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Texas A&M Fires Defensive Coordinator Mark Snyder: Latest Details and Analysis

On the heels of Texas A&M's 23-17 loss to LSU in the regular season finale for both teams, Aggies defensive coordinator Mark Snyder has been fired. 

According to ESPN's Brett McMurphy, Texas A&M announced that Snyder was relieved of his duties on Friday evening. 

Snyder has been part of Kevin Sumlin's staff since 2012. His defenses have always struggled to support otherwise strong offensive units in three years at Texas A&M. That was never more evident than this season, when the Aggies were trying to break in a new quarterback with Johnny Manziel going to the NFL. 

Here is how Texas A&M's defense currently ranks in the four major categories, via StatMilk:

As for potential replacements, Bleacher Report's Lead SEC Writer Barrett Sallee does note that the immediate expectation shouldn't be for Texas A&M to land soon-to-be-former Florida head coach Will Muschamp:

Sumlin has a reputation as an offensive-minded head coach, going back to his days at Houston when the team led the nation in total offense and scoring in 2011. The Aggies will need a strong defensive-minded coordinator who can recruit and coach in order to avoid another disappointing season next year. 

Muschamp certainly should be on the short list of candidates given the success he's had building Florida's defense and dating back to his time as defensive coordinator at Texas. He's going to have his choice of jobs, so Texas A&M will have to fight hard if it hopes to entice him. 

 

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Marshall Proves It Doesn't Belong in Playoff Conversation with Embarrassing Loss

The Marshall University Thundering Herd were never truly in the playoff conversation. Everybody knew, whether they openly admitted it or not, that the upper echelon of the Power Five would squash Marshall. 

But Rakeem Cato and Co. always had one thing that nobody else besides Florida State University had in college football—an undefeated record. 

Not anymore. 

It's a tune that is almost tired at this point, but it's something that still stings to those that grasped onto hope until the very end.

There was the University of Houston and Case Keenum's letdown in the Conference USA title game to the University of Southern Mississippi in 2011 after tearing through the regular season undefeated. 

There was Northern Illinois University in 2013, with a regular season-ending loss to Bowling Green State University after going 12-0. 

Those teams have always represented hope for the "Group of Five." After all, undefeated is undefeated, and it's hard to argue against—even if your toughest opponent was Rice University. 

However, Marshall's embarrassing loss to Western Kentucky University—a 67-66 overtime tilt that was won when the Hilltoppers converted a two-point conversion in the first overtime—proved it. Marshall doesn't belong in the playoff conversation. 

What's worse is that Marshall all but lost an opportunity to play in a top-tier bowl game as well. That honor will now likely befall either Boise State University or Colorado State University. 

Marshall's run was certainly respectable. Like I said, undefeated is undefeated and winning 11 games is admirable and worth celebrating no matter the team or the level of football. 

But the notion that Marshall belonged at the playoff table—or even in the discussion—simply because it was undefeated was naive. Marshall hasn't faced any Power Five teams, and it has even had some relatively close calls against bottom-feeder FBS schools (see Middle Tennessee State University, University of Alabama at Birmingham). 

It was Marshall that dug its own grave on Friday afternoon, though. Cato threw four interceptions—three of them in the first half. That alone gave Western Kentucky the momentum it needed to control the pace of the game, and it should remove Cato from any Heisman Trophy talk as well. 

The Herd gave up 67 points, including the game-winning two-point conversion—to Western Kentucky. 

Perhaps it's a good thing that Boise State or Colorado State will be the Group of Five representative in a top-tier bowl. Boise State has history there—successful history I might add—while Colorado State has beaten two Power Five teams. 

How would Marshall have fared against the likes of an Auburn University, University of Mississippi or Baylor University? If Brandon Doughty hung 67 on the board, imagine what Nick Marshall, Bryce Petty or even Bo Wallace would do. 

Marshall's run was a fun one. And it deserves a decent bowl selection and some prime-time billing for it. Cato is still an elite quarterback whose career outshines most at that university. 

But Marshall was never playoff worthy. It was never even close. 

Friday's loss just affirmed that. 

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College Football Rankings 2014: Predicting Playoff Teams Following Week 14

College football has nearly reached zero hour. The four teams fighting to get into the College Football Playoff will decrease with the kickoff of rivalry weekend, where upsets always happen and chaos reigns supreme. It's why this is such a magical weekend. 

This also becomes a time when we will find out what the selection committee really uses to evaluate teams. There have been glimpses of it throughout the process so far, notably the way quality wins mean more than anything else. 

When it comes to the final standings, though, who knows if the committee's thinking will change? While that's not until December 7, here are some predictions for what will happen over the weekend and how that will impact the standings coming out on Tuesday. 

Before diving into what the Top Four will look like next week, here's how things currently stand in the playoff race. 

(Note: As the table header indicates, the logo shown at the far right of each team's row is for that team's next opponent and not for the ranked team itself.)

 

Predicted Playoff Standings For Week of December 1

The Top Three is boring since that stays the same. Alabama has the Iron Bowl matchup with Auburn on Saturday. Normally, this would be a showdown to watch closely. It's lost some luster thanks to the Tigers losing their last two SEC games against Texas A&M and Georgia. 

