NCAA Football News

College Football Coaches Most Likely to Be with a New Team Next Season

The music has started up, and the gears are turning. The annual college football coaching carousel is under way, basically turning the next few months into a near-constant stream of potential changes in leadership at the top of various programs.

It's an exciting time for schools landing a new coach, while for those in jeopardy of losing theirs it's a time of trepidation. Seemingly every coach is in play when the carousel gets going, as last year 15 of the 20 openings in FBS were filled by existing head coaches at other college programs.

Two major such moves happened on Thursday, with Florida hiring Colorado State's Jim McElwain and Oregon State's Mike Riley moving to Nebraska.

Who are the other coaches most likely to make a move to another school this winter? Here's our list of the ones with the best chance to be wearing a new color palette when the 2015 season starts.

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Mike Riley to Nebraska: Latest Contract Details, Analysis and Reaction

Another high-profile coaching gig in college football has been filled, as Nebraska has hired former Oregon State coach Mike Riley.

The school announced the hire on its Twitter account:

Shortly after Florida filled its vacancy by hiring Jim McElwain, per Chris Low of ESPN.com, Nebraska named its replacement for Bo Pelini.

Riley coached Oregon State for 14 seasons, leading them to eight bowl games (they were 6-2 in those contests). He won 93 games in total in that time.

"It is truly an honor to join the University of Nebraska family," Riley said, per KETV.com. "Though we love Corvallis and Oregon State, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to coach at one of the nation’s most storied football programs and I can’t wait to get started."

Former Nebraska standout Prince Amukamara tweeted a welcome to the new coach:

This hire is going to surprise some people, no doubt. Pelini went 67-27 and won at least nine games each season dating back to 2008, but he was never able to return Nebraska to national prominence.

Bryan Fischer of NFL.com reports that Riley may not have been the Huskers' top choice:

While Riley brings plenty of experience in the college game and in general—he also coached the NFL's San Diego Chargers for three seasons—he isn't the big splash many Nebraska fans may have been expecting. Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports was certainly surprised, though he understood what the school sees in Riley:

Riley may not be flashy, but he's proven himself capable of building down-on-their-luck programs into competitive ones. He's got the coaching chops to succeed, and his offense should breathe life into the Huskers' program.

It's a new era for Nebraska's football program, and now Riley will have the unique challenge of accomplishing what Pelini could not—restoring Nebraska as one of the preeminent powers in college football. 

 

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Bowl Predictions 2014: Full TV Schedule, Odds, Playoff Projections and More

The 2014 college football regular season has been full of unpredictable twists and turns, and this weekend’s schedule of conference championships will lead into one of the most exciting bowl game schedules in recent memory.

With Alabama, Oregon, TCU and Florida State currently situated as the four teams making the semifinal matchups, the battle for the inaugural College Football Playoff National Championship will be intense.

Here is the full television schedule for the 2014-15 bowl season, College Football Playoff predictions, odds and more. 

 

Breaking Down the Current Semifinalists

The College Football Playoff voting committee has shaken the semifinals to their core over the last week with its decision to catapult TCU over Florida State in the latest rankings. While the Seminoles' drop to No. 4 despite being undefeated had many fans talking, the voting committee has done a stellar job overall.

The old BCS system was far worse, and the inaugural season for the College Football Playoff has been an overwhelming success thus far.

The best team in the nation right now isn't much of a debate, though. The Alabama Crimson Tide are incredibly dangerous on the offensive side of the ball and still possess the elite defense that has made them a perennial national powerhouse.

As long as Alabama can take down Missouri in the SEC Championship Game on Saturday, there is little doubt the Crimson Tide will enter the playoff as the No. 1 seed. The road to a national championship won’t be easy, though.

Another viable championship contender is Oregon. If the Ducks can get past Arizona in the Pac-12 Championship Game on Friday, there is no doubt the high-powered offense will be a force to be reckoned with in the playoff.

The Ducks defense has been much better than expected this season, but it is the No. 4-ranked offensive unit, which is averaging an astounding 45.9 points per game, that has made Oregon such a title threat.

The biggest surprise of the Top Four is TCU. Many college football fans have questioned the decision to rank the Horned Frogs at No. 3 overall, but TCU has another chance to shine Saturday against Iowa State in its final regular-season game.

With an offense averaging 46.1 points per game and a hard-hitting defense allowing only 21.9 points per game, TCU has racked up an impressive 10-1 record and is tied for first in the Big 12, with another win likely this week.

The undefeated Florida State Seminoles are creating the most buzz. Despite not losing a game this season, Florida State was leapfrogged by TCU, dropping from No. 3 in the standings to No. 4. The Seminoles have been strong on defense and offense, ranking 27th and 34th, respectively, in points allowed and points scored per game.

Florida State controls its own destiny. The team squares off against Georgia Tech in the ACC Championship Game on Saturday. If the Seminoles are victorious and finish the season with a perfect record, the College Football Playoff committee will be forced to put the program in the postseason.

Once in the playoff, any program can get hot and run all the way to a national championship. That’s what makes the concept of the College Football Playoff so exciting. Let’s just hope it lives up to the hype.

 

Stats via ESPN.com.

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Alabama vs. Missouri: TV Info, Odds and Predictions for SEC Championship 2014

Top-ranked Alabama faces one final test before punching its ticket to the College Football Playoff, as the No. 14 Missouri Tigers take aim at an earth-shattering upset in the 2014 SEC Championship Game.

It's a repeat trip to Atlanta's Georgia Dome for Missouri, a school that has more than earned respect in its first few years in college football's marquee league.

But the Crimson Tide are far from strangers to the stage, having won the SEC West now in four of the last seven seasons. They also opened their season in the Georgia Dome, outlasting West Virginia 33-23 on August 30.

Nick Saban's crew is the favorite far and away, as it would be against any team in the land. But anything can happen in the span of 60 minutes with so much talent on both sides of the field.

 

When: Saturday, Dec. 6

Where: Georgia Dome, Atlanta

Time: 4 p.m. ET

TV: CBS

Live Stream: CBSSports.com

 

SEC Championship Odds

Note: Odds courtesy of Odds Shark, last updated Dec. 3 at 10 p.m. ET

 

Game Preview and Prediction

You've heard all of the jokes by now.

As treacherous and tough-nosed as the SEC West has been from top to bottom in 2014, its SEC East counterparts have been punch-lines all season long. Having five of your seven members with six or fewer wins—in comparison to the burly West—will do that.

But Missouri won't be any sort of punch-line when Saturday afternoon comes.

The 10-2 Tigers ripped through their SEC slate with just one loss, coming up victorious in back-to-back must-wins at Tennessee and against Arkansas to get here. Quarterback Maty Mauk has shaken off a woeful start to 2014 by playing magnificent ball of late, going for at least 230 yards in each of the last three games.

While Mauk's timely plays have played a huge role in getting the Tigers here, running back Russell Hansbrough has been the workhorse. With at least 15 carries in five straight games, the SEC's sixth-leading rusher can pass the 1,000-yard plateau with 53 yards against the Tide.

He did suffer an injury scare late in Missouri's dramatic comeback over Arkansas, but head coach Gary Pinkel expects him to be a go on Saturday, per St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Dave Matter

It's a reloaded pass rush, however, that truly makes the Tigers go. As Alabama coach Nick Saban elaborated on, defensive ends Shane Ray and Markus Golden are among the best duos in the country, per Rivals.com's Gabe DeArmond:

Missouri's defense has been a game-changer all season long, and the stats back it up as David Morrison of the Columbia Daily Tribune noted:

Even the best pass-rushers can meet their match against a cerebral mobile quarterback, and Alabama just might have the answer.

