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Mississippi State hangs on, but faces steep road to postseason

Dak Prescott, Eric Dixon AP

It was not the prettiest of games, but Mississippi State found a way to hold on for a win against Kentucky Thursday night. A fourth down pass by Kentucky fell incomplete in the final minute of the game, allowing Mississippi State to take over on downs and head in to the victory formation with a 28-22 lead.

Dak Prescott passed for 68 yards and two touchdowns for Mississippi State and he ended up being one of 11 different Mississippi State players to catch a pass in the game.Prescott’s 17-yard catch actually turned out to be the game-winning catch as he scored a touchdown on a pass from junior receiver Jameon Lewis. The touchdown catch and run by Prescott gave Mississippi State a 28-19 lead late in the third quarter. It was the quarterback’s second touchdown catch of the season.

Mississippi State needs to win two more games to become eligible for postseason play for the fourth straight season. Yeah, about that…

Three out of the next four games for Mississippi State will be played on the road. First is a game at South Carolina. Second is a trip to play Texas A&M. After that they return home, but they play host to Alabama. The odds would seem to be stacked against the Bulldogs in each of the next three games, which would theoretically pit Mississippi State with their backs against the wall in their final two games. If Mississippi State can pick up a win against Arkansas, and depending on which Razorback team shows up that is not at all impossible, that would mean Mississippi State would have to defeat their rival, Ole Miss, in a game with even more riding than the Golden Egg. Mississippi State has won three of the last four Egg Bowls, but Ole Miss is looking pretty decent this season.

Even with the win, the future of Dan Mullen continues to be an interesting storyline for the program the rest of the year. Odds are the pressure may be on for Mullen and a season without a bowl trip should only turn up the heat even more. How much the financial impact comes in to play could be enough alone to assure Mullen returns in 2014. To fire Mullen at the end of this season could cost Mississippi State approximately $6 million. Bottom line is it is not likely Mullen’s job is cut short for a number of reasons. First, it makes little financial sense to let go of him before the contract expires (in 2016). Second, even if Mississippi State finishes with a 5-7 record this season, Mullen will have a winning record over a five-year period, which is no easy task for the program. Third, no matter what happens this season he will have a winning record against Ole Miss, although two straight losses to Ole Miss at a time when the Rebels are looking to build some momentum certainly will not go over well with some. But let’s not worry about that right now.

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Status of Nebraska’s Taylor Martinez a game-time decision

Taylor Martinez, Talia Crichton AP

Eventually Nebraska quarterback Taylor Matrtinez is going to return to the field. That day may be this weekend when Nebraska faces Minnesota in a somewhat key Big Ten Legends Division game. It will be a game-time decision for Bo Pelini to determine if Martinez will start or not.

Martinez has been bothered by turf toe for the past few weeks, sitting out each of Nebraska’s last three games. Mobility is a big part of Martinez’s game, and turf toe makes it painfully difficult to move around the way Martinez tends to do. Martinez rushed for over 1,000 yards last season and entered the season with 31 rushing touchdowns, although he has yet to reach the end zone on the ground this season.

While Martinez has been on the sideline, freshman Tommy Armstrong has been started under center. Nebraska has scaled back their offense a bit to avoid putting too much of the offense in the hands of Armstrong. Armstrong passed well in his first two games in relief of Martinez but he threw three interceptions two weeks ago against Purdue.

Nebraska has gone 3-0 without Martinez but his absence came at a somewhat fortunate time on the schedule with Nebraska facing FCS South Dakota State and Big Ten teams Illinois and Purdue. All three were games Nebraska should have been able to win with or without Martinez on the field.

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Concussion will keep FSU’s Wilder out vs NC State

James Wilder Jr. AP

After one of the most impressive overall performance by any team in the country this season last weekend against Clemson, Florida State will look to keep running strong this weekend against North Carolina State. They will have to do so without one of their running backs. James Wilder will miss this weekend’s game due to a concussion.

For Wilder this is just the latest setback in a season that has not exactly been able to stay on track because of nagging injuries. Wilder broke out last season by lading Florida State with 11 rushing touchdowns but is just third on the team this year with just 226 rushing yards and two touchdown runs (fourth on the team). Wilder was hurt in the season opener at Pittsburgh, with his shoulder bothering him to some extent ever since.

