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Bowl Projections 2014: Predictions for College Football Playoff Semifinals

Each week of the college football season brings plenty of surprises, but none of it really matters until the end of the year.

The new College Football Playoff system has kept more fans interested in the process than ever before, which has led to plenty of complaining over rankings. However, it matters a lot more where the teams sit in the final Dec. 7 standings compared to anything in October or November.

Everything that happens from this point forward is significant, which means predicting outcomes is just as important as analyzing past results. Instead of wondering which teams will be in the playoff if the season ended today, here are projections for the two semifinal matchups (Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl) at the end of the year.

The first thing most people will notice in this list is that it only features a single SEC team. This would be a bit of a surprise considering how dominant the conference has been all year, especially the West division.

When the first set of playoff standings were released, three teams fit into the top four spots, while Alabama was not far behind at No. 6. However, Nick Saban said it best at the time, via Michael Casagrande of Al.com:

To me, none of it matters. What does it matter? I mean, it only matters where you end up at the end. So what matters to us is how we do in each and every game that we have to play. We have four games left to play, and if we can be successful in those games, maybe there's a chance we will play in the SEC Championship Game as well.

Ole Miss already learned this lesson after losses to Auburn and LSU. Despite having the No. 1 defense in the country, the squad will have a tough time playing its way back into the playoff.

Meanwhile, Mississippi State and Auburn still have difficult schedules ahead, including a road battle at Alabama for each team. The Bulldogs also have to travel to Ole Miss in the Egg Bowl, while the Tigers have to face Georgia on the road plus play a home game against Texas A&M.

As good as each of these teams have been to start the year, it will be difficult to win out, and any loss could result in elimination from contention.

On the other hand, the biggest mark against Alabama has been a lack of quality wins, as Dan Wolken of USA Today argues:

However, this will not be a problem with upcoming home games against the No. 1 and No. 3 teams in the nation. The only road game remaining is Saturday against LSU, which Alabama goes into as a 6.5-point favorite, according to Odds Shark.

With the No. 2 scoring defense in the country and a quarterback in Blake Sims who has seven touchdowns and no interceptions in the last three weeks, the Crimson Tide have what it takes to win the SEC title.

As the rest of the SEC teams suffer losses, it will be difficult to put them over the rest of the field.

Florida State should earn its spot as long as it remains undefeated. This should not be hard with a relatively easy schedule going forward. Andrew Siciliano of NFL Network summed up the last win perfectly as the Seminoles came back from down 21-0 to win:

Although Florida State might not be as good as it was last year, all it needs to do is avoid losses and it will be in the playoff.

Oregon should be able to join these teams after getting over its biggest mental hump in Stanford. The Ducks lost the last two years to the Cardinal, but Marcus Mariota was fantastic yet again to get his team to 8-1.

Games at Utah and Oregon State, along with a potential Pac-12 Championship Game, could represent a challenge, but Oregon is the most talented team in the conference and should be able to come through with a win.

TCU might be the most surprising one on the list, but the Big 12 squad has been outstanding this year with the No. 2 scoring offense in the country at 48 points per game.

The Horned Frogs already have wins over three ranked teams this year and almost earned a fourth in Baylor until it blew a 21-point lead in the fourth quarter. Despite a tough schedule, they still have a good chance to keep winning, according to ESPN:

It will not be easy beating Kansas State, but the team could be home free if it earns a win. The resume at the end of the year should be enough to earn a spot in the playoffs.

 

Follow Rob Goldberg on Twitter for the latest breaking news and analysis.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

The 5 Most Telling Stats for the Georgia Bulldogs This Season

It only takes one game for a team to go from national title favorite to not winning the division. That is the case for the Georgia Bulldogs. The loss to Florida puts them in a spot where they need to win the final two SEC games and need Missouri to lose one of its last three SEC games.

The loss to Florida was a disappointing one to say the least. But in a weird way, it’s also not surprising given way the season has panned out for the Bulldogs.

Don’t know what I’m talking about? Well, the five most telling stats for the Bulldogs this season will explain why the Bulldogs lost to Florida and why they are 6-2 on the year.

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Pac-12 Football: Ranking the Top 10 Performances of the Last Month

It's hard to believe that the Pac-12 football season is two-thirds complete, but what a thrilling journey it has been with spectacular individual performances each and every weekend.

In the last month, we've seen Arizona score one of the most impressive wins in the country, UCLA fall and then begin to rise again, Oregon start to look like the team Chip Kelly coached from 2009-12 and schools like Utah, Arizona and Arizona State stake their claim to become king of the South Division.

Included among the drama was a number of noteworthy efforts by prominent players, as well as several by those unaccustomed to the limelight.

Those who compiled the most impressive stats and who managed to bring it all during key games or critical stretches of contests will make the list.

Here are the top 10 performances from the Pac-12 in the last month.

 

All stats via CFBStats.com. The last month is from Oct. 2-Nov. 1.

