NCAA Football News

Todd Gurley's Heisman Shot Is Gone, but Georgia's Playoff Hopes Alive and Well

"Gurley Watch 2014" seemed like the opening act to the winter weather watches that grip the southeast each February, ever since Todd Gurley—the star running back for the No. 11 Georgia Bulldogs—was suspended indefinitely prior to his team's game against Missouri on Oct. 11. 

The alert has been canceled.

Well, it will be canceled.

The NCAA announced Wednesday that Gurley will have to sit two more games, bringing his total to four, after it learned that he accepted "more than $3,000 in cash from multiple individuals for autographed memorabilia and other items over two years." Georgia will appeal the decision immediately.

Those four games will almost certainly prevent Gurley from not only winning the Heisman Trophy but getting to New York City as a finalist. Some voters will hold the autograph scandal against him, and those who don't will still have to factor in his stats simply not matching up to fellow star running backs like Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon and Nebraska's Ameer Abdullah.

The Heisman is more myth than reality for Gurley. Georgia's playoff chances, though, are alive, well and boosted by the running back's return for the Auburn game on Nov. 15.

Georgia went on the road two days after the suspension was announced and stomped Missouri in a game that, as it stands right now, may have served as the de facto SEC East title game. They then shuffled some pieces around—including former running back/current safety J.J. Green—to get through the Arkansas game in Little Rock. With time to prepare for a reeling Florida team and a challenging, yet building Kentucky team, the light is at the end of the tunnel.

Halfway through Gurley's suspension, the Bulldogs are one of only a select few teams that still control their own playoff destiny. If they win out—which would include a win over No. 3 Auburn in Athens and a highly ranked SEC West foe in the SEC Championship Game—they're not only a lock for the College Football Playoff, but could be the No. 1 seed depending on what No. 2 Florida State does.

Georgia should be able to get to the Auburn game with only one loss, which would create a raucous atmosphere between the hedges. Not only will Gurley be back after more than a month off, but the game could serve as a playoff elimination game if both traditional powers hold serve over the next couple of weeks.

Is the punishment too harsh?

Not according to the letter of the NCAA's law. It actually could have been much worse for Gurley, according to UGASports.com's Radi Nabulsi:

That law is in the process of changing through the push for power-five autonomy, but it's still the law right now. For that, Gurley must pay the proper price.

Georgia's playoff hopes, however, aren't diminished by Gurley's extended absence. 

The Bulldogs should be able to dispatch of the Gators and Wildcats with relative ease and set up quite a showdown at Sanford Stadium against Auburn with their own—and perhaps Auburn's—playoff hopes on the line.

Get your popcorn ready.

 

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and video analyst for Bleacher Report as well as a co-host of the CFB Hangover on Bleacher Report Radio (Sundays, 9-11 a.m. ET) on Sirius 93, XM 208.

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of cfbstats.com, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

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2015 Running Back Recruits Who Have Game-Breaking Speed

With the recent trend of spread and tempo-based offenses taking over college football, more teams are coveting versatile running backs who can hurt defenses on the ground and through the air.

The 2015 recruiting class has its share of rushers who are threats to change the scoreboard every time they touch the ball.

Some of these backs are smallish, all-purpose backs, while others are capable of running through or around defenders.

Which backs in the 2015 class possess game-breaking speed?

*Backs listed in alphabetical order.

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Pros and Cons to Michigan Firing Brady Hoke Before End of Season

Brady Hoke is hanging by a thread at Michigan (3-5, 1-3 Big Ten), hoping for his team to somehow win three of its next four games to become bowl eligible. The Hoke era that began with a triumphant 11-2 campaign is ending with a whimper.

This season has been a disastrous maelstrom, one in which the lowlights include a 31-0 thumping at Notre Dame, an embarrassing road loss to Rutgers and a crushing 35-11 loss to instate rival Michigan State. Mixed in has been a controversy over backup quarterback Shane Morris’ concussion and a public apology to Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio over a misguided motivational stunt at Spartan Stadium prior to the game.

Forget Dantonio, Hoke should apologize to Michigan fans for running the Wolverine football program into the ground. Hoke’s Michigan team is fully capable of dropping the rest of its games and matching the Rich Rodriguez mark of futility (3-9) for the second time since Lloyd Carr’s retirement.

Rumors continue to swirl of private jets crisscrossing the nation allegedly carrying emissaries on missions to replace both Brady Hoke and athletic director David Brandon.

Here are the pros and cons of waiting until the end of the season to make a coaching change.

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Todd Gurley Return Date Announced: Latest Details and Reaction

Georgia Bulldogs running back Todd Gurley will play again this season, but the NCAA ruled Wednesday that he will have to sit out two more games after already missing a pair of contests. 

According to Emily James of NCAA.org, Gurley will once again be eligible and free to return for the Dawgs' Nov. 15 game against No. 3 Auburn.

The junior back was initially suspended on Oct. 9 because of an investigation into whether he accepted money for autographs, per ESPN.com. The Heisman Trophy candidate missed subsequent games against Missouri and Arkansas before the University of Georgia decided to apply for reinstatement.

According to the official Twitter account for Georgia athletics, the school did precisely that on Oct. 22:

Per James, Gurley will miss matchups against Florida and Kentucky over the next two weeks as punishment:

Todd Gurley, University of Georgia football student-athlete, must sit a total of four games, or 30 percent of the season, for accepting more than $3,000 in cash from multiple individuals for autographed memorabilia and other items over two years. Gurley, who acknowledged violating NCAA rules, must repay a portion of the money received to a charity of his choice and complete 40 hours of community service as additional conditions for his reinstatement. Gurley will be eligible to play on Nov. 15.

James is also reporting that the University of Georgia plans to appeal the NCAA's decision.

Gurley admitted he made missteps leading to his suspension in a statement released on GeorgiaDogs.com before the university applied for his reinstatement:

I want to thank the University, coaches, teammates, and the Bulldog Nation for their patience and support. I take full responsibility for the mistakes I made, and I can't thank the University, my coaches, and teammates enough for supporting me throughout this process. I'm looking forward to getting back on the field with my teammates.

When it was first announced that Gurley was suspended, Bleacher Report's Michael Felder weighed in on the best- and worst-case scenarios for Georgia, Gurley and his Heisman hopes:

Many believed the running back's suspension wasn't necessarily warranted.

ESPN's Mike Greenberg acknowledged that rules may have been violated but deemed potential violations insignificant:

The same goes for ESPN's Bomani Jones, who brushed off those outraged by Gurley's apparent mistake:

The Bulldogs didn't miss a step in two games without Gurley, racking up a total of 79 points and getting a pair of fine performances from backup Nick Chubb.

With that said, Gurley leads the team with 773 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground, and there is no question Georgia is better when he is in the fold.

The Dawgs figure to be favorites against both Florida and Kentucky over the next couple weeks, and they have a golden opportunity to get back in the College Football Playoff hunt. Although they did lose to South Carolina, the Bulldogs could very well run the table with Gurley's return game against Auburn looking like the only tough test remaining.

Most probably assumed Gurley's Heisman candidacy was shot once he was suspended, and while that may be the case with the superstar back set to miss four games, he remains atop the leaderboard in most statistical categories among SEC backs, according to ESPN College Football:

The NCAA apparently feels four games on the shelf is punishment enough, so it is now up to Gurley to move past the matter by excelling on the field upon his return.

