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Citing love of teammates, Saquon Barkley says he’ll play in Penn State’s bowl game

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As was the case with one high-profile player on the West Coast earlier this month, another on the East Coast won’t be McCaffreying a bowl game.  Or Fournetting it for that matter.

Last season, running backs Leonard Fournette and Christian McCaffrey, both at the time considered likely high first-round picks in the 2017 NFL draft, raised eyebrows and made headlines by skipping LSU’s and Stanford’s bowl games.  It led some to wonder whether this would, or even should, become the norm for players projected to be taken early in the next draft.

After Penn State beat took care of business against Nebraska in Week 12, running back Saquon Barkley took it as an affront that some had been suggesting that he would sit out the Nittany Lions’ bowl game to protect his stock as he expected to declare early.  If for nothing more, Barkley won’t do it out of love for his teammates.

That attitude merely serves as one of myriad reasons why NFL teams will absolutely fall further in love with the junior as the pre-draft process cranks into high gear.

Controversial replay, poor punt coverage costs Michigan in first half vs. Wisconsin

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It’s a good old-fashioned defensive battle in the Big Ten between Michigan and Wisconsin, and if not for a couple of plays going the wrong way, Michigan could very well be in the lead. Instead, the Wolverines and Badgers are locked in a 7-7 draw at halftime as the defenses have set the tone on both sides of the sideline so far today.

Wisconsin’s lone score came on a punt return by Nick Nelson in the first quarter, and it came after making a usually costly decision to pick the ball up to make a return. He managed to avoid a disaster and found pay dirt for the first score of the game.

Just when it appeared Michigan was about to get some point son the scoreboard with a touchdown, a video replay from the Big Ten officials upheld a controversial incompletion to Donovan Peoples-Jones. The play was ruled incomplete but the video review appeared to show the receiver get his left foot down just before the right foot touched out of bounds. This may have been a case of not feeling the video evidence was indisputable to overturn the original call on the field. Michigan quarterback Brandon Peters lost the football on a fumble while trying to pick up an extra yard near the end zone, giving the Badgers the ball deep in their own end with a 7-0 lead preserved.

Michigan did manage to get in the end zone in the first half though, and there would be no review to overturn the result. Ben Mason powered his way across the goal line at the end of a seven-play, 84-yard drive. Still, Michigan fans have to be a bit upset about that non-touchdown call by the replay booth. We’ll see if that comes back to haunt Michigan in the second half or not.

Michigan has out-gained Wisconsin 170-99 at the half. The Badgers have just four first downs.

15 semifinalists unveiled for prestigious Walter Camp Player of the Year Award

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One of the most prestigious awards in college football has whittled down the list of players who will be able to claim the famed hardware this season.

Wednesday, the Walter Camp Foundation announced its 15 “Players to Watch,” essentially semifinalists, for its prestigious Player of the Year Award. The Camp Award is voted on by the 130 FBS head coaches/sports information directors and is the fourth-oldest award in the sport.

“It’s been another exciting college football season with many teams and players still in the hunt for national recognition,” Foundation president Michael Madera said in a statement. “We’ve identified some outstanding players and we know the final weeks of the regular season should be even more thrilling.”

Players on both sides of the ball are eligible, but just four defensive players made the cut — North Carolina State defensive end Bradley Chubb, Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick, Miami defensive back Jaquan Johnson and Washington defensive end Hercules Mala’afa. Six of the 15 semifinalists are quarterbacks, the other five are running backs.

Only two players from a Group of Five program, Central Florida quarterback McKenzie Milton and San Diego State running back Rashaad Penny, are included.

Louisville’s Lamar Jackson, last year’s Camp winner, is a semifinalist once again.

