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Super 16 Poll Week 12: Complete Rankings Released for 2014 Season

The four-team playoff system isn't even a year old, and already you can see the complaints coming a mile away. Very deserving teams seem bound to be left out, the selection committee's criteria is going to be dissected and probed and second-guessed and, as always, someone is going to just be unhappy with everything.

That's life. But could it be a bit better?    

The Super 16 Poll thinks so. Each week, its group of voters rank the top 16 teams in the nation, acting as a selection committee for a theoretical 16-team playoff. Below, you'll find the full poll along with Bleacher Report's official Top 25 and a closer look at the college football landscape.

Just about everything in college football hinges on the matchup between Alabama and Mississippi State this week, so this week's polls and rankings almost feel irrelevant. Win and Mississippi State is all but in, even if it loses to Ole Miss. But lose and Alabama is suddenly in the driver's seat, though the Iron Bowl still looms large.

Of course, the worst possible scenario for the rest of college football might just be Alabama winning out, Mississippi State only losing to Alabama (which would be one heck of a road loss, keep in mind), and the SEC West still potentially getting two teams in the four-team playoff. 

The winners of the Pac-12, Big Ten and Big 12 would probably cry foul if a non-conference champion like Mississippi State vaulted ahead of them in the rankings. But at the end of the day we want the four best teams in college football, right? 

One of the above teams that probably wouldn't have to worry about much is Oregon. The Ducks are red hot right now and, should they win out, would likely be looking at a resume that would include wins over Michigan State, UCLA, Stanford, Utah and Arizona State (the likely Pac-12 title game).

There's no way they won't be ranked in the top four if that happens.

Of course, they have to get through Arizona State first, a team that introduced itself to the country with a definitive win over Notre Dame on Saturday.

"I think that we knew that this was the hump we needed to get over," Sun Devils running back D.J. Foster told Ted Miller of ESPN.com after the game. "At the end of the day, it was just another game for us. But we knew that we had to get this win to impress some people." 

But man, wouldn't it be fun if we could just see all of these teams play? After all, how many really, really good two-loss teams are out there right now?

Auburn, on any given night, can beat any team in the country. Ole Miss and Notre Dame can probably do the same. Michigan State has lost to two very good teams in Oregon and Ohio State. Kansas State has lost versus two very good teams in Auburn and TCU. UCLA has handed Arizona State its only loss and was probably a late Utah field goal away from still being in the playoff conversation.

A 16-team playoff might never happen—it's certainly not coming anytime soon—but this year is such a perfect example of how epic it would truly be. Life is many things, but fair generally isn't one of them.

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

How Would Florida State Fare If 2014 'Noles Played in SEC?

Playing in the ACC has been a great and awful thing for Florida State this season: great because teams like Louisville and NC State are flawed enough to surrender huge first-half leads, but awful because it keeps us from #TalkinBoutTheNoles as often as we probably should (26 hours a day, give or take).

The defending national champion is No. 2 in the College Football Playoff standings despite having not lost a game in 717 days. The only team ahead of it is Mississippi State, which began the year unranked but climbed ahead of FSU, ostensibly, because going 9-0 in the SEC is perceived as more difficult than going 9-0 in any other league.

The 'Noles have yet to play an SEC team this season. The only team they've played that has crossed over into the SEC is Clemson, which lost to Georgia (45-21) much more thoroughly than it lost to Florida State (23-17 in overtime) but didn't have to face Jameis Winston.

We'll learn more about Florida State vis-a-vis the SEC when it hosts Florida November 29. But until then, all we can do is speculate.

How might the 'Noles have fared in the "best" conference in America?

A pro-Florida State argument would point to last year's BCS National Championship Game, when the Seminoles beat SEC champion Auburn 34-31 on a touchdown in the final 13 seconds.

But it's specious to equate 2013 Florida State with 2014 Florida State. This is not the same team as last year. Last year's team was No. 1 in the F/+ ratings at Football Outsiders for the better part of the season, finishing with an overall efficiency of 49.2 percent.

This year's team has been worse across the board:

The most obvious decline has been on defense, where a unit that last year led the country now barely cracks the top 30. That would give FSU the No. 7 defense in the SEC (with Florida not far behind).

The defense doesn't do a single thing well according to the more specialized S&P+ ratings at Football Outsiders, ranking No. 91 against the run and No. 70 against the pass. The best thing it does is prevent teams from finishing drives based on field position.

