NCAA Football News

Baylor vs. Oklahoma: TV Info, Spread, Injury Updates, Game Time and More

The Big 12 game of the year no longer, there is still plenty riding on Saturday's high-profile showdown between the No. 12 Baylor Bears and No. 15 Oklahoma Sooners.

Both preseason College Football Playoff contenders enter Norman Saturday firing on all cylinders after rebound performances the week prior.

Bryce Petty and the Bears dropped a 41-27 decision to West Virginia before blowing away Kansas, 60-14. Bob Stoops' Sooners did much of the same with a 31-30 loss to Kansas State before a 59-14 shellacking of Iowa State.

Two of the nation's most prolific offenses now meet with Big 12 and CFP implications hanging in the balance. It may not be Saturday's most noteworthy contest, but its result will weigh heavy in the minds of most after the fact.

 

History Beckons

For the Bears to obtain a share of the Big 12 title, the team has to win the rest of its games. For the Bears to simply survive a trip to Norman, repetitive words from Petty, via the team's Twitter account, better be quite accurate:

Petty is an elite player when healthy. Fans know this much. The numbers, which read 2,034 passing yards and 20 touchdowns to three interceptions, verify the statement.

But beating the Sooners in Norman is no simple task. In fact, the Bears have never won at Oklahoma, and the Sooners have a 21-2 series lead.

There is always a silver lining, of course. The Sooners have struggled mightily against prolific passing attacks this season, something Petty and the Bears do quite well. Baylor ranks No. 5 in the nation with an average of 349.0 passing yards per game and No. 1 overall in terms of scoring at 50.4 points.

Oklahoma ranks outside of the top 30 in terms of total defense, so Petty, in tandem with Shock Linwood (777 yards and 10 touchdowns), certainly has the talent to exploit a unit that struggles against air-raid attacks.

Keep in mind that Petty also has to concern himself with the fact that the program's schedule-making process means the season is essentially over if the team once again succumbs to the pressure of winning in Norman.

Stewart Mandel of Fox Sports puts it in a blunt manner:

History is there to be made for the Bears, but only if the roster can stay cool in a hostile environment while in the face of gaudy odds.

 

Reloading for War

To be clear, Oklahoma is no stranger to scoring in bunches, either.

But to keep pace against Baylor Saturday, the team is going to need to be loads healthier.

It starts with star wideout Sterling Shepard. The junior suffered a groin strain in last week's win on the first offensive snap of the game for his team while—get this—reeling in a 46-yard reception. Shepard is far and away one of the best wideouts in the nation and already has 50 grabs for 957 yards and five scores.

"The best way I'd say it now is we're optimistic that it will heal enough that he'll be full speed by the end of the week," Stoops said, per The Associated Press, via ESPN.com.

It is not so much just about Shepard being in the game, though. He will need to prove to be more than a decoy for the Sooners to keep pace. The same goes for top running back Keith Ford, who has missed the team's past five games with an injury but gives the Sooners a serious receiving threat out of the backfield.

Sometimes-shaky quarterback Trevor Knight (12 touchdowns to eight interceptions) has other weapons, such as tight end Blake Bell, who has caught three touchdowns over the course of his past two games. But things will surely go a lot smoother Saturday if Shepard and Ford are in the game and effective.

 

When: Saturday, November 8, Noon ET

Where: Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium, Norman, Oklahoma

Television: Fox Sports 1

Betting Lines (via Odds Shark):

  • Over/Under: 73.5
  • Spread: Oklahoma (-5)

 

Team Injury Reports

Injury reports per The Sports Network, via USA Today.

 

Prediction

Were this on Baylor's home turf, the end projection might be a little different.

But this affair goes down in Norman, which dramatically shifts the outlook. The only real negative for the Sooners at home this year came in a loss to Kansas State, but the No. 7 Wildcats tout one of the nation's best defenses, so the one-point loss in hindsight is forgivable.

Oklahoma has enough defensively to keep this thing close, which in turn will lead to one or two game-changing plays by a suddenly healthy crop of star offensive players in front of a friendly crowd.

Sometimes, history is just doomed to repeat itself.

Prediction: Oklahoma 40, Baylor 30

 

Statistics and info courtesy of ESPN unless otherwise specified.

 

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Bowl Projections 2014: Updated Playoff Predictions Before Week 11 Showdowns

LeBron James would be proud. 

We have not one, not two, not three, but six Week 11 showdowns between ranked opponents on the college football calendar for Saturday. There is little doubt that the entire College Football Playoff race will look completely different come Sunday.

With that in mind, here is a look at some updated playoff predictions before looking at the Week 11 game to watch.

 

Playoff Projections

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

Rose Bowl: No. 3 Michigan State vs. No. 2 Alabama   

Championship Bowl (in Arlington, Texas): TBD (Semifinal Winners) 

Criticize the fact that Florida State is winning by closer-than-expected margins all you want, but as long as the Seminoles keep racking up victories, they will be in the playoff field. They will do just that, and an undefeated resume from the defending champions that features wins over Notre Dame, Clemson, Oklahoma State and Louisville will be more than enough to make the postseason.

Alabama will also win out and capture the SEC championship. The Crimson Tide control their own destiny when it comes to the SEC title game now that Ole Miss has two losses, and Nick Saban’s team is just starting to hit its stride.

Mississippi State will have enough substance on its resume to make the playoff field, even with a loss to Alabama, thanks to wins over Auburn, LSU and Ole Miss. 

That leaves Michigan State. The Spartans will defend their home field Saturday against Ohio State and win the Big Ten crown. It will be enough to get them into the playoffs when Notre Dame and the remainder of the Big 12 contenders and Pac-12 contenders each lose at least two games.

 

Game to Watch: Kansas State at TCU

College GameDay may be in East Lansing for a showdown between Ohio State and Michigan State, but there is only one game on the Week 11 schedule that features two teams in the Top Seven of the College Football Playoff rankings.

Kansas State heads to TCU for a critical Big 12 showdown that will also serve as a virtual postseason elimination game.

