NCAA Football News

AP College Football Poll 2014: Official Top 25 Rankings, Week 5 Projections

The No.1-ranked Florida State Seminoles survived an overtime battle with the Clemson Tigers on Saturday without the suspended Jameis Winston. 

A 12-yard touchdown run by Karlos Williams in the extra session was the deciding score, but the close call made it clear just how much the Heisman Trophy winner means to his team's success.

Hopefully, he can avoid future occurrences that threaten his availability.

When the new rankings came out, the Noles remained No. 1, but some of the other ranked squads weren't as lucky. Take a look at the latest Associated Press Top 25.

 

AP Top 25RankTeamRecordPoints 1 Florida State (34) 3-0 1439 2 Oregon (12) 4-0 1400 3 Alabama (6) 4-0 1377 4 Oklahoma (4) 4-0 1343 5 Auburn 3-0 1268 6 Texas A&M (4) 4-0 1232 7 Baylor 3-0 1143 8 Notre Dame 3-0 967 9 Michigan State 2-1 905 10 Ole Miss 3-0 889 11 UCLA 3-0 806 12 Georgia 2-1 789 13 South Carolina 3-1 764 14 Mississippi State 4-0 706 15 Arizona State 3-0 702 16 Stanford 2-1 564 17 LSU 3-1 541 18 USC 2-1 459 19 Wisconsin 2-1 451 20 BYU 4-0 376 21 Nebraska 4-0 296 22 Ohio State 2-1 196 23 East Carolina 3-1 180 24 Oklahoma State 2-1 132 25 Kansas State 2-1 131

Rankings per ESPN.com.

 

Biggest Riser

East Carolina

If you're looking for a dark-horse Heisman candidate, look no further than the East Carolina Pirates' Shane Carden.

The senior quarterback has been phenomenal in his team's first four games. Carden's 1,469 passing yards and 11 touchdowns have helped to stoke the Pirates to a 3-1 start.

In Week 3, East Carolina upset the then No. 21 Virginia Tech Hokies 28-21. The Pirates followed that up with an explosive 70-41 win over the North Carolina Tar Heels.

The wins helped propel East Carolina to No. 23 in the Top 25. SMU is next on the Pirates' hit list. Can Carden and Co. keep it going? Another win should at the very least keep the Pirates' spot in the Top 25 secure.

This team is going to be fun to watch when bowl season rolls around.

 

Biggest Fallers

LSU Tigers

If you're looking for the top-10 team that laid the biggest egg in Week 4, look no further than the LSU Tigers. Not only did LSU lose at home to Mississippi State, it had to come back from a 31-10 deficit to make the 34-29 final score look decent.

The Tigers fell from No. 8 in the poll to No. 18 after the poor showing. LSU did look better once freshman Brandon Harris took over under center, but the team had dug itself too big of a hole.

Next week, the Tigers will take on New Mexico State back in Baton Rouge. The team should have an opportunity to let out some of its frustrations.

 

Missouri Tigers

Saturday was not a good day for home-standing Tigers. Missouri was ambushed by an Indiana Hoosiers squad that came in looking to make a statement. Behind an effective and persistent running game, the Hoosiers upset Mizzou 31-27.

A late touchdown by D'Angelo Roberts gave Indiana one of the program's biggest wins in recent memory.

Tevin Coleman ran for 132 yards and a score, and the Hoosiers compiled 241 yards on the ground as a team. Mizzou's loss sent it plummeting out of the Top 25. Next week, Missouri has a tough assignment against the No. 13 South Carolina Gamecocks on the road.

A win for Missouri would likely return it to the Top 25.

 

Biggest Game of Week 5

No. 11 UCLA Bruins at No. 15 Arizona State Sun Devils

Both UCLA and Arizona State are undefeated and were idle in Week 4. With a week of rest heading into a massive Pac-12 matchup, there's no question which contest is the premier game of the week's schedule.

The path to an undefeated start has looked very different for the Bruins and Sun Devils. UCLA hasn't won by more than eight points in any of its games, and the Sun Devils haven't had an opponent stay closer than 14 points.

Because of the first three games for these teams, each has to prove it can win a game against a top-notch conference opponent.

The biggest story leading into the game is whether UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley will play in the game. Hundley was injured in Week 3 against the Texas Longhorns. As of now, per Zach Barnett of NBC Sports, Bruins head coach Jim Mora is non committal about Hundley's availability.

Beating the high-scoring Sun Devils could prove to be very difficult without the team's leader.

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Texas Football: Why Kansas Game Is a Must-Win for Longhorns' Bowl Chances

Coming off their bye, the Longhorns face the lowly Kansas Jayhawks, arguably the weakest team left on Texas' schedule. For the Horns to reach a bowl this season, they will have to treat this game like the must-win it is.

It's been a tough start to the Charlie Strong era. The 1-2 Horns were again humiliated by the BYU Cougars, falling 41-7 at home, then lost a late lead in a 20-17 defeat at the hands of then-No. 12 UCLA.

And it could very well get worse for Strong.

In less than two weeks, Texas faces one of the toughest back-to-backs any college team will face all season against No. 4 Oklahoma and No. 7 Baylor. Meanwhile, the rest of the Big 12 has been surprisingly competitive with only one other team sporting a losing record.

That's why taking care of business against Kansas is so crucial for the rest of the season. A bowl appearance should be viewed as a success at this point, and you need six to get there. 

Texas has to win this game to have a chance at pulling that off, and it could also use the confidence in the midst of this tough stretch of games.

 

Tough Remaining Schedule

Besides Kansas, the home matchup with Iowa State is the only other game that Texas should be considered big favorites. That's it.

Oklahoma and Baylor are a class above Texas this season. Even if the Horns can contain their offenses, which rank first and second in the conference, respectively, the Longhorns have given no indication that they can keep up in a shootout, scoring just three touchdowns in their last two games.

After those two all-but-guaranteed losses, the Longhorns get Iowa State, which should also be a win, and then finishes the season with five toss-ups.

That stretch of the season will define Charlie Strong's first season, because it's the point where we should start seeing improvement. The problem being that Kansas State, West Virginia and Oklahoma State have each been competitive against top-5 teams Auburn, Alabama and Florida State, respectively.

The Horns also get the explosive Texas Tech offense during that stretch, as well as a tough TCU group that has allowed just 205.5 yards per game thus far.

Assuming the Horns handle Iowa State, winning three of those remaining five games is a daunting task in itself. Losing to Kansas would mean the Horns have to win four, and that's just not going to happen with the current roster.

 

The Need for Confidence

Suffering two tough losses through three games, the Longhorns just need to prove to themselves that they can play a full game and get a win. Doing anything else against Kansas would be disastrous to this team's confidence.

Going back to last season, Texas has lost five of its last seven, including four by 20 points or more. During that span, this Longhorn team has seen long-time head coach Mack Brown replaced, yet they have still been the object of mockery at the national level.

If there's a team in more need of a win, it's not by a wide margin. A loss to Kansas, which gave up 331 rushing yards to Duke in Week 2, has the potential to send the rest of the season into a tailspin.

Fortunately for the Longhorns, their new coach Strong and their fanbase, the 14.5-point favorites (according to OddsShark.com) will have no trouble delivering fresh off their bye.

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Tennessee Volunteers vs. Georgia Bulldogs Complete Game Preview

The last time Tennessee and Georgia stepped onto the football field together last Oct. 5, the Volunteers were a half-yard away from scoring a major upset.

Instead, the Dawgs escaped with a 34-31 overtime victory after a would-be Pig Howard touchdown was fumbled out of the side of the end zone, costing UT possession, the lead and the game all in one fell swoop.

This year, UGA again is a solid favorite playing at Sanford Stadium. But the Vols are a much better team than they were a season ago when coach Butch Jones was just beginning to build his program at UT. 

Georgia, however, looks extremely stout again and is healthier than the last matchup against the Vols.

With the SEC East wide open and nobody looking particularly dominant, this early-season showdown is a pivotal game in which the winner will have a prime advantage in the race to Atlanta. Here's everything you need to know.

 

Date: Saturday, Sept. 27

Time: Noon ET

Place: Sanford Stadium, Athens, Georgia

TV: ESPN

Radio: Vol Network, Bulldog Network, Sirius/XM 91

Spread: Georgia by 18 points, according to Oddsshark.com.

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College Football Recruiting Offers of the Week

National signing day is less than five months away, and a handful of 2015 prospects are earning offers from some of the nation’s top programs.

In particular, coaches are targeting the hotbed of South Florida looking for late additions before national signing day in February.

Perhaps the hottest player in the country is Miami 3-star wide receiver Antonio Callaway.

The 6’1’”, 185-pounder from powerhouse Booker T. Washington High School earned offers from SEC giants Alabama and Auburn this week.

The surge of interest in Callaway comes on the heels of a strong showing in the summer camp circuit. He’s carried that momentum over to the field with a blistering start to his senior campaign, as noted by Barton Simmons of 247Sports.

