College Football
NCAAF News Wire
  • Friday, November 27, 2015
    College football roundup: No. 4 Iowa gets past Nebraska
    By The Sports Xchange

    LINCOLN, Neb. -- For the first time in program history, Iowa is 12-0.

    • Now the Hawkeyes have their eyes on a bigger prize.

      Running back Jordan Canzeri ran 17 times for 140 yards and two third-quarter touchdowns and No. 4 Iowa kept its hopes alive for the College Football Playoffs with a 28-20 victory over Nebraska on Friday at Memorial Stadium.

      Big Ten West Division champion Iowa (12-0, 8-0) will play in next weekend's conference championship game in Indianapolis. The opponent will be determined Saturday, but for the Hawkeyes, it could serve as an elimination game to advance to the CFP semifinals.

      Canzeri ran for touchdowns of 33 and 68 yards on consecutive plays in the third quarter. Canzeri's second run came after Nebraska senior running back Imani Cross scored on a 5-yard run to finish an 11-play, 75-yard drive to cut Iowa's lead to 21-17.

      Nebraska (5-7) ouldn't overcome four interceptions by junior quarterback Tommy Armstrong, including one that Iowa returned for a touchdown.

      No. 17 Oregon 52, Oregon State 42

      EUGENE, Ore. -- Senior quarterback Vernon Adams threw for 366 yards and three touchdowns to lead No. 17 Oregon (9-3) to is sixth straight win.

      Junior wide receiver Bralon Addison had three touchdown catches and one touchdown run for Oregon. Sophomore running back Royce Freeman rushed for 167 yards and two scores.

      Oregon State (2-10, 0-9 Pac-12) trailed 31-7 at halftime but got within 31-21 in the third quarter. Freeman responded with a 19-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter to push Oregon's lead to 38-21.

      Houston 52, No. 15 Navy 31

      Houston quarterback Greg Ward Jr. threw for three touchdowns and ran for another score as the Cougars earned a spot in the American Athletic Conference championship with its upset of No. 15 Navy in Houston, Texas.

      Ward completed 26 of 35 passes for 308 yards. The Cougars (11-1, 7-1 AAC) will host the title game Dec. 5 and play either Temple or South Florida.

      Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds had 84 yards on 19 carries and ran for a 4-yard score, tying Wisconsin's Montee Ball with 83 career overall touchdowns. Reynolds also completed 13 of 16 passes for a career-high 312 yards with a 26-yard touchdown to Jamir Tillman for Navy (9-2, 7-1). Reynolds tied Bill Byrne for the program's all-time record with 29 career passing touchdowns.

      Washington 45, No. 20 Washington State 10

      Washington retained the Apple Cup for the sixth time in seven years and became bowl-eligible by winning the game in Seattle against a Washington State team that was without its starting quarterback.

      Cougars quarterback Luke Falk missed the game with a concussion and was replaced by Peyton Bender.

      The Huskies (6-6) defense forced Washington State into seven turnovers, and converted those into 28 points. The Cougars slipped to 8-4.

      Western Michigan 35, Toledo 30

      Corey Davis caught two touchdown passes and Western Michigan upset No. 24 Toledo in Toledo, which sends Northern Illinois to the Mid-American Conference championship game.

      The Rockets (9-2, 6-2) would have earned a berth in the MAC title game with a win, but the Broncos (7-5, 6-2) created a three-way tie for the division crown. Because Northern Illinois beat both Toledo and Western Michigan, it won a tiebreaker to be the MAC West representative against Bowling Green

  • Friday, November 27, 2015
    Georgia State 31, Troy 21
    By The Sports Xchange

    Georgia State got a big game from prolific senior quarterback Nick Arbuckle and kept its bowl hopes alive with a 31-21 victory over Troy on Friday in Sun Belt Conference play at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.

    • Arbuckle completed 29 of 41 passes for 368 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions, leading the Panthers to their third straight win.

      Georgia State (5-6, 4-3) needs to win at Georgia Southern next week become bowl eligible for the first time in program history.

      Arbuckle threw touchdown passes to freshman receiver Penny Hart and junior receiver Robert Davis. Georgia State tight end Keith Rucker also have a big day, catching 10 passes for 154 yards, as the Panthers racked more than 500 yards of offense for the third time this season.

      Hart caught a 12-yard touchdown pass from Arbuckle to open the scoring. The Panthers extended the lead 17-7 at halftime on a 39-yard touchdown run by Glenn Smith and a 30-yard field golf from Wil Lutz.

      Georgia State led 31-7 after an Arbuckle 1-yard touchdown run with 4:45 left in the third quarter, before Troy (3-8, 2-5) mounted a last challenge.

      Running back Brandon Burks scored on a 1-yard touchdown run, and quarterback Brandon Silvers threw a 17-yard touchdown pass to Jarvis Bentley to cut the Georgia State lead to 31-21 with 5:41 to play.

      Silvers passed for 284 yards with two touchdowns and an interception for the Trojans.

  • Friday, November 27, 2015
    Report: Miles' final game with LSU on Saturday
    By The Sports Xchange

    LSU head coach Les Miles indicated Friday that the game against Texas A&M on Saturday night will be his last with the Tigers, according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune.

    • Speaking to the LSU Gridiron Club, Miles didn't come out and say it but let the booster organization know that Saturday's game will be his last, two sources who attended the luncheon told the newspaper.

      "He didn't use those words but he made it clear that Saturday is his last game," one Gridiron club member said.

      Miles regularly speaks to the club at lunch on Fridays before all home games.

      "He said, 'We're a second family to him and he's going to miss us, he appreciates his real friends, and then he told us good-bye,'" the source told Times-Picayune. "It was very emotional but in control."

      Miles left to a standing ovation, according to the report.

      Another newspaper source said Miles told the group he "wouldn't be seeing them at the bowl game," he would "always be a Tiger" and "thanks for a great 11 years."

      Miles, with rumors of his impending dismissal swirling for weeks, on Monday said he is "going to go on to work" and not considering retirement when he spoke at his weekly press conference.

      LSU gave a dismal effort in a 38-17 loss to Ole Miss last Saturday that fueled more speculation about Miles' job status. The third straight loss dropped the Tigers to 7-3 this season.

      Miles said Monday that he would not address his future until after the regular season.

      Miles has a 110-32 record in 11 seasons with the Tigers and has won 10 or more games seven times. He won the BCS National Championship in 2007 and lost in the national title game in 2011.

      Miles' team started 7-0 this season behind the success of star running back Leonard Fournette. But a loss to Alabama on Nov. 7 started a three-game losing streak and LSU has been outscored 99-47 during the skid.

      LSU athletic director Joe Alleva has declined to comment on the reports of Miles' ouster.

      Sources told the Times-Picayune that influential boosters had put together enough money to buy out Miles' contract, which runs through 2019.

      The $15 million buyout is payable over eight years and includes an additional $2 million total payable to assistant coaches who have a "Les Miles clause" in their deals.

  • Friday, November 27, 2015
    Washington State QB Falk out versus Huskies
    By The Sports Xchange

    Washington State sophomore quarterback Luke Falk will miss Friday's game against Washington due to the concussion he suffered last Saturday against Colorado.

    • Falk was carted off the field and coach Mike Leach refused to update his status during the week.

      Redshirt freshman Peyton Bender will make his first career start in the Apple Cup game against the Huskies.

      Falk has passed for 4,266 yards and a school-record 36 touchdown passes this season. He ranks third nationally in both categories.

  • Thursday, November 26, 2015
    Washington signs Petersen to two-year extension
    By The Sports Xchange

    The University of Washington on Thursday signed football coach Chris Petersen to a two-year extension through 2020.

