Pac-12 notebook: Tiebreakers for title game forthcoming

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LOS ANGELES — The Pac-12 pushed for legislation allowing conference title games to be played without requiring divisions, and it was the first conference to take advantage of it, deciding to have the two teams with the best records this season play against one another in Las Vegas on Dec. 2.

However, it has yet to outline the exact rules that will determine what happens if multiple teams have the same record. Merton Hanks, the Pac-12’s senior associate commissioner overseeing football, said the forthcoming criteria will be exclusively based on conference results, a boon for teams like Utah and Oregon that play notable nonconference games.

“It was very important to our coaches, our administrators, our working unit that the conference decide who the best teams are, not other factors, so those will be reflected in the tiebreakers,” Hanks said.

RETAINING RIVALRIES?

While Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy went out of his way to bury the rivalry with Oklahoma, declaring at Big 12 media days that “Bedlam’s history” as soon as the Sooners and Texas depart for the SEC, Stanford coach David Shaw sounded a more hopeful note that the Cardinal’s long-standing series with Southern California and UCLA could continue.

“Selfishly being a Stanford alum, a lot of great games between Stanford and UCLA and USC. As I said earlier, my hope is we continue to play those two programs even if they are out-of-conference games,” Shaw said.

Stanford and USC have played 100 times, with the gridiron strife between the two private schools interrupted just once since 1923. The Cardinal and Bruins have played 93 times.

RISING TIDE

Utah QB Cam Rising spent all his time coming into the 2020 and 2021 seasons battling for the starting spot. After coming off the bench to propel the Utes to their first Pac-12 title and Rose Bowl appearance last season, Rising didn’t have to worry about locking anything down this year, though it never changed his mindset.

“No, I still feel like I have to go out there and improve myself each and every day,” Rising said. “It doesn’t really matter if it’s my job. It just means that I’ll probably be getting more one reps, and that’s just the way it is.”

Rising threw for 2,493 yards and 20 touchdowns against five interceptions in 13 games as a sophomore. He expects to be even better nearly two years removed from shoulder surgery following a season-ending injury at the beginning of the pandemic-shortened 2020 campaign.

“Getting my arm strength back so I can have the deep ball be more efficient and effective for us, and that was my main focus,” he said.

MISSING MAN

The Ducks are still reeling from the death of tight end Spencer Webb, who fell and struck his head on rock slides at a popular swimming lake near Eugene, Oregon, this month. Offensive lineman Alex Forsyth said the team hopes to use the memory of Webb, a popular teammate whose outgoing personality carried over to wider popularity on social media, to inspire them.

“Spencer’s enthusiasm in life and in football was unlike anything I’ve seen,” Forsyth said. “He was friends with everybody on the team. He didn’t care who you were, where you were from, what year you were, he was gonna reach out and learn your story and make sure you knew his. He was just a special kid and the best way we can do it is just finding a way to honor him during this season, dedicating everything we do for him. And we all got to strive to live like Spencer and live every day to the fullest.”

No. 2 Michigan beats Purdue 43-22 for Big Ten crown

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INDIANAPOLIS – Donovan Edwards ran for 185 yards and a score, J.J. McCarthy threw three touchdown passes and No. 2 Michigan beat Purdue 43-22 on Saturday night for its second straight Big Ten title and a likely No. 2 playoff seed.

College football’s winningest program has the first 13-win season in school history. Two more victories would give the Wolverines (13-0, No. 2 CFP) their first national championship since 1997.

And with injured star Blake Corum sidelined by a season-ending left knee injury, Edwards stole the show for the second straight week.

After shredding rival Ohio State for 216 yards and two scores last week, Edwards broke open this game with a 60-yard on the first play of the second half to set up one score. He added a 27-yard TD sprint on Michigan’s next series to make it 28-13.

Purdue (8-5) never recovered from Michigan’s quick, seven-play onslaught after it trailed 14-13 at halftime.

But quarterback Aidan O'Connell and receiver Charlie Jones helped the Boilermakers make it interesting for a while.

O’Connell was 32 of 47 with 366 yards and two interceptions after missing some practice time early this week to mourn the death of his oldest brother. Jones, who lost to Michigan in last year’s game while playing for Iowa, had 13 receptions for 162 yards.

It just wasn’t enough.

Michigan showed no signs of a hangover after last week’s rout over the Buckeyes, taking a 7-0 lead on its opening possession with a 25-yard TD pass from J.J. McCarthy to Colston Loveland.

Purdue answered with Devin Mockobee’s 1-yard scoring run to tie the score then took the lead on Mitchell Fineran’s 33-yard field goal.

Michigan answered by taking advantage of an offside call on fourth-and-6 by going for the first down, picking it up and eventually converting the drive into a 7-yard TD pass from McCarthy to Luke Schoonmaker. They never trailed again.

Edwards big run set up Kalel Mullings‘ 1-yard TD plunge before Edwards celebrated his own scoring run.

All Purdue could muster was three more field goals.

