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Amway College Football Poll 2015: Top 25 Rankings for Week 10

The slate of college football games in Week 9 wasn't as strong as in previous weeks, but that didn't prevent the sport from providing enough drama and plot twists to fill a novel. And, of course, there was a wild, game-winning play as time expired to leave jaws on the floor, too. 

So let's take a look back at the action that was as we review this week's updated Amway coaches poll and the Bleacher Report edition. Much changed in Week 9. Much, much more will change in Week 10. 

 

Analysis

It wouldn't be a Saturday in the fall without a crazy finish. 

This week, it was the Miami Hurricanes who provided the drama in a wild weekend in the ACC. Trailing 27-24 with just six seconds left, the Hurricanes fielded Duke's squib kick, lateraled the ball eight times and eventually scored, impossibly, as Corn Elder raced into the end zone. 

"It was kind of like, just keep playing. Just keep playing," Miami's interim head coach, Larry Scott, said after the game, per ESPN. "We used a joke earlier in the week about it being like a playground, about it being kind of like recess. And you know what? How about that? That's what it kind of turned into—a kids' game."

Referees would review the play to determine whether Mark Walton was guilty of a block in the back during the crazy return and if Walton's knee hit the ground before he got rid of his lateral during the play. But the officials waved off the flag and upheld the touchdown. 

The loss was potentially devastating for Duke, as North Carolina's win over Pittsburgh left it solely in first place in the ACC Coastal division. The Blue Devils will have the opportunity to separate themselves from both North Carolina and Pittsburgh, however, as they face those schools in the next two weeks. 

Meanwhile, Notre Dame kept its playoff hopes alive with a 24-20 win over a scrappy, tough Temple team Saturday night. DeShone Kizer (299 passing yards, one passing touchdown, 143 rushing yards, two rushing scores) single-handedly willed the team to victory, leading Notre Dame on a late touchdown drive to escape Philadelphia with a win. 

For a Temple program that has been notoriously weak throughout its history and was underestimated heading into this game, the showing was a good one, as John Keim of ESPN tweeted:

Still, a loss is a loss, and while the Owls are comfortably in first place in the American Athletic East division, a tough matchup against undefeated Memphis looms. If nothing else, however, the Owls proved they were a dangerous team Saturday night.

Minnesota nearly did the same. The Golden Gophers had the Michigan Wolverines on the ropes Saturday night, trailing 29-26 with the ball on the 1-yard line and just two seconds left. Minnesota decided to go for the win rather than the tie, but the Wolverines came up with a crucial stop, stuffing Mitch Leidner's quarterback-sneak attempt as time expired to seal the win.

The Wolverines have already been the victims of a crazy finish to lose a game this year. This time around, they managed to hold on and, in the process, hold onto their slim chances of reaching the Big Ten title game. 

Much will be decided in college football next week, meanwhile. The ACC has two huge matchups, as Duke faces North Carolina and Clemson takes on Florida State. The undefeated Tigers would surely be in the driver's seat for a playoff berth if they can get past the Seminoles. 

Notre Dame will face another test against a solid Pittsburgh team, while undefeated schools TCU and Oklahoma State will face off in a game that will have huge implications for the Big 12. And, as if all of that wasn't enough, Alabama and LSU will go head-to-head in a game that will decide quite a bit both in the SEC and in the College Football Playoff picture. 

Week 9 turned into a very entertaining one for college football fans. Week 10 should be downright epic.

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Playoff 2015: Latest Championship Predictions After Week 9

Call it the calm before the storm.

For the second straight week, the college football slate featured just one matchup between Associated Press Top 25 teams, and only three of the 18 ranked teams playing suffered defeat.

With half of the Top 10 on a bye, we head to November featuring games to remember—and at a fitting time with the first rankings from the College Football Playoff committee set to release Tuesday.

Eight of the Top 10 teams are pitted to play against fellow foes within those ranks, meaning the playoff picture will come in clearer shape over the coming weeks. Lost Letterman captured the excitement following a less-than-emphatic Week 9:

As we head into the final full month of the season, here is a look at the projected playoff scenario, accounting for those matchups:

Alabama is the highest ranked one-loss team, but its defeat to No. 19 Ole Miss seems like ages ago. The Crimson Tide are exhibiting championship-caliber football at the most pivotal point of the season. 

Up next: No. 4 LSU. Outside the playoff, it’s arguably been the biggest game in college football in the current era. ESPN College GameDay announced it will set up on site for the annual tilt for the fourth time in five years:

The Crimson Tide escaped Death Valley last year in overtime and essentially eliminated LSU from SEC contention in the process. The Tigers have the chance to exact revenge but will have to do so in Tuscaloosa with an undefeated season and seven-game win streak on the line. 

If they lose, their hopes at the SEC championship will likely be squandered, as Alabama will be firmly in the driver’s seat to win the SEC West. Given the crowded room of current unbeatens, LSU’s chance of reaching the playoff as a one-loss team that didn’t play for their conference title seems unlikely.

Alabama may have stumbled, coming off a narrow win over 4-4 Tennessee after already losing to an Ole Miss team that has hit a decline. But this is the time of year Nick Saban has his troops playing their best football. It will assuredly be close, but Alabama will hold off LSU Heisman Trophy favorite Leonard Fournette and win in a squeaker on Saturday, positioning itself for a playoff berth by running the table.

Clemson is arguably the most complete team in college football and has its final road bump ahead this weekend against No. 17 Florida State. 

Quarterback Deshaun Watson continues to chase Fournette in the Heisman race after scoring six touchdowns in the Tigers’ 56-41 win over N.C. State on Saturday. Watson anchored an offense that accounted for 623 yards—56 more than in its 58-0 drumming of Miami a week prior. 

But Clemson’s identity is actually rooted in its defense, which ranks third overall (251 yards per game). 

Despite the continuity, head coach Dabo Swinney is keeping his team in perspective, per Aaron Beard of the Associated Press, ahead of Saturday’s game against Florida State, the three-time defending ACC champs: "We're 8-0. That's really all that matters for us, that we've got a chance to clinch our division with a win over the team that's been the best team in this conference the last few years."

The Tigers haven't lost a game to an unranked team in their last 36 tries, meaning they have a great likelihood to reach the playoff should they conquer FSU. As Ira Schoffel of Warchant.com indicated, that’s no picnic:

Stanford survived a scare on a would-be game-winning field goal by Washington State, but that should serve as a wake-up call more than anything. The Cardinal still have the talent to rue the rest of the Pac-12 and a season finale against No. 9 Notre Dame to redeem themselves. 

Ohio State, meanwhile, continues to chug along—doing so without  J.T. Barrett in Saturday’s 49-7 win over Rutgers after the starting quarterback was suspended one game while operating a vehicle under the influence, according to the Associated Press.

But the Buckeyes still have to play No. 6 Michigan State and No. 15 Michigan in consecutive weeks to close the season, then the Big Ten Championship Game, likely against No. 10 Iowa. That’s a daunting slate, even for a defending national champion. The Buckeyes will split between their division rivals then rebound in the conference title game to narrowly secure their second straight playoff berth.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

ESPN College GameDay Headed to Massive LSU-Alabama Matchup for Week 10

After a couple of lean weeks for big games, ESPN's College GameDay is headed to one of the meatiest matchups of the entire 2015 season for Week 10—the SEC West slugfest between LSU and Alabama.

GameDay announced the not-so-surprising decision that it was headed back to Tuscaloosa on Saturday night.

Next Saturday will mark the second time this season the popular pregame show has been in Tuscaloosa and the third time it has featured a Crimson Tide game. The show was at Alabama's Week 3 home matchup with Ole Miss and its neutral-site opener against Wisconsin in Texas.

GameDay's decision to head to Tuscaloosa for the massive game between Alabama and LSU has been a common one for the show in the last few years.

As Adam Rittenberg of ESPN.com noted, the show has been on-site for this matchup three out of the last four times it has been at Alabama (2005, 2007, 2011 and 2013). 

While GameDay will be on ESPN from 9 a.m. to noon ET, the spotlight game will be televised at 8 p.m. ET on CBS.

LSU is the SEC's lone undefeated team as the calendar flips to November. The Tigers, who are led by Heisman front-runner Leonard Fournette at running back, are 7-0 this season with a 4-0 record in SEC play.