 

Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter

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Why the Penn State Win Will Define Ohio State in 2014 and Beyond

Urban Meyer and Ohio State pulled out a closer-than-expected victory over Penn State in double overtime Saturday night, and while it hurt their standing in the polls (and their chances to make the inaugural College Football Playoff), it was a win that will positively impact the Buckeyes in 2014 and beyond.

Winning a prime-time matchup on the road in one of the Big Ten's most hostile environments can have that effect.

Reflecting on the dramatic win in Happy Valley, Meyer talked about how the team rallied in overtime after the Nittany Lions took their first lead of the game.

“It’s a great thing,” Meyer said, according to Todd Porter of The Canton Rep. “You gotta nut up, man. You’re down by several points in that environment, and there’s no looking to anyone for help. There’s 11 guys out there who have to score a touchdown, and they did. There was incredible efforts.”

How will that impact the team moving forward?

''Invested players and invested teams really celebrate wins, and our guys did," Meyer said, via Rusty Miller of the Associated Press (h/t Yahoo Sports). "You started getting your tail kicked and you came back and won. That builds toughness.''

An invested team is a coach's dream, and the Buckeyes are buying in.

Cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs talked about the improbability of it all.

“You’re not supposed to win in that situation," Coombs said, via Porter. "You get caught from behind in an environment like that, and then go behind in overtime, going into their student section. You are not supposed to win that game.”

But the Buckeyes did, thanks to a gutty performance from a hobbled J.T. Barrett and Joey Bosa, who came up with a walk-off sack to end the game. In fact, a number of first- or second-year players (such as Ezekiel Elliott, Vonn Bell and Sean Nuernberger) came up big for the Buckeyes throughout the game Saturday night.

Overcoming that adversity has pulled the team together, which is invaluable as the Buckeyes draw closer to the highly anticipated matchup against Michigan State.

That game, which will kick off under the lights in East Lansing on November 8, has been circled by many as the Big Ten game of the year. Meyer and Ohio State will be looking to avenge last year's loss in the conference title game, which snapped the Buckeyes' 24-game winning streak and their chance to play for a national title. 

But the close road victory will benefit the Buckeyes beyond 2014. With so many young players in Ohio State's two-deep roster, much of the nucleus from this year's team will return in 2015. That group will know they have a quarterback in Barrett who can deliver in the clutch—whether he's playing alongside (or filling in for) Braxton Miller.

“[Barrett] was a hero,” Elliott said, via Patrick Murphy of The Ozone. “Came out there and had a lot of confidence even though he was a little bit banged up. He played through it.”

With the first rankings released by the College Football Playoff Selection Committee Tuesday night, it's hard to imagine a scenario where 16th-ranked Ohio State ends up playing for it all this January. 

But the Buckeyes have banded together after their trip to Happy Valley, and that makes Urban Meyer's team more dangerous than it has been all season. 

 

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

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Texas Football: Game-by-Game Predictions for the Month of November

It's crunch time for the Texas Longhorns, who must win three of their four November games to become bowl eligible.

They might get close, but we've seen enough of this group to know that Charlie Strong's team will lose at least two against Texas Tech, West Virginia, Oklahoma State and TCU.

Strong knows reaching that ever-important bowl will be tough, as he told the media at his Monday press conference:

It's all about the seniors. I said to them, We got to get them to a bowl game. You look at our schedule, I know you're sitting there with two ranked teams on it. We haven't beaten a ranked team. The main thing is if we come together as a football team, don't hurt ourselves, if we just execute, who knows. If we play the way we're capable of playing, we'll see how we end up with these next four.

The two ranked teams Texas will face are No. 20 West Virginia and No. 7 TCU, per the College Football Playoff committee, which are buttressed by matchups with defensively challenged Texas Tech and the anemic Oklahoma State offense.

There should be two wins there to create some buzz that Texas could overcome the odds, but those dreams will come to an end on Thanksgiving. 

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Ohio State Football: Buckeyes' Road to Making the College Football Playoff

COLUMBUS, Ohio — If Ohio State learned anything from the first edition of the College Football Playoff rankings, it's that except for two nights in the remainder of the season, the Buckeyes should be rooting for Michigan State and Nebraska.

That's because if the playoff committee made one sentiment clear on Tuesday, it's that it will be taking signature wins into account perhaps more than any other factor. As a result, Ohio State finds itself placed 16th after the first rankings reveal, a seemingly long way to go from a coveted top-four spot that will allow a team to play for a national title.

Couple that with the scarlet letter that seems to be the Buckeyes' Sept. 6 loss to Virginia Tech, and it's beginning to look like winning out may simply not be enough for Ohio State to make the inaugural playoff. Rather, the Buckeyes will likely need help from their future foes in order to add some much-needed quality wins to their resume.

 

Biggest Obstacles to Playoff Berth 

The good news for Ohio State is that it's still only October, and plenty of time remains for the Buckeyes to improve that resume. Its first—and most challenging—chance to do so will come next week in East Lansing, when Ohio State will square off with eighth-ranked Michigan State.

Long thought to be a de facto Big Ten Championship and potential playoff play-in game, the battle between the Buckeyes and Spartans will still garner plenty of attention, but obviously it's the latter who finds themselves in the more favorable position right now. That's something that stood out to ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit, who stated that winning the Big Ten may not be enough for the Buckeyes to make the playoff.

"There are a lot of people who believe that if Ohio State were to beat Michigan State and win out, that they would have a decent argument because they're a conference champion," Herbstreit said on the rankings reveal telecast. "Where Ohio State is now, they have a long way to go to even be in the discussion, whereas Michigan State on November 8th, if they were to continue to win, I think they obviously, because they're much higher, have a better chance of being able to be able to get in the discussion and get up into that top-four.

"But I think Ohio State, boy, that is a long way to go sitting at No. 16."

Beating the Spartans is obviously easier said than done, as Michigan State possesses the nation's seventh-ranked defense and will use a well-placed bye as an extra week of preparation for the Buckeyes. After that, Ohio State should seemingly cruise until a potential conference championship game, although a Nov. 15 date at 6-2 Minnesota could make for an interesting road test for Urban Meyer's squad.

 

Help Needed

The Buckeyes may not only need to beat the Spartans next Saturday, but for that potential win to also look as impressive as possible based on Michigan State's record at season's end. The same goes for 15th-ranked Nebraska, who Ohio State would face in the Big Ten Championship Game should both teams win the remainder of their regular-season games.

And while the Buckeyes would certainly benefit from becoming the second—and only additional losses—for both the Spartans and Cornhuskers, they could also use help from the Hokies, who have dropped four of their past six games since beating Ohio State in the second week of the season. Playoff committee chair Jeff Long admitted that the Buckeyes' lone loss on the season played a key role in their No. 16 ranking, which is the third lowest of the ranked one-loss teams from power-five conferences.

"I wouldn't call it an albatross, but it was not a good loss for them," Long said on the telecast of OSU's defeat to Virginia Tech. "We're still early in this process and while I wouldn't get that excited about Ohio State's placement, we do think that based on the other teams that they've played to this point in the schedule, this is where they deserve to be ranked."

Assuming conference championships play a factor in the committee's decision, it would be interesting to see how a hypothetical one-loss Ohio State Big Ten champion would be viewed by the committee at season's end. But nevertheless, the Buckeyes could still stand to benefit from losses by any of the 13 teams ranked ahead of them that they aren't already scheduled to play, including five from the SEC, three from the Pac-12, three from the Big 12, No. 2 Florida State and No. 10 Notre Dame.

