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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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After Texas Tech dismissal, former three-star safety expects to transfer

A month ago, the Texas Tech Red Raiders lost a key contributor to their secondary when junior safety Josh Keys was kicked out of the program.

Keys, who was a three-star recruit from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, finally discussed the reason behind his dismissal with WreckEm247.com.

The safety was eventually removed from the program after a second failed drug test.

“I don’t like the way it happened,” Keys told WreckEm247.com’s Daniel Paulling. “I want to learn from my mistakes.”

Prior to the dismissal, Keys registered 14 tackles in five games while serving as the team’s primary backup at both safety positions.

The junior defensive back wants to start over again with another program. He’s currently taking classes at Texas Tech and expects to transfer during the spring semester.

“I’m still looking around; see what’s out there for me,” Keys said.

Keys originally chose to play at Texas Tech over offers from the Arkansas Razorbacks, Auburn Tigers, Baylor Bears, Georgia Bulldogs, Mississippi State Bulldogs, Nebraska Cornhuskers, Ole Miss Rebels and Tennessee Volunteers. The safety held 20 total offers.

Whether or not those programs that were previously interested in Keys will remain so after his issues at Texas Tech isn’t known. However, it may be in Keys’ best interests to transfer to an FCS program in order to avoid the one-year transfer rule between FBS programs.

Although, his dismissal from Texas Tech’s program could allow him to be eligible next season based on the “run-off rule”, which allows an athlete to be immediately eligible if they’re still in good academic standing and the previous school files paperwork which confirms the athlete isn’t invited back to the program.

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Eight-team playoff system preferred by coaches

College Football Playoff Announces The College Football Playoff Selection Committee - News Conference

With less than one year in the new College Football Playoff system, coaches and at least one commissioner are already breaking ranks and not fully supporting the new setup.

According to ESPN’s Brett McMurphy, 44 percent of 103 coaches who participated in a poll preferred an eight-team playoff structure. Only 29 percent preferred the current setup. While 17 percent want to expand the playoff to 16 teams.

“Most of the coaches who want an eight-team playoff believe it should consist of the conference champions from the Power 5 leagues plus the next three highest-ranked at-large teams, or the top-ranked Group of 5 champion and the two highest-ranked at-large teams,” McMurphy reported.

The poll comes on the heels of ACC commissioner John Swofford saying teams — and, by extension, conferences — will be unhappy once the final playoff rankings are released.

“I don’t think all the controversy’s going to go away,” Swofford told The Herald-Sun. “You have four teams that get a chance to play for the national championship, which is twice as many as before, but whoever’s fifth or sixth is not going to be happy. There will be some conferences that won’t have a team in the playoff.”

Commissioners are already preparing for the possibility of not having a team among college football’s final four. Currently, the Big Ten and Big 12 Conferences would be left out of the mix based on the current rankings.

However, change isn’t expected any time soon. The current agreement for a four-team playoff is in place for the next 12 years, and College Football Playoff executive director Bill Hancock said that “there has been no discussion of expanding.”

Even though Swofford views an eight-team playoff as “ideal” and the majority of coaches currently support that notion, it’s not going to happen any time soon.

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Brian Kelly, Dabo Swinney latest to deny interest in Florida opening

Allstate Sugar Bowl - Florida v Cincinnati

Since Will Muschamp was officially dismissed as Florida’s head coach — even though he’ll continue to coach the Gators for the rest of this season — multiple high-profile head coaches already denied any interest in the opening.

It started with Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops. Stoops, who is the favorite in Las Vegas to eventually claim the job, quickly squashed any rumors a day after Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley made his decision.

“All I want to be is a candidate at Oklahoma,” Stoops said during a conference call Monday. “I’m not a candidate anywhere else. I’m finished with that question.”

A 69-year-old Steve Spurrier isn’t making a triumphant return to Gainesville either.

Auburn’s Gus Malzahn followed suit Tuesday by saying he was “totally committed” to the Tigers program, per Al.com.

Two more denials came Friday.

Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly joked about the possibility of leaving South Bend for sunny Florida.

“I’m going to Florida — in about two weeks to get some sun,” Kelly told WNDU.com. “I’m getting out of here with this weather. What are you, kidding me? So you can write that down. I’m going to Florida. Write it down now, get it out there get it on the news waves.”