In a more traditional context, these struggles can be seen in the way FSU's defense performed against teams like Syracuse (5.03 yards per rush) and Louisville (8.70 yards per pass). The Orange have averaged 4.22 yards per rush in their other nine games, and the Cardinals have averaged 7.11 yards per pass.

"I've never been a part of any team where we missed that many tackles," safety Tyler Hunter said after a 56-41 win at NC State, per Bob Ferrante of Bleacher Report. "You're in college now, so you should know how to tackle."

In the SEC, tackling is not optional.

Auburn gained 449 yards on Florida State's No. 1-ranked defense in the national title game and actually ranks higher in offensive F/+ this season (22.6 percent) than last (19.5 percent). Dak Prescott and Josh Robinson are broken-tackle machines at Mississippi State, Todd Gurley is about to return at Georgia and Amari Cooper catches and breaks an average of roughly 1,000 bubble screens per game at Alabama.

Even unranked teams like Texas A&M and Arkansas have offenses that could hold off Florida State if the Seminoles spotted them one of their patented big deficits. The Aggies did precisely that after taking an early lead at Auburn this past weekend. They scored enough that Auburn could not claw its way into the win the column.

That is the difference between the lower-tier teams of the SEC and the NC States, Virginias and Syracuses that populate the ACC.

In the video toward the top of this article (linked again here), Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee indulged a similar FSU-to-the-SEC hypothetical, saying the 'Noles would have one loss if they played LSU's schedule. To me, that seems like a pretty fair assessment.

But it's fair in that it assumes a better version of the current Florida State team. In other words: The Florida State team that has showed up every week in ACC play would not have only one loss in SEC play. It would not have been able to overcome the slow starts it had against lesser competition against better-than-lesser competition.

Still, the offense has been good enough in the second halves of games, and Winston has been magical enough at quarterback, that this team, when focused, would have a chance to win the SEC. It wouldn't be undefeated, but it might be pretty close.

The four SEC teams ahead of Florida State on the F/+ rankings range from having no losses (Mississippi State) to one loss (Alabama) and two losses (Ole Miss and Auburn). The one SEC team directly behind it has three losses (LSU). 

Split those numbers up and account for the way FSU has been playing, and the data says it would likely be 7-2 through nine weeks.

It would be contending for an SEC West title, but it wouldn't be the favorite.

Not in 2014.

 

Follow Brian Leigh on Twitter: @BLeighDAT

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Mississippi State Bulldogs Complete Game Preview

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — There’s no time off for Alabama.

Fresh off a thrilling 20-13 overtime victory at LSU, the Crimson Tide have to turn around and host the No. 1 team in the country in Bryant-Denny Stadium.

It usually works out in Alabama’s favor to play what is usually a middling Mississippi State team after a physical battle against LSU. This year, though, the Bulldogs are the best team in the nation and the surprise team of the year.

Dak Prescott is asserting himself as a Heisman front-runner, and Dan Mullen is a head coach on the rise.

There are plenty of storylines to follow for yet another huge game for Alabama this season.

Here’s everything you need to know:

Date: Saturday, November 15

Time: 2:30 p.m. CT

Place: Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Alabama

TV: CBS

Radio: Crimson Tide Sports Network, MSU Sports Radio Network

Spread: Alabama by 7, according to OddsShark.com.

Begin Slideshow

Florida State vs. Miami: Complete Game Preview

Florida State has enjoyed a 4-0 record against Miami in the Jimbo Fisher era. Three of those four games have been double-digit wins.

While many teams have a significant home-field edge in a rivalry game, FSU fans from South Florida have often filled the stands at Dolphins Stadium. An FSU game at Miami more closely resembles a neutral-field contest.

The Seminoles have also won the last four games at Miami, with FSU's last road loss in the series coming in September 2004. If No. 2 FSU (9-0) defeats Miami (6-3) on Saturday, the Seminoles will clinch the Atlantic Coast Conference's Atlantic Division and have a chance to play for a third straight conference championship.

Let's take a look ahead at the FSU-Miami game (8 p.m. ET on ABC).

Begin Slideshow

FCS Rankings 2014: Week 11 Coaches Poll Standings Revealed

For the first time in over two full years, North Dakota State lost a football game. The Bison were defeated 23-3 by Northern Iowa on Saturday and, as a result, fell out of No. 1 in the latest coaches poll for the first time all season.

