James Franklin

Coaches at Penn State and Pitt trying to reignite the rivalry


Penn State and Pittsburgh used to play every season, but once the two programs went their separate ways by joining the Big East (Pitt) and Big Ten (Penn State), it has been a struggle to get the two programs to see eye-to-eye when it came to scheduling any future games. Much of the tension stemmed from the days of Joe Paterno leading the Penn State program and demanding an extra home game in any scheduling arrangement with Pittsburgh, but that is best left for historians to dig deeper into today. Penn State and Pittsburgh have a four-game series lined up for 2016 through 2019. If it was up to the head coaches of both programs today, the series would continue on an annual basis.

The topic of power conference opponents scheduling other power conference opponents has become an increasingly relevant topic with the emphasis shifting on strength of schedule in the College Football Playoff era. With Pitt also needing to fulfill a non-conference scheduling requirement to schedule an opponent from another power conference opponent each season under the ACC’s new guidelines, it would seem only natural for the Panthers to explore the revival of past annual rivalries against either West Virginia or Penn State.

Pittsburgh head coach Paul Chryst was asked about historic and regional rivals Penn State and West Virginia this week while moving through the ESPN car wash. In what may come as a bit of a surprise, Chryst told Brett McMurphy of ESPN he would prefer to see an annual match-up with Penn State instead of West Virginia if he had to choose between the two. Penn State head coach James Franklin appears to be on the same page, telling McMurphy today on his run through the ESPN media gauntlet he would support seeing an annual series with the Panthers.

What needs to happen before this can actually become an annual tradition in the Keystone State? There may not be a whole lot that needs to fall into place, although Penn State playign a nine-game schedule in the Big Ten moving forward while the ACC sticks to an eight-game schedule will present many of the same problems faced with reviving the Backyard Brawl between Pittsburgh and West Virginia. In the end, Penn State’s desire to assure an extra home game on the schedule could resurface in a different capacity by ensuring Penn State has seven home games at a minimum for years to come.

With new leadership in place at both schools compared to the late 1980s and early 1990s, perhaps getting these two in-state rivals back together for the long term could be a more realistic possibility.

Penn State and Pittsburgh last played in 2000. The two schools agreed to a two-game series in 2016 and 2017 and later agreed to extend the series by two more games through 2019. Penn State leads the all-time series, 44-41-4.

Big plays for Oklahoma leading to Bedlam Beatdown in Stillwater

Sterling Shepard, Dede Westbrook
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Big plays have been the key to a big first half for No. 3 Oklahoma in Stillwater. A 59-yard kickoff return to the Oklahoma State four-yard line set up Oklahoma’s first touchdown of a wild first half, and running backs Samaje Perine (68 yards) and Joe Mixon (66 yards) have ripped off long touchdown runs against No. 11 Oklahoma State and the Sooners hold a 44-20 lead on their in-state rivals at halftime.

Oklahoma’s first three touchdown drives all needed four plays or fewer, but the Sooners also showed it could work a drive and finish it off with a score as well. The Sooners put together a 12-play drive spanning 80 yards, with Baker Mayfield capping things off with a five-yard touchdown pass to Dimitri Flowers. Mayfield connected earlier with Sterling Shepard. Oklahoma State’s lone touchdown of the half came on a J.W. Walsh touchdown pass to Jhajuan Seales from 26 yards out. Walsh got the start instead of an injured Mason Rudolph. Rudolph sprained his ankle, but he did enter the game late in the first half as the Cowboys attempted to spark the passing game. Walsh was 13-of-19 for 133 yards and a touchdown before Rudolph entered the game. It did not go so well, as Rudolph was picked off by Jordan Thomas, who returned the interception 32 yards for a touchdown, giving Oklahoma a commanding 35-10 lead.

Just how bad of a half was this for Oklahoma State? It turns out it was the worst first half in over a decade.

Whichever team wins this game will be awarded the Big 12 championship. That was made clear when Baylor was upset by TCU last night in soggy Fort Worth, Texas. For Oklahoma, a win also likely secures a spot in the College Football Playoff despite being off next week. Oklahoma State may need a few more bounces to go their way given the most recent standings, but it would certainly be within reach if the Cowboys can beattle back to grab the win. Stopping Oklahoma’s offense to makr that happen may not be easy though given how the firts half played out.

