NCAA Football News

AP College Football Poll 2015: Updated Top 25, Projections for Week 8 Rankings

Michigan State-Michigan was the start and finish of every highlight reel from Week 7, but that wasn’t the only huge result on a weekend full of stiff tests for the top competitors.

Alabama embarrassed a Top-10 team in Texas A&M, spearheaded by its running game and pass defense, LSU used some Les Miles trickery and even more Leonard Fournette to take down the formerly undefeated Florida Gators, Iowa looked like a playoff team and Stanford proved its Week 1 loss to Northwestern was little more than a fluke.

The season still has plenty of time left for things to shift, but a top tier is beginning to form—even if no team is establishing itself as the clear No. 1—and Week 7 went a long way toward deciding which teams will make it to the playoff with a shot at the national championship.

Here’s a look at the most recent AP Top 25 Poll heading into Week 8 as the initial rankings for the College Football Playoff inch ever closer:

 

Notable Week 7 Performances

LSU

Each and every week, the critics get louder and louder, claiming the LSU Tigers would be nothing without the unstoppable powerhouse that is Leonard Fournette at running back, and each and every week LSU keeps on winning, so it doesn’t matter.

Fournette has been far and away the best player in the country this season, averaging more than 200 yards per game and leading the country in yards, yards per game and touchdowns on the ground. Against Florida, he was supposed to face his stiffest test, but the running back barely took a hit in production.

The Gators have a stellar run defense, but Fournette ran over it with 31 carries for 180 yards and two touchdowns. LSU also benefited from some Mad Hattery from Les Miles, with a fake-field-goal touchdown providing the difference in the win.

LSU is up to No. 5 in the country after the win and heads into a matchup with an underrated Western Kentucky side. With the annual war against Alabama looming in a few weeks, the Tigers could be tempted to look ahead, but for now, they are one of the hottest teams in the country and seem on course to get to the playoff.

The scoring defense hasn’t been the elite unit that usually defines LSU teams—the Tigers rank No. 43 in the country in points allowed per game but are No. 15 in total yards—and even though Brandon Harris has improved, the passing attack is suspect. Still, as long as Fournette is in the backfield, LSU is a force to be reckoned with and a playoff contender.

 

Baylor

Last season, the Baylor Bears did everything right when it came to earning a playoff appearance. They beat the teams they were supposed to beat convincingly, had wins against three ranked opponents including against another team vying for a spot in the playoff and finished at the top of the Big 12.

But the one mistake they made, the one week they didn’t show up to play against West Virginia, was enough to cost them a spot in the final four, which Ohio State would eventually turn into a national title.

Baylor wasn’t taking any chances this time around, as Seth Russell led the Bears to a 62-38 home win against the Mountaineers that wasn’t as close as the final score would suggest.

So far this year, the Bears have only looked mortal once (in the first half against SMU) and have put on one of the best offensive shows in the history of the sport. Art Briles has the team running perfectly, and the game against West Virginia was just another step toward the playoff and a shot at the title.

Things get tougher in November with back-to-back-to-back games against Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and the headliner against TCU, and the defense has some pretty big holes, but as long as Russell continues slinging the ball all over the field and Corey Coleman keeps up his record-breaking pace—the junior receiver has 16 touchdown catches so far—it will be hard to stop Baylor from achieving its goals.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Updated SEC Football Power Rankings Post Week 7

Week 7 of the college football season is in the books, and with it brought a little bit of clarity on just how the SEC shakes out.

Alabama handed Texas A&M its first loss of the season on Saturday, while LSU topped Florida in a battle of unbeaten powers in Baton Rouge.

How does the SEC rank after "Separation Saturday?" Our power rankings, based on record, head-to-head results and trajectory, are in this slideshow.

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NCAA Football Rankings 2015: Top Reaction to Week 8 College Polls and Standings

When the season started, not many could have predicted how much things would have changed by Week 8 in the AP Top 25 poll.

With the typical crop of SEC, Pac-12 and Big 12 teams dominating the tops of the polls in the preseason and early stretches of the year, the season was shaping up to be just like the ones that preceded it, with plenty of intrigue among the Power Five conferences while the Group of Five tussled for the smallest bit of attention.

But as the leaves turned and the weather got colder and colder, the season started to shift as well, moving away from the traditional powers to a new-look Top 25 that would have seemed like a joke less than a year ago.

Perhaps the story of the season so far has been the ascent of the American Athletic Conference, who is finally represented with gusto in the AP Top 25 with three teams ranked:

Since conference realignment spelled the end of the Big East, which proceeded to transform to the AAC, things haven’t been great for the once-proud conference, forced to add a number of teams to stay relevant in the larger scheme of football.

