NCAA Football News

Michigan Football: What Wolverines Must Fix During Bye Week

Though the Michigan football team will be doing a lot of thinking during its bye week, the Wolverines need to fix a few shortcomings, too.

Players must refocus after a crushing last-second loss to rival Michigan State. Granted, if there's any coach who can eliminate something from everyone's memory, it's Jim Harbaugh.

"To be heart broken or devastated would mean the end," Harbaugh said, per MLive's Nick Baumgardner. "That would be the ending. [We're] sad about losing the game, but we're not going to let that sadness stand in the way of us improving."

While the defense and special teams haven't been perfect—and no, that's not a shot at Blake O'Neill, because a mishandled snap probably won't happen again—Michigan's success in tight games is dependent on the offense scoring enough and sealing wins.

And it all starts with the running game, which has encountered some problems during the last few weeks. A portion of the struggles can be attributed to a rise in competition, but Maryland (for most of the game) and MSU limited the Wolverines.

The Spartans in particular gave the offensive line fits, twisting and spiking their way into the backfield and—excluding O'Neill's negative play—holding Michigan to 77 rushing yards on 32 attempts. Yes, MSU boasts one of the best opposing D-lines on the slate, along with Utah and Ohio State, but the Wolverines were thoroughly dominated.

Perhaps what's most frustrating for Michigan, though, is it still played well enough to win because of a strong defensive day and an almost-perfect special teams performance. The Spartans needed a freak play to leave the Big House smiling instead of slumping.

However, if the Wolverines offense could've sealed the game on the ground, Michigan State never would've even had a chance. Michigan needed a single first down to put the outcome on ice.

Running when the other team knows you're running is a Harbaugh staple. Picking up first downs when the other team knows it's what you need is what this Harbaugh-led team is striving to achieve.

But the blame doesn't fall solely on the offensive line. The guy under center needs to make plays when given the opportunity, and Jake Rudock has consistently fallen short of accomplishing that.

Or long.

It's become a recurring theme: Rudock has a receiver open downfield yet fires an inaccurate pass. He's overthrown Jehu Chesson on multiple occasions, most notably in losses to Utah and Michigan State.

The accompanying media shows the senior quarterback stepping up in the face of pressure (good), locating Chesson (good) and missing the wideout (bad). Had Rudock connected with Chesson, the Wolverines likely would've extended their lead over MSU to nine points with less than six minutes remaining.

Once Rudock figures out that problem, safeties will not be so quick to commit and stop Michigan's running game before it bursts through the second level. For now, though, opposing defenses really don't have to respect deep passes.

In late September, Justin P. Hicks of MLive noted Rudock said game speed is noticeably different than working at practice but didn't want that to be an excuse for a lack of execution:

It's one of those things you'd like to do every time but I understand it's not going to happen every time. We're working on it, we're trying really hard to get it and I think it's a matter of time before it starts clicking. Game speed is a little different from practice but that's no excuse. We need to go out there and connect on those.

Rudock is obviously correct in saying a downfield pass won't be completed every time, but Wolverines fans, coaches and players alike would certainly settle for the first big play at this point.

It's open at least once per game. Rudock just needs to hit his target.

The offense's two most glaring weaknesses are fundamental problems, but excelling at the basics is what makes a Harbaugh team a Harbaugh team. When the Wolverines have accomplished that, they've won—often in dominant fashion.

Michigan's defense will always give the team a chance to win. It's up to the offensive line and Rudock to seal the deal.

 

Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow Bleacher Report CFB Writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR.

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4-Star LB Dontavious Jackson Shares Latest in Recruitment

With more and more athletes becoming hybrids on the football field—a welcomed trait with many college football recruits—Dontavious Jackson is more of a purist when it comes to his position.

He's a middle linebacker. A "Mike," if you will. And good Mikes are hard to come by.

"A lot of schools are telling me a true Mike is a rarity," Jackson said. "To have the size, speed and strength combined with leadership and intelligence, it's hard to find out there.

"I want to provide that for a team."

Jackson, a 4-star talent from Houston, is the nation's No. 5 inside linebacker. At 6'2" and 248 pounds, he has the size. As someone who's run a 4.6-second 40-yard dash, he has the speed to man the inside. As someone who bench-presses 330 pounds and squats 600, he also has the strength.

Combine that with a high football IQ and the will to get better each day, and Jackson is one of those athletes who easily attract the best college coaches. His offer list, featuring 57 reported offers, serves as proof.

Jackson announced a top 12 over the summer, and he's taken official visits to UCLA and Florida State this month. A Michigan visit was set back in November, but Jackson said trip No. 3 could be destined for another school.

From a recruiting standpoint, he most likely will make his announcement on national signing day. The process for him is slow motion, just the way he likes it. In fact, Jackson said official visit announcements via social media—which is popular among most recruits—will probably not be a thing for him as he continues researching schools in an effort to trim his list.

"I think I'm just going to lay low with it all," Jackson said. "I may post a couple of pics while I'm [at schools], and that's when people will know. I'm not going to really broadcast anything. I'm just ready to sit down and make a decision."

Jackson said he has a few schools in mind for his final two spots, assuming he still takes the Michigan visit next month. Alabama, Florida and Ole Miss are among the contenders. Jackson added that both the UCLA and Florida State visits were excellent and set the bar for the next three.

Jackson said his visits most likely will all be out of state, but that doesn't mean an in-state team is out of the running. Texas and Texas A&M have been battling for him, as have Baylor, TCU and Texas Tech. He said that he is considering taking a couple of unofficial visits during the season and one or two after the season, depending on his schedule.

"I'm not worried about distance," Jackson said of playing out of state. "I really just want to know how I feel about each coaching staff. I want to be where I fit in best, as far as scheme and depth goes.

"I mean, that could mean a school in state. Staying in state is not out of the topic at all."

For Jackson, playing middle linebacker in the best situation possible is key. He's been watching how teams use their Mikes and if athletes are playing out of position to fill a void. He's noticed with a lot of teams that some linebackers are inserted at the Mike spot because they "have no one else," he said.

"Basically, I can come in and be mature enough to do it early," Jackson said of the position. "My goal is to provide for a team to where it can lead to early playing time and, hopefully, a starting job early.

"A lot of times, teams have Mikes who aren't really Mikes. They're either Wills [weak-side], Sams [strong-side] or Jacks [hybrid linebacker/defensive end]. I'm a Mike, and I think I can be a good Mike for someone."

To say Jackson has a nose for the football is an understatement. In three varsity seasons, he has recorded more than 300 tackles. He finished his junior year with 165 tackles, six sacks and one interception. He had 107 tackles as a sophomore.

Jackson is a college-ready athlete who is excited about the opportunity of playing a position he's studied for years. Now it's all about finding a home to further hone his craft.

"I just want to make sure I get everything scheduled first," he said. "I don't want to lead any school on. I'm just going to take my time and make the right decision."

 

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

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Clemson Tigers vs. Miami Hurricanes Betting Odds, Analysis, College Football Pic

Clemson is unbeaten on the season at 6-0 but only 1-3 against the spread over its last four games, seemingly favored by a few points too many too often. The Tigers will go off as favorites on the road when they meet Miami for an ACC interdivisional bout Saturday afternoon at Sun Life Stadium.

