NCAA Football News

College Football Rankings 2014: Latest Standings and Predictions for Week 10

The twists and turns of the 2014 college football season just keep coming. Through nine weeks of action, we've seen the rise of several previously unranked teams and the fall of some projected juggernauts as the nation's rankings continue to shift.

Week 9 brought more unexpected results to the gridiron, as No. 10 LSU upset No. 3 Ole Miss in a defensive thriller, No. 1 Mississippi State was given a scare by Kentucky, and No. 5 Auburn just barely survived South Carolina. Looking ahead at the slate of games set for Week 10, we should expect more of the same.

Before the nation's top teams continue their bids for a College Football Playoff berth, let's first take a look at the updated standings and predict a couple of marquee Week 10 matchups.

Full CFB standings can be viewed at


Week 10 Predictions

No. 4 Auburn at No. 7 Ole Miss

Here's a big-time matchup of two teams desperately looking to right the ship in an effort to attempt a potential late-season push into the College Football Playoff.

The Tigers were given a huge scare by the Gamecocks in Week 9. These teams were deadlocked in a back-and-forth affair that saw the game tied at 35 entering the fourth quarter. A Nick Marshall touchdown run ended up being the contest's difference-maker, but the final score was much closer than it should have been.

Auburn's offense is an efficient, well-oiled machine. The run-heavy scheme torched South Carolina's defense for 395 rushing yards and five touchdowns. Marshall's aerial attack was limited, but it was effective. The quarterback completed 12 of his 14 passing attempts for 139 yards and a score, increasing the Tigers' total offensive yards to an impressive 551.

Here's what Marshall had to say after the game, via SportsCenter:

South Carolina's offense was just as good against the Tigers. Quarterback Dylan Thompson threw for 402 yards and five touchdowns, and 119 rushing yards saw the Gamecocks total 535 yards of offense against Auburn.

The Tigers defense really needs to tighten up in Week 10 against an Ole Miss team that can put some points on the scoreboard when quarterback Bo Wallace is on point.

Speaking of Wallace, the Ole Miss quarterback struggled in Week 9, completing 14 of his 33 passing attempts for 176 yards, one touchdown and one interception. LSU does have a solid defense, but Wallace made some poor throws and bad decisions of his own along the way.

Dane Brugler of CBS Sports tweeted his reaction to Wallace's pick:

Wallace was also the team's leading rusher with 40 yards, as the Rebels' ground game couldn't get going. The team totaled 137 yards on the ground, but it took 34 attempts to reach that number.

Defense continues to be this team's strong suit, and it will be severely tested against a high-octane Auburn offense in Week 10. While Ole Miss has the ability to limit Auburn's scoring opportunities, Wallace must be more efficient against a defense that can be exploited.

This contest matches up the strengths of these two teams against each other. The upper hand will go to the more efficient offense in a close game.

Prediction: Auburn 27, Ole Miss 23


No. 18 Utah at No. 15 Arizona State

This matchup features two teams in need of a big win before very tough contests in Week 11. After the Utes and Sun Devils face off Saturday, their next games are against Oregon and Notre Dame, respectively. A win is essential in Week 10.

The Utes have survived some very close contests recently. In fact, over the team's last four games, it has a 3-1 record and a plus-10 point margin. In Week 9, the team came away with a three-point victory over USC due to a touchdown pass in the waning seconds of the game.

Here's a look at the Utes' thrilling win, courtesy of SportsCenter:

Utah's offense wasn't overly effective against the Trojans. Quarterback Travis Wilson completed 18 of his 32 passing attempts for 194 yards and a touchdown, while the team's ground game could only muster 3.3 yards per carry.

While the Utes defense allowed 264 yards and two scores to USC quarterback Cody Kessler, it kept the Trojans' ground game in check, allowing an average of just 2.7 yards per carry. That kind of defense could be huge against a struggling Arizona State offense.

The Sun Devils didn't move the ball very effectively Saturday, totaling just 285 yards of offense and just 14 first downs. Quarterback Taylor Kelly completed 14 of his 25 passing attempts for 180 yards, two touchdowns and one interception, while the team's running game averaged just 2.4 yards per carry against Washington.

The Huskies had a chance to tie the game late against Arizona State, but quarterback Troy Williams' second interception of the game was returned for a touchdown by Armand Perry, sealing the game for the Sun Devils.

SportsCenter tweeted the game's dramatic conclusion:

Expect this impending contest to be a highly defensive struggle, as both teams are playing well on that side of the ball. Offensive fireworks will be few and far between here, as the offenses have struggled to find a rhythm of late and will continue to do so in Week 10.

These teams are very evenly matched coming into this contest, and we should expect a very close game. Arizona State's home-field advantage should play a huge factor in this one, as crowd noise in a hostile environment will make it even more difficult for Utah's offense to get it going.

Prediction: Arizona State 23, Utah 16

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College Football Superlatives from Kramer's Korner: Mad Hatter's Magic Reigns

It’s easy to get lost in the splendors of Les Miles, nature’s gift to college football.

He eats grass. He butchers the English language each and every week in spectacular fashion, creating enough words and phrases to fill an encyclopedia of malapropisms. He claps on the sideline as if he was programmed to do so, turning a simple gesture into robot art.

But as we marvel over these quirks time and time again, oftentimes the brilliance of LSU’s flamboyant head coach goes unnoticed. Despite Miles’ entertaining clashes with clock management—another quirk to toss on an enormous list—few coaches deliver more when thrown in the brightest spotlight imaginable.

His record while entering the fourth quarter behind on the scoreboard isn’t just impressive; it’s preposterous.

Les Miles is an amazing 24-23 after trailing in the 4th quarter.

— College GameDay (@CollegeGameDay) October 26, 2014

LSU’s 10-7 victory over No. 3 Ole Miss in Death Valley on Saturday was a culmination of Miles’ successful style and career. It wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t easy. Yet, in its ugliness, it was strangely beautiful. And making an emotional win that much more special was the fact that Miles’ mother Martha had passed away the night before.

"After the game, I can't tell you the number of young men that threw their arms around me and said that they love me, which is as touching as anything I've had happen,” Miles said to The Times-Picayune. “They hand me the game ball, which I only accept on behalf of a great team. A team that really comes out and says we can be a whole lot better, we can improve and they go to work. You guys hear me say this, they're going to improve, they're coming, we're going to be special, this team is ambitious. So, I accept it. Martha Miles, this is a great night considering. I miss you, Ma."

What else can you say? There’s not much one can add to such poetry, although we wouldn’t expect anything less from Miles. Our deepest condolences, coach.

As for the rest of Week 9, here are the awards, takeaways, incredible moments in FAT GUY TOUCHDOWN history and deer—yes, deer—cameos that warrant your utmost attention.



Offensive Player of the Week: Trevone Boykin, TCU 

The nation’s most improved player by the widest margin imaginable only played three quarters against Texas Tech. That was all quarterback Trevone Boykin needed, although TCU still scored 82 points regardless. I suppose basketball season is right around the corner.

In only 45 minutes, Boykin threw for 433 yards and seven touchdowns. He also added seven rushes for 28 yards. For the season, Boykin has accounted for 24 touchdowns and just three interceptions. 

The player who struggled to find a position not long ago is now very much in the Heisman discussion. Seven touchdowns—or one every seven minutes or so—can help that case.


Dominant Defender: Joey Bosa, Ohio State 

Oftentimes in this section, we tend to focus too closely on numbers and not enough on pure impact on an individual game. Joey Bosa, Ohio State’s star, backflip-capable defensive end, delivered in both departments.

The sophomore finished the Buckeyes’ double-overtime win against Penn State with six tackles and two-and-a-half sacks. The numbers stand quite nicely without further context, although his final burst of raw power won the game for the Buckeyes.

On fourth down in the second OT, Bosa sacked Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg with the helping hand of Nittany Lions running back Akeel Lynch. In fairness to Lynch, there was absolutely nothing he could do here. No running back—not one—wins this battle. 

Given everything that was at stake for OSU, you might not see a more physically eye-popping play on defense all season.


Video Game Box Score

-Georgia Southern, in a single game, ran for 613 yards on 63 carries. Sure, it came against Georgia State, but please don’t let that away from this beautiful carnage. Three Georgia Southern players ran for 90 yards or more and seven (!!!) ran for 30 yards or more. That’ll be a rough defensive film session, I imagine.

-Ameer Abdullah is basically a weekly cheat code at this point. The Nebraska running back ran for 225 yards and three touchdowns on just 19 carries, although he wasn’t done there. Abdullah also caught two passes for 26 yards and finished with 341 all-purpose yards, a school record. What a fantastic player.


Anti-Video Game Box Score

-Pittsburgh did something so spectacularly woeful that we should celebrate with a parade. On its first five possessions against Georgia Tech, the Panthers fumbled five times and lost all five. To truly appreciate the absurdity of this, you must look at this drive chart. Scientists will study it for years to come.

Collect the whole set!

— Adam Kramer (@KegsnEggs) October 25, 2014

-Michigan carried the ball 28 times for 65 yards against Michigan State on Saturday, which was good for an average of 2.3 yards per carry. When you total the past two seasons, the Wolverines have accounted for 17 yards rushing on 59 carries against their rival while being outscored 64-17. That’s not optimal.


Biggest Surprise

This was a first. I’ve seen a lot of outlandish football happenings—many of which have taken place this year—although I’ve never seen a facemask ripped off as if it were some sort of Broadway prop. I can now cross that off my bucket list (not that it was on it in the first place). 

That’s exactly what happened to freshman running back Leonard Fournette as he sliced through the Ole Miss defense. Serderius Bryant, doing anything in his power to bring him down, reached out and pulled this piece of equipment right off.

If you needed a reminder of how absolutely insane this game can be—and you probably don’t—you got one here.


Best Moment

For a moment, abandon all talks of hot seats, unmet expectations and the unknown still to follow. For right now, let’s give a little love to Tim Beckman for winning his first home conference game at Illinois. 

Illinois gets first @B1Gfootball home win under Tim Beckman, beating Minnesota 28-24. Beckman is 2-18 in conference in 3 years.

— David Woods (@DavidWoods007) October 25, 2014

Yes, that seems like a strange place to pull up a chair for “Best Moment.” But for a coach who has endured the lowest of lows, there’s something to be said about beating a 6-1 team in another lost season. This is by no means a plea to Illinois to keep its coach around for another year, not that the conversation should be abandoned entirely. 