On the verge of being benched in the Iron Bowl, Tide quarterback Blake Sims bounced back to play the best football of his life. He did it largely with his arm, but his escapability has been a crutch for this offense against daunting defenses.

A looming injury could make Sims' legs all the more important. As Bleacher Report's Marc Torrence reported, the Tide could potentially be without tackle Cam Robinson:

To make matters a little more complicated for Alabama, the status of its star left tackle, Cam Robinson, is still up in the air. Robinson sustained a shoulder injury against Auburn and has been limited in practice this week. He will likely be a game-time decision.

It will put even more pressure on Sims to make plays with his legs, to neutralize the one thing that Missouri does really well.

There's no discounting the importance of Sims against the duo of Ray and Golden, but it will be entrenched in Lane Kiffin's game plan to incorporate a lot of T.J. Yeldon in space and Amari Cooper on short routes. 

Downhill running attacks have led to Missouri's demise in its two losses, as Indiana rolled for 241 rushing yards and Georgia racked up 210. With Yeldon peaking as the season goes on and Derrick Henry in relief, the Tide will have similar success.

The Tigers will keep this one close in the first half if Mauk can connect with Bud Sasser and Jimmie Hunt deep down the field against a suspect Alabama secondary. But it won't be a contest into the fourth quarter, as Sims and Cooper will take the top off Missouri's defense to close it out.

Prediction: Alabama 41, Missouri 24

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Meet the New Florida Head Coach, Jim McElwain

The head coaches at college football's most notable programs are household names, but they didn't all start out that way.

Jim McElwain isn't exactly a known quantity to the casual fan, but now that he's been hired by Florida, he'll soon become one. The school made the hire official on Thursday, via Twitter:

McElwain, 52, has been in coaching for nearly 30 years, but he has only been a head coach the past three seasons with Colorado State. His journey from a graduate assistant at Eastern Washington to the man in charge of one of the most high-profile programs in the country has been an interesting one.

Here's what you need to know about McElwain.

 

Ties to the South

Not just any coach can come into the SEC and succeed. Most who have done so in the past have had ties to the region either as players or coaches.

McElwain spent four years as Nick Saban's offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Alabama, from 2008-2011, before landing the Colorado State job. His first FBS gig was also in the region, spending three seasons (2000-02) at Louisville on John L. Smith's staff before following him to Michigan State.

Though he's been far from the South the past three years, McElwain has still been able to recruit in the area. His top two prospects from the 2014 class came from Texas and Florida, and three of the seven players Colorado State has commitments from for 2015 are from those states.

 

Extensive Offensive Background

Colorado State ranks 13th nationally in total offense, averaging 497.8 yards per game. McElwain's Rams have a balanced attack, with 33 passing touchdowns and 24 rushing scores.

CSU was 24th in total offense a year ago, a leap from 102nd in McElwain's first season at Fort Collins in 2012.

A former quarterback in college, McElwain was responsible for getting first-year starting quarterbacks Greg McElroy (2009) and AJ McCarron (2011) up to speed at Alabama. In both seasons, the Crimson Tide won national titles.

"(McElwain) was an unbelievable coach for me, not only as a player, but as a person," McCarron told Tom Kensler of The Denver Post in September 2013, before Colorado State visited Alabama during McCarron's senior year. "He just taught me a lot about life, how to act, what to do, what not to do. He means the world to me."

McElwain's strong relationship with his players contributed to former Alabama player Dee Hart's transfer to Colorado State after he graduated in the summer. Hart has rushed for 1,254 yards and 16 touchdowns this season.

 

A Quick Fixer-Upper

When McElwain accepted the Colorado State job in December 2011, he inherited a program that was in a prolonged funk. The Rams had gone 3-9 that season, their third consecutive such record under Steve Fairchild, and they'd had just one plus-.500 record dating back to 2004.

The first season saw minor improvement to 4-8 but did include an important season-opening win over rival Colorado. The win total doubled in 2012, with the Rams going 8-6 and winning the New Mexico Bowl over Washington State with an epic comeback.

This year, CSU went 10-2, winning nine straight at one point with wins over Colorado and Boston College. It was the school's first 10-win output since 2002.

"In only his third year as a head coach, Jim McElwain already is developing a reputation for being a program changer," wrote Robbie Andreu of The Gainesville Sun.

 

He's a Star-Maker

McElwain's portfolio of coaching success includes mentoring not just Alabama's great quarterbacks but also overseeing the development of Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram and Doak Walker Award winner Trent Richardson while with the Crimson Tide.

Before that, when he worked primarily as a receivers coach in earlier jobs, he developed some studs. That included Deion Branch at Louisville, Chip Hobbs at Montana State and Tony Brooks at Eastern Washington, McElwain's alma mater. Hobbs and Brooks were their schools' all-time leading receivers when they graduated, and Branch went on to win a Super Bowl MVP with the New England Patriots.

McElwain also worked closely with Julio Jones at Alabama, and his best one yet might be playing on Sundays after another season at Colorado State. Sophomore Rashard Higgins, whom he plucked out of Texas, leads the FBS in yards (1,640) and touchdowns (17).

 

Social Media Savvy

McElwain's Twitter account at Colorado State doesn't have nearly as many followers as outgoing Florida coach Will Muschamp's, but the new Gators head man does have the edge in one area: tweet frequency.

Since joining in December 2011, McElwain has tweeted more than 1,000 times, most recently on Nov. 30 when he wished daughter Hanna a happy birthday. Muschamp, who was on Twitter since 2010, has only 530 tweets, and the last two were just to announce captains for the upcoming game. He didn't do so for his coaching finale last week at Florida State, however.

Commending a former Tennessee Volunteer might not go over well with Gator Nation, but at least it shows that McElwain appreciates greatness.

 

Strong Community Ties

While McElwain has been building a mid-major power on the field at Colorado State, he's still made sure to take time to connect with the community.

For the past two years, nine-year-old Jack Miller, from the Denver suburb of Louisville, has been the Rams' unofficial team leader as an honorary member.

Miller has had multiple surgeries to combat a heart defect and brain tumors, but throughout those ordeals he's remained a devoted Colorado State fan. McElwain and his players adopted Miller through the Friends of Jaclyn Foundation, and since 2013 Miller has been at nearly every home game, often meeting the team afterwards.  

McElwain isn't the first new coach hired this offseason, but he's by far the most significant one.

 

Follow Brian J. Pedersen on Twitter at @realBJP.

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Just Like with Urban Meyer, Florida Hires a Proven Winner in Jim McElwain

Does history repeat itself?

Not always in its exact form.

When Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley nabbed Urban Meyer away from Utah under Notre Dame's nose after the 2004 season, it was bold, clever and worked out like a charm. Meyer won two national titles in Gainesville and put the program back on the national map.

Could the new guy follow suit? He has a similar track record.

Florida announced Thursday that the $7.5 million buyout hurdle had been cleared, and that Colorado State head coach Jim McElwain will become the new head coach of the Florida Gators.

"Coach McElwain was someone we targeted from the beginning of the search," Foley said in the release. "The more we worked through the process and did our due diligence, coupled with our meeting and conversations with him and those around him, it was obvious he is the right person to lead the Florida Gator football program."

Florida will pay McElwain an average of $3.5 million per season for six seasons, and agreed to pay Colorado State $2 million for a game in Gainesville sometime between 2017-2020 to cover part of McElwain's buyout.

Foley's latest coaching search proves that he is not only still clever, but has evolved with the times. Private planes can be tracked—and hidden—on FlightAware.com, so when a flight plan was filed from Gainesville to Fort Collins, Colorado on Tuesday, Twitter ignited.

