Deshaun Watson's Performance Will Make Or Break Clemson In National Championship

Defense wins championships. It’s a phrase that’s been said millions of times by analysts, coaches, and players alike. However, when Clemson takes on Alabama tonight in the national championship, the Tigers will need their offense to win them the game. 

Alabama has one of the most fearsome front sevens that has ever stepped foot onto the college gridiron, and not too many teams can say they’ve had success against them. But there has been a proven weakness that flusters the Crimson Tide defense: a mobile quarterback. With Deshaun Watson at the helm of the offense, Clemson stands as good a shot as anyone in taking down Goliath. 

Only one team, Ole Miss, has been able to beat Alabama this season, and Clemson hopes to use their same strategy. Ole Miss used the play-making ability of Chad Kelly, along with an uptempo approach to stifle the effectiveness of the ‘Bama defense. It gave Nick Saban and Kirby Smart headaches all game trying to figure out a way to slow down Kelly and the Rebels, but they just couldn’t do it.

Ole Miss put up 43 points on an Alabama defense that hadn’t given that many points in its last five games. Kelly threw for 341 yards, which is the most any QB has thrown against the Tide this season, also accounting for three scores through the air. But it was the offensive scheme that led to Kelly’s success that day. They spread out players all over the field and were able to hit big passes when needed (seven pass plays of 20+ yards).

In an interview with the New York Post, Ole Miss offensive coordinator Dan Werner put it perfectly:

“If you try to line up and play smash mouth, nobody can be successful against them [doing that]. You have to spread them out, use a little trickery. … In crucial situations, when we really need it, we’re going to call a quarterback run, and Clemson has the same philosophy.”

Deshaun Watson is the type of quarterback who Alabama hates to play against because he has so many dimensions to his game. Utilizing the spread scheme on offense puts more pressure on Alabama’s defense to make plays in space while making Watson more effective not only as a passer but also as a runner, as well.

Watson’s abilities make him difficult to defend because he gives any defense a lot to worry about. For example, against Alabama, Watson can use his legs as a diversion. Running play-action fakes and designed draws are both types of plays that give Watson the advantage against the Tide.

Be that as it may, Watson still needs to be successful on early downs. Getting good yardage on first and second down can help avoid third-and-longs, making it easier to keep the play calling varied. If Alabama gets Clemson in a predictable situation, the defensive line will not hesitate to pounce on Watson.

The pace of play can also determine how successful Watson can be as well. Playing fast can work to his advantage because it will deter Alabama from using the talented depth it has across its defensive front. Getting to the line quick and calling audibles, can have a big impact against a defense that leads the nation in sacks (50).

For Clemson to win this game, Watson is going to have to play great. This is not a game where he can just settle for good. If Watson can keep the tempo up, make smart decisions, and have just enough luck, Clemson could beat the almighty Alabama. It won’t be easy, but it’s sure going to be a heck of a fight.

SQ Citrus Bowl Preview

The Florida Gators and Michigan Wolverines were on the downtrend of college football the past couple of seasons, but thanks to new coaching staffs, both of these teams have changed direction rather quickly. Jim McElwain (Florida) and Jim Harbaugh (Michigan) have done more than what was expected in their first seasons, and these two coaches will meet on New Year’s Day in the Citrus Bowl. This matchup was a great surprise, and will certainly be one of the bowls to watch. Here’s what you need to know:

Storylines Heading Into the Game

Florida’s Offense Continues to Ride the Struggle Bus: Ever since Will Grier tested positive for performance enhancing drugs, Florida’s offense hasn’t been the same. Treon Harris has struggled as the team’s starting QB, and just hasn’t looked comfortable at all under center. The offense hit an all-time low in SEC Championship when it put up just 180 total yards. For the Gators to have any sort of chance against Michigan they’ve got to get Harris going early with short, quick passes.

McElwain and Harbaugh Surpassing First Year Expectations: It’s not really a surprise to see both of these programs doing well with their new coaches, but both have certainly exceeded year-one expectations. McElwain took Florida all the way to the SEC Championship when the team was picked to finish near the bottom in preseason polls. Meanwhile, Harbaugh brought Michigan back to relevancy by winning nine games and making them one of the toughest teams to score on.

A Battle of Two Great Defenses: If you love a good defensive duel, then you’re in luck because this game features two of the nation’s best. Florida and Michigan each rank in the top-10 in total defense, with each also ranking in the top-15 in scoring defense. Needless to say, neither of these offenses are looking forward to playing against their opponent’s defense. Whoever can limit mistakes on defense and win the turnover battle will come out on top of this game.

Key Stats

43 – The Florida Gators are tied for 126th in the nation with 43 sacks allowed this season. While young and inexperienced, the Gators’ O-Line held up decently in the first five games, surrendering 10 sacks. But it was downhill from there, and the Treon Harris has felt the brunt of the hits. The O-Line must do a better job of protecting Harris if he’s going to have any shot of being productive this game.

93.88% – Michigan may not have one of the best offenses in the country, but when it comes to redzone efficiency, the Wolverines are money. Michigan has scored 46 out of 49 times when in the redzone, and they’re going to need to take advantage of any trips inside the 20 against this defense. 

45.29 – Florida punter Johnny Townsend has averaged 45.29 yards per punt over the last three games. Field position is going to be a key in this game, and Townsend can be a game-changer for the Gators by pinning the Wolverines deep in their own territory. With Townsend’s ability to pin opponents back behind their own 20, it makes Florida’s job on defense a lot easier.

Key Players

Kelvin Taylor, RB, Florida – With the way Florida’s offense has underwhelmed, Kelvin Taylor really hasn’t gotten the recognition he has deserved. Taylor has run for at least 100 yards in three of his last four games, and is the key for Florida to be successful in this game. Taylor is going to get plenty of carries in this game as Michigan has had trouble stopping the run as of late (746 rush yards surrendered in last three games). If Taylor can find holes early, it will go a long way in helping the passing game for Harris.

Jake Butt, TE, Michigan – Butt was named the best tight end this year after winning the Mackey Award, and he is the key to Michigan’s offense in this game. The Wolverines like to go to Butt early and often, as 30 of his 48 receptions have come in the first half this season. Going up against one of the best secondaries in the country, Butt is going to be QB Jake Rudock’s go-to target early on to gain some confidence.

Why Florida Will Win

Florida will win this game if it can squeeze enough points out of its offense. The offensive line is without a doubt the key component to offensive success for the Gators. A more stable O-Line will give Harris more confidence and he won’t feel like he has to run out of the pocket every time he feels pressure.

