No. 17 UCLA vs. Baylor
Thurs., Dec. 27 – 9:45 p.m. ET, ESPN
San Diego – Qualcomm Stadium
The Bruins went toe-to-toe with one of the nation’s best teams in five of their last eight quarters. The heart-breaking loss to Stanford in the Pac-12 title game gave added credence to P101’s belief that first-year head coach Jim Mora packed it in for the final three quarters of the regular-season finale versus the Cardinal to avoid a trip to Eugene, in favor of a replay up on The Farm.
With those two opportunities to post a 10-win season gone, UCLA (9-4) needs a win to avoid losing three consecutive games to close its “turn-around” campaign.
Through the first three decades of this bowl, we came to expect shootouts with an average of 59 points scored, but over the last three years the total has been nearly cut in half. That means we’re due for a heaping helping of offense and these are the perfect teams to oblige.
After losing five of six in the middle of its schedule, Baylor (7-5) turned things around by crushing the hopes of then-No. 1 Kansas State on Nov. 17, sparking a three-game win streak.
Despite losing last year’s Heisman Trophy recipient to the NFL, quarterback Nick Florence kept the Bear offense rolling right along, racking up a national-best 578 yards per game. He’ll do plenty of damage against UCLA’s 88th ranked pass defense, but it won’t be enough to keep up with the generosity of a Baylor defense that ranks next-to-last, allowing 514 yards per game.
Those numbers have Bruin quarterback Brett Hundley and running back Johnathan Franklin licking their chops after churning out 461 yards in the Pac-12 title game against one of the nation’s best stop units.
UCLA needs to avoid souring the accomplishment of ending USC’s monopoly and produce its first meaningful bowl win since defeating Texas A&M in the 1998 Cotton Bowl.
Opening point spread: Baylor by 1
The pick: UCLA 47-38
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It’s not quite over, but No. 25 Virginia Tech will be firmly entrenched in the driver’s seat of the ACC Coastal heading into the final month of the regular season.
Thanks in large part to 406 yards passing from Jerod Evans, Tech was able to survive off a fourth-quarter rally by Pittsburgh and secure a 39-36 road win Thursday night. Evans’ performance was easily the best of his career, and just the second time he’s gone for 300-plus yards. The first (307) for the first-year starter came just two weeks ago in a loss to Syracuse.
Evans was also part of an offense that rolled up a season-high 556 yards on the night.
With the win, Tech improves to 4-1 in conference play, tied with North Carolina for the Coastal lead. However, by virtue of the Hokies’ Oct. 8 win over the Tar Heels, they control their own destiny in the division. Tech has three league games remaining — at Duke (0-3) and home games against Georgia Tech (1-3) and Virginia (1-2) — and, if they win all three, they will represent the division in the ACC championship game. UNC would need to win out plus see Tech lose at least one game in order to win the division.
Pitt fell to 3-2, with those two losses coming to VT and UNC, meaning they have essentially eliminated themselves from Coastal contention. In a losing effort, Pitt running back James Conner contributed 141 yards and three scores on the ground on just 19 carries.
A Pennsylvania jury has awarded former Penn State assistant Mike McQueary a whopping $7.3 million on Thursday evening in a case that found the school defamed him for his role in the Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse scandal.
According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the jury (which included two PSU employees) took just under four hours to render the verdict. While the lawsuit is not completely over because a judge has to rule on McQueary’s whistleblower claim, the verdict is nevertheless a blow to the Nittany Lions after the school was found guilty of defamation and misrepresentation in the case.
McQueary, a former quarterback in State College and an assistant under Joe Paterno, was at the center of the Sandusky scandal back in 2011. He allegedly witnessed Sandusky’s sexual assault of a boy in team facilities back in 2001 and reported what he saw to Paterno and others, but nothing was done about the crime. The revelations a key part in a case against Sandusky and eventually led to the ouster of Paterno and McQueary’s subsequent loss of his own job at the school.
The timing of the news is probably not what Penn State fans wanted to hear about this week after they celebrated the program’s biggest win since the scandal last Saturday in a come from behind victory over then-No. 2 Ohio State.
It’s been a rough slate for the “dudes” at Boston College the past few years.
The Eagles are 3-4 with very few wins over FBS teams the past two seasons and are on a 12 game losing streak in ACC play. N.C. State, Louisville, Florida State, UConn and Wake Forest are coming up on the schedule and so it goes without saying that winning three of those in order to make it to a bowl game in 2016 is going to be tough.
Even with that run of losses in the league and a second straight year without a postseason berth, it appears unlikely for the school will make a move to fire head coach Steve Addazio according to USA Today‘s Dan Wolken.
Addazio, who is 20–25 overall in Chestnut Hill, has two things working in his favor per the report: a decently-sized buyout at a school with some tight purse strings and the potential for having a new athletic director after Brad Bates’ contract expires next year.
“In other words, there’s a school of thought at Boston College that it might just be better from a timing perspective to give Addazio one more chance to turn it around and start fresh with a new athletics director next year,” writes Wolken.
It probably isn’t what Boston College fans want to hear after two 7-6 seasons have given way to potential two years without a bowl under Addazio and one of the most frustrating offenses in the country to watch on a weekly basis. Perhaps the head coach can turn things around in the coming weeks and months but it probably helps lessen the pressure knowing he’ll at least have some additional time to get the program back on track.
When USA Today released their annual series on college football coaching salaries, it wasn’t a complete shock to see Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh top the list given how much the school has invested in him since he returned to Ann Arbor from the NFL.
What was a little surprising was the total compensation figure listed for the Wolverines’ head coach at a whopping $9,004,000. That’s a figure that’s more than $2 million more than the second highest paid coach (Nick Saban) and $3 million more than Big Ten rival Urban Meyer.
As it turns out, that lofty salary is mostly the result of the way Harbaugh’s contract is structured and due to roughly $4 million in insurance premium payments on top of his standard half a million salary. But that’s not going to be the coach’s final compensation number at all this year as he has a chance to top the $10 million mark through a variety of bonuses.
Per USA Today:
- $125,000 if the team plays in the Big Ten Conference championship.
- $125,000 if the team wins the Big Ten title game.
- $300,000 if the team plays in a College Football Playoff semifinal.
- $500,000 if the team wins the national championship.
- $50,000 for being voted Big Ten coach of the year by the conference’s coaches.
- $75,000 for winning any one of six national coach of the year awards.
- At athletics director Warde Manuel’s discretion, up to $150,000 based on the team’s academic performance, as long as its single-year and multi-year NCAA Academic Progress Rate figures are at least 960.
Michigan is ranked No. 2 in the country and has a fairly clear path to the College Football Playoff and national title game if they keep playing like they have so it’s not hard to see Harbaugh hitting most of those bonuses to become the sport’s first $10 million man.
While fans at many other schools may throw their hands up in disgust as a result of those figures, you can bet maize and blue fans believe Harbaugh to be worth every single penny.