Pac-12 playoff chances get muddled with Utah’s win over USC

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The conference now has one undefeated team, two with one loss and the 15th-ranked Utes hanging around with two losses.

The odds aren’t exactly stacked in the Pac-12’s favor, but it still has a CFP shot if the rest of the season plays out just right.

UCLA

The ninth-ranked Bruins have been one of college football’s biggest surprises, yet can’t seem to get much respect outside of their own conference.

UCLA (6-0, 3-0 Pac-12) has wins over Utah and Washington on its resume, but also struggled to put away South Alabama at home in Week 3.

The Bruins have been arguably the conference’s best defensive team, allowing 344 total yards per game, and have been solid offensively behind Dorian Thompson-Robinson. The dual-threat quarterback has taken his game to a new level in his fifth season with coach Chip Kelly, throwing for 1,510 yards and 15 touchdowns, with 231 yards and four more scores rushing.

UCLA has a massive test coming off its bye this week, playing at Oregon on Oct. 22. The Bruins also face rival USC on Nov. 19.

Win those two, avoid any other slipups and win the Pac-12 Championship and the Bruins could make a case for the CFP – particularly with the unpredictable landscape in college football this season.

OREGON

The 10th-ranked Ducks (5-1, 3-0) put a big dent in their CFP chances with a blowout loss to top-ranked Georgia in the first game of the season.

Oregon has revved up its offense since then, scoring at least 40 points in five straight games. The Ducks are 10th nationally with 241.7 yards rushing per game and Auburn transfer Bo Nix has been sharp since the dud of an opener against the Bulldogs, throwing for 1,536 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Oregon has a win over then-No. 12 BYU on its resume, but the Cougars have fallen off and the Ducks still have some tough games left. After hosting UCLA, Oregon plays Utah on Nov. 19 and closes out the regular season with a rivalry game against Oregon State.

Win out in the regular season and take the Pac-12 Championship, Oregon could offset some of the ugliness from its opening flop against Georgia.

USC

The Trojans (6-1, 4-1) looked like the Pac-12’s best CFP shot until last Saturday’s tense 43-42 loss to Utah.

The road gets tougher now, but at least there’s still a road.

Quarterback Caleb Williams has been superb since following coach Lincoln Riley from Oklahoma. Williams has thrown for nearly 2,000 yards with 19 touchdowns and one interception, and has been an electric runner, putting himself in the conversation for the Heisman Trophy.

The Trojans had to eke out a win over Oregon State, but rolled through the rest of their schedule before the loss to Utah.

The loss hurts, as does Nov. 26 opponent Notre Dame falling off, but USC can boost its resume by beating UCLA on Nov. 19 and winning the Pac-12 Championship.

Pull it off and the Trojans will be a one-loss Pac-12 champion, which could be good enough if Clemson stumbles or the Big 12 ends up with a two-loss champion.

UTAH

The emotional win over USC was massive, but the Utes are pretty much out of the CFP with their two losses.

Utah (5-2, 3-1) probably could have survived a three-point season-opening loss at Florida, but a 10-point loss to UCLA on Oct. 8 knocked its CFP hopes off the rails.

Now, even if the Utes win out, it would take an unlikely perfect storm for them to get a CFP nod. Still, a second straight Pac-12 title and trip to the Rose Bowl would be a nice way to finish out the season if they can win out.

Texas State hires Incarnate Word coach Kinne to lead Bobcats

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Texas State hired Incarnate Word coach G.J. Kinne on Friday to lead a Sun Belt program that has had only one winning season since moving up to the Bowl Subdivision in 2012.

The 34-year-old former Tulsa quarterback has made a fast rise in coaching since ending his professional career in 2017.

After three years as an offensive analyst at SMU, Arkansas and the Philadelphia Eagles, Kinne became offensive coordinator at Hawaii in 2020. He held the same role for UCF in 2021 before landing the head coaching job at FCS Incarnate Word this season.

Incarnate Word is 10-1 and averaging 53 points and 8.3 yards per play, both FCS highs, heading into its playoff game Saturday against Furman. Kinne will remain with Incarnate Word through their playoff run.

“It’s with great honor that I’m accepting the call to be next head football coach of the Texas State Bobcats,” Kinne said. “We are going to play fast, have relentless energy, and when the going gets tough, have the mental confidence to win tight games in the second half and represent the state of Texas. Eat ‘Em Up!”

Texas State fired Jake Spavital last week after the Bobcats won just 13 games in his four seasons.

Kinne signed a five-year contract, the school said. Terms were not immediately released.

“My goal was to hire someone with demonstrated leadership experience, success as a head coach, established relationships with Texas football coaches, and success with recruiting and developing players,” said Texas State President Kelly Damphousse. “I sought a leader with a plan to capitalize on our location in the heart of the best high school football in the country.”

Florida Atlantic hires Tom Herman as football coach

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BOCA RATON, Fla. – Former Texas and Houston head coach Tom Herman will take over at Florida Atlantic as it heads into its first season in the American Athletic Conference.

The hire comes just days after FAU fired Willie Taggart, who went 15-18 in his three seasons with the Owls. Details of the contract with Herman were not immediately available.

“We are incredibly excited to welcome Tom Herman to Paradise,” FAU Director of Athletics Brian White said Thursday. “Throughout the process and the more we talked with Coach Herman, the more it became apparent to me that he was the right person to lead our football program. Beyond his knowledge of the game, which is obvious by his success over the years, he also truly cares about the young people in his program.”

FAU’s final season in Conference USA ended with a 5-7 record and an overtime loss to Western Kentucky. The Owls will be in the American next season.

Herman returns to college football after spending the 2021 season with the Chicago Bears as an offensive analyst.

Herman was 22-4 at Houston, a mark that helped him land the head coaching job at Texas where he went 32-18 with four straight bowl trips in 2017-2020. He also was an offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Ohio State during the Buckeyes’ 2014 national championship season, as well as stops at Iowa State, Rice and Texas State.

“All the pieces are in place at FAU for us to be successful,” Herman said. “There are already great young men on this team, great facilities, a great location, a great recruiting base and great leadership, all of which are important to building a successful program.”