Taking over the top spot in place of NDSU was the only 10-0 FCS team in the country in Coastal Carolina. The Chanticleers earned 20 first-place votes over New Hampshire and Jacksonville State, who garnered four and two, respectively.

Just weeks ahead of the FCS playoffs, it appears the Chants have a great shot of earning the No. 1 seed. Before Week 12 gets underway, here's a look at the latest FCS rankings. Full rankings and others receiving votes can be found at NCAA.com.

 

Analysis

Despite dropping a 33-game winning streak against UNI, North Dakota State still maintains a Top Five ranking. The outcome was a stunner across the FCS landscape because the Panthers, who moved to 6-4 on the season, had lost three straight to NDSU prior to the game.

FCS Football's official account noted the outcome of the crucial contest:

The Bison still have a shot at going into the playoffs as a high seed thanks to a huge early win against Iowa State and an otherwise great season. However, with the loss coming late in the season, they only have a short window to make up ground.

Coastal Carolina reaps the benefits of North Dakota State falling as it moves into the No. 1 spot for the first time in school history. Starting the season at No. 6 in the poll, the Chants have slowly climbed up thanks to their unblemished record.

Not only was this the first time Coastal moved into the top spot, but it was also a first for the Big South Conference. The Big South's official account noted the news for the conference:

Prior to the poll being released, the Chants had a good idea they would be taking over at No. 1 following their win and subsequent loss by NDSU. Linebacker Quinn Backus spoke about the great start for the team, per Ryan Young of The (Myrtle Beach, South Carolina) Sun News:

It's a great honor. It's a great honor, I can't lie to you. It just shows that [if] you continue to work hard and believe in your coaches, anything is possible. And we're going to continue to work hard and not let this be a stopping point. We're just going to build off of it and be ready to go for next week.

Just behind Coastal stands New Hampshire and Jacksonville State, two teams with only one loss. Rounding out the Top Five is Eastern Washington, who remained in the Top Five for the second straight week.

Leading up to the playoffs, only Monmouth (5-4) and Liberty (7-3) stand in between Coastal and potentially the top seed. With both games at home for the Chants, that possibility looks very realistic.

 

Follow @RCorySmith on Twitter.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

LSU Tigers vs. Arkansas Razorbacks Complete Game Preview

LSU fans are still hurting. 

Head coach Les Miles had Alabama's Nick Saban against the ropes with a 13-10 lead late in the fourth quarter. But the clutch Crimson Tide would score 10 unanswered points to win 20-13 in overtime, making it four straight wins for Saban over Miles. 

Now, the Tigers will have to travel north to play Arkansas, who has had its fair share of heartbreak. The Razorbacks are 0-13 in SEC play under head coach Bret Bielema.

Despite Arkansas' winless record in the conference, it is slightly favored against the Tigers. The Razorbacks are coming off a bye week and have covered the spread in every game they have played in Fayetteville. It will be a frigid Saturday with a chance of rain and snow, per Weather.com

Eight of the last nine matchups between LSU and Arkansas have been decided by one possession or less, though the Tigers have won the last three. It took a magical 99-yard drive led by quarterback Anthony Jennings to defeat Arkansas 31-27 last season. 

 

What You Need to Know

Time: 7 p.m. CT 

Place: Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium, Fayetteville, Arkansas

TV: ESPN2

Radio: LSU Sports Radio Network, Razorback Sports Network

Spread: Arkansas by 1.5, via OddsShark.com

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Ohio State Buckeyes vs. Minnesota Golden Gophers Complete Game Preview

One week after picking up its biggest win of the season—and reinserting itself into the College Football Playoff discussion in the process—the Ohio State football team will head to Minnesota for a matchup with the Golden Gophers. 

And while the Buckeyes' big win over Michigan State last weekend garnered national attention, Minnesota is far from a gimme opponent, entering this weekend's contest with a 7-2 record. Ohio State may have the inside track to a second straight Big Ten Championship Game, but the Gophers will present its toughest test until a likely trip to Indianapolis, as Minnesota is coming off a 51-14 beatdown of Iowa.

Will the Buckeyes be able to maintain the momentum they took away from East Lansing, or will the Gophers play spoiler in what could be a potential trap game for Ohio State? We'll find out on Saturday. But until then, here's everything you need to know about this weekend's Big Ten battle:

Date: Saturday, Nov. 15

Time: 12 p.m. ET

Place: TCF Bank Stadium, Minneapolis

TV: ABC

Radio: Ohio State Football Radio NetworkSpartan Sports Network

Spread: Ohio State (-14.5), via Odds Shark 

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Building the Ultimate 2015 Running Back Recruit

The 2015 class has a handful of running backs who are bound for greatness at the collegiate level.

