Stanford hangs on against Washington, 31-28

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There’s only one conclusion you can take away from the Pac-12’s marquee matchup on Saturady: Washington is legit and Stanford is for real.

Oh, and this conference is really good.

The Huskies went toe-to-toe with the Cardinal for four quarters, but came up short in the end as No. 5 Stanford hung on for a thrilling 31-28 win over No. 15 Washington in Palo Alto. It was the Cardinal’s 13-consecutive victory.

The box score favored UW, at least when it comes to the offensive numbers. The Huskies outgained Stanford, 489 to 279, and out-first-downed them, 30 to 14, but the Cardinal got 290 all-purpose yards from receiver Ty Montgomery, including 204 yards on four kickoff returns — one of them a 99-yarder to open the game — and this was the difference in the game.

Stanford employed its usual strategy from the getgo: Pound its opponent into submission with unbalanced lines and power running. But the Huskies were ready for it — just like they were last season when they upset Stanford, 17-13. The Cardinal never really got untracked offensively but, as good teams do, they executed enough key plays at key moments to prevail.

Case in point was Stanford’s touchdown before the first half ended. The Cardinal had the ball on the UW 39-yard line with 17 seconds to play. The smart money woudl think Stanford would position itself for a field goal. But Kevin Hogan threw a perfect pass to a perfectly covered Montgomery for a touchdown and the Cardinal went into the locker room up 10.

Stanford kept the Huskies at arm’s length until the very end, but Washington chipped away, dug down deep and then nearly pulled off the upset. Hogan was stopped on a 3rd and 1 bootleg with the Cardinal up by three with just under two minutes to play and the Huskies got the ball back.

Washington quarterback Keith Price took over on his own 33 with a chance for glory. His first pass was a remarkable back-shoulder throw against the sideline caught by Kasen Williams at the Stanford 49 yard line. His third and 10 pass over the middle to Austin Seferian-Jenkins was dropped — it would’ve been a first down but the All-American tight end couldn’t find the handle. This set up the key play of the game — a 4th and 10 pass where Price scrambled away from a Ben Gardner rush and found Kevin Smith for a first down. But the referees over-ruled the original call and decided that Smith trapped the ball. Stanford was given the ball back, victory assured.

There are no moral victories, but Washington has to feel good that it took a top five team to the limit. This game could’ve easily belonged to the Huskies and they arguably outplayed Stanford but, in the end, the Cardinal found a way to win.

From a conference standpoint, this was an optimal outcome for the Pac-12. Stanford remained a national title contender while Washington showed it could play with anyone. It also keeps the year’s potential dream matchup alive: Undefeated and explosive Oregon at physical and methodical Stanford on Nov. 7.

Illinois boots three players charged with home invasion and robbery

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Illinois head coach Lovie Smith has dismissed three players charged with home invasion and robbery. Offensive linemen Darta Lee and Howard Watkins and tight end Zarrian Holcombe have all been dismissed from the program, according to a statement.

Lee and Holcombe were previously suspended by Smith for violations of team rules. Watkins had also been indefinitely suspended following the initial allegations. All three players claimed the incident that led to the charges was nothing more than an innocent prank, but the authorities and Smith didn’t seem willing to buy that claim.

Each player faces a mandatory prison sentence of 4-15 years on each count against them if found guilty.

Report: Conference USA to air at least 15 football games on Twitter in 2017

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Conference USA is in a position where it needs to think outside the box and look to stay ahead of the curve in a changing TV landscape. It appears to be ready to air games on Twitter in 2017.

A report from The Virginian-Pilot says broadcast company STADIUM will air at least 15 football games involving Conference USA teams this fall. STADIUM is the result of a recent merger between the American Sports Network, 120 Sports and Silver Chalice (which also owns Campus Insiders and the online ACC Digital Network). The ASN had owned the broadcast rights to Conference USA games through the end of the 2017-2018 sports season that will carry over to the STADIUM deal (allowing for Conference USA basketball games to be aired on Twitter as well). It was announced earlier this month STADIUM intended to broadcast Conference USA games on Twitter, but it was unknown how many games might make it to the networking service. STADIUM reportedly has an interest in continuing to air Conference USA contests beyond the next athletic season.

Conference USA still has broadcast deals with ESPN and CBS Sports in effect as well, so don’t expect the premiere matchups in the conference to be aired on Twitter. However, by sharing the games online, Conference USA is hoping to reach a wide-spread audience and have the opportunity to be a trending topic. It could work, as Twitter would make sure the game is given a steady feed to allow for a pleasant viewing experience and fan interaction in real time.

Conference USA saw TV revenue take a big hit over the last year. Last summer, Conference USA’s television revenue reportedly dropped to just $2.8 million for the entire conference following realignment changes. Finding a home on a streaming platform now would be key for the conference’s future stability.

Alabama DC Jeremy Pruitt named son after former Tide linebackers Reuben Foster and Ryan Anderson

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It is not at all uncommon for children born in the state of Alabama to be named after Alabama football legends, but it is not every day you see a child of an Alabama coach receives a name inspired by former Alabama football players.

Defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt announced the birth of his new son, Flynt Anderson-Foster Pruitt, on Twitter. Alabama fans will likely already know the connection to the new child’s name, as used the last names of two former Alabama football players to create the middle name of Anderson-Foster; Ryan Anderson and Reuben Foster.

Maybe this is more common than I’m aware of, but regardless of how often a coach names a child after former players, this is a testament to the relationship the Pruitt family established with both former Alabama linebackers. And now there will be a bond for years to come between the coach and his family and Anderson and Foster.

Helmet sticker to Al.com.

Wisconsin’s season tickets for 100th anniversary of Camp Randall are a thing of beauty

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The Wisconsin Badgers are gearing up for their 100th season playing home football game sin Camp Randall Stadium. As part of the season-long celebration, Wisconsin put some brilliant artistic detail into their season tickets for the 2017 season.

Each ticket to a home Wisconsin game is designed like a retro-style program. These are beautifully done and mimic the style of a program cover from decades past. I’m particularly fond of the program cover for the Purdue game, which features Wisconsin’s Bucky floating in space with a ship with the Purdue logo nearby. Is that a space train? The Band Day program for the game against Florida Atlantic also looks fantastic.

These tickets will surely be must-have collectibles for Wisconsin fans. If Wisconsin wants to make a few extra bucks, then blowing up these images and selling them as posters may be a good decision as well. And I wouldn’t put it past Wisconsin to suit up in a retro-style uniform for at least home game this season in Madison.