NCAA Football News
The Auburn Tigers will be gunning for their sixth straight-up win in a row when they travel to Davis Wade Stadium Saturday afternoon to take on the undefeated Mississippi State Bulldogs as early three-point road favorites at the online sportsbooks.
The game unexpectedly involves two of the top-ranked teams in the nation following a tumultuous Week 6 in which four of the top six ranked teams went down to defeat; a first since 1990.
The 5-0 Tigers are coming off a decisive 41-7 win over No. 15 LSU, ending a two-game losing streak against the spread. The Bulldogs, meanwhile, handed No. 6 Texas A&M its first loss of the season, a 48-31 beating as three-point favorites that catapulted them from No. 12 to their current No. 3 in the AP Top 25 poll.
No. 2 Auburn holds the upper hand in recent matchups with the Bulldogs, 11-2 SU in their last 13 meetings including a 24-20 home victory last season.
Texas A&M will look to bounce back when it takes on No. 3 Ole Miss as a 2.5-point home favorite at sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark. The 5-1 Aggies impressed early on with a 52-28 upset win over South Carolina in Week 1 but are just 1-3 ATS in their last four and 3-10 ATS in their last 13.
The 5-0 Rebels have been one of the big surprises of the 2014 college football season. Mississippi is also 5-0 ATS this season following an inconsistent 2013 campaign in which they were 8-5 SU and 7-6 ATS. The Aggies came out on top in last year’s matchup between the clubs, posting a 41-38 win, but it was the Rebels who covered as seven-point underdogs.
No. 1 Florida State is pegged as an early 20-point road favorite ahead of Saturday afternoon’s Seminoles vs. Orange matchup at the Carrier Dome. The 5-0 Seminoles picked up their first win ATS last weekend, pounding ACC Atlantic rival Wake Forest 43-3 as 37-point favorites, and face a 2-3 Syracuse squad that has lost three straight, SU and ATS.
In other college football betting action, No. 25 Stanford is an early 18-point favorite over Washington State, according to sportsbooks monitored by Oddsshark.com, while No. 5 Baylor is favored by 11 against TCU. No. 6 Notre Dame opened as a 16-point favorite ahead of its Saturday afternoon matchup with North Carolina.
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Saturday was one of the most tumultuous days in college football history.
Eleven ranked teams in the Associated Press Top 25 fell, including four of the top six. It marked only the second time since the poll began in 1936 that four of the top six lost in a regular-season week, the other time being November 1990.
The Top 25 polls looked significantly different when they came out Sunday afternoon, but they were still shaped by the preseason polls that began the season.
What would the Top 25 look like if there were no preseason polls? What would they look like if they came out for the first time Sunday afternoon?
Here’s a crack at what we think they’d look like.
While the recent shakeup in the SEC West steals headlines, the leaders of the SEC East quietly prepare for a matchup with major divisional implications this Saturday.
This weekend, the Missouri Tigers (4-1 overall, 1-0 in SEC play) will host the Georgia Bulldogs (4-1, 2-1) in what should be an instant classic. Though the loser of the contest won't be eliminated from contention, it's hard to dispute the advantage the winner will hold in the already crowded division standings.
Perhaps more importantly, however, this game will be considered the best win of this still-young season for the victor and provide momentum for that team as it heads into the second half of the 2014 campaign.
Here's what you need to know about Saturday's game:
- Date: Saturday, October 11
- Time: 12:00 p.m. ET
- Place: Memorial Stadium, Columbia, Missouri
- TV: CBS
- Radio: Georgia Bulldog Radio Network, Tiger Network Radio
- Spread: Georgia (-1.5), per OddsShark.com
KNOXVILLE, Tenn.—As fans filed in Neyland Stadium, Spencer Barnett sat beside his wife in Section FF, nervously watching and expecting the worst.
It had been less than two weeks since the 37-year-old graphic design and layout artist from Cleveland, Tennessee, conceived his "Checker Neyland" campaign designed for Volunteers fans to wear orange or white (depending on the section where they sat) for UT's home tilt with Florida.
Relying on 102,455 people to follow through with your plan was nerve-wracking, and Barnett had his doubts.
