NCAA Football News

College Football's All-Week 12 Team: Top Performers at Every Position

For a fan with zero rooting interest, Week 12 might have been the best week of the season. It didn't have the chaos of Week 6 or Week 11, but it had the best combination of upsets, drama, big games and singular performances.

The last of those ingredients was the most important. Week 12 featured the breaking of an FBS record, and a notable one at that. And it only took three quarters for the player in question to break it.

Yes. He was That. Freaking. Good.

Before we continue with the rest of the list, here is your weekly reminder that the All-Week team is not based on raw statistics. The player with the biggest numbers did not necessarily make the team. Stats were a primary factor, but only after they were weighed against context (opponent, situation, location, game film, etc.).

Sound off below and let us know who you would add.

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The Most Important Michigan Players for the Rest of the Year

Getting a bowl bid is the objective, and Michigan has two more chances to reach the six-win plateau: This Saturday at home versus Maryland and Nov. 29 at Ohio State.

So there’s one, really—one realistic shot at finishing the year at 6-6. And that’s this weekend. It won’t be in the season finale versus the Buckeyes in Columbus, that’s crystal clear and has been for about nine weeks.

That said, coach Brady Hoke will need the most out of his best in order to evenly scrape by before heading into 2015. Those guys’ identities aren’t secret. Everyone knows who they are.

And let’s be honest here: They know who they are, too. It’s time for them to play up to potential or bust.

 

De’Veon and Drake Express

A successful rushing game, or lack thereof, could decide Saturday’s clash with the Terps, who have the conference’s No. 12 rush defense and No. 13 total defense. Putting the ball into the hands of De’Veon Smith and/or Drake Johnson would be ideal, as they’re each on the ascent.

Plus, they’re the only guys available in this department.

A week ago, Smith, a 5’11”, 220-pound sophomore, put up a career-high 121 yards during the Wolverines’ win over Northwestern. The week prior, Johnson, a 6’0”, 211-pound redshirt sophomore, burst for 122 during the 34-10 homecoming romping of Indiana.

Additionally, the Terps were just gutted by Michigan State for 242 yards.  

It’s prime time for offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier to unleash a ground attack.

 

The Devin Connection

What happened here? It’s mid-November, and a pair of stars continue to fade—or, in other words, the exact opposite scenarios have played out for Devin Funchess and Devin Gardner.

During the preseason, Funchess, a 6’5,” 230-pound junior, was widely recognized as one of the country’s best receivers. Today, he remains celebrated, but a down year has certainly raised a few questions, especially in regards to ball security.

Like in 2013, Funchess has been bitten by the drop bug. But his misses aren’t entirely his fault—Gardner hasn’t been very accurate, despite touting a career-high 61 percent completion rate. Gardner’s struggles have made it difficult for things to click with Funchess, who’s been hobbling on a bum leg/lower body injury for most of the season.

Needless to say, but necessary considering the subject of Michigan football, Gardner and Funchess have to find a way to string together two great weeks of football, something that’s yet to be done in 2014.

Not good weeks. Not better-than-average weeks. Great weeks.

 

D-Line Needs Ojemudia

Frank Clark was jailed this past weekend in Erie County, Ohio, for his alleged role in a domestic dispute/altercation, per CBS(h/t MGoBlog, Detroit Free Press). Needless to say, his status with the team and university is uncertain at this time. 

With Clark, the defense has a chance to win games. He’s been a valuable contributor in each of the Wolverines’ five victories this fall. Without the 6'2", 277-pound senior, the chances of coming out on top slightly diminish. He’s among the Big Ten’s best pass-rushers and is third in the league with 13.5 tackles for loss.

He’s been a fixture up front and is sorely needed.

Meanwhile, Mario Ojemudia, a 6’3”, 251-pound junior, would likely replace him. Playing at a level somewhere in the neighborhood of Clark is the goal, but getting there could be difficult for a guy with one start to his credit.

There is a slight bright side, though: He had a career-high two sacks during a 10-9 win at Northwestern. He’s played in 31 games. He’s been around for three years. Ojemudia’s transition, in theory, should be a plug-and-play scenario for Hoke’s staff.

The D-line and Greg Mattison’s run defense have carried Team 135 by allowing a meager 2.82 yards per attempt—and it’s battle-tested against a handful of upper-echelon ball-carriers. As a whole, the run D ranks No. 3 in the league and No. 7 nationally.