The Tide and Tigers will now do battle with another pair of SEC powers as well as his hometown school in order to land the speedy playmaker.

Earlier this month, Callaway told GatorBait’s Luke Stampini (subscription required) that Florida is the leader for his services, with LSU and Miami rounding out his top three at the moment. 

“That school just stands out, I just like that school so much,” Callaway stated on his affinity for the Gators program. “The spread offense and plus I know if I go in and work hard, I can play.” 

Fellow South Floridians and 4-star offensive standouts Jordan Cronkite, Mark Walton and Tim Irvin also earned tenders this week.

Cronkite, a running back who recently decommitted from Miami, was offered by North Carolina. Walton, who is still committed to the Hurricanes, picked up an offer from Tennessee, per Ryan Bartow of 247Sports. Irvin, who could play running back or receiver on the next level, was offered by UCLA

With the 2015 cycle winding down to its conclusion, the heat is rising for coaches hoping to find success in one of the most talent-rich areas in the entire country.

 

Irish after 2016 Standouts

Brian Kelly and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish are 3-0 and ranked inside the Top 10 of both the AP and USA Today polls, and the program's momentum appears to be carrying over to the recruiting trail.

The Irish offered a number of 2016 stars last week, headlined by Louisiana 4-star corner Kristian Fulton—who is tabbed as the No. 5 corner and No. 41 player overall in the 2016 class.

Kelly also offered a pair of 2016 4-star athletes in California native Trevon Sidney and New Jersey standout Ahmir Mitchell—both of whom could end up at receiver. Binjimen Victor, one of the nation’s top 2016 receivers, was also offered by the Irish last week, per Bartow

Finally, the Irish also extended an offer to Ohio 4-star junior defensive end Jonathon Cooper.

Kelly’s 2013 class finished No. 5 nationally, and with the Irish already in on a number of top targets, the 2016 class is setting up to become a class that could potentially rival that group in terms of ranking and star-power.

 

The Champ Is Here 

While Callaway is the 2015 recruit with the biggest buzz, junior 4-star running back Elijah Holyfield may hold that title for the 2016 class. 

The son of boxing legend Evander Holyfield, Elijah’s stock is soaring thanks to a strong start to his junior campaign—including a game in which he scored seven touchdowns earlier this season.

A trio of SEC schools—Arkansas, Georgia and Vanderbilt—joined Big Ten power Michigan State as the latest programs to offer the 5’11”, 200-pound Atlanta native. 

With his offer list swelling seemingly exponentially, expect Holyfield to be one of the nation’s most coveted backs in the 2016 class.

 

2016 Michigan WR Starting to Blow Up 

Another 2016 skill player whose stock is on the rise is 4-star wide receiver Donnie Corley.

The Detroit standout picked up three offers last week, bringing his total up to 10.

Michigan State, Arizona State and Pittsburgh tendered the 6’2”, 180-pound Corley—who is ranked as the No. 43 wide receiver and the No. 241 player overall in the 2016 class. 

With offers coming from schools representing three different Power Five conferences, the word is starting to get out on one of the most explosive playmakers in the Midwest.

 

Best of the Rest

  • Notre Dame also offered 3-star Louisiana safety Hunter Dale. Dale was a one-time Nebraska commitment before re-opening his recruitment in July. 

 

Sanjay Kirpalani is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

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Grading Every Preseason Top 25 Team's Performance Through 4 Weeks

We’re through four weeks of the 2014 college football season, and while many things remain the same from our preseason thoughts, multiple new storylines have emerged.

Looking back at the preseason Associated Press Top 25, the same four teams (Florida State, Oregon, Alabama and Oklahoma) occupy the top four spots this week, although Oregon jumped the Crimson Tide for the AP’s No. 2 spot after the first week.

But teams like East Carolina, BYU and Mississippi State have jumped into the polls, displacing several preseason top-25 selections.

As the first month of the 2014 season draws towards a close, it’s a perfect time to look back at the preseason top 25 and assign grades for the teams we thought would stand out this fall, for better or worse. Grades were assigned by looking at a team’s record, the quality of its competition and how well the team has performed overall through its first month.

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NCAA Football Rankings 2014: Week 5 Standings and Analysis for Latest Polls

A wild, upset-laden Week 4 of the 2014 college football season resulted in some shifts within The Associated Press Poll's Top 25. While victories over LSU and Missouri by unranked teams shook up the rankings, Florida State and Oregon barely hung on to gain wins and keep their respective positions in the poll.

In the wake of Saturday's madness, the latest round of votes are in, and the AP Poll has been adjusted heading into Week 5. We already knew there would be movement in the standings, but we were also given a few surprises as well.

Here's a look at the latest standings heading into Week 5, followed by some analysis surrounding the biggest movers after Saturday's action.

The AP Poll can be viewed at CollegeFootball.AP.org.

 

Biggest Winners

Mississippi State

Watch out, the Bulldogs are for real. The offensive combination of quarterback Dak Prescott, running back Josh Robinson and wide receivers Jameon Lewis and De'Runnya Wilson was far too much for the LSU defense to handle. As a team, Mississippi State put up 34 points and an incredible 570 yards of offense.

Bleacher Report tweeted what the team's improbable feat meant for Tigers coach Les Miles:

The Bulldogs haven't fared well against ranked teams over recent seasons, but Saturday's victory got the team headed in the right direction, according to ESPN Stats & Info:

Mississippi State is now 4-0 and very deserving of its 14th ranking. The Bulldogs get a bye in Week 5, and they will need it, as No. 6 Texas A&M and No. 5 Auburn are the next two opponents on the team's slate.

 

East Carolina

The Pirates have been riding their efficient passing offense en route to putting up some major points so far this season. The team's only loss this season came by the hands of South Carolina in Week 2—although East Carolina made a game of it, losing by 10 points.

An upset victory over Virginia Tech in Week 3 propelled East Carolina back up the rankings, and the team finally finds itself in the Top 25 after trouncing North Carolina on Saturday by a score of 70-41. The Pirates are full of offensive weapons and proved they have the firepower to win in a shootout.

Knox Bardeen of Fox Sports tweeted his thoughts on the team:

Without another ranked opponent looming on the team's schedule this season, we may see the Pirates hanging around on the AP Poll for the duration.

 

Biggest Losers

LSU

This is an easy one. The Tigers fell from No. 8 to No. 17 in the rankings after suffering a loss to previously unranked Mississippi State. While the final score was 34-29, the game was nowhere near that close for most of its duration.

LSU's defense faltered, a running game couldn't be established and quarterback Anthony Jennings was simply horrible. However, on the bright side, backup signal-caller Brandon Harris entered the game late and quickly displayed his superior arm and playmaking ability.

Harris threw for two quick touchdowns and made the score respectable in the end. ESPN SEC tweeted what everyone was thinking near the end of the game:

LSU is in dire need of a win, and it should get one in Week 5 against New Mexico State. Although, the team must get its quarterback situation settled quickly, as one week later, it is set to face No. 5 Auburn.

 

Missouri

The Missouri Tigers rode three nice performances all the way up to No. 18 in the nation; however, as we know, one loss can change everything. That was the unfortunate case for this team on Saturday, as the Indiana Hoosiers traveled to Faurot Field and upset the home team by a score of 31-27.

Pete Thamel of Sports Illustrated tweeted exactly what the loss means for the Tigers:

It was a back-and-forth contest, and despite solid performances from Maty Mauk, Russell Hansbrough and Bud Sasser, the team simply couldn't stop the Hoosiers.

Indiana racked up 493 yards of offense thanks to a balanced attack featuring a combination of quarterback Nate Sudfeld and running back Tevin Coleman. The Tigers hadn't given up more than 24 points in any previous contest; however, the team wasn't exactly challenged early in the season.

Missouri will attempt to right the ship on Saturday against South Carolina, and it will need a huge upset of its own if it is to claw its way back into the nation's Top 25 teams.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Odds: UCLA Early Favorites in Week 5 Betting

The 3-0 UCLA Bruins have opened as four-point college football favorites over the 3-0 Arizona State Sun Devils in a Week 5 battle of undefeated nationally ranked teams.

No. 11 UCLA, who has dropped in the AP Top 25 rankings since opening the season at No. 7, is riding a five-game winning streak but has struggled against the spread, failing to cover so far this season.

No. 15 Arizona State is 10-2 straight up in its last 12 at home, but has also struggled ATS at just 1-4 ATS in its last five games at home and 3-6 in its last nine overall. However, the Sun Devils are a solid 4-2 SU in their last six at home against the Bruins, and opened as 5.5-point home underdogs.

After dodging a bullet in Week 4, No. 1 Florida State takes on the North Carolina State Wolfpack in Week 5 as early 23-point favorites, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark.

Playing without quarterback Jameis Winston while he sat a one-game suspension, the Seminoles needed overtime to eke out a 23-17 win over No. 22 Clemson, a game in which they opened as 20-point favorites before the betting line tumbled to 9.5 points following the news of Winston’s full-game suspension.

