ND-Syracuse at Yankee Stadium headlines Week 12 slate

By STEVE MEGARGEE, AP Sports Writer
The biggest college football game of the weekend is taking place in a baseball stadium.
No. 3 Notre Dame (No. 3 College Football Playoff ) will put its unbeaten record on the line when it faces No. 12 Syracuse (No. 12 CFP) at Yankee Stadium.
Both teams have a history at the new Yankee Stadium. Notre Dame beat Army in 2010 and knocked off Rutgers in the 2013 Pinstripe Bowl. Syracuse beat Kansas State in the 2010 Pinstripe Bowl and defeated West Virginia in the 2012 Pinstripe Bowl.
The only other matchups between ranked teams have No. 11 Central Florida (No. 11 CFP) hosting No. 19 Cincinnati (No. 24 CFP) and No. 18 Iowa State (No. 16 CFP) visiting No. 13 Texas (No. 15 CFP). Many Southeastern Conference teams are taking a break from league play, as No. 1 Alabama (No. 1 CFP) hosts The Citadel and No. 5 Georgia (No. 5 CFP) hosts Massachusetts.
Here are some things to know heading into Week 12 of the college football season.
BEST GAME
Notre Dame vs. Syracuse at New York
Who could have guessed at the start of the season that this matchup at Yankee Stadium would shape up as one of Notre Dame’s toughest challenges in its bid for a playoff berth?
In a year when some of the more prominent programs on Notre Dame’s schedule have endured disappointing seasons, Syracuse has emerged as one of the nation’s bigger surprises.
Syracuse’s fast-paced offense with quarterback Eric Dungey should test Notre Dame’s pass rush. Notre Dame also must hope quarterback Ian Book is sharp in his anticipated return after missing a game with an upper-body injury.
If Syracuse pulls the upset, Notre Dame could long regret the decision to move this game from South Bend to the Bronx.
HEISMAN WATCH
McKenzie Milton, UCF
While Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa has all but etched his name on the Heisman Trophy, there’s plenty of mystery regarding who will join him in New York. This week represents Milton’s big chance to show he merits an invitation.
Milton and the Knights have feasted on overmatched foes for much of the season, but they face one of their toughest challenges Saturday when they host Cincinnati.
With the ESPN “College GameDay” crew heading to UCF this week, Milton will have a national stage to show how he’s improved as he tries leading the Knights to a second straight unbeaten season. Milton has thrown 21 touchdown passes with five interceptions. He also has eight touchdown runs.
NUMBERS TO KNOW
0-3: The nonconference record of Big Ten West Division champion Northwestern . The 24th-ranked Wildcats (No. 22 CFP) are the first Power Five team to win a division title while going winless in nonconference play.
3: Every team in the Pac-12 South Division has at least three conference losses.
15: No. 6 Oklahoma (No. 6 CFP) has won 15 consecutive November games heading into its Saturday home game with Kansas. The Sooners haven’t lost in November since falling 48-14 to Baylor on Nov. 8, 2014.
17: No. 20 Kentucky (No. 17 CFP) hasn’t scored more than 17 points in a game since September.
25: Alabama is seeking a school-record 25th consecutive home victory when it hosts The Citadel. Alabama won 24 straight home games from 1971-74.
36: Florida State has played in a bowl game each of the last 36 seasons, an NCAA record streak. The Seminoles must beat No. 22 Boston College (No. 20 CFP) and No. 15 Florida (No. 13) next week to become bowl eligible this season.
410: Pittsburgh has averaged 410 yards rushing per game during its three-game winning streak. Pitt’s season rushing average of 256.9 is its highest since 1976, when Heisman Trophy winner Tony Dorsett led the Panthers to the national title. Pitt can clinch its first Atlantic Coast Conference championship game appearance by winning Saturday at Wake Forest.
UNDER THE RADAR
UAB at Texas A&M
UAB’s rise has been one of college football’s best stories this season.
UAB shut down its program in a cost-cutting measure after the 2014 season. The Blazers reversed the decision six months later amid a public outcry but didn’t play any games in 2015 or 2016.
Now the Blazers are 8-1 and have a shot to reach the Conference USA championship game. First they will leave conference play and test themselves against a Power Five opponent.
Texas A&M is a 17-point favorite but has a habit of late-season fades, something that first-year coach Jimbo Fisher is trying to change. UAB averages 3.8 sacks per game to lead all Football Bowl Subdivision programs.
HOT SEAT WATCH
Mike MacIntyre, Colorado
Colorado won its first five games this season and was ranked as high as 19th.
