NCAA Football News

Why College Football's Fallen Favorites Shouldn't Overreact to Week of Upsets

Let us take a moment to welcome Oklahoma, UCLA, Texas A&M, Alabama and Oregon to an ever-growing club among college football's elite in 2014, the First Losers Club.   

So after a wild Week 6, it's safe to write off the aforementioned schools from the national title picture, right?

Not so fast, my friend.   

A check of recent history would suggest that there should be just the hint of joy in Mudville—aka Eugene, Westwood, Norman, College Station and Tuscaloosa. A year ago, the AP rankings after week six did not see Auburn or Michigan State even ranked among the Top 25 teams.

Auburn, of course, made it to the BCS title game, before losing to Florida State in the final seconds. Michigan State won the Big Ten title and beat Stanford in the Rose Bowl.

And it's hard to count any team out in a season where parity, not superiority, is the prevailing theme. Indeed, since the AP began charting teams in 1936, no week had ever seen five of the top eight teams lose on the same weekend.

So a good life after a stunning upset is possible, especially with the help of the new four-team playoff.

In the past, the two-team BCS title game system made losing even one game difficult to overcome. With four teams in the mix now, it seems more likely that a one- or even two-loss team from a Power 5 conference could recover.

And for teams outside the SEC, the chances may be even brighter as the conference spends the rest of the season beating each other up with rank-sinking consequences. Mississippi State, for example, which knocked off Texas A&M, must turn around to host unbeaten Auburn. And Mississippi, which upset Alabama, must travel to Texas A&M in what could be an elimination game.

Here's what each of this weekend's surprise losers must do to get back in the hunt for the Final Four.

1. Alabama

Week 6 rank (AP): 3
Week 7 rank (AP): 7
First loss: Ole Miss, 23-17

How to get back in the fight:  Strange as it may seem, just take care of business and close the deal at the end of games. The Tide might still have the best team in the country. They are strong on defense, solid on offense and had control of Ole Miss until the very end.

"I think the big question for our team is, 'How do you respond to a loss?'" Alabama coach Nick Saban told reporters after the game. "There are several teams around here who have lost games and responded the right way. They have ended up having pretty good seasons."

The Tide's mistakes were more self-inflicted than anything else. "Dropped balls, turnovers, penalties and those sorts of things are not something you can do against a good football team, especially on the road," Saban said.

Saban's players seemed to be buying what Saban was selling after the game. "They weren't doing anything to make it hard on us," said Alabama tight end Brian Volger after the game. "We just need to come back next week and clean up our mistakes."

Outlook: Very good. The schedule works in their favor. Texas A&M (Oct. 18) and Auburn (Nov. 29) are at home. A game at Tennessee on Oct. 25 could be a challenge, but SEC East dangers Missouri and Georgia are not on the schedule this season. Considering the parity around the rest of the country—the Big Ten has no unbeaten teams remaining, the Big 12 is down to Baylor and TCU, the Pac-12 down to Arizona and the ACC has only FSU—there may not be any unbeaten teams at the end of the regular season. A one-loss SEC team remains virtually a lock to make the Final Four. Even a two-loss team might still be in the hunt. And since Mississippi and Mississippi State must play each other, one of those teams will have at least one loss. It is even conceivable that Alabama could make the Final four as a runner up in its own division, which happened in the SEC in 2011, when No. 1 LSU met No. 2 Alabama in the BCS title game.

2. Oklahoma

Week 6 rank (AP): 4
Week 7 rank (AP): 11
First loss: TCU, 37-33

How to get back in the fight: Stay healthy, stay focused and hope that there are some upsets in other conferences. The Sooners lost a tough game against a good opponent on the road. It happens and their focus has already moved forward.

"This isn't the defining moment of our season," OU quarterback Trevor Knight told reporters after the game. "Who knows down the road? It's early in the season, a one-loss team can still make it."

But the Sooners need some help. It will start this week. OU must get past Texas in the annual Red River Shootout in Dallas. Ninety miles down the road in Waco, unbeaten Baylor takes on unbeaten TCU. A Baylor win would help, because it would knock TCU back to the pack and Baylor still must come to Oklahoma on Nov. 8.

Sooners coach Bob Stoops needs to find a way to tighten the defense. TCU picked up 469 yards in total offense, including 318 yards passing. If TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin could tear up the Sooners defense, imagine what Baylor's Bryce Petty might do.

Outlook: Fair. The schedule works in their favor. The problem may be in convincing the playoff selection committee that their one loss—two defeats will eliminate the Sooners—is as good or better than a one-loss selection from the SEC or Pac-12 or Big Ten. Without the added boost of a conference championship game it might be difficult. Still, TCU may be the toughest game the Sooners encounter in the regular season. They just need the Horned Frogs to lose at least one game (but preferably two).

"All we care about is next week (Texas)," said Stoops after the game. "I like our team. We have great team chemistry. We have to keep getting better. We just need better play overall from all of us."

But will even that be enough to get the Sooners back in the playoff discussion?

3. Oregon

Week 6 ranking (AP): 2
Week 7 ranking (AP): 12
First loss: Arizona: 31-24

How to get back in the fight: Start by beating UCLA on Saturday. That's essential. And Mariota needs to ramp up his game and produce a steady stream of Heisman moments for the remainder of the season. "We didn't play cleanly enough, or smart enough," said Oregon coach Mark Helfrich, who has watched an unranked Arizona team beat his Ducks the past two seasons. Of greater concern is an offensive line riddled with injuries.

Outlook: Not good. Oregon has been getting worse each week, instead of better. Clearly, a two-loss Ducks team would be headed to Las Vegas or El Paso for a secondary bowl game and could forget the playoffs. As good as Mariota is, he can carry only so much of the load and is only a sprained ankle or a bruised elbow away from sending the Ducks into a tailspin. While Oregon is tight-lipped about injuries, the O-line is missing a handful of starters and has become a mix-and-match unit that has allowed Mariota to be sacked 15 times already. Add in Oregon's lack of killer instinct—losing to Arizona last year and Stanford the past two seasons—and the playoffs don't look great. Still, if Mariota can beat the Bruins on Saturday, the chase will continue. But road games at Cal and Utah, which looked fairly easy a month ago, now appear to be much tougher.

4. Texas A&M

Week 6 ranking (AP): 6
Week 7 ranking (AP): 14
First loss: Mississippi State 48-31

How to get back in the fight: Play better defense, which may not be possible with this Aggies team. Mississippi State, led by quarterback Dak Prescott (five total touchdowns) took apart A&M, piling up 336 total yards. Coach Kevin Sumlin is an offensive magician and he has made quarterback Kenny Hill a star in a matter of a months, but even with Hill doing his magic, it's doubtful A&M has enough firepower to hold off the rest of the SEC West teams who are starting to circle like sharks.

Outlook: Poor. "What we can't do is let today affect the rest of the season," said Sumlin after the loss to the Bulldogs. We've got a long way to go."

Despite Sumlin's best intentions, the loss on Saturday might stick a while. In addition to the defensive breakdowns, there were a host of miscues on offense, from dropped passes to moments when Hill looked like a young, inexperienced QB in his first college season rather than the second coming of Johnny Football. 

Truth be told, the picture isn't exactly rosy for A&M. The Aggies went to overtime to beat Arkansas last week, face Ole Miss next week (at College Station) and then have to make trips to Alabama and Auburn. By the time LSU comes to Texas in the regular season finale, there might not be much meat left on the Aggies carcass. Even the head-turning win over South Carolina in the opener looks less impressive now considering the way the Gamecocks have stumbled the past few weeks.

"It's definitely going to be challenging," Aggies cornerback Deshazor Everett told the Dallas Morning News

5. UCLA

Week 6 rank (AP): 8
Week 7 rank (AP): 18
First loss: Utah, 30-28

How to get back in the fight: The first goal is obvious. Oregon visits the Rose Bowl on Saturday in what is virtually a playoff game. Winner advances, loser goes home. But after the date with the Ducks there's still lots of high altitude climbing ahead, including a tough final month of the regular season featuring games against Arizona, at Washington, USC and Stanford. Even the Pac-12 title game will be tougher since it is now at a neutral site (Santa Clara).

Outlook: Not great. Utah exposed some flaws on both sides of the ball, recording an incredible 10 sacks against UCLA and picking up 242 rushing yards against the Bruins.

Also a poor omen is the Bruins' history of failure at crunch time. In 1998 they were a game away from making their first BCS title game when they lost at Miami. In 2005, they were 8-0 and ranked No. 7 after a tough overtime win at Stanford but then lost to Arizona 52-14. Two years later, they were ranked No. 11 before a game at Utah and lost to the Utes, 44-6. And this year sees the Bruins facing an Oregon team they've lost to give straight times.

The pollsters were particularly harsh on the Bruins after Saturday's upset loss, dropping them 10 spots.

"We all bear responsibility," said UCLA coach Jim Mora after the game. "We have to figure out why and push on from there."

Mora and company had better come up with an answer by Saturday when Oregon and Heisman hopeful quarterback Marcus Mariota come to the Rose Bowl.

As last season showed, six weeks into the season is too early to eliminate any quality one-loss team from consideration, and the expanded playoff system opens the window wider for any of the above teams to make the playoffs. But each team, other than Alabama, has used its mulligan.

The X-factor is Notre Dame. If the Irish, which remained unbeaten on Saturday in beating Stanford, finishes in the top four, they'll likely claim one of the spots, which could eliminate a champion from a Power 5 conference (watch out Big 12).

As of now, the best guess for who gets back in the race (in order): Alabama, UCLA, Oregon, Oklahoma and Texas A&M.

 

Mark Blaudschun covers college football as a national columnist for Bleacher Report. He has more than three decades of experience covering sports at a variety of newspapers in New Jersey, The Dallas Morning News and The Boston Globe. Follow him on Twitter @blauds.

 

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Samuel Chi's Mock College Football Playoff Standings: Week 7

The SEC haters will not like to hear this, but in the inaugural College Football Playoff, there just might be two SEC teams in the four-team field.

A slew of upsets last weekend shook up the playoff outlook, but it did little damage to the SEC's chances. Instead of traditional powers like Alabama and LSU, you now have the ascendant Mississippi schools at the top of the polls. There is a chance that, at the end of the season, more will be riding on the line at the Egg Bowl than the Iron Bowl.

The Big Ten, without a single undefeated team after the first weekend of October, already is on the outside looking in as far as the playoff is concerned. It is now joined on the sidelines by the Pac-12, which does a better job than any other conference to self-immolate. After Oregon, UCLA, Stanford and USC all lost in dramatic fashion last week, there's not a single Pac-12 team in the Top 10 of the standings, either.

