NCAA Football News

Ole Miss Removes Mississippi Flag from Campus

The University of Mississippi removed the state's flag from its campus Monday because of its use of the Confederate flag emblem.

“The University of Mississippi community came to the realization years ago that the Confederate battle flag did not represent many of our core values, such as civility and respect for others,” Interim Chancellor Morris Stocks said in a statement last June. “Since that time, we have become a stronger and better university. We join other leaders in our state who are calling for a change in the state flag.”

The removal comes less than a week after the university's student senate voted for the flag's removal. For many, including a number of students who attended a rally to support the decision, Mississippi's state flag has become a symbol supporting racial inequality with its use of the Confederate flag. 

“As Mississippi’s flagship university, we have a deep love and respect for our state,” Stocks said this month. “Because the flag remains Mississippi’s official banner, this was a hard decision. I understand the flag represents tradition and honor to some. But to others, the flag means that some members of the Ole Miss family are not welcomed or valued. That is why the university faculty, staff and leadership have united behind this student-led initiative.”

The association with the Confederate flag and its controversy is not new. Ole Miss' sports teams are nicknamed the Rebels, a nickname also given to the states that seceded from the Union in an attempt to continue slavery. The school's colors are the ones used on the Confederate flag.

"We can't recruit against the Confederate flag," former Ole Miss head coach Tommy Tuberville famously said in 1996, per Mike Herndon of AL.com.

Tuberville's quote, which came in a conversation with then-Ole Miss chancellor Robert Khayat, led to the university's controversial ban of flying the Confederate flag at football games. The university's decision to remove the state flag itself will polarize the fanbase but may go a long way in helping Ole Miss move on from its past.

 

Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter

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AP College Football Poll 2015: Projections for Week 9 Top 25 Rankings

Last week was considered a slow week in terms of high-profile matches—even though it ended up as another defining week in the race for the playoffs—but Week 9 might be one of the weakest of the season.

With five of the Top 7 in the AP poll on a bye week this week—only No. 3 Clemson and No. 5 TCU are scheduled to play this weekend—it will be a chance for some of the teams lower in the polls to show they are worthy of joining the discussion for the playoffs.

Once again, there is only one ranked matchup on the docket, with No. 9 Notre Dame traveling to take on No. 21 Temple, but there are still a fair number of games that have a direct impact on the title picture and the conference races.

Let’s predict the winners of each AP Top 25 game this week and preview some of the weekend’s biggest matchups:

 

No. 21 Temple vs. No. 9 Notre Dame

There has been a lot of bandwidth spent on the rise of the American Athletic Conference in recent weeks. Houston rising up the polls under former Ohio State assistant Tom Herman and Memphis taking down Ole Miss have been headline-stealing events in this topsy-turvy season.

But while the Tigers and Cougars feel validated in their Top 25 rankings, there are still those wondering about the Temple Owls. A season-opening win against Penn State was impressive, but a number of close wins have people wondering if Temple can keep it up for the rest of the season.

After this weekend, though, everyone will know where Temple stands in college football’s power structure. With a prime-time matchup in Philadelphia with a perennial powerhouse coming this week, the Owls will either validate their status or fall back in with the rank and file.

This season, Temple's strength has been on defense, holding its opponents to just 307.7 yards per game, while the offense has struggled at times to put up consistent numbers, which isn’t a good sign against a high-scoring Notre Dame squad.

If Temple can capitalize on early adrenaline and take an early lead, or at least keep up with the Irish through the first half, there could be an upset in the cards. But Notre Dame won’t give the underdog the chance to keep things close, pulling away early en route to a big win.

Prediction: No. 9 Notre Dame 38, No. 21 Temple 21

 

Washington State vs. No. 8 Stanford

Just a quick recap about Washington State’s up-and-down season. The Cougars started the year off with a loss to Portland State, an FCS school, and barely beat a weak Rutgers side 37-34 on the road.

Since then, though, Washington State has won four of five games, with victories against Arizona and Oregon in that span, and barely lost to a ranked California team 34-28 on the road. This run in form has the Cougars up to second place in the Pac-12 North and a win away this weekend from taking the division lead.

Unfortunately for Washington State, its opponent is the No. 8 Stanford Cardinal, who have been one of the country's best teams since an upset loss to Northwestern in the season’s opening fixture.

Following the loss, Stanford has won six straight games, all by at least 10 points, and looks comfortable atop a disappointing Pac-12 North. With an offense in the top 25 in points per game and a defense in the top 35 this season, the Cardinal are one of the most balanced teams in the nation and don’t appear to have any glaring weaknesses.

The run by the Cougars to a point of contention has to be respected and enjoyed while it can, but Stanford will prove too talented to fall to Washington State Saturday and will solidify its spot in the Pac-12 with a big victory.

Prediction: No. 8 Stanford 42, Washington State 17

 

Texas Tech vs. No. 12 Oklahoma State

It might sound a little bit disrespectful to Kliff Kingsbury’s squad but so far this season, Texas Tech has been the Big 12’s equivalent of a midcard jobber in WWE: good enough to test the main event stars, but not quite good enough to be one itself.

This season, the Red Raiders are 5-3, with all of their losses coming against the top teams in the conference. A 55-52 loss to TCU, a 63-35 loss to Baylor and most recently a 63-27 loss to Oklahoma last week are the only times this year Texas Tech has found itself in the loser’s column.

Coming up this week, an undefeated and scrappy Oklahoma State team has to travel to Lubbock, Texas, and prove that it deserves to be considered one of the best teams in the Big 12.

The Cowboys haven’t been blowing out their opponents like some of their conference brethren have been all season, but starting 7-0 has Oklahoma State up to No. 12 in the AP poll and on the verge of breaking into the Big 12’s top tier with Oklahoma, TCU and Baylor.

