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Braxton Miller or J.T. Barrett: Who Should Start for Ohio State in 2015?

Injured Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller is reportedly planning to return to the Buckeyes next season, according to College Football 24/7's Chase Goodbread.

Bleacher Report college football analysts Michael Felder and Adam Kramer discuss the potential impact of Miller's return for the Buckeyes.

Who will be Ohio State's starter next season?

Watch the video, and let us know!        

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College Football Playoff Standings: Week 13 Rankings and Bowl Game Projections

Ever so slightly, the playoff field is getting smaller. This week, it's all about which team gets that fourth and final spot. 

For everyone else, it's bowl season. Projections are back, and we're here to give the postseason our best guess. 

Here's how the two major Top 25 polls looked after Week 12. The following slides contain bowl projections heading into Week 13. Click on the links below to view the latest College Football Playoff, Associated Press and USA Today Top 25 polls.

College Football Playoff 

Associated Press

USA Today Amway Coaches Poll

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Michigan Football: Biggest X-Factors for Wolverines vs. Maryland

Despite disappointing losses, numerous controversies and season-ending injuries to key players, a bowl game is still within Michigan’s reach.

It may seem like a small consolation for a team that entered the season hoping to compete for a Big Ten title, but a bowl trip would represent a remarkable turnaround for team that was 2-4 halfway through the season.

The bye week gave head coach Brady Hoke no respite from controversy. It began with university president Mark Schlissel speaking out about perceived academic failings in the football program and ended with the dismissal of defensive end Frank Clark.

In both cases, Hoke took the high road—countering Schlissel’s attack with statistics that documented the football program's graduation record and dismissing Clark outright.

Hoke's future is unclear, but he’s done an admirable job of keeping his team from imploding. He’s working to be bowl-eligible and send his seniors out on with a win in their final home game.

Maryland may be a tough opponent on Saturday, but the game is far more winnable than Michigan’s final season contest with Ohio State.

Hoke needs the following players to have great performances for Michigan to become bowl-eligible.


Defensive End Taco Charlton

The loss of Frank Clark is a critical blow to a Michigan defense (ranked No. 8 nationally) that has been steadily improving throughout the season.

After losing two of its top receivers, Juwann Winfree (suspension) and Stefon Diggs (injury), Maryland will need to pound the ground to open up the passing game for quarterback C.J. Brown. Taco Charlton will need to show that he can contain the run game while harassing Brown when he drops back to pass.

Charlton has played well, but he’ll need to prove he has the conditioning to remain effective and handle the increased reps he’ll get in Clark's absence.


Running Back Drake Johnson

Drake Johnson burst onto the scene with 123 rushing yards versus Indiana only to disappear the next week versus Northwestern. Johnson seems to be more comfortable playing at home, relying on the energy of the home crowd.

Michigan needs Johnson to have a good game running the ball and grinding down the clock.

If the offense can run the ball, quarterback Devin Gardner will have fewer opportunities to throw interceptions. It’s a brutal assessment, but Gardner’s inaccuracy is well-documented and doesn’t seem to be improving. He is a huge liability in the passing game.




Defensive Back Jourdan Lewis

Maryland may be down two top receivers, but quarterback C.J. Brown will need to throw the ball, giving Jourdan Lewis an opportunity for a big game.

According to Matt Zenitz of The Baltimore Sun, injured top receiver Diggs (52 receptions for 654 yards and five touchdowns) may be back versus Michigan.

If not, then Deon Long (38 receptions for 450 yards and one touchdown) will be Brown’s top target.

Brown has thrown nine interceptions this season, and if the Michigan defensive line can pressure him, Lewis can add to that total.

Wide Receiver Dennis Norfleet

Dennis Norfleet is offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier’s favorite wild card on offense. Seemingly every trick play features Norfleet in a prominent role.

His return after missing the Northwestern game because of injury adds a much-needed wrinkle to the Michigan attack. He will have an opportunity to shine on offense and by returning kicks versus Maryland.

A huge game for Norfleet could clinch a bowl berth for Michigan and let Hoke win in what might be his final game at Michigan Stadium.
 

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

Follow @PSCallihan.

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LSU Football: 2015 Recruits Tigers Must Land

LSU needs help. 

Head coach Les Miles has watched his team flounder over the past couple of weeks. The Tigers were shut out with ease by Arkansas after losing a close heartbreaker to Alabama. LSU fans have a right to be concerned for the future. 

Miles will look for some reinforcements on the recruiting trail. The Tigers' 15 commits in the 2015 class has them ranked 15th nationally, which is only good enough for the eighth in the SEC. But there is still plenty of room to grow. 

