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Predictions 101 — Week 10

LSU vs Alabama Football AP

After a perfect Week 9, the fall from grace last week was inevitable.

Last week, we went 5-2 straight, losing the two biggest games (good for Georgia and Notre Dame, bad for us), and 3-4 versus “the number.”

On the bright side, the USOTW is on a roll (good news for Maryland on Saturday).

TOP 5 GAMES OF THE WEEK (Thurs., Nov. 1, thru Sat., Nov. 3)

1) No. 1 Alabama at No. 5 LSU
Sat., Nov. 3 — 8 p.m. ET, CBS

No offense to the parties involved, but we’re tickled that another rematch between these two in January appears to be out of the question. We like old school football, but it’s kind of “too much of a good thing,” and also a lack of fireworks issue.

In this one, we’re seriously wondering if the Tigers will get into the end zone. When you’re saying that about a Top 5 team playing at home, that’s really something, but LSU was able to muster only three field goals in its two meetings with Alabama last season. Of course, that was good enough to earn a split with the Crimson Tide, who were able to register just one touchdown in that twin-bill.

Considering the fact that the Tigers have had to play with five different offensive line combinations this season, in front of rocky quarterbacking, it’s hard to figure where the points are going to come from against Alabama’s rock-solid defense.

LSU ranks eighth in the SEC in both scoring and total offense, and is particularly challenged in the pass game (11th in SEC in passing efficiency and 12th in passing offense).

Playing in Death Valley, however, will be a significant plus for Les Miles’ crew, which is also more battle tested than the Tide. This will be the Tigers’ fourth consecutive game against ranked opposition. Prior to last Saturday’s 38-7 victory over Mississippi State, Alabama hadn’t faced a ranked foe since the season opener versus Michigan.

Crimson Tide quarterback A.J. McCarron counteracts many of LSU’s advantages through his leadership and decision making under fire. He leads the nation in passing efficiency and has yet to throw an interception this season.

Opening point spread: Alabama by 7

The pick: Alabama 20-6

2) No. 2 Oregon at No. 18 USC
Sat., Nov. 3 — 7 p.m. ET, FOX

The Trojans won’t need any help from themselves to lose to the Ducks. Oregon is more than capable of flying past USC all by its lonesome, unlike Arizona, which needed Troy to participate by burying itself last Saturday.

The deadly mix of five turnovers, 13 penalties and Lane Kiffin’s wretched coaching will get you every time, even in Tucson.

And now the Trojans step way up in class as they host the Ducks, who have no shortage of motivation to add USC to their growing list of victims. The Trojans are the only non-SEC team to beat Oregon since the start of the 2010 season and since that 38-35 defeat last November, the Ducks have won 11 straight, scoring 40 or more points each time.

Oregon currently leads the nation in scoring with 53.4 points per game.

USC leads the nation in getting the least out of their talent.

The once-thought-to-be-mighty Trojans rank fifth in the Pac-12 in total offense and sixth in total defense. The writing is already on the walls in Troy. Mr. Kiffin will shepherd USC through the rest of the probationary period and then be shown the door. (Unless some poor misguided soul decides that Kiffin is the answer and hires him away first. Don’t laugh. It has happened a couple times before.)

It’ll be surreal to see the Trojans melt in their own Coliseum, but we just can see it going down any other way.

The Ducks are incredibly fast starters, outscoring opponents, 290-56, in the first half this season. But, while Oregon won’t be able to turn the game over to backups after the second quarter as it normally does, USC isn’t capable of playing catch up.

The Trojans have scored only 28 points in the third quarter all season. Yes, eight games, 28 points. Yikes. Obviously, making the proper halftime adjustments is a concept that’s completely foreign to the Kiffin brain trust.

Opening point spread: Oregon by 6

The pick: Oregon 49-31

3) Oklahoma State at No. 3 Kansas State
Sat., Nov. 3 — 8 p.m. ET, ABC

This one seems very clear on paper. That’s the only thing that makes us nervous.

The Wildcats have already dealt with the likes of Oklahoma, West Virginia and Texas Tech, limiting each of them to 24 points or less. Therefore, what reason would there be to not side with a Kansas State team that’s averaging more than 44 points and has scored 55 points in back-to-back games?

