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Sean Keeler’s Game Day

September 20, 2012
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Keep on fighting, Irish

By Sean Keeler

FIRST DOWN:

And goal to go …

Never say never, but don’t be surprised if the Big 12 expansion talk takes a bit of hiatus now that Notre Dame has officially joined the ACC — in all sports except for football, of course. The Big 12 is looking for a prospective member (or members) that will move the needle nationally on the football front or open up a television market that brings the conference more eyeballs; either scenario gives the league a chance to go back to its network partners and ask for a bump in rights fees. But the league has a deal with ESPN and FOX that guarantees each of its 10 members roughly $20 million annually, and Big 12 presidents are understandably reluctant to split the pie up into even smaller pieces just for the sake of splitting it.

While Notre Dame would’ve been a home-run addition to the Big 12, it’s a better fit, culturally, with the new-look ACC — and the eastern cities that make up a healthy chunk of the famed “subway alumni” base. The Fighting Irish got exactly what they wanted out of this deal: Continued football independence (allowing them to keep their television loot from NBC/Comcast); scheduling flexibility on the gridiron that gives them a chance to maintain traditional rivalries with USC and Stanford and a foothold in California; a scheduling and recruiting presence on the east coast in men’s and women’s basketball; and BCS-level pedigree for the rest of its Olympic sports. In other words, the best of all worlds.

Of the top seven FBS schools recognized last June for the highest multi-year Academic Progress Rate score, three are currently ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 (Boise State, Ohio State, Clemson). And the top nine APR programs — Northwestern, Duke, the Broncos, the Buckeyes, Northern Illinois, Rice, the Tigers, Middle Tennessee State and Rutgers — head into the weekend with a combined record of 20-6, or a .769 winning percentage.

THE BIG 8:

Ranking the best eight teams in the Big 12 and Big Ten, one through eight …

TEAM (RECORD) / UP NEXT

1. Oklahoma (2-0) / vs. Kansas State

2. Texas (3-0) / Idle (vs. Okla. St., 9/29)

3. Kansas State (3-0) / vs. Oklahoma

4. West Virginia (2-0) / vs. Maryland

5. Oklahoma State (2-1) / Idle (vs. Texas, 9/29)

6. TCU (2-0) / vs. Virginia

7. Michigan State (2-1) / vs. Eastern Michigan

8. Ohio State (3-0) / vs. UAB

ONE MAN’S RUNNING HEISMAN BALLOT:

1. Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia: You want sick? Dude’s completing 88 percent of his passes with nine TDs, zero picks and an efficiency rating of 209.

2. Collin Klein, QB, Kansas State: Yeah, there’s a hitch in the throwing motion, but it works. Klein’s completed 73 percent of his throws and is on a pace to rack up more than 2,400 passing yards.

3. EJ Manuel, QB, Florida State: Torched Wake Forest last weekend for two touchdowns in the air and another on the ground. The next test: a huge showdown with Clemson.

SET YOUR TIVO:

The games you won’t want to miss …

1. Michigan at Notre Dame, NBC, 6:30 p.m. Buckle up and hang in there late: The last four meetings between the two rivals have each been decided by four points.

2. Kansas State at Oklahoma, FOX, 6:50 p.m.: The winner’s firmly in the Big 12 catbird seat. Stoops is 14-4 coming off a regular-season bye week and 6-1 vs. Snyder since 2000.

3. Arizona at Oregon, ESPN, 9:30 p.m.: With his Michigan lumps behind him, RichRod has found his old mojo again in the desert. The ‘Cats are on the radar now, but a win over the Ducks would keep ‘em there.

THIS WEEK’S COACH ON THE HOT SEAT:

KEVIN WILSON, INDIANA. The Hoosiers have now dropped three in a row to David Letterman U (Ball State), a streak that dates back to September 2008. Next up: Northwestern (3-0), Michigan State (2-1) and Ohio State (3-0). CV

Sean Keeler is a columnist/blogger with FOX Sports Kansas City and FOX Sports. In 2011, the Iowa native was named one of the Top 10 sports columnists in the nation by the Associated Press Sports Editors. You can read him at FoxSportsKansasCity.com and at FoxSportsMidwest.com. You can follow him on Twitter (@seankeeler) and through his Tumblr blog: seankeeler.tumblr.com.



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