NCAA Football News

Maryland Head Coach Search: Latest News, Rumors After Randy Edsall's Firing

The Maryland Terrapins are searching for a new head coach after firing Randy Edsall and reportedly may have a shot at landing a current NFL coach.  

Continue for updates.

Report: Bill O'Brien 'Very Intrigued' By Maryland Job Sunday, Nov. 15's Jason La Canfora reports the Houston Texans head coach may be returning to the college game, primarily due to tensions between O'Brien, Texans general manager Rick Smith and the organization overall.

O'Brien last coached at Penn State before taking the job with the Texans and was a running backs coach for the Terrapins from 2003 to 2004, moving on to Duke and the New England Patriots after that.

Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank is a Maryland alumnus who is aware of O'Brien's interest, per La Canfora. Plank's presence is apparently making the Terrapins' opening more attractive despite the team's current 2-8 record and seven-game losing streak. Mike Locksley currently serves as interim coach.

However, John McClain of the Houston Chronicle reports that O'Brien has no interest in the Maryland job.

According to La Canfora, though, former Maryland quarterback Frank Reich is also a potential candidate to take over the Terrapins program. Reich currently serves as the offensive coordinator for the San Diego Chargers.


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Amway College Football Poll 2015: Complete Week 12 Rankings Revealed

The contenders continued to separate themselves from the pretenders in college football during Week 11. While some teams bolstered the resumes they'll present to the College Football Playoff committee, a few schools took a major step back Saturday. 

Let's take a look back at the biggest results from the weekend and how they affected this week's coaches and Bleacher Report polls. 



Last year, Baylor felt it was snubbed by the College Football Playoff committee. This year, the Bears had an excellent chance to put themselves in the Top Four if they simply finished undefeated and beat Oklahoma, TCU and Oklahoma State down the stretch.

They couldn't even get past Oklahoma. 

The Bears watched their playoff hopes all but disintegrate Saturday night, losing to the Sooners 44-34. While Baylor can still win the Big 12, the odds of the team reaching the playoff now seem incredibly low. 

Baylor's players weren't harping on the negatives after the game, however. 

“Everybody came out and supported us, and the berm was full, everything was full,” Baylor receiver Jay Lee said, per Jason Orts of the Waco Tribune-Herald. “We just had a couple minor hiccups that made us not win the game. We just have to go in tomorrow and look at the film and learn from it."

"Life isn't over, our season isn't over," nickelback Travon Blanchard added, per ESPN.

In fact, Baylor's season may now be defined by what it does against Oklahoma State. The Cowboys remained undefeated with a slim 35-31 victory over Iowa State on Saturday and now are the Big 12's best hope at landing a team in the Top Four. But Baylor and Oklahoma still loom, while a weak nonconference schedule may make it tough for the team to leapfrog Notre Dame or Iowa in the rankings. 

While the Fighting Irish continued to win by getting past Wake Forest and Iowa squeaked past Minnesota, a few other top teams weren't so lucky. LSU's loss a week ago to Alabama was compounded this Saturday, as the Tigers were upset by Arkansas, while Stanford's playoff hopes disappeared after a loss to resurgent Oregon, and Utah suffered its second loss against Arizona. 

But the week wasn't all disappointment for the various playoff contenders. Clemson and Ohio State remained undefeated with wins over Syracuse and Illinois, respectively, while Alabama continued to look like a steamroller with a convincing 31-6 win over Mississippi State. 

The Crimson Tide have hit their stride. Derrick Henry rushed for over 200 yards for the third time in four games, while Alabama's defense finished with nine sacks in the dominant display. As Paul Finebaum of ESPN noted, the Crimson Tide appear to be on a mission:

Barring an unlikely upset, Alabama will likely head into the SEC title game against Florida as a Top Four team. The Crimson Tide have dominated enough in recent play to control their own destiny at this point. The same can be said for both Clemson and Ohio State, though the Buckeyes' biggest tests are to come, as Michigan State and Michigan remain on the schedule, while Iowa could await in the Big Ten title game.

If Notre Dame wins its remaining games, meanwhile, it will have a great shot at reaching the playoff, though Oklahoma State or Oklahoma could sneak into the Top Four by winning out. A lot is left to be decided in college football, in other words. 

But the contenders always separate themselves from the pretenders.


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Why the Bedlam Rivalry Is Now the Big 12's Most Important Game

The Big 12 game of the year could still fall on the last weekend in November. It just won't be the Nov. 27th meeting between Baylor and TCU in Fort Worth. Rather, look one day later, Nov. 28th, and about 250 miles to the north to Stillwater, Oklahoma. That may be the date and location at which the Big 12's playoff hopes are realized or squandered. 

Thanks to undefeated Oklahoma State keeping pace over Iowa State and Oklahoma's win over Baylor, the Big 12 title—and maybe more—could go through the state of Oklahoma, not Texas, in a few weeks. 

"Go into their backyard on a night like tonight and play this way, you know, we're one of those teams that has a chance," Sooners coach Bob Stoops said about the playoff picture (via Ralph Russo of the Associated Press). 

Stoops is right. The Sooners looked like a long shot for the playoff a couple of weeks ago. The midseason loss to Texas still looms as one of the more head-scratching events of the 2015 season, especially since it appears the Longhorns will not be making a bowl game. 

However, four teams ranked in the Top 10 of the College Football Playoff poll lost Saturday, while Oklahoma picked up its biggest win of the year on the road. Come Tuesday, when the selection committee releases its new Top 25, don't be surprised if the Sooners and Cowboys are lurking right outside the Top Four. 

There are still myriad scenarios across college football to mold the playoff picture. But, for simplicity purposes, there's a major emphasis on the Bedlam game that wasn't there before. 

And, well, that would be just fine. College football's realignment facelift has taken all the natural beauty out of the sport anyway. An in-state Big 12 rivalry rife with playoff ramifications would be a welcome throwback. 

The Bedlam rivalry between Oklahoma and Oklahoma State doesn't have the same historical passion (or balance) as the Red River Shootout between Oklahoma and Texas. However, the Bedlam game has carried more significance at both the conference and national level in recent years. From 2010-12, the winner of the Bedlam game went on to win the Big 12. 

The precursors for Bedlam on Nov. 21st cannot be overemphasized, though. 

In Week 12, Oklahoma State hosts Baylor while the Sooners get TCU at home. The Bears and Frogs are banged up, too—who isn't this time of year?—allowing Oklahoma and Oklahoma State to get their toughest opponents at the most opportune time. 

Though TCU hasn't confirmed the exact severity of the injury, head coach Gary Patterson is hopeful quarterback Trevone Boykin will be able to play against the Sooners after leaving Saturday's game against Kansas with an apparent ankle injury. As for Baylor, head coach Art Briles confirmed after Saturday's loss to Oklahoma that freshman quarterback Jarrett Stidham, who is already playing in place of the injured Seth Russell, sustained a back injury on the first series of the game.

What cannot be determined right now is how the selection committee views possible wins over Baylor and TCU with those aforementioned injuries in mind. It may leave Oklahoma and Oklahoma State at smaller margins for error, but just how small has yet to be seen. 

All the same, the best-case scenario for the Bedlam game doesn't change, and that is for Oklahoma State to enter it undefeated while Oklahoma maintains its one-loss status. An undefeated Big 12 team is, without question, getting into the playoff. There simply won't be enough undefeated teams at the end of the year for there to even be a debate. 

But Russo believes the Sooners are the best option for a one-loss Big 12 team getting into the playoff: 

If Oklahoma does win out in the month of November, things get less cut-and-dry in the big picture. The committee's decision may come down to the Sooners and Notre Dame if each team is 11-1. At that point, it's more about what the committee values more: wins or loses. 

As Stewart Mandel of Fox Sports writes, the committee has shown a tendency to put a greater emphasis on victories: 

But the committee members pretty clearly demonstrated last season, and in its first couple of rankings this season, that who you beat matters more to them than who you lost to. Thus, Ohio State got in last year despite an early 35-21 home loss to 6-6 Virginia Tech, and Alabama has already risen to No. 2 this year despite allowing 43 points in a home loss to Ole Miss.

Also working in Oklahoma's favor is that unlike its fellow Big 12 contenders, the Sooners went on the road and notched a nice out-of-conference victory at Tennessee, now 6-4. Much like his Manziel-esque fourth-quarter touchdown Saturday night at Baylor, Mayfield's fourth-quarter heroics saved the Sooners in that one.

Still, the undeniable focal point either way would be Texas, of all teams. The Longhorns were stomped in Week 1 by Notre Dame 38-3, but pulled off the stunning upset over Oklahoma in the Red River Shootout. Whether that is the deciding factor or not, it will inevitably be discussed. 

If Texas somehow keeps its hated rival out of the playoff, it would go down as one of the all-time great trolling jobs. As one of the richest athletic programs in the country, according to USA Today numbers, it's not like Texas needs playoff money from the Big 12. 

November was going to be an entertaining and telling month in the Big 12. Those two things have already come to fruition. If the last two weeks have taught us anything, it's that Oklahoma and Oklahoma State could lose in Week 12 and all of this becomes a moot point. Chaos, after all, has no prejudice. 

But if the Sooners and Cowboys win next week, the Bedlam game becomes the most important game in the Big 12. Depending on how the national landscape plays out, it could be among the more influential games in college football this season. 


