Nick Fitzgerald

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Saquon Barkley ascends to top of Bovada’s Heisman Trophy board

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Coming off a monster performance against Iowa, Penn State running back Saquon Barkley is now the new leader in the clubhouse for the Heisman Trophy, according to Bovada at least.

Bovada’s weekly updated Heisman odds put Barkley atop the Heisman board with 7/4 odds. He moves ahead of Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield, USC quarterback Sam Darnold, and 2016 Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson of Louisville, and separates himself from Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph.

Barkley has rushed for 518 yards with four rushing touchdowns in the first four weeks of the season. That alone would not be worthy of such high Heisman praise, of course, but Barkley has shown how good he is by contributing to the Penn State passing game. Barkley currently leads the Big Ten with 23 receptions and a conference-leading 335 receiving yards. Barkley has also added some yards on special teams returns, although he has not broken loose for a significant kickoff return just yet.

Barkley is not the only running back moving up Bovada’s board, however. Stanford running back Bryce Love went from 66/1 up to 33/1 following a big performance against UCLA. LOve is currently the nation’s leading rusher.

Two players were dropped from the Bovada board this week. Ohio State freshman running back J.K. Dobbins went from having 25/1 odds last week to off the board this week. I’m not entirely sure why Dobbins fell off the map so quickly, but he’ll have a chance to pop back on the board in the coming weeks. LSU running back Derrius Guice also fell off the board this week after having 50/1 odds last week.

Davey O’Brien Award watch list highlighted by former finalists, semifinalists and SEC

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The Davey O’Brien Award (top quarterback) took the spotlight in the ongoing college football watch list tour on Wednesday morning. A total of 30 quarterbacks were named to the initial watch list for the award, including six from the SEC along with a few potential Heisman Trophy candidates and a Heisman Trophy winner.

Highlighting the watch list are two finalists from last season; Louisville’s Lamar Jackson and Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield. Mayfield has been a two-time finalist for the award. Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett and Washington State’s Luke Falk are also on the watch list and are each two-time semifinalists for the award. Joining them on the watch list are former semifinalists Jake Browning (Washington), Sam Darnold (USC), Jalen Hurts (Alabama), Josh Rosen (UCLA), Mason Rudolph (Oklahoma State)m and Wilton Speight (Michigan).

While the SEC led the way with six watch list players, the ACC, Big 12, and Pac-12 each had four players named to the watch list. The Big Ten had three, with Penn State’s Trace McSorley joining Barrett and Speight.

Clemson’s Deshaun Watson won the Davey O’Brien Award each of the past two seasons, becoming the second two-time winner of the award (Oklahoma’s Jason White in 2003-04). A player does not need to be included on the watch list in order to win the award, but only quarterbacks from the 130 FBS programs are eligible.

2017 Davey O’Brien Award Watch List

Austin Allen, Arkansas
Josh Allen, Wyoming
J.T. Barrett, Ohio State
Jake Bentley, South Carolina
Jake Browning, Washington
Shane Buechele, Texas
Sam Darnold, USC
Eric Dungey, Syracuse
Jacob Eason, Georgia
Jesse Ertz, Kansas State
Luke Falk, Washington State
Riley Ferguson, Memphis
Nick Fitzgerald, Mississippi State
Quinton Flowers, USF
Deondre Francois, Florida State
Jalen Hurts, Alabama
Lamar Jackson, Louisville
Daniel Jones, Duke
Tanner Mangum, BYU
Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
Trace McSorley, Penn State
Shea Patterson, Ole Miss
Josh Rosen, UCLA
Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State
Brett Rypien, Boise State
Brandon Silvers, Troy
Wilton Speight, Michigan
Brent Stockstill, Middle Tennessee
Mike White, WKU
Logan Woodside, Toledo

The Davey O’Brien Award will be trim its watch list down to a handful of semifinalists on November 7. Finalists for the award will be unveiled two weeks later on November 21, and the winner will be announced on December 7 at the annual Home Depot College Football Awards show on ESPN.

Baker Mayfield, J.T. Barrett, Lamar Jackson and Sam Darnold among 2017 Heisman Trophy favorites

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The new college football season may still be a long way away, but it is never too early to place your bets on who you think will win the Heisman Trophy in the 2017 season. The very early favorite, according to odds released by Bovada on Monday, is Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield.