Keeping up with that type of production is the Wolverines’ best shot at landing in a bowl—and now that Clark's in limbo, that’s going to be a tall order to fill.

Even for Mattison.

 

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

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Northwestern Players Stoked About Getting Chick-fil-A After Upsetting Notre Dame

Warning: Video contains NSFW language. 

"And we got Chick-fil-A! This is the best day ever!"

That pretty much sums up how some of the Northwestern players felt after they saw what their dinner would be after upsetting No. 18 Notre Dame, 43-40, in overtime on Saturday.

It's not clear if the players were more excited about beating the Fighting Irish in South Bend or getting Chick-fil-A for dinner. Regardless, it was a good night to be a Wildcat football player.

[YouTube]

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Bowl Predictions 2014-15: Playoff Projections Prior to 4th Rankings Release

Several College Football Playoff hopefuls struggled, but the biggest loss was by the No. 1 team in the country. Mississippi State may have faltered but still has tough games ahead that can keep it in the running.

By virtue of their strong start to the season, the Bulldogs remain in contention for a playoff spot. Though it likely won't retain the top position when the fourth CFP poll is released, Mississippi State is still in a favorable position.

Others who were hoping to crack the Top Four weren't quite as lucky. Arizona State's surprising loss to Oregon State and Auburn's blowout defeat against Georgia all but seals their fates as outsiders in the playoff.

Scuffling programs like Florida State and TCU still have their hopes alive, but doubt might be creeping into the minds of voters. Ahead of the fourth poll release, here's a look at the projected College Football Playoff matchups and analysis for each team.

 

Breakdown of Projections

Though it didn't seem obvious weeks ago, Alabama is certainly deserving of a playoff spot after defeating Mississippi State.

The Crimson Tide are rolling late in the season and should finally see their name in the Top Four on Tuesday night. Much of that success is thanks in large part to the offense that got off to a 19-3 lead at the half before pulling off the huge win.

Amari Cooper leads that offense and has been an explosive receiver throughout his career, per College GameDay:

Even with the loss for the Bulldogs, they still have a shot at making the field with their remaining schedule.

Vanderbilt is coming up next weekend for Mississippi State, but the Egg Bowl should convince voters that it can contend for a title. Going against an Ole Miss team that was once ranked in the Top Four, a victory might propel the Bulldogs to the playoff.

Quarterback Dak Prescott struggled against Bama early but helped get his team back in the game. However, Jon Solomon of CBS Sports notes that the disappointing play wasn't just evident on Saturday:

Despite those issues, Prescott can right all of those wrongs over the next two weeks and prove himself on the biggest stage possible.

Outside of the SEC, Oregon got the week off and remains in the running for a playoff appearance. TCU wasn't able to put away Kansas until late in the game, as the Jayhawks nearly changed the college football landscape.

The Horned Frogs weren't the only top team that nearly lost, as Florida State narrowly survived against Miami. Jameis Winston got a lucky bounce on one passing touchdown, and the Seminoles outscored the Hurricanes 20-3 in the second half.

Winston continued his up-and-down season, as he surged in the second half, per ESPN Stats & Info:

The sophomore quarterback also had a message for Miami fans after the game, via Bleacher Report:

That message might also apply to haters of the Seminoles after the regular season. If Florida State can survive against Boston College and rival Florida, the Noles might be competing for a title for a second straight season.

Other programs like TCU and Baylor might make a late push to earn a place in the playoff, but these four teams will likely clinch the spots. When the first College Football Playoff gets underway, expect several familiar programs to do battle for the title.

 

Follow @RCorySmith on Twitter.

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Todd Gurley Ruled Out for Season with Torn ACL

Georgia Bulldogs star running back Todd Gurley returned in Saturday's win over Auburn following a four-game suspension. Unfortunately, he exited the SEC showdown in the fourth quarter and has now been ruled out for the remainder of the 2014 season with a torn ACL in his left knee.   

WSB sports director Zach Klein initially reported that Gurley had suffered a torn ACL against Auburn, and that news was confirmed Sunday:

Gurley offered a quick comment on his situation via Twitter:

Bleacher Report expert Dave Siebert offered his opinion on the situation:

Gurley ran for 911 yards and nine touchdowns on just 123 carries this year. He is among the most gifted players at his position in recent memory.   

