Houston Cougars

Getty Images

Two weeks from Championship Saturday, here are all of the division-clinching scenarios

1 Comment

Unbelievably, we’re down to the penultimate full weekend of the 2017 season. And, with that, races for divisional and conference championships are both heating up and winding down — or, in a handful of cases, already settled.

Below is how each of the 10 leagues stands with just two Saturdays remaining before championship weekend.

AAC EAST
The winner of the Nov. 24 USF (6-1) at UCF (6-0) game will win the division, regardless of what happens in UCF’s game against Temple at noon today.

AAC WEST
Memphis (5-1) beat Houston (4-2) in mid-October. Memphis clinches the division with a win in either today’s game against SMU or East Carolina in the regular-season finale, regardless of what Houston does. Houston needs for Memphis to lose both of those games, plus win their final two games Tulane and Navy.

ACC ATLANTIC
Clemson has already clinched the division.

ACC COASTAL
Miami has already clinched the division.

BIG 12
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 essentially 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.

There’s also the possibility that all four teams finish at 6-3, getting there by way of OSU, TCU and WVU winning out.  In such a scenario, Oklahoma and TCU would play for the Big 12 title by virtue of a 2-1 record against the foursome.  At 1-2, Oklahoma State and West Virginia would be eliminated.

BIG TEN EAST
If Ohio State beats Illinois AND Michigan loses to Wisconsin today, the Buckeyes will win the division. If that doesn’t happen, the B1G East race will play out in Week 13. Courtesy of the Big Ten Network, below are all of the scenarios heading into Week 12:

Ohio State (6-1): Win vs. Illinois AND Michigan loss at Wisconsin OR win final two games (vs. Illinois; at Michigan).
Michigan (5-2): Win final two games (at Wisconsin; vs. Ohio State) AND Michigan State and Penn State lose one game.
Michigan State (5-2): Win final two games (vs. Maryland; at Rutgers) AND Ohio State loses final two games.
Penn State (5-2): Win final two games (vs. Nebraska; at Maryland) AND Ohio State loses final two games AND Michigan State loses a game.

BIG TEN WEST
Wisconsin has already clinched the division.

CONFERENCE USA EAST
Florida Atlantic (6-0) clinches the division with a win over Florida International (4-2) later today OR with a win over Charlotte in Week 13 even with a loss to FIU. FIU needs to beat FAU AND Western Kentucky AND have FAU lose to Charlotte as well.

CONFERENCE USA WEST
North Texas has already clinched the division.

MAC EAST
Akron and Ohio are both 5-2, but the Zips beat the Bobcats this past Tuesday night. Thus, Akron wins the division with either a Week 13 win over Kent State OR an Ohio loss to Buffalo. Ohio, meanwhile, needs to win next week AND have Akron lose.

MAC WEST
Toledo (6-1) and Northern Illinois (6-1) are left standing, with Toledo beating NIU in the first week of November. So, Toledo wins the West with either a win over Western Michigan OR an NIU loss. Northern Illinois needs to beat Central Michigan AND have Toledo lose to WMU at home to win the division.

MWC MOUNTAIN
Boise State (6-0) beat Wyoming (5-1) Oct. 21. Thus, Boise State wins the Mountain division if it wins its last two games (vs. Air Force, at Fresno State) regardless of what Wyoming does; if it wins one game regardless of what Wyoming does; if it loses its last two games and Wyoming does the same. Conversely, Wyoming needs to win its last two games (vs. Fresno State, at San Jose State) while Boise State loses its last two.

MWC WEST
Fresno State (5-1) beat San Diego State (4-2) Oct. 21. Thus, Fresno State wins the West division if it wins its last two games (at Wyoming, vs. Boise State) regardless of what San Diego State does; if it wins one game regardless of what San Diego State does; if it loses its last two games and San Diego State does the same. Conversely, San Diego State needs to win its last two games (vs. Nevada, vs. New Mexico) while Fresno State loses its last two.

PAC-12 NORTH
And now we come to the somewhat convoluted portion of the program. Stanford and Washington State are both 6-2, while Washington is 5-2. Stanford has beaten Washington but lost to Wazzu, while the Apple Cup awaits next Saturday. So, off we go with how each team can win the division.

Stanford: win vs. Cal in Week 12 AND Washington State loss to Washington in Week 13.
Washington: win vs. Utah in Week 12 AND win vs. Washington State in Week 13 AND Stanford loss to Cal in Week 12.
Washington State: win vs. Washington in Week 13 OR losses by Washington AND Stanford in Week 12.

And, if all three teams finish 6-3? Washington, by virtue of its record in divisional games — 4-1, compared to 3-2 for the others — would get the nod.

PAC-12 SOUTH
USC has already clinched the division

SEC EAST
Georgia has already clinched the division

SEC WEST
This one is really simple: the winner of the Alabama-Auburn Iron Bowl next Saturday will clinch the division.

SUN BELT
There’s Pac-12 North convoluted, then there’s SBC convoluted. Entering Week 12, this conference has four teams with just one loss apiece — Troy, Georgia State and Appalachian State at 5-1, Arkansas State at 4-1. To make matters even worse, there has been just one game played between the four — Troy beat Georgia State — and just two in the remaining three weeks of the season — Troy vs. Arkansas State, Georgia State vs. Appalachian State. Things will become (a little) clearer after Week 12 play for the only FBS league that doesn’t have a league game to determine a champion.