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

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College GameDay Headed to Michigan State vs. Ohio State for Week 12

A lot has changed during this wild college football season, but the headliner status of one of the year's biggest games—Michigan State vs. Ohio State—has remained intact.

While it's not the No. 1 vs. No. 2 showdown that looked possible earlier in the season, the Week 12 matchup between the one-loss Spartans and the undefeated Buckeyes is getting the full College GameDay treatment next Saturday.

The popular pregame show announced Saturday night it was headed to Columbus for Ohio State's home game against Michigan State. The contest will be played inside Ohio Stadium at 3:30 p.m. ET on ABC.

As Heather Dinich of points out, Michigan State will be Ohio State's first opponent of the season ranked inside the College Football Playoff Top 25. The defending national champion Buckeyes are coming off a 28-3 road victory over Illinois that stretched their national-best winning streak to 23 games. 

After a slower start to the season, Ohio State has picked up the pace on both sides of the ball, beating its last five Big Ten opponents by a combined score of 192-62. The Buckeyes will now cap their regular season with much tougher tests against Michigan State and Michigan.

According to Luke Zimmermann of SB Nation's Land-Grant Holy LandGameDay surprisingly hasn't been to Columbus in five years, dating back to the Buckeyes' 2010 game against Penn State. 

Michigan State, on the other hand, has already been in the GameDay spotlight multiple times this season.

The show visited East Lansing in Week 2 for the Spartans' win over Oregon, and it was also in Ann Arbor for their unbelievable escape against in-state rival Michigan.

Even with a loss two weeks ago to Nebraska, Michigan State can still grab the Big Ten East division with an upset win over Ohio State in the Horseshoe and a home win over Penn State in Week 13.

The Spartans rebounded from their disappointing and controversial loss to Nebraska with a 24-7 victory over struggling Maryland. Michigan State star quarterback Connor Cook left that game with an injury, but he expects to play in the monster game against Ohio State, per Kyle Austin of

"I'll be fine to go next week," Cook said Saturday, per Austin. "I'll be good."

The last four meetings between the Spartans and the Buckeyes—a series Ohio State dominated from 2000 to 2008—have been extremely important.

Last season, Ohio State avenged its 34-24 loss to Michigan State in the 2013 Big Ten Championship Game with a 49-37 victory over the Spartans in what is now a divisional matchup.

In 2011, Michigan State knocked off Ohio State, 10-7, en route to an 11-3 season. The next year, Ohio State got its revenge with a 17-16 road victory and finished the campaign with an undefeated record.

Now the two teams will square off again with Big Ten and national championship hopes on the line. Michigan State can't afford any more slip-ups, while Ohio State doesn't have a ton of room for error in its quest to repeat as the College Football Playoff champion.


Justin Ferguson is a college football writer at Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @JFergusonBR.

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Georgia Football: How Bulldogs' Top Commits Performed This Weekend

Despite the struggles that have plagued Georgia (7-3) and head coach Mark Richt this season, a quick glance at the Bulldogs' 2016 and 2017 recruiting classes offers fans a glimpse of what appears to be a bright future.

Last week, a few of the Bulldogs' top commits put up strong performances that should have ‘Dawgs fans anticipating their arrival in Athens.

The headliner of the 2016 class, 5-star quarterback Jacob Eason, will arrive in the Classic City in less than two months.

However, he’s currently busy leading Lake Stevens (Washington) High School in what he hopes is a deep playoff run.

The Vikings got off to a strong start in a 42-32 win over Issaquah in the first round of the playoffs.

According to Josh Liebeskind of the Seattle Times, Eason completed 24 of 37 passes for 283 yards and three touchdowns in the big win. He also added another touchdown on the ground.

Eason has enjoyed a banner senior season and is proving why he could be a threat to compete for the starting job in his first year on campus.

Not to be outdone, a pair of in-state pledges in the 2017 class enjoyed strong performances as well.

Bailey Hockman, a 4-star passer, is the field general for McEachern High School, which is one of the top teams in the Peach State.

According to Score Atlanta (h/t, the 6’2”, 210-pounder—who rates as the No. 2 pro-style quarterback and the No. 45 player overall in the 2017 class—accounted for three total touchdowns in leading the Indians to a 34-11 win over Lowndes.

Hockman threw two touchdowns and caught another on a trick play. He will need another performance like that next week when McEachern faces a loaded Archer squad in the second round of the playoffs.

Deejay Dallas, Hockman's fellow 2017 pledge and a 4-star athlete, put together a heroic effort on both sides of the ball in leading Glynn Academy (Georgia) to a 28-22 win over Jones County.

As noted by Benjamin Wolk of the Brunswick News, Dallas rushed for 167 yards and three touchdowns in the win. He also made a game-sealing interception in the end zone with seconds left in the game.

The performance left Glynn Academy head coach Rocky Hidalgo singing the praises of his star pupil. 

"He’s a really special kid," Hidalgo told Wolk. "He's touched by God from a talent standpoint. He’s got a ton of ability. What's most impressive about him is he’s such a great kid. We don’t get to choose what ability we're born with, but you can choose to be a great person, and he does."

The performances of the stud future Bulldogs indicate that Richt and his staff are amassing enough talent to turn the fortunes of the program around sooner than later.


Sanjay Kirpalani is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand and all recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

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College Football Playoff 2015: Predicting NCAA Final Four After Week 11 Results

It was a crazy week in college football, with a number of viable contenders going down. 

Baylor's College Football Playoff hopes suffered a potentially critical blow with a loss to Oklahoma, while the Pac-12 is all but eliminated due to Stanford's upset loss at the hands of Oregon. 

Despite the shake-up, however, the top four is likely to remain unchanged—at least for this week.

Here's a look at the projected playoff teams and a breakdown of their playoff odds and those of the closest competitors. 


Projected Playoff Teams

1. Clemson 

Clemson struggled to put away Syracuse on Saturday, winning a somewhat sloppy 37-27 game on the road. 

Despite the less-than-dominant performance, it's unlikely Clemson relinquishes its No. 1 spot, especially with a one-loss team hovering behind it at No. 2. 

The most significant development from the weekend for Clemson was the rash of injuries suffered. According to Dan Hope of, three key starters suffered injuries:

Having won, big question coming out of this game for #Clemson: injuries. Mackensie Alexander, Wayne Gallman, Mitch Hyatt all key players.

— Dan Hope (@Dan_Hope) November 15, 2015

The most notable of that group is starting running back Wayne Gallman, who tallied 66 yards on just 15 carries before being removed from the game. According to Clemson's student newspaper, the Tiger, Gallman was seen icing his shoulder after he was taken out.

Gallman has been crucial to Clemson's success this season, rushing for over 100 yards six times, including in victories over Notre Dame and Florida State. 

Fortunately for the Tigers, they have two relatively easy games against struggling Wake Forest and South Carolina to get healthy before the ACC Championship Game. 


2. Alabama

It would be difficult to imagine a scenario in which Alabama did more to boost its playoff resume over the past two weeks than what the Crimson Tide accomplished against LSU and Mississippi State. 

Nick Saban's squad proved to be the far superior and more physical team Saturday, recording its highest sack total of the Saban era, according to Creg Stephenson of

Alabama last had 9 sacks vs. Vanderbilt in 1998.

— Creg Stephenson (@CregStephenson) November 14, 2015

Alabama technically hasn't clinched the SEC West yet, but it can do so with a victory over unranked Auburn in two weeks. 

Given the Tide's resume and their current placement in the rankings, it should be safe to assume they control their own destiny for a playoff berth. 


3. Ohio State

With J.T. Barrett back from suspension, Ohio State cruised to an easy road victory over Illinois on Saturday afternoon. 

While it wasn't a resume-boosting victory, CFP committee chairman Jeff Long and the playoff committee made it clear last week that the Buckeyes are considered a playoff team based on their talent:

Jeff Long on Ohio State: Weak sked, but says, "We think they have incredible talent. We think that's a team that hasn't played its best yet"

— Dave Briggs (@DBriggsBlade) November 11, 2015

With the Buckeyes ranked third despite not having played a single ranked opponent, they should cruise into the playoff if they can run the table.

Ohio State's resume can only get stronger from here on out with games against Michigan State, Michigan and potentially the Big Ten title game against Iowa. 


4. Notre Dame

According to Chuck Carlton of the Dallas Morning News, Long stated Notre Dame was "solidly in No. 4 with the committee" a week ago. While that statement likely sounded great to Irish fans, it left everyone wondering how solid the committee's opinion was and if it was solid enough to keep the Irish ahead of a potentially undefeated Big 12 champion.

Fortunately for the Irish, Baylor's loss to Oklahoma eliminated one of their biggest threats. Now, only Oklahoma State remains undefeated in the Big 12. 

If the Cowboys can knock off Baylor and Oklahoma in the next two weeks, they would be a viable threat to the Irish. But if Oklahoma State slips up, the Irish should be the heavy favorite to occupy the No. 4 position if they can run the table.


Next Up: Iowa, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma

Iowa's position at No. 5 in last week's rankings means the Hawkeyes almost certainly control their own destiny to advance to the playoff.

The committee clearly values the Big Ten's strength of schedule and will select an undefeated champion from the conference—especially if the Hawkeyes have to go through Ohio State to get there.

Either Oklahoma State or Oklahoma will be eliminated when the two teams face off on November 28.