When reporters followed Kelly’s sarcastic response with a direct question about the coach’s interest in Florida, the Notre Dame coach continued to lay it on thick.

“Oh yeah. I’ve been interested in the Florida job,” Kelly said. “What else am I up for anything else? Can I be up for the Notre Dame job? Because we are 7-3 right now, [and] I’m hoping to hold on to this job.”

Clemson’s Dabo Swinney was more direct with his answer regarding any interest in the opening.

“The more you sit around and talk about that kind of stuff, the more of a distraction it is,” Swinney said. “I love my job. I just signed a long-term contract because of that. And this is a place that’s special to me. And I’ve invested a lot here. My focus is 100 percent on winning here.”

Two reasons prompt these blanket denials.

First, no coach is going to express interest in the middle of the season. It’s detrimental to his team’s progress on the field and recruiting off of it.

Second, Florida is no longer considered one of the elite jobs. It’s close, but it doesn’t fall in the same category as Alabama, Ohio State or Texas anymore.

“If those elite jobs are a 10, Florida is a 9.5,” a source told USA TODAY.

Despite being in a talent-rich state as one of the highest-profile programs in the nation, Florida has fallen behind in regards to facilities. It’s still a desirable job, but it’s not quite as enticing for these top coaches as it used to be.

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UPDATE: Weather forces kickoff shuffling in Houston but not in Waco

Thunderstorm Lightning

In Buffalo, it was massive snowstorm that first caused the postponement, then the rescheduling, and finally the cancellation of a MAC football game this week.  Saturday, it will be a different weather system affecting an AAC contest.  And, possibly, a Big 12 one as well.

Friday, Houston announced that the kickoff time for Saturday’s game against Tulsa has been moved up.  Instead of putting foot to pigskin at 2:00 p.m. ET, the start will come three hours earlier at 11 a.m. ET (10 a.m. local time).

From the UH’s press release:

Administration from the University of Houston Department of Intercollegiate Athletics has been in consultation with the National Weather Service, the American Athletic Conference and the University of Tulsa in making the decision to move Saturday’s game time.

Courtesy of the Weather Channel, here’s Saturday’s forecast:

Houston Forecast

It’s not just Houston, either, when it comes to the potential for severe weather in the state of Texas that could impact games.

Baylor and North Texas both play at home in Week 13. Especially when it comes to the former’s game against Oklahoma State tomorrow night, heavy rain — and perhaps thunderstorms — could be an issue during the contest, with talk that kickoff for BU-OSU could be moved as well.

According to ESPN.com‘s Brett McMurphy, not only is an adjustment of the kickoff time being discussed, but there’s also talk of moving the game to Sunday. That, though, would be “a last resort” a source told McMurphy.

UPDATE (5:45 p.m. ET):  Baylor University released a statement Friday that Saturday’s contest against the Oklahoma State Cowboys will proceed as planned.

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Playoff committee chair Jeff Long tries to explain ‘game control’, effect on rankings

Jeff Long

One thing everyone has learned since the advent of the College Football Playoff rankings is that everything is subjective and there isn’t any real rhyme or reason behind where a team is eventually slotted.

The latest example came this week when the Alabama Crimson Tide jumped to the No. 1 overall spot after beating then No. 1 Mississippi State Bulldogs.

Alabama claimed the top spot despite being ranked behind the Oregon Ducks, Florida State Seminoles and TCU Horned Frogs during the previous week. None of those teams lost this past weekend, yet Alabama still leapfrogged them in the rankings.

There are no hard or fast rules when it comes to theses new rankings. The committee simply takes into consideration certain aspects like strength of schedule, head-to-head meetings, etc. However, it’s at their discretion which team is ranked where. And it’s an inexact science.

The latest example came with a new buzzword emanated from the chairman of the College Football Playoff selection committee, Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long. The term “game control” or some variation was used to explain the latest rankings.

While it’s an impressive sounding term to give everyone a reason behind certain decision, there isn’t any actual substance to it.

“There’s absolutely no metric involved,” Long told USA TODAY‘s George Schroeder. “It’s a discussion amongst committee members about controlling the game.”

The term was used in conjunction with Alabama’s 25-20 victory over Mississippi State.

“What I was trying to convey is that it wasn’t a three-touchdown blowout of Mississippi State,” Long said. “They were within less than two touchdowns the whole way. But we never felt Alabama was out of control of that game.

