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The Fifth Quarter: Week 12 Rewind

Stanford Cardinal fans celebrate their NCAA football win over the Oregon Ducks in Eugene AP

As is the case each and every season, each and every week, any omission below is not on purpose, it’s merely intentional.

BChaoS
Somewhere, Mike Slive is dancing on a couch.  Butt-nekkid.

Just one week ago, it appeared the SEC’s streak of six straight BcS championships was all but over.  Alabama’s loss left the heavyweight conference with no undefeated teams and seemingly on the outside of the crystal window looking in at three eligible unbeatens remaining.

Seven days later?  They’re right back in one of the two title-game driver’s seats.

No. 1 Oregon?  Dropped 17-14 by Stanford in overtime, in Eugene no less.

No. 2 Kansas State?  Humiliated 52-24 by a below-.500 Baylor squad.

Of course, the biggest winners of them all coming out of the stunning twin developments come from the SEC.  Provided Alabama, No. 4 in the last set of BcS rankings, handles business against lowly Auburn and Georgia, BcS No. 5, takes care of Georgia Tech, the winner of the SEC championship game will — rightly, I might add, given the turn of events in Week 12 — fill one of the two spots in the BcS title game.

The other spot?  On one level, it’s very simple.  If Notre Dame, comfortable winners over Wake Forest Saturday, beats a reeling USC squad next weekend, it will be the Irish charged with the task of knocking the SEC off its crystal perch.

If the Trojans pull off an upset for the ages?  It’s BcS chaos all over again.  Such a development would bring several teams back into the mix, including the two losers from tonight as well as Florida State and Florida, which will play each other in the regular-season finale to add yet another layer to what’s fast devolving into unchartered waters.

Hell, Oregon could even pull off an Alabama circa 2011: not play in its conference championship game — Stanford will represent the Pac-12 North if it beats UCLA next week — and still backdoor its way into the BcS title game depending on how things play out in front of them.

Undeniably, though, there’s one huge loser in all of this glorious late-season chaos: the Ohio State Buckeyes.  Along with Notre Dame, the Ohio State University is the last of the unbeatens and would be in position for its fourth title-game appearance in the BcS era were it not for NCAA sanctions that include a postseason ban for the 2012 season.  Hopefully, that 2012 Gator Bowl berth was worth it to Gene Smith & Company.

A close second to tOSU?  One line: North Carolina State 17, Florida State 16.  Oh, ‘Noles…

DAY OF CLINCHINGS
On the lighter side of college football news, and entering Week 12 of the 2012 season, just one conference or division champion — Georgia, SEC East — had officially been determined.  This weekend, a total of six division or conference champions were officially decided.  Below is a snapshot look at the teams that will be adding some hardware to their respective trophy cases in the coming days:

ACC Atlantic
After beating Clemson back in September, there was very little doubt No. 10 Florida State — even with an inexplicable loss to North Carolina State — would represent the Atlantic in the ACC championship game.  The Seminoles made it official Saturday as they overwhelmed undermanned Maryland 41-14.FSU will be appearing in their third ACC title game in the eight years the event has existed.  Just who the ‘Noles will play in that title game remains uncertain as Duke, Georgia Tech and Miami all remain in varying degrees of contention for the Coastal crown.

Big Ten Leaders
Ineligible for the postseason courtesy of NCAA sanctions, No. 6 Ohio State nonetheless claimed the Big Ten Leaders trophy on the strength of its overtime over Wisconsin.  The Badgers may have lost the battle but will end up winning the war, though; because of the Buckeyes’ sanctions, the Badgers will represent the division in the conference championship game in early December.

Conference USA West
With a two-game lead entering Week 12, Tulsa would’ve needed to lose its last three games to lose its stranglehold on the divisional lead.  The Golden Hurricane took that remote possibility out of play straight away thanks to a 23-21 win over UCF in a battle of Conference USA divisional leaders.  It marks the fifth time since Conference USA went to a two-division setup in 2005 that Tulsa has won or shared the West title.

MAC East
Thanks to its win over Bowling Green, which came into the game one game behind Kent State, the No. 25 Golden Flashes claimed the first MAC East title in the history of the football program.  Coupled with Northern Illinois’ win earlier in the week, the MAC becomes the first conference with its championship game slots officially filled: KSU-NIU Nov. 30 at Detroit’s Ford Field.

Pac-12 South
For the second consecutive season, a college football team from the city of Los Angeles will represent the South in the Pac-12 championship game.  Unbelievably, that team is again No. 17 UCLA and not No. 21 USC as the Bruins dropped their rivals for the first time since 2005 to the tune of 38-28.  Even sweeter, the win clinched the division title for the Bruins in their first season under Jim Mora Jr.  And, in an odd turn of events, the Bruins will go a long way in determining just who they will face in that championship game as they face Stanford next weekend.  If UCLA wins, they will face Oregon.  If UCLA loses, they will face… Stanford in a rematch six days later.  And the game would very likely be played on the Cardinal’s home turf.

WAC
In what will be the final season of the conference, the Utah State Aggies have staked its claim as the last champion of the soon-to-be-defunct conference.  And, in an odd twist, could very well have cost the remaining members a significant chunk of change.  In a matchup of the lone remaining WAC teams with unbeaten league marks, the Aggies outlasted No. 19 Louisiana Tech 48-41 in overtime.  The only problem with that?  LaTech was the lone hope for a BcS buster in 2012, meaning the loss has the potential to cost interested parties millions of dollars.  For some reason, we don’t think the Aggies give two spits right about now.

WINNERS

Les Miles

There are times in a man’s life when you just have to bow to another man’s greatness.  This press conference performance by LSU’s head coach is one of those times.  It’s an instant classic and must-see YouTube TV:

“THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS A FLOP THAT TAKES THE FIELD FOR OUR FOOTBALL TEAM… just so you know.”  Out-freaking-standing, Coach Grass-Eating Hat.  Out-freaking-standing.