But after an incredibly emotionally charged game in Stillwater, Oklahoma, last weekend, can the Cowboys continue their surprising undefeated run against one of the best offenses in the country? It should be close, especially if the Red Raiders don’t offer up any resistance on defense, but Texas Tech has been close to pulling the upset this season and looks poised to do so this weekend against Oklahoma State.

Prediction: Texas Tech 56, No. 12 Oklahoma State 45

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No. 1 Recruit Rashan Gary Breaks Down Recruitment, Decision Timeline

BRADENTON, Fla. – With coaches from five of the schools he’s considering present at his last game, 5-star defensive tackle Rashan Gary—who is the No. 1 overall recruit in the 2016 class—caught a brief glimpse of what his future holds in the next few months.

Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh, as well as assistants from Alabama, Georgia, LSU and Ole Miss, were on hand to see the 6’5”, 293-pound New Jersey native match up against Florida powerhouse IMG Academy.

However, Gary took the scenery in stride, noting how the attention on him could ultimately benefit his teammates.

“It means a lot [seeing college coaches],” Gary told Bleacher Report. “It’s me helping to give that opportunity to my teammates to have a good game and get on that board. So that’s all my goal is.”

Gary, who took a visit to Michigan last month, still has four official visits left—with Auburn on Nov. 28 being the only one locked in on his schedule.

He admits he wants to focus on the rest of his senior season at Paramus Catholic before turning his attention toward recruiting. The rest of his visit schedule will take place either in December or January.

“Ole Miss, Georgia, LSU, Clemson, Notre Dame, USC and a couple of schools like that,” Gary said of the schools in the running for his remaining officials.

Of course, the Wolverines have plenty of connections with Gary. Former Paramus head coach Chris Partridge is on Harbaugh’s staff, and a couple of former teammates are enjoying their careers to date in Ann Arbor.

“Michigan is cool. I got Jabrill Peppers and Juwann Bushell-Beatty there and they went to PC,” Gary said. “My old coach, Chris Partridge, is there so I have a good connection there. It makes me feel like home because I’m around those guys.”

He’s also taking notice of how well the Wolverines are recruiting the state of New Jersey in 2016. Harbaugh and his staff already have three pledges from the Garden State, hope to land Gary and potentially flip 4-star running back and current Ohio State pledge Kareem Walker.

“A lot of kids [from New Jersey] are believing in the program,” Gary explained. “[Michigan] should be a problem in a couple of years."

Additionally, his mom accompanied him for his trip on Sept. 25 for the Wolverines’ impressive win over BYU.

“The food, education and the family atmosphere,” Gary noted of the things that impressed him on his visit to Michigan. “My mom got a chance to walk on campus by herself and everybody was friendly and everybody likes to talk. Up in [New] Jersey, you don’t get a lot of 'hi’s.' So everybody there was really friendly and answering her questions. They are very nice up there.”

Another school who has put the full-court press on Gary is LSU. Tigers defensive line coach Ed Orgeron is spearheading the charge, with Gary taking two trips to Baton Rouge during the summer. Orgeron and secondary coach Corey Raymond were on hand to see Gary vs. IMG.

“Seeing Coach O, it just shows that he has a lot of love for me,” Gary said. “Him coming to watch me play means he has a lot of care for me.”

Auburn is also on his list, and Gary admits he’s looking forward to his return to the Plains next month for the Iron Bowl. Gary, who plans to choose a major in the business field, said a few things stood out to him on his first visit to Auburn.

“The defense, and then when I went down there, the food because I like to eat,” Gary said. “Just the academics, my mom felt comfortable with me being there more as a student than as an athlete. That’s very key in my decision-making process.”

Gary said he hopes to make a decision at the Under Armour All-American Game in January. However, if he’s not ready to decide, he will push his announcement back to national signing day.

“It’s going to come down to how I feel like I can develop at that school, how close it is, how my mom feels and the food,” Gary said.

 

Sanjay Kirpalani is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand and all recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

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Power Ranking College Football's Best 1-Loss Teams

On paper, Week 8 looked like a bit of a break in the 2015 college football season. There was only one matchup of teams ranked in the Associated Press Top 25, with No. 15 Texas A&M traveling to No. 24 Ole Miss. But as we’ve come to realize, some of the best action happens when you least expect it in this game.

By night’s end, a pair of Top 10 teams (No. 3 Utah and No. 9 Florida State) tumbled from the ranks of the unbeaten, with the Seminoles watching their 28-game ACC winning streak end on a final-play blocked field goal returned for a touchdown by Georgia Tech.

As we approach the final month of the regular season, more wild times are certainly ahead, and while we still have 12 unbeaten teams left in the FBS, there is a group just behind them poised to strike should they stumble. A year ago, only Florida State reached the College Football Playoff unbeaten, and expect similar chaos before the second CFP field is revealed in early December.

If you have one loss, you’re not out of the playoff conversation yet. Not at all. As we roll into the final month of the regular season, 13 FBS teams have one loss, including 10 Power Five schools. Let’s take a look at those 10. This is how we see them stacking up.

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B/R CFB Committee: Playoff Predictions Heading into Week 9

Week 8 of the college football season brought even more upsets to complicate the playoff picture.

Who is the top team in the country? Which teams will fill the other three spots in the College Football Playoff?

Watch as Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Barrett Sallee, Adam Kramer and Michael Felder examine the potential playoff scenarios heading into Week 9 in the video above.

