Florida State v Clemson

Weekend Preview: Championship races coming down to the wire


It’s time to get prepared for another critical weekend around college football. Division and conference races are coming down the home stretch and postseason eligibility is still on the line for a number of teams. Here’s a rundown of what to pay attention to this weekend.

Alabama, Florida State on collision course

If you go by what the national narrative is, we are all set for No. 1 Alabama (9-0, 6-0 SEC) vs. No. 2 Florida State (9-0, 7-0 ACC) in the final BCS Championship game. That would be a rather fitting match-up of course, with Florida Sate having played in the first three BCS title games under the new format and Alabama having won three of the last four. It really would be a fitting way to close the book on the BCS, but we still have some games to get through before really digging in to that theme. This week should end with both picking up another win.

Alabama will have the more difficult task this weekend though, going on the road to take on a Mississippi State team that is in real need of a win. While Alabama continues to pound SEC competition, Mississippi State (4-5, 1-4 SEC) has given up 85 points in their last two games while sinking below .500. Mississippi State is coming off losses to ranked South Carolina and Texas A&M, so a home game against Alabama will wrap up a rough three-game stretch. A loss means Mississippi State needs to win their final two games of the year to become bowl eligible. The pressure for Dan Mullen really is mounting. And Nick Saban thinks he has pressure with his job.

In Tallahassee the Seminoles will wrap up their ACC schedule with a home game against Syracuse (5-4, 3-2 ACC). Florida State is already heading to the ACC Championship Game regardless of the outcome, but another big win should be enough to keep Florida State comfortably in the top two of the BCS standings. After a week that saw Heisman front-runner Jameis Winston thrown in to a potentially negative spotlight this week, how he handles the situation should be interesting. Winston has answered every challenge thrown his way this season. There should be no reason he does not answer this one either.

Auburn hosting Georgia

The biggest threat to Alabama in the SEC is likely Auburn (9-1, 5-1 SEC). Before we start making plans for one of the biggest Iron Bowls in history though, Auburn must get by Georgia (6-3, 4-2 SEC) this weekend. The Bulldogs may have been roughed up and beat up this season, but Georgia has won two straight games and is capable of playing spoiler. Heck, a win for Georgia even gives the defending SEC East champs an outside shot at returning to Atlanta although the odds are still not very good. Auburn has been thriving on the running game and has not had to rely much on the passing game. If the Tigers can continue to break big plays on the ground, Auburn will continue to have Alabama’s attention.

All eyes on Durham, North Carolina, of course

Maybe Duke (7-2, 3-2 ACC) going to a bowl game last year wasn’t exactly a fluke. The Blue Devils are now in position to make a run to take on Florida State in the ACC Championship Game. In football. Seriously.

A bit of a tangled mess in the ACC Coastal Division could start to sort itself out a little more this weekend after Georgia Tech concluded their ACC schedule with a loss Thursday night at Clemson. Duke can keep pace with Virginia Tech (7-3, 4-2 ACC) if they can pick up a home win against a Miami (7-2, 3-2 ACC) team that is all of a sudden sinking. A win for Duke will also clinch the most wins in a single season (eight) since winning eight games in 1994. Virginia Tech will be playing Maryland, which should result in a win unless the offense implodes.

B1G Game in the Big Ten

Ohio State is all but locked in to the Big Ten championship game, but the Legends Division is still a little more open. That could change this weekend with No. 16 Michigan State (8-1, 5-0 Big Ten) travels to Nebraska (7-2, 4-1 Big Ten). The winner will control the fate of the division with time running out in the Big Ten, but the loser will not necessarily be eliminated. The Spartans have been playing the best defense this season int he conference and should be able to control Nebraska’s offense, which will be tested by Ameer Abdullah. If the Spartans shut down Abdullah, it could be a long day for the home team.

