NCAA Football News

Ohio State vs. Minnesota: Live Score and Highlights

Ohio State 17, Minnesota 14 — Halftime

Game action is now underway between No. 8 Ohio State (8-1) and No. 25 Minnesota (7-2). ABC is televising the matchup nationally from Minneapolis .

We are watching the game, providing live analysis as the action unfolds:

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Clemson vs. Georgia Tech: Live Score and Highlights

Georgia Tech 19, Clemson 3—Early 3rd Quarter

The Tigers and Yellow Jackets are underway in Bobby Dodd Stadium. These two-loss teams are both looking to keep their hopes alive for an ACC title, but both need help from the teams in front of them.

You can watch the game on ESPN, but stay right here for live updates and analysis.

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College Football Rankings 2014: Final NCAA Overview of Week 12 Standings

We're on the heels of possibly the most turbulent week of college football that's taken place so far this year. Week 11 caused dynamic shifts throughout the nation's rankings, sending some teams rocketing up the standings and others plummeting out of contention.

If you thought Week 12 would be any different, think again.

One impending game has the ability to completely change the College Football Playoff picture as we know it. This contest has more postseason implications than possibly any other we've seen this year. Get ready for Mississippi State versus Alabama.

Before we discuss the immense changes that could come to fruition in the wake of this monumental game, let's take a quick glance at the final overview of the nation's standings heading into Week 12.

 

College Football Playoff committee rankings can be viewed at CollegeFootballPlayoff.com.

Complete CFB standings can be viewed at ESPN.com.

 

Week 12 Storylines to Watch

Fallout from Mississippi State vs. Alabama

The ripple effect this game has a chance to leave on college football is simply astronomical. Not only does this contest affect both the Bulldogs and the Crimson Tide, but it affects any other team in contention of reaching the College Football Playoff.

Sure, plenty of other factors will end up determining the nation's hierarchy following Week 12, but there are two intriguing scenarios that could emerge from the final result of this game.

In the first scenario, Mississippi State defeats Alabama. The size of the margin of victory doesn't matter much because the sheer difficulty of the road win will keep the Bulldogs securely in the No. 1 position. Oregon has a bye week, and should Florida State and TCU defeat their unranked opponents handily, there shouldn't be any changes in the Top Four.

In the second scenario, Alabama defeats Mississippi State. This is the conclusion that would send the college football rankings into a state of shock. With the undefeated No. 1 team going down, the new Top Four would be significantly altered. According to College GameDay, it's a likely probability:

Despite having the week off, Oregon could easily wind up as the new top team. However, Florida State would improve to 10-0, and Alabama could be considered the best one-loss team due to strength of schedule. Both squads would surely be under consideration for the nation's top spot.

What about TCU? The Horned Frogs have been playing extremely solid football this season. Would Alabama's win be enough to leapfrog this team even if TCU defeats Kansas by a handful of touchdowns?

One thing is for certain: If Alabama wins, it won't be a fun week to be a member of the College Football Playoff selection committee.

 

The Playoff Dark Horse

We have a good idea of what teams will comprise the Top Four as a result of the game between Alabama and Mississippi State. But which team is a dark-horse candidate to squeeze into the College Football Playoff in the near future?

Keep an eye on Arizona State in Week 12. The Sun Devils face off against Oregon State.

A huge victory over Notre Dame in Week 11 quickly saw Arizona State leap up the standings to No. 6 overall. SportsCenter tweeted the contest's final score:

This team is clearly in the favor of the selection committee right now, and a few more big wins could propel the Sun Devils into the playoffs.

It hasn't been an easy road for Arizona State this year. It has already faced five ranked opponents, earning a record of 4-1 in those games. Oregon State is riding a four-game losing skid; however, it has been rather unpredictable against better teams this season, taking Utah to two overtimes in October.

Should Arizona State earn a decisive road victory in Week 12, it will be on the cusp of the playoffs. After all, the loser of Alabama and Mississippi State is likely to fall below the Sun Devils in the standings, moving Arizona State up to No. 5 overall—just one spot away.

Sure, the Sun Devils will need a bit of help to move into the Top Four, but aside from Florida State, each team ranked above them still has yet to face another ranked opponent before the regular season comes to a close.

Don't look now, but Arizona State could be playoff bound.

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Bowl Projections 2014: Last-Minute Playoff Predictions Before Week 12

If Week 11 was separation Saturday with six games featuring clashes between ranked teams, Week 12 is a tale of survive and advance.

A number of the nation’s top teams hit the road on Saturday for tricky contests in front of hostile crowds. If any of the home underdogs can pull the upset, it could drastically alter the College Football Playoff picture as the conference championship games quickly approach.

Florida State is at Miami, TCU is at Kansas, Arizona State is at Oregon State, Ohio State is at Minnesota, Auburn is at Georgia, Michigan State is at Maryland, Nebraska is at Wisconsin and LSU is at Arkansas. Every one of those road teams is ranked in the top 17 of the College Football Playoff rankings.

Of course, there is also the marquee showdown between No. 1 Mississippi State and No. 5 Alabama that takes place in Tuscaloosa.

There is plenty at stake in a critical Week 12, and the new batch of rankings will likely look completely different on Tuesday as a result. 

With that in mind, here is a look at the updated bowl predictions before the Week 12 slate kicks off.

 

Bowl Predictions

Sugar Bowl: No. 1 Florida State vs. No. 4 Baylor

Rose Bowl: No. 3 Oregon vs. No. 2 Alabama 

Championship Bowl (in Arlington, Texas): TBD (Semifinal Winners) 

 

Breakdown

Even though undefeated Florida State fell from No. 2 to No. 3 in the latest rankings, the defending champions are making the playoff field if and when it wins out.