"Even up till when I was walking in there, I was worried thinking, 'This is going to look like crap and be a joke for ESPN to run with,'" Barnett said following UT's game against the Gators.
Over in Section AA, Tim McLeod was a little more cautiously optimistic.
The 36-year-old Knoxville resident who'd taken Barnett's idea, launched a website and coordinated the plan with the university, had the data to back the belief that Vols fans everywhere had bought into the concept.
This was going to work, he thought. But as the fans filed in, even he let some concern creep into his mind.
"We expected there to be some spottiness," McLeod said.
Tennessee fans—and even some Gators—successfully and beautifully checkered Neyland. The result was even more unbelievable than Barnett's originally conceived picture. Once fans reached their seats, the stadium was awash perfectly in UT's traditional orange-and-white checkerboards.
As the sun-soaked stadium prepared to come alive with the fans screaming the Vols on in unison, they already had come together to make Barnett's plan a reality.
"It was almost to an extent like a dream," Barnett said. "I kept thinking I was going to wake up.
"To see this idea that me, here in Cleveland, Tennessee, made and put out there turning into what it did was a surreal moment to me. It was like an ultimate fan experience for me because I got to see what I wanted to with Neyland Stadium."
Back on September 13, Barnett did what most other UT fans were doing that night. He settled in front of his television to watch the young Vols take on the Oklahoma Sooners in Norman.
Prior to the game, the ABC cameras panned Memorial Stadium, where fans had striped the crowd in crimson and cream. If 82,000 fans could do it, Barnett thought, so could 102,000.
UT had checkered the Thompson-Boling Arena for a basketball game back in 2006, so that gave Barnett even more inspiration.
He found a picture of Neyland Stadium to near-full capacity, opened his Photoshop software and began designing what UT's hallowed stadium would look like if they could get the fans to coordinate a checkerboard pattern.
Normally, Barnett—a UT grad who was there during the Peyton Manning era and the 1998 national championship—plays around with uniform concepts or UT-related pictures. When he posts his modified images on his Twitter account (@CleVOLander), there's a modest group of people who comment on or retweet it.
Barnett's "Checker Neyland" picture went viral.
After UT's 34-10 loss to OU, the Vols had an off week. That downtime allowed fans pretty much everywhere to see the picture.
"I kept watching how much it was doing," Barnett said. "It just kept growing and growing."
McLeod was one of those fans who saw the picture and approached his coworker, Jonathan Briehl, about taking Barnett's idea a step further.
To simplify the fans' experience they wanted to build a website (www.checkerneyland.com) where fans could type in their section number and it would instruct them on which color to wear.
The duo contacted Barnett, who gave the idea his blessing. Within 24 hours, McLeod and Briehl went live with the site.
What happened next was unexpected.
"There were 15,000 visits in the first 12 hours," McLeod said. "By the time the game got here, we ended up having 325,000 page views."
If there was enough interest from fans, McLeod planned to contact UT's marketing department to back it. As it turned out, he didn't have to. By Sunday, his phone rang.
"They," he said, "contacted us."
UT vetted McLeod and Briehl, making certain the concepts they presented when it came to laying out what sections would wear what color would actually work. When everything checked out, the plan became a go.
UTSports.com backed the campaign, began promoting it, and then just waited to see if fans would respond. What transpired in just nine days was one of the coolest things you'll see in college football this season.
Pulling It Off
"This was a huge thing for them to go out on a limb," McLeod said of UT. "The success or failure of this, I think, would have affected their marketing, their recruiting. But it says a lot about the confidence and faith they have in the program."
The Vol Nation—or "Vol Family," as Barnett likes to call UT's fans—responded resoundingly.
Hosting one of its largest contingents of recruits for any game this year, according to GoVols247's Ryan Callahan (subscription required) and blaring Lil' Jon's music over the loudspeakers, Tennessee appeared primed to break out and take the next step in its program.
The fact that so many people bought in to the "Checker Neyland" concept showed that the fans believed in the Vols and wanted to do their part in dressing to celebrate a win. Though that didn't happen as UT fell 10-9 to the Gators for their 10th consecutive loss in the series, the color-coordinated stadium was a positive to all involved.
