NCAA Football News

No. 1 Recruit Josh Sweat Changes Official Visits Plan

The No. 1 prospect in the 2015 recruiting class, Josh Sweat, has rearranged the schedule by which he will visit colleges.

Sweat is a 6'5", 240-pound defensive end from Chesapeake, Virginia, who dislocated his left knee in September and will miss the rest of his senior season to recover. According to his 247Sports timeline, he was previously scheduled to visit Virginia Tech Sept. 20, Georgia Oct. 4, Florida State Oct. 17 and Oregon Nov. 1., but the injury forced him to change things up.

Per Evan Watkins of 247Sports, Sweat's new schedule, which no longer includes a trip to Oregon, looks like this:

Sweat is not a heavy favorite to land at any one school. His predictions fall across the board on the 247Sports "Crystal Ball," with Florida State (41 percent) and Virginia Tech (38 percent) sitting a few lengths ahead of Ohio State and Georgia (nine percent apiece).

Sweat saw Virginia Tech beat Ohio State on his official visit to Columbus in Week 2 and has an obvious tie to his home-state school. The Hokies were once a massive favorite to land him, and although things have gotten ambiguous these past six months, the fact that they are now Sweat's last official visit might prove beneficial.

In the past three recruiting classes, three defensive ends have ranked No. 1 or No. 2 on the 247Sports Composite rankings.

The first of those players was Jadeveon Clowney, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft. The second of those players was Robert Nkemdiche, who is well on his way to an All-American season for Ole Miss. And the third of those players was Myles Garrett, who ranks No. 4 in the country with 7.5 sacks as a true freshman at Texas A&M.

To wit, there's a reason people are obsessing over Sweat's recruitment. He looked like a man among boys at Nike's "The Opening" this summer, clocking a 4.46 in the 40-yard dash. Defensive players as big and strong as Sweat are not supposed to be able to do that.

"I thought I could have jumped a little higher," Sweat told MaxPreps host Chris Stonebraker after posting a 39-inch vertical and finishing second in the SPARQ National Championship. He's a player for whom second-best will never be enough. Combining such an attitude with Clowney-esque physical tools is rare and, admittedly, terrifying.

Chime in below and let us know where you think Sweat should play.

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Notre Dame vs. FSU: Which Heisman Contender QB Will Lead Their Team to Victory?

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish travel to Tallahassee, Florida, for their first true road game of the season when they take on the reigning national champions, the Florida State Seminoles.

Not only does this game feature two Heisman Trophy contenders, but it has major implications on the College Football Playoff picture.

Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Barrett Sallee and Adam Kramer break down the important matchup of the two superpowers.

Who will come out on top? Watch the video and let us know!  

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Watch the Best Tip-Drill Catch You'll See All Week

At Dallas Christian High School in Dallas, Texas, junior wide receiver Jacob Yarbrough makes an improbable catch off a ball that was tipped up by the defender. Watch this incredible play! 

Was this the best high school catch you've seen this year?

Watch the video and let us know!

 

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Nate Sudfeld Injury: Updates on Indiana QB's Shoulder and Recovery

Indiana's season took a turn for the worse on Monday, as quarterback Nate Sudfeld has been lost for the season.

David Woods of The Indianapolis Star passed along the following update from coach Kevin Wilson:

Pete DiPrimio of the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel has more:

Sudfeld was having a solid season, having thrown for 1,151 yards, six touchdowns and three interceptions, while also rushing for 98 yards and two scores. It's a disappointing turn for the junior, who was developing nicely but will now have to wait until his senior season to get back onto the field.

 

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Which LSU Legend Does 5-Star WR Tyron Johnson Resemble?

Tyron Johnson—a 5-star wide receiver, per the 247Sports composite rankings—is an amazing athlete.

With so many schools campaigning for Johnson's services, Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder takes a look at which former LSU WR most closely resembles Johnson's game.

How well would Johnson fit in with the LSU offense?

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What's Wrong with Lane Kiffin's Alabama Offense?

First-year Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin was the talk of T-Town during the first month of the season, as his offense—with first-year starter Blake Sims at quarterback—gained more than 530 yards in each of the first four games of the year.

Now? Not so much.

The Crimson Tide have managed just 623 total yards over the last two games, a 23-17 loss at Ole Miss and Saturday's 14-13 win at Arkansas.

The offensive problems have spawned fantastic images of Kiffin and head coach Nick Saban on the sideline, like this one from Saturday:

What's the problem with Kiffin's offense?

 

Offensive Line Woes

Alabama's offensive line is a far cry from the one in 2012 that plowed the road for running backs Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon.

There's no guard who can plow the road like Chance Warmack did for the 2012 Tide. Leon Brown, Alphonse Taylor and Arie Kouandjio, in fact, have been liabilities in the running game, missing assignments and committing too many false start penalties.

Prior to the Arkansas game, SEC Network's Joe Tessitore (h/t Bo Mattingly of Sports Talk with Bo) commented on just how this offensive line stacks up to those of the past:

Junior center Ryan Kelly's absence last week due to a sprained ankle only contributed to the line's inconsistencies. As the "quarterback" of the offensive line, it's Kelly's job to get the line on the same page at the line of scrimmage.

It wasn't last week, which is big reason why the Crimson Tide managed just 66 rushing yards against an Arkansas defense that gave up 137 or more in each of its two previous conference games.

Alabama's offense has committed 39 penalties this year. Based on AL.com's count of the first four games and Alabama's play-by-play of the last two, 17 of those are on the offensive line or tight ends who stayed in as blockers.

The lack of communication and discipline of the offensive line has been setting the offense back and forcing Kiffin and Sims to be more predictable.

A predictable offense is a stagnant offense, which has been a big problem for 'Bama over the last two weeks.

 

Absence of a True Weapon Not Named Amari Cooper

If there was a real criticism of Sims over the first four weeks, it's that he didn't develop a chemistry with a receiver other than star junior Amari Cooper. Cooper averaged 10.75 receptions per game over the first four weeks, topping the 130-yard mark in each of those contests.

He has only—which is a relative term considering how good Cooper is—managed 11 total catches and 113 yards combined in the two games since then.

Ole Miss' secondary was talented enough to take away the threat of Cooper getting loose deep and fundamentally sound enough to prevent those yards after catch that Cooper has become known for.

Against Arkansas, Cooper only caught two passes and was in and out of the game with a shoulder injury, according to AL.com's Michael Casagrande.

