Oklahoma State v Iowa State

Title game rematch coming closer to fruition after OK State loss

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(Next morning writer’s note: I somehow managed to write an entire post-game blog without mentioning the tragic losses of Oklahoma State women’s basketball coach Kurt Budke and assistant Miranda Serna, who died Thursday in a plane crash near Little Rock while on a recruiting trip. That’s completely unacceptable. Our most heartfelt thoughts and prayers go to the family and friends of Budke and Serna, as well as the entire Oklahoma State community, who certainly wishes their biggest problem right now was a football game.)

Well, at least we know who won’t be playing for the national title in a couple months.

Oklahoma State’s stunning 37-31 double overtime loss to Iowa State with just weeks left in the regular season has opened the door even more for a potential rematch between LSU and either Alabama or Oregon. Sitting pretty at No. 2, all the Cowboys had to do was win tonight and two weeks from now against Oklahoma in the Bedlam game; how they win wouldn’t mean a thing.

Exhibit A: even if OSU had pulled out a victory tonight, it wouldn’t have been aesthetically pleasing. Heisman candidate Brandon Weeden threw for nearly 500 yards, but had three interceptions (one of which — his third — wasn’t entirely his fault) and was erratic all night. OSU had five turnovers in all. The Cowboys couldn’t stop the run and were flagged 10 times for 87 yards.

Kicker Quinn Sharp was anything but, missing a crucial field goal over the top of the right goal post with just over one minute left in regulation.

None of that would have mattered had Oklahoma State won.

Tim Tebow can relate. This late in the season? Just win, man.

All of that being said, a ton of credit needs to be given to Paul Rhoads, who continues to crank out upset wins year after year in Ames. There just aren’t many coaches who get more out of their players than Rhoads.

And no teams got more out of tonight’s game than No. 3 Bama and No. 4 Oregon. It’s not quite “BCS chaos OMG!”, but a national title rematch is becoming a much more serious option. First, you have to assume — and that might be dangerous given tonight’s shenanigans — that No. 1 LSU will win the rest of their games. Do that and the Tigers are in without a second thought.

Next, Oklahoma State’s loss could be Oklahoma’s as well. The No. 5 Sooners still hold the honor of this season’s “WTF” award — a 41-38 defeat at the hands of Texas Tech at home — a loss of truly perplexing proportions. Even beating Oklahoma State in two weeks might not be enough to launch OU back into the title picture without some help from either Bama, Oregon or Arkansas.

But here’s what the Sooners do have going for them:

1. The BCS computers heart Oklahoma State. Win Bedlam and maybe… maybe… OU has a shot. Again, this may not be enough by itself.

2. The human element. Will voters give OU a boost if the thought of a rematch becomes too nauseating?

3. Cheerleading, upstaging and maybe a little black JuJu. OU has to become Arkansas’ biggest fans. If the Hogs can beat LSU in two weeks, then we can officially uncork the “BCS chaos” bubbly. With no undefeated teams left in the national title picture, OU has one thing Oregon — dangerously assuming again that the Ducks go undefeated from here on out — does not: a Saturday game during the first weekend in December. The Pac-12 championship game is Friday, Dec. 2; Bedlam is Dec. 3. There’s a chance, no matter how small, that the Sooners could be a little fresher in the minds of voters if they have a strong showing.

But perhaps we’re getting ahead of ourselves. If nothing else goes banana nuts in the next few weeks, the rematch scenario remains viable. In that case, which criteria do you use? A conference champion (Oregon), or margin of defeat (Alabama)?

Good thing every week matters, right?

Ohio State Buckeye first to make some Super Bowl history

Ohio State tight end Jeff Heuerman celebrates his two-point conversion late in the fourth quarter of an NCAA college football game against Purdue, Saturday, Oct. 20, 2012, in Columbus, Ohio. Ohio State 29-22 in overtime. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)
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The Denver Broncos won the Super Bowl on Sunday, which means tight end Jeff Heuerman is now the answer to a fun little trivia question for years to come. Heuerman became the first football player to win both a College Football Playoff national championship and a Super Bowl.

Heuerman was a senior tight end for Ohio State in the 2014 season, catching 207 yards and two touchdowns for the Buckeyes, who captured the first College Football Playoff national championship under the new postseason championship structure. He went on to be a third-round draft pick of the Broncos in the 2015 NFL Draft, but he tore his ACL in Denver’s rookie camp in May 2015. He was subsequently ruled out for the entire 2015 season, so his place in history comes with a tiny caveat. But he still will get a Super Bowl ring to go with his national championship ring from a year ago.

The search will go on now for the first player to both play in and win a College Football Playoff national championship and a Super Bowl. Former Auburn quarterback Cam Newton was unable to make his own history with a Super Bowl win, but he may get another crack at that again before his career is done.

Helmet sticker to Reddit.

Ex-Houston coach Tony Levine reportedly finds new home at WKU

PROVO, UT - SEPTEMBER 11:  Head coach Tony Levine of the Houston Cougars during a game against the BYU Cougars on September 11, 2014 at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo, Utah. (Photo by Jay Drowns/Getty Images)
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Former Houston coach Tony Levine — the guy who was fired after winning 21 games in three years and replaced by Tom Herman — will join Western Kentucky’s staff as an offensive assistant, according to Fox Sports’ Bruce Feldman.