Devonta Freeman should continue to start for Florida State as he currently leads the team with 469 yards and is second on the team with four rushing touchdowns. Karlos Williams, who has had a successful transition to running back after starting the year playing defensive back, should be counted on to carry more of the load in the ground game. Williams leads Florida State with six touchdowns and is second in rushing with 263 yards on just 31 rushing attempts.

North Carolina State is right in the middle of the ACC in rushing defenses, ranked seventh and allowing 150.0 yards per game.

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If you like a long read, here is Maryland’s latest injury report

Deon Long, Stefon Diggs AP

Every team has injuries, but what is happening with Maryland is something else.

Five offensive players who started last week for the Terrapins will be out for this weekend’s game against Clemson. Even if Maryland was at full strength it may have been a difficult position to try to knock off Clemson, with the Tigers looking to bounce back after a demoralizing blowout loss at home last weekend to Florida State on the national stage. Maryland may not even be at two-thirds or three-fourths strength this weekend.

Nine players are out for the season including Maryland’s top two wide receivers, Stefon Diggs and Deon Young. A total of 12 additional players are listed out for the Clemson game, including starting quarter CJ Brown and leading rusher Brandon Ross.

Here is the full Maryland injury report for this weekend, courtesy of CSN Baltimore:

  • DB Milan Collins | Ankle | Out for the season
  • LB Yannik Cudjoe-Virgil | Upper Body | Out for the season
  • WR Stefon Diggs | Leg | Out for the season
  • OL JaJuan Dulaney | Knee | Out for the season
  • WR Deon Long | Leg | Out for the season
  • DB Dexter McDougle | Shoulder | Out for the season
  • DL Mike Minter | Knee | Out for the seasom
  • DL Kingsley Opara | Shoulder | Out for the season
  • DL Ty Tucker | Knee | Out for the season
  • OL Silvano Altamirano | Back | Out
  • QB C.J. Brown | Trunk | Out
  • LS Christian Carpenter | Knee | Out
  • WR Tyrek Cheeseboro | Head | Out
  • LB L.A. Goree |Back | Out
  • K Adam Greene |Quad | Out
  • DB Jeremiah Johnson | Toe | Out
  • OL Nick Klemm | Foot | Out
  • WR DeAndre Lane | Head |Out
  • DB Anthony Nixon | Toe |Out
  • RB Brandon Ross | Shoulder | Out
  • TE Dave Stinebaugh | Knee | Out
  • DL Zeke Riser | Ankle | Probable
  • LB Matt Robinson | Shoulder | Probable
  • LB Alex Twine | Shoulder | Probable

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Man tries to extort $3.5 million from Louisville, man is arrested

Rutgers v Louisville Getty Images

Generally speaking, threatening a university with exposing alleged dirty secrets with the intent of getting a nice cash payout is probably not a good idea. Then again, generally speaking, some people will never cease to amaze you.

Take Thomas Ray for example. Today police in Jackson, Mississippi arrested him for allegedly attempting to extort $3.5 million from Louisville’s athletic department. A federal grand jury accused Ray of using an alias in an email demanding $3.5 million and threatening to expose the university’s supposed dirty laundry if the school did not comply with the demands.  

In a statement, Louisville athletics director Tom Jurich said he contacted Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway and the NCAA within minutes of reading the email.

“We were confident that there was no truth to the accusations made in the communication,” Louisville athletics director Tom Jurich said. Jurich claims to have contacted the attorney general’s office promptly after receiving the email.

Ray is due in a Louisville district court on November 7 and faces fines up to $250,000.

Perhaps the best part of the story is this is not Ray’s first time being connected to a case of extortion. In 2005 Ray attempted to extort $2.5 million from consumer electronics retail giant Best Buy.

One can only wonder what is next for Ray, and just what or who his next target will be.

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Notre Dame’s Louis Nix III nixed for Air Force

USC v Notre Dame Getty Images

Notre Dame will be without one of their top defensive players this weekend when the Irish travel to take on Air Force. According to multiple reports, defensive lineman Louis Nix III will not travel with the team for this weekend’s game against Air Force.

The senior suffered a shoulder injury in last weekend’s victory over USC in South Bend, Indiana. He did not return to the game for the Irish and has been held out of practice all week by head coach Brian Kelly, but Matt Fortuna, who covers Notre Dame for ESPN.com, reports Nix is being bothered by knee tendonitis.

