There are few things we enjoy more than a good mascot battle.

These days those tend to occur on social media, with our favorite still being the Twitter back and forth last year between Miami's Sebastian Ibis and Louie the (Louisville) Cardinal.

This time around, it was Bucky Badger and Goldy Gopher trading barbs before Saturday's Minnesota-Wisconsin showdown to decide the Big Ten West. The Battle for Paul Bunyan's Axe is the most-played rivalry in college football, contested every year since 1890.

But 1890 this is not. Nowadays, mascots trash talk on Twitter. And we get to enjoy it.

Memories, meaning of Iron Bowl

November, 26, 2014
Nov 26
The Iron Bowl is like no other rivalry in sports. From Bear Bryant to Bo Jackson to Harvey Updyke, there's simply nothing that compares to Alabama vs. Auburn. It has turned players such as Van Tiffin and Chris Davis into legends. It's where the term "house divided" originated. It's on the minds of the coaches, players and fans 365 days a year.

If you haven't been a part of it, it's hard to understand. But to help with that, here's a look at the Iron Bowl rivalry from those closest to it:

Jay Jacobs, athletics director, Auburn
On the significance of the Iron Bowl: "It's a rivalry that is different than anything else because we all live together. Some rivalries are divided by borders, but this one has no borders. You're living with each other year round after that game. When you win that game, you have a little bit more pride and when you lose it, the other team has a little bit more pride."

To read the full story, click here.
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- There were plenty of times when Blake Sims could have packed it in, said enough was enough and resigned himself to not playing quarterback for the University of Alabama.

Way back in the spring, he could have thrown in the towel. He’d just tossed two interceptions during the final practice of camp, and Jake Coker, the strong-armed transfer from Florida State, was expected to waltz into Tuscaloosa and take over.

But Sims surged ahead of Coker during fall camp, won the job and started the season off on a tear, throwing eight touchdowns and two interceptions during the first four games.

It was great. Until it wasn’t.

Alabama, ranked No. 1 in the coaches' poll, then lost on the road at Ole Miss. Sims was ineffective, completing 19 of 31 passes with no touchdowns and one interception. He looked ordinary again. He looked uncomfortable, like someone who was still learning to play quarterback, not someone who could lead an offense to a national championship.

For three quarters of the following game, those suspicions were on the verge of being confirmed. Sims couldn’t get anything going and Alabama fell behind on the road against an unranked Arkansas team that hadn’t won a conference game in two years. The only thing at stake was everything, the entire season. Back-to-back losses would have meant the end of Alabama’s playoff hopes.

[+] EnlargeBlake Sims
Scott Cunningham/Getty ImagesBlake Sims waited a long time for his turn, and he's made the most of it. He has 12 touchdowns and one interception since an Oct. 4 loss at Ole Miss.
It was then that Sims came into his own. With the season hanging in the balance, he proved to be the quarterback Alabama needed.

Whatever happens on Saturday against No. 15 Auburn, Sims’ comeback is complete. Whether you take the long view of the spring until now or dive deeper into three game-clinching drives, you’ll see a quarterback who matured into the leader of a team fighting for playoff contention.

Oct. 11: Fayetteville, Arkansas

It would prove to be his first comeback.

Down 13-7 on the road, Sims got the ball with 36 seconds left in the third quarter.

Seven plays and 50 yards later, Sims faced a pivotal third-and-3 inside the red zone.

Sims took the snap, scrambled to his right and slung his arm across his body. DeAndrew White, in the middle of the end zone, came down with the pass.

“When we had to score, he became a real vocal guy,” said running back T.J. Yeldon. “He was firing us up and getting us motivated to go and score a touchdown.”

Nov. 8: Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Every Alabama quarterback has to survive Death Valley.

AJ McCarron did it two years ago when he orchestrated a game-winning drive late in the fourth quarter. His TD pass to Yeldon saved the season and sent Alabama to the national championship.

Sims, who is close friends with McCarron, got the same opportunity.

Down 13-10 with less than a minute left in regulation, Sims had to act. On third-and-4, he scrambled for the first down. After an uncharacteristic drop by Amari Cooper, Sims took the next snap, darted to his right and found Christion Jones for 16 yards.

Sims killed the clock with 12 seconds left, went to the sideline and watched the game-tying field goal split the uprights.

“Blake kind of said, 'This is where we have to do it right here,'” said offensive tackle Austin Shepherd. “We all kind of said, ‘Let’s go.’ Kind of a surreal experience. We knew we could do it.”

In overtime, Sims screamed out an audible on second-and-goal. He took the shotgun snap, shuffled his feet and threw a perfect fade to the corner of the end zone for a game-winning touchdown to White.

