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No. 4 Notre Dame sneaks away from Northwestern in second half to remain undefeated

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No. 4 Notre Dame has proven to be a very good second half team this season, often turning the jets on after emerging from the locker room. That has not been the case for Northwestern on occasion in 2018, often struggling to put away teams after a good effort before the break.

Predictably in the pair’s 31-21 game on Saturday night in Evanston, it was the Irish who exploded with a trio of third quarter scoring drives to create just enough distance to hold off a Wildcats rally and remain undefeated on the year.

Ian Book led the way once again on offense for Notre Dame, overcoming that slow start to wind up throwing for 343 yards and two touchdowns to go with 56 yards on the ground and the game-sealing scoring run across the goal line. The offense really ran through his arm as the ground game was lackluster at best for most of the night. Dexter Williams ran for 56 yards and a score but it was otherwise tough sledding between the tackles. Jafar Armstrong did record 18 yards but only saw four touches.

That led to the Irish defense being on the field just a bit longer than they would have liked even though they did just fine. The linebackers in particular were quite active with Te’von Coney in particular stuffing the stat sheet with nine tackles, two sacks and a nifty pass breakup. Drue Tranquill showed few signs of that high ankle sprain he suffered last game and added several pressures to go with four tackles as well.

Still, as much as things felt like they tilted toward Brian Kelly’s team in the second half, Northwestern refused to go quietly into the night. A late blocked punt in the fourth quarter gave the team added life and Pat Fitzgerald was rewarded by going for it on fourth-and-goal from the one yard line with a touchdown off a QB sneak from Clayton Thorson. That cut it to a three point game with half of the final quarter remaining but it would be as close as the ‘Cats would come in this one.

Thorson finished with only 141 yards passing and had another touchdown through the air but it was tailback Isaiah Bowser’s 93 yards rushing that was probably the most encouraging offensive takeaway going forward for the team.

Even with the final result at home though, Northwestern still managed to capture a win on the day overall thanks to Iowa’s earlier loss in the final seconds to Purdue. The Wildcats play the Hawkeyes next week in Iowa City and would have at least two shots to sew up the division against either Illinois or Minnesota at the end of the month. While that 0-3 mark in non-conference play is not something Fitzgerald will be happy about, he’ll gladly take it if it means a trip to the conference title game with a berth in the Rose Bowl on the line.

The Irish, meanwhile, will all but assuredly move up a spot in the College Football Playoff Selection Committee’s rankings come Tuesday by moving to 9-0 (to say nothing of the results of the SEC showdown in Baton Rouge between No. 1 Alabama and No. 3 LSU). While there has been a tendency of playing up or down to the competition, Notre Dame has still passed all their tests so far this year and will move on unscathed heading into their game against Florida State next Saturday night on NBC.

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