NCAA Football News

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

A full month of the season is in the books, and the Longhorns are a below-average 2-2 heading into a brutal month of October. Given the current state of the team, Texas would be lucky to get one more victory before November.

Charlie Strong's team has talent, but the offensive line is dragging down the team as a whole. Through four games, the Longhorns are averaging just 3.4 yards per carry, which tied for worst in the Big 12.

Texas' ineffectiveness up front has also limited the team's big-play ability, as evidenced by Tyrone Swoopes' 5.7 yards-per-attempt average.

That might be good enough to take care of Iowa State at home, but Baylor, Oklahoma and Kansas State will be major problems unless this team makes a radical improvement.

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College Football Picks Week 6: Predictions and Odds for Top 25 Schedule

 Don't get too attached to the latest college football rankings. Several ranked opponents will collide during an eventful Week 6 that is sure to affect the polls.

A dozen of the Top 25 schools will compete against a fellow ranked squad. Many of those marquee matchups include College Football Playoff contenders that can't afford a loss during their quest to solidify Top 4 placement.

October will begin in lavish style with this loaded slate of must-see TV. Last week consisted of many big-name schools fending off upsets, but some big boys are going down for real this weekend. That's not really going out of a limb considering two teams can't walk away from the same game with a victory.

 

Game of the Week: No. 6 Texas A&M vs. No. 12 Mississippi State

With so many incredible games on the docket, picking the most intriguing clash is a nearly impossible task. Yet given recent developments from the past two weeks, the SEC clash between the undefeated Texas A&M Aggies and Mississippi State Bulldogs bears major implications.

Texas A&M nearly muddled this match's significance in a Saturday scare against Arkansas, entering the fourth quarter down 28-14. Kenny Hill then delivered two deep bombs to send the game into overtime, where he won the game with a 25-yard touchdown pass to Malcome Kennedy.

"We just made the connection on that one," Hill told The Associated Press, via Fox Sports, regarding the game-winning pass. "They had the defender getting there late, and I threw it to him. He took care of the rest."

After a rocky start, Hill dominated down the closing stretch, as illustrated by ESPN's College GameDay.

Despite the near loss, the Aggies are 5-0 with a 24-point victory against South Carolina under their belt. This weekend marks the beginning of a brutal stretch for them which makes them a CFP contender if they can somehow escape the period with limited damage.

Not considered much of a threat entering the season, Mississippi State put the SEC on notice by upsetting LSU on Sept. 20. The Dak Prescott bandwagon reached full capacity after the team tallied 268 yards, 105 rushing yards and a touchdown each way during the monumental win at Baton Rouge.

ESPN Stats & Info put the stunner into perspective.

What will happen when two Heisman contenders clash to maintain their team's unblemished record? Either way, a highly entertaining game with plenty of points is in order.

While the Aggies' defense has progressed this year, they've mostly beat up on inferior competition. Against South Carolina and Arkansas, they allowed 917 combined yards. They've padded their numbers against Lamar, Rice and SMU, but they haven't improved enough to contain Prescott.

Hill will also get his points, so this matchup could very well boil down to who gets the ball last or which side makes the biggest mistake at the most inopportune time.

In his last three games, Prescott has registered at least 200 passing yards and 100 rushing yards each time with 10 total touchdowns. Texas A&M isn't built to stop him, so the rising junior will shake up the SEC landscape by once again knocking off a higher-ranked conference adversary.

Prediction: Mississippi State 45, Texas A&M 42

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Week 5 College Football Superlatives from Kramer's Korner

Breaking through—or reestablishing your worth, no matter how you want to phrase it—is exceedingly challenging in college football.

We appreciate and celebrate moral victories. When a team like Arkansas can transform from disregarded scrapheap to a living, breathing, demolition-happy bulldozer in a matter of nine months, we offer polite applause and admire the achievement.

And yet, as the Hogs fell to Texas A&M in overtime despite leading by two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, we were reminded just how difficult it is to separate from your former self.

Bret Bielema drew up a brilliant game plan and dialed up the appropriate gambles—some of which you’ll see momentarily—and the entire blueprint fell apart before you could even identify the damage being done. The Hogs’ magnificent effort came undone, which means Bielema’s first victory against an SEC program in his new area code will have to wait.

It doesn’t mean Arkansas is bad. In fact, the Hogs look live enough to beat almost anyone they line up against. It simply recognizes the work left to be done to truly break past thresholds beyond the casual applause phase, especially when your division is as unrelenting as the SEC West.

To be viewed as an upper-echelon program, you need to beat upper-echelon programs. Arkansas will do this in time—perhaps as early as this year—although the next, next step will be the toughest. Then there’s the challenge of staying there, which is another magnificent battle entirely.

Did I mention that this sport is hard?

As for observations, awards and important strength-coach tackles from Week 6, here they are.

 

Offensive Player of the Week: Nelson Spruce, Colorado

In a week jam-packed with offensive goodness, Colorado wideout Nelson Spruce delivered another reception-packed game, although this toppled his previous efforts—and pretty much all efforts—by a significant margin.

And, in an Offensive Player of the Week first, the recipient’s team did not come away victorious.

Against Cal, Spruce finished with 19 (!!!) catches for 176 yards and three touchdowns. This marked the third time this season the junior caught at least 10 passes and the fourth time he’s gone over 100 yards.

Good show, Spruce. Even in a loss.

 

Dominant Defender: Su'a Cravens, USC

USC’s standout safety has been working at linebacker, and the experiment has been a smashing success thus far. Just ask Oregon State.

Cravens finished with six tackles, a sack and two total tackles for loss against the Beavers on Saturday. His biggest play, however, came when he intercepted a Sean Mannion pass and returned it 31 yards for the first touchdown of the game.

When he wasn’t providing stat sheet material, he was flying all over the field. The true sophomore has quickly become one of the nation’s premier defensive players, and he showcased this again—at a new position—in Week 5.

 

Video Game Box Score

-The entire Cal-Colorado box score is basically a football science experiment: 112 points, 1,205 yards and 63 first downs. Oh, and we’re just getting started. Colorado QB Sefo Liufau and Cal QB Jared Goff each threw for 449 yards, seven touchdowns and one interception in the same game. Football is weird, man.

-How’s this for production? Cincinnati wideout Chris Moore caught three passes for 221 yards and, you guessed it, three touchdowns. That averages out to a cool 73.7 yards per catch and a touchdown on 100 percent of his touches. (So maybe I didn’t have to do the math on the second part, but it was served to you anyways.)

 

Anti-Video Game Box Score

-Oh, SMU. Through four games, the Mustangs have been outscored 202-12. That’s not a typo; it’s just a difficult number to wrap your head around, as is the fact that the SMU offense has zero rushing touchdowns on the year while carrying the ball 126 times for 183 yards. Stay tuned—there will be more visits to come.

-Texas Tech is not doing itself any favors on defense, although the offense isn’t exactly helping, either. Behold a disturbing takeaway that pretty much outlines the life of a struggling football program.

Unbelievably, Texas Tech has now lost the turnover battle in 12 straight games - a full season's worth. 31 giveaways, 12 takeaways.

— Zach Barnett (@zach_barnett) September 26, 2014

 

Biggest Surprise

Although Arkansas was unable to hold onto the victory, Bret Bielema—who met his wife at a blackjack table in Las Vegas—did have the most successful gamble of the week.

With less than two minutes remaining in the first half, Bielema called a fake punt on the Hogs’ side of the field. That’s when punter Sam Irwin-Hill—who just so happens to be ambidextrous—took off and went 51 yards for the touchdown.

It was unexpected, and it was brilliant.

You expected that the punter would be tackled eventually, although Irwin-Hill just kept running into open air until he was no longer required. This gamble gave Arkansas a seven-point lead at the half.

Don’t ask about the rest of the game; just enjoy the lovely little fake and let’s move on.

 

Best Moment

There is another side of the heartbreak that Arkansas is probably still coping with. On the opposite end of the emotion spectrum is overwhelming joy, and Texas A&M—having experienced plenty of this already in 2014—celebrated a comeback win accordingly in Jerry’s World.

The only thing bad about Kevin Sumlin locker room celebrations is that we’re not there to partake in the fun.

Seriously, where’s the invite?

 

For the Highlight Reel

It looked like the kind of play you’d see in flag football, only it came in an actual college football game against the defending national champions.

