CFT Predicts: Conference Championship Weekend

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Well, it’s finally here.

Outside of the Army-Navy game next Saturday, Week 15 serves as the final weekend of the 2013 “regular” season.  Despite the fact that 14 weeks are already in the books, though, there are still several critical questions that remain unanswered.

Can Ohio State run its winning streak to 25 straight and claim a spot in its first BCS title game since after the 2007 season?  Would a one-loss and SEC champion Auburn do the unprecedented and leapfrog an unbeaten AQ team into the championship game?  Will Missouri and/or Michigan State make the argument that dominated the week leading into Championship Saturday a moot point?  Can Florida State avoid tripping up against Du… sorry, couldn’t finish typing that with a straight face.

The ACC, Big Ten and SEC championship games aren’t the only ones of import this weekend, though, as the Big 12 and Pac-12 will also send a team apiece into the BCS with automatic bids:

  • If Oklahoma State can defend its home Stillwater turf and beat Oklahoma in Bedlam, the Cowboys claim the Big 12 championship and the automatic BCS berth.  If not, the winner of the Texas-Baylor game — in Waco — will earn the conference’s postseason honors.
  • The Pac-12, as it relates to the BCS, is simple and straightforward: the winner of the Stanford-Arizona State conference championship game in the desert will play in the Rose Bowl against either the Big Ten champion or an at-large team.

Of course, a handful of other games litter the Week 15 schedule — MWC (Utah State-Fresno State) and Conference USA (Marshall at Rice) league championship games as well as regular-season finales in the AAC and Sun Belt — although most eyes will be on the games mentioned above.

So, how will the weekend play out?  How will the questions posed earlier be answered?  Allow the CFT staff to peer into their respective, sometimes cloudy crystal balls and take a stab at just that.

AUBURN (11-1, No. 3 BCS) vs.MISSOURI (11-1, No. 5 BCS)
SEC Championship game at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Ga. 4 p.m. ET kickoff

Chris Huston: Auburn 42, Missouri 35
Kevin McGuire: Auburn 34, Missouri 32
JJ Stankevitz: Missouri 38, Auburn 34
John Taylor: Missouri 41, Auburn 34

Auburn/Missouri, 2-2

OHIO STATE (12-0, No. 2 BCS) vs. MICHIGAN STATE (11-1, No. 10)
Big Ten Championship game at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Ind. 8:17 p.m. ET kickoff

Chris Huston: Ohio State 27, Michigan State 10
Kevin McGuire: Ohio State 24, Michigan State 20
JJ Stankevitz: Michigan State 27, Ohio State 24
John Taylor: Ohio State 37, Michigan State 24

Ohio State, 3-1

FLORIDA STATE (12-0, No. 1) vs DUKE (10-2, No. 20)
ACC Championship game at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, NC. 8 p.m. ET kickoff

Chris Huston: Florida State 51, Duke 24
Kevin McGuire: Florida State 42, Duke 17
JJ Stankevitz: Florida State 59, Duke 10
John Taylor: Florida State 54, Duke 10

Florida State, 4-0

STANFORD (10-2, No. 7) vs. ARIZONA STATE (10-2, No. 11)
Pac-12 Championship game at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Ariz. 7:45 p.m. ET kickoff

Chris Huston: Arizona State 31, Stanford 28
Kevin McGuire: Arizona State 30, Stanford 26
JJ Stankevitz: Stanford 30, Arizona State 21
John Taylor: Stanford 34, Arizona State 31

Arizona State/Stanford, 2-2

OKLAHOMA (9-2, No. 17) vs. OKLAHOMA STATE (10-1, No. 6)

Chris Huston: Oklahoma 38, Oklahoma State 35
Kevin McGuire: Oklahoma State 38, Oklahoma 28
JJ Stankevitz: Oklahoma State 41, Oklahoma 27
John Taylor: Oklahoma State 34, Oklahoma 17

Oklahoma State, 3-1

TEXAS (8-3, No. 25) vs. BAYLOR (10-1, No. 9)

Chris Huston: Baylor 48, Texas 41
Kevin McGuire: Baylor 43, Texas 27
JJ Stankevitz: Baylor 56, Texas 38
John Taylor: Baylor 52, Texas 24

Baylor, 4-0

NCAA denies ex-Alabama assistant’s appeal of two-year show-cause

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Recruiting restrictions will remain in place for one former member of Nick Saban’s coaching staff.

The NCAA announced Thursday that former Alabama and current UT-San Antonio assistant coach Bo Davis must serve a two-year show-cause order instituted earlier this year.  Davis had appealed to the NCAA Division I Infractions Appeals Committee to have the sanction removed.

The NCAA announced in April of this year that Davis was found by the Committee on Infractions to have “acted unethically when he provided false or misleading information about impermissible recruiting contacts” and was slapped with the order as a result.

In late April of last year, reports surfaced that Davis was expected to resign or be fired as Alabama’s defensive line coach after the school opened an inquiry into possible NCAA violations on the recruiting trail.  A day later, the Tide announced that Davis had, ahem, “submitted his letter of resignation.”

