NCAA Football News

College Football Rankings 2014: Top 25 Teams with Most to Gain in Week 13

Since the first College Football Playoff rankings were released, the Top Four has been constantly revolving.

With Alabama, Oregon, Florida State and Mississippi State all up against relatively easy opponents Saturday, though, that pattern should change for at least a week.

Still, although there isn't expected to be another major shakeup at the top, there are a couple of teams lurking further down in the rankings with excellent opportunities to earn a major rise.

Let's take a look.

 

No. 9 UCLA (and No. 15 Arizona)

Not long ago, the Bruins' season looked on the brink of destruction. In what turned out to be a fairly brutal month of October, they lost at home to Utah and Oregon and barely slipped past California and Colorado.

But Jim Mora's team is finally living up to the preseason expectations. It held Arizona's high-powered attack to seven points and then went into Washington and hung 44 on a team with several potential first-round picks on defense.

"If you were going to do a graph with us, it would be pretty jagged," Mora said (via ESPN.com's Ted Miller). "But it was always trending upward, even when it didn't seem like it."

Suddenly, the Bruins are at No. 9, and even with two defeats, they are not fully out of the national championship picture. But they'll need an impressive performance Saturday against No. 19 USC to stay there.

Fortunately for the Bruins, the selection committee has proven to be favorable to the Pac-12. With one loss, Oregon is ahead of undefeated Florida State and also ahead of Mississippi State, whose only loss is to No. 1 Alabama. Moreover, Arizona State climbed as high as No. 6.

A victory for the Bruins here could help surpass a few teams that have cupcakes on the schedule, as the Los Angeles Times' Chris Dufresne noted:

Perhaps more importantly, a win puts them in excellent position to win the South, an absolute must if they are going to have a chance at cracking the Top Four.

For many of the same reasons, No. 15 Arizona (up against No. 17 Utah) is in a similar position. However, the Wildcats are going to need a little more help. They also have two losses, but one of those came against UCLA.

Still, a Top 25 win would be massive for Arizona, which has struggled since its huge road win at Oregon in October.

 

No. 16 Wisconsin

If you missed out on Melvin Gordon's record-breaking day against Nebraska last week, don't worry. I've tracked down the highlights:

There's no way that doesn't impress the committee.

Unfortunately, thanks to a loss against Northwestern earlier in the season, it's difficult to imagine Wisconsin finding a way to crack the College Football Playoff. But the remaining schedule is going to give the Badgers a chance to get close.

They would obviously need to win out, finishing the season 11-2 with a win in the Big Ten Championship Game over (most likely) fringe playoff squad Ohio State. At that point, it would simply come down to how the committee views an ugly loss in early October vs. a red-hot final two months, as The New York Times' Marc Tracy explained:

The Badgers have played only two ranked opponents, and one of them—No. 17 Louisiana State—defeated them. Wisconsin's other loss was to unranked Northwestern. A weaker schedule could also taint Wisconsin's status as the Football Bowl Subdivision's top defense, allowing 244 yards per game.

But if the committee instead notes that Wisconsin has not lost in six weeks—a longer streak than 14 of the 19 teams ahead of it—and just put up 59 points against a top-20 defense, then the Badgers will be in the mix.

It's an interesting debate, but first things first. Wisconsin must beat Iowa convincingly.

The Hawkeyes may not be ranked, but they are 4-2 in the Big Ten, and they'll be at home. A win would certainly stand as one of the Badgers' best of the season and maintain their crucial image as one of the hottest teams in America.

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Nebraska Football: Best Bowl Game Options for the Huskers

Before Nebraska lost to Wisconsin in Madison on Saturday, the sky truly felt like the limit. It was, too. The Huskers still had a shot at the Big Ten conference title and the playoffs weren't significantly out of reach. That has all changed since.

What can the Huskers expect now, especially when it comes to a bowl game? And what are the best options for Nebraska?

Jerry Palm of CBSSports.com is now predicting the Huskers will travel to the Holiday Bowl to face UCLA on Dec. 27. If this prediction pans out, it's definitely not the most ideal one for Nebraska. With San Diego so close to UCLA, turnout could be an issue. Nebraska fans travel well, but proximity can still be problematic.

Plus, this would be head coach Bo Pelini's third trip to the Holiday Bowl in his time with Nebraska. He made the trip in 2009 and 2010, with a win during the first visit and a loss during the second.

Another Holiday Bowl just might not give Nebraska fans the incentive needed to travel.

And then there's the fact that the last two times Nebraska faced UCLA, the Bruins won. In both 2012 and 2013, UCLA defeated the Huskers both at home and on the road. Once again, that likely doesn't give fans any excitement for a possible rematch between the two.

Another potential bowl game could be the Outback Bowl. ESPN.com's Mark Schlabach and Brett McMurphy both projected Nebraska to Tampa Bay, Fla., but both selected different opponents. Schlabach predicted Missouri, while McMurphy predicted Auburn.

Neither Tiger team would be an excellent matchup for Nebraska. However, facing Missouri may draw fans that are nostalgic for the former Big Eight and Big 12.

An added benefit is that Nebraska isn't that far removed from playing Missouri, which could definitely make things interesting.

Schlabach isn't the only one thinking this matchup could happen. Phil Steele thinks the same. Looking at the potential opponents and destinations, it seems to be the best option for Nebraska.

After all, the history between Nebraska and Missouri would be enough to get fans to travel. The two programs could even put the Victory Bell up for grabs once again, which has been with Nebraska since 2010 when the two last met.

Missouri wouldn't be an easy win for the Huskers. With that said, there's reason to believe Nebraska could get the victory because the Tigers have shown they can be a bit inconsistent at times.

"There’s a lot to really admire about what they’ve been able to accomplish," ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch about Missouri. "But they’ve been a very inconsistent team and a difficult team to get a handle on."

To be fair, Nebraska hasn't exactly been the most consistent either. However, Missouri also sharing that issue could make for an interesting matchup if it panned out.

There's still plenty of time before the bowl games are announced and a lot can absolutely change between now and then. If Nebraska had a choice, though, the Outback Bowl versus Missouri would be a pretty good outcome.

If nothing else, it would be nostalgia at its finest.

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The Most Important Wisconsin Badgers Players for the Rest of the Year

After five games, the Wisconsin Badgers looked to be in trouble.  Staring down a 3-2 record with an 0-1 record in Big Ten play, the Badgers were at a breaking point.  In the crowded Big Ten West, another loss or two would keep them out of the Big Ten title game, but win out and they would be in.

Five games later, the Badgers sit at 8-2 overall with a 5-1 record in Big Ten play, good for sole possession of first place in the Big Ten West, a game ahead of Nebraska, Iowa and Minnesota.  With the tiebreaker over Nebraska and remaining games against Iowa and Minnesota, the ball is in the Badgers' court.

To get to this point, they couldn't have done it without the contributions from these five players, two on the offensive side of the ball and three on the defensive.  Special consideration also goes out to true freshman kicker Rafael Gaglianone, who has provided much-needed stability in the kicking game.

Instead of ranking these players in terms of importance, we'll just go straight down the depth chart as we look at the five most important players for the team.  To begin, let's start under center with the return of No. 2, Joel Stave.

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FSU to Receive $3.5 Million for 2016 Game vs. Ole Miss

Wednesday afternoon, Florida State and Ole Miss announced a mega season-opening clash for the 2016 season. Brendan Sonnone of the Orlando Sentinel did some digging and found out how much ESPN will pay the Seminoles to broadcast the game.

Turns out, a whole heck of a lot.    

Sonnone uncovered that Florida State will earn $3.5 million for the contest, which will take place Sept. 5, 2016, at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando. There was no word on how much Ole Miss will receive, though it's very likely the Rebels will receive a similar amount based on historical precedent. Kevin McGuire of College Football Talk noted Alabama and West Virginia split a $6.4 million pot to open their 2014 campaign against one another.

