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Ohio State Football: Grading J.T. Barrett After 4 Games

COLUMBUS, Ohio — For somebody as detail obsessed as Urban Meyer, it's rare that the Ohio State head coach isn't prepared to answer any and every question about his team.

But at his weekly press conference Monday, one inquiry in particular caught Meyer off guard.

"It's a good problem to have, but if J.T. keeps playing well, have you thought much about the situation next year?" a reporter asked.

Meyer initially squinted his eyes, confused, until he realized the direction that the question was heading.

"Not until you said that," he responded with a smile.

The premise to the question was a reference to Buckeyes quarterback J.T. Barrett, the reigning Big Ten co-Freshman of the Week who just threw for 330 yards and four touchdowns Saturday in the Buckeyes' 50-28 win over Cincinnati.

The question itself brought in Braxton Miller, the two-time MVP who Barrett replaced and who plans on returning for the 2015 season after recovering from a season-ending shoulder injury.

"Braxton's our quarterback," Meyer continued with his answer. "To be fair, Braxton's the Big Ten Player of the Year. But it's good to know we've got both of them."

The fact that the question—a legitimate one—was even asked of Meyer on Monday is telling of just how far Barrett has come, and not just from the start of the season. After all, it was a mere three weeks ago that his status as the Ohio State starter could have been called into question after a 9-of-29, three-interception performance in the Buckeyes' Sept. 6 loss to Virginia Tech.

But since OSU and Barrett were dealt their defeat at the hands of the Hokies, the redshirt freshman signal-caller has been on a roll. In two post-Virginia Tech contests, Barrett has tallied a total of 642 passing yards, 85 rushing yards, 10 touchdowns and just one interception, all while directing the Ohio State offense to a combined 116 points in wins over Kent State and Cincinnati.

"I had a lot of confidence in J.T.," Meyer said. "I love J.T. He's fun to coach. He's a guy that has a great demeanor on the sideline. He's a student of the game."

Those traits have certainly assisted Barrett lately, albeit against two Ohio teams with less-than-stellar defenses. But regardless of the competition he's faced, it's worth noting that his two latest efforts have made Barrett the first Buckeye to throw for at least 300 yards in consecutive games since Troy Smith did so to end the 2005 season.

No, Smith never did during his Heisman Trophy-winning season in 2006, nor did Terrelle Pryor in his three seasons as a starter or Miller in his three. Barrett's recent progress in the pocket has been a breath of fresh air in the Ohio State offense, which has struggled to throw the ball with consistency since Meyer took over the program in 2012.

"I'm being more confident, I'm being more relaxed," Barrett said following the Buckeyes' beating of the Bearcats. "I was trying to make sure everything was right. Now I'm knowing that I'm going to make mistakes, and learning from them throughout the game. I'm not going in there trying to be perfect."

And while Barrett hasn't been perfect in his past two games, he also hasn't been far from it.

Earning a pair of Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors with a bye week sandwiched in between, Barrett has thrived in his role as a distributor, completing passes to 11 different receivers against Kent State and 10 different players against Cincinnati. Those are the type of numbers that the Ohio State coaching staff expected this season from Barrett, who is admittedly less of a one-man show than the more physically gifted Miller.

But what Barrett lacks in measurables, he's made up for mentally. As the Hokies' 46 Bear defense threatened to become a blueprint for beating the Buckeyes, Ohio State has shown that it will take more than just a single scheme to stop it—a big part of which has been the stellar play of its signal-caller.

"He's an extremely intelligent guy. He understands that we want to run the play, but there's certain looks where [we] don't run that play," Meyer said. "They went to a Bear, we had a 'bear beater' and he immediately got us into it, we hit two big plays and they got out of it.

"That's what a quarterback has to do."

Barrett obviously still has room for improvement—Meyer pinned a pair of false starts of his young quarterback and called for him to use his voice to have a better command of the offense—but his recent progress has been the catalyst in a revitalized OSU offense that has finally found its footing in Miller's absence.

And as for Miller? Meyer insists that the plan's still for him to reclaim his starting spot in 2015 should he recover from the torn labrum in his throwing shoulder that put his senior season on hold.

But should Barrett continue on the trajectory he's on, there's no telling what the future of the Buckeyes' quarterback position could hold, as Meyer may find himself spending a little more time on a question he previously thought he'd never have to answer.

 

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

College Football Rankings 2014: Week 6 Standings and Top 25 Team Records

So far, the Top 25 teams in college football reads like a who's who in terms of the inaugural College Football Playoff.

Jameis Winston and Florida State are obvious contenders. Alabama solved its quarterback question thanks to Blake Sims and is a contender. Marcus Mariota and Oregon are not going anywhere for the time being. Oklahoma continues to run right into contention.

