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Ultimate Guide to College Football Rivalry Weekend

Rivalry Week is the bittersweet conclusion of the college football regular season as we know it.

It is the last week with what one would call a "full slate of games," which for obvious reasons is terrible. But it annually gives us one of the best, most entertaining weeks of the year.

This year's assortment of rivalry games looks as good as usual, if not better. Starting Thanksgiving night and continuing through Friday and Saturday, the schedule is littered with games that feature massive postseason, division, conference and College Football Playoff implications.

With four spots to vie for instead of two, this year's stretch run is roughly twice as exciting as the years of the BCS era. Don't argue with that. It's science.

Here is everything you need to know about the weekend ahead.

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Insider Buzz: Which Targets Are Top Priority for New 2015 Florida Staff?

With Will Muschamp on the outs in Florida, its time for the next regime to make their impact on the recruiting trail. The incoming coaching staff has their work cut out for them as they attempt to land some of the nation's top talent.  

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder was joined by Bleacher Report National Recruiting Analyst Sanjay Kirpalani as they addressed some of the Gators' key needs.

Which aspect is most important for Florida?

Watch the video and let us know!  

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

UCLA vs. Stanford Complete Game Preview

WHEN: Friday, Nov. 28; 3:30 p.m. ET 

WHERE: The Rose Bowl; Pasadena, California

TV: ABC 

UCLA returned to the Top 10 of the Associated Press Poll for the first time since Week 1 following the Bruins' 38-20 rout of rival USC. 

The Bruins should also climb from its No. 9 spot in the College Football Playoff rankings Tuesday, inching ever closer to contention for a berth in the inaugural tournament. 

A spot in the playoff isn't possible with a Pac-12 title, and a Pac-12 title isn't attainable without a win over Stanford. And, as head coach Jim Mora was quick to point out following last week's win, the Pac-12 championship is his team's ultimate goal.

"If we can win Friday, we will have another shot to win the Pac-12 Championship," Mora said. "I don’t talk about that other stuff." 

He added UCLA's "world's got to end" with Stanford. In other words, this is a big one for the Bruins.  

 

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UCLA vs. Stanford Complete Game Preview

WHEN: Friday, Nov. 28; 3:30 p.m. ET WHERE: The Rose Bowl; Pasadena, California TV: ABC UCLA returned to the Top 10 of the Associated Press Poll for the first time since Week 1 following the Bruins' 38-20 rout of rival USC...

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UNC Football Players Damage Duke Locker Rooms While Celebrating Victory

Thanks to a postgame celebration that devolved into petty vandalism, North Carolina will be shelling out money in the aftermath of its football program's 45-20 victory over Duke on Thursday.

The (Durham) Herald-Sun’s Steve Wiseman reports that UNC players caused thousands of dollars in collateral damage after their willy-nilly spray-painting of the Victory Bell.

According to Wiseman, UNC players wasted no time in tagging their newly won trophy and sprayed paint over multiple pieces of property.

Duke employees reported finding light blue paint in the locker room and the letters "UNC" painted on a door near the facility's entrance.

North Carolina head coach Larry Fedora personally called Duke head coach David Cutcliffe to apologize for his players' actions. UNC athletic director Bubba Cunningham also phoned Duke AD Kevin White to make amends.

On top of their individual apologies, UNC released a joint statement from Fedora and Cunningham expressing their disappointment in the players involved in the vandalism:

We would like to apologize to the Duke Football program and Duke University for some inappropriate actions after last Thursday night's game in Durham. Our players took the celebrations too far when they were painting the bell, resulting in damage to some of the facilities at Duke. We take full responsibility for our players' actions and will be paying for all costs associated with the cleanup. We view this as a rivalry built on mutual respect and we expect our players to behave better in a way that is more befitting of the rivalry. 

While the school has promised to pay for the damages, it does not appear that any players will face repercussions for the incident.

In the scope of the long and bitter Duke-UNC rivalry, spray painting locker rooms is relatively innocuous. Considering managers of the schools' basketball programs threw down in fisticuffs during their annual game this February, a bit of minor vandalism is a drop in the bad blood bucket.

 

Follow Dan on Twitter for more sports and pop culture filigree.

 

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Dark-Horse Teams That Can Crash the College Football Playoff

The College Football Playoff draws closer, and most of the top teams seem to be in good position to remain in the top four spots. However, there are still squads outside of the playoff looking for their ticket into the CFP.

Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Michael Felder, Barrett Sallee and Adam Kramer give their picks for a dark-horse candidate to crash the CFP.

What two-loss team can crash the College Football Playoff?

Watch the video and let us know!

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Watch 5-Star CB Iman Marshall Absolutely Demolish Running Back

Class of 2015 5-star cornerback Iman Marshall (Long Beach Poly High, Long Beach, California) is known for his jaw-dropping hits, but he took it to another level when he met this running back coming at him full steam. 

Was this the biggest hit of the season?

Check out the video and let us know! 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Minnesota Golden Gophers vs. Wisconsin Badgers Complete Game Preview

It's Axe Week, Badgers fans.  The Minnesota Golden Gophers vs. Wisconsin Badgers, on the final day of the regular season, with a trip to the Big Ten Championship Game on the line at Camp Randall Stadium.  If this isn't everything schedule-makers hoped for, I don't know what is.

The Gophers come into this game coming off a miraculous win at Memorial Stadium when Briean Boddy-Calhoun ripped the ball out of the tenuous grasp of De'Mornay Pierson-El just six feet from the end zone to lock up the 28-24 road victory over then-No. 23 Nebraska.

For the Badgers, a combination of Joel Stave, Tanner McEvoy and Melvin Gordon paced the offense while the defense prayed on the sideline they didn't need to come out one more time as the Badgers won their first game decided by seven points or fewer under Gary Andersen in a 26-24 victory over the Iowa Hawkeyes.

The Badgers sit at 6-1 in the Big Ten, one game ahead of the 5-2 Gophers. However, with the first tiebreaker being head-to-head records, this game is for all the marbles and a chance to play Ohio State in the Big Ten title game.

Let's take a look at the keys to success and players to watch for both teams, while also looking at what the coaching staffs and players have to say to go along with a prediction for who will represent the Big Ten West in the Big Ten title game.

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What Will Playoff Committee Need to See from Mississippi State in the Egg Bowl?

Even in the age of the College Football Playoff, the sport is essentially a beauty contest.

Despite being ranked No. 4 last week by the College Football Playoff selection committee, Mississippi State needs to use its Saturday showdown with Ole Miss as the runway. 

If Alabama wins the Iron Bowl with Auburn, it'll be the last chance for the Bulldogs to leave an impression on the committee. Because of that, head coach Dan Mullen's crew needs style points against the Rebels on national television on Saturday afternoon.

As Mississippi State offensive lineman Ben Beckwith notes (via: Bob Carskadon of HailState.com), the Rebels want to play spoiler.

The Bulldogs' spot in the four-team event is tenuous at best, with Baylor, Ohio State and TCU all nipping at their heels. Some or all of those teams could boast conference championships—a stated point of emphasis for the committee—when all is said and done, and Mississippi State's job this week should be to minimize the impact of those conference championships as much as possible.

What specifically does Mississippi State need to show?

 

Game Control

The Bulldogs need "game control." Lots and lots of "game control."

Unfortunately, that term has crept into the national narrative in this new age of the four-team playoff, and with Ole Miss reeling following its 30-0 loss at Arkansas last week, Mississippi State needs to earn a lot of game control points against an Ole Miss team whose flaws have surfaced over the final month of the season.

Ole Miss' loss last week really hurts Mississippi State. Sure, Arkansas looks a little tougher now, but a Top 10 matchup on rivalry weekend would have been the perfect way to go out on a high note.

Instead, the Rebels are beat up with star wide receiver Laquon Treadwell out and quarterback Bo Wallace nursing an ankle injury, and they haven't been able to run all season long even at optimal health. Mississippi State's front seven has to hold the Rebels rushing attack in check and force "Bad Bo" to make an appearance. 

The Bulldogs' resume is more beefy than a team like Baylor's, which only has beaten three teams with records above .500. But Mississippi State doesn't have a top-end win like Baylor's over No. 5 TCU or one as emphatic as the Bears' 48-14 road win at Oklahoma.

A win over Ole Miss wouldn't really change the fact that Baylor has the better signature win, but if the Bulldogs go on the road and emphatically beat a team in the lower half of the Top 25, it would at least bolster the case.

 

A Complete Defense

There are no great teams in college football this year, there are just a bunch of good ones. Mississippi State is in that group, and proving to the committee that it has fixed its flaws late in the season would be a good way to tie a bow on the resume.

What are Mississippi State's problems? Its defense has holes.

