NCAA Football News

AP College Football Poll 2014: Complete Week 13 Rankings Released

Just when you think you have everything figured out in college football, another week of action turns those notions on their head.

This weekend was no different, as a series of upsets, close calls and huge conference showdowns once again altered the top of the rankings. While the selection committee's rankings are the only ones that will ultimately matter for teams trying to reach the College Football Playoff, the Associated Press offered its perspective Sunday of the Top 25 teams in the country this week.   

Let's break down that poll next to Bleacher Report's official Top 25 and take a look back at the weekend that was.  




Once again, an SEC showdown drastically altered the top of the rankings.

This time, it was Alabama pulling off a huge 25-20 home victory against the top-ranked team in the nation heading into Saturday, Mississippi State. The result not only gave Alabama the signature victory it really needed for its resume, but it also means it controls its own fate in the SEC. 

Win out and the Crimson Tide will reach the SEC Championship Game. Win that and they'll undoubtedly qualify for the playoff. 

Mississippi State certainly isn't out of the playoff picture just yet. Alabama still has to beat Auburn, while the Bulldogs might even get into the playoff without reaching the SEC title game, seeing as they have wins over LSU, Texas A&M and Auburn and have yet to face Ole Miss, another win that would really bolster their resume. Surely, though, the team woke up on Sunday with a bad taste in its mouth.

"We should feel awful," head coach Dan Mullen told reporters. "You should have a sickness in your stomach. We should embrace this feeling to make sure that this feeling doesn't happen again. We'll feel sick tonight but then we'll get over it. Except for being undefeated, every other goal is still ahead of us."

More than a few teams in college football barely escaped that sickness in their stomachs. Florida State had to overcome a 23-10 deficit at the half against Miami. TCU barely got past Kansas, a close call that will surely have Baylor fans calling for the Bears to vault past the Horned Frogs in the playoff committee's rankings. 

And one team didn't survive, as Arizona State fell to Oregon State and likely lost any chance of reaching the playoff in the process. It wasn't just a huge loss for the Sun Devils, as Ralph D. Russo of The Associated Press tweeted:

And so the college football season has come down to the teams that seemingly control their destiny in the playoff chase (Florida State, Alabama, Oregon) and those teams that are hoping their resumes are strong enough to get them in (TCU, Baylor, Ohio State, Mississippi State).

In other words, with three weeks remaining, everything is still up for grabs in college football. In a sense, the playoff has already begun. At this point in the season, one loss can cost a team everything.


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College Football Rankings 2014: Twitter Reacts to AP and Amway Week 13 Polls

One Power Five unbeaten fell by the wayside. The other came back from 15-plus points down for the third time this season. With those results and a few others, it's safe to say Saturday provided one of the most thrilling slates of games in 2014.   

Florida State, despite never quite looking like the best team in the country, re-ascends to No. 1 following its comeback victory over Miami and Mississippi State's loss to Alabama. The Crimson Tide, meanwhile, continue their march to a playoff berth by sitting at No. 2, with idle Oregon holding firm at No. 3. Despite losing, the Bulldogs only drop a few spots and remain in position for a potential playoff berth if they win out.

Here is a look at how the Top 25 played out in the Associated Press and Amway Coaches polls:

The most significant win of the week belonged to Alabama, which controlled the tempo throughout its 25-20 win over Mississippi State. The Tide picked Dak Prescott off three times and went up 19-0 before Mississippi State scored 20 of the game's final points. Prescott's four-yard touchdown pass to Jameon Lewis with 15 seconds remaining was the only thing that kept Alabama from winning by two scores.

"We should feel awful," Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen told reporters. "You should have a sickness in your stomach. We should embrace this feeling to make sure that this feeling doesn't happen again. We'll feel sick tonight but then we'll get over it."

Bryan Fischer of pointed out some of the Bulldogs' biggest wins look suspect in hindsight: 

Alabama has won five straight games since its loss to Ole Miss. With rival Auburn floundering following its 34-7 loss to Georgia, Nick Saban's team looks primed for a playoff berth. Matt Hinton of Grantland said the Tide sit atop his rankings of teams he wouldn't want to play:

Florida State doesn't look primed for anything. Well, except for second-half comebacks. The top-ranked Seminoles were down 16-0 and 23-7 in the first half of Saturday's game against Miami. And, like they have so many times this season, they turned it on late for a thrilling 30-26 victory. Jameis Winston threw for 304 yards and Dalvin Cook rushed for 92 on just seven carries, including a 26-yard scamper for the game-winning score.   

"That's how we're built," Florida State receiver Rashad Greene told reporters. "At the end of the day, we don't panic, we don't point fingers, we don't blame anyone. We make it possible."

Florida State has won four one-touchdown games in 2014 after not allowing a single team to come closer than 14 points during the 2013 regular season. With only home games remaining against Boston College and Florida, odds are the Seminoles will enter the ACC Championship Game undefeated. But a team can only play with fire so many times before a mean regression.

Jesse Spector of Sporting News had a theory on how Florida State manages its second-half comebacks:

Also in need of a second-half comeback was TCU, which narrowly avoided an embarrassing loss to Kansas. Aaron Green rushed for 128 yards and two second-half touchdowns, leading the Horned Frogs back from a 10-point deficit. Trevone Boykin added 330 yards and a score through the air.

"A lot of people would have lost that ballgame," TCU coach Gary Patterson told reporters. "There wasn't any style points here other than the fact that we fought back and won the game."

Pat Forde of Yahoo Sports thinks the scare might wind up hurting the Horned Frogs with the playoff committee:

Of course, a scare is much better than an outright loss. Just ask Arizona State. The Sun Devils' shot at a national championship fell by the wayside Saturday, as Oregon State earned a 35-27 upset in Corvallis. The Beavers rushed for 247 yards and quarterback Sean Mannion provided a steady hand, a stark contrast to Arizona State's frustrating day.

Taylor Kelly completed half of his 44 passes, and the running game had no gain longer than 14 yards. Kelly's second of two interceptions fell in the hands of Michael Doctor, who returned the ball 35 yards for a game-clinching touchdown with less than two minutes remaining. It was only Oregon State's second Pac-12 victory of the season.

Spencer Hall of SB Nation properly summed up the loss:

The Sun Devils were one of five Top 25 teams to lose against an unranked opponent. Arkansas toppled LSU for its first SEC win, Northwestern took down Notre Dame in overtime, Virginia Tech ruined Duke's outside shot at a one-loss season and Missouri ended Texas A&M's return to relevancy after one week. Justin Kaspar of Good Bull Hunting found the Aggies' loss particularly frustrating:

 Clay Travis of Fox Sports sent some snark the Irish's way:

Overall, Week 12 was perhaps the most unpredictable of the season. With a majority of the Top 25 teams playing unranked opponents next week, it'll be interesting to see if the standings are inert or they go off the deep end. After Saturday, it's pretty clearly pointing toward the latter.


Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter

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The Most Important Texas A&M Players for the Rest of the Year

The Texas A&M football team is 7-4 on the season with an 3-4 record in the SEC. The Aggies have shown that there are a few players who need to be on the field if they are going to win their two remaining games.

The SEC season is a grinder. It is very hard to get through the year without losing players to injuries, and the Aggies have definitely experienced that during the past few games. 

The Texas A&M program does not yet have the depth in place where they can afford to have injuries to their starters. There is a significant drop-off on defense when the starters on the Aggies' front seven are injured. 

Aggies fans were able to see this up close and personal when they played Missouri and were missing starters at defensive end and linebacker for all or part of the game. 

This is a look at the most important players on the Aggies' roster for the two remaining games of the 2014 season. 

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What Happened to Auburn's High-Powered Offense vs. Georgia?

Auburn went back to the basics during the bye week after its first loss of the season on Oct. 11 and became more focused on what made the Tigers successful on offense in 2013.