Bleacher Report college football analyst Michael Felder builds his ultimate 2015 running back recruit based on various attributes.

Which running back do you think deserves to be mentioned?

Watch the video and let us know!

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

UCLA Football: What Bruins Must Do in Bye Week to Prep for Showdown vs. USC

Jim Mora established himself as the king of Los Angeles' college football scene in his first two years as UCLA football head coach.

Mora and his team have an additional week of preparations for defense of that crown, coming off a four-game win streak with a bye ahead of the annual Crosstown Showdown with USC.  

The Bruins welcome—using the term loosely—the Trojans into the Rose Bowl Nov. 22 with both teams still in the hunt for the Pac-12 South's berth into the conference championship game. However, any hope either has for playing in Levi's Stadium on Dec. 5 disappears with a loss. 

With a potential championship backdrop, the heated rivalry takes on added significance. That extra week probably couldn't come at a better time for the Bruins. 

 

Keep on Building

After kicking off November with a 17-7 defeat of then-No. 12 Arizona, linebacker Deon Hollins said the win "is going to be huge for us."

Scoring a decisive victory against a quality opponent after struggling against Cal and Colorado, and losing to Utah and Oregon, was a building block for something more, according to Hollins.

That rang true Saturday at Washington, where the Bruins asserted their dominance early and cruised to a win that was more lopsided than the final, 44-30 score.  

In a season punctuated with sputtering wins, the Bruins are putting the pieces together at the right time. 

 

Let Hundley Run 

Whether the result of outside pressure of expectations, or the on-field pressure put on him by blitzing defenses, quarterback Brett Hundley looked indecisive at times early through the Bruins' slate. 

Hundley put together one of the best completion percentages in the nation, sure. And he continued to rush for big gains. But in recent weeks, he's done both with much greater confidence. 

One reason is the overall improvement of his offensive line. The Bruins' front has made tremendous strides since allowing 10 sacks in a loss to Utah, most recently holding the nation's No. 2 overall sacking defense, Washington, to just one on Saturday. 

That's allowed Hundley to get passes out quicker. In addition, offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone is calling more designed runs for his quarterback, which has helped to pull back blitzes. 

USC has had its struggles containing mobile quarterbacks in recent years, including against UCLA. Last year, Hundley went off for 80 yards and two rushing touchdowns. 

Continuing to use Hundley's explosiveness as a ball-carrier in designed packages should be one of the primary points of emphasis for the UCLA offense heading into the USC matchup. 

 

Block out the Noise

An extra week without the distraction of another game lets in the potential distraction of hype for the rivalry. 

Talk about UCLA's newfound place as the leader of the Los Angeles football landscape has permeated ever since the Bruins' first of two straight wins in 2012. Said chatter will reach a crescendo in the days to come, particularly if USC beats Cal on Thursday. 

Mora has preached of blocking out potential distractions throughout this season, and there may be none bigger than the buildup to the Nov. 22 rivalry contest. 

 

Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise cited. Statistics courtesy of CFBstats.com

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

UCLA Football: What Bruins Must Do in Bye Week to Prep for Showdown vs. USC

Jim Mora established himself as the king of Los Angeles' college football scene in his first two years as UCLA football head coach...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

It's Time for LSU to Give QB Brandon Harris Another Shot as Starter

Brandon Harris' first foray into the world of starting at quarterback in the SEC didn't go so well. The true freshman signal-caller for LSU went 3-of-14 for 58 yards and rushed for 36 in a 41-7 loss on the road to Auburn.

It's time for Harris to get another shot.

The 7-3 Tigers will hit the road this week to Fayetteville as 2.5-point underdogs, according to OddsShark.com, to take on 4-5 Arkansas.

Yes, that's right. The team that just took No. 4 Alabama to overtime is an underdog to a team that hasn't won an SEC game since Mitt Romney and Barack Obama were campaigning for President of the United States.

Why?

A lack of faith in current starting quarterback Anthony Jennings is a good place to start. 

The true sophomore completed just eight of 26 passes for 76 yards, one touchdown and one interception against Alabama last week, in the 20-13 overtime loss. On the season, Jennings has completed just 47.1 percent of his passes (80-of-170) for 1,266 yards, nine touchdowns and six interceptions.

