Articles By Steven Lassan

Path: /college-football/college-footballs-coaches-rise-2014
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Coaching is a hot topic in any sport, but college football seems to bring out the most discussion when it comes to hot seat chatter and finding the next wave of rising stars. With job vacancies and hot seat rumblings only going to increase over the next month, it’s time to take a look at some of the rising stars in the coaching ranks for 2014.

Memphis’ Justin Fuente inherited a mess from former coach Larry Porter but engineered a quick turnaround in just three years with the Tigers. Fuente has Memphis in contention for the American Athletic Conference title this season and will be a name to remember in coaching searches this offseason. In addition to Fuente, some of the other rising stars in coaching ranks include Georgia Southern’s Willie Fritz, UL Lafayette’s Mark Hudspeth and Colorado State’s Jim McElwain.

Who are some of the coaches doing a noteworthy job outside of the Power 5 leagues? Athlon tackles that question below and provides a few coordinators to watch as well.
 

Head Coaches on the Rise

 

Dino Babers, Bowling Green
Babers was a well-traveled assistant prior to taking the top job at Eastern Illinois, and the 53-year-old coach has been on a quick rise over the last three years. From 2012-13, Babers went 19-7 at Eastern Illinois and is 6-3 during his first year at Bowling Green. Babers worked under Art Briles at Baylor and runs a similar up-tempo offense, which is averaging 32.9 points per game this season.

Craig Bohl, Wyoming
Bohl is in his first season at Wyoming after a very successful stint at North Dakota State. From 2003-13, Bohl guided the Bison to a 104-32 record and three consecutive FCS Championships. The Nebraska native is 4-6 through 10 games with the Cowboys, which includes losses against top 25 teams in Oregon, Michigan State and Colorado State. Wyoming also has two losses in conference play by 10 points or less. Bohl is a proven winner and is a good fit at Wyoming. Considering his track record of success, Bohl could be the top coach in the Mountain West and just needs time to recruit to his style of play to turn the program into a consistent bowl contender.

 

Matt Campbell, Toledo
At 33 years old, Campbell is one of college football’s youngest coaches. The Ohio native was promoted to head coach after Tim Beckman left for Illinois, and the Rockets are 23-13 under his direction. Campbell led Toledo to a bowl game in 2012 but missed out on the postseason despite a 7-5 mark last year. The Rockets are one of the top teams in the MAC West this year and should return to a bowl in 2014. Prior to taking over as Toledo’s head coach, Campbell spent three years as an assistant with the Rockets and worked from 2006-08 at Bowling Green. The Ohio native was a standout defensive lineman in his playing career at Mount Union.

 

Bill Clark, UAB
The future of UAB’s football program is uncertain, but whether he’s in Birmingham or moves on to another school, Clark has a bright future in the coaching industry. After a 5-19 mark in two seasons under Garrick McGee, the Blazers are 5-5 this season and should have a good shot at playing in a bowl. Prior to taking over at UAB, Clark spent one season as Jacksonville State’s head coach (2013) and recorded an 11-4 record. Clark also has a stint as South Alabama’s defensive coordinator (2008-12) and spent several years as a high school coach in Alabama.

 

Willie Fritz, Georgia Southern
Fritz has been a huge success in his first year at Georgia Southern. The Eagles are ineligible to play in a bowl game this season since they are transitioning from the FCS ranks, but that hasn’t slowed this team. Georgia Southern has won seven in a row and boasts an 8-2 record heading into Week 12. The Eagles' only losses? By one to NC State and by four to Georgia Tech. Prior to taking over at Georgia Southern, Fritz was very successful at three different jobs. He recorded a 40-15 mark at Sam Houston State, a 97-47 record at Central Missouri and went 39-5-1 at Blinn College. Fritz is a proven winner and has successfully blended his desired style of play to the returning talent at Georgia Southern. The Kansas native could be a name to watch for the opening at Kansas this offseason.

 

Justin Fuente, Memphis

Fuente inherited a roster and program in need of significant repair. Three years later, Memphis is one of the front-runners to win the American Athletic Conference. The Tigers went 3-21 in the two seasons prior to Fuente’s arrival but improved to 4-8 in his first year and 3-9 in 2013. In his third year, Fuente already has Memphis bowl-eligible for the first time since 2008. Considering how far the program has progressed in three seasons, Fuente should be a hot commodity for Power 5 openings this offseason.

 

Mark Hudspeth, UL Lafayette

Hudspeth is a name to keep on the radar for any SEC openings this offseason. The former Mississippi State assistant is 33-15 in four years at UL Lafayette and has the Ragin’ Cajuns are on track to earn their fourth consecutive bowl appearance. Prior to his current stint at UL Lafayette and two years at Mississippi State, Hudspeth went 66-21 from 2002-08 at North Alabama. Hudspeth signed a six-year contract extension in June, but his track record of success, energetic personality and ability to recruit will no doubt be attractive to any Power 5 program with an opening.

 

Pete Lembo, Ball State

Lembo is 28-19 through four seasons at Ball State and received a five-year contract extension in March. The Cardinals went to back-to-back bowl games in 2012-13 after going 6-6 in Lembo’s first year. Ball State lost a handful of key players from last season’s team and is off to a 3-6 start. Even though the Cardinals are likely to finish with a losing record for the first time under Lembo, the New York native is still a rising star in the coaching ranks. Prior to taking over in Muncie, Lembo went 44-14 in five years at Lehigh and 35-22 in five seasons at Elon.

Jim McElwain, Colorado State
McElwain’s stock has skyrocketed this fall. The Rams are 9-1 and ranked in the Associated Press top 25 poll after Week 11. The Montana native went 4-8 in his first season in Fort Collins, but went 8-6 with a victory over Washington State in the New Mexico Bowl. Colorado State has won 13 out of its last 15 games, with its only loss this season coming at Boise State. Prior to taking over at Colorado State in 2012, McElwain worked on Nick Saban’s staff at Alabama as the offensive coordinator and has stints at Fresno State, Michigan State, Louisville and in the NFL with the Raiders.

 

Matt Rhule, Temple
Last fall, Temple bottomed out with a 2-10 record in Rhule's first season as a head coach, but a deeper look at the Owls’ resume suggests the win-loss mark wasn’t as bad as it first appeared. Temple lost each of its last four games by 10 points or less and carried that momentum into the start of this season. The Owls opened the year with a victory at Vanderbilt and defeated East Carolina on Nov. 1. Temple is 5-4 through nine games and should reach bowl eligibility for the first time since 2011. Rhule returned to Temple after a one-year stint with the Giants. The Pennsylvania native worked on the Owls’ staff from 2006-11 under Al Golden and Steve Addazio.

 

Matt Wells, Utah State
Wells inherited a good roster from former coach Gary Andersen, but the former Aggie quarterback has navigated some difficult circumstances in his first two years on the job. Utah State won the Mountain West’s Mountain Division last season even though it lost quarterback Chuckie Keeton to season-ending injury in early October. This season, the Aggies are already on their fourth starter under center, as Keeton, backup Darell Garretson and senior Craig Harrison have been lost due to injuries. True freshman Kent Myers has filled in admirably so far, and Utah State still has a shot at defending its division title. Prior to joining the Utah State staff in 2011, Wells made stops as an assistant at New Mexico, Louisville, Tulsa and Navy. Wells isn’t just benefiting from following Andersen. With the injuries over the last two years, it’s clear Wells knows what he’s doing in Logan.

 

Other Head Coaches to Know

 

Tim DeRuyter, Fresno State
DeRuyter went 20-6 in his first two seasons at Fresno State but is just 4-6 this season. The Bulldogs are rebuilding without Derek Carr under center, and barring an upset over Nevada, Fresno State is likely to miss out on a bowl this year.
 

Doc Holliday, Marshall
Holliday was always regarded as an excellent recruiter, and his work on the trail has paid dividends for Marshall this fall. The Thundering Herd is 9-0 and poised to grab the Group of 5 bowl spot. Holliday entered this season with a 27-24 record in four years in Huntington.

 

Curtis Johnson, Tulane
The former NFL assistant and New Orleans native is a perfect fit at Tulane. In 2013, Johnson guided the Green Wave (7-6) to their first winning record since 2002.

 

Joe Moglia, Coastal Carolina

Moglia might have the most interesting back story of any coach on the FBS or FCS level. Moglia coached from 1968-83 but went into business and became the CEO of Ameritrade in 2001. After seven years in that role, Moglia worked as a voluntary assistant at Nebraska from 2009-10 and spent one year as the AFL's Omaha Nighthawks coach in 2011. Moglia was hired as Coastal Carolina’s coach in 2012 and is 28-8 through three seasons. At 65 years old, Moglia isn’t an up-and-comer, but he would be an interesting (and likely successful) hire for a Group of 5 program.

 

Bobby Wilder, Old Dominion
Wilder was the first hire for Old Dominion after the school restarted its football program. The Monarchs are in their first season in the FBS ranks after tranisitioning from the FCS (2009-13), during which they did not record a losing season. Old Dominion also made the FCS playoffs in 2011 and '12. Through 10 games as a full-fledged FCS member, Wilder has led the Monarchs to a 4-6 mark. The staple of Wilder’s teams are a high-scoring offense, which is currently led by standout quarterback Taylor Heinicke.

 

And Don’t Forget About….

 

Greg Schiano, former Rutgers/Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach
Schiano isn’t technically on the rise, but his name is likely to be associated with vacancies this offseason.

 

Coordinators on the Rise

 

Dave Aranda, Defensive Coordinator, Wisconsin
Aranda is a relative unknown to most around the nation, but the California native has emerged as one of the Big Ten’s top defensive signal-callers over the last two years. Despite replacing eight starters, Wisconsin leads the Big Ten in scoring defense (14.3 ppg) this season. This coming after Aranda’s 2013 unit ranked second in the conference (16.3 ppg) and limited offenses to just 4.2 yards per play. Prior to joining coach Gary Andersen in Wisconsin, Aranda served as the defensive coordinator at Hawaii (2010-11) and at Utah State (2012). Under Aranda’s direction, the Aggies’ defense allowed just 4.3 yards per play in 2012.


Geoff Collins, Defensive Coordinator, Mississippi State
The Bulldogs’ offense and quarterback Dak Prescott are garnering most of the attention in Starkville, but don’t overlook the defense. Mississippi State is holding opponents to 5.7 yards per play in SEC games, and led by one of the best defensive fronts in the league, the Bulldogs lead the league with 32 sacks. This is Collins’ fourth year in Starkville, and prior to joining Dan Mullen’s staff, he spent time at FIU (defensive coordinator), UCF and Alabama. Collins also is regarded as an excellent recruiter.
 

Scott Frost, Offensive Coordinator, Oregon

Frost has picked up where Chip Kelly left off when he departed for the NFL. Under Frost’s direction, the Ducks are averaging 7.3 yards per play this fall after leading the Pac-12 with a 7.5 mark in 2013. Prior to his promotion to call the plays in Eugene, Frost worked Oregon's receivers coach from 2009-12 and spent two years at Northern Iowa working on the defensive side of the ball. The former Nebraska quarterback will be a name to remember in coaching searches over the next few seasons.

 

Tom Herman, Offensive Coordinator, Ohio State
Despite losing quarterback Braxton Miller to a shoulder injury in fall practice, Ohio State’s offense hasn’t missed a beat. Redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett has emerged as the Big Ten’s top quarterback under Herman’s direction, and the Buckeyes are averaging 6.8 yards per play in conference games this year. The Ohio native has worked under coach Urban Meyer since 2012 and called the plays at Texas State (2005-06), Rice (2007-08) and Iowa State (2009-11). Herman also is a member of Mensa International.

 

Doug Meacham, Co-Offensive Coordinator, TCU
Meacham and fellow co-offensive coordinator Sonny Cumbie are a big reason why TCU is squarely in the mix to earn a spot in college football’s new four-team playoff. In 2013, the Horned Frogs ranked near the bottom of the Big 12 by averaging just 5.0 yards per play and 25.1 points per game. One year later, TCU’s offense is among the best in the nation. The Horned Frogs are averaging 47.2 points per game and 6.9 yards per play in Big 12 contests. Meacham and Cumbie also transformed quarterback Trevone Boykin into one of the nation’s most-improved players. Prior to joining the TCU staff, Meacham worked for one season as Houston’s play-caller (2013) and worked from 2005-12 at Oklahoma State.

Chad Morris, Offensive Coordinator, Clemson
Morris is one of the nation’s highest-paid assistants and has coordinated a prolific Clemson offense since 2011. The Tigers averaged 40 points a game in 2012-13 and over 30 points in '11. And so far this fall, Clemson is putting up 32.4 points per contest. Morris has never been a head coach on the FBS level (only high school head-coaching stints), and his only FBS experience prior to Clemson was a stint as Tulsa’s play-caller in 2010. The Texas native could be a candidate to watch at SMU.
 

Pat Narduzzi, Defensive Coordinator, Michigan State
Narduzzi’s is in no hurry to leave East Lansing, but the Ohio native is regarded as one of - if not No. 1 - top assistant coaches in college football. Narduzzi joined coach Mark Dantonio’s staff in 2007 and has developed an elite defense during his tenure in East Lansing. Michigan State led the nation by limiting opponents to just 4.0 yards per play last season, and the Spartans ranked first in the Big Ten in scoring defense from 2012-13. Prior to taking over the controls for Michigan State’s defense, Narduzzi worked on Dantonio’s staff at Cincinnati (2004-06) and had stints as an assistant at Miami (Ohio), Northern Illinois and Rhode Island.   

 

Mike Norvell, Offensive Coordinator, Arizona State
Norvell owns one of college football’s best titles, as he’s technically the deputy head coach to Todd Graham at Arizona State. Norvell has worked under Graham for the last eight years, and his three offenses with the Sun Devils have averaged at least 36 points per game.