As things bleed into Week 6, though, conference play does nothing short of kick things up another notch. The teams set to make it to the playoff become even more difficult to predict.

Let's take a look at the full standings and dial in on a few teams that seem sure to seize a playoff if a member of the top four falters.

 

2014 College Football Week 6 Rankings

 

 

College Football Playoff Sleepers

Texas A&M

The first big test of the Kenny Hill era for Texas A&M proved to be a close call, but it was a game the sophomore was more than ready to handle.

Arkansas' elite ground game and stingy defense took the Aggies to overtime at home a week ago, but Hill saved his best for last en route to 386 yards and four touchdowns to one interception, as illustrated by College GameDay:

Hill's play has been of a higher quality than most could have ever predicted, which in turn has made the Aggies a serious playoff threat. He is completing 65.6 percent of his passes and has 1,745 yards and 17 touchdowns to just two interceptions on the year.

For the time being, it is safe to assume that the Texas A&M defense's allowing 285 rushing yards is an anomaly rather than a rule. The team did hold South Carolina to 28 points to start the season and allowed a total of 19 over the course of three games after that.

While the schedule the rest of the way is brutal thanks to road trips to Alabama and Auburn, along with visits from Missouri and LSU, the saving grace for the Aggies is that they tout the best quarterback out of the teams listed and can certainly lose one game in the wild SEC West and still make the playoff.

 

Baylor

It is entirely too easy to forget about Baylor, another program with a downright wicked offensive attack—no matter who lines up under center.

Bryce Petty would firmly be in the Heisman conversation at the moment if he had been on the field for every snap so far, but the system in place is so potent that even his backup has been able to post gaudy numbers in spot duty:

There have been no close calls for the Bears to date. The latest contest was a 49-28 drubbing of Iowa State, which saw Petty get some help in the form of a dominant ground game (244 rushing yards and six scores) behind the talented legs of starter Shock Linwood.

The Bears rank No. 1 in the nation with an average of 56.8 points per game and eighth overall in terms of total defense as the unit surrenders less than 14 points. While these numbers are inflated due to an easy schedule to date, it is hard to not be impressed with the alarming consistency.

Baylor has yet to be tested and must overcome a schedule that includes Oklahoma and TCU. Remember, though, that Petty is back and this is a team that went 11-2 last season and lost just one game in the conference.

To discredit the Bears entirely because of strength of schedule to date is a good way to set oneself up for disappointment.

 

Auburn

What, forget about the Tigers already?

Gus Malzahn's team has a wicked schedule in comparison to the rest of the current playoff hopefuls, but that is no reason to write off the team that shocked the globe last year.

As long as Malzahn is at the helm, the Tigers offense is going to score. It helps, though, that he has more confidence than ever in his passing attack.

"I feel good about where we are. I'm confident we’ll improve," he said, per Charles Goldberg of AuburnTigers.com. "This year, unlike last year, I feel a lot more confident in our passing game, too. We don’t just have to rely on one thing."

The team has Nick Marshall to thank for that. In limited action, the senior has 548 passing yards and six touchdowns to a single interception, not to mention 273 yards and two more scores on the ground.

Marshall's raw ability, paired with a strong defense, allows Auburn to rank No. 15 overall in points for (42.3) and against (16.3) averages. There was a brief hiccup on the road against then-ranked No. 20 Kansas State, but that seems to speak more to the ability of the 3-1 Wildcats than any Auburn deficiency.

The biggest concern for Auburn at this point is simply the schedule. LSU is in town Saturday before a trip to Mississippi State. Then South Carolina comes to town, which is followed by encounters with Ole Miss, Texas A&M and Georgia.

Then a clash with Alabama to end the season.

That is a lot to digest. It is even more to overcome. But the Tigers seem better than last year's squad, and again, a loss—perhaps two—may not ruin things for a member of the SEC West.

 

Stats via ESPN. Amway Poll via USA Today. AP Poll via The Associated Press.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Will LSU's New QB Brandon Harris Answer the Tigers' Problems?

After Brandon Harris' stellar performance versus New Mexico State, LSU Tigers head coach Les Miles has named the true freshman the team's new starting quarterback. Harris accounted for five touchdowns—three passing and two running—in LSU's 63-7 drubbing of the Aggies. 

Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Michael Felder and Barrett Sallee discuss the move in the video above.

How far can Brandon Harris take the Tigers this season?

Watch the video and let us know! 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Arizona vs. Oregon: TV Info, Spread, Injury Updates, Game Time and More

No. 2 Oregon is back in action Thursday as it looks to secure some semblance of revenge against Arizona, a Pac-12 foe that single-handedly ruined last year for the Ducks.

Through four games apiece, both teams appear favorites in the conference thanks to explosive offenses led by talented quarterbacks. Both received their first serious tests their last time out on the field, meaning adjustments will reign supreme in a contest seemingly destined to turn into a shootout.

