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College Football Rankings Week 12: B/R's Official Top 25

How's your playoff projection looking?

After this latest Saturday of season-turning games, expect to see some changes toward the top of the College Football Playoff rankings. But before those are revealed on Tuesday, check out how the Bleacher Report Top 25 got shaken up by six matchups of ranked teams and plenty of other notable results.

The Bleacher Report Top 25 is voted on by 17 members of Bleacher Report's college football team: writers Ben Axelrod, Phil Callihan, Michael Felder, Justin Ferguson, Andrew Hall, Kyle Kensing, David Kenyon, Ben Kercheval, Adam Kramer, Brian Leigh, Brian Pedersen, Barrett Sallee, Brad Shepard, Erin Sorensen, Marc Torrence and Greg Wallace, as well as editor Max Rausch.

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

Check out Bleacher Report's Week 12 poll, then give us your thoughts in the comments section.

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Oregon vs. Utah: Score and Twitter Reaction

Oregon had to work for it, but the Ducks went into the belly of the beast and walked away with a hard-fought 51-27 win on the road over the Utah Utes.

With the victory, the Ducks remain in position for a playoff spot with few hurdles until the Pac-12 Championship Game. If Oregon was going to slip up, it would've been in Salt Lake City. Instead, Oregon strengthened its top-four credentials.

Zach Braziller of the New York Post felt Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota also improved his Heisman Trophy candidacy:

Mariota wound up with 239 yards and three touchdowns through the air, while getting 114 yards and another touchdown on the ground. It was the kind of performance many have come to associate with the junior signal-caller.

Royce Freeman chipped in 99 rushing yards and a touchdown of his own to help out his quarterback.

The leaky Oregon defense had its worrying moments, giving up 440 yards of offense to Utah. Quarterback Travis Wilson threw for 297 yards and two touchdowns, which were offset by his two interceptions.

Running back Devontae Booker was superb in a losing effort, recording 65 rushing yards on the ground and 110 receiving yards with one TD.

The final score belies just how much Oregon had to fight to secure this win.

After Bubba Poole put Utah ahead 7-0 on the game's opening drive, the Utes should've had a 14-0 lead early in the second quarter.

Wideout Kaelin Clay got separation from the Oregon secondary and found himself wide open with nothing but green in front. Just as he looked to have scampered 79 yards to pay dirt, he prematurely dropped the ball in celebration at the 1-yard line. An alert Erick Dargan recovered for Oregon and subsequently fumbled before teammate Joe Walker picked up the ball and ran 99 yards to the end zone, tying the game at 7-7.

Matthew Piper of The Salt Lake Tribune has Clay's thoughts on the play:

Fox Sports' Mike Pereira rightly praised the officiating crew, which never blew the play dead:

ESPN Stats & Info summed up how key that point swing was for Oregon:

Grantland's Matt Hinton took pity on the poor person who had to distill all of that craziness into a tiny blurb in the play-by-play recap:

Coincidentally, Clay went to Long Beach Poly, where DeSean Jackson is an alumnus, per SportsCenter:

After the brush with danger, Oregon quickly found its groove, dropping 17 more unanswered points on Utah in the second quarter. Mariota had two touchdown passes, then Aidan Schneider hit a 39-yard field goal with two minutes left in the half to put the Ducks on top, 24-7.

Andy Phillips stopped the bleeding for Utah with a 32-yard field goal to close out the half and trim the deficit to 14 points, 24-10.

Phillips also opened the scoring in the second half, splitting the uprights from 28 yards out. Schneider quickly answered back with a 31-yard field goal of his own to put the Ducks up 27-13.

The Utes needed something to spark their offense back to life, and they got it in the form of a 27-yard touchdown reception for Booker. He reached behind his body to grab the pass from Wilson with one hand and then weaved his way into the end zone.

Bleacher Report's Adam Lefkoe thought Booker's ability to catch the ball could serve him well at the next level:

JB Long of the Pac-12 Network wondered how good the junior running back could look if Utah had a more balanced offense:

With Oregon clinging to a 27-20 lead heading into the fourth quarter, Schneider banged home his third field goal of the game to give the Ducks a 10-point advantage. Thirty points is also the magic number for Oregon. It's unbeaten since 2012 when scoring 30 or more, per ESPN CollegeFootball:

But Utah wouldn't go away as Westlee Tonga hauled in a 13-yard touchdown pass from Wilson to pull the Utes to within three points, 30-27, with 11:48 to go in the game.

Mariota's third touchdown pass of the game gave Oregon some breathing room and a 10-point lead once again, and a missed field goal from Phillips swung the momentum in the Ducks' favor even more.

Playing a team as good as Oregon, Utah paid dearly for Phillips' mistake. Mariota registered a rushing touchdown on the next drive to put the game out of reach for the Utes with 4:51 remaining.

Freeman added an insurance score late to solidify the result.

Oregon plays Colorado at home and Oregon State on the road before what looks to be a date with Arizona State in the Pac-12 Championship Game. As long as both teams enter with one loss, the conference champion would almost certainly make the playoff.

While the Utes are out of the running for the conference championship, they can at least be a thorn in the side of the Arizona Wildcats on Nov. 22.

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JT Barrett Makes Case to Start over Braxton Miller in 2015 in Michigan State Win

Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett played as well as one could have possibly, quixotically expected at Michigan State on Saturday, passing for 300 yards, rushing for 86 more and combining to score five touchdowns in a 49-37 win that wasn't even as close as the 12-point final margin indicates.

It was the type of performance only a select few college football players are capable of submitting. The number of qualified parties can be counted on one hand, maybe two.

When you find a quarterback good enough to (a) lead six consecutive touchdown drives (b) against a top 15 defense (c) on the road (d) as a redshirt freshman, you hand him the keys to the offense and adjust your program's future plans accordingly. You just do. You don't consider sending him back to the bench the following season.

You start him even though you have Braxton Miller.

Miller, of course, is the two-time reigning Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year. He was favored to cap the three-peat in 2014, but he injured his shoulder in fall camp. Barrett passed Cardale Jones on the depth chart during spring practice and inherited the starting role.