Bovada gives Mayfield 11/2 odds to win the Heisman Trophy this fall. He is followed by Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett (6/1), which sets up a nice Heisman Trophy showdown in September when the defending Big 12 champions head to Columbus for the second game in a home-and-home series that was won by Ohio State in Norman in 2016. Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson, the 2016 Heisman Trophy winner, is listed with 7/1 odds, with USC’s rising star quarterback Sam Darnold listed at 9/1.

Penn State’s dynamic duo of running back Saquon Barkley and quarterback Trace McSorley each have 10/1 odds, along with Washington quarterback Jake Browning.

Looking back to the early odds from last January, Barrett and Mayfield each had 10/1 Heisman odds. Louisville’s Jackson was not on the radar.

Mississippi State blocks Miami (Ohio) field goal to seal St. Petersburg Bowl win

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Mississippi State (6-7) blocked a potential game-winning field goal attempt by Miami (Ohio) (6-7) in the final 10 seconds of the St. Petersburg Bowl to secure a 17-16 win. The blocked field goal let Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen off the hook for a questionable coaching decision on the Bulldogs’ final offensive possession.

Rather than kick a field goal to extend the lead to four points, and immediately after having starting quarterback Nick Fitzgerald limp his way off the field, Mullen had Damian Williams roll out and look to convert on a fourth and four from the Miami 22-yard line. The pass fell incomplete, and gave Miami a chance to move down the field to set themselves up for a potential game-winning field goal. The RedHawks moved their way to the Mississippi State 17-yard line and then appeared to settle for a field goal, using their next two plays to set the ball at the desired spot for kicker Nick Dowd while sacrificing three yards in exchange for forcing Mississippi State to burn two timeouts. With Dowd set for a 37-yard attempt, the kick was blocked by Nelson Adams with five seconds to play.

Mississippi State battled back from a 16-7 deficit in the second half to take a 17-16 lead with 10 straight points. Fitzgerald ripped off a 44-yard touchdown to generate a spark in the second half and a field goal early in the fourth quarter gave the Bulldogs their first lead of the day. Fitzgerald ended the day rushing for a game-high 132 yards and two scores and passing for 136 yards. Mississippi State was outgained by Miami, 433-335, but won the turnover battle with two forced turnovers and no turnovers by the Bulldogs offense.

The MAC falls to a woeful 0-5 in bowl games this season, while the SEC gets things started on the right foot with a 1-0 record. Also, going back to last season, teams reaching the bowl season with a 5-7 record (as Mississippi State did) are now 4-0 in bowl games.

Mississippi State opens the 2017 season at home on September 2 against Charleston Southern. The Bulldogs will also host BYU and UMass in non-conference play and go diving head first into the SEC schedule at home against LSU on September 16. Mississippi State’s 2017 road schedule includes games at Georgia, Auburn, Texas A&M and Arkansas.

Miami will open the 2017 season on the road against Marshall from Conference USA. The RedHawks will also play Cincinnati (at home) and Notre Dame next season.

Late TD gives Mississippi State some confidence at halftime of St. Petersburg Bowl

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After largely being shut down in the first half, Mississippi State may have found a reason to be optimistic about the rest of this afternoon’s St. Petersburg Bowl. The Bulldogs trail Miami Ohio 9-7 at the half, but finally got the offense going with Nick Fitzgerald scoring a touchdown in the final minute of the half.

Mississippi State has been unable to get much going on offense against the Miami defense. No drive traveled more than 28 yards before Mississippi State’s final possession of the half. The Bulldogs have been forced to punt three times and turnover the ball once on downs before working their way down the field late in the half. Fitzgerald has completed six of 13 passes for 73 yards and leads the team with 33 rushing yards.

Miami opened the game with a field goal on the first possession of the afternoon. The lead was extended to 9-0 in the second quarter with a six-yard touchdown pass from Gus Ragland to James Gardner. The extra-point attempt was blocked, keeping the lead from going to double digits.

Miami had a chance to put more points on the scoreboard in the second quarter but a fumble inside the red zone cost the RedHawks a scoring opportunity. The defense held strong though and forced a three-and-out, which led to Miami’s touchdown drive.

The MAC could really use a boost, even if it has to come against a team with a losing record. The MAC is 0-4 this bowl season. Mississippi State is getting the postseason underway for the SEC.