Of course, the season is only about a third of the way done, and we're still three weeks away from the selection committee's first rankings. But make no mistake, the prospects of the SEC (more specifically, the SEC West) landing two playoff teams are becoming very real.

 

The Rankings

(See methodology of standings)

 

The Playoff Teams

1. Auburn

If the playoff were to start today, the Tigers would be the undisputed top seed, even if they're not No. 1 in the polls. But the playoff does not start today, and the Tigers still have to deal with the toughest schedule in college football this season (or in quite some time), so it's certain that Gus Malzahn isn't spending one second thinking about any of this stuff. (Projected bowl: Playoff at Sugar Bowl)

 

2. Ole Miss

Remember in 2007 when South Florida and Boston College each spent time at No. 2 in the BCS standings? While it's just as shocking to see the Rebels in this spot, they're far more legitimate than those two pretenders, which both finished the season outside of the Top 10. The way things are playing out, the second-place SEC West team is in a prime spot to swipe a playoff berth, provided the division winner takes the SEC title. (Projected bowl: Playoff at Rose Bowl)

 

3. Florida State

The Seminoles will make the playoffs if they run the table, but, in spite of their top ranking in the polls currently, they probably won't be the top seed unless there are no other power-five unbeatens. FSU simply will not be challenged much this season, with most of its toughest games already out of the way. (Projected bowl: Playoff at Rose Bowl)

 

6. Baylor

The Bears have played absolutely nobody, as evidenced by their low strength of schedule (SOS) ranking. But their season starts now, beginning with the upcoming showdown against TCU. With the Big 12 playing a true round-robin and without a conference title game, Baylor likely will have to win every game to offset the weakness of its nonconference schedule. (Projected bowl: Playoff at Sugar Bowl)

 

First Four Out

4. Mississippi State

With wins over LSU and Texas A&M, the Bulldogs have the bona fides to make a case for the playoff spot. There's work ahead as they haven't even gone through half of the test that is the SEC West. The good news is that they don't play any of their divisional foes in back-to-back weeks after this weekend. The bad news is that Auburn is coming up this weekend. (Projected bowl: Cotton Bowl)

 

5. Alabama

As predicted, Alabama loses but doesn't fall very far. But the Tide now have the work cut out for them, as another loss could end their quest for a spot in the playoff field. The reason for that is 'Bama's toughest remaining games will come in November, at which time a second loss will prove fatal. (Projected bowl: Orange Bowl)

 

7 Oklahoma

The Sooners still have a decent chance of playing their way back into the playoff field, but there is now no margin for error. OU will need to win all of its remaining games and hope TCU is beaten twice along the way for it to claim the Big 12 title. Humanely destroying the Longhorns in Dallas is a must. (Projected bowl: Cotton Bowl)

 

8. Notre Dame

The Irish have set themselves up pretty nicely for a playoff run, but they face a must-win game in two weeks at Florida State. A victory over the defending champs will put Notre Dame in the playoff field provided that it wins the rest of its games. And a one-loss (or maybe even two-loss) Irish team should be good enough to snatch a New Year's Six bowl bid. (Projected bowl: Peach Bowl)

 

Other Fun Facts

* The Pac-12 suddenly finds itself outside of the playoff field, and there isn't a sure way to play itself back in. Arizona is now the conference's only unbeaten team and as much as that's a feel-good story, Rich Rodriguez's Wildcats are unlikely to win their division, let alone the conference. Without a dominant team emerging—and being the only power five to play nine conference games plus a title game—the Pac-12's national championship drought (since 2004) likely will continue.

* The Big Ten has an even longer national title drought, dating back to 2002, and at the moment it has maybe one team with an outside chance of crashing the playoff party. Michigan State will need lots of breaks to go its way, namely having other conferences produce two-loss champions, to have any shot of returning to the top of the rankings. Otherwise, it'll be a Big Ten-Pac-12 rendezvous in the Fiesta Bowl as a mere consolation prize.

* The Group of 5 bid likely has been whittled down to these six contenders and in this order: 1. East Carolina (American), 2. Memphis (American), Colorado State (Mountain West), 4. Air Force (Mountain West), 5. Marshall (Conference USA), 6. Northern Illinois (MAC). Marshall is the only unbeaten team; Memphis has two losses, while the others have one each. Strength of schedule will play a major role in the committee's decision to award this bid.

 

Follow on Twitter @ThePlayoffGuru 

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AP College Football Poll 2014: Official Top 25 Rankings and Week 7 Projections

Rarely has The Associated Press Top 25 poll been as victimized as it was this week.

The job of the poll is never cut and dry, but after a historic week in which half of the Top 10 suffered upsets, the clockwork-like manner of the poll release could have used an extension on its deadline to fully digest the happenings.

ESPN Stats & Info noted that the pollsters have not had to deal with such a week in a decade and change:

That note came before then-ranked No. 8 UCLA took a late-night dive at the hands of Utah.

Below, let's review the latest offering from the AP and look ahead to the next week of action, which, on paper, promises to be just as wild.

 

2014 Week 7 Associated Press Top 25

 

Week 7 Top 25 Projections

 

Week 7 Outlook

The Hunt for a Rebound

It is hard to understand just how incredible the Week 7 slate is and difficult to explain just how important the outcomes are to the inaugural College Football Playoff.

Start with Alabama, the perennially dominant dynasty led by Nick Saban. The Crimson Tide missed two field goals and committed a number of costly errors to lose to then-ranked No. 11 Ole Miss, 23-17.

Now the Crimson Tide must run the table against a schedule that includes Texas A&M, LSU, Mississippi State and Auburn, but first they must overcome Arkansas on the road. The Razorbacks are a team that almost upset Texas A&M a few weeks back and touts a top-10 rushing attack.

The story is much the same for Oregon and UCLA—two teams that encounter one another in Week 7.

Oregon was on the wrong side of a 31-24 outcome against unranked Arizona last Thursday, as former Heisman favorite Marcus Mariota lost a late fumble to ruin what had been otherwise a rather solid night.

UCLA's loss to Utah was even more gut-wrenching, as signal-caller Brett Hundley was sacked a ridiculous 10 times, per Josh Norris of Rotoworld.com. A late field goal decided the cone contest, and well, John Breech of CBSSports.com does the affair justice:

Texas A&M was another major loser on the weekend that gets another trial by fire that may outright decide its CFP aspirations right away.

After a 48-31 loss to Mississippi State in which Kenny Hill finally played like a first-year starter with 365 yards and a 4-3 touchdown-to-interception ratio, the Aggies must find a way overcome the same Rebels team that just took down the Crimson Tide.

The only team that gets a breather after a major upset is formerly ranked No. 4 Oklahoma. Bob Stoops and the Sooners dropped a four-point game to TCU over the weekend on the road, which seems like more of a testament to how good the Horned Frogs are than to a suggestion that Oklahoma was overrated. 

A high-profile, albeit seemingly easy date with Texas lies ahead for the Sooners. The Longhorns sit at 2-3 and most recently got blown up by Baylor, 28-7. Austin Chadwick of Sports Animal Tulsa puts it best:

Unlike some of the SEC teams, the Sooners still have a great shot at the CFP should they run the table over the course of what is a rather favorable schedule. The biggest test comes on Nov. 8 against Baylor, but it is at home and far enough into the future that the Sooners should be over last Saturday's debacle.

 

Matchup of the Week: No. 2 Auburn at No. 3 Mississippi State

CFP implications could not be higher in what has the look of one of the most important contests of the season. Hence why College GameDay is on the way to Starkville:

As two of the teams able to remain unscathed last weekend, Auburn and Mississippi State have an opportunity in this matchup to get a serious leg up on the SEC when it comes to the conference title and a playoff berth.

Even without the implications, this one would have been loads of fun. The Bulldogs are led by Dak Prescott, who some would lead fans to believe is Tim Tebow reincarnated on a collegiate field. His weekly numbers—especially those against Texas A&M last week—signify the validity that he is one of the lone leaders for the Heisman Trophy:

That dual-threat attack will be countered by a Tigers team that uses a very similar approach with quarterback Nick Marshall. The senior has 755 yards and eight touchdowns to one interception and another 392 yards and four scores on the ground.

Thanks to 326 total yards and four touchdowns on Saturday alone, Auburn was able to move past LSU, 41-7. For Tigers coach Gus Malzahn, it was a reaffirmation on a grand stage that he has one of the better quarterbacks in the country on his side.

"Nick played like one of the better quarterbacks in the entire country," Malzahn said, per The Associated Press, via ESPN.com.

Saturday, two experienced quarterbacks get to take their best shot at the Heisman and elevate their programs to surefire CFP favorite status. Something has to give in one of the year's biggest showdowns, just like we all predicted before the season.

 

Stats and information via ESPN.com unless otherwise specified. AP poll via The Associated Press.

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College Football's Most Important Offers of the Week

The impact from the saga surrounding Michigan head coach Brady Hoke has made its way to the recruiting trail.

The bad news started with the decommitment of 4-star defensive lineman Darian Roseboro, who subsequently picked up an offer from Oklahoma, per Steve Lorenz of Wolverine247.

Meanwhile, 4-star tight end Chris Clark earned offers from USC and Texas

While Clark hasn’t followed the lead of Roseboro by breaking ties with Michigan, as Steve Wiltfong of 247Sports notes (subscription required), he may have second thoughts on his pledge should Hoke and his staff be let go.

The offseason coaching carousel often has a ripple effect given that national signing day is less than a month after the final game of the season.

In Michigan’s case, other schools aren’t wasting any time in reaching out to its current commitments.

The news isn’t all bad for Wolverines fans. There are a few pledges who are still planning to call Ann Arbor home for the next four seasons.

Late last month, Lorenz (subscription required) reported that current Michigan commitments Alex Malzone, Jon Runyan Jr. and Garrett Taylor were still solid in their decisions to stick with the Wolverines.

With the season less than halfway complete, there are likely to be more twists and turns at Michigan and other places.

However, the fallout from the heat Hoke is getting is just one example of how negative momentum on the field can carry over into a school’s recruiting efforts.

 

Ohio State, Notre Dame Setting Up Shop in Sunshine State

The state of Florida is one of the unquestioned hotbeds in terms of producing a large number of FBS-level recruits.

