2018 NCAA Tournament bracketology February 12

The NCAA selection committee released their top 16 seeds this Saturday to give a look into how they would seed the teams right now. This can officially put everyone in the mindset for March Madness. Here is the latest NCAA Tournament bracketology. Click to zoom.

 

First four out: SMU, Nebraska, St. Bonaventure, Utah

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Auburn ready to silence doubters

The No. 11 Auburn Tigers have not captured a victory at the Pavilion in nearly ten years. After a strong second half from junior guard Bryce Brown, the Tigers stormed out of Oxford, Mississippi with a 79-70 comeback win over rival Ole Miss. Coach Bruce Pearl’s team now sits at 8-1 in SEC conference play, holding a two game lead over second place Kentucky. Let’s take a look at why the Tigers have defied expectations this season, and why they are equipped to continue to defy doubters come March.

 

Second Half Dominance

 

Mustapha Heron soars in for a basket (Crystal LoGiudice/Associated Press).

A common theme for Pearl’s Tigers this season has been breaking away from inferior competition in the second half of games. In Auburn’s 79-65 victory over Georgia, the Bulldogs jumped out to a 40-26 lead at halftime, holding Auburn to 25 percent shooting from the field. Pearl, as he has done all season, engineered the necessary adjustments on both offense and defense during the break. This led to an offensive explosion by the Tigers, with Brown pouring in 25 of his 28 points in the second half and sophomore guard Mustapha Heron adding 14 points.

Auburn has scored 50 points in the second half eight times this season with five of them coming against SEC opponents. Pearl has credited his players for having the willpower and resiliency to close out games. Brown has consistently shown the ability to turn on a second gear on both ends of the floor at will this season. Auburn has the unique blend of calmness, intensity and belief in one another which allows them to climb out of significant deficits in any situation and slam the door on any comeback it faces.

 

Nine Man Rotation

Unlike some of the other top contenders in the nation, Pearl has the ability to roll out a nine man rotation every game. This depth allows Pearl to create mismatches against any line-up. All nine players average at least 13 minutes per game and this allows Pearl to wear down opponents as each game progresses. It also allows Auburn to ramp up the on and off ball pressure on defense, understanding that they can withstand foul trouble to any certain player.

 

Come postseason play, teams that roll out primarily six or seven man rotations feel the effect of tired legs. Pearl is unafraid to ride the players who produce for him on a game-by-game basis. This depth provides Pearl with versatility in both creating game plans and adjusting match-ups mid-game.

 

The Emergence of Bryce Brown 

 

 

Bryce Brown silences the crowd (Samantha Baker/AP Photo)

After Auburn suspended both Austin Wiley, a former five-star recruit, and Danjel Purifoy indefinitely for their potential involvement in a federal court investigation against former Auburn assistant coach Chuck Person. Most pundits wrote off Pearl’s squad as both Wiley and Purifoy were potential starters for Auburn this season. In order to have a successful season, Pearl needed one of his upperclassmen to step up and lead his team.

Brown has averaged 16.6 points per game, more than double than his average last season. He has been lethal from behind the arc as well, shooting 40.3 percent from three point range this season. In addition to his dominance of the stat sheet, Brown has been the heart and soul of this Tiger team, sparking second half runs with his play-making ability on and off the ball.

 

Defense Wins Championships

Perhaps Pearl’s most impressive accomplishment on the season is the turnaround of Auburn’s defense. According to KenPom rankings, Auburn’s adjusted defensive efficiency ranks 25th in the nation. Pearl’s defense is predicated on heavy on ball pressure with the intention of forcing turnovers. This style of play allows Auburn to rattle its opponents while slowly burning out their energy.

This is where Auburn’s depth plays to its advantage. Pearl can utilize all nine of his rotational players to maintain this intensity for all 40 minutes of playing time. He can continually send in fresh legs to stabilize the pressure as Auburn’s opponents slowly burn out.

Verdict

Auburn has defied expectations all season long by taking care of business against inferior opposition. However, with games against Kentucky, Alabama, and at Florida remaining, the Tigers must figure out how to consistently show up for all 40 minutes. Pearl’s squad has a chance to solidify a number two seed in the big dance if they continue to manhandle SEC competition. Based on the way the Tigers have rallied around each other this season, anything is possible.

 

Featured image by Rogelio V. Solis/AP

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

Early college football top 25 for the 2018 season

Alabama had a thrilling comeback to win yet another title. It included putting in a freshman quarterback, who hadn’t played a meaningful snap all season long. The game just goes to show that college football is unique and great. While the 2017 season is now over it is time to look ahead to the 2018 season. Here is the early college football top 25 for the 2018 season:

1. Alabama Crimson Tide

While they always lose talent to the NFL, Alabama can replace it. Jalen Hurts or Tua Tagovailoa will lead the offense alongside any of the talented running backs that decide to return to school. Najee Harris found some daylight in the title game and will also be back. The defense will lose a lot more talent to the NFL, but they always step up. A lot of players got experience this season due to injuries.