Florida is going to show up on defense, that much we know. The good thing for the Gators is that Michigan doesn’t have a great run game or a premiere running back. In all three of the Gators’ losses, each team had a feature back that ran for at least 180 yards. Containing Rudock and Butt are what the Gators should focus on in this game.

Why Michigan Will Win

On offense, Michigan has the upper hand in this one. Rudock improved greatly over the course of the season, and has become one of the better signal callers in the Big Ten. However, the shoulder injury he suffered against Ohio State could cause concern in this game. Facing a strong secondary tandem in Vernon Hargreaves and Jalen Tabor is going to make it that much more important for Rudock to make smart decisions.

Michigan’s defense could end up making New Year’s Day a mess for Florida. The Wolverines have a strong enough pass rush that will cause Harris to get of the ball quicker than he wants to. The one question Michigan faces on defense is if All-American Jabrill Peppers will be able to play or not. If he’s not able to go that’s a big blow to the team, leaving them not only without a standout safety, but one of their better running backs. 


This game is going to be an all-out defensive war. What it’s going to come down to is who can hold on to the ball, and make the least amount of mistakes. Contrary to popular belief, Florida will not look as bad on offense as it has in the past few games, but that isn’t saying much. But for the Gators to win, Taylor and Harris each have to have good games in a combined effort. In the end, if Florida can muster up three touchdowns, Jim McElwain should notch his first bowl victory with the team.

Final Score: Florida 21 – Michigan 17

SQ Cotton Bowl Preview

It’s come down to this. The matchups are set, now it’s time to find out who’s the best of the best. On New Year’s Eve the nation will be one step closer to crowning a national champion when Alabama and Michigan State square off in the Cotton Bowl. Easily one of the most anticipated games the College Football Playoff has to offer, it pits the Big Ten against the SEC in a contest that is sure to be remembered. Here’s what you need to know:

Storylines Heading Into the Game

Derrick Henry Carrying the Tide Offense: Derrick Henry became the second player in Alabama history to win the Heisman, and deservedly so after literally carrying the team’s offense the whole season. Henry averaged the second most amount of carries in the nation (26.08), while picking up almost six yards each carry. Don’t expect to see a change in the gameplan; Henry got the Tide this far and he’s going to factor into this game as well, even with the Spartans keying in on him.

Is the Big Ten on Par with the SEC?: Two years ago, fans were laughing at the Big Ten, saying it didn’t have a snowball’s chance at competing for a national championship. Last year proved the Big Ten was back and in a big way. Not only did Ohio State win the national championship, but the conference beat two of the SEC giants (Alabama and Auburn). If Michigan State can send the Crimson Tide packing with a loss in its second straight Playoff appearance, it certainly makes the Big Ten’s argument a lot stronger.

Alabama Trying to Avoid Postseason Disappointment for Third Straight Season: The postseason has not been kind to Alabama the past two seasons, and the Tide are hoping to reverse that trend against the Spartans. Let’s just say that Nick Saban is probably happy that his team isn’t playing in the Sugar Bowl this season. Having lost to Oklahoma and Ohio State in consecutive seasons has left a sour taste in the mouth of ‘Bama fans. It’s certainly not what Nick Saban is used to after winning back-to-back national titles.

Key Stats

90 – In the past two games he’s played, Derrick Henry has carried the ball 90 times. That’s something to take note of considering that he carried the ball a total of 97 times in the four games prior to that. Will Henry get the 45 carries he’s been averaging through that span? If Henry is getting good yardage, and doing a good job of getting into the second level, then expect Lane Kiffin to keep feeding him the ball.

111 – The combined amount of rushing yards that Michigan State gave up to Ezekiel Elliott (Ohio State) and Jordan Howard (Indiana), two of the top three rushers in the Big Ten. They may not be Derrick Henry, but they’re two of the best running backs that the Big Ten has to offer. Michigan State doesn’t care who they play, they’re ready for the challenge.

38.98% – Against Top 25 teams this season, Michigan State has converted just 38.98% of third down opportunities. It’s sort of ironic, given that the Spartans are ranked fourth in the nation in third down conversion rate (50.53%). Michigan State is going up against one of the best defenses in the country, and the Tide are great at making third down stops (27.92% opponent conversion rate). This is an area the Spartans have to do well in if they’re going to play for a national championship.

Key Players

Connor Cook, QB, Michigan State – Cook has had a relatively quiet year for the Spartans after being hyped up to have a big 2015. However, there was a four game stretch where he threw for 1,428 yards and 11 touchdowns, looking like the highly touted NFL prospect he was believed to be. When Cook is on he’s hard to beat. If his shoulder is healthy, he’ll be able to make NFL-caliber throws all over the field. The key for Cook in this game is to make quick decisions and get the ball out early. He’ll have to be on his toes with the way this Alabama front seven can get into the backfield.

Jake Coker, QB, Alabama – All Jake Coker has had to do up until this point in the season is protect the ball and make throws when needed. And to his credit, Coker hasn’t done a bad job of being a game manager for the Tide offense while Henry tears apart the ground game. But Coker will have to be a little more than a game manager in this game since the Spartans are one of the top teams at defending against the run (113.08 opponent rush yards per game).

He’ll need to take advantage of a vulnerable Spartans pass defense that ranks 96th in the country in giving up pass plays of 15+ yards (72). If Coker can hit medium range passes like that throughout the game, then it will make it that much easier for Henry to be successful. 

Why Michigan State Will Win

Michigan State is a solid all-around team that makes you beat them. The Spartans are +16 in turnover margin on the year, and they don’t commit penalties that would drag them down. Mark Dantonio is one of the best coaches in the game, and he’s going to have his team ready to win this football game. If Cook can make quick decisions with the ball and be successful on third down, the Michigan State offense should score enough points that will cover its defense.

On the defensive side, it’s stopping Derrick Henry at the point of attack. When Henry gets to the second level, it’s too late. The Spartans need to meet him at the line of scrimmage head on if they’re going to limit the damage he does. Arkansas did a good job of this, holding Henry to 95 yards on 27 carries. Limiting Henry coupled with getting pressure on Jake Coker is the key to beating Alabama, and the Spartans have the defense that can do just that.

Why Alabama Will Win

Alabama will win this game because it won’t make the same mistake that Urban Meyer made against the Spartans. The Tide will continue to give the ball to Henry even when he gets stuffed by this Michigan State defense. Henry is the workhorse that won’t quit, averaging 6.13 yards per carry in the fourth quarter. He gets stronger as the game goes on, and the team feeds off of his energy. If Henry can get it going and Coker can hit a couple of big passes early on, this game could really play up to the 10 point spread that Alabama is favored by.

