Oklahoma v Kansas State

Ronnell Lewis heeds coach’s advice, heads to NFL


After confirming that Ronnell Lewis would be academically ineligible for Oklahoma’s bowl game, head coach Bob Stoops was quoted as saying it might be in Lewis’ “best interest to go on to the NFL.”

Consider the sage advice heeded, Coach Stoops.

In a pair of statements, the defensive end and his now-former head coach acknowledged Lewis’ decision to best serve his football interests and enter the April NFL draft.

“After meeting with my family and coaches and gathering input from various resources, including the NFL, I’ve carefully weighed my options and have decided to forego my senior year at OU and enter the 2012 NFL Draft,” Lewis’ statement read. “My time at OU has produced many fond memories and I hope to keep close ties with my friends, teammates, coaches, football staff and everyone at OU who has helped me along the way.

“I’d like to personally thank the University of Oklahoma and Coach Stoops for giving me the opportunity to be a Sooner and play on Saturdays in front of the best fans in the country.  Without the support of my coaches, my family and so many others, I wouldn’t be where I am today.  I’ll definitely miss my time in Norman, but I’m looking forward to what the future holds.  Boomer Sooner!”

“Ronnell leaves with our best wishes,” Stoops said. “He managed several challenges while playing here, but always worked hard and gave us his very best effort.  He has the skill to be a successful NFL player and we feel he’ll do well there.  As with any of our players who reach for the top level, he won’t have any bigger fans than those of us at OU.”

Lewis started 14 of the 30 games in which he played the past three years with the Sooners, and was credited with 10 sacks and 20.5 tackles for loss.  The coaches named Lewis to the first-team All-Big 12 team following the 2011 season.

Lamar Jackson and Louisville dismantling NC State, 44-0 at halftime

LOUISVILLE, KY - SEPTEMBER 17:  Lamar Jackson #8 of the Louisville Cardinals  runs for a touchdown against the Florida State Seminoles  at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium on September 17, 2016 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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Louisville had a sluggish game last week against Duke, but the Cardinals are looking sharp this afternoon against North Carolina State, a week after the Wolfpack let an upset bid slip away at Clemson. Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson has passed for 304 yards, rushed for 49 yards and scored three touchdowns in the first half as Louisville leads NC State 44-0 after one half.

This has been a mismatch from the start, with Louisville having more than a 300-yard advantage in total yards in the first half (390-52). The Wolfpack only managed two first downs in the half and turned the ball over three times as well. NC State quarterback Ryan Finley has been picked off twice. Jalan McClendon came in to replace Finley late in the first half, but McClendon’s first pass attempt was intercepted by Stacy Thomas, setting the Cardinals up at the 10-yard line. Jackson would add his third touchdown pass of the half moments later (after a holding penalty called off a Jackson touchdown run).

The way this is going, we may not see too much more of Jackson in the second half. With any luck, we’ll get a running clock in his place.

Kansas State dominating clock and Longhorns after one half

FORT WORTH, TX - OCTOBER 03:  Head coach Charlie Strong of the Texas Longhorns looks on as the Longhorns prepare to take on the TCU Horned Frogs at Amon G. Carter Stadium on October 3, 2015 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
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There is nothing particularly pretty about what Kansas State has done in the first half, which is typical of a team coached by Bill Snyder. Regardless, it has been more than effective enough against a Texas team that once again looks stale and lifeless. A pair of first-half touchdowns have given Kansas State a 21-7 lead at halftime against the Longhorns.

Jesse Ertz took for a 19-yard touchdown play on the opening possession fo the game for the Wildcats. Ertz accounted for both of Kansas State’s touchdowns in the half on the ground, and added a late touchdown pass for a 21-7 lead. Ertz has been given good protection and time to process what is happening on the field, which has led to a good amount of safe and efficient passing plays for Ertz and Kansas State.

Kansas State has also dominated the Longhorns in time of possession. The Wildcats have had just one possession lasting at least five minutes in the first half, not including the last offensive possession of the first half. On defense, the Wildcats are not allowing Texas to move the ball much, which has led to a small time of possession. That appeared to be playing right into Kansas State’s advantage until a late first-half possession by Texas resulted in a long touchdown. Shane Buechele uncorked an 80-yard touchdown pass down the right sideline with Devin Duvernay doing the honors with his speed most of the way. Kansas state has held the football for 23 minutes and 18 seconds, with 19 first downs.

