Feed aggregator

Mississippi State Bulldogs vs. Missouri Tigers Betting, College Football Pick

Missouri made some nice cash the last couple of seasons, going 20-8 against the spread, but betting trends are born to reverse themselves eventually, and the offensively challenged Tigers are just 2-6 ATS this season. Missouri also rides a dismal three-game losing streak into a home date with Mississippi State Thursday night in Columbia.

 

Point spread: Bulldogs opened as 7.5-point favorites, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark. (Line updates and matchup report)

College football pick, via Odds Shark computer: 35.0-23.8 Bulldogs

 

Why the Mississippi State Bulldogs can cover the spread

MSU won its third game in a row two weeks ago, beating Kentucky 42-16, covering as a two-touchdown home favorite. The Bulldogs then had last week off.

Mississippi State spotted the Wildcats an early 7-0 lead, but sometimes that's the best thing that can happen to a big home favorite; it's like a good slap in the face. The Bulldogs responded by outscoring Kentucky 35-6 over the last three quarters. On the night, MSU out-gained the Wildcats by 160 yards, ran the ball for 204 yards and won the turnover battle 3-1.

Just before that, the Bulldogs beat Louisiana Tech 45-20, and just before that, they beat Troy 45-17. So MSU is averaging 44 points over its last three games.

 

Why the Missouri Tigers can cover the spread

Mizzou started well enough this season, going 4-1, beating South Carolina to reach 1-1 in SEC play, but the Tigers have lost three games in a row, including a 10-3 decision at Vanderbilt two weeks ago. The Tigers then also had last week off.

Missouri again played without quarterback Maty Mauk (who's now been suspended for good) against Vandy, and did very little offensively. But the defense kept the Tigers in the game, allowing just 304 yards of Commodores offense. Mizzou had a chance to force overtime late, driving into the Vandy red zone, but ran out of downs.

Three weeks ago, the Tigers lost at Georgia 9-6, but they held UGA to 298 yards and covered as two-touchdown dogs. Just before that, they lost to Florida 21-3, allowing just 337 yards of Gators offense. If Missouri could just move the ball a little and put up 17-20 points, they could win this game outright.

 

Smart pick

The Tigers have scored a total of 12 points over their last three games. However, the Bulldogs, while putting up some good numbers against lesser foes recently, only scored 19, 17 and 17 points against LSU, Auburn and Texas A&M. It might be tough taking a team that hasn't scored a touchdown in a month, but the smart choice here is with the defensive-minded home dog.

 

Betting trends

The total has gone under in 10 of Missouri's last 11 games at home.

Missouri is 8-0 SU and ATS in its last eight games in November.

Mississippi State is 7-3 SU in its last 10 games on the road.

 

All point spread and lines data courtesy of Odds Shark, all quotes gathered firsthand unless otherwise noted. Check out Twitter for injury and line-movement updates and get the free odds-tracker app.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

B/R Recruiting Notebook: 4-Star Plans Official Visits, Talks Decision Timeline

Still with expectations of a verbal commitment on national signing day in February, Manvel, Texas, 4-star defensive back Deontay Anderson has narrowed his choices to four schools.

And according to the nation's No. 3 safety in the 2016 class, all four schools will get official visits after his high school season concludes.

Anderson told Bleacher Report that Texas, Texas A&M, Ole Miss and LSU will get official visits. He added that Texas will get the first visit. Dates are still tentative for all four schools, but the Longhorns will get the opportunity to set the bar for the others. Anderson also said he's currently only planning to take four visits, even though he's allowed five.

"I talked with my mom about everything, and I was going to commit at the Under Armour [All-America] game," Anderson said, "but I want to take all of my visits and be sure that I'm actually making the right decision."

Anderson, who has more than 40 offers, said he likes the future of each program and feels he can be an immediate contributor at the next level. Choosing to wait to commit on signing day and not during the Under Armour All-America Game in January gives him an additional month to weigh his options in an effort to make the right choice.

He admitted the process has its moments of chaos, but overall, recruiting has been a good experience. As he continues to be patient, Anderson said he's making the next few weeks a priority to treat the process with the utmost care.

"It's very important. It's like a relationship," he said. "You don't want to visit a school if you've already found the right one. I don't want to be the guy who decommits 50 times."

 

Irish building for the future, land 2017 4-star DE

Notre Dame's 2016 class looks strong, and with Norcross, Georgia, defensive end Robert Beal ending his process with a commitment to the Irish Sunday evening, according to 247Sports' Tom Loy, the 2017 class is making waves as well.

Notre Dame has five pledges in the 2017 class. Four of the five are listed as 4-star athletes. For those keeping score, the Irish have 17 commits in the 2016 class. Seven of the 17 are 4-stars.

Beal, the nation's No. 3 weak-side defensive end, called Notre Dame a "dream offer" back in May and is expected to be a reliable member of the defensive line when his time comes.

"It's an amazing school," Beal told Loy. "From the academics to the football side, it has it all."

 

LSU DB pledge keeping an eye on 'the 318'

Monroe, Louisiana, 4-star defensive back Cameron Lewis has been committed to LSU since March. He's been pleased with the success of the program this year, and he's excited about the 2016 class.

In fact, this year has made selling the program to potential recruits fairly easy for him.

"They like the program. LSU has a great program, and they think it's going to continue to grow with the great young players and the ones coming in like myself," said Lewis, the nation's No. 14 safety.

Lewis chose LSU over offers from Michigan, Georgia, Notre Dame, Ole Miss, TCU, Texas A&M and a host of other programs. Now he's hoping that others will make a similar decision. The Tigers have a few big-name targets still uncommitted, and Lewis is hoping the program can be loaded with players from the Monroe area.

"I really don't pressure other recruits to commit. I feel everyone has a different feel for schools," he said. "But I have been on Devin White and Rashard Lawrence because we are all from the 318, the same area code. I think they'll make a huge impact on our class, and we can continue to keep the great tradition at LSU."

 

Top-ranked JUCO CB weighing options

There are several schools looking for immediate help in the secondary. Coffeyville (Kansas) Community College cornerback Jamarcus King could be the answer.

King is the top-ranked junior college cornerback in the 2016 class. A former Auburn commit, King decommitted from the Tigers in September after giving the program his pledge in June.

King's plans for the future, he said, are still up in the air.

"I really don't know right now, but I'm going to take a few visits and decide," King said. "I've got Baylor and Tennessee visits coming up."

King said he'll visit Baylor the weekend of Nov. 14. A Tennessee visit will follow shortly after, but he hasn't set an official date. King added that Auburn is still in the mix, as is Louisville.

King is ranked No. 12 overall among junior college prospects. According to the Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference website, King has 33 tackles, a team-high nine pass breakups and three interceptions on the year for Coffeyville, a nationally ranked team.

 

Sleeper alert: St. John Bosco QB silencing after-Rosen questions

When Josh Rosen graduated from St. John Bosco High School in Bellflower, California, the big question was "who's next?"

Quentin Davis has answered the challenge and, despite not being rated or having an FBS offer until the start of this month, is putting up solid numbers following Rosen's departure. Davis has thrown for 2,365 yards, 23 touchdowns and only one interception in 192 pass attempts this season, per MaxPreps.com. He's completing better than 70 percent of his passes and also has rushed for 285 yards and four touchdowns.

Davis led St. John Bosco to a 9-0 record with the help of a 31-12 win Thursday against Orange (California) Lutheran. He completed 15 of 19 passes for 219 yards.

"How St. John Bosco would replace Josh Rosen was really the lone question about this team entering the year," said Dallas Jackson of NationalHSFootball.com (via colleague Ryan Swartz). "Davis was quite impressive during the spring and summer sessions, and it gave us the confidence to place the team at No. 1 in the nation. He has done nothing to suggest that we made the wrong choice to date."

Davis is now looking for a couple of FBS offers to build around his success at St. John Bosco. At 6'1" and 205 pounds, he has a new offer from Fresno State and interest from schools such as Utah, SMU and Hawaii.

 

Damon Sayles is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All player ratings are courtesy of 247Sports' composite ratings. Follow Damon via Twitter: @DamonSayles

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Notre Dame Coach Brian Kelly's Emotions Crossed the Line Against Temple

Brian Kelly should send a gift basket, if it were within NCAA rules, to Miami defensive back Corn Elder. He should send another to Frank Beamer.

Because of those two, Kelly isn’t on the home page of many websites—and likely won’t pop up again until Tuesday, when we learn where Notre Dame stacks up in the College Football Playoff rankings. It’s a good thing too, because if you missed what he did on Saturday, you’d probably be a little surprised at what transpired.

For those who were watching something else, late in the middle of the Irish’s win over Temple Kelly rushed down the sideline and grabbed strength and conditioning coach David Grimes’ jacket, proceeded to push and yell at him and then had to be restrained before causing any further disruption on the sideline. Grimes was pulled away by other staffers as Kelly walked back down the sideline to fume elsewhere.

