The first of the top four unbeaten teams, Notre Dame, survived a hell of a scare from Pitt earlier this afternoon, needing three overtimes to fend off the Panthers.
The second of the top four unbeatens, Oregon, won a little more comfortably. The No. 2 Ducks beat No. 18 USC in a Los Angeles track meet, 62-51. There were plenty of big plays. Oregon running back Kenjon Barner rushed for 322 yards and five touchdowns, breaking USC’s opponent record previously held by Penn State’s Curtis Enis. Barner, with over 1,200 rushing yards and 19 rushing touchdowns, should be getting more consideration in the Heisman conversation.
As should USC receiver Marqise Lee, who had roughly 400 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns. It still wasn’t enough for the Trojans, though, and Oregon got over its first hurdle in a tough final stretch of regular season games. Oregon should be fine next week on the road at Cal, but then faces a pair of top-25 teams in Stanford and Oregon State. The Ducks will be favored in all three remaining games, but it’s toughest remaining regular season schedule among the top four undefeated teams.
If Oregon can continue to control its destiny, there’s little doubt the BCS computer average will rise to match the voter love for the Ducks.
Army is taking on Temple on Saturday afternoon with a chance to punch the first postseason bowl ticket of the 2017 season. Other teams may already be bowl eligible, but Army will be the first team to have a chance to accept an invitation to a bowl game on Saturday if they can manage to get by the Temple Owls.
Army has a spot waiting for them in the Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth as long as they are bowl-eligible this season. At 5-2, the Black Knights can start making their bowl plans as soon as they win one more game. If they do clinch their bowl eligibility on Saturday, it will be the first time Army will go to back-to-back bowl games for the first time since the 1984 and 1985 seasons. Army played in and won the short-lived Cherry Bowl in the 1984 season and the Peach Bowl in the 1985 season. After going to the Heart of Dallas Bowl last season for their first bowl trip since the 2010 season, Jeff Monken and his program are looking to make going to a bowl game a regular thing.
Army defeated Temple in the season opener a year ago, and Monken is aware that can be a motivating factor for Temple despite these Owls being a much different team from the AAC champions of last season.
”This is a tough football team that won their conference last year,” Monken said. ”They’ll have a ton of confidence and they feel as though they have to come in and win this game. We had the chance to come out with a win at their place, and I’m sure they’d love to return the favor.”
Monken took over the Army football program in 2014 after a successful run as head coach of Georgia Southern, then a powerhouse FCS program. His run at Army took a couple of years to get going, but Army has shed their losing ways under his watch, and that was highlighted by a long-awaited victory over Navy in last season’s Army-Navy Game. Picking up a win against Temple will continue to prove Army is continuing to improve as a program, and that also means Monken will potentially be finding himself on the radar in the coaching rumor mill. The Nebraska job has had some people mentioning Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo, but perhaps Monken would be a name to keep an eye on as well. As long as that means Army is winning games, so be it.
Keep in mind this would not be the first time Army would have back-to-back bowl eligible seasons since the mid-1980s. The Knights have had winning seasons on multiple occasions since last going to back-to-back bowl games, but the bowl game picture was quite different in the 1980s than it is today. With an oversaturation of bowl games available to schools today, Army stands a much better chance of going to a bowl game this season even with just six or seven wins than they would have 30 years ago.
Contrary to previous internet uniform rumors, Ohio State’s alternate helmet for their big division showdown with Penn State next week is far closer to home to the traditional Ohio State look than some of the outside-the-box helmet designs that had been floating around in various rumor mills in Ohio State circles lately.
Ohio State is rolling out with an alternate gray uniform, for some reason (recruiting!), next week when the Buckeyes host Penn State. And to keep the look from head to toe, Ohio State will wear a gray helmet with a slightly abstract pattern seemingly mimicking camouflage.
Two years ago when Ohio State hosted Penn State, the Buckeyes took the field in an all-black uniform. The Buckeyes have also worn all-white uniforms (excluding the helmet) for road games against Michigan and Penn State in recent seasons.
Penn State, barring any unforeseen announcements, will stick with their traditional all-white look for the road game. Although, Penn State did wear a specially designed uniform this season a few weeks ago. It’s a new era, so never say never.
Ohio State is off this week. Penn State hosts Michigan Saturday night. The Buckeyes and Nittany Lions meet in Columbus next Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET.
The Big Ten is planning ahead to buckle down and try to make Thursday night and Friday night football a thing in the conference. After breaking the ice on Thursday and Friday night football in the 2017 season, the conference has officially moved five games on the 2018 conference schedule to Thursday and Friday nights.
Purdue will host Northwestern in the Big Ten season opener on Thursday, August 30, marking the second straight season the Big Ten will kick off the college football season with a Thursday night football game. Indiana hosted Ohio State in a Thursday night season opener this season. The opening week of the season will continue the following night with Michigan State hosting Utah State and Wisconsin hosting Western Kentucky on Friday, August 21, 2018. This will mark the second straight season Wisconsin will open the season at home on a Friday night in Camp Randall Stadium. The Badgers hosted Utah State on Friday, September 1 this season.
The three games on Thursday and Friday night in the opening week of the 2018 season keeps the Big Ten on the primetime lineup on various TV partners between ESPN, FOX Sports, and the Big Ten Network, although the programming specifics will come later on. But the idea of adding games to Thursday and Friday nights has been designed to add programming to TV partners and add content across all partner networks as part of the latest contracts with ESPN and FOX, along with the Big Ten Network.
The Big Ten has moved two additional games Friday nights next season as well. Illinois will host Penn State on Friday, September 21, 2018. Minnesota will host Indiana on Friday, October 26, 2018.
At least on the field, LJ Scott‘s latest boneheaded misstep won’t prove too costly.
Thursday, it was reported that Scott was arrested Wednesday for the seventh time in the last year and a half for driving on a suspended license or similar offense. There was some question as to whether this latest off-field incident will cost the running back playing time for Michigan State’s game this weekend against Indiana.
In a statement, head coach Mark Dantonio said it would. Kinda. Sorta.
In what has been a lengthy process, LJ Scott now has a valid driver’s license, free of any restrictions. He has resolved the matter completely, and has paid a price, both financially and publicly. His status will be affected for Saturday’s game, but he will play.
Scott currently leads the Spartans with 408 yards rushing and is tied for tops on the team with three rushing touchdowns. He’s coming off a career-high 194 yards in last Saturday’s win over Minnesota.