The Seminoles have a stiff test against underrated running back Duke Johnson and the Miami Hurricanes on Saturday night, but if they get past that, they will easily handle Boston College and Florida at home before the ACC championship game against (possibly) Duke.

The Blue Devils are an impressive 8-1, but they lost to Miami by two scores, and four of those wins came against the likes of Elon, Troy, Kansas, Tulane. That’s not exactly murderer’s row. 

Remember, the Seminoles crushed Duke in last year’s ACC title game and would do it again this time around.

Alabama is also going to win out with its remaining three games all at home before the SEC title contest. College GameDay didn’t exactly paint a pretty picture for those hoping Mississippi State knocks off the Crimson Tide in Week 12:

A loss to Alabama would cripple the Bulldogs’ playoff chances because they still have to travel to Ole Miss and would miss out on the SEC title game. The selection committee is going to put extra emphasis on conference championships at the end of the year, and the Bulldogs wouldn’t even have a division title on their resume.

The nonconference schedule won’t do them any favors either if they are on the bubble, via Jake Trotter of ESPN:

Elsewhere, Oregon moved ahead of undefeated Florida State in the most recent rankings, even with a loss, and controls its own destiny for the playoffs.

Yes, the win over Michigan State lost a bit of luster when Ohio State walked into East Lansing and made the Spartans defense look like a junior-varsity squad, but the Ducks still have conference wins over UCLA, Utah and Stanford and will likely get a crack at Arizona State in the Pac-12 title game.

Whoever wins that is certainly going to be in the field of four, as Arizona State coach Todd Graham insinuated, via Antonio Gonzalez of The Associated Press:

I do think there's a lot of anticipation about the playoff. I think there's a lot of excitement. I can sense that from the players. I can't imagine winning the conference championship, the Pac-12 champion not being in the four-team playoff. But you got to win. Our focus and anyone who plays in the Pac-12 is to win the Pac-12 championship. We got a shot to do that.

Oregon and potential Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota will exploit a Sun Devils defense that allowed 62 to UCLA earlier in the year and clinch a postseason spot.

In early bowl projections, I pegged TCU as the fourth playoff team, but these revised predictions believe that Baylor’s head-to-head victory from earlier in the season over the Horned Frogs will carry more weight later in the year.

What’s more, TCU’s nonconference win over Minnesota will lose virtually all of its value when the Golden Gophers drop games against Ohio State, Nebraska and Wisconsin to finish the season. 

Baylor and the nation’s No. 1 scoring offense gets three home games against Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and Kansas State to finish the season. The Bears will win out and leapfrog the Horned Frogs by season’s end as the fourth and final playoff squad.

 

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South Carolina vs. Florida: Live Score and Highlights

Steve Spurrier will return to Gainesville for the fifth time as an opposing head coach when South Carolina travels to Florida to take on the Gators. The game will kickoff at noon EST and it will be televised on the SEC Network.

The Gamecocks come into this game looking to snap a two-game losing skid. They fell short against Auburn and lost to Tennessee in overtime. One of the reasons for the struggles of Spurrier’s group is they are last in the conference in scoring and rushing defense.

And they are facing a Florida team that has found its offense. After a 38-20 win against Georgia and a 34-10 performance against Vanderbilt, the Gators have an outside shot of winning the SEC East, but they would need Georgia to lose against Auburn and Missouri to lose its last three games.

Be sure to come back to this blog when the game kicks off for the latest scoring updates and highlights.

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It's on Jimbo Fisher to Shake Up Florida State Get-Away-with-It Football Culture

Jimbo Fisher was on the sidelines in Gainesville last Nov. 30 when his hot-headed quarterback came bouncing over following an unplanned timeout. Jameis Winston started jawing at Fisher about whose fault it was. The Florida State coach grabbed Winston by the facemask and reminded him quickly who was in charge.

Fisher needs to grab the collective facemask of his football team and remind the players who is in charge so they quit with this stuff.

It's just a culture down there in Tallahassee, right? Crash a car; leave it in the middle of the street. Steal a scooter. Steal crab legs. Destroy private property. Do what you want.

The latest issue, as reported Friday by the New York Times, is that star defensive back P.J. Williams made an illegal turn, ran into another car and then left the scene of the accident. He was driving with a suspended license and had unpaid fines to boot.

This was after receiver Bobo Wilson stole a scooter. This was after Jameis Winston shouted vulgarities in the middle of campus and after Winston seemingly shoplifted crab legs. This was after FSU players were questioned over destruction of private property.

I read the Yahoo! account of Winston's father trying like heck to get on the field after the Louisville game when he didn't have a proper pass. I wasn't surprised. The thinking for an FSU connection seems to be: The rules apply to you and you, but not to me, surely not to me who is affiliated with FSU football.

I know, these players all have family, and the parents should be stomping into town to deal with their kids' mischief and pay their fines, etc. Kids make mistakes, but maybe Fisher, the parent proxy, needs to attend a seminar led by Georgia coach Mark Richt or Texas coach Charlie Strong on how to deal discipline when mistakes pile up. Maybe Fisher really doesn't think it is his job to police these guys off the field. Maybe he doesn't even think there is a problem.

There is a problem. Maybe it's Fisher's leniency. Wilson committed a felony and was suspended one game. Williams fled the scene of a car crash Oct. 5 and played the next week against Syracuse. He was written two tickets and maybe that was good enough for Fisher.

I bet you Fisher talks to his team—maybe begs them—to behave and represent the school in a positive manner. I bet he does.

The message isn't being heard.

Here is the deal. If football players make trouble the head coach should have something to say about it until he is heard.

Richt, the Georgia coach, would have had something to say to P.J. Williams about making an illegal turn, driving with a suspended license, walking away from a wreck.

