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Turnover-prone Buckeyes’ hold on No. 1 in danger after slipping past NIU

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Ohio State entered the season as a unanimous pick as the Associated Press‘ top-ranked team.  After an uneven Week 2 win over Hawaii, OSU saw that support erode a bit.  After Week 3?  They might have to worry about staying in the top two or three, pending the outcome of Ole Miss-Alabama and SMU-TCU.

In a performance eerily reminiscent of the pre-Urban Meyer Luke Fickell days, OSU, at least on one side of the ball, looked sluggish and discombobulated and generally uninspired as it held on to beat Northern Illinois in Columbus by the score of 20-13.  The win over a team that was a 35-point underdog was the Buckeyes’ nation’s best 16th straight, with the last loss coming in Week 2 of the 2014 season against Virginia Tech.

NIU, a better team than most had given them credit for when criticizing OSU’s schedule, was in the game until the very end, forcing OSU to punt — after some very questionable clock management and the inability to convert on a third-and-two — with under 1:30 remaining and taking over at their own 20-yard line.  Four plays failed to gain a yard, however, as the Buckeyes’ held on and escaped with the win.

Defensively, OSU looked very much like the No. 1 team in the country.  Going up against an offense that came into the game ranked eighth in total offense nationally (594 yards per game), the Buckeyes allowed just 190 yards to the Huskies.  One of their two touchdowns was scored by the defense, a 41-yard interception return by Darron Lee that turned out to be the game-winning score.

Offensively, though, they didn’t look as if they could beat a Div. III team this afternoon.  Hell, a good high school defense may have given them issues, for that matter.

Whether it was turnovers (five, three interceptions and two lost fumbles) or penalties (seven) or just a game-long funk that hovered over the entire unit, the Buckeyes couldn’t get much of anything going on that side of the ball.  An ineffective Cardale Jones was replaced in the first half by J.T. Barrett, who was equally ineffective.  The two combined to complete 15-of-28 passes for a mere 133 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions.

As ineffective as the passing game was, the ground attack wasn’t much better.  Entering the game, the Buckeyes’ averaged 6.4 yards per carry; against the Huskies, they managed just 4.8 yards a tote.

The good news for the Buckeyes is that, thanks to a very favorable schedule, they have a handful of games to turn things around offensively before their first real test.  OSU will likely be favored by double digits in its next seven games — home dates with Western Michigan, Maryland, Penn State and Minnesota, road trips to Indiana, Rutgers and Illinois — before playing host to fourth-ranked Michigan State Nov. 21.

As for whether Ohio State will, or even should, remain No. 1?  I can’t speak for the real voters, but I know my Fifth Quarter Top Five will have a decidedly different look up top very early Sunday morning.

Ex- Utah DB Jordan Fogal tweets he’s transferring to Colorado State

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Last month, Jordan Fogal used Twitter to announce his decision to transfer from Utah. This month, he’s taken to the same social media website to reveal his new college football home.

In a tweet, Fogal acknowledged that he be enrolling in a Masters program at Colorado State and will be playing football for the Rams. While the school has yet to confirm the safety’s move, he is now being followed on Twitter by head coach Mike Bobo.

As a grad transfer, Fogal will be eligible to play immediately in 2017 at CSU.

After spending two seasons at the junior college level, Fogal played in 11 games the past two years. Fogal’s two interceptions last season were tied for fourth on the team.

The defensive back’s 2015 season came to a premature end after three games because of an injury. He then played in eight games in 2016 for the Utes.

Iowa TE Noah Fant threatened with a gun while at Omaha park

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Iowa tight end Noah Fant’s return home to Omaha, Nebraska for the summer became a lot more newsworthy than he would have liked this week.

According to a local police report, Des Moines TV station 13WHO reports that Fant was approached by a area man on Tuesday night who pointed a handgun at the sophomore football player and told him to leave the area:

Fant left the park and called police.  He initially told them he didn’t want to press charges but said if police were able to find him he would.  He told officers he believed the suspect lived in a house near the park because he’d seen the man before in the area.

As officers were searching the area near the park they spotted a man matching the description provided by Fant run into a home.  Police were able to talk to the man’s mother who convinced him to come to the door.  Officers reported the man, 23-year-old Matthew Trimble, was heavily intoxicated and placed him in the back of their cruiser for their own safety.  Trimble’s mother says her son told her that he had confronted a group he believed to be smoking marijuana in the park.  She agreed to turn over his handgun to officers.  Police say the gun was loaded with one round in the chamber and 11 in the magazine.

Trimble was later charged with one count of Making a Terroristic Threat with a Firearm after Fant identified that he was in fact the one who pulled the gun on him.

Luckily Fant (or anyone else) was not injured in the incident and everything eventually played out somewhat peacefully. The Omaha native caught nine passes for 70 yards and one touchdown last season for the Hawkeyes and is expected to return to the team later on.

School officials did not release a statement on the incident involving Fant but did tell Landof10 that they were looking into the matter as of Thursday evening.

Northwestern WR Solomon Vault reportedly set to miss 2017 season after surgery

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Northwestern’s task of replacing the Big Ten’s leading receiver from a year ago appeared to take a hit on Friday.

InsideNU reports that wide receiver Solomon Vault will miss the upcoming 2017 season after undergoing “lower body surgery” and will now take a redshirt for the year.

The speedy pass-catcher had 15 receptions for 164 yards and two touchdowns last season for the Wildcats and was expected to step up and see a big increase in targets with all-Big Ten receiver Austin Carr off to the NFL. In addition to his duties catching passes from Clayton Thorson, Vault was also Northwestern’s first choice at kick returner after scoring a whopping five touchdowns on returns in the past three years.

Assuming that Vault does indeed take 2017 off, he’ll have just one year left to play in 2018 as a redshirt senior.

The school has not yet confirmed the report about Vault but it certainly seems that the Wildcats’ special teams are set to take a hit going forward if he even misses part of the upcoming campaign for the program. It was already going to be difficult to replace so much production at receiver too and this bit of news will only server to reinforce that point as Northwestern enters their summer workout programs in the next few weeks.

LSU coaches set to learn DL Arden Key’s status for 2017 next week

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LSU is all set to learn whether or not they’ll have the services of one of the nation’s best pass rushers for the 2017 season.

That’s according to Tigers defensive coordinator Dave Aranda, who told reporters on Thursday that the coaching staff should learn defensive lineman Arden Key‘s status for the season next week.

“Arden’s been around, so I’ve seen Arden,” Aranda said, according to AL.com. “Arden’s looking good. We get back together next week with a full staff. … I anticipate at that time that we’ll hear about Arden’s direction and where he’s going and whether he’ll be with us or not.

“I’m very hopeful that he will be.”

Key announced back in February that he would be stepping away from the program this spring “for personal reasons.” It’s been vague as to what those reasons really are or if the edge rusher would even return to the field for LSU in 2017, but it appears we’ll know either way fairly soon. Key himself tweeted last month that he would not be sitting out his upcoming junior year — leading to speculation that he would indeed be back in the lineup for the Tigers.

Aranda’s comments also seem to indicate things moving in that direction but LSU fans and the rest of the opponents on the schedule will apparently have to wait another week in order to get confirmation on Key’s status for the upcoming season.