College Football
NCAAF News Wire
  • Monday, November 30, 2015
    College football notebook: USC hires Helton as permanent coach
    By The Sports Xchange

    USC hired Clay Helton as permanent head coach after he guided the Trojans to a 5-2 record and a berth into the Pac-12 championship game as the interim coach, athletic director Pat Haden announced Monday.

    • The Trojans beat UCLA 40-21 on Saturday to win the Pac-12 South and clinch a spot in the conference title game against Stanford this Saturday.

      Helton signed a multiyear contract, the school said. According to ESPN, Helton received a three-year deal and the contract includes incentives for a two-year option if he attains certain goals.

      Helton, 43, replaced a fired Steve Sarkisian on Oct. 12 after serving as offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach.

      --Head coach Tom Herman, a coveted candidate for multiple Power 5 conference jobs, is close to a contract extension to remain at Houston.

      Herman is expected to receive a pay raise that bumps his annual salary to $3 million per season.

      The former Ohio State offensive coordinator has Houston at 11-1 this season with a chance to win the American Athletic Conference championship Saturday against Temple.

      Herman's contract pays him $1.35 million and was for five years. He said on a conference call Monday that the deal was not finalized, but could be soon.

      --Mark Richt plans to take the next couple of weeks to decide what he wants to do in the future after his dismissal Sunday as the head football coach of the Georgia Bulldogs.

      Accompanied by Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity for a Monday morning press conference, Richt said he is ready to move on, including possibly to another coaching position.

      "Oh yeah, no doubt," Richt said when asked if he would coach again.

      --Nick Rolovich was introduced as Hawaii's new head football coach on Monday.

      Athletic director David Matlin announced the hiring of Rolovich, a former Hawaii quarterback, on Friday. He replaces Norm Chow, who was fired.

  • Monday, November 30, 2015
    Rolovich introduced as Hawaii coach
    By The Sports Xchange

    Nick Rolovich was introduced as Hawaii's new head football coach on Monday.

    • Athletic director David Matlin announced the hiring of Rolovich, a former Hawaii quarterback, on Friday. He replaces Norm Chow, who was fired.

      Rolovich, a former Hawaii quarterback, said he plans to coach with aloha, encouraging his athletes to play for one another and do what's right for their community.

      "I didn't know what aloha was until I got here in 2000," he said in his first press conference as Hawaii's coach. "My parents raised me in the right way ... they taught me to treat people right, they taught me to care about people and they taught me to respect the place where I'm living."

  • Monday, November 30, 2015
    Herman, Houston near new deal
    By The Sports Xchange

    Head coach Tom Herman, a coveted candidate for multiple Power 5 conference jobs, is close to a contract extension to remain at Houston.

    • Herman is expected to receive a pay raise that bumps his annual salary to $3 million per season.

      The former Ohio State offensive coordinator has Houston at 11-1 this season with a chance to win the American Athletic Conferenec championship Saturday against Temple.

      Herman's contract pays him $1.35 million and was for five years. He said on a conference call Monday that the deal was not finalized, but could be soon. An annual salary of $3 million would make Herman the highest-paid coach outside of the five major conferences.

      "These things take twists and turns along the way as they sometimes do, but I don't anticipate that happening," Herman said. "That's probably all I'm going to say about it."

  • Monday, November 30, 2015
    Taking a spin on college football's coaching carousel
    By The Sports Xchange

    The coaching football coaching carousel is taking some wicked spins, and we might just be getting started.

    • Jobs at USC, Georgia, Virginia Tech, South Carolina, Miami and LSU -- no, scratch that, not LSU -- have opened, and a couple of those big ones have already closed.

      As of Monday afternoon, 20 head coaches among the 128 in the FBS had been fired, had resigned or had retired.

      In a period of less than 48 hours, LSU suffered whiplash by changing course and retaining Les Miles, Georgia stirred up what appeared to be a stable situation by firing Mark Richt, and USC shrugged its shoulders and changed the designation of Clay Helton from interim head coach to permanent head coach.

      Which is funny.

      Like there is anything permanent about these jobs.

      Only three FBS head coaches have been in their position longer than 11 seasons: Oklahoma's Bob Stoops and Iowa's Kirk Ferentz are wrapping up their 17th seasons with national championship aspirations, and TCU's Gary Patterson (15th seasons) has another 10- win campaign heading into the postseason.

      With USC's decision Monday morning, and Virginia Tech beating everyone to Memphis head coach Justin Fuente as the replacement for 29-year vet Frank Beamer, there were 14 total openings in the FBS as of Monday afternoon.

      We rank the eight among the Power 5 conference schools:

      1. Georgia. Mark Richt, who won 74 percent of his games and finished in the AP Top 10 in seven of his previous 14 seasons, handled his farewell press conference Monday in typical style -- with class.

      More than that, he told five-star quarterback commit Jacob Eason "to be patient" and see who the school brings in. Eason, plus the typically loaded Dawgs' roster (hello, rehabbing running back Nick Chubb), make this, easily, the best job on the market.

      Quarterback play has been the team's biggest issue recently, so Houston first-year coach Tom Herman would have been the play here, but Herman said Monday he has agreed in principle on a new contract with the Cougars.

      Go get him: Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart (a Georgia alum)

      Plan B: Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen

      Make a call to: Stanford coach David Shaw

      2. South Carolina. A passionate fan base, a school with SEC money to spend, and somewhat reasonable expectations creates a nice environment for the guy who replaces Steve Spurrier. On the flip side, the roster lacks elite talent and the Gamecocks are playing catch-up to SEC East schools Georgia, Florida, Tennessee and, possibly, Missouri.

      Go get him: Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart

      Plan B: North Carolina coach Larry Fedora

      Make a call to: Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez

      3. Miami. It's Miami. The new coach can recruit on a tank of a gas, selling tradition and the school's NFL pipeline. A guy who can navigate the school's vocal football alums and excite an apathetic fan base would be plusses. According to reports, 63-year-old Butch Davis, who engineered the Hurricanes' wild success about 15 years ago, has already interviewed. But there's a former Miami quarterback who just came on the market who would be the slam dunkiest of all slam-dunk hires.

      Go get him: Former Georgia coach Mark Richt

      Plan B: Butch Davis

      Plan C: Alabama offensive line coach Mario Cristobal

      4. Missouri. Gary Pinkel, stepping down because of health reasons, showed that Missouri can win in the SEC, winning the East in 2013 and 2014. Missouri doesn't necessarily bank on four- and five-star recruits, so Temple coach Matt Ruhle is the blue-collar, tough guy who can coach 'em up while fitting the Tigers' sensibilities.

      Go get him: Temple coach Matt Ruhle

      Plan B: Missouri defensive coordinator Barry Odom

      5. Maryland. The cash infusion from Under Armour has Maryland thinking it could rise as the "Oregon of the East." While it's not likely that Chip Kelly is walking through that door, Maryland is focusing on offense and, according to the Baltimore Sun, could turn to an alum, former quarterback Frank Reich, who is the San Diego Chargers offensive coordinator. A ton of names have been mentioned here in what has been a muddled coaching search.

      Go get him: Frank Reich

      Plan B: Former Indianapolis offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton

      6. Virginia. Mike London recruited well but couldn't win, resigning after going 27-46 in six seasons. This is a nice job: The recruiting base is underrated, the school has shown it will pay big bucks for its head coach and it's possible to win right away in the ACC Coastal.

      Go get him: Western Kentucky coach Jeff Brohm

      Plan B: Air Force coach Troy Calhoun

      Make a call to: Former Texas coach Mack Brown

      7. Syracuse. Scott Shafer was fired after three seasons, but he'll leave behind freshman dual-threat quarterback Eric Dungey. One rumored candidate in particular would be able to work nicely with that -- Oregon offensive coordinator Scott Frost.

      Go get him: Scott Frost

      Make a call to: Notre Dame offensive coordinator Mike Sanford

      8. Rutgers. The athletic department is a mess, there is no winning tradition and the team is coming off a 1-7 season in the loaded Big Ten East. Well, at least it is a Big Ten job, right?

      Go get him: Western Michigan coach P.J. Fleck

      Make calls to: Former Rutgers coach Greg Schiano, former Miami coach Al Golden, Coastal Carolina coach and former CEO of TD Ameritrade Joe Moglia.

      Other jobs available: UCF, Memphis, Louisiana-Monroe, North Texas, Toledo and Tulane.

      At UCF, Bowling Green coach Dino Babers denied rumors Sunday night he had accepted the job; could be just a matter of time before he does. That would be a great hire. As for Memphis, first reported that the Tigers quickly offered the job to former Memphis defensive coordinator Barry Odom, who could also be in play at his current school, Missouri.

      Jobs that have been filled: Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa State, Minnesota, Virginia Tech and USC.

  • Monday, November 30, 2015
    Richt looks ahead after being fired at Georgia
    By The Sports Xchange

    Mark Richt plans to take the next couple of weeks to decide what he wants to do in the future after his dismissal Sunday as the head football coach of the Georgia Bulldogs.

    • Accompanied by Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity for a Monday morning press conference, Richt said he is ready to move on, including possibly to another coaching position.

      "Oh yeah, no doubt," Richt said when asked if he would coach again. "I'll say this: If and when I do coach again, I'll look forward to coaching again, being more hands on. I miss coaching quarterbacks; I miss calling plays."

      McGarity said he came to the decision to fire Richt after 15 seasons while driving home from Saturday's 13-7 victory at rival Georgia Tech.

      "It was a long, quiet ride for me, and it was a time to dig down deep and decide if that's what I wanted to do," McGarity said Monday.

      McGarity met with Richt for more than an hour on Sunday morning and told him he wouldn't be returning as Georgia's coach next season, even though the school later announced the sides "mutually agreed" to part ways.

      The 55-year-old Richt was 145-51 at Georgia and has two SEC titles but failed to win the East division three years in a row. The Bulldogs finished 9-3 this season but lost the three games that mattered to fans: Alabama, Tennessee and Florida. He didn't win an SEC title in his last 10 seasons.

      Richt will coach Georgia in its bowl game.

      "I just think that 15 years is a long time," Richt said Monday. "I think the expectations have been built to the point that if you don't win a championship it's kind of miserable around here. If we don't make it to (the SEC championship game in) Atlanta, I'm miserable, too."

      McGarity said he knew there would be some backlash for firing a coach as popular as Richt.

      "I expected it," McGarity said. "I think decisions of this nature are difficult. Mark has tremendous support. The way Mark connects with people, sure. It goes with the territory."

      McGarity said the he would begin the search for Richt's replacement immediately.

      Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart, a former Georgia defensive back, is considered the leading candidate for the job, according to ESPN.

      One high-ranking Georgia official told ESPN that the 39-year-old Smart had to be the "only choice." Smart has been the Crimson Tide's defensive coordinator for the past eight seasons and directed defenses that helped Alabama win three national championships since 2009.

      Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze, Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen also could be candidates, according to ESPN. Houston coach Tom Herman, believed to be a candidate, said Monday that he has agreed in principle on a new contract with the Cougars.

      McGarity said Sunday that Richt "has the opportunity to remain on our staff at the University of Georgia, and would be heavily involved with outreach programs for our former football lettermen via the PO Network as well as other University and Athletic Association initiatives."

      Georgia will owe Richt a buyout of $4.1 million, according to the contract extension he signed in January. He had yet to sign the contract, but McGarity said the school would honor the deal.

      Richt is considered a potential candidate at Miami, his alma mater, and Virginia if he decides to coach next season.

      "I love our fans and respect our fans," Richt said. "Our sport is a very passionate sport and it's a very public sport. The jobs that we do, everybody seems to have an opinion on it. You can't have all the excitement and cheering without the other.

      "If things don't go the way people ... want them to go, I can understand people being disappointed and thinking there's a better way. I respect that. I think it got to the point where there wasn't enough confidence in my leadership to get it done. That's the prerogative of the people in charge, and I understand that."

  • Monday, November 30, 2015
    USC hires Helton as permanent head coach
    By The Sports Xchange

    USC hired Clay Helton as permanent head coach after he guided the Trojans to a 5-2 record and a berth into the Pac-12 championship game as the interim coach, athletic director Pat Haden announced Monday.

    • The Trojans beat UCLA 40-21 on Saturday to win the Pac-12 South and clinch a spot in the conference title game against Stanford this Saturday.

      Helton signed a multiyear contract, the school said. According to ESPN, Helton received a three-year deal and the contract includes incentives for a two-year option if he attains certain goals.

      "After weeks of searching the collegiate and pro ranks, interviewing candidates, and speaking with head coaches, athletic directors, NFL executives, and very knowledgeable football people, and after observing Clay in action the past seven weeks, it became abundantly clear that what we were searching for in a coach was right here in front of us," Haden said in a statement.

      "Choosing a coach is an inexact science. In Clay's case, there is exactness. We have a man with unquestioned integrity. He is a fantastic person and he is real. Clay is a leader of young men. He is a terrific communicator. He brings high character, stability, continuity, consistency, toughness and resiliency to our program.

      "He earned this opportunity. He has been positive and upbeat handling adversity. He was built to be a head coach. Football is his family business. He is a coach on the rise and he will be coaching a team on the rise. As our interim head coach, Clay brought back USC's style of physical football. I have been impressed with how hard and how inspired our team has played for him, as well as the support they have shown for him.

      "Clay was not hired because his team defeated UCLA Saturday. He was not hired because many current and former players voiced their support for him. And he was not hired because he is a Trojan. He is our choice because we believe he can win Pac-12 and national championships here. Clay Helton is the right man at the right time for the USC football program."

      Helton, 43, replaced a fired Steve Sarkisian on Oct. 12 after serving as offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach.

      "I am extremely humbled and grateful to (USC president) Max Nikias, Pat Haden and the Trojan Family for having the opportunity to be the head football coach at the University of Southern California," Helton said in the university release. "During my six years here, I have learned the standard of excellence that it takes to be a Trojan. I understand the expectations of this great university and welcome the challenge. I am so proud to have the chance to lead what I feel is the pinnacle of college football and to represent our Trojan Family.

      "Through the hard work and resiliency of this year's team, we have put ourselves in position to play for a Pac-12 Championship. I would like to thank our players and coaches for the effort and dedication that they have given to this season. It has been my most memorable as a coach. We look forward to representing the Pac-12 South in Santa Clara this Saturday."

      Helton, who has been at USC since 2010, was an assistant coach for 10 years at Memphis.

      A source told ESPN's Brett McMurphy that USC never talked with Philadelphia Eagles coach Chip Kelly, but school officials did have discussions with a representative of FSU coach Jimbo Fisher and former Rutgers coach Greg Schiano -- along with other current NFL coaches and assistants.

      Former USC coach Pete Carroll, who now coaches the Seattle Seahawks, wrote on Twitter: "Congrats to @USCCoachHelton! An awesome head coach for the Trojans! Couldn't be more fired up! Good luck this weekend!"

  • Monday, November 30, 2015
    MW Notebook: San Diego State to host title game
    By The Sports Xchange

    Air Force squandered its chance to host the Mountain West championship game Saturday by losing 47-35 at New Mexico.

    • San Diego State (9-3) made sure it didn't make the same mistake, beating Nevada, 31-14.

      The Aztecs finished 8-0 in conference play. Still, the Falcons (8-4) were in position to host because the site is determined by rankings and Air Force held a solid lead there heading into the final week of the regular season. The loss dropped the Falcons to 6-2 in the conference.

      Air Force and San Diego State did not meet this season. The Falcons lead the series with the Aztecs 19-14, but SDSU has the advantage in San Diego 8-7 and is currently riding a five-game win streak in the series.

      San Diego State hasn't lost since Sept. 26 at Penn State.

      AIR FORCE (8-4, 6-2)

      Game: New Mexico 47, Air Force 35. Jhurell Pressley scored on back-to-back offensive snaps, covering 57 and 75 yards, to jump-start the Lobos offense. Pressley rushed for 170 yards and three touchdowns in total. Air Force running back Timothy McVey kept the Falcons in the game with five touchdowns on 105 rushing yards and 157 receiving yards.

      Takeaway: The Falcons struggled to stop the run at New Mexico which finished with 377 yards rushing -- a bad sign as they prepare to play run-heavy San Diego State in the title game.

      Next: at San Diego State, Mountain West Championship Game, Saturday

      BOISE STATE (8-4, 5-3)

      Game: Boise State 40, San Jose State 23. Tailback Jeremy McNichols broke a tackle inside the 5-yard line with 2:51 left in the third quarter for a touchdown reception, then busted touchdown runs of 88 and 19 yards in the fourth quarter to blow open a game the Broncos trailed at halftime. McNichols finished with 232 total yards.

      Takeaway: McNichols has had one of the best under-the-radar seasons in college football this year. He leads the nation with 23 touchdowns and ranks 14th with 146.2 yards per game from scrimmage.

      Next: Bowl game TBD.

      COLORADO STATE (7-5, 5-3)

      Game: Colorado State 34, Fresno State 31. Joe Hansley returned two punts for touchdowns and added a 24-yard touchdown catch for the go-ahead score as the Rams rallied for a road win. Kevin Nutt Jr. also returned a kickoff for a touchdown, giving the Rams three kick returns for scores in the first 31 minutes of the game.

      Takeaway: First-year coach Mike Bobo quietly orchestrated a strong second half for Colorado State. The Rams went 5-1 down the stretch after a 2-4 start.

      Next: Bowl game TBD.

      FRESNO STATE (3-9, 2-6)

      Game: Colorado State 34, Fresno State 31. The Bulldogs outplayed the Rams from scrimmage and lost because of unthinkable special teams breakdowns. Fresno State allowed Colorado State to return two punts and a kickoff for touchdowns in the first 31 minutes of the game. Running back Marteze Waller led Fresno State with 112 rushing yards and a TD.

      Takeaway: Coach Tim DeRuyter's program was the subject of significant criticism before this game. Losing by allowing three kick returns for touchdowns will only intensify the scrutiny.

      Next: Season completed.

      HAWAII (3-10, 0-8)

      Game: Hawaii 28, Louisiana Monroe 26. Hawaii ended its eight-game losing streak behind 266 rushing yards from Paul Harris. Quarterback Ikaika Woolsey added three total touchdowns (two rushing) and the Warriors held off a late charge after leading 28-10.

      Takeaway: New coach Nick Rolovich, a former Hawaii quarterback under June Jones who was the offensive coordinator at Nevada, likely will need several years to rebuild the Warriors into a potential contender in the Mountain West.

      Next: Season completed.

      NEVADA (6-6, 4-4)

      Game: San Diego State 31, Nevada 14. The Wolf Pack failed to score in the second half in their bid to upset the West Division champs. Jerico Richardson finished with six catches for 106 yards to lead Nevada's attack.

      Takeaway: Coach Brian Polian got the Wolf Pack to a bowl in a bad division but likely needs to show more progress in 2016.

      Next: Bowl game TBD.

      NEW MEXICO (7-5, 5-3)

      Game: New Mexico 47, Air Force 35. Jhurell Pressley scored on back-to-back offensive snaps, covering 57 and 75 yards, to jump-start the Lobos offense. Pressley rushed for 170 yards and three touchdowns in total. The Lobos created six plays that went for 40 yards or more. Air Force running back Timothy McVey kept the Falcons in the game with five touchdowns.

      Takeaway: If not for Rocky Long's 8-0 conference record, New Mexico's Bob Davie would be the Mountain West coach of the year. His team beat Utah State, Boise State and Air Force, arguably the top three programs in the Mountain Division.

      Next: Bowl game TBD.

      SAN DIEGO STATE (9-3, 8-0)

      Game: San Diego State 31, Nevada 14. The Aztecs scored the last 17 points to finish the regular season unbeaten in Mountain West play and earn home-field advantage for Saturday's conference championship game. Donnel Pumphrey and Chase Price each topped 100 rushing yards for the second time in the past three games.

      Takeaway: The Aztecs rolled through conference play but didn't face Boise State, Air Force or New Mexico -- arguably the top three teams in the Mountain Division. They'll be tested by Air Force in the title game.

      Next: vs. Air Force, Mountain West Championship Game, Saturday

      SAN JOSE STATE (5-7, 4-4)

      Game: Boise State 40, San Jose State 23. The Spartans led 10-9 at halftime and deep into the third quarter, but three missed tackles near the line of scrimmage proved costly. Boise State's Jeremy McNichols converted those three missed tackles into a 5-yard TD catch on third down, an 88-yard TD run and a 19-yard TD run.

      Takeaway: Coach Ron Caragher's program showed progress in 2015 but should have achieved bowl-eligibility. The Spartans lost by one point to BYU, in overtime to Nevada and also this one to Boise State despite leading late in the third quarter.

      Next: Season likely completed.

      UNLV (3-9, 2-6)

      Game: Wyoming 35, UNLV 28. Wyoming tailback Brian Hill rushed for 232 yards and a touchdown. QB Cameron Coffman provided the winning score with a 64-yard TD pass to Jacob Hollister with 2:20 left in the game. UNLV QB Blake Decker threw three touchdown passes and wide receiver Devonte Boyd contributed 122 receiving yards.

      Takeaway: All that buzz about UNLV and new coach Tony Sanchez wore off during the second half of the season. The Rebels went just 1-6 in their last seven games and give up 538 yards in the finale to a woeful Wyoming squad that is tied for 115th in scoring offense.

      Next: Season completed.

      UTAH STATE (6-6, 5-3)

      Game: BYU 51, Utah State 28. The Cougars outscored the Aggies 27-7 in the second half to win the rivalry game. Quarterback Tanner Mangum threw four touchdown passes for BYU. Utah State QB Chuckie Keeton contributed a 52-yard touchdown run and the 61st touchdown pass of his career.

      Takeaway: The Aggies went 2-4 after beating Boise State on Oct. 16 -- a huge missed opportunity for a program searching for its first Mountain West title.

      Next: Bowl game TBD.

      WYOMING (2-10, 2-6)

      Game: Wyoming 35, UNLV 28. Wyoming tailback Brian Hill rushed for 232 yards and a touchdown and set the school single-season record for rushing (1,631). QB Cameron Coffman provided the winning score with a 64-yard TD pass to Jacob Hollister with 2:20 left in the game.

      Takeaway: Wyoming's young roster should pay dividends in 2016. A win to go into the offseason will provide some momentum for recruiting and the work ahead.

      Next: Season completed.


      1. It was a wild year. The Mountain West lost 21 straight nonconference games against FBS teams, but only after beating a couple of Pac-12 teams; the Mountain Division favorite switched from Boise State to Utah State to Boise State to New Mexico to Boise State to Air Force; San Diego State lost to South Alabama but went 8-0 in the West Division; and Air Force squandered home-field advantage for the title game on the last day of the regular season.

