Category Archives: NCAA

The College Football Playoffs Are Finally Set

For the first time in the history of college football, there will be a four team college playoff to decide who hoists the National Championship Trophy will come January 10th, at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

The teams that made the final cut are The Ohio State Buckeyes, The Alabama Crimson Tide, The Ducks from the University of Oregon, and The Florida State Seminoles.

The request for a new playoff system has been requested for quite some time now. A lot of the sports world did not like the fact the BCS bowl selection took place.

Now more people than not are for the playoff system. The system is still flawed for some but better from where it was from previous years.

For the most part there was no movement between the first and second placed teams. The Alabama Crimson Tide, and the Ducks from the University of Oregon. They never strayed far from their positions.

The final two spots were a different story. The Seminoles from Florida State did the most movement. Even though, they did not lose one game during the season.

The top two teams have one loss each. The Buckeyes are also undefeated.

The reasoning for the placement is the toughness of the schedule and the conference each team is in respectively. The #1 team is Alabama, coming out of the powerhouse that is the SEC.

Oregon is coming out of another powerhouse from the west the PAC 12 conference, Florida State comes out of the ACC, and finally Ohio State coming out of the BIG 10 (but the conference has 13 teams, different conversation for a different day).

Other notable mentions were the Baylor Bears, and the TCU Horned Frogs. At one point TCU was ranked third a week prior to the final announcement, before Ohio State took the final spot in the last announcement.

With that said the teams are set, and there will be two games played on the first day of the New Year. The first is the Rose Bowl where the #2 Oregon Ducks will face the #3 Florida State Seminoles.

The Seminoles were always in the top four teams, but they struggled the whole season to beat some clearly easy wins against unranked teams. Despite this they were able to overcome this and still remain undefeated.

The Seminoles are the defending National Champions after defeating the Auburn Tigers. They are also led by reigning Heisman winner Jameis Winston. This year the Seminoles have struggled to say the least.

Yet they are still undefeated and share an undefeated record with the Buckeyes. This year Winston was not even nominated for a finalist in this year Heisman Trophy.

The Oregon Ducks on the other hand now have this years Heisman winner Marcus Mariota. Mariota was the clear winner gaining more than 90% of the total votes, second highest in the history of the Heisman voting.

This year Mariota was having a standout season. Leading into the bowl games he has 3,783 yards, 38 touchdowns, and only two interceptions.

His competition included another player that is in the College Football Playoff, Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper.

Also included in the list was University of Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon. Gordon was coming off a FBS record for single game rushing yards, only to have his record beaten the next week.

The matchups should be action packed, with four different types of high powered offenses.

The first matchup is the Rose Bowl between the #2 Oregon and #3 Florida State. One team has no losses while the other has one loss. Yet the team with the one loss is actually ranked higher than the undefeated team.

Jameis Winston and the Seminoles look to power through the quick play running Oregon. Even though, the Seminoles have struggled their past few games, they have found a way to win each one of those games.

This game will be like no other. It will show off the last two Heisman winners. Two amazing quarterbacks showing off their arm and capabilities on the field.

If the regular college football season is any indication of what will happen on January 1st, then the play of the quarterbacks is quite important.

The way Oregon runs their offense they will be scoring and scoring fast. The Seminoles will have to combat this with Jameis Winston and his arm.

Winston has thrown 17 interceptions this season. That against a high powered offense is definite trouble for the undefeated Seminoles.

The point is not to try to keep up with Oregon, but to combat them with smart offense, and even better defense.

The Florida State defense will probably not completely stop the Ducks, but they can at least slow it down enough for the Seminole offense to make the game competitive and try to come out victorious.

On the side of Oregon, they are already the favorite to win the game. They have their Heisman winner and a great overall offense as well as a defense.

Every game except the game they lost of course has been a dominant win for Oregon. That cannot be said for Florida State, who barely squeaked by in certain games, and in some cases needed overtime to carry them to a win.

In that case Oregon should probably prevail, but given the fight in the Seminoles it is easier said then done.

Next there is the Allstate Sugar Bowl between #1 Alabama and #4 Ohio State. The Crimson Tide has been in the first place spot for quite some time. They have not lost their ranking since they were ranked #1.

They are arguably the most difficult conference in the US next to the PAC 12. Alabama have been putting on clinics on their way to their wins.

They are led by head coach Nick Saban. Saban has four national championships under his belt, while at LSU he won one, at Alabama he has three (2009, 2011-12).

Along with a great coach at the helm they also have Amari Cooper who is having a stellar season and is leading all receivers in yards and points.

On the other side there is the Ohio State University. Leading them is a familiar name in Urban Meyer. Who left the Florida Gators, and tried his luck in his home state of Ohio.

Coach Meyer has led the Buckeyes to a 12 win season for the past three years, after they were not bowl eligible for the previous 2 years.

If the backs weren’t against the wall of the Buckeyes ranked 4th facing Alabama, they have to do it with their back up of the back up quarterback. That’s right they are facing the #1 team in the nation with their 3rd string quarterback Cardale Jones.

