NCAA Football News
It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish…unless you’re the No. 4 Auburn Tigers facing the No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide on Saturday (3:30 p.m. ET on CBS).
In this case, how Auburn begins the game will go a long way in determining how it finishes.
From the minute the Alabama team bus pulls up to Jordan-Hare stadium, head coach Nick Saban and his players will be greeted by a hostile environment. Noise will be at a peak, the jeers will be at their wittiest and the confidence of an upset will be at its highest.
It’s vital that the Tigers maintain that intensity throughout the stadium for as long as they can.
With that said, here is the team’s blueprint for a dream start.
1. Score on Opening Drive
In the last 31 games, spanning back to 2010, only Texas A&M (twice) has managed to score on the opening drive against the Tide. The Aggies won one of those games on Nov. 20 of last year, 29-24, and lost the other earlier this season, 49-42.
But in both cases, an early lead—20-0 and 14-0 respectively—allowed Texas A&M to hang around until the final whistle.
That’s a strategy that Auburn will have to adopt on Saturday.
Thus far, the Tigers have scored on their opening drives seven times this year. The team is 7-0 in those games.
Not only will putting up points quickly get the fans even louder, but it also puts more pressure on Alabama to respond.
2. Force Turnovers and Capitalize with Points
During the Aggies’ victory over the Tide last season, the team followed up its opening-drive touchdown by picking off quarterback AJ McCarron in Alabama territory. From there, Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel made quick work, finding the end zone in four plays for a 14-0 lead.
Look for Auburn to follow suit.
Entering Week 14, McCarron has shown vulnerabilities on the road. In four games away from home, the senior has thrown three interceptions and only completed 58.0 percent of his passes for a passer rating of 145.0.
In comparison, he’s thrown just two picks and completed 76.6 percent of his throws for a rating of 180.3 in seven contests inside the friendly confines of Bryant-Denny Stadium.
That’s music to the ears of a Tigers defense that has recorded 12 interceptions on the season and forced a turnover in eight consecutive games and in all but one this season.
Auburn must make McCarron uncomfortable early and often.
3. Establish the Ground Game
Coming into this week, only Army and Navy have had more success running the ball than the Tigers.
Through 11 games, Auburn has averaged 320.3 yards per game on the ground. Running back Tre Mason and quarterback Nick Marshall have been a large part of that.
Mason currently leads the team with 1,153 yards and 17 touchdowns on 208 rushes. Marshall comes in at second, rushing for 823 yards and nine scores on 123 carries.
The success for both of these players becomes even more important when you consider that almost nobody has had more success at stopping the run than the Tide.
Thus far, the team ranks No. 4 against the run (91.3 YPG). Alabama has only given up five rushing touchdowns while conceding a meager 3.01 yards per carry.
In fact, the Tide haven’t allowed an opposing running back to top 80 yards since Week 1.
If the Tigers have any hope of winning, both Mason and Marshall will need to exploit a run defense that has been a brick wall for the majority of the year.
Summing It All Up
Over the years, teams that have managed to put Alabama into an early hole have been the ones that have come away victorious.
However, that’s a lot easier said than done. That’s evident by the fact that the Tide have only dropped five games since 2008.
Fortunately for Auburn, the team has all the right tools to carve out an upset that would send shockwaves throughout the entire college football landscape.
And if the Tigers can put it altogether flawlessly on Saturday, they can pounce ahead early and never look back.
All stats and rankings used in this article are courtesy of NCAA.com.
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Alabama will make the short trip to Auburn on Saturday, as the Tigers will host the Crimson Tide for the 2013 Iron Bowl. Already a bitter rivalry, this year's game has SEC and national championship implications.
Alabama is tops in the BCS standings, while Auburn is not far behind at No. 4. Both programs are also doing well off the field, as they have enjoyed great success on the recruiting trail.
With Saturday's game destined to be epic, it's time to see which Iron Bowl program has the superior recruiting class.
This is it. August and opening weekend seem like yesterday, but the 2013 Pac-12 football season is nearing its conclusion. And what a season it's been.
Though the conference will again go without a national championship, this has been a banner year. A record nine teams are bowl-eligible, including Washington State, which should snap the conference's longest postseason drought.
The 2013 campaign is also remarkable for the resurgence of USC, a longtime power that had seemingly hit hard times. But with a fiery interim head coach in Ed Orgeron and a thin but talented roster, the Trojans are one of the Pac-12's hottest teams. With the Trojans streaking and UCLA on the rise, the battle for Los Angeles is the conference's marquee matchup for Week 14—and could continue to be the Pac-12's marquee rivalry for the foreseeable future.
All lines courtesy of VegasInsider.com.
Record Last Week: 3-3 (3-3 against the spread)
Record This Season: 69-15 (50-34 against the spread)
The road team is 6-0-1 against the spread in the last seven meetings between the Oregon Ducks and Oregon State Beavers, which is important to consider when making your college football picks Friday, as the two teams prepare to face off at Autzen Stadium.