    • "Coach Petersen has demonstrated tremendous integrity and is building a program that Husky fans can be proud of, both on and off the field," athletic director Scott Woodward said in a statement. "This extension is well-deserved and we hope Coach Petersen is a Husky for a long time to come."

      Petersen is in his second season with Washington and is 13-12 after going 92-12 in eight seasons at Boise State. He will make $4 million in 2019 and 2020 - the same he'll earn in 2018.

      Washington (5-6) needs a victory over No. 20 Washington State on Friday to become eligible to play in its sixth consecutive bowl.

  • Wednesday, November 25, 2015
    Baylor QB Stidham out with broken bone in ankle
    By The Sports Xchange

    Baylor quarterback Jarrett Stidham will miss the rest of the regular season after suffering a broken bone in the back of his right ankle, the school confirmed Wednesday.

    • The true freshman limped off the field right before halftime of the Bears' 45-35 win over the Oklahoma State Cowboys last Saturday.

      Baylor coach Art Briles said Monday that Stidham was "highly questionable" with an injured fibula and also back and hand injuries, and that the No. 7 Bears would prepare to play sophomore Chris Johnson against No. 19 TCU on Friday.

      Johnson will make his first career start at TCU. He played receiver for most of the season but took over for Stidham against Oklahoma State and scored three touchdowns.

      Baylor finishes its regular season on Dec. 5 against Texas and can still win the Big 12 if Oklahoma loses to Oklahoma State on Saturday.

      Stidham started three games after replacing junior Seth Russell, who was lost for the season with a neck injury on Oct. 24. Stidham has thrown for 1,265 yards and 12 touchdowns this season.

  • Wednesday, November 25, 2015
    No charges in alleged rape at Nebraska players' home
    By The Sports Xchange

    Police and the county attorney in Lincoln, Neb., on Wednesday said there will be no charges in the report of a sexual assault at the residence of Nebraska quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr., wide receiver Jordan Westerkamp and tight end Trey Foster.

    • No suspect has been publicly named in the case.

      Lincoln Police Chief Jim Peschong said at a news conference Wednesday morning that the investigation is now complete. Police spoke with everyone who was at the home when the alleged assault took place, Peschong said.

      Information on the investigation was forwarded to Lancaster County Attorney Joe Kelly. Filing charges would require proof beyond a reasonable doubt, Kelly said, and "that simply is not there."

      "I believe the victim," Peschong said, but "we do not believe we have the elements of a crime."

      A 20-year-old woman told police on Nov. 15 that she was raped during a party at the home of the Nebraska players. The woman knew the alleged suspect, police said.

      Armstrong leads the Big Ten in total offense and Westerkamp is among the leaders in the conference in receiving with 61 catches for 833 yards and seven touchdowns this season.

  • Wednesday, November 25, 2015
    Bears prep for grudge match with TCU
    By The Sports Xchange

    Those short-sighted preseason predictions would've pegged this week's Baylor vs. TCU matchup as a battle royal and very likely national quarterfinal with the winner a shoo-in for the College Football Playoff.

    • Of course, things never seem to work out as clean and crisp as those forecasts project. As it stands, Baylor (9-1) is a long-shot to work its way into the CFP and TCU (9-2) is out with two losses.

      But anyone who thinks this week's game has lost its meaning clearly doesn't know any Bears or Horned Frogs. In the last two seasons, the Baylor versus TCU matchup has become one of the most contentious in college football, particularly among the fans of the two programs.

      In early October, the Robert Griffin III statue near Baylor's McLane Stadium was vandalized with purple spray paint and, soon after, the score "61-58" (the margin by which Baylor defeated TCU in 2014) was spotted in various places on the TCU campus. It's not difficult to figure out who the vandals were, or at least that they were supporters of the Bears and Horned Frogs sniping at each other.

      The athletic directors of the two schools came out with a joint statement condemning the actions. But it didn't do much to douse the flames of the rivalry.

      Both Baylor coach Art Briles and TCU coach Gary Patterson had their minds on each other as soon as they walked off the field last Saturday. Briles mentioned having a game in six days -- Baylor and TCU face off Friday night in Fort Worth -- in his post game television interview.

      Patterson took it to another level, saying the Baylor game affected his decision to go for a two-point conversion and attempt to defeat Oklahoma in regulation on Saturday night. The Horned Frogs' pass failed and the Sooners escaped with a 30-29 win.

      "If you go to three overtimes, you've got no chance to win that game next week," Patterson said in his post game press conference.

      Briles played it cool in his Monday press conference, saying that the Bears will prepare for this game like all of the challenges in the Big 12.

      "Every time we play any Big 12 opponent, it's going to be a hard-fought game and this is certainly going to be no different," Briles said "We've had some great games with TCU over the last five or six years, and that's because they're a really good football team. They do a great job, work extremely hard, and are really well-coached and well-disciplined. That makes it a really good football game."



      --QB Chris Johnson was thrown into action in Saturday's 45-35 victory at Oklahoma State when freshman QB Jarrett Stidham went down with ankle and hand injuries. Johnson gave a quality performance, highlighted by a 39-yard touchdown pass to Jay Lee and a 71-yard touchdown pass to KD Cannon. But how will Johnson play when he has a week to think about starting versus TCU?

      --WR KD Cannon stepped into the big-play-receiver role as he caught five passes for 210 yards and two TDs versus Oklahoma State. It's a dangerous proposition for any defensive coordinator to try to stop Cannon and Corey Coleman.

      --DT Andrew Billings had the best game of a balanced defensive effort against Oklahoma State. Billings, while clogging up the middle, also posted two sacks totaling 17 yards in losses versus the Cowboys.

  • Wednesday, November 25, 2015
    Watson's legend continues to grow at Clemson
    By The Sports Xchange

    Clemson sophomore quarterback Deshaun Watson jump-started his legendary status last year in the regular-season finale against rival South Carolina. Despite playing with a torn ACL in his left knee, Watson passed for 269 yards and accounted for four touchdowns in a 35-17 victory.

    • "He definitely made a statement, and it motivated the rest of us," Clemson tight end Jordan Leggett said of Watson's play. "I thought he was stupid at first for playing on a torn ACL, but once I talked to him, after we got the win, I felt a whole lot better. But I still don't think anyone else would have done it."

      That game provided a glimpse of what was to come. Watson had surgery after the game, stuck to a rigorous rehabilitation schedule and entered fall camp in August ready and raring to go.

      He hasn't disappointed, passing for 2,944 yards and 26 touchdowns this season while completing more than 70 percent of his passes and emerging as a Heisman Trophy candidate for the undefeated (11-0) and No. 1-ranked Tigers.

      Watson, who has earned ACC Offensive Back of the Week honors four times in the last six weeks, has guided Clemson to at least 500 yards of offense in seven consecutive games.

      On Tuesday, more honors poured in as Watson was named one of three semifinalists for the Maxwell Trophy (best player in college football) and the Davey O'Brien Award for quarterbacks.

      "He's playing about as well as you can play," Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said.

      Watson, who is 15-1 as a starter over the past two seasons, is eager for his second meeting against South Carolina, which has struggled to a 3-8 season.

      "I didn't realize how big this rivalry was until I started getting recruited by Clemson," Watson said.

      "After we beat them last year, it was just good to see the Clemson fans happy and excited. A lot of people came up to me and said they could go to work smiling and brag to their Carolina co-workers, so it was pretty cool to hear that."



      --RB Wayne Gallman rushed for a career-high 191 yards in last year's win against South Carolina and could have a repeat performance against a Gamecocks defense that ranks 113th nationally against the run. Gallman, a 1,000-yard rusher this season, took last week off to continue healing a foot injury, but he should be full-go for South Carolina.

