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Tennessee Vols Paint Lil Jon's Face on 'The Rock'

Tennessee football players and fans have fully embraced Lil Jon.

Their anthem "Third Down for What" is based on the rapper's "Turn Down for What" hit single.

Now, they've taken their love for the rapper one step further by painting his face on "The Rock."

Coach Butch Jones is on board with the Lil Jon love.

It seems the love is being reciprocated by the rapper.

[Twitter, h/t For the Win]

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Louisville Cardinals vs. Syracuse Orange Live Blog: Analysis and Reactions

The Louisville Cardinals will travel to the Carrier Dome for an ACC battle with the Syracuse Orange on Friday night at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN. 

Bobby Petrino and the Cards are looking to move to 5-1 (3-1) on the season. Unlike many of Petrino's past teams, it is the defense that is carrying UL this season. Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham has worked wonders with this defensive unit, which ranks high in the NCAA in many defensive categories.

That defense figures to be tested tonight by a relentless rushing attack from the Orange. Led by dual-threat quarterback Terrel Hunt, Syracuse is averaging 232.5 yards on the ground through four games. After dropping consecutive games to Maryland and Notre Dame, the Orange (2-2) are hoping to avoid their first three-game losing streak since 2011. 

I will be posting keys to the game as kickoff approaches, as well as my insight throughout the contest. Please join me for what has the makings of a great matchup. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Jordan Whitehead Commits to Pitt: Where Do PSU, OSU and WVU Turn Now?

Plenty of prognosticators projected coveted cornerback Jordan Whitehead to remain in his home state of Pennsylvania for college, but few predicted Pittsburgh as the preferred landing spot. He provided a slight surprise Friday afternoon, committing to the Panthers over Penn State, West Virginia and Ohio State during an announcement ceremony at Central Valley High School, per KDKA TV sports director Bob Pompeani:

The 6'0", 190-pound playmaker ranks among the Northeast's top defenders, establishing a reputation as an aggressive ball hawk in recent years. Whitehead has picked off 14 passes during his high school career, including three interceptions this season, per Steve Wiltfong of 247Sports.

Rated 20th nationally among cornerbacks in 247Sports' composite rankings, he commanded offers from an expansive array of college programs. Scholarship opportunities arrived from Alabama, Notre Dame, Michigan State, Tennessee and several others.

His decision ultimately centered on a collection of four finalists, with Pittsburgh, Penn State, Ohio State and West Virginia rising to the forefront.

The Nittany Lions were largely viewed as a favorite during the final stretch of his recruitment, commanding 59 percent of expert predictions in 247Sports' Crystal Ball. Penn State has picked up a multitude of top in-state talent en route to assembling the nation's eighth-ranked recruiting class in 247Sports' composite rankings.

Head coach James Franklin's haul includes homegrown 4-star cornerback John Reid, but work remains necessary to stockpile a defensive secondary slightly depleted by past scholarship sanctions. Penn State has several other possibilities on its radar, including in-state talent Jay Stocker, who attended camp in Happy Valley this summer, and current 5-star Alabama commit Minkah Fitzpatrick, who is teammates with Lions quarterback commit Brandon Wimbush.

Ohio State, which ranked second in Whitehead's 247Sports Crystal Ball projections, has done an efficient job filling holes at cornerback. In-state defender Eric Glover-Williams and Florida product Jamel Dean are both committed to the Buckeyes.

Urban Meyer and company hosted 5-star LSU pledge Kevin Toliver for an official visit weekend in September. 

West Virginia arguably needed Whitehead more than his other finalists, as the squad has frequently struggled to deal with explosive aerial attacks during its brief Big 12 tenure. The Mountaineers narrowly missed on highly recruited New Jersey cornerback Kareem Ali a few months ago and must again search elsewhere for a solution at the position.

Whitehead, who spent an official visit weekend in Morgantown last month, takes the team's most highly rated defensive back off the board, but there are other available options. Watch for West Virginia to further invest in the pursuits of Miami prospects Davante Davis and Sheldrick Redwine

The Mountaineers can take solace in the fact that former Florida State commit Tyrek Cole flipped to the team in September.

 

Recruit ratings and recruitment info courtesy of 247Sports.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Marcus Mariota Deserves to Be Heisman Favorite After Loss vs. Arizona

Oregon's national championship aspirations may have hit a bump in the road with a home loss against Arizona on Thursday, but Marcus Mariota's Heisman campaign remains very much intact. 

The whole Heisman voting strategy, much like the one used for both MVP awards in baseball, is maddening and incredibly stupid. It's based more on narrative than actual validation of what a player did. 

If Florida State would have lost one regular-season game last year in which Jameis Winston still threw for 350 yards and three touchdowns with no turnovers, does that mean he wasn't the best player in the country because the rest of the team couldn't hold up its end of the bargain?

Mariota has been a one-man wrecking crew for the Ducks this season. The team has scored 29 offensive touchdowns this season, of which Mariota has been responsible for 19 (15 passing, three rushing, one receiving). He's one of only four FBS quarterbacks with at least 100 pass attempts and no interceptions, and his 15-0 ratio of touchdowns to interceptions is the best in the country. 

Before the Arizona game, Chantel Jennings of ESPN, in a debate with Edward Aschoff making the case for Todd Gurley, definitively declared Mariota the best player in the country:

As a quarterback, he has the highest passer efficiency rating in the nation. There are only 10 quarterbacks in the country who haven’t thrown a pick yet, and none of those signal-callers has thrown more than 10 touchdowns. Mariota has thrown 13. Then, look at his feet. He doesn’t even play running back but he still has about a third of Gurley’s rushing yardage and half the number of rushing touchdowns (Mariota: 214 yards, three touchdowns; Gurley: 610 yards, six touchdowns).

