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

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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

In advance of FBS move, Liberty announces 13 future match-ups

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Liberty doesn’t have a conference home, but the Flames aren’t letting a little logistical hurdle like that stop them from manifesting their destiny.

The school is moving up to FBS in 2018 whether FBS wants them or not, and the Flames on Wednesday took a major step forward by announcing 13 future games, primarily filling out schedules for the early years of the next decade.

“The announcement of these additional football series give Flames Nation a taste of our future football schedules,” Liberty AD Ian McCaw said in a statement. “We are close to completing schedules for our first five seasons of FBS football. I appreciate Mickey Guridy‘s diligent efforts is securing these agreements.”

The future games break out as follows:

Bowling Green
Oct. 3, 2020 — at Bowling Green
Sept. 2, 2023 — at Liberty

Marshall
Oct. 14, 2023 — at Marshall
Oct. 5, 2024 — at Liberty

Massachusetts
Nov. 2, 2019 — at UMass
Nov. 28, 2020 — at Liberty
Nov. 6, 2021 — at Liberty

NC State
Nov. 21, 2020 — at NC State

Troy
Sept. 11, 2021 — at Troy

UAB
Oct. 2, 2021 — at UAB
Sept. 10, 2022 — at Liberty

Liberty opens this season at Baylor, and will face 10 FBS foes in 2018, including trips to Virginia and Auburn.

Jasmin Hernandez reaches settlement with Baylor

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Jasmin Hernandez was not the first woman former Baylor football player Tevin Elliott raped, but she was the first one to go public. Hernandez, obviously, allowed her name to be used publicly, and with that put an identity on the sexual assault crisis at Baylor. And she was the first to insist Elliott be prosecuted.

Elliott has since been convicted and sentenced for his crimes, and on Saturday Hernandez reached a settlement with the people she accused of allowing Elliott’s assaults to happen.

Hernandez has reached a settlement with Baylor and requested former Bears AD Ian McCaw and former head coach Art Briles be removed from the suit.

“We’re moving on,” attorney Irwin Zalkin told the Waco Tribune. “Jasmin is very happy with that and pleased to be moving on with her life.”

“You kind of weigh the costs and benefits of continuing, and for her, it reached a point where she felt she could resolve the case and have some closure and move forward. It was the right time for her,” Zalkin told ESPN.

The settlement means Baylor has now reached settlements with seven plaintiffs; four Title IX suits with a total of 13 plaintiffs still remain.

McCaw, of course, has since moved on to become the AD at Liberty, while Briles — who admitted no wrongdoing in being removed from the Hernandez suit — said through an attorney he expects to coach in 2018.

Baylor, meanwhile, must now brace for the release of the Pepper Hamilton documents as ordered by a judge last week.

Oklahoma State puts up 1945 national championship signage at Boone Pickens Stadium

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Oklahoma State has decided that it was the 1945 national champion. It even has the photo to prove it.

While it is strange to name yourself a national champion more than seven decades after the fact, it is especially strange considering the banner comes significantly after Oklahoma State announced it is now the 1945 national champion. If you remember, Oklahoma State accepted the AFCA’s naming of the Pokes as the 1945 champions last year.

“After gathering all the pertinent information and doing our due diligence, it is the pleasure of our Blue Ribbon Commission of coaches to officially recognize Oklahoma State’s 1945 championship season with the AFCA Coaches’ Trophy,” AFCA executive director Todd Berry said at the time.

Known as Oklahoma A&M at the time, that ’45 Cowboys team was extremely good. They finished 9-0 on the year, opening with a 19-14 win at Arkansas, trucking Utah 46-6 in Salt Lake City, spanking Oklahoma 47-0 — the largest of OSU’s 18 wins over OU — and concluding with a 33-13 win over St. Mary’s in the Sugar Bowl.

The problem, though, is that the 1945 Army team hasn’t gotten any worse in the 72 years since. Led by College Football Hall of Famers Doc Blanchard and Glenn Davis, the Black Knights allowed a sum of 35 points in their run to a 9-0 mark — and never more than seven points in any one game — with wins over four top-20 teams, including legacy programs in Eastern markets such as No. 9 Michigan, No. 6 Penn and No. 2 Notre Dame.

Oklahoma State doesn’t care, though. The signage is up, and you’ll have to bring your bayonets to take it down.

Kliff Kingsbury ‘not sure’ Da’Leon Ward will play this season

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Da’Leon Ward was the bell cow of Texas Tech’s running game the last month of the 2016 season.  With a new season fast approaching on the horizon, it seems highly unlikely he’ll do the same in the early portion of 2017 — if at all.

Ward has been a non-participant throughout the whole of Tech’s summer camp that kicked off earlier this month because of unspecified issues related to academics.  Kliff Kingsbury addressed the running back’s situation Tuesday, with the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal writing that the head coach’s “update sounded ominous, considering Tech’s second session of summer school ended” late last week.

In fact, Kingsbury allowed that, when it comes to Ward, he’s “not sure he’ll be back for this season or not.”

Last season, the sophomore led the Red Raiders with 428 yards rushing.  of that, 370 of the yards came in the last five games of the year.

Justin Stockton, whose 154 yards last season were fourth on the team, has been running with the first-team offense throughout camp.  Last season’s second-leading rusher, Demarcus Felton (354), is back for the 2017 season as well.