In one of the top contests of the week, not to mention in the conference overall, anything goes in Eugene between two teams with a serious amount of firepower.

 

Arms Race

Fans know the deal with the No. 2 team in the land. Led by Heisman contender Marcus Mariota, who returned to school for contests such as this, the Ducks tout the nation's No. 4 offense that scores an average of 48.5 points per game.

Mariota has himself 1,135 yards through the air and 13 scores to no interceptions. He is also a close second to Royce Freeman on the team's rushing list thanks to his 214 yards and three scores.

In his team's biggest game to date against then-ranked No. 7 Michigan State, a perennial defensive powerhouse, Mariota calmly went for 318 yards and three scores.

Now for what most can be forgiven for not knowing—Ka'Deem Carey is now a member of the NFL, but the Wildcats are still an offensive giant that ranks No. 16 in the country thanks to an average of 42 points per game.

In fact, the Wildcats actually rank eight slots higher than the Ducks in terms of passing yards per contest thanks to freshman signal-caller Anu Solomon. In fact, Solomon's numbers could be misconstrued for those of a Heisman contender—1,454 yards and 13 touchdowns to three interceptions while completing 63.4 percent of his attempts has a way of doing that.

Unlike the Ducks, the Wildcats also have a strong presence on the ground. The credit goes to another freshman, Nick Wilson, who's averaged 6.3 yards per carry so far on the way to 482 yards and four scores.

That ground presence will prove critical for the Wildcats in order to keep Mariota off the field, but if all else fails, Solomon certainly has the composure and talent to stand a chance in a shootout while down on the scoreboard.

 

Exploiting the Problem Areas 

Even with a week of rest under their belts, all is not well for Mark Helfrich's team.

Specifically speaking, the offensive line is a mess.

Tackles Tyler Johnstone, Andre Yruretagoyena and Jake Fisher missed the team's last game, a near upset at the hands of a 2-3 Washington State team. In that contest, the Cougars were able to generate seven sacks on Mariota before the Ducks escaped with a 38-31 victory.

To be fair, Helfrich did not sound too concerned about the patchwork line right after the close call.

"We know going forward people will have a plan for that, and obviously we have some things in our back pocket," Helfrich said, per Andrew Greif of OregonLive.com.

As Rob Moseley of GoDucks.com noted during the seven-sack performance, the Ducks appeared to up the tempo to compensate:

The problem is, if Mariota is under pressure all night, it may breed mistakes, which is what doomed the Ducks last year in that crushing loss to Arizona. While he was hurt last year, consistent pressure can and will create similar turnover issues in time.

To date, Arizona has generated all of five sacks, but Washington State was not exactly known to tout that as a strength either. If the week off was not put to good use, the Wildcats will find similar success Thursday.

 

When: Thursday, October 2, 10:30 p.m. ET

Where: Autzen Stadium, Eugene, Oregon

Television: ESPN

Live Stream: WatchESPN

Betting Lines (via Odds Shark):

  • Over/Under: 70
  • Spread: Oregon (-22.5)

 

Team Injury Reports

Injury reports via USA Today.

 

Prediction

This one will score highly thanks to strong quarterback play of both the expected and unexpected variety.

Mariota will be hindered behind a shaky offensive line, but one still has to love his chances of another great performance. On the road in the face of those aforementioned seven sacks, the Heisman favorite still managed five touchdown passes and no turnovers with all of four incompletions.

That sort of calamity under pressure is enough to outgun a freshman at home, as promising as he may look. The Ducks have rattled off a 28-0 mark at home since a loss in 2008 for good reason. Mariota, with the help of his line or not, will see the team through and keep the playoff dreams alive.

Prediction: Ducks 48, Wildcats 40

 

Statistics and info courtesy of ESPN unless otherwise specified.

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Pac-12 Football: Ranking the Best Coaching Jobs to This Point in the 2014 Season

The Pac-12 Conference may be lacking in experienced head coaches, but you'd be hard-pressed to find a more energetic, innovative group of leaders in any other league throughout college football.

Before the season, coming up with a list of coaches for the hot seat was a difficult exercise, and now it's a near-impossible task given the success every team has had at some point during the 2014 season. Who has impressed you the most?,

Without giving away too much, any coach whose team has more than one loss just can't make a case for inclusion on this list. On the other hand, those whose teams haven't lost yet—three such individuals—will definitely have a place here.

So who will the other two spots go to? Should they go to coaches overachieving with teams lacking in talent, or perhaps to the guy who's grinded through the most early-season adversity? And where do major victories factor in to the equation?

Let's take a look at the best Pac-12 coaching jobs through the first month of the 2014 college football season.

