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CFT Previews: The Pac-12

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The Pac-12 may be, pound for pound, the deepest conference in college football. And that’s the problem.

A conference with nine good teams and zero great ones creates a thrilling week-to-week product, and a weak one when it comes to reaching the College Football Playoff. As we saw last season.

With no generational quarterback around to run the conference, 2016 shapes up more like 2015 than 2014.

NORTH
1. Washington (7-6, 4-5 Pac-12):
Most often, the off-season hype is wrong, fodder for the sake of fodder to get us through the long night that is the off-season. I don’t think this is one of those times. The Huskies don’t have Christian McCaffrey, but they have the best defense in the league, the best quarterback in the division and a coaching staff good enough to win the whole damn league.

2. Stanford (12-2, 8-1 Pac-12): It feels like a sign of disrespect to pick against the machine David Shaw helped build, and then maintain and elevate after Jim Harbaugh‘s departure. Especially when they have the game’s sharpest Swiss Army knife. Come to think of it, why are they No. 2 again?

3. Oregon (9-4, 7-2 Pac-12): The Ducks can score on anybody. The question: can they stop anyone? Not even new defensive coordinator Brady Hoke is sure of that answer.

4. Washington State (9-4, 6-3 Pac-12): Last year was a grand success for Wazzu. The Cougars won nine games, claimed twice as many Pac-12 games as they lost and stayed in the divisional race deep into the season. Another season like 2015 would be an even grander one.

5. California (8-5, 4-5 Pac-12): As we saw Friday night, Davis Webb may be the only thing standing between this team and an empty December.

6. Oregon State (2-10, 0-9 Pac-12): Poor, poor Gary Andersen. He leaves one of college football’s most stable winners for one of its heftiest rebuilds. Check back in 2018.

SOUTH
1. UCLA (8-5, 5-4 Pac-12): Jim Mora is the only coach to recruit on the same level as USC in the Pac-12 South. And USC has the nation’s most difficult schedule. Add in that plus Josh Rosen and you get yet another Pac-12 title game loss for the Bruins.

2. Utah (10-3, 6-3 Pac-12): Utah won more total games than any team in the Pac-12 South last season, they shared the division championship with USC and they have the best offensive and defensive lines in the conference. So, why aren’t I picking them? In the Pac-12, always side with quarterbacks.

3. USC (8-6, 6-3 Pac-12): The most talented overall roster in the conference, but the worst schedule in the nation. Alabama, Stanford, Utah, Washington and UCLA on the road, plus Oregon and Notre Dame coming to the Coliseum? Yikes.

4. Arizona (7-6, 3-6 Pac-12): Arizona won’t win the Pac-12 South as they did in 2014. But they won’t be as snake bit as they were last season, either. Eight wins, with four of five coming in conference play, feels right.

5. Colorado (4-9, 1-8 Pac-12): If you want to wow your friends with your brave prognostications, make it this: Colorado will play in a bowl game this fall.

6. Arizona State (6-7, 4-5 Pac-12): Todd Graham had better hope this (entirely worthless) prediction doesn’t come true. After back-to-back 10-win seasons in 2013-14, falling to last place in the division would scratch the trigger finger of Sun Devils AD and former NFL executive Ray Anderson something fierce.

Boise State-Fresno State MWC championship game set

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Entering Week 12, just one of the nine FBS conference championship games, the ACC, had been set.  As of now, there’s a second one.

Both Boise State (6-0) and Fresno State (5-1) with a firm grip on the MWC’s Mountain and West divisions, respectively.  All BSU needed was for, among other things, 5-1 Wyoming to lose one of its last two games, while FSU needed at least one win to stave off San Diego State.

Saturday, any potential Week 13 drama for either team ended in one fell swoop as Fresno beat Wyoming 13-7 in Laramie.  That result means that the Broncos and Bulldogs will square off in the MWC championship game Dec. 2.

That game will serve as a rematch as both teams close out the regular season against each other next weekend.  The winner of that matchup will likely play host to the title game.  Officially, however, this is how the host site will be determined:

Boise State is currently ranked No. 25 in the most recent College Football Playoff Rankings. If the Broncos are ranked in the CFP poll on Tuesday, November 21 and defeat Fresno State on Saturday, November 25, the 2017 MW Football Championship Game will be held in Boise. If Boise State were to fall out of the CFP poll on Tuesday, November 21 or lose on November 25 to Fresno State, the site would be determined by composite computer rankings and announced on Sunday, November 26.

