NCAA Football News

Georgia Football: Ranking the Top 5 Surprises for the Bulldogs This Year

It has been a whirlwind of a season for the Georgia Bulldogs. They are 7-2 (5-2 in the SEC) and even with the losses to Florida and South Carolina, the Bulldogs have a chance to win the SEC East and the SEC if they beat Auburn on Saturday.

It’s clear this year’s team is a lot better than last year’s squad, and there are lot of different variables that come into the equation when talking about why the Bulldogs are a much better team this season.

Here are the top five surprises for the Bulldogs this season.

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Saturday Is Perfect Chance for Arkansas and Bret Bielema to Get First SEC Win

"The waiting is the hardest part."

They didn't know it at the time, but Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers' classic 1981 song could be specifically used to describe the Arkansas football program.

Arkansas is winless in the SEC this year (0-5), lost all eight of its conference contests last season—head coach Bret Bielema's first in Fayetteville—and lost four straight SEC games to close out former head coach John L. Smith's one and only year in 2012.

Arkansas' 49-7 win over Kentucky on Oct. 13, 2012 was the last time the Hogs were victorious in conference play, and as Aaron Torres of FoxSports.com notes, quite a bit has happened since then, including Tim Tebow playing for two NFL teams.

Bielema knows that this week's game against LSU in Fayetteville is the perfect chance for his Hogs to get off the schneid.

"We're owning a streak here of losses that unfortunately is long," Bielema said on Wednesday's teleconference. "The part for me that's really been fun is that we are right there knocking on the door. We're going to break through it. I don't know if it's going to be this weekend, or next, or the week after, or when it's going to be."

Saturday's matchup with the Tigers is the perfect time for Bielema's crew to break through that glass ceiling.

The Hogs are fresh off a bye week after taking No. 1 Mississippi State to the edge of disaster two weeks ago in a 17-10 loss. In that game, Razorback Brandon Allen was picked off by Will Redmond in the end zone with 15 seconds to play. It was Arkansas' third SEC loss this season that was decided by one score or less—all of which have come against ranked opponents (No. 24 Texas A&M, No. 5 Alabama and No. 1 Mississippi State).

Those heartbreaking losses are being used as positives by Bielema and his staff.

"Sometimes your greatest blessings come in the disguise of failure," he said.

His Hogs are catching LSU at the right time.

The Tigers are fresh off a heartbreaking defeat of their own—a 20-13 loss to visiting Alabama last Saturday night in Death Valley. Quarterback Anthony Jennings hasn't completed more than 50 percent of his passes in any game since Sept. 13 when he completed 61.1 percent (11-of-18) in a 31-0 win over Louisiana-Monroe. The running back depth LSU has enjoyed all season has taken a hit this week, with senior Kenny Hilliard's status uncertain for the showdown in Fayetteville.

"Kenny got a little practice time today," Miles told Gannett Louisiana's Glenn Guilbeau after practice on Wednesday. "But I'm not certain he's slated for duty. He's day to day."

With forecast calling for snow on Saturday night, the combination of a "Bama hangover" for LSU and an inconsistent offense have LSU ripe for the picking.

Arkansas is fresh, at home, has the heaviest offensive line in college football and also has a "weatherproof" offense that will lean on the Tigers' defense.

"Offensively, one of the reasons we go with this kind of offense is that it can play in all weather," Bielema said on Wednesday's teleconference. "It can play dry in 100-plus degrees and can play wet in freezing temperatures."

The folks in Las Vegas seem to like the Hogs. Arkansas opened as a 1.5-point favorite over the 17th-ranked Tigers and have since moved up to two-point favorites according to OddsShark.com. Those hotels weren't built by making bad lines.

Vegas knows Arkansas is on the brink of breaking through and LSU is vulnerable. The Hogs will do so in a big way in chilly Fayetteville on Saturday night.

 

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and video analyst for Bleacher Report as well as a co-host of the CFB Hangover on Bleacher Report Radio (Sundays, 9-11 a.m. ET) on Sirius 93, XM 208.

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of CFBStats.com, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

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College Football Week 12: Top 25 Upset Alert

Believe it or not, Week 12 is upon us. As we inch closer to December, each game becomes important. That means potential upsets hold even more significance. 