It’s no surprise that schools that hail from outside the southeast are pounding the pavement in the Sunshine State. Notre Dame and Ohio State are two powers from the north that have been aggressive in Florida in recent weeks.

The Irish offered IMG Academy 2016 4-star corner Saivion Smith just days after offering his teammate and 4-star junior receiver Tavares “T.J.” Chase.

Meanwhile, Urban Meyer returned to his old stomping ground to offer 2017 4-star receiver Emmanuel Greene, who attends Coconut Creek High School along with stud 2016 recruits Trayvon Mullen, Binjimen Victor and Malek Young.

Both the Buckeyes and the Irish have had success in landing Florida recruits in the past, and both programs are getting in early on some of the Sunshine State’s top underclassmen.

 

2015 Big 12 Commit Picking up SEC Offers

Two weeks ago, 2015 3-star running back Corey Dauphine—who has been committed to Texas Tech since July—picked up an offer from Florida.

Last week, the Gators’ most recent opponent, Tennessee, tendered the 5’11”, 188-pound standout from Memorial High School in Port Arthur, Texas.

After the Gators offered, Dauphine told GatorBait’s Luke Stampini that he was still firm in his plan to head to Lubbock for college.

“I don’t think anything can sway me from my Tech commitment,” Dauphine said.

However, as the interest in Dauphine continues to rise, it will be interesting to see if that sentiment holds true as signing day approaches.

 

Is 2018 Virginia RB the Next Big Thing?

From one running back who will be in college next fall to another one who just recently entered high school, 2018 standout running back Ricky Slade is quickly making a name for himself in recruiting circles.

The Woodbridge, Virginia, standout picked up his first offer from the homestanding Virginia Cavaliers. Hours later, Virginia Tech and Ohio State followed suit. 

Slade hails from C.D. Hylton High School—the same school that 2015 4-star offensive lineman Matthew Burrell calls home. Through five games, Slade has accounted for 1,199 yards of total offense and 17 touchdowns. 

Like Burrell, Slade is on pace to become one of the nation’s most coveted prospects in his class.

 

Best of the Rest

 

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

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Auburn Early Favorites in Showdown with Mississippi State

The Auburn Tigers will be gunning for their sixth straight-up win in a row when they travel to Davis Wade Stadium Saturday afternoon to take on the undefeated Mississippi State Bulldogs as early three-point road favorites at the online sportsbooks.

The game unexpectedly involves two of the top-ranked teams in the nation following a tumultuous Week 6 in which four of the top six ranked teams went down to defeat; a first since 1990.

The 5-0 Tigers are coming off a decisive 41-7 win over No. 15 LSU, ending a two-game losing streak against the spread. The Bulldogs, meanwhile, handed No. 6 Texas A&M its first loss of the season, a 48-31 beating as three-point favorites that catapulted them from No. 12 to their current No. 3 in the AP Top 25 poll.

No. 2 Auburn holds the upper hand in recent matchups with the Bulldogs, 11-2 SU in  their last 13 meetings including a 24-20 home victory last season.

Texas A&M will look to bounce back when it takes on No. 3 Ole Miss as a 2.5-point home favorite at sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark. The 5-1 Aggies impressed early on with a 52-28 upset win over South Carolina in Week 1 but are just 1-3 ATS in their last four and 3-10 ATS in their last 13.

The 5-0 Rebels have been one of the big surprises of the 2014 college football season. Mississippi is also 5-0 ATS this season following an inconsistent 2013 campaign in which they were 8-5 SU and 7-6 ATS. The Aggies came out on top in last year’s matchup between the clubs, posting a 41-38 win, but it was the Rebels who covered as seven-point underdogs.

No. 1 Florida State is pegged as an early 20-point road favorite ahead of Saturday afternoon’s Seminoles vs. Orange matchup at the Carrier Dome. The 5-0 Seminoles picked up their first win ATS last weekend, pounding ACC Atlantic rival Wake Forest 43-3 as 37-point favorites, and face a 2-3 Syracuse squad that has lost three straight, SU and ATS.

In other college football betting action, No. 25 Stanford is an early 18-point favorite over Washington State, according to sportsbooks monitored by Oddsshark.com, while No. 5 Baylor is favored by 11 against TCU. No. 6 Notre Dame opened as a 16-point favorite ahead of its Saturday afternoon matchup with North Carolina.

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The College Football Top 25 Rankings If Preseason Polls Did Not Exist

Saturday was one of the most tumultuous days in college football history.

Eleven ranked teams in the Associated Press Top 25 fell, including four of the top six. It marked only the second time since the poll began in 1936 that four of the top six lost in a regular-season week, the other time being November 1990.

The Top 25 polls looked significantly different when they came out Sunday afternoon, but they were still shaped by the preseason polls that began the season.

What would the Top 25 look like if there were no preseason polls? What would they look like if they came out for the first time Sunday afternoon?

Here’s a crack at what we think they’d look like.

Begin Slideshow

Georgia vs. Missouri: Complete Game Preview

While the recent shakeup in the SEC West steals headlines, the leaders of the SEC East quietly prepare for a matchup with major divisional implications this Saturday.

This weekend, the Missouri Tigers (4-1 overall, 1-0 in SEC play) will host the Georgia Bulldogs (4-1, 2-1) in what should be an instant classic.  Though the loser of the contest won't be eliminated from contention, it's hard to dispute the advantage the winner will hold in the already crowded division standings.

Perhaps more importantly, however, this game will be considered the best win of this still-young season for the victor and provide momentum for that team as it heads into the second half of the 2014 campaign.

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

  • Date: Saturday, October 11
  • Time: 12:00 p.m. ET
  • Place: Memorial Stadium, Columbia, Missouri
  • TV: CBS
  • Radio: Georgia Bulldog Radio Network, Tiger Network Radio
  • Spread: Georgia (-1.5), per OddsShark.com

Begin Slideshow

Meet the Tennessee Fans Behind the Successful 'Checker Neyland Stadium' Idea

KNOXVILLE, Tenn.—As fans filed in Neyland Stadium, Spencer Barnett sat beside his wife in Section FF, nervously watching and expecting the worst.

It had been less than two weeks since the 37-year-old graphic design and layout artist from Cleveland, Tennessee, conceived his "Checker Neyland" campaign designed for Volunteers fans to wear orange or white (depending on the section where they sat) for UT's home tilt with Florida. 

Relying on 102,455 people to follow through with your plan was nerve-wracking, and Barnett had his doubts.

"Even up till when I was walking in there, I was worried thinking, 'This is going to look like crap and be a joke for ESPN to run with,'" Barnett said following UT's game against the Gators.

Over in Section AA, Tim McLeod was a little more cautiously optimistic.

The 36-year-old Knoxville resident who'd taken Barnett's idea, launched a website and coordinated the plan with the university, had the data to back the belief that Vols fans everywhere had bought into the concept.

This was going to work, he thought. But as the fans filed in, even he let some concern creep into his mind.

"We expected there to be some spottiness," McLeod said.

There wasn't.

Tennessee fans—and even some Gators—successfully and beautifully checkered Neyland. The result was even more unbelievable than Barnett's originally conceived picture. Once fans reached their seats, the stadium was awash perfectly in UT's traditional orange-and-white checkerboards.

As the sun-soaked stadium prepared to come alive with the fans screaming the Vols on in unison, they already had come together to make Barnett's plan a reality. 

"It was almost to an extent like a dream," Barnett said. "I kept thinking I was going to wake up.

"To see this idea that me, here in Cleveland, Tennessee, made and put out there turning into what it did was a surreal moment to me. It was like an ultimate fan experience for me because I got to see what I wanted to with Neyland Stadium."

 

The Idea

Back on September 13, Barnett did what most other UT fans were doing that night. He settled in front of his television to watch the young Vols take on the Oklahoma Sooners in Norman.

Prior to the game, the ABC cameras panned Memorial Stadium, where fans had striped the crowd in crimson and cream. If 82,000 fans could do it, Barnett thought, so could 102,000.

UT had checkered the Thompson-Boling Arena for a basketball game back in 2006, so that gave Barnett even more inspiration.

He found a picture of Neyland Stadium to near-full capacity, opened his Photoshop software and began designing what UT's hallowed stadium would look like if they could get the fans to coordinate a checkerboard pattern.

Normally, Barnett—a UT grad who was there during the Peyton Manning era and the 1998 national championship—plays around with uniform concepts or UT-related pictures. When he posts his modified images on his Twitter account (@CleVOLander), there's a modest group of people who comment on or retweet it.

Barnett's "Checker Neyland" picture went viral.

After UT's 34-10 loss to OU, the Vols had an off week. That downtime allowed fans pretty much everywhere to see the picture.

"I kept watching how much it was doing," Barnett said. "It just kept growing and growing."

McLeod was one of those fans who saw the picture and approached his coworker, Jonathan Briehl, about taking Barnett's idea a step further.

To simplify the fans' experience they wanted to build a website (www.checkerneyland.com) where fans could type in their section number and it would instruct them on which color to wear.

The duo contacted Barnett, who gave the idea his blessing. Within 24 hours, McLeod and Briehl went live with the site.

What happened next was unexpected.

"There were 15,000 visits in the first 12 hours," McLeod said. "By the time the game got here, we ended up having 325,000 page views."

If there was enough interest from fans, McLeod planned to contact UT's marketing department to back it. As it turned out, he didn't have to. By Sunday, his phone rang.

"They," he said, "contacted us."

UT vetted McLeod and Briehl, making certain the concepts they presented when it came to laying out what sections would wear what color would actually work. When everything checked out, the plan became a go.

UTSports.com backed the campaign, began promoting it, and then just waited to see if fans would respond. What transpired in just nine days was one of the coolest things you'll see in college football this season.

 

Pulling It Off

"This was a huge thing for them to go out on a limb," McLeod said of UT. "The success or failure of this, I think, would have affected their marketing, their recruiting. But it says a lot about the confidence and faith they have in the program."

The Vol Nation—or "Vol Family," as Barnett likes to call UT's fans—responded resoundingly.

Hosting one of its largest contingents of recruits for any game this year, according to GoVols247's Ryan Callahan (subscription required) and blaring Lil' Jon's music over the loudspeakers, Tennessee appeared primed to break out and take the next step in its program.

The fact that so many people bought in to the "Checker Neyland" concept showed that the fans believed in the Vols and wanted to do their part in dressing to celebrate a win. Though that didn't happen as UT fell 10-9 to the Gators for their 10th consecutive loss in the series, the color-coordinated stadium was a positive to all involved.