Taking over for Nix on the starting defensive line will be senior Kona Schwenke, who has been listed directly behind Nix on Notre Dame’s depth chart as recently as this week.

Notre Dame has also lost right guard Christian Lombard for the remainder of the season. Lombard recently underwent surgery to remove a herniated disk and will hope to return to the Irish in 2014 for his final year of eligibility. In the meantime, Notre Dame will move freshman right tackle Steve Elmer to take over the starting job at Lombard’s now vacant right guard position.

Yesterday it was reported quarterback Tommy Rees is confident he will starting for Notre Dame this weekend. Rees had been taken out of the USC game last week with a neck strain, but the senior is optimistic about his availability this weekend.

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Vandy tabs freshman QB as starter vs Texas A&M

Austyn Carta-Samuels, James Franklin AP

With starting quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels injured, Vanderbilt will turn to freshman Patton Robinette to lead the Commodores against Texas A&M.

The starting quarterback news was confirmed Thursday by a Vanderbilt athletics department spokesperson and first reported by The Tennesseean.

“Austyn is out and Patton is our starter until we feel like there is a chance where Austyn may be able to come back later in the season,” Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin said. Franklin also said Carta-Samiels, a senior, was seeking a second opinion on his injury, but remains hopeful he will be able to return to the field before the end of the season.

“I was told Austyn was getting a second opinion, and I didn’t have the information (Wednesday) night,” Franklin said. “I’m not going to get into the details or specifics of the injury because I don’t do that.”

Carta-Smauels suffered an ankle injury in Vanderbilt’s upset victory over injury-riddle Georgia last weekend. He was replaced by Robinette, who came in to the game to complete nine of 15 pass attempts for 107 yards and was intercepted once. Last week was just the second game the freshman attempted a pass this season.

If Carta-Samuels can not return in the regular season the injury could turn out to be career-ending. Vanderbilt is currently 4-3, putting the Commodores just two wins shy of becoming eligible for a bowl game, but upcoming games against Texas A&M and Florida could Vanderbilt in a tough situation. The Commodores do play Kentucky and Wake Forest before the end of the season, and should have a decent shot against Tennessee as well.

With Carta-Samuels out and Robinette getting the starting job, sophomore Josh Grady will serve as the team’s back-up quarterback.

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K-State expects to get top receivers back for West Virginia game

Kansas State v Texas Getty Images

If Kansas State has any hope of bowl eligibility a year after a Fiesta Bowl berth, they’ll have to start by beating West Virginia this weekend in Manhattan.

The good news for Bill Snyder’s Wildcats is they expect to get leading receivers Tremaine Thompson and Tyler Lockett back for this weekend’s game, according to the Kansas City Star.

Thompson and Lockett — who also are K-State’s top kick return duo — have missed the Wildcats’ last two games, a four-point loss at Oklahoma State and a 10-point loss at home to Baylor.

At 2-4, Kansas State still has four potentially-winnable games: At home against West Virginia, Iowa State and TCU, and on the road at Kansas. Their combined margin of defeat in four losses to North Dakota State, Texas, Oklahoma State and Baylor is just 27, so perhaps that’s a good sign for the Wildcats’ chances of salvaging the season.

On the season, Lockett has 31 catches for 475 yards and one touchdown, while Thompson has 13 catches for 185 yards and a score. Thompson also returned a kick for a touchdown this year.

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Ohio State changes date for 2014 game vs. Virginia Tech

Buffalo v Ohio State Getty Images

Thanks to a push from ESPN, Ohio State and Virginia Tech will now play on Sept. 6 instead of Sept. 20, 2014, Ohio State announced Thursday.

A press release sent out by Ohio State explained how ESPN pitched the idea of a Sept. 6 game that would be nationally-televised, either in the 3:30 p.m. (EST) or primetime window that night. Ohio State originally had Sept. 6 marked as a bye week, while it was an open weekend for Virginia Tech.

The 2015 Ohio State-Virginia Tech in Blacksburg will be a night game on Labor Day, another move to get the game nationally televised on ESPN. That contest was originally scheduled for Sept. 26, 2015.

Now might be a good time to re-visit this New York Times article on ESPN’s influence in college football scheduling.

