Auburn OC steps in it by tossing “what if…” card at FSU loss

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With nothing but a couple of spring games — we see you Oregon, Oregon State, Miami (OH) out there straggling — standing between us and a football-less abyss the next three months, one of Gus Malzahn‘s coordinators has added a little sizzle to what’s soon to be a lack of substance.

For those who have forgotten already, Auburn had jumped out to a 21-3 lead on favored Florida State late in the second quarter of the BCS title game this past January.  However, five straight non-scoring possessions — four punts followed by an interception — allowed the Seminoles to close the gap to 21-13 heading into the fourth quarter, with that closing stanza finding FSU closing out a 34-31 win with a trio of touchdowns.

It was that drought after halftime that had AU offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee lamenting what could’ve been — and what will likely leave people buzzing over the coordinator playing that particular card.

From Brandon Marcello of al.com:

“We could’ve executed much better and really named our score in that game, and we didn’t,” Lashlee said. “We let them hang around and we ended up losing the football game. …

“From an offensive standpoint, if we would’ve executed at a higher level, there were plays here or there that maybe even the average fan doesn’t see that, if we just executed, we stay on the field on third down, or it’s not a bust and a sack or a throw-away, it’s a touchdown. That could have blown the thing open.”

Just a couple of things.

One, the Seminoles could, if they so desired, rue similar missed opportunities early on that allowed the Tigers to jump out to that double-digit lead to begin with. In between a field goal on its opening drive and a Devonta Freeman three-yard touchdown run with five minutes left in the first half, the ‘Noles ran 14 plays and netted just 28 yards on four straight possessions. I’m quite certain that the FSU coaching staff could focus on just executing to “stay on the field on third down” or not busting a protection that results in a sack or a throwaway or any other lament instead of, ya know, giving credit to the defense — especially a defense as talented and dominant as FSU’s was a year ago.

Secondly, does an assistant whose squad was perilously close to 9-3 or 8-4 or worse in the regular season — “Kick-Six” or “War Damn Miracle!” ring a bell? Wins over Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Texas A&M by a combined 16 points, the latter two after trailing in the fourth quarter? — really want to toss about the “what if…” card so flippantly, when all signs point to that squad being a bounce or two away from watching the Seminoles from home instead of the sidelines?

I’d think not but, hey, at least we have a little fodder heading into the really dark recesses of the college football offseason.

Texas QB Sam Ehlinger, C Zach Shackelford in concussion protocol

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Texas has lost two straight upset bids in strikingly similar fashion: true freshman quarterback Sam Ehlinger leads a potential-game winning drive, scrambles, hits his head on the turf and ends the possession in a puzzling throw.

The first came in last week’s loss to No. 10 Oklahoma. Trailing 29-24 late in the fourth quarter, scrambled for two yards to the Texas-48 yard line but hit his head on the Cotton Bowl turf and was forced to leave the game for five plays. Shane Buechele pushed the Longhorns to the Oklahoma 31, but he was replaced after a sack and Ehlinger ended up throwing the ball away on 4th-and-13 from the OU 34 with two minutes to play. That, as they say, was that.

Fast forward to Saturday and Texas was trailing No. 11 Oklahoma State 13-10 in overtime when Ehlinger opened the possession with a scramble that again saw the back of his head bang against the Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium turf. He stayed in the game this time, but ended the game on a puzzling (to say the least) interception to absolutely no one on 3rd-and-4 from the OSU 6.

While Ehlinger was not evaluated for a concussion during the game, he did not practice Sunday and head coach Tom Herman said Monday that Ehlinger and center Zach Shackelford are in concussion protocol.

Complicating matters for Texas is that sophomore back-up Shane Buechele is playing on a gimpy ankle that kept him out against San Jose State and Kansas State that Herman said will not improve as the season goes on.

No matter, Texas will face a hungry Baylor team on Saturday (noon ET, ESPNU) that nearly completed a comeback against No. 22 West Virginia on Saturday night.