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Adam Kramer blows the whistle and addresses which ranked teams are on upset alert. 

Which top team will fall this weekend?

Check out the video and let us know! 

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LSU vs. Arkansas: TV Info, Spread, Injury Updates, Game Time and More

The LSU Tigers and Arkansas Razorbacks will have a lot in common when the two meet in Fayetteville for what is sure to be a brutal SEC encounter.

Both programs tout similar philosophies: run the ball and play great defense. LSU enters after a crushing overtime loss to Alabama at home, but Arkansas surely understands that feeling—last time out for the Razorbacks, they fell narrowly 17-10 to No. 1 Mississippi State.

With inclement weather inbound, the run and overall physical nature of these two programs will put on a violent affair Saturday night as they vent their frustrations with how the season has unfolded.

Traditional, conquer-the-environment football is on the slate. Bask in the rare occurrence.

 

War of Attrition

LSU prides itself on its ability to run the football. Even though Les Miles sounds somewhat disheartened by a miserable forecast that calls for temperatures in the 20s and snow, one could bet the coach would have it no other way.

"Obviously, the weather is what it is," Miles said, per Mike Herndon of AL.com. "When you get there, you're going to have to make adjustments in the things that you're willing to or want to do, or you're not. We're both suited, I would guess, for what could be the possibility of bad weather. It might end up being 50 runs a team."

LSU has a three-headed monster at tailback that masks the up-and-down play the Tigers continue to get from under center:

Impressive, right? Arkansas does the same exact thing:

As one can imagine, the two are pretty close in the ranks. Arkansas comes in at No. 17 with an average of 248.2 rushing yards per game. LSU is 29th at 221.4.

Both defenses are predictably well-equipped to stop the run, too. LSU ranks fifth in the nation with just 16.3 points allowed per game on average. Arkansas has worse luck in that area, but keep in mind it is the same unit that held Alabama to 66 rushing yards earlier this season.

It should come as no surprise that the two annually put on close affairs, as LSU's sports information director Michael Bonnette details:

Saturday night may not have wide-ranging implications like some of the earlier games do, but LSU and Arkansas might just put on a classic, anyway.

 

One Play...

...Changes everything between these two.

Just look at last year when a deep ball from Anthony Jennings to Travin Dural allowed LSU to overcome Arkansas.

That would be the heart of the problem for Bret Bielema's team once again this season. The Razorbacks allow 10.5 yards per passing attempt against SEC opponents this season. Even Georgia's Hutson Mason looked solid against the up-and-down Arkansas secondary.

Thus far, Jennings has completed a miserable 47.1 percent of his passes this year with nine touchdowns to six interceptions. But he has a superb cast of talent to hit on each down, ranging from Dural (701 yards, seven touchdowns) to Malachi Dupre (271 and five) and beyond.

Should the Razorbacks get lulled to sleep in the sloppy conditions and Jennings heave a clunker deep, it may decide the game outright.

 

When: Saturday, November 15, 8 p.m. ET

Where: Razorback Stadium, Fayetteville, Arkansas

Television: ESPN2

Betting Lines (via Odds Shark):

  • Over/Under: 47.5
  • Spread: Arkansas (-2)

 

Team Injury Reports

Injury reports per The Sports Network, via USA Today.

 

Prediction

It is hard to trust LSU heading into a hostile environment after a gut-wrenching loss.

Sometimes Las Vegas is just right, no matter how silly the lines seem. The Tigers have a stable of talented backs but encounter an elite run defense and may struggle to get anything going through the air.

Conversely, Arkansas comes off a bye both rested and armed with an extra week of preparation for this very contest. It is a scary concoction that suggests the Razorbacks can pull off the upset in what is a traditionally close encounter.

Prediction: Razorbacks 24, Tigers 20

 

Statistics and info courtesy of ESPN unless otherwise specified.

 

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Northwestern vs. Notre Dame: TV Info, Spread, Injury Updates, Game Time and More

Old rivals Northwestern and Notre Dame could share horror stories about events suffered in the last week—or month—when they meet Saturday.

The 3-6 Wildcats enter riding a four-game skid capped off by a decision from coach Pat Fitzgerald last week to attempt a two-point conversion rather than kick an extra point to go to overtime. Michigan was awarded the 10-9 victory as a result.

