NCAA Football News

B/R CFB Committee: Playoff Predictions Heading into Week 8

Week 7 of the college football season is now in the books, and as upsets loom larger, the playoff picture is becoming clearer by the week.

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

Watch as Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Barrett Sallee, Adam Kramer and Michael Felder examine the potential playoff scenarios heading into Week 8 in the video above.

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

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

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

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

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

 

Notable Week 7 Performances

LSU

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

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

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

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

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

 

Baylor

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

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

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

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

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

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Updated SEC Football Power Rankings Post Week 7

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

The College Football Week 7 All-Heart Team

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

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

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

Sound off below and let us know whom we missed!

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