Sneak Peek: 2013 San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl

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WHO: 8-5 Utah State (MWC) vs. 12-1 Northern Illinois (MAC)

WHAT: San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl (9th year)

WHERE: Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, Calif.

WHEN: Dec. 26 at 9:30 p.m. ET

WHY: Just like Fresno State, Northern Illinois is likely pleased to be a part of the postseason but extremely disappointed over its ultimate destination after what could’ve been.

Thanks to the Bulldogs late-season loss that knocked them from the ranks of the unbeaten, the Huskies were sitting in the driver’s seat for a spot at the BCS table.  All it would’ve taken was a win in the MAC championship game for NIU to bust the BCS for the second consecutive season.  Alas, a 47-27 loss at the hands of Bowling Green ended both the Huskies’ unbeaten season and BCS dreams.

The Poinsettia Bowl will, though, feature the first of the six 2013 Heisman finalists in the postseason in the form of Jordan Lynch.  The NIU quarterback is currently second in the country in rushing with 1,881 yards and tied for third in rushing touchdowns with 22.  Lynch has one 300-yard passing game this season; he’s done that twice rushing, including a 321-yard effort Nov. 26 that is the all-time record for a quarterback at the FBS level.  Lynch will have a tough defensive row to hoe putting up those kind of numbers against Utah State, however.

In the first season under Matt Wells, who took over after Gary Andersen left for Wisconsin, the Aggies are 10th in the country in rushing defense at 107.3 yards per game; Lynch himself ran for at least that many yards in eight of 13 games this year.  Overall, USU is seventh in scoring defense (17.3 points per game) and 12th in total defense (332.1 yards per game).  Conversely, Northern Illinois is fifth in total offense (535.5 ypg) and eighth in scoring offense (41.6 ppg).

USU overcame a 3-4 start to the season — and the loss of All-Everything quarterback Chuckie Keeton — to win the final five games of the regular season and qualify for the Mountain West Championship game as the Mountain Division winner.  Oddly enough, it was Fresno State that put an end to Utah State’s winning streak in that title game and set up the Poinsettia matchup.

PREDICTION: Utah State 27, Northern Illinois 24

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.