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No team in the top seven of last week’s College Football Playoff Rankings lost, and the selection committee obviously saw nothing to prompt a change in that order this week. So, we’re right back where we were last Tuesday night, except that there are now only two weeks remaining for any upsets to occur.

[+] EnlargeOhio State
AP Photo/Carlos OsorioOhio State is sitting pretty with two weeks left in the regular season.
With no possible head-to-head matchups between the current top seven, there’s a possibility they could all win out -- but not a good one. The Football Power Index says there’s a 10 percent chance that those teams go 7-0 this week, and barely over a 1 percent chance that they go 13-0 between now and Dec. 7 (Mississippi State would play only one more game if Alabama wins Saturday). In fact, FPI gives only a 14 percent chance for Alabama, Oregon and Florida State all to win out.

Each forthcoming loss among the top teams could make the selection committee’s job a little easier. But for now, let’s look at the committee’s worst-case scenarios.

In the unlikely event that the seven all run the table

Noah Spence's appeal to play denied

November, 25, 2014
Nov 25
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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- An appeal by Ohio State Buckeyes defensive end Noah Spence to have his permanent ineligibility restored by the Big Ten was denied Tuesday, officially ending his career with the program and within the league.

The process reached its conclusion after Spence's case was presented to the conference in an effort to get his ban for failing multiple drug tests overturned and allow the former All-Big Ten selection to return to the No. 6 Buckeyes.

Spence was initially suspended for three games, starting with last year's Discover Orange Bowl, but a second failed test just before he was scheduled to return to the field in September extended his suspension indefinitely.

Spence weighed in on Twitter in the wake of the news.

Spence, a junior, was considered a potential candidate to skip his final year of eligibility with Ohio State given his combination of speed and strength that made him one of the best pass rushers in the country a year ago when he finished second in the Big Ten in sacks.

"While we are disappointed in the outcome, we are pleased that Noah has come a long way and we are very proud of the progress he has made with regard to his health," Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith said in a statement. "The Department of Athletics will continue to assist Noah through his pursuits and provide the academic resources necessary to help him complete his degree program."

The Buckeyes have still been productive on the defensive line without Spence in the rotation, with Joey Bosa emerging as a finalist for multiple individual awards as the team has climbed back into contention for the College Football Playoff.


(Read full post)


Big Ten bowl projections: Week 13

November, 25, 2014
Nov 25
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It's the penultimate version of the bowl projections, and we have some news at the top. Sorry, Buckeyes fans, we're not projecting the Scarlet and Gray to the College Football Playoff -- not yet, at least.

As we did for a portion of the season, we're projecting two Big Ten teams to New Year's Six bowls, as we now believe Michigan State will finish high enough for selection. The Spartans should get to 10-2 this weekend against Penn State, their only setbacks coming against playoff hopefuls Oregon and Ohio State. There's a possibility they would qualify for the Capital One Orange Bowl if they're ranked higher than the highest available SEC team. If so, the Big Ten would not have a team in the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl in Orlando.

This possibility would increase if Arkansas beats Missouri on Saturday, sending Georgia to the SEC championship game. Georgia is ahead of Michigan State in the College Football Playoff rankings, but a loss, either this week against Georgia Tech or in the SEC title game, likely would drop the Bulldogs behind Michigan State.

For now, we're keeping Michigan State out of the Orange and sending Wisconsin to the Citrus.

The Buckeyes still need some help to reach the playoff. Charlie Strong, a former Urban Meyer aide, can help his old boss Thursday when his Texas squad hosts TCU.

There are also some moves at the bottom of the projections. Michigan's loss to Maryland takes the Wolverines out of the postseason picture, as none of us expects them to win The Game at The Shoe.

The Big Ten has nine bowl-eligible teams, and there will be a 10th as Northwestern and Illinois, both 5-6, play Saturday at Ryan Field. Although the Wildcats will be without starting quarterback Trevor Siemian, we project them to win and reach the six-win threshold.

Nebraska's slide on the field means a slide in the projections, as we now have the Huskers headed to the Music City Bowl. Minnesota moves up to the Outback after its big win in Lincoln, and Maryland bumps up to the Foster Farms Bowl in the Bay Area as it positions itself for a somewhat surprising 8-4 season.

Both Penn State and Rutgers are limping toward the finish and likely will finish the regular season at 6-6. The Lions seem like a good bet to reach New York City for their postseason return, while Rutgers could be headed to Motown.