 

Point spread: Tigers opened as 3.5-point favorites, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark. (Line updates and matchup report)

College football pick, via Odds Shark computer: 24.5-20.3 Tigers

 

Why the Clemson Tigers can cover the spread

Clemson now owns a nine-game winning streak after beating Boston College last week 34-17. The Tigers spotted the Eagles the first score of the game, rolled to a 34-10 fourth-quarter lead but eschewed the cover as 18-point favorites when they gave up a meaningless BC touchdown with a minute and a half to go. On the night, Clemson outgained the Eagles 532-246, as quarterback DeShaun Watson threw for 420 yards and three touchdowns and ran for one more, while the defense held Boston College to just 87 yards through the air.

One month ago, the Tigers won at Louisville 20-17 but missed on the cover as five-point road favorites; just after that they beat Notre Dame 24-22 but missed on the cover at -3. So three of Clemson's ATS defeats have come by a total of four points.

 

Why the Miami Hurricanes can cover the spread

After losing consecutive road games at Cincinnati and at Florida State, the Hurricanes returned home last week and beat Virginia Tech 30-20. Miami took a 7-0 lead three minutes into the game and never trailed, later clinching the win and the cover as a field-goal favorite on a short Brad Kaaya touchdown pass with just under three minutes to go.

The Hurricanes held the ball on offense for over 32 minutes and won the turnover battle 4-0, and those are usually good ways to win and cover college football games. Kaaya now owns a 10-to-1 touchdown-to-interceptions ratio this season.

Two weeks ago, Miami lost at undefeated Florida State 29-24 but held on for the cover as a seven-point road dog. If it can keep this week's game that close, it'll cover.

 

Smart pick

This is a tough one to call, but ultimately the talent differential isn't as great as the spread might indicate. Also, while teams ranked in the AP Top 25 this season are 104-15 SU against unranked foes, they're only 56-62 ATS. So home-dog Miami looks like the smart money here.

 

Betting trends

Clemson is 3-1 ATS in its last four games against Miami.

Miami is 16-3 SU in its last 19 games at home.

Clemson is 1-5 ATS in its last six games in October.

 

All point spread and lines data courtesy of Odds Shark, all quotes gathered firsthand unless otherwise noted. Check out Twitter for injury and line movement updates and get the free odds tracker app.

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College Football's Odd Couple: Utah's Dennis Erickson and Devontae Booker

It was the spring of 2011 and Devontae Booker couldn't get his life going. He didn't have the SAT score to play for a major college football team and couldn't get down to the junior college an hour from his home in a rough part of Sacramento because he didn't have a car. He was out of school, out of football. And after a few months of lying around on his parents' couch, he took a job at FedEx, loading and unloading packages off a conveyor belt.         

At the same time, Dennis Erickson's stellar coaching life was reaching its end. He had won two national championships at Miami, been the Pac-12 coach of the year at three schools, coached two NFL teams, dealt with politics and bad owners and scandal and success. And his team at Arizona State wasn't going the right way. He would be fired by the end of the year. And then, a little jaded by his profession, he retired and went fishing.

There was no way to predict their stories would intersect in Salt Lake City. But they did, on the Utah Utes football team. Booker is the star running back on the No. 3 team in the nation and an Academic All-Pac 12 student. Erickson, at 68, is his running backs coach—yes from a big-name head coach to a position coach—not because he needs the job but because he loves it.

"He's like another father figure to me," Booker said.

"I hope so," Erickson said. "That's what I've felt I've always been as a coach, a second father to players. It's more than just about football. It's about life in general."

These are two opposite stories working together so beautifully, with Erickson helping Booker to develop and grow. But also, Booker is helping Erickson to re-connect with the roots of coaching.

Erickson could have stayed retired and "hit golf balls crooked," he said. But he took a job far below the heights he had reached because he remembered what it once felt like.

"When I was growing up, my dad was a high school coach, and I was in the locker rooms all my life," he said. "That's what I love to do. When I started, all I wanted to do was be a high school coach like my dad.

"I had some opportunities and I took them. I had some successes, some not. You become so involved as the head coach at some of these schools that it's all about PR and other things. It's not coaching. You get caught up in other stuff and you get an ego. Now I'm back around to why I really got into coaching. You lose that a little."

Booker, a senior, isn't going to win the Heisman Trophy, but he's the best player on the team that has accomplished the most in the country. He has run for 130.5 yards per game, and Utah is the only undefeated team in the Pac-12. He considered turning pro after last season, but on the advice of Erickson, who went to his NFL sources to see where Booker stood, decided to give Utah one more season.

If anyone has learned patience, it's him. It took Booker four years after graduating from high school in Del Paso Heights, near Sacramento, just to get to a major college.

But let's go back a little. Booker describes Del Paso Heights as a good community, but a dangerous, gang-riddled one. Listen to this description:

"It was actually one of my friends in high school, his older sister," Booker said. "I think it was her birthday and they got her a little car. She was just going out to a high school party. I was a freshman in high school. She was sitting on top of her car and some guys came down to shoot up the party.

"A bullet hit her, killed her. Bullets have no names on them. I actually saw it, but I didn't see who was shooting. I rolled to the ground and started to crawl into the house over a bunch of people. As soon as the guys stopped shooting, [someone said], 'Someone got shot.' I just saw the girl lying on the ground."

This is what Booker grew up in. His dad, Ronnie, who helps veterans file claims for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, said that that shooting happened only a few blocks from their home.

"If there were 100 parties a year, in high school, Devontae might go to three of them," Ronnie said. "And every time, something happened. Shooting, gang stuff. Devontae was never a problem, never one to get in trouble. But I was always telling him, 'You have friends who are out there gang-banging. You cannot be out there.'

" 'Bullets don't have a name. If you see them and they're going to do something, turn and go home.' "

Two of Devontae's gang-banging friends, Ronnie Booker said, were looking out for him, too. They didn't want to interfere with his future in football.

"Yeah, they'd say, `You're trying to do something. Play football,' " Ronnie Booker said " 'Devontae, we're going over here. There might be trouble. You need to go home ' "

Booker was not highly recruited out of high school. He did get an offer to play for Washington State, but when he didn't get the needed college entrance exam score, the offer was rescinded, Ronnie said. Booker didn't know what to do. He had several friends going to junior college in San Mateo, about a two-hour drive from Sacramento, but he didn't have any way of getting there.

So what did he do? "I was just sitting at home," he said. "Sitting on my mom's couch. I wasn't doing anything."

His dad said that wasn't exactly accurate. He said Devontae was staying in shape, working out, and sitting on the couch with his laptop all day, taking online courses. Then he got the job at FedEx. But why didn't Devontae mention that job?

"Probably because he didn't do it very long," Ronnie Booker said. "It was hard, a lot of work for basically minimum wage."