Just missed the cut: QB Brett Hundley vs. Arizona, KR Trevor Davis vs. WSU

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Pac-12 Football: Ranking the Top 10 Performances of the Last Month

It's hard to believe that the Pac-12 football season is two-thirds complete, but what a thrilling journey it has been with spectacular individual performances each and every weekend...

Begin Slideshow

College Football: Week 10 Recap, Game Attended and Pick Results

Week 10 of the college football season saw two dramatic endings for teams contending for a national championship, as well as intense Pac-12 contests and a huge upset coming out of the SEC.

No. 3 Auburn and No. 4 Ole Miss went back and forth the entire game, and the outcome wasn’t decided until late. The Rebels took a 31-28 lead early in the fourth quarter on a Bo Wallace three-yard touchdown run, but the Tigers answered about four minutes later on a Cameron Artis-Payne six-yard rushing touchdown to get back on top 35-31.  

The game-changing play of the week occurred with 1:30 remaining in the game, when Wallace completed a pass to potent wide receiver Laquon Treadwell for what appeared to be a go-ahead 19-yard touchdown, but Treadwell was tackled from behind and fumbled at the goal line.

The play resulted in Treadwell breaking his leg, as well as dislocating his ankle, and Auburn linebacker Cassanova McKinzy recovering the ball in the end zone to help the Tigers seal a critical SEC West division contest.

While there was a lot of hype for the game in Oxford, there was a Big 12 showdown in Morgantown that went down to the final play. No. 7 TCU got all it could handle against a No. 20 West Virginia squad looking to keep itself in the Big 12 title picture.

The Horned Frogs trailed most of the game, despite converting five turnovers. Trailing 30-28 with 2:07 remaining in regulation, quarterback Trevone Boykin took the offense down the field and was able to get in field-goal position for a game-winning kick. Placekicker Jaden Oberkrom nailed a 37-yard field goal as time expired and helped the Horned Frogs escape with a 31-30 victory.

The Pac-12 South division had important matchups that took place Saturday night. Twelfth-ranked Arizona went into the Rose Bowl in hopes of ending a two-game losing streak to 22nd-ranked UCLA and knocking it out of the division race. The Bruins had other plans, though, as they shut down an Arizona offense averaging 40.6 points per game and won in a defensive struggle, 17-7.

It took overtime for a winner to be decided between No. 17 Utah and No. 14 Arizona State. Sun Devil placekicker Zane Gonzalez converted 4-of-5 field goals and kicked a game-winning 36-yard field goal to defeat the Utes 19-16. It was Arizona State’s 11th consecutive win over Utah.

The biggest upset of the week was easily a struggling Florida team defeating hated rival No. 11 Georgia 38-20 in Jacksonville. The Gator offense ran all over the Bulldog defense by racking up an impressive 418 rushing yards. Will Muschamp’s Gators are now in good shape to be bowl eligible for the first time since 2012.

 

Game Attended

Stanford 16 at No. 5 Oregon 45

Marcus Mariota and the fifth-ranked Ducks appeared to be in no mood to drop a third straight meeting to a Stanford team that had ruined their national title and conference title hopes the past two years.

Oregon scored on its first four offensive possessions and helped give itself a solid 24-13 lead at the half. Mariota threw a six-yard touchdown pass to freshman speedster Charles Nelson and ran in a 22-yard score, while running back Thomas Tyner fought his way into the end zone on a one-yard run.

Stanford was able to stay in striking distance with a Jordan Williamson 25-yard field goal to make it 24-16 late in the third quarter, but a potent Duck offense appeared to be too much for a Stanford defense that ranked among the best in the country heading in.

Oregon scored 21 unanswered points and was hitting on all cylinders. Mariota, who continues to prove he is worthy of a Heisman Trophy, was 19-of-30 for 258 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed for 85 yards and two touchdowns as well. Tyner had an impressive outing by recording 63 yards and two touchdowns, while freshman Royce Freeman accounted for 98 yards and 52 receiving yards.

The Cardinal surrendered more than 40 points for the first time since 2012 and will have its first four-loss season under fourth-year head coach David Shaw.

Oregon is in the driver’s seat to win its first Pac-12 North division title in three years and will continue its quest of advancing to the College Football Playoff with a tough road contest at Utah this Saturday.

Pick Results

Overall Record: 33-17

Week 10 Record: 5-0

Note: Team in bold indicates author’s pick


Prediction: TCU 48, West Virginia 38

Result: TCU 31, West Virginia 30

 

Prediction: Auburn 31, Ole Miss 24

Result: Auburn 35, Ole Miss 31

 

Prediction: Oregon 41, Stanford 28

Result: Oregon 45, Stanford 16

 

Prediction: UCLA 35, Arizona 30

Result: UCLA 17, Arizona 7

 

Prediction: Arizona State 38, Utah 30

Result: Arizona State 19, Utah 16 (OT)

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Bowl Projections 2014: Predicting Biggest Postseason Matchups Going into Week 11

Is the bowl discussion starting already? Where did the college football season go?