Jeremy Pruitt, Defensive Coordinator, Georgia
Pruitt has made a quick ascension through the coaching ranks. The Alabama native spent nearly 10 years as a high school assistant in the state, including from 2004-06 as Hoover High School. Pruitt worked in an off-field role from 2007-09 at Alabama and was promoted to defensive backs coach in 2010. After three years in that role, Pruitt was hired to coordinate Florida State’s defense in 2013. The Seminoles had one of the nation’s best units under Pruitt’s direction, allowing just 4.09 yards per play. Defensively, Georgia isn't as stocked talent-wise as the Seminoles were last season, but Pruitt’s arrival has had an impact on a unit that allowed 29 points per game in 2013.

 

Lincoln Riley, Offensive Coordinator, East Carolina
is only 31 years old, but the Texas native is ready for a chance to run his own program. After spending 2003-05 as a student assistant coach at Texas Tech, Riley was promoted to a staff assistant on offense in 2006 and wide receivers coach in '07. Riley stayed on staff in Lubbock until 2010 and followed Ruffin McNeill from Texas Tech to East Carolina. The Pirates are leading the American Athletic Conference in yards per play (6.8), as quarterback Shane Carden has thrived under Riley’s tutelage. An Air Raid disciple who learned under Mike Leach, Riley knows how to develop a passing attack. However, East Carolina’s offense has plenty of balance this year, averaging 188.3 yards rushing per game.

 

Nick Rolovich, Offensive Coordinator, Nevada
The former Hawaii quarterback has quietly built an impressive resume as an assistant. Rolovich started his coaching career in 2003 at Hawaii and made a stop at City College of San Francisco (2006-07) before coming back to Honolulu to call plays in '10. The Warriors led the WAC in yards per play (7.6) that season and averaged 31.5 points per game in 2011. Rolovich joined coach Chris Ault’s staff in Nevada in 2012 and was retained by Brian Polian in '13. The Wolf Pack are averaging 30 points per game this fall. Could Rolovich be a name to remember at Hawaii if Norm Chow doesn’t return in 2015?

 

Bob Shoop, Defensive Coordinator, Penn State
Shoop has been under the radar over the last few years, but the Pennsylvania native is one of the nation’s top defensive coordinators. Shoop was hired by James Franklin at Vanderbilt and brought immediate improvement to a defense that allowed 31.2 points per game in 2010. The Commodores did not allow more than 25 points per game in Shoop’s three years and forced 30 turnovers (second in the SEC) in '13. Through six conference games this season, Penn State is holding opponents to just 3.9 yards per play and is allowing only 16.6 points per game.
 

Kalani Sitake, Defensive Coordinator, Utah
Sitake could be one of the nation’s most underrated assistant coaches. The former BYU fullback started his coaching career at Eastern Arizona in 2001 and later spent one year at BYU (2002) and two at Southern Utah (2003-04). Sitake joined the Utah staff in 2005 and was promoted to defensive play-caller in 2009. The Utes have never allowed more than 5.4 yards per play in a season under Sitake’s direction and rank third in the Pac-12 in scoring defense this year. Heading into Week 12, Utah leads the nation with 43 sacks. Sitake is also regarded as a good recruiter.

 

Kirby Smart, Defensive Coordinator, Alabama
Smart helps coach Nick Saban coordinate the Alabama defense, which has been one of the nation’s most dominant units over the last few years. The Crimson Tide has not allowed more than five yards per play since Smart was promoted to call the defensive signals in 2008. Alabama has also ranked inside of the top five nationally in scoring defense for six consecutive seasons. Smart has a good job now and is well compensated. Don’t expect the former Georgia defensive back to rush into a head coaching job.
 

Other Coordinators to Know

 

Tim Beck, Offensive Coordinator, Nebraska

Mike Elko, Defensive Coordinator, Wake Forest

Rhett Lashlee, Offensive Coordinator, Auburn

Brian Lindgren, Offensive Coordinator, Colorado

Philip Montgomery, Offensive Coordinator, Baylor

Scottie Montgomery, Offensive Coordinator, Duke

Bryant Vincent, Offensive Coordinator, UAB

Justin Wilcox, Defensive Coordinator, USC

Teaser:
College Football's Coaches on the Rise for 2014 Week 12
Post date: Wednesday, November 12, 2014 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-post-week-11-bowl-projections-2014
Body:

College football’s 2014 season has reached its final stretch run, and the bowl and national title picture is starting to clear. The playoff committee will release its third set of rankings on Tuesday this week, which should give fans, coaches and players a better idea of what the committee values heading into the last few weeks of the season.

 

The new playoff format has added a new layer of intrigue, as four teams – instead of two – will have a shot at the national championship once the bowl pairings are announced in early December.

 

With 11 weeks in the books, it’s time to take a look at what the bowl picture might hold for each conference and team this year. The post-Week 11 bowl projections are a mixture between picks for the next few weeks, how things would look if the season ended today, and the results from the first 11 weeks of action. Expect several changes over the next few weeks.

 

Teams on the projection bubble: Akron, Texas State, Fresno State, USF, Oregon State, ULM, San Jose State, Northwestern, Michigan, Virginia, North Carolina, Oklahoma State, Kentucky and Arkansas. Remember: It’s only Week 11. Several changes are coming, and it’s impossible to project all of the wins and losses the rest of the way considering how much changes week-to-week in college football.
 

College Football's Post-Week 11 Bowl Projections
BowlDateTie-InProjection
New OrleansDec. 20Sun Belt vs.
Mountain West
 UL Lafayette vs.
Air Force 
New MexicoDec. 20C-USA vs.
Mountain West
 UTEP vs.
Utah State 
Las VegasDec. 20Mountain West vs.
Pac-12
 Boise State vs.
Stanford 
Famous Idaho PotatoDec. 20MAC vs. 
Mountain West
 Bowling Green vs.
Nevada 
CamelliaDec. 20MAC vs.
Sun Belt
 Ohio vs.
Arkansas State 
Miami BeachDec. 22American vs.
BYU
 East Carolina vs.
BYU 
Boca RatonDec. 23C-USA vs.
MAC
 UAB vs.
Western Michigan 
PoinsettiaDec. 23

Mountain West vs.
Navy

 Colorado State vs.
Navy 
BahamasDec. 24C-USA vs.
MAC
 MTSU vs.
Northern Illinois 
HawaiiDec. 24C-USA vs.
Mountain West
 Western Kentucky vs.
San Diego State 
Heart of DallasDec. 26Big Ten vs.
C-USA
 Rutgers vs.
Rice 
Quick LaneDec. 26ACC vs.
Big Ten
 Boston College vs.
Penn State 
St. PetersburgDec. 26ACC vs. 
American
 Virginia Tech vs.
UCF 
MilitaryDec. 27ACC vs.
American
 Pittsburgh vs.
Cincinnati 
SunDec. 27ACC vs.
Pac-12
 Louisville vs.
Utah 
IndependenceDec. 27ACC vs.
SEC
 NC State vs.
Louisiana Tech* 
PinstripeDec. 27ACC vs.
Big Ten
 Georgia Tech vs.
Maryland 
HolidayDec. 27Big Ten vs.
Pac-12
 Wisconsin vs.
USC 
LibertyDec. 29SEC vs. 
Big 12
 Tennessee vs.
West Virginia 
Russell AthleticDec. 29ACC vs.
Big 12
 Notre Dame vs.
Oklahoma 
TexasDec. 29Big 12 vs. 
SEC
 Texas vs.
Florida 
Music CityDec. 30ACC/Big Ten vs.
SEC
 Iowa vs.
South Carolina 
BelkDec. 30ACC vs.
SEC
 Duke vs.
Missouri 
San FranciscoDec. 30Big Ten vs.
Pac-12
 Minnesota vs.
Arizona 
OutbackJan. 1Big Ten vs.
SEC
 Nebraska vs. 
LSU 
CitrusJan. 1Big Ten/ACC vs.
SEC
 Michigan State vs.
Georgia 
Armed ForcesJan. 2American vs. 
Big 12/Army
 Houston vs.
California* 
TaxslayerJan. 2ACC/Big Ten vs.
SEC
 Miami vs.
Texas A&M 
AlamoJan. 2Big 12 vs. 
Pac-12
 Kansas State vs.
UCLA 
CactusJan. 2Big 12 vs.
Pac-12
 Washington vs.
Temple*  
BirminghamJan. 3American vs.
SEC
 Memphis vs.
Central Michigan* 
GoDaddyJan. 4MAC vs. 
Sun Belt
 Toledo vs.
South Alabama 
    
New Year's Bowls
PeachDec. 31At-large vs.
At-large
 Marshall vs.
Ole Miss 
FiestaDec. 31At-large vs.
At-large

 Baylor vs.

Arizona State 

OrangeDec. 31ACC vs.
Big Ten/SEC/ND
 Clemson vs.
Auburn 
CottonJan. 1At-large vs.
At-large
 TCU vs. 
Ohio State 
    
Related: Projecting the Playoff Teams After Week 11
RoseJan. 1Playoff
Semifinal
 Florida State vs.
Alabama 
SugarJan. 1Playoff
Semifinal
 Mississippi State vs.
Oregon 
National TitleJan. 12Semifinal Winner vs.
Semifinal Winner
 Mississippi State vs.
Florida State 

* Indicates an at-large selection. Conference not projected to have enough bowl-eligible teams to fulfill the conference alignment. 

Teaser:
College Football's Post-Week 11 Bowl Projections 2014
Post date: Tuesday, November 11, 2014 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-post-week-11-playoff-projection
Body:

College football’s playoff committee has released two sets of rankings, and the debate about the top four teams will continue every week until the final matchups are released. While the top 25 rankings are expected to change each week and will look drastically different from the release of the first poll to the last one, the playoff committee's poll provided some insight into the process.

 

Each week, Athlon Sports hopes to replicate the playoff committee’s work by asking some of college football’s top media members to vote on their top eight teams. This poll will attempt to project how the playoff picture stacks up after each week until the end of the year.

 

Expert Panel

 

Bobby Bowden (@TheBobbyBowden), Legends Poll
Gene Stallings, (@LegendsPoll), Legends Poll
Don Nehlen (@LegendsPoll), Legends Poll
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven), Athlon Sports
Braden Gall (@BradenGall), Athlon Sports
Zac Ellis (@ZacEllis), Sports Illustrated
David Fox (@DavidFox615), Athlon Sports
Mark Ennis (@MarkEnnis), CardChronicle.com
Teddy Mitrosilis (@TMitrosilis), Fox Sports

Steven Godfrey (@38Godfrey), SBNation.com
Matt Brown (@MattBrownCFB), SportsonEarth.com
Rich Cirminiello (@RichCirminiello), Campus Insiders
Brad Crawford (@BCrawfordSDS), SaturdayDownSouth.com
Allen Kenney (@BlatantHomerism), BlatantHomerism.com
Chris Anderson (@CMAnderson247), Eersports.com
Kyle Kensing (@kensing45), CFBHuddle.com
Adam Powell (@ACCSports), ACCSports.com
Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch) Athlon Sports
Josh Ward (@Josh_Ward), MrSEC.com
Kevin McGuire (@KevinonCFB), CollegeFootballTalk.com
Mark Ross (@AthlonMarkR), Athlon Sports


Post-Week 11 Playoff Projection

RankTeamLogo12345678Total
1Mississippi State154200000160
2Florida State414120000146
3Alabama22772010117
4Oregon011081000111
5TCU00131160083
6Baylor00017103069
7Arizona State0000038833
8Ohio State00000251127
9Auburn000000408
10TOle Miss000000011
10TMichigan State000000011

Takeaways From Expert Poll Results


* Mississippi State extended its edge over Florida State for the No. 1 spot. The Bulldogs held 12 first-place votes last week but recorded 15 after Week 11. The Seminoles had eight first-place votes following Week 10 but lost four in this week’s projection. Alabama also picked up one first-place vote.

* There’s a clear top four in this week’s poll: Mississippi State, Florida State, Alabama and Oregon. In last week’s poll, Alabama and Oregon tied for the No. 4 spot.

* TCU and Baylor are on the outside of the top four in this week’s vote. Even though the Bears won the head-to-head matchup, the Horned Frogs recorded more points (83 to 69) in the post-Week 11 projection.

* Four SEC teams received votes in this week’s projection.

* Ohio State jumped from No. 10 to No. 8 after beating Michigan State in Week 11. The Buckeyes need a lot of help to reach the top four and could benefit from Wisconsin or Nebraska winning out and ranking among the top 10-15 teams in the polls prior to the Big Ten Championship.

* Arizona State climbs from No. 12 to No. 7 after beating Notre Dame. The Sun Devils won’t play an opponent ranked in this week’s poll the rest of the regular season, but a matchup against Arizona and Oregon (if it reaches the Pac-12 Championship) would help bolster coach Todd Graham’s team.

* Two-loss teams Auburn, Ole Miss and Michigan State each received votes in this week’s poll, but all three are longshots to climb back into the top four.

 

Group of 5 Rankings

 

1. Marshall
Record:
9-0

The Thundering Herd fell behind 14-0 to Southern Miss but rallied for an easy 63-17 win on Saturday. Quarterback Rakeem Cato has passed for a score in 41 consecutive games, and Marshall’s defense is allowing just 4.4 yards per play. Marshall could be tested in its final three contests, starting with a matchup against defending C-USA champion Rice this Saturday.

2. Boise State
Record:
7-2

It wasn’t easy, but the Broncos earned their fourth consecutive victory by defeating New Mexico 60-49. Quarterback Grant Hedrick and running back Jay Ajayi each topped 100 rushing yards, and the offense recorded 34 first downs in the victory. Boise State has a tricky matchup against San Diego State this Saturday, as the Aztecs have defeated the Broncos in back-to-back years. After the contest against San Diego State, Boise State plays at Wyoming on Nov. 22.