Predicting what teenagers will do is an inexact science. The Tigers would take a step back if any of their current commits were to renounce their pledge. Miles will be hopeful if they all keep their word and sign with LSU.

But that is out of the control of Miles and his staff. All they can do is recruit prospects that are currently uncommitted or committed to other schools. Here are four players the Tigers could desperately use for a return to the SEC Championship Game.

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NFL Draft Stock for CFB's Top Performers Including Florida DL Dante Fowler

There is a host of NFL talent in college football this year, and they don't all play for top teams.

These are guys with some solid draft prospects and tremendous upside that you should know about. 

Stephen Nelson sits down with Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder and Bleacher Report Lead NFL Draft Analyst Matt Miller to discuss some of CFB's top performers.

Which one of these players can have the biggest impact in the NFL?

Watch the video and let us know!

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The Most Important Ohio State Players for the Rest of the Year

After a 31-24 victory over No. 25 Minnesota last Saturday, Ohio State jumped two spots to No. 6 in the latest playoff rankings. But with the regular season winding down, Urban Meyer will need his best players to step up and push the Buckeyes into the Top Four to make this year's highly anticipated postseason. 

As the top teams jockey for position, the Buckeyes are set to host wavering Indiana and Michigan teams before a potential trip to the Big Ten title game.

Whether they're fueling an explosive offense or helping a surging defense, these four players are crucial to Ohio State's playoff hopes.

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Injuries That Have Had Biggest Impact on 2014 College Football Season

With only three weeks left in the 2014 college football regular season, the chase for the inaugural College Football Playoff has come into sharp focus. Tuesday’s release of the latest College Football Playoff Top 25 sparked more debate among fans who believed their team deserved a higher ranking and set the table for a frantic finish.

If your team is in the top four, or close to it, you’re in a good mood. If not, you’re probably pretty unhappy. While there are many factors that go into a successful season, one of the most important is beyond a coaching staff’s control.

Injuries can make or break a season, depending on if key players can stay healthy for the most important games on the slate. They can change a team’s chances of beating its most talented foes, often pushing younger, less experienced players into the spotlight (often with negative results). Here’s a look at the injuries which have had the biggest impact on this college football season.

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Braxton Miller Reportedly Will Return to Ohio State for 2015 Season

Braxton Miller is reportedly planning to continue his collegiate career at Ohio State next season rather than transfer to another school or enter the NFL draft.

Sources tell NFL reporter Albert Breer (via Chase Goodbread of NFL.com) that Miller is currently expecting to remain with the Buckeyes. There have been increasing questions about his future in recent weeks following the emergence of J.T. Barrett:

As freshman J.T. Barrett continues to lead Ohio State just as capably as Miller, and with a College Football Playoff berth within reach for the Buckeyes, speculation is swelling that Miller is considering a post-graduate transfer. Two sources close to Miller, however, say the quarterback's plan for now is to remain at Ohio State and lead the Buckeyes in 2015, according to NFL Media's Albert Breer.

Miller was ruled out for the entire campaign back in August due to a shoulder injury. Following the injury, Miller spoke on his future, courtesy of OhioStateBuckeyes.com on Aug. 19:

I love Ohio State and Buckeye nation, and my goal is to come back from this injury stronger and better than ever. I am on course to graduate in December and I want to attend graduate school, and then return to lead the Buckeyes next season. In the meantime, I want to give all the support I can to my coaches and teammates as they chase a championship this season.

Barrett, a freshman, got off to a bit for a sluggish start, but has excelled in recent weeks. It creates a murky situation if the senior does return for another year.

Ultimately, it remains to be seen if Miller has made his final decision and if his feeling has changed since August. He's planning to return as of right now, but it's probably not the last report on this subject. The outlook may change, especially if Barrett continues to improve in the remaining portion of this season.

If Miller does stay with the Buckeyes, it will create an interesting dynamic heading toward next season.

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

2015 Quarterback Recruits with the Strongest Arms

One of the most loaded positions in the 2015 cycle is quarterback, as eight signal-callers are rated among the top 100 prospects nationally. 

Five of those passers come from the state of California—which boasts another three additional quarterbacks who are committed to power-five schools. 

Overall, this is a deep class with a handful of quarterbacks who possess elite arm talent.

Which 2015 passers have the strongest arms?

*Players listed in alphabetical order.

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College Football Playoff Rankings 2014: Week 13 NCAA Championship Predictions

Alabama's victory over Mississippi State was always going to shake up the rankings.  However, by propelling their way up to the No. 1 spot, the Crimson Tide, along with Oregon and Florida State, have separated themselves and set up a clear race for the fourth and final playoff spot.

If those aforementioned three teams win out, they will almost certainly be selected for the inaugural playoff.  However, no other team really enjoys that luxury, which should make for a wide-open and dramatic conclusion to the season.

