NCAA Football News

Why a 1-Loss Notre Dame Team Will Make the CFB Playoff

The College Football Playoff committee has released its first rankings of the season. The Notre Dame Fighting Irish checked in at No. 10, which raised eyebrows of many in the football community. The team's road to the final four will be tough.

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder sits down with Notre Dame beat writer Keith Arnold to discuss whether the Irish can claw their way back into the Playoff picture.

Can Notre Dame get back into the CFP?

Watch the video, and let us know!

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Rapid-Fire Predictions for College Football's Biggest Matchups in Week 10

Week 10 is upon us, and things are just starting to heat up with the introduction of the College Football Playoff bracket. The selection committee has chosen four top teams, but with much of the season left, all the top teams continue jockeying for position.

Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Michael Felder, Adam Kramer, and Barrett Sallee discuss the biggest headlines heading into week 10.

Is Ole Miss in more trouble against Auburn?

Watch the video and let us know!

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Felder's Rant: Don't Complain About Running Up the Score; CFB Is All About Style

Teams have been scoring in bunches this college football season. TCU hung 82 points on Texas Tech, which leaves many people asking if teams are running up the score and whether that is wrong or not.

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder gives his opinion on why running up the score isn't such a bad thing. 

Do you think it's wrong to run up the score?

Watch the video and let us know!

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Why Suspension Helps Todd Gurley's NFL Draft Stock

Georgia Bulldogs star running back Todd Gurley received two additional games, bringing the grand total to four on his suspension for allegedly receiving compensation for providing his autograph. He will be eligible to return November 15th vs. Auburn. 

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder and NFL Lead Draft Analyst Matt Miller check in with their thoughts regarding the draft stock of the talented running back.

How will this affect Gurley's draft stock?

Watch the video and let us know!  

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Would You Rather: Week 10 Edition

After Week 9 brought us the first installment of the Playoff Committee, much of the college football field is consumed by clawing their way into the final four teams. Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Michael Felder, Adam Kramer and Barrett Sallee discuss the other burning questions on every college football fan's mind.

Would you rather have Hugh Freeze or Les Miles managing your end-of-the-game clock?

Watch the video and let us know!

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Week 10 Predictions: Picking Top 25 Games Against the Spread

Week 10 is the first week in college football history played in knowledge of the College Football Playoff rankings. For the first time ever, teams were told how the selection committee views them, how much farther they have left to climb.

What sort of effect will this have on the games? We will find out from Thursday to Saturday. We are sailing into uncharted waters, a week with no historical precedent, which makes it even more difficult than usual to predict each Top 25 game against the spread.

(Translation: I need every excuse I can get.) 

Bleacher Report's Adam Kramer went 5-10 in his final week before this piece took a hiatus* but 10-6-1 the week prior. This week, with 16 ranked games on the schedule, I would be happy to split those win totals down the middle. When last I give out picks to the public, which was all the way back in Week 1, I went 3-3 overall and 2-1 on locks.

Time for us to make not lose some money.

 

*side note: Congrats to Adam and his family!

All spreads courtesy of Odds Shark unless noted otherwise.

Begin Slideshow

Clint Trickett's Long Journey to Success and a Life in Coaching

It took until his senior year of college, but West Virginia quarterback Clint Trickett finally has a team to call his own. 

Trickett's journey back to West Virginia has been well documented. The son of Florida State offensive line coach Rick Trickett spent his early teenage years around the Mountaineers program when his father was an assistant under Rich Rodriguez from 2001-06.

But the former 3-star recruit signed with Florida State, not West Virginia, in 2010. A career backup, Trickett sat behind EJ Manuel and transferred in the spring of 2013 before Jameis Winston was inevitably named the starter. 

However, it was the stress of playing under his father, not playing time, that caused Trickett to finish his career elsewhere. "The working environment was uncomfortable with my dad on staff," Trickett told Bruce Feldman, then of CBSSports.com, in January. 

Now the main man for the Mountaineers, Trickett has led his team by his actions and his words. 

At 6-2, the Mountaineers are ranked No. 20 in the first College Football Playoff standings and host No. 7 TCU on Saturday, with ESPN's College GameDay in attendance. More importantly, West Virginia controls its destiny in the Big 12 title hunt.

 

Sacrifice

Trickett was willing to do anything for the teammates he'd just met. He didn't know them well, having just transferred as a grad student from Florida State. So he took the "show-me" route instead—and took hit after hit and played the 2013 season with one good arm. 

"If they saw me get hurt," Trickett said, "take a couple of shots a game and play at 50 percent, they'd say 'He's going to sacrifice his body for this team.'" 

"Sacrifice" is an interesting, albeit accurate, choice of words, as it felt like Trickett was, in essence, sacrificed to blitzing defenders regularly. At a listed weight of 185 pounds, that's a lot of punishment. 

In his interview with Feldman, Trickett acknowledged that he played through most of last season—a disappointing 4-8 campaign for the Mountaineers—with a torn labrum, which he sustained in his first start against Oklahoma State. 

That same month, he sent out a picture from his Twitter account, which has since been deleted, showing the gruesome result post-surgery. 

Nine months later, Trickett is 100 percent healthy and ranks sixth in the country with 2,763 passing yards. He's played for his father and with a torn labrum. TCU he can handle.  

 

Building Relationships 

Trickett returned to a place he knew with an opportunity to start as a grad student. For someone who grew up around the West Virginia program, though, Trickett felt like a stranger upon his return to Morgantown in 2013. 

"I came here last year and people didn't know me," Trickett said. "But I knew if, given the time, [my teammates and I] could build a relationship." 

The chemistry between Trickett and his teammates didn't come right away. Chemistry was an issue in general for West Virginia a season ago. Between myriad injuries and a revolving door at quarterback with Trickett, Paul Millard and Ford Childress, the Mountaineers couldn't consistently get things to work on offense. As a result, West Virginia averaged 26 points a game

"That timing and that rapport did not exist at any time last year," head coach Dana Holgorsen said. 

Trickett's shoulder injury didn't allow him to physically develop that timing with his receivers in the offseason. "I wasn't able to competitively throw until right before camp started," Trickett said. So, he did everything else he possibly could. 

He watched spring practices from the sidelines and a coach's point of view. Though he couldn't actually practice, Trickett made sure he stayed as mentally sharp as possible. Trickett essentially doubled up on his "film sessions" by watching film and then watching live-action practices. "You hear the term mental reps," Trickett explained, "well, there were a lot of mental reps." 

