Missouri holds down Texas A&M, sets up Tiger fight in SEC Championship

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Henry Josey‘s 57-yard touchdown right up the middle of Texas A&M’s defense in the fourth quarter may as well have gone for another 678 miles to Atlanta. The No. 5 Missouri Tigers (11-1, 7-1 SEC) will play for the SEC Championship Game in their second year in the conference. Not too many people saw that coming, especially since the Tigers had a rough go in their rookie season in the new conference. After dispatching of No. 21 Texas A&M (8-4, 4-4 SEC) Saturday night in Columbia with a 28-21 victory, Missouri wrapped up the SEC East Division to keep South Carolina from sneaking in to Atlanta.

Missouri appeared to have seized control of the momentum in the game in the third quarter. A short touchdown run by Marcus Murphy finished off a 75-yard drive to tie the game at 14-14 early in the second half. The fast start was essential for Missouri after a sluggish first half against an Aggies defense that played one of their finest halves of the year. Missouri’s defense then started to lock down on Johnny Manziel and the Aggies offense, and they kept Texas A&M off the scoreboard in the third quarter. Missouri had another score in them though.

Midway through the third quarter James Franklin tossed a five-yard pass to L’Damian Washington to give the Tigers the first lead of the night, 21-14. But they could not keep Manziel and Texas A&M’s offense down for long. In the fourth quarter the Aggies drove the length of the field with a 98-yard drive ending with a seven-yard run by Ben Malena to tie the game at 21-21. But Missouri still had a big play left in them. It came on a run right up the heart of the Texas A&M defense by Josey late in the fourth quarter. A 57-yard run by Josey gave Missouri a late 28-21 lead. After that, Texas A&M’s offense was flustered trying to make a play happen that just would not develop. The Missouri defense held strong and regained possession to allow the offense to run the clock out.

Missouri will now represent the SEC East in the SEC Championship Game next weekend in Atlanta. They will face Auburn, who stunned Alabama in a fantastic finish in the Iron Bowl to clinch the SEC West. Missouri will be playing in their first conference championship game since playing in the 2008 Big 12 championship game against Oklahoma. Missouri did not play in a bowl game last season, and now they get to play for the SEC Championship. That is quite the turnaround by Gary Pinkell‘s team.

Texas A&M’s season is certainly not done. The Aggies finish in fourth place in the SEC West behind Auburn, Alabama and LSU, but still figure to receive an attractive bowl match-up. Manziel could also still receive an invite to New York for the Heisman Trophy presentation, although his performance down the stretch has lacked top plays.

UNC and Minnesota line up future home-and-home deal

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While one football series between an ACC and Big Ten team may be hard to come by, North Carolina and Minnesota have put together a future home-and-home scheduling agreement to look forward to. The Tar Heels and Gophers will meet for the first time on the football field in 2023 and follow up with a second game in 2024, the schools announced on Wednesday.

North Carolina will host Minnesota on Sept. 16, 2023. The two schools will then open the 2024 season at Minnesota, either on August 31, 2024 or for a Thursday opener on August 29, 2024.

The ACC and Big Ten each require their members to play one game against another power conference opponent each season. North Carolina already satisfied that requirement in 2024 with a season-opener against South Carolina scheduled to be played in Charlotte, NC, but the 2024 game fulfills the power conference scheduling requirement for the Tar Heels. The home-and-home series will also satisfy Minnesota’s obligation to the Big Ten scheduling policy for both seasons (Minnesota is getting an exemption for 2018 and 2019 due to previous scheduling arrangements being in place prior to the Big Ten’s stance on strength of schedule in non-conference play.

Pitt leaves renewal of football series in Penn State’s hands

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Ever since the in-state rivalry between Penn State and Pitt came to a temporary end in 2001, it has been a struggle to get the two schools back on the field for any stretch of time. With the third in a four-game series upcoming this fall, Pitt is hoping to find a way to continue playing the Nittany Lions on future schedules, but the offer is now apparently in Penn State’s hands awaiting a response.