Sure, the Bulldogs are giving up just 18.4 points per game (11th in the nation) and boast the best red-zone defense in the country (59.46 percent), but they're giving up 400.7 yards per game and 4.24 yards per play.

Simply put, defensive coordinator Geoff Collins' crew bends but doesn't break very much.

It needs to be as stiff as a board on Saturday.

These are uncharted waters for all of us, and while the committee can set forth specific metrics that are emphasized, Mississippi would be well-served to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that it has become a truly complete football team by holding Ole Miss' offense in check everywhere on the field, not just inside the 20-yard line.

 

Strength vs. Strength

Ole Miss is known for its stifling defense that's giving up just 309.9 yards per game and 179.0 through the air, which will present a tough challenge for Mullen, quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Josh Robinson.

Mississippi State's offense needs to show that it's strong against one of the best, and that means big days from Prescott, Robinson and the loaded group of receivers that includes Jameon Lewis and De'Runnya Wilson.

Prescott thinks that the 51-0 win over Vanderbilt that saw the Bulldogs put up 502 total yards and break the 500-yard mark for the eighth time this season served as a nice tuneup (via: Carskadon):

Prove it. 

Go out there and play the brand of Mississippi State football that earned the No. 1 ranking earlier in the season over defending national champ Florida State, despite the 'Noles not losing a game.

This is a beauty pageant, and there's a runway waiting for Mississippi State in Oxford on Saturday afternoon.

It needs to turn some heads, regardless of where it's ranked going in.

 

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

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Bowl Projections 2014: Latest Playoff Predictions, Odds and More

Make sure to get as much family and friend time in as you can early on this Thanksgiving week, because the race for the College Football Playoff will take center stage on Thursday night, Friday and Saturday. 

Rivalry games and conference championship contests are all that stand in the way of a potential playoff spot for a number of teams, including Alabama, Florida State and Oregon.

With that in mind, here is a look at the latest playoff projections and odds from Statmilk and Odds Shark before my playoff predictions and a deeper look at one of the dark horses that could butt its way into the entire conversation.

 

Statmilk Playoff Projections and Odds

National championship odds are courtesy of Odds Shark, as of Sunday night at 10 p.m. ET.

 

Scott Polacek Playoff Projections

Sugar Bowl: No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Baylor

Rose Bowl: No. 2 Florida State vs. No. 3 Oregon

Championship Bowl (in Arlington, Texas): TBD (semifinal winners)

 

The Dark-Horse Candidate: UCLA

There are four playoff spots available, and if Alabama, Florida State and Oregon win out, they are taking three of them. After all, that would mean the Crimson Tide won the SEC, the Ducks won the Pac-12 and the Seminoles finished as the only undefeated power-five conference team and as ACC champs.

Between the quality wins on Oregon’s and Alabama’s resumes and the zero in the loss column for Florida State, there isn’t much of an argument against those three.

The next tier consists of the one-loss contenders in Ohio State, Mississippi State, Baylor and TCU. They all have an inside track on two-loss UCLA from the Pac-12, but that will only truly matter when the final rankings are released.

Chaos is an inescapable part of college football, especially with a number of rivalry showdowns and conference championship tilts on the immediate horizon.

It is not that difficult to envision a scenario where some combination of an Alabama loss to Auburn, a Baylor loss to Kansas State, a TCU loss to Texas, an Ohio State loss to Wisconsin, a Mississippi State loss to Ole Miss, a Florida State loss to Georgia Tech or, most importantly in this scenario, an Oregon loss to UCLA occurs.

Clearly, this all will not happen, but we could certainly see a few upsets, which would open the door for the red-hot Bruins.

If UCLA was to win out and push its winning streak to seven, that would mean the resume includes wins over Texas, Arizona State, Arizona, USC, Stanford and Oregon in the Pac-12 title game. The selection committee will also grant some favor toward conference champions, which would help UCLA’s cause. 

Chris Dufresne of the Los Angeles Times passed along some interesting numbers from Nate Silver of Five Thirty Eight, as well his own opinion on UCLA’s ultimate chances:

UCLA’s biggest problem is the two in the loss column, although defeats at the hands of Utah and Oregon are nothing to really be ashamed of either. Still, the Bruins survived close calls against Virginia, Memphis, Texas, California and Colorado, which isn’t exactly Murderers' Row.

If TCU gets criticized for a close win against Kansas and Ohio State takes some heat for a narrow victory over Indiana, UCLA deserves to be put under that same microscope for those games as well.