“We’re excited to bring regular season neutral-site college football games back to the Citrus Bowl and establish Orlando as a major kickoff destination for the future,” Florida Citrus Sports CEO Steve Hogan said in a statement. “Florida State and Ole Miss will undoubtedly be a game worthy of national attention and we can’t wait to welcome fans from Tallahassee and Oxford to Central Florida to start the 2016 season.”

Florida State and Ole Miss have spent most of the 2014 college football season competing on the national championship stage. The Rebels were considered a playoff shoo-in before losing consecutive games to LSU and Auburn. The Seminoles, who boast a 26-game winning streak, are yet to drop a game despite a handful of close calls.

The last couple seasons have been a culmination of a wide-scale rebuild for both programs. Jimbo Fisher took over for Bobby Bowden in 2010, inheriting a proud program that was standing on creaky legs. Four double-digit-win seasons later and the Seminoles are either the nation's best or second-best program, matched in talent by only Alabama.

Hugh Freeze took over an even more dire situation from Houston Nutt in 2012 but rebuilt quickly with a deft recruiting hand. The Rebels, despite going 2-10 the year before Freeze's arrival, have been above .500 in each of his three campaigns. They are currently the nation's top-ranked two-loss team at No. 8.

"Kicking off 2016 with Monday night football is a big thrill for our program, and this is a great game on many levels," Ole Miss athletics director Ross Bjork said in a statement. "Florida State is one of the traditional powerhouses of college football, and with the evolution of the college football playoff, matchups that provide a boost to our strength of schedule are a priority for us."

Of course, stretching beyond the strength of schedule factor, it's never too bad to line the athletic department's pocket with a major payday. The 2016 meeting will be the second time in history Ole Miss and Florida State have met. Based on the financials, it doesn't seem like anyone will walk away from the Citrus Bowl a loser.

 

Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter

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UCLA Controls Its Destiny but Must Contain Rival USC

WESTWOOD, Calif. — UCLA football is in an enviable position heading into the final two weeks of the 2014 regular season: out front of the five-team race in the Pac-12 South and in control of its conference championship destiny.

"I think right now we're playing our best football," wide receiver Jordan Payton said a week ago. "It feels good to be where we're at."  

And that was before the No. 9 Bruins had a clear path to Levi's Stadium, site of the Pac-12 Championship Game.

UCLA got the help it needed last Saturday when Oregon State rallied to upset Arizona State. By virtue of their head-to-head win over the Sun Devils, as well as fellow two-loss team Arizona, the Bruins hold all the necessary tiebreakers—contingent on them winning the next two, that is.

Easier said than done. Coming into the Rose Bowl Saturday is No. 19 USC, one of those other four teams still running the divisional race and ranked in the College Football Playoff's latest standings.

The Trojans broke into the rankings for the first time after two wins that demonstrated their diversity on both sides of the ball.

And it's that "extremely diverse" style, as UCLA defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich described it, that makes USC a difficult team for which to game-plan.

UCLA offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone broke from what he deemed "coach-speak day" following Wednesday's practice at Spaulding Field to theorize on USC's multifaceted defensive style.

"Still waiting to figure it out," he said. "I've known [USC's] Justin [Wilcox] for a while, and he's a really good [defensive] coordinator. Always comes up with a good game plan."

Heading into last week's matchup with Cal, much was made of the Trojans' hesitance to blitz. USC came into that game ranked last among power-conference teams in blitz plays but brought heavy pressure on Cal quarterback Jared Goff.

USC head coach Steve Sarkisian said on his conference call Friday that continuing to rush UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley would be an emphasis this week, but there's no clear pattern suggesting how the Trojans intend to do so.

Ulbrich faces a similar question mark while strategizing for USC's offense.

“The best of the pro-style stuff we’ve seen and the best of the spread [offense] stuff we’ve seen,” Ulbrich said. “We haven’t seen [an offense like USC’s]. I don’t know if it exists anywhere else. It’s the melding of minds over there…and they’re grabbing the best of both.”

Sarkisian introduced no-huddle play-calling to the Trojans’ traditional pro set offense and has tinkered with a variety of looks.

USC has relied heavily at times on the rush, with Pac-12-leading ball-carrier Javorius “Buck” Allen setting the pace at 118.4 yards per game.

But in its last two outings, USC quarterback Cody Kessler has thrown for 771 yards and nine touchdowns combined.

“He can get to his first, second and third read, which in college football, you don’t see every week,” Ulbrich said of Kessler. “And his third [receiving option], unlike most offenses, is a real [threat].”

In recent weeks, the third option for Kessler has been George Farmer, who has a touchdown catch in each of the last two games. But No. 1 target Nelson Agholor comes into Saturday’s affair with consecutive games of more than 200 yards receiving, a feat no other player in USC history has accomplished.

Indeed, USC is a team that can change its look from week-to-week. But UCLA can make a similar claim—and that’s the reason the Bruins are two wins from winning the hotly contested division.

To get this point that Payton described as feeling good, the Bruins overcame the disappointment of losing two straight in October.

Others may have hit the panic button, but UCLA rallied around head coach Jim Mora and his staff’s message of improving every week.

And while this Saturday’s contest is unique in any number of ways—it’s a quality opponent, a championship is at stake and, oh yeah, it’s a rivalry—the Bruins are not straying off the pace that got them out in front.

"We've had two good days of practice, and we've got a couple more days to clean some things up," Mazzone said. "Try to get a little better this week than we were last week."
 

Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise cited. Statistics courtesy of CFBstats.com.

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Big 12 Football: How Texas and Oklahoma Lost Control of the Big 12

For years, it seemed as though the Red River Showdown was a de facto Big 12 title game. The winner often gained the inside track to a conference championship and was almost assured a spot in a BCS bowl.

Now, in the new era of the College Football Playoff, one of the sport's biggest matchups is an exercise in futility.

The Texas Longhorns, long thought to be the kingpin of the Big 12 and still the biggest spenders in college athletics at $146 million (per USA Today), are among the bottom-feeders of the Big 12.

Stefan Scrafield of the Dallas Morning News ran a headline proclaiming that the Longhorns didn't give up simply to gain bowl eligibility this year.

As for the Sooners, they've fared a little better but have fallen short of elite-status expectations for the better part of the decade. They have just two Big 12 titles in the last six seasons including this one—2010 and 2012.

The 2010 title sent Oklahoma to the Fiesta Bowl, where it thrashed the UConn Huskies 48-20, but 2012's was split with Kansas State—a team it lost to at home and therefore caused it to miss a bid to a BCS bowl. The Sooners later got demolished by Texas A&M in the Aggies' first season in the SEC in the Cotton Bowl.

In 2014, the Sooners were picked as the preseason conference favorites.

But after three conference losses—two at home—to TCU, Kansas State and an embarrassment to Baylor, Bob Stoops and Co. are now not only all but out of the hunt for a conference title, but they may miss out on a prime-time bowl altogether.

The Longhorns and Sooners have stepped down from the podium of the Big 12 and given way to Baylor, Kansas State and now TCU—all of which will likely lay claim to at least a share of the last three conference titles.

How did it happen?

How did two athletic programs that spend a nearly combined $250 million annually fall behind the Bears, Horned Frogs and Wildcats—the latter of which spends just over $59 million? Baylor and TCU, both private schools, do not release their athletic department budgets.

Well, coaching is a big part of it.

Mack Brown, the former Texas head coach, played the role of executioner in Austin as he was unable to convince the Lone Star State's biggest recruits to rock burnt orange.

For the Longhorns, it was most apparent at the quarterback position. While Texas struggled to replace Colt McCoy with David Ash and McCoy's younger brother Case, Baylor snatched up Robert Griffin III. He won a Heisman Trophy.

