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Biletnikoff Award semifinalists are heavy on Big 12 receivers

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College football’s award season is coming soon, which means various individual awards are trimming down their massive watch lists to much smaller lists of semifinalists, and soon finalists. The Biletnikoff Award, which honors the nation’s best receiver regardless of position, released its list of 11 semifinalists for its award this season. As expected, some of the nation’s leading receivers managed to make the cut midway through November.

The list of semifinalists includes some of the top receivers from the Big 12 with Oklahoma’s Marquise Brown, West Virginia’s David Sills V, Oklahoma State’s Tylan Wallace, and Texas Tech’s Antoine Wesley are among the 11 semifinalists for the award. Wesley leads the nation in average receiving yards per game with 134.7 ypg. Wallace is not far behind with 128.2 ypg. Those two are among the seven receivers who have already eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark this season.

UMass receiver Andy Isabella, who leads the nation with 1,479 receiving yards was also named a semifinalist for the award. Hawaii’s John Ursua, the nation’s leader in receiving touchdowns (15) also made the cut.

The SEC’s top two receivers, A.J. Brown of Ole Miss (SEC-leading 1,047 receiving yards) and Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy (SEC-leading 10 touchdowns and second-most receiving yards, 925 yards). Arizona State’s N'Keal Harry, among the Pac-12 leaders in receiving yards and touchdowns, is joined by Stanford’s JJ Arcega-Whiteside as the Pac-12’s semifinalists.

Freshman star Rondale Moore of Purdue is the only player from a Big Ten school named a semifinalist for the award. Among the power conferences, the Big Ten has the longest drought of Biletnikoff Award winners with Braylon Edwards of Michigan being the last Big Ten player to win the award in 2004. The Big 12 has dominated the award over the past decade with seven Biletnikoff Award winners since 2007 including the last three years (Corey Coleman of Baylor in 2015, Dede Westbrook of Oklahoma in 2016, and James Washington of Oklahoma State in 2017) and two back-to-back winners (Michael Crabtree of Texas Tech in 2007-2008 and Justin Blackmon of Oklahoma State in 2010 and 2011).

This list of 11 semifinalists will be trimmed down to three finalists on Nov. 19. The 2018 Biletnikoff Award will be presented on Dec. 6 at The Home Depot College Football Awards Presentation on ESPN.

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.

No. 4 Notre Dame and Northwestern locked into tie game heading into halftime

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Who is Chicago’s true college football team of choice?

It may very well never wind up being Northwestern but the plucky Wildcats are defending their home turf well against No. 4 Notre Dame, taking a 7-all tie into the locker room after a half of play on Saturday night.

The Irish can certainly blame missed opportunities for the scoreboard reading like it does, fumbling on their opening possession and then missing a field goal later on in the first quarter. The lone scoring drive was an impressive effort — 14 plays, 79 yards — but that was just about all there was as both sides were playing a bit of a throwback game.

Quarterback Ian Book was just 7-of-14 for 107 yards in the half as the offense was lackluster in converting just 1-of-5 chances on third down. Dexter Williams was responsible for the lone touchdown but, in limited carries, it appeared that Jafar Armstrong was a tad more effective running the ball with 13 yards.

As a result of all… that, whatever it might have been, perhaps the most notable thing that actually happened in the game came before the two sides even took the field in an interesting bit of gamesmanship between the two head coaches:

The Wildcats were able to move the ball as the game went on and surprisingly did so running the ball in the first half. Isaiah Bowser led the way in that department with a robust 51 yards on 14 carries to pick up the slack from QB Clayton Thorson, who threw for just 53 yards.

Needless to say, adjustments at halftime will be key and that’s an area where Notre Dame has excelled this season so far while it’s been a bit of an Achilles heel in non-Big Ten play for Northwestern. There’s plenty of local, regional and national interest in the outcome of this one with the Irish eyeing a bid for the College Football Playoff but both sides need to pick it up if they want a win after a rough first few quarters.

College football odds for Week 9: Notre Dame, Oklahoma among heavy favorites

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Notre Dame has some history of playing down to the level of heavy underdogs under Brian Kelly, but it is catching a struggling Navy squad in a neutral-site game this weekend.

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish, who made a quarterback switch to Ian Book earlier this month, are 23.5-point favorites on this week’s college football odds against the Navy Midshipmen with a 54.5-point total for Saturday at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

The matchup takes place at SDCCU Stadium in San Diego. During the nine-season Kelly era, the Fighting Irish are 15-1 straight-up and 6-9-1 against the spread as a favorite of 20.0 or more points. Notre Dame (7-0)  is also 1-4 ATS in its last five games against Navy (2-5) and 2-8 ATS in its last 10 games against American Athletic Conference foes. However, Navy comes in saddled with a losing record on the season and a 0-5 ATS record in its last five games. The total has gone OVER in six of the last eight Notre Dame-Navy matchups.

Elsewhere in Week 9 (all times ET):

West Virginia (5-1) at Baylor (4-3), Thursday, 7 p.m.
The West Virginia Mountaineers are 14-point favorites against the Baylor Bears with a 67-point total in a Thursday matchup. West Virginia is 0-4 ATS in its last four games in October. The total has gone UNDER in six of West Virginia’s last eight conference games. Baylor is 0-9 SU in its last nine road games against teams with winning records.

