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.

Buffalo clinches bowl eligibility with three-game winning streak

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In his third season as Buffalo’s head coach, Lance Leipold is taking the program bowling. And how they got there is commendable. Entering the month of November with a record of 3-6, the Bulls had no margin for error. A three-game winning streak to close out the regular season seemed like a reach, but on Friday afternoon the Bulls put the finishing touches on just such a winning streak.

Buffalo (6-6, 4-4 MAC) rushed out of the gates to a 24-7 lead on Ohio (9-4, 5-3 MAC) on their home field, but the Bulls needed a big play on special teams and defense to close the books on a bowl-clinching 31-24 victory. Tied at 24-24 in the fourth quarter, Ohio was forced to punt from their own seven-yard line. K.J. Osborn returned the punt 39 yards to the Ohio six-yard line. Two plays later, Emmanuel Reed gave the Bulls the lead with a short touchdown run. Then the game was put in the hands of the defense.

Ohio has a masterful drive rolling out, spanning 62 yards over 13 plays and wasting away nearly all of the clock after starting the drive with 8:10 to play. On 4th and 12 at the Buffalo 13-yard line, Nathan Rourke‘s pass was picked off by Khalil Hodge in the endzone with a little more than a minute to play. Ohio could call two timeouts to stop the clock, but the Bulls still managed to pick up a first down to close out the game.

While not to discredit Buffalo for their achievement here, it is worth noting Ohio’s fate in the MAC East Division race was settled earlier this week. The Bobcats were eliminated from clinching the division after Akron wrapped up the division with a win earlier this week. Had Akron lost, Ohio could have clinched the division with a win against Buffalo.

The MAC now has seven teams that have met the six-win minimum to go to a bowl game this season. This is Buffalo’s first bowl season since 2013, but Leipold is no stranger to a college football postseason. Leipold won six Division 3 national championships with Wisconsin-Whitewater from 2007 through 2014, and his D3 powerhouse program only missed the postseason once during that run.

Arkansas blows 21-7 lead as Drew Lock leads Mizzou’s rally for halftime lead

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It was a tale of two quarters between Missouri and Arkansas, with Arkansas rushing out of the gates for a 21-7 lead only to see Missouri battle back to take a 31-28 lead into halftime. Missouri kicker Tucker McCann kicked a 37-yard field goal in the final minute of the half to give Missouri the lead.

Arkansas cashed in on an interception by Missouri quarterback Drew Lock on the game’s opening possession by traveling 70 yards on five plays to take a 7-0 lead with a Devwah Whaley goal line run. Mizzou’s Ish Witter capped a 92-yard drive later in the first quarter to tie the game at 7-7, but the Razorbacks stormed right back with a quick four-play, 75-yard touchdown drive highlighted by Austin Allen‘s 57-yard pass to Jordan Jones for the score. Moments later, a good punt return by Henre’ Toliver gave the Razorbacks the ball at the Missouri 29-yard line and two plays later David Williams ran in from 16 yards out for a score to push the lead to 21-7.

Lock led a second-quarter charge for the Tigers with three touchdown passes, including one from 55 yards and another from 56 yards as the big plays doomed Arkansas.

No. 12 TCU locks up Big 12 title game date with Oklahoma

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After a few-year sabbatical, the inaugural renewal of the Big 12 championship game is officially set.

Needing just to get past one-win Baylor, No. 12 TCU did just that as the Horned Frogs outlasted the feisty Bears 45-22 in Fort Worth.  With the win, TCU locks up the other spot in the conference title game opposite Oklahoma, with that matchup going down in Jerry’s World next Saturday.  The Sooners have already beaten the Horned Frogs this season, 38-20 in Norman two weeks ago; a second win over the same team will likely push OU into the playoffs.

TCU finishes the 2017 season 7-2 in conference play.  Iowa State (5-3) needed a win over Kansas State Saturday plus a TCU loss today plus a couple of the other 5-3 Big 12 teams to win in order to send them to the league title game.

Kenny Hill paced the Horned Frogs once again, passing for 325 yards and three touchdowns in the win.  His 26 completions (in 36 attempts) went to 11 different receivers.  The quarterback added another touchdown on the ground.

A little bit of a concern, especially with Baker Mayfield and the high-powered OU offense looming, TCU gave up 314 yards passing, including 301 from freshman signal-caller Charlie Brewer.  Conversely, they did hold the Bears to just 2.7 yards per rushing attempt.

Pitt stuns No. 2 Miami, ends Hurricanes’ perfect season

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Pitt’s done gone and done it again.

On Dec. 1, 2007, a 4-7 Pitt team stunned second-ranked West Virginia in a 13-9 upset in Morgantown, costing the Mountaineers a spot in the BCS title game.  Just a week shy of the 10th anniversary of that upset, 4-7 Pitt played host to second-ranked Miami — and the Panthers did it again, jumping out to a 10-7 halftime lead before holding on away for a 24-14 win.  The loss ends the Hurricanes’ nation’s-best winning streak at 16 games in a row.

Thanks in very large part to Pitt’s defense, Miami’s offense could muster next to nothing on the day, churning out just 176 yards of offense while the game was still within reach (they finished with 234).  True freshman quarterback Kenny Pickett, however, seemingly put the game out of reach when, on a fourth-and-five, scampered nearly untouched on a naked bootleg for a 22-yard touchdown that made it a three-score game with just under three minutes remaining.

However, a U touchdown less a minute later made it a 10-point deficit with 2:16 left in the fourth, with the Hurricanes recovering an onsides kick on the ensuing kickoff to give them a flicker of hope; a Malik Rosier fumble on that next possession snuffed out said flicker.

This is actually the third time in a decade the Panthers have knocked off the No. 2 team in the country, including last year’s dumping of Clemson — a fact that head coach Pat Narduzzi used in calling his shot to his team at halftime.

For The U, it’s a potentially crippling loss.  Or, it could mean almost nothing.

Playing with fire for most of the season — they trailed at the half in five of their 11 games, including today — the Hurricanes finally got burned; whether it’s a first-, second- or third-degree burn remains to be seen.  The good news for The U is they will still face No. 3 Clemson in the ACC championship game next weekend, with the winner likely (maybe) (possibly) earning a spot in the College Football Playoff.  This loss, though, erases any margin of error the Hurricanes had heading into that game as they won’t make the playoffs as a two-loss at-large team.