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Washington in spotlight as Pac-12’s best playoff hope

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The Big Ten lost a couple of legitimate playoff contenders over the weekend when Ohio State and Penn State each went down with their second loss of the season. That pins the Big Ten’s playoff hopes on an undefeated Wisconsin that has struggled to gain respect so far due to a lackluster strength of schedule. That could change in the coming weeks with games against Michigan and Iowa and, potentially, the Big Ten championship game, but the Big Ten appears to be flirting with missing the playoff for the first time in the brief history of the College Football Playoff.

Out west, the Pac-12 is hoping it can avoid missing the playoff for the second time. The conference is without an undefeated team and Washington is probably the last hope the conference has of making the playoff for a second straight season. As the only one-loss team in the Pac-12, the Huskies have a slim margin for error down the stretch, and they have some rocky games to come.

The Huskies debuted at No. 12 in the initial College Football Playoff rankings last week and were the highest-ranked team from the Pac-12 according to the selection committee. Being 12th is not the most ideal ranking, but far from impossible to reach the playoff if past years are any indication. But it is pretty clear Washington cannot afford a second loss this season. Washington has to go 4-0 in their next four games to make the playoff push, and it will be quite a challenging four-game gauntlet to play through.

It begins this Friday night with a road game against Stanford. The Cardinal have a Heisman Trophy candidate at running back with Bryce Love who is looking to bounce back in a big way after he and the Cardinal were defeated on the road against Washington State. At 8-2 overall and 5-2 in Pac-12 play, those pesky Cougars could also pose a threat to Washington in the Apple Cup if Washington can survive at Stanford and then a home game against Utah. Get through those three games with wins, and Washington will have a chance to make their playoff case in the Pac-12 championship game against a USC team that could potentially enter the conference title game at 10-2. The Trojans would also be looking to make some noise, because after losing to Notre Dame in a blowout the Trojans have taken control of the Pac-12 South. The Trojans were the preseason favorite in the Pac-12 and are on their way to at least playing for the conference title.

If Washington ends the season at 12-1 with the Pac-12 championship, they will have the same record and resume they did a year ago. But the Huskies were the fourth and final team in last year, and this year the competition for the four spots may be even more competitive. To get to the playoff, Washington will very likely have to be 12-1. A second loss would knock them out of the running, and with that could erase the Pac-12 from the playoff entirely.

Washington plays at Stanford on Friday, Nov. 10 at 10:30 p.m. eastern. It should be worth staying up to watch if you are on the east coast.

Starting QB Kenny Hill officially ruled out for TCU vs. Texas Tech

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This certainly makes things interesting.

Earlier this week, Gary Patterson revealed that starting quarterback Kenny Hill and starting linebacker Travin Howard were somewhere between “probable and questionable” for the Week 12 game against Texas Tech in Lubbock.  Both players suffered unspecified injuries in the Week 11 loss to Oklahoma.

Unfortunately for the Horned Frogs, it’s been confirmed that Hill will not play against the Red Raiders.  Additionally, strong safety Niko Small and kicker Jonathan Song have been ruled out as well.

Howard, the team’s leading tackler, will travel to Lubbock but be a game-time decision.

With Hill sidelined, true freshman Shawn Robinson, who has attempted 10 passes in five games this season, will make his first career start in a game that will carry significant weight in the chase for the Big 12 championship tilt.

Unless Oklahoma (6-1), which beat both TCU (5-2) and Oklahoma State (5-2) earlier this season, loses its last two games — ROTFL one of them is against Kansas — the Sooners have all but clinched one of the two spots in the conference title game. TCU needs to either win one of its last two games (at Tech, vs. Baylor) and have OSU lose at least one, or win out regardless of what OSU does in order to claim the other spot. OSU, meanwhile, needs to win out (vs. K-State, vs. Kansas) and have the Horned Frogs lose at least one. West Virginia (5-2), which lost to both TCU and OSU, needs to beat Texas and win at OU while TCU and OSU lose at least one game apiece.

K-Statement: Bill Snyder ‘will remain coach until he decides otherwise’

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Kansas State has responded to the events of Thursday and, wow, what a response.

