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The Fifth Quarter: Week 13 Rewind

Notre Dame v USC Getty Images

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

BCS A MESS NO MORE
Thanks to some expected results, the muddled mess that had been the BcS and the chase for the crystal football the past couple of glorious weekends cleared itself up immensely in Week 13:

– No. 1 Notre Dame’s win over unranked USC
— No. 2 Alabama’s humiliation of in-state rival Auburn in the Iron Bowl
— No. 3 Georgia’s cruise over non-conference rival Georgia Tech.

With the confluence of those three events, the following is now known: the Fighting Irish have claimed one of the two spots in the BcS championship game, maintaining their position as the only eligible unbeaten left and putting themselves in line for the football program’s first national title since 1988.

And the Golden Domers’ opponent?

That’s crystal clear as well.  Well, more than likely it is.  The Tide will square off against the Bulldogs in the SEC championship game next Saturday.  As UA and UGA are ranked 2-3, respectively, in the latest BcS ratings, and barring an unexpected development of epic proportions, the winner of the SEC title game will face Notre Dame for the right hoist the title trophy.

If the early BcS projections come to fruition, there’s a chance that Florida, not Georgia, would sit at No. 3 in the set of rankings released Sunday night, behind both Notre Dame and Alabama.  However, even if that’s actually the case, a Georgia win over Alabama would very likely erase any type of deficit the Bulldogs may have between themselves and the Gators at the moment.

In other words, we’re right back to where we started: Notre Dame vs. Alabama/Georgia for all the crystal footballs.  Probably.

WEEK 13 CLINCHINGS

Conference USA East
Thanks to East Carolina’s stunning double overtime win over Marshall Friday, UCF needed a win over three-win UAB to clinch its fourth Conference USA East title in eight years.  The Knights did just that, and a victory wasn’t even remotely in jeopardy or in doubt as UCF rolled to 49-24 win.  Next up for the Knights is the conference championship game on the road against Tulsa, which beat UCF 23-21 a week ago.  It will also mark the third time the two have faced each other in the title game, with the Golden Hurricane winning 44-27 in 2005 and the Knights exacting revenge in 2007 with a 44-25 decision.

Pac-12 North
Lather, rinse, repeat.  Stanford’s win over UCLA Saturday clinched the Pac-12 North, sending the Cardinal into the conference championship game next Friday against… you guessed it, the Bruins at Stanford Stadium.  Stanford and Oregon actually finished tied for the North lead at 8-1; the Cardinal’s 17-14 overtime win over the Ducks last weekend, however, gave the Trees the tiebreaker.  A Cardinal loss coupled with the Ducks’ win over Oregon State would’ve sent UO to the conference title game against UCLA.  Speaking of the Bruins, this will mark their second straight appearance in the championship game.

SEC West
All that was needed for Alabama to claim its third West title in five years was to handle a woeful Auburn squad in the Iron Bowl.  Suffice to say, mission accomplished.  The Tide now turns its attention to the SEC championship game against Georgia, with the winner charged with pushing the conference’s streak of BcS titles to seven in a row.

WAC
On the strength of its 48-9 drubbing of Idaho Saturday afternoon, Utah State claimed its first outright conference championship of any kind since 1936.  This season also marked the first time in school history the Aggies have won 10 games.  Following the win, USU accepted an invitation to play in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl and yes that’s a real thing so shut-up.

STILL TO BE DETERMINED

Big East
Even with losses by both Rutgers (5-1 in conference play) and Louisville (4-2) in Week 13, the game between the Scarlet Knights and the Cardinals this coming Thursday will still (likely) decide which team will grab the Big East’s BcS berth.  The loss to Pittsburgh was a particularly damaging one to Rutgers, however, as, with UConn’s overtime win over Louisville, the Scarlet Knights could’ve clinched the conference Saturday regardless of what happened this week.  The scenarios moving forward are relatively simple, though: if Rutgers beats Louisville, they will win the Big East outright and earn the conference’s BcS bowl game slot.  If Louisville beats Rutgers and Cincinnati wins as well, it would create a four-way logjam at 5-2 atop the standings as Syracuse has already completed the season with that conference mark.  At that point, the tiebreaker would, in a roundabout way, revert to the team ranked highest in the BcS standings.  That would very likely heavily favor the Cardinals.

Big 12
As above, figuring out the Big 12 doesn’t exactly take a rocket surgeon.  If Kansas State beats Texas in Week 14, the Wildcats will claim the conference’s BcS berth.  If K-State loses and Oklahoma beats TCU, it’s the Sooners that claim the prize.  If both teams win or both teams lose?  The Wildcats will be BcS bowling based on their win over the Sooners earlier this season.  See how simple that was?

Mountain West
Wins by Fresno State (over Air Force) and San Diego State (over Wyoming) in their season finales leave the two teams at 7-1 in MWC play.  Boise State at 6-1 still has Nevada left in Week 14, meaning it’s entirely conceivable that there could be a three-way tie for the MWC lead after next week.  As the conference has no championship game and thus no tiebreakers, the title pie would be split three ways if the Broncos win their finale.  Incidentally, how even has this conference been at the top?  Boise State beat Fresno State, which beat San Diego State, which beat Boise State.  Two of those three teams (BSU, SDSU) are playing their final seasons in the MWC before moving on to the Big East.  Probably.

Sun Belt
Middle Tennessee State’s 24-21 win over Troy, which snapped a six-game losing streak against the Trojans, leaves MTSU and Arkansas State at 6-1 in the conference.  And, as the two teams play in the regular-season finale next Saturday, the winner of that game will stake its claim to the outright SBC crown.

WINNERS

HeisManziel indeed
The gambling types this past week installed Johnny Manziel as the Heisman favorite heading into Week 14.  A few days later, the Texas A&M quarterback did nothing to hurt that front-runner status.  In fact, Johnny Football may have all but locked up the 2012 version of the stiff-armed trophy.  In the Aggies’ romp over Missouri, Manziel accounted for 439 yards of total offense (372 passing, 67 rushing) and five touchdowns (three passing, two rushing).  Manziel broke the SEC total offense record set during the Heisman-winning season of Cam Newton, who broke the record of Tim Tebow set during his Heisman-winning season.  While Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o certainly deserves consideration, it appears very likely that the freshman glass ceiling will be broken ahead of the solely defensive one.