 

All stats via cfbstats.com

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Pac-12 Football: Ranking the Best Coaching Jobs to This Point in the 2014 Season

The Pac-12 Conference may be lacking in experienced head coaches, but you'd be hard-pressed to find a more energetic, innovative group of leaders in any other league throughout college football...

Begin Slideshow

Georgia Football: Game-by-Game Predictions for the Month of October

The first full month of the 2014 season has come to a close and the Bulldogs still control their own destiny when it comes to the SEC East race. After a dominating win against Clemson, the Bulldogs fell to South Carolina, dominated Troy and won against Tennessee in a close one.

Now the Bulldogs start the second full month of the season, and they will face Vanderbilt in Athens, Missouri in Columbia and Arkansas in Little Rock. Can the Bulldogs win out and have a ton of momentum when they face Florida or will they have another slip-up and fall in the SEC East?

Here are the game-by-game predictions for the Bulldogs in the month of October.

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LSU Tigers vs. Auburn Tigers Complete Game Preview

LSU's tilt against Auburn on Saturday is proof of how quickly things can change in the SEC. 

Last season, the Bayou Bengals defeated the Tigers from the Plains 35-21 behind 184 yards and three touchdowns from running back Jeremy Hill. LSU looked as if it would be a national championship contender, not Auburn.

The opposite ended up being true.

Auburn went on a magical unbeaten run to the last BCS National Championship. LSU would lose three games, all to teams Auburn beat along the way.

This season, Auburn looks like a College Football Playoff contender. Head coach Gus Malzahn and his Tigers are 4-0 with a conference win over Arkansas under their belt.

LSU has looked average, despite being 3-1. Head coach Les Miles' squad played poorly in its only SEC game against Mississippi State. 

Here is a preview of this week's matchup.

 

What You Need to Know

Time: 6 p.m. CT 

Place: Jordan-Hare Stadium; Auburn, Alabama

TV: ESPN

Radio: LSU Sports Radio Network, Auburn IMG Sports Network 

Spread: Auburn by 9; via OddsShark.com

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Nebraska Cornhuskers vs. Michigan State Spartans Complete Game Preview

Nebraska heads to East Lansing for what could be a defining matchup of the Huskers' 2014 season. Bo Pelini and his team are looking to extend their record to 6-0, but that requires defeating Michigan State on the road.

The Huskers hold the edge in the all-time series with the Spartans at 7-1. However, that one loss came last season at home when the Spartans won 41-28. One year later, Nebraska is looking to get redemption.

What people will be pointing to is that this is a matchup of Nebraska's stellar offense vs. Michigan State's powerful defense. As of now, the Spartans are only allowing 78.3 rushing yards per game, which should challenge I-back Ameer Abdullah. Pelini doesn't think that'll be an issue, though.

"We've run the football on them for three years," Pelini said, per the Detroit Free Press. "They're a quality football team, but we've run the football on them before, and we'll run it on them again."

While Nebraska may run the ball on Michigan State, Pelini has never gone 6-0 to start a season in his time with the Huskers. Will this be the year?

 

Where: Spartan Stadium, East Lansing, Mich.

When: Saturday, October 4, at 8 p.m. ET

Watch: ABC

Listen: Husker Sports Network or Sirius Channel 91, XM 91

Betting Line via Odds Shark: Nebraska (+8)

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Tennessee Football: 10 Reasons Why Volunteers Will Blow out Gators

The Tennessee Volunteers are playing with a serious edge and have more talent now than they've had in several years. Compare that to a Florida team that is teetering on the precipice of collapse, and you see why I believe the Vols will blow the Gators out on Saturday, October 4.

The Vols have always seemed to get off to a slower start than the Gators, which made the third Saturday in September a particularly hard game to win. It's traditionally been the first SEC game of the season for each team, but this year, Tennessee has already played two top-12 opponents, including SEC East foe Georgia.

For the first time since 2001, the game is being played later than September. With a series record of 6-18 dating back to 1990, the Volunteers are surely open to any changes in the circumstance of the game, including one as simple as calendar date.

But there's something more this year with the team than just the date. A tenable level of confidence, talent and energy around the program has some thinking the Vols can end the nine-year drought. A few even say Tennessee can win with comfort.

I believe the Tennessee Volunteers will rout the Florida Gators 35-10 in front of 102,455 people on Saturday, and I've got 10 reasons why.

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Nebraska Football: Game-by-Game Predictions for the Month of October

“Wake me up when September ends.”

"Wake Me Up When September Ends," Green Day

Nebraska football fans are quite pleased to see NU putting September in the rearview mirror with the team sitting at 5-0, including a cathartic 41-31 win over Miami in Lincoln. For the first time since 2010, Nebraska is undefeated through five games and, much like that 2010 season, has a monster national showdown coming up in Week 6.

(Although, in fairness, Michigan State has no shot to replace Texas and the disastrous “Red Out Around the World” game from 2010.)

