NCAA Football News

Karlos Williams Injury: Updates on FSU Star's Ankle and Return

When No. 1 Florida State travels to New York Saturday for an ACC clash with the Syracuse Orange, the Seminoles will likely be without top running back Karlos Williams.    

Coach Jimbo Fisher broke the news Monday, as captured by Corey Clark of NoleSports.com:

The senior tailback rushed 11 times for 50 yards last week in a 43-3 win over Wake Forest. So far this year, Williams has 353 yards and five touchdowns on a 4.8 yards-per-carry average.

With Williams potentially out of a conference showdown against an Orange defense that ranks No. 63 overall with an average of 24.4 points per game allowed, the Seminoles will turn to sophomore Mario Pender and freshman Dalvin Cook for production.

Bender has 154 yards and three scores on just 23 attempts this year, while Cook has tallied 128 and two on 24 totes.

Depending on the severity of Williams' injury, the Seminoles may be without their lead back when No. 6 Notre Dame comes to visit on Oct. 18 in a matchup with wide-ranging College Football Playoff implications.

 

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Ohio State Football: How Buckeyes Can Maintain Momentum

COLUMBUS, Ohio — After bouncing back from its Sept. 6 loss to Virginia Tech with three consecutive wins, the Ohio State football team now finds itself enjoying its second bye in the past four weeks.

Only for Urban Meyer, the enjoyment of the Buckeyes' week off will be kept to a minimum.

Because truth be told, a bye week is the last ingredient that Ohio State needs to add to what's been a winning recipe for the better part of the past month. Especially after one of the craziest weekends in college football history, the Buckeyes suddenly find themselves back in the thick of a hunt for a playoff spot, but that's predicated on Ohio State maintaining its newfound momentum.

"I wish we were playing another one next week," Meyer said following the Buckeyes' 52-24 win over Maryland on Saturday. "Our whole team wishes we were playing."

What's led Ohio State from its defeat at the hands of the Hokies to being a team that can't get back on the field soon enough?

It starts on the offensive side of the ball, where the Buckeyes have found their footing behind the play of redshirt freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett. An emerging star in college football, Barrett has combined for 909 passing yards, 156 rushing yards, 15 total touchdowns (14 passing, one rushing) and just one interception in Ohio State's past three games.

Those numbers stand in stark contrast from what they were during the Buckeyes' 35-21 loss to Virginia Tech, where Barrett completed just nine of his 29 pass attempts for 219 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions. In the mere matter of weeks, the reigning Athlon Freshman of the Week has gone from a liability to the focal point of an OSU offense that ranks seventh nationally with an average of 44.6 points per game.

"I'm just trying to get better during the week and not wait until game day to react to everything," Barrett said of his recent improvement. "I'm just trying to get better at learning the defense that we're going to play on Tuesday and Wednesday, so when it comes to Saturday, I can have that confidence and go out there and play."

It also helps that what seemed like a blueprint for beating the Buckeyes a month ago is suddenly something that Ohio State now looks forward to facing.

While the Hokies hammered the Buckeyes with a 46 Bear defensive front and cover zero scheme, other opponents haven't been as fortunate with copycat approaches. Barrett's improvement, Ezekiel Elliott's emergence and a growing offensive line have all played roles in the midseason adjustments that have led to Ohio State's recent string of success.

"Ever since the Virginia Tech game, we've been getting that Bear, zero coverage," Meyer noted. "And now you're starting to see receivers and quarterbacks get kind of excited when they see that. The same with the coaching staff. You're like, 'Great, do it.'"

Opponents have, and as of late, they've paid, with wide receivers Michael Thomas, Dontre Wilson and Devin Smith all making their presences felt in different ways in the Buckeyes passing game. In its current state, it'd be hard to describe Ohio State's offense as anything but in-sync, something that it will have to sustain through its week off.

 

And as for the Buckeyes defense?

It's still not performing at a "championship level," according to Meyer. But that doesn't mean that it's not improving.

During Ohio State's Sept. 27 contest with Cincinnati—a 50-28 Buckeyes win—familiar frustrations reared their heads for the OSU pass defense, which surrendered 352 yards and four touchdowns to Bearcats quarterback Gunner Kiel. That total included touchdown throws of 83, 78 and 60 yards, leading Meyer to state that the Buckeyes were going "back to the drawing board" when it came to their pass defense.

A week later, Ohio State didn't give up quite as many big plays but did still allow at least one, as a 60-yard pass from Terrapins quarterback Caleb Rowe to Jacquille Veii set up a four-yard score for Stefon Diggs at the start of the fourth quarter. That sequence, in particular, stuck with Meyer, who vowed that such plays will at one point cease to be a weekly occurrence for the Buckeyes.