Think about his path. Now, he's among the top players in the country, two months from earning a college degree in sociology with B-plus average, he and Erickson said, and then heading on to a likely NFL career. (He and girlfriend Destiny also have a 2-year-old son, Deashon).

Booker ended up playing two years at American River junior college near his home, where he got his grades up and earned some attention as a player. That landed him an opportunity at Utah.

Salt Lake is a beautiful, quiet town. And it also is absolutely nothing like Booker had ever seen.

"I remember just sitting there when I first got here," Booker said, "thinking 'Man, there are no helicopters overhead all night.' "

What Booker's dad remembers was Booker calling him several times a day saying that the team isn't accepting him and that he's not comfortable. That was just two weeks into his time there. Ronnie Booker told him to give it two more weeks, and if that didn't work out, come home.

He got comfortable, in part because of his position coach: Erickson.

Ronnie Booker said the one coach Devontae always talks about is "Erickson, Erickson, Erickson." He said Erickson preached patience when Booker arrived and now preaches ownership of what he has earned.

"He's very positive," Devontae Booker said. "He's been through it all and gives good advice when I need it, about anything. He tells a few stories now and then. He's a great coach, a players' coach."

A winning coach.

Erickson quickly climbed in the coaching world. He seemed to have a million jobs. At Miami, he replaced Jimmy Johnson and won national championships in 1989 and 1991. Miami then underwent a harsh NCAA investigation and was placed on probation. Erickson wasn't implicated.

He went to Seattle in the NFL but had four mediocre years and was caught up in an ownership change. Then he went to Oregon State, where the Beavers nearly won the national championship. Then, on to the San Francisco 49ers, where he had to deal with the oddities of the York family ownership, a sour relationship with general manager Terry Donahue and the dismantling of the team to get its salaries in order. He was fired after two bad years. His most recent head-coaching job was Arizona State, where he got off to a big start, then fizzled.

That would have been the normal time to retire for good. But Erickson helped his son, Bryce, coach at a high school in Oregon and then signed on in 2014 at Utah. He also is officially listed as assistant head coach.

Why don't more big-name coaches do that? For the love of coaching, why not just jump in at a lower level?

"Some guys have such a big ego," he said. "I know I called the plays forever ever, and then when I went to the NFL, I didn't have time to do it. At Arizona State, I didn't do it, either. If I had a chance to do it over again, I would.

"You get caught up in all the other stuff and then you get an ego. You start asking, 'Why should have I have to do this?' But that's not what I was in coaching for."

No, he was in coaching for guys like Booker.

Erickson is addicted to the coaching. And after sitting through an NCAA investigation, two weird ownership situations in the NFL and also winning big, he just wanted to have that old, pure feeling back again.

It's rare when you see that. But there's something hopeful about it, too. Former Packers and Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman is now coaching a high school team on Cape Cod.

Erickson said that big college teams, like Utah, have great support systems: tutoring and such. And Booker just grew up and took advantage of it all—became more accountable on the field and off.

He wouldn't take much credit for Booker's transformation, but did say this:

"That's what's rewarding about coaching. The situations with young people, regardless of their background, just helping them be successful. In my first head-coaching job, at Billings Central High School, I got just as much enjoyment out of that as when we were winning the national championship.

"The pressure to win is so unbelievable at some places it kind of ruins the fun. Now, I'm back around to why I really got into coaching."

Booker helped Erickson to find the fun again. Erickson helped Booker to find his way.

Opposite stories going in opposite directions finish with the same happy ending.

 

Greg Couch covers college football for Bleacher Report.

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Washington Huskies vs. Stanford Cardinal Betting Odds, College Football Pick

Stanford is 6-1 in its last seven meetings with Washington, but the Huskies are 3-0 against the spread the last three meetings, covering each time out as betting underdogs. They'll go off as dogs again when they clash with the Cardinal Saturday night for Homecoming out on the Farm.

 

Point spread: This game opened off the board at sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark. (Line updates and matchup report)

College football pick, via Odds Shark computer: 30.1-17.5 Cardinal

 

Why the Washington Huskies can cover the spread

Washington is 3-3 this season, but 4-2 ATS, even after last week's 26-20 loss to Oregon. The Huskies fell down 23-6 midway through the third quarter, rallied to within one score with just under four minutes to go, but couldn't quite complete the comeback. On the night Washington ran the ball for 180 yards, but the U-Dub defense, which has played fairly well so far this season, allowed the Ducks to go 9-of-18 on third-down conversions.

Two weeks ago, though, the Huskies pulled off their biggest victory in a season-plus under head coach Chris Petersen, upsetting USC down in Los Angeles 17-12.

Offensively Washington is still trying to piece things together, but the defense ranks near the top 30 in the country in a couple of key categories. If the Huskies can ugly this game up a bit, hold Stanford in the 20s or even the low 30s, they could cash.

 

Why the Stanford Cardinal can cover the spread

Since dropping their season opener at Northwestern the Cardinal have won and covered five games in a row. Last Thursday Stanford jumped out early on UCLA and never let up, winning 56-35, easily covering as a seven-point home favorite. The Cardinal led 14-3 seven minutes in, and later 56-20, before letting the Bruins score a couple of meaningless touchdowns in the fourth quarter.

On the night Stanford ran the ball for 310 yards, as running back Christian McCaffrey set one school record and tied another with 243 yards and four touchdowns, all in the first three quarters.

At 4-0 in conference play, with a game-and-a-half lead in the Pac-12 North, the Cardinal can almost already smell that conference championship game berth.

 

Smart pick

Stanford has outrushed six of seven opponents this season, while Washington has been outrushed in three of its last four games. Also, the Cardinal are averaging 49 points per game in conference play. Finally, Huskies quarterback Jake Browning is iffy for this week with a shoulder injury, via the Seattle Times' Adam Jude. Stanford is the smart play here.

 

Betting trends

Stanford is 16-0 SU in its last 16 games at home is October.

Stanford is 5-0 SU and ATS in its last five games.

Washington is 4-16 SU in its last 20 games on the road in October.

 

All point spread and lines data courtesy of Odds Shark, all quotes gathered firsthand unless otherwise noted. Check out Twitter for injury and line movement updates and get the free odds tracker app.

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Indiana Hoosiers vs. Michigan State Spartans Betting Odds, College Football Pick

Michigan State owns six straight wins in its series with Indiana, going 5-1 against the spread over that span. Coming off their miracle victory at Michigan last week, the Spartans look to stay unbeaten when they host the Hoosiers Saturday afternoon in East Lansing.

 

Point spread: Spartans opened as 17-point favorites, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark (see line updates and matchup report here).

College football pick, via Odds Shark computer: 38.1-24.2 Spartans

 

Why the Indiana Hoosiers can cover the spread

IU started this season 4-0, and while it has lost its last three games, two of those could have gone either way. Earlier this month the Hoosiers lost at home to top-ranked Ohio State 34-27, driving into the Buckeyes red zone in the final moments before succumbing. And last week Indiana led Rutgers 52-27, only to allow the Knights to score the final 28 points of the game to lose 55-52.

