NCAA Football News

Penn State vs. Indiana: Live Score and Highlights

Penn State 0, Indiana 0  - start of the second quarter

Buried in the carnage of what has been two disappointing Big Ten seasons so far, there's an embedded heavyweight battle expected in today's Penn State-Indiana showdown in Bloomington.

Yes, the Nittany Lions and Hoosiers have combined to lose their last seven consecutive conference games, and both teams are reeling. But the game will match up the nation's top rusher in Tevin Coleman against Bob Shoop's PSU run defense that is ranked first nationally.

So far, neither offense has done anything as the first quarter was a Punt Fest.

Penn State will be trying to halt its first four-game losing streak since 2004. Indiana will try to make it two in a row.

Be sure to keep open the blog for highlights…if they exist in this donnybrook.

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Baylor vs. Oklahoma: Live Score and Highlights

Oklahoma 7, Baylor 3—Late Lst Quarter

The No. 12 Baylor Bears and No. 15 Oklahoma Sooners are squaring off in a pivotal Big 12 matchup Saturday afternoon at Memorial Stadium.

Fox Sports 1 is carrying the conference tilt. Bleacher Report is providing live scoring updates and in-game analysis. Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

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Presbyterian College vs. Ole Miss: Live Score and Highlights

The Ole Miss Rebels will look to earn their eighth win of the season when they face Presbyterian College at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. The game will kick off at noon EST and it will air on the SEC Network.

The Rebels are coming off a heartbreaking loss to Auburn and they now have to claw their way back into the SEC West race. Ole Miss has played in six consecutive games and they have been beat up, losing Laquon Treadwell and Denzel Nkemdiche to season-ending injuries the past two weeks.

Ole Miss is going up against an opponent that is one of the top teams in the FCS in Presbyterian College, but the Blue Hose have been blown out by two FBS teams this season, Northern Illinois and N.C. State.

Be sure to come back to this blog when the game kicks off for the latest scoring updates and highlights.

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Bowl Projections 2014: Predictions for College Football Playoff Before Week 11

Week 11 of the college football season brings a whopping six matchups between ranked teams, as the playoff picture could receive a significant shake-up.  Given that the field of contenders is already thinning, it is possible that we could see a clear-cut group of four teams hold the pole position after Saturday's action.

Then again, upsets could just begin the cycle anew and create even more chaos.  Top SEC and Pac-12 contenders are facing tricky road contests, while the Big 10 and Big 12 are essentially conducting elimination games between two of their top contenders.

Thus, Saturday's action is likely to change our perception of the playoff field.  For now, though, let's take a step back and predict the current field, as well as the game with the biggest playoff implications.

 

Projected Playoff Field

Sugar Bowl: No. 1 Florida State vs. No. 4 Auburn

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

 

This is a prediction of how the rest of the season will play out, not where things should currently stand.  Despite a pair of shaky outings against ACC foes Louisville and Clemson this season, the Florida State Seminoles still look like the clear-cut team to beat.  

Though the Seminoles still face Florida, the weak Costal division should make the ACC title game a mere formality, thus punching Florida State's ticket to the semis.

Auburn is just as talented as Florida State, as it actually tops Football Outsiders' Fremeau Efficiency Index.  But the SEC has cannibalized itself the whole season, and with one loss already in hand, the Tigers have no margin for error against a brutal schedule:

Nevertheless, with the weakness of the other conferences, it's not hard to envision the SEC receiving two teams.  Undefeated Mississippi State can likely absorb one loss—fortunate considering that they still visit Tuscaloosa and Oxford, not to mention a potential SEC Championship game against Florida or Georgia.

If the Bulldogs survive and give the SEC two teams, the Oregon Ducks currently look like the favorites to jump up in the field.  Oregon finally got over the Stanford hump last week, though a tough Pac-12 championship game against either Arizona State or UCLA does loom (not to mention a tricky road trip to Utah this weekend).  

Nevertheless, behind an improved defense and increasingly healthy offensive line, Marcus Mariota and Co. look like the class of the conference.

 

Game of the Week: No. 10 Notre Dame at No. 9 Arizona State

Though other contests like Alabama-LSU and Ohio State-Michigan State may hold more cache and generate bigger TV ratings, the game in Tempe actually holds the greatest playoff implications.  Both the Fighting Irish and Sun Devils are one-loss teams sitting on the periphery of the postseason picture, but a marquee win could vault them into serious consideration for the final four.

The matchup will pit two of the nation's best quarterbacks in Everett Golson and Taylor Kelly.  However, expecting fireworks might be folly.  

The Sun Devils have employed a heavy pressure defense that utilizes plenty of blitzes, and against Florida State this season, Golson struggled when the Seminoles sent blitzers through the interior A- and B-gaps:

Kelly's issues could stem from rustiness more than scheme.  After missing three games following surgery on his right foot, Kelly has appeared rusty.  

The Arizona State signal-caller has completed just 56.1 percent of his passes for just 6.75 yards per attempt in two games since his return.  Additionally, Kelly's mobility has appeared impaired, resulting in more negative dropbacks:

This is not to disparage the two quarterbacks, but rather to show how both Notre Dame and Arizona State are underrated and complete teams.  

Both teams likely need a bit of help to realistically challenge for the four-team playoff, but notching a win against a fellow top-10 opponent would be the type of signature victory that would stand out to the committee at season's end.

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College Football Rankings 2014: Final NCAA Overview of Week 11 Standings

The most important weekend of the 2014 college football season is here.