Week 13 does not bring a clearly titanic matchup like last Saturday, but college football has always proved to be unpredictable.  Looking at the newly released committee playoff rankings, let's make some predictions for what may happen this upcoming weekend.

 

Top Four Remains Constant

The status quo is never particularly intriguing, but it's hard to envision an upset this weekend.  Oregon hosts 2-8 Colorado, Alabama gets a week to recover against FCS foe Western Carolina and Mississippi State will return to lick its wounds against 3-7 Vanderbilt.  

Florida State is the one team that may have even the slightest issues, hosting a 6-4 Boston College squad that upset USC earlier this season, but it is extraordinarily difficult to imagine the Seminoles tripping up at Tallahassee.

Thus, it would be surprising to see any shifts in the current order, barring unexpected difficulties from these teams.  The drama will pick up soon, however, as the Bulldogs and Tide will face their biggest rivals next Saturday.  Ole Miss and Auburn are surely disappointed to fall out of postseason consideration, but both are legitimate top-10 talents who will have the supreme motivation to foil their rivals' postseason hopes.

Oregon and Florida State are likely locked in until their respective conference championship games, which figure to represent their stiffest challenge until the postseason.  The Ducks will likely face one of the Pac-12 South quartet of USC, UCLA, Arizona or Arizona State, but with the higher seed hosting the game, Oregon gets the benefit of a game in Eugene.  

Indeed, with their strong outlook and prior resume, many are surprised that the Tide leaped over the Ducks for the No. 1 ranking:

The Bulldogs are the other intriguing team from the top four, as it is unclear if they will control their own destiny.  While a one-loss SEC team would be difficult to pass up, failing to earn the "conference champion" label, as Ohio State and TCU/Baylor likely will, could reflect poorly in the committee's eyes:

This Saturday serves as the calm before the storm for the top four.  We'll likely see a big mix-up before the end of the regular season, but it would be too bold to pencil in a loss given the quality of competition this weekend.

 

Game of the Week: Oklahoma State at No. 7 Baylor

The one game that may have a chance to significantly shift the playoff implication kicks off in Waco, Texas, where the one-loss Bears will continue making their case as the best Big 12 team.  Baylor will hold its fourth-quarter comeback over TCU as self-evident of that truth, but in reality, the Bears must continue padding their resume in what will be a very close race.

Indeed, advanced metrics like Football Outsiders' Fremeau Efficiency Index (FEI) actually rank the Horned Frogs as the Big 12's best.  As the Fort Worth Star-Telegram's Mac Engel argues, the conference itself has precedent of overriding a head-to-head win between top contenders, as Oklahoma reached the 2008 national title game over Texas despite a loss:

What we have found in any age and any system of college football is that timing, the score and convenience are also great deciders. There is nothing fair about this, and double standards rain.

Baylor’s win against TCU was in early October, meaning by the time the final regular-season rankings are released that victory will be two months old.

Baylor ultimately may jump TCU in the college football rankings, and the move can easily be justified, but to rely on the head-to-head argument guarantees nothing.

This week, the Bears are facing a reeling but talented Oklahoma State squad.  The Cowboys have lost four consecutive games, giving up 38.0 points and 493.8 yards per game during the streak.  The two road games in that month-long malaise, against Kansas State and TCU, resulted in losses by a combined 90-23 score.  

However, the most head-scratching facet has been the offense's sudden demise, as the Cowboys have fallen to seventh in the 10-team Big 12 in points per game:

Nevertheless, the Pokes nearly took down Florida State in the season opener and have not missed a bowl game in eight years under Mike Gundy.  This is undoubtedly a game the Bears should win, but given Oklahoma State's track record, Baylor looks like the one playoff contender that might harbor at least some reservations heading into Saturday.

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Bowl Predictions 2014: Updated Projections for Playoff Games Before Week 13

For as thrilling as the 2014 college football season has been with stunning upsets, marquee matchups and what promises to be a memorable finish on the way to the first ever College Football Playoff, the Week 13 schedule is lackluster at best. 

Playoff contenders Alabama, Oregon, Florida State, Mississippi State, Ohio State and Baylor are all at home against overmatched opponents and should rack up some style points.

Of course, if the favorites go into their games with that mindset, we could have a shocking upset or two that turns the postseason race upside down. With that in mind, here is a look at the updated playoff projections heading into Week 13.

 

Playoff Projections

Sugar Bowl: No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Baylor

Rose Bowl: No. 2 Florida State vs. No. 3 Oregon

Championship Bowl (in Arlington, Texas): TBD (semifinal winners)

 

Under-the-Radar Week 13 Playoff Game to Watch: Boston College at Florida State

One person who thinks Florida State should be the top-ranked team in the country is Boston College coach Steve Addazio.

