Badgers clinch spot in B1G title game

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It wasn’t the regular-season cruise most thought it would be, but, in the end, Wisconsin is who we thought they were.

One of the two teams that will play for the 2012 Big Ten title.

Thanks in small part to its 62-14 win over Indiana Saturday — and in large part to NCAA sanctions levied on Penn State and, especially, Ohio State — the Badgers have clinched the Big Ten Leaders division’s spot in the conference championship game with still two league games remaining.  The Hoosiers came into the game with a chance to take control of the Leaders at 3-3 with a win, but it was UW that moved to 4-2 in a division where the other three postseason-eligible teams have won a combined three Big Ten games as of this posting.

And, as expected, the Badgers clinched in a manner that has become their annual trademark: a punishing ground game.  Montee Ball (104) and James White (103, pictured) rushed for 100-plus yards in the first half alone.  For the game, the Badgers ran for 564 yards as a team — versus just 41 passing — in punching their early-December ticket to Indianapolis for the second consecutive season.

As for who Wisconsin will face in the Dec.1 title game, that’s completely and totally in Nebraska’s hands.  If the Cornhuskers win their last three, including this afternoon’s game with Penn State, it would be UW-NU v2.0 — Cornhuskers 30, Badgers 27, in Lincoln Sept. 29 — for the conference championship.

Right on Nebraska’s heels, though, is Michigan.  Thanks to UM’s thrilling win over Northwestern Saturday afternoon, the Wolverines are now 5-1 in conference play, a half-game ahead of the Huskers at the moment.  Nebraska, though, holds the tiebreaker over UM by virtue of a 23-9 win two weeks ago.

In other words, Michigan will need to win out and hope that Nebraska stubs its toe at least once against either Penn State, Minnesota or Iowa.

N.C. State hangs on to upset sluggish No. 12 Florida State

Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images
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A year after failing to pull the upset on the road against Clemson, N.C. State (3-1, 1-0 ACC) managed to take advantage o a Florida State team coming off an unusual layoff. The Wolfpack took a 10-0 lead on No. 12 Florida State (0-2, 0-1 ACC) in Tallahassee and managed to hold on for a 27-21 victory.

It was expected Florida State would start the game somewhat slowly, and they did. Starting a true freshman at quarterback and not having played a game since the opening week of the season against Alabama due to having to alter the schedule from Hurricane Irma’s path through the state of Florida meant the Seminoles might not be all on the same page early on. This was the case, although N.C. State brought the kind of gameplan and talent to take advantage of the situation, and credit them for doing just that.

Ryan Finley passed for 230 yards and two touchdowns to help lead the Wolfpack to the win, but the defense did its part too by allowing just four third-down conversions by Florida State out of 14 attempts. The lone turnover of the game was coughed up by Florida State as well, although N.C. State was not able to score any points off the turnover, but the fumble came at a costly time for Florida State as it appeared the momentum could be on their side with a drive down the field in a 10-7 game.

Making his first start for the Seminoles in place of the injured Deondre Francois, James Blackman was under pressure for much of the afternoon. N.C. State had a clear gameplan to get in Blackman’s face, and there were moments when Blackman reacted to it well and managed to drop some beautiful deep passes to his receivers. Blackman ended his first career start going 22-of-38 for 278 yards with a touchdown and one lost fumble. Auden Tate was the top receiver for Florida State with 138 yards and a touchdown.

Down 27-16 in the fourth quarter, Florida State did have their chances to grab the game in their home opener, but a turnover on downs after recording a safety and being held to a field goal after taking the football at the NC State 23-yard line following a blocked punt prevented the Seminoles form avoiding their first loss in a home opener for the first time under head coach Jimbo Fisher.

Florida State now has two losses and still has games to play against Clemson and Louisville. The preseason favorite in the ACC and for a spot in the College Football Playoff is now looking to make history if there is a chance to do so. No College Football Playoff team has had two losses. Making the playoff is obviously quite an uphill battle at this point. That uphill climb will begin next week on the road against Wake Forest.

For N.C. State, the painful stain of a bewildering loss in the opener is a distant memory and now the Wolfpack hope to build off this major win next week at home against Syracuse.