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NCAA Football Rankings 2015: Early Predictions for Week 9 College Polls

After another thrilling week of close games, surprising upsets and shuffle among the rankings, the College Football Playoff picture is taking a more definitive form. This week's games will be the last before the playoff committee’s first rankings will be released, giving a true gauge of contenders and pretenders. 

The Florida State Seminoles and Utah Utes were the latest undefeated teams to fall, leaving seven unbeatens among the Associated Press Top 10 and nearly no wiggle room for error:

With just five weeks remaining in the regular season, here's a look at a few key matchups and storylines heading into the final week of October: 

 

Georgia Bulldogs vs. No. 11 Florida Gators

No. 11 Florida has been arguably the biggest surprise this season under first-year coach Jim McElwain, who has the Gators poised to reach the SEC Championship Game for the first time since 2009.

Florida takes on a beleaguered Georgia Bulldogs bunch that hobbles into this neutral-site game on a two-game skid and with its best player, Nick Chubb, lost for the season with a knee injury.

Georgia, the preseason favorite to win the SEC East, was spanked at home 38-10 by No. 7 Alabama, then blew a 21-point lead in a 38-31 loss to Tennessee a week later. Florida is coming off a late, but respectable 35-28 loss to No. 4 LSU, which should by no means hinder morale, per Tony Barnhart of CBS Sports: 

Florida has won 19 of the past 25 meetings between the two, including last year’s dominating upset over the then-No. 9 Bulldogs. There’s no reason to think things will change.

Georgia suffers from a lack of offensive identity now without Chubb and behind struggling quarterback Greyson Lambert, whose numbers—1,276 yards, nine touchdowns and two interceptions—don’t accurately tell his story. Lambert has been relieved for backup Brice Ramsey twice in close games this season (though every time he went on to relieve Ramsey after the backup struggled).

Florida should roll again in Week 9 and then has only to get by Vanderbilt and South Carolina to reach the conference title game in what could be an anticipated rematch against LSU.

Prediction: Florida 31, Georgia 13

 

No. 9 Notre Dame Fighting Irish at No. 21 Temple Owls

The Gators are only a surprise because they returned to relevance sooner than expected. The Temple Owls, however, have emerged as the marvel among non-Power Five conferences.  

No. 21 Temple is 7-0 for the first time in school history, yet it trails the No. 16 Memphis Tigers and No. 18 Houston Cougars in the upward-trending American Athletic Conference. The Owls will face their biggest test yet in what should be a revealing game when the No. 9 Notre Dame Fighting Irish visit in Week 9. 

Temple may be a very long shot at the playoff, but a win over Notre Dame will certainly catch the committee’s attention. The Fighting Irish are 6-1 with a lone loss to the red-hot No. 3 Clemson Tigers, narrowly falling 24-22 in Week 5. 

It’s a juicy matchup between Temple’s 14th-ranked defense (307.7 yards per game) against Notre Dame’s high-scoring offense (38.3 points per game). But despite what may look like a showdown on paper, Brian Hamilton of Sports Illustrated thinks otherwise:

Notre Dame is still in the hunt for the final four, with three games against ranked opponents remaining, including in Week 9. The Fighting Irish play the No. 23 Pittsburgh Panthers in Week 10 and finish the regular season against the No. 8 Stanford Cardinal. 

If the Fighting Irish run the table—particularly with what would be formidable wins and a respectable loss—the committee will be hard-pressed to keep them out. 

Prediction: Notre Dame 45, Temple 21

 

Byes for four Top 10 teams

Week 9 may be the final (somewhat) quiet slate among playoff hopefuls, as a quartet of Top 10 teams are on a bye—the No. 1 Ohio State Buckeyes, the No. 4 LSU Tigers, the No. 6 Michigan State Spartans and the No. 7 Alabama Crimson Tide. 

But the drama among these four is coming.

Alabama and LSU meet in Week 10 in what will likely determine the fate of the SEC West. These two have accounted for five of the last 10 division titles in the nation’s toughest conference. 

The Crimson Tide and Tigers, respectively, rank third and fourth in SEC total offense and reached those marks through outstanding rush attacks. Tigers tailback Leonard Fournette is the Heisman Trophy front-runner with an FBS-high 1,352 yards and 15 touchdowns. But Alabama’s Derrick Henry has been nearly as impressive, churning out 1,044 yards and 14 touchdowns. The tasty matchup was highlighted by Gil Brandt of NFL.com:

Ohio State and Michigan State meet in Week 12 in what will likely amount to a Big 10 East division championship game. Both teams are 4-0 in conference play with a one-game lead over the Penn State Nittany Lions. 

The Spartans opened the season ranked fifth, but they have slipped in light of less-than-spectacular wins much closer than they should’ve been. Ohio State has also fielded criticism for not blowing out teams as forecasted with their high-powered offensive arsenal. 

The Buckeyes in Week 8 shifted to J.T. Barrett as their starting quarterback and dominated Rutgers 49-7. The same day, the Spartans were trailing unranked Indiana at halftime before winning 52-26. 

Michigan State won a miraculous game against the Michigan Wolverines to keep its playoff hopes alive, but it must stay disciplined against the Nebraska Cornhuskers and Maryland Terrapins before their showdown against Ohio State. 

In the interim, there may not be much shuffling among the Top 10 in Week 9, but with four of the Top 10 away this week, there's room for others to make their mark and catapult for consideration.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Breaking Down the Race for First-Team All-SEC QB

The race to become the SEC's first-team All-SEC quarterback this year has been the college football equivalent of a roller coaster.

First, it was Ole Miss' Chad Kelly jumping to the top of the pack. The junior college transfer threw nine touchdowns and only one pick through the first three games, went on the road to stun Alabama in Tuscaloosa and helped elevate Ole Miss to one of the nation's top teams.

