Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield may be solidly on his way to winning the Heisman Trophy, but he may also have a decent chance of taking home some other hardware this award season as well. Mayfield was named one of the five finalists for the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award today.
The Golden Arm Award is given to the nation’s top quarterback in his senior or fourth year of college football (freshmen and sophomores are not eligible), and this year’s crop of finalists is an impressive one. In addition to Mayfield, Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph, Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett, Penn State’s Trace McSorley, and NC State’s Ryan Finley were named finalists for the award.
Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson won the award a year ago. It could be a coincidence, but the award has gone to a quarterback playing in the College Football Playoff each of the past three seasons. Oregon’s Marcus Mariota won the award in 2014 and Michigan State’s Connor Cook won the award in 2015. Mayfield appears to be in a position to keep that trend going if he is the favorite to win this year’s Golden Arm Award.
The last Oklahoma player to win the award, and the only one thus far, was Jason White in 2004. No player from Ohio State, Oklahoma State, Penn State or NC State has won the award, which was first presented in 1987 to Don McPherson of Syracuse.
With first place in the ACC Atlantic Divison on the line, NC State is leading the defending national champions by four points at halftime. Up 21-17 at halftime in Raleigh, the Wolfpack will have to be ready to find a way to finish this game on a strong note against Clemson.
NC State got the party started early with Tim Kidd-Glass coming up with an interception of Kelly Bryant on the third play of the game. Setting up the Wolfpack offense at the Clemson 40-yard line, NC State wasted no time taking advantage of the early turnover. Ryan Finley completed a 40-yard pass for a touchdown to Kelvin Harmon for the early 7-0 lead. Clemson’s offense could not get much going on their next possession and ended a five-play drive with a punt, but the Tigers defense came through with a quick three-and-out. It was at this point Clemson’s Ray-Ray McCloud ripped off an impressive 77-yard punt return for a touchdown to even things at 7-7.
NC State and Clemson then exchanged 12-play touchdown drives to keep things even at 14-14. NC State responded once more with another strong touchdown drive with Finley finding plenty of success through the air. The drive ended with a touchdown pass to Jaylen Samuels to go up 21-14. Clemson cut into the lead with a field goal. The Tigers added another field goal in the final seconds as the teams went to the locker room at halftime to create the one-point game. NC State had missed a field goal on their final possession of the half.
The winner of this game will take first place in the ACC Atlantic Division, which likely means the winner of this game will end up playing for the ACC championship. For Clemson, the fourth team in the initial College Football Playoff rankings, the stakes are a bit higher at the moment as well. There has never been a two-loss conference champion in the four-team playoff. Of course, NC State is hoping to become the first as well.
A year after failing to pull the upset on the road against Clemson, N.C. State (3-1, 1-0 ACC) managed to take advantage o a Florida State team coming off an unusual layoff. The Wolfpack took a 10-0 lead on No. 12 Florida State (0-2, 0-1 ACC) in Tallahassee and managed to hold on for a 27-21 victory.
It was expected Florida State would start the game somewhat slowly, and they did. Starting a true freshman at quarterback and not having played a game since the opening week of the season against Alabama due to having to alter the schedule from Hurricane Irma’s path through the state of Florida meant the Seminoles might not be all on the same page early on. This was the case, although N.C. State brought the kind of gameplan and talent to take advantage of the situation, and credit them for doing just that.
Ryan Finley passed for 230 yards and two touchdowns to help lead the Wolfpack to the win, but the defense did its part too by allowing just four third-down conversions by Florida State out of 14 attempts. The lone turnover of the game was coughed up by Florida State as well, although N.C. State was not able to score any points off the turnover, but the fumble came at a costly time for Florida State as it appeared the momentum could be on their side with a drive down the field in a 10-7 game.
Making his first start for the Seminoles in place of the injured Deondre Francois, James Blackman was under pressure for much of the afternoon. N.C. State had a clear gameplan to get in Blackman’s face, and there were moments when Blackman reacted to it well and managed to drop some beautiful deep passes to his receivers. Blackman ended his first career start going 22-of-38 for 278 yards with a touchdown and one lost fumble. Auden Tate was the top receiver for Florida State with 138 yards and a touchdown.
Down 27-16 in the fourth quarter, Florida State did have their chances to grab the game in their home opener, but a turnover on downs after recording a safety and being held to a field goal after taking the football at the NC State 23-yard line following a blocked punt prevented the Seminoles form avoiding their first loss in a home opener for the first time under head coach Jimbo Fisher.
Florida State now has two losses and still has games to play against Clemson and Louisville. The preseason favorite in the ACC and for a spot in the College Football Playoff is now looking to make history if there is a chance to do so. No College Football Playoff team has had two losses. Making the playoff is obviously quite an uphill battle at this point. That uphill climb will begin next week on the road against Wake Forest.
For N.C. State, the painful stain of a bewildering loss in the opener is a distant memory and now the Wolfpack hope to build off this major win next week at home against Syracuse.
Boise State’s depth at quarterback just got a little more shallow, which is somewhat to be expected. On Saturday in Boise State’s spring game, freshman Brett Rypien played well and made a case for the starting job heading to the summer. On Tuesday, Boise State announced Ryan Finley will pursue a transfer to play elsewhere.
“We wish Ryan the best,” Boise State head coach Bryan Harsin said in a released statement. “He is going to leave Boise State with a degree, and that is what this is all about.”
With Finley earning his degree from Boise State, that qualifies him to play right away in the fall at another FBS program as a graduate transfer. It is unknown if there is a short list for Finley to consider, but there will be no shortage of options.
Finley completed 46 of 70 pass attempts last fall for 485 yards and a touchdown with four interceptions in three games. Rypien appeared in 11 games and led the offense with 3,350 yards and 20 touchdowns as he grabbed a firm grasp on the starting quarterback job under Harsin. There was likely not much that would stand in the way of him being named the starter again for 2016.
Boise State’s New Years Six and Mountain West Conference title hopes took a big hit on Sunday. Starting quarterback Ryan Finley will probably miss the next eight weeks after breaking his ankle in Friday night’s game against lowly Idaho State.
Boise State head coach Bryan Harsin announced the injury status on Sunday, saying Finley broke a bone in his ankle, but he was unsure what the treatment process will be. That should become more clear on Monday.
With Finley on the sideline rehabbing his ankle, Harsin says both backup quarterbacks — freshman Brett Rypien and sophomore Thomas Stuart — should be expected to play. The two have combined to throw 22 pass attempts this season, completing 17 of those for 196 yards and a touchdown.
Boise State’s next eight weeks consist of six Mountain West Conference games, one game against Virginia and a bye week. If Finley is out for eight weeks he would miss Boise State’s road games at Virginia, Colorado State, Utah State and UNLV and home games against Hawaii, Wyoming and possibly New Mexico. Finley could return to play Air Force in Boise on November 20 if he only has to be out for eight weeks and can return after that, but that stretch of eight games is a tough one with Virginia, Utah State and Colorado State all being played on the road.
Boise State has already lost once and now may have little margin for error in the race to the New Years Six, if not just the Mountain West Conference.