Before the injury, had the all-purpose playmaker declared for the 2015 NFL draft, he had a real chance to be the first running back selected in the first round since 2012. Now the future is a lot murkier for Gurley, whose draft stock will likely drop drastically, as the injury may cost him his entire rookie campaign in the pros.

It's better to take the rehabilitation process slowly, though. Running backs have become so interchangeable that it takes a transcendent talent to emerge as a surefire feature back. Gurley has the tools to be just that when healthy.

Whenever he does return to the gridiron, the Georgia star figures to enjoy plenty of successful playing days ahead as long as his knee holds up.

The Bulldogs have the backfield depth to absorb Gurley's loss for the remainder of the year, particularly with stud freshman Nick Chubb in the fold, but NFL teams will have to take a longer look the junior before they consider investing a valuable draft pick in him.

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After Early-Season Woes, Longhorns Prove They're Headed in the Right Direction

There were a lot of smiling faces following the Texas Longhorns' 28-7 win over Oklahoma State. And some that resembled a look of relief.

The Longhorns' early-season woes sparked questions about the direction of the Texas football program. And after Kansas State handed Texas its fifth loss of the year, many signs pointed to Charlie Strong's first season in Austin ending on Thanksgiving night without a bowl bid.

But the Longhorns had a different outlook of their future.

"Everybody just wrote us off," Strong said. "I told the guys don't let outside forces control this football team."

The Longhorns took their coach's words to heart.

Texas overcame the lethargic start of the season by winning two consecutive games, including an upset over then-No. 23 West Virginia, giving the Longhorns the first signature win of Strong's short Texas tenure.

But there was another goal Texas needed to reach: becoming bowl-eligible.

The Longhorns achieved that goal Saturday night in Stillwater.

"I challenged our players early in the week and said we have two games left and we need to get to a bowl game," Strong said. "We owe it to ourselves and to our seniors for the leadership that they've provided the last few weeks. We've come a long ways, and to get bowl-eligible speaks volumes of the hard work that they've put in."

Texas has proven it can be a tough team, which is something Strong has strived for since he was hired in January. But Saturday's win over Oklahoma State showed a new level of toughness—aside from the way the Longhorns manhandled the Cowboys.

In years past, Texas has not always fared well in cold weather conditions. One could almost guarantee the Longhorns would struggle against their opponents if the temperature dropped below 50 degrees.

The weather was expected to be in the low-40s to mid-30s Saturday night in Stillwater. Some players showed up to Boone Pickens Stadium wearing extra layers, which was considered the norm for many Longhorns from previous seasons.

Little did they know Strong had a different agenda for his team.

"They thought it was cold and I told them it isn't cold," Strong said. "The linemen had on tights and I said, 'We're going to win the game up front so take it off, you're not going to wear it.' The skill guys had pouches on and I said, 'Only the quarterback is going to wear a pouch, take it off.'

"We were going to go out there with the right mindset. The weather was not going to be an issue, we were going to go out there and win this game."

Strong was not going to allow his team to balk at playing in cold weather, and the Longhorns realized their coach was right.

"He challenges us as men and challenges us as a team," senior wide receiver John Harris said of Strong's no-tights policy in Stillwater. "It's fun to have a coach like that."

The ability to fight through cold weather is a small achievement and will likely go unmentioned moving forward.

But what has been unfolding for Texas is something more than a team fighting for bowl eligibility, or a team proving it can suck it up in cold weather conditions. It's proof the Longhorns have bought into Strong and are headed in the right direction.

Year one of the Strong era has been anything but ordinary. The first-year head coach demonstrated he was going to do things his way when he dismissed nine players for violating his core values—honesty, treat women with respect, no drugs/stealing/weapons.

Critics questioned if Strong was too strong for Texas and if the perceived disciplinarian side of the coach would cause him to lose his locker room.

The questions were at an all-time high when the Longhorns were 3-5 with four games remaining, including two Top 25-ranked opponents and two road games in hostile environments.

But while most people were writing off the Longhorns, the team was rallying together, fighting for one another and ready to prove the 2014 season would not end in November.

"We just came together as a group," senior defensive end Cedric Reed said of the team buying in over the last three games. "We fought through the wounds and we made it. We're bowl-eligible, but we still have another game on the schedule."

