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Notre Dame Football: How Would Irish Fare in SEC in 2014?

"Yeah, but they'd finish no better than fifth in the SEC."

Versions of the above statement frequently pop up on Twitter and in online message boards, usually by critics who scoff at the success and attention that schools outside the SEC get instead of a team from college football's top conference. It's mostly hyperbole, since actually being able to quantify such claims would prove almost impossible.

Challenge accepted.

Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly's jab at teams ranked above the Fighting Irish in the College Football Playoff Top 25 play schedules that include what he called "glorified byes"—a thinly veiled jab at SEC schools that frequently line up FCS or low-level FBS teams in November—provides the perfect opportunity to discuss how Notre Dame would fare playing a similar slate.

In other words, how would the Irish do if they were in the SEC?

Ask those down south and you'll get a very firm answer, and it won't be pretty. The opposite goes for Notre Dame's many supporters, who no doubt feel no less than a conference title is the likely outcome. This, despite the fact that Notre Dame's limited recent history against the SEC is...well, let's just say it's not a subject that gets discussed much at Irish fan club gatherings.

That infamous 42-14 loss to Alabama in the 2013 BCS National Championship Game is the last time Notre Dame played an SEC opponent. Before that was in 2007, when the Irish were clubbed 41-14 by LSU in the Sugar Bowl.

The lack of commonality between Notre Dame and the SEC makes direct comparison difficult, as the only common opponent this year was Rice. Both the Irish and Texas A&M handily beat the Owls, but that was early in the season before the defending Conference USA champions righted the ship and are now on a five-game winning streak.

Because of this, most comparisons are hypothetical and based on assumptions, which depending on the source can be biased. Chris Alderson of FootballNation.com took a stab at figuring out how Notre Dame would do if they were in the SEC West, the best division in the country:

"I feel Notre Dame would go 4-4 or 5-3 at best if they played in the SEC West this season. I feel this is a combination of an over ranked team in Notre Dame, but more importantly how dominant the SEC West is this season."

That's an ambitious prediction, though it doesn't factor in which crossover teams the Irish would face from the East. Being on that side of the conference might prove to be far easier, based on how this season has gone for the East's teams and the fact that division is currently led by a school (Missouri) that lost at home to Indiana.

Indiana is 0-4 in the Big Ten, a conference that Notre Dame has gone 2-0 against this season, including a shutout of a Michigan team that just blew out Indiana. A perfect example of the transitive property in action.

Looking at how Notre Dame has performed this season against a schedule that computer ratings guru Jeff Sagarin ranks 49th (NOTE: Sagarin rates every SEC team's schedule as 46th or better), the results don't look like the kind that would translate into success down south. A pair of 16-point neutral-site wins over Purdue and Syracuse, both of whom are 3-6, aren't anything to write home about. Nor is a victory at home against 4-5 North Carolina, a game in which Notre Dame gave up 43 points.

There's been one true road game for the Irish, one pure hostile environment, which also happened to be their only loss. Yet the 31-27 defeat at Florida State stands as their best result because of the atmosphere, the overall effort and the style points they gained for hanging in there with the defending national champs.

"Notre Dame now joins the ever-growing ranks of elite but once-beaten teams, but it may have seen its stature grow by taking FSU down to the wire, on the road," wrote Bleacher Report's Tom Weir.

In that respect, Notre Dame compares favorably to Ole Miss, who despite losing for the first time at LSU found itself in the initial CFP's final four, then after losing in heartbreaking fashion the following week at home to Auburn is still ranked higher than several one-loss teams (and just behind the Irish).

Maybe that means the Irish would do better against tougher competition, that to this point it has played up or down to the opponent's level. Presumably, this would translate to better efforts against SEC foes, but that's as much of an assumption as anything else.

Unless Notre Dame gets paired up with an SEC team in the postseason this year, the next chance to accurately compare it to that conference will be in 2017 when it hosts Georgia. It might be easier to gauge how the Irish would finish in the ACC, thanks to its long-term scheduling agreement with that conference.

Simple answer on that: Notre Dame would essentially be the Duke of the ACC, maybe the Clemson. In other words, good enough to lose to Florida State.


Follow Brian J. Pedersen on Twitter at @realBJP.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Does Convincing Win over Arizona State Put Notre Dame in Position to Crack CFP?

Notre Dame fans have been feeling slighted by the College Football Playoff committee because of their low ranking despite narrowly losing to the defending national champion Florida State Seminoles. 

Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Adam Kramer and Michael Felder discuss whether a win against Arizona State is enough to propel the Irish into the CFP top four.

Do you think Notre Dame will make the College Football Playoff?

Watch the video and let us know!

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Auburn Football: Tigers Must Get Their Defensive Edge Back vs. Texas A&M

AUBURN, Ala. — Calling Auburn's 38-23 loss to Mississippi State last month a turning point for the 2014 season is definitely an understatement.

The Tigers were plagued by offensive inconsistency and another slow start away from home while their defense had few answers for the Bulldogs' star-studded attack.

Since that loss and an important bye week, the Auburn offense has responded with back-to-back victories featuring more than 500 total yards apiece.

