Northern Illinois has clinched a spot in the MAC Championship Game for a fourth straight season after picking up a 35-17 victory at Toledo Wednesday night. Huskies quarterback Jordan Lynch passed for 202 yards and rushed for 161 yards and three touchdowns to lead Northern Illinois to a big second half to wrap up the MAC West division title.
With Northern Illinois up four, the Huskies took over from inside their own one-yard line. The field position battle would not come in to play, much to the disappointment of Toledo, as Lynch led the Huskies on a 15-play drive for a touchdown going from one end of the field to the other, literally. Lynch completed three of four pass attempts and rushed seven times for 62 yards and a touchdown on the biggest drive of the game. The score gave the Huskies a 28-17 lead and Toledo went three-and-out on the ensuing drive. From there, NIU put the game at a distance by marching right back down field again and capping the drive with a James Spencer touchdown, his second of the night.
Northern Illinois went to the BCS last season but still needs a little bit of help to make a return trip this season despite currently being ranked in a position that would typically send the Huskies to a BCS game. Norther Illinois still needs to pass Fresno State in the BCS rankings, because only one team from a non-AQ conference will be eligible for a BCS spot under the BCS rules. The Huskies (and Fresno State) are both ranked ahead of Central Florida, who appears to be heading to an American championship. If Fresno State or Northern Illinois can finish ahead of Central Florida, the highest ranked conference champion from a non-AQ conference will receive an automatic BCS bid.
With the win, Northern Illinois becomes the first MAC team to reach four straight conference championship games since Marshall played in six straight from 1997 through 2002. No MAC West team has ever played in four straight championship games and the Huskies look to become just the second team to win three straight conference championships.
Northern Illinois will play either Buffalo or Bowling Green in the MAC Championship Game in Detroit. Buffalo won Tuesday night and Bowling green faces Eastern Michigan this weekend. Buffalo hosts Bowling Green on Friday, November 29 in a game that will determine who advances to Detroit to face the Huskies.
Late last month, leading rusher Marcus Marshall become one of a trio of Georgia Tech football players who have announced their decisions to transfer since the end of the regular season. Thursday, that trio became a quartet.
On his personal Twitter account last night, Christian Philpott (pictured, No. 82) announced that he will be transferring from the Yellow Jackets in January. The wide receiver said he came to the decision after talks with family and friends, although he didn’t detail precisely why he was leaving the football program.
If Philpott decides another FBS program will be his next collegiate stop, he’d have to sit out the 2017 season to satisfy NCAA transfer bylaws. Beginning in 2018, he’d then have two seasons of eligibility remaining.
A three-star 2015 signee, Philpott took a redshirt as a true freshman because of an injury. This season, Philpott caught one pass for nine yards in three games this season.
Another day, another college player giving up the college football life for a professional payday.
North Carolina announced Friday that Nazair Jones has elected to forego his final season of eligibility and make himself available for the 2017 NFL draft. The defensive tackle will play in UNC’s Sun Bowl matchup with Stanford Dec. 30 before shifting his focus to preparing for the draft.
“I’m so thankful for this amazing university,” statement from Jones began. “The University of North Carolina has changed me so much since the first day I stepped on campus. Throughout my career, I have been with a family of brothers and found people that have become my closest friends. I want to thank our amazing coaching staff, support staff and an incredible fan base. I know Tar Heel nation will always have my back!”
“It’s been a pleasure coaching Naz throughout his career at UNC and watching him grow as a person both on and off the field,” head coach Larry Fedora said. “He has overcome great physical adversity and improved tremendously since he came into the program in 2013. This season he was the leader of our defensive line and someone everyone on the team respected. I believe he has a bright future in professional football if he continues to work hard and focus on being the best he can be.”
Jones has started 21 of the 34 games in which he’s played. The past two seasons, he was named third-team All-ACC.
Thanks to a flurry of activity the past couple of days, there are just five head coach openings at the FBS level remaining. Depending on how things play out the next 24-48 hours, it may be a couple of Ohio State assistants who fill two of those openings.
The speculation with the most traction appears to involve Luke Fickell, with the OSU co-defensive coordinator reportedly the frontrunner for the Cincinnati job. According to one report, negotiations between Fickell and UC officials is currently underway; another says there have been talks but no negotiations.
The only certainty in this situation, it seems, is that an announcement on a new Bearcats coach won’t come today. It could, though, come this weekend.
Losing Fickell could actually cost Urban Meyer two assistants at once to an in-state school as, the speculation goes, cornerbacks coach/special teams coordinator Kerry Coombs would potentially follow the coach to UC as defensive coordinator.
In addition to those two assistants, Buckeyes’ co-offensive coordinator Ed Warinner is in play for the head-coaching vacancy at Western Kentucky.
In addition to UC and WKU, the remaining FBS openings include Florida Atlantic, Temple South Florida. Charlie Strong is the overwhelming favorite for the USF job and an announcement of his hiring could come as early as today.
This is about as smart a move as Matt Rhule can make.
Baylor’s hiring of Rhule was widely hailed as a masterstroke by the scandal-plagued football program; Wednesday, the coach showed the class he will be bringing to Waco. The biggest negative to the hire? Rhule has absolutely no ties to the state of Texas as either a coach or a player.
Friday, Rhule began the process of rectifying the deficit in that area by hiring San Antonio Reagan head football coach David Wetzel to be a part of his BU football staff, the Dallas Morning News confirmed. Wetzel, who played his college football for the Bears, has been a head coach in the state for two decades, and is currently the president of the Texas High School Coaches Association.
Wetzel has been in the San Antonio area for a dozen years. Prior to that, he was in the Killeen area of Texas.
The News writes that “Wetzel is not expected to be an assistant coach but will serve in another capacity, such as player development.” While he may have been the first, Wetzel certainly won’t be the last Rhule hire with extensive ties to the state.