Les Miles' team has only played two true road games so far this season—trips to Mississippi State and Syracuse—as its Week 6 game against South Carolina had to be moved to Tiger Stadium due to heavy flooding in the Gamecocks' home state.

Now Fournette and his offensive line will have to face one of the nation's best defensive fronts on the road after playing four straight games at home. 

"Matchup-wise, when you talk about physical ability, big on big, good on good, LSU’s offensive line is probably best suited to try and block Alabama’s defensive line," SEC Network analyst Marcus Spears told Bleacher Report's Christopher Walsh.

Like LSU, 7-1 Alabama, whose only loss came in a high-scoring thriller against Ole Miss, can boast a star running back in Derrick Henry to go along with its elite defense. Both teams are also coming off a bye week.

Alabama head coach Nick Saban will look for his fifth straight win against his former team, but building that streak hasn't been easy. LSU took Alabama to overtime last season and lost by just four points in the 2012 matchup.

The Crimson Tide haven't lost to LSU since 2011's game in Tuscaloosa, a 9-6 defensive war that entered with the pregame billing of "The Game of the Century." 

Saturday's game won't have quite the same amount of buzz as the No. 1 vs. No. 2 showdown in 2011, but it will still play a huge role in determining who stays alive in the race for a College Football Playoff spot. 

"It’s huge. It’s always a fun game. It’s been for the West pretty much for the past few years," former Alabama offensive lineman Barrett Jones told Walsh. "It’s always the game you’re the most sore after."

 

Justin Ferguson is a college football writer at Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @JFergusonBR.

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Why Georgia Shouldn't Fire Mark Richt

The sound you heard as the clock struck zero inside EverBank Field on Saturday afternoon wasn't sea gulls along the coast of Jacksonville, it was the sound of Georgia Bulldogs fans calling for the head of head coach Mark Richt.

The Bulldogs got blown out 27-3 in the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party on Saturday afternoon by rival Florida in a game that seemed out of reach from the moment the team clad in red and black took the field.

After all, Richt made the panic move of all panic moves when he trotted out third-string quarterback Faton Bauta for his first career start in a huge conference game. As was the case when Auburn started Sean White vs. Mississippi State earlier this year and LSU gave Brandon Harris a start at Auburn last year, it ended badly.

Bauta threw four picks, looked lost from the moment he took the field and never got a chance to show off his ability on the ground, which was one aspect of his game that was supposed to be featured.

Now, Richt has become the Internet's punching bag.

Look, I get it.

You're frustrated. 

Richt managed to create a quarterback controversy and a punter controversy during the bye week by starting Bauta and moving Brice Ramsey—a former 4-star prospect who spent the majority of the season as the No. 2 quarterback—to starting punter.

It takes a lot of work to mismanage a roster that badly.

You're also frustrated with the offense in general.

Even before running back Nick Chubb's season came to an end after the first play from scrimmage vs. Tennessee, the offense was a disaster. The Bulldogs haven't scored a touchdown in eight quarters, have the second-worst third-down offense in the conference (converting only 31.18 percent) and the third-worst red zone scoring percentage (78.57 percent).

You're also frustrated with the lack of big wins, as ESPN's Twitter account noted shortly after the Florida game.

This isn't the year to let Richt go. Although if things don't improve, 2016 should be.

Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, however, shouldn't have even been allowed to board the bus outside EverBank Field Saturday night.

I questioned his hire when it was made last offseason, and Saturday's Cocktail Party was a perfect example of why Schottenheimer never made sense. His offense routinely struggles in those key spots in the red zone and on third downs, and Schottenheimer calls plays to make himself look good rather than help the team out. How else can you explain how Bauta—a dual-threat quarterback—only had three carries and wasn't a part of the offense on the ground?

"You can’t come off a game like that and not have calls you’re going to second-guess," Schottenheiemer said after the game according to DawgNation.com. "There certainly is going to be some I look at tomorrow and say, ‘hey, those weren’t very good.’"

As my colleague Justin Ferguson noted Saturday night, it's time for Georgia to admit Schottenheiemer was a bad hire.

They were downright awful, and Job No. 1 in order for Richt to keep some heat off of himself is to let Schottenheimer go or, at the very least, take over play-calling down the stretch in order to minimize the damage.

Richt has to stay, though, because Georgia already has one of the top recruiting classes in the country committed in the class of 2016. Included in that class is 5-star pro-style quarterback Jacob Eason, who clearly will come in with the pressure of being the savior after already signing a financial aid agreement and announcing, according to DawgNation.com, he plans to enroll early.

As Bleacher Report national recruiting analyst Sanjay Kirpalani noted in September, it's a remarkably deep year for talented players in the state of Georgia, which is already one of the most fertile recruiting states in the country.

I understand Georgia has recruited well for years, and a program can't be held captive by recruiting rankings, but a full-scale coaching change right now would likely allow a chance to clean up in-state go by the wayside.

That can't happen and should be what gives Richt one more chance to turn things around.

Richt clearly misses former coordinator Mike Bobo, and instead of adjusting to the new world of college football, which demands a more flexible offensive style—one of Bobo's specialties—he tried to go "Back to the Future" with an NFL also-ran who hasn't been successful at any stop. 

That's not going to fly. But if he fixes the glitch and minimizes the damage Schottenheiemer can do down the stretch, he can preserve the recruiting class and should be given one more opportunity to turn things around.

Richt was squarely on the hot seat entering the 2011 season after stagnant seasons in 2009 and 2010, and that became scorching in 2011 when he lost two straight to open the season. He then ripped off 10 straight wins, played in two straight SEC Championship games and nearly earned a berth in the 2013 BCS National Championship Game following the 2012 season.

He can take a similar path during this downturn, but he has to take the road less traveled right now and recognize that the heat is on.

 

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.

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NCAA Football Rankings 2015: Week 10 Predictions Based on Latest Results

Week 9 provided plenty of drama in college football, but ultimately we were left without any significant shake-up in the rankings. 

A number of teams suffered Halloween scares—most notably Stanford and Notre Dame—but everyone in the Top 20 of the AP poll eventually pulled out victories. 

As a result, there's likely to be little movement in the rankings, but the projected Week 10 AP poll is listed below, with a breakdown of how a few notable teams fared and what the voters may be thinking about their placement this week.

Notable Teams

Clemson

A week before its showdown with Florida State, it's no surprise that Clemson almost got caught looking ahead and ended up in a tight battle with North Carolina State. 

While the defense was a disappointment at times, quarterback Deshaun Watson was on top of his game and continues to build a Heisman campaign, as Bleacher Report's Greg Wallace discussed

Deshaun Watson had 6 total TDs today for undefeated Clemson. He’s on a roll lately. Will be in Heisman contention if he beats FSU next week.

— Matt Fortuna (@Matt_Fortuna) November 1, 2015

Even if some voters are inclined to hold this closer-than-expected 56-41 outcome against Clemson, the Tigers will likely maintain their hold on the No. 3 spot in the AP poll. Clemson entered the weekend with a 38-point lead over No. 4 LSU, which was idle. 

Clemson hosts Florida State in Week 10, and the Tigers have controlled the rivalry as of late. Clemson has won five of its last six home games against the Seminoles. 

 

Florida

With a 27-3 win over Georgia, Florida has all but wrapped up the SEC East. 

Technically, Florida still needs one more win to officially clinch, but it would take losses against Vanderbilt and South Carolina for the Gators to relinquish their stranglehold on the division. 

With just one loss and a likely battle with either LSU or Alabama in the SEC Championship Game awaiting, Florida remains a viable contender to reach the College Football Playoff—a remarkable statement given where this team was a year ago under Will Muschamp

Regardless of where the Gators end up in the bowl picture, Jim McElwain should be a strong candidate for the various coach of the year awards this offseason. 

 

Temple

What will the voters do with one-loss Temple?

Typically, a loss would knock the No. 21 team out of the rankings, but Temple likely won over a lot of non-believers with its 24-20 performance against Notre Dame. 

Big respect tonight for @temple_fb. They should not drop in the rankings after that performance.

— Desmond Howard (@DesmondHoward) November 1, 2015

The Owls defense slowed the Notre Dame as much as any team did this season, holding C.J. Prosise to a season-low 25 yards on 14 carries. 