Nov. 15: Tuscaloosa, Alabama

Nick Saban called it, “Probably one of the greatest drives in Alabama history.”

Keep in mind that the longtime head coach is not one for hyperbole.

But the 15-play, 76-yard drive Sims led against then-No. 1 Mississippi State was one for the ages. Sims, who couldn’t seem to make a play in the second half, suddenly clicked into gear after Mississippi State made it a six-point game.

Sims was so calm, so effective. On a pair of third-and-longs, he went through his progressions, saw nothing and scrambled for first downs.

On second-and-goal, he handed the ball off to Yeldon for a touchdown. Alabama went ahead by two scores and ate six minutes off the clock.

“I’m just happy that he’s doing other teams like that, because he does that to us every day at practice during two-minute drill,” said safety Nick Perry. “He’s always with a black jersey, so when we’re going up to try to tackle him, we have to tag him. He’ll always get back in the locker room, ‘Oh, you didn’t touch me. You couldn’t tackle me in a game.’ So when I see him make a play like that [against Mississippi State], I’m like, ‘Oh, well, maybe I wouldn’t tackle him.’”

Saturday: The Iron Bowl

Sims now understands what to expect of these types of games.

“It’s that one play, those 2-3 plays, that determines how the game plays out,” he said.

With Sims’ hands on the ball, Alabama fans should be confident. After leading three pivotal drives already this season, he feels like he’s done it before.

“It gives me a lot of confidence,” Sims said. “It lets my team know that I’m ready to play.”

As a senior, this will be Sims’ only shot starting against Auburn. So what’s at stake isn’t just the season. In many ways, it’s his legacy.

“It’s a great feeling,” Sims said, forever downplaying his emotions. “I’m glad that I got the opportunity to play here at the University of Alabama and I’m trying not to pressure myself too much and think of it like that.

“I’m just trying to go out and have fun with my teammates, and pretty much be in the backyard and have fun and play catch with my wide receivers.”

In other words, Sims is determined to play his game.

“I make my body language look confident so they can go out and play with ease knowing that I’m ready to play,” he said, giving away one of his secrets: deception. Like everyone else, he's eager to play Auburn. “I know the team is ready to play by how we’re walking around the locker room right now. Everybody is excited and ready to play on Saturday.”

The Burning Desire of Texas A&M

November, 26, 2014
Nov 26
A BLAZE ERUPTS in the eastern sky -- daybreak comes hard and fast in Texas. A dozen pickup trucks are parked on the dirt of a clearing. A grove of post oak and cedar spreads in three directions. Beyond the woods is a ranch. In a chicken coop over there, something serious must be going down because the roosters are absolutely shrieking, like berserk warriors on the brink of an atrocity. In the beds of the pickups, blanketed forms shift. People are sleeping in there, have been since last night. They're undergraduates from Texas A&M University, and between the sudden sunlight and the animal racket, they begrudgingly arise. They pull on coveralls and sharpen ax blades and pinch black plugs of dip into their gums. Soon the trees in this grove, a pocket of dusty vegetation 30 miles northwest of College Station, will be mostly gone, transfigured into a four-story tower, then torched. The back of one guy's T-shirt says: "Build the Hell Out of Bonfire."

If you've heard of this pyrotechnic Texas A&M tradition -- at one time the most notorious ritual in all of college football -- chances are it's because you remember how its timber immensity, almost complete but not quite, buckled during a work shift in the wee hours of Nov. 18, 1999, and came crashing down in a terrifying cascade. Fifty-eight students, most between the ages of 17 and 21, were crawling all over the stack at the time, engaged in various duties. Twelve of them died, 27 were injured, their bodies crushed and twisted. Suddenly, for the worst of reasons, people around the country were aware of this Aggie tradition, which had evolved into such an institution that it had become a proper noun: Bonfire.

It was also a tradition that had, the news coverage suggested, run amok. An estimated 8,000 undergraduates, some 25 percent of the student population, helped erect Bonfire. It was an entirely student-staffed and student-managed project nonetheless supported by the university and in part financed by it. Incredibly, it now seems, Bonfire was built and burned on campus -- sprinkler systems installed on rooftops to keep Bonfire's cinders from setting the campus ablaze -- and ignited before A&M's annual rivalry game on Thanksgiving Day against the University of Texas. A hundred thousand people would show up for the almost liturgical incineration, an event known as Burn. It comprised 8,000 logs, rose more than 90 feet into the air and weighed in excess of 1,000 tons. It had the shape of a wedding cake but also bore an uncomfortable resemblance to depictions of the Tower of Babel. It was hyped as the biggest bonfire not only in the world but also probably in history. The media seemed to relish reporting that hundreds of gallons of jet fuel were used to ignite it.