Winston, who opened the season as the favorite to repeat as the Heisman Trophy winner, is expected to return to action in Saturday afternoon’s Seminoles vs. Wolfpack matchup at Carter-Finley Stadium.

No. 6 Texas A&M will be looking to improve to a perfect 5-0 when it takes on the Arkansas Razorbacks as 10-point favorites in a battle of SEC West division rivals.

The Aggies have been dominant this season, winning by no less than 24 points in their first four games while amassing a 3-1 record ATS. However, the 3-1 Razorbacks have been equally strong since falling 45-21 to Auburn in Week 1.

Arkansas has easily won and covered in its last three outings, including a dominant performance in a 52-14 Week 4 win over Northern Illinois, a game they entered as 13.5-point favorites according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark.

In other college football betting action, No. 8 Notre Dame go on the road for the first time this season as early 14-point road favorites against the Syracuse Orange. As well, No. 5 Auburn open as 33-point favorites over Louisiana Tech, and No. 7 Baylor is favored by 22 points over Iowa.

 

Odds and stats courtesy of Odds Shark.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Picks Week 5: Predictions and Odds for Top 25 Schedule

The 2014 college football season continues to be chock-full of surprises, and after a bevy of upsets in Week 4, the nation's Top 25 teams have been shaken up once again. 

It all began on Thursday, when No. 5 Auburn was given plenty of trouble by No. 20 Kansas State. On Saturday, No. 1 Florida State and No. 2 Oregon barely escaped with wins. Finally, No. 8 LSU and No. 18 Missouri were defeated by unranked teams.

Those results just reaffirm the fact that no team—no matter its ranking—is safe on a weekly basis. Week 5 is sure to continue the trend, as several Top 25 squads are set to face off, and others may have some sneaky competition. The question now may not be in regard to if we'll see another upset, but rather when we will see one.

With the new Associated Press poll released and the nation's top teams reordered, Vegas oddsmakers have already been hard at work creating game lines for these impending contests. Let's take a look at the odds for each matchup and decide which teams will be coming out on top this time around, followed by a preview for the game of the week.

All game odds are opening lines, via OddsShark.com, and current as of September 21.

*Game played at neutral location.

 

Game of the Week

(15) Arizona State vs. (11) UCLA

It doesn't get much better than when two undefeated, ranked teams that still have plenty to prove face off in the early portion of the college football season. That's exactly what's in store when No. 11 UCLA travels to Sun Devil Stadium to take on No. 15 Arizona State on Thursday.

The Sun Devils got off to a hot start this season, torching Weber State and New Mexico with ease. They followed it up in Week 3 with a nice win over Colorado; however, dual-threat quarterback Taylor Kelly was injured in the process.

Kelly has already been ruled out of Thursday's game, according to ESPN College Football:

With Kelly missing time, junior quarterback Mike Bercovici will take the reins. A highly touted backup, Bercovici has a strong arm and is capable of scrambling when necessary. The offense will look different with him at the helm, but it should be just as prolific.

Offensive coordinator Mike Norvell complimented the signal-caller's arm, via a tweet from Fox Sports Arizona:

Coming into Thursday's contest, the Sun Devils are already 12th in the nation in rushing offense and seventh in points for. With Bercovici under center, the team can create more of a balanced attack when combined with talented running back D.J. Foster.

UCLA is 3-0 as well; however, the team has yet to produce a decisive victory. Through three weeks—against three unranked opponents—the Bruins have won by a total of just 18 points. In Week 3, the Bruins offense was stifled by Texas, winning by a score of 20-17 after UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley left with an injury.

Hundley has been limited in practice since leaving that game, and he hasn't been cleared to start on Thursday just yet, according to Jack Wang of the Los Angeles Daily News:

Backup quarterback Jerry Neuheisel was efficient in Hundley's absence, but against a far superior opponent, the team may have to rely on its ground game featuring Paul Perkins. That could be an issue for the Bruins, as their ground game has been wildly inefficient this season, ranking 73rd in the nation.

Certainly, the quarterback situation for each team will be a big factor once this impending contest rolls around; however, the nod in this contest must go to the team that's shown greater efficiency no matter who is at the helm.

In this instance, that would be Arizona State.

With a solid running game and a defense that is only giving up an average of 20.3 points per contest, the Sun Devils have a squad more than capable of winning games without its primary signal-caller on the field. Expect this to be a close one with Arizona State emerging victorious in the end.

Prediction: Arizona State 33, UCLA 28

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Mississippi State Following Familiar Playbook into Unfamiliar Territory

Remember this story line? Unranked, lightly regarded Southeastern team comes from out of the pack to contend for a national championship in football.   

You shouldn't need too much time, at least not if you've been paying attention the last five years. It was only in January that Auburn emerged seemingly from nowhere to fall a mere four points shy of a national title. And in a 2010, it was Auburn again rising from the depths of the preseason rankings to be crowned the king of college football.   

Could a third installment in the series, with a new cast, be in the works?   

From behind Door No. 3, let us introduce...Mississippi State.

Don't look now, but another perfect storm scenario is brewing in the super-competitive, ultra-deep SEC that could put coach Dan Mullen's Bulldogs very much in the mix come early January.

Unranked heading into Saturday, Mississippi State went to Baton Rouge and beat No. 8 LSU 34-29 in a game more one-sided than the final score suggested; the Bulldogs led 34-10 entering the fourth quarter.

Sunday saw Mississippi State crack the AP top 25 for the first time in two seasons. That the Bulldogs' rise came off a defeat of a top-10 team is undoubtedly a surprise to many longtime SEC watchers.

Here's why.

Going into the LSU matchup, Mississippi State had lost every game it had played against a top-10 team since 2000. Over the past five years, the Bulldogs' combined record against the power elite of the SEC West—LSU, Auburn and Alabama—was 1-14, with the one win coming against Auburn two years ago when the Tigers finished 0-8 in conference play.

The link with Auburn is significant for Mississippi State since it could very well follow the historical footprint created by the Tigers in '10, when they jumped from being ranked No. 22 in the preseason AP poll to finish as the BCS national champion with a quarterback named Cam Newton.

That team climbed slowly in the rankings until a 35-27 win over No. 12 South Carolina in the fourth week of the season vaulted the Tigers from No. 17 in the AP to No. 10. The climb to No. 1, which culminated in a 22-19 win over Oregon in the BCS title game followed.

Last year's Auburn team, which went to the final seconds of the BCS title game before losing 34-31 to Florida State, was even more unheralded. The Tigers didn't receive a vote in any preseason Top 25 ballot and were picked to finish fifth in the SEC West. Led by quarterback Nick Marshall, Auburn won its first three games before losing a 35-21 decision at LSU. The Tigers didn't lose again until FSU beat them in the BCS title game.

Similarly, not much was expected of this year's Mississippi State team. But Mullen, who is in his sixth year in Starkville, gave an indication of what the future might bring when he told the SEC network that he felt might have his best team this season.

The win over LSU put the picture into a sharper focus.

"I probably aged seven to 10 years in the final three minutes of the game," Mullen told reporters after watching the LSU rally fall just short. "We are trying to build a program and I'll take it."

Certainly, there were indications of what could happen. A year ago, Mississippi State was plagued by injuries and inexperience but staggered to a 7-6 record by virtue of a pair of overtime wins over Arkansas and Ole Miss at the end of the regular season. The Bulldogs also finished fourth in the SEC in total defense.

This year that unit returns 19 of its top 22 players.And overall, a team that had a mere 12 seniors last season had 19 juniors or seniors in starting roles against LSU. 

And then there is the guy playing quarterback. Junior Dak Prescott was all over Tiger Stadium on Saturday night, passing for 268 yards and a pair of touchdowns while adding another 105 yards and a score on the ground. By the end of the night, LSU's defense, which was ranked third in the nation entering the game, had been shredded for 570 total yards, the worst in the Les Miles era.

Mullen has made comparisons of Prescott's potential to what Tim Tebow did at Florida, when Mullen was an assistant coach. And more than a few plays Prescott is running at Mississippi State are similar to the game plan Mullen, as Florida's offensive coordinator, put in for Tebow. With a few more performances like Saturday's, Prescott, who has accounted for 14 touchdowns (11 passing) in four games this season, could be joining Tebow and Newton in the Heisman winners' circle.

Indeed, it was Mississippi State that looked more like a prime time team than LSU, thanks not only to Prescott but also running back Josh Robinson, who ran for 197 yards and a touchdown.

There are other indicators that suggest the Bulldogs might be ready to make a run this season. They will have a week off to prepare for their next challenge, a beastly back-to-back against No. 6 Texas A&M and No. 5 Auburn. But both of those games are at home. Also working in their favor are SEC cross-over games against Vanderbilt and Kentucky instead of the South Carolina and Georgia combination Auburn must face.

After that, though, await road games at No. 3 Alabama and at No. 10 Ole Miss, a matchup that as of today sees both Mississippi and Mississippi State ranked concurrently for the first time since 1999.