Whoever falls short Saturday will have two losses, and there are simply too many one-loss teams remaining for a two-loss TCU or Kansas State team to climb back into the field. 

ESPN College Football pointed out the remaining schedule for each team, and it is crystal clear why this game is so important for TCU. If the Horned Frogs beat Kansas State, they will easily win out against weak opponents in Texas, Iowa State and Kansas, which could mean a spot in the playoffs.

Whenever a team that scored 82 points in a single game takes the field, the offense against the opposition’s defense will be a matchup to watch.

TCU is second in the nation with 48 points a game, and it is little wonder why. Trevone Boykin is a dual-threat quarterback who is second in the conference with 22 passing touchdowns. He will look to get game-changing wide receivers Josh Doctson and Kolby Listenbee in space early and deliver with timely deep balls.

Boykin and running back B.J. Catalon also spearhead a ground attack that ranks 33rd in the nation in rushing yards per game. 

TCU’s balance has been a problem for every team it has faced this season, but Kansas State brings a fundamentally sound defense to the table. Michael Felder of Bleacher Report recently praised the Wildcats for their approach:

That defense is 12th in the nation in points against at 18.6 a game, and it shut down Oklahoma State’s and Texas Tech’s attacks and contained Auburn’s lethal rushing game. The Tigers scored only 20 points, although it was enough to beat Kansas State.

While much of the focus will be on the showdown between Boykin and the Kansas State defense, something will have to give on the other side of the ball.

TCU leads the nation with 26 forced turnovers, but Kansas State has coughed it up a Big 12-low seven times. What’s more, the Wildcats are the country’s least-penalized team, so it will be difficult for TCU to rely solely on Kansas State’s mistakes Saturday.

Following the narrative, Kansas State’s Jake Waters has not thrown an interception in conference play, which allows him to find the speedy Tyler Lockett for big plays. Lockett is not the only weapon the TCU defense has to worry about, though.

Curry Sexton has made defenses pay for focusing too much on Lockett all year, and he has the speed to be a problem for the TCU secondary.

TCU’s turnover-hungry defense will have the help of the crowd Saturday as it tries to knock off Kansas State following losses to the Wildcats the past two years. Coach Gary Patterson commented on the home-field advantage, per Stats LLC, via ESPN.com.

 "I'm a happy camper," he said. "They have to come to our house. Because of our mindset, this will be a different team than they have played the last two years. Both of us can play ground and pound or play action. It's a different animal."

Even with a raucous crowd, Kansas State is the exact type of disciplined football team that will be a problem for TCU.

The Horned Frogs rely on turnovers to make defensive stops, but that will not be the case Saturday. Kansas State’s defense is also the toughest TCU will face all season, and the Horned Frogs’ dynamic offense won’t make as many plays as it is accustomed to, which could force it to tighten up as the game progresses.

TCU will have the home crowd on its side, but the Wildcats have thrived in those situations before and have won four of their last five road games against Top 25 opponents. One of those games came at Oklahoma earlier this year.

Kansas State will silence yet another home crowd Saturday. 

Prediction: Kansas State 34, TCU 31

 

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Oregon vs. Utah: TV Info, Spread, Injury Updates, Game Time and More

There to catch the No. 4 Oregon Ducks after finally exorcising their Stanford demons are the pesky No. 17 Utah Utes, the perfect team to take advantage of a letdown and act as the team that throws the inaugural College Football Playoff into complete chaos.

See, Oregon is finally over the hump and back in the CFP conversation after blowing away Stanford last week, 45-16. That loss to unranked Arizona (now No. 19) back at the start of October is slowly becoming a non-factor.

Unless the Utes have something to say about it.

Kyle Whittingham's team enters angry after an overtime loss to Arizona State but has the defense to play with any team in the nation.

One of Saturday's finishing blows has the potential to be a classic and ruin the lives of pollsters and the CFP committee in one swoop. Grab some coffee and make it a late night.

 

Dynamic Warfare

If Oregon has its way, Heisman contender Marcus Mariota will help the team jump out to an early lead and never look back.

It is not an unreasonable thought by any means, really. Mariota has completed 68.1 percent of his passes this year for 2,541 yards and 26 touchdowns to just two interceptions. Against the hated Cardinal, he unloaded for 258 yards and a pair of passing scores, not to mention another 85 yards and two scores on the ground.

The problem is, if Mariota and Co. stumble out of the gate on the road against a defense that gives up just 21.3 points per game on average, they might just be at the mercy of Utes running back Devontae Booker.

Booker is far from a household name, but he should be, considering he averages 5.4 yards per carry and has 990 yards and eight scores. The coaching staff decided to give the junior more than 11 carries for the first time in the team's fourth game, and since then it has been bombs away:

Whittingham himself knows the deal, sarcasm or not, as captured by ESPN.com's Kyle Bonagura:

The coin has two sides in a war of contrasting styles, of course. Oregon could just as easily jump out to that desired early lead and eliminate Booker from the equation.

It is the sort of chess match befit of a contest with such lofty consequences hanging in the balance.

 

Clipping the Wings

As hinted above, the Utah defense this season is one that should scare the Ducks. 

In fact, while finally overcoming Stanford is a great highlight, a description by ESPN's Ted Miller rings very true when it comes to comparing the Cardinal and Utes this season:

What has doomed Mariota and his offense more than anything this season? Pressure, as noted by the team's five allowed sacks in that loss to the Wildcats, which was a part of 12 total in just a two-game span.

Here is where the chess on turf gets even more interesting—the Utes lead the country in the sacks department with a jaw-dropping 39 to date. One of the main reasons for the wild success of the unit has to do with end Nate Orchard, as explained by ESPN's Kevin Gemmell:

But every offensive coordinator on Utah’s schedule schemes away from Orchard, and yet he’s still putting up huge numbers. And further, the guys around him (Hunter Dimick, Jared Norris, etc.) also have big numbers because Orchard makes those guys that much better. There are plenty of great individual defenders in the league. But Orchard makes an outfit that's already very good that much better. 

With Tyler Johnstone already out for the year with an injury, keep in mind that right tackle Matt Pierson sounds like he will be out of action, too.