He suggested as much in recent comments, according to The Associated Press (h/t USA Today): “How anybody could rationalize it any other way is absolutely mind-blowing to me. These guys find a way to win and they play the best at their most competitive moments. That's usually what great teams do.”

The Seminoles have found a way to win every week, and they should do the same Saturday against Addazio’s squad. From a talent standpoint, this should not be a close game, and that’s not even mentioning the fact that Florida State is at home and playing for much more than Boston College will be Saturday.

However, there has been a disturbing pattern for the Seminoles that could pose a problem against the Eagles.

Florida State has trailed at the half in six of its last 11 games (dating back to the BCS title showdown with Auburn) and has won three games this season in which it trailed by 15 points or more.

The Seminoles even found themselves behind 17-3 against Boston College in the second quarter of last year’s meeting. 

Of course, Florida State found a way to win all of those games, largely because defending Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston was a completely different player in the second halves. Here is a look at how much better he has been after intermission, courtesy of ESPN Stats & Info:

The reason this pattern of slow starts may be a concern Saturday if it pops up again is Boston College is built to play with the lead. It is 12th in the nation in rushing yards per game and features a quarterback in Tyler Murphy who has 1,006 rushing yards and is more comfortable moving the chains with his legs than arm.

Running back Jon Hilliman has also been effective and has 620 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground.

The Eagles shocked USC earlier in the season with an incredible 452 rushing yards as a team. Murphy ran for 191 all by himself, and Hilliman found the end zone on the ground twice. That is the exact formula the Eagles will stick with Saturday when they try to pull off a second incredible upset in the same season, and they will look to grind out the clock if they find themselves with the lead.

However, the other side of the ball could be a problem for a Boston College defense that ranks 65th in the nation in passing yards allowed per game.

The Eagles like to bring pressure, which will put their cornerbacks in a number of one-on-one situations with Florida State’s athletic receivers on the outside. Again, the talent difference will come into play, as Winston will find a number of his playmakers for big plays to open up a lead.

While the Eagles do have the formula to play with an early lead if they can grab one, Florida State will bank on its talent advantage from the opening kick. Eventually, the Seminoles will stop playing with fire and take the early initiative on the scoreboard, and Saturday will be that day.

Style points matter now more than ever with four playoff spots up for grabs and a number of one-loss contenders hanging around.

The Seminoles will rack up plenty of those points Saturday. 

Prediction: Florida State 48, Boston College 17

 

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College Football Week 13 Schedule: TV and Live Stream Info for Every Game

There aren't as many heavyweight matchups in Week 13 as there have been in previous weeks of the college football season, but the game of the week is one that will impress.

Arizona and Utah will square off in a game with major implications. A loss for Utah likely knocks them out of the Top 25, and a win for the Wildcats would be crucial in inching them closer to the Top 10. With the regular season coming to a close, every game is a must-win for nationally ranked teams.

Most of the big boys have cupcake games this week. Mississippi State, Oregon, Florida State and others in the Top 10 should all make it out unscathed. That makes it even more imperative for Arizona to win.

There's a vast slate of games on the schedule this week. If watching powerhouses beat up on lesser teams doesn't interest you, then there are a bevy of other games to choose from. Continue reading on for the schedule and live stream information for every game in Week 13.

 

2014 College Football Week 13 Schedule

 

Schedule and viewing info courtesy of ESPN.comFor games without national or regional coverage on a major network, check local listings.

 

Live Stream

On the go and want to catch the live stream of your favorite team? Find the game by using the below information. Note that some live streams may require a subscription.

ESPN: WatchESPN

SEC: CBSSports.com

Fox: Fox Sports Go

BTN: BTN2Go.com

Pac-12: Pac-12.com

ABC: ABC Live

CBS: CBSSports.com

 

Game of the Week

No. 14 Arizona at No. 23 Utah

The Arizona Wildcats and the Utah Utes enter this week's matchup coming off similar victories in Week 12.

The Wildcats needed a field goal at the end of the game to take care of Washington, 27-26. The Utes needed two overtimes to defeat Stanford by a field goal, 20-17.

ESPN's Ted Miller tweeted that these two squads are used to playing tight games:

Having just squeaked past inferior competition, these two teams come into Week 13 looking to play far better. It won't be easy against much-improved competition.

Arizona struggled last week in large part because of the struggles in the passing attack. Quarterback Anu Solomon was just 17-for-39 passing with two interceptions, while his wide receivers didn't do him any favors. Samajie Grant led the way with 85 yards on just four catches.