The Buckeyes struggled to block for Barrett in his first career start against Navy, and Barrett himself imploded in the Week 2 loss against Virginia Tech. But ever since losing that game, Barrett has played like one of the four or five best quarterbacks in the country.

"Braxton is our quarterback (when he returns)," maintained Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer after Barrett starting playing well in late September, per Ben Axelrod of Bleacher Report. "To be fair to Braxton, [he’s the] Big Ten Player of the Year.

"It’s good to know we’ve got both of them."

But after Saturday, Axelrod expects that Meyer will back off:

"You hate to see a kid leave his school," said Bleacher Report Lead NFL Draft Analyst Matt Miller of Braxton's future, per Axelrod. "But for [Miller's] career, I think the best thing would be going to somewhere that’s going to run a little bit more of a pro-style offense and where he would get on the field right away."

The idea that Miller would be better served in a different system falls in relative lockstep with what Michigan State linebacker Taiwan Jones said earlier this week: specifically, that "Barrett works better in [Ohio State's] offense" and "has a better arm."

Miller was is by no means a bad fit for Meyer's offense, a fact made plain by his Big Ten POY awards and the 24-game win streak he orchestrated in 2012-2013. His ability to run is significantly—although not, as it were, importantly—better than that of Barrett.

But Barrett gives Meyer's offense a pinpoint-accurate passer that has jibed with its run-first preference and created an unflinching machine. There is no good way to stop OSU's running game without committing ancillary bodies to the box. There is no good way to stop OSU's passing game when you've committed ancillary bodies to the box.

There is no good way to stop OSU…period.

Ohio State entered the weekend ranked No. 14 in the College Football Playoff standings. One could argue it was the most impressive team to play Saturday, a day in which the No. 3 (Auburn), No. 7 (Kansas State), No. 8 (Michigan State) and No. 10 (Notre Dame) teams in the country went down, and the No. 4 team (Alabama) needed overtime to beat LSU.

It stands to reason that the Buckeyes—at the very least—will jump into the Top 8 of the playoff picture now that they have earned a quality road win. My personal guess is that they rank at No. 7 behind Mississippi State, Florida State, Alabama, Oregon, TCU and Baylor.

Either way, Ohio State is sniffing around the playoff discussion. It is hurt by how bad Virginia Tech has been and would likely need some help to get into the playoffs, but it's a player. One slip-up from Florida State (most likely at Miami), TCU (most likely at Texas), Arizona State (most likely at Arizona) and/or Oregon (most likely in the Pac-12 title game) would give the Buckeyes control over their fate.

Barrett is the quarterback who's gotten them here; if they finish the season 12-1, he'll be the quarterback who got them there, too. Just like you don't bench a redshirt freshman who led six straight touchdown drives against Michigan State, you severely don't bench a redshirt freshman who led his team to the playoff.

You just don't.

 

Follow Brian Leigh on Twitter: @BLeighDAT

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Watch Utah's Careless Mistake Lead to 100-Yard Oregon Touchdown

Just when Utah WR Kaelin Clay thought he had scored a touchdown, it turned out he let the ball out just past the 1-yard line while going into the end zone. The Oregon Ducks took advantage, picking up the ball and taking it back to the house for a 100-yard fumble return.

Was this the craziest play of the College Football season?

Watch the video and let us know!

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Pharaoh Brown Injury: Updates on Oregon Star's Knee and Return

As Oregon looked to seal an impressive road win over Utah on Saturday night, the Ducks lost one of their most underrated players.

Junior tight Pharaoh Brown exited the game in the fourth quarter with what looked like a serious knee injury. CBSSports.com's Jon Solomon tweeted out that Brown was carted off the field:

Joseph Hoyt of the Daily Emerald could hear Brown screaming that his knee was in pain:

Entering the game, Brown was fourth on the Ducks in receiving, with 22 receptions for 380 yards and five touchdowns.

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Did Refs Bail out Alabama in Controversial Win over LSU?

Alabama vs. LSU was an incredibly close game, as many suspected it would be. The ending of the game contained some "controversial" calls that could have gone either way.

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Barrett Sallee explains what he thought of the officiating in the final minutes and overtime of this thrilling game.

Do you think this game was officiated fairly?

Watch the video and let us know! 

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College Football Playoff Rankings: Biggest Takeaways from Week 11

Of the 25 teams ranked by the College Football Playoff selection committee, 24 played this weekend. There were also six games involving teams that were both ranked on Saturday, including two games pitting Top 10 teams against each other.

And by late Saturday night, the playoff picture got a little bit clearer.

The Big Ten likely has just played itself out of a playoff spot, while the SEC probably all but killed its chances of landing two teams in the four-team field. If we had more than a dozen teams still alive for the playoff last week, we might be down to about half of that by now.

With four more weeks still remaining, we're loath to eliminate teams prematurely. So we're going to cast our widest possible net on which teams are actually still in the hunt for the inaugural College Football Playoff.

Teams that moved up

SEC West

Saturday's results actually left four teams still alive to win the SEC West: Mississippi State, Alabama, Ole Miss and Auburn. Each still has a path to the division title but only the Bulldogs and Crimson Tide control their own fate, as Miss State travels to 'Bama next week. In short, a four-way tie of two-loss teams will end with Auburn winning the division while a three-way tie will go to Ole Miss. 

TCU/Baylor

It will be intriguing to see how the committee decides to rank these two teams this week. Will the members continue to hold Baylor's weak nonconference schedule against it or will the Bears' head-to-head victory over the Horned Frogs finally matter? Either way, both teams are very much in the mix for the final spot in the playoff as the Big 12 representative.

Arizona State

At first, it looked like the Sun Devils were going to cruise to a crushing victory over Notre Dame, then it seemed like they blew it, completely. But in the end, ASU made a few more big plays to claim its biggest win of the season to date, and the Sun Devils will have a shot to play their way into the playoff field. But there's still a long way to go in the difficult Pac-12 South.

 

Teams that moved down

Big Ten

Ohio State's victory over Michigan State, though impressive, probably killed the conference's last best chance to land in the playoff field. The costly loss to Virginia Tech will continue to haunt the Buckeyes, as they will likely lose out to any other one-loss conference champion if it comes to the last playoff spot.

