College notebook: Unbeaten Coastal Carolina, BYU arrange sudden showdown

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Coastal Carolina’s Michael McFarlane celebrates during a 34-23 win over Appalachian State on Nov. 21. Coastal Carolina, ranked 14th in the Football Bowl Subdivision with a 9-0 record, will host eighth-ranked BYU on Saturday. Richard Shiro/Associated Press

Word came to Coastal Carolina on Wednesday that the most significant home game in the history of the program was in serious jeopardy.

The 14th-ranked Chanticleers were scheduled to face No. 25 Liberty on Saturday in an unexpected Top-25 matchup that persuaded ESPN to send “College GameDay” to Conway, South Carolina, for the first time.

But COVID-19 had crept into the Liberty program. Coastal Carolina needed a Plan B – as in BYU. Coach Kalani Sitake’s eighth-ranked Cougars have been primed to pounce on short notice if the opportunity arose to bolster their chances to reach a major bowl.

“Last week I said: ‘Kalani, it’s kind of like when there’s a married couple about ready to have a baby and you have your bag packed by the door, that’s how it’s going to be maybe,’” BYU Athletic Director Tom Holmoe said. “You might have to pick up your bag and go.”

With ESPN and the Sun Belt Conference’s assistance, Coastal Carolina and BYU finalized a deal Thursday morning to play a game about 56 hours later.

The upstart Chanticleers (9-0) and barnstorming Cougars (9-0) meet Saturday in maybe the most intriguing game of the college football weekend, one that could position the winner for a multimillion-dollar postseason payday.

Coastal Carolina Athletic Director Matt Hogue said Liberty officials reached out Wednesday to say the Flames might not be able to play. Holmoe said a friend reached out the same day to tell him to keep an eye on the Liberty situation.

“Once you’re in that situation this year, you know we’re all kind of playing by a different book,” Hogue said. “We obviously have a lot invested in this weekend so we wanted to start exploring what opportunities might be out there.”

Kurt Dargis, director of college football for ESPN, said he got a call from Sun Belt Conference officials Wednesday afternoon informing him of the potential problem with what the network had turned into a showcase game.

ESPN owns the television rights for both the Sun Belt and BYU, and has been helping the independent Cougars rebuild a schedule that fell apart when Power Five conferences decided to play mostly league games during the pandemic.

Dargis called Holmoe and asked if BYU was interested. Holmoe said he needed to run it by Sitake, but it only took the AD about 45 minutes to get back with the news: If Liberty could not play, BYU would.

“It was really a whirlwind and went very quickly,” Dargis said.

Even though the Cougars did not have a game scheduled for Saturday, they had practiced Monday and Tuesday as if they might. No set opponent, only possibilities.

“I’m grateful to our coaches,” Holmoe said. “They’ve watched a lot of film this week.”

PLAYOFFS: No spectators will be

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College Football Playoff Notebook: The Ohio State Conundrum Has an Easy Fix | Bleacher Report

Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields throws a pass against Indiana during the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020, in Columbus, Ohio. Ohio State beat Indiana 42-35. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)

Jay LaPrete/Associated Press

Alabama, Notre Dame and Clemson remain atop the College Football Playoff rankings, but Ohio State is the biggest story of the week.

Because of a COVID-19 outbreak in the program, the No. 4 Buckeyes didn’t travel to Illinois last Saturday. As a result, they’re now in jeopardy of falling below the Big Ten’s arbitrary six-game minimum to compete in the Big Ten Championship Game.

That scenario has stirred concern about Ohio State not winning a Big Ten title and impacting its CFP hopes. If either upcoming game (at Michigan State on Saturday or vs. Michigan next week) is canceled, the Buckeyes would fall short of six pre-championship games.

However, it shouldn’t be this complicated.

The best (and easiest!) decision is entirely in the Big Ten’s control. It’s this simple: Eliminate the six-game minimum and put Ohio State against Northwestern on the championship stage.

Results have almost officially shown this is what should happen. Indiana lost to the Buckeyes, and no other East Division program is better than 2-2 (Maryland). Ohio State and Northwestern can both clinch a division title with one more win.

Ohio State beat Northwestern in the 2018 Big Ten title game.

Ohio State beat Northwestern in the 2018 Big Ten title game.Michael Conroy/Associated Press

Might some critics believe the Big Ten is catering to Ohio State? Who cares? Since the Buckeyes are the best option to represent the league in the playoff, make it happen!

This six-game minimum is exclusive to 2020a year in which we’re making it up along the wayso why should this suddenly be an immovable obstacle?

Just look at the ACC.

Hours before Tuesday’s CFP release, the ACC announced it will evaluate Notre Dame, Clemson and Miami on a nine-game league schedule instead of 10. The league literally removed a game for No. 2 Notre Dame and is not rescheduling a 10th for No. 3 Clemson. Yet the only people even mildly upset at the decision are those who believe the ACC is protecting both teams’ playoff hopes.

So what?

This isn’t difficult.

Is the Big Tenthe conference that canceled the season first because it expected the rest of the sport to follow, said it would not reconsider, in fact reconsidered and started in late Octoberactually scared of some bad press? Maybe.

But just imagine the backlash if Ohio State is left out of the CFP because it didn’t win a conference championship. That would be markedly more intense than a quick-to-fade perception that the Big Ten wants to protect Ohio State’s playoff hopes.

Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren

Big Ten commissioner Kevin WarrenMichael Conroy/Associated Press

Sure, this hypothetical might be irrelevant in two weeks. If the Buckeyes play both Michigan State and Michigan, they’ll either be 6-0 and heading to the Big Ten Championship Game or, after a loss, removed from CFP consideration.

These are not mutually exclusive points, though.

Unlike the Big Ten, the College Football Playoff selection committee has no minimum requirement for the number of games to be considered. In theory,

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College football notebook: Alabama remains atop AP Top 25

Alabama running back Najee Harris scores a touchdown during the Crimson Tide’s 42-13 win over Auburn on Saturday. Mickey Welsh/The Montgomery Advertiser via AP

Alabama is the unanimous No. 1 again in The Associated Press college football poll as the top eight teams in the rankings held steady for the fourth week in a row.

The Crimson Tide got 62 first-place votes for the second consecutive week and are followed by No. 2 Notre Dame, No. 3 Ohio State and No. 4 Clemson.

Southeastern Conference teams Texas A&M and Florida are fifth and sixth, respectively. Unbeaten Cincinnati is seventh and undefeated BYU is eighth.

The changes in the poll came after that, with Miami inching up to No. 9 and Indiana returning to the top 10.

Oregon’s first loss of the season knocked the Ducks out of the top 10, dropping them 12 spots to No. 21.

VANDERBILT: The school fired coach Derek Mason after losing the first eight games of his seventh season, and offensive coordinator Todd Fitch will serve as the interim coach.

“While this was a difficult decision, but I know this change is necessary,” athletic director Candice Lee said in a statement. “We wish Derek and his entire family the best.”

Mason was hired in 2014 as Vanderbilt’s 28th coach, replacing James Franklin when he left for Penn State. Mason came to Vanderbilt after being associate head coach and defensive coordinator at Stanford. He became the first Vanderbilt coach since the 1920s to beat in-state rival Tennessee three straight seasons.

• Vanderbilt’s Sarah Fuller, the most famous walk-on in college football this season, isn’t ready to walk away from the sport.

After the soccer player-turned kicker became the first woman to play in a Power Five conference football game, Fuller said she wants to remain a member of the team.

“I’ll stay around as long as they want me, till they like, kick me off,” Fuller said Sunday. “So I’m here for the long run.”

Fuller stayed in the COVID-19 testing protocol and was attending meetings Sunday with Vanderbilt (0-8), a day after making history by kicking off to open the second half of a 41-0 loss to Missouri. Fuller executed a squib kick that traveled 30 yards before the ball was smothered by Missouri with no chance for a return.


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Watch Now: OSU vs. Texas Tech notebook: Dezmon Jackson has career day; Boone Pickens statue unveiled | OSU Sports Extra

“He changed how we felt about our university,” athletic director Mike Holder said during the ceremony. “He changed giving to an unprecedented level. In essence, he changed our university forever. And for those reasons he was and he will always be the greatest Cowboy of them all.”

The statue is located on the west side of Boone Pickens Stadium and it was announced Saturday that a Barry Sanders statue is also expected to arrive on campus soon.

First kickoff return TD in six years

Oklahoma State had 12 kickoffs returned for a touchdown in Gundy’s first eight seasons, from 2005-2013. But the Cowboys hadn’t returned a kick for a score since Tyreek Hill in 2014. Jason Taylor ended the drought with a 48-yard kickoff return on an onside kick attempt in the third quarter.

Safety Tre Sterling returned an interception for 65 yards to give OSU two non-offensive touchdowns. It was the first time OSU has had two non-offensive TDs since Madre Harper and Ramon Richards returned fumbles against Southeastern Louisiana in 2016.

Wallace with another 100-yard game

Tylan Wallace continues to show why he is considered one of the best wide receivers in the country. He finished with seven catches for 129 yards and a touchdown. It was Wallace’s 14th career 100-yard receiving game, which is the fifth-most in OSU history.

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OSU vs. Texas Tech notebook: Dezmon Jackson has career day; Boone Pickens statue unveiled | OSU Sports Extra

His $165 million donation to OSU in 2005 was the largest single donation to an athletics program in NCAA history. Pickens was honored a couple of hours before the game with the unveiling of his statue, sculpted out of bronze.

“He changed how we felt about our university,” athletic director Mike Holder said during the ceremony. “He changed giving to an unprecedented level. In essence, he changed our university forever. And for those reasons he was and he will always be the greatest Cowboy of them all.”

The statue is located on the west side of Boone Pickens Stadium and it was announced Saturday that a Barry Sanders statue is also expected to arrive on campus soon.

First kickoff return TD in six years

Oklahoma State had 12 kickoffs returned for a touchdown in Gundy’s first eight seasons, from 2005-2013. But the Cowboys hadn’t returned a kick for a score since Tyreek Hill in 2014. Jason Taylor ended the drought with a 48-yard kickoff return on an onside kick attempt in the third quarter.

Safety Tre Sterling returned an interception for 65 yards to give OSU two non-offensive touchdowns. It was the first time OSU has had two non-offensive TDs since Madre Harper and Ramon Richards returned fumbles against Southeastern Louisiana in 2016.

Wallace with another 100-yard game

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