But that story line is just one in an intriguing, unexpected drama Mississippi State is presenting week by week.

Mark Blaudschun covers college football as a national columnist for Bleacher Report. He has more than three decades of experience covering sports at a variety of newspapers in New Jersey, The Dallas Morning News and The Boston Globe. Follow him on Twitter @blauds. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Rankings 2014: Latest Standings and Predictions for Week 5

The NCAA football rankings are beginning to crystallize, with a few top-tier teams proving week in and week out that they are a cut above the rest in the tumultuous college football landscape. 

Florida State survived a scare against Clemson in Week 4 without star quarterback Jameis Winston, absent from the game due to a suspension. Redshirt sophomore Sean Maguire led the Seminoles to a 23-17 overtime victory and kept their undefeated record intact.

They don't have a signature blowout win yet on the season, and there are several teams below them in the rankings that appear to be more complete packages at this point, but no one can dispute a 19-game winning streak, the return of Winston and, of course, the 2013 national title.

Until they lose, expect to find them at the pinnacle of most polls.

Other teams with impressive showings include Texas A&M crushing SMU, Sony Michel and Georgia running wild against Troy, and Oklahoma handling a game West Virginia squad.

Here are the updated Amway and Associated Press Top 25 polls heading into Week 5.

Check out the full list of predictions for AP Top 25 teams next week, followed by the top game to tune in to for Week 5.

 

Game of the Week: UCLA at Arizona State

This titanic Pac-12 tilt is the only matchup between two AP-ranked teams in Week 5, and its late Thursday night time slot makes it a fine contest to whet fans' appetites for the mayhem and madness set to take place on Saturday.

These two programs have provided some excellent football action over the past couple of seasons, with ASU besting the Bruins by a score of 38-33 to win the Pac-12 South last season. The Bruins had their way in October 2012, when they beat the Sun Devils by a score of 45-43.

CBS Sports' Bruce Feldman pointed out that it's rare that the best college game is on a weeknight:

UCLA got an early break from the 2014 action in Week 4, a much-needed breather considering the uncertain status of star quarterback Brett Hundley, who left the Bruins' game against the Texas Longhorns with an elbow injury.

Jerry Neuheisel did a fine job stepping in for Hundley and pulling out the win for UCLA, but he can't overcome the talented Sun Devils in Arizona.

Mora's poker-faced comments haven't been much help in assessing Hundley's injury situation. Via Chris Foster of the Los Angeles Times:

All of our players who are out, what we try to do is make the best decisions for them based upon the knowledge we have. We depend on our doctors to get us good information, and we got the best doctors in the nation in my opinion. If they clear him, and they say he can play, just like everyone else, then we’ll play him.

Foster did note that Hundley has been practicing and believes he is on track to play.

If he does take the field on Thursday, the Bruins have a definite edge since it appears Sun Devils quarterback Taylor Kelly won't be suiting up for the game. He will miss the rivalry game with a right foot injury, per The Associated Press (h/t ESPN.com).

Senior Mike Bercovici—who's completed all of 14 passes in his collegiate career—will take over quarterbacking duties, according to the AP, putting this game in doubt for the home squad.

Key players to watch include UCLA's Myles Jack, the linebacker-turned-instant folk hero with his part-time running back exploits, and Sun Devils running back D.J. Foster, who is averaging a staggering 9.4 yards per carry this season and will test the likes of Jack and fellow linebacker Eric Kendricks.

ESPNU kept track of his handiwork when the Sun Devils took on Colorado:

If Hundley, an Arizona native, doesn't suit up in his home state or his play is limited, this game could go either way. Expect him to play and keep UCLA's undefeated record intact with a critical Pac-12 South victory.

Prediction: Arizona State wins

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Kynon's Korner: How Injury Will Impact No. 1 Player's Recruitment, SEC Update

The nation's No. 1-rated player Josh Sweat suffered a knee injury on Friday night in his team's 56-14 win over Chesapeake (Va.) Western Branch. Per ESPN, Sweat is out indefinitely with a dislocated knee, but word out of Sweat's camp is the news isn't all bad. Evan G. Watkins of 247Sports shared an update: 

I spoke with Sweat's mom via text message, and she updated me on his status. "All is well. No surgery yet, so keep your fingers crossed," replied Ms. Sweat. "His MRI is one day next week. He's in great spirits from the news he received so far. It's looking great."

The 5-star defensive end was scheduled to be in Blacksburg, Virginia, for the Hokies tilt with Georgia Tech. However, those plans will need to be rescheduled. As far as his October visits to Georgia and Florida State, the Sweats are still figuring out everything. When asked if his official-visit plans will be on hold? Sweat answered, "I will try. There is a lot on me right now." 

Earlier this month he was in Columbus, Ohio, to see the Buckeyes take on Virginia Tech. His mom did not accompany him on that trip. 

Hopefully, the injury doesn't derail his visit plans. It will be important for the aforementioned Bulldogs and Seminoles to get him on campus during the season. Oregon is set to receive an official visit in November and VT will welcome one at anytime. The priority for Sweat and his family is to get healthy. Recruiting will likely get pushed to the back burner.

 

Longhorns And Aggies Battling For 5-star Malik Jefferson 

Standout linebacker Malik Jefferson of Mesquite (Texas) Poteet spent his bye week watching college football on the big screen. Last week he was in Arlington, Texas, for the Texas-UCLA thriller. The Longhorns fell in a closer-than-expected game, and Jefferson watched the action from a front-row spot in the stands. Jefferson shared a firsthand look:

"I was excited to see the game because I knew it was going to be a good one. The most impressive part is how well the Texas defense played. I didn't get a chance to speak with the coaches at the game, but my relationship with Texas is still good," remarked Jefferson.  

This weekend, Jefferson will head back to Arlington to see Texas A&M against Arkansas in the Southwest Classic at AT&T Stadium. 

"Right now they are the hot school in the state of Texas. I'm comfortable with them like I am with most of the schools recruiting. It's conference play, so you will get to see everyone's true colors. I like the way they play and the things they are doing," replied Jefferson.

So who will win on Saturday? Jefferson simply answered, "A&M."

The 5-star 'backer said the in-state Red Raiders have continued to make him a priority, despite not being listed in his top five.

"Texas Tech is coming after me pretty hard. They try to call me everyday. They feel the need to make me feel important, and they let me know that," added Jefferson.

Jefferson will take an official visit to Ohio State on Nov. 1. He will announce his commitment on Dec. 19 at his school, which will be his last day of high school before graduating early and enrolling in college in January.

 

5-star DE Byron Cowart Changes Announcement Date  

Seffner (Fla.) Armwood defensive end Byron Cowart was set to announce his decision on Sunday, Sept. 28, on the NBC Sports Network in partnership with Rivals.com. However, Cowart made a decision to postpone his decision until further notice. Cowart recently visited College Park to check out the Terrapins. 

"They have my major and everything. I'm going to do journalism. They have the Big Ten Network, and the school is between two big media areas in Baltimore and Washington," Cowart told Bleacher Report. "My host was Deon Long and Stefon Diggs. I hung out with those guys over the summer too. Me and the defensive line coach (Chad Wilt) are close. It was a good laid-back vibe. It was 8.5 out of 10." 

Cowart is working to set up his other official visits. He knows he will be at the Florida-South Carolina game on Nov. 15, followed by the 'Noles-Gators game on Nov. 29. He is setting up a trip to Eugene, Oregon, to see either the Oregon-Stanford contest or Ducks-Washington tilt. 

The 5-star defender has also been to Gainesville twice this fall on unofficial visits. He said each time gets better. 

"When I first went up there, all I would see is the fieldhouse. The last time I got to see the Sports Broadcasting area in the journalism school. If I do go to Florida I would spend a lot of time there. I love that part about it, and it's so close to home.

"The scary thing about it is I'm really comfortable with Florida," explained Cowart. "The reason I say scary is the stability in the coaching staff. That's a reason I decided to change my announcement. I don't want to be in a position like Kyle Gibson last year with the Vanderbilt deal."

Cowart's teammate Gibson was committed to Vanderbilt, but when James Franklin left for Penn State, he ended up at UCF with the coaching change.

One thing that will be a primary factor in his recruitment is the ability for his mom to relocate to the school of his choice. Cowart's mom is a registered nurse, and she is willing to be close to Cowart at the next level.

"My mom and I were discussing that we've never really lived in the same place for more than five years. Wherever I go she is probably going to go with me. She said she wouldn't have a problem moving to a place like Oregon, so that gave me the green light to visit them and see what it's about," stated Cowart.

Cowart told me he decided to change his decision time because he wanted to stick to his original plan of committing at the Under Armour game in January. Right now it's shaping up to be a Florida, Florida State and Oregon battle.

 

4-star Damarkus Lodge Sets Up A Pair Of Official Visits Following A&M Decommitment

Last Thursday, 4-star Damarkus Lodge decided to decommit from Texas A&M in a surprise move. Lodge committed to the Aggies in late June over offers from Arkansas, Nebraska, Notre Dame and Texas among several others. The Aggies' torrid start on offense seemed like the ideal place for Lodge's big-play receiving talent. However, Lodge said his decision to back off his commitment had nothing to do with Texas A&M. 