The Cowboys are definitely the Big 12's best hope given their undefeated record, but a one-loss Oklahoma with wins over Baylor, TCU and Oklahoma State would certainly generate interesting debate within the room for the committee. 

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Alabama Is Now a Definite Lock for College Football Playoff

With "Team Chaos" lurking in Week 11 and four of the top 10 teams in the College Football Playoff rankings going down, all Alabama did was take care of business.

Actually, it was more than that. 

It took care of business, posted a profit and earned huge dividends for stockholders who bought low.

The 31-6 win over Mississippi State might as well have been 310-6, after running back Derrick Henry ran over, around and through the Mississippi State defense and the Alabama front seven sacked Bulldogs quarterback Dak Prescott nine times.

"We're always pleased with a win, especially on the road. Mississippi State played a really good game," head coach Nick Saban said, according to Alabama's official site. "They have a really good team. Dak Prescott is a tough guy to defend. I know they gained a lot of yards today, but our defense did a really good job of not allowing a lot of points. We got them stopped inside the five (yard line) and a couple times in the red zone, which I think is important."

This was the biggest hurdle left to clear between the Crimson Tide and a berth in the College Football Playoff, and they cleared it with ease. Saban's crew is now a lock for a berth in the second annual event.

The rushing attack led by Heisman Trophy contender Derrick Henry is fierce and getting better, and the defense is solid from front to back. And while Jake Coker isn't exactly Deshaun Watson out there, he has evolved into a very effective game manager who can make a difference when needed with stud wide receivers like Calvin Ridley and ArDarius Stewart.

Who's going to trip Alabama up?

Certainly not Charleston Southern this week, and the Iron Bowl at Auburn at the end of the year will look more like an SEC West victory lap than a battle between two intra-state rivals.

Is Auburn's defense playing better since the return of "Buck" Carl Lawson from a hip injury? Of course. But quarterback Jeremy Johnson regressed into the September version of himself in the 20-13 loss to Georgia, and the thought of Johnson—or banged-up redshirt freshman Sean White—going up against this Crimson Tide front seven feels more like a horror film than a football game.

As Kevin Scarbinsky of noted on Twitter, Auburn is trending down during the homestretch that features games against its two biggest rivals.

If Auburn is the victory lap, Florida might as well be the medal ceremony at the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta on Dec. 5.

South Carolina stopped Gators behind the line of scrimmage nine times on Saturday afternoon in Columbia—the best single-game mark of the season for a defense that doesn't exactly strike fear in the hearts of opposing offensive lines. The week before, Vanderbilt got into the Gators backfield six times and forced quarterback Treon Harris to move out of the pocket all game long.

And these guys are going to slow down Alabama's front seven in the biggest game of championship weekend?

That's not going to happen.

Sure, Florida has been banged up in the trenches down the stretch, but even when healthy, this is a matchup nightmare for first-year head coach Jim McElwain.

"The art of winning is hard," McElwain said in quotes released by South Carolina. "I don’t care who you are. Each one of you competed at one time in your life, and you understand how hard winning is and figuring out how to win. That’s what I like about our guys. There’s never any panic."

That's fine against the likes of Vanderbilt and South Carolina, but panic will set in when they square off against the Crimson Tide.

Just ask former Florida offensive coordinator and current Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen.

"I don’t know if they were doing anything special but just beating guys up there," Mullen said, according to the school's official site.

In 2015, "Team Chaos" is rapidly becoming the favorite to win the national championship. Its best shot at Alabama, though, was Saturday afternoon in Starkville, Mississippi. 

The college football world found out that, in the wild and crazy college football season, "Team Chaos" wants no part of playing big-boy football with Alabama—which is now a lock for the College Football Playoff.


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

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

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Heisman Watch 2015: Highlighting Race's Front-Runners After Week 11

Week 11 in NCAA football turned out to be a rough time for some of the top Heisman Trophy hopefuls. LSU, Stanford and Baylor all took losses, which was bad news for the likes of Leonard Fournette, Christian McCaffrey and Corey Coleman.

Their teams didn't fare well, and only McCaffrey could claim to have a superlative, and record-breaking, performance with 189 all-purpose yards and one touchdown. Then again, this was against Oregon's 117th-ranked defense, so the display might get lost in the shuffle considering the Cardinal lost 38-36.

TCU's Trevone Boykin couldn't finish his game against Kansas, leaving in the second quarter with an ankle injury that he apparently suffered in the first frame. The Horned Frogs did manage to hold on for a 23-17 victory, and head coach Gary Patterson is optimistic Boykin can play next week against Oklahoma.

"I think Trevone will be back," Patterson said, per's Brandon Chatmon. "We just couldn't take a chance. They said he shouldn't go, and I said, 'OK.'"

Saturday wasn't all bad for the young men who are chasing college football's most prestigious trophy. Let's highlight the three players who did the most to improve their Heisman chances in Week 11.

Rising Stock

Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama

After easily outrushing fellow Heisman candidate Fournette in Alabama's big win over LSU in Week 10, Derrick Henry did not disappoint in his encore. Henry carried the ball 22 times for 204 yards and two scores against Mississippi State, providing the main conduit through which the Crimson Tide rolled over their SEC rival.

ESPN noted he's on an impressive scoring streak: 

Henry has vastly improved his stock in the latter half of the season. He now has 793 rushing yards and nine touchdowns in his last four games. In three of those contests, he's topped the 200-yard mark.

Bleacher Report's Christopher Walsh considers the Heisman Henry's to lose and noted he could set some records this year: "Overall, the 6'3" Henry has rushed for 1,458 yards and 19 touchdowns. If he continues at that pace he’ll finish the regular season with 1,750 rushing yards and 23 touchdowns, which would be school records (Trent Richardson had 1,679 and 21, respectively, in 2011)."

Henry's speed and size make him tough to tackle when he gets a full head of steam. He's liable to break off big runs at any given moment with his one-cut ability and physical gifts. He's truly coming into his own at the end of this season, having shared carries with T.J. Yeldon last year and playing at third string in 2013 behind Yeldon and Kenyan Drake.

The good times are set to continue, with Alabama playing lowly Charleston Southern next week and then taking on Auburn's 93rd-ranked rush defense in the Iron Bowl to close out the regular season. 

Henry might not get a ton of touches against Charleston Southern as Alabama preserves him for more important contests. Then again, he might not need more than a few to rip off a big highlight-reel run that gets everyone talking about Henry taking home the stiff-arming trophy as a foregone conclusion.


Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson

Deshaun Watson doesn't have the gaudiest passing stats at quarterback this year—those belong to Bowling Green's Matt Johnson and Washington State's Luke Falk—but he is the top player on the No. 1 team in the country and an excellent runner. On Saturday, he turned in another fine performance in Clemson's 37-27 win over Syracuse. He threw for 360 yards, two touchdowns and one pick while rushing for 105 yards and another score.

The ACC Digital Network passed along some of his highlights from the game:

Clemson needed a strong outing from Watson, as Syracuse hung tough with the Tigers for much of this contest. It should be of little surprise that the sophomore kept his wits about him in a nervy game. Last week, Clemson sports information director Tim Bourret pointed out he's been one of the best QBs in the nation in the fourth quarter: 

Like Henry, Watson has also been getting better as the season moves along, improving his numbers as both a runner and a passer.

As one of the few quarterbacks worthy of Heisman consideration—with Falk, Boykin and Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield being the other contenders, though all three are long shots—Watson would seem to be a lock to at least make the ceremony, provided Clemson doesn't collapse down the home stretch. However, a strong running back contingent this year makes his status difficult to pin down.

Sports Illustrated's Zac Ellis had him as the front-runner coming into Week 11, while ESPN's experts poll had him eighth in their rankings, as of November 10.

If Clemson remains undefeated and rolls to an ACC title—which would also guarantee the Tigers a College Football Playoff spot—Watson might come away as the obvious Heisman choice when all is said and done. Not bad for a guy who is coming off an ACL injury.


Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State

There's been no more reliable source of excitement on undefeated Ohio State than Ezekiel Elliott. The Buckeyes needed a few weeks to settle on J.T. Barrett as the main quarterback, and both he and Cardale Jones have struggled at times passing the football this year.

The defense has been stifling for much of the season, but players on that side of the ball rarely get Heisman consideration, and the standouts such as Joey Bosa and Tyquan Lewis don't have eye-popping numbers in any case.

So Elliot is the most obvious star of the team, with a wide gulf between him and the next best player in terms of all-purpose yards and several standout games to burnish his credentials. Elliott was huge against Illinois on Saturday, carrying the ball 27 times for 181 yards and two touchdowns. 

He's been nothing if not consistent, as this tweet from ESPN CFB illustrates: 

Elliott is, of course, chasing Henry in the Heisman race, as is every other running back except for perhaps Fournette, whose brilliant start to the season is fading in the memory after two straight games of less than 100 yards rushing. 

Even so, Fournette still has better numbers than Elliott and is excelling in an offense with fewer weapons than that of Ohio State's. Like Fournette and Henry, Elliott is seldom-used in the passing game, so there's no advantage there.

Still, a stumble from the other two players' teams might help his Heisman credentials, or perhaps another monstrous game like the one he had against Indiana on October 3 could propel him to the front of the trophy race. Elliott is certainly in the mix, but it's going to take something extraordinary to separate him from the likes of Fournette and McCaffrey, to say nothing of pushing ahead of Henry.