Instead of hiding a coaching search, like most athletic directors have tried to do in the past, Foley—in an Internet-friendly, yet passive-aggressive fashion—emphatically said, "McElwain's my guy."

From the absence of secrecy to Florida's own Twitter account tweeting out a play-by-play on Wednesday, this was an old-school search with a new-school flavor.

As I wrote on Monday, McElwain—in his third year as Colorado State's head coach—isn't the sexy hire for Florida. He's the right hire.

McElwain doesn't have the same name recognition that Meyer had when he came to Gainesville prior to the 2005 season, but he has similar credentials.

Offensive guru? Check.

Proven winner? Check.

What's not to like?

McElwain inherited a Colorado State program that was lost. Three straight 3-9 seasons had relegated the once-proud program to a Mountain West afterthought—which is kind of like being the slowest offensive lineman on the scout team.

The Rams averaged 350 or fewer yards per game in the three seasons prior to McElwain's arrival. Was the turnaround immediate? No. McElwain struggled in his first season in Fort Collins, but then rebounded to average 483.7 yards per game over the last two seasons.

During those two seasons, his program went 18-8, 10-2 this year and, as NCAA.com notes, was ranked in The Associated Press Top 25 poll for the first time since 2003.

The Colorado State program has gone from a football outpost to a Mountain West power in just three years.

McElwain deserves all the credit.

Quarterback Garrett Grayson struggled a bit early as a sophomore in 2012 before an injury cost him six games at the end of the season. He came back with a vengeance in 2013, throwing for 3,696 yards, and has 3,779 so far this season.

Florida—as a team—hasn't thrown for more than 3,000 yards in a season since 2009. In two of the last three years, it failed to break the 2,000-yard mark.

Does McElwain bring the splash that Meyer brought when he was hired after leading Utah to an unblemished record and a Fiesta Bowl berth? Nope, but that's only because Meyer had the time and resources to build his name into a hot coaching commodity at Bowling Green and Utah.

McElwain had a steeper climb and got lured away from Fort Collins before he could get to the top of the mountain.

If you're Foley, that's a good thing. That means he's ahead of the curve, knows what kind of coach he is, what he'll become and what he can do for the Florida program.

In an SEC East that is trending down, the Gators will be contenders next season—as long as McElwain can find a quarterback.

 

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

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

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Jim McElwain to Florida: Latest Contract Details, Comments and Reaction

Jim McElwain is Gainesville-bound to take the reins of the Florida Gators football program. The team announced the move Thursday:

The team will hold a press conference to announce the move on Saturday, according to their official Twitter account:

Florida football released athletic director Jeremy Foley's statement on the hire via Twitter:

ESPN.com's Chris Low (h/t Brett McMurphy) first reported the buyout agreement Thursday morning before Mark Long of The Associated Press confirmed McElwain's hiring.

Edgar Thompson of the Orlando Sentinel reports on the deal McElwain is receiving from Florida:

Terry Frei of The Denver Post reported the details of McElwain's buyout:

A deal on buyout terms in Jim McElwain's Colorado State contract was reached Thursday morning, meaning McElwain will be the head football coach at the University of Florida, according to a source with knowledge of the negotiations.

The renegotiated buyout has CSU receiving $5 million cash and $2 million for a single game at Florida in the future.

Stewart Mandel of Fox Sports noted that Florida would be shelling out quite a bit of total cash between firing former head coach Will Muschamp and hiring McElwain:

However Mandel also noted that McElwain would help pay part of his own buyout fee:

Pat Forde of Yahoo Sports originally reported on the matter Tuesday. Forde noted that McElwain, 52, was in advanced stages of negotiations with Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley.

Forde reported additional details on McElwain and Florida's negotiations at the time:

Foley and a contingent of Florida administrators met with McElwain for several hours at his home in Fort Collins, Colo., on Tuesday night to hammer out the deal, sources said.

One notable characteristic of the negotiations is McElwain's reported $7.5 million buyout. Sources tell Yahoo that the buyout is in place and will not be significantly negotiated down.

ESPN's Joe Schad logged what former Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy had to say about McElwain:

John Middlekauff of Comcast SportsNet praised the job the coach has done building at Colorado State since he took over for his maiden 2012 season in Fort Collins:

After going 4-8 in his first year at the helm, McElwain led the Rams to an 8-6 record last year and has guided them to a 10-2 mark in 2014.

McElroy's assessment carries weight. Before McElwain rescued the Rams from relative obscurity, he was Alabama's offensive coordinator from 2008 to 2011. The Crimson Tide won two national championships in that span.

In light of how offensively challenged the Gators have been under lame-duck, defensive-minded coach Will Muschamp, it seems McElwain is a logical successor. The quick turnaround McElwain engineered at Colorado State bolsters hopes that he can do the same at Florida.

And it will be necessary. In the ultra-competitive SEC, the Gators must recruit top-tier talent and improve on offense in a hurry. Florida's quarterback play has been disappointing, and that's where McElwain figures to help the program most.

Considering the prior success McElwain has enjoyed in the conference as a play-caller, along with the job he's done developing Rams QB Garrett Grayson into one of the nation's most proficient passers this year, the future appears bright for Gator Nation.

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Jim McElwain Will 'Absolutely' Bring Florida Gators Back to National Dominance

The Florida Gators have found their new head coach in Jim McElwain, per Chris Low of ESPN.com. The former Colorado State coach will take over a team rich in talent and a recruiting base that he is familiar with.

Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Michael Felder and Barrett Sallee discuss the hire and what it means for Gator Nation. 

Was this the right hire for Florida?

Check out the video and let us know! 

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Darius Slayton to Georgia: Bulldogs Land 4-Star WR Prospect

Georgia has landed the commitment of Darius Slayton, one of the nation's top two-way threats.

Gentry Estes of 247Sports confirmed the news:

Georgia's 2015 class picked up a highly sought-after addition Thursday morning, as in-state prospect Darius Slayton made a surprise announcement of a commitment to the Bulldogs during his U.S. Army All-American ceremony at Greater Atlanta Christian School.

According to Dawgs247's Rusty Mansell in Norcross, the 6-foot-2, 182-pound Slayton donned a UGA hat and said, "Go Dawgs."

According to 247Sports' composite rankings, Slayton is the 144th-best prospect, the No. 16 player coming out of Georgia and 18th in the wide receiver rankings for the 2015 class.

That final number may be somewhat misleading, though, because he is far more than just a wide receiver. The Greater Atlanta Christian star is perfectly comfortable playing on either side of the ball. In fact, ESPN ranks him as the 20th-best cornerback in the country.

Being a top-20 prospect at two separate positions is quite rare, but the 4-star has earned the distinction:

As a wide receiver, he possesses the speed (4.4 wheels, according to 247Sports) to get behind the defense and the elusiveness to gain yards after the catch.

Defensively, his size (6'2" with length) and experience at wideout make him an instinctive ball hawk, but he is also quite adept and coming up and make plays in the running game.

"He's a talented kid," said Slayton's head coach, Tim Hardy, via AL.com's Wesley Sinor. "He has real long arms and can really run. On the field he has the ability to change directions and makes great plays, so (recruiters) like him at cornerback because of his length and ability."

At just 180 pounds, Slayton still needs to add some bulk to his frame, but that shouldn't serve as much of a problem once he gets acclimated with collegiate facilities.

Finding playing time is never easy for any true freshman, but Slayton has several potential avenues to find a way onto the field in 2015. Even if that doesn't happen, though, he clearly has a very bright future in Athens—no matter where he lines up.