Notre Dame

The committee can feel vindicated about its low placement of the Irish in previous weeks. They still haven't beaten a ranked team and now their chances of landing in the playoff have been extinguished. Notre Dame has a shot at playing in a New Year's Six bowl, but it faces stiff competition even for that.

Kansas State

The Wildcats can still win the Big 12 title, as they visit Baylor in the season finale, but their chances of getting a playoff bid are finished. Even if TCU loses another game and K-State ends up claiming the conference title outright, that earlier loss to Auburn probably will be too much to overcome.

 

Group-of-five team in the best position

Marshall, Colorado State and Boise State all won Saturday to maintain the status quo among this group. The Broncos had the most difficulty and needed a big fourth quarter to beat lowly New Mexico, but they continue to bar CSU's path to the Mountain West championship game. If the current situation holds, it'll be very intriguing to see if the committee would prefer a two-loss Boise State over an undefeated Marshall at the end of the season.

 

Projected conference championship matchups

ACC: Florida State vs. Duke

Big Ten: Ohio State vs. Wisconsin

Pac-12: Oregon vs. Arizona State

SEC: Mississippi State vs. Missouri

 

Follow on Twitter @ThePlayoffGuru

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Great Win for Alabama, but Don't Put Tide in College Football Playoff Just Yet

Was Alabama's 20-13 overtime victory over LSU in Baton Rouge on Saturday night thrilling? Absolutely.

The feverish drive to kick a game-tying field goal in the closing seconds was nothing short of impressive, and the game-winning drive in overtime was creative and well executed—particularly the "rub route" on the fade from quarterback Blake Sims to receiver DeAndrew White to win the game.

Was it important? Absolutely.

The fifth-ranked Crimson Tide not only earned a feather in their cap with a tough road win over a ranked team, but it did so on a day that saw No. 3 Auburn go down at home to unranked Texas A&M.

Is it a sign that all is right in Tuscaloosa and this team is ready to not only make the inaugural College Football Playoff, but make a run to their fourth title in six years?

Not yet.

The Crimson Tide will likely land one of the four spots in the new College Football Playoff rankings when they're released on Tuesday night, but Saturday's win over LSU exposed more holes for a Crimson Tide team that was far from stable coming in.

The play-calling up until overtime from offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin left a lot to be desired. The offense was wildly unbalanced, attempting 46 passes to only 29 running plays. Sims completed just 20 of those passes for 209 yards and averaged just 4.4 yards per attempt.

He redeemed himself in overtime with the play where Cam Robinson lined up wide and Sims found tight end Brandon Greene for a completion down to the 1-yard line. Greene was cleverly hidden and largely ignored by the defense. The game-winning touchdown was nice too. The Crimson Tide properly executed the pick play on a fade to White, which is something that Notre Dame couldn't do at Florida State in October.

Those were the exceptions on Saturday night.

Neither of these two teams were great, as Nick Saban pointed out in the postgame press conference (via: Cecil Hurt of TheTuscaloosa News):

There's no "probably" about that. It wasn't.

When the opposing quarterback goes 8-of-26 for 76 yards, one touchdown and one pick, an elite football team is supposed to make the game a laugher. LSU's Anthony Jennings did just that on Saturday night, and Alabama not only made it a nail-biter, but had to scratch and claw simply to force overtime.

It made for an exciting ending to the game but certainly is cause for concern long term.

On top of that, Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper was held in check by Cooper standards by the LSU pass defense, and Tide running back T.J. Yeldon twisted his ankle late which caused a fumble.

This wasn't a "classic SEC slugfest" or an "old school battle." It was a sloppy football game that Alabama managed to survive with it's "C" game.

Good for Alabama. Good teams are able to do that.

But the taste of this "thriller" better be left in the state of Louisiana, because No. 1 Mississippi State is heading to Tuscaloosa on Saturday with an offense that can put pressure on teams in a variety of different ways.

If Kiffin, Sims and the rest of the Crimson Tide don't come out hot this week, Mississippi State is more than capable of putting them into a hole that they can't dig out of.

There are no great teams in college football this season, but there are seven or eight good ones.

Alabama had a chance to step out of that pack in Death Valley and simply couldn't.

 

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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Blake Sims Becomes Alabama Hero with Clutch Fourth Quarter and OT vs. LSU

For 59 minutes, Alabama and LSU traded blows, back and forth.

Both teams had hesitant offenses that didn’t look interested in taking control and punishing defenses that were happy to oblige.

But in the last minute, everything changed. And Blake Sims became an Alabama hero.

T.J. Yeldon’s fumble at the Alabama 6-yard line should have been the end of the Crimson Tide—the end of the game, their season, and their playoff and championship dreams. If that wasn’t, then Colby Delahoussaye’s go-ahead field goal should have been.

Instead, Sims took over with with 50 seconds left, led Alabama down the field for a game-tying field goal and finished the improbable victory with a smooth touchdown pass in overtime, overcoming two critical penalties.

ESPN's Skip Bayless took time to appreciate Sims' clutch performance:

Great Alabama quarterbacks have been defined by signature performances against LSU. Sims had his opportunity in front of him. After an up-and-down game for 59 minutes, he seized it and etched the first marks of his name alongside those greats.

Offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin looked to have a game plan that would feature Sims and the passing game, for better or worse.

Sims threw the ball 45 times on Saturday. His previous high had been 33 attempts in games against West Virginia and Florida. Alabama ran the ball just 29 times, its lowest rushing attempts of the year by three, and four of those runs came in overtime.

The returns, overall, weren’t great.

Sims completed less than half his passes and averaged just 4.6 yards per attempt. Alabama’s lone regulation touchdown was a quick throw to its most reliable weapon, Amari Cooper, who dodged and ducked and stiff-armed his way into the end zone.

Otherwise, the passing game was largely dull.

If that reminds you of another Alabama vs. LSU game, you aren’t the only one. Two years ago, AJ McCarron had a lackluster outing for the first three-and-a-half quarters. He rallied his team, stayed calm and led the Crimson Tide on a game-winning drive to keep alive what turned into a championship season.

Sims said this week he was looking to McCarron’s performance that night, hoping to emulate it.

He got his shot and delivered.

