Before the 2014 college football season began, the Pac-12 took on the identity of a deep conference that was likely to cannibalize itself when league games commenced.
That's exactly what's happened, and though every team still has at least five league games remaining, the list of contenders has been reduced to five.
We're talking of course about the five one-loss teams still with a shot at the conference championship game, and while two-loss squads like UCLA and Stanford shouldn't give up hope, the road ahead is foggy and bleak at best.
ESPN.com's Kevin Gemmell notes that Oregon's win against the Washington Huskies on Saturday added a few more pieces to the puzzle, but that anything can (and probably will) still happen.
The South Division is perhaps as deep as any in college football outside of the SEC West, and counting the Bruins out would be a mistake. But for the sake of the argument, we're taking a look at which one-loss teams have the best chance to win the Pac-12.
It should be noted that USC has two losses to its name, but the only one that matters in the race for the division is the home defeat to Arizona State.
The Favorite: Oregon Ducks
We've seen two different Oregon football teams take the field in 2014. The first team started 3-0 and had arguably the most impressive performance to date of anyone when it whipped Michigan State 46-27 back on Sept. 6.
The Spartans hung close for three quarters, but the Ducks wore out the mighty defense of Pat Narduzzi and coasted to a comfortable win.
The other team from Eugene we saw after the 3-0 start went just 1-1 with a narrow victory at Washington State and a disappointing home loss to Arizona.
What made this team different was an inability to rush the passer on defense or deny offenses from gaining large chunks of yards, as well as an offensive line that was simply dreadful.
Quarterback Marcus Mariota still put on a show in both outings, but without time or room to throw, the offense sputtered, and the undefeated mark went out the window.
Then, in a must-win game at UCLA, the first team showed up again. Oregon dominated on the ground en route to a 42-30 victory that was never very close.
The obvious difference was the return of offensive tackle Jake Fisher, who had been out since the Wyoming game. And with an improved line to help protect Mariota and open up holes in the running game, points came fast and easy.
That same team showed up on Saturday and blasted the Huskies 45-20 in a performance that looked a lot like what we've come to expect out of Oregon in recent years. The defense allowed yards but not very many points, and the offense moved the ball on the ground to open up an effective passing attack.
If the past two weeks are any indication, Oregon looks like the favorite to win the Pac-12. But difficult games against Stanford and Utah lie ahead, and after a misstep against Arizona, no one would be too surprised to see the Ducks falter once again.
The Sleeper: USC Trojans
Much like Oregon, the USC Trojans have also put forth two different teams in 2014. The first was a team that walloped Fresno State before eking out a win at Stanford.
Then the other version of the Trojans reared its ugly head in an embarrassing 37-31 loss at Boston College. It was ugly for several reasons, not the least of which was the fact that the Eagles lost at home to Colorado State just two weeks later. But the biggest concern had to be getting dominated in the trenches.
Boston College ran for 452 yards at over eight yards per carry, with quarterback Tyler Murphy leading the way by piling up 191 yards on just 13 carries.
He only threw for 54 yards, which makes you scratch your head even more. How could USC allow that to happen knowing the Eagles' passing attack was limited at best?
When it was USC's turn to score, the passing attack kicked it into high gear, while the ground game managed just 20 yards. That's a 432-yard difference, and when you have Javorius Allen lined up in the backfield, that's a disgraceful statistic.
It was that effort that should give you pause when considering USC as a possible Pac-12 champion, but we can end the doom and gloom right there. Since then, the only sour note has been poor defense on a Hail Mary from Arizona State that cost the Trojans a conference loss.
USC also boasts a road win in Tucson against a then-undefeated Arizona squad, and it did so with a punishing ground attack and athletic defense that limited the Wildcats' uptempo, spread-rushing formula.
Steve Sarkisian's team is the sleeper of the group because it disappeared from national consciousness following the loss to Boston College and has stayed there since the defeat to the Sun Devils.
But USC has the most talent of any team in the conference, and if Cody Kessler can keep hurting defenses following the punishing runs of Allen, the Trojans can hang with and beat anyone.
Normally, this is the point in the piece where you have your long shots, but is that an accurate way to describe any of the one-loss teams left in the Pac-12?
We're talking about Utah, Arizona and Arizona State, and it's safe to say that no one would be shocked to see any of these teams wearing the crown come December.
No one has been perfect; hence the losses on their respective resumes. But Utah has solid wins at UCLA and Oregon State and plays host to Oregon in three weeks.
Arizona has the best win of anyone with its 31-24 victory in Autzen Stadium, and the best all-around performance may have been on Saturday when Arizona State effectively shut down Stanford in a 26-10 romp.
Then there are the blemishes on each team's record that leave room for doubt. Utah has the worst loss of the group after letting Washington State crawl back from a 21-point deficit to win, while Arizona State can only try to forget about the 62-27 beatdown it received at the hands of UCLA.
Arizona probably wins the argument of "best loss" considering it fell to USC after missing a potential game-winning field goal in the closing seconds. But a loss is a loss—who has the best one won't be a factor in the division race.
Both the Arizona schools have played USC, and the Wildcats have already traveled to Oregon. The Ducks will miss both Arizona State and the Trojans, but beyond that, everyone will still have to square off.
With as wild and wacky as the majority of Pac-12 games have been, there's no predicting how it will play out. The safe bet stays on the Ducks, who have the conference's best player along with a host of weapons on offense to mask a defense that has been up and down.
But USC is hitting its stride, and the rest of the one-loss teams all have what it takes to represent the Pac-12 as its champion during bowl season.
The fun part for all of us? Without a clear-cut front-runner, the next six weeks should be as exciting as any in recent memory. Buckle up.
All stats via CFBStats.com.
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After a bye week to rest and heal up, the Wisconsin Badgers (4-2, 1-1 Big Ten) meet the Maryland Terrapins (5-2, 2-1 Big Ten) in a cross-divisional matchup at Camp Randall Stadium on Saturday at noon ET.
Pitting one of the most consistent teams of the past decade-plus against a newcomer to the Big Ten in Maryland, this homecoming game is sure to be an interesting matchup between teams with highly contrasting styles.