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NCAA Football Rankings 2015: Predicting Week 12 College Top 25 Standings

November weekends are always entertaining in the world of college football, and Week 11 was no exception. 

This week, it was Oklahoma and Oregon throwing the biggest wrenches into the playoff scenarios and shaking up the Top 25. 

Both upset victories are sure to have a significant impact on the weekly polls, which will likely have a few new entrants into the Top 10. 

The following rankings are a prediction of how the AP poll will look when released on Sunday afternoon, followed by a breakdown of a few of the most noteworthy teams in action on Saturday. 


Notable Teams


Stanford ruined Oregon's undefeated seasons with November victories in 2012 and 2013, and now Oregon has exacted its revenge. 

The Stanford loss is a devastating blow for the Pac-12's playoff hopes. With losses by Stanford and Utah on Saturday, every Pac-12 team has two or more losses, effectively ending any hope of the conference being represented in the playoffs. 

Despite the loss, the Cardinal still hold a one-game lead in the Pac-12 North and control their own destiny in the conference race. 

By running the table, Stanford would represent the Pac-12 in the Rose Bowl, assuming they come up short in the final playoff rankings. 



The Cougars entered the week as the highest-ranked Group of Five school in the AP poll, and they could be on the rise after their most impressive victory of the season against Memphis. 

It wasn't all good news for Houston, however, as starting quarterback Greg Ward missed the majority of the game with an ankle injury. 

According to ESPN's Sam Khan, Ward's availability for the rest of the season is still unknown: 

Houston coach Tom Herman said he doesn't think QB Greg Ward Jr.'s ankle injury will keep him out long. Will know more tomorrow.

— Sam Khan Jr. (@skhanjr) November 15, 2015

With the victory, Houston remains tied atop the AAC West standings with Navy.

The Cougars will visit 5-5 Connecticut next week before wrapping up the season with a division-deciding showdown with Navy the Friday after Thanksgiving.



The Sooners would be looking like a playoff lock if not for an inexplicable loss to Texas earlier this season. 

Despite the loss, Oklahoma still has a resume which rivals most of the one-loss teams thanks to Saturday's victory at Baylor and a September win on the road against Tennessee. 

Oklahoma's right back in the playoff hunt. Didn't see that coming after the Texas game

— Stewart Mandel (@slmandel) November 15, 2015

If Oklahoma keeps winning, it should continue to rise in the rankings. The Sooners' remaining games are against TCU next weekend, followed by yet another tough road test at undefeated Oklahoma State on November 28. 

Until Oklahoma loses again, the question we will all be wondering is: How high can they climb? The Sooners entered the week ranked 19th in the CFP rankings, which would be a remarkable rise should they finish the season in the Top Four. 

A season ago, Ohio State was ranked 14th in the Week 11 CFP rankings but was greatly aided by the Big Ten Championship Game.

Without a conference-title game, Oklahoma has the disadvantage of sitting at home during the final weekend of the college football season without an opportunity to make a final impression. 

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SEC Football: Best Performances from Week 11

Instead of walking into a trap in Starkville, Mississippi, on Saturday afternoon, Alabama broke the trap's hinges, threw it in the trash and lit the dumpster on fire.

Well, perhaps more specifically, running back Derrick Henry and the Crimson Tide front seven did.

Alabama rolled Mississippi State 31-6 on the heels of another 200-yard rushing performance from Henry and one of the most impressive performances from a defense that college football has seen this year.

What were the best performances from Week 11? Our picks based on production and importance to the outcome of a game are in this slideshow.

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Bowl Predictions 2015: Projecting CFP Playoff Field After Week 11 Games

All four teams in the College Football Playoff heading into Week 11 came out victorious and should remain steady in the rankings when the new ones are announced Tuesday.

However, that doesn't mean all things were equal. The No. 3 Ohio State Buckeyes didn't allow a touchdown on the road in a 28-3 win over the Illinois Fighting Illini, while the No. 1 Clemson Tigers struggled with the unranked Syracuse Orange.

Here is a look at the Week 12 CFP projections, as well as a breakdown of some teams that helped themselves, and others that may have damaged their chances: 

Give Yourself a Pat on the Back

Ohio State Buckeyes (10-0): It wasn't the most dominating performance, but unlike some other teams that won, the Buckeyes were never really in danger of losing to Illinois.

It was quarterback J.T. Barrett's first game back from a one-game suspension, but it was running back Ezekiel Elliott who carried the load with 27 rushes for 181 yards and two touchdowns. This team is full of athletes, and the committee was reminded after this game that Elliott is a pretty dangerous one. 

ESPN's Brett McMurphy reminded everyone the Buckeyes haven't really been tested this season in terms of strength of schedule: 

That will change the next two weeks when Ohio State faces the No. 13 Michigan State Spartans and No. 14 Michigan Wolverines. For now though, they are beating those who are put in front of them, and the Buckeyes keep hanging around.


Alabama Crimson Tide (9-1): When it was announced Alabama was part of the first CFP rankings, there were some who felt the one-loss Crimson Tide did not belong. All they've done since then is beat two ranked teams by a combined 39 points.

The latest victory was a 31-6 rout of the No. 17 Mississippi State Bulldogs in Week 11. MSU had averaged 40.8 points per game during a four-game win streak before running in to an Alabama buzzsaw.

While Dak Prescott managed to throw for 300 yards, he never found the end zone and was intercepted once. Alabama outgained the Bulldogs 235-89 on the ground.

It also has played some pretty good defense since losing to the Ole Miss Rebels in Week 3, per ESPN Stats & Info:

The Crimson Tide are looking like they belong right where they are.


Oklahoma Sooners (9-1): It seemed like a longshot for the Sooners to have any kind of chance at the playoff after a Week 6 loss to the Texas Longhorns. Oklahoma then proceeded to score 50-plus in four straight victories and fought its way back to a No. 12 CFP ranking.

Next week, it should be much higher. The Sooners went into Waco, Texas, and defeated the previously undefeated No. 6 Baylor Bears in Week 11, 44-34. Even better for them, four teams ahead of the Sooners in the rankings lost.

With games against the No. 15 TCU Horned Frogs and No. 8 Oklahoma State Cowboys on the horizon, they have a chance to finish 11-1 and wrap up the Big 12 Conference championship.

This win over a Baylor team that was averaging 57 points per game and only allowing 25 would go a long way toward earning a spot in the playoff if Oklahoma wins out.


Not Your Best Effort

TCU Horned Frogs (9-1): TCU was No. 15 in the CFP rankings, but still had an outside shot at the playoff had it run the table the rest of the regular season. Even with a win in Week 11, that shot is now gone.

Yes, quarterback Trevone Boykin was injured most of the game, but a 23-17 home win against the Kansas Jayhawks is inexcusable.

Yahoo Sports Pat Forde recognized the six-point win was an ugly one for TCU:

Kansas might be the worst FBS team in the country, and it is dead last in defensive yards allowed at 583.3 per game. A narrow 34-30 victory at Kansas in 2014 may have cost the Horned Frogs a shot at the playoff, and it looks like the Jayhawks have done it to TCU once again.


Oklahoma State Cowboys (10-0): A win is a win, but if you're trying to impress a playoff selection committee, a close one against a bad team might as well be a loss.

Despite the fact the Big 12 Conference had two undefeated teams last week in Oklahoma State and Baylor, it did not have a representative in the latest CFP projections. The committee has shown it is not high on the conference as a whole.

Oklahoma State needed a touchdown with three minutes to play in Week 11 against a 3-6 Iowa State Cyclones team at the time to escape with a 35-31 victory. That's not going to help its case when trying to prove it's one of the four best teams in the country.

Quarterback J.W. Walsh, who is usually in to run the ball, threw the game-winning touchdown. After the game, he seemed to think the near loss was nothing more than a speed bump along the way, per

You don't win without having some maturity and a relentless football team, and we've been able to attain those things very well. There was not a doubt in anyone's mind. You could see it in everybody's eyes.

It was a great comeback no doubt, but if the current projections hold—which means Alabama and Notre Dame are possibly in with one loss—this slim victory for the Cowboys could cost them even if they finish undefeated.


Stanford Cardinal (8-2): Losing to the Oregon Ducks in the recent past was nothing to hang your head about. At 7-3 this year, the Ducks aren't awful, but Stanford had national championship aspirations in mind, and Oregon ended them with a 38-36 road victory.

The Cardinal failed to clinch a spot in the Pac-12 Championship game with the loss, but that isn't the biggest issue. They were No. 7 in the CFP rankings before the loss, and a win would have surely moved them past Baylor after its Week 11 defeat.

Conference clashes—especially a rivalry like this one—are tough, but it was one Stanford should have won. Oregon has a home loss to the Washington State Cougars on its resume, and gave up 62 points in a loss to the No. 10 Utah Utes.


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NCAA Football Rankings 2015: Predicting the AP Top 25 After Week 11

The name of the game at this point in the season is survive and advance.

For several of the blockbuster teams in the Associated Press Top 25, that mission was accomplished in Week 11. The No. 1 team in the country held off a comeback effort on the road, while No. 5 had to rally from behind to put away a pesky conference opponent away from home.

But while some put together impressive victories Saturday, others felt the brunt of November's tough tests. Half of the AP Top 10 suffered defeat, including a handful of hopefuls for the second College Football Playoff.

Here is this week's projection of Sunday's AP Top 25—one of the tougher tasks of the season, considering all the shakeups that happened among the ranked teams.

