Dak Prescott, Eric Dixon

Mississippi State hangs on, but faces steep road to postseason


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.

Win over Grambling approved, Cal officially becomes bowl eligible

Jared Goff
Associated Press
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Earlier today we had the report that Cal, they of the normally bowl-eligible six wins on the season, were not actually bowl eligible. The hang up was due to some NCAA red tape on how many scholarships Grambling, a 73-14 victim to the Bears on opening Saturday, had actually awarded this year.

Why the number of scholarships awarded by an opponent of a 6-5 team could determine what glorified exhibition said 6-5 could or could not play is a matter for another time, but the fact is it mattered.

But according to a report from Kevin Gemmell of ESPN.com, the Bears received approval to count the win toward their total, meaning Sonny Dykes and company will go bowling for the first time since 2011.

“We have conferred with both Grambling and the NCAA,” Cal spokesman Wes Mallette told ESPN. “As anticipated, Grambling has confirmed their football program has met the 90 percent financial aid requirement over the rolling two-year average. Therefore, Cal football’s win over Grambling counts toward bowl eligibility. Cal football is bowl eligible.”

The Bears have a chance to become bowl eligible the old fashioned way with a win over Arizona State Saturday in Berkeley.


Tulane reportedly set to fire head coach Curtis Johnson

Curtis Johnson
Associated Press
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The end of the college football regular season brings with it bowl bids, conference championship entries and rivalry games. Along the way, though, come end-of-season firings. So many end of-season firings.

According to a report from Dan Wolken of USA Today Wednesday night, the first one is already on the books. Or at least close to it.

Wolken reports Tulane is set to part ways with head coach Curtis Johnson following the Green Wave’s Friday finale against Tulsa “barring a last-minute change of direction.”

Johnson is 15-33 in nearly four complete seasons at Tulane, reaching a high point of a 7-6 mark wtih a New Orleans Bowl appearance in 2013 but winning two, three and three games in his other three campaigns.

If and when the move becomes official, Tulane will become the 15th FBS school to change head coaches this season, matching the total number of changes during the 2014-15 cycle.

Wolken reports Tulane will hire a new athletics director within the next week, and once that hiring is complete the school will then embark on hiring Johnson’s replacement.

Reports: Michigan DC D.J. Durkin a “strong candidate” for Maryland vacancy

D.J. Durkin
Associated Press
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Michigan defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin has emerged a “strong candidate” for the Maryland job, according to reports from Yahoo‘s Pat Forde and Fox Sports’ Bruce Feldman Wednesday.

“Durkin, 37, met recently with Maryland officials, sources said,” Forde wrote. “No job offer was made, but the interview went well, sources said.”

Added Feldman:

Durkin is in his first season as Michigan’s defensive coordinator, helping the 9-2 Wolverines jump from 14th to third nationally in yards per play allowed (4.77 to 4.15) and 27th to sixth in scoring defense (22.4 to 14.9).

Prior to working on Jim Harbaugh‘s staff, Durkin served as Will Muschamp‘s defensive coordinator at Florida for two years, and as his special teams coordinator for two years before that. He previously worked at Stanford, Bowling Green (his alma mater) and Notre Dame.

Should he be offered and accept the job, Durkin would immediately become Big Ten East rivals with his mentor Harbaugh.

“This week is so important to our guys, my 100% focus is on this game and our players — that’s what this profession is all about. You’ve got to make sure you’re taking care of the job you have week in and week out. It’s a tough task, especially with this team we have this week,” Durkin told the Detroit Free Press when asked about the reports.

“My goal is to get the best game plan possible together for Ohio State and have our guys go play well. To answer rumors or speculation right now and put something to it, my total focus is 100% on Ohio State and nothing else.”

Illini to decide on fate of interim head coach Bill Cubit by Sunday

Bill Cubit
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Illinois will decide whether or not to retain interim head coach Bill Cubit for the full-time job by Sunday, interim AD Paul Kowalczyk told WSKJ-FM Wednesday.

“We need to make that call and figure out which way we’re going for everyone’s sake,” Kowalczyk said, via the Chicago Tribune. “For me, it’s posthaste.”

Illinois closes its regular season Saturday against No. 16 Northwestern in Champaign. The Illini are 5-6 on the year and, for what it’s worth, Cubit desperately wants the job.

Also worth noting: the athletics department is operating under a total state of dysfunction in the wake of AD Mike Thomas‘s firing.

From 670 The Score in Chicago on Wednesday:

Sources tell 670 The Score that as overwhelmed university officials are dithering and providing little guidance, the group of trustees, boosters and alums left to run things can’t yet agree on much.  Some want to hire a search firm with a spotty recent track record, others want to form their own search committee, while another faction thinks they need to act faster by using their own contacts to target specific AD and coaching candidates right now and just get moving.

Any support for retaining Bill Cubit is getting strong push-back from those who don’t believe he wasn’t aware of Tim Beckman’s aberrant behavior, and from some who feel strongly about making a more dynamic hire.

For those keeping score at home: Illinois is dealing with a power vacuum of trustees, boosters and alums battling for control while an interim chancellor and interim athletics director work to reach a resolution on an interim football coach.

And the coaching carousel starts spinning in full four days from now.