NCAA Football News

What Auburn Must Do to Stop Georgia's Strong Rushing Attack

AUBURN, Ala. — To Auburn defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson, Todd Gurley is a time bomb.

And for the last several weeks, due to an NCAA-mandated suspension, the superstar Georgia running back has been steadily ticking off the field, waiting for his chance to explode again.

"When is he going to get that 95-yard kickoff?" Johnson said. "When is he going to hit that 40-yard run? When is he going to catch that 35-yard screen pass?"

Following three straight weekends of lackluster defensive play, Johnson and his staff now turn their attention to containing Gurley and limiting the running game's devastation.

Georgia currently has the second-best rushing attack in the SEC, behind Auburn—and the Bulldogs have the advantage in yards per carry:

To make matters even tougher for the veteran coach, Gurley is not alone. While the former Heisman contender was held off the field, freshman running back Nick Chubb ran for 140 or more yards in four consecutive games.

"First of all, they’ve got freshman running backs that are extremely talented, and you can definitely see that they’ve been effective," head coach Gus Malzahn said. "They have a lot of good experience this year. Of course when you add (Todd) Gurley in, he’s one of the better individual players at any position."

Here are three main areas of emphasis for the Auburn defense as it faces Gurley, Chubb and an explosive Georgia offense focused on revenge from last season's unbelievable outcome in this long rivalry:

 

Drastically Improve Tackling

Missed tackles have been an issue on the Plains for the last several seasons, and they have crept back after what had been a strong start to the 2014 season for the Auburn defense.

The epidemic reached a critical point in the Tigers' 41-38 upset loss to Texas A&M last weekend, a game in which the Aggies were able to turn short plays into monster gains thanks to all of Auburn's whiffs.

"I think we had 11 [missed tackles] after contact that added up to 114 yards, something of that nature, and that’s a lot of yardage," Johnson said. "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."

After giving up so many yards on missed tackles to what had been a struggling Texas A&M offense, one of the nation's most explosive players is up next.

"You have got to be exactly right on him every time because he's either going to break the physical tackle, or he’s going to out run the space tackle," Johnson said. "He’s a specimen." 

According to Auburn's defenders, tackling will be far and away the most important aspect of Auburn's defensive performance against Georgia.

"It's going to be key," senior cornerback Jonathon Mincy said. "That's going to be the main thing we have to come to the game ready to do. We just have to swarm on him. One person gets there, the rest of the team's got to fly around."

 

Cut Down on Blown Assignments

During Auburn's current slide in defensive production, players and coaches have repeatedly said their opponents' explosive plays are coming off of blown assignments.

While a lot of these miscues have come on passing plays, teams have also been able to move the ball more effectively in the running game. Texas A&M, for instance, averaged five yards per carry against Auburn.

Johnson claims the Tigers aren't making as many of these mistakes nine games into the season as they did at the beginning, but these later misses are being magnified in the box score.

"That’s the thing that’s been so frustrating," Johnson said. "The missed assignments have come down, but they always seem to be real glaring—turn a man loose in man coverage, hit a blitz and hit the wrong gap, trip up another guy, don’t get the pressure on a guy."

Gurley and Chubb are two types of players that will feast on bad assignment play by taking a small hole and turning it into a large one.

In a hostile road environment, communication and execution will be crucial for the Auburn defense.

"You kind of break it down to discipline," Mincy said. "Everybody's got to lock down on their keys. If you have man, play your man. The guys that have to be in the run fit, be in the run fit and just do your assignment."

 

Get off to a Good Start

After an abysmal start against Texas A&M, Auburn's defense held the Aggies to just two field goals in the second half of last Saturday's contest.

The game continued what has been an alarming trend for the Tigers, who excel at making halftime adjustments but constantly come out flat defensively.

"Not getting off to a good start has been the thing that we’ve got to fix," Malzahn said. "Once we get into the game, especially in the second half, our guys are playing better. They’re settling down, but we’ve got to get off to a better start defensively earlier in the game."

With the way Georgia's Gurley-less offense has played recently, the Tigers must avoid falling into a big hole or letting the Bulldogs string together big plays.

For Johnson, that means eliminating the early mistakes that good offenses turn into points.

"They’re trying hard, they’re practicing hard," Johnson said. "We’re just making some mistakes sometimes that are uncharacteristic. We need to find an answer to that. We need to coach better, play a little harder, coach smarter, something. We’ve got to eliminate those six or eight plays a game where we just don’t make them earn it."

 

All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All recruiting rankings and information courtesy of 247Sports. All stats courtesy of cfbstats.com.

Justin Ferguson is Bleacher Report's lead Auburn writer. Follow him on Twitter @JFergusonAU.

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Utah Utes vs. Stanford Cardinal: Betting Odds, Analysis, College Football Pick

The Utah Utes will look to snap a two-game skid when they visit the Stanford Cardinal in a Pac-12 matchup on Saturday.

The Utes are coming off a 51-27 home loss to the Oregon Ducks as 9.5-point underdogs, while the Cardinal knows how that feels after being on the wrong end of a 45-16 rout in Eugene two weeks ago before their bye as a seven-point dog.

 

Point spread: Cardinal opened as 7.5-point favorites, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark. (Line updates and matchup report)

 

College football pick, via Odds Shark computer: 39.1-32.6 Cardinal

 

Why the Utah Utes can cover the spread

Utah is 3-0 against the spread in its last three road games vs. Pac-12 opponents and had covered its previous four games overall before getting blown out by the Ducks at home last week. The Utes were actually one of the best teams in the country against the number at 7-1 before losing badly against Oregon, as their previous five games were all decided by six points or fewer.

Playing a defensive-minded Stanford team favors Utah’s style of play, with the under cashing in the team’s previous six games and the Utes going 5-1 straight up and ATS during that stretch.

 

Why the Stanford Cardinal can cover the spread

Three of the Cardinal’s four losses have come on the road this year, and they are 13-1 SU in their past 14 home games against conference foes. The exception came in a 13-10 loss to the USC Trojans in their second game of the season as a three-point favorite. Since then, Stanford has gone 3-0 at home with a 2-0-1 mark vs. the line.

This is the team’s last home game before wrapping up the schedule with trips to California and UCLA, so you can bet the Cardinal will be fired up to finish things up on a positive note at Stanford Stadium before hitting the road.

 

Smart Pick

Stanford has the advantage of a week off to prepare for Utah, which should make a big difference here. The Cardinal are 4-1 ATS in their past five home games after a bye and also 4-1-1 vs. the line in their last six at home against Pac-12 teams.

The Cardinal have had enough time to recover from the loss at Oregon, while the Utes are not as fortunate after losing to the Ducks last Saturday and must try to regroup quickly for this road game.

There is some extra motivation for Stanford too, as the team is trying to become bowl eligible with one more victory, something Utah has already accomplished.