He also spent the offseason getting to know his teammates on a deeper level. Mike Casazza of The Charleston Daily Mail wrote in August of the car rides Trickett would give leading receiver Kevin White in the offseason. It was that time, traveling together, that the two really built their relationship: 

It was West Virginia’s quarterback who came up with clever way to spend more time with his big receiver, Kevin White. Trickett was the one who said he’d drive 20 or so minutes out of his way after a brief getaway in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, to Allentown, where he’d pick up White and take him back to campus. He knew they’d be in the car for about five hours and they could make the time count.

“I got to know Clint outside of football,” White said. “We talked about life stuff. It helped us bond and get to know each other better.”

They talked football, too, and went over the 2013 season, how they fared in their first year with the Mountaineers, what they wanted to change as seniors this fall. They got to know what they thought of one another, of strengths and weaknesses, of what one could do to make the other better.

Through eight games, Trickett and White have connected 72 times for 1,047 yards and eight touchdowns. Not bad for a quarterback-receiver combo that hadn't truly practiced together in well over seven months. 

While White is getting the Heisman consideration, Tricket has been a completely different player this year. He's thrown for more than 300 yards in seven of West Virginia's eight games, including a 511-yard performance in a 40-37 win over Maryland. (White had a season-high 216 yards against the Terps.) Trickett's "worst" performance? A modest 238 passing yards and two touchdowns in a 34-10 win over Oklahoma State. 

 

The Leader

Trickett has, barring injury, five more games in a West Virginia uniform. He's been determined to make every one count. After a tough first season in Morgantown, Trickett has taken over as the team's unquestioned leader. 

It starts on the field. With the exception of four attempts by freshman William Crest in garbage time against Towson, Trickett has thrown every pass for the Mountaineers in 2014. He is, without a doubt, the go-to guy for the Mountaineers offense. 

Holgorsen added that Trickett's relationship with White tells just part of the story. The quarterback has a strong bond with second-leading receiver Mario Alford, who had a season-high 136 yards against Oklahoma State while White was held in check with just three catches for 27 yards. 

Trickett also takes responsibility for the offensive line, which has been much-maligned over recent years. "At the Oklahoma State game, Clint huddled up those guys [before each drive] and talked to them for about 10 to 15 seconds to calm them down," Holgorsen said. 

"That relationship exists with each and everybody on offense."

It's no surprise that a coach's son is the vocal leader of the team. Put simply, the Trickett family is made to coach. Trickett's brother, Travis Trickett, is the co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Samford University. 

Trickett wants to keep playing, whether in the NFL or Canadian Football League, for as long as he can. Football is what he knows. To him, it's fun. He's enjoying the moment because he knows it will eventually come to an end.

At that point, Trickett will follow the family path and get into coaching. "That's been set up for me from when I was born," he said. "A 9-to-5 job? I can't imagine doing that. February? That's signing day for me." 

Four years ago, Trickett signed his National Letter of Intent with Florida State. In a couple of months, he'll leave West Virginia as one of the better turnaround stories in college football. 

The journey has been long for Trickett, at times both awkward and painful. It certainly hasn't always gone according to script. It has, however, molded Trickett into the player he is today. And the coach he'll be one day. 

"I wouldn't trade it for anything," he said.

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. All quotes obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise. All stats courtesy of cfbstats.com. Rankings reflect College Football Playoff standings. Recruiting rankings courtesy of 247Sports.com

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Miami Football: Game-by-Game Predictions for the Month of November

The Miami Hurricanes enter the final stretch of their 2014 regular season at 5-3, preparing for only Atlantic Coast Conference matchups to close the year.

While November is always a critical period in college football, it's a must-win month for the 'Canes. Miami has an outside shot at crawling back into the race for the Coastal Division, but one loss to a division opponent will eliminate "The U" from contention.

To close October, the Hurricanes played arguably their best game during Al Golden's tenure, and they'll need to sustain that success against four tough programs.

Can Miami manage a 4-0 finish, or will it eventually settle for bowl eligibility? Check out the predictions below.

 

North Carolina, Nov. 1

After shredding Cincinnati and Virginia Tech, the 'Canes were set to open November with an offense on a roll. They still might, but it'll be difficult without their best offensive lineman.

According to Susan Miller Degnan of The Miami Herald, starting left tackle Ereck Flowers is out with a knee injury. The junior joins tackles Taylor Gadbois and Kc McDermott on the sideline, which likely forces freshman Trevor Darling into the lineup.

Though a multi-game absence would be devastating overall, UNC is the least concerning matchup sans Flowers. Now, that's not to say the Tar Heels are not a concern, but if there's one game Miami can afford to not have him, it's against Carolina.

Unlike the final three opponents, the Heels aren't an imposing defensive team. Currently, they allow the sixth-most yards per game in the nation—more than 500 per showing.

Yes, North Carolina boasts an offense that can keep up with nearly any program, and the 'Canes aren't exactly a model defense. However, they'll make a couple more stops and force one extra turnover to seal win No. 6 of the season.

Prediction: Miami 38, North Carolina 30

 

Florida State, Nov. 15

Last season, Miami was a definite underdog in Tallahassee despite being undefeated heading into the rivalry game. It put up a valiant effort, trailing by only seven points at halftime.

However, as the Seminoles started to build a sizable advantage, the single-worst thing that could possibly happen occurred. Losing Duke Johnson to a broken ankle was even more demoralizing than a Hurricanes deficit on the scoreboard.

Miami effectively collapsed, dropping four of its final six contests and playing itself out of the ACC Championship Game.

The star running back will return—barring an injury over the next two weeks—ready to spring an upset on the defending national champions. He tallied 97 yards against FSU last season, yet that would almost be his lowest count (90) in 2014.

But for any positives logically found, the Seminoles defense is a notch better, and their offense surpasses the 'Canes D.

Unless the legal situations for a couple members of the FSU backfield result in ineligibility, the 'Noles will be clear favorites at Sun Life Stadium.

Prediction: Florida State 34, Miami 21

 

Virginia, Nov. 22

The second-to-last Saturday of November marks Miami's only road contest during the season's final month. It might signal the end of the Hurricanes' ACC hopes, too.

Peeking ahead toward what should be a more competitive game would result in losing at Charlottesville for the third straight time. And the Cavaliers have defended home turf this season—just ask UCLA, Louisville and Pitt.

Virginia's defense is not to be overlooked, having earned a ranking as the country's ninth-best unit against the run and No. 21 overall. The Cavaliers have racked up 25 sacks and surrendered just 18.3 first downs per game.

What's more, Mike London's proverbial seat is slowly warming to a burn, and Virginia has two weeks to prepare for the 'Canes. Upending Miami and bitter rival Virginia Tech to earn bowl eligibility might be sufficient reason for the Cavs to retain London, who is 3-1 against The U.

