NCAA Football News

The College Football Top 25 Rankings If Preseason Polls Did Not Exist

Saturday was one of the most tumultuous days in college football history.

Eleven ranked teams in the Associated Press Top 25 fell, including four of the top six. It marked only the second time since the poll began in 1936 that four of the top six lost in a regular-season week, the other time being November 1990.

The Top 25 polls looked significantly different when they came out Sunday afternoon, but they were still shaped by the preseason polls that began the season.

What would the Top 25 look like if there were no preseason polls? What would they look like if they came out for the first time Sunday afternoon?

Here’s a crack at what we think they’d look like.

Begin Slideshow

Georgia vs. Missouri: Complete Game Preview

While the recent shakeup in the SEC West steals headlines, the leaders of the SEC East quietly prepare for a matchup with major divisional implications this Saturday.

This weekend, the Missouri Tigers (4-1 overall, 1-0 in SEC play) will host the Georgia Bulldogs (4-1, 2-1) in what should be an instant classic.  Though the loser of the contest won't be eliminated from contention, it's hard to dispute the advantage the winner will hold in the already crowded division standings.

Perhaps more importantly, however, this game will be considered the best win of this still-young season for the victor and provide momentum for that team as it heads into the second half of the 2014 campaign.

Here's what you need to know about Saturday's game: 

  • Date: Saturday, October 11
  • Time: 12:00 p.m. ET
  • Place: Memorial Stadium, Columbia, Missouri
  • TV: CBS
  • Radio: Georgia Bulldog Radio Network, Tiger Network Radio
  • Spread: Georgia (-1.5), per OddsShark.com

Begin Slideshow

Meet the Tennessee Fans Behind the Successful 'Checker Neyland Stadium' Idea

KNOXVILLE, Tenn.—As fans filed in Neyland Stadium, Spencer Barnett sat beside his wife in Section FF, nervously watching and expecting the worst.

It had been less than two weeks since the 37-year-old graphic design and layout artist from Cleveland, Tennessee, conceived his "Checker Neyland" campaign designed for Volunteers fans to wear orange or white (depending on the section where they sat) for UT's home tilt with Florida. 

Relying on 102,455 people to follow through with your plan was nerve-wracking, and Barnett had his doubts.

"Even up till when I was walking in there, I was worried thinking, 'This is going to look like crap and be a joke for ESPN to run with,'" Barnett said following UT's game against the Gators.

Over in Section AA, Tim McLeod was a little more cautiously optimistic.

The 36-year-old Knoxville resident who'd taken Barnett's idea, launched a website and coordinated the plan with the university, had the data to back the belief that Vols fans everywhere had bought into the concept.

This was going to work, he thought. But as the fans filed in, even he let some concern creep into his mind.

"We expected there to be some spottiness," McLeod said.

There wasn't.

Tennessee fans—and even some Gators—successfully and beautifully checkered Neyland. The result was even more unbelievable than Barnett's originally conceived picture. Once fans reached their seats, the stadium was awash perfectly in UT's traditional orange-and-white checkerboards.

As the sun-soaked stadium prepared to come alive with the fans screaming the Vols on in unison, they already had come together to make Barnett's plan a reality. 

"It was almost to an extent like a dream," Barnett said. "I kept thinking I was going to wake up.

"To see this idea that me, here in Cleveland, Tennessee, made and put out there turning into what it did was a surreal moment to me. It was like an ultimate fan experience for me because I got to see what I wanted to with Neyland Stadium."

 

The Idea

Back on September 13, Barnett did what most other UT fans were doing that night. He settled in front of his television to watch the young Vols take on the Oklahoma Sooners in Norman.

Prior to the game, the ABC cameras panned Memorial Stadium, where fans had striped the crowd in crimson and cream. If 82,000 fans could do it, Barnett thought, so could 102,000.

UT had checkered the Thompson-Boling Arena for a basketball game back in 2006, so that gave Barnett even more inspiration.

He found a picture of Neyland Stadium to near-full capacity, opened his Photoshop software and began designing what UT's hallowed stadium would look like if they could get the fans to coordinate a checkerboard pattern.

Normally, Barnett—a UT grad who was there during the Peyton Manning era and the 1998 national championship—plays around with uniform concepts or UT-related pictures. When he posts his modified images on his Twitter account (@CleVOLander), there's a modest group of people who comment on or retweet it.

Barnett's "Checker Neyland" picture went viral.

After UT's 34-10 loss to OU, the Vols had an off week. That downtime allowed fans pretty much everywhere to see the picture.

"I kept watching how much it was doing," Barnett said. "It just kept growing and growing."

McLeod was one of those fans who saw the picture and approached his coworker, Jonathan Briehl, about taking Barnett's idea a step further.

To simplify the fans' experience they wanted to build a website (www.checkerneyland.com) where fans could type in their section number and it would instruct them on which color to wear.

The duo contacted Barnett, who gave the idea his blessing. Within 24 hours, McLeod and Briehl went live with the site.

What happened next was unexpected.

"There were 15,000 visits in the first 12 hours," McLeod said. "By the time the game got here, we ended up having 325,000 page views."

If there was enough interest from fans, McLeod planned to contact UT's marketing department to back it. As it turned out, he didn't have to. By Sunday, his phone rang.

"They," he said, "contacted us."

UT vetted McLeod and Briehl, making certain the concepts they presented when it came to laying out what sections would wear what color would actually work. When everything checked out, the plan became a go.

UTSports.com backed the campaign, began promoting it, and then just waited to see if fans would respond. What transpired in just nine days was one of the coolest things you'll see in college football this season.

 

Pulling It Off

"This was a huge thing for them to go out on a limb," McLeod said of UT. "The success or failure of this, I think, would have affected their marketing, their recruiting. But it says a lot about the confidence and faith they have in the program."

The Vol Nation—or "Vol Family," as Barnett likes to call UT's fans—responded resoundingly.

Hosting one of its largest contingents of recruits for any game this year, according to GoVols247's Ryan Callahan (subscription required) and blaring Lil' Jon's music over the loudspeakers, Tennessee appeared primed to break out and take the next step in its program.

The fact that so many people bought in to the "Checker Neyland" concept showed that the fans believed in the Vols and wanted to do their part in dressing to celebrate a win. Though that didn't happen as UT fell 10-9 to the Gators for their 10th consecutive loss in the series, the color-coordinated stadium was a positive to all involved.

"I liked the atmosphere up there, knowing that it was 100,000 fans," instate running back prospect Ke'Shawn Vaughn told Volquest.com's Paul Fortenberry (subscription required). "I didn't think they could pull it off with the Gators fans in there but they did."

The recruits loved it, media loved it and the players did, too.

The vast majority of people in the stadium participated, and McLeod said even some Gators he saw did. The only sections of Neyland not emblazoned by orange or white were the designated Florida areas.

Some fans even bought bags of white shirts to pass out to people who hadn't gotten the memo.

