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No. 8 TCU survives, advances past No. 23 West Virginia

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The tenor of No. 8 TCU’s game and season changed before the Frogs took the field today. Thanks to No. 3 Oklahoma’s stunning home loss to Iowa State, TCU’s date with No. 23 West Virginia changed from a challenge for a Big 12 College Football Playoff front-runner to a survive-and-advance test for the Big 12 College Football Playoff front-runner.

The Frogs survived, outlasting a physical West Virginia team for a 31-24 win in Fort Worth.

Trailing 3-0 late in the first quarter, TCU booted away its third punt of the day but was gifted the ball right back when a Mountaineer player blocked a TCU defender into West Virginia punt returner Jovanni Stewart, which TCU’s Vernon Scott recovered at the West Virginia 33-yard line. The Frogs punched in their only score of the first half on a 2-yard direct-snap keeper by Sewo Olonilua at the 14:16 mark of the second quarter.

After a field goal of their own to open the third quarter, Nick Orr intercepted a Will Grier overthrow and returned it 34 yards to the West Virginia 45, and Kenny Hill (15-of-28 for 188 yards, seven carries for 28 yards) pushed the lead to 17-3 on a rainbow to Jalen Reagor one play later.

However, two deep strikes from Greer pulled the Mountaineers even. The first one came on a mix-up in the TCU secondary, where Greer hit a wide open David Sills for a 64-yard score. His very next pass found Ka'Raun White for a 76-yard catch-and-dash, and less than five minutes after trailing 17-3 West Virginia had tied the game at 17-17.

TCU answered with its best drive of the game, a 4-play, 75-yard march completed when Hill raced in a 48-yard score on a throwback from KaVontae Turpin, giving the Horned Frogs a 24-17 lead with 15 seconds left in the third quarter.

An exchange of punts gave West Virginia the ball at the TCU 49, and a series of Justin Crawford (19 carries for a game-high 111 yards) runs set up Grier’s (25-of-45 for 366 yards) third touchdown pass of the second half, a 4-yarder to Sills, knotting the game at 24-24 with 9:50 remaining.

TCU see-sawed back in front with, if not its best possession of the season, then its most important. The Frogs ate 70 percent of the remaining clock, using six minutes and 57 seconds to travel 65 yards over 13 plays, eight of them runs. The final run came on a 3-yard keeper by Hill, who avoided two blockers to stretch across the goal line on 3rd-and-goal, staking the Frogs to a 31-24 lead with 2:53 to play.

Needing a touchdown to extend the game, West Virginia momentarily advanced near midfield, but an offensive pass interference penalty turned what was a first down completion to Sills into a 1st-and-25 at their own 25. The Mountaineers advanced to the TCU 32 but moved no further, and TCU expired the clock after West Virginia turned it over on downs.

The loss dropped West Virginia to 3-2 on the season and 1-1 in Big 12 play, meaning they will likely fall out of the polls tomorrow even though they showed themselves every bit worthy of their No. 23 ranking in challenging the No. 8 team in their house.

TCU (5-0, 2-0 Big 12) will now rest up from this physical game for another physical test at Kansas State next week.

Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa injures thumb on throwing hand in spring practice opener

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This is not exactly the most optimal way to open the spring for Nick Saban and Alabama.

Shortly before seven p.m. ET this evening, grad transfer quarterback Gardner Minshew, who originally committed to play his last season of college football at Alabama, announced on Twitter that he will instead move on to Washington State.  Not long after that, after the Crimson Tide had completed their first practice of the spring, Saban confirmed that Tua Tagovailoa sustained an injury to the thumb on his right (throwing) hand.  Specifically how he sustained the injury wasn’t clear.

The rising sophomore will be taken to Birmingham for further evaluation; just how long he’ll be sidelined remains to be seen.

Jalen Hurts started every game but one at quarterback the past two seasons, guiding the Crimson Tide to a 26-2 record in that span.  He was under center for the national championship game loss to Clemson, and was in the same spot for this year’s title game against Georgia until a 13-0 halftime deficit compelled Saban to pull the trigger on a change.

And the rest, as they say, is history, as Tagovailoa played a significant role in a second-half comeback that was capped by the true freshman’s game-winning touchdown pass in the first overtime.  Even as it seems obvious to those on the outside that this is Tagovailoa’s team moving forward, given how much more advanced the backup is in the passing game than the erstwhile starter, Saban is not quite ready to pull the trigger on a full-time change at the position.  In fact, the head coach even stated that he’s open to playing both quarterbacks.

Minshew, who started five games at East Carolina last season, was viewed as experienced insurance in case Hurts decided to transfer.  Or, if Tagovailoa suffered an injury.

After committing to Alabama, grad transfer QB Gardner Minshew tweets flip to Washington State

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So much for the implementation of the Jalen Hurts Transfer Protection Plan™.

In late February, Gardner Minshew, a graduate transfer quarterback from East Carolina, confirmed that he had committed to play for Alabama and would enroll at the university in May.  Nearly three weeks later, Minshew shifted his course significantly, announcing on Twitter that he is “[p]roud to say that I’ll be playing my last year of college ball at Washington State.”

At least when it comes to the opportunity for playing time, the Cougars, looking to replace Luke Falk, make much more sense than the Crimson Tide, who has, in addition to a two-year starter in Hurts, national championship game hero Tua Tagovailoa.

As a graduate transfer, Minshew will be eligible to play immediately for Wazzu in 2018 and could be in line to win a starting job at the Power Five school.

Minshew started five games for the Pirates last season, throwing for 2,140 yards, 16 touchdowns and seven interceptions in completing just over 57 percent of his 304 pass attempts. Prior to his departure from ECU, he was penciled in as the Pirates’ 2018 starting quarterback.

The news of Minshew’s initial commitment to UA came a little over a week after Minshew visited the Tuscaloosa campus.  Earlier in February, it was reported that Alabama had an interest in Minshew, the quarterback who announced late last month that he had withdrawn from East Carolina to tend to a personal matter in his home state of Mississippi.

WATCH: Amazon releases trailer for ‘All or Nothing’ season following Michigan

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“All or Nothing” has been Amazon’s answer to HBO’s “Hard Knocks” with one clear distinction — “All or Nothing” actually follows its subject throughout the season. The first two seasons followed the Arizona Cardinals and the Los Angeles Rams, and has now expanded into the college game. Amazon on Tuesday unveiled the trailer for its upcoming season with Michigan, in which its cameras followed Jim Harbaugh‘s Wolverines through an 8-5 campaign where the maize and blue won no games of consequence.

This is not the first such documentary series to follow a college team. Showtime’s “A Season With” has chronicled seasons of Florida State, Notre Dame and Navy.

The upcoming season will hit all Amazon Prime streaming devices on April 6.

Report: Auburn WR Eli Stove undergoes surgery for torn ACL

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A significant development has gone under the radar at Auburn, until now. Junior wide receiver Eli Stove tore his ACL during Auburn’s first spring practice and underwent surgery last Tuesday, according to Brandon Marcello of Auburn Undercover.

As a sophomore in 2017, Stove caught 29 passes for 265 yards and rushed 30 times for 315 yards and two touchdowns, which made him the Tigers’ third-leading rusher.

Stove was expected to increase his portfolio heading into 2018, but now he’ll spend the foreseeable future working simply to get back on the field. No timetable has been set for Stove’s return.

Though Stove is one of Auburn’s most talented pass-catchers, the Tigers aren’t hurting for depth even in his absence. Nine wideouts caught a pass for Auburn last season, and not one of them was a senior.