NCAA Football News

College Football's Most Important Offers of the Week

With most programs gearing up to close out the 2014 season, more coaching staffs across the country are starting to focus their efforts on finishing the 2015 recruiting class.

While a number of 2015 recruits have long been committed to their school of choice, a handful of late bloomers are starting to emerge on the radar of programs from coast to coast.

One such prospect is 3-star corner Colin Samuel

The 6’3”, 186-pounder, who plays at powerhouse Long Beach Poly High School in Mission Hills, California, earned five offers last week from the likes of Michigan, Washington State, UCLA, Oklahoma and Mississippi State.

As Clint Brewster of Wolverine247 notes, Samuel has the size and length that coaches on the college level are vigorously pursuing at the corner position.

JC Shurburtt of 247Sports notes that while Samuel’s stock is on the rise with a number of schools across the nation, it’s the in-state Bruins who could be on the verge of landing the emerging sleeper.

Prior to the Michigan offer, Samuel seemed warm to the thought of giving the Wolverines a shot, per Steven Lorenz of Wolverine247 (subscription required).

"I felt good about what they had to say and feel like they could be pretty close to offering me,” Samuel said. “If they do, they would immediately be one of my top schools. I would definitely visit them."

The recent flood of interest in Samuel is bound to grow if the Golden State product chooses to keep his options open.

 

Stanford Offer Snatched up Quickly by 2015 DT

Although it rarely happens these days, there are instances when recruits instantly commit upon receiving an offer that they really covet.

Such was the case for 2015 3-star defensive tackle Wesley Annan—who committed to Stanford immediately after he was offered last Monday, per Steve Wiltfong of 247Sports.

"It's everything I wanted athletically, academically, socially,” Annan told Wiltfong. “It's a great place and I loved it. The environment alone, any athlete would love competing in an environment like that."

The 6’4”, 280-pounder chose the Cardinal over offers from Boston College, Duke, Maryland, Ole Miss and Virginia among others.

 

Ohio State Offers Trio of 2016 Standouts

Urban Meyer and the Ohio State Buckeyes are one of the schools poised to make a run at the No. 1 spot in the 2015 class rankings.

However, Meyer and his staff were focused on the 2016 class last week.

Per Tom Loy of 247Sports, Meyer offered 3-star Florida teammates in quarterback Ervin Barrett and receiver Eddie McDoom.

Another junior standout that received an offer from the Buckeyes is 4-star running back Antonio Williams—who is scheduled to make his commitment on Dec. 4.

With things just about wrapped up for 2015, Meyer and his staff are already laying the groundwork for another star-studded class in 2016.

 

A Preview of Bedlam with 2016 DB

One of the nation’s most underrated rivalries is the Bedlam Series between in-state rivals Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.

Fans of the Sooners and the Cowboys will have to wait until Dec. 6 for the next installment of the rivalry to take place in Norman.

However, Bob Stoops and Mike Gundy went at it on the recruiting trail last week as both Oklahoma and Oklahoma State offered 3-star 2016 safety Calvin Bundage.

The two schools join Tulsa as in-state programs who are chasing the 6’3”, 190-pounder.

 

Best of the Rest

  • Duke is the newest offer for 2016 3-star tight end Thaddeus Moss—who is the son of former NFL star receiver Randy Moss.
  • 2017 running back Stephen Carr picked his first offer from Washington, Gorney reported.

 

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

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Tennessee Volunteers vs. Vanderbilt Commodores Complete Game Preview

Payback will be wearing orange-and-white-clad jerseys this Saturday as the Tennessee Volunteers seek bowl eligibility against in-state rival Vanderbilt.

The last time these two teams met in a frigid Neyland Stadium last November, the Vols needed to win each of their final two games to reach the postseason in head coach Butch Jones' first season.

But instead of UT heading to Kentucky with a solid chance, VU stunned the Vols with a 14-10 win.

Quarterback Patton Robinette—a graduate of nearby Maryville High School who wasn't offered a scholarship by the Vols—ran in a keeper from five yards away with 16 seconds left to secure the win. Vandy was the beneficiary of an overturned ball spot on fourth down previously to extend the drive.

The win gave then-coach James Franklin his second consecutive victory over the Vols. 

Much has happened since then. Franklin bolted for Penn State, only to be replaced by Stanford defensive coordinator Derek Mason. The Commodores have suffered a miserable season, sitting at 3-8 with wins over Massachusetts, Charleston Southern and Old Dominion by a combined 18 points.

The Vols again must beat Vanderbilt to go to a bowl game, but this year, that looks a little easier than it has in years past. Here's everything you need to know about the matchup.

 

Date: Saturday, Nov. 29

Time: 4 p.m. ET

Place: Vanderbilt Stadium, Nashville, Tennessee

TV: SEC Network

Radio: Vol Network, Vanderbilt IMG Sports Network, Sirius 113/XM 190

Spread: Tennessee by 15 points, according to Oddsshark.com.

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Georgia Tech vs. Georgia: Complete Game Preview

Despite an uneven recent history, Georgia Tech and Georgia have more in common this year than many recognize.  

Both the Yellow Jackets and the Bulldogs boast identical records at 9-2 overall and 6-2 in conference play.  Georgia Tech clinched the ACC's Coastal Division with a Duke loss last week; Georgia is hoping to win the SEC East with a Missouri loss this weekend.  Both teams lead their respective conferences in points per game and rely heavily on potent rushing attacks.

Oh, and both schools hail from the Peach State, and this rivalry, dubbed "Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate," has been played 109 times.

Here's what you need to know about this weekend's rivalry game:

  • Date: Saturday, November 29
  • Time: Noon ET
  • Place: Sanford Stadium, Athens, Georgia
  • TV: SEC Network
  • Radio: Georgia Tech IMG Sports Network, Georgia Bulldogs Radio Network
  • Spread: Georgia (-14.5), per Odds Shark

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How the Texas Longhorns Will Ruin TCU's Playoff Dreams

The TCU Horned Frogs, enjoying one of the best seasons in their history, are sitting pretty at No. 5 in the latest CFP rankings.

However, they will have their hands full when they head to Austin to take on Charlie Strong and the Texas Longhorns.

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder illustrates how Texas will pull off the upset of TCU, putting a halt to the Horned Frogs' national championship dreams. 

Will Texas beat TCU?

Check out the video and let us know! 

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Bowl Predictions 2014: Updated Playoff Projections and Odds Before Week 14

The College Football Playoff may not officially start until January, but every week in November is a win-or-go-home situation for the top contenders.

All the undefeated and one-loss playoff contenders won Saturday, so the top of the polls will not look that different Tuesday. Still, we may see some chaos on the horizon with rivalry games and conference championships in the next two weeks.

With that in mind, here is a look at Statmilk’s latest playoff projections and odds before looking at mine and the latest update in the race for the No. 4 seed.

 

Statmilk Playoff Projections and Odds

 

Scott Polacek Playoff Projections

Sugar Bowl: No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Baylor

Rose Bowl: No. 2 Florida State vs. No. 3 Oregon   

Championship Bowl (in Arlington, Texas): TBD (semifinal winners)

 

Updated Race for No. 4

As long as Alabama, Oregon and Florida State win out, they should occupy the first three spots in the final rankings. The Crimson Tide would be SEC champions, the Ducks would win the Pac-12, and the Seminoles would be the one undefeated power-five conference team as ACC champs.

That means there is a race for the No. 4 spot.

Mississippi State was No. 4 in the most recent College Football Playoff rankings and should stay put Tuesday after easily dispatching Vanderbilt. Mississippi State’s best argument is its position in the presumed best conference in the country, the SEC.

The loss to Alabama is certainly nothing to be ashamed of, and wins over Auburn and LSU are impressive. Still, both Tigers teams have lost games in blowout fashion since losing to the Bulldogs and may not quite be as daunting as once thought. 

At least Mississippi State has ESPN’s Paul Finebaum on its side:

Ohio State may be the biggest long-term threat to Mississippi State for the No. 4 seed because it could be the one solo conference champion in this four-team race. That is still the case despite the fact it didn’t look all that sharp Saturday against Indiana (for what it's worth, that was the same Hoosiers team that beat the current SEC East leader, Missouri).

The Buckeyes have their rivalry game with Michigan and then the Big Ten title game against either Wisconsin or Minnesota remaining. A win over a highly ranked Badgers squad would go a long way toward bolstering the resume, and it would help in the bigger picture because the Bulldogs will not be SEC champions if Alabama wins out.