Of those teams, three are now ranked, with Memphis joining the rankings at No. 18, Houston up to No. 21 and Temple—a one-time Big East team before being removed from the conference—ranked for the first time since 1979 at No. 22, per Stewart Mandel of Sports Illustrated:

The rise of the American in recent weeks has seen the battle for the top Group of Five ranking heat up, with Toledo no longer in the pole position for the New Year’s Six Bowl that is associated with the honor and Memphis taking over its spot.

Other teams are also benefiting from the most recent rankings, with No. 11 Notre Dame finding itself with back-to-back ranked games against Temple and No. 25 Pittsburgh, teams who not many expected to be ranked at this point in the year, as Pete Sampson of Irish Illustrated noted:

At the other end of the polls, the top teams held to form, with Ohio State maintaining its every weaker grip on No. 1, while teams like LSU, Baylor and TCU close the gap for the top spot.

One of the teams chasing the Buckeyes has been arguably the biggest surprise of the year: the No. 3 Utah Utes. With impressive wins against Michigan and Oregon, Utah has gone from unranked before the year to the Top Three with a playoff spot likely if the Utes can finish the year undefeated.

Perhaps the most impressive part of Utah’s season so far, though, is doing so against one of the toughest schedules in the country, as Matthew Piper of the Salt Lake Tribune pointed out:

Heading into the year, the Pac-12 was expected to be one of the top two conferences in the country, with some even claiming it had dethroned the mighty SEC for the top overall spot.

But even with Utah climbing the polls rapidly and Stanford ranked No. 10, the Pac-12 has seen the Top 25 teams from its conference dwindle as the season has gone along, according to RedditCFB:

While Utah has climbed the rankings, the team it defeated in the first week of the season, Michigan, had seen a similar uptick in performance in its first season under Jim Harbaugh.

The Wolverines went into Week 7 with one loss on their resume and a chance to jump into the top 10 with a win against rivals Michigan State, who were undefeated and ranked No. 7 before the game. Then this happened:

It was one of the craziest plays in college football’s long history and meant the Spartans are on track for a possible undefeated battle with the Buckeyes in a few weeks, but it was heartbreaking for Michigan, who was the better team throughout.

Perhaps because of the craziness of the finish, or because they outplayed Michigan State, the Wolverines were not punished too harshly for the defeat, only falling from No. 12 to No. 15, per Michigan Football’s official Twitter account:

The season is in its second half, and separation is starting to develop between the top teams and the rest of the pack. And without the high-profile matchups of Week 7, this coming weekend could prove to be a different kind of test.

Keeping focused on winning and avoiding the upset, and the teams that look ahead to bigger matchups in Week 9 or beyond could be caught off guard in what has been a season of surprise results and upsets.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

The College Football Week 7 All-Heart Team

The Week 7 All-Heart Team features college football players who made tremendous effort plays and showed tremendous hustle in big moments.

There was one insanely obvious inclusion—the picture above should give it away—but all around the country, players wore their hearts on their sleeves.

Priority was given to power-conference players in high-profile games, since part of making this list includes playing well on the biggest stage. However, if the moment of performance was special enough, players from any-size FBS school were eligible to make the team.

Sound off below and let us know whom we missed!

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College Football Picks Week 8: Predictions for Top 25 Games on Upcoming Schedule

After a wild Week 7 in which seven members of the AP Top 25 went down, the college football rankings got a significant shakeup. 

The Week 7 upsets opened the door to a number of new entrants to the Top 25, most notably some Group of Five schools. The poll now features four teams from the Group of Five, with Memphis leading the way at No. 18.

Ohio State still sits atop both the AP and the coaches poll, with Baylor as Bleacher Report's No. 1 team. 

The three polls are featured below in their entirety along with the Week 8 schedule and odds. 

 

 

Note: Due to injury to Washington QB Jake Browning, the Washington-Stanford game is currently off the board, according to OddsShark.com. No ATS pick has been made for this game.

 

Notable Games

No. 20 California at UCLA

With both teams coming off losses, this game has lost some of its potential luster, but it remains one of the more intriguing Thursday night matchups of the season. 

Jared Goff and Josh Rosen are the Pac-12's premier quarterbacks, and both have the potential to light up the scoreboard. 

Josh Rosen is already good and he’s going to become scary good sooner than you think.

— The Solid Verbal (@SolidVerbal) October 16, 2015

While the quarterbacks are the stars of this matchup, the key to this one may be the running game. 