Texas must do a better job of getting off the field on defense in the second half and start flipping the time of possession in their favor.

WMU prez talks possibility (probability?) of P.J. Fleck departing

CHAMPAIGN, IL - SEPTEMBER 17: Head coach P.J. Fleck of the Western Michigan Broncos celebrates after the game against the Illinois Fighting Illini at Memorial Stadium on September 17, 2016 in Champaign, Illinois. Western Michigan defeated Illinois 34-10. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
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Western Michigan will have a tough row to hoe — or boat to row, as the case may be — in retaining their outstanding young head coach, a possibility the university’s president has publicly acknowledged.

Outside of Houston’s Tom Herman, P.J. Fleck will likely be the hottest young commodity on the coaching carousel in the coming weeks — and rightly so.  WMU, at 7-0, is off to its best start since 1941, and ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 for the first time in its history.

Fleck will undoubtedly have his share of suitors as the carousel picks up speed over the next month, and has already been mentioned as a possibility at Purdue.  During an interview earlier this week, WMU president John Dunn was seemingly resigned to losing the 35-year-old head coach to someone at some point in the not-too-distant future.

“Whatever ultimately happens we wish him (the best) as well as we’ll recover and move on,”  Dunn, who is set to retire in June of 2017, said according to mlive.com. “I think the commitments we’ve made to P.J., I think he appreciates deeply and he’ll be very thoughtful and he’ll be very fair.”

At $800,000 Fleck is already the highest-paid head coach in the MAC.  When speaking of bumping up that pay in an attempt to entice the coach to stay, Dunn responded that he’s “quite confident those conversations have occurred already.” That’s all well and good, but any Power Five program that chases Fleck would be able to triple or even quadruple what the coach is currently making or what he would be making with an enhanced package from WMU.

Dunn, then, is hoping the current situation appeals to Fleck’s non-monetary side.

“The idea that money is important, we never want to negate or argue against that, but there’s also a quality of life and a level of happiness,” said the president.

Nice try, Mr. President.  And prepare your goodbyes accordingly.

Power Five conference races beginning to come into focus

BATON ROUGE, LA - OCTOBER 17:  College Football Playoff National Championship Trophy presented by Dr Pepper is seen at Tiger Stadium on October 17, 2015 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
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As we get set to embark on Week 8 of the 2016 college football season, we’re officially beyond the halfway point and closer to championship weekend than we are to opening weekend. And, with that, the Power Five conference races are starting to come into focus — but are far from finished.

This weekend, though, there are a handful of key matchups that could offer further clarity across the major conferences, although most, if not all, are still weeks away from being decided.

That said, here’s a look at where the Power Five conferences and, in four of the five cases, how their respective divisions stand before the eighth weekend of the regular season kicks off.

At 4-0, Clemson currently controls its own destiny in the division courtesy of the Oct. 1 win over 3-1 Louisville.  The U of L will be desperately rooting for Florida State, at 2-2 with one of those league losses coming at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium in the middle of last month, to knock off Clemson next Saturday as well as the Tigers tripping up in one of their other three remaining conference games (Syracuse, Pitt, at Wake Forest) while also holding serve through the remainder of their slate.  FSU, with league losses to the U of L and North Carolina, will need a minor miracle to get back to the conference championship game.

Technically, 2-2 Wake Forest remains in contention, and still has games against Clemson and Louisville.  Then again, they’re Wake.

In all likelihood, the Coastal will come down to a three-team race: 3-1 North Carolina, 3-1 Virginia Tech and 2-1 Pittsburgh.  Tech has already beaten UNC, and will face Pitt next weekend.  The Tar Heels, meanwhile, own a win over the Panthers to go along with the loss to the Hokies.  Simply put, if Tech wins out (at Pitt, at Duke, Georgia Tech, Virginia), they will claim the division and represent the Coastal against their Atlantic counterparts.

As you know, though, this division very rarely plays to the form it presents halfway through the conference season.