Coach Rich Rodriguez obviously wasn't pleased with the outing, and he let his players know about his displeasure, via Daniel Berk of the Arizona Daily Star:

We had a really stern quarterback-receiver meeting (Sunday), and it wasn’t real enjoyable for them. It wasn’t really enjoyable for them or for me. I told them that my expectations are so much higher for them than anyone else’s. We owe it to each other to be as sound and efficient and clean as far as doing your assignments as best as possible.

The Utes defense is pretty good against the pass, having held each of their past three opponents under 239 yards through the air.

Utah's offense isn't particularly explosive, but they have a good opportunity to put some points on the board in this one. Kyle Gunther of KFAN tweeted about the porous Arizona defense and how it could help Utah:

Offense should be the story of this game. It'll come down to how well each team can execute against tougher competition.

Rodriguez's conference with his players should give them the spark necessary to perform better offensively, and the Wildcats defense should be enough to jump-start the Utes.

The difference-maker will likely be Arizona running back Nick Wilson. If the passing game still isn't working, the Cats are going to pound the ball on the ground. Wilson has nine touchdowns and 867 rush yards on the year, so he's clearly a potent weapon out of the backfield.

Establishing the run early will help Solomon through the air later on in the game, so Wilson will surely dictate the overall success of his offense.

Every game is a must-win for Arizona because of how tight the Pac-12 is. We're in store for an emotional contest. Arizona and Utah should make headlines Saturday afternoon.

Tune into ESPN at 3:30 p.m. ET to catch the action.

 

Follow Kenny DeJohn on Twitter: @kennydejohn

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

UCLA Football: 6 Most Important Players for Rest of the Year

Sitting at 8-2, the No. 9 UCLA Bruins have a lot to play for with two games remaining on the schedule. 

There's a very real chance Jim Mora's squad could sneak into the mix as a playoff team. In order for this scenario to potentially unfold, the Bruins must win their two remaining contests—in addition to the Pac-12 Championship Game against Oregon. 

There are a group of players on the roster in particular which will aid in UCLA running the table. Two of the players are considered team leaders.

One is perhaps the most dynamic offensive weapon on the team, and three others are significantly important when it comes to getting after the opposing signal-caller.

The following six players are very important when speaking about UCLA's prospects for the rest of the year.

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UCLA Football: 6 Most Important Players for Rest of the Year

Sitting at 8-2, the No. 9 UCLA Bruins have a lot to play for with two games remaining on the schedule. There's a very real chance Jim Mora's squad could sneak into the mix as a playoff team...

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Texas Football: The Most Important Longhorns Players for the Rest of the Year

Bowl-eligible coming off an impressive 28-7 win at Oklahoma State, the Texas Longhorns can now focus on upsetting No. 5 TCU and then winning said postseason game.

So maybe that's a little easier said than done, but it's possible if head coach Charlie Strong's most important players can step up and close the season as one of the hottest teams in the country.

That means the Horns need big showings from their quarterback, resurgent running back and—most importantly—the guys who have shown up for them all season.

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2015 NFL Draft: NFL Comparisons for Some of Draft's Top Talent

NFL draft season is creeping closer, and a picture of the top prospects in the class is starting to come into focus. 

As fans start to envision this year's crop in their favorite teams' uniforms, the easiest way to analyze their fit is by picturing their closest NFL comparison. 

While no comparison is perfect due to the complex nature of scouting prospects, here are a few close NFL comparisons for some of the top draft-eligible prospects based on each of their strengths and weaknesses.

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If Florida State Isn't a Playoff Fraud, Now's the Time to Prove It

Florida State’s football reputation is on trial, and since the gridiron isn’t a courtroom the Seminoles will have to endure being considered guilty of fraud until proven otherwise.

That means they really need to beat Boston College by about 60 points on Saturday.

Such is life for a team that dominates the ACC but flatlines with the 12 members of the College Football Playoff committee, ranking only third again this week despite an undefeated record.

The Seminoles are learning the hard way that evaluating today’s teams extends way beyond counting wins and losses. At a time when style points are being tallied and discussed like never before, FSU has spent 2014 looking like someone in danger of drowning in his or her own bathtub.

CFP committee chairman Jeff Long made it clear that it’s not enough to win on the scoreboard. A team also must look good doing it.

"We look at the games, how they've played them, whether they've controlled the game," Long said, via AL.com's Mike Herndon, referencing FSU’s repeated early deficits against so-so opponents. "They've had a number of come-from-behind victories."

That makes me a little itchy. It hints that selecting four teams for the playoff is drifting into the world of beauty pageants. Or worse, figure skating, where soft landings, mood-enhancing music and flashy sequined costumes all figure into the judges’ computations.

But the committee’s collection of hypercritical eyes also speaks to just how valuable the four playoff spots are. This isn’t the NCAA basketball tournament, where sixth-place teams can grab a spot in the field and no-name universities get gifted with a play-in game. 

