Feed aggregator

Bowl Predictions 2015: Projecting College Football Playoff Field After Week 8

Week 8 was supposed to be nothing more than a relaxing romp for the top teams in the country after one of the most chaotic weeks of football in history the Saturday before. But this season has done anything but adhere to expectations, and the results of Week 8 changed the landscape of college football.

Florida State fell in shocking fashion to Georgia Tech and its playoff hopes look to be on life support, while Utah was destroyed by USC and, while in a much better situation than the Seminoles, doesn’t look like the title favorite it had become in recent weeks.

There is still plenty of football left to play, and things are sure to take a few more unexpected turns, but with the initial playoff committee rankings right around the corner, let’s take a look at which teams are in line for New Year’s Six Bowls and a spot in the playoff.

 

Notable Performances

Clemson

Nobody was really talking about Clemson being one of the title favorites heading into this weekend. The Tigers were undefeated, sporting one of college football’s best offenses led by one of the nation’s best quarterbacks and had a win over Notre Dame on their resume, but still the discussion revolved around teams like Ohio State, Utah and LSU instead.

But no more. Not after that performance on Saturday.

There were signs that Clemson was one of the nation’s top teams this year—the upset of the Fighting Irish and comfortable victories against Georgia Tech and Boston College—but no one could have predicted a 58-0 destruction of Miami in what turned out to be Al Golden’s final game as coach of the Hurricanes.

The Tigers finished with a mind-boggling 416 yards and six touchdowns rushing, leaving Deshaun Watson without a ton of work to do. With Utah losing Saturday against USC as well, Clemson jumped to No. 3 in the AP Poll and sets itself up well for a run to the playoff.

A loss by Florida State to Georgia Tech will damage the Tigers' resume, but as long as Clemson finishes undefeated, it shouldn’t matter, and Dabo Swinney’s team will find itself in this year’s iteration of the playoff.

 

Ohio State

Ohio State has been, wire-to-wire this season, the No. 1 overall team in both major weekly polls. But despite this, there have been a lot of questions about the Buckeyes' validity as the favorites for the title.

From doubts in Ohio State’s strength of schedule being able to prove whether or not the champs deserved to be in the playoff to closer-than-anticipated games against Northern Illinois and Indiana, the Buckeyes have been the target of a good amount of criticism so far this season.

But heading into their bye week in Week 9, the Buckeyes did just about everything they could to silence the doubters with a big performance against Rutgers. Led by J.T. Barrett, who replaced Cardale Jones as the team’s starting quarterback, Ohio State put together their best performance of the season in a 49-7 win.

Ezekiel Elliott continues to surpass the 100-yard mark each week, and after a five-touchdown performance from Barrett, the Buckeyes quarterback situation looks to finally be ironed out.

Ohio State looks the closest it has this year to the team everyone expected them to be, and as long as the defense continues to perform as it did against Penn State, the Buckeyes should be able to coast until a mid-November matchup with undefeated Michigan State.

 

Oklahoma

Last season, the college football playoff was contested between one undefeated team and three programs with a single loss to their names. The title game had a 13-1 Oregon squad playing a 13-1 Ohio State squad.

Losses in college football are inarguably important, but they aren’t a death knell to a team’s chances of making it to the title. Both Alabama and Stanford are receiving a lot of attention as possible playoff crashers despite their losses, but one team no one is talking about is Oklahoma.

Since the embarrassing loss to Texas, the Sooners have taken down Kansas State and Texas Tech by a combined score of 118-27 and are playing some of the best football in America.

Bob Stoops’ team has a pair of wins against ranked opponents already this season in Tennessee and West Virginia and with Baylor, TCU and Oklahoma State still left to play there might not be a team better positioned to climb the rankings and impact the playoff than Oklahoma.

It is really hard to predict that the Sooners escape the three-game stretch against the Bears, Horned Frogs and Cowboys without a loss, but the Big 12 doesn’t look like a two-horse race anymore, and Oklahoma is quickly making us forget about the loss to Texas a few weeks ago.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Rankings 2015: Week 9 Polls and Top 25 Standings Predictions

After a weekend that saw a few shake-ups at the top of the rankings, the College Football Playoff picture is becoming clearer. There are plenty of candidates for the CFP, but the Utah Utes and Florida State Seminoles played themselves out of the picture with their first losses of the season Saturday.  

Other teams, such as the Clemson Tigers, made their cases stronger than ever. Let's take a look at the newest Associated Press Top 25 and Amway Coaches Poll, which were released Sunday, and make a few Top 25 predictions as we move into the final third of the season:

 

Clemson Tigers Will Be the Best Heading into the Playoff

If you had any doubts over whether the undefeated Tigers were national title contenders prior to Saturday, they should be erased now.

The Miami Hurricanes are average, at best, this year at 4-3, but the Tigers handed them their worst loss in school history Saturday, per the Miami Herald's Susan Miller Degnan—58-0 on their home field. It was so bad that the Hurricanes announced Sunday they had fired head coach Al Golden, who had been with the program since 2011 and compiled a 32-25 record.

Before the team let him go, Golden summed up the Tigers' performance after the game, per ESPN:

Got beat from top to bottom. They outplayed us. They outcoached us. I just told the team it's completely my responsibility for not getting them ready to play. They just beat us soundly in every facet of the game, period.

Clemson outgained Miami at the line of scrimmage 567-146 and held the Hurricanes to just 1.8 yards per rush on 29 carries. Even more staggering, Clemson allowed just 2.9 yards per Miami pass attempt and grabbed three interceptions. The Tigers, on the other hand, ran all over the Hurricanes defense to the tune of 416 yards and six touchdowns.

As you can see above, AP voters were impressed with Clemson as well, moving the Tigers up from sixth to third after their dominating performance. Clemson even leapfrogged undefeated LSU and TCU. However, the voters in the coaches poll seemed less impressed, leaving the Tigers right where they were before their victory—at No. 6.

They did however, shift Alabama up one spot to No. 7 despite the one-loss Crimson Tide needing a touchdown in the final two minutes to knock off the 3-4 Tennessee Volunteers. Clemson is now 7-0, with the Miami blowout and a 24-22 victory over the 6-1 Notre Dame Fighting Irish on its resume. 

Saturday's game may have been Clemson's best overall performance, but it wasn't the first impressive one. It was the fourth time the Tigers scored more than 40 points this year with quarterback Deshaun Watson leading the way. His seven interceptions are concerning, but he has thrown for 1,553 yards and 15 touchdowns.