Much has changed since.
The Buffaloes have followed up that 5-0 start with five straight losses and now are simply trying to become bowl eligible amid reports suggesting MacIntyre’s job is in jeopardy. Colorado athletic director Rick George issued a statement Monday saying that “I have made no decisions regarding the future of the football program.”
Colorado hosts No. 21 Utah (No. 19 CFP) on Saturday before closing the regular season at California.
MacIntyre owns a 30-43 record in six seasons at Colorado, including a Pac-12 championship game appearance two years ago.
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Pitt visits Wake looking to clinch spot in ACC title game

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) — Pittsburgh spoiled a conference rival’s special season a year ago. The Panthers don’t want Wake Forest to do the same thing to them.
Pitt will clinch its first appearance in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game with a win over the Demon Deacons on Saturday.
But the Panthers (6-4, 5-1) are on spoiler alert.
They know all too well how dangerous it is to play a road game on the home field of a meandering opponent. A year ago, a sub-.500 Pitt team ruined then-No. 2 Miami’s undefeated season with a 24-14 upset and sent the Hurricanes into a late-season nosedive.
Coach Pat Narduzzi’s team, picked in the preseason to finish fifth in the Coastal Division, has won three straight and four of five since starting 1-3 and needs to beat either Wake Forest or Miami to wrap up a spot opposite No. 2 Clemson in Charlotte on Dec. 1. The Panthers haven’t won four in a row since 2015.
“When we’re going in there to play Wake Forest, it’s a one-game season right now. Nothing else matters,” Narduzzi said. “Good things can happen we know, and it doesn’t matter. If they’re worried about that … your focus has got to be singular right now, and if you’re worried about these other things, you just get — you’re wandering off.”
The Demon Deacons (5-5, 2-4) already have one upset to their credit: They’re coming off a last-minute 27-23 victory at North Carolina State that knocked the Wolfpack out of the national rankings and gave a jolt to their fading bowl hopes. Wake Forest will qualify for its third straight bowl by beating either the Panthers or Duke.
Beating N.C. State “was an awesome win. It is awesome to think about, but it doesn’t mean a whole lot if we don’t come out and play this weekend,” offensive lineman Ryan Anderson said. “This Pitt game is huge and our confidence level is a little bit higher going into this game. After a huge game like that it always is.”
KEY STAT
The Panthers are getting it done on the ground. Pitt ranks second in the ACC in rushing (257 ypg) and has surpassed 400 yards rushing in two of its last three games, including a season-best 492 in a 52-22 rout of Virginia Tech that was punctuated by Qadree Ollison’s 97-yard touchdown run. Pitt is 5-1 when it rushes for at least 230 yards. Wake Forest’s rejuvenated defense, meanwhile, held N.C. State to 47 yards rushing last week.
BIG PLAYS
Pitt shares the FBS lead with Oklahoma and South Florida with 10 plays covering at least 60 yards, and has had four others go for at least 50 yards. Giving up big plays has been a big problem for the Demon Deacons, who have allowed 13 50-yarders — only three schools have given up more. But there has been improvement: Against N.C. State, they gave up only one play longer than 25 yards.
CONFERENCE HISTORY
Pitt can match the school record for conference victories with a win. The Panthers set the mark with five ACC victories in 2015, when they finished second to North Carolina in the Coastal standings, and the longtime Eastern independents never won more than five Big East games in a season from the formation of the conference in 1991 until they departed following the 2012 season.
NEED FOR (LESS) SPEED
Narduzzi was wary of the tempo of Wake Forest’s offense, saying the Panthers will “prepare our tails off for the tempo, the high-speed tempo that we’ll have to defend this week.” But slowing things down actually worked to the Demon Deacons’ advantage last week. Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson says they consciously ran fewer offensive plays against N.C. State — just 71 of them, 14 fewer than their average — to give their overworked defense a break and make things easier on first-time starting QB Jamie Newman.
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No. 1 Alabama prepares for The Citadel’s triple option

By JOHN ZENOR, AP Sports Writer
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — Alabama has brushed off two ranked division rivals without allowing a point.
On Saturday, the top-ranked Crimson Tide defense faces an entirely different challenge: The Citadel (4-5) and its triple option offense. All that preparation for Southeastern Conference offenses, including Mississippi State and No. 10 LSU, provides scant help in this one for ‘Bama (10-0, No. 1 CFP).
“This is a totally different challenge in terms of how you have to try to defend it and what you have to do,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said.