“It’s more of, the committee watches the games, and then we discuss the game and we talk about whether the game was a back-and-forth contest, whether someone assumes control in the game early and keeps it throughout, (or) whether they assumed (control) in the second quarter or the third quarter or the fourth quarter and controlled it to the end.”

This explanation was good enough to rank Alabama No. 1 overall, while Mississippi State only fell to No. 4 and TCU was ranked No. 5 after struggling against the Kansas Jayhawks.

When everyone clamored for a playoff system, it was supposed to solve all the problems the computers created during the BCS era. Instead, the process has become even more subjective and less defined as to what it takes to eventually earn a spot as one of the top four teams in college football.

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Indiana’s Kevin Wilson gets boss’ vote of confidence

Kevin Wilson AP

Whether it’s the “dreaded vote of confidence” remains to be seen.

With a 3-2 record to start the season, there was talk that Kevin Wilson had finally started turning around the Indiana football program.  With a five-game losing streak entering Week 13 — four of them by 16 or more points — the pitchforks are being gathered up and the torches lit in and around Bloomington.

Don’t look for Wilson’s boss to be in that mob, though.  At least not yet.

“To me, the answer is a resounding yes, notwithstanding the lack of wins this year,” IU athletic director Fred Glass said when asked by the Indianapolis Star‘s David Woods if the football program is head in the right direction.

“I just think it takes a little while. That’s why I gave Kevin a seven-year contract.”

Contractually, it’d cost Glass’ athletic department $1.5 million to rid themselves of Wilson at season’s end, which is far from a prohibitive amount.  On at least two occasions during his Star interview, however, Glass noted something that, at least in his mind, mitigates this season’s 3-7 record.

“I get that we’d like to win more games,” Glass said. “But I also think you just can’t overstate the impact of Nate going down. …

“Given the challenges inherent here, Kevin is going the right way. It’s just a shame Nate went down.”

The AD is referring to Nate Sudfeld, the starting quarterback who went down with a season-ending shoulder injury in the Oct. 11 loss to Iowa. That loss was followed by four more, with IU set to take a five-game losing streak on its road trip to No. 6 Ohio State.

When Sudfeld finished a game he started this season, the Hoosiers were 3-2 and appeared headed for its first bowl appearance since 2007 and just its second since 1993. Instead, with true freshman Zander Diamont mostly under center, Wilson’s seen his record tumble to 5-25 in Big Ten play in four seasons in Bloomington; Bill Lynch, the man Wilson replaced, was 6-26 in Big Ten play before he and the university “parted ways.”

“I think contracts need to mean something again at Indiana University,” Glass said in October of 2009. “He’s in the second year of a four-year contract … I hope that and really think that coach Lynch will be very successful.”

Exactly one year and one month later, Lynch was “replaced” as the Hoosiers’ head coach, with one year remaining on his contract.

Wilson is currently in the fourth year of his seven-year deal. Despite Glass’ public plaudits, it remains to be seen whether Wilson will see a fifth year.

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Outland Trophy goes on the offensive with semifinalists

Aaron Donald

The Lombardi Award finalists had a decidedly defensive lean. When it comes to another predominately lineman award, though, it’s almost all about the other side of the ball.

The Outland Trophy, handed out annually since 1946, announced its semifinalists for the 2014 award Thursday, revealing a pool of six potential winners. As you may have guessed from the headline, five of the six semifinalists are offensive linemen.

The lone defensive player is Texas tackle Malcolm Brown, who is also one of the finalists for the Bronko Nagurski Award. What follows are the other five Outland semifinalists.

  • Auburn center Reese Dismukes
  • Baylor offensive tackle Spencer Drango
  • Oregon tackle Jake Fisher
  • Florida State guard Tre’ Jackson
  • Iowa offensive tackle Brandon Scherff

Finalists for this year’s award will be announced next Tuesday.  Last year’s winner was Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald.

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Miss. St. suspends starting FS Justin Cox after domestic violence arrest

Auburn v Mississippi State Getty Images

Embarking on a two-game stretch that, with a pair of wins, could potentially earn Mississippi State an early-December trip to Atlanta for the SEC title game, the Bulldogs will, for at least one of those games, be without a key piece of its defensive puzzle.

Very late Friday morning, MSU announced that starting safety Justin Cox has been indefinitely suspended from the football program.  Other than it being related to “an off-campus incident,” no reason for the suspension was given by the school.