It paid off.

Head coach Gus Malzahn's crew came into the Georgia game with three straight games of 500 yards or more under their belts, including last weekend's heartbreaking loss to Texas A&M at home.

Against Georgia on Saturday, the offense tanked.

The Tigers managed just 292 total yards against the Bulldogs, as they fell in Athens 34-7.

What happened between the hedges? Let's examine:


Jeremy Pruitt Has Auburn's Number

Jeremy Pruitt, the first-year defensive coordinator of the Bulldogs, simply has Auburn's number. 

In his final game at Florida State last season, he held the Tigers to just 10 second-half points as the Seminoles came back from a 21-3 deficit to win the BCS National Championship Game 34-31.

In his second game vs. the Tigers in a year, Pruitt was again successful. The maligned Bulldogs defense held the potent Tigers offense down between the hedges, and did so with linebackers who, uncharacteristically, played with discipline.

"We emphasized keying in on them and running upfield to set the edge," linebacker Lorenzo Carter said in quotes released by Georgia. "That's what Coach Pruitt really put a big emphasis on this week in practice and we hunkered down and made plays."

That they did, and the biggest reason was the ability for Georgia to limit Auburn's running between the tackles. The Tigers have had a ton of success on the edges, but the edges are only successful when running back Cameron Artis-Payne makes an impact between the tackles. Georgia's defensive line and middle linebackers Ramik Wilson and Amarlo Herrera were successful in preventing Auburn from getting chunks of yards inside early, which prevented Auburn from being as multidimensional as it wants to be in the running game.

Outside, Carter, Leonard Floyd and Jordan Jenkins showed remarkable discipline containing quarterback Nick Marshall, wide receiver Ricardo Louis and running back Corey Grant. The trio of Tigers is dangerous in space, but Georgia's outside linebackers combined for 12 tackles on the day and, even when they weren't making tackles, disrupted running plays on the edge enough for their teammates to come clean up.

The defense didn't stand around and wait for Auburn to come to it, Pruitt's crew attacked Auburn. That's how he beat Auburn in Pasadena in January and how he did it between the hedges.



When you're an offense like Auburn that thrives on being multidimensional in the running game, getting off schedule is a killer. That happened far too often against the Bulldogs.

The offense was stuck with 3rd-and-8 or more seven times on Saturday night. To Auburn's credit, it converted three of those opportunities, one of which was on its only scoring drive—the opening drive of the game.

After that, though, penalties (seven for 78 yards), drops and conservative play-calling doomed the Tigers on first down, which put them in difficult positions on third down.

"On the first drive, they converted some third downs and we could not get off the field," Richt said after the game. "It's so hard to stop them when it's 3rd-and-3 or less. After that, we did a little bit better job on first down and some penalties got them in trouble and behind the yardage. On 3rd-and-long, we could pin our ears back and get after them a little bit."

When they did, Marshall found himself running for his life. He has made strides as a passer this season, but when Floyd and Carter are coming in hot, life gets difficult even for elusive quarterbacks like Marshall.


Drops, Drops and More Drops

Auburn isn't known as a passing team, and in critical situations on Saturday night, the wide receivers proved that.

Looking shocked that the ball was actually coming at them, Tigers wide receivers suffered some pretty atrocious drops against the Bulldogs. The most critical drops came early in the third quarter. With the Tigers down 17-7 and in desperate need of a score to get back in the game, Sammie Coates dropped a ball that hit him in both hands and the chest on the first down, and Ricardo Louis dropped one in his breadbasket on the following play.

Auburn's a run-first team, and when Marshall does all he can to get the offense more balanced, his receivers can't let him down. They did so on Saturday.

"At the start of the third quarter, we had two drops back-to-back, which hurt the momentum," Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn said in quotes released by Georgia.

It wasn't an anomaly, it's the norm. 

Drops nearly cost Auburn the win on the road at Kansas State earlier this season, and it has been a recurring problem on The Plains this season.

Would it ultimately have mattered against Georgia?

Those drops didn't cause the defense to give up 289 rushing yards, but they certainly prevented Auburn from getting back into a game that was still within reach in the third quarter.


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

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

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Cold Hard Fact for Sunday, November 16, 2014

Fact: Wisconsin running backs now hold the FBS single-season rushing record (Ron Dayne, 7,125 yards), single-season touchdowns record (Montee Ball, 77 touchdowns) and single-game rushing record (Melvin Gordon, 408 yards).

Bleacher Report will be bringing sports fans the most interesting and engaging Cold Hard Fact of the day, presented by Coors Light.


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Mercer Lineman Catches TD Pass, Celebrates with Bowling and Cartwheel

Mercer offensive lineman Thomas Marchman had this celebration all planned out. 

When the freshman offensive lineman caught a touchdown pass during the second quarter of Saturday's 56-0 win over Warner, he had a pretty elaborate celebration ready to go. 

Unfortunately for him, the refs hit the team with a 15-yard unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty because of it. 

[Mercer, h/t ESPN]

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Who Are Top 5 Candidates to Replace Will Muschamp as Florida Head Coach?

Will Muschamp will reportedly coach the Florida Gators' last two games of the season and then step down as head coach, according to ESPN's Brett McMurphy.

Who are the top candidates to replace Muschamp as Gators head coach in 2015?  Which one is most likely to actually be coaching Florida next season?

Watch as Bleacher Report college football analyst Barrett Sallee breaks down the top candidates to succeed Muschamp in the video above. 

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Ohio State's Case for a Spot in the College Football Playoff

"We don’t think in terms of most deserving on the resume. We’re focused on the best four teams and the best ranking in the [playoff] top 25. Again, our focus is the best, not deserving." — College Football Playoff chair Jeff Long, April 30, 2014

Ohio State is about to see whether those comments will prove to be true. 

If nothing else, Long's comment in April has been a stark contrast to the overall theme of the playoff's first go-around, which has been about a team's body of work. Case in point: One-loss Oregon jumped an undefeated Florida State in Week 12

Granted, there's an argument to be made that the Seminoles, who have five come-from-behind victories, aren't one of the two best teams in college football, but Long's explanation for the Ducks indicates another line of reasoning. 

"Based on the committee's view about the strength of Florida State's schedule and their body of work compared to Oregon's strength of schedule and body of work, the committee voted that Oregon was No. 2," Long said, via Stewart Mandel of Fox Sports. "It was a very close call, but the committee placed significant value on Oregon's quality of wins against three top‑25 teams, two of which were on the road."

Ohio State's body of work has some prominent highs and lows. Beating Michigan State on the road 49-37 was one of the better conference wins by any team this season. However, the anchor that continues to hold the Buckeyes back is the Week 2 loss to Virginia Tech. It hasn't helped that the Hokies are 5-5 and fighting for bowl eligibility. 

Ohio State, should it win the Big Ten East, could have one more opportunity to beat a quality opponent in its conference championship game. Would that be enough by itself, or would the Buckeyes need some help from elsewhere?

The growing feeling about the Buckeyes is that, if the committee were to pick the four teams playing the best football right now, Ohio State would be included. 

The question is how does the committee measure that beyond the obvious winning streak? Efficiency metrics from has Ohio State as the No. 3 team in the country as of Nov. 8. 

Yes, most of Ohio State's wins came against soft opponents, but basing strength of schedule solely on top-25 wins is a hit-or-miss measuring stick, too; take Baylor, for example, which has one top-25 win (TCU). However, the Bears basically beat Oklahoma out of the Top 25 in Week 11. And that's somehow going to be held against Baylor?

Similarly, Minnesota may not be ranked No. 25 this week after Ohio State beat the Gophers 31-24. Should that now hurt Ohio State's strength of schedule when compared side-by-side to another team? 