Every year, college football fans have debated which schools most deserve a shot at the national championship. And rather than stifling the discussion, the implementation of the four-team College Football Playoff has only opened the door for more teams, thus bringing more fans into the fold.

With the new playoff, bowl bids are a bit different. For those unaware of the how the system works, ESPN.com's Brett McMurphy penned a handy breakdown back in May.

Obviously, the Big Ten and Pac-12 champions won't be playing in the Rose Bowl, just as the SEC and Big 12 champions won't battle in the Sugar Bowl.

This year, the Orange Bowl is the only one of the six New Year's Day bowls to have any sort of conference tie-in. The selection committee is responsible for figuring out the remaining bowl games, which creates a ton of possibilities. As McMurphy wrote, "Bowls can no longer skip teams in the rankings to pick a lower-ranked team that travels better."

 

Sugar Bowl (No. 1 Seed vs. No. 4 Seed)

Mississippi State Bulldogs vs. Oregon Ducks

Having stumped for TCU over the last few weeks, I'm coming around on the Oregon Ducks. The totality of their 45-16 win over Stanford has them jumping ahead of the Horned Frogs. The Cardinal offense might be a complete disaster, but dropping 45 points on their defense can't be ignored.

As long as Oregon runs the table—which it should do, based on Saturday's victory—it will have the fourth seed in the playoff at the very least.

The Ducks have a nearly 41 percent chance of winning out, per ESPN College Football:

One could argue that Florida State deserves the top spot right now, but if Mississippi State goes unbeaten, it will firmly jump ahead of the Seminoles. The Bulldogs still have to play Alabama, Ole Miss and potentially the SEC East champion.

If they can do all of that, they'll be the unquestioned No. 1 team in the country.

 

Rose Bowl (No. 2 Seed vs. No. 3 Seed)

Florida State Seminoles vs. Auburn Tigers

The closest thing to a lock in the playoff is Florida State.

Head coach Jimbo Fisher discussed how winning a national title last year has only enlarged the bull's-eye on FSU's back, per ESPN.com's Andrea Adelson:

Last year, the championship game, that was a big turning point. We’re a different team because people look at us differently. Last year, we were the team that was trying to climb, so sometimes they know you’re a good team, but when you’ve won a championship and you’re winning the way we’re winning now, people are going to give you their A-game. They’re going to come prepared, and our kids are learning to do that and learning to persevere in those situations.

The 'Noles could trip up against Florida at the end of the regular season or against Duke in the ACC championship, but all signs point to them finishing in the top four.

While Florida State is a veritable guarantee, the fourth and final spot remains a massive unknown. Some would argue that one conference shouldn't send two teams to the playoff, because it defeats the idea of deciding things on the field.

However, should Auburn wind up with one loss and lose the SEC West, the Tigers would warrant inclusion. While they wouldn't have won their conference, they would have run a tougher gauntlet than either TCU/Kansas State or Ohio State/Michigan State.

Auburn's biggest remaining hurdles are Ole Miss and Alabama. The Rebels will be weaker after Laquon Treadwell's injury, so the Tigers' fate will likely hinge on the Iron Bowl, and after last year's incredible finish, nothing is sacred in that rivalry.

 

Cotton Bowl

TCU Horned Frogs vs. Michigan State Spartans

This would be a nice matchup of two one-loss teams spurned by the selection committee and thus motivated to make a statement following their respective slights. TCU and Michigan State are also two aesthetically different teams, which would lead to a nice clash of styles on the field.

The Horned Frogs and the Spartans are right on the fringe and stand to benefit the most in the event the SEC sends only one team to the playoff.

As alluded to earlier, a one-loss Auburn team would have a stronger resume than either Big Ten champion Michigan State or Big 12 champion TCU.

It may not send a good message to send two teams from the same division into the playoff, but if the playoff is truly for the four best teams in the country, the Tigers would deserve to be there.

 

Orange Bowl

Clemson Tigers vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Barring an unforeseen catastrophe, the Orange Bowl will be selecting the second-best team in the ACC. Right now, that would be the Duke Blue Devils, but by the time all is said and done, it will likely be the Clemson Tigers.

Clemson's toughest remaining game is against South Carolina, which looks easier and easier with each passing week and won't affect the Tigers' standing in the ACC. One-half of the Orange Bowl looks set.

The other spot is reserved for the Big Ten/Notre Dame/SEC. If the SEC sends two teams to the playoff, then Notre Dame will be the strongest bet for the Orange Bowl.

The Fighting Irish's schedule looked daunting before the season but has gotten weaker as the season has unfolded. They're unlikely to make a strong enough case for the playoff even if they go 11-1 during the regular season.

 

Fiesta Bowl

Ohio State Buckeyes vs. Arizona State Sun Devils

Holy Joe Germaine and Jake Plummer!