However, the Starkville Daily News is reporting that the suspension came a few hours after Cox was arrested and charged following an alleged domestic violence incident.  From the Daily News:

Oktibbeha County Sheriff’s Department Lt. Brett Watson said deputies responded to a burglary call on Rocky Road in the Aspen Heights apartment complex at about 3 a.m. Friday. He said upon arrival, deputies found a female victim with an injury to her head.

Cox was ultimately charged with suspicion of burglary of a dwelling and aggravated domestic violence.

The suspension almost certainly means Cox will miss Saturday’s game against Vanderbilt.  It also calls into question the defensive back’s availability for the Egg Bowl a week later, which could very well be the most important MSU-Ole Miss game in the rivalry’s history.

Cox has started eight of the 10 games in which he’s played at free safety this season, including the last six.  Cox has four passes broken up and five defensed in 2014.

Cox is in his first season in Starkville after transferring in from the JUCO ranks.

 

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A&M expected to get defensive help for Turkey Day game vs. LSU

Bo Wallace;Myles Garrett AP

And, yes, they could use it.

Ahead of its bye in Week 13, head coach Kevin Sumlin said that a pair of starting defensive linemen — end Myles Garrett and tackle Ivan Robinson — are listed as probable for the Thanksgiving Day game against LSU. Both Garrett and Robinson did not play in last weekend’s loss to Missouri due to unspecified injuries.

Additionally, linebacker Otaro Alaka, injured during the Mizzou game, is listed as probable as well.

All three are starters, although the return of Garrett should provide the biggest boost for an Aggies defense that’s at or near the bottom of the SEC in nearly every major statistical category.

Garrett, a sure-fire freshman All-American, is sixth in the country in sacks per game (1.1) and is tied for 35th in tackles for loss per game (1.3). His 11 sacks are an SEC record for a freshman, shattering the mark of eight previously held by South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney.

Robinson had started six games in a row prior to missing the Mizzou game, while Robinson has started the last three.

The Aggies are currently 77th nationally and 11th in the 14-team SEC — ahead of only Kentucky (30.1), Vanderbilt (32.4) and South Carolina (32.7) — in points allowed per game (27.7). When it comes to yards allowed, they’re even worse: at 445.2 yards per game, the Aggies are dead last in the conference and 100th in the country.

Based on performance, Mark Snyder‘s seat is decidedly hot, so much so that beat writers are already talking about the specifics of a buyout contained in his contract. To his credit, Snyder is not shying away from the speculation.

“I learned at about 30 years old, the second you take a job in this profession, you’re on the hot seat,” Snyder said Thursday according to the Houston Chronicle. “This is a production-based business. Period.”

Snyder does, though, have one very vocal supporter, with defensive leader Deshazor Everett tweeting that the onus for improved performance is on the players.

Whether such strident support will come from Snyder’s boss at season’s end remains to be seen.

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Out of the Hunt: ‘Cuse starting QB done for year

Louisville v Syracuse

Any hope Syracuse held out that Terrel Hunt would return before the end of the season has officially been dashed.

At his weekly Thursday press conference, Scott Shafer confirmed that the quarterback will not play in either of Syracuse’s remaining two games because of injury. Hunt sustained a fractured fibula in early October in the loss to Louisville, and has missed the last five games.

The Orange, at 3-7 not eligible for a bowl game, will close out their season against Pittsburgh and Boston College.

“Terrel’s down,” Shafer said. “He’s getting better, it’s just that bones heal differently in each kid. He won’t be available for the rest of the season, but he’s doing a nice job with school, he’s adjusted to the situation well and he’s helping us with the young guys. He’s been very attentive to meetings, but he won’t be available.”

Hunt, a redshirt junior who’s expected to enter spring practice both healthy and as the starter, started the first five games of the 2014 season, and was responsible for 62.6 percent (1,290 yards) of the Orange’s 2,062 yards of total offense in those games. His six rushing touchdowns are still five more than any other player on the team.

With Hunt out, AJ Long has taken over the lion’s share of the quarterbacking duties. A shoulder issue kept Long out of Syracuse’s last game, a Nov. 8 loss to Duke, but he’s expected to start Saturday’s game against Pittsburgh.

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Georgia Tech claims ACC Coastal crown with Duke’s loss to North Carolina

David Cutcliffe

When the Duke Blue Devils hosted the North Carolina Tar Heels Thursday, it was all about the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.