As always, I've included several spotlight risers and fallers, but this week's action made sure I featured more than the traditional sets of three for both categories. Here's a look at what the poll could turn out to be Sunday afternoon, along with a dozen highlighted teams:


Moving up


Oklahoma is the latest team to jump headfirst into the playoff picture, as the Sooners went to Waco and knocked off previously undefeated Baylor by a score of 44-34.

It was a complete road win for Oklahoma, which forced three turnovers from the high-flying Baylor offense and held it to a season-low 416 yards. Sooners quarterback Baker Mayfield had a masterful performance, scoring four all-purpose touchdowns and registering 346 yards of total offense. 

"[Oklahoma] looked balanced and deadly," Bleacher Report's Adam Kramer wrote. "The selection committee, having publicly hoped for Big 12 clarity this week, finally got some. And now, having distanced itself from its own Virginia Tech-esque gaffe, Oklahoma is now a contender."

Oklahoma's impressive, two-score win over Baylor should cause the Sooners to make a good-sized jump in Sunday's AP poll. I've slotted them just behind undefeated Oklahoma State and Iowa at No. 7 after this signature victory.


Houston and North Carolina

Houston's undefeated run looked to be in major trouble against a rebound-minded Memphis team Saturday evening. But the Cougars rallied from a 20-point fourth-quarter deficit—even without starting quarterback Greg Ward Jr., who was injured after a rough start—to knock off the Tigers, 35-34.

Backup signal-caller Kyle Postma was the star of the comeback, leading the Cougars to touchdowns on five of their final seven drives. Now the only undefeated team in the state of Texas, Houston is 10-0 and two weeks away from a potential winner-take-all AAC West matchup against red-hot Navy.

The other team making a four-spot jump this week is North Carolina, which ripped apart Miami by a score of 59-21 in Chapel Hill. Both sides of the ball are hitting perfect stride at this point for the Tar Heels, who have made a dramatic defensive turnaround with first-year coordinator Gene Chizik.

UNC's opening-night loss to South Carolina will be tied with Oklahoma's slip-up to Texas as the ultimate "But How?" defeats of the 2015 season. But the Tar Heels have won nine straight games, with the last two coming in huge blowout fashion.


The four newcomers

With four teams near the bottom of the Top 25 taking tough losses this weekend—UCLA, Mississippi State, Temple and Memphis—it's time for a fresh transfusion of new blood into the poll.

The newcomers have a decidedly Pac-12 flair to them, and Washington State leads the way after its wild 31-27 win at a ranked UCLA team. As Matt Hinton noted on Twitter, the Cougars have lost only two games by a combined eight points since their abysmal loss to FCS foe Portland State.

Washington State goes one spot ahead of Oregon, which looks destined to return to the Top 25 after notching its fourth straight win, a road victory at playoff hopeful Stanford. The Ducks had the more impressive win this week and perhaps a better overall resume than the Cougars, but remember that Wazzu beat Oregon in Autzen Stadium earlier this year.

The next two teams, USC and Ole Miss, might be surprises at the bottom of the poll. However, USC was running away with the additional votes category heading into Week 11, and idle Ole Miss was right behind a BYU team that lost to Missouri. The Trojans' comeback win over Colorado should be enough to slide them into the poll with the Rebels.


Moving down


Baylor's first shot against a high-caliber opponent this season didn't go as planned, as Oklahoma avenged back-to-back blowouts in the series with a 10-point win in Waco. Now the Bears must regroup and stay alive in the Big 12 race with road wins over Oklahoma State and TCU.

"The good thing is we control our own destiny," Baylor head coach Art Briles said, per Jordan Mason of the Killeen Daily Herald. "Oklahoma has a Big 12 loss already. If we finish it outright, there could be a couple of us banging around with one loss, and you never know what will happen."

In terms of Top-25 standing, though, Baylor might take an extra drop or two heading into Week 12. The Bears' abysmal strength of schedule was already costing them in the College Football Playoff rankings, and the AP voters may be swayed the same way.

While Florida's road loss to LSU doesn't look nearly as impressive as it used to, the Gators have a much stronger body of work and are on a three-game winning streak. I predict the Bears will fall just behind the Gators in this week's Top 10.


Stanford, Utah and LSU

Three Top 10 teams that already had one loss fell this weekend, and they each will have their own unique paths down the polls.

Stanford's tight loss against Oregon doesn't look terrible, especially considering the way the Ducks have looked in recent weeks. However, the Cardinal probably can't stay higher than an undefeated Houston team or a one-loss, on-fire North Carolina team.

Right behind them is Utah, which went into Arizona and left with a rough double-overtime loss to a Rich Rodriguez squad that had been in serious trouble these last few weeks. A five-spot drop compared to Stanford's seven-place one might not make much sense at face value, but the Utes shouldn't fall farther than a Michigan team it already beat, right? (Don't mess this up, pollsters.)

Finally, LSU is in a world of trouble. After getting smacked around by Alabama last week in Tuscaloosa, it let Arkansas basically do the same thing—in Death Valley—on Saturday night. LSU's offense is in bad shape right now, and other two-loss teams, such as Michigan and Florida State, should have more juice right now in the polls.



Michigan has taken rival Michigan State's job of playing with fire recently. Two weeks after escaping with a road win at Minnesota, the Wolverines needed a last-second score to force overtime with an Indiana team that has now lost six straight games.

Jim Harbaugh's team, behind an excellent performance by Jake Rudock and several outstanding receivers, had enough to pull off a 48-41 double-OT victory over the Hoosiers. However, things didn't look pretty, especially for a defense that was once playing better than anyone else in the country.

"Indiana rushed for 99 yards in the first quarter, which was 18 yards more than Michigan had given up on average per game this season," Jesse Temple of wrote. "Michigan also hadn't surrendered more than 144 yards rushing in any game this season. The Hoosiers reached that mark by halftime and finished with 307 yards on the ground."

Of course, a win is more important than mere poll position, the Wolverines still have a potential winner-takes-the-division matchup with rival Ohio State looming in the next two weeks. But their performance Saturday wasn't worthy of any moves up, and Houston and UNC's performances could even push them down a spot.


Justin Ferguson is a college football writer at Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @JFergusonBR.

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Ed Feng's Week 12 College Football Playoff Standings Predictions

How will the College Football Playoff committee rank teams this Tuesday at 7 p.m. ET? 

We use analytics to make an educated guess.  Based on last week's committee rankings, my algorithm adjusts teams based on the most recent opponent and margin of victory.

Teams that win keep their place—unless they need overtime to beat Indiana or have to come back to survive a three-win Iowa State team.  Teams that lose drop, but not as much if they lose to a Top 10 team. You get the idea.

Let's look at the top movers from Week 11.

Oklahoma becomes Big 12's best playoff hope with win over Baylor

The markets opened with Baylor as a seven-point favorite over Oklahoma.  By the time the game started, the point spread had shrunk to two points, a good omen for Oklahoma.

On a rainy night in Waco, Oklahoma made enough plays to beat Baylor 44-34.  QB Baker Mayfield threw three touchdown passes, the last of which put the game away in the fourth quarter.

The win moves Oklahoma up to seventh in the committee rankings, a spot ahead of undefeated Oklahoma State, which struggled to beat Iowa State this weekend.  Oklahoma now looks like the Big 12's best playoff hope.  

Next week, Oklahoma plays TCU, a suddenly lethargic team that only beat Kansas by seven points, despite being a 46.5-point favorite.  In addition, QB Trevone Boykin hurt his ankle and might not be 100 percent next week—the latest in a season-long rash of injuries for the Horned Frogs. 

In the final week of the season, Oklahoma travels to Oklahoma State for their annual rivalry game.  If both teams win out before then, Bedlam becomes a playoff elimination game.


Alabama continues rise after throttling Mississippi State

For the second week in a row, Alabama scored a convincing win over a ranked opponent.  This week, the Crimson Tide went on the road and victimized Mississippi State 31-6 in Starkville.

Derrick Henry had 204 yards on 9.3 yards per carry, numbers helped by two long touchdown runs.  Alabama also got a punt return for a touchdown by Cyrus Jones in an unexpected rout (Bama closed as a seven-point favorite).

In contrast, top-ranked Clemson struggled on the road against a weak Syracuse opponent.  The Tigers won, but the usually strong defense gave up a lot of points in a 37-27 win.  The Crimson Tide jump ahead of Clemson for first place in the rankings.

Perhaps the committee is trying to aggravate all of the SEC haters by putting a one-loss Alabama first over a host of undefeated teams.  Or maybe they recognize Alabama as the strongest team in the country right now.


Stanford tumbles down rankings after Oregon exacts revenge

Stanford lost to Oregon 38-36 when a two-point conversion failed in the waning seconds of the game.  The Cardinal won the yardage battle 504 to 434 but couldn't overcome two fumbles by QB Kevin Hogan.

As predicted in my playoff odds article this week, Oregon presented a stiff test for Stanford.  Despite the Ducks' three losses, the offense can still light up the scoreboard, and Royce Freeman had 105 yards on 6.6 yards per carry and a touchdown against Stanford.

While Oregon has regressed from last season, it is still 11th in my rankings that drive the Bleacher Report playoff odds.  My numbers gave them a 38 percent chance to pull off this upset.