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College Football Playoff 2014: Breaking Down New Format, Bowl Predictions, More

The inaugural College Football Playoff isn't a perfect format for determining a national champion, but it's a whole heck of a lot better than the old way.

Ideally, the top 16 teams would get an opportunity to play for a national championship. Perhaps automatic bids would go to 12 conference champions—yes, even some smaller schools—and then four wild-card slots to ensure the teams that had the best regular seasons were rewarded.

That's a fantasy that may or may not come true in the future. As of now, here's a breakdown of how the top four teams will determine the next national champion.

 

Team Selection Process

Per CollegeFootballPlayoff.com, each of the 13 committee members creates a list of the 25 teams that they regard as the best in the nation. Initially, those teams are unranked and grouped as the 25 best.

If a team is listed three or more times, it remains under consideration. From there, each member lists the six best teams. The six teams that receive the most votes will make up the pool for the first ranking step.

In that step, each member ranks those six teams from one to six. The top team in each member's list receives one point, the second team gets two points and so on.

The members' rankings are added together and the three teams with the fewest amount of points are the top three seeds. The remaining three teams are grouped together for the next step of the ranking process.

Each member will then again list the six best remaining teams without ranking them. The three teams that receive the most votes will then be added to the three that were held over. That step will be repeated until all 25 teams have been seeded.

For the sake of the CFP, only the top four are relevant. Thus, the team receiving the most votes after the members reclassify will become the fourth seed. That rather jumbled process could partially explain why the Florida State Seminoles, the undefeated, defending national champions, fell beneath the TCU Horned Frogs in the latest CFP standings.

The lack of respect for the Noles shined through loud and clear with their demotion. Now that we know how the teams will be picked, here's my prediction for the four teams that will move into the CFP.

 

Why Alabama?

This is pretty simple.

The Alabama Crimson Tide are currently No. 1 and are generally regarded as the best team in the country. Because I don't anticipate them losing to the Missouri Tigers in the SEC Championship game, there's no reason to think they will slip out of the top spot—let alone the top four.

 

Why Oregon?

The Oregon Ducks' situation is similar to Bama's. As a one-loss team currently sitting second in the CFP standings, the Ducks would need to lose to the Arizona Wildcats in the Pac-12 title game to slip.

Here's the difference: the Wildcats already beat Oregon once this season. The 31-24 defeat is Oregon's only blemish, and it came at home where the Ducks are traditionally tough.

Needless to say, it appears Oregon has a tougher game on its hands than Bama, but Marcus Mariota and Co. will relish the opportunity to avenge the only defeat of 2014. I believe in Mariota's leadership and the Ducks' improvement on defense.

In the last four games, Oregon is only allowing 18 points per game. The defense and Mariota will get it done and march the Ducks into the CFP as a No. 2 seed.

 

Why Florida State?

This is a question that really shouldn't require an explanation. If the defending national champions with the same quarterback, head coach and various other key contributors from 2013 go unbeaten, their inclusion in the CFP should be academic.

For whatever reason, that doesn't appear to be the case.

Truth be told, Florida State hasn't really played well this season. Jameis Winston has struggled to protect the ball at times, but all this team has done is win. 

Unless No. 11 Georgia Tech can do what the last 28 opponents couldn't, Florida State should get the No. 3 seed in the final CFP standings.

 

Why Baylor?

The Baylor Bears, TCU and Ohio State Buckeyes all have a shot at grabbing the fourth spot in the CFP. but I'm tabbing Art Briles' team as the squad that will face Alabama.

The Bears won in unconvincing fashion over TCU earlier in the season. The score was 61-58, and most seem to believe the Horned Frogs gave the game away. Whether that's the consensus thought or not, the fact is: Baylor won.

Since both teams have one loss, that should give Baylor the edge. However, that hasn't been the case. TCU is currently ranked ahead of Baylor despite the head-to-head loss.

I predict that will change on Saturday when Baylor defeats the No. 12 Kansas State Wildcats at home. Sure, TCU will likely defeat the lowly Iowa State Cyclones as well, but Baylor's win over a ranked opponent should be more impressive.

That should be enough to make Baylor's win over TCU carry the appropriate weight.

The Buckeyes have to tangle with the No. 14 Wisconsin Badgers on Saturday. Were the Bucks healthy at quarterback, they would likely be the pick here. However, with Cardale Jones pressed into action to replace the injured J.T. Barrett, Ohio State won't have an offense that is effective enough to keep pace with the physical Badgers running game.

Quite simply, Ohio State will lose and fall out of contention for the final CFP spot.

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College Football Championship Week Upset Alert

Heading into championship weekend, all eyes will be on big conference championship games that will inevitably decide the participants in the first ever College Football Playoff. 

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Adam Kramer gives his Top 25 teams that he puts on upset alert. 

Which favorite team is most likely to get upset this weekend?

Watch the video and let us know! 

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Nebraska's Play for Bret Bielema Indicates Cornhuskers Don't Get It

The coaching silly season is a glorious time of year that includes tracking of private airplanes, all-night stakeouts in front of million-dollar homes decked out with enough holiday lights to make Clark Griswold smile and rumors wild enough to make the hottest tabloid.

One rumor that popped up seemingly out of nowhere Wednesday involved the vacant Nebraska head coaching job.

According to FootballScoop.com, Nebraska's first choice to replace Bo Pelini was Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema. The report stated that athletics director Shawn Eichorst had a very short list and that Bielema could, in fact, be the only name on it.

Bielema took to Twitter to shoot down the rumor and then spoke with ESPN.com's Chris Low and he said he's "all Hog."

The fact that this was even an option to begin with indicates that Nebraska has a very skewed view of itself in the current college football landscape.

This isn't 1997. It's 2014. In 2014, the best players, coaches and exposure come in the SEC—yes, even at Arkansas, which isn't the highest-profile program in the conference.

Bielema has spent two seasons struggling for every inch of respect within the SEC, going winless for 13 straight games in the SEC before it finally clicked. When it did, it clicked in a big way. The Razorbacks shut out then-No. 17 LSU 17-0 and then throttled then-No. 8 Ole Miss 30-0 in the month of November to become bowl-eligible for the first time since 2011.

The rebuilding effort is almost complete, and now it's time for Bielema to reap the rewards.

Arkansas has a running back tandem that's second to none in college football and an offensive line that will return four starters from the offensive line that was bigger than any other in football—pro or college—in 2014. The switch to defensive coordinator Robb Smith also paid huge dividends in the month of November.

This is no longer Bobby Petrino's Arkansas program. Bielema has built it into his own, and leaving now would be crazy.

Besides, why go to Nebraska? Pelini never won fewer than nine games in a season at Nebraska—a program that, as B/R's Erin Sorenson pointed out last offseason, shifted its focus beyond the 500-mile radius. 

The reason is simple: It has to.

There were no 4- or 5-star players in the state of Nebraska in the class of 2014 and none in 2015, and there are none so far in the class of 2016. The state of Arkansas has five 4-star prospects in 2015, and all of them are currently committed to the Razorbacks.

Would he have an easier path to the College Football Playoff at Nebraska than he currently has at Arkansas? Sure. But he had the same path at Wisconsin, and he left Madison to go to Fayetteville despite that path.

Bielema has momentum and a better recruiting foundation, and he doesn't have the pressure of winning more than nine games every single year in order to stay employed.

Besides, one of the primary reasons Bielema left Wisconsin for Arkansas in the first place was the lack of money for his assistant coaches, according to Chris Bahn of ArkansasBusiness.com. In 2013, four of Arkansas' assistants were among the top 150 highest-paid assistants in the country, according to the USA Today coaching salary database. Nebraska had one.