Notre Dame eventually won the game, and talk quickly turned to the team making the Playoff and other big-picture items about the Irish, but that incident with Kelly stuck with me.

"David was gonna get us a 15-yard penalty, and so I had to control the sideline," Kelly explained after the game, per Irish247. "I wasn't going to let that happen. He got a little too close and I backed him up out of the way to make sure we didn't get a 15-yard penalty."

Irish fans and Kelly defenders (sometimes that’s not a mutually exclusive group) will point out it wasn’t that big of a deal. It was an assistant, not an 18-year-old. It was in the middle of a game where emotions ran high and he possibly prevented a costly penalty against his team.

That’s all great.

But Kelly is also the head coach, and more importantly he’s the head coach at Notre Dame. The incident wasn’t at a Sun Belt game on ESPN3, it was on national television between two Top 25 teams. The heat of battle shouldn’t be an excuse; Kelly is held to a higher standard because of his position, and that applies here most of all.

What he did shouldn’t happen. Period. Not to a player, a coach or a staffer. No peer, subordinate or superior should be treated that way.

Having been around Kelly and talking with him enough at various points in his career, I’m confident in saying he knows all of that. He’s a sharp person and seems to have a better sense of the real world than a lot of his peers in the coaching profession.

That’s what rankled me on Saturday and ever since. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen Kelly screaming and yelling and turning a shade of red close to a tomato. In fact, there’s been an incident similar to Saturday’s nearly every other year during Kelly’s tenure in South Bend and even the seasons before.

As my father reminded me all the time growing up, it’s not what you say to people, it’s how you say it. Kelly’s role as head coach of a program like Notre Dame means he knows exactly what to say nearly every time, but it’s pretty apparent that, at times, he gets a little heated and sometimes doesn’t say it in the right manner.

The concerning thing is, that’s always been the case and we’ve seen him lose his cool on the sidelines repeatedly. At some point, we need to realize these aren’t isolated incidents, but a trend.

Should Grimes have been speaking to the official? Absolutely not. Was Kelly right to tell him to stop and get back away from the sidelines? Definitely.

Should he have done it in that manner? Nope.

I like Brian Kelly and think he’s a terrific coach. He’s got a great staff and a good team this year.

But he crossed the line on Saturday. There won’t be any punishment for his actions or a call for his resignation but maybe, just maybe, Kelly can use the incident to help change his behavior so he can stop himself before the cameras catch him lashing out again.

Hopefully for everybody involved, there just isn’t a next time.

 

Bryan Fischer is a national college football columnist at Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter at @BryanDFischer.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

7-Step Drop: It's Time to Nationalize College Football Officiating

As usual in college football, what looks like a light week on the docket typically has something wild or crazy happen. Week 9 was no exception.

As if on cue, after a rather lackluster middle-of-the-afternoon slate, the final minutes of the Miami-Duke contest managed to turn a surprising ACC Coastal upset into a wild finish that everybody is still talking about 48 hours later.

I'll admit to watching the game off and on for the first three quarters, tuning in to see just what interim coach Larry Scott was doing with the Hurricanes and if the Blue Devils could make next week's showdown with North Carolina really, truly mean something on the football field. Then the clock started to wind down and it looked like Miami was going to pull off the win when Michael Badgley drilled a 37-yard field goal with 5:54 remaining, giving the Hurricanes a 24-12 lead.

Duke wasn't done yet, of course. The Blue Devils marched 75 yards for a touchdown to cut the lead to 24-19 and then forced a three-and-out for the Hurricanes. They followed that up with an 80-yard drive that was aided by a few pass interference flags (two on eventual hero Corn Elder, no less) and a still-questionable Thomas Sirk touchdown run with just six seconds remaining. That all set the stage for the play that had the nation buzzing.

First off, Miami's zany return to help win the game was an all-timer that put the Music City Miracle to shame. It was wild, crazy, and unbelievable. It also never should have happened.

In a statement released Sunday, the ACC did not overturn the result of the game, but it did cite a number of errors officials made on the final play. The league promptly suspended the entire crew (including replay officials) for two games.

"The quality of our officiating program is of the highest importance to the league and its schools, and the last play of the game was not handled appropriately," ACC Commissioner John Swofford said in the release. "Officiating is an extraordinarily difficult job but our players, coaches, programs and fans deserve the best that can be offered. We will continue to strive to meet that standard."

The conference determined that a Miami player's knee was down prior to releasing a lateral and that officials should have called an illegal block in the back. Add in an uncalled player who left the bench early without his helmet and needless to say it was an unbelievable ending that the crew simply botched, even with the availability of instant replay to review nearly every aspect of the play.

"The NCAA should have a process to reverse the outcome of the game," Duke coach David Cutcliffe said in his Sunday news conference, according to Dan Wolken of USA Today. "Nothing has changed other than they realized they got the replay wrong."

Cutcliffe is onto something, and it's not just because he was on the losing end of an improbable conclusion that shouldn't have counted. While overturning results may be a Pandora's box, what the well-respected Cutcliffe is alluding to with the NCAA having a role in officiating is something worth exploring further.

In the wake of all that happened in Week 9, there have been a number of folks calling to nationalize the college football replay system in a manner similar to the NFL. Rogers Redding, the NCAA's national coordinator of officiating, told Fox Sports' Stewart Mandel that he and the various conference coordinators had already been discussing such a model.

"In the big picture, the replay process is in good shape," Redding told Mandel. "The conferences work to refine it, but then a high-profile situation like last night happens, and it looks like oh my gosh, this is all falling apart, and the reality is it's not."

Redding cited the logistics of a national replay center as one of the biggest obstacles, noting the sheer scale college football operates on compared to the relatively modest 32-team NFL. Such obstacles are notable and will take a significant investment to overcome, but it's nothing insurmountable. Heck, ESPN and Fox (among others) have a stake in moving games along and may even be able to contribute and provide meaningful input.

But if anything, the discussion about standardizing replay and making it a national endeavor is actually a little small-minded. As this weekend proved (again), more needs to be done in order to enhance college football officiating. The commissioners of the FBS conferences shouldn't start or stop at creating a national replay center; they need to actually hand over the reins fully to a national governing body and end league affiliations.

That could mean the NCAA itself—a smart public relations move by conferences if so, passing the blame to those in Indianapolis—or the College Football Officiating organization that is nominally in charge of national standards. Either way, it's time to end the Twitter hashtags of #SECrefs or continued jokes about Pac-12 officiating. It's time to put everybody under the same roof.

There have been baby steps on this front in recent years that could lay the groundwork for such a large-scale reorganization of football officiating. The Collegiate Officiating Consortium already oversees officiating for the Big Ten, MAC and Missouri Valley, in addition to a number of other smaller leagues in men's and women's basketball. Just this year, the Pac-12 and Mountain West added the Big West, WCC, and WAC to their men's basketball regional officiating alliance.

Such regional offices could be turned into the backbone of a reformed national organization. Instead of dealing with Walt Anderson after a disastrous Big 12 call or David Coleman on a Pac-12 screwup, the national office can discuss any mistakes and rectify them quickly while speaking as one voice. Even better, good officials can get promoted to bigger games more easily during the season than before, and others will be relegated more quickly.

After all, why shouldn't a star Sun Belt line judge be rewarded sooner rather than later for doing his job well during the season? At the same time, those on crews such as the one at Duke-Miami could find a long road back to an ACC-level matchup if they botch things like they did during the final few minutes in Durham.

Even better, a national organization could help officials (almost all part-timers) receive a much-needed pay raise. You'd be surprised at how much criticism some referees open themselves up to on national television given what their game check usually is.

It all makes too much sense, especially as television has made it easy to point out the flaws in every call so quickly. That's probably why it won't happen, but hopefully somebody with a stake in college football is smart enough to wise up and realize that our current trajectory isn't working.

Such moves might not mean much to the Blue Devils in 2015 if they miss out on a trip to the ACC title game but maybe, just maybe, the game's crazy ending will have a lasting legacy beyond lamenting bad calls.

 

Stats of the Week

—Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds tied Wisconsin running back Montee Ball's NCAA career record for rushing touchdowns against USF. Later this year in the same league, he'll have a chance to take on fellow quarterback Greg Ward Jr. at Houston, who leads all of FBS in rushing touchdowns this season.

—Per the AAC, Cincinnati's Gunner Kiel went 15-of-15 (for 319 yards and five touchdowns) against UCF, the most completions without an incomplete pass by any FBS player in the last 20 years.

—Since losing to Texas, Oklahoma has outscored its past three opponents 180-34 and has racked up 15 sacks over that span. Against Kansas, the Sooners went an entire game without punting for the first time ever under Bob Stoops, according to the school.

—TCU has a 22-game winning streak when ranked in the AP Top Five. Gary Patterson has lost just three times when ranked in the Top 10 during his head coaching career in Fort Worth.