It is a horrific time for the Ducks to face an elite defense, but this is the hand a CFP hopeful was dealt.

 

When: Saturday, November 8, 10 p.m. ET

Where: Rice-Eccles Stadium, Salt Lake City, Utah

Television: ESPN

Betting Lines (via Odds Shark):

  • Over/Under: 61
  • Spread: Oregon (-8.5)

 

Team Injury Reports

Injury reports per The Sports Network, via USA Today.

 

Prediction

Utah is a great program headed in the right direction. The Utes at home, at altitude, is a scary thought for any team in the nation. This goes twofold for the Ducks, as this is right around the time of year the team usually folds and championship aspirations go up in smoke. 

Not this time, though.

Oregon is playing the best ball of its impressive season at the moment. The offensive line is a serious concern, but getting Mariota to use his legs on rollouts has mitigated many of the issues in recent weeks, not to mention given the offense an additional boost.

The win will by no means come easy, but Oregon is a cohesive unit that has its eye on a trap game that a true contender will survive.

Prediction: Ducks 30, Utes 24


Statistics and info courtesy of ESPN unless otherwise specified.

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Texas A&M vs. Auburn: TV Info, Spread, Injury Updates, Game Time and More

About one month ago, Saturday's showdown between the Texas A&M Aggies and No. 3 Auburn Tigers was one of the season's top matchups, not to mention one that would prove critical in the race to the inaugural College Football Playoff. 

Now it appears to be a minor pothole in the road for the surging Tigers. 

Auburn has rattled off a pair of consecutive wins and is already in playoff mode thanks to a brutal schedule down the stretch, most recently fending off then-No. 4 Ole Miss, 35-31.

Meanwhile, Kevin Sumlin's Aggies have dipped into a tailspin, losing three of four and starting quarterback Kenny Hill to suspension in the process.

It makes for a lopsided matchup on paper, but this is the SEC and a pair of teams that have put on high-scoring classics in their past few encounters. The two might have another entertaining showing on deck, so do not miss out.

 

Staying the Course

For Auburn, it really is as simple as that.

The Tigers are the main focal point of this matchup for good reason. Running back Cameron Artis-Payne leads the SEC in rushing with 969 yards and seven scores on a 5.4 per-carry average, which allows the team to rank ninth nationally with 276.9 rushing yards per game.

This predictably leads to lengthy drives that keep opposing offenses off the field, as illustrated by the team on Twitter:

Just last week, the Tigers were able to overpower the Rebels on the road with 248 yards and three scores on the ground, two of which came from dual-threat quarterback Nick Marshall, who also added 254 yards and a pair of scores through the air for good measure.

This same approach figures to put the Aggies behind in a big way early.

Much has and will continue to be written about the Texas A&M offense, but the defense is the focal point in this matchup. The Aggies rank 88th in rushing yards allowed per game this season and allow an average of 25.9 points per game. 

For perspective as to how much the unit struggles, keep in mind that Rice out of Conference USA rumbled for 240 yards on a 4.4 average against the unit.

In short, the Aggies should know exactly what is coming their way when they visit Jordan-Hare Stadium Saturday. Being able to stop it is another thing entirely.

 

Those Left Standing

There seems to be little Sumlin and his staff can do to fix the leaky defense at this point. 

The offense suddenly needs loads of work as well thanks to the suspension of Hill. In his place stepped freshman Kyle Allen a week ago. The end result was a 13-of-28 mark for 106 yards with a touchdown and interception.

Texas A&M as a whole was held to 243 total yards by a defense that allowed an average of 409.8 per game over the course of its last six.

Keep in mind that this woeful performance came against 3-5 Louisiana-Monroe out of the Sun Belt Conference, a team that was walloped 31-0 by LSU and 48-14 by Kentucky this season. The Aggies escaped with a 21-16 victory at home.

Despite the suddenly inept offense, Auburn defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson is not taking the Aggies lightly, as captured by Bleacher Report's Justin Ferguson:

We’re going to prepare for the regular Texas A&M to come in here throwing it around. They got a very good offensive line. Their receivers may be the most talented. They’re young. They’re not as old, as experienced as that crowd last year, but I know the young man’s got great talent and can throw the ball anywhere on the field. It’s just a matter of them protecting him and him reading the coverages and those things.

Auburn's defense has quietly been a major reason the team is in contention, too. The unit has forced a gaudy 18 turnovers and does it with little pressure considering it has forced just 16 sacks.

Still, the assignment Saturday is much easier than it appeared just a month ago. Rather than taking the Aggies lightly, though, look for Johnson's defense to use it as a springboard.

 

When: Saturday, November 8, 3:30 p.m. ET

Where: Jordan-Hare Stadium, Auburn, Alabama

Television: CBS

Betting Lines (via Odds Shark):

  • Over/Under: 66
  • Spread: Auburn (-21.5)

 

Team Injury Reports

Injury reports per The Sports Network, via USA Today.

 

Prediction

This one looks like it will get ugly, although there is something to be said for letdown potential, as Auburn understands the state of Texas A&M at the moment and is looking forward to showdowns with Georgia and Alabama in two of its last three games of the year. 

Were it Hill under center, perhaps the end result would be closer. But the Aggies defense has proven lame, and Allen is not up to task quite yet. Remember that the Aggies laid down against Alabama before their second bye week, 59-0.

The Aggies should come out fired up, but a few quick, lengthy scores from the Auburn offense will produce much of the same effort. Auburn rolls.

Prediction: Auburn 44, Texas A&M 24

 

Statistics and info courtesy of ESPN unless otherwise specified.

 

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Ohio State vs. Michigan State: TV Info, Spread, Injury Updates, Game Time, More

Ohio State and Michigan State last met in the Big Ten Championship Game last season, with the vibe around Saturday's rematch eerily similar if not more so thanks to a chance at the College Football Playoff being alive and well for both programs. 

The 14th-ranked Buckeyes have one loss on the season and are hotter offensively than most teams in the nation although it certainly does not hurt that the defense ranks among the top 20 in the nation, too.

