Pair of pick sixes helps Herd thunder past Purdue

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Say this for Austin Appleby: outside those times he was intercepted, the Purdue quarterback played a pretty good game. Problem is, he was intercepted four times and two of them went back for touchdowns, providing the margin necessary for Marshall to register a come-from-behind 41-31 victory on Sunday afternoon.

After accepting the opening kickoff, Purdue’s very first snap from scrimmage was an Appleby pass immediately snared by Tiquan Lang and returned 30 yards for a touchdown. Appleby settled down from there – for the most part – over the course of the first half, tossing a nine-yard touchdown to Danny Anthrop (while in the process of stiff-arming a Marshall defender) and plunging in for a one-yard score, allowing the Boilermakers to take a 21-17 lead to the locker room.

Marshall’s Michael Birdsong put the Herd back on top to open the second half, firing a one-yard scoring strike to Ryan Yuracheck as the punctuator to a nine-play, 71-yard drive. Purdue regained the lead midway through the third on a 36-yard Markell Jones jaunt and held that edge until the game’s final three minutes. Trailing 31-27, Birdsong led Marshall on an efficient 11-play, 84-yard march, handling most of the drive himself before handing to Devon Johnson for a twisting six-yard score to give Marshall a 34-31 edge with 2:50 to go.

On the ensuing drive, Appleby led Purdue to its own 40 before a downfield toss was intercepted by Lang, again, who raced the rock 55 yards for the clinching score with 1:20 remaining. Appleby was intercepted again for good measure just five plays later, ending any delusion of a comeback with 27 ticks remaining.

For the day, Appleby was 31-of-48 for 270 yards (plus 12 rushing) for those two touchdowns to go with his four interceptions. The Boilermakers moved the ball more effectively than Marshall, edging the Thundering Herd on the ground (D.J. Knox and Jones combined for 174 yards and two scores on 34 attempts) and through the air while maintaing a 28-20 edge in first downs and a 10-4 advantage in third down conversions. The Purdue defense even forced three turnovers of its own. But it’s hard to win, especially on the road, while handing the opponent 17 points in the forms of two pick sixes and a missed field goal.

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For Doc Holliday and company, Sunday’s win was a grand way to begin the post-Rakeem Cato era. Birdsong connected on 23-of-36 throws for 234 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. Johnson added 11 carries for 89 yards and a score. Before a sellout crowd of 38,000-plus, the Herd recorded their 20th win in 22 tries dating back to November of 2013 – and first ever over a Big Ten opponent.

The loss sends Purdue careening on an opposite trajectory. The program has now lost 21 of 25 games under head coach Darrell Hazell. Sunday’s loss was also Purdue’s sixth straight road non-conference setback, a streak dating back to 2007.

Akron earns second-ever spot in MAC championship game

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Akron came into Week 13 needing to either win or rely on someone else to lose.  In the end, the Zips decided to just go ahead and punch their own ticket to the Motor City, thank you very much.

Jumping out to a 24-7 halftime lead Tuesday night, that margin proved to be more than enough for Akron as they easily cruised past rival Kent State in a 24-14 win.  Kent actually outgained its hosts 246-191, but a fumble return for a touchdown with less than 20 seconds left in the second quarter essentially sealed the win for Akron.

Both Akron and Ohio entered this week tied atop the MAC East at 5-2.  However, the Zips beat the Bobcats in Week 12, meaning Akron is the first MAC team to claim a spot in the conference championship game at Detroit’s Ford Field next weekend.

This will mark the Zips’s second-ever title-game appearance, with the first coming in 2005.  That season, Akron beat Northern Illinois 31-30 for its first-ever conference championship.

Akron will play either NIU (6-1) or Toledo (6-1) in this year’s title game, although it’s trending heavily toward the Rockets as they own the head-to-head with the Huskies.  So, the possibilities?

Toledo wins the West with either a win over Western Michigan OR an NIU loss. Northern Illinois needs to beat Central Michigan AND have Toledo lose to WMU at home to win the division.