Then Kelly struggled versus Vanderbilt, got blown out at Florida and the early-season shine had worn off before the leaves began to change color.

Next up: Florida's Will Grier.

After not starting the season opener, Grier became Florida's top option on the depth chart in Week 3, led a stunning two-touchdown comeback in the fourth quarter against Tennessee in Week 4, lit up Ole Miss a week later and tossed 10 touchdowns and only three picks in six games.

Then Grier was suspended for a year for violating the NCAA's policy on performance-enhancing drugs, and his magical redshirt freshman season came to a close.

On deck was Texas A&M's Kyle Allen.

After all, he had tossed 13 touchdown passes and just two interceptions heading into the then-undefeated showdown between the Aggies and Alabama two weeks ago. Three pick-sixes against the Crimson Tide and an awful stretch against Ole Miss that included incomplete passes in 20 of 22 attempts later, and Allen's hold on the award became coated with Crisco.

Through it all, Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott has just been hanging out, doing normal "Dak Prescott things" in Starkville.

The dual-threat senior for the Bulldogs has thrown for 2,048 yards and 14 touchdowns, threw his first pick of the season last week versus Kentucky, has rushed for 371 yards and scored seven more touchdowns on the ground. 

In last week's game versus Kentucky, Prescott threw for 348 yards and three touchdowns, rushed for 117 and three more touchdowns and looked exactly like the dual-threat stud that led Mississippi State to the No. 1 ranking last season.

"The guys were giving me running lanes," Prescott said, according to Mississippi State's official site. "It was something I wanted to do. I wanted to take advantage of the lanes they were giving me. It was something I have to do going forward."

If the season ended today, Prescott should be your first-team All-SEC quarterback. 

Does that mean that the roller coaster that is the quarterback position in the SEC won't send him shooting down the wrong track, as it has for virtually every other contender thus far?

No. 

Alabama's Jake Coker appears to have won over the team and is becoming more confident with new younger receivers like Calvin Ridley and ArDarius Stewart. LSU's Brandon Harris has broken the 200-yard mark in three straight games, and he has his team firmly entrenched in the College Football Playoff hunt. Arkansas' Brandon Allen has thrown for 13 touchdowns and has brought balance to the run-based Arkansas offense. Kelly could certainly jump back into the mix after a slight October slide.

But Prescott entered the season as the most known commodity in the conference, and all he has done is pick up right where he left off.

That should be enough to earn him the nod if he closes out his career in a similar fashion, even in a crowded field. In a year in which first-team All-SEC quarterbacks are dwindling faster than presidential candidates, Prescott should be a shoo-in.

 

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Statistics are courtesy of cfbstats.com.

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and national college football video analyst for Bleacher Report, as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on SiriusXM 83. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

The College Football Week 8 All-Heart Team

Heart in college football comes in various shapes and forms, which is why it's so odd that for the second straight week, the signature play came on a last-second special teams miscue.

But even outside of Atlanta, where Georgia Tech upset Florida State in almost the same way Michigan State upset Michigan, players took their effort to another level and registered signature moments.

Priority was given to power-conference players in high-profile games, since part of making this list includes playing well on the big stage. However, if the moment or performance was special enough, players from any 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 9: Vegas Odds and Predictions for Top-25 Games

For the second consecutive week, the scheduling gods have not been kind to college football fans. 

Only one matchup of ranked opponents is on the schedule for Week 9, and a number of the nation's top teams are on bye weeks.

But as we've seen in recent weeks, what often looks like an ugly slate of games can quickly turn into a fun-filled weekend of upsets. In Week 8, while most teams rolled to easy victories against their unranked opponents, two Top-10 teams fell from the ranks of the undefeated. 

The full Week 9 schedule is below, with against-the-spread predictions for each game and a breakdown of some of the best matchups of the weekend. 

Note: Due to Miami quarterback Brad Kayaa's injury and uncertain status for Week 9, no spread is given for the Miami/Duke game as of Sunday night, according to OddsShark.com. No ATS pick has been made for this game.

 

Notable Games

No. 11 Florida (-3) vs. Georgia in Jacksonville

It's still October, but Florida can effectively clinch a berth in the SEC Championship Game with a victory over Georgia. 

With a win, Florida would hold a two-game lead in the SEC East and own the head-to-head tiebreaker over every other three-loss team in the division with the exception of Vanderbilt. The Gators could then officially clinch the division by beating Vandy the following week in Florida. 

Georgia has controlled this series in recent years, winning three straight from 2011 through 2013, but the Gators got back on the winning track by beating their division rival 38-20 last season. 

For Georgia to have a chance at pulling the upset, it will need to establish the running game early with Sony Michel. 

While Florida's defense has been strong this season, it has struggled against the toughest rushing attacks on their schedule. Tennessee, led by Jalen Hurd, and LSU, led by Leonard Fournette, each racked up more than 200 yards on the ground against the Gators.

Chubb's replacement, Michel, managed just 87 yards on the ground in his first start in Chubb's absence against Missouri. 

Prediction: Florida 28, Georgia 17

 

No. 9 Notre Dame at No. 21 Temple

Before the season started, no one would have imagined Notre Dame and Temple would be the only ranked matchup of the week.

The Owls are ranked for the first time since 1979 and may represent the toughest defensive matchup Notre Dame has seen all season. 

Temple has allowed more than 100 yards on the ground just twice this season, but the Owls haven't exactly faced the toughest schedule. 

The Temple defense shut down Penn State, arguably their toughest opponent, in Week 1, but that was before freshman Saquon Barkley established himself as the workhorse for the Nittany Lions. 

C.J. Prosise's ability to expose the Temple defense could be the key to Notre Dame picking up another victory over a ranked opponent. 