The No. 8 Spartans lost to then-No. 3 Oregon on the same weekend the Buckeyes picked up their only loss of the season but have since won just about every game in dominating fashion.

Saturday night is an important showcase for the Big Ten, especially with College GameDay in town. For both programs, though, all that matters is staying alive in the hunt for the CFP.

 

No Ordinary Big Ten Encounter

Runs and punts are what most think of when it comes to the Big Ten, but that could not be further from the truth for the Spartans and Buckeyes.

As Big Ten Network puts into visual form, it is in no way cliche to say it is difficult to find a pair of more evenly matched teams:

Urban Meyer's Buckeyes not only rank No. 4 nationally with an average of 45.6 points scored per game, the team has rattled off 50 or more points in five of its last six games.

Not to be outdone, the Spartans come in right behind the Buckeyes thanks to a 45.5-points-per-game average and have scored a minimum of 45 in four of their last six.

For two programs accustomed to buttering their bread on the defensive side of the football, both have flipped the script on the nation—and each other. Something has to give, too, as not only are both teams similar in their stats, their downright dominance in the conference is much of the same, as explained by Chris Vannini of CoachingSearch.com:

Defense does not exactly take a backseat, though. The Buckeyes allow just 19.9 points per game. The Spartans currently rest at 20.3, with five of their eight opponents scoring just 17 or fewer points.

But offense is sexy and grabs the headlines, and this time for good reason. Both teams provide a breath of fresh air as opposed to their usual strengths, making this matchup one of the most intriguing between the two in recent memory.

 

Unexpected Quarterback Duel

If somebody had told fans before the season that J.T. Barrett vs. Connor Cook would be one of the most hotly anticipated quarterback showdowns of the year, that poor soul would have been laughed out of the building.

So it goes.

The junior Cook has exceeded expectations since the conference title game last year, something Buckeyes defensive tackle Michael Bennett certainly has not forgotten.

"Going into the game last year, Connor Cook didn't really put anything exceptional on film," Bennett said, per The Associated Press, via ESPN.com. "Then when he played us, he had a really good game, and I think he's kept improving since then."

This year, Cook has completed 60.6 percent of his passes and has 1,868 yards and 17 touchdowns to five interceptions.

Many were ready to count out the Buckeyes after a season-ending injury to Braxton Miller, but Barrett has been better in many ways since taking over. The freshman has completed 64.7 of his passes and has 1,856 yards and 23 touchdowns to seven interceptions. Few quarterbacks are better in the dual-threat department as well, as he also has 496 yards and six touchdowns on the ground.

"The one thing that he does well, even better than Braxton, is when something is not there, he puts his foot in the ground and gets us to 2nd-and-4, 2nd-and-5," Meyer said, per Austin Ward of ESPN.com. "Someone blitzes, someone flashes, someone misses a block...he puts his foot in the ground."

An ability to take care of the football and put their offenses in short-yardage situations has both teams riding high even if the general public has yet to catch on to the fact that two of the nation's better quarterbacks play for these rivals.

That changes Saturday night.

 

When: Saturday, November 8, 8 p.m. ET

Where: Spartan Stadium, East Lansing, Michigan

Television: ABC

Betting Lines (via Odds Shark):

  • Over/Under: 57.5
  • Spread: Michigan State (-3.5)

 

Team Injury Reports

Injury reports per The Sports Network, via USA Today.

 

Prediction

Unfortunately for Meyer's new-look Buckeyes, Saturday is going to feel a whole lot like the title game last year. 

The Michigan State defense is simply too good to let the Ohio State offense run wild. Outside of a matchup with Penn State, which was decided in overtime, the Buckeyes have yet to truly be tested against an elite defense.

At home, Cook will do enough while taking care of the football to give his defense the cushion it needs. It will not be some sort of low-scoring affair, but the Spartans will once again prove they are the class of the Big Ten.

Prediction: Spartans 34, Buckeyes 30


Statistics and info courtesy of ESPN unless otherwise specified.

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Notre Dame vs. Arizona State: TV Info, Spread, Injury Updates, Game Time, More

Even though it almost did not happen, Saturday’s showdown between No. 10 Notre Dame and No. 9 Arizona State is one of the biggest games of the season due to its College Football Playoff implications.

Brian Kelly’s Fighting Irish have rarely been asked to hit the road this season, and his young team has struggled after a loss to Florida State and a close call against Navy.

Then again, Todd Graham’s Sun Devils have not looked much better, needing overtime to take down then-No. 17 Utah despite the return of quarterback Taylor Kelly.

On paper, though, the Fighting Irish and the Sun Devils are meant for each other. Both offenses have enough explosive weapons to exploit shaky defenses. As far as the CFP is concerned, the importance of this regular-season contest cannot be overstated. There may be no coming back from a loss for either side.

 

Righting Wrongs Under Center

The Sun Devils got a talented passer and leader in Kelly back a few games ago, but his return has been less than encouraging.

Arizona State has not lost since he got back under center, but his performances on an individual level are enough to suggest the team could take a dive against a top team if he doesn't turn things around:

If Kelly is going to return to form, though, one has to imagine it will happen against Notre Dame, as the Fighting Irish took down the Sun Devils last year. A note from Craig Grialou of Arizona Sports on 98.7 FM says it all:

Kelly is not the only quarterback in need of a turnaround.

Notre Dame’s Everett Golson shocked the globe earlier this season with his superb play, which briefly had him in the Heisman conversation and his team in the CFP conversation. Since late September, though, Golson has warped into a turnover machine who has tossed seven interceptions over the course of his last five games and lost a number of costly fumbles.

Golson’s worst games in the turnover department have predictably come on the road, so while an average of 35.4 points scored per game is great, it means little if the team’s signal-caller falters once again on the team’s biggest trip of the season to date.

This game may simply come down to which quarterback blinks first.

 

Defensive Composure

Coincidentally, both defenses have followed paths similar to those of their respective quarterbacks.

The Notre Dame defense started out hot but has since fizzled thanks to injuries and simple inexperience. Without senior Joe Schmidt at linebacker against Navy, the Midshipmen bruised their way for 336 rushing yards and three scores on the ground while coming back from a 28-7 hole to at one point take the lead.

