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Samuel Chi's Mock College Football Playoff Standings: Week 12

TCU or Baylor?

With the playoff picture clearing up after last Saturday's quasi-elimination games, this question looms large for the selection committee. After next week's Alabama-Mississippi State game, we should have an undisputed Top Three teams with the final spot up for grabs between the two Big 12 contenders.

By any reasonable measurement, TCU is ahead of Baylor. The Horned Frogs even outplayed the Bears for better than 80 percent of their head-to-head matchup. Here's the problem: Baylor did have those amazing last 12 minutes in which they scored 24 points to win 61-58.

For now, it's fine for the committee to put TCU ahead of Baylor—and it's expected to do so this week. But what if both teams finish 11-1, with Baylor beating Kansas State on the last day of the season. Will the committee finally flip the teams, then? Or does it keep TCU ahead because head-to-head play is merely one of the many considerations, as chairman Jeff Long stated last week?

Both teams will be favored to win their respective remaining three games. And if they both come through, this likely will be the committee's most difficult decision come Selection Sunday.

The Rankings

  

The Playoff Teams

1. Mississippi State

While a loss at Alabama on Saturday won't mathematically eliminate the Bulldogs from playoff contention, it likely would end their dream season. With its weak nonconference schedule, it's highly doubtful that MSU would get into the playoff field without winning the SEC West. So yes, it's pretty much a do-or-die game.

Projected bowl: Playoff at Sugar Bowl

2. Florida State

The Seminoles continue to cruise along despite a weak schedule and very low computer rankings. But none of that matters as long as they win out. In fact, should Mississippi State lose next week, FSU will ascend to the No. 1 spot and be poised to grab the top seed in the playoff.

Projected bowl: Playoff at Rose Bowl

3. Oregon

The Ducks survived another brutal Pac-12 under-the-lights drama, thanks in part to a terribly boneheaded play by Utah early in the game. But mounting injury problems will cause them to limp toward the finish line. Oregon has about four weeks to get healthy before its next real challenge in the Pac-12 title game.

Projected bowl: Playoff at Rose Bowl

5. TCU

The Frogs have the final playoff spot now but by no means do they control their own fate. They may win their final three games impressively only to be turned out by the committee because of their loss to Baylor. All TCU can do is win and wait.

Projected bowl: Playoff at Sugar Bowl

 

The First Four Out

4. Alabama

After having survived Death Valley, the Tide face another must-win game as they host No. 1 Mississippi State. The path is clear for them, though—win out, and they're in the playoff. And having all three of their remaining games at home should help.

Projected bowl: Cotton Bowl

6. Arizona State

The Sun Devils scored their most impressive win of the season by knocking Notre Dame out of the playoff chase, but that win does not help them in the Pac-12 South race. A loss in the Territorial Cup likely will hand the division title to archrival Arizona, or the UCLA-USC winner, depending how the tough division shakes out in the next three weeks.

Projected bowl: Fiesta Bowl

7. Baylor

There's not much the Bears can do about their weak nonconference schedule, but they can see a path to the playoff field if they score a ton of style points the rest of the way. For Baylor, it may all come down to the season finale against Kansas State and also just how much the committee values head-to-head results.

Projected bowl: Cotton Bowl

8. Ohio State

The Buckeyes' resounding win at East Lansing puts them in the driver's seat for the Big Ten title, which might ultimately be the consolation prize. The weakness of the league, in addition to Ohio State's awful loss to Virginia Tech—by far the worst one among all one-loss teams—might be just too much to overcome.

Projected bowl: Fiesta Bowl

 

Other Fun Facts

* Realistically, there are just 12 teams still in contention for a playoff spot, and three of those are two-loss teams (Auburn, Ole Miss and UCLA) who all need help just to win their respective divisions. Nebraska can win out and claim the Big Ten title, but like Ohio State, its path to the playoff field is very much blocked by teams from the other four power conferences.

* Will the committee continue to keep Marshall, or other group-of-five teams, out of the rankings? It'll likely have to tip its hand at some point since we'll see several three-loss teams in this week's rankings. Colorado State might have the best resume so far among group-of-five contenders, but it can't win the Mountain West without Boise State losing at least another game.

* Notre Dame's loss to Arizona State eliminated the Irish from playoff contention and perhaps also a spot in a New Year's Six bowl as well. Unlike in the bowl era and the BCS era where the Irish often received preferential treatment from individual bowls, in the College Football Playoff, the committee decides on all 12 participants for the major bowls. Based on merit, Notre Dame for now is headed to a minor bowl game.

 

Follow on Twitter @ThePlayoffGuru

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7 Remaining SEC Games That Will Determine the College Football Playoff Picture

With three weeks left in the regular season, the list of SEC contenders for the inaugural College Football Playoff has dwindled down to two—No. 1 Mississippi State and No. 4 Alabama.