Enough jabbering. Here are the latest projections ...

Chick-fil-A Peach/Goodyear Cotton/VIZIO Fiesta: Ohio State
Chick-fil-A Peach/Goodyear Cotton/VIZIO Fiesta: Michigan State
Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus: Wisconsin
Outback: Minnesota
National University Holiday: Iowa
TaxSlayer/Franklin American Mortgage Music City: Nebraska
Foster Farms: Maryland
New Era Pinstripe: Penn State
Quick Lane: Rutgers
Zaxby's Heart of Dallas: Northwestern
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For the first time this season, the top seven teams in the College Football Playoff Top 25 have remained the same, as determined by 11 members of the 12-member selection committee (Mike Tranghese was sick and unable to travel to Dallas for the meetings).

No. 1 Alabama, No. 2 Oregon, No. 3 Florida State and No. 4 Mississippi State each won in Week 13, and in spite of another close win for the Seminoles, FSU did not drop another spot. The only difference at the top was that No. 8 UCLA, No. 9 Georgia and No. 10 Michigan State all slid up one notch to take the spot of Ole Miss, which sank nine spots to No. 19 after being shut out by Arkansas.

Here's what the bracket would look like today:

NCF Playoffespn


TCU is still the first team on the bubble at No. 5, followed by No. 6 Ohio State and No. 7 Baylor. No. 11 Arizona jumped four spots, and No. 17 Missouri is up three spots. Another big mover was No. 18 Minnesota, which rose seven spots after beating Nebraska.

The biggest surprise this week was that not one but two Group of 5 teams were ranked: No. 23 Boise State and No. 24 Marshall. It was a controversial call, as Boise State is a two-loss team just one win away from clinching the Mountain West's Mountain Division, and Marshall is the only undefeated team remaining in the Group of 5. Marshall has already clinched the Conference USA East title.

Marshall is ranked No. 19 in the latest Associated Press poll, followed by No. 21 Colorado State and No. 25 Boise State. This is the first time since Week 10, when East Carolina was ranked in the selection committee's first Top 25, that the Group of 5 has been represented in the CFP rankings.

That would make Boise State the frontrunner to represent the Group of 5 in a New Year's Six Bowl.

As for the other major bowls, here's a projection based on the current rankings:

The Orange Bowl lost the ACC champion (FSU) so it gets the next highest-ranked ACC team, No. 16 Georgia Tech. The Orange Bowl then selects the next highest-ranked nonconference championship team from the Big Ten, SEC or Notre Dame. By contract, displaced conference champs from the SEC and Big Ten don't go to the Orange Bowl. That would pit the Yellow Jackets against No. 10 Michigan State because the committee would look to avoid a rematch with No. 9 Georgia.

Here's what New Year's Eve and New Year's Day could look like, based on today's rankings:

Dec. 31

12:30 p.m. ET -- Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl -- No. 9 Georgia vs. No. 7 Baylor

4 p.m. ET -- VIZIO Fiesta Bowl -- No. 23 Boise State vs. No. 8 UCLA

8 p.m. ET -- Capital One Orange Bowl -- No. 16 Georgia Tech vs. No. 10 Michigan State

Jan. 1

12:30 p.m. ET -- Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic -- No. 5 TCU vs. No. 6 Ohio State

5 p.m. ET -- Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual -- No. 2 Oregon vs. No. 3 Florida State

8:30 p.m. ET -- Allstate Sugar Bowl -- No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Mississippi State
We've been saying it's the Year of the Running Back in the Big Ten, and the Doak Walker Award obviously agrees.

While the award should have included Minnesota's David Cobb as a semifinalist, at least it got the next round of voting right. All three finalists for the trophy that goes to the nation's top running back are from the Big Ten: Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon, Indiana's Tevin Coleman and Nebraska's Ameer Abdullah.

It's a richly deserved recognition for all three guys, and it's great to see Coleman get his due despite playing on a 3-8 team. It will be a major surprise if Gordon doesn't bring home the trophy next month.

Several other major college football awards announced their finalists Tuesday night. Gordon is also a finalist for the Maxwell Award --which goes to the nation's top player -- along with Oregon's Marcus Mariota and Mississippi State's Dak Prescott.