What’s more, if both TCU and Baylor win out, they will be co-champs in the Big 12 without a conference championship game. Ohio State would be an interesting case study into how much the selection committee values conference champions.

Urban Meyer talked about what lies ahead for his team, according to The Associated Press (h/t ESPN.com): "We're conference division champions, we've won a bunch of games (nine) in a row. We have some work to do. Sometimes in college football, things don't go exactly as scripted."

Baylor made the loudest statement of any contender Saturday when it crushed Oklahoma State. The nation’s No. 1 scoring offense is always going to come through in style points, but the head-to-head victory over TCU is the trump card in Baylor’s back pocket.

The Bears’ final game against Kansas State will likely decide the fate of their season, and if they win that, it will be hard to ignore a resume with victories over the Wildcats, Horned Frogs and Oklahoma.

Finally, there is TCU, which was still ahead of Baylor in the most recent College Football Playoff rankings even though the Bears beat the Horned Frogs earlier in the season.

Baylor actually moved ahead of TCU in the latest AP poll, which could be a harbinger of things to come Tuesday. The more equal the two resumes from the Big 12 become, the more likely Baylor’s head-to-head win over TCU will come into play.

TCU did get a major boost Saturday when Minnesota beat Nebraska in Nebraska. Minnesota is the Horned Frogs’ biggest nonconference win, and the Golden Gophers still control their own destiny in the race for the Big Ten West title. If they beat Wisconsin, it would set up a showdown with the Buckeyes and a golden opportunity to bolster TCU’s chances.

The Horned Frogs still have to take care of their own business first, though, with a tricky game against Texas on the horizon. The Longhorns have won three games in a row, including an impressive 33-16 victory over West Virginia, and would certainly love to end the playoff hopes of their in-state rivals. 

Buckle up because there are bound to be plenty of changes between now and the end of the season.

 

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NCAA Football Rankings 2014: Week 14 Standings and Analysis for Latest Polls

The switch from the BCS to the College Football Playoff has not devalued the regular season's excitement, but it has certainly devalued the release of the Associated Press and Amway Coaches polls.

The College Football Playoff rankings come out on Tuesday, which will give fans a better idea of where their teams stand in the race for the postseason, but these polls are still something of an early teaser.

With that in mind, here is a look at the latest rankings after Week 13.

The first thing that jumps out about the Associated Press poll is the fact that Baylor finally moved ahead of TCU.

The debate about which team should be higher in the polls between the Horned Frogs and Bears has raged on for much of the season, even though Baylor beat TCU head-to-head. While that victory is the ultimate trump card for the Bears, the Horned Frogs did have a more impressive nonconference slate, which has kept them afloat in the race for No. 5.

TCU has to play Texas on Thanksgiving, and Baylor has a difficult contest with Kansas State waiting at the end of the season, so neither team is a lock to finish with only one loss.

The second thing that stands out is Florida State’s position at No. 1, even though it was No. 3 in the most recent College Football Playoff rankings. The Seminoles are the only power-five conference team that is still undefeated, so it makes sense, although they have been forced to come back in the second half throughout the season and seem to have a charmed life right now.

Dominant or not, Florida State continues to win. Head coach Jimbo Fisher suggested that is the most important thing, via Heather Dinich of ESPN.com:

Let me ask you this: How about the way everybody else hasn't finished? Our team has never not finished. The game is 60 minutes. This team hasn't lost in over two years. Everybody says 'game control.' That's something made up. As a coach, you talk about one thing: Finish. Get it done. This team wins in every way, shape and form you can win. Everybody else has failed at least once, no matter what you look at, and some of those teams have lost when they were over 20-point favorites.

As long as Florida State knocks off its archrival, Florida, and wins the ACC Championship Game, it will be in the Top Four at the end of the year, but questions will remain until it starts to dominate weaker opponents like Boston College.

Another big mover in the latest AP poll was UCLA, which moved up from No. 11 to No. 9.

The Bruins dismantled USC on Saturday, 38-20, and could present an interesting predicament to the selection committee if it managed to win out and beat Oregon in the Pac-12 title game.

The Bruins have two losses, but in that hypothetical, they would jump ahead of the Ducks as conference champs and have marquee wins over Oregon, USC, Arizona and Arizona State. That may just be playoff-worthy depending on what some of the teams ahead of UCLA do between Week 14 and the end of the season.

Finally, the most important thing about any of these polls is the race for No. 4, since it appears as if Florida State, Alabama and Oregon will take up three of the playoff spots if they win out. 

Mississippi State is No. 4 in both the AP and Coaches polls and seems to be getting some credit by association for being in the SEC West. Stewart Mandel of Fox Sports and Paul Myerberg of USA Today pointed out just how tough that division has been this season:

The best chance for fellow No. 4 contender Ohio State is if Wisconsin, which is No. 14 in both polls released on Sunday, continues to climb and sets up a marquee showdown in the Big Ten Championship Game. A Buckeyes victory there would test just how much value the selection committee places on conference titles, since Mississippi State wouldn’t be a conference champion if Alabama wins out.

What’s more, the Big 12 would have co-champions without a title game if Baylor and TCU win out. 

Until the new playoff rankings are released on Tuesday, fans will simply have to use the AP and Coaches polls as the baseline for any arguments.

 

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College Football Playoff 2014: Top 25 Predictions After Week 14 AP Rankings

Another week of the 2014 college football season is in the books, which means you should start paying attention to the selection committee's Top 25.

It's funny to watch fans get worked up about the first couple of batches of rankings. Remember when everybody was upset about two SEC teams being in the College Football Playoff? That's not going to happen anymore. Things tend to correct themselves in college football

Now, it's time to start paying attention, though. Little time remains until the conference championships. The polls carry more weight because those on the outside looking in are running out of chances to impress the committee.

The playoff rankings have not yet been revealed, but a bevy of other polls are out. You can see the Associated Press poll below:

The AP poll isn't the be-all and end-all in terms of deciding the playoff rankings, but the committee will likely use it as a road map.

 

Top 25 Breakdown

Top Four

The composition of last week's Top Four will almost certainly remain the same. The order might be a little different, though.

The only team that could possibly get bounced out—and it would be a stretch—is Mississippi State, and the Bulldogs shut out Vanderbilt. The Commodores aren't a good team, but beating any FBS team 51-0 sends a message. It's the school's largest in-conference shutout in nearly 80 years, per ESPN Stats & Info:

Conversely, Mississippi State is really the only team that could move up as well. 

The selection committee won't be impressed by Florida State's win over Boston College. The Seminoles needed a 26-yard field goal from Roberto Aguayo with three seconds remaining to put away the Eagles. FSU is obviously deserving of a Top Four spot but perhaps not the top seed.

Meanwhile, Oregon and Alabama both beat weak opponents by 34 points, so there's little reason to elevate or demote the Ducks and/or the Crimson Tide.

The realistic move would be moving Mississippi State up to third and dropping FSU to fourth, which still seems unlikely.

Don't be surprised if the playoff seeds are unchanged when the rankings are revealed.

 

Playoff Hopefuls

TCU is bound to get dinged for not not playing anyone of note as the season ends. After their big win over Kansas State on Nov. 8, the Horned Frogs finish with Kansas—whom they beat—Texas and Iowa State. That's not exactly a murderers' row.

TCU was off this week, which opens the door for the selection committee to begin souring on the Horned Frogs and throwing its support behind other power-five teams.

If somebody supplants TCU for fifth, it will likely be Ohio State. Critics rightfully bring up the loss to Virginia Tech, but there's no question this is a completely different Buckeyes team. J.T. Barrett isn't a Heisman Trophy favorite, but he's on the list of guys on the periphery.

What could hurt Ohio State is the fact that it was ahead of Indiana by just a point heading into the fourth quarter. The Buckeyes might've won by 15 points, but it wasn't a real positive win:

With that said, the committee could favor Baylor more than the Buckeyes. The Bears had a decisive 49-28 win over Oklahoma State on Saturday. They were up 42-14 in the fourth quarter before the Cowboys got two garbage-time touchdowns.

"I think our team's record speaks for itself," said Baylor head coach Art Briles, per the Austin Statesman. "I think good teams find ways to win, and that's kind of what we did."

Baylor sits fifth in the AP poll, so it wouldn't be a surprise to see the Bears there in the playoff rankings as well.

The wild card will be UCLA. The committee was high on the Bruins in Week 13, placing them ninth. A 38-20 win over No. 19 USC will only embolden the group.