2. Clemson Tigers

Clemson made a third straight College Football Playoff and will compete for another next season. Kelly Bryant and the talented running backs will be back. Deon Cain and Hunter Renfrow need to make their decisions still, but Clemson can replace them. The defense always reloads and will at the very least have stud defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence to build around.

3. Ohio State Buckeyes

Early college football top 25 for the 2018 season

J.K. Dobbins (Photo by cleveland.com)

J.T. Barrett may be leaving, but Dwayne Haskins looked good in relief against Michigan. Add him with J.K. Dobbins, Mike Weber and the majority of the offensive line returning and it has the makings of a good offense. The defense will still have Nick Bosa and Dre’Mont Jones, which will help make up a good defensive line.

4. Washington Huskies

The Huskies had a young team this season that saw them replace a lot of NFL talent on defense. Jake Browning should return to school to lead the team at quarterback. Myles Gaskin and Dante Pettis could both be lost to the NFL, but if Gaskin elects to return to school, the offense will be solid. The majority of the defense will return, but will have to fill holes left by Vita Vea and some very good linebackers.

5. Miami Hurricanes

Is Malik Rosier the answer at quarterback? Only time will tell. The Hurricanes should have him, Mark Walton and Ahmmon Richards back to make plays. They do lose a lot on the offensive line, but should be able to replace it. Miami should also get most of their defense back, which includes a great back seven of talented linebackers and a good secondary.

6. Michigan State Spartans

L.J. Scott decided to return to school, giving Michigan State almost all their starters back for next year. After winning ten games this season, they should be expected to compete even more next season. Brian Lewerke is a dual-threat that is expected to improve this offseason. The defense was very young and should also get a lot better next season.

7. Georgia Bulldogs

The Bulldogs just played in the National Championship, but are going to lose a lot of talent, especially on their defense. They could lose up to nine or ten players from the defense, which will not be easy to replace. Georgia has some playmakers on offense returning in Jake Fromm, D’Andre Swift and Riley Ridley. Most of their offensive line also returns.

8. Wisconsin Badgers

Wisconsin got a huge win when linebacker T.J. Edwards said he was returning for his senior season. He will give the defense some stability, as they lose a lot this offseason. The offense will be expected to pick up the slack, as Jonathan Taylor had a fantastic freshman season and most of his offensive line will return. The question is: How well can Alex Hornibrook play?

9. Oklahoma Sooners

Lincoln Riley did a fantastic job in his first year as head coach, but now has to move on without Baker Mayfield. Kyler Murray was a highly-touted recruit that Riley can mold. Freshman running back Rodney Anderson also returns after having a great season and Rose Bowl. Add those two to wide receiver “Hollywood” Brown and the offense should be set. Defensively, some talent will move on, but the offense is the strength of the team.

10. Virginia Tech Hokies

Early college football top 25 for the 2018 season

Josh Jackson (Photo by cjonline.com)

Josh Jackson had a fantastic freshman season that resulted in nine wins. His progression is what carries this ranking. Travon McMillan and Cam Phillips, his two offensive weapons at running back and wide receiver, are gone. Young receivers will need to step up and they will also need to replace a few offensive linemen. The Hokies will return about six or seven starters on defense, but will need to replace some NFL-level talent.

11. Penn State Nittany Lions 

Saquon Barkley is gone, but Trace McSorley is back again. He will now have to be the focal point of the offense with a new offensive coordinator. Most of the offensive line returns, but a lot of new faces will have to step up on defense, as they had a lot of seniors getting significant playing time.

12. Auburn Tigers

The Tigers had a great season that resulted with them playing in the Cotton Bowl. Auburn gets quarterback Jarrett Stidham back, while Kerryon Johnson is leaving for the NFL. They will lose some quality players on defense, but will get the majority back for 2018.

13. Stanford Cardinal

Bryce Love is likely going to the NFL. The good news for Stanford is they can seemingly plug in a lot of running backs into their system to be productive. K.J. Costello also showed some flashes of being a very good quarterback. They lose more than half of their defense to seniors, but the returning players are solid.

14. Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Both Josh Adams and Equanimeous St. are trying to make it at the next level. Losing Mike McGlinchey and Quenton Nelson deals a significant blow to the offense of Notre Dame. They still have some good offensive linemen, running backs and wide receivers who will step up next season. That only leaves the matter of quarterback. Ian Book and Brandon Wimbush will battle it out in the offseason for the starting role. The seniors leaving the defense will leave a mark, but a lot of players returning have gotten significant playing time due to injuries over the previous few seasons.

15. Boise State Broncos

Boise State has a chance to be in the national spotlight again this year, after fading in the past few seasons. Quarterback Brett Rypien and running back Alexander Mattison return, which should help keep the offense rolling. Losing wide receiver Cedrick Wilson and some offensive linemen will hurt, but they will manage. The defense is young and pretty much all returning next season, meaning they should be dominant.

