Lache Seastrunk, Datone Jones, Nick Florence

Weekend Preview: Big 12, SEC and Pac 12 stakes on the line


The tension is mounting. Rivalry games are just around the corner. Championship dreams are starting to fade or become reality. The time to make a Heisman moment is running out as well. This weekend has a little bit of it all to offer this weekend, eve if the BCS championship heavyweight contenders are mostly taking it easy this week.

BCS Championship frontrunners get week off, sort of

No. 1 Alabama (10-0, 7-0 SEC) and No. 2 Florida State (10-0, 8-0 ACC) can put everything on cruise control this week, but nobody will expect that. The Crimson Tide square off in an epic Iron Bowl match-up with Auburn next week but warm up with a home game against FCS Chattanooga (8-3, 6-2 Southern) while Florida State will play host to Idaho (1-9). Both should be able to name their score, but Florida State’s game will be under a bit of a microscope.

Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston is the center of attention in college football this week, but not for his play on the field. Winston has been linked to a sexual assault case from last December and a state attorney continues to review all of the information before making a decision on whether or not to press charges against the Florida State quarterback and Heisman contender. If you think Florida State is going to succumb under pressure or Winston will falter under the scrutiny, think again. Against Idaho it is not likely the first team offense will be on the field anyway.

Baylor, Oklahoma State put Big 12 on the line

No. 4 Baylor (9-0, 6-0 Big 12) visits No. 10 Oklahoma State (9-1, 6-1 Big 12) looking to keep the high powered offense in gear. Baylor is making a push to move by Ohio State in the BCS standings, and with the Buckeyes taking on Indiana the Bears may have a good chance to make a move with a strong showing against the Cowboys. The winner of this one will take over first place in the Big 12.

Since being upset by West Virginia, Oklahoma State has won six straight games including last week’s 38-13 shelling of Texas in Austin. Quarterback Clint Chelf was 16-for-22 for 197 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for a game-high 95 yards and two touchdowns in the win over the Longhorns. Chelf will need more help from the supporting cast this week because Bryce Petty, Lache Seastrunk and Antwan Goodley make for a lethal trio every time they are on the field. There will be plenty of points scored in this one, and it will be critical for Oklahoma State to find a way to keep pace early on.

Why can’t we have Clemson-South Carolina this week instead?

Every season criticism is thrown on teams scheduling cupcakes at the beginning of the year rather than improving their strength of schedule. This trend may change as college football moves to the College Football Playoff model that takes note of strength of schedule more than the current BCS formula. Unfortunately the season also ends with some blatant mismatches lacking any sizzle as well.

No. 7. Clemson (9-1, 7-1 ACC) is one of those teams. Sure, the Tigers play No. 11 South Carolina (8-2, 6-2 SEC) next weekend, but this week they host Citadel. The Gamecocks, meanwhile, are hosting Coastal Carolina.

Speaking of South Carolina…

The Gamecocks may not be playing an SEC game this weekend but they can clinch a spot in the SEC Championship Game anyway. No. 8 Missouri (9-1, 5-1 SEC) travels to No. 24 Ole Miss (7-3, 3-3 SEC) and needs to win to stay in front of South Carolina in the SEC East standings. If Ole Miss picks up the win, South Carolina will head to Atlanta as a result of owning a head-to-head tiebreaker with Missouri earlier this season.

Manziel’s Heisman moment?

No. 12 Texas A&M (8-2, 4-2 SEC) heads to No. 22 LSU (7-3, 3-3 SEC) Saturday afternoon. SEC Championship stakes may not be on the line in this one, but Johnny Manziel‘s Heisman chances may be. Manziel has become one of the favorites to win the Heisman Trophy this season, and for good reason. Manziel may not be putting up the kind of numbers he did last year during his 2012 Heisman campaign, but his numbers are superior in many areas once again this season. All that is lacking is a signature win. With home losses to Alabama and Auburn, a road win at LSU followed by a win at Missouri could help put Manziel on the top of the ballots of Heisman voters. History may be against Manziel when it comes to winning a second Heisman Trophy — it has only been done once before of course — but the schedule sets up well for Manziel to put together some lasting impressions before the votes must be submitted. Last year a road win at Alabama put Manziel over the top. Could a road thriller have the same impact this season?

Heisman aside, third place in the SEC West is on the line, which could lead to a spot in the Cotton Bowl the way things may play out.

Pac 12 South Battle in the Rose Bowl

No. 17 Arizona State (8-2, 6-1 Pac 12) is the team to beat right now in the Pac 12 South, but No. 14 UCLA (8-2, 5-2 Pac 12) gets the home field advantage in the stadium both teams dream of playing in on New Year’s Day, the Rose Bowl. While Oregon appears to be on track to host the Pac 12 championship game, the south is a bit more wide open than you might think. Arizona State has a chance to make things a bit less complicated if they can escape Los Angeles with a win against the Bruins. If Arizona State wins they will carry at least a one-game lead in the division in to the season finale against Arizona. The Sun Devils have not been quite the same team when on the road this season, going just 2-2 with losses against Stanford and Notre Dame.