While voting trends likely dictate that Temple falls a few spots, it's tough to make an argument that this performance wasn't worthy of one of the 25 best teams in the nation. 

Fortunately, Temple will have another opportunity to win over the voters against Memphis on November 21. With a win over the Tigers, the Owls could potentially re-enter the picture as a candidate to represent the Group of Five schools in one of the New Year's Six bowls. 

 

Duke

Like Temple, Duke is another losing team that voters will need to make a tough call on this week. 

The Blue Devils lost 30-27 on a controversial last-second kick return, which replays show should have been ruled dead long before the eventual game-winning score. 

Oh my https://t.co/sKlelDsi5W

— Mark Schlabach (@Mark_Schlabach) November 1, 2015

Had the officials noticed the Miami player's knee down, Duke would clearly remain in the Top 25. But because they missed the call, the Blue Devils will likely drop out of the rankings. 

Duke fans have a legitimate gripe with the outcome and their likely fall from the Top 25, but voters will also be forced to consider that the Blue Devils let the game reach that point. 

One week after Clemson dismantled the Hurricanes, the Blue Devils allowed Miami to hang around long enough to fall victim to a wild last-second play—not exactly the performance of a strong Top 25 candidate. 

Fortunately for Duke, it still controls its own destiny in the ACC. 

The Blue Devils are tied with Pittsburgh behind North Carolina in the ACC Coastal but will play both teams in the final three weeks of the regular season.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

SEC Football: Best Performances from Week 9

Week 9 is in the books, and there were several huge performances from SEC stars both new and old on Halloween weekend.

Texas A&M quarterback Kyler Murray got his first start and shined in front of the home crowd in College Station, Ole Miss wide receiver Laquon Treadwell went "full Megaquon," and Florida embarrassed Georgia in the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party. 

Who had the best performances of Week 9?

Our picks based on statistical output and importance to their teams are in this slideshow.

Begin Slideshow

College Football Playoff Rankings: Biggest Takeaways from Week 9

Week 9 looked boring on paper and started as dull as it looked.

But then came the early-night games.

And suddenly, we had ourselves a week.

The ending of Duke-Miami will be replayed for decades, and close games in Notre Dame-Temple and Michigan-Minnesota concluded around the same time.

None of those great finishes rocked the shape of the College Football Playoff race, but enough happened in Week 9 to leave a lasting impact. It wasn't the best week on the schedule, but it served its role as an appetizer before a great Week 10 slate.

Let's take a look at what we learned.

 

Meet North Carolina: Your Official ACC Playoff Sleeper

UNC beat Pittsburgh 26-19 on Thursday, winning the battle of quiet one-loss ACC teams and doing it on the road.

Quarterback Marquise Williams made the most of his 14 completions, throwing for 270 yards and two touchdowns. Explosive wide receiver Ryan Switzer accounted for 126 of those yards and both scores.

But the real key to UNC's season has been the defense. Under first-year defensive coordinator Gene Chizik, the embattled former Auburn head coach who won the national title five years ago, the Tar Heels have corrected their always-weaker unit, which raises their ceiling considerably. 

Yahoo's Pat Forde summed it up well:

If not for a fluky Week 1 loss to South Carolina—a game they would have won if not for two end-zone turnovers—the Tar Heels would be 8-0 and earning even more praise than Iowa. Instead, they are 7-1 and still trying to crack the Associated Press rankings.

But don't bury Larry Fedora's team just yet. Ohio State proved last season that an early-season loss is forgivable. If the Tar Heels beat Duke, Miami, Virginia Tech and North Carolina State—four solid teams but far from a murderers' row—they will enter the ACC Championship Game with one loss and a chance to score a signature win over Clemson or Florida State.

Would a 12-1 ACC champion make the playoff? Even with a loss to South Carolina? It depends on what happens elsewhere, but there's definitely a case to be made.

With Chizik running the defense and Fedora and Seth Littrell running the offense, this UNC team has a chance to be special.

Why did it take us all so long to notice?

 

Notre Dame Is Special

Notre Dame rarely makes it pretty, but the Irish find ways to win. They beat the Owls 24-20 on Saturday.

Quarterback DeShone Kizer found receiver Will Fuller—who else?—for the game-winning score with 2:09 to play at Temple, leading them to 7-1 and setting the table for a playoff run. 

UNC exposed Pittsburgh on Thursday, so next week's trip to Heinz Field looks slightly easier. It's still not a cakewalk, but Notre Dame should win. The next two games are in South Bend against Boston College and Wake Forest: ACC teams with a combined conference record of 1-10. As long as they beat Pitt next weekend, the Irish will be 10-1.

From there, a win at Stanford would propel Notre Dame to the playoff—no ifs, ands or buts. Forget the conspirative "of course they'd pick Notre Dame to boost ratings" argument; the Irish would be 11-1 with their only loss coming by two points in a hurricane at Clemson.

Any way you swing it, that's a playoff resume.

And before you think of trolling: No, this was not a "bad win." Temple is a solid team. That defense is out of control, and the Owls played this game like the Super Bowl. Even so, Notre Dame would have won by double digits if not for red-zone turnovers.

The Irish are having a truly special season.

 

The Pac-12 Stays Alive...for Now

The Pac-12 survived Stanford's trip to Washington State, where the Cardinal won 30-28 on a missed 43-yard field goal at the gun.

With just two one-loss teams (Stanford and Utah) remaining, the conference needed that result in a big way.

"We didn't play perfectly," Cardinal head coach David Shaw admitted on the ESPN broadcast. "But that's the sign of a good team: [When] you don't play your best, you can still pull out a win, in the rain, on the road."

Surely that's the sign of a good team, but the Pac-12 needs Stanford to be a great one. And right now, that's just not what it is.

An anemic pass rush leaves it vulnerable against Oregon (which is slowly improving) and Cal (which has Jared Goff) before hosting Notre Dame (see above) in the season finale. All three of those games are in Palo Alto, California, but still: The Cardinal need to win all three.

Utah, meanwhile, can never feel safe about winning as long as Good Travis Wilson and Bad Travis Wilson both exist. The up-and-down senior quarterback has played at times like an All-American, but he's always capable of throwing multiple picks, as he did in last week's loss at USC.

The Pac-12 needs one or (ideally) both of these teams to win out. Unless they both improve, that's unlikely.

Week 9 drove that point home.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Stanford Survives vs. WSU, but Pac-12 Playoff Hopes Looking More Unlikely

Stanford's 30-28 win at Washington State kept a bad day for the Pac-12 from becoming catastrophic.

But based on how Stanford looked, it was still a pretty bad day.

The Cardinal survived but barely, needing a late touchdown and a missed 43-yard field goal to slip by the Cougars in Pullman. They were outgained by 130 yards and trailed for most of the game. If not for their red-zone defense, which in a funny twist forced five Cougars field goals before allowing its first touchdown, there's no way it wins this game.

"We didn't play perfectly," head coach David Shaw admitted on the ESPN broadcast. "But that's the sign of a good team: [When] you don't play your best, you can still pull out a win, in the rain, on the road."

But the Pac-12 doesn't need Stanford to be a good team. It needs it to be a great team. The Cardinal along with Utah are the only one-loss teams left in the league.

Assuming no two-loss teams make the College Football Playoff, that means either Stanford or Utah needs to win out. Otherwise, the Pac-12 will draw the short straw and send its champion to a non-semifinal.

Here are the Cardinal and Utes' remaining schedules, along with their pre-Week 9 win probabilities, per Football Study Hall:

Based on those numbers, the Utes and Cardinal each have a roughly one-in-four chance of winning out.

But those numbers don't reflect what happened in Week 9: namely Stanford's struggles. They will affect its win probabilities, as will Washington's 49-3 rout of Arizona, which makes next week's road trip even more dangerous for Utah.

They also undersell the inherent and insidious weaknesses of both teams: namely Stanford's pass rush, which entered the week ranked No. 127 in Football Study Hall's adjusted sack rate, and Utah's quarterback, Travis Wilson, who loves throwing interceptions.

These are two flawed football teams, and they've proved it the last two weekends. But they're all the Pac-12 has to rely on.