Long story short, he'll have his team ready to exploit mental lapses by the Hurricanes.

Prediction: Virginia 24, Miami 20

 

Pittsburgh, Nov. 29

Unfamiliar with Pitt? Think Nebraska all over again: A decent quarterback with adequate mobility, one wide receiver who stretches the field and an absolute stud taking handoffs.

Chad Voytik has completed more than 60 percent of his attempts while also tallying a pair of 100-yard outbursts on the ground. He's connected with Tyler Boyd 42 times, and the talented wideout reeled in nine passes for 98 yards and a score against Miami last year.

The biggest weapon, however, is running back James Conner. He leads the Panthers with 1,079 yards and 14 touchdowns, both of which rank top-seven nationally.

Ultimately, the final matchup of the regular season will be decided the same way Nebraska was: Tackling—or lack thereof.

The Hurricanes have slowly improved their tackling as a unit, so Miami gets an early edge over Pitt. But if that trend reverses, the Panthers bullying through an inconsistent 'Canes defense would not be surprising.

Prediction: Miami 27, Pittsburgh 24

 

Note: FSU, Virginia and Pitt scores subject to change because game-changing circumstances may arise between this writing and kickoff. Official predictions will be available in a matchup preview at the beginning of the respective week. Stats and rankings courtesy of CFB stats.

Follow Bleacher Report college football writer David Kenyon on Twitter: @Kenyon19_BR.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

UCLA Football: Bruins' Road to Making the College Football Playoff

UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley didn't shy from talk of a Pac-12 championship or the College Football Playoff after the Bruins' 42-30 loss to Oregon on Oct. 11. 

"To this point, we still have everything in front of us," Hundley said. "There will be a two-loss team in that playoff. Hopefully we come out and just do our part. If we play good ball for the rest of the season, anything goes."  

Since falling to 4-2 with that defeat, UCLA scrapped for a pair of road wins and entered the inaugural College Football Playoff rankings at No. 22. 

The Bruins have a long way to climb from No. 22 to No. 4, but history suggests it's possible—recent history, in fact. 

Michigan State went on a tear in its final stretch, winning the Big Ten title en route to the No. 4 ranking in the final BCS poll. 

Following the Spartans' road map could lead UCLA's way into the College Football Playoff, but it's not an easy path. 

 

Biggest Obstacles to Playoff Berth 

The most substantial hurdle UCLA has between it and running the table to close out this season is itself. 

The Bruins have repeatedly failed to play up to potential, or their own lofty standards. Whether surrendering sacks en masse, coughing up costly turnovers or drawing inopportune penalties, UCLA football has been its own worst enemy. 

Eliminating self-inflicted wounds is the first and perhaps biggest step UCLA can take toward playoff contention.  

As far as external challenges, UCLA has a pretty favorable schedule ahead of it. Three of the Bruins' four remaining games are at the Rose Bowl, starting this week with No. 12 Arizona.  

UCLA is 2-0 against Arizona since Jim Mora and Rich Rodriguez arrived at their respective programs. The Bruins have similar fortune against rival USC in the Mora era. 

Stanford is another story. The Cardinal beat UCLA in consecutive weeks in 2012, including in the Pac-12 title game, then dominated the Bruins in October 2013. 

This year's Stanford team looks much different than the two conference title-winning squads of 2012 and 2013, however. The Cardinal defense is still stout, but the offense is anemic. 

UCLA's sole remaining road date is a Nov. 8 homecoming trip for Mora. The head coach faces his alma mater, Washington, in a city where he spent three seasons with the professional franchise. 

Husky Stadium is a notorious inhospitable venue for visiting teams, but this year's Washington team has two losses there. The Huskies are battling through an offensive identity crisis not unlike that of Stanford. 

Expect UCLA to be the favorite in all four of its remaining dates. Should the Bruins live up to expectations in that stretch, the remaining obstacles between them and the College Football Playoff are entirely beyond their control. 

 

Help Needed

Before UCLA can worry about any outside help it might need, the Bruins need to take some advice from Jerry Maguire

Mora summarized the situation bluntly on the Oct. 22 edition on Fox Sports Radio's Jay Mohr Sports

"We can't lose another one and be in the [Pac-12 championship] picture," he said. 

Indeed, UCLA's playoff help starts internally. The Bruins must win out to have any semblance of a sliver of a chance at cracking the top four—and winning out includes a Pac-12 title game victory. 

Hundley was steadfast that winning the conference title remained the goal, but the Bruins are heading into the final month of the season playing catch-up. They currently look up at three teams in the Pac-12 South Division race: Utah, Arizona and Arizona State.

Arizona comes to the Rose Bowl on Saturday, so the formula there is pretty simple: UCLA pulls ahead of the Wildcats with a win.

The Bruins hold a similar head-to-head tiebreaker over Arizona State should the Sun Devils drop another conference game.

The trickier scenario is that which involves Utah. The Utes upset UCLA in the Rose Bowl on Oct. 4, 30-28. 

UCLA needs Utah to drop two more games because the Utes hold the head-to-head advantage. Either Arizona or Arizona State beating Utah helps UCLA, but the Bruins benefit from Oregon winning at Rice-Eccles Stadium on Nov. 8. 

In fact, UCLA fans should become Ducks supporters the rest of the way. An 11-1 Oregon team, presumably ranked in the top four of the College Football Playoff rankings, is the ideal Pac-12 title game opponent. 

Going back to the Michigan State 2013 analogy, UCLA needs Oregon to be its Ohio State: a championship-caliber opponent and marquee win to close out the season. 

 

Prediction

UCLA's season is confounding to this point, but salvageable. The Bruins are certainly capable of playing at a championship level, demonstrated in their 62-27 shellacking of Arizona State. 

Otherwise, however, they have fallen short of expectations. Take away the two home losses to Utah and Oregon, and UCLA is still underachieving, squeaking past seemingly inferior opponents because of lackluster performance on either side of the ball. 

The Bruins are not just capable of winning each of their next four: They should win those four. But expectation and reality have not quite been on the same page for this UCLA team. 

We are deep enough into the season that the repeatedly erratic performances by UCLA are more identity than aberration. Because the Bruins should go the remainder of their schedule unscathed does not mean they will.

Look for UCLA to lose once more, effectively eliminating it from the College Football Playoff race. 

Prediction: 9-3; Holiday Bowl  

 

Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise cited.  

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

SEC Extra Points with Barrett Sallee: Steve Spurrier Sounds off on Autographs

Insight into the Business?

Georgia running back Todd Gurley will have to sit two more games after the NCAA ruled that he received more than $3,000 over a two-year span for autographs and other memorabilia.