Heismanziel
Given the level of competition, Johnny Manziel was almost pedestrian in No. 9 Texas A&M’s 47-28 cruise over FCS-level Sam Houston State, throwing for 267 yards and three touchdowns while running for another 100 and two scores on the ground in under three quarters worth of work.  So, how exactly did the redshirt freshman likely vault to Heisman front-runner status?  Three words: Collin Klein imploded.  While the senior threw for nearly 300 yards in the upset loss to Baylor, Klein also threw three picks and was largely held in check by a defense that came into the game ranked 118th in scoring defense.  It has all set the stage for something that’s never happened in the 78-year history of the Heisman a freshman, redshirt or otherwise, taking home the most prestigious award in the sport.  And, if the voting were held today, that’s very likely exactly what would happen.

Boy oh Boyd
Speaking of the Heisman, if this performance doesn’t push Tajh Boyd deep into the discussion, nothing will.  All the Clemson quarterback did Saturday was set a school and ACC record for touchdowns in a single game with eight — five passing, three rushing — as the No. 11 Tigers outlasted North Carolina State 62-48.  Boyd also set the single-game school record for yards of total offense with 529 yards, 426 passing and a career-high 103 rushing.  Coming into the game second in passing efficiency, Boyd did nothing to hurt that standing, and has earned the right to be thrown in with the Collin Kleins and Johnny Footballs when it comes to the race for the 2012 stiff-armed trophy.

Nearly Scarlet Knighted
While Rutgers didn’t join in on the day of clinchings, they continue to control their own conference destiny.  Thanks to a rough-on-the-eyes 10-3 win over Cincinnati, the No. 22 Scarlet Knights inched closer to clinching the football program’s first-ever Big East crown.  Two wins over the next two weeks will clinch the conference and a BcS berth, as would just a single win when coupled with a Louisville loss in one of the Cardinals’ last two games.  Of course, Rutgers’ task is made a bit more difficult as they will face Louisville in the final game of the regular season in what will very likely serve as a de facto Big East championship game.  After losing their head coach to the NFL in the offseason, however, Rutgers is sitting prettier than most thought they would this soon.

Damn good Gardner
Denard who?  Yes, the pregame Senior Day festivities were all about Denard Robinson, but the 60 minutes of game time afterwards belonged to and were owned by Devin Gardner.  Making his third straight start in place of an injured Robinson, Gardner accounted for six touchdowns — three rushing, three passing  — as the Wolverines steamrolled hapless Iowa 42-17.  It was No. 23 Michigan’s third consecutive win with Gardner under center and sets up a very intriguing regular-season finale against undefeated Ohio State, with the subplot being a pair of dynamic young dual-threat quarterbacks — Gardner and the Buckeyes’ Heisman candidate Braxton Miller — squaring off in The Game.

This is how we do it
Following an unceremonious exit from Boston College, Montel Harris, the leading rusher in that school’s history, landed at Temple to finish out his collegiate days.  After a relatively quiet start to his one-year Owls career — 597 yards, five touchdowns — Harris literally exploded Saturday afternoon.  In Temple’s 63-32 obliteration of Army, Harris rushed for a school- and Big East-record 351 yards and seven touchdowns.  The latter total was just one off the single-game FBS record.  And it wasn’t just Harris slicing an Army defense that came in ranked 105th nationally against the run, either, as the Owls rushed for 534 yards on 57 carries.

LOSERS

College football fans
After the ACC had approved a $50 million exit fee for any team seeking to leave his conference, commissioner John Swofford was supremely confident that the door had slammed shut on expansion.  A few months later, Swofford was wrong — and the game’s worse off for it.  To review, multiple media outlets reported Saturday afternoon that Maryland was in serious negotiations with the Big Ten about a move from the ACC, and that Rutgers would likely leave the Big East for the Midwest conference as well.  Of course, that will have a trickle-down effect as the ACC will likely pilfer the Big East for a replacement, with the Big East looking elsewhere to fill that hole and so on and so on and so on.  While the Big Ten looks to further fill its financial coffers by adding significant television footprints to the Big Ten Network, it’s the fans that once again come out on the short end.  The game has been a lot about the money in recent years; these moves, if they come to fruition, proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that it’s all about the money in big-time college football.  To hell with rivalries and geography and everything else that had made this the greatest sport in the country.  The bottom line is all that matters to the movers and shakers anymore, and it will prove to be the downfall of this once-great game.

HorSECrap slate
Exactly a week ago, the SEC (momentarily) saw its hopes for a seventh consecutive BcS championship severely diminished with Alabama’s upset loss to Texas A&M.  In honor of that near-death experience, nearly the entire conference decided to take Week 12 off.  Of the 11 games involving SEC teams this weekend, seven of them came against opponents from the FCS level.  Just three games were conference matchups — Arkansas-Mississippi State, Ole Miss-LSU, Tennessee-Vanderbilt — while just one team went outside the conference against a BcS-level school — Missouri hosting Syracuse.  Yes, the pastries that make up this week’s SEC menu are not much different from other conferences earlier in this season.  The fact that the snacking comes this late in the year, though, just leaves a bad taste all around.

Fall of the Spartans
When the 2012 season began, Michigan State was ranked 13th in the country and widely viewed, along with in-state rival Michigan, as the favorites to claim the Big Ten Legends division title.  After 12 weeks?  A postseason bowling trip is in doubt as the Spartans are just 5-6 overall and a lowly 2-5 in conference play.  In order to become bowl eligible, MSU will need next week to beat Minnesota, with whom they are tied in the divisional cellar.  As it stands now, this would serve as the worst season the Spartans have endured in Mark Dantonio‘s six seasons in East Lansing.  Even more head-scratching is the fact that such a subpar season comes on the heels of back-to-back 11-win years.

Re-Buff’d yet again
Entering this weekend, Colorado ranked 115th or worse — there are 124 teams at the FBS level — in total offense/defense and scoring offense/defense.  Saturday’s outcome will do little to help statistically what is arguably the worst member of a BcS conference as the one-win Buffaloes were pounded 38-3 by Washington, with the Buffs allowing 476 yards of offense while mustering just 141 of their own.  Eight of their 10 losses have come by 25 or more points — four by 44 or more — and their average margin of defeat is just over 33 points per game.  In just his second year, it’s hard to say if Jon Embree and his 4-20 record are on the hot seat or not.  If he is, and based solely on the on-field results, it would be far from a surprising development.