The Hoosiers compiled 627 yards of offense last week, as quarterback Nate Sudfeld returned after missing the previous game with an ankle injury to hit on 32 of 42 throws for 464 yards and four touchdowns. And three Indiana receivers caught 100 yards' worth of balls. The Hoosiers just couldn't close the deal.

Two weeks ago IU lost at Penn State 29-7, but the senior Sudfeld missed that game; just prior to that, though, the Hoosiers took the Buckeyes to the limit and easily covered as 21-point home dogs. With Sudfeld, Indiana has a puncher's chance.

 

Why the Michigan State Spartans can cover the spread

It took one of the craziest endings in recent college football memory, but MSU remained undefeated last week, scoring the winning touchdown on a fumble return as time ran out to beat Michigan at the Big House 27-23.

The Spartans trailed by nine points early in the fourth quarter and pulled to within two points on a short LJ Scott touchdown dive with nine minutes to go, but they looked dead when they gave the ball over on downs with just less than two minutes left. But the defense held, and there was just enough time on the clock for the Wolverines to botch a punt snap, creating a hero out of Michigan State backup safety Jalen Watts-Jackson.

The Spartans outgained Michigan 386-230 and limited the Wolverines to just 62 yards rushing on 33 carries. MSU has now outgained each of its first three Big Ten foes by at least 105 yards.

 

Smart pick

College football can be a fickle betting proposition, where the unexpected is almost the rule. Indiana is coming off a tough loss, while Michigan State is coming off an emotional victory over its hated rival. But that just might mean the tables are set to be turned. Also, the home team might be favored by a bit too much in this spot. The smart choice here is with the Hoosiers, plus the points.

 

Betting trends

Michigan State is 12-0 straight up in its last 12 games in October.

Michigan State is 1-6 against the spread in its last seven games.

Indiana is 4-0 against the spread in its last four games on the road in October.

 

All point spread and lines data courtesy of Odds Shark. All quotes gathered firsthand unless otherwise noted. Check out Twitter for injury and line movement updates and get the free odds tracker app.

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Texas A&M Aggies vs. Mississippi Rebels Betting Odds, College Football Pick

Texas A&M is 2-1 in three meetings with Ole Miss since joining the Big 12, but the Rebels won last year's meeting and are 3-0 against the spread in the series. In an elimination game in the SEC West, the Aggies battle the Rebels Saturday night down in Oxford.

 

Point spread: Rebels opened as six-point favorites, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark. (Line updates and matchup report)

College football pick, via Odds Shark computer: 29.0-22.2 Rebels

 

Why the Texas A&M Aggies can cover the spread

After opening this season 5-0 SU and 4-1 ATS, Texas A&M came up short last week against Alabama, losing 41-23 in College Station and missing the cover as five-point home dogs. The Aggies fell down 28-6 with help from a pair of Crimson Tide interception returns for touchdowns, rallied to within one score at 28-20 midway through the third quarter but couldn't sustain the comeback and later allowed another Alabama defensive score.

So, in actuality, the A&M defense only gave up 20 points to the Tide.

Three weeks ago the Aggies opened SEC play with an overtime victory at Arkansas, and they followed that up with a 30-17 win over Mississippi State. They're averaging 37 points per game on the season. If it can come close to that figure this week, Texas A&M might not even need the points.

 

Why the Mississippi Rebels can cover the spread

Mississippi started 4-0 this season, including that big upset of Alabama, but has lost two of its last three games. Last week the Rebels stepped out of conference and lost to an underrated Memphis outfit 37-24. Ole Miss led 14-0 early, allowed the Tigers to score the next 31 points of the game, pulled to within 31-24 heading into the fourth quarter but came up empty from there.

The Rebels piled up 480 yards of offense on the day as quarterback Chad Kelly produced his fifth 300-yard passing effort of the season. But the Ole Miss defense just didn't have an answer for Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch, who threw for 384 and three scores.

At 2-1 in SEC play, the Rebels sit in a tie for third place in the West Division with Texas A&M. But Ole Miss actually controls its own destiny; win out, starting Saturday and running through the home date with LSU November 21 and the Egg Bowl after that, and the Rebels will play in the SEC Championship Game.

 

Smart pick

Both teams are looking to bounce back from defeats last week, and it's easier to bounce back when you're at home and own the better defense. The smart money in this spot sides with Ole Miss.

 

Betting trends

Ole Miss is 3-0 ATS in its last three games against Texas A&M.

The total has gone under in Ole Miss' last seven games in October.

Texas A&M is 1-8 ATS in its last nine games on the road in October.

 

All point spread and lines data courtesy of Odds Shark, all quotes gathered firsthand unless otherwise noted. Check out Twitter for injury and line movement updates and get the free odds tracker app.

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Western Kentucky Hilltoppers vs. LSU Tigers Betting Odds, College Football Pick

Western Kentucky is 5-2 against the spread in its last seven battles with Power 5 conference teams, while LSU is just 5-7 ATS in its last dozen meetings with non-Power outfits. The Tigers step out of SEC play to host the Hilltoppers Saturday night down at Death Valley.

 

Point spread: The Tigers opened as 17-point favorites, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark (line updates and matchup report).

College football pick, via Odds Shark computer: 40.2-24.2 Tigers

 

Why the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers can cover the spread

Western Kentucky opened this season with a victory over one SEC team (Vanderbilt) and now gets a shot at another—of the big-game variety. The Hilltoppers come in riding a four-game winning streak, which includes three covers, after beating North Texas last Thursday 55-28. WKU, as a 34-point favorite, had the spread covered when it bumped its lead to 55-14 early in the fourth quarter, but it allowed the Mean Green to score two touchdowns in the final five minutes to make the score slightly more respectable.

The Hilltoppers racked up 683 yards of offense last week, 283 on the ground; they're now averaging 536 yards and 44 points per game.

Western Kentucky may not pull off the upset here, but led by senior quarterback Brandon Doughty, who's already thrown 24 touchdown passes this season, it could keep this one interesting.

 

Why the LSU Tigers can cover the spread

LSU continued to stake its claim as the best and possibly the most entertaining team in the country last week with a 35-28 victory over Florida, squeaking out a cover as a six-point home favorite. The Tigers led the Gators at the half 28-14, allowed Florida to tie the score at 28-28, then took the lead for good when kicker Trent Domingue scampered in from 16 yards out on a fake field goal early in the fourth quarter.

LSU outgained Florida 423-326 and outrushed the Gators 221-55, as running back Leonard Fournette came up with 180 more yards and two more scores. The Tigers also got a second straight solid performance from quarterback Brandon Harris, who has thrown for 430 yards and four touchdowns, without a pick, over his last two games.

 

Smart pick

LSU is likely to win this contest, but a blowout might not necessarily be in the cards. The Tigers have been known to call off the dogs against lesser foes during the Les Miles era, and Western Kentucky can move the ball. The smart choice in this spot probably resides with the Hilltoppers, plus the points.

 

Betting trends

The total has gone over in LSU's last five games.

LSU is 5-1 ATS in its last six games in October.

Western Kentucky is 11-1 straight up in its last 12 games.