The Crimson Tide defense is going to show up and do what it has done all season: wreak havoc. Wracking up 46 sacks this season, the Tide are going to force Connor Cook to make throws before he’s ready. What that will do is create a chance for the secondary to make interceptions or at least bat the ball down. Michigan State has yet to face a defense as strong as this one, and this game might not be pretty for them.


This game is going to be a grinder. It’s hard to imagine one team really running away with this one, unless it’s Alabama late in the game. Both teams are going to have success, but both teams are also going to get stuffed. Henry and Cook are going to have good games because this is the kind of environment that each thrive in. It’s really going to come down to which team makes the least amount of mistakes and who can take advantage of their opponents miscues. Michigan State has had a great season up to this point, but Alabama’s defense will just be too strong to overcome in the end. 

Final Score: Alabama 27 – Michigan State 20

SQ Birmingham Bowl Preview

As bowl mania hits its final stretch this week, some of the more interesting matchups are starting to appear the slate. One game to watch is the Birmingham Bowl, which features Memphis and Auburn. And while both teams haven’t had the season they expected, this game offers the chance to end the season on a high note. Here’s what you need to know for the game:

Storylines Heading Into The Game

Justin Fuente Heads to the Power Five: Just one year after guiding Memphis to a share of the American Athletic Conference title, head coach Justin Fuente used his success to land the job at Virginia Tech. Fuente has coached the Tigers to a 19-6 record the past two seasons and garnered the team’s highest ranking in school history. Unfortunately for Memphis, they will be without him as he has already taken post in Blacksburg to begin the rebuilding of the Hokies.

Auburn’s Expectations Washed Down the Drain: Auburn wasn’t supposed to be playing in the Birmingham Bowl, well at least not according to experts at the beginning of the season. The addition of Will Muschamp was supposed to solidify the defense and make the Tigers contenders for a national title. Those hopes quickly died as Auburn struggled to find consistency on either side of the ball. The result was a 6-6 season, including a 2-6 mark in the SEC. Clearly, it was not the season that Gus Malzahn had intended.

Will Muschamp Out After One Season: Bringing on Muschamp was predicted to be one of the best marriages between an offensive guru (Malzahn) and a defensive whiz. And although the results on the field weren’t what Auburn hoped for, there was reason to believe that things could turn around in 2016.

Tigers fans will never know what could have been with a second chance now that Muschamp will be taking over at South Carolina. It was a move that caught most off guard, given Muschamp’s lack of success as the head man in Florida, but nonetheless, he will be given another opportunity in the SEC East.

Key Stats

670 – The amount of rushing yards that Memphis gave up during its three-game losing streak. Prior to that collapse, Memphis gave up just 118.75 yards per game. Navy and Temple really took advantage of the undersized front seven that Memphis has, and Auburn can do the same with Peyton Barber and Jovon Robinson. 

2,786 – The amount of passing yards that Auburn has given up this season. Auburn was one of the worst in the SEC at defending the pass, coming in at 12th in this category. When Auburn goes up against Memphis, they’ll be facing the best QB they’ve seen all year, Paxton Lynch. Lynch has already dismantled the Ole Miss defense through the air (384 yards, three touchdowns); it seems likely that Auburn could suffer the same fate.

49 – Auburn’s total amount of tackles for loss this season. Auburn has done a miserable job at getting in their opponent’s backfield this season, and that’s going to be a problem if it can’t get a good pass rush going against Lynch. The Tigers have struggled to get off their blocks, no thanks to DE Carl Lawson’s injury. With Lawson back, hopefully Auburn can at least make Lynch uncomfortable in the pocket.

Key Players

Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis – NFL scouts have been drooling over the potential they see when they look at Lynch. His 6’7 frame coupled with a rocket attached to his right arm make him a lethal weapon with the ball in his hands. Lynch’s great season is also the product of an offensive line that has done a great job of protecting him (just 15 sacks allowed this season). With the protection the line provides, Lynch can carve up the secondary, finding his trio of receiving threats (Mose Frazier, Anthony Miller, and Phil Mayhue) that each average over 11 yards per catch.

Carl Lawson, DE, Auburn – It’s been noted above how much Auburn’s pass rush has suffered this season, and with Lawson out for the first half of the season. things weren’t looking up. When Lawson is at full strength, he can be one of the best edge rushers in college football. And while he hasn’t recorded a sack since returning from his injury, he has accounted for seven QB hurries over the final five games. The Tigers will need him to get into Lynch’s face throughout the game and get him to use his legs more than he would like. 

Why Memphis Wins

Memphis can win this game from the standpoint that it has the most offensive fire power. The Tigers have one of the best QBs in the country in Lynch and have a solid running game that averages over 180 yards per game. The sheer ability this offense has to keep drives alive (49.47% third down conversion rate) could propel them to a victory. And while the defense was exposed against Temple and Navy, it just needs to bend enough to keep the offense ahead.

Why Auburn Wins

Auburn has the ground-and-pound attack that can limit the amount of opportunities that Lynch and the Memphis offense get. The Tigers average 191.75 yards per game on the ground and both Barber and Robinson have a size advantage against the front seven of Memphis. If Auburn can control the clock with the run game, it could be the difference in deciding the game. One thing Auburn’s defense must do to win the game is to get Lynch out of the pocket more than he wants to be. Lynch may be a good runner, but he’s more dangerous as a passer.


This game could very well turn into a shootout. Memphis possesses one of the best offenses in the country, scoring 42.7 points per game, but Auburn possesses a run game that could give the Memphis defense plenty of fits. All in all, it’s going to come down to which team controls the possession battle. If Lynch has ample opportunity to score, then Memphis will hand Auburn another loss and cap a disappointing season for the more southern of the Tigers. 

Final Score: Memphis 30 – Auburn 27

SQ Marmot Boca Raton Bowl Preview

It may be the week of Christmas, but it sure won’t feel like it when Toledo and Temple face off in the Marmot Boca Raton Bowl today. Both teams are coming off impressive seasons and this will undoubtedly make for one of the more interesting bowl matchups this season. Before the game kicks off today, here are the things you need to know:

Storylines Heading Into the Game

Late Season Disappointment: No matter which way you look at it, both teams might’ve had great seasons, but it doesn’t take away the late sting that each team felt. Temple started off hot, going 8-1, but a three-score defeat at the hands of South Florida and falling to Houston in the American Athletic Conference Championship ultimately crushed the hopes of the Owls.

Conversely, Toledo got off to a similar start with an impressive victory over Arkansas, but fell off late with losses to Northern Illinois and Western Michigan. However, it was the loss to Western Michigan that really hurt the Rockets as it cost the team a shot at playing for the MAC Championship.