Of course, it’s still the nation’s top-ranked team facing an FCS opponent even with the potential distraction of upcoming games against rival Auburn and, in the Southeastern Conference championship game, No. 5 Georgia.
Citadel coach Brent Thompson wants his team to “compete our butts off as much as we possibly can on such a big and grand stage.”
He calls Alabama the “best we’ve probably ever seen.”
The big question facing Alabama is how much Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback Tua Tagovailoa will play on a right knee that has been bothering him. Saban bristles at any suggestion that he’d sit out Tagovailoa or another banged up starter based on assumptions about the opponent.
“That can’t be your mindset,” Saban said. “That’s not our mindset, that’s not going to be the mindset of our players.”
His approach has worked to the tune of 80 consecutive wins over unranked teams.
Defensively, Alabama faces Citadel quarterback Brandon Rainey, who has run for 405 yards in the past two games, his only starts.
The Bulldogs are averaging 291.9 rushing yards with 28 touchdowns on the ground. Alabama ranks seventh nationally in defending the run, giving up 96.3 yards a game.
“It may be nerve-wracking for the coaches trying to come up with play-calling and stuff, but I am excited,” Tide linebacker Dylan Moses said. “They’ll be running the ball the whole time. That’s what I live for. I am ready to run guys down, make tackles and celebrate with my teammates.”
Here are some other things to watch for in the Citadel-Alabama game:
PROTECTING TUA
The truth is, Alabama would almost certainly hope to limit the playing time for Tagovailoa, who was sacked four times against Mississippi State and sat out the fourth quarter. The question is, can backup Jalen Hurts play after missing the past two games with an ankle injury. Third-teamer Mac Jones could get significant time on the field if the game goes as expected.
SHUTOUT QUARTERS
Alabama is coming off shutout wins over Mississippi State and LSU — by a total of 53-0 — and hasn’t allowed a point in nine-plus quarters.
HOME WIN STREAK
Alabama could break the school record of 24 consecutive wins at home. The Tide matched the record set from 1971-74 last week against Mississippi State.
SECOND HALF SCORING
The Citadel has dominated the second half in its past two games, outscoring Samford and Western Carolina 63-3 and producing eight rushing touchdowns.
REMEMBERING GEORGIA SOUTHERN
Saban has made sure his players know about the 2011 game with Georgia Southern, which lost 45-21 but produced a whopping 302 rushing yards against Alabama’s defense.
“He kept going back to that,” Moses said. “He said we have to play hard and stick together when we’re playing and take this game seriously because we don’t want that to happen.”
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Former Ohio State students air claims of sex abuse by doctor

By JULIE CARR SMYTH, Associated Press
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Former students alleging sexual abuse by a former Ohio State University team doctor are pleading with the school’s trustees not to dismiss or minimize victims’ claims.
Seven accusers of Dr. Richard Strauss told trustees Friday his actions have caused them long-term harm. They described abuse during team physicals, while being treated for injuries or and routine medical exams at the student health center.
They blamed Ohio State for failing to act sooner.
Strauss killed himself in 2005. A law firm investigating Strauss says about 150 former students have given firsthand accounts of his alleged sexual misconduct between 1979 and 1997. Strauss’ relatives are cooperating. They’ve expressed shock at the allegations first raised in April.
The board told accusers their experiences are being taken seriously and action will follow the investigation.

How ‘Bout Them Cowboys? New book examines so-called America’s Team

By The Associated Press
Gary Myers has covered Jerry Jones longer than any pro football writer, so it seemed logical and natural to write a book about the owner of the most valuable franchise in the world.
“How ‘Bout Them Cowboys?” (Grand Central Publishing) is an in-depth look at America’s Team, still the most popular in the NFL even though it hasn’t reached a Super Bowl in 23 years and isn’t likely to this season.
Myers was with the Dallas Morning News when Jones bought the team in 1989 and cleaned house. Now a radio host at WFAN in New York, Myers remembers it well — and tells it entertainingly and informatively in his book.
“I was taken aback when he got weepy —real tears — when he started talking about how he put himself at risk financially to buy the Cowboys in 1989,” Myers says. “He said he asked his doctor why recalling that period of his life made him so emotional and was told it was a traumatic experience for him. Even so, seeing this multi-billionaire in tears caught me by surprise, to say the least.”
There’s a lot in Myers’ book that could catch readers by surprise. Such as:
—Jones admits he’s still bitter about the circumstances that led to his divorce with Jimmy Johnson, who coached the Cowboys to the 1992 and ’93 NFL titles. And Myers reveals “Troy Aikman has still not forgiven Johnson for leaving him. A few years ago, they were having a beer together, when Aikman said to Johnson, ‘We could have been Brady and Belichick.'”