Instead, it comes down to acknowledging and appreciating the effort made, even when the hopes for something greater are all but abandoned. We may scoff at Illinois coming away victorious, but a win of this magnitude will be celebrated in that locker room for quite some time. As it should.

Congrats on the win, Illinois, and I mean that with the utmost sincerity.


For the Highlight Reel: The FAT GUY TOUCHDOWN to Rule Them All

Sebastian Tretola is listed at 6’5” and 350 pounds on his Arkansas bio.

He is a guard who has found his way to the Razorbacks after stops at Nevada and Iowa Western Community College. His journey to get to this point—Week 9 of the 2014 college football season—has been long. But after throwing (yes, throwing) a touchdown pass against UAB, it has been fulfilled.

If you’ve read Superlatives before, you’re already well aware of how much we love and cherish large-men achievements. Tretola’s passing touchdown on fourth down doesn’t just warrant inclusion in this conversation. It’s the Holy Grail of FAT GUY TOUCHDOWNS.

Let’s put Bret Bielema and Sebastian Tretola in the Large Men Hall of Fame. Heck, let's make them the chairmen. Heck, here are the keys. It’s all theirs.


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

Things get a bit more real this week when the College Football Playoff selection committee reveals its first Top 25 on Tuesday. You will then respond by lighting your television on fire and throwing it through the nearest window.

Before they get to their first master reveal and your television is destroyed, however, here is what the College Football Playoff would look like if it happened right now. (Again, these are not projections. Feel free to be light the comment section on fire regardless.)

1. Mississippi State

2. Florida State

3. Auburn

4. Oregon


Five Leftovers to Chew on

1. The topic of “running up the score” has to be the most exhausted debate in football. Did TCU and Michigan State score more points than were necessary in Week 9? Of course they did. Should we crush them for doing so? Goodness no. There’s a magnificent way to prevent the score from being inflated. (You can play defense, you see.) Please stop this nonsense over feelings and instead hope said team being run up on decides to make a tackle instead.

2. Mississippi State running back Josh Robinson has gone from unknown entity to underrated weapon to full-blown star in roughly two months. His 198-yard performance was the fourth time he’s gone over 100 yards this season, and he’s averaging nearly seven-and-a-half yards per carry for the year. It’s not just the production, either. His bowling-ball-like style is a true pleasure to watch.

3. Speaking of running backs, where’s the buzz for Duke Johnson? The Miami running back has added size and looks like a different player entirely. To go along with these favorable physical additions, Johnson is already over 1,000 yards rushing while factoring in as a receiver as well. He’s already reached a career high in rushing yards, and after a 249-yard performance at Virginia Tech, Johnson is on the verge of a special season. As a result, we should probably start talking about it. 

4. The Pac-12 South is, without question, the most underappreciated division in college football. Colorado, even at 2-6, is one of the nation’s most improved teams. And in a year that the masses expected UCLA to roll right through its competition, Arizona State, Arizona and Utah are a combined 18-3. Do not count these three teams out of the College Football Playoff just yet, as weird as that sounds. With ample games to make an impression and a potential matchup with Oregon looming, nothing is off the table.

5. Dana Holgorsen has done a masterful job at West Virginia this season, and the hot-seat favorite before the year has seemingly flipped the script entirely. Although beating Oklahoma State this season isn’t a program-altering win, think about where these expectations were at the start of the year. With home games against TCU and Kansas State and road trips to Texas and Iowa State, there’s a very real possibility that the Mountaineers win out. Just like we all thought.


Deer of the Week

It gives me great pleasure to hand out this award, and it goes to a very deserving deer that decided to check out the Days Inn in Happy Valley, Pennsylvania before Ohio State and Penn State teed it up. He was obviously excited, and I don’t think I’ve stopped laughing at this even after 25 or so viewings. 

And you thought the biggest hotel story of the weekend was when Penn State fans reportedly used air horns in the middle of the night at Ohio State’s hotel. Oh, you were so wrong.

Move over, Josh Robinson. Your run has company.


Mascot of the Week

Where was Sparty going? Why was he going there? What happened next? I have so many questions, although I'm not sure I want to know the true answer.

Let your mind wander as a large fluffy object moves across your screen without context. It’s so much better that way. 


Anti-Mascot of the Week 

Another year, another batch of horrifying Famous Idaho Potato Bowl mascot images, videos and Vines. I’m not sure what we’ve done to deserve this, but he’ll see you in your dreams.


Official of the Week

Ron Cherry, the official who brought us, “He was giving him the business” years back, provided another worthy addition to his announcement library.

He certainly could have just signaled first down and been done with it. Of course he could have. But why do that when you can add in a magnificent clap and also improve a simple gesture?

It’s the little things that count, I suppose.


Press Conference of the Week: Part 1 

Mark Dantonio was oh so close to breaking character when asked about Michigan and the object the Wolverines apparently put into the Spartans' field before the game. He refused to do it, though.

Instead, he provided the most dad-like response imaginable when asked about it after the game. This is how you keep it PG-13 and still get your point across. Well done, sir. It was indeed shoved.


Press Conference of the Week: Part 2

Behold TCU head coach Gary Patterson’s opening statement following a game in which his team scored roughly 1,789 points. (They actually scored 82, as you know already, although his mood didn’t quite match that output.)

"It wasn't pretty," is something Patterson actually said and looked serious about doing so. If he's talking about the game itself, he's absolutely correct. If not, well, we're at a loss.


Fake Punt of the Week 

Sometimes the run-of-the-mill fake punt if not enough. That appears to be the Wisconsin mindset, which could explain why punter Drew Meyer incorporated a little Tebow-ian jump pass on fourth down into his repertoire.

We can only hope that the double-reverse jump pass fake punt isn’t far behind.

That was cool. Badgers pulled off a fake punt, jump-pass. Wisconsin leads 17-0 over Maryland in 2Q »

— ESPN CollegeFootball (@ESPNCFB) October 25, 2014


From the Peanut Gallery (Best Tweets of the Weekend)

Let’s check in and see how the day has gone for Maryland:

— Ryan Stites (@Brocktoon23) October 25, 2014

How prolific is @TCUFootball's offense this year? In yesterday's 82-27 romp over Tech, we shot all the pyro we ordered...for the season.

— Drew Martin (@TCU_Drew) October 26, 2014

"Oh, let me lick your tears. The tears of unfathomable sadness."

— Isaac (@WorldofIsaac) October 26, 2014


— Michigan Football (@umichfootball) October 25, 2014

BREAKING: There is a QB Controversy in Arkansas.

— ESPNU (@ESPNU) October 25, 2014 

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Chad Wheeler Injury: Updates on USC Star's Knee and Return

News for the USC Trojans just got worse. The Trojans lost a heartbreaker to the Utah Utes on Saturday night. On Sunday, the team found out they had lost star left tackle Chad Wheeler likely for the remainder of the season with a torn ACL, per Zach Barnett of NBC Sports.

Trojans head coach Steve Sarkisian lauded Wheeler's toughness and commitment to his teammates.

He clearly hopes Wheeler's teammates take some inspiration from their fallen teammate's valor. Looking ahead, the Trojans have four regular-season games left on the schedule.

At 5-3 overall and 4-2 in the Pac-12, the Trojans can ill afford a poor finish to the season if they hope to have a chance at winning the conference and becoming bowl-eligible. Wheeler is a redshirt sophomore who has been a starter at left tackle since he arrived at Southern Cal.

In his stead, the Trojans are expected to turn to senior Aundrey Walker.

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Power Ranking College Football's 1-Loss Teams

The College Football Playoff selection committee is set to release its first public poll this week. To echo the sentiments of colleague Adam Kramer: Good luck. Chaos has been in abundance this season, and that doesn't look like it's going to change with several important games upcoming in the next month. 

However, the playoff picture should become at least a little clearer around that same time. There are 17 one-loss teams in the latest Associated Press Top 25; that number is going to decrease, perhaps dramatically, before the season ends. 

That's not to say the playoff selection process will be easy, but it shouldn't be as convoluted as it is now. Which one-loss teams are in the best position to make that four-team field? Which ones aren't? We try—emphasis on try—to find some clarity below. 

We've divided the one-loss teams into three categories based on their likelihood of playoff contention as of today: Contenders, teams that need help and teams on the outside looking in. Many of these teams control their conference destiny or have key games coming up to impress the committee. Others, however, are on the outside looking in and need a lot of help. 

Keep in mind that the teams mentioned below are only the one-loss teams currently ranked in the AP Top 25. Also, this is all but certainly subject to change. 




The Tigers have one loss—38-23 at Mississippi State, the No. 1 team in the country. That's nothing to be ashamed about. Additionally, Auburn has an early-season win over Kansas State. Though neither side played its best football that night, the win looks better as the year goes on. K-State is 6-1 and atop the Big 12 standings. 

Auburn's remaining schedule is brutal: at Ole Miss, at Georgia and at Alabama. Auburn could also potentially be an intriguing two-loss team based on its schedule. That plays right into head coach Gus Malzahn's comments that there could be a "good chance there will be two teams from the West, or at least two teams from the SEC, to make the Final Four." 


Notre Dame

Notre Dame had a bye in Week 9, so the theme for the Irish is the same as the week before. There's not a real marquee win for this team so far; the best is a 17-14 squeaker against Stanford. All the same, Notre Dame looked excellent in a 31-27 loss to Florida State.

A loss is a loss, but at the same time, not all losses are created equal. Without "rewarding" Notre Dame for losing, we should also be nuanced enough to know that the Irish showed they can play with anyone. 

There's one standout game remaining on Notre Dame's schedule: a Nov. 8 trip to Arizona State. Interestingly, Notre Dame tried to get out of that game with the Sun Devils because of other scheduling obligations with the ACC. However, the game was kept, and it could be the difference between the Irish getting into the playoff and not. 


Ole Miss

Like the rest of the top half of the SEC West, Ole Miss is still very much alive in the divisional, conference and playoff picture. A 10-7 loss to LSU is a setback, but not a season-killer. Games against Auburn and Mississippi State, both at home, will provide opportunities for the Rebels to get back in the four-team field. 

There are concerns about the offense, especially if the Rebels are hurt along the offensive line. Laremy Tunsil left the LSU game with a pulled right bicep, according to Hugh Kellenberger of The Clarion-Ledger. Other key players, like defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche and safety Cody Prewitt, are banged up as well. 



