Jalen Sauders, Olaoluwa Falemi

Texas Tech was bound to lose Sooner or later


Texas Tech’s undefeated season was put to rest Saturday in Norman, Oklahoma. Oklahoma handed Texas Tech their first loss of the season by way of a 38-30 final score.

Oklahoma quarterback Blake Bell shrugged aside a foggy start following an extended weather delay to have a solid game by the end of the day. Bell led the Sooners to a win with 249 passing yards, two touchdowns and was third on the team in rushing with 44 yards.

The loss silences Texas Tech from any mild BCS championship conversations that may have been going on in Lubbock, but a shot to represent the Big 12 in a BCS bowl game is still on the table. Baylor and Texas, pending the results on Saturday night, remain on top of the Big 12 standings and now Texas Tech will lose any head-to-head tiebreaker with Oklahoma, but the Red Raiders still have games to play against Oklahoma State, Baylor and Texas so they will get a chance to remain a part of the Big 12 race and have a significant impact on race to a conference championship one way or the other.

The thing is, even in defeat, Texas Tech showed many good things that are going on with this program under first-year head coach Kliff Kingsbury. Three different wide receivers (Jace Amaro, Eric Ward, and Jakeem Grant) had 100-yard games and the Red Raiders showed some creativity on offense that will continue to give opposing defensive coordinators something to think about moving forward. Texas Tech is going to live and die by the pass, and they are OK with that. But this team does have to avoid making costly errors. Texas Tech had three turnovers in the game, including two interceptions thrown by Davis Webb. Those mistakes can kill any team’s chances to win a football game, especially when playing on the road. And of course, Texas Tech needs to play tighter football on defense, but this has traditionally been a weak spot for the program so this is nothing new (although they have put up some solid defensive numbers this season).

Texas Tech gets their next two games at home, so they are not going to fade away after just one loss. Next week Texas Tech hosts Oklahoma State, followed by defending Big 12 champion Kansas State and then a huge showdown with Baylor in Cowboys Stadium. The Big 12 no longer has a conference championship game, but the conference’s automatic BCS bid could be decided in one of Texas Tech’s final two games. After playing Baylor, Texas Tech travels to Austin to take on Texas on Thanksgiving night.

But what about the Sooners? Oklahoma has just as much chance to win the Big 12 as Texas Tech, although they lost a head-to-head match-up with Texas. Oklahoma plays three of their final four game son the road, including the season finale at Oklahoma State. Oklahoma gets a week off next week before traveling to Waco, Texas for a big game at Baylor on Thursday, November 7. The way Baylor has been putting up points, Oklahoma’s defense could have their work cut out for them. But if Oklahoma can get out of there with a win, their path to a Big 12 title could become a bit easier to travel.

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

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
Associated Press

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.