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Great American Upset: Navy torpedoes No. 6 Houston’s playoff hopes, 46-40

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Navy (4-1, 3-0 AAC) scored 17 points off three turnovers by No. 6 Houston (5-1, 2-1 AAC) and wore down the Cougars defense with their signature triple-option offense in a 46-40 upset that could be a game-changer in the Group of Five conversation. The result also likely sinks Houston’s playoff hopes.

Houston’s chance to potentially tie the game likely slipped out of the end zone just as the football being snapped to the punter got by him and out the back of the end zone, awarding Navy a free two points with just under six minutes to play. The safety gave Navy a 10-point lead. Special teams cost Houston on a fourth quarter touchdown when an extra point attempt was blocked, giving the Midshipmen an eight-point lead.

Navy seemed to take the upper hand in the third quarter, however, with a touchdown on their first possession of the half. Houston fumbled away the opening possession of the half when Greg Ward Jr. lost the ball while being sacked, setting Navy up at the Houston 41-yard line. Will Worth tossed a 17-yard touchdown to Daryll Bonner to give Navy a 27-20 lead. Houston’s next offensive series ended quickly when Josiah Powell intercepted a pass from Ward and ran 34 yards for another touchdown.

With a 14-point lead, Navy could set the pace for the remainder of the game, but they were not done scoring. Navy would score one more touchdown and then pick up the two points on the botched Houston punt. Houston came up with a tough fourth down stand with under six minutes to play, but could do nothing with the football before the punt team had their costly mistake.

Navy’s Worth rushed for 116 yards and a score and completed three of his five pass attempts for 76 yards and two more scores. Houston’s Ward ended his day with

It had been a long time since Navy won a game against a top 10 team at home in Annapolis. The last time it happened was November 17, 1984 when they stunned No. 2 South Carolina, 38-21.

Make no mistake about it. This loss is a tough pill to swallow for Houston if the goal was reaching the College Football Playoff. It may not necessarily be a knockout punch for the playoff, but it leaves Houston in need of quite a bit of help around the country in addition to the need to run the table the rest of the season (including a home date against Louisville). Each season has a different story play out, but if one loss can be enough to take a power conference team out of the playoff picture, it puts a Group of Five team further back in the rearview mirror. Even one as good as Houston. But what if Houston does run the table and does win the AAC? What if Oklahoma wins the Big 12 with a 10-2 record, which includes a loss to Houston? Well, maybe Houston isn’t quite out of the picture just yet. It may be a reach, but Houston is not quite buried just yet.

But for now, Houston will still need help just to play for the AAC championship, and Navy shows no reason to believe they may let up in conference play. The Midshipmen are now 3-0 in the AAC and own the crucial head-to-head tiebreaker with Houston. Navy still has some conference challenges ahead of them (vs. Memphis, @ USF, vs. Tulsa), but Navy is now has a stake in controlling how the AAC West plays out, along with Memphis and Tulsa. Houston does not.

In fact, Navy is now in position to start thinking how they can be the Group of Five team playing in the New Years Six. With San Diego State going down last week, Navy now climbs the ladder past Houston and arguably closer to undefeated Boise state.

Navy will look to keep this run going next week on the road against East Carolina. Meanwhile, Houston will look to take out their frustrations on Tulsa next Saturday evening at home.

UNC and Minnesota line up future home-and-home deal

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While one football series between an ACC and Big Ten team may be hard to come by, North Carolina and Minnesota have put together a future home-and-home scheduling agreement to look forward to. The Tar Heels and Gophers will meet for the first time on the football field in 2023 and follow up with a second game in 2024, the schools announced on Wednesday.

North Carolina will host Minnesota on Sept. 16, 2023. The two schools will then open the 2024 season at Minnesota, either on August 31, 2024 or for a Thursday opener on August 29, 2024.

The ACC and Big Ten each require their members to play one game against another power conference opponent each season. North Carolina already satisfied that requirement in 2024 with a season-opener against South Carolina scheduled to be played in Charlotte, NC, but the 2024 game fulfills the power conference scheduling requirement for the Tar Heels. The home-and-home series will also satisfy Minnesota’s obligation to the Big Ten scheduling policy for both seasons (Minnesota is getting an exemption for 2018 and 2019 due to previous scheduling arrangements being in place prior to the Big Ten’s stance on strength of schedule in non-conference play.