Every other power conference has at least one undefeated team, and the Big 12 (two) and Big Ten (three) have multiple. They have stronger playoff candidates with larger margins for error. The Pac-12 dodged a bullet in Pullman, but it's still in harm's way.

That's why Stanford's performance was so disappointing. The Cardinal had trended up since losing at Northwestern in Week 1. They appeared like (and still might be) the class of the conference.

And then they barely won on national television.

But that's just how the Pac-12 has been this season. One week's results almost never correspond with the next.

USC crushes Arizona State in Tempe then loses to Washington at home; Arizona State gets crushed by USC then crushes UCLA in Los Angeles; UCLA gets crushed by ASU and Stanford then crushes Cal; et cetera.

That all these teams look equal, or at least relatively equal, is good for the league in the short term. If any team can win any game, there's more reason for both sides to watch. Close games mean intrigue and intrigue means ratings and ratings mean dollar signs.

But you know what else means dollar signs? Getting a team in the playoff. Winning on the big stage enhances a league's national profile, driving that aforementioned intrigue on a wider scale. The SEC has built a modern recruiting dynasty off the hype of winning seven straight BCS National Championships. That's what having dominant programs does.

The P in Pac-12 stands for "parity."

Because of that, it might not stand for "playoff."

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

NCAA Football Rankings 2015: Predicting the Top 25 After Week 9

At first glance, the Associated Press Top 25 action looked as boring as ever in Week 9.

Five of the nation's top seven teams were on bye weeks. The two Top Five teams in action lit up the scoreboard in conference wins. The middle of the poll was jam-packed with comfortable wins.

But—come on—this is college football on Halloween. Things were bound to get weird, and they definitely did Saturday night. A pair of Top 10 teams needed fourth-quarter scores and some late-game breaks to avoid big-time upsets on the road.

And then there was an unbelievable and potentially legendary special teams touchdown for the third straight week, even though this one appeared to break several rules.

With the last AP poll before the College Football Playoff committee releases its almighty rankings Sunday afternoon, here are this week's predicted Top 25 and some highlighted risers and fallers.

Moving up

Iowa

Sure, Iowa's home win over Maryland on Saturday wasn't gorgeous. But on a day when fellow Top 10 teams Stanford and Notre Dame both had to pull out narrow results away from home, a 16-point victory for the Hawkeyes doesn't look bad at all.

Iowa defeated Maryland with crushing defense, forcing four turnovers and holding the Terps to just 74 yards through the air. Cornerback Desmond King recorded his seventh interception in eight games and returned it for an 88-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter.

"One of the best defenses in the country, one of the best defenses in the league," King said, per Chad Leistikow of HawkCentral.com. "It just gives us an advantage, knowing we can make anything happen for our team and get the ball back for us."

Iowa is undefeated and gaining national respect week after week. With an undefeated record, the Hawkeyes will leapfrog the one-loss Cardinal and the one-loss Fighting Irish to take the No. 8 spot in the AP poll, right behind an Alabama team with tremendous hype right before its showdown with LSU.

 

North Carolina

Welcome to the Top 25, North Carolina. Since falling to what has turned out to be a bad South Carolina team on the first Thursday night of the season—thanks in large part to several red-zone turnovers—the Tar Heels have done nothing but win games.

On Thursday night, UNC took control of the ACC's Coastal Division with a 26-19 road victory at a ranked Pittsburgh team, which had only lost to undefeated Iowa in 2015. The Tar Heels are finally looking like a complete and close-knit squad, with quarterback Marquise Williams leading the offense and first-year coordinator Gene Chizik sparking a defensive resurrection in Chapel Hill.

"You don't see bad or negative body language, negative talk around our sideline," Williams said, per ESPN.com. "We're a family. We love each other. You got my back. I got your back. That goes a long way."

With the trio of No. 21, No. 22 and No. 23 losing in Week 9, North Carolina looks like a perfect fit at No. 21, right behind undefeated and idle Toledo. The one-loss Tar Heels could climb even higher in the next few weeks, as they have a ton of momentum and a favorable schedule down the stretch.

 

Wisconsin

As the AP poll looks set to welcome North Carolina into the Top 25, it could—and should—bring Wisconsin back in as the calendar flips to November.

Unranked Wisconsin's two losses this season were both against Top 10 teams in Alabama and Iowa, with the latter only coming by four points. Since then, the Badgers have put together four straight Big Ten wins, including Saturday's 48-10 blasting of Rutgers.

The return from injury for running back Corey Clement, who hadn't played since the season opener against Alabama, kicked the Wisconsin offense into high gear Saturday. He ran for 115 yards and three touchdowns in his comeback game on just 11 attempts.

With Clement now back in action, Wisconsin has a huge spark on offense to go along with one of the nation's most dominant defenses in both scoring and yardage. The Badgers' resume is more impressive than that of Texas A&M and USC, which received more votes than Wisconsin last week but pulled off tight wins Saturday. I'm picking the pollsters to give Wisconsin a much-deserved leap.

 

Moving down

Temple

Anyone who picked Notre Dame to smack previously undefeated Temple on Saturday night was seriously disappointed, as the Owls went down to the wire against the Irish in the biggest game in school history.

The Owls forced two red-zone interceptions against Notre Dame and managed to keep things close despite a 467-265 disadvantage in yardage. Temple took a three-point lead with 4:45 remaining, but a dime from DeShone Kizer and a ridiculous diving interception by KeiVarae Russell in the final minutes gave the Irish the win.

"A lot of things happened to us tonight, but we just kept battling and battling," Temple head coach Matt Rhule said, per Aaron Kasinitz of PennLive.com. "And I thought we had a chance even until the last play."

Temple covered the spread and had a chance to knock off a Top 10 team on Saturday night. The Owls showed they're high-quality, and there's no reason why they should fall completely out of the Top 25 from No. 21. Expect Tyler Matakevich and the Owls to hang in the rankings this week.

 

Duke

Oh, Duke. The referees just blew it Saturday night.

The Hurricanes were able to pull off an unthinkable eight-lateral, game-winning kick return with what appeared to be a variety of missed penalties and an absolutely ridiculous review process. There's little reason to believe the touchdown should've stood, unless you believe in what Robby Kalland of CBS Sports described as "fun > rules." 

But the Blue Devils still had to come from behind to take a late lead—at home—on a Miami team that nearly broke an FBS record for penalties and was playing in its first game under an interim head coach after the firing of Al Golden. This is also the same Miami team that lost 58-0 to Clemson last weekend.

Now with two home losses on the season to teams that aren't in the Top 25 range at this point, Duke just doesn't have enough to keep a spot in the AP poll this weekend.

 

Michigan

Normally, there's enough action in the Top 25 that the Moving Down sections of these weekly predictions mostly stick to teams that lost their games.

But Michigan is an interesting case in a week in which the only ranked teams to lose were near the bottom of the Top 25. The two-loss Wolverines came inches away from dropping their third game of the season Saturday night in a 29-26 road win over previously three-loss Minnesota.

Michigan came from behind on offense with its second-string quarterback in the final minutes of the fourth quarter, but its defense was somewhat fortunate to make a goal-line stand after a questionable, time-melting decision by the Minnesota offense.

With one-loss Florida State bouncing back for a four-touchdown win over Syracuse without its two star offensive players and undefeated Memphis hammering Tulane after a slow start, don't be surprised if Michigan takes a hit in the polls after the close win.

 

Justin Ferguson is a college football writer at Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @JFergusonBR.

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Everything You Need to Know About College Football Week 9 in 60 Seconds

Wild finishes, celebration dances and all the must-see moments—we've got the best of Week 9 of the college football season covered in 60 seconds.

Which players stood out? Which teams came up big?

Find out in the video above as Bleacher Report college football analyst Michael Felder runs through some key storylines.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Ed Feng's Week 10 College Football Playoff Standings Predictions

How will the College Football Playoff committee rank teams this Tuesday at 7 p.m. Eastern? 

We use analytics to make an educated guess on the committee rankings. Based on the AP poll, my algorithm adjusts teams based on the most recent opponent and margin of victory.

Teams that win keep their place unless they need overtime to beat Jacksonville State. Teams that lose drop, but not as much if they lose to a Top 10 team. You get the idea.

Sometimes, I make subjective adjustments to the rankings. For example, Michigan made the Top 25 after a huge win over BYU after Week 4 even though the algorithm didn't put the Wolverines there.