FoxSports.com's Stewart Mandel thinks UCLA will likely be no lower than eighth, and he also argued that the Bruins could still sneak into the playoffs.

"It's still a long shot, but if all hell breaks loose—if Georgia or Missouri upsets the SEC West champ in Atlanta, or Ohio State falls in the Big Ten title game—then a two-loss UCLA team that ends its season by beating one-loss Oregon would have a solid case for the Top Four," he wrote. 

The only problem for UCLA is that it has struggled mightily against Oregon and Stanford—the two teams the Bruins would need to beat in order to make the playoff.

 

The Rest

You don't want to dismiss a large swath of the rankings, but, in reality, just one of the 15 teams listed above has a shot at making the playoff. The only team with a remote chance is Missouri, and that's only if the Tigers win the SEC Championship Game and the other dominoes fall as needed.

Missouri would have to hope that enough one-loss teams above it lose between now and the end of the season. The selection committee might love the SEC, but it's unlikely to love the SEC enough to send in the Tigers ahead of a one-loss Baylor, TCU, Ohio State or Oregon team.

It's also worth watching whether the committee gives any love to the group-of-five conferences. With USC, Utah, Nebraska and Duke all falling out of the AP Top 25, the chance is there for some combination of Marshall, Boise State and Colorado State to sneak into the playoff rankings.

Mike Hamrick, Marshall's athletic director, believes those schools in the group of five deserve to at least know where they are in relation to the power-five teams, per CBSSports.com's Jon Solomon:

But Hamrick does question why undefeated Marshall has yet to be ranked. And he is frustrated by what he views as the increasing divide between the so-called haves and have-nots even in college football rankings.

"I didn't think it was going to become that way, but then you see these rankings every week with three-loss teams making it," Hamrick said. "It's very confusing if you're a [Group of Five] school. We don't know how we fit in and that's why I wish there was at least some transparency. Hey, if we're No. 50, just tell me we're 50. I don't care. But the average fan's take right now is [the committee is] more worried about ranking the Power Five and then they'll just deal with us later, which was not what my understanding was of when this was all put together."

It's time to start giving the Thundering Herd and the Rams some love.

The next-best options are 6-5 Arkansas and 7-4 LSU. The SEC has some good teams at the top, but the conference has been exposed lately. There's no way a four- or five-loss team deserves Top 25 consideration.

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Auburn vs. Alabama: Preview, Updated Odds and Prediction for 2014 Iron Bowl

The Auburn Tigers will travel to Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa to take on the Alabama Crimson Tide Saturday in the 2014 Iron Bowl. This game went down in history—or infamy, for Alabama fans—last year, producing one of the most memorable conclusions to any game in recent memory.

Auburn's Chris Davis' 108-yard return of a missed field goal to defeat Alabama in regulation is still fresh in the minds of many Crimson Tide players. Safety Landon Collins shared his thoughts with Michael Casagrande of AL.com: "Definitely looking forward to playing those guys again. We have a little chip on our shoulder against them. But we'll definitely be ready to face them when the time comes."

Will Collins and his teammates find redemption this time around? Based on the way Alabama has been playing of late, that certainly appears to be the case. However, that was a common thought last year as well.

Before this highly anticipated game kicks off, let's take a look at the updated odds and predict the outcome of this pivotal SEC clash.

 

Viewing Information

When: Saturday, November 29

Where: Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Alabama

Time: 7:45 p.m. ET

Channel: ESPN

Live Stream: WatchESPN

Game Line (via Odds Shark): Alabama -9.5

 

Preview and Prediction

Once again, Alabama enters this contest ranked first in the nation (according to the latest College Football Playoff poll), and Auburn will be looking to play the role of spoiler.

One big difference the Crimson Tide bring to the table is quarterback Blake Sims. He isn't known for lighting up scoreboards, but he's extremely efficient and takes care of the football, throwing just four interceptions on the year.

That efficiency has allowed Sims to flourish this season, as Jim Dunaway of WIAT-42 Birmingham noted the quarterback is nearing some school records:

With a quarterback very capable of protecting the ball, Alabama is able to unleash a fantastic two-headed monster out of its backfield. T.J. Yeldon and Derrick Henry have put on a show this season, each averaging at least 5.0 yards per carry and combining for 1,440 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns.

This well-balanced offense is capable of methodically moving the ball down the field, keeping the clock running and the team's defense fresh, but with the highly talented Amari Cooper at wide receiver, Alabama is more than capable of producing a big play at any given moment.

Despite going down with an apparent knee injury in Week 13, head coach Nick Saban told media Cooper is just fine and ready for Saturday, via Cecil Hurt of the Tuscaloosa News:

With a defense ranked second in average points against (14.5), fifth in total yards per game (283.5), second in rushing yards per game (85.3) and 27th in passing yards per game (198.2), you can make a strong argument that Alabama is the nation's most complete team.

Auburn still has quite a dynamic running game this season despite losing ball-carrier Tre Mason to the NFL. Nick Marshall has evolved as a passer and is more of a dual-threat quarterback than he was in 2013. He's completed 59.6 percent of his passes this season, throwing 15 touchdowns against six interceptions.

The quarterback will get one of his trusty weapons back for Saturday's game, as Rotoworld NFL Draft tweeted D'haquille Williams is slated to return to action:

However, the signal-caller's bread and butter is on the ground. Marshall is averaging 5.5 yards per rush, gaining 731 yards and scoring 11 times through 11 games. He's complemented very nicely by running back Cameron Artis-Payne, who is averaging 5.6 yards per carry, gaining 1,405 yards and 11 touchdowns.

The efforts of those two players are why the Tigers own the ninth-ranked rushing offense heading into Week 14. If anything can give Alabama's stout defense a tough time, it's the versatility of Auburn's ground attack.

While Auburn can rack up yards and score points, its defense must step up in a big way against the Crimson Tide. Before holding Samford to just seven points in Week 13, the Tigers gave up 31 points or more in their previous five games, going 2-3 in that span. What's even more troubling is that two of those five teams—South Carolina and Texas A&M—weren't even ranked.

Alabama's offense hasn't exactly been consistent throughout the season, but it's been good enough to win close games, going 3-1 in contests decided by one score. That mark will move to 4-1 Saturday, as the Crimson Tide notch a victory in a close one.

Prediction: Alabama 27, Auburn 23

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College Football Picks Week 14: Predictions and Odds for Top 25 Schedule

The nation's Top Four teams remain unchanged heading into Week 14 of the college football season; however, things have certainly tightened up a bit. While Florida State remains on top, second-ranked Alabama received 21 first-place votes and trail by just a slim point margin in the Associated Press poll.

Oregon and Mississippi State still round out the top squads, but keep an eye on the potent offense of the Baylor Bears.

Baylor owns the nation's top scoring offense and has a very favorable matchup in Week 14 against a shaky Texas Tech defense. If one of the Top Four should falter and Bryce Petty lights up the scoreboard as expected, we could see some very intriguing late-season changes to the College Football Playoff picture.

As we've learned throughout the season, no active team is safe from defeat. So, let's revisit a question that's asked on a weekly basis: Which top team is most likely to fall? This week's answer may surprise you. Before we delve into some analysis regarding that quandary, here's a look at the full schedule, odds and predictions for all Top 25 teams in Week 14.

The full CFB schedule can be viewed at ESPN.com.

All game odds courtesy of Odds Shark and current as of November 23.

 

Week 14 Upset Pick: Florida over No. 1 Florida State

This is the week the Seminoles won't be able to rely on their late-game magic to continue their unbeaten streak.

Rarely is an undefeated team picked to fall to an unranked opponent, but that's likely to happen to a Florida State team that has been living on the edge for several weeks now. In fact, the Seminoles just barely escaped with wins in their last two contests against Miami and Boston College by a combined seven points.

While Florida State's defense is playing well enough against the pass, it continues to get torched on the ground. In Week 13 against Boston College, the Seminoles gave up 240 yards and a score on 51 carries, an average of 4.7 yards per rush. One week prior, Miami fared just as well, rushing for 176 yards and a score on 40 carries, an average of 4.4 yards per rush.

Steve Palazzolo of Pro Football Focus tweeted a very common statement during the Seminoles' contest against the Eagles:

This week, Florida State is tasked with stopping a Gators rushing offense that's averaging 197.1 yards per game on the ground and has scored 21 rushing touchdowns this season. Expect the combination of Matt Jones and Kelvin Taylor to give the Seminoles fits.