3. Colorado State
Record:
9-1

The Rams easily dispatched Hawaii in a 49-22 victory in Week 11. Colorado State is on bye this Saturday, and the off date comes at a good time for coach Jim McElwain’s team. Quarterback Garrett Grayson and receiver Rashard Higgins are dealing with minor injuries and could use the time off to heal before the final two games of the year (New Mexico and at Air Force).

4. East Carolina
Record:
6-2

East Carolina is coming off a timely bye, which should help coach Ruffin McNeill’s team regroup after the 20-10 loss to Temple on Nov. 1. The Pirates play at Cincinnati this Thursday in a critical American Athletic Conference matchup.

5. Memphis
Record:
6-3

Don’t adjust your vision: Memphis is currently at the top of the American Athletic Conference standings. Yes, that’s right. The Tigers are 4-1 in conference play and scored a key win over Temple on Nov. 7. Memphis should be favored to win its final three games – at Tulane, USF and Connecticut. The Tigers are a longshot to claim the Group of 5 spot, but the inclusion of Memphis in this ranking just shows how far coach Justin Fuente has brought this program over the last three seasons.


Games With Playoff/Bowl Implications in Week 12

 

East Carolina at Cincinnati
7 p.m. ET, ESPN 2 (Thursday)


After losing to Temple in Week 10, East Carolina needs a win to keep its Group of 5 bowl hopes alive.

Ohio State at Minnesota
Noon ET, ABC


A road trip to Minneapolis is a good letdown spot for Ohio State after its win against Michigan State. The Golden Gophers need a win to keep pace with Wisconsin and Nebraska in the Big Ten West Division.

Clemson at Georgia Tech
Noon ET, ESPN


A critical matchup for positioning within the ACC. Freshman quarterback Deshaun Watson is back in the lineup for Clemson, while Georgia Tech needs to win to stay within reach of Duke in the Coastal. The winner of this game stays alive for a berth in the Orange Bowl (assuming Florida State makes the playoff).

South Carolina at Florida
Noon ET, SEC Network


Believe it or not, Florida still has faint SEC East title hopes. On the other sideline, South Carolina is just trying to get bowl eligible.

Mississippi State at Alabama
3:30 p.m. ET, CBS


This matchup is the best of Week 12. Mississippi State puts its No. 1 ranking on the line in Tuscaloosa against an Alabama team that is still climbing back into the national title picture. Can the Crimson Tide defense slow down quarterback Dak Prescott?

Nebraska at Wisconsin
3:30 p.m. ET, ABC


Not quite a national showcase game like Ohio State-Michigan State, but this meeting between the Cornhuskers and Badgers is important for the Big Ten West Division title. This game could feature two of the nation’s top running backs if Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah is healthy from a knee injury suffered against Purdue.

Auburn at Georgia
7:15 p.m. ET, ESPN


Remember how last year’s game ended? This year’s version could be just as entertaining, especially with Georgia regaining the services of running back Todd Gurley. Auburn needs to win this one to keep its West Division title hopes alive.

Missouri at Texas A&M
7:30 p.m. ET, SEC Network


The Tigers control their destiny in the SEC East. Texas A&M looks to build off its momentum from the win at Auburn last week.

Florida State at Miami
8 p.m. ET, ABC


Miami is garnering some interest as an upset pick over Florida State, but the Hurricanes have lost four in a row to their in-state rival. This matchup is one of the biggest for Miami under coach Al Golden, while the Seminoles can clinch the Atlantic Division with a win on Saturday.

LSU at Arkansas
8 p.m. ET, ESPN2


Will Arkansas get its first SEC win under coach Bret Bielema?

Arizona State at Oregon State
10:45 p.m. ET, ESPN


Sun Devils are on a collision course with Oregon in the Pac-12 title game. However, coach Todd Graham’s team has to avoid a letdown against a struggling Oregon State team on Saturday.

Teaser:
College Football's Post-Week 11 Playoff Projection
Post date: Tuesday, November 11, 2014 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: ACC, Clemson Tigers, College Football, News
Path: /college-football/deshaun-watsons-return-injury-should-spark-clemsons-offense
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Clemson is having an uncharacteristic season on offense. The Tigers average just 5.4 yards per play (ninth in the ACC) and rank sixth in the conference by averaging 32.4 points per game. The slow start hasn’t drastically affected Clemson’s record, and coach Dabo Swinney’s team is poised to push for another season of at least 10 wins.

 

A couple of factors are to blame for the drop in production on offense, but there’s potential for this unit to improve over the final three games with the return of quarterback Deshaun Watson.

 

Watson’s return comes at a critical time for coach Dabo Swinney’s team. At 7-2 overall and 6-1 in conference play, Clemson is squarely in the mix to earn an appearance in the Orange Bowl – if Florida State makes the college football playoff. The Tigers made two previous appearances in the Orange Bowl under Swinney, but finishing 10-2 and earning a spot in one of the premier postseason games would be a huge accomplishment for a program replacing three offensive standouts in quarterback Tajh Boyd and receivers Sammy Watkins and Martavis Bryant in 2014.

But there’s also another aspect to Watson’s return: the Nov. 29 showdown against South Carolina.

Clemson has not defeated the Gamecocks since 2008, but this would appear to be its best shot since the Gamecocks are struggling just to get bowl eligible.

Watson nearly guided Clemson to an upset win at Florida State and recorded 50 points in a win against North Carolina. The freshman also passed for 267 yards and two scores in an easy 41-0 win over NC State.

While this year’s offense isn’t as prolific as the units that led Clemson to 32 wins from 2011-13, that hasn’t derailed the Tigers from winning.

 

With Watson back in the lineup this week against Georgia Tech, it’s a good opportunity for this team to build momentum on offense before the bowl practices.

The true freshman has completed 75 of 112 passes for 12 touchdowns and just two interceptions in limited action this year. With Florida State’s Jameis Winston likely to enter the NFL Draft at the end of 2014, Watson should be the ACC’s top signal-caller in 2015. And Watson should be surrounded by plenty of talent, as running back Wayne Gallman and receiver Artavis Scott have emerged as key playmakers over the last few weeks.
 

Stoudt has kept the offense on track during Watson’s absence. However, there’s little doubt the true freshman is the better quarterback and has the skill-set to thrive in coordinator Chad Morris’ offense.

The Clemson coaching staff can be more aggressive in its passing game, as Watson averages 15.7 yards per completion, while Stoudt recorded just 10 yards per completion. Watson also averaged 10 yards per attempt, compared to 6.4 to Stoudt. The true freshman has a bigger arm, and his ability to stretch the field should help an offense that has six plays of 40 yards or more, which is a decrease from the 19 this team recorded last year.


Florida State is in full control of the Atlantic Division title this year, but Clemson still has plenty to play for over the last three weeks of the season. With Watson back under center this week, the Tigers have a chance to finish the year with momentum, including a good opportunity to beat their rival South Carolina and earn a spot in the Orange Bowl. And that’s not a bad way to finish 2014 with the amount of firepower that left Clemson for the NFL after the 2013 season.

Teaser:
Deshaun Watson's Return Should Spark Clemson's Offense
Post date: Monday, November 10, 2014 - 11:01
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Oregon Ducks, Pac 12, News
Path: /college-football/oregon-clinches-pac-12-north-title-injuries-major-concern-once-again
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Oregon crossed another hurdle in its quest to reach college football’s four-team playoff with a 51-27 victory over Utah on Saturday night. The win over the Utes clinched a spot in the Pac-12 Championship for coach Mark Helfrich’s team, and the Ducks have won five in a row since a 31-24 loss to Arizona in early October.

However, Saturday night’s win over Utah could be costly in the long run. Oregon doesn’t release much in the way of injury reports, but a couple key players left the game and were unable to return.

The biggest concern from Saturday night has to be the status of standout center Hroniss Grasu. The senior made his 50th consecutive start in Saturday night’s win over Utah and is one of the leaders for an offense that averages 46 points a game. Grasu left the game with a knee injury and was replaced by Doug Brenner.

In addition to Grasu, Oregon lost tight end Pharaoh Brown due to a serious leg injury, cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu left with a toe injury, and defensive end DeForest Buckner left the locker room with ice on his knee.

Considering Oregon’s policy of not discussing injuries, it’s hard to know how long this team could be without Grasu or Buckner. Ekpre-Olomu commented after the game he expects to be ready for Colorado.

While the injuries against Utah are troublesome for Oregon, this team has a bye in Week 12, followed by games against Colorado and Oregon State. The Ducks should be able to beat the Buffaloes and Beavers without being at full strength.

However, it’s the Pac-12 Championship that should be of concern for Helfrich.

 

Arizona State has won five in a row, and its defense creates a lot of havoc around the line of scrimmage (73 tackles for a loss). And the Sun Devils certainly have no trouble scoring points, as coach Todd Graham’s offense averages 36.7 points per game.

Arizona State still has work to do in order to reach the conference championship, but the Sun Devils are a threat to Oregon’s playoff hopes if they meet in the Pac-12 title game – especially if the Ducks are at less than 100 percent in the injury department.  

With the return of tackle Jake Fisher and quarterback Marcus Mariota’s continued play as the best quarterback in college football, Oregon has scored at least 42 points in each of its last five games.

The high-scoring offense has helped to mask some of the issues on defense, where the Ducks rank ninth in the Pac-12 in yards allowed per play (5.7) and last in the conference in third-down defense. 

Getting Fisher back was huge for the offense, but how much of a blow would it be to this team if Grasu was out for an extended period?

So far, the Ducks’ national title hopes have yet to be derailed by injury. And with a couple of weeks to get everyone at full strength before the Pac-12 title game, that’s a huge break for Helfrich’s team.

Teaser:
Oregon Clinches Pac-12 North Title, But Injuries A Major Concern Once Again
Post date: Sunday, November 9, 2014 - 14:00
Path: /college-football/ohio-states-jt-barrett-athlon-sports-week-11-player-week
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Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett was simply flawless in Saturday’s win over Michigan State. The redshirt freshman finished with 300 passing yards and three scores and rushed for 86 yards and two touchdowns in a matchup against one of the nation’s best defenses.


Barrett earned Athlon Sports National Player of the Week honors for Week 11 due to his performance against the Spartans, which vaulted Ohio State back into contention for a spot in college football’s new four-team playoff.

 

The Buckeyes lost to the Spartans in last year’s Big Ten Championship, and this season’s meeting was billed as a defacto East Division title game and a matchup between the two best teams in the conference.

The Spartans jumped out to a 7-0 lead early in the first quarter, but the Buckeyes never hit the panic button and rallied behind an offense that finished with just two punts. Barrett guided Ohio State back to a 28-21 lead at halftime, and the redshirt freshman helped the Buckeyes score 14 points unanswered midway through the second half, which gave coach Urban Meyer’s team a 42-24 lead and proved to be more than enough in a 49-37 victory for Ohio State.

Barrett had big shoes to fill in August with the season-ending shoulder injury to quarterback Braxton Miller. After a slow start to the season, the redshirt freshman clearly looks like a rising star at quarterback and is someone who has mastered Meyer and coordinator Tom Herman’s system in a very short amount of time.

 

Defensive Player of the Week: Cedric Reed, DE, Texas


Reed led a standout defensive effort in Texas’ upset win over West Virginia. The Longhorns held the Mountaineers to a season-low 16 points and five yards per play on 90 attempts. Reed wreaked havoc on West Virginia’s offensive line, sacking quarterback Clint Trickett three times and recording four tackles for a loss. One of the senior’s sacks against Trickett resulted in a safety in the fourth quarter. Reed also chipped in 12 overall tackles and one forced fumble.

 

Coordinator of the Week: Phil Bennett, Baylor

 

Baylor’s offense scored 48 points in Saturday’s win over Oklahoma, but the defensive effort from the Bears was just as sharp. Coordinator Phil Bennett has significantly improved Baylor’s defense in recent years, as this unit led the Big 12 in fewest yards per play in 2013. Bennett had to replace a few standouts from last season, but the Bears haven’t suffered in production. In Saturday’s victory, the Sooners did not score a point after the first quarter, were limited to 5.1 yards per play and five out of the last six offensive possessions by Oklahoma never lasted more than 18 yards. Baylor will always have an explosive offense under coach Art Briles. However, it’s the improvement on defense that has the Bears squarely in the mix to earn a spot in the college football playoff.

 

Freshman of the Week: Luke Falk, QB, Washington State

In his first career start, Falk kept coach Mike Leach’s high-powered offense on track by throwing for 471 yards and five scores in a 39-32 win over Oregon State. The redshirt freshman threw two touchdown passes in the fourth quarter, including an 18-yard toss to Dom Williams to give Washington State the lead for good against the Beavers. Falk had the difficult assignment of replacing injured starter Connor Halliday in last week’s game against USC, but the redshirt freshman clearly showed he was ready for the task by guiding the Cougars to their second Pac-12 victory of 2014. Falk’s 471 yards against Oregon State were the most by a Washington State quarterback in their first career start, and the former walk-on has a chance to solidify his place atop the depth chart for next season if he continues to play at a high level against Arizona State and Washington. 

Teaser:
Ohio State's J.T. Barrett is Athlon Sports' Week 11 Player of the Week
Post date: Sunday, November 9, 2014 - 08:00
Path: /college-football/arizona-state-wr-jaelen-strong-grabs-impressive-one-handed-td-catch-against-notre
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Arizona State bolstered its playoff hopes with a huge 55-31 win over Notre Dame on Saturday.

The Sun Devils had plenty of help from their defense, but receiver Jaelen Strong made one of the best plays of the day with a touchdown grab in the first half.

