There was no Big Ten championship or bowl berth on the line for Ohio State or Penn State, two teams banned from postseason play because of separate NCAA punishments, but that didn’t mean the stakes for tonight’s game in Happy Valley between the Buckeyes and Nittany Lions weren’t high.
In fact, Beaver Stadium was packed as though it was the biggest game of the year for the Nittany Lions — because it was. Unfortunately for the Penn State faithful, No. 9 Ohio State spoiled the occasion and came out with a 35-23 win. Braxton Miller was once again the X-factor and ran for nearly as many yards (134) as he had passing (143), accounting for three total touchdowns in the process.
The Buckeyes continue their undefeated season with Illinois, Wisconsin and Michigan left on the schedule. Though playing the Wolverines might as well be a toss-up, it’s very possible OSU could finish the regular season undefeated and have no postseason appearance to show for it — but Urban Meyer‘s team could have a Leaders Division championship wrapped up next week against Illinois even though it looks like Wisconsin will back its way into the Big Ten title game.
Remember, Ohio State and Penn State can earn a divisional championship without playing in the conference championship.
As for Penn State, the Nittany Lions still have an opportunity to finish the season strong to cap off what would be a remarkable run considering all the circumstances. Outside of PSU, I can’t think of too many people — myself included — who thought this team would accomplish half of what it has already. Continued kudos to Bill O’Brien and that program.
And another one bites the dust. Reportedly.
FootballScoop.com was the first to report Wednesday morning that Paul Haynes has been let go as the head football coach at Kent State. The Associated Press subsequently confirmed the initial report, noting that the Golden Flash players were informed of the move earlier today.
The not-yet-official move to part ways with Haynes is far from surprising as the former Ohio State and Arkansas assistant is just 14-45 during his five seasons at the school. For perspective, the Golden Flashes won 11 games in 2011, the year before Haynes’ arrival.
With Haynes’ ouster, there are now eight FBS head coach openings, with KSU joining Florida, Georgia Southern, Ole Miss, Oregon State, South Alabama, Tennessee, UCLA and UTEP.
Not even through his first full season as head coach, and P.J. Fleck has already been rewarded for his work.
Minnesota announced Wednesday morning that it has reached an agreement on a contract extension with Fleck into 2023. The 36-year-old head coach originally signed a five-year contract with the school, making this a two-year extension.
A December meeting of the school’s Board of Regents will rubber stamp the extension and make it official.
“It’s an honor to coach at the University of Minnesota and in the Big Ten,” said Fleck in a statement. “[athletic director] Mark Coyle and I share the same goal of building a championship culture and team at Minnesota. It’s a goal that we are working on daily together and one that we will achieve. I am proud of how hard our young men have worked to improve this season on living a holistic life. They have taken great strides in bettering themselves athletically, academically, socially and spiritually. I look forward to leading them and watching them grow on and off the field as we continue to move this program forward.”
In his first season at Minnesota after coming to the Big Ten program from Western Michigan, Fleck has the Gophers at 5-6. Fleck took over a team that won nine games in 2016, and, if they fail to beat fifth-ranked Wisconsin Saturday, would have their fewest wins in a season since going 3-9 in Jerry Kill‘s first year in 2011.
On the flip side, his five wins are the first for a first-year Gophers coach since Murray Warmath won seven games in 1954. Additionally, he became the first coach to win his Gophers debut since John Gutekunst did the same back in 1986.
“When we hired Coach Fleck, I talked about his authentic energy and passion, and his dedication to building a unique team culture. This year, I have seen our students connect with his energy and embrace that culture,” Coyle said in his statement. “From the commitment and hard work of our current students, to building a nationally-ranked recruiting class that will be among the best in program history, I have seen the foundation of what Coach Fleck is building, and I’m looking forward to supporting him for years to come.”
For a game with significant implications on a couple of levels, this is a little more than mildly intriguing, at least at this point in the week.
If TCU handles one-win Baylor Friday, the Horned Frogs will play Oklahoma in the Big 12 championship game next Saturday. If they don’t, they could allow Iowa State to sneak into the title-game side door.
With that much on the line, Gary Patterson seemingly confirmed Tuesday that both his top two quarterbacks, Kenny Hill and Shawn Robinson, are questionable for the Week 13 home game vs. the Bears with unspecified injuries.
The day before, though, Patterson had labeled Hill as “closer to probable” with what’s believed to be a concussion. Then again, in the days leading up to the Texas Tech game, Patterson had Hill listed as “between probable and questionable” as well.
Hill started the first 10 games of the season, but was injured in the Week 11 loss to Oklahoma and was ultimately ruled out prior to the Tech game. Robinson then started his first career game in Week 12, but was injured in the win over the Red Raiders as well.
If neither is able to go, Grayson Muehlstein would get the nod. The redshirt sophomore, who has yet to attempt a pass in his career, would become the second Horned Frogs in as many weeks to make his first career start at the collegiate level.
Really, could there be anybody else?
As it’s the last full Saturday of the 2017 college football season, there are a handful of huge matchups with significant implications both nationally and conference-wise. Given where each stands in the latest College Football Playoff rankings, however, there’s none bigger than No. 1 Alabama traveling to No. 6 Auburn in the latest edition of the Iron Bowl.
Not surprisingly, ESPN‘s wildly popular College GameDay pregame show had previously announced that it would set up shop on The Plains for the rivalry game. And just as much of a non-surprise is the show’s designated guest picker.
Charles Barkley, of course, played his college basketball at Auburn and has since turned into not only an NBA Hall of Famer but also someone who is never, ever shy about giving an opinion on pretty much anything — including issues related to college football and, of course, “hatred” of all things Crimson Tide. Well, except for the Nicktator.
Of course, there’s also the little matter of a preseason bet with a certain ‘Bama starting quarterback that will no doubt get some run during Barkley’s third appearance on the show. His first two, Barkley picked Auburn… and was correct both times, the first being 2004 when he opted for his alma mater over Tennessee. The second? November of 2013, when he tabbed the Tigers to top the Tide, which they did.
Just sayin’, is all.