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Miami Football: What 'Canes Must Do in Bye Week to Prep for Florida State

The Miami Hurricanes have two weeks to prepare for the Florida State Seminoles, and the scheduling couldn't be more perfect.

Though skepticism will continue running rampant until the 'Canes can prove their sudden improvement is real, Al Golden's team appears to be turning a corner.

Of course, with Miami's next matchup being a contest with the undefeated, reigning national champion and rival Seminoles, that outing provides a perfect benchmark test for Golden and Co.

While FSU battles Virginia next weekend, Miami can take advantage of its bye week to prepare for the 'Noles.

 

Build Rapport on Offensive Line

According to Matt Porter of the Palm Beach Post, Golden said starting left tackle Ereck Flowers isn't done for the season, but his return date isn't known.

Consequently, the focus remains on Jon Feliciano, Nick Linder, Shane McDermott, Danny Isidora and Trevor Darling. The two full weeks of practice reps come at a time when Miami needs them the most.

Yes, the 'Canes posted 364 and 295 yards against Virginia Tech and North Carolina, respectively, but FSU will be their greatest challenge yet.

Spearheaded by former 247Sports 5-star recruit Eddie Goldman, the Seminoles defensive line limited Clemson to 13 yards on 27 carries and Notre Dame to 50 yards on 26 attempts.

Despite those impressive numbers, Florida State can be overpowered in the trenches. Louisville exposed some weaknesses, but it could not sustain the successes.

Between Michael Dyer and L.J. Scott, the Cardinals amassed 115 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries during the first half. During the latter frames, however, Louisville managed just 43 yards on 16 attempts.

Miami succeeding in the running game for 60 minutes is an essential part of springing an upset on the 'Noles.

Building familiarity on the offensive is crucial so the linemen can learn their teammate's habits. The zone-run offense is largely predicated on the timing of blocking schemes, and all extra practice time is invaluable heading into the rivalry clash.

 

Start Schemin'

If Twitter served as gospel, Golden and Mark D'Onofrio were definitely bound for pink slips within the last month. James Coley wasn't in as much danger, but he was still taking a fair amount of criticism on the social media site.

Where art thou now, ye naysayers?

The last two outings were perhaps the two most excellently all-around-coached games of the Golden era, and there's little evidence to dispute that opinion.

Defensively, D'Onofrio utilized previously unseen calls, most notably the weak-side cornerback blitz that resulted in two sacks against North Carolina. After allowing 45 percent of third- or fourth-down situations to be converted against six FBS opponents, Miami ceded just 28 percent to Virginia Tech and UNC.

Coley, on the other hand, employed the "Wild Cane" formation that provides more than a nifty wrinkle.

When the ground attack briefly stalled against both the Hokies and Heels, Miami needed a way to break apart the defense. Quarterback Brad Kaaya, however, is not a running threat, so the read-option isn't available through the gunslinger.

But Duke Johnson is fast, and he's really good. After six Hurricanes rushes resulted in four yards versus North Carolina, Coley called the Wild Cane, which resulted in eight yards and a Duke-patented stiff arm. The offense's next three carries covered 110 yards and helped break the game wide open.

Florida State can be exploited in similar fashions, and the bye week gives the coaches critical additional time to find those vulnerable areas.

 

Don't Get Hurt

Want to knock off the No. 2 team in the nation? Well, the "all hands on deck" approach is for you.

Miami has already lost Rayshawn Jenkins, Rashawn Scott, Taylor Gadbois, Kc McDermott and Ronald Regula to season-ending injuries, so it can't afford any more.

Most worrisome, however, is that Johnson keeps getting nicked up during games. Perhaps the Hurricanes should bubble-wrap their star leading up to Saturday, Nov. 15 at 8 p.m. ET.

According to Susan Miller Degnan of The Miami Herald, Golden said the schedule will be altered slightly so other priorities can be addressed.

From our standpoint, this week is going to be about taking care of the academics, getting rested up, getting stronger, doing all those thing and once we get into game week, we'll focus on Florida State. This whole week is going to be about us taking care of the things we need to take care of and executing our plan.

While all the on-field preparation is undeniably important, staying healthy is also imperative. Though not easily, Florida State has shown itself as beatable.

Miami needs all its currently available talent to remain that way if it wants a legitimate shot at defeating the 'Noles for the first time since 2009.

 

Follow Bleacher Report college football writer David Kenyon on Twitter: @Kenyon19_BR.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

How the LSU Tigers Can Pull off the Huge Upset vs. Alabama Crimson Tide

LSU was idle last week, but it is still riding high off of its gigantic victory against the Ole Miss Rebels. The Alabama Crimson Tide have been rolling since their loss to that very same Rebel team. 

Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Michael Felder and Barrett Sallee discuss what LSU has to do to get a big win against Alabama.

Can LSU pull off the upset?

Watch the video and let us know!

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Watch HS Team Run Arkansas' Identical Lineman TD Play To Perfection

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. That was the case with Nature Coast Technical High School in Brooksville, Florida, when it ran the identical trick play Arkansas used to stun the UAB Blazers a few weeks ago.

Against Weeki Wachee (Florida) High School on Oct. 31, Nature Coast Tech offensive lineman Hunter Rhineberger slid over to take the direct snap, then lofted a pass into the end zone moments before being sacked.

Was this the best trick play of the high school season?

Watch the video and let us know!  

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Laquon Treadwell Injury Update: Timetable for WR's Return and Long-Term Effects

Laquon Treadwell suffered a devastating, season-ending injury at the end of the Auburn game. Treadwell has been the Rebels' top receiver this season and will be sorely missed going forward. 

