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Pac-12 Heisman hopefuls had a less-than-stellar Week 1

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Coming off a disappointing bowl season, the Pac-12 looked to turn the page and begin 2018 on a high note. As a whole, the conference of champions was 8-4, including a record of 1-2 against power conference opponents. There were some highs and some lows scattered throughout. Among the possible surprising disappointments, this weekend may have been the final box score for Heisman Trophy hopefuls Bryce Love and Khalil Tate.

Love, Stanford’s running back and a Heisman Trophy finalist in 2017, entered the new season as Bovada’s betting favorite to win the Heisman Trophy this fall, with 13/2 odds. After rushing for 2,118 yards and 19 touchdowns last season though, teams will look to clamp down on him a little bit more this season. San Diego State did just that in their Friday night season opener on The Farm. Although Stanford won, 31-10, Love only managed to carry the ball for 29 yards on 18 carries, and he caught three passes for 18 yards. Love, a year after scoring a rushing touchdown in all but one game he played, was held out of the end zone in the season opener. Last year, in a loss to San Diego State, Love rushed for 184 yards and two touchdowns. Is this a sign of what is to come from opposing defenses playing Stanford this season? We’ll see. Next up for Love is a big early-season matchup on national television against USC.

Late last night, against BYU, Arizona’s dynamic QB Khalil Tate (12/1 Heisman odds) ushered in the Kevin Sumlin era with a 28-23 setback at home, and Tate’s final line left room for some improvement as well. Tate completed 17-of-34 passes on an erratic night for 197 yards and one touchdown. He also rushed for 14 yards on eight rushing attempts. It was the lowest rushing total for Tate in his time at Arizona since back-to-back games against Colorado and Oregon State toward the end of the 2016 season as a backup. Credit BYU for not allowing Tate to get in a rhythm, but that was not the kind of performance that Heisman Trophy voters with a ballot may have wanted to stay up late to see.

Washington quarterback Jake Browning (25/1) had the toughest draw among the Pac-12’s top Heisman favorites according to the oddsmakers at the start of the season. Browning had two costly turnovers against a ferocious Auburn defense in Atlanta, and Browning and the Huskies returned home with a tough loss to open the season.

It has only been one week, and even Heisman Trophy winners have been known to have one letdown performance at times, so it would be unwise to rule out Love or Tate in the Heisman picture after just one full weekend of college football. There was a possible bright spot, however, with Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert (30/1) helping Oregon shrug off a slow start against Bowling Green and celebrate a 58-24 win against the Falcons in Eugene. Herbert completed just 10 of his 21 pass attempts for 281 yards and five touchdowns, and he added 41 rushing yards and a touchdown to help overcome his two interceptions thrown.

Among the Pac-12’s finest, Herbert had the best opening weekend as far as the Heisman race is concerned, but this race is barely even just begun. If a Heisman Trophy cannot be won in early September, then it should not be lost in the first full weekend of college football either.

MWC, Sun Belt commissioners join AAC in starting to stump for Group of Five bid

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Most of the political world may be focused on the upcoming Democratic debates this month but for a slice of the college football world, no debate looms larger than the one concerning who gets the automatic Group of Five bid to the New Year’s Six.

AAC commissioner Mike Aresco has been on a media blitz recently to sump for his league the past two weeks, appearing on a variety of outlets as diverse as Bloomberg to the regular national radio and talk shows that dot the landscape. His message is a pretty simple one that he backs up with plenty of strength of schedule arguments but is essentially: the winner of Saturday’s Memphis-Cincinnati game should get the invite regardless what happens elsewhere.

The Tigers have been the College Football Playoff Selection Committee’s top-ranked Group of Five team recently and likely sit with a win-and-in scenario. The question is though, what happens if the two-loss Bearcats emerge victorious?

That’s what fans of Boise State and Appalachian State are hoping for as both, if they win their respective conference title games, will be positioned to grab the bit in a close race with the AAC winner.

Now it appears that both the MWC and Sun Belt commissioners are joining Aresco in getting their talking points out in hopes that they somehow make their way to the committee’s ears.

“I am disappointed that Appalachian State is not ranked higher,” Sun Belt commish Keith Gill told The Athletic this week. “They are 11-1, 6-0 on the road, the only Group of 5 team to beat two Autonomy 5 teams on the road, and I believe that their body of work deserves more respect.”

