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Kynon's Korner: 5-Star DL Previews Miami OV, Austin Mack Recaps Sparty Trip

The University of Miami will host No. 3 Florida State this Saturday at Sun Life Stadium with plenty of big-name recruits expected to attend the in-state rivalry. Perhaps the biggest prospect to visit Coral Gables, Florida, will be 5-star defensive tackle Rasheem Green out of Gardena (California) Junipero Serra. Miami has yet to land a franchise interior lineman under head coach Al Golden and his staff. Green would fill an immediate need for the Hurricanes if they can pull the Golden State star from the West Coast. 

"I'm excited for this game," Green told Bleacher Report. "I'm going to be looking at everything. I want to see how the defense plays. I really want to see how Coach (Jethro) Franklin is during the game with the defensive line. I've always liked Miami in general, and I like Coach Franklin a lot. I'm also looking forward to seeing Brad Kaaya play."

Green will be accompanied by his parents. He told me they are comfortable with him leaving California if it's the right place. He's even talked to Kaaya about his transition to Miami and the college game. "I've talked to him on Twitter about it," Green explained. "He said he loves it down there."

Franklin has been recruiting Green for the 'Canes over the last two years, but he said offensive coordinator James Coley is starting to build a connection. Coley was responsible for landing Kaaya in last year's class, so there's a chance he can do it again. Miami already has 4-star Cali offensive lineman Bar Milo committed for the 2015 class. 

The 6'5", 275-pound defender said Miami and USC are recruiting him the hardest at this stage. Miami's pitch has been "a little bit of everything," according to Green, citing the NFL tradition and possible early playing time. 

Green calls J.J. Watt his favorite NFL player because of his work ethic and technique. He is planning to make his college decision on national signing day.

 

Austin Mack Calls Michigan State Visit an "8"

Wide receiver Austin Mack visited East Lansing over the weekend for the Spartans-Buckeyes tilt in a rematch of the 2013 Big Ten Championship Game. It was the first time he attended a game at the newly renovated stadium.

"I'd say the visit was an eight of 10," Mack responded. "The game was intense. The atmosphere was great, and the fans were going crazy. It was a fun game to be a part of. The new stadium was great, and the addition to the tunnel was awesome."

The Spartans staff have built strong relationships with Mack, and that stands out to the flanker from Indiana. 

"Coach (Dave) Warner is my recruiter, but I talk to Coach (Terrance) Samuel the most," Mack said. "Coach Sam is real awesome, he's a cool guy. I have to say the guy that's impressed me the most from Michigan State is Coach (Ken) Mannie. When I took a visit over the summer, he kept it super real with me. He told me if you come here it's all about working. They aren't going to sugarcoat anything. It's a humble program. I like that about them."

The receivers aren't too bad either for Sparty. "Tony Lippett has been dominant this season. He didn't have a big game, but Ohio State's corners were good. (Doran) Grant is one of the best in the country," Mack noted. "(Macgarrett) Kings is solid. No. 25 had a big play. The thing with them is they run a pro-style offense, so that's a good thing."

Ohio State and Notre Dame are in the picture as well as Stanford. The 6'2", 205-pound split end said the Buckeyes have recruited Mack harder than any other program. He stays in constant contact with coach Urban Meyer, coach Kerry Coombs and coach Zach Smith. Mack plans to visit Ohio State on Nov. 29 for the Michigan game if his team isn't in the state championship that weekend.

 

5-star Defensive Lineman Daron Payne To Miss Bama-Hail State Game, Cowart Unsure 

ESPN's College GameDay will be in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, this Saturday for the Crimson Tide's showdown against No. 1 Mississippi State. Several top recruits are expected in T-Town for the SEC West battle. However, one of the nation's premier defensive linemen, Daron Payne, will not be roaming the sidelines. 

Payne will be in Indiana visiting family following his Friday night playoff game against Florence (Alabama). He had this to say about the game though: "It's hard because I like both teams. I like the coaches and atmosphere at both, but I think Bama is going to take this one."

When it comes to recruiting, Payne said Alabama is the school that makes him feel like the biggest priority. "I talk to Coach (Mario) Cristobal almost every day. Coach (Kirby) Smart too," Payne said. "With Coach Cristobal, we don't just talk about football. We talk about everyday things and life. That's why I like him."

Kentucky, Mississippi State and USC are working to get him on campus for official visits after the season. The Bulldogs are a serious contender as Payne said Mississippi State is up there with Alabama, followed by Auburn. 

Fellow 5-star defensive lineman Byron Cowart told me he is sick with the flu, and he isn't sure if he will make it to the game. Cowart's team opens the playoff on Friday against Largo (Florida). The Seffner (Florida) Armwood standout visited Alabama on Oct. 18 for the Texas A&M game. Yet, he wanted to see the marquee matchup up close. 

"I was looking forward to this trip because it's a big game," Cowart told me. "I want to go, but I want to see if I feel better."

Cowart said Alabama is still in the mix along with Florida and Florida State. Oregon was scheduled to get an official visit next weekend, but those plans are on hold.

"Everything has changed," Cowart said. "Right now I'm taking it day by day. I was supposed to go to Oregon, but I need to talk to my coach about it. With Florida State, I'm not sure. I know I can take an official visit in January." 

He has plans to announce his college choice at the Under Armour All-American Game on Friday, January 2. 

 

Mom Approves of New Leader for California Athlete

Bellflower (California) St. John Bosco athlete D.J. Morgan was in Tempe, Arizona, last weekend for Arizona State's 55-31 rout of Notre Dame. Prior to the visit, USC was thought to be the leader, according to the 247Sports Crystal Ball predictions. Shortly after coming home, Morgan didn't hesitate to name his leader. 

"Yes, they are my leader," Morgan directly told Bleacher Report. "They are also my mom's leader. It was a great trip. I had a great time there." 

What was the best part for Morgan? He answered, "My favorite part was getting to tour the facilities and hear about what Arizona State has to offer education-wise. My parents were very impressed with the education as well. My parents said ASU set a very high standard."