Notre Dame has lost two of its last three, highlighted by fumbling away an opportunity in the desert to upend Arizona State and keep its College Football Playoff hopes alive.

A clean game from either team Saturday would be nice. A win over a rival would do wonders for morale as both programs begin to eye next season. 

 

Fighting for the Future

Notre Dame needs to rally around senior quarterback Everett Golson before it is too late.

Golson put on another dud of a performance last week in the 55-31 loss to the Sun Devils, as an illustration from ESPN CollegeFootball shows:

Brian Kelly's quarterback now has 15 turnovers in his last six games after none in his first three. Golson has as many fumbles in that span as games played. He has tossed 17 interceptions overall, a mark 87 teams have either matched or not reached.

Kelly is adamant, though, that his quarterback is not the only person to blame for the issues.

"There are 10 other guys that have a lot to do with those turnovers," Kelly said, per The Associated Press, via ESPN.com. "He's got 10 other players that have to do their job, and they've got to do their job better."

Fair enough. Last week two batted passes led to picks and Golson was sacked seven times. The offensive line certainly gets some blame. Regardless of where the finger points, it is imperative that things improve against a stingy Northwestern defense looking for a turnaround of its own.

 

Rekindling the Magic

Expect Fitzgerald and his staff to pull out all the stops defensively to rattle the Fighting Irish, just as the Wildcats did back in 1995 en route to a shocking upset. 

Notre Dame has already shown it can be upended as Golson and his unit succumb to pressure. In that same vein, the Wildcats have already toppled elite offenses this season.

Think back to early October when the Wildcats welcomed then-No. 17 Wisconsin to town—the same Wisconsin that still averages 36.8 points per game and ranks No. 5 in the nation in rushing. That offense struggled on the way to a total of 14 points and Badgers quarterback Joel Stave tossing a trio of interceptions.

Kelly is well aware of the challenge the Wildcats present, as captured by Douglas Farmer of Blue and Gold News:

In total, the Wildcats surrender just 22.3 points per game on average, although two of their four recent losses have seen opponents score 38 or more.

Still, the recipe for upending Notre Dame is quite apparent and is something the Wildcats have already used to great success this season. Should the stars align, Saturday may be 1995 all over again.

 

When: Saturday, November 15, 3:30 p.m. ET

Where: Notre Dame Stadium, Notre Dame, Indiana

Television: NBC

Betting Lines (via Odds Shark):

  • Over/Under: 50.5
  • Spread: Notre Dame (-17.5)

 

Team Injury Reports

Injury reports per The Sports Network, via USA Today.

 

Prediction

A return home for the Fighting Irish is exactly what the doctor ordered.

Golson is sure to make his mistakes as Northwestern gets plenty of pressure against a shaky line. But taking advantage of it is another thing entirely considering the Wildcats average just 18.0 points per game, good for No. 122 in the nation.

Wildcats quarterback Trevor Siemian has just five touchdowns to eight interceptions, and lead back Justin Jackson has found the end zone just five times.

In short, Northwestern is no Arizona State in that it will not be able to take advantage of the surefire Notre Dame mistakes. As a result, the Fighting Irish will avoid back-to-back losses.

Prediction: Fighting Irish 36, Wildcats 17

 

Statistics and info courtesy of ESPN unless otherwise specified.

 

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Mississippi State vs. Alabama: TV Info, Spread, Injury Updates, Game Time, More

The lone SEC powers that control their own inaugural College Football Playoff fates meet in Tuscaloosa Saturday in what has the look of the game of the year.

Mississippi State leads the way in the CFP Poll with a 9-0 mark, while Alabama comes in at No. 5 thanks to four consecutive wins after an early October upset at the hands of another team from the state of Mississippi, Ole Miss.

Given the wealth of implications for the conference and beyond, College GameDay will be present in Tuscaloosa:

Dak Prescott is on the hunt for a Heisman moment in Tuscaloosa akin to those before him such as Cam Newton and Johnny Manziel. If he fails, there is an outside chance the SEC misses out on the CFP. Catch this one at all costs.

 

SEC-Style Staring Contest

The quarterback that blinks first Saturday will doom his team. 