Whereas the Badgers will look to set the tone with a physical run game, the Terrapins are stocked with arguably the best receiving corps in the conference and are not afraid to air the ball out as much as they can while largely ignoring the run game.
This game sets off a stretch of six games in a row to close the season, which see the Badgers travel to Rutgers and then Purdue in the following weeks. The Badgers need to win all three of these games to keep them in the running for a trip to Indianapolis and the Big Ten Championship Game.
After those three games, the Badgers return home to face fellow West Division power Nebraska. They then close their season with a trip to Kinnick Stadium to take on the Iowa Hawkeyes and end the year with a home game against the Minnesota Golden Gophers in the Battle for Paul Bunyan's Ax.
Maryland, meanwhile, is still in the thick of the East Division race, trailing just Michigan State and Ohio State and sitting one game off the pace. Maryland is in the midst of its most difficult stretch, having just taken on Ohio State and Iowa before coming to Madison.
After their game against the Badgers, the Terps travel to Happy Valley to play Penn State and then head home to face Michigan State. If the Terps can snag two wins in these games, they'll ensure bowl eligibility before heading to Ann Arbor and then facing Rutgers in a season-closing clash between this year's Big Ten debutants.
Let's take a look at the keys to victory and players to watch for both teams as well as a prediction for this week's matchup.
Devin Gardner wouldn’t take the bait.
As a matter of fact, he wasn’t even remotely close to falling into those cobwebs during Monday’s press conference at the Crisler Center, quickly shooting down and dismissing every reporter’s attempt at getting him to crack during rivalry week.
One writer asked Gardner if he had to clear any “mental hurdles” before Saturday’s meeting with No. 8-ranked Michigan State (6-1, 3-0), possibly suggesting that the Wolverines’ fifth-year senior quarterback was somehow traumatized by being “beaten up” during Michigan’s 29-6 loss to the Spartans in 2013.
“No,” fired a visibly annoyed Gardner.
And then came several seconds of awkward silence.
It was that kind of day for Gardner—whose Wolverines (3-4, 1-2) are 1-5 versus their in-state rivals since 2008 and have continuously struggled versus power-five opponents, winning just four times in the past 13 contests.
The writer wasn’t out of line for asking. It was a fair question. Gardner endured twice his normal share of punishment that dreadful day in East Lansing. Before Nov. 2, 2013, he was 9-3 as a starter and had been barely scraped.
Since then, he’s won four of his past 10 starts while simultaneously becoming the oppositions’ favorite moving target. In 2013, he was sacked 34 times, the third-most in FBS. This season, he’s been sacked 16 times and sits at No. 25. He could climb the ranks this weekend.
While downing the Spartans wouldn’t “save” the season (it can’t be “saved”), it’d certainly give Gardner a little confidence as he makes his way through the remainder of his career. It could even help him get over some of those "mental hurdles" that don’t exist.
But he insists that Saturday’s just another run-of-the-mill date with MSU, the defending Big Ten and Rose Bowl champion that's favored by more than two touchdowns, according to Odds Shark.
“It means a lot to me, but it means a lot to me every year, so….” Gardner quickly said. “You know, I’m just excited to get to the game (play).”
On top of being dinged for nearly half of a field via six sacks in 2013, Gardner completed just 14 of 27 passes for a lukewarm 210 yards—and zero touchdowns. He also threw a pick.
In other words, he didn't take care of business.
Coach Brady Hoke was asked how he’d feel, theoretically of course, about not playing well in a rivalry game. While his response wasn’t a direct reference to Gardner, who wasn’t the only player to have a tough go, it's certainly a blanket statement that could apply to the quarterback.
“It would bother me if I played in the game, if you’re asking me, personally, and I didn’t do my job,” Hoke said. “It would bother the hell out of me.”
So, by connecting the dots, one could reach the conclusion that Gardner should be bothered by 2013’s failure in East Lansing. He’s a “competitor” who “wants to win every one (game).” Why wouldn’t he feel the need to prove something Oct. 25?
He's already been pummeled 31-0 by Notre Dame this season. He lost at home to Utah and fell on the road to Rutgers, a conference newcomer.
Don't believe the spin. This year's game with the Spartans should mean everything to Gardner. It should be considered the biggest bout of his collegiate tenure...until the season finale versus Ohio State.
But let's save that for another day.
Mistakes have plagued Gardner, who said that he's watched film from 2013 and taken mental notes.
Perhaps better than anyone, he knows what went right and what went wrong. At times, Michigan benefited by his impromptu actions. In other cases, his indecision and frantic mode of operation cost the team dearly.
Beginning with 10:31 to play and down 22-6, Gardner engineered a 12-play, 53-yard drive that landed Michigan on the Spartans' 15-yard line. There was hope, if even just a little, for Team 134.
Then he lost five yards after recovering his fumble. Then he threw an interception to Darqueze Dennard, who sat on it at the three...and then the game was over.
And while that particular play didn't cost the Wolverines a win, looking back, it certainly serves as a constant reminder of Gardner's downside. One less pick here, one more touchdown there and Michigan walks away victorious.
So, did he learn from that game? Has he made corrections to ensure that Oct. 25 won't be a repeat of Nov. 2?
"Yes, I have," he said.
"I can't give you all our secrets, sorry," he said.
On Saturday, Gardner has a chance to go out on a high note. He doesn't want to be the rare Wolverines quarterback with a losing record to the Spartans. He knows how important the eighth game of 2014 is to the program and the fans.
Of course it's huge. Of course it's defining.
Bottom line: It's the biggest game to date of his career.
But he won't tell you that.
“I want to win just as bad as I wanted to win every single game.”
Follow Bleacher Report's Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81.
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes and references to were obtained firsthand by the writer.
Does Gardner get it done? Can he lead Michigan to an upset? As always, feel free to express your opinion in the comments section.
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After two straight weeks in which the defense had to save the day, the Clemson Tigers hope to be in a better position against Syracuse on Saturday when the fourth quarter rolls around.
Syracuse will enter Death Valley this weekend with a 1-2 record in the conference and a 3-4 mark overall.