      --WR Artavis Scott also came up big against South Carolina last year, with seven receptions for a career-high 185 yards and two touchdowns. He's quarterback Deshaun Watson's roommate and favorite target, leading the team with 74 receptions this season -- more than twice as many as any other Clemson receiver. There's no reason to expect any different this week.

      --DB Mackensie Alexander will be the man on the spot against South Carolina, likely drawing the assignment of keeping tabs of Pharoh Cooper, who's the Gamecocks' leading receiver and primary playmaker. Alexander, who sat out last week's game with a knee injury, should be eager to return to the lineup. He savors challenges, and this may be one of his best to date.

  • Wednesday, November 25, 2015
    Perine could make a difference in Bedlam
    By The Sports Xchange

    A year ago, Oklahoma appeared to be rolling toward a relatively easy Bedlam win over Oklahoma State.

    • The Sooners were moving the ball on offense thanks largely to freshman phenom running back Samaje Perine.

      But then, as Oklahoma seemed to be driving for a three-possession lead, Perine suffered an ankle injury and lost a fumble on the same play. The tide started to turn.

      Perine never returned and the Cowboys came back to win in overtime.

      Going into this year's Bedlam game in Stillwater, Okla., Perine has been a big part of Oklahoma's resurgence since an Oct. 10 loss to Texas.

      In the six-game winning streak since that loss, Perine has 76 or more yards of total offense in every game and has at least 90 rushing yards in the last five. He's topped 150 or more rushing yards three times.

      "He's playing every bit as well or better than he did a year ago," Sooners coach Bob Stoops said.

      As a freshman, Perine ran for 1,713 yards and 21 touchdowns in a run-oriented offense.

      This season in offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley's more wide-open offense, Perine's yardage is down a bit but his yards per carry aren't that far off.

      Perine has 1,160 yards and 13 touchdowns, averaging six yards per carry.

      He suffered an ankle injury in the second half of the win over TCU but returned with a 72-yard touchdown run and figures to be close to 100 percent against Oklahoma State.

      Last week against Baylor, the Cowboys gave up 304 yards on the ground.

      With quarterback Baker Mayfield fighting the after-effects of a concussion but expected to play, the Sooners might be relying even more on Perine and the ground game.

      Oklahoma State's defensive line, most notably defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah, has had success, but the back end of its defense has struggled at time.

      "They build around the front," Riley said. "Like the last several teams we've played, their front is definitely their strength, there's no question about that.

      "They do such a good job of mixing it up."



      --QB Baker Mayfield suffered a concussion in the first half against TCU but is expected to be available Saturday against Oklahoma State.

      --DT Charles Walker has six sacks this season, the most by an OU interior defensive linemen and third on the team overall.

      --WR Mark Andrews has 17 receptions this season with five going for touchdowns.

      --CB Zack Sanchez became the first Sooner to record two games with multiple interceptions in a season since Brodney Poole in 2003.

      --K/P Austin Seibert is 16 of 20 on field-goal tries this season and is averaging 42.2 yards per punt.

  • Wednesday, November 25, 2015
    Seminoles look to dash Gators' playoff hopes
    By The Sports Xchange

    Oh, what a difference a season makes.

    • When Florida-Florida State kicked off last year, the Seminoles were rolling toward a conference championship game and still vying for the national title, while it was the Gators who were down and out, looking for answers.

      In 2015, roles have been somewhat reversed.

      No. 13 Florida State (9-2) enters Saturday's 60th meeting between the rivals not quite at the depths to which the Gators sunk to a season ago when Florida finished 7-5 and fired their head coach, but the Seminoles -- as a team -- aren't playing for much more than the state championship and bragging rights for the next 364 days.

      The No. 12 Gators (10-1), on the other hand, will be feeling the pressure.

      Led by first-year head coach Jim McElwain, the Gators are in a spot they haven't been in some time: relevant.

      Not only have they already clinched the SEC East title for the first time since 2009 -- and will play for the SEC championship on Dec. 5 against No. 2 Alabama -- they've also got an outside shot at reaching the College Football Playoffs should they beat Florida State and then knock off the Crimson Tide.

      It's been seven years since a national title has even been a possibility for UF, which won it all in 2008. Since that great season, they've gone a very-un-Florida-like 50-27.

      Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher, for one, is impressed by the dramatic turnaround in Gainesville. After all, just five years ago he did the same thing in Tallahassee.

      "I think Jim has come in with great structure, great organization and a great big?picture plan, and he implemented that and got everyone over there to buy into it and become one. And think that's the key," Fisher said.

      "It's structure, organization, which then allows you to start changing culture, which is the most important thing if you're going to turn a program around."

      Saturday marks only the third time in the last eight seasons both teams are ranked when they face each other, with the Seminoles -- 52-13 winners against FCS opponent Chattanooga last week -- moving up one spot to No. 13 in the latest College Football Playoff rankings.

      Florida, however, dropped four spots from No. 8 to No. 12 following a narrow 20-14 overtime win against a 2-9 Florida Atlantic team. The Gators completed only eight passes in the near-shocking upset, while turning the ball over three times, missing three kicks (a PAT included) and nearly squandering a late two-score lead to a vastly inferior opponent.

      Entering Saturday's game, the Gators' last three wins -- which have come by an average of 6 points against teams with a combined 9-24 record -- have been anything but impressive.

      So maybe that explains why the Seminoles were listed this week as 2-point favorites.

      "I am sure (Florida State is) going to look at this and maybe go on vacation," McElwain said, half-joking, about Florida's struggles entering the game. "Because (the way we've been playing) they should beat the heck out of us."

      The Seminoles certainly want to.

      Aside from being able to head to a bowl game with momentum, win the mythical state title and achieve their fourth straight 10-win season, one of Florida State's stars has something left to play for individually -- and the team can likely help the cause.

      Running back Dalvin Cook -- who was a Gators commit during his senior year of high school before flipping to Florida State -- continues to be just on the fringes of the Heisman Trophy race. Aside from tallying 1,475 yards and being the nation's second-leading rusher at 147.5 yards a game, he is the only player in the nation to rank in the Top 10 nationally in rushing yards per carry (second), rushing yards per game (third), all-purpose yards (sixth), total rushing yards (sixth), rushing TDs (seventh) and scoring (eighth).

      Cook became a 50-to-1 underdog to win the trophy in the latest odds released Tuesday by the sportsbooks -- the same as Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey, who has been among the perceived finalists for weeks.

      Even Gators star defensive back Jalen Tabor called Cook "the best running back we'll face all year" -- and the Gators played LSU's Leonard Fournette and Alabama's Derrick Henry.

      And now, with a primetime game in hostile territory Saturday night against Florida -- which boasts the nation's eighth-ranked rushing defense -- this appears to be Cook's grand, and final, stage to make his case to Heisman voters.

      "I'm going to go out there, just give it all I've got," said Cook, who had a monster game last season against Florida as a freshman, running for 144 yards on 24 carries. "If it impresses (Heisman voters), it does. But I'm just going out there to compete and try to win. I'm going out there to lay it all on the line. That's it."

      Florida State, which has started a social media Heisman campaign with daily tweets and posts featuring the hashtag #D4LVIN, sure feels like it has a worthy candidate. And so does Fisher, who has quietly lobbied for his star over the last few weeks.

      He also knows that all three past Florida State Heisman winners -- Charlie Ward, Chris Weinke and Jameis Winston -- all propelled themselves to college football's most coveted perch with big season-ending games against the Gators.

      And it just might happen again.