Who better to ask his thoughts on the matter than the always-honest Head Ball Coach?

South Carolina's Steve Spurrier was asked about his stance on players receiving payment for autographs on Wednesday's SEC coaches teleconference, and provided some interesting insight into how things really go down.

"It appears some guys sign autographs and say 'hey, give me the money when my days are over,'" Spurrier said. "Because, obviously, they're not signing them for free. I guess Todd Gurley took some money now when he should have waited until his eligibility was over. He would have been fine, I guess."

Slip of the tongue? Not at all.

Spurrier reiterated it later in the call.

"I think most of the guys who are in position to sign autographs are smart enough to say 'catch me after the bowl game, and we can do some business then,'" he said.

Spurrier also reiterated his stance that college football players and basketball players should receive between $4,000-$5,000 per year for expenses.

"With the tremendous amount of money that football and basketball brings in, I just personally think you should reward those guys that are bringing in the big money for all of our universities," he said.

It's going to happen soon enough through autonomy, and the backlash from Gurley's autograph scandal will only accelerate the process.

 

If You're Going to Burn a Redshirt, You Burn It

Tennessee had planned to redshirt sophomore quarterback Joshua Dobbs and leave the season in the hands of senior Justin Worley. But when the wear and tear of constantly being hit by opposing front sevens took a toll on Worley's shoulder, head coach Butch Jones decided the time was right to scrap the original plan and trot out Dobbs early in Tennessee's loss last week to Alabama.

All Dobbs did against the Crimson Tide was complete 19 of 22 passes for 192 yards, two touchdowns, one pick and run 19 times for 75 yards. Alabama head coach Nick Saban said, according to AL.com, that his team didn't practice for Dobbs, so his performance might have been more due to shock and awe than anything else.

That doesn't matter. With Worley still questionable, Dobbs should be the starter from here on out on Rocky Top.

With a team that's so young and a season that is on the verge of being lost, it's time for Tennessee to truly prepare for the future. That future is in the hands of Dobbs.

Tennessee already knows the offensive line is a disaster, and Dobbs' athleticism will help keep those chains moving, keep the Vols on schedule and perhaps break a big play or two that can sway the outcome of the game.

Jones is pleased with the way Dobbs responded, but knows there's room for his sophomore to grow:

Josh is progressing...He made some big plays for us. I thought he was very poised. I thought he benefited from his live game opportunities last year, and going into a game with a sold out crowd playing [at the time] the No. 4 ranked team in the country, I thought he handled himself well. With him, it's just about making the routine plays, not the 'oh my God' plays, but the routine plays. We had a slant down by the goal line that has got to be a touchdown.

At 3-5, Tennessee needs to try to catch lightning in the bottle and get to a bowl game. Not for the trip but for the practice. The Vols have played 23 true freshman in 2014—the most in the nation. Toss Dobbs in with those guys for bowl practice, and the foundation is being laid for the future of the program. 

Tennessee has South Carolina, Kentucky, Missouri and Vanderbilt left on the schedule, winning three of four isn't out of the question.

 

False Alarm

Ole Miss exited the LSU game battered and bruised, with linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche, defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche, offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil and safety Cody Prewitt all nursing various injuries. Not the most comforting thought, considering the Auburn Tigers—another smashmouth, power rushing team—is headed to Oxford on Saturday night.

Of those injuries, it appears only Denzel Nkemdiche's is serious. The reserve linebacker for the Rebels underwent season-ending ankle surgery this week.

The others, however, will be back for the showdown between the No. 4 Rebels and No. 3 Auburn Tigers this weekend.

"They did get some dings the other night that will probably keep them from being 100 percent, "head coach Hugh Freeze said, "But they're going to give it a go for sure."

That's big news for Ole Miss' defense, which needs defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche and safety Pruitt to play big to slow down Auburn's multidimensional rushing attack. On the other side, Tunsil's health is critical for a Rebel offensive line that's had issues protecting quarterback Bo Wallace. They've given up 19 sacks this season—the third-most in the conference—and losing its most reliable piece would be devastating.

Crisis averted.

 

Ace in the Hole

It's no secret that Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn and Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze are friends. The two former high school coaches both coached at Arkansas State, run similar offenses and play a round of golf with South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier every spring at SEC Spring Meetings in Destin, Florida.

They also share a bond with Ryan Aplin.

The former Arkansas State quarterback played for both head coaches with the Red Wolves, was an administrative intern under Freeze in 2012 and 2013 and moved over to become a graduate assistant for Malzahn at Auburn this year.

Aplin has watched film with Auburn's defensive staff this week, according to Brandon Marcello of AL.com, hoping to give them insight into what Freeze's offense is doing.

"It's always a concern that you have people on your previous staffs and played for you on other staffs you're competing with," Freeze said.

Will it work?

Freeze changed his signals this spring as a result of Aplin's departure. That doesn't mean Aplin can't crack the code. His presence in the film room to discuss tendencies of Freeze's play-calling and quarterback Bo Wallace's decision-making could play a huge factor in one of the biggest games of the season.

If it is, Freeze will adjust.

"We wholesale changed everything," Freeze said. "There may be some things that he can add. We'll kind of feel it out early on and see if they've got something or not, but I don't know what else we can do at this point that we haven't already done."

It should make for quite an interesting cat-and-mouse game on Saturday night.

 

"If Only Georgia Was at Full Strength"

Georgia running back Todd Gurley won't be back for this weekend's "World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party" against Georgia. 

Is Will Muschamp happy? The Internet seems to think so.

Except that he's not. Believe it or not, Muschamp is disappointed that Gurley won't be toting the rock for the Bulldogs on Saturday afternoon in Jacksonville.

"Todd's a competitor," he said on Wednesday. "As a competitor, you want to compete against guys like him."

But as a coach on the hot seat, Muschamp probably doesn't want to compete against guys like him. It's a nice, diplomatic answer by Muschamp and the proper thing to say, but let's be real, that's about as far from the truth as you can get.

 

Quick Outs

  • Texas A&M is wearing some sweet throwback uniforms from 1939 this weekend versus ULM, that features an amazing replica leather helmet. Head coach Kevin Sumlin said on Wednesday that he hadn't seen the real thing yet, only the pictures, but "they look pretty good to me." That might be the understatement of the century.
  • South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier confirmed that the Gamecocks will wear black uniforms versus Tennessee on Saturday night. With four losses already down, any change is good change for the reeling Gamecocks.
  • Florida head coach Will Muschamp reiterated that Treon Harris is his quarterback on Saturday against Georgia. "It's Treon's game to play," he said. Muschamp also didn't rule out former starter Jeff Driskel seeing time in specific situations. At this point of the season, with his job on the line, ruling anything out—even Driskel—would be reckless.
  • Coaches, to a man, don't care about the College Football Playoff rankings—especially Arkansas' Bret Bielema. "I can't waste my time worrying about something that we're not involved in," he said. He's not wrong.