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder and B/R Injury Expert Will Carroll discuss the severity of Treadwell's injury and his return to the Rebels next season.

Do you think Treadwell can bounce back? Watch the video and let us know!

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Florida's Fake-Field-Goal Star Bags Groceries the Day After Big Play

Florida's Michael McNeely helped the Gators upset No. 11 Georgia on Saturday, but on Sunday he was back to bagging groceries at Publix.

McNeely scored a 21-yard touchdown on a fake field goal in the second quarter of Saturday's game against the Bulldogs.

The receiver's touchdown made it a 7-7 game, and the Gators would eventually run away with a 38-20 victory.

Imagine making a play of that magnitude and then going to work at a grocery store the next day.

The fifth-year senior was a pretty big deal at work the day after the game. According to ESPN.com's Jeff Barlis, McNeely signed autographs, posed for photos and more as he worked at the grocery store the day after his big moment.

McNeely has worked at Publix since 2008 and says he will continue to work there until he starts medical school next August. It would be hard to imagine that he has ever had a crazier day at work than the one he had Sunday.

Of course, it seems likely that Gators fans will make humorous use of McNeely's position when Florida takes on Jameis Winston (who shoplifted from a Publix in May) and the Florida State Seminoles on Nov. 29.

[ESPN]

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Texas A&M vs. Auburn Complete Game Preview

AUBURN, Ala. — Two years ago, Texas A&M marked its first conference trip to Auburn with a devastating blowout victory that personified the Tigers' entire 3-9 season.

Last year, Auburn got some of its revenge with a wild shootout win in College Station.

This year, the Tigers could very well pay the Aggies back for 2012 in front of their home fans.

No. 3 Auburn comes into Saturday's SEC West matchup off of a major 35-31 victory at then-No. 4 Ole Miss in what many called an elimination game for the inaugural College Football Playoff. While Auburn's offense continued its impressive run with five touchdowns against the stingy Rebels, the defense came up with a pair of unbelievable fourth-quarter turnovers to shake off another up-and-down performance.

Meanwhile, Texas A&M ended its three-game losing streak with a shaky 21-16 win against UL-Monroe in freshman quarterback Kyle Allen's first start following the suspension of sophomore Kenny Hill. The Aggies' high-powered attack is struggling at the moment as their defense continues to give up plenty of points and yards against conference opponents.

Before we get to the full breakdown of Saturday afternoon's game on the Plains, here is all the quick info you need to know:

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College Football Coaches on the Hot Seat Post-Week 10

Some head coaches have played their way off of the hot seat this season. Others have not been so fortunate.

The not-so-fortunate class consists of two major types: those who began the year on the hot seat and haven't done enough to get off of it, and those who have played their way onto the hot seat after not starting the season in peril.

Either way, though, they have all ended up in similar places. The hot seat burns the same for all types.

The criteria for this list were hard to specify. Every potential hot seat is different, depending on the context of the situation. For the most part, we were looking for sustained failure to meet expectations.

That's the quickest way to warm one's seat up.

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Watch High Schooler Go Up and Snag Incredible 1-Handed INT

Wide receiver/cornerback Tadarrius Patrick has two hands, but on this play, he just needed one.  

The senior out of Tavares (Florida) High School timed his leap perfectly and had the wherewithal to pluck the intended pass with one hand. It was Patrick's eighth pick of the regular season, per the Orlando Sentinel's Buddy Collings, and it helped Tavares beat Eustis High School, 42-21, on Oct. 24.

Was this the best one-handed interception you've seen this season?  

Check out the video and let us know!    

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Picks: Virginia Cavaliers vs. Florida State Seminoles Odds

The Virginia Cavaliers are next in line to try to knock off the undefeated Florida State Seminoles this Saturday at Doak Campbell Stadium. This ACC clash is set to kick off at 6:30 p.m. (ET), and it will be broadcast nationally on ESPN.

Virginia went into last Saturday’s ACC Coastal Division showdown against Georgia Tech as a 4.5-point road underdog and came up on the wrong end of a 35-10 loss to fall 0-3 both straight up and against the spread in its last three games. The Cavaliers are now 4-5 SU on the year and 5-4 ATS. The total has stayed “under” in their last four games.

Florida State survived yet another scare this season in last Thursday’s 42-31 come-from-behind victory over Louisville as a 3.5-point road favorite. The Seminoles moved to a perfect 8-0 straight up on the year, but it was just the second time this season that they covered against the spread. The total went “over” the closing 51-point line, and it has now gone over in their last four games.

 

Virginia vs. Florida State Betting Storylines

Virginia’s defense has held up fairly well this season by holding teams to an average of 24.2 points a game, but this number has climbed to 27.7 points during its current slide. The 35 points it just gave up against the Yellow Jackets was just the second time this season the defense surrendered more than 30 points in a game. Georgia Tech scored early and often to build a 21-7 lead in the second quarter from which the Cavaliers never recovered.

The Cavaliers offense has been able to maintain a solid balance with an average of 153.7 yards a game on the ground, complementing a passing game that is averaging 243.9 yards. The net result has been a scoring average of 26.7 points a game. Kevin Parks is the team’s leading rusher with 626 yards and four scores on 150 carries, and the top receiver in the passing game has been Darius Jennings with 421 yards on 20 catches.