"Once again, you just take away—someday, we will take away the big hits," Meyer said, cutting himself off. "We're going to be more aggressive on defense."

With plenty left to work on in that facet, there's at least one Ohio State unit that could potentially benefit from the Buckeyes' second bye in the past month. Perhaps that's why Meyer, once again, won't treat it like a normal week off, in an attempt to improve an Ohio State team that's as hot as any heading into the heart of the 2014 season.

"The road's getting tougher and tougher," said Meyer. "I'm going to give us as many game reps as I can just to continue to get that maturity."

 

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

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Re-Ranking the College Football Top 5 After Upset Saturday

Teams were tested this past Saturday, some of them passed, some of them failed; the only certain thing was that it was a lot of fun to watch. College Football Analyst Michael Felder re-ranks the Top 5 after a crazy weekend.

Who is your No. 1 team?

Watch the video and let us know!

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Wisconsin Badgers vs. Illinois Fighting Illini Complete Game Preview

After a thoroughly incomplete performance at Ryan Field against Northwestern, the Wisconsin Badgers (3-2, 0-1 Big Ten) take on the Illinois Fighting Illini (3-3, 0-2 Big Ten) in the friendly confines of Camp Randall Stadium, where the Badgers are 3-0.

Last week, the Badgers' two quarterbacks went a combined 12-of-29 for 138 yards, a touchdown and four interceptions.  After an ineffective first half by Tanner McEvoy, who went 4-of-10 for 24 yards and an interception, he was replaced by Joel Stave just before halftime.

Stave, who had not played this season due to a case of the yips after starting 19 games in his first two seasons of eligibility, did a couple good things, but the final stat line was ugly: 8-of-19 for 114 yards, a touchdown and three interceptions, including a backbreaker in a goal-to-go situation.

All of the quarterback problems undermined a phenomenal career day by Heisman Trophy candidate Melvin Gordon, who carried the ball 27 times for a career-high 259 yards and a touchdown.

But the Badgers' four turnovers, drive-killing and extending penalties amounted to an embarrassing road loss to an upstart Northwestern team, which finds itself in the driver's seat of the Big Ten West with a 2-0 record.

As for Illinois, its bad season got a little bit worse last week as it handed Purdue its first Big Ten win under Darrell Hazell, who lost his first nine Big Ten contests as head coach, in a 38-27 defeat in Champaign at Memorial Stadium.

Making matters worse, the lone bright spot on the team, quarterback Wes Lunt, went down with a broken leg, per ESPN.com, which should sideline him for four-to-six weeks.  Lunt is completing 66.5 percent of his passes with 1,569 yards, 13 touchdowns and only three interceptions.

To replace him is Reilly O'Toole, who has seen nowhere near the success Lunt has.  O'Toole is completing 52.6 percent of his passes for 428 yards, a touchdown and four interceptions while seeing parts of two games plus a start against Nebraska.

Let's take a look at both teams' keys to victory, the players to watch and more as each squad looks to get off the schneid in Big Ten play.

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USC vs. Arizona Complete Game Preview

WHEN: Saturday, Oct. 11; 10:30 p.m. ET

WHERE: Arizona Stadium; Tucson, Arizona

TV: ESPN2

Out of the polls for the first time this season, USC visits No. 10-ranked Arizona with what head coach Steve Sarkisian described as "sick feeling in [its] gut."

The Trojans lost to Arizona State in Week 6 on Sun Devils quarterback Mike Bercovici's Hail Mary touchdown to Jaelen Strong.

What a game! Check out the unbelievable highlights from #ASUvsUSC! @drpepper#oneofakindplayshttps://t.co/TLyqmw6XTN

— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) October 5, 2014

Conversely, one of Arizona's five wins came on a Hail Mary when quarterback Anu Solomon completed one to Austin Hill to beat Cal in Week 4.

#HillMaryhttp://t.co/iSOdUAY2gy#BearDown RT @ESPN_Pac12blog: Poll: Pac-12 play of the week http://t.co/6mrv3ZP03p

— Arizona Football (@ArizonaFBall) September 21, 2014

For one team to win in dramatic fashion, another has to suffer heartbreak. It's the yin and yang of football that has the Trojans and Wildcats on opposite ends of the spectrum coming into this Saturday's nighttime showdown in the desert. 

If Arizona can keep its good fortune rolling, it will have the inside track on the South's berth into the Pac-12 Championship Game. A USC win, however, puts the Trojans right back in the forefront of the race.

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Northwestern Unveils New 'Gothic' Uniforms for Game Against Nebraska

The Northwestern Wildcats' latest uniforms are certainly different.

Northwestern put out a teaser Monday morning to announce that it would be unveiling a new look for its game against the Nebraska Cornhuskers on Oct. 18.