The schedule itself does the talking. Baylor at Oklahoma. Notre Dame at Arizona State. Alabama at LSU. Kansas State at TCU. Ohio State at Michigan State. Oregon at Utah.

It goes on, but one has to feel sorry for the pollsters at some point. Granted, this is the job they signed up for, but the path to the inaugural College Football Playoff has seemingly created more movement on the weekly polls than ever on a week-to-week basis.

Below, let's look at the notable polls before illustrating the thing most came to see—the CFP committee's poll. Soak it all in, because everything is about to go up in flames.

 

Week 11 College Football Top 25 Rankings

AP Poll can be viewed at CollegeFootball.AP.org.

Amway Poll can be viewed at USAToday.com.

B/R Poll can be viewed at BleacherReport.com.

 

College Football Playoff Week 11 Rankings

 

 

Week 11 Storylines to Watch

Oregon's Trap Game

The nation is sleeping on one of Saturday's late games, which may have a bigger impact on the CFP than any of those that come before it.

Marcus Mariota and Oregon better not be sleeping on it, though.

The Ducks finally got over the hump by upending Stanford 45-16 last week to quell whispers that the team is due for an annual November, soul and postseason-crushing loss. 

As a wise man once said, though—not so fast, my friend. 

The problem with the above theory and the fact most are unaware of this game's importance stems from the fact that Utah has been given little attention this season. For shame, too, as the Utes are more Stanford than Stanford is this season.

The Utes allow just 21.3 points per game this season and lead the nation in sacks with 39 to date. The team is far from a one-trick pony, though, as the offense can get down and dirty in quite an effective manner thanks to running back Devontae Booker, who has 990 yards and eight touchdowns on a 5.4 average this season.

Oregon has appeared to turn on the afterburners, though, gaining four wins in a row after a stunning upset at the hands of unranked Arizona at the start of October.

"Particularly after the Arizona game it's been more competitive, a better sense of urgency," coach Mark Helfrich said, per STATS LLC on ESPN.com. "All those things, win or lose, you try to impart on these guys of getting better in everything we do. Unfortunately, sometimes it's adversity in the form of a loss that wakes everybody up."

Right now the Ducks are playing the best ball they have all season, and Mariota has been his usual self (2,541 yards and 26 touchdowns to just two interceptions) when actually upright in the pocket or rolling out of it.

That figures to give Oregon the edge on the road, but should the hogs in front of Mariota collapse and Booker get the ball in his hands with his team in the lead, the CFP is going to suffer its biggest blow to date.

 

The One-Loss CFP Underdog

It was predictable that a one-loss team, if not two, would slip into the CFP.

Not many figured one might come from the Big Ten, though.

Michigan State has something to say about that. Many were ready to write off the Spartans after an early September loss on the road to Oregon in rather ugly fashion, but since then the team has rattled off six straight wins in a rather unconventional, if not unexpected manner.

Make no mistake, the Spartans are still great on defense. The team surrenders just 20.3 points per game on average. But it is the nation's fifth-ranked offense at 45.5 points per game that has many, including ESPN CollegeFootball, wondering if the Spartans can power their way to the postseason:

Some, such as Gerry DiNardo, per Bo Mattingly, project the Spartans to slip into the fray:

To do so, of course, the Spartans will need to move past the pesky Ohio State Buckeyes Saturday, led by surprising quarterback J.T. Barrett (1,856 passing yards, 23 touchdowns, 496 rushing yards, six touchdowns).

For quarterback Connor Cook, who completes 60.6 percent of his passes this season, that will prove to be the toughest test since Oregon.

It is certainly a passable one, and one the Spartans cannot do without. The team is wedged behind more than a few SEC and Big 12 teams, among others, in the hunt for the CFP. Those dominoes can and will fall, but the Spartans will need to stand strong in the process.

The real test begins now.

 

Stats and information via ESPN.com unless otherwise specified.

 

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College Football: Top 5 Games to Watch in Week 11

Week 11 will be the most important week of the 2014 College Football season with six matchups between ranked teams, along with conference and national title hopes on the line.

The Big Ten East representative for the conference championship game will more than likely be decided when No. 14 Ohio State travels to face off with No. 8 Michigan State in a heavyweight matchup. The loser will probably be eliminated from the College Football Playoff race.

The Big 12 may have the biggest weekend of them all. No. 12 Baylor heads to No. 15 Oklahoma, where it will hope to come away with its first win in Norman ever. The other Big 12 contest could decide who wins the conference title and stays in the national title picture when No. 7 Kansas State travels south to Fort Worth, Texas, to battle it out with No. 6 TCU.

With teams looking to stay in contention for the national title, 10th-ranked Notre Dame will need a win at a surging ninth-ranked Arizona State squad if it has any chance of making a case of moving into a spot in the Top Four.

There, of course, must be one high-profile SEC matchup per week. In what has become the biggest SEC game of the season since Nick Saban came to Tuscaloosa, No. 5 Alabama will have the difficult task of knocking off an improving No. 16 LSU team in Death Valley.

In what will be a playoff-type environment in the college football world this Saturday, here are the top five games to watch.

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Missouri CB Aarion Penton Arrested: Latest Details, Comments and Reaction

Missouri has suspended sophomore cornerback Aarion Penton indefinitely.

Dave Matter of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that local authorities arrested Penton on suspicion of marijuana possession early Friday morning:

Gabe DeArmond of PowerMizzou.com reported that since Penton had fewer than 35 grams on his person, the charge was only a misdemeanor:

This is the second time that the Tigers star has run afoul of the law for alleged marijuana possession. In March, Penton and three other Missouri student-athletes were cited after being caught with 35 grams or less of the illegal substance.