—Nebraska notes the team has used 20 different starters on offense this season and 20 different starters on defense.

—With news that Frank Beamer is retiring, it's remarkable to see that he won his 277th game (most among active FBS head coaches) against Boston College. According to the game notes, Beamer also beat his 116th different opposing head coach while doing so.

—Wisconsin passes along a note that receiver/safety Tanner McEvoy is the first FBS player with at least one sack, two receptions, two carries and two interceptions in a season since Charles Gordon of Kansas accomplished it in 2005.

—It flew under the radar, but Colorado's Nelson Spruce became the Pac-12's all-time leading receiver.

—Hat tip to the Associated Press' Josh Dubow for pointing out that Cal led USC for the first time since 2007. The Bears eventually lost, but they at least got that stat out of the way.

— Teams with 700-plus yards and 55-plus points in the past 15 seasons were 95-4 before Arizona State lost to Oregon on Thursday.

 

Quote of the Week

"You'll win, you're a more complete team."

—West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen to TCU's Gary Patterson after the latter asked what the Horned Frogs' chances were against Baylor, in a video captured by Fox Sports. The video has since been deleted, but those words may prove to be true later this month.

 

Tweet of the Week

College Football Playoff Selection Committee chairman Jeff Long with a walk-off right here:

 

Play of the Week

 

Sound from Saturday

 

Pre-Snap Reads

Florida State at Clemson

Running back Dalvin Cook should be well-rested and quarterback Everett Golson should be back in action for the Seminoles. That their returns might not matter should tell you just how good Clemson is this season, and the fact that the Tigers have been battle-tested helps their cause, too. Don't expect a runaway for either side, but it's hard to go against Dabo Swinney's squad at home right now.

 

TCU at Oklahoma State

Both teams are undefeated, but it's the Cowboys who are easily the biggest surprise of the pair this season. Emmanuel Ogbah is well on his way to Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year honors, and fellow end Jimmy Bean is one of the better players nobody talks about. They'll need to have a big game in order to slow down Trevone Boykin and Co., though. TCU squeaks by in this one.

 

LSU at Alabama

It's hard to bet against Alabama at home, and it's accurate to say that the team is built to stop somebody like Leonard Fournette. That puts the pressure on Brandon Harris to make some things happen downfield, and there's still a little hesitation about him doing that in a tough road environment. Turnovers will help decide this one and it wouldn't be a game involving Les Miles without a special teams play impacting the contest, too. I'll lean the Tide, but not by much.

 

Bryan Fischer is a national college football columnist for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter at @BryanDFischer.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Richard LeCounte III Tweets Top 7: Odds Where 4-Star ATH Lands in 2017

Georgia prospect Richard LeCounte III gained notoriety as one of the Southeast's premier playmakers as an underclassman. Now nearing the end of his junior season, the Liberty County High School standout is focused on finding an ideal collegiate fit.

LeCounte, a 5'11", 174-pound defensive back and wide receiver, revealed a list of favorite schools Sunday evening:

This collection is headlined by a trio of SEC universities and the past two national champions. Georgia Southern, a Sun Belt Conference contender just one year removed from its leap to FBS competition, also made the cut.

It's an eclectic mix of options for LeCounte to consider moving forward. Though he won't enroll on campus until 2017, the versatile recruit has already commanded significant investment from various coaching staffs.

Rated second nationally among "athletes" in 2017 composite rankings, LeCounte is largely projected to land at cornerback or safety. However, his attributes as a threat with the football also create some opportunity for a future on offense.

He's tallied 565 rushing yards, 494 receiving yards and 10 total touchdowns through nine games this season, according to MaxPreps. LeCounte has returned three kicks for scores since his sophomore campaign, indicating he could make a major special teams impact in college.

His status as a defensive ball hawk was earned early, when LeCounte recorded five interceptions as a freshman. He's added another two picks so far this fall, while tallying 78 tackles, 1.5 sacks and four forced fumbles. 

Currently on the cusp of 5-star territory in composite rankings, LeCounte is certainly someone who could earn that distinction after a dominant 2015 effort. 

There isn't an established date for his decision and, with talent of this level, a recruitment is rarely settled before the national letter of intent is signed. Based on his latest update and circumstances to this stage, we applied odds to programs that appear to be strongest in play for LeCounte. 

 

Ohio State: 2-to-1

Former 5-star prospect Raekwon McMillan made a name for himself at Liberty County before joining the Buckeyes in 2014. Now Ohio State seems to be in an enviable position for his former teammate. 

LeCounte, who's traveled to Columbus multiple times and attended Friday Night Lights camp this summer, recently returned to campus for a matchup against Penn State. He soaked in the setting as Ohio State cruised to a 38-10 victory in front of a "black out" crowd.

“It was great – a great experience,” LeCounte told Bill Kurelic of 247Sports. “It was an historic experience watching the black out. I loved the uniforms. It was a crazy environment.”

His tight bond with McMillan may not be the most important element in a widespread recruitment, but it's certainly worth noting. Ohio State's rising star linebacker might ultimately leave campus before LeCounte would arrive, but their open communication about life as a Buckeyes football player could prove pivotal.

LeCounte seriously considered committing to Ohio State in July while in town for Friday Night Lights, according to Jeremy Birmingham of ElevenWarriors.com. Though he didn't pull the trigger on a pledge then, Meyer and his staff continue to sustain momentum.

He is projected to sign with the Buckeyes by 58 percent of experts' predictions in 247Sports' Crystal Ball. Ohio State already holds a commitment from Georgia defensive back Isaiah Pryor, who is rated third overall among 2017 Peach State prospects in composite rankings.

 

Georgia: 3-to-1

With all due respect to Georgia Southern, the Bulldogs are in-state favorites to land LeCounte. Georgia defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt and assistant Mike Ekeler have made a strong impression on the young recruit, developing greater rapport this fall.

He is a pivotal part of the process for local Bulldogs recruiting efforts toward signing day 2017.

Head coach Mark Richt landed a pledge from premier in-state junior quarterback Bailey Hockman earlier this year. However, the 4-star passer is the only top-30 Georgia recruit in the cycle to join Georgia as a pledge.

LeCounte clearly still views the Bulldogs among his top choices, but Georgia no longer sits in the driver's seat as it did before.

"Only time will tell whether Georgia will re-take the lead," he told Kipp Adams of 247Sports in September. "They have not done anything bad to be No. 2. Ohio State just made a good pitch about me coming in and playing and with them coming off a national championship, it is tough to overlook something like that."

Richt and company haven't exactly helped their cause with three losses in the past four contests. Look for the Georgia staff to line up another campus visit soon following multiple game-day visits from LeCounte earlier this season. 

 

Clemson: 5-to-1

The Tigers identified LeCounte as a coveted athlete extremely early in the process, extending him a scholarship offer midway through his freshman season. Clemson signed six top-20 Peach State products in the past two cycles, so head coach Dabo Swinney and his staff have treated Georgia as fertile recruiting territory.

With wins in 17 of its past 18 matchups, Clemson is among the hottest college football programs in America. The team's success, combined with a long-standing pursuit of LeCounte, makes it a legitimate contender to lure him beyond state borders.

Florida State, Florida and Auburn are also intent on acquiring this out-of-state talent, but we like the Tigers' chances more at this stage. The next key step for Clemson is to coordinate an upcoming campus visit, preferably for game action.

The Tigers have just two home games remaining on the 2015 schedule—against Florida State and Wake Forest—so this may be a difficult task depending on LeCounte's personal obligations at Liberty County. 

Clemson, currently carrying just two pledges in its 2017 class, has already dedicated more than two years to this recruitment. Don't expect Swinney to take his foot off the gas pedal now that Clemson is officially one of LeCounte's favored landing spots.

 

Tyler Donohue is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. All player ratings are courtesy of 247Sports' composite rankings. Follow Tyler via Twitter: @TDsTake.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

The Concerning Similarities Between Urban Meyer's 2009 UF and 2015 OSU Teams

COLUMBUS, Ohio — When J.T. Barrett was cited for operating a vehicle while impaired and subsequently suspended for Ohio State's Nov. 7 matchup with Minnesota, it left the future of the Buckeyes' quarterback position in question.

For Urban Meyer, Barrett's incident likely conjured up memories of the fourth-year Ohio State head coach's last national championship defense in 2009, which saw star defensive end Carlos Dunlap arrested for a similar offense just days before his Florida team was slated to play in the SEC Championship Game.

And unfortunately for Meyer, the similarities between his 2009 Gators and the 2015 Buckeyes haven't stopped there this season. Four weeks remain in the regular season, and the first College Football Playoff rankings of the year have yet to be revealed, but at this point, the parallel paths of Meyer's last two post-championship teams have been impossible to deny.

From a talent standpoint, that could be seen as a positive, as this Ohio State squad—much like the 2009 Florida team did—still finds itself in pole position for the postseason entering the final month of the regular season. But the issues the Buckeyes have already seen this season are also the same ones that ultimately cost those Gators, who saw their national championship dashed with a loss to Alabama in the SEC title game.

