Pac 12, Big 12 heavyweight battles will help frame BCS picture

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So you say the weeknight college football action has been kind of lame this season? Well then this is the Thursday night you have been waiting all year for, and it was worth the wait. Tonight will feature two of the biggest games of the year in the Pac 12 and Big 12, and the conference championship picture in each should come in to focus at the end of the night. But what about the BCS picture? Well, that could start to clear up a little bit or end up getting a little more complicated.

With Oregon (8-0, 5-0 Pac 12), Stanford (7-1, 5-1 Pac 12) and  Baylor (7-0, 4-0 Big 12) all ranked in the BCS top ten and in action, this Thursday night will pack plenty of punch to provide an alternative to whatever the NFL has to offer.

Stanford vs. Oregon

This is the biggest game between Oregon and Stanford since, well, last year. Once again, the top two teams in the Pac 12 will square off in a Pac 12 North battle that will likely determine which school gets home field advantage in the Pac 12 championship game. The winner also remains in the BCS championship picture while the loser may have to settle for a trip to the Rose Bowl. Quite the consolation prize though, right? Stanford scored an overtime victory in Eugene last season to shatter Oregon’s BCS championship dreams. Can they do it again?

There are only a handful of teams in the country that play a style of defense that should be able to slow down Oregon’s high-scoring offense. Alabama and Florida State may have it. So does Stanford. The Cardinal may play the best defense there is in the Pac 12, but even they will have to bring a strong performance at home to slow down the Ducks. Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota is currently in a two-man race for the Heisman Trophy with Florida State’s Jameis Winston, but a strong performance at Stanford could help him pull back ahead after Winston has seized the momentum. Will Mariota have a Heisman moment?

Stanford’s defense will be the biggest factor in this game. If they can tame the Ducks and let Tyler Gaffney lead the Stanford ground game to control the clock, the Cardinal will be in good shape. Stanford has already thrown a brick wall at some potent offenses this season — Arizona State, Washington, UCLA — and they play confident when they face Oregon. Oregon’s last game against UCLA showed they can be contained but it is difficult to keep them down for long, and points can come in a hurry.

The road team has won this match-up each of the past two years, with home field advantage in the Pac 12 championship game going to the winner each time. The stakes are as high as they can get for the Pac 12 considering a spot in the BCS championship game is still on the line as well. A win likely nudges Orgeon past Florida State, and Stanford is the best one-loss team in the country according to the BCS standings.

Baylor vs. Oklahoma

For as good as Baylor has been under Art Briles, the Bears may still be looking for the win that puts them over the edge from very good to Big 12 team to beat. On Thursday night, Baylor will get that opportunity that has been building over the last few years in Waco. Baylor is battling a stigma that suggests the Bears are all about the offense and little else. That may not be true though. While the Bears offense is on record pace this season, the defense has allowed just 13.9 points per game. Is this Baylor defense the most unheralded defensive unit in the country? They could very well be.

Only two teams have scored more than 14 points against Baylor (Kansas Sate, West Virginia), although it is fair to argue their opponents have not been all that outstanding. Still, Baylor ranks sixth in the nation ins scoring defense. The Bears are also fourth in the Big 12 in rushing defense and first against the pass (sixth in the country), which may be a bit surprising considering teams often have to try catching up by throwing more often to attempt to keep pace Baylor offense. On Thursday night the Bears look for their best win of the season when they host Oklahoma, a one loss team still in the discussion for a Big 12 championship and one that could start to build a case as the best one-loss team in the country if things fall in to place.

But the story here is Baylor. If Ohio State was left at the rest stop on the BCS highway, Baylor never made it out of the driveway. But that could change in a hurry. Yes, Baylor likely still needs some help given the strength of schedule to this point, but the Bears have a back-loaded conference schedule that will see games against three currently ranked teams (Oklahoma, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State) and another with a winning record (Texas) in addition to a rivalry game against struggling but defensively sound TCU on a neutral field. With players like Bryce Petty and Lache Seastrunk on offense and a defense that has played better than given credit for, maybe this Baylor team still has some tricks to show off.

 

North Dakota State takes No. 1 seed in FCS Playoffs

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The playoff field is set for the FCS Playoffs. Defending national champion and No. 1 North Dakota State took the top seed overall but will face a challenging bracket if the Bison are to claim another national title this year.

