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Greetings. Realignment has reared its big stupid head in the middle of our precious football season. From College Park this afternoon:
“The Big Ten Council of Presidents/Chancellors (COP/C) announced unanimous approval today for the University of Maryland to join the Big Ten Conference effective July 1, 2014, with competition to begin in all sports for the 2014-15 academic year. The University of Maryland also looks forward to joining the Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC), a consortium of world-class research institutions dedicated to advancing their academic missions.”
Rutgers is expected to decamp for the Increasingly Inaccurately Named Big Ten this week as well. Pete Thamel, Andy Staples and Michael Rosenberg have more. We, the internet, have jokes. And now, the story of a quick conference square-dance, as told through the magic of social media:
Meyer on Maryland “No. Gene approached me yesterday and was the first time I ever heard of it. I said ‘what?’”
— Land-Grant Holy Land (@Landgrant33) November 19, 2012
You know a league is vulnerable when its wiki page has sections titled “Instability” and “Continuing Instability.” — bit.ly/ZZrtBQ
— Gary Parrish (@GaryParrishCBS) November 19, 2012
In trying to confirm Maryland, Rutgers talking to the Big Ten I have received some rather interesting answers, such as “I have no idea why.”
— Ralph D. Russo (@ralphDrussoAP) November 17, 2012
The ACC built a $50 million turtle fence that doesn’t work
— Will Brinson (@willbrinson) November 19, 2012
• No. 25 Kent State 31, Bowling Green 24. Brothers and sisters, we have nearly come to the end of this thing. This is the last normal weekend of college football in the 2012 season: Next week’s games are scattered willy-nilly over the Thanksgiving holiday, and after that there’s just the conference championships and a dozen or so assorted other contests. Then, we will be all plunged into darkness with only the promise of Army-Navy and the New Mexico Bowl to guide us. So we understand your impatience, and you can imagine ours, as we flipped channels today only to be met time and again with lackluster on-field products.
We were delighted but not surprised to find the most compelling action of Week 12′s first flight of games in the form of daylight MACtion. If you’re not a regular reader of Profiles in Profiteroles or lack a fondness for college football’s less-celebrated conferences, you may not be familiar with the works of Kent State’s Dri Archer. The top-ranked kick returner in the FBS got most of the Golden Flashes’ touches at running back today, and to spectacular effect: 241 rushing yards, including touchdowns of 79 and 74 yards.
Kent State’s other two touchdowns were scored by quarterback Spencer Keith (one passing, one rushing); the last gave the Golden Flashes their final lead of the game midway through the fourth quarter. The Falcons mounted an impressive final would-be scoring drive that ended with Luke Wollet picking off Matt Schilz in Kent State’s end zone with 21 seconds remaining on the clock, and punching the Golden Flashes’ first ticket to the MAC championship game. They’ll face Northern Illinois in Detroit on Friday, November 30. [BOX | RECAP]
Our weekly highlight show of lesser FBS luminaries. Non-AQs and independents, be welcome.
Tis the season for car commercials with big-ass bows and conference math. We attempted to explain, in bewildering detail, how the MAC races could shake out from here in our Wednesday night MACtion preview. We are here to inform you (with some glee, as we adore late-season chaos) that the MAC has far from the most convoluted conference race situation at the moment. Very quickly, the current states of the remaining non-AQ conference races, as teams not named Navy or BYU begin to prettify themselves for postseason suitors:
• Conference USA: Two teams with perfect 6-0 league play records top the two divisions: Central Florida in the East and Tulsa in the West. After Saturday, one squad’s record will bear some blemish when the two clash in Tulsa, but don’t expect that to affect the race. The Knights have only UAB to clear after that in the regular season, and hold a head-to-head advantage over East Carolina, the only other team in the division with fewer than three conference losses. Tulsa’s championship game aspirations could still be spoiled with a loss tonight and another at SMU November 24, assuming the Mustangs (4-2 in league play) beat Rice in the meantime.
• Syracuse 45, No. 11 Louisville 26. The number of undefeated teams in FBS play dropped from six to five following today’s first flight of games, with the Big East becoming the latest conference to lose its last unbeaten program. The Cardinals fell behind less than three minutes into the game, on a 20-yard ‘Cuse field goal, and would tie the score twice in the first quarter, but they never held a lead over the unranked Orange. Three Syracuse touchdowns in the second quarter gave the underdogs a comfortable cushion that they wouldn’t surrender.