Ohio State and Arizona State have met exactly twice, with the last meeting coming in the 1997 Rose Bowl. Plummer put the Sun Devils ahead 17-14 with an 11-yard touchdown run with one minute, 40 seconds left in the game. Then, Germaine led the Buckeyes down the field and found David Boston in the end zone for the winning touchdown 20 seconds from the final whistle.

It's not like these two schools have any sort of heated rivalry, but that '97 Rose Bowl would add a nice backdrop for a potential New Year's Day meeting between the two teams.

It would also be an opportunity for Ohio State and Arizona State to test themselves outside of the conference. The Buckeyes' biggest nonconference game of the season was an upset at the hands of Virginia Tech, while the same fate could befall the Sun Devils when they take on Notre Dame.

The winner could use the Fiesta Bowl as a springboard going into 2015.

 

Peach Bowl

Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Marshall Thundering Herd

It will be interesting to see who gets paired with the highest mid-major champion. The selection committee can't stick two lesser-regarded schools together; that could be a ratings disaster. However, the committee also doesn't want to make the matchup too one-sided, or fans will turn the channel after one or two quarters.

On paper, Alabama and Marshall aren't really close.

The Crimson Tide are one of the most talented teams in the country, while the Thundering Herd haven't proved themselves against any opponent of note. Their strength of schedule is a major albatross around their neck:

But it would be nice to see Rakeem Cato tested against the Tide defense. He's one of the best quarterbacks in the country, and he'd have a chance to display his talent to a national audience.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Rankings 2014: Power Ranking All 128 Teams for Week 11

The first week of November served as the perfect start to college football's stretch run, with major games affecting the rankings from top to bottom. Teams were knocked out of playoff consideration, while others found their way into the discussion for division and conference titles and plenty more kept their hopes of a bowl bid alive.

As a result, the Bleacher Report power rankings again are completely different from a week ago.

The rankings are comprised of an average of five ratings: The Associated Press media and Amway Coaches polls, Bleacher Report's Top 25, ratings guru Jeff Sagarin's computer ratings and my personal ranking.

Take a look at how the 128 FBS teams are ranked heading into Week 11 and then give us your take in the comments section.

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Oregon Ducks vs. Utah Utes Complete Game Preview

After finally taking care of their “Stanford Problem,” the No. 5-ranked Oregon Ducks (8-1, 5-1) have cleared a lane to the inaugural College Football Playoff.

However, the No. 20-ranked Utah Utes (6-2, 3-2) will attempt to play spoiler and are the Ducks’ last true regular-season roadblock.

While the Ducks still have regular-season games against Colorado and Oregon State, the Utes will really challenge the Ducks and have one of the best home-field advantages in the entire Pac-12, if not the country.

Coming off of a huge win over Stanford, Oregon may be looking past a team that definitely has a chance to pull off the upset.

Utah features a stout defense, amazing special teams and one of the best running backs in the country in junior Devontae Booker.

Throw in the elevation of Utah’s home field—Rice-Eccles Stadium sits 4,657 feet above sea level—and you understand why the Ducks should be on high alert.

This isn’t the Utah of a couple years ago that couldn’t compete in the Pac-12. These Utes came to play this season and will be looking to right the ship after an overtime loss at Arizona State last weekend.

Meanwhile, the Ducks know they only have three more regular-season opportunities to make their case for a playoff spot.

A solid win over Utah in Salt Lake City would be of value to their resume. They also know a loss on Nov. 8 would spoil their postseason aspirations. 

Here's what you need to know:

Date: Saturday, Nov. 8

Time: 7 p.m. PT/10 p.m. ET

Place: Rice-Eccles Stadium (Salt Lake City, Utah)

TV: ESPN

Spread: Oregon -9.5, according to Odds Shark

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Oregon Ducks vs. Utah Utes Complete Game Preview

After finally taking care of their “Stanford Problem,” the No. 5-ranked Oregon Ducks (8-1, 5-1) have cleared a lane to the inaugural College Football Playoff. However, the No...

Begin Slideshow

Virginia Tech Football: 5 Things the Hokies Must Improve During the Bye Week

At 4-5 on the year, the Virginia Tech Hokies' season is all but over. Sure, the Hokies could still win two of their next three games and go to a bowl for the 22nd consecutive season—second only to Florida State's current 35 in a row—but it's difficult to see Tech beating anyone right now. 

After the bye, the Hokies head to Duke, the defending Coastal Division champion that's currently atop the division again. Winning at Duke will be difficult, but Virginia Tech has shown an ability to win on the road this season.

After Duke, Tech heads to Wake Forest in one of the more winnable games on the schedule. Isn't that what everyone thought about East Carolina and/or Boston College?

It's the season finale that Hokie fans should be concerned about. The Hokies wrap up the season at home against archrival Virginia. Tech, of course, has dominated this rivalry for the last 20 years. UVA isn't great this season, but it does have a solid defense, and VT has struggled tremendously on offense.

The late bye week couldn't have come at a better time for the struggling Hokies. Here are five things Virginia Tech must improve in its bye week in order to go bowling for a 22nd consecutive season. 