His 332 rushing yards are second on the team, and he showed his versatility against Miami. The sophomore rushed and passed for a score while completing 15 of 19 passes for 143 yards despite sitting out for most of the second half.

The Tigers' only chance at a slip-up will be Nov. 7 against Florida State at home. Look for them to win that game, finish as ACC champions and be No. 1 heading into the playoff.

 

Seth Russell's Injury Will Cost Baylor the National Championship

When healthy, the Baylor Bears are not only the most explosive offensive team in the country but also perhaps the best. Their 45-27 victory Saturday over the Iowa State Cyclones was the closest they have come to losing this season.

Baylor leads the country with 61 points per game. Its passing offense ranks ninth, while its rushing offense slots in at No. 2. The defense, which ranks 55th while allowing 25.1 points per game, has been able to support the team's offense this year.

Yet the team has one major problem: It might be without quarterback Seth Russell for the rest of the season.

The junior suffered a scary neck injury against Iowa State, and his return date is unknown, according to Baylor's official Twitter account:

Russell has thrown for 2,104 yards and an FBS-leading 29 touchdowns this season. Freshman Jarrett Stidham replaced Russell after the injury and completed his only pass attempt. In limited playing time, usually when a Baylor victory has been in hand, Stidham is 24-of-28 for 331 yards, six touchdowns and zero interceptions on the year.

Those are impressive numbers, especially for a freshman, but he's not on Russell's level. Yes, Cardale Jones came in last year as a sophomore for his first true collegiate action to save Ohio State's championship season, but to expect that from a freshman is unrealistic.

However, Baylor head coach Art Briles thinks his young quarterback can handle the pressure, per ESPN.com's Jake Trotter.

"This is a tough deal for Seth," Briles said. "Stidham is the best young quarterback I've been around. He's very polished."

If Russell comes back soon, which seems unlikely, Baylor will be fine. If not, a championship won't happen. If Russell is out for the season, Stidham will have to win games at home against Oklahoma and on the road against Oklahoma State and TCU.

Briles may be confident, but if Baylor ends up winning the national title with Stidham, even Jones should be impressed.

 

LSU Will Play for the National Championship

It takes more than one player to make a good team, but when a team has someone like Leonard Fournette running the ball, it always has a fighting chance, as ESPN College Football showed:

The LSU Tigers are the team with that luxury. Fournette's 1,352 yards are 193 more than anyone else in the FBS, and his 7.7 yards per carry rank second in the SEC. He hasn't rushed for fewer than 150 yards in a game this season and has found paydirt in all seven contests.

Those are great numbers, but LSU is more than Fournette. The defense, ranking a modest 39th in the country while allowing 22.1 points per game, has stepped up when necessary. It has done enough to keep the Tigers in every game, and when struggling in a high-scoring affair against Florida on Oct. 17, LSU shut out the Gators for the final 16 minutes, four seconds of the game to claim a 35-28 victory.

Quarterback Brandon Harris has been efficient, attempting all 128 passes for the Tigers, with nine touchdowns and zero interceptions. An offense that can hand the ball off to Fournette 25 times per game and never throw an interception is going to be hard to beat.

Fox Sports' Stewart Mandel noted LSU moved into the Fox Four this week after Utah's loss:

According to Fox's rankings, however, the Tigers should lose to Ohio State in the semifinals. Don't count on that.

The Tigers look as talented and tough as anyone else and will be playing on the season's final day, most likely against some other Tigers that will be out to prove they are legitimate contenders.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Toa Lobendahn Injury: Updates on USC Center's Knee and Recovery

The USC Trojans took another hit when offensive lineman Toa Lobendahn suffered a torn ACL in Saturday's 42-24 win against the Utah Utes.

Continue for updates.

Lobendahn Out for Season Sunday, Oct. 25

According to Ryan Abraham of USCFootball.com, Lobendahn will miss the Trojans' final five games and potential bowl game because of the knee injury.

The sophomore star came into 2015 with a lot of buzz after a tremendous first year at USC. USA Today named him a Freshman All-American in 2014 after he started all 13 games, including five at left tackle.

USC's offensive line has been a mess in 2015 because of injuries. Chad Wheeler didn't play against Utah after suffering a concussion, and Max Tuerk was already out for the year after suffering a torn ACL.

After entering the year at No. 8 in the preseason Associated Press Top 25, the Trojans are off to a mediocre 4-3 start. They did get a huge win against the third-ranked Utes on Saturday, but it came at a steep price. 

Lobendahn has proved his versatility on the offensive line in a short period of time, playing on the left side before moving to center this year. USC will be fortunate to tread water for the rest of the year because of all the protection problems.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Top Candidates to Replace Al Golden as Miami Hurricanes Head Football Coach

It's time for banner-attached planes to come to their complete landings and for coaching rumors to now fly in the Miami skies.

After suffering its worst loss in school history Saturday against Clemson, Miami fired head coach Al Golden in the middle of his fifth season with the program. Golden was 32-25 during his tenure with the Hurricanes.

While assistant coach Larry Scott will take over as Miami's interim head coach, the rumors of Golden's permanent replacement are already in full swing.

Miami is an intriguing job in a college football landscape that already has several major openings, including the ones at USC and South Carolina. While the private school doesn't have the same amount of money as many of its Power Five brethren, the Hurricanes can boast the best recruiting territory in the entire country and a rich history of five national championships.

So whom will Miami go after to take over for Golden and hopefully lead the Canes back to their days of championship-contending football? Here are seven major names to watch, from the ones with solid ties to The U to a couple of the hottest names on the FBS market.

Begin Slideshow

Ahmmon Richards Decommits from Miami: Latest Details, Comments and Reaction

The University of Miami officially fired head football coach Al Golden Sunday night, and the program now has to deal with the ramifications of some recruits defecting. 

Sunday, 4-star wide receiver Ahmmon Richards of West Palm Beach, Florida, announced he has decommitted from the University of Miami to explore his options: 

According to 247Sports.com, Richards committed to Miami in July 2014. However, several schools have maintained interest in the 6'2", 180-pound receiver since he made that decision. 

247Sports' Keith Niebuhr reported Richards has official visits coming up with Alabama, Tennessee and Auburn. Richards' visit with Auburn is expected to take place the weekend the Tigers host Alabama in the Iron Bowl. 

"I’m really excited," Richards said, per Niebuhr. "I can’t wait to see the atmosphere and how crazy it is. I just want to experience it."