"I liked the atmosphere up there, knowing that it was 100,000 fans," instate running back prospect Ke'Shawn Vaughn told Volquest.com's Paul Fortenberry (subscription required). "I didn't think they could pull it off with the Gators fans in there but they did."
The recruits loved it, media loved it and the players did, too.
The vast majority of people in the stadium participated, and McLeod said even some Gators he saw did. The only sections of Neyland not emblazoned by orange or white were the designated Florida areas.
Some fans even bought bags of white shirts to pass out to people who hadn't gotten the memo.
"I think it’s a combination of the hope in what Butch is doing with the program and the hunger we have for wins," McLeod said. "I think those are the things that drove it."
Barnett was glad he got to see it.
Unsure whether he could go to the game, he honestly answered a question from former Vol and Knoxville radio personality Jayson Swain about where he'd be watching.
"Swain asked where I'd be sitting, and I said, 'Hopefully, in front of a TV somewhere where I can see it,'" Barnett said with a chuckle.
"Well, he didn't like that answer. By the end of the day, he'd hooked me up with some tickets."
So he and his wife, Kirbie, left their two daughters Layla and Peayton (yes, of course that's who she's named after, with a twist on the spelling) back in Cleveland and were Knoxville-bound.
Nervous excitement crowded the car, but Kirbie was just relieved a week filled with interviews and extra attention was about over.
Though the pregame festivities in Knoxville are always fun, the Barnetts wanted to get to their seats and watch the crowd. Here's an idea of what he saw, via a time-lapse package put together by the Knoxville News-Sentinel's Adam Lau.
"I guess even though the loss to Florida sucked, to me, the day was a win," Barnett said. "I'm still hyped up. I had fun watching it as the stadium was filling in."
So, after the immense success of "Checker Neyland," what's next?
"We don't want to lose the novelty of it," McLeod said, "but we'd love to turn it into a tradition."
Given the success of the first go-around, the possibilities of that are likely strong.
But even if it doesn't, Barnett will always have Saturday's game.
Life will settle back down, and the attention will go away. Kirbie went back to work for Amazon on Sunday. With school photo season in full swing, Barnett has some long hours ahead of him designing picture borders and backgrounds, which is his daily job.
But as time fades, Barnett's ticket stub will remain a treasure he'll display in a shadowbox, commemorating the day when a regular fan from an East Tennessee interstate stop had an idea that bloomed into something special.
He didn't run through the 'T' or trot onto the field for a play, but Barnett's version of Neyland Stadium stepped into the spotlight for a day, even if Barnett was just a man standing in its shadows.
"I still have my ticket," he said, fishing it out of his wallet to remind himself of the section where he sat. "I won’t get rid of that, especially today’s ticket.
"That way, when I’m old and senile, I can look at it and remember it."
All quotes gathered firsthand and all recruiting information taken from 247Sports.com, unless otherwise noted.
Brad Shepard covers SEC football and is the Tennessee Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. Follow Brad on Twitter @Brad_Shepard.
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Over the course of the past week, half of The Associated Press Top 25 took a dive.
Those left to pick up the pieces found themselves with a historic task in terms of poll construction—and that's not to mention the outlook for the inaugural College Football Playoff.
Oregon, Alabama, Oklahoma, Texas A&M and UCLA all suffered crushing losses, throwing everything into chaos. Desmond Howard offered some thoughts before UCLA took a punch square on the chin late Saturday night:
By way of merely standing tall amid the chaos, Florida State and Auburn stand firm. Baylor and Notre Dame get bumped up in a big way. One problem for the pollsters: The Seminoles and the Fighting Irish go at it in a mere two weeks.
For now, though, here is what we are left with after arguably the most memorable weekend of action in years.
2014 College Football Week 7 Rankings
Week 7 Rankings Highlights
Notable Faller: Alabama
Nick Saban's Alabama Crimson Tide team is groggy and on the ropes.
This is not a typical Saban-led team, but, even more so, this is not a typical SEC conference. Entering the jaw-dropping weekend, six of the seven teams in the SEC West were ranked No. 15 or better.