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Nebraska Football: Huskers Must Find Right Balance for De'Mornay Pierson-El

De'Mornay Pierson-El seems like he can do just about anything. Return punts? You got it. Make big plays at wide receiver? Absolutely. Step in at quarterback? Not a problem.

The true freshman has shined in all the roles he's been given by the Nebraska coaching staff in 2014. So much so that senior wide receiver Kenny Bell couldn't help but praise Pierson-El.

“He’s going to be a great player here. There’s no question in my mind,” Bell said, per the Omaha World-Herald. “He’s got the work ethic. He’s more than intelligent enough. He works his tail off. He blocks, he catches, he does all the right stuff.”

Coordinating all the hats he wears is now crucial for Pierson-El going forward. In order to stay healthy, he must find the right balance at Nebraska.

Early in the season, returning punts was Pierson-El's bread and butter. It still arguably is, simply looking at the numbers. According to CFBStats.com, Pierson-El leads the Big Ten in total punt return yards, return attempts, touchdowns and yards per game.

 

And to be fair, punt returns still are his break and butter. After all, he has 441 yards and two touchdowns on 29 punt returns alone so far this season. Those two touchdowns were big ones, too. He had an 86-yard punt return for a touchdown against Fresno State. The other was a 62-yard touchdown run against Michigan State.

"With De'Mornay, when you get him started he's pretty hard to tackle," Pelini said about his punt returning after Purdue.

As a wide receiver, Pierson-El has 124 yards and two touchdowns on nine receptions. As he's grown in that role, he's gotten the ball more and more. Against Northwestern and Purdue, for instance, Pierson-El had six receptions combined, as he's being utilized as a wide receiver more in the second half of the season than he was in the first.

Pierson-El has even had the opportunity to play the role of quarterback this season. Against Northwestern, he came around on a reverse and took a pitch from I-back Ameer Abdullah. He then threw a 16-yard pass to quarterback Tommy Armstrong for a touchdown. 

Standing on the sidelines after the win over Purdue, there was a general consensus from those left in Memorial Stadium that there has to be a balance for Pierson-El. And there has to be if, as Pelini strongly hinted at following the win over the Boilermakers, Pierson-El is utilized more going forward.

He was in the game a lot. It just depends on where reads take the quarterback. There are other ways we can get him the football. We used the speed sweep to get him the ball, get him the ball on special teams and he caught a touchdown pass. So there's not many more ways we can get him on the field. He's still a young player and there's only so much he can handle, too.

That's the key. Pierson-El can handle only so much, so while it's possible he feels he can take on so much more, it's Pelini's job to protect him by not putting too much on the player's plate. 

Nebraska has found a playmaker in Pierson-El. Ensuring he isn't overextended will have to be the focus of Pelini and offensive coordinator Tim Beck. As a true freshman, Pierson-El has a bright future at Nebraska.

After all, he's a player that seems capable of handling everything. As long as he finds the right balance, that is.

 

All quotes were obtained firsthand, unless otherwise noted.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Is This the End for Steve Spurrier?

Nobody wants to see Steve Spurrier look like this. Well, maybe some people do, actually, people who have wanted to wipe that smirk off his face for years.    

But really, college football is better off with that smirk. Most people have seen what Spurrier has meant to the college game, if not to the NFL. He has been fun, shown passion and vitality. That's him, and it's also his football teams. Permanent youth.

On Saturday, Spurrier looked old. Tired. Resigned.

Finished?

South Carolina lost in overtime at home to Tennessee, and Spurrier's postgame press conference was a monologue that lasted 54 seconds. Not one quirk or quip. And then? He walked off. It ended this way:

"So, I don't really—I don't need to take any questions. You guys watched it and I need to just get out of here. Thank you."

Spurrier needs to just get out of here.

It might be time for Steve Spurrier to go. And if you're fluent in reading body language, you could see that he's thinking the same thing.

That press conference was hard to take. It's like when you see a champion athlete who has stayed around too long. Jack Nicklaus used to be openly scared that that would happen to him and would say he'd never want to be a ceremonial golfer.

Some of the media who have covered Spurrier are ripping him for that press conference. Bleacher Report colleague Barrett Sallee called Spurrier a coward. CBS Sports' Jon Solomon said he wasn't standing up for his team, allowing "everyone else in South Carolina's program to face the heat." The State reporter Josh Kendall made the same point via tweets.

It's all way overboard. Moreso, that's just about reporters who are used to a party when Spurrier is around. This time, like in the movie Vacation, they got to Wallyworld and found that "Sorry folks," park's closed.

Spurrier is entitled to one blow-off press conference every few decades. This isn't about manners or backbone. It's about Spurrier's psyche and will. Effectiveness, too. It's about whether he's going to want to start going through another rebuilding next year, when he turns 70.

