Big 12 spring games wrap-up

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Recapping the Big 12 spring games from Saturday: 

Iowa State
Iowa State’s offense took off during the Cyclones’ spring game on Saturday, with both offenses combining for nearly 900 yards and 68 points. Grant Rohach completed 19-of-31 passes for 185 yards and one touchdown. Sam Richardson, a starter late last season, completed 9-of-12 passes for 156 yards and two touchdowns

— Running backs played especially well yesterday. DeVondrick Nealy rushed 18 times for 142 yards and two touchdowns; Rob Standard had 65 yards on 10 carries; and Aaron Wimberly had 89 yards on 15 carries
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“I had felt the running back position overall had the best spring,” Rhoads said. “DeVondrick Nealy is running as he was capable. He is going into his third season and that is encouraging to see. James White is James White. He runs hard, smart, and knows everything about the offense. Aaron Wimberly showed why we are excited to have him and why we recruited him. Rob Standard is productive every time we play him.”

Oklahoma State
Though Oklahoma State finished the 2012 season with an 8-5 record, it could be considered one of Mike Gundy‘s better coaching jobs in Stillwater. Now, with three quarterbacks with starting experience competing for the No. 1 job this fall, the Cowboys could also be in a position to make a run at another Big 12 title. But Gundy won’t tip his hand as to who will start Week 1: Clint Chelf, Wes Lunt or J.W. Walsh. 

“We are not really going to talk about that from this point on,” Gundy said. “There is no reason for us to talk about what our quarterback situation is. I think we have been very open about it throughout the spring. Our players have been very open about it.

— Believe it or not, but Oklahoma State’s defense held the advantage in Saturday’s spring game. Linebacker Caleb Lavey and cornerback Justin Gilbert combined to intercept three passes, one of which went back for a touchdown. Afterward, Gundy pointed out Gilbert’s strong spring.

“Justin played very average last year, and he would be the first to admit that,” Gundy said. “He’s certainly very talented, and he was in position to make plays today, and that’s what he needs to do for us. He needs to be a guy who has several interceptions and runs the ball back. As fast he as he is, if he’s in the right area, he can get the ball off a tip–and that’s what he did today. He played very well.”

— Overall, Gundy was pleased with the defensive effort in its first spring following the departure of DC Bill Young.

“I know the crowd here is not used to it. We dropped some passes on offense that contributed to it, but I’m really excited about the play we’re getting on defense. In the long run, we’re going to move the ball and score a lot of points here, because that’s what we do and who we are, but if we want to consistently compete for a championship, we have to play better on defense,” Gundy explained. “I’m excited about our group, I think their attitude is different and I think they have a chance to be better this season.”

Texas Tech
Tommy Tuberbille is out. Kliff Kingsbury is in. And on Saturday, over 16,000 fans made their way to watch Texas Tech’s spring game. Quarterbacks Michael Brewer and Davis Webb combined for 506 yards and three touchdowns through the air during the scrimmage.

Jace Amaro led all receivers with 11 catches for 80-yards, but Derrick Edwards had the most receiving yards with 101, including an 83-yard touchdown pass from Webb. Senior linebacker Will Smith led the defense with 10 tackles.

“I loved the atmosphere,” Kingsbury said.  “It was a great crowd and our kids were fired up.  I thought the defense came out and really competed well.  Both sides kept it base but their effort was really, really good.”

West Virginia
Coming off a 10-win season with Orange Bowl victory in 2011-12, West Virginia was predicted by some *ahem* to immediately compete for a Big 12 title. Yeah, about that. The Mountaineers went on a five-game losing streak in the middle of the season and finished 7-6. Now with the likes of Geno Smith, Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey gone to the NFL, WVU must replace the core of its offensive production. Battling to succeed Smith are junior Paul Millard and redshirt freshman Ford Childress.

Though both QBs posted solid passing numbers, offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson wasn’t happy with their tendency to hold on to the ball. “Taking sacks gets you beat,” Dawson said. “We’re giving up sacks we shouldn’t give up. If you sit in the pocket for three, four, five seconds and get sacked, you can’t do that. If that’s what they’re going to do, then neither one of them can play.”

— Running back Dustin Garrison shined as a freshman in 2011, but was limited last year because of an ACL tear he sustained right before the Orange Bowl. Garrison came back strong in WVU’s spring game with 51 yards on seven carries.

— Though it will be difficult if not downright impossible to replicate what Tavon Austin did for WVU’s offense, receiver Jordan Thompson could emerge as a similar shifty playmaker. Thompson had three touchdowns during yesterday’s game.

— Defense will still be a concern for WVU, but Travis Bell‘s move from safety to corner could be an upgrade for a unit that was picked on often during last season. “He has embraced the change, and he’s excited about it. He can run fast, and he has great conditioning,” Dana Holgorsen said. “It is an experiment that we talked about a week ago, and we moved him. We’ll keep looking into it.”

— The Mountaineers will be sporting some new unis this fall as well.

Akron earns second-ever spot in MAC championship game

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Akron came into Week 13 needing to either win or rely on someone else to lose.  In the end, the Zips decided to just go ahead and punch their own ticket to the Motor City, thank you very much.