Alabama has gotten better as the season has gone on, peaking at the right time. The Crimson Tide aren't blowing opponents out, but since losing to Mississippi on October 4, they have won six straight games and are allowing 13.3 points per game during that stretch. 

That's where the difference lies between these two teams, as the offenses have been nearly identical in terms of points scored. Auburn averages 35.1 points per game; Alabama averages 35. 

On defense, though, it's no contest because Nick Saban's team wipes the floor with Auburn, as this graphic from StatMilk shows:

Assuming Alabama holds serve in this spot, which it should given the recent directions of these two teams, it will retain the top spot in the rankings. 

Immediately following the Crimson Tide will be Oregon, which has its own rivalry game on Saturday against Oregon State. Unlike Alabama, which at least faces a quality opponent, the Ducks should have no problems. 

Even though Oregon is traveling to Reser Stadium, the Ducks are a vastly superior team. They are third in scoring offense, 14th in passing offense and 23rd in rushing offense. Oregon State is 24th in passing offense, but just 84th in scoring and 114th in rushing. 

Plus, Oregon will know to be on its toes after watching Arizona State's season get ruined by the Beavers two weeks ago. Marcus Mariota has yet to lose against Oregon State in his career. That won't change on Saturday. 

Florida State may not look pretty doing what it does, but the end result is all that matters. The Seminoles might be better prepared for a must-win game this year than they were in 2013 because of how all their close games and wins so far. 

Don't underestimate Florida in this spot. While the Gators have had problems this season, they do have a formula that's given Florida State problems. The gap in scoring isn't as significant as you might think, while Florida's rushing offense plays into a weakness for Jimbo Fisher's defense, via StatMilk:

Florida State has earned enough clout over the last two years, so predicting a loss in this spot would be foolish. Just know that it wouldn't be a surprise to see another game where the Seminoles struggle. 

The fourth and final spot has never been cloudier. Mississippi State is likely hanging on by a thread, while TCU and Ohio State have found their groove late in the year. The Bulldogs will get a huge boost if they win and Alabama loses because it guarantees them one more game for the SEC championship. 

Even though an Alabama loss would hurt Mississippi State's opponents' record, having more opportunities to impress the committee seems important. 

However, the Bulldogs haven't looked sharp lately and are going to take on a Mississippi defense that leads the nation with 13.5 points allowed per game. Dak Prescott, while he is being named a finalist for many postseason awards, hasn't been the same quarterback lately.

Edward Aschoff of ESPN.com highlighted Prescott's erratic performance of late as the key for Mississippi to expose to pull off an upset:

Force Prescott to make mistakes. The Achilles heel of the one-time Heisman Trophy frontrunner has been taking care of the football. For as good as Prescott has been at carving up defenses, he's turned the ball over too many times in recent weeks, including throwing three interceptions in the loss to Alabama.

In fact, taking things deeper, Prescott has thrown eight of his 10 interceptions this season in the last four games against SEC teams. 

This opens the door for TCU, which has already taken care of its business with a dominant effort against Texas on Thanksgiving. The Horned Frogs need help to win the Big 12. Baylor still has two games left, including a critical showdown next week against Kansas State. 

While there is time to debate that game and TCU's standing, there's no doubt that if Mississippi State were to lose, then Gary Patterson's team stands to move into the final spot. The committee clearly loves TCU's body of work with wins over Oklahoma, West Virginia and Kansas State. 

Ohio State, while it has slowly moved up the totem pole, still has to overcome the stigma of that early-season loss to Virginia Tech. The Buckeyes are also playing a Michigan team that's been a disaster virtually all year. 

Next week will do Urban Meyer's team some good, especially if it gets to play Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game. Until that time, though, don't expect the Buckeyes to jump TCU in next week's rankings. 

 

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


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Marshall's Undefeated Season Ends on Incredible TD Catch and 2-Point Conversion

No. 24 Marshall took an 11-0 record into Friday's matchup against Western Kentucky, but its dreams of an undefeated season came crashing down with a 67-66 overtime loss.

WKU quarterback Brandon Doughty hit Jared Dangerfield with a beautiful pass to the back of the end zone in overtime, as Dangerfield made an incredible catch and somehow kept both feet inbounds. That was Doughty's eighth touchdown pass of the day.

Instead of kicking the extra point to  double overtime, WKU went for the win and converted a two-point try to Willie McNeal.

It was a feast-or-famine play call by WKU, and on the day after Thanksgiving, the Hilltoppers had enough for a win.

[Xfinity Sports]

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Florida State Football: Ranking the 5 Best Moments in the Florida Rivalry

Florida State and Florida meet Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET for the annual revisiting of one of college football’s greatest rivalries, and much like a season ago, UF can play the role of spoiler in FSU’s quest to compete for the national championship.

The Seminoles and the Gators' rivalry is one that has featured not only some of the greatest players in college football but some of the greatest games and moments.

Let’s take a look at arguably the five greatest ‘Noles moments ever in this heated rivalry.