Per Jeff Sagarin (via USA Today), Florida State’s strength of schedule ranks only 51st, and there’s no chance of it spiking with only a pair of unranked teams left on the regular-season slate, Boston College and Florida.

To be fair, playoff contender Baylor is further back at 55th, and Ohio State is starting to stir up talk of edging into the final four despite a schedule that ranks 47th.

But Florida State’s performances scream vulnerability. Saturday’s win over Miami was the fifth one this season that saw the Seminoles trail at halftime. 

Also, maybe FSU has stirred up residual doubts by having a history of not living up to its early-season ratings. According to the The Wall Street Journal, no other college team has been overrated so often as the Seminoles have been this century.

If FSU is looking for a scapegoat for its plight, Notre Dame is the best candidate.

The Fighting Irish were undefeated when they took FSU down to the wire on Oct. 18 in what seemed like the game of the season at the time. But that 31-27 victory, which easily could have flipped if not for a late pass-interference call, now looks aggravatingly ho-hum in the wake of Notre Dame nosediving to 7-3 after an overtime loss to Northwestern.

That means the only FSU games that yielded “quality wins” came against two teams that barely wedged their way into the CFP rankings: No. 22 Clemson and No. 24 Louisville. And FSU should be glad that the AP poll’s voters don’t get a say in the playoff, because neither Clemson nor Louisville made that Top 25 this week. 

But there’s a second Notre Dame factor at work for those who would love to see Florida State shunned from college football’s first four-team playoff for the national championship. 

It doesn’t take an elephantine memory to recall what a lousy participant Notre Dame was in the 2012 season’s BCS Championship Game, trailing 28-0 at halftime and falling further behind at 35-0 before losing 42-14 to Alabama.

That’s the team FSU resembles right now. 

The Irish had three wins against teams that finished in the final AP poll’s Top 25: No. 7 Stanford in overtime, No. 15 Oklahoma and No. 24 Michigan by the scant margin of 13-6.

Florida State is 10-0 and has won 26 consecutive games, but things get blurry when the eye test is administered.

Riding the arm of reigning Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston, the Seminoles rank a very respectable 11th for passing yards. But the ground game has been absent since the school year started, ranking only 105th.

For scoring, they’re 17th, and the defense is 34th for points allowed. Those are nice numbers if you’re trying to impress the selection committee of a tier-three bowl game, but they definitely don’t scream final four.

Florida State has some ready-made alibis for why it has had to scramble its way to victories that should be walkovers for a team that’s truly playoff-worthy.

Last Saturday’s 30-26 survival against Miami was an in-state rivalry game, where emotions often narrow the final margin.

As the defending national champion, FSU also has a figurative target on its collective back. The added incentive for opponents is ending that 26-game winning streak and earning a distinction that can never be taken away.

But the committee obviously couldn't care less about the tough road that teams will take to what may be the most prestigious national championship ever won in college football. The schedule SEC West teams play ends that discussion in a hurry.

So if Florida State is unhappy with its No. 3 spot in the playoff rankings the best way to show it is by looking like a champion on Saturday—a take-no-prisoners champion who controls the game from the outset and starts making up for all those other unimpressive performances.

 

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

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Ohio Bobcats Fans Go Cow Tipping During Game vs. Northern Illinois

This is what Tuesday night MACtion is all about. 

During the first half of Northern Illinois' Mid-American Conference football game vs. Ohio, with the contest tied at 7-7, a fan dressed as a cow was grazing around, eating grass, minding his own business—just being a cow. 

But out of nowhere, another fan shoved him over and sent him rolling down a hill! 

MACtion. It's not just on the field. 

[SB Nation]

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Post-Week 12 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...


Florida State Is Through the Fire

The Seminoles survived.

After three weeks lingering just outside my top four, the odds are finally in Florida State's favor. My numbers saw trap games at Louisville (51.8 percent win chance) and at Miami (35.8 percent win chance), but Jameis Winston's second-half heroics saved the 'Noles in both matchups. 

After the win over Miami, Florida State's probability to make the playoff jumped from 36.0 percent to 56.3 percent, third best in the nation. 

Florida State has won the Atlantic Division and will play either Duke or Georgia Tech in the ACC Championship Game.

My numbers suggest Florida State would have a more difficult time with Georgia Tech (70.3 percent win probability), largely due to the fact that this matchup would force the Seminoles defense to face a different style offense in Georgia Tech's triple-option, chop-blocking attack.

Lucky for the Seminoles, Duke has a better chance (61.2 percent) than Georgia Tech (38.8 percent) to win the Coastal Division. Florida State would have a 79.0 percent win probability over Duke in the neutral-site championship game.