Yet with this same quarterback they were able to dismantle the Wisconsin Badgers in the BIG 10 championship. After the game they destroyed the Badgers 59-0.

In total Wisconsin only had 78 total yards on the ground, they held another Heisman hopeful Melvin Gordon who was leading the nation in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns to no touchdowns for the first time this season.

So the likelihood of this game being a great game is more than likely. Both of the games that will be played on New Years Day should be great and the championship January 10th.

No matter what the outcome of the Rose and Sugar Bowl, we are in for a treat when the four best teams in the nation face off against one another, and the final two will battle and claim the first ever College Football National Championship Final.

Rapid Reaction: No. 2 Oregon 51 – No. 7 Arizona 13 (Pac-12 Championship)

By Ariel Bedford


The Ducks came into Santa Clara looking for revenge. Removing any doubt of their playoff worthiness as Kings of The West Coast, Oregon simply bottled up Arizona—claiming another Pac-12 football crown on a rainy Northern California night.

How Ducks Won: UO ran the ball with more effectiveness, especially from the quarterback position. Marcus Mariota finished the game with 313 yards passing and three rushing scores, including two key touchdown runs in the first half. Oregon’s Heisman front runner was looking to tuck and sprint much more often this time around, unlike early October in Eugene when he tallied only 1 yard on the ground versus the ‘Cats and Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year Scooby Wright.

X-Factor of Game: OLB Tony Washington, Oregon. The Senior from Rancho Cucamonga made up for the unsportsmanlike conduct penalty he received after a sack on AZ QB Anu Solomon late in the regular season match that may have cost them a close victory. His sack on the aforementioned Solomon in the title game, with 4:03 left in the second quarter for a loss of 6 yards to the Arizona 35, was the signature example of constant pressure applied  by Defensive Coordinator Don Pellum’s unit throughout the battle.

Stat of the Contest: After three quarters of play, Arizona only amassed 45 rushing yards as a team.

Why It Matters: Besides securing a spot in the inaugural College Football Playoff by beating a Top 10 opponent, Oregon put the nation on notice—the Ducks are ready to play physical, championship caliber football versus anyone the committee pits them up against. The defense stifled ‘Zona’s version of the zone read attack crafted by Head Coach Rich Rodriguez, forcing the ‘Cats into 3rd and long situations on a very consistent basis.

Offensively, it wasn’t a perfect outing for UO. With 10:16 left in the second quarter OL Doug Brenner committed a false start on 4th and goal from Arizona’s 1-yard line; another false start by DL Erik Armstead made the chip shot field goal try in wet Levi’s Stadium slightly more slippery, with kicker Aidan Schneider missing a 27-yard attempt.

Despite choppy play at times from the offensive line, Oregon washed over the Wildcats to make a legitimate case for the top overall seed. Depending on how the rest of Championship Weekend pans out, the Ducks might be hitting Bourbon Street instead of going back to Cali for the National Semifinals.

Featured Photo Credit: Image via seatvalet.com


Ariel Bedford writes for Scouts Alley. A freelancer from Florida, he also is a contributor for Bleacher Report. Check out his personal media profile page and follow him on Twitter @mpcmi.

 

SEC-ular Sacrament: The Week That Giants Will Fall?

By Ariel Bedford


 

“It’s… About… To go-DOWN!”—a rap phrase by one Jay-Z that has never resonated more than when used to describe this upcoming weekend’s slate of college football games within the Southeastern Conference.

       Photo via rockdalenews.com
                                     Photo via rockdalenews.com

Mississippi State travels to Tuscaloosa. Auburn heads to battle UGA “Between the Hedges” with a motivated monster of a running back in Todd Gurley returning as starter. SEC East defending champs Mizzou taking on a suddenly hot Texas A&M Aggies squad led by freshman QB Kyle Allen. Most of the six head-to-head SEC matchups have some meaning in one way or another.

The implications of these contests will be huge after the dust settles Saturday. Why, you ask? Because the cannibalization of the conference will truly become apparent for all to see. A best case scenario would probably be the Bulldogs squeaking by ‘Bama, and only LSU and Texas A&M falling out of the AP/Coaches Top 25 ranks after respective losses.

The worst case scenario could be the Bayou Bengals, Aggies, Bulldogs, and Auburn Tigers losing on the same day. This chain of events would cluster the entire conference and make for some potentially wild outcomes before two combatants are chosen to face off in the Georgia Dome come December.

Photo via athlonsports.com
                                      Photo via athlonsports.com

If you’re a fan of SEC football, be on alert for the next 60 hours. The results from this weekend’s games could jeopardize your beloved conference’s chance of getting ANY team into this year’s CFP format, let alone two…

Featured Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons


Ariel Bedford writes for Scouts Alley. A freelancer from Florida, he also is a contributor for Bleacher Report. Check out his personal media profile page and follow him on Twitter @mpcmi.

