NCAA Football News

7-Step Drop: Line Between Good and Great Is Playoff Committee's Biggest Problem

Much has been written and many quotes have been given over the years about the fickle and often cruel nature of college football. It should not be all that surprising, given the sport’s reliance on a group of mostly 18- to 24-year-olds executing a task play after play for more than three hours every Saturday.

The presence of so many highly unpredictable variables means that the sport often will be decided at the margins. A backside block here, a backup taking snaps there and so on and so on. To expect anything less would be unwise, especially since those groups of 18- to 24-year-olds that form a pool of 100 or so at every school get only 20 (official) hours to practice their trades.

The end result, as we saw in Week 7, is often chaos and unpredictable outcomes. That was very much apparent at The Big House, where the difference between agony and ecstasy in college football was as small as 40 yards and 10 seconds.

It's why we we play the game. To channel the late, great Yogi Berra, 2015 has proven to be a year where it truly isn't over until it's over. No team is safe, no matter how big of a favorite one might be over the other or how big of a lead it might have (see Indiana-Rutgers).

And while it may make for entertaining games and thrilling finishes, it does nothing to help sort out the task at hand for the College Football Playoff Selection Committee. There does not appear to be a truly elite team that has emerged so far in the regular season, and outside of perhaps Baylor, nobody has truly run through its schedule without breaking a sweat.

The end result is that there are a lot of potential candidates for those final four spots, and the committee will have to determine which bad results were due to those 18- to 24-year-olds simply playing bad on a Saturday evening and which good results were due to that same group punching above its weight. The line between great and good has seemingly never been thinner than it is this year.

Look no further than two teams that turned in some of the most surprising results of Week 7: Stanford and Michigan State.

The Cardinal blew the brakes off a solid UCLA team (ranked in the Top 10 just a few weeks ago) on Thursday night to complete their transformation from puzzling national dark horses to full-on playoff contenders. The offense that looked flummoxed against Northwestern in the opener is suddenly fun and wide-open. Running back Christian McCaffrey isn’t the typical bell cow many associate with the program, but he’s turned into a home run threat every play and a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate.

How should the committee sort out where the Cardinal fall in the rankings they will release next month? It’s hard to get that image of the team playing Northwestern out of your head, but it’s also not hard to argue that they have played the best football in the country after that game.

“People panic all the time. Whenever something doesn't happen, people panic. Coaches and players can't panic,” David Shaw said Thursday. “We have won a lot of football games here playing the right way, playing smart football, playing good football, and it's hard for the outside world to understand it. Sometimes you don't play well.”

Stanford didn’t play well at all against Northwestern. Since then, it has been a different story. The committee's task is identifying when teams play their best and also figuring out when to overlook the times they don't play well at all. Throw out the high result and the low one, and you might just get a sense of how good a team actually is.

The Cardinal appear to be pretty good by that measure and have a nice path to the playoff if they win the deep Pac-12 and beat the similarly constructed Notre Dame to end the year. Add in a potential win over Utah in the conference title game, and the team will certainly have a resume that stacks up against any.

Michigan State won’t have quite the same quality of wins, but it has proved to be pretty good and, crucially in this day and age, pretty lucky, too. The preseason hype around the Spartans has no doubt skewed everybody’s opinion, leading us to think it is a legitimate threat to Ohio State in the Big Ten, but it simply hasn’t played up to that level.

The only really comfortable win of the year came against Air Force, and the Spartans have sneaked by both Rutgers and Purdue with late-game defensive stands. They were not the better team for 59:50 against rival Michigan but still made maybe the play of the season in order to snatch a victory away from their in-state rivals.

They say it’s better to be lucky than good; that just might be the case with the Spartans.

When it comes to the committee, though, it’s hard to slot Michigan State anywhere near the playoff by simply being lucky. 

We have just over two weeks until the committee meets for real and we get our first sense of its thinking when it comes to who’s good and who’s just OK. That line is thinner than ever in 2015, though, which makes for a difficult job in sorting it all out.

