drives and then had three field goals on consecutive drives after halftime. That's seven consecutive scoring drives when FSU only had nine possessions on Saturday.

For an FSU offense that has been up and down, it was by far the No. 4 Seminoles' most efficient performance of the year—and their first complete game—as they clinched an Atlantic Coast Conference title with a 37-35 win over No. 11 Georgia Tech on Saturday night.

"We were very efficient," FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said. "We knew going in that we had to be and we wanted to be balanced running and throwing."

FSU (13-0) won for a 29th straight time and captured its third consecutive ACC title with an offensive effort that was impressive. Dalvin Cook ran 31 times for 177 yards, both season highs. And Jameis Winston was efficient, completing 21-of-30 passes for 309 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.

One week after Winston had his worst game, throwing four interceptions in a win over Florida, he spent two days in a code of conduct hearing while juggling his class schedule and night practices. Perhaps as motivation to focus on football, he turned in one of his best efforts of the season, completing 70 percent of his passes.

"I'm just blessed to have a great Seminole family," Winston said. "My week has been great. Ending with another ACC championship. We're just a great family, and I love those guys, and I love Seminole Nation."

And Winston didn't have an interception. He's had plenty this season, tossing 17 in his 11 games coming into Saturday. But against Georgia Tech, he forced a few passes late but didn't have an interception.

"He's elite," Fisher said. "He's different than anybody I've ever been around."

The same could be said for another emerging star, Cook. With senior starter Karlos Williams on the sideline with a concussion, the true freshman handled the starting role and took 31 of the team's 33 carries.

An early enrollee, Cook has the best season of any freshman in FSU history. He has 905 rushing yards and eight touchdowns, surpassing Greg Allen's rookie record of 888 rushing yards in 1981.

Cook said he had trouble being patient and waiting for playing time. He didn't play in the season opener against Oklahoma State, but now Cook has made significant contributions in the past six games. He has 635 yards on 96 carries in that span, an average of 6.6 yards per carry.

"I think it was just my time," Cook said of his success of late. "I couldn't relax. I just had to put my foot on the gas and just keep going."

FSU hasn't exactly had its foot on the gas this season. But the Seminoles keep going and going.

Now, they're on the way to the College Football Playoff. Fisher feels comfortable that there will be no drama when the four teams are announced Sunday. The only questions that remain are who FSU will play and where.

"There ain't no decision to be made," Fisher said. "The decision just got made."

 

Bob Ferrante is the lead FSU writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow Bob on Twitter. Stats courtesy of seminoles.com.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Mountain West Championship 2014: Game Grades, Analysis for Boise State Broncos

The No. 22 Boise State University Broncos outlasted the Fresno State Bulldogs 28-14 en route to a Mountain West Conference championship Saturday night.

Boise State jumped out to a 28-point lead but cooled off during the second half. Regardless, the Broncos are likely headed to a New Year's Eve bowl game against a Power Five opponent.

Pass Offense: Boise State didn't need to rely on the passing attack, but Grant Hedrick connected with his targets on 9 of 16 attempts for 155 yards. He scrambled when necessary and was sacked just once.

Run Offense: Though Jay Ajayi raced to a 70-yard performance during the opening 30 minutes, he failed to gain a yard in nine second-half carries. Hedrick waltzed in for two touchdowns on designed runs, but Boise State will need a dominant performance from its offensive line to upset an eventual postseason opponent.

Pass Defense: Donte Deayon intercepted Brian Burrell in the end zone, Tanner Vallejo recorded a pick-six and Beau Martin sealed the victory by snaring a swing pass with less than two minutes remaining. The defense, which recorded four sacks, surrendered 30 of 45 completions but allowed just three passes to gain more than 20 yards.

Run Defense: The Broncos completely stonewalled a team that entered the night averaging nearly 200 rushing yards per game, limiting Fresno State to 70 yards and three first downs on 41 carries. They shut down outstanding running back Marteze Waller, holding him to a season-worst 1.5 yards per carry.

Special Teams: Punter Sean Wale averaged 40.1 yards over seven attempts, and Dan Goodale buried all four extra points. Jeremy McNichols only had two chances to run back a kickoff, and no Broncos player officially recorded a punt return. Most importantly for Boise, though, was that nobody on special teams screwed up.

