Colten Heagle, Grant Olson, Cole Jirik

Kansas State upset by FCS force North Dakota State


North Dakota State, winners of two consecutive FCS national championships, showed the poise and maturity of a battle-tested champion in a road upset of defending Big 12 champion Kansas State Friday night. The Bisons methodically moved down field 80 yards over 18 plays  in the final minutes of the game to stun the Wildcats in the season opener, 24-21.

Make no mistake about this one, this was certainly an upset but it was no fluke. Bison quarterback Brock Jensen was 20-of-29 for 164 yards, each pass almost always just where it needed to be on the field to move the chains no matter the down and yardage. No situation seemed to rattle Jensen and the rest of the Bison. Running back Sam Ojuri rushed for 126 yards against a team that was ranked second in the Big 12 in rushing defense in 2012.

Kansas State saw prized junior college quarterback transfer Jake Waters get his first start with the team. In his debut Waters completed 21 of 29 passes for 280 yards and two touchdowns, but he was also intercepted twice. Two Wildcat receivers eclipsed the century mark, with Tyler Lockett leading all players with 113 receiving yards and Tramaine Thompson adding 108 yards.

The loss marked the first season opening loss for Kansas State head coach Bill Snyder since 1989, his first season with the program. Kansas State is also the first defending AC conference champion to lose to an FCS school the following year. Before the game Kansas State unveiled a new statue in honor of Snyder. So much for timing.

This loss will spur plenty of conversation of course. Is North Dakota State really that good (yes)? Is Kansas State really that bad (no)? What does this mean for the Big 12? Probably not quite as much as you might think.

It goes without saying the loss is a rough one for the Big 12. If we tend to poke fun at The American for a loss to an FCS team (Towson over UConn), then this should be fair game for the Big 12 as well. Except for one thing. this is not exactly the Kansas State of 2012 that went down in defeat here. This is a Wildcats team that had just two returning starters on defense going up against an experienced and cohesive North Dakota State team. Kansas State also threw in a junior college transfer hoping for the best, and nearly escaped with the victory.  Waters may have a fine season in the purple and silver, but he is no Collin Klein right now.

But let’s see where Kansas State goes now. The next game on the schedule is not exactly the easiest of match-ups. Kansas State hosts Louisiana-Lafayette  next week and has back-to-back road trips to Texas and Oklahoma state looming. things could easily spiral out of control if Snyder doesn’t get this team ready for next week’s game.

As for North Dakota State, winners of four straight games against FBS opponents (Colorado State in 2012, Minnesota in 2011, Kansas in 2010), the Bison will continue on their hopeful march to another FCS title next week at home against Division 2 Ferris State.

Good luck Ferris State.

Don’t ask Mark Richt about his job status

Mark Richt
Associated Press
1 Comment

Mark Richt is deep in preparations for his 15th game against downstate rival Georgia Tech. He’s also closing in on the end of a hectic, disappointing regular season, one in which many questions about his job status have arisen.

Combine those two facts and add in some uncomfortable questions and you get a feisty, possibly paranoid Richt.

“Who made you ask that question?” Richt said  when asked about his job status, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I know you didn’t think of that one. My focus is beating Georgia Tech right now. That’s my answer to you.”

Then another arrived, this time from the hometown Athens paper. “Then I probably won’t answer it, I can tell you that,” Richt said when appraised of the nature of the question. “So go ahead.”

It is worth noting, according to the AJC, Richt provided those terse answers through smiles and a chuckle.

“My focus right now is Georgia Tech,” Richt finally answered. “Who made you ask that one?”

Richt then attempted to head off another job question before learning the inquiry was actually about the Bulldogs’ offensive line.“You’re gonna ask the same one? We  can end this thing as fast as you want,” Richt said. “I’m here to talk about the game.”

Georgia plays Georgia Tech Saturday. By Sunday, Richt will have to find a new reason to avoid answering questions about the only subject fans care to hear.

Oklahoma, Iowa move into top four in latest College Football Playoff rankings

C.J. Beathard, Zach Poker, Mike Caprara
Associated Press

The fourth set of College Football Playoff rankings were released Tuesday night, and Clemson is No. 1 for the fourth consecutive week. Alabama remained second, and Oklahoma leapt from seventh to third after winning their second consecutive game against a top-20 team. Iowa moved up a spot from fifth to fourth, and Michigan State jumped from No. 9 to No. 5 after its massive road win over Ohio State.

Ohio State fell from third to eighth due to that loss. Baylor passed the Buckeyes for No. 7 following their decisive win at then-No. 6 Oklahoma State, and Notre Dame dropped from fourth to sixth after a close win a Boston College.

