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College Football Picks: North Carolina Tar Heels vs. Clemson Tigers Odds

The North Carolina Tar Heels will open play in the ACC this Saturday night against the Clemson Tigers at Memorial Stadium. Game time is set for 7 p.m. (ET), and this conference clash will be broadcast nationally on ESPNU.

North Carolina comes into this matchup looking to rebound after getting pasted by East Carolina last week on the road in a 70-41 loss. According to Cover’s betting trends, the closing point spread in this game had the Tar Heels actually favored by a point. They are now 2-1 straight up on the year with a 0-3 record against the spread. North Carolina is just 3-7 ATS in its last 11 road games.

The Tigers blew a golden opportunity to move way up in the national rankings this past Saturday against No. 1 Florida State, but they could not pull off the upset in a 23-17 overtime loss as 9.5-point road underdogs. Instead, Clemson has dropped out of the latest AP Top 25 poll with a record of 1-2 SU (2-1 ATS). Its other setback was a 45-21 loss to No. 12 Georgia on opening weekend as a 10-point underdog on the road.

 

North Carolina at Clemson Betting Storylines

Last week was the Tar Heels' first real test of the new season, and they failed miserably. They turned a tight game after the first quarter into a rout heading into the fourth by getting outscored 42-14 in the middle two quarters of play. North Carolina’s offense has to be somewhat pleased with putting up 41 points in this game, but its defense was completely shredded by Pirates quarterback Shane Carden, who ended the day with 438 passing yards and four touchdown throws.

In their first two games, the Tar Heels gave up 29 points to Division IAA Liberty and 27 points to San Diego State in a tight four-point victory as 14.5-point home favorites. North Carolina is ranked 21st in the nation in scoring with an average of 42.7 points a game, and quarterback Marquise Williams has thrown for 551 yards while adding another 152 yards on the ground. However, it’s hard to see this defense keeping Clemson from scoring many points this Saturday night.

The Tigers have to be kicking themselves after Saturday’s near miss, but there are plenty of positive takeaways from such a heartbreaking loss. Freshman quarterback Deshaun Watson took another step forward with 266 yards passing while completing 19 of 28 throws. He also ran for 30 yards and a score on 12 carries. The Tigers did an excellent job of spreading the ball around all night long, with 11 different players posting at least one reception in this game.

The biggest plus had to be the Clemson defense, which kept the pressure on Seminoles backup quarterback Sean Maguire from the opening snap. This unit also held running back Karlos Williams to just 45 yards on 10 carries as Florida State attempted to fill the void created by a one-game suspension of starting quarterback Jameis Winston.

 

North Carolina at Clemson Betting Odds and Trends by Doc’s Sports

Point spread: Clemson -13.5

Total Line: OFF

According to Cover’s betting trends, the Tar Heels are 7-2 ATS in their last nine games following a SU loss and 5-1 ATS in their last six conference games. The total has stayed “under” in six of their last eight games against a team from the ACC.

The Tigers are 5-1 ATS in their last six games following a SU loss and 20-8 ATS in their last 28 games in the ACC. The total has gone “over” in six of their last eight home games.

Head-to-head in this matchup, the favorite is 4-1 ATS in the last five meetings, and the total has gone over in three of the last four games.

                                                             

College Football Picks: North Carolina at Clemson Betting Predictions

The Tar Heels find themselves facing the wrong team at the wrong time in this ACC tilt. They proved that they are not going to be one of the elite teams in the ACC, and they now have the tall task of going on the road to face a very good Clemson team that will be looking to take its recent frustrations out on someone. That someone is North Carolina, and it will be by far more than the current 13.5-point spread.

 

Take: # 172 Clemson (-13.5) over North Carolina - 7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 27

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Hot Seat Alert: Which Coaches Should Fear Losing Their Jobs?

After four weeks of football, there are some big programs that are struggling. This falls on the head coach. 

Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Barrett Sallee and Adam Kramer discuss which head coaches are in danger of losing their jobs. 

Which head coach is in most danger of getting the ax?

Watch the video and let us know! 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Rankings 2014: Updated Outlook on Top Week 5 Polls

On the brink of a complete overhaul, the heavy hitters continue to headline the college football rankings after fending off major upsets.

Many premier squads came close to demolishing their College Football Playoff chances with a defeat, but only LSU suffered an upset during an eventful Week 4. Florida State, Oregon and Auburn will have to prove their status as legit title contenders, but they at least remain viable choices after securing narrow victories over the weekend.

Without the BCS telling us what goes, it is interesting to study the different lists to mark the differences in opinion. Although the two major players don't vary significantly, few teams hold the same slotting from the Associated Press and USA Today.

Let's take a look at the AP Top 25 and USA Today polls to see how the two compare. As you can see, a few notable differences exist throughout the rankings. 

 

Updated Outlook

Florida State remains No. 1 after sneaking past Clemson in overtime, but how long will the Seminoles maintain the top spot?

Without the suspended Jameis Winston, Florida State sneaked out a 23-17 victory over its ACC rival, which no longer holds a spot in the top 25 after suffering two tough losses. It's easy to blame Winston's absence for the near upset, as Sean Maguire coughed up two interceptions. That, however, would let FSU off the hook too easily.