Stanford looks to keep Pac 12 edge against revived Trojans

No. 4 Stanford (8-1, 6-1)is coming off the biggest win of the year but must continue the momentum this weekend on the road against one of the hottest teams in the country, if not just the Pac 12. USC (7-3, 4-2) is actually in position for a potential shot at playing for a Pac 12 title, although they need a little help while taking care of their own schedule in front of them. Stanford has won three straight on the strength of their defense that was able to shut down Oregon for three and a half quarters last week. This week they take on a USC team that has won three straight games and is playing quite well on both sides of the football, especially in the running game. USC won’t have Silas Redd but Javorious Allen has burst on the scene the last couple of games. USC may be trying to chop down a red wood with inadequate gear, but they aren’t trying to do so with a butter knife either. A win keeps USC in the Pac 12 South conversation and reopens the path to the Pac 12 championship game (and Rose Bowl?) for Oregon.

You would not want to be Utah today

If there is one team you might feel sorry for this weekend it might just be Utah (4-5, 1-5 Pac 12). The Utes only have one win in Pac 12 play this season, and ironically enough it came against Stanford. This weekend Utah heads to No. 6 Oregon (8-1, 5-1 Pac 12). The Ducks, of course, are returning home after getting trounced by Stanford last week. You have to think Oregon is going to get back on track with their offense rather quickly. Utah is 1-3 on the road this season and has lost three straight Pac 12 games. Utah has been a pesky team this season though. In addition to defeating Stanford, Utah has also topped BYU, taken Oregon State to overtime, lost to UCLA by a touchdown and lost to Arizona State by one. Utah needs two wins to become eligible for a postseason berth, but winning in a place they haven’t won since 1994 is not going to be easy.

Other Conference Races to Watch

American: No. 17 Central Florida (7-1, 4-0 AAC) is in Philadelphia Saturday to take on Temple (1-8, 0-5 AAC). They should leave town with a win against the Owls, putting the Knights one step closer to clinching the conference’s automatic BCS berth. Central Florida has a one-game lead on No. 20 Louisville, Cincinnati and Houston in the loss column and head-to-head tie-breakers against Louisville and Houston, who play each other this weekend. Cincinnati is at Rutgers.

Central Florida does not need to worry about No. 14 Fresno State or No. 15 Northern Illinois, but each of those BCS busting hopefuls will be keeping a close eye on the Knights for BCS standings purposes.

Big 12: No. 24 Texas (7-2, 6-0 Big 12) and No. 5 Baylor (8-0, 5-0 Big 12) could collide in a de facto Big 12 championship in the final week of the season, but let;s see if they get through this weekend first. Texas takes on No. 12 Oklahoma State (8-1, 5-1 Big 12) and Baylor faces Texas Tech (7-3, 4-3 Big 12) in Cowboys Stadium.

Conference USA: North Texas is closing in on a Conference USA division championship in the west. North Texas is battling Rice for the top spot in the division, with each owning one conference loss and North Texas owning the head-to-head tiebreaker. UTSA can become eligible for their first bowl game in program history with just one more win.

SEC: No. 9 Missouri (9-1, 5-1 SEC) needs to avoid any head-to-head tie-breakers with No. 10 South Carolina (7-2, 5-2 SEC) in the SEC East, so a win this weekend at Ole Miss would be huge before hosting Texas A&M in the regular season finale. Missouri enters the weekend one game ahead of the Gamecocks in the loss column. South Carolina owns the head-to-head tiebreaker thanks to an overtime victory a few weeks back at Missouri.

Bowl Eligibility Update

The following teams in action this weekend are one win shy of bowl eligibility:

Rutgers, Syracuse, Boston College, Maryland, Pittsburgh, Kansas State, UTSA, Navy, San Diego State, San Jose State, Colorado State, Vanderbilt, Arkansas State, Troy

Conversely, the following teams can be eliminated from postseason considerations with a loss this weekend:

South Florida, Memphis, NC State, West Virginia, TCU, Illinois, Florida Atlantic, Central Michigan, New Mexico

TCU swims way to 2OT upset of Baylor, hands Bedlam Big 12 keys

Associated Press

Entering the 2015 season, most observers thought tonight’s Baylor-TCU game would be for all of the Big 12 marbles.  Instead, that honor will fall to tomorrow’s night Bedlam matchup.