To appreciate Sims’ version of The Drive, one must appreciate the play-calling. Starting at Alabama's own 35—thanks to an LSU kick out of bounds—with no timeouts and 50 seconds left, Kiffin dialed up quick throws to the sidelines to stop the clock, simplify Sims’ progressions and get the offense in an elusive rhythm.

The plan, combined with Sims’ natural instinct and ability, made for a winning combination.

His scramble on 3rd-and-4 to keep the drive alive was Sims making something out of nothing. But his most impressive play may have been three plays later, when he bought time with his feet, rolled out of the pocket and hit Christion Jones on the run to put Alabama in field-goal range.

In overtime, after two frustrating penalties on right guard Leon Brown that stalled a promising possession, Sims lofted a gorgeous ball to a fading DeAndrew White that ended up being the game-winner.

That kind of cool execution in the most hostile environment is the trademark of a champion. It wasn’t lost on Nick Saban after the game, as he told reporters, via Marquavius Burnett of The Anniston Star.

Sims’ season has been one of earning support, executing when needed and keeping Alabama in a position to win.

On Saturday, with his team in a major bind and its season on the line, he took the next step.

Sims became a central figure and a source of motivation. He took control of the game when Alabama desperately needed someone to.

And he carved out a piece of Alabama history for himself in the process.


Marc Torrence is the Alabama lead writer for Bleacher Report. Follow on Twitter @marctorrence.

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Florida State Needs to Fix Inconsistent Offense as Playoffs Loom

Florida State doesn't need to have the high-powered, balanced offense of 2013. That was an offense for the history books.

But the Seminoles keep living on the edge in 2014, surviving with an offense that has often been one-dimensional. At some point, will it catch up with FSU? Will the Seminoles be able to keep stacking up wins, especially close ones, as the playoffs get closer?

More than likely, the answer to the first question is "yes." It may not happen next week at Miami or the following weeks against Boston College or Florida. But the inconsistency will definitely be an issue in the playoffs.

FSU defeated Virginia 34-20 on Saturday night but did it with plenty of help from the defense. The Seminoles forced three turnovers in the first half, giving the offense three short fields to work with. So FSU needed to go 23 yards, three yards and 22 yards to score three of its four touchdowns and take a 28-13 halftime lead.

"The defense kept us in this ballgame," FSU quarterback Jameis Winston said.

On FSU's other 10 drives that didn't have the benefit of a short field, the team didn't do much. The Seminoles scored only 13 points and sprinkled in three turnovers and four punts.

Winston had been playing well at times this season, coming off a lackluster first half at Louisville that was followed by a strong second half as FSU rallied for a 42-31 win. He has had five games of 290 or more passing yards. But on Saturday, he was flat early, much like the first half at Louisville.

There were a pair of interceptions in the first half that led to Virginia touchdowns. That's five interceptions in two games.

"I've got to play better," Winston said. "Make smart decisions, not turn the ball over. I'm hurting this team. I really am."

The last part of that statement isn't completely true. Winston has tossed 11 interceptions in eight games in 2014, already more than the 10 INTs he had in 2013. The interceptions have certainly put the defense in a bind, and that's what Winston is referencing.

But the mistakes aren't limited just to Winston. Bobo Wilson dropped a few passes early. Travis Rudolph ran a wrong route that led to an interception.

The running game struggled yet again, getting 115 yards but averaging just 2.9 yards per carry. Karlos Williams had 21 carries for 70 yards, but both of his touchdown runs came with FSU capitalizing on short fields. Dalvin Cook was the hero at Louisville with 110 rushing yards, but against Virginia he was held to 36 yards on 11 runs. Mario Pender was out again with an ankle injury.

FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said Cook would be evaluated for a potential hip injury.

"He got banged up pretty good," Fisher said.

If Cook and Pender are not available next week at Miami, FSU will need to lean on Williams and fullback Freddie Stevenson. Or ask Winston to drop back and win the game.

Winston certainly hasn't been awful. FSU has scored 30 or more points in the eight games he has played this season. If anything, he's been quite accurate, completing 66.7 percent of his passes this season (he completed 66.9 percent in his Heisman season a year ago).

The issue for Winston has been the inconsistency of the young receivers. And the 11 interceptions.

FSU's turnovers, now 21 in nine games, are disconcerting. And giving up three to Virginia was unexpected.

"That's scary," Fisher said. "That's something that we've never done around here. When you're playing young guys, you take the good with the bad."

FSU has taken the good with the bad all season. The Seminoles are 9-0, but it's often come with drama. Or frustration over mistakes.

The only question now: Is the dichotomy of good and bad going to be enough? Odds are it will be adequate for the regular season, but it will be a major cause for concern in December and January.

 

Bob Ferrante is the Florida State Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow Bob on Twitter. All stats courtesy of seminoles.com. All recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports.

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Ohio State vs. Michigan State: How Spartans' Loss Reshapes Playoff Picture

How do you gain instant legitimacy? You beat the eighth-ranked team in the country on the road by 12 points.

The No. 14 Ohio State Buckeyes put themselves in pole position to win the Big Ten after a 49-37 win over the No. 8 Michigan State Spartans in East Lansing. As a result, the Bucks may be back in the playoff picture after all.

Winning the conference championship is essentially a prerequisite to make the top four, and with the Spartans out of the way, Ohio State has a relatively easy road between here and the end of the year.

ESPN.com's Brian Bennett remains skeptical that the Buckeyes will do enough:

Ohio State head coach remains confident that his team's done enough so far, per Patrick Maks of Eleven Warriors:

One thing is for sure; OSU won't crack the top four when the selection committee unveils its newest rankings. That would mean jumping 10 spots after one victory.

More than likely, the top four will look something like this:

Ohio State vs. Michigan State was billed as a playoff eliminator; whomever lost kissed its national title hopes goodbye.

"I personally feel like the playoff system starts this weekend," said Michigan State middle linebacker Taiwan Jones before the game, per MLive.com's Mike Griffith. "It's a one-game elimination."

Well, he and his Spartan teammates were eliminated on Saturday.

It's way too late in the season for Michigan State to have any chance impressing the selection committee all over again and getting into the top four.