16. LSU Tigers

The Tigers will have to replace a lot of their offense, but they have some talented recruits waiting to take the team to the next level. Myles Brennan looks to take over at quarterback after seeing action in six games this season. He was a highly-touted recruit that should be able to make plays with another year under his belt. A lot of good players from LSU’s defense will be missing as well, so they’re recruits will need to step up.

17. Michigan Wolverines

Early college football top 25 for the 2018 season

Shea Patterson (Photo by freep.com)

Michigan won the Shea Patterson sweepstakes and the quarterback transfer from Ole Miss. Brandon Peters also showed potential at the position this season. They’ll need skill position players to step up next season. Donovan Peoples-Jones is in store for a big year at wide receiver if the quarterback play is good enough. The defense returns most of its key players. A player to watch is linebacker Devin Bush, who is one of the best in the country.

18. USC Trojans

Sam Darnold helped lead USC back to prominence, but now he is gone. Gone too are running back Ronald Jones and wide receiver Deontay Burnett. Two offensive linemen also graduate, so they will have some big shoes to fill in Los Angeles. A lot of their players on the defensive side of the ball will be testing the NFL Draft waters, so sophomore corner Jack Jones will have to step up and be a leader.

19. West Virginia Mountaineers

Will Grier had a great season for West Virginia and has decided to return to school. With most of his weapons back, Grier should have the Mountaineers in good position to have one of the best offenses in the country once again. While the defense isn’t the strength of the team, a lot of returning players will be good to work with.

20. Florida Atlantic Owls

Florida Atlantic hit a home run when they hired Lane Kiffin. He took a team that was supposed to be very bad and made them a conference championship team. Running back Devin Singletary was one of the most productive running backs in the country this season and will be back for his junior year. A young defense should also improve as a lot more people hop on the “Lane Train”.

21. Kansas State Wildcats

Bill Snyder is back for another season. They won nine games in 2016 and eight games this season with young teams. Now, with a bunch of veterans, the Wildcats are looking to compete more in the Big 12. Wide receiver Byron Pringle will be asked to do a lot for this team, but they will mainly try to run the football. If D.J. Reed decides to return at corner, it should be another solid year for the Wildcats.

22. Northwestern Wildcats

They won ten games this season and will be back for more next season. While their career leading rusher, Justin Jackson, is graduating, they seem to believe freshman Jeremy Larkin can be a workhorse back in his sophomore year. Quarterback Clayton Thorson is also back for next season, but is recovering from a torn ACL in the Music City Bowl. Freshman linebacker Paddy Fisher looks like he will be on of their all-time greats.

23. Florida State Seminoles

Early college football top 25 for the 2018 season

Deondre Francois (photo by gridironnow.com)

Willie Taggart did a good job of turning around Oregon in his one season in Eugene. He is a solid coach who will get some talent returning. With Deondre Francois back at quarterback, Cam Akers at running back and a lot of good receivers, they should be solid on offense. The offensive line has struggled in the last few years, they are young and shold improve. A lot might need to be replaced on defense, but they have recruited well.

24. Mississippi State Bulldogs

If Nick Fitzgerald can recover from a gruesome leg injury, the Bulldogs have the makings of a good team. They get most of their team back, which is encouraging, but Dan Mullen left for Florida. Joe Moorehead will try to make Mississippi State’s offense a lot better, just like he did at Penn State.

25. Texas A&M Aggies

Jimbo Fisher is a great haul for Texas A&M. He will have to work with quarterbacks Kellen Mond and Nick Starkel, but they can be successful. Trayveon Willliams returns at running back, along with a lot of the offensive line, but they will have to replace Christian Kirk. A lot of their best defensive players will be playing on Sundays next year, so Fisher has a little bit of work cut out for him on that side of the ball.

 

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NFL Draft prospects in the 2018 Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl

The Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl has a three loss team and a team from a group of five conference, but there will be a lot of talent on the field. Both UCF and Auburn have a lot of players who can make it in the NFL. Here are the top NFL Draft prospects in the 2018 Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl:

UCF Golden Knights

Mike Hughes, CB

NFL Draft prospects in the 2018 Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl

Mike Hughes (Photo by twitter.com)

Hughes is in his first year with UCF after transferring from UNC and has produced. The junior has had a great season with 44 total tackles, four interceptions and 11 passes defended. He was able to play against some great offenses in the American in Memphis and USF.

He is 5’11” and 185 pounds, which is a good enough start for the NFL, but he’ll need to add some strength. Hughes will likely get selected on day two or early on day three in the 2018 NFL Draft.

Projected draft range: 2nd round-4th round

Shaquem Griffin, LB

Griffin’s brother, Shaquill, is already an NFL corner back with the Seahawks. Shaquem has been an impact player for UCF for the past two seasons. In his career he has 183 total tackles, 30 tackles for loss and 17 sacks. Griffin only has one hand, which could give some NFL teams some questions, but he has played well and deserves some NFL Draft consideration.

At 6’1″ and 221 pounds, he is a little undersized for a linebacker. He has produced really well for the Golden Knights and should be expected to do so again in the Peach Bowl.