Still, winning is all that matters, and quarterback Brett Hundley discussed where his team stands, via Chris Foster of the Los Angeles Times:

“We went through the expectations and the hype at the beginning of the season, where everyone wanted us to win by 60. We’ve grown. We learned to play football and not worry about the rankings. We sit in a pretty good position, but it doesn’t matter right now.”

A lot is potentially at stake here in this UCLA hypothetical between the value of a conference championship, marquee wins and respectable losses. What’s more, plenty has to happen before the Bruins are serious playoff contenders, including a much-easier-said-than-done upset of Oregon in the conference title game. 

Just be warned, though, that UCLA still has a chance to factor into the playoff discussion by season’s end.

 

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Auburn Football: Tigers Fans' Complete Guide to 2014 Iron Bowl

AUBURN, Ala. — It's Thanksgiving week in the state of Alabama, and that usually means three things: food, family and at least one college football team with national title hopes is about to go up against its biggest rival.

This season, Alabama is once again on the path to a berth on the game's biggest stage—this time, a potential place in the inaugural College Football Playoff. The Crimson Tide have not been as impressive in 2014 as championship-quality teams of years past under Nick Saban, but they are still right where they want to be heading into the final week of the season.

On the other side, Auburn's dreams of repeating as an SEC champion and avenging its national title game loss are gone after a late-season slide. However, Gus Malzahn's uptempo and hungry team that thrived as the underdog throughout the 2013 season is back in a familiar spot in 2014, one in which it will once again try to inflict the killer blow on Alabama's title goals.

To make things even more dramatic, this year's Iron Bowl comes one year after the most exciting and unbelievable finish in the sport's history, Chris Davis' "Kick Six."

Hopes and hatred will reach a boiling point Saturday night—yes, it's a night game this year—in Tuscaloosa as Auburn hopes to turn the college football world on its head one more time:

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Notre Dame Football: What the Irish Should Be Thankful for in 2014

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Thanksgiving is mere days away, and Notre Dame football finds itself stumbling down the homestretch of the season.

Currently riding a three-game losing skid, the Irish are 7-4 after a 6-0 start—a peak that seems so long ago. While the current vibe is one full of negativity surrounding this Irish squad, let’s take a look at what Notre Dame should be thankful for in 2014.

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Ohio State Football: What the Buckeyes Should Be Thankful for in 2014

Thanksgiving is a time for people to reflect on the good things in their lives, and for Ohio State fans, there are a number of reasons to be incredibly grateful. 

Since losing in a shocking 35-21 upset to Virginia Tech in Week 2, Urban Meyer has the Buckeyes playing as well as any team in the country. Ohio State rose to No. 6 in the latest playoff rankings after back-to-back road wins over Michigan State and Minnesota. Last Saturday, a 42-27 victory against Indiana clinched the Big Ten East Division for the Buckeyes, assuring Meyer's squad a spot in the conference title game. 

As Ohio State gets ready to host Michigan for its regular-season finale, here are five things the Buckeyes should be thankful for. 

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AP College Football Poll 2014: Official Top 25 Rankings and Week 14 Projections

The College Football Playoff selection committee may not agree, but the Associated Press poll kept undefeated Florida State at No. 1 overall for yet another week despite another close game against Boston College in Week 13. This ensures that the debate over which team is actually the nation's best will rage on for at least another week.

No matter your stance on that argument, we should all be able to agree on one thing: With a playoff system finally in place this year, we will know which squad is most deserving of a championship when it's all said and done. So, for now, let the parley continue.

Week 14 is set to commence with a whole new series of questions. What adjustments were made within the Top 25? Which teams are favored in the eyes of Vegas oddsmakers? Who could be in for an upset this week? Let's break it down.

Complete CFB standings can be found at ESPN.com.

All odds courtesy of Odds Shark and current as of November 23.

 

Upset Special: Arkansas over No. 17 Missouri

That's right, Arkansas is about to do it again. Three weeks ago, picking the Razorbacks over any SEC team would seem like a completely foolish maneuver. However, after blanking both LSU and Ole Miss in consecutive weeks, Bret Bielema's team is rolling.

Arkansas isn't doing anything special on offense to accumulate wins, and it doesn't have to. In Week 13 against the Rebels, the Razorbacks forced six turnovers, intercepting Bo Wallace twice, Ryan Buchanan once and collecting three lost fumbles. One of those interceptions was returned for a touchdown by Rohan Gaines, and several other turnovers resulted in great field position for the team's offense.