North Carolina State quarterback Jacoby Brissett, the former Florida Gators product, delivered one of the best, strangest and most athletic plays you will see a QB make. He was nearly tackled—a few times, actually—but he was able to roll out and eventually find a teammate for a touchdown.

Watch it a few times; it still won’t make much sense (I’ve tried).

Oh, and as a follow-up play, Brissett also completed a pass from his back. Now he’s just showing off.

 

For the Anti-Highlight Reel

If you enjoyed seeing two Florida offensive linemen block one another last season—and I assume you are nodding at this point; otherwise, we can no longer be friends—then, buddy, you are in for a treat.

Behold the sequel: Two Penn State linemen blocking each other, which is the only recap you need to read on Penn State’s loss to Northwestern.

 

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

Even though Oregon and Oklahoma were both off this week, I made a switch between the No. 1 and No. 2 teams after rewatching the Ducks’ game against Washington State. That offensive line for Oregon is an enormous liability, although the Ducks are still very much in the mix.

Please express your anger with these picks and exclusions accordingly. And remember, it’s personal. I'm picking these four teams in an effort to make you angry.

1. Oklahoma

2. Oregon

3. Texas A&M

4. Alabama

 

Five Leftovers to Chew on

1. The situation at Michigan has gone from dumpster fire to an even bigger dumpster fire. The decision to leave quarterback Shane Morris in the game after taking a brutal helmet-to-helmet hit—which can be seen here—was inexcusable. The outrage was performance-related before, although it’s more than that after Saturday. You can place the blame in a variety of different places, but it’s an ugly situation regardless. Stay tuned.

2. Clemson quarterback DeShaun Watson is going to be a star. Heck, he might be one already. The true freshman threw for 435 yards and six touchdowns against North Carolina, and he just looks so much more advanced than most QBs his age. Yes, you could probably throw for at least 250 yards against UNC, but that doesn't change the point that he’s required viewing.

3. Charlie Weis has been relieved of his duties, which means Kansas is looking for a coach. When it comes to a replacement, I’d love to see Memphis head coach Justin Fuente get a look. Fuente has done a brilliant job building from the ground up in Memphis, a team that has improved a great deal in recent years. With more resources and a bigger footprint, I think he would excel in this spot. Then again, perhaps he should hold out for a better opportunity if Kansas comes a calling.

4. Missouri deserves the utmost kudos for basically flipping the script against South Carolina from a season ago. The team is by no means perfect, although the Tigers are as live as anyone in the SEC East. Getting a win in Columbia—the other Columbia—is a feat we could not have envisioned before last season. My how things have changed. Oh, and Missouri is 15-4 against the spread in its last 19 games. Not bad.

5. Let's look ahead real quick. The Week 6 slate of games has to be one of the better Saturdays the sport has seen in some time. There are so many quality matchups buried beneath the obvious picks: Ole Miss-Alabama, Mississippi State-Texas A&M, LSU-Auburn and Stanford-Notre Dame. Cancel all plans and lock yourself in the room for the day. Destroy your cell phone if you have to.

 

Large Man Play of the Week

We were deprived of a FAT GUY TOUCHDOWN this week, although Auburn defensive tackle Montravius Adams—who awesomely sports No. 1—nearly went the distance on an interception.

Oh, we were this close.

Adams, who checks in at 306 pounds according to his bio, moves entirely too well for a man his size. Although he was unable to make it across the goal line, the efforts of large human beings, as always, deserve your utmost appreciation.

 

This Week in Strength-Coach Tackling

Do you have your Weird Football Bingo Cards handy? You do? Well, go ahead and cross off “strength coach for a major college football program tackles a fan who ran on the field.”

Apparently, Anthony Schlegel, an assistant strength coach at Ohio State, had seen enough of the fan running on the field. So he decided to intervene. 

I could describe the scene further, although that’s why YouTube was invented.

There was not a better tackle from this past weekend, as outlined by the image below. I feel like his neck vein could win a few fights by itself.

OSU assistant strength coach Anthony Schlegel taught a lesson to a fan who ran on the field. http://t.co/MKPXREY5GXpic.twitter.com/sF62blMXkY

— ESPN CollegeFootball (@ESPNCFB) September 28, 2014

 

This Week in Coordinated Facepalms

Disappointment can be art, no matter what anyone tries to tell you. To prove this point, I present to you the following Texas Tech sideline reaction from Thursday night’s loss at Oklahoma State.

It’s as if they were following a script (and doing so brilliantly).

Sometimes one faceplam just isn’t enough.

 

This Week in Steve Spurrier Tumbles

You know how you never get invited to play golf with Steve Spurrier? You either a) beat him in a crucial conference game or b) run into him on the sideline, knocking him to his knees. 

Oh, Maty Mauk. And I’ll bet Steve Spurrier plays a lot of nice courses, too.

 

The Amazing, Ridiculous and Absurd Safety That Never Was

Behold TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin trying to make the most out of a bad snap by throwing it...directly into the bottom of a the goal post. But SMU was offsides, so TCU was granted a do-over and five extra yards.

This has to be the most exciting five-yard offsides penalty in the history of mankind.

(This is where I point out that these two points would have been more than 10 percent of SMU’s total scoring this season.)

 

As the World Turns: The Turbulent and Chaotic Life of an Offensive Lineman

To truly appreciate the life an offensive lineman, you need the appropriate tune. And to help us set the appropriate mood for the play you will watch momentarily, you should hit listen to this song and let it flow through your blood stream.

All set? Good.

With Step 1 complete, let us turn our attention to Arizona State’s Christian Westerman. On Thursday night against UCLA, Westerman was unable to track down the chaos that surrounded him. Instead, he slowly drifted into nothing, and it made for a truly exceptional Vine.

It can indeed be a very mad world for offensive linemen.

 

The Child-Birthing Class Moment of the Week

Perplexed by the text above? I would imagine so. Here’s a tweet that came across during Thursday night’s Oklahoma State-Texas Tech game.

This guy is the MVP of our childbirth class pic.twitter.com/fXisjKnrQa

— Matt Amilian (@mattamilian) September 26, 2014

Now, this one hits home. I only recently graduated—for lack of a better term—from my own child-birthing class as my wife and I prepare for our first. From my own experiences, I can confirm that streaming, tweeting and texting in this kind of environment can be remarkably difficult.

It takes a real pro to accomplish this, and this gentleman pulled it off. I can only hope that the WiFi cooperated.

 

From the Peanut Gallery (Best Tweets of the Weekend)

SMU's starting QB is really good https://t.co/ae2q8KyEXU

— Patrick Burns (@patjburns) September 27, 2014

"Did someone say game day?" https://t.co/nel2xbKgSA

— TUSK Arkansas Mascot (@Tusk_UA) September 26, 2014

Peyton going w/ the "Dad" look pic.twitter.com/so3n2f5RVr

— Michael Necci (@manecci) September 27, 2014

Bielema throwing the ball, Clooney married. Up is down. Hold your loved ones close.

— Bunkie Perkins (@BunkiePerkins) September 27, 2014

And they're using rotary dial phones in 2014... #NDvsCUSEpic.twitter.com/rj6aQBO4fE

— Eric Stangel (@EricStangel) September 28, 2014

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Michigan Football: Game-by-Game Predictions for the Month of October

Six weeks ago, a 9-3 record was an attainable goal for Michigan’s Team 135.

However, recent events suggest otherwise, as the Wolverines again find themselves washing away the stale taste of another embarrassing home loss—this time 30-14 to Minnesota—and look barely capable of winning five or six games.

The “easy” part of the schedule wasn’t as easy as it should (could) have been. Coach Brady Hoke’s team suffered a pair of nonconference setbacks (Notre Dame, Utah) before entering Big Ten play, and droves of analysts and experts see a bleak finish to 2014.

But during his postgame press conference this past Saturday, Hoke made it clear that he’s holding on to something that’s becoming more of a dream than a potential reality.

“This team can still win a [Big Ten] championship,” he said.

With a stroke of divine luck, sure—that could happen. But the Wolverines (2-3) must first figure out how they’re going to escape October.

This slideshow will predict the outcome of Michigan’s upcoming October schedule, which will end with either treats or cruel tricks.

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes and references to were obtained firsthand.