Early yesterday afternoon, a report surfaced that indicated K-State had a verbal agreement with Jim Leavitt to ultimately take over the football program in place but that arrangement was nixed by legendary current head coach Bill Snyder, who wants his son to take the reins when he steps down. Subsequent to that, Leavitt, the defensive coordinator at Oregon who was an assistant under Snyder at KSU in the nineties, told GoPowercat.com that he has “no desire nor I ever had a desire to be a coach in waiting.”

Not long after, with FootballScoop.com refuting the original report, the Manhattan Mercury confirmed at least a portion of it; however, that newspaper said Snyder nixed the arrangement “because he did not want to commit to a timetable for his own retirement.” Per the original report via Facebook from former ESPN college football insider Brett McMurphy, Leavitt would’ve been paid $3 million if he wasn’t named head coach prior to Jan. 1 of 2018.

Given all of that he-said, he-said drama, the university released a statement that indicates Snyder maintains the autonomy to choose the when of his departure.

As has been the case and stated many times, Coach Snyder is our football coach and will remain coach until he decides otherwise.

Left unsaid is whether Snyder will get to handpick his successor whenever he decides otherwise.

In the past, the 78-year-old Snyder has made it perfectly clear that he wants his son, 48-year-old Wildcats special teams coordinator and associate head coach Sean Snyder, to take over when he steps down for good.

“I have a strong belief, and my preference is Sean,” Snyder said back in July of 2015 when asked his preference for a successor. “He knows more about our football program than anyone. He runs our program. I have great confidence in him.

“It’s easy to say, ‘He’s your son,’ but I don’t wish coaching on anyone.”

“If I were to step down today, I certainly would [recommend Sean for the job],” Snyder said in October of 2012, “I think he’d be absolutely fantastic at it, but I wouldn’t encourage him to take the job.

“I’d rather see him live a more complete life than this.”

The younger Snyder has actually spent more time as part of the K-State football program than his Hall of Fame father, transferring to KSU from Iowa after the 1989 season. The lone exception being 1993, Sean Snyder has been a Wildcats player, football staffer or assistant coach for 27 of the last 28 years. Since 1989, Bill Snyder has spent 26 years as K-State’s head coach, with a three-year sabbatical in the middle of the last decade splitting up his first and second tenures at the school.

Whether that makes him qualified to take over for his dad is a question that will very likely be answered in the coming months.

Tanner Lee on verge of being cleared to play for Nebraska vs. Penn State

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It’s looking more and more likely that Nebraska’s starting quarterback will be available for Week 12. Whether he starts seems to be another matter entirely.

In the second quarter of last Saturday’s embarrassing beatdown at the hands of Minnesota, Tanner Lee suffered a head injury that knocked him out of the game and left him in concussion protocol ever since. With No. 10 Penn State looming this Saturday, all signs are pointing toward Lee being cleared.

“He’s actually going through the protocol and if he does not have a setback as of today — if everything checks out OK after this practice, heading into tomorrow’s walkthrough — he will be cleared to play,” Mike Riley said according to the Lincoln Journal Star.

The embattled head coach stopped short of declaring the redshirt junior would be the starter if cleared, saying that’s something “[w]e’re going to talk about” prior to kickoff.  If Lee doesn’t get the start, those duties would fall to redshirt freshman Patrick O’Brien.

Only two quarterbacks at the FBS level have thrown more interceptions this season than Lee’s 13. On the other hand, his 2,539 yards passing are more than all but three other Big Ten quarterbacks.

Nebraska needs to win its last two games, at No. 10 Penn State and at home against 6-4 Iowa in the Black Friday regular-season finale, to become bowl-eligible.

Notre Dame tandem headlines six Outland Trophy semifinalists

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Suffice to say, Notre Dame will be well-represented when it comes to one particular award.

The Football Writer’s Association of America announced Thursday night its six semifinalists for the 2017 Outland Trophy.  The third-oldest award in college football, the Outland has been handed out annually since 1946 to the best interior lineman in college football on either offense or defense.

This year, there are five offensive linemen and one defensive lineman who can win the award.

Those six semifinalists are Oklahoma offensive tackle Orlando Brown, Notre Dame offensive tackle Mike McGlinchey (pictured), Notre Dame offensive guard Quenton Nelson, Western Michigan offensive tackle Chukwuma Okorafor, Houston defensive tackle Ed Oliver and Ohio State center Billy Price.  That list will be whittled down to three finalists next week.

Last year’s winner was Alabama offensive tackle Cam Robinson.  Offensive linemen have claimed 11 of the last 14 Outlands.