UCLA has allowed 502 rushing yards over its past two games against Arizona State and Stanford, both losses. 

Cal's Bear Raid offense doesn't feature a consistent rushing attack, however, as carries have been split between Vic Enwere, Khalfani Muhammad and Daniel Lasco this season. 

If UCLA is able to contain the running game while focusing on Goff, the Bruins may be able to get back on the winning track. 

 

No. 6 Clemson at Miami (FL)

Clemson has reached the point of its schedule where it's already proved its worth as a top-10 team. However, the team has a few weeks to kill before the game the Tigers have circled on their calendars against Florida State. 

Does that make this a trap game for Clemson?

This is the first meeting between Clemson and Miami since 2010, so there is very little familiarity between the teams. 

The key to a Miami upset will be the performance of quarterback Brad Kaaya, who is having a strong sophomore campaign. 

Brad Kaaya is on pace for 3,890 yards, 22 touchdowns and 2 picks this season.

— Josh Baumgard (@joshbaumgard) October 18, 2015

Kaaya has been playing his best football over the past two weeks, throwing for a combined 701 yards and five touchdowns against zero interceptions. 

If the Hurricanes offensive line can keep Kaaya upright against Shaq Lawson and a formidable Clemson front seven, this matchup has the potential for an upset. 

 

No. 15 Texas A&M at No. 24 Ole Miss

LSU sits atop the SEC West as the only undefeated team in the division, but both Texas A&M and Ole Miss are still alive. In fact, Ole Miss still controls its own destiny due to its victory over Alabama and the fact that LSU remains on the schedule in late November. 

Since both teams have an SEC loss already, this is effectively an elimination game in the division race, and therefor an elimination game for the College Football Playoff as well. 

The loss would be even more crippling for A&M, as the Aggies would have head-to-head losses against two teams in the division (Ole Miss and Alabama). 

 

Washington at No. 10 Stanford

Stanford will be the favorite in this one, and for good reason given how dominant the Cardinal has looked in recent weeks. But the success of Pac-12 road teams this season makes this a somewhat intriguing matchup. 

Washington has lost six of its last seven against Stanford, but the Huskies appear to be making some strides this year despite their 3-3 record. 

The Huskies have played particularly well on the road, nearly knocking off Boise State in a tough 16-13 loss to open the season and upsetting USC two weeks ago.

They key to this game, however, might simply come down to the health of Washington quarterback Jake Browning. 

Coach Pete said that all he knows is that Jake Browning had some shoulder pain, so KJ Carter Samuels had to play.

— Elise Woodward (@EliseMWoodward) October 18, 2015

Browning was taken out of the game on the final drive against Oregon due to a shoulder injury, but there has been no update on his status as of Sunday night. 

Washington's talented freshman quarterback is coming off his first turnover-free game in Pac-12 play this season and could be a candidate for a breakout game against Stanford if he's healthy.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Bowl Projections 2015: Projecting Teams for Every Selection Committee Matchup

It's never too early for projections, and there are plenty to be made when it comes to college football. It's the second year of the new playoff system, and fans were treated to some exciting games last year, including the Ohio State Buckeyes finishing off an almost-perfect season (14-1) against the Oregon Ducks in surprising blowout fashion in the first College Football Playoff.        

With this new system, the College Football selection committee chooses the two playoff semifinal matchups as well as the Sugar, Rose, Fiesta and Peach Bowls. Seven weeks into the season there are some teams separating themselves from the pack, but one late loss could always do them in.

Here are projections for those games the committee selects and some analysis of what it means for the Power Five conferences. 

 

Orange Bowl (semifinal): No. 1 Ohio State Buckeyes vs. No. 4 Clemson Tigers

When it comes to the four playoff teams, Ohio State seems to be the consensus No. 1 selection among experts. The Buckeyes are ranked first in the both the AP Top 25 and Amway Coaches polls released Sunday. They also have one of the easier schedules among the elite teams in the country—ranked 48th, per Team Rankings—and have still not lost since early 2014. 

However, the success has not come without a few struggles. They have seven-point victories against the unranked Northern Illinois Huskies and the Indiana Hoosiers. The quarterback position is filled with talent, but head coach Urban Meyer dealt with a quarterback controversy earlier in the year.

Starting quarterback Cardale Jones, who was briefly benched during the Northern Illinois game, changed his Twitter bio to "third-string QB at The Ohio State Oh Wait, second string" before removing that line once his followers called him out.

The QB controversy hasn't mattered much, though. Despite the fact Jones started this week against Penn State, Barrett was clearly more effective after he took over, and the Buckeyes keep on winning.

