NCAA Football News

Texas vs. Oklahoma State Complete Game Preview

The Texas Longhorns will hit the road to Stillwater, Oklahoma, to face 5-4 Oklahoma State.

The Cowboys started the season off strong but have lost the previous three straight games, which is basically the opposite scenario for the Longhorns.

Both teams will be fighting for bowl eligibility in sub-freezing temperatures Saturday.

Will the Longhorns continue the momentum and become bowl eligible over the struggling Cowboys? Let's take a look.

 

When: Saturday, Nov. 16, 7:30 p.m. ET

Where: Boone Pickens Stadium, Stillwater, Okla.

TV: Fox

Austin radio: KVET 98.1/1300

SiriusXM satellite radio: XM 202; Sirius 117; Internet 969; Spanish 550

Opening spread: Oklahoma State (-1), per OddsShark.com

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How Nebraska Became the College Football Playoff's Ultimate Dark Horse

In hindsight, "Don't You (Forget About Me)" by Simple Minds was probably about Nebraska football—even if it was recorded was almost 20 years ago.

That's what the Huskers are saying: Don't you, the College Football Playoff selection committee, forget about them.

The playoff picture is slightly clearer after Week 11, with Auburn, Kansas State, Michigan State and Notre Dame all but officially leaving the conversation. That picture will continue to get clearer as a pivotal month of November rolls on.

But with the committee set to release its latest Top 25 on Tuesday evening, where do the Huskers fit in? Nebraska was on a bye last Saturday yet sits at No. 11 in the latest Associated Press and Amway Coaches polls.

In both instances, the Huskers are one spot ahead of Michigan State, a team they lost to in October.

Not that those polls matter in the playoff conversation, but it gives you an idea that voters around the country think Nebraska is at least on the perimeter of the postseason chatter.

The fact is that Florida State and Mississippi State interchangeably occupy the top two spots as long as they keep winning. It's spots Nos. 3 and 4 that are up for grabs. Oregon, TCU and Alabama are likely the three teams jockeying for those slots. Big wins by Arizona State, Baylor and Ohio State should put those three teams in the discussion as well.

Again, though, what about Nebraska? It seems unconventional for a playoff dark horse to come from a power-five school—you would think that label would belong to a mid-major—but that would be the best way to describe Nebraska at the moment.

The Huskers (8-1) have one loss—a "good" one, if you will—on the road at Michigan State. They also have a solid nonconference win over Miami. That's more than Mississippi State and Ohio State can say.

As Jerry Palm of CBSSports.com told Tom Dienhart of BTN.com, Nebraska could actually be the Big Ten's best chance at a playoff spot:

"I would say their resume would be slightly better than Ohio State’s,” Palm told me this morning. “Because their loss is to Michigan State. They played Miami (Fla.) outside the league. That’s a decent team. If Nebraska has no chance (at the playoffs), then Ohio State has less than no chance. I think 12-1 Nebraska is a better candidate than 12-1 Ohio State—but only slightly."

What has hurt Nebraska, in both perception and reality, is Big Ten conference play. Bo Pelini's team hasn't proved much outside of the Miami win. Illinois, Northwestern, Purdue and Rutgers are a combined 15-22, and the Scarlet Knights are the only one of those four with a winning record.

Then there's the reputation of the Big Ten and Big Ten West, both of which have taken considerable hits this year.

Following a disastrous Week 2 for the Big Ten, Tom Fornelli of CBSSports.com declared that the Big Ten West was the worst power-five division in college football. Bleacher Report's Adam Kramer suggested that the Big Ten felt dead on arrival following that week.

Both were accurate assessments at the time. The Big Ten went 8-5 that week but did not beat another team from a power-five conference.

Many of the wins against lesser opponents were closer than they should have been, including Nebraska's escape over McNeese State.

So Nebraska, like the rest of the Big Ten, fell off the map. After all, rankings should be based on what you've done so far, and Nebraska has what amounts to one quality win. 

However, this season has shown that few things are truly off of the table in September or even October. Nebraska can close out the season as strongly as any team in college football.

The Huskers, currently atop the Big Ten West, play at No. 22 Wisconsin this Saturday. Whether do-it-all running back Ameer Abdullah is ready to play after suffering an MCL sprain against Purdue remains to be seen, according to ESPN.com's Mitch Sherman.

The game will feature the top two rushing offenses in the Big Ten, per cfbstats.com. However, Nebraska's offense was sluggish without Abdullah against the Boilermakers, recording a season-low 297 total yards. His return is crucial, to put it lightly.

The Huskers then get Minnesota before closing out the season at Iowa and would presumably meet Ohio State—or possibly Michigan State—in the Big Ten title game. Winning out wouldn't guarantee Nebraska a playoff spot per se, but it would absolutely put the Huskers in the conversation.

At the very least, it feels like a necessity.

It will be interesting to see where the committee puts Nebraska in the latest Top 25. As Fox Sports' Stewart Mandel points out, rankings aren't solely supposed to reflect the win-loss column. It's possible a two-loss Ole Miss, for example, could still be ahead of Nebraska:

That would add more ammo to the dark-horse label for Nebraska. The Huskers aren't the center of the playoff conversation or even in the next group of it.

