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.

Purdue vs. Indiana means Big Ten guaranteed to have eight bowl teams

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At the conclusion of Saturday’s schedule, the Big Ten had seven teams that had already clinched their bowl eligibility for the 2017 season. Though no new bowl tickets were punched on Saturday, Purdue’s upset win at Iowa and Indiana’s home rout of Rutgers assured the Big Ten of getting to eight bowl-eligible teams this season.

Purdue will host Indiana this week in one of the more important games in the rivalry in recent years as the winner will become bowl-eligible this season. That would be great news for the Big Ten, a sit would essentially guarantee the conference will manage to fill all of their partnered bowl spots for this season, although that could come up just short if one of the conference’s teams reaches the College Football Playoff. With Wisconsin still undefeated and Ohio State being discussed as a possible long shot to reach the playoff, this remains a realistic scenario. In addition to the Badgers and Buckeyes, the Big Ten also has bowl-eligible teams in Penn State, Michigan State, Michigan, Northwestern, and Iowa.

Here’s a look at the Big Ten’s bowl partners for the 2017 season, not including the Rose Bowl as it is being used as a College Football Playoff semifinal this year;

  • Orange Bowl: The highest-ranked team available from the Big Ten, SEC, or Notre Dame will play a team from the ACC. Wisconsin or Penn State would appear to be in line for a possible invite.
  • Outback Bowl: Vs. SEC
  • Holiday Bowl: Vs. Pac-12
  • TaxSlayer Bowl or Music City Bowl: The ACC and Big Ten split these bowl games, with each taking on a team from the SEC
  • Pinstripe Bowl: Vs. ACC
  • Foster Farms Bowl: Vs. Pac-12
  • Quick Lane Bowl: Vs. ACC
  • Heart of Dallas Bowl: Vs. Big 12

Because the Purdue vs. Indiana game must produce a six-win team, the Big Ten looks to be in great shape to fill out its bowl lineup. The only setback would be not being able to send any additional teams to other bowl games to fill in a spot where needed, unless five-win teams end up coming into play.

Minnesota is the only other five-win team on the Big Ten map right now with a chance to break through to a bowl game, but that may require beating Wisconsin for the first time since 2003 this week in order to hit the six-win requirement. Minnesota has reached a bowl game with five wins before, and it could still be in play under that scenario.

SEC West, Pac-12 North divisions on the line after Thanksgiving

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After a relatively lackluster weekend of college football, a mix of rivalry games and division races crossing the finish line will be among the many highlights this week. The most notable of those races will be the SEC West and the Pac-12 North, as they will play a role in the greater College Football Playoff picture to various degrees. Throw in the possible Big 12 championship game scenarios and we have some good stuff to look forward to this week.

The ACC and Big Ten championship games are already locked in. Clemson will face Miami and the ACC hopes each will avoid an upset this weekend in order to keep this a potential matchup of top four teams at worst. Wisconsin and Ohio State are set to square off in Indianapolis for the Big Ten championship, and that game also figures to play a key role in the College Football Playoff picture.

USC clinched the Pac-12 South and now gets a bye week to prepare for the Pac-12 Championship Game. The Trojans will face either Stanford or Washington State. That opponent will be determined by the Apple Cup between Washington State and Washington. If the Cougars win, they will play USC in the Pac-12 championship game. If Washington State loses to Washington, then it will be Bryce Love and Stanford going against Sam Darnold and the Trojans.

The Iron Bowl between Alabama and Auburn will determine the SEC West Division champion, with the winner advancing to Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game to face East Division champion Georgia.

The Big 12 championship game is also still to be determined. Oklahoma will play either TCU or Iowa State, although it is most likely to be the Horned Frogs who will face the Sooners. Iowa State would need a win and TCU to lose to Baylor in addition to a combination of two losses from Texas, West Virginia and Oklahoma State. If TCU beats Baylor, TCU will be in.

The Group of Five puzzle still has a few pieces to figure out as well. Fresno State and Boise State must still learn where their Mountain West Conference championship game will be played. Memphis will play the winner of this week’s UCF vs. USF game, with the location to be determined. Conference USA has FAU vs. North Texas ready to go, but the MAC will have both divisions settled this week. Akron will clinch the East with a win on Tuesday, otherwise, the door will be open for Ohio to grab the division on Friday with a win. Toledo will clinch the West with a win or an NIU loss, while NIU can clinch the division with a win and a Toledo loss.