Texas A&M poached Johnny Manziel. He, too, left New York City as a Heisman winner—the first ever freshman to win the award.

At Oklahoma, Stoops has failed to beat his mentor, Bill Snyder, in Gaylord Memorial Stadium in each of the last two tries. He's also struggling to find a quarterback, as Trevor Knight's inconsistency issues have reared their ugly head in 2014.

Making the most out of talent is what coaching is all about. Nobody is better at that than Snyder, who rarely has recruiting classes that crack the top 50 but always seems to compete amongst the elite.

Art Briles at Baylor has been the architect of a similar turnaround. The Bears are defending champions and have a strong case for being ranked ahead of TCU in the playoff rankings.

In 2011, the Longhorns had the No. 4 recruiting class in the nation. Oklahoma was ranked 13th that year.

This season, those in that class who didn't redshirt are seniors. Here's how they've fared by year:

Obviously, Oklahoma has had far more success. Stoops is a better coach than Brown was—there's no doubt about that.

But the record against Top 25 teams is alarming. The only season in which either of the two squads didn't suffer multiple losses against ranked teams was last year's Oklahoma squad. However, the lone loss to Baylor was enough to sink the Sooners from Big 12 title contention.

Baylor's win against Texas also knocked the Longhorns out of the hunt for the Big 12 title last year in the last week of the season.

The science behind college football rankings all boils down to one formula: win big games.

Oklahoma and Texas aren't doing that. Baylor, K-State and now TCU are.

Now not only must Strong and Stoops rebuild their programs, to do so they must dethrone three teams that are in their primes.

Baylor, TCU and even the SEC's Texas A&M are quickly becoming the prime destinations for Lone Star recruits.

Even Oklahoma State now rivals Oklahoma for recruits—billionaire Boone Pickens knows how to sway youngsters from cream and crimson to orange and black.

Surprisingly, it seems as though Texas is headed in a better direction than the Sooners.

Texas' upset of West Virginia on Nov. 8, followed by a win over the Cowboys, capped off a three-game winning streak that has delivered some much-needed faith in Charlie Strong to the Austin faithful.

The Longhorns' first step will be to find a bona fide gunslinger. Whether that's Tyrone Swoopes, who's had plenty of ups and downs, or not remains to be seen. Texas signed Zach Gentry, a 4-star pro-style gunslinger, in May as part of Strong's first full class in 2015.

As for Oklahoma, its best aerial assault option may be sitting in the hangar. Texas Tech transfer Baker Mayfield, who outdid Knight by nearly every measure in the spring game, is eligible next year. He may very well challenge Knight for the starting job.

Want proof that a quarterback will get you to Big 12 supremacy?

K-State won the conference with Collin Klein and could share the title with Jake Waters this season. Baylor won it with Bryce Petty. TCU could very well do it with Trevone Boykin.

Every name on that list has been mentioned in Heisman conversations, with Klein being a finalist in 2012.

The Red River Rivalry no longer defines the elite of the Big 12. With that said, money, coaching and talent can get you back on top, and Texas and Oklahoma certainly have plenty of all three.

Now, they'll have to dethrone three teams to get there—something almost unheard of in college football history.

 

Recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

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Kynon's Korner: Star Recruits React to Will Muschamp's Departure from Florida

The University of Florida ended the Will Muschamp era in Gainesville, Florida over the weekend following a 23-20 overtime loss to South Carolina. The decision was the talk of the college football world over the last 48-72 hours and several recruits weighed in via social media. 

Glen St. Mary (Fla.) Baker County defensive end CeCe Jefferson tweeted this following the news of Muschamp's departure:

Gator fans have to be happy Jefferson wants to visit the Swamp a week after visiting Alabama. Jefferson informed ESPN recruiting reporter Derek Tyson he was canceling his weekend visit to UCLA to visit Gainesville.

Defensive line coach Brad Lawing is a big reason why Jefferson and follow 5-star Byron Cowart are still strongly considering the Gators. Lawing coached former South Carolina star and the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft, Jadeveon Clowney. It will be interesting to see if the next coach decides to keep a coach like Lawing with his strong resume and well-established reputation as a top-flight recruiter. 

Cowart had concerns about the hot-seat talk calling for Coach Muschamp's exit earlier this fall. He previously told me in an earlier conversation this fall, "The scary thing about it is I'm really comfortable with Florida. The reason I say scary is the stability in the coaching staff."

I caught up with Cowart to get his take on the situation. When asked if he is still considering the Gators, he replied, "Yes, I'm still looking at UF. I don't think I'm going to take an official visit though."

Did the Gators coaching staff reach out after Muschamp was let go? He responded, "Yes. Lawing still talks to me. However, I'm just waiting until signing day." 

Alabama, Florida, Florida State and Maryland are his serious contenders with Oregon likely on the outside looking in. 

Wide receiver Ryan Davis said the Gators are still in the mix despite uncertainty surrounding the program. "I'm still considering UF," said Davis. "I love the school and tradition. A program like that won't be down for long."

The 4-star pass-catcher said Alabama is one of the schools coming after him hard. Davis and Cowart have discussed attending the same school at the next level. 

Florida's next head coach will need to make this trio a priority when they arrive to campus. If UF can land the defensive line duo it will be a major haul and an excellent building block for the future. 

 

Ohio State commit Checks Out Miami-FSU

The University of Miami hosted a reported 200 recruits for their Sunshine State Showdown with Florida State last Saturday night. It was an impressive list of top names that including committed prospects Tevon ConeyCarlton DavisDominic Sheppard and Jason Strowbridge among others. 

I had a chance to speak to Davis about his experience to SunLife Stadium for the marquee matchup. The Buckeyes pledge told Bleacher Report, "I'm considering Miami. Yes sir, the game gave me something to think about. I grew up a UM fan and there is pressure to stay home."

When asked what does he like and dislike about the program, he answered, "They are selling early playing time. They say I can earn a starting spot my sophomore year. That's good because I don't like how they rotate their DB's."

Do Ohio State fans have anything to worry about with Davis possibly flipping his commitment? "I'm 90 percent to Ohio State. UM and Texas are tied for second place." 

The rangy cover corner is set to take an official visit to Arkansas on January 16. 

 

Baltimore Flanker Visits Alabama

Lawrence Cager out of Towson (Md.) Calvert Hall took an unofficial visit to Tuscaloosa for the Alabama-Mississippi State game. The Crimson Tide offered Cager during their summer camp and since that time the interest has picked up between the two parties. 

"Tuscaloosa was great. The fanbase there is ridiculous on game day and I loved it. Some of the fans knew my name and the way the fans were turned up during the game was awesome" said Cager. "The best part of my trip was talking and hanging out with Blake Simms because he actually watched my highlight tape and said I could be an impact as a freshman at Bama. I rate the visit a 10."

The Tide usually have an easy sell when targeting wideouts because of the success of All-SEC split end, Amari Cooper. Cooper is rated as the top receiver for the 2015 NFL draft by Bleacher Report's own Matt Miller. Cager said he got the chance to meet Cooper during his trip.

"I met with Amari and he is a great guy as well as a great receiver, very humble," stated Cager. He is a beast out there. All the WR's were cool. I could see myself in Coach Kiffin's offense."

Cager said has a good bond with the staff at Alabama and that is important for him. "Me and Coach (Nick) Saban have a good relationship," noted Cager. "I met with him on Friday for a long time and he talked about me being a good fit at Bama. My parents didn't come with me, but I'm planning on setting my official on December 21."

It's no surprise Alabama made the cut for Cager's top schools when he exclusively announced his top six with Bleacher Report's own Tyler Donohue.

The 6'5", 205-pounder is planning to decide his college announcement on January 3 at the US Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio, Texas.

 

4-Star Athlete Recaps Georgia Visit

Alabama commit Demetris Robertson was in Athens, Georgia for the Bulldogs' rivalry game with Auburn. Last month Robertson was in Tallahassee for the Florida State-Notre Dame game. The 4-star standout said the 'Dawgs continue to make him a priority for their 2016 class.