After the Arizona game ended with the Wildcats on top 31-24, no one was declaring Mariota's Heisman hopes dead, but people were using caveats to suggest why he could still win. Zac Ellis of Sports Illustrated wrote that Mariota is lucky because of the timing:

Another problem that Mariota deals with is playing behind one of the worst offensive lines in college football. Three of the original starting five before the season are hurt (Tyler Johnstone, Andre Yruretagoyena and Jake Fisher), and that has left a true freshman (Tyrell Crosby) and walk-on (Matt Pierson) starting games. 

It's also worth pointing out, as B/R's Matt Miller did on Twitter, that the talent around Mariota just isn't that good:

Despite a bad offensive line and not-great-talent around him, Mariota has still been the best quarterback in college football this season. Even in the loss, he was 20-of-32 for 276 yards and two touchdowns. It wasn't his best game, by any stretch, but hardly one that should be condemned. 

It can, and should, be pointed out that Mariota was stripped of the football on the final drive when Oregon was looking to tie the game. If you want to talk about that moment, though, point out that he was scrambling again because of poor protection from the offensive line. 

If you want to say that Oregon was overrated, that's absolutely a valid point. The Ducks haven't been able to stop anyone of substance this season, allowing 89 points and 1,460 yards in three games against Michigan State, Washington State and Arizona. 

The schedule doesn't get any easier with UCLA next week and Stanford on November 1, but until Mariota actually plays a bad game and the Ducks lose directly because of him, don't try to say that his Heisman candidacy falls apart because the team around him isn't very good. 

There's only so much that a quarterback can do, especially when there's no protection or pocket to throw from. Oregon isn't a title contender based on what we've seen thus far. Mariota is the only thing that makes this team competitive, which only further validates his Heisman stock. 

 

If you want to talk sports, hit me up on Twitter. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Marcus Mariota Deserves to Be Heisman Favorite After Loss vs. Arizona

Oregon's national championship aspirations may have hit a bump in the road with a home loss against Arizona on Thursday, but Marcus Mariota 's Heisman campaign remains very much intact...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

4-Star Penn State QB Commit Brandon Wimbush Set to Visit Notre Dame

The recruitment of coveted quarterback prospect Brandon Wimbush grows more complex this weekend as he heads to Notre Dame for an official visit. The 4-star Penn State pledge is expected to depart for South Bend on Friday and attend the team's game against Stanford, per Braulio Perez of NJ.com.

These plans were publicly unknown until Friday morning when St. Peter's Prep (New Jersey) head coach Rich Hansen revealed his senior standout's intentions. Wimbush, rated fourth nationally among dual-threat quarterbacks in 247Sports' composite rankings, committed to Penn State in May and serves as a catalyst for James Franklin's 2015 class. 

"Brandon Wimbush's game is smooth," 4-star Penn State wide receiver commit Juwan Johnson told me in June. "He has a strong arm and great football IQ. I would love to play with him."

The 6'2", 205-pound passer picked up a scholarship offer from Stanford in June after attending camp in Palo Alto. However, no major college football recruiting outlet currently lists him as holding a Notre Dame offer.

"Getting an offer from a school like Stanford means a lot," Wimbush told me at Elite 11 finals this summer. "It's definitely something to think about, but right now I'm fully committed to Penn State and doing whatever I can to help take things to another level in Happy Valley."

The element of his interest obviously adds intrigue to the visit, along with the fact that Notre Dame still doesn't have a quarterback in its 2015 recruiting class.

Blake Barnett, a 5-star California prospect, initially pledged to the Fighting Irish last November. He backed off that verbal pact this spring and shortly afterward switched allegiances to Alabama.

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly could be tempted to pull the trigger on an offer to Wimbush this weekend. The prospect has impressed throughout his senior season and appears polished enough to compete for a starting role at the FBS level as an underclassman.

He is completing nearly 80 percent of pass attempts through four games this fall, including a 19-of-24 effort against Bergen Catholic in a Sept. 11 victory on national television. Wimbush has 1,187 passing yards and 15 total touchdowns through one month of action this season.

 

Quotes obtained firsthand by B/R national recruiting analyst Tyler Donohue unless otherwise noted.

Recruit ratings courtesy of 247Sports.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Win over Stanford Would Make Notre Dame True College Football Playoff Contenders

As Notre Dame prepares to host Stanford on Saturday (3:30 p.m. ET on NBC), there’s a whole lot of optimism around South Bend.

And for good reason, as the Fighting Irish are 4-0, ranked No. 9 in the nation and have scored 30 points or more in each of their outings while yet to allow an opponent to top 17. Not to mention, Everett Golson is leading a dark-horse Heisman Trophy campaign, and the defense is finally living up to its billing.

Still, given Notre Dame’s level of competition—a combined 7-11 record—the team’s credibility as a College Football Playoff contender is up in the air.

A victory over a formidable Cardinal side could go a long way in changing that.

Of course, that’s easier said than done, as Stanford has been somewhat of a thorn in the side of the Irish in recent years. The Cardinal have won four of the last five meetings between the teams, including a 27-20 win last season in Palo Alto: 

Throw in the fact that Notre Dame is 0-4 against opponents ranked in the Top 20 since 2012, and it comes as no surprise that the team is largely considered the underdog even though it is ranked higher and playing at home.

But instead of casting a shadow over the Irish, all that doubt should only serve as the spark to ignite another national title run.