Getting through September is a prerequisite for having a special season. But that doesn’t mean much if Nebraska can’t take care of business in October. So let’s look ahead and see what Nebraska faces as the calendar turns.

All stats from cfbstats.com.

 

October 4: at Michigan State

Without question, this Saturday’s game in East Lansing is the marquee game in the Big Ten to date. Michigan State comes into the game ranked No. 10 in the AP poll, and Nebraska comes in at No. 19. The Spartans have only one loss, a 46-27 defeat in Oregon where Michigan State held a lead in the third quarter. Michigan State’s other wins have been gigantic blowouts against overmatched opponents.

Nebraska comes into the contest at 5-0, with the most impressive win against a talented Miami team in Lincoln. Nebraska has also blown out three overmatched opponents and had an ugly win against FCS McNeese State, needing an “Ameer-acle” with 20 seconds remaining to avoid overtime.

In many ways, this game has an “immovable object/unstoppable force” vibe going. Michigan State has the No. 6 rushing defense in the nation, allowing only 80.75 yards per game. Nebraska has the No. 3 rushing offense in the nation, gaining an average of 354.8 yards per game.

A smart and particularly handsome analyst picked before the season that Nebraska would beat Michigan State, and the rationale for that pick holds up. Last year, Nebraska lost to Michigan State not because of superior Spartan talent but because of a minus-five turnover margin. When Nebraska wasn’t giving the ball away, it was going blow for blow with Michigan State.

Add in to the mix this year Ameer Abdullah’s raised level of game play and a healthy Randy Gregory and the setting for an upset. That guy at the start of the season might have been on to something.

Nebraska 28, Michigan State 24.

 

October 18: at Northwestern

Yes, Northwestern got a huge conference win last week, going into Happy Valley and knocking off Penn State. But that win doesn’t really change the underlying dynamic—that with the departure of Venric Mark and the loss of Christian Jones to injury, the Purples are devoid of true game-changing playmakers on offense.

Combine that with a baseline of talent level that is below Nebraska’s, and ultimately this game becomes less frightening than previous contests.

Sure, Northwestern will play hard and play smart. And going to Northwestern is a challenging trip, although having a week to prepare after Michigan State will be a big help. Look for Nebraska to take care of business in the windy city.

Nebraska 35, Northwestern 17

 

October 25: Rutgers

At the start of the season, Rutgers looked to be a few years away from being competitive. Don’t look now, but the Scarlet Knights may have hit the fast-forward button on their development.

Rutgers is 4-1 and really should be 5-0 with a tough-luck three-point loss at Penn State. The Knights have wins on the road at Washington State and Navy, two teams that may not be world-beaters but are challenging foes to face.

The knock on Rutgers coming into the Nebraska contest before the season was that it was going to go through a gauntlet beforehand, getting Michigan at home and away to Ohio State before arriving in Lincoln.

Well, things have changed a bit. Michigan looks like a gimmie, and Ohio State has not looked to be the national powerhouse expected by many. At this point, Rutgers coming into Lincoln anything less than 4-2 would be a disappointment, and it’s not impossible to imagine the Knights pulling off an upset in Columbus. After all, Virginia Tech already has.

This year feels a little different from years past, so maybe this is the year Nebraska puts the four-loss hoodoo behind it. So no call for an upset yet on this one, but watch this space.

Nebraska 30, Rutgers 27

 

For a different look at Nebraska football, check out The Double Extra Point.

Or you can use the Twitter machine to follow @DblExtraPoint.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Wisconsin Badgers vs. Northwestern Wildcats Complete Game Preview

The Wisconsin Badgers wrapped up their non-conference schedule with an unconvincing 27-10 victory over the South Florida Bulls to move to 3-1 before opening up Big Ten play with a trip to Ryan Field to take on the Northwestern Wildcats (2-2, 1-0 Big Ten).

After three sub-par games to open up the 2014 season, the Wildcats traveled to Happy Valley, where they surprisingly pulled off a 29-6 victory over a previously undefeated Penn State team.

That was probably both teams regressing to the mean as Penn State's early season victories came against UCF, Akron, Rutgers and UMass—with perhaps only Rutgers instilling any fear—though the same could be said about the previously limp Wildcats.

No current Badgers have played at Ryan Field, with the last visit coming all the way back in 2009 despite the close proximity of the two campuses.  

The Badgers haven't actually won at Ryan Field since the 20th century—1999 to be more exact—but have won the past two meetings between the two teams, including a 35-6 thrashing last season.

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Oregon Ducks vs. Arizona Wildcats Complete Game Preview

The second-ranked Oregon Ducks (4-0) will have revenge on their minds when the Arizona Wildcats (4-0) come storming into Autzen Stadium on Thursday night. 