Begin Slideshow

Nebraska Punter Kicks Ball off Teammate's Back, Iowa Returns for TD

Things went from bad to worse quickly for Nebraska punter Sam Foltz vs. Iowa.

After a bobbled snap, Foltz tried to get the punt off but ended up finding teammate Zach Hannon's back, leading to an Iowa touchdown.

[gifdsports]

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Stanford vs. UCLA: Live Score and Highlights

Stanford 14, UCLA 10 — Mid 2nd Quarter

Something has to give Friday afternoon in Pasadena, California, as the eighth-ranked UCLA Bruins take on the Stanford Cardinal.

A late-season resurgence has seen head coach Jim Mora's Bruins climb back into the Pac-12 title picture, but it will take one more win at home on senior night to punch their ticket to face Oregon.

The problem? UCLA has failed to beat Stanford in six consecutive meetings.

But with Stanford (6-5) downtrodden and the Rose Bowl inhabiters peaking, perhaps this season will signal a changing of the guard out west. If the Bruins have any aspirations of representing the Pac-12 in anything other than a bowl game, they'll have to make that happen.

The Black Friday tilt will begin at 3:30 p.m. ET on ABC, but stay tuned in below with live updates as they happen. NCAA.com has live stats here.

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Stanford vs. UCLA: Live Score and Highlights

Stanford 14, UCLA 10 — Mid 2nd Quarter Something has to give Friday afternoon in Pasadena, California, as the eighth-ranked UCLA Bruins take on the Stanford Cardinal...

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How Several Key Recruits Changed the Course of the Notre Dame-USC Rivalry

There may be 2,000 miles between the University of Notre Dame and University of Southern California. But as the two programs square off for the 86th time in the series' storied history, the Irish and Trojans look more alike than ever on the field.

Few will confuse the two schools. Notre Dame's tree-lined campus features multiple lakes and acres of greenery. USC's campus sits in the middle of urban Los Angeles, the campus carved into the center of America's second-largest metropolis.

But the differences are just part of what makes this weekend's battle for the Jeweled Shillelagh so special. It's a rivalry that dates back to Knute Rockne's barnstorming Irish squad visiting the West Coast in 1926, with the two teams playing every season since, taking off only 1943-45 due to travel restrictions during World War II.

That's why even amidst four-loss seasons for both the Irish and Trojans, Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly acknowledged the special status of this annual tilt. 

"I still think it's the rivalry game," Kelly said Tuesday, according to Emily Evans of ABC 57. "How many times can you match up two teams, one from the West Coast and one from Indiana, at the end of the year? I just think the significance of it historically, tradition‑wise [and] geographically, there's no game like it."

Adding to this rivalry is the fact that these two rosters continue to intersect more and more. As Kelly has made the West Coast—and Southern California, in particular—a recruiting priority, we see a matchup that football players, Irish and Trojans coaches and the fans have been following since high school. 

Notre Dame's roster features 12 players from the state of California, more than any other state in the country. Seven of them come from Southern California. But it's not just geography that makes this rivalry a familiar one: it's the battles on the recruiting trail. 

Since Mike Denbrock returned with Kelly for his second stint as a Notre Dame assistant coach, Denbrock has fronted the recruiting efforts on the West Coast. That's meant spending times in the living rooms of many USC players competing in Saturday's game. 

The Irish have their share of victories. Starting left tackle Ronnie Stanley is a rare recruit pulled out of the Pac-12 after attending Las Vegas' Bishop Gorman Catholic High School. He was also one of the first recruiting targets for the Trojans, receiving a phone call from the Trojans staff as it prioritized its targets. 

"They were the first school to call me, too," Stanley told TrojanSports.com on April 15, 2011, the first day of the recruiting contact period (subscription required). "I appreciated it because I was one of the first linemen the coaches spoke to today."

The Irish also had some key losses in that same recruiting cycle. One is Trojans starting right tackle Zach Banner. The 6'9", 350-pound right tackle took an official visit to South Bend to watch the Irish take on the USC during a recruiting weekend that featured some elite talent, including nine California prospects. 

Notre Dame lost that football game 31-17, failing to close on Banner. It lost another tough recruiting battle later in February, losing out on USC star Nelson Agholor, who was a recruit the Irish hosted later that fall and invested a ton of time and effort in.

Given the opportunity to be the next Michael Floyd, Agholor decided to sign with Lane and Monte Kiffin. Agholor decided to follow in a long line of talented Trojans wide receivers instead of giving his commitment to Kelly and Irish recruiting coordinator Tony Alford, who Agholor and his family grew close to. 

"I'm very privileged that I got to deal with somebody like [Alford]," Agholor told Pete Sampson at Irish Illustrated (subscription required) as his recruitment was winding down. "He's done everything first class with myself, my coaches, my family. We couldn't ask for a better recruiter from over there. I think Notre Dame did a good job sending him."

That's how Saturday will go with nearly a dozen players. Making just the third start of his career, Irish defensive tackle Justin Utupo will play against a school that's just 20 minutes from his hometown. A broken ankle will be all that keeps Joe Schmidt from competing against two other former Mater Dei High School stars.