Projected draft range: 6th round-undrafted free agent

Auburn Tigers

Carlton Davis, CB

Davis is a junior who has gotten significant playing time since his first season at Auburn. He has 136 total tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss and four interceptions in his career. NFL scouts like the fact that he is a lanky corner who has athleticism to match up with good receivers.

He is 6’1″ and 203 pounds, which is solid size for an NFL corner. Davis will be picked in the early rounds of the 2018 NFL Draft.

Projected draft range: 1st round-2nd round

Kerryon Johnson, RB

NFL Draft prospects in the 2018 Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl

Kerryon Johnson (Photo by al.com)

Johnson battled early in his career for more playing time, but shined this season as the SEC’s leading rusher. He has 2,423 rushing yards and 31 rushing touchdowns in his career. Most of his production is from this season, but it has averaged 4.9 yards per carry throughout his career.

At 6’0″ and 212 pounds, Johnson is a decent size for an NFL running back. He will be appealing to teams for his ability to run physically and also catch passes out of the backfield. He won’t go in the first round, but shouldn’t have to wait too long to hear his name after that.

Projected draft range: 2nd round-4th round

Dontavius Russell, DT

Russell is just a junior and because he isn’t a top-tier prospect, might choose to go back to school. This season he has 41 total tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss and three sacks. As with most defensive tackles, their impact on the game is more than what shows up on the stat sheet.

He has great size at 6’3″ and 310 pounds. Russell will fit best as a 4-3 defensive tackle and should be good at stopping the run for an NFL team.

Projected draft range: 2nd round-4th round

Other notable Auburn prospects: QB Jarrett Stidham (3rd round-5th round), G Braden Smith (3rd round-5th round), G Will Bell (7th round-undrafted free agent), C Austin Golson (4th round-6th round), LB Jeff Holland (3rd round-5th round), LB Tre’ Williams (4th round-6th round)

 

 

2018 Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl preview

The last New Year’s Six bowl game before the College Football Playoff is the 2018 Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl. Undefeated UCF and battle-tested Auburn will go head to head. Here is the 2018 Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl preview:

12 UCF Golden Knights (12-0)

2018 Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl

McKenzie Milton (Photo by rivals.com)

UCF completed an undefeated season, but was unable to get anywhere close to the CFP. They had their game against Georgia Tech cancelled, but that wouldn’t have done much to help their resume. The Golden Knights beat six bowl eligible teams, including Memphis twice to get to their twelve wins.

The offense scores 49.4 points per game with the running game averaging over 200 yards per game. Adrian Killins Jr. averages 6.8 yards per carry with 762 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns. His backup, Otis Anderson, has 456 rushing yards and four touchdowns. Quarterback McKenzie Milton is a threat with his legs too, with 497 rushing yards and seven touchdowns on the ground.

Milton also operates a good passing offense with 3,795 passing yards, 35 touchdowns and nine interceptions on 69.2% completion. He has generated a lot of offense this season for the Golden Knights. His leading receiver is Tre’Quan Smith, who has 1,082 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns.

They have an average scoring defense that allows 25.2 points per game. UCF ranks 68th against the run and 110th against the pass. Linebacker Shaquem Griffin has been a star for the Golden Knights with 62 total tackles, 10 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks this season.

7 Auburn Tigers (10-3)

2018 Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl preview

Kerryon Johnson (Photo by al.com)

The Tigers would’ve been in the CFP had they won the SEC Championship Game, but lost to Georgia. Their other losses were to Clemson and LSU. They beat five bowl eligible teams, which includes their big wins over Alabama and Georgia.

Offensively, Auburn scores 34.4 points per game and does a lot of damage on the ground. Kerryon Johnson was the SEC’s leading rusher with 1,320 yards and 17 touchdowns. Kam Martin and Kamryn Pettway also get some work, but Johnson gets the bulk of it with 236 carries.

Jarrett Stidham has been efficient at quarterback for Auburn, completing 66.7% of his passes. They don’t throw the most, but he has 2,827 passing yards, 17 touchdowns and just four interceptions. Ryan Davis is the leading receiver with 76 receptions for 768 yards and five touchdowns.

The defense ranks 10th in the country, allowing 17.3 points per game. They rank 31st against the run and 15th against the pass. Corner Carlton Davis has shut down opposing receivers this season. He has 34 total tackles, one interception and 10 passes defended.

Prediction

UCF’s defense is going to be gashed by the Auburn running game. Johnson will have a big game, which will set up Stidham in the passing game. While the UCF offense is good, Auburn’s defense will get enough stops to in the game.

Auburn Tigers 48 UCF Golden Knights 27

 

 

College Football Playoff Bracketology 12/3/17

The season is over and all that is left is for the committee selecting the teams for the College Football Playoff (CFP). Here is how the committee should rank the teams in their final rankings of the season:

In the playoff:

1. Clemson Tigers (13-0)

The Tigers won the ACC yet again. This time they beat Miami to secure the ACC crown. They were ranked first last week by the committee and that shouldn’t change in the final rankings.