To keep pace, the Seminoles will need a better performance from quarterback Jameis Winston out of the gate. He's been sluggish in the first half of games this season, allowing his team to fall behind quickly. Here's a very telling statistic courtesy of ESPN Stats & Info:

Winston hasn't been putting up Heisman-like numbers again this season, and that's partly due to a lack of ball security. The sophomore has thrown at least one interception in all but two games this year, totaling 13 through 11 contests. More turnovers should be expected this week against a Florida team that excels at rushing the passer, totaling 25 sacks on the season, and has come away with 10 interceptions as a result.

Obviously, defeating their in-state rivals is motivation enough for the Gators; however, they have something else to play for, via Stewart Mandel of Fox Sports:

Florida played like a team possessed in its last home contest of the season, defeating Eastern Kentucky 52-3. The team's players were all recruited by Will Muschamp, and they'll want to send the coach off with a victory in his final game with the Gators.

The right motivation can go a long way, and we'll witness that Saturday.

Prediction: Florida 27, Florida State 24

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College Football Bowl Predictions 2014: NCAA Playoff Picks After Week 13 Results

If you asked any coach of a College Football Playoff contender what he thought about his team's position in the latest rankings, each one would tell you the same thing: We are focused on the next opponent. 

After all, you don’t overlook Michigan if you are at Ohio State, Auburn if you are at Alabama, Florida if you are at Florida State, Ole Miss if you are at Mississippi State, Oregon State if you are at Oregon or even Texas if you are at TCU. 

Fans and commentators can still look at the big picture, though. With that in mind, here is a look at the latest playoff projections heading into Week 14.

 

Playoff Projections

Sugar Bowl: No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Baylor

Rose Bowl: No. 2 Florida State vs. No. 3 Oregon  

Championship Bowl (in Arlington, Texas): TBD (semifinal winners)

 

Thanksgiving Treat: TCU at Texas

In a typical year, a matchup between Texas and TCU would be framed as a “big brother vs. little brother” matchup in the state of Texas in which the in-state bully, the Longhorns, were challenged by the upstart Horned Frogs.

Not in 2014.

TCU is right in the thick of the College Football Playoff race, but Texas is red-hot after an abysmal start to the season. The Longhorns have three straight wins, and they all came by three-score margins. What’s more, the early losses to BYU, UCLA, Oklahoma, Baylor and Kansas State are understandable.

The losses to the Bruins and the Sooners came in heartbreaking fashion as well. 

Another thing to keep an eye on is the overall pressure, which should be more of an issue for playoff contender TCU than Texas. ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit suggested as much:

Texas has a chance in this game because of its defense, which is the strength of the team.

The Longhorns are 24th in the nation in points allowed per game and held Oklahoma State to seven points, the dynamic West Virginia offense to 16 and Texas Tech to 13 the last three games.

TCU wins games with its offense, and it will be critical for the Longhorns to continue the defensive momentum.

TCU is eighth in the country in passing yards per game and 28th in rushing yards per game. That is the balanced attack that is a nightmare for defensive coordinators, and quarterback Trevone Boykin, who is a legitimate Heisman Trophy contender, is the director. He has a head-turning 3,021 passing yards, 548 rushing yards and 31 total touchdowns and will look to add more Thursday.

Kansas State coach Bill Snyder was certainly impressed by Boykin, via Stephen Hawkins of the Associated Press, via The News & Observer:

He provides a great deal of spark and leadership to his football team. Obviously his quickness and vision on the field, and ability to make big plays on his own ... It's just his innate ability to get to the right place the right time. He can make people miss. He just has a great sense of where he is and how to get where he needs to go.

Impressive defense or not, stopping the Horned Frogs attack that put up 82 points in a single game earlier in the season is much easier said than done.

The other side of the ball has been the problem for Texas. It is 98th in the nation in scoring offense and scored fewer than 10 points three different times this season, including a shutout loss to Kansas State. For what it’s worth, quarterback Tyrone Swoopes threw for 305 yards and two touchdowns against Oklahoma State the last time out and may have turned a corner.

The TCU defense has been vulnerable at times this season, and it gave up 30 points to Kansas, 30 to West Virginia, 61 to Baylor and 33 to Oklahoma. If Swoopes can establish some momentum early against that defense and give his own group a lead, an upset will suddenly become a possibility.

The Longhorns will also have the home crowd on their side in a raucous atmosphere under the lights. The Horned Frogs will feel the pressure in the second half with a playoff spot on the line and make a crippling mistake against an opportunistic Texas defense.

Get ready for chaos. The first upset of the week will take place Thursday. 

Prediction: Texas 31, TCU 24

 

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College Football Rankings 2014: Latest Standings and Predictions for Week 14

The College Football Playoff rankings—otherwise known as the rankings that actually mean something—will not be released until Tuesday, but the fans and commentators will certainly find a way to debate the Associated Press and Amway Coaches Polls.

Just so you are prepared heading into those arguments, here is a look at the latest rankings before digging into some predictions for the Week 14 games with the biggest playoff implications.

 

Week 14 Predictions

 

Under-the-Radar Week 14 Game to Watch: Oregon at Oregon State

While the majority of the nation focuses on Ole Miss playing Mississippi State, Auburn playing Alabama and Ohio State clashing with Michigan, this game between Western rivals has just as much at stake in the playoff race.

Oregon was No. 2 in the most recent College Football Playoff rankings and seemingly controls its own destiny on the way to the postseason. A win on the road against its rival would only solidify its position among the Top Four.

As for Oregon State, it needs to win to reach a bowl game and would love to send its seniors out with a shocking upset of the hated Ducks. Senior quarterback Sean Mannion is the all-time Pac-12 leader in passing yards, and a signature win over Oregon would be an incredible way to end his home career. 

Beavers Football passed along some of the head-turning career stats from the gunslinger:

Before you scoff at the notion that Oregon State could hang with Oregon, think back to last year's game.

The Ducks survived, 36-35, with a touchdown in the final minute of the game. There were five scores in the fourth quarter alone, and it was the perfect example of the "throw the records out" cliche that is thrown around so liberally in rivalry showdowns like this one.

Mariota was dealing with lingering knee issues that limited his mobility and ultimately wrecked Oregon's season in a previous loss to Arizona, but it was still a gallant effort from the Beavers. 

It is also worth noting that Oregon State already shook up the college football world once this season in a win over Arizona State. ESPN Stats & Info pointed out what the ultimate difference in that game was:

For as disappointing as this season has been, the Beavers are 25th in the nation in passing yards per game. Mannion threw for 314 yards and two touchdowns against the Ducks a season ago in Eugene and will look to be even better in front of the friendly home crowd.

Oregon's defense is not the strength of its team even if it is a respectable 23rd in the nation in points allowed per game. California torched the Ducks for 41 points and 560 total yards, the defense couldn't get off the field when it needed to against Arizona, and it got bailed out by Utah when the Utes dropped a sure touchdown at the one-yard line that turned into a fumble that the Ducks ran back.

It would have been 14-0 Utes after that play. Instead, it was 7-7.

If Oregon State is going to pull an upset (and earn the admiration of Ohio State, Mississippi State, TCU and Baylor fans along the way), it needs to attack that Oregon defense.

Even if Mannion finds a way to put some points up on the board against the Ducks like he did last year, the problem for Oregon State will be on the other side of the ball.

Oregon is third in the nation in scoring offense and has the clear-cut Heisman Trophy favorite leading the way in Marcus Mariota. Mariota already has 3,103 passing yards, 597 rushing yards and 42 total touchdowns on the season, and he has this and the Pac-12 title game remaining.

Former Oregon coach Mike Bellotti discussed Mariota, via Connor Letourneau of The Oregonian:

"He's the best ever. ... Akili (Smith) might have accomplished more with less than any quarterback in school history, but Marcus is, I think, the best, and I think it's already the time to say he's the best because of his winning percentage, accuracy and how he breaks the big play."

The Beavers defense has been alarmingly bad in Pac-12 play. It allowed 35 points to USC, 31 to Colorado, 29 to Utah, 38 to Stanford, 45 to California, 39 to Washington State, 27 to Arizona State and 37 to Washington and is the main reason why the team has lost five of six.

That defense couldn't contain the middle-of-the-road Pac-12 teams earlier in the season. It's certainly not going to be able to stop Mariota with the Heisman Trophy and a playoff spot on the line. 