The show-cause order runs from April 14, 2017, through April 13, 2019; Davis had argued in his appeal that the clock on the order should’ve started on the day he resigned from his job at Alabama.  From the NCAA’s decision:

However, the appellate committee noted that neither NCAA rules nor past cases consider timing other than the announcement of penalties as the start date. The committee also noted the infractions panel provided substantial leniency to the former assistant coach given that he was subject to a show cause order ranging from a minimum of five years to a maximum of 10 years with a prohibition on all athletically related duties. The infractions panel noted in its decision that this shorter show-cause penalty was due to the nature of the underlying recruiting violations and the university’s swift action once the violations came to its attention.

As part of the NCAA-mandated sanctions, Davis is barred from all off-campus recruiting activities until the order runs out in April of 2019.  Davis was hired by UT-San Antonio in February of this year as defensive line coach, and, at least for now, is still serving in that same capacity.

Georgia LB Natrez Patrick sees pot charge dropped; status for playoffs still uncertain

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Finally, there is some positive news off the field for the Georgia football program, even as some clarity on one player’s status moving forward is still needed.

According to ESPN.com‘s Mark Schlabach, the Barrow County district attorney’s office has decided to drop a marijuana possession charge against UGA linebacker Natrez Patrick. Earlier this month, Patrick was arrested for misdemeanor possession of marijuana.  That was the junior’s third marijuana-related arrest and fourth pot-related incident in a little over two years.

Patrick was arrested in early October of this year on a charge of possessing less than an ounce of marijuana and ultimately served a four-game suspension.  In November of 2015, Patrick was arrested on a charge of misdemeanor marijuana possession and suspended for one game per university policy.  A year later, Patrick and a teammate, Roquan Smith, were investigated by police for alleged pot use although no charges were ever filed.

In this latest incident, Patrick was a passenger in a vehicle driven by teammate Jayson Stanley that was pulled over for speeding shortly after the Bulldogs won the SEC championship.

“When you get into someone’s car, you’re not going to search it to see if there’s marijuana in the car,” Patrick’s attorney, William Healan III, told Schlabach. “My client didn’t know the marijuana was there. If you’re sitting on a little piece of marijuana that you didn’t know was there, you’re not knowingly in possession of it.”

As for Stanley, he saw a driving under the influence charge dropped.  In exchange, the little-used wide receiver pleaded guilty misdemeanor possession of marijuana and speeding.

Despite the fact that the linebacker’s charge was dropped, Schlabach writes that “[i]t wasn’t immediately known whether Patrick would be available when the No. 3 Bulldogs take on No. 2 Oklahoma in a College Football Playoff semifinal at the Rose Bowl Game… on New Year’s Day.” The Macon Telegraph, meanwhile, writes that when “[a]sked if this decision meant Patrick would not be considered a third-time offender under the UGA student-athlete handbook, athletics director Greg McGarity declined to comment.” Three drug-related offenses are grounds for dismissal according to university policy.

Patrick started seven of the nine games in which he played at inside linebacker this season.  Even as he missed nearly one-third of the regular season, Patrick is still sixth on the Bulldogs in tackles with 35.

Rice makes hiring of Michigan assistant Brian Smith as DC official

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Rice’s new head coach has officially plucked an assistant from Jim Harbaugh‘s Michigan coaching staff to fill a key position on his first with the Owls.

The Conference USA football program confirmed Wednesday night that Brian Smith has been named by Mike Bloomgren as his first defensive coordinator. Smith spent the past two seasons as the Wolverines’ defensive backs coach.

The stint in Ann Arbor was Smith’s first coaching job at a Power Five program. His first coaching job at the FBS level came at his alma mater UMass, where he was linebackers coach in 2004 and wide receivers coach in 2005.

In between those two collegiate stints, Smith spent eight seasons (2007-14) with the NFL’s New York Jets, beginning as a quality control/offensive coach before moving up to help with the secondary his last couple of seasons with the organization.

In addition to Smith, Bloomgren, who came to Rice earlier this month after serving as offensive coordinator at Stanford, also announced the hiring of North Carolina Central University head coach Jerry Mack as his coordinator on that side of the ball. Mack had previously coached at this level as wide receivers coach at Memphis (2011) and South Alabama (2012-13).

In his four years heading the FCS program, Mack guided the Eagles to a 31-15 record and three Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference championships.

Two-time winner Dabo Swinney one of seven finalists for Bear Bryant coach award

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Not surprisingly, yet another coaching award has a decidedly familiar feel to it.

Wednesday, a group of seven finalists were announced for the 2017 Paul “Bear” Bryant Coach of the Year Award, one of the nation’s top award for college football coaches. Named in honor of the Alabama legend, those seven finalists are:

  • Paul Chryst — Wisconsin
  • Clay Helton — USC
  • Scott Frost — Nebraska, for his work at UCF
  • Gus Malzahn — Auburn
  • Jeff Monken — Army
  • Kirby Smart — Georgia
  • Dabo Swinney — Clemson

Swinney is looking to become the first coach in the 32-year history of the award to win it three consecutive years, after becoming the first to win it in back-to-back years. In January of 2017, Swinney joined Boise State’s Chris Petersen (2006, 2009) as the only two-time winners.

In addition to Swinney, one other College Football Playoff semifinalist, Smart, is up for the honor.

Smart, Swinney, Helton and Frost all led their respective teams to conference championships, while Chryst and Malzahn made it to their league title game. Monken guided the service academy to its best season in over two decades and has the chance to, with a bowl win, become just the second Black Knights coach (Bob Sutton, 1996) to reach 10 wins in a single season.