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No. 16 Washington secures Pac-12 North with Apple Cup upset of No. 8 Washington State

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It’s been a dream season in more ways than one for No. 8 Washington State and everything was there for the taking on Friday night. A Pac-12 North title, a conference championship, a potential Rose Bowl berth and perhaps, if things broke their way, a trip to the College Football Playoff was on the line for the Cougars in their final home game of the year.

There was just one problem: that team from the other side of the state relishes playing spoiler for their rivals when the stakes are the highest.

Such was the case again as No. 16 Washington braved blizzard-like conditions on the Palouse to knock off Wazzu 28-15 and capture the Pac-12 North title for a second time in three years.

Seniors played a big role in the game for the Huskies as they won their sixth in a row in the series, none of which came close to being as cold, snowy, icy or windy as things were at Martin Stadium for this one. QB Jake Browning only threw three incompletions despite those elements but was reduced much more to game-manager status with 207 yards and a bad red zone interception in the first quarter. He was no doubt fine with that in keeping his record perfect against the in-state rivals during his career on Montlake and especially so given that it was a big night for his teammate in the backfield as Myles Gaskin rushed for 170 hard-fought yards and three touchdowns.

Wideout Aaron Fuller was responsible for UW’s other score that came off a Chris Petersen special: a reverse pass trick play that found a wide-open Hunter Bryant in the end zone.

While there will be plenty of taunts from those in purple and gold that the Cougs, well, Coug’d this one, that wasn’t the case.

Heisman candidate Gardner Minshew threw for only 152 yards on 35 attempts against one of the best secondaries in the country (the weather was obviously a factor too) but didn’t quite have another rally left in him. Tailback James Williams had a nice night as the one player who could find some success on offense for Mike Leach’s crew, rushing for 65 yards and a pair of touchdowns while also catching seven passes for 30 yards.

Not all is lost for Wazzu however, as the team is likely to be ticketed to a New Year’s Six Bowl even with the loss should they remain in the top 12 of the standings. That will be a bitter-sweet trip to either the Fiesta or Peach Bowl if it does indeed happen come Selection Sunday given what was in front of the team on Friday night but such is life after one of the best rivalries up in the Pacific Northwest.

The Huskies, meanwhile, can look ahead to the Pac-12 Championship Game next Friday night against Utah at Levi’s Stadium. The two have already played this season, staging a defensive-minded game that Washington won 21-7 back in mid-September. Both teams have had several up’s and down’s since that meeting and it is safe to say they enter as very different teams when they meet again.

The end goal is still there for the taking for the preseason Pac-12 favorite though: a conference title, a Rose Bowl berth and a bit of respect.

Conference championship Saturday now locked in with confirmed kickoff times

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Feel free to update your planner accordingly, because the ACC and Big 12 championship games now have confirmed start times.

The Big 12 Championship Game will kick off Championship Saturday on Dec. 7 with a noon eastern kickoff. The game will be televised on ABC and will share a time slot with the MAC Championship Game (on ESPN or ESPN2).

The ACC Championship Game will once again be played in primetime with a 7:30 p.m. eastern start time scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 7 on ABC. It will once again go opposite the Big Ten Championship Game on FOX, although the ACC will get a half-hour jump on the Big Ten title game.

With the ACC and Big 12 now on the schedule, here is the updated look at the conference championship game schedule:

FRIDAY, DECEMBER 6

  • Pac-12: 8:00 p.m. ET, ABC (Santa Clara, CA)

SATURDAY, DECEMBER 7

  • Big 12: 12:00 p.m. ET, ABC (Arlington, TX)
  • MAC: 12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN or ESPN 2 (Detroit, MI)
  • Sun Belt: 12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN or ESPN2 (TBD*)
  • Conference USA: 1:30 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network (TBD*)
  • American: 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC (TBD*)
  • Mountain West: 4:00 p.m. ET, ESPN (TBD*)
  • SEC: 4:00 p.m. ET, CBS (Atlanta, GA)
  • ACC: 7:30 p.m. ET, ABC (Charlotte, NC)
  • Big Ten: 8:00 p.m. ET, FOX (Indianapolis, IN)

* = The highest-seeded team in the conference hosts the conference championship game

Mark Dantonio responds to accusation made by former staffer

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A day after an alarming story accused Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio of recruiting a player he was warned could be a potential problem, Dantonio has responded alongside his lawyer. Dantonio defended himself against the claims of former assistant Curtis Blackwell and re-directed to previous comments Dantonio made regarding the player in question.