Since losing to Ole Miss in early October, Alabama has been on a roll—so to speak. A one-point win over Arkansas aside, Alabama has won its last two games by a total of 93-20. Granted, Texas A&M and Tennessee aren't the best opponents, but the Tide are taking care of business and looking good doing it. 

Alabama's final month of the season is tough, going to Baton Rouge to play LSU before heading home for two games against Mississippi State and Auburn. The Tide do not have a divisional tiebreaker against Ole Miss but are still in decent position for a possible playoff spot. 



One of the most dramatic turnarounds from 2013 isn't just a great story. Rather, TCU has a real shot of winning the Big 12 and potentially grabbing a playoff spot. The 82 points scored by the Frogs on Saturday against Texas Tech were eye-opening, but this offense has been putting up video game numbers all year. 

The Frogs don't control their Big 12 destiny, as they would lose the head-to-head tiebreaker with Baylor. If TCU and Baylor win out, it creates an interesting situation at the top of the Big 12 as far as a playoff spot is concerned. 



Oregon is a fascinating team in the playoff discussion. On one hand, the Ducks have one of the more impressive nonconference victories (Michigan State). On the other, this team seems particularly vulnerable. Only recently has the offensive line shored up, but the defense is still questionable. Quarterback Marcus Mariota is a Heisman contender—perhaps the favorite—but what about the guys around him?

ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit has Oregon as one of his four playoff teams. If the Ducks win out and win the Pac-12, they'll likely be assured a spot. 


Michigan State

Upon further review, reports of the Big Ten's death were premature. Michigan State has rallied since an early-season loss to Oregon to win six straight, the most impressive of which came against Nebraska. However, the Spartans' most important game comes in two weeks at home against Ohio State. Beat the Buckeyes and win the Big Ten, and Michigan State will be in the playoff conversation. 

Would the Spartans be automatic, though? Strength of schedule may be a negative factor


Kansas State

The Wildcats may not be the sexiest team in college football. They may not score the most points. But they are well coached and typically get better as the season progresses. As of Sunday heading into Week 10, K-State sits atop the Big 12 standings and has just one loss—to Auburn. Winning out is likely the only way the Wildcats have a shot at the playoff. That means beating TCU, West Virginia and Baylor on the road. 


Need Some Help

Arizona State

The good news is that Arizona State controls its Pac-12 South destiny. Games against Utah, Notre Dame and Arizona will provide plenty of chances for the Sun Devils to impress the playoff committee. That said, there's an anchor holding this team back: A 62-27 loss to UCLA in September. The Bruins are 6-1, but perhaps the ugliest 6-1 team in the country. Getting housed like that isn't a good look. 



Like just about everyone else, Baylor would need to win out to have a shot at the playoff. However, let's say the Bears run the table and finish 11-1. The lone loss would be to West Virginia, which, barring a collapse by the Mountaineers, isn't bad. However, there are no marquee nonconference wins for Baylor. Beating TCU and, hypothetically, Oklahoma and Kansas State is solid. Is it enough? It may depend on what the rest of the landscape looks like. 



With so much focus on the SEC West, the East division has gone under the radar. Georgia controls its destiny at 6-1, but it has a bad loss to 4-4 South Carolina. Without a doubt, it would have to win the SEC to have a chance at a playoff spot. But even then, Chris Dufresne of the Los Angeles Times tweets an interesting possibility: Would Georgia still be left out in favor of an SEC West team?


Ohio State

Like Arizona State, Ohio State has a "yeah, but" holding it back ever so slightly: a Week 2 loss at home to Virginia Tech. The Buckeyes have improved since then, while the Hokies have gone belly up. It's not Ohio State's fault Virginia Tech hasn't played well, so the committee may focus more on the Buckeyes if they're playing their best football at the end of the year. There's still only one marquee game on the schedule: Nov. 8 at Michigan State. Suffice it to say that's a must-win. 


On the Outside Looking In


The Huskers are emerging as a favorite to win the Big Ten West, but their best win to date, and maybe for the remainder of the year, was against Miami. This is similar to Georgia in the SEC East. 



Arizona is one missed field goal kick away from being undefeated and in a completely different part of the conversation. The Wildcats close out the season against Utah and Arizona State, so there are some opportunities to creep back into a legitimate playoff conversation. 



It's going to take winning the entire ACC—against Florida State and only Florida State in the championship game—for Duke to sniff a playoff conversation. There's simply too much ground to make up and the schedule down the stretch is relatively soft. 



The Utes are, ever so slowly, becoming a fascinating team to keep an eye on. However, it has a bad loss to Washington State in which it allowed the Cougars to come back from 21 points down to win 28-27. 


East Carolina

The Pirates are a popular group-of-five team to play in one of the six major bowls, but a playoff berth seems all but officially out the window. 

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Texas A&M vs. Louisiana-Monroe Complete Game Preview

The Texas A&M football team will take on the Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks on Saturday at Kyle Field in College Station. This is a game the Aggies have to win to become bowl-eligible. 

The Aggies are 5-3 with a 2-3 record in the SEC. They are coming off a bye week after an embarrassing 59-0 loss to Alabama. 

The Warhawks are 3-4 and are coming off a 22-18 loss to Texas State. The loss dropped Louisiana-Monroe to 2-2 in the Sun Belt Conference. 

This will be the last nonconference game for both the Aggies and the Warhawks. After the loss to Alabama, the Aggies need to get a win against Louisiana-Monroe in order to regain some confidence and get some momentum before finishing out the regular-season schedule. 

This is a look at how Texas A&M and Louisiana-Monroe match up with each other.

Begin Slideshow

NCAA Football Rankings 2014: Hits and Misses from Week 9

Another college football week is in the books and one more undefeated team went down.

Ole Miss couldn't overcome a late LSU touchdown and fell on the road to the Tigers, 10-7. Mississippi State and Ohio State survived tough road games at Kentucky and Penn State, respectively. 

Meanwhile, TCU is still scoring against Texas Tech. And the university has no more fireworks with which to celebrate.  

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.

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

Begin Slideshow

College Football Rankings 2014: Week 10 AP and Amway Standings Revealed

The 2014 college football regular season has been full of shocking upsets and blowout losses, and the weekly rankings have reflected the major changes each time.

While there were still several upset losses from ranked teams—namely Ole Miss and USC—the vast majority of the elite teams in action during Week 9 were able to pull out much-needed victories.

Here are the full Amway coaches, Associated Press and Bleacher Report Top 25 polls and a breakdown of Week 10 of the college football season.



Breaking Down Week 9

Just because there weren’t several upsets and shocking outcomes doesn’t mean Week 9 of the season was any less entertaining than the rest.

With Florida State on the bye, much of the national focus fell on No. 1 overall Mississippi State and how it would handle playing SEC rival Kentucky. The game was much closer than anticipated, 45-31, but the Bulldogs were able to pull out the victory.

It’s not always pretty, but Mississippi State continues to win.

Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen told Brian Bennett of, “I am very happy with the way our guys played today in a tough environment against Kentucky, which is a very good football team that gave us everything out there.”

On the other hand, it was a sad day to be a fan of Ole Miss. Regarded as one of the best teams in the nation, the Rebels were favorites against a struggling LSU program. In what turned into a defensive battle, Ole Miss could amass only seven points and was unable to control the ball long enough to win the game.

A major winner from Week 9 was the Alabama Crimson Tide. As losses for top-ranked teams continue to mount, the Crimson Tide continue to climb the rankings. A big win over Tennessee is a great sign for the program, but the schedule gets tougher than ever for Alabama.

With matchups against LSU, Mississippi State and Auburn still on the schedule, the Crimson Tide should enjoy their high Amway, AP and Bleacher Report rankings now. It may not last very long.

Speaking of Auburn, the Tigers managed to pull out the hard-fought victory over South Carolina. The Gamecocks have underperformed this season, but the program still has enough fight to almost beat Auburn.

One team that didn’t have any trouble in Week 9 was the TCU Horned Frogs. When the team blows out a program like Texas Tech, 82-27, fans of the school have to be very excited about the playoff possibilities moving forward.

The most thrilling game of the week was a two-overtime thriller between the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Penn State Nittany Lions. Ohio State proved its tenacity with the victory, and even without Braxton Miller, the Buckeyes continue to climb the rankings.

Teams like Michigan State, Kansas State, Arizona State, Arizona, Nebraska and others managed to win their respective matchups, and college football fans are ready for an incredibly intriguing Week 10 schedule of games.

With Florida State playing Thursday, Auburn squaring off against Ole Miss and many other marquee matchups, Week 9 has set the stage for an incredible Week 10 of the college football season.


*Stats via

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College Football Rankings 2014: Twitter Reacts to AP and Amway Week 10 Polls

In anticipation of the first College Football Playoff rankings on Tuesday, the Associated Press and Amway polls were announced on Sunday. One huge upset on Saturday changed the landscape for all of the rankings. 

Ole Miss was shut out for the final three quarters in Baton Rouge as LSU held on late for a 10-7 win. But with the SEC West still loaded with talent, three teams still remain in the top four of both polls.

The relevance of each poll will be lessened dramatically on Tuesday, but for now fans can debate where their program should be ranked. Michigan State and Oregon fans have reason for optimism with one loss, but still haven't gained the same respect as the SEC teams.

Ahead of the first official poll on Tuesday, here's a look at the latest Associated PressCoaches and Bleacher Report polls along with reaction.



In the strange and ever-changing world of college football, no team is safe after a loss. For Mississippi State—the lone undefeated SEC team—it nearly felt the crippling result of a defeat against Kentucky.

Ahead of the first CFP poll coming out this week, the Bulldogs struggled to put away the lowly Wildcats. Dan Wolken of USA Today offered his take on the pressure of being the No. 1 team in the country:

Despite the close contest, the Bulldogs remain atop each poll after nine weeks of the season. However, a daunting upcoming schedule including Arkansas, Alabama and the Egg Bowl against Ole Miss, the Bulldogs are far from being in the clear.

Still, with the win Mississippi State deserves to be No. 1 in the CFP poll as well. It's certainly not the way anyone envisioned the first poll when the season started, as Barrett Sallee of Bleacher Report points out:

Even with the hot start by the Bulldogs and others, Ralph D. Russo of the Associated Press still believes in his initial four teams:

While some are pondering Mississippi State making the first ever College Football Playoff, it's clear Alabama is also making its case. Nick Saban's program has fully recovered from an Ole Miss loss with two straight blowouts.