Syracuse’s Ryan Nassib threw for 246 yards and three touchdowns on just 15 completions. He was balanced on the ground by a 144-yard, one-touchdown rushing performance from Jerome Smith and a 99-yard, two-score effort from Prince-Tyson Gulley. Alec Lemon was by far the favored target of the afternoon, as he finished with nine receptions for 176 yards and two touchdowns. For the Cardinals, Teddy Bridgewater accounted for 422 passing yards and 17 rushing yards all by his lonesome. Louisville’s total net offensive output was 472 yards.
Spinning this forward: The Cardinals now trail Rutgers in the Big East title race; the Scarlet Knights are 4-0 in league play with Cincinnati, Pitt and Louisville left on the schedule. Syracuse can clinch bowl eligibility with a win in either of its final two games, at Missouri or at Temple. [BOX | RECAP]
Saturday games of varying degrees of interest, grouped in highly subjective categories. For more in-depth preview content, visit Andy Staples’ Walkthrough.
• Biggest game we feel like we couldn’t predict if our lives depended on it: No. 3 Kansas State at TCU, 7:00 p.m. ET. We’re still harboring a dream that seemed far-fetched just a few short weeks ago, a dream inspired by Tom Fornelli suggesting that if Bill Snyder takes home the crystal football this year, he’ll break it in half and make two hard candy dishes. The ‘Cats, at 9-0, are one of six undefeated teams remaining in FBS play. No gimme games remain, but then again, they haven’t played a gimme game since Oct. 6 against Kansas. In their past three outings, they’ve beaten three ranked opponents by a combined score of 154-68.
The Horned Frogs, no slouches on defense, will pose a greater threat to K-State’s undefeated season if the Wildcats take the field without starting quarterback Collin Klein. The Heisman frontrunner’s status for Saturday has been carefully guarded almost since the moment of his injury during last week’s game against Oklahoma State. It’s entirely possible we could see this contest played out without either team fielding the quarterbacks that topped the depth charts at the year’s outset. Only one thing is for certain: This will be the purplest football contest of the regular season.
• The greatest p.r. email we have received on this job begins thusly: “Tuesday, November 6th is Election Night for the country but it’s also a decisive night in the battle for the West Division crown of the Mid-American Conference. The Toledo Rockets host Ball State on Nov. 6 in a nationally televised contest at the Glass Bowl (8:00 p.m. / ESPN2) in what could help determine the eventual MAC champion.” We should probably get this framed. Preview coming later this afternoon for tonight’s game, right after Profiles in Profiteroles.
• Roster blotter: Matt Scott was, in fact, concussed against UCLA, and is questionable for Arizona’s game against Colorado … Washington State’s company line on Marquess Wilson is that Marquess Wilson is suspended … Bret Bielema is keeping the details of Wisconsin’s late-season quarterback race to himself … Boise State defensive tackle and internet favorite Mike “Bacon” Atkinson is through for the year with a torn ACL.
• Mack Brown trolls message boards all night long just writing “STAY CLASSY:” Because if there’s one real big problem college athletics has right now, it’s a lack of respect conveyed through hand signals and signs, amirite?
Our weekly highlight show of lesser FBS luminaries. Non-AQs and independents, be welcome.
Profile in Ownage: Phillip Thomas, SS, Fresno State
It’s nine weeks into the first season of the Tim DeRuyter era at Fresno State, and if your thoughts turn to the Bulldogs, they probably turn to quarterback Derek Carr, the younger brother of David currently putting up more than 300 yards of offense a game, or Robbie “Mighty Mouse” Rouse, the diminutive back who scored four touchdowns in a quarter against Colorado. But as the season winds down, we’d suggest familiarizing yourselves with the body of work being assembled by senior strong safety Phillip Thomas. The Bakersfield, Calif., native has recorded an FBS-leading seven interceptions through two months of play, three of which he returned for touchdowns, and one fumble recovery. He’s also forced three fumbles, made seven tackles for loss and collected three sacks.