On one side is Prescott, arguably the top dual-threat quarterback in the nation. The junior reminds plenty of Tim Tebow, as he is potent through the air (2,231 yards and 18 touchdowns) and brutal on the ground (779 yards, 11 touchdowns).

For Prescott, the base numbers do not do his abilities justice. The same goes for the Alabama defense, though, which ranks No. 2 in the nation with just 13.9 points surrendered per game on average. A breakdown from Sharon Katz of ESPN.com speaks volumes as to the heavyweight struggle set to unfold:

Prescott has an SEC-high 45 plays, including 15 touchdowns, of 20 yards or longer. He has at least three plays of 20-plus yards in every game this season, including 17 against three ranked opponents. Alabama has allowed an SEC-low 25 plays (three touchdowns) of 20 yards or longer. The Tide have held their opponents to fewer than three 20-yards plays in four of nine games.

Alabama trots out Blake Sims under center, who has had his fair share of struggles in his first year as starter. That said, the senior has improved after the loss to the Rebels, throwing nine touchdowns to no interceptions in the four games since. That said, he did complete just 44.4 percent of his passes last week against LSU.

Sims is less of a dual-threat option than Prescott but can do so when asked, hence his two rushing scores in that same span.

One area Sims beats out Prescott is sheer talent around him. He has the luxury of leaning on Amari Cooper, who has 79 grabs for 1,215 yards and 10 scores this season as he makes a serious bid for the Heisman, too.

In a contest that will see the smallest of mistakes magnified, whichever quarterback commits the first error will put his team at a serious disadvantage.

 

Wire to Wire

This one seems destined to come down to the wire.

With that in mind, one has to only look back to Alabama's loss to Ole Miss for a cause of concern. There are times when the Crimson Tide look shaky down the stretch. In that contest, Saban's team was outworked in the halftime-adjustments department and scored just three points in the second half en route to the loss.

Just last week it was much of the same for the Crimson Tide in Death Valley. They mustered just three points in the second half, the field goal coming with three seconds left in regulation before the eventual win in overtime.

It appears this version of Saban's team struggles in big games to keep things going for a full four frames. One only has to recall the erratic play in a 14-13 win over Arkansas to point out that it can happen any week.

The visitors have had no such issues so far. The Bulldogs routinely blow the hinges off in the early goings and never look back, such as a 21-point first quarter a while back to take down Auburn. Prescott and Co. sound ready to do the same Saturday.

"It means everything," Prescott said, per ESPN.com's Alex Scarborough. "Playing big time games in November, that means you’re playing for championships. To go into [Tuscaloosa] and being the hunted going in there, that’s a challenge we’re willing to take."

It has been a trying season for the Crimson Tide. Should any of their consistency issues to date crop up again, the Bulldogs can and will make them pay, road game or not.

 

When: Saturday, November 15, 3:30 p.m. ET

Where: Bryant-Denny Stadium, Tuscaloosa, Alabama

Television: CBS

Betting Lines (via Odds Shark):

  • Over/Under: 52
  • Spread: Alabama (-8)

 

Team Injury Reports

Injury reports per The Sports Network, via USA Today.

 

Prediction

If there is one player in the nation who could single-handedly take down the superb Crimson Tide defense, it is Prescott. 

No defense to date has been able to slow Prescott, including great units such as the LSU defense. His ability to make plays with his arm or keep it and gain effective yards between the tackles—not to mention his penchant for big plays when his team needs them most—give the Bulldogs a serious edge.

Alabama's consistency issues and Sims under center are liabilities that will shine through against an elite team, just as they did earlier this season in the loss to Ole Miss.

Mississippi State gets the win in Tuscaloosa and Prescott gets his Heisman moment.

Prediction: Bulldogs 28, Crimson Tide 24

 

Statistics and info courtesy of ESPN unless otherwise specified.

 

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Auburn vs. Georgia: TV Info, Spread, Injury Updates, Game Time and More

While not as high stakes as it appeared about a month ago, Saturday's encounter between the Auburn Tigers and Georgia Bulldogs will have explosive implications.

Both teams dropped recent encounters they were supposed to win, and that has dampened this matchup. Auburn, ranked No. 9 in the College Football Playoff rankings, dropped a three-point decision to Texas A&M last week. Georgia, No. 15, was blown away by unranked Florida recently.