Strong finished with five catches for 58 yards, and this first-half touchdown reception was his best grab of the day:  

 

Teaser:
Arizona State WR Jaelen Strong Grabs Impressive One-Handed TD Catch Against Notre Dame
Post date: Saturday, November 8, 2014 - 20:43
Path: /college-football/minnesota-te-maxx-williams-makes-awesome-sideline-catch-against-iowa
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Minnesota tight end Maxx Williams had a huge performance in the Golden Gophers’ game against Iowa.

With Minnesota leading 14-7 midway through the second quarter, Williams made one of the catches of the year in the Big Ten. The tight end kept the foot in bounds and snagged a pass from quarterback Mitch Leidner.  

Teaser:
Minnesota TE Maxx Williams Makes Awesome Sideline Catch Against Iowa
Post date: Saturday, November 8, 2014 - 14:51
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Oklahoma Sooners, Big 12, News
Path: /college-football/oklahoma-qb-trevor-knight-hurdles-baylor-cb-terrell-burt
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Oklahoma quarterback Trevor Knight went airborne to gain critical yardage in the first half of Saturday’s game against Baylor.

Knight had the first down without the hurdle, but the jump over cornerback Terrell Burt gave the offense a few more yards.

Check out Knight’s awesome hurdle over a Baylor defender:

 

 

Teaser:
Oklahoma QB Trevor Knight Hurdles Baylor Defender
Post date: Saturday, November 8, 2014 - 14:28
Path: /college-football/notre-dame-fighting-irish-vs-arizona-state-sun-devils-2014-game-preview
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The first year of college football’s playoff committee rankings has added new intrigue to the season, and one look at the latest top 25 release shows just how important Saturday’s game is between Arizona State and Notre Dame. The Sun Devils and Fighting Irish are ranked back-to-back (No. 9 and No. 10) following the Week 10 games. Saturday’s winner should keep their playoff hopes alive while dealing a significant (and likely eliminating) loss to the other team.

 

Arizona State has won four games in a row since a 62-27 loss to UCLA. The Sun Devils defeated three ranked teams in that stretch, including a 19-16 overtime win against Utah and a 38-34 last-second victory over USC on Oct. 4. Notre Dame’s only loss this year came at the hands of Florida State, but the Fighting Irish rank behind Arizona State due to the Sun Devils’ strength of schedule and bigger margin of victory against a common opponent (Stanford).

 

Arizona State and Notre Dame have only three previous meetings. The Fighting Irish are 3-0 against the Sun Devils, including a 37-34 victory in last season’s matchup in Arlington.

 

Notre Dame at Arizona State


Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. ET (Saturday)
TV Channel: ABC

Spread: Arizona State -2.5
 

Notre Dame’s Key to Victory: QB Everett Golson

 

Coming off a tough matchup against Navy, combined with the loss of linebacker Joe Schmidt, Notre Dame needs its offense to carry the team on Saturday. As evidenced by his 22 passing touchdowns to just seven interceptions, Golson is capable of doing so. Arizona State ranks fifth in the Pac-12 in pass efficiency defense, but this unit has played three average offenses over the last three weeks. Golson could be the best quarterback the Sun Devils have played this season, and his mobility will keep plays alive if the defense is able to get pressure and collapse the pocket. But most importantly for Notre Dame, Golson has to have a mistake-free effort. The junior has seven picks this season and two came in the loss to Florida State. A tight game is expected on Saturday, and a turnover or two by either team could be costly. One other area to watch is the emergence of running back Tarean Folston. The sophomore has 169 yards over the last two games.

 

Arizona State’s Key to Victory: Balance on Offense

 

Quarterback Taylor Kelly is still knocking off the rust from a foot injury that forced him to miss three games earlier this year. But Kelly has passed for 385 yards and three scores over the last two contests and has 62 rushing yards in that span. Despite being a little rusty, Kelly guided Arizona State to wins over Washington and Utah. Considering Kelly probably needs another week or two to get fully acclimated to the offense once again, the Sun Devils need to take the pressure off him by establishing balance. Running back D.J. Foster leads the team with 701 yards and freshman Demario Richard has 280 – including 170 over the last two weeks. Receiver Jaelen Strong is one of the best in the Pac-12, catching 57 passes for 821 yards and eight scores. Notre Dame won’t have standout linebacker Joe Schmidt for the rest of the year due to an injury suffered against Navy. Without Schmidt, the Fighting Irish will turn to true freshman Nyles Morgan in the starting lineup. Notre Dame’s defense is giving up 5.2 yards per play in 2014 but has allowed at least 5.6 yards per play in three consecutive weeks. With Schmidt’s injury, combined with the Fighting Irish’s recent performance on defense, Arizona State should be able to push 30 points on Saturday night. Balance for the Sun Devils will be critical, especially as Kelly continues to knock the rust off from a significant foot injury.
 

Final Analysis

 

It’s probably fair to call this game an elimination matchup in terms of playoff seeding. The loser of this matchup is likely out of the picture for one of the four-team spots, but is still in the mix for one of the New Year’s Bowls. The winner of this game will be on the doorstep of the top eight once again next week and in position to earn a spot in the playoffs. Notre Dame’s defense is a concern. But it’s also fair to wonder whether Arizona State’s recent improvement on that side of the ball was due to offenses that ranked near the bottom of the Pac-12. Expect plenty of points in this back-and-forth affair. Notre Dame keeps its playoff hopes alive for another week by finding a way to win this one in the fourth quarter.

 

Prediction: Notre Dame 34, Arizona State 31
Teaser:
Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. Arizona State Sun Devils 2014 Game Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, November 7, 2014 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/kansas-state-wildcats-vs-tcu-horned-frogs-game-preview-and-prediction
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At the beginning of the season, not many circled Kansas State-TCU as the biggest game of the year in the Big 12. But Saturday’s matchup between the Horned Frogs and Wildcats could be the biggest game of the year in the conference, as TCU and Kansas State rank No. 7 and No. 8 in the latest playoff committee rankings.

 

TCU finished 4-8 last season but has experienced a quick turnaround on the strength of an improved offense. The Horned Frogs averaged only 25.1 points per game in 2013 but have recorded 48 points per contest through eight matchups this year. Quarterback Trevone Boykin has thrived under new co-coordinators Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie.

With a victory over TCU on Saturday, Kansas State will match its win total from 2013. The Wildcats’ biggest win in 2014 took place in Norman, defeating Oklahoma 31-30 in mid-October. Coach Bill Snyder’s team suffered its only loss at the hands of Auburn – a game that was summed up by missed opportunities for Kansas State.

 

Kansas State owns a 4-3 series edge over TCU. The Wildcats have won the last two meetings over the Horned Frogs. The last meeting between these two teams in Fort Worth was a 23-10 win by Kansas State.

And here’s a small storyline to note about this matchup: TCU coach Gary Patterson played at Kansas State from 1980-81 and is a Kansas native.

 

Kansas State at TCU


Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. ET (Saturday)
TV Channel: FOX
Spread: TCU -6
 

Kansas State’s Key to Victory: Win the Turnover Battle
 

It sounds simple, but Kansas State’s mistake-free ways will be tested against TCU. The Horned Frogs lead the nation with a +15 turnover margin and has forced nine takeaways in their last two games. On the flipside, the Wildcats have lost only seven turnovers and commit only 3.4 penalties per game. Bill Snyder’s team simply won’t beat itself on Saturday night. With little separating Kansas State and TCU, it’s the small things that could swing this game in favor of a particular team. The Wildcats need to continue what they have done all season and limit their mistakes. Quarterback Jake Waters is a big part of that storyline, as the senior has yet to throw a pick in a Big 12 game. If Waters completes over 60 percent of his throws, doesn’t toss a pick, and Kansas State wins the turnover battle, that might be enough for the Wildcats to win in Fort Worth.

 

TCU’s Key to Victory: Establish the Tempo on Offense

 

Kansas State averages 35.8 points per game in Big 12 action this year, but the Wildcats prefer to move at a methodical pace (32:50 time of possession). TCU is going with an up-tempo approach this year, and the switch in schemes has made a huge impact on the offense. Quarterback Trevone Boykin is a Heisman contender, and the Horned Frogs have 25 plays of 30 yards or more this year. Kansas State is capable of scoring 40 points, but the Wildcats would prefer to move a little slower and use their ground attack to eat up the clock on lengthy drives. TCU should look to jump out to an early lead and force K-State to play at a quicker pace. If Boykin can rebound from his worst start of the season (166 yards against West Virginia), there will be opportunities to make plays against a secondary that ranks seventh in the Big 12 in pass efficiency defense.

 

Final Analysis

 

This is the only top-10 matchup for Week 11 and is relatively even across the board. Both defenses allow less than five yards per play, while Kansas State ranks as the Big 12’s best in scoring defense (18.6 ppg). TCU is more explosive on offense, but the Wildcats – using a different style – aren’t far behind on the stat sheet. Expect a tight game well into the fourth quarter, with both teams landing a few big plays in the process. Kansas State is one of the best in the nation at not beating itself. However, with this game in Fort Worth and quarterback Trevone Boykin due for a rebound effort, TCU gets a slight edge – but there’s not much separating these two teams.

 

Prediction: TCU 31, Kansas State 30
Teaser:
Kansas State Wildcats vs. TCU Horned Frogs Game Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, November 7, 2014 - 09:30
Path: /college-football/michigan-state-spartans-vs-ohio-state-buckeyes-2014-game-preview-and-prediction
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The Big Ten has spent most of 2014 out of the national spotlight, but the Michigan State-Ohio State showdown on Saturday night carries significant playoff implications. This matchup is easily the biggest game of the year in the conference and is a rematch of last year’s Big Ten title game. In last season’s contest, the Spartans won 34-24 and eliminated the Buckeyes from earning a spot in the BCS title game.

 

Both teams enter Saturday night’s matchup with one loss. However, there’s a different narrative following each team’s defeat. Michigan State’s defeat came at the hands of Oregon – ranked as the No. 4 team in the college football playoff standings after Week 10. Ohio State’s loss was to a Virginia Tech team that is struggling just to get bowl eligible. And the Buckeyes’ loss to the Hokies is clearly hurting coach Urban Meyer’s team in the playoff poll, as Ohio State ranks No. 14 and needs a lot of help to get into the top four.

 

Ohio State owns a 28-13 series edge over Michigan State. The Buckeyes are just 1-2 in their last three matchups against the Spartans. Two out of the last three meetings were decided by three points or less. From 1987-2008, Ohio State went 12-2 against Michigan State.

 

Ohio State at Michigan State

 

Kickoff: 8 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: ABC

Spread: Michigan State -3.5

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Ohio State’s Offensive Line
Outside of J.T. Barrett’s development, this unit was the biggest concern for Ohio State in 2014. The Buckeyes gave up seven sacks in the loss to Virginia Tech but has allowed just 10 in the other seven contests. However, the line has rarely been tested over the last few weeks, and Michigan State’s defensive front is likely the best Ohio State will play this year. How far as the Buckeyes’ offensive line developed in recent weeks? Left tackle Taylor Decker will have his hands full with ends Shilique Calhoun and Marcus Rush, as the duo headlines a Spartans’ defensive front that leads the Big Ten with 28 sacks. While pass protection is a concern, Barrett has the mobility to make plays outside of the pocket (second on the team with 496 rushing yards), and the offense is averaging 5.3 yards per carry. Are the Buckeyes up to the challenge in the trenches? Or will Calhoun and Rush win the battle at the point of attack?

 

2. Quarterback Play
Through 10 weeks of the 2014 season, it’s clear Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett and Michigan State’s Connor Cook are the best quarterbacks in the Big Ten. Barrett stepped into a difficult situation with ease, leading the conference with 294 total yards per game. Cook doesn’t have Barrett’s mobility, but the junior is completing 60.6 percent of his throws and has only five picks on 198 attempts this year. In the Big Ten Championship last year, Cook easily outdueled Braxton Miller, completing 24 of 40 passes for 340 yards and one score. Miller completed just 8 of 21 throws and was held to 101 yards and a score. Michigan State doesn’t need Cook to throw for 300 yards on Saturday night, but the junior needs to be efficient and limit his mistakes. Despite completing 61.7 percent of his throws against Oregon, Cook tossed two picks. Ohio State’s defense is holding opponents to 19.8 points per game in Big Ten action and has allowed only seven passing plays of 30 yards or more. That’s an improvement off last season, and Cook will be facing the best pass rush he has played in 2014. Both quarterbacks are going against elite defensive lines and pass defenses that have been stingy. With a tight game expected, the play of Cook and Barrett will be under the microscope. Cook torched Ohio State’s secondary for 304 yards and three scores last year. However, the Buckeyes have showed improvement on defense in 2014. For Barrett, this is his toughest road test of the year. With an offensive line that’s still developing, can Barrett avoid the rush and make plays against a secondary that has allowed 11 passing plays of 40 yards or more – nearly as many (17) as last year?

 

3. Style of Play

It’s no secret Michigan State wants to control the pace of the game with a vicious defense and a methodical, yet very successful offense. The Spartans lead the Big Ten by averaging 36:02 in time of possession, while Ohio State is third with a 32:24 mark. The Buckeyes’ rush defense has been solid this year, limiting opponents to just 3.4 yards per carry and 118.6 yards per contest. Expect Michigan State to challenge that total with a heavy dose of Jeremy Langford. The senior has five consecutive 100-yard efforts and gashed Michigan for 177 yards and three scores two weeks ago. If Langford has success on early downs, the Spartans will have a chance to control the tempo and later hit on play-action passes to standout receiver Tony Lippett. When Ohio State has the ball, expect Meyer and coordinator Tom Herman to push the tempo. The Buckeyes want to speed up the tempo, which should allow Barrett to get some easy (and quick passes) against the Michigan State defensive front. If the Buckeyes control the pace of the game and jump to an early lead, they will force the Spartans out of their comfort level on offense.

