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Quarterly Report



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Editor's Note: Don't miss out on College Football Winners from Brian Edwards on VegasInsider.com!

As we move into Week 5, it's time to take inventory of what's transpired during the 2014 college football season so far.

Let's examine a few of the top contenders (in no particular order) to get started.

**Contenders**

1. Alabama -- Most pundits, including this one, felt like Florida State transfer Jacob Coker would win the starting quarterback job. However, Blake Sims has clearly become the man after leading 'Bama to four consecutive wins, including a 42-21 thrashing of Florida this past weekend. Sims threw for 446 yards and he's feeding the nation's leading receiver (Amari Cooper) like the 'hoss' (Southern term) that he is. As we suggested all summer, Alabama's path to the College Football Playoff is easier -- scheduling-wise -- than any other SEC squad's.

2. Florida State -- The Seminoles are fortunate to still be unbeaten and you get the sense that it's just a matter of time. Jimbo Fisher's team got all it wanted and more from Oklahoma St. in the season opener at AT&T Stadium, escaping with a 37-31 win. Then this past weekend with its star QB suspended for yet another knucklehead off-the-field decision, FSU needed overtime (and a short missed field goal by Clemson in regulation) to slip past its ACC adversary, 23-17, at Doak Campbell Stadium. Jimbo Fisher's team falls into a letdown spot this week in Raleigh, where it has lost outright in three of its last four visits.

3. Auburn -- Speaking of good fortune, Gus Malzahn's team got plenty of it in the form of three missed field goals and a dropped TD pass that turned into an interception in last Thursday's 20-14 win at Kansas St. Whatever the case, one of five daunting road assignments is in the books for Auburn, which still has road games at Mississippi St., Ole Miss, Georgia and Alabama. Malzahn is one quirky dude, but he can damn sure coach. Even though the schedule looks like a killer, AU can't be counted out.

4. Oregon -- Marcus Mariota has been nothing short of sensational and that has been mandatory for the Ducks to remain unbeaten. Mariota guided Oregon to 28 unanswered points after trailing Michigan St. 27-18 with five minutes left in the third quarter in Eugene. Then last Saturday, Mariota had to throw five TD passes without being intercepted for his team to escape Pullman with a 38-31 win over Wazzu. The Pac-12 is deep this year and there's only one lay-up (vs. Colorado on Nov. 22) left on the slate.

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5. Oklahoma -- Bob Stoops's squad faces its toughest road game of the season on Oct. 4 at TCU. The Sooners have looked good and if they survive the Horned Frogs, somebody is going to have to beat them in Norman to keep them out of the College Football Playoff.

6. Baylor -- The Bears have the nation's No. 1 offense despite missing a slew of key skill players in their first three games. The catch? They've played absolutely nobody. The bright side? The injured players are on their way back and regardless of the opponents, they have looked nasty enough to beat anybody.

7. Texas A&M -- This just in: Kevin Sumlin can coach. Kenny Hill would probably finish second if a Heisman vote was counted today. The Dallas Southlake High School product has a 13/1 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Check out this looming four-week stretch: vs. Arkansas (in Arlington), at Mississippi St., vs. Ole Miss and at Alabama. The defense is still a question mark and this unit will find out about its run defense Saturday against the Razorbacks.

Other teams most likely to be in the mix come early November: Georgia, Michigan State and Stanford.

**Pretenders**

1. Notre Dame - Trust me, it isn't happening. I'm not even sure the Irish will win nine games.

2. USC - The fan base got a big boost when Stanford beat itself (over and over and over again...) in Palo Alto earlier this month. However, the optimism was crushed at Boston College the following week. The depth just isn't there and although the schedule doesn't look overly daunting, the Trojans have at least two more losses left on the regular-season slate.

3. Nebraska - The Cornhuskers have, to their credit, taken advantage of the easy schedule here early on, but their comeuppance awaits in East Lansing on Oct. 4. They'll lose at Camp Randall on Nov. 15, too. They could sweep a pair of road games at Northwestern and at Iowa, but a split is more likely.

**What to make of this trio?**

1. East Carolina - If QB Shane Carden isn't careful, he's going to end up in New York City as a Heisman Trophy finalist. He has the country's most underrated set of wide receivers, including the school's all-time leading receiver in Justin Hardy. ECU lost a tight game at South Carolina, but it has responded by winning at Va. Tech and blasting North Carolina for a second straight year. The Pirates put a 70-spot up on UNC's face and has scored 125 points against the Tar Heels in back-to-back wins the last two years.

2. BYU - The Cougars might be favored in the rest of their games, although we're not implying that it's ever easy to win on the smurf turf in Boise. UCF looked terrible in a loss at Missouri two weeks ago, but a cross-country trip to Orlando on a short week won't be easy, either. BYU has to go on the road to face an improved California team in the regular-season finale, too. With that said, Taysom Hill and Co. might go undefeated and if they do, it might sneak into the College Football Playoff if multiple contenders go down in upset fashion in November.

3. Mississippi State - My best 'over' (7.5) season win total is looking good early, especially after winning at LSU last weekend for the first time since 1991. QB Dak Prescott has been as advertised, but he'll have to play without his starting center (Dillon Day, 38 career starts, one-game suspension from SEC) next week against Texas A&M in Starkville. If the Bulldogs can split back-to-back home games (after an open date) vs. the Aggies and Auburn, they'll have a great shot at being 8-1 going into Tuscaloosa on Nov. 15.

**We're about to find out**

1. Ole Miss: vs. Alabama (Oct. 4).

2. Arkansas: vs. Texas A&M in Arlington on Saturday.

3. TCU: vs. Oklahoma (Oct. 4).

4. Duke: at Miami on Saturday, at Ga. Tech on Oct. 11.

5. Cincinnati: at Ohio St. on Saturday.

6. South Carolina: vs. Missouri on Saturday.

**Disappointments**

1. Michigan - Brady Hoke is in big trouble. Michigan took cream-cheese treatment at Notre Dame. It has the worst turnover margin (-10) in the country. The Wolverines lost outright -- this time by double digits -- to Utah at The Big House for the second time in a decade. It's all entirely too much for the locals in Ann Arbor to handle. The new coaching search is unofficially underway.

2. Ohio State - Sure, expectations went way down when Braxton Miller's shoulder gave out, but still, look at what's happened to Va. Tech since it went to Columbus and won by double digits. The Buckeyes are basically done in September and that just wasn't a good look from the head coach on HBO's 'Real Sports' last night.

3. UCLA - Has an undefeated preseason top-10 team ever looked so shaky? The Bruins are lucky that Arizona St. star QB Taylor Kelly is injured for Thursday's showdown in Tempe. Nevertheless, with QB Brett Hundley and LB/RB Myles Jack banged up, UCLA will still be on upset alert against the Sun Devils.

4. Miami, Fl. - The former players want Al Golden out in Coral Gables. The 'Canes still haven't gone to an ACC Championship Game. They might lose at home to Duke this weekend. If they do, sign up for a one-day follow of those UM/NFL alums on twitter if you're looking for amusement.

  
 
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