Mike Gundy

Low APR to cost Okla. St. practice time

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While not nearly as severe as UNLV’s or Idaho’s punishment, another FBS program will be getting slapped by The Association for failing to meet minimum classroom expectations.

As first reported by Jon Helsley of The Oklahoman, Oklahoma State will be stripped of one practice day per week during the 2014 season for failing to reach the minimum 930 on the Academic Progress Report (APR) required by the NCAA over a four-year period.  The Cowboys avoided a postseason ban because its two-year average was half a point above the 940 threshold.

USA Today wrote that “the Cowboys probably will cease their customary Sunday evening practice, which was a brief on-field session used to correct mistakes from the previous day’s game.”

“We are taking steps to ensure that our APR numbers improve moving forward,” OSU azthletic director Mike Holder said in a statement released by the school. “We are accountable for what we do and ultimately, we are here to serve our student-athletes and do our best to keep them on track to be lifelong contributors to society.”

While OSU failed to make the grade academically, it did so by a razor-thin margin.  From the paper’s report:

OSU fell a fraction of a point shy of avoiding penalty, with its number at 929.41 for the last four years. Had the Cowboys been at 929.50, the number would have been rounded up, meaning they missed by nine-one-hundreds of a point. The Cowboys avoided a more damaging postseason ban.

That bowl ban will be felt in 2014 by UNLV and Idaho, as previously reported, while those two teams will also be hit with the practice time penalty.  Along with OSU, New Mexico State was the only other FBS program to lose only practice time because of low APR scores.

There were also total of seven FCS teams who are banned from the postseason playoffs.

On the positive side, the Top 10 in APR scores consisted of four schools from the ACC (Duke, 992, No. 1 to keep its historic streak alive; Georgia Tech, 983, T-No. 7; Clemson, 983, T-No. 7; Boston College, 981, No. 9), two from the Big Ten (Northwestern, 991, No. 2; Wisconsin, 989, No. 3), two from the Mountain West (Utah State, 988, T-No. 4; Boise State, 988, T-No. 4) and one from the Pac-12 (Stanford, 984, No. 6).

“Ten years ago, the membership designed the APR to encourage student-athletes to stay in school and earn good grades. We are pleased to see that more and more student-athletes are doing that every year,” NCAA president Mark Emmert said in a statement. “The significant academic standards adopted by our membership help us support success in the classroom to the same degree that we support success on the playing fields.”

The four-year average for the programs at the FBS level is 956, the second-lowest of 20 college sports.  The lowest?  The FCS level of football with a 947.

Below are the highest and lowest APR scores for the top seven FBS conferences (membership as of July 1, 2014):

AAC: UCF, 978; Houston, 937
ACC: Duke, 992; North Carolina 938
Big 12: Kansas State, 968; Oklahoma State, 929
Big Ten: Northwestern, 991; Penn State, 954
Mountain West: Boise State and Utah State, 988; UNLV, 925
Pac-12: Stanford, 984; Cal, 938
SEC: Missouri and South Carolina, 980; Tennessee, 932

While the Vols may have the lowest four-year average of the programs in the SEC, UT has undergone a significant academic transformation under Butch Jones, whose focus on the classroom that was vowed last year likely helped his team avoid penalties that could very well have included a postseason ban.  The Vols’ 962 APR for the 2012-13 academic year was the highest one-year mark since the system was implemented nine years ago; last summer, that number was a lowly 924.

And, for those wondering, here’s a handy infographic provided by the NCAA that shows how the annual APR is calculated:

APR Formula

No. 9 Oklahoma runs past No. 10 Oklahoma State, hands Bob Stoops his 10th Big 12 title

Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) passes against Oklahoma State in the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016, in Norman, Okla. (AP Photo/Alonzo Adams)
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Bob Stoops won’t be adding to his playoff resume this season, but yet another notch to his conference pedigree will be added.

Through the first two quarters of rain-drenched play, No. 9 Oklahoma and No. 9 Oklahoma State slogged their way to a dead-even tie in the 111th Bedlam matchup.  The second half was another matter entirely, however, as the Sooners literally ran past the Cowboy en route to a 38-20 Bedlam win in Norman.