The understudy quarterback faced heavy pressure all night, getting sacked five times throughout the victory. ESPN Stats & Info illuminated Maguire's circumstances:

Clemson accounted for 407 total yards, and only the most irrational sports fans would blame the Seminoles' defensive struggles on a suspended quarterback. With or without Winston, the Seminoles have not performed like a No. 1 team. ESPN's Football Power Index has them ranked much lower:

In the AP, Oregon is right on FSU's trail. USA Today has the Ducks further behind, but Alabama is on the edge of No. 1 consideration. Florida State shouldn't have to lose a game to lose its No. 1 standing. What type of frightful NCAA juggernaut boasts a 12.3-point margin of victory?

Working in its favor, Oregon also walked a tightrope against Washington State, allowing 436 passing yards and four touchdowns to Connor Halliday during a 38-31 shootout. Heisman hopeful Marcus Mariota answered with five passing scores of his own, but his defense shattered against Mike Leach's passing scheme.

Following three massive victories, one of which came against a then-top-10 ranked Michigan State, Oregon appeared poise to usurp Florida State before nearly unraveling against the Cougars. Now it must get back on track to finally run the table. 

The week's biggest stunner produced the largest ramifications, as LSU slid down the rankings while Mississippi State vaulted from unranked to prominently featured. It's amazing what one game can accomplish.

A trendy upset pick heading into Saturday, the Bulldogs bruised their way to a 34-29 victory behind a brilliant performance from Dak Prescott. The junior contributed 268 passing yards, 105 rushing yards and three total touchdowns against Les Miles' squad.

Miles spoke fondly of the dual-threat quarterback before their meeting, via Around the SEC's Twitter page, and now he's probably not happy to see Prescott prove him right:

LSU now must follow South Carolina's path to initiate damage control. Facing Auburn, Ole Miss, Alabama and Texas A&M this season, the Tigers can amend this loss by surviving those four top-10 opponents. Or they can fall from relevancy by succumbing to a brutal schedule.

Mississippi State faces those same four opponents, starting with the Aggies in two weeks after taking the upcoming weekend off. If Prescott can outgain Kenny Hill to win another SEC showdown, the Bulldogs will soar further up the ladder upon facing Auburn the following week.

After its next two games, we'll certainly know whether or not this squad is the real deal.

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Emmitt Smith Speaks out on Jeff Driskel's Performance vs. Alabama

Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel had a rough outing against Alabama in a 42-21 loss, and at least one notable alum has taken notice.    

Emmitt Smith, a unanimous All-American with Florida in 1989, voiced his thoughts on the struggling signal-caller:

Not exactly glowing remarks for Driskel, who posted terrible numbers against the Crimson Tide. Driskel went 9-of-28 passing for 93 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions for a passer rating of 57.5.

Smith isn't the only person who was critical of the Florida QB after his forgettable performance. Matt Hayes of Sporting News passed along his analysis of the game:

Replacing Driskel was at least a thought that ran through coach Will Muschamp's mind during the 21-point loss. Following the game, Muschamp commented on possibly making a switch at quarterback against the Tide, per Drew Champlin of AL.com:

"I did (consider it) but Jeff gives us the best opportunity right now," Muschamp said. "For us to win a game like that, Jeff Driskel needs to play."

Prior to the game against Bama, Driskel had put together consistent numbers on the season. His three touchdowns and one interception against Kentucky helped boost the team to an overtime win, but that performance was overshadowed by Saturday's showing.

Moving forward, Driskel will certainly feel more pressure if he keeps underwhelming with his play. Beating down the likes of Eastern Michigan and coming back against Kentucky means nothing if he can't lead the team against tough SEC opponents.

The former 5-star quarterback has a tough slate ahead of him on the road against Tennessee then facing LSU in Gainesville. If the junior continues to struggle, Smith might not be the only person calling for a change under center.

 

Follow @RCorySmith on Twitter.

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Does Anybody Want to Win the SEC East?

Are there any teams in the SEC East that want to step up to the big boy table?

Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

Georgia was the talk of the college football world after Week 1, when it outmanned Clemson between the hedges. How did it follow that up in its next game, which took place during Week 3? By dropping a heartbreaker on the road to South Carolina, which had already been trounced by Texas A&M.

As it stands right now, the only SEC East teams without conference losses are the ones that haven't played SEC games.

That left the door open for Missouri, a team that had looked good up until last weekend. Then Indiana happened, and Missouri suffered one of the most embarrassing losses of the season by any SEC program.

Florida? The Gators somehow managed to pair a consistently woeful offense with a surprisingly dreadful defense through the first three games.

Tennessee and Missouri don't have conference losses yet, but the way things are shaping up, they'll just join the fray of what looks like a traffic jam of mediocre-at-best teams.

Instead of Georgia getting right on defense, South Carolina taking the next step and Florida getting right, the SEC East looks like it has taken a step back. Similar to the SEC West, it will cannibalize itself. Unlike the SEC West, though, it will do so in a tragic way, one that feels like the champ is the team that lost the least rather than a strong program that went out and won the title.

For comparison, it will be a lot like 2010.

South Carolina won the east that season with a 9-3 record and a 5-3 record within the conference, and four of the six teams in the division at that time had sub-.500 records in the SEC.