It's no surprise the SEC's biggest schools have serious interest in Richards. As a junior, the 37th-ranked receiver in the class of 2016 caught 53 passes for 1,183 yards and 21 touchdowns. The year prior, Richards managed just 261 yards and four touchdowns on 18 receptions. 

A big decision awaits Richards, but his options are enticing to say the least. Alabama, Auburn and Tennessee are all top-tier programs, and they can afford him the chance to raise his profile under the national spotlight. 

 

Stats and recruitment information courtesy of 247Sports.com.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Suspect in Fatal Oklahoma State Parade Car Crash Charged with 2nd-Degree Murder

Adacia Avery Chambers—who was detained Saturday as the primary suspect in a fatal car accident at the Oklahoma State University homecoming parade—is now being held on four charges of second-degree murder, according to the Associated Press.

Chambers was originally held on four manslaughter charges after four people died and dozens were injured when the car crashed into a crowd lining the street.

According to NewsOK.com's Matt Dinger, Chambers, 25, "will likely be charged with driving under the influence of drugs."

"I don't believe right now that she was intoxicated," Chambers' attorney Tony Coleman said, per Dinger. "I have deep concerns about her competency at this point. I'm not a psychologist or psychiatrist, but I can tell you she's suffering from mental illness."

USA Today's Jim Varney, Trevor Hughes and George Schroeder reported blood tests will determine whether Chambers is charged with driving under the influence of drugs.

According to Dinger, Chambers' bail has yet to be set, and a bond hearing is scheduled for Monday afternoon.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Al Golden Fired by Miami: Latest Details, Comments and Reaction

It may be hard for any college football fan under the age of 15 to believe, but once upon a time, the Miami Hurricanes were one of the most dominant programs in the country. Sunday's announcement that coach Al Golden was fired, effectively immediately, is the latest indication that the program that won the 2001 national title has fallen on hard times.

This comes on the heels of a 4-3 start that included a stunning 58-0 loss to Clemson on Saturday. Assistant Larry Scott has been tabbed as the program's interim head coach. 

University of Miami athletic director Blake James addressed Golden's dismissal in a press release: 

Coach Golden has led our program through some very difficult times and he has done so with class, integrity and a true desire to see our students succeed on the field, in the classroom and in the community. However, we have a proud tradition of excellence at Miami, not just in football but in all sports, and we want to compete for ACC and national championships. I simply believe that now is the time to bring the Hurricane Family together and rally behind our young men.

Golden took the reins at Miami in 2011 after he led Temple to an 8-4 record a mere four years after it finished 1-11. Golden did not bring that magic touch to Coral Gables, however, and boasted a mediocre 28-22 record entering the 2015 season, including a disappointing 0-2 mark in bowl games and 16-16 tally in ACC play. 

"On behalf of my family I want to thank the University of Miami for a tremendous opportunity," Golden said in the school's press release. "I believe in what we are doing and how we are doing it and we have some outstanding young men in our football program. Though this moment is difficult, we wish the Canes the best of luck going forward."

That the Hurricanes have fallen so far behind the likes of Florida State, Clemson and even Georgia Tech in their own conference likely had plenty to do with Golden’s firing.

This move was not completely unexpected. Erika Glass and Courtney Fiorini of the school's student newspaper, the Miami Hurricane, noted that fans were calling for Golden’s removal on social media with the hashtag “FireAlGolden” after the 2014 campaign.

What’s more, Sam Cooper of Yahoo Sports wrote that a plane with a banner saying “Make Miami Great Again—Butch Davis 2016” flew over the stadium before the team’s September game against Florida Atlantic. It reminded many of the “Fire Al Golden Save the U” banner that flew over Sun Life Stadium before a 2014 contest against Cincinnati.

Despite Sunday's news, Golden isn’t that far removed from his 2013 Lombardi Award for Excellence in Coaching after he led the Hurricanes to a 9-4 season and their first nine-win campaign since 2009.

However, he did not build on that momentum and finished a dismal 6-7 overall and 3-5 in conference play in 2014. Golden’s Hurricanes capped the disappointing season with a loss in the Independence Bowl.

In the wake of Golden's exit, Jared Shanker of ESPN looked back on the head coach's tenure: 

Miami’s next hire is a critical one, because it's been so long since it was a powerhouse that competed for national championships annually.

The new coach must deal with strong Florida State and Clemson programs within the team's own league and find a way to compete with the Alabamas, Ohio States and Oregons of the college football landscape on the field and on the recruiting trail. That is a tall order, but the future of the team once so endearingly known as “The U” is at stake.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Week 9 Opening Odds: Florida, Notre Dame, USC Favorites

The Florida Gators will be looking to bounce back from their first loss of the season and only their second non-cover of the campaign Saturday when they take on the Georgia Bulldogs at EverBank Field in Jacksonville as opening 2.5-point betting favorites at sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark.

The Gators fell 35-28 on the road at LSU in their last game back on October 17, losing as a six-point underdog that day to fall to 6-1 straight up and 5-2 against the spread on the season. That has the Gators at No. 11 in the AP Top 25 poll heading into their matchup against the Bulldogs, who are 5-2 SU but just 2-5 ATS on the season.

Overall, the Gators are 8-2 ATS in their last 10 games, according to the Odds Shark College Football Database. They thumped the Bulldogs 38-20 in their meeting last season while winning outright as 12-point underdogs at the sportsbooks. The Bulldogs are coming off a 9-6 win over Missouri in which they failed to cover the 15.5-point spread at the sportsbooks.

With several top teams on a bye around college football this week, the schedule is light on marquee matchups. The only game between ranked teams for this week has No. 9 Notre Dame on the road against No. 21 Temple, with the Fighting Irish opening as a 10.5-point favorite. Notre Dame is coming off a 41-31 victory over USC two weeks ago.

The Trojans opened as four-point road favorites against California for the week ahead, with USC 11-0 SU in its last 11 games against the Bears but 1-6 ATS in its last seven games on the road in the month of October.

Other Pac-12 matchups for the weekend have Utah as 21.5-point home favorites against Oregon State, UCLA as 18.5-point home favorites against Colorado and Stanford as 12.5-point road favorites against Washington State on the opening lines.

Clemson opened as a 9.5-point road favorite against N.C. State for its Saturday matchup, with the Tigers 10-1 SU in their last 11 games against the Wolfpack but N.C. State 8-2 both SU and ATS in its last 10 games. Michigan opened as a 10-point road favorite against Minnesota, while Wisconsin opened as a 19-point home favorite against Rutgers.