Clemson has a great resume and beat nine teams who are playing in bowls this winter. The loss to Syracuse happened when Kelly Bryant wasn’t healthy and didn’t play the full game. If the Tigers aren’t ranked first by the committee it would be a surprise.

2. Oklahoma Sooners (12-1)

Oklahoma locked up a spot in the CFP with their 41-17 win over TCU in the Big 12 Championship Game. Winning would’ve been enough, but they really put their stamp on this game and proved to the committee that they belong in the CFP.

The Sooners have the one blemish on their record that came at the hands of Iowa State. Their resume is great outside the loss. They beat Ohio State, Oklahoma State and TCU twice. With the second best strength of record at the completion of their game, Oklahoma doesn’t have much to worry about.

Can the Sooners’ defense step up in the College Football Playoff?

3. Georgia Bulldogs (12-1)

Georgia avenged their only loss of the season with a big win in the SEC Championship over Auburn. This was a play-in game for the CFP, so Georgia is in.

The Bulldogs tested themselves with a game at Notre Dame and passed the test. Adding that game to their wins over Mississipi State and Auburn, along with the fact that they are the SEC Champions, puts them in the CFP.

Georgia finally has the chance to play for a national title, but what can they do now that they have the chance?

4. Ohio State Buckeyes (11-2)

College Football Playoff Bracketology

J.T. Barrett (Photo by espn.com)

Ohio State was able to hold on in the Big Ten Championship and beat Wisconsin 27-21. The Buckeyes will now be hoping their resume looks better to the committee than Alabama’s does.

The Buckeyes have a lot of solid wins, which puts them in the conversation to be in the CFP. They beat Penn State, Michigan State, Wisconsin and Michigan. Three of these teams will be in or around the top 15 in the CFP committee’s final rankings. Alabama will have one team beat near the top 15, being LSU. I’ll take Ohio State beating three top 15 teams over, Albama’s possible one.

A Big Ten Championship is nice, but the Buckeyes feel they deserve to make the CFP.

First four out:

5. Auburn Tigers (10-3)

The Tigers lost in the SEC Championship Game. They would have been in had they won, but since they didn’t they will have to settle for a New Year’s Six bowl game.

Auburn lost three games, all coming to good teams, but was the only team to beat Alabama. They also beat Mississippi State and Auburn in their first meeting. At the end of the day, Auburn was in the position they wanted to be in at the end of the season, but failed to execute.

6. Alabama Crimson Tide (11-1)

College football playoff bracketology

Nick Saban (Photo by usatoday.com)

Alabama was the only team with realistic CFP chances that was idle this weekend. The Crimson Tide will be hoping that their metrics and resume can get them into the playoff.

The strength of record was sixth in the country heading into the weekend, but likely will drop when all the metrics are updated. They beat LSU, Mississippi State and Fresno State for solid wins, but other than that their resume isn’t great. They failed to beat an elite team all season (unless LSU is considered elite) and are paying for it now.

Had Florida State been as good as expected the resume might have had the necessary boost to get Alabama in the CFP.

7. Wisconsin Badgers (12-1)

Wisconsin lost in the Big Ten Championship and lost their chance to play in the CFP. It was a well fought game, but they ultimately fell short.

The Badgers didn’t play a great schedule, which meant they had no room for error this year. Wins over Northwestern and Michigan are nice, but won’t get anyone in the playoff without a conference championship.

It isn’t what Wisconsin fans wanted, but the team will still get to play in a big time bowl game.

8. USC Trojans (11-2)

USC won the Pac-12 Championship over Stanford in a 31-28 win. It’s a too little too late for the Trojans, but they have secured a second straight New Year’s Six bowl.

The Trojans beat Stanford twice and Arizona for their best wins of the season. Their losses to Washington State and Notre Dame aren’t bad, but they haven’t beaten enough good teams to warrant a higher ranking than this.

Next four out:

9. Miami Hurricanes (10-2)

Miami got off to a slow start against Clemson and were never able to recover in the ACC Championship Game. They had a great season, but came up just short of the CFP. A New Year’s Six Bowl game is not a bad result for Mark Richt in his second season.

The Hurricanes successfully beat Notre Dame and Virginia Tech, but were unable to accrue any other great victories. The loss at Pittsburgh, who didn’t qualify for a bowl game, really hurt Miami’s chances. If they were undefeated heading into the ACC Championship Game, they may have been able to afford a loss.

Mark Richt has started to bring the “U” back, but they haven’t gotten all the way back.

10. UCF Golden Knights (12-0)

UCF completed the undefeated record heading into the bowl games. They beat Memphis in a double overtime thriller 62-55 to win the AAC Championship.

It’s a shame that UCF, isn’t getting more recognition for the CFP, but they did lock up a chance to play in a New Year’s Six bowl game. Their two wins over Memphis are great and they also beat a Power 5 conference team in Maryland. If their game against Georgia Tech wasn’t cancelled due to a hurricane, they would’ve gotten much more love from the committee.