Whether or not Ohio State will suffer a similar fate this season remains to be seen. But at this point, the comparable red flags seen by both teams have been impossible to ignore.

 

Complacency Commonplace

Given his past experiences, it's possible that Meyer knew what was coming for his program in 2015. Perhaps that's why in the moments following the Buckeyes' win over Oregon in the College Football Playoff championship in January, Meyer was already guarding against the complacency that could accompany Ohio State's national title defense.

"We're going to watch that very closely," Meyer said. "This is a very complicated machine, college football, when you start thinking about all the different hurdles that are along the journey."

That would prove to be a theme that would follow the Buckeyes from spring practice, all the way through preseason camp and into the start of the season. But no matter how often Meyer preached to his team the importance of not resting on its past laurels, perhaps it was inevitable that Ohio State would get off to the sluggish start that it did this season.

Despite returning a combined 15 starters on both sides of the ball from last year's championship team, the Buckeyes eked through its first five games of the season, pulling off seven-point victories against Northern Illinois and Indiana, both of which possessed distinct talent disadvantages against Ohio State. Following the Buckeyes' closer-than-expected call against the Hoosiers, Meyer admitted that the preseason forecasts for his team may have been too optimistic.

"It's impossible to live up to expectations," Meyer said. "But that's not our job. Our job is to win."

That's a mindset that Meyer admittedly didn't possess six years ago, when Florida—like this year's Ohio State team—remained undefeated and ranked first overall for the better part of the season, but perhaps didn't arrive there as impressively as many prognosticators expected the Gators to.

On a recent appearance on The Dan Patrick Show, the three-time national champion head coach admitted that the 2009 season wasn't as enjoyable for him as it should have been, as he and star quarterback Tim Tebow obsessed over remaining unbeaten.

"Florida had never been undefeated. I remember Tebow and I—Tebow was our quarterback obviously—all we would talk about is, 'We have to be undefeated. We have to be undefeated,'" Meyer said. "We kind of drained the enjoyment out of it."

While this year's Buckeyes team may also have to go undefeated in order to have a shot at defending it's national title this winter, its head coach now understands that it's the substance of those wins that matter much more than their style. Nevertheless, it's hard not to look at the results of the 2009 Gators and see similarities to 2015 Ohio State, with neither team putting together the dominant performances that were expected of them on a consistent basis.

Just don't tell that to Meyer.

"We won 22 straight games, we went undefeated in the Southeastern Conference and it was a miserable year, according to people, including myself," Meyer said at Big Ten media days in July. "That’s my fault. If we win every game this year, I can assure you, it’s not going to be miserable."

 

Coaching Changes

While complacency may have been the first place Meyer turned his attention toward following Ohio State's national championship victory last January, the upcoming changes on his coaching staff were a close second. At that point, Meyer already knew he was losing offensive coordinator Tom Herman to be the new head coach at Houston, and would later lose running backs coach Stan Drayton to the NFL's Chicago Bears.

The departures resulted in a shift on the Buckeyes staff, with offensive line coach Ed Warinner assuming offensive coordinator duties, Tim Beck being brought on as quarterbacks coach and Tony Alford replacing Drayton's role with the running backs.

In September, Meyer admitted the changes were still taking time to adjust to.

"We're not quite there yet," Meyer said of the cohesiveness of his staff following Ohio State's 20-13 win over Northern Illinois in the third week of the season. "We're playing defense on offense right now."

Perhaps it's not a coincidence that in 2009, Meyer was dealing with a similar transition, as offensive coordinator Dan Mullen had just left Gainesville to take over as the head coach of Mississippi State. In his absence, Florida, despite possessing a plethora of NFL talent around Tebow in his senior season, scored fewer than 30 points in six of its first 10 games.

Upon arriving at Ohio State, Meyer admitted that he may have unsuccessfully tried to overcompensate for the continued losses of assistants—defensive coordinator Charlie Strong left the Gators for the Louisville head coaching job in 2009—while at Florida.

At this point in the Buckeyes' season, the offensive staff appears to have gelled, despite the loss of Herman, whose Houston team is currently 8-0 and ranked 18th in the most recent AP Top 25. Of course, a lot of the Ohio State's offense's recent success can be attributed to the play of Barrett, whose future for the remainder of the season remains in question following last weekend's citation.

 

Concerning Clouds

Although Barrett's bye-weekend blip is the most recent on the Buckeyes' radar, the disciplinary issues for Ohio State started in the preseason when four players were suspended for the season-opening trip to Virginia Tech. Star defensive end Joey Bosa and wide receivers Jalin Marshall, Dontre Wilson and Corey Smith each missed the Buckeyes' 42-24 win over the Hokies due to violations of the Ohio State athletic department policy.

"It's disappointing," Meyer said upon the announcement of the suspensions. "It's not the first time a program has dealt with stuff."

The same could have been said at Florida, where Meyer's history with player discipline has been well documented. In 2009, defensive back Janoris Jenkins and linebacker Dustin Doe each missed the Gators' season opener after offseason issues, and linebacker Brandon Spikes was suspended for the first half of a November game against Vanderbilt after attempting to gouge the eyes of a Georgia player the previous week.

But the biggest blow to Florida's championship hopes six years ago came when Dunlap was arrested, four days before the Crimson Tide beat the Gators 32-13 in the SEC Championship Game.

While Barrett's citation was similar to Dunlap's in its nature, its timing still leaves a month for the Ohio State quarterback to rectify the situation on the field. At the moment, all we know is that Barrett will sit for the Buckeyes' upcoming game with the Golden Gophers, as Cardale Jones reclaims his spot in the starting lineup after having started the first seven games of the season before being benched in favor of Barrett.

Unlike Florida in 2009, these Buckeyes could very well bounce back from their latest off-field issue and successfully defend their championship, especially with Barrett expected to be back for season-defining games against Michigan State and Michigan.

Only time will tell how this year's Ohio State team responds, but if its head coach's comments about complacency are any indication, at the very least, Meyer will have a different mindset when it comes to Barrett's situation than he would have six years ago.

"There's no perfect team. There's no perfect program. And everyone deals with 'stuff.' You know, when you're Ohio State or some of these other big-time programs, 'stuff' becomes a major deal," Meyer said in July. "Every team is different. And every day is different...tomorrow is another day. And so we just keep pushing forward."

 

Ben Axelrod is Bleacher Report's Big Ten lead writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BenAxelrodUnless noted otherwise, all quotes were obtained firsthand. All statistics courtesy of CFBStats.com. Odds provided by Odds Shark. Recruiting rankings courtesy of 247Sports.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Playoff 2015: Date, Start Time, TV Schedule for Rankings Reveal

The first real, non-speculative rankings for this season's College Football Playoff (CFP) are on the way. On Tuesday, the only Top 25 that really matters will be revealed.

 

When: Tuesday, November 3 at 7 p.m. ET

TV: ESPN

 

The committee that will decide which four teams play for this year's national championship has a big job on its hands—especially early in the process. There are currently 11 undefeated teams and 12 other squads with just one loss.

The Ohio State Buckeyes are No. 1 in all of the major polls (Coaches and Associated Press), but like last year, it'll take a few weeks before the CFP committee warms up to them. Don't be shocked if they don't occupy one of the top four slots.

Here are the four teams fans should expect to see occupying the top four spots in the first poll.

 

LSU Tigers

Having navigated through a fierce schedule that includes wins over three ranked opponents, the LSU Tigers have proved themselves to be among the nation's elite. Much of that could change on Saturday if Leonard Fournette and Co. are unable to beat the Alabama Crimson Tide on the road.

The battle with their SEC West rivals is likely to determine the champion of the division. If LSU wins on Saturday, they would likely have to fall apart down the stretch not to make the CFP.

 

Clemson Tigers

The most impressive win the Clemson Tigers have on their resume is a victory over the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. The Tigers can all but wrap up a spot in the CFP with a victory over the Florida State Seminoles on Saturday. 

It would be the team's second victory over a ranked opponent, and the last such matchup on their schedule. Deshaun Watson should be considered a dark-horse Heisman candidate. The sophomore has been stellar most of the season, and that's especially been the case in the team's last two games.

Watson has tossed six touchdown passes. He's been picked off just twice, and he's run for two more scores. A big performance and a win against the Seminoles might garner him more attention.

 

Michigan State Spartans

The Michigan State Spartans' road win against the Michigan Wolverines is what makes them deserving of a top-four slot. Road wins over ranked opponents should be looked upon favorably by the committee, and that's something the Buckeyes haven't accomplished yet this season.

The Spartans will have to travel to Columbus to take on Ohio State on November 21. The winner of that game will likely be the one Big Ten team in the CFP. 