UC… what the F?
With a shot at clinching a division title, UCF instead decided to spit its bit as they Knights fell to Tulsa 23-21.  On the other hand, the Golden Hurricane wrapped up its division and a spot in the Conference USA championship game with the win.  The good news for UCF?  All it needs is to upend three-win UAB next weekend in order to secure a rematch with Tulsa.

TOP 25 TOO-CLOSE-FOR-COMFORT
How ranked teams endured close shaves vs. unranked opponents

— No. 8 LSU 41, Ole Miss 35: To be honest, I could care less about what happened during this game.  After the game was where all the necessary action was, as you can see by scrolling up several inches if you missed it.

— No. 12 South Carolina 24, Wofford 7: The Gamecocks were tied with the FCS-level school at seven-all early in the fourth quarter before pulling away with a 17-point mini explosion.  The combination of playing down to the level of competition and looking ahead to next weekend’s game against in-state rival Clemson were likely factors in this being a hell of a lot closer than what it should’ve been.

— No. 13 Oklahoma 50, West Virginia 49:  The Sooner’s last-minute win coupled with Kansas State’s stunning loss leaves OU just a K-State loss to Texas plus a Bedlam win over Oklahoma State from claiming the Big 12 championship and a BcS bowl berth.

— No. 23 Rutgers 10, Cincinnati 3: It was far from pretty, but the tight win over the Bearcats brought the Scarlet Knights one step closer to its first-ever Big East championship.

CFT TOP FIVE
A snapshot look at how my ballot would look Monday if I, ya know, had a real vote instead of a measly and meaningless preseason poll.

1. Notre Dame — As the only eligible unbeaten team left, they are the only option for the top spot.  Say what you want about their less-than-impressive resume’ and numerous close calls, but the Irish have done the one thing that no other team with a postseason shot has been able to do: avoid stubbing its toe.  Pretty or not, that’s all that matters. (Last week: No. 3)
Up next: at No. 21 USC

2. Alabama — Their pre-Thanksgiving nap, brought on by its FCS tryptophan feast, was rudely interrupted by the pair of upsets ahead of them that put the Tide right back on track for a second consecutive BcS title and third in four years.  After mauling Auburn in the Iron Bowl, trips to Atlanta and, possibly, Miami await. (Last week: No. 4)
Up next: vs. Auburn

3. Oregon — Let’s be clear on two fronts when it comes to the team from Eugene.  One, they lost to a really, really good Stanford team that took Notre Dame to overtime earlier in the year.  And, two, the Ducks are still a damn good team and would still be worthy of a title-game appearance, backdoor or not. (Last week: No. 1)
Up next: at No. 15 Oregon State

4. Ohio State — Ineligible or not, being one of the two remaining undefeated teams counts for something, even as arrogance on the part of university officials could cost Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes a shot at the crystal. (Last week: No. 5)
Up next: vs. No. 23 Michigan

5. Florida State — Since its inexplicable loss to North Carolina State Oct. 6, the Seminoles have steamrolled its next five opponents by an average of 25.6 points per game. (Last week: unranked)
Up next: vs. No. 7 Florida

COACHING HOT SEAT
A weekly look at some of the current head coaches who could most likely be an ex-head coaches by season’s end — if not sooner.

— USC’s Lane Kiffin: A little peacock birdie informed me last week that, if the Trojans did not beat cross-town rival UCLA and national rival Notre Dame, Kiffin would very likely be shown the door.  Saturday, the Trojans were embarrassed 38-28 by the little brother Bruins, becoming the first team since Auburn in 1984 to lose four games after being named the preseason No. 1.  Additionally, USC is in danger of becoming the first team since 1964 to end the season unranked after beginning at No. 1.  Following the loss to UCLA, Kiffin maintained that athletic director Pat Haden assured him he would return in 2013.  While that may very well end up being the case, there’s at least one Kiffin who will face the ax as defensive coordinator and Lane’s father Monte Kiffin is all but out.  Based on the preseason expectations, someone will have to fall on the sword, and who better than a 72-year-old assistant well on the downside of his career.

— Tennessee’s Derek Dooley: “The one thing Tennessee always does is kick the sh*t out of Vandy!”  Those were Dooley’s words in the locker room after the Volunteers beat the Commodores last season.  James Franklin‘s words (not really) to his team a year later?  “The one thing Vandy does is get Dooley’s sh*t kicked out the door!”  Or something like that as, with Vandy’s win over UT, the ‘Dores likely sealed Dooley’s fate in Knoxville.  Dooley was on the ropes prior to the game; Franklin and crew likely delivered the knockout punch.

HE SAID IT
“In other words, the bottom of the SAC.” — ESPN GameDay host Chris Fowler in describing Alabama’s Week 12 “competition,” Southern Athletic Conference member Western Carolina.

HELMET OF THE DAY
And by “Helmet of the Day” I mean “what in the name of common decency were you thinking/drinking/smoking, Virginia Tech?”

Holy Hokie helmet from hell…

YOU DON’T SAY?
USC’s Matt Barkley is first in the nation with 35 touchdown passes… and second in interceptions with 15.

FOR STATISTICAL PURPOSES ONLY

— In West Virginia’s one-point loss to Oklahoma, wide receiver Tavon Austin rushed for 344 yards.  With 146 on kick returns and 82 receiving, the receiver accounted for a staggering 572 yards for the game.

— With a field goal early in the second quarter of Florida State’s division-clinching win over Maryland, Dustin Hopkins broke Boise State’s Kyle Brotzman‘s career record of 439 points by an FBS kicker.

— A first-half touchdown gave Wisconsin’s Montee Ball 78 for his career, tying former Miami of Ohio running back Travis Prentice for the most in FBS history.  The Badgers running back will have three games to break the mark.

John Simon totaled four sacks in Ohio State’s win over Wisconsin, a performance that likely locks up Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week honors for the senior.

— North Carolina State wide receiver Tobias Palmer set an ACC record for all-purpose yards with 496 — 277 on kickoff returns and 219 receiving — in the high-scoring loss to Clemson.

— Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel became the first freshman, and the fifth player overall, in FBS history to pass for more than 3,000 yards and rush for more than 1,000 in a single season.

