UCLA takes four-point lead on No. 13 Utah at the half

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UCLA freshman quarterback Josh Rosen threw a 28-yard touchdown pass to Thomas Duarte on the game’s opening drive to give the visiting Bruins an early lead in Salt Lake City on No. 13 Utah. UCLA owns a 10-6 lead at the half, putting them one half away from gaining control of the Pac-12 South heading into their final game of the season.

Utah took its first offensive possession of the game into the red zone but Joe Williams had the ball knocked out of his hands by UCLA’s Kene Orjioke and Randall Goforth recovered the loose ball. It was the second turnover of the drive for the Utes, who had a Travis Wilson interception overturned by a pass interference penalty on UCLA. Goforth, as it turned out, was the one who came away with the interception. Williams is taking on the task of running the football as Utah’s primary running back with Devontae Booker out of action this week.

UCLA will gain control of the Pac-12 South with a win today against Utah. With a win, UCLA would then play for the Pac-12 South championship next week against USC., regardless of what the Trojans end up doing in Eugene against Oregon.

Big 12, Pac-12 lead Maxwell Award semifinalists; SEC leads Bednarik semifinalists

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The push for the College Football Playoff is not the only thing heating up in November. Award season is started to come closer and closer. On Monday, the Maxwell Football Club released its list of semifinalists for two of the top individual awards in college football, the Maxwell Award and the Chuck Bednarik Award. Every Power 5 conference is represented on the Maxwell Award semifinalist list with 2 from the ACC, 4 from the Big 12, 2 from the Big Ten, 4 from the Pac-12 and 2 from the SEC. The SEC led the power conferences with seven players named to the Chuck Bednarik Award semifinalists with four.

Last year’s winner for the two Maxwell Football Club awards were Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota (Maxwell Award) and Arizona linebacker Scooby Wright (Bednarik Award). A quarterback has won the Maxwell Award 13 times since 2000 and has included players like Drew Brees, Eli Manning, Tim Tebow, Cam Newton and Andrew Luck. Notre Dame running back C.J. Prosise gives the Irish a chance to move into sole possession of first place in the list of all-time winners by school. Notre Dame and Penn State each have seven Maxwell Award winners for the most of all-time. Navy, Ohio State and Texas each have four winners.

Penn State also has more Bednarik Award winners than any other school with four. LSU has a chance to come within one with linebacker Kendall Beckwith named a semifinalist for the Bednarik Award. Past winners of the Bednarik Award, first awarded in 1995, include Pat Fitzgerald, Charles Woodson, LaVar Arrington, Ndamukong Suh, Tyrann Mathieu, Manti Te’o and Aaron Donald.

The winners of the Maxwell Award and Bednarik Award will be announced on December 10, 2015 during ESPN’s college football awards show. Three finalists will be announced for each award prior to that on November 24. A formal presentation for the awards will be held during the Maxwell Football CLub’s annual awards gala in Atlantic City, New Jersey, currently scheduled for March 11, 2016 at the Tropicana Resort & Casino.

2015 Maxwell Award Semifinalists

2015 Chuck Bednarik Award Semifinalists

  • LB Kendall Beckwith, LSU
  • NT Andrew Billings, Baylor
  • DE Joey Bosa, Ohio State
  • DE Jonathan Bullard, Florida
  • DE Shilique Calhoun, Michigan State
  • S Jeremy Cash, Duke
  • LB Su’a Cravens, USC
  • DE Myles Garrett, Texas A&M
  • CB Vernon Hargreaves III, Florida
  • DE Shaq Lawson, Clemson
  • CB Jourdan Lewis, Michigan
  • LB Tyler Matakevich, Temple
  • DE Carl Nassib, Penn State
  • DT Robert Nkemdiche, Ole Miss
  • DE Emmanueal Ogbah, Oklahoma State
  • LB Reggie Ragland, Alabama
  • CB Jalen Ramsey, Florida State
  • DL A’Shawn Robinson, Alabama
  • LB Joe Schobert, Wisconsin
  • LB Jaylon Smith, Notre Dame