      2. Mountain West teams can run the ball. Conference players rank eighth (Brian Hill, Wyoming), 12th (Tyler Ervin, San Jose State), 13th (Donnel Pumphrey, San Diego State) and 19th (Jeremy McNichols, Boise State) in the nation in rushing. Teams rank third (Air Force), ninth (New Mexico) and 15th (San Diego State).

      3. QB questions continue. The Mountain West's lack of proven quarterbacks was a big storyline coming into the season. It's a little better next year with Brett Rypien (Boise State), Kenny Potter (San Jose State) and Nick Stevens (Colorado State) returning but a good chunk of the league will have uncertainty at the position next summer.

      4. The coach on the hottest seat in 2016 will be Fresno State's Tim DeRuyter, whose team never looked like a bowl contender this year.

      5. The Mountain is best again. For the second straight year, the Mountain Division was the stronger half of the Mountain West. The group considered the weaker side when the divisions were formed produced four winning records and five bowl teams. The West produced one winning record and two bowl teams.

  • Sunday, November 29, 2015
    ACC Notebook: Plenty riding on title game outcome
    By The Sports Xchange

    It looks like a true showdown between top-ranked Clemson and North Carolina for the ACC championship.

    • The teams will arrive in Charlotte, N.C., for Saturday night's title game with unblemished conference records. That's the first time in the history of the ACC championship game that both teams went undefeated in league play.

      There's plenty riding on the outcome that extends behind the league hardware.

      Clemson is in position to land in the College Football Playoffs. North Carolina has made a long climb up the standings since losing its opener to South Carolina -- on the same field (Bank of America Stadium) as where the title game will be contested.

      Clemson wrapped up its unbeaten regular season by defeating South Carolina 37-32.

      The remaining games on the final weekend of the regular season were played largely to determining the pecking order for bowl selections. However, Virginia Tech became a bowl qualifier by defeating Virginia 23-20, and thus extending the coaching career of retiring Frank Beamer for one more game.

      BOSTON COLLEGE (3-9, 0-8)

      Game: Syracuse 20, Boston College 17. The Eagles managed only 239 yards of total offense, losing when Syracuse K Cole Murphy made a tie-breaking field goal from 35 yards out on the last play of the game. Boston College picked up only nine first downs in the road loss, completing 1 of 13 passes with two interceptions.

      Takeaway: The Eagles ended the season with an eight-game losing streak, continually being exposed by a lack of offensive punch. A revolving quarterback situation probably didn't help much.

      The Eagles were saddled with a last-place finish in the Atlantic Division. A victory in the finale would have lifted Boston College into a three-way tie for fifth place.

      Sorting out the offensive mishaps is certain to be a priority in the offseason. The Eagles couldn't get much going for stretches against a Syracuse team that yielded more than 500 yards of offense to North Carolina State a week earlier.

      The Eagles will want to get more mileage out of the good deeds of their defense. They had an elite-level defense without much to show for it and that's will be how this team is defined.

      Next: 2016 season opener

      CLEMSON (12-0, 8-0)

      Game: Clemson 37, South Carolina 32. QB Deshaun Watson ran for three touchdowns and threw for another in a road victory that was probably too close for comfort. The Tigers led 28-10 with one minute left in the third quarter, but South Carolina scored a pair of touchdowns in a three-minute span to make it interesting.

      Takeaway: The Tigers didn't have one of their vintage performances, but they came away with a victory on their arch-rival's soil so that counts for something.

      Clemson's defense has shown some slippage at times and that could be severely tested by high-scoring North Carolina in the ACC championship game. North Carolina State and South Carolina both eclipsed the 30-point mark against Clemson during a month's span.

      For the ACC title game, it might be a matter of Clemson needing to get back up to speed to go against North Carolina.

      Since clinching the ACC's Atlantic Division, it has been a rather ordinary operation for the Tigers. They've defeated three times with losing records down the stretch in going against Syracuse, Wake Forest and South Carolina. Only the triumph against Wake Forest was remotely impressive.

      The good thing for the Tigers is that they've shown the ability to turn it on with QB Deshaun Watson at the controls.

      Given the breakdown of teams vying for the four spots in the College Football Playoff, there's no guarantee the Tigers will be included if they fail to win the ACC title.

      Next: ACC championship game Dec. 5 vs. North Carolina at Charlotte, N.C.

      DUKE (7-5, 4-4)

      Game: Duke 27, Wake Forest 21. QB Thomas Sirk threw for two touchdown passes and ran for another as the visiting Blue Devils won their regular-season finale by ending a four-game losing streak. Despite 135 receiving yards and a touchdown for TE Cam Serigne, the Demon Deacons ended the season with six losses in a row.

      Takeaway: The Blue Devils were in danger of an empty November with a slide that basically began with a controversial loss late Halloween night in a setback to Miami.

      It was far from a clean performance for the Blue Devils against Wake Forest, but they won for the fourth time in a row in the series.

      It also was a chance for QB Thomas Sirk to re-establish himself as the starter after dealing with injuries since the Nov. 7 loss to North Carolina. QB Parker Boehme had been more effective at times recently, but it's clearly Sirk who is more polished in the offense when he's in a groove.

      Duke avoided a devastating finishing stretch much like 2012, when it reached the six-win mark in the middle of the season and never won again.

      Now there's a matter of winning a bowl game, something that the Blue Devils haven't done since the end of the 1960 season. They've lost in heartbreaking fashion in bowls the past three years.

      Next: Await bowl assignment

      FLORIDA STATE (10-2, 6-2)

      Game: Florida State 27, Florida 2. RB Dalvin Cook rushed for 183 yards and scored on two fourth-quarter runs as the visiting Seminoles won in Gainesville, Fla., for the third consecutive visit. K Roberto Aguayo had field goals of 45 and 51 yards.

      Takeaway: The Seminoles sometimes sputter on offense and it's not always crisp, but they've found a way to churn out some solid result.

      Yet the offense has clearly been turned over to QB Sean Maguire, a situation that seems to come with support throughout the team and the results tend to back up that decision as a solid one.

      With RB Dalvin Cook, the Seminoles have the ideal playmaker to complement whoever is taking the snaps. Given the right situations, it's possible that Cook could have been considered a worthy Heisman Trophy candidate, though missing some September time with an injury put him at a disadvantage.

      The road victory at Florida was certainly reassuring as well. Since early victories at Boston College and Wake Forest, there had been road losses at Georgia Tech and at Clemson.

      Florida State is lined up for an appealing bowl, and finishing in the Top 10 nationally is bound to result if the Seminoles win in their bowl.

      But certainly it's strange to head to the first week in December without an extra game in the ACC championship. The Seminoles had won the previous three conference titles.

      Next: Await bowl assignment

      GEORGIA TECH (3-9, 1-7)

      Game: Georgia 13, Georgia Tech 7. The Yellow Jackets were on the verge of suffering a home shutout loss until scoring with 3:24 remaining to close out a disappointing season with another setback. Georgia Tech picked up 276 yards of total offense, wasting what was a pretty decent defensive performance.

      Takeaway: It's odd that the fingers were pointed so often at the offense with this Georgia Tech team not coming close to living up to its reputation as a tough-to-conquer offense.

      Maybe some of the mystique of that triple-option offense has worn off.

      For a team that began the season in the national rankings, the Yellow Jackets certainly didn't see a nine-loss season coming in their direction.

      The day after the season-ending loss to Georgia, the rival Bulldogs fired coach Mark Richt, so that probably sent some shivers through the Georgia Tech staff considering the type of season it endured.

      Yet perhaps this gives the Yellow Jackets a window in recruiting that they can exploit with the change going on in Athens, Ga.

      Still, there's certain to be an evaluation going on with the Yellow Jackets in dissecting what went wrong. The triple-option offense that was once so feared pretty much fizzled, particularly with starting QB Justin Thomas not as effective this season as a redshirt junior as he had been in the past.

      Next: 2016 season opener

      LOUISVILLE (7-5, 5-3)

      Game: Louisville 38, Kentucky 24. QB Lamar Jackson rushed for 186 yards and two touchdowns and threw a touchdown pass as the visiting Cardinals rallied from a 21-0 deficit. Kentucky didn't score in the second half, held to a total of 14 first downs in the game.

      Takeaway: The Cardinals showed the ability for some strong offense after falling behind against Kentucky.

      That had to be a bright spot for an offense that at times didn't show much spark or the ability to convert when things were going a little bumpy.

      But with QB Lamar Jackson healthy, it creates problems for opponents. He's apt to pick up huge gains by carrying the ball and there are still enough offensive weapons to make the passing game productive.

      It would appear for now that some of the quarterback concerns can be put aside with Jackson at the controls, though he needs some fine tuning regarding the passing attack.

      Louisville won seven of nine games after an 0-3 start to the season. Three of its losses overall have come to opponents in the nationally rankings as the regular season winds down.

      Next: Await bowl assignment

      MIAMI (8-4, 5-3)

      Game: Miami 29, Pittsburgh 24. QB Brad Kaaya threw for one touchdown and ran for another as Miami finished the regular season strong with a road victory. The Hurricanes led 23-3 at halftime, though Pittsburgh's two touchdowns in the last seven minutes made it interesting.

      Takeaway: The Hurricanes showed the ability to deal with adversity after the firing of their coach at midseason. Under interim coach Larry Scott, they've posted 4-1 record with the only blemish a blowout loss at Coastal Division champion North Carolina.

      Miami won at Pittsburgh despite gaining only 116 yards on the ground. Kaaya is often the key with his ability to stretch the field and make opponents pay in the passing attack.

      There will be questions for the school's administration as they assess the direction of the coaching search. The Hurricanes have certainly performed well under Scott, going 2-0 at home and 2-1 on the road (spurred the controversial finish for a victory at Duke in the first game under his watch).

      The Hurricanes have risen to spot where they'll be pegged for an upper-tier bowl among the ACC tie-ins, so if there's a victory in the postseason there would be a nine-win season that would be a nice foundation for whoever is the next coach.

      Kaaya is a good player to have to build around as well. There's still the matter of restoring the defense and putting that back on the track on a consistent basis.

      Next: Await bowl assignment

      NORTH CAROLINA (11-1, 8-0)

      Game: North Carolina 45, N.C. State 34. RB Elijah Hood rushed for 220 yards and two touchdowns as the visiting Tar Heels completed an unbeaten conference schedule. RB T.J. Logan added touchdown runs of 42 and 40 yards as part of his 100-yard performance for North Carolina, which led 35-7 after the first quarter.

      Takeaway: The Tar Heels have it clicking and that's what it might take in the ACC championship game against Clemson.

      Their 374 rushing yards against N.C. State showed that they're far from one-dimensional. They didn't need all that much threw the air, with QB Marquise Williams held to one passing touchdown.

      The Tar Heels reverse a 28-point loss from a year ago to N.C. State, though for the most part the aftermath of this latest victory was centered on the program's first trip to the ACC championship game.

      North Carolina's defense has been questioned throughout the season if for no other reason than the problems that existed the past two years. But the defense keeps coming through, with more evidence of that after the Tar Heels had three turnovers and yet at times the damage was limited.

      Williams has been largely in the shadows of Clemson QB Deshaun Watson this season, but Williams will have a chance on a large stage to show what he can do in the conference title game.

      North Carolina owns an 11-game winning streak, with lone loss (to South Carolina) coming in the same venue as where the ACC championship game will be contested.

      Next: ACC championship game Dec. 5 vs. Clemson at Charlotte, N.C.

      N.C. STATE (7-5, 3-5)

      Game: North Carolina 45, N.C. State 34. The Tar Heels broke out to a 35-7 lead in the first quarter in racking up 553 yards of total offense in the road victory. N.C. State received two rushing touchdowns from QB Jacoby Brissett, who also threw two touchdown passes to TE David Grinnage.

      Takeaway: The Wolfpack didn't have much going its way in the regular-season finale, falling into a big hole and then failing to convert enough off three North Carolina turnovers to complete a comeback.

      It was a disappointing result for the Wolfpack, particularly with North Carolina creating the big early advantage and leaving many of the home fans disgruntled.

      N.C. State had won a year ago and the concept of building some momentum in the rivalry was appealing to the Wolfpack. But N.C. State wasn't strong enough along the line of scrimmage and that was a disturbing part.

      What the result did -- on top of the outcomes for the final two months of the regular season -- was expose the Wolfpack's early schedule as perhaps not adequately preparing the team for the more rigorous challenge of conference play.

      QB Jacoby Brissett showed that he could excel by running the ball especially when the passing attack wasn't clicking. The Wolfpack might be dealing with more problems along the offensive line than has been regularly discussed considering some of the changes in personnel among the starting unit.

      Next: Await bowl assignment

      PITTSBURGH (8-4, 6-2)

      Game: Miami 29, Pittsburgh 24. The host Panthers fell into a 23-3 halftime hole and saw their two-game winning streak snapped. QB Nathan Peterman threw for a touchdown and rushed for a touchdown in the last seven minutes, but those plays weren't enough to complete a comeback.

      Takeaway: The Panthers lost for the third time in their last four home games, a dismal development for what has been mostly an encouraging season.

      They managed only 15 first downs in the final regular-season game, with the passing attack out sync with only 13 of 27 passes completed. Peterman had been steady for much of the season, but the offense couldn't get untracked until it was too late against Miami.

      The Panthers scored 24 or fewer points in three of their four losses.

      Pittsburgh's defense didn't force a turnover, so that hurt its cause as well. The Panthers were denied their first nine-win regular season since 2009.

      At the time of the finale, the Panthers still had a chance to share the Coastal Division title (though a tiebreaker would have sent North Carolina to the ACC championship game anyway). Still, that was a sign of progress for Pittsburgh under first-year coach Pat Narduzzi.

      Next: Await bowl assignment

      SYRACUSE (4-8, 2-6)

      Game: Syracuse 20, Boston College 17. K Cole Murphy booted a 35-yard field goal on the last play of the game for the home victory, ending an eight-game losing streak. Syracuse's defense held the Eagles to 239 yards of total offense (including 9 yards through the air).

      Takeaway: The Orange pulled off a victory in coach Scott Shafer's final game after his firing was announced at the beginning of the week.

      The Orange players generally were offering support for Shafer, so at least they gave him a good send-off.

      Syracuse's defense, which was Shafer's specialty, was up to the task in the finale, but that might have had more to do with facing an inept Boston College offense than anything else.

      The Orange has back-to-back losing seasons and the program has yet to make much of an impact at all in three seasons in the ACC.

      For the most part, Syracuse's deficiencies have come on offense. This year, those problems were heightened by injuries to the quarterback position. While some of the players on the depth chart at quarterback gave solid contributions, the ongoing changes there were tough to overcome.

      The Orange also learned prior to that finale that QB Terrel Hunt, who suffered a season-ending injury in the opener, was denied an NCAA waiver a sixth year of eligibility so the new coach will have some sorting out to do at quarterback.

      Next: 2016 season opener

      VIRGINIA (4-8, 3-5)

      Game: Virginia Tech 23, Virginia 20. A 41-yard field goal from Virginia Tech K Joey Slye with 1:38remaining gave the visiting Hokies their first lead since the first quarter. The loss left the Cavaliers with defeats in three of their final four games, each of those by seven points or less.

      Takeaway: The Cavaliers haven't exactly been clutch enough, perhaps that best describing Mike London's tenure as head coach. His departure was announced the day after the final game, a cloud that had been lingering for weeks.

      The last game might have summed up Virginia's reach fortunes, sticking close with rival Virginia Tech but unable to pull off a victory on Senior Day.

      To make matters more complex, there was no real way to totally define this team.

      The Cavaliers weren't an efficient offense, too often plagued by turnovers. Yet there were glimmers of hope, but sometimes that game with a ground attack and other times with a passing approach. But there was nothing there that was really overwhelming.

      The same might have been said about the defense. At times, it looked like that unit might carry the Cavaliers. At other times, there wasn't nearly good enough execution for the rewards to come by the end of games.

      The next coach will have a chore to restore confidence. There also will be new direction at rival Virginia Tech, which also will have a new coach.

      Next: 2016 season opener

      VIRGINIA TECH (6-6, 4-4)

      Game: Virginia Tech 23, Virginia 20. A 41-yard field goal from K Joey Slye with 1:38 remaining broke a tie and propelled the visiting Hokies to bowl eligibility. It was the third field goal of the game from Slye, while QB Michael Brewer threw two touchdown passes during a 17-point fourth quarter for Virginia Tech.

      Takeaway: The Hokies found a way to get it done by pulling out the victory at Virginia.

      Perhaps it made sense that they would figure out a way to conquer Virginia once again. If nothing else, the Hokies have been in so many close games -- with mixed results -- that they're bound to have some go their way.

      They were probably particularly excited to avoid overtime given that they lost overtime encounters at home to Duke and to North Carolina.

      QB Michael Brewer has proven to be a rock for the offense. His toughness is something that the Hokies have latched on to and he has found ways to pull the team together even when situations begin to look ragged.

      This Virginia Tech team has fallen under considerable pressure. There's no doubt they've felt the weight of coach Frank Beamer's impending retirement, desperately striving to reach the six-win mark for bowl eligibility and dealing with the emotions of Beamer's final home game in Blacksburg, Va.

      Now they'll go through one more round of this in preparation for the bowl game. This time, it really will be Beamer's last game as the team's coach.

      Plus, with a new head coach arriving there will be the process of proving themselves all over again.

      Next: Await bowl assignment

      WAKE FOREST (3-9, 1-7)

      Game: Duke 27, Wake Forest 21. QB Thomas Sirk threw two touchdown passes to WR Max MaCaffrey and the visiting Blue Devils held on after building a 24-7 lead through three quarters. Despite 135 receiving yards and a touchdown for TE Cam Serigne, the Demon Deacons ended the season with six losses in a row.

      Takeaway: The Demon Deacons couldn't shake some of their problems that had surfaced in September and lingered throughout the season.

      QB John Wolford threw two interceptions in the finale, contributing to the team's three turnovers. Wake Forest didn't have any takeaways in the last game.

      The Demon Deacons were thin for the last game because QB Kendall Hinton missed the game with reports that he has mononucleosis. Hinton had shared the quarterback duties at times with Wolford and he offers a chance of pace, but instead missed the game against a school (Duke) from his hometown.

      If there was a positive it came from 338 passing yards. Those were a boost to an offense that's still trying to find the right balance. RB Tyler Bell rushed for 94 yards, including his first career touchdown so that was a boost for the freshman.

      The Demon Deacons showed progress based on the margins of many of their losses. But when it was added up at the end of coach Dave Clawson's second season, it was the same number of victories as in 2014.

      Next: 2016 season opener


      --There are vacancies at several schools in the ACC.

      The latest was the expected ouster of Mike London as Virginia's coach.

      That made the finale between Virginia Tech and Virginia farewell type of event, though Beamer has another game courtesy of the 23-20 victory that will send the Hokies to a bowl.

      London had one solid season with the Cavaliers, but they were otherwise undone by too much losing and some difficult schedules.

      So there are openings at Virginia and Syracuse. There's also the situation at Miami, where Al Golden was fired in late October and interim coach Larry Scott went 4-1 since taking charge of the program.

      Virginia Tech filled its vacancy by announcing the hiring of Memphis coach Justin Fuente.

      That might leave Miami in a bit of lurch with the Hurricanes doing so well under Scott, who's bound to be campaigning for the permanent job.

      Even Miami keeps Scott, there will be a turnover of more than a one-quarter of the head coaching positions in the ACC since the start of the season. And there's no guarantee that other schools might have changes as well.

      --There wasn't much homefield advantage for teams on the so-called rivalry week to end the regular season. Of the nine games involving at least one ACC team, the home team won only one of those.

      That came for Syracuse, which sent Boston College to another loss with a field goal on the last play of the game.

      Yet Syracuse lost three times at home this season (going 4-3 at the Carrier Dome).

      Speaking of lack of homefield success, a surprise in that category would be North Carolina State. In three seasons under coach Dave Doeren, the Wolfpack is 2-10 in ACC home games.

      The ACC made some noise in non-conference games on the final weekend. Conference teams went 3-1 against Southeastern Conference teams, with road victories by Clemson (at South Carolina), Florida State (at Florida) and Louisville (at Kentucky).

      "That's what I'm so proud about -- their poise, their competitive spirt and their toughness," Louisville coach Bobby Petrino said of his team. "I think it says a whole lot about the leadership and the quality of guys we have on the team."

      --The field of ACC teams for bowls was mostly set before the regular-season finales, with only Virginia Tech joining that mix by winning in the last game of the regular season.

      There's still lots of uncertainty for ACC teams about where they'll end up.

      Aside from ACC championship game combatants Clemson and North Carolina, the team that has set itself up the best is Florida State. After that, it's a little murky.

      Eight-win teams Pittsburgh and Miami both have some warts, particularly with Miami having already made a coaching change. Pittsburgh lost three of its final five games, so the Panthers aren't exactly on a roll.

      The most appealing team for the bowls is Virginia Tech, but the Hokies have only six wins and might be able to move up only so far in the bowling mix. The Hokies put together a strong finish to the regular season, winning two of three games since longtime coach Frank Beamer announced that he'll retire at the end of the season (and three of their last four games overall). The lone loss in that stretch came in overtime to North Carolina.

      Beamer was thrilled to have one more game.

      "It just worked out," he said. "Our players and coaches made it work out. The ball bounced our way at the end."

      With a reputation for a strong fan following and the fact that Beamer, who's the winningest active Division I coach in the country, will be in his final game directing the team, there's bound to be considerable interest in the Hokies.

      QUOTE TO NOTE: "We've done everything that we can do to this point, and now we've got to go play the No. 1 team in the country." -- Coach Larry Fedora of North Carolina, which has reset goals after achieving two of them by claiming the ACC's Coastal Division and the unofficial state championship. Now, the Tar Heels have their eyes set on the ACC championship and beyond.



      1. Clemson might lose some support for its top ranking despite the road victory at South Carolina, in part because of the 37-32 final score.

      2. Florida State took care of business against Florida, then had to be kicking itself for that slipup at Georgia Tech.

      3. North Carolina has been on cruise control for most of a long stretch and that sets up an intriguing showdown with Clemson for the ACC championship.

      4. Miami's coaching changed worked out all right in the short term, with a 4-1 mark and two road victories after the 29-24 surprise at Pittsburgh.

      5. Virginia Tech will play in the postseason in Frank Beamer's final season, so there will be a few more weeks of tributes for the long-time coach.

  • Sunday, November 29, 2015
    AAC Notebook: Houston, Temple to meet in title game
    By The Sports Xchange

    Houston and Temple earned the right to meet in the American Athletic Conference title game this weekend, setting up a classic matchup between an explosive offense and a shutdown defense.

    • The Cougars (11-1) knocked off Navy 52-31 in a winner-take-all regular season finale, winning the AAC West. Houston's defense did a nice job of shutting down the triple option, but it was the revitalization of the offense that was the big story. After struggling in 20-17 a loss to Connecticut the week before, the Cougars had 555 yards of total offense against the Midshipmen.

