Baylor pulls away from Texas to finish off best season in school history

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No. 9 Baylor scored 27 second-half points and broke open a 3-3 halftime tie to beat No. 25 Texas, 30-10, and claim the school’s first-ever Big 12 championship, first-ever 11-win season and first-ever BCS bowl berth.

As he has all year, Bryce Petty led the way for the 11-1 Bears, throwing for 287 yards and two key third quarter touchdowns on a cold day in Waco that saw temperatures plunge below 30 degrees.

“I’m trying to hold back a lot of tears right now,” Petty said afterward. “I’m just so happy, man. I really am.”

A first half that saw both teams playing tight in the frigid weather loosened up a bit in the third quarter as Baylor piled up 161 yards of offense and 17 points to jump out to a 20-3 lead. The way the Texas offense was playing, that was going to be enough.

Nonetheless, the Longhorns kept fighting. Jaxon Shipley returned a punt 50 yards to set up Texas at the Baylor 11-yard line to start the fourth quarter. Malcom Brown, who rushed for a game-high 131 yards on 25 carries, caught a two-yard touchdown pass from Case McCoy, who did his best Johnny Manziel impression by throwing back across the defense after rolling left. That made the score, 20-10, with 12:38 left to play.

But Lache Seastrunk ripped off a 22-yard run on Baylor’s next play to key a 55-yard drive that ended in an Aaron Jones 28-yard field goal that made it a two-score game once again.

Texas just couldn’t get anything going after that. With less than five minutes to play, K.J. Morton intercepted a McCoy pass and returned it 57 yards, setting up Glascoe Martin’s 18-yard scamper to make it 30-10 and the the  Baylor crowd started its party.

Big credit to Bears coach Art Briles, who has done some amazing things in building this program.

“Coach Briles started it all,” said Petty. “He means everything to this program. We love that guy.”

The big question for Texas now is whether it loves its guy. Will Mack Brown return? His team falls to 8-4 and is just 30-20 over the last four years. We’re sure to hear lots of speculation on this matter in the next couple weeks.

As for Baylor, Petty returns next year and the Bears will be in a brand new stadium, with Briles the owner of a brand new contract that will keep him in Waco for the next decade. With the new college football playoff approaching, it’s going to be fun to see if the Bears can take that next step under Briles .

At this rate, we might yet see a national title come to Waco.

Foot injury could sideline Auburn’s Tashawn Manning for rest of spring

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After kicking cancer’s ass, this latest health issue hardly qualifies as a big deal.  Still, it’s a thing.

Tashawn Manning has been battling an unspecified foot injury of late, which has limited the defensive tackle’s availability for most of the first two-thirds of Auburn’s spring practice sessions.  With just five practices remaining, Manning could very well be sidelined for al of them.

“The problem is this is Day 9 and Saturday will be Day 11, so there’s a probability” that the player will not see the field for what remains of spring practice, Manning’s position coach, Rodney Garner, said according to al.com.

Around Thanksgiving of 2015, Manning, then an Auburn verbal commit, was diagnosed with acute promyelocytic leukemia.  In July of last year, he was finished with chemotherapy and declared cancer-free.

The defensive lineman didn’t play at all last season, instead taking online classes as he built up his strength as well as his weight after losing more than 60 pounds because of the chemo.  In January, he enrolled at AU and, two months later, was cleared to participate in the spring.

Suspended Mich. St. staffer receives one-MONTH contract extension

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A disturbing situation in East Lansing has added a head-scratching twist.

According to ESPN.com, and by way of a Freedom of Information request, Michigan State football staffer Curtis Blackwell was on the receiving end of a one-month contract extension earlier this month.  Blackwell, whose title with the football program is director of college advancement and performance, was set to see his contract expire at the end of this week.

What makes this development noteworthy is that Blackwell has been indefinitely suspended by the Spartans since early February.

Around that time, it was confirmed by the university that three still-unnamed MSU football players had been suspended after allegations of sexual assault were made against them last month.  An unnamed football staffer was suspended at the time as well; that staffer was subsequently identified as Blackwell.

A police investigation, as well as a Title IX probe, into the allegations continue.  Blackwell is not accused of participating in the alleged sexual assault, but rather a non-sexual crime that’s connected to the investigation.

Mark Dantonio hadn’t spoken publicly about the allegations until earlier this week, and the head coach probably would’ve been better served to have kept it that way.

A&M, UCLA both add New Mexico to future schedules

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Texas A&M and UCLA announced Wednesday that their 2017 opener had been moved from Saturday to Sunday.  As it turns out, that wasn’t the only scheduling news connecting the two football programs.

As part of a release announcing seven games being added to its future schedules, New Mexico confirmed that two of those contests will include A&M and UCLA.  Both of those games, obviously, will be on the road, with the Lobos traveling to College Station Sept. 18, 2021, and to Pasadena and the Rose Bowl Sept. 13, 2025.

In its release, the school wrote that “[t]he game in College Station has a guarantee of $1,100,000 and 450 complementary tickets,” while “[t]he game in Pasadena has a guarantee of $1,200,000 plus 2,000 complementary tickets that UNM can sell for extra revenue.”

The last and only time New Mexico and UCLA squared off was in the 2002 Las Vegas Bowl, a 27-13 win for the Bruins.  UNM and A&M actually completed a home-and-home series relatively recently, with the Aggies winning both games played in the 2008 (28-22) and 2009 (41-6) seasons.

In addition to the future Power Five games, a continuation of the long-running rivalry with UTEP will be extended.  UNM will play in El Paso in 2021, then host UTEP in 2022.  Those two games will mark the 79th and 80th contests in the regional rivalry.

Michigan State, Washington round out future schedules with Utah State

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Needing to fill a single spot in some future schedules, both Michigan State and Washington have come calling to the Mountain West for an opponent. Utah State was happy to oblige.

Michigan State will host Utah State on September 1, 2018. The Aggies will travel to Washington on September 19, 2020. For their travels, Utah State will collect $2.9 million between the two games, according to FBScheduels.com ($1.4 million from Michigan State, $1.5 million from Washington).

The Big Ten and Pac-12 each use nine-game conference schedules, leaving three spots open for non-conference games. The Big Ten requires all conference members schedule one game per season against another power conference opponent (the Pac-12 has no such requirement of its members at this time), although exceptions are made. Utah State, as a member of the Mountain West Conference, would not satisfy that requirement for the Big Ten, but the Spartans already have a road game against Arizona State (Pac-12) on the schedule in 2018. Michigan State and Arizona State will play again in 2019 in East Lansing. Michigan State also has future power conference matchups with Notre Dame (2017, 2026, 2027) and Miami (2020, 2021). Michigan State will also play BYU in 2020 in Provo.

Washington has future power conference matchups with Rutgers (2017), Auburn (2018, in Atlanta), and Michigan (2020, 2021). The Huskies will also face Mountain West Competition from Fresno State (2017), Hawaii (2019), and Nevada (2027).

Utah State will face power conference opponents on the road in 2017 (Wisconsin, Wake Forest), 2018 (Michigan State), 2019 (Wake Forest, LSU), 2020 (Washington), and 2021 (Washington State). Utah State will also host Washington State in 2020 as part of a home-and-home deal. Utah State also has an annual series against BYU running through 2020.