The final spot in the playoff picture belongs to the Clemson Tigers. In addition to being undefeated with a nice 24-22 win against Notre Dame under their belt, a week ACC helps their case. The only team that could defeat them, the Florida State Seminoles, has to play at Clemson and will leave with a loss.

It's perceived that Clemson will fall flat on the big stage, and the term "Clemsoning" has circulated to explain a team losing a game it should win. However, the Tigers already have beaten the ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish (currently No. 11 on AP poll), and their head coach, Dabo Swinney, doesn't believe his team fits that label.

Chip Patterson of CBS Sports noted a reporter asked Swinney a question after the Tigers defeated Georgia Tech that included the term "Clemsoning," and he did not like it.

I think it's ridiculous that you're even asking me that question. That you even say the word. I mean I'm serious. I'm sick of it. I don't even know why we bring up the daggum word. How about some of these other teams that lose to unranked opponents all the time. That's our thirty-third win versus an unranked opponent. We haven't lost to an unranked opponent since 2011, but I have to come to a press conference in 2015 and get asked that? And that's all media bullcrap.

Ohio State, on the other hand, doesn't have that problem. The Buckeyes are coming off a national championship season and have won 20 straight games. It could be 26 straight before the semifinal game.

 

Cotton Bowl (semifinal): No. 2 Baylor Bears vs. No. 3 LSU Tigers

When it comes to the next three playoff spots, there are four or five teams who have a great shot, but it will be the Baylor Bears and LSU Tigers. Baylor is averaging nearly 64 points per game and has rarely been challenged this season.

It does have to play on the road against the TCU Horned Frogs, who are ranked third in the Amway Coaches Poll and fourth in the AP poll. But Baylor defeated them 61-58 in Waco, Texas, last year, and its offense should carry them to a win in Fort Worth.

LSU's Leonard Fournette is running over everyone and became just the 10th back in college football history to reach the 1,000-yard mark five games in to the season, according to Jim Kleinpeter of the New Orleans Times Picayune. He will help lead the Tigers to an undefeated regular season and lock down the third spot. 

ESPN's Joe Schad, like most everyone else, is impressed with the sophomore Fournette. He calls him the best running back in the land even when praising someone else.

 It should be a great matchup between teams with two electric but different types of offenses. 

 

Fiesta Bowl: Stanford vs. Iowa

Stanford and Iowa are having great seasons but are facing different problems on their routes to the national championship.

The Cardinal have a schedule that could allow them to win the rest of their games, but they already have dropped one to Northwestern earlier this year. They also will most likely have to play the Utah Utes in the Pac-12 Championship Game, where a loss will completely knock them out of the playoff picture and into the Fiesta Bowl. 

Iowa, on the other hand, hasn't lost and doesn't have another currently ranked team on the schedule—that is until it meets Ohio State in the Big Ten title game. It won't be getting past the Buckeyes there, but it will still be an amazing season for a Hawkeye team that was projected to finish fourth in the Big Ten West Division, according to the Cleveland.com media poll (h/t NCAA.com).

 

Rose Bowl: Michigan State vs. Utah

In this scenario, the Pac-12 is left out of the playoff picture after having Oregon in the championship game a year ago. However, there is talent in the conference, and the Utah Utes are sitting at the top right now.

They are ranked third in the AP poll and seventh in the Coaches Poll, but Utah will still end up on the outside looking in because there could be multiple undefeated teams by the end of the season. The Utes also have a chance to drop a road game at the Arizona Wildcats and still have to play the UCLA Bruins at home.

Not everyone agrees with that analysis, especially Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham. There is certainly an argument to be made that Utah is the best team in the country, and it did receive 16 first-place votes in the latest AP poll. Whittingham however, still thinks his 6-0 Utes are not viewed as a viable contender. He told Bleacher Report's Greg Couch they will probably always feel like the underdog.

"Absolutely," he said. "We've played with a chip on our shoulder for a lot of years. We'll continue to do so."

The Michigan State Spartans may be undefeated coming off one of the most improbable victories ever on Saturday against the rival Michigan Wolverines, but they won't get past Ohio State and will be relegated to the Rose Bowl, a pretty nice consolation prize.

Their winning play is still worth a look, per ESPN CollegeFootball:

 

Sugar Bowl: TCU vs. Alabama 

TCU's offense is one of the best in the land, but its defense is suspect, yielding nearly 27 points per game. The Horned Frogs have won games against Texas Tech and Kansas State Wildcats despite giving up at least 45 points in both games. That will most likely cost them against Baylor and in the national title picture as well.