Let’s not forget that Notre Dame is an impressive 14-1 with Golson under center. Through four games in 2014, the senior appears poised to help the team return to the pinnacle of the sport, throwing for 1,142 yards, 11 touchdowns and two interceptions on 69.5 percent passing while adding another 104 yards and four scores on 39 carries. He also recently set a school record, completing a ridiculous 25 consecutive passes against Syracuse last weekend.

If Golson wasn’t already considered a Heisman Trophy front-runner, exposing one of college football’s toughest defenses on Saturday could firmly place him in the pole position—Stanford ranks No. 1 in both total defense and scoring defense.

But the Irish defense will also look to grab the spotlight on Saturday.

Thus far, the unit has been solid, ranking No. 38 in total defense (343.8 yards per game) and No. 4 in scoring defense (11.5 points per game). The secondary has really stepped up, picking up seven interceptions—ranked No. 12 in the nation—and conceding just four touchdowns through the air.

Against a Cardinal offense that ranks No. 70 in total offense and No. 121 in the red zone, expect the Notre Dame defense to flex some muscle and gain some swagger.

Such confidence from both sides of the ball will be key, as the brunt of the schedule is still to come for the Irish. Four of the team’s final six contests will be on the road, including showdowns with No. 1 Florida State, No. 16 USC and Arizona State. 

But as tempting as looking down the road is, head coach Brian Kelly isn’t biting.

“We really focus on what we need to do to get better,” Kelly said, per The Associated Press, via ESPN.com. “We turned the ball over. We gave up some big plays on the perimeter. We focus a lot more on that stuff than the bigger picture issues.”

Kelly may not be quick to say it, but we will: Win on Saturday, and there’s no denying Notre Dame its rightful moniker as a true College Football Playoff contender.

There, that wasn’t so hard, was it?

 

All stats, betting information and rankings used in this article are courtesy of CFBStats.com and OddsShark.com.

For complete coverage and everything college football, you can reach Sebastian on Twitter and via email at Sebastian.LenaBR@gmail.com.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Notre Dame Football: The Importance of the Deep, Growing WR Corps

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Excuse Brian Kelly if he seems cautiously enthused about his wide receivers. Four games into Notre Dame football’s regular season, maybe Kelly simply can’t believe how well his receivers have played.

Asked Tuesday to assess the young group of receivers, Kelly tempered his praise.

“A third of the way, I think that they have made pretty good progress,” he said. “There’s a ways to go, but pretty good progress in the first third.”

Notre Dame entered the 2014 season without T.J. Jones and Troy Niklas, two of its top three pass-catchers from last year’s squad. The third, DaVaris Daniels, hasn’t played a snap this season. That left junior Chris Brown, he of the 17 career receptions, as Notre Dame’s most prolific returning receiver

But with Brown sputtering out of the gate (four catches in the first three games), Notre Dame still hardly missed a beat.

 

Will Fuller, sophomore
Career catches entering 2014: Six

Sophomore wide receiver Will Fuller has traded in his No. 15 jersey for the No. 7 previously worn by Jones, and he has played the part, too. The slender speedster has racked up 25 receptions for 344 yards and five touchdowns. He has at least 85 yards or six receptions in each game.

Kelly lit into Fuller after one effort against Syracuse on Saturday, a play in which Fuller came up shy of gaining the first down. The confidence, Kelly says, is still being cultivated.

“He's a young guy that is gaining confidence, and I just think he has a lot of ability that we're really trying to get him to think in those terms, really believe in himself,” Kelly said Sunday. “I believe in him, and I think, at times, I want him to carry himself in that fashion, that you get me the ball, I'm going to make plays.”

 

Amir Carlisle, senior
Career catches entering 2014: 14

In two-plus games, senior slot receiver Amir Carlisle posted 11 receptions for 117 yards and two touchdowns, highlighted by his seven-catch, two-touchdown breakout night against Michigan.

Carlisle suffered an MCL injury against Purdue that forced him to miss last week’s win over the Orange, but Kelly said this week Carlisle has progressed “surprisingly very well.”

Carlisle has been nimble making grabs along the sidelines, and the former running back still has the ability to motion into the backfield for quick-hitting handoffs.

 

Corey Robinson, sophomore
Career catches entering 2014: Nine

With Carlisle out against Syracuse, sophomore receiver Corey Robinson shined on the perimeter, reeling in eight receptions for 91 yards and a touchdown.

“A big part of Corey’s game tonight was his ability to be a complete wide receiver,” Kelly said Saturday night after the win.

Robinson’s matchup ability in the red zone is well known, but he showed a different side of his game last week.

“He caught six passes on the perimeter where he had to turn back that big body, catch it with a cast on and then run after the catch through traffic,” Kelly said. “That says a lot about his development as a complete wide receiver, so I think tonight was a big night for him.”

 

Trending Upward

The Irish receiving corps is in the process of melding those young, high-upside players with various skill sets into one reliable group for quarterback Everett Golson.

“I think it's a group that is gaining confidence along the way,” Kelly said. “They are making some plays, and I think as you make plays, I've always felt that that's how you gain confidence.”

In addition to Fuller’s downfield ability, Robinson’s red-zone presence and Carlisle’s sudden sure-handedness, Brown, junior C.J. Prosise and sophomore Torii Hunter Jr. have also contributed.

“Now we're starting to develop some real pieces within that wide receiver corps that we can develop because these are all new guys for us,” Kelly said. “They're going to be around for a while. ... So we're starting to develop some consistency with that group.”

Prosise and Fuller, in particular, also drew praise from Kelly this week for their blocking prowess. Notre Dame dinked and dunked around Syracuse’s three-down pressures and exotic looks by utilizing the screen game. Small bit plays for Notre Dame-bred scoring drives.