      "It was nice to have an offense back," coach Tom Herman said. "That was a really good show, and [offensive coordinator Major] Applewhite and the entire offensive staff had an unbelievable game plan. Their guys went out an executed. It's one thing to have a good plan but another to go execute that plan, and our guys certainly did that."

      Houston was an incredible 16 for 19 on third down conversion attempts, and made both of its fourth down chances. It's worth noting that the struggles against the Huskies came with quarterback Greg Ward sidelined nearly the entire game with an ankle injury. As Friday'sgame showed, this is a much different team with him healthy.

      "I'm just excited that coach gave me another chance to be out here," Ward said. "It was eating me up all week that I wasn't playing. I wasn't going to go out there and be 50 percent and give my team very little and possibly hurt the offense."

      Temple looked like the least likely team to be here a couple of weeks ago, after losing the Notre Dame and South Florida and suddenly surrendering a lot of points every time out. But the Owls closed strong, and haven't allowed a touchdown in either of the last two games including Saturday's victory over a Connecticut team that's the only team to knock off the Cougars this season.

      "I was proud of our guys that we won this game because this was a championship for us," Temple coach Matt Rhule said. "To win the East is a big deal for us, as well as having the chance to be in the first ever [AAC] championship game. As I just told the guys, the rewards are great but what I want to see is for us to play great in big moments. I want to see us answer the call in big moments and I thought we did that tonight."

      Houston and Temple did not meet during the regular season, but the Cougars handled the Owls easily 31-10 when the teams met a year ago.

      "I'm excited; I can't wait to play them," Temple linebacker Tyler Matakevich said. "They got us last year because they were a more physical team. We lost last year but we will see what will happen this year."

      CENTRAL FLORIDA (0-12, 0-8)

      Game: South Florida 44, Central Florida 3. The Knights scored first, then never awoke again in ending its season with a blowout loss at home. It was par for the course for a team that scored more than 16 points just twice all season.

      Takeaway: The George O'Leary era began with an 0-11 record in 2004, and it ended with an 0-12 finish in 2015. Two years removed from the Fiesta Bowl, Central Florida looks a long way from anywhere close to that level now, and finding the right choice to take over the program will be critical to the program's future.

      Next: Season Complete

      CINCINNATI (7-5, 4-4)

      Game: Cincinnati 19, East Carolina 16. Andrew Gantz kicked a 42-yard field goal as time expired to give the Bearcats the victory on the road. He had missed an extra point earlier in the game, as well as a 44-yard attempt in the fourth quarter.

      Takeaway: The Bearcats finish the regular season at 7-5, and will make a bowl game somewhere. But it's still a disappointing effort from a team most expected to win its division and be a part of this week's AAC title game.

      Next: TBD

      CONNECTICUT (6-6, 4-4)

      Game: Temple 27, Connecticut 3. The Huskies failed to get a first down on 8 of its 11 drives and finished with just 138 yards in falling to the No. 25 Owls. Connecticut didn't score until Bobby Puyol field goal with 5:51 to play, and at that point the team was already trailing 27-0.

      Takeaway: Connecticut is bowl-eligible despite the loss, and will definitely be playing somewhere in the postseason. But coach Bob Diaco will have to spend the extra practices rediscovering his offense, which was unable to gain any traction in the loss to the Owls.

      Next: TBD

      EAST CAROLINA (5-7, 3-5)

      Game: Game: Cincinnati 19, East Carolina 16. East Carolina saw its bowl hopes dashed in agonizing fashion, as Cincinnati kicked a field goal as time expired to earn a three-point win. The defense allowed the Bearcats to make 15 of its 22 third down conversion attempts.

      Takeaway: The loss ends a turbulent season for the Pirates, which saw its starting quarterback injured just before the season began and never developed the consistency that East Carolina traditionally has on offense. It's the first losing season at ECU since 2011, and the first time the program has had a conference record below .500 since 2004.

      Next: Season complete.

      HOUSTON (11-1, 7-1)

      Game: Houston 52, Navy 31. The Cougars offense had no problems with the Midshipmen, as Greg Ward threw for 308 yards to lead Houston to a convincing win at home. The victory gave Houston the AAC West title and a berth in the conference championship game this weekend.

      Takeaway: It was nice to see the Houston offense erupt after struggling against Connecticut the previous week. Greg Ward Jr. still isn't 100 percent, but as he showed on Friday he's more than healthy enough to do damage to AAC foes.

      Next: vs. Temple, Dec. 5

      MEMPHIS (9-3, 5-3)

      Game: Memphis 63, Southern Methodist 0. The Tigers ended the regular season with a dominating performance, holding the Mustangs under 100 yards of total offense. The defense also returned two fumbles for touchdowns, bolstering an offense that moved the ball pretty well on its own -- with 483 total yards.

      Takeaway: The Tigers were strong on Senior Day, but it might have been the finale for its coach as well. Reports this weekend had coach Justin Fuente heading to Virginia Tech to replace the departing Frank Beamer.

      Next: TBD.

      NAVY (10-2, 7-1)

      Game: Houston 52, Navy 31. Keenan Reynolds threw for 312 yards, but the Midshipmen had no answer for the Cougars offense and fell in the de facto AAC West title game. The loss snapped a five-game winning streak.

      Takeaway: Navy's defense allowed Houston to convert on 16 of its 19 third down attempts, and on both of its fourth down chances. That's what will likely send Navy to the Military Bowl following the traditional season-ender against Army, rather than a more prominent game.

      Next: vs. Army, Dec. 12

      SOUTHERN METHODIST (2-10, 1-7)

      Game: Memphis 63, Southern Methodist 0. The Mustangs couldn't build on the momentum from the previous week's Senior Day victory over Tulane, looking flat in a loss at Memphis. The Tigers led 56-0 by halftime, with Paxton Lynch throwing seven touchdown passes before the break

      Takeaway: SMU played its worst game of the season in the finale, failing to even break the 100-yard barrier on offense. Chad Morris has a lot to do on both sides of the ball now that his first year is complete, and recruiting better players is a major part of that task list.

      Next: Season complete

      SOUTH FLORIDA (8-4, 6-2)

      Game: South Florida 44, Central Florida 3. South Florida continued its late-season search by dominating its rival on Thanksgiving. Quinton Flowers threw for three touchdown passes, and Marlon Mack broke the 100-yard barrier for the eighth time this season.

      Takeaway: The win wasn't enough to get the Bulls to the AAC championship game, thanks to Temple's victory over Connecticut on Saturday night. But the four-game winning streak to end the regular season -- which featured three games in a row with 44 or more points -- make this a team to watch both in its bowl game and in 2016.

      Next: TBD.

      TEMPLE (10-2, 7-1)

      Game: Temple 27, Connecticut 3. The Owls defense dominated the Huskies, holding its opponent without a touchdown for the second game in a row as Temple earned a spot in the American Athletic Conference title game with a victory on Senior Night. Jahad Thomas ran for a pair of touchdowns, while P.J. Walker threw for 160 yards and another score.

      Takeaway: The Temple defense, which struggled mightily during earlier in the month, appears to be back on track. It will face its greatest challenge this weekend, however, against a high-powered Houston attack led by dual-threat quarterback Greg Ward Jr.

      Next: at Houston, Dec. 5.

      TULANE (3-9, 1-7)

      Game: Tulsa 45, Tulane 34. Tulane's offense put up big numbers, but critical fourth-quarter mistakes doomed the Green Wave in the season finale. Jordy Joseph tossed four touchdown passes, but threw a pair of pick sixes in the fourth quarter that proved to be the difference.

      Takeaway: The loss ends Tulane's season with a disappointing 3-9 record. When it takes the field again, it will be with a new coach -- Curtis Johnson was fired after four seasons.

      Next: Season complete.

      TULSA (6-6, 3-5)

      Game: Tulsa 45, Tulane 34. Tulsa scored on a pair of pick sixes in the fourth quarter to earn an 11-point victory and qualify for a bowl game. The Golden Hurricane trailed by 10 midway through the fourth quarter before scoring the game's final 21 points.

      Takeaway: Coach Philip Montgomery not only got his team to the postseason, but the valuable extra practice time that goes with it. It's no exaggeration to say that the final7:40 of the final game of the season made the entire campaign a success.

      Next: TBD.


      --For three quarters, it looked like Philip Montgomery's first season at the helm of the Tulsa football program would end just short of a bowl game.

      The Golden Hurricane trailed at Tulane 27-24 entering the fourth quarter, and 34-24 after a Jordy Joseph touchdown pass to Andrew Hicks with 7:40 to play. But the offense marched right down the field with a four-play, 75-yard drive in 55 seconds. Zack Langer's touchdown run got the team back within a field goal with 6:45 left.

      Then, the defense took over.

      Craig Suits took an interception 28 yards to the end zone to give Tulsa its first lead since the first quarter. Then, as Tulane was driving for the go-ahead score, Kolton Shindelar picked off another Joseph pass and ran it back 89 yards for another score with1:12 to play, giving the Golden Hurricane a 45-34 win -- and bowl-eligibility.

      "I'm so proud of our football team," Montgomery said. "We're down at halftime, we sit and talk and make some adjustments, and my message to them before we came out [for the second half] was that we're fixing to win this game. Those guys just continued to battle, continued to fight."

      Befitting an up-and-down season, the game wasn't secured until the final moments. Montgomery noted how well his team responded with its backs against the wall.

      "I just kept telling our team, 'how much do you want it? How much passion can you play with right now?' The energy level has to stay completely high," Montgomery said. "They've battled all year long, that's been our M.O. We've been a blue-collar team from day one. We've had to fight every day, win or lose. Our guys fight to the bitter end, and tonight, what can you say?"

      --Eight of the 12 American Athletic Conference teams qualified for bowl games. For the four that didn't, it's time to start planning for next year.

      At least two teams will be doing so with a new coach. Central Florida made that decision in October when George O'Leary stepped down. The second opening was made official over the weekend, when Tulane fired Curtis Johnson after four seasons.

      Johnson went 15-34 at Tulane, with the highlight being a 7-6 record in 2013 that culminated with a trip to the New Orleans Bowl. Though the Green Wave lost that game to Louisiana-Lafayette, it marked the first bowl bid of any kind for the program in 11 seasons.

      But that also marked the team's last season in Conference USA. Since moving to the AAC, Tulane has suffered through back-to-back 3-9 campaigns. The fact that athletic director Rick Dickson had previously announced his intention to depart made Johnson's seat even hotter.

      Tulane hasn't yet announced a replacement for Dixon, but hopes to have that ready in the coming days. Whoever gets that job will be responsible for making the football coaching hire.

      --Eight American Athletic Conference teams will be playing in bowl games. Surprisingly, East Carolina won't be among them.

      The Pirates had gone to bowl games in three consecutive seasons, and eight of the last nine. But injuries and inconsistency caught up to ECU in 2015, and it needed a victory against Cincinnati in the regular-season finale to finish .500 and retain bowl-eligibility.

      It didn't happen. The Pirates, epitomizing their entire season, came agonizingly close to doing great things, but ultimately made too many mistakes, left too many opportunities unrealized, and fell just short of their goals, losing on a last-second field goal.

      "Right before the season started, [Kurt Benkert] went down and Cody Keith got hurt," coach Ruffin McNeill said about the adversity his team has faced. "But we weren't making any excuses, and that's reality. The kids worked hard -- I told them in there, they've never had a day that they did not work hard. A lot of teams would have folded, a lot of teams would have quit, a lot of teams would not have been fighting like that today after the tough losses they've had. I' very proud of them after that."

      It's a letdown for a senior class that had experienced so much success, but McNeill only takes away fond memories of his departing players.

      "Heart, never stop, fighting, courage, bravery, going through adversity, life lessons learned," McNeill said when asked what he would remember. "[They] could have quit, could've stopped playing hard, storm off the field pouting, start that going on. A lot of times that happens when you're not having success you expect on the field. Those guys you saw today will walk out with their degrees, all of them. Some of them already have it now, but everyone will by May."

      QUOTE TO NOTE: "This was the best week of practice we've had. From Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, this was by far the best we could practice for whatever reason. Credit to coaching staff; credit to players; credit to leaders. There was no doubt in my mind when I walked off the field Wednesday after practice, I said, 'there's something going on here where these guys are dialed in; they're locked in.' We've had a great week of practice, so to see how they went out and performed, I don t know if it tells me much, but how they came out and prepared did." -- Houston coach Tom Herman, on getting ready for Navy.



      1. It's no small thing that Houston gets to host the AAC championship game. The Cougars are undefeated at home this season, and haven't lost at home since Tulane beat them 31-24 on Nov. 8, 2014.

      2. Temple will rely on its defense to shut down Houston this weekend. The Owls have held four of its 12 opponents without an offensive touchdown this season, with one of those being a ranked Memphis squad.

      3. Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds scored another rushing touchdown in the loss to Houston, which leaves him tied with Montee Ball for the NCAA career TD record for FBS teams. He already holds the record for rushing touchdowns heading into the Army game on Dec. 12.

      4. Justin Fuente became the first AAC coach to change teams, announced as the Virginia Tech coach on Sunday. He might not be the last -- Houston's Tom Herman and Temple's Matt Rhule will be among those discussed for high-profile jobs this offseason.

      5. Shaq Washington has rewritten the Cincinnati record book. The senior slot receiver set a record with 15 catches in Saturday's victory over East Carolina. In doing so, he broke the school record for receptions in a season, and he already had the career receptions mark.

  • Sunday, November 29, 2015
    MAC Notebook: NIU, Bowling Green meet in title game
    By The Sports Xchange

    Northern Illinois took an unusual path to its straight appearance in the Mid-American Conference championship game. After losing earlier this week, the Huskies backed into the title game when Western Michigan defeated Toledo 35-30 on Friday. The Huskies (8-4, 6-2) will play Bowling Green in the MAC title game at 7 p.m. on Dec. 4 at Ford Field in Detroit. The two teams are meeting for the third straight year.

    • The Huskies needed some help from Western Michigan after losing to Ohio on Tuesday. This season, the Huskies have lost two quarterbacks and endured some injuries on defense, but are seeking their second straight MAC title in a row. NIU, Western Michigan, Toledo and Central Michigan finished in a four-way tie with a 6-2 record, but the Huskies defeated Toledo and Western Michigan.

      "It's such an accomplishment, not just because it's the sixth year in a row, but because everything we've went through this year," said Northern Illinois coach Rod Carey. "Just to get back and play for another MAC Championship, I'm so happy for our seniors."

      The Huskies are only the second time in conference history to be making a sixth straight trip to the conference championship game, joining Marshall (1997-2002). The Falcons (9-3, 7-1) were the only team in the conference to finish with one league loss, led by quarterback Matt Johnson, who leads the nation in passing yards with 4,465 yards and passing touchdowns with 41. Johnson did not play in last season's conference title game because of an injury, but guided the Falcons to a win over the Huskies in the 2013 title game.

      "We played against them two years ago and he's really good," Carey said. "He seems like he somehow has more confidence now than he did then."

      The Huskies enter the title game averaging 34.6 points per game and allowing 24.8 points. The Huskies will try and rely on their running game due to their injuries at quarterback to slow down Bowling Green's prolific offense. Joel Bouagnon leads the team with 1,212 yards and 18 touchdowns, while Jordan Huff has rushed for 617 yards.

      Meanwhile, the Falcons are averaging 44.2 points and giving up 27.8 points this season, averaging 566 yards per game. Both teams are coming into the title game with question marks, with the Huskies losing to the Bobcats and the Falcons losing to Toledo on Nov. 17, but bouncing back with a 48-10 triumph over Ball State.

      "I thought this was a great tribute to our seniors to go out and win this game," Bowling Green coach Dino Babers said. "To finish the [regular] season with a win, to rebound from that loss last week and to have momentum going into the championship game was big."

      Western Michigan coach P.J. Fleck earned an assist for his former school by helping the Huskies land a spot in Detroit. Fleck, though, rather talk about his improving team. The Broncos posted a 7-5 record this season after a slow start. The Broncos earned a share of the West Division title for the first time since 2000.

      "It's like being a proud dad," Fleck said. "They're on their bicycle and they have training wheels. It's the time you push them and they didn't know you took them off and they're still riding it, but they look down and there's no training wheels on it. That's the type of feeling I have as a parent. Words can't describe it."

      AKRON (7-5, 5-3)

      Game: Akron 20, Kent State 0. Akron quarterback Thomas Woodson passed for 140 yards and a touchdown and Conor Hundley rushed for 98 yards and a touchdown to extend Akron's winning streak to four games.

      The Zips notched their first shutout since 1992, holding Kent State to just 10 yards rushing.

      "I can't say how proud I am of these Akron players, especially fifth-year players like Cody Grice," Akron coach Terry Bowden said. "With what they've done as a football team, it's rewarding of a year I've ever had, and I've some pretty good years. Seven regular-season wins is great, to even lock in a bowl game, I'm very proud. They will be the team recognized as the team that got this program back."

      Takeaway: Terry Bowden has lifted the program back to respectability with its fourth straight win and scheduled for the program's first bowl game in 10 years. The Zips played hard on defense and put together just enough offense to overwhelm some weak teams in the East Division.

      Next: Bowl game.

      BALL STATE (3-9, 2-6)

      Game: Bowling Green 48, Ball State 10. Ball State finished with 264 yards of total offense while Bowling Green quarterback Matt Johnson passed for 236 yards and two touchdowns.

      The Cardinals were led by Riley Neal's 153 yards passing and a touchdown, but he threw three interceptions. James Gilbert tallied a team-high 66 yards rushing.

      Takeaway: Early in the season, Ball State coach Pete Lembo was considered a hot coaching candidate for a Power 5 Conference, but the Cardinals lost their final three games due to a poor defense and young offense. The Cardinals nearly knocked off then-No. 17 Northwestern early in the season, but lost five games in a row and eight of their last nine.

      Next: Season over.

      BOWLING GREEN (9-3, 7-1)

      Game: Bowling Green 48, Ball State 10. Bowling Green senior quarterback Matt Johnson passed for 236 yards and two touchdowns and Fred Coppet ran for 109 yards and a touchdown to lead the Falcons to their ninth win of the season.

      Matthew Domer had three carries for 105 yards and a touchdown and Travis Greene added 17 carries for 97 yards and two touchdowns, while Gehrig Dieter added 11 receptions for 81 yards and a touchdown.

      Takeaway: Bowling Green rebounded from a tough loss to local rival Toledo by crushing the Cardinals. The Falcons needed a big win to build some momentum for the MAC Championship game against Northern Illinois.

      Next: at Northern Illinois, Dec. 4 at the MAC Championship game in Detroit.

      BUFFALO (5-7, 3-5)

      Game: UMass 31, Buffalo 26. Buffalo senior quarterback Joe Licata passed for 287 yards and a touchdown and Anthone Taylor rushed for 85 yards and a touchdown, but UMass scored 28 points in the first half and held on for the victory. Licata passed for two interceptions and committed five penalties.

      Takeaway: A month ago, the Bulls were seemingly headed toward a bowl game, but after losing three straight games, Buffalo will be spending the holidays at home. The Bulls' defense allowed 41, 42 and 31 points in their three-game losing streak.

      Next: Season over

      CENTRAL MICHIGAN (7-5, 6-2)

      Game: Central Michigan 35, Eastern Michigan 28. Central Michigan running back Romello Ross scored four touchdowns to fuel the Chippewas to a win over the Eagles. Ross finished with seven carries for 34 yards.

      Ross scored on TD runs of 5, 63, 3 and 17 yards to push the Chippewas into a four-way tie for the MAC West Division title with Northern Illinois, Toledo and Western Michigan.

      Takeaway: The Chippewas finished the regular season on a high note. The Chippewas' will look back on the 2015 season as a missed opportunity after numerous close losses, especially in the non-conference season, stopped the team from winning more games and potentially an West Division title.

      Next: Bowl game.

      EASTERN MICHIGAN (1-11, 0-8)

      Game: Central Michigan 35, Eastern Michigan 28. Darius Jackson rushed for 92 yards and a touchdown and Brogan Roback added 206 yards passing and two touchdowns in the loss.

      Takeaway: The EMU program took a step back this season. Most observers expected the Eagles to be an improved team, especially with Reginald Bell leading the way at quarterback. The Eagles had quarterback issues all season, forcing a musical chairs at the position and never could establish a consistent running game, forcing the defense to take their lumps in numerous losses.

      Next: Season over.

      KENT STATE (3-9, 2-6)

      Game: Akron 20, Kent State 0. Kent State finished with just seven first downs and 10 yards rushing in losing to its local rivals. George Bollas passed for 102 yard and Trayion Durham led the rushing attack with a meager 10 yards on seven carries.

      Takeaway: A rough season for the Golden Flashes that started with some promise. The Paul Haynes era might be in trouble after Kent State managed just 31 points in their final five conference games. The Golden Flashes failed to score a point in losses to Bowling Green, Ohio and Kent State down the stretch.

      Next: Season over

      MIAMI (3-9, 2-6)

      Next: Season over.

      NORTHERN ILLINOIS (8-4, 6-2)

      Game: Ohio 26, Northern Illinois 21. Northern Illinois had a chance to wrap up the MAC West Division title by beating the Bobcats in DeKalb, but an injury to starting quarterback Ryan Graham hurt the Huskies. The backup quarterback, a redshirt freshman, left the game with an Achilles injury and did not return, forcing true freshman Tommy Fielder to finish out the game.

      Takeaway: The Huskies received some help to land their sixth straight appearance in the MAC title game. Western Michigan defeated Toledo to force a four-way tie for the West title, but the Huskies won the division by virtue of beating Western Michigan and Toledo. Northern Illinois might be forced to play the MAC title game with true freshman quarterback Tommy Fielder because of injuries to their top three quarterbacks.

      Next: vs. Bowling Green, Dec. 4 at Ford Field in Detroit.

      OHIO (8-4, 5-3)

      Game: Ohio 26, Northern Illinois 21. A.J. Ouellette rushed for 140 yards to lead Ohio to an upset win at Northern Illinois. Ouellette handled all the carries for the Bobcats and junior quarterback Greg Windham passed for 76 yards and added 43 rushing yards, while wide receiver Jordan Reid had a game-high 66 receiving yards and caught a touchdown pass.

      Takeaway: The Bobcats closed out the season in impressive fashion by ending NIU's 22-game winning streak in games played in November. The Bobcats will head into the bowl season as one of the hottest teams in the conference with a three-game winning streak, including wins over Kent State and Ball State.

      Next: Bowl game.

      TOLEDO (9-2, 6-2)

      Game: Western Michigan 35, No. 24 Toledo 30. Toledo running back Kareem Hunt ran for 139 yards and a touchdown and quarterback Phillip Ely passed for 280 yards and two touchdowns, but Western Michigan wide receiver Corey Davis caught six passes for 139 yards and two touchdowns to spark the Broncos to a road win.