 

Heat ratcheted up on Butch Jones as Tennessee barely slips past winless UMass

Associated Press
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Aside from being on the right side of the won-loss ledger, this is absolutely not what Butch Jones or the Tennessee Volunteers needed.

The come-from-ahead last-second loss to Florida in Week 4 set a sizable chunk of Vols Nation to grumbling about the current state of the football program in general and Jones’head-coaching tenure specifically. With winless UMass coming to Neyland Stadium in Week 4, it was viewed as an opportunity for UT to reset and get back on track for games against No. 11 Georgia and No. 1 Alabama the next three weeks.

The good news? They won their third game of the year against the one loss, claiming a 17-13 victory. The bad? The looked rough, ragged and utterly inept, especially on offense, in doing so.

For the game, the Vols totaled 297 yards of offense 62 plays.  In the second half, they ran 31 plays and put up just 64 yards — and 26 of those came on their last drive of the game that didn’t involve a kneel-down.  Their eight possessions went punt, field goal, punt, punt, punt, punt, punt, end of game.

So, how did the fans who showed up at Neyland Stadium express their frustration over the current state of the football program?  By morphing into empty seats, apparently.

Armed with a mediocre 30-21 record — and 14-19 mark in SEC play — Jones entered the 2017 season on the coaching hot seat. These last two weeks have done nothing to quiet such talk; in fact, it’s done nothing but ratchets up the calls for his coaching head on a platter.

Should Tennessee stumble against Georgia and Alabama in the coming weeks, all bets are off as to whether Jones will see a sixth season in Knoxville.

Florida State looked sluggish and sloppy in first half vs. N.C. State, as expected

Photo by A. Messerschmidt/Getty Images
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Florida State, as many probably expected, looked like a team that has not played a game in three weeks after one half of play in Tallahassee against N.C. State. The visiting Wolfpack took a 10-0 lead in the first quarter and hold a 17-7 advantage on the Seminoles at halftime in Doak Campbell Stadium.

Ryan Finley completed a 71-yard touchdown to Jakobi Meyers, who performed some acrobatics across the goal line (which was flagged, although the score counted) for the 17-7 lead in the second quarter.

Florida State seemed to get in sync in the second quarter. After two series on the field resulting in a pair of three-and-outs and a total of one yard of offense, Blackman and the Noles put their first drive together to the tune of 12 plays and 75 yards. Blackman capped the drive with a pass to Auden Tate from the four-yard line, but it was this key 3rd and 8 play that suggested Blackman had gotten comfortable for the first time in the game. A dropback pass to Tate went for 24 yards, and the placement of the pass could not have been much better.

That momentum did not seem to last too long, however. Florida State fumbled the ball away in crazy fashion on their next offensive series and later missed a field goal from the NC State 13-yard line. Blackman had a nice spin move to get away from a tackler, but he lost control of the football toward the end of his run, leading to a massive shift in momentum in bizarre fashion.

The play was reviewed to determine if Blackman’s knee had hit the ground prior to the fumble. After the review, the call on the field was upheld, and N.C. state recovered the ball at their two-yard line.

N.C. State’s first two offensive possessions were good for a combined 22 plays and over 120 yards and 10 points.

Blown call by SEC official screws Texas A&M out of a touchdown in first half vs. Arkansas

ESPN
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Arkansas is leading Texas A&M by a score of 21-17 in AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas after one half of play, but the story of the half will be the blown call by a SEC side judge trailing a long run down the sideline. It was bad.

After Kellen Mond appeared to run the length of the field and stumble his way into the end zone for six, the official on the field ruled Mond had stepped out of bounds at the Arkansas 10-yard line.

He did not.

Because the play was blown dead, the ruling on the field could not be sent upstairs to the instant replay booth. Texas A&M would get no further down the field and had to settle for a field goal as a result.

The two teams exchanged touchdown drives in the first quarter, first with Austin Allen completing a 16-yard touchdown pass to Jared Cornelius for the Razorbacks and then Mond completing a pass to a wide-open Christian Kirk for an 81-yard score.

Arkansas regained the lead in the second quarter with a pair of touchdowns with Cole Kelley tossing one from two yards out and Chase Hayden running for a six-yard score. The Aggies did eventually get back in the end zone late in the first half with Trayveon Williams finding room up the middle for an 18-yard touchdown.