Altogether, that may seem like a daunting task for Ohio State. But given the slate ahead of them, Long didn't rule out the Buckeyes making a run.

"Ohio State has opportunities on their schedule to play up, as many of these teams do," Long said.

 

Prediction

As Herbstreit alluded to, I too took notice of the lower-than-expected slotting of the Buckeyes, who were perhaps talked about more than any other team during Tuesday's 30-minute playoff committee show.

Heading into Tuesday night, I was of the belief that Ohio State fell into the "win and you're in" faction, given the showdown with the Spartans ahead and the emphasis that will allegedly be placed on conference championships. I'm doing my best not to overreact to where the Buckeyes stand at the end of October, but at this point, it's hard for me to believe that winning out will simply be enough for OSU.

Rather, I think the Buckeyes will need their two remaining opportunities for big wins to look as impressive as possible, with Michigan State and Nebraska holding up their ends of the bargain as the only other ranked Big Ten teams. But ultimately, it is my belief that all of this conversation will be for naught, as I don't see Ohio State walking away from Spartan Stadium with a win next Saturday.

Between J.T. Barrett's sprained MCL, Michigan State coming off a bye week and the Buckeyes' close call in Happy Valley last weekend, there just appears to be too much momentum in the Spartans' favor that would allow me to justify picking Ohio State. Maybe something in the next week will change my mind, but right now, I don't see it.

I have the Buckeyes losing to the Spartans, winning their three following games, but sitting out the conference title game as Michigan State plays for a second consecutive league crown and potential playoff spot. That would leave Ohio State with a 10-2 record, and in my estimation, a final ranking of No. 21, which is probably about right for a talented, but largely inexperienced team like the Buckeyes.

As it stands at the end of October, I project Ohio State to play in the Citrus Bowl against a big name SEC opponent. But there's a lot of football left between now and then.

 

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

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Tennessee Football: OL Jacob Gilliam Is College Football's Ultimate Warrior

The story of Tennessee offensive lineman Jacob Gilliam could best be described as one of improbability. But after everything he's endured, that word isn't in his vocabulary.

A collegiate career that began as a 250-pound invited walk-on, featured playing for three offensive line coaches (as well as two head coaches) and culminated with him earning a starting left tackle spot as a fifth-year senior on scholarship leaves little room for incredulity.

But playing on a torn anterior cruciate ligament just 49 days after suffering the injury pushes the boundaries of belief.

Yet, that's just what Gilliam did on Oct. 18 at No. 3 Ole Miss. Then in last week's game against UT's biggest rival, Alabama, Gilliam started, anchoring his 6'4", 297-pound body on that detached knee ligament, play after play.

"He's a warrior," Tennessee coach Butch Jones said, according to Knoxville's WVLT.com.

Strengthened by faith and insistent that he's shielded by a higher power, Gilliam is not just playing pain-free on an injury that routinely keeps players out more than a year.

He's thriving.

"That's one of the things that's really been a blessing to me, I haven't felt any pain," Gilliam said. "Obviously, I got to play the whole game against Alabama, and the only thing I kind of felt was a little weakness here and there, but that went away really quick, and it really didn't last more than a play or two.

"I've been blessed with a lot of strength and stability in my knee."

Remarkable, yes. Unexpected? Not for somebody who has battled seemingly every second since taking his first breath.

"Jacob was born premature, five-and-a-half weeks early," said his father, David, from the family's Farragut home outside Knoxville.

When his mother, Michelle, went in for a routine checkup, the doctor realized there was something wrong. An emergency delivery revealed Jacob's umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck. He spent his first two days in this world hooked up to a ventilator. 

"He's been a fighter ever since," David Gilliam said.

 

A Humble Start

Undersized offensive linemen don't get football scholarships to Tennessee.

So a dream that began when seven-year-old Jacob stood among Neyland Stadium's sea of orange and watched the Vols play the Houston Cougars looked as if it would fall by the wayside.

After a senior year at Farragut High School, Gilliam was all set to head to UT Chattanooga or perhaps Middle Tennessee State to play college ball. Then a phone call at an all-star game changed everything.

Then-UT coach Lane Kiffin's offensive line coach James Cregg was on the other end, asking Gilliam if he wanted to be a preferred walk-on for the Vols. A visit and some quick mulling-over later led to an easy choice.

"It was one of those things where I had to make a decision whether I wanted to play in a small pond or a big pond, is how my dad phrased it to me," Gilliam said. "It was a good time for me to go to UT. They were missing some linemen, and it would be a good chance for me to play at the highest level."

Competitive by nature, Gilliam had few doubts and high aspirations. Little did he know he was going to be blindsided by the fallout from a football program in shambles to go along with the thankless task of being a no-name scout-teamer.

A few weeks after Gilliam chose UT, Cregg left with Kiffin for USC. When Derek Dooley took over, new offensive line coach Harry Hiestand honored Gilliam's preferred walk-on status.

Gilliam's reward was day after day of getting battered and bruised by players like NFL defensive tackle Montori Hughes and former 5-star Chris Walker.

"That first summer," David Gilliam recalled of his son, "he'd leave the house at 5:10 every morning, go down there basically to get killed."

After thoughts of quitting and more pancakes than a Sunday morning at IHOP, Gilliam grew. By the season opener against UT-Martin, Gilliam dressed. Then, he did again against Oregon and for most of UT's home games during his freshman year.

Hiestand (now Notre Dame's offensive line coach) liked Gilliam's work ethic, and he was going to eventually get his chance.

"Being 250, 260, you really had to have good technique," he said. "I really credit being undersized as reasons why my feet and hands really improved. If I didn't have that, I'd have been thrown around like a rag doll. I was forced by survival into being technically sound."

But all Gilliam's hard work was about to become a casualty of the cruel world of college football.

Under fire from a rash of losing and poor line play, Dooley let Hiestand go and hired Sam Pittman. Gilliam had to start fresh.

Then Dooley and Pittman were fired the very next year in favor of Jones and Don Mahoney. Again, Gilliam was forced to prove himself all over again. He was forgotten, appearing in just three games in his first three seasons.

As Tennessee's offensive line blossomed into a talent-rich unit that featured three current NFL rookie starters, Gilliam settled into the shadows.

 

A Dark Hour and Ray of Light

Tennessee may have forgotten about Gilliam, but he never went away.

When UT lost its entire line to graduation or the NFL after last season, opportunity abounded. Every spot was up for grabs.

Even though recruitniks and experts alike anointed 4-star junior college lineman Dontavius Blair as UT's savior at left tackle, Gilliam battled. Coaches opened spring practice with Blair as the starter, but it didn't take long for Gilliam to beat him out and secure the spot.

Not long after spring drills were over, he was awarded a scholarship for his final season, an achievement Gilliam did not take lightly.

"It was really satisfying," he said. "When I got that scholarship, it meant a lot to me, but it also meant a lot to a lot of other guys I was representing who I had walked on with and who had been there with me the whole time.

"So, every time I play this year, I've got those guys in the back of my mind thinking what I do is not only for me, for my family and for this university, it's also for all those guys I bled and sweat with all those years who didn't get any recognition."

That humility remained through fall drills when he held off a much-improved Blair to keep the job. And when he started that season opener against Utah State and was playing extremely well, the potential for a storybook senior season loomed.

But football, like life, is rarely fair. 