Coaching: Defensive coordinator Marcel Yates shied away from blitzing, though Boise State was clearly most successful when pressuring Burrell. Despite the second-half struggles, head coach Bryan Harsin led his alma mater to an 11-2 record and a major bowl game during his first season as head coach, and that's a major accomplishment.

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Blind College Football Playoff Resumes for the Top Contenders

Championship Weekend could not have gone worse for the College Football Playoff selection committee, whose job went from difficult to very difficult after a chalky slate of games that left more questions than answers.

The top six teams from last week's poll—and the only six power-conference teams with one or fewer losses—all won their season finales, most taking care of business in convincing fashion. Each could make a very convincing case for inclusion but two will be left out.

So…what's the committee to do?

Does it simply let last week's rankings hold? That wouldn't be in its bylaws, according to Campus Insiders' Bonnie Bernstein, who reminded us that the committee starts from scratch each week:

Instead, the committee will weigh each team's merits based on an overall body of work, trying as best they can to keep bias from creeping into play. Essentially, they will try to zone out the name of each program and evaluate each case based on what they have seen on the field.

In a perfect world, they wouldn't have to know the team names at all.

Let's do our best to simulate that.

Below are some base-line numbers. It is each team's overall record, followed by which Top 25 teams it has beaten and the ranking of the team it has lost to (where applicable). Both of those ranking numbers refer to the Week 15 CFP standings released Tuesday evening.

The final number (in bold) refers to the F/+ rankings at Football Outsiders, a context-adjusted efficiency metric that some would call an "advanced stat." The F/+ ratings are a strong barometer of team performance, albeit one that is far from perfect. That is why we've used it as one of many variables instead of the ultimate factor.

The F/+ rankings, too, have not been updated to reflect Week 15.

Like I said the last time I looked at blind resumes: Everyone who looks at this table sees something different because everyone who follows college football values something different.

What, for example, is more important: good wins or bad losses? Neither answer is objectively correct. Both sides have merit, and each individual is tasked with doing their own mental calculus to decide. 

Here is how I—subjectively—would rank these teams based on the numbers above (including their records) and nothing else:

  1. Team 2
  2. Team 6
  3. Team 4
  4. Team 1
  5. Team 3
  6. Team 5

My own subjective preference places a heavy emphasis on the F/+ ratings, which explains Team 6 ranking ahead of Team 4 and Team 3 ranking ahead of Team 5. You are well within your rights to disagree.

No matter what metric you value, however, there is no denying the obvious flaw of this table. As mentioned above, the rankings do not take Week 15 into account. The F/+ ratings won't be updated in time for the final standings, but let's do our best to rectify that:

*YPP = Yards Per Play

Well hello there, Team 3. Welcome to the party.

Here is how my rankings from above—the ones I have gone out of my way to call subjective—would change based on this new data:

  1. Team 2
  2. Team 3
  3. Team 6
  4. Team 4
  5. Team 1
  6. Team 5

But we still have one more table to go.

Using the data from Week 15, here is each team's statistical profile. This ignores records although it doesn't, unfortunately, account for strength of opponent. If you need context, it might be best (although still not perfect) to compare these numbers with the Top 25 wins on the first table.

*Calculated by subtracting points, yards and yards per play allowed per game from points, yards and yards per play scored/gained per game.

Interesting.

If you only look at raw statistics, Team 4 and Team 5 are clearly the worst of the bunch. They are great but far from dominant, which makes them an outlier from the other four teams on the table.

Looking back at the previous table, this appears to line up with the F/+ ratings, which did not look favorably upon Team 4 and Team 5. It will have a higher opinion of those teams after beating quality opponents this weekend, but it still won't move them into the top four.

The only thing keeping Team 4 in the discussion is its undefeated record (I bet you can't guess who it is!). But in a blind resume exercise, I'll take the four teams that have been better, on paper, despite the fact that they have one more loss than Team 4.

Here are my final subjective ratings:

  1. Team 2
  2. Team 3
  3. Team 6
  4. Team 1
  5. Team 4
  6. Team 5

And now…to reveal their identities:

  1. Oregon
  2. Ohio State
  3. Alabama
  4. TCU
  5. Florida State
  6. Baylor

They're curious things, these blind resumes. They don't spit out the results you expect. I do not want to peel back the curtain, but I can assure you this was not how I ordered my B/R Week 16 ballot.

Factors such as Florida State's perfect record—and, more importantly, the strength of the ACC—and Baylor's head-to-head win over TCU will have to be considered by the committee, won't they?