"I liked the atmosphere up there, knowing that it was 100,000 fans," instate running back prospect Ke'Shawn Vaughn told Volquest.com's Paul Fortenberry (subscription required). "I didn't think they could pull it off with the Gators fans in there but they did."

The recruits loved it, media loved it and the players did, too.

The vast majority of people in the stadium participated, and McLeod said even some Gators he saw did. The only sections of Neyland not emblazoned by orange or white were the designated Florida areas.

Some fans even bought bags of white shirts to pass out to people who hadn't gotten the memo.

"I think it’s a combination of the hope in what Butch is doing with the program and the hunger we have for wins," McLeod said. "I think those are the things that drove it."

Barnett was glad he got to see it.

Unsure whether he could go to the game, he honestly answered a question from former Vol and Knoxville radio personality Jayson Swain about where he'd be watching. 

"Swain asked where I'd be sitting, and I said, 'Hopefully, in front of a TV somewhere where I can see it,'" Barnett said with a chuckle.

"Well, he didn't like that answer. By the end of the day, he'd hooked me up with some tickets."

So he and his wife, Kirbie, left their two daughters Layla and Peayton (yes, of course that's who she's named after, with a twist on the spelling) back in Cleveland and were Knoxville-bound. 

Nervous excitement crowded the car, but Kirbie was just relieved a week filled with interviews and extra attention was about over.

Though the pregame festivities in Knoxville are always fun, the Barnetts wanted to get to their seats and watch the crowd. Here's an idea of what he saw, via a time-lapse package put together by the Knoxville News-Sentinel's Adam Lau.

"I guess even though the loss to Florida sucked, to me, the day was a win," Barnett said. "I'm still hyped up. I had fun watching it as the stadium was filling in."

 

What's Next?

So, after the immense success of "Checker Neyland," what's next?

"We don't want to lose the novelty of it," McLeod said, "but we'd love to turn it into a tradition."

Given the success of the first go-around, the possibilities of that are likely strong.

But even if it doesn't, Barnett will always have Saturday's game.

Life will settle back down, and the attention will go away. Kirbie went back to work for Amazon on Sunday. With school photo season in full swing, Barnett has some long hours ahead of him designing picture borders and backgrounds, which is his daily job.

But as time fades, Barnett's ticket stub will remain a treasure he'll display in a shadowbox, commemorating the day when a regular fan from an East Tennessee interstate stop had an idea that bloomed into something special. 

He didn't run through the 'T' or trot onto the field for a play, but Barnett's version of Neyland Stadium stepped into the spotlight for a day, even if Barnett was just a man standing in its shadows. 

"I still have my ticket," he said, fishing it out of his wallet to remind himself of the section where he sat. "I won’t get rid of that, especially today’s ticket.

"That way, when I’m old and senile, I can look at it and remember it."

 

All quotes gathered firsthand and all recruiting information taken from 247Sports.com, unless otherwise noted.

Brad Shepard covers SEC football and is the Tennessee Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. Follow Brad on Twitter @Brad_Shepard.

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NCAA Football Rankings 2014: Week 7 Standings and Analysis for Latest Polls

Over the course of the past week, half of The Associated Press Top 25 took a dive.

Those left to pick up the pieces found themselves with a historic task in terms of poll construction—and that's not to mention the outlook for the inaugural College Football Playoff.

Oregon, Alabama, Oklahoma, Texas A&M and UCLA all suffered crushing losses, throwing everything into chaos. Desmond Howard offered some thoughts before UCLA took a punch square on the chin late Saturday night:

By way of merely standing tall amid the chaos, Florida State and Auburn stand firm. Baylor and Notre Dame get bumped up in a big way. One problem for the pollsters: The Seminoles and the Fighting Irish go at it in a mere two weeks.

For now, though, here is what we are left with after arguably the most memorable weekend of action in years.

 

2014 College Football Week 7 Rankings

 

Week 7 Rankings Highlights

Notable Faller: Alabama

Nick Saban's Alabama Crimson Tide team is groggy and on the ropes.

This is not a typical Saban-led team, but, even more so, this is not a typical SEC conference. Entering the jaw-dropping weekend, six of the seven teams in the SEC West were ranked No. 15 or better.

The Crimson Tide were No. 3 and had seemingly found an answer to the quarterback issue in the form of Blake Sims. He was by no means spectacular against No. 11 Ole Miss on his way to a 19-of-31 line for 228 yards and an interception.

That said, an old foe reared its head once more and doomed the Crimson Tide, as ESPN Stats & Info details:

Adam Griffith went 1-for-3 on his kicking attempts, and in a game decided by late turnovers, that is simply not good enough. Forget that the defense gave up 251 passing yards and three touchdowns to Rebels senior quarterback Bo Wallace. Forget that Alabama managed 168 yards on the ground.

A tightly contested matchup was expected, and when the Crimson Tide commit critical turnovers and fail to nail down the basics on the road, it certainly calls into question whether the team can run the table against a downright brutal schedule.

Can Alabama run the table and make the CFP? Sure, but it is going to take a serious bounce-back effort on the road to the SEC title game.

For the time being, the dip in the ratings is deserved, although fans should have an inkling that the end result arguably has more to do with just how great the Rebels are this year than the deficiencies of a strong Alabama roster.

 

Notable Riser: TCU

Many tried to warn the nation about TCU, but few listened. 

Now, the Horned Frogs, who were previously ranked No. 25, have the attention of the globe. 

They welcomed Oklahoma, then ranked No. 4, to town Saturday. TCU totaled 469 yards of total offense and sent the Sooners packing with a 37-33 defeat. Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports noted that this is rather routine for this iteration of the Horned Frogs:

As had been the case for most of the season before Saturday, the Horned Frogs rolled thanks to junior dual-threat quarterback Trevone Boykin, who posted 318 yards and a 2-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio through the air while also leading the team in rushing with 22 totes for 77 yards.

"It basically gives us confidence," Boykin said, per The Associated Press, via ESPN.com. "Knowing that we can play with guys like OU, because a lot of Big 12 championships have went through there."

The rise up the ranks has been much overdue for TCU, a team that butters its bread on the defensive side of the football but still matched the explosive Sooners offense point for point. 

Playoff whispers seem a bit premature at this juncture, but the resume will be fully realized or hurt in less than a week when the Horned Frogs take a trip to Baylor to dance with the nation's No. 1 offense, which averages 51.0 points per game.

Should the defense stand strong once again, whispers of a CFP berth for the Horned Frogs will morph into full-blown screams.

 

Stats via ESPN.com. Amway Poll via USA Today. AP Poll via The Associated Press.

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Must-See Filthy One-Handed Interception by Stud 2015 DB Seth Meredith

You don't have to play at the collegiate level to make ridiculous plays. Seth Meredith of Lacey, Washington, made an incredible interception in a high school game.

Is this the best interception you've seen all year?

Watch the video and let us know!

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College Football Picks Week 7: Predictions and Odds for Top 25 Schedule

From the dying embers of a historic weekend of college football upsets rises a new-look Top 25 that promises to be every bit as catastrophic in terms of College Football Playoff implications.

A mere few days removed from witnessing half of the Top 10 in The Associated Press Top 25 rankings fall, a brief glance over the Week 7 slate assures that plenty of rank-ruining contests will make the lives of pollsters wildly difficult once again.

Whether it is a one-loss team such as Oregon looking to keep its CFP dreams alive or a red-hot Mississippi State squad looking for another upset to stay on the path, Week 7 is not one to take lightly—no letdown potential exists.

Here is a look at what is in store for the AP Top 25 members.

 

Week 7 Top 25 Schedule Projections

Note: All odds, updated as of 8 p.m. ET on Oct. 5, are courtesy of Odds Shark. 

 

Breaking Down Key Week 7 Matchups

No. 12 Oregon at No. 18 UCLA

Oregon, meet UCLA, a team previously ranked in the Top 10 before suffering a two-point loss to unranked Utah last week. UCLA, meet Oregon, a team previously ranked in the Top 10 before suffering a seven-point loss to unranked Arizona last week.

Marcus Mariota and Brett Hundley could use introductions too. The former was the Heisman favorite before his second loss to Arizona in as many years, which saw him throw for 276 yards and two scores but give the ball away on a late fumble.

Hundley was a sleeper for the prestigious award, but he was brutalized in the form of 10 sacks on the way to a mediocre performance.

That in no way prohibits this one from being quite entertaining, even if a joke by ESPN.com's Chantel Jennings sums up the contest quite well:

The overarching implications to this one could not be bigger. Both sides simply cannot afford a loss, with both still looking ahead to a matchup with Stanford and the Bruins needing to also deal with a tough USC team.

Sound offensive line play or not, there figures to be plenty of eye-popping production to catch in this one with two junior quarterbacks on the hunt to salvage individual hardware aspirations and championship goals after returning to school for those very reasons in the first place.

With his back against the wall, expect Mariota to emerge the victor in this particular duel. The UCLA defense has struggled all year long, giving up 20 points to Virginia, 35 to Memphis and 30 to Utah. He probably will not be upright a lot, but Mariota will get it done against a weak defense.

Prediction: Oregon 45, UCLA 35

 

No. 2 Auburn at No. 3 Mississippi State

Say hello to a pair of teams that somehow managed to stand tall in the midst of the chaos that was last week.

Well, perhaps "somehow" is the wrong word. Elite quarterback play led both teams to victory. Very similar quarterback play, at that.

Fans know about Nick Marshall. He led the Tigers through last year's successful campaign and has returned this year as an even better passer. In a 41-7 trouncing of LSU last week, the senior threw for 207 yards and a pair of scores, and dashed for another 119 and two more scores on the ground.

On the other side is an emerging national sensation in Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott, who reminds many of the efficient passing and bruising running ways of a collegiate legend by the name of Tim Tebow.

In a 48-31 upset over Texas A&M, Prescott was also successful in a dual-threat capacity, throwing for 259 yards and two scores, with another 77 yards and three scores on the ground. For some, including CBSSports.com's Dennis Dodd, Prescott's resume stacks up even better than Marshall's right now:

So yes, expect fireworks in another Week 7 showdown with wide-ranging implications. Hence the visit from the College GameDay crew, too:

Considering both teams go on to encounter a bevy of teams from the SEC, as well as a large chunk of the SEC West—which touted six of its seven teams in the Top 15 before last weekend—the importance of this showdown is huge.

Again, there is individual hardware on the line, but more important is a serious advantage on the rest of a conference that is doing nothing short of beating each other up on the road to the playoff. Right now the nod has to go with the more experienced quarterback and team in terms of recent success, road game or not.