Sports bettors will find that the Beavers are 22-point road underdogs in the NCAA football odds, with the betting total sitting at 67.5 in the market.
Let's take a closer look at this Pac-12 Conference matchup from a betting perspective, while offering up a prediction along the way.
Gambling stats via SBR Forum
You won't have to wait until next season for a college football playoff—we're getting one this season.
Well, sort of.
No. 1 Alabama will visit No. 4 Auburn on Saturday afternoon in a clash of two intra-state rivals who have combined to win the last four BCS National Championships and are both in position to stake their claim to the title following this season.
"Everybody realizes that the Iron Bowl is always a significant game," Alabama head coach Nick Saban said. "This year, it has a little more significance."
Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn echoed Saban's sentiments during his Tuesday press conference.
"We're not going to hype up things. It's already big enough," Malzahn said in quotes released by Auburn.
The similarity to a playoff is obvious.
No. 1 and No. 4 will play in the semifinals in a playoff after next season, and the meeting between the two foes on the final weekend of the regular season serves as a de facto SEC West title game and an elimination game in the national title race.
Sure, it isn't a true national quarterfinal. If Auburn wins, it will still need to win the SEC Championship and get one more domino to fall in order to play for the crystal football for the second time in four seasons.
That domino will fall, regardless of what happens in the Iron Bowl
No, Michigan won't upset Ohio State this weekend in Ann Arbor. Although, since that game kicks off at noon and will likely be wrapped up by the time toe meets leather in Auburn, it'd add some fuel to what's likely to be an already raucous atmosphere at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
The next week is where Ohio State's dream season will come tumbling down.
The Buckeyes will play No. 11 Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship Game, and the Spartans will upset the Buckeyes on championship Saturday.
The Spartans boast the nation's top total defense (236.6 yards per game) and fourth-best scoring defense (12.5 points per game). They have not allowed a team to eclipse the 400 total yard mark this season, and have held four opponents under 200 yards.
Buckeyes quarterback Braxton Miller had better get ready, because this Spartans team is the polar opposite of the Illinois, Indiana and Purdue teams he's feasted on lately.
Treat the Iron Bowl as a national quarterfinal, because that's what it is. The loser is out, and the winner moves on to the semifinals in the SEC Championship Game next weekend.
Sure, if Auburn wins, it'd still need help. But Auburn can only control what Auburn can control.
This is as close to a playoff game as you can get on the final week of the regular season under the current structure, which is why it's shaping up to be the biggest Iron Bowl in the rivalry's history.
*Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.
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Of the four BCS conferences with championship games—the SEC, Big Ten, Pac-12 and ACC—only five of the eight total participants have been decided.
After Week 14, every one of those games will officially be set.
The Iron Bowl between Auburn and Alabama will determine one of those spots in the SEC, as will an old-school former Big 12 matchup in Missouri.
Beyond that, a couple of non-conference in-state rivalries could go a long way in determining the shape of this postseason. And what of the Tobacco Road Rivalry getting introduced to big-time football in Chapel Hill?
In preparation for Week 14, Bleacher Report's BCS Guru, Sam Chi, sorted out the five biggest BCS impact games on the schedule. Here's a quick look at each.
What is there left to play for? Both division championships are already decided and no one can become bowl-eligible with a win.
One could easily think Week 14 has no meaning in the Big Ten. Then again, that would ignore the awesomeness of rivalries galore.
Whether it is "The Game" or the Heroes Game, or the battle for the Old Oaken Bucket or the Land of Lincoln Trophy—there is a lot on the line in the Big Ten.
All eyes will be on Ann Arbor as Ohio State battles Michigan and national title hopes hang in the balance for the Buckeyes, but there are other games that have meaning as well.
So, before we dive into the final week of the regular season, don't forget to check out how last week looked and where my picks stand this season as well.
Last Week: 5-1 (2-4 ATS)
2013 Picks: 72-18 (47-42-1 ATS)
There are two weeks left in the season, and there's still plenty to be decided in the Big 12 title race. That's what should make Week 14 exciting.
That, and deep-fried turkeys. Or turducken. Or whatever it is you're into.
It all kicks off on Thanksgiving night when Texas Tech tries to stop a four-game losing streak on the road against Texas. The Longhorns' conference championship hopes aren't dead yet, so they need a win just as badly as the Red Raiders—if not more so.
Two of Saturday's games should be about taking care of business. Kansas State will shoot for seven wins against Kansas, and Baylor must beat TCU to avoid back-to-back losses that would make a BCS at-large spot practically unachievable.
Then, there's Iowa State and West Virginia, both playing for pride and for seniors to end what has been a disappointing season for both teams, to say the least.
So, who comes out on top in Week 14?
(All rankings reflect the latest BCS standings.)
