AROUND THE NATION

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AROUND THE NATION

GAME OF THE DAY

Baylor vs. Texas Tech, Arlington, Texas, 7 p.m., Fox

Bears are contender in BCS title chase

Art Briles chuckled when the question of Baylor playing for college football’s national championship came up.

“We’ve got a long ways to go,” the Bears coach said. “Our season is still young. We’ve played eight games and still have four left, more than most folks. We’ve still got to face the bulk of the contenders in our league.”

Talk of Baylor playing in the BCS title game Jan. 6 at the Rose Bowl is premature. Yet with the rampaging, and unbeaten, Bears ranked fifth in mid-November, clearly they are one of the legitimate players in this race.

To be sure, Baylor needs help, even if it wins out against arguably the most difficult remaining schedule of the contenders. The Bears face teams with a 26-12 combined record.

Two-time defending national champ Alabama is No. 1 in the BCS rankings, followed by Florida State, Ohio State and Stanford.

“If Alabama and Florida State win out, nobody will catch them,” BCS analyst Jerry Palm said. “They control their destiny. If one of them loses, I think it comes down to Ohio State or Baylor, who are both ahead of Stanford in the human polls.”

So even if Baylor runs the table, it probably needs losses by at least two of the teams in front of it.

Baylor is concerned only with Texas Tech and their rivalry game at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.

But what once appeared to be a close matchup now is expected to be a blowout. The Bears are a 27-point favorite because the Red Raiders’ defense has collapsed, allowing 139 points and 1,385 yards during a three-game losing streak.

That’s trouble against Baylor, the NCAA leader in scoring and total offense.

Defense, though, is the biggest thing that separates Baylor from Tech. The Bears are No. 6 nationally in scoring defense and No. 9 in total defense.

— Kevin Lyttle, Austin American-Statesman

SPOTLIGHT: JAMEIS WINSTON

Investigation is trouble for both QB and FSU

This column originally was going to be about how Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston was a shoo-in to win the Heisman Trophy.

Now, sadly, it is about how there’s no way he can win it.

Not as long as his name is attached to an ongoing sexual-assault investigation.

Obviously, we need to see how this plays out in the next few weeks, but the captivating Famous Jameis — at least in the court of public opinion — has become the focus of another dark college scandal to sports fans and Heisman voters across the country.

I don’€t know about my fellow Heisman voters, but I would have a hard time voting for player who is being investigated in connection with a sexual assault.

The accusations against Winston are obviously serious; so serious in fact that it seems almost trivial to say this will cost him the Heisman.

This could cost him his future.

This is about more than just some bronze trophy or crystal football being at stake; it’€s about a woman saying she was sexually battered by a man who is now the quarterback of the No. 2-ranked college football team in the country.

All we know: The Tallahassee Police Department in December received a complaint of sexual battery against Winston — although the police report does not mention the player by name. It says the complaint was received at 4:10 a.m. and that the sexual battery occurred between 1:30 and 2 a.m. on Dec. 7, 2012. No arrests have been made, but the investigation is ongoing.

Winston has retained an attorney and did not discuss the matter during an interview session with reporters Wednesday.

There are questions, many questions: Why has this investigation been going on for nearly a year without any arrests being made? Why did Winston’s attorney tell reporters that police haven’€t even questioned Winston during the investigation? And in this instantaneous Internet age of texting and tweeting, how can it be that such a famous football player being accused of such a serious crime is kept secret for 11 months?

Only time will tell whether these accusations are true, but they have already tainted Florida State’s season. Unless this year-long investigation suddenly is wrapped up and Winston’€s name is cleared, this story is going to become bigger and bigger and bigger as the days and weeks pass.

How do the Seminoles proceed with a quarterback who is being accused of one of the worst crimes you can imagine?

If Winston keeps playing and Florida State keeps winning, there will be those who question why he is playing at all. Can you imagine the headline on TMZ or in the supermarket tabloids should Florida State win it all. …

Or what happens if in two weeks police decide they have enough evidence to bring felony charges against Winston? He would, per school policy, then be suspended and FSU’€s championship hopes would be all but dashed.