Furthermore, the Wildcats rank first in the Big 12 and fifth in the nation in turnover margin (+1.9). Giving extra possessions to quarterback Collin Klein equals “no chance.”

Klein’s counterpart, Wes Lunt, returned to action last week in a victory over TCU, after missing the three previous games with a knee injury. He completed 18-of-33 for 324 yards and got into a groove as the game went on, leading the Cowboys to 36 unanswered points after falling behind 14-0.

We doubt Lunt will continue with that momentum in Manhattan in what will be only the second start on the road for the redshirt freshman.

Opening point spread: Kansas State by 7

The pick: Kansas State 41-24

4) Pittsburgh at No. 4 Notre Dame
Sat., Nov. 3 — 3:30 p.m. ET, NBC

This prediction comes courtesy of Shane Hedani from the P101 satellite office in Maunawili, Hawai‘i.

The Panthers roll into South Bend hoping to wreck the Fighting Irish’s perfect season and BCS title dreams. The possibility does exist since we’ve got a double-digit favorite coming home off a massive victory on the road to face a scrappy spoiler with nothing to lose. We’ve seen this sort of upset many times before, even under the watchful eye of Touchdown Jesus.

But with Notre Dame’s return to relevance and so much on the line, including a Heisman Trophy campaign for linebacker Manti Te‘o, we believe focus won’t waver. The Irish are further bolstered by the third-quarter display at Oklahoma last week that featured clock killing 12- and 13-play drives.

Pitt won’t see the ball nearly enough to even think about pulling off a shocker. And when they do, Te‘o will be in the way. He might even get into the end zone for a Heisman moment and match the Panthers’ scoring output.

Opening point spread: Notre Dame by 19

The pick: Notre Dame 41-6

5) No. 16 Texas A&M at No. 17 Mississippi State
Sat., Nov. 3 — noon ET, ESPN

Last week’s divergent results and America’s growing fascination with Johnny Manziel cloud the reality here in our book.

We aren’t saying to discount the fact that the Aggies dropped 63 points on Auburn at Jordan-Hare Stadium or forget about the way the Bulldogs were dominated at Alabama last Saturday. However, when looking at this particular game on its own, it appears to be close to a draw.

Manziel’s ability to make plays is simply amazing, but Mississippi State quarterback Tyler Russell and running back LaDarius Perkins will be able to counterpunch effectively.

This season ending gauntlet for the Bulldogs is off the charts (Bama, A&M, LSU, Arkansas and Ole Miss), but something is telling us that they’ll pickup at least a couple wins and this is one of them.

Opening point spread: Texas A&M by 2 1/2

The pick: Mississippi State 28-27

UPSET SPECIAL OF THE WEEK

Georgia Tech at Maryland
Sat., Nov. 3 — 12:30 p.m. ET, ACC Network

Once again, the USOTW prediction comes courtesy of Marc Doche (@MDoche) from the P101 satellite office in Burbank, Calif.

This is an intriguing matchup as Georgia Tech can only move the football on the ground and Maryland boasts one of the nation’s best defenses, which allows less than 78 rushing yards per game.

In the past two weeks, the Terrapins combined to allow just 48 yards rushing, but suffered a pair of heart-breaking ACC setbacks to North Carolina State and Boston College. Maryland has lost by a field goal or less in three of their four defeats.

How will the Terps move the ball? Their 116th ranked offense hasn’t done much of that all year and they are without a healthy scholarship quarterback after seeing all four of them go down with injuries.

Desperate times call for desperate measures and that means true freshman Shawn Petty, who was previously a linebacker, gets the nod. Last year at Eleanor Roosevelt High School, Petty tossed 15 touchdown strikes against four interceptions, and added another nine scores on the ground while running an option offense.

The Yellow Jackets enter below .500 and are still searching for their first road win.

In the battle of options, we’ll go with the home team that has played close games all year and might just get another big special teams play from freshman wideout Stefon Diggs.

Opening point spread: Georgia Tech by 7

The pick: Maryland 16-13

RIVALRY GAME OF THE WEEK

Michigan at Minnesota
Sat., Nov. 3 — noon ET, Big Ten Network

In 1903, legendary Michigan head coach Fielding Yost feared that Minnesota fans might contaminate his water supply, so he instructed student manager Tommy Roberts to get something to hold their own water. Roberts came back from a Minneapolis store with a five-gallon earthenware jug that cost him 30 cents.