Utah pours salt on Harbaugh’s Michigan debut, 24-17

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The long-term future looks to be in good shape for as long as Jim Harbaugh sticks around Ann Arbor. The short-term future, on the other hand, suggests there could be some tough roads ahead. The Harbaugh era at Michigan got off to a losing start Thursday night in Salt Lake City. Utah’s (1-0) defense held firm in the fourth quarter with Justin Thomas picking off a pass from Michigan (0-1) quarterback Jake Rudock and returning it for a 55-yard touchdown and later stuffing the Wolverines on a fourth and short with 5:13 to play. For a second straight season, Utah flexed its muscle against Michigan, winning this year by a final score of 24-17.

Kyle Whittingham had his Utes ready to play typical Utah football, which is to say Utah played well on defense, forced some turnovers and managed to avoid having Travis Wilson implode. Utah’s quarterback was picked off once, but he completed 24 of his 33 pass attempts as Utah kept to mostly safe plays to wear down Michigan’s defense. That meant putting the ball on the ground with Devontae Booker leading the rushing attack and Wilson taking off as well. Each had a rushing touchdown in the victory.

While Michigan will fly home with a loss, there were some bright spots worth noting. Tight end Jake Butt proved to be a reliable target for Rudock as the two connected eight times for 93 yards and a touchdown. Amara Darboh also had a good game with seven catches for 91 yards. Jabrill Peppers had a good evening, making some key plays in the second half. He also had a kick return for 36 yards. And it was encouraging to see Rudock put together some plays late in the game to at least give Michigan a chance, if they had just recovered an onside kick.

This game alone should not go far in assessing the overall strength of the Pac-12 or the Big Ten against any other conference. Those arguments will continue to play out in games to come. However, the Big Ten could have benefitted from Michigan winning this one to carry over momentum gained from last year’s postseason. Now, the Pac-12 claims another notable victory to its profile. These types of wins can end up playing a deciding factor when it comes time to weighing playoff teams against one another, even if it does not involve Utah or Michigan. So point for the Pac-12 (and Pac-12 South), and no points for the Big Ten.

Michigan will welcome Harbaugh home in Ann arbor next weekend as the Wolverines once again play a Pac-12 opponent. This time it will be Oregon State, with former Wisconsin head coach Gary Andersen making his way back to Big Ten territory almost as quickly as he left it. Michigan will have some time to work out some kinks, but BYU will offer another stiff defensive test at the end of the month before Harbaugh’s Wolverines jump into Big Ten play.

Utah will stay home next week to play Utah State. The Aggies were in a real tough battle with FCS Southern Utah, losing 9-5 at the conclusion of the Utah-Michigan game), with Chuckie Keeton having an ineffective night. Maybe Utah State wasn’t showing much to refrain from giving Utah much film? Or maybe this game will be a tad easier than initially expected for the Utes.

Harbaugh Era at Michigan begins with Rudock at QB; Utah leads 10-3

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The headline here should just about sum up the national reaction to this game. Michigan entered the game with all of the hype, much of it justified with Jim Harbaugh returning to his alma mater, and the continued question of which quarterback would get the start (Iowa transfer Jake Rudock got the call). Once you get past all of the Michigan fluff, you discover Utah had the upper hand. That’s how the first half played out at least.

Utah opened the game by marching down the field in 10 plays on Michigan’s defense, but the Utes could only settle for a field goal after pushing into the red zone. Andy Phillips booted a 30-yard field goal to give the Utes the first points of the night. Then stepped Rudock out on to the field to lead the Michigan offense for the first time. Despite what looked to be a promising drive, that ended after 10 plays when Rudock was picked off by Cory Butler-Byrd at the Utah 14-yard line. Michigan would later add a field goal after the teams exchanged a few punts, tying the game at 3-3 in the second quarter.