Read the full article here. To see how the bonfire was built, click here.

Inside the Office: Dabo Swinney

November, 26, 2014
Nov 26

Find out which All-American left his trophies behind in Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney’s colorful office. Inside the Office »
LOS ANGELES -- The ascension of UCLA running back Paul Perkins to becoming the Pac-12's leading rusher didn't come from a late surge or a couple of otherworldly, 300-plus-yard rushing games. Much like the way he runs, it's been a solid and consistent effort each week.

"He's not a flashy guy at that position," said UCLA offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone. "He's a grinder. But you look up, and without even noticing, he's got 100 yards rushing and you wonder when that happened."

With one week left to play, Perkins leads the Pac-12 with 1,265 yards. That's good for 14th nationally. But hot on his trail are Utah running back Devontae Booker (1,255) and USC's Buck Allen (1,244).

[+] EnlargePaul Perkins
Cal Sport Media via AP ImagesCan UCLA's Paul Perkins (No. 24) take the title of the Pac-12's regular-season leading rusher?
It was Allen, actually, who led the league in rushing heading into last week's SoCal showdown between the Bruins and Trojans. But Perkins surpassed him with 24 carries for 93 yards, compared to Allen's 14 carries for 60 yards.

Who takes home the honors as the league's regular-season rushing leader is still very much up for grabs. With just 21 yards separating the trio, there is plenty of room to debate how things might play out over the final weekend.

Conventional wisdom says Booker might have the best chance, since he faces Colorado this week and the Buffs allow a league-worst 211.7 rushing yards per game. Colorado is the only team in the conference allowing more than 200 yards on the ground each week. Allen will see a Notre Dame rush defense that ranks 55th nationally, allowing 157.7 yards per game. Perkins might have the toughest trek of the trio. He faces a Stanford squad that leads the conference and is 14th nationally at 112.8 yards per game.

Perkins has only four 100-yard rushing games to his credit -- including a season-high 190-yard effort in a loss to Oregon. However, he's rushed for at least 80 yards in all but one game this season. His 2014 low is a 78-yard performance in a 17-7 win against Arizona.

"Ballin' man, he's ballin'," said quarterback Brett Hundley. "It's great to see someone I grew up with and played with have so much success. He's done a great job for us."

Hundley and Perkins ran track together as kids growing up in Arizona -- though Perkins would rather not line up side by side and race his quarterback these days.

"I don't like running against slow people," Perkins playfully jabbed. "He's a great athlete. But he's definitely not faster."

All joking aside, Perkins wasn't particularly up for talking about himself. Rather, as any good running back does, he praised the offensive line -- a unit that has taken substantial heat during the course of the season.

"Every week, he comes to play," said UCLA coach Jim Mora. "I think he'd be the first to credit his offensive line and his receivers downfield. But he's the one running the ball, and he's doing a nice job of it."

Stanford coach David Shaw also praised UCLA's line play -- as well as its rushing attack as a whole.

"I think it's the dedication to the running game and how physical they are up front," Shaw said. "You have to account for the quarterback as a runner also. As soon as you don't account for the quarterback, he takes off and he rips off a 25-yarder also. The way their run game is put together, the way that they block up front, how physical they are, it makes the entire group tough to stop. And the runner himself, he breaks tackles."

The implications of Friday's season finale are significant. If the Bruins win, they'll lock up the South Division and earn another shot at the Ducks in the Pac-12 title game. If they lose, the winner of the Territorial Cup between Arizona and Arizona State (being played simultaneously, thank you picture-in-picture) will clinch the South.

And chances are if the Bruins can beat Stanford for the first time in the Jim Mora era, it's going to take another steady and consistent performance from Perkins.

"He's amazing, it's ridiculous how good he is," said wide receiver Devin Lucien. "He can slow down defenses and make moves in small spaces like I've never seen before. It's something special. He's going to be a great running back. He already is. He's got a solid future."
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said he will feel “nothing” if the No. 3 Seminoles wrap a bow on consecutive undefeated regular seasons Saturday.

“We’ll get ready for Georgia Tech,” he said.

Publicly, Fisher has avoided smelling the roses he’s planted. The immediate goal after winning the national championship last January was to win another. He’s not paraded around the Seminoles’ 27-game winning streak and said luck has as much to do with the streak as any (a sentiment many analysts share regarding this recent Florida State run). During this holiday season of reflection, don’t expect the word “undefeated” at the Fisher table.