Since regaining the job after the Auburn game, LSU ripped off three straight wins before the Alabama loss. During that stretch, though, Jennings didn't complete more than 50 percent of his passes in any game. While LSU's running game and defense improved, its passing game remain stagnant.

Miles said on Monday that Jennings should get more opportunities as the season closes, according to Ross Dellenger of the Baton Rouge Advocate:

Decent won't cut it. More opportunities might help, but Jennings has had plenty of them already.

Harris might be able to give the offense a boost and help the Tigers become more two-dimensional.

The former 4-star prospect and third-ranked dual-threat quarterback in the class of 2014 was thrown into the fire at Auburn, and doing the same on the road at Arkansas may seem like crazy talk.

It isn't.

The situation for LSU is much different now. With three conference losses, there's no way for LSU to claw its way back into the SEC West or College Football Playoff hunt. Now's the time to start building for the future. Whether you think Harris will be a superstar or is nothing more than an average quarterback, Jennings has done nothing to solidify the job during his starts this season.

Head coach Les Miles and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron should make the offseason battle a fair fight, even though Miles said on Monday that he's not ready to think about the future, according to Dellenger:

Starting Harris wouldn't be focusing on the future. It'd be searching for the boost as the season comes to a close with one eye on the future.

With road games vs. Arkansas and Texas A&M left during the regular season, Harris should be given a full, fair shot to get into grooves in games, learn from his mistakes and build off of any success he enjoys. 

At that point, LSU can enter bowl practice with two quarterbacks with game experience, and the battle to win the job will not only be on, it will be as fair as it can get.

It's safe to say, given Jennings' inconsistencies, there's going to be another quarterback battle this offseason in Baton Rouge. LSU would be best-served to start it now so that it can hit the ground running during bowl practices.

 

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

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Bowl Projections 2014: Playoff Predictions and Pairings for Top Teams

We're entering the home stretch of the college football season now, folks, and it feels as though we know less than when we started.

The Big 12 could end up offering the selection committee a really interesting choice between Baylor and TCU. The SEC West remains a cloudy, competitive mess. The Pac-12 feels like a two-team race between Oregon and Arizona State but you never know. The Big Ten feels like a two-team race between Ohio State and Nebraska but, again, you never know.

But hey, why not try to predict how this jumbled mess of confusion and possible outcomes will play out? Below, I'll do just that, making predictions for the four playoff seeds and the top bowl matchups after that.

 

Playoff Seeds

1. Florida State

2. Alabama

3. Oregon

4. TCU

 

Playoff Analysis

Florida State has a cupcake schedule the rest of the way, so they're an obvious choice to finish undefeated and atop the rankings. The No. 2 team is where things really get interesting.

The SEC West has been so tight this year that the deciding factor in the division may just be that Alabama faces both Mississippi State and Auburn at home. That advantage against the two toughest teams they'll play this year is why I see them winning out and reaching the playoff. 

Oregon is another fairly easy call. The Ducks are cruising right now and are on a collision course with Arizona State in the Pac-12 championship. That win would be the final feather in their cap, as would be the conference title, something that will certainly factor in heavily with the committee. 

Conference championships are why I think you'll see TCU at No. 4. Their schedule, in general, is more impressive than either Ohio State's or Nebraska's—whichever team wins the Big Ten—and I just can't see the committee snubbing TCU for a Buckeyes team that has a really bad loss to Virginia Tech. 

But what about Mississippi State? Let's say their only loss on the season is a tight road loss to Alabama. Is their incredibly impressive resume enough to get them into the playoff despite not even reaching their conference championship?

I don't think so. Maybe if there wasn't a team out there with as strong a resume as TCU, yes, they'd get in. But TCU will be a conference champion with wins over Oklahoma, West Virginia and Kansas State and a three-point loss on the road to a good Baylor team.

Yes, in this scenario I envision Baylor losing to Kansas State. If they don't lose that game and end up winning the Big 12, well, then things will get really interesting.

 

The Best of the Rest

Cotton Bowl: Kansas State vs. Marshall

Fiesta Bowl: Arizona State vs. Michigan State

Orange Bowl: Duke vs. Ohio State 

Peach Bowl: Mississippi State vs. Baylor

 

Best of the Rest Analysis

Good luck trying to figure this out right now. 

For starters, we all want to see Marshall in one of the other big four bowls if they go undefeated, right? So let's just make that happen here. And should Duke win out until the ACC title game, a very strong possibility, they'll be an automatic selection for the Orange Bowl.

