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Sixth-ranked Auburn survives OT scare against FCS Jax State

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With Jacksonville State leading at the half, I wrote that “[i]t’s highly doubtful Auburn loses this game.”  In the end, they damn-near proved me wrong.

Taken to the limit by a squad from the FCS, Auburn managed to overcome poor performances all across the board and rally late for a 27-20 overtime win over Jacksonville State at Jordan-Hare Stadium.  Were it not for a couple of JSU gaffes, though, Appalachian State would’ve been moving over.  And Michigan would’ve had a bit of company.

Trailing 13-10, the Gamecocks used a field goal then a touchdown to take a 20-13 lead midway through the fourth quarter.  With AU driving for a potential game-tying score on the ensuing possession, a fumble gave the ball back to JSU, after an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty was stepped off, at their own seven-yard line.  A minute later, the Gamecocks (first gaffe) shanked a punt, giving the Tigers the ball back at the JSU 32-yard line with two minutes or so remaining.  Five plays later, a 10-yard touchdown pass knotted the score at 20-all.

Then, following the kickoff, JSU (second gaffe) inexplicably took a knee instead of at least attempting to get the ball down the field and into field goal range.  In overtime, Auburn scored a touchdown on its first possession.  A first down gave JSU the ball at AU’s eight-yard line on its first possession.  On third down from the five (third gaffe), quarterback Eli Jenkins was sacked for a 16-yard loss instead of throwing it away and living to fight on fourth down.  A desperation fourth-down heaved subsequently sailed out of bounds, taking with it the 41-point underdog’s hopes of a historic upset.

That said, the escape does nothing to erase the myriad questions raised throughout the course of the 60 minutes-plus for the Tigers.

First and foremost, Jeremy Johnson.  The beleaguered quarterback, who had been dubbed as Cam Newton 2.0 heading into the season, has instead turned into Thandie Newton 1.1 the first two games, tossing a total of five interceptions and generally looking lost and clueless.   Toss in a defense, which brought in Will Muschamp in the offseason to revamp a squalid 2014 squad, that gave up 438 yards to an FCS team –one week after giving up 405 to Louisville, which lost to Houston this afternoon — and you have to wonder whether AU even deserves to be ranked, let alone deep inside the Top 10 where they currently reside.

In any event, any preseason projection of AU being a bona-fide playoff contender may very well have been premature speculation at its finest.  And, yes, I’m as guilty as anyone on that front.

Bill Snyder adds two former K-State football players to Wildcats staff

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As has become customary, Bill Snyder has added familiar faces to his Kansas State staff.

K-State announced late Tuesday morning that Snyder has hired former Wildcats football players Zach Hanson and Eric Hickson.  The former will serve as tight ends coach as well as help with the offensive line, while the latter will coach running backs.

In its release, the football program noted that K-State now has seven full-time coaches who played for the Wildcats, the most former players coaching at their alma mater among all FBS staffs.

“I am pleased to have Zach and Eric back with us,” Snyder said in a statement. “Both have proven their capabilities not only as very successful position coaches and teachers, but also in the development of quality and valued young men. They both have a genuine interest in the life skills enhancement of those they work with. Having also been highly successful student-athletes in our program, they believe in and understand our program.”

Hickson spent the past three seasons as the running backs coach at Akron.  That was Hickson’s first coaching job at the FBS level.

A running back at K-State, he left the program in 1998 as the school’s all-time leading rusher; he now stands fifth on that list.

After Hanson finished up his playing career at K-State in 2011, he spent four years at his alma mater (2012-15) as a graduate assistant and quality control coach.  The past two seasons, he was a graduate assistant working with special teams and tight ends at North Carolina.

This will also be Hanson’s first full-time job at the FBS level.

Terry McLaurin’s decision to stay means Ohio State’s top six receivers returning in 2018

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With Ohio State breaking in a new starting quarterback in 2018, this is latest in what’s been a long line of welcome news for the Buckeyes.

Terry McLaurin confirmed on Instagram Monday night that he will be returning to the Buckeyes for another season.  The wide receiver was third on the Buckeyes last season with 29 receptions, 436 yards and six receiving touchdowns.

Thank you Lord for another opportunity. #last1

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Previously, wide receiver Johnnie Dixon, fourth on the team in receiving yards, announced his decision to return, as did OSU’s leading receiver in yards, H-back Parris Campbell. The Buckeyes’ leader in catches, K.J. Hill, could also have left early for the NFL.

With all of these decisions to stay, it means the Buckeyes will return its top six receivers in yards: Campbell (584), Hill (549), McLaurin (436), Dixon (422), Binjimen Victor (349) and Austin Mack (343). Those six also accounted for 29 of OSU’s 39 receiving touchdowns.

Tight end Marcus Baugh, who was fourth in receptions with 28 and seventh in yards with 304, is the most productive member of the passing game to depart as the senior has used up his eligibility.

Tennessee QB Quinten Dormady transferring from Vols

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Quinten Dormady began the 2017 season as Tennessee’s starting quarterback.  He’ll begin the 2018 season wearing a different uniform.

The erstwhile starter announced on his personal Twitter account Monday that, “[a]fter weeks of reflection, I’ve decided to transfer from Tennessee and transfer for my final year of eligibility.” As a graduate transfer, Dormady would be eligible to play this season at another FBS program.

In starting the first five games of this past season, Dormady had accounted for eight turnovers, six of which were the result of interceptions. Five of those picks came in losses to Florida (three) and Georgia (two).

Coming off a bye, redshirt freshman Jarrett Guarantano started the Week 7 loss to South Carolina after Dormady was benched following the loss to UGA.  Prior to the Week 9 road trip to Kentucky, it was reported that Dormady would be sidelined the remainder of the year because of a shoulder injury.

Dormady completed 76-of-137 passes (55.5%) for 925 yards, six touchdowns and the six interceptions this past season.  The 6-4, 222-pound junior finishes the Vols portion of his playing career with 1,282 yards, seven touchdown and six picks.  He also ran the ball 22 times for a total of 21 yards.

Chip Kelly and UCLA land ex-Washington QB K.J. Carta-Samuels

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K.J. Carta-Samuels may have left Washington, but he’s not leaving the Pac-12.

Carta-Samuels brother, Austyn, revealed on his own personal Twitter account that K.J. will be transferring to UCLA. “Chip Kelly, you just got yourself a QB,” the recruiting coordinator at Missouri wrote.

The younger Carta-Samuels brother subsequently told CBSSports.com that Kelly is “a huge reason why” he chose to move on to the Bruins.

In early December, Carta-Samuels announced that he would be leaving Chris Petersen‘s Washington football program.

Carta-Samuels will be joining Kelly’s squad as a graduate transfer, which means he’ll be one of the players fighting for the right to replace three-year-starting quarterback Josh Rosen. Earlier this month, Rosen did the somewhat expected and left early for the NFL draft.

A four-star member of UW’s 2014 recruiting class, Carta-Samuels was rated as the No. 12 pro-style quarterback in the country and the No. 24 player at any position in the state of California. Budda Baker, a second-round pick in the 2017 NFL draft, was the only signee in the Huskies’ class that year rated higher than Carta-Samuels.

Carta-Samuels played in 25 games over the past three seasons. He ended the Huskies portion of his collegiate playing career with 310 yards, three touchdowns and one interception in completing 27-of-47 passes.