Two ranked teams are in action Thursday night this week, with No. 23 Pittsburgh hosting North Carolina and No. 5 TCU getting a visit from West Virginia. The Panthers opened as 2.5-point home underdogs against the Tar Heels, while the Horned Frogs opened as 14.5-point home favorites against the Mountaineers.

And the No. 17 Florida State Seminoles, coming off a 22-16 upset loss at Georgia Tech as five-point favorites on the weekend, opened as 19.5-point home favorites for their game Saturday against Syracuse. The Seminoles are now 6-1 SU and 3-4 ATS on the season, and they are 20-0 SU in their last 20 games at home.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

George O'Leary Retires: Latest Comments, Reaction

UCF head football coach George O'Leary has retired from coaching as of Sunday amid a dreadful season in which the Knights have lost their first eight games.

ESPN's Brett McMurphy initially reported O'Leary would resign. Shannon Green and Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel indicated he would leave coaching altogether and added that quarterbacks coach Danny Barrett will take over his post on an interim basis.

SI.com's Stewart Mandel alluded to how quickly things have gone downhill for O'Leary and the Knights this season:

The 2015 campaign marked O'Leary's 12th season at the helm in Orlando. His tenure ended in unsavory fashion, as UCF fell to Houston 59-10 on Saturday. Otherwise, though, he has a lot to be proud of in building a program that's exploded onto the national scene in recent years.

The apex of O'Leary's tenure came in 2013, when current Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles led the team to a 12-1 record and a triumph in the Fiesta Bowl.

O'Leary, 69, finished with a solid 81-68 record despite the eight defeats this year and the time it took to transform the Knights program. That included an 0-11 mark in his first year, which just goes to show how magnificent of a job he did.

He already resigned as UCF's interim athletics director this month, but O'Leary's departure is nevertheless a surprise considering he signed a lucrative four-year contract extension last May.

O'Leary also experienced success as coach of Georgia Tech, leading the Yellow Jackets to an AP Top 25 ranking in each of his last five seasons from 1997 through 2001.

 

Note: Coaching record courtesy of Sports-Reference.com.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Rankings 2015: Top Reaction to Week 9 AP Poll and Standings

Perhaps a quarterback change was all Ohio State needed to get its offense going—and to remain the overwhelming No. 1 team in the nation in the latest Associated Press Top 25 poll.

The Buckeyes notched 39 first-place votes in the Week 9 poll, a step up from the 28 they received the week prior. The improvement is largely from a change under center from the struggling Cardale Jones to J.T. Barrett, who led Ohio State to a dominating 49-7 win over Rutgers to improve to 8-0.

While Urban Meyer's crew stayed atop the rankings yet again and Baylor remained right behind OSU, that's where the stability ends. Clemson made a big jump up to No. 3 in the newest AP poll, a move up three spots after its emphatic blowout of Miami on the road.

That's only the beginning of the takeaways from the AP's new Top 25 poll, so let's take a look below at how it shakes out and what to take from all of it.

 

Poll Reaction

Let's begin at the very top, shall we?

That's where the Ohio State Buckeyes have sat ever since their surprising national championship at the end of last season. Even amid troubling times and near-defeats throughout 2015, the Buckeyes are appearing to find their groove as the season passes the midway point.

That was on display Saturday, when Ohio State walked into Rutgers' house and outgained them by more than 200 yards. The Buckeyes didn't allow any points until the fourth-quarter garbage time, playing a penalty-free game and finally looking like the nation's No. 1 team.

Most importantly, they seemed to find the answer on offense, as Barrett dazzled with more than 100 rushing yards and five total touchdowns. There's no telling what it means for Jones' future, but the important part is Ohio State is rolling, as ESPN's Mike Greenberg noted:

As nice as that victory proved to be, it wasn't even close to the most impressive win of Week 8. That title undoubtedly goes to the Clemson Tigers, who dominated Miami 58-0 and handed the Hurricanes their worst loss in program history.

With Florida State losing to Georgia Tech, Clemson is the lone unbeaten left in the ACC and holds the conference's hopes of a College Football Playoff berth.

Right behind Clemson lies the top-ranked SEC team, as the LSU Tigers moved to No. 4 after dispatching Western Kentucky at home. It marks LSU's highest ranking in years, as Ross Dellenger of the Advocate reported:

LSU, Clemson and Ohio State are only half of the teams that notched first-place votes among the new AP poll. Also joining that group is Baylor, TCU and Alabama, which all sit in the Top Seven and very much in the CFP picture.

There appears to be a new king of the Pac-12 as well, with previously third-ranked Utah falling on the road to USC in a blowout. The Utes dropped to 13th in the new poll, leaving No. 8 Stanford as the top-ranked Pac-12 squad.

Throughout a weekend that only produced one matchup between Top 25 foes, not much movement was expected heading into the Week 9 standings. But as college football tends to do, surprises emerged when we least expected them.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Rankings 2015: Hits and Misses from the Week 9 Polls

Week 8 of the 2015 college football season is officially behind us. Fans are starting to get restless about rankings, which can only mean we're getting that much closer to the playoff committee's poll. 

In the meantime, we'll just have to dissect the latest USA Today coaches poll and the Associated Press Top 25. With some unexpected endings playing spoiler, there's a lot to discuss. Was Utah overrated, or did it suffer a bad game? Is Ohio State back to being No. 1?

Where did pollsters get it right? Where did they swing and miss? We give our two cents in the following slides based not only on the past week's action but also on what has transpired so far this season.

Begin Slideshow

AP College Football Poll 2015: Week 9 Top 25 Rankings Announced

The college football season is becoming defined by game-winning plays on special teams. Did anyone see that coming?

Michigan and Florida State certainly didn't.  

As has been the norm this season, Week 8 offered another crazy slate of exciting finishes and surprising results for college football fans. Let's take a look at how the Associated Press and Bleacher Report polls were impacted by those results and analyze the week's action.

 

 

Analysis

Welcome to the one-loss club, Utah and Florida State.

USC stunned the Utes on Saturday night, as linebacker Cameron Smith's three interceptions—including one returned for a touchdown—paced the Trojans in their 42-24 upset win.

"These guys want to prove to everybody what type of team they are," interim head coach Clay Helton said, per ESPN. "When we play together and play like we did tonight, they're a very hard football team to beat. There's a lot of talent in that room."