Prediction: Auburn 40, Mississippi State 34

 

No. 9 TCU at No. 5 Baylor

It took a bit of time, but TCU is finally a known commodity on the national stage. 

One of the nation's top defenses also comes equipped with a dual-threat leader of its own in the form of junior Trevone Boykin, who ran wild on the then-ranked No. 4 Oklahoma Sooners last weekend to the tune of 318 passing yards and a pair of scores, with another 77 yards on the ground to lead the team in that area.

The nation was already well aware of the threat Baylor poses, though, even if the schedule to date has been lackluster at best.

Led by Heisman contender Bryce Petty, the Bears are 5-0, most recently knocking off the hapless Texas Longhorns, 28-7. There, Petty threw for 111 yards and two scores but let his backs, such as Shock Linwood (28 carries for 148 yards and a score), do the heavy lifting.

For Baylor coach Art Briles, his experienced squad looks better than ever.

"It was just a grind-out win. I think we're a better team than last year," Briles said, per The Associated Press, via ESPN.com. "This is a mature, tough minded, confident team that knows how to win."

For that talk to be reinforced, though, the Bears will need to shine in their first true test of the season. The TCU defense ranks in the top 10 and was able to fluster Oklahoma enough to get a win.

Whichever team walks away the winner has a serious advantage when it comes to a playoff berth, with the Big 12 being nowhere near as brutal as some of the other conferences. Understanding that, expect both quarterbacks in this matchup to also be in pristine form, which, in this case, gives a slight edge to Petty and the Bears.

Prediction: Baylor 48, TCU 45

 

Stats and information via ESPN.com unless otherwise specified. AP poll via The Associated Press.

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College Football Rankings 2014: Latest Standings and Predictions for Week 7

If Week 7 of the college football season ends up feeling a bit underwhelming, it's only because the early October matchups face the impossible task of living up to an upset-filled week that pitted 10 of the Top 25 teams against each other.

Five teams in The Associated Press Top 10 lost in Week 6—a strange, rare event that shook up the NCAA world and should lead to a very exciting second half of the college football season.

The latest AP rankings feature a tie between Ole Miss and Mississippi State for the No. 3 spot, which only serves to underscore the difficulty of coming to a consensus on the top teams in the nation at this point.

The Pac-12, once thought to have multiple College Football Playoff contenders, is in danger of missing out on sending a single representative to a major postseason game after losses by Oregon and UCLA—who, by the way, play each other in Week 7.

The SEC is once again the toughest conference in football, and whichever team emerges from that conference—be it Auburn, Alabama or Mississippi State—has a bona fide chance of making the national title game.

Here are the latest Top 25 standings, which of course look absolutely nothing like the previous iterations, followed by some predictions and previews for the highest-profile contests in Week 7.

 

Predictions

 

Game of the Week

No. 2 Auburn vs. No. 3 Mississippi State

This game could very well decide the SEC provided Alabama is unable to refocus and go on another typically dominant stretch of play. 

Auburn delighted fans with an out-of-nowhere SEC championship run in 2013, but it is very much a known commodity this year.

Mississippi State is one of the most well-rounded teams in the nation and still has a decidedly underdog flavor due to its mediocre history.

The Bulldogs rank 22nd in points against this season (19.2 per game), including a shutout win in Week 1 against Southern Miss, a difficult feat to achieve in college football. The offense has been in impeccable form as well, ranking 43rd in passing yards and 14th in the nation in rushing.

The Tigers defense boasts an even more impressive resume. It's given up a mere 14.4 points per game and features a fearsome defensive tackle in Montravius Adams, who's racked up five tackles for loss, one sack and one interception on the young season, per AuburnTigers.com.

This contest will likely come down to the play of the star quarterbacks: Mississippi State's Dak Prescott and Auburn's Nick Marshall.

Both are broad-shouldered, strong-armed quarterbacks who do loads of damage to opposing defenses both on the ground and through the air. At this point in the season, Prescott appears to be the superior passer although Marshall is coming off an assured, confident passing performance against a tough LSU secondary.

"You know, Nick played like one of the better quarterbacks in the entire country," said Auburn coach Gus Malzahn, via Brandon Marcello of AL.com.

He will have to be careful to not make mistakes against Mississippi State's ball-hawking defense, which has picked up nine interceptions thus far on the season. Sophomore linebacker Richie Brown has been especially adept at pilfering wayward passes, as he leads the team with three interceptions on the season.

The Bulldogs secondary may have to be in top form in this contest to slow down Marshall; the Auburn offensive line has given up just three sacks on the season, per NCAA.com. Generating a consistent pass rush—especially against a team apt to use draws, read options and bootlegs—could prove to be extremely difficult.

Prescott's dual-threat ability has some, like Bleacher Report's Adam Kramer, talking him up as a potential Heisman Trophy favorite:

Auburn defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson noted that Prescott has improved greatly as a passer this season.

"He was not as good at that time reading coverages and as accurate throwing," he said, via Joel A. Erickson of AL.com. "Right now, he's as good a dual-threat quarterback as there is in America. He's throwing the ball on time. He's throwing it accurately."

It should be noted that Prescott benefits from a superb supporting cast. Running back Josh Robinson is averaging 7.5 yards per carry, and the Bulldogs feature three big-play wide receiver threats in De'Runnya Wilson (just a perfect name for a wideout), Jameon Lewis and Fred Brown.

Marshall, on the other hand, clearly has a favorite target in wideout D'haquille Williams (25 receptions, 385 yards). No other receiver on the team has reached double digits in receptions thus far in 2014. Marshall's lack of a complete rapport with his receiving options could hurt his team in this one.

The squad that loses this game should still have a better chance of making it to the College Football Playoff than most one-loss teams. The SEC West is much tougher than the SEC East this season, making the winner of this game the odds-on favorite to win the conference provided these teams don't take turns losing to each other in the final weeks. 

Considering the Bulldogs have dominated in just about every facet of the game, expect them to edge out the Tigers in this one, with Prescott putting on another Heisman-worthy show.

Prediction: Mississippi State 31-27 Auburn

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College Football Superlatives from Kramer's Korner: Was This the Best Week Ever?

Goal posts were triumphantly carried through cities, eventually making their way into apartment buildings. 

Bars and living rooms reached max capacity and then some. Fields were stormed, and because of this, fines were doled out and accepted with smiles. Hail Marys fell into unlikely arms. Tears were shed—on both ends of the emotional scale—and the greatest sport on the planet delivered one of the greatest Saturdays it has ever seen.

It’s hard to put the magnificence of Week 6 into words. If you curled up in front of your television—or hopefully, televisions—for Saturday in its entirety, letting the chaos flow through your veins, you were treated to complete and utter madness. And it was beautiful.

One image pretty much says it all, really.

Today got weird. pic.twitter.com/ccBmijQokw

— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) October 5, 2014

It wasn’t just the fact five of the nation’s top eight—and 11 of the top 19—teams lost outright, making this a truly historic day. The games themselves are what made Week 6 extraordinary. The end results will undoubtedly provide the ultimate memory, but the path to get there was what made it special.

Saturday began with Katy Perry hoisting corndogs to the Oxford sky, and it ended with Washington State and Cal shattering records and scoring touchdown after touchdown deep into the night. In between, there was everything. It was everything.

If you needed any validation as to why you obsess over this glorious game, you got it and then some.

Well done, college football. Take a bow and a few days off. You’ve earned it.

As for the awards and happenings from the week that was, here is my feeble attempt to recap a chapter of the college football season that might be un-recap-able.

 

Offensive Player of the Week: Connor Halliday, Washington State 

When you break the record for most passing yards in an FBS game, you’re going to get noticed. 

That’s precisely what Washington State quarterback Connor Halliday did Saturday night—well, Sunday morning for some—against Cal, completing 49 passes for 734 yards and six touchdowns. The previous record was 716 yards, set by Houston quarterback David Klingler in 1990.

Yes, he plays in an offense that can be allergic to running the football, and as a result, Halliday regularly posts enormous numbers. But when you throw for more than seven football fields and break a record that was set the year Driving Miss Daisy was named best picture, you’re walking away with something. 

And because Washington State still managed to lose this game—more on that momentarily—this is the least we can do. 

 

Dominant Defender: Richie Brown, Mississippi State

Linebacker Richie Brown finished Saturday with only three tackles, but the Mississippi State linebacker managed to match that number in takeaways against Texas A&M. By doing so, he was a pretty obvious selection for this category given what was on the line.

The sophomore intercepted two Kenny Hill passes in the second quarter. He then added a third interception in the second half, which tied a school record.

These takeaways gave the Bulldogs’ offense all the fuel it needed, and Dan Mullen's team cruised 48-31. In reality, it wasn’t even that close. 

 

Video Game Box Score

-The entire Washington State-Cal matchup was being played on novice. In total, the two teams combined for 119 points and 1,401 yards. Quarterbacks Connor Halliday and Jared Goff also finished with a combined 1,261 yards passing, which was also an FBS record. And if you need further perspective on this game, here’s you go.

cal’s jared goff and wazzu’s connor halliday passed for a combined 0.71 miles

— Jon Bois (@jon_bois) October 5, 2014

-On the topic of big performances in a loss, Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon finished with 257 rushing yards (a career high) and a touchdown on 27 carries. By nearly running for a first down on every touch, Gordon was rewarded with…an outright loss to Northwestern.

 

Anti-Video Game Box Score

-The conditions in South Bend, Indiana, for Notre Dame-Stanford were not optimal. It was cold, windy and rainy, and as a result, the offenses struggled mightily. This allowed the punters of each team to exhaust their legs, and the result is a punting output for the ages. Seriously, this sounds exhausting.

#NotreDame and #Stanford combined for 516 yards ... punting. #NDInsider

— Tyler James (@TJamesNDI) October 5, 2014

-A week after North Carolina State quarterback Jacoby Brissett threw for 359 yards and three touchdowns—going as far to complete a pass lying flat on his back—he was held to just four completions against Clemson. It took Brissett 19 throws to reach this mark, and the end result was 35 yards passing on the day. Let's just call it a minor setback.

 

Biggest Surprise

We knew Oregon had issues. The offensive line is being held together with duct tape, and it was clear after the scare against Washington State that all was not well. Still, it was assumed that Oregon would get it together or at least stay unbeaten long enough to get healthy and find its stride.

Coming off a bye against Arizona as more than a three-touchdown favorite, however, we quickly discovered this was not the case.