With the loss, Stanford drops to 17th in the committee rankings.  They'll most likely win the Pac-12, but they now need an extraordinary amount of help to make the playoff.  Their title dreams all but died on Saturday. 


Ed Feng has a Ph.D. in chemical engineering from Stanford and runs sports analytics site The Power Rank. You can find him on Twitter @thepowerrank. 

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College Football Rankings: Bleacher Report's Week 12 Top 25

And we didn't think it could get any better than last weekend.

We were wrong. Very wrong.

Another wild and crazy weekend of college football again ravaged the top of the Bleacher Report rankings, with another unbeaten team falling by the wayside and several more likely having their hopes of playing for a national title go up in smoke.

All up and down the Bleacher Report Top 25, there was movement. So much movement.

Twenty-one members of our college football staff voted in this week's Top 25: writers Ben Axelrod, Greg Couch, Ed Feng, Justin Ferguson, Bryan Fischer, David Kenyon, Ben Kercheval, Adam Kramer, Brian Leigh, Mike Monaco, Brian Pedersen, David Regimbal, Barrett Sallee, Brad Shepard, Greg Wallace and Christopher Walsh; video experts Michael Felder and Sean McManus; and editors Eric Bowman, Hunter Mandel and Eric Yates.

First-place votes were worth 25 points, with each subsequent rank worth one fewer point, all the way down to one for 25th place. The 25 highest vote-getters made our list, with the rest falling into the "others receiving votes" category.

See where everyone falls after Week 11, then give us your thoughts in the comments section.

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College Football Playoff Rankings: Biggest Takeaways from Week 11

Week 11 was the first since Week 6 that didn't feature an all-time great ending to a game.

But it was still among the best weeks of the season.

Even without a botched punt returned at the buzzer, a blocked kick returned at the buzzer, an eight-lateral kickoff return at the buzzer or a backward Hail Mary to force overtime, the Week 11 slate provided drama, intrigue and upsets—so many upsets—for teams in the College Football Playoff race.

Those upsets and the near-upsets that joined them will leave a lasting mark on the playoff discussion, beginning with next week's CFP rankings.

Here is a quick recap of what we learned.


Alabama Will Make the Playoff

Alabama has essentially made the playoff already.

It dominated Mississippi State in Starkville, clearing its biggest hurdle with a 31-6 road win, and now must beat just Charleston Southern, Auburn and Florida in the SEC Championship Game to reach the national semifinal.

Charleston Southern is an automatic win. Auburn is 2-5 in SEC play and just lost an ugly home game to Georgia. And Florida, ostensibly a threat to beat the Crimson Tide, has struggled to beat division cellar-dwellers Vanderbilt and South Carolina the past two weeks.

Anything can happen in a rivalry game, as Oklahoma's loss in Week 6 to Texas proved, but it's hard to see an anemic Auburn offense upsetting Alabama. The same goes for a Treon Harris-led Florida. The Crimson Tide are sitting pretty after running through Mississippi State.

Write them into the playoff, and write it in pen.


The Pac-12 Will Not Make the Playoff

Opposite Alabama, the Pac-12 has essentially missed the playoff already.

Its last two one-loss teams, Stanford and Utah, lost in Week 11 to Oregon and Arizona, respectively. Every Pac-12 team now has two losses. You can chalk that up to depth if you like, but no two-loss team stands a strong chance to make the playoff—not even a two-loss Pac-12 champion. That's doubly true after losing to unranked opponents.

Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports said what everyone was thinking:

What's happened to the Pac-12 is great news for the ACC. If Clemson and North Carolina win out, the victor of that ACC Championship Game will easily make the playoff. The Tar Heels blew out Miami 59-21 and are one the week's biggest winners.

Other beneficiaries include Notre Dame, Florida, Michigan State and all one-loss Big 12 teams. The Pac-12 demise does them wonders.


The Big 12 Might Make the Playoff

Speaking of one-loss Big 12 teams: There's a new one.

There was nearly another, too.

Oklahoma beat Baylor in Waco, Texas, dropping the Bears from the ranks of the unbeaten and onto the one-loss tier.

Meanwhile, Oklahoma State survived a close call at Iowa State, coming back to avoid another calamity in Ames, and now trudges forward as the Big 12's lone unbeaten.

"There was not a doubt in anyone’s mind, you could see it in everybody’s eyes," part-time quarterback J.W. Walsh told reporters after the game. "Everyone bought in and everyone was upbeat the whole time. We just stuck with it, stayed the course, and we came out on top."

If it keeps coming out on top, the Big 12 will be fine. Undefeated Oklahoma State will make the playoff. No drama included.

But because of the Big 12's back-loaded schedule, things get messy if it the Cowboys drop a game. They still have to play OU and Baylor, while the Sooners and Bears still have to play the Cowboys and TCU. Here's a rough breakdown of the Big 12's remaining schedule:

Based on what happened to the Pac-12, any one of these teams could make the playoff if it finishes with one loss. If Notre Dame loses to Stanford, there's no way a one-loss Big 12 champion gets left out.

If Notre Dame beats Stanford, however, things become complicated. The Pac-12 is essentially eliminated, but that doesn't mean the other four Power Five leagues all get a bid. The Independent Irish throw a wrench in that, and the Big 12 might draw the short straw.

The league is officially rooting for: (1) Stanford to beat Notre Dame, (2) Oklahoma State to finish undefeated or (3) some sort of chaos wherein Clemson or Ohio State and Iowa both lose.

Stack these odds around 50-50.

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Baker Mayfield the Playmaking Superstar Who Can Lead Oklahoma to Playoffs

WACO, Texas — The rain drops were large and coming fast, as they typically do with the sweeping thunderstorms in Central Texas. The amped up Baylor crowd was screaming at levels previously frowned upon at the devout campus. 

Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield soaked it all in for a split second, covered in black pellets from the McLane Stadium turf. As he hopped up on one ankle after rolling to his right and being dragged down with a horse-collar tackle, clinging to a three-point lead, the walk-on signal-caller looked up first at the sky and then turned around and stared down at the 68 yards that lay ahead.

He had the Bears right where he wanted them.

Mayfield dazzled, spun, threw, ran, escaped, and somehow found the end zone nine plays later for yet another dramatic touchdown drive to essentially seal a 44-34 win against previously undefeated and No. 6 Baylor. The victory firmly planted the Sooners stake in the topsy-turvy Big 12 race and also busted into the College Football Playoff discussion with aplomb.

Along the way, perhaps as Mayfield was pirouetting out of a dozen tackles on that final score to Dimitri Flowers or on any other of his dozen clutch scrambles, the quarterback nobody wanted out of high school turned himself into a legitimate threat to win the Heisman Trophy.

“There’s something special about him. He has that tenacity, toughness, competitiveness and talent. A bunch of coaches missed the talent,” Sooners coach Bob Stoops said. “He just finds a way, and that gets back to his competitiveness. Call him a gym rat, a baller, or whatever, he’s out there making plays.”

Mayfield finished 24-of-34 with 270 yards through the air, three scores and an interception. He added another 100 yards on the ground, not counting sacks.

But it wasn’t just the totals he racked up, it was how he cut swiftly through a Baylor defense that had several lofty stats, and plenty of future NFL talent but had not yet seen an elite quarterback this season.

The end result was Mayfield getting introduced to the country in a big way on Saturday night. While many will be quick to invoke Johnny Manziel as his best contemporary from the flyover part of the country due to the Sooners star’s penchant for making something out of nothing, the 6'1", 210-pounder should be described as nothing other than a gunslinger.

He makes dicey throws that Brett Favre would be proud of. Mayfield had two fumbles against Baylor, yet recovered both and even had enough shimmy to turn one of them into something. He even drops his arm angle and slings the ball sidearm in a way that is Philip Rivers-esque.

“He’s so tough, so gritty. You can’t measure his heart, the way he scrambles around and makes plays,” center Ty Darlington exclaimed. “That last touchdown to Dimitri (Flowers), nothing is open and he finds a way to make it happen. He took a couple of shots and had blood rolling off him and stayed right back there. We love that.”

Mayfield’s path to stardom in Norman only adds to the intrigue behind his big night against Baylor. He walked-on at Texas Tech and was named Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the Year. Not long after the print was still drying on that award, he left Lubbock and found his way embroiled in a transfer controversy at Oklahoma.

After a season spent on the scout team and watching the Sooners falter to an 8-5 record, it has been Mayfield that has keyed a resurgent Oklahoma offense that has been among the best in all of college football the past five weeks since suffering a confounding lost to Texas earlier this year.

“That’s in the past, I’m a completely different player right now. I’m a lot more mature,” Mayfield said of the windy road that brought him up I-35 to Norman. “It’s been two years. Obviously it’s always in the back of my mind, where I came from and how hard I’ve worked to get here. But it’s in the past.”

That past is now Oklahoma’s future, and it’s shaping up to be a promising one despite an early season setback that prompted fears of yet another year of missed expectations.

While the Sooners do not quite control their own destiny in terms of, well, anything really, you’d be hard-pressed to not consider them among the best four teams in the sport at the moment.

“You go into the No. 6 team and their backyard and play this way… we’re one of those teams that has a chance at everything,” Stoops said, not quite uttering the words College Football Playoff, but strongly alluding to the postseason as only he can. “We’re going to keep trying to improve. We’ll have an opportunity next week to play as well or better. You come into an undefeated team, ranked that high, waiting on you like they were, a win by 10 has got to be a positive.”