Part of the reason for Sims not connecting with another option outside was the shoulder injury to DeAndrew White, who went out during the season opener vs. West Virginia and missed the next two games. White caught a team-high four passes for 33 yards and a touchdown against the Hogs, which was a game played in rainy conditions in Fayetteville.

Sims, Kiffin and the rest of the offense certainly didn't benefit from White being out during games against Florida Atlantic and Southern Miss, which would've been the perfect time for White and Sims to gel and take some pressure off Cooper.

 

Keeping It Simple

The biggest problem that Kiffin's offense has faced over these last two weeks has been expectations.

During the first three weeks of the season, he employed a rather conservative game plan as Sims got his feet wet as the starting quarterback in Tuscaloosa. In the fourth game, Sims and Kiffin let things fly.

Sims threw for 445 yards and four touchdowns, and the Crimson Tide amassed 672 yards and 7.72 yards per play against what typically is a stout Gator defense. Florida had some personnel issues in the secondary at the time, but that game opened the eyes of Kiffin, Saban and the rest of 'Bama nation during the bye week.

The conservative game plan came back against Ole Miss and Arkansas, which might have come as a shock.

It shouldn't have.

Sims was making his first true road start against the Rebels, who—statistics aside—should be considered one of the best defenses in the entire country. Going conservative wasn't the worst idea. It just might have been a little too conservative, which allowed Ole Miss to hang around and ultimately spring the upset.

Arkansas has been susceptible to the pass, but considering Cooper got banged up and the weather wasn't great, a sloppy game shouldn't be the most concerning thing in the world.

The bottom line is the Tide went in, did what they needed to do and got the win.

Alabama's offense is not going to be wide open all the time. Former quarterback AJ McCarron told Tide 99.1 FM last week that Saban "handcuffs" his offensive coordinators, which is a poor choice of words. He does, however, want to play a more conservative brand of football when appropriate, and it was appropriate vs. the Rebels and Hogs for two different reasons.

Sometimes it's better to go old school, as D.C. Reeves of TideSports.com notes:

It isn't permanent.

Alabama plays Texas A&M this week, and that Aggie pass defense (222.1 yards allowed per game) isn't exactly the most feared group in the SEC. What's more, Texas A&M has the weapons on offense to put pressure on Alabama's cornerbacks and force this game into a shootout.

If that happens, Kiffin will be just fine. He's done it before and he'll do it again—just not as often as he'd probably like.

 

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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Samuel Chi's Mock College Football Playoff Standings: Week 8

One Mississippi. Two Mississippi.

For the first time since...well, ever, the state of Mississippi is the epicenter of college football. In the latest AP poll, Mississippi State is No. 1 while Ole Miss checks in at No. 3, trailing defending national champion Florida State by just 2 points.

In the latest mock College Football Playoff standings, the two Mississippi teams have distanced themselves from the rest. The possibility exists now that half of the inaugural playoff field will be taken by the teams from the Magnolia State.

The SEC West continues to dominate the standings, with the top three spots all taken by teams from that division and also four of the top six. While the battle of attrition will continue, the teams from the states of Mississippi and Alabama have now separated themselves from the others. But against teams from outside of the division, the SEC West maintains a perfect 26-0 record.

In two weeks, the selection committee will unveil its first-ever rankings. What exactly that will look like will be anyone's guess. But it should not be surprising that it will bear a striking resemblance to our mock standings.

 

The Rankings

(See methodology of standings)

 

The Playoff Teams

1. Mississippi State

The Bulldogs defeated last week's No. 1 Auburn to ascend to the top of the standings, and it looks like they may stay there for a bit. While its schedule doesn't get considerably easier, its next real test likely won't come until Nov. 15 at Alabama.

Projected bowl: Playoff at Sugar Bowl

 

4. Florida State

Just like last season, the Seminoles are cruising through the ACC while teams in other conferences begin to kill each other off. But this week they'll meet their stiffest challenge and one team that might torpedo their chances of repeating as national champs. Notre Dame arrives in Tallahassee undefeated, with hopes of repeating its own dream season of 2012.

Projected bowl: Playoff at Rose Bowl

 

2. Ole Miss

Unlike their intrastate rivals, the Rebels won't have much of a breather in October, especially with a visit to Death Valley and then a visit from Auburn in back-to-back weeks. But if Ole Miss can get through these hurdles, it has a much more benign November schedule before hosting the all-important Egg Bowl.

Projected bowl: Playoff at Rose Bowl

 

5. Baylor 

On the brink of being eliminated from playoff contention, the Bears mounted a furious 24-point rally to defeat TCU. Baylor's lackluster nonconference resume, combined with a seemingly blowout loss at home, would've been enough to send it tumbling down the rankings. The Bears still have the weakest strength of schedule among top teams, but that will matter less as long as they can continue to defeat their Big 12 foes.

Projected bowl: Playoff at Sugar Bowl

 

 

First Four Out

3. Auburn

The Tigers' loss at Mississippi State isn't a deal-breaker, as they still have a chance to play their way back into the playoff field. The problem is that their schedule simply doesn't let up. After a bye week, they'll face South Carolina, Ole Miss, Texas A&M and Georgia in consecutive weeks, with the latter three ranked in the Top 13 of our standings. And then there's the pesky little game called the Iron Bowl after all that.

Projected bowl: Orange Bowl

 

6. Alabama

The Crimson Tide barely escaped Arkansas, needing a blocked PAT to squeeze out a 1-point win over the Hogs. Shockingly (but unsurprising for those who have followed the polls for years), they were not punished at all by the voters. Alabama is very much trading on its reputation at the point, as it has beaten zero ranked teams so far.

Projected bowl: Cotton Bowl

 

7. Notre Dame

The Irish survived a sloppy game against North Carolina and now have grand hopes of pulling off an upset in Tallahassee to get into the College Football Playoff field. One word of caution, though: The visit to Doak Campbell will be its first true road game of the season, as Notre Dame's previous two games away from South Bend were played at neutral sites. 

Projected bowl: Peach Bowl

 

8. Oklahoma

Baylor's comeback win over TCU gave Oklahoma a reprieve, as it can now win the Big 12 without any outside help. The Sooners have the schedule on their side, as their toughest opponents—Kansas State, Baylor and Oklahoma State—will all have to visit Norman.