 

Final Analysis

 

The roles are reversed in 2014. Last season, Michigan State played spoiler, eliminating Ohio State from the national title conversation with a 34-24 win in the Big Ten Championship. The Buckeyes have a chance to do something similar on Saturday night, as a win by Urban Meyer’s team would eliminate Michigan State from the playoff picture. If Ohio State wins, it should get a bump in next week’s rankings. However, even if the Buckeyes win in East Lansing, they need some help to reach the top four. Regardless of the playoff implications, these two teams are the best in the Big Ten. So what’s the difference in the game? Michigan State’s defense and quarterback Connor Cook. The Spartans aren’t as dominant on defense as they were last season, but this unit is still capable of carrying this team to a playoff spot. Barrett has performed well in relief of Miller. However, a road trip to East Lansing against Michigan State’s defense will be too much to overcome.

 

Prediction: Michigan State 30, Ohio State 20
Teaser:
Michigan State Spartans vs. Ohio State Buckeyes 2014 Game Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, November 7, 2014 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/alabama-crimson-tide-vs-lsu-tigers-2014-game-preview-and-prediction
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The annual matchup between Alabama and LSU is one of the SEC’s must-see games every year, and 2014 is no different, as both teams rank among the top 15 nationally. There’s more at stake on Saturday night for the Crimson Tide after ranking No. 5 in the second release of college football’s playoff committee standings. The Tigers ranked No. 16 and are a longshot to make the final four. However, coach Les Miles’ team still has plenty to play for, including a spot in one of college football’s premier bowl games.

LSU has rebounded from an 0-2 start in SEC play to win its last three conference games. The Tigers had a bye last Saturday but defeated Ole Miss 10-7 on Oct. 25. Alabama suffered its only defeat at the hands of the Rebels but has won three in a row, including a 59-0 destruction of Texas A&M.

 

Alabama owns a 48-24-5 series edge over LSU. The Crimson Tide has won five out of the last seven meetings against the Tigers. However, Alabama is 1-1 in its last two trips to Baton Rouge. LSU coach Les Miles is 5-5 in 10 career games against the Crimson Tide.

 

Alabama at LSU

 

Kickoff: 8 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: CBS

Spread: Alabama -6.5

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Quarterback Play
The basic approach by both teams is pretty simple: Run the ball and play defense. That statement might be too simplistic, but both offenses want to establish the run to take the pressure of their quarterback. Both signal-callers in this game are under the microscope, as both have experienced their share of ups and downs this season. Alabama’s Blake Sims won a battle with Jacob Coker for the starting job in the fall, and Sims opened the year by throwing for 250 yards in the opener against West Virginia. Sims has played well at times this year but tossed a costly interception against Ole Miss and completed 52.4 percent of his throws in an ugly 14-13 win against Arkansas. While Sims hasn’t been overly prolific, he’s been more successful than LSU’s Anthony Jennings. The sophomore made his first career start in the Outback Bowl last year and carried that momentum into the fall to claim the job over touted freshman Brandon Harris. Jennings is completing only 50 percent of his passes and went just 8 of 16 for 142 yards and two interceptions in a 10-7 win over Ole Miss two weeks ago. Against Power 5 opponents, Jennings has not completed more than 50 percent of his passes in a single contest. However, Jennings is tied for third in the SEC with seven passing plays of 40 yards or more. On paper, the edge should go to Sims. For LSU to win on Saturday night, Jennings needs to have his best game of 2014.

2. Stopping the Run
In last year’s matchup, Alabama drastically outperformed LSU on the ground (193 to 43). And taking the advantage on the ground a step further, the team that has an edge in rushing yardage has won the last six matchups. See why this area is important on Saturday night? Both backfields are among the best in the nation, but running room could be limited. Alabama is allowing only 2.7 yards per carry and opponents have managed only two rushing scores through eight games. LSU will attempt to test the defense with four talented running backs, headlined by Leonard Fournette. The true freshman has rushed for 657 yards and seven scores this year, but he averages only 14.6 carries per game. Fournette will share time with Terrence Magee (6.1 ypc), Kenny Hilliard (six scores) and Darrel Williams (250 yards). On the other sideline, Alabama counters with T.J. Yeldon and Derrick Henry – arguably the nation’s best backfield duo – and both players average 5.2 yards per carry. After five SEC contests, LSU’s rush defense ranks ninth in the league, giving up 186.2 yards per game. The Tigers have played some of the league’s best running teams – Mississippi State and Auburn – and have not allowed a rushing touchdown in two games. This is LSU’s toughest challenge on defense since a 41-7 loss against Auburn. Has this defense found the right answers? Or was the improvement on defense due to playing offenses at Florida, Kentucky and Ole Miss? Either way, the battle in the trenches is critical to the outcome on Saturday night.


3. Alabama WR Amari Cooper
Cooper has been the best receiver in college football through the first 10 weeks of the season. The junior ranks second nationally in receiving yards (1,132) and averages 15.9 yards per catch. Cooper was injured in the win over Arkansas on Oct. 11 but has rebounded with 17 catches for 364 yards and four touchdowns in his last two games. Cooper faces one of his toughest assignments of the season on Saturday night, as LSU’s secondary is one of the best in the SEC. Opposing teams have had success running the ball against the Tigers, so coordinator John Chavis’ defense has faced only 259 attempts this year. LSU has allowed only six passing scores and has limited opposing quarterbacks to a 49.4 completion percentage. Rashard Robinson and Tre’Davious White are one of the nation’s top duos at cornerback and limited Cooper to just three catches for 46 yards last season. This matchup between Cooper and Robinson/White should draw plenty of interest from NFL scouts. But if Cooper is limited by LSU, who steps up at receiver for Alabama? Is it senior DeAndrew White? Or will tight end O.J. Howard get more involved after a slow start (six catches) to the season?

 

Final Analysis

 

This game has all of the makings of a physical, 60-minute battle in the trenches. Alabama and LSU have similar styles on offense, and two out of the last three meetings in this series were decided by four points or less. Winning at night in Baton Rouge is never easy, but the advantages in this game are in favor of the Crimson Tide. Blake Sims has performed better at quarterback, and Alabama’s defense has been more dominant this year. LSU needs quarterback Anthony Jennings to have success through the air early to open rushing lanes on the ground. If Jennings struggles, the Tigers are in trouble. LSU always finds a way to keep it close at night in Baton Rouge, and Alabama’s struggles in the turnover department (13 lost in 2014) provide a blueprint on how to win. The Tigers need a few breaks to win this one, and Les Miles’ team falls short against a better Crimson Tide squad on Saturday night.

 

Prediction: Alabama 27, LSU 17
Teaser:
Alabama Crimson Tide vs. LSU Tigers 2014 Game Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, November 7, 2014 - 08:30
Path: /college-football/acc-2014-week-11-preview-and-predictions
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Florida State’s Thursday night victory over Louisville garnered most of the attention last weekend in the ACC, but the conference had three games decided by a touchdown or less, including Duke’s critical win over Pittsburgh in overtime.

Heading into Week 11, there’s not a marquee national matchup on the slate, but five matchups with conference implications provides some intrigue. Louisville’s trip to Boston College should be the best game of the weekend, while Duke travels to Syracuse, Florida State hosts Virginia and Georgia Tech hits the road for a matchup against NC State.

Duke maintains a lead in the Coastal Division, but the Blue Devils can’t afford a misstep with Miami a game behind in the standings, while Georgia Tech needs to beat NC State with a tough matchup against Clemson ahead in Week 12.

 

Week 11 Previews and Predictions:
Big 12Big TenPac-12SEC

 

ACC Week 11 Game Power Rankings

 

1. Louisville (-3) at Boston College
7:15 p.m. ET, ESPN2

 

The first meeting between Louisville and Boston College as ACC members highlights the Week 11 slate in the ACC. The Cardinals nearly upset Florida State last Thursday but fell short after a furious second-half rally by the Seminoles. The Eagles seem to be finding their stride recently by winning three out of their last four games. The only loss in that span was a four-point defeat to Clemson. The battle in the trenches is under the spotlight in Chestnut Hill, as Louisville’s run defense allowed a season-high 173 yards on the ground to Florida State. Boston College features a veteran offensive line and ranks second in the ACC with an average of 274.9 rushing yards per game. Four players have rushed for at least 263 yards this year, with quarterback Tyler Murphy closing in on 1,000 (965) to lead the Eagles. Louisville has the personnel to devote extra attention at the line of scrimmage, as its cornerbacks Terell Floyd and Charles Gaines lead a secondary that ranks first in the ACC in pass defense efficiency. When the Cardinals have the ball, keep an eye on an offensive line that has allowed 28 sacks this year. Boston College has recorded 25 sacks in nine games and has generated 69 tackles for a loss. Of Louisville’s four highest scoring games this year, two have occurred in the last two weeks. That’s largely due to the return of receiver DeVante Parker, along with the emergence of Michael Dyer at running back. Quarterback Will Gardner is also coming off his first 300-yard game of the season (330 against Florida State). Will the run-first style of Boston College win out? Or can Louisville slow down the Eagles’ rushing attack and jump ahead on the scoreboard to force Boston College out of its gameplan on offense? This should be the best game of the week in the ACC.

 

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2. Georgia Tech (-5.5) at NC State
12:30 p.m. ET, ACC Network/ESPN3

 

This is the first meeting between these two teams since 2011, and there’s plenty at stake for the Yellow Jackets and Wolfpack after both programs picked up key wins last Saturday. Georgia Tech needs to win out to have any shot at claiming the Coastal Division title, while NC State is a win away from bowl eligibility. In order for the Wolfpack to get their sixth win, stopping the run has to be a priority. Georgia Tech leads the ACC by averaging 319.7 rushing yards per game, while NC State is allowing 171.1 yards per contest. Quarterback Justin Thomas is the catalyst for the Yellow Jackets’ offense, but running back Synjyn Days has recorded back-to-back 100-yard efforts with Zach Laskey and Charles Perkins sidelined by injury. Establishing the run and controlling the clock is a priority for Georgia Tech with a defense that is allowing 6.4 yards per play in ACC games. NC State’s offense scored at least 41 points in four of its first five games but has not managed more than 24 points in a contest over its last four matchups. Playing better opponents has factored into the drop in production, and the Wolfpack need better play from an offensive line that has allowed 17 sacks in five ACC games.

 

3. Duke (-3.5) at Syracuse
12:30 p.m. ET, RSN/ESPN3

 

Duke’s overtime escape last week in Pittsburgh kept the Blue Devils atop the Coastal Division. And with three of Duke’s next four games at home, coach David Cutcliffe’s team has a good chance at repeating as division champs. Syracuse has lost six out of its last seven games, with the only victory coming in that span at Wake Forest (30-7). The Orange is struggling on offense (13th in ACC in yards per play), but the defense ranks fourth in the conference in fewest yards per play allowed (4.8). Syracuse’s defense will be tested against a Duke offense that is one of the most-balanced attacks in the league. The Blue Devils have passed for 755 yards and rushed for 654 yards in ACC play. Protecting quarterback Anthony Boone has been a strength for Duke all season – four sacks allowed in eight games – but Syracuse (61 tackles for a loss) will be aggressive in sending pressure. Another factor in Duke’s success this year has been its lack of turnovers. The Blue Devils have lost just five in eight games. The Orange needs to get pressure on Boone and force a couple of turnovers to have a shot on Saturday. True freshman quarterback A.J. Long has showed promise in four appearances this year, but the Orange has to do a better job of establishing a presence on the ground. Over the last two games, Syracuse has managed just 126 rushing yards. Duke gave up 358 rushing yards in last week’s win over Pittsburgh and has allowed seven scores on the ground over the last three contests.

 

4. Virginia at Florida State (-19.5)
6:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

 

Florida State’s win streak stands at 24, and the Seminoles should make it 25 on Saturday against a Virginia team that has lost its last three games. The Cavaliers were the last ACC team to win in Tallahassee, recording a 14-13 victory in 2011. In order to pull off the upset this year, Virginia needs several things to bounce its way. The offense is averaging only 19.4 points in ACC games, and quarterback Greyson Lambert has tossed four interceptions in his last two games. The strength of the Cavaliers rests with their defense, limiting opponents to five yards per play in ACC games and ranking in a tie for fourth in the league with 62 tackles for a loss. Florida State’s offensive line has struggled at times this year and should be challenged by a Virginia defensive line that features standout end Eli Harold (seven sacks) and a linebacking corps that ranks among the best in the ACC. Quarterback Jameis Winston suffered an ankle injury in last week’s win over Louisville, but the ailment is not expected to prevent him from playing on Saturday. If Winston’s offensive line provides adequate protection, the sophomore will test a secondary that has allowed 12 (second-most in ACC) in conference play this year. As if trying to stop Winston, receiver Rashad Greene and tight end Nick O’Leary wasn’t enough, Florida State has three true freshmen – running back Dalvin Cook and receivers Ermon Lane and Travis Rudolph – ready to emerge over the final month of the season. With a game against Miami next week, the Seminoles have avoid a letdown against Virginia, especially with this team entrenched at No. 2 in the college football playoff rankings.
 