 

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

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Why Georgia Will Be Fine Without Todd Gurley vs. Florida and Kentucky

In the interest of forthright disclosure: There's never a good time to be without the best running back in the country.  The Georgia Bulldogs will rightfully miss junior star Todd Gurley against Florida and Kentucky over the coming weeks.

But Georgia will be fine without him.

Todd Gurley, University of Georgia football student-athlete, must sit a total of four games, or 30 percent of the season, for accepting more than $3,000 in cash from multiple individuals for autographed memorabilia and other items over two years. Gurley, who acknowledged violating NCAA rules, must repay a portion of the money received to a charity of his choice and complete 40 hours of community service as additional conditions for his reinstatement. Gurley will be eligible to play on Nov. 15.

-NCAA.com

Within the context of the season, Gurley's suspension, which will last a full four games if not overturned, could not have come at a better time.  

The prospect of traveling without him to Missouri and Arkansas once felt daunting, but the Dawgs outscored the Tigers and the Razorbacks by a combined margin of 47 points.  While neither Florida or Kentucky should be overlooked, the Gators (at a neutral site) and Wildcats present no more ominous of a challenge than Georgia's previous two contests.

After all, Florida recently suffered a 42-13 loss to the same Missouri team that Georgia absolutely manhandled.  And Kentucky, despite showing signs of improvement, is still a year away from upsetting a Top 10 team like Georgia.  At best, the Wildcats are wildly inconsistent, looking great in a win against South Carolina and respectable against Mississippi State while looking mediocre in a close loss to Florida and disastrous in a 38-point loss to LSU.

Stretching beyond the quality of opposition is one constant change that has come to define Georgia: steady improvement.

Offensively, Georgia has never been better—literally—as the Bulldogs are on pace to set a school record with an average of 43.4 points per contest.  Gurley is out, but freshman running back Nick Chubb has stepped up, and he will improve each and every game.  Sony Michel, another freshman running back who has averaged 9.7 yards per carry, is closer to returning.  And, veteran running back Keith Marshall should soon be contributing as well.

Combine that still stellar running game with ongoing improvements from quarterback Hutson Mason and the recent returns of playmaking receivers Malcolm Mitchell and Justin Scott-Wesley, and there's no reason to think this offense will suddenly stall out against Florida and Kentucky without Gurley.

Furthermore, Georgia's defense is one of the most improved units in the entire country.  

Florida struggles mightily on offense, and its hard to imagine a scenario in which a true freshman (Treon Harris) would solve Georgia's pressure and tight coverage in his first collegiate start.  Meanwhile, Kentucky's offense has averaged just north of 25 points per game in SEC play.

Make no mistake about it: Gurley's absence is disappointing.  It's undoubtedly frustrating to teammates and coaches, and fans are justifiably befuddled.  And on a broader scale, the general public feels admittedly—though not necessarily wrongfully—left in the dark.  

The anticipated length of Gurley's suspension has changed from two games to four, but the on-field results won't be altered by his prolonged absence.  Georgia will beat Florida and Kentucky and inch closer to playoff consideration even without the one-time Heisman candidate. 

Todd Gurley will be missed along the way, but he'll also be patiently awaiting an opportunity to remind everyone why he's the best running back in the country.  He'll get that chance on Nov. 15 against Auburn.  And that game matters much more than any contest he's missing.

 

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand and all stats courtesy of Sports-Reference.com.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Biggest Surprises from College Football Playoff Committee's Rankings

After two months of hearing about weekly meetings between the 13 (and eventually 12) members of the College Football Playoff selection committee, the curtain was finally pulled back on their clandestine work with Tuesday's first playoff rankings.

Before that Top 25 was released, all we could do was speculate as to how the committee would factor in big wins, key losses, schedule strength and countless other factors to rate the nation's top teams. Now we have some clarity, as well as the opportunity to pick apart what the committee has done to this point.

Many teams landed where expected, based on where they sat in the Associated Press and Amway polls, but the committee did manage to throw a couple of curveballs in how they ranked certain teams. Here's a look at the biggest surprises from the initial CFP rankings.

Begin Slideshow

College Football Rankings 2014: NCAA Teams That Can Still Move into Top 4

The Ole Miss Rebels made picking the top two teams easy for the College Football Playoff committee. By losing to LSU on Saturday, the college football landscape was left with just two undefeated teams from power conferences.

Here's the thing: Because the top four enter the playoffs, the race for the third and fourth spot is now a jumbled mess of one-loss teams that could all make a case for being in the last two spots. Ole Miss is currently fourth, but many including the voters of The Associated Press don't believe the Rebels are one of the four best teams in the country.

Here's a look at the first College Football Playoff Rankings, per the committee's official site.

College Football Playoff Rankings Rank Team Record 1 Mississippi State 7-0 2 Florida State 7-0 3 Auburn 6-1 4 Ole Miss 7-1 5 Oregon 7-1 6 Alabama 7-1 7 TCU 6-1 8 Michigan State 7-1 9 Kansas State 6-1 10 Notre Dame 6-1 11 Georgia 6-1 12 Arizona 6-1 13 Baylor 6-1 14 Arizona State 6-1 15 Nebraska 7-1 16 Ohio State 6-1 17 Utah 6-1 18 Oklahoma 5-2 19 LSU 7-2 20 West Virginia 6-2 21 Clemson 6-2 22 UCLA 6-2 23 East Carolina 6-1 24 Duke 6-1 25 Louisville 6-2

 

Is Ole Miss Unsteady?

Sure, Bo Wallace looked dreadful on Saturday against LSU in the Rebels' 10-7 loss. He completed just 14 of 33 passes and threw a crucial interception late. However, this season the Rebels do own a win over the Alabama Crimson Tide and a victory over the Texas A&M Aggies, which doesn't look as good now as it did three weeks ago.

Still, the Rebels have one loss and a win over a team that is perhaps its strongest competition for a spot in the playoff. Because of that, the committee is right to keep Ole Miss in the top four...at least for now.

There's a huge game on the horizon against Auburn this week. A win would plant Ole Miss firmly in a top-four spot. Barring a major upset at the hands of Arkansas or Presbyterian, Ole Miss might even be able to withstand a second loss to Mississippi State in the regular-season finale and still make the playoff field.

They would need help, but with wins over Alabama and Auburn, who could definitively say the Rebels wouldn't be one of the four best teams in the land?

