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No. 7 Georgia waxes Tennessee in fatal blow for the Butch Jones era

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There would be no Hail Mary to bail out the Vols this time.

No. 7 Georgia dominated Tennessee from the opening stop and never let up, cruising to a 41-0 victory that could prove to be the final blow of the Butch Jones era in Knoxville.

The Bulldog domination began literally from the first snap, as Quentin Dormady was intercepted by Tyrique McGhee on the very first play from scrimmage. That pick set up a 38-yard Rodrigo Blankenship to put Georgia (5-0, 2-0 SEC) up for good.

The Vols’ next two possessions went three-and-out, and the second led to a 7-play, 54-yard touchdown march capped by a 12-yard scoring strike from Jake Fromm to Javon Wims. Fromm completed Georgia’s next scoring drive — an 87-yard marathon — on a 9-yard scamper on a 3rd-and-goal, staking the Dogs to a 17-0 lead with 7:13 left before halftime.

Another Dormady interception — though this one ricocheted off the leg of his intended receiver into the hands of Georgia safety J.R. Reed, who returned it 34 yards to the Tennessee 26-yard line — set up Fromm’s second rushing touchdown, a zone-read keeper to bury the Vols at 24-0 just before the half.

Sony Michel added a 31-yard rushing score late in the third quarter. Brian Herrian punched in a 1-yard score in the fourth quarter, and David Martin completed the scoring with a 19-yard field goal with 5:24 remaining.

Georgia’s defense utterly owned Tennessee’s offense, limiting Dormady to 5-of-16 passing for 64 yards with two picks and a fumble before he was pulled for Jarrett Guarantano. Six Vols rushers combined to carry 29 times for just 62 yards. The Bulldogs pounded out 285 rushing yards, led by Nick Chubb‘s 109 yards on 16 attempts. The only drama for Kirby Smart‘s team moving forward is who to play at quarterback. Fromm out-played his stats (7-of-15 for 84 yards with a touchdown and a pick, with two rushing scores) and effectively moved the offense up and down the field. But competition is on the way, as opening day starter Jacob Eason returned to action in mop up duty.

Tennessee is still 3-2 (0-2 SEC) this season with a likely bowl appearance waiting, but patience for the Volunteers’ fifth-year coach was at an all-time low before Saturday’s blowout — and Jones himself knew it, as evidenced by his anti-media rant on Monday. Jones has failed to deliver Tennessee its first SEC East championship since 2007, and Saturday’s loss — coupled with the Hail Mary defeat to Florida two weeks ago — all but guaranteed the streak of title-less seasons will stretch to 11. Jones blew golden opportunities to win the division in 2015 and ’16, with Florida and Georgia clearly down but obviously retooling, and the frustration over his failure to cash in was exacerbated by his everything-is-fine-here demeanor — as if he was hired to go 18-8 over the 2-season stretch and nothing more, while conveniently ignoring Tennessee’s 9-7 SEC mark over that span, including an inexcusable 4-4 mark last season despite beating both the Gators and the Bulldogs.

This loss will likely make a comeback effort for Jones impossible, whether or not his official dismissal comes later this weekend or at a to-be-determined date in the fall. Georgia’s players were more talented and executed better than Tennessee’s but, worse than anything for Jones, they simply tried harder than the Vols. CBS cameras captured shot after shot after shot of Georgia players refusing to be tackled, and found none of the the opposite. And when Tennessee did fight as hard as, a 44-yard completion to John Kelly, it still ended in a fumble.

West Virginia, Pitt to renew Backyard Brawl in 2022 opener

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For those waiting for the renewal of the Backyard Brawl, we now know exactly how long you have to wait. The schools announced Tuesday that the Pitt-West Virginia rivalry will again be played on Sept. 3, 2022, in the season opener for both sides. The schools previously announced a four-game series from 2022-25, but the first matchup was set for Sept. 17, 2022.

The games in even numbered years will be held in Pittsburgh, while odd numbered games will switch to Morgantown.

Pitt and WVU last met on Nov. 25, 2011, a 21-20 Mountaineers win in Morgantown. West Virginia has won the last three meetings and 14 of the last 21, but Pitt holds a 61-40-3 all-time advantage in a series that dates back to 1895. Between 1929 and 1951, the Panthers and Mountaineers met annually, with West Virginia winning just once.

Pitt will complete its own rivalry renewal with Penn State over the next two seasons; the Panthers host the Nittany Lions on Sept. 8 of this coming season, and will visit Beaver Stadium on Sept. 14, 2019. Pitt hosts Notre Dame in 2020 and visits Tennessee in ’21. With today’s adjustment, Pitt is now set to open the 2022 season with back-to-back home games with West Virginia and Tennessee. Pitt is also set to visit both West Virginia and Notre Dame in 2023, and will face the Mountaineers and Irish again in 2025.

West Virginia opens this coming season with Tennessee in Charlotte, and visits NC State two weeks later. The Mountaineers visit Missouri and host NC State in 2019. WVU is set to double-up with Power 5 non-conference opponents every year through 2024: vs. Florida State (at Atlanta) and vs. Maryland in 2020, at Maryland and vs. Virginia Tech in 2021, at Pittsburgh and at Virginia Tech in 2022, at Penn State and vs. Pitt in 2023, and vs. Penn State and at Pitt in 2024.