I guess we'll learn the answer on Sunday.

For now, chime in below and let us know how you would order the blind resumes. And remember…what we value is subjective.

There are no wrong opinions (except the ones I disagree with).

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Rankings: B/R's Final Regular-Season Official Top 25

So, did that clear everything up for you?

A weekend loaded with key playoff-affecting games didn't really provide much clarity, not with the favorites winning most of them. The only things that stood out were some of the margins of victory, which likely will be something the playoff selection committee factors into which teams they choose for the coveted four playoff spots.

There's far less uncertainty about our rankings, however. We have a clear No. 1 team and three others that slid nicely into the spots behind the leader.

The Bleacher Report Top 25 is voted on by 20 members of Bleacher Report's college football team: writers Keith Arnold, Ben Axelrod, Phil Callihan, Michael Felder, Justin Ferguson, Andrew Hall, Kyle Kensing, David Kenyon, Ben Kercheval, Adam Kramer, Brian Leigh, Brian Pedersen, Barrett Sallee, Brad Shepard, Erin Sorensen, and Marc Torrence, as well as editors Eric Bowman, Adam Donaldson and Max Rausch.

Each voter submits their ballots based on observations made during the just-completed week's games. Teams receive 25 points for a first-place vote, all the way down to one point for being ranked 25th, and then the top 25 vote-getters are ranked in order of their point totals.

Check out Bleacher Report's final regular season poll, then give us your thoughts in the comments section.

Begin Slideshow

Jameis Winston Has Best Game of Year, Quiets Critics with Playoff-Clinching Win

Where was this Jameis Winston all year? 

In the Florida State Seminoles' 37-35 win over Georgia Tech in the ACC Championship Game—yet another close call for the Cardiac Kids of Tallahassee—Winston looked like his old Heisman self, throwing for 309 yards on 21-of-30 passing while also racking up three touchdowns and, for just the third time all year, zero interceptions. 

Now, there is no doubt. 

The undefeated Seminoles will be in the College Football Playoff, and in their last leg of the journey to get there, they have the defending Heisman Trophy winner to thank. 

Georgia Tech also hung 35 points on the board, forcing Winston and Co. to march down the field time and time again to provide answers. 

The Yellow Jackets rushed for 331 yards, gained 465 total yards and made the option look like the newest trend. And every time Jimbo Fisher had to rely on his quarterback to help withstand the punches the Jackets were throwing, Winston delivered. 

Now, as the playoffs near, Winston's endless list of critics can finally be silenced for a while. 

The first half provided the biggest turnaround for Winston. Last week against Florida, he threw three picks in the first 30 minutes of the game. 

In fact, Winston's been shaky all season. He's had five multi-interception games, and he has also had five games during which he's been limited to just one touchdown pass. 

On three separate drives against Georgia Tech, Winston led the Seminoles down to the end zone just one drive after the Yellow Jackets found paydirt themselves. 

Winston rose to the occasion in the ACC title game, and now the Seminoles can rest easy. They'll be in the playoffs, and Winston should—whether he will or not is still debatable—get an invite to New York City as a Heisman Trophy finalist for leading his squad to a second straight undefeated season.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Cardale Jones Proves It Doesn't Matter Who Plays QB for Urban Meyer

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — Even before J.T. Barrett went down with a season-ending broken ankle in last weekend's win over Michigan, Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer seemed to have found a new favorite phrase this season.

"A quarterback is a product of those around him," Meyer would repeat, seemingly ad nauseam.

And as it turns out, the Buckeyes have some pretty good players surrounding their signal-caller.

Down to its third option at quarterback, the Ohio State offense put on a clinic on Saturday, totaling 558 yards in the Buckeyes' 59-0 walloping of Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game. You would have never known that Cardale Jones was at one point listed behind Barrett and Braxton Miller on the Ohio State quarterback depth chart, as the redshirt sophomore accounted for 257 yards and three touchdowns in the Buckeyes' Big Ten title blowout.

Like his predecessors, Jones brought his own flare to the OSU offense, his canon-like arm taking the place of Barrett's prominent precision and Miller's signature stutter step before that. He put it on display just two minutes into the game, Jones connected with wide receiver Devin Smith for a 39-yard touchdown bomb, later finding the senior speedster for scores of 44 and 42 yards.

"He went out there and showed everybody that he could play," Smith said of Jones.