"I think it’s a combination of the hope in what Butch is doing with the program and the hunger we have for wins," McLeod said. "I think those are the things that drove it."

Barnett was glad he got to see it.

Unsure whether he could go to the game, he honestly answered a question from former Vol and Knoxville radio personality Jayson Swain about where he'd be watching. 

"Swain asked where I'd be sitting, and I said, 'Hopefully, in front of a TV somewhere where I can see it,'" Barnett said with a chuckle.

"Well, he didn't like that answer. By the end of the day, he'd hooked me up with some tickets."

So he and his wife, Kirbie, left their two daughters Layla and Peayton (yes, of course that's who she's named after, with a twist on the spelling) back in Cleveland and were Knoxville-bound. 

Nervous excitement crowded the car, but Kirbie was just relieved a week filled with interviews and extra attention was about over.

Though the pregame festivities in Knoxville are always fun, the Barnetts wanted to get to their seats and watch the crowd. Here's an idea of what he saw, via a time-lapse package put together by the Knoxville News-Sentinel's Adam Lau.

"I guess even though the loss to Florida sucked, to me, the day was a win," Barnett said. "I'm still hyped up. I had fun watching it as the stadium was filling in."

 

What's Next?

So, after the immense success of "Checker Neyland," what's next?

"We don't want to lose the novelty of it," McLeod said, "but we'd love to turn it into a tradition."

Given the success of the first go-around, the possibilities of that are likely strong.

But even if it doesn't, Barnett will always have Saturday's game.

Life will settle back down, and the attention will go away. Kirbie went back to work for Amazon on Sunday. With school photo season in full swing, Barnett has some long hours ahead of him designing picture borders and backgrounds, which is his daily job.

But as time fades, Barnett's ticket stub will remain a treasure he'll display in a shadowbox, commemorating the day when a regular fan from an East Tennessee interstate stop had an idea that bloomed into something special. 

He didn't run through the 'T' or trot onto the field for a play, but Barnett's version of Neyland Stadium stepped into the spotlight for a day, even if Barnett was just a man standing in its shadows. 

"I still have my ticket," he said, fishing it out of his wallet to remind himself of the section where he sat. "I won’t get rid of that, especially today’s ticket.

"That way, when I’m old and senile, I can look at it and remember it."

 

All quotes gathered firsthand and all recruiting information taken from 247Sports.com, unless otherwise noted.

Brad Shepard covers SEC football and is the Tennessee Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. Follow Brad on Twitter @Brad_Shepard.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

NCAA Football Rankings 2014: Week 7 Standings and Analysis for Latest Polls

Over the course of the past week, half of The Associated Press Top 25 took a dive.

Those left to pick up the pieces found themselves with a historic task in terms of poll construction—and that's not to mention the outlook for the inaugural College Football Playoff.

Oregon, Alabama, Oklahoma, Texas A&M and UCLA all suffered crushing losses, throwing everything into chaos. Desmond Howard offered some thoughts before UCLA took a punch square on the chin late Saturday night:

By way of merely standing tall amid the chaos, Florida State and Auburn stand firm. Baylor and Notre Dame get bumped up in a big way. One problem for the pollsters: The Seminoles and the Fighting Irish go at it in a mere two weeks.

For now, though, here is what we are left with after arguably the most memorable weekend of action in years.

 

2014 College Football Week 7 Rankings

 

Week 7 Rankings Highlights

Notable Faller: Alabama

Nick Saban's Alabama Crimson Tide team is groggy and on the ropes.

This is not a typical Saban-led team, but, even more so, this is not a typical SEC conference. Entering the jaw-dropping weekend, six of the seven teams in the SEC West were ranked No. 15 or better.

The Crimson Tide were No. 3 and had seemingly found an answer to the quarterback issue in the form of Blake Sims. He was by no means spectacular against No. 11 Ole Miss on his way to a 19-of-31 line for 228 yards and an interception.

That said, an old foe reared its head once more and doomed the Crimson Tide, as ESPN Stats & Info details:

Adam Griffith went 1-for-3 on his kicking attempts, and in a game decided by late turnovers, that is simply not good enough. Forget that the defense gave up 251 passing yards and three touchdowns to Rebels senior quarterback Bo Wallace. Forget that Alabama managed 168 yards on the ground.

A tightly contested matchup was expected, and when the Crimson Tide commit critical turnovers and fail to nail down the basics on the road, it certainly calls into question whether the team can run the table against a downright brutal schedule.

Can Alabama run the table and make the CFP? Sure, but it is going to take a serious bounce-back effort on the road to the SEC title game.

For the time being, the dip in the ratings is deserved, although fans should have an inkling that the end result arguably has more to do with just how great the Rebels are this year than the deficiencies of a strong Alabama roster.

 

Notable Riser: TCU

Many tried to warn the nation about TCU, but few listened. 

Now, the Horned Frogs, who were previously ranked No. 25, have the attention of the globe. 

They welcomed Oklahoma, then ranked No. 4, to town Saturday. TCU totaled 469 yards of total offense and sent the Sooners packing with a 37-33 defeat. Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports noted that this is rather routine for this iteration of the Horned Frogs:

As had been the case for most of the season before Saturday, the Horned Frogs rolled thanks to junior dual-threat quarterback Trevone Boykin, who posted 318 yards and a 2-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio through the air while also leading the team in rushing with 22 totes for 77 yards.

"It basically gives us confidence," Boykin said, per The Associated Press, via ESPN.com. "Knowing that we can play with guys like OU, because a lot of Big 12 championships have went through there."

The rise up the ranks has been much overdue for TCU, a team that butters its bread on the defensive side of the football but still matched the explosive Sooners offense point for point. 

Playoff whispers seem a bit premature at this juncture, but the resume will be fully realized or hurt in less than a week when the Horned Frogs take a trip to Baylor to dance with the nation's No. 1 offense, which averages 51.0 points per game.

Should the defense stand strong once again, whispers of a CFP berth for the Horned Frogs will morph into full-blown screams.

 

Stats via ESPN.com. Amway Poll via USA Today. AP Poll via The Associated Press.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Must-See Filthy One-Handed Interception by Stud 2015 DB Seth Meredith

You don't have to play at the collegiate level to make ridiculous plays. Seth Meredith of Lacey, Washington, made an incredible interception in a high school game.

Is this the best interception you've seen all year?

Watch the video and let us know!

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Picks Week 7: Predictions and Odds for Top 25 Schedule

From the dying embers of a historic weekend of college football upsets rises a new-look Top 25 that promises to be every bit as catastrophic in terms of College Football Playoff implications.

A mere few days removed from witnessing half of the Top 10 in The Associated Press Top 25 rankings fall, a brief glance over the Week 7 slate assures that plenty of rank-ruining contests will make the lives of pollsters wildly difficult once again.

