Georgia v Missouri

SEC Championship: Auburn, Missouri are even but took different roads to Atlanta

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If there is one song that seems to sum up the recent wild ride the Auburn Tigers have taken the past few weeks, it may be Bon Jovi’s Livin’ on a Prayer. At least, the title of the song seems to be most appropriate to describe Auburn’s journey to the SEC Championship Game this weekend in Atlanta. Missouri hasn’t exactly had to rely on a power from above as much as Auburn, but they will be lining up on the other side of the field of Auburn this weekend after a similar one-year turnaround in SEC play.

For as similar as these two teams appear to be when you start to look at the numbers, Auburn and Missouri could not have had much different paths to Atlanta. Auburn’s season started with a breath of fresh air with the hiring of head coach Gus Malzahn, who took over for his former boss Gene Chizik. Malzahn was previously one of the hottest assistants in the game while helping to lead Auburn to a BCS championship a few years ago. He picked up some head coaching experience last year at Arkansas State before rejoining the Tigers. The optimism was high for Malzahn at Auburn, but even the most loyal of Auburn supporters would probably admit they didn’t quite see this coming. Auburn was ranked 118th in total offense a year ago, but Malzahn quickly helped improve that. The Tigers enter this weekend with the nation’s 15th best offense in total offense. Much of that is a credit to the incredible running game the Tigers have relied on.

The SEC’s top rushing offense is grinding up 318.25 yards per game on the ground, which should make for a great battle with Missouri. Missouri ranks second in the SEC in rushing defense, but Auburn ran for 218 yards and a touchdown against the SEC’s top rushing defense (Alabama) last weekend. As if stopping Tre Mason is not a tough enough task for Missouri, focus must also be given to quarterback Nick Marshall, who is a threat to throw and run any time. He may not have impressive passing numbers, but Marshall proved last weekend he has a good eye and an ability to wait for a play to develop. Doing that against Missouri will be a key for Auburn.

All this talk about Auburn though and you might be thinking Missouri is a complete afterthought. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Missouri’s turnaround this season has been just as surprising as Auburn’s to most. In their first year in the SEC, while Texas A&M was enjoying the national spotlight, Missouri was slugging through their initiation in the new conference with a 5-7 record. Gary Pinkell‘s team missed out on the postseason for the first time since 2004, which helped to validate the criticisms some seemed to have about Missouri’s place in the SEC. The tables were turned this season though, as Auburn ripped through the SEC East except for an overtime setback at home against South Carolina. These Tigers managed to do it with two different quarterbacks leading the offense without losing much of a step along the way.

James Franklin got things rolling with a 6-0 start under center, throwing 14 touchdowns to just three interceptions as Missouri set the bar high for the rest of the season. A shoulder injury to the starting quarterback in a big win at Georgia, which made it clear Missouri was a serious contender in the division as opposed to a pretender, put the fortune of the season in limbo, but Maty Mauk stepped in to keep the Missouri Tigers roaring.Mauk calmed the nerves of Missouri fans for the most part by avoiding mistakes, throwing 10 touchdowns and just two interceptions in Franklin’s absence. That was highlighted by a five-touchdown performance against Kentucky. Mauk was in command for Missouri’s only loss of the season, but if Franklin should happen to be taken out the Tigers know they have a competent replacement ready to jump right in. Whoever ends up playing quarterback at any given time for Missouri, they will have one of the top targets in the SEC in Dorial Green-Beckham, the receiver who shocked the college football world by committing to Missouri a few years ago. Green-Beckham commands plenty of attention, which opens up the field for the complimentary L’Damian Washington. The two receivers combined for 20 touchdowns this season, so Auburn will have their work cut out for them in the secondary.

It is often turnovers that become the difference of a game. If that is going to be the case for the SEC Championship Game, the Missouri Tigers figure to have the advantage. Missouri has a turnover margin of +15 entering the championship game, which looms large over +1 owned by Auburn. Will Auburn have to rely on some improbable sequence to pick up one more win and an SEC championship?

War Eagle, Auburn’s half way there.

Baylor issues statement in wake of president’s reported ouster

WACO, TX - DECEMBER 06:  Baylor University President and Chancellor Ken Starr runs onto the field with the Baylor Line before their game against the  Kansas State Wildcats on December 6, 2014  at McLane Stadium in Waco, Texas.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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It appears the reports of the demise of Baylor’s president are, at least for now, premature.

Tuesday morning the college football world awoke to the news that BU was expected to remove Ken Starr as the university’s president before the end of the month, if not sooner.  The latter seemed to come to fruition as, a short time after HornsDigest.com released that report, the recruiting website updated to state that the school’s Board of Regents had indeed fired Starr.