The offense will attempt to get things rolling against a Syracuse defense that is No. 50 in the country in points allowed, only giving up 23.9 points per game. After facing two very good defenses in previous weeks, it will be interesting to see how well Clemson is able to move the ball in Cole Stoudt’s second consecutive start.
The Georgia Bulldogs are seven games into the 2013 season, and they are right where they want to be in terms of having a chance to play in the Georgia Dome in December.
It has not been an easy ride to say the least. After a dominating performance against Clemson, the Bulldogs fell short against South Carolina, eased past Troy, won a back-and-forth game against Tennessee and finished the month of October undefeated with wins over Vanderbilt, Missouri and Arkansas.
The schedule is not easier as the Bulldogs still have to face Florida, Kentucky and Auburn to end the SEC leg of their schedule. But even without their best player, Todd Gurley, the Bulldogs are improving and look to be the favorite to win the SEC East.
Here are position-by-position midseason grades for Georgia.
Nebraska football fans were relieved to leave Evanston, Illinois, on Saturday with a 38-17 win over Northwestern and could be forgiven for sneaking a peek at Wisconsin. After all, the Badgers look to be Nebraska’s next big test, with home games against Rutgers and Purdue standing in the way.
But those games still need to be played, and the chance exists for either team to upset Nebraska. Could that happen? Here are three things to worry about.
The First Defensive Series
Other than against Fresno State and (remarkably) Michigan State, Nebraska has allowed each opponent this year to score on its opening possession. Nebraska has not lost any of the games in which it has conceded an opening-drive score, but that doesn’t lessen the fire with which NU is playing.
There are only a few ways teams with inferior talent can pull off an upset, particularly away from home. One is to get a lead early and play keep-away, hoping that the pressure of a potential upset on the favorite will lead to more mistakes.
Surrendering an opening-drive touchdown doesn’t necessarily lead to an upset. Nebraska gave up opening scores to Florida Atlantic and Illinois before blowing those teams off the field. But Nebraska also gave up an opening score to FCS opponent McNeese State, helping the Cowboys to stay confident and able to hang with NU until the very end of the contest.
If Nebraska wants to avoid an upset prior to Wisconsin, coming out of the gate strong defensively would be a significant first step in doing so.
The Sneaky-Good Opponents
Hear me out. Yes, Nebraska has Rutgers and Purdue prior to Wisconsin, teams that at the start of the season would have been assumed wins.
Rutgers showed at least some signs of life this year, putting up a 5-2 record, including a win on the road at Washington State. But the Scarlet Knights’ close loss to Penn State is looking less and less impressive as the Nittany Lions struggle. And Ohio State ran Rutgers off the field last week, beating the Knights 56-17 in Columbus.
Purdue came into the season looking to be the worst team in the Big Ten. And at 3-5, the Boilermakers look to be fitting right into that prediction.
But Purdue’s record can be a little misleading. The Boilermakers gave both Iowa and Michigan State a contest, losing to the Hawkeyes 24-10 in a game that was closer than the score indicated and 45-31 to the Spartans.
Rutgers’ 5-2 record already suggests that the Knights could be more of a challenge than thought of at the start of the season. And with a win over Michigan, Rutgers showed it could beat a team with significantly better talent (albeit one in the middle of a total collapse).
In some ways, 2014 feels like a different season for Nebraska. A comfortable win over Northwestern and a resilient (if ultimately unsuccessful) comeback on the road against a top opponent may be evidence that Bo Pelini’s squad this year is ready to shake off the doldrums of a four-loss season.
But that four-loss ceiling hasn’t been broken yet. And Pelini’s teams still have a track record of head-scratching losses to inferior teams. Both Rutgers and Purdue have inferior talent to Nebraska, and both games are in Lincoln. On paper, Nebraska should be prohibitive favorites against both teams.
But Pelini’s teams have in the past shown a propensity or at least a vulnerability to lose games they should win. Falling victim to that propensity could lead to an upset and a real setback in Nebraska’s attempt to reclaim national relevance.
For a different look at Nebraska football, check out The Double Extra Point.
Or you can use the Twitter machine to follow @DblExtraPoint.
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Most people in the state of Tennessee are Volunteers fans, so it's always good to try to appeal to the majority in political campaigns.
One candidate decided to release these negative ads about their opponent, comparing them to former Vols head coach Lane Kiffin.
That's one way to get votes.
Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com
The Virginia Tech Hokies host longtime rival Miami this Thursday in Blacksburg, Va. It's a meeting with huge ACC Coastal Division implications as both schools enter the meeting with identical 4-3, (1-2 in ACC play) records.
It's the second straight Thursday game for the Hokies. Tech went to Pittsburgh last week and lost a close one the Panthers.
The Hokies and Hurricanes have been heated rivals since the mid-'90s when they were both in the Big East. The Hokies have won 13 of the last 19 meetings.
The loser of Thursday's game will likely be eliminated from Coastal Division contention, so it's a must-win for both teams.
- When: Thursday, October 23, 2014
- Where: Lane Stadium, Blacksburg, Virginia
- Time: 8:00 p.m. ET
- TV: ESPN
- Radio: Virginia Tech IMG Sports Network. Here is a complete list of stations by area.
- Spread: The Hurricanes are presently three-point favorites, via Odds Shark.
It's been a month since the Nebraska Cornhuskers' last home game. Back home, the Huskers face Big Ten newcomer Rutgers.
1920 was the last time the two saw each other, and Nebraska won 28-0. That game was played at the New York Polo Grounds.
Ninety-four years later, the two programs finally meet again, but this time it's at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Nebraska. Rutgers is 5-2 on the season, while the Huskers are 6-1. Nebraska is looking to win again, as the team continues its fight to make it to the Big Ten Championship Game.
Will the Huskers defeat Rutgers at home, or will the Scarlet Knights find a way to take home a victory?
Where:Memorial Stadium, Lincoln, Nebraska
When: Saturday, October 25, at noon ET
Listen: Husker Sports Network or Sirius Channel 84, XM 84
Betting Line via Odds Shark: Nebraska (-17)
With the halfway point of the 2014-15 college football season a thing of the past, the inaugural College Football Playoff and the usual crop of bowl games are within reach.
