Weekend Preview: Missouri to Atlanta and big games in the Pac 12

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It is time to start giving Missouri some respect. The Tigers have earned their keep in the SEC East and can look to take a giant step toward their first conference championship game since playing for the 2008 Big 12 championship. you should also pay close attention to what happens in the Pac 12 this weekend as well.

Missouri looks for ticket to Atlanta

Missouri can clinch the SEC East this weekend with a win over South Carolina. Of course, this will be easier said than done, but you probably thought the same about Missouri beating Georgia or Florida too. This Missouri team is a legitimate favorite in the division, even without quarterback James Franklin available at the moment. This weekend the Tigers will have to hope they can contain South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney, coming off his best game of the season last weekend. Clowney and the Gamecocks were upset by Tennessee on the final play of the game while Missouri ended up blowing away Florida. Gary Pinkel has become one of the leading candidates for coach of the year honors but how he handles the situation this week with the eyes of the nation taking notice to what’s going on in Columbia, Missouri will be something to watch as expectations grow.

Even if Missouri does not wrap up the division this weekend, Missouri has Tennessee at home next week and a road game at Kentucky the next. The odds are still on the Tigers in the east but Missouri fans are starting to dream a little bigger as well for the first time since Chase Daniel was tossing touchdowns to Jeremy Maclin.

Big games in the Pac 12

Despite sitting third in the initial BCS standings, the popular belief is Oregon still has an excellent chance to play for a BCS title at the end of this season. This weekend Oregon hosts UCLA, with the Bruins falling short of proving they belong among the elite in the Pac 12. UCLA lost to Stanford last weekend but still has a shot at playing in the Pac 12 Championship. Now they get a huge chance to make up for it. If UCLA can upset Oregon, the BCS picture will either become more foggy or more clear, depending on your rooting interests perhaps. One thing that would be sure is that UCLA is in fact in the conversation when discussing the top threats out of the Pac 12. UCLA will need to play a perfect game though because Oregon is the second best team in the country.

There is another game well worth staying up for. Stanford, the nation’s top one-loss team according to the BCS standings, visits Oregon State. Let’s not sleep on the Beavers. Since losing the season opener to Eastern Washington, Oregon State has gone on a roll led by quarterback Sean Mannion, a player who could start to enter the Heisman conversation by Oregon’s Marcus Mariota. Mannion, the nation’s leading passer, would certainly start to gain some respect if he can lead Oregon State to a victory over Stanford. If there is one team that can really mess up the Pac 12, it is not UCLA or Arizona State. It is Oregon State.

How does Florida State follow up after last week?

Last weekend the Florida State Seminoles put together perhaps the best overall single game performance seen by any team this country. As a result of their huge win over Clemson, Florida State vaulted in to second place in the BCS standings and Jameis Winston jumped to the top of a number of Heisman polls. This team has answered every test set in front of them this season. Go on the road and win conference games? No problem. Put away a surprising Maryland team? You got it. Go in to Clemson and come away with a win? Piece of cake.

Like Missouri, the question about Florida State is now one that asks how they handle the expectations and spotlight? Oregon is sniffing down the necks of Florida State, so keeping the foot on the gas pedal is a requirement for the Noles. North Carolina State has a history of knocking off a high-and-mighty Florida State program over the course of the series (2001, 2002, 2005, 2006, 2010, 2012). This one of the demons Florida State will have to get by before setting their sights on a BCS championship run. Everybody has been talking about games against Miami and perhaps Virginia Tech, but it may be North Carolina State that can derail the whole train if Florida State is caught sleeping.

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Teams looking for bowl eligibility

Central Florida scored a big win last week with a road win at Louisville. The Golden Knights have the inside track on a BCS bid that goes with being the champion of the American, but a win will guarantee Central Florida a postseason spot. George O’Leary‘s becomes bowl eligible with a home win against Connecticut. There is one other team in the American that can clinch bowl eligibility as well, with Houston and Cincinnati each one win away. Houston, who plays at Rutgers, missed out on the postseason last year with a 5-7 record a year after Kevin Sumlin and Case Keenum guided Houston to a 13-1 season. Who else can become bowl eligible this weekend?

Maryland, Duke, Oklahoma State, Nebraska, Minnesota, Rice, Tulane, Notre Dame, Bowling Green, Buffalo, UCLA, Texas A&M, and South Carolina can all become eligible for the postseason.

On the flip side, California, Temple, Connecticut, Idaho, Kent State, Akron, Massachusetts, Eastern Michigan, Air Force, Hawaii, and Southern Mississippi can all officially be eliminated from postseason contention with a loss. Southern Miss slugs in to the weekend riding an 18-game losing streak.

UNC and Minnesota line up future home-and-home deal

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While one football series between an ACC and Big Ten team may be hard to come by, North Carolina and Minnesota have put together a future home-and-home scheduling agreement to look forward to. The Tar Heels and Gophers will meet for the first time on the football field in 2023 and follow up with a second game in 2024, the schools announced on Wednesday.