Teams like Mississippi State, Ohio State and Arizona State will undoubtedly be represented in some bowl, likely matched up to a geographical fit. So that leaves three spots open, likely to the top three teams represented in the rankings.

For now, I'm going with Kansas State, Michigan State and Baylor, with apologies to Notre Dame. The Mississippi State versus Baylor matchup would be a ton of fun and a great geographical fit, while Kansas State will likely be ranked ahead of Baylor and thus set up with the Cotton Bowl.

The Fiesta Bowl would end up with a de facto Rose Bowl matchup, while we would get the opportunity to see just how legit Marshall and Duke really are. Not a bad appetizer, right? 

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Florida State vs. Miami: Complete Game Preview

The Miami Hurricanes and No. 2 Florida State Seminoles are preparing for the 59th meeting between the programs, which will take place on Saturday, Nov. 15 at Sun Life Stadium.

Al Golden's Miami (6-3, 3-2 ACC) team dominated its previous two outings, but FSU provides the biggest test of the season.

Florida State (9-0, 6-0) recently fought through a couple of scares to remain undefeated, hoping for a return trip to the national championship game. The Noles have won the last four matchups.

As of this writing, per OddsShark, Florida State is favored by 2.5 points. Kickoff is scheduled for 8 p.m. ET and will be televised on ABC.

Begin Slideshow

USC vs. Cal Complete Game Preview

WHEN: Thursday, Nov. 13; 9 p.m. ET

WHERE: Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum

TV: ESPN

The surprise of the 2014 Pac-12 football season comes to the Coliseum for a Thursday night showdown when 5-4 Cal squares off with 6-3 USC. 

The Golden Bears are a win away from gaining bowl eligibility for the first time since 2011 and would certainly love to gain it with their first defeat of the Trojans since 2003.

For USC, Thursday's contest is its last hurdle before facing back-to-back rivalry weeks. UCLA and Notre Dame loom as the final two dates on the Trojans' schedule.

Overlooking the upstart Golden Bears is one potential pitfall with the Bruins and Fighting Irish waiting, but a bye week heading into this Pac-12 matchup gave the Trojans an opportunity to be mentally and physically prepared. 

The physical component is particularly noteworthy. Head coach Steve Sarkisian gave the team the bye week off from practice to heal from injuries. As a result, the USC lineup on the field Thursday could be the closest to full strength it's been since Week 1. 

Any depth or energy gained from the time off will be needed when facing Cal head coach Sonny Dykes' explosive bear-raid offense. 

The Golden Bears come into the Coliseum averaging more than 41 points per game. 

 

Begin Slideshow

USC vs. Cal Complete Game Preview

WHEN: Thursday, Nov. 13; 9 p.m. ET WHERE: Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum TV: ESPN The surprise of the 2014 Pac -12 football season comes to the Coliseum for a Thursday night showdown when 5-4 Cal squares off with 6-3 USC...

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Welcome Back Todd Gurley, College Football Missed You

“We’re glad he’s back, and we’re looking forward to seeing him play.”

That’s what Georgia head coach Mark Richt had to say yesterday about the return of Todd Gurley (per Seth Emerson of Macon’s Telegraph).

Richt is known as an unusually cool character, but that might have been one of the all-time great understatements in sports.  

And yet, it’s hard to blame Richt for not showing more enthusiasm or adulate him for staying calm as the most heralded Bulldog in 30 years returns to the field, because Gurley’s play itself and all that it embodies is hard to process with curt one-liners.  Gurley is not a media-ready soundbite. 

Merely defining Todd Gurley as an entity requires far more effort than most care to give.  Were he any less spectacular, “junior running back” would be an appropriate qualifier.  But given his accomplishments and what remains unfinished, forgetting terms like “star,” “future NFL first round pick” and “should-be Heisman candidate” fail to do Gurley justice.

His playing style itself presents such myriad seesaws that descriptions convolute the picture of his greatness. 

He’s patient but explosive.  He sees everything but has tunnel vision focused on the end zone.  He’s big and yet agile.  He’s strong but surprisingly buoyant when choosing to bounce off a defender rather than run through them.  He’s quick and fast but he’ll drag multiple defenders when necessary.  

He’s the most talented runner in the country but also one of the most selfless blockers.  He’s undeniably the most explosive offensive threat on the SEC’s highest scoring offense, but he adds value as a motivator in the defensive huddle.