Is it harder to win at Arkansas? Yes. It's also a much better job, and—more importantly—it's much easier to stay employed there.

Arkansas is simply a better job than Nebraska.

By a mile.

 

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

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

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Georgia Football: Ranking the 5 Best Moments for the Bulldogs in 2014

As many Georgia Bulldogs fans already know, there is no game for the Bulldogs on Saturday and there won’t be another for at least three more weeks.

But despite the disappointing end to a season of what could have been, the Bulldogs still had more good memoires than bad in 2014. In fact, this season had some players doing things that fans will be talking about for years to come.

So let’s take a look at the five most memorable moments from the Bulldogs this season. 

Begin Slideshow

SEC Championship 2014: Alabama vs. Missouri TV Info, Spread and Injury Updates

Alabama and Missouri are the two that remain among the ashes of the SEC.

Missouri is quietly one of the hottest teams in the nation at the moment. The winner of six straight after a devastating shutout loss to Georgia in mid-October, Gary Pinkel's team plays elite defense and can run with the best in the nation.

Nick Saban's Crimson Tide wound up with just one loss on the year and are assured a spot in the College Football Playoff with a win Saturday. As ESPN's Tony Barnhart points out, the hopes of the SEC in the CFP hinge on Alabama:

One of the most intriguing matchups of the season essentially acts as a quarterfinal for the CFP.

 

Trench Warfare

Alabama has a more prolific offense than most are accustomed to seeing, as Saban's team ranks 20th in the nation with an average of 36.7 points scored per game. 

Behind the arm of quarterback Blake Sims, Alabama has scored more than 50 points three times this season, including last week's thrilling win over Auburn in the Iron Bowl.

That said, both of these teams enjoy the gritty, ground-based approach. Most fans are aware of Alabama's T.J. Yeldon and Derrick Henry, but few realize that Missouri's duo of Russell Hansbrough and Marcus Murphy is just as efficient:

In fact, Missouri is one week removed from beating Arkansas at its own game, rushing for 158 yards and a score and limiting the Razorbacks' brutal ground game to just 155 yards.

An elite defensive line is the key to Missouri's 13th-ranked defense, which allows just 19.7 points per game. End Shane Ray leads the SEC with 12 sacks, while running mate Markus Golden is right behind him with 8.5.

As Dave Matter of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch captures, Golden is particularly motivated for a shot at the Crimson Tide:

The key for Alabama is to properly protect Sims on each down, a focal point that is even more critical with offensive tackle Cam Robinson listed on the injury report.

Alabama also happens to butter its bread on the defense side of things. The nation's sixth-ranked defense allows just 16.9 points per game. For comparison's sake, the unit held that same Arkansas rushing attack to just 89 yards and a score.

As it should, the SEC is going to be a traditional battle won first and foremost in the trenches.

 

Airing Out the Difference

What changes the outcome of this game in an instant is Alabama wideout Amari Cooper.

Sims has been great under center. He has completed 63.1 percent of his passes this year for 2,988 yards and 24 touchdowns to seven interceptions. The rushing totals above are a testament to his ability as one of the nation's best dual-threat players.

But that pales in comparison to what Cooper has done and will do as he marches toward a serious bid for the Heisman Trophy.

Look at it this way. The Crimson Tide as a whole have 245 catches for 3,391 yards and 28 touchdowns this year. Cooper has 103 for 1,573 and 14. As ESPN Stats & Info points out, the record books have been dusted off and have seen fresh ink on their pages:

Missouri has been solid against the pass and ranks 36th with an average of 204.1 yards allowed per game through the air.

But Cooper is a weapon who can take a quick-hitting pass designed to neutralize the rush put on by Ray and Golden and take it the distance. When a defense tightens up against the Alabama rush, Cooper can even act as a pseudo ground game through short passes to move the chains.

Alabama may find itself gridlocked in the trenches, but that is an easy hurdle to overcome if the Missouri secondary cannot contain Cooper.

 

When: Saturday, December 6, 4 p.m. ET

Where: Georgia Dome, Atlanta, Georgia

Television: CBS

Betting Lines (via Odds Shark):

  • Over/Under: 49
  • Spread: Alabama (-14.5)

 

Team Injury Reports

Injury reports per The Sports Network, via USA Today.

 

Prediction

It is easy to overlook Missouri. The nation wrote the Tigers off after a 34-0 loss at the hands of Georgia, but the team has gone on an epic tear and demands attention.

Even quarterback Maty Mauk does not get enough credit for his 22 touchdowns to 11 interceptions this season.

That aside, Alabama is too talented top to bottom to let this one go. All it will take is a few massive plays from Cooper through the air to open things up and suddenly turn Missouri's rushing prowess into a weakness as it is forced to play from behind.

Look for Alabama to pull ahead and stay ahead by halftime, but Missouri will not go away in a quiet manner.

Prediction: Alabama 23, Missouri 20

 

Statistics and info courtesy of ESPN unless otherwise specified.

 

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Bowl Projections 2014: Updated College Playoff Predictions Before Week 15

Only one week separates college football from inevitable history in the making, as the first-ever College Football Playoff field will be set after Week 15.

Just like most expected, the first year of the CFP has already produced endless debates across college football. How valuable truly are head-to-head wins as opposed to more style points? Just how bad of a loss can a team take and still make the cut? 

In the end, the only opinions that matter are those of the committee. And after a huge conference championship weekend, their decisions shouldn't be much easier than they are now.

 

Playoff Projections

Sugar Bowl: No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 TCU

Rose Bowl: No. 2 Oregon vs. No. 3 Florida State

Championship Game (in Arlington, Texas): Sugar Bowl winner vs. Rose Bowl winner

 

Week 15 CFP Rankings and Championship Odds

 

Note: Odds courtesy of Odds Shark, last updated Dec. 3 at 11 p.m. ET

 

The CFP committee sent a very clear message to the Florida State Seminoles in the last rankings of the season before the playoffs are determined. The defending champions were again dropped, this time to fourth (and behind TCU), after an ugly win against Florida to close out the regular season.

But in the ACC Championship Game lies a golden opportunity to at least gain that spot back.

Florida State will face No. 11 Georgia Tech in the title contest, unquestionably one of the best teams it will have played this season and quite possibly the best. Head coach Paul Johnson's dangerous triple-option is just the type of offense that can give the Seminoles fits.

Any win in which the Seminoles don't drag their feet all game long should catapult them back to No. 3, killing a dream matchup with Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, which Yahoo Sports' Dan Wetzel noted:

The 'Noles are far from the only squad on upset alert over the weekend. Out in the West, the Pac-12 Championship Game offers as big of stakes as a conference championship has seen in quite some time.

No. 2 Oregon and No. 7 Arizona will face off, as the Ducks look to avenge their only loss of the season. A victory would clinch their spot in the Top Four, but it could do the very same for two-loss Arizona, according to the USA Today's George Schroeder:

Things will be decided on the field in many of these Power Five championship contests—at least in the Pac-12, Big Ten, ACC and SEC. But out in the Big 12, we're left splitting hairs.

That's because both TCU and Baylor enter the final weekend with just one loss and nearly neck-and-neck in the rankings. The Bears' head-to-head win over the Horned Frogs hasn't seemed to matter much in the committee's eyes.

Baylor remains hopeful of jumping past TCU with a season-ending game against No. 9 Kansas State, which would give them a boost when compared to TCU's game against lowly Iowa State. 

But if the committee hasn't moved Baylor ahead after TCU's ugly win over Kansas, they're not going to with another TCU win.