While Utah remained in first place in the Pac-12 South, the loss dropped it down to a pool of one-loss teams that will be jockeying for position for one of the four spots in the playoff. Ohio State, Baylor, TCU, Michigan State, Clemson, LSU and Oklahoma State remain the top-ranked unbeaten programs.

Stanford remains in control of the Pac-12 North after a 31-14 win over Washington on Saturday, as California picked up its second conference loss Thursday night, losing to UCLA 40-24. Washington State remains a game behind the Cardinal, though at this point, Utah and Stanford seem to be on a collision course for the Pac-12 title game. 

Florida State's chances of reaching the ACC title game—or the College Football Playoff—were dealt a major blow Saturday, as the Seminoles lost to Georgia Tech 22-16, with Lance Austin returning a blocked field goal 78 yards for the game-winning touchdown as time expired. 

A certain fanbase up North could sympathize with Florida State's heartache, as Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk noted:

Another playoff contender, Alabama, nearly dropped out of the one-loss club, needing a late touchdown run from star running back Derrick Henry to get past Tennessee 19-14. It was certainly far from Alabama's finest performance, though the Crimson Tide kept their national title hopes alive.

"They just found a way to win, because we didn't play that great," Alabama head coach Nick Saban said rather succinctly, per ESPN.

Next week promises another intriguing slate of games, as Florida faces Georgia, USC takes on California, Notre Dame travels to Philadelphia to battle unbeaten Temple (yes, you read that correctly) and Stanford and Washington State clash in a key Pac-12 showdown.

It may not look like the greatest collections of matchups on paper, but if the last two weeks are any indication, another slew of upsets and crazy finishes are likely on tap.

 

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Ohio State Football: How Buckeyes' Top Commits Performed This Weekend

Ohio State enjoyed a complete performance Saturday evening in Piscataway, New Jersey, rolling past Rutgers. Future Buckeyes also commanded attention during the weekend, as multiple commitments impressed for their respective high school squads.

The spotlight shifts again to Bishop Luers High School in Indiana, home of 4-star wide receiver Austin Mack. The 6'2", 205-pound prospect pledged to Ohio State this summer and continues to provide scintillating highlights as a senior. 

He found his way to the end zone four times in the first quarter of a Friday night matchup with Northwestern High School, per Pedro Velazco of the Kokomo Tribune. 

Mack made an immediate impact, returning the game's opening kickoff 85 yards for a score. He would add four more total touchdowns as things progressed, leading Bishop Luers to a wild 82-52 win.

His efforts included long-distance touchdown receptions from 36 and 67 yards out, the latter further building the team's lead before halftime. Mack, a major yards-after-catch threat due to his aggressive rushing style, added 51- and three-yard scores on the ground. 

He now has 22 total touchdowns this season, per MaxPreps. Those scores have come in bunches as a rusher (11), receiver (six), defender (one) and special teams returner (four).

Rated 12th nationally among wide receivers in composite rankings and fresh off a dominant showing at The Opening, Mack is putting his versatile repertoire on full display before arriving in Columbus.

Top-ranked running back Kareem Walker, who committed to the Buckeyes in January, traveled to Ohio for a game against Elder High School (Cincinnati). Ohio State fans in that area caught an early glimpse of the DePaul Catholic High School playmaker, as he gained 101 yards on 24 attempts, per Cincinnati.com.

Walker, who plunged ahead for his seventh rushing score of the season during a back-and-forth fourth quarter, couldn't keep DePaul out of the loss column, though. Elder ultimately prevailed 35-34 in overtime.

The 6'1", 205-pound back now has four 100-yard games through seven contests this fall. He is expected to spend time at Alabama, Ole Miss and Arizona State before returning to Columbus for the final official visit of his frenzied recruiting process.

Tight end Jake Hausmann stayed hot for Archbishop Moeller High School (Cincinnati). He hauled in a nine-yard touchdown pass during a loss to St. Edward High School, according to Cleveland.com, giving him four touchdown receptions in the past two games. 

Hausmann, who tallied seven catches for 189 yards and three touchdowns last week, is rated third nationally among prospects at the position. 

Fellow Buckeyes tight end pledge Luke Farrell left his game with an injury, according to Bill Kurelic of 247Sports. He joins 5-star defensive end Jonathon Cooper (leg injury) as hampered Ohio State commits to monitor moving forward.

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Amway College Football Poll 2015: Week 9 Top 25 Rankings Announced

Thank you, college football.

Thank you for the wild finishes and the shocking upsets. Thank you for the conference clashes and the unexpected unbeaten teams. Thank you for something unexpected every week. 

Week 8 certainly didn't disappoint. Week 9 is unlikely to as well. Let's take a look back at how this weekend's action shaped the Amway coaches poll and the Bleacher Report rankings, along with a closer look at some of the biggest results in college football.

 

 

Analysis

"What a time to be alive."

That was the call from ESPN play-by-play announcer Mark Jones after Georgia Tech's Lance Austin returned a blocked field goal 78 yards for a game-winning touchdown as time expired, giving the Yellow Jackets a shocking 22-16 win over Florida State.

It was a surreal moment, as Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson could be seen from the sideline waving his players away from the blocked kick, clearly content with heading to overtime. But Austin either didn't see his coach or simply decided to try to make a play, and boy, did he ever, racing down the sideline behind a convoy of Yellow Jackets before reaching the end zone.

"When I picked it up and started running up the field, I saw a lot of green," Austin said, per the Associated Press. "So I was like, 'OK, I can return it.'"

Florida State was in a position to win the game, as star kicker Roberto Aguayo attempted a 56-yard field goal with just six seconds remaining. But Patrick Gamble managed to block the kick and, well, the rest is history. 

History seems to repeat itself in college football these days. It was only two years ago that Auburn returned a missed field goal the length of the field for a game-winning touchdown against hated rival Alabama. And it was just a week ago that Michigan State scored off a fumbled punt by Michigan as time expired to win in most improbable fashion. 

There's just nothing quite like college football. 

Of course, Florida State won't be feeling whimsical or awestruck after a loss that could cost it a berth in the ACC title game or the College Football Playoff. Utah is in the same boat, as the previously unbeaten Utes suffered their first loss against USC as the Trojans continued a season of dramatic highs and lows. 

The other top contenders managed to escape the week without losses, though Alabama cut it close against Tennessee and Baylor may have lost starting quarterback Seth Russell to injury after he broke a bone in his neck against Iowa State.

