Houston head coach Tom Herman worried before the season began about his team’s conference opener at Cincinnati. After seeing how the Cougars played early on the road Thursday night, it turns out those fears were spot on.
Defense, dropped passes and strange plays dominated a sloppy first half of play in Cincinnati, as the Bearcats were able to limit the normally prolific Houston offense to just a single touchdown and headed into the locker room tied at 10-all after two quarters of play of the AAC opener for both teams.
Quarterback Greg Ward Jr. returned to action for Houston after injuring his shoulder and missing the team’s blowout win over Lamar last week. He lofted a beautiful 39 yard strike to Chance Allen in the first quarter to show that his arm looked just fine but had issues throughout the half finding receivers because of a lack of protection from his offensive line. The Heisman Trophy candidate did pick up several first downs with his legs but took a number of shots that caused him to get up slowly.
The Bearcats defense, led by their very active line in the trenches, limited the visitors to just 3.6 yards per rush and picked off Ward during the second quarter. Linebacker Antonio Kinard was in on an impressive 12 tackles in the first half alone.
The Cincy offense didn’t quite bring the same amount of effort, stalling several times on drives into UH territory and finding the end zone just once on a busted play that resulted in a 61 yard touchdown for Devin Gray.
All that was just building up to the strangest moment of the game — and possibly the season so far. Houston ran a double reverse that was setting up to be a sneaky trick play but Isiah Johnson was hit by safety Carter Jacobs, jarring the ball into the air and inexplicably back onto the field.
Grant Coleman ended up picking the ball up off the turf and returning it back into Houston territory to setup a late Cincinnati field goal that tied things up going into halftime.
Given how things went, it could be a wild final few quarters between the two AAC rivals.
The Heisman Trophy finalists were announced in a made-for-awkward-television moment during ESPN’s Monday Night Countdown on sight from MetLife Stadium. The Heisman trust revealed a list of five finalists including: Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson, Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield, Michigan linebacker Jabrill Peppers, Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson and Oklahoma wide receiver Dede Westbrook.
Described my some (read: yours truly) as Allen Iverson in cleats, Jackson’s slippery explosiveness led to 4,928 yards of total offense and a nation-leading 51 touchdowns responsible for. He is regarded as the overwhelming favorite to win the stiffarm trophy.
Mayfield has thrown for 3,669 yards with 38 touchdowns against eight interceptions. His 197.75 quarterback rating is on pace to break the FBS single-season record, and he pilots an offense that ranks third nationally in scoring and yards per play. Mayfield’s efforts helped Oklahoma win its second straight Big 12 title and complete the first 9-0 run in the league’s 6-year round-robin era.
Peppers is the swiss army knife of a threat for the Wolverines. He ranks second on Michigan’s elite defense in tackles and tackles for loss while also returning punts and kicks and serving as a running back on offense.
Watson has led Clemson to back-to-back ACC championships and College Football Playoff appearances while firing 37 touchdown passes and throwing for 3,914 yards on the year.
Mayfield’s top target, Westbrook recorded 74 receptions for 1,465 yards and 14 touchdowns on the year. Westbrook’s inclusion makes Oklahoma the first team to send teammates to New York since Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush did the same for USC in 2005. They’re just the fifth set of teammates to do so overall (Leinart and Bush did so twice.)
That’s also the last time the SEC did not place a player in the top five vote-getters.
The Heisman Trophy ceremony will be held Saturday night in New York.
Army will carry with it a 14-game losing streak against Navy when it takes the M&T Bank Stadium field on Saturday. But the Black Knights will do so in some some great uniforms.
The academy on Monday unveiled the special uniforms they’ll wear against Navy that honor the accomplishments of the 82nd Airborne Division in World War II.
Known as the All-Americans, the 82nd Airborne was “[h]ighly trained and highly disciplined, the soldiers of the 82nd Airborne were asked to spearhead the invasions of Italy, Normandy, and Holland. With little to no reinforcements or relief in the most adverse conditions, their physical and mental toughness was pushed to the limits. Their unwavering brotherhood and intense dedication to success, ultimately led to mission accomplishment.”
While Navy has won 14 straight and 15 of the past 16, four of the fast five games have been decided by six points or less, including last season’s 21-17 decision.
Knowing the recent history of this game, expect a response from Navy at some point this week.
For the second straight season, Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield has been named the recipient of the Burlsworth Award. Mayfield is now the first player to win the award two times.
The award is given to college football’s top player who began his career as a walk-on player. Mayfield was originally a walk-on player at Texas Tech before eventually transferring to Oklahoma, where he has emerged as a Heisman Trophy candidate and led the Sooners to two consecutive Big 12 championships and one appearance in the College Football Playoff.
Mayfield beat out Washington State quarterback Luke Falk and Northwestern wide receiver Austin Carr for the award. Mayfield will also have a chance to add one more Burlsworth Award to his name next season, as the Sooners passer has already said he will return to Oklahoma for the 2017 season.
If there is one common criticism of the College Football Playoff model it is that it is left up to humans to determine who should play for the national championship. Bias and allegiances can interfere with the decision-making, unless you believe there really is no bias within the board room when the committee gets together in Dallas every week. Some would prefer the playoff model use some sort of computer system, perhaps one similar to the makeup of the old BCS computer. Well, the BCS computers would have come to the same conclusion for the College Football Playoff if it was used.
The seeding may have been slightly different, with Ohio State staying ahead of Clemson, but the matchups would have been the same as this year’s playoff. Alabama would be the top seed and face Pac-12 champion Washington and Ohio State would have faced Clemson. The Buckeyes would have been the “home” team, although the 2-3 matchup really means nothing other than who gets to decide what uniform color to wear and which team calls heads or tails at the coin flip. Of course, under the old BCS model, there would be just two teams selected to play for the national championship, and that would paired the last two national champions against each other; Alabama and Ohio State. Clemson was the second-ranked team in the final College Football Playoff ranking, with Ohio state finishing third.
It is also worth recognizing the BCS computers would also have awarded Western Michigan the highest-ranking among Group of Five schools, thus sending them to the Cotton Bowl. Western Michigan also would have qualified for a spot in the BCS lineup with the No. 12 ranking in the computer model. Finishing in the top 12 qualified the champion from either Conference USA, the MAC, Mountain West Conference or the Sun Belt for an automatic BCS berth.