Starr, in his sixth year as president, had been mentioned in a damning Outside the Lines report earlier this month as having been aware of at least one instance of assault involving a Bears football player and did nothing.

A short time after the Scout.com report surfaced this morning, Baylor released a statement in which Starr is not mentioned specifically, but the timeline for a public response to an independent report on the university’s handling of sexual assault allegations involving football players was detailed.

The Baylor Board of Regents continues its work to review the findings of the Pepper Hamilton investigation and we anticipate further communication will come after the Board completes its deliberations.  We will not respond to rumors, speculation or reports based on unnamed sources, but when official news is available, the university will provide it.  We expect an announcement by June 3.

Injury-plagued Utah TE Evan Moeai says he’s getting fifth year

SALT LAKE CITY, UT - SEPTEMBER 3: Close up view of the new satin red football helmets worn by the Utah Utes during their game against the Michigan Wolverines at  Rice-Eccles Stadium on September 3, 2015 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images)
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Finally, a break has gone Utah’s Evan Moeai‘s way.

On the very first play from scrimmage during the 2014 season opener, Moeai sustained what turned out to be a season-ending knee injury.  A year later, in the 2015 opener, the tight end went down with yet another season-ending injury.

According to the Deseret News, Moeai posted on his private Instagram account that he has received a fifth season of eligibility from the NCAA.  The Utes have yet to confirm the development, although it’s one that’s been expected.

Moeai began his collegiate career at the JUCO level, then played in three games during his first season with the Utes in 2013.  He, obviously, played in one game each of the last two seasons.

Moeai caught one pass for five yards in 2015 before he went down with his second season-ending injury.

Ex-Ohio State lineman to continue career at Cincinnati

CINCINNATI - NOVEMBER 13:  Fans of the Cincinnati Bearcats cheer on their team at the start of the game against the West Virginia Mountaineers at Nippert Stadium on November 13, 2009 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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Less than two weeks after leaving Ohio State, Grant Schmidt has a new college football home — and he won’t even have to leave the state to get there.

Citing university sources, the Cincinnati Enquirer is reporting that Schmidt will continue his collegiate playing career at Cincinnati.  The offensive lineman had indicated earlier this month that the Bearcats would be his landing spot.

Because of NCAA transfer rules, Schmidt will be forced to sit out the 2016 season.  He would then have three years of eligibility remaining beginning in 2017.

A three-star member of OSU’s 2015 recruiting class, 247Sports.com rated Schmidt as the No. 52 offensive tackle in the country and the No. 1 player at any position in the state of South Dakota.  Schmidt was the first player from that state to sign with the Buckeyes, but he failed to become the first to play in a game as he didn’t see the field during his brief stint in Columbus.

Schmidt’s mid-May move was believed to be related to a logjam along the offensive line and his failure to make a dent on the depth chart during spring practice.

Josh Rosen, on UCLA’s $280 million deal: ‘we’re still amateurs though … gotta love non-profits’

SANTA CLARA, CA - DECEMBER 26:  Josh Rosen #3 of the UCLA Bruins runs back to the bench after he threw a touchdown pass to Kenneth Walker III against the Nebraska Cornhuskers during the Foster Farms Bowl at Levi's Stadium on December 26, 2015 in Santa Clara, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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Here’s to guessing that, right or wrong, Jim Mora won’t be pleased with his young quarterback’s latest social media foray.

Late last week, the UCLA head coach used the public airwaves to help “guide” Josh Rosen down the straight and narrow.  Specifically, in regards to the Freshman All-American infamous “f**k Trump” cap flap this offseason, Mora stated that the rising sophomore was “heading towards Johnny Manziel” territory with stunts like that.

Hyperbole?  Yes.  But Rosen is seemingly hellbent on giving Mora further reason to continue down his odd “Money Manziel” path.

Shortly after it was reported that UCLA was set to sign a record-breaking $280 million apparel deal with Under Armour, Rosen took to social media to offer up some snark on the financial windfall that will line the pockets of the athletic department — and which the student-athletes won’t get a sniff.

We’re still amateurs though … Gotta love non-profits #NCAA

A photo posted by Josh Rosen (@josh3rosen) on May 24, 2016 at 8:53am PDT

(The tweet above was retweeted on Rosen’s personal Twitter account)

Coming from a kid who had a hot tub in his dorm his freshman season and whose parents graduated from Ivy League schools — one’s a surgeon — it might not be the actual money but the principle that has Rosen feeling feisty.  Whether his head coach gets just as feisty on his own JFF moral high ground in return remains to be seen.