Ohio State's Incredible Rise

Two weeks ago, Ohio State was facing a tough road game against Michigan State and had a 4.5 percent chance to make the playoff. Now, after two straight wins over Top 25 teams, Ohio State has a 39.0 percent playoff probability—more than an eightfold increase.

The offense has driven the Buckeyes' late-season surge. In my rankings, which take yards per play and adjust for strength of schedule, Ohio State has the fourth-best offense in the nation. Even the most optimistic Ohio State fan would not have believed that when Braxton Miller's injury forced J.T. Barrett to take over at quarterback.

Ohio State will almost surely win the Big Ten East, and its most likely opponent in the conference championship game is Wisconsin, which has an 84.2 percent chance to win the West. The game will come down to whether Ohio State's 25th-ranked defense can slow down the best rushing attack in the nation. Ohio State has a 53.4 percent chance to emerge as the winner.

The Buckeyes need some help, but they are very much alive. 


Why Did Mississippi State's Odds Go Up?

Mississippi State (9-1) could not overcome three Dak Prescott interceptions against Alabama and lost its first game of the season. However, its playoff odds increased from 40.1 percent to 43.9 percent. There are two reasons why.

First, the committee dropped Mississippi State only three spots to fourth in its rankings. My model assumes that a team drops seven spots on average after a loss. However, this likely doesn't apply to a team that suffers its first loss so late in the season. The 40.1 percent playoff odds for Mississippi State last week were probably low.

Second, the loss now means Mississippi State has just a 9.9 percent chance to win the SEC West and play in the conference championship game. This small likelihood is a good thing, as it means Mississippi State avoids another tough game.

The Bulldogs will have a good chance to make the playoff if they blow out Vanderbilt and win against Ole Miss. However, the latter is far from certain. My numbers show Mississippi State as underdogs (41.6 percent win chance) in the Egg Bowl Nov. 29.


2-Loss Teams Still Alive

After 12 weeks of college football, the top seven contenders for the college football playoff have one loss or fewer. However, this doesn't necessarily mean that the remaining teams have no chance to crack the top four.

Of the 10,000 simulations I ran to produce these playoff probabilities, 27.5 percent had a two-loss team in the playoff. This includes scenarios in which a one-loss team, say Alabama, loses again and makes the playoff.

Right now, Ole Miss is the top-ranked two-loss team at No. 8 in the committee rankings. The Rebels could climb back into the top four with a win over Mississippi State (58.4 percent win probability) and help from other teams. My numbers imply a 15.3 percent chance of this happening.

Another two-loss SEC team, Georgia, is right behind Ole Miss in ninth. It can only win the East Division if Missouri loses one of its two remaining conference games. My numbers give a 70.0 percent chance for this to occur. Then, if Georgia wins the SEC championship, the committee will have to move it into the fourth spot.


Alabama Finally Ranked Where It Belongs

Alabama has always had one of the best playoff probabilities. According to my numbers, the Tide's playoff probability has never dipped below 43.9 percent.

Finally, the committee caught up to our numbers and put the Tide in the Top Four where they belong. 

The Crimson Tide have a whopping 74.8 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.

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Kramer's College Football Notebook: Is SEC Bias Back?

You could argue that the Week 13 College Football Playoff Top 25 is rife with SEC bias, although you’d have to wander down a ways to make your case, with the first four teams being fine right where they are. 

With so much conversation taking place over whether the SEC is receiving preferential treatment by the selection committee, it has become abundantly clear that this group still values the Southeastern Conference above all others.

That's not necessarily bias, but it is the current reality.

If you have gripes with the SEC’s poll placement, don’t look at Alabama, the nation’s No. 1. Don’t focus in on Mississippi State, which fell only to the fourth spot—and reasonably so—after a loss to the Crimson Tide. These teams have done enough to warrant consideration for the playoff, at least right now. You may not necessarily agree completely, but you understand.

As you dive deeper down the poll, you notice a trend. You see Georgia back in the Top 10 only weeks after suffering a loss to Florida, a team whose head coach stepped down just days ago. Although the Bulldogs—at least talent-wise—are on par if not better than the teams below them, the committee was quick to forget one of this season’s most surprising losses. That doesn’t mean it's wrong about this particular move, but it is a noteworthy stance being made.

Perhaps more intriguing, however, is the team Georgia manhandled on Saturday. Auburn, in the midst of a nasty tailspin, still only dropped to the No. 14 spot, down from No. 9 in Week 12.

While you could argue that Auburn’s current rank doesn’t matter—pointing out that its playoff hopes are all but dead—that doesn’t mean this rating won’t alter the perception of others going forward.

