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Northern Illinois clinches MAC West, keeps BCS hopes alive

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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.

Report: Season-opening starting QB Blake Barnett transferring from Alabama

ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 3: Blake Barnett #8 of the Alabama Crimson Tide throws against the USC Trojans in the first quarter during the AdvoCare Classic at AT&T Stadium on September 3, 2016 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
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Not surprisingly, the rise of Jalen Hurts has led to some turnover in Alabama’s quarterback room.

Citing unnamed sources, al.com is reporting that Blake Barnett has left the Tide football program and is expected to transfer.  Thus far, the school has declined to address Barnett’s status with the team moving forward.

Barnett started the season opener against USC but lasted all of two series before being replaced by the true freshman Hurts.  In his three starts since, all wins for the top-ranked Tide, Hurts has completed nearly 64 percent of his passes for 609 yards and three touchdowns.  Most importantly, he hasn’t throw an interception, although he did toss one in relief of Barnett.

A five-star 2015 recruit, Barnett was rated as the No. 2 pro-style quarterback in the country and the No. 21 player overall on 247sports.com’s composite board.  The 6-5, 200-pounder took a redshirt as a true freshman.

Hurts also adds an extra dimension in the running game as he’s second on the team with 251 yards rushing and tied for the lead with three rushing touchdowns.

Should Barnett move on to another FBS program, he’d likely have to sit out the 2017 season.  He’d then have two years of eligibility remaining beginning in 2018.

With Barnett presumably gone, the Tide would likely turn to Cooper Bateman, who served as Jake Coker‘s primary backup last season and started one game, as Hurts’ primary backup.

Purdue’s Martesse Patterson facing felony battery charge

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - SEPTEMBER 13: Purdue Boilermakers mascot Purdue Pete is seen during the game against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Lucas Oil Stadium on September 13, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
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A rather serious-sounding situation is the latest to trigger a resetting of the “Days Without An Arrest” ticker.

According to the Lafayette Journal & Courier, Martesse Patterson was arrested Wednesday and charged with one count of battery resulting in serious bodily injury.  That charge is a felony.

Even more noteworthy is the fact that the charge stems from an altercation with a former teammate, ex-Boilermaker walk-on Alex Hilger.  From the Journal & Courier:

Hilger alleged that on Sept. 7, Patterson entered Hilger’s room at their residence in the 800 block of Hayes Street in West Lafayette “to borrow some property.” Hilger told Patterson he was not allowed to borrow the property, but Patterson took it anyway and returned to his room.

According to the affidavit, when Hilger approached Patterson to retrieve his possession, Patterson punched him in the face. Hilger sought treatment at Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis after sustaining a broken jaw requiring a two-day hospital stay. The affidavit cites medical records showing Hilger suffered a “displaced fracture of the left mandible and a non-displaced fracture of the right mandible.

Hilger, who played in 12 games last season but is not a member of the team this year, obtained a no-contact order against Patterson, who admitted to police that he both took the property and punched Hilger.

Darrell Hazell is aware of the situation, with a statement saying that the head coach “respects that there is a legal process that he will allow to evolve before further commenting.”

Patterson started the first two games of the season before being demoted for what Hazell described as a “personal matter.” The demotion came shortly after the incident that led to the charge.

Report: Arizona lineman Zach Hemmila’s death caused by toxic mix of prescription drugs

GLENDALE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 03:  Arizona Wildcats helmets display the #65 to honor offensive lineman Zach Hemmila who passed away in the off-season before the college football game against the Brigham Young Cougars at University of Phoenix Stadium on September 3, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Nearly two months after his tragic passing, a cause of death for Zach Hemmila has been confirmed.

Based on the autopsy report filed by the Pima County Sheriff’s Office, the Arizona Republic is reporting that the 22-year-old Hemmila’s death was the result of the combined toxic effects of two different prescription drugs. The two drugs, the Republic noted, were oxymorphone, an opiate painkiller, and alprazolam, an anxiety medication.

From the newspaper’s report:

Chewing tobacco was found in Hemmila’s mouth, according to the autopsy report. No intact pills were discovered in his gastrointestinal system. His lungs were “markedly congested,” per the report.

Hemmila passed away either very late on the night of Aug. 7 or early in the morning Aug. 8. A cousin discovered Hemmila’s body at the Arizona offensive lineman’s residence.

His death has officially been ruled an accident.

“Arizona Athletics continues to mourn the passing of Zach Hemmila,” a statement from the university said in response to the report. “We will honor the family’s request for privacy and support them in any way we can.”

Hemmila started six games last season. He was slated to start at center for the Wildcats this season.

The Wildcats will continue to wear a sticker the No. 65 to honor Hemmila for the remainder of the season.

LSU reinstates suspended starting D-lineman, but Leonard Fournette a game-day decision vs. Mizzou

GREEN BAY, WI - SEPTEMBER 03:  Chikwe Obasih #34 of the Wisconsin Badgers tackles Leonard Fournette #7 of the LSU Tigers during the second half at Lambeau Field on September 3, 2016 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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LSU received some good news and not so good news ahead of its first game without Les Miles on the sidelines in more than a decade.

On the latter news front, star running back Leonard Fournette is listed as a game-day decision for Saturday’s contest against Missouri because of a lingering ankle issue.  The All-American initially injured the ankle during a mid-August summer camp practice; then aggravated it against Wisconsin in the opener; sat out the Week 2 game against an FCS foe; and then aggravated it again in Week 4 against Auburn.

After leading the country in yards per game last season with nearly 163 yards per game, Fournette is currently 10th at 128.7. That total still tops the SEC.

On a more positive tip for the Tigers, interim head coach Ed Orgeron confirmed that starting defensive lineman Davon Godchaux has been reinstated to the program and will be permitted to practice with his teammates.  Whether he plays this Saturday remains to be seen.  Godchaux had been arrested on a pair of charges stemming from a domestic incident over the weekend, but the prosecutor in the case announced Tuesday that he would not be filing formal charges.

Godchaux has started all four games this season (26 in his career) and is fifth on the team in tackles.