Auburn’s Tre Mason closing in on SEC Championship Game rushing record

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OK, let’s take some time to collectively catch our breath, because the first half of the SEC Championship Game had quite the back-and-forth, up-and-down pace to it with a little bit of everything dashed in. Between three turnovers, including a defensive touchdown, an onside kick and big plays by both teams, there is not much we have not seen at this point. Auburn holds a 28-27 edge on Missouri at the half in Atlanta.

The first quarter had a good handful of highlights. Missouri wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham provided a spectacular touchdown catch to give Missouri a 10-7 lead, leaping and reaching for a ball only he would be able to get his hands on and holding on to the football as he came crashing to the ground with a defender hanging on. Or so it seemed. Video replay showed the touchdown may have actually been incomplete, but the play was not even an extended review before Missouri kicked the extra point. Auburn may have gotten the raw end of the play, but they shrugged it aside and ran right down field on the ensuing possession, 75 yards on five plays ending with a Nick Marshall touchdown. Marshall did make a couple of mistakes in the first half, including a fumble that was scooped up by Missouri’s E.J. Gaines and returned for a touchdown. That gave Missouri a 17-14 lead, but the Auburn Tigers would battle back and take control of the game on the ground. Auburn has already rushed for 283 yards, the most yards allowed on the ground this season by Missouri, 283 yards.

The key player in that rushing production has been Auburn running back Tre Mason. Mason is closing in on the SEC Championship Game rushing record, and he should pick it up early in the second half. After rushing for 194 yards against Missouri’s defense, Mason needs just seven more yards to tie the game’s rushing record, previously set by LSU’s Justin Vincent, who rushed for 201 yards 2003. Mason added two touchdowns from inside the ten-yard line.

Before the end of the half, Missouri cut in to Auburn’s 28-20 lead when James Franklin connected with Green-Backham, who left his defender in the dust and had nobody stopping him on the way to the end zone. This is going to be a wild finish, but will either team prove worthy of a trip to Pasadena?

One of the stories about this game involves whether or not a one-loss SEC champion should be in the BCS Championship Game. As it stands right now, as long as Florida State and Ohio State win their conference championship games later tonight, the SEC will likely be shut out of the title game, bringing an end to the BCS championship streak. Neither team seems to be showing enough to warrant jumping the Seminoles or Buckeyes if the two undefeated teams win their conference championships today.

BYU wearing special patch in honor of LaVell Edwards

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BYU got the summer media day fun started on Friday with their football media day. BYU tends to pull out all the stops on its media day with coach and player interviews, alumni returning, and a handful of announcements about the future of the program. In addition to news about their relationship with ESPN, BYU also announced the football team will be sporting a patch this season in honor of the late LaVell Edwards.

In addition to players wearing the patch on their jerseys, BYU coaches will also wear the patch on their sleeves.

Edwards passed away in December at the age of 86. The BYU coaching legend spent 29 seasons on the sidelines in Provo and accumulated 257 wins along the way. Among those was a national championship season in 1984, which remains the most recent national championship to be claimed by a program not currently in a power conference. Edwards took 22 BYU teams to a bowl game.

Now if we can just keep getting BYU to stick to that lighter shade of blue as their main home uniform, we’ll be in great shape.

Former Vanderbilt football player Brandon Banks found guilty of rape

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Former Vanderbilt football player Brandon Banks was convicted by a jury on Friday for rape of a female Vanderbilt student. Following 15 hours of jury deliberations, the verdict of guilty on one count of aggravated rape and one count of aggravated sexual battery was in.

”He’s shocked but understands that this is only the first part of this process, there’s a lot more to do from here on,” Banks’ lawyer, Mark Scruggs, said after the verdict. ”We have some really good issues to raise.”

Part of Banks’ defense was built on succumbing to peer pressure, suggesting he feared he may be beaten up by teammates if he did not participate in the scandalous activity. The jury, having reviewed videos and photos from the incident, some of which were shot by Banks, determined that was not a viable defense.

”Making fun of another person is not right, but we know it happens,” Assistant District Attorney Roger Moore said in closing arguments, according to the Associated Press. ”But it doesn’t give you a legal defense to commit a crime, particularly not an aggravated rape, an aggravated sexual battery. I mean if that’s the case, then we’d have the ‘football team defense.”’

Banks will serve a minimum of 15 years in prison. One count of aggravated rape has a minimum sentence of 15 years.

Other former Vanderbilt players had previously been convicted for their roles in the 2013 rape. Cory Batey was found guilty of aggravated rape and sentenced to 15-25 years in prison in April 2016. Brandon Vandenbeurg was found guilty and sentenced to 17 years in prison.

California’s state-funded travel ban to discriminating states raises mild football scheduling concerns

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The state of California is banning state-funded travel to the states of Texas, Alabama, Kentucky, and South Dakota. Those states are added to the previous state-funded travel bans that included Kansas, Mississippi, North Carolina, and Tennessee due to what California lawmakers say are laws that allow for discrimination against gay and transgender people.

So what does this have to do with college football? My colleague, Bryan, notes this latest decision from the state means scheduling any potential road games for a handful of schools just got a tad trickier.

This development poses a couple of issues for some California schools to address moving forward.

San Jose State is the school affected by this latest news right off the bat. San Jose State has a road game scheduled at Texas on September 9 this season. San Jose State may have to rely on some of that guaranteed money from Texas to cover the expenses, which would put a dent in the total takeaway from playing the game in the first place.

Cal is also scheduled to play at North Carolina on September 2. Cal also plays at TCU in 2021 and at Auburn in 2024. If the ban is still in operation at those times, then Cal will have to budget ahead of time to tackle the expenses. UCLA will play at Memphis on September 19.

The state-funded travel ban to these states may not be an issue for the postseason, as bowl game expenses tend to be carried by the conference and their revenue shares.

Fresno State has a road game at Texas A&M scheduled in 2020. San Diego State has no future scheduling hassles to worry about for the time being.

When ‘physically, mentally ready,’ door wide open for Keyshawn Johnson Jr.’s return to Nebraska

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Keyshawn Johnson Jr. has yet to play a down for Nebraska, but, if it’s up to Mike Riley, he will at some point down the road.

Earlier this month, the son of former USC great Keyshawn Johnson was cited for marijuana possession and possession of drug paraphernalia.  This past week, the younger Johnson decided to take a leave of absence, with his father stating that his son needed some time to “mature” and will not play for the Cornhuskers in 2017.

Left open at the time was the question of whether Johnson Jr. would ever play for the ‘Huskers, period.  Friday, Riley left the door wide open for a return.

“We’re disappointed that he’s not here with us right now today,” the head coach said according to the Lincoln Journal-Star. “I think there’s kind of a wellness factor for Keyshawn going home. We talked to him about the possibility of maybe enrolling part time and taking care of his progress toward his degree, and also getting in great shape.

“And we opened the door for return, which is just kind of left open that we’ll deal with at the time that he is physically and mentally ready to do that.”

A three-star 2017 signee who was an early enrollee and participated in spring practice, the younger Johnson had been expected to be an immediate contributor for the Cornhuskers this season.