One thing Arkansas has done very well on the offensive side of the ball is establish the run. This team doesn't shy away from physical play, and that was wildly apparent against the Rebels, as Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins combined to rush 43 times for 160 yards and a touchdown.

There isn't a line on this game yet due to the injury sustained in Week 13 by quarterback Brandon Allen, as Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee indicates:

Still, backup Austin Allen did just fine in relief against Ole Miss, completing three of his five passing attempts for 65 yards. Due to a run-heavy offense, he should be just fine if he's forced to start in Week 14.

Missouri is currently riding a five-game winning streak, but the Tigers haven't exactly been blowing opponents out of the water. The team's offense was given a difficult time against Tennessee in Week 13, as quarterback Maty Mauk only connected on 12 of his 25 passing attempts and the team averaged 4.0 yards per carry.

While the Tigers did manage to put up 410 yards of offense, it took 70 plays to do so. They'll have an even tougher time moving the ball against an Arkansas defense that ranks 16th in the nation, allowing an average of just 20.2 points per game.

Prediction: Arkansas 23, Missouri 17

 

Lock of the Week: No. 5 Baylor over Texas Tech

Baylor's quarterback Bryce Petty is set to take a field he's likely to play on in the NFL—AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Expect a big day from the senior signal-caller against Texas Tech's porous, 126th-ranked defense, allowing an average of 40.6 points per game.

Not many teams have been able to slow the Bears down this season. The team holds a 9-1 record entering Week 14 and is still well in the hunt for a spot in the College Football Playoff. Sporting News tweeted what many college football fans want to see:

Baylor enters its contest against the Red Raiders ranked first in the nation, averaging 50.0 points per game. In fact, the team has scored fewer than 45 points in just two contests this season.

The Bears showed how dangerous they can be in Week 13 against Oklahoma State. Petty didn't have a solid game by his standards, completing 18 of his 29 passing attempts for 262 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions, but the team still managed to put up 49 points due to strong rushing performances from Shock Linwood and Devin Chafin, as well as good showings from wide receivers Corey Coleman and Jay Lee.

This team has weapons all over the field, and Texas Tech simply hasn't been able to stop much of anyone this season—especially the high-powered TCU Horned Frogs, who put up a whopping 82 points.

Texas Tech has been able to put up some points this season due to the efforts of quarterback Patrick Mahomes and running back DeAndre Washington. The duo has torched weaker defenses throughout the season. However, they've struggled against stronger units such as Kansas State, TCU and Texas. Expect history to repeat itself against an underrated Baylor defense that ranks 27th in the nation, allowing an average of 21.7 points per game.

Watch for an enormous day from Petty as the Bears light up the scoreboard early and often en route to a blowout victory over Texas Tech.

Prediction: Baylor 56, Texas Tech 21

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Samuel Chi's Mock College Football Playoff Standings: Week 14

With just two weeks left in the regular season, the field of contenders for the four playoff spots is shrinking fast. After Saturday, there are only 16 teams still mathematically alive for their respective conference championships. And of those 16, maybe half of them have a legitimate shot of being part of the inaugural College Football Playoff.

While winning the conference championship is not necessarily a prerequisite of qualifying for the playoff, the committee did list that as a major factor in its selection process. Of all the remaining contenders, maybe just one—Mississippi State—has a shot at making the playoff without winning its conference.

There probably will not be significant changes in the committee's rankings this week other than that No. 8 Ole Miss will be tumbling down after a 30-0 wipeout loss to Arkansas. So we'll take a good look at those final 16 teams and dissect their prospects:

 

Teams with no chance

Wisconsin (Big Ten), Minnesota (Big Ten), Georgia Tech (ACC): The Minnesota-Wisconsin winner as well as Georgia Tech are guaranteed a place in their respective championship games. But they're too far down the standings and have weak resumes with killer losses (Wisconsin to Northwestern, Minnesota to Illinois, Georgia Tech to North Carolina) to have any shot.

 

Teams with slim chance

Kansas State (Big 12), Arizona (Pac-12), Arizona State (Pac-12): These three two-loss teams are hovering around the low 10s, but all have significant obstacles to overcome. K-State can share the Big 12 title if it wins out, but having lost to TCU and with an extra nonconference loss, it's unlikely to leapfrog the Frogs in the rankings. The Territorial Cup winner can only claim the Pac-12 South with a UCLA loss to Stanford, but even if that team beats Oregon in the Pac-12 title game, it needs lots of teams in front of it to suffer unexpected losses to get into the Top Four.