Florida State has struggled to live up to its status as one of the top teams in the nation several times this season, but as long as it keeps winning games, it will stay in line for a shot to repeat as national champs. In the back of the mind of every player on this team is the simple fact that the Seminoles will have to get back to the dominating style of play that led to that national title in order to actually get the job done. They might be able to roll through the rest of their conference games, but their current overall form points to a short stay in the postseason.

It all starts with quarterback Jameis Winston. You have to give him credit for still making the plays when his team needs them the most, but 16 touchdown throws against nine interceptions is not the kind of ratio that wins championships. Last season, he tossed 40 scores verses just 10 picks in the Seminoles' run to the top of the heap. Florida State’s defense has also had its issues with stopping some of the better teams it has faced this season, and overall this unit is ranked 42nd in the nation in points allowed (22.8).

 

Virginia vs. Florida State Betting Odds and Trends by Doc’s Sports

Point Spread: Florida State -20

Total Line: OFF

The betting trends on Covers have Virginia going 5-2-1 ATS in its last eight games against a team with a SU winning record but just 1-3-1 ATS in its last five games following an ATS loss. The total has stayed under in its last six conference games.

The Seminoles are 9-4 ATS in their last 13 home games but just 2-6 ATS in their last eight games following a SU win. The total has stayed under in their last five home games.

The last time these two ACC foes met was in 2011, with the Cavaliers stunning Florida State 14-13 as 17-point road underdogs. The Seminoles have won eight of the last 10 meetings SU, and they have a slight 6-4 edge ATS. The total has stayed under in the last nine meetings.

 

College Football Picks: Virginia vs. Florida State Betting Predictions

Despite the fact that the Seminoles have struggled to cover all season long, I am actually going with Florida State to get its act together this week and play 60 minutes of football. Virginia comes into this matchup a bit shaky in its own right, which sets the stage for a blowout by the home team by more than the current 20-point spread.

 

Take: No. 166 Florida State (-20) over Virginia—6:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 8

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Ohio State Buckeyes vs. Michigan State Spartans Complete Game Preview

Finally, it's here.

After months of anticipation that date back to last season's Big Ten Championship Game, Ohio State and Michigan State will square off this weekend in a game that will again have heavy conference title implications—and perhaps even more.

With the Spartans ranked eighth and the Buckeyes coming in at No. 16 in the first College Football Playoff poll of the season, this weekend will go a long way toward building the resume of one playoff hopeful and eliminating the other's national title chances. As both teams have only suffered a single loss each to this point in this season, Saturday will have everything at stake that it was expected to in what should be a de facto Big Ten East championship game.

Will Ohio State gain revenge on Michigan State for ending its national championship hopes a year ago or will the Spartans again be victorious over Urban Meyer's squad? We'll find out Saturday. But until then, here's viewing information about the biggest Big Ten battle of the season followed by a game preview:

 

Date: Saturday, Nov. 8

Time: 8 p.m. ET

Place: Spartan Stadium in East Lansing, Michigan

TV: ABC

Radio: Ohio State Football Radio NetworkSpartan Sports Network

Spread: Michigan State (-2), via Odds Shark 

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Auburn Coach Gus Malzahn Starred in His Own 'U Can't Touch This' Music Video

Before Gus Malzahn was a national championship-winning coach, he was just a high school football coach trying to find a way to pump up his players.

During that time, Malzahn showed off his dance moves in a music video for MC Hammer's "U Can't Touch This." According to Jon Solomon of AL.com, Malzahn made the video on a family vacation and showed it to his Shiloh Christian team every year before the playoffs.

Now that Malzahn has worked his way to winning a national championship at the college level, he can say making this was worth it.

Who knows if he'd be where he is today without such a fantastic video?

[YouTube, h/t Reddit and The Big Lead]

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

The 5 Most Telling Stats for Notre Dame This Season

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — It’s tough to neatly summarize the first two-thirds of the regular season for Notre Dame football, but we’ll turn to the numbers to try to do so.

The Irish sit at 7-1 and are still a part of the national conversation with games against Arizona State, Northwestern, Louisville and USC remaining. They’ve had convincing performances (Michigan, Florida State and Stanford, to a lesser extent) and uninspiring outings (North Carolina, Navy).

So how do we best describe what’s been happening this season?

Glad you asked.

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College Football's Most Important Offers of the Week

With college coaches across the country gearing up for the final push before national signing day, most programs are assessing their most critical needs and attacking the trail with aggressiveness in filling them.

Late last month, Texas head coach Charlie Strong went on an offer spree with a number of 2015 defensive backs.

Last week, Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops didn’t go as far as the rival Longhorns in terms of quantity. However, the Sooners did hand out offers to a pair of 3-star corners, Will Lockett and JUCO corner Justin Martin.

According to Barton Simmons of 247Sports, Martin is one of the nation’s top JUCO prospects. The 6’2”, 192-pounder has offers from schools such as Florida, Georgia, Oklahoma State, Ole Miss and Tennessee, among others.

Meanwhile, Lockett is one of the top cover corners in the state of Texas—an area that has been kind to Stoops and the Sooners in recent history.

The 6’0”, 182-pounder—who is committed to UCLA—recorded 12 pass breakups, two interceptions and two forced fumbles as a junior.

The secondary figures to be a primary focus for the Sooners during their stretch run in the 2015 cycle. Per Ourlads, the Sooners will lose a starter in senior Quentin Hayes. Plus, standout corner Zach Sanchez could theoretically test the NFL draft waters as a redshirt sophomore.

With these two new offers out to corners, expect the Sooners to continue to turn up the heat on their current targets at that position.