However, the Auburn defense has gone through the wrong kind of turnaround, as it allowed more yards in the South Carolina and Ole Miss games than in any other previous matchup:

The issues have mostly been in the passing game, where opposing quarterbacks have been able to rely on short- to intermediate-range passes to move the ball effectively.

"We’ve got to do a better job with our zones and passing things off and everything that goes with that," Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn said Wednesday night. "It all works together on defense, but that’s an area we need to improve on. Our coaches understand that and our players understand that. I’m confident we will."

With Georgia and Alabama coming up, Auburn's defense will have a chance to get its edge back against a Texas A&M offense that, despite its struggles, is exactly the challenge the Tigers need.

"We are playing a team that was ranked in the Top 10 about a month ago," Malzahn said. "They are unbelievable on both sides of the football. Offensively, they have experience up front, they have big, fast receivers, very good running backs and a talented young quarterback."

Although the Aggies went with a more vanilla offense with first-time starter Kyle Allen at quarterback last Saturday, they still lead the SEC in pass attempts, completions, yards and touchdowns with head coach Kevin Sumlin's offensive scheme.

As the last two weeks have shown, the Tigers have a lot of work to do in tightening up the secondary.

Auburn faced 53 pass attempts from South Carolina's Dylan Thompson two weeks ago, which was the most an opponent has thrown against the Tigers since Washington State's Connor Halliday threw the ball 63 times in the 2013 season opener.

South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier's no-punt strategy also put extra pressure on an Auburn pass defense that had improved significantly from its 2013 numbers but started to show cracks again.

"We had a lot of miscommunication," defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson said after the South Carolina game. "We’ve had some of that this year but not nearly to that degree. It was more like they reverted back to where they weren’t sure about some of their adjustments."

Johnson said the Tigers cut down their mistakes in his four key areas of defensive play—penalties, missed assignments, missed tackles and finishing plays—from the South Carolina game to the Ole Miss game, but the mistakes were magnified.

"When we missed a tackle, it was a big, glaring missed tackle," Johnson said.

Ole Miss took advantage of that poor tackling in space with its playmakers on the outside.

A team like Texas A&M is built to capitalize on those same mistakes, and the Tigers could be in for a frustrating afternoon at Jordan-Hare Stadium if they don't improve in that area.

"We know we need to do better moving on this season," junior linebacker Kris Frost said. "[Ole Miss] had some big-time playmakers, as do all the teams we play each and every week, but they definitely did a great job of getting out in space and making moves on us. We missed a few tackles that were unacceptable, but it's basically all about getting back to the basics and really focusing on what we have to do to improve."

Auburn's play against the run has continued to be its defensive strong suit, and the defensive line showed improvement in the pass rush in the road win over Ole Miss with a season-high four sacks.

But sure tackling and good communication in the secondary were the keys to Auburn's early-season success on defense.

If the Tigers don't reclaim those advantages and take care of business this Saturday, the Aggies could give them a scare—no matter how much the offense is struggling without Kenny Hill.

"We never go into a game with the mindset that we can relax," Frost said. "If anything, it puts us on higher guard against the team we're playing, like a team like South Carolina that has nothing to lose. ... We're going to go into this game with the same attitude we go into every game, which is try to get better and try to do everything we can to dominate from the start."


All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All recruiting rankings and information courtesy of 247Sports. All stats courtesy of cfbstats.com.

Justin Ferguson is Bleacher Report's lead Auburn writer. Follow him on Twitter @JFergusonAU.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

The 5 Most Telling Stats for BYU This Season

On the heels of a season-saving win at Middle Tennessee, BYU has a bye week before its final three games. But with most of the season already finished, now is a good time to look back on the first nine games.

Numbers never tell the whole story, but a lot can be learned from this season's statistics. There's no way to describe a convincing four-game winning streak and subsequent losing skid with numbers, but there are several stats that tell a lot about the season.

So, what are the Cougars' five most telling stats? Here they are.

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LSU vs. Alabama Is Old-School SEC Showdown Fans Have Been Waiting For

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — If you are an SEC fan who is troubled by the rise of the spread-out, uptempo offenses that have infiltrated the league, you can take a deep breath this week, at least for a time.

Alabama-LSU will much more closely resemble what SEC traditionalists think when they think of a high-profile matchup.

Both teams are in the top half of the SEC in nearly every rushing category. Both feature a stable of punishing backs capable of wearing out opposing defenses. Both teams can set up the play action and use it to deadly precision.

It’s a combination that has worked for these two teams over the years and continues even as the conference landscape around them changes.

When they meet on Saturday in yet another game with SEC and national title implications, it will be a breath of fresh air and the showdown that old-school fans have been waiting for.

For LSU, it’s been about the emergence of a freshman force.

Leonard Fournette came in with all the hype in the world, and after a lackluster debut he’s turned into the Tigers’ top running back. He leads LSU with 657 yards on the season.

“He's got a lot more confidence right now because of the experience that he's gained throughout the season,” said Alabama coach Nick Saban, who battled with Les Miles for his signature out of high school. “He's got great size. He's a very instinctive runner. He's got really good speed, and he can run with power. He's difficult to tackle. A very physical player. They have a very physical team, and they're playing physical football right now.