      "Big games, big moments," Fisher said with a smile while talking about what to expect from Cook against Florida this week. "Big players always rise up."



      --The Florida State offensive linemen have killed themselves in the last five games with false start penalties, averaging nearly three per game over that span. Coach Jimbo Fisher called those errors one the catalysts for the season's first loss to Georgia Tech, and he has continued to fume each week as the mistakes keep happening. The offensive line is mostly freshmen, and Florida State has used two quarterbacks -- both relatively new -- this season. Some of the penalties have been on receivers, but Fisher said for Florida State to win a game like this against Florida, the Seminoles must be error-free. "Guys have to focus more and concentrate," Fisher said Tuesday. "You can't be coaching them all the time. They have to listen and go."

      --DE Demarcus Walker, a junior, announced this wouldn't be his final Florida-Florida State game -- in effect, saying he was returning for his senior season. The Seminoles' sack leader with eight -- to go along with a team-high 12 tackles for loss -- will be licking his chops Saturday considering the Gators have allowed an SEC-high 33 sacks this season.

      --WR Jesus Wilson could be the x-factor on offense Saturday against the Gators. With lots of attention on star RB Dalvin Cook and leading wideout Kermit Whitfield, Wilson could be forgotten about and able to get open and produce a big game. He had just two catches for 4 yards last week against Chattanooga, and was equally invisible a week earlier in Florida State's win against N.C. State, with one reception for 4 yards. But Wilson is explosive and is also the most veteran starting wideout, so look for him to shine Saturday against the Gators.

  • Wednesday, November 25, 2015
    Resilient Trojans try for first Pac-12 South title
    By The Sports Xchange

    LOS ANGELES -- USC, which was dealing with NCAA sanctions when the Pac-10 expanded for the 2011 season, has yet to win a Pac-12 South title.

    • The Trojans, who were picked to win the conference this season in a vote of the league media in the preseason -- which seems like a long time ago -- has been disappointing this season.

      USC has suffered three conference defeats, lost to traditional rival Notre Dame, fired head coach Steve Sarkisian at midseason ... but, hey, the Trojans can still win the Pac-12 South.

      It all comes down to Saturday's home game against UCLA, which is also 5-3 in league play. The winner of the game gets to move on to play Stanford for the Pac-12 title on Dec. 5 in Santa Clara, Calif.

      "We have an opportunity to go be champions. That's immortal. That's leaving a legacy for our (seniors)," said interim head coach Clay Helton. "They are going to get every ounce of effort from myself and this coaching staff to go win a big ballgame."

      USC has lost three games in a row to the Bruins, which coincides with the arrival of coach Jim Mora at UCLA. Moreover, the Bruins have won each game by double-digit margins.

      "(UCLA is) the one that everybody really, really wants to win," said running back Justin Davis. "I know our guys will be ready this week. We all know what's at stake."

      He made those comments after USC's 48-28 loss at Oregon, which ended a four-game winning streak and dropped the team's record to 4-2 under Helton.

      On the coaching front, many big names are still being mentioned for the USC job, including Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops, Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh and even LSU's Les Miles, should he be fired.

      Helton remains a long shot to retain the job past this season, but he can still make a case by beating UCLA, winning the Pac-12 title game and then getting a chance to win the Rose Bowl.

      In a four-loss season (so far) for USC, rarely has there still been so much at stake.

      "We have a very unique opportunity," Helton said.



      --WR JuJu Smith-Schuster has been dealing with a wrist injury and then he suffered a sprained ankle last week against Oregon, although he played at far less than 100 percent. He's called "Superman" by interim coach Clay Helton, but Smith-Schuster has been merely human in the past two games, with three catches for 66 yards against Colorado, and five receptions for 57 yards against Oregon.

      --RB Justin Davis ran 16 times for a career-high 141 yards last week at Oregon, and he's taken advantage of the recent injury absence of Tre Madden. That has shortened the tailback rotation from three to two, as Davis has been splitting carries with true freshman Ronald Jones II. "The more you get the ball in your hands, the better rhythm you get into," Davis said. "Rhythm is so important because I can see the flow of the defense and it allows me to get a better sync with the offensive line."

      --LB Olajuwon Tucker started last week in place of injured inside linebacker Cameron Smith, the team's leading tackler. Tucker, a sophomore, came up with nine tackles, including 2.5 for loss, and 1.5 sacks.

  • Tuesday, November 24, 2015
    Irish have one more chance to impress
    By The Sports Xchange

    The committee that selects four contenders for the College Football Playoff will watch Saturday's Notre Dame-Stanford clash quite closely.

    • Notre Dame (10-1) came into the week fourth in the playoff rankings and hoped to hold off a hard-charging Iowa team that seeks to wrap up a perfect regular season this week.

      Instead the Irish were leapfrogged by both the Hawkeyes and Michigan State and landed at No. 6 in the fourth set of rankings announced Tuesday night.

      Stanford (8-2) is No. 9 and not in the running.

      "The committee is out of my hands, it's out of our players' hands." Irish coach Brian Kelly said. "All we want to do is put ourselves in a position to be considered. We feel like we need to win another game to still be considered."

      The Irish have just one more chance to make a splash as they travel to Stanford for the 30th renewal of a series that dates back to the 1925 Rose Bowl.

      Notre Dame won its sixth straight last Saturday against Boston College with a lackluster 19-16 decision at Boston's Fenway Park.

      The Irish committed five turnovers, including three inside the Eagles' five.

      "It's like leaving runners in scoring position," Kelly said. "You've got to score points when you're down there."

      Still, there were a number of positives.

      Irish quarterback DeShone Kizer was 20-of-38 for 320 yards and two touchdowns (while also begin intercepted twice), wide receiver Chris Brown caught six passes for 104 yards while Amir Carlisle had seven for 97 yards.

      Running back C.J. Prosise hit the 1,000 yard mark for the season after running eight times of 54 yards. But he departed with a high ankle sprain and is doubtful for this week.

      Kelly said cleaning up the turnovers and mistakes is critical heading into Saturday.

      "We feel like we've got to do a better job offensively, in making good decisions, ball security," he said. "Boston College is very good defense. But, you know, again, the standard of play offensively, it's such that five turnovers is unacceptable. Our players know that. And it can't happen.

      Notre Dame has not won at Stanford Stadium since 2007.



      --QB DeShone Kizer now has 18 TD passes, tying Rick Mirer (1991) for ninth in a season in school history. He also recorded his second career 300-yard game.

      --WR Will Fuller broke the 1,000-yard receiving plateau with his third catch of the night and now has 1,000 yards on the season.

      --LB Jaylon Smith collected 11 tackles last week against Boston College, reaching double digits in four of the last five games.

      --K Justin Yoon has now connected on each of his last nine field goal attempts. His last miss came on Sept. 12 at Virginia. The streak ties for the fifth-longest in school history.

      --RB C.J. Prosise eclipsed the 1,000-yard plateau on the season with his second carry of the game against Boston College, a 31-yard scamper. He now has 157 carries on the year for 1,029 yards.

  • Tuesday, November 24, 2015
    Buckeyes moving on to annual Michigan showdown
    By The Sports Xchange

    COLUMBUS, Ohio -- In the four seasons that Urban Meyer has been the head coach at Ohio State, his teams had never lost a Big Ten regular-season game -- until last Saturday.

    • Michigan State came to Columbus and knocked off the then-No. 3-ranked Buckeyes 17-14, ending winning streaks of 30 conference games and 23 games overall.

      Ohio State was reduced to a mere 132 yards and five first downs by the Michigan State defense and the inclement weather in a baffling display of ineffectiveness by an offense that has struggled all year to recapture the potency of last year's national championship run.

