Florida v MIssouri

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


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.

Top Games with Pat Forde

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.

Kentucky QB Patrick Towles to transfer

Patrick Towles
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Kentucky quarterback Patrick Towles will transfer, he announced in an Instagram post Sunday afternoon.

Towles leaves school as Kentucky’s sixth-most prolific passer, completing 427-of-759 passes for 5,099 yards with 24 touchdowns and 24 interceptions.

Once compared to Ben Roethlisberger, Towles’ career peeked in a 2014 game with then-No. 1 Mississippi State, as he completed 24-of-43 passes for 390 yards with two touchdowns in a 45-31 loss to the Bulldogs.

But Kentucky stumbled down the stretch, starting 5-1 and finishing 5-7, and Towles stumbled through a 2015 campaign in which he threw nine touchdowns against 14 interceptions.

He’d been passed by freshman Drew Barker by the end of the season, and threw only four passes in a loss to Louisville on Saturday.

A junior, Towles will complete his political science degree in December and be eligible for immediate playing time at a new destination in 2016.

Penn State fires offensive coordinator John Donovan

Penn State football practice, Sept 9, 2015

Penn State has fired offensive coordinator John Donovan, the program announced Sunday.

“I have tremendous respect for John and the work he has put in the last five years,” head coach James Franklin said in a statement. “I wish him and his family nothing but the best in the future.”

Donovan originally hooked up with Franklin when the two were at Maryland, then coordinated his offenses at Vanderbilt and later Penn State.

Despite playing with what many project to be a future first-round pick in quarterback Christian Hackenberg, Penn State ranked 101st nationally in scoring, 108th in total offense and 80th in yards per play.

Penn State dropped its final three games of the regular season and averaged only 14.6 points in its five losses.

Purdue retains head coach Darrell Hazell, fires both coordinators

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It’s never a good thing when a head coach has to fire both of his coordinators on the same day. Of course, it’s never a good thing to be 6-30, either.

Both are realities at Purdue, as the Boilers announced Sunday head coach Darrell Hazell will return for a fourth season in 2016, but offensive coordinator John Shoop, defensive coordinator Greg Hudson and defensive line coach Rubin Carter will not.

“I appreciate the efforts of each of those guys over the last three years,” Hazell said in a statement. “They are quality men who are well respected by their players and their peers, and I am disappointed that things didn’t work out better. But I believe that in order to turn around this program, we need to make some significant changes and move in a different direction at those positions.”

Purdue, 2-10 in 2015, ranked 115th nationally in yards per play and 112th in yards per play allowed.

Virginia Tech announces Justin Fuente as head coach; Bud Foster to stay on as DC

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Justin Fuente is officially Virginia Tech’s new head coach. A day after reports linked the two parties, the Hokies made the match official by announcing the 39-year-old as their new head coach on Sunday afternoon.

“Justin is a very impressive individual who also happens to be one of the brightest offensive minds in college football,” Virginia Tech AD Whit Babcock said in a statement. “He elevated Memphis to unprecedented heights. His recruiting philosophy is progressive and comprehensive. Coach Fuente has displayed tremendous talent in evaluating players and developing young men as they strive to reach their full potential. Simply put, Coach Fuente exudes all the qualities that Hokies hold near and dear. We are excited to officially welcome Justin Fuente as the leader of the Virginia Tech football program.”

Fuente went 26-23 in four years as Memphis’s head coach, but his success runs far beyond a simple won-loss record. After going 7-17 in his first two seasons, Fuente guided the Tigers to a 19-6 mark in 2014-15, which included a 15-game winning streak, a No. 13 national ranking and a win over rival Ole Miss within that run.

Simply put, it was the absolute peak of modern Memphis football.

And now Fuente is tasked with taking Virginia Tech to new heights. The Hokies dominated the ACC throughout much of the 2000’s, taking conference crowns in 2004, 2007, 2008 and 2010. But as Florida State and Clemson have risen, Virginia Tech has fallen.

After posting 13 top-25 finishes in 14 seasons, the Hokies are set to conclude their fourth straight campaign outside the national rankings, going just 16-16 in ACC play over that span.

The offensive numbers state exactly why Fuente was hired, and what he must do in Blacksburg; Memphis ranks seventh nationally in scoring offense and eighth in passing efficiency, while Virginia Tech sits at 64th and 59th, respectively.

The cupboard is not bare, though. Virginia Tech is in the midst of a 23-year bowl streak, and Fuente has already secured one key commitment — longtime defensive coordinator Bud Foster has agreed to stay on staff.

“I’ve been privileged to work for a legendary coach who always did it the right way,” Foster said. “I enjoyed that chapter and the success we’ve had, however, I am equally excited for the next chapter and working for Justin. Justin and I share a vision for the future of our program. After spending time together, I’m convinced he’s the right person to continue building on the standard we’ve established at Virginia Tech. I’m truly looking forward to working with him and supporting him.”

Clearly, Babcock and the VT brass believe, a Fuente offense and a Foster defense are what the Hokies need to catch Clemson and Florida State.

Now it’s Fuente’s job to make that happen.