UCLA has played very well at home this season. The Bruins have scored at least 37 points in each of their five home games. Quarterback Brett Hundley has thrown 12 of his 20 touchdowns at home and has been intercepted just twice in those games. The Bruins will likely keep plugging freshman linebacker Myles Jack in the offensive backfield in certain situations. In the last two games Jack has rushed for 180 yards and five touchdowns.

In a bizarre twist, a UCLA win also keeps USC in the running for a Pac 12 championship game appearance, although the Trojans need a few things to fall in to place for them to keep that dream possible.

Bowl Eligibility Update

The following teams can become bowl eligible with a win this weekend:

Colorado State, Louisiana-Monroe, North Carolina, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, UT-San Antonio

On the other hand, these teams can officially be eliminated from postseason contention with a loss:

Central Michigan, Colorado, Florida, Florida Atlantic, Indiana, Louisiana Tech, Memphis, Mississippi State, Northwestern, South Alabama, Tennessee, Utah, Wake Forest, Wyoming

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.

Lightning delays start of Baylor-TCU

KOS, GREECE - JUNE 03:  Lightning strikes over the Greek Island of Pserimos on June 03, 2015 in Kos, Greece. Migrants are continuing to arrive on the Greek Island of Kos from Turkey who's shoreline lies approximately 5 Km away. Around 30,000 migrants have entered Greece so far in 2015, with the country calling for more help from its European Union counterparts.  (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
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Weather could have an impact on one key Big 12 game Saturday.  It’s already having an impact on one Saturday.

The game between No. 7 Baylor and No. 19 TCU in Fort Worth had been scheduled to kick off around 7:30 ET this evening.  However, lightning in the area has caused the start time to be pushed back.

As of this posting, kickoff is scheduled for 8:20 ET.

While TCU has already been eliminated from the Big 12 chase, Baylor remains very much alive.  If BU beats TCU and Oklahoma State defeats Oklahoma in Bedlam tomorrow, the Bears will be the Big 12 champion for College Football Playoff committee accounting purposes.

If the Sooners win this weekend, they would be the conference champs regardless of what the Bears do tonight and next weekend.  The Cowboys can make its claim if it wins Bedlam and the Bears lose at least one of its last two games.

Oregon continues late-season hot streak with wild Civil War win

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“Oh what could’ve been.”

That has to be the mantra — well, that and “that escalated quickly” — of the Oregon football program and its fan base this evening after watching the Ducks jump out to a huge lead and then hang on against in-state rival Oregon State in a wild 52-42 Civil War win Saturday.  The Ducks had sprinted to what appeared to be a comfortable 31-7 halftime lead before the Beavers scored 35 of the next 45 points to pull within three points at 45-42 with 7:05 remaining.

A Vernon Adams touchdown pass two and a half minutes later, his third of the game, essentially iced the game for the Ducks.

And, speaking of Adams, that’s where the what-ifs come in.

The FCS All-American transfer from Eastern Washington was viewed as a more-than-capable replacement for Heisman winner Marcus Mariota entering the season.  However, he was injured early on as the Ducks stumbled to a 3-3 start that included a three-point loss to Michigan State and seven-point loss to Washington State, both on the road.  Adams finally overcame the health issues in mid-October and the Ducks have rolled ever since, ripping off six straight wins to close out the regular season.

During this six-game streak, Adams has thrown 21 touchdown passes; in the first six games of the season, three of which he missed, Adams threw four.  Throw in the fact that he’s completed nearly 80 percent of his passes the past three weeks — 77.3 to be precise — Adams is one of the hottest quarterbacks in the country entering the final weeks of his one and only season in Eugene.

If Adams had been healthy the first-half of the season, could it have changed the direction of the season?  It’s hard to say with any degree of certainty, although the odds seem pretty good that UO wouldn’t be sitting at 9-3 and looking at a middle(ish)-tier bowl bid if he had been his late-season self.

Wazzu’s Gabe Marks suffers gruesome injury as UW becomes bowl-eligible with Apple Cup win

Gabe Marks
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Washington State came into Saturday’s Apple Cup without prolific quarterback Luke Falk because of injury.  They’ve now exited it without Falk’s top target because of the same issue.

Late in the fourth quarter of No. 20 Wazzu’s 45-10 loss to Washington, Gabe Marks was on the receiving end of a five-yard pass from first-time starter Peyton Bender.  The wide receiver was also on the receiving end of an awkward tackle that bent his ankle in a way that God never intended and left him with what could very well be broken bones in the leg.

Marks was carted off the field and did not return.  There has been no update on the specific nature of the injury, although it appears that it may be serious enough to keep the junior from playing in the Cougars’ bowl game.

Coming into Week 13, Marks was fourth in the nation with 92 receptions and, with 1,067, is one of 19 players who have gone past 1,000 yards receiving.

And, to add scoreboard insult to literal injury, Marks’ fumble was returned by the Huskies for a touchdown.  That was the second of three defensive touchdowns for UW, with the third coming on Wazzu’s very next play from scrimmage on a pick-six.

The win pushed the Huskies to 6-6 and into a bowl in the second season under Chris Petersen.  The head coach just yesterday was awarded a two-year contract extension.