5. Clemson (-21.5) at Wake Forest
7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN (Thursday)

 

Clemson won the last two meetings in this series by a combined score of 98-20, and the Tigers are a heavy favorite once again on Thursday night. Freshman quarterback Deshaun Watson is expected to miss his third consecutive game due to a hand injury, leaving senior Cole Stoudt back under center for Clemson coach Dabo Swinney. Stoudt is completing 63.2 percent of his throws but has just one passing score against Power 5 opponents in 2014. The Tigers won’t need a huge effort from their offense, as the defense is one of the best in the nation, and Wake Forest is averaging just 2.7 yards per play in conference games. Offensive line play is a huge problem for the Demon Deacons and this group will be challenged against a veteran and talented Clemson defensive front. Wake Forest has allowed 31 sacks in eight games and has not rushed for more than 71 yards in an ACC game this year. The Tigers need a lot of help to pass Florida State in the Atlantic Division, but Clemson still has plenty to play for with a potential berth in the Orange Bowl on the table if the Seminoles make the playoffs.

 

ACC Week 11 Predictions
 David 
Fox
Braden
Gall
Steven
Lassan
Mitch
Light
UL (-3) at BCBC 28-21UL 24-23UL 27-24BC 24-20
GT (-5.5) at NC StateGT 31-21NC State 34-33GT 34-27GT 37-27
Duke (-3.5) at SyracuseDuke 28-10Duke 30-24Duke 31-20Duke 37-19
UVa at FSU (-19.5)FSU 31-21FSU 31-14FSU 34-13FSU 31-10
Clemson (-21.5) at WakeClemson 42-7Clemson 30-7Clemson 34-7Clemson 41-10
Last Week:6-04-25-14-2
Season Record:65-2166-2068-1864-22

 

Teaser:
ACC 2014 Week 11 Preview and Predictions
Post date: Thursday, November 6, 2014 - 08:00
Path: /college-football/10-things-will-shape-college-football-playoff-final-five-weeks-2014
Body:

College football’s new playoff format has added a layer of intrigue to the regular season. While finishing in the top two – just like the old BCS format – is important, two additional teams have a chance to win the national title in a four-team postseason format.

The first release of the playoff committee's rankings provided some insight into the process, but with five weeks to go until the four teams are officially announced, plenty of changes are ahead in the weekly top 25 rankings.

 

What are some factors that will shape how the final rankings look? Scheduling is a huge element to consider, but quarterback play, defenses and emergence of freshmen are other factors to watch.

Here are 10 things to watch over the next five weeks:

 

10 Things That Will Shape CFB Playoff in Final Five Weeks
 
1. Showdowns in the SEC West

A significant piece of the inaugural College Football Playoff will be shaped by what happens in the SEC West. Will Mississippi State win out? If the Bulldogs win out, a victory over Alabama would seem to eliminate the Crimson Tide from the playoff picture. And what happens to Auburn if a two-loss Crimson Tide squad wins in the Iron Bowl? But that’s not all. What about the SEC Championship Game if the East winner (Georgia or Missouri) beats the West champion? That’s a huge wrench in the final ranking. It’s safe to say the SEC gets at least one team in the playoff this year. However, getting two will largely be determined on what happens in the remaining showdowns in November.

 

2. Florida State’s Emerging Young Talent

Florida State’s 2014 team isn’t as dominant as its '13 version. But that’s not a huge issue for coach Jimbo Fisher, as this team is pretty good in its own right. The biggest concern for the Seminoles remains in the trenches, but the offensive line showed some promise by clearing the way for 173 yards and three scores against Louisville. The defensive line is probably Florida State’s biggest concern, especially on the interior where Nile Lawrence-Stample was lost for the season. Even if the Seminoles allow 30 points a game, their offense could score 35-40 each week. Quarterback Jameis Winston is the headliner, but the sophomore has emerging stars at his disposal in a trio of true freshmen — running back Dalvin Cook and receivers Travis Rudolph and Ermon Lane. Cook is averaging 5.6 yards per rush, while Rudolph has 14 of his 19 catches over the last three games, and Lane caught a touchdown pass against Louisville. Florida State’s offense was already lethal without Cook, Rudolph and Lane. But this unit is even more deadly with the emergence of these talented first-year players on offense.

 

3. Ohio State-Michigan State Showdown

Barring major upsets and a complete shake up at the top of the playoff committee's rankings, the Big Ten is only getting one team into the four-team playoff. And as of Nov. 4, Michigan State and Ohio State need a lot of help to reach the top four. The Spartans have the better resume so far, with their only loss coming at Oregon in early September. The Buckeyes lost to Virginia Tech in September and do not have a win over a ranked team heading into Week 11. With all of that in mind, Saturday’s showdown in East Lansing is critical to the Big Ten getting one team in the mix. If Michigan State beats the Buckeyes handily, and Ohio State wins out to finish 10-2, coach Mark Dantonio’s team should be in the mix for a playoff spot. But what happens if the Spartans win a close game and the Buckeyes lose to Minnesota? That scenario would hurt the Big Ten’s case for a team in the top four. Regardless of what happens after Nov. 8, the winner of the Ohio State-Michigan State game is the only playoff contender left from the Big Ten.


4. Alabama QB Blake Sims

Quarterback play was the biggest concern in Tuscaloosa this offseason. Sims has been steady through the first eight games, completing 65.5 percent of his throws and tossing 15 touchdowns to just three picks. However, in Alabama’s only loss (Ole Miss), Sims had a costly interception. One week later against Arkansas, Sims threw for just 161 yards in a 14-13 win. With one of the nation’s best rushing attacks and defenses on his side, Sims doesn’t have to post huge numbers for the Crimson Tide to win each week. However, the senior has to be efficient and will be under scrutiny in upcoming games against LSU, Mississippi State and Auburn. It’s not unrealistic to suggest Sims’ play could determine whether or not Alabama wins the SEC or finishes 10-2.

 

5. Oregon’s Defense

If the Ducks win out, it’s a safe bet coach Mark Helfrich’s team will be in the four-team playoff. But Oregon still has three games and, presumably, the Pac-12 Championship Game remaining, including a road trip to Utah on Nov. 8. Of the remaining three regular-season games, the Utes should be the toughest opponent for the Ducks, but the Pac-12 title game also looms large against (potentially) offensive-minded teams like Arizona State or USC. Scoring points hasn’t been a problem for Oregon, but the defense is allowing 28.2 points per game in Pac-12 contests, 5.7 yards per play and is last in the conference in third-down defense. Will this cost the Ducks a game before the playoff? Maybe not, but it could prevent Oregon from winning the national title. Can the Ducks' defense make strides over the final month of the season?

 

6. Kansas State’s Road Trips

No team has a tougher road schedule over the final five weeks than Bill Snyder’s Wildcats. Kansas State plays at TCU this Saturday, followed by a road date at West Virginia on Nov. 20 and then a matchup at Baylor on Dec. 6. Navigating that road schedule without a loss is challenging, but certainly not impossible for the Wildcats. The Big 12 has more depth than most anticipated at the start of this year, and an 11-1 K-State team should make the playoff. Let’s also not forget the Wildcats have just one loss (Auburn, 20-14) in a game where they had three turnovers and missed three field goals.
 

7. Receivers at Ole Miss

Ole Miss is going to miss Laquon Treadwell. The sophomore was one of the SEC’s best receivers and led the team with 48 catches through the first nine games. Without Treadwell, the Rebels are looking to Vince Sanders, Cody Core, Quincy Adeboyejo and tight end Evan Engram to pick up the slack in the passing game. Why this is position critical? Even though Ole Miss has two losses, this team still has a chance to impact the four teams in the playoff with a game against Mississippi State on Nov. 29. Finding a way to replace Treadwell’s production for quarterback Bo Wallace is a huge priority for coach Hugh Freeze over the next two weeks.
 

8. Notre Dame’s Defense

Three of top four outputs (yards per play) against Notre Dame has taken place over the last three weeks. The Fighting Irish’s schedule has increased in difficultly during that span, so it’s not a surprise the defensive numbers aren’t as promising as they were earlier in the season. Notre Dame allowed 5.7 yards per play against Florida State, 5.9 against Navy and 6.1 against North Carolina. Linebacker Joe Schmidt was a key piece of the defense, and he suffered a season-ending ankle injury in the win over Navy. Add in the recent performance, combined with Schmidt’s loss and a challenging remaining slate - at Arizona State, Northwestern, Louisville and USC – and it’s easy to see why this unit will be under the microscope over the next four games. Notre Dame’s offense averages 35.4 points per contest, and coach Brian Kelly may need that type of production each week to help his young defense survive the Irish's most critical stretch of their season.

 

9. Todd Gurley’s Return at Georgia

Gurley’s return to the Georgia lineup on Nov. 15 is an interesting late-season development to consider in the overall playoff picture. The Bulldogs have a capable option in freshman Nick Chubb (501 yards in last three games), but prior to his suspension, Gurley may have been the best player in the nation. In five appearances this year, Gurley rushed for 773 yards and eight scores on 94 attempts. The junior is slated to return against Auburn, which is a game that is critical to the Bulldogs’ SEC East title hopes. And of course, the Tigers have their own playoff implications to deal with each week, as coach Gus Malzahn’s team ranked No. 3 in the first committee rankings. Is Gurley’s return enough for Georgia to knock off Auburn?

 

10. The Darkhorses and Upsets

College football changes drastically from week-to-week and upsets (see Florida over Georgia) are bound to happen over the final five weeks. Pinpointing the upsets is impossible, but there are a few teams to consider. Could Duke threaten Florida State in the ACC Championship Game? Probably not. Nebraska in the Big Ten Championship Game against Michigan State? That’s an interesting rematch scenario. If Arizona State reaches the Pac-12 Championship Game, the Sun Devils’ offense would be a tough matchup for Oregon’s defense. And we can’t forget about the SEC East champion (likely to be a heavy underdog) against the West. All of those scenarios don’t include a team like Miami taking down Florida State as an upset possibility or Utah beating Oregon. Count on an upset or two happening and changing the playoff outlook before college football's Final Four is released.

Teaser:
10 Things That Will Shape the College Football Playoff in Final Five Weeks of 2014
Post date: Wednesday, November 5, 2014 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/mississippi-state-unveils-egg-bowl-2014-uniforms-nov-29-game-against-ole-miss
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Mississippi State will wear alternate uniforms for its Nov. 29 showdown against rival Ole Miss.

The alternate Egg Bowl uniforms feature gold numbers, and the helmets feature gold trim around the Mississippi State logo.

Considering the success of Mississippi State and Ole Miss this year, the 2014 Egg Bowl should be an intriguing matchup. 

Check out Mississippi State's alternate uniforms for the Egg Bowl:

Teaser:
Mississippi State Unveils Egg Bowl 2014 Uniforms for Nov. 29 Game Against Ole Miss
Post date: Tuesday, November 4, 2014 - 10:45
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College football’s playoff committee released its first set of rankings last Tuesday. While the top 25 rankings are expected to change each week and will look drastically different from the release of the first poll to the last one, the playoff committee's poll provided some insight into the process.

 

Each week, Athlon Sports hopes to replicate the playoff committee’s work by asking some of college football’s top media members to vote on their top eight teams. This poll will attempt to project how the playoff picture stacks up after each week until the end of the year.

 

Expert Panel

 

Bobby Bowden (@TheBobbyBowden), Legends Poll
Gene Stallings, (@LegendsPoll), Legends Poll
Don Nehlen (@LegendsPoll), Legends Poll
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven), Athlon Sports
Braden Gall (@BradenGall), Athlon Sports
Zac Ellis (@ZacEllis), Sports Illustrated
David Fox (@DavidFox615), Athlon Sports
Mark Ennis (@MarkEnnis), CardChronicle.com
Teddy Mitrosilis (@TMitrosilis), Fox Sports

Steven Godfrey (@38Godfrey), SBNation.com
Matt Brown (@MattBrownCFB), SportsonEarth.com
Rich Cirminiello (@RichCirminiello), Campus Insiders
Brad Crawford (@BCrawfordSDS), SaturdayDownSouth.com
Allen Kenney (@BlatantHomerism), BlatantHomerism.com
Chris Anderson (@CMAnderson247), Eersports.com
Kyle Kensing (@kensing45), CFBHuddle.com
Adam Powell (@ACCSports), ACCSports.com
Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch) Athlon Sports
Josh Ward (@Josh_Ward), MrSEC.com
Kevin McGuire (@KevinonCFB), CollegeFootballTalk.com
Mark Ross (@AthlonMarkR), Athlon Sports


Post-Week 10 Playoff Projection

RankTeam 12345678Total
1Mississippi State126200100153
2Florida State89220000149
3Auburn05943000121
4TAlabama1145631099
4TOregon0049620099
6TCU0000573350
7Michigan State0001148542
8Kansas State0000026725
9Notre Dame0000021513
10TOle Miss000000102
10TOhio State000000102
12Arizona State000000011

Takeaways From Expert Poll Results

 

* For the third week in a row, Mississippi State and Florida State rank as the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the playoff projection.

* However, the Bulldogs’ grip on the No. 1 spot slipped after a close win over Arkansas. The Bulldogs edged Florida State 163 to 149 after Week 9, and the gap closed to 153 to 149 following Week 10.

* Auburn was a big winner in this week’s playoff projection. The Tigers moved from No. 5 to No. 3 after a victory over Ole Miss and rank just 28 points behind Florida State for the No. 2 spot.

* Oregon and Alabama tied for the No. 4 spot in this week’s vote. The Crimson Tide received a first and second-place vote, while the Ducks did not receive a vote higher than third.

* The committee has identified a clear top five: Mississippi State, Florida State, Auburn, Alabama and Oregon. After the top five is where things get interesting. TCU ranks No. 6 with 50 points, while Michigan State is No. 7 at 42 points. Those two teams will have a chance to climb in the rankings with key conference matchups in Week 11.

* Arizona State received a vote in a playoff projection poll for the first time in 2014.

* The SEC has four teams in the top 12. The Big 12, Big Ten and Pac-12 are tied for second in conference hierarchy with two teams making an appearance in the committee’s rankings.