These are the types of questions the committee is going to have to ask and ultimately answer. There's a reason they signed up for this task because it's an unenviable one.

Perhaps the picture gets clearer in a few weeks, and Ohio State is in a better position based on the landscape around it. For now, Ohio State's angle is that it's the team nobody wants to play. You'd be hard-pressed to find a group—specifically, an offense—that has improved as much as Ohio State has over the past two months. 

Quarterback J.T. Barrett is making his case for a Heisman finalist spot even though he started the year as a replacement for injured starter Braxton Miller. The offensive line is paving the way for running back Ezekiel Elliott to pick up 5.7 yards every time he touches the ball. 

Playing your best football at season's end should count for something, right? Just how much is what remains to be seen, but Long has set a tone for the committee's evaluation process. Now, it's a matter of whether Ohio State fits that tone. 


Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. 

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Amway College Football Poll 2014: Complete Week 13 Rankings Released

The 2014 college football regular season has been one of the wildest in recent memory, and Saturday’s unpredictable action has led to major changes in the Amway Coaches Top 25 poll.   

With top programs like Mississippi State, Arizona State, Auburn and others all taking losses in Week 12, the landscape of the rankings has shifted again. There is no doubt it will continue to change with each remaining week as the games become more and more pivotal.

Here are the Week 13 Amway Coaches and Bleacher Report Top 25 polls and a breakdown of Week 12.



Breaking Down Week 12

The most anticipated game of Week 12 was the battle between the Mississippi State Bulldogs and the Alabama Crimson Tide. Despite Mississippi State scoring two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, the team was still not able to erase an early deficit and took the 25-20 loss in Tuscaloosa.

As tough as the defeat was for the Bulldogs, the victory was even more impressive for the Crimson Tide. Alabama has one of the best defensive units in the sport and it was on display against Dak Prescott and the high-powered Mississippi State offense.

If the Crimson Tide can beat Auburn in the final regular-season matchup and take home the SEC championship, there is little doubt that Alabama will be one of the top seeds in the inaugural College Football Playoff.

All hope is not lost for the Bulldogs, though. One loss to the Crimson Tide is not enough to knock the program out of playoff contention. As long as Mississippi State beats Ole Miss in the final game of the regular season, the team should have no problem remaining in the top four.

Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen told reporters after the game, “We should feel awful. You should have a sickness in your stomach. We should embrace this feeling to make sure that this feeling doesn't happen again. We'll feel sick tonight but then we'll get over it. Except for being undefeated, every other goal is still ahead of us.”  

While Mississippi State took the loss Saturday, there were several ranked programs that managed to hold on for hard-fought victories. The Florida State Seminoles were the perfect example of this, beating Miami (FL) with a fourth-quarter surge, 30-26.

TCU, Ohio State and Arizona all managed to pull out close wins over tough competition as well. The result was several unforgettable battles. On the other hand, some teams will be desperate to forget the results from Week 12.

Arizona State, Notre Dame, LSU and Nebraska were all handed heart-breaking losses, and the resulting shift in the rankings has fans of each of the aforementioned programs disappointed by the result. The Sun Devils and the Fighting Irish were both considered elite teams this season, but each has proven to have serious weaknesses.

Another team that took a tough loss was Auburn. The Georgia Bulldogs looked impressive in the win, racking up nearly 300 yards on the ground while forcing three turnovers. With the Missouri Tigers also earning a win over Texas A&M, the race to win the SEC East is heating up. The focus for many fans has been on the SEC West, but the fight for the top spot between Georgia and Missouri will be one of the top storylines for the remainder of the season.   

Two other programs that earned important victories in Week 12 were the Michigan State Spartans and the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. Victories over Maryland and Clemson respectively were major confidence boosts, and the momentum created should help carry both to a strong finish to the regular season.  

Week 12 was an incredible showcase of why fans love college football so much, and the turnover in the polls will help make Week 13 even more anticipated.


*Stats via


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Will Muschamp Resigns from Florida Gators: Latest Details, Comments and Reaction

The writing has been on the wall for a while now, but it is reportedly official: Will Muschamp will no longer be the Gators head football coach.  

Florida confirmed that Muschamp stepped down as head coach in a release on

David Jones of originally reported Muschamp had resigned as Florida's head coach. 

Muschamp later issued a statement, via

'I appreciate the opportunity that has been offered to me and my family by Dr. Machen, Jeremy Foley and the University of Florida,' said Muschamp. 'I was given every opportunity to get it done here and I simply didn’t win enough games – that is the bottom line. I’m disappointed that I didn’t get it done and it is my responsibility to get it done.

'I have no bitter feelings, but this is a business and I wish we would have produced better results on the field. We have a great group of players and a staff that is committed to this University and this football program. They have handled themselves with class and I expect them to continue to do so. As I’ve said many times, life is 10 percent of what happens to you and 90 percent how you respond.'

Although the Gators stuck with Muschamp after a miserable 2013 season, and athletic director Jeremy Foley gave him a vote of confidence when things in Gainesville were at their worst, it always seemed inevitable that the 43-year-old was going to be handed a pink slip. 

When you have a program with as much prestige as Florida has, it's difficult to put together bad campaign after bad campaign and keep your job. After going 4-8 in 2013, Florida's 5-4 record masks the futility with which it has played. The Gators needed three overtimes to take down Kentucky, barely squeaked past a below-average team in Tennessee and were trampled by rival Alabama. 

An embarrassing blowout at the hands of Missouri at home seemed to be the straw that broke the camel's back, as even the pro-Muschamp camp had to admit it was time for a change. The Tigers had just 119 total yards of offense, but four different types of return touchdowns resulted in a 42-13 shellacking.

That led to this unbelievable stat, via ESPN's Bomani Jones:

In the wake of the team's loss to South Carolina on Saturday, Muschamp spoke about it being a missed opportunity, courtesy of RJ Schaffer of "When you have two kicks blocked, you’re going to lose that football game," Muschamp said. "We had every opportunity to win, settle down defensively." 

After dropping seven games in a row to end 2013—which included a loss to FCS school Georgia Southern—Muschamp was always teetering on the edge. The Gators' ugly start to the season only led to more pressure on Muschamp, who just two years ago led the Gators to an 11-2 record and a Sugar Bowl appearance. 

Their eight losses in 2013 were the most for the Gators in a single season since 1979, and they failed to go to a bowl for the first time since 1990.

A former defensive coordinator for the Miami Dolphins, as well as Auburn and Texas, Muschamp's defense at Florida was never really a problem. 

Following the announcement, Edgar Thompson of provided a statement from a source at Florida:

But his offense has largely become lifeless, and hiring Kurt Roper to run the offense this offseason has not helped. Quarterback Jeff Driskel has struggled mightily and the ground game has not been able to muster up enough momentum to become a reliable force. The Gators offense has ranked outside the top 90 in total yardage three of Muschamp's four years in Gainesville.

Florida may be able to rally around Muschamp and beat Eastern Kentucky at home next week to become bowl eligible, but it's difficult to imagine the Gators emerging victorious on the road against Florida State the following week. 

Muschamp will land on his feet, probably as a defensive coordinator somewhere. But there is a certain status quo in Florida, and he fell far below that line, forcing the Gators to move in a different direction. 

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Why Arizona State's Loss Should Change Playoff Committee's Perception of Pac-12

Every conference has a stadium that should have its own episode of the Twilight Zone. For the Pac-12, Oregon State's Reser Stadium fits that description.

It's where the hopes and dreams of highly ranked teams go to die.

That's exactly what happened in Saturday night's stunning 35-27 win by Oregon State over Arizona State. As Brett Edgerton of ESPN tweeted, it was the fifth time since 2000 that an unranked Beavers team beat an Associated Press Top 10 team at home:

Oregon State coach Mike Riley is one of the noted "good guys" in the business, but he's crushed the soul of some great teams.