There are 11 teams that by some stretch of the imagination—large or small—could find themselves in the top four. We'll focus on the two with the best chance that currently sit outside of the playoff picture.

 

Ole Miss vs. Everybody

Alabama

Alabama is the most natural competitor for Ole Miss. While the Rebels won the head-to-head matchup, the belief around the country appears to be that Bama is now the superior team. Wide receiver Amari Cooper has emerged as a candidate for the top pick in the 2015 NFL draft, and T.J. Yeldon is running like a man possessed.

The duo has combined for seven touchdowns in the last two games.

Unfortunately for Alabama, it will need Ole Miss to lose again in order to prove it is the better team. A precedence seems to have been set with the initial CFP voting: Head-to-head wins will weigh heavily in the rankings. Were that not the case, Bama would probably have been ahead of Ole Miss.

When you look at the two teams' remaining schedules, Ole Miss may have the edge.

The Rebels do have Auburn this week and Mississippi State in the regular-season finale, but Alabama's remaining schedule is a little tougher. It will go up against a resurgent LSU team next week, followed by a home date against Mississippi State and the Iron Bowl against Auburn in the regular-season finale.

Because Ole Miss has the easier remaining schedule and already own the tiebreaker—so to speak—with the head-to-head win, the Rebels have a good chance to remain ahead of Alabama.

 

Oregon

Aside from a potential Pac-12 championship showdown, Marcus Mariota and the Oregon Ducks' biggest tests should come over the next two weeks.

Sure, the Stanford Cardinal hasn't looked scary this season, losing all three of its games against ranked opponents, but this is still a bitter rivalry.

The Cardinal has routinely been the monkey wrench in the Ducks' title plans over the last few years. You can bet Kevin Hogan and Co. will want to stick it to Oregon again on Saturday.

The following week Oregon travels to Salt Lake City to battle the No. 17 Utah Utes. The Utes are tough at home and seem to have found themselves a permanent quarterback in 6'7" junior Travis Wilson. He led the team to a dramatic come-from-behind win over USC last week.

This could be a pitfall for Oregon. If the Ducks survive both games and win the Pac-12 title game they should be in, based on the chaos that is sure to ensue with the top SEC teams.

Winning the Pac-12 title game is no given considering the Ducks could rematch the Arizona Wildcats, the team that handed them their lone loss earlier in the season. If Mariota is looking to solidify his Heisman Trophy campaign, big performances and wins in these three huge games are key.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Alabama Football: Crimson Tide's Road to Making the College Football Playoff

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Nick Saban doesn’t want to hear about your playoff rankings. Not yet at least.

“To me, none of it matters,” Saban said on Tuesday night, shortly before the release of the inaugural rankings. “What does it matter? It only matters where you end up at the end. What matters to us is how we do in each and every game that we have that we have to play. We have four games left to play. If we can be successful in those games, maybe there's a chance that we would play in the SEC Championship Game as well.”

Alabama still has plenty of work left to do this season, so Saban is right to give such a dismissive answer. At this point, the playoff rankings could only serve to take his team’s focus away from winning its remaining games, without which, the playoff talk for Alabama becomes moot.

The Crimson Tide, actually, would be a favorite over the rest of the playoff field.

But a loss to Ole Miss still makes things a little tricky to actually get there.

Let’s take a closer look at where Alabama goes from here.

 

Biggest Obstacles to Playoff Berth

Alabama has four games left, two of which are against the No. 1 and No. 3 team, according to the playoff committee. Another one is a road, night game against LSU.

Not exactly a walk in the park.

But the remaining slate could end up being a blessing more than a curse. Alabama has a chance to significantly bolster its resume over the last four games. Right now, its biggest win is West Virginia, ranked No. 20 by the playoff committee and really hitting its stride in the Big 12.

And winning would not only help its playoff argument significantly, but it would knock off, on its own, two teams ahead of it in the playoff race.

In theory, if Alabama is ranked No. 6, and if two teams ahead of it lose, the Crimson Tide would be in at No. 4, right?

That would appear to be the case on the surface, but it might not actually work out that way. Which brings us to our next point.

 

Help Needed

Should Ole Miss win out, Alabama would be left out of the SEC championship, and thus be denied the opportunity to win its league, something the College Football Playoff says it values. If Florida State wins out, that leaves two more spots.

Should teams like, say, Oregon and Michigan State win out and win their respective leagues at 12-1, that would mean three teams battling for the last two positions. Would Alabama get one of those? Would the committee put it in ahead of a one-loss, conference champion?

Alabama would rather not leave that up to chance.

To avoid this scenario, Crimson Tide fans should hope, first and foremost, for an Ole Miss loss. That would give the Rebels two losses and put Alabama squarely in control of its own destiny and, subsequently, its playoff destiny. (That would also, though, require Alabama fans to cheer for Auburn this week, in a cruel twist of fate.)

Otherwise, Alabama should hope that as many of the one-loss teams outside of the SEC lose as well. That would include Oregon, Michigan State, TCU, Notre Dame, Kansas State and the like.

 

Prediction

All of this discussion becomes irrelevant Saturday night.

Ole Miss loses to Auburn, opening up the SEC West for Alabama to claim. It wins a close game in Baton Rouge, takes care of Mississippi State easier than most thought it would.

That sets up an epic Iron Bowl two weeks later that will once again decide the SEC West. Alabama gets its revenge on Auburn, sending it to the SEC Championship Game. It wins another hard-fought game in Atlanta against Georgia, vaulting the Crimson Tide into the first ever College Football Playoff.

 

Marc Torrence is the Alabama lead writer for Bleacher Report.

Follow on Twitter @marctorrence.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Playoff 2014: Examining Top 25 NCAA Rankings After 1st Release

The release of 2014’s first College Football Playoff poll was one of the most genuinely anticipated moments of the year, and fans of the sport were not disappointed by the result.

Instead of being blown away by the injustice of the BCS, the 12-person selection committee issued a fair assessment of the college football landscape and will continue to do so throughout the regular season.

Here is the first College Football Playoff poll, all three NCAA top-25 rankings and a breakdown of the Top Four teams in postseason contention.

 

 

Breaking Down the Top Four Playoff Contenders

The unanimous top team in the country is the Mississippi State Bulldogs. The program has won all seven games this season and has beaten the likes of LSU, Texas A&M and Auburn along the way.

Led by junior quarterback Dak Prescott, Mississippi State has looked like the best team in the nation and deserves the No. 1 spot in the playoff poll. Prescott is a Heisman Trophy contender with 1,694 yards passing, 664 yards rushing and 25 total touchdowns, but the schedule only gets tougher for the Bulldogs.

