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?

Report: LSU to add former RB Kevin Faulk to staff if SEC gives the green light

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Former LSU running back Kevin Faulk could be set to return to the Tigers program in a new role if the SEC will allow it. According to a report from The Advocate, Faulk is being lined up to join the LSU football support staff, but his addition must be thoroughly vetted first.

Because Faulk is a high school coach, LSU and the SEC must be certain he has no direct ties to any LSU football players on the roster. This is to ensure the staff change complies with a new NCAA rule prohibiting schools from hiring high school coaches for a two-year period when any player from that associated high school enrolls at the university. As long as there are no players on LSU’s roster with any ties to Faulk’s high school coaching within the past two years, the staff change should become official.

Having Faulk associated with the program would be good to see considering how much Faulk meant to LSU during his college career. Faulk rushed for a school-record 4,557 yards and 46 rushing touchdowns. Both are records that stand today despite some extremely talented running backs over the years. Since Faulk’s final season at LSU in 1998, Leonard Fournette has come the closest to Faulk’s career rushing total with 3,830 yards in three years. Fournette is also the closest to Faulk since Faulk played to the school record for career rushing touchdowns, with 40.

Supposing the staff addition does go through, Faulk will not be involved with any off-campus recruiting efforts or on-field coaching assignments, but he will assist with player development.

Florida bill seeks to allow UCF national championship license plates

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You’re not truly a fan of a team that has won a national championship until you can brandish the honor on the license plate to your car. In Florida, that may become a reality soon enough for UCF fans as the ongoing claim to a national championship continues to sweep through the state.

A new bill in the state of Florida introduced to the state legislature would allow for the creation and printing of Florida license plates in UCF colors and a UCF logo with the words “National Champions” inscribed across the bottom.

There is a lot of legal wording in the house bill, as one should expect, but the bill essentially boils down to be able to purchase a UCF national championship license plate. You can find those details on page seven of the 23-page bill.

UCF has already staked a claim at being the national champion for the 2017 college football season after completing the nation’s only undefeated season and beating an Auburn team that defeated both College Football Playoff national championship game participants, Georgia and Alabama. The Knights have since been honored with a championship parade in Disney World.

Illinois QB Jeff George Jr. moving on as graduate transfer

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Illinois quarterback Jeff George Jr., the son of former NFL quarterback Jeff George, has announced he will look for an opportunity to play football elsewhere in 2018. In a statement shared on his Twitter account Wednesday afternoon, George said he will leave Illinois with a degree in hand, allowing him to pursue a transfer possibility as a graduate transfer.

Thank you to Coach [Lovie Smith] and the entire staff for helping me develop over the past couple years,” George said in his statement on Twitter. “With that being said, after discussions with Coach Smith as well as my family, it would be in my best interest to pursue my athletic career with 2 years of eligibility left at a school that will best utilize the abilities I have to offer.”

George played in seven games for the Illini in 2017 with 1,273 passing yards and seven touchdowns and 10 interceptions. The only other quarterbacks on the roster to attempt a pass last season were junior Chayce Crouch (who played quarterback in seven games and had 443 passing yards with one touchdown and four interceptions Cam Thomas, a redshirt freshman in 2017. Illinois also has two other freshmen on the roster — Charlie Reinkemeyer and Connor Kelly –  that should make for an interesting quarterback situation this spring.

As a graduate transfer, George will be eligible to play in the fall at any FBS program that welcomes him to their program.

Report: Nick Saban ‘really pushing’ for Hugh Freeze, but SEC might be reluctant to sign off

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Normally what Nick Saban wants Nick Saban gets.  In this case, the head coach may have his work cut out for him.

Reports surfaced earlier this week that disgraced former Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze was a visitor to Alabama’s football building.  With the Crimson Tide searching for another offensive coordinator, speculation focused on Freeze as a potential candidate for the opening; others thought an in-house promotion was more likely and that Freeze could assume another role with the program.

According to the latest from the Tuscaloosa NewsAaron Suttles, “Saban is really pushing for Freeze to be an on-the-field coach,” whether it be as coordinator or, perhaps, working with quarterbacks or another positional group.  One problem, per the News, is that some within the program are pushing against such an addition, although, again, if Saban really wants Freeze as an on-field addition he’d get it regardless of who was pushing back.  Another issue, though, could be his conference.

From Suttles’ report:

Another aspect to this is that should Alabama decided to hire Freeze as an on-the-field coach, it would likely need the blessing of SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey. Sankey isn’t keen on that happening, The Tuscaloosa News has learned.

The league office’s pause in one of its members giving Freeze his first post-scandal second chance is certainly understandable.

Freeze “resigned” from Ole Miss after it was discovered he was using a school-issued cell phone to hook up with escort services on multiple occasions. Additionally, there were the Rebels’ NCAA issues while Freeze was in charge that left the coach with a two-game suspension to serve; that suspension would not have to be served if Freeze is a coordinator or position coach.  The one-year show-cause Freeze was slapped with, which would impact him on the recruiting trail as a head coach, would not be in effect if he served in a non-head coach capacity.

If the SEC would indeed have an issue with the Freeze hire — and if they actually have a say in the matter — it remains to be seen how far down the Freeze road Saban is willing to travel.