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Ohio State Football: Game-by-Game Predictions for the Month of October

As September gives way to October, the No. 20 Ohio State Buckeyes (3-1) are ready to move past their nonconference slate and kick off a potential Big Ten title run.

Ohio State enters league play with some momentum after back-to-back routs of intrastate opponents. The Buckeyes blasted Kent State in a 66-0 shutout, and after a week off, they piled up 710 yards of total offense in a 50-28 victory over Cincinnati.

The Buckeyes needed that positive momentum after falling at home for the first time under Urban Meyer in Week 2, when the Virginia Tech Hokies blitzed their way to a 35-21 upset win.

With Big Ten play looming, Ohio State will face off against the league's two newest members—Maryland and Rutgers—before a showdown against Penn State in Happy Valley. 

Here are the Buckeyes' game-by-game predictions for the month of October. 

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Brady Hoke Comments on Decision to Let QB Shane Morris Return After Hit to Head

Michigan Wolverines head football coach Brady Hoke has been under enough fire for how underwhelming his storied program has performed on the field. After a bad 30-14 loss to Minnesota on Saturday, he faced criticism for the handling of injured quarterback Shane Morris.

The sophomore signal-caller took a big hit in the fourth quarter that forced him to the sideline, but Hoke reinserted him into the game after just one play off. Morris was later carted off the field.

Nicole Auerbach of USA Today documented Hoke's statement on the matter from Sunday, which makes no mention of a potential head injury Morris may have sustained:

ESPN's Adam Rittenberg offered his take:

Bleacher Report's Michael Felder weighed in on the situation before Hoke's comments were released:

Morris was just 7-of-19 passing for 49 yards and an interception with shabby protection throughout the game against the Big Ten rival Golden Gophers.

Asked after the game whether he thought Morris had a concussion, Hoke provided a somewhat muddled answer that he attempted to clarify somewhat in his latest remarks.

"I don't know if he had a concussion or not, I don't know that," said Hoke, via MLive.com's Nick Baumgardner. "Shane's a pretty competitive, tough kid. And Shane wanted to be the quarterback, and so, believe me, if he didn't want to be he would've come to the sideline or stayed down."

The current climate Michigan is operating in doesn't exactly promote a prompt transition under center. Morris is attempting to establish himself as the face of the program's future in bypassing Devin Gardner on the depth chart, and thus far it's going poorly.

This is yet another dynamic that is hurting Hoke's clout as coach, and with three losses already in 2014, he may be shown the door soon enough. Based on the footage of the hit Morris took that ultimately forced him to leave Saturday's game, the fact that Hoke didn't acknowledge the possibility of Morris hurting his head won't do much to promote Hoke's precarious popularity.

Next up for Michigan is a road trip to Rutgers before hosting Penn State and a tough contest away from home with rival Michigan State. Between an uncertain QB situation and this latest controversy, Hoke's seat is indeed hot.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Alabama Football: Tide Will Be Fueled Again by Latest Media Shot from Ole Miss

In case this week’s epic Alabama vs. Ole Miss showdown needed any more fuel, Rebels safety Cody Prewitt just gave it some more.

After Ole Miss’ 24-3 scrap with Memphis that assured the Rebels would be undefeated when they face Alabama, Prewitt said this, according to Fox Sports’ Brandon Speck:

"We understand that we haven't played a team that's going to be as good as Bama. But we don't really think Bama is as good as they have been. And we're better than we have been. We're looking forward to getting to the game plan and really nailing down all the tweaks and stuff that we're going to have to put into Bama."

Confidence is never a bad thing. And this isn’t exactly a massive dig at Alabama. But it’s still not what Ole Miss needed.

One of its players called out Alabama last year, and it didn’t work out too well. Now the Crimson Tide will have similar motivation and could get a similar result in the end.

Last season, it was Rebels quarterback Bo Wallace.

"Yeah, I think we can put points on them," Wallace said, according to AL.com’s Michael Casagrande. "I think we can put points on anybody. We just have to show up and play. It's the same thing every week, let's stay on schedule, control the tempo and don't have any turnovers."

Wallace was wrong, in a big way.

The Alabama defense held the Rebels off the board completely in a 25-0 shutout in Bryant-Denny Stadium. The defense even sacked Wallace in the end zone for a safety late in the game just for good measure.

Alabama avoided discussing Wallace’s comments before the game, sticking to the party line of we-only-focus-on-ourselves.

But afterward, it was clear it heard Wallace’s message loud and clear.

There was junior defensive end Jeoffrey Pagan: “After hearing all the trash they were talking in the media, it just really played a big role for us to come out and dominate these guys.”

And cornerback Deion Belue: “Just the fact that [Ole Miss] came at us like that because of a bad game, we had a chip on our shoulder.”

And the normally soft-spoken C.J. Mosley, heart of that 2013 defense: “They called us out. And we answered the bell.”

So you can be sure that this year’s Alabama team will see what Prewitt said, even if Prewitt didn’t intend it to be seen that way, and even if Crimson Tide players don’t acknowledge it this week.

Is Prewitt right, though? Is Alabama really not as good as it has been in the past? Through four games, it’s hard to see it like that.

On defense, he may be right.

Alabama is giving up 4.51 yards per play so far, per CFBStats.com. That’s a little bit more than in championship years of 2012 (4.18), 2011 (3.32) and 2009 (4.08).

The Crimson Tide is facing offenses that put up more and more yards every year, especially when compared to 2009 and even 2011. It also, though, hasn’t seen a lot of those offenses yet this year, as it’s only faced one SEC team so far: Florida, which is 10th in the conference in yards per game.

But where there is assuredly no basis for Prewitt’s claims, it’s on offense, where new coordinator Lane Kiffin has largely maximized the offense’s skill-position players, turned Blake Sims into one of the conference’s best quarterbacks and made Alabama an offensive juggernaut.

Those numbers don’t look anything like the Alabama of the past. They look a lot better.

And it’s the side of the ball that Prewitt will be tasked with stopping.

Ole Miss might have the best secondary Alabama has faced so far and will face this year. Prewitt, Tony Conner and Trae Elston make up one of the best safety groups in the SEC.

That secondary has so far made life miserable for the quarterbacks it has faced, racking up nine interceptions through four games to lead the conference. It will be a big road test for the first-year quarterback Sims.

But Prewitt’s words will surely hit the ears of Sims, wide receiver Amari Cooper, running back T.J. Yeldon and the rest of the Crimson Tide offense.

Last year, Alabama’s defense got called out. This year, it was a defensive player delivering those words.

It’s likely going to be a recipe for more of the same.

 

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

Follow on Twitter @marctorrence.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Brady Hoke Running out of Excuses as Pressure Mounts at Michigan

Brady Hoke's most fireable offense Saturday had nothing to do with a scoreboard. It was totally unrelated to the 183 yards the Wolverine defense allowed to David Cobb on the ground or the pitiful 171 yards Hoke's hapless attack put up. It didn't even have anything to do with Hoke's postgame comments, in which he told reporters, via ESPN, his insipid team can still win a Big Ten championship.

No, Hoke's most fireable offense came early in the fourth quarter when quarterback Shane Morris took a hard hit from Minnesota defensive end Thieren Cockran. Anyone with working eyes could see Morris was hurt—possibly with a concussion. He remained in the game for a subsequent play before being taken out for Devin Gardner, which wouldn't be so bad if for not what came after.

Later in the drive Gardner lost his helmet on an 11-yard run. By rule, he'd have to sit out a play. Rather than putting in third-stringer Russell Bellomy, who everyone (including Bellomy himself) thought would enter the game, Hoke re-inserted the obviously shaken up Morris for a handoff to Justice Hayes.

Morris would later leave the stadium on a cart, according to Nick Baumgardner of MLive. There has been no official word on Morris' condition, but Hoke, like any responsible adult, took responsibility and said he was wrong to have put a kid in that situation, right?

Nope!

"I don't know if he had a concussion or not; I don't know that," Hoke told reporters. "Shane's a pretty competitive, tough kid. And Shane wanted to be the quarterback, and so, believe me, if he didn't want to be, he would've come to the sideline or stayed down."

Never mind all of the information we have at our disposal about concussions. Never mind the fact that two years ago Michigan was being praised for being on the "cutting edge" of concussion research and treatment. Never mind that Morris sat out only three plays—barely long enough for a doctor to shine that little light in your ear canals, let alone perform a full concussion exam.

