Boise State having second thoughts on Big East move?

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The rumors and speculation and whispers have been there for months, that Boise State, and San Diego State as well, was reconsidering its planned move from the Mountain West to the Big East.

Finally, there’s some definitive fire to go along with the smoke.

BSU is scheduled to join the Big East on July 1 of this year, but has yet to officially notify its current conference, the Mountain West, of its intent to withdraw, CBSSports.com‘s Brett McMurphy reported Friday morning.  Additionally, McMurphy writes, “Mountain West representatives met with Boise State officials earlier this week to persuade the Broncos to remain in the MWC.”

The university has until June 30 to officially notify the MWC of its intent to leave.  A contract BSU has already signed with the Big East states that the school would owe a $5 million exit fee if it “leaves” the Big East before July 1, a $10 million exit fee if it left on or after that date.

It’s believed that at least part of the MWC’s recent discussions with Boise entailed how the conference could help pay the $5 million exit fee.

It appears there are at least three reasons why Boise State is having second thoughts about a move to the Big East.

  • The biggest reason for that, one could argue, is the demise of the WAC.  With Boise’s football program moving to the Big East, all of the university’s non-football sports would be moving from the MWC to the WAC.  If the WAC ceases to exist — that’s a very real possibility — BSU would need to find another conference home for its other sports.  The MWC has already stated that it will not allow Boise to move its football program to the Big East while keeping its other sports in its current home.
  • With talk of eliminating automatic qualifying bids for the six “power conferences” as part of a revamped postseason in major college football, a major impetus for Boise State’s move to the Big East will suddenly be taken away.  The Broncos’ desire to take its football program out of the MWC and into the Big East was based on two reasons and two reasons only: to become a part of an AQ conference and pull in more money as a result.  Speaking of which…
  • The Big East last year reportedly turned down a television deal that would’ve paid all-sports conference members more than $14 million annually — just over $8 million annually for BSU and SDSU as football-only members — with the thought being the league could get even more in the future if it waited.  That was a big factor for Boise, which made in the neighborhood of $3 million annually off the MWC’s deal.  Now, however, it appears as though the Big East may have erred in turning down the original offer as McMurphy writes “the Big East’s new media rights will be worth substantially less than [the] $155 million per year” they could’ve gotten last year.  Less money, therefore, equals less incentive for Boise State to move to a conference two time zones away.

Add up all of the above, and mix in some lesser mitigating factors, and one could make a very compelling case for Boise to stay right where it is, which appears to be exactly what the MWC is attempting to do.  And, it seems, that’s an option to which Boise is more than willing to listen.

The loss of the Broncos would be a significant blow to the Big East.  With the departures of West Virginia (Big 12) and Pittsburgh and Syracuse (ACC) in 2013/14, the Broncos were being counted on to become the flagship program on the football side of the conference.  Losing BSU would very likely have a ripple effect on the Big East that would be extremely detrimental to the future of the conference, football-wise.

Most certainly San Diego State would pull out, as could Louisville.  Prior to McMurphy’s report, there was another from ESPN.com that stated the Cardinals, as has been the case for a handful of months, have made it perfectly clear to the Big East that the school wants to be in either the Big 12 or the ACC.  UConn as well continues to maintain that it wants to be a part of the ACC, although those feelings thus far have not been reciprocated.

Should Boise State opt to bail on the Big East and remain in the MWC, and the expected trickle-down effect takes place, the Big East could very well be left with Cincinnati, Rutgers, UConn and USF as current members, and Houston, Memphis, SMU and UCF as members beginning in 2013.  And that’s provided the ACC doesn’t do an about-face on UConn.

In other words, it would be left with a league that’s nothing more than the Big Conference USA East.  Good luck getting major television dollars off that football grouping.

No. 13 Notre Dame rolling early to take big halftime lead over turnover-prone USC

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There are bad starts, and there are starts like what No. 11 USC had in the first half of their rivalry game against No. 13 Notre Dame.

Fumble on the first drive? Check. Shank a short field goal? Yep. Muff a punt? Indeed. Throw an interception. Thumbs up.

As a result, the Irish fed off an electric atmosphere in South Bend to jump out to a hot start against their intersectional rival and went to the locker room up 28-0 at halftime in a game that seems over given the way the two sides are playing at the moment.

Proving that a few weeks off were indeed plenty to get back to 100 percent, quarterback Brandon Wimbush looked sharp in taking advantage of all those USC miscues. He finished the half with two touchdown passes (one to Kevin Stepherson, the other to Equanimeous St. Brown) and ran for 76 yards and another score despite that balky foot injury that kept him out for several weeks.

Running back Josh Adams didn’t get a ton of work given all the quick end zone trips (just 14 carries), but also gave a boost to his low-key Heisman campaign by running for 68 yards and a touchdown.

As many positives as you could come up with for Notre Dame in the half, you could just about double it and come up with the number of negatives for USC. Sam Darnold had one of his worst halves in cardinal and gold, fumbling on the opening drive and throwing an interception late in the second quarter. He wound up with 107 yards as the only source of offense for the Trojans after Ronald Jones was bottled up to the tune of just five yards on seven carries.

USC has authored several second half comebacks already this year but, based on the way they played so far in Notre Dame Stadium, they’re going to need a comeback just to avoid getting blown out. The flip side is another strong showing like that and all the College Football Playoff talk surrounding the Irish will start to become very, very real come Sunday.