Good luck, committee members, and no pressure.

 

Stats of the Week

— Houston QB Greg Ward Jr. has tied the AAC’s single-season record for rushing touchdowns (14) in just six games. He’s also second in the league in passing efficiency.

— Rutgers trailed 52-27 with five minutes left in the third quarter against Indiana and scored 28 unanswered points. The comeback from 25 points down matches the largest in school history.

— In just seven games, TCU receiver Josh Doctson has broken the school record for receiving yards in a season (1,067). In just six games, Baylor receiver Corey Coleman has broken the school record for receiving touchdowns (16). The Biletnikoff Award will likely go to one of those two Big 12 wideouts.

— Mike Leach and Mark Dantonio both picked up their 100th career victories. The Michigan State coach never led until the final play of the game in his win, while Leach notched back-to-back Pac-12 wins for the first time in two years.

— Kansas State’s shutout at the hands of Oklahoma was the first time they’ve been blanked at home since 1991. The Sooners allowed just 110 yards to the Wildcats.

— Wisconsin’s past three opponents (Iowa, Nebraska and Purdue) have run just 20 plays on the Badgers’ side of the field.

— Iowa has two roads wins over ranked opponents for the first time since 2002.

— Alabama’s defensive backs had more yards against Texas A&M than the Tide’s receivers. The secondary also outscored the Aggies offense on Saturday thanks to their school-record three pick-sixes.

 

Quote of the Week

 

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Sound from Saturday

 

Pre-Snap Reads

Georgia Southern at Appalachian State

It says plenty about the Week 8 slate that this Sun Belt tilt is one of the best games of the weekend, but make no mistake about it: The stakes are high for this contest, which will likely determine the conference. Georgia Southern still hasn’t lost a Sun Belt game this season, so don’t be surprised if they keep that streak going another year by getting a big road win behind running back Matt Breida.

 

Texas Tech at Oklahoma

If you like offense, be sure to tune in for this one, as neither team will be able to turn this into a defensive struggle. The Sooners appear to have regained momentum after that disastrous loss to Texas, and Baker Mayfield will no doubt have a little extra juice going as he faces his former team. It’s in Norman, so Oklahoma will be the pick, but the Red Raiders won’t go quietly.

 

Texas A&M at Ole Miss

This is the only matchup between Top 25 teams? One would think the Rebels are ready to bounce back after that loss to Memphis, but there shouldn’t be much confidence in that, especially with Robert Nkemdiche looking questionable after suffering a concussion last week. If Kyle Allen and Kyler Murray don’t throw more than two interceptions, the Aggies should respond to the disaster at Kyle Field last week and remain in the hunt in the SEC West.

 

Bryan Fischer is a national college football columnist for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter at @BryanDFischer.

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B/R Recruiting Notebook: 5-Star Taking His Time, 4-Stars Plan Visits

The good news for North Torrance High School fans in Torrance, California: Mique Juarez is 100 percent focused on getting his football team as far as possible. And as a dual-threat quarterback and recognized, 5-star linebacker, that's news that will make many Californians smile.

The bad news for the recruiting world: It's going to have to wait for Juarez to choose his future college destination. At least for now.

Juarez, a statistics-driving quarterback at North Torrance who also is ranked the nation's No. 2 outside linebacker and No. 17 overall player, said on Sunday that recruiting is taking something of a back seat for the time being. The one-time USC pledge, who decommitted on Oct. 13, said his process is wide open and that he doesn't have a timetable on anything except helping North Torrance win a state championship.

"I stand [equal] with everyone," Juarez said of the schools recruiting him. "Right now, all of the colleges, I'm interested in. I'm focused on school and my ACT so I can graduate early."

Juarez, who has nearly 20 reported offers, has plans on taking the ACT Saturday. Perhaps after that, recruiting can become something of a priority. Juarez has multiple schools after him heavily, including UCLA, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Ole Miss and others.