Missouri's next game isn't for another week, so the school has some time to decide whether to make the indefinite suspension more defined:

Penton is one of the defensive players the Tigers can least afford to lose as they attempt to secure the SEC East division. He is second on the team with three interceptions while adding seven pass breakups and defending another 10.

After playing Texas A&M on Nov. 15, Missouri wraps up its regular season with Tennessee and Arkansas. Should Penton miss one or more of those games, the Tigers could be in trouble defensively.

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UAB Investigate Speculation Involving Chris Rabb, Jameis Winston, Point Shaving

UAB isn't taking the point-shaving allegations surrounding Blazers defensive end Chris Rabb and Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston lightly. According to Nick Birdsong of AL.com, the school is investigating whether anything improper occurred.

"We're are aware of the allegation and looking into the matter," said UAB Athletic Director Brian Mackin. "That is the only comment we will have at this time."

The problems stem from an anonymous writer named Incarcerated Bob, who alleged Winston sandbagged the first half of an eventual 42-31 win over the Louisville Cardinals. The Seminoles star did so in order to help Rabb, who was a teammate of Winston's in high school, win $5,000.

Bleacher Report's Matt Miller questioned the veracity of the report:

B/R's Barrett Sallee also felt the allegations are spurious:

Regardless of the outcome of UAB's investigation, the timing couldn't be much worse for the Blazers. They play Louisiana Tech and Marshall in their next two games. As if playing the two best teams in Conference USA isn't enough, now the team must deal with this added distraction.

Winston will likely be unaffected by the allegations, but they'll provide more fuel for his critics given his off-field history already.

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Oklahoma Football: What Trevor Knight Must Do to Lead Sooners Past Baylor

Oklahoma quarterback Trevor Knight is key to the Sooners’ chances of victory when Baylor comes into Norman on Saturday (noon ET on Fox Sports 1).

With two losses already on its resume, Oklahoma can’t afford another slip-up if it hopes to maintain its slim Big 12 title hopes and even slimmer College Football Playoff chances. Whether or not the team can emerge on the winning side of Saturday’s contest will rest on the shoulders of its sophomore quarterback.

Here’s what Knight has to do.

 

Play a Clean Game

Turnovers have been the bane of Knight’s existence this season.

Through eight games, the San Antonio native has thrown as many interceptions. Unfortunately, some of those have been pretty costly—two were returned for a touchdown in the Sooners' two losses this season.

Ranking just No. 87 in interceptions (six), the Bears don't possess a secondary that will force opposing quarterbacks into bad decisions. With that said, there’s no need to gift the unit with a wayward pass or bad decision.

But against a pass rush that leads the Big 12 in sacks with 27, it might not be so easy.

“This is a pressure defense. They try to get you in bad plays early, more than probably any defense we play all year,” Oklahoma co-offensive coordinator Jay Norvell told TulsaWorld.com’s Eric Bailey. “They’ll take more chances on first and second down and play zero blitz.”

As a result, don’t be surprised if you see Knight throwing a few more wide receiver screens and quick passes than usual.

 

Let Knight Run Loose

The Sooners' coaching staff took the training wheels off Knight last Saturday, and the results were spectacular.

In a 59-14 clobbering of Iowa State on the road, Knight ran for a career-high 146 yards and three touchdowns on 16 carries. It was a game that showcased his tremendous athletic ability and made Sooners fans wonder what could have been if he had been set free sooner.

Either way, there’s a good chance we’ll see another heaping helping of Knight’s mobility on Saturday. 

It won’t be easy, as Baylor has been stout against the run. In fact, the team ranks No. 9 at stopping the run (99.8 YPG) while limiting opponents to a meager 3.11 yards per carry.

Regardless of the Bears’ knack for stopping the run, Oklahoma must test the defense’s awareness of Knight’s running abilities early and often.

 

Move the Chains to Keep Petty and Co. on Sidelines

There are few offenses as potent as Baylor’s.

Through eight games, the team tops the nation in total offense (590.3 YPG) and scoring (50.4 PPG). Quarterback Bryce Petty leads the way, throwing for 2,034 yards, 20 touchdowns and three interceptions.

Against an offense that is nearly impossible to stop, keeping the chains moving will become an important aspect of Saturday’s game.

Thus far, the Sooners only rank No. 61 in third-down conversions, completing just 41.1 percent of their attempts. Conversely, the Bears have been rather successful in stopping opponents on third down, ranking No. 20 in third-down defense (33.3 percent).

Fortunately, Knight and the offense have looked better in the category in recent weeks. In fact, Oklahoma has gone 13-of-23 (56.5 percent) on third down over the last two games.

If Knight can keep that up, it will go a long way in swaying the field position in the Sooners' favor and keeping Petty and the Baylor offense off the field.

 

All stats, recruiting information and rankings used in this article are courtesy of cfbstats.com and 247Sports.

For complete coverage and everything college football, you can reach Sebastian on Twitter and via email at Sebastian.LenaBR@gmail.com.

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B.J. Catalon Injury: Updates on TCU Star's Torso and Return

The No. 6-ranked TCU Horned Frogs will be without running back B.J. Catalon for Saturday’s game against the No. 7-ranked Kansas State Wildcats, per Jeremy Clark of Scout.com.

Catalon injured his upper torso on the last play before the Horned Frogs’ game-winning field goal against the West Virginia Mountaineers last week.

He didn’t practice all week, per Carlos Mendez of the Dallas Star-Telegram, and was listed as questionable leading up to Friday.

