UCLA v USC

USC gets their own Luck: Barkley to return for another year

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In early January of this year, Andrew Luck surprised some observers by announcing that he was eschewing a shot at a certain spot inside the Top Five of the NFL draft and returning to Stanford.

Nearly a year later, another Pac-12 school has officially become the beneficiary of an even more surprising decision by the leader of its offense.

With an ornate Christmas tree setting the seasonally-themed scene: Matt Barkley announced at an on-campus press conference Thursday afternoon the one gift Trojan fans have been wishing for over the past few months: the quarterback will be returning to USC for one more season.  Barkley told his coaches and teammates of the news of his decision earlier in the day, a decision that was made after extensive conversations with his family, school officials and other advisers from the professional level.

“I know in my heart that I have not yet finished my journey as a Trojan football player,” the junior said. “Our USC football team has been through some tough times and we have persevered.  But the 2012 team has some serious unfinished business to attend to, and I intend to play a part of it.

“So, yes, I have firmly decided to forego the NFL draft in 2012 and finish this exceptional and unique journey that I’ve had here at USC.”

Based on the early draft projections, Barkley was a near-lock to be one of the first 10 players selected in the April NFL draft and, pending the pre-draft workouts, perhaps even a top-five selection.  Instead, he’s returning to solidify his legacy as one of the greatest Trojans in the football program’s storied history.

With the decision, Barkley immediately becomes one of the front-runners for the 2012 Heisman Trophy — perhaps the front-runner pending the NFL decisions of 2011 winner Robert Griffin III and this year’s other finalists, all of whom are draft-eligible — thanks to a 2011 season that saw him pass for more than 3,500 yards, 39 touchdowns and just seven picks.

More importantly is what Barkley’s decision means for the Trojans as a team.  Add Barkley’s return with the fact that 16 other starters from a 10-2 squad are expected to return as well, and it will likely equal the Trojans starting the 2012 season deep inside the Top Ten of the major preseason polls.

And, with the school finally eligible following a two-year bowl ban, a run at a Pac-12 championship and berth in a BcS bowl are certainly not out of the question and should probably be expected.  In fact, and even with the final chapter of the 2011 season not yet written, the Trojans would have to be considered one of a handful of legitimate national title contenders eight months or so out from the start of next season.

Thanks to Barkley’s unexpected decision, such talk is far from premature, regardless how far the start of the 2012 season is off in the distance.

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Police give ‘all-clear’ after threat was made against Beaver Stadium

STATE COLLEGE, PA - SEPTEMBER 17:  Joe Paterno is seen on the scoreboard during a time out against the Temple Owls during the game on September 17, 2016 at Beaver Stadium in State College, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
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Apparently someone didn’t want the Minnesota-Penn State game to go on.  Or has waaay too much time on their hands.  Or both.

Penn State Police confirmed Saturday that the department had “received information about a potential threat made against Beaver Stadium” prior to today’s game.  According to a release, “[p]olice have conducted several exhaustive searches of the facility and surrounding areas, and have found no evidence of a potential risk.”

The game, scheduled for a 3:30 EI kickoff, has been given the “all-clear” and will be played as expected with no delays.

“Out of an abundance of caution we are notifying fans and the public of the threat that was received, so that they can make their own choices about personal safety and their attendance at today’s game,” said David Gray, senior vice president for Finance and Business, in a statement. “Our first obligation is to the safety of the public and, while police and safety officials have given an all-clear for today’s game, we wanted to ensure that visitors were aware of this decision.”

The release added that, “[a]s is typical for home football games, increased security measures are in place and police are on heightened alert.”

T. Boone Pickens issues statement to ‘clear air’ on comments regarding Mike Gundy

STILLWATER, OK - SEPTEMBER 17 :  The scoreboard near the end of the game September 17, 2016 at Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater, Oklahoma. Oklahoma State defeated Pitt 45-38. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
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The relationship — or lack thereof — between Oklahoma State’s biggest financial booster and its head football coach is once again in the news.

Earlier this week, billionaire T. Boone Pickens offered an “update” on his rocky relationship with Mike Gundy, saying he doesn’t “have any conversations” with the head coach.  The business magnate also decided to take a shot at Gundy’ personality.

“I don’t know, but Mike doesn’t handle people relationships very well. And he gets mad about things,” Pickens said Tuesday. “I’ve heard he’s written some notes about me that weren’t very complimentary.”

The comments made news and remained in the headlines for the rest of the week, enough so that Pickens decided he needed to issue a statement on game day to “clear [the] air” on the situation.  In the statement, Pickens describes himself as “88 years old… [with] competitive spirits [that] have not diminished.” Pickens, who reminded everyone again that he recommended Gundy for the job, further clarified the current status of his relationship with the coach, stating that “I have not placed a call to Mike Gundy in years.”

