Texas Tech wins crazy penalty-filled Big 12 opener vs TCU

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There was a time not so long ago we lauded the Big 12 for their quarterback arsenal. The 2013 season is certainly painting a different picture early on. Thursday night’s Big 12 contest between Texas Tech and TCU was more of a defensive exhibition but did provide some late offensive highlights as Texas Tech moved to 3-0 with a 20-10 victory over the visiting Horned Frogs.

While we generally tune in to see what Texas Tech will do on offense, Thursday night was all about the defense. TCU picked off three passes from Texas Tech quarterback Baker Mayfield and managed to get just three points out of it. Mayfield later had to leave the game in the fourth quarter with an injury. Davis Webb came in to continue leading the offense and he soon had an impact when a tipped pass was hauled in by Deandre Washington, who then dashed down the left sideline for a 46-yard touchdown, or so it seemed. Washington dropped the football just before crossing the goal line and an official review marked the football at the 16-yard line thanks to an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against Texas Tech tacked on to the play. A holding penalty would later push Texas Tech back to the 21-yard line but Webb completed a pass to Bradley Marquez for a touchdown and late 17-10 lead.

On this night, that was enough to hold on for the win, but TCU may have some griping to do with the officials late in the game. A TCU punt saw a kick-catch interference called against the Horned Frogs that looked to be non-existent on a video replay. On the ensuing Texas Tech possession a late fumble recovery by TCU was not awarded even after an official video review despite Texas Tech already having run a play. Texas Tech kept the football and added a field goal to build a ten-point lead.

Penalties were everywhere in this game as well. The two teams combined for 23 penalties which accounted for 205 yards. It was a long night for all.

TCU will return home next weekend to play SMU. The Mustangs are struggling at the start of the year, entering the weekend with a 1-1 record boosted by a 31-30 victory over Montana State. TCU’s defense will continue to be the strength of the Horned Frogs this season, as expected. Nothing from Thursday night’s game suggested otherwise, but without Casey Pachall at quarterback it is clear the Horned Frogs are struggling on offense. That is an area that could take time before TCU can be a regular threat in the Big 12. But Gary Patterson is a good coach. Give him time and he’ll get something going.

Texas Tech will stay home for another in-state showdown next week. The Red Raiders will host Texas State, playing their second season at the FBS level. Texas State is off to a 2-0 start with wins over Southern Mississippi and Prairie View A&M and they will be coming off a bye week before making the trip to Lubbock. This should be a game that sees Mayfield calm down a bit and play closer to what we saw in the first couple of games.

Sun Belt commissioner Karl Benson frowns upon Group of Five playoff idea

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The chances a team from the Group of Five ever gets selected to play in the College Football Playoff range from slim to none. As such, talk from within the Group of Five has kicked up from time to time, especially over the last year, about a possible Group of Five-only version of the College Football Playoff. The reactions to that idea has been mixed, but add Sun Belt Conference commissioner Karl Benson to the group of people who thinks that idea should be tossed aside.

While attending meetings for the College Football Playoff, Benson told reporters he would prefer to see conference champions from the Group of Five (American, Conference USA, MAC, Mountain West, and Sun Belt) receive better bowl bids instead of playing in a minor version of the College Football Playoff.

It’s time to have a realistic conversation about creating a playoff for the Group of 5,” NIU athletic director Sean Frazier told Brett McMurphy, then of ESPN.com, back in December. “Why not?”

Well, there are a number of reasons. First, not everybody seems to be on board with playing the college football version equivalent of the NIT. Sure, it would be on TV and would get ratings, but the reward at the end of the JV playoff would mean little. Nobody would consider it a national championship. That’s what the FCS is for.

Benson is not alone in his anti-Group of Five playoff stance. MAC commissioner Jon Steinbrecher also has been on record saying he is not interested in such a plan, and he oversaw a member from his conference go undefeated last season and play in the Cotton Bowl (Western Michigan).

