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FIU closes out best season in program history with Bahamas Bowl victory over Toledo

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After a few nights of lopsided bowl results, college football fans were treated to an entertaining ending Friday afternoon in the Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl as FIU (9-4) held off Toledo (7-6) for a 35-32 victory. The win was FIU’s first bowl victory since 2010 and FIU head coach Butch Davis picked up his first bowl victory as a head coach since 2010 with North Carolina.

FIU essentially slammed the door shut on Toledo with a smart decision to go for a fourth down conversion with six yards to play and about 2:45 remaining in the game. With Toledo out of timeouts and the winds making for a difficult long field goal attempt, Davis took a shot his quarterback, Christian Alexander could find a receiver to move the sticks. A video replay would have to uphold a first down catch by Tony Gaiter IV to allow FIU to keep the offense on the field and run the clock by keeping the ball on the ground. FIU’s Anthony Jones would break loose up the middle for an 18-yard touchdown run on a third-and-one to put the Panthers up 10 points in the final minute. Toledo needed to allow the score to get the football back, although they would be unable to make a late miracle rally.

Toledo quarterback Eli Peters struggled with his completion percentage but ended his day with 264 passing yards and three touchdowns without an interception in the losing effort. Peters also rushed for a team-high 43 yards to lead the offensive effort. But Toledo had just two third-down conversions out of 11 attempts and the defense could not slow down FIU when they needed to the most.

FIU finished the season with a record of 9-4, the best in program history. Davis wasted no time in turning things around for the program by winning eight games last year and topping that with nine wins and a bowl victory this season. FIU may have fallen shy of playing for the Conference USA championship this season, but the Golden Panthers appear to have found some credibility and stability in a short turnaround. Next season, the bar will be raised for the program as expectations will be raised.

FIU’s win moves Conference USA to 3-2 this bowl season, including a record of 2-0 against the MAC. The MAC is just 1-3 this bowl season, with Ohio scoring the only win in the Frisco Bowl Wednesday night.

FIU will open the 2019 season on the road against Tulane on Aug. 31, 2019. Toledo will open their 2019 campaign the same day with a road game at Kentucky.

Looking for style points, Ohio State leads Northwestern in Big Ten championship game at half, 24-7

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Considering the events that have unfolded earlier on championship Saturday in college football, Ohio State may be in a position to need to win impressively against Northwestern in the Big Ten championship game. After 30 minutes, Ohio State leads the Wildcats, 24-7.

Ohio State started the game the way it needed with a 10-play drive traveling 77 yards and ending with a touchdown pass from Dwayne Haskins to Terry McLaurin. The defense then forced Northwestern to go three-and-out to get the ball back quickly. But after Northwestern’s defense turned in a quick defensive stand, Northwestern running back John Moten IV took off for a 77-yard run against the Buckeyes defense for a game-tying score. It was the seventh time this season Ohio State had given up a play of at least 70 yards.

But then Northwestern’s offense appeared to hit a wall. A three-and-out was followed by two straight possessions ending with turnovers; an interception in the end zone thrown by Clayton Thorson and then a Thorson fumble just moments after the Wildcats had picked off a pass from Haskins. Ohio State managed to tack on a field goal to take a 17-7 lead and has remained in control as the game approached halftime. Haskins made sure the lead was given a bit more of a cushion before the half with a 42-yard touchdown pass to McLaurin late in the half. Haskins is already up to 249 passing yards with two touchdowns.

If Northwestern is going to make a comeback in this game, they will have to do so without leading receiver Flynn Nagel. Nagel has been ruled out for the remainder of the game after limping off the field in the first half.

Playoff ticket punched: No. 3 Notre Dame rallies to beat USC and cap off 12-0 regular season

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LOS ANGELES — They never said it was going to be easy, but the wins all count the same.

No. 3 Notre Dame trailed by double-digits for the first time all year but completed a second half comeback against rival USC 24-17 to cap off an undefeated regular season for the first time since 2012.