"Of course they are trying to keep me home," explained Robertson. "They tell me how I fit well on either side of the ball and how they can get me to the next level."

Robertson is being recruited at receiver and defensive back, so he is learning as much as possible when watching games in person. 

"The defense and ground game was good," stated Robertson. "But I kept my eye on the receivers and DB's. My favorite part was seeing Coach (Tony) Ball again. I thought UGA would win, but I thought it would come down to the last possession. I didn't expect it to go like that!"

Another positive to the trip for Robertson was getting the chance to hang out with other recruits and talk about their respective seasons. 

"Yes sir, that was good," added Robertson. "I got up with Isaac NautaKhalil Ladler, and a few others. We just talked about the playoffs and how our teams doing."

So when will Robertson visit the Crimson Tide? He quickly replied, "I've been waiting to get back to T-Town to see Coach Saban, Coach (Kirby) Smart and the other guys. I'll be there for the Iron Bowl on November 29."

Look for Saban and company to firm up Robertson's verbal pledge. He is one of the top prospects for 2016 and they will have to battle to keep him in the fold. Alabama's recruiting track record speaks for itself, but this is far from a done deal. 

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand. Recruiting information and ratings courtesy of 247Sports unless otherwise noted. I mad

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Kent State vs. Buffalo Postponed by MAC Due to Extreme Snowfall

The massive snowfall in the Buffalo region has affected sporting events going on in the area. The latest victim of the weather is a MAC showdown between Kent State and Buffalo scheduled for Wednesday night, which has been postponed.     

The MAC's official Twitter account first reported the news:

Earlier in the day, it appeared as if the two schools were going to try playing the game Wednesday as scheduled. Reddit College Football tweeted that the host team would be giving out free hot cocoa to anyone able to make it to the stadium:

However, as noted by Kevin McGuire of College Football Talk, Kent State and Buffalo are expected to find a replacement date for the game for bowl purposes:

On Tuesday, the Buffalo Sabres were able to host the San Jose Sharks in front of a few fans able to make it through the snow, per John Wawrow of The Associated Press:

Unfortunately, things have gotten worse in Buffalo over the last 24 hours. The city has been blanketed with five feet of snow already, according to The National Weather Service:

While the Bulls are fighting for their bowl lives, needing two wins to get to 6-6, this weather and the conditions in the surrounding area make playing a football game low on the list of priorities for the city right now. 

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The Most Important Clemson Players for the Rest of the Year

The Clemson Tigers fell to 7-3 last week with a loss to Georgia Tech, but the College Football Playoff selection committee still likes them as a Top 25 team. The Tigers came out at No. 22 in the recent rankings and have a chance to possibly move up the rankings with two home victories to close out the season.

This week's game against 1-9 Georgia State won’t be the biggest challenge of the season, but next Saturday will be one of the toughest games of the year. The South Carolina Gamecocks have defeated Clemson in five consecutive seasons, so the in-state rivalry should be a great game.

There are five players in particular who will be crucial to the Tigers' success over the last three games and can help close out the season strong with big performances.

I ranked the players in terms of how important their contributions are to winning their next three games. I focused mostly on how their performances would affect the South Carolina game, because the bowl matchup is still an unknown at this point.

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The Most Inexplicable Losses of the 2014 College Football Season

How did that happen?

That's pretty much been the consensus reaction to some of the strangest results from the 2014 college football season—outcomes that stood out greatly when they happened and look even stranger as the year has gone on.

Upsets are a part of the game, but many of them can be explained away quite easily. But not these dozen. Rather than getting chalked up as the standard shocker, these are results that still have us scratching our heads weeks (and even months) afterward. Some of them are even messing with the profiles of some teams that are in contention for the College Football Playoff.

Take a look at the 12 most inexplicable losses so far in 2014.

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Florida State Football: Ranking the Comeback Wins of 2014

Call them the Cardiac Kids. Or the Comeback Kids. 

The Florida State football team has played 10 games and won them all, the last of the teams from the power-five conferences to remain unbeaten. And with just two regular-season games left, the Seminoles have home games with Boston College (6-4) and Florida (5-4).

Both opponents are unranked, and neither game should provide a significant challenge. The Eagles are bowl-eligible; the Gators could be with a win over Eastern Kentucky on Saturday.

The Seminoles could finally get a breather (maybe?) in a season of digging first-half deficits and then clawing their way out in the second half. FSU has trailed in the second half against Clemson, North Carolina State, Notre Dame, Louisville and Miami. And FSU has come back each time.

Of the comeback wins, which one is the best? Let's take a look at all five and rank them:

 

5. Clemson

Deficit: 17-10

Final score: 23-17 (OT)

Analysis: This was viewed as a tricky game. Jameis Winston would be suspended a half. Then, late on Friday night before the game, FSU announced Winston's suspension would be for a full game. So FSU would throw Sean Maguire into the fire for 60 minutes. And Clemson would likely use dropback quarterback Cole Stoudt as well as mobile Deshaun Watson. 

FSU couldn't have started the game worse and managed just a field goal in the first half. But even with two Maguire interceptions, FSU's defense forced a late turnover and had a fourth-down stop in overtime. Karlos Williams ended the game with a 12-yard touchdown.

Comeback king: Eddie Goldman forced a fourth-quarter fumble that led to Rashad Greene's 74-yard catch-and-run for a TD that tied the game. And Goldman had the fourth-down stop in overtime.

 

4. NC State

Deficit: 24-7

Final score: 56-41

Analysis: It looked like FSU would lose while trailing 24-7 after 15 minutes. The defense was being shredded by Wolfpack quarterback Jacoby Brissett. No FSU defense had ever allowed 24 points in the first quarter.

This comeback was a good one, but it doesn't stack up to the others. FSU pulled within 24-21 with 11:58 to the half, and the Seminoles went ahead for good in the third quarter. The Wolfpack simply ran out of gas.

Comeback king: Jameis Winston threw for 365 yards and four touchdowns.

 

3. Notre Dame

Deficit: ND went ahead 14-7, 17-10 and 24-17

Final score: 31-27

Analysis: Every time Notre Dame punched, FSU punched back. Everett Golson passed for 313 yards, and the Fighting Irish running game racked up 157 yards. The Seminoles struggled to move the ball on offense in the first half.

FSU finally went ahead 31-27 on a Williams TD run with 7:39 left in the fourth quarter. Notre Dame drove the field in the final minutes, but a would-be touchdown was erased when a Notre Dame receiver was called for an illegal pick. On fourth down, FSU's Jacob Pugh intercepted Golson.

Comeback king: Winston was 23-of-31 for 273 yards, helping drive FSU down the field for three second-half touchdown drives.

 

2. Louisville

Deficit: 21-0

Final score: 42-31

Analysis: This was a comeback for the ages and under normal circumstances would take the grand prize. FSU was flat on offense in the first half, managing just a touchdown in the moments before halftime when tight end Nick O'Leary fell on a fumble in the end zone. The defense allowed three touchdown drives early, and Louisville had a 21-7 halftime lead.

Winston tossed three interceptions in the game but still helped FSU win with five touchdown drives in the second half, including four of them by true freshmen. He finished with 401 passing yards.

Comeback king: True freshman Dalvin Cook had two touchdown runs (40 and 38) in the second half and caught four passes for 40 yards.

 

1. Miami

Deficit: 16-0

Final score: 30-26

Analysis: FSU's defense wasn't able to keep up as Phillip Dorsett caught a 27-yard TD pass and Clive Walford added a 61-yard TD pass in the first half. The Hurricanes looked primed for the upset by going in front 16-0 and held a 23-10 lead at the half.

But the Seminoles looked like a completely different defense in the second half. FSU allowed just a field goal, and the Seminoles scored 20 points on their final four drives of the game.