The fight is not over. Texas will face No. 5 TCU on Thanksgiving night. The regular-season finale will be a difficult task, and the Longhorns will likely be home underdogs to the Horned Frogs.

But if Strong's team has proven anything over the last three weeks, it's that the Longhorns will not go out without a fight, and it's far too early to count out Texas.

"We've been resilient all year. We could have easily packed it up three games ago and said we weren't going to finish out the season. But these guys continued to fight," senior cornerback Quandre Diggs said. "It's a great opportunity for us to continue to build on and to get this thing going in the right direction for next year."

 

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.

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

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Even Without Todd Gurley, Georgia Is a Legitimate SEC Title Contender

While Georgia was celebrating Saturday's emphatic 34-7 win over Auburn between the hedges, there was still concern for its future.

Star running back Todd Gurley, who rushed for 138 yards and a touchdown in his first game back from a four-game suspension due to receiving money in exchange for autographs, suffered a knee injury while making a cut midway through the fourth quarter.

He was helped off the field and then walked to the locker room with help from trainers, and according to Bleacher Report's Matt Miller, Bulldog Nation's worst fears have come true.

It's horrible news for Gurley, who, as Miller points out, will likely be one of the top picks in the 2015 NFL draft if he elects to leave college. After missing time with injuries in each of the past two seasons, it's hard to imagine a scenario where Gurley—a true junior—will want to risk playing another season in college when he can rehab while gaining a paycheck.

In the short-term, though, Georgia should be fine.

The Bulldogs are in the clubhouse with a 6-2 SEC record, and if Missouri falls once in its final two games (at Tennessee, vs. Arkansas), head coach Mark Richt's crew will represent the SEC East in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.

If they get to that point, they're more than capable of getting hot in the Georgia Dome and winning the SEC Title regardless of the opponent.

The reason is simple—freshman Nick Chubb.

The Cedartown, Georgia, native has 1,039 yards and nine touchdowns in only four starts on the season and thoroughly took over games at Missouri and Arkansas in Gurley's absence. The 5'10", 228-pounder rushed for 144 yards and two touchdowns against Auburn—the fifth straight game in which he's gone north of the century mark—and added two catches for 48 yards.

"[Nick] Chubb is a physical back who runs with determination," Richt said in postgame quotes released by Georgia. "He has more ability to make people miss than you'd think and he has good vision. He's a good back, a special back."

As the clip above from ESPN's College GameDay Twitter account shows, the combination of size and speed makes Chubb a dangerous weapon.

He's already proven that he can be a feature back, and if fellow studs Sony Michel and Keith Marshall get back from injury prior to the SEC Championship Game, the Bulldog offense will be able to get back to the original plan and spread carries around for a full four quarters.

Couple that with a run defense that seems to have regrouped well after the Florida debacle, and Georgia is suddenly a threat.

Even if Georgia doesn't get the luck it needs to get to Atlanta and Missouri wins out, the future is still very bright in Athens. 

Chubb, Marshall and Michel should all be back next season, and with a new quarterback taking over for redshirt senior Hutson Mason, the experience they received—Chubb in particular—in 2014 will allow the new starter to ease into the role.

Georgia has been preparing for the post-Gurley era for quite some time, and unfortunately, it appears that has started earlier than anticipated.

If Saturday was his last night in the red and black, he left a legacy at Georgia that is going to be difficult to top. Running backs have been labeled as "the next Herschel Walker" for generations at Georgia, but it might be time to retire that moniker. While Walker will always be mentioned, top-tier prospects will now be striving to become "the next Todd Gurley."

Fortunately for Georgia, one might already be on the roster.

His name is Nick Chubb.

 

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

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

 

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Everett Golson Injury: Updates on Notre Dame Star's Shoulder and Return

Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson suffered a shoulder sprain in Saturday's loss to Northwestern.

Head coach Brian Kelly confirmed the injury on Sunday, via Matt Fortuna of ESPN.com:  

'I don't know,' Kelly said during his weekly teleconference.' I haven't gotten a chance to talk to him about it. There were certainly a couple of throws when he first did it where he put the ball into the ground. You could see that it affected him then. He said he was fine after that but obviously we missed some throws, especially in overtime. But he said it didn't affect him.'

