USA TODAY Sports college football staff picks for Week 13

Thanksgiving weekend typically is the time where team are crafting their final cases for inclusion into the College Football Playoff or playing for conference championships or bragging rights with rivals.

What the committee got right, and wrong, in first CFP rankings

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The season, of course, is different. There’s still three weeks to go after Saturday, meaning the weekend has a new feel. Those in-state showdowns of non-conference opponents are gone. Some of the bigger games of the season have been pushed later.

There’s still much to savor during the holiday.

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There’s the Iron Bowl, where No. 1 Alabama hosts No. 19 Auburn. It’s the last ranked opponent on the schedule for the Crimson Tide before a potential showdown in the SEC title game with Florida. The Tigers would like nothing better than to spoil the season of their biggest rival.

No. 2 Notre Dame travels to No. 23 North Carolina in what is its toughest challenge before a likely appearance in the ACC championship game. The Irish need only win two of their final three games to secure their spot. But the Tar Heels are eager to earn a signature win in Mack Brown’s second season.



a group of football players on the field: Alabama running back Najee Harris carries the ball while being tackled by Auburn linebacker Zakoby McClain during their game at Jordan-Hare Stadium.


© John David Mercer, USA TODAY Sports
Alabama running back Najee Harris carries the ball while being tackled by Auburn linebacker Zakoby McClain during their game at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

PLAYOFF ANALYSIS: Winners and losers from the first ranking release

TIDE ON TOP: Alabama leads first College Football Playoff committee ranking 

QUARTERBACK RANKINGS: Florida’s Kyle Trask leads with three ACC players in top 10

The third game matching ranked opponents has big ramifications in the Big 12. No. 15 Iowa State can all but secure a spot in its first conference title game with a win at No. 21 Texas. The Longhorns also would be in prime position to reach Arlington, Texas, by knocking off the Cyclones.





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USA TODAY Sports’ preseason All-America teams for men’s college basketball: 15 must-watch players

With the 2020-21 men’s college basketball season set to tip off Wednesday  – two weeks later than scheduled due to the coronavirus pandemic – USA TODAY Sports provides its preseason All-America list. 



a person holding a basketball: Iowa Hawkeyes center Luka Garza (55) gestures during the second half a game against the Iowa Hawkeyes at the Breslin Center.


© Mike Carter, USA TODAY Sports
Iowa Hawkeyes center Luka Garza (55) gestures during the second half a game against the Iowa Hawkeyes at the Breslin Center.

After an unusual offseason, most of the first team is led by key returnees with the sport seeing an uptick in veterans this season. That’s especially true in the Big Ten, as five of the 15 players on the three preseason teams play in that league. 

There are still one-and-done freshmen on the list, although fewer than previous years. Oklahoma State’s Cade Cunningham, a second-team selection, will be the must-watch freshman this season. The do-everything guard is expected to make an immediate impact on his way to the 2021 NBA draft. 

From NFL plays to college sports scores, all the top sports news you need to know every day.

FIRST TEAM

*G Jared Butler, Baylor. There’s a reason the Bears are No. 1 in the USA TODAY Sports Coaches Poll. Butler is the lead returnee on coach Scott Drew’s national title contender. Butler averaged 16 points and 3.1 assists per game in 2019-20. 

*G Ayo Dosunmu, Illinois. The Illini are poised for a breakout season and the 6-5 junior guard is a driving force for coach Brad Underwood’s team. Dosunmu averaged 16.6 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.3 assists last season. If Illinois does big things this season, Dosunmu will be a major reason why. 

Gallery: The college hoops conference favorites for 2020-21 (Yardbarker)

*F Corey Kispert, Gonzaga. The ‘Zags are a national title threat, and Kispert is a key cog for a team that thrives based on all of its pieces coming together. . Kispert is a high-level three-point shooter, and at 6-7, can stretch the floor as a catalyst in coach Mark Few’s free-flowing offensive system. 

*F Sam Hauser, Virginia. The Marquette transfer averaged 14.9 points a game last year and has shot 44.5% from three-point range in three years. He’ll fit in perfectly in coach Tony Bennett’s methodical offense and be a key for a Cavs group looking to challenge for the ACC title. 