Through eight games, the 5’9” junior from Houston, Texas has rushed for 493 yards and 10 touchdowns. He’s also caught 14 passes for 163 yards and a score.

The Horned Frogs use a number of running backs, and that figures to continue on Saturday. Junior Aaron Green would likely start, per Sam Cooper of Yahoo Sports, but redshirt freshman Kyle Hicks and freshman Trevorris Johnson could all see carries to make up for the loss of Catalon. 

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The 5 Most Telling Stats for the Tennessee Volunteers This Season

With the 2014 regular season now in its final month, it's time to reflect on what the Tennessee Volunteers have done statistically so far to get a good idea of how the team will finish down the stretch.

The Vols have been up and down this season. For the first half of the year, Tennessee's defense appeared to be a strength, while the offense was a liability.

But in recent weeks, the roles seem to have reversed, with opposing offenses torching the Vols and Tennessee's own offense showing flashes of brilliance under the command of sophomore quarterback Joshua Dobbs. 

Of course, the biggest question on the minds of everyone associated with Tennessee football—from fans to players to coaches—is what the Vols need to do to make a bowl.

With so much statistical data available through nine games, it's much easier to get a read on both the Vols and their remaining opponents at this point in the season.

Here are five telling stats that could play a huge role in Tennessee's chances to win out and earn a bowl berth for the first time since 2010.

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LSU RBs Terrence Magee and Kenny Hilliard Must Come Through vs. Alabama

The 2014 college football season feels like it started just yesterday. On Saturday, though, LSU will have its senior night against Alabama.

Yeah, things go by quickly. 

If LSU is going to shake up the SEC West standings and have so much as an outside shot at the divisional title, it needs to rely on a pair of senior running backs, Terrence Magee and Kenny Hilliard, to step up. 

Combined, the two are 449 pounds of downhill running destruction, just like the Tigers offense likes. LSU doesn't do a lot of complicated things on offense; to the contrary, the more LSU can run it down a defense's throat, the better. 

It's also partially because LSU's offense is, by and large, young, as Chris Low of ESPN.com notes: 

Their starting quarterback, Anthony Jennings, is a true sophomore. His backup, Brandon Harris, is a true freshman. Their leading rusher, Leonard Fournette, is a true freshman. Their leading receiver, Travin Dural, is a redshirt sophomore, and the two guys behind him, Trey Quinn and Malachi Dupre, are true freshmen. In fact, true freshmen have accounted for 23 of LSU's 36 offensive touchdowns. The Tigers have played 17 true freshmen through the first nine weeks, the most of the Miles era. 

Though neither senior leads the team in rushing yards—Fournette has 657 yards and seven touchdowns—Hilliard and Magee average at least five yards per carry. 

Those numbers will be tested against Alabama's stout rushing defense, which gives up fewer than three yards per carry and has allowed just two touchdowns on the ground. 

The Tide are nearly a full touchdown favorite, according to OddsShark.com, even though the game is being played at night in Death Valley, which usually counts for something. As B/R colleague Barrett Sallee correctly wrote earlier this week, LSU isn't going to be able to outlast Alabama and its defensive front seven if quarterback Anthony Jennings doesn't play well.

And Jennings' numbers on the year—50 percent completions percentage, 1,190 passing yards, eight touchdowns and five interceptions—don't indicate there's going to be a sudden change overnight. 

However, Jennings doesn't have to be a hero; no one expects him to be one anyway. But the only way Jennings has the chance to be competent is if the Tigers ground game works. It's not going to surprise anyone—well, not unless head coach Les Miles pulls a signature trick play—but it has to work all the same. 

LSU has the depth at running back to keep fresh legs churning all game long. Provided the score isn't out of hand, the Tigers don't have to abandon that game plan, even if they're losing. Fournette can still be the leading rusher, but Magee and Hilliard need to have big roles as well.

If nothing else, these are two veteran players who have seen it all. These are the types of games in which those veterans take control. 

It's a tough matchup, to be sure, but a good ground game is LSU's best chance to control the line of scrimmage, win field position and wear down Alabama's defense. If past games are any indication, it'll be a close game until the end. Regular-season games between Miles and Alabama coach Nick Saban have been close, with the exception of last year's 38-17 win by the Tide. 

"You look back on these games and they have all been that style of game, a last drive or a last half of the game or last quarter the game's decided," Miles said, via Andrew Gribble of AL.com. "You plan on playing four quarters in this game, for sure."

LSU appears to have found its identity on offense, even if it's not by choice necessarily. Miles' team knows, though, that there's no way around Alabama's defense; it just has to go through it. The good thing for LSU is that that's what it does best.

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. All stats courtesy of CFBStats.com

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SEC Football: Predicting Final 2014 Conference Standings

With just under a month remaining in conference play, the SEC title race is still up for grabs.

In the East, a surprising loss by Georgia last weekend has helped the Florida Gators make the division a three-dog race. In the West, several key divisional matchups can either clear up the title race or fog it up further.

There’s a good chance both divisions won’t be settled until the final weekend of the regular season.

But why wait till then? Join B/R as we take a stab at predicting the final standings for both the SEC East and SEC West.

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Notre Dame Football: Nyles Morgan Key to Stopping Arizona State

Ready or not, here comes Nyles Morgan. Notre Dame's freshman middle linebacker, just months after being one of the crown jewels of the Irish's 2014 recruiting class, holds the key to beating Arizona State this weekend.

After spending most of his freshman season playing special teams, Morgan will now be thrust into the middle of the Irish defense. After senior Joe Schmidt's ankle injury ended his season, the former blue-chip recruit's bright future will get a test earlier than many expected. 