Projected bowl: Cotton Bowl

 

Other Fun Facts

* Inexplicably, Michigan State is still ranked ahead of Oregon in both polls despite both teams being 5-1 and Oregon having soundly defeated MSU 46-27 earlier in the season. If the selection committee is worth its salt, its rankings should be radically different from the polls. The Ducks should be in a better position to enter the playoff field if those two teams finish the season with identical records while winning their respective conference titles.

* But outside of Oregon, the Pac-12's prospects of landing a team in the playoff field have dimmed considerably. The conference now has no unbeaten team and only the Ducks in the Top 15 of the rankings. It's likely that the Pac-12 champion will be a two-loss team and that probably won't be good enough to land in the playoff. 

* East Carolina continues to hold the pole position for the group-of-five bid, but a new threat now emerges in Colorado State. Like ECU, the Rams own two victories over power-five teams—against Colorado and at Boston College, the latter something that USC couldn't do. If it can win the Mountain West without another loss, CSU will warrant major consideration. For now, undefeated Marshall is probably the only other team in the conversation.

 

Follow on Twitter @ThePlayoffGuru 

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Auburn Football: Adjustments Tigers Must Make During Their Bye Week

AUBURN, Ala. — When it comes to the SEC and national-championship picture, the Auburn Tigers are down, but they're not out.

Coming off of a 38-23 loss at new No. 1 Mississippi State, Auburn will try to rebound in a similar fashion to its 2013 run to the BCS National Championship Game following a road loss at LSU.

And just like they had last season, the Tigers have an off week to correct their mistakes from the defeat at the hands of the Bulldogs.

"We’re halfway through the season," offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee said Sunday night. "[The bye week] allows us to slow down really tonight, tomorrow and maybe even some on Tuesday and really look at ourselves... and try to say 'OK, with what we have and the way our team’s kind of forming and becoming, here’s the direction we need to really try to focus on to get the most out of what we have to give us a best chance to win.'"

After Sunday's film session and two coordinator press conferences, here is a look at four adjustments the Tigers' coaching staff will be looking at during the bye week.

Begin Slideshow

The 3 Biggest X-Factors for Notre Dame vs. Florida State

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — The time has finally come for Notre Dame football to face Florida State in one of the biggest regular-season matchups for the Irish in nearly 20 years.

It’s No. 5 Notre Dame traveling to Tallahassee, Florida, to square off with No. 2 Florida State. The Seminoles opened up as 12-point favorites, per Odds Shark, at Doak Campbell Stadium. Let’s take a look at the key factors for the prime-time tilt.

 

Quarterback Showdown

It begins and ends with quarterback play, and Jameis Winston and Everett Golson present a fascinating matchup. Both quarterbacks have experienced remarkable success early in their careers.

Winston, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, is completing 70 percent of his passes and has tossed 11 touchdowns and five interceptions.

“He's a very accurate thrower of the football, doesn't rattle, is an extremely confident player,” Irish head coach Brian Kelly said Sunday of Winston. “You can see that he's the leader of that offense, and he makes it happen. He's very gifted, and he's a very, very accomplished quarterback in a very, very short period of time.”

Golson, meanwhile, has had an up-and-down stretch recently. On the one hand, his early-season play vaulted him among the top five or so candidates for the Heisman. But nine turnovers over a three-game span have quelled some of the buzz.

“We look at them and we go back to work and find ways to secure the football and do a better job,” Kelly said Sunday of the turnovers.

The game’s outcome won’t rest solely on the quarterbacks’ shoulders, obviously—Notre Dame’s defense will need to be sharp—but Golson cannot continue to cough the ball up. Winston and the Seminoles figure to be quick to translate Irish miscues into easy offense.

 

Notre Dame’s Secondary

As Kelly mentioned Sunday, the Irish were thinned out in the secondary Saturday against North Carolina, and the Tar Heels’ uptempo attack didn’t help. North Carolina quarterback Marquise Williams threw for 303 yards and two touchdowns in the losing effort.

“When it's settled down a little bit and these guys can get their eyes on what the formation looks like, they're okay,” Kelly said of the defense after Saturday’s win, per Notre Dame's athletics website. “We got to get better at that. But that's an inexperienced group that you saw out there today and they've got to get better.”

Notre Dame’s secondary will be tested against the Seminoles. In particular, Irish defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder and the defensive backs must find a way to contain Florida State star wide receiver Rashad Greene. The senior has snagged 44 receptions for 683 yards and three touchdowns this season.

“Obviously a guy that can stretch the field vertically, and they're not afraid to throw it against anybody,” Kelly said. “Just a great, great weapon.”

Irish cornerbacks Cody Riggs and Cole Luke must be on top of their games against Greene. Riggs, who was banged up briefly Saturday, should be ready for the Seminoles, and Luke has steadily improved through the first half of the season.

Communication from safeties Max Redfield and Elijah Shumate will be important, especially with graduate student captain Austin Collinsworth out with a dislocated shoulder.

 

Special Teams

It sounds simple, but special teams play will be crucial in Tallahassee. Two of the top kickers in the country will have their say in Saturday’s outcome with Notre Dame’s Kyle Brindza opposing Florida State’s Roberto Aguayo, the reigning Lou Groza Award winner.

Aguayo is a perfect 13-of-13 this season on field goals, and he’s a reliable safety valve for the Florida State offense.

Notre Dame’s return units have stagnated since a startling start against Rice. The Irish rank 108th in the country (out of 128 teams), per CFBStats.com, averaging 18.54 yards per kick return. If the Irish can gain an edge in the field-position battle, it will help take the defense out of “vulnerable positions,” something Kelly talked about as being an issue against the Tar Heels.

 

All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

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

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AP College Football Poll 2014: Official Top-25 Rankings and Week 8 Projections

It’s not every day that the No. 1 team in the country wins by three scores and still falls in the Associated Press Poll, but that is exactly what happened in Week 7 of the college football season.

Florida State handled Syracuse, but Mississippi State was more impressive in a critical victory over Auburn. What’s more, Ole Miss controlled its game against Texas A&M and earned the No. 3 spot in that AP Poll.

Here is a look at the latest AP rankings:

You will read plenty of projections on the biggest games on the Week 8 schedule, like Florida State against Notre Dame, so here is a look at some of the under-the-radar contests that could shape the college football narrative moving forward.

 

Week 8 Projections 

Utah at Oregon State

While all the talk about the Pac-12 this season has centered on Oregon, UCLA, USC, Stanford, Arizona and even Arizona State, Utah has quietly played its way into the conference race.