Here is what Richt would say: "You're not playing in the next game." Williams played the next game after the car crash, so we assume Fisher said nothing.

Richt and Strong would also be finding out why one of their players was piling up fines for speeding. They would have something to say about that. They would have something to say about an accident where two vehicles were totaled.

Richt would have found out who was popping windows with BB guns and ordered some punishment. I guarantee it. He wouldn't have sent his fixer to the apartment complex.

Fisher stepped up when receiver Wilson was arrested and charged with stealing a scooter. It is a felony. Wilson was suspended for one game. The coach acted. He has to act more forcefully it seems. Winston was suspended for a game shouting a vulgarity on campus and then pranced out in his uniform for the Clemson game. Fisher had to tell him to get back in the locker room.

Fisher knows what's right and what's wrong, but his players just do whatever.

You just wonder about the sports world sometimes. Jets coach Rex Ryan gets fined $100,000 for an F-bomb he threw after the Jets-Steelers game. A college football player is destructive while driving on a suspended license and plays the next game.

Jimbo needs to be a better sheriff, not just a great football coach and great recruiter. Florida State is cruising toward another national championship and the Seminoles will be belittled everywhere outside Tallahassee because of this trouble.

Florida State's fans, of course, will bash the messenger. Happens everywhere they say. Kids will be kids. What's a hit-and-run with no serious injuries? By itself, maybe not a lot. But when the mischief keeps happening, you wonder what kind of culture there is at FSU.

You wonder if Jimbo Fisher needs to yank on some more facemasks.

 

Ray Glier covers college football for Bleacher Report. He has covered college football and various other sports for 20 years. His work has appeared in USA Today, The New York Times, CNN, The Washington Post and Al Jazeera America. He is the author of How the SEC Became Goliath (Howard/Simon & Schuster, 2013).

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College Football Rankings 2014: Updated Playoff Predictions for Week 12

This is the week that everyone associated with college football has been waiting for. The College Football Playoff rankings have provided a platform to discuss everything, but Week 12 is when the grainy picture comes into focus. 

Of course, just because it appears things will be in order, this is college football. This selection committee already changed the way things go. It doesn't appear to have one set of criteria for ranking teams, which is good and bad. 

It's good because no team can rest on its laurels after a win. It's bad because making up rules on the fly can result in ignoring the evidence that has been presented each week and what the results say about a team's performance. 

Whatever rationale the committee has for doing what it does, here are predictions for the CFP rankings and a look at the current standings. 

 

College Football Playoff Predictions

Note: Predictions are for what the final four will be at season's end. 

As evidenced by the top four, there will be a lot of turnover in the standings by the time we get to the official announcement on December 7. The biggest change is Florida State falling out of the top four, though, admittedly, it's not likely to happen this week. 

The Seminoles are playing a Miami team that hasn't looked good virtually all year, save for one performance against Duke. Don't be so quick to dismiss the Hurricanes in this spot. They are playing at home in prime time with an underrated defense that can give Jameis Winston fits. 

According to Football Outsiders' metrics, Miami's defense ranks 15th nationally in defensive efficiency and fourth in big play prevention (IsoPPP). 

Winston has had problems with his accuracy this season, especially early in games. In Florida State's comeback win against Louisville, the defending Heisman winner threw two of his three interceptions in consecutive drives during the second quarter.

Matt Fortuna of ESPN.com cited Miami's improved running game with Duke Johnson against a decent Florida State run defense as a key factor if an upset is going to happen:

The junior has been on absolute tear lately, eclipsing the 100-yard mark in each of his last five games. Johnson's rushing average during this stretch? That would be 168.6 yards per game. Taken one step further, his rushing average over the last three games is 196 yards per game. Florida State has been OK stopping the run, ranking 35th nationally. 

The Seminoles have been flirting with disaster all season, so an upset seems likely to come before season's end. Whether it's this week against Miami, at the end of the year against Florida or in the ACC Championship Game is another story. 

As for the four teams featured in these predictions, it's not a complex path for each of them to get in. Alabama is going to get a huge boost into the top four, presumably all the way up to No. 1, with a win against Mississippi State on Saturday. 

A win for the Bulldogs in this spot would end a 57-year streak in which an SEC West school has failed to win at LSU and Alabama in the same year, per Andy Johnston of The Atlanta Journal Constitution.

Doing so will require the Bulldogs to overcome the country's No. 2 scoring defense. Dak Prescott has done great things this season, but the star quarterback has thrown five of his seven interceptions in his last three SEC games. 

As Coy Wire of FoxSports.com wrote, Prescott has to play his best game of the season to secure a victory for Mississippi State because of a much-improved 'Bama defense:

In 2013, Alabama's defense had only 22 sacks in 13 games and allowed 3.3 yards per rush. In 2014, through nine games, the defense already has racked up more sacks (23) than last season and is ranked fifth in the nation allowing only 2.8 yards per rush.

...

Prescott has been at his best this season when he’s hit back-shoulder fades and back-shoulder stop routes against press coverage, so look for him to attempt those types of passes often. But remember, Prescott has struggled lately to connect on those throws with the accuracy he showed earlier in the season.

So assuming a loss here for the Bulldogs, they will fall in the rankings but still have time to make up for it with a game against Mississippi to end the season. 

Oregon has the easiest remaining path to get in the College Football Playoff. The Ducks have already moved up to the No. 2 spot, a position they will occupy the rest of this season with two easy wins against Colorado and Oregon State to end the regular season. 

The Pac-12 title game is fascinating right now because Arizona State would be Oregon's opponent. The two teams aren't playing in the regular season. The Sun Devils jumped up to No. 6 by virtue of their win over Notre Dame, though that also highlighted flaws with the team. 