Scott Frost is reportedly out, so how will UCF respond in their big bowl game?

11. Penn State Nittany Lions (10-2)

Penn State did not play this weekend, but drop in the rankings as a result of other teams winning conference championships.

The Nittany Lions only have two solid wins, one over Michigan and one coming at the expense of Northwestern. They lost in both games in which they had a chance to really impress the committee. Had they beaten Ohio State and/or Michigan State, they would rightfully be in the CFP talk. They’ll have to settle for a New Year’s Six bowl.

Might we see another Penn State vs. USC matchup?

12. Washington Huskies (10-2)

Like Penn State, the Huskies didn’t play anyone this week. They benefit from teams losing in conference championship games though.

The Huskies couldn’t put it all together this season against good competition. Their best wins were over Fresno State and Washington State, but had a horrid schedule outside of those games.

Washington will also have to settle for a New Year’s Six bowl game.

 

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Five things we learned from conference championship week

Teams are preparing for bowl season or for next season depending on how their season finished. Heading into bowl games, more coaching carousel drama, here is what we learned:

1. Oklahoma locks up CFP, Baker Mayfield locks up the Heisman

Conference Championship week

Baker Mayfield (usatoday.com)

Oklahoma dominated in the Big 12 Championship, beating TCU 41-17. The Sooners were ranked third in the most recent College Football Playoff (CFP) rankings, so this win virtually locks up their CFP spot. With a record of 12-1 and a Big 12 Championship at hand, Oklahoma will be watching the selection show just to see who they are playing in the first round of the CFP.

On top of the Sooners winning the Big 12, their quarterback, Baker Mayfield, has cemented himself as the Heisman winner. In the Big 12 Championship Game, he threw for 243 yards and four touchdowns. With over 4,000 yards passing and 40 total touchdowns on the season, Mayfield is the obvious choice.

2. UCF has completed a great turnaround, but lose coach

Scott Frost was announced as the new head coach of the UCF Golden Knights after the 2015 season. UCF had just gone 0-12 and needed a lot of work. In his first season as head coach, Frost led the team to a 6-7 record, which included an appearance in the Cure Bowl. It was a great start to the turnaround, but Frost wasn’t done yet.

This season, UCF was not favored to win the conference, with teams like USF and Houston stealing the headlines. They were expected to take another step forward, however. They surprised everyone and ripped off 12 wins (one was cancelled due to a hurricane) and won the AAC Championship. The Golden Knights have earned the right to play in a New Year’s Six Bowl. The complete turnaround has been completed.

Unfortunately for UCF, Frost has reportedly taken the job at Nebraska. While it is a bittersweet moment for the Golden Knights, I don’t think they would trade the undefeated season and AAC Championship.

3. Georgia fans can relax….for now

Conference Championship week

D’Andre Swift (Photo by saturdaydownsouth.com)

Georgia has been a team that looks like a contender early in the season, but nearly always blows it. The administration fired Mark Richt for his failures to compete at the highest levels. They hired Kirby Smart, who in his second season, has led the Bulldogs to a SEC Championship and the chance to win the whole thing.

The Bulldogs will be in the CFP and will be waiting to see how they play. They may have overcome the thought that they would choke, but they have to prepare for more big games if they want to win it all. Their wins over Auburn and at Notre Dame prove they can play with anyone in the country.

4. Clemson is battle tested

Clemson has put together another great season. They won the ACC Championship Game and are going to be in the CFP. Can the Tigers repeat as champs?

While the Tigers did lose to Syracuse, they beat a lot of good football teams this year. They won nine games against bowl eligible teams, including big wins over Auburn, Louisville, Miami, Virginia Tech and N.C. State. There were questions to start the season about Clemson, but they have answered most of those questions.

Does anyone want to play Clemson in the first round of the CFP?

5. J.T. Barrett is one of the toughest players of all time

J.T. Barrett re-aggravated a knee injury against Michigan and had to exit the game. Dwayne Haskins Jr. was able to take over and lead the team to victory. Barrett had surgery on his knee on the day after the Michigan game and was questionable to play in the Big Ten Championship.

He was able to start and play the whole game against Wisconsin. It wasn’t the prettiest performance, but he once again got the job done and led the Buckeyes to victory. He had 271 total yards and three touchdowns while playing so banged up. While he may not go down as one of the greatest players in the history of Ohio State, he certainly is one of the toughest.

 

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College football conference championship week picks

Conference championship week is here, which means less games to pick. Joe DiTullio and Rob Doerger pick their conference champions and more!