"When I made that decision, I was very, very young. I didn't look into the program or what was best for me. I was really going off the hype," Lodge told me directly. "I've matured a lot since I committed.

"Now I'm just looking at these other schools. I'm still very comfortable with A&M. I love Coach (David) Beaty. I can still see myself at Texas A&M, but I just want to take this time to make sure I do what's best for me and the next four years of my life."

Lodge has set up official visits to Ole Miss and USC in the coming weeks. First up is a trip to Los Angeles to see the Trojans take on Oregon State at Memorial Coliseum. 

"I've never been out to LA. I think it's going to be pretty fun. I know what kind of program USC is. They are going to play 3 or 4 receivers, but they are going to have their main go-to guys. Plus they will run the ball down your throat," stated Lodge.

"I know the coaching staff is great, but I really don't have a relationship with them. A week after they offered me...I'm committed...they kind of backed off me. Since I decommitted, I've already talked to Coach (Peter) Sirmon."

The smooth pass-catcher will head to Oxford for the Ole Miss-Alabama game on Saturday, Oct. 4. What is he expecting to see when he heads to the heart of SEC country? 

Lodge stated, "I'm trying to go down there and see what type of players they have. I want to see what kind of environment they have and what the coaches are like outside of recruiting. I want to build a bond with the players and see what kind of place Oxford is. With Ole Miss when I'm a freshman (Laquon) Treadwell will be a junior, so I could (see) myself as (an) impact player like him and taking over his role. "

LSU and Tennessee will likely get official visits as well. A dark horse that has Lodge's attention is Florida State. He doesn't have an offer from the team, but if the 'Noles contacted him he would be more than willing to listen.

"If they offered they would definitely be in my top five. I love what they are doing with their program. As Coach (Jimbo) Fisher said last night, they know how to win," added Lodge. "They play their receivers, and they have quarterbacks that know how to get them the ball. I want to reach out to the coaches in the next week to see if there is interest." 

The Cedar Hill (Texas) prospect doesn't have a timetable for his decision. He said he will take his time and not rush into things again. It appears the next time will be the last for Lodge.

 

Notre Dame Making A Move With 4-Star DB Frank Buncom

San Diego (Calif.) St. Augustine defensive back Frank Buncom picked up a recent offer from Notre Dame. Buncom set up an official visit shortly after hearing the good news from the Irish.

"The ND offer is definitely nice to have because of the prestige that their university merits. It's at the upper echelon of the world of academia," chimed Buncom. "Concerning the visit (Oct. 4), I just want to experience the culture and atmosphere that is talked about so frequently."

Buncom's top five consists of Duke, Notre Dame, Stanford, UCLA and Vanderbilt. His grandfather played at USC, and he lists the Trojans as his dream school. Stanford will get a chance to host him for an official visit after the season. 

"My only other official set is in January to Stanford. Just recently, Notre Dame has ramped up on recruiting me. I'm going to make my decision after the football season," said Buncom. "Upon deciding I will access multiple factors because I can't say that one factor is more important than another."

The 4-star cover corner is trending up for the Cardinal in the 247Sports Crystal Ball. The estimated predictions have him as a 100 percent lock for Stanford.

 

4-star Joseph Wicker Happy With UCLA Offer

September has been a good month for 4-star recruit Joseph Wicker. Wicker added new offers from Texas Tech and UCLA with the latter being a big offer for the Los Angeles native. 

"I was excited about it. It's close to home, so that's always cool. Some of my family want me to stay close to home, but others don't really push me either way," stated Wicker.

"I've been talking to the UCLA coaches since I was a sophomore. We talk regularly now. I have a good relationship with coach Angus McClure and Coach (Kennedy) Polamalu. I don't think I'm going to take an official visit to UCLA because I go to their games all the time."

Wicker has two official visits set up to Arizona State and Texas Tech. He is working to set up an official to Miami for its game against Florida State. The Long Beach (California) Poly standout is discussing dates to get to Notre Dame and Washington as well. 

The 6'2", 265-pounder has family ties to each the Sun Devils and Red Raiders. "My cousin Jade Lewis runs track at Texas Tech. When they started hitting me up, I knew I wanted to check them out. When I started following football, I've always liked them," said Wicker.

Wicker is very familiar with the Sun Devils program as well. "They are on the rise. I can see myself in the same shoes as some guys in recent years like Will Sutton. I have family there too, and they have a lot of alumni there from my school, so it will be like home."

Schools are looking at Wicker at both defensive end and defensive tackle. Playing time and academics will be the primary factors in his decision. Wicker wants to major in sociology or nursing. He plans to announce on national signing day. 

Unless otherwise noted all quotes were obtained firsthand. Recruiting information and ratings courtesy of 247Sports unless otherwise noted.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Week 4 College Football Superlatives from Kramer's Korner

The rain fell. And then it fell a bit harder. And then Michigan Stadium emptied as the skies opened, causing the football surface to look more pond than playing field.

For two hours and 24 minutes, Utah’s 26-10 lead over Brady Hoke’s Michigan Wolverines sat in the waiting room as water overtook the stadium. It was metaphoric—watching the grass slowly but surely give way to standing water—the kind of situation so strangely timed that it had to have been planned.

Status: ☔️ pic.twitter.com/oHM6bxgLEU

— Michigan Football (@umichfootball) September 20, 2014

You knew that once play resumed, the outcome would not change. Utah would eventually win the game—and it did—and Mother Nature’s impressive bit of improv was simply postponing the inevitable. The game resumed with less than eight minutes remaining and Utah won 26-10. Just like you knew it would.

The inevitability won’t stop with Week 4, not when it comes to Hoke and his future at the program he still coaches. With this loss, the ones before it and the ones likely to follow, his fate is all but sealed.

Although it’s a cliched, cartoonish term, “on the hot seat” is actually a ruthless and unrelenting label that is rarely lifted. It is an unfair, unfortunate product of the lucrative business these coaches sign up for, and once you’re on it, you’re typically on it for good.

There are exceptions to the rule—look no further than Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen, who just delivered his most impressive victory to date—although these moments are few and far between.

When it rains, it pours. And although the Michigan Stadium turf is no longer under water, the skies are still ominous. Inevitability has set in. 

Let’s move to brighter skies—unless you’re a Clemson or Cal fan—and highlight the players, moments and important Steve Addazio Vines of the week.

 

Offensive Player of the Week: Amari Cooper, Alabama 

Other players across the country—some of which will undoubtedly be mentioned in the text to follow—delivered more stat-crazed performances in Week 4. But in terms of overall impact and competition faced, no player was more impressive than Alabama wideout Amari Cooper.

The stats were still awfully good. Cooper finished with 10 catches for 201 yards and three touchdowns while lining across from Florida cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III, arguably the conference’s top cover man.

Stats, however, won't do Cooper's recent run justice. It’s hard to put into words what he’s meant for a young quarterback, not just in this game but for the season. I know we don’t typically welcome wideouts into the Heisman conversation with open arms, but goodness does Cooper belong right now.

 

Dominant Defender: Zeek Bigger, ECU 

ECU LB Zeek Bigger is named the Walter Camp Defensive Player-of-the-Week with 17 tackles and an interception TD. pic.twitter.com/vMyi0Z3gIk

— InsideECUSports (@InsideECUSports) September 21, 2014

Before we celebrate a magnificent solo performance on the defensive side, let’s applaud this name. It’s as if the parents knew their son would play linebacker in college. (Oh, and he's rather good, too.)

Zeek Bigger, ECU linebacker, is a name built for a Hollywood football movie. 

Bigger had himself a big day in ECU’s magnificent 70-41 beatdown of North Carolina, finishing with 17 tackles and a taking an interception back 46 yards for a touchdown. It was a score so lopsided you had to check it twice, and yep, it didn’t change. (Well, it did change. ECU's total kept going up.)

With Bigger’s performance, the junior now leads the nation in tackles (54). His name is also undefeated.

 

Video Game Box Score: 

-Melvin Gordon fumbled. That might seem like a strange place to begin with video game box scores, although this fumble was special. More specifically, it was Gordon’s first-ever turnover at the college level and his first fumble lost in 322 carries. That’s impressive. Oh, and he ran for more than 250 yards and five touchdowns on just 13 carries. That's not bad, either.

-East Carolina is playing on novice, apparently. Or at least it seemed that way against North Carolina. The offense delivered 70 points, 789 (!!!) total yards and converted 12 of 17 third downs. Oh, and the Pirates also averaged 7.5 yards per rush on 46 carries. Goodness.

 

Anti-Video Game Box Score:

-Eastern Michigan finished the first half against Michigan State with one yard. That’s one less than two for those keeping track at home. Michigan State finished its first half with 320 yards (and 49 points) in the first. I hope you didn’t watch the second half and got some chores done instead. 