But Kelly will need the receivers to evolve again Saturday against Stanford. Boasting the nation’s top-ranked defense, Stanford has only surrendered four plays of 20 or more yards this season—second-fewest in the FBS. Whether it’s blocking on the perimeter for Notre Dame’s yet-to-emerge ground attack or streaking downfield themselves, the Irish wide receivers will be needed for big plays.

“We won't win if we don't get big chunk plays,” Kelly said. “We are not going to go five, seven, 10 yards and score enough points to win. No, we'll have to find our chances. We'll have to create opportunities, and we'll have to make some plays down the field, there's no question.”

Four games into the season, Notre Dame’s receivers appear poised to do so.

 

All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Mike Monaco is a lead Notre Dame writer for Bleacher Report. Follow @MikeMonaco_ on Twitter.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Ole Miss Fans Rush the Grove to Secure Tailgating Spots

No. 11 Ole Miss will host No. 3 Alabama this weekend, and as you’d expect, Rebels fans are already losing their sweet minds.

In a week sprinkled with trash talk and rising expectations, the Ole Miss faithful are quite literally already rushing fields in anticipation of the game.

Vine user Jim Weber brings us footage of the scene in Oxford, Mississippi, on Friday morning. Rebels fans who had waited through the night were unleashed on the Grove to grab their tailgating plots, and like the stampede that ended Mufasa, they spilled past security personnel with terrifying ferocity.

Not since the California Gold Rush has America seen such a greedy and vigorous grab for land. If Dawn of the Dead zombies fed on Natural Light, the film would’ve started with this scene.

Way to show off those wheels, pledges and assorted Ole Miss bros. Enjoy the next 24 hours of sitting, waiting and delivering food to your pledge brothers in the tents.

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

The New York Times Reveals College Football Fan Map

As we have seen in the past, Facebook data can be used to paint interesting pictures of sports fans across the country. The latest example is this college football fan map created by The New York Times.

The map, which is broken down by county, features 82 college football teams.

 

Florida

 

Texas

Head over to The New York Times for an interactive look at the map.

 

[The New York Times]

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Archie Griffin Weighs in on Jameis Winston, State of Ohio State Football

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The only man in the history of the award to win it twice, Archie Griffin's name is synonymous with the Heisman Trophy.

So when he sees the the controversy that's surrounded the award's recent string of recipients—most notably Florida State's Jameis Winston—the Ohio State great unsurprisingly has an opinion.

Speaking to Bleacher Report as a part of his promotion of the Wendy's High School Heisman, Griffin touched on a number of topics, including his thoughts on Winston, the state of college football and the direction of his alma mater. One of the faces of college football history, Griffin has stayed in touch with the sport's happenings—both good and bad—and isn't shy to share his thoughts.

Per its official website, the Heisman Memorial Trophy annually recognizes the outstanding college football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence. But dating back to the NCAA's investigation into Cam Newton in 2010 and continuing with the autograph saga of 2012 winner Johnny Manziel, college football's most prestigious award seems to have coincided with controversy.

Most recently, it's been Winston who's found his name in the news for the wrong reasons, as the reigning Heisman Trophy winner was suspended for the Seminoles' Sept. 20 clash with Clemson after he shouted vulgarities while standing on a table at the FSU student union. This was just the latest incident in a string of bizarre behavior from Winston, who was accused but not charged in a sexual assault investigation in 2013, and cited for stealing $32.72 worth of crab legs from a local grocery store in the offseason.

Having met and interacted with Winston through a string of Heisman functions, Griffin admitted to being disappointed in the sophomore signal-caller's actions, but he also noted that it's not too late for him to bounce back from his indiscretions.

“I don’t like to see that. I’ve met Jameis. He’s a fun-loving guy," Griffin said. "He likes to have a good time—really, really likes to have a good time, have fun and he brings a smile to a lot of people’s faces and I hate to see those type of things going on in his life because he’s not a bad young man.

"You hate to see that happen. But things like that do happen and you’ve gotta move on, and I hope Jameis does that and really learns from the mistakes that he’s already made.”

Despite having won the award in 1974 and 1975, Griffin, like all other recipients, only gets one vote at the conclusion of each regular season. “Quite frankly, I wish I got two votes. I only got one vote. I shouldn’t be saying this, but I should be trying to get them to give me two votes because I do have two trophies," he joked.

But while Griffin's influence on the Heisman Trophy is limited to his annual vote, he does admit to taking character into consideration before casting his ballot. For somebody whose name is so closely associated with the trophy, the current president and CEO of The Ohio State University Alumni Association wants the winner to stand for more than just being a great football player.

"I do weigh that in when I’m looking for the winner of the trophy," Griffin said. "I want the person to be a good representative of the trophy. So yeah, I look at what they do on the football field, but at the same time, I look at how they’re conducting themselves in society, because they represent the trophy.”

With several other voters sharing the same belief, it appears as though Griffin's status as college football's only two-time winner of the Heisman is safe for at least another season. Nearing the midway point of the season, Winston's name is all but absent from both ESPN.com's and CBSSports.com's Heisman watch lists.

And although it's his defining achievement, Griffin claims that he doesn't root to remain the trophy's only two-time recipient. In fact, the Columbus, Ohio, native says that not only would he embrace company sharing his elite status, but he expects it sometime soon.

“I would welcome somebody. And quite frankly, I’ve always felt that if I can win it twice, I know there’s somebody else out there that’ll win it twice and I think it’ll be done. I don’t know when it will be done—I thought it would’ve been done by now," Griffin said. "I mean, when you think of the fact that the trophy’s been given to freshmen and folks who have to stick around for a while, there’s a real possibility that it’ll happen.”