Washington State, Mississippi State, UCLA, Toledo and Temple jumped into the rankings, while LSU, Houston, Memphis, USC and Wisconsin fell out.

The full rankings:

1. Clemson
2. Alabama
3. Oklahoma
4. Iowa
5. Michigan State
6. Notre Dame
7. Baylor
8. Ohio State
9. Stanford
10. Michigan
11. Oklahoma State
12. Florida
13. Florida State
14. North Carolina
15. Navy
16. Northwestern
17. Oregon
18. Ole Miss
19. TCU
20. Washington State
21.  Mississippi State
22. UCLA
23. Utah
24. Toledo
25. Temple

Finalists for O’Brien, Outland, Bednarik, other awards announced

Christian McCaffrey
Associated Press

A slew of finalists for college football’s major individual awards were announced Tuesday evening, highlighted by multi-award finalists Derrick HenryChristian McCaffrey and Deshaun Watson. Eleven of the 12 awards listed below (excluding the Burlsworth Trophy) are members of the National College Football Awards Assocation and will have their winners announced during ESPN’s Home Depot 25th Anniversary College Football Awards Show, to be broadcast from the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta on Thursday, Dec. 10 (7 p.m. ET).

The winner of the Rimington Award as the nation’s top center will also be revealed on ESPN’s show, but finalists aren’t announced until Monday, Dec. 7.

The finalists are:

Maxwell Award (best overall player)
Derrick Henry, Alabama
Christian McCaffrey, Stanford
Deshaun Watson, Clemson

Davey O’Brien Award (best quarterback)
Trevone Boykin, TCU
Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
Deshaun Watson, Clemson

Doak Walker Award (best running back)
Leonard Fournette, LSU
Derrick Henry, Alabama
Christian McCaffrey, Stanford

Biletnikoff Award (best wide receiver)
Corey Coleman, Baylor
Josh Doctson, TCU
Laquon Treadwell, Ole Miss

John Mackey Award (best tight end)
Hunter Henry, Arkansas
Austin Hooper, Stanford
Jordan Leggett, Clemson

Outland Trophy (best interior lineman)
Spencer Drango, Baylor
Joshua Garnett, Stanford
A’Shawn Robinson, Alabama

Chuck Bednarik Award (best defensive player)
Tyler Matakevich, Temple
Carl Nassib, Penn State
Reggie Ragland, Alabama

Jim Thorpe Award (best defensive back)
Jeremy Cash, Duke
Vernon Hargreaves III, Florida
Desmond King, Iowa

Lou Groza Award (best kicker)
Daniel Carlson, Auburn
Jake Elliott, Memphis
Ka’imi Fairbairn, UCLA

Ray Guy Award (best punter)
Michael Carrizosa, San Jose State
Tom Hackett, Utah
Hayden Hunt, Colorado State

Burlsworth Trophy (best walk-on)*
Luke Falk, Washington State
Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
Carl Nassib, Penn State

Wuerffel Trophy (best community servant)
Ty Darlington, Oklahoma
Landon Foster, Kentucky
Nate Sudfeld, Indiana

* – winner not announced at ESPN awards show

Gamecocks WR Pharoh Cooper turning pro, says father

Pharoh Cooper

South Carolina wide receiver Pharoh Cooper will play his final collegiate game this Saturday against Clemson. The junior wide receiver will not return for his senior season in Columbia and will instead enter the 2016 NFL Draft, according to his father.

“He definitely appreciates the opportunity to play for South Carolina, and we as parents appreciate the opportunity they gave him,” Cooper’s father, Glen Cooper, said in a story for The Slate. “He wants to ride the wave at its high point.”

According to The Slate report, Cooper’s decision to turn pro was more about what kind of potential he is believed to have entering the NFL next season and not the coaching change underway with the Gamecocks. Steve Spurrier resigned as head coach during the season and South Carolina will have a new coach in 2016, which is still to be determined. And he does have the pro potential. Josh Norris of RotoWorld ranks Cooper as the eighth-best wide receiver in the NFL Draft Class of 2016. Cooper also wanted to avoid risking an injury in 2016 before taking the next step toward the NFL, which can tend to be a wise choice for so many players given the uncertainty revolving around the sport.

Cooper leads South Carolina with 887 yards and seven touchdowns this season. With South Carolina out of postseason contention, Cooper will likely fall shy of his 2014 total of 1,136 yards (if he matches that, good night to Clemson’s title hopes), but he could have a chance to tie his team-leading nine touchdown mark from a season ago.