      The Broncos' win caused a four-way tie for the West title with Northern Illinois, Toledo and Central Michigan.

      Takeaway: The Rockets lost two key games late in the season at home to lose their grip on a MAC West title and twice lose a national ranking. The Rockets, who also suffered a home loss to Northern Illinois, managed 201 yards rushing and 280 passing, but had trouble converting in the red zone. Toledo coach Matt Campbell, though, might have coached his last game for the Rockets. Campbell was rumored to be the frontrunner for the Iowa State job.

      Next: Bowl game.

      UMASS (3-9, 2-6)

      Game: UMass 31, Buffalo 26. UMass freshman running back Marquis Young carried the ball 35 times for 240 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Minutemen to their third win of the season. With the win, UMass' 25 seniors won the program's final game as a member of the Mid-American Conference. UMass scored 28 points in the first half to spoil Buffalo's bid to become bowl eligible.

      Takeaway: UMass takes some momentum into next season by beating Buffalo on the road. The Minutemen will play an independent schedule next season that will feature three games against teams from the SEC.

      Next: Season over.

      WESTERN MICHIGAN (7-5, 6-2)

      Game: Western Michigan 35, No. 24 Toledo 30. Western Michigan quarterback Zach Terrell threw for 247 yards and two touchdowns and Corey Davis caught six passes for 139 yards and two touchdowns to keep the Rockets from winning the MAC West title and advancing to the MAC championship game.

      Davis caught a 30-yard touchdown pass late in the second quarter to give the Broncos a 25-21 lead that they would not relinquish. The Rockets had 201 yards rushing and 280 passing, but were 1-for-3 on fourth down conversions and scored just three times on five trips in the red zone.

      Takeaway: This might be the biggest win in the P.J. Fleck era. The Broncos earned their second straight bowl game appearance, and knocked off a ranked team. The Broncos needed a signature win, and finished in a four-way tie for first place in the West. Whether Fleck is around for the bowl game is another question, with most media observers expecting Fleck to bolt for a job in a BCS conference.

      Next: Bowl game.


      --Toledo running back Kareem Hunt rushed for 139 yards in a loss to Western Michigan. Hunt moved up to fifth all-time in Toledo's rushing list with 3,391 career yards. Hunt has rushed for 100-plus yards in four games this season.

      --Toledo wide receiver Alonzo Russell closed out the regular season with two receptions for 30 yards to give him 199 career receptions. He had caught at least one pass in 49 straight games in his career.

      --Bowling Green running back Travis Greene topped the 1,000-yard mark for the season in the win over Ball State. Greene rushed for 97 yards in the win, and became the second player in school history to top the 1,000-yard mark in consecutive seasons.

      --Bowling Green senior quarterback Matt Johnson passed for 236 yards and two touchdowns in the blowout win over Ball State. Johnson enters the MAC title game with 343 completions in 498 attempts for 4,465 yards and 41 touchdowns with just six interceptions for a 68.9 percent completion rate.

      --Bowling Green receiver Roger Lewis caught 76 passes for a team-high 1,401 yards and 14 touchdowns, with an average of 18.4 yards per reception.

      --Western Michigan receiver Corey Davis finished the regular season with 31 career touchdown receptions and 3,602 receiving yards, most in the FBS among active players.

      --Northern Illinois kick returner Aregeros Turner set a new school record for most kickoff returns in a season, previously held by Deon Mitchell (1997). Turner has 37 kickoff returns this season.

      --Northern Illinois wide receiver Kenny Golladay has 1,107 receiving yards this season, ranking third all-time behind only Dave Petzke and Justin McCareins. His 70 receptions this season are the seventh-best in a single season.

      QUOTE TO NOTE: "I've got a lot of respect for what (Northern Illinois) is about, so any time you get a chance to play a team such as this, you know it's going to be a challenge. They bring out the best in you and you just get ready to go. I felt really good coming in with how hard our guys would play and I thought they would really play well also. If we're healthy and we're well and we're playing hard, we can also be tough to beat. So I just feel really good about what these guys were able to accomplish tonight." -- Ohio Head Coach Frank Solich on beating Northern Illinois.



      1. Luck was on the side of Northern Illinois. After losing to Ohio on Tuesday, the Huskies lost control of their own destiny in the MAC West Division race. The Huskies needed Western Michigan to beat No. 24 Toledo to sneak into the MAC Championship game against Bowling Green on Dec. 4. The Broncos received an assist from former NIU star wide receiver and assistant coach P.J. Fleck, when the Broncos defeated the Rockets 35-30. The win sets up a rubber match between the Huskies, who have won six straight MAC West titles, and the Falcons.

      2. Who will quarterback Northern Illinois in the MAC Championship game? Three weeks ago, junior quarterback Drew Hare suffered a season-ending Achilles injury in a win at Toledo. Against Ohio, redshirt freshman quarterback Ryan Graham suffered a leg injury in the second quarter and did not return. True freshman Tommy Fielder handled the rest of the snaps, completing 9-of-17 passes for 113 yards and a touchdown. Fieldler struggled mightily until completing a late touchdown, but if Graham is unable to go in the MAC title game, the Huskies could be in big trouble.

      3. Which major-college programs are expected to steal Western Michigan coach P.J. Fleck and/or Bowling Green coach Dino Babers and Toledo coach Matt Campbell. Fleck, Babers and Campbell are hot coaching candidates after lifting their programs in new heights. Campbell was rumored to be the leading candidate for the Iowa State job during the weekend, while Fleck is one of the hottest young coaches in the country after leading the Broncos to a second straight bowl season and a share of the West Division title. The eldest of the three coaches, Babers has guided the Falcons to back-to-back MAC title-game appearances. Northern Illinois coach Rod Carey also might be on the move after his outstanding job the past few seasons.

      4. Bowling Green, Akron, Ohio, Northern Illinois, Western Michigan, Toledo and Central Michigan are all bowl eligible with six or more wins. Buffalo had an opportunity for win No. 6, but UMass defeated the Bulls.

      5. Bye, bye UMass. The Minutemen ended their time as a member in the Mid-American Conference by defeating Buffalo in their regular season finale, also ending Buffalo's chances to become bowl-eligible.

  • Sunday, November 29, 2015
    SEC Notebook: Big weekend on and off the field
    By The Sports Xchange

    The big win of the day Saturday in the SEC came at Auburn where Alabama defeated the Tigers 29-13 to clinch the West Division and stay on track for one of the four berths in the second College Football Playoff.

    • The big news came later in the evening 418 miles to the west in Baton Rouge, La., where it was announced that Les Miles would stay on as coach at LSU, and then on Sunday 180 miles to the northeast in Athens, Ga., when it was announced that Mark Richt was stepping down after 15 seasons with the Bulldogs.

      Richt leaves with a 145-51 career record with his current team sitting at 9-3 and looking at the possibility of a 10th season of double-digit wins with a victory in the bowl game.

      Richt will coach the Bulldogs in the postseason and then have the opportunity to assume another position in the athletic department, according to the school, though his personal statement pointedly mentioned his "considering any other options that may present themselves in the future."

      LSU athletics director Joe Aleva's announcement after the Tigers' 19-7 win over Texas A&M that Miles was being retained ended several weeks of speculation about the coach's future.

      Despite a 110-32 record in 11 years with the Tigers, including a national championship in 2007, Miles (138-53 including his four seasons at Oklahoma State) came under fire this season when his team dropped from No. 2 in the season's first College Football Playoff rankings to out of the top 25 after a loss to Alabama sent the Tigers on a three-game skid.

      Even before kickoff of the night game against the Aggies there were reports -- later denied by Miles -- that he had indicated to a booster group that afternoon it would be his final game in Baton Rouge.

      It was all sweetness and light after the victory, however.

      "It's nice to be head coach of LSU," Miles said. "I am proud to be associated with a great institution, my colleagues, my coaches, my players, and the president and athletic director.

      "It's a joy. It's nice for them to come say to me, 'Hey, the job you've been doing, you can still do that.' I like that."

      Aleva was noted for his silence in the days leading up to the finale, but said that was because he wanted to wait until the regular season was completed before making any kind of statement.

      "The season is complete, and I want to make it very clear and positive that Les Miles is our football coach," Aleva said, "and he will continue to be our football coach. I look forward to working with coach Miles as he leads this team to a bowl game and another great recruiting class."

      The move would seem to be a popular one. Miles received loud cheers from the Tiger Stadium crowd and after the game was carried from midfield to the northwest corner by DT Christian LaCouture and OT Vadal Alexander where the band played the LSU alma mater.

      Back on the field, Alabama assured its spot in the SEC title game with its win over Auburn giving the Crimson Tide a 7-1 conference record. Mississippi, which would have earned the berth had the two teams tied, finished in second place at 6-2 with its win over Mississippi State.

      The Tide will play East champion Florida, which will go into next Saturday's game in Atlanta with a 10-2 record following its loss to Florida State.

      Two SEC teams lost an opportunity to clinch bowl berths by failing to get to the six-win level. Kentucky finished 5-7 after losing at home to Louisville and Missouri also wound up 5-7 after losing at Arkansas.

      That said, the two could be on a short list of teams with 5-7 records that could make it to a bowl. At least two teams with losing marks will see their season continue because after Saturday's results not enough FBS teams can get to six wins to fill the 80 postseason berths.

      Another three spots could open up depending on how Kansas State, Georgia State, and South Alabama, all 5-6 with one regular-season game remaining, fare this upcoming weekend.

      ALABAMA (11-1, 7-1)

      Game: Alabama 29, Auburn 13. Alabama had a big statistical advantage with 465 yards in total offense to Auburn's 260, but the Crimson Tide couldn't relax until putting the Tigers away with 10 points over the final 10 minutes. PK Adam Griffith's 47-yard field goal gave the Tide a nine-point advantage with 10:04 left in the game, and RB Derrick Henry's 25-yard run capped the scoring with just 26 seconds remaining.

      Takeaway: Considering that on their previous visit to Auburn two years ago the Tide lost when Auburn returned a missed field goal attempt for the winning touchdown as time ran out, Bama players may have been feeling a sense of deja vu when Auburn scored a touchdown on a 77-yard tipped reception to close to within 19-13 late in the third quarter. Coach Nick Saban even said it reminded him of the "kick six" against his team and the tipped pass the Tigers had in their win over Georgia the week before that 2013 win over his team. "They've got a lot of good players, and they're all capable of making the play, but certainly that play reminded me of the play they made against Georgia the same year they made the kick return against us," Saban said. "It was a good play, and it counts for seven."

      Next: Vs. Florida, SEC Championship Game, Atlanta, Dec. 5.

      ARKANSAS (7-5, 5-3)

      Game: Arkansas 28, Missouri 3. RB Alex Collins rushed for 130 yards and three touchdowns as the Razorbacks jumped out to a 21-3 halftime lead and coasted from there. The Hogs' defense gave up only 171 yards to the visiting Tigers and held them to three-and-out or better on seven of 12 possessions.

      Takeaway: Collins was the workhorse against the Tigers, rushing a career-high 30 times to record his sixth 100-yard rushing game of the season, tying him with Darren McFadden for the program record set in 2007. Coach Bret Bielema planned it that way. "I grabbed him in pregame and I told him the first of the week if it pans out the way the way it's gonna we're going to ride you, my friend," Bielema said, referring to the junior. "It was fun to see him have that." Collins now faces a decision on whether to return for his senior season or put his name in for next spring's NFL draft. "I'll visit with him tomorrow and send his paperwork in on Monday," Bielema said. "I know he was a little emotional before the game. I think he really felt the vibe that this could be his last game. If it is, it is. We'll wish him the best, but there's a lot of conversation between now and then."

      Next: Bowl game TBD.

      AUBURN (6-6, 2-6)

      Game: Alabama 29, Auburn 13. Auburn had problems moving the ball with any consistency, rushing for only 91 yards and passing for just 169, but defense kept the Tigers within striking distance until the Tide put the game away with 10 unanswered points in the fourth quarter. The Tigers closed to 19-13 late in the third quarter when WR Jason Smith tipped the ball to himself to convert a 77-yard touchdown reception, but that was their last hurrah.

      Takeaway: The game started out a competition between kickers with the two teams going nearly 40 minutes without scoring a touchdown. Tide PK Adam Griffith hit on all five of his field goal attempts, four in the first half to give the Tide a 12-6 lead at the break. Auburn's Daniel Carlson hit on two of his three attempts with his lone miss from 48 yards in the second quarter. "Both teams were kicking field goals in the first half, and we were down six so I felt pretty good," coach Gus Malzahn said. "We missed an opportunity down near the end zone on a third-down-and-three and I think we missed a field goal. We were in a good spot and, like I said, our goal was to get the game to the fourth quarter and find a way to win."

      Next: Bowl game TBD

      FLORIDA (10-2, 7-1)

      Game: Florida State 27, Florida 2. The Seminoles broke the game open in the fourth quarter when RB Dalvin Cook rushed for touchdowns on runs for 15 and 29 yards, the last with just 20 seconds remaining. The Gators got their only points when DL Cece Jefferson got to FSU QB Sean Maguire and forced him to fumble into the end zone, but Maguire recovered to keep the Gators from getting a touchdown that could have made it a 13-7 game midway through the third quarter.

      Takeaway: Once again the Gators played good enough on defense to win but struggled mightily on offense. "Our defense gave us an opportunity and we didn't take advantage of it," coach Jim McElwain said. "Our defense is as good as there is in the country. They played well enough today to win." The Gators held the Seminoles to 304 yards with 127 of that coming on the final two drives. But the Gators managed only 262 yards themselves. RB Kelvin Taylor rushed for 136 yards, but losses left the Gators with a net of only 128 for the game. QB Treon Harris threw for only 134 on a 19-of-38 night. Harris was sacked four times and couldn't connect with open receivers at times. PK Austin Hardin missed a field goal attempt from 51 yards and had one from 37 blocked.

      Next: Vs. Alabama, SEC Championship Game, Atlanta, Dec. 5.

      GEORGIA (9-3, 5-3)

      Game: Georgia 13, Georgia Tech 7. The Bulldogs took the opening kickoff and marched 75 yards for a touchdown on RB Sony Michel's 34-yard dash, but managed only a couple of field goals from PK Marshall Morgan the rest of the afternoon and had to sweat out the closing minutes after Tech made it a six-point game with 3:24 left. The Bulldogs clinched the win when they drove from their own seven-yard line to Tech's 45 on their final possession, leaving the Yellow Jackets only 17 seconds to work with, and then CB Malkom Thomas intercepted a Tech pass on the final play of the game.

      Takeaway: Take a bow, defense. The Bulldogs held Tech's triple-option ground attack to just 194 yards rushing and limited Jackets' QB Justin Thomas to just six completions for 82 yards, intercepting him twice. In addition to the late pick, S Domenic Sanders had one in the second quarter that ended a Tech drive deep into Georgia territory. The Bulldogs had three takeaways for the afternoon, ending another Tech drive when DT James DeLoach recovered a fumble at his 33-yard line on the first drive of the third quarter. "I thought we played lights out all game," LB Jake Ganus said of the defense, "and I'm proud of the way we fought. That's a tough offense to stop, and it's not an easy offense to defend. They keep pounding and keep running so you have to be disciplined. We did a great job adjusting and making plays."

      Next: Bowl game TBD.

      KENTUCKY (5-7, 2-6)

      Game: Louisville 38, Kentucky 24. The Wildcats led 24-7 at the halftime break, setting up their second touchdown on S A.J. Stamps' 35-yard interception return to Louisville's 13-yard line and scoring their third on LB Jeff Forrest's 81-yard interception return for a touchdown. They also had a third pick (J.D. Harmon) that stopped a Louisville drive deep into their territory and led to their final points on PK Mike Butler's field goal as time ran out in the first half.

      Takeaway: With a 17-point lead at the half, this was the Wildcats' game to lose, and that's exactly what they did. In a complete turnaround, Kentucky gained only 83 yards in total offense over the last two quarters after compiling 208 rushing and passing in the first two. Louisville, meanwhile amassed 325 yards in offense in scoring 31 unanswered points in the second half after going for 164 in the first two quarters. "We're not very pleased with the way we finished again," coach Mark Stoops said. "I know the fans are not happy. And I'm not happy. It's disappointing. It's tough." The Wildcats lost both RBs Stanley "Boom" Williams (elbow) and Jojo Kemp (knee) to injuries in the first half. Williams had seven runs for 37 yards and a touchdown, Kemp five for 15 yards and a score in their limited time.

      Next: Season likely completed

      LSU (8-3, 5-3)

      Game: LSU 19, Texas A&M 7. LSU gave up a touchdown in the first quarter but kept the Aggies in check the rest of the evening, holding the visitors to just 89 yards on the ground and 250 for the night. RBs Derrius Guice and Leonard Fournette added touchdown runs in the fourth quarter as the Tigers snapped their losing streak at three games.

      Takeaway: Coach Les Miles called the matchup an "imperfect fistfight" and the guy who delivered the body blows was Fournette. The sophomore rushed 32 times for 159 yards and led the Tigers in receiving with four receptions for another 43 yards, more than half the team total of 83 yards passing. "He ran hard," coach Les Miles said, but then, he always does. "I don't know if he ran harder tonight than any other night." He also had nice support. Guice finished with 73 yards on just 10 carries. The only Tiger with any carries was QB Brandon Harris, who finished with a net 13 yards on four runs.

      Next: Bowl game TBD.

      MISSISSIPPI (9-3, 6-2)

      Game: Mississippi 38, Mississippi State 27. The Rebels came out on fire on both sides of the ball, jumping out to a 28-0 lead on touchdown drives of 62, 68, and 75 yards and CB Tony Bridges' 45-yard interception return for a score. When the Bulldogs seemed to be mounting a comeback threat, getting the difference down to 28-13 with under six minutes left in the third quarter, the Rebels responded with PK Gary Wunderlich's 48-yard field goal and RB Jordan Wilkins 38-yard touchdown run to make it a 38-13 game with 13 minutes left.

      Takeaway: QB Chad Kelly passed for 236 yards and two touchdowns and ran for a 27-yard score to lead the Rebels. He was 21-of-30 (70.0 percent) passing with no interceptions and wasn't sacked. "I thought we did good," he said. "I had missed on a couple of things, a couple of over-routes, but it's another SEC game. It's a hard-fought win. Coming into someone else's stadium and coming out with a victory is huge." It marked the first win for Ole Miss in Starkville since 2003, when Eli Manning was the quarterback, and marked the first win for the road team in the series since Mississippi State won in Oxford in 2010. Kelly also passed Manning for the top spot in the record book for passing yards in a season. He has 3,740 going into the bowl game. Manning had 3,600.

      Next: Bowl game TBD.

      MISSISSIPPI STATE (8-4, 4-4)

      Game: Mississippi 38, Mississippi State 27. The Bulldogs found themselves down 28-0 almost before the opening cacophony of cowbells had died down when the Rebels scored on their first three drives and got a fourth score on an interception return for a touchdown. The Bulldogs managed to trim the early deficit down to two scores at 28-13 in the third quarter, but the Rebels countered with a field goal and touchdown to put the game away.

      Takeaway: QB Dak Prescott was 31-of-42 passing for 256 yards and two touchdowns, but otherwise had a miserable evening in his home finale. He lost a fumble at the Ole Miss 38-yard line on State's opening drive to set up the Rebels' first touchdown, and he threw an interception that made it 21-0 in the first quarter. He rushed for 106 yards overall but lost 41 on seven sacks and netted only 63 for the game after another two-yard loss. "I mean, just a turnover on the first possession," he said. "He kind of put his helmet right on the ball and caused a fumble. Out of the pocket, I should have thrown the ball away like I usually do." Prescott rallied the Bulldogs to start the second half, but it was too much to overcome. "Minus-2 turnover ratio, you aren't going to win many games like that," coach Dan Mullen said. "I thought we had some opportunities to create some turnovers, but we missed two interceptions. There was a fumble that went right through our hands. They picked it up and ran and scored the next play. Those turnovers led to 14 points. That was a huge difference in the game."

      Next: Bowl game TBD

      MISSOURI (5-7, 1-7)

      Game: Arkansas 28, Missouri 3. The Tigers never did get it cranked up offensively, rushing for only 88 yards and passing for only 83 for the day. They failed to get a first down on four of their first six series in falling behind 21-3 after two quarters and finished the game with only eight first downs, three of them on one series early in the fourth quarter after the issue had long been decided.

      Takeaway: The Tigers couldn't have gotten off to a better start defensively, holding the Razorbacks to a negative-five yards on their first two possessions combined. But Mizzou's offense never could get anything going, and the Hogs took command after that, scoring touchdowns on three consecutive series while the Tigers could answer only with a field goal. It marked the fourth time this season that the Tigers failed to score a touchdown or gain more than 250 yards in total offense. The one bright spot was the play of senior LB Kentrell Brothers, who threw Arkansas RB Alex Collins for a loss on the Hog junior's first carry on his way to 12 tackles for the game, raising his season total to 152, fourth-most in program history.

      Next: Season likely completed.

      SOUTH CAROLINA (3-9, 1-7)

      Game: Clemson 37, South Carolina 32. The Gamecocks closed to within three points early in the fourth quarter when RB Shon Carson's one-yard run capped a 26-yard scoring drive that had been set up by LB T.J. Holloman's eight-yard run with a fumble recovery. But the top-ranked Tigers answered with a 10-play, 60-yard touchdown drive and later kicked a field goal to withstand the Gamecocks' late score on Carson's 11-yard touchdown reception with a second left.

      Takeaway: The season may have come to a dismal end for the Gamecocks, who lost their last five games, but just a week after losing to The Citadel, an FCS program, they gave the Tigers all they could handle. The Gamecocks rallied from a 21-3 deficit early in the third quarter to pull within 28-25 early in the fourth and even tacked on a late touchdown when the game was really out of reach. Interim coach Shawn Elliott wasn't declaring a moral victory of any sorts, but he did see hope for the future in his team's play. "Considering we just played the No. 1 team in the country to 37-32 and saw the fight and effort in their eyes today, I would say they're in pretty good shape," he said of the future for the Gamecocks. "We all understand there are some needs to be addressed, but the foundation has been set. It's not as far off as you think."

      Next: Season completed.

      TENNESSEE (8-4, 5-3)

      Game: Tennessee 53, Vanderbilt 28. The Volunteers rushed for 331 yards against the stout Vandy defense, the most yards the Commodores gave up on the ground all season. RB Jalen Hurd led the way with 120 yards on 19 carries, and RB Alvin Kamara (99 on 16 runs) and QB Joshua Dobbs (93 on just 11) were right behind.