Then, the Wildcats' new "gothic" uniforms were unveiled.

The new uniforms were inspired by Northwestern's campus.

[Twitter]

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Treon Harris Suspended by Florida: Latest Details, Comments and Reaction

The Florida Gators suspended freshman quarterback Treon Harris on Monday. 

Florida released a statement announcing Harris' suspension:

University of Florida student athlete Treon Harris is accused of sexually assaulting a female student early Sunday morning in a residence hall on the UF campus.

The University of Florida Police Department is investigating the incident, and UFPD has brought in the Gainesville Police Department to assist with collection and analysis of forensic evidence.

The investigation is ongoing and we do not have an update regarding any charges at this time.

The University of Florida and the University Athletic Association are cooperating fully.

Due to legal and privacy requirements, there are limitations as to what the university can say publicly about a pending matter such as this. In these types of serious situations, Student Affairs initiates the Student Conduct Code process. Often, a student may be suspended on an interim basis, which means he or she is banned from campus and all campus activities, pending the outcome of the conduct process.

UAA has suspended Treon Harris from all team activities.

'We have no tolerance for sexual assault on our campus,' UF President Bernie Machen said. 'The university is committed to providing a safe and inclusive environment for every member of the UF community. We must strive to protect all of our students from sexual harassment and assault, and do everything in our power to promote a safe learning environment.'

UF continues to provide a wide variety of support services and resources. The university continually enhance its campus efforts to address issues of sexual assault and harassment.

As this process unfolds and is resolved, UF is committed to addressing this serious matter with integrity, fairness and compassion.

Edgar Thompson of the Orlando Sentinel followed with additional details surrounding the incident:

The UF campus police crime log shows authorities were called at 12:49 a.m. Sunday to Springs Residential Complex, on-campus apartments, to investigate a sexual battery allegation. 

Richard Johnson of Jacksonville.com shared a statement from Ben Tobias of Gainesville Police Department discussing the case:

Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel continued with a statement from Harris' attorney, Huntley Johnson:

Harris, who is listed at 5'11" and 190 pounds, replaced quarterback Jeff Driskel on Saturday and led the team to a crucial comeback win over Tennessee. The freshman passed for just 17 yards and had 24 yards rushing, but he looked good in taking over for Driskel.

Head coach Will Muschamp spoke about Harris following the game, per Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel.

"He's one of those guys who have that 'it' factor," Muschamp said. "He's a winner. ... He's got an aura and calmness about him."

Now, his future under center is unclear. While he's suspended from the team, Driskel will once again take over as the starting quarterback.

Meanwhile, Florida is currently 3-1 with a tough test ahead against LSU on Saturday. Regardless of who is under center, the team will need a complete effort to take down a still potent Tigers offense.

 

Follow @RCorySmith on Twitter.

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Watch RB Clayton Kiefer Break National Record with 11-Touchdown Performance

Clayton Kiefer was a one-man wrecking crew in Iowa. The Wayne High School senior scored 11 touchdowns, giving him an 8-Man national record. The Falcons won the game 86-60. 

Was this the best performance by a high school running back this year?

Watch the video and let us know.

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Terrel Hunt Injury: Updates on Syracuse QB's Leg and Recovery

Syracuse is already struggling through a three-game losing streak and now head into a matchup with Florida State without quarterback Terrel Hunt. The signal-caller suffered a broken fibula that could cause him to miss four to six weeks, according to Andrea Adelson of ESPN.com.    

Hunt's injury came during the team's 28-6 loss to the Louisville Cardinals on Friday night, dropping the team to 2-3. Following the news, ACC Sports offered its take on the crucial injury for Syracuse:

Along with Hunt's injury, Tim Lester now takes over for George McDonald as the team's offensive coordinator. 

The senior quarterback passed for 983 yards, one touchdown and four interceptions prior to the injury. Hunt's pedestrian passing numbers were padded by his 307 yards and six touchdowns in the running game.

In Hunt's absence, it appears backup Austin Wilson will take over starting duties, per Adelson. Though nothing is certain, Lester did have positive remarks about Wilson prior to the season, per Stephen Bailey of Syracuse.com:

He could always throw the ball, that's one of his strengths. And mentally, as he got more reps, he started making better and better decisions. His numbers were the best, and they were all pretty close, but he showed the most as far as being able to make decisions. His feet got better and he did what he needed to do.

The sophomore has gone 11-of-20 for 89 yards this season, but was unable to complete a pass in three attempts against Louisville.

Heading into easily the toughest matchup on the team's schedule, Syracuse will now have an inexperienced quarterback under center against Florida State. Expect more reliance on the running game, but not much offense against a stout Seminoles defense.

 

Follow @RCorySmith on Twitter.