The first start of Jones' college career spoke volumes to his own ability, it also boded well for a Buckeyes team battling for one of the final spots in the College Football Playoff. The selection committee stated that it would wait to evaluate the Barrett-less Buckeyes until after Jones' debut.  Lucky for the Ohio State he turned in one heck of a one-game resume.

"Whoever lines up at quarterback, to me, it really doesn't matter," said Smith. "We've got a whole bunch of people who can make plays for this football team and that's one thing that we really want everyone in the world to know."

Make no mistake, the Buckeyes are very much a quarterback-driven team, as evidenced by Miller's record-setting numbers and Barrett's breakout rookie season. But just like Meyer likes to say, a quarterback is a product of those around him, and that includes his head coach.

After all, Meyer has been synonymus with star quarterbacks for the better part of the past 14 years, dating back to the start of his head coaching career at Bowling Green. It was there that he transformed running back Josh Harris into an unlikely Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback, who would go on to be drafted to play the position by the Pittsburgh Steelers.

From there Meyer went to Utah, turning Alex Smith from backup quarterback to Heisman finalist and the 2005 NFL draft's No. 1 overall draft pick. At Florida, he revitalized the career of Chris Leak en route to winning the 2006 national championship, before Tim Tebow turned in one of the most storied careers in the history of college football.

Meyer's only down year when it came to the quarterback position came in 2010, when John Brantley, Trey Burton and Jordan Reed each took turns at spearheading the Gators' 8-5 campaign. But after enjoying a one-year retirement, it didn't take long for Meyer to again showcase his skills as a quarterback whisperer.

Talent at the Buckeyes' skill positions was admittedly lacking when Meyer came to Columbus, but his spread system still managed to turn Miller into a two-time Big Ten MVP and a preseason favorite to win the 2014 Heisman Trophy before a torn labrum ended his senior season before it even started. Miller's apparent importance to Ohio State was one of the main reasons why the Buckeyes were written off when he went down last August, the loss of a player of his caliber seemingly unfathomable to replace.

But Barrett stepped right in—and then some—breaking the Buckeyes' single-season records for total yardage and total touchdowns before suffering a season-ending injury his own. Facing the nation's second-ranked defense with its third-string quarterback, the odds were stacked against Ohio State, but that didn't seem to matter from the moment the ball was kicked off in its battle with the Badgers.

"We came out here and executed on all cylinders, offensively and defensively and we won in a fashion like this," Smith said. "You can't win a game with just one person."

What that will mean when the playoff committee announces its top four on Sunday remains to be seen, but if Jones' MVP performance showed anything, it's that the loss of Barrett shouldn't hinder Buckeyes' chances of landing in the final four. With Meyer at the helm, Ohio State's offense is simply too talented for just one player to receive credit, as Saturday's statement win showed. 

"We showed that we're not a one-man team," OSU wide receiver Evan Spencer said. "We showed that we're a high-caliber, high impact team that knows how to win, knows how to play for one another and at the end of the day, knows how to win championships."

All that said, Cardale Jones sure had a lot to do with it. 

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

Updated College Football Playoff Projections Before Selection Sunday

After some wild championship-weekend games, it's time to reevaluate the top teams and their positioning in the College Football Playoff. Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder gives you his projected playoff bracket.

Who do you think will be playing for a national title at the end of the season?

Watch the video and let us know!

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Playoff Rankings: Final Projections from Week 15

The College Football Playoff selection committee has some hard choices to make. Starting Friday night in Santa Clara, Calif., and ending Saturday night in Indianapolis, every one of its top six teams from last week won. And it only has four playoff spots to dole out.

But forget the canard that the selection committee looks at the entire picture from scratch every week; the 12 members already tipped their hand last week. The top three teams—Alabama, Oregon and TCU—all won impressively to claim a piece of their respective conference championships. No. 4 Florida State as usual labored to win its game, but as the only unbeaten team in the FBS it will get to defend its national title.

That leaves Ohio State and Baylor on the outside, but the committee can reasonably defend its decision for leaving them out. These two teams easily had the worst losses among the contenders—Ohio State to 6-6 Virginia Tech and Baylor to 7-5 West Virginia—and also the weakest schedules (according to Jeff Sagarin).