-UConn ran a total of 36 plays against USF this week. This was not the first-half total; this was for the entire game. For perspective, Pittsburgh ran 18 plays on one drive against Iowa. Arizona ran 106 plays in its win against Cal. Running 36 plays—even in difficult weather—is ineptitude so unbelievable it should be given a parade.

 

Biggest Surprise: Jameis Winston Takes the Field

When Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher saw his suspended quarterback dressed in uniform before the team’s game against Clemson, he offered up the same glare you give your cable and Internet company when you are put on hold.

It was a hint of exhaustion, a dash of disbelief and a solid helping of nerves before a critical game, one he would be without the player standing directly in front of him, helmet, pads and all. It came as a surprise to us, yet this was likely a miscommunication more than anything else.

That doesn’t take away from Fisher’s outstanding reaction, though.

 

Best Moment

I suppose “best” depends on your rooting interest, although the Cal-Arizona ending was nothing short of spectacular. And it wasn’t just the very end, although we’ll get to that shortly.

The fourth quarter alone gave us 50 points. After being down the entire game, Arizona bounced back and scored 36 points in the final 15 minutes to get within a field goal of winning.

Out of range, however, the Wildcats had to settle for a Hail Mary. Then this happened.

College football remains awesome, heartbreaking and unmistakably weird.

 

For the Highlight Reel 

No, Clemson did not beat Florida State. But the Tigers delivered your early “Best Catch of the Year Featuring a Wide Receiver Wearing Only One Shoe” moment thanks to Mike Williams, who somehow caught this. 

Losing a shoe wasn’t even the most impressive part of this play. The catch itself—along with the early, soccer-like slide—had everyone wondering what exactly just happened. 

This is a quality consolation prize, right? (I’m sorry.)

 

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

Keep in mind that these are not projections. This is how are College Football Playoff would look if the season ended today.

Our playoff would also be 64 teams and played over the course of three months in the Bahamas, but that’s another conversation entirely. With that out of the way, here's where we stand.

1. Oregon

2. Oklahoma

3. Alabama

4. Texas A&M

 

Five Leftovers to Chew on 

1. Style points are so incredibly overrated, at least at this point of the year. As we look for the appropriate responses to Florida State and Oregon—two national championship favorites that enjoyed close calls for very different reasons—keep in mind how difficult the week-to-week grind can be for teams made up of 18-to-22-year-old kids. Stay alive, move on. It's that simple.

2. Mississippi State, as we have quickly learned, needs our utmost attention. Yes, the game against LSU got close (and weird) late, although the Bulldogs dominated this game, particularly at the line of scrimmage, throughout. Dak Prescott is emerging as a legitimate Heisman candidate, and Mississippi State might just be a Top 10 team.

3. Blake Sims throws a beautiful football. The Alabama quarterback is by no means a finished product, but there were a handful of “wow” throws included in his impressive performance against Florida. It’s amazing how much clarity that position suddenly has after being blasted and critiqued the entire offseason. 

4. Kudos to Bo Pelini and Nebraska. Now, beating Miami (and a true freshman at QB) won’t suddenly solve all woes, but there is much to be excited about with the way this team is going about its business. Running back Ameer Abdullah is rolling and the defense—particularly the front seven—looks active. This was the start Pelini needed.

5. Even in a loss, West Virginia is light years better than where it was last year. The Mountaineers were unable to withstand Oklahoma’s late surge Saturday, although there’s no shame in that. Clint Trickett has been fabulous under Dana Holgorsen, and the defense is playing much better than we could have ever imagined. Nothing is a given with so much football to be played, but it certainly feels like Holgo’s hot seat has cooled.

 

Large Man Play of the Week

On his Michigan bio, Willie Henry is listed at 293 pounds. It is not everyday that men near 300 pounds find the end zone, and thus, we must celebrate Henry’s interception return with a hefty round of applause.

Michigan DL Willie Henry stumbles into the endzone for a 7-yd #PickSix. #UTAHvsMICHhttp://t.co/h0xDTfyrV3

— College GameDay (@CollegeGameDay) September 20, 2014

Although he didn’t have to run far—seven yards, to be exact—it does not matter. It’s a touchdown, and it should be celebrated. Large men doing large things never becomes tiresome. 

 

Mascot Save of The Week 

Reveille, Texas A&M's loveable pup, was enjoying the game from a distance that was thought to be comfortable and out of range. Without warning, however, SMU wideout Der'rikk Thompson came barreling in that direction after an overthrow. We could make a joke about the SMU offense here, but we will refrain.

With Reveille suddenly in jeopardy, a brave A&M cadet stepped in and delivered the most impressive block of the afternoon.

SMU WR nearly runs into Texas A&M's mascot, but an A&M cadet was there to avert the collision: http://t.co/YP3u5yJ169

— College GameDay (@CollegeGameDay) September 20, 2014

That’s what matters most here, not the SMU jokes. Although they are tempting.

 

Horrendous Flop of the Week 

Is this were the NBA, Army linebacker Stephen Ricciardi would be fielding a call from the league office and a fine the size of Toyota Corolla. Needless to say, his attempt  to draw a personal foul flag...did not work.

Behold Week 4’s most amazing, unsuccessful acting job and a full football field trying to figure out what just happened.

 

This Week in Coffins That Are Actually Team-Centric Tailgating Fixtures

Sure, you could ignore that unused coffin. Or, you could paint it yellow, throw on a decal, paint some stripes and build the necessary inserts to make it a cooler for your LSU tailgates. 

Nobody tailgates quite like LSU. http://t.co/AY2EVxBUy9pic.twitter.com/GppRLbQPXT

— Fancred (@Fancred) September 20, 2014

Yes, someone did that. No backstory is necessary, really. Behold the tailgating champions of the universe.

(Also, can I have one or four of those?)

 

That One Time a Center Forgot What He Was Supposed to Do

In 25 years, perhaps ESPN will produce a 30 for 30 on Eastern Michigan center Dwayne Brown and his incredible non-snap against Michigan State. The commercial will start something like this:

“What if I told you that a center in a college football game forgot to snap the ball before being belted and flagged for illegal procedure shortly after.”

Then this clip would play, and you would sprint to your DVR.

 

This Week in Steve Spurrier Vines 

South Carolina almost lost to Vanderbilt, which is something I did not expect to type at any point over the next few years. But it happened.

After falling behind 14-0, the Gamecocks eventually kicked it into gear and ended up winning by two touchdowns. It was not comfortable, and it really never looked all that easy. 

After the game, an unhappy, sweaty Steve Spurrier delivered expected hilarity on the effort. This Vine sums his thoughts up quite nicely, and if you'll excuse me, I have to watch this for the next few hours.

If you have time, watch his entire press conference. You will not regret it. 

 

This Week in Year-Old Vines From a Head Coach Who Loves Saying “Dudes”

More than a year ago, Boston College head coach Steve Addazio decided it was time to upload some Vines, promote the school, and talk about “dudes.” So he did, and he hasn’t uploaded a Vine since.

Before he vanished, however, he gave us quick-hitting masterpieces like this.

And this.

And especially this. 

Given Boston College’s recent win against unbeaten USC, it’s time for the Internet’s great crusader to return to his comfort place, a place where dudes can be celebrated with six-second clips and mild Internet cheers.

Come back, coach. We need you.

 

From the Peanut Gallery (Best Tweets of the Weekend) 

Pat Fitzgerald used three (!!!) timeouts to ice Western Illinois' kicker. This game is a steaming pile of crap.

— Chris Emma (@CEmma670) September 20, 2014

Halftime of EMU-Sparty. You kids want to see a dead body? pic.twitter.com/wgrrliBn4K

— Vico (@ourhonordefend) September 20, 2014

🐢>🍊

— Maryland Athletics (@umterps) September 20, 2014

Bold defensive strategy by the Gators pic.twitter.com/vAuHwzDopq

— Cork Gaines (@CorkGaines) September 20, 2014

Live shot of Michigan athletics director Dave Brandon... pic.twitter.com/BtRvxZW1iF

— Charles Robinson (@CharlesRobinson) September 20, 2014

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Big Ten Football: Can Penn State Keep the Conference's Playoff Hopes Alive?

The 2014 college football season is just four weeks old, yet the Big Ten is already down to its final two undefeated programs—Nebraska and Penn State.  The Nittany Lions, fresh off of a win over Massachusetts and the NCAA's announcement that it is lifting their postseason ban, are suddenly thrust into a position where they not only control their own College Football Playoff destiny but perhaps also that of the Big Ten's.

We've heard plenty about how the Big Ten's rough non-conference record will keep the eventual conference champion out of the inaugural CFP come January.  But will a 35-14 record really do that?  Is it that much worse than the ACC's 33-10?  Or the Big 12's 19-8?

Penn State is the true wild card in this situation.  Perhaps the media has spent so long ignoring Penn State in the wake of the Sandusky scandal that it will provide the Nittany Lions an opportunity to fly in under the radar.  Perhaps, just perhaps, the Nittany Lions, in the wake of an embarrassing and shameful chapter in their history, can become the saviors of the Big Ten's College Football Playoff hopes in 2014.

