Boise State ditching Big East, staying in MWC

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Cue the funeral dirge and warm up the fat lady’s pipes.  The Big East is crumbling… again.

Nearly three weeks ago, seven “basketball school” members of the Big East announced their intention to leave the beleaguered conference.  That crippling blow came in the midst of the league’s negotiations on a new television contract, and called into question whether incoming members like Boise State would get cold feet over a move that promises to fall far short financially what was initially expected.

On the last day of 2012, that question was apparently answered.

According to a report from Brett McMurphy of ESPN.com, Boise State has decided against becoming a football-only member of the Big East as originally planned and will instead remain a member of the Mountain West.  All of BSU’s sports will remain in the MWC as well, as the non-football programs — with the exception of wrestling — had been slated to move to the Big West.

The move — or non-move, if you will — comes as little surprise.  In mid-November, reports surfaced that Boise State was still in contact with the MWC about staying in the conference, although BSU officials “reaffirmed” their commitment to their future conference a couple of days later.

Even as Boise State never actually became an official member of the Big East, the university will still be required to pay a $10 million exit fee.  McMurphy reports that the MWC is expected to help pay that fee.

Neither the school nor either conference involved has commented on the reported development.

To say that the Big East is once again on life support would be an understatement.  Boise State’s move could also impact San Diego State, which is also scheduled to move from the MWC to the Big East in 2013.  SDSU was BSU’s “travel partner” in their move to the Big East, and there’s little doubt that school is in the process of reevaluating their impending conference relocation.

Unlike Boise State, however, McMurphy reports that SDSU will not be compelled to pay the $10 million exit fee due to BSU’s departure.

Additionally, schools like Houston and SMU, slated to leave Conference USA for the Big East in 2013, could rethink the move based on Boise bolting the listing league.

As it stands now, the Big East will have nine football-playing members in 2013: current members Cincinnati, Temple, UConn and USF as well as incoming (maybe) members Houston, Memphis, SDSU, SMU and UCF.  That number would jump to 11 in 2014 (East Carolina and Tulane) and 12 in 2015 (Navy).

Earlier this year, Louisville and Rutgers announced they were leaving the Big East, the former for the ACC and the latter for the Big Ten.  Pittsburgh and Syracuse are leaving for the ACC in 2013 as well.

UPDATED 3:21 p.m. ET: In a press release issued shortly after McMurphy’s report, “the Mountain West Conference and Boise State University today jointly announced, effective immediately, Boise State will remain a member of the Mountain West in all sports.”  BSU’s president intimated that the instability of the Big East compared to the relative stability of the MWC was the tipping point in the decision-making process.

“Without question, conference affiliation has been an odyssey for Boise State, with all the unexpected turns and changes that term suggests,” said BSU president Robert Kustra in a statement. “The benefits of geographic footprint, revenue, and national exposure have to be balanced against the changing circumstances of conference realignment.  I am confident that our Mountain West membership is the very best decision for Boise State University, our student-athletes and our incredible fan base.”

“We are very pleased today to announce Boise State University’s continuing membership in the Mountain West Conference,” said MWC commissioner Craig Thompson. “Maintaining the Broncos program as part of the already solid foundation we have established creates a posture of great stability for the Mountain West going forward.  It also enhances the Conference’s competitive and marketplace platforms, positioning us favorably in the evolving FBS landscape.

No. 7 Washington wins Pac-12 title game rematch with Colorado thanks to stifling second half defense

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For a half, Colorado had No. 7 Washington just where they wanted in a Pac-12 Championship Game rematch from a year ago. Just like in that matchup in Santa Clara 10 months ago, the Buffs trailed by just a score going into halftime and looked surprisingly sharp against their highly ranked opponents from Seattle.

Just like it did last December though, the third quarter rolled around and Huskies reminded everybody why they reign supreme in the Pac-12 until further notice, capping off a dominant second half to capture a key road win in Boulder 37-10 over the Buffs.

While Jake Browning still didn’t seem to figure out Mike MacIntyre‘s defense the second time around (11/21, 160 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT), it’s not like the UW signal-caller needed to with the effort his run game and defense were able to provide on a rainy night under the Flatirons. Tailback Myles Gaskin had no problem shouldering more of the load with his backup out, rushing for 202 yards and two scores while breaking off big run after big run to slowly crush the home crowd’s spirits. If there was anything that did really go wrong for the offense in the second half, it was the fact that wide receiver Chico McClatcher was carted off after a gruesome ankle injury that figures to sideline him for some time to come.

Still, the impressive performance on the scoreboard was really the result of the Huskies’ stifling defense coming to play after some adjustments in the locker room. Linebacker Azeem Victor hit the double-digit mark for tackles and corner Myles Bryant pulled down a pick-six — one of three interceptions on the night. As a result, what was a close game for about two and a half quarters, ended up turning into a runaway win for the defending Pac-12 North champs.

While it was a tough night on the scoreboard with nothing going in the second half, there were some positives for the Buffs early on. Quarterback Steven Montez did look sharp working the middle of the field until the pressure was turned up and running back Phillip Lindsay managed 68 yards and a touchdown against one of the stiffer run defenses in the country. Given some of USC’s early struggles, it’s pretty clear that Colorado will remain a factor in the Pac-12 South battle if nothing else.

In the end though, it was the same ol’ same ol’ out West as Washington remained unbeaten and looking again like a College Football Playoff contender once again.