Following that first game between the Wolverines and Golden Gophers — a 6-6 tie called with two minutes remaining due to chaos (gotta love it!) — Yost left the jug behind and it became a beloved “trophy” for Minnesota officials, who looked upon the tie as a momentous victory over a Michigan team that was on a 28-game winning streak.

Yost eventually asked for his jug back, but was told: “If you want it, you’ll have to win it.” Thus began this whole business of rivalry trophies. Yup, “The Little Brown Jug” … neither little, nor brown … but the granddaddy of them all.

The “point-a-minute” Wolverines of Yost’s day wouldn’t even recognize the Michigan team of the previous two weeks, which hasn’t visited the end zone. Four field goals were enough to beat Michigan State, 12-10, on Oct. 20, but three three-pointers didn’t come close to getting the job done at Nebraska in a 23-9 loss last Saturday.

Of course, not having Denard Robinson at quarterback was a huge problem in Lincoln. After Robinson re-aggravated a nerve injury that affects his throwing hand and arm, backup signalcaller Russell Bellomy struggled mightily. Bellomy attempted 16 passes and completed only three to teammates. Worse yet, three of his passes connected with Cornhuskers.

Minnesota broke a three-game losing streak last week, winning its first Big Ten game with a 44-28 decision over Purdue. A balanced Gopher offense finished with 458 total yards, committed zero turnovers and scored touchdowns on four consecutive possessions.

If Robinson isn’t right, the Wolverines could lose their grip on Yost’s jug once again.

Opening point spread: Michigan by 12 1/2

The pick: Michigan 24-21

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Sooners’ Joe Mixon reaches plea deal, avoids trial

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Provided he can keep his nose clean over the next year, Joe Mixon‘s legal issues will officially be behind him.

Multiple media outlets reported Thursday that the touted 2014 Oklahoma signee has reached an agreement in which he offered up a public apology as part of an Alford Plea. Mixon had originally been charged with acts resulting in gross injury in connection to a late-July incident.

Mixon’s attorney, Kevin Finlay, released a statement addressing the development.

“Today, Joe has made the decision that entering an Alford plea to the misdemeanor and accepting the short period of probation was the best course of action at this point in his life. Joe does not want to be a further distraction to his family, friends, teammates and the University of Oklahoma.

“Joe would like to apologize to everyone affected by this unfortunate chain of events. Joe looks forward to continuing towards his goal of becoming a successful student and athlete at the University of Oklahoma.”

For those wondering, an Alford Plea allows the accused to maintain their innocence even as they acknowledge that enough proof exists that they could be found guilty by a jury of their peers. In exchange for the plea, Mixon was given a one-year deferred sentence, 100 hours of community service and cognitive behavior counseling.

In mid-August, Mixon was suspended by OU for the entire 2014 season, a punitive measure that meant the running back would be excluded from any and all team activities.  The one-year suspension came about after Mixon was accused of punching a woman in a late-July confrontation, breaking four bones in her face and leaving her unconscious.  Media covering OU viewed a copy of the security tape that caught the exchange, including the knockout punch, between the woman and Mixon; Mixon’s attorney had previously claimed the altercation was preceded by racial slurs.

Mixon was a five-star member of the Sooners’ 2014 recruiting class, rated as the No. 1 running back in the country and the No. 8 player at any position in the country.  He was the highest-rated member of an OU class that was ranked 15th in the country.

It’s expected Mixon will remain at OU and play for the Sooners in 2015.

UPDATED 1:19 p.m. ET: In a statement, OU president David Boren confirmed that, despite the criminal resolution, “Mixon will not play for out football team in 2014, including postseason competitions.”  As expected, “[h]e will have an opportunity to earn his way back on the team during the spring semester.”

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Bowlsby: LHN a boulder in Big 12’s TV road

Bob Bowlsby

If you love candor — remember his puppet comments after taking the job? — Bob Bowlsby‘s likely your kind of commissioner.  If you’re connected to the University of Texas’ athletic department?  Maybe not so much.