The 4-star playmaker said he got a chance to talk to the coaches about his future position and life as a Sun Devil. 

"I got to talk to Coach (Chris) Ball about playing defensive back," Morgan stated. "He told me he feels I can be a four-year starter there, but it's all up to how hard I work to get a starting spot as a freshman."

Morgan has been to USC already for a game this fall. He is hearing from Notre Dame, and he has plans to check out campus at a later date. 

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand. Recruiting information and ratings courtesy of 247Sports unless otherwise noted. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Texas Football: The 3 Biggest X-Factors for the Longhorns vs. Oklahoma State

The Texas Longhorns sit just one win away from a bowl appearance, and they have a good chance of getting it this week at Oklahoma State.

To complete the unexpected second-half surge, Charlie Strong's team will need more of what we saw in the upset win over West Virginia.

Though the Longhorns will get one more shot at win No. 6, this week's contest in Stillwater is about as must-win as it gets. The Cowboys have lost three in a row, averaging just 11 points per game in blowout defeats at the hands of TCU, West Virginia and Kansas State.

Should Texas lose, that means it will have to handle the No. 4 Horned Frogs on Thanksgiving.

To avoid that scenario, the Longhorns must get big performances from their X-factors in the ground game and along the defensive line. It also couldn't hurt to figure out how to bottle up Tyreek Hill on kick returns.

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Kramer's College Football Playoff Notebook: Committee Turning on Florida State?

A team that has not lost a football game since November of 2012—almost two full calendar years—was leapfrogged by a program with one loss on Tuesday night.

Florida State, still without a blemish to speak of in 2014, is no longer the nation’s No. 2 team according to the updated College Football Playoff Top 25. That honor belongs to Oregon, which has done enough since its home loss to Arizona to warrant movement upward, at least according to the committee.

Looking at the bigger picture, the rise is significant. This situation never would have occurred if the BCS computers were still running the show. The percentage gap between Florida State and Oregon might have closed some, although that would have been the extent of it. We would have gone about our business to the next weekend, waiting for an actual loss to truly shakeup the pecking order.

The fact that the committee is willing to make these decisions is a story. But for Florida State—and Oregon, for that matter—the headline-generating shakeup carries very little significance. The colors of the jerseys in their semifinal matchup would have changed because the home team playing at a neutral site; that’s about it. 

The No. 2 and No. 3 teams will still play one another in the postseason. If this switch came during the last week of the season, no one would have batted an eye. The fact that the selection committee decided to make the change now—a few days after the Seminoles won in relatively unimpressive fashion against Virginia—simply means they’re seeing exactly what you’ve seen. Florida State doesn't look impressive.  Still, with that considered, nothing has changed logistically for the Noles.

Regardless of the committee’s public demotion, this is far more sizzle than steak. If the Seminoles win out, they’re in the playoff. That’s the reality and it was always a reality. Everything else at this point is for entertainment purposes only.

And Florida State fans, are you not entertained?

Enraged, maybe? OK, let's call it enraged.

Here are some other observations from the selection committee's latest rankings.

 

The Selection Committee Sends Alabama a Message

This is a convenient week to leave Alabama on the cusp of cracking the playoff, and trying to draw anything from the Tide’s current No. 5 ranking is a wasted exercise.

If Alabama beats No. 1 Mississippi State next week, it will be in the playoff. Although the committee says it is not in the business of sending messages to teams or fan bases outside the rankings themselves—something committee chairman Jeff Long reiterated on Tuesday night—the message is clear as day.

"We don't think it is our job to send messages. We believe our rankings will send messages." - @jefflongUA#CFP25pic.twitter.com/TpyoqqD0dh

— ESPN CollegeFootball (@ESPNCFB) November 12, 2014

Win and you're in.

Let’s take this one step further. Given the way the committee reacted this week with an unbeaten Florida State team, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that Alabama could be the No. 1 seed by the time next Tuesday hits. Much of this depends on how the teams in front of Alabama play in Week 12, although the scenario is very much a possibility.

Placement in the playoff is far less important than the obstacle ahead. Mississippi State, the current No. 1 and one of the few teams with minimal debate attached, will be up for the challenge.

 

Go Out And Play Somebody

“I beat you” is a pretty convincing statement and a simple way decide an argument. In college football, however, this recess logic now comes with a fair amount of fine print depending on the entirety of the picture. 

By putting Baylor at No. 7—three spots below TCU, a team it beat in spectacular comeback fashion—the selection committee has made it clear that weak out-of-conference schedules will be penalized, and as a result, the "rules" will begin to bend.

Jeff Long on ranking TCU over Baylor: “Head to head comes into play when all else is equal"

— Brett McMurphy (@McMurphyESPN) November 12, 2014

The Horned Frogs are being rewarded for beating No. 25 Minnesota with the No. 4 position. With the Gophers set to take on Ohio State, Nebraska and Wisconsin to come—three teams ranked in the Top 25 this week—the possibility to drop a game (or three) is there. As a result, late Minnesota struggles could change this discussion and perceptions of teams in another conference entirely. 

Although Baylor’s pre-Big 12 games won’t suddenly become more inviting, the overall resume might begin to look a bit better compared to the team it beat as it closes out the season and distances itself from the start. Still, even with the Bears having ample time to close the gap, the committee has made it clear that cupcake schedules early on could result in an uphill climb late.

 

One Bad Loss Won’t Kill You, Just Ask Ohio State

Although Ohio State still feels like an unlikely playoff pick, the Buckeyes have to be thrilled about being No. 8 in the latest rankings. Could it be better? Of course it could, and you could make the argument that Ohio State is playing better than teams above it right now.

But when you lose to a team like Virginia Tech at home—regardless of timing—you lose ground in this discussion. The fact the selection committee is still willing to look beyond this loss and consider the development of certain players along the way, however, is encouraging for Ohio State and any other rapidly-developing program moving forward.