But while Richt’s abbreviated summation of the end of six weeks’ worth of frustration, emotion and longing seems to come up short, his words still have an air of all-encompassing.

Richt is right; we are glad he’s back.  Not just the Georgia Bulldogs football team.

To be sure, Richt’s squad stands to benefit the most from Gurley when he dresses out between the hedges in Sanford Stadium, but the Dawgs aren’t alone in their appreciation. 

The university, whose students held midnight vigils following Gurley’s suspension as if he had passed away, will undoubtedly reap the rewards of Gurley’s triumphant run back onto the field.  After all, no student-athlete has been so loved since the days of Herschel Walker, and no student-athlete has been so wronged (from the perspective of Georgia fans) since—well, ever.

Undoubtedly, the student section and everyone in Sanford Stadium will embrace the righteously defiant exuberance that Gurley will possess.  In that light, regardless of the game’s outcome, no Bulldog fan will go away empty-handed.  Everyone there will have witnessed his return, and, in some ways, that may be prize enough for a team safely removed from College Football Playoff contention.

Even the fans at home will marvel at the wrath and grace with which No. 3 plays the game of football.  And if things go according to plan, both those paradoxical elements may be magnified by his long layover—the freshness of his legs (which have ailed him in the past) and the frustration experienced over the preceding month, which surely surpassed that of fans.

And this gratitude won’t merely reflect the sentiments of the Georgia faithful.  To the contrary, Gurley will be the hero of Saturday night—nationwide—even before kickoff.  After all, he is no longer simply a localized star or even the greatest running back in college football. 

Now, he’s perceived by many as the innocent figurehead of what’s wrong with a corrupt institution.

To be fair, everyone recognizes that Gurley broke a rule when he signed a series of autographs for money.  Much less obvious, however, is why that antiquated rule remains in place.

So quite ironically, Gurley has garnered more national notoriety while not playing football this fall.  And that’s quite an accomplishment for a guy who racked up 1,023 total yards (rushing, receiving, passing, returning) in just five games to open the season. 

Now, fans want to see him play.  Not just because he’s played at such high levels before or because they expect him to return to such thresholds immediately, or even because he only has a few collegiate games left, but because he gives them someone to root for and a story to embrace.  

People want to see the unfairly disgraced autograph signer succeed.  And that’s not just a Georgia thing.

Maybe Mark Richt was spot-on all along.  We, as college football fans, are glad Todd Gurley is back.  And we sure are looking forward to seeing him play on Saturday.  

Though Auburn may feel differently.

 

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand and all stats courtesy of Sports-Reference.com.

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6 College Football Recruits Who Had an Explosive Week

The second weekend of November brought us plenty of drama on high school football fields across the nation, as postseason action commenced in parts of the country and teams in other regions battled for limited playoff spots. As usual, we kept our eyes on the top performances from coveted college prospects. 

Here's a peek at playmakers who stole the show.

 

3-star 2015 QB De'Andre Johnson, First Coast High School (Jacksonville, Florida)

Johnson, one of three Florida State quarterback commits in this class, sealed his place among the all-time Sunshine State gunslingers. The 6'0", 175-pound passer established a new Northeast Florida career record Thursday night by throwing for 213 yards and two touchdowns, per Clayton Freeman of Jacksonville.com. 

He moved past Bishop Kenny High School alum John Wolford, now a freshman at Wake Forest, for first place in the passing yardage record books. Wolford previously held the mark with 10,621 yards through the air.

“I knew the day I first saw De’Andre throw a ball on that field that he was something special,” First Coast coach Marty Lee told Freeman.

Johnson also rushed for a touchdown in the 19-14 win over White High School, improving his career regular-season record to 38-1 as a four-year starter.

 

4-star 2015 WR K.J. Hill, North Little Rock High School (North Little Rock, Arkansas)

A conference title hung in the balance Thursday night when North Little Rock hit the field for a matchup with rival Little Rock Central. Hill left no doubt about his team's championship fortunes.

The 6'0", 190-pound Arkansas pledge caught seven passes for 221 yards and two scores, according to THV 11 News. He added touchdowns as a rusher and kick-returner, compiling 379 all-purpose yards in the 59-22 victory. 

Hill helped North Little Rock clinch the 7A East title and lock up an opening-round bye in state playoff action. He committed to Arkansas this summer after considering offers from Florida, Notre Dame and Alabama.