      Takeaway: The Vols made a pair of game-changing plays late in the second quarter that turned what was looking to be a struggle into a Tennessee rout. First, CB Cameron Sutton returned a punt 85 yards for a touchdown that turned a six-point lead into a 27-14 advantage for the Vols, and then SS Todd Kelly Jr. came up with an interception at Tennessee's eight-yard line on the ensuing series to end a Vandy drive that could have made it a one-score game at the break. Sutton had 123 yards on five punt returns, giving him 467 yards in returns for the season, a program record. "It's amazing," Sutton said of the record. "I didn't know it until coming off before doing media, but again, it's not just me. My front 10, the coaching staff -- they do a great job of just giving me good opportunities and putting me in the right position to make plays."

      Next: Bowl game TBD.

      TEXAS A&M (8-4, 4-4)

      Game: LSU 19, Texas A&M 7. The Aggies pushed across a touchdown late in the first quarter with QB Kyle Allen passing eight yards to WR RickySeals-Jones to complete a seven-play, 80-yard drive following an LSU field goal, but never scored again. They had a chance to boost their lead in the second quarter, but Allen's fumble after taking a sack on third-and-four at LSU's seven-yard line ended that bid, and their next trip across midfield didn't come until the fourth quarter with the Aggies trailing by 12 points and ended with an interception.

      Takeaway: Coach Kevin Sumlin lamented some mistakes on special teams and penalties. WR Christian Kirk lost a fumble on a kickoff return to set up LSU's second field goal, PK Taylor Bertolet missed a 54-yard field goal attempt in the third quarter, and the Aggies gave up a 75-yard kickoff return and a 20-yard punt return to the Tigers. The Aggies also gave the Tigers new life after being called for a roughing-the-kicker violation, though the mistake didn't lead to any points. "We had great effort, but gave them the ball there," Sumlin said of the roughing penalty. "We also gave up big returns, which we hadn't done all year, so there were some things that were uncharacteristic of us -- 11 penalties, which were uncharacteristic of us, and some composure issues out of some guys that were concerning."

      Next: Bowl game TBD

      VANDERBILT (4-8, 2-6)

      Game: Tennessee 53, Vanderbilt 28. The Commodores topped the 200-yard mark rushing for the first time against an SEC foe with RB Ralph Webb going for a game-high 149 yards and QB Keyle Shurmur threw for a season-high 202 yards, but it wasn't nearly enough against a Volunteer offense that rushed for 331 yards and passed for another 192. The 'Dores were within 17-14 after Shurmur's 12-yard touchdown pass to WR Trent Sherfield on the first play of the second quarter, but the Vols responded with 36 unanswered points before the 'Dores scored two late touchdowns.

      Takeaway: For one of the few time this season, the defense let the Commodores down. Tennessee accumulated 523 yards in total offense, most against the 'Dores this season, the previous high being 486 by Texas A&M a week earlier. "Defensively, we just missed opportunities, a lot of missed tackles, too many third downs where we let those guys out," coach Derek Mason said. "We were our own worst enemy tonight." The key plays came when Tennessee scored on an 85-yard punt return late in the second quarter to give the Vols a 27-14 lead, and an interception on the ensuring series ended a potential Vandy touchdown drive that could have made it a seven-point game at the break. "We are starting to get our footing," Mason said. "I believe when you go back and you look at those two big moments in the game, they were game-changing."

      Next: Season completed.


      --Alabama RB Derrick Henry made a strong case for Heisman consideration with his performance in the Crimson Tide's 29-13 victory over Auburn Saturday.

      Henry had a program record 46 carries against the Tigers for a 271 yards, his fourth effort over the 200 mark this season. That raised his season total to 1,791 yards, moving him past Trent Richardson (1,679) as Alabama's all-team single-season rushing leader.

      He also scored on his final carry, stretching his streak of games with a touchdown to 17, by far the longest streak in school history and the longest in the SEC in the last 20 years.

      Henry carried the ball on Alabama's last 14 plays on the final two series.

      "We'd really like for someone else to run the ball, but it got tough to take him out, and he seemed to get stronger as the game goes on," coach Nick Saban said "It's hard to take him out at the end of the game.

      "He's the go-to guy, and he didn't want to come out. He wanted to go and said that he could, and certainly finished the game like we needed to today. My hat is off to him as a competitor, and he really inspires everybody on our team in the way he competes, plays and the toughness that he runs with.

      "What a spirit."

      --LSU RB Leonard Fournette rushed for 159 yards in the 19-7 win over Texas A&M to set a school single-season rushing record of 1,741 yards, topping the 1,686 Charles Alexander ran for in 1977. Both marks were accomplished in 11 games. (LSU's opener this year was cancelled because of weather issues).

      Coach Les Miles said he called in Fournette earlier in the week to talk about going for the record. Miles said he learned that Fournette was 108 yards short of the record, and he told the sophomore that his teammates wanted him to have it.

      "We want you to have that record because of how you play, who you have been, and how selfless you are as a teammate here," Miles said of the message he delivered to Fournette. "We want this for you. He said, "Well, OK.' "

      Next up in the bowl game: The SEC mark of 1,891 yards by Georgia's Herschel Walker set in 1981.

      "I just want to thank God and all my O-line," Fournette said. "Each and every day at practice they're giving it 100 percent -- with me and for me. I appreciate them."

      --The four-game winning streak to close out the regular season gives Georgia some consolation after the Bulldogs fell short of their goal of winning the East Division and playing in Atlanta for the SEC title.

      "We came up short of our goal to get to Atlanta and try to go beyond," Bulldogs coach Mark Richt said after the 13-7 win over Georgia Tech. "We all know that. That's the standard here, to win the SEC.

      "But when you also look at a team that was in the position we were in, everybody came together. It certainly could have gone one way or the other. It was that moment of truth where you ask, 'What are you going to do, lay down and die or lock arms and get after it.'

      "They did."

      Get after it, that is. The loss of RB Nick Chubb to a knee injury on his first carry against Tennessee in the sixth game of the season ripped out the heart of Georgia's offense. But the defense kept opponents to under 20 points in five of the six remaining games, the lone exception the 27-3 loss to East winner Florida.

      "I think we are a lot better," LB Jake Ganus said. "Our biggest thing has been to get better every week, and we've done that."

      --Kentucky coach Mark Stoops, who has made some curious decisions this season most notably on fourth-down gambles, left himself open for second-guessing again when he stuck with struggling QB Drew Barker for all but his team's final series of loss to Louisville.

      Barker finished the game 6-of-22 passing for only 128 yards after going 5-of-8 for 129 yards in the first half. Yes, his lone completion in the second half lost a yard.

      Junior Patrick Towles, who started the first 10 games but didn't get in the previous week's win over Charlotte, came into the game with 4:02 left and his team down by two touchdowns. He completed three of his four pass attempts for 71 yards, but his final attempt was intercepted.

      Stoops was asked if he and offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson considered bringing in Towles after Louisville tied the game at 24-24 late in the third quarter. Barker had completed only one of his seven pass attempts in the second half up to then.

      "We had a discussion at that point," Stoops said but decided to leave Barker in. "I talked with Shannon at that point, and we felt like there were some plays that were there that he was making some good decisions. We felt like he was a fraction off. "

      To be fair, Barker was the victim of key drops throughout the day, but also missed some wide open targets.

      --The loss to Arkansas likely marks the end of an era for Missouri coach Gary Pinkel, who announced his retirement for health reasons earlier this month.

      "I love Mizzou, and not being on the field again, I don't know how to embrace that," Pinkel was quoted in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch game report. "I'll probably get up thinking I'm going to work tomorrow morning.

      "At the end of the day I feel honored that we could build a program with integrity and a program with a lot of success, even though the last few games we didn't."

      QUOTE TO NOTE: "I'm not even thinking about that. All I can do is lay it on the line every time I have the opportunity to lead this football team. It's not for me to decide, of course, but I'm not even worried about it." -- Interim coach Shawn Elliott, on his chances of being offered the South Carolina post full-time.



      1. Alabama is still king. After losing to Ole Miss in September, the Crimson Tide has won its last nine games in a row, including seven in conference play, and will be heavily favored to earn one of the four spots in the College Football Playoff for a second straight season.

      2. Can Florida solve its offensive woes and stand a chance against the Alabama defense in the SEC title game? The Gators struggled to move the ball again in a loss to Florida State and have scored only seven touchdowns in four games this month, one coming with the benefit of overtime.

      3. Coaching seats are hot in the East. With Mark Richt stepping down (forced out?) at Georgia and Steve Spurrier and Gary Pinkel having earlier departed South Carolina and Missouri, respectively, Tennessee's Butch Jones and Kentucky's Mark Stoops, both finishing their third seasons in their jobs, share honors as dean of the coaches in the division.

      4. At least four juniors look to have wound up their regular season collegiate careers Saturday. Likely candidates to bypass their senior seasons and enter next spring's NFL draft are RBs Derrick Henry of Alabama and Alex Collins of Arkansas and WRs Laquon Treadwell of Mississippi and Pharoh Cooper of South Carolina.

      5. South Carolina wins the award for hard-luck team of the year. Of the Gamecocks' nine defeats, five were by a touchdown or less, including a five-point loss to the nation's No. 1 team, Clemson, this past weekend.

  • Sunday, November 29, 2015
    Pac-12 Notebook: Stanford-USC rematch has different vibe
    By The Sports Xchange

    The Pac-12 Championship Game will be a rematch that's not really a rematch.

    • Stanford stunned USC 41-31 in the L.A. Coliseum on Sept. 19, when the Trojans were coached by Steve Sarkisian and ranked No. 6 in the nation. The Cardinal, which entered as a 10-point underdog that day, was only one game removed from an opening loss at Northwestern.

      How times have changed.

      But when the league's two division winners clash Saturday in Santa Clara, Calif., Stanford will be about a four-point favorite, clinging to hope of making the College Football Playoff, while USC is a different, tougher squad under interim head coach Clay Helton.

      "They really don't know what they've got coming," USC running back Justin Davis said of Stanford in the rematch. "But we know Stanford has been playing great ball, too."

      Consider this:

      In the first meeting, USC played into Stanford's ball-control hands by giving its running backs only five carries after halftime. The Cardinal had 39 minutes, 29 seconds of possession.

      Under Helton, the Trojans have more of a run-first attack featuring Davis and true freshman Ronald Jones II, so Saturday's game should turn into a physical battle of wills. USC, in beating UCLA 40-21 to clinch its first South division title, had possession for 40:01.

      Helton said his focus this week will be on trying "to out-rush our opponent and not turn the ball over. That's going to be the formula going up there."

      Stanford also enters coming off a big win, beating Notre Dame 38-36 on a last-play field goal. The Cardinal, with two losses, needs help to get into the four-team playoff -- either Florida beating Alabama in the SEC title game, North Carolina defeating Clemson in the ACC championship game ... or both.

      If an upset happens, Stanford (assuming here it beats USC) likely would battle one-loss Ohio State for an available spot. Stanford's edge would be that it was a league champion. But the selection committee has shown plenty of love for the Buckeyes, so it's hard to predict what would happen.

      "We know we kind of took it out of our hands a couple weeks back," Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan said of a loss to Oregon that hurt the Cardinal's ranking, "but I think that no one in the country wants to play us right now."

      ARIZONA (6-6, 3-6)

      Game: Bye.

      Next: Bowl game TBD.

      ARIZONA STATE (6-6, 4-5)

      Game: Cal 48, Arizona State 46. ASU QB Mike Bercovici passed for 395 yards and four touchdowns, but the defense collapsed and the offense settled for too many field goals as the Sun Devils squandered a 21-point first-half lead. Cal scored on its final six possessions -- five touchdowns and then the game-winning 26-yard field goal as time expired. Zane Gonzalez kicked six field goals for Arizona State, five of which came after the Sun Devils reached the red zone but couldn't find the end zone. ASU let Cal QB Jared Goff pass for 542 yards. ASU WR Devin Lucien made eight catches for 200 yards and three touchdowns.

      Takeaway: Arizona State coach Todd Graham was the one talking up his team in the preseason, saying "it's the best football team that we've had since we've been at Arizona State" and chatting about winning championships. That makes this 6-6 mark very disappointing. One of the culprits: Graham's aggressive defense. The high-risk approach meant that the Sun Devils entered their finale having allowed 13 plays of 50-plus yards (only three teams had yielded more) and then they gave up scoring receptions of 52, 58 and 49 yards. Cal's five second-half TD drives all spanned at least 71 yards, and the game-winning possession went 60 yards. All in all, not how Graham drew it up.

      Next: Bowl game TBD.

      CAL (7-5, 4-5)

      Game: Cal 48, Arizona State 46. Cal junior QB Jared Goff, in what could very be his final home game, passed for a school-record 542 yards and five touchdowns as the led the Bears back from a 21-point first-half deficit. Cal was down 24-3 and then 27-10 at halftime. Goff was nearly unstoppable after the break, though, as Cal scored touchdowns on five consecutive possessions before driving 60 yards to set up Matt Anderson's game-winning 26-yard field goal as time expired. Goff broke his own school record for passing yards in a season with 4,252. WR Bryce Treggs caught five passes for 147 yards and a touchdown.

      Takeaway: The Bears helped themselves in the Pac-12's bowl pecking order and now should fall within the league's seven contracted spots, possibly landing in the Cactus Bowl in Phoenix. Cal won only two of its final seven games, but the Bears are in the postseason for the first time since 2011 and they have an elite attraction in Goff, who could very well vie with Memphis' Paxton Lynch as the first quarterback selected in the 2016 NFL Draft. Goff's NFL skills were on display in the second half, showing the kind of top-notch footwork and escapability against ASU's pressure that will come in handy at the next level.

      Next: Bowl game TBD.

      COLORADO (4-9, 1-8)

      Game: Utah 20, Colorado 14. The Buffs committed four turnovers, were sacked six times and went just 1-for-3 in red-zone opportunities while dropping another close game in conference play. A blocked field goal and an interception kept Colorado off the board after its first possessions pushed into the red zone. Trailing 20-7 in the fourth quarter, QB Jordan Gehrke hit WR Phillip Lindsay for a 16-yard touchdown pass with 4:13 left to cut the lead to six points. After forcing a punt, the Buffaloes drove to the Utah 47 in the final minute, but Gehrke lost a fumble on a sack.

      Takeaway: The Buffs did squeak by Oregon State 17-13 on Oct. 24 to end a 14-game conference losing streak, but there is still work to be done. Colorado ended on a five-game skid, with three of those losses coming by six points or fewer. Colorado hasn't been to a bowl game since the 2007 season, but coach Mike MacIntyre seems to be making progress that isn't yet reflected in the record. "The seniors have set a good legacy for us," he said. "They have worked extremely hard. They’ve hung tough here and pushed to provide good leadership for our team."

      Next: Season completed.

      OREGON (9-3, 7-2)

      Game: Oregon 52, Oregon State 42. Senior QB Vernon Adams threw for 366 yards and three touchdowns -- all to WR Bralon Addison -- as the Ducks closed the regular season with six consecutive wins. Addison also ran for a touchdown. Oregon sophomore RB Royce Freeman rushed for 167 yards and two scores in a game that grew unexpectedly tight in the second half. Oregon was up 31-7 at halftime, but the Beavers put together touchdown drives of 84 and 98 yards to pull within 10. After the teams traded touchdowns, Oregon allowed a 77-yard punt return to WR Victor Bolden that made it 38-35 with 10:09 left in the game. Adams threw two of his scoring passes after that to keep OSU at bay.

      Takeaway: Oregon dodged an unexpected bullet from Oregon State, which ended winless in league play, but the Ducks are still a team that no one would really want to play right now. The offense began looking very much like a typical Oregon offense after Adams recovered from his finger injury at midseason, and it should be noted that the Ducks beat Stanford and USC, the two division winners who will play for the Pac-12 title. With two-loss Stanford still a long-shot to make the College Football Playoff, the Ducks, thanks to their strong finish and exciting offense, figure to land in the Alamo Bowl after the Rose Bowl takes the Pac-12 champ. Chances are Oregon's three losses will keep them out of a New Year's Six game.

      Next: Bowl game TBD.

      OREGON STATE (2-10, 0-9)

      Game: Oregon 52, Oregon State 42. The Beavers trailed 31-7 at halftime but began a second-half rally with an 84-yard touchdown and then a 98-yard TD drive, capped by a 9-yard run by QB Seth Collins. That made the score 31-21 with 2:16 left in the third quarter. The teams traded touchdowns before Oregon State WR Victor Bolden returned a punt 77 yards for a touchdown that got the Beavers within 38-35 with10:09 remaining. The teams again traded touchdowns, with OSU RB Ryan Nall breaking off a 66- yard romp to make the score 45-42 with 7:05 to go. The Ducks drove back down the field for the final margin.

      Takeaway: This was also going to be a tough year for first-year coach Gary Andersen, who inherited a trio of freshman quarterbacks and one of the youngest rosters in the nation while trying to install new schemes on both sides of the ball. Collins is an intriguing piece to the puzzle because he has dynamic athleticism, and his passing, presumably, will come around. And at least the effort in the Civil War was encouraging as the Beavers will try to work through their growing pains in the offseason. "It turned into an offensive shoot-out and I'm proud of the fight in our kids," Andersen said. "Hopefully a few that weren't with us here today will learn their lesson and realize that they can be a part of the special moments that are coming our way."

      Next: Season completed.

      SOUTHERN CAL (8-4, 6-3)

      Game: USC 40, UCLA 21. The Trojans ended a three-game losing streak to UCLA and won their first Pac-12 South title in the five years since the league split into divisions. CB Adoree' Jackson returned a punt 42 yards for a touchdown in the first half as USC took a 20-14 lead at the break. Then, after UCLA went up 21-20, USC's defense made life miserable for Bruins true freshman QB Josh Rosen. He lost a fumble that was returned 31 yards for a touchdown by DE Rasheem Green, and he was picked off twice by true freshman CB Iman Marshall. USC ran for 235 yards and controlled the ball for about 40 minutes.

      Takeaway: USC is likely the most talented team in the conference, but it also had to come together under interim coach Clay Helton. It did. He might not get the full-time job -- USC wants to make a splashy home-run hire -- but Helton will be a viable candidate for numerous openings across the country, especially if he gets this group to the Rose Bowl. "I cannot tell you how proud I am of this group of men, specifically the seniors and the team as a whole," he said. "I think about the seniors and the roller coaster ride they have gone through, for them to be able to call themselves Pac-12 South champions is a victory."

      Next: vs. Stanford, Dec. 5

      STANFORD (9-2, 8-1)

      Game: Stanford 38, Notre Dame 36. The Cardinal's Conrad Ukropina kicked a 45-yard field goal on the game's final play as Stanford kept alive its slim hopes for a berth in the College Football Playoff. Notre Dame, whose own playoff dreams ended, seemed to have the game won when QB DeShone Kizer scored on a 2-yard run with 30 seconds left for 36-35 lead. But a facemask penalty against Notre Dame, and a 27-yard pass from QB Kevin Hogan to WR Devon Cajuste set up Ukropina for the game-winning kick. Stanford allowed three big scoring plays -- a 93-yard kickoff return, a 73-yard reception and a 62-yard run -- but still found a way to win. Hogan was 17-of-21 for 269 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions.

      Takeaway: A game like this shows the value of having a savvy senior quarterback like Kevin Hogan. It's hard to run on Notre Dame, but Hogan kept Stanford moving with some big passing plays, and there was no panic when the Cardinal took over at its 27 with 30 seconds left. "He's so mature, he's so confident, he's such a great leader. Such a great football player," said Stanford coach David Shaw. "He didn't play his best game against these guys last year, and he played one of his best games tonight. And I can't say how proud I am of him." After the game, Shaw said he congratulated Hogan, who was only looking ahead, responding, "Thanks, Coach, we got to play USC next week."

      Next: vs. USC, Dec. 5

      UCLA (8-4, 5-4)

      Game: USC 40, UCLA 21. The Bruins were up 21-20 in the third quarter, but then the roof fell in. UCLA QB Josh Rosen lost a fumble that was returned for a score, and he was picked off twice after that as USC pulled away, beat UCLA for the first time since 2011 and denied the Bruins their third Pac-12 South title in five years. Rosen was 19-of-37 for 227 yards with one touchdown and the two interceptions. RB Paul Perkins carried 17 times for 95 yards. The UCLA defense was unable to get off the field as USC rushed for 235 yards and controlled the clock for more than 40 minutes.

      Takeaway: QB Josh Rosen has been very good, but this was one of his worst performances of his rookie season. It happens. He had thrown 246 passes without being intercepted before USC's Iman Marshall got the first of his two picks in the second half. "We made that defense look a lot better than they necessarily were," Rosen said. "No shot to them at all. I just felt like we didn't execute like we should have." Rosen will get a couple more chances at USC down the line, and coach Jim Mora is reloading talent around him. Although UCLA dropped out of the AP Top 25 after the loss, a bowl win could move the Bruins back in, and they'll start there in 2016, too.

      Next: Bowl game TBD.

      UTAH (9-3, 6-3)

      Game: Utah 20, Colorado 14. RB Joe Williams rushed 34 times for 187 yards and a touchdown and the Utes held on for the victory to finish their best conference season since joining the Pac-12 in 2011. Utah managed just 342 yards but came up with four takeaways, sacked Colorado six times and held the Buffs scoreless after their first two drives reached the red zone (blocked field goal, interception). Utah led 20-7 but had to hang on late. A touchdown pass from Colorado made it 20-14 with 4:13 left, and the Buffs got another chance after forcing a punt. But DT Vilis Fauonuku forced a fumble on his fourth sack and LB Jared Norris recovered after Colorado had reached the Utah 47 in the final minute.

      Takeaway: The win over Colorado was preceded by a double-overtime loss at Arizona and a loss to UCLA; and a win in either would have meant that Utah would be playing in the Pac-12 title game. "That was tough to take, but we have no one else to blame but ourselves and we own that," said coach Kyle Whittingham. "This team has been very resilient, and to come back and get a win today was good." Question is: Was this a peak season for the Utes? They will have to replace QB Travis Wilson, RB Devontae Booker, LB Gionni Paul, LB Jared Norris and All-American P Tom Hackett.

      Next: Bowl game TBD.

      WASHINGTON (6-6, 4-5)

      Game: Washington 45, Washington State 10. The Huskies won the Apple Cup for the sixth time in seven years and became bowl eligible by dominating the 20th-ranked Cougars, who were without starting QB Luke Falk. Washington forced seven turnovers, converting those into 28 points, including three direct touchdowns -- a 69-yard interception return from DB Sidney Jones, a 27-yard interception return from Azeem Victor and a 28-yard fumble return from DB Darren Gardenhire. RB Myles Gaskin ran 31 times for 138 yards and two touchdowns while QB Jake Browning completed 14-of-20 passes for 203 yards.