 

Betting Trends

  • Utah is 4-1 ATS in its last five games
  • Stanford is 21-2 SU in its last 23 games at home

 

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

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TCU Horned Frogs vs. Kansas Jayhawks: Odds, Analysis, College Football Pick

TCU is coming off a big win over Kansas State and still has a shot at both the Big 12 title and a spot in the upcoming College Football Playoff. But the Horned Frogs must now hit the road and play as a favorite, a spot in which they're just 1-6 against the spread in their last seven tries. TCU visits Kansas Saturday afternoon.

 

Point spread: Horned Frogs opened as 24.5-point favorites, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark. (Line updates and matchup report)

 

College football pick, via Odds Shark computer: 39.4-17.7 Horned Frogs

 

Why the TCU Horned Frogs can cover the spread

The Frogs are 8-1 both straight up and ATS this season, after kicking Kansas State last week 41-20, covering as six-point favorites. TCU piled up 553 yards of offense against the Wildcats, 334 on the ground, and held the ball for over 35 minutes.

So since blowing that late lead and losing at Baylor, the Frogs are 4-0 SU and 3-1 ATS, outgaining their last four foes by 233 yards per game and outrushing them by 168 yards per contest.

TCU has beaten Kansas each of the last two seasons, holding the Jayhawks to 12 points and 61 yards rushing per game.

 

Why the Kansas Jayhawks can cover the spread

The Jayhawks dumped coach Charlie Weis after that 23-0 loss to Texas back in September but are actually 3-2 ATS since then; they just picked up their first Big 12 victory of the season, beating Iowa State last week 34-14 as two-point home dogs. Kansas jumped out to a 24-0 lead and held on from there, accumulating 514 yards of offense, including 228 yards on the ground, as both freshman Corey Avery and senior Tony Pierson hit the century mark.

And quarterback Michael Cummings threw a touchdown pass, improving his touchdown-to-interception ratio to 5/1 over his last three games. Finally, while the Jayhawks have lost to TCU each of the last two seasons, they covered both those spreads, staying within 20-6 as 18-point dogs and 27-17 as 24-point dogs.

 

Smart Pick

TCU is rolling, putting up huge numbers on offense as it plays to impress the playoff committee. But Kansas hasn't been terrible of late, and might actually come into this game with some momentum after last week's victory.

Also, the Jayhawks have given the Frogs tough games the last two years. So the smart money here resides with the home dog.

 

Betting Trends

  • TCU is 17-8 SU in its last 25 games on the road
  • The total has gone under in five of Kansas' last six games at home

 

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

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Northwestern Wildcats vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish: Betting Odds, Analysis

Notre Dame is 6-3-1 against the spread in its last 10 home games against the Big Ten. Northwestern, despite a reputation as a feisty underdog, is just 4-15 ATS over its last 19 games. Two teams coming off disheartening losses meet when the Irish host the Wildcats Saturday afternoon.

 

Point spread: Fighting Irish opened as 16.5-point favorites, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark (Line updates and matchup report).

 

College football pick, via Odds Shark computer: 32.2-17.9 Fighting Irish

 

Why the Northwestern Wildcats can cover the spread

The Wildcats had a chance to snap a three-game losing streak last week against Michigan, scoring with three seconds to get within 10-9, but they botched a two-point conversion attempt and lost. They did, however, cover the spread as two-point home dogs.

Northwestern out-gained the Wolverines 264-256, held the ball for almost 32 minutes and went 10-of-20 on third-down conversions, but its three turnovers proved costly. Earlier this year the Wildcats beat Penn State on the road and Wisconsin at home, and lost a tough game at Minnesota, so they are capable of competing. Eliminating the turnovers would help.

 

Why the Notre Dame Fighting Irish can cover the spread

The Irish suffered a meltdown last week against Arizona State, committing five turnovers, two of which were returned for Sun Devils touchdowns, in a 55-31 defeat. Notre Dame actually out-gained ASU 487-412, and after trailing 34-3, they pulled to within 34-31 with six minutes to go. But the rally died when the Devils drove for an insurance score, then tacked on another defensive touchdown for the icing.

The Irish have out-gained seven of nine opponents this season, including their last three foes, yet they've lost two of their last three games. Of course, one of those defeats came thanks to that questionable pass interference penalty in the waning moments against Florida State.

 

Smart Pick

The Irish are the better team but is Northwestern really that bad? Before the season started many people thought the Wildcats had a chance to win the Big Ten's West Division. And with this game being played in South Bend, the spread is probably a bit inflated toward the home team. So the smart choice here resides with Northwestern, plus the points.

 

Betting Trends

  • The total has gone under in five of Northwestern's last seven games on the road
  • The total has gone under in five of Notre Dame's last seven games at home

 

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

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Nebraska Cornhuskers vs. Wisconsin Badgers: Betting Odds, College Football Pick

The Wisconsin Badgers will go for their fifth straight win Saturday when they host the Nebraska Cornhuskers in a key Big Ten matchup. Wisconsin and Nebraska are currently in a three-way tie atop the conference’s West Division with the Minnesota Golden Gophers, and both of them beat the Purdue Boilermakers in their last games as double-digit favorites.

 

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

 

College football pick, via Odds Shark computer: 32.2-31.9 Badgers

 

Why the Nebraska Cornhuskers can cover the spread

The Cornhuskers beat Purdue 35-14 two weeks ago as 21-point home favorites, the team’s third win in a row since losing 27-22 to the Michigan State Spartans as 8.5-point road underdogs. That is the only blemish for Nebraska this season, and it will be out to keep it that way with an outside shot of making the College Football Playoff if it can win the rest of its games.

Beating Wisconsin is first and foremost on Nebraska’s list of what needs to be done to improve the team’s chances, as a home game against Minnesota and a road meeting with Iowa still remain in the final two regular-season games before a potential Big Ten Championship Game matchup down the road.

 

Why the Wisconsin Badgers can cover the spread

The Badgers are 15-5 against the spread (ATS) in their last 20 home games against Big Ten opponents and have gone 3-0 vs. the line in the past three meetings between the teams. Two of those meetings were in Madison, where Wisconsin crushed the Cornhuskers by a combined 70 points.

The Badgers are coming off a 34-16 victory against the Boilermakers last week as 16.5-point road chalk, just beating the spread to improve to 3-0 ATS in their past three games. Wisconsin’s only loss in its last eight games came on the road against the Northwestern Wildcats 20-14 as a 7.5-point road favorite, and the team has won 11 of its past 12 at home overall, going 8-4 ATS.

 

Smart Pick

It looks easy to take the Badgers at home in this game, but Nebraska is the real deal and should be able to hang around and stay close to or within the number. The better bet though is to go over the total in what has been a high-scoring matchup, going 3-0 in the last three meetings with an average of 74.3 points per game.

The last meeting two years ago saw a whopping 101 points scored in a 70-31 Wisconsin victory, and the over is also 14-4-1 in the team’s past 19 home games vs. Big Ten foes.

Keep in mind, the Badgers were three-point home underdogs in that last meeting and saw three of their running backs rush for a combined 527 yards and eight touchdowns. That just proves how a powerful running game can push the game over. In this game, there are two.