After suffering another loss over the weekend, this time to Mississippi State, the Arkansas Razorbacks are now 0-7 in the SEC. With a trip to the LSU Tigers Friday, the Hogs seem destined to finish with the team's first winless season in the conference since moving into it in 1992, and their first eight-game losing streak in the history of the tradition-rich program.
It's safe to say that, though people knew this would be a rebuilding year, most did not expect it to be this bad in head coach Bret Bielema's first year as the head Hog.
Even if by some act of God, the Razorbacks pulled off an upset of epic proportions, there would still be a lot to address during the offseason. Arkansas needs to make some serious progress in a lot of areas, and that's putting it nicely.
Though there are a lot of things that need fixing, we'd be here all day if we tried to name all of them. So, instead here's a breakdown of the biggest problems that need to be addressed before the 2014 season kicks off.
You'd think that this would be something in the breakdown of a high school team, but this is an article about Arkansas, a college team.
If you can't do the basic things like tackling, catching the ball and not committing turnovers, then don't expect to win football games at the highest level college football has to offer.
Fundamentals have been a huge problem all year long, particularly tackling. The defense has been bad and a big reason for it has been the lack of guys wrapping up and them making arm tackles. A great example was Mississippi State freshman quarterback Damian Williams' run on the Bulldogs first play of overtime.
The Hogs allowed him to scramble 25 yards while dodging wimpy tackle attempts to eventually set up for a game-sealing interception from the Bulldog defense. This is just one play out of the countless times this season Hog defenders have failed to make tackles to prevent big plays. It seems ridiculous that an SEC program can't even get down the proper tackling technique, but that's the reality of where the Razorbacks are at right now.
When you add to it the fact that the wideouts have dropped numerous easy catches and the offense tying for 86th in the country in turnovers lost with 21, it's a recipe for disaster.
During spring practices, Bielema and the coaching staff need to get back to the basics. If that means demonstrating how to wrap up and tackle a guy, then so be it. And as far as catching the ball and turning the ball over, you can simply bench players during games or if it's in practice, have them run like there was no tomorrow.
Bielema should take a lesson from the hit football movie "Remember the Titans," when coach Herman Boone addressed Petey Jones' fumbling problem.
"Petey, how many feet are in a mile? How many feet are in a mile?! 5, 280 feet! You pick this ball up and run every one 'em! You're killing me, Petey! You're killing me!"
Here's another area that if you don't get good play out of, it's going to be hard to win. Brandon Allen has struggled mightily for most of 2013, his first full season as the starter.
Though he had his second straight game with a completion rate above 50 percent, his season average is still just 47.6 percent and his stats have been mediocre. For the year, he has recorded 11 touchdowns, nine picks, a mere 1,374 yards passing and just 6.0 yards per pass attempt.
He's been even worse in conference play, posting 986 yards with six touchdowns and eight interceptions, with an abysmal 44.9 completion percentage. He also has averaged just 5.33 YPA in SEC play.
His job for 2014 is in no way guaranteed. The healthiest and most proficient way for Bielema to address this position during the offseason is to have an open battle for the starting nod. Allen needs to be pushed by guys behind him to make him better and early 4-star quarterback signee Rafe Peavey could very well upend him for the job.
Consider it a good thing that Arkansas has a quarterback recruit as highly regarded as Peavey coming in.
He's going to give Allen everything he has in order to be the starting signal caller of game one next year. Also expect Allen's younger brother Austin to be in the mix. We'll leave AJ Derby out of the discussion because if he's the guy who the Hogs have to go to then they are in big trouble.
An open competition makes every guy work harder and step up their game, and if they don't, then they'll make quick friends with the bench. Allen will do one of two things in a battle for the starting role. He will either make improvements in his decision making and mechanics, and show he has what it takes to lead the team or he will continue to slide, and watch as another guy replaces him.
Whatever the outcome may be, Bielema needs to let these guys battle throughout the spring, and even into fall practices, to make them better under center come time for the season opener.
The whole unit needs work, so why not lump them all together?
Both the secondary and linebacker positions have been very weak, but the front seven is where it all starts and the linebackers need a serious upgrade.
Entering the season, the Hogs returned no starters from 2012 and, though they held up well to begin, once the big boys came around they got exposed very quickly. The unit loses seniors Austin Jones and Jarrett Lake, who have been the best of the bunch, after Friday's game and two more at the conclusion of 2014, in Braylon Mitchell and Martrell Spaight.
Freshman Brooks Ellis is primed to be a future star at middle linebacker and Bielema went on record saying he wished he had started him sooner. Sophomore Otha Peters also has a lot of potential, but he's been slowed by injuries this year. Sophomore A.J. Turner, who was fifth on the team in tackles as a freshman, has also showed promise and will be back in 2014 after redshirting this year with a wrist injury.