We could explore the issues with the Ducks at length. But instead, let’s celebrate Arizona on its potentially program-altering win (again) and an undefeated start to the season.

Rich Rodriguez really has never gotten the appreciation he deserves, although perhaps that is starting to change. At the very least, Arizona finds itself in fantastic shape as conference play kicks into gear.

It also appears to have the locker room celebration thing down pat.

 

Best Moment

It's hard to isolate just one. There are so many places and campuses we could visit to dig up the best moment of the weekend, and none of them would be wrong. 

In terms of overall excitement, however, how do you top Arizona State’s Hail Mary victory over USC? (If you’re a Trojans fan, now would be the time to fast-forward to another section. You know what happens next.) 

For the rest of you, let us celebrate the ultimate way to end a football game. Again. 

Jaelen Strong, one of the nation’s most gifted offensive players, capped off a brilliant day by hauling in the 46-yard touchdown as USC defenders could only sit back and watch. 

This is the second Hail Mary to be featured in this category this season. May I remind you that it's only been six weeks.

 

For the Highlight Reel 

Did you watch Kansas State beat up on Texas Tech? There was a lot going on, so there's no need to lie. If you didn’t—and you’re likely not alone—you missed one of the better catches of 2014. 

Kansas State wideout Curry Sexton managed to haul in a touchdown using his shoulder pad. To add to this elevated level of difficulty, he accomplished this feat mid-air while being heavily guarded—some might even say interfered with. No matter; he still came down with it.

Sexton finished the game with nine catches, two touchdowns and 128 yards receiving. None of his other grabs were as pretty as this, though.

 

If the College Football Playoff Started Today... (Or Why I Hate Your Team)

Please keep in mind that these are not projections. The four teams listed below would make up our College Football Playoff if it began tomorrow.

Spoiler: It does not actually begin tomorrow, thankfully, so a limited sample size will have time to grow. 

With the SEC West poised to create Armageddon weekly, these teams will certainly be moving plenty. For now, however, we’re rewarding the SEC’s hot start by offering up the following. (Share your outrage accordingly. And remember, if your team is not included, it’s because I hate it.) 

1. Auburn

2. Mississippi State

3. Florida State

4. Ole Miss

 

Five Leftovers to Chew on

1. What a bummer for BYU and quarterback Taysom Hill, who suffered a broken leg Friday night against Utah State. As a result, he will miss the rest of the season, which seriously alters the outlook for the Cougars for the remainder of 2014. This isn’t just a loss for BYU, though. Few players are more exciting on a play-to-play basis than Hill, who still has a year of eligibility remaining. Hopefully he heals up and we’re able to enjoy his chaotic and successful style for one more season.

2. The game was ugly—much like the South Bend, Indiana, weather—although the Irish did just enough to power past Stanford at home. This game, given everything that happened, was somewhat lost in the madness. Brian Kelly’s team hasn’t exactly been crisp over the past few games, but it doesn’t matter, not yet, at least. Undefeated is the name of the game. Also, why aren’t more people talking about this Notre Dame defense? It’s been outstanding.

3. This cannot be the same Trevone Boykin. It just can’t be. The TCU quarterback isn’t just improved; he looks like a different player entirely. His passes down the field against Oklahoma were on the money for much of the game, and the Horned Frogs’ offense suddenly looks dynamic after struggling in recent years. Boykin might be the nation’s most improved player, and he can back up this claim further against Baylor in Week 7.

4. Remember a few weeks ago when we decided to rule the Big Ten out of the College Football Playoff? We do this kind of stuff a lot, don’t we? Although Nebraska made Michigan State sweat plenty at the end of its game—and kudos to the Cornhuskers for a fabulous effort—the Spartans are very much in the mix when it comes to the playoff after so many teams in front of them lost. We have such a long way to go.

5. What do Northwestern, Cal, Arizona and Georgia Tech have in common? As it stands at this moment in time, all four of these teams are currently leading their divisions, just like you predicted before the season began. Please note that the previous sentence is in desperate need of a sarcasm font. If you did actually predict this, you should move to Vegas immediately.

 

Katy Perry, Corndogs and Lee Corso 

I can’t possibly add anything further to this picture without getting fired, so please enjoy the cover of the Week 6 Encyclopedia.

pic.twitter.com/O7UtW2d4GG

— Spencer Hall (@edsbs) October 4, 2014

 

That One Time Katy Perry Hit on Trevor Knight in Front of the Whole World

You could pin Oklahoma’s loss to TCU on a number of items. Turnovers, defensive breakdowns and overall sloppy play certainly played a role. Plus, TCU played one heck of a game.

Or, you could highlight the reason the Sooners fell. 

Katy Perry, on national television, basically asked Trevor Knight on a date. If you’re wondering why the quarterback delivered his most disappointing game of the season, you have your answer.

Katy Perry wants Trevor Knight to call her. https://t.co/auXm2Wg964

— Pistols Firing (@pistolsguy) October 4, 2014

Knight never stood a chance.

 

This Week in Officials Scolding Themselves in Front of the Whole World

While officiating Mississippi State-Texas A&M, Ken Williamson went to make a call and faced the wrong direction for television purposes. For doing so, he decided to scold himself in front a packed stadium and much of the college football world watching. 

I watched this live, and I don’t believe I’ve stopped laughing yet. 

Ken Williamson really cares about his job; this much is clear. I’d hate to see what happens when he gets a flat tire or is late to the dentist.

 

This Week in Punter Body Slams 

Things were going swimmingly for Georgia Tech punter Ryan Rodwell. A fake punt was called, there was daylight and he picked up the first down without issue. Life was great. 

Miami’s Marques Gayot quickly changed all that by offering up his classic finishing move.

The only thing missing from this was a poorly constructed table, some exciting commentary from Jim Ross and a contract with Vince McMahon’s signature on the bottom.

 

This Week in End Zone Hide-and-Seek

Let’s call this the “camouflaged frog” and hope every other team in the country attempts this amazing bit of deception at some point over the next two weeks. 

Please take note of TCU running back B.J. Catalon in the video below, assuming you can find him. He’s the player that purposely laid down in the "O" of "Horned Frogs" in the TCU end zone before the kickoff. He was hiding. (Don’t tell anyone.)

His teammate caught the kickoff and threw it across the field to Catalon who emerged from his hiding spot. TCU then turned this glorious play into a big gain.

Yes, a holding penalty negated some of the awesomeness, but we all saw it. It was real and spectacular.

 

This Week in Todd Gurley is Unfair 

We get it, Todd. Geez. 

You’re big, you’re fast, you’re robot strong and you can catch passes. The fact that you can throw passes—and also that you’re a lefty—is just showing off at this point.  

This 50-yard completion was Georgia’s longest of the season. Now, how about leaving some physical excellence for the rest of us.

No? OK then. Carry on.

 

Large Man Moment of the Week

Jake Cotton sensed that Michigan State was bringing pressure. And although the Nebraska guard tried to hold off the urge to move, he simply could not.

Cotton tried to cover up his flinch by turning it into one continuous move. The end result is one of the finer Vines ever created. It’s made even slightly more spectacular with the appropriate song attached. 

I don’t know how you could possibly penalize someone for this. If anything, he should get a Chili’s gift card and an automatic first down. 

 

Reason No. 23,456 College Football is Beautiful

When advanced coordination is involved, stadiums can create magnificent art. The scene at Tennessee, despite the loss, was splendid.

A Tradition Unrivaled #CheckerNeylandpic.twitter.com/uI3wFaf4TQ

— Jason Bates (@jasonkbates) October 4, 2014

 

Reason No. 23,457 College Football is Beautiful

In a chaotic and insane football moment for the state of Mississippi, two human beings expressed their love for one another on the field they worship as the masses swarmed around them. It's like they were all alone.

Tremendous. RT @ChipBrooker: Rebel fans behind me gave a whole new meaning to "rushing" the field #HottyToddypic.twitter.com/T7AVJGpd1i

— Andy Staples (@Andy_Staples) October 5, 2014

What a sport.

 

From the Peanut Gallery (Best Tweets of the Weekend) 

pic.twitter.com/WJORETMrM2

— nick pants (@nick_pants) October 3, 2014

Frame it and put it in the football offices, Wake pic.twitter.com/eg9ZtBssMg

— Brian Floyd (@BrianMFloyd) October 4, 2014

Ulysses S. Grant with the interception! pic.twitter.com/bc4R7zjQyM

— MSU Football (@HailStateFB) October 4, 2014

Game. Over. pic.twitter.com/RGxvtOYUUg

— Arizona Athletics (@AZATHLETICS) October 3, 2014

Was Week 6 the best we've seen? The evidence is rather convincing. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football: Week 6 Recap, Pick Results and Final Thought

We knew Week 6 of the college football season would be exciting, but no one could have anticipated what would ensue on Saturday. The 2014 season hit a new level of craziness with five of the AP Top 10 teams losing this week, along with other huge upsets. 

On Thursday night, a 31-24 Arizona upset win over a second-ranked Oregon team, which had not lost at home since the end of the 2012 season, appeared to be just a preview of what to expect in Saturday’s matchups. Not to mention, Utah State’s 35-20 upset over No. 18 BYU, who lost Heisman-contending quarterback Taysom Hill for the season due to a fractured left leg on Friday, was another upset prior to Saturday. 

No. 12 Mississippi State had likely the most impressive performance of Week 6 with its 48-31 blowout win over Kenny Hill and the No. 6 Texas A&M Aggies. Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott continued to prove that he is a Heisman contender, as the junior passed for 259 yards, rushed for 77 yards and accounted for five touchdowns. 

The pandemonium of upsets and exciting finishes began in the early evening though, as Alabama, Stanford and Oklahoma all went down within the same hour.  

After battling adversity for most of the game, No. 11 Ole Miss scored on a Bo Wallace 34-yard pass to wide receiver Vince Sanders with 5:29 remaining in the fourth quarter to knot things up at 17.

On the ensuing kickoff, the game-changing play occurred when Alabama’s Christion Jones fumbled and Ole Miss’ Kailo Moore recovered the ball on the Crimson Tide’s 31-yard line. Five plays later, running back Jaylen Walton made a sensational 10-yard touchdown catch from Wallace to give the Rebels their first lead of the game, 23-17. 

A Blake Sims pass, which was intercepted in the end zone with 37 seconds left, was all Ole Miss needed to knock off the third-ranked Crimson Tide 23-17 for the first time since 2003.  