Whether it is a one-loss team such as Oregon looking to keep its CFP dreams alive or a red-hot Mississippi State squad looking for another upset to stay on the path, Week 7 is not one to take lightly—no letdown potential exists.

Here is a look at what is in store for the AP Top 25 members.

 

Week 7 Top 25 Schedule Projections

Note: All odds, updated as of 8 p.m. ET on Oct. 5, are courtesy of Odds Shark. 

 

Breaking Down Key Week 7 Matchups

No. 12 Oregon at No. 18 UCLA

Oregon, meet UCLA, a team previously ranked in the Top 10 before suffering a two-point loss to unranked Utah last week. UCLA, meet Oregon, a team previously ranked in the Top 10 before suffering a seven-point loss to unranked Arizona last week.

Marcus Mariota and Brett Hundley could use introductions too. The former was the Heisman favorite before his second loss to Arizona in as many years, which saw him throw for 276 yards and two scores but give the ball away on a late fumble.

Hundley was a sleeper for the prestigious award, but he was brutalized in the form of 10 sacks on the way to a mediocre performance.

That in no way prohibits this one from being quite entertaining, even if a joke by ESPN.com's Chantel Jennings sums up the contest quite well:

The overarching implications to this one could not be bigger. Both sides simply cannot afford a loss, with both still looking ahead to a matchup with Stanford and the Bruins needing to also deal with a tough USC team.

Sound offensive line play or not, there figures to be plenty of eye-popping production to catch in this one with two junior quarterbacks on the hunt to salvage individual hardware aspirations and championship goals after returning to school for those very reasons in the first place.

With his back against the wall, expect Mariota to emerge the victor in this particular duel. The UCLA defense has struggled all year long, giving up 20 points to Virginia, 35 to Memphis and 30 to Utah. He probably will not be upright a lot, but Mariota will get it done against a weak defense.

Prediction: Oregon 45, UCLA 35

 

No. 2 Auburn at No. 3 Mississippi State

Say hello to a pair of teams that somehow managed to stand tall in the midst of the chaos that was last week.

Well, perhaps "somehow" is the wrong word. Elite quarterback play led both teams to victory. Very similar quarterback play, at that.

Fans know about Nick Marshall. He led the Tigers through last year's successful campaign and has returned this year as an even better passer. In a 41-7 trouncing of LSU last week, the senior threw for 207 yards and a pair of scores, and dashed for another 119 and two more scores on the ground.

On the other side is an emerging national sensation in Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott, who reminds many of the efficient passing and bruising running ways of a collegiate legend by the name of Tim Tebow.

In a 48-31 upset over Texas A&M, Prescott was also successful in a dual-threat capacity, throwing for 259 yards and two scores, with another 77 yards and three scores on the ground. For some, including CBSSports.com's Dennis Dodd, Prescott's resume stacks up even better than Marshall's right now:

So yes, expect fireworks in another Week 7 showdown with wide-ranging implications. Hence the visit from the College GameDay crew, too:

Considering both teams go on to encounter a bevy of teams from the SEC, as well as a large chunk of the SEC West—which touted six of its seven teams in the Top 15 before last weekend—the importance of this showdown is huge.

Again, there is individual hardware on the line, but more important is a serious advantage on the rest of a conference that is doing nothing short of beating each other up on the road to the playoff. Right now the nod has to go with the more experienced quarterback and team in terms of recent success, road game or not.

Prediction: Auburn 40, Mississippi State 34

 

No. 9 TCU at No. 5 Baylor

It took a bit of time, but TCU is finally a known commodity on the national stage. 

One of the nation's top defenses also comes equipped with a dual-threat leader of its own in the form of junior Trevone Boykin, who ran wild on the then-ranked No. 4 Oklahoma Sooners last weekend to the tune of 318 passing yards and a pair of scores, with another 77 yards on the ground to lead the team in that area.

The nation was already well aware of the threat Baylor poses, though, even if the schedule to date has been lackluster at best.

Led by Heisman contender Bryce Petty, the Bears are 5-0, most recently knocking off the hapless Texas Longhorns, 28-7. There, Petty threw for 111 yards and two scores but let his backs, such as Shock Linwood (28 carries for 148 yards and a score), do the heavy lifting.

For Baylor coach Art Briles, his experienced squad looks better than ever.

"It was just a grind-out win. I think we're a better team than last year," Briles said, per The Associated Press, via ESPN.com. "This is a mature, tough minded, confident team that knows how to win."

For that talk to be reinforced, though, the Bears will need to shine in their first true test of the season. The TCU defense ranks in the top 10 and was able to fluster Oklahoma enough to get a win.

Whichever team walks away the winner has a serious advantage when it comes to a playoff berth, with the Big 12 being nowhere near as brutal as some of the other conferences. Understanding that, expect both quarterbacks in this matchup to also be in pristine form, which, in this case, gives a slight edge to Petty and the Bears.

Prediction: Baylor 48, TCU 45

 

Stats and information via ESPN.com unless otherwise specified. AP poll via The Associated Press.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Rankings 2014: Latest Standings and Predictions for Week 7

If Week 7 of the college football season ends up feeling a bit underwhelming, it's only because the early October matchups face the impossible task of living up to an upset-filled week that pitted 10 of the Top 25 teams against each other.

Five teams in The Associated Press Top 10 lost in Week 6—a strange, rare event that shook up the NCAA world and should lead to a very exciting second half of the college football season.

The latest AP rankings feature a tie between Ole Miss and Mississippi State for the No. 3 spot, which only serves to underscore the difficulty of coming to a consensus on the top teams in the nation at this point.

The Pac-12, once thought to have multiple College Football Playoff contenders, is in danger of missing out on sending a single representative to a major postseason game after losses by Oregon and UCLA—who, by the way, play each other in Week 7.

The SEC is once again the toughest conference in football, and whichever team emerges from that conference—be it Auburn, Alabama or Mississippi State—has a bona fide chance of making the national title game.

Here are the latest Top 25 standings, which of course look absolutely nothing like the previous iterations, followed by some predictions and previews for the highest-profile contests in Week 7.

 

Predictions

 

Game of the Week

No. 2 Auburn vs. No. 3 Mississippi State

This game could very well decide the SEC provided Alabama is unable to refocus and go on another typically dominant stretch of play. 

Auburn delighted fans with an out-of-nowhere SEC championship run in 2013, but it is very much a known commodity this year.

Mississippi State is one of the most well-rounded teams in the nation and still has a decidedly underdog flavor due to its mediocre history.

The Bulldogs rank 22nd in points against this season (19.2 per game), including a shutout win in Week 1 against Southern Miss, a difficult feat to achieve in college football. The offense has been in impeccable form as well, ranking 43rd in passing yards and 14th in the nation in rushing.

The Tigers defense boasts an even more impressive resume. It's given up a mere 14.4 points per game and features a fearsome defensive tackle in Montravius Adams, who's racked up five tackles for loss, one sack and one interception on the young season, per AuburnTigers.com.

