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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.

WR Allen Lazard says he’s returning to Cyclones for senior year

AMES, IA - SEPTEMBER 3: Wide receiver Allen Lazard #5 of the Iowa State Cyclones pulls in a touchdown pass as defensive back Jamison Whiting #29 of the Northern Iowa Panthers blocks in the second half of play at Jack Trice Stadium on September 3, 2016 in Ames, Iowa. Northern Iowa Panthers won 25-20 over the Iowa State Cyclones (Photo by David Purdy/Getty Images)
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Amidst the beginning wave of early departures for the NFL, Iowa State has staved of attrition on that front.

In a missive posted to his personal Twitter account, Allen Lazard announced that, “after discussing my options with my family and coaching staff, I have decided to return for my senior year.” His reasoning for eschewing the NFL for another year? “”I feel we’re on the verge of something special here and I want to be along for the ride.”

The move doesn’t come as too much of a surprise as the 6-5, 233-pound wide receiver had indicated earlier in the season that he was leaning toward returning.

After finishing second his freshman season, Lazard has led the Cyclones in receiving each of the past two seasons. This past season in particular, Lazard was the primary focus of ISU’s passing attack. Lazard’s 69 receptions for 1,018 yards was far and away tops on the team. Next up? The 37 catches from Deshaunte Jones and Trever Ryen, and Jones’ 536 yards.

ISU went 3-9 in Matt Campbell‘s first season in Ames.  This marks the fourth consecutive season in which the Cyclones have failed to reach a bowl game.

Sonny Dykes has reportedly spoken to Baylor; Mike MacIntyre could soon?

SAN DIEGO, CA - SEPTEMBER 10:  Head coach Sonny Dykes of the California Golden Bears looks on during the third quarter of a game against the San Diego State Aztecs  at Qualcomm Stadium on September 10, 2016 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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Has Baylor honed in on its top target — or two — to permanently replace Art Briles?

With a significant number of signs pointing to Chad Morris being Baylor’s initial focus, SMU announced Wednesday that it had reached an agreement with its head coach on a contract extension through the 2023 season. Not long after, Mark Schlabach of ESPN.com reported that BU would now shift the focus of their search to Cal’s Sonny Dykes.

Thursday night, a report surfaced that Dykes and the Big 12 Bears have been in contact and held conversations.

Dykes completed his fourth season at Cal late last month. In three of those four seasons, including 2016, the Bears have failed to qualify for a bowl. In 2015, Cal won eight games; in the other three seasons, the Bears combined to win 11 games.

The son of legendary Texas Tech head coach Spike Dykes, Sonny Dykes is a well-steeped disciple of the so-called “Air Raid” offense. Given the type of players Briles recruited to Waco the past several years, especially offensively, Dykes would seemingly offer a smoother transition personnel-wise than someone outside that particular coaching tree.  The Texas native’s extensive ties to his home state would be a draw to the program as well.

While Yahoo! has previously disputed the notion that Dykes has now emerged as BU’s focus, Pat Forde says the Cal coach is one of five or six who could still in the mix for the job.  Another?  Mike MacIntyre, according to that and numerous other outlets.

The reports connecting MacIntyre to Baylor come amidst Colorado’s preparations for the Pac-12 championship Friday night against Washington.

MacIntyre took over a Buffaloes program that won a combined four games in 2011 and 2012, but then won just four, two and four games his first three seasons at the school.  In 2016, however, the Buffs went 10-2, the football program’s first 10-win season since 2001. They are also bowl-eligible for the first time since the 2007 season.

This week, MacIntyre has taken home Coach of the Year honors from the Pac-12 and Walter Camp Foundation.

It would seem odd that a coach, even a devout Baptist such as MacIntyre, would leave a program seemingly on the rise for one enveloped in a cloud of controversy. Especially a coach with zero ties, personally, professionally or otherwise, to either the program or the state. Earlier this week, at least one respected national college football writer has attempted to toss some cold water on the speculation.

With his name being mentioned in connection to other jobs, it’s expected CU will commence talks on a contract extension following the title game. In 2016, MacIntyre was the lowest-paid head coach in his conference.

Year after breakout freshman season, WR Desmond Cain to transfer from Illini

CHAMPAIGN, IL - NOVEMBER 14: Desmond Cain #86 of the Illinois Fighting Illini is shoe tackled by Raekwon McMillan #5 of the Ohio State Buckeyes
at Memorial Stadium on November 14, 2015 in Champaign, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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A career that began with much promise will, at least the Champaign portion, end with a departure.

On social media Thursday night, Desmond Cain announced that he has decided to transfer out of the Illinois football program and continue his collegiate playing career elsewhere. According to the wide receiver, a desire to be closer to his home in Florida triggered his decision.

After talking it over with my family it’s best to move closer home to finish off my next few years in college! Thank you Illini! Has been amazing these two years I’ve been here and thank you all for the major support GO ILLINI!

A three-star 2015 signee, Cain was rated as the No. 146 player at any position in the state of Florida coming out of high school in Delray Beach.

With Bill Cubit as his head coach as a true freshman, Cain was second on the Illini in receptions (53) and third in receiving yards (492). Those totals dropped to five and 61 in Lovie Smith‘s first year as injuries caused the receiver to miss six games.

If the 5-11, 185-pound Cain ends up at another FBS program, he’d have to sit out the 2017 season. He’d then have two years of eligibility remaining beginning in 2018.

Missouri DE Charles Harris declares for 2017 NFL draft

COLUMBIA, MO - OCTOBER 11:  Charles Harris #91 of the Missouri Tigers attempts to maneuver around John Theus #71 of the Georgia Bulldogs on October 11, 2014 at Faurot Field/Memorial Stadium in Columbia, Missouri. (Photo by Kyle Rivas/Getty Images)
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Missouri football has been through a rough patch the past few seasons but one thing they’ve consistently  done over the years is produce quality defensive linemen who are eventually drafted into the NFL.

It appears they can add one more name to the list.

Tigers defensive end Charles Harris announced on Thursday that he would be giving up his final year of eligibility and heading to the 2017 NFL Draft.

“Charles and I have had a few conversations about his future. I am extremely proud of his approach on a very big decision,” head coach Barry Odom said in a statement. “Certainly, I wish we could have another year with Charles leading our program, but there’s no question in my mind that he’s ready for the next level. He knew the time would come to make a decision, but his primary focus was always this team and doing what he could to make himself better and to help his teammates and coaches.”

Harris rounded out 2016 with nine sacks and 12 tackles for loss. He was second on the team, and first among defensive linemen in the SEC, with 61 tackles and wrapped up his college career seventh in school history with 18 sacks.

The junior is considered to be a potential first-rounder and certainly displayed some of that caliber of play in Columbia despite seeing frequent double-teams trying to keep him away from the quarterback. While Harris’ departure isn’t too much of a shock to those at Missouri, his decision to move on was probably sealed when the school fired defensive line coach Jackie Shipp on Thanksgiving.