As Ohio State showed throughout the course of the season, though, staying on the down low isn't necessarily a bad thing, as the outlook can change at a moment's notice.

That moment for Nebraska, the team everyone forgot about, could come with a win over the Badgers.

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. All rankings reflect the latest Associated Press standings unless noted otherwise. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

NCAA Football Rankings 2014: Full List of Week 12 College Standings and Polls

Calamity swept through the NCAA football Week 12 rankings and polls.

Everything after the Mississippi State Bulldogs and Florida State Seminoles is an absolute disaster as things hit the fast lane toward the inaugural College Football Playoff.

After the pair of undefeated powerhouses at the top, eight one-loss teams from the power conferences continue to jockey for position in a number of different polls and in the minds of the CFP committee. Speaking of conferences, how some do business and the overall quality top to bottom is playing a major role in the CFP, too.

In a season that has been anything but predictable or calm, it is only fitting that the polls are a mess. Enjoy the chaos, because this was the ultimate goal of the four-team CFP in the first place.

 

Developments to Watch Moving Forward

Big Ten Eliminated From CFP?

The Ohio State Buckeyes had to go and ruin everything.

In a contest against the dominant then-No. 8 Michigan State Spartans, a team that had only lost to Oregon and seemed bound to make the playoff, the Buckeyes pulled a 49-37 win out of their hat to throw the committee for a loop.

That contest saw upstart Buckeyes quarterback J.T. Barrett throw for 300 yards and a trio of scores while adding another 86 yards and two scores on the ground. As ESPN Stats & Info points out, the Buckeyes offense has slowly morphed into one of the nation's best attacks under the guidance of the freshman:

But keep in mind that if a one-loss Ohio State team stays that way, how in the world is the CFP committee supposed to take on a team that lost to unranked Virginia Tech? Those Hokies are 4-5 and in seventh place in the ACC Coastal division.

Bill Rabinowitz of the Columbus Dispatch describes the convoluted mess:

With winnable contests against Indiana and Michigan on deck, the CFP better hope that a team such as Wisconsin comes along and upends the Buckeyes.

If not, well, that would fit in with the wild season to date quite well.

 

Big 12 Causing Problems

Thanks to the lack of a proper conference title game, the Big 12 may be the biggest wild card of all when it comes to the CFP.

At this very moment, Baylor and TCU are tied at 8-1 atop the conference.

The programs got there in impressive fashion, too. Baylor absolutely blew away Oklahoma in Norman last week, 48-14, while TCU solved the riddle that was Kansas State's elite defense with a 41-20 thumping of the Wildcats later that night.

As Stewart Mandel of FoxSports.com points out, nobody has a clue what will happen with the CFP if the Bears and Horned Frogs both reach 11-1:

Mandel goes on to explain that the CFP committee is in no way bogged down by the rules that govern the Big 12:

The Big 12 uses head-to-head results as its tiebreaker in determining the league’s automatic berth in one of the New Year’s Six bowls, but the committee is not obligated to follow that protocol when producing the order of its final rankings. Head-to-head is one of the factors it’s supposed to consider -- but so are conference championships and overall body of work.

TCU has a cupcake walk to 11-1, too. Kansas, Texas and Iowa State all have fewer than five wins. Minus a hookup with Kansas State, the Bears have a relatively easy walk toward 11 wins as well.

Should both get to the doomsday point, a precedent for all future editions of the CFP may be set. Don't blink when it comes to the Big 12 the rest of the season.

 

SEC's Doomsday Scenario

A few weeks back, there were rumblings concerning just how many teams the SEC could sneak into the postseason. 

Any general fan could have poked holes in the question, though—the SEC is so great and beats itself up so much that there is an outside chance only one team sneaks into the fray.

Or none at all.

Look at it this way. The SEC East is pretty much a non-factor with only one-loss Missouri at the top of the standings. The SEC West is an absolute mess with Ole Miss and Auburn at two losses apiece.

Next weekend, Alabama is in serious danger of picking up its second loss in a clash with Mississippi State. But the Bulldogs could go down at a very bad time of year, too. Kyle Tucker of The Courier-Journal puts it best:

Then again, Adam Beasley of The Miami Herald believes that the Bulldogs are still a surefire CFP team even if they do lose to Alabama:

"Absolutely," Bulldogs coach Dan Mullen said, per ESPN.com's Alex Scarborough. "Bigtime game this week. This is what you play for. That’s what we want our program to be like, competing in these big games late in the season."

But keep in mind that the major showdown is not the end of the season. Quite the contrary—the Bulldogs, losers or not, will need to play Ole Miss to close the season. The Crimson Tide, potentially with just one loss, will need to overcome Auburn.

If the dominoes fall in the right manner, no SEC team will make the CFP.

Now that is an upset.

 

Stats and information via ESPN.com unless otherwise specified. AP Poll can be viewed at CollegeFootball.AP.org. Amway Poll can be viewed at USAToday.com. B/R Poll can be viewed at BleacherReport.com.

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Is Texas A&M Laying the Foundation for a 2015 SEC West Title Run?