With matchups against Alabama and Ole Miss still to come, there is a chance Mississippi State could lose at least once this season. If the Bulldogs run through the Crimson Tide and the Rebels, though, their place in the playoffs will be cemented.

Another team in contention is the defending national champion Florida State Seminoles. While there have been off-field issues with quarterback Jameis Winston, the team has not allowed the play on the field to be adversely affected. Florida State is unbeaten in 2014.

The program already has wins over Clemson and Notre Dame, and if the Seminoles can beat Louisville on Thursday, the favorable schedule will be set up for the team to remain unbeaten all season.

An undefeated Florida State team would be guaranteed a spot in the college football playoffs.

After Mississippi State and FSU, the debate over which team should be ranked next has already started raging. The committee selected Auburn and Ole Miss as the third and fourth teams in the playoff spots for the first week, but that could easily change as the season progresses.

For right now, Auburn and Ole Miss deserve the final two spots. They play each other this Saturday, and this is what would be considered a must-watch matchup.

For the Tigers, a loss earlier in the season to Mississippi State was tough to handle, but the quality of the opponent can’t be questioned. Add in the fact that Auburn has big wins over Kansas State, LSU and South Carolina, and the program will be ready for this week’s game against Ole Miss.

The Rebels are coming off a heartbreaking loss to LSU but boast wins against Alabama and Texas A&M this season. With the nation’s top-ranked defense (allowing just 10.5 points per game), Ole Miss will be one of Auburn’s toughest matchups all year.

With Auburn possessing the more dangerous offensive unit, and Bo Wallace of the Rebels being a liability at times, the stage has been set for the Tigers to take this victory and further cement a spot in the playoffs.

In order for Ole Miss to make the playoffs after another possible loss, there would have to be major turnover at the top of the standings. The College Football Playoff poll is a good start, but with teams like Alabama and Oregon on the outside looking in, it will be interesting to see how it evolves each week.

It’s already far better than the old BCS system.

 

*Stats via ESPN.com.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Florida State Football's Road to Making the College Football Playoff

The Florida State football team is No. 2 and in position to earn one of four spots in the College Football Playoff. All the Seminoles need to do is keep winning to assure the 2013 national champs that they will have a chance to repeat.

Coach Jimbo Fisher and the Seminoles were on a plane Tuesday night when the playoff committee announced its rankings and found out that FSU was No. 2 when the team landed in Louisville, Kentucky.

 

FSU has won 23 straight games and looks to make it 24 when the Seminoles face Louisville (6-2, 4-2 ACC) on Thursday night. The Seminoles haven't put together dominating wins in 2014. They've held off late rallies and used a few comebacks of their own. 

"It hasn't been pretty," ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit said on the College Football Playoff television show Tuesday night. "But they've won. It isn't always about style points, it's about winning and moving on to the next week."

Style points matter little at this point. FSU needs to just win its five remaining regular-season games and the ACC Championship Game on Dec. 6 to ensure its spot in the playoff.

Let's take a look at FSU's obstacles in the road ahead:

 

Biggest Obstacles to a Playoff Berth

FSU's toughest remaining game could be Thursday's showdown with Louisville. The Cardinals have the nation's No. 1 defense and No. 1 rush defense. FSU has struggled to run the ball, ranking 101st nationally, so the Seminoles will need to put the game on quarterback Jameis Winston's shoulders.

After the Louisville game, FSU will play four games against unranked teams as the Seminoles face Virginia (4-4), travel to Miami (5-3), host Boston College (5-3) and finish the regular season at home against Florida (3-3). 

While the Miami game is FSU's last road contest, the Seminoles have played well against the Hurricanes in recent years. Fisher is 4-0 vs. Miami as FSU's head coach, and the Seminoles haven't lost at Miami since 2004. The Hurricanes have had an up-and-down season, but tailback Duke Johnson has been tough to stop, rushing for 1,036 yards and seven touchdowns.

Florida has been shaky on offense and is replacing junior Jeff Driskel with true freshman Treon Harris on Saturday when the Gators play Georgia in Jacksonville, Florida. Harris could provide a spark to the team, but it remains to be seen how effective he will be when playing on the road against FSU.

 

Help Needed

FSU has the luxury of being one of two unbeaten teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision (Marshall is technically the third but considered a long shot and is not ranked by the playoff committee). While the Seminoles don't need help, they will certainly get it from the head-to-head games in the SEC and other conferences.

The sheer volume of potential one-loss teams that have a chance to reach the playoff is staggering. Of the 25 teams ranked by the committee on Tuesday, 17 have one loss. But there is also a full month of football remaining, not to mention pivotal conference championship games.

And by default there are head-to-head SEC games that will help clarify the playoff teams. In the SEC, Alabama and Auburn will play on Nov. 29, which could be an elimination game (one team will go to sleep that night with two losses). Mississippi State will also play at Ole Miss that same day.

 

Prediction

The road ahead includes five games—and Louisville at No. 25 by the playoff committee is the only ranked team. FSU must win on Thursday at Louisville, but then all of the games are at least in the Sunshine State.

All of FSU's opponents after Louisville may be unranked, but they all appear headed to a bowl game with the exception of the Gators, who are 3-3 and will be fighting for bowl-eligibility. While all the remaining teams are unranked, the road isn't necessarily easy. Rivalry games simply can't be viewed that way.

Louisville is statistically the toughest defense left on the schedule for FSU. If the Seminoles get past the Cardinals, expect them to handle the rest of the schedule and finish the regular season 12-0. The ACC's Atlantic Division champion could be any one of a large group of teams, but FSU's talent and depth are two reasons to think the Seminoles will win. 

A rematch against Miami or Virginia in the ACC Championship Game is certainly less than desirable, but FSU should be able to win on a neutral field.

Bob Ferrante is the Florida State Lead Writer for Bleacher Report, all quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow Bob on Twitter. All stats courtesy of seminoles.com.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Notre Dame Football: The Irish's Road to Making the College Football Playoff

The early ballots are in. Notre Dame's got work to do.

That's hardly surprising, especially with the Irish's most impressive performance coming in defeat to No. 2 Florida State. But that the College Football Playoff's selection committee slotted the Irish in at No. 10 in their first official ballot gives you an idea that not only do the Irish have to win their remaining football games, but they'll need some help along the way.

But that help is on the way. Both with opportunities on the field and challenges coming to the programs ranked ahead of the Irish. So while panic has likely set in for every contender not inside the top four, a quick history lesson should at least help cure the temporary insanity that's set in. 