 

Betting Trends

  • Nebraska is 9-1 straight up in its last 10 games.
  • The total has gone under in four of Wisconsin's last six games.

 

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

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Mississippi State Bulldogs vs. Alabama Crimson Tide Betting Odds, Analysis

The Alabama Crimson Tide will get their chance to take down the top team in the country on Saturday when they host the Mississippi State Bulldogs in arguably the biggest SEC game of the year. The Crimson Tide have won 11 of the last 13 meetings with the Bulldogs, including the last six, and they are a perfect 7-0 straight up and against the spread in their past seven home games vs. SEC opponents.

 

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

 

College football pick, via Odds Shark computer: 27.3-25.4 Bulldogs

 

Why the Mississippi State Bulldogs can cover the spread

Mississippi State is still unbeaten for a reason, going 12-0 in their last 12 games dating back to 2013. This is obviously the toughest test of the season for the Bulldogs, but they have managed to come through in their biggest games all year.

They are also 10-4 ATS in their past 14 dating back to last season, although they have failed to cover three straight. To be fair, Mississippi State’s past three games have come against weak competition, with the team favored by double digits in all of them.

The Bulldogs started the season 5-1 against the number, capped by a 38-23 rout of Auburn as 2.5-point home underdogs. That victory was so impressive it made Mississippi State the No. 1 team in the country, and the school has stayed there ever since.

 

Why the Alabama Crimson Tide can cover the spread

Alabama has been looking forward to this game on its schedule for a while now and done a good job of not overlooking opponents along the way. The road has not been easy, but the Crimson Tide are right where they want and need to be, knowing that a victory here against the nation’s top-ranked team will not only knock the Bulldogs from the top spot but also probably put the Tide into the top four.

Granted, Alabama still has to beat Auburn and then win the SEC Championship Game, but past history certainly suggests a win over Mississippi State is likely. In addition to favorable series trends, the Crimson Tide are 6-2 ATS in their past eight games as a home favorite.

 

Smart pick

The timing of this game is not great for the Bulldogs, but this is when you need to win in order to earn your way into national championship consideration. Losing a game now is far more devastating than earlier in the season, and Alabama knows that. Fair or unfair, the Crimson Tide’s lone setback of the season at Ole Miss is all but forgotten, and beating Mississippi State is all that matters.

The Bulldogs are just 2-10 SU in their last 12 games as road underdogs, including 1-8 in their past nine. They have also dropped six of their last nine SEC road games, although two of the three wins during that stretch have taken place this season.

The bottom line is Alabama has been ramping up its schedule with tougher games lately while Mississippi State has not. That puts the Tide in perfect position to hand the Bulldogs their first loss and cover the spread.

 

Betting trends

  • Mississippi State is 5-1 ATS in its last six games on the road.
  • The total has gone under in four of Alabama's last five games.

 

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

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2015 Linebacker Recruits Who Will Be Tackling Machines for Their Future Teams

With offenses tending to move toward creating matchups in space, the responsibilities of the linebacker position have changed in recent years.

However, one duty that never changes for defenders in the middle level is their job of racking up tackles. 

The 2015 class has a handful of standout linebackers who have proven their ability to wreak havoc on the prep level. 

Which senior linebackers are primed to become tackling machines on the college level?

 

Players listed in alphabetical order.

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Ohio State Football: Can Minnesota Spoil the Buckeyes' Playoff Hopes?

After Ohio State fell to Virginia Tech in Week 2, it took two months, a handful of blowouts and a convincing victory over Michigan State for Urban Meyer's squad to truly reenter the College Football Playoff race.

The Buckeyes, who ascended six spots to No. 8 in this week's rankings, will need to bring their best to Minneapolis this weekend to keep pace in an ever-narrowing sprint to the finish line.

What's waiting for them this Saturday is a feisty Minnesota team coming off its best performance of the year—a 51-14 demolition of the surging Iowa Hawkeyes. The Gophers, now 7-2 on the year, are hoping to derail Ohio State just a week after it got back on track. 

Are the Buckeyes destined for a dreaded hangover game after avenging last year's loss to the Spartans? Meyer is working hard to prevent that.

"We spend every second of our day on trying to make sure that [a hangover] doesn't happen," Meyer said, according to Tim Shoemaker of Eleven Warriors. "You watch the video tape, and here's a team that's won a bunch of games, and their last game was their best game against Iowa." 

They looked so good against the Hawkeyes, in fact, that the Gophers popped up in this week's playoff rankings, coming in at No. 25. This is certainly a team that has improved drastically since the Buckeyes last saw it in 2008, when they cruised to an easy 38-7 victory in Columbus.

So how did Minnesota emerge from a bottom-dwelling Big Ten team to a legitimate threat? Credit for that belongs to head coach Jerry Kill, who took over in 2011 and improved the program incrementally during his tenure. The Gophers won just three games in his first season, but they registered six victories in 2012 and broke out for eight in 2013. 

Saturday, they'll be looking for a program-defining win over Ohio State. The Gophers will lean on their 21st-ranked defense and a strong running game fueled by running back David Cobb—who ranks eighth nationally with 1,205 rushing yards—to pull the upset. But will they have enough firepower to keep pace with a Buckeyes team that is hitting on all cylinders?

The good folks in Las Vegas don't think so. According to Odds Shark, Ohio State will enter Saturday's contest as 12.5-point favorites, but that line has moved down two points since Sunday.

When conference play kicked off, the Michigan State game looked like Ohio State's only opportunity to really impress pollsters before a potential trip to the Big Ten title game. But with Minnesota's emergence, the Buckeyes will have another national audience (ABC, noon ET) to put on a show against a quality opponent. And with just three games remaining in the regular season, Meyer's squad needs to take advantage and prove it's worthy of a playoff spot with an impressive showing.

Can the Buckeyes do that against a Minnesota team that likes to play ugly, defense-first football? That's something the selection committee will be interested in finding out because this same Gophers team was blasted 30-7 by TCU earlier this season. The Horned Frogs, who rank No. 4 in this week's standings, would indirectly receive a boost if the Buckeyes struggle this Saturday.

That's why it's so important for Ohio State to put on a show against Minnesota. If it struggles in what should be frigid conditions on the road, the Buckeyes' playoff hopes would crash before they even had a chance to take off.

 

All stats via NCAA.com.

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

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Michigan State Spartans vs. Maryland Terrapins: Betting Odds and Pick

Michigan State has been a moneymaker on the road recently, going 14-3 against the spread in its last 17 spots as a road favorite and 8-1 ATS in its last nine Big Ten road contests. The Spartans will try to shake off last week's loss to Ohio State when they visit College Park to take on Maryland Saturday night.

 

Point spread: Spartans opened as 10.5-point favorites, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark. (Line updates and matchup report)

 

College football pick, via Odds Shark computer: 38.9-26.1 Spartans

 

Why the Michigan State Spartans can cover the spread

The Spartans had won six games in a row while going 4-2 ATS until running into a buzz saw in a 49-37 loss to the Buckeyes last week. Sparty led that game 21-14 late in the second quarter but gave up two long J.T. Barrett touchdown passes before the half, totally turning the momentum toward OSU.

