Tom O'Brien

Tom O’Brien out as North Carolina State’s coach


Well, this is unexpected. Maybe. I think. I honestly can’t tell. Either way, add another school to this year’s coaching carousel.

North Carolina State is only one day removed from a 27-10 win over Boston College to put the Wolfpack at a perennial 7-5 on the year. Perhaps it is for that very reason that Wolfpack coach Tom O’Brien is now out of a job. In a news release Sunday, the university announced that O’Brien has been fired after six years on the job.

Interestingly enough, O’Brien coached at BC from 1997-2006 before taking over as NC State’s head coach. Turns out, the Eagles would be his final opponent.

“Coach O’Brien’s service to NC State over the last six years has been sincerely appreciated by Wolfpack Nation,” athletic director Debbie Yow said in a statement. “We especially appreciate his attention toward NCAA rules compliance, a value that will continue to be held by NC State. We wish him well in future pursuits.”

“I appreciate the opportunity to have coached at North Carolina State University and I feel that the program is in a better place now than when I started,” said O’Brien.  “I’m proud of the young men that I have coached here, for their accomplishments on the field and in the classroom.  Wolfpack football is as sound academically as it’s ever been with a [single year] APR of 990 to be reported this spring.  I appreciate all of my coaches and wish them the best and I look forward to life after football.”

O’Brien’s time at NC State was filled with ups and downs. For every win over a Florida State or Clemson, there was a loss to Virginia, Boston College or Wake Forest.

Offensive coordinator Dana Bible will serve as interim coach for the Wolfpack’s bowl game.  A search for a new head coach will begin immediately. The first name being connected to the vacancy is Vanderbilt coach James Franklin. Franklin was Maryland’s offensive coordinator under Ralph Friedgen when Yow was the AD at the university. Franklin was supposed to be the coach-in-waiting before departing for Vandy.

O’Brien compiled a 40-35 overall record and a 22-26 record in the ACC during his time at NC State. His contract runs through Dec. 2015, and he will be paid a minimum of $1.2 million over those next three years.

Wazzu’s Gabe Marks suffers gruesome injury as UW becomes bowl-eligible with Apple Cup win

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Washington State came into Saturday’s Apple Cup without prolific quarterback Luke Falk because of injury.  They’ve now exited it without Falk’s top target because of the same issue.

Late in the fourth quarter of No. 20 Wazzu’s 45-10 loss to Washington, Gabe Marks was on the receiving end of a five-yard pass from first-time starter Peyton Bender.  The wide receiver was also on the receiving end of an awkward tackle that bent his ankle in a way that God never intended and left him with what could very well be broken bones in the leg.

Marks was carted off the field and did not return.  There has been no update on the specific nature of the injury, although it appears that it may be serious enough to keep the junior from playing in the Cougars’ bowl game.

Coming into Week 13, Marks was fourth in the nation with 92 receptions and, with 1,067, is one of 19 players who have gone past 1,000 yards receiving.

And, to add scoreboard insult to literal injury, Marks’ fumble was returned by the Huskies for a touchdown.  That was the second of three defensive touchdowns for UW, with the third coming on Wazzu’s very next play from scrimmage on a pick-six.

The win pushed the Huskies to 6-6 and into a bowl in the second season under Chris Petersen.  The head coach just yesterday was awarded a two-year contract extension.

No. 4 Iowa puts finishing touches on first-ever 12-0 regular season

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In a season full of firsts, Iowa added yet another notch to its football history belt in Lincoln Friday.

Thanks in large part to its defense — and Tommy Armstrong Jr.‘s arm punts — Iowa was able to stake itself to a 14-10 halftime lead and then held on for a 28-17 win.  The Hawkeyes had previously gone unbeaten and untied in a season twice (1921,1922) and went unbeaten in its first two seasons of competition (1899, 1900).  The 12 wins is also a school record, breaking the mark of 11 previously held by head coach Kirk Ferentz‘s 2002 and 2009 squads.

It’s also the fifth 10-win season in Ferentz’s 17 seasons in Iowa City.  And, as was the case in the other four, it was a sturdy defense and low-risk offense that’s led the way to this perfect season.

While the Cornhuskers managed 433 yards of offense, the defense allowed just 20 points, with seven of those greatly aided by a muffed first-half punt.  NU ran 83 plays, meaning they averaged a little over five yards per play.