The Hogs need to bolster the position on the recruiting trail. As of now, they have two linebacker commits, in 3-stars Dwayne Eugene from Louisiana and Khalia Hackett from Georgia, who played safety in high school but was recruited to Arkansas as a linebacker. Sharieff Rhaheed, as 3-star from Florida, is also still high on Arkansas' list as well.
Linebackers coach Randy Shannon has a lot of work to do with this group, most notably tackling better and getting stronger and more physical.
In the secondary, Arkansas is very young with six underclassmen playing significant roles this season. Safety Eric Bennett is the only significant player gone after this season, which is the good news. The bad news is that the returners have had a rough go this year on a unit that ranks 77th nationally allowing 235.3 YPG through the air.
A big reason for that can be attributed to the youth, but the secondary is going to have to work on its coverages with the biggest being man coverage.
Opposing receivers have easily beaten Arkansas defenders in man coverage packages. They've been so bad at it that they are providing 10 to 15 yard cushions for opponents when lining up just to not let opponents to get behind them. That in turn has led to receivers getting open on slant and crossing routes underneath.
If Arkansas is going to make improvements next season in passing yards given up, the guys in the secondary are going to have to work on playing up on opposing wideouts and being more physical off the snap.
The defensive line has been the strongest unit on the defense, but still has a lot of room for improvement.
Poor linebacker play has been a big contributor to the Hogs ranking 71st in the FBS in rushing YPG allowed (173.0), but the defensive line hasn't been great either. This offseason is going to provide a chance for guys to step up and impress the staff with Byran Jones, Chris Smith and Robert Thomas graduating.
Defensive end Trey Flowers should be back for his senior season, but even if he's not, Bielema has a lot of young talent. Redshirt freshman defensive tackle Darius Philon has had a very impressive year, totaling 41 tackles and 3.0 sacks. He is going to be an anchor inside in the years to come.
In fact, three of the backups on the D-line listed on the two-deep depth chart are redshirt freshman. Defensive end Brandon Lewis has contributed in just about every game and Deatrich Wise Jr. has a great pass rushing frame at 6'6", 265 pounds. He hasn't seen a ton of action behind Flowers, but performing well in the spring should help him see the field more as a sophomore. Sophomore defensive tackle Demarcus Hodge has also shown flashes backing up Thomas.
It really hurts that Arkansas, for the second year in a row, missed out on a top in-state prospect to Alabama in Springdale Har-Ber's Josh Frazier. However, it stings a little less with 4-star Bijhon Jackson coming. You can fully expect Jackson to push for a starting spot from day one, which should make everyone around him better.
The defense has a lot of work to do in all phases. There is talent, but going into the spring no one's job should be safe. Competition is good for a team and it makes guys work harder, plain and simple.
Overall, there are plenty of issues to be dealt with, but the defense as a whole, quarterback play and fundamentals have to be the top priorities for Bielema and the Razorbacks this offseason. It will be a long nine-month wait for next season after Friday, but those nine months are going to be critical to the Hogs moving forward into 2014.
For more information on the Arkansas Razorbacks football team, follow Bryan Heater @BHeaterRivals.
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TALLAHASSEE, FL—Nobody expected this, now did they?
The No. 2 Florida State Seminoles (11-0, 8-0 ACC) will be headed to Gainesville to take on their hated rivals, the Florida Gators (4-7, 3-5 SEC), in a matchup that many expect to be over by halftime. FSU is playing at their peak, whilst Florida is at their very lowest.
Time: 12 p.m. ET
Place: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, Gainesville, Fla.
Radio: Florida State IMGSportsNetwork
Spread: 27.5 according to vegasinsider.com
High school standouts across the country hoped to see their name land among finalists for the 2013 Hall Trophy, awarded annually to the nation's best football player. Since 2000, the U.S. Army National Player of the Year has received the prize during a dinner banquet before the All-American Bowl Game, held Jan. 4 at the Alamodome.
Past winners of the award include Adrian Peterson, Terrelle Pryor, Chris Leak, Jimmy Clausen and Dorial Green-Beckham. This year's finalists were unveiled Tuesday evening.
Let's take a look at the exceptional credentials that helped these athletes make the final cut.
Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban has guided his powerhouse program to the No. 1 ranking in the BCS entering Saturday's Iron Bowl clash with the arch-rival Auburn Tigers.
Saban is seeking his third consecutive national championship and is two wins away from being in position to obtain that achievement. Even for a man of his competitive enthusiasm, there may not be much more to prove if he raises the Coaches' Trophy yet again in January.
However, the 62-year-old coach's wife, Terry, has been married to Nick Saban for 42 years and played a huge role in his coaching career.
She says that the Sabans are in Tuscaloosa to stay until her husband decides he's finished with coaching, according to a report by Sharon Terlep of the Wall Street Journal.
"We're staying. We're not going anywhere," said Terry Saban.
Toward the beginning of Terlep's piece, she brings up the notion that the Crimson Tide faithful seem to take for granted the incredible accomplishments that the football program has enjoyed in recent years.