Michigan State eventually racked up 536 yards of offense but just didn't have an answer for Barrett, who scalded the Spartans for almost 400 yards from scrimmage and five scores. Fortunately for State, the Terrapins don't have anybody like Barrett.

 

Why the Maryland Terrapins can cover the spread

The Terps have had their ups and down this season, but after winning at Penn State 20-19 on Nov. 1 as three-point underdogs, they're now 3-2 both straight-up and ATS in Big Ten play. Maryland only managed 194 yards of offense but held the Nittany Lions to just 219 yards and forced four turnovers. So at 6-3 SU and 5-4 ATS, Maryland is already bowl-eligible for the second season in a row.

Despite moving to a new conference, the Terps had some high hopes for this season, but injuries have once again taken a toll on this team. However, they have won and covered two of their last three outings.

 

Smart Pick

Michigan State might have a tough time getting up for this game initially, but with its running game and defense, it should be able to pull away from a Maryland team that lost 52-24 to Ohio State and 52-7 to Wisconsin. So the smart money here resides with the Spartans, on the road, at the more manageable spread.

 

Betting Trends

  • The total has gone over in 10 of Michigan State's last 11 games.
  • The total has gone over in five of Maryland's last six games at home.

 

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

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LSU Tigers vs. Arkansas Razorbacks Betting Odds, Analysis, College Football Pick

The Arkansas Razorbacks still haven't won an SEC game under head coach Bret Bielema, losing 17 straight conference games overall and going 7-10 against the spread. The Hogs take another shot at snapping that inglorious streak when they host the Tigers of LSU on Saturday night in Fayetteville.

 

Point spread: The Razorbacks opened as 1.5-point favorites, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark (line updates and matchup report).

 

College football pick, via Odds Shark computer: 26.9-25.7 Razorbacks

 

Why the LSU Tigers can cover the spread

The Tigers had won and covered three games in a row until a tough 20-13 overtime loss at home to Alabama last week. LSU kicked a field goal to take a 13-10 lead with less than a minute to go but allowed the Tide to drive for a game-tying field goal of their own and then lost in the first overtime period.

The Tigers outrushed 'Bama 183-106 and held the ball for over 38 minutes but missed a chance at the victory in regulation when they couldn't do anything with a 1st-and-goal from the Tide 6-yard line in the final minutes. Still, LSU is 7-3 ATS on the season and owns a three-game winning streak against Arkansas.

 

Why the Arkansas Razorbacks can cover the spread

The Razorbacks are still winless in SEC play under Bielema, but they've come close to snapping that skid several times already this season.

In the season opener, they played Auburn to a 21-21 halftime tie before running out of gas in the second half. Later, they blew a 14-point fourth-quarter lead and lost to Texas A&M 35-28 in overtime. Then, they lost to Alabama 14-13 thanks in part to a missed extra point. Last week, Arkansas led top-ranked Mississippi State in Starkville 10-0 in the second quarter but came up empty from there and lost 17-10.

Still, the Hogs are 7-2 ATS on the season, and they're 6-1 ATS in their last seven meetings with LSU.

 

Smart pick

Both teams are coming off tough losses, so they're in the same boat emotionally. Arkansas owns the edge on offense, averaging 452 yards per game, but LSU has the edge on defense, holding foes to 318 yards per game. In close calls like this, the smart money should go with the better defense, so the Tigers are the pick, plus the points.

 

Betting trends

  • LSU is 7-2-1 ATS in its last 10 games.
  • Arkansas is 1-4 SU in its last five games.

 

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

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Tennessee vs. Kentucky Won't Be an Easy Win for Vols Like in the Past

The earlier date on the schedule isn't the only thing different about Tennessee's annual football game with Kentucky this year. 

The Wildcats are no longer doormats. So, when the Volunteers meet their next-door neighbors in Neyland Stadium on Saturday afternoon—a couple of weeks earlier in November than usual—it really will be a playoff-type atmosphere.

Head coach Mark Stoops' Cats need one more win to become bowl-eligible. Butch Jones' Vols need two.

Though Tennessee is favored by a little more than a touchdown on OddsShark.com this week, it's anybody's game.

That's a far cry from a series that has laughed in the face of the word "rivalry" in recent years. Though the two schools are just 173 miles apart, the gulf between the football programs has been much wider, as UT has won 28 of the past 29 by an average of 20 points.

That's no longer the case. The two programs' seasons are extremely similar. 

The Vols have played a tougher schedule so far and have four wins. The Wildcats' is more back-loaded, and they have five.

Both have a tough road to a bowl. Both upset South Carolina dramatically. Both played Florida extremely close before losing. Both play a lot of youngsters and have second-year coaches.

Though the Wildcats have fallen off and lost four straight after a 5-1 start, they took No. 1 Mississippi State to the brink before getting handled by Missouri and Georgia the past two weeks.

So, why is UK no longer known as the "Mildcats," the team that has beaten UT just seven times since 1959?

Reporter Kyle Tucker of Louisville's The Courier-Journal newspaper told Bleacher Report there are several factors, but it all starts with a Stoops-influenced defense and 6'5", 240-pound redshirt sophomore quarterback Patrick Towles.

"The big difference: a quarterback who can (doesn't always) raise his game to an elite level and make NFL throws and a defense that, while pretty atrocious against the run, can force turnovers," Tucker said. "The Cats only intercepted three passes a year ago; 13 so far this season.

"Yes, [Towles] can take over games, but he's also disappeared some down the stretch here. UK needs the guy back who had 390-plus total yards three times this season, including against Florida and Mississippi State."

Like Tennessee, Kentucky's defense has made some big, pivotal plays. Also like the Vols, they've had lapses where they've played atrociously, allowing 41 points to LSU, 45 to Mississippi State and 63 last week to Georgia.

But having a really good quarterback covers a lot of warts. There have been several games where Towles has picked up his team and carried it on his shoulders with his cannon arm and able legs. He's the best NFL prospect at the position in the league.

Having him directing the opponent makes a really good football game possible on Saturday. It also makes for an intriguing atmosphere that UT quarterback and fellow potential pro prospect Joshua Dobbs told VolQuest.com's John Brice and Rob Lewis (subscription required) will have a do-or-die feel:

Coach Jones has definitely said it's a three-game playoff. We want to win all three games obviously. We have to start with this one. We have to come out Saturday ready to play. Our goal is to get to five wins and they stand in our path. Our goal is to do whatever it takes to move them out of the way, get win number five and then move on from there.

Even in their worst years, that hasn't been too difficult for the Vols. Beating Kentucky is tradition. But it won't be that easy this season, thanks to Stoops. He has recruited some players in there, and it is already paying dividends.

The Wildcats may not always know what they're doing, but they've got athletic freshmen and sophomores all over that defense and have a future offensive star in Boom Williams at running back.