 

Teams need a lot of help

Georgia (SEC), Missouri (SEC): Mizzou wins the SEC East with a victory over resurgent Arkansas; otherwise, the division title goes to Georgia. But besides having to knock off a heavily-favored SEC West winner (Alabama or Mississippi State), both teams already have two losses, including a very bad one each (Georgia to Florida, Mizzou to Indiana). A win by the East winner in the conference title game may very well cost the SEC a spot in the playoff.

 

Teams need some help

Baylor (Big 12), TCU (Big 12), Ohio State (Big Ten), UCLA (Pac-12): All of those teams can win at least a share (in the cases of TCU and Baylor) of their respective conference titles on their own, but they don't control their own fate when it comes to the playoff. Only one of those teams will make it to the Top Four if the top three teams win out. Despite last week's No. 7 ranking, Baylor might have the best shot as it's likely to jump both TCU and Ohio State with a final-game victory over Kansas State to finish 11-1.

 

Team needs Auburn's help

Mississippi State (SEC): An Auburn upset of Alabama in the Iron Bowl puts the Bulldogs back in the SEC title game—if they defeat slumping Ole Miss in the Egg Bowl. Without a division (and conference) title, they probably will end up 11-1 with nowhere (in the playoff) to go. While it's currently ranked No. 4, Miss State is certain to lose ground in the final two weeks of the season to a one-loss champion from another conference since its resume is not good enough to trump that purportedly important consideration.

 

Teams need no help

Alabama (SEC), Oregon (Pac-12), Florida State (ACC): Win out and they're in the playoff, simple as that. Never mind the committee's seeming hostility, the Seminoles will get a chance to defend their title if they beat Florida and Georgia Tech in the next two games.

 

Other Fun Facts

 * Is this the week the committee finally puts a group-of-five team (or two) in the rankings after having snubbed them the past three weeks? There are just 24 power-five teams with three or fewer losses, and Duke is certainly not going to be ranked. That means either Marshall and/or Colorado State will break through or up to a pair of four-loss teams will be ranked.

* Georgia Tech should be a lock for the Orange Bowl if it beats Georgia in the Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate. Other than playoff-bound FSU, there are no other ACC teams with fewer than three losses. Of course, the Jackets are guaranteed an Orange Bowl berth if they upset the 'Noles in the ACC title game.

* Notre Dame and BYU are both 7-4, and neither has a prayer of getting into a New Year's Six bowl. But even if their respective seasons had gone much better, access to the playoff and the best bowls still will be difficult for them under the new regime. With Navy set to join the American next season, we finally could be witnessing the death of independents at the FBS level.

 

Follow on Twitter @ThePlayoffGuru

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football's Most Important Offers of the Week

With most programs gearing up to close out the 2014 season, more coaching staffs across the country are starting to focus their efforts on finishing the 2015 recruiting class.

While a number of 2015 recruits have long been committed to their school of choice, a handful of late bloomers are starting to emerge on the radar of programs from coast to coast.

One such prospect is 3-star corner Colin Samuel

The 6’3”, 186-pounder, who plays at powerhouse Long Beach Poly High School in Mission Hills, California, earned five offers last week from the likes of Michigan, Washington State, UCLA, Oklahoma and Mississippi State.

As Clint Brewster of Wolverine247 notes, Samuel has the size and length that coaches on the college level are vigorously pursuing at the corner position.

JC Shurburtt of 247Sports notes that while Samuel’s stock is on the rise with a number of schools across the nation, it’s the in-state Bruins who could be on the verge of landing the emerging sleeper.

Prior to the Michigan offer, Samuel seemed warm to the thought of giving the Wolverines a shot, per Steven Lorenz of Wolverine247 (subscription required).

"I felt good about what they had to say and feel like they could be pretty close to offering me,” Samuel said. “If they do, they would immediately be one of my top schools. I would definitely visit them."

The recent flood of interest in Samuel is bound to grow if the Golden State product chooses to keep his options open.

 

Stanford Offer Snatched up Quickly by 2015 DT

Although it rarely happens these days, there are instances when recruits instantly commit upon receiving an offer that they really covet.

Such was the case for 2015 3-star defensive tackle Wesley Annan—who committed to Stanford immediately after he was offered last Monday, per Steve Wiltfong of 247Sports.

