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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.

Not everybody seems happy about USC’s hiring of Clay Helton

Clay Helton

If there is one thing that can be said about USC hiring Clay Helton as head coach on a permanent basis, it is that it provides stability for the program moving forward. Current players have responded well to Helton. Future Trojans players are responding well to Helton on the recruiting trail. Former USC players? Well, that’s a different situation.

We saw some of this at Miami in recent years with former Hurricanes ripping now former head coach Al Golden. That was a bit of a different situation with Golden being a coach that went against the grain of all that was perceived to be representative of The U. Helton is different because he has been loyal to the program as an assistant coach during a turbulent time. He at least deserves respect of those following and those who have played for USC for that alone. The problem is Helton lacks the kind of appeal most wearing USC lenses expect from their coaching hire and it seems more likely to believe athletics director Pat Haden settled for Helton instead of being able to expand the coaching search and bring in a high-quality coach for the job.

There is one way to swing the emotions the other way for those unhappy with the decision. If USC beats Stanford to win the Pac-12 championship this week, that would be one step in the right direction for the Helton haters and the Haden skeptics (myself included). The pressure will be on more next season regardless of what happens this week in the Pac-12 championship game and whatever bowl game USC ends up playing. USC will be loaded with talent and will be a trendy pick to make a run in the Pac-12 and, perhaps, even the College Football Playoff.

USC names Clay Helton permanent head coach

Clay Helton

The top coaching vacancy in college football has been filled. USC has announced it will remove the interim tag from Clay Helton and make him the permanent head coach moving forward.

Helton has gone 5-2 since taking over the program following the dismissal of Steve Sarkisian as head coach. The most recent win this weekend against UCLA both snapped a three-game losing streak to the crosstown rival Bruins and clinched USC’s first trip to the Pac-12 championship game as Pac-12 South Division champions. Helton has been with the USC program since 2010 under various assistant roles. He was promoted to offensive coordinator in 2013 and named interim head coach that season following the firing of Lane Kiffin. He stayed on the staff following the hiring of Sarkisian from Washington.

Helton had become a clear player favorite in the program, as Helton calmed a troublesome environment of uncertainty in the middle fo the season and delivered a division championship. The only losses under Helton came on the road against Notre Dame in Helton’s first game as interim head coach and more recently at Oregon, a program that revived itself as well. If nothing else, Helton’s being named the head coach provides for some stability for the program, although there should be some questions moving forward whether it will be the right move or not in the long term. The USC job was thought to be the top job on the market and worthy of some high-caliber candidates. There had been rumblings USC reached out to Philadelphia Eagles coach Chip Kelly, a former Oregon coach of course, but the odds Kelly was going to leave the Eagles on his own a year after getting general manager power were always low.

USC will continue to bring plenty of pressure to win, and win big. Helton will continue to guide a roster packed with talent and getting back to full strength after a stretch of sanctioned seasons. If Helton does not win, he will quickly enter the hot seat conversation.

USC plays Stanford for the Pac-12 championship this week.

Will Mark Richt coach again? “Oh yeah, no doubt”

Mark Richt

On Sunday the end of the line for Mark Richt at Georgia was finally reached. The Bulldogs and the head coach will go separate ways after a 15-season run in Athens, but this will not be the final stop for Richt as a head coach. On Monday, during a press conference with the media to address the coaching change, Richt was asked whether he will coach again.

“Oh yeah, no doubt,” Richt said in his response. “I’m going to listen to anybody that’s interested in talking to me,” Richt said when again asked about what’s next for the now former head coach of Georgia.

The press conference with Richt was a bit unusual for these types of settings. First, Richt continued to show his Georgia pride by wearing a black coat and red tie and had a Georgia pin on his coat. Second, he sat right next to Georgia athletics director Greg McGarity, who offered no insight whatsoever on what’s next for Georgia. When asked about the coaching search or the status for assistants, McGarity continued to shift the focus on Richt.

Richt expressed his enthusiasm for getting to coach one final game for Georgia. He will coach Georgia’s bowl game, wherever that may be, giving him one last chance to end a season with a bowl victory, which he has done nine times previously.

Kentucky QB Patrick Towles to transfer

Patrick Towles

Kentucky quarterback Patrick Towles will transfer, he announced in an Instagram post Sunday afternoon.

Towles leaves school as Kentucky’s sixth-most prolific passer, completing 427-of-759 passes for 5,099 yards with 24 touchdowns and 24 interceptions.

Once compared to Ben Roethlisberger, Towles’ career peeked in a 2014 game with then-No. 1 Mississippi State, as he completed 24-of-43 passes for 390 yards with two touchdowns in a 45-31 loss to the Bulldogs.

But Kentucky stumbled down the stretch, starting 5-1 and finishing 5-7, and Towles stumbled through a 2015 campaign in which he threw nine touchdowns against 14 interceptions.

He’d been passed by freshman Drew Barker by the end of the season, and threw only four passes in a loss to Louisville on Saturday.

A junior, Towles will complete his political science degree in December and be eligible for immediate playing time at a new destination in 2016.