 

TCU Horned Frogs

The injury to the Baylor Bears' Seth Russell makes the TCU Horned Frogs the team to beat in the Big 12. The Bears have to knock off TCU, the Oklahoma Sooners and Oklahoma State Cowboys in consecutive weeks. It's almost impossible to imagine Baylor pulling that off without their starting quarterback.

The Horned Frogs and their Heisman candidate Trevone Boykin are far better equipped to navigate a four-game stretch where they will face the three most formidable opponents in the conference. What once seemed like an epic battle against Baylor in the regular-season finale could ultimately by the Horned Frogs' coronation and final statement en route to the CFP.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

4-Star Dontavious Jackson Names Top 7: Which School Is Best Fit?

Seven lucky schools have made the cut in the race to land 4-star linebacker Dontavious Jackson

Via his Twitter account, Jackson announced a final group that includes Alabama, Florida, Florida State, LSU, Michigan, Texas and UCLA. 

The 6’2”, 239-pounder has already taken official visits to Florida State and UCLA, and he has another scheduled to see Michigan on Nov. 28. He also took an unofficial visit to LSU in September.

With his list narrowing and his timeline for making a decision rapidly approaching, which program out of his final group presents him with the best fit?

Given Jackson’s skill set as a prototypical inside linebacker and his ability to still be effective in pass coverage, the nation’s No. 5 inside linebacker and No. 119 player overall in the 2016 cycle has the chance to be a difference-maker at a number of programs. 

In looking at how he’s constructed his list, it’s clear that he’s identified a group of schools that have fared well in recent years in producing elite defensive players. 

Additionally, aside from UCLA, and to a lesser degree Alabama, the other programs on the list are desperately in need of quality linebackers in the 2016 class. 

In particular, all of Michigan’s top seven linebackers are upperclassmen, with five being seniors, according to Ourlads.

During the team’s bye week in late October, Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh made a stop to see Jackson in person, according to Steve Lorenz of Wolverine247. That factor alone signifies how he’s viewed in terms of being a priority for Michigan down the stretch. 

However, in terms of need and fit, Jackson’s best opportunity may lie in staying in-state and playing for Texas.

He’s taken a number of visits to Austin, and he is scheduled to be in town this weekend on an unofficial visit for the Longhorns game against Kansas.

As noted by Horns247, Jackson has developed a strong bond with Longhorns head coach Charlie Strong and his staff.

“It’s not that far from home,” Jackson said. “I have family there. The coaching staff makes me feel like they want the best interest for me. They make me feel at home.”

He can also take a look at the success that current Longhorns true freshman linebacker Malik Jefferson is having in his first season under Strong’s tutelage.

According to cfbstats.com, Jefferson already holds a starting position and is tied for second on the team with 45 tackles.

With playing time available and a head coach with a noted reputation for developing stud defensive prospects, Jackson has ample reason to shun his out-of-state suitors in favor of staying close to home for college.

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Rutgers vs. Michigan: Complete Game Preview

The 16th-ranked Michigan Wolverines will host the Rutgers Scarlet Knights in a Big Ten battle on Saturday, Nov. 7, at the Big House.

Rutgers (3-5, 1-4 Big Ten) must try to recover from a pair of beatdowns, including a 48-10 thrashing at the hands of Wisconsin—which isn't exactly an offensive juggernaut.

Michigan (6-2, 3-1) needs a victory to keep its slim division title hopes alive, while there's a small revenge factor for the team. Last season, the Scarlet Knights managed a 26-24 win in the first-ever matchup between the programs.

According to Odds Shark, Michigan is a 22.5-point favorite. Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m. ET, and Big Ten Network will broadcast the matchup.

Begin Slideshow

B/R CFB Committee: Playoff Predictions Heading into Week 10

The first official playoff rankings of the 2015-16 college football season are set to be released Tuesday, and our experts are breaking down what you'll see.

How will Ohio State, Baylor, LSU, Clemson, Alabama and other contenders stack up in Tuesday's ranking?

Watch Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Barrett Sallee, Michael Felder and Adam Kramer discuss in the video above.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

AP College Football Poll 2015: Top 25 Rankings, Week 10 Projections and More

The Ohio State Buckeyes can't stay at the top forever, can they?

You can sense that some serious movement atop the Associated Press Top 25 poll is coming. With the news that quarterback J.T. Barrett has been suspended for the Nov. 7 game against the Minnesota Golden Gophers, it feels like Ohio State's grasp as the No. 1 team in the country is loosening.

The Buckeyes looked to be back to their old ways after handing a 49-7 shellacking to the Rutgers Scarlet Knights. The Baylor Bears are now without quarterback Seth Russell for the remainder of the year, and there are seven teams undefeated in the Top 10.

In short, it's a cluster. Week 10 of the college football season may be the most crucial week to date. Let's take a look at this week's matchups and preview the Game of the Week as we prepare for Tuesday, when the College Football Playoff's rankings are released to the world.

Game of the Week: No. 4 LSU at No. 7 Alabama

Time: 8 p.m. ET

When: Saturday, Nov. 7

Where: Bryant-Denny Stadium

Looking for a game that has everything? Let's go down the list:

  • A matchup of two Top 10 teams
  • First place in the SEC West on the line
  • College Football Playoff implications
  • The best player in college football on the world's biggest stage
  • Heisman Trophy implications

Sounds like a great way to cap off Saturday's action.

The race for the Heisman Trophy is down to two players: TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin and LSU running back Leonard Fournette. Both of these outstanding athletes have made strong cases as to why they should be the favorite for the Heisman Trophy.

Up until now, neither of these players have had a defining game for the voters to observe. Fournette is going to get his chance on Saturday, when the LSU Tigers travel to Tuscaloosa to take on the Alabama Crimson Tide in prime-time SEC action.

Think back to Sept. 19 in Bryant-Denny Stadium. It seemed to be the end of the Alabama dynasty as we knew it. The Ole Miss Rebels pulled off one of the more remarkable upsets in the early college football season by taking down Alabama, 43-37.

Since then, the Crimson Tide have been on a roll (no pun intended). During Alabama's five-game winning streak, only one of those games has been decided by less than 10 points. That was two weeks ago, on Oct. 24, at home against the Tennessee Volunteers.

The Crimson Tide were off this past week, which was needed after that lackluster performance. That works well in Alabama's favor. Derrick Henry also works in Alabama's favor.

Quarterback Jake Coker has thrown seven interceptions to only 11 touchdowns this year. For the first time in recent memory, the Crimson Tide have had mediocre play at quarterback. The junior running back, Henry, has picked up the slack offensively for Alabama, rushing for 1,044 yards and 14 touchdowns this year.

It's because of Henry running the ball that Alabama has been given new life, not just in the SEC race, but in the College Football Playoff race as well.

And while all the attention has been on Fournette, the play of LSU quarterback Brandon Harris should not be overlooked. The sophomore from Bossier City, Louisiana, has yet to throw an interception this year. On the road, in a tough environment like Alabama, that could very well change this week. If Harris can play a calm, collective game, LSU will have a great chance to win.

A loss for Alabama would essentially end all thoughts of a spot in the College Football Playoff. Two losses, both at home and to conference teams, would not be a good look on the resume.

A win, however, would change everything for Alabama. It'd jump LSU, supposedly in the AP rankings, and it would be a good look with the first CFP rankings coming out on Tuesday. SEC Network studio anchor Peter Burns thinks the same thing:

No team has yet to stop Leonard Fournette, let alone contain him.

That will not change against Alabama.

Who knows if LSU has enough to win a national championship this year? That remains to be seen, and that will be saved for further evaluation down the line. But Fournette is a freight train that can't be stopped. Until a team can step up and utilize a game plan that will prevent Fournette from taking over a game, the results will stay the same.

LSU wins and continues its march toward a playoff spot.

Prediction: LSU 27, Alabama 24

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

TCU Horned Frogs vs. Oklahoma State Cowboys Betting Odds, College Football Pick

TCU is only 2-5 against the spread over its last seven road games, while Oklahoma State is just 2-6 ATS in its last eight spots as a home dog. In a huge game in the Big 12 conference with national championship implications, the 8-0 Frogs battle the 8-0 Cowboys Saturday afternoon in Stillwater.

 

Point spread: The Horned Frogs opened as five-point favorites, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark (line updates and matchup report).

College football pick, via Odds Shark computer: 48.6-31.8 Horned Frogs

 

Why the TCU Horned Frogs can cover the spread

TCU remained unbeaten and on course for a national championship playoff berth with a 40-10 romp over West Virginia last week. The Frogs led 17-0 out of the gate, 23-10 at the half, then held the Mountaineers scoreless in the second half, securing the cover as 12-point favorites. On the day, TCU outgained West Virginia 616-327, ran for 228 yards and held the ball for over 36 minutes.

But something seems to be missing with the Frogs; after hitting the 50-point mark five times in a row, they've only scored a total of 85 points over their last two games. And yes, that is sarcasm.

More importantly, though, the TCU defense, which looked a little vulnerable a few weeks ago, has limited its last two foes to a total of 31 points.