The Crimson Tide were No. 3 and had seemingly found an answer to the quarterback issue in the form of Blake Sims. He was by no means spectacular against No. 11 Ole Miss on his way to a 19-of-31 line for 228 yards and an interception.
That said, an old foe reared its head once more and doomed the Crimson Tide, as ESPN Stats & Info details:
Adam Griffith went 1-for-3 on his kicking attempts, and in a game decided by late turnovers, that is simply not good enough. Forget that the defense gave up 251 passing yards and three touchdowns to Rebels senior quarterback Bo Wallace. Forget that Alabama managed 168 yards on the ground.
A tightly contested matchup was expected, and when the Crimson Tide commit critical turnovers and fail to nail down the basics on the road, it certainly calls into question whether the team can run the table against a downright brutal schedule.
Can Alabama run the table and make the CFP? Sure, but it is going to take a serious bounce-back effort on the road to the SEC title game.
For the time being, the dip in the ratings is deserved, although fans should have an inkling that the end result arguably has more to do with just how great the Rebels are this year than the deficiencies of a strong Alabama roster.
Notable Riser: TCU
Many tried to warn the nation about TCU, but few listened.
Now, the Horned Frogs, who were previously ranked No. 25, have the attention of the globe.
They welcomed Oklahoma, then ranked No. 4, to town Saturday. TCU totaled 469 yards of total offense and sent the Sooners packing with a 37-33 defeat. Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports noted that this is rather routine for this iteration of the Horned Frogs:
As had been the case for most of the season before Saturday, the Horned Frogs rolled thanks to junior dual-threat quarterback Trevone Boykin, who posted 318 yards and a 2-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio through the air while also leading the team in rushing with 22 totes for 77 yards.
"It basically gives us confidence," Boykin said, per The Associated Press, via ESPN.com. "Knowing that we can play with guys like OU, because a lot of Big 12 championships have went through there."
The rise up the ranks has been much overdue for TCU, a team that butters its bread on the defensive side of the football but still matched the explosive Sooners offense point for point.
Playoff whispers seem a bit premature at this juncture, but the resume will be fully realized or hurt in less than a week when the Horned Frogs take a trip to Baylor to dance with the nation's No. 1 offense, which averages 51.0 points per game.
Should the defense stand strong once again, whispers of a CFP berth for the Horned Frogs will morph into full-blown screams.
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You don't have to play at the collegiate level to make ridiculous plays. Seth Meredith of Lacey, Washington, made an incredible interception in a high school game.
Is this the best interception you've seen all year?
Watch the video and let us know!
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From the dying embers of a historic weekend of college football upsets rises a new-look Top 25 that promises to be every bit as catastrophic in terms of College Football Playoff implications.
A mere few days removed from witnessing half of the Top 10 in The Associated Press Top 25 rankings fall, a brief glance over the Week 7 slate assures that plenty of rank-ruining contests will make the lives of pollsters wildly difficult once again.
Whether it is a one-loss team such as Oregon looking to keep its CFP dreams alive or a red-hot Mississippi State squad looking for another upset to stay on the path, Week 7 is not one to take lightly—no letdown potential exists.
Here is a look at what is in store for the AP Top 25 members.
Week 7 Top 25 Schedule Projections
Note: All odds, updated as of 8 p.m. ET on Oct. 5, are courtesy of Odds Shark.
Breaking Down Key Week 7 Matchups
No. 12 Oregon at No. 18 UCLA
Oregon, meet UCLA, a team previously ranked in the Top 10 before suffering a two-point loss to unranked Utah last week. UCLA, meet Oregon, a team previously ranked in the Top 10 before suffering a seven-point loss to unranked Arizona last week.
Marcus Mariota and Brett Hundley could use introductions too. The former was the Heisman favorite before his second loss to Arizona in as many years, which saw him throw for 276 yards and two scores but give the ball away on a late fumble.
Hundley was a sleeper for the prestigious award, but he was brutalized in the form of 10 sacks on the way to a mediocre performance.