That quote is problematic on every single level. First, there is a 55-year-old football coach putting a decision in the hands of his (possibly concussed) 20-year-old quarterback. Shane Morris might have said he was good to go, but who wouldn't have? Morris is a struggling sophomore in his second start and was about to give way to a senior in his third season as a regular contributor under center. Plus there's the whole possibly concussed thing. 

Coaches and, by proxy, their schools/franchises far too often put the onus on a player to clear himself—to prove his "toughness" and "leadership"—rather than consulting with medical professionals. Or even standard human empathy. 

“That No. 7 is still in this game is appalling. It is appalling that he was left in on that play to throw the ball again as badly as he was hit by Cockran,” ESPN's Ed Cunningham said on the broadcast, per Nick Schwartz of USA Today.

I can't say for certain Hoke knew Morris was concussed. No one can. But it was obvious to anyone watching the game—whether on television or from the Coca-Cola swigging stands—that Shane Morris should not have been playing football.

The Morris situation is merely the latest black eye for Hoke, who is on the precipice of following Charlie Weis as the second Power Five coach sent packing before season's end.

Michigan's loss Saturday drops its record to 2-3, including an 0-3 mark against teams with a pulse. The Wolverines earned cheap early-season wins against Appalachian State and Miami (Ohio), the former a 1-3 FCS outfit and the latter possibly the worst FBS team in the nation. Notre Dame, Utah and Minnesota—the actual, functioning football teams—have outscored Michigan 87-24. 

And keep in mind we're being kind in complimenting those teams. Notre Dame is ranked in the Top 10, but hasn't been tested yet. Utah and Minnesota are also-rans in their respective conferences that will be happy to make a bowl game. All three have nonetheless landed gut punch after gut punch, defanging the Wolverines and turning them into LOLCats.

Michigan sits 104th in points scored, 108th in passing yards and is 127th out of 128 FBS teams in turnover margin. New offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier looks like a bust. His system has found uses for talented stars Derrick Green and Devin Funchess but has been totally unable to mask its deficiencies; Morris and Gardner have combined for nine interceptions against five touchdowns (all from Gardner).

It's almost unfathomable that this is the same guy who looked like a savior three seasons ago. Equipped with ready-made players from the Rich Rodriguez era—who, given what he's accomplished at Arizona, might be less at fault for his failures in Ann Arbor than previously thought—Hoke led Michigan to a 11-2 record and its first BCS bowl victory in more than a decade.

The plaudits quickly followed: Big Ten Coach of the Year. Maxwell Club Coach of the Year. You name it, Hoke won it and it all felt deserved. Even as recently as last September members of the media were excusing underperformance by giving him backhanded compliments like "at least he's not Rich Rodriguez."

Now even the most strident Rodriguez detractor would swap places with Arizona in an instant. Now Michigan is the clear little brother of Michigan State—a Freaky Friday body switch that only Lakers fans living in a Clippers town can understand. Now rather than praising Hoke he's one of college football's most embattled coaches, facing questions of whether he put an obviously injured kid into a game his team was already losing 30-7.

I'm not an advocate of writing people should lose their livelihood. That part of sports media culture has always been a bit unseemly. That level of harshness is more befitting of politics, where decision-makers hold, like, important things in their hands.

But the incredulity displayed when Hoke re-inserted Morris was justified. As is the frustration with Michigan—one of the most well-funded programs in the nation—failing to perform on the field. Combine it all and Brady Hoke is standing on the thinnest ice imaginable.

One more slip up and don't be surprised if he falls through.

 

Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Freshman Power Rankings of the Week: Top 5

By this time next week, the 2014 season will already be in October. Freshman players across college football are growing up so fast, aren't they?

Before we know it, they'll be declaring for the NFL or graduating.  

In the meantime, the B/R freshman power rankings are chugging along, highlighting some of the best performances of the week. 

The freshmen on this list didn't technically have to start—as in, they didn't have to be the first player on the field at their respective position—but they did have to play at least a complementary or rotational role with at least one recordable stat. 

So which freshmen stood out in Week 5? Which ones had the most jaw-dropping highlights? Which ones underwhelmed? The answers are in the list below.

 

The Standout

Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson stood out above the rest. The Tigers have officially moved on from senior Cole Stoudt and are going with the true freshman. And what a debut it was for Watson in a 50-35 win over North Carolina in which he threw for six touchdowns, a school record, and 435 yards. 

"He makes the game look easy," said head coach Dabo Swinney, per Aaron Brenner of The Post and Courier

Barring injury or an unexpected turn for the worse, Watson will be the guy for Clemson going forward. His ceiling is high, and he's already taking command of the spotlight. He's going to be a good one. 

 

Best Highlight

Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya has quietly been solid for the Hurricanes. In a 22-10 win over Duke Saturday, Kaaya delivered one of the best-looking touchdown passes of the day—on a fourth-down play, no less. 

Kaaya was pressured, but he hung in the pocket and somehow made an accurate throw to the corner of the end zone while being hit. There's a little bit of good fortune involved as well, but this was a beautiful play—even though it came as a result of a breakdown in protection.

Kaaya looks like the next star for the Hurricanes, that's for sure. 

 

Who’s Rising?

LSU quarterback Brandon Harris is on the rise. It may finally be the Harris show in Baton Rouge after an easy 63-7 rout over New Mexico State.

Yes, the Aggies aren't much competition, but sophomore Anthony Jennings again struggled with a pair of interceptions on just 2-of-5 passing. In relief, Harris went 11-of-14 for 178 yards and three touchdowns while adding another two rushing touchdowns on the ground.

LSU goes to Auburn next week, a major challenge for whoever is the starting quarterback. Head coach Les Mileswon't say if Harris will get the start, but if Saturday was any indication, Harris has a shot. 

 

Who’s Falling?

Texas A&M defensive back Armani Watts is on the decline. Watts has been fantastic in the early part of the season, leading the team with four pass breakups. In fact, there's a case to be made that he's been the most outstanding freshman so far. But he had a rough game in a come-from-behind win over Arkansas. 

Watts was burned more than a couple of times on some big plays from the Razorbacks. He was also out of position on another would-be touchdown that was called back for a penalty. 

Watts will bounce back, and A&M got the win, so no harm, no foul. But it was definitely a "welcome to college" game for the freshman. 

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. All quotes cited unless obtained firsthand. 

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Coaches Poll Right with Alabama over Florida State, but Tide Shouldn't Be No. 1

Ah, college football. It's a wondrous sport where we all claim not to care about subjective rankings even though we all care immensely about subjective rankings.

Take this week, for example. 

After Florida State narrowly escaped Carter-Finley Stadium—its personal Bermuda Triangle—with a 56-41 win over N.C. State, Alabama jumped the Seminoles to take over the No. 1 spot in the Amway coaches' poll, earning 15 first-place votes and 1,477 total points.

Associated Press voters didn't share the same sentiment, as they kept Florida State in the top spot in their latest poll with Alabama holding firm in the No. 3 spot behind Oregon.

They're both wrong, because Oklahoma has proven throughout the season that it is a complete football team in every facet of the game and deserves to be ranked No. 1.

The coaches (or SIDs, if you prefer) did get it right this week by voting Alabama above Florida State.

What has Florida State done this year to earn that No. 1 designation over Alabama, Oklahoma or Oregon?

Nothing.

The claim to fame for the Seminoles this year is that they're the defending national champs and are sporting a 4-0 record. The latter is important, because losses matter. The former, however, is meaningless.

Florida State has looked sluggish in every single game they've played this year. The offensive line—which was thought to be a strength—has looked average at best and mediocre at worst for the majority of the season. The 'Noles rank next to last in the ACC in rushing offense at 123.75 yards per game. The defensive line has struggled to force teams behind the chains. They're tied last in the ACC with 22 tackles for loss and have managed just six sacks this season—the second-worst mark in the conference.

Meanwhile, Alabama has gradually looked more and more like a contender.

The cornerback issues that re-appeared in the season opener against West Virginia have disappeared thanks to the emergence of Eddie Jackson and Tony Brown. Quarterback Blake Sims progressed from a game manager to a difference-maker, lighting up Florida with 445 passing yards and four touchdowns in his most recent game—a 42-21 win over Florida.