The Notre Dame staff will have to account for Agholor and freshman receiver JuJu Smith, who very nearly picked the Irish on national signing day last February before deciding to stay home in Southern California. Smith already has 610 yards and five touchdowns as a true freshman. 

Likely trying to stop Smith will be Max Redfield. While the blue-chip safety has gotten off to a slow start to his career, he was a key piece to USC's recruiting efforts, only to back away from his commitment and head to South Bend. Notre Dame cornerback Cole Luke looked destined for Southern Cal as well, only to pick Notre Dame in the end. 

The merry-go-round spins on and on. George Farmer and Adoree Jackson were both early Irish targets. So was freshman guard Damien Mama, who'll see playing time on Saturday. Notre Dame features freshman tight end Tyler Luatua, who was an early in-state target for the Trojans, but he decided to head to South Bend. 

And that's before getting to Amir Carlisle, who actually played a season for the Trojans before transferring to Notre Dame. Then there's KeiVarae Russell, who is suspended this season. For a long time, he considered picking USC before ending up with the Irish. 

After the game on Saturday, the weekend won't likely be over for Notre Dame's staff. Expect Kelly, Denbrock, quarterback coach Matt LaFleur and defensive assistant Bobby Elliott to stay on the West Coast.

They'll try to persuade recruits like Iman Marshall, Frank Buncam and Equanimeous St. Brown to be the final pieces of the 2015 recruiting class. Those are recruiting battles that'll include—you might have guessed it—USC. 

It's a rivalry that never ends.

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Arizona State vs. Arizona: Live Score and Highlights

Arizona State 21, Arizona 21—Early 3rd Quarter

For the first time since 1986, the Arizona State Sun Devils and the Arizona Wildcats enter the battle for the Territorial Cup with both teams being ranked in the Top 25.  What's more, each team still has a shot at the Pac-12 South Division crown should Stanford upset the UCLA Bruins this afternoon.

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Arizona State vs. Arizona: Live Score and Highlights

Arizona State 21, Arizona 21—HALFTIME For the first time since 1986, the Arizona State Sun Devils and the Arizona Wildcats enter the battle for the Territorial Cup with both teams being ranked in the Top 25...

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Arkansas vs. Missouri: Live Score and Highlights

Friday's matchup between the Arkansas Razorbacks and the Missouri Tigers is surprisingly meaningful.  Obviously, both teams want to end their respective regular seasons on a positive note, but the implications of this game are vast.

An Arkansas win gives the Razorbacks a third consecutive SEC win.  That's quite an accomplishment for a team that was riding a 17-game conference losing streak just two weeks ago.

For Missouri, a win today secures an SEC East title for the second year in a row, but a loss gives the division crown to the Georgia Bulldogs.

Will Arkansas' momentum carry the Razorbacks?  Or will Mizzou hold on and earn a trip back to the SEC Championship Game?

Tune in to CBS at 2:30 p.m. ET to watch and follow along here for live analysis and updates.

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Nebraska Punter Sacrifices Body, Forces Fumble with Hit on Iowa Punt Returner

Nebraska punter Sam Foltz opened up a large can of whoopin' Friday afternoon, hitting Iowa punt returner Matt VandeBerg with a jarring shoulder and knocking the ball loose in the process.

DataOmaha.com uploaded video of the hit, which occurred midway through the first quarter in a scoreless game. There's something both incredible and somewhat concerning about the punter being the most aggressive member of your special teams unit. 

The game has turned into an ugly exhibition for the Hawkeyes, who took a 7-0 lead over Nebraska midway through the second quarter despite having already turned the ball over three times.

Punters are people too, guys. 


Follow Dan on Twitter for more sports and pop culture news. 


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Wisconsin Badgers: A Chance for Paul Bunyan's Axe and the West Division Title

There have been three Big Ten Championship Games in the last three years. The Wisconsin Badgers have played in (and won) two of them.

In the 2011 game, the Badgers beat Michigan State 42-39 in a thrilling contest that went back and forth in heart-stopping action. Quarterback Russell Wilson was the MVP of the game, as he threw three touchdown passes

In the 2012 contest, the Badgers destroyed Nebraska 70-31 as Wisconsin ran for a whopping 539 yards. Running back Montee Ball was the MVP, as he ran for 202 yards and had three touchdowns.

Current Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon had 216 yards rushing and one touchdown in that game on just nine carries.

The Badgers have a chance to get to their third championship game in four years if they can defeat the Minnesota Golden Gophers at Camp Randall Stadium on Saturday.

A win for the Badgers would let them keep Paul Bunyan's Axe for the 11th consecutive year—plus it would give Wisconsin the West Division title and a berth in the title game against Ohio State on December 6.

The last time the Badgers had this much on the line versus the Gophers was in 1962, when the two teams also met at Camp Randall. The winner would (of course) win Paul Bunyan's Axe and (more importantly) the Big Ten title and go to the Rose Bowl.

Jeff Potrykus of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinelwrote a great piece about that game earlier this week.

Winning the Axe was not a big deal back in those days, as senior end Pat Richter said when he reflected on the game played 52 years ago.

"None of those things ever came to our attention," Richter said.

The former athletic director of the Badgers said the game was about one thing.