Spurrier has fought for years not to be old. He works out and hasn't been one of those obsessive coaches who spends every second on the job, thinking of every detail of the game as a matter of national importance. Unlike so many college coaches, he relaxes. He pokes at other coaches to get into their heads, and also just to have fun.

Earlier this year, he talked to the State about Nick Saban:

"How may SECs has he won there (at Alabama) in eight years? He's won two. He's won three nationals, but he's only won two SECs in eight years. Now, if you had the No. 1 recruiting class every year and so forth, I don't know if he has maxed out potentially as well as he could."

That's not exactly calling Florida State "Free Shoes University" or saying that when a fire at Auburn accidentally burned books, the shame was that some of them hadn't been colored yet. But by now, after years of this show, the media laugh a little too hard at every Spurrier comment. They see him now and think of him a long time ago. He does not look anywhere near his age.

So maybe that's why people didn't expect this season to be such a flop. The expectations were high because people aren't seeing today's Spurrier. The narrative at the beginning of the year was that Spurrier had one last mountain to climb, and that he was up for it. He was still his same old self, only don't say "old."

This is his 10th year at South Carolina, and he has never won an SEC title there or even gotten the team to a BCS bowl game. He has been wanting that SEC title forever, to go with the six he won at Florida. South Carolina was considered a contender, even with an outside shot at getting into the College Football Playoff.

And that was never reasonable, not after losing the first pick in the NFL draft, Jadeveon Clowney, and quarterback Connor Shaw.

I think Spurrier charmed the media and fans into those expectations. Even earlier this season he openly said, roughly, that he didn't think the team was all that great, but its ranking was nice anyway.

Age is tricky. If Spurrier is burning out, it isn't likely so much about age as about just how long he has done this. Bill Snyder looked old when Kansas State hired him 25 years ago. Now, after a historically amazing building job, followed by a short retirement, he is 75 and in the national championship picture.

Spurrier looked close to being done five years ago, when South Carolina finished the season on a losing streak and then lost to Connecticut in the Papa John's Bowl. He apologized afterward, and talk about his inevitable retirement was started.

In the past three years, though, South Carolina has finished ranked in the top 10. It still needed to reach that one last mountaintop, the SEC title, and this looked to possibly be the year.

"Hopefully I've got several more years here, but you never know," Spurrier told USA Today during the offseason. "You never know. Got four more years on my contract, so that's good I guess. But if we go bad, they don't need me around here. We're planning on staying pretty good."

South Carolina is one of the worst teams in the SEC, at 2-5 in the league, 4-5 overall. His offense isn't his trademark fun 'n' gun anymore. His defense is a mess.

And he does not look like someone willing to start all over again.

"Just not good enough," he said in his postgame talk. "Not good enough to hold the lead. Not coached well enough overall as a team. I've done a lousy job of maximizing what we think we've got here. We can score a few points, but we find a way to lose.

"Yes, this is a tough one. It'll take a while to get this one out of your system. But we've had about three or four like this, this year, so I guess I should be getting used to it by now."

He has won too big, and had too much fun to ever get used to this. It would just be nice to see someone wipe that smirk back onto his face.

 

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

Super 16 Poll Week 11: Complete Rankings Released for 2014 Season

Every week in college football, dreams are broken. When only four teams can reach the College Football Playoff, well, a single play can end a season. 

But what if that wasn't the case? What if 16 teams had the chance to get in?

Those are the questions the voters for the Super 16 Poll ask each week, as they base their rankings on a theoretical 16-team playoff system. It's a bit of fun and, more importantly, it offers a new slant on every college football fan's favorite pastime: debate. 

Let's take a look at how their poll shaped up this week along with Bleacher Report's official Top 25.

 

Rankings

  

Analysis

In a 16-team playoff system, teams like Ole Miss, Georgia and Arizona would have a great chance of either keeping themselves in the postseason or fighting their way back into the top 16. In the current four-team postseason, however, each team is likely done and dusted. 

In a sense, that's both the greatest strength and weakness of the current format. With so few teams having a shot at a national championship, every week is essentially a playoff game. That was the prevailing strength of the BCS system, and it has carried over to the four-team playoff system. In fact, it might be even more pronounced. 

The weakness, of course, is that Ole Miss can see its hopes for the season dashed in two weeks, an away loss to a tough LSU team and a home loss to Auburn on a brutal play where the Rebels thought they had scored a touchdown but instead saw it ruled a fumble and a touchback for Auburn.

Add in a season-ending broken leg to receiver Laquon Treadwell on the day, per The Associated Press, via NCAA.com, and you have one of the most devastating moments in the history of Ole Miss football. Maybe the most devastating moment.

And the end of their postseason hopes it would seem, too.

After the incident, Treadwell posted the following picture on Instagram:

The caption reads:

Not everything in life is set out to be easy, & not every plan we have for ourselves work out in our favor. Even the greatest & most powerful people we praise or look up to have huge downfalls, but it takes a strong person & an even stronger mindset to prepare for that major come back. It didn't kill me, so watch as I become stronger. Thanks for the prayers everyone, God bless.