It was clear that Alabama's coaches were unsure of what their team really was in the season opener, so they played conservative, brought the team along slowly, and it came together in the fourth game of the season. Florida State hasn't done that.

In fact, many of the questions that exist in Tallahassee now are surprises, particularly the protection issues along an offensive line that has five seniors and 112 combined starts, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

Sure, Florida State has a nice win over a ranked Oklahoma State team on its resume, and wins over Clemson and N.C. State are nice; but quality wins are only one—lesser—component that should be used in ranking teams. 

On the field, Alabama has proven that it is a more complete football team right now and deserves to be ranked ahead of the Seminoles.

Oregon does, too, because while the Ducks do have offensive line issues of their own and struggled to put away Washington State two weeks ago, they do have the best win of any team in the Top Five—a 46-27 win over No. 10 Michigan State.

They all should be chasing Oklahoma, though.

The Sooners have outscored their opposition 144-66, boast a stifling front seven, tremendous running game with first Keith Ford and now Samaje Perine and a dynamic playmaker at quarterback in Trevor Knight. Sure, the Sooners' strength of schedule isn't great, but they did beat West Virginia by double digits in Morgantown, which gives them a common opponent card to play over Alabama in addition to their consistency throughout the year.

It's nice to see the coaches poll remaining fluid, though. Rankings are supposed to reflect work performed this year. This year, Alabama has proven that it deserves to be ranked higher than Florida State during the first month of the season.

Oklahoma and Oregon have, too, for that matter.

 

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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NCAA Football Rankings 2014: Hits and Misses from Week 5

Week 5 of the 2014 college football season is in the books. As is customary every Sunday, The Associated Press and USA Today released their new top 25 polls. You can also check out the latest Bleacher Report Top 25 for comparison. 

It was an action-packed weekend for featuring just one game (UCLA-Arizona State) between Top-25 teams. Florida State survived and advanced against North Carolina State, and South Carolina was upset at home by Missouri. 

And, now, voters get to rank teams while trying to simultaneously ignore transitive properties. Good luck, everyone. 

So which teams were appropriately ranked in the latest Top 25 polls? Which ones weren't? The answers are in the following slides. 

Begin Slideshow

AP College Football Poll 2014: Complete Week 6 Rankings Released

Look at the postgame records, and Week 5 looked like a typically mundane early-season college football slate. If you watched the games on Saturday, though, you quickly realized it was anything but.

Top-ranked Florida State and every other Top 10 team was able to hold steady. It just wasn't without some scares. The Seminoles came back from a 10-point second-half deficit against North Carolina State, Texas A&M needed overtime to take down Arkansas, and a host of the nation's best teams looked much more vulnerable than they'd have liked.   

Of course, vulnerability only matters when it causes a loss. Despite the handwringing from Tallahassee to College Station and beyond, the Week 6 Associated Press poll looks much like the last iteration. Florida State leads one of the more inert Top 25s in recent memory, as all but one ranked team came away victorious against unranked opponents.

That team, of course, was South Carolina, which collapsed down the stretch in a 21-20 loss to Missouri. Russell Hansbrough scored two rushing touchdowns in the final 6:49 to erase a 13-point deficit, and the Gamecocks' potential game-winning drive stalled at their own 25, as Steve Spurrier's team fell to a disappointing 3-2.

"Our defensive players were really ready to play," Spurrier told reporters after the game. "I thought we would do a little better offensively. Obviously, Missouri is a lot better team than what they showed last week. They came to play. We had our chances, but we didn't get it done."

South Carolina came into 2014 expected by some to compete for its first SEC championship under Spurrier—if not enter the national title picture. Instead, inconsistencies on both sides of the ball have made it highly unlikely the Gamecocks can even overcome the weaker SEC East. The loss was already their second in the conference, with a third very likely coming next month when they travel to Auburn.

Dr. Saturday of Yahoo Sports weighed in on what the Gamecocks' loss meant for the SEC East:

The first team that took down Spurrier and Co., Texas A&M, was almost an upset victim itself in its second SEC game of the season. Controlling the game on the ground, Arkansas rushed for 285 yards and three touchdowns while Brandon Allen offered a steady hand under center as the Razorbacks led 28-14 going into the fourth quarter.

Two long Kenny Hill touchdowns later—86 yards to Edward Pope and 59 to Josh Reynolds, the latter coming with two minutes remaining—and Texas A&M had forced overtime. Hill needed one play in the extra period to find Malcome Kennedy for a 25-yard touchdown, and the Aggies defense held Alex Collins to no gain on a 4th-and-1 at the 16-yard line to close it out.

"In order to win a game like that, it takes a complete team. Every phase had its poor moments in the first half. Offensively, we were a beat off. Defensively, we gave up some big plays, and special teams, we gave up a fake," coach Kevin Sumlin told reporters. "Our defense stopped them not just in overtime, but on the last couple series."

For all of the individual accomplishments of the past couple of seasons, Texas A&M may have its best all-around team under Sumlin. The program is 5-0 for the first time since 2001 and will have an opportunity to make a real statement over the next three weeks. The Aggies open October traveling to Mississippi State and then host Ole Miss before a matchup with Alabama in Tuscaloosa.

An 8-0 start and Texas A&M might find itself atop every major poll.

Teams like Texas A&M have a shot at the No. 1 slot because Florida State continues to give hints that it is not the same monolith as last season. The Seminoles went down 24-7 to NC State in the first half and were losing 38-28 late in the third quarter before scoring 28 of the day's final 31 points to come away with a 56-41 win.

Florida State, which allowed 20 points or more just once during the regular season during its national championship run in 2013, has already doubled that mark. More concerning, it's allowed two teams to come within a touchdown—feats that did not happen at all until the national title game last season.

"When's the last time the offense and defense actually clicked on the same note?" Jameis Winston, who threw for 365 yards and four touchdowns in his return to the starting lineup, told reporters. "I don't know. We've got so much potential. We've got so much to look for. I'm telling you, that's the most exciting part."

The Seminoles will have to get better fast. Their next two games are essentially gimmes against Wake Forest and Syracuse, but a surging Notre Dame squad awaits on Oct. 18. The Fighting Irish have won each of their games by two touchdowns or more and are firing on all cylinders heading into next week's matchup with Stanford.

Notre Dame ranks fourth nationally in points against per game, and Everett Golson has picked up right where he left off in 2012 after missing all of 2013 with academic issues. Golson is completing nearly 70 percent of his passes and has thrown 11 touchdowns against two interceptions. He completed a Notre Dame record 25 straight passes in Saturday's 31-15 win over Syracuse.

As for the rest of the Top 25, the noteworthy results were few and far between. Georgia escaped its second SEC loss against Tennessee thanks to a career-best day from Todd Gurley. Brett Hundley reminded everyone why he's considered a potential first-round draft choice in a 62-27 blowout of Arizona State on Thursday night. Stanford got a five-yard touchdown run from Kevin Hogan with less than five minutes remaining to escape Washington with a 20-13 win.

The ranked teams changed by a product of two, as South Carolina and Arizona State dropped out. The Bruins' defeat of the Sun Devils led to a tie for the greatest leap of teams in last week's Top 25, as they moved up to No. 8 from No. 11. Oklahoma State moved up three spots to No. 21 after beating Texas Tech.

Moving into the rankings are Missouri and TCU. The Horned Frogs are 3-0 following their 56-0 rout of SMU. They will get a chance to stake their claim in the conference title race against Oklahoma next week. 

 

Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter

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College Football Rankings 2014: Twitter Reacts to AP and Amway Week 6 Polls

Oh, how the mighty have fallen in college football. 

After spending the first five weeks of the season at No. 1 in the Amway Poll, Florida State dropped to No. 2 behind Alabama. The Crimson Tide had the week off, but took over the top spot in the Coaches Poll thanks to a dominant start.

Jameis Winston and the Seminoles were No. 1 in the Week 6 Associated Press poll following a come-from-behind victory against NC State. FSU remains inside the top four in both polls, but the foundation has clearly cracked for the undefeated team.

Here's a look at both polls and where the top teams ranked.

*Associated Press poll can be found here. Amway poll can be found here.

 

Reaction

The Amway Poll has been under fire this season for some questionable results at times, but the drop of Florida State made serious waves.