The Sun Devils may not be one of those great teams in the traditional sense, but at No. 6 in last week's College Football Playoff rankings, they did have their eyes on a playoff spot.

"When you're sixth in the country, you go into a place and you're going to get everybody's best performance,'' Arizona State coach Todd Graham told Doug Haller of the Arizona Republic. "We got Oregon State's best shot tonight. We weren't prepared for it. They deserve the credit."

That's all but officially been thrown out the window now. Between a loss to a .500 team that dwells at the bottom of the Pac-12 North and a blowout at the hands of UCLA, Arizona State no longer has a shiny resume.

Its best win, depending on your view, is either over USC on a Hail Mary or over Utah, which currently sits in fifth place in the South Division.

That brings to light another point: The Pac-12 South, with the exception of Colorado, is anyone's division to win.

UCLA, at 8-2 overall and 5-2 in the Pac-12, has come full circle and controls its conference destiny with remaining games against USC and Stanford. However, the Trojans technically lead the South by a half-game.

Overall, the first- and fifth-place teams in the South are separated by no more than two games.

There's a lot of depth in the Pac-12 South, but few, if any, truly great teams—not unlike the rest of the college football landscape.

Things are different in the North Division, where Oregon has secured a spot in the conference championship game and controls its path to the playoff. The second-place team in that division is 5-5 Stanford, which also happens to have a losing conference record after falling to Utah 20-17 in double overtime.

As strange as it sounds, two road games against Cal and UCLA could mean the Cardinal is in danger of losing out on bowl eligibility for the first time since 2008.

To see the conference champion of the past two years drop off this far is surprising.

All of this leads to the question of whether the Pac-12 really is the second-best conference—it feels like there are good divisions rather than good conferences in college football—behind the SEC like it was pegged in the offseason.

Last week's CFP rankings would indicate that the committee still thinks so. The Pac-12 had five ranked teams—Oregon, Arizona State, UCLA, Arizona and Utah—which was tied with the Big Ten for second-most by any conference.

The SEC led all conferences with seven.

What's more, though, is that all five of those Pac-12 teams were ranked at least one spot higher in the CFP poll than the Associated Press poll.

Those numbers are bound to shift this Tuesday when the committee releases its updated rankings. Whatever those rankings are, though, this much is becoming clear: The Pac-12's best, and probably only, playoff hope now is Oregon.

Everyone else in the conference may be on the outside of the Top 10 looking in depending on where the committee places the Bruins, who were off this week.

After Arizona State's loss, it's tough to find a definitive No. 2 in the Pac-12. That's not a good thing if one of those teams were to upset the Ducks in the Pac-12 Championship Game.


Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football.

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College Football Playoff 2014: Latest NCAA Predictions After Week 12 Standings

What, didn't expect controversy to come with the inaugural College Football Playoff? 

Week 12 surely caused the committee to hit the panic button, as the No. 1 team in the land fell while a pair of others in the Top Five hardly avoided upsets. Now a number of one-loss teams look like realistic possibilities, and if things keep going at this pace, some two-loss teams might just look good, too. 

So much for the regular season not mattering, right?

The job of the committee is certainly not easy. As things stand right now, two of the four slots are absolute locks. One is somewhat debatable despite an undefeated defending champ occupying it, while the last is as good as anyone's guess.


College Football Playoff Predictions


Remember back at the start of the season when everyone was ready to write off Alabama? That for one reason or another, Nick Saban's dominance over the recruiting realm would not matter as the season raged forward?


The Crimson Tide have come full circle before the eyes of the nation as key new faces on defense and Blake Sims under center have become more comfortable in the spotlight. The culmination of this growth was Saturday's 25-20 upset of No. 1 Mississippi State.

Grantland's Matt Hinton put it best:

There, Blake Sims threw for 211 yards and a score, T.J. Yeldon was his usual self with 72 rushing yards and a score and Amari Cooper was his usual self with eight grabs for 88 yards and a score.

Most impressive, though, was the Crimson Tide defense. It held Heisman favorite Dak Prescott to 290 passing yards and two scores through the air, with another 82 rushing yards on the ground. The unit also forced him to toss three interceptions.

Right now Alabama is easily the best team in the nation. So long as Saban and Co. take care of Auburn to close the year, the Crimson Tide are one of the four.



Marcus Mariota and the Oregon Ducks were one of the biggest winners of Week 12. Why? 

They were on bye.

Over the course of such a chaotic weekend, that certainly means a whole lot. The Ducks need no help getting in at this point, either. Marcus Mariota is the new Heisman favorite thanks to his 2,780 passing yards and 29 touchdowns to two interceptions.

Not only does Mariota's team have three wins over ranked opposition at 9-1, it finally got over its seemingly annual November struggles and exorcised its Stanford demon, 45-16. In a popular upset pick the week after, the Ducks flawlessly moved past ranked Utah, 51-27.

Oregon does little wrong this season, although a defense that ranks outside of the top 50 is going to get tested in a major way sooner rather than later. Still, Mariota's offense has taken down a trio of elite defenses and has an easy finish to the season.


Florida State

The Florida State Seminoles are not out of the running—or any game, for that matter—until they say so. 

Jameis Winston and Co. were at it once again in the comeback department Saturday, erasing a serious halftime deficit to upend the Miami Hurricanes, 30-26. As ESPN Stats & Info noted before the late charge, the Seminoles have made a habit of the clutch:

"They love each other and it gets down to that," coach Jimbo Fisher said, per The Associated Press, via "They play for each other. They don't panic. This is a heck of a Miami football team. Give them credit ... but our kids just execute when they have to."

What the Seminoles do is not all that appealing. Winston was once again sluggish with 304 yards with a touchdown and interception. But timely defense and 92 yards and a pair of scores from freshman tailback Dalvin Cook got the Seminoles the win.

The Seminoles remain undefeated, although some controversy will begin to seep into the conversation as its resume continues to go up in flames as Notre Dame and others keep losing. Still, if Fisher's team can avoid letdowns at Boston College and Florida, the Seminoles have to be considered a lock.


Mississippi State

Look, the loss to Alabama was bad, but where else is the committee going to turn at this point? Should it?

The only right answer is no. This Bulldogs team lost to the best team in the country by just five points and still has notable wins over LSU, Texas A&M and Auburn. As far as resumes go, SEC play ensures the Bulldogs are in the postseason so long as they win out.

Eric Rosenthal of concurs:

Clay Travis of provides a note as to how other contenders stack up:

The Bulldogs still tout one of the nation's best defenses and offenses, the latter led by Prescott. The former Heisman front-runner still has 2,521 yards and 20 scores through the air, with another 861 and 11 on the ground.

The Egg Bowl against Ole Miss to end the season will decide everything for the Bulldogs. As long as the Bulldogs prevail there, one has to imagine they become a stone-cold lock for the CFP.


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Bowl Projections 2014: Latest Playoff Predictions Heading into Critical Week 13

Week 12 was a tale of what could have been in the playoff picture, as Florida State and TCU both narrowly avoided crippling upsets with their postseason hopes on the line.

Style points may be important, but the most imperative thing about November football is avoiding the chaos and coming away with victories. Unfortunately for Mississippi State and Arizona State, they did not claim victory in Week 12 during trips to Alabama and Oregon State, respectively.

The Crimson Tide have recovered from an early loss to Ole Miss and may just be the team to beat the rest of the way in the College Football Playoff race. Nick Saban has his squad hitting its stride at just the right time, which is a dangerous proposition for the rest of the country.

So what did wins by Alabama, Florida State, TCU and Ohio State and losses from Arizona State and Mississippi State do to the playoff picture? Read on to find out.