“We don’t ever say undefeated. National championships are the goal here,” Fisher said.

[+] EnlargeMario Edwards Jr.
AP Photo/Steve CannonMario Edwards Jr. and Florida State can complete consecutive undefeated regular seasons with a victory Saturday over Florida. That's never happened in school history.
Goal or not, Fisher is on the verge of consecutive unblemished regular seasons. It’s dangerous territory comparing current coaches to lionized predecessors. There’s the risk of being labeled an iconoclast for uttering any perceived blasphemous statements toward Bobby Bowden.

That’s not the basis this post is built on -- there's no Venn diagram to weigh the accomplishments of Fisher and Bowden, who turned what was once the nation’s third-largest women’s college into a football power.

So save the pitchforks for the selection committee.

However, with a victory Saturday over Florida, Fisher and the Seminoles would finish the regular season undefeated in consecutive years, and that has never happened at Florida State.

It is an apples-to-oranges comparison with Bowden, who had only one undefeated season but regularly played Florida and Miami -- and Nebraska and Notre Dame and Ohio State and Pitt -- most at their peak. Bowden was playing an SEC-style schedule before it was the fashionable thing to do, and it’s hard to envision Fisher's Seminoles avoiding the landmines that were in front of Bowden annually during the 1980s and ’90s.

That shouldn’t take away from what Fisher has done in his short time as head coach in Tallahassee. Outside of the Florida State constituency, Fisher has been fairly criticized for several significant off-field issues, the allegations of sexual assault against Jameis Winston the most polarizing. During the last two seasons on the field, though, Fisher has been bulletproof and in the process has established himself as one of college football’s top coaches.

“Coach Jimbo, that’s what he tells us: We have a chance to do what people -- Deion [Sanders], [Terrell] Buckley, Coach [Lawrence] Dawsey and all those guys back when it was dominant -- we have a chance to do things they weren’t able to do,” junior defensive end Mario Edwards Jr. said. “He constantly lets us know we have an opportunity in front of us to do things even the great ones haven’t.”

Edwards was part of the 2012 recruiting class, signing following an 8-4 regular season. It was the eighth straight season in which Florida State failed to secure double-digit wins in the regular season. Edwards bought into Fisher’s vision and the upward trajectory at Florida State in the same way senior Karlos Williams bought in the year before and Lamarcus Joyner and Telvin Smith the previous cycle.

“Being a part of something like this, and from when I first came in and how [Fisher] has changed the program and built it into something like this and contributing to it means a lot,” Williams said.

As Fisher said, though, undefeated regular seasons are secondary to Florida State’s ultimate goal, which doesn’t truly begin until after the regular season takes a bow and exits stage left.

“This season is far from over,” fourth-year junior Terrance Smith said, “so we don’t necessarily see that light [at the end] yet.”
videoOne woman is from Mulga, Alabama, the other from Clanton, Alabama.

They are both grandmothers of six.

One cheers for Alabama; the other for Auburn.

Like most college football fans in the gridiron-crazed state of Alabama, they're mortal enemies this week, as the No. 1 Crimson Tide prepares to play the No. 15 Tigers in Saturday's Iron Bowl at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa.

"I've never met Tammy, but she really seems to be a sweet girl," said Phyllis Perkins, who is known as "Phyllis from Mulga" on the "Paul Finebaum Show." "But it's Iron Bowl week, so I don't know about her.

"She can probably hurt me physically because she's younger than me. No, I take that back. If she hits me, her ass is grass."

Among Finebaum's legion of loyal and colorful callers, there's none more famous than Perkins, a two-time cancer survivor, and Tammy Bullard, a loyal Auburn fan, who stepped across enemy lines when she married an Alabama fan last year.

Read the full article here.

Oregon not only Pac-12 team eyeing CFP

November, 26, 2014
Nov 26
The first rule of College Football Playoff is you talk about College Football Playoff.

The second rule is you assume nothing. Well, that's completely wrong. The entire -- and endless! -- discussion involves projecting ahead, making assumptions about teams winning here or winning there.

So that's what we're going to do here.

As is quantified here by the inimitable Sharon Katz of ESPN's Stats & Information, UCLA is squarely in the playoff hunt, even as a two-loss team trying to eclipse one-loss teams, such as TCU, Baylor, Ohio State and Mississippi State.

She notes: "If UCLA were to beat Stanford and Oregon, the average current FPI ranking of UCLA’s 11 wins would be 33, the best in the nation." Then she concludes, with a question: "[If UCLA were to win out,] could the committee really leave a two-loss Pac-12 champion, with the hardest schedule in the nation, out of the playoff?"