In the first half, OU was held to just 40 yards on 19 carries.  They had 76 yards on the ground on their first drive of the second half as the Sooners pounded out a whopping 301 yards rushing the last two quarters, no doubt in part compensating for the loss of All-American wide receiver Dede Westbrook to a head injury in the first half.

Samaje Perine led all rushers with 239 yards on 37 carries.  It was a backfield stablemate, however, that delivered the backbreaker.

Trailing 31-20 early in the fourth quarter, OSU drove down inside the OU 25-yard line and had the opportunity to make it a one-score game with a field goal.  Senior Ben Grogan, though, missed from 38 yards out; on the very next play from scrimmage, Joe Mixon ripped of a 79-yard touchdown run that essentially sealed the win.

It was the longest run of his career for Mixon, who finished with 99 yards on the ground.

Baker Mayfield did work through the air, too, as the quarterback passed for 288 yards and three touchdowns.

With the win, OU staked is claim to an undisputed Big 12 title and finished unbeaten in conference play for the first time since 2004.  This is Stoops’ 10th career conference championship since coming to the Sooners in 1999; no other program has more than two titles since Stoops set up shop in Norman.

Stoops moved to within four of tying Bud Wilkinson‘s career record of 14 Big 8 championships. He needs three more to tie Nebraska’s Tom Osborne‘s 13 Big 8/12 titles, and two more to tie the dozen of another Sooner coaching legend, Barry Switzer.

The win also means that Oklahoma will play in the Sugar Bowl Jan. 2.  OU will, more than likely, face Florida in the game.  OSU, meanwhile, will probably meet Colorado at the Alamo Bowl.

WKU outlasts La Tech in record-setting Conference USA championship game

BOWLING GREEN, KY - DECEMBER 03: Anthony Wales #20 of the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers dives in the end zone for a touchdown as L'Jarius Sneed #24 of the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs attempts the stop at Houchens-Smith Stadium on December 3, 2016 in Champaign, Illinois. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
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Western Kentucky (10-3) became the second program in Conference USA history to win back-to-back conference championship games on Saturday with a wild offensive shootout against Louisiana Tech (8-5), 58-44. Hilltoppers quarterback Mike White passed for 403 yards and four touchdowns and Anthony Wales led things on the ground with 194 rushing yards and three scores to push the home team past the Bulldogs.

Offenses for both teams were locked in from the start, with over 1,100 combined yards of offense. Louisiana Tech quarterback Ryan Higgins passed for 507 yards and three touchdowns, but Western Kentucky used a more balanced approach and had an advantage on the ground to help overcome three turnover sin the game. Wales carried the football 35 times for Western Kentucky and was a workhorse for them from start to finish, with the final touchdown of the game ultimately delivering the knockout punch to Louisiana Tech, who would throw an interception on their final possession.

With 102 combined points, Western Kentucky and Louisiana Tech set a new combined points record for an FBS conference championship game. The previous record was 101 points, which was done twice. Wisconsin and Nebraska scored 101 point sin the 2012 Big Ten championship game (won by Wisconsin, 70-31) and Auburn and Missouri matched that point total the following season in the SEC Championship Game (won by Auburn, 59-42).

Coming into the game, Louisiana Tech head coach Skip Holtz made it a point to say his team could not give up big plays if they were to get a win. Needless to say, that did not work out in his favor in this one.

The last time a school won back-to-back Conference USA championships was in 2008 and 2009 when East Carolina won consecutive titles. Perhaps in a bit of irony, Holtz was the coach of those ECU teams.

The future of the Western Kentucky program will be something to keep a close eye on. Head coach Jeff Brohm has been linked to various coaching rumors, most noticeably with the Purdue vacancy in the Big Ten. He has certainly proven worthy of being a hot name in the coaching carousel after coaching Western Kentucky to back-too-back 10-win seasons for the first time in program history.

For now, bowl destinations will have to be settled.