Playoff Projections

Sugar Bowl: No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Baylor

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

Championship Bowl (in Arlington, Texas): TBD (semifinal winners)



Alabama beat LSU earlier in the season, but the Tigers are just not as good in 2014 as fans are accustomed to seeing. Saturday’s performance against Mississippi State represented the marquee win that was missing from the Crimson Tide’s resume up to this point, and now there is absolutely zero doubt that they will make the playoff field if they win out.

The Iron Bowl is at home this season against a team that just got its doors blown off by Georgia. After that, Alabama will play the SEC East winner in the conference title game. That will be the Missouri Tigers if they can win their last two games. Remember, that is the same Missouri team that lost to Big Ten bottom-feeder Indiana.

The bottom line is nothing is standing in Alabama’s way on the road to the playoffs.

Elsewhere, projected No. 2 seed Florida State is the cardiac kid of the 2014 playoff race. ESPN Stats & Info noted that it is making quite the habit of falling behind early and coming away with second-half comebacks:

The Seminoles did it again on Saturday against Miami with a 30-26 victory. That marks close calls against Clemson, North Carolina State, Notre Dame, Louisville and Miami now, but the most important thing is that they continue to win as the defending champs.

Wide receiver Rashad Greene discussed the close wins, according to The Associated Press (via "That's how we're built. At the end of the day, we don't panic, we don't point fingers, we don't blame anyone. We make it possible."

With only Boston College, Florida and an ACC title game against a less-talented opponent standing in the way, the Seminoles should cruise to a playoff spot.

Oregon had a bye in Week 12, but it controls its own destiny to the playoffs, which is all you can ask for at this point of the season.

The Ducks should destroy an overmatched Colorado team in Week 13 before a rivalry clash with Oregon State. While the cliche sayings like “throw the records out when these two teams play” will be out in full force, Oregon should win that one as well with Heisman Trophy candidate Marcus Mariota going up against a vulnerable Beavers secondary.

A win in the Pac-12 title game for one of the nation’s most dynamic offenses (46 points a game) would clinch a playoff spot for the Ducks and give them a golden opportunity to win the first national title in program history.

That fourth spot is the intriguing one up for grabs, as Ohio State, TCU, Baylor and Mississippi State all have their eyes on it.

The Bulldogs hung with Alabama on Saturday, but the lack of even a division crown, let alone a conference title, will hurt them in the final poll. The selection committee will ultimately put increased emphasis on a conference championship. Of course, Mississippi State will have its hands full with Ole Miss in the final regular-season game, so it may be a moot point.

The Buckeyes look like a team that nobody would want to play at the end of the season, but that loss to Virginia Tech will ultimately be their undoing. It may not be entirely fair considering they lost superstar Braxton Miller to injury and had to throw a freshman quarterback into the fire right away, but that is the worst loss of all the playoff contenders.

That leaves TCU and Baylor fighting for the final spot. While the Horned Frogs—who barely escaped a terrible Kansas team in Week 12—have been ahead of the Bears in the College Football Playoff rankings, Baylor’s head-to-head win over TCU from earlier in the season will take final precedent at the end of the year.

What’s more, TCU’s win over Minnesota will lose some luster if and when the Golden Gophers drop their final three games of the season (already lost to Ohio State and have Nebraska and Wisconsin waiting). 

As long as the Bears and their nearly unstoppable offense take care of business at home against Texas Tech and Kansas State, they will be in the field of four.


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NCAA Football Rankings 2014: Week 13 Standings for College's Top 25 Teams

On Saturday, we learned why every team, no matter its ranking, treats every single contest like a playoff game at this time of year. No team is safe from defeat, regardless of its opponent's record or standing, and one slight lapse in judgement or focus could have season-altering consequences.

The College Football Playoff picture shifted once again following Saturday's action, as Week 12 proved to be every bit as exciting and unpredictable as any other week this season. Not only were there several enormous upsets over some of the nation's top teams, but almost every ranked squad in action was tested in some way.

We should expect the Week 13 polls to look quite different from the top to the bottom, as many Top-25 teams—including No. 1 Mississippi State—were defeated on a very turbulent Saturday. Here's a look at the results, followed by a breakdown of the weekend's events.



It all started with a clash between SEC juggernauts No. 1 Mississippi State and No. 5 Alabama. Nick Saban's team continued its torrid pace through the conference, knocking off one of the last remaining undefeated teams due to an all-around solid effort on both sides of the ball.

The victory most assuredly propels the Crimson Tide back into the Top Four and puts them in great position to enter this year's College Football Playoff. The team is playing at a high level right now, and a late-game drive that secured the victory was given enormous praise by Saban during a press conference with The Associated Press, via

Said the coach, "It was one of the greatest drives in Alabama history, probably."

ESPN's Rece Davis seems to think Alabama's win is worthy of obtaining the No. 1 ranking:

The loss by Mississippi State doesn't take them out of the running for a playoff spot, especially taking into consideration the abundance of upsets throughout the day. We'll see what the selection committee thinks of the Bulldogs' effort soon enough.

Florida State and TCU, the two other Top Four teams, barely escaped with victories over unranked opponents Saturday. The Seminoles had to usher in late-game magic once again to defeat Miami, and the Horned Frogs barely pulled one out against Kansas. Will those lackluster efforts be enough to maintain their current positions?

Arizona State sure helped teams like Baylor and Ohio State on Saturday, as the Sun Devils followed up their brilliant win against Notre Dame with a terrible showing against Oregon State. The Beavers racked up 498 yards of offense in their win, knocking Arizona State right back out of contention.

Here's a look at the on-field mayhem that ensued, via ESPN College Football:

Ohio State's J.T. Barrett was scintillating on Saturday against Minnesota. His team may have only won by seven points, but his 189 rushing yards turned some heads, and he is beginning to enter the Heisman discussion.

The Auburn Tigers may have had the most disappointing showing of all on Saturday. Nick Marshall looked awful as a passer, and the team struggled to get anything going on the ground, turning the ball over three times and scoring just seven points in the process.

Meanwhile, the return of Todd Gurley was outstanding. He paired with Nick Chubb to torch Auburn's defense for a combined 282 yards and three touchdowns on 48 carries. Take a look at this incredible graphic from the SEC Network:

Georgia may be poised to make a run back up the rankings with what appears to be the nation's most prolific ground attack.

The back half of the Top 25 was filled with upsetting performances. Nebraska, LSU, Notre Dame, Clemson, Duke, Texas A&M and Minnesota all lost on Saturday, putting their positions within the nation's top teams in serious question.

For The Win noted what another Notre Dame loss may mean for Florida State:

Solid performances by Wisconsin, Georgia Tech and Utah should all result in moves up the rankings entering Week 13.

With the amount of upsets and close calls that took place in Week 12, the nation's entire hierarchy stands to shift in dramatic fashion—starting at the very top.

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Frank Clark Arrested: Latest Details, Mugshot and Reaction on Michigan DE

Michigan defensive end Frank Clark was arrested on charges of domestic violence, per ESPN's Brett McMurphy citing Erie County, Ohio, jail records.  

Angelique Chengelis of The Detroit News provides Michigan's statement on the situation:

David Harns of tweeted Clark's mugshot: 

According to Mark Snyder of the Detroit Free Press, "Ohio law indicates a conviction could carry a $1,000 fine and six months in jail."

This isn't the senior's first incident since joining Michigan. According to McMurphy, "In September 2012, Clark was arrested and pleaded guilty to a felony count of second-degree home invasion after entering a university dormitory and stealing a MacBook Air laptop from a Stockwell Hall dorm room. He was sentenced to one-year probation and fined $1,741."

He was also suspended for one game during the 2012 season for his involvement in that incident. 

The latest charges threaten to mar what has been an excellent season on the field for Clark, who has 42 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks on the season. Clark is coming off of his best game of the season, posting eight tackles and adding 1.5 sacks against Northwestern. 

