Notre Dame kicks its way to the BCS national championship

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Probably. But only because we’re still technically required to include that word.

The newest official BCS standings come out tomorrow evening, and the top-ranked Irish do not play next week. Still, it’s impossible to think that Notre Dame won’t be No. 1 when the final BCS rankings come out early next month. Why? Because top-ranked Notre Dame did what it was asked to do: win every game on its 2012 schedule, including Saturday night’s 22-13 victory over rival USC.

Running back Theo Riddick was the game’s MVP with 146 yards and a touchdown. When the Irish needed yards, Brian Kelly went to Riddick. When the Irish needed touchdowns, Kelly… did not go to Riddick. At least not on a drive that could have officially iced the game.  Facing a 1st-and-goal at the USC 9-yard line midway through the fourth quarter, Kelly elected to go to an empty set and put the ball in quarterback Everett Golson‘s hands after Riddick and Cierre Wood had rushed for 47 combined yards on just four plays earlier.

And, like four other times previously, the Irish had to settle for a Kyle Brindza field goal.

But that’s been Notre Dame’s formula all year — although not always on purpose. The Irish offense has shown big-play ability at times this season, but tying it all together for an entire game, let alone an entire season, has been a chore for the offensive-minded Kelly. So Notre Dame has relied on its defense. At no time was that more necessary than USC’s second-to-last offensive possession. Trojans backup quarterback Max Wittek finally connected with Marqise Lee (after trying all game) for a 53-yard gain down to the Notre Dame 2-yard line. The pass was perfectly defended; it was simply a better pitch and catch by Wittek and Lee. But then, Notre Dame’s defense bowed up and held the Trojans on a goal line stand when Wittek’s play-action pass went through the hands of fullback Soma Vainuku.

Why Lane Kiffin, still needing two scores to win, didn’t opt for the field goal is perplexing. Then again, much of why the Trojans, the preseason No. 1 team, sit unranked at 7-5 is difficult to comprehend. Will Kiffin lose his job because Pat Haden is racking his brain for answers? That too is hard to tell.

Likewise, you’d be hard-pressed to find many who had the foresight to predict that Notre Dame would be in this position three months ago. The Irish became the first team to go from unranked in the preseason AP poll to reaching BCS championship game in the same season.

Not that there haven’t been doubters along the way. When college football was still working with three to four undefeated teams, it was Notre Dame — not Alabama, Kansas State or Oregon — expected to be on the outside looking in once the final BCS standings were revealed. But, because college football is a tricky siren luring all us sailors to our inevitable and often gruesome demise, it was only Notre Dame that evaded the 2012 season unscathed.

It wasn’t sexy, and like all teams, Notre Dame needed some good fortune along the way. But this team got the job done when it mattered.

For that, no matter how you think the Irish stack up against other competition, Notre Dame has rightfully earned a spot in the BCS championship game. Notre Dame will play the champion of the SEC, winners of six straight national titles, too. What better way to prove yourself than to knock off the champs?

Remember the annoying “S-E-C!” chants raining down from inside JerryWorld when Alabama defeated Michigan at the beginning of the season? Notre Dame — hated Notre Dame, for all the preferential treatment it receives in college athletics — has the opportunity to silence them.

Wait for it: Notre Dame might actually be the lesser of the two evils here, especially if its championship opponent is Alabama. We’ll give you a minute to keep your head from exploding.

The ratings of an Alabama-Notre Dame BCS championship would be through the roof. Viewers by the masses would tune in for support, hate, curiosity and a stew of other (and possibly subconscious) reasons. Why? Because love ’em or hate ’em, Notre Dame matters, and its success (or failure) is going to be magnified.

But for now — finally — the Irish have the product on the field to back it up.

FCS player who punched coach charged with felony assault

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Normally in-game violence doesn’t result in off-field legal ramifications, but this is (rightly) one of the rare exceptions.

Earlier this month, Tennessee State defensive end Latrelle Lee was not only dismissed from the FCS program but expelled from the university after he punched Tigers strength & conditioning coach T.J. Greenstone twice in the head on the sideline during a game.  Greenstone serves as TSU’s “get-back” coach for players, charged with keeping them from creeping toward the field of play and, in the process, keeping the team from drawing a flag.

The unprovoked assault was caught on video and quickly went viral.

As a result of that incident, Lee, who had been a criminal justice major prior to his expulsion, has been arrested on one count of felony assault, The Tennessean is reporting.  Lee was subsequently released Monday night after a $7,500 bond was posted, and has an initial court date scheduled for Dec. 8; he had been scheduled to graduate Dec. 9.