“We just let the results kind of speak for themselves,” MWC counterpart Craig Thompson added. “I think we’ve done enough. When it really gets down to it, it’s the people in the room at the Gaylord in Texas (the CFP committee) that’ll make the determination. So as long as we’re stating our case, everything else is kind of superfluous. It really doesn’t matter what others think. It’s those people that are raising their hand”

While neither are quite beating the drum like their AAC counterpart, it’s clear there’s going to be plenty of campaigning for the elusive spot — and the hefty revenue bump that comes with it — from now until Sunday.

NCAA committee chair hints at changes coming to four-game redshirt rule

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This college football season has been a bit different from most thanks to a combination of two factors that have very little to do with the play on the field: a new rule allowing players to redshirt despite playing in four games and the NCAA transfer portal.

Amid a flurry of player movement as a result of those two, on top of unique situations like Houston’s D’Eriq King deciding to take a redshirt in what amounts to a lost year for the Cougars, it seems the powers at be are already eyeing tweaking the current status quo. West Virgnia AD Shane Lyons chairs the NCAA Division I Football Oversight Committee and remarked on a local radio show that adjustments to the current set of rules are likely to be discussed during meetings at the NCAA convention in January.

“I don’t think it’s a good optic for college sports,” Lyons said, according to the West Virginia MetroNews. “The way it looks, a student-athlete is potentially quitting on his team.

“It’s something the committee will look at in their January meeting to make any adjustments as necessary.”

Despite the redshirt rule originating from coaches themselves, in practice it has proven to be problematic for many because players have either removed themselves from action in order to save up a season and play elsewhere or simply entered the transfer portal. Such roster management concerns have led to plenty of criticism about the unintended consequences of the changes and now it appears the adults in the room are getting together to come up with a few changes to defeat the reasoning behind both rules.

We’ll see what happens between now and the January meetings but the days of going four-and-out for some might be coming to an end with the 2019 season.

Nearly half of Saturday’s conference championship games feature double-digit odds

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At least based on the sportsbooks, you shouldn’t expect much drama on championship weekend — which means we should all brace for absolute and utter hell breaking loose, of course.

Friday night and on into Saturday, the 10 FBS conferences will hold their respective league championship games, the results of which will not only shape the College Football Playoff but the New Year’s Six Bowls and all the way down to the lower-tier bowls. As of this posting, and by way of the BetMGM Sportsbook, nearly half of those 10 title games feature double-digit odds:

  • ACC — No. 23 Virginia vs. No. 3 Clemson (-28½)
  • Big Ten — No. 1 Ohio State (-15½) vs. No. 8 Wisconsin
  • Mountain West — Hawaii vs. No. 19 Boise State (-13½)
  • AAC — No. 20 Cincinnati vs. No. 17 Memphis (-10½)

A fifth, the Big 12 championship game, is nearly double-digits as No. 6 Oklahoma is a 9½-point favorite over No. 7 Baylor.

The other five matchups have hovered around seven points or so, including the SEC title game featuring 6½-point favorite and second-ranked LSU clashing with No. 4 Georgia, since the matchups were decided last weekend:

  • Pac-12 (Friday night) — No. 5 Utah (-6½) vs. No. 13 Oregon
  • Sun Belt — Louisiana vs. No. 21 Appalachian State (-6½)
  • MAC — Miami (OH) vs. Central Michigan (-6½)
  • Conference USA — UAB vs. Florida Atlantic (-7½)

Ohio State first school to score Top-10 wins in football, hoops in four days since… Michigan three decades ago

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Some history was made overnight that involves both sides of The Game.

Wednesday night, sixth-ranked Ohio State took seventh-ranked North Carolina to the woodshed in a 74-49 win, handing the Tar Heels the basketball program’s worst-ever home loss at the Dean Dome under Roy Williams.  Four days earlier, second-ranked Ohio State took 10th-ranked Michigan to the woodshed in a 56-27 win, handing the Wolverines their eighth straight loss — and 15th in 16 meetings — in the rivalry.

According to ESPN Stats & Info, this marks the first time in nearly three decades and just the second time ever that one school had scored wins in Associated Press Top-10 matchups in football and basketball in a span of four days or fewer.  The only other school to pull off that feat?  Michigan, in 1992-93.

I have no clue what it actually all means, but it sounds pretty impressive.  And fairly hilarious that it involves both sides of the greatest rivalry in all of sports.