In other words, it is time to project how things will shake out.
There are enough games in the books to know which teams stand out the most. We know who the top players in the country are and which players—such as Mississippi State's Dak Prescott—can will their team to the title game on their own.
We even have some semblance of an idea as to how the rest of the games will play out although this season has been wilder than most. Not that it is a bad thing, as ESPN's Joe Schad muses:
Here is a stab at 2014-15 bowl projections with some details after the jump.
2014 College Football Bowl Projections
The latest AP Top 25 poll can be viewed here.
...Is all fans get.
The season has been far from it, but one constant remains—no team is stopping Florida State.
These Seminoles have won 23 straight games. It has not always been pretty. It has been controversial at times, such as in the waning moments of the team's 31-27 victory over then-No. 5 Notre Dame last weekend.
Quarterback Jameis Winston has been on fire over the course of his past two games, one of those being the biggest test the Seminoles will face thanks to a strong Fighting Irish club. Then again, that Notre Dame team is 1-17 against Top Five teams since 1998.
Regardless, these Seminoles continue to win. The rest of the schedule has the look of a cakewalk, too.
Louisville is a tricky opponent thanks to a potent offense and a great defense that ranks No. 4 in the country, but the Seminoles have more than a week to prepare for that showdown. Virginia, Miami (Florida) and Boston College are all hardly above .500 while a season-ending encounter with Florida actually presents the Seminoles with an opponent that is just .500—and coming off a 42-13 loss to Missouri.
The biggest opponent to the Seminoles' playoff chances is themselves. Remember that even if the team does pick up a single loss, it is hard to imagine voters would not put Winston and Co. in the running.
The Comeback Story
Many declared the Michigan State Spartans dead in the water in regard to the CFP after a 46-27 loss to then-No. 3 Oregon back in early September.
Now, the Spartans are ranked higher than the Ducks.
So it goes in the wild, inaugural CFP season, where a number of one-loss teams are already sure to get in on the action by season's end. Based on recent play and the rest of the schedule, the Spartans figure to be one of them.
Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio certainly thinks his team should be in the running, as captured by Paul Myerberg of USA Today Sports:
What we'd like to have people say about us is that we're efficient. We stop the run. We make them throw the ball on offense. All we care about is winning football games, actually. That's probably what most people care about. That's the way I was raised to coach, I guess.
He certainly is not wrong. The Spartans surprisingly rank No. 3 overall with an average of 47.0 points scored per game. The defense is its usually elite self, most notably stunting a potent Nebraska rushing attack at the beginning of October and holding Heisman Trophy contender Ameer Abdullah to 45 yards and a pair of scores on a 1.9 yards-per-carry average.
The rest of the schedule is simple. Take care of business against Michigan, fend off an iffy Ohio State team and win games against programs with inflated records such as Maryland, Rutgers and Penn State.
Battle of Mississippi
Like everyone predicted, the biggest game of the season is a season-ending affair between Mississippi State and Ole Miss.
Of course, those Rebels are ranked No. 3 in the land thanks to the No. 1 defense that allows just 10.6 points per game on average and has wins over Texas A&M and Alabama.
Those Bulldogs are the top team in the nation thanks to an elite offense led by Prescott and wins over LSU, Texas A&M and Auburn.
The two collide on Nov. 29.
Both have a good shot of getting there undefeated, too. Ole Miss needs to survive LSU and Auburn, but with a defense that held Alabama to 17 points and a senior quarterback in Bo Wallace who has thrown 17 touchdowns to six interceptions, it is not out of the realm of possibility.
Prescott and the Bulldogs have a much easier ride, the exception being a trip to Alabama. Given Prescott's 246 passing yards, 121 rushing yards and three total scores in a comfortable win over Auburn, though, it is hard to imagine he will have a ton of difficulty against the Crimson Tide.
The wackiest part? If both get to the end of the season undefeated, the loser of the contest could still make the CFP and invoke a rematch.
Strap in for a wild finish.
Note: All stats and info via ESPN.com unless otherwise specified.
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The high school football regular season rolled on last weekend with playoff positioning and community bragging rights at stake. Marquee matchups drew crowds to bleachers in every corner of America, and many included dynamic performances by elite players involved.
We detail these dominant displays every Monday, paying close attention to athletes who helped alter their teams' fortunes with phenomenal efforts and could someday do the same in college. Here's our latest look at compelling prospects who owned the action.
4-star 2016 athlete Jordan Fuller, Old Tappan High School (Old Tappan, New Jersey)
Fuller, the younger brother of standout UCLA wide receiver Devin Fuller, was supposed to spend his entire junior campaign at quarterback but suffered a wrist injury prior to the season. The setback made it necessary for him to spend time at receiver and defensive back, where he managed to make an impact while fighting through discomfort.
"It's annoying, to be honest," Fuller told Todderick Hunt of NJ.com earlier this month. "I want to get it (the cast) off, but I've just got to wait. But it should be off in the next few weeks. There's a little pain but it's getting a lot better."
The 6'2", 190-pound prospect returned to quarterback against Pascack Valley, and although Old Tappan fell 35-28, the game represented a positive step in his development. Fuller erupted for 304 rushing yards, scoring three times on the ground and adding a touchdown toss.
Rated ninth nationally among athletes in 247Sports' composite rankings, he is likely to land at safety or receiver at the next level. Fuller visited Rutgers earlier this fall and has collected offers from Ohio State, Miami and Maryland in recent months.
5-star quarterback Blake Barnett, Santiago High School (Corona, California)
The Southern California standout continues to create plenty of buzz about Alabama's offensive future. Barnett, a Crimson Tide commit, shattered his own single-game program passing record during a 49-35 victory over Riverside King High School.
He torched defenders for 498 yards through the air to surpass his former career-high mark of 384 yards, per Eric-Paul Johnson of The Press-Enterprise. Barnett connected on three touchdown throws, including a pair from 50-plus yards.
