NIU wins second straight MAC title, but could knock league out of BCS

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(Note: rankings in this post reflect positions in the BCS) 

The non-automatic qualifier conferences had, in all likelihood, one final hope to get a team into the BCS top 16 for an Orange Bowl berth. That hope came in the form of No. 17 Kent State. The Golden Flashes needed to beat Northern Illinois this evening and have No. 16 UCLA lose to Stanford in the Pac-12 championship game to have a shot of cracking the top 16 (since the winner of the Big East, Louisville, will likely not finish ahead of the MAC champion in the Sunday’s final BCS standings).

It took all of regulation and two overtime possessions, but Kent State couldn’t quite get it done and No. 21 NIU came away with a 44-37 win. The Huskies were led by quarterback and possible Heisman candidate Jordan Lynch, who accounted for 372 yards and four touchdowns.

Lynch has been on the outside of the Heisman conversation over the past few weeks, but could sneak an invite to New York after his performance tonight — which could have been undone by one play, by the way. A fumbled handoff late in the fourth quarter was scooped up by KSU and returned for a touchdown to tie the game at 27. A pair of touchdowns in the final four minutes sent the game into overtime. That’s when Lynch’s 2-yard touchdown run in the second overtime gave NIU a 44-37 lead that was never relinquished.

So now, NIU brings home the MAC championship for the second year in a row, but the Huskies may have taken the non-AQs out of the BCS picture. UCLA lost to Stanford in the Pac-12 championship while No. 18 Texas and No. 19 Boise State play Kansas State and Nevada this weekend, respectively. Even assuming that Texas and Boise State lose, idle Michigan still sits two spots above NIU at No. 19 in the BCS.

The point is that NIU still needs a lot of help to even be in the discussion for the No. 16 spot, as does Boise State if the Broncos can beat the Wolf Pack. We’ll have to wait and see for sure when the BCS standings are revealed Sunday, but it looks as though a team from the Big 12 — either Kansas State or Oklahoma — will grab the final at-large BCS spot.

Illinois boots three players charged with home invasion and robbery

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Illinois head coach Lovie Smith has dismissed three players charged with home invasion and robbery. Offensive linemen Darta Lee and Howard Watkins and tight end Zarrian Holcombe have all been dismissed from the program, according to a statement.

Lee and Holcombe were previously suspended by Smith for violations of team rules. Watkins had also been indefinitely suspended following the initial allegations. All three players claimed the incident that led to the charges was nothing more than an innocent prank, but the authorities and Smith didn’t seem willing to buy that claim.

Each player faces a mandatory prison sentence of 4-15 years on each count against them if found guilty.

Report: Conference USA to air at least 15 football games on Twitter in 2017

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Conference USA is in a position where it needs to think outside the box and look to stay ahead of the curve in a changing TV landscape. It appears to be ready to air games on Twitter in 2017.

A report from The Virginian-Pilot says broadcast company STADIUM will air at least 15 football games involving Conference USA teams this fall. STADIUM is the result of a recent merger between the American Sports Network, 120 Sports and Silver Chalice (which also owns Campus Insiders and the online ACC Digital Network). The ASN had owned the broadcast rights to Conference USA games through the end of the 2017-2018 sports season that will carry over to the STADIUM deal (allowing for Conference USA basketball games to be aired on Twitter as well). It was announced earlier this month STADIUM intended to broadcast Conference USA games on Twitter, but it was unknown how many games might make it to the networking service. STADIUM reportedly has an interest in continuing to air Conference USA contests beyond the next athletic season.

Conference USA still has broadcast deals with ESPN and CBS Sports in effect as well, so don’t expect the premiere matchups in the conference to be aired on Twitter. However, by sharing the games online, Conference USA is hoping to reach a wide-spread audience and have the opportunity to be a trending topic. It could work, as Twitter would make sure the game is given a steady feed to allow for a pleasant viewing experience and fan interaction in real time.

Conference USA saw TV revenue take a big hit over the last year. Last summer, Conference USA’s television revenue reportedly dropped to just $2.8 million for the entire conference following realignment changes. Finding a home on a streaming platform now would be key for the conference’s future stability.

Alabama DC Jeremy Pruitt named son after former Tide linebackers Reuben Foster and Ryan Anderson

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It is not at all uncommon for children born in the state of Alabama to be named after Alabama football legends, but it is not every day you see a child of an Alabama coach receives a name inspired by former Alabama football players.

Defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt announced the birth of his new son, Flynt Anderson-Foster Pruitt, on Twitter. Alabama fans will likely already know the connection to the new child’s name, as used the last names of two former Alabama football players to create the middle name of Anderson-Foster; Ryan Anderson and Reuben Foster.

Maybe this is more common than I’m aware of, but regardless of how often a coach names a child after former players, this is a testament to the relationship the Pruitt family established with both former Alabama linebackers. And now there will be a bond for years to come between the coach and his family and Anderson and Foster.

Helmet sticker to Al.com.

Wisconsin’s season tickets for 100th anniversary of Camp Randall are a thing of beauty

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The Wisconsin Badgers are gearing up for their 100th season playing home football game sin Camp Randall Stadium. As part of the season-long celebration, Wisconsin put some brilliant artistic detail into their season tickets for the 2017 season.

Each ticket to a home Wisconsin game is designed like a retro-style program. These are beautifully done and mimic the style of a program cover from decades past. I’m particularly fond of the program cover for the Purdue game, which features Wisconsin’s Bucky floating in space with a ship with the Purdue logo nearby. Is that a space train? The Band Day program for the game against Florida Atlantic also looks fantastic.

These tickets will surely be must-have collectibles for Wisconsin fans. If Wisconsin wants to make a few extra bucks, then blowing up these images and selling them as posters may be a good decision as well. And I wouldn’t put it past Wisconsin to suit up in a retro-style uniform for at least home game this season in Madison.