"Look, Nyles has been here 12 weeks. He's had 12 weeks of coaching, and Coach VanGorder is extremely confident in Nyles' ability to go in there and play," head coach Brian Kelly said on Tuesday. "We think we've got a guy that can go in there. His traits are pretty clear. He's extremely athletic. We'll put him in a position where he can help us win a football game on Saturday."

Morgan's week has been a crash course in football. That comes on the heels of some tough coaching that wasn't exactly for the faint of heart. 

"He's been unbelievable. We have been so hard on him," Kelly said. "I think we said to him about three weeks in, you're either going to quit or you're going to be one of the best players that's ever played here, because we're hard on him, really hard on him, and he just keeps coming back asking for more, and that's the kind of kid he is."

Morgan displayed that same type of resilience this week. With a game plan installed for one of the most difficult offenses on Notre Dame's schedule, Morgan has been up to the task. So much so that Kelly said Morgan was going to continue handling the play-calling duties Schmidt managed from the middle linebacker spot. 

"Nyles handled pretty much all of the communication. He did a great job this week, and he’ll be the guy making the calls out there," Kelly said Thursday evening. 

"He had a really good week, and he’s extremely confident. Look, he’s not gonna be perfect. Certainly there’s gonna be a hiccup here or there, but he’s got a pretty good understanding of what we’re trying to accomplish and I think he had an excellent week."

Transitioning that success from the practice field to Sun Devil Stadium will now be the biggest question. And while Morgan flashed some great moments against Navy's triple option, he'll go from the demands of Ken Niumatalolo's offense to those of 32-year-old rising star Mike Norvell, the brain behind Arizona State's attack. 

Last year, the Irish defense harassed Taylor Kelly, sacking him six times and intercepting him twice (one a pick-six by inside linebacker Dan Fox that sealed the victory) in a 37-34 win. This season, after playing scheme-heavy football under the guidance of Brian VanGorder, don't expect the Irish to dumb things down on Morgan's account. 

"We have not simplified what we’re doing. I don’t think you can go into a game like this against that offense and play vanilla," Kelly said. "If you do, it’s gonna be a long day. They’re just too good. They have a ton of answers. We have to be who we are. We would not have gone down this road unless we thought Nyles was capable of doing the job. We have great confidence."

That confidence comes from knowing the type of athlete the Irish now have on the field at middle linebacker. While Schmidt has been the MVP of this defense and its leading tackler, Morgan has physical abilities that the senior linebacker can't match.

Paired with Jaylon Smith on the inside, the Irish have two linebackers to match up with one of the Pac-12's most dynamic offenses. Throw in converted wide receiver James Onwualu and the Irish defense won't get beat because they're shy on athletes. 

After relying on Schmidt's football IQ to not just put him in the right place but also many of his teammates, expect VanGorder to use the middle linebacker differently. And with Smith capable of utilizing his blazing speed to make up for some of Morgan's mistakes, expect VanGorder to turn his freshman linebacker into a destroyer—leaving the nuance to his teammates, while Morgan does his best to wreak havoc. 

After seeing Schmidt's limitations in the blitz game, Morgan could help a pass rush that's sitting 85th in the country in sacks. 

"There's some things that we know that we can't do with Nyles that Joe could do, but I know Coach VanGorder is pretty excited about some of the things that he couldn't do with Joe that he can do with Nyles this week," Kelly said. 

Saturday afternoon, the future will merge with the present at middle linebacker. And if the Irish want to continue their pursuit of a spot in the College Football Playoff, they'll need Morgan to be up to the challenge. 

 

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand. 

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Notre Dame Safety Eilar Hardy Reinstated: Latest Details and Reaction

Heading into a critical showdown with Arizona State on Saturday, Notre Dame's defense will get a boost with the return of safety Eilar Hardy.

According to Notre Dame director of football media relations Michael Bertsch, the NCAA has ruled Hardy eligible:

Hardy has yet to play in a game this season. He was one of five Notre Dame football players implicated for academic fraud in August. The senior safety was invited back to the roster in October, and head coach Brian Kelly said there was still work to do before Hardy would be allowed to play, per Sam Cooper of Yahoo Sports:

I met with Eilar, we have some work to do in terms of some of his academic work he’s working on right now in terms of trying to get that organized. But if we're able to get some of those things organized, we’re going to bring him back to practice after we get back from the bye.

The NCAA made its ruling, and Hardy will be back with the team for the rest of the season. The Fighting Irish are currently ranked 10th in the College Football Playoff standings.

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Alabama Has Matchup Advantage in Critical LSU Game

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Alabama-LSU is always a matchup of two very talented teams. Both recruit at a very high level, and it’s evident on the field.

According to Andrew Gribble of al.com, LSU has pulled in a top-six Rivals recruiting class six times since 2007. Alabama has had the No. 1 class since 2009.

So this has also historically been a close game. The regular-season margin of victory has been single digits for every year that Nick Saban has been at Alabama except for last year, when Alabama won convincingly by 21 points.

That could be the case yet again this year.

Despite these two teams being so close talent-wise on paper, the Crimson Tide match up well with what LSU wants to do. Where the Tigers have had success this season, Alabama has been stout defensively. And the Crimson Tide’s offense can present some problems to the Tigers defense.

Let’s take a closer look at three scenarios.

 

When LSU runs the ball

This has been the Tigers’ bread and butter this season. It’s a power run game that harkens back to the SEC of several years ago, before uptempo, spread offenses infiltrated the league.