An early-season loss by the Alabama Crimson Tide to the Ole Miss Rebels will cost them a chance at the title game, but with a projected two losses, they should still end up against TCU in the Sugar Bowl. Coach Nick Saban's team has bounced back nicely since the early loss with four straight victories.

Three of the wins have been by more than two touchdowns, including a 41-23 victory Saturday against a ranked Texas A&M Aggie squad. 

Fournette and LSU may have to travel to Alabama but will still leave with a victory, and the Crimson Tide will test their stout defense against the uptempo TCU offense.  

 

Peach Bowl: Toledo vs. Florida State

The surprising Toledo Rockets could easily run the table and find themselves as a non-Power Five conference team playing in the Peach Bowl against a talented Florida State Seminoles squad.

The Rockets entered the polls in Week 7 and have already beaten Power Five teams Arkansas and Iowa State. And they don't have anyone on their schedule who poses a true threat. Their undefeated season will be impressive but not enough to break into the playoff picture. In this scenario, however, they would have a chance to prove they are legitimate with a win against Florida State.

The Seminoles have not lost yet, but a road date with Clemson will give them their first defeat. They may have lost quarterback Jameis Winston, but they keep winning. After Clemson, only Florida has a chance to beat them, but they are without starting quarterback Will Grier after a suspension.

This may not be the most intriguing matchup on paper, but it will give fans a chance to root for David to knock off Goliath.

 

Conference Picture

There is a long way to go, but here's a look at the conference breakdown of the CFB selection committee if the projections hold true.

There is always going to be at least one Power Five conference left out of the playoffs, and right now, it's the Pac-12. The Big 12 will be vindicated after the debacle last year that left Baylor and TCU—who both had impressive resumes with just one loss—on the outside looking in.

While the Buckeyes continue to be the consensus No. 1, the biggest storyline of the year is whether or not anyone can knock them off on the road to the national championship.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Tennessee Volunteers vs. Alabama Crimson Tide: Complete Game Preview

For many of the past few years, the famed "Third Saturday in October" rivalry between Tennessee and Alabama hasn't been played on the third Saturday, much like this season.

But when the Volunteers and Crimson Tide meet on the fourth Saturday of the month this week, it's another recent tradition that the Vols will be trying to break: losing to UA.

A long eight losses have passed since Tennessee celebrated a win over the Tide. Most of those games haven't been close, either. Granted, the streak covers one of the darkest eras of Vols football and some of the best of 'Bama's rich history, but it's still ugly.

Coinciding with Nick Saban coming to Tuscaloosa, Alabama has dominated the series, winning by an average of 23.5 points. In five of those meetings, Alabama was ranked either No. 1 or 2, and in all of them but one, the Tide enjoyed a top-10 ranking.

Last year, they stormed to a 27-point lead before UT turned to Joshua Dobbs and wound up losing 34-20.

Though that still wasn't good enough, it did lead to a Dobbs-led run down the stretch that culminated in a bowl victory. This year isn't expected to be close, either. Tennessee will try to do what very few think it can, especially at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

Let's take a look at everything you need to know about this year's rendition of the storied rivalry.

 

Date: Saturday, Oct. 24

Time: 3:30 p.m. ET

Place: Bryant-Denny Stadium; Tuscaloosa, Alabama

TV: CBS

Radio: Vol Network, Alabama Crimson Tide Sports Network, Sirius XM 84

Spread: Crimson Tide by 14.5, according to Oddsshark.

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College Football Rankings 2015: Latest Polls, Predictions for Week 8 Standings

This past weekend will largely be remembered in the annals of history for the "Gift Six"—or whatever title you decide to associate with the final play in the thriller between Michigan and Michigan State—but there were so many other results that will go a long way toward deciding who makes it into the final four at the end of the year.

From statement wins by Alabama and Baylor to the survival of the aforementioned Spartans and LSU in tight contests, college football’s final standings have started to take shape as the season moves into its second half.

A relatively tame Week 8 awaits after a weekend with five games between teams in the AP Top 25 Poll, but that doesn’t mean the top teams can take off and coast to comfortable wins.

So what are the top matchups heading into Week 8, and which teams need to be careful of possible upsets? Let’s take a look at the Top 25 rankings and what next weekend has in store.

 

No. 15 Texas A&M at No. 24 Ole Miss

Both teams coming off of disappointing losses, Ole Miss and Texas A&M might be the lone ranked matchup of the weekend, but both teams are much more desperate to secure a victory and risk falling behind in the SEC.

