Associated Press

As No. 1 falls, No. 2 Alabama claims 31st straight regular season win in gut check at No. 16 Mississippi State

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The top three teams in college football all went on the road Saturday, all against top-16 teams. No. 1 Georgia already lost, and No. 3 Notre Dame is in the process of going down. No. 2 Alabama went to No. 16 Mississippi State and trailed much of the night, was nearly doubled up on time of possession, and it didn’t matter. A late touchdown pushed Alabama over Mississippi State for a 31-24 win, the program’s 31st consecutive regular season win.

Alabama nearly found itself down 28-17 in the fourth quarter and missed a would-be game-winning field goal with two minutes remaining, but absorbed and survived those blows to take over at its own 32 with 1:01 remaining and a full holster of timeouts. The drive appeared in danger in facing a 3rd-and-15 at its own 43 with 31 seconds remaining, but Jalen Hurts found Calvin Ridley for his third long catch-and-run of the night, this time for 31 yards. That set up a game-winning 26-yard snatch-and-dash to Devonta Smith with 25 ticks left.

The win pushed Alabama to 10-0 overall, 7-0 in the SEC and an unquestioned No. 1 in every poll that matters with three weeks remaining in the regular season.

Mississippi State (7-3, 3-3 SEC) utterly controlled the first quarter, but found itself locked in a 7-7 tie. The Bulldogs accepted the ball to open the game and clicked off 11 plays, moved the ball to the Alabama 41, killed the first half of the frame and then punted, pinning Alabama at its own 5.

The Bulldog defense forced a three-and-out, and its offense pushed its way down the field on a 6-play, 57-yard touchdown drive punctuated by an 11-yard Aeris Williams run.

On the ensuing possession, Mississippi State forced a 3rd-and-5, where a conversion would have given Mississippi State the ball with a 7-0 lead while Alabama’s offense ran a total of six plays over the first quarter. Instead, Hurts found Ridley for a 63-yard catch-and-run, and Hurts rushed in a 1-yard score two plays later.

The next two drives played out the same. Mississippi State strung together an 11-play, 73-yard drive again capped by a Williams run. And again Hurts and Ridley connected, this time for 61 yards. Ridley finished the game with five grabs for 171 yards, and Hurts hit 10-of-19 passes for 242 yards with a touchdown and no turnovers. Josh Jacobs rushed in from a yard out two plays later, tying the game at 14-14 with 9:26 left in the second quarter.

Alabama grabbed its first lead to open the second half, moving 63 yards in seven plays to set up a 30-yard Andy Pappanastos field goal. Mississippi State, however, picked up where it left off, reclaiming the lead on a 13-play, 69-yard drive that consumed more than 6:30 off the clock and concluded with a 2-yard Nick Fitzgerald rush. Fitzgerald completed 13-of-24 passes for 158 yards, and Mississippi State pounded out 49 rushing attempts, which gave the Bulldogs a near 18-minute edge in time of possession. 

The Bulldogs forced a three-and-out on Alabama’s next possession and had a chance to seize complete control of the game after moving to a 1st-and-10 at the Tide 11, but Fitzgerald’s 3rd-and-7 pass sailed incomplete. Jace Christmann knocked in a 25-yard field goal to give Mississippi State its third touchdown lead of the night, a 24-17 edge with 14:13 to play.

And for the third time of the night, Alabama erased Mississippi State’s touchdown lead with an immediate touchdown of its own. The Crimson Tide rumbled 82 yards in 10 plays, in the process converting a 4th-and-4 at the MSU 34 with a 13-yard Hurts rush. Damien Harris tied the game two plays after that with a 14-yard rush.

An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Alabama offensive lineman Alex Leatherwood helped Mississippi State begin its next drive at its own 40 and the Bulldogs eventually penetrated to the Alabama 42, but Dan Mullen elected to punt on 4th-and-3 with 6:30 to play. Logan Cooke‘s punt sailed into the end zone, and Alabama had the crease it needed to grab control of the game.

Three straight Bo Scarborough rushes pushed the ball to midfield, and a Harris run placed it at the Mississippi State 33. Mississippi State forced a 3rd-and-8, but a pass from Hurts to Ridley drew a pass interference flag, staking Alabama to a 1st-and-10 at the MSU 16 with 4:05 to go. However, three straight Hurts run lost yardage, and a 41-yard Pappanastos field goal clanged off the left upright. 

Mississippi State moved into Hail Mary territory on its last gasp drive. Fitzgerald’s first heave from the Alabama 49 was fell incomplete, but he was given another chance after a pass interference flag. His second chance, from the 34, sailed out of the end zone, sealing the win for Alabama.

Starting QB Kenny Hill officially ruled out for TCU vs. Texas Tech

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This certainly makes things interesting.

Earlier this week, Gary Patterson revealed that starting quarterback Kenny Hill and starting linebacker Travin Howard were somewhere between “probable and questionable” for the Week 12 game against Texas Tech in Lubbock.  Both players suffered unspecified injuries in the Week 11 loss to Oklahoma.

Unfortunately for the Horned Frogs, it’s been confirmed that Hill will not play against the Red Raiders.  Additionally, strong safety Niko Small and kicker Jonathan Song have been ruled out as well.

Howard, the team’s leading tackler, will travel to Lubbock but be a game-time decision.

With Hill sidelined, true freshman Shawn Robinson, who has attempted 10 passes in five games this season, will make his first career start in a game that will carry significant weight in the chase for the Big 12 championship tilt.