With every team in the division having major flaws, history is going to repeat itself.

South Carolina's defense has struggled, it already has a loss, and it has to go on the road to Auburn later in the year. Georgia didn't fix its pass defense, and pass-happy teams like Tennessee, Missouri and Kentucky remain on the schedule in addition to the home game with defending conference champ Auburn. Missouri's defense struggled and didn't slow down Indiana, a mediocre Big Ten team. Florida's problems seem to be getting worse, not better. Tennessee is young up front, Kentucky is still building and Vanderbilt is back to being "Vanderbilt."

Have any of those teams done anything to inspire confidence that they can step up to be elite?

Nope.

This is just a flawed year in the SEC East. It doesn't have to be—and won't be—permanent, but the flaws that exist on each team are not flaws that can be fixed overnight. 

Georgia has had an entire offseason to fix its pass defense, yet the corners can't cover and the linebackers—Ramik Wilson, in particular—can't help but bite on play action even when it's clearly play action. South Carolina's secondary issues and Tennessee's inability to generate pressure are a direct result of youth and inexperience. Missouri looked like it missed Michael Sam, Kony Ealy and E.J. Gaines immensely Saturday.

The SEC East is a dumpster fire at the moment, and once the SEC schedule begins in earnest, it'll act as gasoline.

 

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and video analyst for Bleacher Report, as well as a co-host of the CFB Hangover on Bleacher Report Radio (Sundays, 9-11 a.m. ET) on Sirius 93, XM 208.

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of cfbstats.com, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Louisiana Tech vs. Auburn Complete Game Preview

AUBURN, Ala. — It was far from the resounding-statement victory fans were hoping to see last Thursday night, but No. 5 Auburn escaped Manhattan with a tight 20-14 road win.

Now it's back to the friendly confines of Jordan-Hare Stadium for the Tigers, who have posted a pair of multi-touchdown home victories in the young campaign.

Saturday will be a sweet, yet early, homecoming game for Auburn against a Louisiana Tech team that reached rock bottom last weekend. The Bulldogs had some momentum going with a pair of wins following their blowout loss on opening day at Oklahoma, but Skip Holtz's team shockingly fell in an awful home opener to FCS opponent Northwestern State on a late field goal.

Louisiana Tech's big loss reinforced the fact that this should be nothing more than another tuneup game for an Auburn team that feels like it needs the tweaking after the narrow victory in Manhattan. Auburn should take care of business in this nonconference matchup, but the question will be how much the Tigers—especially the offense—will improve from the season's first road trip.

Before we get to a full breakdown of Auburn's homecoming matchup against a Louisiana Tech team looking to rebound from a crushing upset, here are all the basics:

Begin Slideshow

Fletcher Adams Commits to Mississippi State: Bulldogs Land 4-Star DT

Two days after a program-defining win at LSU, Mississippi State landed a program-boosting commitment from 4-star defensive tackle Fletcher Adams, one of the most productive defensive players in the 2015 class.

The 6'3", 260-pound lineman chose the Bulldogs over Florida and Ole Miss, narrowing his list and deciding on the Bulldogs last week before announcing his commitment Monday morning.

"It just came down to the wire and I needed to do what's best for me," Adams told Courtney Cronin of The Clarion-Ledger. "I grew up a [Mississippi] State Fan. Alabama, LSU, Ole Miss are the dream schools but you just have to do what's best for you. That was the main thing."

Adams is the No. 184 overall prospect and the No. 17 defensive tackle in the 2015 class, per the 247Sports composite rankings. He also checks in as the No. 5 player in the state of Mississippi, which is important given the Bulldogs' previous commitments from Jamal Peters and Malik Dear, the Nos. 1 and 4 in-state players, respectively.

Ole Miss made waves on the recruiting trail in 2012, and nothing it has done thus far in 2014 would seem to repel recruits, but Dan Mullen's team has owned the current cycle in the Magnolia State:

Adams is undersized for the tackle position, but he maximizes his impact with a high motor, impressive burst off the line and a nose for the football. According to ESPN Scouts Inc. (subscription required), he is a "strong, aggressive player...(who) could be a top-level prospect in time if he adds bulk and maintains quickness."

Whatever Adams lacks in ideal size—and no matter your opinion on "tweeners"—he makes up for with production. According to Bleacher Report's Tyler Donohue, he has 370 tackles (!!!) since 2011:

With Adams' commitment, Mississippi State moves up from No. 13 to No. 12 on the 247Sports team rankings—passing, of all teams, LSU. Its 28 total commitments are tied with South Carolina for the most in the country.

The rich are getting richer in the SEC West, which is already (by far) the nation's best division and is only getting better.

It Adams develops into anything like the last undersized "Fletcher" who played in Starkville, this defense might be scary good.

And soon.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Adidas Unveils New Louisville 'ShowTime' Uniforms for Florida State Game

The Louisville Cardinals will have a new look when they take the field for their showdown with the Florida State Seminoles on Oct. 30.

On Monday, Adidas unveiled new "ShowTime" alternate uniforms for the Cardinals. The uniforms will certainly help the team stand out on the field.

Louisville's new alternate uniforms have camouflage accents, which are very apparent on the helmet and the cleats. Not only does the helmet feature camouflage accents, but it also has a chrome-red Cardinals logo. The Cardinals logo also appears on the pants.