“The fact that Mr. Blackwell’s contract was not renewed has nothing to do with Auston Robertson,” Dantonio said in a statement on Friday. “Two years ago, I spoke at length about Auston Robertson when he was dismissed from the team in 2017. Rather than engage in a public argument with a former staffer, I refer you to those previous statements. Further, there have been multiple investigations into the program’s handling of sexual assaults, including Jones Day in 2017 and the NCAA in 2018, and they concluded that the program and myself committed no violations.”

Blackwell, a former Michigan State recruiting director, claimed he and multiple coaches asked Dantonio not to continue recruiting Robertson, who was guilty of misdemeanor battery in high school and later was arrested and charged with assault to his girlfriend just after his freshman season in East Lansing. Robertson was later removed from the program.

Dantonio concluded his statement by saying he will have no further comment due to ongoing litigation.

“Mr. Blackwell’s lawsuit concerns his allegations that his contract was not renewed because he refused to co-operate with investigations being conducted by the MSUPD and a law firm hired to evaluate the MSU football program’s compliance with sexual assault reporting policies,” Dantonio’s lawyer, Tom Kienbaum, said in a separate statement. “The lawsuit has nothing to do with the recruitment or actions of any student athletes, including Auston Robertson.”

Kentucky LB Kash Daniel will play after video of alleged intent-to-injure surfaced

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After video surfaced seemingly suggesting Kentucky linebacker Kash Daniel tried to hurt a Florida football player last weekend, head coach Mark Stoops confirmed Daniel will be on the field again this weekend against Mississippi State. What has not been confirmed, however, is whether or not Daniel will start the game for the Wildcats.

Video footage from last weekend’s victory over the Gators appeared to show Daniel attempting to twist the ankle of Florida quarterback Kyle Trask at the bottom of a pile at the end of the play. Trask denied any intent to injure to Trask but did admit he gets caught up in some smack talk on the field, which of course is perfectly normal in sports.

Stoops said he has discussed the alleged incident with Daniel and the SEC office. Whatever came out of those discussions will remain behind closed doors, because Stoops has decided to keep that all in-house. So if Daniel is not on the field to start the game for Kentucky’s defense, this may not be a coincidence. However, regardless of what happens, Daniel will be playing against Mississippi State.

New Mexico State locks in bowl agreement with New Mexico Bowl

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New Mexico State may not have a rich bowl history, but the independent college football program has worked out an arrangement to secure a spot in a postseason bowl game in the next few years.

New Mexico State has reached an agreement with ESPN Events to reserve a spot in the New Mexico Bowl from 2020 through 2025, as long as the Aggies meet the NCAA bowl-minimum win total.

“New Mexico State University and our football program are excited to enter into an agreement with the New Mexico Bowl from 2020 through 2025,” New Mexico State Director of Athletics Mario Moccia said in a released statement. “The proximity of the game from our campus as well as Albuquerque and the surrounding areas having the largest population of NM State alumni in the country outside of Doña Ana County is a perfect opportunity for our football program and Aggie Nation.”

New Mexico State would face a team from either the Mountain West Conference or Conference USA. In addition, New Mexico State can be chosen to play in any other bowl game not owned by ESPN if an opportunity is available to them.

New Mexico State is an independent program, which makes them free to work out their own bowl deals. But because most bowl games have deals in place with conferences, there are typically few bowl spots to go around for independent programs (unless you happen to be Notre Dame).

The Aggies played in a bowl game at the end of the 2017 season, which was the first bowl game for the program since 1960.