"It came down to us winning the game and going to the Rose Bowl," Richter said.

Wisconsin was the No. 3 team in the country that day as it met No. 5 Minnesota. The Badgers won 14-9 in a very hard-fought battle.

The win gave the Badgers a trip to Pasadena to play USC. The 1963 Rose Bowl is considered one of the very best bowl games of all time, as the Badgers lost 42-37 to the Trojans.

The Badgers scored 23 unanswered points in the the final quarter of the game. When the game ended, the Badgers had the ball and were trying to score yet again.

Winning Paul Bunyan's Axe has become more visible in the past couple of decades when the Badgers and Gophers play—certainly since Barry Alvarez arrived in Madison in 1990.

The series for the Axe started in 1948. The Badgers currently have a 39-24-3 advantage in the series.

In addition, no two teams in the FBS have ever played more. The series between the two teams started in 1890 and—with the exception of 1906—they have played every year since then. In the overall series, the Gophers hold a 59-56-8 edge over the Badgers.

Head coach Gary Andersen of the Badgers knows how important winning the Axe is, as he talked about that last year in a press conference via uwbadgers.com:

The first day I was here, Coach [Barry] Alvarez walked me through and I saw the Axe sitting in the trophy case. It doesn't take too long to realize how important it is.

As we all know, in rivalries like this, it's a one-game championship. It's three hours and whatever minutes it takes to get it done.

The game on Saturday is definitely more about winning the Axe. It's about getting a chance to win the Big Ten title.

The winner of the game between the 9-2 Badgers and the 8-3 Gophers will get that opportunity against Ohio State.

The Badgers have the 18th-ranked offense in the FBS and have the second-best defense in the country.

The offense is led by Gordon, who is having a possible Heisman Trophy-winning season. Gordon has rushed for 2,109 yards (which is top in the country) and 25 touchdowns. No. 25 also has 15 receptions for 147 yards and two more scores.

The Badgers are using a two-quarterback system offensively (although Joel Stave has been getting most of the playing time recently). Stave has thrown for 827 yards with six touchdown passes versus four picks.

Tanner McEvoy is used at quarterback most often in running situations, as he has run for 560 yards and six touchdowns.

Overall, Wisconsin is ranked second in the FBS in running the football.

Defensively, the Badgers are led by a very active group of linebackers. The list includes Vince Biegel, Joe Schobert, Derek Landisch and Marcus Trotter. Landisch leads the team with eight sacks, while Biegel has six.

Kicker Rafael Gaglianone is ranked 15th in the country in field goal percentage, as he has made 15 out of 18 kicks.

Minnesota is only ranked 95th in the FBS in offense and and 33rd in defense. That gives testament to the excellent job done by head coach Jerry Kill and his staff.

The offense is led by running back David Cobb, who has rushed for 1,430 yards and 12 touchdowns. Cobb is questionable for the Wisconsin game due to a hamstring injury.

Quarterback Mitch Leidner is also a fine runner, as he has 408 yards rushing and eight touchdowns. He has also thrown for 1,445 yards with 10 touchdown passes versus eight interceptions.

Defensively, the Gophers are second in the Big Ten with 27 forced turnovers. They also have a turnover margin of plus-11.

Defensive back Briean Boddy-Calhoun leads the team with four interceptions. He also leads in passes defended (11) and is tied for the team lead in forced fumbles (two).

The Gophers are also very good—for the most part—on special teams. Jalen Myrick leads the Big Ten in kickoff returns with a 27.3-yard average. Punter Peter Mortell (originally from Green Bay) leads the Big Ten in punting with a 44.8-yard average. 

Minnesota also has very good coverage units on kickoffs and punts.

The weak point for the Gophers on special teams is their kicking game. Ryan Santoso has made only 10 of 16 field-goal attempts. He has missed four of his last six attempts.

Bottom line: The game on Saturday will be very big for a couple of reasons.

Yes, the winner will get Paul Bunyan's Axe, but the game means a lot more than that.

The winner gets a chance to win the Big Ten championship.

Wisconsin has won nine Big Ten titles since 1952, including three straight from 2010-2012. A win on Saturday will give Andersen a chance to claim his first (in just his second year on the job as head coach).

Minnesota has only won two Big Ten titles since 1960, with the last one happening way back in 1967. The 1960 Minnesota team also won the National Championship.

Winning the Axe will be nice, but having the opportunity to win the Big Ten championship is even better.

I'm sure Paul Bunyan would even agree.

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Charlie Strong Must Rethink Texas QB Situation After Tyrone Swoopes' Game vs TCU

AUSTIN, Texas—The Texas Longhorns had the opportunity to finish November undefeated, but fell 38 points short to No. 5 TCU on Thanksgiving. The 48-10 loss looks bad on paper, but the bigger issue for Texas was the regression of quarterback Tyrone Swoopes. 

Some may label it as unfair, but the quarterback position will almost always receive too much praise when a team wins and too much criticism in losses.

Swoopes will receive a lot of the criticism for the Longhorns' loss to TCU, but the blame is not unwarranted.

The sophomore quarterback was responsible for five turnovers, which led to half of the Horned Frogs' points and caused for speculation of Swoopes' future.