That in no way prohibits this one from being quite entertaining, even if a joke by ESPN.com's Chantel Jennings sums up the contest quite well:
The overarching implications to this one could not be bigger. Both sides simply cannot afford a loss, with both still looking ahead to a matchup with Stanford and the Bruins needing to also deal with a tough USC team.
Sound offensive line play or not, there figures to be plenty of eye-popping production to catch in this one with two junior quarterbacks on the hunt to salvage individual hardware aspirations and championship goals after returning to school for those very reasons in the first place.
With his back against the wall, expect Mariota to emerge the victor in this particular duel. The UCLA defense has struggled all year long, giving up 20 points to Virginia, 35 to Memphis and 30 to Utah. He probably will not be upright a lot, but Mariota will get it done against a weak defense.
Prediction: Oregon 45, UCLA 35
No. 2 Auburn at No. 3 Mississippi State
Say hello to a pair of teams that somehow managed to stand tall in the midst of the chaos that was last week.
Well, perhaps "somehow" is the wrong word. Elite quarterback play led both teams to victory. Very similar quarterback play, at that.
Fans know about Nick Marshall. He led the Tigers through last year's successful campaign and has returned this year as an even better passer. In a 41-7 trouncing of LSU last week, the senior threw for 207 yards and a pair of scores, and dashed for another 119 and two more scores on the ground.
On the other side is an emerging national sensation in Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott, who reminds many of the efficient passing and bruising running ways of a collegiate legend by the name of Tim Tebow.
In a 48-31 upset over Texas A&M, Prescott was also successful in a dual-threat capacity, throwing for 259 yards and two scores, with another 77 yards and three scores on the ground. For some, including CBSSports.com's Dennis Dodd, Prescott's resume stacks up even better than Marshall's right now:
So yes, expect fireworks in another Week 7 showdown with wide-ranging implications. Hence the visit from the College GameDay crew, too:
Considering both teams go on to encounter a bevy of teams from the SEC, as well as a large chunk of the SEC West—which touted six of its seven teams in the Top 15 before last weekend—the importance of this showdown is huge.
Again, there is individual hardware on the line, but more important is a serious advantage on the rest of a conference that is doing nothing short of beating each other up on the road to the playoff. Right now the nod has to go with the more experienced quarterback and team in terms of recent success, road game or not.
Prediction: Auburn 40, Mississippi State 34
No. 9 TCU at No. 5 Baylor
It took a bit of time, but TCU is finally a known commodity on the national stage.
One of the nation's top defenses also comes equipped with a dual-threat leader of its own in the form of junior Trevone Boykin, who ran wild on the then-ranked No. 4 Oklahoma Sooners last weekend to the tune of 318 passing yards and a pair of scores, with another 77 yards on the ground to lead the team in that area.
The nation was already well aware of the threat Baylor poses, though, even if the schedule to date has been lackluster at best.
Led by Heisman contender Bryce Petty, the Bears are 5-0, most recently knocking off the hapless Texas Longhorns, 28-7. There, Petty threw for 111 yards and two scores but let his backs, such as Shock Linwood (28 carries for 148 yards and a score), do the heavy lifting.
For Baylor coach Art Briles, his experienced squad looks better than ever.
"It was just a grind-out win. I think we're a better team than last year," Briles said, per The Associated Press, via ESPN.com. "This is a mature, tough minded, confident team that knows how to win."
For that talk to be reinforced, though, the Bears will need to shine in their first true test of the season. The TCU defense ranks in the top 10 and was able to fluster Oklahoma enough to get a win.
Whichever team walks away the winner has a serious advantage when it comes to a playoff berth, with the Big 12 being nowhere near as brutal as some of the other conferences. Understanding that, expect both quarterbacks in this matchup to also be in pristine form, which, in this case, gives a slight edge to Petty and the Bears.
Prediction: Baylor 48, TCU 45
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If Week 7 of the college football season ends up feeling a bit underwhelming, it's only because the early October matchups face the impossible task of living up to an upset-filled week that pitted 10 of the Top 25 teams against each other.