“There's not a lot of trick 'em to it. You've just got to match and be the same kind of physical team to be able to have a chance to have any kind of success against them. Leonard has been really, really productive, not to our surprise. We thought he was that kind of player, and he's certainly proven to be.”

Behind him are two seniors, Terrence Magee and Kenny Hilliard, who are only two yards apart on the year, but Magee averages over a yard per carry more.

The trio makes up a dynamic rushing attack that is the focal point of LSU’s offense.

“They've said, 'OK, we've got a good offensive line, we've got really good running backs, so we're going to run the football and establish the run,’” Saban said. “‘And you're going to have to stop us. And then we're going to use play-action passes to try to make explosive plays down the field,' which has been very effective for them.”

While it may not look like it on the surface, Alabama’s running the ball about as effectively as it has under Saban. It lost its most explosive back in Kenyan Drake, but T.J. Yeldon and Derrick Henry have made up a duo that is as good as any pair has been recently.

Yeldon is still the workhorse and always will be. He’s been a consistent back in his three years in Tuscaloosa and continues to put up big numbers.

Where Alabama has struggled in the run game has been on the offensive line, where the Crimson Tide have dealt with several injuries and only two players have started every game.

“As much as you want to say the next guy is going to come in and there's not going to be a skip, that's our overall goal,” center Ryan Kelly said. “But when you have five guys working together all spring, summer and into the fall and you take one guy out or two guys come in, that's where the leadership takes place. They have to help the young guys out and vice versas. It's all five of us working as one. We're not going to leave anybody out to dry. Just do the best we can.”

Alabama and LSU might look a little different in terms of style of play compared to some of the other great SEC showdowns this year.

There won’t be much secret to what either team wants to do. It’s just a matter of stopping it.


Marc Torrence is the Alabama lead writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Follow on Twitter @marctorrence.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Why CFB's Most Explosive Offense Should Fear the Most Underrated Defense

TCU has one of the top offenses in the country, but it may be getting more than it bargained for when the Horned Frogs ta on a very underrated Kansas State defense on Saturday.

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder discusses how the Kansas State Wildcats boast the most underrated defense in the country.

Who has the best defense in college football?

Watch the video and let us know!

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The College Football Playoff Elimination Game Nobody Saw Coming

Bill Snyder, master of chalkboards, play sheets and press conferences, shaped Kansas State’s upcoming landscape-alerting matchup in a way only he could.

“Big game, I guess,” the Kansas State coach said at his weekly press conference. “That’s what you’d say.”

His enthusiasm, reserved as anticipated, is consistent with a coach who has forgotten more football knowledge than we could ever hope to acquire in our collective lifetimes. Despite his unwillingness to embrace Week 11 as an elimination game for two unforeseen hopefuls, that’s precisely what it will serve as.

This was always the case, of course. Long before the season began, we knew that Week 11 would ultimately decide the Big 12. We also understood that if all went according to plan, a College Football Playoff spot would be won or lost on November 8.

That part hasn’t changed. But the participants have.

Baylor vs. Oklahoma—once thought to be your pseudo-conference championship game—will give up center court to the current No. 6 and No. 7, according to the College Football Playoff’s selection committee. They will be replaced by a team surging thanks in large part to its 75-year-old leader and a program that oh so famously acquired the “Little Sisters of the Poor” label four short years ago.  

Once thought to be on the outskirts of interest due to a power program-heavy slate of games, Kansas State and TCU take a backseat to no one. Not Alabama-LSU, not Arizona State-Notre Dame, not Ohio State-Michigan State, not Oregon-Utah.

Operating with vastly different styles and coaching philosophies, each team has put itself in prime position for a spot in the postseason. The path to get here wasn’t likely or entirely reasonable, but it wasn’t a fluke either.

It was imperfect, which is how it’s supposed to be. And in a year lacking dominant teams, the winner of this matchup that will take on a quarterfinal-ish feel will make an emphatic statement to the group tasked with deciding the postseason.


The Case for TCU: The Rise of a Quarterback

Having just pulled one of the great escapes of the season, the TCU football team huddled in the Morgantown, West Virginia locker room to pray.

Shortly after it concluded, quarterback Trevone Boykin stood up and apologized to the entire team for his lackluster 12-of-30 performance through the air.

“All head coaches would be happy when one of your leaders shows a sign of maturity and growing up to become what you need them to become,” TCU head coach Gary Patterson said. “I thought he did a great job because nobody prompted him to do that.”

Perhaps we found out more about Boykin—the most improved player in all of college football—in a game in which he suddenly looked human. His development on the field has been one of this season’s most significant storylines. But his growth off of it is an aspect of this maturation that can easily go unnoticed.

Before struggling in the elements against West Virginia last weekend, Boykin had been practically perfect. After bouncing around through much of his career—even changing positions due to injuries and depth concerns—he has exploded.

You can match up his statistical performance over the course of the season with just about any other quarterback. Even with last weekend’s dud factored in, Boykin has been one of the nation's most productive players.

