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Texas rallies for crucial win over No. 8 Baylor

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If beating Baylor is a requisite for keeping his job, Charlie Strong may have done just that. Barely.

The Longhorns rallied from eight points down in the fourth quarter, capped by a 39-yard screwball of a Trent Domingue field goal with 46 seconds remaining, to hand No. 8 Baylor its first loss and improve to 4-4 on the season with a 35-34 win. Arriving into Saturday’s game losing four of his last five games, Strong needed to beat Baylor to avoid continuing a streak that has seen every Texas coach since 1951 lose to Baylor in his final season.

Baylor opened up a 7-0 lead but Texas scored 23 of the game’s next 30 points thanks to the Foreman brothers — wide receiver Armanti and running back D’Onta — and some timely defense. The brothers accounted for all 88 yards on the Longhorns’ first touchdown drive to tie the game and, after P.J. Locke snared a tipped interception on the first play of Baylor’s next possession, D'Onta Foreman raced 37 yards to give Texas a 14-7 lead just 3:55 into the game.

After Baylor tied the game on the ensuing possession, Armanti Foreman inadvertently set up Texas’s next score when he fumbled a long completion from Shane Buechele (291 passing yards, two touchdowns) at the 2-yard line. Texas forced a safety by way of a holding call on the next snap, re-claiming the lead at 16-14 at the 8:43 mark of the second quarter, and D’Onta Foreman pushed the advantage to 23-14 with a 9-yard run with 6:35 to play.

The Bears responded by registering four of the game’s next five scores, including a 15-yard strike to K.D. Cannon with just nine seconds left before the break. Baylor took the lead at 28-26 with a 2-yard Terence Williams run at the 8:21 mark of the third quarter, and two Chris Callahan field goals — from 24 and 27 yards, it’s worth noting — nudged the advantage to 34-26 midway through the fourth quarter. Despite rushing for 398 yards on the day, Baylor could not convert a pair of 1st-and-goal situations, and that inability ultimately cost them the game.

Texas marched 79 yards, capped by a 7-yard strike to tight end Andrew Beck, to pull within 34-32 with 7:03 to play, but the Longhorns put the ball in Swoopes’s hands and not Foreman — who entered Saturday as the nation’s second-leading rusher and carried for a career-high 250 yards today. Swoopes was stuffed.

Baylor moved the ball on the ensuing possession from its own 22 to a 1st-and-10 at the UT 29 with 3:47 to play, but lost eight yards on a sack of Seth Russell, a 2-yard loss by running back JaMychal Hasty and an incomplete pass, forcing a punt. Texas traveled 58 yards to set up Domingue’s game-winning field goal and, rather than heave the ball down the field, Baylor attempted to move in position for a game-stealing field goal through a series of Russell designed keepers — despite having only 46 seconds to work with and no timeouts. They didn’t come close.

Sun Belt commissioner Karl Benson frowns upon Group of Five playoff idea

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The chances a team from the Group of Five ever gets selected to play in the College Football Playoff range from slim to none. As such, talk from within the Group of Five has kicked up from time to time, especially over the last year, about a possible Group of Five-only version of the College Football Playoff. The reactions to that idea has been mixed, but add Sun Belt Conference commissioner Karl Benson to the group of people who thinks that idea should be tossed aside.

While attending meetings for the College Football Playoff, Benson told reporters he would prefer to see conference champions from the Group of Five (American, Conference USA, MAC, Mountain West, and Sun Belt) receive better bowl bids instead of playing in a minor version of the College Football Playoff.

It’s time to have a realistic conversation about creating a playoff for the Group of 5,” NIU athletic director Sean Frazier told Brett McMurphy, then of ESPN.com, back in December. “Why not?”

Well, there are a number of reasons. First, not everybody seems to be on board with playing the college football version equivalent of the NIT. Sure, it would be on TV and would get ratings, but the reward at the end of the JV playoff would mean little. Nobody would consider it a national championship. That’s what the FCS is for.

Benson is not alone in his anti-Group of Five playoff stance. MAC commissioner Jon Steinbrecher also has been on record saying he is not interested in such a plan, and he oversaw a member from his conference go undefeated last season and play in the Cotton Bowl (Western Michigan).

