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Defense leads McCaffrey-less No. 18 Stanford past North Carolina in Sun Bowl

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Who needs Christian McCaffrey? Or a starting quarterback for that matter? Playing without its regular backfield battery, No. 18 Stanford used a standout effort from running back Bryce Love and a relentless defense to hold off North Carolina 25-23 in an overcast Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas.

Keller Chryst started the game at quarterback and, after a three-and-out and a UNC touchdown to open the game, put Stanford on the board with a 49-yard snatch-and-dash toss to Love. After a Tar Heels punt, Chryst maneuvered Stanford to within scoring territory before he was forced to leave the game after injuring his right knee on an 8-yard scramble. Conrad Ukropina put Stanford on top with a 44-yard field goal with 14:13 to play in the first half.

The Cardinal eventually pushed the lead to 16-7 thanks to a defense that stifled North Carolina’s offense. Playing in perhaps his final college game before a possible first-round selection in this spring’s NFL Draft, Stanford forced Mitch Trubisky into an interception inside his own territory and a fumble inside his own red zone. Nick Weiler, hero of the Florida State win, added to the misery when he missed a 51-yard field goal, leading to Ukropina’s third field goal of the game (with one miss mixed in) to push the Cardinal lead to nine.

North Carolina responded with its best offensive stretch of the day, moving a combined 123 yards over 17 plays to secure a 37-yard Weiler field goal and a 5-yard Jordon Brown rush, staking the Heels to a 17-16 lead with 2:09 to play in the third quarter. But Stanford got Trubisky one last time, taking as Dallas Lloyd claimed his second interception of the day and returned it untouched for a 19-yard pick-six at the 14:13 mark of the fourth quarter. Ryan Burns, playing for Chryst, saw his 2-point pass fall incomplete, forcing Stanford to live with a 22-17 lead. Burns managed the offense and produced just enough points for the win, completing 6-of-11 passes for 86 yards without a turnover. (Chryst left the game with 86 passing yards, 14 rushing yards and a touchdown.) Love rushed 22 times for a game-high 115 yards with a 49-yard touchdown reception.

The Heels moved 35 yards on a would-be go-ahead possession before punting, and Stanford put together a vintage Stanford (10-3) drive, consuming more than seven minutes to run 12 plays. But Stanford, un-Stanford-like fashion, could not push the ball across the goal line, settling for Ukropina’s fourth field goal of the day instead.

North Carolina (8-5) took the field at its own 25 with an eternity — 3:23, to be exact — and all three of its timeouts, needing a touchdown and a 2-point conversion to force a 25-25 tie, but could not gain a first down. Trubisky completed a pass to Ryan Switzer for no gain on first down, threw incomplete on second down and was sacked by Solomon Thomas on third down, forcing a punt with exactly two minutes remaining.

The Cardinal killed only ten seconds on three Love runs — with a third down one puzzlingly going out of bounds — but a 56-yard Jake Bailey punt pinned North Carolina at its own three with 1:34 and one timeout remaining. That inability to cross the line once, either to score the game-winning touchdown or a game-ending first down one drive later, proved costly. Given new life, Trubisky moved North Carolina 97 yards in one minute, as Trubisky scrambled to his right and found Bug Howard opened in the left side of the end zone for a 2-yard touchdown that traveled about 40 through the air.

Needing a 2-point conversion to extend the game, Trubisky again scrambled to his right but was swallowed by Thomas and a host of Cardinal defenders.

Stanford recovered the ensuing onside kick and expired the final 25 seconds to hold on for the win. In what may be his final on-field audition for the NFL, Trubisky finished 23-of-39 passing for 280 yards with two touchdowns and three turnovers (one a pick-six).

With the win, the first of the post-Christian McCaffrey era on the Farm, Stanford secured its second consecutive 10-win season and top-20 season, its fifth such season in six tries under David Shaw and its sixth double-digit, top-20 season in the last seven years dating back to the Jim Harbaugh era.

Penn State K Joey Julius no longer with the team

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Joey Julius was everyone’s favorite kickoff specialist last season. Sadly, he won’t be your favorite kickoff specialist in 2017.

At Big Ten media days on Monday, the Nittany Lions unveiled their 2017 roster and Julius was not on it.

Listed at 5-foot-10, 258 pounds, Julius announced in May he would seek treatment for an eating disorder.

“I have been struggling over the last couple months with my eating disorder,” he announced at the time. “It got to the point where I had to return to St. Louis to seek further treatment at the McCallum place. Recovery is a wonderful and beautiful thing that I am working on returning too.”

Julius handled 93 kickoffs for the 2016 Big Ten champions, averaging 62.1 yards per kick with 45 touchbacks. His kickoff average ranked 47th nationally, and his 48.4 touchback percentage was 40th in FBS. Julius made 10-of-12 field goals and 20-of-24 extra points in 2015 before ceding the job to Tyler Davis last season.

