USC v UCLA

Mistakes cost USC as UCLA wins Pac-12 South

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For the second year in a row, UCLA, not USC, will represent the Pac-12 South division in the conference championship. But unlike 2011, the Bruins didn’t back their way in (thanks, NCAA!) with a .500 record and a coach on his way out.

No, No. 17 UCLA beat No. 21 USC fair and square in the Rose Bowl 38-28 — the first win by the Bruins the rivalry since 2006. UCLA has now won at least a share of the Pac-12 South and will represent the division in the conference championship game in two weeks. UCLA also got revenge for a certain 50-0 thumping it received last year from USC.

USC actually outgained UCLA in total yards (513 to 406), but Matt Barkley threw two interceptions — the Trojans had three for the day — and special teams was a problem with a missed extra point and two missed field goals (one was blocked). If USC had those seven points on the board, it’s worth noting that the Trojans were in UCLA territory and within field goal range at the end of the game.

Barkley also went down with an apparent shoulder injury late in the fourth quarter and did not return. The senior quarterback gave a gritty performance, but it wasn’t enough to give the Trojans the win.

Speaking of Barkley, I’m in no position to say if his decision to come back or not was a mistake because his opinion is the only one that matters on that subject, but it would be flat wrong to think this season hasn’t been a disappointment for USC . Assuming our math is correct, USC would be the first preseason No. 1 team to lose four games that year since Auburn in 1984 and could be the first preseason No. 1 team to finish unranked since Ole Miss in 1964.

The theme for USC — and Barkley specifically — this year has been taking care of “unfinished business”, yet there will be no Pac-12 championship or Rose Bowl for the Trojans in the first year removed from a postseason ban. And if USC continues to slide next week against Notre Dame, you have to seriously wonder what Lane Kiffin‘s job status is going to be. Sure, one would think the scholarship restrictions at USC (also courtesy of the NCAA) would actually give Kiffin a little wiggle room in terms of the W’s and L’s, but Kiffin’s had one too many distractions this year with jersey swapping and game ball deflating. That’s not even mentioning stupid stuff like lying about where you voted your team in the coaches’ poll or walking out of a press conference like a child.

None of those things have been a huge deal by themselves, but collectively they become annoying. When you don’t win (enough), people’s (boosters?) patience begins to run thin on reckless abandon because, who knows, it might be manifesting itself into things like excessive penalties. Those can result in losses too.

Of course, much of this might be forgiven if USC comes out next week and eliminates any chance of Notre Dame reaching the BCS championship game. If the Trojans can’t beat the Irish — even worse, if they get blown out — it could force USC athletic director Pat Haden to further ponder the direction of the program. Or, it means defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin has to go and Merry Christmas, dad! 

Either way, this could all make way for a new titan in Los Angeles. Like, say, UCLA.

Derek Jeter leaves message in every Michigan player’s locker

ANN ARBOR, MI - SEPTEMBER 26:  Head coach Jim Harbaugh (R) of the Michigan Wolverines  presents baseball great Derek Jeter (L) of the New York Yankees with a jersey prior to the game against the Brigham Young Cougars at Michigan Stadium on September 26, 2015 in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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Ahead of a huge Top 10 matchup, the Michigan football team has received a bit of inspiration from a pinstriped legend.

Derek Jeter, a Michigan high school graduate who signed with UM coming out of high school before embarking on what will end up being a Hall of Fame baseball career, has been somewhat of a fixture in and around the football program since the Wolverines became a part of Brand Jordan, a brand that Jeter also represents. Along with the brand’s namesake, His Airness Michael Jordan, Jeter was a part of the opener early this year at the Big House.  He was at a star-studded National Signing Day event this year as well.

With No. 8 Wisconsin on tap, Jeter decided to leave a gift and, more importantly, a message in the locker of every single player on the fourth-ranked team in the country.

“It is my personal challenge to you all to remain humble, yet hungry, every day along this journey to achieving greatness,” a portion of Jeter’s note read.

Suspension will sideline CB Justin Martin for Vols-UGA game

KNOXVILLE, TN - SEPTEMBER 24: Justin Martin #8 of the Tennessee Volunteers tackles Lamical Perine #22 of the Florida Gators in the second quarter at Neyland Stadium on September 24, 2016 in Knoxville, Tennessee. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
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Justin Martin won’t get the opportunity to atone for a rough Week 4 performance against Florida after all.