Teams change, players develop and seasons flip without warning. 

Taking this development into consideration while also handicapping the entire picture will be one of the more difficult tasks the committee has to deal with. And although Ohio State is still alive, it’ll be fascinating to see just where the ceiling is as crunch time approaches.

 

 

Group of 5 Shut Out… Again

I might as well just copy and paste this section until further notice.

Marshall and Colorado State shut off their televisions once teams ranked No. 25 through No. 21 were revealed. They might as well have caught up on Homeland rather than wait around for good news that never came, because they weren’t going to hear their names called after that.

What exactly is it going to take for a team outside of the Power 5 to get a little love?

Marshall will continue to beat teams by an absurd margin—as it did to Southern Miss last week. Will beating Rice by three touchdowns in Week 12 suddenly do the trick? You would think it would have to at some point, although given the way these non-power programs have been graded, it’s not going to be easy for one of these Group of 5 programs to make a splash.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Miami Has the Tailback and the Incentive to Hold off a Florida State Comeback

All Florida State home football games begin with the revered ceremony of a burning spear being planted at midfield by the Seminole mascot riding a horse named Renegade.

But this season, in honor of the four-legged beast who was famous for furious finishes, FSU should have changed the horse’s name to Seabiscuit.

FSU has become best known for letting good enough be good enough and waiting until after halftime to get a winning plan together. Then it makes a mad dash to victory, relying largely on the arm of Jameis Winston.

Five times this season FSU has had to rally to win. Twice the Seminoles have been down by three scores, including 21-0 to Louisville on Oct. 30.

It makes for thrilling watching, but it isn’t playing well with the College Football Playoff Committee, which this week dumped the undefeated Seminoles down to the No. 3 spot, behind once-beaten Oregon.

If FSU is feeling dissed and disrespected, Saturday would be a good time to show it.

The prime-time matchup with Miami is tailor-made for yet another game that could see Florida State dawdle its way to victory. Or, if it isn’t careful, FSU could see its aspirations for a repeat national championship go poof, because it assumed there’s always one more rabbit waiting to be pulled from the hat.

At 6-3, Miami is having a decent season, but the Hurricanes don’t show up in anyone’s poll. Still, they have the ingredients to ambush an opponent that many were calling overrated back in September.

This game will be in Miami, so Renegade won’t be in the house. FSU fans no doubt are taking great comfort in knowing the Seminoles have won four straight on the road against their in-state rival and haven’t lost in Miami since 2004. How long ago was that? Well, Facebook had just launched and Winston was sitting in a fifth-grade classroom.

But before another round of FSU complacency settles, it should be noted that Miami has defended its Sun Life Stadium turf flawlessly this season, with a 5-0 record.

More importantly, the Hurricanes have a Duke who could single-handedly dethrone the reigning kings of college football.

That’s Duke Johnson, a 5’9” tailback who has been under the radar of many fans. But he packs 206 pounds of ball-control power and is on the verge of becoming the U’s all-time rushing leader.

Johnson is working on a streak of five consecutive 100-yard rushing games, and the last three have been downright explosive: 162 yards against Cincinnati, 249 in a trampling of Virginia Tech and 177 more against North Carolina.

If Johnson gets on a roll and pushes Miami to an early lead, he has the kind of clock-killing game that could keep the ball out of Winston’s hands when comeback time arrives.

The Hurricanes also are the anti-FSU, in terms of scoring habits. As the Sun-Sentinel (Fla.) notes, Miami has scored first in all but one of its games and has put up points on its first possession in six games.

And with Miami coming off a bye week, he will have fresh wheels as he goes up against a Seminole defense that’s 35th in the nation against the rush, allowing 135.7 yards a game.

Johnson also owes FSU one.

He suffered a season-ending ankle fracture in last year’s game against the Seminoles and had 97 yards on 23 carries when the injury hit in the second half.

Florida State defenders have no trouble remembering him.

"Duke is just one of those backs that you really don't see," FSU defensive end Mario Edwards Jr. told the Tallahassee Democrat. "He can make a cut or stop and get back going full speed within two strides. Once he makes a cut and gets through a gap you can pretty much kiss the baby. He's going to be gone.”

FSU may have trouble answering on the ground. Top Seminoles running back Dalvin Cook suffered a hip injury on Saturday against Virginia and is a maybe for Miami.

But Johnson has shown no signs of his injury nagging at him this season. He has run for 1,213 yards and nine touchdowns and is averaging 7.7 yards a carry. He needs only 252 more yards to break the school record of 3,331 career rushing yards that Ottis Anderson set from 1975-78.

Already this season, Johnson has passed a pack of former Miami ball-carriers who went on to NFL stardom: Frank Gore, Willis McGahee, Clinton Portis and Edgerrin James.

Johnson has downplayed any notion of a revenge factor, telling the Miami Herald that, “I approach every game the same way, same mind-set, regardless of what happened last year.”

But given that he already ranks seventh in the nation for rushing yards, he could move into the Heisman picture with a big game that knocks FSU out of the playoffs during prime time.

That’s the other factor that makes Miami so dangerous on Saturday—the chance to ruin Florida State’s year.

Clemson and Notre Dame were playing for themselves when they nearly pulled off upsets against the Seminoles. But Miami will be playing for multiple generations of its fans who consider FSU the must-win game of the season.

Winston acknowledged that after the Virginia game, telling reporters that against Miami, "The mentality probably will be different because we've got players from the state of Florida that know about this rivalry and just live and breathe this rivalry.”

That’s an attitude FSU better have on Saturday, preferably before halftime, if it wants to keep its national championship hopes living and breathing.

 

Tom Weir covered college football as a columnist for USA Today.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Post-Week 11 College Football Playoff Projections from Analytics Guru Ed Feng

After ESPN aired the release of the inaugural College Football Playoff poll, the question on everybody's mind was: What will the rankings look like when they matter on Dec. 7?

My algorithm projects just that in the sortable table above. Now, allow me to explain my rankings...