Oklahoma AD Joe Castiglione reportedly set to join CFP selection committee

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The College Football Playoff is set to replace six selection committee members before next season, and the first one is in. Oklahoma AD Joe Castiglione will join the committee, according to ESPN’s Heather Dinich.

Castiglione will replace Texas Tech AD Kirby Hocutt, who also served as the committee’s chairman.

This will be the third selection committee on which Castiglione has served, finishing the Big Three trifecta after he worked on the baseball and men’s basketball committees. He will be on the committee for the 2018, ’19 and ’20 seasons.

Castiglione will be forced to recusal himself from any discussions involving Oklahoma, a 2015 and 2017 participant in the College Football Playoff. Ohio State AD Gene Smith and Clemson AD Dan Radakovich also did the same regarding their programs. Radakovich is also set to cycle off the committee this year, along with former Arkansas AD Jeff Long, former NCAA executive Tom Jernstedt, former Stanford, Notre Dame and Washington head coach Tyrone Willingham and former USA Today reporter Steve Wieberg.

Iowa State QB Kyle Kempt petitioning for extra year of eligibility

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Iowa State quarterback Kyle Kempt was a senior in 2017. If it’s up to him, he’ll be a senior again in 2018.

Kempt is attempting to apply the “run off” rule to gain an extra year of eligibility, in which the NCAA grants additional years to players who are “run off” from their original four-year schools. He signed with Oregon State out of Massillon, Ohio, but did not play in his two seasons there. “They told me I wasn’t going to play there,” Kempt said last month, according to the Des Moines Register.

Kempt spent the 2015 season at Hutchinson Community College in Kansas before joining the squad at Iowa State. He was the Cyclones’ Scout Team Player of the Year in 2016 before bursting on the scene this season, famously hitting 18-of-24 passes for 343 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions in a 38-31 win at No. 3 Oklahoma. He had not thrown a single major college pass before that. Kempt finished the year hitting 66.3 percent of his throws for 1,787 yards with 15 touchdowns against three interceptions.

Iowa State closed the year at 8-5 with a win over No. 25 Memphis in the Liberty Bowl. It was Iowa State’s best season since 2000.

“It’s a really fluid situation right now,” Campbell told the Register. “The percentages continue to go back and forth — yes, we think Kyle will be back, no we don’t think he’ll be back, and yes he will.

“It’s a little unsettling, but we have to prepare as if Kyle wouldn’t be coming back.”

If Kempt is not back, Iowa State would go through the odd transition of losing three experienced quarterbacks in a single season. Quarterback-turned-linebacker Joel Lanning graduated and Jacob Park was released from his scholarship. The next most experienced quarterback returning is rising sophomore Zeb Noland, a Watkinsville, Ga., native who threw 66 passes and started one game in 2017.

Ex-Auburn TE Landon Rice transfers to Alabama FCS team

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The latest addition to one FCS team comes with some off-field baggage, to say the least.

Jacksonville State confirmed Monday night that it has added Landon Rice to its football roster.  The tight end had spent the 2017 season at a Mississippi junior college after parting ways with his original Power Five home under a cloud of controversy.

In early September of 2016, Rice left the Auburn football program for what were initially described as “personal reasons.” It was subsequently reported that Rice had been accused of first-degree rape.

A 19-year-old female filed a police report July 27, 2016, accusing Rice of raping her three months earlier at an on-campus residence hall and sought a protective order against him Sept. 12, with a temporary order issued three days later.

The attorney for Rice issued a statement shortly after the accusations came to light in which he labeled the allegations as “false” and that his client has been “vilified” and “unfairly treated” because of them.  In response to that statement, the lawyer for the unnamed 19-year-old allegedly raped by Rice released a series of text messages between the player and alleged victim in which the former apologized to the latter on multiple occasions.

Rice had denied any wrongdoing through his lawyer; while he was never charged in connection with the allegations, a Title IX investigation found him to be responsible for sexual assault and, as a result, he was barred from the AU campus until 2024.  However, those restrictions were rescinded in September of last year, which Landon’s new school alluded to in its statement on the player’s addition to the roster.

Jacksonville State University conducted a very thorough investigation surrounding all of the facts on Landon Rice, just like we do on any of our recruits. After speaking with several officials from Auburn University and getting all of the facts surrounding the investigation, and after meeting with Landon, we decided to allow Landon to enroll at JSU and join our football program.

“On September 26, 2017, all sanctions imposed upon Landon as a result of a Title IX investigation expired and Landon was returned to the status of ‘good standing’ at Auburn University. The matter and all proceedings therein have been concluded, according to a memo dated November 7, 2017, from Kelley Taylor, Director AA/EEO and Title IX Coordinator at Auburn University.

“We have high standards for all of our student-athletes and we do our due diligence on all recruits before they join any of our athletics teams at Jacksonville State and Landon was treated the same. Privacy laws prevents us from releasing more details on the investigation.

A four-star member of the Tigers’ 2016 recruiting class, Rice was rated as the No. 8 tight end in the country.  He was an early enrollee who participated in spring practice and was expected to contribute as a true freshman before the off-field issue derailed those plans.