This contest will likely come down to the play of the star quarterbacks: Mississippi State's Dak Prescott and Auburn's Nick Marshall.

Both are broad-shouldered, strong-armed quarterbacks who do loads of damage to opposing defenses both on the ground and through the air. At this point in the season, Prescott appears to be the superior passer although Marshall is coming off an assured, confident passing performance against a tough LSU secondary.

"You know, Nick played like one of the better quarterbacks in the entire country," said Auburn coach Gus Malzahn, via Brandon Marcello of AL.com.

He will have to be careful to not make mistakes against Mississippi State's ball-hawking defense, which has picked up nine interceptions thus far on the season. Sophomore linebacker Richie Brown has been especially adept at pilfering wayward passes, as he leads the team with three interceptions on the season.

The Bulldogs secondary may have to be in top form in this contest to slow down Marshall; the Auburn offensive line has given up just three sacks on the season, per NCAA.com. Generating a consistent pass rush—especially against a team apt to use draws, read options and bootlegs—could prove to be extremely difficult.

Prescott's dual-threat ability has some, like Bleacher Report's Adam Kramer, talking him up as a potential Heisman Trophy favorite:

Auburn defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson noted that Prescott has improved greatly as a passer this season.

"He was not as good at that time reading coverages and as accurate throwing," he said, via Joel A. Erickson of AL.com. "Right now, he's as good a dual-threat quarterback as there is in America. He's throwing the ball on time. He's throwing it accurately."

It should be noted that Prescott benefits from a superb supporting cast. Running back Josh Robinson is averaging 7.5 yards per carry, and the Bulldogs feature three big-play wide receiver threats in De'Runnya Wilson (just a perfect name for a wideout), Jameon Lewis and Fred Brown.

Marshall, on the other hand, clearly has a favorite target in wideout D'haquille Williams (25 receptions, 385 yards). No other receiver on the team has reached double digits in receptions thus far in 2014. Marshall's lack of a complete rapport with his receiving options could hurt his team in this one.

The squad that loses this game should still have a better chance of making it to the College Football Playoff than most one-loss teams. The SEC West is much tougher than the SEC East this season, making the winner of this game the odds-on favorite to win the conference provided these teams don't take turns losing to each other in the final weeks. 

Considering the Bulldogs have dominated in just about every facet of the game, expect them to edge out the Tigers in this one, with Prescott putting on another Heisman-worthy show.

Prediction: Mississippi State 31-27 Auburn

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Superlatives from Kramer's Korner: Was This the Best Week Ever?

Goal posts were triumphantly carried through cities, eventually making their way into apartment buildings. 

Bars and living rooms reached max capacity and then some. Fields were stormed, and because of this, fines were doled out and accepted with smiles. Hail Marys fell into unlikely arms. Tears were shed—on both ends of the emotional scale—and the greatest sport on the planet delivered one of the greatest Saturdays it has ever seen.

It’s hard to put the magnificence of Week 6 into words. If you curled up in front of your television—or hopefully, televisions—for Saturday in its entirety, letting the chaos flow through your veins, you were treated to complete and utter madness. And it was beautiful.

One image pretty much says it all, really.

Today got weird. pic.twitter.com/ccBmijQokw

— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) October 5, 2014

It wasn’t just the fact five of the nation’s top eight—and 11 of the top 19—teams lost outright, making this a truly historic day. The games themselves are what made Week 6 extraordinary. The end results will undoubtedly provide the ultimate memory, but the path to get there was what made it special.

Saturday began with Katy Perry hoisting corndogs to the Oxford sky, and it ended with Washington State and Cal shattering records and scoring touchdown after touchdown deep into the night. In between, there was everything. It was everything.

If you needed any validation as to why you obsess over this glorious game, you got it and then some.

Well done, college football. Take a bow and a few days off. You’ve earned it.

As for the awards and happenings from the week that was, here is my feeble attempt to recap a chapter of the college football season that might be un-recap-able.

 

Offensive Player of the Week: Connor Halliday, Washington State 

When you break the record for most passing yards in an FBS game, you’re going to get noticed. 

That’s precisely what Washington State quarterback Connor Halliday did Saturday night—well, Sunday morning for some—against Cal, completing 49 passes for 734 yards and six touchdowns. The previous record was 716 yards, set by Houston quarterback David Klingler in 1990.

Yes, he plays in an offense that can be allergic to running the football, and as a result, Halliday regularly posts enormous numbers. But when you throw for more than seven football fields and break a record that was set the year Driving Miss Daisy was named best picture, you’re walking away with something. 

And because Washington State still managed to lose this game—more on that momentarily—this is the least we can do. 

 

Dominant Defender: Richie Brown, Mississippi State

Linebacker Richie Brown finished Saturday with only three tackles, but the Mississippi State linebacker managed to match that number in takeaways against Texas A&M. By doing so, he was a pretty obvious selection for this category given what was on the line.

The sophomore intercepted two Kenny Hill passes in the second quarter. He then added a third interception in the second half, which tied a school record.

These takeaways gave the Bulldogs’ offense all the fuel it needed, and Dan Mullen's team cruised 48-31. In reality, it wasn’t even that close. 

 

Video Game Box Score

-The entire Washington State-Cal matchup was being played on novice. In total, the two teams combined for 119 points and 1,401 yards. Quarterbacks Connor Halliday and Jared Goff also finished with a combined 1,261 yards passing, which was also an FBS record. And if you need further perspective on this game, here’s you go.

cal’s jared goff and wazzu’s connor halliday passed for a combined 0.71 miles

— Jon Bois (@jon_bois) October 5, 2014

-On the topic of big performances in a loss, Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon finished with 257 rushing yards (a career high) and a touchdown on 27 carries. By nearly running for a first down on every touch, Gordon was rewarded with…an outright loss to Northwestern.

 

Anti-Video Game Box Score

-The conditions in South Bend, Indiana, for Notre Dame-Stanford were not optimal. It was cold, windy and rainy, and as a result, the offenses struggled mightily. This allowed the punters of each team to exhaust their legs, and the result is a punting output for the ages. Seriously, this sounds exhausting.

#NotreDame and #Stanford combined for 516 yards ... punting. #NDInsider

— Tyler James (@TJamesNDI) October 5, 2014

-A week after North Carolina State quarterback Jacoby Brissett threw for 359 yards and three touchdowns—going as far to complete a pass lying flat on his back—he was held to just four completions against Clemson. It took Brissett 19 throws to reach this mark, and the end result was 35 yards passing on the day. Let's just call it a minor setback.

 

Biggest Surprise

We knew Oregon had issues. The offensive line is being held together with duct tape, and it was clear after the scare against Washington State that all was not well. Still, it was assumed that Oregon would get it together or at least stay unbeaten long enough to get healthy and find its stride.