C.J. Prosise is averaging 131.7 Rush YPG, on pace to set the #NotreDame record for a season. (Vagas Ferguson, 130.6 Rush YPG in 1979).

— Matt Fortuna (@Matt_Fortuna) October 18, 2015

Prosise has rushed for more than 100 yards in five of his last six games, with only Clemson holding him under the century mark.

Prediction: Notre Dame 35, Temple 21

 

No. 8 Stanford at Washington State

Of all the Top-10 teams facing unranked opponents, this matchup may be the best chance at an upset. 

After a bizarre opening-season loss to Portland State, Mike Leach has the Cougars' vaunted passing attack back on track. 

While Stanford has been known for its defense in recent years, the Cardinal have been exposed a couple of times this season, allowing both USC and UCLA to rack up yards through the air. 

To pull off the upset, Washington State would need to make a few key plays on defense, and Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan is certainly not immune to mistakes. Hogan has committed at least one turnover in three of his last four games. 

An upset may be a tall task, but Washington State has the explosive offense needed to keep this one close.

Prediction: Stanford 42, Washington State 31

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Tennessee Volunteers vs. Kentucky Wildcats: Complete Game Preview

The Tennessee-Kentucky football rivalry could reside next to the word "ownership" in the dictionary. 

Even these past couple of years when the game has been played a little earlier in the season than normal, it hasn't changed the outcome. The Volunteers have won 29 of the past 30 meetings.

The only hitch came in 2011 as the first true sign that Derek Dooley's tenure at UT would be short-lived. That year, the Wildcats used wide receiver Matt Roark at quarterback as they stunned the Vols 10-7 to keep them from bowling.

Last year, despite UK's hot start to the season, Tennessee administered a thorough 50-16 thumping to keep coach Mark Stoops' team sliding in a season-ending skid. 

Just as was the case last season, Kentucky got off to another strong start. But the past two weeks, the Wildcats looked average in a home loss to Auburn and a blowout setback to Mississippi State in Starkville.

Tennessee, on the other hand, may be the best 3-4 team in the country, as if that were any solace. The Vols lost 19-14 to Alabama this weekend to keep the run of close losses going. UT's four defeats were by a total of 17 points.

UT has a favorable schedule to close the season, but the biggest test may be Kentucky on the road. Here's everything you need to know about the game.

 

Date: Saturday, Oct. 31

Time: 7:30 p.m. ET

Place: Commonwealth Stadium, Lexington, Kentucky

TV: SEC Network

Radio: Vol Network, UK Sports Network, Sirius XM 190

Spread: Vols by 7.5, according to Oddshark.

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Bowl Predictions 2015: Projecting College Football Playoff Field After Week 8

Week 8 was supposed to be nothing more than a relaxing romp for the top teams in the country after one of the most chaotic weeks of football in history the Saturday before. But this season has done anything but adhere to expectations, and the results of Week 8 changed the landscape of college football.

Florida State fell in shocking fashion to Georgia Tech and its playoff hopes look to be on life support, while Utah was destroyed by USC and, while in a much better situation than the Seminoles, doesn’t look like the title favorite it had become in recent weeks.

There is still plenty of football left to play, and things are sure to take a few more unexpected turns, but with the initial playoff committee rankings right around the corner, let’s take a look at which teams are in line for New Year’s Six Bowls and a spot in the playoff.

 

Notable Performances

Clemson

Nobody was really talking about Clemson being one of the title favorites heading into this weekend. The Tigers were undefeated, sporting one of college football’s best offenses led by one of the nation’s best quarterbacks and had a win over Notre Dame on their resume, but still the discussion revolved around teams like Ohio State, Utah and LSU instead.

But no more. Not after that performance on Saturday.

There were signs that Clemson was one of the nation’s top teams this year—the upset of the Fighting Irish and comfortable victories against Georgia Tech and Boston College—but no one could have predicted a 58-0 destruction of Miami in what turned out to be Al Golden’s final game as coach of the Hurricanes.

The Tigers finished with a mind-boggling 416 yards and six touchdowns rushing, leaving Deshaun Watson without a ton of work to do. With Utah losing Saturday against USC as well, Clemson jumped to No. 3 in the AP Poll and sets itself up well for a run to the playoff.

A loss by Florida State to Georgia Tech will damage the Tigers' resume, but as long as Clemson finishes undefeated, it shouldn’t matter, and Dabo Swinney’s team will find itself in this year’s iteration of the playoff.

 

Ohio State

Ohio State has been, wire-to-wire this season, the No. 1 overall team in both major weekly polls. But despite this, there have been a lot of questions about the Buckeyes' validity as the favorites for the title.

From doubts in Ohio State’s strength of schedule being able to prove whether or not the champs deserved to be in the playoff to closer-than-anticipated games against Northern Illinois and Indiana, the Buckeyes have been the target of a good amount of criticism so far this season.

But heading into their bye week in Week 9, the Buckeyes did just about everything they could to silence the doubters with a big performance against Rutgers. Led by J.T. Barrett, who replaced Cardale Jones as the team’s starting quarterback, Ohio State put together their best performance of the season in a 49-7 win.

Ezekiel Elliott continues to surpass the 100-yard mark each week, and after a five-touchdown performance from Barrett, the Buckeyes quarterback situation looks to finally be ironed out.

Ohio State looks the closest it has this year to the team everyone expected them to be, and as long as the defense continues to perform as it did against Penn State, the Buckeyes should be able to coast until a mid-November matchup with undefeated Michigan State.

 

Oklahoma

Last season, the college football playoff was contested between one undefeated team and three programs with a single loss to their names. The title game had a 13-1 Oregon squad playing a 13-1 Ohio State squad.