North Carolina’s dominant 45-20 victory over the rival Blue Devils handed Georgia Tech the ACC Coastal crown and placed Paul Johnson‘s team in the ACC Championship Game against the No. 3 Florida State Seminoles.

The school already released a statement with reaction to winning the ACC Coastal:

Meanwhile, Duke fell to 4-3 in the division, while North Carolina improved and now sports the same conference record.

The Blue Devils’ defense simply didn’t show up to play Thursday. North Carolina racked up a whopping 592 total yards. The Tar Heels were dominant at the point of attack and ran the ball for 316 of those yards. Three different players ran for at least 96 yards. Sophomore running back T.J. Logan led the way with 116 yards on 18 carries.

North Carolina quarterback Marquise Williams also proved to be a difficult matchup for Duke. The dual-threat quarterback accumulated 374 total yards and four total touchdowns. Dukes’ offense only gained four more yards than Williams did.

Williams’ effort placed him in North Carolina’s record books:

The quarterback’s performance almost made everyone forget about the fact he also fumbled the ball three times.

The entire contest was plagued by mistakes. A combined six turnovers were committed. Duke was never able to recover from two early fumbles, though.

Blue Devils quarterback Anthony Boone also didn’t rise to the occasion. The senior signal-caller was 22-of-40 passing for 262 yards.

Once the first quarter ended, Duke was never in the contest. The Tar Heels went into Wallace Wade Stadium, ran their rivals out of the building and claimed the Victory Bell as their own.

Both teams are still bowl eligible, but the light at the end of the tunnel isn’t as bright as it once was for Duke. Instead, the Blue Devils ran smack into a Ramblin’ Wreck.

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Quarterback play defines No. 12 Kansas State’s 26-20 victory over WVU

Kansas State v West Virginia Getty Images

Bill Snyder‘s Kansas State Wildcats are known for playing fundamentally sound, ball-control football. Neither was the case Thursday against the West Virginia Mountaineers. Yet, the No. 12 Wildcats still found a way to beat WVU 26-20 in Morgantown.

Two leaders on Kansas State’s offense, quarterback Jake Waters and wide receiver Tyler Lockett, took over the game and never looked back.

Everything starts with the quarterback. Waters was forced to carry the offense due to West Virginia completely taking away Kansas State’s running game. The Wildcats gained one yard on the ground. Waters was forced to throw the ball 33 times. He completed 22 passes for a career-high 400 yards through the air.

Waters doubled as the team’s leading rusher. The quarterback was credited with 12 carries for 13 yards. And his seven-yard touchdown pass to running back Demarcus Robinson on the team’s initial drive was the only time the offense found the end zone.

Lockett was, as per usual, Waters’ favorite target.

The senior wide receiver caught 10 passes for 196 yards. His biggest contributions actually came on special teams, though. Lockett’s 43-yard punt return for a touchdown granted Kansas State a 17-3 lead in the second quarter. The talented receiver/returner finished the contest with 321 total yards.

Lockett completely outplayed one of the nation’s top wide receivers in West Virginia’s Kevin White. The Wildcats successfully bracketed White throughout the contest, and the nation’s third-leading receiver finished the contest with seven catches for 63 yards and a touchdown.

Waters’ play wasn’t the only interesting quarterback situation in this particular game.

West Virginia sophomore Sklyer Howard took over for senior Clint Trickett, and the underclassman may not hand the job to Trickett with only Iowa State remaining on the schedule.

Howard played much better than Trickett did once he was inserted into the lineup. The sophomore was 15-of-23 passing for 198 yards and two touchdowns.

At 6-5 overall, the future is now for the Mountaineers.

As the Mountaineers contemplate their fledgling quarterback controversy, Kansas State still has an outside shot of claiming a Big 12 Conference championship.

The Wildcats are now tied with the TCU Horned Frogs at 6-1 overall in the division. With a contest remaining against the No. 7 Baylor Bears and TCU playing the Texas Longhorns this weekend, Kansas State can still claim an outright Big 12 title.

Snyder’s squad will have to play better than they did against West Virginia for the program to have a chance of that actually happening.

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MAC cancels contest between Buffalo Bulls and Kent State Golden Flashes

Record Snowstorm Pummels Buffalo Getty Images

Snowmageddon 2014 will prevent all of us from enjoying more MACtion.