Comeback king: FSU corner Jalen Ramsey had a game-clinching interception to seal the win. He also forced a fumble in the first quarter and blocked an extra-point attempt.

 

Bob Ferrante is the lead FSU writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats courtesy of Seminoles.com. Follow Bob on Twitter.

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Daniel Downing Injury: Updates on North Carolina Safety After Scooter Accident

North Carolina safety Daniel Downing was involved in a vehicle accident Wednesday when his scooter was reportedly struck by a sports car. 

According to a tweet from Inside Carolina, it was confirmed to The Associated Press that Downing was the player and the school announced that he was out of the hospital:

Sara Salinas of DailyTarHeel.com provided more information on the incident involving Downing, including when it happened and what witnesses saw:

The Department of Public Safety responded to a scooter crash involving a UNC football player Wednesday morning at approximately 8:45 a.m., according to witnesses.

Student witnesses said the football player was struck on his motor scooter by a black sports car driven by an older man on Raleigh Road.

Salinas' report also includes a quote from a North Carolina student Laura Fellwock stating that Downing was "laying on his side, and his scooter was kind of laying on its side." Salinas noted the Department of Public Safety will not file an incident report until Thursday.    

Downing is a sophomore who made the Tar Heels' football team as a walk-on in 2013, per North Carolina's official athletics website. North Carolina is coming off a victory against Pittsburgh on Saturday and has a showdown with rival Duke on Thursday night. 

 

If you want to talk sports, hit me up on Twitter. 


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B/R Exclusive: Nation's Hottest WR Recruit, Lawrence Cager, Reveals New Top 6

Lawrence Cager plans to announce his collegiate intentions Jan. 3 at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio. Though six weeks separate the coveted Maryland wide receiver from a decision, he's confident about which schools remain under consideration.

The 6'5", 202-pound playmaker is concentrating on six programs during the final stretch of a frenzied recruitment.

"It's really down to Alabama, Ole Miss, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Georgia and Virginia Tech," Cager said.

The late-rising Calvert Hall College High School star has seen his stock soar this year, as a flurry of scholarship offers effectively changed the dynamics of a whirlwind process.

Cager completed his junior campaign with significant college interest but limited offers. The situation changed tremendously following a series of standout performances on the camp circuit, including a strong showing at The Opening, an elite invite-only showcase held in July at Nike's world headquarters.

During a two-week span this summer—in the immediate aftermath of The Opening—Cager reeled in offers from Tennessee, Virginia Tech, Alabama, Ohio State and Kentucky. Things picked up in a hurry.

"As this process has gone on, there's been a lot more to think about," he said. "It's been incredible."

Another wave of momentum arrived in October when Ole Miss, Notre Dame, Miami and South Carolina each offered within eight days.

Cager, a dynamic athlete who once drew professional baseball scouts to his school as an underclassman before focusing solely on football, garnered attention for improvements this season. He's transformed from a raw athlete to polished pass-catcher.

"College coaches have told me I look much quicker than last year," he said. "My 40-yard dash time is down from about 4.7 to the 4.5 range. They're now seeing a 6'5" receiver flying down the field with excellent speed."

Combine newfound quickness with impressive physicality, and it's no wonder colleges have been clamoring for Cager's commitment.

"I feel confident that I can grab the ball from anywhere downfield even if the pass is away from me," he said. "I refuse to take a play off. If you're loafing on my side of the field, I will pick you up and throw you."

Now that he's centered his focus on six squads from an offer list that features more than 40 schools, Cager detailed each option this week during a conversation.

Here's a peek at his mindset toward each program.

 

Alabama

The Crimson Tide welcomed Cager to campus last weekend for an unofficial visit. Although he only planned to attend the team's matchup with Mississippi State, he apparently played a role in a crucial moment of the highly anticipated showdown.

Upon arriving at the football facilities, Cager was summoned into Lane Kiffin's office. The Alabama offensive coordinator was busy finalizing his red-zone game plan against a stingy Bulldogs defense.

Cager offered his input though he didn't think much of it at the time.

"Coach Kiffin was a little stuck on what he wanted to do with Mississippi State playing man coverage in the slot," Cager said. "I figured the best way to attack that would be to use an option route that sent the receiver on either a slant or a fade. He wrote down some notes about it."

Midway through the second quarter, with Alabama leading 5-0 and facing 1st-and-goal from the 4-yard line, Crimson Tide quarterback Blake Sims hit receiver Amari Cooper with a well-placed touchdown strike.

It was a fade route from the slot.

"I just yelled, 'Hey, that was my play!' and it was definitely a crazy experience," Cager said.

He had an opportunity to spend time with Cooper off the field and received some advice from Alabama's all-time career receiving leader.

"Amari told me it's key to forget about your high school success and all that stuff as soon as you get to campus," Cager said. "Forget about how college coaches loved you as a recruit and be ready to prove yourself again. It's a business. Come in, challenge for a starting spot and stay humble."

Cooper is expected to depart for the NFL after this season, so head coach Nick Saban will require new pass targets to step up. Calvin Ridley, the top-ranked 2015 receiver in 247Sports' composite rankings, committed in April, and Cager understands there's an opportunity for them to form quite a duo.

"Calvin is an absolute baller, and he tore our team apart at The Opening (where Ridley earned overall MVP honors)," Cager said. "Coach Kiffin said that with me and him on the outside, we could be deadly in the SEC."

Cager will return to Tuscaloosa soon. He is targeting Dec. 19 as an arrival date, but details are still being ironed out.

 

Georgia

The Bulldogs don't seem to be nearly as strong a possibility as SEC rival Alabama, but Cager continues to keep an eye on the team. His main motivation is a potential partnership with close friend Van Jefferson, a 4-star receiver who committed to Georgia in August.

"Van and I talk every day, so that's keeping them in there," Cager said. "It helps to have another guy in those position meetings who you already know and can trust at all times. I would have that there. Georgia is on the rise with a lot of young talent."

Despite a strong personal tie, limited dialogue with the team and a lack of any scheduled visit makes Georgia a long shot. This is the only squad among his top six not expected to receive a visit before January.

 

Notre Dame

The Fighting Irish represent one of his most recent offers. Head coach Brian Kelly pulled the trigger on Cager's scholarship in mid-October and managed to secure an immediate spot among his favorites.

"The tradition at Notre Dame is pretty legendary, and obviously, it's known as one of the top football schools in America every year," Cager said. "For me, the education there is what stands out. It's a place that can really put you in a position to succeed because of academics."

He also has a strong rapport with Irish quarterback commit Brandon Wimbush, who flipped from Penn State to Notre Dame earlier this season. They clicked in April while working through drills at a Nike camp in New Jersey.

"I made sure Brandon was my QB every time at that training camp," Cager said. "We performed really well together and got a chance to meet up again at The Opening. We talk about Notre Dame a lot."

He will spend time in South Bend next month. An official visit is scheduled for the weekend of Dec. 12.

 

Ohio State

Cager marvels at the recruiting class head coach Urban Meyer has put together in Columbus. Recent pledges have elevated Ohio State to No. 5 in 247Sports' composite class rankings and caught his attention.

"That Ohio State class is something special," he said. "It just keeps getting better with a ton of talent at just about every position. It's really a special group already."

Buckeyes supporters hoping Cager hops on the bandwagon will be happy to learn about his background as a college football fan. 

"Ohio State was my dream school growing up," he said. "I've always had a lot of respect for the team."

He expressed particular excitement about recent Buckeyes commit Torrance Gibson, a sensational Florida athlete whose abilities at quarterback have been questioned at times during this cycle. Cager has no doubts about his promise at the position.

"Torrance has star quarterback potential," Cager said. "He's an elite playmaker, and it's an offense at Ohio State that's really built for his skill set. It would be awesome to play with him at the next level."

