Setting the table for Rivalry Saturday feast


There’s both good and bad news as we conclude Week 13 of the 2012 season.

The bad?  Saturday will serve as the last full schedule of weekend games until the 2013 season kicks off.  The good?  It’s easily the greatest weekend of football at any level, certainly saving the best for last.

From heated traditional rivalries to games rife with BcS implications — or both — the collective plates of college football fans all across the country will be overflowing from the noon kickoff of The Game all the way through the final gun sounding around midnight on a storied West Coast-Midwest rivalry, one that will determine one of the two spots in the BcS championship game.

For all the pomp and circumstance prior to kickoff, the weekend could be relatively quiet BcS-wise come day’s end.  If Notre Dame knocks off USC, and Alabama and Georgia take care of business against Auburn and Georgia Tech, respectively, the Fighting Irish will square off against the winner of the Tide/Bulldogs SEC title game for the BcS championship in Miami.  If the Golden Domers do stumble, however, all BChaoS will break loose and bring a handful of teams back into the title picture:

Oregon, Kansas State and the winner of the Florida-Florida State would find themselves on some level back in the title talk with an Irish loss.  The SEC, in particular, has become a collective Southern fan base for the Trojans in general and Lane Kiffin specifically; if USC topples Notre Dame, and Florida can manage to come out of Tallahassee with a win over FSU, there’s a very solid chance that, for the second straight year, it would be an all-SEC BcS championship game — the Gators vs. the winner of the conference title game.

Before the anti-SEC outrage commences in earnest, however, there are many steps that need taken and myriad games to play out.  From Michigan-Ohio State to Oregon-Oregon State to Alabama-Auburn to Oklahoma-Oklahoma State to Clemson-South Carolina to Mississippi State-Ole Miss and all rivalry points in between, it’s a day to celebrate the greatness of a sport whose leaders have done their best to screw it up.

So, sit back, put fresh batteries in the remote, grab your go-to beverages and bask in the glow of all that’s good about this game.

Iowa’s Desmond King suspended for first quarter of Nebraska game

IOWA CITY, IA - SEPTEMBER 26:  Defensive back Desmond King #14 of the Iowa Hawkeyes is knocked out of bounds in the first half by running back Andrew Tucker #25 of the North Texas Mean Green on September 26, 2015 at Kinnick Stadium, in Iowa City, Iowa.  (Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images)
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If Iowa is to wrap-up the football program’s first-ever undefeated regular season in history, it’ll have to do so without one of the nation’s top cornerbacks and return men for one-quarter of it.

Iowa confirmed Friday afternoon that Desmond King has been suspended for the first quarter of today’s game against Nebraska.  The disciplinary measure stems from King being late to a team meeting.

King is currently tied Northern Illinois’ Shawun Lurry for the FBS lead in interceptions with eight.  He was named as a Thorpe Award finalist earlier this week.

In addition to being one of the top cover corners in the country, he’s third in the Big Ten and 29th nationally in kick returns with a 25.6 average, and 11th in punt returns at 12.7 per.

With King sidelined, it will be either Sean Draper or Josh Jackson who gets the start.

Houston sinks Navy for AAC West Division crown; will host Temple or USF for AAC title

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With a chance to clinch the AAC West Divison and home-field advantage in the conference championship game, Houston (11-1, 7-1 AAC) was led by quarterback Greg Ward Jr. throwing and running the football to take down No. 15 Navy (9-2, 7-1 AAC), 51-31. Houston will wait to see if it will host Temple or South Florida next week in the conference championship game.

Houston’s gameplan against Navy was simple in philosophy and strategy but masterful in execution. Big plays and well-designed ball-control was the key to the game for Houston. The Cougars rolled up over 500 yards of offense and kept the Navy defense on the field for a majority of the game. That led to some big play opportunities for Houston, and with players with the skill and talent of Ward Jr., Brandon Wilson and Demarcus Ayers, it proved to be too much for Navy to handle for 60 minutes. Wilson rushed for over 100 yards and a touchdown and Ayers hauled in 161 yards and a score and even got involved with a passing touchdown in the first half, a 29-yard strike to Steven Dunbar. Considering how much Ward Jr. was forced to play through injury, it was a remarkable effort by Houston against a Navy team that has shown some good defense this season. It just was not there today against the AAC’s most talented offensive team.