The Hawkeyes’ offense, meanwhile, ran just 44 plays in putting up 250 yards of offense.  Leading the way was Jordan Canzeri, who accounted for over half that yardage with 140 on the ground.  Canzeri also accounted for two of the Hawkeyes’ three offensive touchdowns, with the other coming off the arm of quarterback C.J. Beathard.

Amazingly, Iowa didn’t convert a single third down in nine attempts, while Nebraska converted seven of 16.  The most important stat, though was the Hawkeyes’ 4-1 edge in the turnover battle.

Armstrong Jr. tossed four interceptions, giving him a nation-leading 16 on the season.  He did throw for 296 yards in a loss that dropped the Cornhuskers to 5-7 and, in all likelihood, a bowl-less 2015 postseason.  While they could still go bowling if 80 teams don’t reach the six-win mark, they’ll likely stay home for the postseason for just the third time in the last 47 years (2004, 2007) in the first season under Mike Riley.

Iowa had previously wrapped up the Big Ten West division and a spot in the conference championship game.  UI will face Michigan State if the Spartans beat Penn State, or the winner of the Ohio State-Michigan game should MSU falter.

A win over any of those three opponents would all but assure the Hawkeyes of one of the four spot in the second edition of the College Football Playoff.

UW RB Corey Clement reportedly won’t travel for Badgers-Gophers

MADISON, WI - NOVEMBER 21: Running back Corey Clement #6 of the Wisconsin Badgers is tackled by Nate Hall #32 of the Northwestern Wildcats on November 21, 2015 at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wisconsin. (Photo by Tom Lynn/Getty Images)
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An off-field incident will reportedly sideline Corey Clement for what’s expected to be his final regular season game in a Wisconsin uniform.

Earlier this week, the running back was charged with two counts of disorderly conduct following an incident earlier this month.  The initial details had Clement attempting to break up a fight between the security guard at his off-campus residence and a group of individuals, which proved to be a false narrative as Clement was found to have thrown the first punch.

Because of the charges, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is reporting, Clement will not travel with his teammates for Saturday’s game against Minnesota.  There’s no word on his status for the Badgers’ bowl game.

This has essentially been a lost season for Clement, who came into the the year as one of a handful of Heisman favorites.

The junior struggled in the season-opening loss to Alabama because of an injury that was later determined to be a sports hernia.  He missed the next seven games, came back for one game late last month (115 yards, three touchdowns in win over Rutgers), but then aggravated the injury and missed the Nov. 7 Maryland game as well.  He played in last weekend’s loss to Northwestern, but was held to just 24 yards on 10 carries.

For the season, Clement has rushed for 155 yards and four touchdowns on 29 carries, one year after 949 yards and nine touchdowns as Heisman runner-up Melvin Gordon‘s primary backup.

WKU to host S. Miss/LaTech winner in C-USA title game

BOWLING GREEN, KY - NOVEMBER 27: Brandon Doughty #12 of the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers looks to pass against the Marshall Thundering Herd in the second half of the game at L.T. Smith Stadium on November 27, 2015 in Bowling Green, Kentucky. The Hilltoppers defeated the Herd 49-28. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
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Not only is one-half of Conference USA’s championship game set, but so is the location.

East division members Western Kentucky and Marshall came into their game Friday afternoon at 7-0 and 6-1 in conference play, respectively, with the contest essentially serving as a play-in game to the league’s title game.  On the strength of Brandon Doughty‘s 370 yards passing and five touchdowns, the Hilltoppers played their way in and staked a claim to the division title with a dominating 49-28 win over the Herd.

The Hilltoppers became the first C-USA team to finish undefeated in league play since Houston in 2011. WKU is the seventh team to go unbeaten in league play in C-USA’s 20 football seasons.

WKU is in just its second season in Conference USA, and will be playing for its first conference title in Bowling Green as the win wrapped up home-field advantage for the Hilltoppers.

The opponent will be determined Saturday afternoon. West leaders Southern Miss and Louisiana Tech, both 6-1, will square off Saturday in Ruston, with the winner moving on to face WKU next Saturday. Tech lost to Marshall in its first-ever title game appearance last season, while USM is looking to get back to the game for the first time since 2011 and the third time overall.