Here are other finalists from the league:

Bednarik Award (top defensive player)

Ohio State DE Joey Bosa

Outland Trophy (top lineman)

Iowa OT Brandon Scherff

John Mackey Award (top tight end)

Minnesota's Maxx Williams

Lou Groza Award (top placekicker)

Maryland's Brad Craddock

The one mild surprise out of the night's announcements was that Ohio State's J.T. Barrett wasn't a finalist for the Davey O'Brien Award (top QB). Mariota, Prescott and TCU's Trevone Boykin edged him out.

Congratulations to all the awards finalists. Winners will be announced at The Home Depot College Football Awards Show on Dec. 11 in Orlando.

Rebel fell: Ole Miss plummets to 19

November, 25, 2014
Nov 25
5:56
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Things stayed the same at the top of the latest unveiling of the College Football Playoff rankings, but one team took quite the tumble down the list.

Alabama, Oregon, Florida State and Mississippi State are again the top four teams in the CFP rankings; in fact, the top seven teams from last week's rankings remain unchanged. TCU, Ohio State and Baylor held steady at the Nos. 5-7 spots.

Mississippi, however, took a spill, going from No. 8 last week all the way down to No. 19 after an embarrassing 30-0 road loss to Arkansas that was the Rebels' third straight SEC defeat.

As a result of Ole Miss' fall, UCLA, fresh off its win over rival USC, moved up to No. 8. Georgia and Michigan State rounded out the top 10. The Spartans benefited from the Rebels' fall, moving back into the top 10 after landing at No. 11 the previous week.

Further down the rankings is the battle to see which school from outside the Power 5 conferences will earn a guaranteed spot in a New Year's bowl. Boise State


(Read full post)


Best of Big Ten Week 14 conference call

November, 25, 2014
Nov 25
3:30
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Questions were asked, and coaches had answers. Here are a few of the highlights from this week's Big Ten conference call.

By the way, if you’re not following us on Twitter, what are you waiting for? Follow along at @ESPNRittenberg, @BennettESPN, @ESPNJoshMoyer, @DanMurphyESPN, @MitchSherman and @AWardESPN.
Michigan and Ohio State have always fought for some of the same recruits. The Wolverines win some and the Buckeyes win some, and those recruiting battles have real implications on the field.

Each team could have used one or two more victories on the recruiting trail, so let’s take a look at a few current players recruited by both teams who could have made an impact for the opposing team in the big game on Saturday, and a few future battles that could impact games in the years to come.


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Urban Meyer: Ohio State must behave

November, 25, 2014
Nov 25
10:42
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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Urban Meyer is expecting better behavior from his Ohio State team, and anybody who gets ejected for fighting this year against rival Michigan could face an even harsher penalty from the Buckeyes coach.

"He wants the game to be very intense, but if anybody throws any punches this year, we're dismissed," linebacker Curtis Grant said. "You know he pretty much put it out there [Sunday], so there's no telling what will happen if you get into a fight this year. We've got to be on our best behavior."

Dismissal from a game for fighting is automatic from game officials, something Ohio State running back Dontre Wilson and offensive guard Marcus Hall both found out after a second-quarter melee marred last year's game against Michigan.

Hall missed the Big Ten championship game against Michigan State because of a suspension, a matchup the Buckeyes lost to snap a 24-game winning streak and fall out of position to play for the national title.

Grant seemed to be referring to the in-game disqualification, but with Meyer making it clear during his first team meeting this week that he would have no tolerance for extracurricular activity, the punishment from the program could be severe and long-lasting as well.


(Read full post)


Weekend recruiting wrap: Big Ten 

November, 25, 2014
Nov 25
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Here is a look at all the most important recruiting action from this past weekend within the Big Ten conference.


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Big Ten morning links

November, 25, 2014
Nov 25
8:00
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Good morning, Big Ten fans. Some notes and observations for Thanksgiving week:

1. And then there were two ...: Bovada released its updated odds Monday on the Heisman Trophy winner, and only two names are left: Oregon's Marcus Mariota and Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon. Mariota is the favorite with 1-3 odds, while Gordon is at 2-1. All other players/bets are off the board.

I've said this before, but I'm really not sure what else Gordon has to do to pass Mariota here. In a land where there's just Jesus, girls and Marcus Mariota, the Oregon quarterback has had an unbelievable season. But Gordon's performance is maybe the best from a running back in the last 25 years. Look at past Heisman-winning running backs -- Mark Ingram, Rashaan Salaam, Ron Dayne, Ricky Williams, Eddie George -- and, with the exception of Williams, Gordon has more rushing yards, more yards per carry and more TDs than all of them. And he's just 15 yards and two TDs shy of tying Williams' production; plus, he's averaging 2.4 yards a carry more than Williams. This isn't just a great season for Gordon; it's historically great. He's having one of the best seasons in NCAA history.