 

 

Heisman Watch 2014: Who’s In at Week 11

By Ashley Gulick


Although there is still a lot of football left to play, the 2014 Heisman Watch is beginning to finally take shape and produce a notable list of legitimate frontrunners. At Week 11 of the 2014 season, here are my thoughts as to which players are rising to the “cream of the crop.”

1) Dak Prescott – QB Mississippi State

Although the Bulldogs scraped out a 17-10 victory over Arkansas on Saturday night, it certainly was not their prettiest win of the season by any means. But, enter quarterback Dak Prescott. Once again, Prescott proved his ability and efficiency as a leader under pressure, and that is why I have him at the top of my Heisman list.

After a 69-yard pass to Fred Ross for the go-ahead touchdown, Prescott was more than clutch in a game-winning moment. After going 18 of 27 for 331 yards and a TD, Prescott is now the first Mississippi State QB to throw for 300 yards since 2007. The Bulldogs are also on an 11-game win streak, which is the second longest in the country behind Florida State. If Prescott can continue to lead his team—and most importantly bring home a huge win in a couple of weeks against Alabama—then I think he will definitely be sitting in prime position to bring home the trophy.

For the season, Prescott is 132 of 216 for 2,025 yards, 16 TDs and 7 INTs. He also has 137 carries for 725 yards and 10 TDs.

2) Marcus Mariota – QB Oregon

In true Mariota fashion, Oregon finally earned an impressive 45-16 win over Stanford to snap a two-series losing streak to the Cardinals. Finally getting the “monkey off of his back,” Mariota not only earned the plaguing victory, but also boosted the rankings for the Ducks and himself in the Heisman race.

This win was a huge confidence booster for the junior who threw for 258 yards and two touchdowns. He also had nine rushes for 85 yards. Another interesting stat after Saturday’s win: Mariota now has a passing TD in 35 straight games, which is tied for the fourth longest streak in FBS history.

So far this season, Mariota is 169 of 248 for 2,541 yards, 26 TDs and 2 INTs. He has 71 carries for 410 yards and 7 TDs.

3) Amari Cooper – WR Alabama

Although the Tide had a bye this week, Cooper stays at No. 3 in my opinion, simply for his position as the true leader of this offense. With several key games coming up against LSU, Mississippi State and Auburn, his performance in those games will factor heavily into whether he stays in my top three.

Cooper’s stats for the year stand at 71 catches for 1,132 yards total and 9 TDs. In his last performance against Tennessee, Cooper had a career and school single-game best of 224 yards in the Tide’s 34-20 victory. Cooper only needs one more yard to match Alabama’s single-season record set by Julio Jones in 2010.

4) Melvin Gordon – RB Wisconsin

Even though the Heisman race is quarterback-heavy, do not count out Melvin Gordon, who is quickly making a name for himself behind his consistency week after week. Although their schedule may not carry the weight that most find important, his numbers are still just too good to keep him out of contention. After routing Rutgers 37-0, Gordon ended his night with 19 carries for 128 yards and two touchdowns.

Although he left the game with a knee injury, Wisconsin head coach Gary Andersen said he would be fine going forward. So far this season, the junior has 173 total carries for 1,296 yards and 18 TDs. Saturday also marked his sixth game in which he has rushed for at least 100 yards total. His performance against Nebraska in a couple of weeks will definitely be a determining factor in if he stays in this race or not.

5) Everett Golson – QB Notre Dame

Although their 49-39 win over Navy did not impress overall, it was not about the win as much as it was about what Golson did individually on the field. On Saturday, the senior QB became the first player in Notre Dame school history to throw for three touchdowns and also run for three scores. With the lack of defense for the Fighting Irish, they relied heavily on Golson’s performance to take home the win. Accounting for six TDs total, Golson was 18 of 25 for 315 yards. He also rushed nine times for 33 yards.

This season, Golson is currently 184 of 293 for 2,311 yards, 22 TDs and 7 INTs. He also has 78 carries for 275 yards and 7 TDs.


Ashley Gulick is a staff writer for Scouts Alley. You can follow her on Twitter.

I’m Here to Help You, the Florida Football Program

By Murphy Powell


Will Muschamp isn’t out yet. He probably will be soon, but not yet.

The University of Florida released a statement following the Gators’ 42-13 home loss to Missouri, which—and this won’t surprise you—fans didn’t really love. The statement essentially said the administration will wait until the end of the season before making a decision on Muschamp’s future, which doesn’t look promising.

If a team or university makes a statement like that, it often means someone is about to lose their job. So that’s not great. If last year’s 4-8 campaign didn’t signal the end of Muschamp’s reign, Saturday’s loss probably did.

Of course, if Florida wins out and finishes 8-3, which would include wins against Georgia and Florida State, Muschamp might stick around. But I’ve watched this Florida team play football, and while there are no guarantees in sports, I can nearly guarantee you that Florida won’t win out.

I can do that because—again—I’ve watched the Gators play.

So the question is starting to become about who Florida will hire next. And I’ve got two tips for the group that will pick the new head football coach.