"It's everything I wanted athletically, academically, socially,” Annan told Wiltfong. “It's a great place and I loved it. The environment alone, any athlete would love competing in an environment like that."

The 6’4”, 280-pounder chose the Cardinal over offers from Boston College, Duke, Maryland, Ole Miss and Virginia among others.

 

Ohio State Offers Trio of 2016 Standouts

Urban Meyer and the Ohio State Buckeyes are one of the schools poised to make a run at the No. 1 spot in the 2015 class rankings.

However, Meyer and his staff were focused on the 2016 class last week.

Per Tom Loy of 247Sports, Meyer offered 3-star Florida teammates in quarterback Ervin Barrett and receiver Eddie McDoom.

Another junior standout that received an offer from the Buckeyes is 4-star running back Antonio Williams—who is scheduled to make his commitment on Dec. 4.

With things just about wrapped up for 2015, Meyer and his staff are already laying the groundwork for another star-studded class in 2016.

 

A Preview of Bedlam with 2016 DB

One of the nation’s most underrated rivalries is the Bedlam Series between in-state rivals Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.

Fans of the Sooners and the Cowboys will have to wait until Dec. 6 for the next installment of the rivalry to take place in Norman.

However, Bob Stoops and Mike Gundy went at it on the recruiting trail last week as both Oklahoma and Oklahoma State offered 3-star 2016 safety Calvin Bundage.

The two schools join Tulsa as in-state programs who are chasing the 6’3”, 190-pounder.

 

Best of the Rest

  • Duke is the newest offer for 2016 3-star tight end Thaddeus Moss—who is the son of former NFL star receiver Randy Moss.
  • 2017 running back Stephen Carr picked his first offer from Washington, Gorney reported.

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Tennessee Volunteers vs. Vanderbilt Commodores Complete Game Preview

Payback will be wearing orange-and-white-clad jerseys this Saturday as the Tennessee Volunteers seek bowl eligibility against in-state rival Vanderbilt.

The last time these two teams met in a frigid Neyland Stadium last November, the Vols needed to win each of their final two games to reach the postseason in head coach Butch Jones' first season.

But instead of UT heading to Kentucky with a solid chance, VU stunned the Vols with a 14-10 win.

Quarterback Patton Robinette—a graduate of nearby Maryville High School who wasn't offered a scholarship by the Vols—ran in a keeper from five yards away with 16 seconds left to secure the win. Vandy was the beneficiary of an overturned ball spot on fourth down previously to extend the drive.

The win gave then-coach James Franklin his second consecutive victory over the Vols. 

Much has happened since then. Franklin bolted for Penn State, only to be replaced by Stanford defensive coordinator Derek Mason. The Commodores have suffered a miserable season, sitting at 3-8 with wins over Massachusetts, Charleston Southern and Old Dominion by a combined 18 points.

The Vols again must beat Vanderbilt to go to a bowl game, but this year, that looks a little easier than it has in years past. Here's everything you need to know about the matchup.

 

Date: Saturday, Nov. 29

Time: 4 p.m. ET

Place: Vanderbilt Stadium, Nashville, Tennessee

TV: SEC Network

Radio: Vol Network, Vanderbilt IMG Sports Network, Sirius 113/XM 190

Spread: Tennessee by 15 points, according to Oddsshark.com.

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Georgia Tech vs. Georgia: Complete Game Preview

Despite an uneven recent history, Georgia Tech and Georgia have more in common this year than many recognize.  

Both the Yellow Jackets and the Bulldogs boast identical records at 9-2 overall and 6-2 in conference play.  Georgia Tech clinched the ACC's Coastal Division with a Duke loss last week; Georgia is hoping to win the SEC East with a Missouri loss this weekend.  Both teams lead their respective conferences in points per game and rely heavily on potent rushing attacks.

Oh, and both schools hail from the Peach State, and this rivalry, dubbed "Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate," has been played 109 times.

Here's what you need to know about this weekend's rivalry game:

  • Date: Saturday, November 29
  • Time: Noon ET
  • Place: Sanford Stadium, Athens, Georgia
  • TV: SEC Network
  • Radio: Georgia Tech IMG Sports Network, Georgia Bulldogs Radio Network
  • Spread: Georgia (-14.5), per Odds Shark

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How the Texas Longhorns Will Ruin TCU's Playoff Dreams

The TCU Horned Frogs, enjoying one of the best seasons in their history, are sitting pretty at No. 5 in the latest CFP rankings.

