Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Oregon's failure drops Pac-12 from title hunt

STANFORD, Calif. — The Pac-12 has been fighting with the SEC for years to be considered the nation's toughest conference.

But in the aftermath of No. 6 Stanford's 26-20 victory over No. 2 Oregon late Thursday, the league is without an undefeated team and once again searching for a way to crack the BCS title game.

"We don't hold the cards anymore," first-year Ducks coach Mark Helfrich said. "But we never hold the cards."

The Cardinal (8-1, 6-1 Pac-12) dominated the Ducks (8-1, 5-1) for more than three quarters before holding off a rally and winning a game that likely put the Pac-12 out of the national championship race again.

Stanford and Oregon have been among Division I-A's best programs the past four seasons. The depth of the conference is finally starting to catch up, turning the league into what the SEC has been for so many years: a two-month fight that nobody survives unscathed.

The Cardinal's convincing win over the Ducks likely will not be enough for them to work their way into the BCS title game unless at least three of the top four teams (Alabama, Florida State, Ohio State and Baylor) all lose. Even that might not be enough.

"People may say we're overrated. That's fine. That's no big deal. What we have is the next down to make," Stanford coach David Shaw said. "Let everybody else talk and do whatever they want. But for us, we get to play football and that's what our guys love to do."

The Cardinals loved to run Thursday night, holding the ball for 42½ minutes, rushing 66 times for 274 yards and converting 14 of 21 third downs.

"We don't get the ball enough if you don't have many possessions," Oregon offensive lineman Tyler Johnstone said. "That's what held us down."

Stanford has seized control of efforts to win another league title — the only goal Shaw ever talks about with his players — and making a return trip to the Rose Bowl.

Oregon, meanwhile, had a chance to vault from No. 3 over FSU in the BCS standings.

"It (stinks) to say this, but I've gone through it," said quarterback Marcus Mariota, who has a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee and wore a brace. "It takes a lot out of you. I think a lot of these young guys are still going to learn how to handle it, but it's the same as the older guys did for me last year. It's just come back the next day and work."

Bridgewater's streak intact in Cards' rout

EAST HARTFORD, Conn. — Teddy Bridgewater threw for 288 yards and a touchdown to lead No. 20 Louisville to a 31-10 victory Friday over winless UConn.

Bridgewater completed 21 of 37 passes. He has passed for 24 touchdowns this season and has at least one scoring pass in 21 straight games.

The win kept the Cardinals (8-1, 4-1 American Athletic) a game out of first in the conference, behind the winner of tonight's UCF-Houston game.

Tim Boyle threw three interceptions and had only 113 yards for Connecticut (0-8, 0-4). The Huskies are 0-9 since upsetting the Cardinals in three overtimes last November in Louisville.

Fisher wants FSU to keep its edge

TALLAHASSEE — Florida State, ranked No. 3 in the Associated Press poll but No. 2 in the all-important BCS standings, now seems assured of playing for the BCS title if it can win out. That means not taking Wake Forest lightly today.

Coach Jimbo Fisher knows his team can't just coast to the finish line. Wake Forest stunned the Seminoles 35-30 in 2011.

"You know the situations and the media hype you get," he said. "The only thing you can control is how you play this week. What's important for us is to continue to play well, reach our goals in the games of getting better each week, learning to prepare each week and getting better. If we do that, then the results, we'll take the results whatever they may be."

E. Michigan: Coach Ron English was fired with three games left in a season marred by tragedy. English went 11-46 at the Mid-American Conference school. Offensive coordinator Stan Parrish takes over in a trying 1-8 season in which receiver Demarius Reed was found fatally shot on Oct. 18.

Other sports

Women's soccer: Top-seeded Florida (17-3-1) beat Ole Miss 2-1 to advance to the final of the SEC tournament at Orange Beach, Ala. The Gators play second-seeded Texas A&M on Sunday. … UCF ousted USF (10-4-6) 5-3 in penalty kicks after a scoreless American Athletic tournament semifinal in Orlando. … Second-seeded FSU (16-1-3) beat North Carolina 2-1 for a berth in Sunday's ACC final against Virginia Tech in Cary, N.C.

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