Part of this, of course, is the result of experience gained. But it’s much more than that, especially when you look at the evolution of the offense he’s leading and the new influences around him.

“No. 1, he’s older. And No. 2, I think the change of the offense fit him better,” Patterson said. “I think Coach Cumbie and Coach Meacham have done a great job of growing him up. Matt Joeckel coming from A&M really gave him competition and taught him how to run the offense.”

Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie were perhaps college football’s most important free-agent signings of this past season. Meacham came from Houston, where he was the co-offensive coordinator. Cumbie, just 33, was the co-offensive coordinator at Texas Tech. The two arrived with a mission to transform a stagnant offense, and the results have been staggering.

Their influence was immediate, and more importantly, it has allowed Boykin to utilize his skill set. This transformation may seem like a surprise to us, although the man tasked with slowing him down come Saturday saw this coming.

“I’ve never felt that he was anything other than an excellent talent. I’ve always felt that,” Bill Snyder said. “They were playing within a system at that point and time and it was well coordinated with the rest of their program. His numbers are obviously far greater, but I’ve always thought he was a good talent.”


The Case for Kansas State: Embracing the Constant

Patterson opened his weekly press conference by saying very little. This was the anti-marketing way to tease a game, the opposite of a pay-per-view-ian sell to attract more interest.

“Back at home, game nine,” Patterson said, planning his exit. “Really good Kansas State team, but you don’t really have to say much about them. They’ve been doing it for a while.”

In many ways, Patterson’s Cliff's Notes assessment of K-State is impeccable. It won’t sell tickets or lure viewers, but this is precisely who they are. It’s a label the university wears proudly under its coach, who also moonlights as mascot, university billboard and coaching legend.

“He’s won at a place where nobody could ever do it before,” Patterson added. “He’s won big ball games and done about everything.”

Under Snyder, Kansas State has taken on many forms. The constants of these teams, however, regardless of the surrounding talent, are the little things that give the Wildcats an edge against anyone.

Even when they are at a talent disadvantage—and they often are—they have certain pluses that cannot be countered in areas of importance that can be easily overlooked.

“You want to have good people that have a value system in place that tells you they’ll be committed to what it is you’re trying to do,” Snyder said. “Guys that have a selflessness about them and will play within the framework and work within the framework of what our program is all about.”

Led by quarterback Jake Waters along with gifted wideout Tyler Lockett, the Wildcats offense is outperforming its scoring output from last season by nearly a touchdown. As promising as the offense appears, the defense is even better.

As it stands, Kansas State leads the Big 12 in yards allowed and total points allowed. The 18.6 points per game the Wildcats allow is No. 12 nationally. The lone loss, of course, came at the hands of Auburn, the No. 3 team in the latest College Football Playoff Top 25.

Even this defeat had plenty of positive takeaways. And since then, momentum has been building to the point where Kansas State’s familiar voice of reason has had to intervene.

“I’m proud of whatever they've achieved up until this point in time, but all of that is behind us. That’s in the past,” Snyder said. “It’s just about what takes place now. We start looking forward to games down the road or what the polls are going to say at the end of the season, and then we’re looking in the wrong direction.”

There’s something to be said about this sentiment and the unique ability to admire what's at work—an opportunity so close you can almost touch it. And yet there's the necessity of perspective.

The playoff is one of the few football-related matters that Snyder has yet to explore, only because—like everyone else—he’s still figuring out how the thing works. That doesn’t mean he isn’t in tune with his team or the possibility of this dream scenario becoming a reality.

“The preparation isn’t any different. The approach isn’t any different,” Snyder said. “But I’m not naive to all the hoopla around the playoffs. It’s how you handle it.


Live to Fight Another Week

The expectations have changed.

Kansas State and TCU, thought to be fodder in a year with two overwhelming Big 12 favorites, have seized control for the time being. It happened gradually, but the moment of clarity feels remarkably sudden.

Nothing about this matchup has changed. The date, Nov. 8, has not shifted. The location, Amon G. Carter Stadium in Fort Worth, will serve as the setting as expected.

The only difference is that TCU and Kansas State suddenly have complete control of their football fates—an unlikely position—even with both programs just a few years removed from a BCS cameo. In football time, it feels like ages ago.

“Both of us are told a lot that you’re not supposed to do what you’re able to do,” Patterson said.

But they have done, outside of a lone blemish apiece, almost anything they please. As a result, an unlikely playoff run will pick up continued steam this Saturday. Another will reach a sudden, crushing halt.

There are no guarantees that either program will end up crashing the College Football Playoff, although the victor will stay alive for another week. In doing so, it will state a tremendous case to the selection committee as the 2014 season inches closer to its conclusion.

Big game, I guess.


Unless noted otherwise, all quotes obtained firsthand. All stats courtesy of CFBStats.com.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

The Hottest and Coldest Players in College Football Post Week 10

It's a common practice to check the weather forecast to see how it may impact a college football game. This should be extended to checking the temperature of certain players, who seem to be heating up even as the weather cools while others are somehow colder than the climate.

Hot and cold streaks happen all the time, but for these players the trend up or down doesn't look to be stopping any time soon. Those on a roll look to continue carrying their teams forward, while the ones on a downward spiral are trying to figure out how to reverse the trend.