A Big Win for Either School: After such disappointing ends to both of their seasons, the Boca Raton Bowl still offers each team a chance for a big win. For Toledo, a win here would push their win total up to 10, which would be the first time the team has notched a double digit victory total since 2001. Temple, on the other hand, would set a school record with their 11th win of the season if they can manage to defeat the Rockets. And while a win here may not seem like it means much, it could be the spark that gets the ball rolling for a successful 2016 campaign.

Another MAC Coach Heads to the Power-Five: It shouldn’t come as a surprise that another successful MAC coach is heading to a Power-Five program; Dino Babers (Bowling Green) will become the head man at Syracuse, while Dave Clawson (Bowling Green) and Dave Doeren (Northern Illinois) have already started their tenure at a pair of ACC schools.

Now former Toledo head coach Matt Campbell will join the ranks as the latest head coach at Iowa State, taking multiple assistants with him. In his place, the Rockets have hired offensive coordinator Jason Candle, which should provide continuity within the program.

Key Stats

83.64% – The percentage that Toledo scored when it reached the redzone this season. It’s a stat that ranks 72nd in the nation, and could be vital in this game. Temple has one of the most formidable defenses in college football, so Toledo will have to capitalize on all of its chances when it gets inside the 20.

481 – The amount of tackles that Temple LB Tyler Matakevich has amassed over his now storied career. Matakevich, still one of the lesser-known defenders in the game, is now the active career leader in tackles. He also became the seventh player in FBS history to register at least 100 tackles in each of his four seasons. Needless to say, Toledo RB Kareem Hunt and QB Phillip Ely better keep an eye out for this tackling machine.

91 – The amount of tackles for loss that Temple has surrendered this season. Temple doesn’t have a high-powered offense like Toledo does, so it’s extremely important to keep the Rockets out of the backfield. The Rockets average seven tackles for loss per game which was the top mark in the MAC, and a pair of their defensive linemen (Orion Jones and Allen Covington) that have combined for 22.5 this season. For the Owls to have any success on offense in this game, they’ll have to limit the negative plays on the field.

Key Players

Jahad Thomas, RB, Temple – Thomas is the feature back for Temple, and he will be one of the most dynamic runners (1,257 yards, 17 touchdowns) that Toledo has seen all year. The Rockets may be one of the best in the nation at defending the run (115.55 rush yards allowed per game), but Thomas won’t be slowed down that easy. He’s got plenty of speed to get past defenders, and he can also be receiving threat out of the backfield (22 receptions, 216 yards), making him one of the most versatile weapons on offense. If the offensive line can open up some holes for him, he should have a productive day and be the key to the Owls’ offense.

Phillip Ely, QB, Toledo – Ely, a transfer from Alabama, has come in and done a pretty good job as the starting QB for the Rockets. However, Ely has struggled to be consistent at times this season. In four of the team’s 11 games this season he failed to complete at least 50% of his passes, including both losses.

Temple has one of the better pass rushes in the game, accounting for 32 sacks and 101 tackles for loss, so Ely is going to have to be on his toes in this game. And while the Rockets will rely heavily on RBs Kareem Hunt and Terry Swanson, when the team faces passing downs, Ely needs to be on his game. The Rockets can’t afford an inconsistent performance against one of the better defenses in the nation.

Why Temple Wins

The offense may not be anything special, but the defense certainly is. With Matakevich leading this unit, the Owls are difficult to move the ball against. Toledo is a team that likes to use explosive runs to set the tone on offense, but that won’t work against the Owls who only allow 3.7 yards per carry. It’s simple, if Temple can stick to the formula it’s used all year (play unbeatable defense and muster enough offense) then they’re going to beat Toledo.

Why Toledo Wins

Toledo wins this game because it has something that Temple does not; an explosive offense. The Rockets paced the MAC in rushing yards per game (213.18), thanks to Hunt and Swanson who combined for 1,764 yards and 17 touchdowns. And what gives these backs the edge in this game is the outstanding help they get from the offensive line. The big boys up front have only allowed just 38 tackles for loss (1st in the nation) and just four sacks (2nd in the nation). With the offensive line playing like that, it’s no wonder this offense can score 35 points per game. 


This game is going to be fought hard between the trenches with each team trying to get their offenses rolling with a strong ground game. Temple will use the familiar combo of Thomas and QB P.J. Walker to put together enough productive drives, while Toledo is going to rely on its two-headed rushing attack. But, expect to see plenty of plays where Matakevich’s name is called, bringing down either Hunt or Swanson. 

The edge here goes to Temple simply because its defense is something that Toledo hasn’t seen this season. Although Toledo may have one of the better offensive lines in the nation, Temple’s front seven will still be able to stop Toledo short of the first down marker enough times to make an impact.

Final Score: Temple 27 – Toledo 24

SQ Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl Preview

It’s time to go bowling! College football’s bowl season promises to bring some of the most interesting and entertaining match ups we’ve seen all year. The first weekend of bowl games pits BYU against Utah in the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl on December 19th at 3:30 p.m. EST.

Storylines Heading Into the Game

Bronco Mendenhall’s Last Holy War: Mendenhall has done a great job since taking over the BYU program in 2005. Since becoming head coach of the Cougars, Mendenhall has led the team to a record of 99-42 overall with two Mountain West titles to his credit. It’s been a great ride for him thus far, and BYU would love nothing more than to send him on to Virginia with career win No. 100 and his first win over Utah since 2009. This storied rivalry hasn’t been kind to Mendenhall in the past, as he’s just 3-6 in his career against the Utes.

Tanner Mangum, Freshman Sensation: When Taysom Hill went down with a season-ending injury in the first game of the season, no one knew what to expect from Mangum who had just returned from serving his two year religious mission. As time expired in that first game against Nebraska, Mangum threw a Hail Mary that was magically caught in the endzone to win the game. Mangum wasn’t a one-game wonder, and has impressed all season long, being named Freshman of the Year by the Touchdown Club of Columbus. His 21 touchdown passes were a freshman record for the Cougars this year.

Rivalry Renewed: As alluded to in the aforementioned section on Mendenhall, this matchup is a rebirth of a rivalry that hasn’t seen the gridiron since 2013. The rivalry came to a halt when Utah AD Chris Hill decided it was necessary to take a two-year hiatus. Although the Holy War was scheduled to resume again in 2016, this bowl game kickstarts the rivalry once again. While Utah has won the past four meetings, three of those have been decided by a touchdown or less.