The Utes turned some heads in nonconference play when it completely controlled the game at Michigan and then surprised the league when they walked into UCLA and picked up a dramatic road game.

Now Utah is ranked, but it needs to deliver at Oregon State. This is the second game in a brutal seven-game stretch where the Utes play UCLA, Oregon State, USC, Arizona State, Oregon, Stanford and Arizona all in a row.

The key here will be the balanced offensive attack of Utah going up against a beatable Oregon State defense. The Utes average 217.8 passing yards and 202.2 rushing yards a game and should have their way against a Beavers defense that gave up a combined 66 points the last two weeks to USC and Colorado.

Oregon State also allowed 30 points to Hawaii and won’t get any breaks in the turnover department from Utah, as Adam Rittenberg of ESPN noted:

Oregon State will score some points, but Utah’s offense is simply too much in this one. 

Prediction: Utah 38, Oregon State 28

 

Baylor at West Virginia 

If there was ever a letdown game on the schedule for Baylor, it will be at West Virginia Saturday.

For one, it is almost impossible to expect the Bears to be emotionally ready to go again after their dramatic 21-point comeback against TCU in a top-10 showdown. Baylor is officially in the College Football Playoff discussion, but it has to bring the same intensity every week.

West Virginia is a sneaky team that gave Alabama all it could handle and hung with Oklahoma for four quarters. What’s more, the crowd will be rocking with a top-five opponent in the house and a chance to make an impact in the Big 12 race.

Baylor will get off to a slow start in this one. It is a noon kickoff the week after one of the most important and emotional wins in program history, and it will take a quarter or so to get into the flow.

That alone will keep it close, but the Bears offense will prove to be too much for West Virginia. The Mountaineers are 72nd in the nation in points allowed per game, while Baylor leads the nation in scoring and averages 371 passing yards per game.

It is simply too much to ask of that West Virginia defense to contain the Bears attack for an entire four quarters. This one will be closer than the final score indicates, but Baylor will pick up yet another victory.

Baylor 45, West Virginia 31

 

Washington at Oregon 

Washington and its fans would love nothing more than to knock Oregon out of the College Football Playoff race, and this is the chance.

However, the Huskies’ 5-1 record is a bit misleading, because those victories came against Hawaii, Eastern Washington, Illinois, Georgia State and California. That Eastern Washington game came down to the final moments and finished with a 59-52 score.

If Eastern Washington is putting up 52 points against the Huskies, Marcus Mariota could have himself a day.

Interestingly, Washington coach Chris Petersen and Oregon coach Mark Helfrich were together on Oregon’s staff in 1997. Helfrich discussed their relationship, via Tyson Alger of The Oregonian, "The guy is a lifelong friend of mine and that won't change. I know that's going to make both of our fanbases very unhappy."

Oregon’s fanbase won’t be that unhappy when the Ducks offense carves up Washington’s vulnerable defense.

Oregon has had problems protecting Mariota, but the Huskies are not the team to take advantage of that for an entire four quarters. What’s more, Oregon will be at home, where it rarely ever loses, and still controls its Pac-12 destiny.

This may be a rivalry game, but the Huskies simply don’t have the personnel on defense to contain Oregon’s high-power attack the whole game. 

Prediction: Oregon 41, Washington 24

 

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Bowl Predictions 2014: Updated Projections Following Week 7

Week 7 of the college football season served to highlight one strange truth about 2014—the state of Mississippi is king. 

Just one week after Mississippi State and Ole Miss scored landmark wins, the two Magnolia State schools once again stole the spotlight. Wins over Auburn and Alabama, respectively, officially solidified their status as College Football Playoff contenders.

But the two SEC squads weren't the only ones staking their claim to one of those four precious spots. There was plenty of other action that went down in Week 7 to shake up the title picture. Here's a look at the latest projections for the playoff and other marquee bowls heading into Week 8:

The latest AP Top 25 Poll can be viewed here.

 

The Projected Field

Mississippi State

Mississippi State's meteoric rise sees them atop the college football world. For the third consecutive week, the Bulldogs took on a Top 10 team and came away victorious with their win over Auburn. As ESPN College Football points out, head coach Dan Mullen has led an unprecedented jump up the AP poll in the process:

One win over a Top 10 squad can be labeled a fluke. This is college football, after all. But the way quarterback Dak Prescott and Mississippi State have handled their brutal schedule has been anything but a fluke. With a week to recuperate before taking on Kentucky, Arkansas and UT-Martin, Starkville is only going to keep the hype train rolling as its team clings to that No. 1 ranking. 

 

Florida State  

No, this iteration of the Seminoles isn't the same marauding team we saw in 2014. Close calls against Clemson and NC State proved that. 

But that doesn't mean Florida State won't be making an appearance in the inaugural playoff. It simply means the Seminoles will need to work harder than they did last season to get there. 

With Clemson already out of the way, the Seminoles have no more conference games against opponents who are currently ranked. Yet a marquee matchup in Week 8 provides them the perfect stage to add a signature win to their resume against Notre Dame in Tallahassee. 

And if you don't think that's enough to make their resume strong enough, do you really think the committee will leave an undefeated defending champion on the outside looking in?

 

Baylor

No team outside of Mississippi was a bigger winner in Week 7 than Baylor. Coming into the game with zero signature wins, head coach Art Briles and Co. finally got the chance to prove themselves and came through in a big way against TCU. 

Unlike last year's Bears, this Baylor team has shown early that they can win in multiple ways. With quarterback Bryce Petty and the usually high-octane offense failing against Texas in Week 6, Baylor was able to grind out a 28-7 win thanks to a defense that ranked sixth in FEI defensive efficiency going into Week 7, per Football Outsiders

But against No. 9 TCU, it was back to the air for the Bears, as Petty threw for over 500 yards in an offensive shootout that saw Baylor overcome a 21-point deficit in the fourth quarter. College GameDay provided some insight on the team's Big 12 title chances:

As the favorite to win the Big 12, Baylor is now in a great position to be a part of the playoff. It's difficult to envision a scenario in which the champion of the conference is not included in the tournament. 

 

Michigan State

Back when Michigan State lost to Oregon and the rest of the Big 10 subsequently decided to lay a massive egg, it appeared that the storied conference would be left in the cold come January. 

However, those notions may have been a bit premature. Despite the loss in Eugene, Sparty still finds itself at No. 8 in the most recent AP poll

The polls obviously don't officially factor into the selection committee's process. However, the rankings serve as a reminder that the Spartans aren't as far off as some may believe when it comes to getting back in the top four. 