Losses in college football are inarguably important, but they aren’t a death knell to a team’s chances of making it to the title. Both Alabama and Stanford are receiving a lot of attention as possible playoff crashers despite their losses, but one team no one is talking about is Oklahoma.

Since the embarrassing loss to Texas, the Sooners have taken down Kansas State and Texas Tech by a combined score of 118-27 and are playing some of the best football in America.

Bob Stoops’ team has a pair of wins against ranked opponents already this season in Tennessee and West Virginia and with Baylor, TCU and Oklahoma State still left to play there might not be a team better positioned to climb the rankings and impact the playoff than Oklahoma.

It is really hard to predict that the Sooners escape the three-game stretch against the Bears, Horned Frogs and Cowboys without a loss, but the Big 12 doesn’t look like a two-horse race anymore, and Oklahoma is quickly making us forget about the loss to Texas a few weeks ago.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Rankings 2015: Week 9 Polls and Top 25 Standings Predictions

After a weekend that saw a few shake-ups at the top of the rankings, the College Football Playoff picture is becoming clearer. There are plenty of candidates for the CFP, but the Utah Utes and Florida State Seminoles played themselves out of the picture with their first losses of the season Saturday.  

Other teams, such as the Clemson Tigers, made their cases stronger than ever. Let's take a look at the newest Associated Press Top 25 and Amway Coaches Poll, which were released Sunday, and make a few Top 25 predictions as we move into the final third of the season:

 

Clemson Tigers Will Be the Best Heading into the Playoff

If you had any doubts over whether the undefeated Tigers were national title contenders prior to Saturday, they should be erased now.

The Miami Hurricanes are average, at best, this year at 4-3, but the Tigers handed them their worst loss in school history Saturday, per the Miami Herald's Susan Miller Degnan—58-0 on their home field. It was so bad that the Hurricanes announced Sunday they had fired head coach Al Golden, who had been with the program since 2011 and compiled a 32-25 record.

Before the team let him go, Golden summed up the Tigers' performance after the game, per ESPN:

Got beat from top to bottom. They outplayed us. They outcoached us. I just told the team it's completely my responsibility for not getting them ready to play. They just beat us soundly in every facet of the game, period.

Clemson outgained Miami at the line of scrimmage 567-146 and held the Hurricanes to just 1.8 yards per rush on 29 carries. Even more staggering, Clemson allowed just 2.9 yards per Miami pass attempt and grabbed three interceptions. The Tigers, on the other hand, ran all over the Hurricanes defense to the tune of 416 yards and six touchdowns.

As you can see above, AP voters were impressed with Clemson as well, moving the Tigers up from sixth to third after their dominating performance. Clemson even leapfrogged undefeated LSU and TCU. However, the voters in the coaches poll seemed less impressed, leaving the Tigers right where they were before their victory—at No. 6.

They did however, shift Alabama up one spot to No. 7 despite the one-loss Crimson Tide needing a touchdown in the final two minutes to knock off the 3-4 Tennessee Volunteers. Clemson is now 7-0, with the Miami blowout and a 24-22 victory over the 6-1 Notre Dame Fighting Irish on its resume. 

Saturday's game may have been Clemson's best overall performance, but it wasn't the first impressive one. It was the fourth time the Tigers scored more than 40 points this year with quarterback Deshaun Watson leading the way. His seven interceptions are concerning, but he has thrown for 1,553 yards and 15 touchdowns.

His 332 rushing yards are second on the team, and he showed his versatility against Miami. The sophomore rushed and passed for a score while completing 15 of 19 passes for 143 yards despite sitting out for most of the second half.

The Tigers' only chance at a slip-up will be Nov. 7 against Florida State at home. Look for them to win that game, finish as ACC champions and be No. 1 heading into the playoff.

 

Seth Russell's Injury Will Cost Baylor the National Championship

When healthy, the Baylor Bears are not only the most explosive offensive team in the country but also perhaps the best. Their 45-27 victory Saturday over the Iowa State Cyclones was the closest they have come to losing this season.

Baylor leads the country with 61 points per game. Its passing offense ranks ninth, while its rushing offense slots in at No. 2. The defense, which ranks 55th while allowing 25.1 points per game, has been able to support the team's offense this year.

Yet the team has one major problem: It might be without quarterback Seth Russell for the rest of the season.

The junior suffered a scary neck injury against Iowa State, and his return date is unknown, according to Baylor's official Twitter account:

Russell has thrown for 2,104 yards and an FBS-leading 29 touchdowns this season. Freshman Jarrett Stidham replaced Russell after the injury and completed his only pass attempt. In limited playing time, usually when a Baylor victory has been in hand, Stidham is 24-of-28 for 331 yards, six touchdowns and zero interceptions on the year.

Those are impressive numbers, especially for a freshman, but he's not on Russell's level. Yes, Cardale Jones came in last year as a sophomore for his first true collegiate action to save Ohio State's championship season, but to expect that from a freshman is unrealistic.

However, Baylor head coach Art Briles thinks his young quarterback can handle the pressure, per ESPN.com's Jake Trotter.

"This is a tough deal for Seth," Briles said. "Stidham is the best young quarterback I've been around. He's very polished."

If Russell comes back soon, which seems unlikely, Baylor will be fine. If not, a championship won't happen. If Russell is out for the season, Stidham will have to win games at home against Oklahoma and on the road against Oklahoma State and TCU.

Briles may be confident, but if Baylor ends up winning the national title with Stidham, even Jones should be impressed.