Alabama Is Still Your SEC Favorite

For the second straight week, Alabama holds the dreaded fifth spot in the committee rankings. No. 4 TCU likely jumped ahead of the the Tide because the committee was more impressed with the Horned Frogs' decisive 41-20 victory over Kansas State than with Bama's 20-13 squeaker over a down LSU squad. 

However, in the long run, the numbers still like Alabama's chances in the SEC. It has a 69 percent chance to beat top-ranked Mississippi State at home this weekend. And despite an upcoming game with Auburn, Alabama has a 54.9 percent chance to win the SEC West.

With the strength of the conference in the west, Alabama's road to the playoff gets easier in the SEC title game. It would have a 76 percent win probability against Georgia or 89.5 percent chance against Missouri.

Alabama most likely won't remain on the outside of the playoff for long.


Ohio State Shows the Power of the Upset

Last weekend, Ohio State traveled to Michigan State as the underdog. A defeat would have put the Buckeyes at two losses and officially ended their playoff hopes.

However, Urban Meyer's squad surprised the nation and pulled off the upset. The win elevated the Buckeyes' playoff probability from 4.5 percent last week to 22.0 percent this week. This shows the massive impact of turning a low-win-probability game into an actual victory.

But the Buckeyes still have some work to do. While Ohio State will almost certainly win the Big Ten East, the Buckeyes still would have to play Nebraska or Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game. The computers think it will be Wisconsin and give Ohio State a 54.8 percent chance to win this neutral-site contest.


Pool of Contenders Shrinking 

As the number of games remaining continues to shrink, the number of opportunities for upsets dwindle, and we can be a more and more confident in our numbers.

Last week, only Oregon had a greater than 50 percent chance to make the playoff. This week, four teams have better than even odds to end the season in the Top Four.

This shift in probability toward the top teams means that the pool of contenders is getting smaller.

For example, consider Ole Miss. Despite a win, the Rebels' playoff chances dropped from 35.1 percent last week to 18.0 percent this week due to circumstances largely out of their control. Specifically, Alabama's critical win over LSU drastically boosted the Tide's SEC West title hopes and, in turn, dropped Ole Miss' chances. 


Lack of Big 12 Championship Game a Huge Advantage

Big 12 titans TCU (62.3 percent) and Baylor (51.8 percent) have two of the top four playoff probabilities. It helps that both teams have already played their toughest opponents. Between the two, TCU has the toughest remaining game (at Texas, 56.7 percent win probability).

This is made possible by the fact that the 10-team Big 12 does not currently have a championship game. 

Last week, TCU and Baylor won decisive games over ranked Kansas State and Oklahoma teams respectively. The committee recognized the strength in these wins, as both squads jumped SEC teams. TCU jumped ahead of Alabama while Baylor jumped Ole Miss.

If TCU was forced to play Baylor again in a conference title game, the Bears would have a 55.8 percent win probability. However, both teams would have much lower probabilities to make the playoff.


Pac-12 Bias

Last week, the committee played favorites with Arizona State. This week, another Pac-12 team, UCLA, got the special treatment. The Bruins jumped from 18th to 11th after their win over Washington, a team that hasn't impressed anyone this season.

Granted, most of UCLA's upward movement came at the expense of teams that lost. However, the Bruins jumped ahead of Nebraska, which had a bye.

Don't get too excited about UCLA (8-2, 5-2 Pac-12). It trails Arizona State (8-1, 5-1) in the Pac-12 South standings. UCLA has a 27.8 percent chance to win the Pac-12 South, while Arizona State has a 57.6 percent chance.

Even if the Bruins managed to emerge from the South they would only have a 27.2 percent chance to beat Oregon in the Pac-12 Championship Game. All of these factors combine to give UCLA a 3.7 percent chance to make the playoff.


Ed Feng founded The Power Rank and has also written for Grantland and Sports Illustrated. Follow him on Twitter @thepowerrank.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Does Oregon Deserve to Be Ahead of FSU After Latest CFP Committee Rankings?

No. 2 Oregon has jumped over No. 3 Florida State in the latest College Football Playoff ranking despite the 9-0 Seminoles' undefeated record. Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Michael Felder and Barrett Sallee discuss whether the committee was right or wrong in putting the 9-1 Ducks so high.

Who is in your Top Four? Should the Ducks have leapfrogged the Seminoles?

Watch the video and let us know!

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

UCLA Football Recruiting: 5 2015 Recruits Bruins Must Land

Recruiting for Jim Mora and the UCLA football team is off to a great start for the 2015 class. 

Using Scout.com as a mechanism of reference, the Bruins currently have the No. 15 class in the country. If one looks at the average star rating per recruit, UCLA is No. 3 nationally—ranking behind only Alabama and Michigan. 

This piece will speak about the must-get recruits for this class—strictly based on need from a roster and talent perspective. The list won't be a comprehensive look at every elite recruit UCLA is pursuing. However, the athletes listed here all have a feasible shot at eventually ending up in Westwood. 

 

*Star rankings for the recruits are all from Scout.com, unless noted otherwise. 

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UCLA Football Recruiting: 5 2015 Recruits Bruins Must Land

Recruiting for Jim Mora and the UCLA football team is off to a great start for the 2015 class. Using Scout.com as a mechanism of reference, the Bruins currently have the No...

Begin Slideshow

Does Alabama Deserve to Be in the Top 4 After Week 12 CFP Committee Rankings?

The Alabama Crimson Tide lead the "first four out" of teams in the latest version of the College Football Playoff committee rankings. Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Michael Felder and Barrett Sallee discuss whether that is a good position for Alabama.

Will Alabama make the CFP?

Watch the video, and let us know!

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

The 3 Biggest X-Factors for Tennessee vs. Kentucky

The Tennessee Volunteers head into Saturday's matchup with the Kentucky Wildcats desperately needing a win that would all but ensure themselves of bowl eligibility.