With plenty of weeks left for the teams ahead of Michigan State to fall, all the Spartans have to do is continue to win to rise up the polls. With Ohio State remaining the only ranked team on the schedule, there's a strong chance an 11-1 Michigan State will get a Big 10 Championship Game to prove it belongs in the tournament. 

 

Outside Looking in

Oregon, Notre Dame, Ole Miss and Georgia

Finishing just outside of the projected playoff, this list contains teams that will look to be the first in line should one of the above four teams falter somewhere the rest of the way. 

Headlining this group of course is Mississippi, which currently resides at No. 3 in the AP poll but could be the victim of scheduling. With the Egg Bowl against Mississippi State to close out the regular season, it seems unlikely that both programs would get playoff invitations with one having a loss that late in the season. 

However, one team whose loss might not look that bad is Notre Dame. The Irish haven't blemished their record quite yet, but they are 13.5-point underdogs to Florida State this week, per Oddsshark.com. As long as they play respectably enough to cover that spread and manage a second-half slate that includes USC and Arizona State, they'll have a hard time being denied a playoff berth.

Georgia, on the other hand, will have to rely on the timing of its loss rather than the quality of opponent. South Carolina hasn't looked great since losing to the Dawgs; however, head coach Mark Richt's greatest contender in the SEC East is Kentucky. Let that sink in. 

With a spot in the SEC Championship Game looking like a near lock, it would be silly to count Georgia out just yet. 

Finally, there's Oregon. The Ducks showcased exactly why college football is a sport that can drive prognosticators wild with a convincing 42-30 victory over UCLA. Stewart Mandel of Fox Sports commented on the win's impact in regard to their playoff chances:

A home loss to an Arizona team that lost the next week to USC is a tough one to explain to committee members. But it's important to remember that the Ducks still have a game against Stanford and potential Pac-12 Championship Game to prove themselves. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Tennessee Volunteers vs. Ole Miss Rebels Complete Game Preview

The Tennessee Volunteers will walk right into the Magnolia State maelstrom this week when they travel to Oxford to take on the No. 3-ranked Ole Miss Rebels.

College football is caught up in the surging start for Hugh Freeze's team as well as Dan Mullen's Mississippi State Bulldogs, who overtook Florida State as the nation's top-ranked team.

The sport is focused on the state of Mississippi for the first time in decades. Two of the nation's current top three teams hail from there.

Meanwhile, UT is just trying to break through for a win it has been so close to against its first two league opponents, losing by a combined four points to Georgia and Florida.

If the Vols are going to sneak up on the heavily favored Rebs, they're going to have to play the game of their season and grow up quickly. Considering the strength of Ole Miss and its "Landshark" defense and the fact UT can't find any answers on its offensive line, this looks like an uphill battle for the Vols.

Let's take a closer look at the matchup.

 

Date: Saturday, Oct. 18

Time: 7 p.m. ET

Place: Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, Oxford, Mississippi

TV: ESPN

Radio: Vol Network, Ole Miss Football Radio Network Sirius/XM 84

Spread: Ole Miss by 17 points, according to Odds Shark.

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The 3 Biggest X-Factors for Ohio State vs. Rutgers

After a week away from the action, Urban Meyer and No. 13 Ohio State will get back at it this Saturday when they host the Rutgers Scarlet Knights.

It will be a big game for the Buckeyes, who are looking to build on the momentum they gained in a trio of consecutive blowouts over Kent State, Cincinnati and Maryland. Those routs, in addition to a number of upsets to higher-ranked teams in the last two weeks, have Ohio State back in the College Football Playoff race.

To stay in that race, the Buckeyes will need to hold off the upset-minded Scarlet Knights. And while Ohio State is favored by 19.5 points, according to Odds Shark, Meyer will need his team to bring its best to the field this weekend.

Here are three X-factors for the Buckeyes in their matchup against the Scarlet Knights.

 

Ohio State's Secondary

The last time Rutgers saw the field, quarterback Gary Nova was torching the Michigan defense, completing 22 of 39 passes for a career-high 404 yards and three touchdowns against no interceptions. The senior signal-caller kept the Wolverines off balance, finding 10 different pass-catchers in a 26-24 victory.

Nova was named the Big Ten Player of the Week for his performance, and he earned the praise of Scarlet Knights head coach Kyle Flood.

"I thought he played an excellent game,'' Flood said of Nova, according to Keith Sargeant of NJ.com. "I thought he made good decisions, he made good throws. He made some plays under duress that guys who play at a high level make.''

Nova will challenge Ohio State's overhauled secondary.

The Buckeyes have played well under new co-defensive coordinator Chris Ash and his aggressive 4-3 scheme, but there have been growing pains. Cincinnati's Gunner Kiel took advantage of some miscues in Ohio State's secondary, throwing for 352 yards and four touchdowns in Week 5. 

Ash's unit looked much better a week later against Maryland, limiting an explosive passing attack to just 244 yards while coming up with four interceptions.

If the Buckeyes bring that kind of focus to Ohio Stadium on Saturday, it will be a long afternoon for Nova and the Rutgers offense.

 

Joey Bosa

Joey Bosa will also need to make things difficult for Nova.

The sophomore defensive end has been an absolute terror coming off the edge for the Buckeyes this season. He's been a disruptive force, leading the team in tackles for loss (seven), sacks (3.5) and forced fumbles (three), according to Ohio State's official website.

The Scarlet Knights do a good job of protecting their quarterback, though. Rutgers allows just 1.33 sacks per game—ranking 26th nationally—which is a big factor in Nova's success this season.

One of the best ways to knock a passing attack out of rhythm is to fluster the quarterback. The Buckeyes are only averaging 2.4 sacks per game, so they'll need to ramp up the pressure this Saturday.

As the best pass-rusher on the team, Bosa will need to fuel that effort.

 

Ezekiel Elliott

Ohio State's offense has surged in its last three outings, averaging 56 points and 623.7 total yards of offense per game.

Redshirt freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett has been sensational during that stretch, and he has the Buckeyes playing at a high level. But the emergence of sophomore running back Ezekiel Elliott has been a big factor in Ohio State's offensive explosion.

Against Navy and Virginia Tech, Elliott didn't catch a single pass out of the backfield and accumulated just 76 rushing yards, averaging 3.8 yards per carry. In Ohio State's last three games, though, Elliott is averaging 165 total yards per game and 6.5 yards per rush. 