2. Ralph Friedgen returning to Maryland: The Rutgers' offensive coordinator is not being made available to the media this week ... but it's pretty clear he doesn't like this week's opponent in Maryland. OK, let's be honest: He hates Maryland. He was fired as its coach in 2010, the same year he was named ACC Coach of the Year, which obviously doesn't happen too often. And he didn't hold back a few years ago when discussing his alma mater: "I could care less about Maryland, I've burned my diploma. ...Well, they talk about Maryland pride. They didn't show me a whole lot of Maryland pride, either getting the job or getting fired."

Think this game doesn't take on a bit more of added importance? Rutgers players told NJ.com there's some added motivation this week. It's a storyline worth following, and it'll be interesting to see how both Friedgen and Maryland fans react to his homecoming.

3. Jerry Kill or Urban Meyer?: One of them has to wind up as the Big Ten coach of the year -- but which one is it going to be? Minnesota has undoubtedly exceeded expectations this season by picking up the Little Brown Jug and the Floyd of Rosedale ... but Meyer's on the cusp of a playoff berth with a redshirt freshman quarterback who was supposed to spend this season on the sideline. If Kill fails to grab Paul Bunyan's Axe by beating Wisconsin this week, Meyer might have the edge. If the Gophers win and wind up in the Big Ten title game? Well, it'd be hard to pick against Kill. Minnesota hasn't finished first or second in the conference since 1967.

Now, on to the links ...

East Division
  • The father of Penn State's Christian Hackenberg says he "won't even touch" the prospect of transferring.
West Division
  • Silence from Nebraska's athletic director makes sense for now, writes the Lincoln Journal Star's Steven M. Sipple.
  • Looking back on the last time Wisconsin played Minnesota for the B1G title ... 52 years ago.

Early Offer: Malik Jefferson's final 7 

November, 24, 2014
Nov 24
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Malik Jefferson reduced his list to seven schools on Monday, and though the list is hardly a surprise, recruiters think there are still some in store with the No. 35 player in the country.

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It's _ichigan week in Colu_bus

November, 24, 2014
Nov 24
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It's Ichigan week at Ohio State. The students and supporters on the southern end of this heated rivalry started the week with their annual tradition of covering every printed M on ca... , er, school grounds.



No better week on caLpus! #BuckeyeNation

A photo posted by Drew Shipley (@drewship02) on



Each year in the week leading up to The Game, red tape covers Ohio State's campus and redacts all the appearances of the unlucky 13th letter of the alphabet that tape can reach. Gossip on Twitter the first day of this week suggested the school was getting rid of the last two letters -- the "um" -- on a large sign that says "Ohio Stadium" and hangs outside the Buckeyes' field. A photo of a crane lifting the letters away turned out to be a hoax.

The Wolverines travel to Ohio's capital city this weekend with a 5-6 record after losing to the Terrapins last Saturday. Ohio State (10-1) needs to beat its rival in order to keep alive its chance for an invite to the College Football Playoff. No red tape needed here.
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Another week, another high-profile endorsement for J.T. Barrett as his Heisman Trophy campaign appears to be gaining more steam.

This time, though, the Ohio State quarterback actually received the stamp of approval from somebody who will be casting a vote for the game’s top honor.

Former Heisman winner Troy Smith tried to play it coy about who might top his ballot as the regular season winds down, citing his preference to wait for the last possible moment for making his choice official. But he has also been in Barrett’s shoes with the Buckeyes, and is seeing a lot of his own records with the program falling at the hands of the redshirt freshman, and Smith couldn’t hide the fact that he might already be leaning toward one candidate in particular.

"I have a tremendous amount of respect for that process and have an understanding of what it takes to win the Heisman Trophy, and I think it shouldn’t be awarded until the last game of whoever is in the standings or whichever candidates are playing, because you never know who is going to have that breakout moment," Smith said. "There is great talent across the nation, but I’m definitely biased toward some of the guys who have worn the scarlet and gray if they are up there.

"But you didn’t hear that from me."

