Time to start taking West Virginia seriously in the Big 12

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West Virginia has an awful defense and its special teams, while not under the same degree of verbal scrutiny, is almost as bad. But, the Mountaineer offense is so good that for the second straight week, it didn’t make a difference in the final outcome of the game.

As far as game plans go, Texas had it drawn up as well as any team that’s faced WVU this season: cater to your offensive strengths (running the ball) and keep the ball out of Geno Smith‘s hands. On defense, get pressure on Smith, don’t allow the big plays and force a couple turnovers if you can.

The Longhorns did all of the above for the most part, but as is normally the case in close games, one mistake gets magnified when it becomes the difference in the game. That was a missed 41-yard field goal by Penn State transfer Anthony Fera. Of course, that miss was preceded by a botched snap for which UT quarterback David Ash apparently wasn’t ready. That resulted in a loss of 16 yards.

When Texas was able to drive the field in one minute to score one final touchdown, that missed field goal loomed.

It was an even, well-played game between two very good football teams. It came down to the last second and a failed onside kick gave the No. 8 Mountaineers a 48-45 win over the No. 11 Longhorns.

Smith wasn’t even the star. He didn’t do much to hurt his Heisman stock, going 25-of-35 for 268 yards, four touchdowns, and again, no interceptions — although he had the ball stripped a couple of times — but it wasn’t the video game numbers he’s been putting up. That’s to be expected; Texas is by far the best defense WVU has played all season.

No, it was running back Andrew Buie (pictured) who gets the game ball. The sophomore ran 31 times for 207 yards and a pair of touchdowns. His most important carries came at the end when Dana Holgorsen went out of his comfort zone and — gasp! — bled the clock (Nick Saban would have been proud). Buie carried the ball seven times on the team’s final offensive drive and scored a touchdown.

And that is the scariest thing about WVU’s offense: that it’s not just Smith. It’s Tavon Austin (who had 10 receptions for 102 yards and a touchdown). It’s Stedman Bailey (who had three touchdown grabs). It’s Buie. That makes it difficult to slow and nearly impossible to stop.

The defense and special teams? They’re bad enough that they might cost WVU a couple games this season, but through two Big 12 matches, the offense has been able to get it done.

The next month holds some crucial games for WVU. The Mountaineers have to go on the road again to Texas Tech before a pair of home games against Kansas State and TCU. Then, there’s another road game at Oklahoma State before the big Nov. 3 game against Oklahoma. That’s a decently tough stretch, but one of the biggest questions WVU had heading into the season was whether it could play on the big stage after years in the Big East.

Considering its first Big 12 road game was in front of 100,000 people, I’d say yes.

Tennessee LB Cortez McDowell’s season might not be over after all

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In the end, there could be an injury silver lining for Tennessee after all.

In the aftermath of the deflating last-second loss to rival Florida, Tennessee head coach Butch Jones announced that Cortez McDowell would miss the remainder of the 2017 season.  The linebacker sustained an injury to his wrist that, at the time, was deemed serious enough to shelve him for the rest of the year.

The key here is “at the time” as, a couple of days later, the prognosis has brightened slightly as Jones allowed Wednesday that McDowell could return at some point this season.  Whether it’s late in the regular season or even for a bowl game, the coach at least left the door open for the senior to play again in 2017.

Obviously, any availability would be determined in the coming weeks by the program’s medical staff.

McDowell would be eligible for a medical hardship waiver if he shut it down for the remainder of the season, which would give the fourth-year senior another year of eligibility to use in 2018.  At least at this point in time, that’s not the tack that either the player or the football program is taking.

After starting four of 12 games last season, McDowell started the first three games this season prior to his injury.

 

Derrius Guice ruled out for LSU’s game vs. Syracuse

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So there you have it.

Late in the third quarter of Saturday’s 37-7 loss to Mississippi State, Derrius Guice sustained an injury to his left knee.  While Ed Orgeron downplayed the severity of the injury in the ensuing days, he allowed during his turn on the SEC coaches teleconference Wednesday that his star running back is “very questionable right now” for the Week 4 game against Syracuse.

Later that night, on the head coach’s radio show, the very questionable morphed into completely out.

Through three games, Guice leads the Tigers with 300 yards rushing and is tied for tops on the team with four rushing touchdowns. His rushing yards are currently fourth in the SEC; last season, his 1,387 yards were tops in the conference.

With Guice unable to go, Darrel Williams (28-159-4) will likely be next in line to shoulder the brunt of the running-game load.

Mason Rudolph’s younger brother sees freshman season at Clemson come to an injury end

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Mason Rudolph is looking at the rest of the season as an opportunity to continue pushing his way into the Heisman discussion and his team deeper into the College Football Playoff picture.  His younger brother, on the other hand, is looking at rehab.

Wednesday night, Clemson announced that Logan Rudolph will miss the remainder of the 2017 season because of a shoulder injury.  The defensive end sustained the injury during a Tuesday practice, and will undergo surgery at some point in the future to repair the damage.  Rudolph dealt with a shoulder issue late in his high school career, and it’s believed this is related to that.

A four-star member of the Tigers’ 2017 recruiting class, Rudolph was rated as the No. 23 weakside defensive end in the country and the No. 4 player at any position in the state of South Carolina.  After enrolling early and participating in spring practice, the true freshman played in two games as a backup behind starter Austin Bryant.  In that limited action, he was credited with three tackles and one tackle for loss.

Because of how few games he’s played, Rudolph would be eligible for a medical redshirt.  That would allow the lineman to extend his eligibility out through the 2021 season if he so desires.

Getting back to the famous name-drop in the lede, Rudolph’s older brother, of course, is the starting quarterback for No. 6 Oklahoma State.

Iowa struggling to sellout game vs. Penn State

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The Iowa Hawkeyes are about to host a top-four team at Kinnick Stadium this Saturday night, and it seems there is slightly more trouble trying to sell out the game than anticipated. According to Mark Emmert of the Des Moines Register and Iowa City Press-Citizen (and not the NCAA president by the same name), Iowa still had 4,000 tickets for this week’s game against No. 4 Penn State sitting in the box office as of earlier today.

Price concerns for the game coupled with a delay in knowing the kickoff time apparently had some influence on the unexpected ticket availability this close to the game.

Schools are becoming more and more commonly known for having higher-priced tickets for the more marquee games on their home schedule, and Iowa is no exception. Iowa has tiered ticket pricing for their home games, and Penn State being the defending conference champion with a decent traveling fanbase made this week’s matchup an ideal fit for being priced in the higher tier. Later this year, Iowa’s home game against Ohio State will also be priced at $95. $95, for some, is not worth the effort to go to a game and tailgate all day. It may be fine for a good number of fans, but it’s not for everybody.

Having to wait to know what time a game will kickoff can be a nuisance for those football fans who like to plan ahead. And while a primetime game may be great for exposure, it can be a cumbersome chore for some fans who would much rather stay home and not have to deal with a late-night drive home.

So if you are looking to get a ticket to the game this weekend in Iowa City, you may have a good chance to pick up a ticket.