Pat Forde of Yahoo Sports thinks the Bears will be in good hands without him, however:

Assuming the leading quarterback in the nation in pass efficiency is out, someone else will lead the top offense in the country. That someone is Jarrett Stidham, a blue-chip recruit who enrolled early, went through spring practice and has an even higher efficiency rating than Russell this season. Stidham is 23 of 27, a ridiculous 85 percent accuracy rate, for 319 yards with five touchdowns and zero interceptions.

It's always good to have a strong backup plan.

While Baylor won't be in action next week, a slew of ranked teams are set to clash. Week 9 doesn't look chock-full of promising contests on paper—Notre Dame facing Temple might be the premier matchup, if you can believe that—but this season has proved to be so unpredictable that it's safe to say none of the top teams in the nation can rest on their laurels. 

This week, it was Florida State and Utah. Next week it might be TCU or Clemson. At this point, any contender is one crazy play on special teams away from earning a shocking loss.

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Seth Russell's Injury Makes Baylor the Most At-Risk Playoff Team

Suspend the strength-of-schedule argument for a moment. Heading into Week 8 against Iowa State, Baylor had the look of a playoff-caliber team. Though the 45-27 win over the Cyclones was the sleepiest the Bears have looked all year, it did little to change their place in the national landscape. 

Moving forward could be a different discussion entirely. Quarterback Seth Russell left Saturday's game in the fourth quarter with a neck injury. Later, Baylor confirmed Russell sustained a fracture in one of the bones in his neck. The redshirt junior will see a specialist this week, and his timetable for return is "unknown." 

For reference, Clemson wide receiver Mike Williams sustained a neck fracture in Week 1 while catching a touchdown pass against Wofford. He is likely out for the year, per Aaron Brenner of the Post and Courier. While it would be premature to speculate on Russell's prognosis, it's telling that, when asked if Russell would have been able to finish the game if it were close, Bears head coach Art Briles said, "No, no.

Suffice it to say, Baylor's open week couldn't have come at a better time. Still, losing someone of Russell's caliber for any length of time makes the Bears the most at-risk team in the playoff hunt.

To give you an idea of what Russell meant to Baylor, consider the following: He's averaged more than 300 passing yards per game and ranked behind only TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin and Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes II in total yards per game in the Big 12. Russell directly accounted for 35 of the Bears' 59 touchdowns. That's more touchdowns than 101 Football Bowl Subdivision teams have scored all season. Russell also has excellent straight-line and open-field speed, the best since Robert Griffin III. 

Granted, every team is banged-up at this point in the season. Ask Notre Dame and TCU what it's like to have an injury report as long as a grocery list. The Irish, though, have already proved they can overcome myriad injuries, even at quarterback. DeShone Kizer is averaging 220.7 yards per game and is moving the offense with the help of running back C.J. Prosise and receiver Will Fuller. 

The Frogs, for all their problems, still have the quarterback-receiver combination of Boykin and Josh Doctson. Together, they've been impossible to stop and have also shown the ability to win tight games when it matters most. 

Similarly, Baylor needs to be ready to insert the next man up. That "man" is 19-year-old true freshman Jarrett Stidham. Chris Johnson, who had transitioned to wide receiver, will move back to quarterback, per Kirk Bohls of the Austin American-Statesman

The early returns on Stidham have been overwhelmingly positive. The former 4-star recruit and Elite 11 finalist enrolled early and quickly moved up the depth chart. In garbage time this year, he's 24-of-28 for 331 yards and six touchdowns with zero picks. His first collegiate pass was a touchdown against SMU. 

But what separates the Bears from the likes of Notre Dame and TCU is that no one yet knows if Stidham will be able to pick up where Russell left off. It's one thing to look good when a game against lower-tier competition has already been decided. It's another to take the reins of an offense when the toughest part of the season is forthcoming. 

Three of Baylor's final five games come against the Big 12's other top teams: Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and TCU. The latter two are on the road. Combined, the Sooners, Cowboys and Frogs are 20-1. The final stretch of the Bears' schedule was always going to be the toughest part to navigate. Now, it's going to be even more difficult.  

This is where Briles' reputation as a quarterback guru comes into play. Baylor has been able to plug-and-play signal-callers in recent years with the success of few other programs. The Bears, however, have had tremendous fortune with injuries, which has allowed those quarterbacks to come along at an easy pace. 

The last time Baylor was forced to play a true freshman quarterback for an extended period of time was in 2009, when Nick Florence took over for the injured RG3 in a situation that mirrors this one. RG3 also started as a true freshman in 2008. Back then, though, Baylor was still building into the program it is today. This Bears team has high expectations and little room for error. 

But in '09, Florence was coming in cold. Stidham, on the other hand, at least has some experience and an extra week to prepare for his first start. This, as Craig Smoak of ESPN Radio Central Texas explained, is why Baylor did not redshirt Stidham. 

A coach's job is to simulate chaos with the hope that players will be ready for anything on Saturdays. Still, no amount of preparation can account for what a freshman who touches the ball on every play might do when thrown into meaningful live situations. It doesn't matter if a first-year player is a 5-star recruit or a walk-on, the speed of the college game is a different animal, and it takes time to adjust.

UCLA freshman quarterback Josh Rosen is a perfect example. He's been brilliant in some games and quite freshman-esque in others. In fact, sometimes he embodies those qualities on back-to-back plays. It takes time for the inconsistencies to balance out. There's a learning curve. To expect Stidham to be anywhere near perfect is unrealistic, even with all the skill players he will have around him. 

Will that cost Baylor at any point over the next five games? Maybe, but it's Briles' job to put Stidham in position to be successful as often as possible.

In the coming days, and perhaps weeks, you may hear that a new quarterback doesn't change a team's offense or its play-calling. That is coachspeak. The Bears have to adjust to a backup quarterback—potentially for an extended period of time. That means both their coaches and players have to be ready to be more accountable. 

How well Baylor accomplishes that will go a long way toward determining whether it's playoff-bound. 

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise cited. All stats courtesy of cfbstats.com

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Texas A&M's Kevin Sumlin at Crossroads for Himself and His Program

Two weeks ago, Kevin Sumlin was in the SEC West's catbird seat.

His Aggies were undefeated, hosting Alabama in one of the biggest games of the week and looked every bit like division and national title contenders.

Then quarterback Kyle Allen seemingly forgot how to play football, the running game fell to pieces and his Aggies lost to the Crimson Tide before getting run over 23-3 on Saturday night by a beat-up Ole Miss team in Oxford.

It wasn't as close as the score indicated.

Now, Sumlin's career and program are at a crossroads.

For his program, it's a matter of identity.