At the same luncheon Wednesday in which Bowlsby (once again) tapped the brakes on expansion, the commissioner also addressed the $15 million elephant squatting in the middle of his conference’s living room.  That pachyderm would, of course, be the Longhorn Network, a 24-hour television network subsidized by ESPN and dedicated to all things related to Longhorn sports.

It’s been a thorn in the side of the Big 12 ever since it was announced back in January of 2011.  It was a sore spot for Texas A&M prior for that school’s departure from the Big 12 to the SEC in 2012.  And even as it hasn’t seen the widespread distribution as originally thought — like the Pac-12 Networks, still no deal with DirecTV after reaching one with DISH in March — it’s still an entity that will bring the athletic department an average of $15 million annually over the 20-year life of the contract, much to the chagrin, private or otherwise, of the rest of the league.

Bowlsby pulled no punches in addressing the hindrance the LHN could become in future television/media negotiations for the conference.  From the Oklahoman‘s transcript, with my emphasis added in a couple of spots:

The Longhorn Network is a boulder in the road. It really is. They did something that almost no other institution in the country could do because of the population in the state, and we’re looking at some way to try and morph that around a little bit. … It really begs the question about, how are we going to get our sports in the years ahead? If technology changes in the next five years as much as it’s changed in the last five years, we’re not going to be getting our sports by cable TV. I don’t know what it’ll be. But increasingly, we’re using mobile devices … Google Network and Apple TV and things like that are coming into play. … I’m not sure the world needs another exclusive college cable network. Rather than trying to do what everybody else has done, I would much rather try to figure out what tomorrow’s technology is and get on the front side of that and be a part of what happens going forward and monetize that.

Exactly how Bowlsby and the Big 12 can navigate its way around the 20-year LHN deal when it comes to future deals involving television or other new media entities, if it does indeed become the obstacle the commissioner suggests it could, will be one of the fascinating questions to see answered moving forward.  Especially as it pertains to the ever-present and expansion speculation that simply won’t completely go away.

(Tip O’ the Cap: Brian Davis of the Austin American-Statesman)

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True frosh could start in place of TCU’s Doctson

Perhaps it was a tad too early for the optimism on Josh Doctson‘s availability after all.

The star TCU wide receiver suffered a sprained ankle in the blowout win over Texas Tech. Despite “drastic improvement” since, Doctson hadn’t returned to practice.

That changed Wednesday, although Gary Patterson said the wide receiver only practiced “a little bit.” The head coach also intimated that there is a very real possibility Emanuel Porter will start in place of Doctson in Saturday’s game against West Virginia in Morgantown.

“He had a good game last week,” the coach said of the freshman Porter. “Ran really great routes. A tenacious blocker. A 6’4″ wideout. It’ll be him or Josh [who'll start vs. WVU], one of the two.”

Doctson currently leads the Horned Frogs in receptions (35), receiving yards (573) and receiving touchdowns (seven).  Porter has six catches for 42 yards and a touchdown as a true freshman.  If he gets the nod against the Mountaineers, it’d be Porter’s first career start.

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Mack Brown, on coaching future: ‘If somebody calls, I’ll talk’

Kliff Kingsbury, Mack Brown AP

It remains to be seen whether Mack Brown will return to the sidelines as a head coach next season… or any season for that matter.

What remains clear, however, is that the coaching itch still appears to be there.  Probably.

Earlier this month, Brown’s attorney, Joe Jamail, acknowledged that his client “misses [coaching], frankly.”  During a College Football Playoff luncheon Wednesday, Brown was of course asked about his coaching future.  On that front, the current ESPN college football analyst left the door fairly wide open.

“I’m not going to call anybody.  I’m not going to pursue any jobs,” the 63-year-old Brown said, before adding, “If somebody calls me, I’ll talk to them.”

Brown made it perfectly clear that the right fit would be of the utmost importance as it pertains to a return.  That and the timing of the inquiries.

“I’m very happy with what I’m doing,” Brown began. “I talked to 10 coaches this spring and asked them their opinion of what happens when you get out of coaching.  Some got back in.  Some didn’t.  And they all said, ‘don’t put one minute’s thought into it until December, or late November.’

“And then, if somebody calls you and it excites you, you’ll talk to them.”

Whether that describes the SMU situation is unknown.