For Kelly, the buildup toward the showdown with the Sun Devils has been about learning as quickly as possible.

"We've got a couple things we're going to experiment with today, and then we'll get a better feel," Kelly said, per The Associated Press, via ESPN.com. "We haven't practiced yet, so we have a system that we'll employ today, and I think we'll get a better feel over the next couple days."

This is not to suggest the Arizona State defense has been much better. After a collapse near the end of September in which UCLA dropped 62 points on the unit, it has been relatively rough riding the rest of the way. The unit ranks No. 50 in the nation with an average of 24.1 points allowed per game.

While there is something to be said about holding Stanford, Washington and Utah to 10, 10, and 16 points, respectively, it is important to keep things in perspective—none of those offenses ranks above No. 40 nationally in terms of points per game.

Now, the unit has to turn around and play the best offense it has faced all season long. Golson may be a turnover machine, but if quality of play does not improve at home against top-tier opposition, the game may turn ugly rather quickly.

 

When: Saturday, November 8, 3:30 p.m. ET

Where: Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe, Arizona

Television: ABC

Betting Lines (via Odds Shark):

  • Over/Under: 59.5
  • Spread: Arizona State (-2.5)

 

Team Injury Reports

Injury reports per The Sports Network, via USA Today.

 

Prediction

Golson’s turnover woes are an issue, and the fact that a young Fighting Irish squad must travel to battle a top team is also a concern.

But really, Notre Dame is the superior team in this matchup and can eventually wear the Sun Devils down. This is the same Fighting Irish squad that almost knocked off Florida State in Tallahassee, while Arizona State has been anything but consistent in most regards.

Golson is sure to make his mistakes. But a learning defense can force a struggling Kelly into a few errors too, and when push comes to shove, Golson has the big-game experience that simply gives the Fighting Irish an edge with the game on the line.

Prediction: Fighting Irish 28, Sun Devils 24

 

Statistics and info courtesy of ESPN unless otherwise specified.

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Alabama vs. LSU: TV Info, Spread, Injury Updates, Game Time and More

Look no further than Saturday's SEC showdown between No. 5 Alabama and No. 16 LSU for proof that the College Football Playoff amplifies the magnitude of any contest on the schedule on a week-to-week basis.

Should Nick Saban's Crimson Tide crush its equally physical rival in Death Valley at night and somehow overcome a ludicrous final three weeks in terms of difficulty, his team is headed to the postseason.

If not, better luck next year.

LSU is rounding into form at just the right time to play spoiler—not to mention getting a serious shot to jump into the Top 10 if it can hold its ground against an old foe.

Gritty, physical football between the tackles seems to be fading around the nation, but not when these two meet. The eyes of the globe await to see how the CFP looks by the time the clock hits zeroes.

 

Physicality Defined

The Tigers have been anything but consistent this year although in hindsight, the team's two losses came against the best of the best (Mississippi State and Auburn).

The team's current three-game winning streak is proof enough of the erratic play, as the Tigers hardly escaped with a three-point win over unranked Florida but then turned around and upset then-No. 3 Ole Miss recently.

Really, the only thing consistent about the Tigers this year is the ground game thanks to a number of names that help to mask issues under center:

Alabama is familiar with this run-at-any-cost approach, though, thanks to a pair of talented backs and 250 rushing yards and five scores from quarterback Blake Sims:

LSU linebacker Kendell Beckwith sounds quite aware of the challenge at hand Saturday, especially after just a month ago allowing Auburn to rush for 298 yards and three scores.

"I know it's going to be hard-nosed football," said Beckwith, per ESPN.com's David Ching. "I know they're going to try to come downhill on us, and we're just going to have to do a good job of stopping the run."

While cliche to talk about imposing their wills and the like, few contests actually live up to such a description like this one does. 

Both defenses better prove up to task although on paper, that is not difficult to see happening. Alabama ranks No. 2 in the nation by surrendering an average of just 14.0 points. LSU comes in two spots down the list at 15.9.

For players with a heart for the physicality of such an encounter, this contest has been circled in red ink all season long.

 

Discomfort Zone

As prolific as both offenses can be, both Alabama and LSU tout a similar deficiency—effectiveness and consistency of play from under center.

It is funny, really, as both programs annually reel in top class after top class only to struggle through the air at times.

The problems are not as serious for Alabama thanks to Sims, but he certainly has his clunkers at times such as a rough outing in a loss to Ole Miss in which he threw an interception and did little else.

Anthony Jennings, on the other hand, certainly limits what LSU can do as far as offensive balance goes. The sophomore has been in and out of the lineup this year and has not completed at least 60 percent of his passes in a game since the third contest of the season.

Last week, Jennings went just 8-of-16 for 142 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. Comments by head coach Les Miles, as illustrated by Shea Dixon of 247Sports, say quite a lot:

Miles is also concerned about Alabama's defense as a whole, as captured by Jim Kleinpeter of NOLA.com:

I don't know that we'll find that we'll play against a team that year that has as quality a defense as this team. They're big, strong and fast and play in the secondary. Just a talented group. Landon Collins, Louisiana native, is having a great year, making plays, and again, very, very talented guy and playing very, very well in the secondary.

Jennings will have to take to the air at some point if LSU is going to pull off the upset. Whether or not he can minimize mistakes is something that will decide the game outright given his usually low amount of attempts.

 

When: Saturday, November 8, 8 p.m. ET

Where: Tiger Stadium, Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Television: CBS

Betting Lines (via Odds Shark):

  • Over/Under: 45.5
  • Spread: Alabama (-7)

 

Team Injury Reports

Injury reports per The Sports Network, via USA Today.

 

Prediction

LSU at night is a tough matchup for any team, but the Crimson Tide are perfectly equipped to handle the situation.

Not only does Alabama have an advantage in the defense department, it arguably has a better ground game and easily the better quarterback, which gives the team a major advantage in the game-changing plays department.

Look for Saban to exploit the number of mismatches available to him and for an elite defense to create turnovers that ultimately reshape the complexion of the game. Alabama will take care of business late barring an epic collapse.