Arizona State and Oregon aren't good defensive teams, ranking 50th and 51st overall in scoring defense, respectively, but the Ducks average nearly 10 more points per game and wouldn't have let a 34-3 lead against the Fighting Irish shrink to three points. 

TCU will likely draw the biggest complaints from fans because of its loss against Baylor and what some could call a lucky win over West Virginia. It's clear the committee likes the Horned Frogs, who end the season against Kansas, Texas and Iowa State. 

Gary Patterson's team doesn't have to worry about a conference title game, so three wins against three teams with a combined 10-18 record will push TCU to 11-1 with quality wins over West Virginia and Kansas State in consecutive weeks. 

One hiccup throws the whole system out of whack, but Alabama, Oregon, TCU and Mississippi State are the four best bets to be in the College Football Playoff based on the current standings and the remaining schedules for each. 

 

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Jonathon Cooper Commits to Ohio State: What 4-Star DE Brings to Buckeyes

Ohio State acquired a foundational member for its 2016 recruiting class Friday when in-state standout Jonathon Cooper publicly shared his pledge to the Buckeyes. He initially committed to the team in October but waited to share his decision, per Steve Wiltfong of 247Sports.

The 6'3", 215-pound Columbus area product is considered a 4-star defender and could ultimately fill multiple roles in college. He is projected to play weak-side defense end and rates 13th nationally among prospects at the position in 247Sports' composite 2016 rankings.

Cooper received a scholarship offer from head coach Urban Meyer this summer while attending camp. The longtime Buckeyes fan fulfilled a lifetime dream by accepting it.  

"What made Ohio State right for me that it's right here at home, I grew up an Ohio State fan, the coaches are great, I found a connection and I feel I have a good relationship with the people," he told Wiltfong. 

Cooper holds offers from an array of college programs, including Notre Dame, Kentucky and Michigan State. He visited the Fighting Irish earlier this season but ultimately decided to stay home. 

The Lincoln High School junior is a scheme-diverse playmaker who already possesses impressive physical tools and carries quite a reputation as a pass-rusher. Cooper has collected 11.5 sacks through 10 games this season, per MaxPreps.

He's hardly a one-dimensional defender, contributing mightily against the run along the perimeter and inside. Among his 80 total tackles, 46 are solo and 11 have occurred behind the line of scrimmage.

Cooper exhibits an explosive blend of lateral quickness and downfield power that should continue to develop through physical maturation. He already does an admirable job of maintaining technique and doesn't allow himself to lose track of what's happening in the offensive backfield.

Ohio State now holds four commitments, including three 4-star recruits, in its 2016 class. Each pledge is an in-state prospect.

 

Recruit ratings courtesy of 247Sports.

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Georgia's 2015 Recruiting Class Riding on This Weekend

Georgia hosts Auburn this Saturday in a pivotal showdown between a pair of two-loss SEC programs. The matchup presents an opportunity for both teams to climb in conference standings and gives Georgia a chance to showcase its game-day atmosphere in front of several key recruits.

Bulldogs head coach Mark Richt and his staff have assembled the country's No. 3 recruiting class in 247Sports' composite rankings less than three months shy of national signing day. The squad could make a charge at top-ranked Alabama and No. 2 Florida State by cashing in on a talent-packed visitor list this weekend.

"The atmosphere that I know we can provide is very attractive to the recruits that come in, official visits, unofficial visits," Richt told Jake Rowe of 247Sports. "Just how our fan base loves our team and supports them means an awful lot to those players, and it means an awful lot to those parents as well."

Despite a late official visit cancellation from 5-star Florida cornerback Tarvarus McFadden, Georgia will still have its hands full selling the university's vision to premier prospects. Bulldogs coaches will have help from a variety of committed players who are also expected on campus, including Jonathan Ledbetter, Patrick Allen and Natrez Patrick.

Georgia could solidify a strong class and perhaps surge to the top of national recruiting rankings by adding more top-tier pieces to its latest haul of pledges. Here's a peek at the most-wanted playmakers expected in Athens for the prime-time showdown against Auburn.

 

5-star defensive end Josh Sweat (Chesapeake, Virginia)

The nation's top overall 2015 prospect returns to the recruiting trail after spending approximately two months out of the spotlight. Sweat, a 6'5", 240-pound defender from Oscar Smith High School, suffered a season-ending knee injury in September and ensuing surgery postponed his official visit schedule.

He spent time at Ohio State earlier this fall and will stay busy during the final stretch toward a decision. Sweat is set to stay at Georgia this weekend before rounding out November with visits to Virginia Tech and Florida State.

The freak athlete drew comparisons to No. 1 overall NFL draft pick Jadeveon Clowney this July at The Opening, an invite-only football showcase held at Nike's world headquarters. He turned heads by running the 40-yard dash in 4.46 seconds and held his own against America's top offensive linemen throughout drills.

"You have to be perfect against Sweat," 5-star Clemson offensive tackle commit Mitch Hyatt told me after multiple one-on-one matchups. "Otherwise, you're done."

Sweat dominated during his final full high school season, compiling 94 tackles and 22 sacks as a junior. He previously visited Georgia in June and could create quite a formidable duo with fellow 5-star defensive lineman Trent Thompson, a tackle who committed to the Bulldogs this summer.

 

5-star offensive lineman Chuma Edoga (Powder Springs, Georgia)

The McEachern High School mauler may have verbally committed to USC in April but that hasn't stopped the Bulldogs from staying on his trail. Edoga, a 6'3", 276-pound tackle, is rated third nationally among players at the position in 247Sports' composite rankings.

Offensive line remains an area of need for Georgia in this recruiting cycle, and Edoga has topped the team's target board for quite some time. He impressed at The Opening and earned an invitation to the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.