Brown, given his ties to the state, has been seemingly connected to that vacancy ever since it came open in early September.  His attorney acknowledged that the university expressed interest, even as athletic director Rick Hart said in a social media statement that “no one associated with our search has contacted him or his representatives.”  There was also a report that “SMU officials have already had preliminary discussions with former Texas coach Mack Brown, floating $4 million annually over eight years;”  Hart flatly stated that there “has been no offer or discussion of compensation with any potential candidates.”

When asked about SMU specifically Wednesday, Brown stated “I haven’t talking to anybody about coaching football at this point.”

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Lawyer drops lawsuit against FSU’s Chris Casher

Caleb Rowe, Chris Casher AP

Four weeks after it was filed, a lawsuit against a current Florida State football player is no more.

According to ESPN.com, a civil lawsuit filed by Tallahassee attorney Adam Ellis against Chris Casher Oct. 1 has been voluntarily dismissed.  The suit stated that the defensive end had agreed to pay Ellis $2,500 for his legal services in connection to the May FSU student code of conduct hearing involving Casher; in a July letter, Ellis claimed he had received no payment.

A source told ESPN.com, however, that Casher had made restitution to Ellis, prompting the attorney to drop the suit earlier this week.  A pretrial hearing on the matter had been scheduled for Nov. 4.

Casher appeared at the hearing for his role in the Jameis Winston sexual assault allegations.  He was sentenced to one year of probation as a result.

In an unrelated matter, Casher was suspended for the Seminoles’ regular season opener before being reinstated in the days leading up to Week 2.

The redshirt sophomore has played in six games this season, with one start.  He’s listed as an “OR,” along with Jacob Pugh, behind starter Mario Edwards as FSU’s “Jack” linebacker on the depth chart heading into the Thursday night game with Louisville.

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Oklahoma WR announces he is leaving team via Twitter

Photo: Oklahoma Athletics

Oklahoma’s wide receiver depth just got a tiny bit more shallow Wednesday night. Dannon Cavil, a redshirt freshman, has decided to leave the Sooners in search of a potential transfer.

Cavil announced his decision to leave the program the way all the kids do these days, via Twitter.

“After careful consideration and much prayer, I’ve decided to pursue a transfer from the University of Oklahoma,” Cavil tweeted. “This was not an easy decision to make however, I believe it is the right decision for me based on my goals and aspirations as a student-athlete.

As noted by The Oklahoman, Cavil never played a down for the Sooners despite enrolling early in 2013. Cavil sat out the 2013 season with a redshirt and had not seen the playing field this season for Oklahoma.

Photo: Oklahoma Athletics

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Ohio State QB J.T. Barrett: I plan on playing Saturday

J.T. Barrett

Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett was roughed up against Penn State’s defense last week, but he has the full intention of playing this weekend. Barrett was reported to have a sprained MCL after Ohio State’s double overtime victory at Penn State.

“It would have to be something drastic that happens between now and Saturday, but I plan on playing Saturday,” Barrett said after practice Wednesday, according to Eleven Warriors.

Ohio State will host Illinois in Big Ten play this Saturday. His health will be of great concern for Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes of course. Next week Ohio State visits Michigan State in what should be the Big Ten East Division championship game when all is said and done. It will also be Ohio State’s biggest chance to impress the College Football Playoff selection committee before a potential trip to the Big Ten Championship Game. The Buckeyes debuted at No. 16 in the first rankings released by the selection committee. Michigan State is in a much more favorable and respected position according to the committee, coming in at No. 8.

Barrett was kept in check by the Penn State defense for most of the night last weekend, but Barrett put the team on his back in the two overtime sessions by running for two touchdowns in the win.

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Jermaine Whitehead still earning his spot back at Auburn

Jermaine Whitehead

Auburn defensive back Jermaine Whitehead continues to work his way back into the mix on Auburn’s defense. This week he will continue to take over a spot on special teams as he gradually works back into the good graces under head coach Gus Malzahn.

Whitehead was welcomed back to the team last week after serving a team suspension. At the time, Malzahn stated Whitehead would have to work hard to earn his place back on the field. Whitehead previously started 26 games at safety for Auburn, so handling special teams responsibilities is clearly not the final goal for Whitehead if he is intending to earn his way all the way back.

