Sanders helps No. 12 Oklahoma State beat Central Michigan

Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports
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STILLWATER, Okla. – Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy deflected credit when he reached a career milestone.

Spencer Sanders passed for a career-high 406 yards and accounted for six touchdowns and No. 12 Oklahoma State beat Central Michigan 58-44 on Thursday night to give Gundy his 150th coaching victory.

Gundy improved to 150-69 in his 18th season coaching his alma mater.

“Cool deal,” he said. “Like I told the team, it takes a lot of really, really quality people and good young men for a guy to stay in one place long enough to win 150 games. I’m just lucky enough to be along for the ride.”

Sanders matched a career high with four touchdown passes and set a career mark with two rushing scores in the opener for both teams.

“Knock on wood, he’s really good,” Gundy said. “He understands our concepts. He understands second nature where to go with the ball. And it’s a big advantage for us.”

Braydon Johnson had career highs of six catches for 133 yards and Brennan Presley added five catches for 83 yards.

Daniel Richardson passed for a career-high 424 yards and threw four touchdown passes for Central Michigan. Lew Nichols III, the nation’s leading rusher last year, ran for 72 yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries.

Sanders passed for 313 yards and three touchdowns in the first half and ran for two more scores to help the Cowboys take a 44-15 lead.

The Cowboys led 51-15 less than a minute into the third quarter before Central Michigan climbed back into the game. Jalen McGaughy‘s 54-yard touchdown pass from Richardson cut it to 58-44 with 3:15 remaining. McGaughy had six catches for 126 yards and two scores.

“As I said from the beginning, I really like our football team,” Central Michigan coach Jim McElwain said. “We’re going to win a lot of games. And those kids are going to learn from this video and we’re going to get a little bit better.”

Central Michigan outscored Oklahoma State 29-14 in the second half and outgained the Cowboys 281 yards to 138 after the break.

“It’s credit to those kids,” McElwain said. “Since we’ve been here and started to establish the program, there’s a certain mentality it takes to be a Chippewa. And these guys have started to understand a little bit what that is.”

THE TAKEAWAY

Central Michigan: The Chippewas came in with high hopes after going 9-4 last season and beating Washington State in the Sun Bowl. But Sanders was too much for them early, and they couldn’t get their running game going well enough to control the clock and slow his rhythm.

Oklahoma State: The defense carried much of the load last season, but the offense put up 531 total yards on Thursday, mostly in the first half. The running game still could use some work, though. The Cowboys had just 45 yards on 20 carries in the second half and struggled to put the game away.

“We were very effective playing fast,” Gundy said. “And one thing that works against us a little bit is once you get ahead … obviously, you don’t want to play fast. So then you slow down, and we’re probably not as good at that as we are playing fast. But I was pleased with our ability to play fast and make plays in space.”

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Oklahoma State could get penalized for being sluggish in the second half, depending on what else happens in the upcoming days.

GUNNAR PLAYS

Redshirt freshman Gunnar Gundy, Mike Gundy’s son, got action in the opener for the Cowboys. He did not attempt a pass, but he carried once for five yards.

The younger Gundy, a walk-on, has risen to No. 2 on the depth chart.

“This is a big deal … Everybody wants to see their kids do good and get out there,” coach Gundy said. “I was proud of him.”

NICHOLS SLOWED

Nichols rushed for 1,848 yards last season and ran for at least 100 yards his final eight games. His streak ended as he averaged just 2.8 yards per carry on Thursday.

QUOTABLE

McElwain joking about Bullet, the horse that runs onto the field after Oklahoma State’s touchdowns: “When they scored 30 in a row, I was probably more concerned with that damn horse cramping up that kept running around the end zone there.”

UP NEXT

Central Michigan: Hosts South Alabama on Saturday, Sept. 10.

Oklahoma State: Hosts Arizona State on Saturday, Sept. 10.

Pac-12 looking stronger at top after early-season losses

James Snook-USA TODAY Sports
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When Oregon got throttled by top-ranked Georgia and Utah lost at Florida, it appeared as though the Pac-12 was headed toward another College Football Playoff miss.

One week into the season and two of the conference’s top teams had already failed big early tests.

Flash forward three weeks and it seems the Pac-12 might be in good shape after all.

The Ducks and Utes bounced back with big wins and the top of the conference looks strong, with four teams in the top 15 for the first time since 2016.

It’s still early, but the Pac-12 is putting itself in position to get a team through to the CFP for the first time since Washington in 2016-17.

A look at how the top of the Pac-12 is stacking up headed into the first weekend of October:

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

The No. 6 Trojans (4-0, 2-0 Pac-12) seem to have quickly returned to glory in their first season under Lincoln Riley. The former Oklahoma coach brought quarterback Caleb Williams with him to Southern California and they have thrived through the first four games.