 

Unless otherwise noted, quotes or references to quotes were obtained firsthand by the writer.

Begin Slideshow

Ohio State Football: 3 Players Who Have Surprised Us in 2014

Ohio State is replacing loads of talent from last year's team, including leading rusher Carlos Hyde, top receiver Corey Brown and first-team All-American linebacker Ryan Shazier.

Three new players have helped Urban Meyer replace those lost stars.

Coming off an open week, the No. 22 Buckeyes are preparing for their last nonconference matchup of the season—a home game against Cincinnati under the lights.

But through three games, these players have been a pleasant surprise for Buckeyes fans.

 

Michael Thomas

Ohio State needed its receivers to step up in the wake of Braxton Miller's season-ending shoulder injury. With players such as Devin Smith and Dontre Wilson on the perimeter, new quarterback J.T. Barrett had plenty of playmakers to ease his transition into the offense.

Michael Thomas, though, has been Barrett's top pass-catcher through three games.

Thomas—the nephew of legendary receiver Keyshawn Johnson—leads the Buckeyes in receptions (11), receiving yards (214) and touchdown receptions (four). He has recorded a touchdown in each of the Buckeyes' three games, and two of his scores have gone for more than 50 yards.

With the bevy of playmakers in Columbus, Meyer likes to rotate his receivers frequently. That's why Thomas knows he needs to make the most of his time on the field.

“I just know when a play comes, I’ve got to make it,” Thomas said, according to John Kampf of The Morning Journal. “You may not get as many chances. I just want to take advantage of my opportunities.”

 

Darron Lee

The Buckeyes needed a big boost at linebacker when Shazier opted out of his senior season in favor of the NFL draft. The unit was Meyer's top defensive concern a season ago, and without its best player, the group needed some young players to step up. 

Redshirt freshman Darron Lee has answered the call.

The former 3-star prospect played quarterback and safety in high school, but he bulked up last year and surged in spring practice to lock down one of Ohio State's outside linebacker positions. And so far this season, he's playing inspired football.

Lee is fifth among Buckeyes with 17 tackles, but he's tied with Joey Bosa for the team lead in tackles for loss with five. His fumble recovery and 61-yard touchdown return against Navy sparked an Ohio State rally in the season opener, and his all-around play and energy have given the Buckeyes defense new life.

“He probably has one of the most fiery personalities on the team," fellow linebacker Joshua Perry said, according to Bill Rabinowitz of The Columbus Dispatch. "He’s really upbeat. He’s bouncing around all the time. He’s loud. He’s got a lot of juice and energy.

"He loves picking guys up and being a catalyst.”

Meyer is hoping Lee continues to surge alongside an improving defense.

 

Curtis Samuel

Ezekiel Elliott appeared to be next in line with Hyde's departure—destined for big things as Ohio State's featured running back.

While that could still come to fruition, the Buckeyes have split carries to showcase their deep stable of ball-carriers. And so far, freshman Curtis Samuel has been the most productive.

Samuel and Elliott have the same number of carries (27), but the freshman is averaging a full yard more per carry. Both have rushed for two touchdowns and proved themselves as reliable pass-catchers.

Samuel has just looked better at times. He's leading the team with 171 rushing yards and has the long run of the season for the Buckeyes (26 yards). Meyer knows he's just scratching the surface.

"I've yet to see Curtis Samuel's ceiling," Meyer said, according to Bill Landis of The Plain Dealer.

 

All stats via Ohio State's official website. All recruiting information via 247Sports.

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football's All Week 4 First-Team: Top Performers at Every Position

Week 4 looked great on paper. It was even better on the field.

The fun started Thursday evening (Auburn's miraculous escape at Kansas State) and continued through the wee hours of Sunday morning (Arizona's really miraculous Hail Mary to beat Cal), and much of what happened in between was just as good. It was the best week of a season where none have been bad.

Predictably, a week with so many good games meant a number of striking individual performances. Constructing this list is never easy, but it is rarely as hard as it was for Week 4.

Ultimately—as always—the main criteria went beyond raw statistics. Big numbers matter, but they matter more against a good opponent than a bad one. They also matter more when they take place in clutch game situations, something that had a big effect on the Week 4 first-team defense (see: defensive tackle and cornerback).

Chime in below and let me know whom I missed.

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How Michigan and Florida Lost Elite Status in the College Football World

In 2006, there was a debate over whether Michigan or Florida should play Ohio State in the BCS championship game, even though the Wolverines were just coming off a loss to the Buckeyes to end the season. 

At the time, it sparked initial comments from then-Florida coach Urban Meyer and then-Michigan coach Lloyd Carr about potentially starting a playoff to solve the conundrum: 

As Florida padded its resume, second-year coach Meyer became very vocal about getting a chance to play Ohio State, especially when it appeared the Gators would be left out.

He called for a playoff and suggested the BCS should be imploded if the SEC champ again was left out of the championship game -- the way undefeated Auburn was in 2004.

...

"It's an imperfect system," Meyer said Sunday. "If you want a true national championship, the only way to do it is on the field.

Carr agreed: "I hope one day we have a system where all the issues are decided on the field."

How things have changed in eight years.

Now officially in the College Football Playoff era, neither Michigan nor Florida look ready to compete for a spot in the four-team field any time soon.

The Wolverines are coming off a 26-10 loss at home to Utah and have yet to score a touchdown against a Power Five opponent this season (h/t Nicole Auerbach, USA Today). Florida was no match for Alabama in a 42-21 loss. Both programs were simply outclassed. 

So how did two perennial powers fall from the top of the college football mountain? 

 

Michigan

Nearly nine months after Florida surpassed Michigan for the chance to play the Buckeyes, the Wolverines again were surpassed on the field in the greatest college football stunner to date: a 34-32 season-opening loss to Appalachian State. 

In addition to igniting the wackiest season in recent college football memory—check out this top 25 from midseason—it marked the final months of the Carr era in Ann Arbor.

An 8-4 regular season with yet another loss to Ohio State was the end, and Carr's final game came against Florida, of all teams, in a Capital One Bowl win. 

As Michigan tried to fix its problems, however, it only prolonged them. The university hired Rich Rodriguez from West Virginia, an offensive mastermind with a history in the zone-read. Rodriguez didn't have ties to the program and never got off to a smooth start, as Mark Snyder of the Detroit Free Press chronicled. 

From his perspective, Michigan suffered from an entitlement issue. Here's what Rodriguez said in 2013 in an interview with Matt Hayes of the Sporting News

We had some guys committed at Michigan, but we had others that weren’t. Some guys felt a sense of entitlement. The name on the chest, and 'I’ve already arrived.' The Chad Hennes and the Jake Longs put the work in and succeeded before us, and guys behind them thought they were entitled to the same status but hadn’t proved anything.

Regardless, an NCAA inquiry into violations over practice time and poor on-field results put the heat on Rodriguez. He was never able to have a defense that matched his offense and was let go after a Gator Bowl loss to Mississippi State in 2011 with a 15-22 overall record in three seasons. 

Michigan then hired San Diego State coach Brady Hoke, a former Wolverines assistant. Things appeared to be headed in the right direction when Michigan went 11-2, topped off with a Sugar Bowl victory over Virginia Tech, in Hoke's first year in 2011.

Things have gone downhill ever since.

Michigan hasn't won more than eight games in a season with Hoke at the helm, and it was announced in January that offensive coordinator Al Borges would not be back for the 2014 season. 

In addition to coaching turnover, Michigan's inability to develop talent has been its biggest problem. The Wolverines haven't had more than three players taken in each NFL draft since 2008.

Amazingly, Michigan had two offensive linemen taken in the '14 draft—Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield—but ranked 104th nationally in rushing offense, per cfbstats.com

The offense hasn't looked any better under first-year OC Doug Nussmeier. Now 2-2, Hoke is reaching near rock bottom, according to Nick Baumgardner of mlive.com.  

How long it takes Hoke to get Michigan out of its hole, if he can at all, remains to be seen.

As Matt Hinton of Grantland writes, "When Hoke says 'This is Michigan' in 2014, the distance between the Michigan in his mind and the Michigan he’s selling to teenagers who were newborns when the Wolverines last wore the crown has never been greater."

 

Florida

Florida had success after the 2006 season. In fact, two years later, it won a national championship with Meyer. But two years after that, the Gators went 8-5 and Meyer stepped down from his position to spend more time with his family.

That decision came one year after Meyer retired, briefly before changing his mind, for health reasons

Florida hired Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp, considered to be a rising star in the business. But things have been troublesome for Muschamp since becoming the head coach.

Mainly, the Gators, previously an offensive juggernaut under Meyer, haven't finished in the top 70 in scoring offense since Muschamp's arrival, per cfbstats.com. Things hit a low point in 2013 during a disastrous 4-8 campaign in which Florida 113th in points scored. 