Jumping out to a 24-7 halftime lead Tuesday night, that margin proved to be more than enough for Akron as they easily cruised past rival Kent State in a 24-14 win.  Kent actually outgained its hosts 246-191, but a fumble return for a touchdown with less than 20 seconds left in the second quarter essentially sealed the win for Akron.

Both Akron and Ohio entered this week tied atop the MAC East at 5-2.  However, the Zips beat the Bobcats in Week 12, meaning Akron is the first MAC team to claim a spot in the conference championship game at Detroit’s Ford Field next weekend.

This will mark the Zips’s second-ever title-game appearance, with the first coming in 2005.  That season, Akron beat Northern Illinois 31-30 for its first-ever conference championship.

Akron will play either NIU (6-1) or Toledo (6-1) in this year’s title game, although it’s trending heavily toward the Rockets as they own the head-to-head with the Huskies.  So, the possibilities?

Toledo wins the West with either a win over Western Michigan OR an NIU loss. Northern Illinois needs to beat Central Michigan AND have Toledo lose to WMU at home to win the division.

Report: Florida appears ready to move on from Chip Kelly pursuit if deal isn’t consummated soon

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Florida’s search for a new head coach could very shortly be ready to take another twist.

Despite a certain former Head Ball Coach saying UF’s new head coach would be a current one, speculation on Jim McElwain‘s replacement has seemingly centered on Chip Kelly over the last few days. In fact, a group of UF officials headed by athletic director Scott Stricklin and president Kent Fuchs visited with Kelly in New Hampshire over the weekend to discuss the job.

While it walks, talks and smells like the university has targeted Kelly as its top choice, it appears they want an answer, one way or the other, from the former Oregon head coach sooner rather than later. From Yahoo! SportsPat Forde:

But with other potential candidates becoming available for discussion this weekend, Florida officials appear to be ready to move on shortly after Thanksgiving if a deal has not been struck with Kelly.

Potentially mucking up the works in Gainesville is UCLA, which fired Jim Mora Sunday and is also said to be targeting Kelly as a replacement.  In fact, it’s being reported that the Bruins’ search contingent has already met with Kelly.

UCF’s Scott Frost, who is believed to be Nebraska’s top choice when/when it moves on from Mike Riley, and Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen are thought to be likely targets should either Kelly snub the Gators or they move on.

One very likely reason for UF’s reported urgency for a decision from Kelly is the revamped recruiting calendar. This year marks the first time that there’s an early signing period in football, with Class of 2018 recruits given a 72-hour window from Dec. 20-22 to sign their National Letters of Intent.

The sooner UF can wrap up its search, the sooner its new coach and his staff can try to hold together some semblance of a first recruiting class with the program – especially with two SEC programs, Tennessee and Ole Miss, already looking for a head coach while a couple of others (Arkansas, Texas A&M) could be on the hunt as early as this coming weekend as well.

Miami jumps Clemson, Wisconsin remains No. 5 in latest CFP rankings

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The third-to-last edition of the College Football Playoff rankings were released Tuesday night, and the only changes in the top 12 came at spot No. 2, where Miami jumped Clemson ahead of the pair’s ACC title clash on Dec. 2.

USC remained the highest-ranked Pac-12 team at No. 11, dimming any hopes the Pac-12 could back-door its way into the top four should chaos reign elsewhere. The Trojans were one spot ahead of TCU and two spots ahead of the Pac-12’s second-highest ranked team in Washington State. Central Florida again led all Group of 5 teams at No. 15.

Virginia Tech re-joined the rankings at No. 25, one spot behind the debut rankings for South Carolina.

The top 25:

1. Alabama
2. Miami
3. Clemson
4. Oklahoma
5. Wisconsin
6. Auburn
7. Georgia
8. Notre Dame
9. Ohio State
10. Penn State
11. USC
12. TCU
13. Washington State
14. Mississippi State
15. Central Florida
16. Michigan State
17. Washington
18. LSU
19. Oklahoma State
20. Memphis
21. Stanford
22. Northwestern
23. Boise State
24. South Carolina
25. Virginia Tech

Report: LSU victory would not save Kevin Sumlin’s job

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Kevin Sumlin said Tuesday afternoon he expects to be Texas A&M’s head coach in 2018. A report Tuesday night says otherwise.

Sumlin will be fired in the day or days following Saturday’s game with No. 20 LSU, win or lose, according to a report from the Houston Chronicle. The Aggies are 0-5 against LSU under Sumlin and double-digit underdogs for Saturday’s game in Baton Rouge. The Chronicle‘s report is not the first to proclaim Sumlin’s future firing, but it is the most definitive.

Sumlin is 7-4 (4-3 SEC) this season and 51-25 overall, a mark that ranks in the top-third of the SEC since joining the league in 2012 — but Sumlin is not paid to deliver top-third results. His program failed to live up to the standard set in that debut campaign, with an 11-2 mark, a win in Tuscaloosa, a Cotton Bowl blowout of Oklahoma and a Heisman Trophy for Johnny Manziel.

The Chronicle reported that Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher will be A&M’s top target to replace Sumlin.