All season, head coach Charlie Strong and quarterback coach Shawn Watson have been slow to openly discuss the Longhorns' quarterback woes.

But the coaches had a different message Thursday night.

"I just told him he has to play. You can't turn the football over. You can't get down on yourself. It's all about his demeanor," Strong said following the loss. "I said the only way we're going to drive the football, we're going to score, is you have to make it happen, and you have to play well. And didn't—didn't make it happen tonight, just too many turnovers."

Strong went on to say he considered benching Swoopes but couldn't because the Longhorns don't have any other viable options under center.

And that's where the problem begins.

Texas has two scholarship quarterbacks on campus: Swoopes and true freshman Jerrod Heard. Some people may question why the coaches did not give Heard a chance to take the field, but Watson has constantly said Heard is still learning and needs a redshirt season to develop.

Swoopes is the only option Texas has, but that needs to change for the future.

"We've had a hand dealt us that we're playing with," Watson said. "That's what we were hired to come here and fix. When we got here, we haven't been able to impact the position in recruiting yet. We'll be able to do that now. So the big first step is to get competition in here."

The coaches were not dealt the most ideal hand when they took over at Texas. And to be fair, Swoopes is in fact a backup quarterback who has admitted he never expected to be the starting quarterback for Texas.

But it doesn't dismiss what happened on Thanksgiving.

Yes, Swoopes is young and yes, he's learning on the job, but turning over the ball five times is unacceptable for any player. And the sophomore understands his performance will not win him the job next season.

"It's unacceptable for a team to have five turnovers, especially coming from one person. It's not good and it doesn't put your team in the position to win," Swoopes said. "It was a tough day. I wasn't able to get out of the funk we got in and it didn't end well."

Swoopes has been up and down during his first season as the Longhorns' leader. There were games where he looked like he had the "it" factor, then other times where he was the polar opposite.

Thursday's performance was his worst of the season and was evidence how turnovers can destroy a team's chances of winning games.

In his six losses this year, Swoopes threw six touchdowns and eight interceptions. In his five wins as the starting quarterback, he threw seven touchdowns and two interceptions. 

He needs to show progress in leaps and bounds if he wants to be the quarterback of the future for Texas.

"When you do go out to recruit, guys have to understand that what is expected of this program, the expectations here, the standards here, the pride, tradition, it's all a part of it," Strong said. "That's what it's always going to be about. Some guys may not like it. They may not want to be here. That's fine. But we gotta get this program back to where it needs to and it's going to happen. We'll get it back there."

Thursday's game could have been the icing on the cake for the Horned Frogs to secure a coveted spot in the College Football Playoff and could very well be the final time Swoopes starts a game at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium. 

There is a lot of unknown revolving around the future of the Texas quarterback, but one thing is certain, Swoopes' job will be up for grabs in 2015. 

 

Taylor Gaspar is Bleacher Report's featured columnist covering the Texas Longhorns. Follow Taylor on Twitter: @Taylor_Gaspar.

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Georgia Tech Fans Hack UGA Website, Update Team Schedule with 'Get Ass Kicked'

Please note that a change has been made to your regularly scheduled game, Georgia fans.

Where you once had a “Yellow Jacket shellacking” for Saturday’s game against Georgia Tech, you will now be subjected to a posterior-trashing. 

This was the spirit of a recent notification on the Bulldogs’ official website, which Georgia Tech fans appeared to have hacked this week.

CollegeSpun.com’s Matt Lombardi captured a screenshot of changes that were made to the Georgia football schedule.

The site read: “Get Ass Kicked By GT.” It has since been revised to its original state. 

Chalk up another small coup for tech-savvy Georgia Tech fans, who continue to wage cyber guerrilla warfare against their instate rivals. Earlier in the week, presumed Yellow Jackets supporters began snapping up URLs and redirecting traffic to other web sites. 

Lombardi spotted a number of tweets on the matter. Fans appear to have bought the rights to “WalmartAcademy.com” and “UGAGrads.com” and funneled visitors to Georgia’s official website and McDonald’s careers section. 

Anything could happen Saturday, with the 16th-ranked Yellow Jackets and ninth-ranked Bulldogs both entering the game at 9-2. 

If Mark Richt’s record is any indication, however, Georgia will ride to victory despite losing Todd Gurley to a torn ACL for the season. The Bulldogs are 12-1 against Georgia Tech under Richt, and they clearly have plenty of motivational fodder for the matchup.

 

Follow Dan on Twitter for more sports and pop culture news.

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College Football: Top 5 Games to Watch in Week 14

It’s rivalry weekend, and there are national-title as well as division-title implications on the line.

Friday will feature a dangerous Arkansas team as of late against a Missouri team that is seeking a second consecutive SEC East Division title. While there is drama likely to ensue in Columbia, things will be heated up down in Tucson with in-state ranked rivals Arizona State and Arizona hoping to spoil each other's seasons and advance to the Pac-12 title game with help from Stanford.