Whereas Michigan had no problem scoring but couldn't stop anyone under Rodriguez, Florida has had the opposite problem with Muschamp.

Of course, there's been massive turnover at the offensive coordinator position. Former Notre Dame and current Kansas head coach Charlie Weis was the Gators' play caller for one year. Former Boise State offensive coordinator Brent Pease never got things going in his two years (2012-13), either. 

This past offseason, Muschamp hired Duke offensive coordinator Kurt Roper to repair the damage. However, following a 42-21 loss to Alabama, it's clear Roper still has a lot of work to do, specifically with quarterback Jeff Driskel. 

As B/R's Barrett Sallee writes, "At this point, it's clear Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel isn't going to live up to the 5-star hype that followed him to Gainesville."

But, unlike Michigan as of late, getting NFL-caliber players through the program hasn't been as big of a problem.

In 2013, eight players were drafted into the pros. However, Muschamp has hinted that perhaps Meyer left the program in a bad situation, which Muschamp has had to build back up. From Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel

To Muschamp's credit, he never blamed Meyer for a roster that was bereft of experience, depth and discipline in Year 1, although he did hint that there were some issues. Meyer's disciplinary and player-arrest record at UF were abysmal, and Muschamp had to clean out some of the character problems. That left him a roster of only 71 scholarship players last season — 14 below the NCAA limit.

If Muschamp inherited a problem, he certainly hasn't found a solution yet. Muschamp's defense, normally solid, has allowed 818 pass yards over the last two games. 

Is Muschamp on the hot seat? He's definitely going to have to get Florida back to a bowl game to even have a chance of eliminating that conversation. 

 

***

For blue bloods like Michigan and Florida, the fall from the top rung to mediocrity has been surprising. Each took their separate routes, but share common problems: underdeveloped talent, poor coaching hires and/or turnover and the rise of surrounding programs. 

Florida, for example, is now competing head-to-head with programs like South Carolina. Michigan, meanwhile, has lost five of its last six meetings with Michigan State. Not surprisingly, Steve Spurrier (South Carolina) and Mark Dantonio (Michigan State) are considered some of the best coaches in the business.

Michigan and Florida are getting out-coached and out-played. The instability surrounding each program plays a role, but in theory, both should be able to rebound quickly given their resources.

That's proving to be more difficult than it originally seemed. 

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Texas A&M vs. Arkansas: Complete Game Preview

The Texas A&M football team improved its record to 4-0 with a 58-6 victory over SMU. The Aggies will take on the 3-1 Arkansas Razorbacks on Saturday at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. 

The Aggies are ranked No. 7 in the coaches poll. Arkansas is out to prove that it is a better team than the 2013 version that lost all eight of its conference games after going 3-1 in non-conference play. 

This game will showcase diverging theories on offense, with the Aggies' no-huddle spread versus the Razorbacks plodding rushing game. Texas A&M wants to run as many offensive plays as possible in order to wear a defense out. 

Arkansas wants to grind out yardage with the running game, control the clock and wear the defense down by physically overpowering them. 

The Aggies are looking to improve to 2-0 in the SEC and move into contention for the SEC title. The Razorbacks are trying to even their conference record and remind the world that this is not a repeat of 2013. 

This is a look at how the Aggies and Razorbacks match up. 

 

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Why Dan Mullen and Mississippi State Are a Match Made in Heaven

Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen struggled for a signature win throughout the first few years of his tenure as the Bulldogs' head coach. He entered Saturday night's matchup with LSU with a 2-22 record against ranked opponents, with both of those wins coming against teams that were average at best (Ole Miss 2009, Florida 2010).

That third win against ranked competition resonated like a clap of thunder that was a little too close for comfort.

The Bulldogs manhandled then-No. 8 LSU in a 34-29 victory in Death Valley on Saturday night, notching the biggest win of his Mississippi State career. If the previous wins over ranked opponents were considered "signature wins," this one was written in ink, paint and etched in stone.

Don't be fooled by the score. Mississippi State treated LSU like a cupcake in a paycheck game for the majority of the night, and then survived a late charge led mostly by LSU's backups.

This begs the question, what does the future hold for Mullen? 

It should include more taxes being paid to the city of Starkville, Mississippi, because the Bulldogs and Mullen are a perfect fit.

I'll admit, I was wrong about Mullen.

Up until late last season, he had done a lot to raise the floor of the program but hadn't really done much to impact the ceiling. Sure, four straight bowl games was nice, but there wasn't much to indicate the possibility of upward mobility for the program.

There is now.

Mississippi State went into one of the most hostile environments in college football, played his brand of football and flat out whipped the typically-physical Tigers. 

There have been suitors for Mullen in the past. 

He was linked to the Penn State job in late 2011, according to Sports Illustrated, and Miami was turned off by Mullen before it hired Al Golden after the 2010 season, according to The Miami Herald (via SportsByBrooks.com). 

What's done is done, though, and Mullen's future looks incredibly bright in Starkville.

He made $2.7 million in 2013, according to the USA Today coaching salary database, one spot behind Florida head coach Will Muschamp.

Why does that matter?

If Mullen is going to be linked to any job after this season, it'll likely be Florida. He won two national championships as the offensive coordinator of the Gators in 2006 and 2008 and is familiar with the recruiting territory. Plus, Muschamp isn't doing his hot seat any favors by combining a suddenly putrid defense with a consistently woeful offense.

Would the Florida job really be worth leaving Starkville for? At this point, no.

The pay would be roughly the same, and if Florida started tossing cash at Mullen's front door, Mississippi State would have no problem matching it now that the SEC has what amounts to its own version of a mint known as the "SEC Network."

Sure, the immediate upside would be great. After all, Florida has a recruiting base that is second to none in college football. What Florida lacks, though, is job stability. 

Mullen has now established that in Starkville, which is a rarity for the coaching profession. 

Saturday night proved that while the journey takes a little while longer at a program like Mississippi State, the potential still exists to be great—even in the SEC West. Mullen already walked down that path, built the program the way he wanted to and proved that it works.

There's no reason to leave now. It's just getting good.

 

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.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Freshmen Power Rankings of the Week: Top 5

If you can believe it, we're approaching one month into the college football season. 

And the B/R freshmen power rankings are chugging along, like a train of high ceilings, raw talent and untapped potential. 

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

These rankings are also subject to change from week to week depending on who shines. 

So which freshmen stood out in Week 3? Which ones had the most jaw-dropping highlights? Which ones underwhelmed? The answers are in the list below.

 

The Standout

Oklahoma running back Samaje Perine. With Keith Ford sidelined with an ankle injury, the freshman running back helped the Sooners grind out a 45-33 victory against West Virginia. Perine, unofficially known now as Optimus Perine, carried the ball 34 times for 242 yards and four touchdowns.

Of course, the Sooners did a tremendous job blocking up front, but opposing defenses shouldn't want anything to do with the 5'11", 243-pound freshman. He's a wrecking ball. 

"He's gonna be special," said head coach Bob Stoops of Perine (h/t David Ubben of Fox Sports Southwest). 

 

Best Highlight

How do you not go with Anu Solomon's 47-yard Hail Mary to Austin Hill in Arizona's wild 49-45 come-from-behind stunner over Cal?

Solomon had a night he may never replicate again with 73 pass attempts for 520 yards and five touchdowns. Considering the Wildcats had to score 36 fourth-quarter points, it's no surprise Solomon had to throw the ball a ton. 

Still, what an incredible play to cap off a wild Week 4. 

 

Who’s Rising?

Ohio linebacker Quentin Poling. Yeah, this is an off-the-radar pick, and the Bobcats have been so-so at best this year. But Poling is quietly starting to rack up some eye-catching stats. 

The redshirt freshman had three interceptions in 36-24 win over Idaho, returning them for a total of 77 yards. He also leads the team in tackles with 34.  

Poling won't get a lot of publicity because of the team he plays for, so might as well give him a little love while we can. 

 

Who’s Falling?

Technically, Leonard Fournette led LSU with seven carries for 38 yards in Saturday's 34-29 loss to Mississippi State. He had a long run of 20 yards, but he was otherwise quiet. Then again, LSU was playing from behind. Running the ball isn't really an option there. 

Fournette is churning out a decent enough year with 200 yards through four games, but with SEC play underway, the Tigers have been a so-so rushing team. Fournette is quickly falling out of the spotlight. 

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Re-Ranking SEC Quarterbacks After Blake Sims' Epic Week 4

Four weeks are in the books, and the once-murky SEC quarterback picture has come into focus.

Remember when Texas A&M had a challenge replacing former quarterback Johnny Manziel? That seems like a decade ago.

Remember Alabama's "quarterback controversy?" Blake Sims ended that the moment he stepped foot off the bus at the Georgia Dome for the season opener.

Remember when Jeff Driskel was set to thrive in Kurt Roper's hurry-up, no-huddle offense? That hasn't really happened yet.

Stars have emerged, others have fallen off and several SEC veterans have elevated their play through the first four weeks. We re-rank the SEC starting quarterbacks in this slideshow.

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