Of course, that's not to say that Ohio State is a lock for the playoff, either. The Buckeyes will likely still be on the outside looking in when the Week 12 rankings are unveiled.

Entering Saturday, the Big Ten wasn't getting a ton of love from the committee. Here's a look at how many teams each conference had in the Top 25 and the conference's average ranking.

Even with this victory, it's likely that Ohio State will be ranked behind Oregon—as long as the Ducks win—and TCU. Arizona State might even remain ahead of the Buckeyes after the Sun Devils' victory over Notre Dame.

The Big Ten has a perception problem. The SEC surpassed it a few years ago, and the Pac-12 is deeper from top to bottom. The Big 12 has arguably leapfrogged the Big Ten as well.

Members of the selection committee can talk about not bringing conference strength/perception into the discussion, but that's nearly impossible when judging the quality of a potential top-four team.

Grantland's Matt Hinton wrote a great examination of the Big Ten and how exactly it arrived at this point. He argued that the clash between the Buckeyes and Spartans "exists in a kind of vacuum" outside of the national eye because the Big Ten remains an afterthought in the national discussion.

Ohio State lost to a now 4-5 Virginia Tech team, while Michigan State was dominated in the second half by Oregon. And beating Nebraska wouldn't register much for the Buckeyes since the Cornhuskers' best win so far was at home against Miami.

Hinton said that he had previously tried to defend the Big Ten from undue criticism, but the conference's decline is plain for everyone to see:

Such are the calculations that are so often misread as "bias" in a system that is (1) based largely on drawing conclusions from indirect and frequently contradictory comparisons, and (2) ill-suited to informing said comparisons. I spent years battling the assumption that the Big Ten was gathering rust or that the SEC was pulling away, which were two sides of the same annoying argument. Both conclusions struck me as shallow, anecdotal, and dubious. Gradually, though, the perception has become such an undeniable reality that the Big Ten commissioner himself has been forced to own up to it every time his conference has gotten sand kicked in its face. (Jim) Delany doesn't even bother to describe the malaise as "cyclical" anymore. Until further notice, it's just the way things are.

It's not impossible for Ohio State to get into the top four, but in order for that to happen, the Buckeyes will almost certainly need both Oregon and Arizona State to lose in the Pac-12 and then TCU to fall in the Big 12.

Then again, OSU might have swayed the selection committee with its decisive victory.

With the way that this season has unfolded, Ohio State fans shouldn't begin to panic. By the time all is said and done, the Buckeyes could be the only one-loss conference champion outside of an unbeaten Florida State.

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Alabama vs. LSU: How Crimson Tide's Win Reshapes Playoff Picture

Alabama eked out a 20-13 overtime victory against rival LSU on Saturday, a win that should keep its College Football Playoff hopes alive for at least another week. 

The result moves 'Bama to 8-1 overall and 5-1 in the SEC. LSU drops to 7-3 overall and 3-3 in the SEC, well out of both the playoff and conference title pictures.

The Big Lead's Jason McIntyre noted several teams saw their playoff hopes washed away on Saturday, but Alabama wasn't one of them:

This game established some semblance of order in the SEC, but it does little to alleviate the headache of the College Football Playoff selection committee, which at this point still has a multitude of one-loss teams to consider from the power conferences.

Florida State and Oregon should still make the College Football Playoff if they win out, although no one should dare sleep on Arizona State. The Sun Devils blew out Notre Dame 55-31 on Saturday and could very well dash the Ducks' playoff dreams if they meet in the Pac-12 title game.

The Crimson Tide's win creates desperation for the likes of TCU and Baylor, as only the winner of the Big 12 title is likely to get a playoff spot. The Bears hold the tiebreaker over the Horned Frogs by virtue of their 61-58 shootout win earlier this season. However, neither team could make the playoff if the committee selects two SEC squads, highly unlikely but still plausible after Alabama's win.

The win over a prestige opponent, combined with the Auburn Tigers' shocking loss to Texas A&M on Saturday, should vault Alabama into the top four of the College Football Playoff rankings. The win also creates some semblance of separation in the SEC West, as Alabama and Mississippi State are now the top two teams in the division.

Unfortunately, these two heavyweights must still play each other on Nov. 15. This game could very well determine who wins the SEC championship, and whether or not two teams from the conference make the College Football Playoff.

Should Alabama beat Mississippi State and go on to win the SEC Championship—very likely considering the notable flaws of Georgia and Missouri, two of the best SEC East teams—the Bulldogs could still earn a playoff spot with one loss and all the goodwill Dak Prescott and company have conjured up throughout the season.

If the Crimson Tide lose on November 15, the second loss would likely doom their playoff hopes and leave it to the Bulldogs to finish out the season strong and represent the SEC in the College Football Playoff. 

Auburn can definitely spoil Alabama's chances if the Tigers defeat their bitter rival in the Iron Bowl on Nov. 29, leaving both teams with two losses and clearing the path for Mississippi State. It will be up to coach Nick Saban to keep his squad focused, so perhaps it's a good thing he was dismissive of the initial CFP rankings in late October. Via AL.com's Michael Casagrande: 

To me, none of it matters. What does it matter? I mean, it only matters where you end up at the end. So what matters to us is how we do in each and every game that we have to play. We have four games left to play, and if we can be successful in those games, maybe there's a chance we will play in the SEC Championship Game as well.

LSU's loss should spur the team to search for some semblance of a consistent passing game in the coming years.

Alabama has had great success with game managers like A.J. McCarron and Blake Sims, while Auburn is in the hunt every year thanks to the dual-threat exploits of quarterbacks like Nick Marshall and Cam Newton.

LSU's running game is in good shape with freshman Leonard Fournette in the fold, yet—simply put—the type of year quarterback Anthony Jennings has had won't cut it in this conference.

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Ohio State Proves Playoff-Worthy in Beatdown of Michigan State

EAST LANSING, Michigan — For 11 months Ohio State tried to play it cool, claiming that its Nov. 8 matchup with Michigan State was merely another game on its schedule. But as its showdown with the Spartans approached, it became increasingly clear that this was the date that the Buckeyes had circled on their schedule—and boy, did they deliver.

Urban Meyer left no stone unturned in his biggest win in two-plus seasons as Ohio State's head coach, pulling out all the stops in what was ultimately a 49-37 Buckeyes victory.