One imagines Ole Miss will try to embrace that perspective as well.

Of course, the other flaw of the four-team system is that, well, we only get to see four teams go at it in the postseason, leaving us with trivial—and admittedly compelling and addictive—debates over whether Alabama or Oregon should be No. 4. Or TCU. Or Michigan State. Or Notre Dame. Or...

Sure, it's fun to point out that Alabama lacks a signature win, or to question Oregon's defense, or to wonder whether Notre Dame can finish with a strong enough strength of schedule to crack the top four if it wins out (the Irish will be hanging their hats on wins over Stanford, Arizona State, Louisville and USC if they win out, a resume that appears as though it won't stack up to any SEC West school, for example).

But what if they just all played one another? Wouldn't that be even more fun?

Well, we can dream, right? Until then, we debate. That's the beauty of college football—either way, we're all having a blast. 

 

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WSU's Connor Halliday Sends out Heartbreaking Tweet After Breaking Leg

Washington State quarterback Connor Halliday has dedicated his entire life to making it to the NFL, but the fifth-year senior's hopes of being selected in the 2015 NFL draft took a serious blow this past weekend.

Halliday broke his leg in the first quarter of Saturday's game against USC, which not only ended his season but also his career at Washington State.

In 2014, Halliday was leading the nation in passing yards (3,873) and passing touchdowns (32). He finished his career with 11,308 yards, 90 touchdowns and 50 interceptions.

The 6'4", 201-pound signal-caller has put together plenty of film for NFL scouts to dissect, but he knows that he may not be able to recover in time to work out for teams in person before the draft arrives.

Check out this heartbreaking tweet that Halliday sent out on Sunday:

It's tough not to feel for a player who has worked so hard to get an opportunity to realize his dream only for something to go horribly wrong at the last minute.

Halliday has a long road ahead of him, but hopefully some NFL franchise will give him a chance to show what he's capable of once he recovers from this devastating injury.

[NCAA, Twitter; h/t NFL.com]

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Clemson Tigers vs. Wake Forest Demon Deacons Complete Game Preview

The Clemson Tigers and Wake Forest Demon Deacons will face off Thursday night under the lights in a nationally televised game on ESPN. That unfortunately means three hours of Jesse Palmer, but there’s some good in it too for Tigers fans.

The game will be a chance for the Tigers to show off their stingy defense to the rest of the country. After Saturday’s slate of games, the Tigers now rank No. 2 nationally in total defense.

Whether or not quarterback Deshaun Watson plays in this game will also be something to watch, as we have seen much better offensive production with him in the game.

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Maryland Fined $10K, Stefon Diggs Suspended 1 Game by Big Ten

Unorthodox pregame tactics by Maryland's football captains have resulted in the Terrapins being fined $10,000 by the Big Ten and a one-game suspension for star receiver Stefon Diggs.    

Brett McMurphy of ESPN reported the news Monday:

Diggs leads Maryland with 654 yards and five touchdowns receiving this season. He is one of the three captains who refused to shake hands with Penn State during Saturday's opening coin toss.

The Terrapins, who also got into a skirmish with the Nittany Lions before kickoff, went on to win the game 20-19, but the unsportsmanlike conduct penalty they drew after the coin toss came back to haunt them.

The following excerpts from the Big Ten's official release on the matter provides further insight into the reasoning behind the conference's actions:

The Big Ten determined that [coach Randy] Edsall failed to control his team prior to the game when Maryland players initiated a confrontation with Penn State players. The officials did a good job of containing the situation once it started, and fortunately the incident did not escalate any further. In addition to Edsall's public reprimand, the conference announced that the institution has been fined $10,000 as a result of the violation.

[...] Big Ten Conference Agreement 10.01 states in part that 'The Big Ten Conference expects all contests involving a member institution to be conducted without compromise to any fundamental element of sportsmanship. Such fundamental elements include integrity of the competition, civility toward all, and respect, particularly toward opponents and officials.'

Matt Zenitz of the Baltimore Sun Media Groups documented what Maryland head coach Randy Edsall had to say about Monday's disciplinary action:

Diggs also weighed in on his temporary banishment ahead of the Terrapins' Nov. 15 matchup with the mighty Michigan State Spartans:

The showdown with Sparty represents a great opportunity for Maryland to make an impression in the Big Ten. Unfortunately, the actions the Terrapins took in the Penn State game will somewhat overshadow and scar that ongoing effort.

The task of pulling off a monumental upset will become all the more mountainous, too, without a playmaker like Diggs in the lineup.

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Where LSU and Miami Turn After 4-Star QB Torrance Gibson Commits to Ohio State

The whirlwind recruitment of Florida quarterback Torrance Gibson reached its climax Monday afternoon when the American Heritage High School star committed to Ohio State. The Buckeyes add a dynamic athlete who commanded attention from a vast collection of collegiate programs:

The twists and turns of Gibson's decision-making process gave some fanbases hope while frustrating others. He initially seemed torn between Tennessee and Auburn, but neither team looked like a legitimate contender during the final stretch toward an announcement. 