Coming off a bye against Arizona as more than a three-touchdown favorite, however, we quickly discovered this was not the case.

We could explore the issues with the Ducks at length. But instead, let’s celebrate Arizona on its potentially program-altering win (again) and an undefeated start to the season.

Rich Rodriguez really has never gotten the appreciation he deserves, although perhaps that is starting to change. At the very least, Arizona finds itself in fantastic shape as conference play kicks into gear.

It also appears to have the locker room celebration thing down pat.

 

Best Moment

It's hard to isolate just one. There are so many places and campuses we could visit to dig up the best moment of the weekend, and none of them would be wrong. 

In terms of overall excitement, however, how do you top Arizona State’s Hail Mary victory over USC? (If you’re a Trojans fan, now would be the time to fast-forward to another section. You know what happens next.) 

For the rest of you, let us celebrate the ultimate way to end a football game. Again. 

Jaelen Strong, one of the nation’s most gifted offensive players, capped off a brilliant day by hauling in the 46-yard touchdown as USC defenders could only sit back and watch. 

This is the second Hail Mary to be featured in this category this season. May I remind you that it's only been six weeks.

 

For the Highlight Reel 

Did you watch Kansas State beat up on Texas Tech? There was a lot going on, so there's no need to lie. If you didn’t—and you’re likely not alone—you missed one of the better catches of 2014. 

Kansas State wideout Curry Sexton managed to haul in a touchdown using his shoulder pad. To add to this elevated level of difficulty, he accomplished this feat mid-air while being heavily guarded—some might even say interfered with. No matter; he still came down with it.

Sexton finished the game with nine catches, two touchdowns and 128 yards receiving. None of his other grabs were as pretty as this, though.

 

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

Please keep in mind that these are not projections. The four teams listed below would make up our College Football Playoff if it began tomorrow.

Spoiler: It does not actually begin tomorrow, thankfully, so a limited sample size will have time to grow. 

With the SEC West poised to create Armageddon weekly, these teams will certainly be moving plenty. For now, however, we’re rewarding the SEC’s hot start by offering up the following. (Share your outrage accordingly. And remember, if your team is not included, it’s because I hate it.) 

1. Auburn

2. Mississippi State

3. Florida State

4. Ole Miss

 

Five Leftovers to Chew on

1. What a bummer for BYU and quarterback Taysom Hill, who suffered a broken leg Friday night against Utah State. As a result, he will miss the rest of the season, which seriously alters the outlook for the Cougars for the remainder of 2014. This isn’t just a loss for BYU, though. Few players are more exciting on a play-to-play basis than Hill, who still has a year of eligibility remaining. Hopefully he heals up and we’re able to enjoy his chaotic and successful style for one more season.

2. The game was ugly—much like the South Bend, Indiana, weather—although the Irish did just enough to power past Stanford at home. This game, given everything that happened, was somewhat lost in the madness. Brian Kelly’s team hasn’t exactly been crisp over the past few games, but it doesn’t matter, not yet, at least. Undefeated is the name of the game. Also, why aren’t more people talking about this Notre Dame defense? It’s been outstanding.

3. This cannot be the same Trevone Boykin. It just can’t be. The TCU quarterback isn’t just improved; he looks like a different player entirely. His passes down the field against Oklahoma were on the money for much of the game, and the Horned Frogs’ offense suddenly looks dynamic after struggling in recent years. Boykin might be the nation’s most improved player, and he can back up this claim further against Baylor in Week 7.

4. Remember a few weeks ago when we decided to rule the Big Ten out of the College Football Playoff? We do this kind of stuff a lot, don’t we? Although Nebraska made Michigan State sweat plenty at the end of its game—and kudos to the Cornhuskers for a fabulous effort—the Spartans are very much in the mix when it comes to the playoff after so many teams in front of them lost. We have such a long way to go.

5. What do Northwestern, Cal, Arizona and Georgia Tech have in common? As it stands at this moment in time, all four of these teams are currently leading their divisions, just like you predicted before the season began. Please note that the previous sentence is in desperate need of a sarcasm font. If you did actually predict this, you should move to Vegas immediately.

 

Katy Perry, Corndogs and Lee Corso 

I can’t possibly add anything further to this picture without getting fired, so please enjoy the cover of the Week 6 Encyclopedia.

pic.twitter.com/O7UtW2d4GG

— Spencer Hall (@edsbs) October 4, 2014

 

That One Time Katy Perry Hit on Trevor Knight in Front of the Whole World

You could pin Oklahoma’s loss to TCU on a number of items. Turnovers, defensive breakdowns and overall sloppy play certainly played a role. Plus, TCU played one heck of a game.

Or, you could highlight the reason the Sooners fell. 

Katy Perry, on national television, basically asked Trevor Knight on a date. If you’re wondering why the quarterback delivered his most disappointing game of the season, you have your answer.

Katy Perry wants Trevor Knight to call her. https://t.co/auXm2Wg964

— Pistols Firing (@pistolsguy) October 4, 2014

Knight never stood a chance.

 

This Week in Officials Scolding Themselves in Front of the Whole World

While officiating Mississippi State-Texas A&M, Ken Williamson went to make a call and faced the wrong direction for television purposes. For doing so, he decided to scold himself in front a packed stadium and much of the college football world watching. 

I watched this live, and I don’t believe I’ve stopped laughing yet. 

Ken Williamson really cares about his job; this much is clear. I’d hate to see what happens when he gets a flat tire or is late to the dentist.

 

This Week in Punter Body Slams 

Things were going swimmingly for Georgia Tech punter Ryan Rodwell. A fake punt was called, there was daylight and he picked up the first down without issue. Life was great. 

Miami’s Marques Gayot quickly changed all that by offering up his classic finishing move.

The only thing missing from this was a poorly constructed table, some exciting commentary from Jim Ross and a contract with Vince McMahon’s signature on the bottom.

 

This Week in End Zone Hide-and-Seek

Let’s call this the “camouflaged frog” and hope every other team in the country attempts this amazing bit of deception at some point over the next two weeks. 

Please take note of TCU running back B.J. Catalon in the video below, assuming you can find him. He’s the player that purposely laid down in the "O" of "Horned Frogs" in the TCU end zone before the kickoff. He was hiding. (Don’t tell anyone.)

His teammate caught the kickoff and threw it across the field to Catalon who emerged from his hiding spot. TCU then turned this glorious play into a big gain.

Yes, a holding penalty negated some of the awesomeness, but we all saw it. It was real and spectacular.

 

This Week in Todd Gurley is Unfair 

We get it, Todd. Geez. 

You’re big, you’re fast, you’re robot strong and you can catch passes. The fact that you can throw passes—and also that you’re a lefty—is just showing off at this point.  

This 50-yard completion was Georgia’s longest of the season. Now, how about leaving some physical excellence for the rest of us.

No? OK then. Carry on.