Quarterback J.T. Barrett turned in another stellar performance, reentering his name into the Heisman Trophy conversation with 386 total yards and five touchdowns, while the OSU defense swarmed MSU quarterback Connor Cook in a game that was decided with more than 10 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.

If there were still any questions remaining about how good this Buckeyes team is—and there were—they were answered on Saturday. Regardless of how it did it, Ohio State went into Spartan Stadium at night as an underdog and walked away with a much-needed signature victory.

"This is a pretty young team that played a pretty veteran team and came out on top," Meyer told ESPN in his postgame interview. "The future is bright at Ohio State."

Only this wasn't about exercising demons left from last season's loss in the Big Ten title game—that all makes for meaningless fodder, which there certainly wasn't any shortage of in Columbus this past week.

Having their 24-game winning streak and national title chances ended by Michigan State last season may have been used as a motivation for the Buckeyes in the offseason, but what happened in East Lansing was bigger than any contrived revenge narrative could encapsulate.

This was about Ohio State proving that it was the real deal, not just a team that has beat up on bad opponents since its Week 2 loss to Virginia Tech. Tuesdays at 7:30 p.m. just got a whole lot more interesting in Columbus, as the Buckeyes now find themselves right in the thick of a hunt for a spot in the first-ever College Football Playoff.

Speaking of the playoffs, Ohio State entered this weekend's prime-time matchup ranked 14th, with the committee maintaining that the Buckeyes' resume was still lacking a quality win. Their showcase against the eighth-ranked Spartans certainly changed that, virtually locking up an appearance in this season's Big Ten Championship Game in the process.

Meanwhile, the seas seem to also be parting ahead of Ohio State, with three teams ranked ahead of the Buckeyes all suffering their second defeats of the season on Saturday. Assuming Ohio State swaps spots with the Spartans, that should put it on the fringe of the all-important first four and in as good of shape as almost anyone heading into the homestretch of the season.

Because while the Buckeyes may lack the perceived sexy wins that are being earned in the SEC West and perhaps the Pac-12, Ohio State will always be able to point to what it did on Saturday when debating its worthiness in the playoff discussion.

And if that discussion is about who the four best teams in the country are at this point in the season, then that's one that the Buckeyes certainly belong in, evidenced by Saturday's double-digit victory.

"I'm glad everybody got to see this game," Meyer said. "This team is playing at a very, very high level."

Other quality opponents may lack, save for the likely Big Ten title game that Ohio State will play in, and the Buckeyes' Sept. 6 loss to now-4-5 Virginia Tech still remains somewhat of a scarlet letter on OSU's resume.

But in the span of two months, Barrett has transformed from overwhelmed freshman to one of the best signal-callers in the country, setting the pace for an offense that just racked up 568 yards against Michigan State's fifth-ranked defense.

"Boy, is he playing well," Meyer said of his freshman quarterback.

Add in weapons such as Ezekiel Elliott, Devin Smith and Jalin Marshall, as well as an emerging offensive line that set the tone against the Spartans, and it's clear that offensively, this Buckeyes team can play with anyone else on the country.

Defensively, questions still loom, especially after giving up 137 yards to MSU running back Jeremy Langford, but the unit has proven improved from a year ago and capable of coming up with a big play when it has had to.

Add it all up and this Buckeyes squad has all of the makings of a legitimate playoff contender at this point in the season. That's certainly the belief of its head coach as well, who knows that Ohio State has plenty to be playing for in these next four weeks.

"I think it is," Meyer said when asked if he believes the Buckeyes are a playoff team. "If I have to go fight for this team, I will."

With the way Ohio State played on Saturday, that might not take much effort.

 

Ben Axelrod is Bleacher Report's Ohio State Lead Writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BenAxelrod. Unless noted otherwise, all quotes obtained firsthand. All statistics courtesy of cfbstats.com and recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

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Alabama vs. LSU: Score and Twitter Reaction

Alabama snatched victory from the jaws of defeat, tying the game with seconds remaining in regulation before pulling out a 20-13 win in overtime over LSU on Saturday night in Baton Rouge.

NOLA.com's Jim Kleinpeter had Les Miles' thoughts on the tough loss after the game:

The game was very reminiscent of the 9-6 defensive struggle from 2011, where points came at a premium and neither team's offense got into any sort of groove. The Tigers and Crimson Tide combined to amass just 574 yards of total offense.

As the clock ticked down in the fourth quarter and the score remain deadlocked at 10-10, one team would have to make something crazy happen in order to break through. And that's exactly what the Tigers did with a little over a minute left to play.

Alabama running back T.J. Yeldon fumbled the ball on his own 6-yard line, giving LSU plenty of time to notch the go-ahead score.

Yeldon left the game after the fumble, and Bleacher Report's Matt Miller pointed out it was a pre-existing injury that was aggravated on the play.

On Wednesday, Alabama head coach Nick Saban said that the junior running back "will play for sure," per Michael Casagrande of AL.com. Saban could only remark after the game that Yeldon had a "twisted ankle," per CBSSports.com's Jon Solomon:

Yeldon's injury became a factor on that play, as an LSU defender was twisting his foot prior to the fumble.

Although an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty moved LSU 15 yards back, Colby Delahoussaye put the Tigers ahead with a 39-yard field goal.

But just as LSU grabbed a ton of momentum, it handed it right back after Trent Domingue's kickoff went out of bounds. That gave Alabama the ball all the way up to their 35-yard line, and the Crimson Tide needed only a couple of first downs to get into field-goal position.

Saban called a perfect drive with plenty of quick outs and slants that helped 'Bama reach the LSU 10-yard line. From there, Adam Griffith, who missed a field goal earlier in the game, tied the score with three seconds remaining.

Alabama had possession to start overtime, and Blake Sims hit wide receiver DeAndrew White from six yards out for the go-ahead touchdown.

LSU head coach Les Miles opened himself up for criticism with his play-calling on the final drive of the game. The Tigers ran four passing plays, and Anthony Jennings' last-gasp heave into the end zone for Malachi Dupre was knocked away.