Key Stats

3,062 – The number of passing yards that BYU signal caller Tanner Mangum has thrown for this season. Not only does that number rank second in the nation among true freshmen, it’s also a BYU freshman record. Mangum was rated as four-star recruit coming out of high school, and he’s only starting to scratch the surface of the talent that he possesses. You can definitely expect him to be airing it out this game.

0 – Utah’s turnover margin over the past four games. This stat may be a little bittersweet though. While on one hand the Utes have done a great job of forcing 10 turnovers in that span, they’ve turned it over just as many times. Looking at this from the optimist’s point of view, Utah has only surrendered six points off of those turnovers. However, the Utes shouldn’t continue to play dangerously like that.

5 – The number of sacks that BYU has allowed over the past three games. BYU’s offensive line struggled mightily early on in the season and allowed 12 sacks in its first three games. Utah has one of the better pass rushes in the country and has notched 33 sacks this season. In order for Mangum to do well in this game the offensive line needs to continue to improve.

Key Players

Kylie Fitts, DE, Utah – Fitts is a dynamic pass rusher who has caused nightmares for opposing QBs all season long. He’s explosive off the edge and is on top of the QB before he even has a chance to get rid of the ball. But even when they do have a chance to get rid of the ball, he can still use his long arms to deflect it, as evidenced by the 10 pass breakups he has. Fitts may have just six sacks and seven tackles for loss, but his presence alone is enough to get opposing QBs off their game. 

Tanner Mangum, QB, BYU – BYU cannot win this game if Tanner Mangum doesn’t have a good game. Utah has one of the best rush defenses in the nation (allow just 111.75 rush yards per game), so the Cougars are going to need Mangum’s arm to account for most of the yardage. Mangum has big play ability (61 completions of 15+ yards), and can also make plays when he’s flushed out of the pocket. He may find himself on the run a little more in this game due to Utah’s potent pass rush. If he can avoid the sacks and hit his receivers in stride, Mangum could pull out the win for the Cougars.

Why Utah Wins

Utah can win this game with their defensive line wreaking havoc in the backfield. If Kylie Fitts isn’t contained, it could be a long game for Mangum and the BYU offense. BYU’s lack of a run game makes Utah’s pass rush all the more effective since they can pretty much key in on the pass a majority of the time. Utah has a knack for forcing turnovers, 29 this season, and if they can get the right amount of pressure on Mangum, it may be enough to get him to make some mistakes.

Why BYU Wins

BYU can win this game in a combined effort from its defense and offense. Mangum has done a great job as a freshman signal caller and has pulled a few rabbits out of his hat already this year. He’s got a multitude of weapons to throw to, and each of his top five targets this year is averaging at least 13 yards per catch. On the defensive side of the ball, BYU has quietly had one of the best pass rushes in the nation with 37 sacks and 90 tackles for loss. Utah QB Travis Wilson has only completed 44% of his passes over the past two games, and if BYU can make him feel uncomfortable, then they can force the Utes to run the ball more than they’d like.


This has the makings to be the best game to watch in the first week of bowl games, after all it is a rivalry. It’s Bronco Mendenhall’s last game with BYU before he departs for a gig in the Power Five, and he’s looking to go out with a bang. The Cougars are just 1-3 against Power Five teams this season, but that goes out the window when you play in a rivalry game.

Keep your eye on Utah QB Travis Wilson, as he will be the x-factor for the offense since Devontae Booker is sidelined with a torn meniscus. Wilson hasn’t played great as of late, but he has the potential to be lethal when he’s on. BYU’s solid pass rush should challenge him throughout the game, and don’t be surprised if Bronson Kaufusi knocks him down a couple times (has recorded 10.5 sacks so far).

This game is going to come down to who makes the least amount of mistakes, and which QB can step up to the challenge. Expect this game to be hard-fought and close throughout its duration.  

Final Score: Utah 24 – BYU 21

SQ SEC Championship Preview

The SEC, you either love it or hate it. Even if you fall into the latter part of that statement, there’s still a part of you that has to know about what’s going on in the conference that has been labeled as the gold standard for college football. We’re giving you the rundown on what you need to know heading into this weekend’s title bout between the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Florida Gators.

Storylines Heading Into the Game

Florida’s offense continues to struggle — Whether it’s the offensive line finally playing down to expectations or the lackluster play of QB Treon Harris, the Gators offensive woes are back. The pass protection has broken down more times than not, and Harris is either left scrambling or making an erratic throw.

Harris has completed just 50.9 percent of his passes and thrown four interceptions since he took over as the permanent starter. Jim McElwain and his staff need to have a different gameplan going into this matchup or else they won’t even score the two points they were lucky to get against FSU.

Alabama DC Kirby Smart to become Georgia’s next Head Coach — Every year it seems like we’re talking about which one of Nick Saban’s assistants is next in line to land a job fronting his own program. After being one of the hottest names on the coaching carousel, Kirby Smart will have the chance to be the next head coach of the Georgia Bulldogs. Smart is one of the brightest defensive minds in all of college football, and is more than deserving of this opportunity. 

Derrick Henry’s final push for the Heisman — While much of the season was devoted to gawking at the numbers Leonard Fournette was putting up, Henry was stockpiling stats of his own and building his case for the Heisman. There’s no question now that Henry is the front runner after compiling 1,797 rushing yards and 22 touchdowns.

He’s two rushing scores away from becoming the single-season record holder for rushing touchdowns in the SEC, which coincidentally was set by former Florida QB Tim Tebow. Fournette and Dalvin Cook have each rushed for at least 180 yards and two scores against the Gators this season, so it’s not far-fetched to think that Henry could do the same.

Key Stats

4 — Florida RB Kelvin Taylor has rushed for over 100 yards in four of his last five games, and should eclipse the 1,000 yard rushing mark this week against Alabama. This stat will probably surprise most fans as Taylor’s success on the ground has been overshadowed by the lack of production from the rest of the offense. During this stretch, Taylor has rushed for 514 yards, which is a little more than double of what he produced through his first four games this season.

8 — This meeting marks the eighth time that the Gators and Crimson Tide have met in the SEC Championship. It might seem a little hard to believe since the two teams haven’t faced off in the title game since 2009 when Nick Saban crushed the hopes of Tim Tebow winning his third national title in four years. Oddly enough, the Gators hold a 4-3 advantage in the championship matchup. However, most seem to think Alabama will even up the series on Saturday.

15 — Gator fans will feel a sense of irony when reading this. Not only is 15 the number of beloved QB Tim Tebow, but it just so happens that Treon Harris was sacked that many times in the month of November. Eight of those sacks have come in the last two games against FAU and Florida State. If Florida is going to have any hope of scoring against Alabama, Harris cannot take more than a couple sacks.