Meyer will unleash Elliott against a Rutgers team that has had decent success defending the run this year. The Scarlet Knights currently rank 44th in run defense—one spot higher than the Buckeyes—allowing 135 yards per game. 

Ohio State will want to maintain the balance it has established over the last three games, so getting Elliott in a groove early will be key.

 

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

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Ranking Top 25 College Football Players at Halfway Point of 2014 Season

We’ve reached the midway point of the college football season, and what a season it has been.

Who’d have expected Mississippi State to be No. 1 at the midpoint, or Ole Miss No. 3? Not many people, that’s for sure. New stars have emerged, and talented players we already knew about have improved their stock too.

The midpoint of the season is the perfect time to take a fresh look at college football’s top 25 players, so that’s what we’re doing right here.

Players were evaluated by their statistical value, their on-field performances and their overall value to their respective teams.

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Recruiting Offers of the Week

It’s hard to imagine that Auburn was a program whose football team won only three games in 2012. Since that time, Gus Malzahn has transformed the Tigers into a powerhouse.

Despite last weekend's loss at Mississippi State, the Tigers are starting to become a force nationally on the recruiting trail.

Last week, Malzahn and his staff offered a pair of 2016 standouts in 4-star running back Antonio Williams and 4-star receiver Stephen Sullivan.

It’s safe to say that the offer to Williams—who also earned an offer from Notre Dame last week—was a big one for the former North Carolina commitment.

"It's probably the most excited I've ever been about an offer," Williams told Keith Niebuhr of AuburnUndercover.

Considering the Tigers have a trio of talented running backs committed in their 2015 class, adding Williams would give the Tigers backfield a ridiculous level of talent and depth.

Through six games, the North Carolina native has rushed for 1,703 yards and 21 touchdowns.

Meanwhile, Sullivan—who is currently committed to SEC West rival LSU—is a 6’6”, 200-pound wideout who ranks as the No. 72 player overall in the 2016 class.

With his size, Sullivan is in the mold of bigger pass-catchers and current Tigers star receivers Duke Williams and Sammie Coates.

While he would be tough to pull away from his home-state school, Malzahn’s offense has to be appealing to a playmaker of Sullivan’s caliber.

 

Flip Season?

Nothing is official in recruiting until prospects enroll early at their school of choice or when they put pen to paper on national signing day.

A host of 2015 recruits who have made commitments are still being pursued by other programs hoping to swipe them away.

Three-star Nebraska athlete commitment Kendall Bussey picked up offers from SEC members Texas A&M and Vanderbilt.

According to Rusty Mansell of Dawgs247, 3-star Cincinnati corner pledge Joshua Norwood earned an offer from Ohio State.

Texas offered 4-star Penn State defensive tackle commit Adam McLean, while TCU offered 4-star Michigan tight end pledge Chris Clark, per Adam Friedman of Rivals.

Finally, according to Ryan Bartow of 247Sports, Oklahoma State, West Virginia and Wisconsin offered 3-star Louisville running back commit James Allen.

With signing day rapidly approaching, this trend will only increase as teams jockey to fill out the remainder of their 2015 classes.

 

Penn State Active With 2016 Studs

James Franklin and the Penn State Nittany Lions suffered a huge blow to their 2015 recruiting class when 4-star quarterback Brandon Wimbush decommitted in favor of Notre Dame last week.

However, he and his staff shook off that news and turned their focus to the 2016 class.

The Lions went across the country to California to offer 5-star linebacker and the No. 14 player overall in the 2016 class, Caleb Kelly, per Adam Gorney of Rivals.

Franklin and his staff also offered 3-star Georgia defensive end Chidi Okonya, according to Sean Fitz of Lions247.

Finally, they offered New Jersey 4-star athlete Ahmir Mitchell—who also added another offer from Virginia Tech.

The Lions are casting a wide net with offers to prospects across the country, and with Franklin’s recruiting prowess, that move could pay dividends in next year’s haul.

 

2016 California WR Nets Trio of Pac-12 Offers

Perhaps the most popular recruit in the country last week was California junior 3-star receiver Theo Howard.

Pac-12 stalwarts Arizona State, USC and Washington all jumped into the race for Howard by tendering the 6’0”, 170-pounder.

Howard also holds offers from Michigan, San Diego State, UCLA and Washington State.

With his stock seemingly on the rise, Howard’s mailbox may get a little more crowded in the coming weeks and month.

 

Best of the Rest

  • Pittsburgh offered 2016 4-star quarterback Jarrett Guarantano. Per Friedman, Maryland also offered Guarantano last week.

 

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

 

 

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Georgia vs. Arkansas: Complete Game Preview

A weekend of unexpected results makes this Saturday's matchup between the Georgia Bulldogs and the Arkansas Razorbacks one of the SEC's most compelling games.  

Georgia enters the contest following a 34-0 road victory over Missouri without star running back Todd Gurley, who has been suspended amid an ongoing NCAA investigation.  The decisive victory allowed the Bulldogs to put a stranglehold on the SEC East and re-enter the national conversation.

Arkansas, meanwhile, suffered a narrow defeat at the hands of Alabama but commanded attention with such a hard-fought battle with a perennial national championship contender.  

Here's what you need to know about Saturday's game:

  • Date: Saturday, October 18
  • Time: 4:00 p.m. ET
  • Place: War Memorial Stadium, Little Rock, Arkansas
  • TV: SEC Network
  • Radio: Georgia Bulldog Radio Network, Razorback Sports Network
  • Spread: Georgia (-3), per Odds Shark

 

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

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NCAA Football Rankings 2014: Week 8 Standings and Analysis for Latest Polls

This is not a misprint—the college football universe revolves around the state of Mississippi.

The Mississippi State Bulldogs check in at No. 1 in the country in both the Associated Press Poll and Amway Coaches Poll after easily handling the Auburn Tigers. Not to be outdone, Ole Miss earned the No. 3 ranking in both polls after beating Texas A&M in decisive fashion.

Elsewhere, Notre Dame, Alabama and Oklahoma all struggled against lesser opponents, while Baylor completed an incredible comeback in the fourth quarter against TCU.

Here is a look at the Week 8 polls, as well as a glance at the Bleacher Report rankings.