While the Vols are, on paper at least, a better team than the Wildcats, there are a few X-factors that will play a big role in determining if Tennessee can gain and maintain control of the game or if Kentucky can pull a huge upset on the road. 

One thing is for sure: Neither team is lacking motivation to land a knockout blow this weekend. The Wildcats need just one more win to become eligible themselves, and to achieve it at the expense of Tennessee would be a signature victory for second-year head coach Mark Stoops

Tennessee, on the other hand, needs two wins to make the postseason, but a win over Kentucky would mean the Vols only need a single victory against remaining opponents Missouri and Vanderbilt—and the latter seems to have reverted back to the dark ages of Commodores football under first-year head coach Derek Mason.

The Vols are favored to win this game, but after three 5-7 seasons in a row, they have a track record of folding when they only need one more win to reach the all-elusive bowl game.

With so much on the line this weekend, there's no doubt both teams will get each other's best shot. Here are three X-factors that could trump even the most passionate pregame speeches by Vols head coach Butch Jones and Stoops before their teams take the field. 

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5 Things We Learned from College Football Playoff Committee's Week 11 Rankings

The selection committee's third release of its rankings proved to be its most interesting and revealing. There is strong indication that the members indeed are evaluating the teams freshly each week and not following the poll practice where teams only slide up and down out of fixed positions from the previous week.

That's good. It makes for an intriguing final month of the season for the fewer than a dozen contenders still remaining in the playoff hunt. 

Here are the five things that come immediately to mind based on the committee's new rankings.

 

SEC is looking at one bid

Forget two bids in the four-team field. The SEC will need to hang on to its one bid, as a two-loss conference champion may very well be shut out of the playoff. Despite being the top-ranked team for three weeks in a row, Mississippi State may be finished with just one loss if it does not win the SEC West because of a weak nonconference schedule.

 

Big Ten is in big trouble

Ohio State's big win over Michigan State is good for the Buckeyes but very bad for their conference. OSU will not be able to play its way into the playoff without help as the committee has a very low regard for the Big Ten. The Buckeyes' best remaining opponent could be Nebraska—if they meet in the B1G title game—and the Huskers are ranked only 16th despite having just one loss.

 

TCU shouldn't get too comfortable

While the Horned Frogs made a celebrated jump into the top four this week, this stay is by no means permanent. Baylor still has a chance to get past TCU as it has better opponents coming up, including the regular-season finale against Kansas State.

Since the two teams share the same foes in 10 of their 11 games against FBS opponents, TCU should root hard for Minnesota, as its victory over the now-ranked Gophers is a far better scalp than Baylor's win over Buffalo.

 

Committee is sending a message about schedule

That Baylor is in its current predicament owes a great deal to its awful nonconference schedule. Conversely, that UCLA is ranked 11th can be traced to its decision to play two power-five opponents in its three OOC games. A third example is Notre Dame, where we learned that while it's good to schedule tough opponents, you'll need to beat them to get credit.

 

Where's group-of-five?

For a second consecutive week, the committee did not bother to put a group-of-five team in the rankings, leaving the access bowl picture very murky. But with the introduction of Minnesota at No. 25, one must wonder if leaving Marshall out at this point makes sense. As a direct comparison, the Herd performed better than the Gophers as they both beat Middle Tennessee at home. Marshall won by 25 (49-24) whereas Minnesota won by 11 (35-24).

 

Explanation of rankings

BCS rankings are a simulation of the BCS formula used from 2004-2013 with two exceptions: The AP poll is used in place of the Harris Poll, and Sagarin and Massey rankings are their native systems instead of the non-MOV version used for the BCS.

CFP mock rankings are published weekly at Bleacher Report, with components including polls, computers, strength of schedule and conference championships. The full rankings are here.

 

Follow on Twitter @ThePlayoffGuru

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Is Ohio State Poised to Make Playoff Spot After Latest CFP Committee Rankings?

The Ohio State Buckeyes are ranked eighth in the latest College Football Playoff rankings. The rest of the season looks promising for the Buckeyes, but will it be enough to get them into the CFP?

Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Barrett Sallee and Michael Felder discuss what would need to happen to get OSU into the playoff. 

Do you think Ohio State will make it?

Watch the video and let us know! 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Playoff Rankings 2014: Twitter Reacts to Week 12 Top 25 Reveal

Between a number of ranked matchups and a stunning Texas A&M upset victory over Auburn, Week 12's edition of the College Football Playoff rankings was due for a serious shakeup.    

Here is an overview of the latest Top 25 from the 12-person selection committee, as the college football hierarchy was revealed in an ESPN telecast Tuesday night:

In preserving its undefeated record, it comes as no surprise that Mississippi State is still the top team in the country.

For the second game in a row, Florida State Seminoles quarterback Jameis Winston overcame multiple interceptions to lead the team to a 34-20 win over Virginia. That shaky, turnover-prone play had to contribute to FSU's fall to No. 3, as Oregon slid into the second spot on the strength of a win over Utah.

Stewart Mandel of Fox Sports praised the committee for placing the Ducks No. 2:

Fox Sports' Bruce Feldman was rather shocked by the move at the top:

The Tigers are now out of the coveted Top Four following a 41-38 loss to the Aggies at home. Previously sixth-ranked TCU dominated then-No. 7 Kansas State 41-20 to bolster its resume in a big way—enough to get into the Top Four, at that.

Joey Galloway of ESPN offered his take:

TCU's triumph creates considerable convolution in the Big 12, thanks to its prior loss to Baylor, who blew out Oklahoma, 48-14, this weekend.

Much has been made of the Bears' weak non-conference schedule, which Sporting News' Matt Hayes doesn't buy into:

CBS4's Vic Lombardi deployed similar logic with regard to the Baylor-TCU dilemma:

Dan Wetzel of Yahoo Sports raises an interesting point about the Horned Frogs' potential fate:

A reputable Michigan State Spartans defense was shredded by the Ohio State Buckeyes in East Lansing, as QB J.T. Barrett accounted for five total touchdowns in a 49-37 landmark win. That battle for Big Ten superiority gave the Bucks a big boost in their postseason push.