Bedlam? Try BedHAM
As is ofttimes the case, the annual Oklahoma-Oklahoma State game lived up to its Bedlam nickname.  In a game that saw the Cowboys jump out to a 17-3 lead early in the second quarter, the Sooners came back… and back… and back… and back again, tying their rivals on four separate occasions but never actually taking a lead.  Never taking a lead, that is, until it mattered most.  The fourth of those mini-comebacks came with four seconds left in the fourth quarter as a Blake Bell touchdown run knotted the game at 45-all and sent it into overtime.  Following a Quinn Sharp field goal on OSU’s first extra-session possession, Brennan Clay romped 18 yards on OU’s first overtime shot to give the Sooners a wild 51-48 win.  As noted above, the win keeps alive Oklahoma’s hopes for both a Big 12 title and the BcS bowl bid that comes with it.

Urban renewal indeed
Thanks to the combination of NCAA sanctions and a six-win 2011 season, the first year under Urban Meyer was widely viewed as a rebuilding one at Ohio State.  If that was indeed rebuilding, I’d guess the Big Ten’s going to hate what the finished product looks like.  A mere 12 games into the Meyer era, the Buckeyes are a perfect 12-0, capping off its unbeaten season with a win over hated Michigan.  There will be no bowl or even a spot in the BcS title game thanks to the sanctions wrought by a Sweatervest, but there is hope and a quiet confidence in Columbus that the best may be yet to come.

Husker do
Unbelievably, it has been 13 years since Nebraska has won a conference championship.  While that drought continues, the Cornhuskers are halfway to ending that streak of futility.  In its second season in the Big Ten, the Huskers have claimed their first-ever Legends division title, eliminating Michigan from contention on the strength of its win over Iowa Friday.  That means the Big Ten title game is officially set and will be a rematch from earlier in the year as Nebraska will take on Wisconsin next Saturday in Indianapolis.  In late September, the Cornhuskers came back from a 17-point second-half deficit to drop the Badgers 30-27.

W-V-phew
On the morning of Oct. 13, West Virginia was sitting at or near the top of the college football world, with the 5-0 Mountaineers ranked fifth in the country and possessing far and away the front-runner for the 2012 Heisman Trophy.  Five games and five straight losses later, the Mountaineers were reeling and in very real danger of failing to become bowl eligible in its first season in the Big 12.  A 31-24 win over Iowa State Friday, however, made the losing streak — the program’s longest since 1986 — a thing of the past and pushed the Mountaineers into postseason eligibility.  One win doesn’t completely heal all that ails Dana Holgorsen‘s squad, but it does take a monkey that had morphed into a gorilla off WVU’s back.  It also keeps alive the hopes of the program winning at least eight games in a season for the 11th straight year.

For all the apples… and some pride
The past three seasons, Washington had claimed the Apple Cup by beating Washington State by an average of 18 points per game.  With Wazzu staggering through a two-win season in its first year under Mike Leach, a fourth straight win seemed well within reach.  Only it wasn’t.  Thanks to a 27-yard field goal in overtime, which was preceded by an ill-advised Keith Price pass that turned into an interception and nearly a defensive touchdown on the Huskies’ first possession in the extra session, the Cougars were able to topple their hated in-state rivals by the score of 31-28.  For a team dealing with both on-field woes and off-field imbroglios, it was the perfect season-ending elixir.  Leach has promised this will be an offseason for the ages as he attempts to turn the flailing program around; the win over UW should make that rough time between now and the 2013 a little more palatable for the players.

Streakers
Thanks to the stumbles recently of some of the top teams in the country, Notre Dame and Ohio State currently own the nation’s longest winning streak at 12 games apiece.  Just two other FBS schools have double-digit streaks going, and they both come from the MAC — Northern Illinois (11) and Kent State (10).  Both of those marks are the longest in the history of the respective programs, but one will come to an end in short order; the Golden Flashes and Huskies will face each other in the conference championship game this coming Friday at Detroit’s Ford Field.  There are eight other teams currently in ownership of a winning streak stretching six games or better: Arkansas State and San Diego State (seven each); and Ball State, Georgia, Nebraska, San Jose State, Utah State and Vanderbilt (six each).

LOSERS

Big Ten title game
Outside of Georgia Tech, no team backdoored its way into a conference championship more than Wisconsin.  Thanks to NCAA sanctions levied on Ohio State and Penn State, the Leaders division of the Big Ten will send its third-best team to the title game next weekend, a team that has lost three of its last four games — the last two to the Buckeyes and Nittany Lions — in backing into a trip to Indianapolis at 7-5 overall and 4-4 in conference play.  The lone saving grace for the B1G?  The Badgers’ opponent as Nebraska comes into the game as winners of six straight, with their only loss in the last 10 coming at Ohio State.

Later Gator
Florida’s not dropped into this category because of a loss per se, but because of events that transpired that were completely out of its control.  On the strength of its come-from-behind blowout win over in-state rival Florida State, the Gators were a Notre Dame loss away from likely playing the winner of the SEC championship in the BcS title game. “Fight on. I’ve always been a real big Lane Kiffin fan,” UF head coach Will Muschamp said after the win, referring to the USC head coach still reviled in the South for his time at Tennessee.  Alas, it was all for naught as the Irish took out the Trojans and clinched its spot in the title game.  It was not all bad news on the night for the Gators as UF is all but guaranteed an at-large BcS berth, especially if they remain in the top four of the BcS standings.