  • Get an offensive-minded coach

Florida has won three national championships in school history—in 1996, 2006 and 2008. Steve Spurrier was the coach in ’96, and Urban Meyer was the head man in 2006 and 2008. Both of them are or were considered strong offensive minds, as far as coaching goes. And the Gators were ranked every year one of those two guys were coaching, with the exception of 2010—Meyer’s last year.

But the idea here is that Florida has had sustained success when an offensive-minded coach has been at the helm. Meyer brought the spread offense into the SEC, and Spurrier just had his team throw the ball all the time, and it worked. I’m not sure if there is a great offense-oriented coach out there willing to come to Florida right now, but athletic director Jeremy Foley should at least give it a look.

Florida also had some success from 1909-11 with George Pyle at the helm, and I can only assume he was a mastermind as well. Charley Pell was successful for a few years in the early ‘80s, and he was a defensive-minded guy—an outlier, in a sense.

And having a coach who can run an offense that scores touchdowns would be a nice change of pace. Sure, defense wins a lot of games, but it’s asking a lot out of the defense to pitch shutouts every week.

  • This next person needs head coaching experience

The idea of Will Muschamp as a head coach is a great one. He has a ton of energy, which is super exciting to watch. And he takes a defense-first mentality, which isn’t so much fun to watch, but it can lead to wins, which are fun.

The issue—I think—with Muschamp right now is that he takes a little too much control of all aspects of his team. I also think he does this because he’s never been a head coach before. By doing that, if the ship sinks, it’s because of him and he’s fine with that, probably. In short, he’s trying to control his destiny all by himself.

But he’s had Brent Pease from Boise State—where there was a ton of offense—and Kurt Roper—who helped Duke (Duke) set a bunch of ACC records—the last two years. With them, Florida should be able to score. If they had a little more control of things, the Gators probably would.

And it seems like coaches learn from their past mistakes and successes, so Muschamp might give up a little control on offense for his next team. I hope he does, because I like Will Muschamp an awful lot. Of course, he could just do that now and stick with Florida. But that probably won’t happen.

I think Will Muschamp will probably be a really good head coach somewhere down the line, and it will probably be because he relinquishes a little control on offense and lets his coordinators do what they’re supposed to do.

For that reason, Florida needs someone with head coaching experience. The Gators need someone who has learned from their prior mistakes and successes. Hopefully that leads to more than four wins.


Murphy Powell is a creator of Scouts Alley. You can follow him on Twitter if you want to.

Where The Wild Things Are: College Football ’14 Mid-Season Recap

By Ariel Bedford


Oct 11, 2014; Waco, TX, USA; Baylor Bears wide receiver KD Cannon (9) catches a touchdown pass as TCU Horned Frogs cornerback Nick Orr (18) chases during the first half at McLane Stadium.
Oct 11, 2014; Waco, TX, USA; Baylor Bears wide receiver KD Cannon (9) catches a touchdown pass as TCU Horned Frogs cornerback Nick Orr (18) chases during the first half at McLane Stadium.

Zany 100-plus-point shootouts. Come-from-behind victories within the last seconds of games. Shockwaves being sent through an entire region due to the resurgence of one state’s major programs. These are some of the many storylines within an exciting—and still fresh—college football season for 2014.

Week 6 saw Arizona State spoil USC’s ascension back to the upper room with their shocking 38-34 win in LA. In Week 7, we were blessed with a game straight from the annals of a Sony Playstation computer code; Baylor’s Bryce Petty put up 510 yards on 55 pass attempts and 6 touchdowns to bring the Bears back from a 21-point deficit in the fourth quarter. This weekend, we will witness the revival of a ’90s superpower rivalry, pitting Notre Dame against Florida State in Tallahassee.

There is plenty to come, but let’s review some of the headlines of what we have seen so far:

Football is back in the state of Mississippi

It was generally acknowledged that the Mississippi State Bulldogs and Ole Miss Rebels would be good this year, especially considering the latter was ranked 18th in the Associated Press Top-25 Poll when they opened their schedule in Atlanta versus Boise State. Even the Bulldogs’ upset win over LSU was not that surprising. And yet, one weekend in the beginning of October changed everything.

Saturday, October 4th will go down in infamy as the day all Magnolia State alums rejoiced; their flagship schools became serious players in college football again. In Starkville, Mississippi State simply out-gunned the Texas A&M offensive machine by a final of 48-31. Then, with all eyes on Oxford, the Rebels got past the proverbial bullies of the conference by defeating Alabama 23-17.

Both teams followed up their Week 6 upsets with strong showings in Week 7. Mississippi State took down the other big school from the Heart of Dixie, and the Rebels sidestepped past the Aggies with ease. Dak Prescott was unflappable versus Auburn despite a few turnovers, finishing with 246 yards passing and 121 yards rushing on the day. The 12th Man was no match for all the momentum Ole Miss carried into College Station; the Rebels forced a pick-six on Aggie quarterback Kenny Hill that put the contest out of reach before halftime.