Whitehead was suspended following a verbal confrontation with an assistant coach. The suspension ended up costing him four games.

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FSU RB Karlos Williams subject to Title IX investigation

Karlos Williams

Florida State will have to undergo a Title IX investigation connected to running back Karlos Williams. A statement from a university spokeswoman, Browning Brooks, confirmed to the Associated Press the university has a responsibility to follow-up on its own investigation after the incident in question was initially reported to police by the university.

“While each set of facts and circumstances is different, as a general matter notice of any Title IX-related issues would prompt an investigation,” the statement from Brooks said. Federal law states a university must investigate and possible Title IX violations if there is any awareness of possible violations. There is no confirmation Williams is guilty of any violations, and he has not been charged by police for any alleged wrongdoing at this time.

Williams is currently is being investigated by Tallahassee Police Department for his connection to an alleged domestic battery incident. The alleged victim has asked the police to discontinue the investigation, but the police department has continued with the case.

Florida State continues to be investigated by the Department of Education for its handling and response to possible Title IX violations related to quarterback Jameis Winston.

At this time, Williams remains eligible to play for Florida State this week. Head coach Jimbo Fisher said yesterday Williams is expected to play Thursday night at Louisville. The only thing that will change that at this point is if Williams is charged with anything by police.

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UCLA is only team perfect inside the red zone

UCLA v Colorado Getty Images

Successful teams tend to cash in once they enter the red zone, but which teams are doing the best once getting inside their opponents’ 20-yard line? So far this season, UCLA is the only team to have entered the red zone and put points on the scoreboard every time. The Bruins are currently on pace to edge Florida State’s red zone percentage of 97.26 percent. Florida State’s red zone success rate in 2013 en route to a BCS national championship was the best red zone scoring percentage dating back to at least 2008.

Florida State is once again thriving in the red zone this season as well though. The Seminoles are second best in the nation in scoring inside the red zone, trailing only the perfect mark established by UCLA. Auburn is also one of the best in the red zone, which may not be a shock given the offensive firepower the Tigers have to work with. Some of the other teams having good results inside the red zone might be a surprise at first glance. Iowa State and New Mexico State, each with two wins this season, are among the nation’s best at scoring in the red zone.

Top 10 Red Zone Scoring Percentages

  1. UCLA (100.00%; 30-for-30)
  2. Florida State (97.06%; 33-for-34)
  3. Iowa State (96.00%; 24-for-25)
  4. New Mexico State (95.65%; 22-for-23)
  5. Florida (95.45%; 21-for-22)
  6. Nevada (94.44%; 34-for-36)
  7. Auburn (93.55%; 29-for-31)
  8. Rice (93.33%; 28-for-30)
  9. Georgia Southern (92.86%; 39-for-42)
  10. Louisiana-Lafayette (92.59%; 25-for-27)
    Washington (92.59%; 25-for-27)

Red zone scoring success rates take into account all points scored, but which schools are maximizing their red zone opportunities the most? In other words, which schools have the best red zone touchdown percentages? Auburn, Georgia Southern and New Mexico State are the only three schools to rank in the top ten in top red zone scoring and red zone touchdown percentages s far this season.

Georgia Southern and Michigan State share the lead for most red zone touchdowns, but nine schools have a better touchdown percentage so far this season.

Top 10 Red Zone Touchdown Percentages

  1. Texas State (81.48%; 22-for-27)
  2. Arkansas (80.56%; 29-for-31)
  3. Old Dominion (77.42%; 24-for-31)
  4. USC (76.67%; 23-for-30)
  5. North Carolina (76.47%; 26-for-34)
  6. Texas A&M (76.47%; 26-for-34)
  7. Nebraska (75.00%; 27-for-36)
  8. Auburn (74.19%; 23-for-31)
  9. New Mexico State (73.91%; 17-for-23)
  10. Georgia Southern (73.81%; 31-for-42)
    Michigan State (73.81%; 31-for-42)

Stats courtesy of CFBStats.com.