Victories over Texas A&M and Tennessee by a combined 73 points leaves the Crimson Tide at No. 3 in both polls. But as Pete Prisco of CBS Sports and Adam Gorney of note, Bama might not be deserving of being higher than the Rebels:

A six-point win over the Tide clearly hasn't stuck around in voters' minds as the Rebels fell behind. That brought up an interesting question raised by Wolken:

Luckily for the Ole Miss and Oregon, the first playoff poll might bring more optimism for change.

Neither team is ahead of the top programs they defeated, with the Ducks still trailing Michigan State in the polls. Oregon rattled off three consecutive double-digit wins against Pac-12 opponents, but the loss to Arizona still appears to weigh heavily for voters.

Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports and George Schroeder of USA Today passed along their thoughts on the two situations:

An enthralling season will no doubt continue to shake up the polls as several huge matchups loom. Florida State faces another test Thursday against Louisville while Ole Miss will look to move back up the polls against Auburn.

Mississippi State will host Arkansas while Oregon tries to avoid an upset against Stanford. With another full slate of intriguing showdowns, expect even more shifts in the polls as the end of the season nears.


Follow @RCorySmith on Twitter.

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AP College Football Poll 2014: Complete Week 10 Rankings Released

And then there were two. Another landscape-altering week of college football leaves Florida State and Mississippi State as the only remaining undefeated teams from Power Five conferences, with Ole Miss' loss to LSU serving to further muddy the Top 25 waters. 

The Bulldogs, who had their own scare against Kentucky, and the idle Seminoles remain atop the latest Associated Press rankings. But LSU's upset opens the door for its SEC rivals, as No. 3 Alabama and No. 4 Auburn move into positions of power before the first College Football Playoff rankings are released. Oregon rounds out the Top Five, and the remainder of the Top 10 stayed the same, only with reshuffled numbers next to their names.

Here is a look at how the AP poll played out, along with the B/R Top 25:

Ole Miss' drop to No. 7 can at least be partially attributed to poor late-game management. Down 10-7 with the ball at the LSU 25-yard line, Rebels coach Hugh Freeze made the decision to kick a 42-yard field goal too late to cause a delay of game penalty. After LSU called a timeout to ice kicker Gary Wunderlich, Freeze made another curious decision, pulling his special teams unit off the field to run a final offensive play.

Bo Wallace forced a wounded duck into double coverage, and LSU safety Ronald Martin picked the ball off to end the game. While no one will ever know whether Wunderlich would have made the field goal, or even if Ole Miss would have won in overtime, it's a decision all involved regret.

"I thought we were plenty clear we were either going to take the flat throw or throw it out of bounds, and then try the field goal," Freeze told reporters. "He must have felt like he had a shot at the touchdown play there...I wish I could do that over, for sure."

LSU, which opened its conference slate with consecutive losses, has now won three straight heading into a Nov. 8 game against Alabama. The third-ranked Crimson Tide are also off next week, but it'll be interesting to see if the transitive property applies when they visit Tiger Stadium.

A majority of the other notable outcomes for Top 25 teams Saturday involved near-upsets. Ohio State needed two overtimes in Happy Valley to take down Penn State, as Joey Bosa sacked Christian Hackenberg on 4th-and-5 to give the Buckeyes their fifth straight win. The struggles against Penn State were a bit of a surprise after Ohio State scored 50-plus points in four consecutive games, but Urban Meyer's team is rounding into form at the right time.

Freshman J.T. Barrett, taking over after Braxton Miller's season-ending injury, has 27 total touchdowns and has quietly been among the nation's best quarterbacks. Barrett struggled at times against a game Nittany Lions secondary but scored twice on the ground in overtime to help seal the deal.

"It's not luck. It was a tough game," Meyer told reporters. "Penn State is a very rugged defensive unit. They play hard. "If we would have not turned the ball over and took care of business, then we'd see what would happen. But that's part of the game."

A similar story played out in Boulder, where No. 25 UCLA narrowly avoided giving Colorado its first Pac-12 win of the season. Brett Hundley scampered in from eight yards out in the second overtime, helping the Bruins escape with a 40-37 triumph.

Viewed as a potential conference titlist in the preseason, UCLA has proved to be a much shakier team than expected. Six of the Bruins' eight games have been decided by one possession, a disconcerting sign given the real bulk of their Pac-12 schedule is upcoming.

"One thing we're really good at is being resilient," Hundley told reporters.

Writer Dexter Fishmore commented on UCLA's topsy-turvy season:

The Pac-12 as a whole helped stave off what could have otherwise been viewed as a monotonous week. Utah quarterback Travis Wilson's one-yard touchdown pass with eight seconds remaining gave the Utes a 24-21 win over USC. The closely contested game never saw either side have a two-possession lead, and the teams were never separated by more than four points for the final 50 minutes.

In its fourth Pac-12 season, Kyle Whittingham's team finally appears ready to play with the big boys. Utah is a one-point home loss against Washington State away from being undefeated and may enter the College Football Playoff conversation if it can keep the good times rolling. The Utes play at Arizona State before hosting Oregon, so we'll get a good idea of where they stand on the national hierarchy soon.

Either way, at 6-1, Utah is bowl-eligible for the first time since 2011. It's been a long road for Whittingham to get Utah back at national prominence, including back-to-back 5-7 seasons. To say it's heady times now in Salt Lake City would be an understatement.

USC and Ole Miss were the only Top 25 teams to lose Saturday, and they did so against fellow ranked opponents. While categorized as mini-upsets, it's hard to get worked up over two very good teams holding fort at home.

Perhaps more interesting was Marshall's move to 8-0, which puts the Thundering Herd in position to possibly play the spoiler. Stealth Heisman candidate Rakeem Cato threw a touchdown for his 40th consecutive game but played a background role to Devon Johnson in the 35-16 win over Florida Atlantic. Johnson rushed for 272 yards and four touchdowns.

Sitting at No. 23, Marshall will need some help to make a significant leap in the standings but looks like a good bet to go undefeated. The Herd do not have a Top 25 team on their schedule, and their toughest remaining regular-season game is a road tilt with UAB. Only a potential Conference USA championship game against Louisiana Tech stands in their way of a 13-0 record.

It'll be interesting to see how reticent the selection committee is to ranking Marshall high given its schedule strength.

This week's win wasn't enough to move Marshall up a single spot. The only Top 25 team that made a major leap was LSU, which ascended eight spots to No. 16. Duke, which enters the rankings at No. 24, is the only new entry, having replaced USC.


Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter

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

This past Saturday’s 35-11 loss to Michigan State proved one thing: Michigan isn’t going to catch any breaks; it’s going to break.

The worst-case scenario for Brady Hoke's reeling Wolverines played out in East Lansing; they were tossed, bagged, sacked and pummeled by their bitter rivals for the sixth time in seven years. It was Hoke’s third loss in four meetings with Mark Dantonio, and it was Team 135’s fifth setback of the season (3-5, 1-3).

Needless to say, October didn’t end on a high note. As a matter of fact, the entire month yielded one victory in three attempts, an 18-13 nail-biter Oct. 11 versus Penn State—and November doesn’t look like it’ll be much better.

The Wolverines close the season—thankfully—on Nov. 29 in Columbus. Despite struggling Saturday night with the Nittany Lions, needing double overtime to escape 31-24, Ohio State holds steady as one of the Big Ten’s best.

That won’t be a pretty finale.

However, before closing the book of 2014 against its most hated foe, Michigan must play Indiana, Northwestern and Maryland.

In years past, that would have been a relatively easy task.

Not this year.


Welcome Home?

Here’s the schedule, via MGoBlue. Kickoff’s at approximately 3:30 ET.

Well, it turns out that Michigan isn’t the worst team in the Big Ten East division (that’s debatable). Record-wise, that woeful distinction belongs to the Hoosiers (3-4, 0-3), who are in last placeone spot below Team 135.

Consider Michigan’s advantage in the standings as the only “positive” heading into this one.

The Wolverines have struggled with top-tier running backs: Minnesota’s David Cobb carved Greg Mattison’s defense for a season-high 183 yards; Michigan State’s Jeremy Langford racked up 177.

In terms of yardage, Cobb’s the No. 4-ranked back in the Big Ten; Langford’s No. 5.

Hoosiers star Tevin Coleman is No. 1, leading the way with 1,192 yards; his 11 touchdowns are No. 4 in the league. There’s a strong chance that he’ll join Cobb and Langford in the “We Ran over Michigan Club.”

As for the score, well, it gets tricky. Indiana scored against Iowa, but lost 45-29. It also put up points during a 31-24 loss to Missouri, which is certainly a better team than Michigan.

However, the Hoosiers also lost 37-15 to Maryland, a team that Michigan can beat. But keeping with the trend, predicting a Wolverines loss Nov. 1 is only right.

Score: Hoosiers 27, Wolverines 14

Stats: Michigan gives up more than 100 to Coleman. Devin Gardner hands over the ball at least thrice, and the Wolverines will yet again fail to establish any rhythm on the ground or through the air.

And don’t plan on seeing Jabrill Peppers, who hasn’t played in eons. He sat out Saturday’s game versus Michigan State with a lower-body injury. He could be done for the year. There’s no sense in playing him now anyway.

Lunge a stake into 2014. It’s over.


Southward Skid Continues at Northwestern

Game time is TBD

By the time Nov. 8 rolls around, Michigan’s record should be 3-6, 1-4, and the heat underneath Hoke’s seat should be at inferno levels. That said, this one seems easy to predict. Northwestern (2-2, 3-4 as of Oct. 26) is always a pesky bunch, regardless of record.

Ask Wisconsin, one of the Big Ten’s leaders, about its meeting Oct. 4 with Northwestern. The Wildcats pulled off a huge upset by winning 20-14. The week prior, they creamed Penn State, 29-6.

In 2013, Michigan needed three overtimes to upend the Wildcats, 27-19. In 2014, a similar score could hold true for the home team—which happens to be Northwestern.

Score: Wildcats 28, Wolverines 13

Stats: Again, recent trends suggest a meltdown on the road for Team 135, which hasn’t won away from Ann Arbor all season.

Gardner will likely struggle—he has zero passing touchdowns during road games, but he’s thrown six picks in those three games. His average of 5.95 yards per attempt away from The Big House speaks volumes. 