— After entering Saturday’s action with just 11 touchdown passes in 10 games, Keith Price tossed a career-high five in the win over Colorado.  As the game came against the Buffaloes, however, we’re uncertain if that’s an official personal mark or not.

— Kent State’s Dri Archer rushed for 241 yards on 17 carries as the Golden Flashes clinched their first-ever MAC divisional title.  The junior scored on touchdown runs of 79 and 74 yards.

— Louisiana Tech’s Colby Cameron saw his single-season NCAA record of consecutive pass attempts without an interception come to an end at 444 with an interception late in the second quarter against Utah State.

Steve Spurrier has 64 career wins as South Carolina’s head coach, tying him with Rex Enright for most in school history.

— Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch totaled 569 yards of offense (407 passing, 162 rushing) in the Huskies’ win over Toledo Wednesday night that clinched the MAC West.  It marked the second time this season that Lynch, fifth in the country in rushing yards per game entering the weekend (134.2), had passed for more than 300 yards and rushed for more than a 100 in a single game.

— Army has a pair of 1,000-yard rushers in a single season — quarterback Trent Steelman and running back Raymond Maples — for the first time since 1984.  Steelman also has 44 career touchdowns, breaking the school record set by Glenn Davis back in the mid-40s.

— A 42-16 win over North Texas (sorry Ben) secured Louisiana-Monroe’s first winning season since moving to the FBS level in 1994.  The Warhawks had twice finished seasons at 6-6 (2007, 2009).

— Harvard has beaten Yale five straight times, the first time the Crimson have achieved that feat in a rivalry that dates back to 1875.

— Yulee (Fla.) High School running back and 2013 Alabama verbal commitment Derrick Henry rushed for 482 yards and six touchdowns — on an astounding 58 carries — in a playoff win Friday night, pushing his career rushing total to 11,254 yards.  That broke the national high school record of 11,232 yards set by Ken Hull of Sugarland (Tex.) way back in 1953.  Henry, who has rushed for over 100 yards in every single game of his high school career and has run for at least 200 yards every game this season, will have at least one more game to add to his record total.

SID NOTE OF THE WEEK
Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron claimed sole possession of the school’s single-season passing touchdown record as he connected with Christion Jones on a 29-yard touchdown in the second quarter for his 21st on the year. He entered the game tied with Greg McElroy (2010) on the single season list.

SIGN OF THE APOCALYPSE
UCLA is the only team to represent the Pac-12 South in the conference championship game.  Granted, it’s just two years into the event, but still…

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About face: Baylor AD plans to beef up non-conference schedules after all

Baylor West Virginia Football

SMU, Lamar, Rice, Northwestern State, Liberty, UTSA, Duke, Abilene Christian, Incarnate Word, and Lousiana Tech. That’s the full list. The names of schools you just read comprise the entirety of Baylor’s non-conference schedule through 2020. The entire thing. This isn’t the filler in between home-and-homes with Penn State or neutral site games with North Carolina and Oregon – that’s it.

No matter how many times athletics director Ian McCaw and head coach Art Briles denied it, that schedule – this year’s slate included SMU, Northwestern State and Buffalo – and the stigma surrounding it were the reason Baylor played in last season’s Cotton Bowl and not the Sugar Bowl. Trade the road game at Buffalo for a trip to Boston College and the Bears are probably the last team in the inaugural College Football Playoff, not eventual champion Ohio State.

On Thursday, McCaw finally acknowledged that fact. Sort of.

When we’re in the midst of a 14-year bowl drought, our scheduling philosphy is: ‘Let’s try to find six wins,’ because we needed to end that drought. We were scheduling with an eye on let’s try to find a way to get to six,’ McCaw told David Ubben of FoxSportsSouthwest.com. “Obviously, as we’ve won back to back Big 12 championships and our program’s in the national stage and we’re recruiting at an extremely high level and have McLane Stadium in place, we’re able to take on a higher level of competition and that’s what we’re looking to do.”

McCaw said to having “two or three discussions” with fellow Power Five foes about scheduling games between 2016 and 2020, but made no promises the Bears would line up a major-conference foe on a yearly basis. “It’ll vary a little bit from year to year because we have a number of years still fully committed and a number of years still looking to schedule games, but we’re certainly open to playing a Power 5 game in addition to the nine we’re playing,” he said. “Probably not every year, but a good number of years.”

Outside the home-and-home with Duke, Baylor’s lone Power Five foe lined up for upcoming schedules is Utah, with whom the Bears will meet in 2023 and ’24.

 

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Kickoff set for inaugural American championship game

On Wednesday, the American set kick times for its opening-weekend games and a number of contests afterward. And on Thursday the league set the time and date for its inaugural championship game.

The first American championship will be held Saturday, Dec. 5 at noon ET on either ABC or ESPN. Last year, ESPN showed Houston at Cincinnati at noon ET on Championship Saturday, so this isn’t much of a change from years past.

Of note above: the title game will be hosted by the team with the best conference record and not the highest-ranked division championship, which sometimes isn’t necessarily the same thing.

As a refresher, the American divisions are divvied up as follows:

EAST
Connecticut
Temple
Cincinnati
East Carolina
Central Florida
South Florida

WEST
Memphis
Tulane
Houston
SMU
Tulsa
Navy

Yes, Navy is in the West Division. Best get used to it now, people.

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Gary Pinkel inducted into MAC Hall of Fame

Gary Pinkel

Gary Pinkel is about to enter his 15th season as Missouri’s head coach. That’s a long time in any job, and especially long as a head football coach at a Power Five institution. Long enough for Pinkel to pass a pair of College Football Hall of Fame coaches in Don Faurot and Dan Devine as Mizzou’s all-time winningest coach. It’s three coaching lifetimes, really.

But there was a Gary Pinkel before he arrived in Columbia. And, kids, he was pretty darn successful.

From 1991-2000, Pinkel guided Toledo to a 73-37-3 mark. He guided the Rockets to an 11-0-1 mark in 1994, claiming a MAC championship and a top 25 final ranking. Pinkel’s teams also won the MAC West Division in 1997 and 1998, losing to those great Marshall teams in the title game each time, and won a share of the division crown in 2000 before leaving for Mizzou before the 2001 season.