Beatdown between the hedges
The annual Georgia-Georgia Tech rivalry game featured two teams that will represent their divisions in the SEC and ACC championship games, respectively, next weekend.  The game itself turned into something that didn’t even remotely resemble such lofty résumés, at least on one end.  The Bulldogs, with their sights set on much loftier goals than a “mere” conference title, jumped out to a 28-3 halftime lead and didn’t look back, cruising to a 42-10 win in what amounted to a scrimmage leading into the SEC title game.  The Yellow Jackets, on the other hand, are emblematic of the ACC’s 2012 football woes.  Gifted a divisional title thanks to Miami’s decision to self-impose a second consecutive bowl ban, Tech will stumble and stagger into the ACC title game with a UCLA-esque 6-6 record.  If Florida State Nation wants to understand why their Seminoles were not a part of the BcS title game discussion — well, aside from their own on-field indiscretions — all they need to do is look across the line of scrimmage next weekend to see Exhibit A for their computer woes.  Speaking of which…

The ACC
South Carolina 27, Clemson 17.  Georgia 42, Georgia Tech 10.  Vanderbilt 55, Wake Forest 21.  Florida  37, Florida State 26.  Four ACC-SEC matchups, four wins for the SEC by a combined score of 161-74.  If there was ever a microcosm for the gap between the two conferences, especially with the top two teams going down in double-digit fashion, today was it.  And, for some reason, I don’t think the additions of Pittsburgh, Syracuse and, possibly, UConn will close said gap at any point in the near future.

The Big lEast
After a few years of being the poster child for redheaded football stepchildren everywhere, the Big East has achieved a modicum of respect this season.  Cincinnati, Louisville and Rutgers were all unbeaten through the first seven weeks of the season, with the latter two teams still ranked and carrying just one loss apiece headed into Week 13.  And then, unfortunately, Week 13 happened.  A week ahead of what is in effect a de facto Big East championship game, both the Scarlet Knights and Cardinals  dropped contests against a pair of teams — Pittsburgh for the former, UConn for the latter — that came into the weekend a combined 4-8 in conference play.  Yes, Rutgers and Louisville will play later this week for the right to claim the Big East’s BcS bowl berth, but a significant amount of luster was lost this weekend thanks to a pair of losses that will, in all likelihood, result in both dropping out of the polls.

Oh, Buffs…
How bad has this season gone for Colorado?  In Friday’s season finale, the Buffaloes outgained Utah (419-336)… totaled more first downs (25-18)… led in time of possession (31:33-2827)… and still managed to lose.  Of course, when you commit five turnovers, and those turnovers are turned into 24 points, it’s easy to see how the Buffs could come out on the wrong end of 42-35 score.  The loss drops Colorado to 1-11 on the season, the school’s worst record winning percentage-wise since a winless 1890 season.  It’s also the first time CU has been winless at home since 1920.  Additionally, it puts the future of head coach Jon Embree in even further jeopardy, even as he publicly claims his athletic director has his back.  Embree is just 4-21 overall and 3-15 in Pac-12 play in two seasons at the school, and there have been rumblings coming out of the area that some in and close to the athletic department is ready to pull the plug on the experiment post-haste.

The 2012 Ty Willingham Excellence in Futility Award goes to…
Southern Miss!  That’s right, thanks to a 42-24 loss to Memphis Saturday afternoon, the Golden Eagles capped off their anti-perfect season at 0-12.  USM becomes the first to throw a season-long 0’fer on the board since both Eastern Michigan and Western Kentucky did the deed back in 2009.  The circumstances surrounding this particular goose egg, however, are head-scratching on at least a couple of levels.  Last year at this time, USM was sitting at 10-2 on its way to a 12-2 season and wins in the Conference USA championship game — over then-No. 19 and unbeaten Houston — and Hawaii Bowl.  Yes, Larry Fedora bolted for the North Carolina head coaching job in the offseason, but to go from 12 wins to 12 losses in the span of a single season defies all logic.

TOP 25 TOO-CLOSE-FOR-COMFORT

How ranked teams endured close shaves vs. unranked opponents

– No. 1 Notre Dame 22, USC 13: With nothing to lose, the Trojans gave the Irish its best shot.  As they have all season long, though, Notre Dame took the punches and stepped out of the ring battered but unbeaten.  Still.

– No. 8 LSU 20, Arkansas 13: The Tigers escaped Fayetteville with the win after Tyler Wilson‘s pass with no time left on the clock fell incomplete.  While the Tigers won’t defend their SEC championship, the Bayou Bengals are once again in line for another prime bowl game.

– No. 17 Nebraska 13, Iowa 7: It may have been the kind of win that only a mother of a football program could love, but it was also a win that sent the Cornhuskers to its first Big Ten championship game appearance.

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 — The Fighting Irish have taken the field 12 times, walked off a winner all 12 times.  Are they SEC-good?  We’ll find out in a little over six weeks in Miami (Last week: No. 1)
Up next: idle

2. Alabama — The SEC championship game will serve as a de facto playoff semifinal, affording the Tide the opportunity to continue its run at a third BcS title in four years. (Last week: No. 2)
Up next: vs. Georgia

3. Oregon — Allow me to quote myself from last week: “The Ducks are still a damn good team and would still be worthy of a title-game appearance, backdoor or not.”  While that backdoor was slammed shut this weekend, the overall sentiment still applies. (Last week: No. 3)
Up next: idle

4. Ohio State — The Buckeyes are one of two remaining undefeated teams, and could claim the Associated Press poll title depending on how the remainder of the season, which will be played without them, shakes out and what kind of mood the voters are in at year’s end. (Last week: No. 4)
Up next: vs. the offseason

5. Georgia — One-loss Florida boasts wins over Texas A&M, LSU, South Carolina and Florida State.  The Gators’ lone loss?  To the Bulldogs.  Advantage, one-loss UGA. (Last week: unranked)
Up next: vs. Alabama

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.

– Auburn’s Gene Chizik: Yeah, this one is fairly self-explanatory.  The last time Auburn won three games in a season was 1998; Terry Bowden “resigned” midseason and was ultimately replaced by Tommy Tuberville.  Seemingly the only questions remaining now is when Chizik will be officially dismissed and who will replace him after the program’s most recent three-win embarrassment.

– USF’s Skip Holtz: In his three seasons with the Bulls, Holtz has seen his record get progressively worse, going from eight wins in 2010 to five wins last season to three wins this year following a 27-10 loss to Cincinnati Friday night.  If USF loses its season finale next Saturday, the 3-9 record would serve as the worst record in the Bulls’ 13-year history as an FBS program, surpassing the 4-7 mark in 2004.  If that happens?  The Son of Lou could find himself as the latest football boss to find himself on the coaching unemployment line.