Gibson, who helped lead American Heritage to a state title in 2013, has drawn interest at both quarterback and wide receiver but never wanted to abandon his high school position. 

"Ohio State is my clear leader," Gibson told Bleacher Report's Kynon Codrington earlier this season. "I like the offense they run, I really like everything. I know it's cold, but it's cold in the NFL, too. The most important thing is they want me at quarterback, not athlete."

Among a long list of teams left on the outside looking in, Miami and LSU were viewed as viable destinations during portions of the process. Both squads currently start true freshman quarterbacks but pursued Gibson, who is still three months away from signing his national letter of intent to Ohio State.

Miami, now 28-18 in four seasons under the direction of head coach Al Golden, has to be predominately pleased with the performance of first-year quarterback Brad Kaaya. The California product has quickly made an impact since signing with the Hurricanes as a 4-star recruit. 

Kaaya is completing 62 percent of his pass attempts for 20 touchdowns and nine interceptions this season. His evolution indicates the Hurricanes have found a long-term answer at the position. 

However, there's always a forward focus in college recruiting departments. Miami holds a pledge from 4-star Tampa quarterback Dwayne Lawson and already landed Jack Allison, a top-10 passer in the 2016 class.

In short, although Miami missed out on a top-tier athlete with compelling potential at quarterback, Golden and his staff have managed to assemble an impressive stockpile of young prospects. 

LSU is in a similar situation.

Brandon Harris has been hot and cold during his first campaign in Baton Rouge. Head coach Les Miles remains hesitant to give him a long leash, limiting the freshman to 45 pass attempts as Anthony Jennings receives the bulk of snaps.

It remains to be seen if either Harris or Jennings is a solution at LSU. Gibson would've provided an intriguing addition to the equation, flashing arm strength that fits offensive coordinator Cam Cameron's vertical attack.

The Tigers already have 3-star Texas quarterback Justin McMillan in the fold but could be tempted to search elsewhere for a second option. LSU has been patient in extending scholarship offers to 2015 passers, so the plan of action could simply be to move on and wait for a possible change of heart from Gibson.

LSU could be the most likely landing spot if he opts to alter course.

Another reason why Tigers fans shouldn't be too concerned is the presence of Feleipe Franks, rated No. 1 nationally among 2016 dual-threat quarterbacks in 247Sports' composite rankings. He committed to LSU in June and could eventually be joined in the class by 5-star pro-style passer Shea Patterson, a Louisiana standout who has an older brother on the Tigers coaching staff.

Gibson undoubtedly rates among the rarest athletes of this recruiting cycle, but LSU and Miami seem to have enough pieces in place to confidently move forward after missing out on his commitment.

 

Recruit ratings courtesy of 247Sports.

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Florida State vs. Virginia Complete Game Preview

The wins have often come by the skin of its teeth, but the Florida State football team keeps piling up victories, now 24 in a row dating back to the 2012 season.

FSU's winning streak has included dominating routs in 2013 but few decisive wins this season. Still, it's a winning streak for the ages, and if FSU hits No. 25 on Saturday night at home against Virginia, it will be one of the top 20 win streaks in college football history.

The Seminoles have had a few extra days' rest following Thursday's nail-biter at Louisville. They needed the time to heal up with injuries taking a toll at linebacker, and quarterback Jameis Winston also played much of the second half with an injured ankle.

Let's take a look at FSU's game on Saturday against Virginia (6:30 p.m. on ESPN).

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Power Ranking Top Playoff Contenders by Their Offenses

Auburn handed Ole Miss its second loss of the season on Saturday, knocking out the last College Football Playoff contender that relied chiefly on its defense to win.

With the Rebels seemingly eliminated from the playoff discussion, its starting to look a lot more likely, if not downright probable, that we get an offensive-centric final four.

But which contender's offense is the best?

To answer that question, this list relied heavily on the S&P+ rankings at Football Outsiders, an opponent-adjusted efficiency metic that weighs myriad factors such as success rate, explosiveness, etc.

But the S&P+ rankings were not adhered to stringently when the eye test or knowledge of injuries came into play. Ultimately, this was a subjective judgement call on which offenses I would prefer. The S&P+ ratings informed but did not dictate that judgement.

Sound off below to let me know where you disagree.

 

Note 1: The 10 teams used for this list were the Top 10 teams from Sam Chi's mock CFP rankings for Bleacher Report

Note 2: All national yardage stats via cfbstats.com

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Which Team Has the Easiest Path to the College Football Playoff?

Much of the SEC will be decided in the coming weeks with matchups of Top 25 teams battling for a spot in the College Football Playoff. However, there are many teams left that have much easier schedules.

Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Michael Felder and Adam Kramer debate which team has the easiest path left to the CFP.

Which team has the easiest path to the College Football Playoff?

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