Last season in Tuscon the Wildcats dismantled the Ducks 42-16, thereby ruining Oregon’s hopes of reaching a fifth consecutive BCS game and winning the Pac-12 conference title. The Ducks offense sputtered due to quarterback Marcus Mariota’s sprained MCL; however, Oregon’s defense was just as bad as it allowed the Wildcats to gain 304 yards on the ground and convert 11 of 16 third downs.

The Ducks and Wildcats have both had 12 days off following extremely close victories in their conference openers. Oregon managed to escape Washington State by the score of 38-31, while the Wildcats miraculously rallied past California 49-45 on a last-second Hail Mary from quarterback Anu Solomon to wide receiver Austin Hill.

The Wildcats were down 31-13 heading into the fourth quarter against Cal but managed to come back by scoring 36 points in the final quarter.

Oregon and Arizona have combined for some interesting games over the past decade. There was the Dennis Dixon ACL-injury game in 2007, a 55-45 Oregon win in 2008, a double-overtime thriller in 2009, not to mention last year’s stunning upset by the Wildcats.

While Oregon is heavily favored on Thursday night, this could be a game that comes down to the final possession.

Here's what you need to know:  

Date: Thursday, Oct. 2

Time: 7:30 p.m. Pacific Time

Place: Autzen Stadium (Eugene, Oregon)

TV: ESPN

Spread: Oregon -23, according to OddsShark.com.

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Oregon Ducks vs. Arizona Wildcats Complete Game Preview

The second-ranked Oregon Ducks (4-0) will have revenge on their minds when the Arizona Wildcats (4-0) come storming into Autzen Stadium on Thursday night...

Begin Slideshow

Former UCF Coach Paul Ferraro Sues School for Wrongful Termination

UCF head football coach George O'Leary is at the center of a lawsuit filed by a former member of his Knights coaching staff, ex-defensive coordinator Paul Ferraro.

According to Bright House Sports Network's Ryan Bass, Ferraro is suing the UCF Board of Trustees and UCF Athletic Association for racism and wrongful termination of his contract. The suit, filed on Sept. 26, seeks more than $15,000 in damages and accuses O'Leary of discrimination and bullying.   

Bass' report documents what UCF Vice President of Communications and Marketing Grant Heston had to say on the matter, as he denied any wrongdoing by the school:

UCF immediately investigated the allegations Mr. Ferraro made when he abruptly abandoned his job. The university's Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action office found the allegations to be untrue.

[...] None of the individuals alleged to have been the subject of, or to have overhead, these supposed statements corroborated Mr. Ferraro’s claims. In fact, until seeking compensation after abandoning his job, it does not appear he ever discussed this with anyone at UCF. UCF is an inclusive and diverse institution and our investigation shows that these claims are without merit.

Ferraro was hired in December 2013 but left the program for personal reasons before the 2014 season began. The Knights gave up a total of 62 points in losses to Penn State and Missouri to start the year.

These bold accusations have been dismissed by UCF, so it remains to be seen whether anything will come of them. It's worth noting Ferraro has worked with O'Leary before—at Syracuse and Georgia Tech.

Fox Sports Net's Shaun King has praised the job O'Leary has done as coach:

Amid his 11th season at the helm, O'Leary has helped put the Knights on the national map. Led by current Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles, UCF won the Fiesta Bowl against Baylor to cap off last season's impressive 12-1 record.   

Monday's report makes O'Leary's job a little more difficult after a couple of early setbacks on the field. Rumors courtesy of Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports have suggested that O'Leary, 68, is considering retirement, though he has denied them, per Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel.

O'Leary will prepare the Knights for Thursday's road game against Houston (2-2).

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Virginia Tech vs. North Carolina: Complete Game Preview

It wasn't as easy as expected, but the Virginia Tech Hokies ended their two-game losing streak on Saturday with a 35-17 win over Western Michigan. Next, the Hokies travel to North Carolina to resume their ACC schedule.

Tech enters this week's game with a record of 3-2, 0-1, in ACC play. The Tar Heels, coming off of two straight losses, are 2-2 on the season after losing last week's ACC opener at Clemson. 

Virginia Tech leads the all-time series, 19-11-6, and has won eight of the previous 10 meetings. Last time the teams met in Chapel Hill—in 2012—the Tar Heels embarrassed Bud Foster's defense to the tune of 533 total yards, including 339 yards on the ground.

Giovani Bernard's 262 rushing yards were the most ever given up by Tech to a single player. 

Both teams desperately need a win, as a 0-2 conference record would severely damage both the Hokies and Tar Heels' chances at ACC Coastal Division supremacy. 