–Boston College’s Frank Spaziani: After winning 15 games his first two seasons, Spaziani has won just six games the past two years, including two in 2012.  This season is the worst winning percentage for BC since a winless 1978 season, and puts the long-time Eagles coach square in the offseason crosshairs.

HE SAID IT
“I’d say at this point in time Ohio State could go play with anybody in America.” — OSU head coach Urban Meyer, when asked how good he thinks his Buckeyes are following the Michigan win.

HE SAID IT, THE SEQUEL
“I’ve never had so much fun in my life.” — Oklahoma defensive coordinator Mike Stoops, after his Sooners gave up 48 points in a three-point Bedlam win over Oklahoma State.

HE SAID IT, THE THREEQUEL
“You can’t block Jadeveon one-on-one. We’ve got him one more year. Then we’ll shake his hand and say ‘thank you.'” — South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier, speaking of pass-rushing terror Jadeveon Clowney.

YOU DON’T SAY?
In Darrell Hazell‘s first two seasons at Kent State, the Golden Flashes have won 16 games, including a school-record 11 this season and its first-ever MAC divisional title.  In the four previous seasons, the Flashes had won a total of 17 games and hadn’t finished better than fourth in the MAC East.  In other words, expected to hear the name Hazell, a former Ohio State assistant, as the latest spinning of the coaching carousel ramps up into high gear.

FOR STATISTICAL PURPOSES ONLY

– A week after tying Miami of Ohio’s Travis Prentice‘s record of 78 career total touchdowns, Montee Ball‘s 17-yard touchdown run in the second quarter of Wisconsin’s overtime loss to Penn State gave the running back the record all to himself at 79.

Kenjon Barner rushed for 198 of Oregon’s 430 yards in the Ducks’ 48-24 Civil War romp over Oregon State.

– Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones became the first player in FBS history to have 3,000-plus passing yards and 26-plus touchdown passes in each of his four seasons.

Jadeveon Clowney was credited with 4.5 sacks in South Carolina’s win over Clemson.  And I’ll just go ahead and say it now: when it comes time to do my way-too-early look at the 2013 season in early January, Clowney will be one of the way-too-early Heisman front-runners.

– In Michigan State’s 26-10 win over Minnesota that pushed the Spartans into bowl eligibility, Le’Veon Bell rushed for a career-high 266 yards.

– During the course of Utah’s season-ending win over Colorado, John White topped the 1,000-yard plateau for the second straight season.  The running back is the first player in the Utes’ history to go over that mark in back-to-back seasons; Eddie Johnson also did it twice, although in non-consecutive season (1984, 1986).

– Wide receiver Tavon Austin accounted for 261 yards in West Virginia’s win over Iowa State: 74 rushing, 99 receiving, 46 on kick returns and 42 on punt returns.  Austin also broke his own school record for receptions in a season he set last year; the senior had 101 in 2011 and now has 106 with two games left.  Additionally, fellow receiver Stedman Bailey now has 1,342 yards receiving, breaking the school record of 1,279 yards he set last year as well.

– BYU wide receiver Cody Hoffman set a school record with five touchdown catches in the Cougars’ win over New Mexico State.

– The 105,899 fans in attendance for the 108th edition of The Game set an Ohio Stadium attendance record for a Michigan-Ohio State matchup.

– Speaking of Michigan, the Wolverines lost four games this season.  The combined records of those four teams?  45-3: Notre Dame and Ohio State, 12-0; Alabama 11-1; and Nebraska 10-2.  Three of those games were on the road, while the other, against the Tide, was played on a neutral field.

– Miami and Duke combined for 1,229 yards of offense (646 for the former, 583 for the latter) in the Hurricanes’ 52-45 win.  Blue Devils quarterback Sean Renfree threw for 432 yards and four touchdowns, while Hurricanes running back Duke Johnson rushed for 176 yards — on just 16 carries — and three touchdowns.

– TCU’s 20-13 Thanksgiving Day win over Texas snapped a 15-game road losing streak to the Longhorns.  The Horned Frogs had not won in Austin since 1967 when both schools were members of the now-defunct Southwestern Conference.

– North Carolina’s 8-4 record gives the Tar Heels their best winning percentage (.667) in a season since 1997 (11-1, .917).

– Arkansas outgained LSU 462-306 in yards of total offense and still found a way to lose in a game that proved to be John L. Smith‘s final game as the Razorbacks’ head coach.  If that doesn’t perfectly describe the very brief John L era in Fayetteville, I don’t know what does.

– Since a one-point loss to Iowa in the season opener, Northern Illinois has won 11 straight by an average of 25.1 ppg.

– Kent State’s 11 wins not only set a school record, but it is two more than the previous mark of nine set back in 1973.  The Golden Flashes’ 10-game winning streak is also the longest in the football program’s history.

– In the double overtime game Friday evening, East Carolina and Marshall combined for 124 points and 1,188 yards of total offense in the Pirates’ wild 65-59 win that, at least temporarily, kept them in the chase for the Conference USA East title.  Quarterback Shane Carden threw for 439 yards and three touchdowns while adding three more scores on the ground, the last in the second overtime that sent the Pirates home with a win.

SID NOTE OF THE WEEK
From UGA media relations: With a 42-10 victory, Georgia now has set a school record for points in a season with 456 in 12 games. The old mark was 450 by the 2002 team in 14 games.

SID NOTE OF THE WEEK, RUNNER-UP
From USC media relations: With the win over Clemson, head coach Steve Spurrier became the winningest coach in South Carolina football history.  Coach Spurrier is now 65-37 in his career at South Carolina; he surpassed Rex Enright, who had 64 career wins at South Carolina.

SIGN OF THE APOCALYPSE
Notre Dame began the season unranked.  The last team to begin a season unranked and finish No. 1 in the Associated Press poll was BYU in 1984.  Want more?  The last four coaches at Notre Dame who won their first national titles with the Irish did so in their third seasons at the school; Brian Kelly is in his third season at the school.