It will certainly be reflected in Tuesday’s updated committee rankings. Thanks to losses by Stanford, Utah and others, a previously unthought-of path to the playoffs has even developed for the Sooners.

That’s just where Baker Mayfield likes things. There may be plenty of open field left, but finding a unique way to conquer every yard seems to be just where the young gunslinger thrives.


Bryan Fischer is a national college football columnist at Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter at @BryanDFischer.

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Utah vs. Arizona: Score, Highlights and Twitter Reaction

Arizona Wildcats backup quarterback Jerrard Randall completed just one pass, but it was a big one. Nate Phillips hauled in a 25-yard touchdown from Randall on the first play of the second overtime Saturday as the Wildcats knocked off the No. 10 Utah Utes 37-30 at Arizona Stadium in Tucson.

Here is the winning score, per the Pac-12 Networks:

Randall was in the game because starter Anu Solomon left late in the third quarter after taking a hard hit from 6'3", 270-pound senior defensive lineman Jason Fanaika.

Two drives earlier, Solomon helped Arizona tie the game at 27-27 with a six-yard touchdown run with four minutes, one second remaining in the third quarter. The Pac-12 Networks shared video footage of the score:

Under head coach Rich Rodriguez, the Wildcats have a knack for winning big games. This is the fourth straight season they have pulled of a major upset, per ESPN Stats & Info:

The Pac-12 Conference's national title hopes rested with Utah after the Stanford Cardinal lost earlier Saturday. Now, those hopes are gone, per college football analyst Chris Fowler:

Every team in the Pac-12 has at least two losses. There are still five undefeated teams in the College Football Playoff rankings, and another eight with just one loss.

The Wildcats were only worrying about themselves, not the conference. Solomon was 17-of-27 for 277 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. He also rushed for 86 yards and a score.

Randall was just 1-of-5 passing, but the one will be the only thing he remembers from this game.

Arizona is 2-5 in the conference but 6-5 overall with a home game against the Arizona State Sun Devils left on the schedule.

Utah had some impressive performances in the loss.

Running back Devontae Booker continued to carry the Utes with 34 carries for 145 yards and a touchdown. The school's Twitter account shared an accomplishment from the senior:

Andy Phillips tied the Utah school record for career field goals with a 34-yarder in the second quarter, per the team's Twitter account. He later broke the record in overtime:

While Utah had individual accomplishments, Arizona celebrated a victory with its fans and may have salvaged bowl eligibility this season after three straight losses nearly derailed it.

The conference will have to lick its wounds and hope for a playoff spot next season.


Postgame Reaction

Arizona shared the locker room celebration with Rodriguez and his team after the victory:

It was a disappointing loss for Utah coach Kyle Whittingham and his team, but after the game he was staying positive, per Utah football's Twitter account:

Randall acknowledged he struggled when he first came in, but was glad to come through when it mattered, per "I couldn't get nothing all night throwing the ball, but I got that one touchdown. I think it was amazing." 

It certainly was a thrilling win for a team that seems to find a way to pull off a big upset every year. It might not have been what the conference wanted, but college football fans were treated to quite a ballgame. 

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Oklahoma Is the Ultimate College Football Playoff Crasher

Tell me if the following sounds familiar.

A power program suffers an inexplicable loss early in the year, prompting the football world to dig it a nice, cozy grave. This same power program, through the play of its outstanding quarterback, supercharged running back and opportunistic defense, then climbs its way back from the deepest depths out of this dark hole and back into the light.

Ohio State wrote this divine College Football Playoff script last season. Following its win over Baylor, Oklahoma is in a position to alter a few lines, make a few wardrobe changes and reboot this redemption story once more, with feeling. 

In the pouring rain, led by a former walk-on quarterback, the Sooners (9-1) announced their return Saturday night in a 44-34 victory in Waco, Texas, over the previously unbeaten Bears (8-1).

That Texas loss? What Texas loss? Oh, that ol’ thing? That was a long time ago, friend. I wouldn’t worry about that now. 

On a day that saw four more Top 10 teams take a tumble—and many other playoff hopefuls narrowly escape upsets—Bob Stoops’ squad stated a compelling case for CFP inclusion. 

Behind Baker Mayfield’s fist pumps and four touchdowns (three passing, one rushing), along with running back Samaje Perine’s emphatic contributions (166 yards rushing, two touchdowns), the Sooners showcased offensive balance that should have the rest of the conference concerned. OU also flashed defense—a term not always celebrated in these parts—forcing three turnovers.

It looked balanced and deadly. The selection committee, having publicly hoped for Big 12 clarity this week, finally got some. And now, having distanced itself from its own Virginia Tech-esque gaffe, Oklahoma is now a contender. 

It controls its own Big 12 destiny. Wins over reeling TCU and resilient Oklahoma State to close out the year would earn Oklahoma the conference title. Neither of these games is a given. But the opportunity—two more chances to convince the committee that it belongs—is precisely what this team needs. 

A conference title wouldn’t guarantee a playoff spot with Notre Dame still lurking, but it would give Oklahoma a definitive edge over the Irish if it played out accordingly. And with Stanford’s Week 11 loss, Notre Dame’s best remaining opponent lost plenty of shine. 

What a weekend it was for the team that somehow found a way to lose to Texas—the label it wore so well up until Saturday, the day that upset was no longer the story.

No, Oklahoma has other things in mind. And suddenly, the biggest obstacle might be in the rearview mirror.

As for other thoughts on a wild Week 11, let’s get to it.


The Pac-12’s Playoff Hopes Are Essentially Dead

Barring chaos of the highest degree, the Pac-12 will not be part of the College Football Playoff on New Year’s Eve. This is not meant to be some sort of overwhelming declaration or shocking statement. Quite frankly, the conference might simply be out of reasonable options. 

Stanford, the selection committee’s No. 7 team Tuesday, fell 38-36 to Oregon in the first surprise of the evening. David Shaw’s team had a chance to tie it up on a two-point conversion, but the pass was batted away late in the fourth quarter. While the committee was certainly willing to overlook a loss to Northwestern to start the year, this changes things.

But we were not done. As the day was winding down, No. 10 Utah watched its playoff hopes crumble in a 37-30 loss to Arizona. The Utes, having lost to USC a few weeks back, were already being viewed with a watchful eye.

Now? Don’t be shocked when Utah takes a significant drop in the next rankings.

Each team in the conference now has at least two losses. And while a conference champion will certainly enjoy a nice bump when the day comes, it won’t be enough—even with chaos still lurking—to creep into the top four.

The damage has been done. Stanford certainly seemed like a trendy playoff pick entering the week with Notre Dame still on.

But now? It looks like the Cardinal will have to play spoiler, and the conference can spend New Year’s Eve watching the semifinals like everyone else.


After Nail-Biters, Close Calls and Heartbreak, the Wolverines’ Playoff Hopes Live

In this new playoff era, a team can rebound from one loss. But two losses? Well, just ask the Pac-12 about it. Good luck next season, friend. 

And yet, two-loss Michigan, currently No. 14 in the latest College Football Playoff standings, feels like the exception to this unforgiving rule. It’s not because the Wolverines don’t have faults—they most certainly do—but rather because they have the opportunity to make a handful of impressions before the committee’s final ranking.

This dream scenario was almost lost Saturday. Michigan powered past Indiana 48-41 in double overtime, needing some offensive heroics. On the defense’s worst day of the Jim Harbaugh era, quarterback Jake Rudock finished with 440 passing yards, 64 rushing yards and six passing touchdowns. The Wolverines needed every last morsel.

Michigan will play at Penn State next Saturday before welcoming Ohio State to Ann Arbor—a game that will garner an unbelievable amount of hype. If the Buckeyes beat Michigan State next week, the Wolverines will control their own Big Ten fate.

Would victories over undefeated Ohio State and (potentially) undefeated Iowa in the Big Ten Championship Game propel Michigan into the playoff over teams with one loss? 

Maybe. Help might still be required, but it’s not out of the realm of possibly. And in terms of ratings attractiveness, Michigan would be a mighty fine draw. As much as we’d like to say this would not impact the selection process, it certainly won’t hurt the Wolverines' chances, either.


Alabama Suddenly Looks Unceremoniously Dominant

It’s not a complex formula, although that doesn’t mean it’s easy to duplicate. In the most Alabama way imaginable, the Crimson Tide—on a day where others struggled—looked like the nation’s most extraordinary football obstacle. 

That’s not to say that Alabama will (or should) be the selection committee’s new No. 1 team Tuesday night. That likely won’t be the case with one loss. But in clobbering Mississippi State 31-6 on the road after it derailed LSU’s undefeated season, Alabama put on yet another show.

The defensive line, one of the best of the last 10 years, finished the day with nine sacks. Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott didn’t stand a chance.

"We did most of it with four guys rushing,” Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban told reporters after the game, per Aaron Suttles, highlighting the sheer absurdity of the group. He’s right. Why blitz at this point?

On offense, running back Derrick Henry continued his magnificent bulldozing efforts, running for 204 yards and two touchdowns on only 22 carries. He’s the Heisman Trophy favorite at this point, per Odds Shark, and there isn’t a ton of debate about it.

Alabama will draw Charleston Southern next week before ending the regular season with 5-5 Auburn. The path is now incredibly clear.

Once on the outskirts of the SEC conversation, Alabama is back to being its terrifying self.