 

Analysis and Reaction

The biggest takeaway from the latest polls is clearly the changing of the guard on top. Mississippi State is certainly in some uncharted territory, as SportsCenter and ESPN Stats & Info both noted:

Head coach Dan Mullen discussed his squad and its impressive rise to the top of the college football world, according to The Associated Press, via ESPN.com: “Every time we needed to make a play, a guy stepped up and made a play. We always wondered how to take the next step in this league…that’s it.” 

Athletic director Scott Stricklin got in on the fun as well:

Mississippi State is just one of the big surprises near the top of the polls. Bruce Feldman and Stewart Mandel of Fox Sports both pointed that out:

Of course, the rise of Mississippi and Mississippi State also means the defending national champion Florida State took a step back, despite a win over Syracuse. You can make the case that the Seminoles have been less than impressive at times this year, but they still have not lost a game since 2012. Florida State fans would likely point that out when looking at the new poll. 

The AP Top 25 noted that No. 1 falling after a win is not something that happens very often:

Fortunately for the Seminoles, they will have a chance to re-establish themselves in the No. 1 discussion again in their next game against Notre Dame. If the Fighting Irish defense plays like it did against North Carolina on Saturday, Florida State’s offense could have a big day. 

ESPN Stats & Info pointed out just how rough of a day it was for Notre Dame in some aspects, even though it was a victorious effort:

Elsewhere, the SEC West has been more than impressive this year, especially against other competition. ESPN Stats & Info noted just how dominant the SEC West has been this season:

Still, one team that probably should be nowhere near the polls is Arkansas, as Chris Dufresne of the Los Angeles Times acknowledged. Sure, the Razorbacks had every chance to beat Alabama, which is somewhat impressive in itself, but the notion that a team that hasn’t won a league game since 2012 is even receiving votes is borderline ridiculous.

Another team that is receiving votes that has actually won some games is North Dakota State. Feldman praised the Bison’s resume:

If there is one thing we can be certain of in college football, it is that there will probably be more chaos during the next slate of games. We already discussed the matchup between Florida State and Notre Dame, but there are plenty of other contests that will shake up the polls.

Texas A&M plays Alabama, Baylor has a tricky contest at West Virginia, Kansas State battles Oklahoma, Oklahoma State plays TCU and Stanford takes on Arizona State. 

The respective polls are certainly going to look different again next week.

 

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College Football Picks Week 8: Predictions and Odds for Top 25 Schedule

The 2014 college football season has undergone twists and turns galore, and there is no sign of things returning to normalcy as we gear up for Week 8.

The early-season expectations that Alabama and Auburn would remain the SEC heavyweights are a distant memory. Mississippi State took sole position of the No. 1 overall ranking with a convincing victory over the SEC champion Tigers, while Ole Miss posted its second straight big win in a road thumping of Texas A&M to move to No. 3.

The emergence of Mississippi teams has stalemated Florida State's status as the top team in the land, but that could change in Week 8, as the Seminoles will face their biggest test of the season in Notre Dame.

Without further ado, here's an early look at the Week 8 schedule, odds and predictions for the Top 25.

Note: All odds courtesy of Odds Shark, last updated Oct. 13 at midnight ET.

 

No. 21 Texas A&M at No. 9 Alabama

After the past two weeks Alabama has endured, it's safe to say a home game against the struggling Texas A&M Aggies couldn't have come at a better time.

Nick Saban's squad was knocked from its perch with a road loss to Ole Miss and nearly suffered a crushing blow to Arkansas in Week 7 before pulling out a 14-13 win on the road. Arkansas quarterback Brandon Allen had chance after chance to lead his team to a win, but he couldn't get past the Crimson Tide defense.

Texas A&M is becoming desperate to get back into the win column after defeats the last two weekends—first to Mississippi State and then to Ole Miss, both in distasteful fashion.

The Crimson Tide have struggled mightily in recent weeks, but that didn't stop them from entering this one as big favorites, as Bleacher Report's Marc Torrence noted:

Texas A&M has prided itself defensively on getting to the passer and offensively on avoiding turnovers, but neither has been there as of late. The Aggies have turned the ball over three times in each of their last two games.

Meanwhile, it's been a struggle stopping opposing mobile quarterbacks, and that should only continue Saturday. Bo Wallace and Dak Prescott had their way both rushing and passing against the Aggies, making Saturday an easy bet for a bounce-back performance from Alabama quarterback Blake Sims.

Alabama's offense will find its groove, and an improving defense will keep forcing those Kenny Hill turnovers that are starting to become more common than Aggies fans would like.

Prediction: Alabama 38, Texas A&M 20

 

No. 5 Notre Dame at No. 2 Florida State

Last year means little to Florida State right now. The Seminoles have finally been leapfrogged in the standings despite avoiding their first loss of the season, and Saturday, they'll emerge against Notre Dame with a huge chip on their shoulder.

After taking care of business against Syracuse last weekend, Jameis Winston's crew will head into its biggest game of the season looking to continue throwing the ball with ease. He tossed three touchdown passes on 317 yards and was sacked only once against the Orange.

The 'Noles figured to face their toughest defensive test of the season, and that may still be true, but many began to wonder after the Irish gave up 43 points to North Carolina last weekend. The Tar Heels threw for 326 yards and three touchdowns through the air.

As long as Winston suits up, the secondary woes for the Irish should continue. ESPN.com's Josh Moyer reported Sunday that Winston expects to play Saturday despite an upcoming disciplinary hearing.

It will take the game of Everett Golson's life just to keep pace with Florida State, and even that might not be enough to bring the Seminoles their first loss of the season. 

Prediction: Florida State 35, Notre Dame 24

 

No. 10 Georgia at Arkansas

The SEC East picture started to get a little clearer with Georgia's dominating Week 7 win over Missouri, but the Bulldogs' conference tests will continue Saturday with a tough road game against Arkansas.

Without Todd Gurley, Georgia didn't skip a beat offensively, and his absence allowed for Nick Chubb to emerge with 143 yards and a touchdown in the Bulldogs' 34-0 shutout of the Tigers. Meanwhile, the Razorbacks suffered heartbreak by coming so close to a program-changing upset of Alabama.

Bret Bielema will pull out all the stops to try to get the Razorbacks in the SEC win column, and he should have success establishing the run game against a Georgia team that gave up at least 100 rushing yards to its first three SEC opponents before limiting Missouri to 50. 

However, with or without Gurley, Georgia has proved able to move the ball with ferocity on offense and put Hutson Mason in position to make positive plays without threading the needle.