Despite recent missteps, these two offensive-minded squads are sure to engage in one of the season's best shootouts, especially with the Bulldogs' Todd Gurley returning just in time to help his team push for an SEC East crown.

It is certainly no longer the biggest matchup of the weekend, but it's one that can have far-reaching implications depending on who emerges from the offensive war.

 

Riding the Workhorses

Gurley is back, but understand that a good problem spanning back to the start of the season is very much alive in Athens—the Bulldogs have a hard time getting a number of talented backs enough carries.

Steve Palazzolo of Pro Football Focus puts it best:

All Nick Chubb did in Gurley's absence was post staggering numbers against credible opposition, win or lose:

Keep in mind that talented freshman Sony Michel is back in action one game removed from rushing 16 times for 84 yards and a score. Still, Bulldogs coach Mark Richt seems open to the idea of letting Gurley handle the bulk of the work, per Athens Banner-Herald's Marc Weiszer:

He's definitely got fresh legs. I think he stayed in really good condition during the time that he wasn't playing. I don't think you forget how to play football in five weeks or forget how to run the ball the way he runs it and the way he pass protects and catches the ball out of the backfield and all that. I think it'll come back to him pretty quick.

Regardless of who gets the carries, the talented backfield will look to make headway against a sometimes shaky Auburn defense that allows 24.1 points per game on average, good for the No. 46 mark in the nation. 

Then again, the Tigers make no efforts to hide what they will do on the ground—senior back Cameron Artis-Payne is the workhorse, and quarterback Nick Marshall is the wild card.

Artis-Payne is averaging 5.7 yards per carry on the ground this year and has 1,190 yards and nine scores. Marshall is an improved passer this season (1,576 yards, 14 touchdowns to four interceptions) but helps to add versatility to the offense thanks to his 698 yards and 11 scores on the ground.

Neither offense is going to sugarcoat the approach Saturday night. A bigger gut-check game for either side will be quite difficult to name.

 

Jumping Out and Staying Out

Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn receives a ton of credit for his offense—rightfully so—but even he has to know that the Tigers need to be quicker out of the gate.

The Tigers have become victims to the same thing in both of their losses. An eventual 38-23 shellacking at the hands of Mississippi State was the byproduct of falling behind 21-0 after the first quarter. Last week in the loss to the Aggies, the Tigers fell behind 14-0 and recovered but never truly overcame the deficit.

Defense would be the problem for the Tigers. For an elite offense, falling behind is not so bad, but it puts an up-and-down defense in a precarious position. As defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson noted, his unit's sloppy tackling habits played a major role in the team's loss to A&M, per Justin Ferguson of the Ledger-Enquirer:

I think we had 11 (missed tackles) that added up to 114 yards, something of that nature, and that’s a lot of yardage. Of course, you're going to miss some on great players. But if you eliminate half of that, it will get you off the field quicker, get your offense the ball quicker, helps field position and everything.

Sprinkle in a few turnovers by Marshall and the offense, and the Tigers seem to get in their own way more than any opponent does.

It should go without saying, then, that the key for an Auburn road win Saturday is to grab an early lead and never let off the gas. This will force Georgia to go to the air more and take the ball out of the hands of a talented backfield.

The inverse also holds true. Should Georgia get out to an early advantage, killing the clock and keeping the ball out of Marshall's hands is a path to victory. 

 

When: Saturday, November 15, 7:15 p.m. ET

Where: Sanford Stadium, Athens, Georgia

Television: ESPN

Betting Lines (via Odds Shark):

  • Over/Under: 68.5
  • Spread: Georgia (-2)

 

Team Injury Reports

Injury reports per The Sports Network, via USA Today.

 

Prediction

Georgia at home is quite the dangerous team, especially with a fresh Gurley back in the fold. 

The Bulldogs have a perceived weakness with senior quarterback Hutson Mason under center, but he has completed nearly 70 percent of his passes this season and should have few issues taking advantage of Auburn's No. 102 pass defense that gets torched time and again on short passes.

As long as Mason takes care of the football, the talent around him will do the rest. The receivers can take short grabs for big yardage against a struggling defense while Gurley and Co. control the tempo.