 

2016 NJ Athlete Earns Alabama Offer

Alabama has a commitment from the top prospect in New Jersey in the 2015 cycle with corner Minkah Fitzpatrick

Nick Saban and his staff have gone back to the Garden State to offer 2016 4-star athlete Jordan Fuller.

According to Ryan Bartow of 247Sports (via Charles Power of BamaOnline), Tide assistant Mario Cristobal was in to see Fuller just before the offer was delivered.

The 6’2”, 190-pounder—whose brother Devin plays receiver for UCLA—has offers from powers such as Florida State, Miami, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Penn State, South Carolina and UCLA, among others.

While the Bruins could be the early favorite, Saban has proven time and again that the Tide are a force to be reckoned with on the recruiting trail, capable of pulling top players from across the country.

 

2016 OL Racking Up Offers

Arguably one of the toughest positions to evaluate in recruiting is offensive line.

So when one top line prospect has amassed more than 50 offers prior to his senior season, it’s safe to assume that he represents one of the nation’s elite recruits in his class.

That is the case for 2016 3-star offensive lineman Parker Boudreaux.

The Sunshine State standout earned offers from Oklahoma, Missouri and Auburn last week.

The 6’5”, 282-pounder has the prototypical size and athleticism that teams covet at the all-important left tackle spot.

The race to land Boudreaux’s commitment is already one of the most heated recruitments of the 2016 cycle.

 

2017 WR Nets Trio of Big-Time Offers 

While it’s still early to forecast some of the top prospects in the 2017 cycle, there are a handful of recruits who are beginning to establish themselves as elite players. 

According to Shea Dixon of Geaux247, Tennessee sophomore wideout Tee Higgins picked up offers from LSU, Tennessee and Clemson last week. His high school coach, Joe Gaddis, called his stud 6’4”, 175-pound playmaker “the total package.”

“He can jump,” Gaddis told Dixon. “He’s got great hands. He can run, runs good routes. He can run away from you with speed, or he can make you miss.”

Given that the word is just starting to get out on Higgins, expect his offer list to expand sooner than later.

 

Best of the Rest

 

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

AP College Football Poll 2014: Official Top 25 Rankings and Week 11 Projections

College football has not made things easy on poll voters this season. A frenetic Week 10 slate and the debut of the College Football Playoff rankings shook things up once again as the focus shifts to Week 11. 

The brand new AP Poll doesn't have wholesale changes at the top. Mississippi State still reigns supreme after surviving a scare against Arkansas. However, Auburn earned the right to switch with rival Alabama to No. 3, according to the voters, thanks to a win on the road over Ole Miss. 

But that wasn't the only notable change in the fresh batch of rankings. Here's a complete look at the rankings along with Bleacher Report's official Top 25

Odds current as of Sunday, Nov. 2 at 5:45 p.m. ET via OddsShark.com.

 

Storylines to Watch

Who Will Take Command of Big 12?

There's no conference with more on the line this Saturday than the Big 12. The logjam that currently exists atop the conference standings could either become instantly more clear (if Kansas State beats TCU) or could get even more complicated (if TCU beats Kansas State and Baylor beats Oklahoma). 

Either way, the conference's best shot at sending a team to the College Football Playoff will be revealed. With Kansas State or TCU picking up a win over a Top 10 opponent either way, one team will have an even stronger resume as the committee deliberates over the best teams in the country. 

As David Ubben of Fox Sports Southwest points out, this could be the final major challenge for TCU especially:

That being said, Kansas State remains the only unbeaten team in conference play. With the Wildcats' only loss coming against Auburn by six points, they have a strong resume to be included in the playoff with a win as well. 

The conference championship doesn't come down to just Kansas State and TCU, though. A matinee matchup between Oklahoma and Baylor will have a heavy influence on the landscape as well. 

Baylor, specifically, could create a lot of havoc with a win. With their only loss coming to TCU, they could make things very interesting for the committee by winning out. However, as Jason Kersey of The Oklahoman notes, Baylor doesn't have a history of success against ranked teams on the road:

Oklahoma may have two losses, but there's a reason they are still No. 6 in Football Outsiders' F/+ rankings. A win over the Bears would get them right back in the Big 12 title hunt. Especially if Kansas State can beat TCU. 

 

Can Ohio State Atone for Last Year's Collapse?

Ohio State's 2013 campaign was going swimmingly—until it ran into a Michigan State team that had its number. Fast-forward to 2014, and the Buckeyes face a similar situation. 

This year's edition isn't undefeated. A loss to Virginia Tech has put the Buckeyes behind the eight-ball when it comes to the College Football Playoff. But a lot of ground could be made up if Urban Meyer and Co. can navigate the rest of their schedule and win the Big 10 championship. 

The Spartans are easily the best team that the Buckeyes have played since losing to Virginia Tech. In their six wins since the loss, none of the teams they play have been ranked. However, a look where each team ranks across various metrics indicates two closely matched teams:

After losing its last two big games, this is a big game in terms of perception for the program going forward. Can Ohio State overcome the challenges of playing on the road? If it does, it's hard to deny it will be the favorite to win the conference. 

 

Will Alabama Keep Its Playoff Dream Alive Against LSU?

The Alabama Crimson Tide may have lost a spot in the AP poll, but it has a chance to prove it deserves that spot back this Saturday. A win against LSU in the Bayou would do just that. 

That won't be an easy task. The young Tigers appear to be rounding into shape just in time to renew their rivalry with Alabama. Les Miles' team took the week off after picking up a momentous 10-7 win over Ole Miss in Week 9. 