Jim Harbaugh advises President Trump to ‘check the Constitution’

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The latest controversy surrounding President Donald Trump has reached college football.  And, of course, it’s Jim Harbaugh doing the reacting.

At a campaign rally in Alabama earlier this past week, the POTUS let loose on those NFL players who have decided to use the National Anthem as a vehicle for protesting social injustice.  In essence, Trump called for those who participate in the demonstrations to be summarily dismissed.

“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out, he’s fired. He’s fired!'” Trump was quoted as saying. “You know, some owner is going to do that. He’s going to say, ‘That guy disrespects our flag, he’s fired.'”

Suffice to say, that hasn’t even remotely happened as condemnation of the fiery rhetoric has been far and wide from the NFL community and beyond.  It was also condemned by a former member of the NFL community as Harbaugh, whose former San Francisco 49ers quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, played a significant role in a story that’s enveloped professional football over the past year, had some choice words on this latest kerfuffle.

“No, I don’t agree with the president,” Harbaugh said following Michigan’s win over Purdue. “Listen, that’s ridiculous. Check the Constitution.”

Harbaugh, who was already at odds with Trump over the slashing of one particular program, also stated initially that he didn’t respect Kaepernick sitting out the anthem before apologizing for misspeaking shortly thereafter.  In the spring, Harbaugh referred to the still-unsigned quarterback as a hero.

Notre Dame has no trouble with mistake-prone Michigan State

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Notre Dame probably would’ve beaten Michigan State on Saturday night if the Spartans pitched a perfect game. But instead the Spartans hit three batters, tossed a handful of wild pitches, aiding the Irish in a 38-18 blowout in Spartan Stadium.

The 20-point margin represents Notre Dame’s largest victory over Michigan State since a 36-14 whipping on Sept. 18, 1993 and the largest win by either team since a 45-23 Spartans win on Sept. 12, 1998. The Irish have now won four of the last five in a series that dates back to 1897.

The Irish (3-1) opened the game with a 7-play, 78-yard touchdown drive punctuated by a 16-yard Brandon Wimbush run, then immediately capitalized on a Michigan State (2-1) mistake as Julian Love returned a Brian Lewerke interception 59 yards for a touchdown.

Michigan State rebounded with its best drive of the night, knifing 75 yards in seven snaps for a touchdown. But another Lewerke turnover, this time a fumble in his own territory, set up Notre Dame with a short field, which Wimbush turned into an 8-yard touchdown pass to Dexter Williams. The Spartans threatened to pull within 21-14 until their third and costliest turnover of the first half, an L.J. Scott fumble at the goal line that took six points off the board and handed Notre Dame the ball at the 20-yard line. Notre Dame needed only five plays to push its lead to 28-7, where it would remain until halftime.

In addition to the three turnovers, Michigan State also committed nine penalties, dropped a handful of passes and lost a possession to a turnover on downs.

Michigan State opened the second half with a Matt Coghlin field goal, but Notre Dame answered that field goal and then some with a 9-yard Deon McIntosh touchdown run. Justin Yoon pushed the lead to 28 with a 46-yard field goal with 4:51 to play.

Michigan State completed the scoring with a cosmetic touchdown — a 25-yard toss from Lewerke to Gerald Holmes — and 2-point conversion with 3:09 remaining.

Wimbush was the star for Notre Dame, hitting 14-of-20 passes for 173 yards and a touchdown with eight carries for 52 yards and a touchdown. Lewerke carried the load for Michigan State, connecting on 31-of-51 passes for 340 yards — many of them junk — with a touchdown and an interception with nine carries for 56 yards and a fumble.

Michigan State will remain in East Lansing next week to host hard luck loser Iowa, while Notre Dame returns home to face Miami (Ohio).

Disaster averted as walk-off TD pushes No. 4 Penn State past Iowa

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Entering Week 4, the last three teams ranked in the Top Five entering Kinnick Stadium had exited with a loss.  In dramatic fashion, No. 4 Penn State flipped that script.

Trailing 15-13, Iowa scored on a 35-yard touchdown run by Akrum Wadley that put Iowa up, after a failed two-point conversion, 19-15 with 1:42 left in the game.  Penn State then proceeded to go 65 yards in 12 plays and 1:42 of game time, with Trace McSorley connecting with Juwan Johnson on a seven-yard touchdown pass with zero ticks left on the clock to secure a wild 21-19 win.

That fourth quarter also featured Penn State blocking a field goal… only to see Iowa return the favor 10 minutes later to set up what would’ve been the game-winning touchdown by Wadley.

If you simply looked at the box score, however, you would’ve thought this was a blowout that swung heavily toward the visitor.

The Nittany Lions outgained the Hawkeyes 579-273.  In fact, Penn State had more yards rushing (295) than Iowa had total offense. First downs?  PSU 29, Iowa 11.  The Nittany Lions held the ball for nearly two-thirds of the game for good measure.

In the end, however, it was Penn State that came out on top on both the scoreboard as well as the stat sheet as the Nittany Lions kept their perfect season afloat as, after games against Indiana and Northwestern the next two weeks, they get set for season-defining games against No. 8 Michigan (Oct. 21) and No. 10 Ohio State (Oct. 28).  And Saquon Barkley, who set a single-game school record for all-purpose yards — 211 rushing, 94 receiving, 53 returns — will get to continue to state his case as the best football player in the country and one of a handful of Heisman Trophy front-runners.