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Under Kliff Kingsbury, Texas Tech is relevant again

Kliff Kingsbury AP

The stars were easy to name five years ago, when Graham Harrell linked up with Michael Crabtree. Harrell’s game-winning touchdown to Crabtree against Texas was one of the highlights of 2008, with the win one of, if not the, best in school history.

Since that season, things have gone downhill in Lubbock. There was the controversial, ugly split between the university and Mike Leach. Tommy Tuberville followed with two uninspiring seasons.

But at 7-0 and No. 10 in the BCS, Texas Tech is back on the national stage. The Red Raiders’ date with Oklahoma in Norman on Saturday is one of this weekend’s more intriguing games, sort of a bellwether game for Texas Tech’s legitimacy as a BCS contender.

A large part of the success to date, though, can be traced back to bringing in Kliff Kingsbury.

SI’s Stewart Mandel looked at how Kingsbury vaulted his alma mater back into relevancy, and how his players would “literally run in front of an 18-wheeler for him.”

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s Jimmy Burch wrote how Texas Tech is motivated by its critics — those who didn’t think much of prior to the season and still don’t think much of them now.

Kingsbury specifically mentioned how Texas Tech was put on “upset alert” by College GameDay for the game last weekend against West Virginia, driving home the “prove these people wrong” point before kickoff.

While Texas Tech hasn’t played a difficult schedule — their best win is a 20-10 victory over TCU — they get Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Baylor and Texas in four of their final five games. If their run of success continues (and there’s some more attrition around the top of the BCS standings), a Texas Tech-Baylor game in Lubbock could have championship implications next month.

Not bad for a first-year coach.

“It doesn’t matter what people are saying now, jumping on board,” Kingsbury said, via the Star-Telegram. “What matters is what we believed in this team room from Day One. The rest of it really doesn’t matter.”

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Mizzou DE on Jadeveon Clowney: ‘He’s not God’

Jadeveon Clowney AP

God would probably have more than two sacks in six games, so perhaps Mizzou defensive end Kony Ealy is on to something here.

For whatever the reason — illness, injury, opponent schemes, etc. — South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney only have two sacks through six games this year, although he looked more like his usual disruptive self last Saturday at Tennessee (2 1/2 tackles for loss, two quarterback hurries).

So when Ealy said this, he wasn’t necessarily taking a shot at Clowney, although read it how you will:

Of course, after last year’s “old man football” flap at Mizzou, maybe the SEC newbies — success aside — shouldn’t anger just yet.

On the flip side, though, Ealy has an up-close look at one of the nation’s most successful pass-rushers opposite him at defensive end. Michael Sam’s nine sacks are tied for the most among FBS players with Clemson’s Vic Beasley.

With three more sacks, Sam will break Aldon Smith’s Mizzou single-season sack record of 11 1/2. That’s not what God looks like, but it’s closer than what Clowney’s done this year.

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Northwestern tops football graduation success rate rankings

Kain Colter AP

As Northwestern’s football team sinks into oblivion, it claimed — in fitting with what it is as a school — an academic triumph.

The NCAA released its annual graduation success rates on Thursday, and the Wildcats topped FBS programs with a 97 percent GSR. That’s certainly something coach Pat Fitzgerald is proud of, given how he’s built a solid program at a top-tier academic school.

Unfortunately for the 4-3 ‘Cats, things may get worse before they get better. Already staring down a three-game losing streak, Northwestern gets road dates at Iowa and Nebraska before returning home to face Michigan and Michigan State. If they can’t beat Iowa this weekend at Kinnick Stadium, they’ll have to pull out of their tailspin in a tough four-game stretch before a should-be layup at Illinois to end the year.

And if they can’t do that, the Wildcats may fail to be bowl eligible this year.

Getting Kain Colter and Venric Mark back would certainly help those efforts. Colter said he’ll play at Iowa, hopefully turning things around for an offense Fitzgerald bluntly said has “played like garbage” the last three games.

But anyways, back to the GSR rankings. The top 10 in football:

1. Northwestern (97)
2. Rice (95)
3. Boston College (94)
3. Notre Dame (94)
5. Air Force (93)
5. Stanford (93)
7. Duke (92)
8. Boise State (91)
9. Army (89)
10. Miami Fla. (86)
10. Wake Forest (86)

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Tide suspends DE for ‘violation of team rules or whatever’

LaMichael Fanning AP

Nick Saban was apparently on a roll snark-wise Wednesday.