If the Bulldogs—seven-point underdogs according to Odds Shark—go on the road and upset the Crimson Tide, it will put head coach Dan Mullen's crew in position to clinch the SEC West with one win in their final two games—vs. Vanderbilt and at Ole Miss.

If Saban's crew protects its house, the only thing standing in the way between the Crimson Tide and another SEC West title is the Iron Bowl on Nov. 29.

Despite there being only two true contenders left, there are still plenty of games involving SEC teams left that could shape the College Football Playoff picture. Our picks for the most important games left are in this slideshow.

Begin Slideshow

Dontre Wilson Injury: Updates on Ohio State Star's Recovery from Foot Surgery

Ohio State Buckeyes sophomore running back Dontre Wilson underwent surgery on his broken foot Sunday and is expected to miss substantial time during the recovery, according to Patrick Maks of ElevenWarriors.com

Urban Meyer later confirmed the news and gave a timeline for his return, via Ben Axelrod of Bleacher Report:

Meyer also spoke about the plan to replace Wilson, via Axelrod:

Wilson is a dual-threat running back, contributing in both the rushing attack and in the passing game. Through nine games, he has carried the ball 18 times for 100 yards, but has yet to score a touchdown on the ground. The sophomore has scored three touchdowns receiving, though, and has 21 receptions for 300 yards as well.

Ohio State has an 8-1 record this season and currently sits in first place in the Big Ten East. The Buckeyes play Minnesota Saturday.

 

*Stats via ESPN.com.

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Which Former SEC Star Does 5-Star Tennessee Commit Preston Williams Compare To?

2015 5-star wide receiver Preston Williams has opened eyes during his high school career, and he will now head to the college level with the Tennessee Volunteers. 

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder breaks down the talented wideout's game in the video above. 

Is this the best WR to come out of the 2015 class?

Check out the video, and let us know! 

 

Recruit rankings via 247Sports unless otherwise noted. 

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The 3 Biggest X-Factors for Notre Dame vs. Northwestern

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Maybe mercifully, Notre Dame football can put Saturday’s loss to Arizona State—which Irish head coach Brian Kellycalled “the Debacle in the Desert”—behind it and shift gears toward Northwestern.

Effectively removed from the College Football Playoff hunt, the Irish still have plenty left to play for. The final quarter of the regular season—games against the Wildcats, Louisville and USC—begins Saturday in South Bend.

So, what are the biggest X-factors for Saturday’s regional matchup?

 

Everett Golson’s Ball Security

This one is obvious.

Quarterback Everett Golson committed five turnovers against the Sun Devils on Saturday in Notre Dame’s 55-31 loss. Arizona State ripped off two interception returns for touchdowns and scored 28 total points off Irish turnovers.

“We get really great batches of work,” Kelly said of Golson on Sunday. “It's really gaining that consistency for four quarters. So my eyes tell me the body of work just needs to be more consistent.”

The only constant in Golson’s play of late has been the miscues. After a secure start to the season, Golson has continually coughed up the ball, routinely giving opponents short fields with which to work.

Obviously, similar performances won’t get the job done down the stretch, even if Northwestern is far less daunting an opponent than Arizona State. For the Irish to get their eighth win and Golson to gain some trust back from Kelly and the Notre Dame fanbase, the quarterback will need to play clean football on Saturday.

 

Irish Offensive Line

Though the bulk of the blame falls on Golson’s broad shoulders, the offensive line did him no favors Saturday against the Sun Devils.

Golson was under constant pressure from the get-go, and Arizona State notched seven sacks. Notre Dame, by the way, allowed just eight sacks all of last season.

Now things are bound to lighten up this weekend when the Wildcats come to town, if only because not many teams blitz as much as Arizona State.

Through nine games, Northwestern has compiled just 14 sacks this season, which cfbstats.com indicates is tied for 105th in the country.

But if other teams catch on, start pinning their ears back and bring heavy pressure, things could get murky for Notre Dame again.

 

Trevor Siemian

The Northwestern quarterback has had his share of struggles this season, but the redshirt senior posted a solid performance in Saturday’s 10-9 loss to Michigan. Siemian completed 32 of 49 passes for 273 yards and one touchdown.

He was, however, sacked five times and did toss two interceptions.

Maybe even more important than the overall stat line, though, were the final two drives by the Northwestern offense.

Siemian spearheaded a 19-play, 95-yard possession to spur the Wildcats to a field goal and followed that up with a 14-play, 74-yard jaunt that put Northwestern in position to tie the game in the final seconds.

On a day when the Northwestern defense handled its business, Siemian and the Wildcat offense started doing its job in the fourth quarter.

Facing Golson and the Irish, the Northwestern defense will have its hands full. But if Siemian and company can’t move the ball with any degree of success, it won’t matter much how stingy the Northwestern defense plays.