He highlighted a recruiting class in 2014 that was among UK's best ever, ranking 23rd in the country on the 247Sports composite rankings.

"There are four former 4-star recruits in the backfield, led by freshman Stanley 'Boom' Williams, one of just two players in the country with a catch of 25-plus yards, run of 50-plus and kick return of 75-plus," Tucker said. "He's a big-time playmaker, one of just six players with three TD runs of 50 yards or longer, including one last week against UGA.

"Safety A.J. Stamps is a JUCO addition who has made a major difference in the secondary."

Beyond the numbers in the rankings, though, it's obvious that Kentucky now isn't the same as Kentucky of old. Sure, the Wildcats fade in stretches against good teams that are more established, more talented, deeper and have been playing at a higher level longer. 

But those flashes of competitiveness are getting longer and longer.

It's the same frustratingly slow signs of maturity the Vols see when they're looking in the proverbial mirror. These are programs in the pubescent stages of competition, and this is a massive game for the long-term complexion of both.

Whichever team comes out on top will not only have a leg up in making it to a bowl game this year, but they'll hold bragging rights in a series that hasn't meant much in a long time but looks like it's trending in that direction in the future of a wide-open SEC East.

Tennessee may be recruiting the type of talent that can put the Vols back near the top of the league, competing for a spot in the SEC Championship Game.

But Kentucky can't be shrugged off anymore, not with Stoops recruiting in Ohio and Florida the way he is, not with a blossoming star at quarterback and not with some underclassmen who double as playmakers.

The Vols may wind up doing what its fanbase expects and handling the Wildcats yet again on Saturday. But if they do, it'll be another impressive step for the program and a nice encore to the "Comeback in Columbia."

 

All stats and information taken from UTSports.com. Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

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

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Florida State Seminoles vs. Miami Hurricanes Betting Odds, College Football Pick

The Florida State Seminoles will face their biggest challenge of the season to date when they visit the Miami Hurricanes in a key ACC matchup. The defending national champion Seminoles opened as 2.5-point road favorites at Miami, their lowest spread since they were 1.5-point road underdogs at Clemson back in 2011. Florida State has been favored in 45 straight lined games heading into this game against the Hurricanes.

 

Point spread: Seminoles opened as 2.5-point favorites, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark. (Line updates and matchup report)

 

College football pick, via Odds Shark computer: 33.5-27.9 Seminoles

 

Why the Florida State Seminoles can cover the spread

The Seminoles have won their last 25 games and only appear to cover the spread when properly motivated. Is this one of those games? It should be considering Miami is an intrastate and ACC rival, and any loss at this point could knock Florida State out of the national title picture.

The Seminoles seem to be able to turn it on whenever they want, like when they were trailing the Louisville Cardinals 21-7 on the road two weeks ago before outscoring them 35-10 in the second half en route to a 42-31 victory.

They are coming off a 34-20 home win against the Virginia Cavaliers last week and should be up to play their final road game of the regular season against the Hurricanes.

 

Why the Miami Hurricanes can cover the spread

Miami still has an outside shot at the ACC Coastal Division title but would love nothing more than to end Florida State’s epic winning streak and end its run at another national championship. The Hurricanes have looked like one of the best teams in the country over the last month, going 3-0 straight up and against the spread with an average margin of victory of 24 points.

Their only setback during that stretch came on the road against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets as 2.5-point underdogs, and their other two losses this season both came on the road. Miami is 7-3 ATS in its last 10 home games against ACC opponents and 4-0 versus the line in its past four as a home dog.

 

Smart pick

The Seminoles are just 2-8 ATS in their last 10 games, and sooner or later their luck will run out. Reigning Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston has not enjoyed the same kind of success this year on and off the field for Florida State, and it’s starting to catch up to him—the sophomore quarterback has thrown six interceptions in the last three games combined to go along with six touchdowns.

There’s only so much you can try to get away with before an opponent with comparable talent beats you. That’s where the Hurricanes come in. They are that foe who can upset the Seminoles, and they will on Saturday.

 

Betting trends

  • The total has gone under in nine of Florida State's last 13 games when playing Miami
  • Miami is 5-0 SU in its last five games at home

 

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

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Updated National Championship Odds Heading into Week 12

The College Football Playoff selection committee just released its third rankings of the season, and along with them comes a better understanding of which teams are in prime position for national championship runs.

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Adam Kramer gives you his best bets to win it all. 

Which team has the best odds to win the national championship?

Watch the video and let us know!

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

California Golden Bears vs. Southern Cal Trojans: Betting Odds and Pick

USC owns the recent rivalry with Cal, winning the last 10 meetings by an average of 20 points per game, going 8-2 against the spread in the process. The Trojans hope to continue that dominance and stay alive in the Pac-12 South race when they host the Golden Bears Thursday night at the Coliseum.

 

Point spread: Trojans opened as 12-point favorites, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark (line updates and matchup report).

 

College football pick, via Odds Shark computer: 39.8-28.9 Golden Bears

 

Why the California Golden Bears can cover the spread

After winning just one game in their first season under head coach Sonny Dykes last year, the Bears are 5-4 this year and one victory away from bowl eligibility following a 45-31 win at Oregon State two weeks ago. Cal started 4-1, then lost three straight but came up with a big effort against the Beavers, racking up 546 yards of offense, including 269 on the ground.

This led to the Bears picking up their second conference road victory of the season and third road victory overall.

In fact, the Bears are 4-0 ATS on the road this year. And of their four losses, one came on a Hail Mary at the buzzer against Arizona, another on a late field goal against UCLA and they gave Oregon a good tussle a few weeks ago. This program appears to be on the verge of turning the corner.

 

Why the Southern Cal Trojans can cover the spread

The Trojans bounced back after that tough loss at Utah to win at Washington State a couple weeks ago 44-17, covering as seven-point road favorites. USC broke out to a 24-0 lead and cruised from there, eventually piling up 527 yards of offense. Quarterback Cody Kessler only completed 21 passes against the Cougars, but he threw for 400 yards and five touchdowns.

So over his last three games, Kessler has thrown 14 touchdown passes against just one interception. USC is 6-3 straight up, a somewhat surprising 6-3 ATS and 5-2 in Pac-12 play, which puts it just a half-game out of first place in the Pac-12 South. And the only game in which the Trojans were really outplayed this year came in that bad spot at Boston College back in September, just after the win at Stanford.

 

Smart pick

USC is the better team, but Cal looks like an up-and-comer. The Bears need a little improvement on defense, but they've been able to keep most of their games close. And the home team is always a bit inflated on the spread. So the smart choice here resides with Cal, plus the points.

 

Betting trends

  • California is 6-3 ATS in its last nine games.
  • Southern Cal is 5-0 SU in its last five games when playing California.