"You come to a crossroads and the expectations get so great, people get spoiled by success and there gets to be a lack of appreciation," said Terry. "We're kind of there now."
But that doesn't mean a departure is imminent.
She denied speculation that she was house-hunting in Austin and that her husband was interested in coaching at Texas if the position opened up as "rumors with absolutely no foundation."
Also documented in the article is how staunch of a contract negotiator Nick Saban is, and how he never has had to swear allegiance to any team he's coached in the past.
The last time Terry Saban was scouting out a new location for her family was when her husband was preparing to leave Michigan State for LSU, where he would win one of his four national titles.
A former athletic director, Clarence Underwood, remembered the clan of Spartans that went over to the Saban residence to discuss a contract bonus after the coach wasn't given one he felt he deserved right away.
Underwood recalled the exchange between Michigan State trustee Joel Ferguson and the ball coach.
"Nick, is Terry in Baton Rouge?' said Ferguson.
"Yes, she's there now,'" said Nick Saban, who was off to LSU the next morning to begin a new chapter in his prolific career.
Thereafter, Terry was frustrated with her role when Nick took the head coaching job with the NFL's Miami Dolphins.
When interest from Alabama came, she did the research and made sure this move would be one where she could be involved, where her husband would have more control in selecting players and where the Sabans could set up for the long haul.
The Sabans haven't stayed anywhere as long as they have at Alabama by two years, per Terlep, and that streak looks to be extending for the foreseeable future, according to Terry:
We feel more like it's home, like we are a part of the community and pulling up stakes again would be difficult. We are trying to educate ourselves, to change ourselves. We can't change expectations or change lack of appreciation. We have to change our mindset. We have decided: this is where we are going to end our career.
Considering that Nick Saban has corroborated that testimony publicly in saying he will finish out his coaching days with the Tide, Alabama fans can breathe a collective sigh of relief.
As he explained to his wife, the ball coach is interested in "The Process."
That's what keeps him going and motivated in shaping the lives of young men, all the while building a college football juggernaut that is in the process of pursuing a fourth championship in five seasons.
Life is good in Tuscaloosa for the Sabans. It seems their rather nomadic lifestyle spanning a slew of coaching stops seems to have finally found a fitting endpoint in Alabama.
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If Washington State's Mike Leach is not chosen Pac-12 Coach of the Year, it's because he has more bitter adversaries than appreciative friends among his coaching contemporaries.
Oregon defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti recently said he pleads the fifth when asked in an interview with KEZI 9 News about whether he likes Leach (via CollegeSpun.com). The Pac-12 coaches, who vote for who wins the conference's coach of the year, will have nothing to say if Washington State's coach gets passed over by David Shaw, Todd Graham, Jim Mora or Ed Orgeron.
Aliotti was fined $5,000 by the Pac-12 for criticizing Leach for passing late in Oregon's 62-38 rout of Washington State on Oct. 19 (via OregonLive.com).
The reality is Leach, a non-conformist when it comes to coaching protocol, can coach his team how he sees fit as long as it's within the rules. He can supposedly phone a conference commissioner during a game. He can say his players have fat girlfriends or that they played like corpses because that's Leach. That's his style.
Leach's mannerisms are working at Washington State. The Cougars (6-5) are bowl eligible for the first time since 2003. They have the most victories in a season since 2006.
The Cougars outplayed and soundly defeated Arizona a week before the Wildcats routed Oregon at Arizona Stadium. Leach's team has defeated USC, and it came a touchdown away from beating Auburn on the road.
He deserves to be Pac-12 Coach of the Year instead of Shaw, Graham, Mora and Orgeron.
Mora told the media this week that he voted for Orgeron to be coach of the year, despite Orgeron's interim status, because Orgeron has injected life back into USC's program (via CBSSports.com).
The vote can be construed as a way for Mora to promote Orgeron to become the permanent USC coach. Mora and his Pac-12 coaching brethren would rather coach against Orgeron on a yearly basis than Kevin Sumlin, for example, so why not publicly endorse the USC interim coach for coach of the year?
Orgeron is coaching a roster loaded with high school All-Americans whereas Leach is coaching players overlooked by major programs. Orgeron is a breath of fresh air for the Trojans, after they were suffocated by Lane Kiffin. Washington State has endeared itself to Leach's style from Day One.
The Cougars beat the Trojans for the first time in 13 years in Los Angeles with Orgeron part of Kiffin's staff. Pac-12 coaches should not play the political game and do what's right: Vote Leach for coach of the year.
Here are this week's Pac-12 football ratings:
1. Stanford (9-2 overall, 7-2 Pac-12): Stanford should learn the words to Arizona's fight song "Bear Down". The Cardinal clinched the Pac-12 North title because of Arizona's upset victory over Oregon last week. Now the Cardinal are hoping the Wildcats can beat ASU to ensure them of home field in the Pac-12 title game Dec. 7. The Cardinal have won 14 straight home games and are 3-2 on the road this season. Last week: No. 2. Postseason prediction: Rose Bowl vs. Ohio State.