Oct 4, 2014; Starkville, MS, USA; Mississippi State Bulldogs defensive back Justin Cox (9) and Mississippi State Bulldogs running back Josh Robinson (13) celebrate their teams win against the Texas A&M Aggies at Davis Wade Stadium. The Bulldogs defeated the Aggies 48-31. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 4, 2014; Starkville, MS, USA; Mississippi State Bulldogs defensive back Justin Cox (9) and Mississippi State Bulldogs running back Josh Robinson (13) celebrate their teams win against the Texas A&M Aggies at Davis Wade Stadium. The Bulldogs defeated the Aggies 48-31. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

Ole Miss now sits third in the AP Polls—and Mississippi State is No. 1 in the land. In fact, the Bulldogs are the fastest team to go from unranked to the top of the AP in its total history. The question is, can they stay there? Both schools still have plenty of tough opponents from the SEC West to play. If somehow they can remain in their current positions, this year’s Egg Bowl will have not only conference championship, but national championship implications. As impressive as both squads have performed to date, the notion of this still sounds a little odd.

Big Ten is earning its reputation for “toting the rock”

After Braxton Miller’s preseason injury and Week 2 loss by Michigan State to the Ducks of Oregon, your grandfather’s favorite college football conference looked insignificant in the broad scope of things. Alas, there is still something for him to stick that chin out on: the running game!

As of all games through October 14th, the Big Ten sports three of the top-10 rushing offenses in the country. Wisconsin sits at the top piling up on average 343 yards per game; Nebraska and Indiana are fifth and sixth respectively, each compiling over 300 yards on the ground per contest. You could even attribute Arkansas, the school that rounds out the top-10 within the category, and their success at running the ball to the Big Ten.

Their head coach Bret Bielema has basically taken the formula he learned while steering the ship that Barry Alvarez built with the Badgers to Fayetteville. If you listen in on a televised game featuring the Razorbacks, you’re almost certain to hear a commentator gush at how Arkansas’ O-Line is bigger than any college or pro team’s. Recruiting gargantuan bodies for the trenches has been a long-standing staple of Wisconsin football.

Individually, the conference is highlighted on the ground as well. The top rusher in the nation right now is running back Tevin Coleman of Indiana, but Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon is nipping at his heels. Both players have over 1,000 yards rushing on the season. Speedy all-purpose back Ameer Abdullah from Nebraska is fourth with 878 rushing yards; Minnesota’s David Cobb, piling up 819 yards on the ground, is seventh in the country.

Depending on the status of Todd Gurley’s eligibility for Georgia this year, and possible slips in public opinion on high-profile QBs already in contention, the Heisman Trophy winner could very well come from the Big Ten. What would be ironic is if at the same juncture the conference can’t place its eventual champion into a playoff slot.

CFB Playoff will be another case of ‘The Haves and the Have Nots’


The clamor for a solution to “settle it on the field” finally gained steam. Rudy’s proclamation notwithstanding, the powers that be surely assume there will be nothing but approval bestowed upon 2014’s postseason results. We all know that most (besides the athletes themselves) are winning financially, but will we truly crown a worthy champion?

There is little deviation between the AP and Coaches’ Polls so far this season—and both have shown an affinity for the SEC West. But have all of their teams deserved it? LSU, while still highly talented, doesn’t appear to be a team that should have been thought of as a top-10 contender. Alabama is prime for a disappointing multiple-loss campaign, to the chagrin of their iron maiden of a ballcoach.

For that matter, the SEC as a whole is probably overrated. The East Division is simply not good. Florida is lucky to have any wins this year besides a drubbing of Eastern Michigan. UGA is competent but flawed without Gurley. Kentucky and Tennessee are nice stories, but won’t be competing for much besides your typical middle-of-the-pack bowl game bid. Vanderbilt is, well, yeah…

Now compare all of the SEC to the Pac-12. Or perhaps the Big-12. You should notice a difference in that other conferences actually have better teams lower on the rung. Teams like Utah, Washington State, Oklahoma State and Kansas State. Maybe it’s time to start believing the Oregons and Baylors of the world have it tougher than we thought.

The problem is, when forecasting what the College Football Playoff rankings may look like come the middle of November, a prediction of the four coveted spots of interest seems log-jammed with usual suspects. The SEC really should only have one representative—their rightful conference champion after a brawl in the Georgia Dome. Yet, based on the current AP Polls placing half of the Top-10 as Southeastern Conference members, it appears that there could be at least two or more destined to make it in.

Marshall's quarterback Rakeem Cato (12) looks for a receiver in the "Battle for the Bell" against the Ohio Bobcats at Joan C. Edwards Stadium. Charleston Daily Mail/Craig Cunningham 9/13/14
Marshall’s quarterback Rakeem Cato (12) looks for a receiver in the “Battle for the Bell” against the Ohio Bobcats at Joan C. Edwards Stadium. Charleston Daily Mail/Craig Cunningham 9/13/14

By the way, what about equal representation? After all, there is still Marshall who should be a bigger part of the equation. With a veteran quarterback in Rakeem Cato, the Thundering Herd are 6-0 and showing no signs of stopping. Conference USA doesn’t provide the best resume for the other team from West Virginia, which is why East Carolina is ranked ahead of Marshall despite having lost to South Carolina. But shouldn’t not losing count for something more than a simple nod in cracking the Top-25?

