The Swami

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

ECU transfer Kurt Benkert wins Virginia’s starting QB job

In this photo taken Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2015 East Carolina quarterback Kurt Benkert rolls out to pass during NCAA college football practice in Greenville, N.C. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
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Four months ago, Kurt Benkert was one the losing end of a quarterback competition at East Carolina.  Fastforward to today, and he’s now the trigger man in a Power Five offense.

First-year Hoos head coach Bronco Mendenhall announced Wednesday that Benkert will start the season opener against Richmond.  Benkert had been involved in a competition that included returning starter Matt Johns and Texas/Arizona transfer Connor Brewer.

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Benkert came to the Cavaliers as a graduate transfer, but is not a one-year stop-gap as he has two years of eligibility remaining.

Named the Pirates’ starter in early August of 2015, Benkert sustained a right knee injury a couple of weeks later that knocked him out for the entire season.  Blake Kemp took over and kept a stranglehold on the starting job through spring practice this year, triggering Benkert’s decision to move on.

Benkert has attempted 10 passes in his collegiate career, all in 2014.

In starting all 12 games for the Cavaliers last season, Johns’ 2,810 passing yards were third in school history while his 20 touchdowns were tied for fourth.  His 17 interceptions, though, were the most of any FBS quarterback in 2015.

Cassius Peat granted release by Mich. St., appears headed to JUCO

COLLEGE PARK, MD - NOVEMBER 15:  A Michigan State Spartans helmet on the bench during a college football game against the Maryland Terrapins at Byrd Stadium on November 15, 2014 in College Park, Maryland.  The Spartans won 37-15.  (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
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Earlier this month, Mark Dantonio stated that Michigan State was giving Cassius Peat “an opportunity to work on his academics and get himself in order” as his status with the program was “in flux.”

A week or so later?  He gone.

MSU confirmed Wednesday that Peat has been granted a release from his scholarship and will transfer from the Spartans.  And, in fact, the defensive lineman may have already found a new home, one at the junior college level.

Peat, initially a UCLA commit, was a three-star 2015 recruit who was rated as the No. 3 player at any position in the state of Arizona.  He took a redshirt as a true freshman, and had been listed as the No. tackle heading into summer camp.

However, according to mlive.com, Peat did not report for camp amidst his academic issues.

Ex-Oregon St. DB goes home to LaTech as grad transfer

LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 27:  Running back Justin Davis #22 of the USC Trojans is defended by safety Cyril Noland-Lewis #17 of the Oregon State Beavers in the second half at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on September 27, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. USC defeated Oregon State 35-10.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
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A week after transferring from Oregon State, Cyril Noland-Lewis has found a new home that happens to also double as his hometown.

The Ruston News Star, among others, has reported that Noland-Lewis is transferring into the Louisiana Tech football program.  As he is coming to Tech as a graduate transfer, he will be eligible to play for the Bulldogs in 2016, his final season of eligibility.

The defensive back, who went to high school in Ruston, was at the Bulldogs’ practice Tuesday as Tech continues preparations for the season opener Sept. 3 against Arkansas.

Noland-Lewis started 10 games for the Beavers last season.  Six of those starts came as a safety, the others as the nickel corner.  OSU moved Noland-Lewis to cornerback this offseason, where he ultimately found himself buried on the depth chart in summer camp.

The 6-0, 198-pound fifth-year senior, who began his OSU career as a linebacker, played in a total of 37 games during his time in Corvallis.

Tyler Rodgers, NMSU’s starting QB, arrested on battery charge

BATON ROUGE, LA - SEPTEMBER 27:  Tyler Rogers #18 of the New Mexico State Aggies drops back to pass against the LSU Tigers during the first quarter of a game at Tiger Stadium on September 27, 2014 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
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It’s not been a good day for a couple of starting quarterbacks at Group of Five programs.

The Las Cruces Sun-News has reported that New Mexico State’s Tyler Rogers turned himself in last Friday on a warrant that had been issued for him Aug. 14.  The junior was booked on one count of misdemeanor charge of battery against a household member.

The alleged victim is Rogers’ girlfriend. A verbal altercation at a party allegedly turned physical in a vehicle later on. When police arrived, the woman, who was initially crying, “downplayed the incident and said that it wasn’t really anything and that the altercation did not get physical and didn’t consider Mr. Rogers grabbing her arm as being a physical altercation.”

The woman decided against completing a domestic violence supplement report, and, according to the Sun-News, it’s unclear if the woman is cooperating with police.

“I was very disappointed in hearing the news but we are in the information gathering stage,” NMSU athletic director Mario Moccia said in a statement. “These are allegations that we take very seriously and we look forward to getting as much detail as possible so the university can be informed and the athletic department can make an informed decision moving forward.”

Because “it is a misdemeanor, there isn’t a suspension coming forth right now,” head coach Doug Martin said.

Rogers has started 15 games the past two seasons for the Aggies.