Saturday will consist of the best rivalry games in college football, but there are three games that stand out above the rest. Georgia Tech will travel to Georgia and face off in what will be a matchup consisting of run-heavy offenses. Minnesota and Wisconsin will battle it out for Paul Bunyan’s Axe in what will be the most intense game between these two teams in a while, with the winner clinching the Big Ten West Division.

The most highly anticipated matchup of the day will be when Auburn makes the trip to Alabama to play in one of the greatest rivalries ever, the Iron Bowl. The Crimson Tide are hoping to bounce back from last year’s loss to the Tigers and stay in contention for their fourth national championship in six years.

In what should be an exciting weekend of college football, here are the top five games to watch.

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J.T. Barrett Can Establish Winning Legacy in Ohio State-Michigan Rivalry

COLUMBUS, Ohio — It was 10 years ago that Troy Smith started in his first Ohio State-Michigan game, totaling 386 yards and three touchdowns in a 37-21 Buckeyes victory. A decade later, the 2006 Heisman Trophy winner will see his name and number enshrined inside of Ohio Stadium, during a halftime ceremony at this year's edition of The Game.

It's a fitting tribute for Smith, who built so much of his storied Ohio State legacy in three games against "That Team Up North." But as Smith reaps the rewards of his success in one of college football's most historic rivalries, the Buckeyes' current quarterback will be just midway through his first showdown with the Wolverines, a game which will go a long way toward establishing the legacy that he'll one day leave in Columbus.

That's not to say that J.T. Barrett hasn't already made a name for himself in his redshirt freshman season, as he's already managed to rewrite the Ohio State record book just 11 games into his college career. As of last weekend's win over Indiana, Barrett already owns the school's single-season touchdown passes (33) and total offense (3,509) records, and his next touchdown will break Drew Brees' Big Ten mark of touchdowns accounted for in a season (42).

More than that, Barrett has led the Buckeyes to a 10-1 record and has Ohio State on the cusp of a potential spot in the first-ever College Football Playoff. But in Columbus, one game matters a little more than the others, as Smith learned a decade ago.

"Being and growing up in Ohio definitely buys towards having an understanding of which game is the best game of the year," Smith said. "It's a different feel."

While Smith has memories of The Game dating back to his childhood in Cleveland, Barrett didn't spend his formative years in the Buckeye State. Rather, the Wichita Falls, Texas, product grew up watching the Red River Rivalry, rooting on his formerly beloved Longhorns against Oklahoma.

But upon arriving in Columbus, it didn't take long for Barrett to understand what the Ohio State-Michigan game was all about. Redshirting a season ago, Barrett witnessed one of the most memorable confrontations in the history of The Game, a near bench-clearing brawl that left three players ejected.

"It was kind of an on-the-fly type deal," Barrett said of his education in the OSU-Michigan rivalry. "There was a lot to learn. It's a deep hate for those guys, not just the players but more from the fans. It was a lot.

"I knew it was big, but coming from Texas, it was Texas-Oklahoma. I went to that game, and it doesn't have anything on The Team Up North and Ohio State."

Of course Barrett can say the right things now, but watching The Game on the sideline is one deal and actually participating in it is a completely other challenge. How Barrett responds when he takes his inevitable first hit will go a long way toward determining the Buckeyes' success on Saturday, as Ohio State strives for its 10th consecutive win.

Urban Meyer knows this, which is why he's admitted to altering his approach with Barrett for the week. As opposed to players who have already participated in The Game, the third-year Buckeyes head coach has admitted to taking a "cautious" approach with Barrett, in hopes of not putting too much on his plate.

"[Offensive coordinator] Tom Herman and I have talked about that," Meyer said. "How you coach J.T. Barrett is going to be much different than a veteran...the good thing is he's a very focused guy that prepares well."

True to his nature, Barrett has insisted that he'll stay even-keeled on Saturday. Perhaps more importantly, last year's 42-41 Ohio State victory in Ann Arbor taught him that he can't afford to take the Wolverines lightly, even as the Buckeyes enter Saturday's showdown as a three-score favorite, per Odds Shark.

"It's always like that when you play a rivalry game, a high-emotion game like that. That's a part of the rivalry," Barrett said. "You really don't know what you're going to expect, but you try to control your emotions and execute the game plan. At the end of the day, that's the team that wins."

For nine of the last 10 years, that team's been the Buckeyes, Smith's 3-0 record paving the way for Terrelle Pryor's 3-0 mark and Braxton Miller's 2-1 record in the Michigan game. Saturday will mark Barrett's first stab at establishing a legacy of his own in The Game, but per the wisdom of Smith, he appears to already be on the right track.

"The first advice is stick to the game plan," Smith said. "Don't try to be somebody that he's not. Obviously, we've gotten a chance to see the transformation and the growth behind J.T. Barrett this whole season. I'm pretty much blown away."

 

Ben Axelrod is Bleacher Report's Ohio State Lead Writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BenAxelrod. Unless noted otherwise, all quotes obtained firsthand. All statistics courtesy of cfbstats.com and recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Notre Dame Football: Why Everett Golson Is Still the Best Bet at QB

It’s a seemingly annual Notre Dame football tradition celebrated in November, or even earlier, by many Irish fans.

No, not Thanksgiving, or the yearly matchup with USC.