Notre Dame tandem headlines six Outland Trophy semifinalists

Getty Images
Leave a comment

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.

Alabama’s Minkah Fitzpatrick, Iowa’s Josey Jewell among Nagurski Trophy finalists

Getty Images
1 Comment

Another day, another award has released its group of finalists.

The latest to do this particular deed is the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, which on Wednesday announced its five finalists for its 2017 award.  Those five finalists include North Carolina State defensive end Bradley Chubb, Alabama safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, Iowa middle linebacker Josey Jewell, Houston defensive tackle Ed Oliver and Georgia outside linebacker Roquan Smith.

The Nagurski Trophy, given out annually since 1993, is awarded to the nation’s best defensive player regardless of position.  The 2016 winner was Alabama defensive end Jonathan Allen.

Below is a rundown of each of the five finalists, courtesy of the Football Writers Association of American:

Bradley Chubb, DE, NC State (6-4, 275, Sr., Marietta, Ga.): Chubb leads the FBS in tackles for loss this season for the Wolfpack (7-3). Of his 23.5 tackles for loss (for minus-98 yards), 10 have been sacks for 66 yards in losses. He has 62 total tackles, nine quarterback hurries, three forced fumbles, two passes broken up and a blocked kick. Chubb joins linebacker Levar Fisher (2000) as the only Wolfpack players to earn a Nagurski finalist nod.

Minkah Fitzpatrick, S, Alabama (6-1, 202, Jr., Old Bridge, N.J.): The leader of the defensive backfield for the unbeaten Crimson Tide (10-0), Fitzpatrick has made 44 total tackles, collected 5.5 tackles for 25 yards in losses, including 1.5 sacks for 15 yards in losses. In addition, he has intercepted a pass, broken up six passes, hurried the quarterback three times, forced a fumble and blocked a kick. Alabama ranks eighth in the country in fewest passing yards allowed per game (167 ypg). Fitzpatrick is the 11th Alabama player to be a Nagurski finalist, including last year’s recipient Jonathan Allen. The Crimson Tide has had a finalist now in each of the last seven seasons.

Josey Jewell, MLB, Iowa (6-2, 236, Sr., Decorah, Iowa): Jewell is fourth in the country in total tackles (104) for the Hawkeyes (6-4). He has registered 9.5 tackles for 39 yards in losses (including 2.5 sacks for 24 yards in losses). He has chipped in an interception (and returned it 33 yards) and added five passes broken up, three quarterback hurries, one fumble recovery and one forced fumble. Jewell is the second Iowa player to be named a Nagurski finalist, joining linebacker Pat Angerer in 2009.

Ed Oliver, DT, Houston (6-3, 290, So., Houston, Texas): A second-team FWAA All-American in 2016, Oliver followed up his freshman season with another fine year. He has 53 total tackles for the Cougars (6-3). Of those, he has 10 tackles for 39 yards in losses (with 2.5 sacks for 13 yards in losses), three passes broken up, seven quarterback hurries, one fumble recovery, two forced fumbles and one blocked kick. Oliver is the first Houston player to earn a Nagurski finalist accolade.

Roquan Smith, OLB, Georgia (6-1, 225, Jr., Montezuma, Ga.): The leading tackler for the Bulldogs (9-1), Smith has made 82 total tackles this season. He has 4.5 tackles for loss, including 2.5 sacks for 14 yards in losses. He also has broken up two passes, hurried the quarterback 10 times and forced a fumble. Georgia ranks fifth in the FBS in total defense, giving up just 277.5 yards per game. Smith is the fifth Georgia player to be named a Nagurski finalist, joining 1998 recipient Champ Bailey and two-time finalist David Pollack (2002, ‘04).

Houston ends No. 17 USF’s unbeaten season on late TD

Associated Press
Leave a comment

And then there was one.

No. 17 South Florida entered Week Nine as one of two undefeated Group of Five teams.  Thanks to Houston’s last-minute 28-24 win Saturday evening, UCF is now the lone remaining G5 unbeaten.

Tied at 14-all at the start of the fourth quarter, the two teams traded a pair of touchdowns as the game remained tied midway through the final period.  An Emilio Nadelman 30-yard field goal with 1:46 remaining gave the Bulls the lead.

However, the ensuing nine-play, 46-yard drive by the Cougars, set up by Brandon McDowell‘s 50-yard kickoff return, was capped by D'Eriq King‘s 20-yard scoring run that served as the game-winning touchdown.

With the win, UH moves to 3-2 in AAC play, tied with Navy for third in the West behind Memphis (4-1) and SMU (3-1).  USF (4-1) and UCF (4-0) remain the class of the East — UConn is third at 2-3 — and are still on track for a regular-season finale that will likely determine that division’s representative in the conference championship game.

Dislocated elbow likely to sideline Houston’s second-leading rusher for rest of regular season

Getty Images
2 Comments

Houston’s one-two running back combo has been cut in half.

Monday, Major Applewhite revealed that Dillon Birden would be sidelined “for a while” because of an elbow injury sustained in the third quarter of Houston’s Week 8 loss to Memphis.  Wednesday, the head coach further clarified that the back is likely out for the remainder of the regular season with a dislocated elbow.

Left unstated is whether Birden would be able to play in a bowl game.

Birden is currently second on the team with 333 yards rushing and four rushing touchdowns.  Duke Catalon leads the Cougars in both categories — 496 in the former, seven in the latter.