Unless Oklahoma (6-1), which beat both TCU (5-2) and Oklahoma State (5-2) earlier this season, loses its last two games — ROTFL one of them is against Kansas — the Sooners have all but clinched one of the two spots in the conference title game. TCU needs to either win one of its last two games (at Tech, vs. Baylor) and have OSU lose at least one, or win out regardless of what OSU does in order to claim the other spot. OSU, meanwhile, needs to win out (vs. K-State, vs. Kansas) and have the Horned Frogs lose at least one. West Virginia (5-2), which lost to both TCU and OSU, needs to beat Texas and win at OU while TCU and OSU lose at least one game apiece.

K-Statement: Bill Snyder ‘will remain coach until he decides otherwise’

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Kansas State has responded to the events of Thursday and, wow, what a response.

Early yesterday afternoon, a report surfaced that indicated K-State had a verbal agreement with Jim Leavitt to ultimately take over the football program in place but that arrangement was nixed by legendary current head coach Bill Snyder, who wants his son to take the reins when he steps down. Subsequent to that, Leavitt, the defensive coordinator at Oregon who was an assistant under Snyder at KSU in the nineties, told GoPowercat.com that he has “no desire nor I ever had a desire to be a coach in waiting.”

Not long after, with FootballScoop.com refuting the original report, the Manhattan Mercury confirmed at least a portion of it; however, that newspaper said Snyder nixed the arrangement “because he did not want to commit to a timetable for his own retirement.” Per the original report via Facebook from former ESPN college football insider Brett McMurphy, Leavitt would’ve been paid $3 million if he wasn’t named head coach prior to Jan. 1 of 2018.

Given all of that he-said, he-said drama, the university released a statement that indicates Snyder maintains the autonomy to choose the when of his departure.

As has been the case and stated many times, Coach Snyder is our football coach and will remain coach until he decides otherwise.

Left unsaid is whether Snyder will get to handpick his successor whenever he decides otherwise.

In the past, the 78-year-old Snyder has made it perfectly clear that he wants his son, 48-year-old Wildcats special teams coordinator and associate head coach Sean Snyder, to take over when he steps down for good.

“I have a strong belief, and my preference is Sean,” Snyder said back in July of 2015 when asked his preference for a successor. “He knows more about our football program than anyone. He runs our program. I have great confidence in him.

“It’s easy to say, ‘He’s your son,’ but I don’t wish coaching on anyone.”

“If I were to step down today, I certainly would [recommend Sean for the job],” Snyder said in October of 2012, “I think he’d be absolutely fantastic at it, but I wouldn’t encourage him to take the job.

“I’d rather see him live a more complete life than this.”

The younger Snyder has actually spent more time as part of the K-State football program than his Hall of Fame father, transferring to KSU from Iowa after the 1989 season. The lone exception being 1993, Sean Snyder has been a Wildcats player, football staffer or assistant coach for 27 of the last 28 years. Since 1989, Bill Snyder has spent 26 years as K-State’s head coach, with a three-year sabbatical in the middle of the last decade splitting up his first and second tenures at the school.

Whether that makes him qualified to take over for his dad is a question that will very likely be answered in the coming months.

Tanner Lee on verge of being cleared to play for Nebraska vs. Penn State

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It’s looking more and more likely that Nebraska’s starting quarterback will be available for Week 12. Whether he starts seems to be another matter entirely.

In the second quarter of last Saturday’s embarrassing beatdown at the hands of Minnesota, Tanner Lee suffered a head injury that knocked him out of the game and left him in concussion protocol ever since. With No. 10 Penn State looming this Saturday, all signs are pointing toward Lee being cleared.

“He’s actually going through the protocol and if he does not have a setback as of today — if everything checks out OK after this practice, heading into tomorrow’s walkthrough — he will be cleared to play,” Mike Riley said according to the Lincoln Journal Star.

The embattled head coach stopped short of declaring the redshirt junior would be the starter if cleared, saying that’s something “[w]e’re going to talk about” prior to kickoff.  If Lee doesn’t get the start, those duties would fall to redshirt freshman Patrick O’Brien.

Only two quarterbacks at the FBS level have thrown more interceptions this season than Lee’s 13. On the other hand, his 2,539 yards passing are more than all but three other Big Ten quarterbacks.

Nebraska needs to win its last two games, at No. 10 Penn State and at home against 6-4 Iowa in the Black Friday regular-season finale, to become bowl-eligible.

Notre Dame tandem headlines six Outland Trophy semifinalists

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Suffice to say, Notre Dame will be well-represented when it comes to one particular award.

The Football Writer’s Association of America announced Thursday night its six semifinalists for the 2017 Outland Trophy.  The third-oldest award in college football, the Outland has been handed out annually since 1946 to the best interior lineman in college football on either offense or defense.

This year, there are five offensive linemen and one defensive lineman who can win the award.

Those six semifinalists are Oklahoma offensive tackle Orlando Brown, Notre Dame offensive tackle Mike McGlinchey (pictured), Notre Dame offensive guard Quenton Nelson, Western Michigan offensive tackle Chukwuma Okorafor, Houston defensive tackle Ed Oliver and Ohio State center Billy Price.  That list will be whittled down to three finalists next week.

Last year’s winner was Alabama offensive tackle Cam Robinson.  Offensive linemen have claimed 11 of the last 14 Outlands.