North Carolina Looks Like the Potential Thorn in the ACC’s Side—or Maybe Not

A fascinating situation is brewing in the ACC—one that could put the conference in a rather interesting predicament. On a day Clemson struggled for much of its 37-27 win at Syracuse, North Carolina smothered another opponent in points.

On Saturday, the Tar Heels casually dismantled Miami, 59-21. In the past two weeks, they have posted a combined 125 points. Even though the Tar Heels' competition hasn't exactly been the nation’s most elite teams, the destruction is hard to ignore.

That brings us to the very real possibility that North Carolina and Clemson will meet in the ACC Championship Game with only a loss between them. That loss, if the season plays out, will have come in Week 1 when North Carolina fell to South Carolina thanks in large part to a handful of woeful red-zone interceptions. Since then, the Heels have been perfect.

Thus far, North Carolina has not been able to grab the selection committee’s attention. Even with a win over Clemson, No. 23 UNC's chances of crashing the top four are small. 

But a Tar Heels victory in the ACC title game could ultimately bump the conference out of the playoff. And the way North Carolina is trending, a conference championship suddenly seems more than reasonable.

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Dominant Win at LSU Has Arkansas Primed for Late-Season Surge Similar to 2014

We've seen this script recently from the Arkansas Razorbacks.

But like any good Hollywood director would do, head coach Bret Bielema has a few tweaks for his sequel to 2014's blockbuster of a late-season surge.

Arkansas picked up its fourth consecutive and most impressive win of the 2015 season Saturday night, dominating an LSU team that was ranked No. 2 in the initial College Football Playoff rankings a couple of weeks ago.

It doesn't matter what side of the ball you looked at for Arkansas in its 31-14 win over LSU in Baton Rouge—the Razorbacks had the clear edge.

Arkansas' defense, which had been struggling with injuries all season long, consistently fought through the LSU offensive line for big plays. 

The Razorbacks entered Week 11 with eight sacks in nine games, a rate that ranked fourth-worst in the country among all FBS programs. LSU, on the other hand, was tied for 17th nationally in sacks allowed.

So, naturally, Arkansas sacked LSU quarterback Brandon Harris five times for a loss of 42 yards Saturday night in Death Valley.

But the Arkansas front wasn't done, as it limited falling Heisman contender Leonard Fournette to just 91 yards on 19 carries—the superstar sophomore's second-lowest total of the season.

This was the same Arkansas defense that allowed 222 rushing yards to Ole Miss last weekend, 162 to Auburn last month, and 171 to Texas Tech earlier this season.

It wasn't quite the 17-0 shutout effort Arkansas put on LSU last season to spark a late-season turnaround of three wins in its final four games.

No, this Arkansas team is looking better on the offensive side of the ball.

The Razorbacks put up 440 yards on the LSU defense, giving them at least 400 in each of their four straight wins. Brandon Allen didn't have nearly as impressive of a game as he had last weekend in the wild overtime upset of Ole Miss, but he didn't really need it.

"Arkansas Offensive Coordinator Dan Enos has said a balanced offense isn't equal rushing and passing. Enos defines balance as being able to take what the defense is giving you," Otis Kirk of Hawgs247 wrote. "If they need to pass, that is what they do, as evidenced by the Ole Miss game...or they can win it on the ground, as they did tonight."

Arkansas scorched LSU with a season-high 299 rushing yards. The powerful style of football was peak Bielema, who turned Wisconsin into a machine with that same kind of offense.

Running back Alex Collins averaged 8.8 yards per touch against the Bayou Bengals, and wide receiver Jared Cornelius put any talk of an LSU second-half comeback to bed with a slick 69-yard touchdown on a reverse.

Despite a weak performance on third downs, Arkansas only committed two penalties and was able to cash in on most of its scoring opportunities.

While the defense kept LSU off the board for most of the game, the offense made sure there would be plenty of room for its teammates on the other side of the ball to operate.

"We're not known for quick-strike touchdowns, but any time we can get points on the board we're going to take them," Allen said, per Matt Jones of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. "We have people on our offense who are able to make big plays like that. They're starting to pop up here late in the season."

Now Arkansas is bowl-eligible with two winnable home games coming up against Mississippi State and Missouri. The Hogs just need victories in two of their final three games in order to surpass the record they posted last season.

As Bielema noted Saturday night, Arkansas will have a good bit of starters and contributors coming back for next season, and a strong finish to the season should set up quite a bit of hype for 2016.

Perhaps Arkansas could learn from the mistakes that doomed the team during the first few games of the 2015 season, when it went from being ranked in the preseason to 1-3 with home losses to Texas Tech and Toledo.

Next season, the Razorbacks will have a tough-looking road matchup at TCU in Week 2, but they could start the season stronger with wins over the likes of Louisiana Tech and Texas State.

The fact remains that when it's clicking, Arkansas under Bielema is the team no one wants to face in the SEC West. It's knocked off three bowl-bound teams in its last four weeks and blew the doors off a FCS foe.

If Bielema can continue to keep this momentum going through the rest of the year and into 2016, he'll have more than another fun comeback story on his hands.

He could be in charge of an entire must-see franchise.


Game statistics courtesy of StatBroadcast. Unless otherwise noted, other statistics courtesy of

Justin Ferguson is a college football writer at Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @JFergusonBR.

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Despite Loss to Oklahoma, Baylor Still Has Realistic Path to Playoff Berth

Baylor dropped its first game of the season against Oklahoma, falling 44-34 on its home field and crippling its chance of making the College Football Playoff.

But while that chance is definitely wounded, the Bears still have a pulse and can crash the final four if they win out and catch a few breaks.

You wouldn't know that from reading Twitter after the game. Fans and writers penned Baylor's obituary before the final whistle.

"When Baylor's going to schedule the way they do, they'd best not lose," Chris Vannini of tweeted Saturday. "Nonconference schedule gives them no margin for error."

That criticism is valid, but it underrates the Bears' upcoming schedule. They haven't beaten anyone of substance, but with road games looming at Oklahoma State and TCU, they still have a chance to change that. They still have a chance to reach their ultimate goal.

Here's what needs to happen for them to get there.


Step 1: Win Their Next Three Games

Baylor no longer controls its own fate, but winning remains Step 1. Other results don't matter if the Bears finish 10-2 or worse.

Winning out starts next weekend in Stillwater, where the Bears will play 10-0 Oklahoma State. The Cowboys, however, have not looked infallible. They needed late-game magic to sneak past Texas and Kansas State in the first half of the season, and this past week they barely won at Iowa State, taking their first lead of the game with 3:06 to play.

After that comes a showdown with TCU, last year's Big 12 co-champion and the opponent Baylor circled in big red ink before the season.

The Horned Frogs nearly lost to Kansas—Kansas!—in Week 11, but that was without star quarterback Trevone Boykin, who left in the first half with an ankle injury. His status moving forward is uncertain, although head coach Gary Patterson said he "[thinks] Trevone will be back" next weekend, per Brandon Chatmon of

Finally, the Bears host Texas, which at this point they can basically mark in the win column. The Longhorns beat the Sooners who just beat Baylor, but they're still a young and flawed team with a 4-6 record. Baylor should dispose of them with ease.

The following steps assume Baylor wins out.


Step 2: Help From Big 12 Rivals

On top of winning its own games, Baylor also needs two dominoes to fall within the conference.

The bad news is that's something it can't control. The good news is that neither scenario appears unrealistic.

Here is one case the Bears must hope for:

  1. TCU beats Oklahoma
  2. Oklahoma beats Oklahoma State

Why that combination? Because it guarantees Baylor, should it finish 11-1, would be the only one-loss team in the conference. A head-to-head loss against Oklahoma wouldn't matter if the Sooners, who already lost to Texas, lost their second conference game to TCU.

There are other ways for Baylor to emerge from the Big 12 and make the playoff, but this one is substantially cleaner. It's a mess keeping track of the conference's backloaded schedule, but Baylor fans should keep this scenario circled.

If, however, the Sooners beat TCU next week, it's not as if the Bears are finished. They could also hope for the reverse combination:

  1. Oklahoma beats TCU
  2. Oklahoma State beats Oklahoma

In this case, Baylor and Oklahoma State would share the Big 12 throne with 11-1 records, the same way Baylor and TCU did last season. Just like last season, the Bears would hold the head-to-head tiebreaker, and just like last season (one assumes), they would finish higher in the CFP rankings.

Unlike last season, that might be enough to get them into the playoffs.

And that's where we get to Step 3.


Step 3: Stanford Wins Out

Stanford lost to Oregon in Week 11, dropping to 8-2 and effectively ending its playoff run; I can hear you asking why the Cardinal matter.

The answer? Because they play Notre Dame. And the Irish, with their two-point loss at Clemson after fumbling at the goal line with a chance to win the game in a hurricane, have a far better quality loss than Baylor, who lost to Oklahoma at home.

Notre Dame losing opens the door for the Big 12 in general. One-loss Baylor would rank ahead of any two-loss Pac-12 champion, and no non-power conference team other than the Irish stands a realistic chance of passing the one-loss Bears.

Barring something loopy from one of the other leagues, Stanford winning out would ensure, most likely, that the SEC, ACC, Big Ten and Big 12 each submit to the playoff a one-loss or undefeated champion.

Based on Steps 1 and 2, Baylor would be the one-loss Big 12 champion.

Even after Saturday, this would get it into the playoff.

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