“This 3-4 defense that we run, we learned it from Dick LeBeau and the Steelers, and Phillip’s our Troy Polamalu,” DeRuyter told SI.com. “Where you’ve gotta have a guy who’s gonna be a difference-maker, you can blitz him, you can have him in pass coverage, you can have him as a run-force player, he can play man coverage and he can disguise everything? That guy, for us, is Phillip.”
Thomas is keying a major defensive turnaround. A team that ranked 116th nationally in turnover margin last season is up to 11th in 2012, thanks in large part to a player who spent most of his junior year watching from the sidelines on one good leg.
“I know we’ve had a reputation here offensively,” said DeRuyter. “When you’ve got players like Derek and Robbie, it’s deservedly so.
“What I think people don’t know is Phillip didn’t play a year ago.”
There are many ranked-on-ranked games this college football Saturday, including No. 3 Florida vs. No. 12 Georgia, No. 15 Texas Tech at No. 4 Kansas State, No. 5 Notre Dame at No. 8 Oklahoma and No. 13 Mississippi State at No. 1 Alabama. This is not a preview of those games. (For more big-picture football content, please visit Andy Staples’ Walkthrough.)
• Locavore football for the environmentally conscious consumer. Devotees of farm-to-fan football, please note these geographic rivalry games on the schedule for Week 9: Temple at Pitt (noon E.T.), NC State at North Carolina (12:30 p.m.), No. 23 Ohio at Miami (Ohio) (3:30 p.m.), and UTEP at Houston (4:30 p.m.).
• Game that should be played at night but isn’t. UTEP at Houston. UTEP being UTEP, and Houston being half responsible for that 72-42 SMU box score that so terrified the daintier set, this one ought to start and end under cover of darkness. It just seems a more fitting setting for whatever wackiness is about to ensue.
• Conference curiosity. We remind you at this time that a) Duke leads its division and is scheduled to play No. 11 Florida State in Tallahassee b) for the Seminoles’ homecoming game. Who is carrying the bigger jinx here? Impossible to discern. Kickoff is at 3:30 p.m.
• Nonconference curiosities. BYU at Georgia Tech (3:00 p.m.) and Kent State at No. 18 Rutgers (3:30 p.m.).
Snap Judgments from the Week 8 early slate. For more, check out midday Snaps, late Snaps, our coverage of South Carolina-Florida, Kansas State-West Virginia, Oregon-Arizona State and our complete Top 25 review.
• No. 7 Ohio State 29, Purdue 22 (OT). Braxton Miller has been knocked out of games before. Buckeyes backup quarterback Kenny Guiton had seen action in five of Ohio State’s seven games prior to Saturday, whether in mop-up duty or in temporary relief for an injured Miller. Guiton is a junior, albeit one with very limited meaningful game experience, but tonight in Columbus he’ll be something of a local hero.
In the final minute of the third quarter, at the end of a 37-yard run, Miller was tackled hard and had to be helped off the field. He was taken to a local hospital, the nature and severity of his condition undisclosed at the time, although it has since been reported that he is symptom free and will return from the hospital soon. Still, even prior to being knocked out, Miller was having one of his worst statistical outings of the season. Through three quarters, he recorded just 47 rushing yards on 12 carries, completed 9-of-20 passes for 113 yards, fumbled twice and threw a pick.
At the time Miller went down, the Buckeyes trailed the Boilermakers 20-14 behind three explosive Purdue plays: an 83-yard touchdown pass from Caleb TerBush to Akeem Shavers on the first play from scrimmage, a 100-yard Akeem Hunt kickoff return at the end of the first quarter and a 31-yard TerBush pass to Gary Bush. Ohio State might have been even further behind had a 34-yard Paul Griggs’ field goal attempt not been blocked on the previous drive. The Buckeyes dug themselves a little deeper with a missed 50-yard field goal attempt on the ensuing drive, but they held the Boilermakers near midfield — only to be pinned at the one-yard line by Purdue’s punt. Ohio State then committed a safety thanks to a block in the back in the end zone.
So you’re a backup quarterback, down 22-14 in the fourth quarter, to a conference opponent, at home. What do you do, hotshot? If you’re Guiton, the answer is “throw an interception, then lead a touchdown drive in the final minute, tie the game on a two-point conversion pass and lead another touchdown drive in overtime for the win.” Carlos Hyde rushed in the Buckeyes’ winning score from one yard out. [BOX | RECAP]