And, of course, running the ball will probably be akin to pulling teeth, as De’Veon Smith’s average of 3.9 yards per carry away from home is, well, average.


Michigan Can Beat Maryland

Game time is TBD

The Wolverines will have an extra week to prepare for Maryland, which was abused this past Saturday by Wisconsin, 52-7, and shelled three weeks ago by Ohio State, 52-24.

But if there’s a winnable game on the schedule, it’s this one.

Maryland is in the midst of its first season in the Big Ten—it’s taking its lumps on a regular basis. However, it beat Iowa, 38-31, two weeks ago. But being at The Big House can be intimidating, making it easy to predict a victory for Team 135.

Score: Wolverines 31, Terps 24

Stats: This could end up being Michigan’s best game of the season. Gardner, for a change, could come out firing and deliver a gutsy, fifth-year-senior performance. Forecasting a season-high in passing yardage seems right.

The same goes for rushing, as Maryland has the Big Ten’s No. 13-ranked rushing defense (212.4 YPG), surpassed only by Illinois’ downtrodden defense.

The Terps get sacked a lot. As of Oct. 26, their quarterback had been nailed in the backfield 19 times. Only Illinois and Penn State, each with 25, have been worse in the department. Projecting a couple for Frank Clark, Brennen Beyer and Joe Bolden is a must.


Time to Take a Beating in Ohio

Funeral time is TBD

Nov. 29 is the day that Michigan’s season will be put to rest. Forget the Buckeyes’ difficulty with Penn State—that won’t mean a thing when it’s time for “The Game.” And imagine if the Spartans beat Ohio State—that’ll make Urban Meyer’s boys very angry.

Michigan doesn’t want an angry Joey Bosa, who is one of the top defensive linemen in the country. His game-ending sack of Nittany Lions quarterback Christian Hackenberg this past Saturday proves that much. The 6’5”, 285-pound sophomore won’t show any mercy for Gardner, who might want to invest in one of those protective bubble things.

Just a thought.

Score: Buckeyes 45, Wolverines 17

Stats: It’s taken Michigan more than two full seasons to mold Gardner into a solid starting quarterback, which doesn’t seem like it’s going to happen. Why? He doesn’t have any more eligibility. That’s why.

Bosa will frequently meet Gardner, who’ll probably be pulled at some point—either due to a safety concern or because he just can’t get the job done. Then it’ll be Shane Morris’ turn to face the fire. He isn’t ready for that, either.

On the other hand, it’s taken Ohio State less than two years to prep a backup, redshirt freshman into a star-caliber player; J.T. Barrett, despite struggling versus Penn State, has been incredible this season.

He’ll probably lead the charge with four touchdowns or so, two through the air and two on the ground, and give way to the next guy sometime in the fourth quarter.

What does all of this mean? It means that Michigan will likely finish with a 4-8, 2-6 record, that's what. 


Follow Bleacher Report’s Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81

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ESPN College GameDay to Headed to Morgantown for TCU vs West Virginia in Week 10

Batten down your couches, folks. ESPN's College GameDay is heading to Morgantown, West Virginia, in Week 10.

Chris, Lee, Herbie and the crew will make the trek out to the Mountain State to watch Dana Holgorsen's West Virginia Mountaineers take on Gary Patterson's TCU Horned Frogs, the show's official Twitter account announced Sunday morning:

TCU and West Virginia have taken near-identical paths to this point.

Both teams graduated to the Big 12 two seasons ago after finding success in "lesser" conferences. Both teams went 7-6 and 4-5 in conference play in 2012 and 4-8 and 2-7 in conference play in 2013. And both teams entered 2014 with modulated expectations because of it.

But both teams have defied those expectations through nine weeks, combining to win 12 of 15 games. TCU's only loss came on the road at Baylor, and West Virginia's only losses came at home to Oklahoma and on a neutral field against Alabama.

All three of those teams are pretty good.

In contrast to Week 9's GameDay game—LSU 10, Ole Miss 7—TCU-West Virginia should be a high-scoring affair. TCU ranks first in the country with 50.4 points per game, most recently pasting Texas Tech 82-27 in Week 9. West Virginia is averaging 40.3 points per game at home.

"They play very well there," Patterson said of the Mountaineers in Milan Puskar Stadium. "We have to get ready."

West Virginia quarterback Clint Trickett and receiver Kevin White are two of the breakout stars of the season. The same can be said, however, about TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin and receiver Josh Doctson.

When these teams met last season, Boykin was playing receiver and led TCU with 11 catches for 100 yards, but West Virginia won the game 30-27 on a field goal by Josh Lambert in overtime.

ABC will air the game at 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday.

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Amway College Football Poll 2014: Complete Week 10 Rankings Released

One loss. It once was a death sentence in college football, a reminder that your school of choice was unlikely to reach the national championship or, at the very least, was going to need some good fortune to get there. 

No more. These days, a loss just means you join a select group of talented, deserving teams all hoping to prove they are worthy of college football's four-team playoff. Sure, going undefeated in a major conference is still a guarantee, but no longer does a solitary loss bring so much doom. 

Or at least that's what Ole Miss fans are telling themselves this morning. And they aren't the first fans to seek that consolation this year, either. As the Amway Coaches Poll will reveal, more than a few teams have suffered a loss but remain in the running for the top four, or at least should once the selection committee reveals their rankings.

Let's see how the coaches see things first.





And then there were two. 

With apologies to Marshall, Mississippi State and Florida State were left as the only two undefeated teams in the playoff hunt after Saturday's action concluded. While Florida State was off in preparation for a tough matchup against Louisville on Thursday, Mississippi State had to overcome a tough battle against a pesky Kentucky team.

The Bulldogs survived the shootout, winning 45-31 and never trailing in the contest. But after conceding that many points to Kentucky, well, there are bound to be some questions about the team's defense. 

There can be fewer questions about quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Josh Robinson, as the pair combined for 502 yards from scrimmage. As Gil Brandt of tweeted, Prescott continues to impress and deserves consideration as the country's top player this year:

While Mississippi State survived—as did teams like Auburn and Ohio State, as both narrowly kept their playoff hopes alive—former No. 3 Ole Miss couldn't get past LSU in a 10-7 defensive showdown. Ole Miss certainly had their chances, especially late, but an ill-timed thrown by Bo Wallace with time winding down and ultimate interception cost the Rebels a shot at the game-tying field goal.

"I thought we were plenty clear we were either going to take the flat throw or throw it out of bounds, and then try the field goal," head coach Hugh Freeze said of the play after the game, per ESPN. "He must have felt like he had a shot at the touchdown play there. ... I wish I could do that over, for sure."

In the end, LSU won the way they normally win—by playing excellent defense, holding Ole Miss to 313 total yards, and by pounding the rock (264 rushing yards).

All is not lost for Ole Miss, of course. While Mississippi State and Florida State are the frontrunners for the playoff, about 16 teams will have the opportunity down the stretch to prove they are worthy of being considered a top-four team. Ole Miss is certainly one of them, and with games against Auburn and Mississippi State remaining, the Rebels are far from removed from the national championship discussion. 

Still, teams like Auburn, Alabama, Oregon and Michigan State have to feel like their chances of reaching the playoff improved just a little bit with Ole Miss' loss on Saturday. Last year, we would only be talking about Mississippi State and Florida State. Now, college football's postseason format has left a bevy of teams still in the running. 


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College Football Playoff Rankings 2014: Predictions for Week 10

With literally no precedent for a selection committee that will ultimately be awarding four teams the chance to play in a postseason playoff at the end of the year, trying to figure out how the group of folks assigned that very role will break down its first-ever rankings is a bit tricky.

Still, speculating is the fun part, and coming into the first rankings, we have a pretty good idea of what is likely to happen. Or what could happen. Or what might happen. Or...well, you get the point.

Let's break down my predictions for the Top Four teams in the country.


The No-Brainers: Mississippi State and Florida State

Mississippi State has answered every question sent its way thus far. On the road against LSU? Check. A tough matchup two weeks later against Texas A&M? Check. Somehow following that up with another huge win over Auburn? Check. Avoiding the inevitable surprise upset that plagues so many top teams by beating a tough Kentucky team on the road?


Things will get real in mid-November, however, as the Bulldogs travel to Alabama on November 15 and then go on the road to Ole Miss on November 29. Win those two games and it shouldn't matter what happens in the SEC title game, as Mississippi State will have locked up a spot in the playoff. But there's a lot of football to be played yet.

And then there's Florida State, it of the 23 straight victories. Thursday night's game against Louisville will be no easy task, but the path to the playoff looks pretty clear for the Seminoles. They've answered every question presented to them thus far this year, with victories over Oklahoma State, Clemson and Notre Dame. 

The committee might look at them and question just how good they are, but it's hard to see it putting them anywhere lower than No. 2. Wins are wins are wins, and Florida State continues to find ways to get them.


The Second Tier: Alabama, Auburn, Notre Dame, Oregon, Ole Miss and Michigan State

This is where things get interesting. 

Despite losing to LSU, will Ole Miss be ranked lower than Alabama, a team it beat? Will Oregon be ranked lower than Michigan State, a team it beat? Where exactly does Auburn fit into this picture?

Personally, I don't believe Ole Miss should be punished for losing after Alabama and Auburn lost. And I especially don't think it should be dinged for losing by three points at LSU, a very good team despite its two losses.

"This league is brutal," Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze said after the game, via Trey Iles of "It's difficult. Each Saturday it's hard to win football games particularly when you may not play your best and you suffer some injuries that you're not used to having. That's the first time that's happened to us this year."

Still, it's hard to ignore that Auburn not only smoked LSU, 41-7, but it also beat Kansas State on the road, 20-14. Plus, Auburn's only loss was on the road against Mississippi State, the team likely to be No. 1 when the selection committee releases its first rankings. To me, that resume leaves Auburn as the deserving No. 3.

So, who is No. 4?

I don't think Ole Miss will drop far in the eyes of the selection committee. Its best win (beating Alabama) is better than any win Notre Dame, Alabama, Oregon or Michigan State can boast, though Oregon's win over Michigan State was impressive and the Ducks are really cooking with fire now that the offensive line is starting to get healthy, led by Jake Fisher. 

Still, add in a road victory over Texas A&M, and Ole Miss' resume is strong. Strong than Oregon's, in my opinion, so I'm sticking with the Rebels at No. 4. Not everybody is as optimistic about Ole Miss remaining in the Top Four, however, like Pete Prisco of CBS Sports:

Yes, the past in college football rankings has left us all a little jaded. Maybe the selection committee will make things right.