The uniforms were made with Adidas' TECHFIT Shockweb technology. That means the uniform is light and clings to the body, which makes it tougher for defenders to tackle the player.

Although the Cardinals logo is found on other parts of the uniform, the jersey features a large, old English “L” on the sleeves. 

Check out the cleats:

The Cardinals hope that these new uniforms will help them knock off the Seminoles.

[adidas]

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Samuel Chi's Mock College Football Playoff Standings (Week 5)

Several top-ranked teams had close calls this past weekend, but every one of them managed to survive with the exception of LSU. Nevertheless, there was still a bit of a shakeup at the top of the new mock College Football Playoff standings from last week.

With most of the early-season cupcake fest out of the way, the playoff picture will begin to take shape in earnest with conference games, which essentially serve as elimination games in the coming weeks as pretenders are weeded out.

There are only 25 unbeaten teams in FBS (out of 128) through the first four weeks of the season, including two independents (Notre Dame and BYU) and just two from the non-power-five conferences (Cincinnati and Marshall). The race for not just the four playoff spots but also for the New Year's Six bowl berths should be extremely fascinating and closely contested.

 

The Rankings

(See methodology of standings

 

The Playoff Teams

1. Oklahoma

The Sooners used a big second half to finally overcome a pesky West Virginia team that also gave Alabama fits in the season opener. With the Big 12 being the only power-five conference without a championship game, OU must now navigate a treacherous schedule realizing that one loss might be enough to knock it out of the playoff race.

 

2. Auburn

The Tigers managed to escape Manhattan thanks to three K-State turnovers and three missed field goals. And now comes the hard part. After next week's game against Louisiana Tech, Auburn will play six consecutive ranked opponents. This could be the most difficult stretch of games in college football history.

 

3. Alabama

The Tide labored somewhat before finally pulling away from Florida to win their SEC opener. But unlike Auburn, Alabama's schedule is much more user-friendly and manageable. The Tide once again avoid all the SEC East heavyweights, and even their games against SEC West foes are conveniently spaced out. Alabama will be tested this way, though: Four of its next five games are on the road.

 

4. Florida State

The selection committee breathed a sigh of relief after Florida State survived Clemson in overtime. Why? Because had FSU lost without Jameis Winston and then gone on to win the rest of their games, the committee would have to weigh such a mitigating circumstance. But now that the 'Noles have won, the rest of their schedule shouldn't pose much of a challenge.

 

First Four Out

5. Oregon

With Florida State struggling, Oregon had a chance to seize the top ranking in the polls. Instead, the Ducks unexpectedly struggled against Washington State, whose QB Connor Halliday gashed them with 436 passing yards. Things won't get any easier from here, as the Pac-12 leads all conferences with seven unbeaten teams, including Oregon's next three opponents.

 

6. Texas A&M

If the Pac-12 is the toughest conference, then the SEC West is the toughest division, with five teams still unbeaten. Texas A&M had an easy go of it early in the season after a resounding opening win at South Carolina. Now the Aggies will be tested by four consecutive division foes in as many weeks.

 

7. Ole Miss

Whereas their in-state rivals grabbed the headlines with an upset win over LSU in Death Valley, Ole Miss is still the highest-ranked team in Mississippi. Of the five unbeaten SEC West teams, the Rebels are the least tested so far, but they don't figure to be exposed quite yet with a game against Memphis this week.

 

8. UCLA

Memphis, of course, gave UCLA fits at the Rose Bowl, losing by seven on a late touchdown. The Bruins have looked highly unimpressive so far, also barely squeaking by Virginia and Texas. Yet, thanks to lofty expectations from the preseason, they're still ranked highly in the polls. This Thursday's Pac-12 opener against Arizona State will reveal whether they're overrated.

 

Other Fun Facts

* East Carolina made a quantum leap in the polls, thanks to back-to-back wins over ACC opponents, including Saturday's 70-41 thrashing of North Carolina. The Pirates have the look of a New Year's Six bowl contender, especially with their high-octane offense. Look for the Nov. 13 matchup at Cincinnati to potentially decide not only the American Athletic title, but also the group-of-five bowl berth.

* Does the Big Ten's rebound this week help Michigan State? After going 12-1—4-1 against the power-five conferences—the conference somewhat repaired its reputation, though it might have come a little too late. The Spartans are still only 16th in the mock standings, and with few conference foes currently ranked, it's hard to see how they can make it all the way into the top four.

* Whereas most other teams are beginning their conference schedules in earnest, independent BYU will be playing four Mountain West opponents in its next six games. With the MWC considerably weaker than in the past, it won't help improve the Cougars' prospects of either landing a playoff spot (highly improbable) or a New Year's Six bowl bid (somewhat of a long shot). 

Follow on Twitter @ThePlayoffGuru

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Which College Football Playoff Contender Will Trip Up 1st?

After the LSU Tigers' shocking loss to Mississippi State, it's time to predict the next top team to fall in Week 5.

Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Michael Felder, Adam Kramer and Barrett Sallee predict this week's slate of games.

Which top program will suffer a loss this weekend?

Watch the video, and let us know!  

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Notre Dame Football: 4 Players Who Have Surprised Us in 2014

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — While there haven’t been many shocking revelations from the first three Notre Dame football games, a host of players have turned heads with their early season play.