*F/C Luka Garza, Iowa. Garza was the runner-up for national player of the year behind Dayton’s Obi Toppin last year, and he’ll be a front runner for that award again on a Big Ten title favorite. Garza averaged 24 points and 9.8 rebounds last season and is the centerpiece on Iowa’s balanced roster. 

SECOND TEAM

  • G Collin Gillespie, Villanova
  • G Cade Cunningham, Oklahoma State
  • G BJ Boston, Kentucky
  • G Remy Martin, Arizona State
  • C Kofi Cockburn, Illinois

THIRD TEAM

  • G Marcus Garrett, Kansas
  • G Marcus Zegarowski, Creighton
  • G Jalen Suggs, Gonzaga
  • F Trayce Jackson-Davis, Indiana 
  • F/C Nate Reuvers, Wisconsin

Follow college basketball reporter Scott Gleeson on Twitter @ScottMGleeson

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: USA TODAY Sports’ preseason All-America teams

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USA TODAY Sports college football staff picks for Week 12

As much as this college football season has been different and ever-changing, the drama of the final weeks of the season remains the same. Teams are positioning for College Football Playoff or trying to push for conference titles as Thanksgiving weekend draws closer

Alabama remains at No. 1 followed by Notre Dame in Amway Coaches Poll

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The headline games of the Week 12 start in the Big Ten with division supremacy on the line in both the East and West. No. 3 Ohio State gets a visit from 10th-ranked Indiana in a game seen as a throwaway at the start of the season that is now the game that will likely decide one of the two teams in the conference championship game.



a group of baseball players playing a football game: Wisconsin wide receiver Danny Davis III tries to avoid the tackle of Northwestern defensive back Cameron Ruiz during their 2019 game at Camp Randall Stadium.


© Jeff Hanisch, USA TODAY Sports
Wisconsin wide receiver Danny Davis III tries to avoid the tackle of Northwestern defensive back Cameron Ruiz during their 2019 game at Camp Randall Stadium.

No. 12 Wisconsin has been impressive in each of its two wins, but its schedule has been limited by COVID-19. No. 20 Northwestern has the advantage of four wins under its belt when it hosts the Badgers in what likely will be a winner-take-all matchup in the West.

From NFL plays to college sports scores, all the top sports news you need to know every day.

LOOKING AHEAD: Five biggest questions for Week 12 in college football

QB RANKINGS: Florida’s Kyle Trask zooms to the head of the class

BOWL PROJECTIONS: Notre Dame bolsters College Football Playoff case

The third matchup of ranked opponents takes us to Oklahoma. The annual Bedlam showdown between Oklahoma and Oklahoma State again will have an influence on the Big 12 race. The Sooners have won five consecutive conference titles, but cannot afford a loss after early stumbles this year against Kansas State and Iowa State. The Cowboys would be in position to reach their first conference title game with a win.

Elsewhere, No. 7 Cincinnati will look to bolster its playoff case with a road win against Central Florida. The Bearcats have been dominant all season, and this is the kind of year a Group of Five team could get into the mix if things fall its way.





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USA TODAY Sports college football staff picks for Week 9

The Big Ten game of the season looks a little different after the conference’s opening weekend.

Ohio State rises to 3 in the latest Amway Coaches Poll

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Saturday’s anticipated showdown between Ohio State and Penn State was expected to be decisive in the race for the East division and determine to a College Football Playoff berth.

The third-ranked Buckeyes still seem on track for their biggest goals with Michigan now their biggest contender. The No. 17 Nittany Lions, meanwhile, face the prospect of being knocked completely out of the race after losing to Indiana last week. With the game at home, however, Penn State has an opportunity to change its outlook. A bounce-back win would throw open the race completely.

From NFL plays to college sports scores, all the top sports news you need to know every day.

The Big 12 could some clarity to its picture this weekend. No. 6 Oklahoma State and No. 16 Kansas State are both are unbeaten in league play ahead of respective matchups against Texas and West Virginia. With wins Saturday, the Cowboys and Wildcats would further solidify their lead and eliminate the two-loss Longhorns and Mountaineers. Losses would throw up the door to chaos with Iowa State and Oklahoma also in the picture.



a crowd of people watching a football ball: Ohio State wide receiver Chris Olave (17) makes a touchdown catch while being defended by two Penn State players during their game in 2019 at Ohio Stadium.


