Big 12, SEC form postseason agreement

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Given the consolidation of power in college football over the past couple of years, highlighted by realignment moves and TV deals, I suppose the following bit of news shouldn’t come as much of a surprise.

That said, it’s an interesting move nonetheless.

First reported by Tony Barnhart, the Big 12 and SEC have agreed to a five-year postseason alliance beginning following the 2014 season that will pair the champion of each conference in a to-be-determined bowl game separate from the four-team playoff that is inevitably coming. In the (likely) event that one or both of the conference champions from each league is in the playoff, “another deserving team” will be selected.

“A new January bowl tradition is born,” said SEC Commissioner Mike Slive. “This new game will provide a great matchup between the two most successful conferences in the BCS era and will complement the exciting postseason atmosphere created by the new four-team model. Most importantly, it will provide our student-athletes, coaches and fans with an outstanding bowl experience.”

“Our goal is to provide the fans across the country with a New Year’s Day prime-time tradition,” said acting Big 12 Conference Commissioner Chuck Neinas. “This is a landmark agreement between two of the most successful football conferences during the BCS era to stage a postseason event. The creation of this game featuring the champions of the Big 12 and SEC will have tremendous resonance in college football.”

Two sites that have already been connected to the agreement are the Dallas Cowboys stadium and the Sugar Bowl, with the latter being named specifically by CBSSports. In related news, the Fiesta Bowl, which has hosted the Big 12 champion vs. an at-large, is sweating.

According to the Sporting News, the goal of new bowl is to be a stand-alone game with its own TV contract and “unthinkable” revenue potential.

The easiest comparison to the alliance is the Rose Bowl, which has conference tie-ins to the Big Ten and Pac-12. But, unlike the Rose Bowl, the agreement for a postseason game between the Big 12 and SEC champs has no precedence. History shows in the last 10 years, at least one of the champions of the Big 12 or SEC finished in the top four of the final regular-season BCS rankings, and consequently, would’ve been involved in a playoff semifinal had major college football supported that format.

Go back further and the same results apply all the way to the formation of the Big 12 in 1996.

The point is this is nothing more than a security blanket for each conference to ensure the best possible matchup in the extremely unlikely event that the champion from at least one of the leagues is left out of a four-team playoff. Should a playoff consist of only four conference champs, those odds decrease even more.

If anything, the agreement is a symbol of what college football has become: a separation of four powerful conferences from everybody else.

The ramifications of such are widespread. The Big East? Out, of course. The ACC? Also on shaky ground. The Florida State-to-Big 12 rumors have flared and cooled over the past week or so, but this latest news surely reignites the speculation in a way that wasn’t there before.

How about independent Notre Dame? To be determined.

We don’t think it has significant near-term consequences for Notre Dame,” AD Jack Swarbrick said.

But long-term? That’s not as clear.

And to think some of us [/raises hand] naively thought the realignment mess was dormant.

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Maryland down to No. 3 QB as Kasim Hill exits UCF game with injury

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As was the case a few years ago, Maryland might want to consider bubble-wrapping their quarterbacks.

In the second half of Maryland’s season-opening 51-41 upset of Texas Saturday, Tyrrell Pigrome went down with what was later diagnosed as a torn ACL, ending his 2017 season.  Quarterback No. 2, Kasim Hill, took over for the starter and guided the Terrapins to an easy 46-point win over FCS Towson the following weekend.

Coming off a bye, Hill started the Week 4 game against UCF, and promptly went down with what looked to be a very serious-looking injury to his right leg.  Hill put no weight on the leg as he left the field with assistance from the team’s training staff, and was ultimately taken via cart into the locker room for further evaluation.

The true freshman has been ruled out of returning to the non-conference contest.

Hill was replaced by No. 3 quarterback Max Bortenschlager, who started one game last season for the Terps. Trailing the Knights 21-10 late in the third quarter, Bortenschlager has completed 9-of-16 passes for 83 yards, one touchdown and one interception in relief.

No. 5 USC opens flat against Cal and it’s all tied up in Berkeley at halftime

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Imagine telling somebody before the season that No. 5 USC would dominate Stanford in the trenches during a blowout, but struggle against the other Bay Area team in a nail-bitter. Up is down, down is up in the Pac-12 apparently.

The Trojans came out flat to start their annual weekend trip to the Bay Area and needed a few defensive stands to keep the score locked at 13-all on a warm California day between the two in-state rivals.

Quarterback Sam Darnold (157 yards, one touchdown) did his Heisman campaign no favors, tossing his seventh interception of the season (after just nine in all of 2016). Things could have been worse for the signal-caller and his inexperienced receiving corps too as the Golden Bears nearly grabbed two others. Part of the issue could be that his terrific tailback Ronald Jones II failed to make the trip up for the game with an injury and true freshman Stephen Carr (36 yards) was forced to carry much of the load.

Cal’s offense had its own moments but was just 2-of-8 on third down conversions to help stall some early momentum. QB Ross Bowers threw for 124 yards but it was big running back Vic Enwere who was the star of the show with 42 yards on the ground and a touchdown he punched in on 4th and goal. The real story for the home team was the continued play of their defense however, pressuring Darnold on a number of snaps, forcing two turnovers and covering exceptionally well downfield to limit big plays.

The performance through two quarters will lead many to question whether USC really should be ranked in the top five and considered the Pac-12 favorite but the cardinal and gold could turn things around with a trip to the locker room and some adjustments. Still, it’s hard not to be impressed with Justin Wilcox’s squad giving everything they can to another big name opponent in Berkeley this month.

Alabama dropping anchor on Vandy’s upset dream, leads 31-0 at half

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Vanderbilt came into the afternoon with the SEC’s top-ranked scoring defense. Yeah, about that…

No. 1 Alabama scored touchdowns on three straight offensive possessions to build a 21-0 lead in the first quarter and the Crimson Tide lead the Commodores 31-0 at halftime in Nashville. Bo Scarbrough was responsible for two of the Alabama touchdowns, and Damien Harris has take credit for the other two. Jalen Hurts has even gotten in on the running game a little bit while not having the pressure to perform through the air in this one.

On defense, Alabama has held Vanderbilt down quite well too. The Commodores converted just one of six third down situations and the Vandy offense has lost the football twice by way of a fumble.

If you had hoped Vanderbilt could maybe keep this one interesting for at least a half, you were out of luck. Alabama is about to cruise its way to a 4-0 record.

Michigan starting QB Wilton Speight knocked out game by Purdue

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Given the offensive struggles through three weeks of the season, there were a growing number of fans and media calling for Michigan to make a change at quarterback.  Unintentionally, that wish was granted Saturday afternoon.

In the first quarter of UM’s Big Ten opener against Purdue, Wilton Speight was sacked by Markus Bailey for an 11-yard loss on a third-and-five play.  Speight left the game and, ultimately, the stadium entirely as he was taken to a local West Lafayette hospital for further evaluation.

At least for the moment, it appears doubtful he’ll return to the game.

Prior to the injury, Speight was 2-4 passing for 10 yards.  His replacement, backup John O’Korn, is currently 5-5 for 61 yards.  O’Korn has the game’s lone score as well, a 12-yard pass to Zach Gentry early in the second quarter.

Entering the game, Speight had led the Wolverines to just one touchdown on 10 drives into the red zone.  That was O’Korn’s first red-zone trip of the season.

Through the first 19 minutes of game time, the two teams have combined for 154 yards of offense.  The Boilermakers have been held to just a pair of first downs with 11 minutes left in the second quarter.

UPDATED 5:22 p.m. ET: Of course, almost as soon as I hit publish, the Boilermakers tied the score at seven-all.