The Fighting Irish have rolled to a 3-0 start and hit the road this week to face Syracuse at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

Finally pulling out the whites for this week #GoIrishpic.twitter.com/prFJgSdcDa

— Ryan Grooms (@NDFBEquipment) September 21, 2014

#GoIrishpic.twitter.com/CnrCIgNfvK

Brian Kelly (@CoachBrianKelly) September 22, 2014

Before diving into this week’s matchup, let’s look at some of those players who have surprised. We discussed some of the eye-catching performances last week, so we’ll focus on other examples this week.

 

All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Begin Slideshow

Best- and Worse-Case Scenarios for No. 1 Recruit Josh Sweat After Injury

The top recruit in the 2015 class, Josh Sweat, recently suffered a dislocated kneecap. Find out how this will affect his recruiting. Bleacher Report's Will Carroll and Michael Felder discuss Sweat's future.

How much do you think this will affect his recruiting?

Watch the video and let us know!

Rankings from the 247Sports composite rankings.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Tennessee vs. Georgia: Complete Game Preview

Both the Tennessee Volunteers and the Georgia Bulldogs hope to gain momentum in SEC play with a win on Saturday.  

For the Vols, a win puts the team at 1-0 in conference play.  For Georgia, a victory moves the Dawgs to 1-1 and starts a stretch of seven straight SEC games on a positive note.

Here's what you need to know about Saturday's game: 

  • Date: Saturday, Sept. 27
  • Time: 12:00 p.m. ET
  • Place: Sanford Stadium, Athens, Georgia
  • TV: ESPN
  • Radio: Georgia Bulldog Radio Network, The Vol Network
  • Spread: Georgia (-18), per OddsShark.com

Begin Slideshow

AP College Football Poll 2014: Official Top 25 Rankings, Week 5 Projections

The No.1-ranked Florida State Seminoles survived an overtime battle with the Clemson Tigers on Saturday without the suspended Jameis Winston. 

A 12-yard touchdown run by Karlos Williams in the extra session was the deciding score, but the close call made it clear just how much the Heisman Trophy winner means to his team's success.

Hopefully, he can avoid future occurrences that threaten his availability.

When the new rankings came out, the Noles remained No. 1, but some of the other ranked squads weren't as lucky. Take a look at the latest Associated Press Top 25.

 

AP Top 25RankTeamRecordPoints 1 Florida State (34) 3-0 1439 2 Oregon (12) 4-0 1400 3 Alabama (6) 4-0 1377 4 Oklahoma (4) 4-0 1343 5 Auburn 3-0 1268 6 Texas A&M (4) 4-0 1232 7 Baylor 3-0 1143 8 Notre Dame 3-0 967 9 Michigan State 2-1 905 10 Ole Miss 3-0 889 11 UCLA 3-0 806 12 Georgia 2-1 789 13 South Carolina 3-1 764 14 Mississippi State 4-0 706 15 Arizona State 3-0 702 16 Stanford 2-1 564 17 LSU 3-1 541 18 USC 2-1 459 19 Wisconsin 2-1 451 20 BYU 4-0 376 21 Nebraska 4-0 296 22 Ohio State 2-1 196 23 East Carolina 3-1 180 24 Oklahoma State 2-1 132 25 Kansas State 2-1 131

Rankings per ESPN.com.

 

Biggest Riser

East Carolina

If you're looking for a dark-horse Heisman candidate, look no further than the East Carolina Pirates' Shane Carden.

The senior quarterback has been phenomenal in his team's first four games. Carden's 1,469 passing yards and 11 touchdowns have helped to stoke the Pirates to a 3-1 start.

In Week 3, East Carolina upset the then No. 21 Virginia Tech Hokies 28-21. The Pirates followed that up with an explosive 70-41 win over the North Carolina Tar Heels.

The wins helped propel East Carolina to No. 23 in the Top 25. SMU is next on the Pirates' hit list. Can Carden and Co. keep it going? Another win should at the very least keep the Pirates' spot in the Top 25 secure.

This team is going to be fun to watch when bowl season rolls around.

 

Biggest Fallers

LSU Tigers

If you're looking for the top-10 team that laid the biggest egg in Week 4, look no further than the LSU Tigers. Not only did LSU lose at home to Mississippi State, it had to come back from a 31-10 deficit to make the 34-29 final score look decent.

The Tigers fell from No. 8 in the poll to No. 18 after the poor showing. LSU did look better once freshman Brandon Harris took over under center, but the team had dug itself too big of a hole.

Next week, the Tigers will take on New Mexico State back in Baton Rouge. The team should have an opportunity to let out some of its frustrations.

 

Missouri Tigers

Saturday was not a good day for home-standing Tigers. Missouri was ambushed by an Indiana Hoosiers squad that came in looking to make a statement. Behind an effective and persistent running game, the Hoosiers upset Mizzou 31-27.

A late touchdown by D'Angelo Roberts gave Indiana one of the program's biggest wins in recent memory.

Tevin Coleman ran for 132 yards and a score, and the Hoosiers compiled 241 yards on the ground as a team. Mizzou's loss sent it plummeting out of the Top 25. Next week, Missouri has a tough assignment against the No. 13 South Carolina Gamecocks on the road.

