WHO: 8-4 Notre Dame vs. 6-6 Rutgers (AAC)
WHAT: New Era Pinstripe Bowl (4th Year)
WHERE: Yankee Stadium in New York, New York
WHEN: Dec. 28 at 12:00 p.m.
WHY: A year ago Notre Dame was preparing for the BCS championship game against Alabama in Miami. This is quite a different bowl season for the Irish, as Notre Dame is looking to cap off an 8-4 season with a win over Rutgers in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl. The stakes, of course, are considerably lower this time around, but don’t expect head coach Brian Kelly to take it any less seriously. The Irish are also in a state of flux with assistant coaches leaving to take head coaching gigs elsewhere.
Rutgers has taken their lumps in their one and only season in the American this year. The Scarlet Knights clinched bowl eligibility in the final game of the season with a 31-6 victory over South Florida, which snapped a three-game losing streak that saw Rutgers score 17 points in each game and lose by double digits to put their postseason eligibility in doubt. Rutgers has struggled in turnover margin all season long as well, ranked 118th in the nation in turnover margin per game. Quarterback Gary Nova has been intercepted 14 times, but Chas Dodd will be the quarterback leading the offense in this one.
Notre Dame quarterback Tommy Rees will be the big name to watch in this one, as you just never really know what you are going to get out of him. Rees has been up and down all season long and is capable of looking done before coming out of nowhere with a late scoring drive before halftime to turn the momentum at the right time. Notre Dame’s defense though should have little trouble slowing down this Rutgers offense. Look for the Irish to attack early and bring plenty of pressure on Dodd while Rees and the offense find some opportunities to tack on points.
PREDICTION: Notre Dame 37, Rutgers 20
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 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.
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.
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)
3. Notre Dame
7. Washington State
8. (tie) UCF
8. (tie) LSU
10. Ohio State
12. West Virginia
14. Utah State
15. Penn State
21. Boise State
22. Mississippi State
25. Iowa State