As Gilliam set to push the Aggies defensive end to the outside of quarterback Justin Worley on a third-quarter play, UT left guard Marcus Jackson threw his man into the back of Gilliam's knee. It caved, and though he was in pain and hobbled off, he thought it was just hyperextended.

An MRI the following Sunday revealed the bad news.

"Obviously, it was heartbreaking," David Gilliam recalled. "He called me crying and said, 'My career is over.' I said, 'No, it's not, son. We're going to come down there and pray and ask God to heal you.'"

So, off they went—David, Michelle and brothers, Nathan and Alex—driving 25 minutes to be by Jacob's side, lay their hands on his knee and pray for a miracle.

After "about an hour" of woe-is-me, according to Jacob, he moved on. There was a slim hope he could play, and he wanted to exercise his options. Once he found that out, he immediately began rehabilitation.

It's not unprecedented to play on torn ACLs, though it's rare. New England Patriots guard Logan Mankins played the entire 2011 season at a high level on a torn ACL that had gone undiagnosed.

The feat is impressive, but Dr. Ron Noy, an orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist at Prestige Sports Medicine, told Deadspin.com's Samer Kalaf: "[Playing with a torn ACL] does put him at a higher risk of further injury." 

Gilliam knows the ramifications, but he said his faith played a key role in his ultimate decision to play.

"The doctors told me, 'Here's what could happen,'" Gilliam said. "I weighed it all and talked to my parents and brothers, but I believe I'm protected. That really made my decision for me. I thought, 'Hey, I'm protected. Nothing's going to happen to me, and that's what I'm relying on."

Weeks of exercising, building up his hamstrings and quads to help keep the knee in place, followed the injury. He eschewed surgery and wound up playing without pain less than a month and a half later.

Perhaps it's not a coincidence that in Gilliam's return to the starting lineup, a UT offensive line that had allowed 30 sacks through its first seven games held an excellent Alabama defense to two.

The Vols also ran for 181 yards against the nation's second-ranked rush defense.

There were several factors, but Gilliam was certainly one. He has the type of leadership mentality that permeates his play, and it stems from always setting goals, no matter who was watching.

"He's been an underdog since he got over there," father David Gilliam said. "It's definitely provided extra motivation."

 

A Fighter's Chance

When the topic turns to leaving a legacy, Gilliam gets quiet. The prevailing feeling is anything remotely self-serving is alien to him, and he's reluctant to say anything that sounds like pride.

Sure, he's proud of how far he's come, how he endured through frustrating, bowl-less seasons, how he impressed multiple coaches, earned a scholarship, earned a starting role and is playing despite what should be a career-ending injury. 

But beyond giving God the glory and his team praise, he won't budge on anything else.

"There’s an element of pride, but I know where I come from and I know what's really happening," he said. "I try to off-put that as much as possible."

Perpetuating the ultimate warrior propaganda is for his brothers, who look up to him and help him realize that what he has accomplished at UT is incredible and what he's doing now is not normal.

It's special to his little brother, Nathan, a 3-star 6'5", 270-pound class of 2015 offensive tackle who's currently committed to Wake Forest, to be able to witness what Jacob has done and to be bend his ear for tips and advice.

"I've grown really close to him through this past experience that happened to him and how far he's come," Nathan said. "It woke me up some, and I learned not to take this game for granted.

"One word you can use to describe him is a fighter. Since day one he has been on campus, he's always tried to prove he's better than the guy in front of him. When I get that opportunity next year, I'm going to try to do the same thing as Jacob and prove that the Gilliam family is a bunch of fighters."

There's one more fight to finish that Jacob discusses fervently. For a young man who bled orange, battled through impossible odds to reach the field and is making considerable sacrifices to stay on it, having a part in the program's resurrection would be extremely meaningful.

Gilliam has unfinished business, and it's what he's trotting out on a bum knee to attain.

"I'm not too big on personal achievements," he said. "I want everybody to remember this team as the one that changed the culture here at Tennessee and got us back to what we were.

"I think going to a bowl game, that's what’s going to put that mark on it. We're all fighting to go 4-0 here."

Like it has been the case throughout his entire career, nobody is fighting harder than Gilliam.

 

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

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

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Georgia Football: Bulldogs' Road to Making the College Football Playoff

Georgia may be down—ever so slightly—in the first ever College Football Playoff committee rankings, but the Bulldogs aren't out by a long shot.  

And given what these Dawgs have endured over the preceding weeks, it's hard to think a No. 11 ranking will prove any more than a road bump.  After all, Georgia's last two wins came on the road against SEC opponents without the nation's best running back, Todd Gurley.

This team has survived more dire circumstances and with a generally favorable schedule ahead, the Bulldogs are in prime position to climb the inaugural rankings' ladder.

 

Biggest Obstacles to Playoff Berth

With three teams in the projected playoff hailing from the SEC West, it's fair to say that division stands in everyone's way.  The Bulldogs aren't an exception in that regard.

Getting to the College Football Playoff will require perfection from Georgia henceforth.  And while Florida (who the Dawgs play this week) is always a tough out, Kentucky is much improved and Georgia Tech has shown flashes of relevancy, the Bulldogs' most blatant opposition will come from the SEC West.

Extenuating circumstances not withstanding, a November 15 game with the Auburn Tigers could prove to be an elimination game for either team.  Though the Tigers are the reigning conference champions and have looked dominant at times this season, there are still three reasons to think Georgia could win this game:

  • For the first time since 2011, this annual rivalry game is being played in Athens, Georgia.
  • Georgia played Auburn tremendously close on the road in 2013.  Georgia has likely progressed more as a team over the past 12 months than Auburn.
  • Despite a loss last season, the Bulldogs have won six of the last matchups with the Tigers.

Additionally, if all goes to plan, Georgia will run into another hurdle from the SEC West in the conference championship game.  Though both divisions are up in the air, Georgia seems likely to face Auburn (again), Alabama, Mississippi State or Ole Miss.  

Three of those teams (Mississippi State at No. 1, Auburn at No. 3 and Ole Miss at No. 4) are currently projected to make the playoff, and the fourth team (Alabama) is playing as well as any team in the conference.

Reaching Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game won't be enough to get Georgia into the playoff.  The Bulldogs will need to claim the conference title and run through the SEC West again.

 

Help Needed

The most favorable part of Georgia's road to the playoff has nothing to do with Georgia and everything to do with the teams ranked ahead of the Bulldogs.  Beyond games in Georgia's control (such as Auburn and a potential SEC Championship Game), several teams may soon drop below the Bulldogs as a factor of head-to-head losses.

  • Mississippi State still has Alabama and Ole Miss on its schedule.  All three of those teams are ranked ahead of Georgia, and only Mississippi State is currently undefeated.  In other words, some team(s) will soon decline.
  • In addition to the trip to Georgia, Auburn still must play Alabama and Ole Miss.  Accordingly, at least two of those teams are destined to have two regular-season losses.
  • TCU and Kansas State must play head-to-head as well.

In total, five teams currently ranked ahead of Georgia in the playoff rankings will lose at least one more game by virtue of matchups with other Top 10 teams.  Additionally, Georgia can hand out two more losses (one to Auburn and one to the SEC West champion) to such teams.

In light of that, Georgia doesn't really need all that much help.  The Bulldogs just need these games to happen, and Georgia needs to win.