      Now the Buckeyes (10-1, 7-1 Big Ten) are forced to pick up the pieces and travel to Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Mich., to face No. 10 Michigan (9-2, 5-2) on Saturday in the 112th meeting of the storied programs. It won't be an easy assignment.

      Complicating the task at hand for the Buckeyes is not only playing a much-improved Michigan team but dealing with the fallout from last week's postgame when running back Ezekiel Elliott spouted off about the coaching staff's play calling and his lack of carries. Elliott, the leading rusher in the Big Ten, curiously ran just 12 times for 33 yards after piling up 15 straight games with 100 or more yards rushing.

      Meyer tried to put the Elliott's reaction in the rear-view mirror this week, saying they "squashed" the situation.

      "I imagine we'll get hit with that a little bit," Meyer said. "So got to move forward and get ready to play a very good team."

      While Meyer disagreed with Elliott's delivery, he couldn't argue with what the hard-running junior, who is headed for the NFL after the season, said about an offense that totaled 568 yards against Michigan State a year ago.

      "We're just not -- we're not operating at maximum capacity, is the key word, and we're still 10-1," Meyer said. "So what I'm doing right now is, every ounce of ability, every ounce of energy and focus, is going on trying to win this game."

      Ohio State, which fell from No. 3 to No. 8 in Tuesday night's latest College Football Playoff rankings, has won the last three meetings in the series, but those games were played when Brady Hoke was the coach at Michigan. Jim Harbaugh replaced him after last season and the entire vibe of the program has changed as well as the results on the field.

      "When someone says are you surprised they have very good players up there, not at all," Meyer said. "For those of you who have been covering this game, just check out the last few games we've played them. I mean, it is just swinging as hard as you possibly can against very good players."

      The Buckeyes still have an outside shot to land a berth in the Big Ten championship game, but they must beat the Wolverines and hope that Penn State upsets Michigan State in East Lansing. Meanwhile, Michigan could force a three-way tie for the Big Ten East Division title and secure a trip to Indianapolis for the title game with a win and a Michigan State loss.

      "There's more to accomplish this season," Ohio State junior defensive end Joey Bosa said.

      Adding some intrigue to the first Harbaugh-Meyer matchup is Harbaugh's now-famous guarantee back in 1986 when he was Michigan's quarterback that the Wolverines would beat Ohio State in Columbus.

      "I do remember that," Meyer said. "And I remember us missing a wide left (field goal attempt) right at the end as the clock ticked zero."

      Ohio State's concern this year is fixing its problems, particularly on offense while going against a stout Michigan defense, and slowing down a Wolverines offense that's on a roll the past few weeks.

      "We want to be playing our best football at the end of year, but we weren't a complete team this past week," said Ohio State linebacker Raekwon McMillan, the team's leading tackler this season as a sophomore. "We have a long way to go before we reach maximum capacity. As a team that works hard and gets to work when something like this happens, we are capable of doing it."


      --RB Ezekiel Elliott has to move past the disappointing loss to Michigan State and his critical comments of the coaching staff and play-calling after the game. Coach Urban Meyer said he met with Elliott and they "squashed" it. But the fact remains that Elliott ran only 12 times for 33 yards against the Spartans and now the Buckeyes face a Michigan defense that's statistically better against the run than Michigan State. Expect Elliott to make a big effort against the Wolverines to atone for his behavior a week ago. Last year, he rushed for 121 yards and two touchdowns in Ohio State's 42-48 win over Michigan.

      --QB J.T. Barrett was rendered ineffective last week by the Michigan State defense and the miserable weather in Columbus. Barrett completed just 9-of-16 passes for 46 yards and ran 15 times for 44 yards. Those numbers will need to be significantly better on Saturday against Michigan, which ranks No. 1 in the Big Ten and No. 2 nationally in total defense. Last season, Barrett suffered a season-ending dislocated ankle in the second half after rushing for 86 yards and two touchdowns and passing for 176 yards and a touchdown against the Wolverines.

      --WR Braxton Miller has shown brief flashes of being a playmaker in his first year at his new position, but mostly he has played a secondary role in the offense with fewer touches than expected this year. Last week in the loss to Michigan State, he caught one pass for three yards and ran twice for nine yards. Will this be the week that the coaching staff integrates the fifth-year senior into the game plan -- and possibly allows him to play some quarterback again and throw a pass or two?

      --LB Joshua Perry will be playing his final regular-season game for Ohio State in the annual border battle with Michigan. The senior collected a game-high 15 tackles, including an assist on a tackle for loss, last week against Michigan State. He is the Buckeyes' second leading tackler with 88 stops and, as an Ohio native, understands the fierceness of the rivalry with the Wolverines.

  • Tuesday, November 24, 2015
    Spartans bounce back nicely from Nebraska loss
    By The Sports Xchange

    Spartans back in Big Ten, playoff hunt

    • When Michigan State lost two weeks ago at Nebraska, there was a moment the Spartans their season had been lost.

      They were so dialed in to competing for a championship -- both Big Ten and national -- that the thought they could still end up at that point with a loss was hard to realize.

      But things change quickly in college football.

      Following a 17-14 victory over Ohio State, one that saw a much-maligned defense dominate and a struggling kicker run off the field a hero after his game-winning kick as time expired, Michigan State has erased any belief its season was over.

      Michigan State, which hosts Penn State on Saturday, now finds itself in control of the Big Ten East and right smack in the middle of the playoff conversation. The Spartans have moved up to No. 5 in the College Football Playoff rankings released on Tuesday night with a potential date against No. 4 Iowa on deck in the Big Ten title game next week.

      It's a position even they might not have expected a couple of weeks ago.

      "When you lose a football game, any time you lose a football game, you've got to regroup," Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said. "And you know, it's tough. Especially if you're sort of on a run a little bit and then you lose and the way it went down we felt like we could control something at least in that outcome, because it was so close.

      "But I'm sure every football team that loses feels like that. So it's important to be able to regroup, we were able to do that."

      There was frustration, of course, following the Nebraska loss. As Dantonio eluded to, the way it went down was with a controversial call on the winning touchdown for the Cornhuskers. But it was also a game the Michigan State defense couldn't stop Nebraska.

      It was clear, if the Spartans were to turn things around, they'd have to be better on that side of the ball.

      That turnaround started in the win over Maryland, one of their best outings of the season, but a much tougher task awaited with Ohio State, which came into the game as the top scoring offense in the Big Ten and the No. 1 rushing unit.

      The Spartans responded, giving up 132 yards of total offense and just 86 rushing while holding Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott to 33 yards on the ground after he had gone over the 100-yard mark in 15 straight games.

      "We played very, very well," Dantonio said. "We know we needed to play well up front and tackle on the perimeter. We knew we had a great back we were gonna have to be able to handle, as well as a quarterback that was dynamic last year against us. We knew we had to play the ball in the deep part of the field at some point. And we did those things.

      "I think I credit our players and I credit our defensive staff with a big game plan. And really, (co-defensive coordinator Harlon) Barnett did an outstanding job calling the game. Did not put our players at risk too often but obviously pressured when we needed to, and we got off the field on third down. We started getting back to three and outs; I think there were six times there were three and outs."



      --QB Connor Cook continues to be the key to Michigan State moving forward. He had his streak of 36 straight starts snapped when his injured right shoulder kept him out of the Ohio State game and he'll be a game-time decision once again for the Penn State game. Junior Tyler O'Connor and sophomore Damion Terry played well in Cook's absence, but Michigan State will need the winningest quarterback in school history if it expects to get beyond the Big Ten Championship game.