Yahoo Sports' Pat Forde questioned why LSU didn't rely on its far better run game:

The Tigers had almost no success through the air the entire night. Jennings finished 8-of-26 for 76 yards, one touchdown and an interception. Compare that to the run game, which went for 183 yards on 56 carries. Leonard Fournette wasn't great, but he helped push the ball forward with 79 yards on the ground.

LSU only kept it close because of how well its defense stifled the high-powered Crimson Tide offense. Sims could only manage 209 yards through the air, while Amari Cooper was largely silent in the second half, finishing with eight receptions for 83 yards and a touchdown.

Neither Yeldon nor Derrick Henry had much going when running the ball, as the Crimson Tide duo combined for 92 yards.

A low-scoring affair favored the Tigers, and they probably should've won the game in regulation. Instead, they shot themselves in the foot and blew what was a strong first-quarter and second-half performance.

LSU took a 7-0 lead in the first frame after a 14-yard touchdown pass from Jennings to Dupre, which was one of Jennings' two completions in the entire first half. The sophomore quarterback has come under fire quite a bit for his poor performance, but his pass to Dupre was right on the money.

Jeff Duncan of The Times-Picayune felt that Jennings couldn't have placed his throw any better:

The Tigers couldn't build on their lead, though. In addition to Jennings' struggles through the air, the trio of Fournette, Terrence Magee and Kenny Hilliard only gained 122 yards on a whopping 38 carries.

The Alabama offense didn't fare much better early on, as a stout LSU defense stymied the Crimson Tide at every opportunity through the first quarter. And the first time the Tide got into scoring position, Griffith left points on the board with a missed field goal from 27 yards out.

SEC on CBS captured a snapshot of the ball hitting the upright before bouncing harmlessly to the ground:

Alabama doesn't have many flaws, but Glenn Guilbeau of USA Today highlighted what's been an ongoing issue for the team this year:

Slowly but surely, however, the Crimson Tide exerted more and more authority on the proceedings.

Cooper tied the game through a 23-yard touchdown pass with 5:40 to go until halftime. The Heisman Trophy candidate turned a simple route over the middle into an adventure (via CBS Sports):

With the TD, 'Bama improved its first-half scoring streak to 98 games, which is the longest in the country, per the SEC Network:

Griffith then redeemed himself as the second quarter neared its conclusion, connecting with a 39-yard field goal to put Alabama ahead 10-7.

The Alabama offense wasn't quite a one-man show in the first half, but Cooper was a big reason the visitors found themselves in the lead. He accounted for 72 of the Tide's 110 passing yards, while Yeldon and Henry combined for 62 yards on 14 carries.

Cooper's 72 yards were also enough to pass D.J. Hall in the Alabama record books for most career receiving yards:

Alabama's advantage was short-lived, however, as LSU tied the game at 10-10 with a 35-yard field goal from Delahoussaye on the opening drive of the second half with what would be the only score until the final minute of the game.

Miles and the Tigers will rue this missed opportunity. They only had a very long shot at the playoff, but beating 'Bama would've been something to build upon heading into next year.

LSU gets what will be a tricky game against Arkansas next week and wraps up the regular season against a newly rejuvenated Texas A&M team.

Alabama has little time to rest on its laurels. The Crimson Tide welcome in the top-ranked Mississippi State Bulldogs next Saturday in a game that will in all likelihood determine the winner of the SEC West. They'll of course close the regular season with the Iron Bowl.

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Winners and Losers from Week 11 of College Football

The biggest college football weekend of the year had a few surprising results, which is just the way fans should like it. 

Unless you're a fan of Auburn. In that case, perhaps it's best to bypass this list altogether. 

Week 11 has had no shortage of drama, from Texas A&M's upset over Auburn to Alabama surviving LSU in overtime. On the other hand, Ohio State, Baylor, TCU and Oregon had statement blowouts over quality opponents. 

This weekend's results will definitely have major implications for the College Football Playoff rankings. Auburn may have lost its way out of a playoff spot, while Arizona State showed it has a legitimate case for one by winning against Notre Dame. But most of all, it's weekends like this one that make the college game so much fun.

Which teams and players came out as winners? Which ones didn't?

Begin Slideshow

Ohio State vs. Michigan State: Score and Twitter Reaction

No. 14 Ohio State paid no attention to No. 8 Michigan State and the reputation of it's sterling defense, putting in a strong, prolific effort on offense en route to a 49-37 Big Ten victory at Spartans Stadium.

Yes, Ohio State put up 568 total yards of offense against a team that had allowed just 279.4 per game coming into Saturday's showdown. Redshirt freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett was the main source of offense, throwing for 300 yards and three touchdowns while picking up 86 yards and two more scores on the ground.

Running back Jeremy Langford starred for Michigan State in the losing effort, carrying the ball 18 times for 137 yards and three touchdowns..

Here is a look at the quarter-by-quarter score from the game.

Michigan State drew first blood in the contest, Following a missed Ohio State field goal, quarterback Connor Cook hit wideout Keith Mumphery on a 44-yard bomb that put the Spartans in the red zone. Three plays later, Cook again found Mumphery for a 15-yard score and an early 7-0 lead.

Ohio State came right back with a touchdown of it's own. Running back Ezekiel Elliott broke off a 47-yard run which set up Barrett for a five-yard scoring carry of his own to tie the game at seven points apiece.

Langford, who would be instrumental to the Spartans' success on offense, returned the lead to the Spartans on a dazzling 33-yard run late in the first quarter. Big Ten Network's Tom Dienhart noted Langford was hot coming into Saturday's contest:

The same couldn't necessarily be said for Cook, who struggled to complete passes with any regularity during the game. CBS Sports' Dane Brugler did note coming into the game that Cook is a big NFL prospect, although few plays from this game will end up on any demo reel: 

After a trade of punts, Ohio State tied the game early in the second quarter on a one-yard run from Barrett. Chicago Tribune's Teddy Greenstein noted his powerful running on the play:

Langford notched his second scoring run of the day to put the Spartans back in front 21-14 and the Spartans had a golden opportunity to go even further ahead when Ohio State's Dontre Wilson fumbled the ensuing kickoff, but Michael Geiger missed a 39-yard field goal.