A confident Razorbacks defense that just allowed 13 points to Alabama will keep it close, and a stout rushing attack led by Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams should make things interesting. But not enough to get that elusive first SEC win.

Prediction: Georgia 20, Arkansas 17

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College Football Rankings 2014: Latest Standings and Predictions for Week 8

We didn’t have the same type of chaos that we did in Week 6 during Saturday’s slate of college football games, but there were certainly some important results.

Mississippi State took over the No. 1 spot in the polls with an impressive victory over Auburn, Ole Miss continued its hot streak with a win over Texas A&M and Baylor somehow overcame a 21-point deficit in the fourth quarter against TCU.

Here is a look at the resulting Top 25 polls, as well as the Bleacher Report rankings, before we dig into some predictions for the biggest games in Week 8.

 

Week 8 Predictions

Notre Dame at Florida State

Safe to say, Notre Dame did not plan on entering its enormous showdown with Florida State like this. 

Sure, the Fighting Irish found a way to beat North Carolina, but their defense did not impress. ESPN Stats & Info pointed out just how bad it was Saturday:

What’s more, quarterback Everett Golson turned the ball over three times, and the team found itself 14 points down before many of the fans even settled into their seats. ESPN Stats & Info highlighted the recent turnover problem:

That same Notre Dame defense that struggled so much has to go up against the Florida State passing attack that ranks 13th in the nation in passing yards per game at 324.

Defending Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston is likely ready to go against the Fighting Irish.

On the other side of the ball, it will be critical for Golson to avoid turnovers because the last thing Notre Dame needs to do is set up the Seminoles offense in scoring position with critical mistakes. 

The thought here is that the Florida State offense is simply too much for the Fighting Irish in this one, especially at home. Even if Golson manages to avoid turnovers, which is a big “if” at this point, the Seminoles will find a way to score enough points against a Notre Dame defense that appeared very vulnerable Saturday. 

Prediction: Florida State 41, Notre Dame 17

 

Texas A&M at Alabama

Alabama has not exactly looked like the powerhouse we are accustomed to the past couple of weeks. It lost at Ole Miss and then followed that up with what can only be described as a fortunate 14-13 win against an Arkansas squad that has not won in the conference since 2012.

The Razorbacks missed a critical extra point in that one; otherwise, it could have been a different story.

Alabama has still looked better than Texas A&M recently. The Aggies needed overtime to get past Arkansas, then got destroyed by Mississippi State and never really had a chance in a loss to Ole Miss. All that love for the Aggies early in the season after the win against South Carolina was probably unwarranted because South Carolina is nowhere near as good as many expected.

The key in this one, outside of the fact that the game is in Alabama, will be Alabama’s ability to stop Texas A&M’s passing attack. The Crimson Tide are sixth in the nation in points allowed per game, while the Aggies are third in passing yards per game.

Still, much of Texas A&M’s production has come against lesser opponents or in garbage time of its recent losses.

The thought here is that the Crimson Tide defense does more than enough to win in front of a raucous home crowd. 

Prediction: Alabama 27, Texas A&M 20

 

Oklahoma State at TCU

We talk about motivation and emotion a lot during bowl season, as some teams disappoint and fall to postseason games that they likely have no interest in playing, but emotion could play a significant role in this one as well.

It is difficult to imagine TCU bouncing back one week after losing a 21-point lead in heartbreaking fashion to Baylor. That win would have propelled the Horned Frogs into playoff discussion for sure, but now they have to find a way to stay in the Big 12 title discussion with a bounce-back win over Oklahoma State.

The Cowboys have not lost since they hung with Florida State in the opener and are somewhat of a dark horse in the Big 12 race. They struggled to finally pull away from Kansas Saturday, but this is a golden opportunity to make a statement at TCU.

Oklahoma State wide receiver Jhajuan Seales discussed the Kansas game, according to The Associated Press, via ESPN.com: “You never want to go to a place and lose. Kansas had a great scheme and came out and played well.”

Kansas may have played well, but Oklahoma State needs to improve dramatically before the TCU contest.

It would be easy to pick Oklahoma State here because TCU players aren’t ready to go after a devastating loss. However, the thought here is that the exact opposite happens. TCU is playing at home, which will help the Horned Frogs rally as they get the bad taste out of their mouths from the Baylor loss.

TCU is third in the nation in points per game and will make enough plays on offense to re-establish itself in the Big 12 race. 

Prediction: TCU 48, Oklahoma State 41

 

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Wisconsin Football: Adjustments Badgers Must Make During Bye Week

Going into their second bye week of the season, the Wisconsin football team finds itself at 4-2 with a 1-1 record in Big Ten play with a bevy of questions at a number of key spots.

Uncertainty abounds at the quarterback position. Though the return of Joel Stave provides more stability under center, he has yet to look particularly comfortable as the signal-caller.  With that being said, the threat of the deep pass has helped running backs Melvin Gordon and Corey Clement immeasurably.

Speaking of their two running backs, Gordon has cemented himself as a bona fide Heisman candidate after rushing for more than 1,000 yards in his first six games to go with 13 touchdowns on the ground and another one as a receiver.

One slightly troubling note about Gordon is the team's reliance on him.  Gordon has notched 27 or more carries in each of his last three games.  While in those games, he's rushed for at least 175 yards and a score, Gordon is on pace to exceed his career high in carries by 80, including the bowl game if they make one.

Clement has been used fairly sparingly thus far this year; however, he broke out for a huge game last week against Illinois to the tune of 13 carries for 164 yards and a score on a 72-yard scamper, which displayed his strength and speed.

Lost in the quarterback shuffle is Tanner McEvoy, who started the first five games before being replaced just before halftime against Northwestern and saw only one series against Illinois.

On defense, the Badgers have vacillated between looking great and extremely pedestrian, missing tackles left and right and taking a variety of drive-extending penalties.

Furthermore, their secondary, seen as a strength coming into the season, has been exposed for their inability to cover the deep pass.  While safety Michael Caputo has been nothing but outstanding in run support and underneath in the passing game, he along with the rest of the secondary has struggled with deep throws.

Finally, after hitting a 51-yard field goal in the opener against LSU, Rafael Gaglianone is 5-of-8 on field-goal attempts and has a missed extra point to boot.   Furthermore, punter Drew Meyer is averaging only 39.0 yards per punt, which is good for 113th-best in the country.

With all of that being said, let's take a more in-depth look at each of the five areas where the Badgers should make adjustments during this week off before they take on the meat of their Big Ten schedule.

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