 

All point spread and lines data courtesy of Odds Shark. All quotes gathered firsthand unless otherwise noted. Check out Twitter for injury and line movement updates and get the free odds tracker app.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Tennessee Volunteers vs. Alabama Crimson Tide Betting Odds, Football Pick

Alabama owns the recent rivalry with Tennessee with eight wins in a row, and it's 7-2 against the spread over the last nine. The Volunteers shoot to put a halt to that streak when they take on the Tide on Saturday afternoon in Tuscaloosa.

 

Point spread: The Crimson Tide opened as 14.5-point favorites, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark (line updates and matchup report).

 

College football pick, via Odds Shark computer: 41.4-21.5 Crimson Tide

 

Why the Tennessee Volunteers can cover the spread

The Vols bounced back from two tough losses to claim a close victory of their own two weeks ago, beating Georgia 38-31. Tennessee then had last week off.

The Volunteers trailed the Bulldogs 24-3 in the second quarter after allowing two defensive/special teams touchdowns but battled back, taking a lead on quarterback Joshua Dobbs' fifth touchdown of the day with five minutes to go and then hanging on from there. On the day, Tennessee outgained and outrushed Georgia and held the ball for over 34 minutes, all in winning straight up as a three-point home dog.

Just before that, the Vols gave up a two-score lead and lost to Arkansas 24-20, and they gave up a two-score lead and lost to Florida 28-27 prior to that. Earlier this season, they gave up a three-score lead and lost to Oklahoma in overtime 31-24. So Tennessee, while it has lost some close games, is proving that it can, once again, play with some of college football's big boys.

 

Why the Alabama Crimson Tide can cover the spread

Alabama won its fourth game in a row last week, beating Texas A&M in College Station 41-23, covering as a five-point road favorite. The Tide ran the ball down the Aggies' throats for 258 yards (236 by running back Derrick Henry), held the ball for over 36 minutes and scored three touchdowns on interception returns.

Just before that, Alabama used a 24-0 run to beat Arkansas 27-14, and it snuffed Georgia 38-10 prior to that. Even in the game it lost, it outgained and outrushed Ole Miss. At 3-1 in SEC play, the Tide might just be getting warmed up.

 

Smart pick

Alabama, recovered from that loss to the Rebels, now rolls toward its showdown at home with LSU November 7. But the home team might be favored by a bit too much for this contest. An upset is probably too much to ask, but with a little magic from Dobbs and a few stops on defense, Tennessee can keep this one close too.

 

Betting trends

  • Alabama is 8-0 SU in its last eight games against Tennessee.
  • Alabama is 14-5 ATS in its last 19 games in October.
  • Tennessee is 0-11 in its last 11 games on the road in October.

 

All point spread and lines data courtesy of Odds Shark. All quotes gathered firsthand unless otherwise noted. Check out Twitter for injury and line-movement updates and get the free odds tracker app.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Ohio State Buckeyes vs. Rutgers Scarlet Knights Betting Odds, Football Pick

Ohio State may own a 20-game winning streak, but it also just snapped a five-game losing streak against the spread last week, as big spreads have taken a toll on Buckeyes backers. OSU deals with another big number when it makes its first-ever visit to New Jersey to take on Rutgers Saturday evening.

 

Point spread: The Buckeyes opened as 20.5-point favorites, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark (line updates and matchup report).

College football pick, via Odds Shark computer: 48.9-23.7 Buckeyes

 

Why the Ohio State Buckeyes can cover the spread

OSU is coming off one of its better outings of the season so far, a 38-10 victory over Penn State last week. The Buckeyes spotted the Nittany Lions an early field goal then took over from there, leading 21-3 at the half, later scoring the game's last 17 points and covering as 18-point favorites. Ohio State racked up 429 yards of offense, 315 on the ground, while the defense held Penn State to just one conversion in 11 third-down situations.

The Buckeyes had lost five in a row ATS because they've been favored by so much so often. The 18 points of last week was the smallest spread they'd faced since beating Virginia Tech 42-24 as 14-point favorites back in Week 1.

On the season, Ohio State has outgained every opponent by at least 108 yards, and it still hasn't played up to preseason expectations.

 

Why the Rutgers Scarlet Knights can cover the spread

The Knights are 3-3 both straight up and ATS this season and 2-1 both SU and ATS over their last three games after rallying to stun Indiana last week 55-52. Rutgers trailed 52-27 late in the third quarter but proceeded to score the last 28 points of the game, winning on a short Kyle Federico field goal at the buzzer. On the day, the Knights piled up 596 yards of offense, 210 on the ground, and held the ball for over 35 minutes, all while winning outright as six-point dogs on the road.

Two weeks ago, Rutgers gave Michigan State a tough game, losing 31-24 on a late Spartans score but covering as 12-point road dogs. And just before that the Knights beat Kansas 27-14. Rutgers has also outrushed five of six opponents this season, including its last three.

 

Smart pick

Ohio State hasn't exactly set the world on fire this season, but perhaps it's just been resting up for another stretch run at another national championship. And playing on the road means the spread is a little more amenable. The smart money here backs the Buckeyes.

 

Betting trends

Ohio State is 20-0 SU in its last 20 games.

Ohio State is 14-6 ATS in its last 20 games on the road in October.

Rutgers is 1-3 SU and ATS in its last four games at home in October.

 

All point spread and lines data courtesy of Odds Shark. All quotes gathered firsthand unless otherwise noted. Check out Twitter for injury and line movement updates and get the free odds tracker app.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Joshua Dobbs Is Tennessee's Key to Upsetting Alabama

When Tennessee hits the road after last week's bye to take on the eighth-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide, will it be the same old song and dance?

The Vols have lost eight straight to the Crimson Tide, having been outscored 283-95 in the process. 

But this year could be different.

For the first time over that streak, Tennessee has an established dual-threat-quarterback who can stress the Crimson Tide defense with his legs as well as his arm.

Dobbs has 368 rushing yards and five touchdowns this year, in addition to his 1,101 passing yards, eight touchdowns and two interceptions through the air.

"Joshua Dobbs, the quarterback, is a very diverse guy playing the position with his running and passing abilities," Alabama head coach Nick Saban, said according to the school's official site. "They have created a lot of issues, a lot of problems for the opposition that allowed them to score a lot of points this year."

Alabama's defense has been a force this year. The Crimson Tide have given up just 271.9 yards per game—sixth best in the the nation—have given up touchdowns in just 46.67 percent of their opponents' red-zone trips—fifth in the SEC—and have one of the most feared front sevens in the entire country.

That group includes quick-twitch linemen like Jonathan Allen, a monster "Jack" linebacker in Denzel Devall and versatile linebackers Reuben Foster and Dillon Lee who can line up in various spots in the lineup based on matchups.

This Alabama defense is better equipped to deal with mobile quarterbacks than those of past years, but the only real running threat they've faced this year was Ole Miss' Chad Kelly—who led his Rebels to a 43-37 win over the Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa. Kelly didn't exactly light up the Crimson Tide defense that night. He had eight carries for 21 yards and a touchdown. But the threat of a running quarterback has been Saban's kryptonite over the last few years.