© Greg Bartram, USA TODAY Sports
Ohio State wide receiver Chris Olave (17) makes a touchdown catch while being defended by two Penn State players during their game in 2019 at Ohio Stadium.

BOWL SEASON: Get ready for lots of losing teams, a jam-packed schedule this year

LOOKING AHEAD: The five biggest questions facing college football in Week 9

MIDSEASON AWARDS: Honoring the best and worst of the first eight weeks

Are there any surprises possible this week? The SEC could offer some. No. 5 Georgia and No. 9 Florida will meet next week for their annual showdown. Both must avoid looking ahead with the Bulldogs traveling to Kentucky and Gators hosting Missouri after two weeks off due to COVID-19 complications.



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Rutgers takes huge leap in USA TODAY’s college football rankings

Onward and upward.

No, Rutgers did not crack the AP Top 25 poll following the 38-27 win on Saturday over Michigan State.

But the Scarlet Knights are trending up in USA TODAY’s ranking of college football programs.

In fact, Rutgers was the third-biggest climber this week, behind only Indiana and Purdue.

Greg Schiano’s Scarlet Knights went into the season ranked 109th out of the 127 Bowl Subdivision programs analyzed by USA TODAY.

After Saturday’s win, Rutgers moved up 26 spots to No. 83.

Indiana climbed 38 spots to No. 24 after upsetting Penn State in overtime on Saturday.

Purdue is up to No. 44, a rise of 34 spots, after beating Iowa, 24-20, on Saturday.

Rutgers hosts Indiana on Saturday in their 2020 home opener at SHI Stadium. According to Rutgers PR, the Scarlet Knights are 99-39-10 all-time in home openers, winning nine of the last 10, and 7-4 under Schiano.

– RU is 1-0 in the Big Ten for the first time and seeks a 2-0 conference start for the first time since 2012 in the Big East.

– Oct. 31 marks the latest date on the calendar for the home opener since November 11, 1944, when Rutgers lost to Lafayette 39-0.

– Saturday will mark the seventh meeting on the gridiron between Rutgers and Indiana since first playing in 2014. The Scarlet Knights won the first two matchups, while the Hoosiers have taken the last four.

– This will be the first time Rutgers faces a ranked Indiana team. Since 1977, the Scarlet Knights have played at least one team appearing in the AP poll every season except 2012.

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USA TODAY Sports college football staff picks Week 7

Alabama and Georgia have played in three of the more memorable college football games during the last decade. None of those matchups, however, came during the regular season. This week’s meeting of the No. 2 Crimson Tide and No. 3 Bulldogs will be just the second since 2008 to occur outside of the the SEC championship game or College Football Playoff. 

Clemson stays at the top of Amway Coaches Poll

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a group of baseball players playing a football game: Alabama wide receiver DeVonta Smith is tackled by Georgia defenders during the second half in the 2018 SEC championship game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.


© Dale Zanine, USA TODAY Sports
Alabama wide receiver DeVonta Smith is tackled by Georgia defenders during the second half in the 2018 SEC championship game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

The game in 2015, like the three others in the 2010s, were all wins by Alabama, leaving Georgia fans to wonder if this is finally the year the Bulldogs can get past their neighbor to the west. 

Much of those hopes rest on a new-look offense led by unlikely starting quarterback Stetson Bennett. Their ability to keep pace with the Crimson Tide will be critical to reversing recent history. Added to the subplot this year is the anticipated absence of Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban, who announced Wednesday he had tested positive for COVID-19. 

From NFL plays to college sports scores, all the top sports news you need to know every day.

In other action among Top 25 teams this week — the last before the Big Ten starts its season — there are some under-the-radar matchups that could prove unsettling to playoff contenders.

No. 1 Clemson travels to Georgia Tech. With the Yellow Jackets among the more improved teams, the Tigers need to avoid a letdown after their big win against Miami. No. 11 Texas A&M, riding high after beating Florida, has similar concerns at Mississippi State. No. 6 North Carolina also goes on the road in the ACC against Florida State.





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