Temple claims first conference championship since 1967; likely sends WMU to Cotton Bowl

ANNAPOLIS, MD - DECEMBER 03: Marshall Ellick #10 of the Temple Owls (R) celebrates with Adonis Jennings #17 after catching a first half touchdown pass against the Navy Midshipmen during the AAC Championship game at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium on December 3, 2016 in Annapolis, Maryland.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
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The Temple Owls (10-3) did their part to make the job a little bit easier for the College Football Playoff’s selection committee in the next 24 hours. A 34-10 victory in the American Athletic Conference championship game in Annapolis against No. 19 Navy (9-3) will more than likely mean MAC champion Western Michigan will be heading to the Cotton Bowl as the highest-ranked Group of Five conference champion. For the Owls, it is the first conference championship in program history since 1967, and just the second conference crown for the Owls.

Temple took care of business in the first half by scoring touchdowns on each of their first three offensive possessions to go up 21-0, stunning the home Navy crowd in the process while key Midshipmen went down with injuries. Starting quarterback Will Worth was among those lost for the day in the first half, while Temple’s Phillip Walker was tossing two touchdown completions with great confidence; one 22-yard pass to Ventell Bryant and a 56-yard deep ball to Keith Kirkwood. Jahad Thomas ran in the first touchdown of the day for the Owls on the opening drive of the game.

For the first time in program history, Temple has won 10 games in a season in back-to-back years. This also marks Temple’s conference championship game victory, a year after playing in the first AAC Championship Game last season as East Division champion on the road against Houston. Perhaps the experience of last season came into play, as did the experience of playing Army in the season opener (which Temple lost). If he has not already, expect Temple head coach Matt Rhule to start hearing his name in a few more rumors and his phone to be a bit more busy as the coaching carousel continues to spin.

Temple is not expected to essentially come out of nowhere to pass an undefeated Western Michigan with three losses on their record, so the Owls will be first in line among the AAC programs to slot into bowl games with conference affiliations this season. A slot in the Miami Beach Bowl would be a nice reward, but a chance to play an ACC opponent in the Military Bowl may also be an option. That would mean returning to Annapolis for a second straight game in Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.

Navy already had a spot in the bowl  lineup reserved due to an association with the Armed Forces Bowl. The bowl invitation has already been represented but the Naval Academy was wise to hold off on accepting it until known whether or not a bigger bowl game could be on the horizon. That will not happen this year, as Navy is eliminated from the Group of Five New Years six conversation with the loss to Temple. So Navy will be heading to the Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth, Texas on December 23. Their opponent is contracted to come from the Big 12, but that spot could be open if the Big 12 cannot fill all of its bowl spots. North Texas could benefit from such a situation, and having a team from Texas would be an ideal alternative for the bowl game. Navy still has one more game to play though, as they play rival Army in the annual Army-Navy Game next weekend in Baltimore. Considering some of the injuries that came into play Saturday, Navy’s health should be a concern with a rested Army coming up next week.

Oregon has reportedly met with Bryan Harsin, Willie Taggart

SAN DIEGO, CA - DECEMBER 23:  Head coach Brian Harsin of the Boise State Broncos coaches during a game against Northern Illinois Huskies in the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl on December 23, 2015 at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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It appears Oregon’s search for a new head coach is beginning to heat up.

According to John Canzano of The Oregonian, athletic director Rob Mullens set up shop in Texas Thursday and is directing the search from Dallas.  The reason for that is Mullens is on the College Football Playoff selection committee and that’s where they will be performing their duties on the final weekend of the 2016 regular season.

Per Canzano, Mullens interviewed USF’s Willie Taggart the same night he arrived in Dallas. “Taggart fulfills the State of Oregon’s ‘Rooney Rule’ law for head coach hires by public universities,” Canzano noted.  In confirming the Taggart report, FOXSports.com‘s Bruce Feldman also reported that Boise State’s Bryan Harsin has interviewed as well.

It has been expected that Mullens will talk to Western Michigan’s P.J. Fleck at some point; however, Canzano writes, ” there’s some internal concern in Eugene that there’s a lot of sizzle and not enough steak to the act.” Still, Fleck has not been ruled out as an option.

It’s also been rumored that mega-booster Phil Knight, who will be intimately involved in the search, is enamored with Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano.

Regardless of who ultimately replaces Mark Helfrich, it’s thought that the position could be filled as soon as this coming Tuesday.