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?

BYU wearing special patch in honor of LaVell Edwards

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BYU got the summer media day fun started on Friday with their football media day. BYU tends to pull out all the stops on its media day with coach and player interviews, alumni returning, and a handful of announcements about the future of the program. In addition to news about their relationship with ESPN, BYU also announced the football team will be sporting a patch this season in honor of the late LaVell Edwards.

In addition to players wearing the patch on their jerseys, BYU coaches will also wear the patch on their sleeves.

Edwards passed away in December at the age of 86. The BYU coaching legend spent 29 seasons on the sidelines in Provo and accumulated 257 wins along the way. Among those was a national championship season in 1984, which remains the most recent national championship to be claimed by a program not currently in a power conference. Edwards took 22 BYU teams to a bowl game.

Now if we can just keep getting BYU to stick to that lighter shade of blue as their main home uniform, we’ll be in great shape.

Former Vanderbilt football player Brandon Banks found guilty of rape

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Former Vanderbilt football player Brandon Banks was convicted by a jury on Friday for rape of a female Vanderbilt student. Following 15 hours of jury deliberations, the verdict of guilty on one count of aggravated rape and one count of aggravated sexual battery was in.

”He’s shocked but understands that this is only the first part of this process, there’s a lot more to do from here on,” Banks’ lawyer, Mark Scruggs, said after the verdict. ”We have some really good issues to raise.”

Part of Banks’ defense was built on succumbing to peer pressure, suggesting he feared he may be beaten up by teammates if he did not participate in the scandalous activity. The jury, having reviewed videos and photos from the incident, some of which were shot by Banks, determined that was not a viable defense.

”Making fun of another person is not right, but we know it happens,” Assistant District Attorney Roger Moore said in closing arguments, according to the Associated Press. ”But it doesn’t give you a legal defense to commit a crime, particularly not an aggravated rape, an aggravated sexual battery. I mean if that’s the case, then we’d have the ‘football team defense.”’

Banks will serve a minimum of 15 years in prison. One count of aggravated rape has a minimum sentence of 15 years.

Other former Vanderbilt players had previously been convicted for their roles in the 2013 rape. Cory Batey was found guilty of aggravated rape and sentenced to 15-25 years in prison in April 2016. Brandon Vandenbeurg was found guilty and sentenced to 17 years in prison.

California’s state-funded travel ban to discriminating states raises mild football scheduling concerns

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The state of California is banning state-funded travel to the states of Texas, Alabama, Kentucky, and South Dakota. Those states are added to the previous state-funded travel bans that included Kansas, Mississippi, North Carolina, and Tennessee due to what California lawmakers say are laws that allow for discrimination against gay and transgender people.

So what does this have to do with college football? My colleague, Bryan, notes this latest decision from the state means scheduling any potential road games for a handful of schools just got a tad trickier.

This development poses a couple of issues for some California schools to address moving forward.

San Jose State is the school affected by this latest news right off the bat. San Jose State has a road game scheduled at Texas on September 9 this season. San Jose State may have to rely on some of that guaranteed money from Texas to cover the expenses, which would put a dent in the total takeaway from playing the game in the first place.

Cal is also scheduled to play at North Carolina on September 2. Cal also plays at TCU in 2021 and at Auburn in 2024. If the ban is still in operation at those times, then Cal will have to budget ahead of time to tackle the expenses. UCLA will play at Memphis on September 19.

The state-funded travel ban to these states may not be an issue for the postseason, as bowl game expenses tend to be carried by the conference and their revenue shares.

Fresno State has a road game at Texas A&M scheduled in 2020. San Diego State has no future scheduling hassles to worry about for the time being.

When ‘physically, mentally ready,’ door wide open for Keyshawn Johnson Jr.’s return to Nebraska

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Keyshawn Johnson Jr. has yet to play a down for Nebraska, but, if it’s up to Mike Riley, he will at some point down the road.

Earlier this month, the son of former USC great Keyshawn Johnson was cited for marijuana possession and possession of drug paraphernalia.  This past week, the younger Johnson decided to take a leave of absence, with his father stating that his son needed some time to “mature” and will not play for the Cornhuskers in 2017.

Left open at the time was the question of whether Johnson Jr. would ever play for the ‘Huskers, period.  Friday, Riley left the door wide open for a return.

“We’re disappointed that he’s not here with us right now today,” the head coach said according to the Lincoln Journal-Star. “I think there’s kind of a wellness factor for Keyshawn going home. We talked to him about the possibility of maybe enrolling part time and taking care of his progress toward his degree, and also getting in great shape.

“And we opened the door for return, which is just kind of left open that we’ll deal with at the time that he is physically and mentally ready to do that.”

A three-star 2017 signee who was an early enrollee and participated in spring practice, the younger Johnson had been expected to be an immediate contributor for the Cornhuskers this season.