Just take a look at the shakeup that hit college football last season from Week 9 on. No. 1 Alabama went 4-1 down the stretch and lost its chance to play for the BCS title. No. 2 Oregon went 3-2 and fell outside the Top 10. Undefeated FSU leap-frogged both by winning and ended up in the title game, while No. 4 Ohio State lost late and fell to No. 6.

At this time last year, Miami was No. 6 in the country and undefeated. Al Golden's team went 3-3 to close the season and finished unranked.

Recent history won't make Irish fans feel better about where they sit in these initial rankings. But with five more opportunities to play this season, the focus stays on the field for Brian Kelly, whose young team isn't good enough to win games and scoreboard watch. 

 

Biggest Obstacles to Playoff Berth

Each of the five teams Notre Dame faces this November has the ability to beat the Irish. That's reason enough for this young football team to keep their heads down and let everything sort itself out. 

The first challenge comes this weekend from Navy, who last year played a near-perfect game and almost left South Bend with another shocking upset. From there the Irish travel to the desert, where the Sun Devils and their dynamic passing offense await. 

Ranked 14th in the poll and likely to climb higher if they beat Utah this weekend, a victory over Arizona State is the type of win that impressed the committee early. The Sun Devils could continue to be the Irish's best friends by winning after they play the Irish, as well, with Arizona and two other conference games still on their slate before a potential Pac-12 title game. 

Northwestern isn't likely to be ranked regardless of what happens in its next two games against Iowa and Michigan, but Pat Fitzgerald's team has won some big games. They knocked off a Wisconsin team that had LSU on the ropes and blew out a Penn State team that took Ohio State to overtime. While that likely says more about the Big Ten this year than the Wildcats, in a rivalry for the pride of Chicagoland, expect Notre Dame's neighbors from Evanston to come to South Bend looking to spring an upset. 

While Louisville slotted in at No. 25 in the initial playoff rankings, they'll have a chance to shoot up the boards come Thursday against Florida State. That upset would likely hurt the Irish now but maybe help them later if they're able to take care of the Cardinal when they come to town in a few weeks. 

Lastly, the season ends in Southern California for the annual date with USC. In Steve Sarkisian's first season atop Troy, the Trojans have lost three close games, bumping them from any shot at a playoff berth. But they're poised to be spoilers down the stretch, with rivalry games against UCLA and the Irish remaining. 

While none of Notre Dame's future opponents have the possibility of being a "signature victory" (one of the more ridiculous notions in college football), five more wins would put the Irish at a balanced 11-1 that will match up with the best records in college football.  

 

Help Needed

At this point, it's clear that Notre Dame needs some help to jump into the four playoff spots. But that help is coming in November. Of the nine teams ranked ahead of the Irish, six will square off, creating elimination games along the way. TCU and Kansas State will play a Big 12 elimination game. The Egg Bowl and the Iron Bowl will add another loss to the ledgers of either Mississippi State or Ole Miss, as well as Alabama and Auburn. 

At this point, worrying about Oregon or Michigan State looking like the better one-loss team is a fruitless endeavor. The Ducks have made a habit of late-season swoons lately, and even if the Spartans get by Ohio State this weekend, matching resumes between a team with wins over Jacksonville State, Eastern Michigan and Wyoming—in addition to a 19-point loss—will likely come out in Notre Dame's favor, especially if Florida State continues to win. 

While the "survive and advance" mentality that reigned during the BCS era of human polls has many fans worried that there's too much ground to make up or teams to leap frog, committee chairman Jeff Long tried his best to acknowledge that this vote is merely a snapshot that's certain to change. 

"Everyone on the selection committee recognized that our rankings will change over the next six weeks," Long told ESPN's Rece Davis during the telecast. "I think that's important for us to emphasize. We expect our rankings to change over the next six weeks. One week's rankings won't influence the next week's rankings."

 

Prediction

For as much chatter as there is certain to be over the coming weeks, Notre Dame's goals remain clear. Win the remainder of your football games, and let the rest sort itself out. 

In many ways, the committee's placement of the Irish makes sense when you consider that it's far too early to reward teams for impressive losses. So while an 11-1 Notre Dame team likely gets that benefit of the doubt, a 6-1 team with its best victory a 17-14 struggle over a now-three-loss Stanford team doesn't. 

It's up to the Irish to change perceptions. They can do that by winning impressively over their five remaining opponents. They've have a prime-time opportunity to blow by Navy. They have a rare 3:30 p.m. ET start for an away game, where a national audience will see them battle Arizona State. Add in quality-win opportunities against Louisville and USC, and everything is still possible. 

Brian Kelly can use the loss to Florida State as fuel for November. And he'll be able to use Notre Dame's placement in the first playoff poll in the same way. 

An 11-1 Notre Dame team a controversial penalty away from being unbeaten won't be left on the outside looking in. So if the Irish can run the table in November, they'll have a month to prepare for a battle with the No. 1 seed. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

The Secret Behind the Nation's Best Offense

TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin is leading one of the nation's most prolific offenses in the 2014 season. Boykin has made huge strides to become a legitimate Heisman Trophy contender, but he has had a lot of help.

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder discusses the man who has helped Boykin mature so quickly as a quarterback. 

Do you think Boykin will make it to the Heisman ceremony?

Watch the video and let us know!

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Sleeper Teams with the Best Shot of Making the Playoff

The College Football Playoff selection committee released its first rankings of the season Tuesday evening, shining a light on how the people charged with creating the four-team bracket view the teams competing to be included in it.

The release of the rankings, more than anything, remind us that the season is nearing an end. But we're not so close that things can't change momentously. Last year at this time, Auburn was No. 11 in the BCS rankings and Michigan State was No. 22.

Both of those teams finished in the BCS top four.

In putting together this list, "sleeper" wasn't defined by any sort of quantitative metric. It was defined as any team that isn't being talked about as a legitimate threat to make the playoff.

Then, in listing the sleepers with the best chance of making the playoff, factors such as talent, coaching, current form and (most importantly) schedule were taken into consideration. This is not necessarily the best teams no one is talking about as a playoff contender; if it were, LSU might have made the cut.

It's the teams with the best chance of crashing the party.

Begin Slideshow

Whatever Happened To: Sports Edition

In the enormous, always-changing world of sports, fans are regularly left wondering, "Whatever happened to" this or that?

Rules frequently change, technology constantly redefines, and even stars can vanish before we know it.

Athletes we were ready to idolize—such as Johan Santana and Freddy Adu—disappeared in what seemed like a moment. And ideas we thought were forever—like FoxTrax and Reebok Pumps—were actually nothing more than fads.

So below—in our Whatever Happened To: Sports Edition list—we celebrate some of our favorite sports things and people that quickly disappeared but are definitely worth remembering.

Begin Slideshow

Pages