No. 20 Houston vs. No. 24 Penn State
Jan. 2, Noon ET, ESPNU
This prediction comes courtesy of Marc Doche (@MDoche) from the ever dependable P101 satellite office in Burbank, Calif.
What the Cougars did on the field in the Conference USA championship game against Southern Miss demonstrated that they are not BCS-worthy.
Now, they find themselves facing an opponent similar to what they would have faced in the Sugar Bowl, a team that’s likely to outclass them in what will be their first game without coach Kevin Sumlin, who was hired by Texas A&M.
With the Nittany Lions (9-3) dropping two of their last three games, dashing hopes of a berth in the Big Ten championship game, distraction and disappointment is a similar theme for both teams.
While Penn State owns a 14-0-1 mark versus C-USA opponents, Houston (12-1) has the benefit of playing down the road in Dallas. But the Cougars’ top-ranked aerial attack led by sixth-year quarterback Case Keenum faces its toughest test of the season against a Nittany Lion defense that ranks fifth in the nation, allowing just 162 yards per game through the air.
Having averaged less than 13 points per game over its final four contests, Penn State’s offense will be hard-pressed to extend the margin against what has primarily been a respectable Cougar defense. However, that doesn’t mean the Cougs can win a rugged battle to improve upon their 4-8 record against the Big Ten.
Opening point spread: Houston by 7
The pick: Penn State 27-21
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The bad news for San Diego State is that its backfield has taken a hit. The good news? They still have Donnell Pumphrey.
On the negative front, head coach Rocky Long indicated that, more than likely, Marcus Stamps will miss the entire 2016 season. The redshirt junior running back recently underwent surgery on his back, the nature of which wasn’t specified by the coach.
“He won’t be back this season, probably,” Long said according to the San Diego Union-Tribune. “He felt something in his back during spring practice. They kept checking him out, then they suggested he get it operated on.”
Stamps played in the first eight games of the 2015 season before a knee injury essentially sidelined him the the remaining three regular season games plus two in the postseason — the Mountain West Championship game and Hawaii Bowl. During the time he was healthy, Stamps ran for 33 yards on 16 carries.
As long as Pumphrey is healthy, though, the Aztecs’ running game should be in fine shape.
Pumphrey’s 1,651 yards rushing were seventh nationally last year. Entering his senior season, Pumphrey needs just 318 yards to surpass Marshall Faulk (4,589 from 1991-93) for the most in school history.
In last year’s opener, Christian Bell suited up for Alabama in their opener against Wisconsin. For this year’s opener, he’ll be on that Big Ten team’s sideline as they take on yet another school from the SEC.
On his Twitter account Thursday, Bell announced that he has decided to transfer into the Wisconsin football program. Over this past weekend, the linebacker announced via the same social media site that he would be transferring from the Tide.
Barring the unexpected, Bell will be forced to sit out the 2016 season and thus won’t be in uniform when UW opens against LSU at Lambeau Field. Then beginning in 2017, though, he would have four seasons of eligibility remaining.
Bell took a “grayshirt” for the 2015 season, ultimately enrolling in classes at UA this past January. The Birmingham, Ala., native participated in spring practice with the Tide this year.
A three-star recruit according to 247Sports.com, Bell was rated as the No. 19 weakside defensive end in the country and the No. 17 player at any position in the state of Alabama.
It appears the brief but up-and-down career of Larry Jefferson in Morgantown has come to an abrupt end.
The former junior college transfer had been suspended from participating in West Virginia’s spring practices for violating unspecified team rules. Now, WV MetroNews is reporting, the defensive lineman was arrested late Tuesday morning and charged with drug possession. “Jefferson was stopped on Clay Street in Morgantown as officers were investigating a brandishing incident at South University Plaza in Morgantown,” the website wrote, and was subsequently found to be carrying small amounts of cocaine and marijuana.
According to the Dominion Post, Jefferson was holding .6 grams of coke and one gram of weed.
While WVU officials have yet to comment publicly on the situation, Jefferson’s name has been removed from the Mountaineers’ online roster. Jefferson had not been reinstated from his spring suspension, but, prior to this incident, he had been expected to be on the field for the start of summer camp early next month and be a part of WVU’s line rotation this season as a pass-rush specialist.
After coming to WVU following two seasons at a Mississippi JUCO, Jefferson played in nine games for the Mountaineers last season.
It appears Alabama’s appeal was a successful one.
Back in April, it was reported that Alabama defensive back Tony Brown had been indefinitely suspended by the NCAA, but that the Tide was appealing what turned out to be a six-game suspension. There was no official word on the reason or reasons behind the suspension at the time, and there still isn’t even as there’s been another development in the situation.
The expectation is that Alabama defensive back Tony Brown’s NCAA suspension is going to be reduced from six games to four, sources told AL.com.
According to the website, Brown’s “suspension stems from something that happened leading up to the Tide’s Cotton Bowl matchup against Michigan State in late December.” If so, it was a very busy month off-the-field for the defensive back.
In December of last year, Brown was sent home from the Cotton Bowl for a violation of team rules. It was subsequently reported that Brown had started a fight with a teammate during the College Football Playoff semifinal and the Tide’s leadership council decided to send him home. That incident, seemingly unrelated to the suspension, also led Brown to miss the win over Clemson in the national championship game.
Brown, a five-star 2014 signee, was arrested in mid-January of last year on charges of failure to obey and resisting arrest, although he managed to escape Nick Saban’s doghouse that time and tie for the team lead in special teams tackles in the 2015 regular season.