Here's the question the committee will have to ask: If two teams didn't already play, who would you take in a neutral environment?

I would take Alabama over Notre Dame and Oregon, so it's my No. 5, with Oregon coming in at No. 6, Notre Dame at No. 7 (yes, the Irish nearly beat Florida State on the road, but no, they don't really have a signature win) and Michigan State coming in at No. 8. We'll see if the committee agrees.


The Best of the Rest: Georgia, TCU, Kansas State, Ohio State, Baylor, Arizona State, Arizona, Nebraska

Georgia and TCU are the really intriguing teams here. Georgia's win over Clemson was impressive, though its loss against South Carolina really hurts the team. TCU's loss was better, as the team put 58 on Baylor and still couldn't come away with the win on the road, and it has wins over Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. 

Still, the game against Kansas State will likely decide which of those teams has a shot at the playoff.

Most of these teams have an outside shot of making the playoff and need to win out and hope for help, one would guess. Still, there is likely to be a conference champion or two out of this bunch, so don't sleep on these teams, either.



Mississippi State and Florida State are the top two teams in the country at the moment, and they deserve to be sitting atop the rankings. It's hard to see the selection committee disagreeing with that. 

Auburn not only has impressive wins, but its only loss was on the road against the top team in the country. And Ole Miss has knocked off Alabama and Texas A&M and nearly beat LSU on the road.

Those are the teams I believe will be the Top Four in the first set of rankings released by the selection committee, with Alabama and Oregon nipping at their heels. It will be fascinating to see how the committee views the college football landscape.


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NCAA Football Playoff 2014: Latest Predictions After Week 9 Standings

Remember when the 2014 college football season's preseason polls didn't include Mississippi State? Well, through nine weeks of regular-season action, the Bulldogs remain the No. 1 seed. Will they retain that position through the remaining schedule?

At this point in the season, each team in the nation is beginning to show its true colors. We have a very good idea of which contenders are for real and which simply put on a good facade for a while. As the upsets continue to pile up each week, the College Football Playoff's outlook shifts as a direct result. We should expect more adjustments before the season's over.

So, which four teams will finish atop the rankings and earn berths in the semifinal bowl games? Based on recent performances and remaining schedules, let's predict which four squads will comprise the Top Four when the regular season comes to an end.


College Football Playoff Predictions

1. Mississippi State

The Bulldogs almost did enough to drop themselves out of contention in Week 9. Mississippi State was entrenched in a nail-biter against unranked Kentucky in a game that came down to the final minutes of the fourth quarter. The Bulldogs notched the win, but it wasn't in impressive fashion.

Quarterback Dak Prescott continues to lead this exciting offense. He wasn't entirely efficient through the air on Saturday, completing 18 of his 33 passing attempts for 216 yards, one touchdown and one interception, but he made up for it with 88 rushing yards and two more scores.

MSU Football tweeted Prescott's ongoing streak of touchdowns:

Running back Josh Robinson only seems to get more dangerous by the week. He rattled off 198 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries against the Wildcats and showed no signs of slowing down in any point of the game. His effort propelled the Bulldogs to a total of 326 yards on the ground.

This team's defense is a slight cause for concern. It allowed 390 passing yards and two touchdowns to Kentucky quarterback Patrick Towles, 504 total yards of offense and 31 points. This unit will absolutely give up points to a better team, forcing Prescott and Co. to really light up the scoreboard to accumulate a win.

For now, this team's offense looks good enough to get through the regular season unscathed.


2. Florida State

The Seminoles are a perfect 7-0, and when looking at their remaining schedule—there are no ranked teams on Florida State's upcoming slate of games—it's clear they'll end the season with a blemish-free record.

Florida State wasn't overly impressive against Notre Dame in Week 8, but it did show a great amount of resilience. The Fighting Irish didn't allow any kind of running room for the Seminoles, so quarterback Jameis Winston took matters into his own hands.

Winston finished the game completing 23 of his 31 passing attempts for 273 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. He was the team's only source of offense, and he was at his best when he was under the gun in the game's final quarter.

Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports tweeted Winston's excellent stats in the game's second half:

The Seminoles proved they are worthy of their No. 2 standing, and without any threatening teams residing on their regular-season schedule, that's exactly where they'll stay until the end of the season.


3. Oregon

If we know anything about the Oregon Ducks, it's this: Quarterback Marcus Mariota and the team's offense really know how to light up a scoreboard. That was the case on Saturday when the team put up 59 points in a win over California.

Mariota showed why he continues to be a coveted NFL prospect, completing 18 of his 30 passing attempts for 326 yards and throwing five touchdown passes. Royce Freeman shouldered the brunt of the workload out of the backfield, accumulating 112 yards and two touchdowns, while the speedy Byron Marshall went for 133 yards and a score on just four receptions.

Here's a look at how dominant Mariota has been this season, via ESPN College Football:

That offensive clinic netted an astounding 590 yards, proving once again why the Ducks own one of the nation's most feared offenses.

Like Mississippi State, this team's weakness resides on the defensive side of the ball. The Ducks gave up 360 yards and two scores to quarterback Jared Goff, along with 193 rushing yards and four scores to ball-carriers, en route to a 560-yard, 41-point performance by the Golden Bears offense.

Oregon's defense could get this team in trouble due to its tendency of allowing teams to stick around. However, with Utah remaining as the team's only ranked opponent for the remainder of the season, chances of the Ducks winning out are very good.


4. Notre Dame

The Fighting Irish proved they still belong in the College Football Playoff discussion despite losing to Florida State in Week 8. Notre Dame got out in front early and held at least a share of the lead until the Seminoles took over for good with just 7:39 remaining in the game.

Everett Golson may warrant some Heisman consideration following his performance against one of the nation's best teams. He accumulated 313 yards through the air and tossed all three of the team's touchdowns. With the talented Corey Robinson, William Fuller and Tarean Folston at Golson's disposal, Notre Dame's offense can be quite dynamic.

Chris B. Brown of Smart Football tweeted his thoughts on the quarterback:

The impressive aspect of this team is its balanced nature—the team's defense has played just as well this season. The Fighting Irish held the Seminoles to average a measly 1.9 yards per rush while limiting Florida State to just 323 total yards of offense.

Notre Dame's ability to get it done on both sides of the ball is the reason why this team will have no trouble winning its remaining games—including contests against Arizona State and USC—en route to an 11-1 record and No. 4 seed by the end of the season.

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College Football Freshman Power Rankings of the Month

October is close to turning into November. Just as quickly as it began, the college football season is nearing its final stretch. Freshmen who were making their first career starts or appearances just a month ago are a little more seasoned now. 

With that, it's time to look back at which freshmen have stood out over the past several weeks. 

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 the month of October? Which ones had the most jaw-dropping highlights? Which ones underwhelmed? The answers are in the list below.


The Standout

This one is tough and basically a tie between Oregon running back Royce Freeman and Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett. Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett and defensive back Armani Watts get some consideration as well.  

Freeman is the frosh who has been the biggest part of his team's game plan without touching the ball every time. Through eight games, he leads the Ducks with 748 yards rushing and 13 touchdowns. A little more than half of those yards have come in the last three games. 

However, no one has improved quite as much over the past several weeks like Barrett has. From the Week 2 loss to Virginia Tech to reeling off five straight wins, Barrett has epitomized Ohio State's turnaround. 

"He's saved our bacon a few times," head coach Urban Meyer said, via Bill Landis of "I think having that kind of player, we've made the decision we can't not have that kind of player. You don't have to be 4.3 (in the 40-yard dash), which J.T. is not, but you have to be a tough guy and be willing to get some yards. J.T. has done a good job of that."

Barrett gets the edge, but it was a close one. 


Best Highlight

USC do-it-all weapon Adoree' Jackson had a big moment in the Trojans' 24-21 loss to Utah on Saturday. The freshman had a nice forced fumble and recovery, but also returned a kick 100 yards for a touchdown.

The loss stings, but Jackson had a great night on special teams and defense. 


Who’s Rising?

He got off to a bit of a slow start, but LSU running back Leonard Fournette has turned it on the past few weeks. He has averaged at least four yards per carry in all but two games, and two of his three 100-yard games have come against SEC opponents (Florida and Ole Miss).

His 23-carry, 113-yard performance against Ole Miss was especially impressive considering how good the Rebels defense has been. He also caught two passes for 40 yards, all of which came on one beautiful throw from quarterback Anthony Jennings. 

And don't even think for a minute Fournette needs to play with a facemask, either. 

The Tigers have won three straight and might be turning the corner after a disappointing start. Fournette has been part of that resurrection. 


Who’s Falling?

North Carolina running back Elijah Hood had a few big moments during the month of September. However, he's missed the past two games with an undisclosed injury, per UNC's injury report (h/t John Taylor of College Football Talk). 

For the month of October, Hood has 20 carries for just 36 yards, though he does have a pair of touchdowns. The touted freshman has 199 yards on the season and four touchdowns. Those numbers were best on the team until quarterback Marquise Williams surpassed them. 

The Tar Heels are 2-0 without Hood, but here's hoping he gets healthy and back on the field soon. 


Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. 

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NCAA Football Rankings 2014: Week 10 Standings for College's Top 25 Teams

College football really is the gift that keeps on giving, and fans were not disappointed during the evening slate of games in Week 9.

LSU provided our only real stunning result of the day with an upset of No. 3 Ole Miss (try explaining that sentence to someone who last watched college football in 2010), but Utah pulled out a thrilling win in the final seconds against USC, Arizona State ran back a game-clinching pick-six against Washington and Ohio State persevered in front of 107,000 rabid Penn State fans in double overtime.

As if that wasn’t enough, Auburn outlasted South Carolina 42-35 in an entertaining shootout that featured five fourth-down conversions and a surprise onside kick that almost turned the game South Carolina’s way.

If nothing else, it gave remote controls across the country quite the workout. 

Here is a look at how the Top 25 teams in the Associated Press poll all fared in Week 9.



As mentioned, the most important result of the night was LSU’s win over Ole Miss in Death Valley.

The Tigers won 10-7 in a hard-hitting slugfest by making a game-winning interception in the final seconds. Instead of kicking a potential game-tying field goal and forcing overtime, the Rebels elected to heave the ball deep, which ultimately cost them the game and their undefeated record.