      Takeaway: The Washington defense has been impressive all season after having four defenders go within the top 44 picks of the 2015 NFL Draft. That's no small feat. After 12 games, the Huskies lead the Pac-12 in scoring defense (17.8 points per game) and in total defense (349.9 yards per game). Against Washington State, UW pounced on injury fill-in QB Peyton Bender. "All those turnovers, those scores, those guys played great," coach Chris Petersen said. "I know it was our most prepared game, emotionally. I was really hoping they were going to play good because I knew that they were all in."

      Next: Bowl game TBD.

      WASHINGTON STATE (8-4, 6-3)

      Game: Washington 45, Washington State 10. Washington State struggled without QB Luke Falk, who sat out because of a concussion suffered a week earlier. His replacement, freshman Peyton Bender, completed 36-of-58 passes for 288 yards and a touchdown, but both of his interceptions were returned for scores. The Cougars turned the ball over seven times, including a fumble that also was returned for a touchdown. WSU pulled within 24-10 in the third quarter before the game got away from the Cougars, who suffered their sixth loss in seven seasons to Washington.

      Takeaway: You can point to the absence of Falk, but Washington State coach Mike Leach said, "We collapsed as a team." It was a disappointing end to the regular season, which still ended up better than almost anyone thought possible, especially after the Cougars dropped their season-opener to lower-division Portland State. Given their passing attack and postseason enthusiasm after appearing in only one bowl since 2003, the Cougs have a good chance of landing in the Holiday Bowl (if Stanford wins the Pac-12 title) or the Foster Farms Bowl (if USC win the championship).

      Next: Bowl game TBD.


      --Cal has agreed to open next season in Sydney, Australia, against Hawaii on Aug. 27, which will be the first game of the entire college football season. It will be the first college football game to ever be played in Sydney.

      "This is a once-in-a-lifetime type of experience for our student-athletes and an excellent opportunity to see and learn about another culture," Cal coach Sonny Dykes said in a press release. "We are proud to represent the University of California at this historic event."

      Cal's game against Hawaii replaces a previously scheduled Sept. 3 home contest against FCS opponent South Dakota. After returning from Australia, the Bears will be off until a game at San Diego State on Sept. 10.

      --Arizona linebacker Scooby Wright, who has only appeared in parts of two games because of injuries, has told multiple media outlets, starting with FOX Sports, that he intends to play in the team's bowl game. Wright, who won multiple national defensive awards last season, has been out since Sept. 26 because of a foot injury. He has eight tackles one season after making 163, including 29 for loss and 14 sacks.

      --The Pac-12 set up a "rivalry" between Colorado and Utah, teams that joined the league together in 2011. The Buffs won the first meeting, but the Utes have won the past four.

      "It seems to be every year, a battle," said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. "They play very hard and they are well coached. They have gotten better every year by my estimation, but sometimes your record doesn't reflect that. They took USC and UCLA right down to the wire. I have a lot of respect for Coach (Mike) MacIntyre and what he is building there."

      --Oregon sophomore RB Royce Freeman rushed 27 times for 167 yards against Oregon State, setting a school record with his eighth consecutive 100-yard rushing game. He is the only player in the FBS to eclipse 100 scrimmage yards in each of his team's games this season.

      Somehow, he's been kind of under the radar this season, despite now ranking fourth in the nation with 142.2 rushing yards per game. He did pick up a nice compliment from Oregon State first-year coach Gary Andersen, who previously coached at running back factory Wisconsin.

      "I've been around some great ones that went on and played in the NFL and still are playing," Andersen said in the Eugene Register-Guard. "Those guys are born; they're not made, in my opinion. He's one of those guys that's going to go on to the NFL and play for a long time."

      --Oregon senior WR Byron Marshall, who has 1,877 rushing yards and 1,293 receiving yards, said he won't return next season, despite being eligible for a medical redshirt after playing in only four games this season.

      QUOTE TO NOTE: "We're 10-2 with a really tough schedule. No I-AA teams on there. We're 8-1 in the deepest conference in America. We have nothing to prove to anybody. We're in the Pac-12 championship game, and we have to go play a great game against a team that's going to be fired up to play us. And that's where our head is. And once again, what the national chatter is, that's not up to me. That ain't up to us. All we know is we got another football game next week and we're going to try and play our best." -- Stanford coach David Shaw, on the CFP playoff implications on the line in the Pac-12 title game against USC.



      1. Washington will be scary. The defense is still top-notch, the Huskies have an all-freshman offensive engine in QB Jake Browning and RB Myles Gaskin, and we hear that Chris Petersen fella can coach. The Huskies can feel good about 6-6 this season because the future looks so much brighter.

      2. Christian McCaffrey won't win the Heisman. He likely maximized what he could, with 94 rushing yards against a rugged Notre Dame defense, but he needed to be transcendent to match what Alabama's Derrick Henry did against Auburn (46 carries, 271 yards).

      3. #Pac12AfterDark was great to the end. The league put on a final late-night thriller, with Bay Area schools Stanford and Cal combining for back-to-back walk-off field goals to beat Notre Dame and Arizona State, respectively.

      4. The league has to go bowl hunting. The Pac-12 has 10 teams eligible for the postseason (everyone except Oregon State and Colorado), and only seven contracted spots. The schools likely to be looking for an at-large berth outside of the Pac-12's affiliations are Arizona, ASU and Washington.

      5. Senior QBs rule. Look at the top two teams in the North (Stanford, Oregon) and the top two teams in the South (USC, Utah). What do you find? Four senior quarterbacks, that's what. The only other senior starter in the league is ASU's Mike Bercovici.

  • Sunday, November 29, 2015
    College football notebook: Georgia, Richt part ways
    By The Sports Xchange

    Mark Richt is out after 15 seasons as head football coach of the Georgia Bulldogs.

    • Athletic director Greg McGarity announced Sunday that the university and Richt had mutually agreed to part ways.

      Richt is 145-51 at Georgia and has two SEC titles but failed to win the weak East division three years in a row. The Bulldogs finished 9-3 this season but lost the three games that mattered to fans: Alabama, Tennessee and Florida.

      "Coach Richt and I met Sunday morning to discuss the status of our football program," McGarity said in a statement, "and we mutually agreed that he would step down as head coach and would have the opportunity to accept other duties and responsibilities at UGA following the bowl game."

      Georgia will owe Richt a buyout of $4.1 million, according to the contract extension he signed in January. He has yet to sign the contract, but McGarity said the school would honor the deal.

      Richt, 55, led the Bulldogs to a 13-7 victory over rival Georgia Tech on Saturday.

      "I appreciate the opportunity of serving the University as well as considering any other options that may present themselves in the future," Richt said Sunday in the school statement.

      ---One day after a 46-41 loss to Maryland ended a controversial 4-8 season for Rutgers, the Scarlet Knights made sweeping changes, firing coach Kyle Flood and athletic director Julie Hermann.

      University president Robert Barchi said in a letter to the Rutgers community that former Seton Hall athletic director Patrick Hobbs would serve as interim athletic director. Norries Wilson was named interim head coach to lead "the offseason program," Barchi said, noting a search would be conducted to find a fulltime replacement.

      Flood had a record of 27-24 in four seasons at Rutgers, but the team was just 4-12 in two years of Big Ten conference play, including 1-7 this season.

      Hermann was reportedly forced to resign.

      ---Matt Campbell is leaving Toledo to become Iowa State's next football coach.

      Campbell will replace Paul Rhoads, who posted a 32-55 record in seven seasons with the Cyclones. Iowa State finished with a 3-9 record this season after a 30-6 loss to West Virginia on Saturday.

      "I couldn't be more excited to receive the opportunity to coach at Iowa State," Campbell said in a statement released by Iowa State. "Two years ago after we played the Cyclones in Ames, I called my wife (Erica) and said you simply would not believe this place. Their fans, the game-day environment and facilities are all incredible. I could see us living in Ames and me coaching the Cyclones some day. My family and I are truly humbled."

      The 36-year-old Campbell wrapped up his fourth year at Toledo, where he had a 35-15 record and his teams finished 24-8 in the Mid-American Conference.

      ---Mike London resigned as head coach of the Virginia Cavaliers, athletic director Craig Littlepage announced.

      London went 27-46 in five seasons at Virginia. He will receive $2.7 million after reaching a financial agreement with the university. His contract was set to expire after the 2016 season.

      The Cavaliers finished 4-8 this season after a 23-20 loss to Virginia Tech on Saturday.

  • Sunday, November 29, 2015
    Big 12 Notebook: Sooners crush Cowboys to fortify CFP position
    By The Sports Xchange

    Throughout the preparation leading into Saturday night's visit to Oklahoma State, the message was kept simple for Oklahoma.

    • Play for a Big 12 championship.

      Easier said than done when so much attention is thrust on the College Football Playoff, especially after the Sooners cracked the top four of the latest CFP rankings at No. 3.

      Nonetheless, they bought in, took charge from the outset and throttled Oklahoma State 58-23.

      The outright Big 12 championship was the first for Oklahoma (11-1, 8-1 Big 12) since the conference contracted to 10 teams in 2011 and began playing a round-robin format without a championship game. The Big 12 title was the ninth overall for the Sooners, all coming under Bob Stoops, who is in his 17th season as coach.

      Now, Oklahoma gets to wait through title games played by other teams before learning its draw in the College Football Playoff.

      Or is that its fate? This is the Big 12, a conference in which TCU was rated third going into the final week of the season a year ago, beat an opponent by 52 points and fell to sixth in the final CFP poll.

      "You just figure," said Stoops, "if you're third and you go to a championship game away from home to the No. 9 team in the country and win by 30-some points, whatever it was, you would only move up, possibly, but you sure wouldn't move back."

      Actually it's up to the committee to figure, but Stoops makes a valid point, particularly after Oklahoma capped a season-ending gauntlet by handing Baylor its first defeat, nipping TCU and shelling Oklahoma State.

      The only blemish was a loss to Texas, which remains inexplicable considering the Longhorns will finish below .500.

      To counter that, Oklahoma dominated its other rivalry game, Bedlam, by soaring to a 44-20 halftime bulge and totaling 356 yards before the break. Quarterback Baker Mayfield made his own Heisman Trophy statement, passing for 180 yards and two touchdowns while adding 77 yards and another score on the ground.

      Indeed, the Sooners looked focused squarely on a Big 12 title before moving on to go after a bigger prize.

      "It feels really good," wide receiver Sterling Shepard said. "I had a talk with the offense before the game, and I told them how I came in wanting to win a title. At the beginning of the game, we were ready to do this thing. Everybody bought in."

      In other Big 12 games, TCU tripped Baylor in a cold, driving rain, 28-21, in two overtimes; Texas Tech ended an eight-game losing streak in its series against Texas, 48-45; West Virginia claimed its fourth straight win by dumping Iowa State, 30-6; and Kansas State capped a winless season for Kansas, 45-14.

      BAYLOR (9-2, 6-2)

      Game: TCU 28, Baylor 21 (2 OT). The Bears failed to score in the second half, going scoreless in consecutive quarters for the first time in 56 games, and could not solve slopping conditions created by a cold downpour. Baylor committed five turnovers, including four on fumbles. Although the Bears scored first in the initial overtime, they could not match a TCU touchdown in the second OT as RB Devin Chafin was stuffed on a fourth-and-1 call. QB Chris Johnson, a third-stringer summoned because of injuries, completed just 7-of-24 passes as the Bears were limited to 335 yards as their bid for a third straight Big 12 title ended.

      Takeaway: The game was often played in a driving rain as Mother Nature did something most Big 12 defenses failed to do: slow the Bears' high-tempo attack.

      "If you like games like this, I guess you would think it was a good game," Baylor coach Art Briles said. "The two teams fought hard and I thought the two teams battled hard. The effort on both sides was extremely (good). I thought our guys played extremely hard. I think at the end of the day, turnovers were the telling tale in the game. You just can't have that many turnovers and win a football game, especially this late in the year."

      Although blame could be thrust on Johnson, who threw an interception and lost two fumbles, one of which was returned 56 yards for a touchdown, the backup was in a difficult position after starring in a Nov. 21 win at Oklahoma State. Johnson completed just 7-of-24 passes for 62 yards. Only one Bear, WR K.D. Cannon, had more than one reception. Among them, All-America candidate Corey Coleman had one catch for 8 yards.

      "We knew that the intermediate, short, quick-game stuff was going to be a bit difficult," Johnson said. "With the ball being so slick it was going to be harder to get it out quick, so we were just going to try in the passing game to let the receivers run down field, throw it out there and see if they can make a play."

      Rarely did the plan result in any strikes. The Bears were more successful on the ground, gaining 273 yards. Chafin led all rushers with 119 yards and two touchdowns, but the bruising (6-0, 225) junior came up short of the sticks on the final play in overtime.

      "Last play, there probably should've been a different formation, " said Briles, who was granted a time out just prior to a snap in which Johnson was stopped short on a sneak. "We switched around and changed it at the end. It's not Devin's fault, though. He got us there, and he's going to get us there again."

      Next: vs. Texas, Dec. 5.

      IOWA STATE (3-9, 2-7)

      Game: West Virginia 30, Iowa State 6. Paul Rhoads, fired as Iowa State coach the day after the Cyclones blew a 21-point lead in a Nov. 21 loss at Kansas State, bowed out with a loss that left him 32-55 in his seven seasons as coach. Not long after the defeat, it was revealed Toledo's Matt Campbell would be the next Iowa State coach. Campbell was 35-15 in four seasons with the Rockets, including 9-2 this year, and also defeated Iowa State earlier in the season. Toledo apparently offered an extension to make Campbell the highest-paid coach in the MAC, but he accepted the Iowa State offer instead.

      Takeaway: The Cyclones managed just 284 yards at West Virginia, while failing to score a touchdown for the first time all season. The season ended with Iowa State failing to record a touchdown over the final six quarters.

      Sophomore QB Joel Lanning passed for 263 yards but threw two interceptions. RB Mike Warren capped a record-breaking freshman season with 74 yards on 19 carries.

      Those will be two returnees Campbell will inherit as he attempts to rebuild a program that failed to qualify for bowl games each of the past three seasons after reaching the postseason three of Rhoads' first four years as coach. Iowa State's only winning record under Rhoads was a 7-6 mark attained in his first season, 2009.

      "At the end of the day, you got to perform, and as a football program we didn't perform well enough," said Rhoads, "whether it was a turnover or a missed tackle or whatever it is to put ourselves in position to get a victory or deserve a victory and that is what you got to do."

      The fiery coach managed to direct Iowa State to some memorable upsets but could not establish a program that won consistently in what is, perhaps, the toughest place to recruit to in the Big 12. Against West Virginia, Rhoads called three fake punts in an effort to revive the sluggish Cyclones, but in the end they could not move the ball effectively.

      Iowa State won just four conference games over the past three seasons, including an 0-9 finish in 2014. Still, Rhoads was a likeable coach who grew up near Ames and related well with Iowa State fans before the inability to reach bowl games became a chronic problem.

      Next: Season complete.

      KANSAS (0-12, 0-9)

      Game: Kansas State 45, Kansas 14. P Matthew Wyman dropped the snap the first time he dropped back to punt, then had his first actual attempt blocked. Both gaffes led to early touchdowns for Kansas State, which scored 28 first-quarter points to begin a romp that gave the Jayhawks their second winless season in history and first since 1954. Kansas drove for a touchdown on its second possession to forge a 7-7 tie, but then surrendered 38 unanswered points despite 215 yards passing from QB Ryan Willis.

      Takeaway: The first season for the Jayhawks under coach David Beaty could not have been much worse. It began with a loss to an FCS opponent, South Dakota State, and ended with a loss to an in-state rival.

      In between, the Jayhawks had just two realistic chances to win games, but both were foiled as Willis threw late interceptions against Texas Tech and TCU.

      Just five seniors were listed on the Jayhawks' two-deep going into the game against Kansas State, but Beaty was correct in saying those players needed to improve dramatically and newcomers needed to be gained off the recruiting trail to challenge returnees for jobs.

      "We have to continue developing. We've got to continue recruiting," said Beaty, "continue getting better in our craft and we've got to learn a lot of lessons we had to go through this year, which we can't afford to have pop up here in the future."

      Kansas entered its final game as the worst defense in the nation, allowing 578.8 yards and 46.2 points, respectively. From that standpoint, it managed to hold Kansas State below those totals, especially in yardage as the Wildcats finished with a modest 363 yards to 315 for the Jayhawks. Still, the early mistakes in the kicking game contributed to a hole the Jayhawks could not escape.

      "It will motivate me, obviously, because our university deserves better than an 0-12 record," Beaty insisted. "So from that standpoint it's embarrassing to me personally."

      Somehow the coach provided an upbeat response to the future after the Jayhawks' string of seasons with either one, or zero, wins in the Big 12 stretched to seven. Kansas went 4-57 in the Big 12 over that stretch under Mark Mangino, Turner Gill, Charlie Weis, Clint Bowen (interim) and Beaty.

      "I know where our season (finished), but I'm not discouraged," Beaty added. "I'm excited about moving forward. It's going to be a great, great 2016. I'm fired up about it."

      Next: Season complete.

      KANSAS STATE (5-6, 2-6)

      Game: Kansas State 45, Kansas 14. The Wildcats forced a turnover off a mishandled punt snap, then blocked a punt, converting both plays into touchdowns during a 28-point onslaught in the first quarter that enabled them to control the game. QB Joe Hubener completed 10-of-17 passes for 133 yards and added a game-high 88 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 17 carries as Kansas State won its second straight to maintain its bowl hopes. LB Elijah Lee recorded a team-high eight tackles while DE Jordan Willis had two sacks among the Wildcats' nine tackles for loss.

      Takeaway: A bobbled snap prompted Kansas to fall on the ball and enabled Kansas State to start its first offensive series from the Jayhawks 12-yard line. FB Winston Dimel scored the first of two touchdowns on the next play, a 12-yard bolt.

      Sensing the Jayhawks might be anxious to get off the next punt, the Wildcats sent a heavy rush. LB Sam Sizelove blocked the attempt and CB Morgan Burns recovered in the end zone for another TD and a 14-7 lead. Burns had scored touchdowns in the previous two games on kickoff returns.

      "That really sparked the whole team and sparked both sides of the ball offensively and defensively," Burns said of the early heroics by the punt cover unit. "I'm glad coach (Bill) Snyder and (special teams) coach Sean Snyder do a really good job emphasizing special teams because they can really change the course of the game. I think it set the tempo for the rest of the game."

      The touchdown off the blocked punt was the 100th non-offensive TD by the Wildcats since 1999, a mark that leads the FBS over that stretch.

      The win was the seventh straight in the series for the Wildcats, which coincides with Snyder's return as Kansas State coach.

      While he was pleased with the fast start, something the Wildcats lacked in several Big 12 defeats, Snyder was not encouraged by a 10-point performance in the second half and said Kansas State must improve to beat West Virginia and qualify for a bowl on Dec. 5.

      "We are a team that hasn't put two halves together yet," he said. "We need to start being consistent and finish. We haven't done that. Now, we have played so well at times and that's a plus, but just being able to do it over and over again, snap after snap, is important to being a good football team."

      Next: vs. West Virginia, Dec. 5.

      OKLAHOMA (11-1, 8-1)

      Game: Oklahoma 58, Oklahoma State 23. Baker Mayfield passed for 180 yards and two touchdowns, while adding 77 yards rushing and another score as the No. 3 Sooners claimed their ninth Big 12 title by beating a ranked opponent for the third straight week. Mayfield returned from a concussion that knocked him out the previous week against TCU. The Sooners' 524-yard assault included 344 yards on the ground and two 100-yard rushers, RB Joe Mixon (136) and RB Samaje Perine (131). CB Jordan Thomas had two interceptions.

      Takeaway: Oklahoma was not rated in the top 10 to begin the season and was not picked to win the Big 12 title.

      The same thing was true when the Sooners captured a national championship in 2000, Bob Stoops' second season as coach.

      The Sooners glided through the season undefeated that year. This time, they had to learn from a stunning loss to Texas. That they did, riding the improvisational skills of Mayfield, improving in the run game and grooming a fast defense on principles that worked to contain high-octane Big 12 attacks.

      "It's a long, hard journey," C Ty Darlington said. "We've had to keep fighting and believing in each other, we felt like no one else was going to believe in us. We had to rely on each other and that's what we've done."

      Indeed, Stoops used the respect theme, or lack thereof, ever since Oklahoma was slotted 19th in the preseason rankings, a slight he referenced after beating No. 9 Oklahoma State.

      "We felt we had a really good football team, regardless of what the outside perception is," Stoops said. "No one knows they're going to win it in January or at the start of September, but I knew we had a good football team -- better than what we thought."

      Credit Mayfield. No one quite realized the impact the walk-on transfer from Texas Tech would have on the Sooners, though the Oklahoma staff wasted little time giving the junior his chance by naming him the starting quarterback over incumbent Trevor Knight.

      The result was a balanced attack that kept opponents guessing, while also trying to contend with a fierce defense that rose to the occasion in wins over three straight ranked opponents to close out Big 12 play. Against Oklahoma State, all three units were superb for the Sooners, who also got a 90-yard kickoff return from Alex Ross to set up an easy touchdown.

      "It was just an all-around good team win," Stoops said. "We'll move on from here."

      Yes, they will.

      Next: Bowl game to be determined.

      OKLAHOMA STATE (10-2, 7-2)

      Game: Oklahoma 58, Oklahoma State 23. Starting QB Mason Rudolph was limited by a foot injury and on his only series threw a second-quarter interception Oklahoma returned for a touchdown. Otherwise, J.W. Walsh engineered the Cowboys and passed for 325 yards, including seven receptions for 169 yards by WR James Washington. Oklahoma State added just 132 yards on the ground. Its defense also failed to produce stops, allowing 524 yards and a 7.8-yard average per snap as the Cowboys tumbled for the second straight game -- both times at home -- following a 10-0 start.

      Takeaway: Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy told reporters early in the week that Rudolph was slowed by a slight ankle sprain, but against Oklahoma the quarterback did not start and clearly seemed hobbled by what was a more severe foot injury.

      "I wasn't really comfortable with him not being full speed and not being able to move around and slide around the pocket," Gundy said. "We're going to make a decision on exactly what direction we're going to go with him (for the postseason). He has a foot injury that you could go either way with it."

      Without Rudolph, the Cowboys still possess an experienced, and capable, fifth-year senior in Walsh. He played situationally all season alongside Rudolph and has a complete grasp of the OSU attack.

      The problem against Oklahoma was the Cowboys were up against the Big 12's top defense and despite 375 total yards from Walsh, it was too hard to keep pace after the Sooners exploded from the blocks for a 44-20 halftime lead.

      Meanwhile, the Cowboys struggled to make stops of their own with a unit that misses the likes of LB Ryan Simmons, DE Jimmy Bean and DT Vili Levini. In the 435 snaps Oklahoma State defended in its last five games, defenders grew weary. They were also outmatched by Oklahoma's potent balance.