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Vandy QB Patton Robinette cleared to play, won’t start against Missouri

Patton Robinette

Four quarterbacks have played for the Vanderbilt Commodores this season. Sophomore Patton Robinette has proven to be the most effective during the limited time he’s been at the helm of the offense.

However, Robinette is recovering from a concussion and won’t start Saturday against the Missouri Tigers despite being cleared to play.

Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason already made 10 changes at the quarterback position through seven games. Freshman Wade Freebeck started last weekend against the Charleston Southern Buccaneers. Freedbeck was 5-of-7 passing for 20 yards before suffering a finger injury during the Commodores’ narrow 21-20 over the FCS program.

Freshman Johnny McCrary took over for Freebeck and played relatively well. The two then competed during practice this week to be the team’s starter. McCrary eventually won the opportunity to start this Saturday.

“When I step on the field, I can only do my best,” McCrary told The Tennessean‘s Adam Sparks Wednesday. “If my best isn’t good enough, I’ll take myself out of the game. You can tell if you’re not moving this team, but I want to stay tough and maybe something special will happen.”

If McCary doesn’t play at his best, he won’t have to pull himself. Mason has proven he’s more than willing to make changes at the position. Now that Robinette is healthy, McCrary could very well be on a short leash.

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UPDATE: Syracuse football is under NCAA investigation

Scott Shafer

Syracuse is the latest football program to find itself in the clutches of the NCAA.

While the Orange’s basketball team was believed to be the focus of an ongoing investigation, there are concerns regarding the football program, too.

Syracuse.com’s Nate Mink reported the investigation could affect multiple areas within the school’s athletic department.

“The Syracuse football program is part of the wide-ranging NCAA investigation into the school’s athletic department,” sources told Mink.

“The information shows that the NCAA inquiry that has swirled around the basketball team for two years is more involved, and that the football team is part of the investigation and potentially exposed to penalties. It’s unclear if other teams are involved.”

If the Orange football team was to receive any type of sanctions, possible infractions apparently didn’t occur during Doug Marrone‘s tenure. Marrone served as the Orange’s head coach from 2009-12. The current head coach of the Buffalo Bills spoke with Fink about possible reasons behind the investigation.

“There’s nothing that I know about that we did that wasn’t either punished or put forth,” Marrone said.

“One thing I did, if we made a mistake, an incidental contact or something, I just always reported it. It’s not worth it. This way I can sleep at night.”

Syracuse officials are expected to meet with the NCAA in Indianapolis at some point before the end of the month.

UPDATE (8:45 ET): ESPN.com’s Brett Murphy reported Syracuse officials will go to Indianapolis on Oct. 30-31 to face the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions.

While the basketball program is the primary target of the investigation, the football program might not escape unscathed.

“The football team is also facing allegations involving extra benefits, but only for a two-or-three-year stretch around 2004 or 2005,” a source told McMurphy.

The time period falls between Syracuse’s transition from Paul Pasqualoni to Greg Robinson as the team’s head coach. The Orange were 7-16 during those two campaigns.

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Maryland approves policy to link coaches’ bonuses to academic success

Randy Edsall

Some institutions are serious about keeping the student in student-athlete.

The Maryland Board of Regents unanimously voted in favor of a policy “denying bonuses to coaches and athletic directors whose players don’t measure up academically”, according to the Baltimore Sun.

“I think this is another step for Maryland to be in the vanguard on issues of intercollegiate athletics,” former U.S. Rep. Tom McMillen, who is a member of the Board of Regents, told the Sun. “They were a leader on guaranteed scholarships and now they are a leader in academic accountability.”

Maryland approved a “lifetime guarantee degree” in August. At that time, athletic director Kevin Anderson said, “Our vision is to be the best intercollegiate athletic program while producing graduates who are prepared to serve as leaders in the local, state and global communities. We are confident ‘The Maryland Way Guarantee’ will further demonstrate our commitment to our student-athletes’ pursuit of a college degree.”

The school’s commitment — which extends to Towson, Coppin State and UMBC — took a logical step by making its coaches more accountable for the academic performance of their athletes.

The coaches’ bonuses will ultimately be tied to the school’s yearly Academic Progress Rate. To determine a school’s APR, as defined by the NCAA, “a score of a thousand means every student-athlete on that team stayed eligible and returned to school. You begin losing points for students who are not eligible and/or are not retained.”

During the 2012-13 seasons, the Maryland Terrapins received a score of 950, which would have been worst among Big Ten schools. Clearly, there is room for improvement from Maryland head coach Randy Edsall.

This decision also becomes a recruiting advantage for the Terrapins. With the school’s added emphasis on education and new demands on its coaches, parents can see how dedicated the university is to each student-athlete. Education is at the forefront for Maryland, and it will only help the school’s athletics.

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Two Georgia Tech starters ruled out for Pitt contest

Zach Laskey, Akeem Langham

Saturday’s meeting between the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets and Pitt Panthers is a crucial match up in the ACC Coastal division. Both teams are trying to stay within striking distance of the Duke Blue Devils.

The Yellow Jackets will have to do so without their starting right tackle. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Chris Griffin has been ruled out for Saturday’s contest.

The redshirt freshman started all seven games on the strong side this season, but he’s currently dealing with a shoulder injury.

With Griffin out of the lineup, another redshirt freshman, Eason Fromayan, is expected to slide into the starting lineup. Fromayan already started one game this season at left tackle when Bryan Chamberlain was unable to play in the Duke contest due to an ankle injury.

Griffin isn’t the only starter that’s been ruled out for the upcoming game. Starting B-back (fullback) Zach Laskey is also dealing with a shoulder injury and won’t be able to play against Pitt.

Laskey is a key component in Georgia Tech’s triple-option attack, which is currently ranked fourth overall in rushing yards per game. The fullback is the team’s second-leading rusher with 595 yards on the ground.

Seniors Synjyn Days and Matt Connors should be able to fill in for Laskey and provide the presence needed to keep the Yellow Jackets’ inside running attack viable. Without the mid-line option, the Panthers will have a much easier time defending the outside runs or pitches by quarterback Justin Thomas.

These injuries will only help a Pitt defense that ranks 18th in the nation against the run.