Despite receiving 26 first-place votes—11 more than Alabama—FSU was unable to retain the top spot. Stewart Mandel of Fox Sports passed along his thoughts on the change:

The Seminoles were gutted by NC State on Saturday, allowing 24 points in the first quarter and ultimately 41 throughout the game. Winston was overshadowed at times by Jacoby Brissett, but was able to do enough late to win by a final of 56-41.

David Hale of ESPN provided some surprising statistics for Brissett against the once imposing FSU blitz:

Not much can be said for Alabama moving up, because it was simply about Florida State not meeting expectations. The Tide will get a chance to prove why they should remain the No. 1 team in the Coaches Poll on the road against Ole Miss this weekend.

Jon Solomon of CBS Sports noted the reason for the change even with the Tide on a bye:

In fact, the performance against the Wolfpack was enough to drop the Seminoles outside of the Top Four for at least one AP voter. Brett McMurphy of ESPN passed along his ballot prior to the release:

Confidence in Texas A&M stems from yet another crucial victory as the Aggies dropped Arkansas. Texas A&M faces tough tests ahead against Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Alabama, but has looked like one of the best teams in the country thus far.

College GameDay notes just how impressive Kenny Hill has been in clutch situations:

Several SEC team might be on the rise, but another took a dramatic drop in both polls.

An erratic start has South Carolina outside of the Amway Poll following its 21-20 loss to Missouri. The Gamecocks had moved up as high as No. 13 in the AP Poll thanks to three consecutive wins, but fell to 3-2 on the season after the loss.

David Morrison of the Columbia Daily Tribune notes Mizzou is actually ahead of South Carolina in the Amway Poll:

Arizona State also saw its stock plummet after a blowout loss to UCLA while 3-0 TCU entered the Amway Poll for the first time. Needless to say, the college football landscape continues to see shakeups with some of the best matchups of the year coming up.

The Sun Devils have fallen on hard times, but other Pac-12 programs continue to impress.

UCLA continues to build its case as one of the best in the conference, jumping into the top 10 in both polls. Matters for the team are looking even better with Brett Hundley getting healthier, as Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports points out:

An easy road lies ahead for the 'Noles against Wake Forest and Syracuse while other top teams have a tough slate. Nothing is certain in college football, even when it comes to a team with 20 straight wins.

A troubling performance for the Seminoles raised some questions about their chances at another title, but it's still early in the season. FSU remains one of the top-four programs in both polls and still looks like a College Football Playoff team.

 

Follow @RCorySmith on Twitter.

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College Football Rankings 2014: Week 6 AP and Amway Standings Revealed

The 2014 college football regular season has lived up to the lofty expectations, and fans of the sport are now looking to the Week 6 rankings to see where their favorite (and least favorite) programs sit in the Top 25 polls.

It was a good week to be a ranked team. Besides losses from Arizona State and South Carolina, every ranked team that was in action in Week 5 was able to pull out a victory, no matter how ugly it was in some cases.

Here are the full Amway Coaches, Associated Press and Bleacher Report Top 25 polls and a breakdown of how Week 5 of the college football season shook out.

 

Breaking Down Week 5

Week 5 of the 2014 college football regular season was filled with marquee wins and close calls for some of the top programs in the nation. While top-ranked teams like Alabama, Oregon and Oklahoma enjoyed a bye week, other schools were forced to scratch and claw for victories.

Few elite teams struggled the way the Florida State Seminoles did on Saturday when they beat NC State, 56-41. With quarterback Jameis Winston throwing two interceptions and the defense allowing 520 total yards of offense, FSU looked like a shell of the elite squad that entered the weekend No. 1 in the rankings. Luckily for Florida State, the program will play lackluster Wake Forest and Syracuse teams before facing off against Notre Dame on Oct. 18.

When asked about the recent struggles of his team, Seminoles head coach Jimbo Fisher spoke with reporters regarding what his team needs to do in order to overcome the recent adversity:

We can take a punch and stand up and compete. Now I'd rather start blocking and dodging some and playing, but there's something to that now. I'm going to tell you what: that takes time. That's a culture. That's the way you think, the way you believe in each other and there's a lot of inner trust in that locker room.

Speaking of the Fighting Irish, they were one of the top teams in the rankings that managed to dominate their opponent in Week 5. Along with Auburn, Baylor, Michigan State and Ole Miss, each of the aforementioned teams squared off against unranked programs and utterly dominated their foes.

The official Twitter of the ESPN Stats & Info department shared just how dominant Notre Dame has been through the early part of the season:

One team that didn’t dominate this week was Georgia. After a loss earlier this season to South Carolina (the Gamecocks lost Saturday to Missouri), the Bulldogs needed to mount a convincing victory against a less-talented Tennessee Volunteers roster. Unfortunately for Georgia fans, the 35-32 victory proved little about the Bulldogs as playoff contenders.

The most anticipated matchup for many fans took place on Thursday, when the UCLA Bruins squared off against the Arizona State Sun Devils. UCLA pounded Arizona State, 62-27, and showed exactly why the Bruins could be a surprise championship contender.

Texas A&M and Stanford pulled out hard-fought victories over tough competition, and other top programs like USC, Nebraska and Kansas State also managed to pull out much-needed wins.

It was a wild weekend in the sport of college football. For the fans who love the excitement of Saturdays, Week 5 lived up to expectations and has set the stage for an even more entertaining Week 6.

 

*Stats via ESPN.com.

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College Football Playoff 2014: Updated Outlook After Release of Week 6 Rankings

There's nothing quite like a close game or two to get the adrenaline flowing on game day.

Georgia narrowly got past Tennessee in a game that should not have been decided by just three points. Florida State edged NC State in a game that also should not have been nearly as close as it was. Texas A&M and Stanford each won by a touchdown, while South Carolina could not get anything going offensively against Missouri and lost.

Of course, there were the typical big wins from ranked teams as well. Michigan State, Kansas State, Ohio State, LSU and others put at least 50 points on the board en route to wins.

Both the Amway coaches poll and AP poll have seen some movement based on this week's results. Take a look at them below and continue reading to see how it impacts the future of the 2014 season.

 

Outlook

Florida State's ability to overcome a 24-7 first-quarter deficit against NC State showed the Seminoles' resilience. The Seminoles haven't had to overcome many on-field situations over the past season-plus, but watching them come back against the Wolfpack was a good sign.

Sure, they probably never should have been in such a big hole to begin with. That said, the team clawed all the way back and took the game by 15 points.

Jameis Winston threw two picks, but he had a nice rhythm going with Rashad Greene and Jesus Wilson. The two receivers combined for 17 catches, 234 yards and three touchdowns.

On the ground, Karlos Williams posted 126 yards and three touchdowns. Because he was able to constantly keep his feet moving forward, Williams effectively led most of the drives for Florida State.

The Seminoles' early struggles against the Wolfpack are a bit concerning, but the only thing that matters in the end is that they posted another victory. This team is clearly the class of college football right now.

LSU was dominant in its 63-7 drubbing of New Mexico State. Avenging their Week 4 loss to Mississippi State, the Tigers had everything working Saturday.

Brandon Harris looked crisp passing the ball, even if he aired it out only 14 times. That said, three of his 11 completions were touchdowns.

Leonard Fournette looked strong on the ground, gaining 122 yards on 18 carries and finding the end zone twice. Terrence Magee tallied 62 yards and also scored a touchdown on his eight carries.

Despite the big win, LSU didn't win the turnover battle. Both teams coughed the ball up four times, and while that might be expected of New Mexico State against a powerhouse like LSU, there's no excuse for the Tigers to be turning the ball over that much. That's a major concern moving forward, as it could ultimately inhibit them from rising higher up the rankings.

It'll be a long day for the Tigers on Oct. 4 if they don't fix their turnover problem, as Auburn will surely take advantage of poor passes and loose grips on the football. It's no secret as to what the Tigers should focus on in practice this week.

Texas A&M was down 14 points against Arkansas entering the fourth quarter, meaning Kenny Hill needed a bit of magic to help push his team to 5-0.

The Aggies defense held the Razorbacks to nothing in the fourth, allowing the offense to score the two touchdowns necessary to tie the game and send it to overtime. In overtime, Hill tossed a 25-yard pass to Malcome Kennedy for the game-winning score.