A few big plays define a game like this. Auburn's defense will once again yield those.

Prediction: Georgia 40, Auburn 38

 

Statistics and info courtesy of ESPN unless otherwise specified.

 

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FSU vs. Miami: TV Info, Spread, Injury Updates, Game Time and More

Florida State-Miami is back for a 59th time to define what college football is all about.

The two in-state rivals have been on a violent warpath toward one another all season long, but the 6-3 Hurricanes—losers of four straight and lacking a home win since 2004 in the rivalry—have improved dramatically in the weeks leading up to Saturday.

All Florida State has done to prepare is ride a 25-game winning streak, the longest streak since the Hurricanes won 34 straight beginning back in 2000.

The latest encounter comes Saturday and might prove to be one of the biggest games in recent history. Should Florida State take a dive on the road, well, good luck figuring out what happens with the inaugural College Football Playoff once more than 10 teams can rush through the door.

Be there Saturday for one of the sporting world's most important rivalries.

 

Rising to the Occasion

Most know that this iteration of the Seminoles-Hurricanes epic series would hinge on quarterback play. Jameis Winston, last year's Heisman winner, is still under center for the former, after all.

But what most do not know is that the ACC leader in touchdowns, yards per attempt and yards per completion will be in attendance, and his name is not Winston.

Meet Hurricanes freshman quarterback Brad Kaaya, who has completed 61.8 percent of his passes this year for 2,087 yards and 20 touchdowns to nine interceptions. Over the course of his team's recent three-game winning streak, he has totaled seven touchdowns and no interceptions.

The impending shattered records, as illustrated by Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press, are staggering:

"It's an enormous opportunity to prove something to the world," Kaaya said, per the AP, via ESPN.com. "A lot of people doubted us, I'm sure a lot of people still continue to and they have good reason to. We just have to keep progressing as a team."

Winston is sure to take a similar stance, just without the expected gaudy numbers his freshman counterpart rides into the encounter. 

From a statistical standpoint in some ways, Winston has hit a bit of a sophomore slump. He has still completed better than 66 percent of his passes but has just 2,540 yards and 17 touchdowns to 11 interceptions.

His team continues to win, but Winston's six interceptions in his last three games is certainly a cause for concern—especially against a Miami defense that ranks 26th in the land with an average of just 21.9 points surrendered per game.

Big-game experience favors Winston, but recent trends suggest this quarterback battle could swing either way.

 

Stopping the Duke

Kaaya has been great, but he sure has some help.

Junior back Duke Johnson may quietly be the best in the country at this point. Downright explosive in every sense of the word, Johnson has also turned his game up a notch in recent weeks, although his entire body of work is downright incredible:

Understand that Johnson is—just like his shot at postseason accolades and NFL draft stock—quietly the key to the game. The man averages 7.68 yards per carry and now gets to encounter a Florida State run defense that ranks 35th in the nation against the rush.

There is really no comparison between the two teams in this regard, either. The Seminoles average just 129.89 rushing yards per game, good for rank No. 101. If Florida State wants to keep Johnson in check, it is the defense that will need to man up and clog the lanes.

Key leaders on the defensive side of things understand this, as captured by Matt Porter of the Palm Beach Post:

There is a symbiotic relationship between Johnson's talents on the ground and Kaaya's evolving skills through the air. Shutting down one is not enough for the Seminoles, especially on the road.

But it starts and ends with Johnson, who can control a game on his own when asked.

 

When: Saturday, November 15, 8 p.m. ET

Where: Sun Life Stadium, Miami Gardens, Florida

Television: ABC

Betting Lines (via Odds Shark):

  • Over/Under: 62
  • Spread: Florida State (-3)

 

Team Injury Reports

Injury reports per The Sports Network, via USA Today.

 

Prediction

Las Vegas is shaky on this one for good reason.

Johnson's ability to torch defenses on his lonesome makes the job of his inexperienced quarterback easier. That alone can keep Winston off the field and exploit a relatively struggling defense at the same time.

That said, this game will come down to whether or not Winston can make the most of every opportunity he has with the ball. As long as he can limit turnovers, the Seminoles still have the better roster and can grind this one out.