 

Large Man Moment of the Week

Jake Cotton sensed that Michigan State was bringing pressure. And although the Nebraska guard tried to hold off the urge to move, he simply could not.

Cotton tried to cover up his flinch by turning it into one continuous move. The end result is one of the finer Vines ever created. It’s made even slightly more spectacular with the appropriate song attached. 

I don’t know how you could possibly penalize someone for this. If anything, he should get a Chili’s gift card and an automatic first down. 

 

Reason No. 23,456 College Football is Beautiful

When advanced coordination is involved, stadiums can create magnificent art. The scene at Tennessee, despite the loss, was splendid.

A Tradition Unrivaled #CheckerNeylandpic.twitter.com/uI3wFaf4TQ

— Jason Bates (@jasonkbates) October 4, 2014

 

Reason No. 23,457 College Football is Beautiful

In a chaotic and insane football moment for the state of Mississippi, two human beings expressed their love for one another on the field they worship as the masses swarmed around them. It's like they were all alone.

Tremendous. RT @ChipBrooker: Rebel fans behind me gave a whole new meaning to "rushing" the field #HottyToddypic.twitter.com/T7AVJGpd1i

— Andy Staples (@Andy_Staples) October 5, 2014

What a sport.

 

From the Peanut Gallery (Best Tweets of the Weekend) 

pic.twitter.com/WJORETMrM2

— nick pants (@nick_pants) October 3, 2014

Frame it and put it in the football offices, Wake pic.twitter.com/eg9ZtBssMg

— Brian Floyd (@BrianMFloyd) October 4, 2014

Ulysses S. Grant with the interception! pic.twitter.com/bc4R7zjQyM

— MSU Football (@HailStateFB) October 4, 2014

Game. Over. pic.twitter.com/RGxvtOYUUg

— Arizona Athletics (@AZATHLETICS) October 3, 2014

Was Week 6 the best we've seen? The evidence is rather convincing. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football: Week 6 Recap, Pick Results and Final Thought

We knew Week 6 of the college football season would be exciting, but no one could have anticipated what would ensue on Saturday. The 2014 season hit a new level of craziness with five of the AP Top 10 teams losing this week, along with other huge upsets. 

On Thursday night, a 31-24 Arizona upset win over a second-ranked Oregon team, which had not lost at home since the end of the 2012 season, appeared to be just a preview of what to expect in Saturday’s matchups. Not to mention, Utah State’s 35-20 upset over No. 18 BYU, who lost Heisman-contending quarterback Taysom Hill for the season due to a fractured left leg on Friday, was another upset prior to Saturday. 

No. 12 Mississippi State had likely the most impressive performance of Week 6 with its 48-31 blowout win over Kenny Hill and the No. 6 Texas A&M Aggies. Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott continued to prove that he is a Heisman contender, as the junior passed for 259 yards, rushed for 77 yards and accounted for five touchdowns. 

The pandemonium of upsets and exciting finishes began in the early evening though, as Alabama, Stanford and Oklahoma all went down within the same hour.  

After battling adversity for most of the game, No. 11 Ole Miss scored on a Bo Wallace 34-yard pass to wide receiver Vince Sanders with 5:29 remaining in the fourth quarter to knot things up at 17.

On the ensuing kickoff, the game-changing play occurred when Alabama’s Christion Jones fumbled and Ole Miss’ Kailo Moore recovered the ball on the Crimson Tide’s 31-yard line. Five plays later, running back Jaylen Walton made a sensational 10-yard touchdown catch from Wallace to give the Rebels their first lead of the game, 23-17. 

A Blake Sims pass, which was intercepted in the end zone with 37 seconds left, was all Ole Miss needed to knock off the third-ranked Crimson Tide 23-17 for the first time since 2003.  

Within the same hour, No. 9 Notre Dame appeared to be on the verge of its first loss of the season, after Stanford scored on a Remound Wright 11-yard touchdown run on 3rd-and-goal with three minutes left in the fourth quarter. Just two minutes later though, Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson threw a 23-yard strike to tight end Ben Koyack in the end zone on 4th-and-11 to defeat the Cardinal 17-14. The Luck of the Irish appears to have returned from the 2012 season already.

After both Notre Dame and Ole Miss found ways to win their games, it was time for No. 25 TCU to pull off a home upset of its own. An impressive interception by linebacker Paul Dawson, which resulted in a Horned Frog 41-yard touchdown return, gave TCU the go-ahead score. 

Three turnovers on four plays in just one minute midway through the fourth quarter made the game just that much more interesting. The Sooners had their opportunities to avoid being defeated by the Horned Frogs but were unable to convert on 4th-and-1 on TCU’s 22-yard line and failed to complete a Hail Mary pass as time expired. TCU knocked off Oklahoma 37-33 and defeated the Sooners for the first time since 2005. 

Just when the nation thought it got all it could handle, there was more to come. No. 16 USC looked to be in the clear against Arizona State with 3:02 remaining in the fourth quarter, after a 53-yard touchdown run by running back Javorius Allen put the Trojans up 34-25. 

The Sun Devils, though, led by backup quarterback Mike Bercovici, scored on a 73-yard touchdown pass 19 seconds later and then won on a 46-yard Hail Mary caught by wide receiver Jaelen Strong as time expired, which gave Arizona State an improbable 38-34 upset win at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. 

Tenth-ranked Michigan State had to hold off 19th-ranked Nebraska late in the fourth quarter, after the Huskers scored 19 unanswered points. The Spartans came away with a 27-22 victory, as the defense held Nebraska running back Ameer Abdullah to just 45 rushing yards and two touchdowns. 

Other upsets included No. 8 UCLA missing a game-winning field goal at home to unranked Utah as time expired, which gave the Utes a 30-28 win. Kentucky also took down South Carolina at home, 45-38, and No. 17 Wisconsin dropped a close one at Northwestern, 20-14. 

No. 1 Florida State blew out Wake Forest, 43-3, and newly ranked No. 2 Auburn ran all over rival No. 15 LSU, 41-7.

 

Pick Results

Overall Record: 20-10

Week 6 Record: 3-2

Note: Team in bold indicates author’s pick

 

Prediction: Texas A&M 38, Mississippi State 34

Result: Mississippi State 48, Texas A&M 31

 

Prediction: Alabama 31, Ole Miss 24

Result: Ole Miss 23, Alabama 17

 

Prediction: Notre Dame 24, Stanford 20

Result: Notre Dame 17, Stanford 14

 

Prediction: Auburn 35, LSU 26

Result: Auburn 41, LSU 7

 

Prediction: Michigan State 34, Nebraska 24

Result: Michigan State 27, Nebraska 22

 

Final Thought

Week 6 will likely go down as one of the best in recent college football history. Four of the top six teams went down for the first time since Week 11 of the 1990 season. Those four teams were Virginia, Nebraska, Auburn and Illinois. 