—The Hall of Fame party Jones threw for himself in Canton, Ohio in 2017 cost $8 million and included a two-hour concert by Justin Timberlake. One of the invited guests was Roger Goodell.
“I have a picture in my book of Jones having a drink with Goodell and Jon Bon Jovi at the party,” Myers says. “Five days later, Goodell called Jones to tell him he was suspending Ezekiel Elliott for six games. Jones is convinced Goodell showed up at the party knowing he was going to suspend Elliott (who was also at the party), but did not want to ruin Jones’ weekend. Instead, he ruined his season.”
Jones has said Goodell previously told him he would not suspend Elliott and to this day he feels betrayed. Goodell has emphatically said he did not tell Jones that.
There are dozens more such intriguing and often-unrevealed stories in “How ‘Bout Them Cowboys?” Myers had five hours of one-on-one interviews with Jones and, he jokes, actually got in at least seven questions.
ALABAMA REUNION
Julio Jones, Amari Cooper and Calvin Ridley cover most of a decade’s worth of leading receivers at Alabama. They’ll be on the field as players together for the first time when Cooper and the Dallas Cowboys visit the Atlanta Falcons and the veteran/rookie duo of Jones and Ridley.
Jones is a two-time All-Pro, Cooper made the Pro Bowl his first two seasons, and Ridley leads all rookies with 500 yards receiving. Oh, and they each won a national championship at Alabama. In fact, Ridley won two.
“A lot to like about them,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. “Certainly they were trained very well at Alabama, probably really good players going there, developed to become great players coming out of there. And they’ve definitely shown that at this level.”
Cooper wasn’t supposed to make this Alabama connection when the season started: Oakland wasn’t on Atlanta’s schedule. But the Cowboys traded next year’s first-round draft pick for him in hopes of having a new No. 1 receiver after letting Dez Bryant go in a cost-cutting move during the offseason.
“I’m cool with both of those guys,” Cooper said. “None of us played together, so none of us have been on the field together. So that’ll be really cool to go out there and be on the same field.”
CAM’S WINE
Panthers quarterback Cam Newton said if wasn’t an NFL quarterback he’d want to be a sommelier. Newton has recently developed a love for wine— and cigars — although he said his recognition of most wines is “terrible.”
“I picked up a hobby that I really enjoy,” said Newton. “I think I’m on sauvignon blanc right now, really light wine, and a good mild smoke.”
Rudy Patino, who works as a food service provider for the Panthers, is a resident wine expert and Newton said he’s learned some things from him about the hobby.
“I feel like if I had a gift of a hidden talent, outside of playing an instrument, I would want to be a sommelier,” Newton said. “Those senses that you have. … For those who don’t know it, it’s being able to distinctively tell what type of wine it is, where it’s from and everything about wine by just the taste, the look and pretty much the feel of the wine. It’s just pretty cool to come across a person on a day-to-day basis that knows what they’re talking about. It’s just like playing football. It’s an ongoing thing that you have to constantly keep taking your nose and taste buds through.”
Newton said he if was to create his own wine he would call it “Boogie Down.”
“As in boogie down your esophagus,” Newton said with a smile.
BRITISH TRAINING
USA Football will lead the training of more than 1,000 football coaches across Britain in 2019. USA Football, a member of the U.S. Olympic Committee and the sport’s national governing body, will drive education for British American Football Coaches Association members, spanning school-based to adult programs.
British coaches will receive USA Football in-person training and online course work. More than 10,000 U.S. school districts and youth programs combined enrolled in USA Football-developed coach education this season, including nine of the country’s 10 largest school districts.
“Our sport’s community is truly a global family,” said BAFCA President Wayne Hill of Birmingham, England. “We love the game as much as Americans do, and teaming up with USA Football is a historic point for the sport here. Much like in the States, what’s taught and played today is not your father’s gridiron — it’s done a lot smarter, but is just as much fun. This partnership enables us to deliver a smarter, safer game for our athletes through coach education.”
Organized football is played on six continents spanning approximately 70 countries, a figure that has nearly doubled in the past 10 years.
GREEN EAGLES IN BIG EASY
The Philadelphia Eagles will be wearing their home green jerseys at New Orleans on Sunday. What’s that all about?
A bet.