Check out our list of the hottest and coldest players in college football at this point in the season.

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Can Urban Meyer Save Himself from Irrelevance?

We still believe in Urban Meyer because, well, he's Urban Meyer. And we still believe in Ohio State because history tells us to and because, well, Urban Meyer's the coach.     

It isn't time to give up on either of those truths yet, but at some point a little evidence would be nice. That doesn't include scoring 60 points on Illinois or Purdue or Indiana.

Meyer has opened up about the unhealthy obsession he had with winning when he was at Florida. Every chance he gets, he now insists that he has changed. He smells the roses.

I wonder: Does a guy obsessed with winning championships find less pressure in being irrelevant? Or more? That's where Meyer stands now if we're being honest. It's why this Saturday's game at Michigan State means so much to him. It is the only marquee game of the season for the entire Big Ten.

Meyer needs a big win at Ohio State. It would be his first.

He has had few big-game opportunities at Ohio State, thanks to the mess Jim Tressel left and the weakness of the Big Ten. He has had to play this year without his quarterback, too. Still, in nearly three years at Ohio State, guess how many teams ranked in the top 10 he has beaten.

Doesn't a winning-addict feel pressure from that?

"I could give you the coachspeak and say I don't feel it,'' Meyer said this week on the conference coaches teleconference with reporters. "I feel it. I won't say personal pressure. Ohio State pressure. That has been brought up a couple times.''

This cannot be what Meyer had in mind when he came to Ohio State. It seems almost impossible, but the Buckeyes aren't getting any national attention—not even Meyer is. They are ranked 14th in the College Football Playoff poll, second lowest among one-loss teams in the power five conferences.

Meyer is a big-game coach, even if the one he lost to Alabama in the SEC title game sent him to the hospital. He won two national championships, and then left to work on his health. Florida has yet to recover.

And when Meyer decided to return to coaching a year later, the feeling was that he'd be able to bring the SEC to the Big Ten. But the Big Ten is absolutely killing Ohio State by not providing decent competition. It has rendered Meyer irrelevant.

Just a theory, but the only thing worse than losing for a winning-addict is not competing at all. Boredom is stressful.

Ohio State 66, Kent State 0

Ohio State 50, Cincinnati 28.

Ohio State 56, Rutgers 17

And last week, Ohio State 55, Illinois 14.

Meyer told Yahoo Sports' Dan Wetzel that late in the Illinois game, he was already thinking about Michigan State, talking to an assistant coach about plans for big-game week.

He hasn't had many of these opportunities at Ohio State. But when he's had them, he hasn't won.

For most of this first two years at Ohio State, Meyer came across like the coaching legend he is. He took a team on probation and won 24 straight games. Then, the Buckeyes lost the Big Ten championship game to Michigan State last year.

Since then, everything has gone backward.

That might sound like an overstatement, but after losing to Michigan State, the Buckeyes lost to Clemson in the Orange Bowl. They lost quarterback Braxton Miller for the season with a shoulder injury before the opener. And in the second game, the lost at home to Virginia Tech. That was three losses in four games.

Sure, you can argue that Meyer has done a great job of holding things together while developing freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett. But how do you know that, considering the row of patsies Ohio State has beaten?

It's hard to know what's real and what's just image with Ohio State and Meyer. I mean, are we sure the Buckeyes aren't dropping off like the rest of the Big Ten? But just when you ask a question like that, or start to doubt Meyer, he comes up with something. Barrett has been improving and Michigan State's defensive backs aren't as good as they were last year.

Meanwhile, though, Meyer needs for Michigan to rebuild itself. That was a national spotlight game for Ohio State, too. A Big Game Week. But the Wolverines have not held up their end of the bargain. Meyer said this week that Michigan is Ohio State's rival, not Michigan State.

He might want to adjust his thinking on that. Michigan State is the only thing the Big Ten can send his way.

The players are starting up the hype. Michigan State linebacker Taiwan Jones said at the Spartans' weekly press conference that Barrett is better than Miller at QB. That sent Miller into a Twitter rant, and he tweeted: 

If it helps: Jones led Michigan State with eight tackles in the Rose Bowl. Stanford noticed.

The little back-and-forth is only good for the Big Ten. Anything to draw eyeballs.

It's also Meyer's only chance left this year to remind us that, well, he's Urban Meyer.


Greg Couch covers college football for Bleacher Report. He also writes for the New York Times and was formerly a scribe for FoxSports.com and the Chicago Sun-Times. Follow him on Twitter @gregcouch.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

USC Football: 2015 Recruits Trojans Need to Land

USC is operating with a full allotment of scholarships in its 2015 recruiting—the first time the program has enjoyed that luxury in three years. 

Head coach Steve Sarkisian is making the most of his opportunity with the shroud of NCAA sanctions lifted, already putting together a signing class that 247Sports ranks No. 1 in the Pac-12 and No. 9 in the nation

But Sarkisian and his staff have a chance to take the 2015 recruiting class to an even higher level by adding a few of the top targets still remaining on the Trojans' board. 