2. Arizona State (8-2, 6-1): An important element of ASU's game with Arizona will be the Sun Devils' defense against the run. All-American Ka'Deem Carey comes to town after rushing for at least 119 yards in his last 14 games. The Sun Devils are 19th nationally against the run, allowing 123.4 yards per game. Arizona quarterback B.J. Denker is the Pac-12's top rushing quarterback. The Sun Devils want to force Denker to throw. The first half should dictate whether or not that will happen. Last week: No. 3. Postseason prediction: Alamo Bowl vs. Texas.
3. Oregon (9-2, 6-2): The Ducks have suffered two Pac-12 losses for the first time since 2008. Oregon's run of four straight BCS bowl games is likely over as well, with the Ducks instead likely heading to the Holiday Bowl. Oregon coach Mark Helfrich will stop any of his players from saying they don't want to play in that bowl. Don't mess with the Rose Bowl Gods again. Last week: No. 1. Postseason prediction: Holiday Bowl vs. Texas Tech.
4. USC (9-3, 6-2): Cody Kessler, a sophomore, continues to make the strides of a quarterback who could lead the Trojans back to prominence. He has completed 73 percent of his passes in the last four games. He already is 17th on USC's career passing chart (197 completions). He also is tied for 17th on USC's season passing list (197 completions) and is 19th on USC's season total offense chart (2,366 yards). Last week: No. 5. Postseason prediction: Las Vegas Bowl vs. San Diego State.
5. UCLA (8-3, 5-3): UCLA has not won at the L.A. Coliseum since 1997, a 31-24 victory in front of 91,350. It was the seventh win of an eight-year win streak, which remains the longest in the rivalry by either team. USC has responded to win 12 of the last 14 meetings. Here's hoping Mora tries another defensive player in an unfamiliar spot, such as he has done with linebacker Myles Jack at running back and cornerback Ishmael Adams as punt returner. Last week: No. 4. Postseason prediction: Sun Bowl vs. Boston College.
6. Washington (7-4, 4-4): When the goal comes down to getting a coach his eighth victory in a season for the first time, the season that was once so promising is a disappointment for the Huskies. Steve Sarkisian is trying to win more than seven games in a season in his fifth year. The Huskies are struggling to achieve that mark despite starting 4-0. Last week: No. 7. Postseason prediction: New Mexico Bowl vs. Colorado State.
7. Washington State (6-5, 4-4): The once lifeless Cougars have defeated USC and Arizona, a couple of teams in the national headlines this week because of their recent success. The Cougars had two interceptions returned for a touchdown in the first quarter against Utah last week. They are tied for first in the Pac-12 with Arizona and ASU with four interceptions returned for a touchdown. Last week: No. 8. Postseason prediction: Little Caesars Bowl vs. Ball State.
8. Arizona (7-4, 4-4): Rich Rodriguez wants to change recent history against his rivals. He is 0-5 in his last five games against traditional rivals. He lost his last game against Pitt as West Virginia's coach. He was 0-3 against Ohio State at Michigan. And he lost his first game against ASU as Arizona's coach last year. Last week: No. 9. Postseason prediction: Fight Hunger Bowl vs. BYU.
9. Oregon State (6-5, 4-4): What happened to the glory days of Sean Mannion and Brandin Cooks? Their success and a six-game winning streak was against suspect competition. Oregon State has lost four consecutive games with the latest defeat a 69-27 rout by Washington in its home finale, the most points ever allowed by the Beavers. Now they must play at Oregon, a team smarting from its blowout loss at Arizona last week. Mike Riley sadly ends the year with a five-game losing streak without a bowl. Last week: No. 6. Postseason prediction: No bowl game.
10. Utah (4-7, 1-7): The last time Utah failed to go to a bowl game in consecutive seasons was 1997 and 1998. The Utes at least finished 6-5 and 7-4 in those years. Utah coach Kyle Whittingham, the coach with the hottest seat in the league, has this in his favor: A sweep of the in-state opponents, including a win at bowl-bound BYU, and the upset over Pac-12 North champion Stanford. But the Utes have yet to win after that upset of the Cardinal on Oct. 12. Last week: No. 10. Postseason: No bowl game.
11. Colorado (4-7, 1-7): Colorado might be at the cellar of the standings but the Buffaloes are no longer downtrodden. Colorado has four wins this season, which matches the number for the program in the last two years combined. If the Buffaloes can beat Utah to close out the season, it would match its most victories since 2007 with five. Two conference wins would also equal the most for CU since 2007. Last Week: No. 11. Postseason: No bowl game.
12. California (1-11, 0-9): Cal reported that players on its two-deep chart missed 138 games this season because of injury. The San Jose Mercury News reported that injuries caused starters to miss 73 games. First-year coach Sonny Dykes can't use the same excuse next season. Last Week: No. 12. Postseason: No bowl game.