Flashing the mobility that makes him America's top-rated dual-threat quarterback, Barnett added two rushing scores. He now has 10 total touchdowns in the past two games, both league victories.
Barnett, who initially pledged to Notre Dame last November, flipped to Alabama in June. He followed up the eye-opening effort with a trip to Tuscaloosa for Saturday's game against Texas A&M, where he snapped this candid photo of head coach Nick Saban:
Unranked running back Cliff Miller, Columbian High School (Tiffin, Ohio)
Miller headlined a matchup that featured surreal statistical numbers. He led his squad to an 83-82 overtime win against Shelby High School.
The contest tied an Ohio state record for most combined points in one game, per Larry Phillips of the Mansfield News Journal. Miller helped the scorekeeper stay busy throughout, tallying 10 touchdowns and a two-point conversion.
His 62 total points are tied for third all time in the state. Miller scored six times before intermission, and his final trip to the end zone gave Columbian its game-winning advantage in the extra session.
You won't read much about Miller mulling over many FBS offers at this point, but he just put himself in state history books and on the national radar.
4-star running back Soso Jamabo, Plano West High School (Plano, Texas)
The 6'2.5", 210-pound playmaker provided yet another example of his scintillating abilities Friday night, rushing for four first-half touchdowns. Jamabo, who was crowned Homecoming King during the game's festivities, helped Plano West wallop Lewisville 55-22 and improve to 6-1 this season.
He finished the night with 145 rushing yards and five total touchdowns, per Keith Whitmire of The Dallas Morning News. Jamabo added a 54-yard scoring reception in the second half after his dominant early efforts.
The running back is enjoying a career-best season. He now has 1,558 rushing yards and 31 total touchdowns, averaging 11 yards per carry.
Jamabo is weighing offers from UCLA, Oklahoma, Arizona State and Notre Dame, among others.
5-star athlete Torrance Gibson, American Heritage High School (Fort Lauderdale, Florida)
Gibson, who ranks among the most talented all-around players in this recruiting cycle, stepped up for defending state champion American Heritage in a crucial showdown with Apopka High School. He rushed for 151 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries, per the Sun Sentinel.
The 6'4", 200-pound prospect aims to play quarterback in college. He threw a touchdown pass and rushed for two more scores in the 30-20 victory over Apopka.
Gibson changed the complexion of a highly anticipated matchup by dashing 60 yards for a go-ahead score as time expired in the third quarter. Even when he's not hitting a high percentage of pass attempts, Gibson has shown he's fully capable of controlling a contest with dangerous rushing skills.
His six touchdowns on the ground lead all American Heritage players through seven games. Gibson has more than 1,300 total yards as a junior.
He remains uncommitted. Ohio State, LSU, Arizona and Oklahoma are among the programs in pursuit.
3-star running back Shannon Brooks, Pickens County High School (Jasper, Georgia)
The Minnesota commit continues to lead the way for Peach State rushers following another dominant performance. Brooks blew by defenders for 274 yards on just 13 carries, pushing his team to a 69-34 win over Lafayette High School, per MaxPreps.
The 5'11", 196-pound rusher added a 45-yard reception, threw a 65-yard touchdown and scored four times as a runner. Brooks has been impressive throughout his senior season, surpassing 200 yards on the ground in five of seven games.
The past three efforts have featured 14 rushing touchdowns, pushing his total to 26 this season.
4-star wide receiver Cordell Broadus, Bishop Gorman High School (Las Vegas, Nevada)
The talented downfield target continues to make the most of his only year at national title contender Bishop Gorman. Broadus, the son of hip-hop icon Snoop Dogg, caught three touchdowns in a 70-13 rout of Legacy High School, per MaxPreps.
He now leads the team with eight scoring receptions through nine games. Broadus finished the contest with four catches for 131 yards, setting his personal single-game high with the squad.
The 6'2", 195-pound pass-catcher is considering several collegiate options, including USC, UCLA, Notre Dame and Baylor.
Recruit ratings courtesy of 247Sports.
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The Oregon Ducks (6-1, 3-1) finally played a completely football game against the Washington Huskies and came away with a huge 45-20 victory. While the Ducks are now in control of the Pac-12 North division, there is no time to rest as they head to the Bay Area on a short week to take on the Cal Bears (4-3, 2-3) at the new Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara.
Oregon, now ranked No. 6 in the country by The Associated Press, has beaten the Bears five consecutive times. However, these are the new and improved Cal Bears. Despite losing their past two games to Washington and UCLA, the Bears have been competitive in almost every game this season and are led by sophomore quarterback Jared Goff, who is one of the most underappreciated quarterbacks in the nation.
After winning only one game in 2013, head coach Sonny Dykes has the Bears believing that they can compete with any team in the Pac-12. Outside of a 31-7 loss to Washington two weeks ago, the Bears have been competitive in every game—including narrow losses to UCLA and Arizona.
While the Bears believe they can compete with Oregon, the Ducks know they only have so many opportunities left to impress members of the College Football Playoff committee. The Ducks may be looking ahead to their matchup against Stanford on Nov. 1; however, they would be foolish to overlook these Cal Bears.
Here's what you need to know:
Date: Friday, Oct. 24
Time: 7 p.m. Pacific Time
Place: Levi's Stadium (Santa Clara, Calif.)
TV: Fox Sports 1
Spread: Oregon -16, according to OddsShark.com.
The Syracuse Orange and the Clemson Tigers will butt heads this Saturday night in a Week 9 ACC Atlantic Division matchup at Memorial Stadium. The game is set to kickoff at 7 p.m. ET and will be available nationally on ESPNU.
The Orange are coming off a 30-7 romp over Wake Forest this past Saturday as six-point favorites on the road. This win snapped a four-game straight-up losing streak in which they failed to cover in three of the games. Syracuse is now 3-4 both straight-up and against the spread, and the total has stayed under in two previous road games this year.
Clemson continues to pad its overall record with SU victories in its last four games, but it has failed to cover in its last two in tighter-than-expected battles against Louisville and Boston College. This past Saturday, the Tigers beat BC 17-13, but they could not cover the 5.5 points on the road. The total has now stayed under in their last three games.