The Big 12 will indeed get their championship opportunity, but it will be Gary Patterson's Horned Frogs spoiling the CFP party.

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College Football Rankings 2014: Full Top 25 and Playoff Predictions

This is it. Each contending team across the nation has one last chance to prove itself worthy of a spot in the inaugural College Football Playoff. With plenty of conference championship games taking place in Week 15, the Top Four is in no way set in stone.

So, the question on everyone's mind right now is this: What are the chances a certain team advances into the playoff? It's certainly a legitimate inquiry, and while there are no definitive answers at this point, we can speculate and take a glance at probabilities.

Before we delve into some predictions for the four teams that will comprise this year's playoff, here's a look at each team's chance of gaining entry to the playoff and the updated College Football Playoff poll.

The official College Football Playoff poll can be found here.

 

College Football Playoff Predictions

1. Alabama

The Crimson Tide will stroll into the College Football Playoff on the heels of a big win over Missouri in the SEC Championship Game. Alabama matches up very well against the Tigers in practically every phase of the game.

On the offensive side of the ball, Alabama will see more success through the air than any opponent Missouri has faced this season. The Tigers are ranked 35th in the nation against the pass; however, that is a bit skewed due to the fact that they haven't played many passing-oriented teams this season. Taking nothing away from Missouri's secondary, it is very good but hasn't been tested yet.

It will be tested Saturday against the likes of quarterback Blake Sims and Amari Cooper. Sims has been efficient all season. While he did throw three interceptions in the Iron Bowl, he had thrown only four previously this year. Once he turned to his prolific wide receiver, his numbers improved significantly, according to ESPN Stats & Info:

Defensively, Alabama is ranked second in the nation against the run. While Missouri does have two solid backs in Russell Hansbrough and Marcus Murphy, the Tigers will need to gain chunks of yards through the air to find success. That simply isn't likely with a very inconsistent Maty Mauk at the helm.

 

2. Oregon

Oregon will face an extremely difficult test Friday against Arizona. The Wildcats have been a thorn in quarterback Marcus Mariota's side during his time with the Ducks, defeating his team in their last two meetings. However, that will change this time around.

Mariota is arguably the best quarterback in the college ranks right now. He's the Heisman Trophy front-runner and deservedly so. Through 12 games this season, Mariota has tallied 36 passing touchdowns, 11 rushing touchdowns and one receiving touchdown. Oh, and by the way, he's thrown only two interceptions this year.

This is nothing new for the quarterback, as he's been lighting it up for three seasons now. In fact, he recently topped Matt Barkley's Pac-12 record for touchdowns responsible for, according to ESPN Stats & Info:

The most impressive aspect of that record is the fact that Mariota accomplished that mark in three years—it took Barkley four.

Arizona State does have a defense capable of pressuring Mariota. The Wildcats were able to get to the quarterback the last time around, causing game-altering fumbles. However, rest assured the Ducks signal-caller will make the appropriate adjustments to ensure that won't happen this time around.

 

3. TCU

There's really not much that needs to be said in TCU's favor right now. The Horned Frogs are ranked third by the College Football Playoff selection committee, and with a cake game against Iowa State on Saturday, they can cruise to an easy victory and maintain their position in the Top Four.

In fact, due to the impressive play by Trevone Boykin and Co. this season, TCU has enough style points to remain in the playoff picture without a dominating win. If the Horned Frogs just squeeze past the lowly Cyclones, they'll still be favored by the selection committee.

Several analysts have been weighing in on Twitter about TCU's playoff future, and David Ubben of Fox Sports Southwest shared his thoughts:

There will be no surprise result in TCU's contest against Iowa State; therefore, there will be no movement from this No. 3 position heading into the playoff.

 

4. Baylor

Baylor? What about Florida State? The Seminoles are undefeated!

Not after this week.

Let's call a spade a spade: The Seminoles may be undefeated, but they're not as good as their record indicates. They continue to squeeze past unranked opponents and are quickly falling out of favor with the selection committee, dropping to No. 4 despite winning yet again.

So, here's how it's going to go down Saturday.

Florida State is ranked 42nd in the nation against the run but hasn't fared well in that department of late, allowing Florida and Miami some significant running room.

The Seminoles will not be able to stop Georgia Tech's triple option led by quarterback Justin Thomas, allowing the Yellow Jackets to gain an early lead. This time, there will be no fourth-quarter magic for Jameis Winston, as Georgia Tech's running game will kill clock and keep him on the sidelines.

Ohio State is No. 5 heading into Week 15, but it's difficult to see the Buckeyes putting up a victory without quarterback J.T. Barrett at the helm. He's been the reason for most of the team's wins this year, and while Cardale Jones appears talented, he'll have a rough time filling Barrett's shoes, especially against a solid Wisconsin defense.

With Florida State and Ohio State falling out of the mix, Baylor leaps into the Top Four with a big win over No. 9 Kansas State. Bears quarterback Bryce Petty was knocked out of action against Texas Tech with a concussion; however, SportsCenter tweeted some favorable news:

With Petty back in the mix, the Bears have a balanced offense capable of getting around Kansas State's defense. The Wildcats are ranked 56th in the nation against the pass and will have difficulty keeping up with the nation's sixth-ranked aerial attack and top scoring offense.

Baylor doesn't need a huge win to get into the College Football Playoff following a Florida State loss. A victory over a ranked team will do just fine, and that's exactly what will happen.

 

All team rankings and statistics courtesy of NCAA.com and current as of December 3.

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Oklahoma State vs. Oklahoma: TV Info, Spread, Injury Updates, Game Time and More

Both Oklahoma and Oklahoma State have plenty to gain and lose in this edition of the Bedlam Series.

The Sooners are ranked 20th by the College Football Playoff selection committee entering this pivotal week. The way things look right now, they are pegged for the Russell Athletic Bowl. However, if both Baylor and TCU were to sneak into the Top Four, remaining Big 12 teams would get a huge boost, and that could propel Oklahoma into the Alamo Bowl with a victory over its in-state rival.

It's a bit of a different story for the Cowboys, as they currently hold a 5-6 record on the heels of a five-game skid and desperately need an upset victory over the Sooners to gain bowl eligibility. Unfortunately, the history of the Bedlam Series doesn't favor Oklahoma State, via Winsipedia:

Still, this has been an extremely unpredictable college football season, and we've seen stranger things happen.

 

Dealing with Samaje Perine

Oklahoma's freshman ball-carrier wasn't exactly garnering the nation's attention earlier in the season. He had a couple of nice performances, including a 242-yard, four-touchdown showing against West Virginia, but they were mixed in with several outings in which he averaged fewer than 4.0 yards per carry.

That lasted until Oklahoma's most recent game against Kansas. Perine broke loose early and often, gaining 427 rushing yards and five touchdowns on 34 carries, averaging 12.6 yards per rush. That immaculate performance broke Melvin Gordon's single-game rushing record, which the Wisconsin back held for just seven days.

Perine's carries have been all over the place this season. His 34 against Kansas matched his season high, but against Baylor just two weeks prior, he toted the ball only five times. Of course, after his record-breaking day and the absence of quarterback Trevor Knight, he should certainly be in line for more touches.

Backup Cody Thomas will get the start for the Sooners, but after Thomas' three-interception debacle against Texas Tech, head coach Bob Stoops has even more of a reason to rely heavily on the team's running game.

Oklahoma State hasn't been overly successful against the run this season, ranking 50th in the nation, allowing an average of 155.6 yards per game on the ground and a total of 19 rushing touchdowns. In the Cowboys' most recent contest, Baylor's Shock Linwood and Devin Chafin each rushed for over 100 yards. That's not a good sign.