 

Urban Meyer on College Football Playoff loss to Clemson: That ship has sailed, it’s gone

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Ohio State may have won the inaugural College Football Playoff national championship, but its most recent trip to the postseason tournament was not nearly as much fun. The Buckeyes were blanked by eventual national champion Clemson, 31-0. Asked whether or not that plays into the mental approach to the upcoming 2017 season, Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer suggested that loss is no longer thought about.

“That ship has sailed. It’s gone,” Meyer said. “Professionally, it changed how we do some business on offense, and we’re moving forward.”

Ohio State has added former Indiana head coach Kevin Wilson as offensive coordinator, with Meyer noting that Wilson is the first offensive coordinator to be brought into Meyer’s program as a head coach (all others have been promoted from within). Meyer acknowledged that more of the offensive management has been put in the hands of Wilson, which supports the thought that things have changed with the offense in 2017.

Ohio State is a heavy favorite among media members covering the Big Ten to win the conference this season, and the Buckeyes will likely be viewed as a playoff contender. Regardless, how last season ended has to leave an empty feeling that needs to be fulfilled this fall, whether Meyer wants to use it as fuel or not.

“It’s the back of everyone’s mind,” Meyer said. “Whether I use that in training camp or not is to be determined.”

Jim Delany announces Big Ten’s new six-year deal with ESPN and FOX; BTN heading to Hulu and YouTube

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As the Big Ten opened up its media day event in Chicago, commissioner Jim Delany brought with him an announcement regarding the future of the conference’s television package. Delany announced the Big Ten has reached a deal on a restructured television package with broadcast partners ESPN, FOX and CBS Sports (for basketball) and an extended deal with Big Ten Network that runs through 2032. And he had more to share a swell.

The exact terms of this new deal have not been disclosed at this time, but it would stand to reason the Big Ten will continue to turn a nice profit through their deals with both ESPN and FOX (and CBS Sports for basketball).

But Big Ten Network president Mark Silverman had some other news to share as well.

In addition to a new six-year contract with ESPN and FOX for regular season coverage of football (and FOX with the Big Ten Championship Game), Delany also announced the Big Ten Network will be heading to Hulu and YouTube TV, making the network more accessible to those consumers who continue to cut the cord on their TV providers. While there are still plenty of cable subscribers available to reach and the majority of TV viewers are still using cable to watch their TV, the trends are more and more leaning toward the cord-cutting methods.

Big Ten Network will be adding a handful of former Big Ten stars to its football coverage; James Laurinaitis, Braylon Edwards, and Corey Wootton. Big Ten Network, now in its 10th year of operation since launching as the first conference-branded network, will also be creating content for regional sports outlets, like an Ohio State show on SportsTime Ohio. The BTN will also work with ESPN to air a special series following new Minnesota head coach P.J. Fleck and BTN’s Big Ten Elite program will chronicle the 2016 Big Ten champions, Penn State.

Report: Wisconsin and Notre Dame discussing Soldier Field series

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Notre Dame and Wisconsin have not met on the football field since 1964, but that drought in the series could come to an end in the somewhat near future. The Chicago Tribune reports the two schools are discussing plans for a potential football series that would be played in Chicago’s Soldier Field, home of the NFL’s Chicago Bears.

Why Soldier Field? Why not?

Notre Dame last played in Soldier Field in 2012 when they played Miami as part of Notre Dame’s Shamrock Series of games traveling around the country. The Shamrock Series has also made stops in San Antonio, New York, Arlington, Indianapolis, and Boston. There is no Shamrock Series game in 2017, but it is expected to return in 2018 (playing Navy in San Diego). Notre Dame has never lost a game in Soldier Field. Wisconsin has also played in Soldier Field. In 2011, the Badgers dominated Northern Illinois.

Of course, the contrarian view here wonders why two programs with fantastic football environment s would want to abandon their locales in Madison and South Bend to play a game in Chicago. The obvious answers here are that it is easier to schedule one game on a neutral field and it tends to be more financially motivated to do so. Until an agreement is announced, it is just speculation to suggest both Notre Dame and Wisconsin will receive a nice paycheck out of playing in Soldier Field once or twice (or more).

Ideally, having Wisconsin and Notre Dame agree to a home-and-home deal would be the way to go, or a three-year deal with a home-and-home series and a neutral site game in Chicago. But we’ll just have to wait and see

Soldier Field hosted a 2015 Big Ten game between Northwestern and Illinois and the Illini are going to be hosting USF in Soldier Field in 2018.

From a Big Ten scheduling standpoint, a game against Notre Dame would satisfy Wisconsin’s non-conference scheduling requirement to include a game against another power conference program in whatever season or seasons the Irish appear on the schedule. Wisconsin currently satisfies that scheduling requirement in 2018 and 2020-2025. The non-conference schedule is full in 2019, meaning the Badgers need a road game against USF or a home game against Central Michigan or North Texas to be given approval from the Big Ten (or work out a deal to slide Notre Dame into that schedule. Notre Dame currently has a schedule vacancy on September 7, 2019, which is when Wisconsin is scheduled to play Central Michigan, but the Irish have a full 12-game schedule in place for the 2019 season.

The bottom line is whenever this scheduling arrangement is announced, it may not be happening until 2020 at the earliest.