Prediction: Oregon 49, Oregon State 30

 

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Texas Football: 5 Things the Longhorns Must Do to Upset TCU

Thanksgiving night, the Texas Longhorns will host the No. 6 TCU Horned Frogs looking to record their second big upset in three games, and it will take everything they have.

The Horned Frogs come into this game averaging 45.9 points per game and 541.6 yards per game, with their only loss coming on the road in a 61-58 shootout against Baylor.

Texas' defense will have its hands full but has held its own against explosive offenses for the better part of the season. For the Horns, it boils down to the offense playing a complete game and the special teams avoiding the big mistake.

And it wouldn't hurt if that defense could get Trevone Boykin on the ground a few times.

Begin Slideshow

Oregon Ducks vs. Oregon State Beavers Complete Game Preview

On paper, the Oregon State Beavers should be no match for the second-ranked Oregon Ducks. In reality though, the Beavers pose a significant threat to Oregon’s postseason aspirations.

For the Ducks (10-1, 7-1), the route to the College Football Playoff is simple: Win and you’re in. The same goes for Marcus Mariota’s Heisman Trophy chances—beat Oregon State, beat the Pac-12 South champion and the Ducks will likely have their first Heisman winner and a playoff game on Jan. 1.

As they say, that’s easier said than done.

While the Beavers (5-6, 2-6) are coming off of a tough loss to Washington, they’re still capable of pulling off a big upset. Just ask Arizona State.

Oregon State seems to relish playing ranked teams in Corvallis. Moreover, playing in Corvallis at night is a terrifying prospect, especially for a team like Oregon that has so much on the line. Throw in the fact that weird things tend to happen in the Pac-12 after dark, and you begin to understand why some Ducks fans may be concerned.

We haven’t even mentioned that this is the Civil War. You can go ahead and throw all of the stats out of the window.

The Ducks will have the weight of the world on their shoulders from here on out. Everyone expects the Ducks to win, and win big. Can they deal with the pressure and turn it into a positive?

Here's what you need to know.

 

Date: Saturday, Nov. 29

Time: 5 p.m. PT/8 p.m. ET

Place: Reser Stadium, Corvallis, Oregon

TV: ABC

Line: Oregon (-17.5), according to Odds Shark

Begin Slideshow

College Football Superlatives from Kramer's Korner: The Year of the Running Back

A true freshman just shattered a historic record that had stood for a whole seven days. That, more than anything, paints a picture of just how remarkable 2014 has been for running backs. Despite the absurdity of what you’ve already seen, don’t stop watching. They're really only getting started.

The conversation starts, of course, with Oklahoma’s Samaje Perine, who just set a single-game record by rushing for 427 yards in a single game. Just last week, Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon broke a mark that stood tall for 5,474 days; this time it didn’t quite make it so far.

In a week in which his record was broken, Gordon continued to make history of his own. He eclipsed more than 2,000 rushing yards for the season, becoming the fastest player in the history of the sport to do so. He also has a realistic shot at Barry Sander’s mark for most rushing yards in a season.

Take away his fourth quarters this year, and he would still be leading the nation in rushing. Badger Football noted just how impressive Gordon's rushing total is over "the first three quarters of games":

If you took Melvin Gordon's rushing totals from just the first 3 quarters of games, he would still lead the country w/1,915 yards. #Badgers

— Badger Football (@BadgerFootball) November 23, 2014

You could celebrate these two backs and their remarkable achievements for exactly what they are—seizing the conversation entirely—although you wouldn’t begin to scratch the surface when it comes to this crucial yet undervalued position.

Indiana running back Tevin Coleman has rushed for 535 yards and four touchdowns in the past two weeks, pushing his total for the year over 1,900 yards. He has done so with limited help through the air and little fanfare. You need to watch him more if you aren’t already.

James Conner of Pittsburgh has bowling-balled his way to 1,600 yards rushing and 22 scores. Devon Johnson, Marshall’s unheralded junior back, has rushed for more than 1,500 yards and 16 touchdowns while averaging more than eight-and-a-half yards per carry.

There are stars everywhere, and the freshman crop is the most potent of our lifetime. Outside of Perine, Oregon’s Royce Freeman, Western Michigan’s Jarvion Franklin, Georgia’s Nick Chubb, Arizona’s Nick Wilson, Northwestern’s Justin Jackson and South Florida’s Marlon Mack have already run for more than 1,000 yards in their first season as collegiate backs.

That list doesn’t include LSU’s Leonard Fournette, Florida State’s Dalvin Cook, Tennessee’s Jalen Hurd, Georgia’s Sony Michel and Auburn’s Roc Thomas. They have all flashed brilliance at some point during their debut seasons, and you can be sure that there is greatness to follow.

It’s the now, but it’s also the future. And as Gordon churns toward history, a deep crop of talented runners are ready to reestablish the position’s true worth. Despite the notion that offense will be done through the air going forward, this season has told us otherwise. 

As for awards, video of grown men doing barrel rolls onto football fields and more, let us dive deep into Week 13.

 

Offensive Player of the Week: Samaje Perine, Oklahoma

For the second consecutive week, our Offensive Player of the Week has made running for more than 400 yards in a single football game look entirely too routine. Gordon broke the rushing record in Week 12 in only three quarters; Perine broke Gordon’s seven-day mark three minutes into the fourth quarter.

I thought this was supposed to be difficult?

Perine’s 427-yard rushing effort against Kansas came on 34 carries, which averages out to 12.6 yards per rush. He also caught one pass for 19 yards and scored five touchdowns. 

This is the third time Perine has rushed for at least 200 yards in a game this season. He has also gone for 640 yards on the ground in the last two games alone.

Reminder: He is also a true freshman. 

I’m so sorry, Big 12 defensive coordinators. Might as well put on another pot of coffee.

 

Dominant Defender: Arkansas (Yes, the Entire Defense)

Let’s flip the script, at least for one week. The situation calls for it.

Instead of highlighting individual defensive excellence—and Missouri’s Markus Golden likely would have been the deserving choice had we stayed true to form—we’re celebrating an entire defense for consecutive relentless efforts.

Arkansas did it again. The Hogs didn’t just secure a second SEC win under head coach Bret Bielema, but they also shut out their opponent for the second consecutive week. 

After allowing no points and 123 yards to LSU in Week 12, Bielema’s group allowed just 316 yards and no points to Ole Miss in a 30-0 victory. The Razorbacks were relentless in pressuring the Rebels, and Ole Miss never really found an offensive rhythm. For the game, Arkansas forced six turnovers overall. 

I’m not sure there’s a team in the country outside the Top Seven I’d like to play less than this one. They just sit on you and don't allow you to get up. It is so much fun from a comfortable distance.

 

Video-Game Box Score 

 —In one of the most obscure box scores you will see all season, Washington State finished with 622 yards of offense, including 601 yards passing from quarterback Luke Falk. It outgained Arizona State by nearly 300 yards for the entire game. And, thanks in large part to five turnovers, the Sun Devils still won by three touchdowns. Football is weird, man.

—Colorado State has quietly built up a bit of box-score wreckage this season against opponents that haven’t stood much of a chance. Against New Mexico, the Rams kept up with this theme by finishing with 698 total yards, 32 first downs and 58 points. Running back Dee Hart—the former Alabama product—ran for 230 yards and five touchdowns on only 20 carries. Not a bad day at the office.

 

Anti-Video-Game Box Score 

—In a game that will be studied for decades, Wake Forest and Virginia Tech went to overtime tied 0-0. The Demon Deacons eventually won 6-3 in a field-goal battle, turning in one of the surprise ACC performances of the year. Although 6-3 paints an accurate anti-video-game box score as is, the drive chart is something you really need to see. You’ve been warned; this is not for the faint of heart.

Art. pic.twitter.com/HIQQ0iw6Eo

— Adam Kramer (@KegsnEggs) November 22, 2014

—You may officially reset your "Days since SMU was featured in the Anti-Video-Game Box-Score Section" clocks to zero. Against UCF, the Mustangs finished with just 116 yards of total offense and just 50 passing yards. More staggering, however, is the fact that SMU finished with four first downs and five turnovers. That’s right, more turnovers than first downs. Stay tuned for more SMU updates.  

 

Unbalanced Box-Score Weirdness of the Week

—We’ve added another section this week to celebrate Kansas State’s offensive performance against West Virginia. When you run the ball 28 times for three total yards and still win convincingly on the road at West Virginia, you create your own category. Behold the ultimate anti-balance, courtesy of Bleacher Report's Ben Kercheval providing the game stats.