Change in college football hasn't only been evident in the voting patterns of the Heisman, which has been awarded to five freshmen or sophomores since Tim Tebow became the first underclassman recipient of the trophy in 2007. With the College Football Playoff coming into effect this season and the verdict of the Ed O'Bannon lawsuit threatening the NCAA model, the sport looks a lot different today than it did when Griffin was running rampant on Big Ten defenses 40 years ago.

And that's just fine with him. Rather than wax poetic about back in his day, the only player to ever start in four Rose Bowls sees the evolution of college football as a positive, especially from his perspective as a fan.

"From an NCAA standpoint, they’re making some moves that should’ve been made a long time ago," he said. "I’m glad to see that players will be getting a stipend. I’m glad to see these schools are loosening up and trying to make these scholarships for the players a four-year deal and not having the players have to sign scholarships after every year and making them one-year scholarships. I think that’s good for the players and something that the players wanted and should have. 

"College football’s in good shape and now with the playoff system, a four-team playoff, it’s in even better shape because it’s giving people what they want to see, and that’s more of a true national champion.”

As for his beloved Buckeyes, Griffin finds himself encouraged by the direction of the program in its third season under Urban Meyer.

After enduring back-to-back losses to close 2013 and an early-season defeat at the hands of Virginia Tech this year, Ohio State appears to have found its footing offensively with freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett, which should bode well for the Buckeyes as they enter Big Ten play with this weekend's matchup against Maryland.

"We had a time in there the last couple of games of last season where we didn’t do well and then early this season we lost to Virginia Tech at home, which certainly was a downer. But I think the trajectory is up and this team is getting better every week," Griffin said.

"I’ve been impressed with J.T. Barrett, our quarterback, I think he’s done a fabulous job this year. He’s really, really adapted to this offense and I think he’s doing a great job of leading this offense. When you consider the fact that we replaced 80 percent of our offensive line, you gotta think this team is really on the move."

 

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 recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Oregon's Loss to Arizona Doesn't Kill the Pac-12's Shot at Playoff Spot

I don't have all the answers. Neither do you. Actually, that's assuming that anyone has any answers for Arizona's stunning 31-24 victory over Oregon on Thursday night. There are guesses—well-reasoned guesses—about what this means in the bigger picture, but they're just that: guesses. 

And that's okay. 

It's Oct. 3, and no one, not even the College Football Playoff selection committee, knows how the Wildcats' upset over the Ducks, the preseason media Pac-12 favorite, is going to impact the four-team playoff field—at least not yet. 

So why would anything, or any team, be marked down as a certainty? That's what Dan Wolken of USA Today wants to know: 

If preseason polls are as meaningless as college football fans would have you believe—the Associated Press and coaches polls are not part of the playoff equation—then what happened Thursday night shouldn't signal the end of the Pac-12's playoff hopes.

Oregon could still win every game going forward and finish as the Pac-12 champ at 12-1. Problems in pass defense and along the offensive line would suggest this could be a hard feat to accomplish, but again, anything is possible.

So too is the idea that Arizona might actually be good. The narrative doesn't have to be that if Oregon doesn't get into the playoff no one from the Pac-12 will. The Wildcats are one of two undefeated teams remaining in the Pac-12, the other being a UCLA team that may have finally found its stride. 

Since Arizona and UCLA play in the Pac-12 South, it will be impossible for both to remain undefeated by season's end, but the larger point is that other teams besides the Ducks are capable of playing great football. 

When Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez took over the program in November 2011, he asked a simple question: "Why not Arizona? Why can't we win it all?" 

That's hardcore coach-speak uttered at every opening press conference, but it won't come to fruition without everyone buying into what the coach is selling. Early returns on the '14 Wildcats indicate that players are buying in. As Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports notes, some of the team's best players are just getting started: 

This speaks to the quality of depth the Pac-12 has. 

Does all of this mean Arizona is undefeated and playoff bound? Absolutely not. The Wildcats could lose next week to USC and every game after that. To take it a step further, maybe the Pac-12 cannibalizes on itself and the conference champion is a three-loss team. 

But the opposite—a playoff field that includes a Pac-12 team—is also a possibility. Technically, the Big Ten isn't out of the discussion yet.

We just don't know, but not everything has to be known on Oct. 3. College football is chaos because it is played by 18- to 23-year-olds who are unpredictable by nature. 

That's part of the fun. 

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Oregon's Loss to Arizona Doesn't Kill the Pac-12's Shot at Playoff Spot

I don't have all the answers. Neither do you. Actually, that's assuming that anyone has any answers for Arizona's stunning 31-24 victory over Oregon on Thursday night...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Big 12 Teams That Could Play Spoiler for the Conference's Playoff Hopefuls

As we get into the heart of the 2014 season, the debut of the College Football Playoff, we're also finally in Big 12 play. 

But even in the BCS era, sometimes the worst enemies of the Big 12 are on the home front. 

In 2011, with Oklahoma State undefeated and two games away from a berth to the national championship, a trip to Jack Trice Stadium and a loss to Iowa State spoiled the Big 12's hopes at reaching the ultimate stage. 

A year later, a late-season trip by the undefeated Kansas State Wildcats to Waco, Texas, and an upset loss to Baylor gave way to the SEC yet again. 

So which teams can be the 2011 Iowa State Cyclones or the 2012 Baylor Bears this season? 

Let's check out this season's biggest spoiler teams in the Big 12. 

Begin Slideshow

4-Star FSU Commit Calvin Brewton Previews Long-Awaited Notre Dame Visit

Before Calvin Brewton became a building block of the 2015 Florida State recruiting class, the 4-star defensive back knew his recruitment process would take him to South Bend, Indiana. That ambition comes to fruition this weekend when the Miami Central High School standout uses an official visit at Notre Dame.