With the city of Buffalo completely snowed over and suffering from blizzard conditions, a college football contest became a secondary concern.

The MAC announced Thursday that the meeting between the Kent State Golden Flashes and the Buffalo Bulls, which was originally scheduled for Wednesday, has been cancelled.

The two sides hoped to play Friday, but the conference decided the game will not be rescheduled.

“Despite the best efforts of all involved, it will not be feasible to play the football game between Kent State and Buffalo on Friday,” MAC Commissioner Jon Steinbrecher said in a statement. “The game has been cancelled and will not be rescheduled. The safety of the student-athletes and fans is paramount. We want to be respectful of the efforts of the emergency service personnel in the Buffalo area who are working to assist those in need.”

The two teams will finish their seasons under revised schedules. Both teams will play their final games on Friday, Nov. 28. Kent State will face the rival Akron Zips at Dix Stadium, while Buffalo will travel to Amherst, Mass. to challenge the UMass Minutemen.

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UNC dominates Duke 28-7 during first half as ACC Coastal starts to take shape

Mack Hollins, Ryan Switzer

If the Duke Blue Devils are trying to earn an Orange Bowl berth, the team has a funny way of showing it.

During a sloppy first half of play, the North Carolina Tar Heels dominated the Blue Devils. The Tar Heels built an impressive 28-7 lead, which appears to be an insurmountable lead due to the mistakes Duke committed.

Overall, the two teams combined to turn the ball over five times. North Carolina actually fumbled the ball three times, but Duke wasn’t able to take advantage. The Tar Heels, meanwhile, scored after both of Duke’s fumbles.

As soon as North Carolina built a lead, questions regarding the ACC Coastal standings started to surface.

A loss by Duke will hand the No. 18 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets an ACC Coastal crown and an appearance in the ACC Championship Game against the No. 3 Florida State Seminoles.

Duke still has the second half to redeem itself.

The Blue Devils have to start by stopping the Tar Heels offense. North Carolina amassed 391 yards of total offense through two quarters of play. If not for three fumbles by quarterback Marquise Williams, the score could be worse than it already is.

Sophomore Ryan Switzer proved to be North Carolina’s biggest threat on offense after catching two passes for 107 yards. Whereas Williams, T.J. Logan and Romar Morris combined to run for 203 yards.

Duke needs to get a strong second-half performance from senior quarterback Anthony Boone, who is 8-of-17 passing for 89 yards. If Boone and Duke’s talented corps of wide receivers can’t get the passing game going, the Blue Devils don’t have a chance in the second half and will concede the ACC Coastal to Georgia Tech.

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Fortunate calls allow No. 12 Kansas State to build 17-3 lead against WVU

Kansas State v West Virginia Getty Images

The ball bounced in favor of the No. 12 Kansas State Wildcats during the first half of play against the West Virginia Mountaineers.

A suspect touchdown call and another touchdown being called back proved to be the biggest difference for the Wildcats, who hold a 17-3 lead at halftime.

The fortunate calls in Kansas State’s favor started on the team’s initial drive.

After a 23-yard punt return from Tyler Lockett — and his presence on special teams will come up again — the Wildcats started their initial drive from West Virginia’s 49-yard line. Seven plays later, Kansas State quarterback Jake Waters drove his offense to the 7-yard line. On third-and-goal, Waters scrambled in the pocket and found running back Demarcus Robinson open for a touchdown pass.

However, Robinson dropped the football during the follow through of the catch. Despite the bobbled ball, the referees ruled he had possession before he went to the ground and the touchdown call stood. Kansas State gained an early 7-0 lead.

After the team’s traded field goals, the Mountaineers finally found the end zone on one of the wackiest touchdown catches of the season. Or so they thought.

Kevin White, the nation’s third-leading receiver, came up with an amazing tipped pass for the unlikely score (see: below).

The catch was eventually ruled incomplete upon review. One angle appeared to show the ball hitting the ground before it flipped into the air toward White. The situation was compounded by the fact West Virginia kicker Josh Lambert missed the ensuing field goal attempt.

Locket extended Kansas State’s lead with a 43-yard punt return for a touchdown. The All-American returner averaged 33 yards per punt return through two quarters of play.

As the teams enter the second half, Kansas State wants to return to playing sound football after a sloppy first half. West Virginia, meanwhile, needs to capitalize on its opportunities and find ways to get its vertical passing attack on track.

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