With all due respect to 2-1 Penn State, 3-0 Michigan and 3-0 Ohio State are on a collision course for an epic edition of the greatest rivalry in all of college football that will likely not only impact the division and the conference race but the College Football Playoff as well.  PSU could make me eat my words almost immediately as they play host to OSU in the always-dangerous white-out game later tonight; that said, if the Buckeyes can get past the Nittany Lions, they’ll have to traverse home games against Northwestern and Nebraska as well as road trips to Maryland and an abruptly vulnerable Michigan State before hosting UM.  The Wolverines get to host Illinois, Maryland and Indiana along with visits to rival Michigan State and Iowa before The Game.

Like the ACC Coastal, this division’s winner will very (?) likely come from a trio of teams: 3-0 Nebraska, 3-1 Iowa, 2-1 Northwestern.  The Cornhuskers already have a win over the Wildcats, while the Wildcats beat the Hawkeyes on the road the first weekend of this month.  Nebraska will close out the season against Iowa, while the latter has one sizable advantage over the other two as they avoid Ohio State completely while the others will face the Buckeyes in Weeks 9 (Wildcats) and 10 (Cornhuskers).  Both of those games, incidentally, are in Columbus.

There’s a potential wrench that could be tossed into the race, it should be noted, as 1-2 Wisconsin still has games remaining against all three of the West teams mentioned above.  Sweep those and get a little additional help, and the Badgers could be right back in the discussion by the end of the regular season.

BIG 12
Next season, this conference’s champion will be decided by a league title game.  This season, the standard round-robin format will determine the champion, and, because of that and the way the schedule is constructed, this league is as convoluted as any in the sport.

Three members are undefeated at the moment in Baylor and Oklahoma at 3-0, West Virginia at 2-0.  Two others are 2-1 — Oklahoma State and TCU.  How convoluted is the current state of the Big 12 race?  Just two games have been played between those five teams thus far: Baylor beating Oklahoma State and Oklahoma beating TCU.  A third will be played this weekend as the Horned Frogs will travel to Morgantown to face the Mountaineers in a contest that will allow a little — little — clarity when it comes to the conference race.

This could be the most simplistic of all the P5 divisions: barring something extraordinary taking place, the winner of this division will be decided in the Apple Cup between a 3-0 Washington and a 3-0 Washington State.  Or, at the very least, the winner will play in that rivalry game.  And, of all the developments thus far this season, that may be the most stunning.  To put a finer point on this divisional race, the team currently in third place at 2-2, 2015 Pac-12 champion Stanford, lost to both UW and Wazzu by a combined score of 86-22.

Utah and Colorado are tied atop this division at 3-1, with 3-2 USC still in the same neighborhood.  The Utes own a win over the Trojans, while the Trojans own one over the Buffs.  Utah and USC still have Washington on their schedule, while Colorado, which avoids UW, has to play a Washington State team that won’t face either of the other.  One date to circle on the calendar: Nov. 26, with the Utes traveling to Boulder to square off with the Buffs in the regular season finale.

A lot like the Big 12, this race likely won’t be decided until we get deep into November.

Despite its loss to 2-2 Tennessee, 3-1 Florida controls its own destiny in this division.  Win out, and the Gators will earn their second consecutive berth in the SEC championship game.  Their remaining league schedule?  The annual World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party grudge match with Georgia in Jacksonville, and road trips to No. 17 Arkansas and No. 25 LSU sandwiched around a home game against South Carolina.  UT, though, could easily win out as their lone remaining games consist of South Carolina, Kentucky, Missouri and Vanderbilt.  While the Gators are currently in control, their path to Atlanta is much steeper than that of the Vols despite currently sitting in the driver’s seat — and knowing full well that that come-from-ahead loss to UT is riding shotgun.

This might be the most fun division in all of college football.  Again.  Alabama and Texas A&M both sit at 4-0, while Auburn and LSU are at 2-1.  The really, really fun part?  Only A&M and Auburn have met already this year, a Sept. 17 win for the Aggies on The Plains.  The Tide and Aggies meet in a critical matchup this afternoon, but several more critical contests await the division in the coming weeks.

In other words, grab your popcorn.  This thing is far from decided — a sentiment that’s far from the exclusive property of this division.