North Carolina will host Minnesota on Sept. 16, 2023. The two schools will then open the 2024 season at Minnesota, either on August 31, 2024 or for a Thursday opener on August 29, 2024.

The ACC and Big Ten each require their members to play one game against another power conference opponent each season. North Carolina already satisfied that requirement in 2024 with a season-opener against South Carolina scheduled to be played in Charlotte, NC, but the 2024 game fulfills the power conference scheduling requirement for the Tar Heels. The home-and-home series will also satisfy Minnesota’s obligation to the Big Ten scheduling policy for both seasons (Minnesota is getting an exemption for 2018 and 2019 due to previous scheduling arrangements being in place prior to the Big Ten’s stance on strength of schedule in non-conference play.

Pitt leaves renewal of football series in Penn State’s hands

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Ever since the in-state rivalry between Penn State and Pitt came to a temporary end in 2001, it has been a struggle to get the two schools back on the field for any stretch of time. With the third in a four-game series upcoming this fall, Pitt is hoping to find a way to continue playing the Nittany Lions on future schedules, but the offer is now apparently in Penn State’s hands awaiting a response.

Pitt athletic director Heather Lyke told reporters Wednesday she has proposed a four-year series beginning in 2026 to her Penn State counterpart, Sandy Barbour, but Penn State has not responded to the offer.

“We’re going to wait a tad more patiently, but not much,” Lyke said, according to Trib Live. “We can’t. We have people who want to play us and good opportunities to play what would be a very attractive game.”

The four-game series currently ongoing between the Panthers and Nittany Lions comes to a close after their meeting in the 2019 season in Happy Valley. According to FBSchedules.com, Penn State will not have another opening for a non-conference game until 2021. That is also the first season Pitt will have scheduling availability for non-conference matchups. Both schools already have power conference opponents lined up through 2025 as well, perhaps eliminating the desire to add another power conference opponent to the schedule.

Both Penn State and Pitt have scheduling requirements for non-conference play from the Big Ten and ACC, respectively, to include at least one game against another power conference opponent. It seems like a natural solution for Penn State and Pitt to agree to a long-term scheduling commitment to satisfy their respective conferences’ scheduling requirements, but the old issue has always come down to the financial incentive of a game. With Penn State playing in a larger stadium, it would be losing out on potential revenue that could be gained by an extra home game when possible. And playing road games at Pittsburgh only helps another program in the state by filling the seats more than any other home game on Pitt’s schedules in just about any season (Notre Dame and West Virginia would be other candidates to help Pitt fill Heinz Field).

It took so long just to get the two schools together for a two-year series, which was later expanded to a four-year arrangement. Don’t count on this in-state rivalry being renewed for quite some time after the 2019 season.

QB Blake Barnett reportedly transferring from Arizona State

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Quarterback Blake Barnett is now on the graduate transfer market. According to Bruce Feldman of Sports Illustrated, via Twitter, Barnett will find a new program to wrap up his college football career as a graduate transfer. South Florida is reportedly set to get an official visit from the former Sun Devils and Alabama quarterback.

Barnett started his football career at Alabama, where he sat out the 2015 season as a freshman. During his redshirt freshman in 2016, Barnett appeared in just three games as Jalen Hurts rose to become Alabama’s starting quarterback that would lead the Tide for the next two seasons (until halftime of last season’s national championship game). Barnett transferred to Arizona State, leaving behind a seemingly tumultuous relationship with Nick Saban, and played in just two games for the Sun Devils last fall, while Manny Wilkins established himself as the quarterback for former head coach Todd Graham.

A former four-star recruit out of high school, Barnett has played in just five games and completed 14 of 24 pass attempts for 259 yards and two touchdowns with an interception. Barnett’s latest transfer news comes a day after former UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen took a swipe at Barnett, who was ranked ahead of Rosen in various recruiting rankings out of high school.

“Blake Barnett was the Elite 11 MVP,” Rosen said, per SEC Country. “He was the dude that was going to go to ‘Bama, win a couple championships, call it quits and go to the league as the first overall pick. You don’t really hear about him too much.”

As a graduate transfer, Barnett will be eligible to play immediately this fall.

Transferring BYU QB Kody Wilstead finds new home at Kansas JUCO

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With eight quarterbacks on the roster, Kody Wilstead opted to leave the Cougars in mid-March.  A little over a month later, Wilstead has found a new home, albeit a little further down on the college football ladder.

According to the Deseret News, Wilstead has signed to play at Coffeyville Community College in Kansas.  As Coffeyville is a junior college, the quarterback will be eligible to play immediately in 2018.

It’s expected that Wilstead will spend at least one season at the JUCO level before looking at making a move back up to the FBS.

Wilstead, a three-star 2015 signee, took a redshirt as a true freshman last season after serving an LDS mission the previous two years.

After Wilstead’s departure, the seven remaining Cougar signal-callers are, in alphabetical order, Stacy ConnerJoe CritchlowHayden GriffittsBeau HogeTanner MangumBaylor Romney and Zach Wilson. Mangum, last year’s starter, is recovering from an Achilles tendon injury he suffered in November of last year but remains on track to return for the start of summer camp in August.