Offense is never supposed to be a problem for a Sumlin-coached team, but the Aggies managed just 192 yards against an Ole Miss team that was without star defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche, linebacker C.J. Johnson and safety Tony Conner.

Allen misfired on 18 of his last 20 attempts vs. the Rebels before being benched for Jake Hubenak—not stud freshman high school legend Kyler Murray, who was curiously absent.

"We couldn’t move the ball, turnovers, penalties, we couldn’t get off the field fast enough on defense in the first half," Sumlin said, according to Ole Miss' official site. "We did get opportunities we had at midfield or [with a] short field, but we weren’t able to stay on the field and move the football."

The play-calling from offensive coordinator Jake Spavital was far too focused on stretching the field laterally, which typically isn't a great a idea against a speedy defense like Ole Miss'—especially when the Aggies have a loaded wide receiving corps that includes Christian Kirk, Ricky Seals-Jones, Speedy Noil and Josh Reynolds.

The running game, which was a focus of Sumlin's this offseason when he brought in offensive line coach and running game coordinator Dave Christensen to bring a more power-based attack to College Station, was nonexistent with just 58 yards.

In conference games this year, the Aggies are averaging a conference-worst 87.25 rushing yards per game and 2.98 yards per carry—13th in the conference.

Simply put, Texas A&M's offense is a mess, and that's the one aspect of the program that Sumlin should have complete control of.

Now at 5-2, Sumlin's Aggies have regressed in the win column every year since joining the league with that 11-win season n 2012. A nine-win season in 2013 followed by an eight-win season last season should have people questioning just where the program is headed—especially with the offense suddenly sputtering.

The schedule suggests that Texas A&M should catch fire. South Carolina, Auburn and Western Carolina at home should be wins, and the road trip to Vanderbilt should be no problem prior to the regular-season finale at LSU.

Is there anything to suggest that the offense can get back on track after the last two performances?

Nope.

It's also a critical year for Sumlin personally.

He signed a six-year, $30 million contract after the 2013 season that pays him the entire sum of the contract unless he's fired with cause or chooses to leave on his own, according to Kate Hairopoulos of the Dallas Morning News.

If he chooses to leave on his own prior to the 2016 season, he would owe Texas A&M $5 million but would't owe the school anything after a potential 2016 bowl game.

Sumlin's contract has allowed him to build the program and his own reputation, but it also provides personal job flexibility at the point in which it was supposed to reach its pinnacle.

Instead, it's trending down, as Ralph D. Russo of the Associated Press noted on Twitter:

The final five games of the season are going to be enormous for the Aggie football program and Sumlin's future as a head coach.

With USC open, Miami likely opening up and the NFL looming, Sumlin could have plenty of options available to him. Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reported on Sunday that Sumlin could be open to moving up a level:

At this point, though, would any NFL team really want him?

It's getting pretty difficult to have faith in a coach and program that do everything possible to eliminate it. 

Luckily for Sumlin, he has the luxury of time built into his contract at Texas A&M to fall back 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.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

NCAA Football Rankings 2015: Predicting Week 9 AP Poll Post-Week 8 Results

Another week of college football is in the books, and another pair of Top 10 teams fell from the ranks of the undefeated. Utah and Florida State were the latest unbeatens to suffer their first defeat, likely opening up two spots in the Top 10 this week. 

Aside from those two upsets, it was a relatively uneventful week in the Top 25, so a major shake-up is unlikely. 

In the projection of the Week 9 AP poll below, only California (previously No. 20) falls out of the rankings, with Mississippi State rising to take its spot. 

 

Notable Teams

Clemson

Clemson entered the season ranked 12th in the AP preseason poll and has been on a steady rise throughout the season. 

The Tigers made their first major move after a rain-soaked victory over previously undefeated Notre Dame and could be in line for another significant jump after thumping Miami on Saturday. 

Miami’s 58-0 loss to No. 6 Clemson marks the largest margin of defeat in Hurricanes history. Wow.

— Zac Ellis (@ZacEllis) October 24, 2015

While a victory over Miami isn't what it once was, the convincing manner in which Clemson dismantled the Hurricanes is sure to catch the attention of voters. 

The Tigers were ranked sixth in the AP poll a week ago and are sure to move up at least one spot thanks to Utah's loss to USC. 

 

Ohio State

The Buckeyes entered the season with a 97-point lead over second-ranked TCU in the AP preseason poll, but that lead shrunk to just a 12-point advantage over Baylor in Week 8. 

While Baylor continues to keep pace, it's safe to assume the Buckeyes' blowout victory at Rutgers was enough to maintain, and possibly extend, their lead. 

Over the past two weeks, Ohio State has outscored Rutgers and Penn State by a combined score of 87-17. 

Flood on JT Barrett: "You look at him in the run game ... he is the prototype dual-threat quarterback."

— Garrett Stepien (@GarrettStepien) October 25, 2015

With the team displaying its dominance in consecutive weeks, and regaining its effectiveness on offense with J.T. Barrett at the helm, Ohio State's detractors can no longer lament its too-close-for-comfort victories. 

 

Memphis

Tulsa kept it relatively close, but Memphis avoided a letdown by pulling away with a victory Friday night. 

Quarterback Paxton Lynch has the Tigers continuing their ascent up the rankings as teams ahead of them continue to lose.

#Memphis QB Paxton Lynch had another money performance last night. Career-best 447 yards passing, 5 TDs (4 passing, 1 rushing) in the win.

— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) October 24, 2015

Thanks to losses by Texas A&M and Florida State, the Tigers will likely rise at least two spots this week. But the rankings don't matter much to Memphis right now. 

At this point in the season, what matters most to Memphis is a November 14 showdown at Houston, with the winner gaining a significant advantage in the battle for the top-ranked Group of Five team and a berth in one of the New Year's Six bowls. 

 

Ole Miss

It's hard to get excited about Ole Miss after seeing the Rebels lose convincingly against Florida and Memphis. But with a win over Texas A&M, Ole Miss is on the rise and still controls its own destiny in the SEC. 

The team will host undefeated LSU on November 21—and will represent the SEC West in the conference title game if it runs the table. 

Looking even further into the future, the Rebels' strength of schedule gives them an excellent chance to be the first two-loss team selected to the College Football Playoff if they're able to win out. 

The Rebels would have to jump a number of one-loss teams, and possibly even an undefeated team, but by closing out the season with wins against LSU and a likely rematch against Florida in the SEC Championship Game, Ole Miss would enter the playoff as one of the hottest teams in the nation. 