This week, I made some more subjective adjustments based on the committee's first rankings from last season. Let me explain.

What to make of Iowa, Oklahoma State in Top Eight

Both Oklahoma State and Iowa won to remain undefeated in Week 9. Since neither of these teams made the AP preseason poll, they will be behind some one-loss teams when the latest AP poll comes out.

However, the committee doesn't care about preseason polls, and its first ranking from last season sorted teams by losses. This suggests it will rank these two Power Five programs above all one-loss teams. I bumped Iowa and Oklahoma State over one-loss Alabama, Stanford, Florida and Notre Dame.

Iowa ends up seventh in the committee rankings and will most likely stay in the Top 10 a few more weeks. The Hawkeyes travel to Indiana and then have home games against Minnesota and Purdue. My numbers give them better than a 70 percent chance to win each of those games.

Oklahoma State is eighth but will most likely have a short stay in the Top 10. It faces a strong TCU team next week in a schedule that gets difficult toward the end of the season.

 

Florida destroys rival Georgia, continues to climb

Florida put a beating on rival Georgia in their annual game in Jacksonville. The Gators picked off the Bulldogs four times and recorded almost twice the yardage (413-233) in a convincing 27-3 win.

Coming into the game, it looked like Florida would have trouble running the ball. The Gators had gained 4.0 yards per carry, 91st in the nation, so far this season, while Georgia's defense had given up only 3.8 yards per carry, good for 13th-best. (These are my calculations that do not count sacks as rushes like usual college football numbers.)

However, Florida ran for 261 yards on 5.6 yards per carry on Saturday. Kelvin Taylor had 121 of those yards and two touchdowns.

Florida moves up to 10th in the committee rankings and takes its place behind Notre Dame in the hierarchy of one-loss teams. The Gators will most likely lock up the SEC East with a home win against Vanderbilt next week, which would give them a berth in the conference championship game.

If it wins the SEC with one loss, Florida almost certainly makes the playoff. If it falls short in the championship game, it would need a lot of help, as the Gators are looking up at eight undefeated teams.

 

Memphis, Houston stand out among undefeated Group of Five

Memphis and Houston both won this week to give the American Athletic Conference two undefeated teams. How will the committee treat these teams from the Group of Five?

We can't tell much from last season. An undefeated Marshall finally made the committee rankings in Week 14 last year. However, that team from Conference USA had a weak schedule with three MAC teams and one FCS team.

In contrast, Memphis has a signature win over Ole Miss. This makes the Tigers the top Group of Five team in the committee rankings at 16th, right behind the one-loss teams from the Power Five.

Houston doesn't have as strong a signature win as Memphis does. However, the Cougars have beaten Louisville and Vanderbilt. Moreover, they have the second-highest margin of victory in the nation, which puts them 17th in the committee rankings behind Memphis.  

Houston hosts Memphis in two weeks in what should be a terrific AAC matchup, and the winner will still have a slim chance to make the playoff.

 

Ed Feng has a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from Stanford and runs the sports analytics site The Power Rank. You can find him on Twitter @thepowerrank.

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College Football Rankings: Bleacher Report's Week 10 Top 25

The combination of an unimpressive-on-paper schedule and the holiday of Halloween made for a somewhat surprisingly strong set of results even with five of the top-rated teams in the country getting the weekend off.

You can thank scoreboard explosions, last-second scores and late stops for this, and as a result, we still had plenty of movement in the Bleacher Report Top 25. 

Nineteen members of our college football staff voted in this week's Top 25: writers Ben Axelrod, Greg Couch, Ed Feng, Justin Ferguson, David Kenyon, Ben Kercheval, Adam Kramer, Brian Leigh, Mike Monaco, Brian Pedersen, David Regimbal, Barrett Sallee, Brad Shepard, Greg Wallace and Christopher Walsh; video expert Michael Felder; and editors Eric Bowman, Hunter Mandel and Eric Yates.

First-place votes were worth 25 points, with each subsequent rank worth one fewer point, all the way down to one for 25th place. The 25 highest vote-getters made our list, with the rest falling into the "others receiving votes" category.

See where everyone falls after Week 9, then give us your thoughts in the comments section.

Begin Slideshow

Bleacher Report's Ultimate College Football Playoff Preview

Over the next 72 hours, 12 human beings from various backgrounds will flock to a secluded bunker—well, a Texas hotel banquet room with coffee—and begin the impossible process of selecting the College Football Playoff. 

Good luck. 

The task at hand is familiar yet daunting. It is not new but still somehow unfamiliar. On Tuesday, in front of a national audience, Arkansas athletic director and College Football Playoff selection committee chairman Jeff Long will reveal the committee’s first Top 25 of the year after hearty discussions behind closed doors.

“It creeps up on you, but it is exciting,” Long told Bleacher Report late last week. “The committee members are very excited to start our debates and see where we stand. That first ranking will be an interesting one. I can guarantee that.”

Many will be outraged by the results. That part is a guarantee.

The committee has been given the impossible chore of picking four teams out of a giant pile. That task is made even more difficult because it's early November. The difficulty is amplified even further given a) the presumed lack of dominant teams and b) the now weekly occurrence of games ending in spectacular, history-defying fashion.

The latest example came between Duke and Miami in Week 9. Although these two teams will not garner playoff consideration, it doesn’t make this final Miami touchdown—a collection of laterals, potentially illegal blocks and beautiful desperation—any easier to digest.

This is what the committee is up against. It happens every Saturday, it seems.

“There is a lot of football left to be played,” Long added. “There are a lot of matchups still to happen. There are a few wrinkles. Every year will have its own controversy.” 

Oh, indeed. Maybe more than one. With those controversies knocking at the front door, consider this a playoff primer with the initial release suddenly near. (And if you’re a committee member traveling, feel free to print off the following to use over the next few days.)

 

The Playoff Chalk Until Further Notice: Ohio State

Let’s ditch the suspense. Unless the selection committee throws us a tremendous debut curveball, Ohio State will be the No. 1 team in its first 2015 rankings. 

J.T. Barrett’s arrest for OVI over the weekend further complicates matters. With that being said, if this is truly a one-game suspension as the school announced, then it really shouldn’t change much. Cardale Jones, despite his struggles, should be able to lead the Buckeyes over Minnesota in Columbus next Saturday. After that, Barrett should be the starting quarterback again. Given the way he’s played recently, it shouldn’t be much of a discussion.

While the Buckeyes looked sloppy throughout much of the early portion of the season—prompting many to question their role as “favorites”—those concerns have cooled in recent weeks with vastly improved play and results.

With games against Michigan State and Michigan still to come, Ohio State has moments to solidify itself as the favorite. For now, through it all, it’s precisely where Urban Meyer’s team will debut. The drama will likely be limited, so we think.

 

The Easiest Path to the Playoff: Clemson 

With all due respect to Florida State, the next opponent on Clemson’s schedule, the Tigers are in a wonderful position—better than any other Power Five team right now.

It wasn’t easy for the Tigers in Week 9. The 56-41 win over NC State was a different kind of victory. And even though that rebuilt defense didn’t make the trip, Clemson heads home in lovely shape.

The Tigers look like a lock for a Top Three spot in the selection committee’s initial rankings. There will be no debate if the Tigers win out. They’ll be comfortably in the playoff.

After Florida State, Clemson plays Syracuse, Wake Forest and South Carolina. It could then match up against North Carolina in the ACC Championship Game, which could be a surprising test. 

Still, compared to the path many others still have to travel, the Tigers are in business. If they beat Florida State next Saturday, the path clears even more. That's not a guarantee, but others will be envious of the opportunity.

 

The Complicated Fixture: Baylor

At the moment, it’s really not all that complicated. On Tuesday night, the selection committee will recognize Baylor for its early-season demolition, even with starting quarterback Seth Russell out for the season with a neck injury.

“We will rank Baylor based on what they’ve done with their starting quarterback,” Long said. “We won’t see a game with their backup quarterback until after our first rankings are released. We will rank Baylor on what they’ve done thus far and then adjust.”

The loss of Russell is enormous; there’s no way to sugarcoat it. But having talented freshman Jarrett Stidham as a backup plan certainly nullifies the loss a great deal. While there is much to learn about this young man, there is ample time to see how Baylor responds with a new quarterback. 