Meyer and company are set to host Cager for an official visit on Thanksgiving weekend.

 

Ole Miss

The Rebels could potentially pull in a package deal by landing Cager and Damarkus Lodge, a top-tier Texas receiver who decommitted from Texas A&M in September. The possibility is compelling and could elevate the Ole Miss aerial attack to new heights.

"Who's going to stop an offense with 6'3" and 6'5" receivers on the outside?" Cager said. "It's something we talk about a lot with the coaching staff."

Ole Miss offered in October and has maintained constant contact. Cager converses with Rebels receivers coach Grant Heard almost every day.

That relationship helped convince Cager to keep Ole Miss in the mix moving forward. He hopes to take a step ahead with the team by spending an unofficial visit in Oxford sometime soon.

Logistics are still being worked out for that trip, but the Rebels appear to be rising with Cager.

 

Virginia Tech

The Hokies haven't enjoyed as much on-field success as other members of this list during recent seasons, but a longstanding relationship with Cager makes Virginia Tech a contender.

"We've talked at least twice a month since my freshman year," he said. "There's a lot of trust there."

Receivers coach Aaron Moorehead has been his main contact during the majority of time.

"Coach Moorehead is really easy to get along with, and we're to the point where I can talk to him about more than just football," Cager said. "He's a down-to-earth guy and a big reason I'm still looking at Virginia Tech.

He plans to use an official visit in Blacksburg during the first weekend of December.

 

Quotes obtained firsthand by Bleacher Report national recruiting columnist Tyler Donohue unless otherwise noted.

Recruit ratings courtesy of 247Sports.

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Melvin Gordon's Record 408-Yard Rushing Day Gets a 'Tecmo Bowl' Remake

Nebraska running back Melvin Gordon broke LaDainian Tomlinson's FBS single-game rushing record with a 408-yard effort (in three quarters) vs. Wisconsin. 

But as we all know, a great football play isn't completely legit until it gets remade on Tecmo Bowl.

Luckily, YouTube user Random Logic came up with the 8-bit version of the historic day.  

[CollegeSpun]

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Miami Football: Best Bowl Game Options for the Hurricanes

The 2014 edition of the Miami Hurricanes have clinched bowl eligibility, but Al Golden's team is still waiting for the postseason picture to unfold.

Eight Atlantic Coast Conference teams have reached six wins, while North Carolina and Virginia Tech both currently sit at 5-5. Of course, the ACC has at least nine guaranteed bowl slots, so Miami isn't in danger of missing the cut.

So, where will the 'Canes be traveling for their final outing of the season? A handful of analysts have published their thoughts on the matter.

Considering the projections, however, the destinations Miami should prefer for its bonus game are relatively clear. For example, the Military Bowl would certainly be a neat tribute to the U.S. Armed Forces, but playing an American Athletic Conference program would also be a disappointment.

Accounting for competition value is important, since the Hurricanes need to show improvement against above-average teams. Put simply, other postseason options provide a more meaningful contest for the rebuilding program.

Remember that the following are the best remaining opportunities. Miami is definitely out of the running for the Orange and Peach Bowls, while a repeat appearance in the Russell Athletic Bowl is unlikely, as is the Belk Bowl.

 

Pinstripe Bowl

Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press believes a showdown with a Big Ten opponent in Yankee Stadium is the probable outcome for Golden's crew.

Reynolds notes Miami has a large alumni base in the area, which is an important component of the selection process. Of the three postseason games listed here, however, the Pinstripe is the least preferred from a competition perspective.

Penn State is an obvious pick to occupy the Big Ten's slot, and battling Christian Hackenberg is an intriguing prospect. It would be the first postseason meeting between the schools since the 1987 Fiesta Bowl, when Vinny Testaverde's five interceptions doomed the Hurricanes' hopes for a national championship.

Additionally, Maryland and Rutgers are also logical candidates from the conference, which Miami once opposed in the ACC and Big East, respectively.

While other options may be subjectively better, taking a trip to the Pinstripe Bowl would not be a complete disappointment for the 'Canes.

 

Music City Bowl

Miami has an outside chance at heading to LP Field, but the Music City Bowl pits the ACC vs. the much-heralded, oft-criticized SEC.

Unsurprisingly, Tennessee is a popular choice from the SEC side, given the school's proximity to Nashville. The Volunteers aren't necessarily a glamorous opponent, but they've significantly improved since dual-threat quarterback Josh Dobbs took over.

Not only would Butch Jones' squad be a quality nonconference opponent anyway, they'd possess a distinct home-field advantage. The Hurricanes lost away games to Louisville, Nebraska and Georgia Tech this season with a combined deficit of 100-61.

Realistically, there are a handful of other SEC teams that could be chosen to represent the conference in Nashville. Kentucky is another program to watch, but the Wildcats must upend rival Louisville to clinch their sixth win.

Miami could put its season-long improvement to the test and see if the evident progression results in what would essentially be a road victory over an SEC foe. The 'Canes have never appeared in the Music City Bowl throughout its 16-year history.

 

Sun Bowl

Ahh, memories. The lone time Miami was chosen for the Sun Bowl (2010), it was shellacked by Notre Dame 33-17 in sub-40-degree temperatures as then-newly hired coach Golden watched from the press box.

Golden detractors could attempt to establish a full-circle irony, saying he essentially began and ended his career in El Paso. That's probably not happening, nor should it—but that's a different story for another day.

Regardless, the Dec. 30 game chooses a Pac-12 opponent for the other sideline, and the western conference boasts a solid group of mid-level teams. Long story short, the 'Canes would almost assuredly oppose one of USC, UCLA, Arizona, Arizona State or Utah—five teams Miami has played a combined 10 times.

Each of those programs have posted a record of 7-3 or better, battling each other in hopes of winning the South Division.

The only team to knock off Oregon is Arizona, though it lost to USC, which lost to Utah, which lost to Arizona State, which lost to UCLA, yet USC currently leads the division. The Pac-12 South is exactly like the ACC Coastal, except the former isn't as collectively embarrassing.

The Hurricanes have never played Utah, but the Utes have attempted to establish a nationwide brand of "The U," which is Miami's claim to fame. Without question, someone from either side would call a postseason meeting a "Battle for The U." That would be a travesty, but it would undoubtedly happen.

Petty disagreements aside, there's little doubt the Hurricanes' toughest potential competition would be found at the Sun Bowl.

 

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

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Notre Dame Football: The Failed 2011 Recruiting Class

Notre Dame's football team is going through some painful growing pains this November. After a 6-0 start had Irish fans thinking about the College Football Playoff, Brian Kelly's young football team has lost three of four, setting up a two-game finish that will likely determine whether or not this season is deemed a success or a failure. 

This tipping point comes after turnovers have marred the offense's efficiency and injuries have depleted an already young defense. But after five years in South Bend, examining how this team got here requires a look back. And the main culprit is a recruiting class that was supposed to lead Notre Dame to new heights. 

The 2011 recruiting class was supposed to be the backbone of the 2014 roster. Instead, it's a reminder of the fickle nature of college football—as injuries, attrition, bad luck and poor performances have turned a heralded group into a hole in the roster.

As we approach Senior Day at Notre Dame Stadium, the 23-man class that Kelly signed will only have 13 in uniform on Saturday afternoon. (Fifth-year players Austin Collinsworth, Christian Lombard and Justin Utupo will also be honored.) While a large part of the group still has a year of eligibility available, Kelly was asked about the struggles this class has had, leaving less of an impact than anyone could've imagined four Februarys ago.

"Doing it for as long as I have, you never count on one particular class to be the backbone as much as you count on them to be leaders," Kelly said. "You count on them to help. But I don't think it's ever one class.

"I think classes can kind of set the tone for success by one player being a playmaker or two players, but I don't know that it ever stretches across the entire class.  I think each one of them has individual qualities."