Despite completing only 21 of 41 passes, Hill looked strong overall. He tossed four touchdowns (one interception) and racked up 386 yards. He also tallied 30 yards rushing.

Mississippi State is next up on the schedule, and that will be a make-or-break game for A&M. Following Mississippi State, the schedule gets no easier. The Aggies will be tested by Ole Miss and Alabama in the following weeks, then by Auburn in Week 10 and LSU in Week 12. This trying portion of the schedule will determine if the Aggies are for real.

Their offensive output (51.2 points per game, second in the nation) would indicate that they have the weapons, but we'll have to see if they can keep up that pace against the best defenses in the country.

This team is arguably better than last year's group of Aggies, but we'll have to see if the schedule dictates its fate.

 

Follow Kenny DeJohn on Twitter: @KennyDeJohn_BR

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What Michigan Can Learn from Kansas' Firing of Charlie Weis

The coaching silly season is no longer reserved for November and December. It's become a months-long ordeal, and the first head coach to receive a pink slip (SMU coach June Jones resigned earlier this month) in 2014 was Kansas' Charlie Weis.

Another coach who could be on the way out sooner or later is Michigan's Brady Hoke after a disastrous 30-14 home loss to Minnesota. Since Hoke took over the program in 2011, the Wolverines have steadily declined. Hoke won the Sugar Bowl with Michigan in his first year, but he is off to a 2-3 start this season. 

There are a plethora of issues at Michigan, not all of which revolve solely around Hoke. Attendance is a problem and fans aren't happy at all with athletic director Dave Brandon and how he runs things. 

The easy out would be to fire Hoke (and Brandon?) right away, just like Kansas did with head coach Charlie Weis on Sunday, according to kuathletics.com, following a 23-0 loss to Texas.  

The consequences of midseason firings, while often unintended, can still have an impact. 

Firing coaches midseason is usually a Hail Mary attempt to save face at the expense of the players who pour their heart and soul into every game. To fire a coach before the leaves turn is an admission that what's happening isn't working and will never work. As a football team, you're taught from the get-go that giving up isn't an option. 

As B/R colleague Michael Felder, a former player himself, wrote in 2012, it usually doesn't aid the hiring process either:

Wait. Do your kids, your exiting coach and ultimately yourself a favor and just wait to pull that trigger.

Instead of getting into the whole 'how do you handle this?' deal, let's talk about the actual hiring process. The advantage gained by having everyone know your gig... is negligible. This idea that you can start earlier in the hiring process and get a jump on other jobs is just more fluff than fact.

If a program, be it Kansas or Michigan, is looking for an active coach to be the next guy, it's going to have to wait until the season is over. 

That, or as Russ Mitchell of College Football News tweets, it may have to go with a recycled coach. Either way, the timing is in no way advantageous. 

Long term, Kansas made the right move to move on from Weis. He simply wasn't getting it done or showing improvement. However, this is a classic catch-22 situation and something Michigan would face if it did the same thing. 

Keeping Weis for another year would likely only set the program back further. Yet, Kansas will be looking for its third coach in five years in the post-Mark Mangino era. Lawrence hasn't been an easy place to win, so what exactly would Kansas athletic director Sheahon Zenger pitch to potential coaching candidates? 

From a coach's perspective, you're looking at a program that hasn't had success and will fire someone in three years or less. That's not an attractive job to any coach with other options.  

A similar logic applies to Michigan, even though this is a discussion of two jobs on different levels. The Wolverines, should Hoke be fired, will be conducting a third coaching search in seven years. And firing Hoke midseason accomplishes little more than satisfying the masses, many of whom would agree that the season has been lost anyway. 

Michigan could target alum and San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh, as Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! Sports writes, but there's baggage between the two. There's no guarantee it would work out, so what then? Who's the Plan B? Plan C? Plan D? Plan E? The list can keep going. 

There's also a case to be made, believe it or not, that Michigan hasn't hit its stride yet. Seventy-eight players on the Wolverines' roster are either freshman or sophomores. This is a young team. That doesn't excuse the offensive line issues, which started three years ago in recruiting and is now rearing its ugly head, but it provides context. 

"I think this team can still win the [Big Ten] championship," Hoke told reporters after Saturday's loss (h/t Wetzel). "I really do."

Scoff if you must, but what else is Hoke supposed to say? He can never lose confidence in his team, even if everyone else has lost it for him 1,000 times over. 

The only person who knows if Hoke will survive the season is Brandon, and he's not immune to external pressure. It's part of the business, and that could result in Hoke's job tomorrow or in three months. But if Michigan does decide to pull the trigger, it better have its act together. 

Firing a coach is easy; having the replacements lined up is not. That holds true whether you're a Big 12 bottom feeder or a Big Ten blue blood.  

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. All quotes cited unless obtained firsthand. 

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LSU vs. Auburn a Lot More Intriguing with Emergence of Brandon Harris

Prior to Week 5, LSU's game at Auburn looked like it would be more of a pushover for the Tigers from Auburn than an intriguing matchup.

After all, Auburn—which ranks third in the conference in rush defense (90.75 YPG)—can follow the same blueprint Mississippi State used to stomp LSU in Death Valley—a punishing run defense and back end that can take advantage of miscues.

LSU head coach Les Miles threw a curveball on Saturday night against New Mexico State, when he brought in true freshman quarterback Brandon Harris in for Anthony Jennings and left him in until it was time for mop-up duty.

All Harris did was complete 11 of 14 passes for 178 yards, three touchdowns and no picks, rush for 36 yards and score two rushing touchdowns. Harris brings what Jennings can't: consistency in the passing game and more of a home run threat on the ground.

“It seemed like everything was clicking when I was in the game," Harris said in quotes released by LSU. "I told [punter] Jamie [Keehn] that we weren’t going to make him punt that often in the game tonight. It was an amazing feeling.”

Meanwhile, Jennings went 2-for-5 for 11 yards, two interceptions and one fumble in the first quarter.

"Anthony Jennings is going to have to get better, and we are going to insist on it," Miles said in quotes released by LSU. "I hope he has not lost his confidence. Some of the things that he did and certainly the fumble is certainly one of those things that you cannot do."

Despite Harris' stellar performance and Jennings' struggles, Miles was noncommittal on naming a quarterback after the 63-7 win over the Aggies.

“We are not going to operate that way," he said. "We have always done things in a measured fashion. We will go back, look at the film, communicate with our team and not do so through the paper. We are going to do the things that we do to reconcile games. That’s not necessarily the splash you want but that is how we do things.”

Let's be real, though. This is technically a "battle" at this point only because Miles and his staff haven't gone through the process of sitting each down and letting them know the deal. Once that happens, the battle will be a thing of that past, and Harris will have the keys to the kingdom.

Sometimes stats lie, but in this case they don't. Harris is the quarterback of the future and the present.

The Tigers have responded well with Harris in the game in each of their last two outings, he's shown that he's a reliable and consistent passer and makes quick decisions when the heat is on. He's developed a chemistry with several receivers, including sophomore Travin Dural and true freshman Malachi Dupre—who now has nine catches for 197 yards and four touchdowns.

Basically, he's exactly what LSU needs on the road at Auburn.

Is it a risk starting a true freshman on the road in a hostile environment in what amounts to a must-win game? Absolutely. Starting Jennings, though, is a riskier proposition.

Don't sleep on LSU's chances on the Plains.

We've seen fire (1996), hurricanes (2004) and earthquakes (1988) in this rivalry over the last few decades.

A true freshman winning on the road wouldn't be the most shocking development in the world.

That, of course, depends on Miles remembering Harris is on the roster.

 

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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Amway College Football Poll 2014: Complete Week 6 Rankings Released

In many ways, this week of college football was the calm before next week's storm, when a slew of ranked teams will face off and change the landscape of the pursuit for the playoff. This week, however, the top teams generally survived, albeit with a few scares.   

Below, we'll take a look at the latest Amway Coaches Poll, recap some of the big results from the week that was and take a look ahead to next week's epic slate of games. Things are starting to heat up, folks.

 

Standings

 

Analysis

With very few upsets in the Top 25 outside of South Carolina losing to Missouri, there wasn't too much notable change in this week's Coaches Poll. There are, however, plenty of questions for a few teams in those rankings.