As we look towards the second portion of the college football season, here are three games in Week 9 that standout:

(21) Texas A&M vs (7) Alabama

The Aggies have suffered back-to-back division losses in as many weeks. They’re reeling. The defense looks lost, and the other side of the ball is showing signs of added pressure because of it. If Kenny Hill and the offense can play mistake-free football for four quarters, they can outscore the Crimson Tide. Alabama will be looking to provide a crippling body blow in this knockout match of a game, with the winner still on track for a potential late push into playoff contention.

(15) Oklahoma State vs (12) TCU

The Horned Frogs, coming off a wild-west showdown in Waco, will look to bounce back at home against the Cowboys. Oklahoma State has shown admirable resolve after losing QB J.W. Walsh to injury; Tyreek Hill has the world-class speed to change the outcome of any battle on one play (such as his 99-yard kickoff return TD against Kansas last week). Okie State would set up a huge game versus Baylor towards the end of November with a win over Texas Christian. TCU can stay in the conference title hunt if QB Trevone Boykin can provide a lead for his opportunistic defense.

(5) Notre Dame vs (2) Florida State

Nostalgia reigns supreme in this colossal clash of the titans. The Fighting Irish and Seminoles are similar in many respects—both have playmakers behind center and controversy surrounding their programs. Once you get past all the hoopla and extra chatter not dealing with what happens between the lines, there is a great matchup between the Notre Dame offense and ‘Noles’ defense to look forward to.

The Golden Domers may slow down Jameis Winston and Co. to some degree, but they won’t totally shut FSU down. The key will be if Everett Golson can match his counterpart on the scoreboard long enough for his troops to believe they can pull out a W in hostile territory. If RBs Mario Pender and Dalvin Cook gain around five yards per carry (as they did in the Carrier Dome for FSU), the Garnet and Gold will not make it a close affair.

Tons of change can occur in the next few weeks as we draw closer to the playoff selection committee’s first official rankings release. Look for two to three schools among the Big-12, Big Ten and/or Pac-12 to establish themselves as legit contenders too impressive to ignore by the end of October.

Featured Photo Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports


Ariel Bedford writes for Scouts Alley. A freelancer from Florida, he also is a contributor for Bleacher Report. Check out his personal media profile page and follow him on Twitter @mpcmi.

How Did Kentucky Win?

By Murphy Powell


Kentucky beat South Carolina.

Just read it again. This might take some time to sink in.

It was a strange weekend in the SEC, with two teams from Mississippi beating top-six teams in the AP Poll, then becoming top-five teams themselves. Things were even strange outside the SEC, and 11 teams in the Top 25 lost.

But the weirdest of all events had to take place in Lexington on Saturday. Kentucky beat South Carolina.

So how did this happen? I’m not sure yet. We’re going to find out together.

Just looking at team stats, South Carolina should have edged Kentucky out. SC outgained Kentucky overall, 500 yards to 447, but Kentucky averaged more yards per play. The Wildcats averaged one more yard per pass, and about half-a-yard more per rush, than South Carolina. So that’s a difference, but it’s not a big one.

Kentucky had more penalties for more yards, so there seems to be another edge for SC there. And while it’s not necessarily a great stat to pick a winner, South Carolina held the ball for 10 more minutes than Kentucky, which is notable.

But now we hit turnovers. That’s where the problem—and the difference in the game—comes in. South Carolina’s Dylan Thompson threw three interceptions, plus SC had a fumble, and, boy oh boy, did those hurt.

South Carolina had a 17-7 lead and was cruising along with 4:45 left in the first half, like they should have since they’re South Carolina and Kentucky is Kentucky.

Then Braylon Heard broke off a 38-yard touchdown run, making the score 17-14 with SC still ahead. Once South Carolina got the ball back, they started to drive, and things were looking alright. Then Thompson threw an interception.

This interception hurt, but it didn’t hurt as much as the other two. This first one just led to a field goal, but it was a field goal that tied the game at 17. So now we go to the half. I’m imagining that Spurrier and his team were a little disappointed with the turnovers, but they probably had some confidence since they were playing Kentucky, who—don’t forget—is Kentucky.

Kentucky came out firing in the second half, scoring on a 75-yard drive to start the third quarter. But the third quarter was boring, because South Carolina scored all three times and didn’t do anything to lose the game, so we’re fast-forwarding to the fourth quarter.

So now it’s 38-31, with South Carolina still ahead. With six minutes left, Kentucky makes a stop, and Jojo Kemp runs in his third touchdown of the game, tying things up at 38.

Here is where the interceptions start, and things go downhill immediately for South Carolina.