Miami is close, but more experience is needed to topple the Seminoles.

Prediction: Florida State 35, Hurricanes 30

 

Statistics and info courtesy of ESPN unless otherwise specified.

 

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Missouri vs. Texas A&M: TV Info, Spread, Injury Updates, Game Time and More

The Texas A&M Aggies have a new quarterback and swagger as they look to spoil the happenings in the SEC East with the Missouri Tigers in town Saturday.

Kevin Sumlin's Aggies hit rock bottom over the course of a three-game skid capped by a 59-0 thrashing at the hands of Alabama, but they return to College Station with more fight than ever after a 41-38 upset of Auburn last weekend.

Standing in the way of the Aggies' potent attack is an elite Missouri defense that might just carry the Tigers to the SEC title game like it did one year ago after a win over these same Aggies.

With the Aggies in the role of the spoiler again and the Tigers on the hunt for a conference title, one of what is a chaotic week's most underrated matchups goes down late Saturday in College Station. 

 

Forced Flight

Both defenses in Saturday's encounter would prefer if things took to the air, but for very different reasons.

Texas A&M's standpoint is rather simplistic—the defense has struggled all season long and ranks 70th nationally with an average of 27.1 points allowed per game. Missouri does the wealth of its offensive damage on the ground by way of two talented backs:

Mostly, though, the Aggies will want to shut down the two above names to get the ball into the hands of Tigers quarterback Maty Mauk. Once there, things might just improve for the Aggies defense considering the sophomore has completed just 52.4 percent of his passes this season for 1,532 yards and 18 touchdowns to nine interceptions.

On the flip side, though, Missouri certainly wants to get the ball into the hands of Aggies freshman signal-caller Kyle Allen.

While true that the Aggies average 36.9 points per game primarily through an aerial attack that ranks seventh in the nation, the Tigers are most comfortable when pinning their ears back and rushing the passer.

Defensive end Shane Ray and his unit have forced 30 sacks this season. Sumlin recently stressed the importance of understanding that Ray is not doing it all by himself, per Dave Matter of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

When an offense is forced to the air while under consistent pressure, mistakes tend to be made. This is especially true with a freshman making his third start under center.

Speaking of that, a bit of a quarterback controversy could cause some issues in College Station.

 

Taking Over

After Kenny Hill was hit with a two-game suspension, things were placed in the hands of Allen.

The freshman's ability to get his wits about him on short notice is admirable, especially given the level of competition in each of his two starts:

Hill is available Saturday, but Sumlin and his staff are so impressed with Allen's talent that he will once again be the starter.

"I don't know why he wouldn't start, since he was named the starter two weeks ago," Sumlin said, per his meet with the media, via Chip Patterson of CBSSports.com.

For his part, Missouri coach Gary Pinkel is more worried about the Texas A&M scheme than the actual name under center.

"They're very unique (offensively), and they have a lot of different things that they do," said Pinkel, per Brent Zwerneman of the Houston Chronicle (subscription required). "It's a very good system, no matter the quarterback running their plays. What we try to do is find out if they do certain things with one quarterback that they don't do with another." 

Still, one has to wonder how Allen will hold up in the face of an elite rush. It was a mere few weeks ago that he struggled mightily with Louisiana-Monroe. Sumlin is clearly a believer that spots on the depth chart should be solved through competition, but hindsight may not prove so kind in this case if Ray and Co. get consistent pressure and force mistakes.

 

When: Saturday, November 15, 7:30 p.m. ET

Where: Kyle Field, College Station, Texas

Television: SEC Network

Betting Lines (via Odds Shark):

  • Over/Under: 58.5
  • Spread: Texas A&M (-4.5)

 

Team Injury Reports

Injury reports per The Sports Network, via USA Today.

 

Prediction

The Missouri defense is not going to make this easy on Allen. 

Both teams have certainly had up-and-down performances this season, but Ray and Co. will make life easier on a shaky secondary. Allen will commit a few mistakes that keep things close.

The problem is, quick-hitting plays to combat the rush will eventually put the Aggies ahead. Forced to take to the air, Mauk is too much of a liability to keep pace.

Texas A&M makes it two in a row, and things get a whole lot more interesting in the SEC race as a result.