 

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

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Auburn Tigers vs. Georgia Bulldogs Betting Odds, Analysis, College Football Pick

The Georgia Bulldogs and Auburn Tigers may not have a shot at the national championship anymore with two losses apiece, but both teams still have a lot to play for heading into Saturday night’s SEC matchup against each other. Georgia in particular is battling for the SEC East division title and has gone 6-2 against the spread in the last eight meetings with Auburn.

 

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

 

College football pick, via Odds Shark computer: 61.1-27.0 Bulldogs

 

Why the Auburn Tigers can cover the spread

The Tigers are coming off a stunning 41-38 home loss to the Texas A&M Aggies last week as 23.5-point home favorites, possibly looking ahead to this game against the Bulldogs. Texas A&M had dropped five in a row ATS before pulling off the upset and looked like a dead team.

Before the loss to the Aggies, Auburn handed the Ole Miss Rebels their first loss of the season, 35-31, as a one-point road underdog. In fact, the Tigers are 3-0 ATS in their last three games as a road dog and 5-1 versus the line in their past six road games against SEC opponents. Both of those trends match up nicely here considering Auburn opened as a small dog.

 

Why the Georgia Bulldogs can cover the spread

First of all, Georgia is playing at home, where the team is 24-1 straight up in its last 25 games as a favorite. The Bulldogs are also 11-1 SU in their past 12 home games against SEC foes, with the lone loss coming against the Missouri Tigers last year in a 41-26 defeat as 6.5-point chalk.

They are coming off a huge 63-31 road victory against the Kentucky Wildcats last Saturday as 10-point favorites behind four touchdowns from senior quarterback Hutson Mason, who tossed all of them while completing 11 of his first 13 passes.

Georgia freshman running back Nick Chubb also rushed for 170 yards and one touchdown filling in for the suspended Todd Gurley.

 

Smart pick

The Bulldogs will be facing a fragile Tigers team that still does not know what hit them in last week’s loss to Texas A&M. Georgia had its wake-up call the week before in an equally surprising home loss to the Florida Gators as a 12-point favorite but was able to get back on track with a big win at Kentucky. The key here is obviously home field, with the Bulldogs favored by nearly a field goal according to the opening line.

Auburn has lost four of the last five road meetings with Georgia both SU and ATS, including each of the past three. When you combine recent series history with the strong play by the Bulldogs at home lately, they are the best bet to cover the spread in this game.

 

Betting trends

  • Auburn is 6-2 ATS in its last eight games on the road.
  • Georgia is 3-7-1 ATS in its last 11 games at home.

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Michigan Football: How Wolverines Failed to Meet Expectations in 2014

Instead of sitting comfortably at 8-2 or 7-3, Michigan is stuck in a rut at 5-5 (3-3 Big Ten), fighting for bowl eligibility and searching for a little respect before closing an incredibly disappointing, yet familiar, season under coach Brady Hoke.

But it wasn’t supposed to be this way for Team 135—not by a long shot. With another star-studded recruiting class entering the mix, the 2014 Wolverines were thought to be Hoke’s best yet.

Finally, after three years, his offensive line was going to materialize. Finally, after a year-and-a-half of starting, quarterback Devin Gardner was going to live up to his potential and reach new heights with the offense.

Neither happened; instead, the fifth-year senior has struggled more than ever behind an offensive line that has never looked worse.

Back in August, the possibilities were endless. Today, finishing with a victory over Maryland before taking a beating from Ohio State is all the Wolverines have left.

How did this come to be?

 

Failure to Develop Gardner

It’s been seven years since the Wolverines had a steady pocket passer. That drought was supposed to end this season, as offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier galloped his way from Alabama to Ann Arbor to fix the Wolverines signal-caller.

It was an airtight plan. Nussmeier had the Tide pedigree, not to mention an NFL resume and a list of successful quarterbacks from which to reference and compare. Gardner wasn't going to be AJ McCarron, but he was certainly going to stand tall behind his line and fire darts to all kinds of receivers.

Nope.

This year has been the opposite.

Frequently running for his life, he continuously completes passes to the other team, all the while putting Michigan further and further behind the competition. It’s harsh criticism, sure, but it’s just: Gardner has cost more than he’s gained. He’s regressed into a one-dimensional, one-read quarterback who is easily rattled and thrown out of rhythm.

He's never had full command of everything and everyone within the offense. 

Eighty of his 139 completions are to two receivers—Devin Funchess (50) and Amara Darboh (30). On top of that, he’s thrown for a meager 1,557 yards, eight touchdowns (none on the road) and a career-high 13 interceptions (eight on the road).

That stat line is a mere fraction of the 3,000-yard, 25-touchdown season many thought was within his reach.

It's not just this season; it’s this past year too. The failure to properly develop Gardner, who’s been injured in one way or another for two years, has been the biggest knock of the Hoke administration. If you have no quarterback, you get no points. 

Gardner’s curtain call wasn’t supposed to be so rough. This was supposed be the year it all came together for him and for Michigan, which has fallen short of expectations with the league's No. 12-ranked scoring offense (20.7 PPG) and No. 14-ranked total offense (322.6 YPG). 

 

No O-Line

This season has been the worst-case scenario for a line that lost left tackle Taylor Lewan and right tackle Michael Schofield to the NFL. Really, 2013 was bad enough with them in the lineup. Without them, it's been O-line 101. 

Darrell Funk coaches the position group, yet he's seldom mentioned in the discussion. It's always Hoke who's being blamed for a horrible offensive front. Now that Dave Brandon has resigned from his post as athletic director, expect everyone's job to be put under the microscope. 

There are a lot of holes in Funk's body of work. Just look at the game film. 

Had the Wolverines taken the expected developmental leaps up front, this season could have been very different, which is easy to say. But "what-ifs" are part of the routine these days, so ask away. 

 

Another "Blah" Year of the RB

Frustration from the fanbase mounts each time Michigan runs in circles. Just like in years past, the Wolverines never got into gear on the ground. Derrick Green was almost there, but he was lost for the remainder of the year with a broken clavicle. 

This past Saturday, De'Veon Smith ran for a career-high 122 yards. His three-yard touchdown helped his team slip past Northwestern 10-9—"slip by" or "put down," whichever you prefer. Aesthetically, it was brutal. But it was arguably the sophomore's finest overall showing yet. 

It was against the lowly Wildcats, though. And other than during Week 1's romp over Appalachian State, he hasn't sniffed 100 yards, turning in anywhere from five to 50 in eight games. 

The week prior, Drake Johnson, also a sophomore, rushed for a career-high 121 yards and two touchdowns during Team 135's 34-10 homecoming win over Indiana, another Big Ten bottom-dweller. 

The names have changed, but the story's been the same since 2012. 

 

No Breaks Lead to Tough Breaks

In 2013, the Wolverines lost four games by a combined 11 points, giving reason to believe they were indeed a shade better than their record suggested. A bounce here, another there, maybe a few fewer injuries, and who knows? If not for bad luck, they could have won 10 games. 

A year ago, the defensive backs finished with 17 picks, the second-most in the Big Ten. This season could be viewed in the same way, but instead of using losses and combined points, use lost opportunities and lack of generated turnovers.