Levine was fired in December 2014 after coaching Houston to a 7-5 season, but the general feeling around the program appeared to be that he wasn’t keeping it on the same upward trajectory forged by Art Briles and Kevin Sumlin before him. There was some staff instability — he fired offensive coordinator Mike Nesbitt two days into the 2012 season — as well as a few embarrassing losses for a program trying to assure its foothold in the ultra-competitive football state of Texas.

At Western Kentucky, Levine will work under third-year-coach-to-be Jeff Brohm, who just steered the Hilltoppers to a 12-2 season. Not only has Western Kentucky made back-to-back bowl games for the first time in program history under Brohm, they’ve won both of them. While Levine’s tenure at Houston ended abruptly, he still took the Cougars to two bowl games and should be a nice addition to a coaching staff that has to deal with plenty of personnel turnover from last season.

Gone is 5,000-yard quarterback Brandon Doughty, as well as the team’s third-, fourth- and fifth-leading pass-catchers in receiver Jared Dangerfield (82 REC, 844 yards, 8 TDs), receiver Antwane Grant (55 REC, 701 yards, 7 TDs) and tight end Tyler Higbee (38 REC, 563 yards, 8 TDs).

Pat Narduzzi believes Pitt RB James Conner will play in 2016

In this photo taken Nov. 21, 2015, Pittsburgh head coach Pat Narduzzi, right, applauds a touchdown by his team next to James Conner in the first quarter of an NCAA college football game against Louisville in Pittsburgh. Conner spent the last three months weighing whether to return next fall or head to the NFL after a torn knee ligament ended his junior season before it really began. (Matt Freed/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette via AP) MAGAZINES OUT; NO SALES; MONESSEN OUT; KITTANNING OUT; CONNELLSVILLE OUT; GREENSBURG OUT; TARENTUM OUT; NORTH HILLS NEWS RECORD OUT; BUTLER OUT; MANDATORY CREDIT
Matt Freed/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette via AP
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The college football world was stunned when Pittsburgh running back James Conner, who missed the bulk of the 2015 season due to a knee injury, announced he is battling cancer. Despite his ongoing bout with Stage 2 Hodgkin’s lymphoma in his neck and chest, Conner is said to be in great physical shape and looks he could even be ready to play for the Panthers this fall once he beats cancer.

“I saw him yesterday in the hallway and he’s been working out with our kids to keep his sanity and he’s having fun doing it,” Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi said recently to ESPN.com reporter James Shanker. “That’s the key is he’s having fun beating cancer and he’s got a great attitude and he looks good right now. He’s doing well and looks well. Doesn’t look like he lost weight. Looks like he could still play. He doesn’t look like he has cancer.”

Conner declared his intention to play football again when he announced his cancer to the world last December.

“I will play football again,” Conner said in early December. “I will be at Heinz Field again. I have the best coaches and teammates in the country. I thank God I chose Pitt because now I also have the best doctors in the country and together we will win. I know this city has my back.”

The former ACC Player of the Year is receiving financial support from Pitt to handle the costs of the treatments, which is allowed by the NCAA for special circumstances. This is certainly a special circumstance. Per NCAA rules, Conner and his family are required to have personal insurance but schools may pick up the tab for remaining costs not covered by the student’s insurance coverage. Pitt is able to lend its support because cancer is affecting Conner’s ability to play football.

The college football world will continue to root for Conner as he works his way back to the football field.

Cost of attendance not having negative recruiting impact on Group of Five (yet)

Houston quarterback Greg Ward Jr. (1) runs for a first down against Temple during the second half of the American Athletic Conference championship football game, Saturday, Dec. 5, 2015, in Houston. Houston won 24-13. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
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The outlook on the impact cost of attendance has on non-power conference institutions may not be known for another year or so, but after one recruiting cycle since the power conferences were granted autonomy powers, cost of attendance stipends have not been seen to be a major difference in the game as one might have thought originally.

Underdog Dynasty took a look at the issue and how Group of Five schools have fared. The initial findings suggest Group of Five programs are not struggling nearly as much as once suspected when it comes to cost of attendance stipends, although it is something that not every program has jumped into providing just yet. And yes, the topic of stipends does pop up on the recruiting trail, which suggests the Group of Five programs that can provide a little extra money as part of a player’s enrollment do figure to have some sort of advantage. However, stipends do not appear to be a game changer on a massive enough scale.

From Underdog Dynasty;

Another fear from last season was that smaller athletic departments couldn’t afford it. Those may have been overblown as well. My Google search turned up news of South Dakota State phasing in COA stipends for all student-athletes, something North Dakota and North Dakota State already have done.

All three are FCS schools. If they can afford the stipends, albeit funding 63 football scholarships rather than 85, G5 schools should as well. Even the Sun Belt distributes more than $1 million per school in College Football Playoff payouts.

Houston, of the American Athletic Conference, just landed a recruiting class that would make a good number of power conference programs jealous, although the Cougars were the only Group of Five program to finish ranked in the top 50 in the final team rankings compiled by Rivals (BYU finished No. 48). Boise State, UCF and Temple fell in the upper half of the FBS mix as well.

Just as one year of the College Football Playoff system did not provide enough empirical evidence to suggest the Big 12 should expand to 12 just to get a conference championship game, one year of cost of attendance stipends is not nearly enough to suggest it has a devastating or minimal impact on the recruiting game in college football. This is just something that will have to be watched for a few more years in order to gather more evidence to evaluate.