Within the same hour, No. 9 Notre Dame appeared to be on the verge of its first loss of the season, after Stanford scored on a Remound Wright 11-yard touchdown run on 3rd-and-goal with three minutes left in the fourth quarter. Just two minutes later though, Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson threw a 23-yard strike to tight end Ben Koyack in the end zone on 4th-and-11 to defeat the Cardinal 17-14. The Luck of the Irish appears to have returned from the 2012 season already.

After both Notre Dame and Ole Miss found ways to win their games, it was time for No. 25 TCU to pull off a home upset of its own. An impressive interception by linebacker Paul Dawson, which resulted in a Horned Frog 41-yard touchdown return, gave TCU the go-ahead score. 

Three turnovers on four plays in just one minute midway through the fourth quarter made the game just that much more interesting. The Sooners had their opportunities to avoid being defeated by the Horned Frogs but were unable to convert on 4th-and-1 on TCU’s 22-yard line and failed to complete a Hail Mary pass as time expired. TCU knocked off Oklahoma 37-33 and defeated the Sooners for the first time since 2005. 

Just when the nation thought it got all it could handle, there was more to come. No. 16 USC looked to be in the clear against Arizona State with 3:02 remaining in the fourth quarter, after a 53-yard touchdown run by running back Javorius Allen put the Trojans up 34-25. 

The Sun Devils, though, led by backup quarterback Mike Bercovici, scored on a 73-yard touchdown pass 19 seconds later and then won on a 46-yard Hail Mary caught by wide receiver Jaelen Strong as time expired, which gave Arizona State an improbable 38-34 upset win at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. 

Tenth-ranked Michigan State had to hold off 19th-ranked Nebraska late in the fourth quarter, after the Huskers scored 19 unanswered points. The Spartans came away with a 27-22 victory, as the defense held Nebraska running back Ameer Abdullah to just 45 rushing yards and two touchdowns. 

Other upsets included No. 8 UCLA missing a game-winning field goal at home to unranked Utah as time expired, which gave the Utes a 30-28 win. Kentucky also took down South Carolina at home, 45-38, and No. 17 Wisconsin dropped a close one at Northwestern, 20-14. 

No. 1 Florida State blew out Wake Forest, 43-3, and newly ranked No. 2 Auburn ran all over rival No. 15 LSU, 41-7.

 

Pick Results

Overall Record: 20-10

Week 6 Record: 3-2

Note: Team in bold indicates author’s pick

 

Prediction: Texas A&M 38, Mississippi State 34

Result: Mississippi State 48, Texas A&M 31

 

Prediction: Alabama 31, Ole Miss 24

Result: Ole Miss 23, Alabama 17

 

Prediction: Notre Dame 24, Stanford 20

Result: Notre Dame 17, Stanford 14

 

Prediction: Auburn 35, LSU 26

Result: Auburn 41, LSU 7

 

Prediction: Michigan State 34, Nebraska 24

Result: Michigan State 27, Nebraska 22

 

Final Thought

Week 6 will likely go down as one of the best in recent college football history. Four of the top six teams went down for the first time since Week 11 of the 1990 season. Those four teams were Virginia, Nebraska, Auburn and Illinois. 

Florida State and Auburn, who faced off in the final BCS National Championship season, hold the top-two spots in the AP rankings and saw their national title hopes almost fade in Week 4. Both teams escaped with six-point wins, though. 

The Seminoles will host No. 6 Notre Dame in two weeks, while the Tigers will travel to No. 3 Mississippi State next week. There is a chance for more chaos to occur in the upcoming weeks. 

The inaugural year of the College Football Playoff could be more interesting than anyone could have expected. Heavy favorites Oregon, Alabama, Oklahoma and Michigan State have already lost, putting a new slew of teams in the mix. 

Both Mississippi schools are proving to be dangerous in a top-heavy SEC West Division. TCU, who was a dark horse to contend for the Big 12 during the preseason, is 4-0 and has already moved into the Top 10.

It will travel to No. 5 Baylor on Saturday in what could be the difference in the Horned Frogs winning their first Big 12 title in school history. 

The other school making noise this season is Rich Rodriguez’s Arizona Wildcats. Freshman quarterback Anu Solomon led the Wildcats to their first win at Oregon since 2006, and the team is now a strong contender to win the Pac-12 South Division. The Wildcats will host a disappointed USC squad on Saturday and will still have a lot of work to do as they make their way through conference play. 

It’s still early in the season, but will there be a surprise taking part in the College Football Playoff of this season?

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Ohio State Football: 3 Startling Statistics Through 6 Weeks

There were high expectations for the Ohio State football team coming into the 2014 season, but after star quarterback Braxton Miller was lost for the year after suffering a shoulder injury in fall camp, the Buckeyes' college football playoff hopes took a serious hit.

Those hopes took a potentially fatal blow in Week 2, when the Virginia Tech Hokies upset Ohio State 35-21 in Columbus. 

But a trio of consecutive blowouts have the Buckeyes back on track heading into their second and final bye week of the season.

Here are three notable statistics after Ohio State's first five games.

 

J.T. Barrett's Video Game Numbers

When Miller went down for the season, it was redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett who emerged over Cardale Jones for the Buckeyes' starting quarterback spot. 

Through five games, Barrett has been sensational—completing 66.2 percent of his passes for 1,354 yards and 17 touchdowns against five interceptions. He also has 276 rushing yards—which ranks second on the team behind Ezekiel Elliott—with another two scores on the ground.

But Barrett's strength is in the passing game. Not only is he leading the Big Ten in passing touchdowns, but he also currently ranks No. 4 in the country in overall passing efficiency. That's a remarkable accomplishment for the first-year signal-caller, especially after his abysmal performance against Virginia Tech. The Buckeyes were blasted by the Hokies, and Barrett completed just 31 percent of his passes and threw three picks in the game.

He has bounced back nicely, though, and he has the Buckeyes playing at a high level.

 

Michael Thomas' Team-Leading Receiving Numbers

Without Carlos Hyde and four multi-year senior starters along the offensive line, Urban Meyer wanted the Buckeyes to shift their offensive philosophy to take advantage of an abundance of talent on the perimeter. 

With player such as Dontre Wilson, Devin Smith and longtime contributor Evan Spencer, Barrett has plenty of options when he drops back to pass.

His best option so for has been Michael Thomas.

The redshirt sophomore out of Los Angeles, California has been the breakout star for the Buckeyes. Thomas currently leads the team in receptions (17) and receiving yards (322) and is tied for the team lead with Devin Smith in touchdown receptions (five). 

His sudden emergence was a welcome development for Meyer, who watched as Thomas' career got off to a slow start.

"He was a mistake guy," Meyer said of Thomas, according to Bill Rabinowitz of The Columbus Dispatch. "Every third play he’d screw up. That’s why last year he wasn’t ready to play. That was really hard for him last year.”

Those struggles appear to be behind Thomas, and Ohio State is much better because of it. 

 

Ohio State's Lack of Sacks

After Meyer told Doug Lesmerises of the Northeast Ohio Media Group that Ohio State's defensive line had the potential to be as good as his one at Florida in 2006—which dismantled the Buckeyes in the '07 title game—the hype surrounding the unit peaked.

Stocked with three potential first-round NFL draft picks, Ohio State's defensive line was supposed to help a rebuilt secondary by getting after the quarterback. Before the season kicked off, the group was touted as one of the best—if not the best—defensive lines in the country.

But through five games, the Buckeyes are averaging just 2.4 sacks per game, which is tied for 47th in the country.

The Buckeyes are certainly missing Noah Spence—a star defensive end who was suspended indefinitely after testing positive for his second drug test in September. 

Joey Bosa has been a consistent presence in the backfield of Ohio State's opponents, piling up 3.5 sacks on the season, according to Ohio State's official website. But no other defensive lineman has recorded more than one sack through five games, as the team has just 12 total on the year.

There's still time for the unit to turn things around, but it's definitely off to a slower start than most had anticipated.

 

Unless otherwise noted, all stats via NCAA.com

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Rankings 2014: Most Underrated Teams in Week 7 Coaches Poll

Week 6 was one for the ages in college football as a number of upsets created a major shakeup in the latest Amway Coaches Poll.

Starting with Oregon's loss on Thursday, the weekend featured 11 losses by ranked teams, including five squads among the top eight. Meanwhile, the teams that pulled off these upsets, like Ole Miss and Mississippi State, shot up near the top of the polls for the upcoming week.

While this is going to cause a change in expectations for the College Football Playoff, there are still a bunch of overlooked teams through this point in the season. These squads have proven themselves on the field but are still not getting the credit they deserve in the latest polls.

 

No. 6 Mississippi State

After last weekend's fireworks, there are only nine remaining undefeated teams in college football. Three of those teams come from the SEC West, which makes it no surprise the division still has five teams ranked in the top 15.

However, the question remains why Mississippi State comes into Week 7 ranked sixth. Obviously, someone has to be the odd man out with so many quality teams at the top, but it should not be the Bulldogs after what they have shown this season.

Mississippi State has won all five of its games this year by an average of 23.2 points per game. Over the last two weeks, the squad has won at LSU and home against Texas A&M, both of which came in convincing fashion. The team was up at least three touchdowns in each contest before late touchdowns made the games close.

Dan Wolken of USA Today believes the latest ranking was way too low for the SEC squad:

Besides Notre Dame, you can question the merit of putting Baylor at No. 3 despite not facing a single ranked opponent this season.

Obviously, Mississippi State is not used to complaining about being too low and is usually happy to be ranked at all. Ralph D. Russo of the Associated Press notes this is the highest the school has ever been in the polls:

Still, this team has proven to be one of the best in the nation and deserves to be ranked as such. With a home game against No. 2 Auburn coming up, the squad will have a chance to move up even more next week.

 

No. 11 Oregon

Oregon was certainly disappointed to drop a game to a conference opponent at home, but head coach Mark Helfrich remained upbeat the day after the loss:

The biggest thing is the spirit of the team and the guys they have the willingness to do something about it and they did. Everyone was in good spirits this morning, as good as could be expected in the situation. Again have to give Arizona a ton of credit but there was a lot of stuff in this game that makes it that much more of a bitter pill to swallow in terms of self-inflicted wounds and some of the mistakes we made.

Between two lost fumbles and a 4-of-14 mark on third downs, there was certainly a lot to be upset about. However, this is still one of the best teams in the nation with arguably college football's top player in Marcus Mariota.

After seeing many other top teams lose on Saturday, the Ducks had to feel better about remaining in the playoff hunt. Unfortunately, that does not seem to be the case after dropping from No. 4 to No. 11 in the rankings.