Barrett made the Spartans pay for this minor transgression. Ohio State Buckeyes' relays the instant offense conjured up by Barrett:

No Buckeye fan was going to forget Braxton Miller, but Barrett did his best to at least make them impatient for the future of this program under his helm. He hit Devin Smith in stride 44 yards downfield to give the Buckeyes their first lead of the ballgame at 28-21.

ESPN's Kevin Weidl gave his take on Smith's future prospects in the NFL:

Geiger atoned for his earlier sins with a 40-yard field goal midway through the third quarter. Cook's lack of accuracy and Ohio State's composed defensive performance limited the Spartans opportunities, although the game would open up a bit in the fourth quarter.

Six minutes later, Ohio State went up 35-24 after a one-yard run from Elliott capped off a 13-play, 67-yard drive. Simply put, the Buckeyes were playing mistake-free football and having their way with the Spartans. ESPN Big Ten was shocked by the Buckeyes' efficiency.

Spartans coach Mark Dantonio, sensing his team was running out of opportunities, decided to go for it on 4th-and-5 right at the death of the third quarter, but Ohio State snuffed out the reverse and the Spartans turned the ball over on downs, still facing an 11-point deficit.

The Buckeyes would capitalize on the change of possession with Barrett notching his third touchdown pass of the day with just over 12 minutes to go in the fourth quarter to put his team up 42-24.

Michigan State kept fighting despite the dwindling prospects. Cook hit Josiah Price for a touchdown three minutes after Barrett's score, but Ohio State covered 78 yards on four plays on their next drive, which ended in a 17-yard scoring run from Elliot. FoxSportsOhio.com's Zac Jackson liked the way Elliott, and Barrett, finished off their runs:

Langford would notch a consolation touchdown for the Spartans with five minutes left in the game, and the Buckeyes held on to win by a final score of 49-37.

The future of Ohio State's program looks to be completely secure with Barrett running the show. The freshman has plenty of time to learn and grown under head coach Urban Meyer, and should be able to keep this team in Big Ten contention for the remainder of his time with the program.

The Spartans' dim College Football Playoff hopes are done for after this loss. They have very winnable games against Maryland, Rutgers and Penn State in the final three weeks of the regular season, and should be able to close out the season on a high note.

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Watch TCU QB Trevone Boykin Do Full Flip into End Zone for TD

TCU QB Trevone Boykin didn't want to go around the defense, and he didn't want to go under them; Boykin decided to go airborne against the Kansas State defense to score one of Saturday's most exciting touchdowns.

Can Trevone Boykin be a Heisman finalist?

Watch the video and let us know!

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Florida vs. Vanderbilt: Game Grades, Analysis for the Gators

The Florida Gators picked up their second consecutive SEC win with a 34-10 win over the Vanderbilt Commodores in Nashville on Saturday.

Behind quarterback Treon Harris, the Gators ran for 214 yards, while Harris had 215 yards through the air.

Florida's defense was outstanding, too. After a first quarter that saw Vanderbilt have one very good drive, that was about it for the Commodores. Two Ralph Webb fumbles led to 10 points for the Gators, and that proved to be too much for Vanderbilt to overcome.

Florida improves to 5-3 (4-3) on the season and hosts South Carolina next week. The Gators still have an outside shot of winning the SEC East, but they need Missouri to lose out. The Tigers have consecutive road games against Texas A&M and Tennessee, before finishing up with Arkansas.

Here is a look at how Florida graded out in its win over Vanderbilt.

 

Florida Gators Grade Analysis

Pass Offense: Harris was terrific. He involved little-used receivers Ahmad Fulwood and Chris Thompson in the offense. He made two big plays downfield and took several more shots. He showed patience and did not turn the ball over.

Run Offense: It wasn't like last week when the Gators ran for over 400 yards, but it was an efficient performance. As a team, Florida ran for over 200 yards, and Kelvin Taylor and Matt Jones were both solid. Harris had two terrific touchdown runs himself.

Pass Defense: Vanderbilt had one good drive throwing the football, and that was about it. Florida got pressure on Vandy all night and picked off two passes.

Run Defense: The Gators struggled against the run in the first quarter when Webb gashed them, but after his two fumbles, the Commodores couldn't run again. Both of Webb's fumbles were forced by Florida defenders. 

Special Teams: No big mistakes and Florida hit both of its field goals. Punter Kyle Christy had another strong night averaging 48 yards per punt. Florida also stopped Vandy's return game.

Coaching: Florida had a good plan on both sides of the ball. After the Gators saw how Vandy would attack them offensively, they adjusted, and the Commodores never threatened them again. Offensive play-calling was terrific.

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Leon Orr Dismissed by Florida After Leaving Game Due to Backup Role

Florida defensive tackle seems to have had an abrupt end to his career with the Gators.

The senior had started just two games this season but was  apparently expecting to be in the lineup Florida's game against Vanderbilt. However, head coach Will Muschamp opted to go with Jonathan Bullard on the defensive line instead. 

According to GatorZone.com, the player decided to leave the game and take a bus back to Gainesville instead of playing in a reserve role. Muschamp explained, "He was more concerned with starting than being part of the team."

ESPN's Jeff Barlis later reported Orr would no longer be part of the team:

Orr came into the year with high expectations, ranking among the top 10 defensive tackles in the SEC according to ESPN's Chris Low. Unfortunately, he was never able to take advantage of his role with the team and managed just 16 tackles (three solo) while playing sparingly.

It is not yet known where Orr will go from here, but there will not likely be too many coaches interested in the player after this incident.

 

Follow Rob Goldberg on Twitter for the latest breaking news and analysis.

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Ifo Ekpre-Olomu Injury: Updates on Oregon Star's Foot and Return

The Oregon Ducks defense may have taken a major blow in Saturday's game vs. Utah as star cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu suffered an injury to his left foot.

Steve Mims of the The Register Guard had the report:

Andrew Greif of The Oregonian had more after the game:

Ekpre-Olomu is a two-time All-Pac-12 cornerback and one of the best individual defenders in the entire country. His fourth-quarter interception in the Ducks’ critical nonconference victory over Michigan State helped seal one of the most important games of the 2014 season.

The hope now is that this latest injury doesn’t change that designation.

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