The answer is no.

UCLA as the 11-2 Pac-12 champion will be in the playoff, and there's nothing any other bubble teams can do about it. There are two reasons -- the most important reasons, ones we've seen bandied about incessantly in regards to the selection committee: 1) merit, 2) best four teams. The Bruins would have earned a spot based on a demonstrably superior résumé, including a victory over the Ducks which would function as an eraser for one of their two defeats. And the Bruins would pass the sight test as one of the four best teams by posting the most distinguished win of 2014 on the last day of the season (over No. 2 Oregon).

I already hear the whining out there. Hush. There is no counterargument that is valid. You have lost out to the cruel mistresses of facts and logic. So we are not going to waste time with folks who insist on fighting a losing fight only because of the colors they wear on Saturday.

The more spicy issue is the Territorial Cup. Say UCLA loses to Stanford, and the winner of No. 13 Arizona State at No. 11 Arizona on Friday becomes the Pac-12 South Division champions. That's where things get interesting.

That is this week's only matchup of top-13 teams, meaning the winner can post the weekend's most meaningful victory. In the scenario with UCLA losing, that also means the winner could post the final weekend's most meaningful victory -- again, over No. 2 Oregon in the Pac-12 title game. Consecutive weekends of meaningfulness! The selection committee surely will imbibe that like a 22-year-old single malt.

Arizona's strength of record currently rates 11th and Arizona State's is 13th. Those two ratings would skyrocket, while other teams vying for a top-four spot would slide.

But how could the Wildcats/Sun Devils make up so much ground? Well, we've seen teams gain incredible traction in human polls with a run of wins that seemed impressive at the time. Mississippi State went from unranked to No. 1 after beating LSU, Texas A&M and Auburn. Of that troika, Auburn, at No. 15, is the committee's only presently ranked team, and Texas A&M and LSU play on Thanksgiving Day hoping to avoid a fifth defeat.

So clear-thinking folks, which we are sure committee members are, would see the Wildcats/Sun Devils as worthy of a rapid climb based on veritably impressive wins validated by a season's worth of work. Conversely, in the 20/20 vision of retrospect, the Bulldogs' rise would be a fun, if temporary, illusion worthy of nostalgia -- "I remember when our Bulldogs beat No. 2 Auburn!" -- but certainly not justifying a playoff spot.

What about other teams trying to insinuate themselves into the playoff? Unless Auburn upsets Alabama, Mississippi State's only remaining game is against flagging, No. 19 Ole Miss. TCU has Texas and Iowa State, a pair of unranked teams. Ohio State has its rivalry game with Michigan and then a matchup with either No. 18 Minnesota or No. 14 Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game. Baylor has Texas Tech and No. 12 Kansas State on Dec. 6, a matchup that could significantly bolster the Bears' case.

Ah, but Baylor has its pastry-soft nonconference schedule holding it back. If it comes down the the Bears and, say, Arizona, then the Pac-12 team is surely ... er... what? The Wildcats played UNLV, UTSA and Nevada in its nonconference schedule? Well, cut off my legs and call me shorty, that's not a very Pac-12 thing to do.

It's fortunate that Arizona athletic director Greg Byrne has a great sense of humor. He'd surely be amused -- just like the folks at Baylor -- if the committee cited that weak slate as the reason the Wildcats got left at the altar.

In any event, this is probably all idle speculation. A few more major plot twists are nearly certain. Based on history, at least a couple of the teams in the top-eight fighting for positioning are going to go rear-end-over-tea-kettle, including a member of the top-three that has been practically written into the playoff with an ink pen.

But if you retain anything from these scribbles, it must be this: The first rule of College Football Playoff is you talk about College Football Playoff.
Nick Saban likes to tell a story about how when he was an assistant at Ohio State he couldn't buy gas in Michigan or even turn in a receipt from "that state up North" while on the recruiting trail. Pat Gazzola, who owns the legendary Catfish Hole in Fayetteville, Arkansas, is still heart-broken that former five-star receiver Dorial Green-Beckham selected Missouri over Arkansas. And who can ever forget the story about Reuben Foster, who signed with Alabama despite having an Auburn tattoo on his arm.

The rivalry games that dominate this week's schedule are a major part of what makes college football so great. But if you think matchups like the Iron Bowl, the Game, the Civil War and the Egg Bowl are only combated on the field, you're sadly mistaken. The same bitterness and hatred displayed on the field almost always carries over to recruiting when rival schools are fighting over the hearts and minds of 17- and 18-year-old superstars.