A win for Missouri would likely return it to the Top 25.

 

Biggest Game of Week 5

No. 11 UCLA Bruins at No. 15 Arizona State Sun Devils

Both UCLA and Arizona State are undefeated and were idle in Week 4. With a week of rest heading into a massive Pac-12 matchup, there's no question which contest is the premier game of the week's schedule.

The path to an undefeated start has looked very different for the Bruins and Sun Devils. UCLA hasn't won by more than eight points in any of its games, and the Sun Devils haven't had an opponent stay closer than 14 points.

Because of the first three games for these teams, each has to prove it can win a game against a top-notch conference opponent.

The biggest story leading into the game is whether UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley will play in the game. Hundley was injured in Week 3 against the Texas Longhorns. As of now, per Zach Barnett of NBC Sports, Bruins head coach Jim Mora is non committal about Hundley's availability.

Beating the high-scoring Sun Devils could prove to be very difficult without the team's leader.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Texas Football: Why Kansas Game Is a Must-Win for Longhorns' Bowl Chances

Coming off their bye, the Longhorns face the lowly Kansas Jayhawks, arguably the weakest team left on Texas' schedule. For the Horns to reach a bowl this season, they will have to treat this game like the must-win it is.

It's been a tough start to the Charlie Strong era. The 1-2 Horns were again humiliated by the BYU Cougars, falling 41-7 at home, then lost a late lead in a 20-17 defeat at the hands of then-No. 12 UCLA.

And it could very well get worse for Strong.

In less than two weeks, Texas faces one of the toughest back-to-backs any college team will face all season against No. 4 Oklahoma and No. 7 Baylor. Meanwhile, the rest of the Big 12 has been surprisingly competitive with only one other team sporting a losing record.

That's why taking care of business against Kansas is so crucial for the rest of the season. A bowl appearance should be viewed as a success at this point, and you need six to get there. 

Texas has to win this game to have a chance at pulling that off, and it could also use the confidence in the midst of this tough stretch of games.

 

Tough Remaining Schedule

Besides Kansas, the home matchup with Iowa State is the only other game that Texas should be considered big favorites. That's it.

Oklahoma and Baylor are a class above Texas this season. Even if the Horns can contain their offenses, which rank first and second in the conference, respectively, the Longhorns have given no indication that they can keep up in a shootout, scoring just three touchdowns in their last two games.

After those two all-but-guaranteed losses, the Longhorns get Iowa State, which should also be a win, and then finishes the season with five toss-ups.

That stretch of the season will define Charlie Strong's first season, because it's the point where we should start seeing improvement. The problem being that Kansas State, West Virginia and Oklahoma State have each been competitive against top-5 teams Auburn, Alabama and Florida State, respectively.

The Horns also get the explosive Texas Tech offense during that stretch, as well as a tough TCU group that has allowed just 205.5 yards per game thus far.

Assuming the Horns handle Iowa State, winning three of those remaining five games is a daunting task in itself. Losing to Kansas would mean the Horns have to win four, and that's just not going to happen with the current roster.

 

The Need for Confidence

Suffering two tough losses through three games, the Longhorns just need to prove to themselves that they can play a full game and get a win. Doing anything else against Kansas would be disastrous to this team's confidence.

Going back to last season, Texas has lost five of its last seven, including four by 20 points or more. During that span, this Longhorn team has seen long-time head coach Mack Brown replaced, yet they have still been the object of mockery at the national level.

If there's a team in more need of a win, it's not by a wide margin. A loss to Kansas, which gave up 331 rushing yards to Duke in Week 2, has the potential to send the rest of the season into a tailspin.

Fortunately for the Longhorns, their new coach Strong and their fanbase, the 14.5-point favorites (according to OddsShark.com) will have no trouble delivering fresh off their bye.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Tennessee Volunteers vs. Georgia Bulldogs Complete Game Preview

The last time Tennessee and Georgia stepped onto the football field together last Oct. 5, the Volunteers were a half-yard away from scoring a major upset.

Instead, the Dawgs escaped with a 34-31 overtime victory after a would-be Pig Howard touchdown was fumbled out of the side of the end zone, costing UT possession, the lead and the game all in one fell swoop.

This year, UGA again is a solid favorite playing at Sanford Stadium. But the Vols are a much better team than they were a season ago when coach Butch Jones was just beginning to build his program at UT. 

Georgia, however, looks extremely stout again and is healthier than the last matchup against the Vols.

With the SEC East wide open and nobody looking particularly dominant, this early-season showdown is a pivotal game in which the winner will have a prime advantage in the race to Atlanta. Here's everything you need to know.

 

Date: Saturday, Sept. 27

Time: Noon ET

Place: Sanford Stadium, Athens, Georgia

TV: ESPN

Radio: Vol Network, Bulldog Network, Sirius/XM 91

Spread: Georgia by 18 points, according to Oddsshark.com.

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College Football Recruiting Offers of the Week

National signing day is less than five months away, and a handful of 2015 prospects are earning offers from some of the nation’s top programs.

In particular, coaches are targeting the hotbed of South Florida looking for late additions before national signing day in February.

Perhaps the hottest player in the country is Miami 3-star wide receiver Antonio Callaway.