Miami (5-2) at Boston College (5-2), Friday, 7 p.m.
The Miami Hurricanes are 3.5-point road favorites against the Boston College Eagles with a 49.5-point total in a Friday matchup. Miami is 5-1 ATS in its last six games against Boston College. The total has gone UNDER in 15 of Boston College’s last 20 games in October.

Florida (6-1) at Georgia (6-1), Saturday, 3:30 p.m.
The Georgia Bulldogs are 6.5-point favorites against the Florida Gators with a 52-point total in a matchup at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville. Florida is 5-2 ATS in its last seven games in October, according to the OddsShark College Football Database. The total has gone OVER in four of Georgia’s last five games in October.

Clemson (7-0) at Florida State (4-3), Noon
The Clemson Tigers are 16.5-point road favorites against the Florida State Seminoles with a 51-point total. The total has gone OVER in seven of Clemson’s last nine road games against teams with winning records. Florida State is 2-9 ATS in its last 11 conference games.

Texas A&M (5-2) at Mississippi State (4-3), 7 p.m.
The Mississippi State Bulldogs are 2.5-point favorites against the Texas A&M Aggies with a 45-point total. Texas A&M is 1-4 ATS in its last five games against Mississippi State. Mississippi State is 11-1 SU in its last 12 games at home in October, but is also 1-5 ATS in its last six conference games.

Iowa (6-1) at Penn State (5-2), 3:30 p.m.
The Penn State Nittany Lions are 6.5-point favorites against the Iowa Hawkeyes with a 51.5-point total. Iowa is 8-1 SU and ATS in its last nine games. The total has gone UNDER in four of Iowa’s last five road games against Penn State. Penn State is 15-6 ATS in its last 21 conference games.

Wisconsin (5-2) at Northwestern (4-3), Noon
The Wisconsin Badgers are 7-point road favorites against the Northwestern Wildcats with a 51-point total. Wisconsin is 12-2 ATS in its last 14 road games. The total has gone OVER in seven of Wisconsin’s last nine road games, with an average combined score of 50.11. Northwestern is 6-14 ATS in its last 20 games at home against teams with winning records.

Kansas State (3-4) at Oklahoma (6-1), 3:30 p.m.
The Oklahoma Sooners are heavy 24.5-point betting favorites against the Kansas State Wildcats with a 64-point total. Kansas State is 21-5 ATS in its last 26 road games against teams with winning records. Oklahoma is 11-3 ATS in its last 14 games at home.

Texas (6-1) at Oklahoma State (4-3), 8 p.m.
The Texas Longhorns are 3.5-point favorites against the Oklahoma State Cowboys with a 59.5-point total. Texas is 4-1 ATS in its last five road games against Oklahoma State. The total has gone OVER in seven of Oklahoma State’s last nine conference games.

Washington State (6-1) at Stanford (5-2), 7 p.m.
The Stanford Cardinal are 3-point favorites against the Washington State Cougars with a 53-point total. The total has gone OVER in Washington State’s last six road games, with an average combined score of 72.67. Stanford is 7-3 ATS in its last 10 games. The total has gone UNDER in seven of Stanford’s last eight games in October.

For more odds information, betting picks and a breakdown of this week’s top sports betting news check out the OddsShark podcast with Jon Campbell and Andrew Avery. Subscribe on iTunes or Spotify or listen to it at OddsShark.libsyn.com.

No. 3 Clemson clears biggest ACC hurdle yet by rolling over No. 16 N.C. State

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No. 3 Clemson’s biggest hurdle in conference play? Turns out, there wasn’t much of one at all.

The Tigers continued to look more and more like No. 1 Alabama’s biggest challenger for the national title this season, dispatching previously undefeated No. 16 N.C. State in effortless fashion 41-7 on a picturesque Saturday afternoon in Death Valley.

Dabo Swinney’s group was dominant on both sides of the ball but turned in one of their best performances of the season on the offensive end when factoring in the competition in this one. Young freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence set career-highs in yardage (308), attempts (39) and completions (26) as Clemson took to the air downfield early and often — finding top target Tee Higgins (119 yards, one score) for big gains quite a bit against a leaky secondary.

Running back Travis Etienne didn’t break off any big runs and finished with only 39 yards but scored three rushing touchdowns for third straight game. While it seems like a lock that quarterbacks will stack the Heisman Trophy podium at the end of the year the way things are trending, the sophomore is playing well enough the past month to at least earn a trip to New York City as the guy this team has been leaning on as of late.

Defensively, the Tigers continue to play like the all-world unit they were billed as to start the year. K’Von Wallace and Jalen Williams both came up with spectacular interceptions but the effort started up front with the All-American defensive line providing constant disruption of the pocket and clamping down on things on third down.

That made for a rough outing for Wolfpack QB Ryan Finley after two years of nearly pulling off the upset against Clemson. The senior finished with 21 completions for just 156 yards to go with those two picks and will likely need to spend a few hours in the ice bath before returning home to the Triangle. Reggie Gallaspy did find some moderate success running the football to the tune of 59 yards and a score but it was far from enough to keep the team in the running.

As a result, NCSU will likely fall back in the polls after their hot start to the season against a very soft schedule and continue to deal with questions about just how good this team really is this year.

The outcome will also, more or less, allow Clemson to lock up yet another ACC Atlantic title while reaffirming this team’s greatness too. Though there’s still tests along the way like Florida State, Duke and whomever meets them in Charlotte in the coming weeks, the Tigers certainly cemented themselves as the conference’s top dog on Saturday with another big win and are finally starting to look like the only legitimate challenger in college football to their old foe in the defending national champions.