My initial reaction is that’s not something I’m interested in,” Steinbrecher said, according to MLive.com in December. “We’re part of the (College Football Playoff) system, and it’s done a lot of very good things for the Mid-American Conference.”

Without the support from two of the Group of Five commissioners (and you can almost be guaranteed you can add Mike Aresco of the American Athletic Conference to the list given the conference’s push to be considered a power conference), this idea is pretty much dead on arrival.

LSU’s Arden Key: I am not sitting out my junior year

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After taking a little time off from the LSU football program this spring, Arden Key calmed the nerves of Tigers fans on Wednesday with a simple message on his Twitter account.

Key announced to his Twitter followers he will be on the field for the Tigers this fall. Back in February, LSU released a statement saying Key would be stepping away from the program “for personal reasons.” What those personal reasons were is unknown, but he did so with the support of head coach Ed Orgeron and the entire football program at the time.

Key earned second-team All-SEC honors last season after leading LSU with 14.5 tackles for loss and 12 sacks, a school record. With news, he would be stepping away from the program and the age of top NFL Draft prospects opting out of bowl games, the mere thought that Key might become the first potential NFL Draft pick the following season sitting out the entire football season was difficult to completely ignore. Fortunately, especially for LSU and not so much for LSU’s opponents, Key is choosing not to break that barrier at this time.

Texas A&M removes WR Kirk Merritt from roster

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After being charged for allegedly exposing himself to tutors at Texas A&M, wide receiver Kirk Merritt is no longer an Aggie. Merritt has been removed from the Texas A&M football program, according to a report from The Eagle. Though there has been no official statement confirming such news, Merritt’s name has been wiped off the team’s online roster.

Merritt pleaded not guilty to a pair of indecent exposure charges against him stemming from an incident last October. Merritt allegedly exposed himself to female academic tutors. Merritt was suspended by Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin a few days after the alleged incidents. The suspension was expanded to indefinite status following Merritt’s arrest on November 8. The suspension has since been lifted after the university’s conduct process wrapped up in January.

It has been a bit of a bumpy year for Merritt. Merritt left Oregon for Texas A&M last summer due to family reasons. He participated in Texas A&M’s spring practices but did not play in the spring game.

Big 12 revenue eclipses $300 million mark

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When it comes to revenues, the SEC and Big Ten continue to set the pace and leave the rest of the competition in the dust. That said, the Big 12 saw a second straight sizable revenue bump, according to recent tax returns.

As reported by USA Today, the Big 12 recorded a revenue of $313 million for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2016 on its tax return. The figure is up roughly $40 million from last year’s revenue, and the conference has now doubled its revenue since the 2012 fiscal year amid conference realignment changes. As for the revenue shares for each Big 12 program, the numbers ranged from $28 million to West Virginia to $28.9 million for Oklahoma. This marked the first time West Virginia and TCU were eligible to receive their full conference revenue shares as Big 12 members.

The biggest reason for the big jump in revenue came from increased bowl revenue. The Big 12 pulled in $114.5 million in bowl revenue in 2016, which was just $74.5 million in 2015. The 2015 season, which was included in the fiscal year outlined by this tax return, saw Oklahoma advance to the College Football Playoff and Oklahoma State be selected to play in a New Years Six bowl game (Sugar Bowl), which led to a larger bowl game distribution for the Big 12. The previous year saw no Big 12 team in the College Football Playoff (TCU, Baylor).

The Big 12 still lags well behind the SEC. Most will, of course. The SEC announced a revenue of $584.2 million for the 2015-2016 fiscal year, with each SEC member receiving a revenue share of $40.4 million. The SEC and Big 12 are the only conference revenue numbers currently on record for the 2015-2016 fiscal year, but expect the Big Ten to be a solid second in the pecking order, with the ACC likely to come in front of the Big 12 and the Pac-12 to be toward the bottom of the pack.

Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby had a pay increase as well. Bowlsby reportedly earned a little more than $2.6 million in 2015, earning more than $70,000 than the previous year.