A lot has to fall their way, but the Rebels are certainly a sleeper to watch out for in the playoff race. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

SEC Football: Best Performances from Week 8

If you missed Week 8 in the SEC, you missed a lot of fun.

Arkansas topped Auburn in quadruple overtime, Alabama topped Tennessee 19-14 in a thriller in Tuscaloosa, and Ole Miss stomped Texas A&M in Oxford.

Who were the stars who shined brightest in the SEC in Week 8?

Our performances of the week based on production and importance to the team are in this slideshow.

Begin Slideshow

Bowl Predictions 2015: Projections for College Football Playoff Contenders

We're still a little over a week away from the first College Football Playoff rankings being released on November 3, but the playoff picture is already starting to take shape. 

This week's playoff projection features four undefeated teams in the playoff, with three others just on the outside in the other New Year's Six bowl games. 

While the playoff picture is relatively easy to sort out right now, we could be on the verge of chaos in college football. 

Of the four teams in the playoff in this projection, each one plays at least one more ranked opponent this season. 

 

Notable Teams

Houston Cougars

The top-ranked team from the "Group of Five" schools receives an automatic bid into one of the New Year's Six bowl games, and that honor will be a hotly contested battle down the stretch. 

In this projection, the edge is given to Houston, based primarily on its remaining schedule. 

Memphis is currently the highest-ranked Group of Five team, but it travels to Houston on November 14 and then to Temple the following week.

Houston, meanwhile, is in excellent position to run the table if the Cougars can defend their home turf against Memphis. 

After helping Ohio State to the national championship a season ago, first-year Houston head coach Tom Herman has his Cougars in line for a trip to one of the biggest bowl games in school history. 

 

Ohio State Buckeyes

With J.T. Barrett back as the starter, Ohio State returned to dominance against Rutgers and began to regain its stranglehold on the No. 1 spot. 

Much has been made of Ohio State's weak schedule, but the rise of Michigan gives the Buckeyes two quality opponents to close out their season. 

It's been a safe assumption since the beginning that an undefeated Ohio State squad would be given an opportunity to defend its title, but the Buckeyes' No. 1 spot was far from a guarantee given their presumed strength of schedule. 

If the Buckeyes knock off Michigan and Michigan State, however, they will likely have the resume to match the perception that they're the most talented team in the country. 

 

LSU Tigers

LSU enters its bye week with a perfect 7-0 mark, and it now has an extra week to prepare for Alabama. 

As the only undefeated team in the SEC, LSU controls its own destiny for a conference title and a trip to the College Football Playoff.

The Tigers have lost four straight against Alabama, so a victory in Tuscaloosa is no easy task. But as Alabama struggles with inconsistent play, LSU just keeps getting stronger. 

Leonard Fournette's dominance has been well-documented this season, but Brandon Harris' play at quarterback has been improving as LSU becomes a more well-rounded team. 

According to CFB Film Room, Harris has completed over 50 percent of his passes beyond 10 yards down the field in his last two SEC contests, a dramatic improvement over his early-season performance: 

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

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

A well-rounded LSU squad should be considered the SEC favorite at this point in the season. 

 

Clemson Tigers

Did any team make a bigger statement in Week 8 than Clemson?

Miami is a sinking ship, and Al Golden may not survive the season, but Clemson handing the once-proud Hurricanes the worst loss in school history is still an accomplishment. SportsCenter noted the history: 

Before today, Miami's worst loss was by 56 points vs Texas A&M in 1944.

— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) October 24, 2015

Head coach Dabo Sweeney has his squad playing well on both sides of the ball, with Shaq Lawson leading the defense and Heisman Trophy contender Deshaun Watson carrying the Tigers on offense. 

Thanks to Florida State's loss to Georgia Tech, Clemson is now the overwhelming favorite to win the ACC.

If Syracuse loses to Florida State next week, Clemson can wrap up the ACC Atlantic Division by defeating the Seminoles on November 7—with two ACC games still left on the schedule. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Christian McCaffrey vs. Washington: Stats, Reaction, Heisman Stock, Highlights

Stanford Cardinal running back Christian McCaffrey’s stock as a Heisman Trophy contender elevated yet again with an outstanding performance in the No. 10 Cardinal’s 31-14 win over the Washington Huskies on Saturday.

McCaffrey rushed for 109 yards on 23 attempts and hauled in five passes for another 112 yards, scoring a touchdown apiece in each category. He added another 79 yards on three kickoff returns. It marked his third game and second straight this season in which he has eclipsed 300 all-purpose yards.

The sophomore sensation is now at 1,818 all-purpose yards with eight scores through seven games and continues to stride toward the record books, per Matt Hinton of Grantland:

LSU Tigers running back Leonard Fournette firmly holds the Heisman pole position, now at 1,302 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns through seven games. But McCaffrey has emerged as a rising dark horse.

What differentiates McCaffrey from Fournette is his pass-catching ability. McCaffrey has hauled in 21 catches for 284 yards and two touchdowns, while Fournette has just 58 yards on seven catches and no scores.

No one should ignore McCaffrey’s versatility. He added a 50-yard touchdown catch against Washington to his resume, courtesy of the Pac-12 Networks:

Playing on the West Coast has been a third rail for Heisman hopefuls in recent years. In 2009, Stanford running back Toby Gerhart (2,028 all-purpose yards, 28 touchdowns) finished second to Alabama running back Mark Ingram (1,992 all-purpose yards, 20 touchdowns) in the closest finish in the award’s prestigious history.

Stewart Mandel of Fox Sports noted McCaffrey’s time zone could be a major factor:

This isn’t to say Fournette hasn’t been arguably the best college running back since Reggie Bush. The LSU sophomore has marched the Tigers to a 7-0 record despite a rugged schedule—one that yielded the Tigers the top ranking in the hypothetical BCS computer polls, per USA Today's Daniel Uthman.

He may not embody the dual threat that McCaffrey does, but Fournette is a once-in-a-generation sensation in the nation’s best conference.

Joe Schad of ESPN agrees:

Stanford is 6-1 and firmly in control of the Pac-12 North without many potential hiccups remaining—especially if it keeps playing with dominance. The Cardinal’s Week 1 loss to Northwestern isn’t getting any prettier with the Wildcats’ ongoing struggles. But should the team run the table and win the conference, the College Football Playoff committee would be hard-pressed to keep Stanford out. 

The Cardinal's success will hinge on McCaffrey, who won’t go away.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Pages