In all likelihood, though, Ohio State will face a conference championship tangle with Nebraska, provided the Cornhuskers win at Wisconsin next week and run the table in the final two games thereafter.

Bleacher Report Buckeyes expert Ben Axelrod alluded to how the Big 12 could impact OSU's playoff chances:

UCLA made a big jump from 18th to 11th in the latest rankings, catalyzed by star signal-caller Brett Hundley's four total TDs in a 44-30 win over Washington. Chris Dufresne of the Los Angeles Times had the last laugh regarding his assertion that the team could still contend:

It will be interesting to see whether the Bruins can defeat USC and Stanford at home to stay in the Pac-12 South hunt, where they trail Arizona State.

The Sun Devils are dangerous, riding a wave of momentum off a 55-31 win over Notre Dame, while the Alabama Crimson Tide are still lurking thanks to a gritty, 20-13 overtime victory against LSU.

Pat Forde of Yahoo Sports noticed how the committee gravitated to Arizona State, while CBSSports.com's Dennis Dodd feels Alabama could jump into the Top Four soon enough:

As can be discerned from the breakdown of all these conferences and the most current standings, there is still so much at stake with mere games remaining. The biggest showdown on tap for Saturday is Mississippi State's trip to Tuscaloosa, where it hopes to knock off Alabama.

ESPN's Mack Brown weighed in on what should be a classic SEC clash:

Few could have forecast Auburn losing, so even the top-tier teams playing perceptibly winnable games aren't safe.

In just the third edition of the College Football Playoff rankings, the committee has rewarded a less-heralded team in TCU by placing the Horned Frogs fourth. With the program in such a great position and so many formidable contenders chasing, this race for the postseason will surely be fascinating down the stretch.

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Hits and Misses of the CFP Committee's Top 25 Poll After Week 11

The College Football Playoff selection committee came out with its third Top 25 ranking Tuesday, and much like with the previous system, there's bound to be debate.

Bleacher Report college football analysts Barrett Sallee and Michael Felder break down the hits and misses from the committee poll.

Which schools do you think deserve to be in the CFP?

Check out the video and let us know!

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College Football Playoff 2014: Final Four Predictions After 3rd Top 25 Rankings

Another week, another shakeup in the College Football Playoff rankings with yet another loss for a top team. Auburn fumbled away a golden chance to make the playoff—twice—and subsequently dropped out of the top four.

In the Tigers' place, TCU moved into the playoff picture for the first time this season. Meanwhile, Mississippi State, Florida State and Oregon all remain in the top four with the Ducks moving up two spots and knocking the Seminoles down a peg.  

Several weeks still lie ahead, so there's no telling how the final rankings will look. The Bulldogs and Crimson Tide battle this weekend in a highly critical showdown, and the outcome will have a major impact on the rankings.

Prior to another huge weekend of games, here's a look at the latest College Football Playoff rankings and projections for the final bracket.

 

Analysis

It may not have been billed as a huge matchup prior to the season, but Mississippi State at Alabama already looks like the biggest game of the year.     

Coming into the contest, the Bulldogs are the unanimous No. 1 across all polls and the only undefeated team in the SEC. The Tide roll in after their final road test with a 20-13 win over LSU in overtime, solidifying their place as one of the best in the country.  

Both programs have endured the toughest schedules to this point, as ESPN Stats & Info notes:

Throughout the last several weeks, I've projected that Mississippi State will go in as the No. 4 seed and Bama as No. 2 overall. That's been contingent on this game. Suffice it to say, there's a lot on the line in Tuscaloosa this weekend.

Outside of the SEC, potentially the biggest game is taking place in Coral Gables, Florida. Miami might not come in as a ranked team, but the Hurricanes come in with three straight wins by an average of 24 points.

Florida State enters with an unblemished record but has narrowly escaped games against Notre Dame and Louisville. Miami coach Al Golden still knows taking down the Seminoles will require near perfection, per Christina De Nicola of Fox Sports:

This is obviously a team that's executing at a high level that we're going against that's 25 straight now. That's elite. You've got to execute at a high level, and (it) really doesn't matter whom you grew up with or whom you played high school with. You've got to get the job done, and that's what our guys have to stay focused on this week.

On the West Coast, Oregon has emerged as the class of the Pac-12 after a convincing win over Utah.

The Ducks have taken down some of the top teams this season with one of the best offenses in the country. Scoring the fourth-most points (46 per game) and ranking inside the top 25 in both rushing (22nd) and passing (18th), Oregon has rolled since losing to Arizona.

Kevin McGuire of NBC Sports points out how dominant the Ducks have been against notable defenses:

Marcus Mariota continues to shine under center, combining for 38 total touchdowns and just two interceptions. Even with Pharaoh Brown now out for the season, per Kevin Gemmell of ESPN.com, Mariota's legs along with Byron Marshall and Devon Allen can carry the team.

Unlike some quarterbacks who struggle under pressure, Mariota has been one of the best on the road. Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports notes how well Mariota has played away from Autzen Stadium:

Meanwhile, other teams like TCU and Arizona State loom with hopes of taking one of the final spots. If the Tide, Ducks or Seminoles drop a game, it would leave an opportunity for either of those two programs to step up.

College GameDay passes along a look at the chances for several one-loss teams to win the rest of the way:

The weeks left of the regular season in college football can be counted on one hand, so a lot can change before the playoff.

Even with one loss, it appears Mississippi State might have built a strong enough resume to make the final cut. Having one of the best measuring sticks this weekend in Tuscaloosa, the Bulldogs might also solidify their spot.

 

Follow @RCorySmith on Twitter.

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College Football Playoff 2014: Official Selection Committee Rankings for Week 12

Down goes Auburn, and with its fall comes some clarity atop the College Football Playoff rankings. After a week that saw Texas A&M pull off a surprising upset of the third-ranked Tigers and six different matchups between Top 25 teams, we're finally beginning to cross schools out of playoff contention.