Pitt leaves renewal of football series in Penn State’s hands

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Ever since the in-state rivalry between Penn State and Pitt came to a temporary end in 2001, it has been a struggle to get the two schools back on the field for any stretch of time. With the third in a four-game series upcoming this fall, Pitt is hoping to find a way to continue playing the Nittany Lions on future schedules, but the offer is now apparently in Penn State’s hands awaiting a response.

Pitt athletic director Heather Lyke told reporters Wednesday she has proposed a four-year series beginning in 2026 to her Penn State counterpart, Sandy Barbour, but Penn State has not responded to the offer.

“We’re going to wait a tad more patiently, but not much,” Lyke said, according to Trib Live. “We can’t. We have people who want to play us and good opportunities to play what would be a very attractive game.”

The four-game series currently ongoing between the Panthers and Nittany Lions comes to a close after their meeting in the 2019 season in Happy Valley. According to FBSchedules.com, Penn State will not have another opening for a non-conference game until 2021. That is also the first season Pitt will have scheduling availability for non-conference matchups. Both schools already have power conference opponents lined up through 2025 as well, perhaps eliminating the desire to add another power conference opponent to the schedule.

Both Penn State and Pitt have scheduling requirements for non-conference play from the Big Ten and ACC, respectively, to include at least one game against another power conference opponent. It seems like a natural solution for Penn State and Pitt to agree to a long-term scheduling commitment to satisfy their respective conferences’ scheduling requirements, but the old issue has always come down to the financial incentive of a game. With Penn State playing in a larger stadium, it would be losing out on potential revenue that could be gained by an extra home game when possible. And playing road games at Pittsburgh only helps another program in the state by filling the seats more than any other home game on Pitt’s schedules in just about any season (Notre Dame and West Virginia would be other candidates to help Pitt fill Heinz Field).

It took so long just to get the two schools together for a two-year series, which was later expanded to a four-year arrangement. Don’t count on this in-state rivalry being renewed for quite some time after the 2019 season.

QB Blake Barnett reportedly transferring from Arizona State

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Quarterback Blake Barnett is now on the graduate transfer market. According to Bruce Feldman of Sports Illustrated, via Twitter, Barnett will find a new program to wrap up his college football career as a graduate transfer. South Florida is reportedly set to get an official visit from the former Sun Devils and Alabama quarterback.

Barnett started his football career at Alabama, where he sat out the 2015 season as a freshman. During his redshirt freshman in 2016, Barnett appeared in just three games as Jalen Hurts rose to become Alabama’s starting quarterback that would lead the Tide for the next two seasons (until halftime of last season’s national championship game). Barnett transferred to Arizona State, leaving behind a seemingly tumultuous relationship with Nick Saban, and played in just two games for the Sun Devils last fall, while Manny Wilkins established himself as the quarterback for former head coach Todd Graham.

A former four-star recruit out of high school, Barnett has played in just five games and completed 14 of 24 pass attempts for 259 yards and two touchdowns with an interception. Barnett’s latest transfer news comes a day after former UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen took a swipe at Barnett, who was ranked ahead of Rosen in various recruiting rankings out of high school.

“Blake Barnett was the Elite 11 MVP,” Rosen said, per SEC Country. “He was the dude that was going to go to ‘Bama, win a couple championships, call it quits and go to the league as the first overall pick. You don’t really hear about him too much.”

As a graduate transfer, Barnett will be eligible to play immediately this fall.

Transferring BYU QB Kody Wilstead finds new home at Kansas JUCO

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With eight quarterbacks on the roster, Kody Wilstead opted to leave the Cougars in mid-March.  A little over a month later, Wilstead has found a new home, albeit a little further down on the college football ladder.

According to the Deseret News, Wilstead has signed to play at Coffeyville Community College in Kansas.  As Coffeyville is a junior college, the quarterback will be eligible to play immediately in 2018.

It’s expected that Wilstead will spend at least one season at the JUCO level before looking at making a move back up to the FBS.

Wilstead, a three-star 2015 signee, took a redshirt as a true freshman last season after serving an LDS mission the previous two years.

After Wilstead’s departure, the seven remaining Cougar signal-callers are, in alphabetical order, Stacy ConnerJoe CritchlowHayden GriffittsBeau HogeTanner MangumBaylor Romney and Zach Wilson. Mangum, last year’s starter, is recovering from an Achilles tendon injury he suffered in November of last year but remains on track to return for the start of summer camp in August.