Away Home Location Rob Joe
#12 Stanford #10 USC Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, CA Stanford USC
#20 Memphis #14 UCF Spectrum Stadium, Orlando, FL UCF UCF
Akron Toledo Ford Field, Detroit, MI Toledo Toledo
North Texas Florida Atlantic FAU Football Stadium, Boca Raton, FL FAU FAU
UMass Florida Intl FIU Stadium, Miami, FL FIU FIU
Louisiana Monroe Florida State Doak Campbell Stadium, Tallahassee, FL FSU FSU
#11 TCU #3 Oklahoma AT&T Stadium, Arlington, TX Oklahoma Oklahoma
Georgia Southern Coastal Carolina Brooks Stadium, Conway, SC Georgia Southern Georgia Southern
Idaho Georgia State Georgia State Stadium, Atlanta, GA Georgia St Georgia St.
Louisiana Appalachian State Kidd Brewer Stadium, Boone, NC App St App St
#6 Georgia #2 Auburn Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, GA Auburn Auburn
South Alabama New Mexico State Aggie Memorial Stadium, Las Cruces, NM USA USA
Troy Arkansas State Centennial Bank Stadium, Jonesboro, AR Troy Troy
#25 Fresno State Boise State Albertsons Stadium, Boise, ID Boise Boise
#7 Miami #1 Clemson Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, NC Clemson Clemson
#8 Ohio State #4 Wisconsin Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, IN Ohio St Ohio State
Gameday Guest Picker (Charlotte) Michael Jordan Ray Lewis

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Five things to watch for in conference championship week

College football is winding down, but before bowl season comes, conference championships are left. With so much good football this weekend, here are five things to watch:

1. Two great defenses going at it in Atlanta

Conference Championship Week

Jarrett Stidham (Photo by saturdaydownsouth.com)

Georgia and Auburn get a chance to play again in the SEC Championship. It’s not often that a rivalry game ends up happening in the conference championship games, but this one should be exciting. Both teams will be going at it hard to try and clinch a spot in the College Football Playoff (CFP).

The Bulldogs have the fifth best scoring defense in the country and are hoping they can do more to stop Auburn this time around. Georgia allowed 40 points, which is by far the most they have allowed all season. Their front seven is going to need to step up to stop a potent rushing attack. They have the talent, with NFL-bound players like Roquan Smith and Lorenzo Carter, but they didn’t step up last time.

Auburn ranks ninth in scoring defense. The Tigers run the football and play good defense, much like Georgia, which is usually a good recipe to win a lot of games. They have given up 27 points twice, but that is the most they have allowed in a game all season. For this matchup, they will be tasked with stopping all of Georgia’s great running backs. They should be able to continue doing what they have been doing.

Get ready for yet another defensive and physical game in the SEC Championship.

2. Can Miami dethrone Clemson?

Miami and Clemson meet in the ACC Championship Game on Saturday night. While Clemson’s resume is very impressive, Miami’s leaves a lot to be desired. At the end of the day though, if Miami can win, they are in the CFP.

Clemson is battle-tested, having faced eight teams that will likely get bowl invites. They did lose a game to Syracuse, but their quarterback, Kelly Bryant, wasn’t 100% healthy and had to leave the game. The Tigers have so many other good wins that they have still put themselves in a good position to make the CFP.

The Hurricanes have been one of the best stories in college football this season. Mark Richt has started the process of bringing the “U” mentality back to Coral Gables. They do have a loss to a lackluster Pitt team they suffered this past week, but the main thing that is concerning is their wins. Their wins over Virginia Tech and Notre Dame, which were good wins at the time, look a lot worse now that Notre Dame lost again and the Hokies nearly dropped out of the rankings. To compound some of their concerns, they pulled their starting quarterback, Malik Rosier, near the end of the game against Pitt.

Miami will be the underdog in this game, but usually that’s how it works until the top dog is knocked off.

3. Wisconsin’s perfect season on the line

Conference Championship Week

Jonathan Taylor (Photo by dailycardinal.com)

Wisconsin is another team that has been criticized for not playing a very difficult schedule. They are undefeated and now will get their chance to prove to the world, and more importantly the committee, that they can beat a good team. Ohio State still has a chance to make the CFP, with some help, so a lot is at stake here.

The Badgers need to win to make the CFP, just like every other team playing this weekend. They haven’t played any premier teams and are doubted by a lot of people. Wisconsin can run the ball and play defense like most years. In what should be a low-scoring game, Jonathan Taylor will need to make big plays in the running game to set up Alex Hornibrook in good situations to throw the ball downfield. If Taylor can’t, Wisconsin will not be able to move the football.

Ohio State has been up and down all season. Their inconsistencies are in all three phases of the game. There are a lot of questions surrounding this team, especially after J.T. Barrett went down with an injury against Michigan. Dwayne Haskins came in and made some good throws to help keep Ohio State in this position. No matter who the quarterback is, the Buckeyes are favored and should be able to run the ball well.

Another conference championship game that should be low-scoring, the Big Ten Championship Game, will ultimately let everyone know if Wisconsin is for real or not?

4. Oklahoma’s potent offense vs. TCU’s balanced team

The Oklahoma Sooners and TCU Horned Frogs will have a rematch in the Big 12 Championship Game. The Big 12 moved to a championship game to get a better chance of having a team in the CFP, but this year it can backfire on them if TCU pulls off an upset.