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Indiana prepares for life without RB Tevin Coleman, who is considering NFL draft

Tevin Coleman

Running backs such as Georgia’s Todd Gurley, Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon and even South Carolina’s Mike Davis are all expected to bypass their senior seasons and enter April’s NFL draft. A surprise name could enter the equation.

None of those talented backs lead the FBS in rushing, though. Indiana’s Tevin Coleman does.

Coleman’s 1,192 rushing yards and 8.8 yards per carry makes the running back one of the most explosive players in all of college football. Due to this season’s success, Coleman, a junior, now appears to be leaning toward entering the NFL draft.

“There’s been scant news directly from the source but people close to the Indiana Hoosier program are planning for the departure of Tevin Coleman at seasons end,” DraftInsider.net’s Tony Pauline reported.

From a football perspective there is very little reason why  Coleman should return this season. He’s already one of the top running backs in the country, and his body hasn’t taken much of a beating after sharing the backfield most of his career. It’s an opportunity to strike while the iron is hot instead of adding more wear and tear to his body.

While the Hoosiers couldn’t replace what Coleman brought to the team the past two seasons (including 23 rushing touchdowns and counting), they can continue to sprinkle freshman running back Devine Redding into the rotation to make sure he’s ready to take over a much bigger role once Coleman and senior D’Angelo Roberts are no longer with the program next season.

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Ex-UM WR Csont’e York will serve seven days in jail

Csont'e York

Before Csont’e York can go on to the next chapter of his football-playing career, he’ll have to atone for some of his past transgressions.

According to the Detroit Free Press, the former Michigan wide receiver was sentenced to, among other things, 365 days in jail — he’ll have to serve seven — in connection to the incident that he led him to becoming the former Michigan wide receiver. In late September, York pleaded guilty to one count of aggravated assault and one charge of assault and battery. In exchange for that plea deal, another assault and battery charge was dropped.

In mid-July, York became involved in a verbal disagreement outside of a drinking establishment in Ann Arbor. Security video that was released Aug. 12 showed York sucker-punching 22-year-old male, who suffered a broken jaw as a result.

York was initially suspended by the football program in early August.  Six days after the video was released, York was dismissed by the Wolverines.

The victim in the case requested that York not be sentenced to jail. The judge had other ideas.

“I feel very strongly that some jail term is appropriate to hold you accountable so you can reflect on your actions and see that your behavior will not be tolerated,” Judge Elizabeth Pollard Hines said in sentencing York according to the Free Press. “In balancing all those factors — accountability, rehabilitation, considering protecting the community and the wishes of victim in this case — I’m going to sentence you to 365 days in jail. I’m suspending the rest, and you will serve seven of those days.”

The paper writes that “[t]he seven-day sentence will be split, with four days occurring immediately, then York being released and returning to jail Oct. 31 for the final three days.”

In addition to the jail time, York was sentenced to 24 months probation; $540 in court fines and costs; and payment of victim medical expenses that currently total $2,134.70. Even more damaging financially for York is that he will also be held responsible for any future unpaid medical expenses connected to the assault, which the judge said could exceed $70,000.

York has transferred to Toledo although he’s not yet a part of the Rockets football team. That’s expected to occur as early as spring practice next year.

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Bear Bryant Award releases 20-coach watch list

AMERICAN HEART ASSOCIATION GUS MALZAHN

In this latest watch list, it’s all about the Big 12 and SEC, with a healthy sprinkling of the Pac-12 for good measure.

The Bear Bryant Award announced Friday a watch list for its annual Coach of the Year that consists of 20 coaches from seven of the 10 FBS conferences.  It’s mainly, though, a list consisting of coaches from the leagues mentioned in the lede.

The Big 12 and SEC lead all conferences with five coaches apiece, while the Pac-12 is right behind with four.  The Big Ten, with two, is the only other conference with more than one, with the AAC, ACC and Conference USA hitting that singular number.

Six of the coaches on this year’s initial watch list were on last year’s as well: Baylor’s Art Briles, Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher, Oregon’s Mark Helfrich, Auburn’s Gus Malzahn, Alabama’s Nick Saban and Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops.  Malzahn, incidentally, won last year’s award.

As for this year’s contenders?  If it were up to me, and at the moment, I’d split the award right down the middle and hand one piece to East Carolina’s Ruffin McNeill and Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen.

That said, below are the 20 members of the Bear Bryant Award watch list.  Bitch, whine and/or moan about who’s on it/not on it below that:

  • Art Briles, Baylor
  • Mark Dantonio, Michigan State
  • Jimbo Fisher, Florida State
  • Huge Freeze, Ole Miss
  • Todd Graham, Arizona State
  • Mark Helfrich, Oregon
  • Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia
  • Doc Holliday, Marshall
  • Brian Kelly, Notre Dame
  • Gus Malzahn, Auburn
  • Ruffin McNeill, East Carolina
  • Dan Mullen, Mississippi State
  • Gary Patterson, TCU
  • Bo Pelini, Nebraska
  • Mark Richt, Georgia
  • Rich Rodriguez, Arizona
  • Nick Saban, Alabama
  • Bill Snyder, Kansas State
  • Bob Stoops, Oklahoma
  • Kyle Whittingham, Utah

 

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SMU AD: ‘no discussion of compensation with potential candidates’

Kliff Kingsbury, Mack Brown

You have to love the twists and turns of a coaching search with a high-profile name connected to it.

In a report taking a look at potential candidates to become the permanent successor to June Jones as head coach that we mentioned Thursday, Dallas Morning News writer Bill Nichols set the Twitterverse ablaze with the following: “SMU officials have already had preliminary discussions with former Texas coach Mack Brown, floating $4 million annually over eight years.”

That came a short time after the former UT head coach’s attorney confirmed that SMU had approached his client about a return to the sidelines.  Brown himself, currently serving as a college football analyst on ESPN, said a week earlier that he will decide in December if his coaching career is done.

The hubbub over the $4 million-per-year- report, however, prompted SMU athletic director Rick Hart to take to his Twitter account to shoot it down.