USC is in the mix for some of the nation's premier offensive and defensive talent. These are players capable of making immediate impacts, much like 2014 signees Toa Lobendahn, John "JuJu" Smith and Adoree' Jackson.

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USC Football: 2015 Recruits Trojans Need to Land

USC is operating with a full allotment of scholarships in its 2015 recruiting—the first time the program has enjoyed that luxury in three years...

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Texas A&M Football: Who Is the Aggies' X-Factor vs. Auburn?

The Texas A&M football team will take on the Auburn Tigers Saturday in Auburn, Alabama. The Texas A&M player who could have the largest impact on the outcome of the game is freshman receiver Speedy Noil.

The Aggies' true freshman receiver has quickly become the team's biggest threat on the offensive side of the football. The 6'0", 193-pound athlete has developed into a game-breaking threat on offense and special teams. 

The Texas A&M football team is 6-3 on the season with a 2-3 record in the SEC. The Aggies have struggled mightily on offense during a recent four-game stretch that has seen them held scoreless in eight of their 12 quarters of play. 

The one constant during that stretch has been the strong play of Noil at receiver and in the return game. The Aggies offense is struggling to find an identity right now, but one player they can count on every week is Noil. 


Freshman of Influence

Noil has progressed during his freshman season into being the most effective receiver on the Aggies  roster. During the previous four games, Noil has led the team with 23 receptions for 256 yards and three touchdowns. 

While many of the Texas A&M players appear to be going through the motions, Noil is stepping up his game. When true freshman quarterback Kyle Allen was forced into the starting lineup against Louisiana-Monroe, Noil led the team with five receptions for 69 yards including an incredible 39-yard touchdown grab. 

The Aggies spent much of the Louisiana-Monroe game in the pistol formation on offense. They only put two wide receivers out wide in their base formation. That formation makes it much easier for the secondary to defend the pass.

Noil was able to have some success against the Warhawks even with that handicap. An argument can be made that Noil is the Aggies' best receiver nine games into his career.


The Return Game

Noil has quietly put together an outstanding season on special teams. He currently ranks No. 7 in the nation in punt returns, averaging 15.9 yards per return. Noil's 39-yard return down to the 12-yard line set up the Aggies' second touchdown against Louisiana-Monroe.

He has not returned a punt for a touchdown yet but does have a 67-yard return on the season. Through nine games, he has returned 11 punts for 175 yards. He also leads the team in total yardage on kick returns with 349 yards on 16 returns.

The freshman receiver will need to have a big game against Auburn in the return game. The Aggies offense is struggling to get first downs. It picked up just two first downs in the second half against Louisiana-Monroe.

In order to score against Auburn, the Texas A&M offense is going to need short fields against the Tigers defense. It will need Noil to have some nice returns in order to create those short fields.

The Aggies will start Allen on the road at Auburn. Noil will need to give the Aggies positive field position to keep the pressure off of Allen. 

It will take a monumental team performance for the Aggies to get a win on the Plains. Noil could be the catalyst for the team finding a way to pick up a crucial victory on the road. 

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Watch High School RB Drag Defender 31 Yards on His Back

Some players are known for putting their teams on their backs. Then, there's Stephen Carr out of Fontana, California, who took that concept to another level. 

The season is winding down, but it's not too late to create highlights and remember your big games. Log in to Hudl and highlight any plays from your past games that you want to appear on your athlete profile. Once they're saved, you can share them with family, friends and recruiters.

Was this the craziest play you've seen this season?

Watch the video and let us know!

Highlights courtesy of Hudl

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Top Recruits Who Will Become Key Figures in the LSU-Alabama Rivalry

Alabama and LSU resume a storied rivalry Saturday when the Crimson Tide travel to Baton Rouge for an annual SEC showdown. The conference heavyweights often battle off the field as well, routinely competing for elite talent along the recruiting trail.

These coveted high school standouts could ultimately alter the outcome of future matchups between these marquee programs, making a successful signing day paramount on both campuses. We examined the latest prospects destined to compete in this perennial clash between title contenders.

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Will Muschamp Needs to Lean on the Run If He Wants to Keep His Job at Florida


Florida has gone ultraconservative.

The Gators offense was effective on Saturday against Georgia, rushing 60 times and passing only six times in a 38-20 win over Georgia in the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party in Jacksonville. Kelvin Taylor rushed 25 times for 197 yards and two touchdowns, while Matt Jones toted the rock 25 times for 192 yards and two more scores.

Of those six passes from first-time starter Treon Harris, only four were downfield according to Thomas Goldkamp of 247Sports.com.

Is that the start of a new offensive trend?

Being that one-dimensional in the SEC will get you beaten, but Florida has the luxury this week of tuning up against a Vanderbilt defense that ranks 11th in the conference in total defense (403.6 YPG) and is tied for 12th in yards per play (5.76).

Will Harris, offensive coordinator Kurt Roper and head coach Will Muschamp open things up this week through the air?