Pitt athletic director Heather Lyke told reporters Wednesday she has proposed a four-year series beginning in 2026 to her Penn State counterpart, Sandy Barbour, but Penn State has not responded to the offer.

“We’re going to wait a tad more patiently, but not much,” Lyke said, according to Trib Live. “We can’t. We have people who want to play us and good opportunities to play what would be a very attractive game.”

The four-game series currently ongoing between the Panthers and Nittany Lions comes to a close after their meeting in the 2019 season in Happy Valley. According to FBSchedules.com, Penn State will not have another opening for a non-conference game until 2021. That is also the first season Pitt will have scheduling availability for non-conference matchups. Both schools already have power conference opponents lined up through 2025 as well, perhaps eliminating the desire to add another power conference opponent to the schedule.

Both Penn State and Pitt have scheduling requirements for non-conference play from the Big Ten and ACC, respectively, to include at least one game against another power conference opponent. It seems like a natural solution for Penn State and Pitt to agree to a long-term scheduling commitment to satisfy their respective conferences’ scheduling requirements, but the old issue has always come down to the financial incentive of a game. With Penn State playing in a larger stadium, it would be losing out on potential revenue that could be gained by an extra home game when possible. And playing road games at Pittsburgh only helps another program in the state by filling the seats more than any other home game on Pitt’s schedules in just about any season (Notre Dame and West Virginia would be other candidates to help Pitt fill Heinz Field).

It took so long just to get the two schools together for a two-year series, which was later expanded to a four-year arrangement. Don’t count on this in-state rivalry being renewed for quite some time after the 2019 season.

QB Blake Barnett reportedly transferring from Arizona State

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Quarterback Blake Barnett is now on the graduate transfer market. According to Bruce Feldman of Sports Illustrated, via Twitter, Barnett will find a new program to wrap up his college football career as a graduate transfer. South Florida is reportedly set to get an official visit from the former Sun Devils and Alabama quarterback.

Barnett started his football career at Alabama, where he sat out the 2015 season as a freshman. During his redshirt freshman in 2016, Barnett appeared in just three games as Jalen Hurts rose to become Alabama’s starting quarterback that would lead the Tide for the next two seasons (until halftime of last season’s national championship game). Barnett transferred to Arizona State, leaving behind a seemingly tumultuous relationship with Nick Saban, and played in just two games for the Sun Devils last fall, while Manny Wilkins established himself as the quarterback for former head coach Todd Graham.

A former four-star recruit out of high school, Barnett has played in just five games and completed 14 of 24 pass attempts for 259 yards and two touchdowns with an interception. Barnett’s latest transfer news comes a day after former UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen took a swipe at Barnett, who was ranked ahead of Rosen in various recruiting rankings out of high school.

“Blake Barnett was the Elite 11 MVP,” Rosen said, per SEC Country. “He was the dude that was going to go to ‘Bama, win a couple championships, call it quits and go to the league as the first overall pick. You don’t really hear about him too much.”

As a graduate transfer, Barnett will be eligible to play immediately this fall.

Transferring BYU QB Kody Wilstead finds new home at Kansas JUCO

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With eight quarterbacks on the roster, Kody Wilstead opted to leave the Cougars in mid-March.  A little over a month later, Wilstead has found a new home, albeit a little further down on the college football ladder.

According to the Deseret News, Wilstead has signed to play at Coffeyville Community College in Kansas.  As Coffeyville is a junior college, the quarterback will be eligible to play immediately in 2018.

It’s expected that Wilstead will spend at least one season at the JUCO level before looking at making a move back up to the FBS.

Wilstead, a three-star 2015 signee, took a redshirt as a true freshman last season after serving an LDS mission the previous two years.

After Wilstead’s departure, the seven remaining Cougar signal-callers are, in alphabetical order, Stacy ConnerJoe CritchlowHayden GriffittsBeau HogeTanner MangumBaylor Romney and Zach Wilson. Mangum, last year’s starter, is recovering from an Achilles tendon injury he suffered in November of last year but remains on track to return for the start of summer camp in August.