The Aggies, having succumbed to the powers of the Crimson Tide in embarrassing fashion, have some serious issues on both sides of the ball. Unable to stop Derrick Henry in the running attack was the real problem on the day, even with the four interceptions aiding significantly in the defeat, and that isn’t a new issue.

Ranking No. 98 in the country in run defense, Texas A&M has to solve its problem against the run if it is going to find its way back into the playoff picture.

Ole Miss has looked like a different team since handing Alabama its lone loss of the season—which the Tide nearly won despite five turnovers—and now has two double-digit defeats in the last three weeks to Florida and now Memphis.

Memphis is a much better team than the Rebels critics are willing to admit, but defensive issues have been on display and without much of a running game, Ole Miss doesn’t have the balance offensively it needs to challenge for a title.

But with its SEC fate still in its hands because of the win against Alabama and a game against LSU still on the schedule, Ole Miss should be able to ride out the storm against Texas A&M at home and claim another upset victory in the SEC.

Prediction: Ole Miss 31, Texas A&M 24

 

No. 3 Utah at USC

It wasn’t the prettiest result of the year, but thanks in large part to a 20-point fourth quarter, the Utah Utes survived against Arizona State 34-18 and managed to stay undefeated.

Devontae Booker and Travis Wilson continued as one of the nation’s top run-pass duos, with each recording a pair of touchdowns against the Sun Devils amid a myriad of mistakes that nearly cost Utah the game.

But the only thing that matters is that the Utes won for the sixth time this year and have some of the most impressive wins this season: a Week 1 handling of Michigan, a Pac-12 after-dark victory over California and a dismantling of Oregon that was the sign of things to come for the Ducks.

Each of these wins is a part of an impressive resume that has Utah in the Top Three and with a playoff spot on the horizon should the record remain unblemished. Next up, though, is another stiff Pac-12 test—this time a trip to the down-on-their-luck USC Trojans.

With a season’s worth of drama packed into the last week alone, USC is in a tough spot after starting the year with high hopes after coming off back-to-back losses against Washington and Notre Dame.

Against the Irish, USC held its own and nearly pulled off the upset, but it couldn’t do enough to get the job done in a high-scoring affair. A return home should give the Trojans a boost, though, and the chance to knock off a Top Three team and get their season back on track could be enough to pull off the upset.

It will be another hard-fought affair for Utah, who hasn’t looked great since beating Oregon, but the Utes should be able to take advantage of a soft USC defense and secure a close win to move to 7-0 on the season.

Prediction: Utah 31, USC 30

 

Western Kentucky at No. 5 LSU

There has been no shortage of highly ranked SEC teams falling to Group of Five opponents and elevating some of the middle-tier teams to higher positions. Arkansas losing to Toledo and Ole Miss falling to Memphis stand out as resume-defining wins for teams searching for a spot in the New Year’s Six Bowls.

But both could all be topped if Western Michigan can walk into Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and shock the undefeated No. 5 Tigers.

The Tigers have climbed the polls on the back of superstar sophomore Leonard Fournette, who leads the country in total rushing yards, average yards per game and is tied for the top spot with 14 rushing touchdowns.

With an undefeated record, including wins against Mississippi State, Auburn and Florida on its resume, LSU has more than earned its spot in the Top Five and could find itself in the playoff if the wins keep piling up.

For a team with such high hopes and as much skill as the Tigers have, Western Kentucky shouldn’t provide much of a threat. The Hilltoppers only beat Vanderbilt by two points to start the year and lost to Indiana by three in Week 3.

But Western Kentucky is actually quite a good team and has turned its season around since losing to the Hoosiers. In the four games since then, the Hilltoppers are averaging 54.5 points per game and are only allowing 20 to their opponents.

Western Kentucky can put up points quickly, and it isn’t like the Tigers have blown out every opponent they have faced this year. Wins against Eastern Michigan and Syracuse were less than impressive and showed LSU can be stopped.

A bye week buffer should prevent LSU from looking ahead to its matchup with Alabama, but Western Kentucky will still come ready to play. In the end, the Tigers and Fournette are just too talented for the Hilltoppers, but don’t be surprised if it is kept close throughout.

Prediction: LSU 41, Western Kentucky 34

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Ohio State vs. Rutgers: Complete Game Preview

No. 1 Ohio State registered a dominant 38-10 victory over Penn State last Saturday, but Urban Meyer's team came out of the game with more questions at quarterback, as Cardale Jones faltered and J.T. Barrett surged in the 28-point victory. 