“While it is not our policy to comment during a search process, the attention a recent report has attracted dictates it be addressed. While we have a great deal of respect for Mack Brown, no one associated with our search has contacted him or his representatives. To that end, there has been no offer or discussion of compensation with any potential candidates.”

So, in summation…

He was approached [by SMU], I was approached, but he’s not interested in coaching anywhere right now.” — Mack Brown attorney Joe Jamail, Oct. 5.

[N]o one associated with our search has contacted him or his representatives.” — SMU athletic director Rick Hart, Oct. 24.

Yep, love the contradictory statements as part of these searches too.  Then again, maybe the well-heeled boosters and political figures connected to the university’s athletic department are merely circumventing official channels, and those in charge of the search are simply unaware of what’s going on behind doors that are closed to even them.  In Texas, anything and everything is possible.

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Wyoming has fingers crossed for injured second-leading rusher

D.J. May

Last week it was a suspension.  This week, it’s an on-field matter that leaves one of Wyoming’s top running back’s future uncertain.

Earlier this week rumors begin to circulate that D.J. May suffered some type of injury during practice. The school sent out a press release Thursday stating that “May did suffer an injury to a knee in Wednesday’s practice,” but that “[d]octors have not yet evaluated tests on the severity of May’s injury.”

As of early Friday afternoon, there was still no definitive word on May’s status moving forward.

May’s 260 yards and two rushing touchdowns remain second on the Cowboys this season. His two receiving touchdowns are tied for second on the team as well.

Mays was suspended for last Saturday’s overtime loss to San Jose State for violating unspecified team rules.

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Season, college career of starting UConn corner over

Connecticut v Central Florida Getty Images

UConn’s loss to East Carolina Thursday night came at a much steeper cost than just in the won-loss column.

By way of John Silver of snyuconn.com, head coach Bob Diaco confirmed Friday that Byron Jones will miss the remainder of the 2014 season because of injury.  The cornerback aggravated a lingering shoulder injury in the loss, and will undergo season-ending surgery in short order.

“Byron was playing through a small issue there,” Diaco said. “That, then exacerbated himself last night to the point that it needs to be addressed. If it doesn’t get addressed it will be something else. Right now, [it's] an isolated thing that needs to be fixed.”

Because Jones is a senior who has already used his redshirt, and will not be eligible for a medical waiver, his collegiate career has come to a close.

Jones started all seven games this season, and started 39 in his career. This season, his two interceptions are the only two picks for the Huskies defense.

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UNC’s Elijah Hood again listed as doubtful

Liberty v North Carolina Getty Images

For the second consecutive game, it appears North Carolina will be sans one of the most productive members of its backfield.

On its weekly injury report, UNC lists running back Elijah Hood as doubtful for Saturday’s game against Virginia.  Thus far, the nature of Hood’s injury hasn’t been disclosed.

Hood was also listed as doubtful heading into last Saturday’s game against Georgia Tech, and ended up not playing against the Yellow Jackets.

Prior to the GT game, Hood had been tops among Tar Heel backs with 199 yards rushing.  His four rushing touchdowns are currently tied for the team lead.

The true freshman was a five-star member of UNC’s most recent recruiting class and was rated as the No. 4 back in the country.

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Judge who will conduct Winston hearing identified

Florida Supreme Court

The “when” of Jameis Winston‘s student conduct hearing is still to be determined.

One “who,” however, has been determined.

According to WCTV in Tallahassee, retired Florida Supreme Court chief justice Major Harding has been selected to preside over the hearing as what’s described as an “independent observer.”  Two other former state court justices, Joseph Hatchett and Charles T. Wells, were in the group of three candidates considered by the Florida State quarterback and his accuser.

Each side was able to strike one of the three from consideration.  If both struck the same judge, FSU would pick from the remaining two.  It’s unknown exactly how Harding came to oversee the hearing.

Harding did confirm to the television station that he has “been chosen to oversee a student conduct hearing, but says no student’s name has been provided to him.”

ESPN.com‘s Mark Schlabach provided a brief description of each judge in his confirmation of the earlier report on Harding.

Harding, 79, was a state Supreme Court justice from 1991 to 2000. A native of Charlotte, North Carolina, he is a graduate of Wake Forest and Virginia’s law school. Harding, who is currently a practicing attorney with the law firm Ausley McMullen in Tallahassee, began his career as a jurist in Florida with a 1968 appointment as a Duval County Juvenile Court judge. When he was appointed to the state’s Supreme Court, he was the dean of the Florida Judicial College and chair-elect of the Florida Conference of Circuit Judges, according to his bio on the law firm’s website.

Hatchett, 82, was the first black man appointed to a federal appeals court in the Deep South, by President Jimmy Carter in 1979. Wells, 75, a graduate of the University of Florida and UF law school, was the Florida Supreme Court’s chief justice from 2000 to 2002. He presided over the 2000 U.S. presidential election recount cases involving the hanging chads on Florida’s ballots.

At the hearing, whenever that may be if it even happens at all, Winston could be charged with up to four student code of conduct violations in connection to the alleged sexual assault of an FSU student in December of 2012.

Winston, as long as he is still a student at the university, will be compelled to attend the hearing. He will not be required, however, to answer questions even as he is permitted to give an opening statement and cross-examine witnesses. Unless given explicit permission by whomever is overseeing the hearing, his attorney, David Cornwell, will not be allowed to speak or argue on his client’s behalf.

Provided it doesn’t interrupt the hearing process, Winston can consult with Cornwell, who will presumably be the one “advisor” permitted at the hearing.

Cornwell has publicly expressed concern over the process, saying earlier this month, “I’m not walking this kid into a firing line without the necessary weapons.”  That tack’s being viewed by some, including the accuser’s attorney, as taking on the feel of “a stall.”

(Photo credit: Florida Supreme Court)

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A&M drops Ducks, adds future Clemson series

12th Man AP

The scheduling gods taketh… and then they giveth right back.

Thursday, Twitter was all, well, atwitter when it was reported that Texas A&M had backed out of its home-and-home series with Oregon that had been scheduled for 2018 and 2019. “Typical SEC school, ducking tough non-conference games,” some derisively said, never mind the fact that A&M already has Notre Dame, Clemson, UCLA and Arizona State on its future slates.

