Antwuan Reed, Ryan Nassib

Orange’s All-Big East lineman set to return

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Out for nearly six months with a shoulder injury that forced him to miss the first four games of the season, Justin Pugh is set to make his return to the playing field for Syracuse this weekend.

Pugh’s injury kept him out of the spring game as well as the whole of summer camp.  Thursday, Pugh, who’s been practicing with his teammates, declared himself healthy for this Saturday’s game with Pittsburgh.

“I’ve been waiting six months for this. I’m just ready to get out there and get playing,” Pugh said according to the Syracuse Post-Standard. “I hope I come out there and play great, but we’ll see what happens. I’ve been practicing pretty good. I really feel like I haven’t missed much. I just want to get that first play out of the way and get rolling from there.”

The senior had started 25 straight games at left tackle prior to the upper-body injury, and was named first-team All-Big East following the 2011 season.

Lightning delays start of Baylor-TCU

KOS, GREECE - JUNE 03:  Lightning strikes over the Greek Island of Pserimos on June 03, 2015 in Kos, Greece. Migrants are continuing to arrive on the Greek Island of Kos from Turkey who's shoreline lies approximately 5 Km away. Around 30,000 migrants have entered Greece so far in 2015, with the country calling for more help from its European Union counterparts.  (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
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Weather could have an impact on one key Big 12 game Saturday.  It’s already having an impact on one Saturday.

The game between No. 7 Baylor and No. 19 TCU in Fort Worth had been scheduled to kick off around 7:30 ET this evening.  However, lightning in the area has caused the start time to be pushed back.

As of this posting, kickoff is scheduled for 8:20 ET.

While TCU has already been eliminated from the Big 12 chase, Baylor remains very much alive.  If BU beats TCU and Oklahoma State defeats Oklahoma in Bedlam tomorrow, the Bears will be the Big 12 champion for College Football Playoff committee accounting purposes.

If the Sooners win this weekend, they would be the conference champs regardless of what the Bears do tonight and next weekend.  The Cowboys can make its claim if it wins Bedlam and the Bears lose at least one of its last two games.

Oregon continues late-season hot streak with wild Civil War win

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“Oh what could’ve been.”

That has to be the mantra — well, that and “that escalated quickly” — of the Oregon football program and its fan base this evening after watching the Ducks jump out to a huge lead and then hang on against in-state rival Oregon State in a wild 52-42 Civil War win Saturday.  The Ducks had sprinted to what appeared to be a comfortable 31-7 halftime lead before the Beavers scored 35 of the next 45 points to pull within three points at 45-42 with 7:05 remaining.

A Vernon Adams touchdown pass two and a half minutes later, his third of the game, essentially iced the game for the Ducks.

And, speaking of Adams, that’s where the what-ifs come in.

The FCS All-American transfer from Eastern Washington was viewed as a more-than-capable replacement for Heisman winner Marcus Mariota entering the season.  However, he was injured early on as the Ducks stumbled to a 3-3 start that included a three-point loss to Michigan State and seven-point loss to Washington State, both on the road.  Adams finally overcame the health issues in mid-October and the Ducks have rolled ever since, ripping off six straight wins to close out the regular season.

During this six-game streak, Adams has thrown 21 touchdown passes; in the first six games of the season, three of which he missed, Adams threw four.  Throw in the fact that he’s completed nearly 80 percent of his passes the past three weeks — 77.3 to be precise — Adams is one of the hottest quarterbacks in the country entering the final weeks of his one and only season in Eugene.

If Adams had been healthy the first-half of the season, could it have changed the direction of the season?  It’s hard to say with any degree of certainty, although the odds seem pretty good that UO wouldn’t be sitting at 9-3 and looking at a middle(ish)-tier bowl bid if he had been his late-season self.

Wazzu’s Gabe Marks suffers gruesome injury as UW becomes bowl-eligible with Apple Cup win

Gabe Marks
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Washington State came into Saturday’s Apple Cup without prolific quarterback Luke Falk because of injury.  They’ve now exited it without Falk’s top target because of the same issue.

Late in the fourth quarter of No. 20 Wazzu’s 45-10 loss to Washington, Gabe Marks was on the receiving end of a five-yard pass from first-time starter Peyton Bender.  The wide receiver was also on the receiving end of an awkward tackle that bent his ankle in a way that God never intended and left him with what could very well be broken bones in the leg.

Marks was carted off the field and did not return.  There has been no update on the specific nature of the injury, although it appears that it may be serious enough to keep the junior from playing in the Cougars’ bowl game.

Coming into Week 13, Marks was fourth in the nation with 92 receptions and, with 1,067, is one of 19 players who have gone past 1,000 yards receiving.

And, to add scoreboard insult to literal injury, Marks’ fumble was returned by the Huskies for a touchdown.  That was the second of three defensive touchdowns for UW, with the third coming on Wazzu’s very next play from scrimmage on a pick-six.

The win pushed the Huskies to 6-6 and into a bowl in the second season under Chris Petersen.  The head coach just yesterday was awarded a two-year contract extension.

No. 4 Iowa puts finishing touches on first-ever 12-0 regular season

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In a season full of firsts, Iowa added yet another notch to its football history belt in Lincoln Friday.

Thanks in large part to its defense — and Tommy Armstrong Jr.‘s arm punts — Iowa was able to stake itself to a 14-10 halftime lead and then held on for a 28-17 win.  The Hawkeyes had previously gone unbeaten and untied in a season twice (1921,1922) and went unbeaten in its first two seasons of competition (1899, 1900).  The 12 wins is also a school record, breaking the mark of 11 previously held by head coach Kirk Ferentz‘s 2002 and 2009 squads.

It’s also the fifth 10-win season in Ferentz’s 17 seasons in Iowa City.  And, as was the case in the other four, it was a sturdy defense and low-risk offense that’s led the way to this perfect season.

While the Cornhuskers managed 433 yards of offense, the defense allowed just 20 points, with seven of those greatly aided by a muffed first-half punt.  NU ran 83 plays, meaning they averaged a little over five yards per play.

The Hawkeyes’ offense, meanwhile, ran just 44 plays in putting up 250 yards of offense.  Leading the way was Jordan Canzeri, who accounted for over half that yardage with 140 on the ground.  Canzeri also accounted for two of the Hawkeyes’ three offensive touchdowns, with the other coming off the arm of quarterback C.J. Beathard.

Amazingly, Iowa didn’t convert a single third down in nine attempts, while Nebraska converted seven of 16.  The most important stat, though was the Hawkeyes’ 4-1 edge in the turnover battle.

Armstrong Jr. tossed four interceptions, giving him a nation-leading 16 on the season.  He did throw for 296 yards in a loss that dropped the Cornhuskers to 5-7 and, in all likelihood, a bowl-less 2015 postseason.  While they could still go bowling if 80 teams don’t reach the six-win mark, they’ll likely stay home for the postseason for just the third time in the last 47 years (2004, 2007) in the first season under Mike Riley.

Iowa had previously wrapped up the Big Ten West division and a spot in the conference championship game.  UI will face Michigan State if the Spartans beat Penn State, or the winner of the Ohio State-Michigan game should MSU falter.

A win over any of those three opponents would all but assure the Hawkeyes of one of the four spot in the second edition of the College Football Playoff.