Prediction: Alabama 20, LSU 17


Statistics and info courtesy of ESPN unless otherwise specified.

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Pac-12 Football: Bowl Projections for Every Team

Goals vary in the Pac-12 Conference from team to team, but reaching a bowl game has to be at the top of everyone's list. If you're Cal, that might be any bowl game regardless of prestige; for a team like UCLA, you're probably thinking roses.

Well, back in August that may have been the case. With less than a month left in the regular season, expectations have shifted, and while reaching a bowl is still within reach for nearly every program, some can be ruled out based on their records.

Teams such as Oregon and Arizona State are still hoping to be included among the final four teams invited to the initial College Football Playoff. Others, like Utah, Arizona, UCLA and even USC, are hoping to win the south and play the spoiler role.

But what it all comes down to is this: Everybody wants to play in a bowl game. It means more practice for the future and a chance to end the season on a high note.

Let's take a look at where each team could be headed at the conclusion of the season.

 

All stats via CFBstats.com. Bowl tie-ins via Scout.com, though it should be noted that the bowl formerly known as the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl is now the Cactus Bowl.

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The 5 Most Telling Stats for the Wisconsin Badgers This Season

The Wisconsin Badgers find themselves at 6-2 and tied in the loss-column for first place in the Big Ten West. While, coming into the season, the Badgers may have had aspirations for the College Football Playoff, it became abundantly clear after Week 1 that a trip to the playoff was out of the cards.

A loss to Northwestern to open their Big Ten slate set them back. But with every Big Ten West team featuring at least one loss (and Northwestern featuring three), the Badgers control their own destiny as they move into the final four games of the regular season.

In each of their two losses, their biggest flaws were on display. When it came to the offense, it wasn't the rushing attack that let them down. Rather, it was a lack of a viable passing game with no separation on the outside.

When it came to the defense, it was the loss of Warren Herring that featured in both defeats. It caused the wheels to come off entirely and against LSU. Losing Konrad Zagzebski also exposed the Badgers' lack of depth when it came to their big bodies up front at the beginning of the season.

However, after losing to Northwestern and picking up a less-than-convincing win against Illinois the following week, the Badgers regrouped after their second bye week and turned in their two best performances of the season against Big Ten newcomers Maryland and Rutgers.

Let's take a look at five of the most telling stats when it comes to why the Badgers are 6-2. Some are positive, some are negative and some are just statistics that have a meaning left up to interpretation. Without further ado, let's start with the most hotly debated position on campus: the quarterback.

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The 5 Most Telling Stats for the Florida State Seminoles This Season

No. 2 Florida State University is 8-0 and likely in control of its own destiny when it comes to a berth in the inaugural College Football Playoff—just like many predicted the Seminoles would be before the season started.

But how FSU has gotten to this point at the start of the final month of the regular season has been anything but expected.

How did the ‘Noles get here? Let’s take a look at their five most telling statistics of the 2014 season.

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College Football Picks: Week 11 Predictions for Every Game

For years we've clamored for a playoff in college football, something to help spice up the season beyond just figuring out who would be the top two teams in the country. We've got it, with the four-team College Football Playoff, and it's turning the final weeks of the 2014 season into a heck of a finish.

This week might be the best yet of this campaign, with six matchups of teams both ranked in the CFP Top 25. All of them remain in contention for their conference titles while fighting for a spot either in the playoffs or one of the major bowls that the rankings help fill.

The Week 11 slate also includes some notable stinkers, including battles for the bottom of the Big 12 and American Athletic conferences, but we can't have them all be classics.

Check out our predictions for Week 11's games, as well as our experts' picks for the top games on Saturday. Then give us your thoughts on who will win this weekend in the comments section.

Last week: 42-16 (.724)

Season: 453-145 (.758)

 

NOTE: Team rankings are based on the College Football Playoff Top 25.

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Florida Sends Recruits Photoshopped Images of Bleacher Report's Team Stream App

College football programs have recently been stepping up their Photoshop game for recruits.

For instance, we've seen Tennessee commit Shy Tuttle on a Rolling Stone cover with Beyonce.

Well, the Florida Gators want in on the fun.

High school standouts CeCe Jefferson and George Brown Jr. shared these Photoshopped images of Bleacher Report's Team Stream app.

In the image, each player is the focus of every Bleacher Report article in the feed. The image also features the tagline, "The Future is Now."

Pretty cool, Florida.

[Twitter]

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Nebraska Football: Nebraska's Biggest Opponent Left Is Itself

Bye weeks in Nebraska tend to leave fans with a lot to think about. This year is no different.

At this time, the Huskers are ranked No. 13 in the College Football Playoff's Top 25. What has a lot of fans talking is the possibility of Nebraska cracking the Top 10. According to Sam McKewon of the Omaha World-Herald, it's possible even though the Huskers won't play on Saturday.

"That’s because two games — No. 9 Arizona State vs. No. 10 Notre Dame and No. 6 TCU vs. No. 7 Kansas State — are CFP knockout games," McKewon wrote. "Winner stays in the hunt and asks the SEC for permission to breathe its air. Loser drops out of the top 10 at least, and probably below the Huskers."

What does all of this mean for Nebraska? If nothing else, it means the team has to stop beating itself if it wants to stay in playoff contention.

Over Bo Pelini's time as Nebraska's head coach, the Huskers have lost winnable games with penalties, sloppy play and blown coverages. While Nebraska is currently 8-1, that hasn't excused the team from dealing with those same issues again in 2014. Even against Rutgers, who Nebraska beat 42-24, Pelini was not happy with the performance.

"We were sloppy," he said. "Penalties and one thing after another. We were shooting ourselves in the foot. There were a lot of good things, but you can't take yourself out of drives and you can't put yourself behind schedule the way we did numerous times. We were able to get out of it a number of times, but that's just not the way we need to play."

Against Rutgers, snapping the ball was one of the issues that led to the sloppy play. “That’s like tying your shoes, it should be easy,” offensive coordinator Tim Beck said, per the Lincoln Journal Star. “That’s the frustrating part for me.”