 

Why the Oklahoma State Cowboys can cover the spread

Oklahoma State also remained undefeated last week with a 70-53 shootout victory at Texas Tech, winning that game outright as a two-point road dog. The Cowboys spotted the Red Raiders the first 17 points of the game but battled back, took their first lead late in the third quarter, then took the lead for good early in the fourth, ending the game with a 28-8 run.

On the day, Oklahoma State racked up 662 yards of offense, breaking loose for multiple big plays, and added scores on a punt return and an interception return. The Cowboys have now scored at least 58 points three times this season.

 

Smart pick

The Frogs have outrushed every opponent so far this season, while Oklahoma State has been outrushed in three of its last five games. Also, when it comes to common opponents, TCU blew out West Virginia and Texas, while the Cowboys beat the Mountaineers in overtime and the Longhorns by a field goal. Despite its recent ATS road record, take TCU here, giving the points.

 

Betting trends

Oklahoma State is 8-2 ATS in its last 10 games in November.

The total has gone over in seven of TCU's last 10 games on the road.

TCU is 12-1 straight up in its last 13 games on the road in November.

 

All point spread and lines data courtesy of Odds Shark, all quotes gathered firsthand unless otherwise noted. Check out Twitter for injury and line movement updates and get the free odds tracker app.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Florida State Seminoles vs. Clemson Tigers Betting Odds, College Football Pick

The home team is 8-1 straight up over the last nine Clemson-Florida State battles but only 4-5 against the spread, as the teams have played some close games over recent seasons. In a contest that could decide an ACC division championship, the Tigers host the Seminoles Saturday afternoon at Death Valley.

 

Point spread: This game was off the board early in the week, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark. (Line updates and matchup report)

College football pick, via Odds Shark computer: 37.6-29.2 Tigers

 

Why the Florida State Seminoles can cover the spread

Playing without quarterback Everett Golson (concussion) and running back Dalvin Cook (ankle), FSU nonetheless bounced back from a loss at Georgia Tech two weeks ago to beat Syracuse last week 45-21, covering as a 16-point favorite. The Seminoles spotted the Orange the first touchdown of the game, then scored 45 of the next 52 points to take control.

Junior quarterback Sean Maguire, in his second career start, hit on 23 of 35 throws for 348 yards and three touchdowns—all to Travis Rudolph—without a pick, while freshman Jacques Patrick, subbing for Cook, ran for 162 yards and three more scores.

On the day, Florida State outgained Syracuse 575-303. It was the fifth time this season the 'Noles outgained their opponents by at least 100 yards. In Maguire's only previous career start, he beat Clemson last season 23-17 in overtime, throwing for 304 yards and the game-tying score with six minutes to go.

 

Why the Clemson Tigers can cover the spread

The Tigers are 8-0 and still part of the College Football Playoff conversation after outlasting North Carolina State last week 56-41 in Raleigh. Clemson trailed a fired-up Wolfpack team 20-19 just before halftime but took the lead for good on a DeShaun Watson touchdown pass—one of his five on the day—then scored the first touchdown of the second half and pulled away from there, eventually covering as a 13-point road favorite.

The Tigers outrushed NC State 240-135, outgained the Pack 623-389 and won time of possession by a 34-26 margin. Clemson has now outrushed six of eight opponents this season and outgained seven of eight.

At 5-0 in ACC play, a half-game up on FSU, the Tigers could basically clinch the Atlantic Division title with a victory Saturday, considering their last two conference games are against Syracuse and Wake Forest.

 

Smart pick

This is a big one for Clemson; if they can win Saturday, and take the four winnable games that would follow, the Tigers will make the College Football Playoff. On the other side of this bout, Florida State is a little banged-up at some key spots. Also, Clemson outplayed the 'Noles last year and probably should have won that game. Take the Tigers, minus the points.

 

Betting trends

Florida State is 1-5 SU and ATS in its last six games on the road against Clemson.

The total has gone under in eight of Clemson's last 10 games at home in November.

Florida State is 2-8 ATS in its last 10 games after a win.

 

All point spread and lines data courtesy of Odds Shark, all quotes gathered firsthand unless otherwise noted. Check out Twitter for injury and line movement updates, and get the free odds tracker app.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

LSU Tigers vs. Alabama Crimson Tide Betting Odds, College Football Pick

Alabama owns a four-game winning streak in the rivalry with LSU, including that national championship victory three seasons ago, going 3-1 against the spread. To stay alive in the battle for this season's national title, the Crimson Tide need to run that streak to five when they take on the Tigers in Tuscaloosa Saturday night.

 

Point spread: The Crimson Tide opened as seven-point favorites, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark (line updates and matchup report).

College football pick, via Odds Shark computer: 32.4-31.1 Tigers

 

Why the LSU Tigers can cover the spread

Louisiana State is off to a 7-0 start to this season, 4-3 ATS, after taking care of business against a pretty good Western Kentucky team a couple weeks ago 48-20, covering as a 16-point favorite. The Tigers only led the Hilltoppers 17-13 midway through the third quarter but used a 31-7 run to pull away. LSU racked up 497 yards of offense, 211 on the ground, as Heisman candidate Leonard Fournette ran for 150, which was actually his lowest rushing total of the season.

Three weeks ago, the Tigers outlasted Florida 35-28, covering six points, and just before that they won at South Carolina 45-24, covering 20 points. LSU has also outrushed every opponent this season by at least 100 yards. At 4-0 in conference play, the Bayou Bengals lead the SEC West by a half-game over Alabama and Ole Miss as they chase their first berth in the SEC Championship Game since 2011.

 

Why the Alabama Crimson Tide can cover the spread

Alabama is 7-1 this season, after topping Tennessee two weeks ago 19-14. The Tide had last week off.

Sluggish Alabama fell behind the Volunteers 14-13 with six minutes to go in the game but immediately embarked upon an eight-play, 71-yard scoring drive, culminating in a 14-yard Derrick Henry touchdown run to take the lead for good. On the day, the Tide outgained Tennessee 364-303 and held the ball for almost 36 minutes.

Three weeks ago, 'Bama beat Texas A&M 41-23, covering five points; just before that, the Tide defeated Arkansas 27-14; and just before that, they beat Georgia 38-10. At 4-1 in conference play, Alabama needs a victory Saturday to stay in the hunt in the SEC West.

 

Smart pick

During the Miles vs. Saban era with these two programs, six of nine meetings have been decided by seven points or less, including Alabama's 20-13 overtime victory last season. And there's not much reason to believe Saturday's game won't be close, too. Also, the Tide are 0-5 ATS over their last five home games, dealing with some inflated point spreads. Take the Tigers here, plus the points.

 

Betting trends

LSU is 5-2 straight up in its last seven games on the road against Alabama.

Alabama is 0-5 ATS in its last five games at home.

LSU is 14-5 SU in its last 19 games in November.

 

All point spread and lines data courtesy of Odds Shark. All quotes gathered firsthand unless otherwise noted. Check out Twitter for injury and line movement updates and get the free odds tracker app.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Clemson Playoff Hopes on Line Against Florida State

When No. 3 Clemson takes the field against No. 17 Florida State inside Memorial Stadium on Saturday afternoon, Nov. 7, it’ll be the biggest game of the Tigers’ season.

That, in itself is nothing new: Clemson-Florida State has decided the ACC Atlantic Division champion in each of the last five seasons, and either Clemson or FSU has won the ACC in each of the last four seasons. 

What is new, however, is the fact that Clemson’s College Football Playoff hopes ride on the outcome.

At 8-0, Dabo Swinney’s bunch has gained national respect and played itself into excellent position for the first CFP Top 25 of the season on Tuesday. Yahoo Sports' Pat Forde has Clemson as his No. 1 playoff seed, should the season end today. But the Tigers simply won’t have the juice to make the playoff without beating Florida State.

“It’s fun to be in November going into the championship run and be in the conversation,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said, via Gene Sapakoff of the Charleston Post and Courier.  “That’s a blast. That’s where we want to be. I mean, we embrace that. But we want to be there Dec. 6. But for that to happen, we have to win this week. We have to win the division. We have to win the ACC Championship Game.”

Such is the reality of Clemson’s resume. Clemson currently has one victory over a team expected to finish the season in the Top 25. A rain-soaked 24-22 win over Notre Dame was the No. 8 Fighting Irish’s only loss to date, and it looks better by the week.

Current Coastal leader North Carolina, the likely foe in the ACC Championship Game, just cracked the rankings at No. 21. Beyond that, the Tigers have Wake Forest, Syracuse and South Carolina, three teams with a current combined record of 9-16.

Florida State is the best remaining opportunity for a marquee victory.