While it does not play a conference championship game this season, the Sun Belt Conference crown is also up for grabs. Troy, Arkansas State, Georgia State, and Appalachian State are all 5-1 in conference play going into this week, leaving the door open for an interesting conference championship situation. Troy will play at Arkansas State, so the winner of that game will finish in no worse than a tie for first place. Georgia State has two games remaining, including this week’s game against Appalachian State. Again, the winner here will be in a tie for first place. Georgia State and Arkansas State do not play this season, so the two could finish with a true split conference championship. Troy and Appalachian State also do not play, presenting another potential scenario for a true split conference championship. But if Troy and Georgia State end the season with the same conference record, then Troy would own the head-to-head tiebreaker for bragging rights. Let’s just get through this week first and then re-evaluate the Sun Belt championship picture with one week of games still to play.

Got all that?

UCLA relieves Jim Mora of head coach duties effective immediately

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UCLA has announced it has relieved head coach Jim Mora of his coaching duties effective immediately. Offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch will take over as the team’s interim coach for the remainder of the season.

“Making a coaching change is never easy, but it’s an especially difficult decision when you know that a coach has given his all to our University,” UCLA athletics director Dan Guerrero in a released statement. “Jim helped reestablish our football program, and was instrumental in so many ways in moving the program forward. While his first four seasons at UCLA were very successful, the past two seasons have not met expectations. We thank Jim and his family for his service to our school and his unquestionable commitment to our student-athletes.”

Mora was in his sixth season as the head coach of the Bruins and it was largely a run that had some promise at times but never fully took advantage of a division that included a USC program held back by NCAA sanctions. Mora coached UCLA to two 10-win seasons in 2013 and 2014 and has seen his win totals hit 8, 4 and 5 wins in the three seasons since. What makes the Mora legacy so frustrating is he had talent to work with. Among solid recruiting classes during his time at UCLA, Mora coached two NFL quarterbacks in Brett Hundley and Josh Rosen as well as one of the top defensive players in recent years (Myles Jack) still failed to deliver a Pac-12 championship. Mora was 46-30 as UCLA’s head coach, but the trends were heading in the wrong direction at a time when crosstown rival USC continues to be rising, thus increasing the pressure for UCLA to keep up.

UCLA’s loss on Saturday night to the Trojans dropped UCLA to 5-6 on the season, leaving the Bruins in need of a win this week against Cal in order to become bowl eligible (without hoping for vacancies needing to be filled by 5-win teams). USC will play for the Pac-12 championship a year after going winning the Rose Bowl in the stadium UCLA calls home.

The UCLA job is one that should be expected to draw some interesting names to the rumor mill. Among them could end up being Chip Kelly, who doesn’t feel like a great fit in the SEC and has past success in the Pac-12 while at Oregon. UCLA’s release confirms the school will begin a national search for a new head coach.

AP Top 25 stands firm with few modifications; TCU back in top 10

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Like the coaches poll, the AP Top 25 saw few changes to its look this week after a fairly straight-forward weekend of college football for the nation’s top-ranked teams. No. 1 Alabama remains the clear favorite among the AP voters, with 58 first-place votes to stay ahead of the field.

The top nine teams remain unchanged from last week with Miami falling in at second behind Alabama, with Oklahoma, Clemson, Wisconsin, Auburn, Georgia, Ohio State, and Notre Dame next in line. No. 10 TCU is the newest member of the top 10 in the AP poll after moving up one spot this week, followed by USC and Penn State with similar moves up. All three were bumped up after former No. 10 Oklahoma State fell to No. 18 this week following a home loss to Kansas State. No. 13 UCF, No. 14 Washington State, No. 15 Washington, No. 16 Mississippi State, and No. 17 Memphis all moved up a spot at the expense of the drop by the Cowboys.

Three new teams appear in the top 25 this week at the bottom of the poll. No. 23 Northwestern, No. 24 Virginia Tech, and No. 25 Boise State fill out this week’s poll.

Here is this week’s AP Top 25:

  1. Alabama (58 first-place votes)
  2. Miami (3)
  3. Oklahoma
  4. Clemson
  5. Wisconsin
  6. Auburn
  7. Georgia
  8. Ohio State
  9. Notre Dame
  10. TCU
  11. USC
  12. Penn State
  13. UCF
  14. Washington State
  15. Washington
  16. Mississippi State
  17. Memphis
  18. Oklahoma State
  19. LSU
  20. Stanford
  21. Michigan State
  22. USF
  23. Northwestern
  24. Virginia Tech
  25. Boise State