Edoga initially spurned the Bulldogs with his Trojans pledge but never cut off communications with Georgia's staff. This trip presents a last-ditch opportunity for the team to keep him close to home in coming years.

Georgia has struggled to claim top in-state offensive linemen during this cycle, so expect a full-court press with Edoga on campus.

 

4-star defensive tackle Albert Huggins (Orangeburg, South Carolina)

Huggins, yet another heralded lineman, hasn't made an official visit to this point. If Georgia has its way, he won't need to take anymore after this weekend.

The 6'3", 279-pound Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School standout rates 10th nationally among defensive tackles in 247Sports' composite rankings. However, his athleticism and length leave the door open for a possible career at strong-side end.

Huggins, who tallied 135 total tackles and 18 sacks as a sophomore and junior, spent time on campus in July and is anticipating an exciting return trip.

"It was a good atmosphere and they treat you well," he told Phil Kornblut of GoUpstate.com. "Hopefully I can have fun and see what Georgia is all about. I'm really considering Georgia."

Clemson is viewed as another strong contender for his commitment. The Tigers have been frequent hosts of Huggins throughout his recruitment process and present the biggest challenge for the Bulldogs to bring him into town for good.

 

4-star defensive back Ronnie Harrison (Tallahassee, Florida)

Perhaps the long and winding recruitment of this Sunshine State safety has one final twist up ahead. The 6'3", 205-pound University School star initially committed to North Carolina prior to his junior season but flipped to Alabama this summer.

Now the rangy defensive back is exploring other options before taking an official visit to Tuscaloosa later this month. His visit to Georgia will be followed by a journey to Notre Dame, according to 247Sports.

Harrison, rated 11th nationally among safeties in 247Sports' composite rankings, offers help at a crucial position for the Bulldogs. Georgia managed to address it with the addition of in-state safety Rashad Roundtree and could truly bolster things by adding Harrison.

He's a two-way standout in high school, leading the team with 800 rushing yards, 26 tackles and 13 touchdowns, per MaxPreps.

 

4-star linebacker Roquan Smith (Montezuma, Georgia)

Smith is another must-have in-state target for the Bulldogs. He remains one of the country's top uncommitted defenders, rated fourth nationally among outside linebacker prospects in 247Sports' composite rankings.

The 6'2", 205-pound Macon County High School playmaker enjoyed arguably the finest game of his career last Friday. Smith starred on both sides of the ball in a victory over Lamar County that clinched a regional championship.

He rumbled through defenders for 263 rushing yards and three scores, per Michael Carvell of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Smith added more than 20 tackles at linebacker during a commanding performance.

“He had one for the ages,” Macon County coach Larry Harold told Carvell. “Roquan put us on his back and carried us to that region title. ... I’ve never in my life seen a performance like that on both sides of the ball."

Smith is viewed as a Georgia lean but several schools remain in the mix, including Florida, Miami, Ole Miss and South Carolina. He could be the next stud to join an impressive Bulldogs class.

 

Recruit ratings courtesy of 247Sports.

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Todd Gurley Returns, but Nick Marshall Can Be the Star of Auburn vs. Georgia

The primary focus of Auburn's trip to Georgia on Saturday will be the return of Bulldogs running back Todd Gurley. The junior, a preseason Heisman Trophy candidate, missed the last four games because of a suspension for signing his name on memorabilia items for money.

But the game is also a return for Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall.

The senior began his college career as a cornerback for the Bulldogs in 2011. However, he was booted from the team in February of 2012 for a violation of team rules, which was later determined to be theft of a teammate.

Now, with the Tigers hoping to avoid a second straight loss, Marshall returns to his former school.

"I think it's going to mean a lot to Nick," Auburn defensive end Gabe Wright told Brandon Marcello of AL.com. "He mentioned that he hasn't been back since his freshman year."

In a game that could feature a lot of points, Marshall—not Gurley—could be the star of the show. As Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee wrote earlier this week, Gurley isn't even the X-factor on his own team.

Yes, having Gurley back is huge, but the Bulldogs ran the ball just fine without him. In fact, Georgia as a team rushed for at least 200 yards in the three of the past four games in Gurley's absence, averaging just over five yards per carry.

Freshman Nick Chubb showed he was more than capable of shouldering the load.

Rather, Georgia should be concerned about how it's going to stop Auburn's rushing attack, led by Marshall and running back Cameron Artis-Payne. Combined, the two have 1,888 rushing yards and 20 touchdowns. That alone is more than 93 other FBS teams this season.

More specifically, Marshall accounts for roughly 50 percent of Auburn's total yards per game and 60 percent of the team's offensive touchdowns.

The Bulldogs gave up 632 yards on the ground in the past two games, 418 of which came against Florida when the Gators attempted just six passes for 27 yards.

Neither Florida nor Kentucky are anywhere near as good running the ball as Auburn is. For comparison, the Tigers rank eighth in the country at 5.93 yards per carry and average just over 286 yards per game. The Gators and Wildcats average at least 1.3 fewer yards per carry.

What's even more impressive is that Auburn gets those kinds of numbers while being efficient.

The Tigers get labeled as a no-huddle, hurry-up team that runs 100 plays a game when nothing could be further from the truth. In reality, Auburn runs about 72 plays per game—17 fewer than Baylor, which leads the nation in that category—at a nifty two-to-one run-to-pass ratio while averaging seven yards per play.

Ultimately, there are two things that have hurt Auburn: defense and mistakes. The Tigers have given up at least 30 points, lost the ball nine times and committed 31 penalties in their past four SEC games.

Not surprisingly, Auburn is 2-2 in that stretch despite having little trouble scoring.

Even though Georgia's strength is solely in the ground game, a shootout between these two offenses is definitely possible. In potentially tight games where every play seems to matter, you want your best player on the field at all times.