      --RB LJ Scott carried only two times in the game against Maryland and fumbled both times. But in the victory over Ohio State, the true freshman overcame an early near-fumble and ran hard with some key chunks of yardage late in the game. While sophomore Gerald Holmes continues to start, Scott still has the most talent in the backfield and could still play a vital role, especially if Cook is out and the passing game is limited.

      --DE Shilique Calhoun was disruptive against Ohio State, as was the entire defensive line. He had a half tackle for loss and corralled J.T. Barrett, allowing for linebacker Jon Reschke to record the only sack. The fifth-year senior could be in for a big day in his final game at Spartan Stadium as Penn State's offensive line has struggled and quarterback Christian Hackenberg has taken a beating this season.

  • Tuesday, November 24, 2015
    Gators looking to build momentum
    By The Sports Xchange

    Banged up Florida has stumbled through November with three less-than-impressive wins.

    • Yet the Gators can build some positive momentum into the SEC title game with a strong showing at The Swamp against rival Florida State.

      The Gators (10-1) have lost four of their last five against the Seminoles, including two losses in a row at home. But Florida is coming off a sloppy effort in a 20-14 overtime win against Florida Atlantic. The Gators turned the ball over two times and needed a pass breakup in the end zone by senior defensive back Brian Poole in overtime to secure the win.

      "We're a 10-win football team that still has a long way to go in a lot of areas," Florida coach Jim McElwain said.

      McElwain is challenging his players to bring better effort and energy. The rival Seminoles could prove just the tonic for that problem. But the biggest key for the Gators will be to contain FSU sophomore running Dalvin Cook, A Heisman trophy candidate, Cook has rushed for 1,475 yards and 16 TDs this season.

      "He's a fire breather, he's a glass eater," McElwain said. "He's a difference maker, so some guys in this college football they have "it." That every time they touch "it" they can make "it" happen and hit a home run. I mean this guy has "it." And you know I hope we'll be able to tackle the guy. I mean there haven't been many teams that have."

      Florida has won its last three teams against sub-.500 teams Vanderbilt, South Carolina and Florida Atlantic by an average margin of six points. McElwain said his team is going to need to improve in all areas to knock off FSU, but is proud of what the Gators have accomplished so far.

      "Part of the key is figuring out how you get wins, even through deficiencies," McElwain said. "I can't say enough about this football team and how they overcame a lot of obstacles."



      --QB Treon Harris continues to struggle with ball security issues. Harris threw an interception for the second straight week and lost a fumble in the end zone in the fourth quarter that resulted in a Florida Atlantic TD that tied the score at 14. For the game, Harris completed 8-of-17 passes for 122 yards against FAU, and though he misses some throws, did come through with two TD passes, including a 13-yard strike to TE Jake McGee that put Florida up 20-14 in OT. For the season, Harris has thrown for 1,231 yards with 8 TDs and 4 interceptions.

      --WR Antonio Callaway continued to be a threat on offense and on special teams for the Gators. The freshman from Florida City caught 53-yard TD pass and added a 52-yard punt return. Callaway had a team-high 541 yards receiving on 27 catches with 4 TDs.

      --RB Kelvin Taylor rushed 26 times for 105 yards and a TD against Florida Atlantic, gaining a shade more than 4 yards per carry. It was Taylor's fourth 100-yard rushing game this season and fifth of his career. For the season, Taylor has rushed for 841 yards on 3.9 yards per carry with 13 TDs.

      --LB Jarrad Davis continued his strong play defensively for the Gators with 10 tackles and 2 sacks. For the season, Davis has 77 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks and one interception.

      --CB Jalen Tabor is emerging as an excellent cover corner opposite All-SEC CB Vernon Hargreaves III. Tabor recorded his fourth interception of the season against FAU, tying Hargreaves for the team lead, and also had 5 pass breakups. For the season, Tabor has a team-high 14 pass breakups.

  • Tuesday, November 24, 2015
    Egg Bowl means 'everything'' for Rebels
    By The Sports Xchange

    Chad Kelly grew up more than 900 miles away from Mississippi, and his familiarity with the tradition and passion woven into the state's most bitter college football rivalry seems even more distant than that.

    • "I'm just a kid from Buffalo (New York) who never hears a cowbell in Buffalo," Kelly said when the subject of Mississippi State's loudest game ritual is brought up.

      But most of the Rebels' quarterback's teammates call Mississippi home, and that's not lost on him. Kelly said he's ready to experience first-hand what those in his own locker room are trying their best to convey -- Saturday's meeting between Ole Miss and Mississippi State is no ordinary game.

      "It means everything," Kelly said. "Being around here the past nine, 10 months in Oxford, this is the biggest game of the year to get out there in front of a big-time crowd."

      More than pride and bragging rights could be on the line in this year's rendition of the Egg Bowl depending on what happens between Auburn and Alabama, which will play in the afternoon. An Auburn upset coupled with an Ole Miss win over the Bulldogs would put the Rebels (8-3, 5-2 Southeastern Conference) in the SEC Championship Game.

      But the only thing the Rebels can control is what happens in Starkville, a place they haven't won since Eli Manning's senior season in 2003. It's been a series dominated recently by the team playing in its own stadium with Mississippi State's 31-23 win in Oxford in 2010 being the only time the visitors have won in the last 11 meetings.

      "The stands are going to be packed out and the (Mississippi State) fans are going to rally behind their team," Ole Miss safety Chief Brown said. "It's going to be a really tough environment for us. Probably the toughest all year."

      For Ole Miss to have a shot to end the decade-long misery at Davis Wade Stadium, the defense will have to do something it's struggled to do all season and contain a potent Bulldog passing attack behind senior quarterback Dak Prescott, who's thrown for 3,159 yards and 23 touchdowns for the SEC's second-ranked passing offense.

      Arkansas is the only team in the SEC that's given up more passing yards than the Rebels, who have surrendered at least 270 yards through the air in six games. Prescott's ability to tuck it and run could make it even more of a chore for Ole Miss to contain the Bulldogs, who can attack any part of the field with their spread offense.

      Prescott has added 478 yards and nine scores on the ground.

      "They spread you from sideline to sideline and give (Prescott) a lot of options once the ball is snapped," Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said.

      The only quarterback who's been more prolific in the SEC than Prescott is Kelly, whose 3,504 passing yards and 25 touchdown tosses are tops in the league. The wide-open offenses and little resistance against them could make for a game that won't be decided until the final possession.

      "I wouldn't say a shootout," wideout Laquon Treadwell said.

      But ?

      "It's going to be a great game though," Treadwell added. "High intensity. They're going to be flying around. We're going to be flying around. It's going to be a great rivalry game."



      --QB Chad Kelly continues to tear up the SEC in his inaugural season in the league. The junior college transfer leads the conference in passing yards (3,504) and total offense (3,857 yards). He accounted for four touchdowns against LSU to break Eli Manning's school record for the most touchdowns in a single season (34), and his 361 yards of total offense broke Bo Wallace's record for total offense in one season.

      --WR Laquon Treadwell is putting together a memorable season in what's likely to be his last in an Ole Miss uniform. The 6-foot-2, 210-pound junior caught a touchdown for the sixth straight game against LSU and leads the SEC in receptions (72) and yards (1,060). He's a physical specimen that's open even when he's not and will likely be the first wideout taken in next year's NFL draft.

      --LB DeMarquis Gates stepped in for Denzel Nkemdiche at linebacker and turned in a career performance against LSU, tallying 14 tackles and a pass breakup to earn SEC Defensive Player of the Week honors. Gates has been rotating with Nkemdiche at the Stinger, or outside, position and has been producing all year. He entered last week's game third on the team in tackles and now is the leader in that category with 72 stops.