The Buckeyes (7-0) will look for clarity against the surging Rutgers Scarlet Knights (3-3), who rallied from 25 points down with 18 minutes to go to beat Indiana 55-52 last Saturday.

Will the Buckeyes continue to roll toward a second appearance in the College Football Playoff, or can the Scarlet Knights pull the upset?

 

Viewing Information

Date: Saturday, October 24

Time: 8 p.m. ET

Place: High Point Solutions Stadium in Piscataway, New Jersey

TV: ABC

Radio: Ohio State Football Radio Network, Rutgers Radio Network

Spread: Ohio State (-20.5), via Odds Shark 

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Notre Dame Football: What Irish Must Fix During Bye Week

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Notre Dame football waltzed off the field Saturday night following its 41-31 win over USC, an imperfect yet impressive victory that typifies the 6-1 start for the Irish heading into their bye week.

Through seven weeks, Notre Dame hasn’t been flawless. The Irish needed a last-ditch heave from DeShone Kizer to come from behind against Virginia on the road. They faltered defensively in the final minutes against Georgia Tech, making a thorough domination appear much closer, in the end. They stumbled out of the gates against Clemson and lost their grip in the second half. They allowed USC to control the second and third quarters Saturday.

But with a two-point exception at Memorial Stadium in South Carolina, the Irish have overcome adversity and responded each time, with the good far outweighing the bad and lifting Notre Dame to its current No. 11 ranking.

With an offense that ranks tied for 18th in the country in scoring offense (38.3 points per game), per CFBStats.com, Notre Dame’s primary fixes must come on the defensive side of the ball between now and its next game, Oct. 31 against Temple in Philadelphia.

“We play at different times really, really good football,” Irish head coach Brian Kelly said Sunday of his defense’s performance through seven games. “We saw it against Georgia Tech where we were dominating at times. We just haven't put together four quarters of football defensively, and then there are simply issues of fundamentals and tackling and doing your job and not somebody else's job.”

Kelly said the Irish don’t necessarily need to tweak the defensive personnel or schemes during the bye week.

“It's really just being consistent with our coaching, being consistent with the messaging, being consistent with the fundamentals,” Kelly said. “If we keep on those three things, then we are going to see improvement, for not just two quarters. We are going to see this kind of play for three and four quarters, and that's what we have got to get.”

Notre Dame met as a team Sunday and will reconvene Monday to watch Saturday’s film and lift weights. The Irish will gather again Tuesday for a quick look ahead to Temple and a light workout before the players are free to head home (Notre Dame students have the entire week off from classes for a fall break) and the coaches hit the recruiting road.

When they return, the Irish can grow offensively, too, despite the strong overall numbers and the relative inexperience. It’s worth remembering former slot receiver C.J. Prosise is still a neophyte at running back and can improve on some of the intricacies of the position (pad level and pass protection, for example).

Similarly, Kizer has played well—he ranks 16th in the nation in passer rating, per CFBStats.com—since being rushed into action in the wake of Malik Zaire’s season-ending ankle injury in Week 2, but he’s still just five starts into his career. Kelly said Sunday the Irish can still “mature” at the quarterback spot. Kizer took a sack against USC to move Notre Dame out of field-goal range, for instance.

“The one thing with Kizer that I really like is that you tell him one time, and he gets it,” Kelly said. “And he’s going to come back the next time and he’s not going to make the same mistake twice.”

Elsewhere on the offense, Kelly said Notre Dame can improve at tight end. Chase Hounshell and Alize Jones each committed holding penalties on the perimeter Saturday, as the Irish continue to play all four remaining tight ends since starter Durham Smythe was lost for the season following the Virginia game.

There will always be room for improvement, even after a 10-point win over a talented rival. And with five regular-season games remaining after the bye week and a playoff berth still a possibility, the key is consistency for a Notre Dame team that has flashed its ability in bunches—but not yet for four full, continuous quarters thus far.

 

All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Mike Monaco is the lead Notre Dame writer for Bleacher Report. Follow @MikeMonaco on Twitter.

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College Football Week 8 Opening Odds: Alabama, Ohio State, Baylor Big Favorites

Now up to No. 8 in the Associated Press Top 25, the Alabama Crimson Tide are among the bigger betting favorites on the Week 8 college football odds board at sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark.

The Crimson Tide opened as 14.5-point home favorites against the Tennessee Volunteers for their Saturday matchup, with Alabama coming off a key 41-23 road win over Texas A&M as a five-point favorite over the weekend. That improved the Crimson Tide to 6-1 straight up and 3-4 against the spread on the season heading into their Week 8 date with the Volunteers.