In March, coaches Doug Pederson of the Super Bowl champion Eagles and Sean Payton of the Saints made the wager, which was revealed during the summer for the American Century Championship celebrity golf tournament at Lake Tahoe, Nevada. Pederson has a much better golf game than Payton and finished 32nd at the tournament, while Payton was 77th. Pederson had offered strokes or points in the Modified Stableford scoring format, but Payton turned them down.
Payton made a $5,000 donation to Autism Challenge in Philadelphia as part of the bet.
“Well, it is our home jersey. It is our home color,” Pederson says. “And so we are excited to wear that. We’ve done it a lot this year on the road, wearing our home greens on the road. So you know it’s something that our guys enjoy.”
When Pederson made that bet, did Payton say the Saints would go with their color rush, or a white jersey?
“He didn’t say one way or the other,” Pederson adds. “I would imagine it would be the whites, but he did not say.”
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AP Pro Football Writers Barry Wilner, Schuyler Dixon and Rob Maaddi, and Sports Writers Brett Martel and Steve Reed contributed.
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Wallace takes 1-stroke lead at World Tour Championship

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Matt Wallace took his shots on time and took the lead at the World Tour Championship.
The 28-year-old Englishman, who was fined 3,000 pounds ($3,800) for slow play in the first round, shot a 7-under 65 Friday for a one-stroke lead over Danny Willett (67), Jordan Smith (68) and Adrian Otaegui (68). Wallace was at 11-under 133 overall in the season-ending championship of the European Tour.
“I’ve expected higher from myself and that’s just killed me,” Wallace said. “So, I’m playing with freedom now and trying to place myself as high as I possibly can come the back nine holes on Sunday. That’s when I normally try and kick in and want to win a tournament.”
Wallace, the most successful player on the European Tour this year with three titles, won six lower-tier Alps Tour titles in 2016 before moving onto the main tour early in 2017 by winning the Open de Portugal. This year, he has won the Hero Indian Open, the BMW International Open and Made in Denmark.
Francesco Molinari (73) dropped outside the top 25 with three bogeys in his last six holes, giving Tommy Fleetwood a chance in the Race to Dubai for the European No. 1 title.
Molinari was tied for 27th at 3 under, while Fleetwood (67) was at 8 under and tied for sixth. To successfully defend his Race to Dubai title, Fleetwood needs to win the tournament and hope Molinari finishes low enough.
“Sometimes you just need to do a little bit of work,” Fleetwood said. “Felt like I hit it on range this morning with a decent understanding of what I needed to do, and a couple of good swing thoughts, and I was a lot more consistent today.
“It (catching Molinari) is still a very difficult task. I’ve only won once this year. It’s not like I’m a prolific winner this year.”
Patrick Reed, playing alongside Rory McIlroy, shot a 66 and improved to fifth place at 9 under. McIlroy shot a 67 and was tied for sixth alongside Fleetwood, Kiradech Aphibarnrat (66) and Dean Burmester (65).
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Bell becomes favorite after eking into Xfinity Series finale

By MARK LONG, AP Sports Writer
MIAMI BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Christopher Bell’s last race could prove more daunting than his next one.
Bell faced a must-win scenario in the semifinal round of the Xfinity Series playoffs at Phoenix last week, needing to beat 39 other drivers to earn the fourth and final spot in the championship field at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
He started near the back, drove through the field and led the final 93 laps to notch his seventh victory of the season.
Now, he’s the favorite to win it all in the finale Saturday.
“This week, I only have to beat three, so I’m feeling really good,” Bell said.
Here’s a look at the four contenders:
CHRISTOPHER BELL
The 23-year-old Bell, who grew up racing on dirt tracks in Oklahoma, has three playoff victories that make him the one to beat.
“We’re only racing three cars,” said Bell, who won the Truck Series championship with Kyle Busch Motorsports in 2017. “Instead of trying to go out there and win the race, all I have to do is beat three competitors. Whether that means running 20th or winning the race, that’s going to be our goal: Just to beat three guys.”
Bell seems like a lock to land a Cup ride soon. But Joe Gibbs Racing has no openings for its rising star in 2019, so Bell appears destined to return to Xfinity for another year.
COLE CUSTER
The 20-year-old Custer won at Homestead last year in dominating fashion. He led 182 of 200 laps and had a half-lap advantage at times. But he has won just once since, at Texas two weeks ago, to notch a spot in the final four.
Still, the Stewart-Haas Racing driver has been one of the series’ most consistent in 2017. He has a series-leading 25 top 10s to go with 13 top-fives. He hasn’t had as much speed as Bell throughout the year, but Custer believes his team is starting to put it all together and capable of repeating at Homestead.