      Too many times the Cowboys missed tackles and allowed additional yardage after contact.

      "That was the fear," defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer said. "Credit them. They did a good job. They ran through us. Just didn't tackle well enough. That's my biggest fear, and that's what happened."

      The Cowboys now get to heal and attempt to regroup from back-to-back defeats before playing in a bowl game.

      "Looking at the big picture, we're very blessed to be in this position," LB Seth Jacobs said of the opportunity to capture a league title. "A lot of people around the country don't get to say that they're in a bowl game or that they're 10-2, and looking at it overall, we're not happy with how it came out (against OU), but we had a good season."

      Next: Bowl game to be determined.

      TCU (10-2, 7-2)

      Game: TCU 28, Baylor 21 (2 OT). The Horned Frogs, despite punting on all nine second-half possessions in wet, frigid conditions, claimed their 13th consecutive home win. QB Trevone Boykin completed an 8-yard pass in the second overtime to WR KaVontae Turpin for the decisive touchdown. Boykin also scored on a 1-yard run in the first overtime. The TCU defense held Baylor on downs following Boykin's TD pass in the second OT, stuffing a run play on a fourth-and-1 call.

      Takeaway: There was some question whether Boykin would play after missing the game at Oklahoma the previous week with a high-ankle sprain suffered on the first series TCU ran in a Nov. 14 win over Kansas.

      Boykin was obviously hobbled, failing to make the same, sharp cuts when turning corners or eluding pass-rushers, though the difficulties were also the result of terrible conditions, which prompted officials to delay the start of the game.

      "We knew the whole game we just had to fight through the weather and the distractions and all the adversity and just play football," said Boykin, who drove the Frogs to just one offensive touchdown in regulation. The 14-14 tie going into overtime included no second-half scores by either team.

      TCU scored its other TD in regulation on a 56-yard fumble return by DE Josh Carraway. For Baylor, it marked the first time in 56 games the Bears failed to score points in two consecutive quarters.

      "It's the end of the year, and you've got two good football teams that you want everyone to see the best of everything," TCU coach Gary Patterson said of the weather. "Today was a survival game."

      It certainly was for Baylor, an arch-rival TCU removed from the Big 12 title chase after the Bears were back-to-back champions the previous two seasons and outlasted the Frogs 61-58 with a 24-point rally last season. TCU fans stormed the field after the win. Some rushed past Baylor coach Art Briles after the overall series was tied 52-52-7.

      This rivalry, which has grown bitter since TCU joined the Big 12 and emerged as a league power at the same time Briles was resurrecting the Baylor program, has had plenty of bitter overtones in recent years. Those may not subside completely.

      Credit the Frogs, however, for bouncing back after a missed two-point conversion at the end of regulation against Oklahoma saddled TCU with a 30-29 defeat on Nov. 21.

      "We came up close (against OU), and I bet you all thought I was going to go for two, didn't you?" Patterson said, referencing the first overtime when he elected to tie Baylor with an extra point.

      "We came up so close last week, and then had an opportunity this week to get back in it and get rewarded for what they've been able to do. Outside of that, we're 10-2. It's an amazing year for these guys for everything they've gone through. It really is. You expect me to be jumping up and down, but I'll be honest with you, I'm tired."

      Next: Bowl game to be determined.

      TEXAS (4-7, 3-5)

      Game: Texas Tech 48, Texas 45. RB Chris Warren, a third-string freshman, enjoyed a breakout performance with 276 yards and four touchdowns. The loss ended any hope of a winning season for the Longhorns even though Warren set a single-game rushing record by a Texas freshman. Warren scored on bursts of 93, 23, 21 and 8 yards. He had just 18 carries on the season before logging 25 rushes against Texas Tech.

      Takeaway: The run game has been almost an exclusive threat for the Longhorns all season as they struggled to pass the football in a conference filled with aerial attacks.

      The matchup against Texas Tech was no different, especially after starting QB Jerrod Heard left with concussion-like symptoms after absorbing several hard hits and hiiting his head on the turf during a second-quarter sack. His replacement, Tyrone Swoopes, added 98 yards and two touchdowns on 15 rushes.

      The story, however, was Warren, who never let up and looked to gain strength late in the game as Texas mounted an unsuccessful comeback bid.

      "I told Chris Warren, 'I guarantee you will have a breakout game,"' Strong said. "We knew what we had with him. Just a big, strong physical runner."

      If that was known going in, it begs the question why Texas only ran Warren 18 times in previous games. Still, the point by Strong is well taken because Texas Tech struggled all season to stop the rush, allowing an average of 260 rushing yards per game and 36 touchdowns entering the contest.

      "I was just playing," Warren told the Daily Texan. "That's what you got to do, because if you focus on (a big performance), you get too greedy, and then you lose sight of what's ahead of you. That's how people end up with 300-400 yard games and then lose a game."

      This loss was not only marred by the injury to Heard also to numerous other Longhorns as well, including LB Peter Jinkens, a senior who led the Longhorns in tackles with a 7.5 average.

      "We just have to finish. It's unacceptable," DE Bryce Cottrell said. "I didn't come into the season thinking we would have seven losses."

      Next: at Baylor, Dec. 5.

      TEXAS TECH (7-5, 4-5)

      Game: Texas Tech 48, Texas 45. DeAndre Washington rushed for 173 yards and two touchdowns and the Red Raiders also got fourth-quarter TD runs from RB Justin Stockton and WR Jakeem Grant to hold off Texas. The Red Raiders amassed 665 yards and needed all of that production to hold off the Longhorns. QB Patrick Mahomes passed for 372 yards and one touchdown as Texas Tech defeated the Longhorns for the first time since 2008. A 40-yard strike to Grant set up a go-ahead TD by Stockton.

      Takeaway: If a rival wants to beat Texas, this is certainly the year. The Red Raiders managed to officially seal a losing record for the state rival Longhorns under second-year coach Charlie Strong.

      Not that the Tech defense had much say-so in the matter. It allowed 276 yards rushing to a third-string freshman back, Chris Warren. As usual, however, the offense did enough, including a version of a fumblerooskie late in the game. The 5-foot-6 Grant crouched behind linemen on the right side -- OG Baylen Brown and OT Emeka Okafor -- and took a hidden handoff from Mahomes before darting around left end.

      "I'm so small and those guys are really big. It's impossible for you (defenders) to see me. They didn't see me at all," Grant said of the linemen he called "smokestacks."

      Although Grant had just two catches, the 40-yarder set up a fourth-quarter TD and a 65-yarder gave Texas Tech its first touchdown. With 3,164 yards receiving in four years, Grant broke the Texas Tech record set by Michael Crabtree in two seasons. Afterward, Grant was given a game ball by coach Kliff Kingsbury.

      "It definitely means a lot," Grant said, "going up there to one of the greats that played here at Texas Tech and probably one of the greatest that played in college football, period. I just want to cherish this moment and thank my teammates for allowing me to do it."

      Washington became the first Texas Tech rusher to gain 100 yards against Texas since 1998 and cracked the top five of the Red Raiders' single-season rushing chart with 1,455 yards on the season.

      "He's been phenomenal," Kingsbury said of his 5-foot-8 dynamo. "In our offense, which is predominantly pass-first, we've found ways to get him the ball. He's just a man on a mission."

      Mahomes also reached the 4,000-yard mark in passing.

      Next: Bowl game to be determined.

      WEST VIRGINIA (7-4, 4-4)

      Game: West Virginia 30, Iowa State 6. Josh Lambert booted three field goals and QB Skyler Howard passed for 202 yards as the Mountaineers won their fourth straight and guaranteed a winning season. Howard was 12-of-26, hitting WR Shelton Gibson with a 60-yard scoring strike to account for the one play West Virginia executed on its second offensive series. The Mountaineers allowed just 284 yards while keeping an opponent out of the end zone for the third time this season.

      Takeaway: The four-game stretch West Virginia endured at the beginning of its Big 12 schedule was the toughest for any team in the conference. It ran the gauntlet, facing the four teams at the top of the standings, all of which cracked the top 10 of the rankings at some point in the season -- Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Baylor and TCU.

      "They put a lot of pressure on the defense playing those teams with speed," recalled West Virginia defensive coordinator Tony Gibson, "and they were all clicking and playing their best football at that time."

      Gibson went on to add, however, that his defense would stack up more favorably now.

      "I'd like to play any of them right now with where we're at," he added. "I think we've got our feet back under us. We're extremely confident right now."

      No wonder, considering the Mountaineers have not allowed a touchdown over the last nine quarters, while forcing nine turnovers and allowing nine points.

      This was achieved after West Virginia had to rebuild defensively following the loss of S Karl Joseph, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in the Big 12 opener at Oklahoma. That loss began the four-game skid in which West Virginia was outscored 179-98.

      The defensive muscle the Mountaineers exerted against Iowa State included five sacks among 10 tackles for loss. LB Shaq Petteway broke through for 2.5 tackles for loss among his game-high eight stops. CB Daryl Worley and S K.J. Dillon each snagged interceptions.

      "It says we came to work," Dillon told the Charleston Gazette-Mail. "We knew a lot of people gave up on us in October. We wanted to let Mountaineer Nation and let the world know we're still for real and we still wanted to do this."

      Next: at Kansas State, Dec. 5.


      --Iowa State wasted no time finding a new coach after the firing of Paul Rhoads led to conjecture the Cyclones administration might have trouble because so many openings exist on the FBS level.

      Matt Campbell, who guided Toledo to an overtime win over Iowa State earlier this season, was named the Cyclones new coach.

      The Rockets finished the regular season at 9-2, their third nine-win season in a row under Campbell who took over in 2012 after Tim Beckman left Toledo. In addition to beating Iowa State, the Rockets also downed Arkansas in nonconference play.

      Campbell is expected to get a significant pay increase over his annual salary of $496,450 at Toledo, where he compiled a 35-15 mark over four seasons and never won fewer than seven games.

      With the Cyclones he will have some talent to build with, beginning in the offensive backfield, where sophomore QB Joel Lanning and freshman RB Mike Warren return.

      Lanning took over as starter after subbing in at Baylor. Shortly after that move, Mark Mangino was released as Iowa State's offensive coordinator following a dispute with Rhoads. Mangino later predicted Rhoads' firing on Twitter following a loss at Kansas State in which the Wildcats scored 10 points inside the final minute after converting turnovers created by the Cyclones opting not to kneel on the ball.

      Other key players Campbell will inherit include WR Allen Lazard, DT Demond Tucker, S Kamari Cotton-Moya and CB Brian Peavy.

      In the season-ending defeat, however, everyone on the Iowa State roster was determined to give Rhoads a positive send-off, but the Cyclones simply failed to match up. In particular, the seniors on the Iowa State roster were thankful for the support Rhoads provided.

      "I really appreciate everything he has done for me and this program," WR Quenton Bundrage told the Ames Tribune.

      --TCU has played 30 freshmen this season, the second-highest total in the FBS.

      Injuries dictated TCU coach Gary Patterson unload his bench but against Baylor he did have one key regular. QB Trevone Boykin, a former frontrunner for the Heisman Trophy, was not at full strength and often looked gimpy, but he fired an 8-yard touchdown pass in the second overtime for the game-winner as TCU outlasted Baylor in cold, swampy conditions.

      The lineup TCU did field was again patchwork. The Horned Frogs played without All-Big 12 C Joey Hunt and again were missing WR Josh Doctson, who leads the nation with 132.7 yards receiving per game. Doctson should return for the postseason as long as his injured wrist heals as expected.

      Asked to grade his team's resiliency during its 10-2 regular-season run, the TCU coach gave the Frogs an A.

      "If you just look at all the things we've had to do, with all the players that have been out, it's been outstanding," Patterson said. "It's been a whole building success story. Nobody lost faith in what's been going on. The key to it is that we aren't going to make excuses. We'll play and let the chips fall and go about our business."

      Defense has always been Patterson's domain since he first arrived at TCU as the coordinator of that unit under Dennis Franchione. In the sloppy conditions against Baylor, the Frogs had to come up with stops as the offense sputtered and failed to convert third downs.

      "Everyone knows that when their name is called, they have to step up," DE Josh Carraway said of injuries that made the two-deep so fluid. "It's awesome that the offense can go out there and sometimes carry us, but at the same time I think it was a bit of both out there (against Baylor), especially when we couldn't get a touchdown."

      Credit Boykin for finally getting that unit untracked, scoring on a 1-yard counter in the first overtime before connecting with WR KaVaontae Turpin in the second OT. Yet on the last play of the game, it was the TCU defense that stuffed Baylor RB Devin Chafin for no gain on fourth-and-1. The Frogs also forced five turnovers.

      "We called a play that we haven't worked on all week," Patterson said. "We basically brought our corners off the edge, and (Julius Lewis) got a hold of (Chafin's) legs. Our kids had been stepping up all night. It's hard for (Baylor, which) had to play with their third quarterback. I truly understand that because we've had to do a lot of that stuff all year."

      --Texas Tech left Kliff Kingsbury to dance along the sideline after WR Jakeem Grant scored on a fumblerooskie in the fourth quarter. The locker room blared with music, which could heard as background noise during Kingsbury's postgame press conference.

      Still, the Red Raiders coach insisted his team was not overly caught up in ending an eight-game losing streak in the series against Texas, or winning for just the sixth time in Austin.

      "We tried not to play it up too big," Kingsbury said. "We knew it'd be a tough challenge on Senior Night with a very good football team, so we're excited to get it done. I didn't think execution-wise offensively it was very good, or defensively, tackling."

      Those issues were symbolic of the bumpy ride the Red Raiders have been on all season, though their 7-5 finish qualifies them for the postseason after missing out last year. The Texas Bowl or Liberty Bowl appear to be the most likely possibilities.

      "We talked about leaving a legacy," said RB DeAndre Washington, a senior who rushed for 173 yards to augment another strong passing performance (372) from QB Patrick Mahomes. "We felt like this is a legacy game to take the program a step in the right direction."

      The last time Texas Tech beat Texas, the Red Raiders needed an incredible touchdown connection at the end from Graham Harrell to Michael Crabtree. That capped a frantic matchup between two top 10 teams.

      Obviously this year's matchup had no national implications, but that didn't matter to the Red Raiders during their postgame celebration.

      "A lot of teams and a lot of people don't get to come in and experience the feeling we had right after this game," DE Pete Robertson told the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal.

      QUOTE TO NOTE: "We are a blue-collar program. For seven years, I've put my hard hat on and gone to work and it's symbolism about what we stand for and what we represent." -- Former Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads.



      1. Oklahoma captured its ninth Big 12 championship by pounding Oklahoma State. QB Baker Mayfield continues to command a balanced attack while the Sooners' defense played at a level consistently superior to Big 12 rivals. The finish seemingly assures Oklahoma of a spot in the College Football Playoff.

      2. TCU punted nine straight times and looked incapable of mounting any offense against Baylor in cold, wet, slippery conditions. The game went to overtime, though, and gimpy QB Trevone Boykin rushed for a touchdown and passed for another before TCU came up with a decisive fourth-down stop.

      3. Baylor, it turns out, can be shut down offensively as long as Mother Nature applies enough force, which she did with the storm in Fort Worth. The Bears committed five turnovers after turning to third-string QB Chris Johnson because of injuries. Baylor's two-year run as Big 12 champions came to an end.

      4. Oklahoma State got to play its final two games at home, but a thin defense could not contain the explosiveness of Oklahoma and Baylor. The Sooners took charge from the outset, racing to a 24-point halftime margin. The Cowboys missed injured QB Mason Rudolph, who guided them to a 10-0 start.

      5. West Virginia faced the top four in the Big 12 standings at the beginning of the conference schedule, but rebounded from that 0-4 start to win four straight. Defense has helped key the turnaround. The Mountaineers have allowed nine points and forced nine turnovers over the last nine quarters.

  • Sunday, November 29, 2015
    Oklahoma up to No. 3 in AP poll
    By The Sports Xchange

    No. 1 Clemson and No. 2 Alabama stayed atop the Associated Press top 25 college football rankings released Sunday, but Oklahoma moved up from No. 5 to No. 3 after its 58-23 victory over Oklahoma State on Saturday.

    • The Sooners (11-1) jumped ahead of unbeaten Iowa, which was No. 4 this week after getting by Nebraska 28-20. Iowa will face No. 5 Michigan State in the Big Ten championship game.

      Ohio State moved up from No. 8 to No. 6 after beating Michigan 42-13 in its final regular-season game.

      Stanford advanced five spots to No. 7 after beating Notre Dame 38-36, and North Carolina jumped three spots to No. 8.

      Notre Dame dropped to No. 9 and Oklahoma State fell to No. 14.

      This week's College Football Playoff rankings will be released Tuesday night. The final CFP rankings, which will be released Dec. 6, will be used to determine the four teams that will participate in the national championship playoff.

  • Sunday, November 29, 2015
    Rutgers fires Flood, AD Hermann
    By The Sports Xchange

    One day after a 46-41 loss to Maryland ended a controversial 4-8 season for Rutgers, the Scarlet Knights made sweeping changes, firing coach Kyle Flood and athletic director Julie Hermann.

    • University president Robert Barchi said in a letter to the Rutgers community that former Seton Hall athletic director Patrick Hobbs would serve as interim athletic director. Norries Wilson was named interim head coach to lead "the offseason program," Barchi said, noting a search would be conducted to find a fulltime replacement.

      Flood had a record of 27-24 in four seasons at Rutgers, but the team was just 4-12 in two years of Big Ten conference play, including 1-7 this season.

      "Kyle Flood has been a loyal and dedicated member of our community for more than a decade and our head football coach for four seasons, during which his teams won 26 games and played in three bowl games," Barchi wrote. "However, our continued struggles on the field combined with several off the field issues have convinced me that we need new leadership of our football program. I want to thank Kyle for his service to Rutgers and I also wish him and his family well in his next endeavor."

      Hermann was reportedly forced to resign, according to

      "Julie came to Rutgers in 2013, at a time when the program was in turmoil, with a vision at where she could take our Athletics Program," Barchi's letter states. "I believe, however, at this point, when major changes are being made in our football program, we need a fresh start. Having reached that conclusion this past week, it would not have been fair to Julie, to Rutgers and our student athletes, or to potential football coaching candidates, for her to continue in her role."

      She is a capable administrator whose dedication and passion for Rutgers never waned and I wish her and her family all the best in the next step in her journey.

      The other issue was that Flood was suspended for three games and fined $50,000 earlier this season after the school did an investigation that found that Flood had contacted a player's instructor about the possibility of altering the player's grade.

      Nadir Barnwell was the player involved in that investigation and he was later kicked off the team after being charged with aggravated assault.

      The university's compliance department recently did an extensive review of the athletic department. According to, the report was expected to reveal allegations of failed drug tests and other possible NCAA infractions.

  • Sunday, November 29, 2015
    Iowa State hires Toledo's Campbell as coach
    By The Sports Xchange

    Matt Campbell is leaving Toledo to become Iowa State's next football coach, the school announced Sunday.

    • Campbell will replace Paul Rhoads, who posted a 32-55 record in seven seasons with the Cyclones. Iowa State finished with a 3-9 record this season after a 30-6 loss to West Virginia on Saturday.

      "I couldn't be more excited to receive the opportunity to coach at Iowa State," Campbell said in a statement released by Iowa State. "Two years ago after we played the Cyclones in Ames, I called my wife (Erica) and said you simply would not believe this place. Their fans, the game-day environment and facilities are all incredible. I could see us living in Ames and me coaching the Cyclones some day. My family and I are truly humbled."

      The 36-year-old Campbell wrapped up his fourth year at Toledo, where he had a 35-15 record and his teams finished 24-8 in the Mid-American Conference.

      "Matt's coaching and playing achievements are extraordinary, but we were even more impressed by his character, leadership and commitment to his family," Iowa State athletic director Jamie Pollard said in a statement. "I could not be more excited to welcome Matt, Erica and their children to the Cyclone Family. We are truly blessed to have one of the industry's rising stars leading our football program."

      Campbell replaced Tim Beckman, who was hired by Illinois, as Rockets coach in 2011.

      Campbell accepted the job at Iowa State despite an offer of more than $800,000 to stay with the Rockets that would have made him the highest-paid coach in the Mid-American Conference, according to the Toledo Blade.

      Campbell made $495,000 this season. Iowa State reportedly will pay a $200,000 buyout to land Campbell.

      "We think very highly of Matt Campbell and have made him a very generous offer to keep him as our head football coach," Toledo athletic director Mike O'Brien said Saturday.

  • Sunday, November 29, 2015
    First and 20: Wild two days make it easy for CFP selection committee
    By The Sports Xchange

    Now, the math is easy.

    • The College Football Playoff selection committee will never be able to make five conference champs go into four spots, but a wild two days of games over the holiday weekend made the equation about as simple as possible.

      --Oklahoma, whose regular season is over at 11-1, is the Big 12's one true champion after walloping Oklahoma State 58-23. The Sooners are in.

      --Also in: the winner of the Big Ten title game between 12-0 Iowa and 11-1 Michigan State.

      --No. 1 Clemson is in if it beats one-loss North Carolina in the ACC championship game.

      --And Alabama merely needs to beat punchless Florida in the SEC title game to be the only team to make a repeat appearance in the 2-year-old playoff.

      The selection committee was spared the anguish of considering independent Notre Dame, which lost on a last-play field goal to Stanford late Saturday night, suffering its second loss. The Irish are good enough to play with anybody in the country but will have to settle for an at-large spot in a New Year's Six bowl -- Peach or Fiesta.

      Speaking of Stanford, the Cardinal are clearly on the outside as they head to nearby Santa Clara to play USC in the Pac-12 title game. With two losses, Stanford needs chaos. And by chaos, we mean losses by either Clemson or Alabama, or both.

      Let's consider that chaos. A loss by the Tigers or Tide brings Ohio State, Stanford and North Carolina into the mix.

      Ohio State's case: The Buckeyes just throttled Michigan, finally looking like the No. 1 team we've known lurked inside them all season. Based on previous CFP rankings, we know the committee values the "eye test" when talking about Ohio State, whose only loss came on a last-play field goal to Michigan State.

      Stanford's case: The Cardinal would be a conference champ, and the committee could heavily weigh that in a comparison to Ohio State, which didn't win its division. Stanford's win over Notre Dame is also better than any Buckeyes' victory.

      North Carolina's case: The Tar Heels would have the best win in the country -- beating No. 1 Clemson -- and be on a 12-game winning streak. Now the case against them: Their one loss came against woeful South Carolina, and two of UNC's wins came against teams from the FCS.

      As for Florida? If the Gators somehow score enough to beat Alabama, they would be a two-loss SEC champ. In many cases, that would be playoff-worthy. But a team that needed overtime to beat FAU and then lost 27-2 to Florida State wouldn't really be able to mount much of a complaint if excluded.