  • When: Saturday, October 4, 2014
  • Where: Kenan Stadium, Chapel Hill, North Carolina
  • Time: 12:30 p.m. ET
  • TV: ACC Network
  • Radio: Virginia Tech IMG Sports Network. Here is a complete list of stations by area. 
  • Spread: The Hokies are presently two-point favorites, via Odds Shark

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North Carolina State Wolfpack vs. Clemson Tigers Complete Game Preview

Last Saturday’s 50-35 win over North Carolina was a great opportunity for the Clemson Tigers to get things back on track, but they must now turn the page to another conference foe.

The North Carolina State Wolfpack roll into Clemson's Death Valley this Saturday without a notable win but plenty of momentum.

Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher is probably still having bad dreams after the Wolfpack gave the No. 1 Seminoles a good scare on Saturday. N.C. State jumped up 24-7 after one quarter, but the Seminoles were able to pull out the victory with 28 points in the second half.

Putting points on the board was the least of the Tigers’ worries against the Tar Heels, but this next matchup will be a chance for the defense to redeem itself, after giving up 478 yards of total offense to North Carolina.

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Super 16 Poll Week 6: Complete Rankings Released for 2014 Season

Finding an order for the nation's 16 best college football teams is never easy. For the 2014 season, though, it appears the teams are looking to make it especially difficult.

While every team ranked inside the Top 10 a week ago was either idle or came away with a win, Week 5 action once again muddied the national championship picture. Florida State again had to overcome its own shortcomings, Texas A&M found itself scrambling to avoid an upset and UCLA arguably staked its claim in the national championship race with an emphatic win at Arizona State.   

The result? Well, mostly inertia. But with a few small changes. The Seminoles' near miss drops them out of the No. 1 spot in favor of idle Oregon, while the rising Bruins barged their way into the Top 10. Here is a look at how the rest of the Super 16 played out, along with Bleacher Report's latest Top 25:

With quarterback Jameis Winston back in the lineup after serving a one-game suspension, Florida State earned a 56-41 win over North Carolina State. Sounds simple enough. Surely the Wolfpack had a couple garbage-time touchdowns to turn a blowout into an unrepresentative final score, right?

Not exactly.

Before an upset-minded crowd in Raleigh, NC State came out and opened the game with a 24-7 first-quarter run and held the lead for the majority of the game. Shadrach Thornton's 10-yard touchdown in the third quarter gave the Wolfpack a 38-28 lead with just more than 21 minutes remaining, seemingly paving the way for the biggest upset of the season.

It wasn't to be. Winston gave Florida State its first lead of the game with two third-quarter touchdowns and Karlos Williams capped off a 28-3 run to close out the game with two scores in the fourth. The Seminoles offense turned the ball over four times, including two interceptions from Winston. The Heisman-winning quarterback already has two multi-interception games, as many as he had during his record-setting freshman campaign.

"When's the last time the offense and defense actually clicked on the same note?" Winston told reporters. "I don't know. We've got so much potential. We've got so much to look for. I'm telling you, that's the most exciting part."

After not having a team come closer than two touchdowns in 2013, Florida State has already had two teams come within one score this season. Jimbo Fisher's team has two relative byes against Wake Forest and Syracuse coming up before a marquee battle with Notre Dame.

Texas A&M has no such luck. The Aggies will have to write the postmortem on their overtime win against Arkansas and ready themselves for possibly the toughest three-week stretch on anyone's schedule starting Saturday at Mississippi State.

Kenny Hill led his team back from a 28-14 second-half deficit to score the game's final 21 points. He hit Edward Pope on an 86-yard pitch and catch to start the fourth quarter and found Josh Reynolds from 59 yards out with just over two minutes remaining to force overtime. In the extra fame, the Heisman contender needed one play to hit Malcome Kennedy from 25 yards out.

The Aggies defense, which gave up 285 yards and three touchdowns on the ground, held Alex Collins to no gain on a 4th-and-1 try at the 16-yard line to close it out.

"In order to win a game like that, it takes a complete team. Every phase had its poor moments in the first half," coach Kevin Sumlin told reporters. "Offensively, we were a beat off. Defensively, we gave up some big plays, and special teams, we gave up a fake. Our defense stopped them not just in overtime, but on the last couple series."

The biggest win of the week, though, came 48 hours before most of the nation's best were in action. Given the spotlight of a prime-time telecast on Thursday, UCLA finally seemed to click on all cylinders for the first time all season.

Brett Hundley accounted for 427 total yards (355 passing, 72 rushing) and five touchdowns and Ishmael Adams returned a kickoff and an interception for a score, as the Bruins earned a 62-27 thrashing of Arizona State. With Mike Bercovici in a rhythm early, UCLA fell behind 17-6 early in the second quarter and looked to be heading for another nail-biter.

But an 80-yard touchdown from Hundley to Eldridge Massington helped spark a 28-0 run to give UCLA the lead. The Bruins closed out the game on a 56-10 run, opening their Pac-12 schedule with an emphatic statement win.