On the same day he chided — yes, chided — Alabama fans for leaving games early, he also announced the indefinite suspension of a reserve defensive lineman.  And he did so in a uniquely Saban-like way.

Said Saban, “LaMichael Fanning has been suspended from the team indefinitely for a violation of team rules or whatever, so he’s just not around.”

[/awesome]

Fanning is a redshirt sophomore defensive end who has played in four games this season.  The Anniston Star notes that Fanning is the 11th Tide player in the last eight months to be suspended.

Linebacker C.J. Moseley also notes that some of his teammates need to start learning some lessons from past punitive measures levied by the coach.

“Well, I guess guys still haven’t learned their lessons,” Mosley said. “We had a few guys have some disciplinary actions at the beginning of the season and during the offseason. When you mess up, you have to suspend guys. I hate it happened for him, but you have to learn from your mistakes.”

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AAC officially introduces the Miami Beach Bowl

Marlins Park

A few months or so after it was first reported as a likelihood, the American Football Conference has announced just what college football needs: yet another bowl game.

In a press release, the AAC introduced what will be called the Miami Beach Bowl. The game will be played beginning in December of 2014 and will be held at Marlin Park, the home stadium of MLB’s Miami Marlins.

The AAC, which states it will hire a full-time operations staff that will be based in Marlins Park, will be tied to the bowl on a yearly basis.  The conferences will face teams from either Conference USA, the Sun Belt or the MAC.  The release adds that “[i]nstitutions from other conference across the country will also have the ability to participate.”

“We are excited to bring postseason football back to Miami,” AAC commissioner Mike Aresco said in a statement. “And we are equally excited to be able to provide this experience to our student-athletes and fans. The Miami Beach Bowl fulfills our goal of providing postseason opportunities in desirable locations that are easily accessible for our fans. This state-of-the art venue will provide a great stage for our student-athletes and institutions.”

As for how the stick-and-ball park will be configured for a football game, the Miami Beach Bowl shared this photo via its newly-created Twitter account to give you an idea:

Marlins Park

With the creation of this postseason game, the AAC now has future tie-ins with (take a deep breath) the Military Bowl, the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl St. Petersburg, the BBVA Compass Bowl, the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl, the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl, the Boca Raton Bowl and the Bahamas Bowl. The latter two bowl games are also new creations as the non-Big Five conferences seek to avoid being diminished in the postseason thanks to the fallout from the new College Football Playoff system.

(Photo credit: Miami Marlins)

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Bobby Bowden: what Jameis Winston is doing ‘is just amazing’

Oklahoma v Florida State Getty Images

For the first time since being unceremoniously being kicked to the curb three years ago, Bobby Bowden is set to return to the stadium that, in part, bears his name.

Ahead of that highly-anticipated homecoming for Florida State’s game against North Carolina State Saturday, the legendary head coach discussed, among other things, Jameis Winston with the Orlando Sentinel.  And, dadgummit, he likes the kid.

When asked about what he thought of the redshirt freshman, Bowden first pointed out the humble nature of a team player who’s fast becoming a Heisman front-runner in his first season as a starter.  Interestingly, he also grabbed the anti-Johnny Football card and played it to point out what he views as setting Winston apart from other top-tier players at his position.

“Well not only his talent, but his humility,” Bowden told the paper. “He’s not doing like [Johnny] Manziel. And Manziel, I like him, I love to watch him play

“[Winston] gives all the credit to the rest of his team and plus he has statistics to go behind him.”

Just as the country has done over the likable Winston, Bowden gushed over what the player brings to the table in terms of God-given ability.

“This guy just seems to have it all,” the College Football Hall of Famer said. “I never met him. I’ve heard about him, I watch all their games, but the things he does is just amazing. And it doesn’t just amaze me, it amazes the nation.”

Saturday should be a very special day in Tallahassee, with the immense promise of the future intersecting with football glory of the past.  And, hopefully, that past will finally get to meet up with and talk to that dadgum future.

On a completely different topic, but speaking of “dadgum” and “dadgummit,” the following long-sleeve t-shirts are for sale at FSU’s official online store.  And I want one very badly (hint to wife as she reads CFT daily and Christmas is coming):

Dadgummit Tee

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