The Irish, who trailed by 10 early in the second quarter, slowly but surely chipped away at their deficit as the game wore on despite not really firing on all cylinders on either side of the ball. Though the defense allowed just 10 points, they were shredded in the first half by a short passing game that allowed true freshman quarterback J.T. Daniels to throw for 349 yards (one TD) while completing over 70% of his passes. The group did force two key turnovers (all fumbles) to keep the team in it with the offense not finding a groove until well after halftime.

That said, when Notre Dame needed a big play, they found one as they have all season long during this remarkable run. Dexter Williams recorded over half of 97 yards rushing on a 52-yard burst up the seam to give the visitors from South Bend their first lead of the game. After a few up-and-down drives, Justin Yoon tacked on a 46 yard field goal late in the third quarter while Tony Jones Jr. put the exclamation point on the season with a weaving 51 yard catch and run touchdown that clinched the game.

Irish signal-caller Ian Book was far from his best on the night but still finished with 352 yards and two scores (one interception) while picking up another 16 on the ground.

Though Williams was able to break that big run, neither side could do much at all running the football. Aca’Cedric Ware led the way for the Trojans with 68 yards but it was other wise too little, too late for the cardinal and gold as they miss a bowl game for the first time since 2000 at 5-7 overall.

That final record will also lead to plenty of speculation over the future of USC head coach Clay Helton, whose team was almost shutout in the second half and faces an extremely unhappy fan base that even flew a pre-game banner from an airplane over the Coliseum urging athletic director Lynn Syann to fire him.

Opposite number Brian Kelly won’t have to worry about that at all as he completed his second undefeated regular season in seven years. The Irish, who came into the night ranked No. 3 behind No. Alabama and No. 2 Clemson, will assuredly be in a College Football Playoff semifinal next month and will await who they might play on Selection Sunday next week.

There will be plenty to clean up between now and then for the Irish coaches but, deep into a perfect Southern California night, first will come just a little celebrating from the golden domers.

Northwestern clinches Big Ten West in 14-10 win at No. 21 Iowa

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Northwestern (6-4, 6-1 Big Ten) is heading to the Big Ten championship game. The Wildcats clinched the Big Ten West Division crown on Saturday with a 14-10 win at Iowa on the same day Wisconsin and Purdue each lost, eliminating the Badgers and the Boilermakers from the running.

Clayton Thorson completed a 32-yard pass to Bennett Skowronek with 9:27 to play in the fourth quarter to give Northwestern a 14-10 lead after an instant replay confirmed the call on the field and an extra point. It is a play that will likely be played in the Northwestern highlights for years to come.

Northwestern still had some football to be played though, and the defense rose to the occasion by forcing Iowa to a three-and-out on the ensuing possession. With a chance to add to the lead, however, Northwestern quickly saw their next drive stall in part due to a false start penalty on a 3rd & 1. With Iowa making their way to midfield on the following possession, the Northwestern defense forced Mekhi Sargent to fumble and Cameron Ruiz came up with the loose ball with 4:26 to play in the game. With one more chance, Iowa again fumbled away the football around midfield in the final minutes of the game.

Thorson completed 15 of 30 passes for 122 yards and the go-ahead touchdown, more than making up for the two interceptions he tossed earlier in the game on this particular day. Freshman running back Isaiah Bowser had a career day with 165 rushing yards and a touchdown. A fourth down run to pick up a first down in the final minute allowed Northwestern to run out the clock on the clincher.

Northwestern still has two more games to play in the regular season, beginning next week on the road at Minnesota. The Gophers just demolished Purdue, helping Northwestern accelerate their division-clinching scenario in the process. No matter what happens next week against Minnesota or the week after at home against Illinois, Northwestern will be heading to Indianapolis to play in the Big Ten Championship Game on Dec. 1. Their opponent is still to be determined, although it will pit the Wildcats in a rematch against Michigan or against Ohio State. The Big Ten East Division may not be decided until the final day of the regular season when Ohio State hosts Michigan, although it is possible for the Wolverines to wrap up the East division next week with a win and an Ohio State loss.

Iowa has now lost three straight games and will have to try snapping their losing ways on the road next week at Illinois.

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.