LSU is running the ball 48.67 times per game, tops in the SEC. It rushed for three touchdowns each against Kentucky and Florida and piled up 264 on the ground against a stout Ole Miss defense en route to a 10-7 upset.

For all the talk about Alabama adapting its defense to stop spread attacks, this is still very much a team built to stop the run.

The Crimson Tide sit at No. 1 in the SEC in run defense, allowing just 78.13 yards per game. The next closest team, Florida, allows an average of 121.

In its other game against a similarly-built offensive team (Arkansas), Alabama had a lot of success. The Razorbacks had just 89 yards on the ground that night, easily their lowest total of the season and well below their season average of 248.22 yards per game.

 

When LSU throws the ball

If there’s a weakness that LSU could exploit against Alabama, it would be the Crimson Tide’s secondary.

Alabama is allowing 199.1 yards per game, good for No. 29 in the country. Not bad numbers by any stretch, but not at the level the Crimson Tide would like to play defense.

They've shown a propensity to give up big plays at inopportune times.

Alabama gave up 8.1 yards per attempt against West Virginia and Ole Miss, two teams that threw the ball very well against it this year, one of which pulled an upset.

Unfortunately for LSU, as the Tigers’ run game has come into focus, they'v thrown the ball less and less.

In their last four games, the Tigers have thrown for fewer than 200 yards. They had only done that once in the previous five games.

So LSU will need to elevate its passing game significantly to move the ball against Alabama.

 

LSU’s weakness

In somewhat of a shocker, Alabama is throwing the ball really well this season. Its team passer rating is tops in the SEC. Blake Sims has the second-highest quarterback rating of anyone in the country behind Heisman favorite Marcus Mariota.

LSU should be able to somewhat neutralize this threat and make this a wash. It is holding opponents to a passer rating of just 96.37, best in the conference.

But where the Tigers defense has been vulnerable is in the run game, specifically against running quarterbacks.

It’s given up at least 100 yards rushing to two quarterbacks this year: Auburn’s Nick Marshall and Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott. Prescott’s 56-yard touchdown run against LSU was one of the early defining moments of the season.

Florida’s Jeff Driskel also picked up 71 yards on the ground.

That plays right into Sims’ hands.

Sims is averaging 5.43 yards per carry, which is second in the SEC among quarterbacks—behind Marshall and just ahead of Prescott. He hasn’t run it quite as much as the other two but has had rushing touchdowns of 43 and 28 yards in his last two games.

He could have another big game on the ground in Baton Rouge.

 

Marc Torrence is the Alabama lead writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats come from CFBStats.

Follow on Twitter @marctorrence.

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Notre Dame Football: How the Irish Move on Without Joe Schmidt

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — When Notre Dame football races into the warm sunshine Saturday to face Arizona State, the Irish will take the field without leading tackler Joe Schmidt.

As the “Mike” linebacker in defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder’s scheme, Schmidt has been indispensable, someone the Irish haven’t been able to take off the field since spring practice. So what does Notre Dame’s defense do now, devoid of its central nervous system?

“Everybody will pick up the slack there for the loss of Joe,” Irish head coach Brian Kelly said Tuesday.

While Schmidt’s 65 tackles pace the Irish, his role as a communicator pulling the strings at the center of the defense is even more valuable.

Irish junior defensive lineman and captain Sheldon Day called Schmidt “the quarterback of the defense.” In describing Schmidt’s duties, Day said Schmidt is delivering the play call, the formation and personnel so everyone is on the same page. If Day were to miss the call, he’d look back to Schmidt for backup.

Schmidt determines if the defensive front needs to be adjusted, and he’ll turn around in communication with the secondary and tinker with the coverage if need be.

“All those things are going on before the play has to be snapped, so he does a lot,” Day said.

“Joe was definitely the greatest communicator I’ve seen in a while,” Day added. “So it’s definitely everybody’s job to step up their role a little bit more to make sure everybody knows what they have to do on each and every play.”

Irish freshman linebacker Nyles Morgan climbs into the starting role vacated by Schmidt. Morgan was the No. 3 inside linebacker and the No. 53 overall player in the class of 2014, per 247Sports’ composite rankings. He tallied four tackles in relief of Schmidt last Saturday against Navy. Kelly said Morgan handled most of the communication this week and will make the calls Saturday against the Sun Devils.

“I’m confident,” Kelly said Thursday of Morgan. “He had a really good week, and he’s extremely confident in himself. He’s not gonna be perfect. Certainly, there’s gonna be a hiccup here or there. But he’s got a pretty good understanding of what we’re trying to accomplish.”

Morgan took charge from the first practice this week after Schmidt’s injury, Kelly said.

“There’s no doubt who’s the guy out there,” he added.

Kelly said Notre Dame has not simplified its defense because of Morgan, noting the Irish can’t play “vanilla” against the Arizona State offense.

“We would not have gone down this road unless we thought Nyles was capable of doing the job,” Kelly said. “We have great confidence. He’s extremely confident in his ability, and that’s the game-changer.”

Kelly recounted his memories of Morgan in training camp, where the linebacker meeting room was positioned right next to Kelly in the quarterback room. VanGorder would regularly chew out Morgan for his mistakes on the practice field.

“It would make most young men weep,” Kelly said. “But Nyles would come back the next day with a smile, wanting more, and you just knew that this was one of those special kids that he just wanted to learn more football.”

Morgan won’t be without help Saturday. Irish sophomore linebacker Jaylon Smith said Morgan will make the calls, but if anything is out of order, it’s up to Smith and Day to reset the defense.

