Cincinnati vs. Duke
Thurs., Dec. 27 – 6:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Charlotte, N.C. – Bank of America Stadium
Cincinnati (9-3) might be the most consistently undervalued team in the Big East Conference. The Bearcats have won or shared five of the last six league titles. Yes, this season’s Big East became a jumbled mess – Honk if you’re a Big East co-champion! – but Cincinnati hung in there and was part of a four-way tie.
Duke – wow, Duke! – made its first bowl game since the 1994 season.
Let’s hand it to the Blue Devils. Once they got to 6-2, achieving bowl eligibility, the party was on. Duke lost four straight games, allowing an average of 49.5 points per games, to finish 6-6. Yowza!
So now we’ll see if Duke can avoid a five-game losing streak (and an overall losing record) that would slightly hamper the program’s postseason accomplishment. Cincinnati, which lost its three games by a combined 16 points, will be difficult to stop, even without Butch Jones, who bolted for Tennessee (defensive line coach Steve Stripling will serve as interim head coach for the game). Quarterback duties were split between Munchie Legaux and Brenden Kay, who stepped up in the last season. But the Bearcats’ most compelling force is senior running back George Winn (1,204 yards, 12 touchdowns).
Opening point spread: Cincinnati by 11
The pick: Cincinnati 38, Duke 21
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Like they have the last couple of weeks, Western Kentucky will have to get used to Marcus Ward not patrolling its defensive secondary on game days.
Ward (pictured, left) injured his knee in Week 2 and has not returned to the playing field. Unfortunately for the player and the football program, that absence will continue as the safety underwent surgery on the knee, which is expected to sideline him for the remainder of the 2016 season.
This may not be the last of the fourth-year senior in a Hilltopper uniform, though, as Ward has yet to use his redshirt season and would have a medical waiver at his disposal even if he had. It’s unclear, however, if Ward will return for another season or rather make himself available for the 2017 NFL draft.
Ward has started a total of 31 games since his true freshman season in 2013, including 26 the previous two seasons. He was named preseason second-team All-Conference USA prior to the start of the 2016 season.
Perhaps more importantly, he was named a semifinalist earlier this month as a semifinalist for the Campbell Trophy, also known as the Academic Heisman.
All summer long, people wondered why Washington was getting so much preseason love.
After Friday night’s 44-6 thrashing of Stanford in front of a national audience, nobody is wondering anymore about the Huskies.
The sophomore backfield combo of quarterback Jake Browning (210 yards, three touchdowns) and Myles Gaskin (an even 100 yards rushing, two scores) once again powered Washington to a big win, with the offense scoring on all but two full drives on a night where everything went right for the purple and gold.
Defensively is where the Huskies really impressed though. The team swarmed to the ball on every snap, forced two fumbles, racked up eight sacks and kept Stanford under three yards a play for most of the night. The normally reliable Christian McCaffrey was kept in check in remarkable fashion, rushing for just 49 yards on 12 carries.
Just six days after a remarkable comeback win at UCLA, there wasn’t much left in the tank for a Stanford team that was missing two starting cornerbacks and just couldn’t get anything going offensively on the road in a hostile environment. Quarterback Ryan Burns did throw for 151 yards and a touchdown but was under siege most of the night thanks to some shaky play up front from the normally reliable Cardinal offensive line.
The win by Washington certainly establishes Chris Petersen’s team as the Pac-12 favorite — at the very minimum — with a chance to all but punch their ticket to the conference title game next week at Pacific Northwest rival Oregon. If the Huskies continue to look like they did on Friday in Seattle though, a berth in the College Football Playoff is certainly going to be in the cards as well.
On the first offensive play of the night for Stanford, the Cardinal picked up a first down thanks to a face mask penalty.
It was all downhill from there for the Cardinal.
No. 10 Washington lived up to their high preseason billing on Friday night by manhandling the defending Pac-12 champions in just about every way possible to jump out to a 23-0 halftime lead.
Quarterback Jake Browning threw just three incompletions on his way to 167 yards and two touchdowns and the Huskies looked every bit the part of a top five team in a wild, vintage atmosphere on Montlake. While the offense was impressive, the Washington defense was swarming as well, racking up six sacks in the game so far.
Stanford couldn’t get anything going offensively, averaging just 2.8 yards per play in the first half. Superstar Christian McCaffrey was held mostly in check, with just eight yards receiving and 31 on the ground.
To add injury to the insult of that first half, the Cardinal’s best defender — defensive lineman Solomon Thomas — was injured in the second quarter with a lower leg injury. The team is already without both its starting cornerbacks for the game so it could be a long second half for the visitors.
The game isn’t over yet and there’s plenty of #Pac12AfterDark potential but that was quite a statement made by Chris Petersen’s Huskies in the first half in establishing their credentials for the College Football Playoff.
Texas Tech may be without its starting quarterback just as Big 12 play is picking up.
Patrick Mahomes II injured his shoulder on a scramble in the third quarter of the team’s romp over Kansas on Thursday night and did not return to the game. While he was shown on television attempting to throw on the sidelines after returning to the sidelines, he watched the rest of the second half with a headset on instead of a helmet.
The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal reports there’s a reason Mahomes didn’t return: he’s dealing with an AC joint sprain in the shoulder of his throwing arm. Mahomes’ father posted on social media that the quarterback would not need surgery to correct the injury but it’s still something that could sideline the Red Raiders’ signal-caller for a few games.
Texas Tech does get a little extra rest before traveling to Kansas State next week on Saturday and then host West Virginia at home the following week.
Mahomes entered the week second in the country in passing, third in passing efficiency, and first in total offense. If there is any positive for Tech it’s that there might not be such a huge drop off to backup Nic Shimonek considering the junior came in and threw four touchdown passes in relief of Mahomes in a little over a quarter’s work against the Jayhawks.
Still, Mahomes is one of the most dynamic players in the country at the quarterback position and they’ll certainly need him back behind center if they stand any chance at beating some of the upper tier Big 12 teams to close out the month of October.