Below is the complete “Players to Watch” list:

Josh Adams, RB, Junior, Notre Dame
Saquon Barkley, RB, Junior, Penn State
Bradley Chubb, DE, Senior, North Carolina State
Sam Darnold, QB, Sophomore, USC
Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Junior, Alabama
Baker Mayfield, QB, Senior, Oklahoma
Lamar Jackson, QB, Junior, Louisville
Jaquan Johnson, DB, Junior, Miami
Bryce Love, RB, Junior, Stanford
Hercules Mala’afa, DE, Junior, Washington State
McKenzie Milton, QB, Sophomore, UCF
Rashaad Penny, RB, Senior, San Diego State
Mason Rudolph, QB, Senior, Oklahoma State
Khalil Tate, QB, Sophomore, Arizona
Jonathan Taylor, RB, Freshman, Wisconsin

Bovada trims Heisman odds down to just three players, with Mayfield a runaway favorite

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With a few games left in the regular season, Bovada may see the writing on the wall as far as the Heisman Trophy is concerned. After updating the odds as they usually do at the beginning of the week, the shortlist for the Heisman Trophy is down to just three players, with Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield a runaway favorite.

Updated Heisman Trophy Odds via Bovada

While not entirely impossible for another player to creep up on the Heisman board at this point, it would be highly unlikely given how much of an edge Bovada is giving to Mayfield. Mayfield has been putting up extraordinary numbers and he’s been doing so in significant games. Even after a stellar performance against a tough run defense Friday night, Bryce Love is only able to pull into a tie with Penn State’s Saquon Barkley as his numbers continue to dwindle.

Mayfield has been among the most consistent offensive players in the country this season and is a big reason why the Sooners have soared to the top of the Big 12 and are in a position to make a run to the College Football Playoff. The odds even suggest Mayfield could have a hiccup down the stretch and he would still be the easy favorite to win the Heisman Trophy.

Oklahoma has had five Heisman Trophy winners in school history. One more with Mayfield would move the Sooners to one shy of the all-time record of seven, held by Ohio State and Notre Dame (and USC, since we all know Reggie Bush won one as well).

Historic rout of No. 12 Michigan State has No. 13 Ohio State en route to Big Ten East crown

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No. 13 Ohio State (8-2, 6-1 Big Ten) certainly stormed back from an embarrassing loss on the road the previous week. No. 12 Michigan State (7-3, 5-2 Big Ten) had no chance against the Buckeyes on this Saturday as Ohio State took control of the game right from the start with an overwhelming running game en route to a 48-3 victory that puts Ohio State in the driver’s seat in the Big Ten East Division with two games remaining.

Mike Weber carried the ball for 161 yards, with over 120 of those yards coming on two touchdown runs against the Spartans defense. Weber had a 47-yard touchdown run right up the middle of Michigan State midway through the first quarter on a third-and-short and he took one 82 yards on the first play from scrimmage later in the second quarter as Ohio State was pouring it on in Ohio Stadium. J.T. Barrett got in on the fun with a pair of rushing touchdowns and he completed an eight-yard touchdown pass to freshman J.K. Dobbins (who later became the third true freshman in school history to rush for 1,000 yards in a season) as Ohio State stormed their way to a 35-0 lead in the first half.

Barrett opened up the second half of the game with a 48-yard strike to Binjimen Victor for a score to extend the lead to 42-3. It was total domination all game long for the Buckeyes on offense and defense. A week after effectively leading the Spartans to an upset of Penn State, Brian Lewerke never managed to get on track in the passing game for the Spartans, and the running game never had space to get going either.

Ohio State’s 45-point victory was the most lopsided margin of victory for the Buckeyes over the Spartans, and it is the third most lopsided victory over a ranked opponent in school history.

With the win, Ohio State is now in sole possession of first place in the Big Ten East with a one-game lead in the loss column and they own head-to-head tiebreakers against both Michigan State and Penn State. With just two games left to play against Illinois and at Michigan, it would appear Ohio State fans can start making reservations in Indianapolis for the Big Ten championship game against Wisconsin. The question may be if there is enough in the tank to fuel a playoff push. That seems unlikely at this point, but Ohio State did pick a great day to score a blowout win like this. Three top 10 teams are guaranteed to lose today on the college football schedule, and No. 9 Washington suffered a loss Friday night. If Ohio State can play like this the next three weeks, they will remain on the radar for sure, although they may still need a little too much help to get back to the College Football Playoff for a third time.

Ohio State will host Illinois next week. Michigan State will return home for a game against Maryland.