Tennessee OG Jack Jones retires due to neck injury

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The playing career of Tennessee offensive guard Jack Jones has come to an unfortunate end. On Monday, Tennessee head coach Butch Jones announced Jones was stepping away from football as injury concerns with his neck continue to interfere with playing.

Jones played in the season opener against Georgia Tech in Atlanta but has essentially been out of action for the entire season after that. After consulting with doctors, Jones came to the decision to step away from football as it became clear playing football would only put his long-term health in jeopardy.

The loss of Jones leaves Tennessee’s offensive line depth thin down the stretch. It could be quite a bumpy finish to what has already been a turbulent season in Knoxville.

Urban Meyer may have successfully talked his way out of a night trap at Iowa

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Sitting from his office in Columbus, Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer has been able to see just how dangerous a night game at Iowa can be. Last season, Iowa upset Michigan with the first loss suffered by the Wolverines setting off a wild finale to the Big Ten season. Earlier this season, a night game at Iowa nearly caught Penn State before the Nittany Lions managed to get out of Kinnick Stadium with a last-second victory. Knowing the history of Kinnick Stadium at night, Meyer may have managed to successfully lobby himself from having to play a night game at Iowa.

Big Ten kickoff times for Week 10 have started to come together on Monday, with Minnesota announcing it will host Michigan in primetime on FOX. The decision to have the Gophers and Wolverines in primetime was a tad puzzling considering two of the other game son the Big Ten schedule that day. Penn State is playing at Michigan State and Ohio State is playing — you guessed it — at Iowa.

The Buckeyes will be playing at either noon or 3:30 p.m. eastern on November 4, with the Nittany Lions and Spartans likely to be slotted in the other timeslot. The speculation is the 3:30 p.m. ET slot will be reserved for the winner of this week’s Ohio State-Penn State matchup, as the game will likely begin to take more weight in the College Football Playoff picture on top of the Big Ten championship hunt.

Meyer addressed concerns about playing so many road games at night this season, and perhaps the conference is responding to his concerns. Ohio State has already played four primetime games, including three on the road (Indiana, Rutgers, Nebraska). If not for the World Series coverage this weekend, odds are good the home game against Penn State would have been a lock for primetime as well. Ohio State also played a primetime game earlier this year against Oklahoma. But Meyer’s chief concern was playing so many night games on the road, as it becomes quite tiresome for players.

Was Meyer looking forward all along to prevent Ohio State from having to play a night game at Iowa? Regardless of the motive, the Buckeyes will not have to test the fates under the lights at Kinnick Stadium in two weeks.

Michigan’s Lavert Hill apologizes for one-finger salute to Penn State crowd

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Over the weekend, Tennessee’s Rashaan Gaulden flipped a double-bird to fans at Alabama after the Vols scored a touchdown. It has quickly become one of the top images from the weekend, and Gauldin has apologized for his obscene gesture to the Alabama faithful. On Monday, another player on the road who decided to flip off the home fans has now apologized for his actions.

Michigan’s Lavert Hill was seen offering a one-finger salute to fans at Penn State after Michigan had suffered a 42-13 loss at Beaver Stadium. The image of Hill gesturing to the fans made the rounds, and now Hill has offered his own apology in a brief statement.

“I sincerely regret my inappropriate gesture at the end of Saturday’s football game. I let my emotions get the best of me and learned a valuable lesson,” Hill said in his statement. “I am truly sorry for this offensive gesture and vow that it will not happen again.”

Hill had committed to Penn State during the recruiting process before flipping to stay in state with the Wolverines. It was a rough night for former Penn State commits playing in a Michigan uniform on Saturday. Kicker Quinn Nordin, who committed to Penn State with an airplane music video but flipped to Michigan after Jim Harbaugh slept over has been rock solid with his kicking this season, but he missed his first kick Saturday night for an extra point.