Please check out Javier Morales' blog at TucsonCitizen.com.
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The 2013 Heisman Trophy race has become a mess of sorts. Players who were thought to be sure things have fallen down the list due to losses and lackluster performances. New contenders are emerging as old favorites take themselves out of the race.
This race is shaping up to be another nail-biter. Jameis Winston, the Florida State quarterback, is the favorite as a legal investigation hangs over his head. Behind Winston, it is a mix of quarterbacks, running backs, BCS players, non-BCS players and even a defender or two.
Much like Your Best 11 took a look at the top teams' blind resumes a couple weeks ago before the whole Baylor losing incident, YB11 gives you the Heisman blind resume test, starting with the award's favorite position, quarterbacks.
Next, here are the running backs who are pushing to get the award.
And because defense matters too, here are a couple defenders who are hopefuls.
As a defensive guy, picking any of the six makes sense pretty quickly. However, this is an offensive award in the eyes of most, hence the plethora of quarterbacks in the mix and the smattering of running backs.
So who do you pick? Do you opt for the guy with the most touchdowns? Perhaps go with the player who has the most yards? If you are sold on a quarterback, do you go for the player who has done it in the air and on the ground? How about the running back who runs and catches for a ton of yards and touchdowns?
Blind resumes make things tough because there is no Heisman moment. There is no all-time record or total number of championships won. There is no BCS versus non-BCS when it is just numbers.
Take your pick, then look at which player you selected. This Heisman race will come down to the wire, and there are plenty of players hoping to not only end up in New York City but be there hoisting the trophy.
Quarterbacks, in order: Jameis Winston (FSU), Bryce Petty (Baylor), Johnny Manziel (Texas A&M), Jordan Lynch (Northern Illinois), Derek Carr (Fresno St.), A.J. McCarron (Alabama), Marcus Mariota (Oregon), Tajh Boyd (Clemson), Braxton Miller (Ohio State)
Running backs, in order: Ka'Deem Carey (Arizona), Andre Williams (BC), Marion Grice (Arizona St.)
Defense, in order: Aaron Donald (Pitt), Trent Murphy (Stanford), Vic Beasley (Clemson), Ryan Shazier (Ohio State), Michael Sam (Missouri), Anthony Barr (UCLA)
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Week 14 is the final full slate of games in the college football regular season, making the Week 15 rankings among—if not solely—the most important we will see all year.
But predicting those rankings is tough. Even outside prestigious rivalries like The Iron Bowl and The Game, a number of other contests could decide divisions and conferences and BCS bids.
With so many high-profile teams being tested, this could be a week where the rankings descend into chaos. It could also be a week where a rarified Top Five or 10 emerges, while most every other team in the country fades from the pack.
Here's a look at what the AP Poll might look like come Sunday.
Two teams in two totally different places will face off this Saturday in Madison as the Penn State Nittany Lions hope to close the season with a winning record while the Wisconsin Badgers have BCS bowl aspirations.
Penn State, 6-5, is coming off of its third overtime game of the season, a 23-20 loss to Nebraska on Senior Day.
Wisconsin raised their record to 9-2 with a 20-7 win over Minnesota.
The last time these two teams faced each other, Penn State came away with an overtime victory at Beaver Stadium on an emotional Senior Day featuring helmets decorated with Mike Mauti's No. 42.
Wisconsin's ground game gets the publicity, averaging nearly 300 yards per game and producing two running backs with over 1,200 yards this year. However, the defense has been stellar, allowing just 13.4 points per game and holding seven of 11 opponents under 10 points.
Penn State has found its footing in the ground game as well, averaging over 224 yards per game during the last four contests.
A Wisconsin win would solidify the argument that they deserve BCS consideration while a Penn State win would continue the streak of eight consecutive winning seasons.
Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
Place: Camp Randall Stadium, Madison, Wis.
Radio: Penn State Network Affiliates
Spread: Penn State is a 24 point underdog this weekend, the largest spread it has faced this year, according to VegasInsider.com.
Welcome to the last episode of "The Battle of the Golden Boot" over Thanksgiving weekend. Next season, the Tigers will play Texas A&M on Thanksgiving Day.
LSU comes into Saturday high off its victory against Texas A&M last week. The Tigers thoroughly beat the Aggies in all three phases of the game, resulting in Les Miles' most impressive performance of the season.
Arkansas has rolled off eight straight losses. Last week, the Hogs were ahead by 10 early against Mississippi State but could not hold on as the Bulldogs edged out a 24-17 victory in overtime.
LSU will have Senior Day in Tiger Stadium on Saturday, biding farewell to another successful senior class. Arkansas will continue to fight hard, seeking its first conference win.
Here is everything you need to know.