A short time later, however, both A&M and Clemson announced that they had agreed to a future series, with the Tigers replacing the Ducks in 2018 and 2019. Clemson will travel to Kyle Field on September 8, 2018, while TAMU will head to Memorial Stadium on September 7, 2019.

“We are excited to play the Clemson Tigers, who have been on Texas A&M’s non-conference schedule previously, A&M athletic director Eric Hyman said in a statement. “As a fellow land-grant institution, Clemson is very similar to Texas A&M with a great football tradition and passionate fans. This will be a great non-conference series for both schools.”

According to FOXSports.com, Hyman “exercised a clause from the contract A&M and the Ducks… that said they could get out deal if A&M changed conferences.” The original series between A&M and UO was agreed to in 2009, prior to the Aggies’ departure from the Big 12 for the SEC.

Hyman further explained that the reason for dumping Oregon came down to simple math as it relates to home dates in 2018 and 2019.

“Our goal is to play seven home games at Kyle Field each season,” the release quoted Hyman as saying. “Playing at Oregon in 2018, combined with the Arkansas game in Arlington, would leave us with only six home games that season. In even-numbered years such as 2018, we only have three SEC home dates as long as we continue to play Arkansas in Arlington.”

And, for those who are wondering, this is not a case of UO being hard to deal with either.  Also from the release:

Texas A&M offered to switch the home-and-home dates with Oregon on the original contract, but Oregon faces the same situation with only four Pac-12 home games in even years with five on the road.

Clemson and A&M have met four times previously, with the last coming in 2005. The Aggies own a 3-1 edge in the series.

“We are looking forward to playing Texas A&M as the two schools share a rich military heritage and of course passionate fan bases,” Hyman’s Clemson counterpart, Dan Radakovich, said. “We know our fans make Clemson a great game day experience and the Aggie fans make Kyle field also one of the great venues in all of college football.”

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Ground and pound: Hurricanes establish identity during 30-6 victory over Hokies

Al Golden, Duke Johnson

The Miami Hurricanes made a statement Thursday against the Virginia Tech Hokies.

While the program may never return to the winning ways it once experienced while Al Golden is at the helm, the program finally gravitated toward an identity that’s long been forgotten. The vaunted Miami teams from the 1980’s and the early 2000’s used to physically dominate opponents. They did that Thursday night in Blacksburg.

Miami (5-2) captured a dominant 30-6 victory over Virginia Tech (4-4).

When Golden was the head coach of Temple from 2006-10, the Owls climbed their way out of football purgatory by running the football effectively week in and week out. The talent level at Miami supersedes anything Golden had at Temple, but the team’s approach against the Hokies was reminiscent of those Owls.

There was nothing fancy about what Miami did to Virginia Tech. The Hurricanes lined up and jammed the ball down the Hokies’ collective throat. Two running backs combined to run for an impressive 364 yards.

Junior running back Duke Johnson ran like a man possessed. Johnson set a career high with 249 rushing yards on 29 carries.

Sophomore Gus Edwards took over in the second half and managed 115 yards.

The Hurricanes were so dominant in the trenches, freshman quarterback Brad Kaaya was only asked to throw the ball 16 teams. He completed seven of those passes for 92 yards and a touchdown.

Plus, Miami played well on the defensive side of the football.

The Hurricanes shut out the Hokies through the first half of play, before Virginia Tech decided to ride freshman running back Marshawn Williams. Willams carried the ball 21 times for 100 yards. The young back also fumbled twice.

With the ACC Coastal division being wide open, the Hurricanes may have found its identity at the right time. At 2-2 in the division, Miami is now a half game behind the Duke Blue Devils going into this weekend’s games. But Miami holds the head-to-head edge.

If Miami plans to make a run in their division, its ball-control offense will be needed over the next two weeks against the North Carolina Tar Heels and No. 2 Florida State Seminoles.

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No. 18 ECU Pirates may stumble in polls despite 31-21 victory over UConn

Ruffin Mc Neill

The No. 18 East Carolina Pirates secured a 31-21 victory over the Connecticut Huskies Thursday. But was it enough for the Pirates to remain the top non-Power Five program and the favorite to claim an appearance in a contract bowl?

Sometimes a win can be viewed as a loss.

The Pirates struggled against a Huskies squad that entered the game 1-5 and didn’t have a victory against a single FBS opponent this season. It wasn’t until six minutes left in the game that East Carolina finally pulled away from UConn.

When a non-power conference team trying to impress the College Football Playoff gets an opportunity to add style points to their resume on national television, it has to do so. East Carolina didn’t.

The Pirates moved the ball and racked up 580 total yards, but they weren’t able to complete drives most of the evening. UConn employed a bend-but-don’t-break, and the scheme worked.

If East Carolina isn’t putting up big scoring and yardage numbers, the team is nowhere near as impressive.

East Carolina’s primary competition as the top non-Power Five program is the Marshall Thundering Herd. Marshall is currently ranked 23rd overall in the AP Top 25. The Thundering Herd’s underwhelming schedule has prevented them from legitimately entering the national conversation. Yet, Marshall’s schedule doesn’t feature a team ranked lower than Connecticut.

Despite the lackluster effort, East Carolina did win the game. Ruffin McNeill‘s squad overcame adversity and was able to win a close contest even though everything didn’t go in their favor. The program still holds victories over the Virginia Tech Hokies and the No. 25 North Carolina Tar Heels.

Plus, very few teams feature a dynamic duo like quarterback Shane Carden and Justin Hardy. Carden was 38-of-64 passing Thursday for 445 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Hardy, meanwhile, grabbed 14 passes for 186 yards. The impressive effort moved Hardy into second place among the FBS’ all-time receptions list.

The Huskies deserve some credit for knocking down the Pirates a notch. First-year head coach Bob Diaco has his team playing hard, and they seem to be figuring some things out. The defense plays sound football, while the offense was finally able to move the ball in stretches against East Carolina.

In the end, East Carolina is still the top non-Power Five program in college football, but the margin between the top team and the second team is much closer after Thursday night’s effort.

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