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Turnovers killing No. 8 USC at the Cotton Bowl as No. 5 Ohio State rolls to big halftime lead

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The Cotton Bowl pitting the two conference champions who didn’t make the College Football Playoff was on just about everybody’s bucket list when the matchup between No. 5 Ohio State and No. 8 USC was announced earlier this month. Now it will be lucky to be on anybody’s TV.

The Buckeyes came, saw and conquered the Pac-12 champions in impressive fashion at AT&T Stadium, leading the Trojans 24-7 at halftime and looking borderline unstoppable in making the case that they and not No. 4 Alabama should have been in the Playoff.

OSU quarterback J.T. Barrett was naturally leading the way as he closes out his college career in scarlet and gray by throwing for 75 yards but rushing for another 54 on the ground — including a pair of rushing touchdowns. The team scored so quickly that tailbacks Mike Weber (11 yards) and J.K. Dobbins (22 yards) barely had time to get going as they mostly sat on the sidelines with a big lead.

Turnovers led to the majority of those points as half of USC’s first six possessions ended in the ball going the other way. Signal-caller Sam Darnold, playing in front of numerous NFL executives in what could be his final game in cardinal and gold, looked good early on and had 170 yards going into the locker room but fumbled once and threw a bad pick-six to Damon Webb. His receivers didn’t help him all that much with drops and the scoreboard indicates that Texas native and starting running back Ronald Jones (34 yards, one touchdown) won’t be that big of a factor after the break.

We’ve seen some crazy comebacks and wild second half performances already during bowl season already but that probably won’t be the case unless Darnold magically turns into the guy everybody touted as the sure-fire No. 1 overall pick. The Buckeyes do get the ball to start the third quarter and you can bet that Urban Meyer won’t rest easy even with a comfortable margin so far in what appears to be a rout in the making.

No. 9 Ohio State looks like a contender in crushing Nebraska for second straight year

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In theory it should be the kind of spectacle only college football can produce. Ohio State and Nebraska, two programs that have been proud about their brand of football for more than a century, playing on the same field under the Big Ten banner in a primetime broadcast. What could be better?

The games, it turns out. The games could be a lot better.

The first edition was great. Ohio State went to Lincoln for the first time ever in Nebraska’s first Big Ten season, and the Huskers won, 34-27. They’ve played three times since, and none of them were close. The Buckeyes cruised 63-38 in 2012, demolished the Huskers 62-3 last season and did the same again on Saturday night, as No. 9 Ohio State had its way with overmatched Nebraska, 56-14 in Lincoln.

Ohio State scored touchdowns on its first eight drives and did not punt the entire night. J.T. Barrett posted one of the best statistical nights of his lengthy career, hitting a video game-like 27-of-33 passes for 325 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions while rushing 10 times for 48 yards and two more scores. J.K. Dobbins added 12 carries for a game-high 106 yards and a long touchdown run of his own, and Mike Weber poured in 82 yards on 18 carries.

Overall, Ohio State threw for 354 yards on 39 attempts and rushed 47 times for 279 yards, adding up to 633 yards on 7.36 yards per play with 41 first downs and 10 third-down conversions on 13 attempts.

Meanwhile, the Buckeyes’ defense held Nebraska scoreless in the first half for the second time this season — that feat had been accomplished once in the previous 20 years — and limited Nebraska to 44 yards on 16 carries. Nebraska threw the ball nearly every play because it knew it had no chance of running on Ohio State, but it had no chance of throwing on Ohio State, either. Tanner Lee completed 23-of-38 passes for 303 yards and two touchdowns, but the lion’s share of those yards came after the Huskers were already down 42 points.

Ohio State (6-1, 4-0 Big Ten) looked every much like a Big Ten and College Football Playoff contender. Nebraska (3-4, 2-2 Big Ten) looked like a team that will be making a coaching change after the season ends.

And whoever Nebraska’s next coach is needs to just turn on the first half film of tonight’s game to see how far Nebraska is from the top of the sport.

No. 11 Ohio State’s domination a reminder not to count Buckeyes out in Big Ten or CFB Playoff

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Sure, it was only a game against Rutgers (1-4, 0-2 Big Ten), but the No. 11 Ohio State Buckeyes (4-1, 2-0 Big Ten) looked much more like the Big Ten title favorite they were at the start of the season than at any point this season. J.T. Barrett passed for three touchdowns, Mike Weber rushed for three touchdowns, and the Ohio State defense never gave Rutgers much time to breathe in a 56-0 road win in New Jersey.

Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano returned to the Rutgers campus for the first time since being fired from the job as head coach of the Scarlet Knights, and he came in with a dominating defensive effort and game plan. Ohio State held Rutgers to 13 first downs and just 209 yards of offense in the shutout. It is the second straight shutout Ohio State has pitched against Rutgers in as many seasons (Ohio State won 58-0 last year).

The shutout for Ohio State was preserved in the final minute when a late field goal attempt simply to get any points on the scoreboard went bouncing off the upright.

Since losing at home to Big 12 frontrunner Oklahoma in Week 2, Ohio State has outscored their last three opponents by a score of 141-28. The bigger challenges still are coming later this season for Ohio State, but this stretch was needed after taking a loss at home and being knocked down a few pegs in the pecking order in the Big Ten and College Football Playoff picture. With plenty of time to rebound, Ohio State needed to get the offense on track during this stretch before having to deal with games against Penn State (Oct. 28), a road trip to Iowa (Nov. 4), and the regular season finale in Ann Arbor against Michigan (Nov. 25). Ohio State still looks every bit the Big Ten contender they were supposed to be, and right now they are taking care of business the way they needed after the early loss to the Sooners.