While 2015 has been unpredictable, college football remains top-heavy. Temple’s loss to Notre Dame means 11 unbeaten FBS teams remain. Taking remaining matchups into consideration, a maximum of six teams can finish the regular season unbeaten (Clemson in the ACC, Baylor, Oklahoma State or TCU in the Big 12, Iowa, Michigan or Ohio State in the Big Ten, LSU in the SEC, Toledo in the MAC and either Houston or Memphis in the AAC).

Let’s just assume that Toledo, Houston or Memphis won’t have the resume to crack the College Football Playoff, as their current best wins are over Arkansas, Vanderbilt and Ole Miss, respectively. That leaves a potential unbeaten from the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12 and SEC. A year ago, Florida State was the only unbeaten team in the FBS, and the Seminoles wound up as the No. 3 playoff seed.

That speaks to the relative strength, or lack thereof, of the ACC. The Sagarin ratings measure the strength of college football leagues, breaking them down by division if possible. The ACC Coastal ranks fifth, and the ACC Atlantic, even with Clemson and FSU, ranks eighth, behind the SEC East. That’s the second-worst ranking of any Power Five league or division, just ahead of the Big Ten West at No. 10.

It will be impossible to keep a Power Five unbeaten out of the playoff, but that can’t be said for a one-loss team.

Baylor, TCU and the Big 12 found that out the hard way last year when both were passed by Ohio State in the final poll (the only one that truly matters) for the fourth and final playoff spot.

If the Tigers beat Florida State and then defeat North Carolina in the ACC title game, they’d be unbeaten with three Top 25 victories. That’s a resume that would be very difficult to keep out of the four-team field.

A blemished resume, however, puts a team at the mercy of the selection committee, which is a place no one ever wants to be.

And remember how this game has decided the Atlantic title for the last four years? That’ll be the case again this year.

Beyond Saturday, Florida State has only one ACC game left, hosting NC State on Nov. 14 before finishing the season against FCS foe UT-Chattanooga and rival Florida. While FSU already has one ACC loss (to Georgia Tech), the Seminoles would be favored to beat the Wolfpack. They’d also own the Atlantic tiebreaker with a win over Clemson, regardless of how the Tigers fare against Syracuse or Wake Forest.

Would a team that couldn’t even win its division make the College Football Playoff? Highly unlikely. After all, the event that ushered in the playoff was SEC West foes Alabama and LSU meeting in a boring BCS National Championship Game following the 2011 season.

For Clemson, the playoff math is simple. Win, and they’re in. And no game is more important than the one staring them in the face Saturday.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Can Leonard Fournette Lock Up 2015 Heisman Trophy vs. Alabama?

Three years ago, a young star went into Tuscaloosa in early November and made a Heisman statement that resonated across the entire country.

That man's name was Johnny Manziel. A month later, he made Heisman Trophy history by becoming the first redshirt freshman to take home college football's most prestigious individual award.

LSU running back Leonard Fournette has taken a different path but will come to the same intersection Manziel came to just three years ago.

Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

Fournette will walk into Bryant-Denny Stadium on Saturday night as the unquestioned front-runner in the race for the Heisman and square off against the third-best run defense in the nation (78.50 YPG) in front of a prime-time national audience on CBS in a game other networks specifically program content around to avoid.

As Scott Rabalais of the Baton Rouge Advocate noted, it's essentially a two-man race heading into November between Fournette and TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin.

If he's successful against the Crimson Tide, etch it in stone—Fournette will be the 2015 winner of the Heisman Trophy.

"Fournette is the best college football running back since [former Oklahoma running back] Adrian Peterson," said Bill King, Heisman voter and host of The Bill King Show on WNSR 560/95.9 in Nashville, Tennessee. "A good—not even great—performance vs. Bama likely seals it."

Fournette started hot this season, topping the 1,000-yard mark in Game No. 5. That launched him into the forefront of the conversation but also presented the risk of "Fournette fatigue" setting in.

All Fournette has done, though, is hold the course. 

He's averaging 193.14 yards per game on the ground, has ripped off nine straight 100-yard games, his 15 touchdowns lead the country among running backs and he has reached a point where he will likely have to have multiple letdowns to not win the award.

"When you look at Fournette, he's just such a physical specimen," said Lance Taylor, Heisman voter and co-host of The Roundtable on WJOX 94.5 in Birmingham, Alabama. "He's got the perfect combination of size, strength, speed and everything. He just doesn't see like a running back that we've seen. He's one of those guys who comes along every 10 years."

However, one strong performance against the vaunted Bama defense will work wonders for Fournette's Heisman campaign.

"If he were to go on the road against what looks to be the elite defense in college football and goes for 150 yards and two or three touchdowns, I don't want to say he'd lock it down, but I guess it really just depends on how many times [offensive coordinator] Cam Cameron wants to give him the ball," Talyor told Bleacher Report.

Not only would a strong performance impress voters, but coupled with a win, would vault LSU to the thick of the College Football Playoff race, which always helps a Heisman campaign.

It takes a lot for anybody not playing quarterback to put together a season that's worthy of Heisman consideration. After all, former Wisconsin stud Melvin Gordon rushed for 2,587 yards last year, and didn't even get half as many votes as Oregon's Marcus Mariota. Former Badger Montee Ball rushed for 33 touchdowns in 2011 and finished fourth.

To legitimately contend for the Heisman as a non-quarterback, a player needs to jump into the spotlight early, stay in the middle of it for a full three months and carry his team.

Fournette has been doing that.

"If they go out and beat Alabama on the road, I don't have any faith in Ole Miss, so it seems pretty obvious that the winner of this game is going to win the SEC West. Then probably go on to win the SEC and make the College Football Playoff." Taylor said.

If it continues on Saturday, he will break through that glass ceiling and be the Heisman Trophy winner.

 

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Statistics are courtesy of cfbstats.com.

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and national college football video analyst for Bleacher Report, as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on SiriusXM 83. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

NCAA Football Rankings 2015: Week 10 Standings and Analysis for Latest Polls

The new college football rankings have been released, and the defending champion Ohio State Buckeyes are still the top team in the nation—on all official accounts. Here's a look at the polls from the coaches, Associated Press and Bleacher Report:

 

As the Buckeyes Turn

Ohio State's quarterback situation is one of the biggest soap operas in college football. There was indecision early in the year, as head coach Urban Meyer seemed to have a problem committing to either Cardale Jones or J.T. Barrett. 

Over the last two weeks, Meyer seemed to settle on Barrett, and the team looked better for it. The Buckeyes are a perfect 8-0, but in the last two games, they have outscored teams 87-17. That includes a 49-7 rout of the Rutgers Scarlet Knights on October 24.

Barrett accounted for five touchdowns in that game, and everything seemed great. That was until he was suspended for one game after being arrested for operating a vehicle while intoxicated Saturday, per Mark Schlabach of ESPN.com.

Barrett will miss only the upcoming game against the Minnesota Golden Gophers—a contest the Buckeyes should win without him. However, you have to wonder if there will be any other fallout from his off-field issues.

For now, the Buckeyes are still firmly in control of their own destiny. But everyone will be watching to see how the champs respond to this distraction.

 

Could the SEC Get Two Teams in the College Football Playoff?

Week 10 is going to be huge, and that's especially the case in the SEC.

The fourth-ranked LSU Tigers head to Tuscaloosa to take on bitter rivals in the No. 7-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide. The game equates to the SEC West championship, as the winner will likely win the division and move onto the conference title game.

Meanwhile, the No. 11 Florida Gators look to have the SEC East division on lock. They own a two-game lead in the division and have only two very winnable games against the Vanderbilt Commodores and South Carolina Gamecocks remaining on the conference schedule. 

Assuming nothing crazy happens the rest of the way for the Gators, they could find themselves in the SEC championship with another crack at the Tigers. LSU handed Florida its only loss of the season, 35-28, in Baton Rouge on October 17.

If Florida knocks off LSU in the rematch and that's the Tigers' only loss of the season, it would be hard to see a scenario where it doesn't make the playoff. Likewise, Florida should definitely be in as the SEC postseason champion.

 

Clemson's Last Major Test

The Clemson Tigers look to be sitting pretty at No. 3, but they will have a serious test at home Saturday against the Florida State Seminoles. The Noles are probably the only ACC team capable of pushing Clemson.

Sophomore quarterback Deshaun Watson has looked like a Heisman Trophy candidate in the team's last two games. He's completed over 77 percent of his passes, thrown for six touchdowns and no picks and run for two more scores. 

If the Tigers are to beat Florida State, Watson will need to stay efficient as a passer and continue to put pressure on the defense with his legs.

Follow Brian Mazique on Twitter

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

The College Football Week 9 All-Heart Team

The Week 9 All-Heart team features college football players who refused to let their teams lose—even with an assist from the refs.

Sadly, poor officiating was the biggest story of the weekend, but as cliche as it sounds, that's football. It happens. And when it does, it doesn't diminish the effort, will and heart of the players.

Priority was given to power-conference players in high-profile games, since part of making this list includes playing well on the big stage. However, if the moment or performance was special enough, players from any FBS school were eligible to make the team.