 

Prediction

The remainder of Georgia's season will be defined by two factors:

  1. A relatively navigable remaining schedule.
  2. The return of Todd Gurley.

If the schedule shakes out the way it should (Remember: Teams can still improve dramatically—even this late in the season) and Todd Gurley does in fact get back on the field in time for the Auburn game, Georgia will finish the regular season with an 11-1 record.

At that point, Georgia will likely be ranked between No. 3 and No. 6 depending on how Auburn (who is presumed to lose to Georgia in this scenario) holds up in its other games against Ole Miss and Alabama.

Therefore, Georgia's national championship aspirations will once again fall squarely on the SEC Championship Game, just like they did in 2012.  The Bulldogs' odds of victory in that game will depend directly on the opposition.  

Unfortunately for Georgia fans, this game is shaping up to be a rematch of that 2012 game.  Like Georgia, Alabama is in a position to control its own destiny.  And like Georgia, Alabama is playing great football right now.  Expect Alabama to survive against Mississippi State and Auburn, and meet the Bulldogs back in the Georgia Dome.

Given where things stand today, that game would go the Crimson Tide's way and thus eliminate Georgia from the playoff picture.  But this Georgia team's calling card has been ongoing improvement.  

There's still plenty of time for that.

 

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand and all stats courtesy of Sports-Reference.com.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Week 10 Schedule: TV and Live Stream Info for Every Game

The first-ever College Football Playoff rankings are out entering Week 10, but they're guaranteed to look drastically different once the upcoming weekend slate concludes.

With more than a couple of tough tests for Top 25 teams on tap, we could be in for more of the upsets viewers have become accustomed to this season. Add a handful of those enticing affairs to one matchup between two current CFP Top Four teams, and it's apparent Week 10 boasts some of the biggest matchups of the season.

You won't want to miss out on all of the action, so take a look below at everything you need to know about every matchup for Week 10.

Note: Week 10 schedule courtesy of ESPN.com

 

Live Stream Note

More college football live streams are available at the following websites (subscription may be required):

WatchESPN.com

CBSSports.com

BTN2Go.com

Pac-12.com

NBC Live Extra

ABC Live

Fox Sports Go

 

Game of the Week

No. 4 Auburn at No. 7 Ole Miss

Ending their undefeated hopes in Death Valley was a tough pill to swallow, but the Ole Miss Rebels better be ready to bounce back with Auburn preparing for a trip to Oxford.

Just one week after falling at LSU, Ole Miss looks to recover at home against the fourth-ranked Tigers in a game that is looking more and more like an elimination game as far as the CFP goes.

As for right now, Ole Miss and Auburn are still sitting pretty as two of the four teams in the playoff, per ESPN's College GameDay:

However, neither team is feeling safe entering Saturday—and rightfully so. Whichever team falls in this matchup will suffer its second defeat, all but closing the door on a CFP berth and a shot at the SEC West crown.

On the other hand, both teams still have their rivals to play in the Egg Bowl and the Iron Bowl, respectively. So a victory would keep things very much alive for the winner in the divisional race.

As for how the two teams match up, the most intriguing battle figures to be when Auburn's potent offense matches up against Ole Miss' stingy defense. The Tigers top the SEC with 281 rush yards per game, while Ole Miss has the best scoring defense—10.5 points conceded per game—in the conference.

The Rebels defense is among the best in the country, but the same can be said of Auburn's offensive efficiency over the last few years. That makes quite the matchup on one side of the ball, per AL.com's Creg Stephenson:

The Ole Miss offense is looking to bounce back from a dreadful seven-point outing at LSU and give its defense something to work with. That will require a much better game from Bo Wallace, who thew a game-ending interception while in game-tying field-goal range against LSU.

The Rebels will need to put up the points to match Auburn in this one, and Wallace seems to know that entering Saturday's game.

"We have to get back to throwing the ball on first and second downs and making plays like we did earlier in the season," Wallace told The Clarion-Ledger's Hugh Kellenberger. "That's on the coaches and what they call and things like that. Hopefully, we can be more aggressive (than) last week, but I'm going to run the plays that are called and that's all I can do."

A sense of urgency from the Ole Miss offense should be expected, especially after South Carolina's Dylan Thompson threw for 402 yards and put up 35 points against this same Tigers team a week ago. It hasn't been clicking lately, but Wallace has the downfield weapons capable of gashing Auburn's secondary.

Ole Miss found itself in a low-scoring dogfight at LSU a week ago, but it will be a very different ballgame at home against Auburn. 

 

Stats courtesy of CFBStats.com unless otherwise noted.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Wisconsin Football: Game-by-Game Predictions for the Month of November

Heading into the final month of the season, the Wisconsin football team finds itself right in the thick of the Big Ten West Division race. At 5-2 overall and 2-1 in Big Ten play, the Badgers are one of four teams in the Big Ten West with one loss.

Sitting half a game behind Nebraska and Minnesota and tied with Iowa, all four teams have a legitimate shot at making it to Indianapolis to represent the West Division in the Big Ten Championship Game.

The representative will likely play the winner of the Michigan State vs. Ohio State game on Nov. 8 in East Lansing, Michigan.

The Badgers play five games in this final month, having gone past both of their bye weeks. They are able to field a mostly healthy roster for the first time since opening day, too, with the return of senior defensive end/nose guard Warren Herring and fullback Derek Watt.

With two games against teams toward the cellar of the conference on the road to open up the month before finishing against their three biggest Big Ten West adversaries in consecutive weeks, the Badgers control their own destiny, knowing they will likely need to win out to ensure their spot in Indianapolis.

Without further ado, let's take a look at each of the Badgers' five November matchups with predictions and plenty of #MelvinMoments to go around for all.

Begin Slideshow

The 10 Most Terrifying Players in College Football Today

When college football coaches game-plan, they watch an inordinate amount of film. Day and night, coaches and their players pore over game film, looking for that one edge, that one critical factor that could make the difference on Saturday afternoon.

Coaches like to say that players “jump off film” at them, standing out from the clutter and organized chaos that is an average football play. These are the guys that keep opponents up at night, wondering what lies ahead when they finally get on the field for 60 minutes of highly scrutinized competition.

They’re the most terrifying players in college football today. They might not all be the biggest players or the strongest, but they’re frightening in their own ways, for what they can do to change a game with a single play or a handful of them.

They were chosen for their presence, the way they can impact a game and how they’re viewed across college football.  Stats were taken from ESPN.com and individual schools’ websites.

 

Begin Slideshow

Carlos Strickland to Texas Tech: Red Raiders Land 4-Star WR Prospect

Carlos Strickland, one of the top pass-catchers in the country, has made Red Raiders fans very happy, but he has also broken a lot of hearts in the process by announcing that he will attend Texas Tech.

247Sports' Ryan Bartow reported the news:

Wide receiver Carlos Strickland (Dallas/Skyline) just verbally committed to Texas Tech according to Skyline assistant coach Eric Mims.

"WreckEm," Strickland said.

Strickland chose the Red Raiders over Cal, TCU and UCLA.

Playing at Dallas' Skyline High School, which also produced another elite 2015 recruit in linebacker Anthony Wheeler, Strickland has developed nicely during his time in high school. He caught just 10 passes in 2012 and jumped up to 33 catches for 719 yards and 10 touchdowns last season. 

Combine the improved performance with a 6'5", 194-pound frame with room to grow, and suddenly Strickland looks like one of the more underrated gems as a 4-star wide receiver. He ranks as the No. 15 wideout and No. 138 overall recruit in the 2015 class, per 247Sports' composite ratings.

