Breaking down the Big 12 championship picture

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There may no longer be a Big 12 championship game, but the conference’s championship picture certainly should not be forgotten this championship weekend. The fate of the Big 12 will be determined between a pair of games with just one guaranteed BCS spot to be filled. No. 6 Oklahoma State (10-1, 7-1 Big 12), No. 9 Baylor (10-1, 7-1 Big 12) and No. 25 Texas (8-3, 7-1 Big 12) all have a chance to lay claim to the Big 12 championship and a trip to a CBS bowl game that goes to the winner.

Oklahoma State has the inside track to the conference championship. Already with wins against Baylor and Texas this season, the Cowboys simply need to win their rivalry game against No. 17 Oklahoma (9-2, 6-2 Big 12) to force no less than a tie for first place in the Big 12. As winners of head-to-head contests with the Bears and Longhorns, Oklahoma State will win any tie-breaker scenario possible this weekend, sending the Cowboys to their second BCS bowl game in the BCS era. Oklahoma State won the Big 12 title in 2011 and defeated Stanford in the Fiesta Bowl.

Oklahoma State is the hottest team in the Big 12, winners of seven straight games after an upset loss at West Virginia. The Cowboys had a little bit of a scare the next week against Kansas State but managed a fourth quarter rally to take advantage of a five-turnover day by Kansas State’s offense. Since then, the Cowboys have been locked in and unbeatable in the Big 12. Back-to-back wins against Texas and Baylor came by a combined score of 87-30.

How will the Cowboys keep that level of play up after a late bye week against the school’s biggest rival, Oklahoma?

The Sooners started the year off with a 5-0 mark but were handled by Texas in the Red River Rivalry, 36-20. Oklahoma’s lack of offense came back to haunt them a couple of weeks later against Baylor. Oklahoma played well on defense early on, but it was only a matter of time before Baylor’s offense exploded on the Sooners, and when it did the points came in a hurry. The Sooners have thrived more on offense when they run the football this season. Running back Brennan Clay had a 200-yard outburst against Kansas State in Oklahoma’s last game.

The Sooners have won nine of the last ten meetings with Oklahoma State, although the Cowboys look to have more going in their favor this time around. Still, if Baylor and Texas fans are looking for something to fall back on then history may be on their side. If Oklahoma can find a winning formula to take down Oklahoma State, then the door is wide open for Baylor and Texas.

Bedlam should be coming to a close as the Longhorns and Bears are kicking off in Waco for the final game in Floyd Casey Stadium. Thinking back to September, fresh after BYU shredded the Texas defense, this game looked like a disaster waiting to drive the final nail in the coffin of Mack Brown’s coaching career if he managed to survive this long. Texas could still have their problems with Baylor’s offense, but the Longhorns have proven to be capable of scoring points as well. The Longhorns outlasted Baylor last season in Austin, 56-50, but Texas continues to be banged up on offense.

The key to this game may be Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty, who remains in the thick of the Heisman conversation even if Florida State’s Jameis Winston appears to be the clear favorite. Petty has completed 28 touchdown passes to just two interceptions this season. His accuracy and careful decision-making will make it tough for Texas to slow down the Bears.

Oklahoma Stat has the best shot to come out on top of the Big 12 this weekend, but Baylor could easily make their first BCS bowl trip if the Cowboys stumble. Whatever the case, the only two Big 12 game son the schedule will pack plenty of drama Saturday afternoon while the other conferences play out their conference championship games.

Who needs a conference championship game anyway?

Illinois boots three players charged with home invasion and robbery

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Illinois head coach Lovie Smith has dismissed three players charged with home invasion and robbery. Offensive linemen Darta Lee and Howard Watkins and tight end Zarrian Holcombe have all been dismissed from the program, according to a statement.

Lee and Holcombe were previously suspended by Smith for violations of team rules. Watkins had also been indefinitely suspended following the initial allegations. All three players claimed the incident that led to the charges was nothing more than an innocent prank, but the authorities and Smith didn’t seem willing to buy that claim.

Each player faces a mandatory prison sentence of 4-15 years on each count against them if found guilty.

Report: Conference USA to air at least 15 football games on Twitter in 2017

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Conference USA is in a position where it needs to think outside the box and look to stay ahead of the curve in a changing TV landscape. It appears to be ready to air games on Twitter in 2017.

A report from The Virginian-Pilot says broadcast company STADIUM will air at least 15 football games involving Conference USA teams this fall. STADIUM is the result of a recent merger between the American Sports Network, 120 Sports and Silver Chalice (which also owns Campus Insiders and the online ACC Digital Network). The ASN had owned the broadcast rights to Conference USA games through the end of the 2017-2018 sports season that will carry over to the STADIUM deal (allowing for Conference USA basketball games to be aired on Twitter as well). It was announced earlier this month STADIUM intended to broadcast Conference USA games on Twitter, but it was unknown how many games might make it to the networking service. STADIUM reportedly has an interest in continuing to air Conference USA contests beyond the next athletic season.

Conference USA still has broadcast deals with ESPN and CBS Sports in effect as well, so don’t expect the premiere matchups in the conference to be aired on Twitter. However, by sharing the games online, Conference USA is hoping to reach a wide-spread audience and have the opportunity to be a trending topic. It could work, as Twitter would make sure the game is given a steady feed to allow for a pleasant viewing experience and fan interaction in real time.

Conference USA saw TV revenue take a big hit over the last year. Last summer, Conference USA’s television revenue reportedly dropped to just $2.8 million for the entire conference following realignment changes. Finding a home on a streaming platform now would be key for the conference’s future stability.

Alabama DC Jeremy Pruitt named son after former Tide linebackers Reuben Foster and Ryan Anderson

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It is not at all uncommon for children born in the state of Alabama to be named after Alabama football legends, but it is not every day you see a child of an Alabama coach receives a name inspired by former Alabama football players.

Defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt announced the birth of his new son, Flynt Anderson-Foster Pruitt, on Twitter. Alabama fans will likely already know the connection to the new child’s name, as used the last names of two former Alabama football players to create the middle name of Anderson-Foster; Ryan Anderson and Reuben Foster.

Maybe this is more common than I’m aware of, but regardless of how often a coach names a child after former players, this is a testament to the relationship the Pruitt family established with both former Alabama linebackers. And now there will be a bond for years to come between the coach and his family and Anderson and Foster.

Helmet sticker to Al.com.

Wisconsin’s season tickets for 100th anniversary of Camp Randall are a thing of beauty

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The Wisconsin Badgers are gearing up for their 100th season playing home football game sin Camp Randall Stadium. As part of the season-long celebration, Wisconsin put some brilliant artistic detail into their season tickets for the 2017 season.

Each ticket to a home Wisconsin game is designed like a retro-style program. These are beautifully done and mimic the style of a program cover from decades past. I’m particularly fond of the program cover for the Purdue game, which features Wisconsin’s Bucky floating in space with a ship with the Purdue logo nearby. Is that a space train? The Band Day program for the game against Florida Atlantic also looks fantastic.

These tickets will surely be must-have collectibles for Wisconsin fans. If Wisconsin wants to make a few extra bucks, then blowing up these images and selling them as posters may be a good decision as well. And I wouldn’t put it past Wisconsin to suit up in a retro-style uniform for at least home game this season in Madison.