Michigan's season has already been quite disappointing on the field. The team is 5-5 and has been poor enough at times that more than a few folks have been calling for head coach Brady Hoke's replacement. The team now has to address a major issue off of the field as well, depending on the pending investigation into the domestic violence charges levied against Clark. 

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Heisman Watch 2014: Breaking Down Race Front-Runners After Week 12

One of the most devastating weekends in recent college football history has shaken up the Heisman race in a major way. 

No. 1 Mississippi State and Heisman favorite Dak Prescott went down at the hands of Alabama, but that was just the beginning of the madness on the way to the inaugural College Football Playoff.

While Prescott and Jameis Winston—the latter of whom looked shaky at best while hardly surviving against Miami—are certainly not out of the running entirely, a down week came at the worst possible time, while other stars continued to craft impressive resumes and others shockingly entered the race outright.

Once again, the Heisman watch needs a massive overhaul.


Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin

Chatter about Heisman moments never ceases this time of year.

Breaking an historic record certainly qualifies.

Wisconsin junior back Melvin Gordon ran his way into the record books Saturday against Nebraska with 25 carries for 408 yards and four scores, as ESPN Stats & Info illustrates:

"Yeah, I didn't even know I was close to the record," Gordon said, per The Associated Press, via "I was kind of just running away."

The globe certainly knows about Gordon now. Before the outburst, he was just another back who piled on elite numbers against up-and-down competition but never really distanced himself from other backs who were doing much of the same thing. 

No back is going to top what Gordon did Saturday.

It may not be enough to steal the Heisman outright, but Gordon now has 1,909 rushing yards and 23 touchdowns on an 8.6 per-carry average. Heisman moment in hand, Gordon is head and shoulders above the other backs on the watch list at this point.


Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama

Already an NFL draft darling and perhaps the most important player in the country to his team, all Amari Cooper did in Saturday's upset of the No. 1 Bulldogs was play his game. 

In short, Cooper made highlight-reel grabs and wound up with eight catches for 88 yards and a score. Cris Carter was one of many to throw his support behind Cooper after yet another elite performance:

Bleacher Report's Matt Miller joined the fray as well:

It is difficult to stress just how much the Crimson Tide need Cooper. The next leading receiver Saturday caught just four passes for 40 yards. No other receivers scored.

That proved a microcosm of the season as a whole. Of his team's 2,742 total receiving yards and 21 scores this season, Cooper now has 1,303 and 11.

As far as actual Heisman moments go, go ahead and pick a week and bask in Cooper's play. Taking down the No. 1 team in the land, though, certainly does not hurt.


J.T. Barrett, QB, Ohio State

It would be wise to take the Heisman bid by Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett very seriously. 

Barrett was the guy nobody wanted to see take the field this season, but he is what the Buckeyes were stuck with after a season-ending injury to Braxton Miller. All Barrett has done since then is lead the Buckeyes on a 9-1 war path that might just end with a trip to the CFP.

This past Saturday saw Barrett put on one of his more impressive performances to date as the Buckeyes took down No. 25 Minnesota, 31-24. Barrett threw for 200 yards and a trio of scores, but he was far from a one-trick quarterback, as he also found his way to 189 yards and a score on the ground.

In total, Barrett's season has been quite extraordinary:

Some may knock the schedule as a whole, but keep in mind that Barrett has shown well against the best of the best, too. Take that win over Michigan State for example. He managed five total touchdowns against one of the best defenses in the nation to get his team the win.

Barrett finishes against a soft schedule that includes Indiana and Michigan, so expect the gaudy stats to only continue to pile up.


Honorable Mentions


Stats and information via unless otherwise specified.


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College Football Playoff Predictions 2014: NCAA Underdogs to Watch After Week 12

When it comes to the inaugural College Football Playoff, Week 12 was the most catastrophic blow yet to the impending postseason. 

The slate of games was akin to a minefield, and that may be putting it lightly. No. 1 Mississippi State went down at the hands of Alabama. The Florida State Seminoles hardly survived Miami. Ditto for TCU against Kansas.

What remains is a shaky outlook for the CFP. A number of one-loss teams all look deserving but can certainly take losses in the coming weeks that ruin everything. Underdogs for the playoff abound, but only a few have a serious stab at the CFP—for now.


Underdogs to Watch

Ohio State

Like it or not, the Ohio State Buckeyes are a serious threat to the CFP in the coming weeks. 

While the Buckeyes have taken care of business each step of the way despite some extreme adversity, fellow contenders have fallen left and right. Saturday was a 31-24 road win over the No. 25 Minnesota Golden Gophers, which proved to be a great test for Urban Meyer's team.

 "I'd like to see anybody in the country come up here and do this, come up here in November," Meyer said, per Doug Lesmerises of "I challenge any team that wants to go ahead and schedule this one, against a very good team, have at it."

Many will roll their eyes. Minnesota is not an SEC team, yes, but the Golden Gophers are still 7-3 with a strong defense and a great running game. 

The Buckeyes are an attractive option for the CFP committee for a number of obvious reasons, chief among them being quarterback J.T. Barrett. Tom Withers of The Associated Press puts it best:

Barrett put on another show for his Heisman resume Saturday night, throwing for 200 yards and a trio of touchdowns while adding another 189 yards and a score on the ground.

As long as Barrett continues to play at this level, few stand in the Buckeyes' way when it comes to the playoff. Unlike teams such as Mississippi State and others, the Buckeyes have a relatively easy finish to the season against Indiana and Michigan.



Even though the Bulldogs went down at the hands of the Crimson Tide Saturday, there may not be enough for the committee to bump Baylor over the loser of that encounter. 

Yet, of course.

The Bears were on a bye in Week 12, a beautiful thing considering what went down over the course of the weekend. What sweetens the pot is the fact that just last week Bryce Petty and the Bears blew away the Oklahoma Sooners, 48-14.

Not only that, these Bears already own the head-to-head encounter with TCU by way of a 61-58 win back in mid-October. To further that position, the Horned Frogs struggled to a 34-30 win over Kansas Saturday—a team the Bears beat 60-14.

The nation's fourth-best passing attack led by Petty (2,421 yards and 21 touchdowns to three interceptions) scored the most points per game on average entering the weekend at 50.1.

That elite attack still has to avoid a choke job against Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and Kansas State, but that is more than enough time to perhaps secure the Big 12 and allow one of the other top contenders such as Oregon to take a dive.

So long as Baylor continues to play its game, the Bears are on the hunt.


CFP Projection

It should go without saying that the Crimson Tide are once again on top of the collegiate football world.

A loss to then-No. 11 Ole Miss way back when continues to look like a non-factor at this juncture. Nick Saban's defense found a way to hold Dak Prescott to 290 passing yards and two touchdowns to three interceptions. Blake Sims continues to improve under center.

Speaking of the Bulldogs, the loss is in no way enough to knock them out of contention just yet. It stings, but a loss to Alabama by five points is what it sounds like—not bad at all. So long as the Bulldogs take care of business against Ole Miss to close the season, they will be in the CFP.

The same goes for Oregon and Florida State. Marcus Mariota and the Ducks were on a timely bye in Week 12. The team is not going anywhere, not with a 9-1 record, three wins against ranked opponents and a prolific offense.

Florida State needed the full four frames to take down rival Miami, but the point is that Jameis Winston and Co. survived. Avoiding upsets at the hands of Boston College and Florida are next for the Seminoles in order to ease into the CFP.


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College Football Playoff Committee Under Pressure After Bloody Week

A constant theme of this season has been that there’s still a lot of football left to be played, and the remaining games will sort everything out. But now there’s a lot less football left to be played, and the picture is murkier than ever as the College Football Playoff Committee faces its toughest rankings session.