The Broncos and Bulldogs met in the 2014 MWC championship game, a 28-14 win for Boise.

Scott Frost calls report that he’s close to deal with Nebraska ‘completely false’

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The Scott Frost-to-Nebraska train has shown no signs of slowing down.  In fact, it’s gaining speed.

Frost, the former NU quarterback, has been mentioned prominently as a potential replacement for Mike Riley if/when he’s fired as the Cornhuskers’ head coach.  Given his connection to Lincoln and his success at his current job — he has UCF at 10-0 heading into the regular-season finale — the speculation makes perfect sense.

Overnight, that speculation heated up significantly as Lars Anderson of Bleacher Report tweeted that Frost and his alma mater are nearing an agreement on a seven-year, $35 million contract, with Anderson labeling the two sides as “close” on the deal.

Following UCF’s 45-19 win over Temple that kept the Knights perfect on the season, Frost, at least publicly, dismissed the report.

“That is completely false,” Frost said according to the Lincoln Journal-Star. “I can promise you no deal has been made.”

Of course, those into semantics, being what they are, would suggest that Anderson never reported that a deal has been made.  He merely stated that he’s hearing a deal is close, so Frost’s response was essentially an answer to a question that wasn’t posed.

Regardless, Frost’s name will continue to pop-up in connection to the potential Nebraska opening, and the opening at Florida for that matter until those jobs are filled by someone other than Frost — if one’s not filled by Frost, at least.

After slow start, No. 7 Georgia holds halftime lead over Kentucky between the hedges

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After getting throttled on the Plains of Auburn last week for their first loss, everybody wondered how No. 7 Georgia would respond as they went back home for an emotional-filled Senior Day.

Despite a slow start, it turns out the Bulldogs are doing okay on that front and look to be well on their way to bouncing back against an overmatched Kentucky squad in taking a 21-6 lead into halftime on Saturday afternoon.

UGA quarterback Jake Fromm threw an interception on the team’s opening series but rebounded to finish the half with 108 yards and a score through the air. As is typical, he was mostly handing off to his two big tailbacks in Nick Chubb (31 yards and a TD) and Sony Michel (68 yards, one touchdown), but did toss his 17th touchdown pass of the season on a beautiful pass to set a new school record for freshman quarterbacks.

A key point for the offense came late in the first quarter when punter Cameron Nizialek, a Ray Guy Award semifinalist, drew a roughing the kicker penalty to extend the team’s second offensive possession.  One of Kentucky’s best defenders, safety Mike Edwards, went out a few plays later with a hip injury (he later returned) and the Bulldogs took advantage of all the stars aligning by having Chubb punch in a touchdown to cap off a 75-yard drive.

Defensively, the team was pretty solid even when factoring in having to guard against an extra possession. They limited the Wildcats to just 140 yards on offense and contained dangerous runner Benny Snell to just 33 yards on the ground as well. UK wasn’t too shabby themselves on defense outside of the scoring drive late in the first quarter but seemed to start loosening up as the clock kept ticking.

While the college football slate isn’t the best in this window of games, credit to both sides in this one for at least keeping things somewhat close and interesting. Kentucky still has some hope to pull off the upset despite the home team holding the two-score lead going into the break at halftime.

Justin Motlow becomes first Seminole Tribe member to score a TD for Florida State

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It may have come in a blowout against a vastly-overmatched opponent, but this is pretty damn cool nonetheless.

Per Florida State’s official website, the grandmother of Justin Motlow is 100-percent Seminole Indian, while Motlow himself is 25-percent.  In 2014, Motlow accepted a preferred walk-on spot at FSU, becoming the first Seminole Tribe of Florida member to play football for the Seminoles.

In the fourth quarter of FSU’s 77-6 blowout of FCS Delaware State, Motlow caught a 12-yard touchdown pass from J.J. Cosentino.  Obviously, Motlow became the first Seminole Tribe member to score a touchdown for the ‘Noles, with the football program ensuring that the football Motlow caught finds a very special home.