Key Players

Treon Harris, QB, Florida Gators — We all know the Florida defense will show up, but will its offense? Yes, the offensive line has to play better, but so does Harris. Too often these past couple weeks has Harris looked lost after the ball is snapped. He’s not seeing open receivers out of their breaks and is taking off way too soon. There has to be a different gameplan for Harris going into this game because he can’t run the same offense that Will Grier could.

Alabama’s Defensive Line — If Alabama is going to squash any hopes of Florida even thinking it has a chance at winning this game, it starts with the defensive line. This defensive front is the strongest that Florida has faced all season, and will no doubt give the offensive line fits all game. Florida has given up 37 sacks this season, and as mentioned above, 15 of those were given up in November. If Alabama can get to Treon Harris early, Florida will virtually stand no chance against the Crimson Tide.


College Football is a funny sport. Just when you think one team is far superior than its competition, it gets upset by an opponent that may have been perceived as inferior. The David and Goliath subplot in sports is one that almost every fan loves to see. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem likely that will happen in this year’s SEC Championship.

Alabama is a runaway train that is nearly impossible to stop right now, and Florida is directly in its path. The Crimson Tide play big boy football with an elite defense and a power run game that just crushes its opponents. Derrick Henry will continue the trend of elite running backs having big games against the Gators, while Alabama’s defense won’t even give Treon Harris a chance to think clearly after the ball is snapped. Don’t expect this game to be a nail-biter.

Final Score: Alabama 35 – Florida 7

SQ MAC Championship Preview

Now that rivalry week is behind us, it’s time to follow up with our second favorite week: conference championship week. This week SQ will be bringing you coverage of the numerous conference championships to be played out between Friday and Saturday. We start our coverage with the very first of the conference title bouts to fought this week; the MAC Championship, featuring Northern Illinois and Bowling Green.

Storylines Heading Into the Game

Bowling Green HC Dino Babers isn’t going anywhere – Babers has done wonders since taking over for Bowling Green prior to the 2014 season. In just his second season as the head ball coach for the Falcons, Babers has led the team to back-to-back division crowns. His high-powered offenses have been his calling card (44.2 ppg, leads MAC), and is just another recent success story from Art Briles’ coaching tree.

Due to this success, Babers has received numerous offers to take head coaching positions elsewhere. Most of these reports have turned out to be false, however, and Babers is adamant about continuing to win at Bowling Green.

Northern Illinois will play for the MAC Championship for the sixth time in six years – The Huskies are nothing short of a dynasty in the MAC, racking up three of the past five conference titles. Despite not looking the part this season, Northern Illinois is heading back to Detroit thanks to a Toledo loss at the hands of Western Michigan. This may not be the same Huskies team that put Northern Illinois on the map, but this bunch has looked tough all season.

Third Time’s the Charm – Friday will mark the third straight season in which these two teams have squared off for the MAC Championship. So far, the series is knotted up at one title apiece, with both teams claiming blowout wins. Will 2015 see the third straight season in which the conference champion is at least a 20-point victor?

Key Stats

566 – the total yards per game that Bowling Green averages on offense. Led by the nation’s leading passer, Matt Johnson (4,465 passing yards, 41 touchdowns), the Falcons are third in the nation in this stat. There’s only been one game this year in which Babers’ squad hasn’t gained at least 500 yards of offense.

98 – the combined score of this game’s winners from the past two seasons. As noted above, this game has been a high-scoring affair for the winners the past two years, and it seems like 2015 could continue the trend. Bowling Green currently paces the MAC and is tied for fourth in the nation averaging 44.2 points per game. If Matt Johnson and co. are on, this could turn into another blowout match.

4,486 – the record for passing yards set in a single season in the MAC set by Ben Roethlisberger. The record is sure to be broken in this game by Bowling Green’s Matt Johnson. He’s only 21 yards away from tying the record, and he averages 372.1 yards per game, so by the end of the game we’ll see just how far ahead Johnson is.

Key Players

Travis Greene, RB, Bowling Green – Northern Illinois is going to be keying in on Johnson this whole game, so it’s important that Bowling Green’s rushing attack takes the pressure off. That’s where Greene comes in. In the past two MAC title games, Greene has rushed for 238 yards and two touchdowns, while averaging 5.41 yards per carry. If he can continue to be a force on the ground against the Huskies, then Johnson should have no problem providing air support.

Tommy Fiedler, QB, Northern Illinois – With backup QB Ryan Graham suffering an injury last Tuesday in the regular season finale against Ohio, Northern Illinois coach Rod Carey has announced that Tommy Fiedler will be the team’s starter for the conference title. Fiedler had a decent game against Ohio, after he came in relief of Graham, going 9-17 with 113 yards and a touchdown that brought the Huskies within a single score of Ohio. In the one scoring drive that he had, Fiedler was six of eight for 76 yards. However, he’ll need to show more consistency if the Huskies will have a chance of beating the Falcons.


The title bout to settle the score between Bowling Green and Northern Illinois will more than likely be a one-sided affair. Bowling Green is coming in looking like the odds-on favorites to win the title. Although Northern Illinois will put up a good fight on the ground with running back Joel Bouagnon, the Falcons’ passing attack will be too much to handle.

When facing conference opponents who like to air it out, Northern Illinois hasn’t done too well. Against Ball State, Buffalo and Western Michigan, the Huskies gave up more than 350 passing yards in each game. Granted, they were able to come away with victories in each of those contests, that probably wouldn’t happen against a team as dynamic as Bowling Green. In the end, Bowling Green will win this one handily by at least 10 points, sending Dino Babers down to Orlando with a conference title to add to his resume.

SQ College Football Playoff Panel: Did The College Football Playoff Selection Committee Get It Right?

It took until Week 10, but the first rankings that actually matter are finally in. The College Football Playoff Selection Committee released its first top 25 rankings of 2015 yesterday (Tuesday), and there were quite a few surprises to say the least. We know you have questions about the rankings, and we’re here to discuss the issues at hand. So here’s our reaction to the initial rankings.

Who was the biggest snub to not be included in the top four?

Brian Peel: For me, it has to be TCU. The Horned Frogs have looked great the past few weeks after struggling a little bit early in the season and maybe, just maybe, their defense is starting to figure things out. The truth is, TCU will almost certainly make a CFP appearance if they win out considering in their final four games they play three teams ranked 15th or higher, including road games against the two Oklahoma schools and closing out the season against a Baylor team knocking on the top four as well. The fact TCU is ranked 8th currently is rather shocking. Come on people, do we really want to keep Trevone Boykin out of the Playoff?