Florida State, the team that so many fans seem to love to hate, still has its golden goose egg in the loss column, so there’s really no arguing that the defending national champions belong in the final four.

But after that there are seven one-loss teams from the power-five conferences, and good luck figuring out a fair way to rank them.

Two of those one-loss teams, Oregon and Arizona State, are pretty likely to face each other in the Pac-12 title game, which helps some.

But how will the College Football Playoff Committee distinguish between the rest of the pack?

Let’s make some guesses.


Teams on the rise: What to do with Ohio State?

The Ohio State delegation would benefit most if the committee favors teams that show the most November momentum.

The Buckeyes won the Michigan State showdown, then backed it up with a victory in arctic conditions at Minnesota on Saturday.

They also have a nice little comeback saga working with J.T. Barrett steadily emerging from an unknown backup (until Braxton Miller got hurt) to one of the nation’s most dependable quarterbacks.

But the committee needs to be careful about overvaluing the OSU comeback. Every team has to overcome adversity. That's part of football. And teams shouldn't be ranked in order of who has the best storyline.


Is Mississippi State still alive?

The big loser in the what-have-you-done-lately equation could be Mississippi State, after having its undefeated run ended by Alabama.

I hope it doesn’t shift like this. I don’t see how an awful loss, like Ohio State’s to Virginia Tech in September, can be overlooked in favor of a so-called “quality defeat,” like the one Mississippi State suffered on the road against Alabama, just because of where those games fell on the calendar.

The SEC's hopes to land two teams in the playoff has taken a big hit, but Mississippi State could revive them by crushing Ole Miss in the regular-season finale at Oxford. That’s far easier said than done in what looms as the state’s all-time showdown, but the Bulldogs shouldn't be sent to the scrap heap because of losing a road game against a top-five opponent.


Head-to-head: The TCU-Baylor dilemma

Isn’t a head-to-head result the most common tiebreaker in sports? And also the one we resort to first? The NFL certainly has always seen it that way.

But the CFP Committee hasn’t valued that factor so far, at least not with Baylor and Texas Christian.

Baylor beat the Horned Frogs fair and square back on Oct. 11, by the eye-popping score of 61-58. But the committee had Baylor three spots below TCU in last week’s rankings.

The swing factor appears to be how those two Big 12 teams performed in games at West Virginia. Baylor was swamped there by the Mountaineers, 41-27. TCU squeaked out a victory in Morgantown, 31-30, on a last-second field goal.

But doesn’t a head-to-head outcome outweigh results against a common opponent? If I’m Baylor, I want a recount.

The only other one-loss teams to face each other are Alabama and Mississippi State, and imagine how loud the Crimson Tide would scream if anyone ranked them behind the Bulldogs.


Who suffered the worst loss at home?

Home-turf defeats are a big factor for me, but the committee doesn’t seem to weigh them heavily. Oregon was ambushed 31-24 at home by Arizona in early October, yet the committee pushed the Ducks ahead of Florida State in last week’s rankings.

Two other one-loss teams suffered their lone defeat at home. Arizona State’s was absolutely humiliating, 62-27, but was inflicted by a UCLA team that has a good shot at ending the season in the Top 10.

That leaves Ohio State as suffering the most humbling loss at home among the one-loss teams, 35-21, to unranked Virginia Tech. The Hokies look more respectable after a road upset over Duke on Saturday, but they're still just a 5-5 team with a 2-4 record in the weakest of the power-five conferences.


Quality wins

This factor has morphed a lot as the season plays out. For instance, Florida State gained prestige when it outlasted then-unbeaten Notre Dame back on Oct. 18, but that win carries a lot less weight after seeing the Fighting Irish fall to 7-3 on Saturday with a home-field loss to 4-6 Northwestern.

So let’s update the quality-wins factor in order of how the once-beatens ranked with the committee last week. (Spoiler alert: An analysis of quality wins probably starts more arguments than it settles.) 

Mississippi State: Winning at LSU’s Death Valley was huge, but the victories against Texas A&M and Auburn don’t look nearly as big now. 

Oregon: The Ducks have a hefty pair of vote-swaying road victories at UCLA and Utah, the latter of which was by the whopping count of 51-27. But some of the shine has come off the early-season win at home over Michigan State.

Alabama: Personally, my vote for No. 1 will go to the Crimson Tide, if they survive Auburn in the Iron Bowl and go on to another win in the SEC title game. Saturday’s win over Mississippi State was much more lopsided than the five-point margin showed, and there’s no disputing that SEC teams play a meat-grinder schedule. But it has to be acknowledged that Alabama’s survival at LSU required overtime and a miracle escape in regulation. 

TCU: The wins against Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and West Virginia seemed impressive at the time, but all of those teams subsequently fell out of the AP Poll’s Top 25 and remain on the fringe, at best. Kansas State is TCU’s only triumph against a Top-25 team, and Saturday’s struggle at Kansas was humbling.

Baylor: TCU is the only defeated opponent that’s highly regarded, but the Bears get a season-ending shot at Kansas State. And wouldn't it be nice if the Big 12 had a conference championship game?

Arizona State: The Sun Devils had been looking pretty good in this category. But then Stanford fell out of the Top 25, and Notre Dame lost in overtime to Northwestern. Now there’s only USC and Utah.

Ohio State: The back-to-back road victories against Michigan State and Minnesota give the Buckeyes some style points, but that momentum could be blunted by finishing against two cupcakes, Indiana (3-7) and Michigan (5-5). But a win in the Big Ten title game against Wisconsin could be persuasive, particularly if OSU figures out how to stop Melvin Gordon, the locomotive who ran for a record 408 yards Saturday.

So where does it all leave the playoff picture? Very, very confused, with little hope of having a consensus final four.


Tom Weir covered college football as a columnist for USA Today


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College Football Playoff Rankings 2014: Predictions for Week 13

Week 12 of the college football season may not have brought a plethora of upsets, but it did raise significant questions about some of the top playoff contenders.  Florida State and TCU held on for narrow road wins over clearly inferior opponents, Arizona State bowed out of the playoff picture and erstwhile No. 1 Mississippi State no longer has any margin for error after failing to mount much resistance in Tuscaloosa until it was too late.

After Saturday's results, there are still about three to four teams that almost certainly control their own destinies, while three to four more teams could raise serious debate if they win out.  So while there are a pair of clear choices for the top two, at least four or five teams have legitimate claims to the third and fourth playoff slots at the moment.

Let's forecast how the playoff committee may rank its top four on Tuesday night, diving deeper into some of the biggest issues and upcoming games with the top postseason contenders.


1. Oregon Ducks

Oregon has faced early-season turmoil after their loss against Arizona and questions about Mark Helfrich's viability, but once again, the Ducks are among the small handful of legitimate national-championship contenders.  Idle on Saturday, Oregon will likely take over as the new top-ranked team in the playoff projections, as staying home made them one of the few marquee teams not to take a hit to their resume:

Of course, the Ducks never closed the deal during the BCS era, and if they are to capture the inaugural playoff championship, the defense must continue treading water.  As talented as Marcus Mariota is, the Arizona loss illustrated how little margin for error the potential Heisman winner has.  As Football Outsiders' Brian Fremeau notes (via ESPN Insider, subscription required), Oregon has had issues ending opponents' drives quickly:

The Oregon defense ranked in the top 40 in this metric in each of the previous seven seasons, halting at least 36 percent of opponent's drives after three or fewer downs each year. This year they are forcing three-and-outs on less than 25 percent of opponent's drives. Getting opponents off the field quickly can facilitate a tempo advantage for the Ducks' offense. Oregon forced Utah off the field without a first down five times last weekend and scored on four of the ensuing five possessions. In their loss to Arizona, the Ducks forced only two three-and-outs.