It's no wonder, then, that Strickland was getting hounded, in a good way, by LSU to join the Tigers for 2015, according to a report from Shea Dixon of 247Sports, as well as offers from major programs like Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State and Oklahoma State, among others.

The Dallas Morning News provided some analysis on Strickland and highlighted some of his biggest strengths as a prospect:

Carlos Strickland is the all-purpose big play receiver. His 21.8 yards per catch last year had him among the area's best and while he only had 33 catches, 10 were for touchdowns. He has a nose for the end zone and can be an instant game changer when he's on the field.

When you have that kind of raw ability start to actualize on the football field while playing in a talent hotbed like Texas, it's no wonder so many high-profile schools were all over Strickland during the recruiting process. 

Making Strickland even more enticing is the way he will continue to evolve. No one expects a high school star to stop growing and filling out, but we haven't seen what the Texas native is capable of doing between the lines because he has so much physical projection left. 

Football has turned into a sport of quarterbacks and quick scores, so for teams to keep up with the frenetic pace, finding wide receivers who can stretch the field is imperative. Strickland is proving capable of doing that already with more room to get better. 

 

If you want to talk sports, hit me up on Twitter. 


Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

LSU Football: Tigers' Road to Making the College Football Playoff

LSU has a chance, albeit slight, to make the College Football Playoff. 

Despite the Tigers' losses against Mississippi State and Auburn, they can still go unbeaten the rest of the way and have a shot at making the top four. But that is only if LSU gets plenty of help elsewhere.

The first set of rankings from the College Football Playoff Committee were announced Tuesday night. Three SEC teams were controversially included in the top four, all of which the Tigers have played. 

#CFBPlayoff Rankings Top 4: 1. Mississippi State 2. Florida State 3. Auburn 4. Ole Miss pic.twitter.com/nmBpfaLM6U

— College GameDay (@CollegeGameDay) October 28, 2014

LSU was ranked No. 19 by the committee after its upset over Ole Miss. 

The high number of one-loss teams hurt the Tigers, but that number will change in the coming weeks. Billy Liucci believes the Tigers should be ahead of Oklahoma in the standings. 

Can someone logically explain to me how 2-loss OU rates ahead of 2-loss LSU?

— Billy Liucci (@billyliucci) October 28, 2014

OU lost to #7 TCU, #9 KSU...LSU to #1 MSU, #3 Auburn. OU beat #20 WVU while LSU beat #3 Ole Miss, Wisconsin #SECbias! #kannelling

— Billy Liucci (@billyliucci) October 28, 2014

Liucci's argument is logical and sound. The Tigers are also the top-ranked two-loss team in the AP Top 25 and Amway Coaches Poll.

Nevertheless, any spot outside of the top four is meaningless. The Tigers must win to have a chance of making the College Football Playoff.  

 

Biggest Obstacles to Playoff Berth

LSU must defeat Alabama on November 8 to keep its slim playoff hopes alive. The Crimson Tide are No. 6 in the inaugural playoff rankings, so they also have work to do if they want to crack the top four. 

LSU head coach Les Miles has lost his last three games against Nick Saban's Crimson Tide. The Tigers will have a much-needed bye week to rest up after nine straight weeks of play, so they should be fresh when Alabama arrives in Baton Rouge. 

The Crimson Tide's rush defense is best in the SEC, which means LSU's hot offensive line and stable of running backs will be tested. Quarterback Anthony Jennings' struggles as a passer could be magnified against Saban's schemes.

Alabama's offense is balanced, led by Heisman hopeful receiver Amari Cooper. The Tigers defense, which has only allowed 10 points combined in their last two SEC games, must be prepared for offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin's diverse play-calling. 

LSU will play Arkansas and Texas A&M after Alabama, both of which will be on the road. The Razorbacks and Aggies are at the bottom of the SEC West standings, but beating them at their place will not be easy. 

 

Help Needed 

After LSU's triumph over Ole Miss, there could possibly be a five-way tie in the SEC West at the end of the season between the Tigers, Rebels, Alabama, Mississippi State and Auburn, per The Solid Verbal:

Verballer Benjamin writes in with this scenario, which would be NUTS: pic.twitter.com/AMlIqWJUQy

— The Solid Verbal (@SolidVerbal) October 26, 2014

LSU could also make it if the other four teams atop the SEC West collapse. Even if that were to happen, some of the one-loss teams from other conferences, such as TCU, Oregon, Michigan State and Kansas State, would have to fall as well. 

The Tigers could raise some eyebrows if they remain unbeaten the rest of the way. There is no official set of criteria for the committee, which makes this a subjective selection process.

The SEC West has proven to be the best division in the country in the minds of the committee, which means two teams from the division could make it. If the Tigers remain hot, they could be the second of two teams from the SEC West to play for it all.  

 

Prediction

LSU fans should never give up hope, as anything can happen in the wild SEC West. But the harsh reality is that the Tigers will fall short of the College Football Playoff. 

The Tigers could still finish with a respectable 10 wins, which would mark the fifth straight season Miles has reached a double-digit victory total. That would be a remarkable feat considering the Tigers' slow start. 

Sports Illustrated's Zac Ellis projects LSU returning to the Outback Bowl for a heavyweight matchup against Ohio State on New Years Day. Saturday Down South's Brad Crawford sees the Tigers there as well but playing Nebraska. National Football Post's Dave Miller believes the Tigers will play a day later in the TaxSlayer Bowl against Maryland. 

Bowl projections are an inexact science. Where LSU goes bowling will hinge heavily on the Alabama game. But whichever way that matchup plays out, the Tigers could still defeat Arkansas and Texas A&M and still make a New Year's Day bowl game. 

 

Stats, rankings and additional information provided by CFBStats.com, ESPN.com and LSU Sports Information. Recruiting information provided by 247Sports.

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow me on Twitter @CarterthePower.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Playoff Notebook: Don't Panic, That's Just What They Want

Have you thrown your computer through the nearest window yet? If so, that’s tremendous passion and dedication you’ve got there. If not, congratulations: you’ve made it through the very first week of the College Football Playoff era without obliterating one of your dearest electronic friends.

The 12-person College Football Playoff selection committee has spoken, revealing its first-ever Top 25 before Week 10 officially kicked off. 

Yes, if the College Football Playoff started today—and thank goodness it does not—Mississippi State would play Ole Miss in the No. 1 vs. No 4 matchup, causing the state of Mississippi to combust. The other semifinal would feature No. 2 Florida State and No. 3 Auburn, which might sound familiar if you’ve been paying attention over the past year.

This is the part, however, where we are reminded that Week 9 of this season just took place. This also seems like the time to remind you that last year at this time, when it was the computer-charged BCS tormenting our emotions, Michigan State was outside of the Top 25 and Auburn was outside of the Top 10. 

Translation? Relax.

Take a big deep breath as you mutter obscenities over your displeasure. Unless, of course, you’re one of the few puffy chested fan bases enjoying the 30-minute ego massage. If that’s the case, puff that chest out and enjoy it while you can. 

Revealing a Top 25 before we officially hit November is a decision based off financial gain. Really, it’s that simple. It’s a spectacle, an enormous network cash grab and a ingenious way to generate interest in a fresh new postseason. It will be remarkably effective in doing so, generating chaos, controversy and enormous ratings well before any of this truly matters. 

After all, we just can’t help ourselves.

The reality, however, is that we’re just getting to know one another. Jeff Long, the selection committee chairman, admitted just that following the live television announcement.