“Do we have a ton of confidence that we’re just going to be faster than everybody? No,” Custer said. “I think everybody’s fast. But I think we’ll be right there with everybody, and I think it’s a track we can compete and win.”
Custer is bound to land a Cup ride with SHR, which has a seat opening up with Kurt Busch’s departure. But that ride could go to Daniel Suarez, which would seemingly leave Custer in the second-tier series for a third straight season.
DANIEL HEMRIC
Hemric is the only championship contender without a win in the last two years. That makes him the long shot. He advanced to the finale in 2017, but finished second in the race and fourth in the standings.
No one should count Hemric out. The 27-year-old Richard Childress Racing driver has been stout in the playoffs, with six top-10s and three top-fives in six races.
Mistakes and misfortune have prevented him from landing in victory lane. But he’s been at his best on mile-and-a-half courses like Homestead.
“I think just for the nay-sayers, it would be nice to prove to everybody that I can be successful and this group of guys can be successful because we have fallen short the past two years,” Hemric said.
TYLER REDDICK
Reddick won the season opener at Daytona, edging JR Motorsports teammate Elliott Sadler in the closest finish in NASCAR history. He finished 20th or lower eight times in 22 races that followed, pushing him to the edge of the playoff picture.
He rallied down the stretch, with seven top-10s and four top-fives in the last nine races. His late push moved him past Justin Allgaier and Sadler for one of the championship spots.
The 22-year-old Reddick now has a chance to leave the series on the highest note. He is headed to a Cup ride with Richard Childress Racing in 2019, replacing Ryan Newman.
“It would be fantastic,” Reddick said. “This year didn’t really go as planned, as we wanted it to. We had speed most of the year at certain race tracks, just didn’t capitalize on the moments we really should have. This playoff system and format has been really nice for us. We were able to kind of reset.”
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No. 10 LSU, Orgeron mindful of past upsets as Rice arrives

By BRETT MARTEL, AP Sports Writer
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — LSU coach Ed Orgeron didn’t want to hear about resting key starters or giving young reserves more snaps — no matter how much of a prohibitive favorite his tenth-ranked Tigers may be against struggling Rice.
Apparently, bad memories of the Troy Trojans celebrating a stunning upset triumph in Death Valley last season remain fresh in the Cajun coach’s mind.
“Listen, man. We learned our lesson last year and that’s not going to happen to us again,” Orgeron said. “So we’re going full bore against these guys.”
If that’s the case, the odds makers had ample reasons to predict the Tigers (8-2) would devour the Owls (1-10) by more than 40 points on Saturday night.
LSU bounced back from a demoralizing shutout loss to Alabama by winning at Arkansas a week ago and will play in a major New Year’s bowl game if it wins its final two regular season games against Rice and Texas A&M.
“I don’t talk about the standings or none of that, but we do talk about finishing strong, taking them one game at a time and taking it to a New Year’s Day bowl,” Orgeron said. “These guys deserve that. … It’s something for them to shoot for. I thought after the loss in the Alabama game they were very down. We had to regroup and look at what we can do and what we can accomplish and I think for this team it could be a great accomplishment.”
Just being competitive in Tiger Stadium would be an accomplishment for Rice, and coach Mike Bloomgren expressed confidence his team can do it after showing improvement in a 28-13 loss at Louisiana Tech last week.
“The things that we’ve stressed to them is, look, you look at their roster one to 22 and they’re going to be more talented than us. They’re going to have more guys with stars by their name in terms of recruiting rankings,” Bloomgren said. “But every week in college football, you see a team go into one of those places and you see the score on your phone and you go, ‘Wow, those dudes beat them?'”
Some other prominent story lines in the Rice-LSU meeting:
BALL HAWKS
Both teams’ defensive backfields have had highlights this season. LSU’s defense has 16 interceptions, which leads the SEC and ranks second in the nation. Tigers safety Grant Delpit has intercepted five passes in his sophomore season. Rice true freshman Prudy Calderon has started the last six games and has intercepted four passes, including two last week at Louisiana Tech.
BALL SECURITY
While the Tigers have been relatively good at protecting the football, it’s been a problem for Rice. LSU still is in single digits in lost turnovers through 10 games. Quarterback Joe Burrow has been intercepted just four times and the Tigers have lost five total fumbles. By contrast, Rice QB Shawn Stankavage threw three interceptions last week alone, bringing his total to 10 for the season. In total, Rice has turned the ball over 23 times on 16 interceptions and seven lost fumbles. “We’re trying to grow. We’re trying to stay in a world of ball security,” Bloomgren said.