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Auburn vs. Mississippi State Complete Game Preview

AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn and Mississippi State have met on the football field 87 times.

Matchup No. 88 will be far and away the biggest matchup in the series—and it's not even close.

While other top teams faltered on one of the craziest weekends in recent memory, Auburn and Mississippi State took care of business, and then some, at home. After the Bulldogs smacked previously undefeated Texas A&M in a 48-31 game that wasn't as close as the scoreline suggested, the Tigers blew out a young LSU team 41-7 for a memorable rivalry win on the Plains.

The results catapulted Auburn to No. 2 and Mississippi State to a best-ever ranking of No. 3, setting up the biggest home game in Bulldogs history and one of the biggest conference games in Tigers history.

Both teams have their offenses coming off of explosive performances and their defenses continuing to show vast improvement from last season. The winner will take the early lead in a crowded SEC West, so conference and national-title stakes will never have been higher in Starkville when the eyes of the college football world descend on Davis Wade Stadium this Saturday.

Before we break down this massive matchup, here are all the basics you need to know:

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Notre Dame Football: 5 Startling Statistics Through 5 Weeks

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Five games into the regular season, Notre Dame football continues to impress, posting strong defensive performances to accompany quarterback Everett Golson’s mostly great play.

While the high potential on this team was known before the season, the Irish have jelled quicker than some may have thought. So what stands out through these first five games? We’ll take a look at some of the more noteworthy statistics—positive and negative—here.

Let’s get to it.

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Inside the Legendary Tailgate and Barbecue of the Texas Longhorns

The University of Texas is known for two things: football and tailgating.

We went behind the legendary tailgate at every Longhorns home game to see more of what goes into the best barbecue in college football.

A special thanks to the Ideas United group for its hard work on this piece. 

Watch and let us know what you think in the comments below.

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College Football Teams Who Are Fool's Gold in Race for Playoff

The chaos of Week 6 created a new pecking order in the world of college football, a hierarchy where Ole Miss and Mississippi State are tied at No. 3 in the Associated Press Poll, and TCU and Arizona are considered Top 10 teams.

But how much can these en vogue contenders be trusted? Which ones are legitimate threats to make the College Football Playoff, and which ones are just flavors of the week?

In order to be "Fool's Gold," one must first be considered "Gold," which helped narrow down the requirements for this list. In order to be included, a team had to be ranked inside the current AP Top 15.

From there, a judgement was made on their playoff chances based on talent, performance, sustainability and upcoming schedule. The five teams included are the ones whose participation in the playoff would come as the biggest surprise (albeit subjectively).

They might look like contenders today, but the season is still less than halfway over. Not all that glitters is gold.

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7 Bold Predictions for the Rest of the SEC Season

The first half of the season is in the books, and in it, we've seen some wild games, new stars emerge and set the table for the season half of the season.

Ole Miss and Mississippi State stood up and shouted "we're here" on Saturday, with wins over Alabama and Texas A&M, respectively. Bulldogs quarterback Dak Prescott and Aggie signal-caller Kenny Hill jumped into the race for the Heisman Trophy, with several other stars—including Auburn's Nick Marshall—waiting in the wings.

Over in the SEC East, no leader has emerged, but hey, at least there's Georgia running back Todd Gurley.

Half of the season is in the books, but the fun is only starting. Here are seven bold predictions for the rest of the SEC season.

 

Begin Slideshow

Shaquille Jones Dismissed by Georgia Following Arrest

Freshman defensive back Shaquille Jones was dismissed from Georgia on Sunday after he was arrested for shoplifting. 

Jones was charged with theft after taking $43 worth of merchandise from Walmart. He was released on $1,500 bail on Sunday evening, according to Seth Emerson of The Macon Telegraph.

As a result, head coach Mark Richt announced his dismissal merely 90 minutes later. Richt spoke about Jones' departure in a statement, per Emerson:

"We have certain expectations and standards that we require of all our players," Richt said. "When those expectations and standards are not met, the opportunity to be a part of our program is sacrificed.”

Dan Wolken of USA Today offered his take on the news:

Jones had yet to play for the Bulldogs, but is still a notable loss. Defensive back Sheldon Dawson was dismissed last week and Rico Johnson was given a medical disqualification last Thursday after the discovery of a spinal condition, per Emerson.

UGA Football News provides a full look at the losses in the secondary recently:

Prior to his freshman campaign with the Bulldogs, Jones was a 3-star safety with potential to compete in the SEC. Now, his future is up in the air after being dismissed by Georgia after enrolling in June.

For the Bulldogs, the team is coming off a win over Vanderbilt, 44-17, and is preparing for a showdown with Missouri on the road. With hopes of contending in the SEC still alive, Georgia must eliminate distractions moving forward.

 

Follow @RCorySmith on Twitter.

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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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