Oregon is currently behind four other one-loss teams in the Coaches Poll, two of which do not have a win over a ranked team all season. Another one, Michigan State, lost directly to the Ducks 46-27. Putting the Spartans three spots ahead of a team with the same record that they lost to does not make much sense.

While the Ducks might have had a disappointing loss, it came against a quality opponent in Arizona (which is still undefeated). Considering they also have the best win among the one-loss teams, they should be ranked higher than they are.

The Pac-12 is going to be a fight all season long, but Oregon remains a national title contender and should get that chance by winning out.

 

No. 16 Kansas State

While seemingly every team in the nation dealt with its own craziness on Saturday, Kansas State avoided trouble, as noted by CBS Sports:

Jake Waters posted another incredible performance against Texas Tech, throwing four touchdown passes on 290 yards while also adding 105 and a score on the ground. The quarterback has turned himself into a Heisman candidate with his dual-threat ability while turning Kansas State into one of the best offenses in the country.

Although this team does have one loss, that came against now-No. 2 Auburn by just a six-point margin. A few late turnovers ruined the Wildcats' chances for pulling off an upset.

The good news is this team will get more chances to show what it can do. After a bye in Week 7, Kansas State will go on the road to take on Oklahoma. Big 12 matchups against Oklahoma State, TCU and Baylor also loom later in the schedule.

With loads of talent everywhere on the field, this squad has a chance to be a top contender for the conference title.

Kansas State is only being punished for making a tough non-conference schedule and taking on one of the best teams in the league. In reality, the Wildcats should be higher on the list and a legitimate contender for the College Football Playoff.

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Michigan Football: 5 Startling Statistics Through 6 Weeks

There probably aren’t many who thought Michigan would be sitting at 2-4 after six games.

But it’s true: Team 135, for lack of a better term, just isn’t that good. At this point, discussing potential and who needs to “step up” are wastes of time. Now halfway through the season, Michigan should know what it is.

The rest of college football does.

But how did it come to this?

Sure, this past Saturday’s 26-24 loss to Rutgers was bad, but it wasn’t as bad as the setbacks to Notre Dame, Utah and Minnesota. Michigan, particularly its offense, teased its fans with a positive step or two in New Jersey, only to fall three steps behind the next play.

For the first time since 1967, the Wolverines are 0-2 in the Big Ten. Things aren’t going to get any easier, as Penn State comes to town this weekend—then it’s on to Michigan State on Oct. 25, which looks like it’ll be a miserable encounter for coach Brady Hoke, whose job status seems to get iffier and iffier by the week.

 

Giving Away Games

Efficient drives end in points. Needless to say, the inability to string together possessions continues to overshadow Michigan, which averages just 19 first downs and converts just 41.6 percent of its third downs (both marks rank No. 8 in the Big Ten).

On average, the Wolverines gift 2.17 turnovers to the other side each Saturday. Their 15 turnovers (five fumbles, 10 picks) are the most in the league. Turnovers happen from time to time, even to the best of teams. However, Michigan has trouble making up for them, ranking last in the league with a minus-13 margin.

 

Running Backs in No Rush

Evidently, sophomore bruisers Derrick Green and De’Veon Smith aren’t enough. They are on paper. But on the field?

No, they are not. 

Despite having one of his better games in a maize and blue uniform, Green, who carried 12 times for 74 yards versus Rutgers, is long overdue (and behind) in the production department. His team-leading 488 yards and average of 5.7 yards per touch are deceiving.

Part of that is on Green, who just can’t seem to get his wheels turning, and part of that is on the O-line. When it comes to gauging him, glasses are either half-full or half-empty. He’s either doing well with what’s available, or he’s simply the beneficiary of a few defensive mishaps on the part of the opposition.

Neither answer is wrong. 

Smith is another story all together. Like most running backs by Week 6, he’s had a handful of great runs. He ran hard against Rutgers, too. On top of that, he picks up six yards per carry.

But he only contributes 47 yards each Saturday. And he’s spent as much time running into his own linemen as he’s spent running over the other guys.

 

Secondary is a Primary Concern

It doesn’t take an expert to see that Blake Countess is frustrated. Of course, he doesn’t say so during press conferences, but, put it this way: The redshirt junior doesn’t have the best poker face.

The 5’10”, 180-pound corner insists that his position group will come to form. It has to, because—and here’s that phrase again—on paper, Michigan’s too deep at defensive back to fail. Prior to the season, Countess was in consideration for the Jim Thorpe Award.

After watching a trio of touchdowns sail by Saturday, it’s safe to say that he’s no longer in the discussion.

Want another deceiving stat? Good. Here’s one: The Wolverines have the No. 3-ranked pass defense in the Big Ten. But that means nothing when chunk plays are the norm for a group of guys who often find their backs to the ball.

 

Offensive Line Isn’t Carrying Its Weight

Once again, Devin Gardner is a moving target with a gigantic bullseye on his chest and back. In 2013, he was sacked 34 times, the third most in FBS. This season, he’s been sacked 13 times, putting him at No. 20 in that regard, per ESPN.

Running for his life, Gardner, a fifth-year senior quarterback, was sacked twice by Rutgers, which now leads the nation with 24.

 

Points Are at a Premium

Team 135’s scoring offense ranks dead last in the Big Ten. Offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier was supposed to bring a new energy to the befuddled scoring attack; but instead, his position group musters just 22.3 points per game, per BigTen.org. As a whole, Michigan has the No. 12-ranked total offense, averaging 354 yards per outing.

Granted, things looked better this past Saturday in New Jersey, but the fact remains this offense is far too inconsistent to compete, let alone win. It’s a stat that won’t go away and for good reason: The Wolverines have been held out of their opponents’ red zone in two of six games.

Despite converting three of three (three rushing touchdowns) red-zone attempts versus Rutgers, Nussmeier’s personnel have miles to go before they’re up to par.

In a perfect world, Michigan would be 5-1 or 6-0. However, its reality is much different. And sadly, there isn’t a rewind button in college football, not even for a team that was thought to be destined for much better. 

However, Wolverines fans probably wouldn’t mind a fast-forward button, as their hopes and dreams are now reserved for 2015.

 

Follow Bleacher Report’s Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Notre Dame Football: Brian VanGorder's Stout Defense Continues to Impress

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Through four games, Notre Dame’s defense had yet to face a potent offense. After Saturday’s 17-14 win over Stanford, Notre Dame made it look like it still hasn’t.

The Irish stymied the Cardinal for four quarters, allowing just 205 yards of total offense. Stanford’s 3.0 yard-per-play output was its lowest since 2006. The 47 rushing yards were the fewest since 2007.

“I think they’ve got an outstanding defensive coordinator,” Stanford head coach David Shaw said of Notre Dame’s Brian VanGorder. “He mixes it up. A lot of pressure.”

The Irish deployed different looks and sent pressure from all over the defense. Cardinal quarterback Kevin Hogan finished 18-of-36 for 158 yards and two interceptions. He was sacked four times, and Notre Dame tallied seven quarterback hurries.

“They did an outstanding scheme on the defensive side, and their guys played hard,” Shaw said. “They played fast. And you can tell they're very well coached because they're running full speed where they're supposed to be.”

VanGorder’s aggressive and attacking mentality was expected to be more fun to watch than former defensive coordinator Bob Diaco’s bend-don’t-break scheme. It’s been entertaining, yes, and also wildly successful. The Irish rank tied for third in the nation in scoring defense, per CFBStats.com, allowing an average of 12 points per game.

Irish head coach Brian Kelly said Notre Dame’s success on defense starts with aggressive, shutdown cornerback play.

“If you're going to play great defense you have to clamp down [on the perimeter],” Kelly said. “I think that's where we've really made significant improvement over the course of the year.”

Graduate student cornerback Cody Riggs has been rock-solid on one side, while sophomore cornerback Cole Luke had been quietly consistent on the other. Luke spoke up Saturday with his first two career interceptions—picking off Hogan in the first and third quarter, respectively.

Luke also helped key the efforts in containing Stanford speedster Ty Montgomery. Outside of a late 42-yard kickoff return, Notre Dame limited the playmaker to nine touches for 26 yards.

“One thing that was stressed to me before the game is that you have to have no fear,” Luke said. “It does not matter what receiver you are going against or what offense. We knew he was a great player, but when the lights come on and you are on the field, it does not really matter. You just have to make plays and play ball.”

The Irish continually did so Saturday. They now sit at 5-0, poised to rise into the top-five after the college football world crumbled this weekend. They’ve ascended thanks to a defense that has yet to succumb to its opponents.

The real test looms in two weeks when Notre Dame will battle Jameis Winston and Florida State. But for now, the Irish defense has proven itself.

 

All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football's All-Week 6 First-Team: Top Performers at Every Position

There was no shortage of options for the All-Week 6 first team, which makes sense after a three-day stretch that ranks among the craziest in college football history.

Four of the top six, five of the top eight and 11 of the top 19 teams in the Associated Press Poll went down in the span of 80 hours, which means 11 teams played well enough to beat Top 19 teams in the span of 80 hours. And what are those 11 teams if not the aggregate of their standout performers?

This list attempts to reward impressive teams and units but ultimately comes down to individual performance.

Ole Miss, for example, might well have been the most impressive team of the weekend, but it didn't place a single player on these teams. Bo Wallace played well, but other quarterbacks played better. Senquez Golson made an amazing interception, but other cornerbacks did more. Only by adding up all the Rebels' very good solo performances do you end up with the team that beat Alabama.

As always, the list also weighed statistics against opponent. The player who passed or rushed for the most yards didn't necessarily get the nod at quarterback or running back. It depends whom they logged those yards against and how they looked in doing it.

Sound off below to let us know whom you would add.

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5 1-Loss Teams with the Best Chance to Make the College Football Playoff

Well, that was interesting. 

Week 6 of the college football season was its most chaotic yet. Eleven Top 25 teams lost, five of which were ranked in the Top 10. According to Brett McMurphy of ESPN, this was the first time five of the AP poll's Top Eight teams lost in the same weekend in the regular season. 

Normally, that might have sounded the death knell for a team's BCS chances, but the four-team postseason field means teams can get mulligans. 

It's hard to be perfect, no matter the schedule. Week 6 was proof of that, if nothing else. One-loss teams are still very much alive in this postseason race. For that matter, two-loss teams could still be in the conversation. 

Which one-loss teams still have the best shot at a playoff appearance? The answers are in the following slides. 

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