 

LSU Will Play for the National Championship

It takes more than one player to make a good team, but when a team has someone like Leonard Fournette running the ball, it always has a fighting chance, as ESPN College Football showed:

The LSU Tigers are the team with that luxury. Fournette's 1,352 yards are 193 more than anyone else in the FBS, and his 7.7 yards per carry rank second in the SEC. He hasn't rushed for fewer than 150 yards in a game this season and has found paydirt in all seven contests.

Those are great numbers, but LSU is more than Fournette. The defense, ranking a modest 39th in the country while allowing 22.1 points per game, has stepped up when necessary. It has done enough to keep the Tigers in every game, and when struggling in a high-scoring affair against Florida on Oct. 17, LSU shut out the Gators for the final 16 minutes, four seconds of the game to claim a 35-28 victory.

Quarterback Brandon Harris has been efficient, attempting all 128 passes for the Tigers, with nine touchdowns and zero interceptions. An offense that can hand the ball off to Fournette 25 times per game and never throw an interception is going to be hard to beat.

Fox Sports' Stewart Mandel noted LSU moved into the Fox Four this week after Utah's loss:

According to Fox's rankings, however, the Tigers should lose to Ohio State in the semifinals. Don't count on that.

The Tigers look as talented and tough as anyone else and will be playing on the season's final day, most likely against some other Tigers that will be out to prove they are legitimate contenders.

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Toa Lobendahn Injury: Updates on USC Center's Knee and Recovery

The USC Trojans took another hit when offensive lineman Toa Lobendahn suffered a torn ACL in Saturday's 42-24 win against the Utah Utes.

Continue for updates.

Lobendahn Out for Season Sunday, Oct. 25

According to Ryan Abraham of USCFootball.com, Lobendahn will miss the Trojans' final five games and potential bowl game because of the knee injury.

The sophomore star came into 2015 with a lot of buzz after a tremendous first year at USC. USA Today named him a Freshman All-American in 2014 after he started all 13 games, including five at left tackle.

USC's offensive line has been a mess in 2015 because of injuries. Chad Wheeler didn't play against Utah after suffering a concussion, and Max Tuerk was already out for the year after suffering a torn ACL.

After entering the year at No. 8 in the preseason Associated Press Top 25, the Trojans are off to a mediocre 4-3 start. They did get a huge win against the third-ranked Utes on Saturday, but it came at a steep price. 

Lobendahn has proved his versatility on the offensive line in a short period of time, playing on the left side before moving to center this year. USC will be fortunate to tread water for the rest of the year because of all the protection problems.

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Top Candidates to Replace Al Golden as Miami Hurricanes Head Football Coach

It's time for banner-attached planes to come to their complete landings and for coaching rumors to now fly in the Miami skies.

After suffering its worst loss in school history Saturday against Clemson, Miami fired head coach Al Golden in the middle of his fifth season with the program. Golden was 32-25 during his tenure with the Hurricanes.

While assistant coach Larry Scott will take over as Miami's interim head coach, the rumors of Golden's permanent replacement are already in full swing.

Miami is an intriguing job in a college football landscape that already has several major openings, including the ones at USC and South Carolina. While the private school doesn't have the same amount of money as many of its Power Five brethren, the Hurricanes can boast the best recruiting territory in the entire country and a rich history of five national championships.

So whom will Miami go after to take over for Golden and hopefully lead the Canes back to their days of championship-contending football? Here are seven major names to watch, from the ones with solid ties to The U to a couple of the hottest names on the FBS market.

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Ahmmon Richards Decommits from Miami: Latest Details, Comments and Reaction

The University of Miami officially fired head football coach Al Golden Sunday night, and the program now has to deal with the ramifications of some recruits defecting. 

Sunday, 4-star wide receiver Ahmmon Richards of West Palm Beach, Florida, announced he has decommitted from the University of Miami to explore his options: 

According to 247Sports.com, Richards committed to Miami in July 2014. However, several schools have maintained interest in the 6'2", 180-pound receiver since he made that decision. 

247Sports' Keith Niebuhr reported Richards has official visits coming up with Alabama, Tennessee and Auburn. Richards' visit with Auburn is expected to take place the weekend the Tigers host Alabama in the Iron Bowl. 

"I’m really excited," Richards said, per Niebuhr. "I can’t wait to see the atmosphere and how crazy it is. I just want to experience it."

It's no surprise the SEC's biggest schools have serious interest in Richards. As a junior, the 37th-ranked receiver in the class of 2016 caught 53 passes for 1,183 yards and 21 touchdowns. The year prior, Richards managed just 261 yards and four touchdowns on 18 receptions. 

A big decision awaits Richards, but his options are enticing to say the least. Alabama, Auburn and Tennessee are all top-tier programs, and they can afford him the chance to raise his profile under the national spotlight. 

 

Stats and recruitment information courtesy of 247Sports.com.

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Suspect in Fatal Oklahoma State Parade Car Crash Charged with 2nd-Degree Murder

Adacia Avery Chambers—who was detained Saturday as the primary suspect in a fatal car accident at the Oklahoma State University homecoming parade—is now being held on four charges of second-degree murder, according to the Associated Press.

Chambers was originally held on four manslaughter charges after four people died and dozens were injured when the car crashed into a crowd lining the street.

According to NewsOK.com's Matt Dinger, Chambers, 25, "will likely be charged with driving under the influence of drugs."

"I don't believe right now that she was intoxicated," Chambers' attorney Tony Coleman said, per Dinger. "I have deep concerns about her competency at this point. I'm not a psychologist or psychiatrist, but I can tell you she's suffering from mental illness."

USA Today's Jim Varney, Trevor Hughes and George Schroeder reported blood tests will determine whether Chambers is charged with driving under the influence of drugs.

According to Dinger, Chambers' bail has yet to be set, and a bond hearing is scheduled for Monday afternoon.