Let's take a closer look at this group. 

 

Success Stories

Kyle Brindza, P/K

Take away his terrible Saturday against Northwestern, and Brindza's been all you could ask for. A four-year contributor, he's been Notre Dame's specialist in all facets of the kicking game for two seasons and is the school's all-time leader in field goals. 

 

Matthias Farley, DB

The senior is tied for the team lead in interceptions and sacks, and he's one tackle for loss behind Sheldon Day for the team lead there as well. After struggling as an every-down safety, Farley's had an excellent rebound season in 2014. He'll return for a fifth year in 2015. 

 

Everett Golson, QB

We can only wonder how Golson's career would've played out had he been able to play in 2013, not just train with George Whitfield. But Golson's one of college football's most dynamic quarterbacks, even as turnovers have marred his return to the football field. Golson has a year of eligibility remaining in 2015. 

 

Ben Koyack, TE

Notre Dame's snap leader in 2014, Koyack was a semifinalist for the Mackey Award and has been a key part of the Irish offense. A backup behind Tyler Eifert and Troy Niklas, Koyack's first season starting has yielded 27 catches for 289 yards, including the game-winning touchdown against Stanford. 

 

Nick Martin, OL

After starting at center for most of last season, Martin has shifted to guard and is once again a mainstay up front for the Irish. Named captain of the 2014 team, Martin will be back for a fifth year, his third as a starter. 

 

Cam McDaniel, RB

Last Saturday won't go on his highlight reel, but the senior captain led the Irish in rushing in 2013 and has played a key role on this year's team as well. In addition to serving as a key reserve during the 2012 season, McDaniel also cross-trained between running back and cornerback as the coaching staff looked for answers in the secondary. 

 

Left Early 

George Atkinson III, RB

An excellent kickoff returner and an enigmatic, big-play running back, Atkinson never quite reached the potential many saw for him at Notre Dame. He was given multiple chances to win the starting running back job in 2013, but he fell out of favor at the position, ultimately deciding to leave early and enter the NFL draft. He went unselected and is currently on the Oakland Raiders practice squad. 

 

Aaron Lynch, DE

After leading Notre Dame in sacks as a true freshman, Lynch quit the football team during spring practice in 2012, transferring back home to play at South Florida. After sitting out a transfer year, Lynch played one season at USF before sliding in the NFL draft to San Francisco in the fifth round. His three sacks are tied for second on the 49ers. 

 

Troy Niklas, TE

Niklas started his career at Notre Dame on the defensive side of the ball before moving to tight end before his sophomore season. After playing 2012 with All-American Tyler Eifert, Niklas had an impressive junior season with 32 catches 498 yards and five touchdowns. While Brian Kelly thought he should come back for his senior season and play his way into the first round, Niklas went in the second round to the Arizona Cardinals. He's a reserve this season, making just three catches while playing in seven games. 

 

Stephon Tuitt, DE

Tuitt burst onto the scene as a sophomore in 2012, his 12 sacks nearly toppling Justin Tuck's single-season record. But after a disappointing, injury-plagued junior season, Tuitt decided to declare for the NFL draft anyway, falling to the second round, when the Pittsburgh Steelers drafted him. He's struggled in his first NFL season, playing just four snaps last week and totaling just five tackles on the year.

 

Major Injuries 

Brad Carrico, DE

The first pledge of the 2011 class, Carrico projected to be a 3-4 defensive end. He bounced between the defensive and offensive line before a foot injury in 2012 ended his career. He's currently on a medical scholarship at Notre Dame and will graduate with his class. 

 

Ben Councell, OLB

Councell looked like the prototype outside linebacker for Bob Diaco's 3-4 defense. But after a redshirt freshman season, Councell played behind Danny Spond in 2012 and Jaylon Smith in 2013. A major knee injury suffered last season—not to mention a scheme change—have limited his contributions.

 

Jarrett Grace, MLB

The heir apparent to Manti Te'o, Grace's career is on hold as he slowly recovers from a major leg injury suffered last season against Arizona State. Grace is still on the roster but has needed multiple surgeries to heal the broken fibula suffered late last October. Earlier this week, Kelly said Grace's future was uncertain on the football field. 

  

Eilar Hardy, DB

An early knee injury was a setback for Hardy, burying him on the depth chart for two years. So was his involvement in the recent academic probe, keeping him off the field for the season's first eight games before he was cleared by the NCAA. Hardy had a chance to make his move in 2013, but was suspended twice for violations of team rules. 

 

Matt Hegarty, C

If there's a happy story among this group, it's Hegarty. After suffering a stroke and having surgery to repair a microscopic hole in his heart, Hegarty returned to the team in 2013 and played capably in relief of Nick Martin at the end of last season. He's started at guard and tackle during 2014 and will likely return for a fifth year. 

 

Chase Hounshell, DL

The Ohio native hasn't been able to shake multiple shoulder injuries, with surgery derailing his career almost from the start. Hounshell was among the first defensive linemen from this group to see the field, playing in seven games as a freshman before missing nearly two full seasons after multiple shoulder surgeries. Even if healthy, Hounshell is unlikely to continue his playing career at Notre Dame next season. 

 

Tony Springmann, DL

Expected to be a key contributor at defensive tackle this season, Springmann never fully recovered from a knee injury suffered before the 2013 season and is on a medical scholarship with his career finished. The 6'6", 296-pound lineman played a key reserve role in 2012 and was counted on to be a force on the interior of the defensive line. 

 

Disappointments or Derailed

Josh Atkinson, CB

After playing early as a freshman, Atkinson struggled to stay in the two-deep as the depth chart around him improved. Blessed with world-class speed, Atkinson has made more of a mark as a track sprinter than on the football field. He's yet to play this season and could complete his eligibility elsewhere in 2015. 

 

Jalen Brown, CB

Another cornerback who's been buried on the depth chart. Brown has rarely traveled with the team this season and has yet to see the field. After redshirting as a freshman, Brown will also likely play out his eligibility elsewhere in 2015. 

 

DaVaris Daniels, WR

One of the team's most talented players, Daniels is sitting out this season after an Honor Code violation kept him and four teammates out for the bulk of the season. Daniels was the team's leading receiver, but was on academic suspension during last year's spring semester, only to return for summer school and find trouble again. He has yet to decide if he'll return to Notre Dame. (Kelly has yet to confirm whether that option remains available to him.)

 

Conor Hanratty, OL

The son of former Irish quarterback Terry Hanratty, Conor was a starter briefly in 2013 as an injury replacement for Christian Lombard and battled for a starting guard job in 2014. One of the lowest-rated recruits in the 2011 class, it's not completely fair to call Hanratty's career a disappointment. But his return in 2015 is still up in the air, especially with all three starters on the interior of the offensive line slated to return. 

 

Anthony Rabasa, DE

Never a great fit for Bob Diaco's 3-4 defense, Rabasa has seen more time this season than any before, playing some key snaps as a pass-rusher for Brian VanGorder. That said, Rabasa hasn't lived up to the recruiting hype he carried into South Bend, one of the top prep players in Miami when he picked the Irish. 

 

Ishaq Williams, DE

Viewed by some analysts as a 5-star prospect, Williams has yet to make his mark on the Notre Dame program. He was stuck behind NFL draft picks Darius Fleming and Prince Shembo for his first three seasons. Now he's sitting out this year because of his involvement in the academic misconduct. He has told Brian Kelly he'd like to return in 2015, where he'll be a key piece of a defensive line that needs big bodies. 

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Can Mississippi State Really Hold on to a Spot in the College Football Playoff?

Cue the #SECBias arguments, because Mississippi State is about to test them in the next few weeks. 

The latest College Football Playoff Top 25 was released Tuesday, and the Bulldogs, fresh off of a 25-20 loss to now No. 1 Alabama, took the fourth and final spot in the playoff field should the season end today. TCU, Ohio State and Baylor are No. 5, No. 6 and No. 7, respectively, and seem to be the final cutoff for teams with playoff hopes. 