In some of the wettest conditions you’ll see this side of Noah’s ark,  the Horned Frogs and Bears slogged their way through a scoreless second half before two TCU overtime touchdowns to BU’s one handed the homestanding Frogs a 28-21 win in double overtime.

Both teams scored on their initial overtime possessions, TCU on Trevone Boykin‘s one-yard touchdown run and BU on Devin Chafin‘s four-yard touchdown reception from first-time quarterback starter Chris Johnson; that was the Bears first completed pass since the first half.  Boykin’s eight-yard touchdown pass to Kavontae Turpin in the second overtime, with the defense turning out the biggest stop of the game on the Bears second overtime possession. On a fourth-and-1 from the 16-yard line, Chafin was stuffed for no gain as the rain-soaked TCU faithful stormed the field.

The story of the game for nearly 60 minutes, though, was the weather.

21 of the points in this game were scored prior to the heavens opening and a downpour of Biblical proportions commenced for essentially the last three-and-a-half quarters, with the other seven in regulation coming on a fumble return for a touchdown.  The last offensive points prior to overtime were scored with 7:28 left in the first quarter; the last non-overtime points were scored with 12:55 remaining in the second.

If you were unable to watch, there’s one statistic that sums up just how borderline unplayable the conditions in this game were: 210. That’s the number of passing yards for which both teams combined to throw.  The Horned Frogs came into the game averaging 363.5 yards per game, fifth in the country, while the Bears were 14th at 350.7.  Or how about this: the teams combined for nearly as many turnovers (seven) as third downs converted (eight, on 38 tries).

Or this: There were a combined 23 punts, which were only slightly trumped by 25 pass completions.  Johnson accounted for just seven completions — on 24 attempts — for 62 yards, the lowest aerial output of the Art Briles era in Waco.

It was a night fit for neither man nor beast, but in the end it was the Horned Frogs that made just enough plays to knock the Bears out of not only Big 12 but playoff contention as well.

With the loss, BU joins TCU as being officially eliminated from the Big 12 title race.  Instead, the winner of tomorrow night’s Oklahoma-Oklahoma State matchup will be crowned conference champions.

Hawaii opts for Nevada OC Nick Rolovich as head coach

Nick Rolovich
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In the end, there’ll be no June Jones reunion on the islands.

A short time after reports surfaced that the former head coach was one of five finalists for the job, Hawaii announced that one of the other former players up for the job, Nick Rolovich, has instead landed the job.  Rolovich, who played quarterback for Jones during his time with the Rainbow Warriors, spent the past four seasons as the offensive coordinator at Nevada.

This will be Rolovich’s first job as head coach.

“I’m pleased to welcome back Nick Rolovich to the UH ‘ohana,” athletic director David Matlin said in a statement. “Nick is a Warrior at heart and someone I know our fans will support. He understands what it means to be a Warrior having played and coached here and what affect a winning program has with this community. I have no doubt we picked the right man for this job. The future is bright for Hawai‘i football.”

“Being raised a Warrior, there is a great sense of excitement and responsibility about bringing back a winning tradition to Hawai‘i football,” Rolovich said. “I can’t wait to get started. I’m honored to be selected to run this program which has made me into the man I am today.”

Not only was Rolovich a player at UH, but he was also an assistant there from 2008-11, serving as the team’s primary play-caller before moving on to Nevada. Rolovich’s final game as Nevada’s coordinator will be tomorrow night against San Diego State as he will not be with the Wolf Pack for their bowl game.

“Both Nick and UH have been transparent throughout the whole process and I appreciated that very much,” Nevada head coach Brian Polian said in his statement. “I am confident that his candidacy did not affect our preparation for SDSU. We will handle any decisions regarding the staff internally and make those decisions known when the time is appropriate.”