Pinkel won enough to become Toledo’s all-time winningest coach, joining him with Steve Spurrier as the only active coaches to hold the all-time wins mark at two separate schools.

And on Wednesday, Pinkel was inducted into the conference’s hall of fame.

“When I got the call that this happened I had tears in my eyes, that I could be honored like this,” Pinkel told Cleveland.com. “I am very, very appreciative of this award. This (getting to the dinner) was really important to me.”

In addition to his coaching exploits, Pinkel was also honored for his accomplishments as a player. Playing with teammate Nick Saban and for College Football Hall of Fame head coach Don James at Kent State, he earned All-MAC and honorable mention All-America honors as a tight end.

Wednesday night’s honor gave Pinkel the distinction of residing in the Kent State, Toledo and MAC halls of fame.

In perhaps the most interesting anecdote of the story, Pinkel nearly missed the ceremony after his Cleveland-bound plane could not make it out of Destin, Fla., but Kentucky head coaches Mark Stoops and John Calipari, also making their way north from the SEC’s spring meetings, let him bum a ride, even pleading with their pilot to drop Pinkel off in Cleveland before heading to Lexington. “It’s a miracle,” he said. “I really wanted to be here.”

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Arizona State linebacker Davon Durant pleads guilty to assault

Davon Durant

In March, Arizona State juco signee Davon Durant was arrested and suspended for a domestic violence incident. Durant’s accuser officially recanted her claim a day later… and the story didn’t go anywhere in the two months that followed. Until Thursday.

Facing charges of aggravated assault and disorderly conduct for his Tempe arrest, Durant pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct, an offense that carries up to six months in jail, supervised probation, up to $2,500 in fines, possible restitution and participation in a domestic violence treatment program.

The Arizona Republic reported that sentencing is set for June 15.

Durant’s attorney Benjamin Taylor called Thursday’s results a win for his side, saying he was “happy to get a positive result in the case.”

David Dow, attorney for Durant’s one-time accuser, argued the judge to drop a moratorium on contact between his client and Durant, saying the two sides would prefer to remain in contact. Dow also said his client would not seek restitution.

Durant was accused of striking the woman once in the face and grabbing her around the neck. Though his accuser dropped her story, a spokesman for the Tempe police department told ESPN multiple witnesses were on the scene.

A five-star prospect out of Butler (Kan.) Community College, Durant has not rejoined the Sun Devils’ roster since his March arrest.

(Photo credit: Tempe police department, Arizona Republic)

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Erstwhile Gator TE appears ticketed for USC

Daniel Imatorbhebhe

It appears that Florida’s loss could soon become USC’s gain.

Earlier this week it was reported that Daniel Imatorbhebhe, a member of Florida’s 2015 recruiting class, had decided to leave the Gators for an unknown destination. Imatorbhebhe’s brother also happens to be a talented football recruit who also just happened to be interested in UF before committing to USC a week prior to his sibling’s decision.

Framed that way, it appears the brothers are angling for a gridiron reunion. And, according to TrojanSports.com, that’s indeed the case as the website reports, citing a source close to the freshman tight end, that Imatorbhebhe is planning to transfer to the Trojans. While there is nothing official from either school, there are reports that Imatorbhebhe has already cleaned out his UF locker.

If Imatorbhebhe does move on from the Gators to the Trojans, he would be compelled to sit out the 2015 season to satisfy NCAA transfer rules. Then, beginning in 2016, he would have four seasons of eligibility remaining.

That, though, won’t help with the Trojans’ well-chronicled issues at the tight end position this season.

Imatorbhebhe was a three-star member of UF’s most recent recruiting class, rated as the No. 18 tight end in the country and the No. 26 player at any position at any position in the state of Georgia. He was an early enrollee who participated in spring practice a couple of months ago.

His brother, four-star wide receiver Josh Imatorbhebhe, committed to the Trojans May 18. The younger Imatorbhebhe is rated as the No. 26 receiver in the country.

(Photo credit: Rivals.com)

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Fans’ postgame field rush could prove costly for Big 12 teams

TCU v Baylor Getty Images

The SEC confirmed earlier this week that it would be stiffening its penalties against schools whose fans rush the field/storm the court following wins.  Wednesday, another Power Five conference confirmed it will be carrying a bigger stick when it comes to such potentially dangerous activities as well.

According to Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby, one recommendation offered up at the conference’s spring meetings this week that will likely pass is instituting rather significant and stiff penalties for the schools of those field-rushers/court-stormers.  The Dallas Morning NewsChuck Carlton writes that “Bowlsby said the penalties could range from reprimands to fines to the loss of a home game.”

While the potential of sanctions would help fans be protected from themselves, it’s done mostly with the protection of players and coaches and other game personnel in mind.

“We are certainly most interested in the safety of our participants and would include home team, visiting team, officials, table crew and the like,” commissioner Bob Bowlsby said. “And we have pretty good video evidence of all our big events so we can review them.

The impetus for this push seems to be an incident on a basketball court a couple of months ago. From the Sporting News:

This is undoubtedly the league’s response to Bill Self’s rant in February after Kansas State fans rushed the court and were caught on video intentionally bumping into Kansas players. Forward Jamari Traylor was body-checked by a fan and Self was pushed into the scorer’s table as fans flooded onto the court.

“I wasn’t nervous for me,” Self said after the game. “There were several students that hit our players…This (lack of security) has got to stop.”

The home teams, not the conference, are responsible for in-game security, which is why the onus will be on the member institutions to clean up postgame fan behavior. Or pay the price.

Bowlsby added that while he will consult with others in the conferences, the ultimate decision on how much a price there will be to pay will ultimately be up to him alone.

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Everett Golson talks ‘fresh start’ in move to FSU

TEMPE, AZ - NOVEMBER 08:  Quarterback Everett Golson #5 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish reacts as he walks off the field following the college football game against the Arizona State Sun Devils at Sun Devil Stadium on November 8, 2014 in Tempe, Arizona. The Sun Devils defeated the Fighting Irish 55-31. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) Getty Images

When it came to the Everett Golson situation, we already knew the who, what, where and when: the quarterback transferred to Florida State earlier this month. What has been unknown is why Golson left Notre Dame to play his final season elsewhere.