And the snapping issues weren't just a one-time deal. It was also a cause for concern against Michigan State. During that game, Pelini believed MSU linebacker Ed Davis was clapping to disrupt the snap count. However, snapping the ball has remained an issue since.

Penalties and turnovers are also a problem for Nebraska. They have been in the past, and they still are today. Comparing 2013 to 2014 shows that it's an area the Huskers still have plenty of room to improve upon.

Regardless, the Huskers are winning. Despite Michigan State, Nebraska has performed well enough to win every other game. After Nebraska's 35-14 victory over Purdue, quarterback Tommy Armstrong didn't feel it was enough, though.

"It was just a lack of communication," he said. "We practiced the right way, it just didn't show. Going into this game, we had a great plan. Like I've said each and every week, the teams don't stop us, we stop ourselves. It all starts off with me.

"Most people will think of this as a win, but I don't see it that way. I know Purdue is good, but if we keep playing like this, we are going to lose our games. The way that we played, we should have lost. I know we won, but I feel like I failed."

The Huskers now have a bye week to prepare before facing Wisconsin at Madison. Armstrong understands what the team is up against. "Wisconsin is a hardworking team, and we have to take care of the ball," he said. "If we turn the ball over like we did, and make mistakes like we did, we are going to lose."

Armstrong may have been a bit hard on himself after Purdue, but it's clear the quarterback understands what his team needs to do to keep winning. If the Huskers are inconsistent and unable to keep turnovers, penalties and mental mistakes at a minimum, winning the Big Ten championship seems less likely.

"The expectation level is very high," junior I-back Imani Cross said after Purdue. "So when we make mistakes, we tend to get down on ourselves. But it's OK. That adversity that we faced out there is going to make us a better football team."

And Nebraska needs to be a better football team if it hopes to win against itself.

 

All quotes obtained firsthand, unless otherwise noted.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

5 NFL Draft Prospects in Need of a Strong Finish

Unfortunately for college football fans, there are only a few weeks remaining in the regular season. 

As the season winds down, NFL draft prospects take the field knowing their final performances could leave a lasting impression on scouts and front office executives at the next level. 

The final weeks can make a difference for anyone, especially for those prospects whose seasons got off to a slow start. 

The following slideshow features five players who entered the season as highly regarded prospects, but who are now in need of a strong end to the year in order to maintain their high grades heading into draft season.

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UCLA Football: 5 Most Surprising Bruins in 2014

There have been five surprise players this year for the UCLA football team. 

The surprises come from opposite ends of the spectrum. Three players on this list have underachieved considerably from where they were expected to be heading into the 2014 season. 

On the other side of the coin, two players mentioned have surpassed expectations—with one in particular becoming one of the best players on the team. 

Here's a look at the most surprising Bruins in 2014. 

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Texas Football: Longhorns' Home-Field Struggles Must Change

The final three-game stretch of the Texas Longhorns' season features two home games. This would seem like a favorable schedule for most football teams, but when it comes to the Longhorns, playing at home has not always equaled home-field advantage.

Playing against talented opponents at home has led to embarrassing losses.

The Longhorns are 2-2 at home this season, with the two wins coming against North Texas and Iowa State. In other words, the two games Texas was supposed to win.

The two losses were atrocious, which is putting it lightly.

BYU and Baylor totaled 818 total yards and 69 points whereas the Longhorns only managed to put up 14 points.

"We haven't played well at home all season long," head coach Charlie Strong said. "The thing we have to start doing is winning in our home stadium. We haven't done a great job on our own turf."

Strong is not pleased with the Longhorns' performances at home this season. It has upset him so much that he took away the privilege of practicing in Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium on Thursdays before games.

"Coach Strong stopped practicing on the home field on Thursdays. He wants us to value that field, that turf," senior linebacker Jordan Hicks said. "We've got to handle our business when people come in here. We got to take it personal. There's not really that personal aspect that they're trying to come in here and kick down the door and beat you. That's not the feeling that we have and that's the feeling we've got to get."

Winning at home against solid opponents has been an issue for Texas for many years, dating back to before Strong arrived in Austin.

The Longhorns are 0-9 against ranked opponents at home, and Texas has not beaten a ranked opponent at home since 2008.

This losing streak could make some wonder why the Longhorns struggle to beat good opponents on their home turf—and how these losses look to Texas recruits.

It's the goal of football coaches to get the top-rated recruits on campus to take in a home game. Even though the coaches do not get a lot of one-on-one time with recruits on official visits, having the athletes see the game-day atmosphere and spend time around the team helps in recruiting.

But what do recruits think when they see the fans leave games early when their team is losing?

There is still a lot on the line for Texas in Strong's inaugural season. The Longhorns must win at least two of the final three games in order to make it to a bowl game. At least one of those wins has to come against a Top 25 opponent.

Texas hosts No. 23 West Virginia Saturday in another must-win game. Saturday just so happens to be one of the bigger recruiting weekends for the Longhorns.

"The first impression is to go win the football game and give them something where they can go see us play well," Strong said of the big recruiting weekend. "Our hosts are really key, which are the players. They're going to have to do a really good job of just selling the program and selling what it's all about. The first thing we need to do is go out and play well and give them something to talk about."

The Longhorns' home losing streak to ranked opponents has to end sometime. The best time for it to happen in 2014 is Saturday against the Mountaineers.

 

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.

Taylor Gaspar is Bleacher Report's featured columnist covering the Texas Longhorns. Follow Taylor on Twitter @Taylor_Gaspar.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

The 5 Most Telling Stats for the Clemson Tigers This Season

Statistics can tell us a lot about a team. And for the Clemson University Tigers, it’s been no different. The Tigers have played as well defensively as any team in the country, but the offensive struggles have been well-noted over the last few weeks.

I have put together a list of five statistics that pretty much sum up how the season has gone so far. These numbers will show how well the defense has played, but they also show how much the offense has struggled to find consistency.

 

All stats used in this slideshow came from CFBStats.com.