      --Mike Hilton continues to do a little bit of everything for Ole Miss' defense. The senior defensive back started the season at rover, moved to Huskie to fill in for the injured Tony Conner and is now splitting time between Huskie and corner with Conner's knee injury still bothering him and the cornerback play being suspect. Hilton produced at both spots, recording nine tackles, including one for a loss. His 55 stops are third-most on the team.

  • Tuesday, November 24, 2015
    Tide preparing for two Auburn quarterbacks
    By The Sports Xchange

    With Auburn using two quarterbacks throughout the season, Alabama linebacker Reggie Ragland wants all the time he can get to prepare for the Tigers.

    • "It's easier for me to watch film on one guy one day and the next day watch film on the other guy," Ragland said. "So it's easier to do that when you don't got class and other stuff to worry about, so it should be helpful."

      Ragland and Alabama travel to Auburn on Saturday for the Iron Bowl. Kickoff is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. ET on CBS.

      Auburn quarterback Jeremy Johnson won the job in the preseason, and started the team's first three games.

      But reports stated that the 6-foot-5, 240-pound junior lost his confidence after the Tigers got off to a rough start. He was replaced by freshman Sean White in Week Four. White started the next five games, but a knee injury sidelined him against Texas A&M. Johnson has been back under center for the past three games.

      On Sunday, Auburn offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee said the team wasn't ready to name a starter.

      "He's getting better. (I) like where he's at," Lashlee said of Johnson. "I think Sean's getting healthier. We know we're going to probably need both of those guys, and that's something Coach (Malzahn) will probably address more on Tuesday. At this point, we're just in the early stages of putting a game plan together, so I don't know what we're going to do yet."

      This season, Johnson has played in 10 games. He's thrown for 873 yards and eight touchdowns. He's completing 63 percent of his passes and seven interceptions. Johnson has also rushed for 198 yards and five scores.

      White has passed for 1,064 yards and a touchdown to just two interceptions.

      "I've just got to do my job and watch film on both of them because both of them are good guys," Ragland said. "Jeremy can run and throw. Sean can run and throw. So I've got to do my job of watching them to see what they do good and bad, so we can do good in getting to them and just getting them on their bad stuff."

      Tide coach Nick Saban said Alabama's defense must be prepared for both because they've each "played well at times."

      "Jeremy Johnson's a really good athlete who has made a lot of big plays, extending plays as well as with his feet," Saban said. "He is a threat to run the ball, and he's made some big plays passing. I don't know who's going to play in this game. We've got to be ready for either guy. ? They both do a good job with their offense and they're very capable of making plays and I think they have a very good understanding of what they want to try to do."



      --LB Reggie Ragland. Ragland leads Alabama with 85 tackles on the year. He should have another big day roaming the middle of the Tide's defense.

      --RB Derrick Henry. Henry has one more big stage this regular season to make his mark for the Heisman Trophy. He's rushed for 1,526 yards and 21 touchdowns.

      --K Adam Griffith. If for some reason Alabama's offense struggles to find the end zone, Griffith could be huge in providing points.

  • Tuesday, November 24, 2015
    No. 4 Hawkeyes try to finish off unbeaten regular season
    By The Sports Xchange

    IOWA CITY, Iowa. -- All that stands between Iowa and a perfect regular season is Nebraska.

    • The Hawkeyes travel to Lincoln, Neb., for the annual Heroes Game on Friday with the Big Ten West Division title and a ticket to the conference championship game in Indianapolis next week already in hand.

      Iowa still has plenty of naysayers heading into a big weekend of college football. The national media isn't sold on the Hawkeyes' worthiness to be considered among the top teams in the College Football Playoff rankings but the selection committee is. The Hawkeyes moved up to No. 4 in Tuesday's latest rankings.

      The game at Nebraska (5-6, 3-4 Big Ten) will provide Iowa (11-0, 7-0) with an opportunity to show the world it belongs with the elite.

      The Hawkeyes know the Cornhuskers are a dangerous team with a record that's deceiving. Their six losses have been by five, three, one, two, two and 10 points. They handed Michigan State its only loss three weeks ago and they need a win to become bowl eligible.

      Nebraska also is coming off an extra week of preparation because of a bye. In other words, it's a team that's laying in the weeds waiting to attack while trying to salvage its first season under coach Mike Riley.

      The Cornhuskers have one of the Big Ten's top passing attacks, led by quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr., and their defensive line is big and talented.

      "We've got to find a way, and we will," Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. "We have got good guys and they're working hard and they'll respond, but this is going to be a big challenge, too. This is a really good offensive football team, you know."

      The ramifications of the game are obvious for Iowa. Win out and the Hawkeyes more than likely remain in the CFP final four. Lose once and they can forgot about the playoffs. The Hawkeyes aren't accustomed to that type of pressure.

      "Yeah, we're trying not to focus on that," Ferentz said. "I've said this before: These guys are in college. They're smart. Every one of them. They may not have a car, they may not have clothes, but they've all got a phone and technology. It's an essential in life anymore.

      "They get more information than they need probably, so I don't think I have to remind them about those kinds of things, but to me the reminder is how do we get to here. How do we get to this point thus far, and that's really the secret."

      The potential for distractions is there, but Ferentz likes the way his team has handled its business this year.

      "We try not to get too bogged down on that stuff, just like the College Playoff rankings that have been going on a couple weeks now. Right now, they really don't mean a lot," Ferentz said. "It's really about the competition and what's going on on the field. We're just going to try to keep our eyes on what's in front of us here, and see where it all takes us at the end."

      Iowa only need to flip the calendar to remember how low it was a year ago after its collapse at home against Nebraska. Leading 24-7 late in the third quarter, the Hawkeyes gave up big play after big play that allowed Armstrong to rally the Cornhuskers to a 37-34 overtime win.

      A promising 2014 season deteriorated into a 7-6 finish for Iowa and prompted Ferentz to make changes during the offseason that led to the turnaround this year. To put the Hawkeyes' success to date in historical perspective, the last time they finished with an unbeaten and untied regular-season record was 1922.

      One of the catalysts for change in the program in January was Ferentz going with C.J. Beathard at quarterback over returning starter Jake Rudock, who is now at Michigan. Beathard's leadership qualities, a strong running attack with four capable backs and a hard-hitting defense accelerated the transformation.

      "That game is a centerpiece for it, but there were signs along the way," Ferentz said. "We lost way too many close games, something we didn't do as a team very well last year. There's a lot of things we didn't do well. You can go right down the list, but that word "finish," it gets thrown out all the time in sports."

      Finish once again is the operative word for Iowa. This year, there's a bigger prize potentially awaiting at the finish line.


      --QB C.J. Beathard kept his perfect record intact as a starter after the 40-20 victory over Purdue last week. He is 12-0 as a starter at Iowa (one start in 2014, 11 this year). Beathard doesn't have a 300-yard passing game this year because Iowa's running game is so good. But that could change this week. Nebraska's defense is stronger against the run than the pass. Beathard makes plays with his arm and his feet, and his health appears to be improving after being bothered by nagging leg injuries during the season. Against Purdue, Beathard completed 12-of-20 passes for 213 yards and three touchdowns. He ranks fifth in the Big Ten in total offense.

      --RB Jordan Canzeri appeared to be fully back from a high ankle sprain last week when he ran for 95 yards on 13 carries and completed the scoring in his final game in Kinnick Stadium with a 42-yard touchdown run. Canzeri is Iowa's leading rusher with 824 yards and 10 touchdowns, but he'll continue to share time with RBs LeShun Daniels Jr., Akrum Wadley and Derrick Mitchell as part of the Big Ten's No. 2 rushing offense.