It's simple for Oklahoma here: Control the clock and wear down the Oklahoma State defense by handing Perine the ball early and often.

 

Who Is Oklahoma State's Quarterback?

Oklahoma State has been dealing with a quarterback controversy. Junior Daxx Garman has been at the helm for the majority of the season; however, he hasn't been very efficient. In his nine games this year, he has completed 54.9 percent of his passes for 2,041 yards, 12 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.

The signal-caller was sidelined against Baylor with a concussion, and freshman Mason Rudolph got the start in his stead. While Rudolph put on a performance similar to what Garman had been producing this season—he completed 52.0 percent of his passes for 281 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions—it was a decent showing when you take his inexperience into consideration.

So, will the Cowboys roll with the freshman after a bye week to better prepare for another start, or will Garman regain his role as the starter? Well, based on head coach Mike Gundy's recent comments, it's not too clear, via ESPN's Jake Trotter:

Whoever gets the start will be going up against an Oklahoma pass defense ranked 114th in the nation, allowing an average of 272.6 yards per game and a total of 18 passing touchdowns this season. Opportunities to strike through the air will be readily available.

Gundy had better name his starter in short order, because defeating Oklahoma through the air will be the Cowboys' best hope of coming away with a major upset.

 

When: Saturday, December 6

Where: Memorial Stadium in Norman, Oklahoma

Time: 3:30 p.m. ET

Channel: Fox Sports 1

Live Stream: Fox Sports Go

Betting Lines (via Odds Shark):

  • Over/Under: 59.5
  • Spread: Oklahoma -20

 

Team Injury Reports

Injury reports per The Sports Network, via USA Today.

 

Prediction

The quarterback position for each team is a huge concern. Neither backup has proved to be a viable option under center in his early career, and that's a severe disadvantage for both offenses, as neither defense has been able to contain the pass this season.

However, ultimately, the advantage goes to Oklahoma. With Perine in the fold, the Sooners have the ability to rely on an excellent ball-carrier who is durable enough to shoulder the workload throughout the full 60 minutes. Oklahoma State simply doesn't have that kind of threat.

Expect another big day for Perine as the Sooners run through the Cowboys defense en route to yet another win in the Bedlam Series.

Prediction: Oklahoma 34, Oklahoma State 17

 

All team rankings and statistics courtesy of NCAA.com and current as of December 3.

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Iowa State vs. TCU: TV Info, Spread, Injury Updates, Game Time and More

TCU saw a jump to No. 3 overall upon the release of the Week 15 College Football Playoff poll. However, the Horned Frogs are still in a tight race with several other contenders, and a big performance against Iowa State is necessary to secure a playoff berth.

Analysts are already looking into TCU's future, and Dan Wolken of USA Today tweeted his thoughts:

While the Cyclones are just 2-9 overall and 0-8 in the Big 12 this season, it would be foolish of TCU to look past its impending opponent. Iowa State has come close to upsetting several teams this season, losing to Kansas State, Texas and Texas Tech by four points or fewer.

Plenty of contending teams across the nation will be waiting to see how this game unfolds.

 

Aerial Battle

Obviously, the Cyclones will have their hands full keeping up with TCU's third-ranked scoring offense. However, if they're going to make a game of it, it will be on the arm of quarterback Sam Richardson.

Richardson's had his moments this season, but he's struggled at times as well. His roller-coaster year has led to a 57.9 completion percentage, 2,517 yards, 18 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He isn't much of a threat to run, but he can scramble when necessary, racking up 435 rushing yards and three scores on the ground.

The junior signal-caller will get his chances against a TCU defense ranked 92nd in the nation against the pass, allowing an average of 250.6 yards per game and a total of 17 passing touchdowns this season. Richardson will need to be in top form to compete with Horned Frogs quarterback Trevone Boykin.

Boykin has looked like one of the nation's premier quarterbacks at times this year. His seven-touchdown game against Texas Tech showed what he can do when everything is clicking. On the season, Boykin has completed 59.3 percent of his passes for 3,254 yards, 26 touchdowns and six interceptions. He's also rushed for 598 yards and eight scores.

Expect the junior to have a nice day against an Iowa State pass defense that ranks 102nd in the nation, allowing an average of 260.6 passing yards per game and giving up a total of 15 scores through the air this year.

 

Start Fast

This goes for both teams and both quarterbacks.

Boykin and the Horned Frogs received their biggest scare this season from an unranked opponent on November 15 against Kansas. The Jayhawks jumped out to an early lead and were able to stay out in front by a 10-point margin midway through the third quarter. Late-game heroics, including a punt returned for a touchdown, saw TCU pull off the comeback win.

In that contest, Boykin began the game with a touchdown drive but started to falter soon after, scoring just a field goal for the remainder of the first half. Should he falter once again, that will open the door for Iowa State's signal-caller, who has thrown five touchdown passes and zero interceptions in the first quarter of games this season.

That's also the reason the Cyclones need to start fast, however.

Keeping up with TCU is a challenge in itself, but it becomes even tougher when you're playing from behind. This year, Richardson has not been an efficient passer when trailing in games. Here's a look at his splits:

One of the most telling statistics is that four of Richardson's five interceptions when trailing have come when his team is behind by seven points or fewer. Those mistakes in a close game against TCU will cost the Cyclones dearly.

Getting points on the board in a hurry will be key for Iowa State to force an upset and for TCU to prevent one.

 

When: Saturday, December 6

Where: Amon G. Carter Stadium in Fort Worth, Texas

Time: 12 p.m. ET

Channel: ABC

Live Stream: WatchESPN

Betting Lines (via Odds Shark):

  • Over/Under: 68
  • Spread: TCU -34

 

Team Injury Reports

Injury reports per The Sports Network, via USA Today.

 

Prediction

A whole lot has to go right for Iowa State, and a whole lot has to go wrong for TCU, for this game to end in an upset. The Horned Frogs have run an extremely potent offense this season, averaging 46.1 points per game, and they are coming off a road contest against Texas in which they scored 48.

The team's defense is slightly underrated as well, ranking 26th in the nation in points allowed. Much of that has to do with the team's 18th-ranked run defense, which is giving up an average of 120.1 yards per game while allowing just 3.01 yards per carry.

A prolific TCU offense will score early and often, while a stout run defense will force the Cyclones to run a one-dimensional scheme, making it very difficult to get points on the board. Expect the Horned Frogs to win in a rout.

Prediction: TCU 48, Iowa State 14

 

All team rankings and statistics courtesy of NCAA.com and current as of December 3.

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Pac-12 Championship 2014: Arizona vs. Oregon TV Info, Spread and Injury Updates

Friday's Pac-12 Championship Game between No. 2 Oregon and No. 7 Arizona isn't officially a national quarterfinal, but it sure feels like one.

The Ducks are all but guaranteed a College Football Playoff spot if they avenge their early-season defeat to the Wildcats. Meanwhile, Rich Rodriguez's two-loss Arizona team would have an awfully convincing case to make the leap if they toppled mighty Oregon twice in one year—once in their house and once on a neutral field. 

Might as well call it like it is, as The Associated Press' Antonio Gonzalez did:

You'd have to go back a good bit to find a Pac-12 title game with such high stakes for both sides. 

 

When: Friday, Dec. 5

Where: Levi's Stadium, Santa Clara, California

Start Time: 9 p.m. ET

TV: Fox

Odds (via Odds Shark): Oregon -14.5, over/under 73.5

 

Preparing for the Storm

In the first meeting between these two teams, it was like Oregon knew what was coming but just couldn't stop it.