As the top seed, North Dakota State will own home-field advantage in the Fargo Dome for as long as they are in the playoffs, with the exception of a possible national title game appearance, which will be played in Frisco, Texas on January 5. North Dakota State’s portion of the bracket includes No. 4 seed Kennesaw State (who was the No. 2 team in the FCS top 25) and last year’s national title runners-up from James Madison. The Dukes were not seeded in this year’s tournament with a record of 8-3, but they are always to be considered a dangerous opponent this time of year.

A handful of teams ended playoff droughts with this year’s bracket. East Tennessee State is making its first playoff appearance since 1996, ending the longest drought among this year’s playoff teams. Delaware and Southeast Missouri State are each back in the playoff for the first time since 2010. The field also includes three first-time playoff teams; Incarnate Word, Lamar, and UC Davis.

The FCS Playoffs begin next weekend.

Michigan’s Berkley Edwards tweets he has been released from hospital after nasty hit

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Michigan running back and special teams player Berkley Edwards was carted off the field on a stretcher in the fourth quarter at Michigan Stadium on Saturday in a scary scene that paused the game for roughly 10 minutes. The morning after the Wolverines beat Indiana, however, there is good news to report on Edwards. Edwards shared an update on his Twitter account to tell his followers and Michigan fans he has been released from the hospital and he is OK.

“Just got out the hospital,” Edwards said. “[E]verything is good!”

Edwards followed that up to say he did not see the Indiana player who hit him (Cam Jones, who was ejected for the hit) and his head is still hurting a bit.

It is unknown at this time what the status of Edwards will be for Michigan’s regular-season finale at Ohio State this week. The winner of the Michigan-Ohio State game will play in the Big Ten Championship Game as the East Division champion.

Reports say Texas State will not bring Everett Withers back in 2019

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Send another coach through the coaching carousel. Multiple reports on Sunday say Texas State will move on from Everett Withers after this season. Football Scoop and The Athletic each reported news of the coaching change for the program.

According to Football Scoop, as reported by College Football Talk contributor Zach Barnett, Withers will not coach for Texas State this week in the regular season finale against Arkansas State.

Withers was hired by Texas State prior to the 2016 season to replace Dennis Franchione. Texas State had back-to-back 2-10 seasons in his first two years on the job and the Bobcats are just 3-8 this season with one game remaining. This will be the fourth straight season Texas State has had no more than four wins (and it could be a fourth straight year with no more than three wins).

The former James Madison head coach will likely manage to find a job somewhere on a coaching staff, even if not as a head coach. Texas State is now looking for its third head coach since jumping up from the FCS to the FBS in 2012.

UCF moves up to No. 8 in AP Top 25, Army makes first appearance since 1996

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After arguably the biggest weekend in UCF football history, the Knights are now enjoying their highest ranking in the AP Top 25 of the season and second-highest ranking in program history. UCF moved up to No. 8 in this week’s AP Top 25 poll as they finally managed to jump ahead fo a couple of power conference programs that have been standing in the way the past few weeks.

Alabama claimed all 61 first-place votes from the AP voters this week. The top-ranked Crimson Tide are followed by Clemson, Notre Dame, Michigan, Georgia, and Oklahoma as there were no changes in the top six. No. 7 Washington State, UCF, and LSU all took advantage of No. 12 West Virginia falling five spots after a loss at Oklahoma State.

UCF moved into a tie with LSU for the No. 8 spot in the ranking this week, but the Knights have officially moved ahead of Ohio State. The Buckeyes slipped to No. 10, dropping one spot.

Army is also making some headlines in the AP Top 25 by appearing in the ranking for the first time since 1996. Army cracked the Ap Top 25 at No. 23 to be in the AP Top 25 for just the third time since 1985.

Here is this week’s AP Top 25:

1. Alabama (61)
2. Clemson
3. Notre Dame
4. Michigan
5. Georgia
6. Oklahoma
7. Washington State
8. (tie) UCF
8. (tie) LSU
10. Ohio State
11. Texas
12. West Virginia
13. Florida
14. Utah State
15. Penn State
16. Washington
17. Kentucky
18. Utah
19. Syracuse
20. Northwestern
21. Boise State
22. Mississippi State
23. Army
24. Pittsburgh
25. Iowa State