Golson's return to the field for the Fighting Irish was one of the biggest stories heading into the college football season. He missed all of last year after an academic violation prevented him from being enrolled at the school for a semester.

It was a major setback for Notre Dame after reaching the national championship game the previous season. The South Carolina native had provided much-needed stability under center while letting the team's vaunted defense handle the rest.

Unfortunately for Notre Dame, his comeback story has already suffered a setback due to the injury. The Irish will hope the scare doesn't result in an extended absence.

The only good news is the strong play of Malik Zaire during the Blue-Gold game and practices. He actually pushed Golson for the starting job and will get his chance to shine should Golson's injury require some time to recover.

It's been a long and winding road for the Notre Dame starter. This is just the latest twist in a story that's featured plenty of them. For now, the comeback story is on hold.

Exactly how it will impact the Irish depends on how much time he'll miss.

 

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NCAA Football Rankings 2014: Hits and Misses from Week 12

And this is where things could get interesting.

No. 1 Mississippi State suffered its first loss of the season to Alabama on Saturday. Where the Bulldogs and Tide end up among the top four teams will undoubtedly be the storyline to watch.

Also, Florida State pulled another Houdini and escaped from a potential loss to Miami. Arizona State saw its playoff hopes fall in Corvallis to Oregon State.

From those games and plenty more, a lot happened in Week 12. 

As is customary every Sunday, The Associated Press and USA Today released their new Top 25 polls. Though neither of these polls are taken into consideration with the playoff-selection committee, they may provide a glimpse into where teams stand. 

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.

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College Football Rankings 2014: Week 13 AP and Amway Standings Revealed

The 2014 college football season has been unpredictable, to say the least, and the resulting Associated Press and Amway Coaches’ Top 25 rankings reflect the madness that took place on Saturday.

With the Alabama Crimson Tide beating the Mississippi State Bulldogs in the game of the week and several other ranked programs taking heartbreaking losses, the turnover in the polls is reflective of the quality of competition.

Here are the Associated Press and Amway Coaches’ polls for Week 13 and the biggest winner and loser from Saturday’s wild on-field action.

 

 

 

 

Biggest Winner: Alabama Crimson Tide

The biggest winners of the week were the Crimson Tide. The 25-20 victory over Mississippi State proved Alabama was still a top contender for a national championship, but the way the team won proved the current roster can stand toe-to-toe with any team in the nation.

On the offensive side of the ball, head coach Nick Saban has kept the offensive game plan simple, helping quarterback Blake Sims avoid making mistakes. With wide receiver Amari Cooper proving to be an elite target and running back T.J. Yeldon consistently churning out yardage, the Crimson Tide has averaged 33.7 points per game this season.

As good as the offense has been, Alabama’s biggest strength is the defense. Whether it’s stopping the run or shutting down the passing attack, the Crimson Tide are now only allowing 14.5 points per game, the second-fewest in the sport.

Alabama still has tough tests against Auburn and in a possible SEC Championship Game, but the experience of the program in big games was a big reason the team won on Saturday and will enter the College Football Playoff as a legitimate contender.

 

Biggest Loser: Arizona State Sun Devils

The Arizona State Sun Devils entered Week 12 at No. 6 in the College Football Playoff rankings, but a devastating loss to Oregon State has killed any hope the program had of making it into the top four.

Arizona State has a favorable matchup against Washington State on Saturday and a final regular-season game against Arizona, but the two losses this season ensure the Sun Devils will not make the Playoff. The strength of the team’s victories does not outweigh the way the team was defeated twice.

There is no doubt that beating Notre Dame, USC, Utah and Stanford makes for a successful year, but the most Arizona State can hope for is a top-10 finishing spot. If the Sun Devils had won out and a team like Oregon suffered another defeat, the program would have been a serious Top Four contender.

Unfortunately, Oregon State had different plans. For Sun Devils fans, Saturday’s loss was the worst-case scenario.

 

*Stats via ESPN.com.

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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.  

 

 

Analysis

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 NFL.com 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.

 

3rd-and-Long

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 CFBStats.com, 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.

[ESPN.com]

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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 FootballOutsiders.com 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 ESPN.com.

 

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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 GatorZone.com

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

Muschamp later issued a statement, via GatorZone.com:

'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 GatorZone.com. "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 OrlandoSentinel.com 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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