 

All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

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

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AP College Football Poll 2014: Official Top-25 Rankings and Week 12 Projections

One of the most unpredictable college football seasons in recent memory kept on delivering in Week 11. The wreckage of a stacked slate of games left the Associated Press voters (and ultimately the College Football Playoff Committee) with some difficult teams to assess before Week 12. 

Baylor, Ohio State and Arizona State all scored massive wins that saw them shoot up the polls. The Bears' dismantling of Oklahoma resonated with the voters, as they escalated to No. 6 in the new AP poll. Meanwhile, Ohio State and Arizona State took huge strides toward erasing embarrassing losses early in the season with wins over Michigan State and Notre Dame, respectively. 

Those weren't the only teams that were shifted around in the latest rankings. Here's a look at how each team stacks up according to the most recent poll, along with a look ahead to Week 12's marquee games. 

Odds via OddsShark.com as of Sunday, Nov. 9 at 9 p.m. ET.

 

Storylines to Watch

Can Mississippi State Hold on to No. 1 Ranking vs. Alabama?

Through nine games, the Mississippi State Bulldogs have proved they deserve the No. 1 ranking. Three wins over ranked opponents and a knack for game control have put them at the forefront of the college football landscape in 2014. 

However, the Bulldogs' greatest challenge just might come in Week 12. A trip to Tuscaloosa looms large as Dan Mullen and Co. look to secure a berth in the first-ever College Football Playoff. 

Mullen has taken the Bulldogs from a team that was 4-5 at this point in the season last year to one who is fighting to remain one of two undefeated teams in the power-five conferences. That being said, the Bulldogs have still shown some weaknesses on the defensive side of the ball, and Mullen acknowledges, via David Brandt of The Associated Press: "I give our guys credit, we're finding ways to make plays, we're finding ways to win the game, even though we're doing a lot of things that you can't do to win games."

Those things that Mullen might be referring to include failing to get the Arkansas Razorbacks offense off the field two weeks ago. Led by Alex Collins on the ground, Bret Bielema's team was able to hold a 38:35 to 21:16 advantage in time of possession, per ESPN.com

That's something that will need to be fixed, as Alabama's ground game is potent as usual. Here's a look at how the two teams break down offensively and defensively:

The difference in Mississippi State's 17-10 victory over Arkansas was Dak Prescott. The star quarterback was inconsistent early on, but he delivered in a big way when it mattered most and threw for more than 300 yards. Putting up those kind of numbers will be considerably more difficult against an Alabama defense that has been strong against the pass since giving up 365 passing yards to Clint Trickett in Week 1. 

 

Should Florida State Be on Upset Alert?

Moving right down the poll, the No. 2 Florida State Seminoles might not be taking on a ranked opponent, but some seem to have concern the Noles may find trouble in Coral Gables. 

Jameis Winston's team will hit the road to renew its rivalry with Miami on Saturday night, and oddsmakers have it pegged as a tough game for the defending national champions. Looking at the odds this week, it wouldn't be a surprise if you had to do a double-take when you saw the Hurricanes are just a 2.5-point underdog. 

However, as Clay Travis of Fox Sports points out, the Seminoles haven't been good against the spread this season:

Anyone who has followed point spreads for any length of time knows this—when something appears to be to be too good to be true, there's usually a reason. In this case, a look at the advanced metrics might present a clear picture. 

In Football Outsiders' latest batch of FEI-plus numbers, Florida State is eighth overall, while the Canes are not far behind at No. 12. That places Miami as the top three-loss team in the country by that measure. It also doesn't hurt that the 'Canes have played one of the toughest schedules in the country, per Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press:

On paper, this might look like another Florida State blowout. Jimbo Fisher has not lost to Miami as head coach, and the games haven't been close. However, the Hurricanes are undefeated at home this season and just explosive enough on offense to give the Noles a scare. 

 

Which Big Ten West Team Will Make a Statement?

Ohio State was the biggest winner in the Big Ten in Week 11. It took full control of the newly minted East Division with an impressive performance against the Michigan State Spartans. 

Now it's the West Division's turn to have the marquee matchup. Nebraska will travel to Wisconsin in a battle of Top 25 teams at the top of the division standings. 

The Badgers opened up as a four-point favorite and have since seen the odds only go up in their favor, but Nebraska is the team with a little more on the line. With just a five-point road loss to Michigan State, a final resume that includes a road win over Wisconsin and a win over Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship Game might be enough to squeak into the College Football Playoff. 

It isn't likely. And that's far from a prediction. However, with the way this college football season has played out thus far, it's not completely out of the question. With Ameer Abdullah expected to play after missing most of the game against Purdue, the Huskers will have the current conference leader in total yards per game:

Wisconsin's offense, of course, boasts one of college football's brightest stars in Melvin Gordon, so what will be the deciding factor in this one? It could come down to who is able to make more plays in special teams. That would likely be Nebraska. According to FEI-plus numbers, the Huskers have the seventh-best special teams in the country. Wisconsin is ranked No. 81. 

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