Five teams in The Associated Press Top 10 lost in Week 6—a strange, rare event that shook up the NCAA world and should lead to a very exciting second half of the college football season.
The latest AP rankings feature a tie between Ole Miss and Mississippi State for the No. 3 spot, which only serves to underscore the difficulty of coming to a consensus on the top teams in the nation at this point.
The Pac-12, once thought to have multiple College Football Playoff contenders, is in danger of missing out on sending a single representative to a major postseason game after losses by Oregon and UCLA—who, by the way, play each other in Week 7.
The SEC is once again the toughest conference in football, and whichever team emerges from that conference—be it Auburn, Alabama or Mississippi State—has a bona fide chance of making the national title game.
Here are the latest Top 25 standings, which of course look absolutely nothing like the previous iterations, followed by some predictions and previews for the highest-profile contests in Week 7.
Game of the Week
No. 2 Auburn vs. No. 3 Mississippi State
This game could very well decide the SEC provided Alabama is unable to refocus and go on another typically dominant stretch of play.
Auburn delighted fans with an out-of-nowhere SEC championship run in 2013, but it is very much a known commodity this year.
Mississippi State is one of the most well-rounded teams in the nation and still has a decidedly underdog flavor due to its mediocre history.
The Bulldogs rank 22nd in points against this season (19.2 per game), including a shutout win in Week 1 against Southern Miss, a difficult feat to achieve in college football. The offense has been in impeccable form as well, ranking 43rd in passing yards and 14th in the nation in rushing.
The Tigers defense boasts an even more impressive resume. It's given up a mere 14.4 points per game and features a fearsome defensive tackle in Montravius Adams, who's racked up five tackles for loss, one sack and one interception on the young season, per AuburnTigers.com.
This contest will likely come down to the play of the star quarterbacks: Mississippi State's Dak Prescott and Auburn's Nick Marshall.
Both are broad-shouldered, strong-armed quarterbacks who do loads of damage to opposing defenses both on the ground and through the air. At this point in the season, Prescott appears to be the superior passer although Marshall is coming off an assured, confident passing performance against a tough LSU secondary.
"You know, Nick played like one of the better quarterbacks in the entire country," said Auburn coach Gus Malzahn, via Brandon Marcello of AL.com.
He will have to be careful to not make mistakes against Mississippi State's ball-hawking defense, which has picked up nine interceptions thus far on the season. Sophomore linebacker Richie Brown has been especially adept at pilfering wayward passes, as he leads the team with three interceptions on the season.
The Bulldogs secondary may have to be in top form in this contest to slow down Marshall; the Auburn offensive line has given up just three sacks on the season, per NCAA.com. Generating a consistent pass rush—especially against a team apt to use draws, read options and bootlegs—could prove to be extremely difficult.
Prescott's dual-threat ability has some, like Bleacher Report's Adam Kramer, talking him up as a potential Heisman Trophy favorite:
Auburn defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson noted that Prescott has improved greatly as a passer this season.
"He was not as good at that time reading coverages and as accurate throwing," he said, via Joel A. Erickson of AL.com. "Right now, he's as good a dual-threat quarterback as there is in America. He's throwing the ball on time. He's throwing it accurately."
It should be noted that Prescott benefits from a superb supporting cast. Running back Josh Robinson is averaging 7.5 yards per carry, and the Bulldogs feature three big-play wide receiver threats in De'Runnya Wilson (just a perfect name for a wideout), Jameon Lewis and Fred Brown.
Marshall, on the other hand, clearly has a favorite target in wideout D'haquille Williams (25 receptions, 385 yards). No other receiver on the team has reached double digits in receptions thus far in 2014. Marshall's lack of a complete rapport with his receiving options could hurt his team in this one.
The squad that loses this game should still have a better chance of making it to the College Football Playoff than most one-loss teams. The SEC West is much tougher than the SEC East this season, making the winner of this game the odds-on favorite to win the conference provided these teams don't take turns losing to each other in the final weeks.
Considering the Bulldogs have dominated in just about every facet of the game, expect them to edge out the Tigers in this one, with Prescott putting on another Heisman-worthy show.
Prediction: Mississippi State 31-27 Auburn
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