#balancepic.twitter.com/SjaZzFmNpG

— Ben Kercheval (@BenKercheval) November 21, 2014

Biggest Surprise

In one moment, we were presented two unexpected and visually appealing outcomes. You’re getting your money’s worth this week. 

Tennessee’s fake field goal against Missouri in the second quarter was unanticipated perfection. Alex Ellis hauled in the pass from Patrick Ashford—who looks like he could actually start at some (if not most) SEC schools—and the Vols took an early lead on the touchdown.

As if the magnificent bit of special teams excellence wasn’t enough, a Tennessee fan took it upon himself to celebrate by barrel-rolling out of the stands (unintentionally, of course) and onto the field. It's not just the fall that makes this follow-up celebration; Kirk Herbstreit's serious call of this moment really sealed the deal.

And in case you wanted to watch that in slow-mo on loop (and you do), you're in luck.

 

Best Moment: “Jesus, Girls and Marcus Mariota”

Unless Les Miles reads Moby Dick in its entirety at a press conference, you will not see a better postgame interaction than the one that took place between Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich and a 12-year-old student from O'Hara Catholic School.

It will all make sense, at least somewhat, momentarily. I promise.

Following the Ducks’ 44-10 victory over Colorado, Helfrich was asked if he thought star quarterback Marcus Mariota would return to Oregon next season by a young girl diving headfirst into the profession.

The exchange that followed was unquestionably one of the better press conference moments you will ever see. In fact, let’s just allow 12-year-olds to ask the questions moving forward. Cool? Cool.

 

For the Highlight Reel

Canaan Severin’s touchdown grab was an acrobatic thing of beauty. In fact, at first glance it didn’t even seem real. It all looked far too easy.

As it turns out, it was very much real. And the 23-yard catch against Miami helped the Cavaliers take down Miami at home.

You will now spend the next few minutes watching this, wondering how exactly it came together. The call from the magnificent Joe Tessitore also helped make the moment.

 

If the College Football Playoff Started Today...(or Why I Hate Your Team)

Let’s be honest; we didn’t learn much last week. FCS games and overall scheduling mediocrity provided very little in terms of playoff shakeups. That will likely change this week with so many meaningful games on the horizon, although it didn’t do much to my particular playoff picture.

Here is my top four; please express your outrage accordingly by throwing all rotten vegetables in your possession. Don't loft them, either.

1. Oregon

2. Alabama

3. Florida State

4. Mississippi State

 

 

Five Leftovers to Chew on

1. It should be mandatory that all teams playing in rivalry games wear their home uniforms. I cannot stress this enough. Watching UCLA and USC play one another in beautiful HD—each in their home threads—has become one of my favorite football sights of the year.

Although the game itself turned rather “meh” quickly, you were still able to sit back and marvel at the cosmetic beauty. Other teams take note; you should really be doing the same.

2. Gary Pinkel is quietly approaching wizard status as a head coach. Are the Tigers the best team in the country? Of course not. But when you look at the past two seasons and what Pinkel’s teams have been able to accomplish—especially given the immense amount of talent that left campus this past offseason—you start to appreciate the job he’s done.

I’m not sure he’d ever want to leave his current spot for another job, but I’m shocked he doesn’t get more looks from major programs.

3. It has become abundantly clear over the course of the season, even until this past Saturday, that I have severely underrated Arizona. I assumed that at some point the tires would fall off in somewhat spectacular fashion and that the Wildcats would regress to the expected average. That hasn’t happened. In fact, following Arizona’s 42-10 blowout victory over Utah on the road, the exact opposite has occurred.

Be sure to make next week’s Arizona-Arizona State game required viewing. There are a lot of matchups you do not want to miss. This is one of them.

4. Are we still somehow underrating Marcus Mariota? That seems like a strange question given the Heisman and NFL draft buzz that has started to bubble over, although I can’t help but wonder if we’re not truly appreciating just how fabulous Oregon’s quarterback has been over the past few years.

When you stack up his production to some of the great quarterbacks in recent memory, however, you start to see just how rare this kind of career dominance truly is. Enjoy him while you can. Craig Pintens of GoDucks.com shared Mariota's impressive TD/INT comparison:

Marcus Mariota has incredible career 95:12 TD/INT ratio. Notable comparisons below #GoDuckspic.twitter.com/h90uk5wz7u

— Craig Pintens (@UOPintens) November 23, 2014

5. With a win next over UConn next Saturday, Memphis will complete the flip. The Tigers will have gone from 3-9 to 9-3 in just one calendar year. A victory here would also give the Tigers the American Athletic Conference Championship, which is remarkable. That sound you hear in the distance is the Brinks truck backing up to Justin Fuente’s front lawn. This man is about to paid (and deservingly so).

 

Large Man Play of the Week

Connor Kruse, a fifth-year senior at Michigan State, provided the most thrilling one-yard run you will see all year.

What could possibly be so exciting about a one-yard run, you ask? Well, Kruse just so happens to be a 325-pound offensive lineman who was given a carry on an end-around. It was as amazing as it sounds, although you've sprinted to the highlight long ago.

The play was originally designed for Travis Jackson, although he suffered an injury early in the game. That meant it was up to Kruse to fill in, despite not having practiced this once throughout the week, and the end result was football magic.

 

Elusive Special Teams Save of the Week

Yale punter Bryan Holmes was close to being destroyed. With Harvard players barreling down, however, Holmes deceptively offered up a fake punt—not the one you’re accustomed to reading about, but an actual fake—before tucking the ball and sneaking off a quality 46-yard punt.

Don't ever let anyone tell you that punters can't make highlights. They are people, too.

 

Amazing Screen Grab of the Week

When is it appropriate to celebrate a 0-0 game heading into overtime? Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer gave us the answer following Wake Forest’s missed field goal as time expired.

The Demon Deacons, of course, proceeded to win in extra time, and the end result is one of the saddest frozen moments of 2014. Put it on a calendar. Deadspin's Timothy Burke captured the moment:

THIS IS NOTHING TO CELEBRATE, FRANK BEAMER pic.twitter.com/2sqjAJAZ2C

— Timothy Burke (@bubbaprog) November 22, 2014

 

This Week in Excessive Eye Black

UCLA, consider this your eye-black intervention. I understand that this plan worked for you and you just beat your rival, but why don't you have a seat and we can talk this out. Detroit Jock City's Nate Williams and Pac-12 Networks' JB Long chimed in on the subject:

Will someone please take the eyeblack away from UCLA?! pic.twitter.com/5IHONCa9rg

— Nate Williams (@NateWilliamsFS) November 23, 2014

Here are my exclusive college football punter eyeblack power rankings: 1) pic.twitter.com/NZpzsmvdvb

— JB Long (@JB_Long) November 23, 2014

 

Terrifying (But Fantastic) Fan of the Week

Have you ever had nightmares about corn monsters? You have?

If so, please skip past this Nebraska fan who probably cares more than one should.

 

That One Time Tim Tebow Made Someone Cry Tears of Joy with a Cake

The headline really does say it all. Here are cake tears.

 

From the Peanut Gallery (Best Tweets of the Weekend)

UVA is owning us today... pic.twitter.com/n4Adwid19l

— Geoff Perrott (@TheTurkeyTavern) November 23, 2014

Straight up, we found this abandoned poster at Gameday. pic.twitter.com/nXGLdeH3BG

— Jane Coaston (@cjane87) November 22, 2014

Harvard kicker is so Harvard it hurts pic.twitter.com/ja8RCPxVWb

— Thad Castle (@ThadCastIe_) November 23, 2014

 

 

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DaVonte Lambert Injury: Updates on Auburn Star's Leg and Return

When Auburn takes on Alabama in the Iron Bowl on Saturday, the Tigers could be without one of their best defensive players.

According to Phillip Marshall of Auburn Undercover, DaVonte Lambert injured his leg in Auburn's win over Samford.

"He's probably out this week," said Auburn's defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson. "We don't know for sure."

Lambert leads the Tigers with 3.5 sacks and has seven tackles for loss. Defense has been a problem for Auburn for most of the season, and the absence of the junior defensive lineman won't help matters against the explosive Alabama offense.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Rankings 2014: Playoff Projections Ahead of Week 14 Release

Florida State was the only team in the latest edition of the College Football Playoff rankings that had any trouble winning this past weekend.

However, the Seminoles' standing in the postseason picture should be intact since they are still without a loss. Absent of any other massive upsets at the top, Tuesday's release of the Week 14 rankings shouldn't deviate from the prior established hierarchy.