What was most impressive about the win wasn't just that they won. It was how they won. The Tigers proved that they had the ability to be more physical than one of the best defenses in the nation:

The Tigers have the odds stacked against them. There's a reason Alabama is the road favorite in this one. But playing keep away from Amari Cooper and the Tide's offense is the clear-cut way to spring the upset. That's a game plan that the Tigers are more than capable of utilizing to ugly this game up. 

As usual with these two SEC powers, expect a physical affair that is low on scoring and high on last-minute drama. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

LSU Has Improved, but the Tigers Still Can't Beat Mighty Alabama

A month ago, LSU's season was lost.

Gone.

Forgotten.

The Tigers were blown out 41-7 at Auburn in a game that wasn't as close as the score indicated, the quarterback position was a hot mess, the defense was a sieve and the future—at least the immediate future—looked bleak.

Then a funny thing happened against Florida. Running back Leonard Fournette rushed for 140 yards and two touchdowns, quarterback Anthony Jennings didn't throw a pick, Kendell Beckwith got more time at middle linebacker and the Tigers kicked off a three-game winning streak that has them back in the AP Top 25.

Alabama head coach Nick Saban knows that his Crimson Tide are catching the Tigers when they're hot.

"They're running it very effectively," Saban said on last week's coaches teleconference "[Fournette] is a really good back. They've got a good offensive line. They've controlled the ball, and it's an effective way for them to play with the players that they have. They've done a really good job, I think, of it. It's difficult to defend."

If they're going to extend it to four, head coach Les Miles' crew is going to have to take a gigantic leap forward. While the Ole Miss win in Death Valley was impressive, there are still some major problems.

Most notably, Jennings.

The true sophomore signal-caller for the Tigers has nailed down the top spot on the depth chart after being benched prior to the Auburn game, but it's not exactly like he's been a difference-maker.

He has only completed 50 percent of his passes on the season (72-of-144) for 1,190 yards, eight touchdowns and five picks.

Against Ole Miss, Jennings threw two second-half interceptions that, had his defense not tightened up, could have cost his team the game. Despite the one-dimensional nature of the offense, Jennings thinks his team can win out, according to Ben Love of TigerSportsDigest.com:

That's not going to happen.

This Alabama front seven is loaded with fast, physical and talented players who have helped the Crimson Tide post the second-best rush defense in the nation (78.13 yards allowed per game). It also leads the nation in rushing touchdowns allowed with two.

Fournette and crew won't be enough for the Tigers to spring the upset.

The ground game may have some success, but the combination of a stout Alabama front seven and a Crimson Tide offense that will move the football will put pressure on LSU offensive coordinator Cam Cameron and force him to give the game to Jennings.

That's right where Alabama wants it to be.

LSU will be able to hang but won't be able to wear down the Tide defense like it did to Ole Miss' front seven in the second half of the matchup between the Tigers and Rebels two weeks ago.

The Tigers will have to pass to keep up and simply aren't equipped to do that yet.

 

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

Wisconsin Badgers vs. Purdue Boilermakers Complete Game Preview

After easily their most impressive defensive performance of the year, the Wisconsin Badgers look to continue their winning ways against the Purdue Boilermakers on Saturday, November 8 in their second-straight road game.

The Badgers started the season 5-0 at home but 0-2 away from the friendly confines of Camp Randall Stadium before finally notching their first road win in a 37-0 rout of Rutgers in Piscataway, New Jersey last Saturday.

The Wisconsin defense was sensational—conceding just 88 yards before Rutgers' last drive and forcing nine three-and-outs on Rutgers' 15 possessions. The Badgers are third in scoring defense in 2014—14.1 points per game—and are first in yards allowed per game at a paltry 253.8.

For Purdue, the Boilermakers have been a much tougher out since making the switch from Danny Etling to Austin Appleby at quarterback—beating Illinois in Champaign and then dropping the next three while being competitive throughout.

While their record still looks bleak—the Boilermakers sit at 3-6 with a 1-4 record in Big Ten play—Appleby is just a sophomore and there are signs in place that things are looking up for Purdue in the coming years.

Let's take a look at the keys to success, the players to watch, what people are saying and a prediction for this week's tilt.

Begin Slideshow

Despite Win over South Carolina, Tennessee Has Much to Fix in Bye Week

For all the promising strides Tennessee has made, the Volunteers' bye week comes at an ideal time to address the issues standing between Butch Jones' team and a bowl berth.

Winning in dramatic fashion over a division rival the way UT did in its 45-42 overtime victory over South Carolina on Saturday glosses over imperfections.

It also makes everybody happy when there's tangible evidence of the program's growth.

But the Vols still have huge questions in every facet of the game.

UT is 4-5 with games left against Kentucky, Missouri and Vanderbilt. All are winnable; all could be lost. While the Vols won't face another offense as dynamic as the Gamecocks, they also won't face a defense as rife with holes.

So, it's essential UT gets better in the next 12 days before it hosts a much-improved Kentucky in Neyland Stadium.

Let's take a look at major points of emphasis Jones has to focus on in a perfectly placed bye week:

 

Defense

Tennessee's team strength all season has all of a sudden become a major weakness over the past three weekends, and the reason is simple:

The Vols must be tired on defense.

There simply aren't enough dependable players to throw out there on that side of the ball yet, which leads to stalwarts such as A.J. Johnson, Curt Maggitt, Jalen Reeves-Maybin, Cameron Sutton and Derek Barnett playing tons of snaps week after week.