Jeff Long: “The bottom line is it's early, it's close and it's going to change.”

— Bryan Fischer (@BryanDFischer) October 28, 2014

So sit back, embrace the anarchy, and keep your eyes on the journey ahead rather the decisions being made. If you do that, your computer should stay safe, at least for one more week.

As for other observations on the initial release, here are a few items that stuck out.

 

Your Early Winners: TCU, Oregon and Ole Miss

Being deemed a “winner” at this point in the process means little, although the first ranking provides perspective on the selection committee’s thought process, at least in the infant stage of this concoction.

When it comes to TCU, even with the meltdown loss at Baylor, it’s clear the room of 12 football minds value the overall season for the Horned Frogs up until this point. And the No. 7 ranking, behind five SEC teams that will clash is significant because they’re ahead of the game, and more importantly, other teams in the Big 12.

The same could be said about Oregon, especially after losing to Arizona at home. The Ducks debuted at No. 5—the first team out of the mix—and they’re not far from moving up according to Long.

Jeff Long says gap between Ole Miss, Oregon and Alabama is “paper thin."

— George Schroeder (@GeorgeSchroeder) October 28, 2014

And finally, Ole Miss should also be encouraged. Coming directly off a loss to LSU, the Rebels managed to stay in the playoff mix. It speaks volumes to the difficulty of their schedule and path up to this point, but it also puts them in the driver’s seat with difficult games on the horizon.

 

Enjoy the SEC Dominance While it Lasts 

The transition into this next point is obvious. Although SEC fans will undoubtedly enjoy having three teams in the top four, it’s a position that won’t last long. In fact, with Auburn headed to Ole Miss this weekend, this playoff dominance might be very short lived.

That’s not to say that relative dominance is out of the equation. With Alabama directly below Oregon at No. 6 and Georgia creeping in the distance at No. 11, the scenario where two SEC teams get into the playoff is very real.

But with Alabama and Ole Miss still on Mississippi State’s schedule, Alabama-Auburn still to play, and many meaningful—and challenging—conference games still to be played over the next six weeks, this pace won’t hold up for long.

Mark your calendars: Nov. 1: AU at Ole Miss Nov. 8: Bama at LSU Nov. 15: MSU at Bama; AU at UGA Nov. 29: AU at Bama; MSU at Ole Miss.

— Tony Barnhart (@MrCFB) October 29, 2014

The SEC isn’t going away, but the landscape will shift greatly. (Still, let's hear those "S-E-C" chants anyway.)

 

There is No Such Thing as a Good Loss, Notre Dame

Perhaps the most interesting development of the Top 25 came when Notre Dame appeared on our televisions earlier than anticipated. The Irish, coming off a close, controversial loss at Florida State, checked at No. 10, which was further down the list than many thought they’d be.

What became clear, even in this limited sample size, is that the committee values quality wins over quality losses. That might seem like an obvious point to establish, although we learned more about Notre Dame in Tallahassee than we did in any prior game this year. 

When it comes down to it, Brian Kelly’s best win, as it stands, came against a three-loss Stanford team. Outside of this South Bend victory, the resume isn't exactly jaw-dropping. As a result, Notre Dame was punished out of the gate. 

With games at Arizona State, at USC and against Louisville still looming, however, there is still ample time to make an impression. This initial release was a setback, but there’s still so much resume left to create.

 

No Love for Marshall

On the topic of schedules, no absence from the Top 25 was more noticeable than Marshall’s. The Thundering Herd enter Week 10 undefeated and No. 23 in the AP Poll. The weak path up until this point, however, was clearly penalized by the committee.

While an undefeated Marshall team won’t sniff the College Football Playoff, this early reveal is significant. One non-Power Five team will be chosen to play in one of the “major” bowl games.

East Carolina would appear to have the upper hand right now, debuting at No. 23 despite losing early at South Carolina. The Pirates still have losable games, which could change this picture entirely.

Marshall’s schedule doesn’t exactly beef up, although the evaluation on this team will remain a work in progress. If Doc Holliday’s team continues to blowout inferior opponents, the committee will eventually take note. As a result, expect these scores and quarterback Rakeem Cato’s stats to reflect such efforts moving forward.

Basically, if you're playing Marshall, take cover.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Post-Week 9 College Football Playoff Projections from Analytics Guru, Ed Feng

After ESPN aired the release of the inaugural College Football Playoff poll on Tuesday, the question on everybody's minds was: What will the rankings look like when they matter on Dec. 7?

My algorithm projects just that.  Allow me to explain my rankings...


Why is Oregon No. 1?

While Oregon finds itself in the dreaded No. 5 position in the first committee rankings, our calculations give the Ducks the best odds to finish in the top four. 

In their remaining regular-season games, their lowest win probability is 68.2 percent against Stanford in Eugene this Saturday. The numbers would also heavily favor Oregon against any Pac-12 South opponent in the conference championship game. Oregon also features the top-ranked offense in the nation by yards per play adjusted for strength of schedule.


Mississippi State is No. 8? You must be kidding.

Quarterback Dak Prescott and Mississippi State have had a dream season. They have earned the committee's top spot with their unblemished record in the SEC West.  

However, according to my projections, the Bulldogs won't stay there for long; Mississippi State will likely finish the year with two losses and watch the playoff from home.

The losses will come Nov. 15 when it travels to Alabama (27 percent win probability) and Nov. 29 when it visits Mississippi (40 percent win probability). Overall, Mississippi State has a 22 percent chance to make the playoff, eighth best in our calculation.


No love for Florida State

Florida State has slipped significantly from last year's juggernaut. The Seminoles had to rally from a 17-point deficit to beat North Carolina State, went to overtime with Clemson and needed a late goal-line stand to defeat Notre Dame. Florida State is 20th in The Power Rank, a computer ranking that adjusts margin of victory for strength of schedule.

This hurts FSU in my algorithm. 

The main culprit in Florida State's decline is the defense. After two years as a top-five unit, Florida State has dropped to 60th in yards per play adjusted for strength of schedule. The gambling markets know this, as the Seminoles went from an 8.5- to a four-point favorite at Louisville on Thursday, per Odds Shark.

If it survives that game, Florida State should expect an even tougher test at Miami (37 percent win probability).


The curious case of the Big 12

The committee seems down on the Big 12, with TCU the conference's highest-ranked team at No. 7. However, the numbers suggest these teams will rise before Dec. 7.

TCU faces its toughest remaining competition at West Virginia (45 percent) and against Kansas State (61 percent) in its next two games.

If they win these games, the Horned Frogs should have a very good chance to finish in the top four, with Kansas, Texas and Iowa State ahead on the schedule and no championship game. 

Oklahoma resides in committee purgatory at No. 18  in the first rankings. However, the numbers give the Sooners a 65 percent win probability in their toughest remaining game, a home tilt against Baylor. Oklahoma, like TCU, also has the luxury of playing Kansas and Iowa State late in the season.  

Oklahoma may not make the playoff, but it will rise as other contenders fall. 


What to make of the Irish

The committee probably bickered the most over Notre Dame. On one hand, its only loss came in a close affair against Florida State. On the other, analytics despises the Fighting Irish. They have an average margin of victory of 14.3, only 23rd-best in the nation. After adjustments for schedule, computer rankings such as The Power Rank (27th) and Sagarin (14th) don't consider them a top 10 team.

The committee settled on No. 10 for Notre Dame, which seems like a fair balance between wins and analytics.