Despite Ohio State's impressive thrashing of Wisconsin, the problem remains that the committee views the Big Ten as the weakest Power Five conference, and with good reason. Each of the Big Ten's top four teams lost a nonconference game to a Power Five opponent, and Ohio State's loss to Virginia Tech was actually the worst among them.

As for Baylor, its nonconference schedule and how it performed against the nine common opponents will allow the committee to overlook the Bears' head-to-head victory over TCU as both teams shared the Big 12 title with identical 11-1 records.

Of course, unlike the BCS, we can no longer project the rankings with confidence, as the final decision will be made by 12 people and nothing else. And since this is year one of the College Football Playoff, we have no precedent to go by.

That said, this is how we project the committee's final rankings, to be released at 12:45 p.m. ET Sunday.

 

Projected Top 25

No. 1 vs. No. 4: Alabama vs. Florida State, Sugar Bowl - The matchup of the teams that won the last three national championships will be intriguing. Florida State was wobbly all season but never lost a game, something the other 127 FBS teams couldn't do. Alabama looks primed to continue its dynasty-interrupted with Lane Kiffin calling the shots of a dynamic offense.

No. 2 vs. No. 3: Oregon vs. TCU, Rose Bowl - It'll be TCU's second Rose Bowl berth in five years—only Wisconsin has more appearances in that span. The last time the Horned Frogs were in Pasadena they were the gritty underdogs from the Mountain West and beat the Badgers to finish the season unbeaten. This time they'll face an explosive Oregon team piloted by the presumptive Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota.

 

Group-of-Five Bid

Boise State, the only non-Power Five team in last week's committee rankings, made things easy for the committee by taking care of Fresno State to win the Mountain West title late Saturday night. The Broncos likely will earn a trip to the Fiesta Bowl, their third in nine years. They beat Oklahoma and TCU in their two previous appearances in the BCS era.

Follow on Twitter @ThePlayoffGuru

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

ACC Championship Game 2014: Game Grades, Analysis for FSU and Georgia Tech

Florida State University won its 29th consecutive game along with the ACC title with a 37-35 win over Georgia Tech. The final box score can be found on NCAA.com.

The Seminoles played one of their best games of the season. They were efficient on offense, the defense made plays when it needed to and the special teams came up big with nine crucial points.

Georgia Tech also played a great game, as it was able to rush for 331 yards. But it could not make the plays when it needed to at the end of the game, which was the difference.

Here are my game grades and analysis for the Jackets and the Seminoles.

Passing Offense

Jameis Winston played his best game of the season, and it came at the best time. He threw for 309 yards and three touchdowns, which all came in the first half. Winston was poised in the pocket, he had great vision and the ball flew off his hands. He looked like the Winston of 2013 that won the Heisman.

 

Running Offense

Nobody knew what to expect from Dalvin Cook when his number was called for the ACC title game. But he delivered in a big way, as he rushed for 177 yards and one touchdown. Cook had great vision, exploded when he found the hole and was patient. As good as Winston was for the Seminoles, Cook's running was the reason FSU played the way it did on offense.

 

Passing Defense

This was really hard to grade because Georgia Tech only threw the ball 14 times, and the majority of the throws came in the final series when Georgia Tech was trying to get back in the game. On that series, the Seminoles gave up a touchdown through the air. But on the previous series, Lamarcus Brutus came up with a big interception that helped FSU win the game. So Florida State did give up some big plays through the air, but they were able to come up with some key plays as well.

 

Running Defense

It’s hard to defend Georgia Tech’s triple option offense, and the Seminoles had fits with it all game long. During the second half, FSU was able to slow it down a little bit, but they had serious issues with it in the first half. Allowing 331 yards on the ground is not something to be proud of, but it’s an offense Florida State is not used to seeing.

 

Special Teams

Roberto Aguayo is one of the unsung heroes for the Seminoles because he did all the scoring in the second half. He kicked a field goal in the third quarter and two in the fourth to help the Seminoles pull away from the Yellow Jackets. Another good thing about the special teams is they only had to punt twice, which means the Seminoles were scoring touchdowns or kicking field goals the majority of the time.

 

Coaching

Jimbo Fisher knew that his team has not played well down the stretch, but that was not the case against Georgia Tech. Fisher’s offense was aggressive, and the defense hung in there. He made the right call kicking field goals in the second half. Fisher proved why he and his team have won 29 consecutive games and are the defending ACC Champions.