Sean Berger: Baylor has to be the biggest snub. While Brian brings up a great argument for TCU, Baylor should be the team that feels the most jaded. The Bears have done everything asked of them and then more. They far and away lead the nation in scoring offense (61.1 points per game), total offense (686.1 yards per game) and plays from scrimmage of more than 30 yards (39). Although the team’s strength of schedule is lacking, there is no question that Baylor has dominated its competition. 

Is there a team you felt should’ve been ranked higher or lower?

Brian: Besides TCU being higher, I would have Michigan State above Baylor and Oklahoma State at least a few spots above their current No. 14 ranking considering they are undefeated. Michigan State has simply played a better schedule than Baylor and I’m personally not someone who puts a ton of stock in margin of victory because I feel the way teams run their offenses often dictates how a badly a game can get out of hand. The Spartans have had several close games this year, but they don’t run an up-tempo, spread attack that can often lead to blowouts like you have seen in Baylor’s games this year. 

Clemson at the No. 1 doesn’t feel right to me as I just don’t see the ACC as a quality conference this year and Alabama being No. 4 despite the loss means the committee is still convinced the SEC is the best conference in the country. 

Sean: I definitely feel like the three undefeated teams from the Big 12 (Baylor, TCU and Oklahoma State) all deserved to be ranked higher. I already gave my reasoning for Baylor above while Brian stated his case for TCU. Additionally, Oklahoma State really should be higher than 14th. If the Committee is truly basing their rankings on each team’s recent performance then how is Oklahoma State not at least in the top 12? I get that’s not a big jump, but after scoring 128 total points in your past two games, that’s better than what most teams are doing in a three or four game stretch.

However, the team that I really think deserves to be ranked higher is Houston. Coming in at No. 25 in the initial poll, the Cougars are worthy of being in the top 20, or maybe even the top 15 with the way they’ve played this season. Tom Herman has turned this team around and has them dominating everyone that gets in their way. If Memphis is ranked 13th, then there’s no way that Houston should be ranked this low. 

Do you think the committee got the rankings right?

Brian: The Committee got three of the four teams right; Alabama probably shouldn’t be in the top three with their one loss coming to an Ole Miss team that hasn’t looked great this year. Of course, the fact that both Alabama and LSU are in the top four right now means a spot will open up, considering the two are playing essentially an elimination game this weekend. It will be very tough for the loser of that game to climb back into the top four with the competition in the country this year.

Sean: I mostly fall in line with Brian. I find it hard to place Alabama in the same company with Clemson, LSU and Ohio State right now after losing to Ole Miss earlier in the season. Overall though, I feel like the Committee did a decent job given the way that teams have performed this season. The AP Poll and Coaches Poll didn’t really agree with each other so why should the College Football Playoff ranking be any different? You could make a case as to why each of these teams should be ranked in the top four, but you could also argue why each shouldn’t be.

Do you think the top four will be the final four that play in the College Football Playoff?

Brian: Clemson has the easiest road of the current top four and I don’t see anyone knocking them off, especially if they get past Florida State on Saturday. Ohio State has a couple of difficult matchups left on their schedule including Michigan State, Michigan, and potentially an undefeated Iowa team in the Big Ten Championship but their is no doubt they will be favored in all three of those games.

Given that they play each other this weekend, the loser of Alabama-LSU will probably not make the CFP which likely leaves one spot open for either Notre Dame, Baylor, or TCU. Who knows though, it is college football after all and everything can change on just one Saturday.

Sean: As we saw in 2014, only one team that was ranked in the initial top four made it to the College Football Playoff, and that was Florida State. The others that eventually made the Playoff (Oregon, Alabama and Ohio State) were ranked outside and had to climb in later on in the season. So, I think it’s safe to say that these rankings will definitely change.

Clemson has a tough bout against Florida State on Saturday as well; don’t be too surprised if you don’t see either of these teams in the top four by the time the final rankings are revealed.

SQ College Football Power Rankings: Week 9

The ACC was the main focus of the college football world last week with Clemson handing Miami its worst loss ever, and Georgia Tech pulling off an improbable miracle to beat undefeated Florida State. Needless to say, the rankings have been shook up as a result. Before today’s games kickoff, check out where these teams rank in our Top 25.

1. Ohio State

Previous SQ Rank: 1

Coaches Poll Rank: 1

“For the first time this season, the Ohio State Buckeyes finally lived up to their first-in-the-country billing. The Buckeyes were excellent in their Week 8 49-7 rout of Rutgers. Most importantly, the decision to start sophomore quarterback J.T. Barrett over Cardale Jones turned out to be a great one for Head Coach Urban Myer. Barrett completed an efficient 14 of 18 passes for 223 yards and three touchdowns. He also ran 13 times for 101 yards and two scores. This is the kind of quarterback play that will instill fear in the hearts of opposing defenses for the Buckeyes.” – Ray Boone

2. Baylor

Previous SQ Rank: 2

Coaches Poll Rank: 2

“Everyone wants to know, can the Bears keep rolling without Seth Russell? Baylor’s defense still leaves plenty to be desired as teams are averaging 25 points per game against them.” – Brian Peel

3. Clemson

Previous SQ Rank: 6

Coaches Poll Rank: 6

“Clemson’s 58-0 thrashing of Miami was exactly what this team needed to put them atop the higher echelon of teams this season. The most impressive stat of the week for Clemson was forcing three interceptions from a Miami team that had only thrown one in the six games prior.” – Sean Berger

4. LSU

Previous SQ Rank: 5

Coaches Poll Rank: 4

“Another week, another win for the LSU Tigers. This team is rolling behind Heisman hopeful RB Leonard Fournette and QB Brandon Harris, whose performance has been encouraging over the past three games (716 yards passing, 62.7% completion percentage and seven touchdowns).” – Sean Berger

5. TCU

Previous SQ Rank: 4

Coaches Poll Rank: 3

“TCU’s 40-10 win against West Virginia has this team yet again looking strong this week. Trevonne Boykin made some incredible plays against the Mountaineers as well as his case to add yet another QB to the list of Heisman Trophy winners (currently second in the nation in total offense with 431.4 yards per game).” – Sean Berger

6. Alabama

Previous SQ Rank: 10

Coaches Poll Rank: 7

“Alabama probably has the best talent in the country, but their offensive inconsistency could spell doom. They’re the kind of team that could either be National Champs or lose three games.” – Brian Peel

7. Michigan State

Previous SQ Rank: 7

Coaches Poll Rank: 5

“Michigan State struggled with Indiana much more than the final score indicated. The Hoosiers only trailed by five points with under five minutes left to play before the Spartans scored three late touchdowns. That’s not surprising considering MSU seems to save their best for the best.” – Brian Peel