Most assumed it had something to do with being behind Malik Zaire in the Irish’s quarterback competition, or clashes with head coach Brian Kelly. Golson would likely never cop to either of those explanations if they were even accurate, and he didn’t in an interview with FOXSports.com‘s Bruce Feldman in which the grad transfer talked of wanting “a fresh start” as his reasoning for leaving South Bend for Tallahassee.

“It’s something that’s pretty crazy right now for me to adjust to (not being a member of the Fighting Irish), but I do think it was best for me,” Golson explained. “I just needed a fresh start. It was me sitting down and thinking, ‘OK, where do I feel the most comfortable?’ It was nothing to knock Notre Dame. I just had to put myself in the best position possible.”

Golson also confirmed that ND blocked any potential transfer to not only 2015 opponent Texas, but also any school on this season’s schedule. While admitting he would’ve been interested in the Longhorns — if you’re a quality quarterback looking for a new home, why wouldn’t you be? — he also allowed that the decision to keep him away from UT wasn’t at all surprising.

“I would’ve definitely entertained [a transfer to UT], but just knowing that I couldn’t, it kinda limited me,” Golson said. “It was pretty awkward, but it was kind of expected. It would’ve been interesting to see Texas. They (Notre Dame) basically limited me to the schools that we wouldn’t play. I wasn’t really surprised by it. …

“The biggest thing for me was I wanted to be somewhere down south, too. They didn’t necessarily block me from something I was strongly considering, except maybe Texas.”

That said, Feldman wrote, Golson “appreciates how ND compliance tried to help him through what was a very nerve-wracking process.”

Finally, Golson confirmed that, as had previously been speculated, he had an interest in multiple SEC schools, including Alabama, Florida, Georgia and LSU. He also confirmed that getting a waiver from one of those schools, which would’ve been required by the SEC because of his previous academic misconduct issue, was proving problematic and took that conference and those schools out of the process.

Earlier this week, FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher talked of having a quarterback competition between Golson and spring front-runner Sean Maguire, not controversy.  Fisher also stated very firmly that nothing was promised to Golson when it came to guaranteeing a starting job.  On that front, the player backed up his new coach’s public stance.

“That wasn’t a worry for me at all,” Golson said of going from a competition in South Bend to one in Tallahassee. “I think that’s what a lot of people misconstrued. I’m not afraid of competition at all. There’s gonna be competition when I go to Florida State as well. It was about where I can most benefit myself.”

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Ex-OSU Cowboy, UA Wildcat QB Daxx Garman to give Terps a try

West Virginia v Oklahoma State Getty Images

Daxx Garman has already been a quarterback in the Pac-12 and Big 12, so now he figures he’ll hit up one more Power Five conference for his final collegiate act.

Thursday afternoon, Maryland announced that the well-traveled quarterback will join the Terrapins football team for his last season of football.  As the strong-armed Garman will be a graduate transfer, he’ll be eligible to play immediately in 2015 and, right away, be thrust knee-deep in his new team’s quarterback competition.

“We are excited that Daxx will be joining our program,” head coach Randy Edsall said in a statement. “He is an experienced quarterback who has proven himself as an accomplished starter in the Big 12, helping to lead his team to a postseason bowl game. Daxx is an outstanding student who has displayed tremendous poise and maturity during his college career. He comes in knowing he is competing for the starting quarterback position and is looking forward to the competition and being part of our football family”

After weeks worth of speculation, Mike Gundy confirmed in early March that Garman would be transferring… again.  He came to OSU after transferring in from Arizona; in high school, he transferred on two separate occasions as well.

Garman will enter the signal-calling mix in College Park this summer, with his main competition likely being Caleb Rowe.  Coming off a torn ACL, Rowe exited spring practice as the favorite to win the starting job even as he didn’t participate in any of the 15 sessions.  The new contender, though, has plenty of experience to be a significant threat to Rowe’s standing.

Garman replaced J.W. Walsh, who sustained a season-ending leg injury in Week 2, and started the next eight games at quarterback last season before going down with a concussion in a Nov. 15 loss to Texas. Freshman Mason Rudolph replaced Walsh against Baylor and, in three starts, led the Cowboys to at least 28 points in going 2-1, including a 30-21 win over Washington in the Cactus Bowl that saw him pass for 299 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

Because of that three-game stretch — and because a Garman-led offense failed to score more than 27 points in five of eight starts — Rudolph was widely viewed as the overwhelming favorite to win the starting job heading into spring practice.  In fact, Gundy stated around the time of Garman’s transfer that Rudolph would enter the spring as the unquestioned starter, with Walsh as his backup, meaning it’s essentially the 6-4, 217-pound true sophomore’s job to lose.

Coming out of high school in Southlake, Tex., as a three-star prospect, Garman originally signed with Arizona in 2011.  He announced in December of that year that he would be transferring from the Wildcats to the Cowboys.

“Coach Edsall has done a great job with the football program and he truly cares about his players,” Garman said. “I’m very excited to compete in the Big Ten Conference. Maryland is an outstanding university and I’m excited to further my education and continue playing football. I enjoyed my visit in College Park and I’m excited to have this opportunity.”

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Arkansas-Mizzou lands on Black Friday this year

Arkansas v Missouri Getty Images

With Texas A&M-LSU not a possibility in 2015, the SEC and one of its television partners has (once again) turned to an intradivisional matchup for your Black Friday viewing pleasure.

Amongst the dates and times for its 2015 television schedule announced Thursday, the SEC confirmed that this year’s Arkansas-Missouri game will be played Nov. 27, the day after Thanksgiving.  The game will be played in Fayetteville at 2:30 p.m. ET and will be televised by CBS.

And, for those who have forgotten, this game has an official moniker: the Battle Line Rivalry presented by Shelter Insurance. Just rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it?

The 2015 edition of this “rivalry” will be the second one played since Mizzou joined the SEC in 2012, and the first-ever meeting between the two football programs in Fayetteville. The first conference game between the two also took place on Black Friday, a 21-14 Mizzou win in Columbia last season that officially sent the Tigers to their second consecutive SEC championship game appearance.

All-time, the Tigers lead the series 4-2.