 

5-star 2015 QB Kyler Murray, Allen High School (Allen, Texas)

Murray improved to 36-0 as a starting quarterback at Dallas-area powerhouse Allen with a 35-13 win over Plano East High School. The two-time defending state champion has the program primed for another championship journey and came away with a blowout victory despite five turnovers, per Ethan Grant of the Plano Star Courier.

He completed 24 of 37 pass attempts for 326 yards and three touchdowns. Murray added another touchdown and 131 yards on the ground.

His senior season continues to stack on remarkable career numbers. Murray began the campaign with 107 total touchdowns and remains in the mix as a national player of the year candidate.

Texas A&M landed him in May after Murray also considered offers from Clemson, Oregon and Ohio State.

 

4-star 2016 RB Antonio Williams, North Stanly High School (New London, North Carolina)

The 5'11", 200-pound rusher ranks among the most productive junior running backs in America. Williams eclipsed the 2,000-yard mark for a second straight season last weekend, rumbling for 143 yards and two scores on 18 carries, per MaxPreps.

His efforts propelled North Stanly to its third straight win, a 42-0 victory over Union Academy. Williams has hit triple-digit totals in rushing yardage during eight of 10 games this season, establishing an average of 9.9 yards per carry during that span.

He needs just 31 rushing yards to surpass his career-best 2013 total (2,170). Williams has rushed for 5,721 yards and 57 scores in high school.

Several teams have extended scholarship offers, including Auburn, Wisconsin and Notre Dame.

 

5-star 2015 WR Christian Kirk, Saguaro High School (Scottsdale, Arizona)

Saguaro continues to roll toward a second straight state title with Kirk leading the way. The 5'10", 191-pound playmaker dominates in multiple roles and showcased that multidimensional talent Friday night in a 55-14 win over Sabino High School.

Kirk caught four passes for 96 yards and two touchdowns, per MaxPreps, adding two rushing scores in the onslaught. He gained 166 rushing yards on 17 carries, pushing his season total to 1,094 yards on the ground.

Through 11 games, Kirk has 51 receptions for 983 yards and 32 total scores. He also completed a seven-yard pass in his team's most recent win.

Kirk is considering a variety of teams three months shy of national signing day. Recent official visits include UCLA, Auburn and Arizona State.

 

4-star 2015 RB Rawleigh Williams, Bishop Lynch (Dallas, Texas)

The Arkansas commit commanded player of the week consideration with a overwhelming effort against Prestonwood Christian. Williams rumbled for 261 yards and three scores on 36 rushing attempts in a 48-42 win, per The Dallas Morning News.

The 5'10.5", 195-pound playmaker added a receiving score, giving him four touchdowns in the contest. He committed to the Razorbacks in June after previously pledging to Ole Miss.

 

Recruit ratings courtesy of 247Sports

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Brian Kelly Showed Leadership with Highly Criticized Everett Golson Comments

After Notre Dame's disappointing 55-31 loss to Arizona State, Irish head coach Brian Kelly criticized his star QB Everett Golson and his penchant for fumbling in key situations.

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder explains why he thinks Brian Kelly was in the right when it came to the critical comments.

Was Kelly too harsh with his quarterback?

Check out the video and let us know!  

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Lil Jon Visits Tennessee Volunteers, Gets Students out of Homework

Lil Jon is the gift that continues to give for the University of Tennessee.

The rapper has provided the football team with its "Third Down For What" third-down anthem and starred in a pump-up video for its game against Florida. Lil Jon is Tennessee's muse, and the program has happily adopted him as its own.

Now, in his latest coup for Volunteers students, Jon is saving them from homework and dapping up coaches on the practice field.

For The Win's Nick Schwartz spotted pictures of Lil Jon's weekend trip to campus. The rapper uploaded some images of his visit to Instagram.

He had a lot of fun hanging at Vols practice with Tennessee head coach Butch Jones.

He took a stroll about the team's facilities.

And most importantly, he saved kids from doing some of that pesky homework they paid thousands of dollars to be assigned.

It should be noted that all of Lil Jon's Instagram captions are in all-caps. His summary for this one is "YOURE WELCOME KIDS."

According to the Times Free Press' Patrick Brown, Vols linebacker A.J. Johnson told reporters that Lil Jon called Jones "a cool cat."

Tennessee hosts the 5-5 Kentucky Wildcats on Saturday. I hope Lil Jon is there. I hope he screams "Ken-tuck for what?!" on a microphone before the game. What I'm trying to say is Lil Jon is a national treasure.

 

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