Both 247Sports.com and the Knoxville News Sentinel have reported that Martin has been suspended for No. 11 Tennessee’s game this afternoon against No. 25 Georgia.  The only reason given was an unspecified violation of team rules.

Martin had started against the Gators, but head coach Butch Jones had already announced that freshman Baylen Buchanan would get the start at cornerback against the Bulldogs.  247Sports.com writes that, in the win over UF in Week 4, Martin “twice was beaten on deep throws and committed a costly penalty on the game’s opening kickoff.”

The Vols will also be without a pair of starters, linebacker Darrin Kirkland Jr. and defensive back Cameron Sutton, because of injuries.  It’s also highly doubtful that All-SEC linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin plays because of a lingering shoulder injury.

The Bulldogs won’t be coming into the key SEC East clash unscathed, though, as leading rusher Nick Chubb is not expected to play because of an ankle injury.

Oklahoma State blocks three Texas PATs in defense-optional first half

AUSTIN, TX - OCTOBER 15:  An Oklahoma State cheerleader flies the Cowboys' flag after a touchdown against the Texas Longhorns on October 15, 2011 at Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium in Austin, Texas.  Oklahoma State beat Texas 38-26.  (Photo by Erich Schlegel/Getty Images)
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The early slate of games has been highlighted by blocked extra-point attempts. Three of them have come in Stillwater, Oklahoma with Oklahoma State doing the job against Texas. One of those blocked attempts was returned by Oklahoma State for two points. Oklahoma State holds the halftime edge with a 37-25 lead following a back-and-forth second quarter that saw four lead changes in the second quarter. Yep. That’s the halftime score.

Oklahoma State jumped out to a 14-0 lead on the Longhorns, with Justice Hill running for a 30-yard touchdown on the opening drive of the game and Mason Rudolph connecting for a 54-yard touchdown pass to James Washington. Texas would settle down though and come back in the first quarter with two straight possessions with touchdowns. Tyrone Swoopes capped a six-play, 84-yard drive with a short touchdown run. One play earlier, Shane Buechele completed a 49-yard pass to Dorian Leonard.

It looked as though Texas was about to tie things up on their next possession (after an Oklahoma State three-and-out) when D'Onta Foreman ran 22 yards for a score, but special teams would help Oklahoma State keep the lead. Tre Flowers wound up returning a blocked PAT attempt to the house off a lateral for two additional points for the Cowboys.

The Longhorns did take a lead in the second quarter with a Swoopes touchdown run inside the red zone, and the lead exchanged hands twice more before the end of the first half. Rudolph capped an 80-yard drive with a 10-yard touchdown run to regain the lead, 23-19, but Buchele launched a 42-yard pass to Beck for a 42-yard score on the ensuing possession. Four plays later on the ensuing possession, Oklahoma State was back on top with a Rudolph touchdown pass to Jalen McCleskey from 36 yards.

We could have a wild one in Stillwater in the second half.

J.T. Barrett becomes Ohio State’s all-time passing TD leader in first half vs. Rutgers

COLUMBUS, OH - SEPTEMBER 10:  Quarterback J.T. Barrett #16 of the Ohio State Buckeyes sets up to pass in the second quarter against the Tulsa Hurricane at Ohio Stadium on September 10, 2016 in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
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It’s teacher vs. student this afternoon in Columbus, Ohio with Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer going head-to-head against Rutgers and head coach Chris Ash. Ash was Meyer’s c0-defensive coordinator last season. Through one half of play, the teacher holds the edge on the student, by a score of 30-0. Buckeyes quarterback J.T. Barrett has thrown his way into school history with a four-touchdown first half.

Ohio State’s first offensive possession looked promising after starting at their nine-yard line, but J.T. Barrett was picked off by Anthony Cioffi at the Rutgers 36-yard line to kill the drive. The Rutgers offense was unable to capitalize on the ensuing possession and punted after five plays. Ohio State’s offense would respond with a six-play, 61-yard touchdown drive. Barrett made up for his prior interception by connecting with Dontre Wilson inside the red zone for an 18-yard score.

Ohio State would push their lead to 16-0 in the second quarter when Barrett completed a red zone touchdown pass to Terry McLaurin, McLaurin’s first career touchdown reception. The Buckeyes continued to tack on with Barrett’s third touchdown pass of the half. For Barrett, that was his 58th all-time touchdown pass, moving into sole possession of first-place in Ohio State program history.

Rutgers has tried a couple things to keep Ohio state on their toes, but nothing has proved successful thus far.