According to the arrest affidavit, “[t]he victim has subsequently been having medical difficulties as a result [of] the altercation.”

“We, of course, do not condone any act of violence within our department and are very disturbed by the action of one of our students,” a statement from athletic director Teresa Phillips released shortly after the Nov. 11 incident began. “We are committed to supporting the coach who was personally affected and our concern now is with him.”

Thus far, there has been no public comment from the football program or the university on this latest development, nor have they updated the status of the coach who was the victim of the assault.

Bovada pulls Heisman odds as Baker Mayfield’s ‘too big of a favorite’

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While Baker Mayfield‘s crotch-grabbing histrionics last weekend will cost him this weekend, the same can’t be said for his Heisman hopes — at least when it comes to wagering establishments.

USC quarterback Sam Darnold opened the 2017 season as Bovada.lv‘s favorite to win the Heisman Trophy, only to be overtaken after Week 1 by Louisville quarterback and reigning Heisman winner Lamar Jackson — he was the prohibitive favorite in mid-September… only to see Jackson leapfrogged by the Oklahoma quarterback two weeks later… only to see Mayfield overtaken by Penn State running back Saquon Barkley — he was the overwhelming favorite in late October… only for Barkley to be overtaken by Mayfield the first week of November. Mayfield has been a steadily increasing favorite since, with last week’s odds featuring just him (as the overwhelming favorite at 1/20), Barkley and Love.

This week’s odds? There are none. From Bovada:

Heisman odds are currently off the board as Baker Mayfield is too big of a favorite. He was 1/20 last week and would be even bigger this week.

Other oddsmakers followed suit, as noted by ESPN.com:

MGM had Mayfield listed at -250 as of last Monday, when the book took the odds off the board in compliance with Nevada Gaming Control regulations. The Westgate SuperBook closed Mayfield as even a bigger favorite at -2,000 on Sunday.

Those odds were pulled, however, as the NGC requires all betting on the Heisman to cease on Nov.19, per ESPN. Bovada doesn’t fall under the auspices of the NGC, so they could’ve technically continued laying odds on Heisman race.

The assistant manager at Westgate confirmed to ESPN that the book is looking at a loss if (when?) Mayfield wins the Heisman. It’s likely that other books could very well be facing the same predicament.

Emotional Baker Mayfield discusses being stripped of captaincy for last game, Senior Day, in Norman

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Much-needed, hard lesson learned, maybe?

While he was subjected to a lack-of-class moment by Kansas in the pregame and then a couple of questionable hits during this past Saturday’s game, Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield showed his backside by very graphically grabbing his front in a heated response.  While he truly apologized in the postgame aftermath, OU announced Monday that the Heisman Trophy front-runner will not start this weekend’s regular-season finale against West Virginia.

Not only that, Mayfield was stripped of his captaincy for that finale.  On Senior Day, his last-ever game in Norman no less.

That latter aspect of the punishment proved to be almost too much for Mayfield to deal with, with the quarterback becoming visibly emotional when discussing with the media his lost captaincy Monday night.

“Playing at OU was something that I always dreamed of,” Mayfield said. “Not starting, it is what it is.

“But not being a team captain is so much more. It would be hard if it were a regular game or not, but it being my last one here ever, it means a lot more. It’s going to be tough, because Saturday was going to be — without all of this — an emotional one. It’s going to be hard to handle, but … it’s going to be hard.”

OU has already secured one spot in the Big 12 championship game, most likely against TCU.  The Sooners are also ranked fourth in the most recent College Football Playoff Top 25 and will earn one of the four semifinal slots if they win their next two games.

Arkansas QB Cole Kelley returns from DUI-related suspension

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Arkansas’ one-time starting quarterback will return for the Razorbacks’ season finale. Whether he sees the field is another matter entirely.

Cole Kelley was arrested for driving while intoxicated and reckless driving earlier this month. A day after the arrest, Kelley was indefinitely suspended by the football program and missed UA’s Week 12 game.

Monday, that suspension officially came to an end after one game as head coach Bret Bielema confirmed that the redshirt freshman has rejoined the team.

“He’ll be back full-go with us again,” Bielema said by way of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.  Left unsaid is whether Kelley will play in the Week 13 matchup with Missouri Friday afternoon, in part because he’s still recovering from an injury.

Austin Allen started the first five games of the season before going down with a shoulder injury. Kelley replaced him and started the next four, with Allen returning to his starting role the last two weeks against LSU and Mississippi State.

Kelley is 2-2 as the starter this year and Allen 2-5 for a Razorbacks team that won’t be going bowling for the first time since Bielema’s first season in 2013. This week’s game could also mark Bielema’s last as UA’s head coach.