Sound off below and let us know whom we missed!

Begin Slideshow

College Football Picks Week 10: Predictions and Odds for Top 25 Schedule

After a somewhat underwhelming week of games, college football fans should be treated with a fantastic slate of games in Week 10.

This Saturday features three games pitting top-25 teams against one another, while a number of additional clashes have serious upset potential, which could shake up the outlook for the College Football Playoff. The likes of Alabama, Notre Dame, Florida, Utah and Oklahoma can't afford a second defeat, or that's the end of their top-four dreams.

Let's take a look at the Associated Press' Top 25 poll for Week 10 and three of the juiciest matchups ahead this weekend.

 

Associated Press Top 25 Poll

 

Games to WatchNo. 1 Ohio State vs. Minnesota

Minnesota may be 4-4 and heading to Columbus, Ohio, having lost three of its last four games, but the Golden Gophers could be a tricky matchup for Ohio State.

When it comes to defending the pass, Minnesota has been extremely strong all season. It sits 13th in yards allowed per game (176.3). In addition, Football Outsiders' S&P+ metric, which adjusts for factors such as garbage time stats and situational success, ranks the Golden Gophers 11th in pass defense.

That's not good news for the Buckeyes, who rank 31st in passer rating (146.5) but 75th in yards per game (217.6).

Ohio State looked to have taken a step forward last week with J.T. Barrett as the starting quarterback. But the Buckeyes will be going back to Cardale Jones after Barrett's OVI arrest and subsequent one-game suspension.

ESPN Stats & Info offered up this figure to broadly demonstrate how much better the defending national championships have played offensively with Barrett under center:

Minnesota doesn't have a great run defense, which will be an issue with Ezekiel Elliott looking more like the Heisman Trophy candidate many expected him to be before the season.

Still, Ohio State has had trouble putting teams away for good with Jones at quarterback, in small part due to the way head coach Urban Meyer had gotten a little more tentative with his play-calling.

The Buckeyes should still win even if Meyer reverts to that tactic, but don't be surprised if his team pulls out the victory in unconvincing fashion, similar to how it prevailed over Indiana back on Oct. 3.

 

No. 7 Alabama vs. No. 4 LSU

Leonard Fournette is currently leaving Herschel Walker and Bo Jackson in his dust in the SEC record books, but his most difficult task to date comes Saturday: facing off against the Alabama Crimson Tide.

Making this game all about Fournette vs. Alabama is somewhat reductive, but his performance will in all likelihood decide the outcome of this game. LSU certainly can't afford to have him struggle; otherwise, the Tigers' fate will rest on the arm of Brandon Harris.

After Alabama lost to Ole Miss earlier in the year, the familiar narrative about the end of the Crimson Tide dynasty once again came up. Yet, Alabama defeated Georgia and Texas A&M by 28 and 18 points, respectively, following that game. Both of those wins came on the road as well.

The Tide haven't lost two regular-season games in the same year since 2010. You can fool Nick Saban once, but you can't fool him twice—at least until bowl season rolls around. If anything, Alabama might be more dangerous after it has suffered a first defeat, since any threat of complacency among the players goes out the door.

As much as you want to get excited at the prospect of Fournette running all over the Alabama defense, the Tide are allowing just 78.5 yards per game on the ground and 2.6 yards per carry. And even when they give up a big game on the ground to a star running back, like they did with Nick Chubb earlier this year, they compensate by ratcheting up against the pass.

Across the board, Alabama is the more complete team, but Fournette's prodigious talent could still tip the scales in favor of LSU.

 

No. 3 Clemson vs. No. 17 Florida State

Whether fair or not, "Clemsoning" has become a part of the college football lexicon after Clemson consistently tantalized fans in the past, only to let them down later, usually in heartbreaking fashion. The Tigers' defeats to Florida State in each of the last two years immediately come to mind when you think of a "Clemsoning."

Back in October, head coach Dabo Swinney delivered an impassioned defense of his team and why he feels the label is unfair:

While Swinney has every right to take umbrage with what he feels is any negative perception of Clemson, the Tigers record (10-16) against ranked opponents in his tenure is less than ideal:

On one hand, it feels like Clemson finally turned the corner in its 24-22 victory over Notre Dame on Oct. 3.

Then again, the Tigers allowed 19 points in the fourth quarter and very nearly allowed the Fighting Irish to tie the game with seven seconds remaining. It looked like Swinney did everything to not lose that game rather than put Notre Dame away when it was on the ropes.

Now, the biggest hurdle for the Tigers approaches Saturday. They're 8-20 all-time against the Seminoles, and they've dropped four of their last five meetings.

If Clemson wins, then Swinney is further validated for his hatred of the "Clemsoning" tag. Should his team lose, then all of the critiques of his team once again come to the fore, and rightfully so.

In more practical terms, Florida State is Clemson's toughest game left on the schedule. South Carolina is a complete mess, and none of North Carolina, Pittsburgh or Duke looks all that imposing in a potential ACC championship matchup.

A spot in the playoff would be well within reach for the Tigers if they remain undefeated following Week 10.

 

Note: Week 10 spreads are courtesy of Odds Shark.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Rankings 2015: Latest Standings and Predictions for Week 10

Brace yourself for a wild week of college football.

We've had a few upsets and plenty of crazy finishes in recent weeks, but Week 10 finally brings the marquee matchups we've been waiting for this season. 

Starting Tuesday night with Toledo, Week 10 features ranked teams playing four different nights. And it's all capped off with a classic SEC battle between LSU and Alabama on Saturday night. 

The updated polls and the Week 10 schedule and spreads are below followed by a breakdown of a few of the most intriguing matchups of the week.

Note: Due to key injuries, the lines for Michigan State-Nebraska and Florida State-Clemson have not been posted as of Monday morning, according to Odds Shark. No against-the-spread picks have been given for these games.

 

Notable Games

Baylor (-18.5) at Kansas State

It's safe to assume Baylor would be favored by at least three touchdowns with a healthy Seth Russell under center, but the unknown factor of freshman Jarrett Stidham taking over drops the line a few points. 

We've seen Art Briles' staff plug in unknown quarterbacks into this system and churn out highly productive passers year after year, and there's little reason to expect a drop-off with Stidham. 

Stidham is not the typical off-the-radar recruit being groomed to fit Briles' offense. He was graded as a 4-star recruit by both Rivals and ESPN, making him one of the most highly touted high schoolers to join Briles at Baylor. 

#Baylor WR Lynx Hawthorne on Seth Russell, "we'll miss him greatly, but catching pass from @Jarrett_Stidham is almost like a gift from God."

— David Smoak (@DavidSmoak) October 28, 2015

A night game in Manhattan is not the ideal environment for Stidham to make his debut, as Bill Snyder has a knack for getting his squad to play its best on the biggest stages. But this Kansas State group, which is currently winless in Big 12 play, appears to be in rebuilding mode and not ready to keep pace with the Baylor offense. 

Prediction: Baylor 48, Kansas State 24

 

No. 17 Florida State at No. 3 Clemson

Clemson will be the favorite in this game, but the spread will be heavily influenced by the status of Dalvin Cook and Everett Golson. 

The Florida State star running back and quarterback both missed the Seminoles' game against Syracuse. Golson was held out due to a concussion, while Cook missed the game with an ankle injury

Head coach Jimbo Fisher offered little clarity on the status of his star players after Florida State's victory over Syracuse but did say he would "evaluate" the quarterback situation, according to ESPN.com's Jared Shanker:

In his postgame interview, FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said he will "evaluate" the quarterbacks. Everett Golson or Sean Maguire against Clemson?

— Jared Shanker (@JShankerESPN) October 31, 2015

The key to the game could be Cook's health. Clemson has allowed just 437 rushing yards in five ACC games this season, with an average of just 2.7 yards per attempt.

Florida State has won three straight in this matchup, but the Tigers have won five of the last six at home

Prediction (assuming Cook, Golson are healthy): Clemson 35, Florida State 28

 

No. 4 LSU at No. 7 Alabama (-7)

Alabama has won four straight against LSU, holding the Tigers to 17 or fewer points in every game. 

Despite the recent success, it's difficult to get behind the Crimson Tide as a touchdown favorite against one of the most dangerous rushing attacks in the nation.

LSU's passing attack has struggled at times this season, but quarterback Brandon Harris has shown development as the season has progressed. According to CFB Film Room, Harris is completing over 50 percent of his passes in his last two games against SEC opponents, a dramatic improvement over his early-season performance:

If the last two weeks is the real Brandon Harris, LSU might run away with the SEC.. pic.twitter.com/4nos2FBcpK

— CFB Film Room (@CFBFilmRoom) October 23, 2015

If LSU can make some plays down the field in addition to the production it's sure to get from Heisman Trophy candidate Leonard Fournette, this should be a close battle—if not an outright win for the Tigers. 

Prediction: LSU 21, Alabama 17

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Pages