The simulation only gives the Fighting Irish the 14th-best odds to make the playoff (5.5 percent), as they face tough games at Arizona State (36.4 percent win probability) and against Louisville (54.5 percent win probability).


Ed Feng founded The Power Rank and has also written for Grantland and Sports Illustrated. Follow him on Twitter @thepowerrank.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Alabama Football: How Can Tide Overcome Former 5-Star Cam Robinson's Injury?

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Alabama will likely be without its top offensive lineman when it travels to Baton Rouge to face LSU and possibly even longer.

Nick Saban on Tuesday announced that freshman left tackle Cam Robinson, who has started every game there this season, "is probably going to be out for at least two weeks" with "a high ankle sprain."

The former 5-star from West Monroe, Louisiana, likely won’t get a chance to go home to face the team that almost got his signature.

It’s a huge blow to an Alabama offensive line that was really starting to hit its stride, especially in a big road game that will have massive College Football Playoff implications.

Robinson had been a starter from day one, even in fall camp. After enrolling early in the spring, Saban noted several times how game-ready he was and how much improvement he had made.

Once the season started, people saw just what he meant.

On an offensive line that had often lacked that grit and tenacity that previous lines before it had so much of, Robinson was a mauler in run blocking and rock solid in pass protection.

In the Florida game, when Alabama needed to run the ball, it buckled down and did so almost exclusively to the left side. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that Robinson has been Alabama’s best offensive lineman so far this season.

So where does Alabama go from here? What can the Crimson Tide do to make sure their playoff hopes aren’t ruined by a key piece of its offensive line?

Saban and offensive line coach Mario Cristobal have a couple of choices personnel-wise.

In an on-the-fly move when Robinson went down during Alabama’s game against Tennessee on Saturday, the Crimson Tide pulled a double switch. Right guard Leon Brown moved to left tackle, while Bradley Bozeman, who had started two games at center in Ryan Kelly’s absence, came in at right guard.

Brown was actually recruited as a tackle and had played there before. This year, he filled a need at guard, which is where he’s played up until that Tennessee game.

The other option would be to move right tackle Austin Shepherd to the left side and bring in Grant Hill, a former 4-star, on the right side. Hill has gotten a lot of playing time in mop-up duty on that right side and is one of the Crimson Tide’s promising youngsters up front.

That's how Alabama lined up during the media viewing period of Tuesday's practice. And it sounds like that’s the plan Saban hopes comes to fruition.

“If it works out, those two guys could be the tackles,” he said. “Whichever one plays right and whichever one plays left would be one option, and leave Leon where he is, or move Leon and play somebody else at guard.

“But I really do think that Grant Hill played pretty well when he's had to play this year so far, is a guy that we'll give an opportunity to at least in practice and see how he does. If it works out, those two guys will be the tackles.”

Shepherd said this kind of situation was expected.

“I just think it’s time for someone to step up,” he said. “It happens every year, people get hurt, someone has to step up.”

Alabama certainly has options of what it could do here. It has a stockpile of offensive line talent from which to choose replacements or do additional shuffling among the starters.

Whatever happens, the Crimson Tide will begin a critical stretch of the season without one of their best players.

 

Marc Torrence is the Alabama lead writer for Bleacher Report. All stats come from cfbstats.

Follow on Twitter @marctorrence.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Did CFP Committee Screw the Alabama Crimson Tide by Leaving Them out of Top 4?

The College Football Playoff selection committee came out with their first ever Top 25 ranking. The Alabama Crimson Tide were left out of the playoff picture, leaving many to question if they should be in one of the top four spots.

Bleacher Report's College Football Analysts Michael Felder and Barrett Sallee break down if Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide deserve to be in the playoffs.

Do you think Alabama deserves to be in the CFB Playoffs?

Watch the video and let us know!

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

BCS vs. College Football Committee Rankings Comparison

The College Football Playoff selection committee unveiled its first rankings Tuesday night, and they are, in fact, spot-on.

Based on these rankings, we can easily deduce that strength of schedule is of paramount importance to the committee, and head-to-head results are fastidiously considered. Their rankings are more logical and consistent than the two polls, particularly the Amway Coaches Poll, which should now be thoroughly discredited.

The CFP rankings also vary slightly from what the BCS standings would've looked like. The reason for that is rather obvious: the influence of the polls. In the BCS standings used from 2004-2013, the polls accounted for two-thirds of rankings. That element has been completely suppressed as the committee's list bears much more of a resemblance to computer rankings.

Here are the committee's Top 25 teams, as compared to a facsimile of the old BCS standings, our CFP mock standings and the two major polls:

 

Explanations of Rankings

BCS rankings are a simulation of the BCS formula used from 2004-2013 with two exceptions: 1. The AP poll is used in place of the Harris Poll; 2) Sagarin and Massey rankings are their native systems instead of the non-MOV version used for the BCS.

CFP mock rankings are published weekly at Bleacher Report, with components including polls, computers, strength of schedule and conference championships. The full rankings are here.

 

A few highlights, thoughts from committee's first rankings

Committee's rankings don't behave like polls 

That is a good thing—a very good thing. The biggest problem with the BCS in its latter years was that the polls were weighted disproportionately. One of the major beneficiaries of this has been Alabama, which always seems to get more support in the polls than it deserves. The Tide, ranked No. 3 in both polls as well as the would-be BCS standings, are much more accurately placed by the committee at No. 6.

 

Strength of schedule matters, a lot

The Big Ten is being punished as a weak conference, as Michigan State might not be able to play its way into the playoff even if it wins out. Ohio State, at No. 16, virtually has no chance. The committee also is making an example out of Baylor, which is several spots behind its Big 12 rivals with identical records, because of its pathetic nonconference slate.

 

Where's Marshall?

The only team that's in the Top 25 in both polls and would-be BCS standings but omitted by the committee is Marshall, the only other undefeated team besides Mississippi State and Florida State in its rankings. The Thundering Herd have won their eight games by an average of nearly 30 points, but their weak schedule clearly has been a huge detriment.

As of now, East Carolina is the only team from the group-of-five conferences in the rankings.

 

The tournament starts now

Don't be fooled by the bracket that's being put out on TV (and everywhere else). Though there are four SEC West teams in the Top Six, there are four guaranteed losses among those teams as they still have to face each other multiple times. Essentially, eight of the top nine teams—except Michigan State—have a chance to play their way into the playoff, which leaves us with the one real surprise...

 

No luck of the Irish

Despite three members with ties to the school (and are not covered under the recusal policy)—Condoleezza Rice, Ty Willingham and Pat Haden—Notre Dame did not get much love from the committee.

At No. 10, the Irish need some help to get into the playoff field even if they finish 11-1. It's a clear indication that the committee isn't fond of horseshoes or hand grenades: Notre Dame's close loss at Florida State doesn't count for much.

 

Follow on Twitter @ThePlayoffGuru

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Florida State Football: Game-by-Game Predictions for the Month of November

No. 2 Florida State caps off the month of October Thursday night at Louisville, and a victory on the road over the Cardinals would be the ideal way for the Seminoles to kick off the final month of the regular season.

November is more than favorable for an FSU team with hopes of hanging on to its undefeated record. Three of the Seminoles’ four games are at home, and the lone road contest is against a Miami team they have defeated in seven of the last nine meetings.

Needless to say, Thursday’s game at Louisville very well could be FSU’s final test before postseason action begins. 

Here are the game-by-game predictions for the month of November.

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