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Al Golden Fired by Miami: Latest Details, Comments and Reaction

It may be hard for any college football fan under the age of 15 to believe, but once upon a time, the Miami Hurricanes were one of the most dominant programs in the country. Sunday's announcement that coach Al Golden was fired, effectively immediately, is the latest indication that the program that won the 2001 national title has fallen on hard times.

This comes on the heels of a 4-3 start that included a stunning 58-0 loss to Clemson on Saturday. Assistant Larry Scott has been tabbed as the program's interim head coach. 

University of Miami athletic director Blake James addressed Golden's dismissal in a press release: 

Coach Golden has led our program through some very difficult times and he has done so with class, integrity and a true desire to see our students succeed on the field, in the classroom and in the community. However, we have a proud tradition of excellence at Miami, not just in football but in all sports, and we want to compete for ACC and national championships. I simply believe that now is the time to bring the Hurricane Family together and rally behind our young men.

Golden took the reins at Miami in 2011 after he led Temple to an 8-4 record a mere four years after it finished 1-11. Golden did not bring that magic touch to Coral Gables, however, and boasted a mediocre 28-22 record entering the 2015 season, including a disappointing 0-2 mark in bowl games and 16-16 tally in ACC play. 

"On behalf of my family I want to thank the University of Miami for a tremendous opportunity," Golden said in the school's press release. "I believe in what we are doing and how we are doing it and we have some outstanding young men in our football program. Though this moment is difficult, we wish the Canes the best of luck going forward."

That the Hurricanes have fallen so far behind the likes of Florida State, Clemson and even Georgia Tech in their own conference likely had plenty to do with Golden’s firing.

This move was not completely unexpected. Erika Glass and Courtney Fiorini of the school's student newspaper, the Miami Hurricane, noted that fans were calling for Golden’s removal on social media with the hashtag “FireAlGolden” after the 2014 campaign.

What’s more, Sam Cooper of Yahoo Sports wrote that a plane with a banner saying “Make Miami Great Again—Butch Davis 2016” flew over the stadium before the team’s September game against Florida Atlantic. It reminded many of the “Fire Al Golden Save the U” banner that flew over Sun Life Stadium before a 2014 contest against Cincinnati.

Despite Sunday's news, Golden isn’t that far removed from his 2013 Lombardi Award for Excellence in Coaching after he led the Hurricanes to a 9-4 season and their first nine-win campaign since 2009.

However, he did not build on that momentum and finished a dismal 6-7 overall and 3-5 in conference play in 2014. Golden’s Hurricanes capped the disappointing season with a loss in the Independence Bowl.

In the wake of Golden's exit, Jared Shanker of ESPN looked back on the head coach's tenure: 

Miami’s next hire is a critical one, because it's been so long since it was a powerhouse that competed for national championships annually.

The new coach must deal with strong Florida State and Clemson programs within the team's own league and find a way to compete with the Alabamas, Ohio States and Oregons of the college football landscape on the field and on the recruiting trail. That is a tall order, but the future of the team once so endearingly known as “The U” is at stake.

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College Football Week 9 Opening Odds: Florida, Notre Dame, USC Favorites

The Florida Gators will be looking to bounce back from their first loss of the season and only their second non-cover of the campaign Saturday when they take on the Georgia Bulldogs at EverBank Field in Jacksonville as opening 2.5-point betting favorites at sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark.

The Gators fell 35-28 on the road at LSU in their last game back on October 17, losing as a six-point underdog that day to fall to 6-1 straight up and 5-2 against the spread on the season. That has the Gators at No. 11 in the AP Top 25 poll heading into their matchup against the Bulldogs, who are 5-2 SU but just 2-5 ATS on the season.

Overall, the Gators are 8-2 ATS in their last 10 games, according to the Odds Shark College Football Database. They thumped the Bulldogs 38-20 in their meeting last season while winning outright as 12-point underdogs at the sportsbooks. The Bulldogs are coming off a 9-6 win over Missouri in which they failed to cover the 15.5-point spread at the sportsbooks.

With several top teams on a bye around college football this week, the schedule is light on marquee matchups. The only game between ranked teams for this week has No. 9 Notre Dame on the road against No. 21 Temple, with the Fighting Irish opening as a 10.5-point favorite. Notre Dame is coming off a 41-31 victory over USC two weeks ago.

The Trojans opened as four-point road favorites against California for the week ahead, with USC 11-0 SU in its last 11 games against the Bears but 1-6 ATS in its last seven games on the road in the month of October.

Other Pac-12 matchups for the weekend have Utah as 21.5-point home favorites against Oregon State, UCLA as 18.5-point home favorites against Colorado and Stanford as 12.5-point road favorites against Washington State on the opening lines.

Clemson opened as a 9.5-point road favorite against N.C. State for its Saturday matchup, with the Tigers 10-1 SU in their last 11 games against the Wolfpack but N.C. State 8-2 both SU and ATS in its last 10 games. Michigan opened as a 10-point road favorite against Minnesota, while Wisconsin opened as a 19-point home favorite against Rutgers.

Two ranked teams are in action Thursday night this week, with No. 23 Pittsburgh hosting North Carolina and No. 5 TCU getting a visit from West Virginia. The Panthers opened as 2.5-point home underdogs against the Tar Heels, while the Horned Frogs opened as 14.5-point home favorites against the Mountaineers.

And the No. 17 Florida State Seminoles, coming off a 22-16 upset loss at Georgia Tech as five-point favorites on the weekend, opened as 19.5-point home favorites for their game Saturday against Syracuse. The Seminoles are now 6-1 SU and 3-4 ATS on the season, and they are 20-0 SU in their last 20 games at home.

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