Report: Florida appears ready to move on from Chip Kelly pursuit if deal isn’t consummated soon

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Florida’s search for a new head coach could very shortly be ready to take another twist.

Despite a certain former Head Ball Coach saying UF’s new head coach would be a current one, speculation on Jim McElwain‘s replacement has seemingly centered on Chip Kelly over the last few days. In fact, a group of UF officials headed by athletic director Scott Stricklin and president Kent Fuchs visited with Kelly in New Hampshire over the weekend to discuss the job.

While it walks, talks and smells like the university has targeted Kelly as its top choice, it appears they want an answer, one way or the other, from the former Oregon head coach sooner rather than later. From Yahoo! SportsPat Forde:

But with other potential candidates becoming available for discussion this weekend, Florida officials appear to be ready to move on shortly after Thanksgiving if a deal has not been struck with Kelly.

Potentially mucking up the works in Gainesville is UCLA, which fired Jim Mora Sunday and is also said to be targeting Kelly as a replacement.  In fact, it’s being reported that the Bruins’ search contingent has already met with Kelly.

UCF’s Scott Frost, who is believed to be Nebraska’s top choice when/when it moves on from Mike Riley, and Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen are thought to be likely targets should either Kelly snub the Gators or they move on.

One very likely reason for UF’s reported urgency for a decision from Kelly is the revamped recruiting calendar. This year marks the first time that there’s an early signing period in football, with Class of 2018 recruits given a 72-hour window from Dec. 20-22 to sign their National Letters of Intent.

The sooner UF can wrap up its search, the sooner its new coach and his staff can try to hold together some semblance of a first recruiting class with the program – especially with two SEC programs, Tennessee and Ole Miss, already looking for a head coach while a couple of others (Arkansas, Texas A&M) could be on the hunt as early as this coming weekend as well.

Miami jumps Clemson, Wisconsin remains No. 5 in latest CFP rankings

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The third-to-last edition of the College Football Playoff rankings were released Tuesday night, and the only changes in the top 12 came at spot No. 2, where Miami jumped Clemson ahead of the pair’s ACC title clash on Dec. 2.

USC remained the highest-ranked Pac-12 team at No. 11, dimming any hopes the Pac-12 could back-door its way into the top four should chaos reign elsewhere. The Trojans were one spot ahead of TCU and two spots ahead of the Pac-12’s second-highest ranked team in Washington State. Central Florida again led all Group of 5 teams at No. 15.

Virginia Tech re-joined the rankings at No. 25, one spot behind the debut rankings for South Carolina.

The top 25:

1. Alabama
2. Miami
3. Clemson
4. Oklahoma
5. Wisconsin
6. Auburn
7. Georgia
8. Notre Dame
9. Ohio State
10. Penn State
11. USC
12. TCU
13. Washington State
14. Mississippi State
15. Central Florida
16. Michigan State
17. Washington
18. LSU
19. Oklahoma State
20. Memphis
21. Stanford
22. Northwestern
23. Boise State
24. South Carolina
25. Virginia Tech

Report: LSU victory would not save Kevin Sumlin’s job

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Kevin Sumlin said Tuesday afternoon he expects to be Texas A&M’s head coach in 2018. A report Tuesday night says otherwise.

Sumlin will be fired in the day or days following Saturday’s game with No. 20 LSU, win or lose, according to a report from the Houston Chronicle. The Aggies are 0-5 against LSU under Sumlin and double-digit underdogs for Saturday’s game in Baton Rouge. The Chronicle‘s report is not the first to proclaim Sumlin’s future firing, but it is the most definitive.

Sumlin is 7-4 (4-3 SEC) this season and 51-25 overall, a mark that ranks in the top-third of the SEC since joining the league in 2012 — but Sumlin is not paid to deliver top-third results. His program failed to live up to the standard set in that debut campaign, with an 11-2 mark, a win in Tuscaloosa, a Cotton Bowl blowout of Oklahoma and a Heisman Trophy for Johnny Manziel.

The Chronicle reported that Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher will be A&M’s top target to replace Sumlin.