Head coach Hugh Freeze discussed Bo Wallace’s decision on the pass, via "I thought we were plenty clear we were either going to take the flat throw or throw it out of bounds, and then try the field goal. He must have felt like he had a shot at the touchdown play there. ... I wish I could do that over, for sure."

Ole Miss’ first loss certainly threw a bit of a curveball into an SEC West race that features one-loss Alabama (who easily handled Tennessee), one-loss Auburn (who outlasted South Carolina in a shootout) and undefeated Mississippi State. Things weren’t exactly easy for the Bulldogs either in a 45-31 win at Kentucky, but this is the time of year when wins are what matters most, especially in this conference.

As of now, it feels like at least one team is making the playoffs from the SEC West, if not more.

Outside of the SEC, the Pac-12 provided the usual slate of thrilling contests.

Oregon kicked it off with a 59-41 win over California on Friday night that certainly looked good for Marcus Mariota and the offense, but not so much for the defense. UCLA survived Colorado in double overtime, both Arizona schools won and Utah put together an incredible 73-yard drive in the final two minutes to beat USC, 24-21.

The Ducks and (to a lesser extent) the Arizona schools and Utah are still alive in the College Football Playoff race with only one loss apiece. With showdowns between Arizona and Arizona State, Utah and Arizona, Arizona State and Notre Dame, Arizona State and Utah and Utah and Oregon still on the schedule, the Pac-12 will undoubtedly have a say in the race for the postseason. 

Jon Solomon of CBS passed along a head-turning stat from out west:

If the race to the playoffs is a beauty pageant, nobody looked better than TCU in Week 9. The Horned Frogs dropped an astounding 82 points on Texas Tech and let the nation know that they will still be heard from down the stretch even after a heartbreaking loss to Baylor.

Finally, there were two results of note in the Big Ten. 

Michigan State absolutely annihilated rival Michigan 35-11 in a game that wasn’t even as close as the scoreboard indicated. At least the Wolverines did whatever this is, via Stewart Mandel of Fox Sports:

Elsewhere, the Buckeyes survived a stiff test in Happy Valley in double overtime behind an excellent day from defensive lineman Joey Bosa. Quarterback J.T. Barrett was clearly banged up late in the game but picked up two critical touchdown drives in the extra periods to overcome what was a lackluster game.

Todd Porter of The Repository noted that the outcome was never in doubt for Ohio State when considering recent history:

Mandel also had an interesting opinion when all was said and done:

The College Football Playoff selection committee will put out its first official poll before Week 10 kicks off.

While there are bound to be countless changes between those initial rankings and the actual playoff, fans and commentators alike will likely dive into debates and hypothetical situations right away.

Questions including how many SEC teams belong in the field of four, whether Oregon should be penalized for giving up 41 points to California, whether the Big Ten teams still have a shot at a playoff spot and where Notre Dame fits in the national picture will all be thrown around.

While those are all worthwhile discussions that will only pick up steam as the season continues, don’t let them take away from the product on the field. 

College football truly is a playoff every single week.


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SEC Chaos Ushering Notre Dame Closer to the College Football Playoff

It seems likely the College Football Playoff committee breathed a collective sigh of relief about Saturday’s outcomes in the Southeastern Conference. And we’ll have to wait until Tuesday’s first playoff rankings to know for sure, but it seems like the biggest beneficiary of Ole Miss’ first loss will be the school that so often leads the nation in good luck, Notre Dame.

The Fighting Irish figure to rise for playoff consideration even though they didn’t play Saturday and are coming off a heartbreaking loss to Florida State. But they have key factors working in their favor as the playoff picture comes into sharper focus.

First and foremost, the path of 6-1 Notre Dame doesn’t have as many potholes as most other playoff contenders, particularly the SEC teams. The biggest challenges are a Nov. 8 date at 6-1 Arizona State, and a season-ending tilt at Southern Cal, where the Trojans are looking more and more beatable after taking their third loss on Saturday.

Plus, being an independent means the Irish won’t face the emotions of an all-or-nothing conference championship game on neutral turf, which is a huge advantage over the SEC, Big Ten, ACC and Pac-12 schools.

Meantime, Notre Dame will be rooting hard for Florida State to remain undefeated. The Irish loss to FSU is actually one of the best things on its record, since it came on the road against the defending national champion and was one pass-interference call away from being an upset victory.

Look for Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly to play that card deftly the rest of the way as his team strives to finish 11-1.

“Look, they were on a national stage, and they showed everybody what kind of football team they were,” Kelly reminded reporters at last week's press conference.

But what possibly will surface as even bigger edge for the Irish is the thought process of the College Football Playoff committee.

The committee has made public a very lengthy protocol for its selection process. But my gut feeling is that one thing that has been left out is that the 12 voters will strive to pick a four-team field that’s representative of all of college football. I think they’ll want four teams that have a good geographical spread, a group that limits the provincial belly-aching or claims of bias.

They’ll want this first playoff to be popular make a feel-good impression with as much of the nation as possible.

No college football team has a bigger national following than Notre Dame. The Irish fanbase is spread from coast to coast, which is why the television network executives love them and their ratings appeal so much. And if you don’t think TV is a factor, you don’t realize who’s paying the bills.

For all the promises that committee members will recuse themselves from discussions about schools where they have financial ties, let’s remember two things about the committee members: 1) They’re human. 2) They’re football fans.

So if Notre Dame is on the bubble, it’s conceivable that committee member Condoleezza Rice, a Notre Dame alum, would invoke some of the diplomatic skills she culled as the U.S. Secretary of State on behalf of the Fighting Irish. (Rice also was born in Alabama, so she may have some very sleepless nights coming up.)

But Rice or any other potential Notre Dame advocate may have their work done for them by the SEC meat grinder that’s heating up. (And it might hurt the SEC that Archie Manning's knee problems have caused the former Ole Miss quarterback to resign from the playoff committee.) 

Seeing LSU make Ole Miss look so overrated doesn't help the SEC make a case for two playoff spots, and one glance at what’s left of the SEC schedule makes it obvious that some of the conference’s elite teams will suffer a second defeat in November. The SEC probably still has to of the best four teams in the nation, but it will be tough to justify giving a playoff spot to any team with two defeats.

Auburn faces a brutal gauntlet, with road games at Ole Miss, Georgia and Alabama. That uphill climb starts Saturday at Ole Miss, where the Rebels no doubt will be in a mood to avenge the loss at LSU.

Alabama finally has its offense rolling, but a Nov. 8 date at LSU will land the Crimson Tide in the same Death Valley atmosphere that Bo Wallace described as "the craziest place I've played" after Saturday's loss.

Undefeated Mississippi State showed vulnerability while surviving at Kentucky despite Patrick Towles' 390 passing yards on Saturday, but the Bulldogs have much tougher days ahead. Alabama comes to Starkville on Nov. 15, and the Nov. 29 trip to Ole Miss looms as the most meaningful game in the history of the Egg Bowl.

Whichever SEC West team survives those showdowns will have to get right back on the field for one more test the Saturday after its rivalry game, for the conference championship. The likely opponent will be Georgia, in the Georgia Dome, and by then the Bulldogs might have a vengeful Todd Gurley back in the lineup, ready to put his rested legs to work after serving an NCAA suspension.

And Notre Dame will be able to just sit back and enjoy the carnage.


Tom Weir covered college football as a columnist for USA Today.

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Bowl Predictions 2014: College Football Playoff Projections Following Week 9

The 2014 college football season has been complete madness through nine weeks of action. Upset victories have become a common trend while preseason polls seem like a distant memory, as previously unranked teams currently stand tall over the rest of the nation. And there's still plenty of time for even more changes before the College Football Playoff.

While there is a clear-cut Top Four following Saturday's action, chances are some of those teams won't be in the playoff discussion when the regular season comes to a close. Due to some very tough remaining schedules for top squads and other surging, lower-ranked teams climbing up the standings, we should expect continued movement in the rankings. This is where speculation comes into play.

Based on the current standings, recent on-field performances and impending matchups, here's a prediction of college football's Top Four teams following the conclusion of the regular season and their corresponding bowl games.


Bowl Predictions

Sugar Bowl: Mississippi State vs. Notre Dame

Rose Bowl: Florida State vs. Oregon


Final Rankings

1. Mississippi State

The Bulldogs remained unbeaten through Week 9, but it wasn't by the prettiest of performances.

Quarterback Dak Prescott moved the offense well enough to notch the win, but his efficiency wasn't up to par. He completed 18 of his 33 passing attempts for 216 yards, one touchdown and one interception against Kentucky's secondary. Luckily, Mississippi State's offense fared far better on the ground.

Running back Josh Robinson was fantastic, carrying 23 times for 198 yards and two touchdowns. Prescott carried 18 times for 88 yards and two scores of his own. Sports Illustrated tweeted Robinson's most ridiculous run of the day:

The team accumulated 326 yards on the ground; there's no reason to dispute that this is one of the nation's juggernaut offenses.

Defense is a whole different story.

Kentucky's Patrick Towles threw for 390 yards and two touchdowns as the Wildcats accumulated 504 yards of offense and 31 points. That's not a good sign due to the fact that the Bulldogs still must face the prolific offenses of Alabama and Ole Miss later this season.

Still, Mississippi State will retain the No. 1 spot with continued stellar offensive output, finishing the season undefeated.


2. Florida State

The Seminoles were inactive Saturday during their bye week and remain in the No. 2 spot. Defeating Notre Dame proved two things about Florida State in Week 8: that this team can step up against the nation's best, and that Jameis Winston is a resilient quarterback who flourishes in the face of adversity.

College GameDay tweeted Winston's impressive home winning streak:

Florida State didn't have a lead against the Fighting Irish until the final score of the game with 7:31 remaining in the fourth quarter. This team proved it is comprised of fighters on both sides of the ball, which will lead to an undefeated season when combined with a very easy remaining schedule.

Without a single ranked opponent left on the Seminoles' slate this season, expect five more convincing wins to hold this squad in position as the nation's second-ranked team.


3. Oregon

Oregon has virtually the same story as Mississippi State: This team has a prolific offense but is really lacking on the defensive side of the ball.

Marcus Mariota may be the best quarterback in the nation right now and was dynamic on Saturday against California, passing for 326 yards and five touchdowns. The signal-caller has plenty of weapons at his disposal as well: Royce Freeman and Byron Marshall have been creating matchup nightmares for opposing defenses all year.