Mississippi State, Oregon and Florida State, playoff teams a week ago, stay as such in the latest committee rankings—albeit with one major change. The 9-1 Ducks, despite having a loss, leapfrogged the undefeated Seminoles (9-0) to take the second spot. The question coming into Tuesday night, though, was whether Alabama or TCU would occupy the fourth and final spot.

The Crimson Tide and Horned Frogs each earned impressive wins over ranked opponents, with Alabama needing overtime to take down LSU while TCU went all scorched-earth on Kansas State. In the end, the 12-person committee went with the more impressive victory. TCU was named as the fourth would-be finalist, with Alabama rounding out the Top Five.

Here's a look at how the rest of the Top 25 played out:

Given the number of high-profile games on the schedule, it's no surprise changes abound. Alabama earned its stripes with a hard-fought 20-13 victory over LSU, as the Tide needed multiple big plays to stay alive. Blake Sims, who struggled mightily for most of regulation, led a 55-yard drive in 50 seconds to set up a 27-yard Adam Griffith field goal that sent the game to overtime.

In the extra period, Sims hit DeAndrew White from six yards out to put Alabama ahead for good. The senior finished with 209 yards and two touchdowns but completed only 20 of 45 passes.

"He didn't have one of his better games. It was tough," Alabama coach Nick Saban told reporters. "He hung in there. He made some great plays when he had to...I'm really, really proud of way he hung in there."

TCU's triumph over Kansas State involved much less stress. Trevone Boykin accounted for 342 total yards and four touchdowns as TCU scored the first two touchdowns and never trailed in a 41-20 victory. The Horned Frogs have gone 5-1 in a six-game stretch playing five ranked opponents, with their only loss coming in heartbreaking fashion to Baylor.

The Bears got their own resume-affirming win Saturday, unloading a 48-14 walloping on Oklahoma in Norman. Corey Coleman made 15 receptions for 224 yards and had two touchdowns (one rushing), helping Baylor score the game's final 45 points. It was an exclamation-point loss for Oklahoma, which came into the season with national title hopes and is now 6-3.

Baylor, meanwhile, got the performance everyone has been waiting for. The committee still prefers TCU's overall resume, but it'll be interesting to see how much that head-to-head win for Baylor plays a difference down the stretch. 

"The only thing we can control is to try to win out, be 11-1 and have an opportunity to be (Big 12) co-champions," TCU coach Gary Patterson told Stephen Hawkins of The Associated Press. "Just how we play, and what the general public and the committee think about us when we get done...we've just got to control our own destiny."

Resume affirmation also came for Arizona State and Ohio State, which each have legitimate claims for a Top Five spot. The Buckeyes, who were behind two-loss Ole Miss a week ago, went to East Lansing and earned a 49-37 win over Michigan State that was stronger than the final score indicates. They punted only twice, converting 10 of 14 third downs and putting up 568 yards of total offense.

J.T. Barrett accounted for five touchdowns and 386 total yards, continuing his emergence as one of college football's best quarterbacks.

"I think it is, because I love my team and I don't know enough," Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer told reporters when asked if Ohio State is a playoff team. "I haven't studied the other teams really. If I have to go fight for this team, what they've done—very impressive. That darn loss the second game, if that hurts us, I'll take the hit for that."

The loss to which Meyer refers was against Virginia Tech in Barrett's second game under center. The freshman threw three interceptions and generally looked like a mess, with it appearing that Ohio State's season was already over. Barrett has responded with a rapid improvement, throwing three interceptions total during the Buckeyes' seven-game winning streak.

No improvements under center have been needed for Arizona State, which continues to get sterling performances from its defense. The Sun Devils picked off Notre Dame's Everett Golson four times, returning two for touchdowns in a 55-31 romp. Taylor Kelly added four touchdowns (three passing, one rushing) and D.J. Foster rushed for 120 yards in a strong all-around performance.

A visit to rival Arizona is the only remaining challenge on Arizona State's schedule, leaving open the Pac-12 Championship Game as a potential de facto playoff game. Second-ranked Oregon finishes with relative cakewalks against Colorado and Oregon State, and the Ducks earned more respect from the committee with a 51-27 win over Utah.

Marcus Mariota very likely supplanted Dak Prescott as the Heisman favorite with his third straight game with at least four total touchdowns.

In all, we're down to just 10 teams with zero or one loss and thus a legitimate playoff shot. The most surprising of those is No. 21 Duke, which finishes its regular season with three straight home games against Virginia Tech, North Carolina and Wake Forest. It's possible the Blue Devils are 11-1 heading into an ACC Championship Game matchup with Florida State.   

In other words: Just when you think the college football hierarchy is sussing itself out, things get weird. 

 

Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter

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USC Practice Notebook: Cody Kessler vs. Jared Goff, Winning the Turnover Battle

LOS ANGELES — Turnovers will be in limited supply Thursday when USC hosts Cal, assuming the two teams follow season-long trends. 

When a takeaway comes along, USC head coach Steve Sarkisian said it's crucial the Trojans parlay it into points. 

"We need to capitalize on turnovers," he said, speaking after practice Tuesday at Howard Jones-Brian Kennedy Field. "We need to take advantage of maybe creating some short fields for ourselves and then maintaining taking care of the football offensively to make them work their way down the field.

"We can't give an offense like that short fields," Sarkisian added. 

The Trojans coach cited USC's plus-nine turnover margin to Cal's even ratio. In terms of actually giving up the ball, however, the two teams have been considerably more comparable. 

Cal ranks No. 38 in the Football Bowl Subdivision with just 13 turnovers lost. USC is even better, having given away just eight possessions to rank sixth nationally. 

Both can thank the steady play of their quarterbacks. USC's Cody Kessler and Cal's Jared Goff are among the most prolific scorers in the nation with 25 and 27 touchdown passes apiece, respectively, but their lofty numbers are not the result of high-risk, high-reward mentalities. 