"This is a trip I've wanted to make for a very long time," Brewton told Bleacher Report.

The 6'0", 185-pound playmaker plans to spend the entire weekend on campus, including a front-row seat to watch the Fighting Irish take on Stanford. Brewton, who committed to the Seminoles in January as a junior, is anticipating an excellent matchup.

"It's a great game to be at," he said. "Notre Dame versus Stanford is one of the best rivalries in football and both teams look like they have a chance to compete for a championship this season. South Bend will be rocking."

Of course, his stay on campus has a lot more to do with the future than simply how the game outcome affects next week's national rankings. Brewton wants to find out whether Notre Dame is the kind of place he could call home for the next stage of his life.

"It's an exciting opportunity to explore something that's completely new to me," he said. "It's been a goal of mine to get up there since I started picking up a lot of offers, before I even committed to Florida State. I'll be looking closely at everything, from the atmosphere to the facilities and how I get along with the coaches."

Brewton wasn't entirely definite on which Irish player will serve as his host for the weekend but believes it could be fellow Florida product Greg Bryant, a sophomore running back. He is being primarily recruited by Notre Dame assistant coach Tony Alford, who played an instrumental role in convincing him to set up a campus visit.

"It's something coach and I have talked about for a while, and it was just a matter of making it work," Brewton said. "He's a great guy and always stays in contact with me. He makes sure I know I mean a lot to them."

Brewton will keep a close eye on the Irish defense Saturday and has been impressed with what he's seen from the unit so far this season.

"Those guys are making plays, especially in the secondary," Brewton said. "That's great to see and I've had a chance to watch them pay this year because of the national television exposure. They totally shut down Michigan, which was great to see."

Though he has plenty of respect for the Notre Dame defense, his faith in Florida State's unit hasn't dissipated despite some shaky moments. The reigning national champions allow 25 points per game, ranked 66th nationally in that category.

"I don't think they've changed much on defense since (former coordinator Jeremy Pruitt left)," Brewton said. "They've made some minor mistakes at times, but I think they'll be fine with the talent and coaches that are there."

He said the Seminoles view him as a versatile athlete who draws comparisons to former star defensive back Lamarcus Joyner, another coveted Miami prospect who is now a St. Louis Rams rookie.

"They think there are similarities between the two of us because I can be anywhere they need me on the field," Brewton said. "They think I have the skills to play safety because of the way I hit and I can cover the pass as a cornerback or at nickel."

Notre Dame has a similar assessment of Brewton.

"Coach (Brian) Kelly and his staff like the way I can play different positions," he said. "They believe I can be a shutdown player in pass coverage."

Brewton, rated 17th nationally among safety prospects in 247Sports' composite rankings, also holds offers from the likes of Louisville, Wisconsin, Clemson and Georgia. However, it seems his recruitment is a two-team race at this stage.

"I'm still solid to the 'Noles," he said. "This Notre Dame visit is something I need to do, though. It's a place I need to check out for myself. Other than those two schools, I'm not really considering much else right now."

Florida State is also flirting with other options this weekend. The Seminoles are set to host committed 5-star defensive backs Kevin Toliver (LSU) and Minkah Fitzpatrick (Alabama).

The Irish have a golden opportunity to present Brewton with a sales pitch for why he should flip from Florida State. Interestingly enough, he plans to use an official visit to Tallahassee late this month when the Seminoles host Notre Dame.

This recruiting battle between two proud programs may just be beginning to brew.

 

All quotes obtained firsthand by B/R national recruiting analyst Tyler Donohue unless othwerwise noted. 

Recruit ratings courtesy of 247Sports.

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Auburn's Matchup vs. LSU Will Once Again Set the Tone for the Tigers' Season

AUBURN, Ala. — Look at Auburn's 2013 results and try to find a turning point for the team that would later become the SEC champion.

Your eyes would probably be drawn to the Oct. 19 game in College Station, Texas, when the Tigers upset a Top 10 Texas A&M in a dramatic 45-41 shootout.

Think about it. After the trip to the Lone Star State, Auburn immediately jumped to No. 11, recorded a pair of big conference wins on the road and pulled off back-to-back all-time great finishes against Georgia and Alabama. 

But if you give that same task to the Tigers coaches and players, they would point your attention toward a road game a few weeks before the road upset of the Aggies—a 35-21 loss to LSU in Baton Rouge.

Although it was the team's only loss before the BCS National Championship Game against Florida State, the 2013 "Tiger Bowl" put Auburn on the road to a conference title and the biggest turnaround in college football history.

"That was one of the defining moments of our entire year last year at halftime. And we got embarrassed in the first half," Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn said. "They got after us real good. Not a whole lot was good in offense, defense or special teams. Our guys decided at halftime that hey, they weren't going to shut her down. They were going to keep fighting. And we fought back, and it really gave us some momentum for the rest of the season."

Although the end result wasn't ideal, Auburn entered the game against LSU undefeated and left with momentum that eventually led to the national title game.

A little over one year later, Auburn finds itself in a similar situation heading into the matchup with the Bayou Bengals.

Even with a road victory against a ranked Kansas State team and a commanding win against an increasingly powerful Arkansas team, Malzahn's team sits just outside of a lot of the playoff discussion, behind teams such as Florida State, Oregon, Oklahoma and Alabama.

The high-powered offense isn't firing on all cylinders to start the season, and one of the country's most improved defenses hasn't gone through the rigors of a big-time SEC matchup yet.

But now Auburn has one, and its players say they are ready to get that important statement victory.

"It’s time to step it up," senior cornerback Jonathon Mincy said. "This is what we came to Auburn to do. We want to compete with the best, and we pride ourselves with going out there and staying consistent."