However, playoff chair Jeff Long said "the difference between teams four through seven is very narrow." (H/t Stewart Mandel, Fox Sports.) 

In other words, Mississippi State is no sure thing when it comes to a playoff spot. The good thing for Dan Mullen's team is that no one in college football is a sure thing. 

The first and simplest thing that the Bulldogs have to do to be in the discussion at year's end is win—that, or pray for losses around them. Without an Alabama loss between now and the SEC Championship Game, the Bulldogs do not control their destiny. The regular-season-ending game at Ole Miss is potentially Mississippi State's last chance to get a key victory. 

Would that be enough? The playoff has been set up to field the "four best teams," not necessarily four conference or divisional champions. However, the number of teams in position to win their conferences atop the rankings suggests it's a major factor. 

What Mississippi State's playoff hopes come down to is whether the committee thinks the Bulldogs have the strength of schedule to fend off a Big Ten champ Ohio State or Big 12 co-champ, be it TCU or Baylor.

Mississippi State plays in the SEC West, considered to be the best division in college football. However, as the season has progressed, some of that shine has worn off. The Bulldogs' best win is against Auburn, a team that just got housed by Georgia. 

Mississippi State got credit for staying close against Alabama, even though the game wasn't as close as the score indicated. The Tide led 19-3 at the half, and Mississippi State's final touchdown came with 15 seconds left in the game.

Given that the committee is more inclined reward a team for what it has done (won) vs. what it hasn't (lost), that credit's shelf life is limited. Long has said in the past that there's no way to project conference champions, so teams aren't going to get credit for what they haven't done yet. That will obviously be re-evaluated at year's end. 

Adding to that is Mississippi State's nonconference schedule, consisting of such blue-blood programs as Southern Miss, UAB, South Alabama and UT-Martin. That slate is undeniably soft. Now that Mississippi State has a loss, more light has been cast upon those four games. 

Baylor, Ohio State and TCU generally had light nonconference schedules as well. If Mississippi State had one marquee nonconference win, similar to Oregon's victory over Michigan State, then perhaps strength of schedule/quality wins would matter more than winning a conference. At the very least, it'd be another layer to the discussion.

The confusing thing about the committee's thought process—or, at least how it has been relayed—is that there are numerous things that are taken into consideration that don't always appear to be evenly applied. As a result, there are a lot of conflicting narratives about what's important. 

For one week, Mississippi State was the benefactor of the committee's thought process. As the season winds to an end, however, the Bulldogs aren't in the position a team would want to be in. When all is said and done, it wouldn't be surprising if that came back to bite them.  

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. 

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Taysom Hill Injury: Updates on BYU QB's Leg and Recovery

After suffering a fractured leg and ligament damage in the team's 35-20 loss to the Utah State Aggies on Oct. 3, BYU Cougars star quarterback Taysom Hill is reportedly doing well with his recovery following surgery.

Jay Drew of The Salt Lake Tribune provided an update on the junior signal-caller: 

Hill also shot down reports that the ligaments were shredded, that he considered a position change or planned on bolting to the NFL in the upcoming draft:

Hill is done for this season, finishing with 975 passing yards, seven touchdowns and three picks. He also ran for 460 yards and eight touchdowns.

The Cougars were 4-0 heading into the game with Utah State but went on to lose their next four games without Hill. On the season, BYU is 6-4 and finishes the regular season with matchups against Savannah State and Cal.

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College Football Rankings 2014: Top 25 NCAA Playoff Standings for Week 13

Mississippi State’s loss to Alabama threw a major wrench in the College Football Playoff rankings for Week 13, and the result was a major turnover in every major NCAA Top 25 poll heading into the final stretch of the regular season.

With the Crimson Tide taking the No. 1 spot on the College Football Playoff poll and the Florida State Seminoles earning the top spot in the Associated Press rankings, the next few weeks of football will be the most important of the year.

Here are the Week 13 College Football Playoff, Associated Press and Bleacher Report Top 25 polls and a preview of this week’s most important matchup.

 

 

 

 

Week 13’s Most Important Matchup

There is an abundance of exciting matchups on the Week 13 schedule, but the most important game in terms of postseason implications is the Florida State Seminoles taking on the Boston College Eagles.

Florida State remains undefeated in 2014, but the team was passed over by Alabama and Oregon in the latest College Football Playoff rankings. While the Seminoles topped the AP poll, the rankings that really matter have the program at No. 3 overall.

With a meeting against Boston College Saturday, Florida State must send a definitive message to the rest of the sport that the program is the best in the nation. The problem is that the Seminoles have played from behind recently and have struggled with consistency.

Saturday’s victory over Miami (Fla.) was due in part to late-game heroics from quarterback Jameis Winston, but the team has been involved in far too many close battles. Florida State has trailed in the second quarter in seven of its last eight games and has been too dependent on the offensive unit to make big plays in crunch time.

While the Seminoles have struggled to maintain a steady pace for an entire game over the last several weeks, Boston College coach Steve Addazio told The Associated Press, via ESPN.com, about his respect for the program:

These guys find a way to win and they play the best at their most competitive moments. That's usually what great teams do. ... They won the national championship and they're undefeated and it's their second year running. They played Auburn last year in the national title game, found a way to win. I'm into giving credit where credit is due, and they're an amazing football program.

This game will be so interesting due to the chance it presents the Eagles. BC has played strong in the ACC this season, and a win over Florida State would make this year’s campaign a rousing success.

Boston College has a talented rushing attack that is currently ranked 12th in the nation with an average of 264 yards per game. With the Seminoles giving up 139.7 yards rushing per game, the Eagles have the rushing ability to upset their opponents if FSU isn’t 100 percent focused on the task at hand.

Florida State has a potent offensive attack of its own, but Winston will be forced to square off with a Boston College defense that is ranked 23rd in the nation, allowing just 21.9 points per game. The Eagles are coming off a loss to Clemson but have marquee wins over USC and Virginia Tech.

If Seminoles head coach Jimbo Fisher can keep his team focused on Boston College, there is no doubt that Florida State has a more talented roster.

Led by Winston and the nation’s 17th-ranked offensive unit (averaging 37.1 points per game), the No. 3 team in the College Football Playoff poll will struggle to make a statement. The Seminoles will beat the Eagles, but they will not prove they belong at the top of the playoff conversation.

Predicted Winner: Florida State 34, Boston College 30

 

*Stats via ESPN.com.

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Nick Saban Tops USA Today's List of Highest Paid College Football Coaches

USA Today revealed the salaries for every FBS head football coach Wednesday, and it comes as little surprise that Alabama's Nick Saban tops the list.

Saban has led the Crimson Tide to incredible success during his eight years at the helm, including three national championships. He is deservedly a cut above the rest in terms of pay, but the top 10 is littered with other high-profile coaches as well:

While many expected names reside near the top of the list, Michigan State's Mark Dantonio stands out at No. 2. Dantonio has done very well during his eight years with the Spartans having won two Big Ten titles and a Rose Bowl, but he doesn't have the same star power as the likes of Saban, Steve Spurrier and others.

Even ESPN.com Big Ten reporter Brian Bennett didn't expect Dantonio to rank that highly:

As pointed out by Gerry Ahern of USA Today, Saban coincidentally coached at Michigan State previously, which suggests the Spartans job is an extremely valuable one:

Iowa's Kirk Ferentz also raises some eyebrows at No. 9 since the Hawkeyes haven't won a conference title since 2004. Per Dirk Chatelain of Omaha.com, Ferentz's salary isn't exactly consistent with his team's performance:

Regardless of that, USA Today's list makes it abundantly clear that coaching in a power conference is extremely lucrative.

As college football's popularity continues to grow, that figures to become truer with each passing year.

 

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