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UCLA Football: 5 Most Telling Stats for the Bruins

Many factors contribute to the UCLA football team's record of 7-2. 

Self-inflicted wounds have been a serious issue. This development has put UCLA behind the chains on numerous occasions. In addition, the protection of its quarterback—or lack thereof—has been a serious problem. Lastly, the defense hasn't quite lived up to expectations. 

There are some positive statistics as well, namely revolving around the run game and quick-strike offense. The Bruins have been better in these two categories when compared to a year ago. 

This piece will look at five statistical subjects directly relating to UCLA's current position in the conference. 

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Meet UCLA's Paul Perkins, the Most Explosive RB You've Likely Never Heard of

All UCLA needed was a little momentum in its 17-7 win over then-No. 12-ranked Arizona, Bruins running back Paul Perkins said. 

His five-yard touchdown run gave UCLA the spark its offense needed to complement a stingy defensive effort and score the Bruins a crucial Pac-12 South win. 

Who better to provide the nation's No. 18 team with some momentum than a player who's ridden his own wave of it to a standout season?  

Perkins opened 2014 behind Jordon James on the depth chart, tabbed to fill the same change-of-pace role he provided as a redshirt freshman in 2013.

But with the Bruins run game sputtering in the first half at Virginia during Week 1, Perkins got the call. He responded with 80 yards and never looked back. 

"The start of the second half against Virginia, he just kind of came alive," head coach Jim Mora said. 

Indeed, Perkins has surpassed that 80-yard mark in every game subsequently, save one, and has efforts of 126, 137, 180 and 190 yards. 

But Perkins first showed he had the ability to take on the every-down role last season against Washington, the Bruins' opponent this Saturday. He went for a then-career-high 86 yards in a 41-31 UCLA win. 

Now the undisputed linchpin of the UCLA running attack, Perkins is second in the Pac-12 with 1,074 yards, just 50 fewer than USC's Javorius "Buck" Allen. Perkins will have the opportunity to become UCLA's first conference rushing champion since Karim Abdul-Jabbar in 1995. 

Perkins already joined Abdul-Jabbar as just the 13th Bruin to surpass 1,000 yards rushing in a season.  

Perkins may be writing his name in the UCLA record books, but he's doing so quietly. Pac-12 running back counterparts Allen and Washington's Shaq Thompson have garnered Heisman Trophy buzz from national outlets, the latter of whom doesn't play the position full time. 

Conversely, Perkins flies under the radar. Even this week ahead of facing Washington, Mora fielded more questions on Tuesday's teleconference call about linebacker Myles Jack's role in the run game than he did about Perkins' play thus far. 

But that seems to suit Perkins just fine. He is as quick to deflect individual praise as he is to run through a hole. 

Take his assessment of reaching the 1,000-yard mark. UCLA's offensive line has endured its share of criticism for allowing 29 sacks this season, but Perkins credited the sometimes-maligned unit's performance for his own success. 

"The [offensive] line is having a tremendous year. I couldn't ask for a better group of guys," he said. "I'm so happy for them. This 1,000 yards is really for them, but it just gets put on me." 

Don't let Perkins' modesty fool you, though. His own explosiveness has certainly contributed to the impressive numbers he is putting up three-fourths of the way through his sophomore campaign. 

He ranks ninth among all Football Bowl Subdivision players with 33 runs of 10-plus yards, including carries of 58, 81 and 92 yards.  

Talk about giving the offense momentum. 

On those highlight-reel plays, Perkins looks like he's back in the Phoenix area playing for Chandler High School.  

He hasn't limited his explosive plays to the ground, either.

With 20 catches on the season, Perkins has proved to be a favorite receiving target of quarterback Brett Hundley. He also gave backup Jerry Neuheisel a reliable presence when Neuheisel was thrust into the lineup in Week 3. 

"That’s the prerequisite to play in these styles of spread offenses," offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone said. "You’ve got to have a kid who can catch the ball at running back. We're not an I[-formation] team where we just hand it to them, hand it to them, hand it to them, then just throw to our receivers." 

Perkins' pass-catching ability proved critical three weeks ago in a 36-34 win at Cal, where he hauled in touchdown receptions of 16 and 49 yards. 

His efforts might go somewhat unrecognized, but Perkins is playing a starring role in UCLA's pursuit of the Pac-12 championship. The Cal game was the first of two must-win decisions in which he scored a pair of critical touchdowns. 

The touchdown run against Arizona gave Perkins his fifth score during the Bruins' current three-game win streak. And in helping UCLA to beat the Wildcats, Perkins helped move it one step closer to the Pac-12 South title. 

"We can sense we're on the verge of something great," he said. "We've got to keep pushing and hopefully everything will line up for us." 

Continuing the positive momentum UCLA has now is vital to win out, which the Bruins likely must do in order to earn the division's bid into the Pac-12 Championship Game. 

It's fortunate, then, that Perkins has a formula for keeping it going. 

"Come in Sunday and Monday, watch the film and grow from it," he said. 

 

Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise cited. Statistics courtesy of cfbstats.com

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Top 10 Highlights of Marcus Lattimore's Career

The professional career of one of college football's best running backs this past decade came to a far-too-soon end with Wednesday's announcement that Marcus Lattimore was retiring at the age of 23.

A fourth-round pick of the San Francisco 49ers in 2013, Lattimore's NFL tenure consisted of two seasons spent on his team's non-football injury list without ever playing in a game. Lingering issues related to two devastating knee injuries suffered while in college led to his early retirement.

"Unfortunately, getting my knee fully back to the level the NFL demands has proven to be insurmountable," Lattimore said in a statement released by the 49ers, according to NFL.com's Chris Wesseling.

Lattimore ran for 2,677 yards and 38 touchdowns over three seasons in college at South Carolina, including 1,197 yards with 17 TDs as a true freshman in 2010. Knee injuries cut short his sophomore and junior years, but in August 2012 he ran for 110 yards and two TDs against Vanderbilt just 10 months after surgery.

Lattimore never got a chance to show what he could do during an NFL game, but there are plenty of highlights from his collegiate days. Scroll through for the most notable moments of his short career.

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