My initial reaction is that’s not something I’m interested in,” Steinbrecher said, according to MLive.com in December. “We’re part of the (College Football Playoff) system, and it’s done a lot of very good things for the Mid-American Conference.”

Without the support from two of the Group of Five commissioners (and you can almost be guaranteed you can add Mike Aresco of the American Athletic Conference to the list given the conference’s push to be considered a power conference), this idea is pretty much dead on arrival.

LSU’s Arden Key: I am not sitting out my junior year

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After taking a little time off from the LSU football program this spring, Arden Key calmed the nerves of Tigers fans on Wednesday with a simple message on his Twitter account.

Key announced to his Twitter followers he will be on the field for the Tigers this fall. Back in February, LSU released a statement saying Key would be stepping away from the program “for personal reasons.” What those personal reasons were is unknown, but he did so with the support of head coach Ed Orgeron and the entire football program at the time.

Key earned second-team All-SEC honors last season after leading LSU with 14.5 tackles for loss and 12 sacks, a school record. With news, he would be stepping away from the program and the age of top NFL Draft prospects opting out of bowl games, the mere thought that Key might become the first potential NFL Draft pick the following season sitting out the entire football season was difficult to completely ignore. Fortunately, especially for LSU and not so much for LSU’s opponents, Key is choosing not to break that barrier at this time.

Texas A&M removes WR Kirk Merritt from roster

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After being charged for allegedly exposing himself to tutors at Texas A&M, wide receiver Kirk Merritt is no longer an Aggie. Merritt has been removed from the Texas A&M football program, according to a report from The Eagle. Though there has been no official statement confirming such news, Merritt’s name has been wiped off the team’s online roster.

Merritt pleaded not guilty to a pair of indecent exposure charges against him stemming from an incident last October. Merritt allegedly exposed himself to female academic tutors. Merritt was suspended by Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin a few days after the alleged incidents. The suspension was expanded to indefinite status following Merritt’s arrest on November 8. The suspension has since been lifted after the university’s conduct process wrapped up in January.

It has been a bit of a bumpy year for Merritt. Merritt left Oregon for Texas A&M last summer due to family reasons. He participated in Texas A&M’s spring practices but did not play in the spring game.

Big 12 revenue eclipses $300 million mark

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When it comes to revenues, the SEC and Big Ten continue to set the pace and leave the rest of the competition in the dust. That said, the Big 12 saw a second straight sizable revenue bump, according to recent tax returns.

As reported by USA Today, the Big 12 recorded a revenue of $313 million for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2016 on its tax return. The figure is up roughly $40 million from last year’s revenue, and the conference has now doubled its revenue since the 2012 fiscal year amid conference realignment changes. As for the revenue shares for each Big 12 program, the numbers ranged from $28 million to West Virginia to $28.9 million for Oklahoma. This marked the first time West Virginia and TCU were eligible to receive their full conference revenue shares as Big 12 members.

The biggest reason for the big jump in revenue came from increased bowl revenue. The Big 12 pulled in $114.5 million in bowl revenue in 2016, which was just $74.5 million in 2015. The 2015 season, which was included in the fiscal year outlined by this tax return, saw Oklahoma advance to the College Football Playoff and Oklahoma State be selected to play in a New Years Six bowl game (Sugar Bowl), which led to a larger bowl game distribution for the Big 12. The previous year saw no Big 12 team in the College Football Playoff (TCU, Baylor).

The Big 12 still lags well behind the SEC. Most will, of course. The SEC announced a revenue of $584.2 million for the 2015-2016 fiscal year, with each SEC member receiving a revenue share of $40.4 million. The SEC and Big 12 are the only conference revenue numbers currently on record for the 2015-2016 fiscal year, but expect the Big Ten to be a solid second in the pecking order, with the ACC likely to come in front of the Big 12 and the Pac-12 to be toward the bottom of the pack.

Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby had a pay increase as well. Bowlsby reportedly earned a little more than $2.6 million in 2015, earning more than $70,000 than the previous year.