      --DB Desmond King is stuck on eight interceptions but continues to lead the nation. Last week against Purdue, King had 11 tackles, including 10 solos, and three pass breakups. The junior also is a valuable returner with a 25.6-yard average on kickoffs that ranks second in the Big Ten. King was named this week as a finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award that goes to the top defensive back in college football.

      --LB Cole Fisher waited five years to get his opportunity and he's making the most of it. The senior is Iowa's second leading tackler and ranks seventh in the Big Ten with 92 stops while starting all 11 games, the first starts of his career. Fisher, an Omaha, Neb., native, will have extra motivation this week going back to his home state to face Nebraska. Last week against Purdue, Fisher finished with 10 tackles, a forced fumble and a pass breakup.

  • Tuesday, November 24, 2015
    Oklahoma, Iowa crash CFP playoff party
    By The Sports Xchange

    Oklahoma and Iowa made the most significant jumps in the College Football Playoff rankings released Tuesday night.

    • Unbeaten Clemson remained No. 1 and once-beaten Alabama stayed at No. 2 after both had convincing wins Saturday, but Oklahoma (9-1) rose to No. 3 following its victory over TCU while unbeaten Iowa moved up to No. 4.

      Ohio State was No. 3 last week, but slipped to No. 8 after its loss to Michigan State, which rose to No. 5.

      Notre Dame, which was No. 4 last week, dropped to No. 6 after an unimpressive three-point win over Boston College. The Irish could gain ground this week, however, because they face No. 9-ranked Stanford on the Cardinal's home field. A win in that game could persuade the 12-person selection committee to move Notre Dame back into the top four.

      Baylor, which is No. 8, and Michigan, slotted at No. 10, are the other two teams in the top 10.

      At this point, it seems unlikely that a team outside the top 10 could jump into the top four by the end of the season, but strange things do seem to happen.

      The top four teams in the final rankings released Dec. 6 will qualify for the national championship playoff, with the semifinals scheduled for New Year's Eve and the title game set for Jan. 12 in Glendale, Ariz.

  • Tuesday, November 24, 2015
    College football notebook: Carr's grandson dies
    By The Sports Xchange

    Five-year-old Chad Carr, the grandson of former Michigan coach Lloyd Carr, died Monday after long battle with brain cancer.

    • Michigan helped launch a "#ChadTough" campaign with his parents, Tammi and Jason Carr, to raise money for research and treatment of pediatric brain tumors.

      Michigan's football team is wearing #ChadTough helmet decals.

      "He was so full of life and love," Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh said on his radio show. "But heaven got stronger. Heaven has another angel now."

      ---There are 80 spots in the postseason with a record 40 bowl games. With two weeks left in the season, only 71 teams are eligible for one of those spots.

      The NCAA held a teleconference Monday and a second Tuesday to discuss ways to fill any remaining vacancies. With some teams playing two more regular-season games, the prevailing thought is that the situation will work itself out, per CBS Sports' Dennis Dodd.

      And if it doesn't?

      Get ready for a 5-7 team or three to get an extra whirl in December or January.

      Virginia Tech, East Carolina, Tulsa, Indiana, Nebraska, Minnesota, Illinois, Buffalo, San Jose State, Washington, Kentucky and Missouri are among teams with five wins.

      ---Michigan State lists two quarterbacks in the starting lineup for Saturday's Big Ten regular-season finale against Penn State.

      Senior quarterback Connor Cook did not start last week when No. 9 Michigan State upset No. 3 Ohio State at Columbus. Cook suffered a shoulder injury in the first half against Maryland and his status for Saturday against the Nittany Lions is unclear.

      Junior Tyler O'Connor started and sophomore Damion Terry also played on the Spartans' first possession against the Buckeyes.

      Michigan State's official depth chart lists Cook OR O'Connor with the first-team offense.

      ---It appears that No. 10 Baylor is down to its third-string quarterback.

      Reports out of Waco on Tuesday indicate that QB Jarrett Stidham has a broken ankle/fibula and will miss the rest of the season. He is also dealing with back and hand injuries.

      On Monday, coach Art Briles said Stidham was "highly questionable" and that the Bears would prepare to play sophomore Chris Johnson against TCU on Friday.

  • Tuesday, November 24, 2015
    Report: Baylor down to third-string QB
    By The Sports Xchange

    It appears that No. 10 Baylor is down to its third-string quarterback.

    • Reports out of Waco on Tuesday indicate that QB Jarrett Stidham has a broken ankle/fibula and will miss the rest of the season. He is also dealing with back and hand injuries.

      On Monday, coach Art Briles said Stidham was "highly questionable" and that the Bears would prepare to play sophomore Chris Johnson against TCU on Friday.

      Stidham, a freshman quarterback, replaced junior Seth Russell who was lost for the season about a month ago with a neck injury. Stidham was sidelined for the second half of Baylor's upset road win against No. 6 Oklahoma State on Saturday.

      Since taking over for Russell, Stidham had thrown for 12 touchdowns and ran for two scores.

      Johnson threw two touchdowns and ran for another score in the second half against the Cowboys. He has appeared in nine games for the Bears.

      Briles also said Shock Linwood, the Big 12's leading rusher, also is questionable for Friday's game.

  • Tuesday, November 24, 2015
    Spartans QB a question
    By The Sports Xchange

    Michigan State lists two quarterbacks in the starting lineup for Saturday's Big Ten regular-season finale against Penn State.

    • Senior quarterback Connor Cook did not start last week when No. 9 Michigan State upset No. 3 Ohio State at Columbus. Cook suffered a shoulder injury in the first half against Maryland and his status for Saturday against the Nittany Lions is unclear.

      Junior Tyler O'Connor started and sophomore Damion Terry also played on the Spartans' first possession against the Buckeyes.

      Michigan State's official depth chart lists Cook OR O'Connor with the first-team offense.

      Cook has thrown for 2,482 yards, 21 touchdowns with four interceptions this season. He is 32-4 as a starter.

      O'Connor entered last week's game 6-for-11 passing for 44 yards with a touchdown and an interception.

  • Tuesday, November 24, 2015
    Grandson of Lloyd Carr dies of brain cancer
    By The Sports Xchange

    Five-year-old Chad Carr, the grandson of former Michigan coach Lloyd Carr, died Monday after long battle with brain cancer.

    • Michigan helped launched a "#ChadTough" campaign with his parents, Tammi and Jason Carr, to raise money for research and treatment of pediatric brain tumors.

      Michigan's football team is wearing #ChadTough helmet decals.

      "He was so full of life and love," Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh said on his radio show. "But heaven got stronger. Heaven has another angel now."

  • Tuesday, November 24, 2015
    Bowl eligible? NCAA might fudge definition
    By The Sports Xchange

    There are 80 spots in the postseason with a record 40 bowl games. With two weeks left in the season, only 71 teams are eligible for one of those spots.

    • The NCAA held a teleconference Monday and a second Tuesday to discuss ways to fill any remaining vacancies. With some teams playing two more regular-season games, the prevailing thought is that the situation will work itself out, per CBS Sports' Dennis Dodd.

      And if it doesn't?

      Get ready for a 5-7 team or three to get an extra whirl in December or January.

      Virginia Tech, East Carolina, Tulsa, Indiana, Nebraska, Minnesota, Illinois, Buffalo, San Jose State, Washington, Kentucky and Missouri are among teams with five wins.

      A team like Nebraska, not yet at the required six victories to be labeled "bowl eligible," has a few marquee wins and could be elevated by the NCAA Football Oversight Committee. The Cornhuskers beat Michigan State.

      Washington has a similar resume, with a win at Southern Cal.