 

Group of 5 Rankings


1. Marshall
Record:
8-0

The Thundering Herd was the biggest beneficiary of East Carolina’s loss to Temple. Marshall moves to the No. 1 spot in the Group of 5 rankings and will be a heavy favorite in each of its four remaining regular season games. The Thundering Herd travels to Southern Miss this Saturday and hosts defending C-USA champion Rice on Nov. 15. Marshall’s strength of schedule won’t do it any favors, but it has won all eight games by at least 15 points.

2. Boise State
Record:
6-2

There’s very little separation among the Group of 5 teams, and Boise State seems to have the best opportunity to pass Marshall for the No. 1 spot over the next few weeks. The Broncos play at New Mexico this Saturday, followed by a home date against San Diego State on Nov. 15. Strength of schedule is on Boise State’s side. However, can the two-loss Broncos pass an unbeaten Marshall?

3. Colorado State
Record:
8-1

The nation has started to take notice of coach Jim McElwain’s team, but the Rams need help to claim the Group of 5 bowl spot. With a head-to-head loss to Boise State, Colorado State is on the outside – for now. Conference champions are only eligible for the Group of 5 bowl spot, so the Rams need a loss by the Broncos in one of their four remaining conference games to have a shot at the Mountain West title.

4. East Carolina
Record:
6-2

The Pirates dropped from No. 1 to No. 4 on this list after their Week 10 loss to Temple. East Carolina is now one of five teams tied at 3-1 in American Athletic Conference play and needs a lot of help to get back into the conversation for a spot in a New Year’s Bowl.

5. Cincinnati
Record:
5-3

Houston, Cincinnati, Memphis, UCF, Temple or Nevada each deserves consideration for the No. 5 ranking on this list. The Bearcats get a slight edge over the other five teams mentioned, largely due to the upcoming schedule. Cincinnati still has to play East Carolina, Temple and Houston. It’s a longshot, but Tommy Tuberville’s team still has a chance – with a lot of help – to claim the Group of 5 bowl spot.

 

Key Games With Playoff/Bowl Implications in Week 11


Georgia at Kentucky
Noon ET, ESPN


Bulldogs no longer in control of East Division, but coach Mark Richt’s team needs to win in order to keep the pressure on Missouri.

Baylor at Oklahoma
Noon ET, Fox Sports 1


This game was slated to be the must-see matchup in the Big 12 this preseason but has lost a little luster with a combined three losses between these two teams.

Notre Dame at Arizona State
3:30 p.m. ET, ABC


An intriguing (and rare) non-conference game in November. Fighting Irish need to an impressive win to move up in the playoff committee rankings, while the Sun Devils have emerged as the favorite in the Pac-12 South.

Virginia at Florida State
6:30 p.m. ET, ESPN


Seminoles lost their last meeting (2011) against Virginia, but barring a huge letdown by Florida State, this one shouldn’t be close. Coach Jimbo Fisher’s team has one more tune-up before a showdown against in-state rival Miami.

UCLA at Washington
7 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1


Myles Jack (UCLA) and Shaq Thompson (Washington) are two of the nation’s most-versatile players and will garner plenty of attention on Saturday night. This one is critical to UCLA’s South Division title hopes, as the Bruins need to win to keep the pressure on Arizona State.

Boise State at New Mexico
7 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network


With East Carolina’s loss, the door is open for Marshall, Boise State and Colorado State for the Group of 5 spot in a New Year’s Bowl. The Broncos nearly lost (32-29) in their last trip to Albuquerque.

Hawaii at Colorado State
7 p.m. ET, ESPNU


Rams are dealing with injuries to quarterback Garrett Grayson and receiver Rashard Higgins, but even if both players are limited, it probably won’t matter against a struggling Hawaii team.

Louisville at Boston College
7:15 p.m. ET, ESPN2


Cardinals gave Florida State all it could handle last week but fell short after a second-half rally by the Seminoles. Louisville needs a win in Chestnut Hill to keep its Orange Bowl hopes alive.

Kansas State at TCU
7:30 p.m. ET, FOX


This game marks the first of three tough road trips for Kansas State for the remainder of the regular season: at TCU, at West Virginia and at Baylor. And this game should go a long ways to determining the Big 12 champion, especially since the Horned Frogs will be heavy favorites to win each of their final three games: at Kansas, at Texas and Iowa State.

Alabama at LSU
8 p.m. ET, CBS


The annual matchup between the Tigers and Crimson Tide is usually one of the SEC’s marquee games each year. There’s no shortage of talent on either roster, and three out of the last five matchups were decided by four points or less. Alabama is on the playoff bubble in our committee rankings, but Nick Saban’s team has the schedule to make a move in November: at LSU and home games against Auburn and Mississippi State.

Ohio State at Michigan State
8 p.m. ET, ABC

 

This matchup is easily the biggest game of the year in the Big Ten and has major playoff implications. The last four meetings are split at two victories apiece, while two of the last three games were decided by three points or less.


Oregon at Utah
10 p.m. ET, ESPN


A letdown concern for Oregon? The Ducks put a lot into last week’s game against Stanford and now travel to take on a dangerous Utah team. The Utes’ defense will be a good test for Oregon quarterback (and Heisman favorite) Marcus Mariota. 

Teaser:
College Football's Post-Week 10 Playoff Projection
Post date: Tuesday, November 4, 2014 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-post-week-10-bowl-projections-2014
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With 10 weeks in the books, college football’s bowl and national title picture is starting to clear. The playoff committee will release its second set of rankings on Tuesday this week, which should give fans, coaches and players a better idea of what the committee values heading into the last few weeks of the season.

 

The new playoff format has added a new layer of intrigue, as four teams – instead of two – will have a shot at the national championship once the bowl pairings are announced in early December.

 

With 10 weeks are in the books, it’s never too early to start looking at what the bowl picture might hold for each conference and team this year. The post-Week 10 bowl projections are a mixture between picks for the next few weeks, how things would look if the season ended today, and the results from the first nine weeks of action. Expect several changes over the next few weeks.

 

Teams on the projection bubble: Oregon State, Virginia, North Carolina, Ohio, Wyoming, Texas State, Arkansas, Kentucky, Texas, San Jose State and Northwestern. Remember: It’s only Week 10. Several changes are coming, and it’s impossible to project all of the wins and losses the rest of the way considering how much changes week-to-week in college football.

 

College Football's Post-Week 10 Bowl Projections

BowlDateTie-InProjection
New OrleansDec. 20Sun Belt vs.
Mountain West
 UL Lafayette vs. 
Air Force 
New MexicoDec. 20C-USA vs. 
Mountain West
 UTEP vs.
Utah State 
Las VegasDec. 20Mountain West vs.
Pac-12
 Boise State vs.
Utah 
Famous Idaho PotatoDec. 20MAC vs.
Mountain West
 Bowling Green vs.
Nevada 
CamelliaDec. 20MAC vs. 
Sun Belt
 Akron vs.
Arkansas State 
Miami BeachDec. 22American vs. 
BYU
 East Carolina vs.
BYU 
Boca RatonDec. 23C-USA vs.
MAC
 UAB vs.
Central Michigan 
PoinsettiaDec. 23Mountain West vs.
Navy
Colorado State vs.
Navy 
BahamasDec. 24C-USA vs. 
MAC
 MTSU vs.
Western Michigan 
HawaiiDec. 24C-USA vs.
Mountain West
 Western Kentucky vs.
San Diego State 
Heart of DallasDec. 26Big Ten vs.
C-USA
 Rutgers vs.
Rice 
Quick LaneDec. 26ACC vs.
Big Ten
 Virginia Tech vs.
Minnesota 
St. PetersburgDec. 26ACC vs.
American
 California* vs.
UCF 
MilitaryDec. 27

ACC vs. 
American

 Pittsburgh vs.
Temple 
SunDec. 27ACC vs.
Pac-12
 Louisville vs.
Arizona 
IndependenceDec. 27ACC vs.
SEC
 NC State vs.
Louisiana Tech* 
PinstripeDec. 27ACC vs.
Big Ten
 Boston College vs. 
Penn State 
HolidayDec. 27Big Ten vs.
Pac-12
 Wisconsin vs.
UCLA 
LibertyDec. 29SEC vs. 
Big 12
 Tennessee vs.
West Virginia 
Russell AthleticDec. 29ACC vs.
Big 12
 Duke vs.
Oklahoma 
TexasDec. 29Big 12 vs.
SEC
 Oklahoma State vs.
Texas A&M 
Music CityDec. 30ACC/Big Ten vs.
SEC
 Iowa vs.
Florida 
BelkDec. 30ACC vs. 
SEC
 Georgia Tech vs.
South Carolina 
San FranciscoDec. 30Big Ten vs.
Pac-12
 Maryland vs.
USC 
OutbackJan. 1Big Ten vs.
SEC
 Nebraska vs.
Missouri 
CitrusJan. 1Big Ten/ACC vs.
SEC
 Ohio State vs.
Georgia 
Armed ForcesJan. 2American vs.
Big 12/Army
 Houston vs.
Washington* 
TaxslayerJan. 2ACC/Big Ten vs.
SEC
 Miami vs.
LSU 
AlamoJan. 2Big 12 vs.
Pac-12
 Baylor vs.
Arizona State 
CactusJan. 2Big 12 vs.
Pac-12
 Memphis* vs.
Stanford 
BirminghamJan. 3American vs.
SEC
Cincinnati vs.
Northern Illinois* 
GoDaddyJan. 4MAC vs.
Sun Belt
 Toledo vs.
South Alabama 
    
New Year's Bowls
PeachDec. 31At-large vs.
At-large
 Marshall vs.
Alabama 
FiestaDec. 31At-large vs.
At-large
 Kansas State vs.
Ole Miss 
OrangeDec. 31ACC vs. 
Big Ten/SEC
 Clemson vs.
Notre Dame 
CottonJan. 1At-large vs.
At-large
 TCU vs. 
Michigan State 
    
Related: Projecting the Playoff Teams After Week 10
RoseJan. 1Playoff
Semifinal
 Florida State vs.
Auburn 
SugarJan. 1Playoff
Semifinal
 Mississippi State vs.
Oregon 
National TitleJan. 12Semifinal Winner vs.
Semifinal Winner

 Mississippi State vs.
Florida State 

* Indicates an at-large selection. Conference not projected to have enough bowl-eligible teams to fulfill the conference alignment. 

 

Teaser:
College Football's Post-Week 10 Bowl Projections
Post date: Tuesday, November 4, 2014 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Ole Miss Rebels, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/ole-miss-forced-regroup-offense-without-receiver-laquon-treadwell
Body:

Ole Miss lost a critical piece of its offense on Saturday night. Receiver Laquon Treadwell suffered a fractured fibula and dislocated ankle on a tackle late in the game by Auburn linebacker Kris Frost.

Just one look at the stat sheet shows how important Treadwell is to the Rebels’ offense.

Through nine games, Treadwell led the team with 48 receptions and 632 yards. He also tied for first with five touchdown catches.

Vince Sanders, Cody Core and tight end Evan Engram are a capable trio for quarterback Bo Wallace, but Treadwell was easily the team’s No. 1 target and likely the best receiver in the SEC outside of Alabama’s Amari Cooper.

True freshman Markell Pack has seven receptions for 70 yards and is listed as a backup to Core in the slot. However, Pack should see a bigger role in the offense moving forward. Redshirt freshman Trey Bledsoe was listed as Treadwell’s backup on the depth chart prior to Saturday night’s game against Auburn and will join Pack as a bigger contributor moving forward as well.

While Treadwell can be replaced in terms of another receiver stepping in, his impact is going to be felt in the Rebels’ passing game.

And Treadwell’s absence the rest of the year underscores how critical it will be for Ole Miss to develop a rushing game this offseason. The Rebels don’t have a traditional ground attack and average only 3.9 yards per carry. This is one area coach Hugh Freeze will have to work on in spring practice, which should also improve as the team improves its offensive line.

In Saturday’s game against Auburn, Treadwell was one of the best players on the field, catching 10 passes for 103 yards and a score.

And in Ole Miss’ 23-17 win over Alabama in early October, Treadwell caught five passes for 55 yards and one touchdown.

Despite back-to-back losses, the Rebels still have plenty to play for this year. Ole Miss should have no trouble with Presbyterian next Saturday and has a bye before closing out 2014 with a matchup at Arkansas and then the home finale against Mississippi State.

If Ole Miss manages to finish 10-2, it could be enough to claim a spot in one of college football’s top bowl games. And of course, finishing 10-2 assumes a win over Mississippi State – so the opportunity to play spoiler is out there.

Treadwell will be missed, and Ole Miss will have to regroup on offense. Young players will have to step up, and quarterback Bo Wallace may target tight end Evan Engram more often. Despite the huge absence in the receiving corps and the back-to-back losses, there’s plenty still at stake for the Rebels over the last three regular season matchups and postseason game. 

Teaser:
Ole Miss Forced to Regroup on Offense Without Receiver Laquon Treadwell
Post date: Sunday, November 2, 2014 - 16:39
All taxonomy terms: ACC, College Football, Miami Hurricanes, News
Path: /college-football/miamis-looming-showdown-against-florida-state-could-be-biggest-game-al-goldens
Body:

With a 6-3 overall record and a 3-2 mark in conference play this year, it’s hard to say Miami has made significant progress in coach Al Golden’s fourth year. The Hurricanes are just 16-13 under Golden’s watch in ACC games, but there’s optimism for the program after the last three games.

 

Miami stayed within striking distance of Duke in the Coastal Division with a convincing 47-20 win over North Carolina on Saturday. The win over the Tar Heels was the Hurricanes’ third in a row and ensured the program would go bowling in 2014.