McCarthy was 11 of 17 with 161 yards and one interception.

Corum posted a message on Twitter on Saturday morning to say his knee surgery went well.

THE TAKEAWAY

Purdue: The Boilermakers’ magical season ended with a solid showing in the championship game where they played better than most expected. Still, they won the Big Ten’s wild, wild West, both trophy games and should be bound for a warm-weather bowl game.

Michigan: Yes, the Wolverines may have already locked up a top-two seed thanks to losses by Southern Cal and TCU. Michigan now has back-to-back conference crowns for the first time since 2003-04 though the hard part remains – ending its national title drought.

DIALING UP TRICKERY

Brohm played one season in the now defunct XFL and has acknowledged that experience helped him understand how to inject personality and creativity into play calling. It was on full display Saturday.

A surprise end around set up Purdue’s first score, a fake punt helped keep its second scoring drive alive and then Mockobee sprinted 25 yards on a fake flea-flicker in the third quarter.

UP NEXT

Purdue: Will find out its bowl game, destination and opponent Sunday.

Michigan: Waiting to see where its headed and who it will face in the national semifinals.

Klubnik, No. 10 Clemson rout No. 24 UNC 39-10 for ACC title

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Backup quarterback Cade Klubnik completed 20 of 24 passes for 279 yards and a touchdown and ran for another score and No. 10 Clemson reclaimed the Atlantic Coast Conference championship with a 39-10 victory over No. 24 North Carolina on Saturday night.

Cornerback Nate Wiggins broke up two passes in the end zone, blocked a field goal and returned an interception 98 yards for a touchdown to help the Tigers win their seventh ACC title in eight seasons.

Clemson (11-2, No. 9 CFP) won six straight ACC championships from 2015 to 2020 before failing to reach the title game last season. But coach Dabo Swinney‘s Tigers rebounded in a big way, going 9-0 against ACC foes this season to reach the Orange Bowl.

They have Klubnik to thank for that.

With Clemson down 7-0, Swinney benched two-year starter D.J. Uiagalelei after the Tigers failed to pick up a first down on their first two possessions, Swinney turned to Klubnik, a 5-star recruit from Austin, Texas. He responded by leading the Tigers to four straight scores and a 24-10 lead at halftime.

Clemson stretched it to 39-10 heading into the fourth quarter.

It wasn’t the first time Swinney has turned to Klubnik.

He benched Uiagalelei in the second half against Syracuse and Klubnik responded by leading the Tigers to a come-from-behind 27-21 victory. Swinney also turned to Klubnik against Notre Dame, although the results were the opposite with the freshman throwing a Pick 6 in a 35-14 loss.

Swinney has never been shy about replacing veteran QBs with less experienced players. He did it in 2014, sitting Cole Stoudt for Deshaun Watson, and again in 2018 replacing Kelly Bryant with Trevor Lawrence.

ACC player of the year Drake Maye was limited to 268 yards passing and turned the ball over three times for North Carolina (9-4, No. 23 CFP), which was seeking its first ACC championship since 1980 when Lawrence Taylor was wreaking havoc on quarterbacks.

Maye got things started on the right foot for the Tar Heels, capping an 11-play, 78-yard drive with a 3-yard touchdown run for a 7-0 lead on UNC’s first possession.

But the Tar Heels repeatedly sputtered on offense inside the red zone after that, the biggest blow coming when Maye misfired near the goal line and Wiggins – who had struggled in Clemson’s 51-45 win over Wake Forest – returned his pass for a touchdown to give Clemson a 32-10 lead with 5:05 left in the third quarter.

Klubnik provided an immediate spark for Clemson.

He led the Tigers on a nine-play, 71-yard drive, culminating in a 1-yard TD pass to Davis Allen. After Maye’s fumble, Klubnik caught a 19-yard pass from Phil Mafah to set up Mafah’s 4-yard touchdown run – Clemson’s second TD in a span of 40 seconds.

Klubnik then showed off his arm strength with a 68-yard pass to fellow freshman Cole Turner to set up his own 1-yard TD run for a 21-7 lead.

END OF AN ERA

This is the final year the ACC will feature its two division winners playing for a championship. In future years, all ACC teams will be lumped together and the two teams with the best records will advance to the title game.

THE TAKEAWAY

North Carolina: Maye garnered plenty of Heisman Trophy talk during the season, but the Tar Heels offense has stalled resulting in a three-game losing streak. But as long as Maye doesn’t transfer – and there are no indications he will given his family history at North Carolina – the Tar Heels have a good chance to get back to the ACC title game next season.

Clemson: The Tigers have set a high bar by winning national championships, so as much as they will enjoy getting back atop the ACC mountain there will be plenty of talk over whether Swinney cost his team a chance at a spot in the College Football Playoff by not turning to Klubnik at quarterback earlier in the season. It seems Uiagalelei might be a logical transfer portal candidate.

UP NEXT

Clemson will play in the Orange Bowl, while North Carolina awaits a bowl bid.