The winning school ultimately will get a do-it-all player who can be beneficial on both sides of the ball. In addition to being one of the nation's best outside linebackers, Juarez is showing his skills at quarterback, accounting for 20 rushing and 17 passing touchdowns this season. Two weeks ago, Juarez put on a show by scoring seven touchdowns—four via the pass, two via the run and another on a 90-yard kickoff return—against Centennial High School out of Compton, California.

His playmaking ability is no joke, which is why he's such a wanted athlete. Unfortunately for college coaches, Juarez is adamant about taking his time with recruiting.

"No visits are set yet," he said. "I'm still looking into who to consider."

One thing Juarez does know is that he has an idea of what to look for in a program. In addition to playing for a team that competes each game, Juarez said he wants to be around like-minded players—guys who have the same goals as him on the football field.

"I'm looking for brotherhood," Juarez said. "I'm looking for people who want to get better [as a team]. No individuals.

 

Baylor? Out of state? Where will WR Duvernay go?

Sachse, Texas, wide receiver Devin Duvernay hears it all the time: He's a Baylor commit waiting to happen.

When Donovan Duvernay, Devin's twin brother, committed to Baylor on Sept. 21, fans already had Devin penciled to wear Baylor green and gold next season. After all, the two are extremely close and have been athletic teammates since they were 4.

Devin, however, isn't one to completely tip his hat on his future. He's also one who is making it a priority to weigh all of his options—particularly the out-of-state schools. Duvernay has taken official visits to Ohio State and Alabama, and this weekend could be Oklahoma's turn for an official visit.

"Right now, I'm just slimming everything down. I've got about six or seven schools I'm looking at," Duvernay said. "I'm taking my officials and trying to make my decision by either the beginning of next month or the end of this month."

Duvernay said he's a fan of Oklahoma's new offense and its offensive coordinator, Lincoln Riley. He's taken an unofficial visit to Norman, Oklahoma, and this weekend's game atmosphere is expected to be electric, as the Sooners host Texas Tech's high-powered offense.

Last week, Duvernay visited Alabama and defined it as "life-changing." He was a fan of the area atmosphere and the overall campus.

"It was a great experience; I loved it," he said. "I had a good talk with [head] Coach [Nick] Saban. I know that [wide receivers] Coach [Billy] Napier is recruiting me really hard."

As for Baylor, Duvernay said he's "always liked Baylor," and that hasn't changed. Baylor is expected to receive an official, and LSU, Ole Miss, Arizona State and TCU are candidates for that fifth and final official. LSU actually was supposed to be Duvernay's first official, but he had to postpone it.

If Baylor is his final choice, he will team up alongside his brother. The idea of being teammates in football and track is intriguing to both brothers, as they are track stars at Sachse. Devin won the 100-meter dash at the Texas Class 6A state meet with a blazing time of 10.27 seconds.

"I've felt strong about them for a while," he said of Baylor, "but at the end of the day, it's still my decision and wherever I feel I should be. Going there is a possibility, but I'm exploring the options that I have. I want to make sure I make the right decision."

 

ATH White taking his time, 'getting the pros and cons'

Consider Springhill, Louisiana, athlete Devin White as another athlete not in a rush to make any major decisions regarding his recruiting.

The 4-star athlete, praised for his ability to line up at multiple spots at 6'1" and 255 pounds, said he is still taking his time with his process and doesn't plan on making any major decisions any time soon. White is looking more and more like someone who will make his decision on national signing day.

"I'm just visiting schools and getting the pros and cons right now," he said.

LSU, Alabama and Florida State have been places White's visited since the beginning of fall. His trip to Florida State the weekend of Oct. 10 was an official visit, one in which he gave high marks.

"A 10," White said, grading the visit.