Rather, it seems there is always some clamoring for Notre Dame’s backup quarterback to replace its starting quarterback. Even just last year, the buzz surrounding backup Andrew Hendrix bubbled, until he actually did replace Tommy Rees against USC and struggled to move the football.

This year, it’s been a more constant discussion, with many Irish football followers impressed—rightly so—by redshirt freshman Malik Zaire’s performance in the spring game in April. Those talks quieted to a mere murmur after Everett Golson started the season on a strong, Heisman-like note, only to be resuscitated with Golson’s turnover troubles.

Let’s get this out of the way right now: It’s certainly reasonable to debate whether Zaire should be given a chance at this point in the season, given Golson’s propensity for fumbles and interceptions. Still, Golson is Notre Dame’s best bet at quarterback right now.

Let’s focus on what Golson has done well.

In the first three games of the season, Golson completed 65 percent of his passes for 260 yards per game, seven touchdowns and zero turnovers.

Against Syracuse, Golson completed 25 consecutive passes, one short of tying the FBS record for consecutive completions.

Golson drove Notre Dame down the field against then-No. 14 Stanford and drilled a 23-yard dart to tight end Ben Koyack on 4th-and-11 for a go-ahead touchdown with 1:01 remaining in the fourth quarter.

He went toe-to-toe with Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston in a hostile environment in Tallahassee, Florida, and nearly led the Irish to a last-second victory. He’s responsible for 20.5 points per game this season, the fifth-most in the country.

Of course, that’s only half the story. While the completion streak against Syracuse continued a strong start to the 2014 campaign, it also marked a defined starting point for Golson’s oftentimes mind-blowing turnovers. He fumbled three times and lost two against the Orange to go along with a pair of interceptions. In total over the last eight games, Golson has committed 20 turnovers, more than 75 FBS teams have coughed up this season, per CFBStats.com.

But here’s the thing. Golson’s positives—the touchdowns, the fourth-quarter drives and the beautiful deep balls—are known entities. When he’s on, he’s an impressive quarterback.

“There's got to be more growth there, absolutely,” Irish head coach Brian Kelly said Sunday when asked how good Golson could be. “There is a higher ceiling for him. He's not been tapped out in the sense that it's as good as he can play. I think there's a lot of room for development and we hope that this experience that he got this year and going into USC and a bowl game that we continue to see that development.

“So in answering your question, yeah. I believe that he could be one of the top quarterbacks in the country, no question.”

Zaire, as solid as he was during the spring game, is an unknown entity. Would he supply as many big plays as Golson has? Would he take better care of the football? Maybe. And maybe not.

But while Golson’s turnover plague has been almost unimaginably ugly and pervasive, it seems it’s easier to correct those miscues than find another quarterback who brings the same positive characteristics to the discussion. Correct the turnovers, and doesn’t Notre Dame have one of the top quarterbacks in the country?

“We're 10 points from [having] three more wins, right?” Kelly said Sunday.

He is right, in a sense. A few fewer turnovers or different calls by the referees, and Notre Dame’s season could have a dramatically different feel. Sure, the same can be said for the breaks that have gone Notre Dame’s way, but the point persists.

Golson has supplied plenty of good and, more recently, plenty of bad. The good seems difficult to duplicate, or at least an unknown in the form of Zaire. The bad, while atrocious at times, seems it could be cleaned up.

With two games remaining this season, isn’t it worth determining if Golson can make progress with his ball security?

If he can, Notre Dame could have a top-of-the-line quarterback to lead a high-upside squad in 2015.

 

All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Tennessee Football: Burning Questions for the Vols Heading into Their Final Game

With only one game remaining on the schedule against a struggling Vanderbilt team, the 5-6 Tennessee Volunteers are looking to break even with a 6-6 record in 2014.

Although Tennessee fans likely would have been delighted at the outset of the season with the prospect of going to a bowl game for the first time since 2010, a 6-6 record now seems somewhat underwhelming given how close the Vols were to winning nine games and even securing an SEC East championship.

Then again, preseason predictions for the Vols by most college football analysts had them winning anywhere from four to seven regular-season games, with the majority predicting that Tennessee would stay at home in December for the fourth straight year.

The 2014 season was full of ups and downs: Tennessee punched above its weight by nearly upsetting a fully healthy and Todd Gurley-led Georgia Bulldogs team in Athens, then allowed a struggling Florida Gators team to steal a win at Neyland Stadium.

A dramatic come-from-behind win in Columbia against the South Carolina Gamecocks was the highlight of the Vols' regular-season slate, and a 50-16 dismantling of an improved Kentucky Wildcats team gave fans a glimpse of the Tennessee teams of old.

As 17-point favorites against Vanderbilt, Tennessee should take care of business and become bowl-eligible. That alone makes the season a success. 

But as the Vols head into their final game, there are many uncertainties surrounding this team both to finish out the season and look ahead to 2015. Can the Vols put together a complete season next year and challenge for the SEC East, or are there too many weaknesses that can only be solved with time and recruiting?

The answers to the following four questions could be the difference between another middling 6-6 or 7-5 season or a triumphant return to national relevancy in 2015. 

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