Oklahoma will have Baker Mayfield for the full game this weekend, and he won’t disappoint. The Sooners’ offense has scored 45.3 points per game, with the fewest in a single game being 29. There will be fireworks when Mayfield and the offense take the field. He is still trying to pad his stats to win the Heisman Trophy, but already has over 4,000 yards passing.

TCU, on the other hand, has a top ten defense and a top 30 offense in terms of points allowed and points scored. Their offense won’t be explosive, but will take what the Oklahoma defense gives them. The defense will be tasked with slowing down Mayfield, something they failed to do in the first meeting.

The only question that remains is: Can TCU play spoiler for the whole Big 12 conference?

5. Offense, offense and more offense in the AAC Championship Game

The AAC Championship Game is going to be one of the more entertaining games to watch this weekend. Not only will the winner likely go to a New Year’s Six bowl game, but it will have a lot of offense and scoring along the way.

UCF is undefeated, and quite honestly, should be way higher up in the CFP standings. They have the highest scoring offense in the country, averaging 47.6 points per game. McKenzie Milton has been able to spread the ball around from his quarterback position, to get the Golden Knights to such a good standing. It’s only Scott Frost’s second year and he is already playing in the league title game with a lot on the line.

Memphis has lost only one game, coming at the hands of UCF. While the offense is only the fourth best in terms of scoring, they probably have bigger stars than UCF. Riley Ferguson has thrown for 3,500 yards in just 11 games. His top receiver, Anthony Miller, has made so many highlight plays and has 1,212 receiving yards. Look for Ferguson and Miller to connect a lot in this game.

 

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Five things we learned in college football week 13

For most teams, the college football regular season has wrapped up and conference championships are coming. It may be late in the season, but something can be learned from every game of college football. Here are five things we learned from week 13’s action:

1. Alabama still doesn’t have any great wins

Alabama lost their rivalry game with Auburn and will be in misery for about a year. The Crimson Tide are out of the SEC Championship Game and don’t control their own destiny for the College Football Playoff. Losing to Auburn also makes them very vulnerable to the committee, because they don’t have many great wins this season.

Saban’s squad was able to beat Florida State in a highly anticipated season opener, but the Seminoles ended up struggling this season. Alabama beat LSU and Mississippi State, both of which are solid wins, but not great. The Crimson Tide had their chance against Auburn, but were unable to get the job done. Now they are at the mercy of the CFP committee.

2. J.T. Barrett is a legend and will have a story to tell

College football week 13

J.T. Barrett (Photo by sportingnews.com)

J.T. Barrett started his fourth straight game for Ohio State against Michigan. Although he has had to leave two of these games due to injury, Barrett has been able to go 4-0 as a starting quarterback in one of the biggest rivalries in sports. He may get criticized a lot, but going 4-0 as a starting quarterback has never happened in this rivalry. Barrett also has plenty of records and memories to keep his legacy in tact, even if there are a lot of haters.

Interestingly enough, Barrett had to leave the game against Michigan due to a re-aggravated knee injury. While most fans thought Barrett was hurt during the game, he actually disturbed his injury when warming up. Reportedly, a cameraman ran into Barrett right before kickoff. Barrett was tough enough to gut it out for over two quarters, but was unable to complete the game. Luckily, Ohio State has Dwayne Haskins as a backup, who made some key throws down the stretch to win the game for the Buckeyes.

3. Coaching Changes already in motion

This is the point of the season that always has coaching changes, so that new coaches can come in and start recruiting. Some coaches have already been fired and need to be replaced with one such opening already being resolved.

Jim Mora was fired and recently replaced by Chip Kelly at UCLA. Arkansas didn’t even let Bret Bielema leave the field before firing him. Mike Riley had one of the worst seasons in Nebraska history and won’t be returning. With Florida, Tennessee, Ole Miss and Oregon State searching for coaches, there should be an active coaching carousel. Kevin Sumlin, as usual, is also rumored to be fired which opens up yet another power five job.

4. Baker Mayfield can pencil in his name for the Heisman

college football week 13

Baker Mayfield (Photo by usatoday.com)

Baker Mayfield sat out the first drive, which lasted all of two plays, due to suspension against West Virginia. He made obscene gestures and had some choice words for the Kansas Jayhawks after they refused to shake his hand before the game. While some people have said they won’t choose him as their Heisman winner, he has had the best season in college football and deserves it.

In the game against West Virginia, Mayfield went 14-17 for 281 yards and three touchdowns to add to his impressive season. With over 4,000 passing yards, some key wins and a likely CFP appearance, Mayfield is clearly the guy that should be voted as this year’s Heisman.

5. Clemson has the best CFP resume

Clemson was able to win comfortably over South Carolina to finish the regular season at 11-1. While some people will complain about their loss to a bad Syracuse team, they still have the best case to be the number one team in the CFP rankings.

The Tigers beat four different eight win teams on the road: Louisville, Virginia Tech, South Carolina and N.C. State. On top of these good wins, Clemson also beat Auburn, who now is going to be in the CFP top four. With wins over Wake Forest, Boston College and Florida State, Clemson has literally had a schedule littered with bowl eligible teams.

 

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