“It’s his program to run, not mine,” wrote the man whose name adorns the Cowboys’ football home.

Pickens went on to say that he does “not intend to talk about our relationship publicly going forward.”  Why Pickens decided to make his “final” statement on the day of a huge Big 12 matchup with Texas — less than two hours before kickoff at that — is a question that many OSU fans — and school officials — will be asking themselves for quite a while.

Leonard Fournette reportedly ‘very doubtful’ for LSU vs. Mizzou

GREEN BAY, WI - SEPTEMBER 3:  Leonard Fournette #7 of the LSU Tigers runs with the ball in the third quarter against the Wisconsin Badgers at Lambeau Field on September 3, 2016 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
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Earlier this week, interim LSU head coach Ed Orgeron labeled Leonard Fournette as a “game-day decision.”  With game day upon us, the decision doesn’t appear to be a positive one for the Tigers.

While there’s been no official word from the football program, Brett McMurphy of ESPN.com is reporting that the star running back is “very doubtful”for today’s game against Missouri because of a lingering ankle issue.

The All-American initially injured the ankle during a mid-August summer camp practice; then aggravated it against Wisconsin in the opener; sat out the Week 2 game against an FCS foe; and then aggravated it again in Week 4 against Auburn.

After leading the country in yards per game last season with nearly 163 yards per game, Fournette is currently 10th at 128.7. That total still tops the SEC.

With Fournette sidelined, the running-game burden will likely fall on the legs of Derrius Guice.  The sophomore is currently second behind Fournette with 239 yards, and leads the team with an 8.2 yards per carry average on his 29 attempts.

Checking in on the nation’s longest winning & losing streaks

Alabama's head coach Saban instructs his players as they take on the LSU Tigers during their NCAA football game in Baton Rouge
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Unbelievably, at the end of today, we’ll be more than one-third of the way through the 2016 regular season as the calendar flips from September to October. And, not surprisingly, some teams are faring better than others — and some, suffice to say, are not.

In “water’s wet, sky’s blue” news, defending national champions and undefeated top-ranked Alabama holds the nation’s longest winning streak at 16 in a row. ‘Bama’s last loss came Sept. 19 a year ago against Ole Miss. In fact, the Tide hasn’t really come close to seeing that streak end since as just two of their last 16 games have been decided by 10-plus points, with the lone exceptions being a 19-14 win over Tennessee in October of last year and 43-37 over Ole Miss just two weeks ago.

What might surprise you, though, is the second-longest streak behind ‘Bama. The holder of that honor? San Diego State, which has peeled off 13 wins in a row entering Week 5. Tennessee is the only other team in double digits, with 10 wins in a row dating back to last season.  The Vols’ last loss?  To the Tide, of course, a defeat that UT will get to avenge two weeks from today in the friendly confines of Neyland Stadium.

A total of nine teams will also take the field Saturday with a winning streak of at least five in a row:

7 — Houston, Washington
6 — Louisville, Utah, Western Michigan, Wisconsin
5 — Boise State, Navy, Ohio State

Clemson could join some combination of the above at that five-game winning-streak plateau Saturday, but to get there they’ll have to beat… Louisville.

On the other side of the won-loss ledger, the “proud” owner of the nation’s longest losing streak entering the 2016 season was Kansas* at 15 straight, followed by UCF (13), Charlotte (10), Eastern Michigan (10), Oregon State (nine) and Boston College (eight).

All six of those teams have seen those losing streaks come to a merciful end, with EMU actually off to a 3-1 start to the year. The team that was just behind BC, Wake Forest, carried a six-game losing streak into 2016 before surprisingly (stunningly?) winning their first four games of the season.

So, with all of that winning from last year’s biggest losers, who’s the current “top” loser? That title now belongs to the Northern Illinois Huskies, the winners of the last six MAC West championships — and three of the last six conference titles — who have started this season with four straight losses to stretch their ignominious streak to a nation’s best/worst seven in a row. Just three other teams have a streak that began during the 2015 season: Florida International, which has lost six in a row and already fired their head coach; Arkansas State, which lost its first four of this season to push its streak to five in a row; and Georgia State, 0-3 on the season to add to a loss in the 2015 Cure Bowl for a four-game losing streak.

Two additional teams are winless on the season after winning their last game of 2015: Miami of Ohio and Rice, which are each 0-4 in 2016.

(*While Kansas’ overall losing streak came to an end, they’ve still lost 17 in a row against FBS opponents, with the last one of those coming in early November of 2015 against Iowa State.)