Jordan Lynch

Perfect record intact, N. Illinois keeps BCS-busting hopes alive


Much to the dismay of a team on the West Coast, there are still two non-automatic qualifiers that retain the ability to crash the BCS’ final postseason party.

On the strength of its wildly-entertaining, 48-27 win over what was a one-loss Ball State squad, Northern Illinois pushed its winning streak to 10 straight and kept its mark on the season a perfect 10-0.  And, as is the case with nearly every Huskies victory, it was Jordan Lynch who served as the catalyst.

The senior quarterback accounted for 468 yards of total offense, 345 passing and 123 rushing.  It was the first time this season and third time in his career he’s passed for 300-plus and rushed for 100-plus in the same game, with one of those being a 400/100 game.

Of NIU’s five offensive touchdowns, Lynch was responsible for four of them — two passing and two rushing, including one with just over a minute left that served as the icing on a cake that was topped with a pick-six cherry 50 seconds later.

All told, the Huskies scored 21 points in the last  5:49 of the game to turn a 27-all game into a blowout.  The win further increased NIU’s grip on the MAC West, but it’s the national picture to which much of the national focus has shifted.

With just two games left in the regular season for both, NIU and Fresno State are still the only undefeated non-AQ teams remaining.  In the most recent set of BCS rankings, the Bulldogs were at No. 14 while the Huskies were right behind at No. 15.  AAC leader UCF, which will likely be the lowest-rated of the so-called Big Six conference champions that earn automatic BCS bids — and provided they don’t stumble and gift the league title to Louisville —  was at No. 17.

In the BCS average of the two human polls plus the computer composite, NIU (.3505) was .0812 behind Fresno (.4317) while they were just .0094 ahead of UCF.

For a refresher as to why the Knights are important to both NIU and the other FSU, here’s how the non-AQs can turn themselves into BCS busters:

3. The champion of Conference USA, the Mid-American Conference, the Mountain West Conference, or the Sun Belt Conference (hereinafter “non-AQ group”) will earn an automatic berth in a BCS bowl game if either:

  • A. Such team is ranked in the top 12 of the final BCS Standings, or
  • B. Such team is ranked in the top 16 of the final BCS Standings and its ranking in the final BCS Standings is higher than that of a champion of a conference that has an annual automatic berth in one of the BCS bowls.

(Writer’s note: there are provisions for two non-AQ teams to earn BCS bowl bids, although that is highly unlikely to happen in 2013.  For those scenarios, click HERE.)

As far as the homestretch is concerned and how this may play out, here are the remaining regular season schedules for all three of the teams involved:

Fresno State
Nov. 23 vs. 3-6 New Mexico
Nov. 29 at 5-4 San Jose State

Northern Illinois
Nov. 20 at 7-3 Toledo
Nov. 26 vs. 1-9 Western Michigan

Nov. 16 at 1-8 Temple
Nov. 21 vs. 5-3 Rutgers
Nov. 29 vs. 2-6 USF
Dec. 7 at 3-5 SMU

Kentucky QB Patrick Towles to transfer

Patrick Towles

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

Markell Jones
AP Photo

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

Associated Press

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.