That's less likely to happen at the running back spot with substitutions. Gurley may be the best player on the field, but only Marshall is going to handle the ball on every snap.

As Marcello points out, Marshall has had a knack for making big plays when it matters most:

The big-game quarterback has proven dependable under the lights in his 22-game career with the Tigers, too, while leading five fourth-quarter comebacks, including the miraculous 73-yard touchdown pass that knocked off Georgia in 2013 and cemented his name in Auburn lore.

Does Marshall have another big game in him? He'll need to have one without leading receiver Duke Williams, who will miss Saturday's game after sustaining a knee injury in the loss to Texas A&M.

But it's not like Auburn is without weapons. Sammie Coates and Quan Bray will be just two of Marshall's options in the passing game. And, of course, there's Artis-Payne.

Together, Auburn's offense could make Marshall's return to Georgia far sweeter than Gurley's.

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. All stats courtesy of cfbstats.com.

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Texas A&M vs. Missouri: What Tigers Must Do to Beat the Aggies

The Missouri Tigers will be looking to move one step closer to securing back-to-back SEC East titles when they travel to College Station to take on the Texas A&M Aggies on Saturday (7:30 p.m. ET on SEC Network).

However, coming off an impressive result of their own—a 41-38 victory over then-No. 3 Auburn last weekend—the Aggies will be coming in poised and confident.

It’s a formula that could spell doom for the Tigers. Odds Shark currently lists them as 3.5-point underdogs.

Here’s what Missouri has to do in order to avoid a setback.

 

Keep Mauk’s Jersey Clean

If the Tigers hope to win, the offensive line must do whatever it can to keep quarterback Maty Mauk off the ground.

Entering this weekend, Texas A&M has compiled a whopping 32.0 sacks. That’s good enough to tie for No. 6 in the nation and first—along with Mississippi State—in the SEC.

Look for freshman standout Myles Garrett to continually create havoc in the backfield. The Arlington, Texas, native has already racked up 11.0 sacks, 12.5 tackles for loss and nine quarterback hurries on the season.

On the year, Missouri has been solid at limiting the amount of sacks given up. Thus far, the Tigers have allowed just 15.0 sacks, ranking No. 37 in the nation.

With Mauk already struggling to make noise in the passing attack, having to deal with a disruptive pass rush wouldn't make matters any easier.

 

Continue Riding Strong Defensive Play

The Tigers have had a pretty impressive defense all season long.

In fact, through nine games, the unit ranks No. 24 in total defense (339.8 YPG). The strength is strong play in the secondary—it's only allowed eight passing touchdowns and intercepted 10 passes—and a stifling pass rush that has racked up 31.0 sacks on the year.

Most impressive is Shane Ray, whose 12.0 sacks represent a single-season school record.

“He’s one of the great competitors I’ve ever been around,” head coach Gary Pinkel told Kristie Rieken of The Associated Press. “I’d put him in my top five since I’ve been coaching.”

Along with Ray, the Missouri defense as a whole has only been getting better in recent weeks.

The unit has now held three straight opponents to under 300 total yards of offense and fewer than 15 points. The Tigers have gained eight turnovers while racking up 10.0 sacks during that span as well.

With the Aggies appearing to rediscover their offensive firepower, the Missouri defense will be put to the test.

 

Play Mistake-Free Football

Avoiding sacks and playing stout defense will help, but as Missouri blog Rock M Nation puts it, playing turnover-free football is the key:

Although Mauk has been a solid game manager, he struggled to find much accuracy in his only two SEC road starts.

In games against South Carolina and Florida, the sophomore completed just 18 of 52 passes (34.6 percent). He also failed to throw a single touchdown and tossed one interception.

Sure, Texas A&M isn’t a turnover-making machine, ranking just No. 112 in the nation with 10 takeaways. However, it wouldn’t be wise of the Tigers and Mauk to gift the Aggies careless mistakes.

Against the last tough defense he faced (Georgia), Mauk struggled. In a 34-0 loss, the Kenton, Ohio, native threw for just 97 yards and four interceptions on 9-of-21 passing.

If he’s not careful, Mauk could be in for a devastating repeat performance on Saturday.

 

All stats, recruiting information and rankings used in this article are courtesy of cfbstats.com and 247Sports.

For complete coverage and everything college football, you can reach Sebastian on Twitter and via email at Sebastian.LenaBR@gmail.com.

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Alabama Needs a Healthy T.J. Yeldon Against Mississippi State

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The big question hanging over the Alabama football team has been the status of T.J. Yeldon.

Alabama’s leading rusher was dealing with a foot injury during the bye week and in the lead-up to the LSU game. Then, late in the matchup against the Tigers, he sprained his ankle, which has limited him in practice this week.

Alabama coach Nick Saban has been noncommittal on his status this week, only saying that he’s improving and doing more everyday. And during media viewing periods at practice this week, Yeldon appeared to be more involved with each passing day.

Saban gave his most informative update Thursday night on his weekly radio show.

"I think he'll be able to play in the game. How explosive he'll be in the game remains to be seen," Saban said, per Andrew Gribble of AL.com. "The kind of injury he has is something you can play with but if he practices too much, it really aggravates him. We just try to practice him enough so he's ready to play. He's certainly had a great season for us."

That uncertainty should be a cause for concern for Alabama fans. Yeldon has been one of Alabama’s best offensive players.

And with the Crimson Tide’s running back depth already as thin as it is, it needs a healthy T.J. Yeldon when it faces Mississippi State on Saturday.

Yeldon leads Alabama with 686 rushing yards and has been a reliable workhorse for the Crimson Tide, now in his third year in the offense.

He’s split carries with Derrick Henry (and Kenyan Drake before his injury) this season, a running back setup Saban has been fond of on offense. But there’s no question who the feature back is in the offense.