      Chaos prediction: The committee could not ignore Ohio State.

      10 things we think we learned in Week 13

      1. LSU came to its senses. Tigers athletic director Joe Alleva let Les Miles twist in the wind all week as rumors swirled about the coach's impending ouster while, presumably, the school tried to entice Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher. But when the second part didn't happen, and the first part blew up in Alleva's face due to public support of Miles, the school announced Saturday night that the Mad Hatter wasn't going anywhere. Now who is on the hot seat, Mr. Alleva?

      2. Connor Cook is healthy. The Michigan State senior quarterback, who sat out because of a shoulder injury while the Spartans upset Ohio State a week earlier, returned to complete 19 of 26 passes for 248 yards and three touchdowns in a 55-16 wipeout of Penn State. He's lookin' good heading into the Big Ten title game vs. Iowa.

      3. Texas A&M needs to grow up on offense. The Aggies have some breathtaking young skill players, and perhaps we should emphasize young. Coach Kevin Sumlin's vaunted attack fizzled this season, with Texas A&M scoring only one touchdown in each of its final three SEC games (Auburn, Vanderbilt, LSU) and managing only one offensive TD in two other league games (Alabama, Ole Miss).

      4. USC's Clay Helton is still making a case. The Trojans' want to make a home-run hire (see No. 10 on this list), but what if Helton is simply the right guy at the right time? The interim head coach won five of his six Pac-12 games and is one win away from taking USC to the Rose Bowl. In any case, Helton will be viable for numerous openings across the country.

      5. Illinois takes a half-measure. Nothing at all against Bill Cubit, who stepped in a week before the season opener for fired Tim Beckman, but bringing him back on a two-year contract creates a tough situation for everyone. Illinois is a mess right now -- with an interim chancellor and no permanent AD -- so the school essentially punted its coaching search. Good luck recruiting.

      6. Samaje Perine for the half-Heisman? The Oklahoma sophomore running back was quiet in the first half of the season as the coaches figured out how to use him in new coordinator Lincoln Riley's Air Raid offense. Mission accomplished. Perine averaged 7.4 yards per carry and 145.2 yards per game in the final six regular-season games, with 12 touchdowns. The Sooners rediscovered they are really good at running the ball, averaging 300 rushing yards in the seven games since losing to Texas.

      7. Keep dancing, Frank Beamer. If you haven't seen it, find the video of the 69-year-old Virginia Tech coach dabbing in the locker room. It ain't pretty, but that is what happiness looks like when your team beats rival Virginia in its final game, becoming bowl eligible and giving the retiring coach one more game.

      8. College football needs a schedule coordinator. The championship games in the Pac-12, Big Ten and ACC are all scheduled to kick off within 15 minutes of each other Saturday, beginning at 7:45 p.m. ET. Fans, runs your errands in the morning.

      9. Losing teams will make the postseason. There are 80 open spots in the bowl parade, and only 75 of them have reached .500 to become eligible. Kansas State, Georgia State and South Alabama can get there this weekend, but that would still leave at least two openings for 5-7 squads. Four are likely, as those two Sun Belt teams will be underdogs.

      10. Chip Kelly will be coaching in college next season. It's not hard to discern that his flight path with the Philadelphia Eagles puts him on a course to return to college, perhaps in a conference he knows well. Neither party would be doing its job if it didn't see if there was a comfy fit between the former Oregon head coach and USC.

      5 top Heisman candidates

      1. Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama. Congratulations, Derrick. Those 271 yards on 46 carries against Auburn just punched your ticket into a very exclusive club.

      2. Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson. The sophomore ran for 114 yards, passed for 279 and accounted for four touchdowns in a win over South Carolina. He's completing almost 72 percent of his passes, and has reached triple digits in rushing in three of the past four games.

      3. Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State. He ran for 183 yards against Florida's tough D, and his average of 7.9 yards per carry is unmatched among major conference backs with more than a handful of attempts.

      4. Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma. He returned from a concussion suffered a week earlier to lead the Sooners over Oklahoma State, making a highlight play by throwing a lead block on a 66-yard change-of-direction touchdown run by Joe Mixon. Mayfield is third nationally in passing efficiency.

      5. Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford. He was mostly bottled up by Notre Dame (94 rushing yards), but he is still averaging 252.9 all-purpose yards per game -- a stunning 52 more than the second-place guy. He deserves a spot at the Heisman festivities.

      5 best Week 14 games

      1. Michigan State vs. Iowa (Saturday, 8 p.m. ET, Indianapolis, FOX). Iowa's best attributes are run blocking, quarterback decision-making and turnover margin. Not sexy, but if the undefeated Hawkeyes beat Michigan State for all the Big Ten marbles, don't worry about their lack of prettiness, embrace what would be an amazing story.

      2. Alabama vs. Florida (Saturday, 4 p.m. ET, Atlanta, CBS). We'll just go ahead and set the over-under number for the Gators' total yards at 225. But if Florida comes up with a couple of turnovers, Alabama's collars could begin to tighten in the SEC title game.

      3. Clemson vs. North Carolina (Saturday, 8 p.m. ET, Charlotte, N.C., ABC). Tar Heels quarterback Marquise Williams has the elusiveness to turn nothing into something against the rock-solid Tigers' defense. Clemson QB Deshaun Watson made his first career start vs. UNC early last season, passing for 435 yards and six TDs.

      4. Stanford vs. USC (Saturday, 7:45 p.m., Santa Clara, Calif., ESPN). Stanford won 41-31 in Los Angeles on Sept. 19, but that USC team was coached by Steve Sarkisian. The Trojans are more of a run-first outfit under interim coach Clay Helton and will try to match the Cardinal's power and ball control.

      5. Houston vs. Temple (Saturday, noon ET, Houston, ABC). The Cougars' super offense goes against the Owls' excellent defense, and the winner of the American Athletic Conference title game will earn the Group of Five's berth in a major New Year's bowl. Film Room Review

      Analyst Rob Rang's five prospect takeaways for this week. Players listed including position, school, year (Height, weight and current overall rating and by position).

      5. C Austin Blythe, Iowa, 6-2, 290, Sr. (#284, #8): Blythe struggled at times with the burst of Nebraska defensive tackle Vincent Valentine, but he also used his natural leverage advantage and strength to lock onto Nebraska's defenders. Blythe plays with good knee bend to hold up to bull rushes, slides well laterally and carries dynamite in his stands to pop defenders.

      4. RB Derrick Henry, Alabama, 6-2, 242, Jr. (#32/#2): The Heisman frontrunner could prove one of the more polarizing prospects should he declare for the 2016 NFL Draft. Many big backs have struggled against the greater speed of the NFL. However, Henry also showed why he could be successful while rushing for 271 yards against Auburn, using his light feet to bounce runs outside and showing the vision and patience to find creases with the burst to plant his foot and explode upfield.

      3. DB Desmond King, Iowa, 5-11, 200, Jr. (#9 CB in Class of 2017): Suspended for the first quarter against Nebraska for being late to a team meeting, King displayed the steady coverage and physicality in run support once he entered the game that has many scouts projecting a successful move to safety at the next level.

      2. QB Kevin Hogan, Stanford, 6-4, 218, Sr. (#179/#12): The comeback victory over Notre Dame was the type of performance NFL scouts were hoping to see from Hogan, a four-year starter with the size, mobility and arm talent to work with. Hogan has an elongated throwing motion and a reputation for struggling in big games, but he was spectacular against the Irish, completing pro-caliber passes requiring touch and velocity.

      1. LB Jaylon Smith, Notre Dame, 6-3, 240, Jr. (#6/#2): He was all over the field against Stanford, helping limit Heisman hopeful Christian McCaffrey to "just" 113 all-purpose yards. Smith might be the nation's most forceful tackler, generating incredible power to knock ballcarriers back. Smith is every bit as fast and fluid as he is powerful, slipping by (or leaping over) would-be blockers in the running game and dropping effectively in coverage.

  • Sunday, November 29, 2015
    Georgia, Richt part ways after 15 seasons
    By The Sports Xchange

    Mark Richt is out after 15 seasons as head football coach of the Georgia Bulldogs.

    • Athletic director Greg McGarity announced Sunday that the university and Richt had mutually agreed to part ways.

      Richt is 145-51 at Georgia and has two SEC titles but failed to win the weak East division three years in a row. The Bulldogs finished 9-3 this season but lost the three games that mattered to fans: Alabama, Tennessee and Florida.

      "Coach Richt and I met Sunday morning to discuss the status of our football program," McGarity said in a statement, "and we mutually agreed that he would step down as head coach and would have the opportunity to accept other duties and responsibilities at UGA following the bowl game.

      "On behalf of the University of Georgia Athletic Association and Bulldogs everywhere, I want to thank Mark and Katharyn for 15 years of remarkable service to the UGA community, hundreds of our students and staff, and to college football.

      "Mark has the opportunity to remain on our staff at the University of Georgia, and would be heavily involved with outreach programs for our former football lettermen via the PO Network as well as other University and Athletic Association initiatives."

      Georgia will owe Richt a buyout of $4.1 million, according to the contract extension he signed in January. He has yet to sign the contract, but McGarity said the school would honor the deal.

      Richt, 55, led the Bulldogs to a 13-7 victory over rival Georgia Tech on Saturday.

      "I appreciate the opportunity of serving the University as well as considering any other options that may present themselves in the future," Richt said Sunday in the school statement.

      Richt said after Saturday's game that the Bulldogs "came up short of our goal" to win the SEC championship.

      "That's the standard here," Richt said. "Win the SEC and hopefully go beyond that. From that point of view, we fell short of our goals."

  • Sunday, November 29, 2015
    London resigns as Virginia coach
    By The Sports Xchange

    Mike London resigned as head coach of the Virginia Cavaliers, athletic director Craig Littlepage announced Sunday.

    • London went 27-46 in five seasons at Virginia. He will receive $2.7 million after reaching a financial agreement with the university. His contract was set to expire after the 2016 season.

      The Cavaliers finished 4-8 this season after a 23-20 loss to Virginia Tech on Saturday.

      Littlepage met with London on Sunday morning to discuss the future of the program.

      "I appreciate the opportunity to have been the head football coach at the University of Virginia and for the relationships that have been formed during my time in Charlottesville that will last for years to come," London said in a statement. "I took this job to make a profound difference in the lives of young men and to re-establish Virginia football as one of the best programs in the ACC.

      "While we were successful in the development of our players in many areas, I would have liked to have won more games for the student-athletes, coaches, fans and everyone that's a part of the University of Virginia."

      Littlepage has not specified a time frame for concluding the coaching search, citing the fact that many of the possible candidates will be involved in postseason play.

      "Mike London has been an outstanding representative of the University of Virginia," Littlepage said in the school statement. "During his tenure, Mike created a positive culture for our student-athletes to develop as young men, who improved each year in the classroom and represented us very well in the community.

      "Mike was a tremendous mentor for his players and many of our coaches. His ability to inspire others helped our program establish great relationships among the high school football coaches in the state and he has been a tremendous ambassador for the University. We are thankful for Mike's numerous contributions representing the University and Virginia athletics."

      London was named Virginia's 39th head football coach on Dec. 7, 2009.

      "In our search, we will look for a coach who's demonstrated the ability to implement his system and achieved a consistent level of success," Littlepage said. "The coach will have experience recruiting and developing student-athletes who fit his profile for success on the field and in the classroom. We expect our football program to compete for the Coastal Division title on an annual basis, which puts us in a position to win the ACC championship and be competitive nationally. This is consistent with the expectations for each of our sport programs."

  • Sunday, November 29, 2015
    Report: Iowa State to hire Toledo's Campbell as coach
    By The Sports Xchange

    Matt Campbell is leaving No. 24 Toledo to become Iowa State's next coach, according to multiple reports late Saturday.

    • Campbell will replace Paul Rhoads, who posted a 32-55 record in seven seasons with the Cyclones. An official announcement could come as soon as Sunday, the Ames Tribune and Toledo Blade reported.

      The 35-year-old Campbell is wrapping up his fourth year at Toledo, where he has a 35-15 record and his teams are 24-8 in the Mid-American Conference.

      Campbell replaced Tim Beckman, who was hired by Illinois, as Rockets coach in 2011.

      Toledo tried to keep Campbell with a contract offer that would have made him the highest-paid coach in the MAC. Campbell made $495,000 this season.

      Iowa State reportedly will pay a $200,000 buyout to land Campbell.

      "We think very highly of Matt Campbell and have made him a very generous offer to keep him as our head football coach," Toledo athletic director Mike O'Brien said Saturday.

      Rhoads was fired Monday. Iowa State finished with a 3-9 record this season after a 30-6 loss to West Virginia on Saturday.

  • Sunday, November 29, 2015
    Miles staying at LSU
    By The Sports Xchange

    BATON ROUGE, La. -- Moments after running back Leonard Fournette set an LSU season rushing record to snap the reeling Tigers' three-game losing streak with a 19-7 victory over Texas A&M, LSU coach Les Miles found out in the locker room that he would remain the coach for the 2016 season.

    • Miles, whose team started 7-0 and rose to No. 2 in the polls only to lose its last three SEC games by an average of 17.3 points, was carried off the field by his players after Fournette rushed for 159 yards and the clinching touchdown with 2:50 left.

      But it wasn't until after Miles had addressed his players in the locker room that he found out officially from LSU chancellor F. King Alexander and athletic director Joe Alleva that he would not be fired after an 8-3 regular season.

      "We're a talented football team and we seemed to undershoot our mark this year," Miles said. "I agree with Joe (Alleva). We should be a team playing for championships. Joe wants to work for that, and I'm fully right with him."

      Miles indicated that he would evaluate his coaching staff and make any adjustments he deemed necessary. He mentioned the offensive struggles of quarterback Brandon Harris during the three-game losing streak were particularly alarming.

      "Honestly, up to Game 7, I thought he was magnificent, and then there seemed to be a pause," Miles said. "We haven't quite gotten him back on track. There's some work to do there. We were imperfect offensively. We're not as good as we should have been. We should have scored a pile of points. Those are things we should fix."

      Even in victory, Harris had an abysmal performance. He completed just 7 of 21 attempts for 83 yards and was intercepted once. Several of his short throws were either high or low, and he showed little touch on short swing passes.

      Fournette finished with 1,741 rushing yards in the regular season, eclipsing the 1977 LSU season record of 1,686 by Charles Alexander.

      Sophomore Derrius Guice added a 50-yard touchdown run early in the third quarter to give LSU a 13-7 lead. The Tigers (8-3) added field goals of 32 and 38 yards by Trent Domingue, but Domingue missed three others from 25, 50 and 46 yards.

      Texas A&M (8-4) managed just one touchdown -- an 8-yard slant from quarterback Kyle Allen to receiver Ricky Seals-Jones.

      After LSU closed out its16th consecutive eight-win season, LSU players lifted Miles on their shoulders near midfield and carried him over to the student section at the north end of the stadium, where the LSU band played the alma mater.

      Asked what it felt like to be carried off the field -- especially not knowing his fate -- Miles said, "Scary. I now know what it's like to ride an elephant. It scares you to death. I was praying that I could hold on to the ears."

      Alleva made the official announcement to the media about 30 minutes after the game. He had vowed not to comment on Miles' status until after the season, but his silence had been interpreted by many to mean Miles' days at LSU were numbered.

      "The season's completed and I want to make it very clear and positive that Les Miles is our football coach and will continue to be our football coach," Alleva said. "He leads this team to a bowl game and to another great recruiting class.

      "Les and I have talked about this program, and we are committed together to compete and win at the highest level. I'm very pleased about tonight's outcome and very pleased that Coach Miles is our coach."

      LSU had been rumored to be interested in luring Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher to Baton Rouge, which triggered speculation that Miles was on shaky ground despite his 111-32 record in the last 11 seasons.

      Miles said he never let the speculation get to him or his family.

      "I'm a Miles, and what I've got is clear focus," he said. "I'm not distracted easily."

      But he knows there is work to do.

      "It's not right to win occasionally," Miles said. "My expectations are so high. I just love going to that stadium."

      Miles would not rule out staff changes, but he seemed to support offensive coordinator Cam Cameron.

      "I'm not (ready to answer) any of those questions, but I'm going to look at the statistics and do studies and make quality decisions," Miles said. "Thank goodness we had (Cameron) tonight. ... (Staff changes) would be a natural contemplation."

  • Saturday, November 28, 2015
    FCS playoff roundup: Montana holds off SDSU
    By The Sports Xchange

    Montana jumped to an early lead and held off a late South Dakota State rally for a 24-17 victory Saturday in a first-round game of the Football Championship Series playoffs in Missoula, Mont.

    • Quarterback Brady Gustafson completed 24 of 39 passes for 295 yards and a pair of touchdowns, and receiver Ben Romain Roberts caught eight passes for 133 yards for the host Grizzlies (8-4).

      Montana snapped a scoreless tie late in the first quarter on Gustafson's 4-yard TD pass to wide receiver Jamaal Jones. Montana then scored on its next three possessions to open a 24-0 lead by halftime.

      The Grizzlies, an at-large FCS tourney selection, travel to No. 3 seed and reigning national champion North Dakota State next Saturday.

      The Griz are in the FCS playoffs for the 23rd time in program history, the most by an FCS or Division I-AA team.

      South Dakota State (8-4) closed the deficit to seven points with 4:44 to play but did not regain possession.

      Saturday's opening round featured seven other games, with winners moving on to top eight seeds in next week's second round.

      Running back Richardre Bagley scored on a 40-yard run midway through the opening quarter as Chattanooga (9-3) scored 38 straight points en route to a 50-20 victory over Fordham (9-3). Quarterback Jacob Houseman threw three touchdown passes, including two to wide receiver James Stovall. The Mocs play at top seed Jacksonville State next Saturday.

      Quarterback Sean McGuire had touchdown strikes of 22 and 9 yards and running back Nikko Watson rushed for another TD as Western Illinois beat Dayton 24-7. The Leathernecks (7-5) travel to No. 2 seed and conference rival Illinois State next Saturday.

      Kicker Eric Goins hit a 43-yard field goal as time expired to lift The Citadel to a 41-38 victory over Coastal Carolina. Quarterback Alex Ross threw for 415 yards and three TDs for Coastal Carolina (9-3). The Citadel (9-3) plays at No. 8 Charleston Southern next Saturday.

      Sam Houston State scored 16 straight second-half points to beat Southern Utah and will meet McNeese State next Saturday.

      William and Mary improved to 8-3 overall with a 52-49 victory over Duquesne and faces No. 7 seed Richmond next weekend.

      James Holland scored four touchdowns and Colgate advanced with a 27-20 victory over New Hampshire to earn a date with No. 5 seed James Madison.

      Aaron Bailey threw for three touchdowns and Tyvis Smith rushed for 147 yards and a score as Northern Iowa (8-4) blitzed Eastern Illinois 53-17. The Panthers travel to No. 6 seed Portland State next Saturday.

  • Saturday, November 28, 2015
    Report: Memphis' Fuente to replace Beamer
    By The Sports Xchange

    Memphis coach Justin Fuente is set to replace Frank Beamer at Virginia Tech, according to multiple reports Saturday.

    • Fuente and Virginia Tech athletic director White Babcock refused to confirm the rumors after Memphis' 63-0 victory over SMU on Saturday.

      "Those are premature," Fuente said. "There is a time for that and it's not right now."

      Babcock said the hiring is "not official at this time."

      Beamer announced earlier this month that he will retire at the end of his 29th season at Virginia Tech. He is the longest tentured coach at one school in the nation.

      ESPN reported that longtime Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster and associate head coach Shane Beamer will stay at Virginia Tech to serve on Fuente's staff.

      An official announcement on Fuente's hiring is expected within the next few days.

      Virginia Tech (6-6) closed out the regular season with a 23-20 victory over rival Virginia on Saturday and is eligible to play in its 23rd consecutive bowl game.

      The 39-year-old Fuente has revived Memphis' program. The Tigers are 9-3 this year after finishing 10-3 a year ago and playing in a bowl for the first time in six years. He has a 26-23 record in four seasons at Memphis.

  • Saturday, November 28, 2015
    College football notebook: Rumors swirling around LSU's Miles
    By The Sports Xchange

    LSU head coach Les Miles faces uncertainty about his future as he prepares his Tigers for the regular-season finale against Texas A&M on Saturday night.

    • LSU Board of Supervisors member Stanley Jacobs released a statement Saturday concerning the fate of Miles with speculation this game could be his last after 11 years in Baton Rouge.

      "There has been much speculation that Les Miles is coaching his last game tonight," Jacobs, who is the vice-chairman of the athletic committee on the board and a member since 1997, said in a statement to Gannett Louisiana. "For that to happen, there would have had to have been a recommendation to the Board of Supervisors. No recommendation has been made. He is our coach, and I wish him well."

      LSU athletic director Joe Alleva told Miles this week that nothing had been decided and to focus on the Texas A&M game, a source told ESPN's Chris Low on Saturday. Alleva told Miles to go beat Texas A&M and give the LSU decision-makers "some ammo." the source said.

      A source told ESPN's Joe Schad on Friday that LSU leadership is "heavily in favor" of a change but that a final decision has not been made and that Miles has not been formally informed he will not return.

      Another ESPN source said Miles is "very likely" to be let go soon and that Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher is still LSU's primary target to replace him. But according to the ESPN source, there is still "a chance" Miles could return next season, especially if Fisher decides to stay in Tallahassee. Fisher is expected to make a decision about his future in the next couple of days, the source said.

      There were conflicting reports of Miles' luncheon meeting with the LSU Gridiron Club on Friday.

      One booster source told the New Orleans Times-Picayune that Miles indicated Saturday's game would be his last. According to the report, Miles said he would not be coaching the bowl game and did not stay to answer questions.

      However, Miles appeared on the SEC Network later Friday and denied making any suggestion to the Gridiron Club that Saturday would be his last game as coach of the Tigers.

      "I had no suggestion that this was going to be my last game in Tiger Stadium," said Miles, speaking of the booster meeting.

      ---Illinois gave interim coach Bill Cubit a two-year contract extension.

      Cubit's deal runs through 2017 and pays him $1.2 million per year. He replaced Tim Beckman, who was fired in August.

      As interim coach, Cubit has led the Fighting Illini to a 5-6 record this season heading into Saturday's game against No. 16 Northwestern.

      Illinois also has an interim athletics director with Paul Kowalczyk and interim chancellor with Barbara Wilson.

      ---Cal will open the 2016 season on Aug. 27 against Hawaii in Sydney, Australia.

      The game will be played at ANZ Stadium, which was built for the 2000 Sydney Olympics. The stadium can hold 83,000. It will be called the Sydney Cup.

      The game replaces Cal's previously scheduled Sept. 3 game against South Dakota, an FCS school.