The 6’1’”, 185-pounder from powerhouse Booker T. Washington High School earned offers from SEC giants Alabama and Auburn this week.

The surge of interest in Callaway comes on the heels of a strong showing in the summer camp circuit. He’s carried that momentum over to the field with a blistering start to his senior campaign, as noted by Barton Simmons of 247Sports.

The Tide and Tigers will now do battle with another pair of SEC powers as well as his hometown school in order to land the speedy playmaker.

Earlier this month, Callaway told GatorBait’s Luke Stampini (subscription required) that Florida is the leader for his services, with LSU and Miami rounding out his top three at the moment. 

“That school just stands out, I just like that school so much,” Callaway stated on his affinity for the Gators program. “The spread offense and plus I know if I go in and work hard, I can play.” 

Fellow South Floridians and 4-star offensive standouts Jordan Cronkite, Mark Walton and Tim Irvin also earned tenders this week.

Cronkite, a running back who recently decommitted from Miami, was offered by North Carolina. Walton, who is still committed to the Hurricanes, picked up an offer from Tennessee, per Ryan Bartow of 247Sports. Irvin, who could play running back or receiver on the next level, was offered by UCLA

With the 2015 cycle winding down to its conclusion, the heat is rising for coaches hoping to find success in one of the most talent-rich areas in the entire country.

 

Irish after 2016 Standouts

Brian Kelly and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish are 3-0 and ranked inside the Top 10 of both the AP and USA Today polls, and the program's momentum appears to be carrying over to the recruiting trail.

The Irish offered a number of 2016 stars last week, headlined by Louisiana 4-star corner Kristian Fulton—who is tabbed as the No. 5 corner and No. 41 player overall in the 2016 class.

Kelly also offered a pair of 2016 4-star athletes in California native Trevon Sidney and New Jersey standout Ahmir Mitchell—both of whom could end up at receiver. Binjimen Victor, one of the nation’s top 2016 receivers, was also offered by the Irish last week, per Bartow

Finally, the Irish also extended an offer to Ohio 4-star junior defensive end Jonathon Cooper.

Kelly’s 2013 class finished No. 5 nationally, and with the Irish already in on a number of top targets, the 2016 class is setting up to become a class that could potentially rival that group in terms of ranking and star-power.

 

The Champ Is Here 

While Callaway is the 2015 recruit with the biggest buzz, junior 4-star running back Elijah Holyfield may hold that title for the 2016 class. 

The son of boxing legend Evander Holyfield, Elijah’s stock is soaring thanks to a strong start to his junior campaign—including a game in which he scored seven touchdowns earlier this season.

A trio of SEC schools—Arkansas, Georgia and Vanderbilt—joined Big Ten power Michigan State as the latest programs to offer the 5’11”, 200-pound Atlanta native. 

With his offer list swelling seemingly exponentially, expect Holyfield to be one of the nation’s most coveted backs in the 2016 class.

 

2016 Michigan WR Starting to Blow Up 

Another 2016 skill player whose stock is on the rise is 4-star wide receiver Donnie Corley.

The Detroit standout picked up three offers last week, bringing his total up to 10.

Michigan State, Arizona State and Pittsburgh tendered the 6’2”, 180-pound Corley—who is ranked as the No. 43 wide receiver and the No. 241 player overall in the 2016 class. 

With offers coming from schools representing three different Power Five conferences, the word is starting to get out on one of the most explosive playmakers in the Midwest.

 

Best of the Rest

  • Notre Dame also offered 3-star Louisiana safety Hunter Dale. Dale was a one-time Nebraska commitment before re-opening his recruitment in July. 

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Grading Every Preseason Top 25 Team's Performance Through 4 Weeks

We’re through four weeks of the 2014 college football season, and while many things remain the same from our preseason thoughts, multiple new storylines have emerged.

Looking back at the preseason Associated Press Top 25, the same four teams (Florida State, Oregon, Alabama and Oklahoma) occupy the top four spots this week, although Oregon jumped the Crimson Tide for the AP’s No. 2 spot after the first week.

But teams like East Carolina, BYU and Mississippi State have jumped into the polls, displacing several preseason top-25 selections.

As the first month of the 2014 season draws towards a close, it’s a perfect time to look back at the preseason top 25 and assign grades for the teams we thought would stand out this fall, for better or worse. Grades were assigned by looking at a team’s record, the quality of its competition and how well the team has performed overall through its first month.

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NCAA Football Rankings 2014: Week 5 Standings and Analysis for Latest Polls

A wild, upset-laden Week 4 of the 2014 college football season resulted in some shifts within The Associated Press Poll's Top 25. While victories over LSU and Missouri by unranked teams shook up the rankings, Florida State and Oregon barely hung on to gain wins and keep their respective positions in the poll.

In the wake of Saturday's madness, the latest round of votes are in, and the AP Poll has been adjusted heading into Week 5. We already knew there would be movement in the standings, but we were also given a few surprises as well.

Here's a look at the latest standings heading into Week 5, followed by some analysis surrounding the biggest movers after Saturday's action.

The AP Poll can be viewed at CollegeFootball.AP.org.