Time: 1:30 CST
Place: Tiger Stadium, Baton Rouge, LA
Spread: LSU by 24.5 via Scores and Odds
Los Angeles football supremacy is up for grabs Saturday in a way rarely seen in the UCLA-USC rivalry, and the streaking Trojans are positioned to reestablish their claim on the city.
UCLA head coach Jim Mora knows the implications of Saturday's contest.
"The town is very divided. There's a lot of pride that goes with being a Bruin or being a Trojan," he said.
The past year's been good for UCLA, which enjoyed the spoils of being on the right side of he divide. The Bruins beat rival USC for the first time since 2006 last November, 38-28, clinching the Pac-12 South division title and the program's most wins since the 2005 campaign.
Though he didn't play in last year's loss, USC quarterback Cody Kessler told Associated Press reporter Greg Beacham he knows all too well the sting that comes with dropping the rivalry.
That win on its own isn't enough for UCLA to turn a series that has largely been one-sided for over a decade. But under Mora, the Bruins have made further inroads to challenging the status quo.
"[Mora has] brought the toughness back to [UCLA's] football team," USC interim head coach Ed Orgeron said on his weekly video address.
The rivalry is heated, but Mora and Orgeron each recognize what the other's accomplished. Since Orgeron took over on Sept. 29 and coached his first game on Oct. 10, the Trojans are 6-1—a perfect 6-0 against Pac-12 competition. Mora acknowledged the remarkable turnaround by casting his vote for Pac-12 Coach of the Year for Orgeron.
There's respect there, sure. But that takes a backseat to winning, and what it means to claiming the city's spotlight.
Mora followed his successful debut season at UCLA with an impressive recruiting class, which included one-time USC verbal commitment and defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes, who will start opposite the Trojans Saturday.
Vanderdoes is just one example of a level of familiarity Mora said is central to the rivalry's mystique. Though Vanderdoes is from Northern California, many of the other players on both sides Saturday are products of the surrounding California Interscholastic Federation Los Angeles and Southern Section high schools.
"A lot of these guys know each other...from playing in the Snoop [Youth Football] League and Pop Warner," Mora said.
The local pedigrees add to the divided city theme of Saturday's contest. And make no mistake, the outcome resonates in Los Angeles.
Conquering the Trojans is looking like a much more cumbersome task heading into rivalry week than it did just two months ago.
As a member of the USC coaching staff, Orgeron has lost to the Bruins twice: In 1998, his first year there as an assistant, and last season. He was on the sidelines for Trojans wins from 1999 through 2004, and again in 2010 and 2011, when USC firmly planted its sword into Los Angeles.
The renewed confidence with which USC is playing has the Trojans as 3.5-point favorites according to Las Vegas oddsmakers. Kessler is playing great at quarterback, connecting exceptionally well with wide receiver Nelson Agholor, a player Mora had high praise for on Tuesday.
Junior wide receiver Marqise Lee gashed the Bruins for 158 yards and a touchdown a season ago. Lee has battled injuries all season and skipped the team's trip to Colorado last week to recuperate, but he'll be in action Saturday. Lee was central to USC's upset of Stanford in Week 12.
Add the dangerous receiving corps to a deep and talented run attack, and the USC offense has hit 31 points or more in three of its last four outings. Running back Buck Allen's emergence into a star continued last week with a 145-yard, three-touchdown showing at Colorado. He'll be tasked with occupying the Bruins' talented linebacker corps.
On the other side of the ball, Orgeron said UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley's elusiveness out of the pocket presented problems for the USC defense last season.
"We couldn't get him down," Orgeron said on Tuesday's Pac-12 coaches teleconference call.
But with a young offensive line starting three true freshmen, Hundley is coming off a loss to Arizona State in which the Sun Devils got to him for a season-high nine sacks. The sophomore gets no reprieve this week against a Trojans defense ranked No. 11 nationally in sacks.
UCLA may have championship dreams in its immediate future, but with USC rejuvenated, the Bruins' road still goes through Troy.
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Rivalry week is here and features some really interesting matchups, including a huge Iron Bowl in which the surging Auburn Tigers will look to take down the No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide.
Auburn QB Nick Marshall has not had any problem scoring in recent weeks, but will he be able to get in the end zone against the Alabama defense?
Watch college football analyst Adam Kramer dissect this matchup and the other teams that are locks in Week 14.
Highlights courtesy of XOS Digital.
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According to 247sports.com, LSU does not currently have a top 10 recruiting class for 2014. However, the Tigers could potentially take over the top spot by the end of National Signing Day if things go as planned.
There are seven 5-star prospects currently showing high interest in LSU's program and if head coach Les Miles can bring these top recruits to Baton Rouge, the rest of the country should be on notice.
College football analyst Barrett Sallee and 247sports.com's Shea Dixon discuss the Tiger's current recruiting situation and the battle they are in with Alabama to win the recruiting title.
Highlights courtesy of xosdigital.com
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