As good as each is at getting his team in the end zone, both Kessler and Goff are equally adept at maintaining their squad's possessions.  

Goff has thrown just four interceptions in 372 attempts—one every 93 passes. Kessler has been picked off twice in 297 passes, or once every 148.5 attempts. 

Cal head coach Sonny Dykes credited Goff's improved ball protection to the Golden Bears starting stronger this season than in the quarterback's freshman campaign when he threw 10 interceptions.

"The biggest thing is his comfort level and the understanding of the offense," Dykes said. "He has a better anticipation, a better sense for what's going on.

"The most important attribute that good quarterbacks have is confidence," Dykes added. "He's starting to play with a lot of confidence."  

In turn, the Golden Bears in general are more confident, and the result is a 41.9 point-per-game average. 

Sarkisian's taken notice. He said the Trojans must score at least 35 points to win. 

That's a number USC has hit in three of its last four wins. And in those three victories, Kessler has a remarkable 14 touchdown passes with no interceptions. 

In his last outing against Washington State, Kessler went 21-of-32 for 400 yards and five scores. That got the attention of Cougars head coach Mike Leach, who commented on Kessler's play Tuesday on the coaches teleconference. 

"He doesn't take any chances. That's the biggest thing," Leach said of Kessler. "They do a lot of things to make sure he's successful."  

Those "things," according to Leach, include using play-action fakes to "bait" defenders, then "he does a good job throwing to the open man." 

It's a very simple formula, albeit one that could dictate the outcome of Thursday's game. 

 

To Blitz or Not to Blitz  

Don't expect USC defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox to call for many blitzes against Cal. The Trojans have run the fewest blitzes of any team in the power-five conferences. 

More specifically, USC's two games with the lowest percentage of blitzes called, per USCFootball.com's Ryan Abraham, were against Boston College and Washington State. 

Cal's offense bears similarities to that of Washington State, as Dykes is a branch off the Leach coaching tree. Dykes also uses backup quarterback Luke Rubenzer for zone-read plays in the same vein as Boston College's Tyler Murphy.

According to Sarkisian, that's unlikely to change based on what he described as play-calling to the team's strengths. 

"We've got a really good front seven," Sarkisian said. "We take pride in our front four and what they can do. Also, we understand that we have some youth in the secondary. We need to take care of those guys to make sure we're minimizing the big [pass] play." 

Minimize those plays the Trojans have. Opponents have completed 22 passes of 20 yards or more against USC, 20th best in the nation. The Trojans have allowed just five pass plays of 30 yards or more, which ties Alabama for third best in the country.  

Conversely, Cal is one of the best teams in the FBS at producing explosive pass plays. One reason, according to Dykes, is Goff's ability to turn blitzing situations into opportunities. 

While USC's limited blitzing is a safeguard against the pass, Sarkisian does not see it negatively impacting the Trojans' run defense. 

"Even though we haven't blitzed as much, our run numbers have been fantastic," Sarkisian said. USC is allowing 138.4 rushing yards per game and just four yards an attempt. "We haven't had to devote an extra defender to the box, which in turn has helped us in our pass coverage." 

 

Lobendahn Holding Off Walker at Tackle 

Aundrey Walker initially filled in at left tackle for starter Chad Wheeler, who tore his ACL in the Oct. 25 loss at Utah. 

Sarkisian hinted Walker would remain in the position, but freshman Toa Lobendahn moved from the interior to left tackle in the week before the Trojans faced Washington State. 

"Toa beat him out," Sarkisian said. "We're going to play the best players that give us the best opportunity to be successful, and that's what happened." 

 

Injuries and Energy After Bye Week 

Sarkisian said on his Nov. 2 conference call that USC's bye week "couldn't come at a better time."

The Trojans used their additional week leading up to Thursday's game to recuperate from the collective injuries that piled up throughout Pac-12 play, and the strategy should pay off.

Linebacker-safety hybrid Su'a Cravens will be in the lineup after suffering a knee injury at Washington State.

On Tuesday, Sarkisian said fullback Soma Vainuku was looking good. Freshman defensive back John Plattenburg is day-to-day with a thigh bruise. 

In addition to healing, the bye week afforded USC an opportunity to re-energize. Sarkisian said he has seen that manifest in practices, which resumed on Saturday.  

"This is our Thursday...for a 'Thursday' practice, I thought our energy was fantastic," he said. "I had to tell them to slow down, which is a great place to be. [It] means we're energized and fresh. They're in tune to the details of the game plan, and Thursday night, we're going to put it all together."  

 

Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise cited. Statistics via CFBstats.com

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USC Practice Notebook: Cody Kessler vs. Jared Goff, Winning the Turnover Battle

LOS ANGELES — Turnovers will be in limited supply Thursday when USC hosts Cal, assuming the two teams follow season-long trends...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

2015 Wide Receiver Recruits Who Are Matchup Nightmares

Collegiate offenses rely on field-stretching wide receivers to enhance vertical efforts and exploit pass defenders dealing with a heightened prevalence of penalties. These elite pass-catchers can make the difference between an average downfield attack and one capable of routinely taking the top off of defenses. 

We continue to see premier prospects become effective weapons as freshmen—2014 5-star recruit KD Cannon has 38 receptions for 731 yards this season—so members of this recruiting cycle are destined to make an impact as early as next fall. 

Here's a look at several young receivers capable of creating matchup issues for opponents throughout their college careers. Each will be counted on to elevate offenses at the next level.

Begin Slideshow

Former LSU Player Explains Why Tigers Defense Is the Future in Baton Rouge

The LSU Tigers have had an up-and-down season. Their heartbreaking loss to the Alabama Crimson Tide all but crushed their hopes for the College Football Playoff. But hope still remains in Baton Rouge. 

Bleacher Report's Stephen Nelson is joined by T-Bob Hebert to discuss the young Tigers on defense.

Which young defender has played the best this season?

Check out the video, and let us know!  

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