Here's a look at how dominant Mariota has been this season, via ESPN College Football:

Defensively, the Ducks could improve. On Saturday, they allowed quarterback Jared Goff to throw for 360 yards and two touchdowns while allowing the Golden Bears to score four times on the ground. Giving up 41 points to a .500 team isn't a great sign for this defense going forward.

Luckily for the Ducks, they have an offense that is virtually unrivaled. This team thrives by simply outscoring its opponents and is very good at doing so. With Utah being the only ranked team remaining on Oregon's schedule, it's easy to see the Ducks winning out and moving up into the nation's top-ranked one-loss team.


4. Notre Dame

With a one-loss team taking up the No. 3 spot in the rankings, the Fighting Irish have a great chance to move into No. 4. A last-second loss against the nation's second-ranked team gives Notre Dame a certified "quality loss" in the eyes of voters.

The Fighting Irish took a small fall down the standings after facing Florida State; however, the drop was limited due to the impressive performance displayed by quarterback Everett Golson and his supporting cast. Notre Dame's offense exceeded expectations, putting up a total of 470 yards on the road in a loud, hostile environment.

Dane Brugler of CBS Sports tweeted his thoughts on the Notre Dame offense:

On the defensive side of the ball, Notre Dame won in the trenches, allowing just 1.9 yards per carry to the Seminoles and forcing Winston to win the game with his arm. After watching that performance, the Fighting Irish should have no trouble winning out against the likes of Arizona State and USC.

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Southern Cal vs. Utah: Game Grades, Analysis for Trojans, Utes

In a thrilling Pac-12 South Division showdown, the Utah Utes were able to come away with a slim 24-21 victory over the visiting Southern Cal Trojans.

Utah signal-caller Travis Wilson was sensational on the game-winning drive. A 19-yard scramble helped to set up the go-ahead 1-yard touchdown throw to Kaelin Clay with 0:08 remaining in the contest. Devontae Booker also had a hand in the victory—rushing for 102 yards and a touchdown. 

It was a very tough defeat for the Trojans. The defense for the most part did a very good job of bottling up the second-leading rusher in the Pac-12. Cody Kessler displayed considerable grit throughout the night, and made some big plays. 

However, two turnovers led to touchdowns by the Utes. Questionable decision-making and play-calling by the staff also didn't help matters much. 

A full box score can be found here, courtesy of Check out first-half grades and final grades for both the Trojans and Utes. Additional analysis for positional units will also be addressed. 


USC Trojans Game Analysis

Passing Offense

The opening play was strange, to say the least. Whether it was a misunderstanding between quarterback and receiver, it resulted in a touchdown for Utah nonetheless. 

In terms of Kessler's play, he was very good. His awareness in the pocket was on full display, as he was able to step up to evade pressure and make throws down the field. Aside from one poorly thrown ball to Nelson Agholor, he was one of the better players for the Trojans on the night. For the game, Kessler went 24-of-32 for 264 yards and a touchdown. 

In terms of pass protection, the unit did well despite the injury to starting left tackle Chad Wheeler. 

Utah led the nation in sacks per game heading into tonight's contest, and it finished below their season average of six. 


Pass Defense

Adoree' Jackson in particular was very good in coverage. He battled immensely hard, and even forced a fumble. The longest pass play of the evening went for only 18 yards. SC's secondary competed hard at the line of scrimmage, and it was able to neutralize Dres Anderson effectively. 


Rushing Offense

The vaunted SC ground game never fully got into a rhythm. Credit Utah's defensive front for plugging the holes up front, but the Trojans offensive line seemed to have poor get-off when it came to run blocking. 

Buck Allen finished with only 101 yards on 27 carries. Congratulations are in order to him, as he went over the 1,000-yard mark for the year. 


Rush Defense

In the first half, the Trojans held the second-leading rusher in the conference to 32 yards. The defensive front was winning the battle at the line of scrimmage, and even forced three fumbles (two of which came from Devontae Booker). 

In the second half, Booker came alive and ran with more effectiveness. Despite the Utah tailback accruing over 100 yards on the evening, USC made him work for every yard. It was a very strong performance by the front seven. 


Special Teams

Jackson displayed why he was regarded as one of the top recruits in the country coming out of high school. Based on his electric kickoff return for a touchdown, USC should look to get the ball in his hands more. 

The only blemish on the evening came from the big 54-yard punt return by Kaelin Clay, which helped to give Utah great field position. 



The decision on the fourth-down try late in the game will be a huge talking point in Los Angeles this week for the media. Steve Sarkisian will be questioned for not attempting a field goal, but also for calling a pitch option to a wide receiver.

Although Allen hadn't been running with tremendous effectiveness, he's your best option in a short-yardage situation. Defensively, there was seemingly a reluctance to blitz Wilson—especially in the second half. As the old adage says, "prevent defense prevents you from winning."


Utah Utes Game Analysis

Passing Offense

Wilson was efficient on the night. He wasn't asked to make many throws down the field. In fact, Utah's longest pass play went for 18 yards. This was by design, in order to accentuate Wilson's strengths. The underneath routes to Westlee Tonga were effective. 

However, there wasn't an attempt to stretch the field vertically with Anderson or Kenneth Scott. Utah could afford to at least give the opposition the threat of throwing deep. Regardless, Wilson did not turn the ball over. He finished 18-of-32 for 193 yards and a touchdown.


Pass Defense

In the first half, USC was gashing Utah with crossing routes and throws underneath. The Trojans did a nice job of attacking the Utes when they brought pressure. 

In the second half, a minor adjustment was made. Utah opted to play more zone in order to compensate for the speed of USC's skill players. Although Kessler threw for 264 yards, the longest pass play for the Trojans went 28 yards. Utah did a nice job of not allowing USC to beat it deep for a big play. 



Rushing Offense

Credit USC's defense for stonewalling Booker in the first half. Much like USC's offensive line, Utah's group was unable to open up holes in the ground game. Utah averaged only 3.3 yards per carry on the night. 

It did a nice job of protecting Wilson on passing situations, but the run game as a whole ran for only 137 yards on 42 carries. 


Rush Defense

The front seven did a terrific job of plugging the gaps and virtually living in the backfield. Blitzes came from all angles and really clogged things up front. In particular, Jason Fanaika and Jared Norris were extremely active. 

Utah held the Pac-12 leading rusher to only 101 yards on 27 carries. This equates out to a paltry 3.7 yards per carry average. 


Special Teams

The kickoff return for a touchdown by Jackson was very un-Utah-like. However, the electric punt return by Clay helped to give Utah great field position. 

Andy Phillips connected on his only field-goal attempt, and punter Tom Hackett was strong—averaging over 46 yards per punt. 



Offensively, the play-calling was a bit conservative. There wasn't a whole lot of faith in Wilson delivering the ball down the field vertically. The reemergence of the run game in the second half enabled offensive coordinator Dave Christensen to be more creative. If anything, the play-calling did cater to Wilson's strengths as a player. This was particularly true when Wilson would roll out and take advantage of his mobility.

Defensively, the unit played more zone in the second half. It shrunk the field—cutting off some of the underneath routes SC exploited in the first half. Utah also devised a great scheme versus SC's elite running back. 

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USC Falls Short in True Game of Inches, Spoils Chance at Pac-12 Title

No. 20 USC tried to walk the tightrope one too many times in its 24-21 loss at No. 19 Utah Saturday, and falling inches short cost the Trojans immeasurably in the Pac-12 championship race. 

Taking a pitch from quarterback Cody Kessler, wide receiver Nelson Agholor broke up the sideline for a fourth-down run that, if converted, would salt away USC's four-point lead. But Agholor stepped out of bounds just one yard shy of the first-down marker, turning over possession to the Utes for their game-winning drive. 

Consider Agholor's misstep karma for the few inches that broke the Trojans' way earlier. Two Utah drives stalled at the USC one-yard line when the Utes coughed up fumbles. 

One came on a strip made by cornerback Adoree' Jackson, who had nothing but turf 99 yards ahead of him but the play was whistled dead. 

Seeing both the winning and losing ends of that game of inches is nothing new for this USC team. It's been the Trojans' M.O. for much of the Pac-12 season, and head coach Steve Sarkisian even addressed it after their Week 7 win at Arizona when he said they were a Hail Mary against Arizona State away from being a Top Five team.  

True as that may be, USC also benefited from a wayward field-goal attempt in the final seconds at Arizona, as well as repeated red-zone failures by the Stanford offense in Week 2. 

USC surged ahead in the Pac-12 South with wins that were decided by a few feet. Now, the Trojans find themselves looking up at three teams because of a few feet. 

Of course, offensive deficiencies plagued USC well before Agholor stepped out of bounds on a play-call sure to be heavily scrutinized in the coming days. 

After an impressive second drive, which culminated with Kessler finding John "JuJu" Smith for a 10-yard score, the USC offense went stagnant for 45 minutes of game time. 

Smith's touchdown reception and Kessler's four-yard connection with Darreus Rogers in the fourth quarter book-ended a 100-yard kickoff return for a score by Jackson in the second quarter. 

Otherwise, USC's offense was rendered stagnant. That's been a recurring problem for the Trojans in 2014, with their Week 8 rout of Colorado seemingly reigniting that side of the ball. 

But it was abundantly clear Saturday in Rice-Eccles Stadium that Utah isn't Colorado. 

Utah demonstrated why it entered Week 9 with the nation's No. 21-ranked run defense. USC running back Javorius "Buck" Allen went for 101 yards, but he had to work for every bit of it with a 3.7-yard per carry average. 

The USC defense matched Utah blow-for-blow, very nearly making a third stop at the one-yard line to win it.

But after Utah's first play from the goal line failed, quarterback Travis Wilson found Kaelin Clay on a roll-out for the game-winner.  

Two Pac-12 South losses sealed by touchdown passes with zeroes on the clock could be all it takes to keep USC out of the conference title picture. 

The Trojans trail Arizona, Arizona State and Utah, each of which has just one conference game. USC handed Arizona its lone defeat, thus the Trojans just need one more Wildcats loss. 

But by losing to both the Sun Devils and Utes, USC's one-game deficit in the division is more like two. Both hold tiebreakers over the Trojans. 

Now the inches that eluded the Trojans look a lot more like miles in an increasingly contentious Pac-12 South race. 


Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise cited. Statistics via and 

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