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Bowlsby doesn’t see “obvious candidates” for Big 12 expansion

Bob Bowlsby

The Big 12 is still sitting on a 10-member conference, which leaves the Big 12 without a conference championship game. It is unknown if the lack of a championship game will hold a Big 12 champion back from making the College Football Playoff, but the possibility does still have some concerned and wondering how this all plays out. For now, Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby is not focused on expanding the conference to 12 members to get a conference championship game back on the schedule because of the lack of ideal candidates available.

“In our case, I don’t know that there are a lot of obvious candidates out there,” Bowlsby said in a Q&A with The Oklahoman. “We’re distributing about $25 million per school through our distributable revenue, so anybody that would be considered for expansion in our league would have to bring at least pro-rata value.”

Schools that have been tied to some form of expansion rumor or another in recent years have included Florida State, Clemson, UCF, USF, Cincinnati and BYU. It has been a few years now, and there has been no movement from the Big 12 to expand after adding West Virginia and TCU. The Mountaineers and Horned Frogs were added following the departures of Texas A&M and Missouri to the SEC, Nebraska to the Big Ten and Colorado to the Pac-12.

“I don’t see much movement in the near- to mid-term,” Bowlsby said. “As we get near the end of some of these TV contracts, which would be 10 or 12 years down the road, there may be some renewed conversations. The only movement that is possible right now is from some of the secondary-level conferences that might move people into one of the five high profiles.”

Bowlsby also suggested any talk about super conferences — 16-team mega conferences that could potentially split from the NCAA model entirely — was nothing more than a fabrication crested by the media. He might be right about that.

“I have heard no serious conversation among people who do this for a living that the super-conference concept has got any traction,” Bowlsby said. “It’s always dangerous when the media starts to interview the rest of the media, and I think that’s where the super-conference thing came from.”

So, for about the 148th time in the past couple of years, the official company line from the Big 12 is the conference is not interested in expanding. At this time, there is no reason to suggest otherwise.

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Forget Marshall, where is Colorado State in new ranking?

Colorado State vs Utah State

Colorado State could very well go 11-1 this season, but even that may not be enough for the Rams to sniff a spot in one of the College Football Playoff affiliated bowls. We should still be paying attention to them though, just as we will East Carolina and Marshall.

As you hopefully are aware now, one spot in the access bowls will be reserved for the highest-ranked conference champion from the American Athletic Conference, Conference USA, MAC, Mountain West Conference or Sun Belt Conference. In the initial College Football Playoff selection committee ranking unveiled Tuesday night, East Carolina entered the ranking at No. 23. Undefeated Marshall was unranked, and no other team from a non-power conference appeared in the poll either. This means East Carolina is now, I suppose officially, the team to beat in the rankings for the reserved big bowl spot.

Of course, East Carolina still needs to win the American Athletic Conference and still has games against UCF and Cincinnati to get by to make that happen. But the Pirates sit in a good position. Marshall is unranked but figures to be next in line if East Carolina happens to stumble. Although, an argument could be made for UCF or Cincinnati to pass the Thundering Herd if either gets by ECU in the American. We’ll worry about that down the line if it pops up.

But what about Colorado State? I previously discussed how Boise State is still an interesting cog in the race for the access bowl spot, and they are. So is Colorado State.

The Rams look to be one of the top teams in the Mountain West Conference and have two victories over power conference opponents, just like East Carolina. The rams have a neutral site victory over Colorado and flew across the country to Boston to take down Boston College earlier this season. The only team to beat Colorado State this season is Boise State, and herein lies the biggest obstacle for Colorado State to jump. And they can’t even do anything about it now.

Because Boise State defeated Colorado State, the Broncos own a head-to-head tiebreaker in the Mountain Division of the MWC. Both teams have one loss in conference play, so Colorado State needs to win the remaining games on their schedule. At the same time, Colorado State needs Boise State to lose at least once. Winning the division will allow Colorado State a chance to play for the Mountain West Conference championship, with a potential shot at a big bowl game on the line.

In theory, a 12-1 Colorado State team would have every bit as strong an argument to play in a New Years bowl as East Carolina. What’s more, the argument for Colorado State could also become stronger if East Carolina’s biggest wins (Virginia Tech and North Carolina) struggle down the stretch. If strength of schedule is an important factor in the rankings, and the evidence suggests it is, Colorado State could be on par with East Carolina. This should add a little more intrigue to this week’s ACC contest between Boston College and Virginia Tech.