While the top three spots should be solidified, there is a little more debate to go around thanks to a number of viable candidates in the running for the fourth and final spot.

Here is a closer look at the top projected teams that will occupy the first four slots in the Week 14 standings.

 

1. Alabama

Western Carolina did hang with the Crimson Tide for a time. When star Alabama receiver Amari Cooper exited with a knee injury, there was even further cause for alarm.

But the temporary red flags were little to worry about, as the Tide rallied in Tuscaloosa for a 48-14 triumph, able to rack up points against their inferior foe even without Cooper in the lineup.

The win won't earn Alabama any style points with the selection committee, but it was a deserved break following two great SEC victories at LSU in overtime and over prior No. 1 Mississippi State. As much as football is a team sport, this analysis from Bleacher Report's Matt Miller helps Alabama's case:

Since Cooper suffered a mere bruised knee, there's no need to panic or knock the Tide down a peg in the new rankings.

Alabama coach Nick Saban often sets out to prove that defense wins championships—and often succeeds in doing so. Conceding just 14.5 points per game ranks second nationally, and doing so in the SEC makes this year's team yet another Tuscaloosa juggernaut.

Even with non-elite quarterback play in the past, the Tide have found a way to win national championships. Fifth-year senior Blake Sims is doing enough to run the offense by dishing it to Cooper and also making plays with his legs to keep Alabama on course for the College Football Playoff's No. 1 seed.

 

2. Oregon

Quality wins over Michigan State and UCLA are looking better by the week, particularly since the Bruins are so esteemed in the selection committee's eyes.

An improving Ducks defense is doing a better job complementing the uptempo Oregon offense that's triggered by Heisman Trophy front-runner Marcus Mariota.

The dual-threat signal-caller made sure his team was up for an easy matchup with Colorado off a bye week, accounting for four total touchdowns in a 44-10 victory. ESPN's College GameDay accentuated Mariota's massive impact:

As long as Mariota keeps playing at such a high level, Oregon is going to be in the national title hunt.

A road trip to Oregon State should give the Ducks another quality victory against a rival considering the Beavers, though inconsistent, recently upset Arizona State and lost to Utah earlier in the year in overtime.

Then comes the Pac-12 title game, where Oregon could ascend to No. 1 in the rankings depending on what happens. Either way, the Ducks seem like a mortal lock for the Top Four.

 

3. Florida State

All the Seminoles do is win football games. For the 27th straight time, FSU came out on the proper end of Saturday's hard-fought ACC win over Boston College, 20-17.

Perhaps the best sign from that game came from reigning Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston, who looked as good passing the ball as he had all year in rainy conditions. Pro Football Focus' Steve Palazzolo offered the specifics:

Winston has to keep taking care of the football to keep the Seminoles' dreams of repeating as national champions alive.

ESPN Stats & Info points out just how tough Florida State has been when it matters most:

A rivalry clash with the Florida Gators is next, followed by the ACC Championship Game against a triple-option Georgia Tech offense. The Yellow Jackets run the ball as much as BC did and could control time of possession to try and bring an abrupt end to FSU's playoff hopes.

Critics—and perhaps even the committee—will continue to disparage the lack of quality wins and dominance the Seminoles have shown. They can't knock FSU out of the first four unless the reigning champions lose, though.

 

4. Mississippi State

Dak Prescott's Heisman campaign came to a halt in Tuscaloosa, but the dynamic playmaker had four touchdowns in one half of the Bulldogs' 51-0 shutout of Vanderbilt this last Saturday.

The Ole Miss Rebels, who are the only team this year to defeat Alabama, loom as the Bulldogs' big hurdle in Week 14—and the Egg Bowl rivalry clash is in Oxford.

Will Brinson of CBSSports.com observes how oddsmakers are projecting a tight clash in the all-Mississippi regular-season finale:

And it should be a close one, but if the Bulldogs truly have taken the next step and risen among college football's elite, they will take care of business on the road at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.

A defense led by star linebacker Benardrick McKinney should help Mississippi State, yet the young Rebels have an extremely talented unit of their own. In a game that should boil down to the most important position, Prescott gives the Bulldogs a considerable edge.

The ankle injury to Ole Miss senior QB Bo Wallace impacted him and led to six turnovers in last week's 30-0 loss at Arkansas. It's hard to imagine that even the incentive of a rivalry game will spark the Rebels to a monumental upset, which will culminate in rare stability atop NCAA football.

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Boise State Football: With Harsin at the Helm, Broncos Peaking at Right Time

In the middle of the second quarter in Boise State’s game against Wyoming, any viewers still awake saw the Broncos pull off a perfectly executed Statue of Liberty play. Quarterback Grant Hedrick dropped back and faked a pass to the right, but he handed the ball with his off hand to Jay Ajayi, who was running to the left. Ajayi dashed 20 yards to the end zone, and Boise State was able to extend its lead to 28-7.

That type of play brought back memories of what made Boise State famous. Arguably the most memorable play in Boise State football history also came on that Statue of Liberty play. It occurred in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl on the two-point conversion that finished off the incredible upset of Oklahoma.

When Chris Petersen accepted the Washington head coaching position last December, the Boise State program could have easily lost its edge. However, with Bryan Harsin now calling the shots, the opposite has happened.

Harsin, who played quarterback at Boise State from 1995-1999 and was on the Bronco coaching staff from 2001-2010, has reinvigorated a team that seemed to digress toward the end of Petersen’s tenure. The Broncos lost four games in 2013, which amounted to one-third of Petersen’s total losses in his eight seasons at Boise.

This year’s Boise State team looks very formidable—one that a power conference team would not like to face in a bowl game. The Broncos are loaded with weapons on the offensive side of the ball, and Harsin has made sure that creativity and trickery remain BSU staples.

Senior Grant Hedrick has blossomed into a lethal dual-threat quarterback, passing for 20 touchdowns and rushing for six more so far this season. He ranks 10th in the nation in passer rating, according to ESPN.com, and has continued to improve throughout the year.

However, Hedrick has greatly benefited from the presence of Jay Ajayi. Ajayi leads the nation with a whopping 276 carries and forces defenses to put more people in the box to stop the run, allowing Hedrick plenty of space to operate his aerial attack. Ajayi has also been an integral part of the passing game, recording the third-most catches on the team and four touchdowns.

In the third quarter of the Broncos' 63-14 romp of Wyoming on Saturday, Ajayi caught a screen pass and raced 73 yards for a touchdown. With that terrific catch-and-run, Ajayi set the school record for yards from scrimmage in a single season.

A receiving corps consisting of Shane Williams-Rhodes, Thomas Sperbeck and Chaz Anderson has responded admirably since star wide receiver Matt Miller was lost for the season with an ankle injury. Williams-Rhodes leads the team in catches, Sperbeck leads the team in receiving yards and Anderson leads in yards per catch.

The defense has struggled mightily at times, but the offense has been good enough to bail the team out in most games. The Broncos sit at 9-2 on the season and are one win away from the Mountain West Conference championship game. Should they win out, the Broncos have a solid chance of sneaking into a top-tier bowl.

In ESPN.com’s most recent bowl projections, both Mark Schlabach and Brett McMurphy picked Boise State to play UCLA in the VIZIO Fiesta Bowl. Also, the Broncos worked their way into the AP Top 25 for the first time in 2014. It marks the 13th consecutive season that Boise State has been ranked in the AP or coaches poll at least once in a season.

This year’s team is not quite as dominant as the Broncos were in Petersen’s prime—when Kellen Moore was handing off to Doug Martin and throwing to Austin Pettis and Titus Young—but it is playing remarkably better than it did the past two seasons.

And Harsin deserves a ton of credit for the transformation. He has made the offense more efficient and productive while at the same time keeping the Boise State edge that Petersen developed.

The Broncos have not cracked either of the first two of the College Football Playoff rankings, but with their recent impressive play, that may change on Tuesday when the new polls will be released.

BSU lost its season opener to an Ole Miss squad that was in the playoff conversation until this weekend and then got outplayed by Air Force four weeks later, losing 28-14. In that game, the Broncos turned the ball over seven times, including four Hedrick interceptions. Since then, though, they have won six straight games, averaging more than 50 points per game, and Hedrick has thrown only four interceptions.

They are playing their best football in three years, peaking at just the right time, and if they are picked to play in a premier bowl, they will be a tough matchup for whomever they play. They might not be as talented as their opponent, but that has never intimidated them before.