Michigan has five interceptions through 10 games, coming in at No. 13 in the B1G. What if Blake Countess, Jourdan Lewis and Ray Taylor snagged a few more? 

What if the Wolverines weren't last with a minus-13 turnover margin? They had four versus Notre Dame and lost 31-0, four versus Utah and lost 26-10, one versus Rutgers and lost 26-24, and three versus Michigan State, which had two itself, and lost 35-11. 

Hindsight's always 20/20.

An interception or a fumble recovery wasn't going to beat the Irish or the Spartans, but the fact remains that many of the Wolverines' wounds have been self-inflicted. It's fair to look back and think of what 2014 could have been. 

Most teams play one opponent Saturday, but Michigan has had to battle itself and the team across the line of scrimmage for the past three years. 

 

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

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College Football Playoff Rankings 2014: Week 12 NCAA Championship Predictions

One game looms large following the Week 12 release of the 2014 College Football Playoff rankings.

For the third time in as many inaugural editions, the Mississippi State Bulldogs are at the top of the standings. However, they will encounter their biggest test of the year in Tuscaloosa this Saturday when they take on Alabama.

Coach Nick Saban's Crimson Tide are just outside the Top Four and would undoubtedly break their way back into the picture with a victory over their undefeated SEC adversary.

What follows are predictions as to how the Top Four order will look in the next set of rankings preceded by the latest release from Tuesday evening.

 

Projected Top Four

1. Florida State

The reigning national champions can capitalize on an idle Oregon and ascend to the top of the college football hierarchy with a rivalry win at Miami on Saturday.

That may be easier said than done because Florida State hasn't exactly been rolling to an undefeated record in dominant fashion. Part of the issue has been quarterback Jameis Winston's sudden penchant for turning the ball over.

Fox Sports' Stewart Mandel noted how oddsmakers aren't giving the Seminoles much respect as they prepare for the Hurricanes:

Winston discussed how he needs to clean up his ball security, as he's thrown five interceptions over his past two starts.

"Make smarter decisions, stop always looking for the big play," said Winston, per The Associated Press, via ESPN.com. "I stressed about checking the ball down and making smart decisions, and I've got to go back to that. I can't be careless with the ball."

Two home games remain for Florida State once it faces Miami, which shouldn't be easy thanks to the Hurricanes' balanced offense. Freshman QB Brad Kaaya continues to improve with weapons at his disposal while the ever-electric Duke Johnson should give the Seminoles problems out of the backfield.

Whenever adversity has struck, particularly in the past two contests, Winston and his teammates have stepped up and found a way to win.

That should be the case on Saturday, and if Mississippi State is knocked off at home, FSU will be in a familiar No. 1 perch.

 

2. Alabama

The Crimson Tide are starting to roll. Since the loss to Ole Miss in Oxford, Alabama has ripped off four straight SEC wins. That 59-0 thrashing of Texas A&M looks even better after the Aggies upset prior No. 3 Auburn this past weekend.

Dual-threat QBs have given the Tide problems in the recent past (see: Johnny Manziel), but Alabama's run defense is ranked third in the country (h/t NCAA.com).

The formidable front seven should do all it can to mitigate Bulldogs running back Josh Robinson's presence, forcing Dak Prescott to beat the secondary through the air.

A stout secondary headlined by star safety Landon Collins will make life difficult for Prescott, who has room for polish as a passer. Alabama linebacker Reggie Ragland hinted at that in recent comments.

"He's physical, he can run, he'll beat you with his arm a little bit, and he's very smart," said Ragland of Prescott, per ESPN.com's Alex Scarborough. "If you're not doing the right things to disguise and confuse him, he'll beat you."

But as LSU head coach Les Miles stated following his team's 20-13 overtime loss to Alabama at home, disguising is precisely what the Tide excel at (via NOLA.com's Ron Higgins):

Fifth-year senior Blake Sims has finally gotten his shot to take the reins of the Crimson Tide offense this year. After seeing his championship dreams almost slip away against Ole Miss, Sims has responded—with the help of a monster running back tandem in T.J. Yeldon and Derrick Henry.

The physicality of Alabama's offensive line combined with Sims' superior decision-making will lift the Tide to a monumental triumph at Bryant-Denny Stadium and into the Top Four—where they arguably belong right now.

 

3. Oregon

Presuming the Tide pull off a win at home over Mississippi State, Oregon's bye week will cause the Ducks to slip to third in the rankings.

A loss at home to Arizona, compared to Alabama's lone defeat at Ole Miss, ought to loom large when the selection committee reexamines Oregon's resume. Skip Bayless of ESPN feels that should already be the case:

Although the Ducks defense is improving, QB Marcus Mariota will be the driving force behind the success Oregon has. Fox Sports' Joel Klatt weighed in after the dynamic signal-caller led the Ducks to a 51-27 victory over Utah:

Mariota accounted for 353 total yards and five touchdowns, fortifying his Heisman Trophy campaign. It's not as though falling from second to third in the rankings has much of a devastating impact because in the College Football Playoff, the second and third seeds play each other anyway.

Bleacher Report's Michael Felder pointed this out in the aftermath of Tuesday's rankings:

With only two regular-season games remaining against unranked opponents, Oregon should be able to run the table and make it into the Pac-12 title game. Arizona State and UCLA loom as possible opponents for that championship showdown, so that's when the Ducks will show their true colors.

But if Alabama should fall to Mississippi State, there's at least an outside chance Oregon could rise to No. 1 should the Seminoles scratch out another ugly win.

 

4. TCU

Controversy will continue to swirl about TCU, the newest addition to the Top Four as of Tuesday.

ESPN's Robert Flores noted how the Horned Frogs' loss at Baylor is impacting their nationwide perception:

All that matters is what the committee thinks, and if the Bears are able to run the table and win the Big 12, there shouldn't be much of a debate. Then again, that's the beauty of the College Football Playoff and the previous BCS—the polarizing, weekly arguments about the top teams.

TCU came to play in its marquee matchup with previously seventh-ranked Kansas State, putting forth a complete effort in a 41-20 victory. Trevone Boykin is the catalyst for a Horned Frogs offense that averages 47.2 points per contest—and put up 58 in the lone loss of the season.

It will be on Boykin to orchestrate another sensational performance on the road against Kansas this weekend to keep his team's standing intact. The good news is that the Jayhawks are 90th in scoring defense and average just 18.2 points themselves.

One of the pitfalls of having weekly rankings, where strength of schedule is a paramount pillar in the committee's decisions, is that teams like TCU can win out and lose ground. This scenario could unfold and have the Horned Frogs on the outside of the final playoff picture barring an upset in front of them.

The statement win over the Wildcats may not be enough in the end. All TCU can do is focus on its final three games and hope that its style points merit a Top Four bid. But with all the upsets that tend to happen in college football, anything is possible amid the higher-stakes football still to come.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Bowl Predictions 2014: Predictions for College Football Playoff After Week 11

An action-filled Week 11 in the college football world has created some major shifts in who we expect to play in the College Football Playoff. 