Penn State starts fast, but Michigan hanging around

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On a white out night in State College, Penn State threatened to blowout Michigan early, but the Wolverines battled back to a 21-13 deficit at the break.

Penn State offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead pulled out a wrinkle on the Nittany Lions’ second play from scrimmage, and it worked to perfection. Quarterback Trace McSorley and running back Saquon Barkley shifted pre-snap, and Barkley took the direct snap and raced 69 yards untouched for a touchdown.

After forcing a three-and-out, Penn State moved 78 yards in four plays, keyed by a 35-yard rainbow heave from McSorley to tight end Mike Gesicki. Barkley scored his second touchdown of the first quarter one play later, a 15-yard burst around the right side. 

But Penn State’s offense stalled from there. The Lions’ next possession ended in a McSorley interception, and the possession after that was a three-and-out that lost nine yards. Penn State penetrated Michigan territory midway through the second quarter, but Barkley dropped a wheel route that would’ve put the Lions inside the red zone. Penn State turned the ball over on downs two plays later.

Meanwhile, Michigan turned McSorley’s interception into an 11-play, 59-yard touchdown drive capped by a 1-yard Karan Higdon run on fourth-and-goal. Quinn Nordin missed the ensuing PAT.

After the turnover on downs, Michigan marched 67 yards on a series of John O’Korn plays — a 14-yard rush, an 18-yard strike to Donovan Peoples-Jones, and 23 yards to Kekoa CrawfordTy Isaac powered in from six yards out to pull the Wolverines within one with 1:45 to play before the half. 

Threatened for the first time of the evening, Penn State ended its streak of three straight unsuccessful drives with a 7-play, 75-yard march that consumed only 52 seconds. McSorley accounted for 68 yards on the drive, including a 3-yard rush to put the home team back up eight.

O’Korn closed the half hitting 7-of-9 passes for 63 yards, while a host of Wolverines runners combined to rush 22 times for 78 yards.

McSorley hit 10-of-18 passes for 159 yards with an interception with five carries for 26 yards and a score. Barkley rushed 11 times for 109 yards and two scores, while DaeSean Hamilton caught three passes for 69 yards.

Michigan will receive to open the second half.

Tennessee’s Rashaan Gaulden apologizes for flipping off Alabama fans

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It would take someone in need of Mr. Magoo-level corrective lenses to not see this one coming.

As you no doubt know by now, Alabama took Tennessee to the woodshed Saturday afternoon in Tuscaloosa.  The Vols did save a slight sliver of their collective manhood as they scored a touchdown for the first time since the second quarter of the Sept. 23 win over previously winless UMass, a span that stretched nearly 13 full quarters of playing time.

In the aftermath of that defensive touchdown, however, defensive back Rashaan Gaulden decided to offer up a double-digit, middle-finger salute to the Crimson Tide student section that resulted in a 15-yard penalty.  In the aftermath of that gesture, Gaulden offered up an apology.

“I would like to issue an apology to the University of Tennessee and the University of Alabama for my gesture after the pick-six by (Daniel) Bituli,” Gaulden said. “That remark that I showed was very out of character. That’s not how my parents raised me. That’s not how a leader of the team should show their emotions on the field.

“I really, sincerely apologize to the student section at Alabama for disrespecting them.”

Beleaguered head coach Butch Jones, who is likely out at some point after the end of the regular season if not sooner, certainly didn’t need something like this shedding even more negative light on his flailing football program.  Jones stated that any punishment meted out to Gaulden will be handled internally.

“That’s something that will be dealt with internally in our football program, but that’s not who we are, that’s not what we’re about,” Jones said. “But, he knew that. We spoke about it, and he feels awful about it. It’s one of those things of overall just being a mature football team. But, again, that’s something that we don’t accept in this program and he understands that.”

Since we here, we’ll go ahead and offer this up as the current state of the once-proud UT football program.

Late heroics save No. 9 Oklahoma on the road at Kansas State after wild second half

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Just before the end of the first half, everybody was wondering if Baker Mayfield was 100 percent healthy. Just before the end of the second half, it became pretty clear he was doing just fine. The Sooners’ star quarterback was dazzling once again to power a last minute comeback on the road, leading No. 9 Oklahoma to a 42-35 win against a pesky Kansas State squad that was looking to pull an upset before some late heroics on the final drive.

The signal-caller appeared to get injured during a scramble late in the second quarter and was taken out in the red zone on the ensuing possession, used only as a decoy on a few wildcat snaps. As it turned out, that seemed to be a coaching strategy as OU rotated in backup Kyler Murray several times on ensuing possessions. Mayfield eventually wound up with an efficient 32-of-41 for 410 yards and two touchdowns passing while rushing for two scores and 69 yards as well.

Most importantly, he also got the win after perfectly executing a two minute drive that led to tailback Rodney Anderson (147 yards, two scores) hitting the corner for the game-winning touchdown.

That was all despite the best efforts of his counterpart Alex Delton, who was making just his second start behind center for the Wildcats. While he was solid as a passer (144 yards, one TD, one interception), the dual-threat was incredible on the ground and ran for 161 yards and three touchdowns. That led to quite the combination in the backfield as Alex Barnes managed 108 yards — 75 of which came on a touchdown run on the second snap of the game.

The close victory on the road keeps Oklahoma in the College Football Playoff race, even if the effort was less than impressive given the early struggles. The meeting between the youngest and oldest coaches in FBS proved to be quite the thriller in the end too, as Lincoln Riley claimed the ‘W’ over the Wizard himself Bill Snyder in what will surely be a memorable game for both sides.