UCF makes late stand, beats Houston to gain inside track on AAC title

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UCF got 127 yards rushing from Storm Johnson and its defense made a game-saving stand in the final seconds to beat Houston, 19-14, and grab the inside track for the American Athletic Conference title.

The Knights improved to 7-1 and 4-0 in conference and edged closer to its first BCS bowl game. Houston fell to 7-2 and 4-1.

UCF featured a balanced attack, getting 210 passing yards from quarterback Blake Bortles and 188 rushing yards thanks to Johnson and his backup, freshman William Stanback, who had 74 yards and two key TDs on nine carries.

The Knights held a 6-0 lead at the half courtesy of two Shawn Moffitt field goals, but Houston came back to take the lead in the third quarter on a 24-yard touchdown run by quarterback John O’Korn, who also threw for 231 yards and a touchdown on 24 of 46 passing.

Down 7-6, UCF stormed back with a 10-play, 75-yard drive that was aided by a personal foul penalty on Houston before Stanback scored from 15 yards out. The Knights led 13-7 as the fourth quarter dawned, but were pinned down at their own 2-yard line when they got the ball back. No matter — UCF went 98 yards in seven plays, with Stanback going in from 38 yards this time to put his team up, 19-7 (a two-point conversion pass attempt by Bortles failed).

That’s when Houston stormed back. After O’Korn’s pass was intercepted on the ensuing drive, the Knights drove to the Houston 33 and attempted a 50-yard field goal. But it was blocked! O’Korn then drove the Cougars 53 yards in eight plays, culminating in a 12-yard touchdown pass to Wayne Beadle. Suddenly, it was 19-14. The Knights got the ball back with a little over four minutes to play.

Houston’s defense forced a three-and-out and UCF punted the ball away to the Cougar 38-yard line. O’Korn found Kenneth Farrow on completions of six and 22 yards and then hit Deonte Greenberry on a clutch 14-yard pass on third and 10 to set the Cougars up at the UCF 20-yard line. Two rushes produced a first and goal at the 10 and Houston had four plays to get it into the end zone. But the Knights defense stiffened when it mattered and O’Korn’s fourth-down pass sailed over the end line and that was the ball game.

UCF has now beaten Louisville and Houston, which should leave a clear path to the league title. Games against Temple, Rutgers, South Florida and SMU remain, but the Knights would have to lose twice to not get it done and make it to a BCS bowl.

Top 10 stands pat in third edition of CFP rankings

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The third edition of the College Football Playoff rankings were unveiled Tuesday night and the top ten remained exactly the same from a week ago. Such a holding pattern was expected after the entire top 10 won a week ago.

It is the first time in the history of the CFP rankings the top 10 has remained the same from one week to the next.

Most notably, Oklahoma did not fall from No. 6 after being pushed to the limit by 5-4 Oklahoma State at home.

Kentucky was the highest-ranked team to lose, a 24-7 loss at Tennessee, and the Cats fell from No. 11 to No. 17.

UCF moved up to No. 11 and Syracuse to No. 12 ahead of their showdown with the Irish. UCF’s No. 11 ranking is the highest a Group of 5 team has ever appeared in 28 sets of CFP rankings.

Mississippi State remained the highest-ranked 4-loss team, edging out Northwestern at No. 21. Utah State, Cincinnati and Boise State joined the rankings in the final three spots.

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

Oregon grad transfer WR to redshirt, pursue second graduate transfer

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The two major rule changes in college football over the past decade have combined into one on the Oregon wide receiver depth chart.

Oregon wide receiver Tabari Hines, who arrived in Eugene by way of a graduate transfer out of Wake Forest, has announced he will take this season as a redshirt year and pursue a second graduate transfer elsewhere.

“Tabari Hines is not on roster right now,” Oregon head coach Mario Cristobal told The Oregonian.  “He is on the transfer portal. He will use this year to redshirt and transfer out.”

A native of Florence, S.C., Hines signed with Wake Forest as an early enrollee and caught 32 passes for 366 yards, a school record for a true freshman. Hines’s production increased from there, catching 38 balls as a sophomore and 53 as a junior — the most on the team.

However, Hines decided to try his luck elsewhere and left for Oregon, but has caught only three passes for 32 yards and one touchdown, all of them in a 62-14 win over Portland State in September. He has appeared in three games, none since Pac-12 play began.

Given that, Hines will use the new redshirt rule to take a mulligan and now find a third school to play for — or perhaps he realizes the grass wasn’t really greener and returns to Wake Forest.

Virginia Tech loses leading sacker to torn ACL

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Virginia Tech’s embattled defense has taken yet another hit.

Justin Fuente confirmed Monday Houshun Gaines will miss the remainder of Virginia Tech’s 2018 season because of a knee injury.  Defensive coordinator Bud Foster had previously stated that the defensive end had suffered a torn ACL.

Gaines suffered the injury in Saturday’s blowout loss to Pitt.

“House plays extremely hard and will be missed, but he’ll be very quickly on the road to recovery and we look forward to having him out there next year,” the head coach said by way of the Roanoke Times.

The redshirt junior currently leads the Hokies in sacks with 4½, while his five tackles for loss are tied for fourth.

Maryland QB Kasim Hill suffers second torn ACL in last 14 months

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Last September, Kasim Hill‘s season came to a premature end thanks to a torn ACL in his right knee.  During Saturday’s loss to Indiana, Hill suffered what appeared to be a significant injury to his other knee.

In fact, in an Instagram post Monday, the Maryland starting quarterback intimated that it was yet another torn ACL as he alluded to  “attacking the process all over again.”

Tuesday, acting head coach Matt Canada confirmed that Hill had indeed suffered another torn ACL.  Obviously, the sophomore’s season has come to an end.

Hill had started all 10 games under center for the Terrapins this season.  He completed under 50 percent of his 170 passes for nine touchdowns and four interceptions.  His passing efficiency rating of 115.7 is 10th in the Big Ten and 100th nationally.

Sophomore Tyrrell Pigrome is expected to take over for Hill as the Terps’ starting quarterback.