Thompson has 2:45 to lead his team down the field and at least get a field goal to take the lead. Mike Davis has been running all over Kentucky, and while running the ball is a little questionable here, going with the hot hand wouldn’t have been a terrible idea.

But instead, Thompson threw it, and he threw it right to Alvin Dupree of Kentucky who ran it in for a touchdown. Now UK is ahead 45-38. It took 17 game seconds from the time South Carolina got the ball to the time South Carolina got the ball after an interception. Like I said, things went downhill immediately.

Thompson still has 2:29 left to tie things up. He has to pass here, which Kentucky knows. SC gets a first down, Thompson completes two passes, and then he throws a pick. Two interceptions in about one minute of game time. Two interceptions at the absolute worst times they could be thrown for South Carolina. Three interceptions if you could the one in the first half.

South Carolina is probably missing Connor Shaw a little more than expected.

So how did Kentucky win? They forced three interceptions at the absolute perfect times to get them.


Murphy Powell is a creator of Scouts Alley. You can follow him on Twitter if you really want to.

Week 5 Preview: Creepin’ On A Come-Up…

By Ariel Bedford


The fourth official college football weekend had few marquee matchups, yet still produced entertaining competition, such as a much-closer-than-it-looked 38-10 win by Texas A&M over Rice, or Georgia Tech surviving a 42-38 shootout with Head Coach Paul Johnson’s former team, Georgia Southern. With the majority of Power 5 teams beginning to dig into their conference schedules, what will the fifth week have in store? Here’s what to look out for in Week 5:

1. Will Auburn prove to be a legitimate national contender in Manhattan?

The Tigers’ offense has shown nearly the same potency that pushed the pack all the way to Pasadena last year. The addition of JUCO wideout D’haquille Williams and continued development of backup QB Jeremy Johnson has put a much improved passing game on display under Gus Malzahn’s watch. With Nick Marshall still leading the troops, though, the run game is what frustrates opponents most in facing Auburn. After defeating Arkansas and cruising past San Jose State, is Auburn ready to face a quality out-of-conference opponent on the road?

2. Which ACC team will stand out as a possible 3rd banana?

Miami, Georgia Tech, and Virginia Tech all play in the Coastal Division—basically the “B-Side” of the ACC. Funny thing is—especially during FSU’s supposed down years—it has usually been the more tightly contested side. Since Florida State has returned to prominence, the members of this division have generally been non-existent as real adversaries.

With all three teams showing major vulnerabilities so far (even though GT technically has yet to lose) there are question marks about each squad’s viability as detractors to the Seminoles’ throne. The Tech teams face off against each other in an important divisional game, while the Hurricanes have a big test with the Cornhuskers in Lincoln. If one emerges later on to be the probable opponent for State in Charlotte, we may look back on this week’s set of games as the spark.

3. Is this the point at which the ‘Noles finally falter?

FSU is still the defending champs, no matter how close the Cowboys played them or what other team arguably “looks better” in their respective games so far this season. They still have a lightning-fast defense (despite losing former DC Jeremy Pruitt to UGA) and a powerful offensive line. But how much can they trust their Heisman Trophy winning quarterback?

By now, most in the sports realm are aware of Jameis Winston’s reported comments made on campus that prompted HC Jimbo Fisher to suspend him for the first half of their next game. By doing so, is FSU showing chinks in the armor of confidence in their two-sport star? And more importantly, will this move prove to be too costly to overcome against a foe seeking revenge for being embarassed the last time they met?

After three quarters, FSU had already smoked Clemson 41-7 in Death Valley last year. A gigantic top-5 conference matchup was decimated into nothing more than the typical Seminole spearing of an ACC wannabe. The motivation fueling entire off-season workout programs are games like this.

Assume the Tigers have the loss still engrained in their memories like it was yesterday, and will play spirited football in the first half because of it. If State cannot get the ball to Rashad Greene effectively, or come out flat/make untimely mistakes early against Clemson, it could be a long night of anxiety for fans of the champs.

This weekend of games should give us more clues as to who is primed to be a contender, and identify those that are merely pretenders in the College Football Playoff race. Expect out-of-the-blue upsets, closer games and even more fourth quarter drama, some of which may leave your favorite team scratching their head…

Featured Photo Credit: Joshua S. Kelly, USA TODAY Sports


Ariel Bedford is a writer for Scouts Alley. Follow him on Twitter @mpcmi.

What to Watch For: 9/13/14

Here’s a quick look at some of the top storylines in college football this Saturday.

  • No. 6 Georgia at No. 24 South Carolina: Two of the best running backs in the country, Todd Gurley and Mike Davis, face off today. For some extra drama, South Carolina already has one loss on the year, and Georgia has started to look like a national title contender.
  • No. 12 UCLA vs. Texas: UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley takes his team to the JerryDome in Arlington to face a tougher-than-it-looks Texas team. The Longhorns were boatraced last week against BYU, and UCLA has kept its games a little too close (28-20 at Virginia, 42-35 vs. Memphis). Both teams need to prove something on a big stage.
  • Iowa State heads to Iowa for a rivalry that has led to the school police departments tweeting at each other. Will it be a good game? We have no idea. But any time campus police get involved with social media, we’re on board.