All of Alabama's losses since 2010 have been to teams with quarterbacks who pose a threat with their legs. Stephen Garcia, Jordan Jefferson, Cam Newton, Johnny Manziel, Nick Marshall, Trevor Knight, Bo Wallace and Cardale Jones didn't necessarily light up Bama's defense with their legs, but had to be accounted for because of what they could do on the ground.

"For Dobbs and Tennessee, to truly stress Bama the quarterback has to be both a threat to run and capable of pushing the ball vertically down the field," said Michael Felder, national college football video analyst for Bleacher Report.

That's important, because while Tennessee head coach Butch Jones was reluctant to unleash Dobbs through the air early this year, he was forced to when the Vols were buried in a 21-point hole against Georgia. The result was fantastic. Dobbs completed 25 of his 42 passes against the Bulldogs for 312 yards, three touchdowns and one pick, and led his team to a stunning comeback two weeks ago.

Finding a happy medium for Jones that features Dobbs on the ground and through the air is the sweet spot if Tennessee—a 15-point favorite, according to OddsShark.com—is going to spring the upset.

"Obviously Dobbs has shown an aptitude for both, the key is finding balance," Felder said. "Too many shots down the field and the team has empty drives that give the Tide back the ball. Too much focus on the quarterback run and it becomes the LSU-Alabama BCS title game. Dobbs' ability to scramble, but still push the ball down the field will have to be fully operational if Tennessee wants to pull off this upset."

Plus, Dobbs isn't going to be shocked by what he sees from Alabama. He has played against the Crimson Tide in each of the last two seasons despite not being the full-time starter until 2015, and racked up 192 passing yards and 75 rushing yards in his first action of the 2014 season against Alabama last year.

"I remember a lot," he said in quotes emailed by Tennessee. "Second half came in and played a little bit. I did some good things and needed to improve on some other things. It was a learning experience, and obviously I've matured a lot over the past two years."

It's a long shot for Tennessee to spring the upset. 

But it's not a "no shot."

As long as Jones doesn't coach scared, gives Dobbs the full playbook rather than one that's heavily skewed toward a multidimensional running game and allows him to produce that balance needed to keep Bama's defense guessing, the Vols have a puncher's chance in Tuscaloosa.

Dobbs is the key for the Vols. 

If he can move the ball with his legs—particularly in the red zone where the Crimson Tide defense has proven to play at its best—he has a shot to spring the upset.

 

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports. Statistics are courtesy of cfbstats.com

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and national college football video analyst for Bleacher Report as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on SiriusXM 83. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Utah Utes vs. Southern Cal Trojans Betting Odds, Analysis, College Football Pick

Southern Cal began this season as the favorite to win the Pac-12 South, while Utah was expected to finish somewhere in the middle of the pack. Instead, the Utes are 6-0 and lead the division, while the Trojans are 1-3 both straight up and against the spread over their last four games and just canned their head coach. So two teams headed in different directions at the moment meet when USC hosts Utah Saturday night at the Coliseum.

 

Point spread: The Trojans opened as three-point favorites, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark (line updates and matchup report).

College football pick, via Odds Shark computer: 26.1-20.8 Trojans

 

Why the Utah Utes can cover the spread

The Utes are undefeated so far this season, 4-2 ATS, and now part of the College Football Playoff conversation after beating Arizona State last week 34-18, covering as five-point home favorites. Utah trailed the Sun Devils through three quarters 18-14, in part because it gave up nine points on an ASU kickoff return for a score and a safety. The Utes then scored 20 unanswered points in the fourth quarter, capping things off with Devontae Booker's 62-yard scoring jaunt with just over a minute to go.

On the night, Utah held the Arizona State offense, which had racked up almost 1,000 yards in back-to-back wins over UCLA and Colorado, to 257 yards, just 15 on the ground, and zero touchdowns.

Two weeks ago, the Utes outlasted Cal 30-24, and three weeks ago, they bombed Oregon up in Eugene 62-20. So at 3-0 in conference play, Utah owns a game-and-a-half lead in the Pac-12 South, with five very winnable games after this week.

 

Why the Southern Cal Trojans can cover the spread

Southern Cal is coming off a 41-31 loss at Notre Dame last week, missing the cover as a six-point road dog playing its first game under an interim head coach. The Trojans rallied from a 24-10 deficit to take a 31-24 lead into the fourth quarter, but they allowed the Irish to score the last 17 points of the game.

On the night, USC outgained Notre Dame 590-476, as quarterback Cody Kessler topped 350 yards passing for the third time this season, but a blocked punt returned for an Irish score and two Kessler interceptions proved costly.

Two weeks ago, the Trojans lost to Washington 17-12 but outgained and outrushed the Huskies.

Fortunately, last week's loss didn't hurt USC's chances to win the Pac-12 South. At 1-2 in conference play, they'll need some help, but a victory this week would drop the Utes a peg while giving the Trojans the head-to-head tiebreaker.

 

Smart pick

Utah has outrushed every opponent so far this season, while USC has been outrushed in four of six games. And winning the ground battle is a good way to win games and cover spreads, especially on the road. The smart choice here is with the Utes, plus the points.

 

Betting trends

USC is 0-3 SU and ATS in its last three games in October.

USC is 13-4 SU in its last 17 games at home.

Utah is 8-1 ATS in its last nine games on the road.

 

All point spread and lines data courtesy of Odds Shark. All quotes gathered firsthand unless otherwise noted. Check out Twitter for injury and line movement updates and get the free odds tracker app.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

California Golden Bears vs. UCLA Bruins Betting Odds, College Football Pick

California's resurgent Golden Bears are only 1-3 straight up over their last four meetings with UCLA, but they're also 5-2 against the spread over their last seven clashes with the Bruins. The Pac-12's ursine rivals meet again Thursday night at the Rose Bowl.

 

Point spread: Bruins opened as 6.5-point favorites, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark. (Line updates and matchup report)

College football pick, via Odds Shark computer: 30.5-24.6 Bruins

 

Why the California Golden Bears can cover the spread

Cal won its first five games this season before falling 30-24 in a tough game at undefeated Utah two weeks ago. The Bears then had last week off.

Cal trailed the Utes 24-10 late in the first half and pulled to within a field goal late in the third quarter, but could get no closer. The Bears outgained Utah 467-435 on the night, but ultimately couldn't overcome six turnovers, five on Jared Goff interceptions.

Cal is tied for second place in the Pac-12 North at 2-1 in conference play and has outgained every conference foe so far. As long as Goff cuts down on the picks and the defense makes some stops, the Bears have a shot in every game left on their schedule.

 

Why the UCLA Bruins can cover the spread

UCLA opened this season 4-0 with wins over BYU and Arizona, but has encountered some turbulence since then with back-to-back losses to Arizona State and Stanford. Last Thursday the Bruins fell down early on a Cardinal pick-six and never recovered, eventually losing 56-35.

The injury bug has taken a big bite out of UCLA, especially on defense, where three starters are down and out for the season. But offensively, the Bruins are averaging 463 yards and 35 points per game, led by freshman quarterback Josh Rosen, who has thrown 12 touchdown passes, and running back Paul Perkins, who has scored eight times. So they can score with just about anybody in the conference.