However, they will have their hands full when they head to Austin to take on Charlie Strong and the Texas Longhorns.

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder illustrates how Texas will pull off the upset of TCU, putting a halt to the Horned Frogs' national championship dreams. 

Will Texas beat TCU?

Check out the video and let us know! 

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Bowl Predictions 2014: Updated Playoff Projections and Odds Before Week 14

The College Football Playoff may not officially start until January, but every week in November is a win-or-go-home situation for the top contenders.

All the undefeated and one-loss playoff contenders won Saturday, so the top of the polls will not look that different Tuesday. Still, we may see some chaos on the horizon with rivalry games and conference championships in the next two weeks.

With that in mind, here is a look at Statmilk’s latest playoff projections and odds before looking at mine and the latest update in the race for the No. 4 seed.

 

Statmilk Playoff Projections and Odds

 

Scott Polacek Playoff Projections

Sugar Bowl: No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Baylor

Rose Bowl: No. 2 Florida State vs. No. 3 Oregon   

Championship Bowl (in Arlington, Texas): TBD (semifinal winners)

 

Updated Race for No. 4

As long as Alabama, Oregon and Florida State win out, they should occupy the first three spots in the final rankings. The Crimson Tide would be SEC champions, the Ducks would win the Pac-12, and the Seminoles would be the one undefeated power-five conference team as ACC champs.

That means there is a race for the No. 4 spot.

Mississippi State was No. 4 in the most recent College Football Playoff rankings and should stay put Tuesday after easily dispatching Vanderbilt. Mississippi State’s best argument is its position in the presumed best conference in the country, the SEC.

The loss to Alabama is certainly nothing to be ashamed of, and wins over Auburn and LSU are impressive. Still, both Tigers teams have lost games in blowout fashion since losing to the Bulldogs and may not quite be as daunting as once thought. 

At least Mississippi State has ESPN’s Paul Finebaum on its side:

Ohio State may be the biggest long-term threat to Mississippi State for the No. 4 seed because it could be the one solo conference champion in this four-team race. That is still the case despite the fact it didn’t look all that sharp Saturday against Indiana (for what it's worth, that was the same Hoosiers team that beat the current SEC East leader, Missouri).

The Buckeyes have their rivalry game with Michigan and then the Big Ten title game against either Wisconsin or Minnesota remaining. A win over a highly ranked Badgers squad would go a long way toward bolstering the resume, and it would help in the bigger picture because the Bulldogs will not be SEC champions if Alabama wins out.

What’s more, if both TCU and Baylor win out, they will be co-champs in the Big 12 without a conference championship game. Ohio State would be an interesting case study into how much the selection committee values conference champions.

Urban Meyer talked about what lies ahead for his team, according to The Associated Press (h/t ESPN.com): "We're conference division champions, we've won a bunch of games (nine) in a row. We have some work to do. Sometimes in college football, things don't go exactly as scripted."

Baylor made the loudest statement of any contender Saturday when it crushed Oklahoma State. The nation’s No. 1 scoring offense is always going to come through in style points, but the head-to-head victory over TCU is the trump card in Baylor’s back pocket.

The Bears’ final game against Kansas State will likely decide the fate of their season, and if they win that, it will be hard to ignore a resume with victories over the Wildcats, Horned Frogs and Oklahoma.

Finally, there is TCU, which was still ahead of Baylor in the most recent College Football Playoff rankings even though the Bears beat the Horned Frogs earlier in the season.

Baylor actually moved ahead of TCU in the latest AP poll, which could be a harbinger of things to come Tuesday. The more equal the two resumes from the Big 12 become, the more likely Baylor’s head-to-head win over TCU will come into play.

TCU did get a major boost Saturday when Minnesota beat Nebraska in Nebraska. Minnesota is the Horned Frogs’ biggest nonconference win, and the Golden Gophers still control their own destiny in the race for the Big Ten West title. If they beat Wisconsin, it would set up a showdown with the Buckeyes and a golden opportunity to bolster TCU’s chances.

The Horned Frogs still have to take care of their own business first, though, with a tricky game against Texas on the horizon. The Longhorns have won three games in a row, including an impressive 33-16 victory over West Virginia, and would certainly love to end the playoff hopes of their in-state rivals. 

Buckle up because there are bound to be plenty of changes between now and the end of the season.

 

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