With such a back-loaded schedule, Baylor can eliminate all concerns simply by winning more games. If the Bears get past Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and TCU in consecutive weeks, it will not matter. The Big 12’s insane November will do a lot of the committee’s heavy lifting.

 

The Party Crashers: Iowa and Oklahoma State 

Yes, Iowa and Oklahoma State will enter Week 10 undefeated. This is not a drill. It has not always been pretty for either, but it has been effective. The end result of this September and October success will be playoff presence on Tuesday.

Iowa will likely be the higher seed—maybe as high as No. 8—and Oklahoma State won’t be far behind. The Hawkeyes have a far more manageable schedule moving forward. The Pokes play TCU, Oklahoma and Baylor. Action starts next week against the Horned Frogs.

While time will ultimately tell with these teams, the committee’s initial reaction will be telling. How much does brand power matter? Will it be evident Tuesday?

Regardless of where they are, they will be there. Don’t be alarmed.

 

The Sneaky Playoff Contender: Florida

The Gators lost a game and their starting quarterback. At that point, we pretty much decided that we were done with them and moved on. And yet, after clobbering a helpless Georgia team in Week 9, Florida is in a position to keep climbing. Quietly.

Florida plays Vanderbilt, at South Carolina, FAU and Florida State to close out the regular season before a likely date in the SEC Championship Game. If the Gators were to win these games and then beat LSU, Alabama or Ole Miss to win the conference, would the selection committee really leave out a one-loss SEC champion? 

A lot has to happen for this scenario to be realized, although it does exist. Florida will likely be ranked somewhere between No. 10 and No. 12 on Tuesday. Then the climbing begins.

 

The Group of Five Party: The Little Guys Will Have a Big Say

Ah, we lost one on Saturday night. Well, maybe. Temple’s valiant 24-20 defeat to Notre Dame could very well put the Owls out of the initial ranking. Or, perhaps the close call will be enough for them to debut in the Top 25.

Unlike last year, however, Group of Five teams will be featured prominently in the initial ranking. Last year, it took weeks for a non-Power Five program to appear. This year, it’s a matter of how many and how high.

Memphis and Houston are locks to make the cut. Toledo is a near lock. Temple is a definite possibility.

With a win over Ole Miss, the Tigers seem likely to be the first Group of Five team called. Houston, with a convincing win over Vanderbilt in Week 9 and a victory over Louisville earlier, won’t be far behind. It’s worth pointing out that these two teams will play on November 14.

Having a presence is one thing. Making a push for the playoff—something that seemed far-fetched before the season began—is another. Where these teams debut Tuesday could ultimate help dictate how high they climb. Stay tuned.

 

Doing the Work: Predicting the Selection Committee’s Initial Top Eight 

No major surprises. Here’s what I expect the selection committee to reveal Tuesday night. Keep in mind, before you fire off impressive and extensive hate mail, these are predictions of how I believe the committee will react.

(Feel free to send the mail regardless.)

1. Ohio State

2. Baylor

3. Clemson

4. LSU

5. TCU

6. Michigan State

7. Alabama

8. Iowa

How will it shake out? Who will be slighted? Overrated? Underrated? 

I don’t need to remind you that the selection committee’s initial rankings mean absolutely nothing in the grand scheme. Ohio State debuted at No. 16 last year. It finished a bit higher than that.

With that fully out in the open, don’t let it curb your displeasure or emotion. The season starts now.

 

Unless noted otherwise, all quotes obtained firsthand.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Heisman Watch 2015: Top 5 Rankings for Week 9

With only five weeks left of the college football season, the time for Heisman Trophy candidates to impress is winding down. After huge performances by quarterbacks Trevone Boykin of TCU and Deshaun Watson of Clemson, our Week 9 top-five rankings are very close and competitive. 

Which players round out the top five this week? Has LSU star running back Leonard Fournette been bumped from our top spot? 

Find out in the video above as Bleacher Report college football analyst Barrett Sallee breaks it down.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Tennessee's Arsenal of Weapons Has Vols Ready for Stretch Run After Kentucky Win

Against Alabama last week, Tennessee showed a national audience that it had the team speed and talent to hang with a quality opponent. On Saturday, the Volunteers proved they could run away from a mediocre one.

From the first snap, there was an obvious difference in the type of player on the field for the Vols and for Kentucky. That manifested itself in a 52-21 obliteration of the Wildcats.

The victory was a throwback to last year's 50-16 win over UK, and it should be a sneak peek into what's to come for Tennessee during the rest of the season. The athletes coach Butch Jones recruited over the past three years should help UT outclass South Carolina, North Texas, Missouri and Vanderbilt the rest of the way.

UT's stable of 4- and 5-star recruits are finally beginning to play like it. A handful of game-breaking plays provided the difference against Kentucky.

Jones alluded to those momentum-shifters afterward, according to Volquest's Paul Fortenberry:

The running back duo of Jalen Hurd and Alvin Kamara made massive plays, whether it was on the ground or through the air. Josh Malone became the Vols' first 100-yard receiver of the season, and he highlighted his night with a 75-yard touchdown grab.

Evan Berry scored his third kick-return touchdown of the season with a 100-yard return, and Cameron Sutton added an 84-yard punt return for a score. 

And quarterback Joshua Dobbs was the maestro of it all, clearly the best player on the field as he torched the 'Cats with his arm and his legs.

It couldn't have been a better night for the Vols.

Tennessee scored more points against an SEC opponent since it dropped 52 on Ole Miss in November of 2010, and the Vols beat Kentucky for the 30th time in 31 tries. But this was about more than extending streaks.

It was about proving to everybody else that they had too much firepower and too many offensive playmakers to have an emotional letdown after a close, draining loss to rival Alabama last week.

Offensive coordinator Mike DeBord was maligned through the first few weeks, but it's obvious over the past few weeks that he is learning how to utilize the massive amount of weaponry in his offensive arsenal.

He called close to a perfect game Saturday night.

Normally robotic in postgame interviews, Dobbs even said in a roundabout way that it'll be tough for anybody to beat the Vols if they play the way they're capable of.

Though the Vols moved the ball up and down the field early on, a Dobbs fumble returned 77 yards for a Kentucky touchdown and a stalled drive on the Wildcats' 38-yard line kept the game close.

Despite the Halloween candy hangover, the Vols jolted awake in the second quarter. They sandwiched touchdowns around halftime, ending any Kentucky hopes. Once the Vols took momentum, they seized it and ran with it. Those scores were part of a crazy run.

Tennessee converted on eight consecutive scoring drives—seven of them touchdowns—and by then, Commonwealth Stadium was nearly empty besides the orange faithful.

They stayed to see who'd score next. 

This is a confident football team that has grown and gotten better through early-season adversity and happens to be playing its best just as the schedule lightens up.

The Gamecocks looked game against Texas A&M earlier in the day, and both Missouri and Vanderbilt feature stout defenses, but it's tough to see the Vols failing to be anything but heavy favorites the rest of the way.

Too much star potential roams the UT sideline for the team not to be.

Kentucky loaded the box to stop Hurd for much of the first half, and the 'Cats did a pretty good job of it. But they fell victim to Dobbs getting seven different receivers the football as he sprayed it all over the field. He also danced his way to some highlight-reel runs, especially his sideline-hugging first score.

He also shrugged off his doubters who've scoffed at his ability to throw downfield with the long strike to Malone. 

With Hurd bottled up, Tennessee turned to Kamara who broke free for a 63-yard run to the 1-yard line to set up Dobbs' second score.

All those special talents that highlighted two top-10 recruiting classes from the past two years spilled over into special teams as Berry and Sutton highlighted the victory parade with their second-half scores.

Forget haints, goblins and ghouls; the Wildcats will be seeing Tennessee talents in their nightmares. 

Four players had 50-plus yards rushing, and Tennessee averaged more than seven yards per play while generating 482 yards of offense and really not doing anything more than handing the ball off throughout the fourth quarter.

It's how UT is capable of playing, which makes the Vols' 4-4 record at this point of the season all the more frustrating.

Despite the past, the bottom line is Tennessee still controls the ability to finish with eight wins and a solid season that would be a step forward in Jones' program rebuild.

Throughout Saturday, there was no question as to which team was superior.