 

Passing Offense

Justin Thomas threw the ball well considering he only had 14 pass attempts. Thomas’ strength is running the ball, but he’s very efficient when he throws. Thomas finished with 134 passing yards, one touchdown and one interception. One of the reasons he’s can throw the ball is that nobody expects him to do it since he’s an option quarterback.

 

Running Offense

And as an option quarterback, you have a chance to run for a ton of yards, and that’s what Thomas did. He had 104 yards on the ground and 9.5 yards per carry. But Zach Laskey, Synjyn Days and Charles Perkins also were able to run on FSU’s defense because of the difficulty to defend the option. Tech is excellent at running the ball because Thomas knows how to make the right reads. But he also has a great supporting cast that can run just as well as he can.

 

Passing Defense

Tech’s passing defense was a reason it lost to FSU. Winston was able to find receivers that were wide open due to miscommunication by Georgia Tech, which was also not able to cover receivers one-on-one. The pass defense has thrived on interceptions, as it tallied 17 this season. That was not the case against Florida State because Winston was on target with his receivers and Tech could do nothing about it.

 

Running Defense

Another thing that hurt the Yellow Jackets was they could not shed their blocks in the run game. That’s why Cook was able to have a huge night running the ball. Tech has athletes on defense, but the offensive line for Florida State overpowered them and got worn out at the end of the game. The defense as a whole will be something the coaching staff will address next season.

 

Special Teams

It was a quiet night for special teams because the Jackets only punted twice. They didn't kick any field goals, and the return team did not have room to make any plays. But the coverage teams were strong, and they did not make any costly mistakes. It was not a bad outing by the special teams, but a few more key plays would have helped Tech edge the Seminoles.

 

Coaching

Paul Johnson stayed on FSU throughout the game, but a costly decision to go for it on fourth down in the fourth quarter proved to be the difference. Johnson did not make the wrong call there, but it would have been better if his team would have punted it away because the defense did not allow a touchdown the entire half. Johnson had the right game plan to take down Florida State, but the players could not executed when they needed to in key situations.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Ohio State Puts Playoff Committee Between a Rock and a Hard Place

INDIANAPOLIS — If you are a member of the College Football Playoff selection committee member reading this for whatever reason, I have some simple, timely advice. 

Run as fast as you possibly can and don’t look back. Don’t attend any more meetings and don’t worry about packing your clothes. Shut off your phone. Grab enough canned goods to last at least a few weeks and don’t forget the boxed wine.

You are going to need it.

There is no possible way you, card-carrying selection committee member, can reach a verdict that will be greeted with open arms come Sunday. Not after Ohio State dominated Wisconsin 59-0 in the Big Ten Championship, proving its playoff worth with a third-string quarterback. You couldn’t have pictured this, not even with the great quarterback whisperer Urban Meyer seemingly ripe for the challenge.

Boasting the nation’s most prolific running back, it was assumed Wisconsin—which was favored—would at least make this interesting. But then the first whistle came and the carnage unfolded before you knew what was going on. It didn't stop.

Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones was brilliant, throwing for 257 yards and three touchdowns. He looked more like a seasoned veteran than an inexperienced reserve thrown into action.

Joey Bosa, the team’s rock on the defensive line, picked up a Melvin Gordon fumble and ran it in for a touchdown just before half, putting an exclamation point on his fabulous sophomore season. Running back Ezekiel Elliott eclipsed the 200-yard mark, breaking off one final big run in the fourth quarter with only one shoe.

It was that kind of night for the Buckeyes. They delivered one final resounding impression with the whole football world tuning in.

“I don’t think there’s any doubt we’re one of the top four teams in America,” Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer said as he accepted the Big Ten Championship trophy following the game, campaigning accordingly.

He’s not wrong. 

Ohio State deserves to be in the playoff. But so does TCU. And so does Baylor.

There are strong, unique cases to be made for all three, but there is only one vacancy to fill. That’s the scenario we’re left with after other teams involved handled their business.

Oregon, Alabama and Florida State all won their conference championship games, and they will all be rewarded with a playoff spot as a result. Although the Seminoles have been plummeting in recent polls, the committee cannot (and should not) leave an undefeated conference champion out of the playoff. Strike that off your chaos checklist.

This means there’s one spot—the much discussed No. 4 spot—and three one-loss teams worthy of consideration to fill it.

All three took care of business on Saturday, beating their opponents in a variety of ways. No. 3 Baylor likely came away with the best win in terms of quality, beating Kansas State—the No. 9 team in the latest poll—by double digits. 

