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?

North Carolina State dismisses two freshmen, suspends three others

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North Carolina State is the latest to feel the wrath of off-field tumult just ahead of the start of the 2017 season.

The football program announced Tuesday afternoon that two freshmen, wide receiver Antoine Thompson and defensive end Kevince Brown, have been dismissed from Dave Doeren‘s football program.  Additionally, a trio of additional freshmen, linebacker Isaiah Moore, defensive lineman Erin Collins and defensive lineman Xavier Lyas, have been indefinitely suspended by Doeren.  It’s believed those three will miss at least one game apiece.

The disciplinary measures stem from what were described as “violations of the Student Athlete Code of Conduct.”

The discipline also comes a month or so after an investigation into allegations of three separate sexual assaults at one on-campus party was launched.  According to the school, however, the dismissals and suspensions “are not regarding allegations of sexual assault.”

From WNCN-TV in Raleigh:

The five freshman football players were at the on-campus party in a student’s room at Wolf Village where alcohol and marijuana were present, the school said.

Investigators executed search warrants where they looked at cell phones, the residence and reviewed video from campus security cameras.

“We had five freshmen, two of whom have been dismissed, who made poor decisions that don’t align with the values of our program and each has been handled accordingly,” Doeren said in a statement. “Although I’ve disciplined these players for violations of the Student Athlete Code of Conduct, I want to make it clear that I respect due process in the University and legal proceedings. Our players understand that I’m going be firm, but fair when it comes to discipline.”

“The football players who violated the Student Athlete Code of Conduct and Football Team Rules have been disciplined by Coach Doeren, with my full support,” athletic director Debbie Yow said in hers. “Coach Doeren continues to responsibly manage difficult circumstances in an appropriate and forthcoming manner, which is greatly appreciated. Two have been dismissed from the team and are no longer enrolled at NC State, and three others have received suspensions from competition, as well as other discipline. These actions are not regarding allegations of sexual assault. We reserve the right to impose additional sanctions if new violations are discovered.”

All five players were three-star members of NCSU’s 2017 recruiting class.  Only three members of that class were rated higher than Thompson.

Lane Kiffin informally utilizing Art Briles to help FAU offense

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Leave it to Lane Kiffin to leave no stone unturned, regardless of how controversial it may be.

Not long after he was hired as the head coach at Florida Atlantic, Kiffin came under fire after hiring Kendal Briles as his offensive coordinator, especially after a woman alleged in a lawsuit that the assistant coach had contributed to the “culture of sexual violence” at Baylor.  Kiffin subsequently stood by his hiring of Briles, saying that the coordinator was thoroughly vetted by the athletic department before joining the program.

Over the weekend and on into this week, Kiffin opened himself up to additional criticism when both he and Briles confirmed that each of them have turned to Art Briles, ousted as BU’s head football coach in the midst of the sexual assault scandal, for help and advice when it comes to the Owls’ offense.

From the Sun-Sentinel:

Obviously, he has ideas,” Kendal said. “He wants to know personnel and different guys and making sure we’re getting those guys in the right spots and getting them touches and all that stuff. He’s a football coach, that’s all he’s ever been. He’s definitely involved and we talk daily.”

Kendal said he’s sent film to Art before to help with the FAU offense. On Monday, Kiffin said he’s spoken with Art a couple times.

“Obviously, he’s done unbelievable things on offense,” Kiffin said. “It’s his system that he started years and years ago. Every once in a while, I’ll text or call him and bounce something off of him.

The newspaper made sure to note that, per the younger Briles, the elder Briles has not been on the FAU campus.  And, when such a note is necessary, publicly associating yourself with the disgraced head coach in any way, shape of form might not be the best idea.  Then again, for better or worse, Kiffin’s gonna Kiffin, regardless of what anyone else thinks.

Former USC QB Max Browne named the starter at Pitt

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For the third time in four seasons, Pittsburgh will go the graduate transfer route for its starter under center.

Pitt became the latest team the last few days to publicly announce its starting quarterback, confirming Tuesday that Max Browne will get the nod in the opener against FCS Youngstown State.  It has long been expected that Browne would be named the starter, so Tuesday’s Twitter announcement was viewed by many as a mere formality.

Ben DiNucci will serve as Browne’s backup.

A five-star member of USC’s 2013 recruiting class, Browne confirmed months of speculation in early December that he would indeed be transferring from the Trojans.  He later transferred to Pitt after considering North Carolina as well.

Browne began the 2016 season as the starter, but lost his job to Sam Darnold after the Trojans stumbled out of the gate at 1-2. With Darnold under center, USC finished the regular season on an 8-1 run and won their last eight after losing Darnold’s first start by four points to Utah.

Browne spent the 2014 and 2015 seasons as Cody Kessler’s primary backup.  In his time with the Trojans, Browne completed 69-of-112 passes for 507 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.

Browne joins Tom Savage, from Rutgers, and Nathan Peterman, from Tennessee, as grad transfers who have earned starting jobs with the Panthers.

Already suspended after domestic violence arrest, Colorado’s Anthoney Julmisse arrested on felony robbery charges

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Suffice to say, Anthony Julmisse is likely not long for the Colorado football team.

Late last month, Julmisse was arrested on multiple charges related to a domestic incident, including one count each of third-degree assault and domestic violence and two counts of physical harassment.  According to an arrest affidavit, it’s alleged that the cornerback dragged a woman down a hallway and attempted to push her down a flight of stairs.

Fast-forward nearly a month later, and Julmisse, the Boulder Daily Camera reported, was arrested again over the weekend on charges of robbery, first-degree criminal trespass of a vehicle, criminal mischief and careless driving.  The first two charges listed are felonies.

At the time of his first arrest, Julmisse was indefinitely suspended.  In the wake of his second arrest, he’ll remain that way.

“While we’re still gathering information about this latest case, we are concerned to hear of these allegations,” a statement from CU read. “It is important to note that in any criminal case involving a student-athlete, there are three separate processes that can result in discipline — a determination by the coach, court sentencing and sanctions from the Office of Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution.”

Julmisse played in all 14 games last season.  Exiting spring practice, he was one of the Buffaloes’ starters at cornerback.