"We have all the confidence in the world in Treon throwing the football," Muschamp said on Wednesday's SEC coaches teleconference. "He's an accurate thrower. He's a guy who's certainly capable of doing whatever he needs to do in the throwing game, so we're going to game-plan what we need to do each week to win the game. If that means throwing it 40 times, we're going to throw it 40 times."

Unsolicited advice to Muschamp: Don't throw it 40 times this week against Vanderbilt.

Fifteen? Sure. Twenty? That may be stretching it.

Florida should be able to do its part if it gradually builds upon this newfound confidence in the running game against Vanderbilt this week, gives Harris a little bit more responsibility and then takes another small step against a South Carolina defense that's even worse than the Commodores.

That will get Florida in the position to win the SEC East, which is the first step toward Muschamp saving his job.

The SEC East title? Sound crazy?

It isn't.

The Gators still have a chance to win the SEC East if they win out, if Georgia loses to Auburn and beats Kentucky and if Missouri loses two of its final three (Texas A&M, Tennessee and Arkansas), as long as one of those losses comes on Rocky Top. That would put all three teams at 5-3 in the SEC, but the Gators would have a 5-1 record in the division at that point and earn themselves the nod to Atlanta, according to three-team tiebreaker 2.B.

Would a division title alone keep Muschamp employed?

Maybe and maybe not. Closing strong and winning the East would be nice, but what if the Gators get worked by Florida State in Tallahassee to close the regular season and again in the Georgia Dome in the SEC Championship Game by the West representative?

That might be difficult.

The schedule sets up in a way for Muschamp to ease Harris into the role in important games, give him bits and pieces of the playbook down the stretch and, in a perfect world, be more multi-dimensional for the intra-state rivalry with the Seminoles and beyond. 

That's something that Harris would be fine with, according to Muschamp.

"We ran the ball for 418 yards [against Georgia] and didn't need to throw it," Muschamp said. "I told him after the game that 'When you're number is called, we're going to need to throw this thing.' His response was exactly this: 'All I care about is winning.' That's the kind of team guy you want leading your football team."

For Muschamp to stay employed, he needs to build on Harris' team-first attitude, build on the ground game success and only pivot over the final two conference games if the game dictates. The offense can then try some things in the tune-up against Eastern Kentucky and be two-dimensional in the season finale against the Seminoles.

The success on the ground has to be part of the identity—not the entire identity. Building that identity starts right now but will only successful if the Gators take baby steps.

Baby steps, perhaps, to the SEC Championship Game.


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.

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College Football Playoff Standings: Week 11 Rankings and Bowl Projections

November is here, and in about a month, the College Football Playoff selection committee will choose its four-team field. For everyone else who's eligible, it's bowl season. 

Trying to predict bowl games is science no one can truly master, but it's fun to give it the ol' college try anyway. Predictions are based partially on what teams have done so far but also a projection on how they'll finish. Additionally, bowl pecking order isn't necessarily representative of where teams will finish in their respective conferences, just the order in which they're selected. 

Here's how the two major Top 25 polls looked after Week 10. The following slides contain bowl projections heading into Week 11. Below are links to the latest College Football Playoff, Associated Press and USA Today Top 25 polls. 

College Football Playoff 

Associated Press

USA Today Amway Coaches Poll

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Michigan State Is Not Ohio State's Rival, but Urban Meyer Treats Them Like One

COLUMBUS, Ohio — In his numerous media availabilities leading up to his team's biggest game of the season, Urban Meyer has been careful not to feed the media's self-proposed storylines.

"We only have one rival," the Ohio State head coach has insisted. Yes, the color green is allowed—although not preferred—inside of the Woody Hayes Athletic Center this week. The Buckeyes' one and only rival is Michigan, and nobody else.

But if you really wanted to know how Meyer feels about Ohio State's upcoming opponent, this wasn't the week to ask. The 13-year head coach is too calculated to provide bulletin-board material for any team that the Buckeyes are about to face, especially as the national media locks in on a rare high-profile Big Ten battle.

Nevertheless, that hasn't stopped Meyer from providing a peak into his true feelings about the team that will be across the field from Ohio State on Saturday.

Two days after the Buckeyes were stifled by Virginia Tech's 46 Bear defense in their defeat at the hands of the Hokies on Sept. 6, Meyer was asked if he thought other teams would attempt to run the same scheme. Skimming through Ohio State's schedule in his mind, the Buckeyes head coach stumbled upon one who potentially could.

"I don't know if people have the personnel," Meyer said of opponents' ability to run the Cover zero scheme. "I know one of them does. The team that won the Big Ten last year does."

Michigan State

That's who Meyer was referring to, Ohio State's upcoming opponent who he would rather refer to by its accomplishments as opposed to its actual name. It's not all that different from his preference to refer to Michigan as "our rival" or more popularly, "That Team Up North."

In fact, in his two press conferences in between last weekend's win over Illinois and this weekend's upcoming contest, Meyer has mentioned the Spartans by name just once, despite being asked about Michigan State a combined 15 times. Maybe that's a coincidence, but anybody who's studied Meyer's career—or speech patterns—knows that those don't happen often.

But while Meyer has attempted to downplay the Spartans' official status as an Ohio State rival, he didn't downplay the importance of this weekend's game.