And, for those of you curious as to the current SEC on CBS television slate, click HERE for our buddies over at FBSchedules.com.

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Bowling Green adds Notre Dame transfer Eilar Hardy

Eilar Hardy, Shawn Lynch

After four years in Indiana, Eilar Hardy has decided to move one state over for his final season.

In a press release Thursday, Bowling Green announced that Hardy has decided to transfer into Dino Babers‘ football program and play his final season of college ball with the Falcons.  Hardy comes in as a graduate transfer, having received his degree from Notre Dame earlier this month, and will be eligible immediately.

Hardy announced his transfer intentions back in January.

“We are excited to welcome Eilar Hardy to Bowling Green and our football program,” Babers started. “Having lost so much to graduation last year from our secondary, he will provide experience and leadership for that group. He has played at a high level his whole career and we are excited that he has chosen to become a Falcon.”

The defensive back played in 13 games the past two seasons. The only two starts of his Irish career came in 2013.

Hardy’s most notable claim to fame during his time in South Bend was being one of the five players caught up in an academic fraud investigation.

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Harbaugh acknowledges Sparty as ‘biggest guy’ on state’s block

ANN ARBOR, MI - APRIL 04: Head coach Jim Harbaugh of the Michigan Wolverines looks on during the Michigan Football Spring Game on April 4, 2015 at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) Getty Images

Sometimes something is so obvious that, regardless of how much it may pain you to let the words roll off your lips, you just have to acknowledge it and move on. Such is the case for Jim Harbaugh when it comes to the current pecking order of Power Five football in the state of Michigan.

From the first time the Michigan-Michigan State rivalry was played in 1898 until 2007, the Wolverines absolutely owned the Spartans, leading the series 67-28-5. That century-long dominance led to the infamous “Little Brother” moniker being slapped on Sparty and hanging around its neck like an 800-pound albatross.

In 2008, Rich Rodriguez‘s first season in Ann Arbor coincidentally enough, the tide quickly began turning in favor of the Spartans. Since a loss in 2007, MSU has ripped off wins in six of the last seven games, with five of those coming by double figures.

MSU is now a Big Ten power, while UM is looking up at not only its in-state rival but its hated rival — and 2014 College Football Playoff champion — Ohio State as well. Speaking to area high school coaches in Detroit Wednesday, Harbaugh took a detour from his usual SOP, tipping his cap in the general direction of East Lansing and the current balance of football power in the state.

“We know we’re not the biggest guy on the block (right now),” Harbaugh said by way of mlive.com. “Michigan State’s the biggest guy on the block.”

“Rightfully so, rightfully so,” the coach added before going into full-blown recruiting mode. “They’ve done a tremendous job and we respect the job that they’ve done. But we want that. We want it. And we ask for your help in doing that. We want Detroit players at the University of Michigan. We’ve got a great history of Detroit players (at Michigan), and not just for football, we want them to get an education. We want to educate your players and we want them to succeed.

“Not just with football, but as great people.”

When it comes to the lifeblood of a football program, the recruiting trail, Harbaugh & Company are gaining momentum. Working on a tight time frame after his January hiring, Harbaugh pulled in the No. 50 recruiting class in the country this past February after that class was ranked 75th exactly a week before National Signing Day. For the 2016 cycle, the Wolverines are somewhere in the neighborhood of 35th(ish) nationally, depending on the recruiting service — the Spartans are Top 10, incidentally, after a Top 25 class in 2015.

That said, it may take a bit of time for the in-season results to catch up with the wildly optimistic — some would say way too wildly optimistic — offseason expectations.

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SEC to join satellite camp craze if no national rule is enacted

Mike Slive

The dreaded “satellite camp” imbroglio percolated again yesterday, with the SEC essentially threatening to join in the recruiting fun if nothing is done on a national basis about the practice.

Earlier this week, incoming SEC commissioner Greg Sankey intimated that, if a national rule banning coaches from working as “guest” coaches at high school football camps outside of a 50-mile radius from their respective campuses wasn’t enacted, his conference could very well join the fray.  Wednesday, outgoing commissioner Mike Slive confirmed that the conference will indeed let their coaches loose if nothing’s done nationally with a rule proposed by his league.

“We are going to make every effort to have our rule adopted nationally,” Slive said Wednesday night at the SEC’s spring meetings. “If the rule isn’t adopted nationally, come next summer, our folks will be free to fan out all over the country and have at it.”

Sankey added that the league’s coaches are prepared to “canvas the nation if we’re in the same circumstance next year.”

Most view that as a threat from the conference as, the line of thinking of some nationally goes, a good many people in Big Ten or Pac-12 or Big 12 country would probably prefer not to see the likes of Nick Saban and Les Miles setting up camp in their own backyard. That, though, is something the SEC wants to avoid with its proposal.

In order for the SEC’s rule, which is also favored by the ACC, to pass, the majority of the 10 FBS conferences will need to vote in favor of it. The votes of the Power Five conferences — ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, SEC — are weighted to count double of those cast by the Group of Five leagues — AAC, Conference USA, MAC, Mountain West, Sun Belt.

It seems highly likely that the Big Ten and Pac-12, and probably the Big 12, will vote against the SEC’s proposal as those three P5 leagues make use of the satellite camps to one degree or another. On the G5 front, they would seemingly want to keep the SEC out of its recruiting footprint — the SBC is already screwed either way as the SEC is already firmly embedded in it — as much as possible, a goal that this rule would certainly accomplish.

Thus, it would stand to reason that the SEC’s proposal would stand a fairly decent chance of passing national muster: SEC (2 votes in favor) + ACC (2) + G5 (5) = 9 > B1G (2 votes against) + B12 (2) + P12 (2) = 6. Even if Notre Dame, a satellite camp proponent that’s a part of the P5 autonomy group, is added to the mix, that wouldn’t be enough to squelch the proposed rule.  Could those who don’t want to the proposal enacted see a couple of the G5s voting against the proposal and tipping the scales in their favor? It’s possible, I guess, but doesn’t seem too likely.

If it’s not passed?

“We’ll do it, I promise you, all summer next year,” Miles said. “Next year, we’ll be in all different locations.”