Smith is certainly still free to change his mind or keep his vote a secret, but he made no effort to hide his admiration and appreciation for what Barrett has done for the No. 6 Buckeyes in his first season as a starter. And one week after Ohio State coach Urban Meyer publicly endorsed Barrett as a viable Heisman contender, Smith added his name to the list while the 2006 winner was on campus preparing to have his number enshrined in the Horseshoe during Saturday’s matchup with rival Michigan.

The redshirt freshman is seemingly rewriting a record book that is covered with Smith’s name every week, and the comparisons between the last Ohio State quarterback to claim the famed stiff-arm trophy and the one pushing for it heading into the regular-season finale and next week’s Big Ten championship game aren’t likely to slow down any time soon.

Smith joked about what his individual numbers might look like in Meyer’s spread offense with the chance to throw "shovel passes for touchdowns," but he was otherwise effusive in his praise of Barrett, and pointed to his eye-popping statistics with 42 total touchdowns as a key component in his Heisman platform.

"Oh yeah, I think he should be in [consideration] everybody’s mind," Smith said. "Statistically, the things that he’s doing, obviously numbers don’t lie. [Offensive coordinator] Tom Herman and our offensive staff are putting him and other guys in positions to make plays, and J.T. is doing nothing but capitalizing on every single chance and opportunity. ... As a freshman, he’s doing some things that it took me an ample amount of years to grasp and have an understanding about.

"Obviously we’ve had a chance to see the transformation and the growth behind J.T. Barrett this whole season, and I’m pretty much blown away."

In Smith’s case, that makes him not only a qualified endorser for Barrett, but potentially an impressed voter as well.

Big Ten Monday mailbag

November, 24, 2014
Nov 24
5:00
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Short week. I’ve got the mail. Here you go:

@mitchsherman: Nebraska is a hot topic again late in the season for its failure to win key games. The Huskers' 28-24 loss to Minnesota on Saturday squashed the final strand of hope to play for a Big Ten title, officially extending the drought to 15 years without a conference crown. I think the Nebraska administration needs to ask a different set of questions this year than last, when Athletic Director Shawn Eichorst offered a vague statement in support of coach Bo Pelini at the close of the regular season. Is Nebraska satisfied with its place in the Big Ten? Are the Huskers content to win nine games a year but rarely, if ever, factor in the national conversation? If so, change is unnecessary. But if the Huskers want more, some kind of fix appears in order. Clearly, the formula in place isn't working to improve Nebraska. As for the streak of 340 consecutive sellouts, Nebraska can't afford to wait until it ends before taking action. Apathy is growing as the Huskers slide further down the Big Ten pecking order. And the streak of sellouts should not be taken for granted.

@mitchsherman: The Badgers, in that scenario, would land in the Cotton, Fiesta or Peach. The College Football Playoff committee would then be tasked to determine if Ohio State or Michigan State belonged in another of the New Year's Six games -- other than the Orange, which will be determined by conference tie-ins. The Orange Bowl gets the Big Ten runner-up only if it ranks ahead of every available SEC team. The Spartans appear in decent shape today for a New Year's Six spot, especially if Ohio State keeps winning. Of course, the Buckeyes, with a close loss to Wisconsin, could remain ahead of Michigan State and steal a New Year's Six spot, knocking MSU to the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl. Remember, though, if a Big Ten team lands in the Orange Bowl, another can't go to the Citrus. Got that? In a nutshell, it's complicated.

@mitchsherman: It's a safe assumption that the league will get 10 teams in the postseason. Nine are eligible, with Northwestern or Illinois to get a sixth win on Saturday. For an 11th team to make it, Michigan must upset Ohio State. The Big Ten, as usual, will be matched against the SEC as a likely underdog in the Outback and possibly the Citrus or TaxSlayer (formerly Gator). If Ohio State wins the league and misses the playoff, it figures to go in as a favorite to win a New Year's Six bowl, though the same can't be said for other remaining Big Ten contenders Michigan State, Wisconsin and Minnesota. Moving down the line, Pac-12 foes will likely bring stronger resumes than the Big Ten in San Diego and Santa Clara. By my count, the league will be fortunate to go 3-3 with its top six teams. It looks slightly better for the lower-division teams, matched against the ACC in New York and Conference USA in Dallas, though the SEC could loom in Nashville. The Big Ten's at-large matchups might determine its chance to get above .500 in the postseason. I'd say, expect four to five wins and hope for six..

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