Houston converted 15 of 18 third-down attempts, and went two-for-two when they chose to go for it on fourth down. Houston was without a turnover and committed just three penalties.

Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds may have seen his late Heisman Trophy campaign take a dent with the loss, but he may still prove worthy of an invite to New York City for the presentation of the award. Reynolds tied the FBS all-time career touchdown record previously set by Wisconsin’s Montee Ball with his fourth quarter touchdown run. Whether he receives an invite to New York or not, there is no question he is among the classiest of college football players and it was clear he never allowed the Midshipmen to pack it in when Houston started to separate itself from Navy.

Houston will host either Temple or South Florida in the first American Athletic Conference championship game next Saturday, December 5. The game, scheduled to kick off at noon, will see its AAC East representative determined tomorrow when Temple plays Connecticut. If Temple defeats the Huskies in Philadelphia, the Owls will make the trip to Houston for the conference championship game. A loss by Temple and it will be South Florida representing the East thanks to a head-to-head tiebreaker over Temple. USF won Thursday night to force Temple to win against UConn to win the division. Houston has not played either AAC East Division contender this season.

Navy is not done this regular season, of course. The Midshipmen will make the trip to Philadelphia for the traditional Army-Navy Game in two weeks. Navy has beaten their rivals from West Point 13 straight times for the longest winning streak in the series.

Miami defense shutting down Pitt; Hurricanes lead 23-3 at half

Brad Kaaya

It may be hard to believe, but Miami is in position to end the season with nine wins. That assumes, of course, the Hurricanes avoid a second half meltdown against Pittsburgh and close out the year with a bowl win. For now, Miami should be feeling pretty good as the Hurricanes have stomped Pitt in the first half of an early kickoff in western Pennsylvania. Miami took a 23-3 lead into the half.

Miami has more than doubled the total offensive production of the Panthers, outgaining Pitt at halftime 248 yards to 102. The Panthers have just 36 passing yards and 66 rushing yards in the half. Pitt also had a turnover with Nathan Peterman having a pass picked off by Artie Burns.

Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya has completed 13 of 23 pass attempts for 166 yards, with Rashawn Scott on the receiving end of the touchdown play and leading the team with 50 receiving yards. Miami’s Joseph Yardley leads all players with 64 rushing yards. Pitt’s star receiver, Tyler Boyd, has just one catch for eight yards.

Houston takes halftime lead on Navy in AAC West winner-takes-all contest

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If Houston is going to slow down Navy’s offense, keeping it off the field is a good way to go about it. In a battle for the American Athletic Conference West Division title, and home field advantage in the AAC Championship Game, Houston has used methodic ball control to its advantage and leads the Midshipmen 24-14 at halftime. Greg Ward Jr.‘s five-yard touchdown run gave the home team the lead just minutes after Houston successfully converted a fourth down and short after a timeout.

Houston took the game’s opening possession 82 yards for a touchdown after 13 plays for an early lead. Greg Ward Jr. completed a short pass to Steven Dunbar from five yards out for the score, but Navy answered with a touchdown drive on their opening possession. Keenan Reynolds ripped off a 52-yard run and later capped the drive with a 13-yard touchdown run to tie the game at 7-7.

Houston again put together a lengthy and time-consuming touchdown drive on the ensuing possession. The Cougars took 13 plays to move 76 yards for a score, this time seeing Brandon Wilson complete the drive with a 17-yard touchdown run for a 14-7 lead. The two teams exchanged punts before Navy once again tied the game with Reynolds completing a 26-yard touchdown pass to Jamir Tillman.