"You bet rivalries extend to recruiting," said Matt Dudek, Arizona's director of on-campus recruiting and player personnel. "They definitely do, especially because of your rival's close proximity. You're often recruiting the same high schools as your rival because it's in your backyard. You're often recruiting the same players because in most states there are only so many good players. You don't ever want to lose a recruit to the other school across the state."

Read the full article here.

Updated recruiting class rankings

November, 26, 2014
Nov 26
Success on the recruiting trail has given some programs much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving and that includes a few teams whose recent triumphs have led to a rise in the class rankings.

One of those teams is UCLA, which, just prior to beating cross-town rival USC Saturday, were able to score a victory on the recruiting trail as well, landing a key in-state commitment. ESPN 300 DE Keisean Lucier-South became the Bruins?? fifth 300 prospect and first on the defensive side of the ball. A rangy and promising prospect, the top-five defensive end has the ability to give UCLA a defender that can create problems coming off the edge as both a run defender and likely more immediately as a pass-rusher.

Ole Miss also landed a key in-state commit in ESPN 300 OG Javon Patterson, a big and athletic prospect at the position, who combined with 2014 signee Rod Taylor, could allow the Rebels to anchor their O-Line with a formidable pair of guards.

Check out the full rankings here.
Mississippi State might still be holding on to the coveted No. 4 spot in the College Football Playoff rankings for the moment.

But the gravest threat to the Frogs of Fort Worth and the Bears of the Brazos for playoff inclusion appears to reside north of the Mason-Dixon Line.

The playoff selection committee released its weekly rankings Tuesday night, and TCU held steady at No. 5 despite having the week off. After dispatching Oklahoma State and its plucky true freshman quarterback, Baylor remained ranked seventh.

[+] EnlargeUrban Meyer
AP Photo/Jay LaPreteUrban Meyer and Ohio State are behind TCU in this week's College Football Playoff rankings, but if the Buckeyes win the outright Big Ten title, it could be enough to vault past the Horned Frogs.
But while the Big 12 duo hangs tough in the playoff chase, their playoff future could hinge on sixth-ranked Ohio State.

Unlike Baylor, the Buckeyes have no wins over another playoff contender.

Unlike TCU, the Buckeyes have a loss against an unranked opponent.

And unlike Baylor and TCU, Ohio State does not compete in one of the three best conferences in college football.

But going into the final two weeks of the season, the Buckeyes seem to be the apple of the committee’s eye for the lone playoff spot currently up for grabs.

If the season ended today, Mississippi State would be in the playoff over TCU, Ohio State and Baylor. But following Ole Miss’ 30-0 loss at Arkansas last weekend, the Egg Bowl has lost its luster, robbing the Bulldogs of a chance to boost their relatively thin résumé with a victory over a Top 10 team. Mississippi State has only one victory over a Top 25 team (Auburn) to go along with a nonconference slate of Southern Miss, UAB, South Alabama and Tennessee-Martin. Assuming that Alabama wins the Iron Bowl, Mississippi State would not represent the West Division in the SEC title game, either.

Committee chairman Jeff Long stressed Tuesday night that “conference championships will be a tiebreaker factored in at the end of the season.” And if Mississippi State, TCU, Ohio State and Baylor are all as close in the minds of the committee as Long has suggested, Mississippi State, based on that tiebreaker disadvantage, would be the odd dog out.

That brings us back to the Buckeyes.

The committee seems to be giving Ohio State a pass for its 35-21 loss in Columbus on Sept. 6 to 5-6 Virginia Tech. Long even quashed the premise that Virginia Tech constituted a bad loss for Ohio State. (He must have missed the Hokies’ 6-3 double-overtime loss to lowly Wake Forest over the weekend.)

With the committee inexplicably overlooking the Virginia Tech loss, the Buckeyes seem to be in prime position for the fourth spot. Ohio State is ranked ahead of Baylor, and if both teams won out, there’s no reason to believe that would change. Sure, the Bears have No. 12 Kansas State next weekend. But the Buckeyes potentially would have No. 14 Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game. Beating the Badgers at a neutral site would seemingly offset a Baylor victory over K-State in Waco.

The Buckeyes would still have to jump TCU. But if a victory over Wisconsin alone weren’t enough to catapult Ohio State past the Horned Frogs, the addition of the Big Ten title in a 13th game probably would. Sure, TCU would technically be co-champs of the Big 12. But the committee would likely favor a sole champion of one conference over a co-champ of another that would also have a tiebreaker problem with the other co-champ.

All of this, of course, is just speculation with games still to be staged. Much can still happen in these final two weeks.