Utah regained the lead on the ensuing possession, working its way 75 yards for a Devontae Booker touchdown run from the one-yard line. Utah quarterback Travis Wilson mixed in some runs and passes on the drive to help keep things moving. Utah missed an opportunity to build the lead when a late first half field goal attempt by Phillips from 48 yards out was no good.

That’s where we stand now after one half of play. Neither team has thrived on third downs, and Michigan has been the team with the turnover issues (Rudock has been picked off twice). Utah’s defense has been difficult to find room to run on, with Michigan being held to an average of 1.9 yards per rushing attempt. Utah has done only marginally better, averaging 2.2 yards per rushing attempt.

Five Buckeyes among 50 named to Walter Camp Player of the Year watch list

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Award watch list season is drawing to a close, but not before the Walter Camp Foundation released its list of 50 players worthy of consideration for its player of the year honors.

TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin was a second-team Walter Camp All-American last season, and he is among the popular candidates for the Walter Camp Award this season. Other previous Walter Camp All-Americans joining Boykin on this watch list are Arizona linebacker Scooby Wright III and Colorado State wide receiver Rashard Higgins. Of course, there is a handful of players from Ohio State, as has been the case on multiple watch lists thus far. Ohio State quarterbacks Braxton Miller, J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones each made the watch list. So did running back Ezekiel Elliott and defensive end Joey Bosa.

The list of candidates will be trimmed down to 10 semi-finalists in mid-November and the award will be presented on December 10 at the annual college football awards show. Last year’s winner was Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota. A quarterback has won the award all but five times since 2000. USC has been the home to a nation-leading six Walter camp Award winners, including running backs Reggie Bush, Marcus Allen and O.J. Simpson (twice). USC quarterback Cody Kessler and linebacker Su’a Cravens each appears on this year’s watch list.

2015 Walter Camp Award Watch List

S Dante Barrett, Kansas State
QB J.T. Barrett, Ohio State
RB Devontae Booker, Utah
DE Joey Bosa, Ohio State
QB Trevone Boykin, TCU
DE Shilique Calhoun, Michigan State
DB Jeremy Cash, Duke
RB Nick Chubb, Georgia
RB James Conner, Pittsburgh
QB Connor Cook, Michigan State
LB Su’a Cravens, USC
QB Brandon Doughty, Western Kentucky
DB/KR DeVon Edwards, Duke
RB Ezekiel Elliott, Ohio State
RB Kenneth Farrow, Houston
RB Leonard Fournette, LSU
RB Jarvion Franklin, Western Michigan
RB Royce Freeman, Oregon
DB Kendall Fuller, Virginia Tech
WR Will Fuller, Notre Dame
QB Jared Goff, California
QB Everett Golson, Florida State
QB Christian Hackenberg, Penn State
LB Vernon Hargreaves III, Florida
RB Derrick Henry, Alabama
WR Rashard Higgins, Colorado State
QB Taysom Hill, BYU
QB Kevin Hogan, Stanford
RB/LB Myles Jack, UCLA
RB Devon Johnson, Marshall
QB Cardale Jones, Ohio State
QB Cody Kessler, USC
QB Gunner Kiel, Cincinnati
QB Paxton Lynch, Memphis
LB Blake Martinez, Stanford
RB Elijah McGuire, Louisiana
QB Braxton Miller, Ohio State
DE Shaun Oakman, Baylor
RB Samaje Perine, Oklahoma
RB Paul Perkins, UCLA
QB Dak Prescott, Mississippi State
QB Keenan Reynolds, Navy
QB Anu Solomon, Arizona
QB Justin Thomas, Georgia Tech
DB Darian Thompson, Boise State
WR Laquon Treadwell, Ole Miss
QB Deshaun Watson, Clemson
WR Duke Williams, Auburn
LB Scooby Wright III, Arizona
QB Malik Zaire, Notre Dame