It's showing lately as UT has allowed 34, 34 and 42 points in its past three games against Ole Miss, Alabama and South Carolina.

If UT never sees another "Cooper" at receiver, it'll be too soon. One week after Alabama's Amari Cooper set career receiving records against the Vols, Carolina's Pharoh Cooper surpassed that. A Vols pass defense that entered the Bama game fourth nationally has plummeted to 34th.

Granted, UT won't play another passing offense as strong as those of the Gamecocks and Tide, which rank second and third in the league. But UT has really struggled defending the pass.

Too many times against the Gamecocks, the Vols lost Cooper in soft spots in the zone. UT gambled not shadowing him with their star cornerback Sutton.

An offensive mastermind like Steve Spurrier exploited matchups with Cooper over and over again, such as the time the star receiver beat nickelback Justin Coleman down the seam for an 85-yard touchdown.

The good news is Missouri's Bud Sasser is the only legitimate receiving threat remaining.

Hand-in-hand with the struggles in the passing game for the Vols defense is UT's propensity to give up big plays. That was the unit's biggest deficiency in 2013, and it got progressively worse as the season wore on due to depth issues. 

Unfortunately (though it's not as drastic), coordinator John Jancek's group is experiencing the same thing this season.

During the past three games, the Vols have allowed 32 plays of 15 or more yards, including nine that went for more than 30 yards, according to an analysis of UT's official statistics.

UT was at its very worst against the Gamecocks yet still won, so teaching points are a little easier to stomach.

Those back-breaking plays allowed are way up from the season's first six games where UT gave up just 24 plays of 15 or more yards with just three going for more than 30. The competition has improved, but that doesn't diminish the need for Tennessee to rest up and trim those back through the season's final quarter.

The best news? UT's defense came up huge with the game on the line. The Vols are extremely disruptive up front, and that showed up despite the struggles to help them pull off an improbable comeback. 

 

Offense

It seems there's nothing Jalen Hurd can't do.

But can he do it by himself at running back?

Tennessee senior Marlin Lane put no pressure on his injured ankle Saturday night as he was carried off the field by trainers, just after getting healthy for the first time in three games. Now, the Vols are stuck with "Hurd and hope" in the offensive backfield.

Lane wasn't putting weight on it after the game, either.

The good news for UT is sophomore blossoming star quarterback Josh Dobbs gives the Vols another legit rushing threat, and between him and Hurd, they're going to be fine.

But it wouldn't hurt to get fellow freshman Derrell Scott some extra reps over the next two weeks to prepare him to get an increased workload if Lane is out for an extended amount of time.

Senior Devrin Young hasn't played since breaking his ribs, and his status moving forward is unclear, so UT needs to get Hurd some help. Who's that going to be? Scott seems like the viable choice, so he needs to grow up a lot in the bye week.

Whoever lines up behind Dobbs needs to help the team out in short-yardage situations. That remains an issue, especially when the team gets inside the 20-yard line.

With Dobbs at the helm, UT's offense has been dynamic and, at times, unstoppable.

But offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian had to resort to trickery to get UT's first touchdown Saturday night after the Gamecocks' goal-line stand denied the Vols seven points the first time they were down there. 

The offensive line issues may appear much better in this new scheme, but the linemen still have serious problems moving the line of scrimmage in short-yardage situations, and the coaching staff can't trust them because of that.

 

Special Teams and Coaching

From a kicking standpoint, the Vols just have to be much more consistent.

It was a good thing to see true freshman place-kicker Aaron Medley split the uprights on a 32-yard overtime field goal, but he missed important attempts of 43 and 45 yards earlier.

After being named a Ray Guy Award semifinalist, UT senior punter Matt Darr had perhaps his worst game of the year against Carolina, punting three times for an average of 32.7 yards. It was miserable kicking conditions in Columbia, but UT can't afford lapses in the kicking game.

The questionable coaching decisions were a little more complex.

With Dobbs at the helm, Bajakian's play-calling looks a lot better than it had with an immobile quarterback, and Jancek has built up so much goodwill with UT's hot defensive start to the season and undisputed improvement that it's hard to fault the coordinators.

But a couple of questionable decisions by Jones were bailed out by Dobbs' superb game against South Carolina.

Rather than go for it on 4th-and-1 and 4th-and-3 with the Vols ahead by a touchdown and then tied in the third quarter, he elected to send Medley out to kick field goals in the wind-whipping end zone of Williams-Brice Stadium.

The first decision was somewhat more understandable, considering UT had a touchdown lead at the time. But after Medley missed his first chance, Jones should have kept the offense on the field the second time.

This is a UT team that rushed for 344 yards on a 6.3 average Saturday night. The Vols have a dynamic dual-threat quarterback and a hulking runner in Hurd. They piled up 645 yards of total offense, and Carolina couldn't stop them.

Jones should have ridden his horses.

Points are always important, but Jones needed to show his offense he trusted them to get the yards, much like he should have done at the end of the first half against Alabama when he elected to run out the clock and kick a field goal rather than try for the touchdown.

Jones has done an exceptional job building the program and a good job coaching. He is a master motivator, and his teams never quit. As he grows into coaching in this league, there is plenty that makes you think he's going to do well.

But in rugged, close SEC battles—and especially in shootouts like the past two weekends—settling for field goals doesn't win games.

It's nitpicking to dissect decisions in a game UT ultimately won, but Jones' conservative actions had to come because of a mistrust of his offensive line. Had the line proven it could dominate in short-yardage situations earlier and not been so bad for most of the year, the coach probably would have kept his offense on the field.