Really good football teams embarrass teams that aren't, and that's been missing from Tennessee in recent years. Just a month ago, UT jumped up by two scores against a mediocre Arkansas and squandered the game away in an eventual loss.

The next week, they finally broke through for a big comeback win over Georgia, and during that game, it appeared a light of belief came on in the Vols that perhaps changed the program's trajectory. Since then, the Vols are playing like an elite team.

Saturday's win over Kentucky was the culmination of it all. If the Vols keep playing like they have the past three games, they'll steamroll through the rest of the schedule.

 

All stats gathered from NCAA.com unless otherwise noted. All quotes gathered firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Brad Shepard covers SEC football and is the Tennessee lead writer for Bleacher Report. Follow Brad on Twitter @Brad_Shepard.

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Notre Dame vs. Temple: Game Grades, Analysis for the Fighting Irish

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish stole a victory in the City of Brotherly Love thanks to a late touchdown grab from one of its own—Philly native Will Fuller—and beat the Temple Owls 24-20 in Saturday's only showdown between two ranked teams. 

In what was surely a much-needed College Football Playoff resume builder, the Irish overcame plenty of mistakes by making big plays when they needed them. 

With that, let's check out the game grades for each position unit for the Irish.

 

Rush Offense: B+

Quarterback DeShone Kizer was the team's leading rusher with 143 yards on 17 carries, 79 of those yards coming on one touchdown run. C.J. Prosise added just 25 yards on 14 carries. Those two were the only Irish players credited with any rushing attempts. While the Irish clearly lack depth when it comes to their ground attack, they still have that big play ability.

 

Pass Offense: B

Kizer was 23-of-36 passing for 299 yards and one touchdown, with that touchdown being the winning score to Fuller in the game's waning moments. Perhaps more damning for Kizer were two interceptions in the red zone, one at the very end of the first half that prevented the Irish from extending their 14-10 halftime lead. 

 

Rush Defense: A

Temple struggled all night rushing the ball. Through the first quarter alone, the Owls had minus-13 yards on the ground. Jahad Thomas ended with 82 yards, and the Owls eventually crossed the century mark with 107. But the front lines of Notre Dame's defense was stout all night, making every yard excruciatingly difficult for Temple. 

 

Pass Defense: A-

P.J. Walker was limited by the Irish secondary to just 13-of-30 passing for 188 yards and one touchdown, with his longest completion being 31 yards. The Irish at times gave up medium-to-long third-down conversions through the air, but ultimately Walker couldn't get into a rhythm. Plus, that late interception on the ensuing drive after Fuller's touchdown catch was what sealed the game up.

 

Special Teams: A-

There were no real disasters in the special teams unit for the Irish. One kickoff went out of bounds, but Justin Yoon was perfect on four kick attempts, including a field goal, and the Owls couldn't get anything going in their return game.

 

Coaching: B+

In one of the most hyped-up Temple football crowds in history, Brian Kelly found himself with an opportunity for a playoff resume builder that he probably didn't think he'd have during the preseason. Despite some debilitating penalties and not having the game in hand until the penultimate drive, Kelly ultimately didn't let a feisty Owls squad pull what could have been a program-defining upset. 

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Gutsy Win vs. Minnesota Is Exactly Why Michigan Hired Jim Harbaugh

The win was far from pretty and even a little bit lucky—but none of that mattered in the end for Michigan.

What's important is the Wolverines are 6-2, and the Little Brown Jug is coming back home with them after a Halloween classic Saturday in Minnesota.

The Wolverines pulled out a 29-26 victory over the rival Golden Gophers away from home, snatching victory on backup quarterback Wilton Speight's touchdown pass and an incredible goal-line stand as time expired. ESPN provided the highlight:

It was a type of win previous Michigan teams might not have been able to pull off, especially against a Minnesota squad that was playing with incredible energy after former head coach Jerry Kill's health-caused retirement earlier in the week.

But the confidence head coach Jim Harbaugh has the Wolverines playing with in his first season, as noted in his postgame comments, per Mark Snyder of the Detroit Free Press, lifted them to this huge win.

Michigan's offense, which was already struggling to generate sustained offense in the second half, suffered a huge blow in the third quarter when starting quarterback Jake Rudock left the game following a nasty hit.

Speight didn't instill much faith in the Wolverines faithful early on, throwing three straight incompletions right out of the gate—including two on third downs.

However, Harbaugh stuck with Speight on what would be Michigan's final drive, shuffling him out on a few snaps for do-it-all redshirt freshman Jabrill Peppers.

Speight delivered a pair of strikes to help get Michigan in the red zone. Later, after Peppers was sacked on second down, Speight delivered a 12-yard touchdown dime to Jehu Chesson.

Maize and Brew's Alejandro Zuniga jokingly added Speight to the Heisman discussion:

A Michigan offense that punted on its four previous drives went 40 yards for a clutch go-ahead score with a quarterback who hadn't completed a collegiate pass attempt before Saturday. Per Snyder, Harbaugh expressed confidence in Speight playing well Saturday:

After the incredible touchdown drive, the spotlight then turned to a Michigan defense that had its confidence shaken all night long.

Entering Saturday night's game, Michigan had held each of its opponents to fewer than 400 yards. 

But Minnesota, led by confident veteran Mitch Leidner, recorded 461 yards against the Wolverines. Leidner had 354 of those yards and both of the Golden Gophers' touchdowns.

The Michigan secondary, which allowed 328 yards in the heartbreaking loss to Connor Cook and Michigan State two weeks ago, looked finished when Leidner hit Drew Wolitarsky on a 22-yard pass that was initially ruled a touchdown.

But a review showed Wolitarsky was down at the 1-yard line, and the Michigan defense had another chance to stand tall.

Defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin told his unit to stay strong despite all of its previous mistakes in the game, according to Michigan linebacker Desmond Morgan, per Mark Snyder of the Detroit Free Press

The defense did just that, forcing an incompletion after Minnesota's strange decision to shift out of a power set and wind the clock down to just a few seconds, which SB Nation CFB noted: 

Michigan took advantage of that break on the next play. Harbaugh admitted to reporters afterward that Durkin told the defense to sell out on the quarterback sneak, and that's what it did as it stonewalled Leidner just outside the goal line.

Having the confidence to get that final stop comes from Harbaugh, the alumnus who has brought so much energy to the program and its fanbase this season. This same team, which missed a bowl game last season under Brady Hoke, is assured a postseason spot at the very least.

Its close losses to highly ranked Utah and Michigan State should keep Michigan from playing for a surprise national championship this season, but the Wolverines can still cause havoc for rival Ohio State and play for the Big Ten title.

The team's self-belief wasn't shaken after the mind-numbing loss to Michigan State and the subsequent week without a game. The team also did not take a hit after falling behind several times at an electric TCF Bank Stadium, where the Golden Gophers were determined to pull off an upset and win one for Kill.

You could see the confidence exuded from the Wolverines after claiming the Jug, especially in this tweet from defensive lineman Taco Charlton:

Saturday night's game was arguably one of the Wolverines' worst performances of the season, but they still got the job done on the road against an amped-up rival.

Call that the "Harbaugh Effect." It's evident on the field—and in the win column—for Michigan.

 

Game statistics courtesy of StatBroadcast. Unless otherwise noted, other statistics courtesy of cfbstats.com

Justin Ferguson is a college football writer at Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @JFergusonBR.

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DeShone Kizer Bounces Back in Temple Win, Keeps Notre Dame Alive for Playoff

A smooth road start for Notre Dame Fighting Irish football devolved into a horrifying hodgepodge of penalties, interceptions, an ejection and a scuffle. But Irish quarterback DeShone Kizer helped bring Notre Dame back to defeat the Temple Owls and keep his team’s playoff hopes alive Saturday night in Philadelphia.

Kizer overcame two early interceptions and a slew of Irish miscues to spearhead a six-play, 75-yard drive that vaulted Notre Dame in front after the Owls had snatched a three-point lead with less than five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.

And with that, Notre Dame improved to 7-1 in imperfect but acceptable fashion. Most importantly, the Irish remain in playoff contention.

On 2nd-and-10 from the Temple 17-yard line, Kizer grooved a pristine ball past two Owls to star wide receiver Will Fuller for the go-ahead and, eventually, game-winning score.

