Te'o's Heisman chances could hinge on performance at OU

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Te'o's Heisman chances could hinge on performance at OU

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- A month ago, Manti Teo began receiving some Heisman support after he emotionally led Notre Dame to a 13-6 win over Michigan. But that support was generally qualified with well, hes a linebacker, and defensive players dont win the Heisman Trophy. With a slew of quarterbacks racking up eye-popping stats, it didnt look like Teo had a realistic chance.

But theres been plenty of attrition among the early-season Heisman hopefuls and all of sudden, Teos rocketed to the top of the discussion. In HeismanPunditCBS Sports latest straw poll, Teo is No. 2 but well behind Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein. ESPNs Heisman Watch has Klein and Teo at Nos. 1 and 2, respectively, with Klein holding a similarly commanding lead.

If Kansas State runs the table -- which, if the Wildcats get by Texas Tech this weekend, they just might do -- itll be tough for anyone to top Klein, whos putting up Tim Tebow-like numbers in Manhattan.

But Notre Dames defense hasnt faltered, pacing the Irish to seven wins in seven games. Despite giving up a touchdown for the first time in 17 quarters against BYU on Saturday, Notre Dames still only one of two teams in the country averaging fewer than 10 points allowed (the other, of course, is Alabama).

Those defensive numbers -- and, by extension, Teos Heisman hopes -- will be put to the test this weekend against an Oklahoma offense thats racked up 156 points in its last three games. With the game nationally-televised in prime time, Teo has a chance to make his case with voters from coast to coast.

Teos stats are obviously part of the Heisman equation, but even if he only gets, say, five tackles, if Notre Dame shuts down OUs offense Teos chances will be boosted given hes regarded as the emotional leader of the Irish defense.

The guy is all over the field, and continues -- and I mean all over the field, pass coverage, breaking on the ball, setting our defense up, coach Brian Kelly gushed after Notre Dames win over BYU. It's not going to change. It's only going to continue to be the same kind of performance weekin and weekout, because he's so well prepared. Just glad he's on our team.

Its not like Teo has much competition among fellow defenders who are Heisman candidates -- a defensive player has only been invited to New York three times in the last 15 years, and two of those guys (Charles Woodson and Tyrann Mathieu -- Ndamukong Suh is the other) had impact on special teams.

Needless to say, if Teo were to go to New York as a Heisman finalist, itd be a rare occurrence. But with Pittsburgh, Boston College and Wake Forest following Oklahoma, Teos candidacy could gain plenty of steam leading up to Notre Dames season-ending date with USC in Los Angeles. With that much momentum, chances are Teo would be a finalist for the award no matter what happens at USC.

But for that momentum to materialize, Teo and Notre Dames defense will have to stop Oklahoma first.

Buckeyes going back to College Football Playoff, will face Clemson in Fiesta Bowl

Buckeyes going back to College Football Playoff, will face Clemson in Fiesta Bowl

The College Football Playoff field is set, and for the second time in three years, the Ohio State Buckeyes will compete for a national championship.

The selection committee revealed the four-team field for this season's Playoff, with Ohio State coming at No. 3. The Buckeyes will battle No. 2 Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl. The other Playoff semifinal pits No. 1 Alabama against No. 4 Washington in the Peach Bowl.

While Ohio State has been considered one of the best teams in the country throughout the season, the Buckeyes' inclusion in the Playoff field is not without controversy, as they are the first team to play in the Playoff without winning their conference championship. But Ohio State had a sterling resume with three wins over top-10 teams: Michigan, Wisconsin and Oklahoma. The Buckeyes' lone loss came against a top-10 Penn State team.

The 2014 national champion, Ohio State returns to the Playoff after missing out last season. Big Ten champion Michigan State represented the conference last year, getting crushed by Alabama in the Cotton Bowl. Two years ago, the Buckeyes beat the Crimson Tide in the Sugar Bowl and then beat the Oregon Ducks in the national championship game.

Big Ten champion Penn State, which won the conference title game Saturday night with an instant-classic comeback victory over Wisconsin, ended up fifth and was left off the bracket. So too was sixth-ranked Michigan, which didn't compete for a conference championship but was ranked fifth in the final set of rankings prior to Sunday's bracket reveal. The Nittany Lions and Wolverines combined for five wins over top-10 teams this season.

There was plenty of conversation that red-hot Penn State could surge into the Playoff, just like Ohio State did two years ago. The Lions are riding a nine-game winning streak, defeated Ohio State earlier in the season and claimed the championship in what has been the hands-down best conference in college football this season. And boy did they impress Saturday night in their most recent showing, erasing a three-touchdown deficit to come back and beat Wisconsin.

Michigan, too, had a mighty compelling case to make. The Wolverines, owners of one of the best defenses in the country all season long, beat three top-10 teams during the regular season and took the No. 2 team in the country to double overtime just last weekend.

But in the end, we did not get the first Playoff field to feature two teams from the same conference. Penn State and Michigan will learn their bowl fates — likely going to New Year's Six bowl games — later Sunday.

Big Ten poll update: Penn State jumps Michigan in last pre-Playoff AP poll

Big Ten poll update: Penn State jumps Michigan in last pre-Playoff AP poll

The College Football Playoff selection committee will reveal the four-team Playoff field shortly, but in the AP poll, Big Ten champion Penn State did vault ahead of Michigan.

The Nittany Lions, fresh off their instant-classic comeback win in Saturday night's Big Ten title game, jumped up three spots, from No. 8 to No. 5, passing the Wolverines, who dropped from No. 5 to No. 6 with no game to play this weekend.

Who knows if that will be the thinking of the committee or if Penn State's performance Saturday was impressive enough to get it above Washington or Clemson and into the final four.

In the AP poll Sunday, Ohio State checked in at No. 2 behind No. 1 Alabama. The Buckeyes didn't play Saturday either, but those top two spots figure to be how the top two spots of the Playoff field will look. Clemson and Washington stayed the Nos. 3 and 4 teams in the poll, which seems to be a likely possibility in the Playoff, as well.

Wisconsin, defeated by Penn State on Saturday night, dropped just two spots from No. 6 to No. 8, jumped by Penn State and Oklahoma, which was victorious in its regular-season finale against Oklahoma State, claiming the Big 12 championship in the process.

Iowa moved up one spot from No. 22 to No. 21, while Nebraska dropped a spot from No. 23 to No. 24. Neither team played this weekend.