Against comparable (or inferior) opponents the rest of the way, Jones needs to lean on his team to make key conversions at important moments.

The best news for the Vols is all these improvements and adjustments can come in a relaxed environment after the program's biggest win in years. 

Tennessee is making strides and improving noticeably all over the field. The youngsters are growing up, and a team that looked like it didn't know how to win a football game finally made it happen against South Carolina.

Can the Vols win two of three and go to a bowl game playing like they did Saturday night? Probably so, but if they can make some adjustments in the off week, there's no reason to believe seven wins are out of the question.

 

All stats and information taken from UTSports.com or CFBStats.com.

Brad Shepard covers SEC football and is the Tennessee Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. Follow Brad on Twitter @Brad_Shepard.

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Samuel Chi's Mock College Football Playoff Standings: Week 11

We're in the first week of November and we're nowhere near any clarity in terms of the inaugural playoff picture. We might easily have two SEC teams in the four-team playoff, or we might have none.

The selection committee will have five more weeks to sort all this out after unveiling its first-ever rankings last week. But this Tuesday's rankings are more revealing and relevant: We will finally get an idea about how its evaluation process works.

Do the 12 committee members act like pollsters, where they simply slide teams up and down each week based on wins and losses? Or do they shred last week's rankings and evaluate each team freshly based on the data that became available only after Saturday? We will pick up tons of clues Tuesday night.

But until then, here are our projected College Football Playoff rankings for this week, based on what we learned last week:

 

The Rankings

 

The Playoff Teams

1. Mississippi State

The Bulldogs escaped against Arkansas and will remain No. 1, but they have no margin for error. A loss at Alabama could end their bid for the SEC West title and possibly a playoff spot.

Projected bowl: Playoff at Sugar Bowl

 

2. Florida State

The Seminoles survived a Thursday night ambush by rallying in the second half. They're clearly not as good as they were last year but with a forgiving schedule, they are able to do just enough to hang on. As long as FSU wins out, it'll be no worse than the No. 2 seed in the playoff.

Projected bowl: Playoff at Rose Bowl

 

4. Oregon

The Ducks are back on a roll, as they're healthy again and Marcus Mariota is staking his claim for the Heisman Trophy. They finally solved Stanford and are primed to take care of business the rest of the way.

Projected bowl: Playoff at Rose Bowl

 

5. TCU

A dramatic last-second win at Morgantown kept the Horned Frogs' hopes for a playoff berth alive, and they'll be playing another elimination game Saturday against Kansas State with possibly the Big 12 title on the line.

Projected bowl: Playoff at Sugar Bowl

 

The First Four Out

3. Auburn

If both Auburn and Mississippi State win out, it'll produce the most likely scenario for two SEC teams to crash the playoff party. The Tigers' remaining schedule isn't a cakewalk, but most of their work is already done, save for the Iron Bowl.

Projected bowl: Orange Bowl

 

6. Alabama

Thanks to Ole Miss' gut-wrenching loss to Auburn, the Tide now can win the SEC West by running the table without any other help. But unlike Auburn, their work is just getting started. Alabama must get by LSU (at Death Valley, at night) and Mississippi State back-to-back before facing Auburn in the Iron Bowl.

Projected bowl: Cotton Bowl

 

7. Kansas State

The Wildcats can play their way into the playoff, but they have to get it done away from Manhattan. They must beat TCU, West Virginia and Baylor—all on the road.

Projected bowl: Cotton Bowl

 

8. Michigan State

The Spartans must get by Ohio State this weekend, and if they should prevail, they'd be able to coast home to a Big Ten title. But even that guarantees nothing in terms of a playoff berth, as Michigan State is very much on the outside at the point.

Projected bowl: Fiesta Bowl

 

 

Other Fun Facts

* The group-of-five picture underwent a major shakeup on Saturday, as both East Carolina and Central Florida lost, thus eliminating the American Athletic Conference. We'll find out if the committee will continue to hold the weak schedule against Marshall even though it's one of just three unbeaten teams left. And we'll see if Colorado State breaks into the rankings as well.

* The ACC's guaranteed Orange Bowl berth now appears to be a two-team race. Clemson might have the edge, but Duke certainly is making its own case. If the Blue Devils can win the Coastal without incurring another loss, they might get the nod over the Tigers if they keep it close against Florida State in the ACC title game.

* Notre Dame's too-close-for-comfort win over Navy didn't help its cause this week, but it did get some assistance Saturday night as Arizona State squeaked out another close win. The Sun Devils are now leading the tough Pac-12 South and, as such, give the Irish a huge opportunity to impress in their showdown this Saturday.

 

Follow on Twitter @ThePlayoffGuru

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NCAA Football Rankings 2014: Week 11 Standings and Analysis for Latest Polls

Most college football teams have just four games remaining, and the College Football Playoff is quickly approaching. You'd think we would have a great idea of which four teams would represent the nation in the first-ever playoff by now, but that simply isn't the case.

The playoff picture appears to become cloudier with each passing week. That trend continued in Week 10, as the gap between the nation's top teams narrowed due to slim victories by Mississippi State and Florida State along with big wins for Auburn and Oregon.

In fact, not many Top 25 squads got through the week without, at the very least, a scare from their respective opponents.

With the new polls released as we head into Week 11 of the season, here's a look at the updated standings, followed by some insight into the week's biggest movers.

The AP poll can be viewed at CollegeFootball.AP.org.