Prediction: Aggies 30, Tigers 28

 

Statistics and info courtesy of ESPN unless otherwise specified.

 

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Bowl Projections 2014: Updated College Playoff Predictions Before Week 12

Alabama has a golden chance to shake up the College Football Playoff rankings by topping No. 1 Mississippi State on Saturday.

Although placed inside the Top Four by The Associated Press and USA Today, the Crimson Tide sit just outside the edge of one of four playoff nods. If they can follow up an overtime win over LSU with another SEC triumph over the No. 1 Bulldogs, they'll certainly zoom up the leaderboard.

Only three weeks remain this season before the new playoff experiment rises to life. Along with that crucial SEC battle in Tuscaloosa, the other premier squads must handle more manageable opponents to maintain first-class seating in the ranks.

Let's take a look at the CFB rankings heading into Week 12, along with updated predictions for post-week projections.

 

College Football Playoff Outlook

As the SEC clashes in-house, Oregon, Florida State and TCU all face unranked opponents this weekend and throughout the rest of the season. 

The Horned Frogs don't play another winning team this season, but they knocked off three then-ranked adversaries (Oklahoma State, West Virginia, Kansas State) during the past four weeks. ESPN College Football showed how well they fare against stout competition.

A surging offense that has posted 47.2 points per game is well positioned to remain in the voters' good graces. To maintain its surprising No. 4 seed, however, TCU should root for Mississippi State to take Nick Saban's team down a peg.

For that to happen, Heisman hopeful Dak Prescott must triumph against a passing defense that has allowed 185.6 yards per game on 5.7 yards per attempt. As illuminated by College GameDay, each side's strength will collide at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

The Crimson Tide have struggled when facing dual-threat quarterbacks in the past, particularly against Ole Miss' Bo Wallace during their only loss of the season. Saban acknowledged to ESPN.com's Alex Scarborough the challenges Prescott creates as an all-around playmaker.

He’s one of the best passing quarterbacks that we’ve played against all year, probably one of the best in the country. It’s a difficult combination when you have a guy that is big and physical and has the ability to run the ball on quarterback runs, which creates another gap, another responsibility, another key. It limits what you can do defensively to try and make sure you’re sound against him running the ball.

As a pure passer, however, the junior has faltered lately. In the past four games, he has accrued a 58.1 completion percentage with five interceptions. Such middling production won't cut it against Alabama, which has allowed 13.9 points per game while not yielding more than 23 in a single contest.

Throw in a tough road environment for a team that has played six of nine games at home, and Mississippi State's undefeated run comes to an end on Saturday afternoon. While a loss buries Alabama's CFB hopes, a defeat drops the Bulldogs to 9-1 with three wins over ranked SEC foes.

So long as they can finish off the campaign with triumphs over Vanderbilt and Ole Miss, they'll remain in the playoff picture. In fact, they can fall short against the Crimson Tide and still top them in the rankings.

To the dismay of some fans and the delight of others, the playoff voters showed that they will not overplay the importance of head-to-head matchups. Although TCU lost a 61-58 shootout to Baylor, it remains ahead of its conference rival boasting an identical 8-1 record.

A lopsided contest would dispel that notion, but look for Mississippi State to play tough in defeat. Such an outcome will have both SEC players vying for a championship this winter.

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Pac-12 Football: The Most Impactful Injuries so Far This Season

Injuries are an unfortunate yet inevitable part of football, and the Pac-12 has seen some key players go down during critical moments in the 2014 season.

Some will point to the fact that almost every team has to weather the injury bug, and how you employ the "next man up" attitude will determine how successful a season is.

On the other hand, some injuries have devastating consequences regardless of how well a team may be prepared to handle them.

Nobody is deep at every position across the board, and losing one or two players—even for a lone game—can result in a loss. The most impactful injuries are often those that affect teams at positions of little depth.

Washington State's Connor Halliday is one of the premier quarterbacks in the country, yet his replacement Luke Falk has proven to be more than capable of running Mike Leach's offense.

At the end of the day, we all hope that every player injured will go through a speedy and easy recovery to full health. That's goal No. 1 before everything else.

With that in mind, let's take a look at the most impactful injuries so far this season from an on-the-field standpoint.

 

All stats via CFBStats.com.

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