Syracuse at Clemson Betting Storylines
This is Syracuse's second season in the ACC after going an even 4-4 SU in conference play last year. So far this season, its only conference win was last week against the Demon Deacons after losing to Louisville and Florida State. The 30 points it scored in that win was a welcomed sign after failing to score more than 20 points in any of its previous four outings, which all resulted in SU losses.
The Orange lost quarterback Terrel Hunt earlier this month to a leg injury, and that took a bite out of both the passing game and the ground game. Hunt remains the second-leading rusher on the team with 307 yards. Prince-Tyson Gulley leads all runners with 418 yards in an offense that is averaging 192 rushing yards a game. The defense is allowing an average of 23.9 points a game, but this unit gave up 28 points or more in every contest during its recent four-game slide.
Clemson's tight six-point loss to Florida State earlier in the season put a major dent in its Atlantic Division title hopes, but it clearly remains the second-best team in the ACC this season at 5-2 SU overall and 4-1 in conference play. The offense is averaging a respectable 34.6 points a game despite only tallying a combined 40 points in the victories against the Cardinals and the Eagles. The defense remains stout, allowing an average of just 20 points a game.
Cole Stoudt got the call at quarterback this past Saturday against BC and threw for 285 yards while completing 64.4 percent of his 45 attempts. The Tigers passing offense as a whole is averaging 303 yards per game, which is ranked 22nd in the nation. Both Mike Williams and Artavis Scott came up big against BC with a combined 18 receptions for 200 yards.
Syracuse at Clemson Betting Odds and Trends by Doc's Sports
Point Spread: Clemson -15.5
Total Line: OFF
The betting trends on Covers have the Orange listed at 4-1 ATS in their last five road games, and the total has stayed under in four of those contests. It has stayed under in four of their last six games overall.
The Tigers are 5-1 ATS in their last six games at home and 5-2 ATS in their last seven conference games. The total has stayed under in their last six games following a SU win.
Last season, in what was the first meeting between the two since 1996, Clemson crushed the Orange 49-14 as a 14-point road favorite. The total stayed under the closing 65.5-point line.
College Football Picks: Syracuse at Clemson Betting Predictions
I have been waiting for Clemson's offense to explode again ever since it put up a combined 91 points against North Carolina and North Carolina State in late September. I believe this is the week the Tigers return to that level of play with a dominating win at home that easily covers the 15.5-point spread.
Take: No. 124 Clemson (-15.5) over Syracuse, 7 p.m. ET, Saturday, Oct. 25
Betting information courtesy of Covers unless otherwise noted.
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The only word that really matters in college football this season is "playoff." Every game, every result, every non-conference schedule or road loss or upset all comes back to one thing—which four teams will qualify for this year's College Football Playoff?
But what if there were 16 teams? What if the playoff was four times larger?
Well, that's what the Super 16 Poll asks each week, as they rank the top 16 teams in the nation to give people an idea of what that playoff system would look like. It's a purely theoretical task, of course, but it's also fun to switch the debate from four teams to 16 teams.
Let's take a look at how the poll looks this week.
The one benefit to a four-team playoff as opposed to a 16-team dance is organizational. Essentially, there are far fewer teams by the end of the season that can make a realistic case for being one of the four best teams in the nation.
When it comes to 16, however, Pandora's Box is opened. Don't get me wrong—the more that is actually decided on the field, the better. But suddenly, a ton of teams can hold forth their resume, shout "Pick me, pick me!" and actually warrant consideration.
East Carolina, for instance, won't sniff the four-team playoff. But with 16 teams, well, it has to be considered. Oklahoma's chance at a national title this year are over with two losses. In a 16-team playoff, however, you better bet the Sooners would make their case for being one of the top 16 teams. Heck, a 16-team playoff is likely the only way the Big Ten or Pac-12 would get a team into the playoff this season (though don't tell Michigan State, Ohio State or Oregon that).
Baylor's loss to West Virginia seems likely to have caused the Bears a shot at the playoff. In a 16-team dance, they'd have a chance to have their revenge.
The matchups would be so much more fascinating in a 16-team playoff, however. The difference between finishing No. 1 and, say, No. 8 would be palpable. Mississippi State would rather play an East Carolina or Nebraska or Arizona than a Michigan State or Georgia or TCU, for instance.
Although at this point, perhaps Mississippi State won't mind playing anyone. Beating LSU, Texas A&M and Auburn in consecutive weeks tends to inspire confidence in a team. Surviving the SEC West this season is basically a national championship in its own right, given how amazing the division is. Whichever team does survive—be it Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Alabama or Auburn—isn't going to be losing too much sleep over who they play in a playoff.
Here's one thing we know—whether the playoff is four teams or 16, it's going to be bedlam. In fact, it might look something like this.
Notre Dame may not be able to get back into the four-team playoff but, man, it would be fun to see what the Irish could do in a 16-team tournament. We may not be getting that wish anytime soon but it's sure fun to imagine.
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Florida State Win Impresses SEC Commit
Alabama commit Demetris Robertson was one of several big name recruits in Tallahassee, Fla. for Florida State's comeback 31-27 win over Notre Dame. Robertson came away very impressed with the 'Noles.
"I had a great time last night," Robertson told Bleacher Report. "My favorite part had to be the atmosphere and the fans. I didn't know so many of them recognized me. They showed a lot of love."
Robertson decided to commit to the Crimson Tide last July after Alabama's summer camp. Since that time Miami, Michigan, North Carolina, and USC have offered the 6'1, 165-pound athlete from Savannah, Ga. The Tide will have to fight off a long list of suitors to keep Robertson on the commitment list starting with the 'Noles.
The 5-star told me, "Their receivers are on point. Travis Rudolph caught my eye. Coach (Charles) Kelly is my primary recruiter. FSU is moving up for me."
Georgia will likely make a move too, but the Seminoles could be a major threat to Alabama for the dynamic athlete from the Peach State. We are going to keep an eye on this situation with a long way to go until National Signing Day in 2016.