Temple takes out UConn, will take on Houston for AAC title

PHILADELPHIA, PA - NOVEMBER 28: P.J. Walker #11 of the Temple Owls hands the ball off to Jahad Thomas #5 in the first quarter against the Connecticut Huskies on November 28, 2015 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
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The final matchup for the Group of Five conferences’ championship games is officially set.

Needing a win against UConn to wrap up the AAC East, Temple went out and did just that, with the Owls closing out a very successful and historic 2015 regular season with an impressive 27-3 win over the Huskies.  A loss to UConn by Temple would’ve handed the East division to USF.

As has been the case most of the season, it was the Owls’ defense that was the star of the show as the visiting Huskies were limited to 138 yards of offense.  Putting an exclamation point on the defensive dominance, UConn averaged a meager .3 yards on 26 carries.

Now, 10-2 Temple will have a week to prepare for 11-1 West division winner Houston in the first-ever AAC championship game.  Because of the Cougars’ conference record, the game, which will very likely determine the Group of Five’s New Year’s Six bowl bid, will be played on UH’s on-campus home field.

Temple will be looking for the football program’s first conference title since claiming the Middle Atlantic crown way back in 1967.  Already, though, the Owls’ 10-win season is just the second in school history, with the first coming in 1979.  With two more wins, the owls could get to 12 wins on the season; the previous three seasons, they won a total of 12 games.

Defense the story of the half for Seminoles and Gators

Sean Maguire, Bryan Cox

No. 12 Florida is already locked into playing for the SEC championship next week, but any thought of potentially playing in the College Football Playoff could be in some serious danger at home. At halftime in Gainesville, the Gators are trailing rival No. 13 Florida State 10-0 and struggling to keep drives alive.

Both teams have played well on defense, as demonstrated by the combined third-down conversion success between the two offenses. Florida has converted just three of 10 third-down attempts, while Florida State has gone without a third-down conversion despite having seven tries. The Seminoles did convert a fourth down play, and it was a big one.

Sean Maguire had one of those “no, no, no, yes!” moments midway through the first quarter. On fourth and goal from the one-yard line, Maguire rolled right and looked for an open receiver. As he ran out of room on the right side of the field, he threw against his body to a covered Jeremy Kerr in the end zone and somehow managed to thread a needle for a touchdown. The score lifted the Seminoles to a 10-0 lead.

Florida  was dealt a scare in the final minutes of the half. Running back Kelvin Taylor needed to be helped off the field after appearing to injure his left ankle. He returned after missing just a couple of plays for the Gators.

Cardinal, Irish trade late offensive punches in tight first half

PALO ALTO, CA - NOVEMBER 28:  Christian McCaffrey #5 of the Stanford Cardinal runs with the ball against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Stanford Stadium on November 28, 2015 in Palo Alto, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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In a contest that’s essentially a play-in game for a continuing chance at the College Football Playoff, both Notre Dame and Stanford are slugging it out like they’re aware of exactly what’s on the line.

Through a quarter and a half of play, the defensive talent was evident on both sides of the ball; the last half-quarter, though, both offenses awoke as the Cardinal has taken a 21-20 lead on the Irish heading into the halftime locker room.  Trailing 14-13 and having seen a pair of drives stall inside the Cardinal 10-yard line, the Irish eschewed another red zone opportunity to squander as DeShone Kizer hit Will Fuller on a pretty 73-yard touchdown pass with 2:15 left in the second quarter to give them a 20-14 lead.

The Cardinal, meanwhile, scored on its first two possessions of the game, with both touchdowns coming off the arm of senior quarterback Kevin Hogan.  While those first two drives netted 153 yards of offense, the next two totaled all of 24 yards and ended with a pair of punts.  The Cardinal’s possession after the late Irish touchdown began at their own 25 and ended with the third Hogan touchdown pass of the half, accounting for the 21-20 halftime score.

The Domers actually had the opportunity to add at least three more points after that, but a Kizer fumble near the Cardinal 20-yard line that was recovered by Stanford wasted another scoring opportunity for the Irish.

C.J. Sanders‘ 93-yard kick return was the Irish’s first score of the game.  Justin Yoon kicked a pair of field goals at the end of the drives that petered out in the red zone.

In addition to the three touchdowns, Hogan has thrown for a game-high 180 yards.  Heisman candidate Christian McCaffrey totaled 137 all-purpose yards — 55 rushing, 23 receiving, 59 on kick returns.