For the second week in a row, Florida State received all it could handle, this time rallying from a 24-7 first-quarter deficit to NC State, winning 56-41. One way to look at the result is to wonder how much longer the Seminoles can live on the edge. The other opinion is that the team can overcome adversity and continues to battle. 

Head coach Jimbo Fisher chose the latter viewpoint, as he told reporters after the game:

We can take a punch and stand up and compete. Now I'd rather start blocking and dodging some and playing, but there's something to that now. I'm going to tell you what: that takes time. That's a culture. That's the way you think, the way you believe in each other and there's a lot of inner trust in that locker room.

Texas A&M was also really tested, needing overtime to survive Arkansas, 35-28. But once again, it was Kenny Hill who had Aggies fans asking, "Johnny Football who?"

Just consider the following, from Fox Sports Live on Twitter:

Things are about to really heat up for the Aggies, however, as they face Mississippi State next, followed by Ole Miss and Alabama. Auburn, Missouri and LSU also remain on tap. Suffice to say, the SEC slate down the stretch is loaded with exciting matchups between top teams. Once again, the conference appears to be the most competitive in college football. 

One of those SEC teams was really challenged this past week, as Georgia was taken to the limit by Tennessee before winning 35-32. Once again it was Todd Gurley that led the Bulldogs to the win, rushing 28 times for 208 yards and two scores. He's going to look very good in an NFL uniform next season. 

And he might just look very good striking the Heisman pose this season.

Stanford's Kevin Hogan won't be striking up that pose anytime soon, but he was the hero for Stanford on Saturday as his late touchdown run carried the Cardinal to a 20-13 win and possibly saved their season. Another loss would have erased any hopes—however slim they may already be—that the club could qualify for this season's playoff.

While they have quite the battle in front of them to reach that goal, it's still a possibility after Saturday. It nearly was taken off the table against Washington. 

And so we head into this week with many of the top teams intact atop the rankings and some truly intriguing matchups to come. Alabama vs. Ole Miss, LSU vs. Auburn and Texas A&M vs. Mississippi State will sort more than a few things out in the SEC and in the playoff picture, while Stanford vs. Notre Dame is a huge matchup for both teams.

In the Big Ten, Nebraska and Michigan State will battle it out in a clash of the two teams in the conference that aren't underwhelming thus far this season, while in the Pac-12 Arizona State and USC face off in a big contest.

It's going to be a brilliant week of action, folks, and these rankings will look at lot different next week. Sit back and enjoy the show.

 

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Notre Dame Football: Potential Cures for Everett Golson's Inconsistencies

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Only one quarterback took snaps for Notre Dame football in its 31-15 win over Syracuse on Saturday night, but it sure felt like two different players under center throughout the night.

Everett Golson was equal parts head-turning and head-scratching, sometimes looking like the rising Heisman candidate and other times appearing to be a slightly off turnover magnet. Golson’s night was Exhibit A in “How to Frame Statistics to Fit Your Argument.”

“It was pretty weird for me,” Golson said afterward. “What I take from it is I’ve just got to get better.”

The signal-caller completed a career-high 32 of 39 passes for a career-high 362 yards. He fired four touchdowns. He completed 25 consecutive passes—one shy of tying the FBS record.

“Oh my gosh, he played phenomenal tonight,” said defensive captain Sheldon Day, one of Golson’s best friends.

To an extent, yes. But Golson also committed four turnovers. He fumbled on Notre Dame’s first and second drives (losing the first, not the second) and threw an interception on the fourth, missing an open Ben Koyack down the center of the field.

He then orchestrated a 95-yard touchdown drive, conducting the proper ensemble of short screens, curls and out routes, deftly placing the ball on his receivers’ mitts in stride.

When Notre Dame got it back the next time, he wasted no time in catapulting a 72-yard beauty to Will Fuller for a one-play touchdown drive.

Next time out? More of the same. Golson drove Notre Dame into enemy territory during the two-minute drill, handling the situation with the moxie of an NFL quarterback in an NFL stadium. Then, all of a sudden, Golson did his best Eli Manning impression and botched an attempted spike, resulting in a lost fumble that could have been worse.

“When I think of this game I think of my play as being sloppy,” Golson said. “I know I just really have to clean that up.”

The mixed bag continued in the second half, with Golson delivering a tailor-made pick-six to the Syracuse defense.

“It was kind of me reverting back a little bit kind of like my younger days,” Golson said. “I expect more out of myself than that.”

As the dust settles from Week 5 in college football, it’s still obvious Golson has all the makings of an elite quarterback, the key cog for a top-10 team. There’s no need to panic after his up-and-down night, but Notre Dame will need a more consistent, stable and discerning Golson as the season wears on.

Notre Dame won’t beat Stanford, Florida State, Arizona State or USC with five turnovers. The Irish know that. Maybe most importantly, Golson knows that.

“I just gotta be better,” Golson repeated afterward.

And that just may be the key takeaway from Golson’s on-field duality Saturday. He wasn’t satisfied. Not with new career highs. Not with a nearly perfect completions record.

Golson doesn’t need to tinker with much. A bit more care with the ball in his hands in and outside of the pocket will help limit turnovers.

Brian Kelly, for his part, wasn’t satisfied either. But there was a telling calmness to Kelly’s postgame comments, as if he already knows Golson will bounce back and put the mistakes behind him, using the miscues as an optimal teaching moment.

“I’m a much better teacher after a win, and certainly tonight, our quarterback learned a lot from really having a great performance, too,” Kelly said. “He did a lot of really, really good things. He threw the ball on target down the field, and his perimeter throws were outstanding, so he did a lot of good things but learned so much from it.

“That’s a great teaching tool.”

 

All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

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

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NCAA Football Playoff 2014: Latest Predictions After Week 5 Standings

After Week 5's action, nothing major should change at the top of the polls, nor should the top four teams on track to reach the first ever College Football Playoff have changed.

The No. 2 Oregon Ducks, No. 3 Alabama Crimson Tide and No. 4 Oklahoma Sooners were all idle. That left only the No. 1 Florida State Seminoles in action.

The Noles nearly lost to the unranked NC State Wolfpack, but a second-half rally saved the defending national champions from disaster. In the end, the 'Noles remained undefeated after a 56-41 win.

If the season ended today, these are the four teams that would likely be playing for the national championship:

  1. Florida State
  2. Oregon Ducks 
  3. Alabama Crimson Tide
  4. Oklahoma Sooners

That's the way the playoff brackets would look if things were decided today, but there's still a long way to go. Based on what we've seen thus far, there's reason to believe there could be a shift down the road.

Even with the shift, the teams should remain the same.

 

Predictions for the Top Four Spots

1. Oregon Ducks

Expect the Ducks to take over the top spot simply because they have a tougher schedule than the Noles. Finishing with an unblemished record—as I predict they will—would be more impressive.

Oregon still has games at UCLA and at home against Stanford. Those contests ensure Oregon's route to perfection will be more difficult.

Normally, the Ducks are a program that gets to the cusp of an undefeated season and has the wheels come off late. This year, things will be different and a lot of that is because of the leadership of Marcus Mariota.

We've seen him rally the troops twice this year already. He brought his team back against the Michigan State Spartans and the Washington State Cougars in Week 4. 

His leadership will keep Oregon undefeated heading into the Pac-12 title game.

 

2. Florida State Seminoles

As shaky as the Seminoles have looked this season, they only have one game remaining against a team that is currently ranked.

Notre Dame will come to Tallahassee on Oct. 18. Aside from that, Florida State has five of its eight games left on the schedule at home before the ACC title game.

The team isn't as sharp as it was last season, but it's still good enough to push through this schedule unscathed.

 

3. Oklahoma Sooners

The Sooners' schedule is rather friendly the rest of the way. Sure, they have to tangle with Baylor, Kansas State and Oklahoma State, but all three of those games are at home.

If there are top-four teams set up to run the table, it's the Sooners and the Seminoles.

 

4. Alabama Crimson Tide

There's almost no way you can imagine Alabama emerging without at least one loss at the end of the regular season. Then it figures to have its hands full in the SEC title game.

With road games at Ole Miss and LSU, there's obvious reason for concern. There are also home games against Texas A&M and Auburn in the Iron Bowl in the regular-season finale. 

You have to think Bama drops one of those games. Still, based on strength of schedule, the Tide will likely be the strongest one-loss team in the nation.

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