 

Biggest Winners

Mississippi State

Watch out, the Bulldogs are for real. The offensive combination of quarterback Dak Prescott, running back Josh Robinson and wide receivers Jameon Lewis and De'Runnya Wilson was far too much for the LSU defense to handle. As a team, Mississippi State put up 34 points and an incredible 570 yards of offense.

Bleacher Report tweeted what the team's improbable feat meant for Tigers coach Les Miles:

The Bulldogs haven't fared well against ranked teams over recent seasons, but Saturday's victory got the team headed in the right direction, according to ESPN Stats & Info:

Mississippi State is now 4-0 and very deserving of its 14th ranking. The Bulldogs get a bye in Week 5, and they will need it, as No. 6 Texas A&M and No. 5 Auburn are the next two opponents on the team's slate.

 

East Carolina

The Pirates have been riding their efficient passing offense en route to putting up some major points so far this season. The team's only loss this season came by the hands of South Carolina in Week 2—although East Carolina made a game of it, losing by 10 points.

An upset victory over Virginia Tech in Week 3 propelled East Carolina back up the rankings, and the team finally finds itself in the Top 25 after trouncing North Carolina on Saturday by a score of 70-41. The Pirates are full of offensive weapons and proved they have the firepower to win in a shootout.

Knox Bardeen of Fox Sports tweeted his thoughts on the team:

Without another ranked opponent looming on the team's schedule this season, we may see the Pirates hanging around on the AP Poll for the duration.

 

Biggest Losers

LSU

This is an easy one. The Tigers fell from No. 8 to No. 17 in the rankings after suffering a loss to previously unranked Mississippi State. While the final score was 34-29, the game was nowhere near that close for most of its duration.

LSU's defense faltered, a running game couldn't be established and quarterback Anthony Jennings was simply horrible. However, on the bright side, backup signal-caller Brandon Harris entered the game late and quickly displayed his superior arm and playmaking ability.

Harris threw for two quick touchdowns and made the score respectable in the end. ESPN SEC tweeted what everyone was thinking near the end of the game:

LSU is in dire need of a win, and it should get one in Week 5 against New Mexico State. Although, the team must get its quarterback situation settled quickly, as one week later, it is set to face No. 5 Auburn.

 

Missouri

The Missouri Tigers rode three nice performances all the way up to No. 18 in the nation; however, as we know, one loss can change everything. That was the unfortunate case for this team on Saturday, as the Indiana Hoosiers traveled to Faurot Field and upset the home team by a score of 31-27.

Pete Thamel of Sports Illustrated tweeted exactly what the loss means for the Tigers:

It was a back-and-forth contest, and despite solid performances from Maty Mauk, Russell Hansbrough and Bud Sasser, the team simply couldn't stop the Hoosiers.

Indiana racked up 493 yards of offense thanks to a balanced attack featuring a combination of quarterback Nate Sudfeld and running back Tevin Coleman. The Tigers hadn't given up more than 24 points in any previous contest; however, the team wasn't exactly challenged early in the season.

Missouri will attempt to right the ship on Saturday against South Carolina, and it will need a huge upset of its own if it is to claw its way back into the nation's Top 25 teams.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Odds: UCLA Early Favorites in Week 5 Betting

The 3-0 UCLA Bruins have opened as four-point college football favorites over the 3-0 Arizona State Sun Devils in a Week 5 battle of undefeated nationally ranked teams.

No. 11 UCLA, who has dropped in the AP Top 25 rankings since opening the season at No. 7, is riding a five-game winning streak but has struggled against the spread, failing to cover so far this season.

No. 15 Arizona State is 10-2 straight up in its last 12 at home, but has also struggled ATS at just 1-4 ATS in its last five games at home and 3-6 in its last nine overall. However, the Sun Devils are a solid 4-2 SU in their last six at home against the Bruins, and opened as 5.5-point home underdogs.

After dodging a bullet in Week 4, No. 1 Florida State takes on the North Carolina State Wolfpack in Week 5 as early 23-point favorites, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark.

Playing without quarterback Jameis Winston while he sat a one-game suspension, the Seminoles needed overtime to eke out a 23-17 win over No. 22 Clemson, a game in which they opened as 20-point favorites before the betting line tumbled to 9.5 points following the news of Winston’s full-game suspension.

Winston, who opened the season as the favorite to repeat as the Heisman Trophy winner, is expected to return to action in Saturday afternoon’s Seminoles vs. Wolfpack matchup at Carter-Finley Stadium.

No. 6 Texas A&M will be looking to improve to a perfect 5-0 when it takes on the Arkansas Razorbacks as 10-point favorites in a battle of SEC West division rivals.

The Aggies have been dominant this season, winning by no less than 24 points in their first four games while amassing a 3-1 record ATS. However, the 3-1 Razorbacks have been equally strong since falling 45-21 to Auburn in Week 1.

Arkansas has easily won and covered in its last three outings, including a dominant performance in a 52-14 Week 4 win over Northern Illinois, a game they entered as 13.5-point favorites according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark.

In other college football betting action, No. 8 Notre Dame go on the road for the first time this season as early 14-point road favorites against the Syracuse Orange. As well, No. 5 Auburn open as 33-point favorites over Louisiana Tech, and No. 7 Baylor is favored by 22 points over Iowa.

 

Odds and stats courtesy of Odds Shark.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

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