While the three-game winning streak is a positive sign, there’s a huge showdown looming for Miami on Nov. 15 against Florida State. Forget about the Nov. 22 game against Virginia and the Nov. 29 matchup against Pittsburgh. The true barometer of Golden’s tenure is the upcoming game against the Seminoles.

Miami is 0-4 in its last four matchups against Florida State and has won just one out of the last six matchups in this series. And it’s not just a loss, as the Hurricanes lost by 27 points last season and was easily handled by the Seminoles 45-17 in 2010.

Considering Miami’s three-game winning streak consisted of two fringe bowl teams and a 5-3 Cincinnati team, it’s easy to poke holes in the resume and think another blowout loss to Florida State is coming.

However, there are reasons to believe the Hurricanes are poised to threaten the Seminoles run to the playoff.

Florida State’s rush defense has allowed at least 156 rushing yards in each of its last three games. That’s not awful, but it also represents an opportunity for Miami running back Duke Johnson to control the pace of the game and keep the Seminoles’ explosive offense on the sidelines. Johnson has rushed for 588 yards over his last three games this year.

Quarterback Brad Kaaya has not tossed an interception in three games and completed at least 64 percent of his passes in two out of the last three contests.

Miami’s defense was the target of criticism after giving up 6.8 yards per play against Nebraska and 318 rushing yards in a loss to Georgia Tech.

But over the last three games, the Hurricanes have been stingy against opposing rushing attacks (2.1 ypc), and the defense has recorded 18 tackles for a loss in that span. In Football Outsiders’ Defensive S&P ratings, Miami ranked No. 18 prior to the victory over North Carolina.

Again, the recent play by an injured offensive line, quarterback Brad Kaaya and running back Duke Johnson is an encouraging sign for Miami. And the defense seems to be playing better, albeit against weak competition.

With two weeks to prepare, Miami should be at full strength against Florida State on Nov. 15.

The Seminoles have dominated this rivalry in recent years, continue to out-recruit Miami and are the better team on paper. With that in mind, this might be the biggest game in Golden’s tenure. There’s some positive momentum with a three-game winning streak for the Hurricanes and this year’s matchup is in Coral Gables (with a healthy Florida State contingent expected). Can Miami capitalize off some of Florida State’s weaknesses and make this a competitive game?

Nov. 15 is shaping up to be a huge barometer game for Miami. There are reasons to believe the Hurricanes will be able to be competitive against one of the top teams in the nation, and Golden needs a big win to answer some of the critics.

Despite the positive momentum, it’s also easy to doubt how wins over Virginia Tech, North Carolina and Cincinnati are enough for Miami to breakthrough against the Seminoles.

Only time will tell.

Either way, Nov. 15 should be an interesting moment for Al Golden’s tenure at Miami.

Teaser:
Miami's Looming Showdown Against Florida State Could be Biggest Game of Al Golden's Tenure
Post date: Sunday, November 2, 2014 - 15:02
Path: /college-football/tennessees-joshua-dobbs-athlon-sports-week-10-player-week
Body:

Tennessee quarterback Joshua Dobbs shined in the Volunteers’ 45-42 overtime win over South Carolina. Dobbs was the catalyst in a furious fourth-quarter rally, guiding Tennessee’s offense 21 points – including the game-tying touchdown with just 11 seconds remaining.

Whether it was on the ground or through the air, South Carolina’s defense simply had no answer for the talented sophomore. Dobbs earned Athlon Sports National Player of the Week honors for Week 10 by passing for 301 yards and two scores and leading the team with 166 yards and three touchdowns on the ground.

The Volunteers are rebuilding under second-year coach Butch Jones, and the program has found a spark on offense in the last two games with Dobbs under center. Against Alabama, Dobbs rushed for 75 yards and passed for 192 yards. One week later, Dobbs took another step forward in his development, leading Tennessee to an overtime win over South Carolina.

 

Dobbs played in the final five games of last season but clearly looks more comfortable in Tennessee’s offense after a full offseason to work with the coaching staff. And with an offensive line that’s also rebuilding, Dobbs’ mobility has been a huge asset. The sophomore’s emergence should give Tennessee a chance to win each of its remaining three games and reach a bowl for the first time since 2010.

 

Defensive Player of the Week: Erick Dargan, S, Oregon
The Ducks snapped a two-game losing streak to Stanford with a 45-16 victory on Saturday night. Both sides of the ball delivered in the win, as the offense posted 45 points and averaged 6.8 yards per play, while the defense held the Cardinal to just three second-half points. Dargan was one of the leaders for Oregon’s defensive effort, pacing the team with 12 tackles (nine solo) and recording one interception. The senior also forced fumble on Stanford’s opening drive for the fourth quarter. Saturday’s game was just another standout performance for the senior, as he leads the team in tackles and has five interceptions through nine games.

 

Coordinator of the Week: Dave Aranda, Wisconsin

Aranda entered the season with just three returning starters and a host of questions about the defense. But after eight games, Aranda has found plenty of answers to his preseason concerns, and Wisconsin’s defense is performing at a high level over the last two weeks. The Badgers held Maryland to seven points on Oct. 25 and pitched a shutout against Rutgers (37-0) on Saturday. Since allowing 6.5 yards per play against USF on Sept. 27, Wisconsin’s defense has held opponents to a lower per-play mark in four consecutive games. The Terrapins managed only 3.1 yards per play last weekend, while the Badgers held Rutgers to 2.5 mark in Week 10. In just two seasons at Wisconsin, Aranda has emerged as one of the Big Ten’s top coordinators and is a big reason why the Badgers could sweep their final four games (at Purdue, Nebraska, at Iowa and Minnesota) on a path to a West Division title.
 

Freshman of the Week: Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State
Cook received only nine carries in Thursday night’s 42-31 win over Louisville, but the true freshman made the most of his opportunities. Cook recorded 110 yards and two scores on nine attempts and caught four passes for 40 yards. The true freshman averaged 12.2 yards per carry, with his big-play ability showcased on touchdown runs of 38 and 40 yards. Cook’s 38-yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter gave Florida State the lead for good against the Cardinals. After the five-star true freshman delivered in the clutch on Thursday night, it’s a safe bet he will be a bigger part of the offense in future weeks.

Teaser:
Tennessee's Joshua Dobbs is Athlon Sports' Week 10 Player of the Week
Post date: Sunday, November 2, 2014 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/washington-state-qb-connor-halliday-suffers-season-ending-leg-injury-against-usc
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Washington State quarterback Connor Halliday suffered a broken fibula in Saturday’s loss to USC and will miss the remainder of the 2014 season.

The senior was hit after a pass in the first half and was transported from the field on a cart.

Halliday passed for 40 yards and one pick on nine attempts in limited action against USC on Saturday.

For the season, Halliday passed for 3,833 yards and 32 scores.

Backup Luke Falk completed 38 of 57 passes for 370 yards and two scores after Halliday’s injury.

 

Washington State was eliminated from bowl contention after the loss to USC, as coach Mike Leach’s team is 2-7 and 1-5 in the Pac-12. The Cougars won’t have an easy finish to the season with road trips to Oregon State and Arizona State up next, followed by the Apple Cup finale against Washington.

Teaser:
Washington State QB Connor Halliday Suffers Season-Ending Leg Injury Against USC
Post date: Saturday, November 1, 2014 - 21:57
Path: /college-football/nebraska-rb-ameer-abdullah-leaves-game-against-purdue-due-knee-injury
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Nebraska running back Ameer Abdullah left Saturday’s game against Purdue due to a knee injury. Abdullah was injured early in the first half against the Boilermakers and was replaced by Imani Cross and Terrell Newby.

Prior to the knee injury, Abdullah rushed for just one yard on six carries.

According to coach Bo Pelini, Abdullah will not return in the second half.

However, Abdullah’s knee injury is not believed to be serious, and the senior will have two weeks to get ready for the Nov. 15 showdown against Wisconsin.

Teaser:
Nebraska RB Ameer Abdullah Leaves Game Against Purdue Due to Knee Injury
Post date: Saturday, November 1, 2014 - 17:46
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New rivalries are a part of any league as expansion has changed the outlook of all of the Power 5 conferences in recent years.

In their first meeting as Big Ten foes, Maryland and Penn State attempted to jumpstart a new rivalry with some pregame fireworks between the two teams.

Only time will tell if this actually becomes a rivalry, but these two teams wasted no time showing their dislike for each other.

Here are the two teams exchanging some pleasantries in warm-ups:

 


And here’s the best part: Maryland refused to shake hands with Penn State’s players prior to the coin toss: 

 

 

Teaser:
Maryland Refuses to Shake Hands With Penn State During Pregame Coin Toss
Post date: Saturday, November 1, 2014 - 13:50
Path: /college-football/oregon-ducks-vs-stanford-cardinal-game-preview-and-prediction-2014
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The annual meeting between Stanford and Oregon has played a key role in shaping the Pac-12 championship in recent seasons. Over the last four years, the winner of the Stanford-Oregon matchup won the conference title.  

 

And barring a significant change of events in November, this game will significantly shape the conference title once again. Stanford is 3-2 in conference play and has to beat Oregon to keep its Pac-12 title hopes alive. On the other sideline, the Ducks need to win to rank among the nation’s best in next week’s playoff poll. A two-loss Oregon team could get left out of the playoff, so every week is essentially an elimination game for coach Mark Helfrich’s team.

 

Stanford holds a 43-30-1 series edge over Oregon. The Cardinal has won three out of the last five meetings in this series, including two in a row and the most recent meeting in Eugene.

 

Stanford at Oregon

 

Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: FOX

Spread: Oregon -8

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Marcus Mariota Versus Stanford’s Defense
Stanford has been Mariota’s biggest nemesis in his three years as Oregon’s starting quarterback. The junior is 0-2 and completed 57.8 percent of his throws – a drop from his normal 66.5 percent career mark – against the Cardinal. Stanford sacked Mariota three times last year and held the Ducks scoreless until the fourth quarter. Will this year be any different? Despite a new coordinator (Lance Anderson) and a few new faces, the Cardinal hasn’t missed a beat on defense. Stanford is limiting opponents to 3.7 yards per play and only one offense managed more than 17 points so far this year. The success of the Cardinal defense starts up front, as senior Henry Anderson (35 tackles) anchors the line and the 3-4 attack. Anderson will have to do more of the heavy lifting on Saturday night with tackle David Parry out due to injury. With Parry sidelined, Oregon may look to attack the middle of Stanford’s defensive front. The linebacking corps is Stanford’s deepest and most-talented collection of players on defense. Junior Blake Martinez is having a breakout year, and redshirt freshman Peter Kalambayi leads the team with 5.5 sacks. If the Cardinal is able to generate pressure on Mariota, this defense will have a chance to control the pace of the game. It’s critical Stanford wins the battle at the line of scrimmage to have a chance to win on Saturday.

 

2. Stanford’s Offense
Even if Stanford’s defense finds a way to slow down Oregon’s offense, can the Cardinal generate enough points to pull off the upset? Coach David Shaw promised to tweak the offense after a sluggish showing against Arizona State, and the one-week results against Oregon State were promising. Stanford scored 38 points against the Beavers and averaged 6.7 yards per play – its best mark in Pac-12 games this year. But winning at home against Oregon State and beating Oregon on the road is a different challenge. Sure, the Ducks have struggled on defense this year, allowing 5.7 yards per play and is last in third-down defense in the Pac-12. But what is Stanford’s identity on offense right now? With a rebuilt offensive line and no clear go-to back, the Cardinal need to ask more from quarterback Kevin Hogan. The junior is completing 62.6 percent of his throws but tossed two interceptions in a 17-14 loss to Notre Dame. Hogan also completed only 48.7 percent of his passes in a 26-10 loss to Arizona State. The bottom line for Stanford’s offense is clear: Hogan has to play better and needs to get the ball to the team’s playmakers. Receivers Ty Montgomery and Devon Cajuste will have opportunities for big plays on Saturday night. And if Hogan has success through the air, it should allow the rushing attack to find lanes against the Ducks – ranked 10th in the Pac-12 against the run. Time of possession is an overrated statistic. But Stanford needs to control the pace of the game and limit Mariota’s opportunities on offense.
 

3. Oregon RB Royce Freeman and Stanford WR Ty Montgomery

Freeman and Montgomery are this game’s biggest x-factors. Freeman has been a breakout player for Oregon in his true freshman campaign, rushing for 748 yards and 13 touchdowns on 136 attempts. The true freshman has three consecutive 100-yard efforts and gashed Washington for 169 yards and four scores. Stanford is limiting opponents to 2.6 yards per carry and has held three Pac-12 opponents to less than 100 yards on the ground. Without tackle David Parry, will Freeman find room to run against this stingy defense? On the other sideline, Montgomery is one of the nation’s top all-purpose threats. The senior leads the team with 1,163 total yards, averaging 13.1 yards per touch. Considering how dangerous Montgomery is with the ball in his hands, it’s important for coach David Shaw to get the senior 10-15 touches in a variety of ways.

 

Final Analysis

 

This game was pegged by most in the offseason to be one of the biggest games of the year in the Pac-12. While this is still an intriguing matchup, this game has lost some of its appeal due to Stanford’s 4-3 record. Even though the Cardinal isn’t as highly ranked as most anticipated, there’s still plenty at stake for both teams. Stanford has controlled this rivalry over the last two years, but it’s also worth considering Mariota was not at full strength in last season’s meeting. With Mariota back at full strength and capable of running, Oregon’s offense should be more dynamic on Saturday night. Stanford will move the ball on the Ducks’ defense, but Mariota delivers with the game on the line to snap a two-game losing streak to the Cardinal.

 

Prediction: Oregon 34, Stanford 24

Teaser:
Oregon Ducks vs. Stanford Cardinal Game Preview and Prediction 2014
Post date: Friday, October 31, 2014 - 10:00

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