If UCLA can move the chains on an iffy Cal defense, work some clock and minimize the minutes its own defense has to play, it can put a halt to that two-game skid.

 

Smart pick

UCLA needed a late field goal to beat Cal last year 36-34, but the Bruins aren't quite the same team now that they were then, while the Bears are on the improve. The smart choice here is Cal.

 

Betting trends

California is 5-2 ATS in its last seven games against UCLA.

California is 7-1 ATS in its last eight games on the road.

UCLA is 0-8 ATS in its last eight games in October.

 

All point spread and lines data courtesy of Odds Shark, all quotes gathered firsthand unless otherwise noted. Check out Twitter for injury and line movement updates and get the free odds tracker app.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Watch High School QB Scramble All over the Field for 99-Yard TD

Greene County High School (Iowa) quarterback Daric Whipple literally took it from end zone to end zone. Once Whipple saw the opening, there wasn't a defender who was going to keep him from that touchdown.

Watch the video and let us know what you think!

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Rankings 2015: Week 8 Conference Standings and Top 25 Polls

With another week in the books that proved once again how unpredictable the college football season truly is, voters still tried to take their best stab at the impossible task of ranking the Top 25 entering Week 8 action.

Put Michigan's last-second gaffe that cost the Wolverines a huge win over Michigan State aside, and the weekend that was produced telling results for teams in the College Football Playoff conversation. LSU distanced itself as the lone remaining SEC unbeaten by dispatching Florida, while Alabama showed its championship grit by stomping Texas A&M.

It's anyone's guess as to who the nation's best team is at this point, and the votes reflect that—a whopping six teams in the Associated Press poll received a first-place vote. More answers are on the way this weekend, so let's take a look at the polls before targeting a marquee game of the weekend.

 

Week 8 Top 25 Game to Watch

No. 3 Utah at USC

It's role reversal in the most obvious of ways in Saturday's top game. Utah will head to Los Angeles to face the USC Trojans in a battle that is sure to shape the CFP conversation in the Pac-12, but not in the way many thought some two months ago.

No, it's safe to say nobody could have envisioned this program sitting at 3-3 without a head coach. Even the most pessimistic Trojan supporter couldn't see this coming, a team with true championship aspirations falling apart so quickly.

USC hung in there against Notre Dame last weekend, but the slate doesn't get any easier, as Ryan Abraham of USCFootball.com noted:

Turmoil at USC is nothing new, but the real shock comes with the team they welcome to Southern California. The Utah Utes have transformed from a team on the outside of the Top 25 outlook into the Pac-12's lone unbeaten and one of the nation's marquee teams.

Stiff tests have continued to come the Utes' way as they are asked to prove their championship qualifications, and they've passed them all. Amid tough slugfests against California and Arizona State, Utah came out on top.

A big reason why is the impact rushing of Devontae Booker, who is averaging 130 yards per game and also leads the Utes in receptions. Even with a trip to USC proving to be a tough one, Stewart Mandel of Fox Sports wondered if Booker would dominate:

An ability to establish the run should be paramount in this showdown. USC's run defense hasn't been terrible, ranking seventh in the Pac-12 while allowing 170.7 yards per game, but the Trojans let up around the 200-yard mark against both Stanford and Notre Dame this year.

USC's offense runs through quarterback Cody Kessler much more than its run game, but his aerial attack shouldn't scare off Utah's defense too much. The secondary is fresh off facing some of the most potent passing attacks in the Pac-12.

With that being said, Utah is in the midst of a Pac-12 murderer's row, and for the first time teams are coming at them like they're a national powerhouse. Don't think the Trojans haven't heard about Utah's ascent, and that should have them fired up to have a shot at dethroning the Utes.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Week 8 Predictions: Picking Top 25 Games Against the Spread

It's a down week on the national schedule—hence why College GameDay is at James Madison instead of an FBS location—but therein lies the beauty of handicapping.

Even with just a handful of ranked matchups and expected close margins, each game against the spread is a mystery.

The new Associated Press Top 25 features four non-power conference schools (Memphis, Toledo, Houston and Temple), along with teams such as Pittsburgh and Duke that rarely land on national television. The degree of difficulty for researching and picking these games is going up, but if you do the work, there's value all over the board.

As always, feel free to chime in below with your opinions or questions about the picks. I'll explain my rationale beneath each game, but of course we can always dive deeper. Just remember to keep it civil and that no one here hates your team.

The line is our only enemy.

Begin Slideshow

College Football Playoff Notebook: Dark-Horse Teams Inching Us Closer to Chaos

I have a confession to make: I love chaos. 

I want there to be so much chaos that the average fan taps out due to stress. There is never enough madness in college football; there can only be more. With my love of bedlam out in the open, I present the following statement.

Two months into the season, undefeated Iowa—yes, that Iowa, the one with a schedule more favorable than any other Top 25 team—is very much in the College Football Playoff mix. But let’s not stop there.

Let’s throw in Oklahoma State for some added spice. While we’re at it, toss in some Memphis. And sure, sprinkle in a little Toledo. Now, mix it all together, and what do we have? A delicious, potent dark-horse cocktail.

While it’s unlikely that any of these teams will still be standing at the very end, the possibility exists. And possibility, for those who abide by this theory, is all we need.

For Iowa, with regular-season games against Maryland, Indiana, Minnesota, Purdue and Nebraska, the formula is there despite sustaining massive injuries.

Oklahoma State, the most puzzling of the undefeated teams, will play TCU, Baylor and Oklahoma all at home. It is unlikely all three of those games will be wins, but what about just two of the three?

And Memphis and Toledo present the most chaotic doomsday scenario of them all. The Tigers’ win over Ole Miss validates the resume a great deal, but things will have to break their way in order to push a Power Five team aside. And Toledo, with a win over Arkansas, will have to hope for this house of cards to collapse and deliver unprecedented style points along the way.

ESPN wants no part of this theory. Ratings and underdog brands do not mix well with New Year’s Eve semifinal games. 

But more than halfway through the season, at a time when the underdog usually lies down after an ambitious run, a handful of unfamiliar logos are trudging right along. The chaos theory is still intact for a select few.

How long they sustain this role is to be determined. Hopefully, it's a while longer. 

As for other College Football Playoff observations—including a Q&A with ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit, here’s where we stand heading into Week 8.

 

Arrow Pointing Up: LSU 

It’s time to seriously consider Les Miles’ team as a playoff threat if you haven’t already. No longer just a bulldozing, cheat-code running back, the Tigers suddenly have weapons well beyond Leonard Fournette.

They showed that against Florida on Saturday, beating a feisty team with its backup quarterback, doing so with a familiar running game but also through the air and with defense. If quarterback Brandon Harris can continue to develop, the Tigers have a wonderful shot at making the playoff.

And there is also that Fournette character. Did we mention him? 

The issue with LSU, if one exists, is the schedule. The Tigers draw Western Kentucky this week, an underrated opponent. After a bye, LSU will travel to Alabama and Ole Miss. It will also play Arkansas and Texas A&M at home.