The option with redshirt freshman Anu Solomon was the key in Arizona's offensive attack in a 31-24 win at Autzen Stadium. Although not a big rushing threat, Solomon can choose to pitch it out wide to either Terris Jones-Grigsby or Nick Wilson (who combined for 204 rushing yards) or hit a cutting receiver.

He chose well against the Ducks, as he has all season with 27 passing touchdowns to just seven picks. After an injury scare in a win over Utah, he bounced back for a heroic performance against Arizona State to get to Friday's rematch.

Although Solomon is a freshman, he hardly plays like it as Oregon wide receiver Johnathan Loyd told The Oregonian's Andrew Greif: "He always carried himself not like a freshman, like he'd been there a few years already. It was a new offense and he picked it up like that and obviously he ran with it."

While Solomon's decision-making has been crucial, the play of his backs has been even bigger. Wilson is coming off performances of 178 yards and 218 yards, averaging almost 10 yards per carry in that span.

Oregon's defense knows that the storm is coming again, but will it be ready to right its wrongs from the last time around?

 

Battle of Heisman Contenders

A player on one side of the field is looking to lock up his Heisman Trophy campaign, while another contender is hoping to spoil the party en route to his own trip to New York City.

The former is Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, the front-runner, and the latter is Arizona linebacker Scooby Wright III. The two are long-time enemies on the gridiron, with Wright often getting the best of Mariota.

Take the last two times these two have played. In 2013, Wright picked off Mariota en route to a 42-16 Wildcats win, and this year, Wright's strip-sack of Mariota sealed Arizona's win. 

Of course, it's well documented how dominant Oregon's offense has been since. It has scored 42 or more in each of its seven games since the Arizona loss, winning all of its games by double-digit margins.

Oregon's defense obviously has its hands full with Arizona's option attack, but Mariota and the offense aren't short on confidence, per The Associated Press (via ArizonaSports.com):

"We're just going to play our game. Arizona did a great job setting and dictating tempo in the last meeting. If we go out and execute to the best of our abilities and execute the game plans that are put in front of us, we should hopefully be successful."

If they are indeed successful, Mariota will likely be wrapping up his Heisman case, but if Wright has himself another big day against his longtime nemesis, he should at least get an invite to the Big Apple.

None of that will be on either player's mind, however, with a CFP spot on the line.

 

Team Injury Reports

Injury reports courtesy of The Sports Network, via USA Today.

 

Prediction

When you add Oregon's unstoppable offense to the undeniable chip on most of its players' shoulders, the results should be convincing.

Not only should Mark Helfrich's squad be energized from the get-go, but it's also playing at a completely different level than when these two teams last met. The Ducks offensive line was a mess, but it has since founds its way; Mariota's play proves it.

Arizona won't have too much trouble finding scoring drives in the early goings, but an offensive onslaught in the third quarter from Oregon will be too much to overcome.

Prediction: Oregon 44, Arizona 27

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Kansas State vs. Baylor: TV Info, Spread, Injury Updates, Game Time and More

This contest has some severe College Football Playoff implications. The Baylor Bears are currently the nation's No. 6 seed; however, if a pair of teams ranked ahead of them falter, they could be in line to sneak into the Top Four with a big win. But the Bears can't be caught looking ahead, as the No. 9 Kansas State Wildcats are a well-rounded team and will be a very formidable opponent.

There's already an ongoing debate surrounding Baylor's future following a victory in this contest, and Clay Travis of Fox Sports 1 tweeted his thoughts:

Whether you agree with Travis or not, he poses an interesting theory. However, before everyone gets ahead of themselves, there's absolutely no guarantee of a Bears victory over the Wildcats. After all, Kansas State has plenty to play for, as it is looking for a potential berth in either the Cotton or Fiesta Bowl.

 

Containing Bryce Petty

Baylor owns the nation's top-ranked offense, averaging 49.8 points per game, and one of the biggest reasons for that is the play of its quarterback. Petty has been lighting up opposing defenses all season long, completing 59.3 percent of his passes for 2,893 yards, 25 touchdowns and five interceptions. This do-it-all quarterback has even recorded four rushing touchdowns.

While the senior signal-caller's status for this contest was in doubt for most of the early week, a tweet from SportsCenter relayed some good news for Baylor:

Stopping Petty is nearly impossible, so Kansas State's game plan must revolve around containing the prolific signal-caller. After all, that is doable.

Before they're able to contain Petty, the Wildcats must slow down Baylor's running game. Kansas State has the tools to do just that, ranking 19th in the nation against the run while allowing just 3.63 yards per carry and just nine total rushing touchdowns this season. When West Virginia held running back Shock Linwood to just 3.3 yards per carry in a win over Baylor this year, the offense became one-dimensional, and Petty struggled.

However, that may not be an easy feat, as Linwood has been very good of late, coming off a 158-yard, two-touchdown performance against Texas Tech. Still, controlling the running game will be a big part of keeping Petty from putting up some gaudy numbers. One Baylor's backfield is slowed down, Kansas State can sit back against the pass more frequently, providing plenty of much-needed help to its 56th-ranked secondary.

 

Get Jake Waters Going Early

Waters is a quarterback who feeds off momentum. When he begins a game in stride, he'll continue on a torrid pace until the final whistle is blown. That was exactly the case during the team's most recent victory over West Virginia, as Waters quickly put points on the board and wound up finishing the game completing 21 of his 27 passing attempts for 294 yards and four touchdowns while adding 21 rushing yards and another score on the ground.

Those are the kind of numbers that will allow the Wildcats to force an upset.

Conversely, when Waters struggles out of the gate, things can get ugly in a hurry for Kansas State. When the team played TCU earlier this season, quarterback Trevone Boykin quickly got his team out to a 24-7 lead. That forced Waters to throw more often and kept him from becoming a threat to run. He completed 20 of his 37 passing attempts for 291 yards, two touchdowns and one interception, adding seven carries for just two yards.

If Waters is sluggish in the game's opening quarter and allows Petty to gain a similar early lead, Kansas State's dreams of an upset victory and top-tier bowl game will go up in smoke.

When looking over Waters' numbers this season, it's also clear he's not a comeback artist. During the first three quarters of games in 2014, he's thrown 17 touchdown passes and just one interception. In the fourth quarter, he's tossed just one touchdown pass and three picks.

Waters will have his chances to pick apart Baylor's 100th-ranked pass defense, and he must take advantage.

 

When: Saturday, December 6

Where: McLane Stadium in Waco, Texas

Time: 7:45 p.m. ET

Channel: ESPN

Live Stream: WatchESPN

Betting Lines (via Odds Shark):

  • Over/Under: 66
  • Spread: Baylor -9

 

Team Injury Reports

Injury reports per The Sports Network, via USA Today.

 

Prediction

We're certainly in for a high-scoring affair on Saturday. While Kansas State does have a respectable defense, it is up against the nation's biggest offensive powerhouse. On the flip side, the Bears don't have the strongest defensive personnel and could allow some big points to Waters, who is riding some nice momentum following a couple of solid performances.

However, when we begin to speak in terms of shootouts, it's simply too difficult to go against Petty and the Bears. This team firmly established itself as the nation's best shootout artist after winning a 61-58 barnburner over TCU this season. If this game takes on a similar trend, we'll get a similar result.

Kansas State is a very good football team and will make a game of this one. However, the way things look right now, the Wildcats' best chance of a victory is if Petty isn't able to pass the concussion protocol and is forced to sit out. That doesn't appear likely.

Prediction: Baylor 48, Kansas State 38

 

All team rankings and statistics courtesy of NCAA.com and current as of December 3.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

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