If it’s a close game at the end, the Broncos have shown they have a knack for an exciting finish. Whether it’s the hook-and-ladder, Statue of Liberty or another trick play, Harsin will not be afraid to pull the trigger.

Watch out for the Broncos—not only this year, but in the future—because Bryan Harsin has picked up right where Petersen left off.

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FCS Playoffs 2014: Postseason Schedule, Bracket and Championship Predictions

In the FCS, 24 teams earned the right to compete in the postseason. All of them have a shot at winning the national championship. If you ask a lot of college football fans, they would probably say the FBS could learn a thing or two from this structure.

As it is, the FCS has the most definitive postseason format, and that's part of what makes its playoffs so intriguing. Add in some legendary coaches, programs and great players, and this is the perfect complement to the bigger-budget FBS bowl games.

The action starts on Nov. 29. The top eight seeds get first-round byes, but the other 16 battle it out for the right to advance to the second round on Dec. 6.

Here's a look at the matchups for the first two weeks of play as well as the viewing information for each game.

First round, Nov. 29

  • Fordham vs. Sacred Heart, 12 p.m., ESPN3
  • Eastern Kentucky vs. Indiana State, 1 p.m., ESPN3
  • Richmond vs. Morgan State, 1 p.m., ESPN3
  • Sam Houston State vs. Southeastern Louisiana, 2 p.m., ESPN3
  • Montana vs. San Diego, 4 p.m., ESPN3
  • James Madison vs. Liberty, 4 p.m., ESPN3
  • Montana State vs. South Dakota State, 4 p.m., ESPN3
  • Northern Iowa vs. Stephen F. Austin, 8 p.m., ESPN3

Second round, Dec. 6

  • No. 1 New Hampshire vs. Fordham/Sacred Heart, 1 p.m., ESPN3
  • No. 8 Chattanooga vs. Eastern Kentucky/Indiana State, 1 p.m., ESPN3
  • No. 5 Illinois State vs. Northern Iowa/Stephen F. Austin, 2 p.m., ESPN3
  • No. 4 Eastern Washington vs. Montana/San Diego, 4:30 p.m., ESPN3
  • No.3 Jacksonville State vs. Sam Houston State/Southeastern Louisiana, 2 p.m., ESPN3
  • No. 6 Villanova vs. James Madison/Liberty, 4:30 p.m., ESPN3
  • No. 7 Coastal Carolina vs. Richmond/Morgan State, 1 p.m., ESPN3
  • No. 2 North Dakota State vs. Montana State/South Dakota State, 4 p.m., ESPN3

The quarterfinals will take place on Dec. 12-13. The following weekend, the semifinals will determine the final two squads.

The FCS championship will be played on Jan. 10. Which two teams will be playing in the final game?

 

Sleeper Team - James Madison Dukes

Heading into Saturday's first-round battle against Liberty, the Dukes are on an eight-game winning streak since losing back-to-back games to Villanova and Delaware.

A diverse and effective running game makes the Dukes a formidable squad. Jauan Latney has run for 573 yards and six touchdowns this season. The team also features Khalid Abdullah, who has gone for 521 yards and three scores.

The Dukes have won one national championship, and that came 10 years ago. As a team seeded outside of the top eight, the odds are not in James Madison's favor, but it still could make some noise early.

 

Favorite - New Hampshire Wildcats

No FCS team could handle the Wildcats this year. They lost to the Toledo Rockets in the season opener, but the Wildcats went largely unchallenged by teams in their class.

The regular-season finale did bring about a close call against the Maine Black Bears. A strong defensive stand helped to offset six turnovers by the Wildcats offense.

Needless to say, quarterback Sean Goldrich—who threw three interceptions—will have to take better care of the football in the playoffs to make good on their status as the top seed.

 

Championship Game Prediction - New Hampshire vs. North Dakota State

Despite their struggles in the regular-season finale, the Wildcats will regain their form in the postseason. The team's defense hasn't allowed 20 points to an opponent in three weeks.

Having that unit to fall back on will prove to be invaluable. 

Opposing them should be No. 2 seed and 11-time national champion North Dakota State Bison. The Bison are 11-1, with their only blemish coming on the road against Northern Iowa on Nov. 8.

Dual-threat quarterback Carson Wentz had 246 yards of total offense in the regular-season finale against the Youngstown State Penguins. His leadership and the experience of the players who were on last year's championship team should drive the Bison back to the title game.

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Mississippi State Player Spazzes out on Sideline vs. Vanderbilt

The Mississippi State sideline was hyped during Saturday's game against Vanderbilt. The raucous atmosphere is best summed up by the clip above.

He wasn't the only player having a good time, however.

The Bulldogs' matchup against the Commodores marked the last home game for this senior class, and with a 51-0 victory, there were plenty of reasons for the sideline to be going crazy.

[Vine]

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How Alabama's Amari Cooper Can Still Win the Heisman Trophy

A wide receiver legitimately contending for the Heisman Trophy seems more like fiction than reality, but if there's any receiver who deserves to be in that conversation this year, it's Alabama junior Amari Cooper.

The 6'1", 210-pound junior from Miami has 90 catches for 1,349 yards and 11 touchdowns this season, with 46 of those yards coming on three catches in the 48-14 tune-up win over Western Carolina on Saturday. His 3,085 career receiving yards are an Alabama record, and those three catches bring him to 194 for his career—tied with D.J. Hall for the most in program history.

He left the game Saturday with a bruised knee, but head coach Nick Saban said that his absence was just a precaution.

"Coop just has a bruised knee," Saban said in quotes emailed by Alabama. "He could’ve gone back in the game and played—we don’t have a problem with him."

That's good, because standing in the way of Alabama and the SEC West title is an Auburn team that has a pass defense that would struggle to cover an average junior high squad. That game will have the eyeballs of the nation on it, as ESPN's College GameDay will be in Tuscaloosa as the Tide look to avenge last season's heartbreaking loss on the "Kick Six."

Cooper is already receiving a considerable amount of Heisman love. He was out of the B/R top five this week, but he has bounced in and out throughout the season. In Athlon Sports' weekly survey, Cooper chimed in at the No. 3 spot following Week 12 and will surely be in the discussion this week.

What needs to happen for Cooper to get to New York?

If he can exploit the holes in the Auburn secondary in the Iron Bowl with the world watching, it will set him up for a late-season charge that could land him in New York City as a Heisman finalist, just as former Auburn running back Tre Mason did down the stretch last season.

This is an Auburn pass defense that's giving up 232.5 yards per game through the air and has given up 280.2 per game over its last five SEC contests. It's ripe for the picking, and a big performance from Cooper—who has 997 of his receiving yards in the first halves of games—could put Auburn away early and earn Cooper a ticket to the Big Apple.

From there, a strong performance against either Missouri or Georgia in the SEC Championship Game might earn him some late first-place votes. It would be even better for Cooper's Heisman case if it's the Bulldogs in the Georgia Dome.

Very quietly, Georgia has produced the SEC's second-best pass defense (167.0 YPG)—only three yards behind first-place LSU. That's a remarkable turnaround from last year's squad, which gave up 227.4 yards per game through the air and was more of a punchline than a pass defense power. On top of that, a showdown with Georgia—which chimed in at the No. 8 spot this week in the AP poll—would certainly resonate more across the country than a matchup with No. 17 Missouri.

Cooper has already made his case to be the "MVP" of college football this season. Nobody expected Blake Sims to be the starting quarterback in Lane Kiffin's first season as offensive coordinator. Cooper's ability to provide security for Sims and Kiffin early is a big reason why the Tide offense has evolved into a multidimensional force.

He's going to need help to win the Heisman, though. 

Only two non-quarterbacks have won it since 2000, Reggie Bush in 2005 and Mark Ingram in 2009, and Bush returned his after the NCAA came calling.

For Cooper to have a chance, Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota—the clear front-runner—needs to lose one of his final two games either at Oregon State or vs. the Pac-12 South champ in the conference title game. More specifically, the Ducks need to lose because of uncharacteristic mistakes from Mariota himself.

That'd clear the quarterback front-runner out of the way and open the field to contenders like Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon, TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin, Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett, Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty and others. 

Gordon has done tremendous work—especially lately—but a star wide receiver putting his team on his back in the two biggest games of the year to solidify a playoff spot would be hard for voters to ignore.

Cooper is on the periphery now, and if Mariota stumbles, he's in the perfect spot with the perfect stages to kick down the Heisman door.

 

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

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

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