After a sluggish first half, No. 3 TCU exploded against Iowa State, beating the Cyclones 55-3. The Horned Frogs needed a performance like this, and they got it. 

And then there’s Ohio State, the No. 5 team in the latest poll. Having gone through two quarterbacks this season, expectations for the Buckeyes coming into this Saturday were relatively low. My how the outlook changed over 60 minutes. 

The committee now has to figure this thing out, which is an impossible task. And yet, committee chairman Jeff Long has been bracing for this kind of situation since the committee's very first meeting. 

“The craziest thing that can happen, will happen,” Long told Bleacher Report in November. “Everybody being undefeated or nobody being undefeated, we should expect everything in between. We were mentally prepared for that going into the season.”

It’s not the ultimate doomsday scenario, although it’s pretty darn close.

If momentum and final impressions are what you’re seeking, then the Buckeyes are your likely pick. If you’re into the most impressive-looking team and resume from start to finish, then TCU’s likely going to be the team you write down. And if you’re all about results and the critical head-to-head matchups, then Baylor will likely secure your vote with its victory over TCU.

There is not one correct answer. There are quality points to be made about all three teams, which is precisely why the decision—regardless of what it is eventually announced—will be greeted with pronounced and warranted outrage.

Conspiracy theories and claims of committee bias are about to become quite popular. It doesn't matter how much time the committee invests in determining the most deserving team. The storm is coming. There was already great debate to be had with TCU and Baylor, but Ohio State’s historic shutout threw a massive wrench in the playoff machine.

Are you still with me, committee member? If so, why?

Forget about the impossible task you have in front of you. Leave your Dallas headquarters as quickly as you possibly can and go underground. Don't just shut off your phone; break it and toss it away. And don’t even fret about your clothes; there’s no time for that now.

You’re going to want to grab that boxed wine, though.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Who Deserves No. 4 Spot in College Football Playoff?

Now let the debate begin. TCU, Baylor or Ohio State? These teams are seemingly competing for the final playoff spot, and everyone wants to know who is in.

Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Michael Felder and Barrett Sallee discuss who should be the fourth team into the playoff.

Who is your top four for the CFP?

Watch the video and let us know! 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Baylor Looking Like 1st Unfair Casualty of the College Football Playoff Era

The Baylor Bears, at 11-1 overall and 8-1 in league play, are the Big 12 co-champions, have three wins over top-15 teams, two over top-10 teams and have two straight conference titles. 

Yet—unfortunately for fans in Waco, but fortunately for fans in Fort Worth or Columbus—the Bears won't be in the playoffs. 

The resume, as polished as it is, isn't strong enough. 

The Bears were sixth in the playoff rankings, behind Alabama, Oregon, TCU, Florida State and Ohio State. They needed help, if only a little. At least one of those teams had to lose on Saturday for Baylor to have a realistic chance. 

None did. In fact, all five made nearly as big, if not bigger, statements than the Bears did in beating No. 9 Kansas State. 

Take a look at what the top five in the playoff rankings did this week: 

The weakest win of those six was TCU's victory over Iowa State, but the 52-point margin was enough to turn heads around the country. 

Pro-Baylor folks will point out that the Horned Frogs fell to the Bears 61-58 earlier in the season, in a game which TCU led by 21 points in the fourth quarter. 

As thrilling as that victory was for Baylor (it's the only thing really keeping them in the playoff conversation), the comeback nature of it may very well be the shot in the foot to Art Briles and Co., as harsh as that sounds. 

The committee has to wonder, was that game indicative of which of the two teams is better, or was the comeback an anomaly? 

Even the final margin of victory—a field goal's worth of points—plus the fact that Baylor was at home, leans that game more toward a wash than a defining resume-builder for the Bears. 

Is it all unfair? You bet. 

Baylor just won a share of the Big 12, the only conference in America with three top-10 teams (that'll likely change by Sunday). The Bears beat the other two—TCU and K-State—that are ranked as high, and had just one off day against a West Virginia team that, at the time, looked like a dark horse to compete for the conference title. 

But there was widespread disapproval of the BCS system, fans clamored for a playoff and they got one. But nothing is ever black-and-white, and even the new playoff system will have casualties. 

In 2014, Baylor's playoff corpse can be found in Morgantown, West Virginia. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Pages