No. 3 Auburn (12-1, 8-1 SEC) running back Tre Mason was unstoppable. You know the expression “You can’t stop him, you can only hope to contain him?” That wasn’t even the case for No. 5 Missouri (11-2, 7-2 SEC) Saturday night in Atlanta. Mason earned game MVP honors in leading Auburn to a 59-42 victory by rushing for 303 yards and four touchdowns to lead Auburn to the SEC Championship.
In the most offensive SEC Championship Game in the history of the game, Auburn and Missouri traded scores for most fo the night but Auburn put the clamps down in the fourth quarter, outscoring the sEC East champs 14-0 to pull away for the conference title. Mason accounted for both touchdowns. Not to be forgotten, but Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall also rushed for 100 yards in the game, going for 101 yards and a touchdown while also completing nine of his 11 pass attempts for 132 yards and another touchdown. Missouri quarterback James Franklin ended with a 303 passing yards and three touchdowns and Dorial Green-Beckham led the receivers with 144 yards and a pair of touchdown catches.
Missouri simply could not stop Mason and the Auburn running game, which has been the clear strength of Auburn this season. Why bother throwing when you can pound it out on the ground with ease?
It’s not as if Auburn has done this against teams incapable of stopping the run. The last two weeks Auburn has thrived on the ground in a big way against the top two rushing defenses in the SEC, against Alabama last week and against Missouri in the SEC Championship Game. Missouri did plenty on offense as well, but was unable to come up with some plays in the fourth quarter to keep pace with Auburn. This is just the way Auburn likes it. Auburn went up-tempo as often as possible and it gassed Missouri over time. Not many teams in the country are able to slow this offense down, but now we wait to see who will have the unenviable task of attempting to try.
Auburn will also wait to see what happens in the ACC and Big Ten championship games this evening. If Florida State or Ohio State are upset in their respective conference championship games, a spot in the BCS Championship Game will be opened up for the SEC’s champion. It is not likely Auburn will be able to pass an undefeated Florida State or Ohio State in the final BCS standings if the Seminoles and Buckeyes each win tonight.
Missouri will still be eligible for a BCS at-large spot, although it is more likely they will be playing in the Capital One Bowl against a Big Ten opponent (Nebraska?) Bowl at this point. Alabama is also eligible for an at-large bid, and the Crimson Tide could likely be the first at-large team selected by a bowl game, perhaps the Orange Bowl. If Auburn does advance to the BCS Championship Game, it is still probable Alabama would be selected by the Sugar Bowl to maintain the SEC tie-in.
Despite the wishes of Alabama head coach Nick Saban, the Crimson Tide depth chart officially became a little thinner on Thursday.
After nearly a day of speculation, Alabama announced that quarterback Blake Barnett is no longer a part of the Crimson Tide football team.
“We received word this afternoon that Blake Barnett has officially withdrawn from school and is no longer with our program,” Saban said in a statement. “The quarterback position is a very unique position where only one player can play. We are very disappointed any time a player leaves the program who feels he can compete for a starting position elsewhere, rather than here at Alabama. We wish Blake the very best of luck in the future.”
Barnett started the opener against USC and has thrown for 219 yards and two touchdowns on the year. However the redshirt freshman lost the starting job to true freshman Jalen Hurts and has only played sparingly in the first month of the season.
Saban recently said he wanted Barnett to remain with the program but it seems pretty obvious that playing time would be limited as the team’s backup signal-caller and a transfer would be forthcoming. Now it appears the only question is where to for the former five-star recruit, who is a Southern California native and was recruited by nearly everybody coming out of high school.
Wisconsin has been one of the pleasant surprises to begin the 2016 season but a lot of folks are not counting on the Badgers to remain in the top 10 of the polls after one of the most brutal schedules in the month of October you can find.
Having already played (and beat) defending conference champion Michigan State last week, Wisconsin travels to No. 4 Michigan, has a bye week, then hosts No. 2 Ohio State. They’re not done after that though, traveling to Iowa and then hosting No. 15 Nebraska in a stretch that should determine the West division champion before the month is up.
Longtime head coach and current athletic director Barry Alvarez is well aware of what awaits his team and is no fan of such an unbalanced schedule.
“I remember when that schedule came out (in 2013) and I thought, ‘How the hell did you kick out something looking like that?” Alvarez told CBSSports.com. “I think you could take a look at the general strength of some programs and split them up. Michigan, Ohio State and Michigan State have been good for a long time. Penn State Nittany Lions normally is in that group. Just make sure someone doesn’t get all three year in a year. That’s hard to do. That’s something the ADs are going to have to talk about some day.”
The Big Ten recently moved to a nine game conference slate which means an additional crossover game between divisions. Wisconsin has been the beneficiary of some weaker schedules in the past (Rutgers/Maryland in 2014/15) but seem to be the poster child this year for drawing all of the major powers from the East division.
Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany cautioned against reading too much into the Badgers’ schedule in 2016 and wants to see how the current format works out — but didn’t rule out any future changes.
“If I was an AD, I would probably be saying the same thing (as Alvarez),” Delany said. “If I was a football coach, I know I would.”
The conference has released the league schedule through 2019 but you can bet the next set of Big Ten games will likely break up some of the more historically successful programs a little more when it comes to division crossover games. Until then though, ‘On Wisconsin’ will have to be more than the school motto in October for Alvarez and his Badgers.
In 118 pass attempts this season, James Knapke has tossed nine interceptions, the most of any FBS quarterback through Week 4. Entering Week 5, Bowling Green isn’t planning on allowing the senior quarterback to add to that total.
In a brief statement Thursday morning, BGSU head coach Mike Jinks announced that redshirt freshman James Morgan will start at quarterback Saturday against Eastern Michigan. Morgan replaced Knapke in the loss to Memphis last week after the starter tossed three interceptions.
Morgan himself hasn’t been averse to turnovers, however, as he has thrown three in 46 attempts.
After Matt Johnson went down with a season-ending injury in the 2014 opener, Knapke took over as the starter and threw for 3,173 yards, 15 and 12 interceptions. A healthy Johnson (shut it, 12-year-olds) reclaimed his job in 2015, but Knapke took over again in 2016 as Johnson’s eligibility expired.
Not only are Knapke’s interceptions the most in the country, but his pass efficiency rating of 88.4 is the worst of the 121 FBS quarterbacks listed on the NCAA.com stats page.
As far as kickers go, this is a rather significant development.
Last week, Wisconsin’s Rafael Gaglianone did not make the trip to East Lansing for the Michigan State game because of a back issue. Not only will the placekicker miss this Saturday’s game against No. 4 Michigan, he will be sidelined for the remainder of the 2016 season after undergoing back surgery.
According to the school, Gaglianone’s condition improved Sunday but subsequently worsened. It was then decided that the junior would undergo the medical procedure.
A similar back injury, the school said, led Gaglianone to miss spring practice last year.
“You’re disappointed for Rafael because of all the work he’s put in and how well he was playing,” head coach Paul Chryst said in a statement. “From a football perspective, I’ve appreciated the way the other guys in that unit have responded this week.”
This season, Gaglianone has connected on seven of eight field goal attempts and all 10 extra points. Included in that total was what turned out to be the game-winning field goal in the opener against LSU at Lambeau Field.
Including this season, Gaglianone, who will be eligible for a medical hardship waiver, has been good on 44-57 field goals in his career and all but two of his 111 point afters.
With Gaglianone sidelined, the Badgers will turn to Andrew Endicott. The senior, who hadn’t previously attempted a field goal or extra point at the collegiate level, made 1-1 of the former and 3-4 of the latter in replacing Gaglianone against MSU.