LSU might be down after its stunning home loss to Mississippi State two weeks ago, but the visiting set of Tigers seem to have more continuity among their offense with talented true freshman Brandon Harris leading the way.

While LSU has taken its lumps against opposing rushing attacks, its secondary continues to be one of the best in the country in both pass efficiency and yards allowed.

And then, of course, there is defensive coordinator John Chavis' impressive record against Malzahn and Co.

"John Chavis has done it for a long time," offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee said. "They whipped us last year, especially in the first half. Our guys should be very motivated to play better in this game, and there's no question we've struggled a little bit against LSU in the past. It's a great credit to them and to coach Chavis. They do a really good job of what they do."

With or without Malzahn, Auburn has still struggled to win this important SEC West rivalry game in recent years. LSU has taken seven of the last 10 matchups, and Auburn's three victories were all nail-biters—10-9 in 2004, 7-3 in 2006 and 24-17 in 2010. 

The vast majority of Auburn's team has never defeated LSU, and several seniors have not ignored that frustrating bit of trivia.

"Our goal is to win number five, that’s the number," senior center Reese Dismukes said. "Obviously, in the back of your mind, I think that’s the only team in the SEC I haven’t beaten. That would be nice, but it’s not about that. It’s about being 5-0 and doing whatever you’ve got to do to help this team win and be 5-0."

Getting a victory against a rival that has been nothing but trouble in recent years would be extremely important for Auburn.

Even though LSU doesn't have an unbeaten record, it still is a divisional contender that will be the toughest test to date.

How Auburn passes—or fails—that test will go a long way in determining the outcome of the season. 

If Auburn can fix some of its execution issues against a young and hungry LSU team that will be fighting to stay alive in a brutal SEC West race, then it could be the momentum boost it needs to jump into the middle of the playoff picture.

Auburn will want to avoid the result of last year's meeting, but it will still want to get the same benefits ahead of another tough journey through the conference schedule.

"Last year, that game really turned our heads," senior running back Corey Grant said. "It made us realize what we were capable of."

 

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.

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How Worried Should Alabama Fans Really Be About Ole Miss?

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Everyone is vulnerable.

That looks like the theme for the 2014 college football season so far. The top teams in the country have, more or less, been standing on a rickety foundation.

Thursday night, that all came crashing down. Oregon lost a shocker to Arizona that sent the college football dominoes flying.

The old adage “any given Saturday” (or Thursday) is a cliche, but it’s a cliche because it’s true. For Alabama fans, that makes this week that much scarier.

The Crimson Tide are on the road in Oxford this weekend for their biggest game of the season against an Ole Miss team that looks dangerous. Should Alabama fans be worried about meeting Oregon’s fate Friday night?

There’s a lot to like about this Ole Miss team, and in some ways, it plays to Alabama’s weakness.

Bo Wallace has thrown the ball well this season, and Laquon Treadwell is as tough a matchup at wide receiver as they come in the SEC.

Wallace is No. 7 in the country in completion percentage (71) and No. 13 in yards per game (317.8). The Crimson Tide’s secondary, meanwhile, gave up 365 yards through the air to the only team it's played this year with a high-level passing game.

That’s why it’s make-or-break time for this Alabama secondary, which will look a little different than it did in the opener.

“They have a real good offense,” linebacker Denzel Devall said. “The scheme they run is run pretty good with their quarterback. It all starts with him. We'll have our hands full, but that's why we've been practicing.”

The Rebels have a defense built to rattle an inexperienced quarterback like Blake Sims.

Ole Miss does a terrific job of affecting the quarterback, as evidenced by its nine interceptions so far this year. And those nine interceptions were caught by seven different defenders. They can beat you in a variety of ways.

There’s also the challenge of the team’s first true road test of the season.

Sims has been terrific so far this season, but it’s largely been at home, save the season opener in Atlanta, where Alabama still had a majority in the crowd.

That won’t be the case this week.

“I think the big thing about playing on the road that you have to deal with is the noise factor offensively in terms of being able to manage the game—silent count, those kinds of things are a little different,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “I think that’s the biggest challenge, and we have to create some of those situations in practice so the players have to learn how to communicate and that we can execute with noise not affecting us.”

How Sims manages that hostile environment for the first time will go a long way in determining Alabama’s success.

There’s a lot that works in Alabama’s favor, though.

For one, the Rebels haven’t been able to run the ball consistently this season. They average 169.75 rushing yards per game, which puts them at just No. 75 in the country.

Neither of Ole Miss' top two backs—Jaylen Walton and I'Tavius Mathers—tops 6’0” or 200 pounds. Alabama’s massive front seven shouldn’t have much of a problem in that department.

The Crimson Tide, meanwhile, should be able to run the ball with a good amount of success. New offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin has maximized the talents of his three star running backs, T.J. Yeldon, Derrick Henry and Kenyan Drake. They can showcase their skills in the right situations without getting worn down in the process.

If you ran a computer simulation of this game 1,000 times, Alabama would come out on top more times than not. But these games are not played on paper. That wouldn’t be very fun.

If Thursday night was any indication, every team is vulnerable. And could fall at any time.

 

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

Follow on Twitter @marctorrence.

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SEC Football: Biggest Surprises, Disappointments so Far in 2014

We’re only five weeks into the college football season, and the SEC has already delivered us a season’s worth of entertainment.

From upsets, stellar performances and improbable finishes, the nation’s toughest conference has seen it all. It’s been enough to keep fans on the edge of their seats week in and week out.

But for every surprise in the SEC, there has also been a disappointment.

Join B/R as we take a closer look at some of both. 

 

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Who Is College Football's Real No. 1 Team?