"What's happened in this situation is you have an excellent team. After watching them on film, they're a great team. And they stand in the way of a Big Ten championship," Meyer said of Michigan State, again not mentioning the Spartans by name. "Does that make them a rival? It makes them in the way of something that we all want, and that's a Big Ten championship."

That was also the case a year ago, when the 12-0 Buckeyes headed to Indianapolis for the conference title game with a trip to Pasadena and the BCS National Championship Game on the line. All that was standing in their way was a perceived overmatched Michigan State squad, riding an eight-game winning streak but facing a 5.5-point spread.

But from the moment the ball kicked off inside of Lucas Oil Stadium, you would have never been able to guess which team had more on the line. Marching up and down the field at will while containing running back Carlos Hyde, the Spartans jumped out to a 17-0 lead, threatening to slam the door shut on the Buckeyes' national title chances.

Ohio State battled back, reeling off 24 straight points, but when all was said and done, it was MSU hoisting the Stagg Championship Trophy after a 34-24 Spartans victory.

For obvious reasons, the loss hit the Buckeyes hard, as their winter travel plans rerouted for Miami and an eventual loss to Clemson in the Orange Bowl.

“I’ll tell you what I’m not going to lie to you, I cried for, like, two days. It was tough and the whole team it seemed like after we took that loss it just took the whole soul out of the team. It was hard for everybody to get back and just kind of work hard," wide receiver Devin Smith said. "That game, us losing to Michigan State last year, kind of really messed the whole season up and really took a toll on all of us.”

While the Buckeyes struggled to bounce back following their Big Ten championship loss, Michigan State maintained momentum, picking up another signature win over Stanford in its subsequent trip to the Rose Bowl. The Spartans entered the 2014 season ranked in the top eight of both major preseason polls, and despite a Sept. 6 loss to Oregon, they currently sit in eighth in the College Football Playoff rankings.

"They're the king of the hill right now because they won the championship," Meyer said. "And you have to dethrone them."

Ohio State, meanwhile, has also bounced back from a loss in the second week of the season, reeling off six consecutive wins heading into Saturday's trip to East Lansing. Michigan State may not be a rival—at least not publicly to Meyer and his team—but this is The Game that the Buckeyes have been waiting for ever since last season came to its disappointing end.

“This is huge, and we checked this on our calendar just because of what happened last year," Smith said. "For it to be this way with both teams with one loss—man, it’s really huge.”


Ben Axelrod is Bleacher Report's Ohio State Lead Writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BenAxelrod. Unless noted otherwise, all quotes obtained firsthand. All statistics courtesy of cfbstats.com and recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

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Marcus Peters Dismissed: Latest Details, Analysis and Reaction

Cornerback Marcus Peters has all the makings of an NFL star, but the star junior's character may come into question as he was dismissed from the University of Washington's football team Thursday.

According to Adam Jude of The Seattle Times, the 2013 second-team All-Pac-12 selection was kicked off the team following an argument with an assistant coach during Wednesday's practice.

Peters was already suspended for one game earlier in the season due to a sideline outburst, and Jude reports that he has been at odds with head coach Chris Petersen all year.

While all signs already pointed toward Peters entering the 2015 NFL draft, this situation cements it, per Bleacher Report's Matt Miller:

Although it is fair to wonder if NFL teams will be wary of Peters due to his inability to get along with the Huskies coaching staff, Miller reports that it shouldn't be a concern moving forward:

Peters has three interceptions this season after accruing a total of eight in his freshman and sophomore campaigns combined. He is a true ball hawk, and he will garner plenty of attention as the draft draws closer.

There is no doubt that his collegiate career has reached a less-than-ideal conclusion, but his elite talent level should prevent him from dropping too far on draft boards.


Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter.

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Marcus Peters Dismissed: Latest Details, Analysis and Reaction

Cornerback Marcus Peters has all the makings of an NFL star, but the star junior's character may come into question as he was dismissed from the University of Washington's football team Thursday...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Tulane Coach Makes Players Hold Hands After Altercation in Practice

Tulane coach Curtis Johnson has no time for juvenile behavior.

During Wednesday's practice, right tackle Sean Donnelly and defensive tackle Tanzel Smart got into a fight. That's a no-no on a Johnson-coached team.

The Green Wave coach rejected mainstream punishment and opted for something a bit out of the ordinary. Well, it's common for Johnson but not for football.

Johnson made the two players involved in the altercation walk around the field for 20 minutes, hand-in-hand. The coach said he had never used the tactic on his football players but has used it on his daughters.

Johnson talked about the punishment to Tammy Nunez of The Times-Picayune:

Yeah, we had a little bit of an altercation and they kind of wasted some of my practice time so I took a different approach in disciplining them. If they want to act like kindergarten kids, then I just want to treat them like kindergarten kids. ...

But it was pretty effective. (They walked) actually until the coaches needed them so it was about 20 minutes. ... I pointed it out to the rest of the team. If they as grown men want to hold hands, that's fine, that's what you are going to do if you fight.

This form of discipline, unorthodox yet endearing, should hopefully quell any future brawls.

[Twitter, h/t FoxSports.com]

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