Oregon could lose the Civil War and Alabama could lose the Iron Bowl. Florida or Georgia Tech could beat Florida State and Wisconsin could topple the Buckeyes.

Heck, Minnesota could still even win the Big Ten title, which would be quite the early Christmas present for the folks in Fort Worth.

So both Baylor and TCU remain very much alive in the playoff hunt.

But Big 12’s biggest roadblock to the fourth playoff spot lies not in Starkville.

But rather, smack in the heart of Ohio.

Video: Herbstreit's Gameplan Breakdown

November, 26, 2014
Nov 26

Kirk Herbstreit looks at the five big rivalry games of the week that not only give state bragging rights but also have direct implications on the College Football Playoff.

Big 12 Week 14 predictions

November, 26, 2014
Nov 26

Why TCU will win: This is going to be a back-and-forth, physical fight in which Texas will throw everything it's got at TCU. All the pressure is on the Frogs -- not that they can't handle it. If Charlie Strong's D can slow down Trevone Boykin, it's anyone's ballgame. A difference that might matter: the kicking game. TCU's Jaden Oberkrom can be trusted with a game-winning kick. Can Texas' Nick Rose? TCU 20, Texas 17 Olson

Why Texas will keep it close: Defense. The Longhorns have the Big 12’s best unit, and their disruptive front will make life hard for Trevone Boykin. UT just won’t score enough points to cement its upset bid. TCU 28, Texas 27 — Chatmon

Other unanimous selections

Baylor over Texas Tech: The Bears won't aim for 82, but they know they need to score a bunch of points. In addition to having a brutal run defense, Texas Tech's secondary is also banged up this week. So, you know, moving the ball should not be terribly difficult for Bryce Petty and his many weapons. Tech can keep up early, but for how long? Baylor 52, Texas Tech 24 Olson

Kansas State over Kansas: The Wildcats have focused on resuscitating their running game, and their instate rival might provide the perfect tonic. The Jayhawks are still reeling from giving up an FBS record 427 rushing yards to Samaje Perine last week. K-State won't get that many on the ground. But the Wildcats will have a big day offensively to prime their trip to Waco in the season finale. Kansas State 38, Kansas 13 Trotter

West Virginia over Iowa State: The Mountaineers will get the losing taste out of their mouths because of their superior offensive firepower, no matter whether Clint Trickett or Skyler Howard is behind center. West Virginia 42, Iowa State 28 Chatmon

Season records:
  • Trotter: 61-7
  • Chatmon: 60-8
  • Olson: 58-10

ACC Week 14 predictions

November, 26, 2014
Nov 26
Jared Shanker: In college football, there is no denying emotion plays a pivotal role, and playing for a coach and a bowl can be the tipping point for a team hoping to rally. No doubt Virginia will have no shortage of motivation against its in-state rival, but the Cavaliers are also the better team. Greyson Lambert is improving, and the Virginia defense is every bit as good as the one in Blacksburg. Virginia needs to limit mistakes, as the Cavs turned it over eight times during a four-game skid. The Hokies are struggling to create turnovers, though, which plays into UVa's favor. Mike London returns UVa to a bowl. Virginia 20, Virginia Tech 10

David Hale: If we’re slaves to whatever happened most recently, then Virginia Tech certainly looks like a lost cause. But let’s think bigger picture. The Hokies know what’s at stake here: A 22-year bowl streak, state bragging rights in a rivalry they’ve owned for a decade, perhaps the future of their longtime head coach. Is this a game where Virginia Tech is a no-show? No way. The Wake Forest game was brutal, but lessons were certainly learned. Brenden Motley will get a longer look at quarterback, and his mobility can help offset the Virginia pass rush. The ground game has actually looked better with J.C. Coleman the past two weeks. And while the Hokies clearly overlooked Wake Forest, that won’t be the case against rival Virginia. Plus, let’s not forget that, in spite of the record, Virginia Tech still features one of the most potent defenses in the country -- and it’ll give Lambert and the UVA offense fits. Virginia Tech 17, Virginia 14

Andrea Adelson: The Jackets and Bulldogs are running the ball extremely well this season, so both teams should be able to get some yards on the ground. The key in this game is going to be in the turnover category. Both teams have been excellent at taking the ball away this season. While Georgia Tech has converted 24 takeaways into 116 points, Georgia has allowed only six total points off its own turnovers. There is going to be quite the battle there. Given the way Georgia Tech has played during its winning streak, the Jackets will pull out a close one after one defensive score. Georgia Tech 35, Georgia 31