White doesn't have any set plans for his next official, but LSU, Alabama and Arkansas are schools that he is strongly considering. He is an athlete who can play running back, wide receiver or even an H-back on offense, and linebacker, safety or even a rush defensive end on the other side of the ball. Few players his size have 4.49-second speed in the 40-yard dash.

The school that gets the talented athlete is still to be determined, but White has an idea of what he wants in a winning program.

"It's all about personal relationship," he said. "It's all about whatever school feels like a family to me and who I can trust."

 

Where will Wisconsin look to replace RB Williams?

Ohio State retook the top spot in the latest 247Sports team rankings after 4-star, New London, North Carolina, running back Antonio Williams committed on Sunday. The one-time Wisconsin commit told 247Sports' Bill Kurelic that Ohio State was a "better situation" for him and his family.

That's great news for Ohio State, but what does that mean for Wisconsin? The Badgers still have 4-star, all-purpose back A.J. Taylor committed, as Taylor is the top-ranked player from Missouri. But going forward, look for Wisconsin to try to land a second running back.

One player to keep an eye on is Theo Anderson, a 3-star back from Largo, Florida. Anderson has nine reported offers, including Wisconsin, and he's been in contact with a few members of the Badgers coaching staff. Anderson also has offers from Pitt, West Virginia and Central Florida.

And then there's 4-star back Robert Washington out of Mount Holly, North Carolina. Washington committed to Syracuse in April but decommitted in August and has a lot of reported offers on the table, including one from the Badgers. Playing in the Big Ten could be a good look for the 5'10", 215-pound back.

 

Sleeper alert: Texas RB goes for almost 400

The Colony, Texas, produced NBA star Deron Williams. It also has 3-star running back Khalil Banks, who only has five offers and none of them being Power Five. After last week, look for Banks to be a blip on the radar of a few more colleges.

Banks rushed 26 times for 398 yards and six touchdowns in a win against Liberty High School in Frisco, Texas. Through eight games this season, Banks has rushed for 1,610 yards and 23 touchdowns. He is averaging better than seven yards per carry.

Per Rivals.com, Banks has offers from Colorado State, Arkansas State, Fresno State, Army and Lamar. Banks told Michael Florek of the Dallas Morning News that Colorado State is his favorite thus far.

A 6'1", 205-pound running back, Banks also is receiving interest from Texas A&M, Arizona State, Arkansas, Kansas State, Purdue and Tennessee.

 

Damon Sayles is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand, unless otherwise noted. All player ratings are courtesy of 247Sports' composite ratings. Follow Damon via Twitter: @DamonSayles

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Trey Marshall Injury: Updates on FSU CB's Biceps and Return

Florida State cornerback Trey Marshall will miss the remainder of the 2015 season due to a torn biceps suffered in Saturday's 41-21 win over Louisville.

Continue for updates.

FSU Loses Starting Nickelback For SeasonMonday, Oct. 19

Seminoles coach Jimbo Fisher confirmed Marshall's status Sunday in an interview with Warchant Radio, per Gene Williams of Rivals. Marshall, a sophomore, ranked sixth on the team with 21 tackles and also had a sack and pass defensed.

A starter on nickel packages, Marshall left in the first quarter Saturday and did not return. Fisher indicated that freshmen Tarvarus McFadden and Marcus Lewis may have an opportunity to replace him and will be getting more playing time going forward. McFadden was the nation's 15th-ranked player and third-best cornerback in the Class of 2015, per 247Sports. The recruiting service ranked Lewis the No. 139 player and No. 8 overall athlete.

The Seminoles, who moved to 6-0 and are currently ranked ninth nationally, will be able to withstand Marshall's injury if McFadden or Lewis makes good on his hype. Both Tyler Hunter and Javien Elliott attempted to sub into his spot against Louisville to varying degrees of success. Hunter, a senior, struggled before being replaced by Elliott, who may get the first crack at the starting job after recording an interception.

Either way, losing Marshall is not going to help Florida State contend for a national championship, regardless of how his replacement performs. 

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