In addition to Rolovich and Jones, former Army head coach Rich Ellerson, current UH football analyst Rich Miano and Tulsa co-defensive coordinator Brian Norwood were reportedly finalists.

With Rolovich’s hiring, there are now a dozen openings for head coach at the FBS level.  10 of those openings are with Power Five programs.

Baylor, TCU battle each other, rain in 14-all first-half tie

FORT WORTH, TX - NOVEMBER 27:  Trevone Boykin #2 of the TCU Horned Frogs throws against the Baylor Bears in the first quarter at Amon G. Carter Stadium on November 27, 2015 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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Last year’s Baylor-TCU game was a wild 61-58 affair won by the Bears.  Through two quarters of play in this year’s edition of the rivalry, and thanks in very large part to the weather, it doesn’t appear that a repeat is in order.

In a game delayed nearly 50 minutes because of lightning in the Fort Worth area and that’s currently being played in a steady downpour, the No. 7 Bears and No. 19 Horned Frogs slipped and slogged — and fumbled and intercepted and muffed — their way to a 14-all tie at halftime.  BU turned the ball over three times — the trifecta of a fumble, interception and muffed punt — while TCU had one  interception and one fumble.  In last year’s game, which TCU was winning 31-27 at the half, the Bears had three turnovers while the Horned Frogs turned it over just once.

It actually looked as if a repeat of last year was in order as the Bears scored on their first two possessions and the Horned Frogs their first halfway through the opening quarter.  However, as the rain increased, the offensive production predictably decreased as just seven points were scored on the remaining 14 possessions of the half — and those came courtesy of a defensive score.

Even the return of Trevone Boykin couldn’t help the Horned Frogs get past the weather.  After missing the Week 12 loss to Oklahoma because of a sprained ankle, Boykin, playing on a heavily-taped joint, was back under center for the Frogs, completing 7-of-15 passes for 97 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

Boykin’s counterpart, QB-turned-WR-turned-QB Chris Johnson, was making his first start, and in a driving rainstorm on the road no less.  He was responsible for two of the turnovers, an interception and a fumble that was returned for a touchdown, and passed for a meager 50 yards as the Bears attempted just 12 passes.

Devin Chafin was the offensive “star” of the game for both sides.  While the Bears back had just eight yards rushing, he accounted for both BU touchdowns.

Report: June Jones one of five finalists interviewed for Hawaii job

NEW ORLEANS - JANUARY 01:  Head coach June Jones of the Hawai'i Warriors hangs his head against the Georgia Bulldogs during the Allstate Sugar Bowl at the Louisiana Superdome on January 1, 2008 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
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Earlier this month, former Hawaii head coach June Jones would indeed apply for the opening with the Rainbow Warriors.  Three weeks later, not surprisingly, Jones is decidedly in the mix.

Citing sources familiar with the process, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser is reporting that Jones is one of five coaches who have interviewed for the job.  In addition to Jones, the others who were given one-hour interviews were former Army head coach Rich Ellerson, current UH football analyst Rich Miano, Tulsa co-defensive coordinator Brian Norwood and current Nevada offensive coordinator Nick Rolovich.  All four of those candidates, as well as Jones, played their college football for the Rainbow Warriors.

The Star-Advertiser writes that “[b]arring a late addition, they would be the only finalists interviewed by athletic director David Matlin and his advisory panel.”

The 62-year-old Jones, of course, was the head coach at Hawaii for nearly a decade and led the Rainbow Warriors to its winningest stretch in the program’s history.

From 1999-2007, UH went 76-41 under Jones. Prior to Jones’ arrival, the Rainbow Warriors won nine or more games four times and 10-plus once the previous 28 years; in Jones’ nine seasons, they won nine-plus six times and 10-plus in three seasons. The pinnacle of his career at the island school was his last season as he led UH to a 12-1 record and a Sugar Bowl appearance in 2007.

He left for SMU in January of the following year and went 36-43 with the Mustangs before abruptly resigning two games into his seventh season at the school in 2014.