“I think it’s huge [to have Yeldon healthy],” right tackle Austin Shepherd said. “We’re not thin, thin at running back, but I consider him one of our best players and a leader on the offense. I think it’s huge to have him.”

Shepherd’s right. Alabama isn’t necessarily thin at running back in terms of talent or bodies. But when you take game experience into account, that picture changes.

Drake was the third part of a three-headed monster for Alabama. Offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin found a lot of creative ways to use the speedster in the run and passing game before he suffered a brutal leg break against Ole Miss.

He was also Alabama’s only other running back with a lot of in-game experience.

Senior fullback Jalston Fowler has carried the ball at times during his career as a running back. At 6’1”, 248 pounds, though, he isn’t exactly a candidate for a lot of carries.

Behind them are a pair of former 4-star recruits who have shown ability but have only played sparingly.

Sophomores Altee Tenpenny and redshirt freshman Tyren Jones have gotten 15 and 22 carries this season, respectively. Those have mostly come late in out-of-hand games.

So depending on how limited Yeldon is, that would leave only Henry for the offense to lean on against the No. 1 team in the country.

“Derrick Henry has played well for us all year long,” Saban said. “I thought he probably had his best game up at Tennessee. We have total confidence in him as a player. We thought he played well in the last game. ... He's been very productive this year, has played very well for us. I think it's going to be important for him to continue to do that because his role's probably going to get expanded even more as we get late in the season here.”

Alabama’s situation isn’t ideal, but it’s an enviable problem to have. Its star running back gets banged up, and it has 4- and 5-star talent behind him to pick up the slack.

But as the Crimson Tide hit this last stretch of the season against two Top 10 teams, they need their workhorse back to be as healthy as possible.

 

Marc Torrence is the Alabama lead writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats come from cfbstats.

Follow on Twitter: @marctorrence.

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Notre Dame Football: How the Irish Bounce Back Against Northwestern

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — One week after the “Debacle in the Desert,” Notre Dame football walks into the start of a playoff-free future Saturday when it hosts Northwestern.

Following their 55-31 loss to Arizona State in Tempe last weekend, the Irish dropped to No. 18 in the College Football Playoff rankings. Effectively eliminated from the four-team playoff, where does Notre Dame turn now?

“All we do is talk about what we need to do this week to win, so we're all in it to win,” Irish head coach Brian Kelly said Tuesday. “Our focus is about what do we need to do to win the weekend because they want to sing the fight song at the end of the day and whatever happens at the end, we weren't going to be able to control whether or not we went to the playoffs.

“So we focus on things we know we can control and what we know we can control is what we do during the week.”

Naturally, one of the primary points of emphasis for the Irish this week is cleaning up the turnovers. Irish quarterback Everett Golson committed five turnovers against the Sun Devils, who turned Notre Dame’s miscues into 28 points.

Kelly offered a public vote of confidence in his quarterback Tuesday, praising Golson’s leadership and accountability while saying the entire offense needs to pick up its level of play to combat the recent rash of turnovers.

On Thursday, Kelly went a step further and highlighted Golson’s week of practice, saying the signal-caller has an “immense” amount of pride and was fun to coach developmentally.

“Nobody likes to be that guy that is singled out for their play, but he’s the quarterback at Notre Dame,” Kelly said. “He embraces that. He took control this week in practice, was vocal and was a guy I hadn’t seen before.”

Irish fans certainly hope Golson looks different, too, when he takes the field inside Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday.

As has really been the case the entire season, the Irish appear poised to go just as far as Golson can take them. That was the case early on in the season, when Golson was playing turnover-free football and the Irish were rolling to a 6-0 start.

Things have shifted recently, of course, as turnovers have mounted and the pressure has been ratcheted up accordingly for the Notre Dame defense.

The Irish's first step to bouncing back against the Wildcats centers around Golson. Controlled, crisp play from the quarterback should lighten the load on Notre Dame’s defense, which shouldn’t be particularly stressed anyway against a Northwestern offense that only tallied nine points versus Michigan last weekend.

The Irish defense didn’t allow more than 17 points in any of the first five games, but North Carolina, Florida State, Navy and Arizona State have found success in each of the last four matchups.

Sure, some of that relates to the turnovers and the short fields granted to Notre Dame’s opponents. But after surrendering an average of 95.8 rushing yards per game through those first five games, Notre Dame has ceded 142.7 per game since—a figure that doesn’t include Navy’s atypical 336-yard performance two weekends ago.

“This past weekend, we had our poorest performance on the defensive line,” Kelly said. “It showed.”

The Irish will look to get back to stopping the run against the Wildcats, who rank 114th in the country in rushing offense, per cfbstats.com.

With a better showing from the defensive line and a more judicious Golson, Notre Dame shouldn’t have much trouble getting back in the win column against Northwestern.

 

All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Mike Monaco is a lead Notre Dame writer for Bleacher Report. Follow @MikeMonaco_ on Twitter.

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Report Claims Police Mishandled Hit and Run Involving FSU Football Players

Florida State defensive back P.J. Williams was reportedly involved in a hit-and-run car crash back in October, but the Tallahassee Police Department allegedly mishandled the incident. 

An investigation by Mike McIntire and Walt Bogdanich of the New York Times shows Williams and fellow Seminoles defender Ronald Darby left the scene after the accident. 

The police report also failed to include key details about the crash, including the amount of damage that was done to the other car involved and the fact its airbag deployed:

The report also minimized the impact of the crash on the driver of the other car, Ian Keith, by failing to indicate that his airbag deployed—an important detail because Mr. Keith said in an interview that the airbag had cut and bruised his hands.