Florida State and Auburn, who faced off in the final BCS National Championship season, hold the top-two spots in the AP rankings and saw their national title hopes almost fade in Week 4. Both teams escaped with six-point wins, though. 

The Seminoles will host No. 6 Notre Dame in two weeks, while the Tigers will travel to No. 3 Mississippi State next week. There is a chance for more chaos to occur in the upcoming weeks. 

The inaugural year of the College Football Playoff could be more interesting than anyone could have expected. Heavy favorites Oregon, Alabama, Oklahoma and Michigan State have already lost, putting a new slew of teams in the mix. 

Both Mississippi schools are proving to be dangerous in a top-heavy SEC West Division. TCU, who was a dark horse to contend for the Big 12 during the preseason, is 4-0 and has already moved into the Top 10.

It will travel to No. 5 Baylor on Saturday in what could be the difference in the Horned Frogs winning their first Big 12 title in school history. 

The other school making noise this season is Rich Rodriguez’s Arizona Wildcats. Freshman quarterback Anu Solomon led the Wildcats to their first win at Oregon since 2006, and the team is now a strong contender to win the Pac-12 South Division. The Wildcats will host a disappointed USC squad on Saturday and will still have a lot of work to do as they make their way through conference play. 

It’s still early in the season, but will there be a surprise taking part in the College Football Playoff of this season?

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Ohio State Football: 3 Startling Statistics Through 6 Weeks

There were high expectations for the Ohio State football team coming into the 2014 season, but after star quarterback Braxton Miller was lost for the year after suffering a shoulder injury in fall camp, the Buckeyes' college football playoff hopes took a serious hit.

Those hopes took a potentially fatal blow in Week 2, when the Virginia Tech Hokies upset Ohio State 35-21 in Columbus. 

But a trio of consecutive blowouts have the Buckeyes back on track heading into their second and final bye week of the season.

Here are three notable statistics after Ohio State's first five games.

 

J.T. Barrett's Video Game Numbers

When Miller went down for the season, it was redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett who emerged over Cardale Jones for the Buckeyes' starting quarterback spot. 

Through five games, Barrett has been sensational—completing 66.2 percent of his passes for 1,354 yards and 17 touchdowns against five interceptions. He also has 276 rushing yards—which ranks second on the team behind Ezekiel Elliott—with another two scores on the ground.

But Barrett's strength is in the passing game. Not only is he leading the Big Ten in passing touchdowns, but he also currently ranks No. 4 in the country in overall passing efficiency. That's a remarkable accomplishment for the first-year signal-caller, especially after his abysmal performance against Virginia Tech. The Buckeyes were blasted by the Hokies, and Barrett completed just 31 percent of his passes and threw three picks in the game.

He has bounced back nicely, though, and he has the Buckeyes playing at a high level.

 

Michael Thomas' Team-Leading Receiving Numbers

Without Carlos Hyde and four multi-year senior starters along the offensive line, Urban Meyer wanted the Buckeyes to shift their offensive philosophy to take advantage of an abundance of talent on the perimeter. 

With player such as Dontre Wilson, Devin Smith and longtime contributor Evan Spencer, Barrett has plenty of options when he drops back to pass.

His best option so for has been Michael Thomas.

The redshirt sophomore out of Los Angeles, California has been the breakout star for the Buckeyes. Thomas currently leads the team in receptions (17) and receiving yards (322) and is tied for the team lead with Devin Smith in touchdown receptions (five). 

His sudden emergence was a welcome development for Meyer, who watched as Thomas' career got off to a slow start.

"He was a mistake guy," Meyer said of Thomas, according to Bill Rabinowitz of The Columbus Dispatch. "Every third play he’d screw up. That’s why last year he wasn’t ready to play. That was really hard for him last year.”

Those struggles appear to be behind Thomas, and Ohio State is much better because of it. 

 

Ohio State's Lack of Sacks

After Meyer told Doug Lesmerises of the Northeast Ohio Media Group that Ohio State's defensive line had the potential to be as good as his one at Florida in 2006—which dismantled the Buckeyes in the '07 title game—the hype surrounding the unit peaked.

Stocked with three potential first-round NFL draft picks, Ohio State's defensive line was supposed to help a rebuilt secondary by getting after the quarterback. Before the season kicked off, the group was touted as one of the best—if not the best—defensive lines in the country.

But through five games, the Buckeyes are averaging just 2.4 sacks per game, which is tied for 47th in the country.

The Buckeyes are certainly missing Noah Spence—a star defensive end who was suspended indefinitely after testing positive for his second drug test in September. 

Joey Bosa has been a consistent presence in the backfield of Ohio State's opponents, piling up 3.5 sacks on the season, according to Ohio State's official website. But no other defensive lineman has recorded more than one sack through five games, as the team has just 12 total on the year.

There's still time for the unit to turn things around, but it's definitely off to a slower start than most had anticipated.

 

Unless otherwise noted, all stats via NCAA.com

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Rankings 2014: Most Underrated Teams in Week 7 Coaches Poll

Week 6 was one for the ages in college football as a number of upsets created a major shakeup in the latest Amway Coaches Poll.

Starting with Oregon's loss on Thursday, the weekend featured 11 losses by ranked teams, including five squads among the top eight. Meanwhile, the teams that pulled off these upsets, like Ole Miss and Mississippi State, shot up near the top of the polls for the upcoming week.

While this is going to cause a change in expectations for the College Football Playoff, there are still a bunch of overlooked teams through this point in the season. These squads have proven themselves on the field but are still not getting the credit they deserve in the latest polls.

 

No. 6 Mississippi State

After last weekend's fireworks, there are only nine remaining undefeated teams in college football. Three of those teams come from the SEC West, which makes it no surprise the division still has five teams ranked in the top 15.

However, the question remains why Mississippi State comes into Week 7 ranked sixth. Obviously, someone has to be the odd man out with so many quality teams at the top, but it should not be the Bulldogs after what they have shown this season.

Mississippi State has won all five of its games this year by an average of 23.2 points per game. Over the last two weeks, the squad has won at LSU and home against Texas A&M, both of which came in convincing fashion. The team was up at least three touchdowns in each contest before late touchdowns made the games close.

Dan Wolken of USA Today believes the latest ranking was way too low for the SEC squad:

Besides Notre Dame, you can question the merit of putting Baylor at No. 3 despite not facing a single ranked opponent this season.

Obviously, Mississippi State is not used to complaining about being too low and is usually happy to be ranked at all. Ralph D. Russo of the Associated Press notes this is the highest the school has ever been in the polls:

Still, this team has proven to be one of the best in the nation and deserves to be ranked as such. With a home game against No. 2 Auburn coming up, the squad will have a chance to move up even more next week.