“It puts a lot more on me,” Smith said of Schmidt’s injury. “But I’m up for the challenge and really just gotta understand it’s gonna be a different voice talking out there with the freshmen.”

Day said everyone on the defense has focused on communication this week, and he, Smith and safeties Max Redfield and Elijah Shumate have had to be more vocal.

“Everybody is making sure we understand what’s going on, the play call and making sure everybody’s on the same page,” Day said.

They’ll need to be Saturday to have a chance to knock off the No. 9 team in the country.

 

All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

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

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Outgoing Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett Discusses Joe Paterno's Firing

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett, who recently lost his bid for re-election, admitted his role in the aftermath of the Jerry Sandusky abuse scandal—including the firing of longtime head coach Joe Paterno—probably played a role in his political defeat.

Angela Couloumbis of The Philadelphia Inquirer reports Corbett now believes it was probably a mistake to let the Penn State legend go in the manner the university trustees did. He states that decision shifted the focus from what Sandusky did to what Paterno may not have done.

"They probably shouldn't have fired him. They probably should have suspended him," Corbett said. "He probably should have been given the last three games, not on the sideline."

He served as attorney general during the scandal and has faced years of criticism for his role in the removal of Paterno.

Looking back now, Corbett says it's impossible to know if the head coach, who was fired in November 2011 and passed away two months later, knew the full extent of Sandusky's conduct.

"But I'm not so sure it was clear to him," Corbett said. "And, technically, he complied with the law."

Corbett had previously stated that the lack of action caused him to lose confidence in the school's leadership and Paterno as leader of the football program.

As for why he didn't discuss the issue publicly amid criticism during the campaign, he told The Philadelphia Inquirer that decision was made not to reopen old wounds.

In September, Josh Moyer of ESPN.com reported Penn State's postseason ban would end this season and the full amount of scholarships would be returned next year. The NCAA previously had levied unprecedented sanctions in the wake of the scandal.

 

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West Virginia and Missouri Agree to Future Home-and-Home Football Series

Over 20 years after their last regular-season meeting, West Virginia and Missouri have agreed to a home-and-home football series to be played in 2016 and 2019.

The Mountaineers broke the announcement on their official Twitter page:

Morgantown will host the first meeting on Sept. 3, 2016, while Columbia will have the honors on Sept. 7, 2019.

Unless the two schools meet in an upcoming bowl game, the 2016 contest will be the first regular-season head-to-head clash between West Virginia and Missouri since 1994 (a 34-10 win by the Mountaineers). The two also met in the Insight Bowl in 1998, with the Tigers winning 34-31.

Missouri holds a 3-2 lead in the series.

“I believe this home-and-home series with Missouri will be great for both schools,” West Virginia athletic director Oliver Luck said, per a release on the school’s athletic website. “Each program will benefit from playing a non-conference game against a team from a highly visible conference, and the fans will be entertained from what I think will be two highly competitive games.”

Missouri athletic director Bryan Maggard shared Luck’s excitement.

“We are very pleased to add a team of the caliber of West Virginia to our schedule,” he said, via a release on the school’s athletic website. “We’re excited to have a chance to work together, and [we] appreciate everyone coming together to make this happen on all sides.”

It’s a start for Missouri, who is currently trying to toughen up its nonconference schedule in future years. As of now, West Virginia is the toughest nonconference foe on the Tigers schedule going up to 2021.

Meanwhile, it’s par for the course for the Mountaineers, who just finished a series with Alabama. The team also has Maryland, Virginia Tech, NC State and Penn State on its nonconference schedule going up to 2024.

In general, both conferences have gone out of their way to beef up their nonconference schedules with the new College Football Playoff system in place. Some key fixtures are Notre Dame-Georgia, Oklahoma-LSU and UCLA-Texas, among others.

Both programs have made sweeping turnarounds in recent years.

After finishing in the cellar of the SEC in 2012, Missouri wound up winning the SEC East title last season. The school is currently sitting in the division lead. On the other hand, West Virginia has had somewhat of a breakout year in the Big 12. They currently sit at 6-3 and are just two games out of the Big 12 lead.

With both programs on the rise, these games should do a good job getting fans excited.

 

For complete coverage and everything college football, you can reach Sebastian on Twitter and via email at Sebastian.LenaBR@gmail.com.

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Welcome to College Football's Elimination Saturday

Remember when the College Football Playoff was supposed to ruin the regular season? About that. 

In fact, there's a case to be made that college football's regular season has actually been enhanced by the addition of two more spots in the championship field. No other Saturday illustrates that point better than this one, which features six games between Top 25 teams. All but one of those Week 11 games features at least one Top 10 team jockeying for one of two remaining playoff spots.

Here's what's on the schedule (point spreads courtesy of OddsShark.com): 

Under the BCS, No. 1 Mississippi State and No. 2 Florida State—which play home games against UT-Martin and Virginia, respectively—would have a clear path to the national championship. Meanwhile, a half-dozen or so teams would be waiting in the wings hoping for a loss.

Thanks to the four-team playoff, though, the stars aligned on Nov. 8 to create what could be a de facto elimination weekend for those other teams—unless, of course, all hell breaks loose and every Vegas favorite loses. The conversation could then shift to the possibility of a two-loss team making the playoff field. 

But let's cross that bridge if and when we get to it. For now, every weekend from here on out has a must-win feel to it. Here's how Saturday breaks down.

 

Team with the Most to Prove: Notre Dame

By this point in the season, we should have teams generally figured out. An exception is Notre Dame, which has arguably the "best loss" of any team, falling just short at Florida State, 31-27.