It could help a team like Alabama solidify the No. 1 rank if the Crimson Tide beat the Tigers in the Iron Bowl Nov. 29. It could also help Mississippi State creep into the playoff if Auburn is able to return to form, considering the Tigers are likely still the Bulldogs’ best win.

This is where the case for SEC bias can be made, in the far less obvious places. But in reality, such bias—whether real or manufactured jargon—won’t even be realized until the final ranking is released on Dec. 7 and our semifinal games are crafted.

At that point, we’ll be able to decide if one conference was given preferential treatment over another. Until then, we’re simply taking notes and tossing out claims along the way. I suppose it helps us pass the time. 

As for other observations on the latest rankings, here’s what stood out.

 

2-Loss Teams Are Still Alive

While we’re busy debating the resumes of one-loss teams within reach of the top four positions, there are things brewing down below that warrant your attention. 

Georgia, UCLA and Ole Miss—three teams with two losses—are just sort of hanging around, waiting for the appropriate time to shock the system.

The case for the Rebels isn’t as obvious. They need to win out, which is not a given with Arkansas and Mississippi State to come, and they also need help. But with Alabama assuming the role as the new No. 1, Ole Miss at least can point to its schedule and highlight perhaps the most impressive win of all Top 10 teams to date. 

A lot has to fall into place for this run to be realized, although crazier things have happened, as you’re well aware. 

For Georgia and UCLA—two teams that looked to be out of this at various points in the season—the path to the playoff is a bit more defined. It's also not a tremendous leap. If one or both of these teams are able to find their way into their conference championship games without another loss on the schedule, there’s a decent likelihood each will draw a top-three opponent in the finale.

Say Georgia closes out the season by beating Alabama, or UCLA finishes with a revenge victory over Oregon; how will the selection committee respond?

These remain “what if?” scenarios as it stands today, but all three could reach the playoff with a little (or a lot of) help.

 

TCU, Ohio State, Baylor, Mississippi State and No. 4-Spot Chaos

Perhaps this situation will sort itself out cleanly and the committee will be able to toss an obvious team into the fourth and final playoff opening with a smile and without a ton of debate. 

In all likelihood, however, this will not be the case. And the resume dissection when it comes to Mississippi State, TCU, Ohio State and Baylor—the teams with one loss in the No. 4 through No. 7 spots—could play out through conference championship weekend. 

.@jefflongUA: “The differences between teams 4-7 are narrow, very narrow. There are more games to play....”

— George Schroeder (@GeorgeSchroeder) November 19, 2014

There is an excellent case to be made for all four as it stands right now: Ohio State is the hottest team, Mississippi State’s lone loss just came to the No. 1 school, TCU’s Big 12 resume is probably the most impressive, and Baylor is the only team to beat TCU. 

That translates to endless discussion, something the committee has likely invested countless hours in while trying to sort through. Thankfully, it still has many meaningful games to watch and results to explore.

But if the season were to end today—and thank goodness it does not—committee chairman Jeff Long would require bodyguards ‘round the clock following his top-four explanation. In its current form, it's an absolute mess.

For all we know, however, two of the teams currently fighting for one spot could both get in. Although the top three spots are spoken for by deserving teams outside of this debate, chaos often comes when you least expect it. As we wait for chaos above, we also search for clarity below.

Good luck with this one, committee.

 

Can Somebody Give Marshall a Hug?

It has become abundantly clear that no result for Marshall will be good enough to crack the Top 25.

This season, Doc Holliday’s team has outscored its opponents 471 to 163. It has not lost, winning every game by at least two touchdowns and all but two games by at least three touchdowns. And yet, given the lackluster schedule, it’s not good enough. 

Even when No. 25 Minnesota lost at home—albeit to a surging Ohio State team—the Thundering Herd were unable to overtake the Gophers in the poll. Minnesota, with an extra loss on its resume, didn’t budge from its position.

That’s really all you have to say when it comes to Marshall and the uphill climb each team outside of the Power Five faces while jockeying for a position. It’s not a knock on Minnesota directly, but rather an honest evaluation of how the committee seems to view these teams that are simply trying to make an appearance.

Although Long acknowledged that these schools are being discussed, they’re not being brought up by enough members of the group to warrant a place in the rankings.

Jeff Long: "We talked a lot about Marshall, Boise State, Colorado State, Memphis, Northern Illinois" Talking about top Group of 5 team..

— Ralph D. Russo (@ralphDrussoAP) November 19, 2014

With no meaningful games for Marshall or Colorado State on the horizon, there’s no reason to assume this trend will alter course. 

One of these two teams will be playing in a meaningful bowl game as part of the new agreement. With no appearances likely for either squad moving forward, however, we might have to wait until the very last day to see which one ultimately hears its name called.

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