"It's an absolute inspiration to offense, defense and special teams for him to not just play, but to be out jumping over guys and diving on the ground," UCLA defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich told reporters of Hundley, who was playing despite an arm injury. 

Thursday's win was a far cry from UCLA's struggles to start the season. Despite facing three straight ranked opponents, Jim Mora's team was yet to win a game by more than one score. It'll be interesting to see whether the early struggles or the blowout was the aberration in the mix. The Bruins have what should be an easy matchup with Utah before their home showdown with Oregon on Oct. 11.

The escapist tendencies of their fellow ranked teams did not help South Carolina, which blew a 20-7 fourth-quarter lead in a loss to Missouri. Russell Hansbrough scored all three Missouri touchdowns, including consecutive one-yard punch-ins late in the fourth quarter. 

The loss drops South Carolina to 3-2 on the season, including a 2-2 mark in the SEC. Viewed as a preseason favorite to win the SEC East, Steve Spurrier's Gamecocks are going to need a ton of help if they hope to re-enter the picture. Their schedule is relatively easy from an SEC perspective from here on out, but any plans of salvaging the 2014 campaign includes taking down Auburn on Oct. 25.

The Gamecocks and Sun Devils were the lone teams to drop outside the Top 16. They were replaced by Stanford and LSU.

 

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Washington State's Mike Leach Predicts Humanity Will End Because of Texting

College football head coaches get asked all kinds of crazy questions during the course of a season, but rarely do they come up with answers as unique as this one.

When asked about the future of dating with technology, Washington State head coach Mike Leach responded with a very interesting answer, ending it with, "So we're all going to look in this box and eventually be extinct. That's how it ends."

At 53 years old, Leach doesn't sound like he's a big fan of texting.

[Twitter]

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Brady Hoke's Collapse Continues with Poor Job Handling Shane Morris Injury

Under fire for a disappointing 2-3 record Brady Hoke added to his problems with a convoluted explanation of how the team handled multiple injuries to quarterback Shane Morris during Michigan’s 30-14 loss to Minnesota.

Just as Michigan appears to be a program living on past glory, its coach appeared to be a relic from the days when players got their bell rung and just went back for more.

Hoke fielded a number of questions about Morris' injury but dodged giving direct answers when pressed for specifics. He sounded like a curmudgeon, angry that people would question his judgement.

Hoke would never let an athlete play after a possible concussion—but didn’t see the actual play. He assumes that someone checked on Shane Morris before he returned—but couldn’t say for sure.

Hoke defended the team’s actions during Monday’s press conference even as criticism continues to mount as a video clip of a dazed Morris circulates on the web.

It shows Morris on the receiving end of a vicious hit to the helmet which left him leaning on offensive lineman Ben Braden before staggering back to the team’s huddle. It's hard to watch the clip and not understand why somebody didn't step in.

A national television audience saw it. People in the crowd at Michigan Stadium saw it. Journalists in the press box saw it.

But Brady Hoke missed it, and nobody on the sideline intervened to pull Morris off the field.

Even after seeing the video he refused to admit that Morris should have been pulled from the game. When given an opportunity to re-evaluate his decision, he sounded more like a lawyer than a football coach concerned about his players.

"Again, you're being hypothetical, and we’re not going to work in [hypotheticals],” said Hoke on whether seeing the play on Saturday would have changed his decision.

After viewing the tape he did send it to Big Ten for possible sanctions against the defender who Hoke believes illegally targeted Morris.

But he placed the responsibility on players to decide if they should take themselves out, even though a head injury would impair their judgement to make such a decision.

"[Players] love to compete and they love to play. So if you’re asking about that mentality I think that’s what they all have," said Hoke "That’s what they’ve done since whenever they started playing the game. I think they also know if the injury is one where you don’t think you can continue to go to go down."

This statement reflects an attitude that is out of step with what medical professionals know about the danger of concussions. Practically no player at any level of football would pull themselves out of a game and certainly not a player the caliber of Shane Morris. You don't get a scholarship at Michigan without being hyper-competitive.

Dealing with concussions is a huge problem for football at all levels. Hoke could have addressed Michigan’s protocol for dealing with injuries while admitting that teams—all teams—need better ways of evaluating head injuries.

When a Michigan wrestler died while cutting weight in 1998 athletic director Tom Goss instituted a number of safety protocols to make the sport safer spurring the NCAA to do the same. That tragedy caused Michigan to take the lead for the safety of it student-athletes but today that leadership was nowhere to be found.

Athletic director David Brandon, himself a former backup quarterback, could have showed up and discussed the pressure for players to perform but he was no where to be seen.

Instead Hoke was trotted out to give no clear answer on what he had learned from Saturday’s potential injury to Morris.

And his performance reminded everyone why his time at Michigan is nearly over.

Phil Callihan is a featured writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted all quotations obtained firsthand.

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