However, good losses don't equal a playoff spot—at least not without a quality win to balance it out. The selection committee has shown it believes the Irish have more work to do because their best win is over a 5-4 Stanford team that just got its doors blown off by Oregon. Additionally, Notre Dame has narrow escapes over a pair of 4-5 teams: North Carolina and Navy. 

Surprise, but Irish head coach Brian Kelly doesn't quite see it that way (via Chris Hine of the Chicago Tribune):

In 2012 I think we started the season with the No. 1 schedule in the country. I think we started that way this year, too. That's all we can do. We go into this putting together the toughest schedule in the country, right?  Nobody else does it that way. They put on teams that are clearly glorified byes.  

We don't operate that way. That to me is strength of schedule in terms of the way we put it together. If it's not evaluated that way, there's nothing I can do about it.

The Irish can start to rectify that for good by beating a team—on the road—ranked one spot ahead: Arizona State. The committee thinks highly of the Sun Devils, who are 7-1. That's good news for Notre Dame. 

In the end, Notre Dame seems like a team that needs to win out and get help. But that only happens if the Irish pull the upset.

 

Team That Can Knock the Earth Off Its Orbit: LSU

Let's be honest about this: LSU isn't getting into the playoff. You know this. I know this. The Tigers have losses to Mississippi State, the score of which (34-29) did not reflect how easy the Bulldogs made it look, and Auburn, a 41-7 blowout.

But because head coach Les Miles has sold his soul for some dark magic that even the occult won't touch, you'd be most unwise to count him out of any game...especially at home...at night. Ask Ole Miss.

That's what Alabama is facing. As ESPN's SEC reporter Chris Low points out, the Tigers could get the ball rolling on a potential five-way tie atop the SEC West:

It would take total carnage for the SEC to be completely shut out of the playoff, but imagine a five-way tie in the West with everybody having two losses and all those losses coming to each other.

Good luck figuring out that tiebreaker.

A lot would have to happen, but the top of the SEC West is deep enough that future games among Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Alabama and Auburn could resemble cannibalism. If there's any team that would throw a wrench into the established order, it's LSU.

 

Team That Needs to Be on High Alert: Oregon

B/R colleague Jason Gold touched on this, so be sure to read his piece on why Oregon's trip to Utah is the ultimate trap game.

On paper, Oregon should be fine if last weekend is any indication. The Ducks dismantled Stanford 45-16, and the Cardinal have one of the best defenses in the country. Utah, when looking at the major defensive stats side by side with Stanford—yards per rush, yards per passing attemptpoints allowed and the like—isn't as stingy but still solid and comparable.

So long as Oregon can score, the Utes haven't shown they have the offensive capabilities to keep up.

The other factors are what need to be taken into consideration. The Ducks snapped a two-game losing slide against Stanford, and quarterback Marcus Mariota played his best game ever. That weight has been lifted. What Oregon can't afford to do is relax, especially traveling to what will surely be a raucous environment.

The Ducks are one win away from securing at least a share of the Pac-12 North and a spot in the conference championship game. Oregon has been there, done that before, so pressure probably isn't a factor. Still, it's one week after a big win and the schedule gets considerably easier (vs. Colorado, at Oregon State). This game has a "one final hurdle" feel. Can Oregon clear it?

 

Conference Most Likely to Knock Itself Out of the Playoff: Big 12

Remember in the offseason when Baylor at Oklahoma was the Big 12 game of the year? That game still matters, but it has been overshadowed by an even bigger game that no one saw coming: Kansas State at TCU.

It would appear the Wildcats or Horned Frogs are the Big 12's best playoff bets. Baylor holds the head-to-head game over TCU, but the selection committee hasn't valued anything the Bears have done to date. In the latest CFP rankings, No. 12 Baylor is behind eight other one-loss teams and two-loss Ole Miss, and six spots behind the Frogs.

That's subject to change given Baylor's backloaded schedule, but the Bears probably need help over the next few weeks to climb at least eight spots. If Oklahoma beats Baylor, then forget about the Bears altogether.

TCU is going to be rooting for Oklahoma too. If Baylor and TCU win out, it creates a potential conundrum, as explained by David Ubben of Fox Sports Southwest. If a playoff spot was on the line, would the committee value the head-to-head result, or the entire body of work? TCU would rather not have to find out.

Of course, the Frogs have to get by Kansas State first, and the Wildcats have the Big 12's best scoring defense.

Speaking of K-State, this team has the chance to close as well as any team in the country. The Wildcats play at TCU, travel to West Virginia on Nov. 20 for a Thursday night game and finish the season at Baylor. If K-State wins out that stretch, it would have to be a serious contender in the playoff conversation, would it not? Its only loss is by six points to Auburn in September.

Similar to the SEC West, the top of the Big 12 is deep with quality teams. However, there isn't a single team that truly stands out above the rest—at least not yet. Whether the top of the conference knocks itself out of the playoff conversation remains to be seen, but it's a possibility.

 

Put Your Rear on the Record Picks

Here are my picks for the above games straight up. (If you're looking for picks against the spread, check out our weekly feature here.) Keep in mind that these picks are subject to change at any time, including once the games are over. Do not, under any circumstances, put money on these games based on said picks, as you will surely lose that money and maybe your house in the process.

Oregon at Utah: Oregon

Alabama at LSU: Alabama

Kansas State at TCU: TCU

Ohio State at Michigan State: Michigan State

Notre Dame at Arizona State: Arizona State

Baylor at Oklahoma: Baylor

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. All rankings reflect the latest College Football Playoff standings. All stats courtesy of cfbstats.com.

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