8. Stanford

Previous SQ Rank: 15

Coaches Poll Rank: 8

“Stanford continued their roll over Pac-12 competition by dominating Washington 31-14 at home last week. The Cardinal should get a big test in the Palouse on Saturday against a Washington State team averaging 415 passing yards per game.” – Brian Peel

9. Notre Dame

Previous SQ Rank: 14

Coaches Poll Rank: 9

“The Fighting Irish had a BYE week in Week 8, so there’s not much to say. However, I will say that they should probably fix their defense — specifically their pass defense. The Irish gave up 440 passing yards and three touchdowns to USC in the Irish’s 41-31 victory. Overall, Notre Dame has an 80th ranked rushing defense and a 34th ranked passing defense.” – Ray Boone

10. Florida

Previous SQ Rank: 9

Coaches Poll Rank: 12

“Florida is in control of its own destiny when it takes on SEC East rival and foe Georgia this week. A win likely puts the Gators in the SEC title game for the first time since Tim Tebow was under center for the team. Florida’s favored in this game, so far, but expect Georgia to put up a strong fight as they’ve won three of the last four meetings.” – Sean Berger

11. Iowa

Previous SQ Rank: 18

Coaches Poll Rank: 11

“The Hawkeyes are looking to build off a really solid Week 7 performance of crushing the previously highly-ranked Northwestern squad, winning the game 40-10. Defense was always the handicap with this team, but their performance against the Wildcats provided some hope. If this team is to be taken seriously, they need to have similar performances against the quality teams on their schedule.” – Ray Boone

12. Oklahoma State

Previous SQ Rank: 16

Coaches Poll Rank: 10

“Oklahoma State has been a pleasant surprise, starting off the season 7-0. However, they’ve mostly been unchallenged beating teams like Kansas, Texas and Central Michigan. This week offers an interesting challenge against a Texas Tech team that has averaged 46.6 points per game this season.” – Sean Berger

13. Oklahoma

Previous SQ Rank: 20

Coaches Poll Rank: 13

“The 6-1 Oklahoma Sooners took care of Texas Tech in Week 8 with a dominating 63-27 win. However, the play of outstanding quarterback Baker Mayfield was not the reason for the huge win. The Sooners racked up a whopping 405 yards and seven scores on the ground. Running back Samaje Perine pounded Tech’s defense to the tune of 201 yards and four touchdowns on 23 carries.” – Ray Boone

14. Utah

Previous SQ Rank: 3

Coaches Poll Rank: 14

“The perfect season is no more after being thrashed by USC but Utah is still fighting for a Pac-12 South title. QB Travis Wilson, who threw four interceptions against the Trojans, needs to play better for that to be a reality.” – Brian Peel

15. Michigan

Previous SQ Rank: 11

Coaches Poll Rank: 17

“The Michigan Wolverines are coming off a Week 8 BYE — and boy, did they need one. The Wolverines suffered one of the most painful losses in College Football history in Week 7, losing to Michigan State in the final seconds of the game. Michigan’s punter fumbled the snap, which was then recovered by the Spartans and returned for a touchdown for a walk-off 27-23 victory. However, I believe in this Michigan team. Their No. 1 ranked defense is legit, and they were only seconds away from beating a Top-10 team. Look out Ohio State, the Wolverines are hungry.” – Ray Boone

16. Memphis

Previous SQ Rank: Not Ranked

Coaches Poll Rank: 16

“Memphis is one of the most underrated teams in the country, but is finally starting to get the recognition that it deserves. After all, the Tigers are tied for
second in the nation in scoring (48.9 points per game) and is sixth in total offense (557.3 yards per game).” – Sean Berger

17. Houston

Previous SQ Rank: 24

Coaches Poll Rank: 19

“Houston has been one of the most productive offensive teams in the country under Tom Herman’s leadership (561.1 yards per game). And even though they’re taking on a lowly Vanderbilt squad, don’t underestimate the Commodores defense. The ‘Dores have held opponents to 16.3 points per game, good for 13th in the country.” – Sean Berger

18. Florida State

Previous SQ Rank: 12

Coaches Poll Rank: 15

“Can you really blame Roberto Aguayo for being such a poor tackler? The guy is so accurate at 89% for his career that he probably doesn’t even watch the ball after he kicks it anymore.” – Brian Peel 

19. Ole Miss

Previous SQ Rank: 13

Coaches Poll Rank: 21

“Lots of talent, lots of inconsistency. No, I’m not talking about Meryl Streep, I’m talking about Ole Miss. I could see them blowing out a struggling Auburn, but could also see them choking against a down Auburn team.” – Brian Peel

20. Toledo

Previous SQ Rank: 23

Coaches Poll Rank: 20

“If you’re scheduled to play football on three straight Tuesday nights, you probably aren’t one of the 25 best teams in the country. But give it up to the Rockets, who are undefeated and in the Top 25 in offensive points per game and defensive points allowed per game.” – Brian Peel

21. Duke

Previous SQ Rank: 25

Coaches Poll Rank: 18

“David Cutcliffe really has this team playing well again, and people are now more aware that Duke actually has a football team. Thanks to a stellar defense (has allowed 281.3 yards per game and 14.1 points per game), the Blue Devils have a great shot to get to the ACC title game.” – Sean Berger

22. Temple

Previous SQ Rank: Not Ranked

Coaches Poll Rank: 22

“It’s Week 8, and the Temple Owls are still undefeated. Quarterback P.J. Walker continued with his steady season, throwing for 250 yards and one touchdown. He has thrown nine touchdowns to only three interceptions all year. Temple’s 14th ranked defense has also continued with its spectacular ways, coming up with an interception in the win.” – Ray Boone

23. Pittsburgh

Previous SQ Rank: Not Ranked

Coaches Poll Rank: 24

“First-year head coach Pat Narduzzi has Pitt rolling at 6-1. The Panthers are 16th in the country in total defense, allowing only 308 yards a game to their opponents. No real surprise considering the Nard Dog was Michigan State’s defensive coordinator for eight seasons.” – Brian Peel

24. UCLA

Previous SQ Rank: 17

Coaches Poll Rank: 25

“Josh Rosen continues to impress with three more touchdowns and 399 yards against Cal. The Bruins could have been a playoff contender, if not for several defensive injuries early in the year.” – Brian Peel

25. Mississippi State

Previous SQ Rank: Not Ranked

Coaches Poll Rank: 27

“The Bulldogs’ offense has been great as of late, averaging 44 points over their last three games. Dak Prescott has been a major reason why, picking up 846 yards of total offense over the past two weeks.” – Sean Berger

Others Receiving Votes: Texas A&M