Bottom line, Colorado State is still in the running. The Rams need some help along the way, and Boise State does appear to have a tougher final stretch than Colorado State, so there is hope.

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Texas A&M going really old school with uniforms this weekend

Texas A&M 1939 throwback uniform (2014)

The Texas A&M Aggies will be sporting some sharp throwback uniforms this weekend, honoring the legacy of the 1939 Aggies. At first glance, it looks like Texas A&M is going with a winged-helmet design similar to Michigan’s signature look, but the design is reminiscent of the design used on Texas A&M’s old leather helmets of the era. A handful of schools adopted this idea at the time, as it was supposed to make it easier to identify receivers.

The uniform is designed by Adidas, a company that has produced some uniforms on the receiving end of some ridicule with some regularity. That should not be the case here though. This uniform appears to have been thought out well and executed to near perfection. It is a terrific look that honors the past of the Texas A&M program, yet looks to fit in with today’s game. Adidas got one right here.

 

Texas A&M was named the national champions of the 1939 season by the Associated Press, although USC also claims a national championship that same season as the top-ranked team in the now retired Dickenson System. The Trojans began officially claiming that national championship as a part of program history in 2004, because that’s the thing to do these days. Led by College Football Hall of Famer and All-American John “The Haskell Hurricane” Kimbrough, Texas A&M went 11-0 in 1939, including a 6-0 record in the old Southwest Conference. The season ended with a 14-13 victory over No. 5 Tulane in the Sugar Bowl.

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Penn State o-line still waiting for return of Dieffenbach

Nebraska v Penn State

Penn State’s inability to get the running game going this season and provide adequate protection for quarterback Christian Hackenberg has been a result of a young and inexperienced offensive line, without much depth behind it. Not having one of its most experienced options on the line this season has hurt, but the return of offensive guard Miles Dieffenbach could be coming any time now.

Dieffenbach injured his knee in the spring and the rehab has kept him a spectator and cheerleader from the Penn State sideline this season. The fifth-year senior is hoping to be cleared by doctors to resume football activity before the season ends, but doctors have yet to provide the clearance needed to send Dieffenbach back on the field. With Penn State days away from hosting new Big Ten member Maryland, Dieffenbach’s availability remains in question for head coach James Franklin.

“It’s not just the physical aspects of it, it’s the muscle memory of technique and footwork he hasn’t done in six months and it’s also the confidence,” Franklin said this week. ”He’s practicing to a degree the last couple of weeks and hopefully he’ll have a bigger role this week and that will allow us to play him in the game a little bit.”

Penn State’s offensive line performed better against Ohio State than most games this season. A second bye week in three weeks may have helped the line find some identity in preparation for the Buckeyes, but there is no doubt having a fifth-year senior as experienced as Dieffenbach would give the entire line a boost.

Penn State hosts Maryland this Saturday at 12 p.m. eastern.

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Bovada pegs Mariota as its Heisman wagering favorite

Marcus Mariota AP

Thanks to the now-resolved NCAA situation involving Todd Gurley, Dak Prescott was pegged as Bovada‘s Heisman Trophy favorite earlier this month.

Now, another quarterback out West has taken over that mantle.

According to the wagering website Bovada.lv, Oregon’s Marcus Mariota is a prohibitive 4/5 favorite to claim the 2014 version of the most prestigious award in college sports. Just a week ago, the junior Duck was a 3/2 favorite.

Prescott, meanwhile, has seen his odds lengthen to 3/1. In the immediate aftermath of the Gurley imbroglio, the Mississippi State quarterback was instilled as a 2/1 favorite.

Gurley, incidentally, is no longer listed.

The first non-QB to receive odds is Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon (8/1). Gordon had been 6/1 seven days ago.

Alabama’s Amari Cooper (16/1, up from 18/1) is one of two wide receivers given odds, the other being West Virginia’s Kevin White (50/1, from 25/1).

The reigning Heisman winner, Jameis Winston, saw his odds plunge from 18/1 to 33/1. The Florida State quarterback entered the 2014 season as a slight 9/2 favorite over Mariota (5/1).

Below are the complete set of Heisman odds, again courtesy of Bovada.lv:

Bovada Week 9 Heisman Odds

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