 

No. 11 Oregon

Oregon was certainly disappointed to drop a game to a conference opponent at home, but head coach Mark Helfrich remained upbeat the day after the loss:

The biggest thing is the spirit of the team and the guys they have the willingness to do something about it and they did. Everyone was in good spirits this morning, as good as could be expected in the situation. Again have to give Arizona a ton of credit but there was a lot of stuff in this game that makes it that much more of a bitter pill to swallow in terms of self-inflicted wounds and some of the mistakes we made.

Between two lost fumbles and a 4-of-14 mark on third downs, there was certainly a lot to be upset about. However, this is still one of the best teams in the nation with arguably college football's top player in Marcus Mariota.

After seeing many other top teams lose on Saturday, the Ducks had to feel better about remaining in the playoff hunt. Unfortunately, that does not seem to be the case after dropping from No. 4 to No. 11 in the rankings.

Oregon is currently behind four other one-loss teams in the Coaches Poll, two of which do not have a win over a ranked team all season. Another one, Michigan State, lost directly to the Ducks 46-27. Putting the Spartans three spots ahead of a team with the same record that they lost to does not make much sense.

While the Ducks might have had a disappointing loss, it came against a quality opponent in Arizona (which is still undefeated). Considering they also have the best win among the one-loss teams, they should be ranked higher than they are.

The Pac-12 is going to be a fight all season long, but Oregon remains a national title contender and should get that chance by winning out.

 

No. 16 Kansas State

While seemingly every team in the nation dealt with its own craziness on Saturday, Kansas State avoided trouble, as noted by CBS Sports:

Jake Waters posted another incredible performance against Texas Tech, throwing four touchdown passes on 290 yards while also adding 105 and a score on the ground. The quarterback has turned himself into a Heisman candidate with his dual-threat ability while turning Kansas State into one of the best offenses in the country.

Although this team does have one loss, that came against now-No. 2 Auburn by just a six-point margin. A few late turnovers ruined the Wildcats' chances for pulling off an upset.

The good news is this team will get more chances to show what it can do. After a bye in Week 7, Kansas State will go on the road to take on Oklahoma. Big 12 matchups against Oklahoma State, TCU and Baylor also loom later in the schedule.

With loads of talent everywhere on the field, this squad has a chance to be a top contender for the conference title.

Kansas State is only being punished for making a tough non-conference schedule and taking on one of the best teams in the league. In reality, the Wildcats should be higher on the list and a legitimate contender for the College Football Playoff.

 

Follow Rob Goldberg on Twitter for the latest breaking news and analysis.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Michigan Football: 5 Startling Statistics Through 6 Weeks

There probably aren’t many who thought Michigan would be sitting at 2-4 after six games.

But it’s true: Team 135, for lack of a better term, just isn’t that good. At this point, discussing potential and who needs to “step up” are wastes of time. Now halfway through the season, Michigan should know what it is.

The rest of college football does.

But how did it come to this?

Sure, this past Saturday’s 26-24 loss to Rutgers was bad, but it wasn’t as bad as the setbacks to Notre Dame, Utah and Minnesota. Michigan, particularly its offense, teased its fans with a positive step or two in New Jersey, only to fall three steps behind the next play.

For the first time since 1967, the Wolverines are 0-2 in the Big Ten. Things aren’t going to get any easier, as Penn State comes to town this weekend—then it’s on to Michigan State on Oct. 25, which looks like it’ll be a miserable encounter for coach Brady Hoke, whose job status seems to get iffier and iffier by the week.

 

Giving Away Games

Efficient drives end in points. Needless to say, the inability to string together possessions continues to overshadow Michigan, which averages just 19 first downs and converts just 41.6 percent of its third downs (both marks rank No. 8 in the Big Ten).

On average, the Wolverines gift 2.17 turnovers to the other side each Saturday. Their 15 turnovers (five fumbles, 10 picks) are the most in the league. Turnovers happen from time to time, even to the best of teams. However, Michigan has trouble making up for them, ranking last in the league with a minus-13 margin.

 

Running Backs in No Rush

Evidently, sophomore bruisers Derrick Green and De’Veon Smith aren’t enough. They are on paper. But on the field?

No, they are not. 

Despite having one of his better games in a maize and blue uniform, Green, who carried 12 times for 74 yards versus Rutgers, is long overdue (and behind) in the production department. His team-leading 488 yards and average of 5.7 yards per touch are deceiving.

Part of that is on Green, who just can’t seem to get his wheels turning, and part of that is on the O-line. When it comes to gauging him, glasses are either half-full or half-empty. He’s either doing well with what’s available, or he’s simply the beneficiary of a few defensive mishaps on the part of the opposition.

Neither answer is wrong. 

Smith is another story all together. Like most running backs by Week 6, he’s had a handful of great runs. He ran hard against Rutgers, too. On top of that, he picks up six yards per carry.

But he only contributes 47 yards each Saturday. And he’s spent as much time running into his own linemen as he’s spent running over the other guys.

 

Secondary is a Primary Concern

It doesn’t take an expert to see that Blake Countess is frustrated. Of course, he doesn’t say so during press conferences, but, put it this way: The redshirt junior doesn’t have the best poker face.

The 5’10”, 180-pound corner insists that his position group will come to form. It has to, because—and here’s that phrase again—on paper, Michigan’s too deep at defensive back to fail. Prior to the season, Countess was in consideration for the Jim Thorpe Award.

After watching a trio of touchdowns sail by Saturday, it’s safe to say that he’s no longer in the discussion.

Want another deceiving stat? Good. Here’s one: The Wolverines have the No. 3-ranked pass defense in the Big Ten. But that means nothing when chunk plays are the norm for a group of guys who often find their backs to the ball.

 

Offensive Line Isn’t Carrying Its Weight

Once again, Devin Gardner is a moving target with a gigantic bullseye on his chest and back. In 2013, he was sacked 34 times, the third most in FBS. This season, he’s been sacked 13 times, putting him at No. 20 in that regard, per ESPN.

Running for his life, Gardner, a fifth-year senior quarterback, was sacked twice by Rutgers, which now leads the nation with 24.

 

Points Are at a Premium

Team 135’s scoring offense ranks dead last in the Big Ten. Offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier was supposed to bring a new energy to the befuddled scoring attack; but instead, his position group musters just 22.3 points per game, per BigTen.org. As a whole, Michigan has the No. 12-ranked total offense, averaging 354 yards per outing.

Granted, things looked better this past Saturday in New Jersey, but the fact remains this offense is far too inconsistent to compete, let alone win. It’s a stat that won’t go away and for good reason: The Wolverines have been held out of their opponents’ red zone in two of six games.

Despite converting three of three (three rushing touchdowns) red-zone attempts versus Rutgers, Nussmeier’s personnel have miles to go before they’re up to par.

In a perfect world, Michigan would be 5-1 or 6-0. However, its reality is much different. And sadly, there isn’t a rewind button in college football, not even for a team that was thought to be destined for much better. 

However, Wolverines fans probably wouldn’t mind a fast-forward button, as their hopes and dreams are now reserved for 2015.

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Pages