“Our ADs have heard us try to push this issue nationally, and they’ve tried to push it nationally,” said Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops. “If it doesn’t happen, then we’re all in. Then we’ll be all over the place next year.”

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Former NCAA executive director Walter Byers dies at 93

Walt Byers

Walter Byers, the man who, for better or worse, created the modern NCAA passed away on Wednesday at his home in Emmett, Kan. He was 93. Byers’ son Fritz said the cause was a urinary tract infection that spread to his bloodstream.

Byers famously left his post as an assistant sports information director for the Big Ten to become the NCAA’s first executive director at age 29 in 1951. The next quarter century saw Byers rapidly expand the NCAA – in terms of its membership, the revenue it took in, and its dominion over its athletes. He took what former NCAA employee and eventual Big 8 and Big Ten commissioner Wayne Duke called a “part-time” organization and nearly tripled its membership, from 381 universities upon his hiring to 1,003 upon his exit in 1987. The NCAA’s own rank and file grew as well, as the organization grew from a handful of employees at its Kansas City offices to 150  by the time of his retirement.

“He had to come up with structure for all kinds of athletics, team and individual, at the national level. Before him there was nothing,” Duke told the Associated Press.

Byers saw the value in televising college sports early on, selling a restricted slate of games to NBC for $1.14 million a year in 1952 according to the New York Times. Byers strategy of grouping NCAA football games together got the sport on television, but membership eventually fought to overrule the model he created. In 1984, Oklahoma and Georgia successfully sued the NCAA for control over their television contracts, creating the marketplace that eventually brought Notre Dame its standalone contract with NBC and created individual networks for the Big Ten, SEC, Pac-12 and Texas.

“It is virtually impossible to overstate the degree of our resentment,” Oklahoma president William Banowsky said at the time.

Byers made up that revenue by ramping up the NCAA Tournament, helping turn it into the billion-dollar enterprise it is today. “In my opinion he never received credit for his leadership in building that event,” said former NCAA Tournament administrator Tom Jernstedt. “In my mind he is the father of the NCAA basketball tournament and he doesn’t get the recognition for that.”

Byers was also credited with coining the term “student-athlete,” though he later rejected the amateurism model that to this day serves as the NCAA’s bedrock, admitting in his memoir Unsportsmanlike Conduct that the term was a defense mechanism allowing schools to avoid long-term liability for athletes’ disability benefits. “Whereas the NCAA defends its policies in the name of amateurism and level playing fields, they actually are a device to divert the money elsewhere,” he wrote.

By the end of his tenure, Byers considered the idea of creating an “open” division, similar to the Power Five autonomy legislation the powers that be are working through today. “I’m gradually coming to the conclusion that there has to be a major rearrangement on the part of the institutions of higher learning as to what they want to do with their athletic programs. I think there’s an inherent conflict that has to be resolved,” he said. “I’m not prepared to go into how an open division would work. But we’re in a situation where we, the colleges, say it’s improper for athletes to get, for example, a new car. Well, is that morally wrong? Or is it wrong because we say it’s wrong?”

Forever reluctant of the spotlight, Byers made few public appearances following his 1987 retirement, and even no-showed his National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame induction in 2009.

Byers leaves behind two sons, one daughter, six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

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After year-long study, Auburn won’t claim any more national championships

Jay Jacobs

For years – heck, eons – Alabama’s practice of claiming some, uh, dubious national championships has driven Auburn fans crazy. So much so, in fact, that last year the school launched a study into whether or not it should start claiming some bygone national championships of its own.

The results are in, and Auburn will keep its national championship total at two.

“We’ve earned what we’ve earned and people can count it different ways, but we’ve earned what we’ve earned,” Jacobs told Brandon Marcello of AL.com. “Those players on those teams, like me in 1983, it doesn’t matter if you hang a banner or not. I know what we did.”

The Tigers claim titles in 1957 and 2010, but the NCAA record books credits Auburn with championships in 1910, 1913, 1914, 1983, 1993 and 2004 as well.

This is the path the school should take. For one thing, Auburn was on probation during its undefeated 1993 regular season. For another, the school and its fans would instantaneously lose any moral high ground it claims over Alabama – whatever that’s worth – by following the Tide into handing itself retroactive titles. And even at that the Tigers would still be only halfway way to Alabama’s total.

No, better stick to the commonly recognized total and leave your rivals to wander in the realms of fantasy.

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American sets kick times for a number of ESPN-broadcasted games

Maryland v Connecticut

The season is getting ever closer. We crossed the double-digit barrier until FBS opening day this week, and on Wednesday the American announced a number of finalized kick times for games that will be shown on the ESPN family of networks.

The bulk of the games are opening weekend tilts, allowing the season to feel just that much closer, while the others are weeknight games.

Without further ado, here’s the full set of announced kick times (all times Eastern):

Thurs., Sept. 3: Villanova at Connecticut – 7:30 p.m., ESPN3/SNY
Fri., Sept. 4: Baylor at SMU – 7 p.m., ESPN
Sat., Sept. 5: Florida A&M at South Florida – 7 p.m., ESPN3
Alabama A&M at Cincinnati – 7 p.m., ESPN3
Towson at East Carolina – 6 p.m., ESPN3
Tennessee Tech at Houston – 8 p.m., ESPN3
Missouri State at Memphis – 7 p.m., ESPN3
Sat., Sept. 19: Furman at Central Florida – 6 p.m., ESPN3
Maine at Tulane – 8 p.m., ESPN3
Sat., Sept. 26: James Madison at SMU – 7 p.m., ESPN3
Fri., Oct. 2: Memphis at South Florida – 7 p.m., ESPN2
Thurs., Oct. 8: SMU at Houston – 8 p.m., ESPN2
Fri., Oct. 16: Houston at Tulane – 9 p.m, ESPNU
Thurs., Oct. 22: Temple at East Carolina – 7 p.m., ESPN2
Fri., Oct. 23: Memphis at Tulsa – 8 p.m., ESPN
Fri., Oct. 30: East Carolina at Connecticut – 7 p.m., ESPNU
Fri., Nov. 6: Temple at SMU – 8 p.m., ESPN2
Thurs., Nov. 19: East Carolina at Central Florida – 7:30 p.m., ESPN

Plan accordingly.

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