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Bowling Green ruins NIU’s BCS plans, wins MAC


In the final year of the BCS system, there will be no BCS buster. No. 14 Northern Illinois (12-1, 8-1 MAC) was dealt their first loss of the season at the worst possible time of the year. Bowling Green (10-3, 8-1 MAC) delivered the blow with a 47-27 victory in the MAC Championship Game.

Bowling Green’s strategy seemed so simple in concept, but few teams manage to get the mission to play out. Forcing Northern Illinois in to a position to rely more n the pass than allowing the Huskies to grind out yardage on the ground paid off, and the Falcons delivered a near flawless performance on both sides of the football.

While Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch is a bit of a household name at this point, this night belonged to Bowling Green’s Matt Johnson. Johnson was precise with his passes, completing 21 of 27 of them for 393 yards and five touchdowns. Receivers Ronnie Moore and Alex Bayer each had over 100 receiving yards. As solid of a performance as this was for the offense — and it was top-notch — the defense is what really took control of this game.

Bowling Green held Lynch to just 89 rushing yards and allowed him to complete just 21 of 40 pass attempts for 219 yards and one touchdown. The brilliance of the defensive game plan was focusing on what Lynch would do when they managed to force him to throw. That has far easier to say than do, as most opponents might tell you. Lynch had thrown just five interceptions all season heading in to the championship game, but Bowling Green managed to pick off the MAC’s top offensive player twice. But it paid off as it took Northern Illinois out of their element. With the offense continuing to pad their lead, Northern Illinois struggled to make much of a dent. What this does for Lynch’s chances to receive a trip to New York as a Heisman Trophy finalist remains to be seen, although he may still be worthy of an invite for an award that appears to be Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston‘s.

The outcome of this game removes Northern Illinois from the BCS conversation. A win would have likely resulted in a second straight BCS trip if they managed to stay ahead of UCF in the BCS standings. UCF plays Saturday at SMU, but even if the Knights were to win the Huskies likely would have stayed in front to clinch an automatic BCS spot. Instead there will be no BCS busters, which means the door is open for a number of teams from some of the traditional power conferences. Baylor, Oregon and Clemson are among the programs who should be most happy with this result.

Bowling Green will likely move on to play in the GoDaddy.com Bowl against a team from the Sun Belt Conference. Northern Illinois will likely make a return trip to Detroit for the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl, against a Big Ten team. Northern Illinois was 2-0 against Big Ten competition this season, with wins against Iowa and Purdue. Those are the two top bowls in the MAC line-up, although those bowl announcements have yet to be made official.

One question to ask now is whether Bowling Green head coach Dave Clawson will be around to coach the Falcons in their bowl game. Clawson was already a rising name in this year’s coaching carousel, and with this dominating performance by his team tonight, he could certainly be in line for a new job in a hurry.

USC’s Max Tuerk already questionable for Notre Dame game

TUCSON, AZ - OCTOBER 11:  Center Max Tuerk #75 of the USC Trojans prepares to snap the football during the college football game against the Arizona Wildcats at Arizona Stadium on October 11, 2014 in Tucson, Arizona.  The Trojans defeatred the Wildcats 28-26.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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As if the questions about the head coach’s future aren’t enough, now USC could have a rather significant issue in the middle of its offensive line to deal with as well.

Early in the first quarter of what would turn out to be an embarrassing loss to Washington Thursday night, Max Tuerk sustained a sprained knee. Upon further examination, it was determined that the veteran center would be unable to return to the game.

Not only that, Tuerk, who was wearing a brace on his right knee following the loss, is already labeled as questionable for what it in every sense of the phrase a must-win game for Steve Sarkisian against Notre Dame eight days from now.

With Tuerk sidelined for the remainder of the game, he was replaced by Toa Lobendahn. It’s unclear which direction the Trojans would go if Tuerk is a no-go this weekend, although Khaliel Rodgers, who had been dealing with a personal issue, has been Tuerk’s backup.

Tuerk has started 38 games in his Trojan career — 18 at center, 14 at left guard, five at left tackle, one at right tackle. Lobendahn started all 13 games as a true freshman last season, the first eight at left guard and then five at right tackle.

Was Washington loss the beginning of the end of the Steve Sarkisian era at USC?

Steve Sarkisian

Steve Sarkisian’s win totals in his six previous seasons are both a positive and a negative.

On one hand, he resurrected a moribund Washington program that went 0-12 under Ty Willingham in 2008 and took them to four consecutive bowl games from 2010-2013. He won nine games his last year in Seattle, then led a talented-yet-thin USC team to a nine-win season and AP No. 20 finish in 2014.

Those are good accomplishments. But the flip side of the argument is Sarkisian has never won double-digit games in a season, something that’s a necessity to keep one’s job at USC. The Trojans’ 17-12 loss to Washington last night — at home, no less — means the road to 10 wins and a Pac-12 title will be awfully difficult.

And worse yet, there are plenty of arguments to be made Sarkisian doesn’t deserve the benefit of the doubt and a little more time in Los Angeles to turn things around (#SarkAfterDark, his drunken rant at a booster event, certainly doesn’t help). The reaction from national media to last night’s loss looked like this:

Mandel, in his column, argued USC is right where it was two years ago with Lane Kiffin as its coach. And there’s this embarrassing thought, that looks more and more like a truth, for Pat Haden:

This one, however, was the most damning by far for many reasons, most notably that it came at the hands of Sarkisian’s old team. The sense among many Washington fans nearly two years ago was that the Huskies managed to upgrade coaches when the school lured Chris Petersen from Boise State upon Sarkisian’s departure to USC.

They were right.

USA Today’s Dan Wolken similarly wrote that USC needs to drop Sarkisian and bring in Chip Kelly from the Philadelphia Eagles.

This is the state of USC, and it may not get better. The Trojans start a brutal three-game stretch next Saturday at Notre Dame in primetime, then welcome Utah to Los Angeles the next week. A Halloween trip to Berkeley to face Jared Goff and Cal finishes it up. There’s a very real chance USC, for all its talent and all its hype, limps into November with a 4-4 or 3-5 record.

Sarkisian will have to engineer and sustain a major turnaround in these coming weeks, otherwise he’ll give Haden all the ammo he needs to unceremoniously jettison him after two years.