Alabama is riding an eight-game winning streak against Tennessee into their matchup this week, and the Crimson Tide have also paid off on the college football betting lines in 14 of their last 19 games in the month of October, according to the Odds Shark College Football Database. Tennessee is 0-11 in its last 11 games on the road in the month of October.

The Baylor Bears, No. 2 in the AP Top 25, are even bigger home favorites than the Crimson Tide for Week 8. The Bears opened as 37-point favorites on their home turf against the Iowa State Cyclones for Saturday, and they're coming off a 62-38 win over West Virginia in which they covered a sizable 20.5-point spread.

In fact, Baylor has put up at least 56 points in each of its first six games of the season and has covered the posted spread at the sportsbooks in each of its last four outings. Baylor is 18-2 SU and 15-5 ATS in its last 20 home games headed into Saturday's expected mismatch.

And the Bears are looking to knock the Ohio State Buckeyes off their perch atop the AP Top 25, with Ohio State opening as a 20.5-point road favorite against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights for Week 8. Ohio State picked up its first cover since Week 1 of the season last time out, beating Penn State 38-10 as an 18-point betting favorite. The Buckeyes carry a 20-game SU winning streak into the weekend.

Other notable opening lines for Week 8 of the college football season include the Michigan State Spartans sitting as 17-point home favorites against the Indiana Hoosiers, the LSU Tigers sitting as 17-point home favorites against the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers and the Florida State Seminoles sitting as 6.5-point road favorites against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.

Also, the Utah Utes opened as three-point road underdogs against the USC Trojans for Week 8, even though Utah is up to No. 3 in the AP Top 25 and a perfect 6-0 SU (4-2 ATS) on the season. The Utes came away with a win and a cover when they took on the Trojans last season, beating them 24-21 as a one-point home underdog in that contest.

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College Football's All-Week 7 First Team: Top Performers at Every Position

Week 7 was a time for college football fans to keep their eyes on the skies.

A pair of Big 12 offenses continued their back-and-forth battles for the most impressive stat lines of the week with their Heisman-contending quarterbacks leading the way. The all-out air attacks thrived elsewhere in the country, too, with big-name receivers racking up even more yards and touchdowns for their incredible starts to the 2015 campaign.

But plenty of passes didn't always mean success for the offenses. One of the nation's elite defenses got a pair of record-breaking performances from breakout defensive backs, and it seemed like players everywhere were getting in on the pick-six parade.

As the dust settles from an awesome weekend of college football action, here are this week's top performers for each position. These players are chosen for their dominance of the stat sheets, with bonuses going toward those who stepped up their play in high-profile games.

Week 7 featured plenty of tough cuts, so there are sure to be a number of fan favorites who weren't represented on these All-American teams. Tell us your favorite performances of the weekend in the comment section below.

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Fan in Attendance at Michigan State vs. Michigan Suffered Heart Attack

A spectator at the dramatic matchup between Michigan State and Michigan on Saturday afternoon suffered a heart attack in the stands, according to CBS Detroit.

"We did have one heart attack at the end of the game in the stadium," University of Michigan public information officer Diane Brown said. "Emergency medical personnel got to that person right away and were able to take that person to the University of Michigan emergency department for further treatment."

She added, "We were going into the stands right after the game ended," per Jeremy Allen of MLive.com.

The contest between the Wolverines and Spartans ended in spectacular fashion, as Michigan punter Blake O'Neill fumbled a long snap with just 10 seconds remaining and the Wolverines leading 23-21. Michigan State's Jalen Watts-Jackson scooped up the loose ball and ran 38 yards for the game-winning touchdown as time expired. 

When he was tackled into the end zone, though, Watts-Jackson fractured his hip. He had surgery Sunday, per Dan Murphy of ESPN.com.

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College Football Rankings 2015: Hits and Misses from the Week 8 Polls

Finally, clarity. 

Well, some clarity. In a sport like college football, maybe that's the most we could realistically ask for at this point.

With the halfway point of the season officially here, the landscape is starting to come together. Playoff-caliber teams are emerging from the pack, and the list of likely playoff candidates has shrunk to somewhere between 10 and 15 teams. That's progress. 

Still, caught in the intersection is the timeless question about polling: Do you rank teams based on what they've done or what they look like? Or both?

It's time to find out and peruse all the latest trends by evaluating the recent USA Today coaches poll and the Associated Press Top 25

Where did pollsters get it right? Where did they swing and miss? We give our two cents in the following slides based not only on Saturday's action but also what has transpired so far this season.

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