While many of these teams might seem down at the moment, not many have a more difficult closing gauntlet. Still, they are more than capable to handle it all.

 

Arrow Pointing Down: Michigan

There’s not much to say, really. In 10 seconds, Michigan went from a trendy College Football Playoff pick to a team in need of a great deal of help. The margin for error—even with this more inclusive system—is still so marginally thin. One play can change an entire season, and it did just that for the Wolverines.

The reality of this final botched punt still hasn’t set in. (It will never set in.)

While it’s an enormous setback, Michigan isn’t dead. Not with so much time left. A lot will need to happen for the Wolverines to get back into the hunt, but a Big Ten championship can be had. They will need help, but it's still there, hovering in the distance.

Perhaps four undefeated teams will waltz into the playoff and eliminate teams like this; something tells me it will be slightly more complicated than that. Still, this was a major setback. There's no other way to shape it.

 

Is Stanford Suddenly Ohio State 2.0? 

The formula is familiar. Come in with high expectations, lose a really ugly football game early in the year, lose the interest of the football world and follow it up by playing dominant football for the foreseeable future.

Last year, this was the blueprint Ohio State followed after its loss to Virginia Tech. The result was an appearance in the College Football Playoff and a national championship.

This year, at least early on, Stanford seems to have grabbed the baton.

Since falling helplessly to Northwestern in Week 1—a game that prompted many to dig Stanford its grave—the team has rebounded. Last Thursday’s 56-35 win over UCLA followed a 55-17 win over Arizona. Suddenly, behind do-everything back Christian McCaffrey, this offense has life.

This catch was pretty decent, too.

The team is rolling. The defense should get better. The whole machine can still improve.

At No. 10 in the AP poll, climbing back up, the schedule sets up remarkably well. Stanford’s remaining road games are Washington State and Colorado. David Shaw’s team also plays Cal, Notre Dame, Oregon and Washington. It will likely be a favorite from here on out. 

Add in a potential matchup in the Pac-12 Championship Game against Utah—a matchup that is looking more and more feasible—and Stanford has newfound life. Win out, and it's almost assured.

There is a long way to go for a College Football Playoff bid to be realized, but an early loss will certainly help. That feels like ages ago for the team now ranked No. 10, and the selection committee will share a similar sentiment. After all, it did last year.

 

Talking College Football Playoff With ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit

Each Saturday night, after a long, exhausting, 18-hour day, ESPN analyst and College GameDay host Kirk Herbstreit unveils his updated College Football Playoff top four, and the football world usually loses its mind.

His Twitter mentions at these hours are some of the Internet’s darkest back alleys. But he always takes it in stride, and the man loves his job. (He’s also fabulous at it.)

Although Herbstreit does not have any say in how the final field will ultimately look, the man knows plenty about the playoff. So late last week, before the Week 7 games were completed, I asked Herbstreit a few playoff-related questions regarding this season, the chaos and potential changes ahead.

 

Bleacher Report: Does it feel like the chaotic nature of this season could make life difficult on the selection committee?

Kirk Herbstreit: It does remind me a little bit of where we were heading in 2007, when we had such chaos toward the end. For me, however, it’s still too early.

Eventually, a lot of these teams will have to play each other, so there will be some separation. But I think it will go all the way down to that final week, and the committee will likely have a much tougher time this year than it did last year. There are a lot of good teams, but there don’t seem to be a lot of great teams. Maybe that will change, but that’s what I see right now.

If this thing finishes the way it potentially could, where you have, say, seven teams with one loss, that argument for the No. 4 spot is going to be as nasty as it has ever been. Again, it reminds me a lot of ’07.

I had coaches calling me that night telling me why his team deserved to be in over whoever else. I think it’s going to be a lot like that. And you’re going to have five, six or seven teams thinking this is a corrupt system wondering if there’s a conspiracy.

Twitter may implode when that committee comes out with its final decision in December. It could get nasty. And guys like us, who have to have our own Final Four, will just be pinatas. They’re going to hate us if they don’t already.

 

BR: You post your own playoff rankings each week. What is the typical response?

KH: Oh, I get a bit of everything.

“I love your rankings, that was spot on!”

“You’re such a moron, I can’t stand you!”

People think you’re a genius if you include their teams. If you leave someone’s team out, then you haven’t watched them or you’re not giving them the credit they deserve. It comes with the territory.

To me, honestly, that’s what makes this great. As crazy as it can get, I love that people care so much about the sport. I don’t think you get this with college basketball, the NFL or the NBA. But man, you release your top four in college football in August, and it is game on. That’s very unique, and it says a lot about the passion that we have these fans.

 

BR: There are a lot of parallels being made between Ohio State this year and Florida State last year. Do you think the committee will view the Buckeyes—and teams with a lot of talent and perhaps a lack of style points—differently following the Seminoles’ playoff struggles?

KH: Florida State last year just sort of flirted with disaster all of last year—maybe seven or eight times. They showed the heart of a champion and found a way to win.

Personally, if you have a team coming out of the Big Ten—regardless of whether or not they’re defending national champions—and they run the table, it’s hard for me to see the committee looking at a school like Ohio State and leaving them out of the Final Four.

I don’t want to say anything is impossible, but if there’s anything close to being impossible, it would be that.

 

BR: Is there anything with the selection process that you would like to see changed?

KH: Not yet. I think some metrics to help the committee with strength of schedule to help verify their rankings is something worth discussing, but I kind of like it right now. I like the way the committee votes.

But I would lean to eventually getting this to eight. I still think we would maintain the regular season mattering, which is something I am very big on. I think if you go to eight, you still get these same arguments and have everything at stake week-to-week. If it got there, I would still be cool with it.

That’s the one thing I would probably bring up; the possibility of it expanding. 

 

Herbstreit has teamed up with college football sponsor Allstate for the “It’s Good Sweepstakes,” which will award one lucky winner and three friends with a trip to New Orleans for the 2016 Allstate® Sugar Bowl® before traveling to Phoenix for the 2016 College Football Playoff National Championship.

Allstate and Herbstreit have been handing out #StreitCred on Twitter each week, spotlighting the strongest team performances and standout moments as they unfold on the gridiron. For more information, visit www.AllstateCFB.com.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Rankings 2015: Power Ranking All 128 Teams for Week 8

The college football landscape has become more defined after this past weekend of action, with several high-profile matchups giving us definitive winners (as well as those who came out on top thanks to miraculous plays). And as we move into the second half of the 2015 season, a clear pecking order is taking shape at the top and trickling downward.

You'll see the same in the latest version of the Bleacher Report power rankings.

Bleacher Report's power rankings are comprised of an average of five sources: B/R's weekly Top 25, the Associated Press Top 25, the Amway Coaches Poll, ratings guru Jeff Sagarin's computer rankings and the author's personal rankings for every FBS school. The top 50 teams are broken down individually, while the rest of the 128 FBS teams are summarized in a few easy-to-digest chunks.

Check out where everyone ranks after six weeks, and then give us your thoughts in the comments section. 

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