Tough Visit To The Swamp For In-State OL and 5-star RB
The hot seat in Gainesville has now reached it's boiling point following the Gators 42-13 loss to Missouri at The Swamp. A couple of weeks ago I said if Florida could land 5-star defensive linemen Byron Cowart and CeCe Jefferson combined with a respectable 8-4 record then head coach Will Muschamp may want to ask for a raise. Now Florida limps into into the bye week with speculation that Muschamp may be out following a loss to rival Georgia on Nov. 1
Despite the blowout the defense played exceptional only yielding a total of 119 yards of total offense. In fact, Florida is the only school in the last ten seasons to give up less than 120 yards and lose:
Jacksonville (Fla.) Trinity Christian two-way standout Kendrick Norton took an unofficial visit to Florida for the lopsided loss. Norton said he was impressed with the defense and the environment.
"It was a great atmosphere. Even the game wasn't close the crowd stayed in it the whole time," said Norton. "The defense played great. I was surprised with how the offense turned the ball over. I figured Florida would win because of their defense and let the offense get a few field goals while holding onto the ball, but they couldn't do that."
Norton lines up at offensive guard and defensive tackle for Trinity Christian. Florida wants the 6'3, 305-pounder 4-star stalwart on defense.
"I watched Florida's defensive line and they got after them like always," added Norton. "Coach (Brad) Lawing is a great coach. He is always works with them and they have some talented guys."
When asked about the outcome of the game and Coach Muschamp's job status? Norton had this to say, "They've only lost three games, so they would have to lose a lot more for them to drop out of my top (favorites). If something happens and Coach Lawing leaves then I will have to reconsider things with Florida."
For now, Norton still has the Gators firmly in his list of top schools along with Miami and others. He is going to keep an eye on the situation in Gainesville to see if any changes will be made. He is planning his official visit to Miami for the Florida State game in Nov.
Last Friday, Muschamp made a final pitch to 5-star running back Jacques Patrick. Recruiting analyst Blake Alderman was the first to report that Patrick was on campus at Florida.
Patrick told me, "Yes I was at Florida. I'm now certain on what I needed to know and I'll make my decision next week (Oct. 27)."
Patrick will likely decided between Alabama, Florida, Florida State, Ohio State, and Texas A&M. The 247Sports Crystal Ball predictions have him as a 100% lock to FSU. However, Patrick chose to be in Gainesville over the weekend instead of FSU's game against Notre Dame. Does that meaning anything? Probably not, but give Muschamp credit for giving Florida a fighting chance.
Skylar Diggins' Cousin Visits Notre Dame Rival
On Saturday afternoon, St. John Bosco athlete DJ Morgan was at The Coliseum with his mom and little brother to watch Cody Kessler make USC history. Kessler threw a school record seven touchdowns in the Trojans win over Colorado. Morgan said interacting with players post game after the special moment was the best part of his trip.
"The excitement in the locker room was amazing," said Morgan. "After I win it was great to see everyone get along and having fun. It was mind boggling to see him go out there and throw so many touchdowns one right after the other. It was strike after strike after strike."
When asked if 5-star Bosco teammate Josh Rosen is trying to recruit him to UCLA? He replied, "Josh respects everyone and their decision about which colleges they want to go. He understands its not just a four year decision its a forty year decision."
Location will likely be a factor for Morgan. His mom wants him to stay close to home, so she can see him play. She isn't fond of traveling and prefers Morgan to be near the west coast when he makes his college decision.
The Trojan faithful let Morgan and his family know he is a priority recruit. Morgan said fans knew he who was when he was at the game.
"Some of them knew my name and they were chanting Fight On," laughed Morgan. "They were saying this is the right place to be. Its a great feeling and truly an honor and blessing to get that experience. Not everyone gets that opportunity to say the USC fan base knows you. It's a blessing."
Morgan recently picked up an Arizona State offer. The 4-star playmaker has made plans to take an unofficial visit to Tempe, Ariz. on Nov. 8 for the Sun Devils tilt against Notre Dame.
2016 4-Star John Broussard Impressed by Bama's Dominant D
Yellowhammer State star John Broussard was in Tuscaloosa, Ala. for the Tide's 59-0 romp over Texas A&M. Broussard said the defense and the secondary really stood out in the win.
"It was great and the atmosphere was cool," said Broussard. "I was watching Landon Collins and Tony Brown in the secondary. I really thought it was going to be a close game and come down to the wire, but Alabama came out strong and came out with the win. The visit was an 8 on a scale of 1-10. I loved seeing Amari Cooper play too."
Defensive coordinator Kirby Smart is Broussard's primary recruiter.
"Whenever we talk we have a real good conversation," noted Robertson. "He's a good guy."
Alabama figures to have some competition for the 4-star cover man. Auburn, Georgia, and Kentucky for the Central High School standout out of Phenix City, Ala. Broussard has been to Auburn twice this fall and each time it gets better according to Broussard.
"The stadium and atmosphere is great," added Broussard. "When you are standing up in the crowd the whole place is shaking."
Broussard said his next trip will likely be to Kentucky for the Georgia game. LSU is the other school in the fold for Broussard. He called the Tigers his dream school and said he talks to defensive backs coach Corey Raymond every two or three days.
The tough defender is planning to decide later on during his junior year. He told me if he doesn't commit in May he will probably do it on Signing Day of his senior season.
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand. Recruiting information and ratings courtesy of 247Sports unless otherwise noted.
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When: Saturday, Oct. 25; 2 p.m. ET
Where: Folsom Field; Boulder, Colorado
TV: Pac-12 Networks
UCLA is out of its losing skid and back in the Associated Press Top 25 at No. 25 following a dramatic Week 8 win at Cal.
Marcus Rios’ interception of Cal quarterback Jared Goff completed the Bruins’ first win at Memorial Stadium since 1998, which was also the last season UCLA won the conference championship.October 18, 2014
A good omen, perhaps?
UCLA has plenty of work to do to contend for the Pac-12 South title and berth into the conference championship game, as it still trails Arizona, Arizona State, USC and Utah in the loss column.
Nevertheless, the Cal win was an important first step toward getting the Bruins back on course to what quarterback Brett Hundley said, per CalBears.com, was a very much attainable goal: the Pac-12 championship.