No. 9 Notre Dame checked into Lincoln Financial Field as a double-digit favorite against No. 21 and previously unbeaten Temple. And the Irish rolled to a quick start—a 12-play, 74-yard touchdown drive followed by a defensive stop.

But Kizer tossed his two interceptions in the red zone after an additional pair of risky throws earlier. Notre Dame led by just four at the halftime break.

The Irish again marched down the field on their first second-half drive. They covered 80 yards on 15 plays and tacked on a 23-yard field goal. From there, Notre Dame fans were treated to a seemingly unending nightmare of trouble.

Multiple offensive penalties, including an offensive pass interference call on tight end Nic Weishar, positioned the Irish with 2nd-and-33. Irish head coach Brian Kelly had to be restrained on the sideline from his own staff members at one point. Soon thereafter, Irish senior safety Elijah Shumate was ejected for targeting in the end zone, which gave Temple a first down and led to a Jahad Thomas touchdown.

A Temple field goal handed Notre Dame a three-point deficit, but the Irish responded quickly enough to save their season.

Facing a third down, Kizer connected with Fuller to the right side for seven yards and a first down. The redshirt freshman quarterback then synced up beautifully with freshman tight end Alize Jones on a corner pattern for 45 yards. Two plays later, Kizer hit Fuller—their second late-game, go-ahead score of the season.

With his standout running back, C.J. Prosise, held to 25 yards on 14 carries (1.8 yards per attempt), Kizer came through with 143 rushing yards and two touchdowns on the ground, including the where-did-that-come-from 79-yard scoring sprint. He again supplied conversions in short-yardage situations. And he grappled with Temple star linebacker Tyler Matakevich head-on at the beginning of the second half, lowering his shoulder into the bulky 'backer for a conversion on 2nd-and-8.

Just two quarters earlier, after his first rushing touchdown, Kizer stared down Matakevich in the back of the end zone and flapped his arms, presumably a confident nod to the Owls. That moxie, before and after the miscues, helped propel the Irish.

Like its quarterback, Notre Dame wasn’t perfect. But for the seventh time in eight tries, the Irish found a way to win. The margin for error remains razor thin moving forward. But Kizer’s confidence and command have counteracted some errors.

For now, Notre Dame rolls on.

 

All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

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

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Notre Dame vs. Temple: Score, Highlights and Twitter Reaction

The No. 9 Notre Dame Fighting Irish quieted the ambitious No. 21 Temple Owls with a resilient 24-20 win on Saturday, making a case for their worth in the College Football Playoff hunt.

Trailing for the first time with just over four minutes to play, Notre Dame quarterback DeShone Kizer engineered a six-play, 75-yard touchdown drive capped with a 17-yard score to wide receiver Will Fuller with just over two minutes remaining. 

Fighting Irish cornerback KeiVarae Russell secured the victory with an interception on 3rd-and-17 to keep Notre Dame's playoff hopes alive. Dan Wolken of USA Today and Dr. Saturday of Yahoo Sports each offered sentiment for the Owls:

The Owls' school-best start ends at seven wins. Yet despite a now-blemished record, they shouldn’t fall far in the ranks given how respectable Saturday’s loss was, per Bryan Fischer of Bleacher Report:

Notre Dame remains relevant in the playoff picture with a lone loss to No. 3 Clemson and a looming season finale against No. 8 Stanford that could woo voters. 

The Fighting Irish opened convincingly on a four-yard run by Kizer in the first six minutes—the first time in over a year the Owls had allowed a score on the opening drive, per Paul Skrbina of the Chicago Tribune.

Kizer scored again on a 79-yard touchdown run with less than five minutes to go in the half, but the Fighting Irish then went scoreless until the final minutes. 

Temple scored 10 unanswered and took its first lead on a 36-yard field goal by Austin Jones with four minutes, 45 seconds remaining. This came after the Owls forced a three-and-out then engineered a 14-play, 78-yard drive over seven minutes and 21 seconds to tie the game on a one-yard touchdown by running back Jahad Thomas at 17 earlier in the fourth. 

Temple benefited from two critical interceptions in the red zone by Praise Martin-Oguike and Tyler Matakevich, despite only converting one into a touchdown. 

ESPN College GameDay captured Matakevich from just behind the goal post:

Despite being the only ranked matchup this week, Temple was a 10.5-point underdog, per Odds Shark, and many had written the Owls off. Stewart Mandel of Fox Sports encompassed how much of a surprise the close game was:

Temple entered the game ranked behind unbeaten No. 16 Memphis and No. 18 in the American Athletic Conference. Though their playoff hopes are likely dashed, they still play Memphis in Week 12 and are in the driver’s seat to reach the inaugural AAC championship game on Dec. 5. 

Notre Dame likely won’t jump far in the rankings given the six unbeatens ahead and half the Top 10 on a bye. But the Fighting Irish are doing what they need to stay relevant. If they run the table and have their lone loss to a Clemson team that’s arguably the best in college football, they could make a hard case to be included in the final four.

Reaction

Despite a valiant effort, Temple would’ve needed help on top of running the table to reach the playoff—they’re the third-best team in their own conference, which isn’t among the Power Five. Tom Fornelli of CBS Sports sarcastically quipped that Temple would’ve been a long shot for the playoff even with a win:

Temple head coach Matt Rhule was proud of his team’s effort, but told John Clark of CSN Philadelphia: “There are no moral victories. We’re not here to lose."

Rhule still thought it was a phenomenal game and weekend, supplemented by the national attention. He took to Twitter to thank all those who tuned in:

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly aggressively confronted conditioning coach David Grimes on the sideline in light of what he claimed were actions that would’ve drawn a flag for verbiage towards an official, per Matt Fortuna of ESPN. Dr. Cork Gaines of Business Insider showed the exchange:

Kelly explained his reaction to JJ Stankevitz of CSN Chicago: 

David was going to get us a 15-yard penalty, so I had to control the sideline. 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 that we didn’t get a 15-yard penalty.

Notre Dame takes on No. 23 Pittsburgh in Week 10 with another chance to bolster its résumé.

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Miami vs. Duke: Score, Highlights and Twitter Reaction

The story begins with the Miami Hurricanes needing one stop. They didn't get it. They were about to lose.

Then they won on what could be described as the most absurd final play in college football history.

After letting the No. 22-ranked Duke Blue Devils drive down the field to take a three-point lead with six seconds left, Miami lateraled the ensuing kickoff eight times, returning it 91 yards as Corn Elder scored a touchdown with no time left to give Miami an improbable 30-27 victory Saturday night.

The Hurricanes' official Twitter account summed it up perfectly:

It was a rough night for the referees, who called 23 penalties against Miami, including three on Duke's final drive, which ended on a Thomas Sirk one-yard touchdown run that helped give Duke a 27-24 lead. After all of the laterals and chaos finally halted on the final kickoff return, the officials called an illegal block in the back against Miami.

The officials went under the hood to take a look at the play to see whether all of the laterals were legal and whether any knees touched the ground along the way.

Neither of those things happened. Then the officials announced the play was under further review—to see whether the block in the back actually happened. USA Today's Dan Wolken had the best summary of the next 10 minutes:

The situation reminded CBS Sports' Will Brinson of another instance of ridiculous officiating:

Finally, after the concluding review, the referee picked up the flag and ruled the play a touchdown. All of that happened with six seconds left on the clock. Yahoo Sports' Pat Forde thought the circus was in town:

All of the hoopla came one week after the Hurricanes suffered their worst loss in program history at the hands of the Clemson Tigers, 58-0. The team fired head coach Al Golden the next day. Miami also had to go into this game without starting quarterback Brad Kaaya, who did not make the trip to Durham, North Carolina. Redshirt freshman Malik Rosier started in his place.

The two-sport athlete threw for 272 yards and two touchdowns, and it turned out to be a good day for interim head coach Larry Scott.

Just when Miami was on the verge of dropping to 4-4 and falling further away from bowl consideration, the Hurricanes pulled off an improbable victory. They are now one win away from bowl eligibility.

Meanwhile, the heartbreaking loss for Duke takes almost all of the luster away from next week's matchup against the North Carolina Tar Heels for first place in the ACC Coastal Division.

Stay tuned for postgame reactions from both sides.

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