Auburn had been considered the best one-loss team in the nation going into the week thanks to its difficult schedule and ability to dominate quality opponents. However, a home loss to Texas A&M likely ruins any chance for the Tigers to compete for a national championship.

As a result, a wide array of teams have the ability to play their way into the conversation as the four best teams in the nation.

While you can see who would be involved in the playoff if the season ended today based on the latest rankings, here are predictions for who will still be standing at the end of the year:

The first thing most people will likely notice is the absence of current No. 1 Mississippi State. There is no question the Bulldogs deserve this spot at the moment, but the status quo will only remain as long as they are undefeated.

This will be a difficult task with a road matchup at Alabama in Week 12 as well as another road game against Ole Miss. A loss in just one of these games could be enough to knock the team out of the top four due to poor out-of-conference scheduling, as noted by Jake Trotter of ESPN.com:

Alabama will have to win home games against Mississippi State and Auburn, which will be no easy task, but the Tide have been much better at Bryant-Denny Stadium this season. Nick Saban's squad has a strong chance to win out and get a much-deserved place in the playoffs.

Florida State appeared to be almost a lock at this point with no more matchups really standing out as too difficult. However, Miami (FL) could end up causing a few problems Saturday.

Still, the Seminoles have a spot earned as defending national champions with a current undefeated record. As long as there is a zero in the loss column, this group will have a spot in the CFB Playoff.

This is despite oddsmakers not having too much respect for Jameis Winston and Co., per RJ Bell of Pregame.com (via Barrett Sallee of Bleacher Report):

The last two spots are more of a debate, although it seems like it will come down to one representative from the Pac-12 and one from the Big 12.

Oregon currently remains in good shape due to a bunch of good wins behind Marcus Mariota; however, Arizona State controls its own destiny with the ability to win out and then defeat the Ducks in the Pac-12 championship. 

After the Sun Devils added an impressive win over Notre Dame to their resume, there is no reason to count them out now.

This leaves two teams that have already played each other in TCU and Baylor. Tony Barnhart of SEC Network argues on behalf of the Bears:

While Baylor did earn a wild 61-58 win against TCU, it was a home game and still could only manage a three-point, come-from-behind victory. Meanwhile, the Horned Frogs also won at West Virginia, a place where the Bears suffered their only loss.

Head-to-head results become a tricky situation, especially when TCU has a much better resume with tougher wins and a more respectable loss. Based on how the committee has made its decisions this year, it seems like the Horned Frogs will get the bid if these teams are tied.

Another team that put itself back in the conversation this week was Ohio State, which defeated Michigan State with a 49-37 road win. The Buckeyes looked bad earlier in the year during a home loss to Virginia Tech, but they have turned things around and now look as good as anyone in the country.

When asked about whether his squad is good enough for a spot in the playoffs, head coach Urban Meyer argued on its behalf, per Mark Schlabach of ESPN.com: "I think it is, because I love my team and I don't know enough. I haven't studied the other teams really. If I have to go fight for this team, what they've done—very impressive. That darn loss the second game, if that hurts us, I'll take the hit for that."

The squad still might not have good enough wins to get a spot without a little help, but the Buckeyes will be right there waiting for someone to slip.

 

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

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College Football Week 12 Schedule: TV and Live Stream Info for Every Game

Gulp down the air while it's still available because viewers around the globe are set to once again be engulfed by the tide that is a number of heavyweight matchups that line the college football Week 12 schedule.

Last week it was Ohio State-Michigan State, TCU-Kansas State and a host of others that produced serious ramifications on the outlook of the inaugural College Football Playoff.

This week is just as important as a fixture of the dying embers of the season. Mississippi State-Alabama is sure to thrill. So is Nebraska-Wisconsin. Ditto for Auburn-Georgia. Others such as Florida State must avoid upsets against chippy underdogs.

Crafting a way to catch all of the action can be tricky, so what follows is a comprehensive listing of the Week 12 slate.

 

2014 College Football Week 12 Schedule

Schedule and viewing info courtesy of ESPN.com. For games without national or regional coverage on a major network, check local listings.

 

Live Stream Resource

Below is a database for the biggest streaming services out there for fans on the go or who do not get a game on the old-fashioned television. Note that some may require a subscription or cable.

ESPN: WatchESPN

SEC: CBSSports.com

Fox: Fox Sports Go

BTN: BTN2Go.com

Pac-12: Pac-12.com

ABC: ABC Live

CBS: CBSSports.com

 

Game of the Week

No. 1 Mississippi State at No. 5 Alabama

No game overshadows one that may produce a staggering feat when it comes to the CFP.

Should this and subsequent dominoes fall the right way, the SEC may miss out on the CFP entirely. The Crimson Tide already have one loss on the season and may miss out with another come Saturday.

Should Mississippi State lose this one, the team still needs to overcome Ole Miss, too. Again, the dominoes need to fall the right way, but the SEC is on high alert. Hence College GameDay making its way to Tuscaloosa:

As John Talty of AL.com breaks down, there is much at stake in terms of program-building philosophies, too: 

The product on the field seems to echo the ethos of each school's financial spending. Alabama can afford to recruit nationally and is loaded with highly-regarded five-star and four-star prospects. Mississippi State largely focuses on in-state recruiting and has made its name developing overlooked three-star prospects. Not surprisingly, Alabama far outspent Mississippi State ($983,721 to $340,000) in recruiting expenses in 2013.

"They probably have more 5-star players sitting on the bench who can't get a rep than we have on our entire roster," Bulldogs coach Dan Mullen said, per The Associated Press, via ESPN.com.

The Bulldogs are led by emerging Heisman favorite Dak Prescott, who has 2,231 yards and 18 touchdowns to seven interceptions through the air, with another 779 yards and 11 scores on the ground.

Prescott helps his team to rank 12th in the nation at 39.8 points scored per game on average, but he gets loads of help from a defense that ranks 16th at 19.7.

Alabama does not score quite as much per game (34.7), but the Crimson Tide once again tout one of the nation's scariest defenses. Nick Saban's defense surrenders just 13.9 points per game to rank second in the nation. 

Should this one unexpectedly dissolve into a shootout, though, Alabama has its own Heisman favorite to lean on with wideout Amari Cooper. Of the team's 2,531 receiving yards and 20 scores this year, he owns 1,215 and 10, respectively, on 79 catches.

The wild card in all of this is Alabama senior quarterback Blake Sims, who has turned things up a notch since his team's loss to Ole Miss. Over the course of the four games since, he has thrown for nine touchdowns to no interceptions.

No matter what happens Saturday, it is right to expect a classic. Prescott could get his Heisman moment in Tuscaloosa just like those before him, such as Cam Newton and Johnny Manziel. Or, Alabama could stand tall and send a warning shot to the CFP that the dynasty is alive and well.

With so much at stake, this is the contest to see in Week 12, if not the entirety of the season.

 

Stats and information via ESPN.com unless otherwise specified.

 

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