Williams has thrown for 1,054 yards and nine touchdowns, adding 100 yards and two more scores rushing. USC’s defense has been opportunistic, leading the nation with 11 interceptions while tied for the lead with 14 takeaways.

The Trojans survived a scare against scrappy Oregon State over the weekend to start 4-0 for the first time since 2012. USC has to play at Utah on Oct. 15, but avoids Washington and Oregon this season.

UTAH

The 12th-ranked Utes opened the season with a tough road loss at The Swamp in Florida, but have won three straight lopsided games.

Outside of a costly interception late against the Gators, quarterback Cam Rising has been sharp, throwing for 954 yards and 10 TDs. Utah (3-1, 1-0) has a physical defense and is third in the FBS, allowing 132.8 yards passing per game.

The Utes also have a veteran team that won the Pac-12 championship last season. The bad news: tight end Brant Kuithe, their leading receiver, is out for the season with a knee injury.

Utah plays Oregon State this weekend and has tough games against USC and Oregon still on the schedule.

OREGON

The Ducks’ playoff chances took an immediate hit with a 49-3 loss to reigning national champion Georgia in their opener.

No. 13 Oregon (3-1, 1-0) bounced back with a decisive win over a good BYU team and outlasted previously undefeated Washington State 44-41 last week.

The Ducks were no match for the Bulldogs in any aspect – few teams are – but have averaged 51.6 points the past three games. Oregon’s biggest weakness is its pass defense. The Ducks are allowing 72.5% of passes to be completed, third worst in the country.

Oregon’s biggest tests left in the season will come in back to back games against Washington and Utah.

WASHINGTON

The Huskies have made a quick turnaround in their first season under coach Kalen DeBoer.

Quarterback Michael Penix Jr. has been superb now that he’s healthy, throwing for an FBS-best 1,388 yards and 12 TDs with one interception. No. 15 Washington (4-0, 1-0) picked up a solid home win against Michigan State and has 15 sacks this season, including eight against Stanford last week.

The Huskies play their first road game at undefeated UCLA on Saturday and have to face Oregon on Nov. 12.

UCLA

After winning at Colorado for the first time since 2014 last Saturday, the Bruins (4-0, 1-0 Pac-12) have their longest winning streak since winning the first eight games in 2005.

UCLA had a hard time getting past South Alabama and opened its Pac-12 schedule with a win against the struggling Buffaloes.

The Bruins will find out how good they are over the next three weeks, a brutal stretch that includes home games against Washington and Utah before heading to Eugene to play the Ducks on Oct. 22.

CFP expansion talks head toward October after 7-hour meeting

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
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ROSEMONT, Ill. — The conference commissioners who manage the College Football Playoff met for almost seven hours Tuesday to work on expanding the postseason system from four to 12 teams as soon as the 2024 season.

There is still much work to be done.

“We will not wrap up this week,” CFP Executive Director Bill Hancock said.

The CFP management committee, comprised of 10 conference commissioners and Notre Dame’s athletic director, is scheduled to convene again at the Big Ten offices for a few hours Wednesday morning. They are set to meet again in person in Dallas on Oct. 20.

“That’ll be important,” Hancock said.

Expansion talks were revived by the university presidents and chancellors who oversee the College Football Playoff last month.

By adopting a 12-team plan that had been on the table since the spring of 2021, the presidents pushed the commissioners to try to implement a new format before the end of the CFP’s current contract with ESPN. That deal ends after the 2025 season.

Expanding from four to 12 in 2024 and ’25 will require rescheduling semifinals and championship games that already have dates and sites set, plus adding four new first-round games in mid-December to be played on campus sites.

Squeezing it all into about a month and working around the NFL for television will be challenging.

Hancock said the idea of moving up the start of the college football season to the week before Labor Day to create more room at the end for the playoff has been discussed, but more for beyond the 2025 season.

“I think most people view that as a future item. As long-term item and not an immediacy item,” Hancock said. “Remember, there’s so many details.”

Hancock said CFP officials have spoken to bowl partners and hosts cities that are set to hold semifinals and championship games after the 2024 and ’25 seasons, but they have not been presented definitive new dates.

Atlanta already has been chosen as the host city for the championship game to be played following the 2024 season, on Jan. 6, 2025. The game would have to be pushed back about two weeks if the playoff grows from four teams to 12.

“(Atlanta organizers) have some work to do because of other businesses in the community,” Hancock said. “Other meeting-type business, hotel business and Convention Center business there. They’ve been great to work with.”