The Ducks defense also ranks just 33rd in his Fremeau Efficiency Index (FEI) metric, standing out like a sore eye among the other top contenders.  Oregon's relatively benign regular-season schedule should stave off any concerns, but a potential Pac-12 Championship meeting against Arizona State could bring those underlying issues to roost.


2. Alabama Crimson Tide

Some will assert that the Crimson Tide might belong ahead of the Ducks, based on the quality of their wins.  Alabama is the top-ranked team in the aforementioned FEI rankings.  In fact, some believe Nick Saban's crew could ascend all the way to the top:

That would certainly be far from an unreasonable ranking, but Alabama should be no lower than second given that they are now the front-runners in the nation's top conference.  As's Pete Thamel opines, Blake Sims' progression this season has separated the Tide from the rest of the loaded SEC:

Sims was the steady quarterback that Alabama needed as its playmakers shined all around him. Yeldon finished the game with 72 rushing yards and a touchdown. Star receiver Amari Cooper caught eight balls for 88 yards with a score. But on that game’s defining, soul-crushing drive, Sims again executed deftly when he needed to. That drive led to what proved to be the winning score, as Mississippi State scored on a Prescott touchdown pass with 15 seconds left to pull the Bulldogs within five.

Indeed, though the structure of Alabama's offense will never permit Sims to put up gaudy numbers, he still ranks second in the country in ESPN's QBR metric, behind only Mariota.  The Tide's schedule is beginning to open up, with Auburn reeling and the SEC East appearing increasingly meek.  At this point, it would be stunning if Sims and Co. dropped another game to fall out of the playoff.


3. Florida State Seminoles

The Seminoles were an irrepressible juggernaut in sweeping through the season undefeated last year, but Florida State has appeared significantly more vulnerable in 2014.  After escaping with a four-point win over 6-4 Miami, five of the Seminoles' 10 wins have come via second-half comebacks.  

That form is hardly befitting of their still-perfect record, especially when considering the mediocrity of the ACC.  Jameis Winston continued his disturbing pattern of first-half struggles against the Hurricanes, leading Florida State to just two scoring drives while turning the ball over while the Seminoles were driving.  Indeed, some are beginning to wonder if Florida State is simply skating by on perception:

Apart from a mildly challenging home game against Florida, we probably will not receive any real answers about the defending champs until the playoff.  It is essentially unfathomable to leave out an undefeated major conference champion, especially one that started the season universally ranked No. 1.  Nevertheless, the Seminoles look like long shots to repeat at the moment.


4. Mississippi State Bulldogs

After emerging as one of the nation's best stories over the first 10 games, Mississippi State came crashing back to reality with their 25-20 defeat at Bryant-Denny, as Alabama maintained a comfortable separation throughout despite a late Bulldogs charge.  However, with just a single loss in the SEC, the Bulldogs still possess a comfortable playoff resume.

TCU fans will likely be up in arms, of course, given that the Horned Frogs are actually the favorites to win their conference with just a single loss.  SEC fans may scoff at the difference in conference strength between theirs and the Big 12, but in reality, the Bulldogs' resume is not nearly as strong as their ranking would have suggested:

However, Mississippi State does have an opportunity to notch a season-ending road victory at Oxford.  At that point, it would become extremely difficult to pass over the Bulldogs, especially considering that TCU lost its premier matchup at Baylor.  Anti-SEC sentiment may boil over if this scenario comes to fruition, but the resumes at this point speak in favor of the Bulldogs.

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Bowl Predictions 2014: Updated Playoff Projections After Week 12 Games

Surprise, surprise. There was another batch of highly ranked teams to fall on a college football Saturday.

Week 12 looked like a dangerous slate of games with playoff contenders Florida State, Arizona State, Ohio State and TCU all hitting the road, but the Seminoles, Horned Frogs and Buckeyes all managed to notch victories.

Of course, the Horned Frogs and Seminoles made things a lot more interesting than their fans would have preferred, and the Buckeyes only won by seven, even though they controlled the entire game.

However, the Sun Devils lost at Oregon State, Auburn dropped one at Georgia and Mississippi State fell from the ranks of the unbeaten.

Perhaps the most important result from Week 12, though, was that loss for the No. 1 team in the land. It was a strange situation with the top-ranked squad, Mississippi State, seen as an underdog, but Alabama was very impressive in the victory. The Crimson Tide control their destiny for the SEC title and seem to be hitting their stride at just the right time.

Not to be outdone, Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon set the all-time NCAA single-game rushing record with 408 yards against Nebraska. What made it even more impressive was that it happened in three quarters. 

So what does it all mean for the playoff picture? Here is a look at the updated postseason bowl projections.


Bowl Projections

Sugar Bowl: No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Baylor

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

Championship Bowl (in Arlington, Texas): TBD (semifinal winners)


Week 12 Twitter Reaction

Ohio State kicked off Week 12 with a noon ET start and beat No. 25 Minnesota, 31-24. While the Buckeyes’ seven-point win doesn’t look particularly impressive if you didn’t actually watch the game, they did control the entire contest and would have won by more without costly turnovers. 

One player who did shine was quarterback J.T. Barrett. Todd Porter of The Repository and ESPN Stats & Info noted that he broke some records in the process:

Austin Ward of ESPN and Michael Felder of Bleacher Report seemed ready to throw Barrett’s name in the Heisman race:

One team that had more trouble than Ohio State did on Saturday was TCU. The Horned Frogs barely escaped a trip to lowly Kansas with a 34-30 win, and Pat Forde of Yahoo! Sports pointed out what all TCU fans probably feared in the aftermath of that game:

Nobody put up more style points than running back Gordon in Wisconsin’s dominant 59-24 win over Nebraska. While the Badgers are not in playoff contention, they appear primed to reach the Big Ten title game from the West Division after a win like that, although they will still have to take care of the Minnesota Golden Gophers. 

Gordon was the story with 408 rushing yards. ESPN Stats & Info and Andrew Siciliano of NFL Network put the ridiculous numbers in perspective, while SportsCenter noted that it was business as usual for the Wisconsin rushing attack:

The Big Ten Network passed along the highlights of the record-breaking performance, while previous record-holder LaDainian Tomlinson offered some congratulations:

Gordon commented on his day, according to The Associated Press, via "Yeah, I didn't even know I was close to the record. I was kind of just running away." 

Outside of Gordon’s impressive day, the Big Ten picked up an impressive nonconference victory when Northwestern walked into Notre Dame and won in overtime. Nicole Auerbach of USA Today pointed out that the Wildcats may be in the midst of a disappointing season, but they have a couple of notable wins:

The most important Week 12 result in terms of the playoffs was Alabama’s 25-20 win over Mississippi State. Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller took the Crimson Tide’s perspective from the marquee win, while Grantland’s Shane Ryan pointed out that the Bulldogs are far from dead in the playoff picture:

Another team that is far from dead in the postseason picture is undefeated Florida State, although the defending champs took it down to the wire yet again in a 30-26 win over Miami.

ESPN Stats & Info noted that the Seminoles have made a habit out of late comebacks, while SI College Football and ESPN’s Arash Markazi realized we should have never expected anything different:

Eventually, the pattern of falling behind early and coming back in the second half may catch up to Florida State when it plays against formidable competition in the playoffs, but it can put it on cruise control until then. The ACC is a notch below the Seminoles, and the Florida Gators don’t have the talent to knock Florida State out of the playoff race.

What’s more, there is something to be said for finding a way to win close games, and Florida State will be plenty battle-tested when the playoff contests are close in the final minutes. 

Fans can criticize the Seminoles all they want for narrowly escaping lesser opponents, but winning is all that matters, even in a sport dominated by style points.

Just ask Arizona State, which learned a valuable lesson, as ESPN Stats & Info pointed out:

Buckle up, because we are sure to see even more chaos in Week 13.


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