The decision was also made to change the type of offense:

The examination found that Mr. Williams, driving with a suspended license, was given a break by the Tallahassee police, who initially labeled the accident a hit-and-run, a criminal act, but later decided to issue him only two traffic tickets. Afterward, the case did not show up in the city's public online database of police calls—a technical glitch, the police said.

Also noted in the New York Times report is that the Florida State University police were contacted for help during the investigation. It sent two ranking officers to the scene, but their presence or actions were never made into a report, with the school stating their role was too minor to note.

A campus police chief told the New York Times his agency acted properly by having officers visit the scene, but they were not involved in any citations or other actions.

Campus Police Chief David L. Perry said in a statement that he reviewed the actions of his officers and found that they behaved appropriately. "This was a routine matter of our agency responding to a simple request from TPD and it was all together proper for our officers to go the scene," Mr. Perry said.

The final crash report listed the offenses as making an improper left turn and unknowingly driving with a suspended license. A prior decision to hold Williams' car for evidence was overturned.

Further investigation showed the way the situation was handled did not fall in line with how Tallahassee police dealt with similar crashes in the past.

It comes on the heels of questions about how the department handled a sexual-assault accusation made against Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston in 2012.

Williams arrived in court two days later to pay prior fines to have his license reinstated. The report states the outstanding money owed in relation to the October tickets has not been paid, however, which has caused another suspension.

 

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Kenny Hilliard Injury: Updates on LSU RB's Shoulder and Recovery

LSU Tigers senior running back Kenny Hilliard will miss the remainder of the regular season with a shoulder injury, per The Associated Press (h/t ESPN.com), who referenced a person familiar with the situation.

Hilliard had rushed for 434 yards and six touchdowns for the No. 17 Tigers on the season. He injured the shoulder in Saturday's loss to the Alabama Crimson Tide. 

Per the article on ESPN, the person with knowledge spoke on condition of anonymity as the team's coaching staff has yet to divulge the details regarding the injury. Hilliard had spoken briefly about the injury on Twitter, but he gave no clues about the severity:

Super freshman Leonard Fournette will likely carry an even bigger load moving forward, and senior Terrence Magee figures to get the majority of the carries vacated by Hilliard's absence. 

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Oklahoma Football: Players Who Must Step Up with Trevor Knight Out vs Texas Tech

Oklahoma’s already waning season took another critical blow with the announcement that it will be without Trevor Knight for some time.

Earlier in the week, ESPN’s Brandon Chatmon relayed that the Sooners’ starting quarterback would miss Saturday’s contest against Texas Tech. Knight suffered an injury after being sacked by Baylor last weekend, needing a cart to leave the field.

With redshirt freshman Cody Thomas set to make the first start of his career, look for the Oklahoma coaching staff to try to take the pressure off the youngster.

Here’s who has to step up on Saturday.

 

Michiah Quick, WR

There were lofty expectations for the freshman receiver this season. However, it took until the seventh game of the season for Quick to register a catch.

That has to change moving forward.

Fortunately, the Sooners seem to be moving in the right direction, attempting to get Quick more and more involved in recent weeks. In fact, the Fresno, California, native has caught 14 passes for 150 yards and a touchdown over the last two games.

With still no word on whether leading receiver Sterling Shepard will return on Saturday, the pressure will be on Quick to be Thomas’ go-to receiver in a crunch.

For his part, Shepard feels confident in Quick’s abilities.

“I told you guys at the beginning of the season, he’s one of those guys that doesn’t act like a freshman,” Shepard said earlier this year, per The Oklahoman’sRyan Aber. “You guys got a chance to see that.”

Quick certainly has the talent. It’ll come down to whether he and Thomas will be able to get on the same page.

 

Any One of the Running Backs

With just 15 passing attempts in his career, Thomas isn’t likely to throw the ball too much on Saturday unless necessary.

More than likely, Oklahoma will run, run and run some more.

It certainly helps that the Red Raiders are downright awful at stopping the run. Through nine games, the team ranks No. 122 against the run (245.6 YPG) and has conceded a whopping 26 rushing touchdowns on a more-than-generous 4.9 yards per carry.

That’s music to the ears of a Sooners rushing attack that averages 225 yards per game on the ground.

There’s sophomore Keith Ford, who’s used his physical and agile running style to rack up 234 yards and five touchdowns in four appearances. Then there’s the tank-style running of Samaje Perine, who leads the team in both yards (788) and touchdowns (11). And don’t forget the most athletic of the bunch: Alex Ross—64 carries, 491 yards and three touchdowns—who also makes noise on kickoff returns.

Regardless of who gets the call, Oklahoma must run the ball successfully against Texas Tech.

 

Cody Thomas, QB

Of course, the player who needs to step up the most is Thomas himself.

In four relief appearances, Thomas has completed just seven of 16 passes for 50 yards and an interception. However, it’s worth noting that in his only meaningful snaps—against Kansas State in the second quarter—the redshirt freshman calmly quarterbacked the Sooners on a 95-yard touchdown drive, going 2-of-2 for 17 yards.

But don’t worry about Thomas being composed under pressure.

“[Thomas] kept his composure better than anybody I’ve ever coached,” said Mike Fuller, Thomas’ high school coach at Colleyville Heritage High, per The Oklahoman's Jason Kersey. “It didn’t matter if it was a scrimmage that didn’t mean anything or 4th-and-goal in a district game against a big rival, his demeanor never changed."

In a game where Thomas realistically won’t be asked to do much except manage the game, look for the Colleyville, Texas, native to be just fine.

 

All stats, recruiting information and rankings used in this article are courtesy of cfbstats.com and 247Sports.

For complete coverage and everything college football, you can reach Sebastian on Twitter and via email at Sebastian.LenaBR@gmail.com.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

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