Week 3 In Review: Big Ten, Big Wins, Big Fines

By Ariel Bedford


The still-fresh college football year’s third official weekend, besides one colossal top-ten clash, was more bark than actual bite. Here’s what we learned in Week 3:

1. This was the week that the athletic director scheduled your big-time school for a paid win

Dick Vitale’s signature phrase “Cupacke City, Baby!!!” couldn’t have been more fitting for many games on the ledger. Take this telling fact: There were tons of high-scoring matchups during Week 2, but no team scored over 70 points in a contest. There were five teams that did so this past week.

Even the Miami Hurricanes, who previously lost a tough conference road opener to Louisville, got some mojo back with a 41-7 drubbing of frequent FCS in-state opponent Florida A&M.

Quarterback Deshaun Watson #4 of the Clemson Tigers hurtles over free safety Mariel Cooper #20 of the South Carolina State Bulldogs on September 6, 2014 at Memorial Stadium in Clemson, South Carolina. (Photo by Mary Ann Chastain/Getty Images)
Quarterback Deshaun Watson #4 of the Clemson Tigers hurtles over free safety Mariel Cooper #20 of the South Carolina State Bulldogs on September 6, 2014 at Memorial Stadium in Clemson, South Carolina. (Photo by Mary Ann Chastain/Getty Images)

 

Clemson bounced back from their loss to Georgia with a 73-7 trouncing of South Carolina State University at home, which highlights a common trend of Power 5 Conference stalwarts sending large checks to smaller (often HBCU) FCS schools as compensation for literally being feasted upon.

While the funds are sorely needed for these colleges as a whole, for simply the sake of equal competition, the new formatting of FBS postseason play will likely diminish the amount of these types of games slated in the future.

2. The Big Ten got exposed

Michigan State falling to Oregon wasn’t great, but it wasn’t horrible, either. Purdue 17-Central Michigan 38, Notre Dame 31-Michigan 0, and Virginia Tech 35-Ohio State 21, however, were all nightmares for your grandfather’s favorite football conference.

The shocker of the weekend was almost Nebraska losing to the McNeese State Cowboys out of the Southland. Pundits have wondered aloud whether the traditionally revered conference would have a team worthy of a playoff spot by the end of the regular season. The flat-out embarrassing results from the majority of its football collectives don’t bode well for their argument as deserving a shot at the national title.

3. Guess what? Humans can be just as flawed as computers!

USC head coach Steve Sarkisian jumps in celebration with Athletic Director Pat Haden after they beat the Stanford Cardinal at Stanford Stadium on September 6, 2014 in Palo Alto, California. EZRA SHAW/GETTY IMAGES
USC head coach Steve Sarkisian jumps in celebration with Athletic Director Pat Haden after they beat the Stanford Cardinal at Stanford Stadium on September 6, 2014 in Palo Alto, California. EZRA SHAW/GETTY IMAGES

 

The men of Troy have been down in the dumps lately. From dealing with a depleted talent pool from NCAA-sanctioned scholarship limitations, to coaching issues/rumblings of strained relationships with current players, Southern California’s football program has been due for some luck.

But the breaks USC tried to lobby for in their nail-biter with Stanford raise too many flags to ignore. While a head coach taking umbrage to a referee’s calls against them is normal, calling your athletic director down from the press box to protest on your squad’s behalf isn’t.

The general thinking was that everyone agreed to finally have a playoff because the BCS was flawed. This flaw was mostly due to computers being the main determining factor of who the #1 and #2 teams in the land were. By getting rid of the BCS, computers could be replaced by the human “eye test” element that is supposedly pivotal to truly figuring out a champion.

Instead of tweaking what was already in place, a committee of 13 was chosen last year to select four contestants in the upcoming college football playoff for the first time ever at the FBS level. The list is impressive, including Ole Miss legend Archie Manning and former Notre Dame head coach Tyrone Willingham.

And yet, that may be just what’s so wrong about this committee. The names of the members runs like an ensemble cast in the next classic American drama centered on collegiate athletics. Many are former and current athletic directors, including one Pat Haden.

A public reprimand and $25,000 fine by the league was more than warranted, but is it enough? Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott, in a statement yesterday, stated that “such actions by an administrator in attempt to influence the officiating, and ultimately the outcome of a contest, will not be tolerated.” Should said actions be acceptable of the same individual in charge of picking the quartet of participants in 2014’s College Football Playoff, albeit without bias or prejudice?

As we approach Hump Day, we can look forward to more competitive games and even more interesting developments within the lower tiers of the Power 5 this weekend. Unfortunately, we may also wish that the Sagarin Ratings were more respected than Barry Alvarez if Wisconsin mysteriously leaps up in the polls.

Featured Photo Credit: Zach Llorens | The Observer


Ariel Bedford is a writer for Scouts Alley. Follow him on Twitter @mpcmi.