Matt Fortuna: Much like Georgia Tech, Georgia has proven its rushing attack can keep up the pace no matter who is in the backfield, as we've all seen what has happened even without the ridiculously gifted Todd Gurley. The Bulldogs' defense has greatly improved under coordinator Jeremy Pruitt this season, too, ranking 13th nationally. Has it shored up the loose ends that Florida exposed by repeatedly running on it earlier this month, to the tune of 418 yards? The Yellow Jackets' attack is different, sure, but the Dawgs have too much pride to fall to another rival, especially as they play for a chance at the SEC title game next week. Georgia 40, Georgia Tech 34

Shanker: If South Carolina manages to pull off the upset, Dabo Swinney will be hearing about it for as long as Steve Spurrier is hanging around college football. This is an absolute must-win game for Clemson, but dark clouds are already starting to form with star freshman Deshaun Watson still listed as day-to-day with a sprained knee. If Cole Stoudt starts, will he be able to take advantage of a vulnerable South Carolina defense? The Tigers have the No. 1 defense, but South Carolina is No. 18 in scoring against Power 5 competition. That means the Gamecocks could score just enough, and with Stoudt at quarterback "just enough" might be 17 points. South Carolina 17, Clemson 14

Adelson: The Tigers have relied on their defense all season, and will do it again to finally break their long losing streak to South Carolina. Clemson ranks No. 1 in the nation in total defense and will make life difficult for Dylan Thompson, who is not having the type of season anybody expected. While the prospects on offense look shaky if Watson is out, Clemson has won squeakers this season with an inconsistent Stoudt behind center. As long as Clemson takes care of the football, the defense will lead the victory. Clemson 17, South Carolina 14

Hale: Strictly from a matchup standpoint, Pitt doesn’t have a distinct edge, but this game may be a question of motivation. The storyline for Miami is a familiar one right now. Just like last year, the season built to Florida State, and the Hurricanes came up short. Last year, Miami responded by losing four of six to close out the season. This year, the follow-up to the FSU game was perhaps Miami’s worst performance of the season, which certainly bodes well for Pitt. On the flip side, the Panthers are desperately seeking win No. 6 to get bowl eligible, so there’s no question which team has more to play for. Add the fact that Chad Voytik is playing his best football of the season now, and Pitt is in position to move the ball even if James Conner isn’t at 100 percent. Pitt 21, Miami 20

Fortuna: Pitt is the more desperate team here, fighting to extend its season and make a bowl game for the third straight season under third-year coach Paul Chryst. But the Panthers could be without Conner, which will put much more pressure on Voytik and the passing attack. Is Miami's defense ready to take care of business after consecutive letdowns? Its offense should not be a problem in this one. Miami 38, Pitt 24

Adelson: Everybody expects Florida to play an emotional game for outgoing coach Will Muschamp. That should serve the Gators well in the early going, and they will have opportunities to establish the run against a Florida State defensive front that has had its up and downs this season. Dante Fowler, Vernon Hargreaves and company will throw some different looks at Jameis Winston and force him out of his comfort zone. But ultimately, Winston will do what he always does -- find a way to win a close game. Florida State 28, Florida 27

More unanimous picks

Syracuse at Boston College: The Eagles were the latest team to nearly upend Florida State last week, but that hasn’t always been a recipe for success afterward. It will be interesting to see if the physical and emotional toll of that loss carries over, but Syracuse certainly hasn’t been playing good football either. BC 33, Syracuse 13

Kentucky at Louisville: The ACC’s newest rivalry game may not offer much in the way of fireworks in Year 1. Reggie Bonnafon finally looks comfortable running Bobby Petrino’s offense, and Louisville is still fighting for an Orange Bowl berth. Kentucky is desperate to get win No. 6, but the Wildcats have lost five straight. Louisville 24, Kentucky 20

NC State at North Carolina: Ready for some offensive fireworks? Both of these teams are allowing an average of more than 400 yards per game to FBS foes, and both have potentially explosive offenses. That should make for a fun rivalry matchup to end the regular season, but UNC gets the edge after playing easily its most complete game of the season last week against Duke. North Carolina 45, NC State 33

Wake Forest at Duke: Last week’s win over Virginia Tech was a fitting moment for a Wake Forest team that has continued to fight in spite of adverse circumstances all season, and the Deacons' D is legit. Meanwhile, Duke is reeling from two straight losses. This game may end up close, but it’s still hard to see Wake pulling off the upset in two straight. Duke 24, Wake Forest 10

Current standings
Shanker: 66-20
Adelson: 66-20
Fortuna: 65-21
Hale: 65-21