The Bruins’ next step is a road trip to last-place Colorado. The Buffaloes are winless in Pac-12 play but played Cal and Oregon State within a possession each.
However, the Buffs return home to Folsom Field reeling from a 56-28 blasting at USC.
UCLA can add to Colorado’s woes Saturday and get back on the right side of .500 in the conference with a road win.
Was that really pass interference?
It's a question likely being debated around water coolers everywhere today. The controversial ending to the epic Notre Dame-Florida State game nearly blew up the Internet on Saturday night, with amateur referees everywhere taking to Twitter and Facebook with their interpretation of college football's rulebook and the offensive pass-interference call made by the ACC officiating crew.
In the chaos of the game's final seconds, just about everyone—including ESPN's Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit—thought the penalty was called on wide receiver C.J. Prosise. But with the roar of Doak Campbell Stadium drowning out referee David Epperley's announcement, it wasn't until after the game that most realized that Will Fuller was the guilty party, with back judge Pat Ryan throwing the decisive flag on the Irish's star receiver.
After the game on Saturday, coach Brian Kelly said he didn't think the play was illegal. On Sunday, he doubled down on that assertion, especially after he found out the flag was thrown on Fuller.
"I have less clarity. I guess it was actually called on Will Fuller, not C.J.," Kelly said in his Sunday teleconference. "Just adds more uncertainty as to the final play. Again, the play itself in terms of what we ask our kids to do, it was pretty clear what happened on the play. Florida State blew the coverage and they got rewarded for it. So it's unfortunate."
The ACC took to the Internet to defend their call. The coordinator of ACC officials, Doug Rhoads, said the following when discussing the controversial call:
In order to bring a little clarity to the offensive pass-interference call that occurred in last night’s Notre Dame-Florida State game, let me see if I can explain the rule. Offensive players on passing plays are restricted from going downfield and blocking anytime from the snap. If the ball is first touched beyond the line of scrimmage, that would be legal and it’s okay, but if the ball is touched beyond the line, then it’s offensive pass interference.
Officials always have to exercise great judgment in calling a foul. An offensive pass interference—or pick plays as they’re sometimes referred to—are different than other difficult judgments. The key is the official must assess on the play whether there is sufficient restriction for it to be a foul, and he has to differentiate between incidental contact and significant contact or restriction when he calls that foul.
Rhoads is in a difficult situation, defending a judgment call that's essentially impossible to overturn. But by not focusing on the actual foul that was being called but rather the process by which the decision is made, Rhoads' "clarification" might actually do less to support his crew's decision than saying nothing at all.
When asked about the controversial flag, the NCAA's coordinator of officials, Rogers Redding, told The Associated Press, "What you want to look for, is it truly a situation where the offensive player prohibits the defender from making a play?''
"It's got to be obvious, and the rule even says, 'an obvious intent to impede.'''
Rule 7-3-8 is what Redding cites. It's also what has Irish fans still grumbling about Ryan's interpretation of pass interference. The rule book reads:
If opponents who are beyond the line collide while moving toward the pass, a foul by one or both players is indicated only if intent to impede the opponent is obvious. It is pass interference only if a catchable forward pass is involved.
While the initial instinct of both the broadcast booth and rules experts like Fox's Mike Pereria called the penalty a good one, different angles (not to mention clarification on the penalized party) make this less cut-and-dried.
With most media from the press box allowed on the field in the game's final minutes, new camera angles of the deciding play are popping up everywhere. One view from the South Bend Tribune's Tyler James seems to support Brian Kelly's point of view, with slo-mo and touch screen graphics to help prove it.
The guys at OneFootDown.com dug in and came to the same conclusion, noticing that the Irish moved to a bunch formation because the Seminoles were in man coverage, the absolute wrong defense for Kelly's play call:
From an X's and O's perspective, Notre Dame wins this play. No doubt about it. They have the right play call for the type of defense FSU is using. Unfortunately, it's not always just about X's and O's.
The ball has just left Everett Golson's hand. Will Fuller and CJ Prosise are both engaged with their respective defenders. This is a problem for Notre Dame. When the ball is in the air, the Notre Dame receivers can't be engaged with the DB's (regardless of who initiated the contact) or at the very least must be working to get away from contact. At the crucial moment they don't appear to be disengaging. That's why the call was made.
I don't know if it was the right call or not from a rule book perspective. From an X's and O's perspective, what Fuller and Prosise did isn't critical. They weren't the focal point of this play. They were at best a third and fourth option. Their patterns were primarily designed to isolate Robinson's route. Even if Fuller and Prosise don't touch the defenders, FSU is in trouble on this play. Notre Dame has them flanked because of alignment, not because of contact. Oddly enough, this is being called a pick play, but the player responsible for covering Robinson was never touched by anyone.
Of course, why contact is taking place is a critical component to the penalty call. While the angle from ESPN's broadcast seems to support the offensive pass-interference call, the look from behind the play shows two Florida State defensive backs doing their best to disrupt both Prosise and Fuller's pass routes with press-man coverage, playing perfectly into Notre Dame's hands, though also leading to the Irish's demise.
If the debate wasn't enough, no dissection of this play is complete without one other key addition: If the officials were intent on calling the play by the letter of the law, they missed a key penalty that would've given Notre Dame an automatic first down.
Florida State defensive back P.J. Williams removed his helmet after watching Corey Robinson score what he thought was the game-winning touchdown. That's a dead-ball, unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty.
Kelly said that the ACC acknowledged the missed call, the result of which would've been a 1st-and-goal from Notre Dame's 9-yard line with 13 seconds remaining.
In a parallel universe, the Irish and Seminoles returning to the field to square off again for 13 seconds would be a college football event unlike any we've ever seen. It's also a pipe dream, one that will only drive Irish fans crazy as they continue to dig into a 50-50 penalty that could've gone either way.
But after a week of endless hype for a game that somehow managed to live up to it, the controversial finish almost adds to the legend of this heavyweight bout.
Penalty or not? It'll be debated for years to come.
*Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand.
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