I started writing this column, and it was supposed to be about how nobody could stop Famous Jameis from winning the Heisman.

Sadly, as I finish writing this column, it turns out there is one man capable of standing between Famous Jameis and the sporting world’s most prestigious individual award — Willie Meggs, the state attorney in Leon County, Fla.

— Mike Bianchi, Orlando Sentinel

WORDS ABOUT … KANSAS STATE’S RYAN MUELLER

An unlikely national sack leader

Mueller, a junior defensive end from Leawood, Kan., who was a walk-on, has 10 1/2 for the season, eight in the past five games, and leads Division I with 15 tackles for loss.

Q: How does Mueller do it?

Center B.J. Finney: What you’re seeing is the direct result of how hard Mueller works. He’s a great guy, and he doesn’t take any day for granted. He doesn’t take a day off. His motor is always running, and he’s always screaming, hooping and hollering.

Q: What’s his best attribute as a player?

Linebacker Jonathan Truman: He’s relentless to get in the backfield and get the quarterback or whoever is in the backfield. It’s just an attitude that he has that nothing is going to stop him when the ball is snapped.

Coach Bill Snyder: Nobody practices harder than Ryan Mueller. … Nobody.

Safety Dante Barnett: Ryan is one of those players that no matter what he does, no matter if he does it right or wrong, he’s going to go fast. He will never quit on a play.

— Associated Press

SIX PACK

Indiana (4-5, 2-3 Big Ten) at No. 22 Wisconsin (7-2, 4-1), noon, ESPN2: The Hoosiers, who have scored 28 points or more in 10 games in a row, are two victories from bowl eligibility, but one must come either against the Badgers or at Ohio State next week. The Badgers are 24-4 after Nov. 1 in the past eight seasons (not counting bowl games).

Syracuse (5-4, 3-2 ACC) at No. 2 Florida State (9-0, 7-0), 3:30 p.m., ABC: The Seminoles are favored by 39 and have the No. 2 scoring offense in the nation. Eyes will be on quarterback Jameis Winston because of the off-field controversy surrounding him this week. While the FSU offense has scored on 50 of 51 red-zone trips, the defense is underrated. Twelve players have interceptions for the Seminoles.

No. 23 Miami (7-2, 3-2 ACC) at Duke (7-2, 3-2), 3:30 p.m., ESPNU: The Hurricanes are a field-goal favorite, and the winner of this game will be alive in the ACC Coastal Division race. The Blue Devils have won five in a row and have positive and negative historical trends: Duke hasn’t beaten Miami since 1976, but Anthony Boone is 7-0 as starting QB — the first Blue Devil since 1950 to do that.

No. 16 Michigan State (8-1, 5-0 Big Ten) at Nebraska (7-2, 4-1), 3:30 p.m., ESPN2: The winner has the inside track for the Big Ten Legends Division title. Nebraska wins the division if it wins out against the Spartans, Penn State and Iowa. The Spartans, 5-0 in the league for the first time in seven seasons with Mark Dantonio as coach, can clinch by winning Saturday and next week at Northwestern.

Texas Tech (7-3, 4-3 Big 12) vs. No. 5 Baylor (8-0, 5-0) at Arlington, Texas, 7 p.m., Fox: The Bears seek a 6-0 conference mark for the first time since going 8-0 in 1980 in the old Southwest Conference. The Bears are high-scoring and well-rounded on defense and have the nation’s best kicker. Aaron Jones has made all 59 PATs this season, part of his 166 in a row that is the NCAA’s longest active streak. His 251 overall are two shy of matching the NCAA career record.

No. 4 Stanford (8-1, 6-1 Pac-12) at USC (7-3, 4-2), 8 p.m., ABC: The Cardinal, the first ranked opponent for USC this season, are two wins from hosting the Pac-12 title game again. USC has lost four in a row in the series, its longest losing skid against Stanford.

— Associated Press

Compiled by Ray Cox

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