DEATH VALLEY DREAMING
LSU rarely loses night games at 102,000-seat Tiger Stadium, known to be as loud and difficult a road an environment as there is in college football — not that Bloomgren seems too worried. Quite the contrary.
“Everyone has dreamed about it. I dreamed about it as a kid, getting the chance to go in there and play. It’s going to be a ton of fun,” Bloomgren asserted. “We can’t come out of the tunnel and let Death Valley or Mike the Tiger score points for them. We’ve got to make them line up across from us, go toe-to-toe and earn everything they get. And we’ve got to give it back to them. That’s what I expect.”
KICKING IT
LSU kicker Cole Tracy, a graduate transfer from Division II Assumption College, ranks first among all active collegiate kickers with 90 career field goals. Tracy arrived at LSU with 68 made field goals in his career and has added 22 at LSU, which leads the SEC and ranks No. 2 in the nation.
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UMass, led by Weirton native Ross Comis, to face No. 5 Georgia

By CHARLES ODUM, AP Sports Writer
ATHENS, Ga. (AP) — In Mark Whipple’s two stints as the UMass coach covering 11 years and time spent in FCS and FBS, No. 5 Georgia is his pick as the Minutemen’s toughest opponent.
Whipple says he didn’t even have to pass along that opinion to his players.
“All they have to do is look at the tape,” Whipple said. “You just put the tape on and they’ve got great players. They’re the best team UMass has ever played at any level. They’re a really super team. You look at the scoreboard and they do it on offense, they do it on defense and they’ve got a terrific kicking game.”
Added Whipple of the challenge facing UMass (4-7) in Saturday’s game: “We’ll give it our best shot.”
Georgia (9-1, No. 5 CFP) already has won the Southeastern Conference’s Eastern Division and a spot in the Dec. 1 SEC championship game in Atlanta against No. 1 Alabama. The Bulldogs’ focus against UMass and in next week’s final regular-season game against Georgia Tech is to avoid a misstep that would devastate their chances for a return trip to the College Football Playoff.
“There’s no question we hope they’re overlooking us and trying to get ready for Georgia Tech,” Whipple said.
The Bulldogs opened as 45-point favorites against UMass. The line dropped to a still-daunting 41 points, a number which reflects the Minutemen’s task of containing such playmakers as quarterback Jake Fromm, tailbacks D’Andre Swift and Elijah Holyfield, and wide receivers Riley Ridley and Mecole Hardman.
“They don’t have any weaknesses,” Whipple said. “They were one play away from winning the national championship game last year and they might have a better team. I think they’re deeper.”
Georgia coach Kirby Smart is confident his team will avoid looking past UMass, which is 0-8 against SEC teams but lost to Mississippi State and Tennessee by only a combined 15 points last season.
The talent equalizer for UMass is wide receiver Andy Isabella , who ranks second in the nation with 87 catches for 1,479 yards. Isabella stays busy while lining up in different spots.
Smart said Isabella is “one of the best receivers in all of college football. Our kids respect him.”
Here are some other things to know about the UMass-Georgia game:
DON’T BLINK
The Minutemen can score quickly. They’ve scored on 12 scoring drives lasting no longer than 60 seconds. They’re tied for eighth in the nation on such drives.
ACCURACY MATTERS
Fromm is challenging Hutson Mason’s completion percentage record of 67.9 set in 2014. Fromm has completed 67.5 percent of his passes to rank second in the SEC.
Whipple said he has seen Fromm falter only in Georgia’s loss to LSU, when he completed only 16 of 34 passes with two interceptions.
“Other than that he’s been really good,” Whipple said, adding Fromm is “a calm and collected guy.”
POWER FIVE TEST
UMass lost at Boston College 55-21 on Sept. 1 in its only game this season against a Power Five team. It is coming off a 35-16 home loss to Brigham Young.
OFFENSIVE LINE DRAINED
Smart says Georgia’s offensive line no longer boasts the depth it had to open the season. Guards Kendall Baker and Cade Mays could miss Saturday’s game. Center Lamont Gaillard guard Ben Cleveland also less than full speed.
“We’ve had depth, but it’s slowly and surely deteriorated,” Smart said Tuesday. “We don’t have a lot of depth now. That doesn’t just take a toll on your offensive line. It takes a toll on your scout offensive line, which goes against your defensive line, which makes your team better. … So it takes its toll. Sometimes they all hit in bunches, but we’re hoping to try to get some of these guys back.”