Even before the 2014 college football season got underway, mock four-team playoffs were being formed.

It's a projection that's been drawn up every week since. Bleacher Report and USA Today are just two outlets that have weekly features with mock playoff committees.

Interestingly, there seems to be less emphasis on which team is actually No. 1. That likely comes down to it being merely the first week in October. There's a lot of football left to be played and no need to concentrate heavily on seeding just yet.

But the question remains: After one month, which team is the best in college football?

Oregon's stunning home loss to Arizona on Thursday night means it's safe to eliminate the Ducks from that conversation—for now. It's not even that the Ducks lost; as B/R's draft guru, Matt Miller, and Chris B. Brown of Grantland.com tweet, there's little help for quarterback Marcus Mariota:

There are 16 undefeated teams heading into Saturday, but obviously, not every undefeated team is created equally. There are also three games this weekend that pit undefeated Top 25 teams against one another. We're going to have a much clearer idea of who's rising to the top when Sunday rolls around.

In the meantime, who's No. 1? Based on the latest mock playoff rankings from B/R's playoff guru, Samuel Chi, Oklahoma, Auburn, Florida State and Alabama would make the field if the season ended today. There are certainly cases to be made for Texas A&M and a few other teams, but going off Chi's rankings, which team would be the top seed?

Below is a glance at each.

 

Oklahoma

The Sooners might be the most complete team in the country. There's no standout win on the resume, per se, though beating West Virginia on the road in a tough environment is solid.

Oklahoma's strength is in its defensive front seven, and the Sooners average three sacks and just under seven tackles for loss a game. And despite breaking in a mostly new group of wide receivers, Oklahoma ranks in the top 10 nationally in scoring offense. It helps that OU has incredible depth and talent at running back.

Oklahoma will be tested again Saturday at TCU, which appears to be a much-improved team on offense from a year ago. The Frogs defense is once again a formidable group. The good news for the Sooners going forward is that all of their toughest games on paper—against Kansas State, Baylor and Oklahoma State—are at home.

 

Auburn

It's hard to believe Auburn could be trucking along quietly after the miraculous season it had in 2013, but the Tigers have been somewhat low-key this season, aside from a Thursday night win at Kansas State.

That is going to change in earnest. The Tigers are coming up on a brutal stretch of games that extends, well, through the rest of the season. It starts this Saturday at home against LSU and continues with the following conference schedule: at Mississippi State, South Carolina, at Ole Miss, Texas A&M, at Georgia and at Alabama.

No big deal—the SEC West just has four other undefeated teams at the moment.

 

Florida State

The interesting thing about the Seminoles is that they appear to be in an opposite situation from a year ago. In 2013, Florida State was undoubtedly the most talented team in the country, steamrolling its way through a soft schedule.

This year, Florida State has shown far more weaknesses, but it already has two quality wins over Oklahoma State and Clemson. (The Tigers are much more dangerous now than they were in Week 1 thanks to a change at quarterback.) Plus, there's the come-from-behind win over North Carolina State, which showed a ton of leadership.

The chemistry isn't all there for the Noles. The offensive line is getting beat more regularly, and the defense isn't as stifling. However, head coach Jimbo Fisher still thinks (understandably) that his team should be No. 1.

"We ain't lost in 19 straight games, we're No. 1 until somebody beats us," Fisher said after beating Clemson without quarterback Jameis Winston and defensive end Mario Edwards (h/t Brendan Sonnone of the Orlando Sentinel).

 

Alabama

Just as Auburn is approaching a brutal stretch in its remaining schedule, so too is Alabama. The SEC West, as Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports opines, is the best in college football. There are five teams that think they're the best team in the country...in the same division.

The Tide travel to Oxford to take on Ole Miss on Saturday, a game that could say more about the Rebels. Still, the tough SEC West stretch means there's little room for error for Alabama.

The Tide found their quarterback in veteran Blake Sims, who has been a pleasant surprise. Young players in the secondary like Tony Brown are coming along nicely. Alabama doesn't look indestructible like it has in some recent years, but it also feels like this is a team that can (and will) get better as the season progresses.

 

Who's No. 1?

Of the four teams listed, Florida State has the best resume. But the Seminoles haven't looked like a No. 1 team. That leaves three other options whose toughest games have yet to be played.

Of Alabama, Auburn and Oklahoma, the Tide have a slight edge. All three teams have had good quarterback play, with Alabama getting the most out of Sims. Bama's offense also has arguably the best receiver in the country in Amari Cooper.

The defense hasn't been a shutdown unit, but it has been solid. Both Alabama and Oklahoma did a nice job with second-half adjustments against West Virginia, a team whose offense is much improved from a year ago.

The overall playmaking ability from Alabama's offense gives the Tide an oh-so-close edge over the Sooners, but trust that it was a close call.

It could also change in 24 hours. That's the beauty of college football.

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. All stats courtesy of cfbstats.com.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Arizona Celebrates Upset Win over No. 2 Oregon with "Duck Hunt" Photo

No. 2 Oregon was upset by the unranked Arizona Wildcats for the second consecutive season Thursday night, and the Arizona Athletics Twitter account had the perfect tweet to celebrate their big win.

As soon as the clock hit zero on the Wildcats' 31-24 victory, Arizona tweeted out the game-over screen from the famous Nintendo game Duck Hunt. This time, however, it's a Wildcat holding up a pair of downed ducks—not that stupid dog who laughed at you.

It didn't stop there, Matt Dudek, Arizona's Director of Player Personnel, got on twitter and started firing away at the Ducks.

 

After Thursday night's loss, Oregon fans would take a laughing dog over a bragging Wildcat any day.

[Twitter]

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