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

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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

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

SEC leads NFL Draft for 11th straight year as Alabama and Michigan set school records

Brandon Wade/AP Images for NFLPA
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The 2017 NFL Draft has come and gone, and once again it is the SEC claiming another NFL Draft national championship. A grand total of 53 players from the SEC were drafted by NFL teams. It is the 11th straight year the SEC has had the most players drafted by NFL teams.

The ACC ended the draft with 42 players drafted, followed by the Pac-12 (36) and Big Ten (35). The Big 12 ended the draft with just 14 players drafted.

Helping to contribute to the SEC’s NFL Draft total was Alabama setting a school record with 10 players drafted.

Alabama’s nine players drafted in the first 80 picks was also a new Alabama record.

Michigan ended up having more players drafted than any other Big Ten team, slipping past Ohio State by the time the draft closed up shop this year. For the Wolverines, 11 players ended up being drafted. The previous school record for draft picks was 10, set in 1972 and tied in 1974. Head coach Jim Harbaugh will get plenty of the praise for developing that many players getting a chance to be drafted, but Brady Hoke should be recognized for recruiting those players as well (and blamed for not developing the talent he brought in).

 

Air Force changes rules for football players with NFL aspirations

AP Photo/The Colorado Springs Gazette, Michael Ciaglo
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One of the top players from Air Force was ineligible to be drafted by the NFL this weekend, and it had nothing to do with NFL rules. It also had nothing to do with NFL teams backing away from a particular player due to off-field concerns. Instead, a policy at Air Force is what is to blame for wide receiver Jalen Robinette not moving on to the NFL at this time.

The U.S. Air Force will not approve requests from academy graduates to defer their two years of active duty in order to be allowed to play professional football. Just a year ago, the Department of Defense changed the policy to allow for the possibility, which made it possible for Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds to be allowed to play. Reynolds later joined the Baltimore Ravens. Reynolds had received a recommendation to be allowed to play by the U.S. Naval Academy.

“The Air Force notified academy leaders [Thursday] that the service would not approve requests to waiver active duty military commitments for cadet athletes,” a statement from Air Force read. “Cadets will be required to serve two years active duty prior to entering Ready Reserve, which would allow their participation in professional sports. The Air Force places tremendous value on our cadet athletes and their contributions to the nation as we continue to build leaders of character, engage in combat operations overseas and continue to ensure our highest military readiness at home.”

Because of the policy change and confirmation, Robinette was not able to be drafted. He may still have been a long shot to be drafted by an NFL Team, but the policy also means he is unable to be signed as an undrafted free agent as well.

Rawleigh Williams carted off at Arkansas scrimmage

AP Photo/Chris Brashers
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Any time a player that has previously undergone neck surgery goes down on the field and needs to be carted off is quite the scary moment. On Saturday, the Arkansas football program had that exact scare when Rawleigh Williams went down on the field in pain and ended up having to be carted off the practice field during the Arkansas scrimmage.

Williams was placed on a stretcher and taken out of the facility on a cart to receive medical attention. His legs and arms were moving on the ground, a slight sigh of relief given the hit and his injury history. In 2015, Williams was carted off and had to undergo surgery on his neck. Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema said the injury concern on Saturday was apparently not related to the previous neck injury, which was expected to have a full recovery.

It is an unfortunate ending to the spring for Williams, because all indications seemed to be he was certainly improving running the football. Bielema said earlier in the week Williams was running with more patience, which is always a key for a running back.

Arkansas moved its final scrimmage of the spring indoors due to bad weather rolling through the area.

Justin Herbert shines in first Oregon spring game under Willie Taggart

Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images
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A glimpse of a brand new era of Oregon football took center stage in Eugene, Oregon on Saturday as the spring football season drew to a close. Willie Taggart showed fans a little bit of what to expect from Oregon in the fall as the program looks to bounce back from a down season under the coach who has shown a knack for improving programs. As is usually the case in a spring game, Oregon’s quarterback situation was under a microscope, and sophomore Justin Herbert took advantage of the opportunity.

Herbert completed 16 of 26 passes for 327 yards and established a connection with wide receiver Darren Carrington. The two connected for three touchdowns in the game. Sophomore Travis Jonson and early enrollee Braxton Burmeister also saw playing time in the game, but Carrington was confident in saying this is Herbert’s job to lose.

”Our chemistry has definitely improved this spring, and it’ll improve more by the time fall comes, but Herbert, I mean, that’s the guy right now to beat,” Carrington said after the spring game.

As for the team as a whole, Taggert knows there is much still to address as a new system and style are implemented and the roster adjusts physically to the demands of the new coach.

‘We’re still building. We’re nowhere where we need to be as a football team yet. We have some good players. We don’t have a lot of depth that we need to have, that’s going to be a work in progress,” Taggart said. ”The thing for us as coaches is just to make our guys better than they were before. If I guy wasn’t good enough we want to make him look better than he was before. If I guy was good we want to make him great.”

Og course, it wouldn’t be an Oregon spring game without having that typical Oregon uniform flair. Even with a new head coach and with the talk suggesting the Ducks will go for a more traditional approach to uniforms in the fall, the spring game was used for some sizzle on the unis.

Oregon’s spring game crowd of 36,821 assured the Ducks of having the highest spring game attendance among Pac-12 school for a third consecutive year.