The Amway coaches poll can be viewed at USAToday.com.

The Bleacher Report poll can be viewed at BleacherReport.com.

 

Notable Riser

TCU Horned Frogs (Up to No. 6 from No. 10 in AP Poll)

The Horned Frogs moved four spots up the rankings for good reason. Each week, this team proves it has an offense good enough to compete with the best teams in the nation. In Week 10, that offense showed a great amount of resilience against West Virginia.

TCU got off to a rather slow start, allowing the Mountaineers to quickly gain a 13-0 lead through 11 minutes of action. Coming back from that deficit would be a tall task for any offense against a West Virginia defense that has been playing very well lately.

Stephen J. Nesbitt of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette tweeted how effective the team's defense has been on opening drives this season:

Quarterback Trevone Boykin helped that statistic, struggling mightily early in the contest. He forced some bad throws and caught some flack from Pat Forde of Yahoo Sports on Twitter:

Although, the quarterback quickly made up for his early lack of efficiency by connecting with Deante' Gray on a 47-yard scoring strike before the first quarter came to a close. He didn't stop there, finding the end zone once again on a two-yard scamper early in the third quarter, giving TCU its first lead of the game.

Boykin may be young and in need of further development, but he proved he can step up when his back is against the wall. That became wildly apparent once again later in the game.

Down by nine points in the fourth quarter, he orchestrated an eight-play, 51-yard drive resulting in a B.J. Catalon six-yard touchdown scamper. Later, with just two minutes remaining, a 40-yard strike to Kolby Listenbee helped put the Horned Frogs in position for their game-winning field goal.

The Horned Frogs finished the game with 389 yards of offense—far smaller of a number than the team has been accustomed to producing. Still, with a solid defensive effort and a young quarterback able to shake off early-game struggles, TCU proved it can win games against good teams even when things don't go according to plan.

 

Notable Faller

Ole Miss Rebels (Down to No. 12 from No. 7 in AP Poll)

The biggest concern regarding the Rebels following their loss to Auburn is the meltdown by a once-stout defense. That side of the ball played so well throughout eight games this season, ranking first in the nation in points against; however, giving up 35 points to the Tigers was rather unexpected.

Ole Miss allowed a total of 507 yards of offense to Auburn. It didn't just fail to contain the Tigers' strong running game, but it couldn't find much success against Nick Marshall through the air, either.

Marshall's dual-threat ability was simply too much for the Rebels to handle. He completed 15 of his 22 passing attempts for 254 yards, two touchdowns and one interception while rushing 10 times for 50 yards and two more scores.

Making matters worse for the Rebels was running back Cameron Artis-Payne, who rushed 27 times for 147 yards and a touchdown.

On the other side of the ball, quarterback Bo Wallace put up some nice numbers, but he found himself under pressure frequently, and that led to a pivotal turnover late in the game. Travis Haney of ESPN.com tweeted his thoughts:

If the Rebels offensive line can't protect a turnover-prone Wallace and the defense can't find a way to contain a dual-threat quarterback like Marshall, how can Ole Miss expect to compete with other top teams such as Florida State, Oregon and Notre Dame?

The loss to Auburn marked the second of the year for Ole Miss, and that just may be enough to end the team's hopes of clinching a berth in this year's College Football Playoff.

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College Football Odds: Opening Week 11 Betting Lines and Totals

The Michigan State Spartans will take on the Ohio State Buckeyes as early two-point favorites in a Week 11 college football matchup with major implications for both teams’ hopes of finishing atop the Big Ten East and the College Football Playoff rankings.

Winners of its last six straight up (4-2 against the spread), 7-1 Michigan State currently sits deadlocked with Ohio State at 4-0 in conference play ahead of Saturday night’s Buckeyes vs. Spartans betting matchup at Spartan Stadium. The Spartans are 5-1 ATS when favored by double digits, but they are winless ATS this season as underdogs and slim favorites.

The 7-1 Buckeyes have been simply dominant since an early-season loss to Virginia Tech, winning their last six SU (5-1 ATS) and scoring 50-plus points in five of those outings. The Buckeyes also have history on their side, winning SU and ATS in four of their last five visits to East Lansing, Michigan, but they were 34-24 losers as 5.5-point road favorites against the Spartans last season.

The TCU Horned Frogs are pegged as early six-point favorites on Saturday against Kansas State at sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark in a battle for top spot in the Big 12 and continued consideration in the CFP rankings.

The 7-1 Wildcats are coming off a convincing 48-14 win over Oklahoma State, their fifth straight SU and sixth straight ATS. The win moved K-State to a perfect 5-0 in Big 12 action and into sole possession of first in the conference. The Wildcats are pegged as dogs despite a pair of wins in their most recent meetings with TCU and a dominating 13-1 record ATS in their last 14 as road underdogs.

The Horned Frogs needed a last-minute field goal to earn a 31-30 win over upstart West Virginia last weekend, but they have otherwise been an offensive machine, averaging over 60 points per game in their three previous outings, with the OVER prevailing in four of their last six games.

In other Week 11 college football betting action, Florida State opened as a 21.5-point home favorite over ACC rival Virginia at sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark, while Auburn will look to build on its Week 10 win over Ole Miss when it takes on Texas A&M as early 14.5-point home favorites.

The Mountaineers travel to Texas as early 5.5-point favorites over the Longhorns, while Arizona State opened as a slim one-point home favorite over Notre Dame, and the surprising Duke Blue Devils are favored by three over Syracuse.

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