Ohio State will be back home next week for a game against a surprising Maryland team. The Terrapins have been hurt by injuries but managed to win on the road against Minnesota on Saturday. This should be a much more difficult road test for Maryland. Ohio State won last year’s game, 62-3.

Rutgers will get a week off to regroup and give it another shot to pick up a win in Big Ten play. Rutgers returns to the field on Oct. 14 with a road trip to Illinois.

Mike Weber scores 3 first-half TDs as Buckeyes cruising vs. Rutgers

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A year after losing on the road to Ohio State 58-0, the first half brought back plenty of bad memories for the Scarlet Knights. Rutgers played tough early on in a home game against No. 11 Ohio State, but the Buckeyes are rolling to another blowout win against one of the newest Big Ten members with a 35-0 lead at halftime in New Jersey.

The Buckeyes worked their way to a 7-0 lead in the first quarter as the teams jostled field position before Mike Weber picked up his first touchdown of the season. Ohio State took control of the game in the second quarter with three touchdowns, including a second touchdown run by Weber to cap a drive of 87 yards. J.T. Barrett also kept the offense going by bailing Ohio State out of a three-and-out on 3rd-and-17 with a 70-yard pass to Johnnie Dixon after keeping a play alive.

Barrett added a second touchdown pass on a 39-yard pass down the left sideline after Dixon somehow kept his feet in bounds for the score. By the time the game reached halftime, Weber added two more scores as well. Barrett has passed for 216 yards and two scores. Rutgers has just 72 yards of offense.

No disrespect to Rutgers here, because head coach Chris Ash knows he has a long way to go with this program, but Ohio State is simply demonstrating how much stronger, faster, athletic, and confident they are than their opponent tonight.

CFT 2017 Preseason Previews: College Football Players to Fall in Love With

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A new college football season is nearing, and it will feature some terrific playmakers you should be well aware of. Odds are you are familiar with some of the players you should know, but now is a good a time as any to introduce the experienced and the brand new fans of college football to some of the top players to keep you entertained in 2017. You will have a blast watching these players do their thing this season and you will want to watch every game they play for the chance to witness greatness.

Without any further adieu, here are the players that will keep you most entertained this fall.

Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
In a season that has a number of good running backs around the country, Penn State’s Saquon Barkley may be the best there is. Penn State’s offense may be the best in the Big Ten, and Barkley is one of the reasons why. Barkley has shined in big games for the Nittany Lions the past two seasons, including in the Big Ten championship game against Wisconsin and Rose Bowl against USC, and he will have his opportunities to lead Penn State to some big wins this season with his moves.

Derrius Guice, RB, LSU
Leonard Fournette
may have been the star attraction out of LSU’s backfield the past few years, but Derrius Guice made a name for himself last season as one of the top running backs in the SEC. Now, Guice steps into the leading role without any question and he should be the main cog in LSU’s offense this fall while the Tigers try to get a passing game figured out.

Nick Chubb, RB, Georgia
Keeping with the running back theme (and there are a number of others that could have been mentioned), we stay in the SEC to remind you that Georgia still has Nick Chubb ready to carry the ball. Chubb should be a key player in Georgia’s season, even though he will be splitting running calls with Sony Michel. But Chubb’s ability to burst through the line and get downfield with authority will be an essential ingredient to Georgia’s offensive game plan.

Derwin James, S, Florida State
Some will argue Florida State’s best player may actually be the best player in the nation. Derwin James is ready to make plays on every snap, and after missing the bulk of the 2016 season due to a knee surgery, James is ready to make up for some lost time. Jimbo Fisher and the Seminoles will have James lining up all over the field, and he will be a key player in the highly-anticipated Week 1 matchup with Alabama.

Ed Oliver, DT, Houston
Ed Oliver’s recruiting to Houston took the recruiting world by storm, and he has had quite the impact in his young career at Houston. Expect more of the big man to destroy the line of scrimmage this fall. Oliver would be a beast to contain in any conference, but do not look past his performance in the AAC this fall. Oliver will continue to show just how much fun watching a defensive tackle can be this fall.

Quinton Flowers, QB, USF
If there was one thing Charlie Strong really needed to be successful at Texas, it was his Longhorn version of Teddy Bridgewater. Now at USF, Strong has his quarterback in Quinton Flowers. Flowers is among the top players from the Group of Five and will give the Bulls as good a chance as any to not only win the AAC, but also guide the Bulls to a New Years Six bowl game.

Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville
Louisville’s quarterback may have won the Heisman Trophy last season, but a brutal finish to the season has left the reigning Heisman Trophy winner laying in the shadows this offseason it seems. Expect that love affair with the dynamic quarterback to be rekindled quickly as Jackson looks to pile up big numbers to start the season once more to remind us all why he captured the nation a year ago. History may be against Jackson’s chances of winning the Heisman Trophy again this season, but do not be surprised if he manages to return to New York as a Heisman finalist.

Honorable mentions: Sam Darnold (QB, USC), Justin Jackson (RB, Northwestern), Baker Mayfield (QB, Oklahoma), Nick Bosa (DE, Ohio State), Mike Weber (RB, Ohio State), J.T. Barrett (QB, Ohio State), Josh Rosen (QB, UCLA), Royce Freeman (RB, Oregon), Jordan Whitehead (S, Pittsburgh), Da’Shawn Hand (DE, Alabama), Myles Gaskin (RB, Washington)