VOTE OF CONFIDENCE
Fromm said last week’s 27-10 win over Auburn proved the offensive line did its job, even when backups were on the field.
“Auburn had a Sunday-type caliber defensive line,” Fromm said. “Our guys did a really good job with those guys moving them.”
Fromm noted Swift and Holyfield “had really good performances.”
Swift ran for a career-high 186 yards, including a 77-yard touchdown.
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Virginia looks for better showing against triple-option

By PAUL NEWBERRY, AP Sports Writer
ATLANTA (AP) — Virginia’s championship hopes could be dashed before the Cavaliers take the field Saturday.
Yet, there isn’t time to fret over what-ifs.
The triple-option demands their full attention.
Georgia Tech leads the nation in rushing yards with an average of 362.3 per game. The Yellow Jackets have pretty much dropped the forward pass from their repertoire, putting the ball in the air just seven times in the last three contests.
“It’s unique,” Virginia linebacker Jordan Mack said. “You’ve got to abandon everything you know, essentially, and just focus in on the offense.”
The Cavaliers (7-3, 4-2 ACC) can’t fare much worse than the last time they faced the unique offense. In the 2017 Military Bowl, Virginia scored an early touchdown — and then watched Navy run up and down the field the rest of the game, piling up 452 yards rushing in a 49-7 blowout .
The Midshipmen failed to complete their lone passing attempt.
Not that it mattered.
“It’s not scary,” Mack insisted. “It’s another opportunity to get better. A lot of guys are eager and willing and want to improve and show that we can defend the triple-option.”
Virginia must win this game to have any shot at winning the Coastal Division, and even then they’ll need some help. Pittsburgh, which plays at Wake Forest on Saturday and should be finishing up about the time the Cavaliers kick off, merely needs to win one of its last two games to clinch a spot in the ACC championship game against No. 2 Clemson.
Georgia Tech’s titles hopes faded in the first month of the season. But after a 1-3 start, the Yellow Jackets (6-4, 4-3) have ripped off a three-game winning streak and locked up a bowl berth.
“You can’t quit after three games,” coach Paul Johnson said. “This league is so balanced. … Other than Clemson, everybody is pretty similar.”
Some other things to watch for when the Yellow Jackets host the Cavaliers on Saturday:
BOWL POSITIONING
While Virginia still has hopes of playing for an ACC title, this is also a chance to gain a better position in the league’s postseason hierarchy.
The winner almost surely will land a more prestigious bowl assignment, no matter what happens in the final week of the regular season.
“We got to a bowl game, but now we have to make it better,” Georgia Tech receiver Brad Stewart said.
HE’S BACK
Georgia Tech senior quarterback TaQuon Marshall, who seemed on the verge of losing his starting job to redshirt freshman Tobias Oliver, re-established himself as the clear No. 1 in last week’s victory over Miami.
Marshall played nearly the entire game, rushing for 91 yards and two touchdowns to go along with a scoring pass in the 27-21 triumph .
Oliver had gotten the bulk of the playing time the previous two games with Marshall nursing an upper-body injury, running for 215 yards in an upset at Virginia Tech and 120 yards in a win over North Carolina. The youngster actually leads the Yellow Jackets in rushing with 781 yards and 12 TDs.
YOUNG LINE
Georgia Tech will be looking to capitalize on Virginia’s youthful defensive line.
Two true freshmen (Aaron Faumui and Jordan Redmond) have started for Cavaliers, and redshirt freshman Tommy Christ got his first start in last week’s victory over Liberty.
“They’re asking them to do a whole lot,” Johnson said, “but they’re doing what they ask them to do.
THIRD DOWN WOES
The Yellow Jackets’ defense must do a better job getting off the field.
Opponents have converted nearly half of their third-down opportunities (51 of 106), a figure that Johnson said is unacceptable.
“We’re been pretty good at not giving up big plays and getting turnovers, but third down is horrendous,” the coach said.
VIRGINIA’S CATALYST
Junior-college transfer Bryce Perkins has given the Cavaliers’ offense a dual threat at quarterback.
Perkins has rushed for more than 100 yards in three games and he’s thrown for just under 2,000 yards with 18 touchdowns.
“He’s a dynamic quarterback, as good as anybody in our league,” Johnson said. “I think the quarterback kind of transformed their football team.”
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Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963 . His work can be found at https://apnews.com/search/paul%20newberry
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AP Sports Writer Hank Kurz Jr. in Charlottesville, Virginia contributed to this report.
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For more AP college football: https://apnews.com/Collegefootball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25