Just one week ago, Texas A&M was viewed more like a pushover than a potential power. 

The Aggies were in the midst of a three-game SEC losing streak, had just narrowly escaped a test from ULM at home and were about to head to then-No. 3 Auburn as three-touchdown underdogs.

Then Kyle Allen and Myles Garrett happened, and everything changed.

Allen, the true freshman quarterback who was making his first career road start, lit up the Tigers to the tune of 277 passing yards, four touchdowns and only one interception in the 41-38 win. The performance earned him SEC Offensive Player of the Week and Walter Camp National Offensive Player of the Week honors and gave the offense plenty of confidence heading into the home stretch that includes games against Missouri and LSU.

On the other side of the ball, the true freshman defensive end Garrett made four tackles and was busy lighting up Auburn tackle Shon Coleman, who had no choice but to hold the former 5-star prospect.

Could the Aggies be setting themselves up for an SEC West title run in 2015? Yep. Here's why:

 

Fixing the Major Issue

Is Texas A&M's defense a problem? Yes. It's been that way for the better part of Kevin Sumlin's three seasons as head coach. 

The Aggies finished ninth in the SEC in total defense in 2012 (390.2 YPG), last in 2013 (475.8 YPG) and are 13th this season (431.3 YPG). But as this season has progressed, Garrett has become more and more of a force up front. The Arlington, Texas, native leads the SEC with 11 sacks and has already eclipsed former South Carolina standout Jadeveon Clowney's SEC freshman sack record (eight).

Garrett isn't a one-trick pony. As B/R's Lead College Football Video Analyst Michael Felder points out, Garrett is more a complete and polished force as both a pass-rusher and a run-stopper as a freshman than Clowney was, which earned him more playing time early in his career.

A disruptive force like Garrett is a great foundation for a young Aggie defense, which is loaded with youth.

Fellow young defensive linemen Daeshon Hall and Qualen Cunningham have played well at times this year, and the Aggies have a solid incoming class that, as of now, includes 5-star defensive tackle Daylon Mack. Toss in sophomore linebacker Shaan Washington—who has 44 tackles in seven games, injured sophomore linebacker A.J. Hilliard—who has been out since the opener—and freshman defensive back Armani Watts, and there are plenty of pieces for the Aggie coaching staff to build around.

All of those young players have been inconsistent this season, but having a guy like Garrett taking up real estate in the opposition's backfield will help everybody out—especially the youngsters.

 

A Young, Evolving Offense

The Aggie offense went through a little bit of a lull during the month of October when it averaged 384.3 yards per game and 4.89 yards per play. Things didn't improve in Allen's first start of his career, when they gained just 243 yards and 3.52 yards per play.

Against Auburn, it clicked. 

Allen led the Aggies to 453 total yards and 7.03 yards per play in the win. More importantly, the Aggies showed off a more run-based offense with 35 runs and only 29 passes. That's important, because as I wrote prior to the ULM game, the Aggies had become far too reliant on the passing game, running 110 more plays through the air than on the ground.

Against ULM and Auburn, that changed. The move to Allen ushered in a more balanced approach that saw the staff call 76 running plays and 56 passing plays. It was a big reason for their success on Saturday, as Felder notes:

On top of that, none of the Aggies' running backs are seniors so, unless some bolt early, Trey Williams, Brandon Williams and Tra Carson will be back with current freshman James White again next year. 

That receiving corps? It's young, too. Five of the Aggies' top six receivers are underclassmen, including leading receiver Josh Reynolds (sophomore), home run hitter Speedy Noil (freshman) and matchup nightmare Ricky Seals-Jones (freshman).

That's a lot of youth, and those young players are evolving with offensive coordinator Jake Spavital right now. That bodes well for the future.

 

Questions Around the Conference

While the Aggies are young, 2015 will be another year of uncertainty around the SEC West. 

Twelve of Mississippi State's starters are seniors, including receivers Jameon Lewis and Robert Johnson, defensive lineman Preston Smith and linebacker Benardrick McKinney.

Alabama has to replace quarterback Blake Sims and could be without wide receiver Amari Cooper, running back T.J. Yeldon, safety Landon Collins and several other stars who could jump to the NFL.

Auburn will replace quarterback Nick Marshall with Jeremy Johnson, be without running back Cameron Artis-Payne and replace several key pieces on that defensive line, including defensive tackle Gabe Wright.

LSU has major questions at quarterback, Ole Miss will be replacing Bo Wallace and still be in search of a running game and Arkansas is still in the building process.

The path to Atlanta isn't as rocky as it seems for the Aggies in 2015, and the experience young players gained this year will allow them to hit the ground running in Sumlin's fourth season in College Station.

 

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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Will Miami Ruin Florida State's Perfect Season?

The Florida State Seminoles and their perfect record travel to South Beach for a Week 11 showdown with their neighbors, the Miami Hurricanes. Duke Johnson and the 'Canes have every intention of playing spoiler and sending Florida State's season into a tailspin. 

Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Michael Felder and Barrett Sallee discuss whether Miami can pull off the upset. 

Can the Hurricanes end the Seminoles' chances for back-to-back championships?

Check out the video and let us know! 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

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